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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

March 2014

Luke 9:21-50; Listen to Him

Luke 9:21-50 NIV – Jesus Predicts His Death – Jesus – Bible Gateway

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The Lenten Journey is one of looking at the life and ministry of Jesus.  And in looking, reflecting, and discerning, we seek to listen to Jesus.  “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”

The One to whom we listen was rejected and killed but he was raised to life on the third day.  And he calls all who would follow him to “deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow…”

Letting go and losing one’s life is the path to gain life.  We let go and trust, we pray and receive guidance, and we allow Another to lead.  Of course, all this is more easily written or said than lived.  In living this way we are raised to a better life in Jesus.

Even Peter, James, and John who witnessed the Transfiguration were not listening; they didn’t understand.  The other disciples awaiting Jesus return could not drive out the spirit that was destroying a child.  This was disappointing to Jess.  In Matthew’s account (Matthew 17) Jesus indicated that it was from a lack of faith.  And in Mark 9, Jesus said it was because they needed to pray.

The one who believes prays and trusts in God. When we pray, when we trust, when we exercise faith we become least; we empty ourselves in order to listen to what Jesus desires that we might serve him.  Listen this day to Jesus.  Look for his presence, pause from life’s hectic pace, dwell in him.  I suggest after you read this passage in Luke that you listen to Chris Rice sing, “Untitled Hymn (Come To Jesus).”  Then be still and look to Jesus.

Here’s the song, just click on the arrow:

Luke 9:1-20 – Packing light for the journey

Luke 9:1-20

I just got home from an informational meeting about the trip to Disney World I’m chaperoning for the Minooka HS marching band next month. Several of the girls were VERY concerned about being limited to a 50lb suitcase and 2 carry-ons for this 3-night trip. Oy.

So its no great suprise that as I dug into this passage I was immediately struck by Jesus’ instructions to the disciples as he sent them out around the countryside to evangelize on their own: “Take nothing for your journey.” Not a stick, a slice of bread, or clean underwear. And no money. Can you imagine what they were thinking—what they grumbled to each other on their way out the door? “Really, Jesus? What if I need to buy something? What if no one will take me in and I’m hungry and don’t have anything to eat? This is just great!” But Jesus says to stay in one home only in each town, and if the desciples aren’t welcomed, leave the town, brush the dust off their feet and carry on down the road. Luke doesn’t let us in on the Twelve’s reactions, but I would have liked to have been a fly on that wall.

What if we had sent our Tanzania group across the globe with these same instructions? How effective would they have been? How much time would have been spent just getting to where they needed to be and finding a bit to eat to survive? Would any lives have been touched? Would orphans be blessed and cared for?

What we have here is an incredible faith-building assignment. Jesus had given them power and authority to heal and cast out demons but the disciples had to go out and put that power to work in order for it to come alive as witness to Jesus as the Messiah. So did they believe they would be cared for, welcomed, housed and fed? They must have because verse 6 tells us they began a circuit of villages, preaching, teaching, and healing.

We spend a lot of time working, gaining homes, possessions and education. If we had to hit the streets tomorrow with nothing but the clothes on our backs and the authority to heal and cast out demons in Jesus’ name, would any of us go? If we were brave and went, our faith would surely grow 100 fold, as the disciples’ faith must have. If we did, we would surely learn to love in a whole new way, see the world in a whole new way, and Jesus the Messiah would be revealed as the great healer, provider, and lover of us all. So pack light, my friends, and be ready to hit the road!

Anna Johnson

Luke 8:1-56 – What kind of soil are you?

the-sower-sower-with-setting-sun-1888.jpg!Blog

Luke 8:1-56

I thought I would focus on the parable of the sower this morning, I think it gives us a pretty rich truth that is sometimes overlooked.  We have four kinds of soil here.  First we have the path. The path is pretty inhospitable for farming because its hard as a rock, the seed has no chance.  Then there is the rocky soil, this represents those who accept but just can’t handle all that life throws at them. They fall away in time. Finally there is the thorny soil.  This represents those who grab the Gospel and love it, but life simply offers to much.  They’re distracted by work, money, vacation and all the good things in life.  In my life, this is a temptation.  There lots of good things around vying for my attention.

Then there is the good soil. These people don’t just receive the Gospel, they grab onto it and persevere.  A lot of times the first question I hear asked of this passage is “well, which of these soils are true believers?  Which ones will we see in heaven?”  I think that question is relevant but misses the main point.  The main point is: be good soil!!!  Grab onto the Gospel and don’t let it go.  Don’t let go when life gets unbearable and don’t get distracted by work, education, a sport or finances.  All those things are good but they are not God, focus on following God.  Do as Christ says in the passage; hear it, retain it and persevere in it.  Be good soil!

Seeing beneath the surface

Luke 7:1-50

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So many things are going on in today’s reading: a centurion blind faith, pain beyond understanding, John questioning faith, and servitude misunderstood.

There was a day way back when I was studying physics dreaming to be a professor that will help kids understand the marvelous world around us. Learning about icebergs and the way the icebergs float, the forces and dynamics at play was just fascinating. Without boring you any further, I will just say that the most amazing thing about icebergs is actually under the surface, all the things that we do not see from a superficial look.

Reading Luke 7 made me think and ask myself: what was under the surface?

What did the centurion really think? Why did he not open his home to Jesus? Why he sent his servants instead of him going?

How about the widow? Can you picture her pain of losing her only son? How about her future? Her dreams and hopes?

Is John the Baptist losing his faith in Jesus? Is he confused about who Jesus is and what he is doing? Did John hoped to see Jesus in a political office by now?

And the women washing Jesus’s feet. What was she thinking? Why did she faced the shame of the crowd to be close to Jesus? What was weighing so hard on her heart that made her break all the conventional rules just to be at that party?

I am not going to try to even answer those questions, but instead submit to you that many time our interactions are very similar, surface interactions, judging or being judged on meaningless things that speak nothing to who we are or what is happening in our lives. Faith, pain, doubt, insecurities live beneath the surface. And sometimes we are not able to break the surface and ask for help when those realities overwhelm us. Sometimes we need Jesus to reach out to us, to reinforce our faith, to give us hope once again.

I so not know where you are in your faith walk today, but I would like to encourage you to go beneath the surface, if you need help cry out, reach out find someone who can be Jesus to you. And if it so happens that you are in a position when you can be the help that someone needs, and you have been wondering for a while what you should do, reach out, encourage someone and help them rediscover faith once again.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

 

“It’s all in the response…”

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Today’s Passage:  Luke 6:12-49 (CEB)

Have you ever been furious with someone – plotting in your head as to what to do?  Have you ever been the recipient of someone’s fury?  In the past few days, we have seen Jesus rejected by his hometown while the “other side of the lake” is amazed by his teaching…recognizing him as God’s Son.  Jesus has eaten with tax collectors…he heals – telling all that he heals sick people…he calls sinners to change their hearts and lives…he forgives.  And…the Pharisees “were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus”.

How does Jesus respond?  He goes to the mountain top to pray.  He prays…all night long he prays.  Amidst the threats of those against him, he prays and then he calls his apostles. The word apostle means one who is sent – messengers of the Gospel to be sent.  Many are furious with Jesus and he is focused on expanding his ministry.

But, before sending them, he gathers these newly anointed apostles, and his disciples and the rest of the congregation…he gathers them to teach – this is the Sermon on the Plain.  Often overshadowed by Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount.  He is preparing them for what is to come – he teaches.  He teaches first on blessings and woes – for those interested, go and look at Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount – there are no woes.  Luke has a wonderful symmetry to his words:  poor-rich, hungry-plenty, weeping laughing, rejected-accepted.

Jesus teaches to love our enemies…even those who are furious with/at us.  Love.  He teaches us not to judge others – don’t know about you but this can be particularly hard especially when y’all don’t agree with me…you all should be laughing here!!  Love your enemies…don’t judge…if this isn’t intimidating enough Jesus punctuates this by telling us about good and bad fruit.

The Sermon on the Plain concludes with Jesus providing a final teaching meant to challenge us to better understand our faith and our subsequent actions.  We are forever, in this lifetime, building and reinforcing on the foundation – the rock of Christ – the one we call Lord!  We will battle storms that will seek to shake our foundations.

Remember…it’s all in the response…

Luke 4:31-6:11;

Luke 4:31-6:11 NIV – Jesus Drives Out an Impure Spirit – Bible Gateway

It’s a long passage again; actually a series of passages.  Why  go through a series of passages in one day?  One purpose is reading Luke in the 40 days of Lent; great goal.  We  receive Luke’s perspective and teaching on Jesus as we make our journey to the cross and empty tomb and Easter Celebration.  What a great way to make our Lenten Journey, each day, as a learning, worshipping, Christ-following community!  That’s what we are really trying to be about each day.

Now for Luke 4:31-6:11 Devotional Points!  Who is this Jesus?                                               We get a wonderful, astonishing, and life changing look and encounter with Jesus in this section.

Jesus drives out an evil spirit, heals many, calls disciples, heals even a man with leprosy, forgives sins, heals one who was paralyzed, calls a notorious sinner by the name of Levi to WHAT! BE A DISCIPLE!, eats with sinners, gets questioned, heals on the Sabbath, and gets plotted against.   Who is this Jesus?  What a life for all who follow him.

He keeps on the move, saying, “I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God to other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”  But we see that he not only proclaims good news; he is good news, he enacts good news, and the news about him spreads.  Could each one of us be good news wherever we go each day?

The rabbis said, “It is easier to raise the dead than it is to heal a leper.”  Jesus heals the leper, provides an extraordinary catch of fish, calls sinners, forgives sinners, and reminds those who follow, “Don’t be afraid…”  How can we not be unsettled, afraid, and wonder,  what Jesus might ask?  Is it true that he really forgives sins? All sin? My Sins?  Yes, Jesus forgives sins but he resists the self-righteous who plot against him.  And isn’t it good to know that it is lawful to do good on any day!  What good might we do today for Jesus, for others, to extend Christ’s love, grace, hope, and light?

Encounter Jesus, be good news, and do something good this day!

“Fulfillment and Rejection…a Mixed Homecoming.”

Scripture is important to Jesus – here are 2 pictures…the first is an icon from the 6th century AD and the second is a more contemporary rendition of Christ in the synagogue – Scripture in hand in both

6th century icon           Jesus Luke 4-18b

Today’s Passage:  Luke 4:14-30 (CEB)

This passage establishes the beginning and core of Jesus’ ministry even though we know from v23 that Luke is aware of Jesus preaching in Capernaum before Nazareth.  Luke has placed today’s passage at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry in order to contrast fulfillment and rejection.

It is homecoming for the local hero and the synagogue is packed that Sabbath day.  Jesus would have been a member of this congregation (synagogue).  So, full of the Spirit and intent on a specific passage, Jesus unrolls the scroll of Isaiah.   When finished, the Anointed One, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it”.  There is amazement as finally, someone gets it – Israel, still in captivity and yearning to be set free has had the grace of the hometown hero bestowed on them

Then there is v23…reality is sinking in.   Can you sense their thoughts…”oh no, he’s not talking about us – he is talking about those other people…on the other side of the lake.”  Jesus is responding to the rising skepticism in their hearts – he knew that they wanted the same miracles heard about in Capernaum.  But Jesus doesn’t tell them what they want to hear…he likes to point out blind spots to them.  The people “on the other side of the lake”, or Gentiles, are important too – there is resentment that Jesus is intent on taking the message of the Lord’s favor to others beyond Nazareth…like Capernaum – a heavy non-Jewish population.  Who does he think he is?

Tension builds and anger erupts.  The tension that erupts, and will continue to erupt throughout our reading of Luke, is not between Jesus and Judaism or between the synagogue and church.  The tension is between their religion and what Scripture says – a consistent theme in the coming chapters.

The people work themselves into a frenzy…and Jesus goes elsewhere.  I think this passage brings to the forefront not only what it foreshadows for the remainder of Luke’s gospel but the reason why there was a mixed homecoming for the Son of God.  Jesus did not go elsewhere because he is rejected…he is rejected because he goes elsewhere.

Luke is a very crafty inspired individual.  Today’s passage is intentionally placed as the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  Luke is intentional that there is emphasis on the Spirit and Scripture.  And Luke is intentional in that this passage shows what is yet to come.  We see with great clarity that there was nothing more Jesus could do for his hometown because they weren’t open to him.

My Lenten takeaway is that Scripture and the Spirit are trying to reveal blindspots but I have to be open to such revelation.  How has this passage helped you in your Lenten journey?

 

Luke 4:1-13 – Hanging With Lucifer

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Luke 4:1-13

I noticed two things in this passage that I hadn’t noticed before: A. The Holy Spirit led Jesus in to the wilderness (rather counter-intuitive) and B. That Jesus was tempted for 40 days straight, not just a few times at the end.  Jesus had been doing battle for a while. Truthfully, if you tempted me with fresh bread after 1 day of fasting you might have moderate success, I doubt it would take 40 days.

It strikes me that these temptations and our temptations have a lot in common.  I’m not advocating a demon behind every rock, but whether our temptation is from within ourselves or because of something more complicated; our temptation is similar to Christ’s.  Our temptation and Christ’s have at least this in common: 1. Sin looks delicious.  Whether its bread after 40 days, an offer of the whole world or just a opportunity to tear down another person who isn’t around; sin feels good.  If it didn’t, we wouldn’t.  2. It’s a lie.  Satan promised Christ all these things, but they weren’t his to give.  He was full of it and he and Christ both knew it.   Sometimes we’re not quite so clear on the truth. We think sin will be great, but it destroys relationships with others and relationship with God.  3. It leaves us empty.  Had Christ given in, He would have ended up dying to pay for His own sin, not ours.  Sin always leaves us full of shame, wanting more and far from God.  It’s usually followed by excuses, justification, and alienation from anyone who dares tell us the truth. So what do we do?  Exactly what Christ did.  Weather the storm keeping our eyes on the truth: what God has for us is far better than the alternative.

A matter of identity

Luke 3:23-38

After reading my text for today I thought: Shoot I drew the short stick on this one. But the more I thought about the long list of names I changed my mind, in part because I realized that this list is more about identity than a litany of names.

Not only does the genealogy point to the whole connection of Jesus to the Jewish royal family, and down the road to Adam, but it establishes Christ in the Messianic line of David. It links Christ to the faith forefathers, and says “Christ is indeed who he says he is”!

For us, this is just a matter of faith, it is something that we take for granted somehow, but for the readers of Luke, this idea of a Messiah is somehow foreign to them. Luke recognizes the humanity and divinity of Christ in this list of names, and by introducing names as David, Abraham and Isaac, he speaks to the faith seed that carried the Israelites.

But what does has to do with me? Quite a lot as a matter of fact. Because we find our own faith identity in the person of Christ. In and through Christ we are a new creation, we stand before the throne of God and live our lives out.

Christianity is about identity, is about who we are after baptism, who we are after we have made that confession of faith. Christianity is not about all those daily shortcomings,  is about day-to-day witness and about who we are as followers of Christ. We belong with Christ, we belong in the same family with Abraham, and we belong with David. Because of who we are things like faith, mercy, courage, piety become our identity rather than fear, doubt and the list can go on and on.

Today take comfort in your new family, and its identity. Live out your life as a person that belongs, that takes pride in this family.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

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