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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

April 2014

A deal to good to pass by


Great-Deal-Alert-MustardGenesis 15

This is an amazing story. It’s about the beauty of friendship, commitment, walking side by side and discovering a new level of commitment along the way.

 

Once you read about Abraham and God, you will soon understand that they had this type of back and forth relationship. You know the one where one seems to try to get something from the other, and sometimes bargaining for a little more? And the cool thing about it is that God is actually OK with the annoying friend that he has, that keeps on bargaining for everything.  That is a sign of deep commitment. And that defines us in the face of God.

Before our commitment to him, it is HIS commitment to us that carries us so much farther than we initial thought. It is because of that commitment and relationship that Abraham says: What can I do to get what you just said? It is because knowing that his friend, the God that called him out of his land, will ask nothing above what he can do, but in return reward him for his little act of faith.

Each day, we make bargains with God. And each day He is willing to make a new bargain with us, because of that commitment that he made to us. My dear friend, when was last time that you bargain with God? When you asked for: What will it take for me do get there? What do I have to do? God are you willing to help?

Whatever you do, remember that this bargain, this commitment requires to give something up, requires some sacrifice? So… Are you ready to bargain?

I pray that we all can find rest in the promises of God, and also that our prayer life will be challenged the same way that Abraham was.

 

Be Blessed.

Bo M.

 

When we least expect it…

Abraham Call

Today’s Passage:  Genesis 12:1-4 (NRSV)

Our first week of this new blog cycle has found us in the first 11 chapters of Genesis…can you imagine the frustration of our Triune God – the one who created from love for love – for relationships of love?  The Garden…Cain and Abel…the flood…tower of Babel – these stories have shown us as to what could have been but wasn’t because of a host of human failings.  And now…God decides to start a new project with Abram and Sarai  – “to make of you a great nation…all the families of earth will be blessed because of you”.  

However, as God often does, God decides to work through a most unlikely pair…old Abram and barren Sarai….hmmmmmmm…from this will come a great name…a great nation?  By now, there must have been many people on the earth after the flood…Abram and Sarai?  It is indeed interesting to look back to yesterday – to see that the tower builders were intent on making a name for themselves…for themselves.  Now it is God who is intent on making a great name out of Abram.  Abraham’s friends will be blessed, and his enemies will be cursed.

God commands…he doesn’t ask…he commands them to leave everything – they must see an uncertain future don’t you think?  But…they go!  This passage provides a powerful message for each of us…for those times in our lives when we are called to follow God even though we may not have a map to follow and, most likely, when we least expect it.   Whether joy filled or maybe even sorrow laden, the most important point coming from this story is the promise of God’s presence to show the way.

Blessings and peace to each as we contemplate when God will call us next…most likely when we least expect it…and knowing that the God who loves us will guide us!!

 

 

 

Genesis 11:1-9, Making a Name…

Genesis 11:1-9

images-2

The heart of the people in Shinar is not about having a heart for God.  Instead they say, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with  a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves;…”  They fear being scattered over the face of the earth.

The story gives an explanation for the diversity of languages and of the spread of the peoples over the whole earth.  The building project, “make a name for ourselves” is about pride and self-sufficiency rather than depending and trusting God.  It represents humanity in conflict with God; it’s about being independent from God and possibly resisting God in filling the whole earth (Gen. 1:28, 9:1,7).  God’s “Come, let us” (vs. 7) stands in stark contrast to, “Come, let us build ourselves” of the people. The solution of the language confusion will await the birth of the church when the effects of Babel will be reversed (Acts 2:5-11).

This tower is possibly a Mesopotamian ziggurat tower built as a descending stairway for the gods.  But God comes down in judgment on this tower of human pride, arrogance, self-assertion, and challenge to God’s will.  There’s a sense in which God’s judgment was an act of grace.  Dispersed and in some isolation the peoples were more likely to turn to God.

Over and over again as we explore Genesis we see people choosing to  assert their own will and way; choosing to be self-directed rather than God-directed, faith-directed.  We certainly can do that ourselves in life.  All too often we believe that we know better, we understand the way we should go, we will act as we see fit;…we choose a self-directed lifestyle.  And all the while God wants to guide us in the way of life, the way of Jesus; the faith directed lifestyle.

May we live in faith and trust God this day.

Genesis 9:1-17 – Colorful Grace

Genesis 9:1-17

Yesterday God saved Noah from His judgement and quite a few animals too.  They survived, they disembarked and Noah offered sacrifices.  God was pleased with Noah and gave Noah and his family dominion over creation.  Then God makes it clear that people, humans, are His highest creation and bear His image.  I’ve never noticed just how much this text has in common with the creation account.

After all that God makes a covenant.  A promise.  God interacts with His people regularly in covenants/loving legal agreements.  These agreements are very much like marraige covenants.  Sure they’re a legal process but much more than that both God’s covenants and our marital covenants are bound in relationship.  God covenants that He will never destroy the earth with water again.  There are two things about this covenant that are pretty great.  First, notice what Noah has to do to keep up his end of the bargain.  Nothing… that’s right, nothing.  Remind you of another covenant God has made?  The second great thing is that God decided to give us a natural reminder of His grace.  He gives Noah a sign.  For thousands of years now, people have looked at the rain that once destroyed the world and when a rainbow appeared and they thought; “God’s gracious”  We deserve wrath but we receive mercy.  Does it feel good fellow sinners?  To serve a God who gives grace with nothing in return?

The pain of an angry God

Preamble

Looking back the past few weeks of writings and dialog on this blog, I start to wonder why am I writing and why I am part of this blog. And for some reason i have been taken with the image of a fisherman going out and casting a broad net, in a way reaching out to as many people as I can, trying to rekindle  or stir up a new sense of faith, of spiritual depth that will bring us closer as a community. As this blog is a window on the main street that we call information highway, I keep in mind that some of the people who reach our store window are on a different spiritual walk, different stages of faith, believing or struggling with their faith. I am also conscious that for some this blog is more than something we read as a devotional, it can take the shape of a bible study or an encouragement that they need. And if you look at the styles of writings present on this blog you will see that we try to write to all people. Each one of us have different styles: Craig H. reminds me of one of my professor from seminary, Dale A. that one colleague in your group that is going to push you to think different, Micah M. the keeper of the faith that will always bring you back to the basics of our faith. As for myself I try to dabble in trying to make sense of life and God in practical terms that will be an encouragement to many.

I pray and hope that as we fellowship and share our own spiritual walk, we can be open, encouraging and looking for ways to get engaged and able to share our own ideas, things that we learned along the way, struggles, pains, fears and joy. I pray that as we do that, we can create an environment where more people will free to comment and engage daily. Yes i am talking to you, all of you that read this blog daily, and sometimes jump in, but at times decide to shy away. You are important part of this, and I desire that this blog will become a safe harbor for you. As always I am looking forward to your feedback, online and offline.

Thanks you for reading my little confession, have a blessed day and may you find life in the things we do here.  Bo.

 

genesis 6 -8

Oh where do I start today? Do I start with the pretty picture of the animals going  up in the ark? Or the pretty picture of the rainbow? Or maybe the great joy on people’s faces when the dove brought back the olive leaf?

That is of course the nice picture that so many times describes this event in the Biblical history. But how about the other side of the story? The part where there is not a lot of joy, or prettiness. The part where people are wicked, mean to the point where their own creator hates them. The part of the story where God is angry, where God steps away from picture.

That is the picture of the flood that so many times gets left out. In part because we do not like to speak about the God that destroyed his creation out of frustration and regret. But as we ignore that story we also ignore the part where God is in pain, suffers for those he created.

The story of the flood is indeed a story of redemption for both the creation and the creator. It is the story where the creation gets a second chance and the creator is willing to rewrite the rules. The flood is the story where we meet a God in pain, hurting for his creation to the point of regret. But even at that very moment there is grace. When you think that he will destroy the whole thing with one blow, grace is extended and creation gets a second chance.

And because of that understanding, we are part of the flood story. We become that reminder of grace even when we make God angry at us with our shortcomings. It is in those moments that we become grateful for a God that loves us that much.

The flood is a story of love, pain, agony, grace and second chances.

We are that story, but we are also people of grace and second chances. Let’s live out in that grace.

 

Be Blessed,

Bo M..

 

Cain and Abel…Family Conflict

couple-cartoon-fighting

Today’s Reading:  Genesis 4:1-16: Cain and Abel (CEB)

Our story is one of family conflict – 2 brothers in conflict.  It is also a story of grace.  It’s a simple story – two brothers offer sacrifices to God…God accepts Abel’s and rejects Cain’s.  We are not given a reason as to why God responded this way because the point of this story comes in Cain’s response and…ultimately in God’s response.  Cain is angry…it is easy to surmise that the anger is due to jealousy…maybe there was rivalry between the two.  There are similar rivalry stories in the OT:  Abraham and Lot, Sarah and Hagar, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers – just to name a few.

As in the case of Cain and Abel, along with several of these other rivalry stories, when the younger is favored over the older, disputes occur.  Birth rights and family inheritance play a major factor in these conflicts.  Just a little history here – in biblical Israel, the family unit is the basic unit of society…everything is built on this fundamental idea from clan to tribe to kingdom…family integrity is of most importance.  Family structure and stability is essential, therefore,  to the stability of society.  As such, when conflict arises, and we know it does, the importance of our story is on how the family structure and society is to respond and Cain and Abel aren’t such good role models here.

Even though we aren’t told specifically why, it seems fairly safe to believe that God saw the difference between the brothers because both the individual and the type of sacrifice are mentioned in concert together.  But don’t miss the ultimate point of this story which is God’s grace and mercy.  Despite what can only be explained as God’s grief when he hears the soil cry out Abel’s murder comes the grace and mercy in protecting Cain.  While Cain’s sin continues the curse began in Eden, this new ground is too cursed and Cain is to be banished to the desert, Nod, which means wandering or nomad – it isn’t a specific country…and because Cain is banished from the Lord’s presence, it certainly appears to imply a place ceaseless wandering…with God’s mark protecting him.

We get angry over many things…here’s a thought and a prayer to close out today’s passage – it comes from Hebrews 12 (The Message):  “Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God.  Make sure no one gets left out of God’s generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time.”  Blessings and peace to each of you this day…Amen.

Genesis 3:1-24; Choose Wisely, Faithfully

Genesis 3:1-24

Paul writes in Romans 14:23, “Whatever is not of faith is sin.” That covers a lot of territory in life.

Confronted with temptation from the serpent, Adam and Eve make unwise and faithless decisions.  Sin spreads rapidly in their lives.  The serpent undermines the relationship between God and Adam and Eve by suggesting that disobeying God is beneficial to them.  God’s authority is challenged; the thought  is introduced that their Creator is unreasonable and no longer benevolent.  The suggestion is that God is selfish with only his own best interests in mind.  “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?'”  That’s a distortion, for Adam and Eve were “free to eat from any tree in the garden” (Genesis 2:16).  God never said “you must not touch the tree of  knowledge of good and evil,…”  Instead, they were not to eat from it.  Next comes the most alluring thought of all.  If they eat of the forbidden tree they “will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

The temptation that God is arbitrary, unreasonable, selfish, and not good takes root in the woman’s mind and then spreads easily to the man.  They fall for the serpents temptation and choose disobedience, sin, and estrangement from God and each other.  There are consequences to their disobedient choices.  Now they distrust God.  Soon, they begin to distrust each other.  Life becomes harder and more difficult in a fallen world yet not impossible.  God punishes their sinful choice but does spare their lives and does attend to their new needs in a fallen world.  God is good and faithful.

And so we see what happens when we humans choose to live in ways other than what God desires.  Temptation comes to us and sometimes, perhaps too often, we begin to think less of God and less of others in order to go for what we want.  We think more highly of ourselves than we should.  We decide that we know better than God and that we should live for whatever we think is right for us.  We become self directed rather than faith directed.  And then we mess up and choose what is not of faith.

It is interesting to read Genesis Chapter 3 and then to read either Matthew 4:1-11 or Luke 4:1-13 when Jesus was tempted by the devil and contrast the responses to temptation.  Jesus reminds us: to “live…on every word that comes from the mouth of God,” to “not put the Lord your God to the test,” and to “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.” We live in faith whatever we do when we follow the words and example of Jesus.

And Paul writes “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).  May we live in faith this day and always.

 

Genesis 1:26-31

art-creation-of-man

Genesis 1:26-31

Two things pop out to me about this passage.  First, mankind is created in God’s image.  I’ve often thought, why does God bother with a disaster like humanity?  Why does God bother with a fallen, sinful mess like Micah?  The answer is two-fold, because He created us and because we bear His image.  Its verses like these that makes sense of all the family language of God being Father and us being children. We don’t know exactly what this “image” is.  Some say cognitive ability, moral compass, logic etc. There’s no way to be sure, but in the same way that I bear my fathers image, we bear the image of the Sovereign God of the Universe.  He created us, we bear his image and He loves us.  Feeling unloved?  Dwell on that.

Second.  We were created to steward.  Biblical stewardship is the responsible management of God’s resources for God’s glory.  God created this earth with everything in it necessary for a rich life.  Out of the ground has come the basis for every economy that has ever existed in the 10,000 to 10,000,000,000 years (depending on your viewpoint) since God kicked off the party.  He gave us responsible charge of all His creation for our enjoyment and His glory.  All these things we think we own are simply new creative forms of things that God gave us to steward long ago.  Your car on an atomic level is literally and physically a gift from God!  Feeling unsatisfied? Be thankful for the gift of creation.

In the beginning

Genesis 1:1-25

So is this the way the world began? Is this the first glimpse of God we get? Is this the first trace of human race? Is this the very first picture that defines the existence of man for centuries to come?

Time and time again the Book of Genesis, is described as the Book of New Beginnings, The book of Firsts. As we will start exploring the lives of some of the most important characters in the Bible, we will encounter that feeling of “first” time and time again. As we learn about the way God revels himself to people, you guessed that”first” feeling will pop up again.

So, there are many things we could talk about: Who wrote the Book? Was there a first creation that was destroyed and God is taking a second chance here? How about Angels and Fallen Angels where and when were they created? How long did it take for the whole world to come to life? Was everything just there when God spoke or it took hundreds if not thousands of years for the creation to take place?

And then again we can get lost in the answers that we might receive, and trust me i am not going to even attempt to answers those here today.

Whatever sparks your interest as you read the book of Genesis, one thing is sure: Genesis is opening the door to the greater story that was ever written. The Story of God’s Love

That story is not just a thing for the past, something that is gathering dust somewhere on a bookshelf. That story continues to be written today in our own lives. And that is the part I want to talk to you about. The part where the amazing, the supernatural, the wow still happens and we tend to ignore it, because it became to familiar to mundane. The part where every day, good or bad it is a miracle in to itself, and we just want to get through and make it back to bed. The part where small victories, achievements are ignored or overlooked just because we lost the ability to celebrate the beauty of God.

I wish that we would have answers to the big questions, maybe a movie of the way this world, universe, cosmos came to be, and maybe in there we could satisfy our own thirst for knowledge. I wish even more that every single day would be lived with that amazement of “IT’S A FIRST”.

So today go explore, be amazed at the creation, at the story that it is still being written.

Be blessed.

Bo M.

 

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