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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

April 2014

It must be preached…

EmptyTomb-Image1

Today’s Reading:  Luke 24

We stand between Good Friday and Easter. Imagine what those first followers of Jesus thought on that Saturday?

Today’s passage is the climax of “THE STORY”…Just as Jesus had promised, he died…he rose…for you and I.  And, just to make sure that his disciples and us would know this truth, he went to be with them before he ascended to the Father.  In a nutshell, this is today’s passage.

Lent is almost over…Has Luke’s gospel changed you in the past 6 weeks?  Specifically, who is Jesus to you?  It is easy for our minds to take over here…to give a really good theological or doctrinal answer…BUT…who is Jesus to you…from your heart…at the very essence of your being?

Our passage, and the overall conclusion to Luke’s gospel, challenges us one last time about what will we tell our friends…our co-workers…our children…classmates…grandchildren…brothers and sisters…those we know…those we don’t know.  Scripture has been opened to us…we have just been to the Table…what will we tell others about Jesus…what God has done by and through Christ and his Holy Spirit then and today?

Then Jesus opened their minds to understand the scriptures.  He said to them, “This is what is written: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit….Amen.

 

 

Luke 22:47-23:56- “When Darkness Reigns”

Luke 22:47-23:56

From Jesus arrest to his crucifixion and death the darkness of humanity reigns. Judas sells out for a bag of silver coins and betrays his Lord with a kiss.   Peter denies Jesus and the disciples forsake him in this dark time.  The chief priests and nations leaders arrest Jesus at night out of the sight of the crowds who supported him with their Hosannas and hung on his every word whenever he was teaching.   The guards mock, beat, and toy with the Lord of Glory.   Herod and Pilate, enemies, become friends as Jesus becomes their problem.  An early morning trial away from the crowds who gladly heard Jesus is cleverly held.  A crucifixion mob is organized to force Pilate to cave in.  And so, it was a time when darkness reigned and evil triumphed.

Only at the burial of Jesus do we see kindness and love.  Joseph of Arimathea asked for the body of Jesus, prepared him for burial, and placed him in the tomb.  Women disciples from Galilee also went with Joseph to the tomb and made preparations, spices and perfumes, for the burial while expecting to return Sunday morning.

There are times when darkness reigns, evil triumphs, and the light is but  a flicker and hope is hard to hold onto.  We wonder where is life going?  How can things get so terrible, tragic, horrible and bad?  We wait and we wonder and we yearn for the surprise of resurrection.  We hold on for the first light of the dawn…for transformation…resurrection.  At the last moment resurrection comes!  “Truth crushed to earth aways rises,” said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  There is redemptive suffering.  We see this clearly in Jesus.  We know on this Good Friday, this Dark Friday, that Easter is coming!

Luke 22

Luke 22

Luke chap 22 is too much to cover in one blog day but here are a few comments I do pray will be spiritual enriching-

In verse 3+21, Satan enters Judas. Jesus knows well in advance of all this (Jn 6.64 & 13.11) and was always in control of his death(Jn 10.17-18).
In verse 10, a man carrying a pitcher was very unusual for the time-usually a woman would do this so we know all was well planned ahead of time-

Verses 16+30 point out that we will be eating in heaven!!! good news!
Verse 31: Satan wants peter too but Jesus puts His foot down so to speak and says no as this is not part of the overall plan. See how satan asked for Job in (Job 2.1-8)

Verse 34: in Matt 10.32-33 Jesus says whoever denies Him before men so will He deny before the Father in heaven-well, Peter denied him 3 times! Yet we don’t think Peter went to hell because he had time to repent and seek forgiveness and did-Judas hanged himself(Matt 27.5) shortly before Jesus’ death and therefore never lived to seek repentance and forgiveness and very likely went to hell(Matt 26.24  Mark 14.21  John 17.12)

Note in verses 39-45, Jesus asks for “Plan B” if there is one and God the Father says “no”-we should remember this when praying for healing-sometimes God has a bigger plan and the answer today is “no”

May God bless you-Deo Volente(God Willing)

Marvin

 

Luke 21 – Its supposed to hurt.

Brooklyn_Museum_-_The_Widow's_Mite_(Le_denier_de_la_veuve)_-_James_Tissot

Luke 21

The story I want to focus on this morning has only two main characters, a widow and Jesus.  What’s a widow?  For us its a woman whose husband has died.  For those observing this widow it was someone who had no future.  Women didn’t work outside the home and had no real way to earn an income without their husbands.  If a widow was lucky, she had a grown son who could afford to have her live in his house.  Apart from that, widows were broke (hence all the New Testament commands to care for widows) and even worse had little potential for income.  I love the picture above, what could possibly be harder than being a widow in this time? A widow with a baby.

Jesus is hanging out in the temple with the rest of the disciples while people enter giving their offerings.  Some large and some small.  Then this widow walks up.  She has a couple pennies.  She’s probably ashamed, even as a little kid in Sunday School I would have been ashamed to only give a few pennies, but Jesus takes immediate notice.  Its funny because there would have been plenty of remarkable offerings previous to hers.  No doubt a few rich guys had impressed everyone as they dropped some really loud-sounding coins in.  Jesus isn’t impressed by the amount of loot, but by the amount of the sacrifice.  This widow was willing to give not only all she had, but all she had with no prospect of more in the future.  You can certainly apply this to life as a whole but I really love the simple application here.  Are we willing to part with the temporal things in life (specifically money) to build the kingdom?  Even if it hurts?  After all, Matthew 6:21 says: “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

 

 

He went to Jared!

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He went to Jared

Luke 20:27-40

How many times do we get bugged down on questions that seem so important, questions that will keep us scratching our heads for endless hours, questions that sound so good and make great conversation even helping us discover sides of our spirituality that we did not know we had?

Some questions are meant to do just that, expand our spiritual understanding. Sometimes those question do not have a clear biblical answer and we might not know the answer till the day we will ask Christ in heaven. I think that could be cool to have a questions and answer time with Jesus when we get to heaven. Don’t you think so?

But I digress.

Resurrection, questions about the afterlife, are things that we struggle at times. And when that happens we look for answers. Answers that we might not have, or find in the biblical witness, and those things can weigh heavy on our hearts. It is at that moment that we need to remember who we are, what our faith is, who is the God we serve, and how much God has done for us.

Think about your life as a journey, traveling and discovering things along the way, all this while knowing that the person you travel with is an awesome loving God. You might not find answer to all your life’s big questions, you might not even be able to see the next leg of the journey. And while all that can be extremely frustrating, faith makes the trip enjoyable. Faith says: You can keep going because of who you travel with!

So while today’s questions might be too much for you, I will encourage you to keep going, to enjoy the today as a child of the living God.

After all he did the best for you.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

Our Lighthouse Silences the crowd…

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Today’s Reading:  Luke 20:1-26 (CEB)

How many times have we heard that it isn’t polite to answer a question with a question?  That’s precisely what Jesus does only little did those asking the questions know who they were dealing with…or, maybe they did…  One of the traits of human nature is to challenge authority when frustrated with those being dealt with…how about the phrase, “Who died and made you boss?”  As a logical outcome of Jesus’ cleansing of the temple, the religious leaders again rejected Him, and conflict arose. Jesus had upset the normal “religious” atmosphere of the temple, which led the religious leaders to question His authority…the “temple police” are gathered in numbers.  And Jesus does what he typically does – he tells a parable describing his authority.

And the gathered crowd was incredulous…no way!  This could never happen!  Jesus’ point was that He, the most important element in the Jewish nation, was being rejected, but ultimately would be supreme. He also would be the means of judgment. The severity of Jesus’ words struck home. The teachers of the Law and the chief priests wanted to kill Him because they knew He had spoken this parable against them. But again they feared to take any action because of the people.

So, once more they try to trap Jesus…Jesus’ answer was so astonishing that they were speechless.  As we will soon see, this particular example will be used against Jesus in just a few chapters but it is completely misrepresented when the religious leaders claim Jesus was against paying taxes to Caesar.

What does this tell us for today?  It may sound simple – the authority of the false religious leaders was limited in its duration and the authority of Jesus is forever!  But it seems that it is never this easy is it….I think this passage challenges us to think about the following…Will we look to Jesus as the absolute authority?  Will we allow Jesus to be in charge of the totality of our lives?  Our attitudes, our relationships, our challenges?  Will we permit Jesus to be in charge of the church?  

I never tire of the following illustration…A ship’s captain looked into the dark night and saw faint lights in the distance. Immediately he told his signalman to send this message: “Alter your course 10 degrees south.”  A prompt message came in return, “Alter your course 10 degrees north.”  The Captain, angered that his command had been ignored, sent a second message, “Alter your course 10 degrees south – I am a captain!” A message came back in return, “Alter your course 10 degrees north – I am seaman 3rd class Jones!”
The captain sent a third message knowing the fear it would evoke, “Alter your course 10 degrees south – I am a battleship!” Then the reply came, “Alter your course 10 degrees north – I am a lighthouse!”

This Holy Week, may God bless each one of us as we contemplate and act on these difficult questions and alter our course to Jesus – our lighthouse!!!

 

 

 

Luke 19:28-48, Palm Sunday Praise and Misunderstanding

Luke 19:28-48

Things aren’t always what they appear to be upon first observation.  That’s the dynamic we see at work on that first Palm Sunday.  On the surface, it was a great day, but underneath there’s a significant problem.

Palm Sunday starts with a bang- a tremendous day, etc.   But underneath the surface of that celebration there is something’s wrong.  Jesus is clearly aware of that discouraging undercurrent;  the malaise covered up by the mountain top Palm Sunday Praise.  And so, He weeps over Jerusalem, for the things that make for peace eludes them.

Things aren’t always what they seem to be on the surface.  If it’s true today, t was true in Jesus’ day; remarkably, sadly true on Palm Sunday.  So Jesus weeps over the city.  Saying, If you,…,had only known on this day what would bring you peace…

2300 years ago the prophet Zechariah announced that Jerusalem’s King would come to her riding lowly on the back of a donkey.  300 years after the prophet uttered those words, Jesus quite deliberately  and consciously chose to enter Jerusalem, riding in lowly fashion on the back of a donkey.

By this he was claiming, both symbolically and in terms of the exultation of                              the crowd, His Lordship and His Kingship.  He was received with Hosannas and Hallelujahs but within a few days, they had become expressions of hatred  and transformed themselves into the Hell of the Cross. He approached Jerusalem triumphantly down a corridor of palms, but within a few short days, he was hanging from a cross.  What’s the problem underneath the surface on that decisive Palm Sunday?

You see, Jesus is aware that something other than God’s dream has priority.  While this is true of the people it is true of their leaders.  First the people- Political ambition is mistaken for zeal in the cause of God.  The people of Jerusalem are playing power politics with the Romans.  Out with Rome up with Jesus.  Expel Pontius Pilate install Jesus.  This is God’s dream, God’s will. God is on their side.

If Jesus could feed 5000, heal lepers, raise the dead, think what he could do with the Romans. What a political messiah and nations savior he could be. And Jesus weeps over the city, because he knows what happens to those nations who play power politics with Rome- they are destroyed.

He has seen the crosses of crucifixion scattered throughout the land from former revolts against Rome.  Furthermore, if you paid your taxes to Rome and didn’t rebel there was a great deal of freedom permitted.  Jesus sees where their misguided faith will inevitably end.

Jesus does not come as a warrior king; but a servant-king of peace.  In a scandalous reversal of the world’s values, the sovereign Lord comes as a servant.  He takes a towel and basin of water and washes his disciples feet.  What he wants to be for his people is a Servant-Savior of boundless compassion, unbearable forgiveness, and healing love.  The people missed what God was doing and wanted to do in and through them.  It was a matter of faith/principle to oppose the Romans.  And yet the real things of faith suffered- service, love, and mercy.

If the people were mistaken so were Jerusalem’s leaders.  They are about political maneuver and intrigue to preserve the system they believe is of God.   But the leaders would rather construct a system of laws to keep people out.

Brennan Manning writes in his book A Glimpse of Jesus.  “I would rather be numbered among the little band who have learned loving service from Jesus and the Bible, than among the legalizers, moralizers, and hair-splitters, who are so busy straining at the gnat that they swallow the camel.  There is simply no sense trumpeting the Lordship of Jesus, if his attitudes, values, and behavior are not recognizable in our lives.”

Jesus not only cries over Jerusalem, in holy anger he drives the sellers out of the temple; their system has become corrupt.  Jesus is aware, intensely cognizant, that something other than the dream of God has priority for both the leaders and the people in Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday day of days.

Isn’t that the way it is with us too.  All too often something other than Jesus’ dreams and desires are driving us.  We have compelling dreams other than those of Jesus.  And these other dreams have their consequences…  They are not in our best interests or Christ’s best interests.  May we have passionate and compelling dreams for the dreams of Jesus.   Let’s make that our prayer today.

Lessons on prayer, life and serving others

Luke 18: 1 – Luke 19:27

What is Prayer? – some will say is talking to God, some might say something that they do not understand, or maybe the words we say before somebody says AMEN.

What is Life? – some will say is everything that is the  in-between birth and death, some might say it is the experience that defines that space, and maybe some might say that life is life.

What is service? – some will say that service is doing something that has a good motivation, something that will help the larger community; some will say that service is devotion to God in a practical way.

What do you say?

What does Jesus say about this?

I am going to ask you to indulge me in my rant today, and follow till the end. It seems to me that after reading all these parables, there is a lot of: “What do you want?” at play.

The widow wanted justice, the pharisee wanted recognition, the tax collector wanted mercy, the parents a blessing on their children, the rich to see the kingdom of God, the blind man wanted sight, Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, the master wanted fruit, while the servant wanted to stay safe.

You see, there is always “a want” at play in this game we call life. We do things that sometimes look right, have a lot of meaning to us and maybe to many people around us. Sometimes the reason for doing things can be self-righteousness, public recognition, selfishness or just exactly the opposite – serving heart, mercy, friendship.

No matter who we are, we all are motivated by something. And that something is the part that seems important to Jesus in these parables. Justice, mercy, right attitude, acceptance, inclusion, there are so many things we can focus on in those few parables. And that is the heart of these lesson. What drives us? What is important to us? How will that change who we are?

So: what drives you? what makes you who you are? what gives you strength in doing the things that needs to be done?

I hope and pray that somewhere in the answer we will always find room for Jesus.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

 

Luke 17:11-37 – Any Second Now

Luke 17:11-37

Usually if I get a passage that deals with a simple lesson on gratitude and something mildly apocalyptic, I take the path of least resistance. This one is just too fascinating.  In verse 20 the Pharisees ask Jesus when the Kingdom of God is going to roll in.  For once the Pharisees might have been genuine instead of snarky; this would have been a question that was relevant, especially in a time of political tension.  Jesus says the Kingdom isn’t something that you’ll be able to physically point to.  This is important to note because the Jewish understanding of the Kingdom of God would have political and patriotic. Instead Jesus says, “its in your midst!”  This could mean a few things but I think Jesus was saying “I’m the Kingdom of God! It revolves around me!”

Jesus says people aren’t going to recognize it at first.  People are going to be living normal life.   He gives the examples of people in the time of Noah and Lot, people who were pretty caught up in their lives and didn’t recognize the voice of God (through Noah and Lot) in the midst of their busyness.   Notice that the examples Jesus gives of their doings weren’t necessarily sinful (although both groups were), this was just normal busy life. Life distracted from God.

At first glance verses 30-37 seem terrifying. When the comparison is made to Lot’s wife, it almost sounds like we should all head for the hills at the first sniff of the Kingdom of God.  The point isn’t that we all need to scramble for cover; its that the Kingdom of God requires our undivided attention, its worth leaving everything for.  Don’t misunderstand the passage, no matter what your view of the last day is, it should include judgement.  Some enter the Kingdom and some do not (vs 34-36) but that’s not the big point here.  The point is that we need to be ready.  Not distracted by life like so many others who have rejected God, but ready for his return and ready to leave everything.  Lord come quickly!

A point of thankfulness here; based on what you know about the Kingdom of God, what are you most looking forward to?  Share in the comment section.

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