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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

June 2014

Knowing when to call out

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.comToday’s readings:

Friday, June 27
Morning: Pss. 130; 148
Evening: Pss. 32; 139
Num. 20:1–13
Rom. 5:12–21
Matt. 20:29–34

 

 

Matt. 20:29–34 – Two Blind man receive sight

Here is a bleak reality: need is all around us and at times it overwhelms who we are. I know we have heard over and over again that we need to pray, and have faith as we face these challenges. I also know that as people of faith we sometimes fail at the first requirement of prayer life: to actually ask, to pray for the things we need.

How many times did that happened to you? How many times you felt the need to just break down and cry out to God in your need? How many times you felt the need to express how you really feel before God? And how many times those prayers are left unsaid?

For me that happens more often that I would like, when I am hurt, when my spirit is crushed it’s easier for me to close up, to keep to myself and try to make things work rather than turning my thoughts and heart to God. It’s something I cannot explain, but it just happens. And then I read the story of the two blind man, that understand the meaning calling out and not be shy in their requests.

If there is one thing we learn today, it has to do with Christ being close to us, ready to respond and help. No matter of the condition we are in, no matter of the things going on, the hurt or pain in our lives, Christ is near and ready to restore us.

So today, be bold, open yourself up to God, and don’t be shy in pouring your heart out, talking to God honestly about what you are in need. You might be surprised about what can happen.

Blessings,

Bo M.

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Romans 5:1-11 – Spiritual Ribeye

Romans 5:1-11

Thousands of pages have been written on this passage.  In Corinthians Paul refers to Christians who can’t handle the “meat of the word”.  This is one of those meaty passages I think.  If you don’t have 15 minutes to read and think through the passage, come back to it later in the day when you have the time it deserves.  There’s so much here that I’m not even going to write like I normally do, I’m going to ask five questions to get you thinking about the passage.  Post your responses as comments.

What does it mean to be justified?

How did Christ bring us into peaceful relationship with God?

Why do we avoid suffering when Paul says its a good thing?

What’s the Holy Spirits role in the passage?

What shocks you more, that Christ died for you (his enemy, verse 10) or that his only stipulation is faith?  (verse 1)

This morning I’m thanking God that He chose to leave perfect heaven and come to save His enemies; “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’

One day well spent

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Wednesday, June 25  Lectionary Readings

Morning: Pss. 15; 147:1–11
Evening: Pss. 48; 4
Num. 16:36–50
Rom. 4:13–25
Matt. 20:1–16

 

 

My blog today is from Matt. 20:1-16

This parable is so beautiful and so full of meaning. It captures so many aspect of the church work and so many of the things that we get to see around us as we minister among those that God calls to serve.

The church has many levels of working bees. Some that get up early, and work all day, they know every little thing that’s needed in the church and they will make sure things gets done. Some people are a little late to the game, but they try to capture the vision of those ahead of them and soon you will not be able to distinguish between the first two. And then you have the late starters, who sometimes come in with fresh energy, new ideas and ready to turn the world upside down.

Jesus’s parable while speaks about the conflict that arises from the pay, it is a good reminder to us that working in God’s vineyard is always a good reason to rejoice and all that labour will be rewarded. Now I know some will say, that some people do not deserve it, that those that are barely involved should not get the same recognition as those that hold the fort on regular basis. I have seen that scenario in my ministry life more than I would like to remember. And when I see that, I want to remind people who all we do has a much deeper meaning and value than we think, and everyone’s effort is needed.

Church, ministry is indeed a team work, it is a good example that we cannot function by ourselves, and we need people to come along side sat different times with different set of skills in order for us to complete the task ahead of us.

This week is the perfect example of that. 200 kids attending VBS and 40-50 people making it all happening. Different skills, gifts and jobs, but when you see it you would thing it is one organism that just works.

I pray that today you will be encouraged by your own ministry, and also encourage someone who needs a little energy to continue faithfully in what they are doing for the Lord.

Be Blessed,

Bo M

 

With God’s help…

comic

Today, we begin a new chapter in our online blog with a look at lectionary reading which will go through the end of August.  There are basically 2 types of lectionary reading options – a two year option and a three year option.  Both have the same desired goal that being a more thorough reading of the Bible.  You can find more details and the entire ongoing lectionary at:  http://www.presbyterianmission.org/devotion/daily/2014/6/23/

If you go to the lectionary reading for today, you will find the following texts listed – this is standard: morning psalms, OT reading, NT reading, Gospel text and evening psalms:

Each day, the author of the blog will pick 1 text and look at it…today’s text that I choose to look at is the one from Matthew.  Why?  Because it is filled with phrases that are often used as in everyday language.  This passage follows on from the discussion with the young ruler and entry into the kingdom of God.

The incident with the young ruler prompted this brief message from Jesus to His disciples. He remarked how difficult it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. In fact Jesus said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Since the man was trusting his riches rather than the Lord to save him, he could no more enter the kingdom than a camel (one of the largest animals used by Jews) could go through “the eye of a needle” (a sewing needle; not a small gate within another gate as is sometimes suggested). This needle’s eye was an extremely small opening.

“Who then can be saved?”  This is the response of the astonished disciples.  It shows the influence of the culture, more importantly the Pharisees, on them (remember that the Pharisees said God bestows wealth on those He loves following a broad OT understanding that wealth was generally understood as a mark of God’s favor). So if a wealthy person cannot make it into the kingdom, seemingly no one can! Jesus answered that salvation is a work of God not of human capability.

For the young ruler it was a test of his willingness to place God’s priorities first in his own life.  This is the point Jesus is making to his disciples…it is our message for today.  In our crazy hectic lives, priorities are important…although it is impossible from a human standpoint to overcome the powerful attraction of wealth and all those other things that distract us from a focus on the Living Christ, with God’s help anything is possible.  Amen.

 

Jonah 1:1-2:10; “A Whale of A Story- Nervous For Nineveh”

Jonah 1:1-2:10 (click on the link below)

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jonah+1%3A1-2%3A10&version=NIV

What do we do about the enemy?  Jonah and the Israelites hated their enemy Assyria and Nineveh was one of that nations great cities.  Jonah would have enjoyed pronouncing judgement upon that city and would have waited with great expectation for God to destroy that city and people.  However, Jonah had a sense that the people of Nineveh might repent and then God would have mercy upon them and spare them.  What if the enemy repents and God forgives?  What about the extraordinary mercy of God?

That thought was repulsive to Jonah so he took off in an entirely opposite direction from Nineveh to sail far, far away from the people he hated and whose destruction he had in mind.  What do we do about our enemies?  Like Jonah it is easy to hate them and wish for their inconvenience and unhappiness, and even their destruction.

Jonah doesn’t like what God is up to so he heads in the opposite direction.  How often do we do the opposite of what God wants, particularly if we don’t like that part of the scripture or that particular nuance of God’s will?  Sometimes it’s easier to go our own way rather than it is to go with God’s way.  And after all, what does God really know about what it’s like to live here on planet earth and deal with the things we have to face each and every day.

And so, Jonah boards a ship to get away from the Lord.  But it doesn’t work.  The storm comes and he convinces the sailors to throw him into the ocean even though they know he is running from God.  After being swallowed by a whale Jonah has second thoughts.  He cries out to God and don’t we all when we are in a whale of a situation.  “In my distress I called to the Lord and he answered me.”  Jonah knows that his life and salvation rest in God.   The whale takes him to Nineveh where God wanted him to go in the first place.  In the end Jonah was not going to change God’s will and heart of compassion.

Jonah preaches destruction; perhaps he had a moment of gloating in that message.  But the people of Nineveh repented and God had mercy on them.  And this was terrible to Jonah and he was angry and he pouted and became distressed and told it all to God. Nevertheless, God had mercy on Nineveh.

What a story!  How amazing; how wonderful for a people, an entire city to repent and experience the compassion of God!  But Jonah wanted to die when God had mercy on his enemies.

And we read, 4:1 “But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. 3 Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

We serve a God who is “gracious and compassionate…,slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.”  And didn’t Jesus say, (Matthew 5:43-48) “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Today let us pray for our enemies and ask God to bring them the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Today let us pray for our enemies even though deep down inside we don’t want to do such a thing.  Perhaps God will have mercy on them and mercy on us.

I am not fond of this message but we see that God was Nervous for Nineveh.  And Jesus died, even for his enemies, saying “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”  May God enlarge our hearts and spirits towards mercy and compassion this day.

Daniel 6: A Little Old Testament Karma

Daniel 6

In 6th grade social studies in my school district, we focus on ancient civilizations, including the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, etc. Also included in the curriculum is the plethora of religions that each civilization adopted. One concept that arose in ancient times in India with the development of Hinduism is the idea of karma, or the belief that our actions, good or bad, will eventually come back to us with either good or bad results…more or less anyway.
As I look at the whole of the story of Daniel being thrown into the lion’s den, I similarities between the outcome for both Daniel and the administrators and satraps and also the concept of karma. Although the idea of karma is typically tied to other religions, time and time again throughout the Bible, we see stories of how either faithful behavior or sinful behavior played a role in what God brought down on the Israelites.
In the case of Daniel, his faithfulness to God at first gets him in trouble as he falls into the trap set by his colleagues. However, in the end, Daniel gets the last laugh as God prohibits the lions from touching Daniel. Instead, the conspirators who tried to get Daniel killed become the snack for the lions. Not only the conspirators, but also their entire families were thrown to the lions. Through it all, Daniel’s faith never faltered.
In the same way, as we make our way through a life of faith, there will be many times when we will be tested, or when others take advantage of us in some way. But as the old saying goes, what goes around comes around. If we remain faithful to God, he will bless us many times over, as we have seen with other stories we have read for the blog, such as with Job in the past week. At the same time, those who try to deceive us will eventually have to answer for their behavior, and God will have the last say in their fate.
As we face hardship in our lives, may our faith remain true to the one who is ALWAYS faithful to us and who loves us. In the end, we will be blessed in ways we can only imagine.

 

Matt Blaser

Daniel 3 – We all get burned

Daniel 3

Back in the day a lot of emporers realized that there is only one thing better than being king; being a god. That’s what Nebuchadnezzar was trying to pull off with this statue.  It was pretty common historically.  Our boy invites all his friends and officials and hires a great band.  Then he says that when the band plays everyone needs to worship.  The band strikes up a tune and everybody face plants.  Everybody except Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. A very angry Nebuchadnezzar makes it clear.  He’ll give them another shot but if they don’t worship he’s going to burn them alive.  Their response is my favorite part of the story. They essentially say,  “Well, we don’t want to ruin the retry but we’re not going to worship.. God will save us.. But even if he doesn’t; we’re okay burning alive”.  What an attitude.  We all know the Sunday school ending to the story.  God saves them and they’re a powerful witness for God; an opportunity they never would have had otherwise.  God miraculously delivers but they didn’t know He would. They were ready to die for their faith because they believed God is worth it. Because He is. Amen?

It’s more of a mosaic …

flat,550x550,075,fDaniel 1:1-16

As I sit down to write today, there is one thought that is louder than anything else: do not start a war about diets, way of life and convictions.

Today’s passage, in a sense it gives us permission to play that game. Where we would try to prove we are right, and we just wait to say: I told you so. While I want to praise Daniel and his friends for their convictions, I am also reminded that convictions without grace only lead to disagreements and from there only a step away to conflict.

We live in a complex world, where Christianity as a whole is more on the defense that a leading factor in our society. We live in a word where pluralism and abundance  of ideas and beliefs are encouraged. As I look at America today, I see more than a melting pot, I see a crystalized society, a mosaic of ideas and culture all systematic organized almost following a pattern, I see a country where convictions leads people into boxes and categories. And I have to wonder what happened to the melting pot I heard off? What happened to the America as a society? Have we become so afraid to express our beliefs and convictions, that we only talk about them when we feel safe and in a group that shares the same ideas as we do?

What happen to the middle? You know that place where people have been able to converse and explore new ideas, new ways of looking at life, where discovery and understanding flourishes? The lesson I learn from Daniel, is more than a lesson on diet, of good food vs. bad food; it is even more than Daniel doing the right thing. This lesson is about communicating ideas, convictions in a way where one finds favor, where change does happen but in an amazing way, not by force, not by playing the “I told you so” card.

I would like to ask God, that we can be wise as Daniel and be able to speak out what we believe in a way that brings people together and helps us step towards the middle.

 

Be Blessed,

Bo M.

“Lord God, only you know…”

Valley of Dry Bones

Today’s Passage:  Ezekiel 37:1-14 (CEB)

It’s always good to provide a little perspective when reading Ezekiel, so…Chapter 37 shows the promise of chapter 36. God had just announced that Israel will be restored to her land in blessing under the leadership of David her king. This seems hard to believe in light of Israel’s present condition – Israel was “dead” as a nation—deprived of her land, her king, and her temple. She had been divided and isolated for so long that restoration seemed impossible. So God gave two signs (37:1-14 and vv. 15-28) to Ezekiel to illustrate the reality of restoration and confirm the promises just made.

Dry bones…scattered across the plain…a desert-like scene…arid…Ezekiel is afforded this vision.  Ezekiel’s third vision of 4 – this vision tells the story about God recreating the people of Israel (37:10).  Because burial and possession of the land were related in the ancient world, the vision includes the replanting of the people in their land.  The resussitated  bones symbolize the new nation.

‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope has perished. We are completely finished.’  God is providing Ezekiel with the people’s perspective.  The exiles are lamenting that they are as good as dead…hope is gone and without hope they may as well be dead.  The people see no future and if they do, it is as barren as the vision of this passage.  And God asks Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?”  Ezekiel knew that humanly speaking it was impossible.

We experience dry bones often in our lives.  Would we respond as Ezekiel did?  When the many “dark nights of our soul” seem to be pressing in, what do we hear and/or see? Or, maybe the question to each of us is, “What can our spiritual dry bones teach us?”  Do we hear a promise only God can give?  Can we hear God ask us, “Human One, can these bones live?”  And…can we, with absolute faith answer, “Lord God, only you know!”

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