First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @


July 2014

Judging others…


Today’s Selection:  Romans 14:1-12 (NRSV)

Paul has so much to say in his letter to the Romans – it would be worthy of our in-depth study in the near future…an amazing yet incredibly difficult letter!   Today’s passage fits right in with this thought, “Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions.”  Ending with,”So then, each of us will be accountable to God.”  Proper bookends don’t you think.

What’s on Paul’s mind here?  In the early church there were 2 distinct groups: Jews and Gentiles. The Jews were those who had been raised with strict dietary laws, especially concerning meat offered to idols. In Rome, most of the butcher shops were run by the pagan temples. You offered an animal sacrifice and the meat was then sold to the public in their butcher shop. The money went into the temple coffers. For practicing Jews it was like worshipping the idol itself.  They also lived by a strict rule that the Sabbath was the Seventh day (or our Saturday).

Dietary laws and Sabbath protocol were nearly unknown.  When they accepted Christ, they began worshipping together on the First day of the week, or Sunday, the day which coincided with Christ’s resurrection…every Sunday was a celebration of the Resurrection.

In short, there are 2 groups of individuals – each well meaning and knowledgeable – those from the old guard with a spiritual awakening and they were stirring up the newcomers – those still growing in their faith. The well established churchgoers of that day weren’t being mean spirited – they just thought they were right…the way they had always done church.

Today, things aren’t much different are they?  We have those who prefer the organ over the piano.  There are others whose attire on Sunday morning doesn’t “meet expectations”.  There are those who like the traditional hymns and those who would prefer today’s contemporary music.  I could go on but I think you get the point.  The interesting observation today though regarding those of strong or weak faith is, however, not necessarily rooted in these examples.

Paul offers 3 points:  (1) what people are doing, they are doing “in honor of the Lord” (14:6). Even though their practice or perspective may be off-putting to others they are nonetheless seeking by their actions to honor the Lord Jesus Christ.  (2) vv7-9 tell us that Christ is Lord of all, all the time…Christ died and rose in order to bridge the most fundamental of differences.  (3) Last, and maybe most important, is that one judge – God – is enough…Paul makes clear that the judgement forbidden is the judging WE do of those who do not believe like us, vote like us, dress like us, or live like us.

Finally…Paul places the passage in perspective with maybe the hardest of all summations…as we live, let us all be accountable to God…with every knee bowing to our Lord of Life…Christ Jesus – with every tongue confessing our praise to him!!  Instead of using our words to despise or judge others in our fellowship, may we live harmoniously without judging and in so doing…glorifying God with one voice!!




Monday, July 21, 2014

Morning: Psalm 135        Psalm 145

Evening:  Psalm 97          Psalm 112

Joshua 7:1-13

Romans 13:8-14

Matthew 26:36-46

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends” (I Corinthians 13:7-8a).  “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

We find Jesus in Gethsemane agonizing in prayer over going to the cross to fulfill God’s will in the passage in Matthew.  Jesus gives himself to this hard and overwhelming mission of suffering and death to so love the world.  “Love bears all things…[and] endures all things” and we see this clearly in Jesus life and ministry.

The Scripture Lessons for this day are about obedience to God’s will.  In Gethsemane we see Jesus following what God desires.  Paul writes about obeying God in very practical terms, in Romans 13.  And we see a lack of obedience in the life of the Israelites as they enter and take the promised land.

Throughout the New Testament we are taught two laws: we are to love God and we are to love our neighbor.  When we love Jesus we will inevitably want to follow what Jesus calls us to do.  Love is expressed in obedience to Jesus. Of course it is very easy to write about obedience and talk about obeying what God wants.  It is much more challenging to live what Jesus teaches.

Today, may our love for God be made practical in obedience.  Let us ask how best to bring the Lord’s will to a living reality this day.

“…And I think to Myself: What a Wonderful World.” – Psalm 104

Ps 104, NLT

If you’re one of my facebook friends or have a conversation with me during good weather months, you know I’m fascinated by flowers, gardens, rivers, woods, trees, birds, butterflies…You name it in nature and I’m a fan.  Besides playing the keyboard and singing during services, being outdoors and getting my hands and feet dirty is my favorite way to worship and really feel close to the Creator.  And this past week?  Well, GLORIOUS comes to mind when talking about the weather.

I really believe that this love of the natural world is a God-given gift, one I’m so greateful for.  Stressed?  Pull weeds.  Need to relax?  Sit outside and listen and watch for the birds.  Want entertainment?  The squirrels and chipmunks and their infernal teasing of my cats is better than anything on TV.  Need to feel a sense of accomplishment?  Mow the lawn then stand back and admire your handiwork.  So this morning’s Psalm really spoke to me.  In fact, it took the words right out of my mouth!

The writer of Psalm 104, a Morning Psalm, begins by saying, “Let all that I am praise the Lord,” and then proceeds to describe the wonders God has created, from the oceans to the mountains, the sun the rain, and moon, and even the Cedars of Lebanon.  In verse 24 we read, “O Lord, what a variety of things you have made!  In wisdom you have made them all.”  Isn’t that incredible?  The God we serve made variety in the world knowing our needs and thirst for beauty.  He gave us everything we would ever need for a healthy existence.  This variety isn’t by accident, but by His great design.  That just Wows me.

Several years ago I stood on a lookout on a mountain that is part of the Heavenly Valley Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe, California.  It was August and the view of the lake and surrounding peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains was awe inspiring.  I remember taking in huge, deep breaths of mountain air and turning my face directly into the breeze.  I turned to my brother who was with me and said, “This has to be the 8th wonder of the world.”  And God made it for our enjoyment, our pleasure, and to edify our bodies and souls.

So if you haven’t taken the time to really notice the world around you, will you do it today?  And as you take in the beauty that blesses us in this corner of the world, sing with the Psalmist, “Let all that I am praise the Lord.”  Or, in the words of the late, great Louis Armstrong, “…And I think to myself, What a wonderful world!”

Anna Johnson

Romans 12:9-21 – The Perfect Church

Okay, something a little different this morning.  I’m putting the text in the post.  If there was ever a text that should define the life of our church, it should be this one.  I have very little commentary to add simply because its unbelievably clear and beautifully written by Paul.  Read the text and answer one of the following questions in the comment board:

What does it mean to be “devoted to each other”?  Where do you see this part of love in our church?
What does it mean to not lack in zeal?  When do you most often lack in zeal?
What does it mean to live “at peace with everyone?” Is that even possible?
Have you ever had the opportunity to be a huge blessing to an enemy of yours?  What’d you do?

Romans 12:9-21 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love.Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor,serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[a] Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[b] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[c]

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Fitting in

extraordinaryThursday, July 17
Morning: Pss. 97; 147:12–20
Evening: Pss. 16; 62
Josh. 3:14–4:7
Rom. 12:1–8
Matt. 26:1–16

Fitting in  – Romans 12:1-8


“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.”

When was last time you sacrificed something? Was it for lent? Was it a can of pop? Or maybe chocolate? How about something that caused a little more pain than skipping a cup of coffee? How about sacrificing something that had to do with who you are, your beliefs and values? 

I think that sometimes, without even realizing, who we are becomes a sacrifice on the wrong altar, in part, because we do not have that strong convictions of who we are as people called out by God, people that have been redeem from a kingdom to another. Sometimes we lose who we are, because we had carried for too long that yoke of familiar, of cultural safety, and because of it, we have come to a place where we are just well adjusted to everything around us. But is that place of comfort the place where we should be? The place where God is working and transforming us?

What is sacrifice for us as Christians? What is comfort? What makes us upset even angry in today’s world? 

I pray that we can avoid the traps of culture conformity and irrelevance, and live lives that not only reflect change but God is using to change the world. 

Be Blessed,

Bo M. 

“Make yourselves holy…”





Today’s Selection:  Joshua 3:1-13 (CEB)

I chose the CEB because of the way it translates the standard English texts that use sanctify or consecrate…”make yourselves holy, tomorrow the LORD will do wonderful things among you.”  Moses saw the promised land from atop Pisgah but was not allowed to enter himself, instead he commissioned Joshua.  Joshua tells the Israelites to make themselves holy in preparation for crossing the Jordan River.  How many do you think were positioned to cross the Jordan…thousands?  Ten thousand?  Several hundred thousand?  Millions?  If you use Numbers 26 as an estimate – where a census of those males over 20 were counted you find that there were 601,730…now think about how many women and children were present…we don’t know the exact number but you would have to guess 2, 3 million?

“Make yourselves holy”, Joshua tells those gathered at the Jordan.  It would be easier to understand if he had said, “Sharpen your swords and check your shields!”  After all, they were going into hostile territory.  There would be no turning back.  Joshua, despite being a military leader, is not focused on military preparation but spiritual preparation.  He doesn’t state a specific miracle God would do.  I don’t believe this passage is focused on Levitical or ritual cleansing…they are to be prepared to trust God – this is about a true test of faith to lean solely on what God promises to do.  They are to follow him into an unknown land in faith.

“Make yourselves holy! Tomorrow the LORD will do wonderful things among you.”  How do you think this passage has application in your life today?  Do you believe God will do wonderful and amazing things with you?  How do you make yourself holy?



Questions of Seeing and Thinking?

Unknown-2  Unknown-1

Morning Readings:  Psalm 42    Psalm 146

Evening Readings: Psalm 102   Psalm 133

First Reading:  Joshua 2:15-24

Second Reading:   Romans 11:13-24

Gospel Reading:   Matthew 25:14-30

How do we see God?  How do we think of God?  Sometimes our sight and our thoughts may depend on the day, the circumstances in our lives, and whether or not we are in a season of suffering.   In the Matthew text one person sees his Master as “a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed.”  In this parable the Master represents God.  The person indicates that God is hard; unfair.  Actually the word for a hard man means a gangster.  This person thinks that the Master is a thug and hides what God gives in the ground out of fear and loathing.  He sees God as unjust and uncaring.  The servant does not even try to use what he is given; instead he buries it.  In other words, he refuses to use his talents to serve the Lord.

The Psalms for the morning and evening give us an entirely different perspective of God.  Ps. 42:2 “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and met with God.” Ps. 146:5-7 “Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God…He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry.”  Ps. 102 is the most difficult reading in that it is a lament.  Life is most challenging here, and yet the person making the lament is one who still turns to God knowing that the Lord can rebuild a life and a people.  Ps. 133 reminds us how good life is when people of faith are united and sees God as one who bestows blessings.  We read in Joshua 2 that Rahab believes and trusts in God and his people.

What about us this day?  How do we see and think of God?  As we go through this day let us think about who God is and how we see God.  May we trust in the Lord and see the goodness, righteousness, and mercy of God in and through Jesus Christ this day.  In trust and hope let us continue to give ourselves in service to our Savior, Jesus Christ.  May the joy of the Lord be our strength.  God bless you!



Rahab, the harlot

800-Joshua-02-Rahab SpiesMorning Readings: Psalm 5, 145.

First Reading: Joshua 2: 1 – 14.

Second Reading: Romans 11: 1 – 12.

Gospel Reading: Mathew 25: 1 – 13.

Evening Readings: Psalm 29, 82.


 Selection: Joshua 2: 1 -14.


Rahab, the harlot? How can it be that God would or could use her to defeat the Canaanites? Could not He have found a more upstanding citizen in or around Jericho to work with?   Is this the same Rahab cited in Christ’s genealogy (see Matt. 1:5-6, Luke 3:31-32)?


It seems that God’s selection of Rahab to assist in the deliverance or salvation of Israel could be more unlikely. Put in God’s shoe’s, admittedly large shoes to fill, would any of us had chosen an ungodly harlot to aid the Israelites or “God’s Chosen People” in their conquest of Jericho? This history either puts into question God’s judgment or our concept of God Himself and His manner in dealing with humankind.


From what we know of the inhabitants of Jericho, they were certainly a depraved bunch (cp. Lev. 18:24-26). Instead of seeking mercy from Israel, as Rahab did, they resisted. Israel was used as an instrument of divine judgment. It seems that Jericho had it coming. Those who perished, died because of their unbelief (Heb. 11:31). Rahab’s lie (v. 4-5), a violation of Commandment #9, seems to indicate that she believed that God would destroy Jericho (v. 9-11) as had been predicted. It seems that God can work with anyone that is willing to work with Him.


Craig Randolph




Romans 10:14-21 – A New Mantra

Romans 10:14-21

Over the last months verse 14 has become a verse that haunts me.  It was highlighted in a book we read while preparing for the Atlanta trip.  It deeply troubled the kids too.  The author was answering the question, “why missions?”  His answer to the question was a few words from Jesus like John 3:36 + John 3:18. Verses where Jesus makes it clear that faith in Him alone is the difference between eternal life and hell. Paul is working from a similar framework when he asks the question in verse 14 “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”   He’s asking the question tongue-in-cheek.  As Christians we know the answer.  They can’t.  That’s why we go. That’s why we incessantly give our time and our money to share the Gospel. That’s why for the last few hundreds of years missions has been such a focal point for Presbyterians.  Because we know that the Gospel is the only hope for the world and we love our world too much to let them go without the love of Christ.  So how can your neighbors believe the Gospel if they haven’t heard it?  They can’t.  Go tell them!

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