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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

August 2014

Expanding our Vision and Reach…

Morning Psalms: 122, 149

First Lesson: Job 9:1; 10:1-9, 16-22

Second Lesson: Acts 11:1-18

Third Lesson: John 8:12-20

Evening Psalms: 100, 63

Jesus is the Light of the World.  And he choose to share his light with the house of Israel and beyond that going even into Samaria.  And he told his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:16-20).  12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

The church had to dream some new dreams and stretch a lot to understand that the Gospel was an All World, All Nation Gospel.  Formerly some of their teachers had told them that the Gentiles were fuel for the fires of hell.  Imagine that,…writing off the entire world outside of Israel!  But the Light of Christ and the Good News of the Gospel changed their hearts and their vision.  So they opened their lives and vision to God’s vision come through Peter: 18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

In the words of the Psalms we read for today, everyone, can rejoice and “go to the House of the Lord.”  They can, “Sing a new song, his praise in the assembly of his faithful people.”  All are welcome to, “Shout for Joy to the Lord,…and…Know that the Lord is God.”  All people may, “thirst for” the Lord and say, “Your are my help”  and “your love is better than life.”

May we too this day rejoice in the height, width, breadth, and length of God’s love come to all the world in and through the Lord Jesus Christ.  May we do our part to expand the reach of Jesus in our day and time.

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Acts 10:17-33 – 1 Brief Point About Bacon And Telling People About Jesus.

Acts 10:17-33

So, Bo described one of THE most pivotal events in history.  Previously, everyone had the idea that God was only for the Jews (never was supposed to be the case).  In yesterday’s passage, Bo described the moment when God made it clear; the gentiles aren’t unclean.  Pork isn’t unclean either.  In a moment God, not only changed our choice of breakfast meats, He also made it clear that the Gospel is for (and was always meant to be for) the Gentiles as well.  Suddenly the Apostles are free (even commanded) to go to those they had previously considered untouchable. The impact on Christian history in momentous.  The application is simple.. who are untouchable that we’re not reaching?  A room full of Romans?  Seriously.. give it some thought.  Maybe its time to reach out in some new ways to some new people. I’m open to suggestions.

I never…

i_ll_never_change_who_i_am_by_pupachu-d5xv3imWednesday, August 27
Morning: Pss. 65; 147:1–11
Evening: Pss. 125; 91
Job 6:1; 7:1–21
Acts 10:1–16
John 7:1–13

I never – Acts 10:1-16

How many of our faith lives stories start with a “i never” moment? Mine has quite a few of those sprinkles on it. From me saying there is no God, to I will never be in ministry, or to I will never work with kids. Yeah! You can see how that turned out… Not only does God has a sense of humor but I also believe that when God is calling us to do something, the Holy Spirit will work in us and preparing us for those good things that are in store for us. 

The interesting thing about today’s story is that God is moving the world, and Peter almost misses it. On on side we have Cornelius a god fearing soldier and family man, a man that exemplified faith through his life and his family way of living. And on the other side is Peter, a true jew that never stepped aside from the jewish ways, faithful to his upbringing to the core. Now if we are to apply our present day filter on this situation, this two people were going to different services at the same church. One of them is more progressive than the other, and the other one is more traditional than his contra part. Nothing wrong with that, right?

Well, it seems that God has something else in plan for them. It has to do with that two of them come together in a way that at the end will glorify God, and their own lives and ministries will be forever changed. It is because of moments like this that the church is what it is today. Can you imagine Luther or Calvin during their “i never” moments? Those moments when God wants to move and we still struggle with where we are? It is because of moments like these we can celebrate today the beauty of God’s grace and his work in the work. 

I pray that as we, as a church, experience our own “i never” moment, a moment where God is stretching our own faith, we would be as gracious as Peter and Cornelius, that we would be as open to what God is doing as they were even if that doesn’t fit with our own mold. I pray that we can be excited and full of anticipation, rejoicing and sharing with others what God is doing and how we as a congregation celebrate that. But even more so I pray that our own “I never” moments will always lead us closer to God and our lives will always be open to what God is doing.

Be blessed,

Bo M. 

 

Tough Questions at the Crossroads…

Cross

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

 

 

Today’s Selection:  John 6:56–71 (NRSV)

The issue raised in this text revolves around a division between those who believe and those who do not. The text shows us that unbelief can be found not only among “them” on the outside, those we so easily forget or write off but that unbelief is found among us and within us, reflected in this text both in those disciples who leave and in the one who stay to betray Jesus.

Chapter 6 began with a multitude needing to be fed…now, only 12 are present.  Now, the disenchanted and grumbling are Jesus’ disciples.  Yet God is working in the midst of apparent failure and rejection. The church is still called to see that it is in such places that the Word of Life is doing its work around us, among us, and within us. The presence of Peter, who would deny Christ, and even of Judas the betrayer…their presence provides hope for us to see. Our natural inclination is to turn and leave, to avoid the difficult call and above all to avoid the cross. Yet the Word, the Spirit, and the Father continue to call, and enlighten, and draw us to life.

Where will we find ourselves in this narrative? Are we the disciples who turn and leave, or those who with Peter confess that Jesus is the one – the only one – with the words of eternal life?  Tough questions…but Jesus asks tougher questions…“Does this offend you?” and “Do you also wish to go away?” and….ultimately…“Did I not choose you, the twelve?”

In the Midst of Lions…

images-1

Morning: Psalms 57, 145

Job 4:1; 5:1-11, 17-21, 26-27

Acts 9:19b-31

John 6:52-59

Evening: Psalms 85, 47

“Have mercy on me my God…I am in the midst of Lions,…”  David cries out (Ps. 57).  As we look around the world today there are many crying out for mercy for they too are in the midst of lions: their streets, neighborhoods, and cities have become battlefields where bloodshed and hatred flow, and bullets fly, and they are being hunted down.  There are those who are on a daily search for food and water or healthcare to keep their children from dying.  Others know the nightmare of earthquakes leveling all they have counted upon to stand and remain.

When I think of the lions prowling our world I realize that I am often only dealing with kittens when I get discouraged.  My problems in comparison are dwarfed by the distress and devastations I see around the world.  I think of the advice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s mother gave her, “‘Anger resentment, envy and self-pity are wasteful reactions that greatly drain one’s time and sap energy better devoted to productive endeavors.”

Today I am going to try to be grateful for what God has given and lift up my praises to God.  I am also going to think about how I can be more useful for Christ and his Kingdom to those who are facing the Lions.   And when I move my mind in that direction I can’t help but think of what Howard Thurman taught,

“I cannot say of my life that it is of no account; yet I am tempted to do so. I cannot say of the time I happen to be living that nothing seems to be happening, because it is not one of the great or tempestuous, or creative moments in human history.

My time is my time, and I must live my time with as much fullness and significance as I am capable of, because my segment of time is all the time I have. I cannot wait to begin living meaningfully when I will have more time, because my time is now. And my time must be filled with my flavor and my meaning.

Therefore, I will bring to my day, as insignificant as it may seem, my fullest mind, the greatest purpose, the most significant intent of which I am capable, because my time is not merely mine, but because my time is in God’s hands as well.”

God has given us “our time” or as some call it our “Dash,” that dash between the day we were born and the day we die.  It is all the time we will have.  The Lions are out and prowling in our world.  How will we use our time for the Best Christ-Like Purposes?

 

 

Job 2:1-13 Entitlement Christianity

JobAndHisFriends

Job 2:1-13

I have a favorite verse in this passage, its the second half of verse ten.  Job has lost everything.  Children, wealth and personal health.  Job’s wife isn’t very helpful.  Her attitude?  Your life is over. Curse God and die.  Job’s response is something we should all heed when going through sickness, personal loss or marital problems (all of which Job was experiencing).  He said: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”   This is something I need to hear.  I’m more than willing to praise God that my townhouse has appreciated in the last year. That my sister-in-law is getting married tomorrow or that Shelby got a promotion a few months ago.  But am I equally willing to accept a car accident, an illness or a rough spot in our marriage? Usually not.

Its a little arrogant really.  Its like we’re all toddlers protesting at nap time.  Nap time is good for toddlers.  Adversity is good for Christians. But no, we only deserve good things.  Nevermind the grace God gave us. Forget the fact that we haven’t died of starvation yet.  Ignore the blessings of family and friendship. We deserve more; its entitlement Christianity. On the other hand, Job has the idea down cold.  May God help me willingly accept both trouble and blessing from God, realizing that what I really deserve is eternity apart from God.

This song always puts it into perspective for me.

Stay close

Prepared Not UnpreparedThursday, August 21
Morning: Pss. 36; 147:12–20
Evening: Pss. 80; 27
Job 1:1–22
Acts 8:26–40
John 6:16–27

Today’s reading – Acts 8:26-40

So, Philip and the Ethiopian are on the same road, and God says to Philip you should go and stay close to that man, who knows maybe he might have some questions about my word. And Philip goes and does the exact thing that was asked of him. As a result the Ethiopian went back to his homeland having a new understanding of what God was doing and ultimately embracing the revelation of God’s promise in the person of Christ. 

Very simple lesson, and yet so powerful. It is about the place where providence meets a ready to receive heart, and also a ready to give spirit. The past few weeks I had struggled with this thought: How ready are we to receive what God is doing in us, in those around us? How ready am I to accept the fact that God is doing something new, and even if I have my own questions and doubts, sometimes even fear, God is at work in ways that I might not fully see or understand? How ready am I to stand up and share my own faith and convictions when that door opens up?

Ofcourse the answer depends from day to day, from person to person, and with all that if we are able to listen to that quiet voice of God, we should be able to step out in faith, be bold about what we believe and testify to what God is doing. 

Here are a few questions that I hope could be a great help to those of us that are sharing the same struggle:

1. What is God doing? And I mean that, what is God doing in your life, your family or church; what are those things that you can celebrate and share, what are those things that will build someone else that might need a little reminder that God is still at work.

2. What are you doing? What are the things you have been thinking about, what dod God reveal as you read the bible, or what helped you when you struggled? What are you doing to stay strong, unmoved on the foundation that is Christ?

3. What are other people doing? Is there something that someone else is doing that could help you on your path? Or is someone out there that needs a little encouragement and maybe a prayer or some sense of direction?

I pray that as you explore today’s story and ask your own questions, you can see the Ethiopians God has all around you, and I pray that you will have the courage to walk close to them so when they ask you can answer the same way Philip did.

 

Be blessed,

 

Bo M. 

 

I created you…


Power-of-a-WhisperWednesday Readings: 8/20/2014

Today’s Selection:  John 6:1-15

Jesus and the others are on the “other side” of the Sea of Galilee…once again, Gentile country.  I admit that I am writing this a week in advance of now as you are reading it and I am highly influenced from Sunday’s service.  I still hear Sam’s voice whispering insistently in my ears, “how are we going to feed 60+?”

By ourselves it is impossible…but, when God blesses it…when Jesus gives thanks…when the Holy Spirit affirms it and whispers into our head and heart…nothing, I believe, is impossible!

In the past 2 weeks there has been a song I heard that I can’t get out of my head.  It is a new one by Matthew West – his music usually has a significant inspiration behind each song – about God working in the lives of people…in this case it wasn’t the tune that got my attention…it was the words: “I woke up this morning…Saw a world full of trouble now …Thought, how’d we ever get so far down…How’s it ever gonna turn around.  So I turned my eyes to Heaven I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”   Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of people living in poverty, children sold into slavery.  The thought disgusted me so, I shook my fist at Heaven said, “God, why don’t You do something?”  He said, “I did, I created you”…              [click here for the story behind the song.]

Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”  Jesus was testing him.  How often are we being tested?  How often do we say “Gracious God why don’t you do something”?  How many times is the whisper…”I did, I created you” heard?  In 3 days, as you are reading this, the Night Deacons will begin a new partnership with St. John Lutheran Church in Joliet…there are 33,000 children in Will County who do not know where their next meal will come from…maybe God created you to help make a difference too…or, maybe it will be something else – I believe it is something special for which he gives thanks…

 

Missing What God Is Doing…

Morning: Psalm 123, Psalm 146

First Lesson: Judges 18:1-15

Second Lesson: Acts 8:1-13

Third Lesson: John 5:30-47

Evening:  Psalm 30, Psalm 86

John 5:36-42  “the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me.        37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life. 41 “I do not accept glory from human beings, 42 but I know you.  I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts.”

In Jesus, God is bringing his transforming love, grace, and Kingdom of Light to earth in a dramatic and wonderful way.  Jesus heals a man who had been crippled, unable to walk for 38 years. How wonderful to see God at work!  What an amazing demonstration of God’s love!  You would expect a great celebration.

But not so!  The religious leaders are angry that this happened on the Sabbath and they persecute Jesus and go after him in self-righteous debate. They do not understand or see what God is doing.  And here, in John’s Gospel, Jesus is very honest with them.  Though they study the scriptures, though they have extensive recall of the information in the Bible; they really do not understand.  They are missing what God is doing.  They can’t see who Jesus really is because of their preconceptions, self-righteousness, and certainty of how the life of faith should be lived.  Jesus tells them that God’s word does not live in them and they do not have the love of God within their hearts.  Wow!

We might reflect about those times when we do not see what God is doing in the world or in the church, or hopes to do in us.  Is it possible, on occasion, that God is at work and we refuse to see it?  Are there times when God wants to do a new thing but we refuse to listen, to learn, and to launch out in faith?  Do we ever read the scriptures in the wrong way? Could there be some self-righteousness in us, in me?

It’s something to think about from time to time.

 

 

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