First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @


September 2014

Good times


Romans 8:18-25

Reading today’s text made me thing of my parents trip this year. in part because these past two weeks had been really special for me, since my parents are finally on their first trip to the US, something that I had been waiting for 12 years. I cannot even start to speak about the good times I got to experience with the two of them; it’s something hard to describe, hard to put in word but so personal and rewarding. And all this comes after months of agonizing planning, fear and preparation, wait and doubt. But even on the prior months I can say that even in those times I looked forward with hope and expectation to the things to come.

Paul writes in a way to encourage us to look at the things to come, at the time when God will reign in and the creation will once again be in balance with the creator. But the good times are preceded by a time of wait, pain, growth and hope; a time that as Paul describes it as a time when the whole creation is pregnant, excepting. A time when the Spirit of God is working in us in ways we cannot understand. A time when we are being developed, when we deepen our own understanding of faith.

I do not know your share of growing pains or what God is doing in your life, but what i know is that when hope and faith intersect with your life you can find joy in that wait.

So today I pray for joy in waiting, for strength in hope.


Bo M.

Celebrating the Holy Spirit…

Life Assurance graphic w 8.16

Today’s Passage: Romans 8:14-17

For many, the Holy Spirit presents much confusion…and, many questions like; Just what does the Holy Spirit do? How do I know if the Holy Spirit is part in my life? Our text, even just four short verses, brings some insights into these questions.

The Holy Spirit points us to Christ...leads us as “sons of God” – the ESV distinguishes between “sons” (daughters too) over the much more common “children” of God I think for a reason – Paul has been talking about those who follow Christ as being heirs – an inheritance.  Paul connects “sons”, “Abba” with followers of THE Son – Jesus.  The Holy Spirit points us to Christ…the Holy Spirit works on us to strengthen our relationship of faith in Christ.  The Holy Spirit has his hands full – just imagine how busy he must be amidst the distractions of our lives – our desire to be in control – you know…”I can do this – I know how to do this”.  Left on my own I would wander aimlessly… Left to our own devices, we would wander like lost sheep. But the Spirit has other plans. God’s Spirit continually reaches out to embrace and encourage us.

The Holy Spirit is a gift…a gift with an agenda.  The Holy Spirit is not one who can be managed or controlled by you and I.  The Holy Spirit works in us, and through us, as God’s gift to bring us and others into relationship with Christ.  The work of the Holy Spirit is to continually draw us to Christ, in spite of our desire want to travel the road of life on our own abilities.

The Holy Spirit is our comforter…our text is clear that we are going to experience difficulties (wait to the end of Ch. 8 for the climax of this thought).  We are not promised a life of rose gardens – there are a great deal of thorns in our lives.  We are co-heirs with Jesus – Paul emphasizes this point – and in this point I think he is telling us that sharing with Jesus means more than anticipating the glories of heaven. For Jesus Christ it involved suffering and abuse and crucifixion; therefore being co-heirs with Christ requires that believers share in His sufferings…  Being in relationship with Christ – remember, “not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16) will create tensions in this world but rest in knowing that the Holy Spirit brings us comfort…a peace that sustains us even amidst the trials and tribulations of life.


The Biggest Change of Your Life…

Romans 8:1-13 (NIV)

This passage is connected to the previous one Bob Haas so poignantly wrote about.

Now for the Sea Change; the biggest change of our lives.  Write it large; put it on all the headlines of the internet news and newspapers. Never forget this.  Repeat it everyday!

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2, NIV).

8 1-2 “With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death” (The Message).

This is all the difference between living life in the “flesh” or trying to live it “on our own” strength, or “moral muscle” and living in “the realm of the Spirit,” “the Spirit of Christ.”  You can read the difference in this passage.  We know the difference when are honest about our lives.

This day celebrate your life in the Spirit; your no more condemnation life in Christ Jesus.  For “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him” (John 3:17).

Celebrate life in Christ Jesus this day.  And with whom will you share this Good, Great News that changes all of life?

A daily struggle…


Today’s Passage:  Romans 7:14-25 (CEB)

Today, we welcome a new writer for our blog – thanks Bob Haas!!
WOW!  Is’t this the dilemma that we face?  Isn’t it true that we desire to do good, but so often end up doing that which is far from it?
This is a complex passage, raising many questions which we will not answer, but we can be sure of a few truths.
Knowledge is not enough.  It is not enough to know that there is good and evil, that we are sin filled people, prone to that direction.  What is important is that we know being baptized into Christ gives us reason for thanksgiving and and gives us access to the new life often promised to the faithful Christian made righteous through the on-going ministry of Christ.
Bob Haas

Romans 7:7-13 – Its all in your head.

Romans 7:7-13

Paul gives a fascinating explanation of the relationship between God’s Law and sin.  God gave us His law to show us the right way to live.  No shocker there.  Its a gift really, way better than wandering around in the dark wondering what that omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent being wants us to do.  Sin does something weird to humans though.  Without the law, Paul explains, we kinda like sin.  But once we realize its forbidden (for our own good) we suddenly looooove sin.  Its pretty obvious that Paul knows human nature.  I mean, I wasn’t really interested contents of the bathroom cabinets until I was told to stay out.  So how do we respond to this never ending desire to do what will ultimately destroy us?  I have a couple strategies.  First, look at the cross.  The cross reminds us that God wants the absolute best for us, not just to kill our fun.  Second, look at the effects.  A quick look at the newspaper shows us where sin leads.  Lets try to serve God and avoid the bathroom cabinets today.

The chain that holds us back

Rusty Chain - Bude Canal. Bude, North CornwallRomans 7:1-6

The Law has a hold on us from the time we are born until we understand the grace of God, that is something that we cannot deny. The law will always be trying to creep in and remind us that we are not worthy, that we are sinners and whatever we do we will never measure up to God’s standard. The law in itself was meant to help us but in the end it became our enemy. And Romans helps us understand the difference between the Law and Grace.

Paul uses the imagine of marriage to describe the relation we now have to Christ. In this covenant that Christ has redeemed us, the law has lost that grip on us, we are free and able to follow Christ. For me, and I am sure some of you might share the same struggle,  understanding and living this new found freedom does not come easy. I want to live in forgiveness or generously giving of myself, I want to help out or go the extra mile, but many times i find myself going back to my old selfish ways. I want to walk that higher road that Christ calls me to walk, but instead I find myself walking the alone in the valley where instead of joy of serving or living free of guilt, i end up fighting insecurities or self doubt. And all this because the law is like an old chain that will drag me back, instead of understanding what freedom and grace God has given me.

I wish that we would be able to understand the heart of God, the things that the spirit of God is doing everyday, so that we would really fly like eagles on this new reality that we have in Christ. I wish we could see God “cheering” on the side line, encouraging us every single step. I wish we could understand that there is no chain to hold us back.

And that is my prayer for you today. Know that you are free and there is no chain.


Bo M.

Ps. If you did not see this kid yet please watch till the end, it’s a good reminder of what Romans is all about.

“Gotta Serve Somebody”…


Today’s Passage:  Romans 6:12-23 (NRSV)

Back in the late 70’s, Bob Dylan wrote a song, “Gotta Serve Somebody” with the following lyrics:

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

I’ve never been a big Dylan fan – most of his music is just ok but these lyrics came to mind as I read today’s Romans passage.  In our passage today, I hear Paul telling us that humans are always under obligation…slaves to something – see verse 17 – “you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin…or obedience”.  Like Dylan’s song, we are slaves to what or whom we follow.

In a very real sense, Paul is talking about freedom.  From his perspective, freedom is obedience to the will of God.  And here is the hard spot for each of us – I think Americans in particular have a slightly different understanding of freedom.  Often, freedom is our right to do whatever we want…it is what we often like to refer to as free will.  Paul urges Christians to be slaves not of unrighteousness — doing whatever you want regardless of the consequences to others — but to righteousness, a life in service to others and to God.

So what do we do standing in this obvious gap?  It seems to me that Paul is telling us that, despite our daily temptations toward sin, that God has granted us the power to aspire to and achieve more than our surroundings or culture offers.  Sanctification – our daily journey dealing with as Paul says, “natural limitations” in the reality of our baptism and his coming words about the Holy Spirit as we will see in Ch. 7.  This is a daily struggle for each of us.  We have the grace of God daily present in our lives yet we still have our temptations…As Dylan said, We “gotta serve somebody”…Paul helps us to understand…”the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.



Fully Alive!

Unknown images

Romans 6:1-11 (NIV)

Oh to be completely dead to “sin” and fully “alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  When grace is at work in us we move from the land of sin and death to the land of life, grace, resurrection, hope, love, joy and…so much more!  I really like the imagery Eugene Peterson uses in The Message Translation, Romans 6:1-11.

Pauls uses Baptism in this passage, the sign of the New Covenant in Christ, as an image of dying to sin and being raised to new life.  Going down in the water depicts dying to sin and rising up out of the water is rising to new life in Jesus.

Although sin is a very real part of our lives, and therefore we include confession of sin in our worship services each week, the truth is also this, “We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word.”  Isn’t it good to know that the worst things are not the last things in life.  The most difficult things are not the final things for a follower of Jesus. The death and resurrection of Jesus are God’s tremendous No to death, sin, and suffering and God’s tremendous Yes to life, resurrection, and freedom from pain, tears, and suffering!

We are to die to sin more and more each and every day as the grace of God works within us to transform us.  We should not excuse our sins with an easily announced grace covers all.  Yet we know in Jesus’ death and resurrection that we are dead to sin and alive in God’s grace.

And so the challenge and the joy is to live in that grace; to let the wonderful, powerful grace of Jesus Christ live and abound in us.  Our lives become beautiful as Jesus’ love, grace, forgiveness, and strength live in us and flow through us to others.

May we be fully alive in Christ Jesus today!


Romans 5:12-21

Romans 5:12-21

I remember back to a time when I was a child playing sports, specifically during adolescent and high school aged teams for whom I played. As kids tend to do, guys on the team from time to time would break the rules, or would not give 100% in practice, or whatever the case may be. Not following coach’s orders, or not giving it your all at all times in sports is the basically sports sin. I can always remember coaches saying “We win as a team, we lose as a team, we are disciplined as a team.” I was always a quiet, easy going, rule follower. I really didn’t like the concept of one person or a small group of people resulted in the entire team being disciplined.

In the same way, we all, like it or not, were at once condemned through the Law because of sin, which didn’t enter the world until one man messed it up for the rest of us. So as a result, we all laid victim to God’s judgment of our sin in our lives.

But then God had a change of heart, and sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to reconcile us with Him. I think the last three verses sum it up what became of humanity due to Adam’s sin, and what has since transpired because of God’s grace.  19 Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.20 God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. 21 So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Praise God for this great gift of grace, love, and mercy on all of us sinners. May we never forget the price paid in blood by Christ for our reconciliation.

Matt Blaser

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