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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

October 2014

Everyone Gets to Serve!

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Romans 12:3-8 (NIV) 

Everyone is needed.  Everyone gets to serve.  “If your gift is prophesying (that is speaking God’s word not predicting the future), then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

Whatever the gift or gifts we have been given by God, we have the opportunity to use them in the life, ministry, and mission of the church.  It’s wonderful when everyone serves and makes their contribution to move the church ahead.   In this passage, Paul cautions us to discern our range of giftedness.  What shape does the grace of God take in our life?  What do we do well?  Where and how should we serve?

Sometimes we seek to serve beyond our talent level.  At times this can be a learning and growing experience.  And yet at other times we may keep trying to serve beyond our giftedness because we think more highly of ourselves than we should.   When it comes to leading, there are occasions when leaders need to be good followers and follow others who are more gifted in a particular area of ministry.  This passage encourages us to have a sense of healthy self-awareness and humility.

How great it is when we have the opportunity to serve and use our gifts and talents in the right area of ministry.  Then we participate in just the right way and watch the life, ministry, and mission of the church move forward as Christ desires.  When that happens we find the joy of reaching our redemptive potential in Christ.

Today, is a day for us to consider our serve.  Are we serving well?  And are we serving in the way that God has created us to serve in order to move the life, ministry, and mission of the church ahead?  May God bless you in your ministry and service.

Romans 12:1+2 – Don’t follow the crowd

Romans 12:1+2 The Message (MSG)

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. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

I’m sure it is similar with other groups as well, but one of the most important parts of a middle school student’s life is fitting in with the crowd.  To find a place with a group of people that you can then call friends is much more important than algebra, Huck Finn, or the periodic table.  And this need to please peers leads to early adolescent children making some real silly mistakes that leave us teachers just shaking our heads.

Is life much different as adults?  Hopefully the answer to that question is yes, but it isn’t always the case.  I’m sure we all know more than one adult person who makes one bad decision after another, especially when they are out with certain groups of friends.  They are still trying to fit in, be the center of attention, to make an impression.  Maybe, sometimes, you the reader of this reflection are the guilty party.  I know I cannot claim innocence here.

Paul in this letter clearly states that is not the best avenue to travel down in life.  If we want to truly have a relationship with God, a life-changing relationship, we are to give our everyday lives up to Him as a sacrifice.  In The Message translation, it says to give all of everyday life, including our jobs, up as a sacrifice.  I don’t think Paul wants us to quit our jobs so we can pray and worship non-stop all day.  What I think, though, is that Paul doesn’t want us to make our work, or any other part of our day, the center of our focus.  Instead, he wants us to not get so focused on everyday life that we leave God in the dark.  If everyone spent more time trying to please God in prayer and worship, though, we would hear about fewer celebrities in the news getting in trouble with the law because they were trying to make names for themselves.

My prayer for us all is that we don’t lose our focus in life.  That even though we have jobs, families, and responsibilities, we don’t let these things take over our lives to the point that we forget who God is and what he has done for us.  As the last part of the passage says, “God brings out the best in you.”

Romans 11:33-36 – “With”

Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
    How unsearchable his judgments,
    and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counselor?”
 “Who has ever given to God,
    that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
    To him be the glory forever! Amen.

I once worked with a pastor who despised theology.  He believed it distracted people from loving God.  I think Paul would disagree.  After giving us 11 chapters of dense, difficult theology, Paul is led to this.  Its a beautiful, worshipful passage.  It seems that for Paul theology (knowledge/study of God) hasn’t distracted him from loving God; its led him to it!  I suspect that the more deeply learn about God and what makes Him who He is, the more we will end up being with God.  Sitting in silence, appreciating God for who He is.

Hope in homecoming…

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Today’s Passage:  Romans 11:11-24

Talking to the Gentile Roman Christians, Paul warns them not to become overconfident…arrogant…boastful…over their situation because of faith in Jesus.  He thinks it is a share in the inheritance destined for Israel not something the Gentiles have obtained independently of Israel.

Paul does this through the metaphor of an olive tree – a wild olive tree to drive home his point.  The branches of a wild olive tree (Gentiles) grafted into a cultivated olive tree (Israel).  The life they now life as a graft is derived from the cultivated old stock.  Said a little differently, the church of the Gentiles is an extension of the promises of God to Israel and not Israel’s displacement.  Think too about the root of this metaphorical olive tree…

Paul provides us a look at future hope…of a great homecoming to be expected – a homecoming of the remnant Craig talked about yesterday and the Gentile Christians today.  Paul is telling us in this metaphor that those who have been graced with faith belong to the people of God – only they are the branches of the olive tree…whether they be naturally grown or subsequently grafted in.  Gentile Christians and the remnant are all God’s people united in the same faith…they are “Israel”!

God doesn’t reject his people…doesn’t not let his people down.  It is people who reject God…people who let God down.  The same is true today don’t you think?  We can get so wound up in laws and “works righteousness” that God is nothing more than second fiddle.  So…do you think we could be in the same situation today?  Who might be the wild olive tree branches ingrafted?  And, who, ultimately, who is tending the root of this tree…miracle grafts are the real work of our God…

Friends, know the grace of God – this is a message worthy of all we know.

Always A Remnant…

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Romans 11:1-10 (NIV) 

God doesn’t reject his people.  The Lord does not let his people down.  On the other hand, people reject God, they let God down, and they harden their hearts against the Lord.

What does God do?  God, through grace, chooses a Remnant.  The Lord keeps on reaching out, extending grace so there will be a remnant people, even when people reject him.

At times the world looks very bleak and dark to us.  Like Elijah, we may feel the faithful are few and far between.  Elijah thought he was the only one left who was faithful to God.  But God knew otherwise.  There were 7,000, a remnant, who were faithful and not just one as Elijah had surmised.

Israel thought the way to God was through the law, through their own obedience to hundreds of laws they added to God’s basic commandments (see the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20).  Through their laws and “works” righteousness they became distracted from the relationship which God sought to have with his people.  Those who went this route hardened their hearts to the way of faith in Jesus.  It was this rejection that caused the disciples to turn to the Gentiles with the Good News of the Gospel, which is tomorrows passage and message. Try a second reading of this passage in The Message Translation (Romans 11:1-10).

Rejoice, this day, in the grace of God.  Give thanks to the God who keeps reaching out to his people.  Celebrate the Lord who raises up a remnant of the redeemed even when there is rejection.  Wherever you go on the face of this earth you will find those faithful ones who still follow the One who died and rose again, even Jesus the Christ.

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“To Be or Not To Be: That is the Question…”

Romans 10:14-21

 A quick read of the 10th chapter of the Book of Romans reveals Paul to be analyzing the reality of Israel and it’s rejection of the Gospel of Christ. Paul proclaims that Christ has supplanted (v. 4) the Mosaic Law in God’s dealings with the human race. Without Christ, the Mosaic system would not have existed.

Romans 4 reveal that faith is not an accident of history; it is a constant of history. Romans 10 indicate that salvation is available to all (v. 6-9), Jew and Gentile, through Jesus Christ. Romans 4 & 10 complement one another: the first broadcasts the importance of faith throughout history, the second reveals the significance of the event of Jesus for this faith – faith in Jesus Christ, that alone, saves.

Romans 10:14-21 is an open invitation for all believers to proclaim the Gospel worldwide. It is impossible for anyone to believe (v. 14) in something that they have not personally heard about. This proclamation (vv. 15, 16) is firmly grounded in the truth of the Old (2 Sam. 23:2-3, Isa. 59:21, Jer. 1:9) and New (Jn. 16:12, 1 Cor. 2:13, Gal. 1:7-8, 2 Thess. 3:6, 1 Tim. 5:18, 2 Tim. 3:16, 2 Pet. 3:16) Testaments.

The “Gospel” message is an absolute necessity to man’s salvation (Rom 2:16). The “good news” is that Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world on a cross; that He raised from the dead for our righteousness, and that by Him all who believe are justified before God. It is described as the Gospel “of God” (Rom. 1:1) because it originates in His love of mankind, “of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4) because it flows from His sacrifice.

In the above Shakespeare quote (Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1), Hamlet is trying to decide whether to go on living a life worth living or to put an end to it. All Christian Churches of today either are or should be wrestling with a similar issues.

Craig Randolph

Romans 10:5-13 – Don’t Force It.

Romans 10:5-13

For the last chapter or so Paul has given us a lot to chew on.  Election, faith, chosen people, Abraham’s descendants and a whole lot more has been brought to surface.  After all of that, Paul boils it down. Way down.  Paul says salvation is pretty simple; “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved…”  Jew or Gentile.  The Christian life is complicated and fraught with ethical quandaries, relational difficulties, workplace drama and personal spiritual struggle.  The news of the Gospel tells us that because of the work of Christ we are met in the middle of messy life and given community with God.  We are free.  Not free to sin, but free to be the people God made us to be.. wholly bringing glory to God.  We do this by repeatedly coming back to God the same way we came the first time; empty asking to be filled.

Dealing with God on God’s own terms

tacmaRomans 10:1-4The Message (MSG)

Israel Reduced to Religion

1-3 Believe me, friends, all I want for Israel is what’s best for Israel: salvation, nothing less. I want it with all my heart and pray to God for it all the time. I readily admit that the Jews are impressively energetic regarding God—but they are doing everything exactly backward. They don’t seem to realize that this comprehensive setting-things-right that is salvation is God’s business, and a most flourishing business it is. Right across the street they set up their own salvation shops and noisily hawk their wares. After all these years of refusing to really deal with God on his terms, insisting instead on making their own deals, they have nothing to show for it.4The earlier revelation was intended simply to get us ready for the Messiah, who then puts everything right for those who trust him to do it.

This week has been a long week for me. A mixture of excitement, anticipation and pressure to get things right, making sure that all the things for Sunday are falling in to place. At some point in the week I had to do something so simple and yet so hard: remember that God is ultimately in charge. As I thought about salvation, not only for the sermon on Sunday, but about my own journey with God, i found myself remembering all those times when I tried to bargain with God, work on my relationship with God on my own terms and finding myself sometimes farther from where I started. I wish there was someone like Paul, to pull me to the side and tell me: if you want to follow God, remember the rules of the game. It is by God’s grace that we come to know God, it is by God’s love that we find strength in our daily walk. And all the things that we do to keep ourselves busy for God, are just noise if we do not understand the very basic truth that without trust in God we are missing the very grace we long for.

My prayer for me this week has been: give the faith to trust you God! So here are a few questions for you my dear friend: Do you understand the grace that God is? Do you comprehend the simplicity and yet complex relation that the God has with you? Do you trust God or you are still bargaining with God on your own terms?  I pray that you can be true to yourself and take a minute to think about your relationship with God and find faith to trust in God and live your life in the freedom that Christ’s sacrifice has bought you.

Be blessed.

Bo M.

Faith…not works

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Romans 9:30-33 (NRSV)

Up to now, Paul has been arguing that the Jews failure to embrace the gospel and its blessings was not due to a failure of God’s word but reflects God’s election (an important doctrine in the Reformed faith) and, therefore, God’s rightful prerogative to show mercy as seen throughout all of Scripture.  This is important in the context of the overall theme of Romans 1:16-17.

In our passage today, Paul provides reasoning as to why Israel did not attain the righteousness that she sought while the Gentiles did attain the righteousness they were not seeking.  Paul does so through the metaphor of a race…one with a finish line of righteousness from God.  Paul is telling us that the Gentiles DID get what they did not pursue (righteousness by faith) while the Jews DID NOT get what they did pursue (a law as a way to righteousness).  Said a little differently…righteousness (remember, God’s forensic righteousness) was credited to the Gentiles because they believed the gospel when they heard it and as a consequence obtained righteousness even though they weren’t seeking it as the Jews were.  The failure of the people of Israel is due not to WHAT they pursued (a law for righteousness) but, rather, the MANNER of their pursuit…not by faith but by works.

So…”what then shall we say?”…today?  How many of your friends…classmates…co-workers…how many simply believe that if they just continue to do good deeds that all will be well?  You know, I don’t know exactly where Bo will go with his sermon this Sunday, but one of the really important questions of life is, “Do you know if you are going to heaven?”  You should know this answer without hesitation.  What about those around you with whom you interact inside and outside of church – what if they asked this question of you?  About themselves?

Faith, not works…this is how the race is “won”.  Grace and peace to you.

 

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