First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @


November 2014

1st Sunday of Advent


Advent…the beginning of the church year.  “Advent” means “coming” or “arrival.” For four weeks prior to Christmas Day, we celebrate Christ’s first coming and we wait expectantly for his second coming.  Advent allows us the opportunity to prepare ourselves as individuals and, more importantly, as a community of faithful followers of Christ…followers who look with hope for Christ’s return.  We hope and pray that this time together will indeed prepare us….

Our first Advent reading:  Hebrews 1:1-4

Long ago…God spoke.  Our passage begins with remembrance.  Advent is a season of remembrance in part.  It is also one for realizing what God continues to do…what God will ultimately do.

We all know the Christmas story…Mary, Joseph, etc.  We know what the angels sang.  We know the gifts that were given.  It is good to know what God has done long ago.  You do love to hear this old story told again and again…right?

But…how has God been speaking to us?  We love to remember but the danger here is that Christmas is left “long ago”…back where it is safe…where it doesn’t invade our daily plans..where there is no chance of Christmas changing us…where we don’t have to think about it’s controversy.

This isn’t reality though is it?  Which of you knows God’s grace in the face of the loss of a loved one?  Anyone struggling with a health issue (or know of someone who is) who has come in contact with this Jesus born amidst pain and suffering.  The message we remember is one that needs to be told today…alive and new because God – our God of “long ago” continues to speak today to us.

Advent is a time for each of us to know and live like it is more than a long time ago…it is to be known and lived today…tomorrow.  Christmas is about the greatest gift we could ever receive…the gift of salvation – one we have received…a gift to be cherished and responded to in faith.  It is a gift we should hope is received by others – as God’s people we are called to live that others would receive it.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus…touch us anew this Advent season.  Open our hearts to listen for your Word in our lives today…tomorrow.  May your Word be good news to greet us each morning.  Amen.


All About the ‘Tude – Philippians 2:1-11

Philippians 2:1-11

It’s All About the ‘Tude

Has anyone ever told you that you have a bad attitude? Have you ever been in a situation where you were unhappy with the people and circumstances around you and everyone knew it? They just had to see the look on your face. In this portion of Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, he is telling the believers that their attitudes need adjusting and here’s why: selfishness, lack of tenderness and compassion, looking out for one’s own interests and not paying attention to others, trying to impress… You get the point.

Do we need an attitude adjustment as individuals? How about as a church? Do we really love one another as Christ loves us, or do we have our own agendas to promote and are we failing to work together for good?

Matthew Henry’s Commentary on these verses is interesting and states that Paul is primarily dealing with “like-mindedness, in conformity to the example of the Lord Jesus, the great pattern of humility and love.” Verse 2 tells us “then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.”

As I seek to understand recent events in our country and reflect on the church’s response (or lack thereof), I’m struck by the lack of love. We fail to love each other, we fail to love as Christ loves, and we fail to show the world around us that we will work together and have the mind of Christ as we respond to violence, poverty, cultural tension, and even each other.

I pray that I will become more like Christ, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness (vs 6-7)”. If the world is to see Jesus as the answer, it has to start with me. With my attitude. And if it needs an adjustment, I hope he’ll come and take care of it, ‘cause if I’m sportin’ a ‘tude, people will me and my flaws, not the Savior, Christ the Lord.


Romans 15:7-13 – From Ferguson to Ferry Avenue

Romans 15:7-13

This Thanksgiving weekend me and Shelby are with our families in the near north suburbs of Detroit.  If you know anything about the history of Detroit you know that we’re a city well acquainted with racial unrest.  Race riots were common in decades past and today many look nervously at the area’s expanding Muslim community; one of the largest in the country.

Verse seven of our passage this morning gives us the key to racial and social reconciliation.  You doubt me?  Think of the implications.  Instead of seeking justice for himself (which would have resulted in our eternal separation from God), Christ forgave at His own expense.  He didn’t look at us with skeptical eyes looking to pass judgment and condemn us for our shortcomings, He came and and saw that we “…were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”  So what’s my easy answer for our tendency to hate instead of empathize?  Accept one another as Christ has accepted you.  Stop looking for justice for yourself and seek justice for others.  From Ferguson MO. to Ferry Ave. neighborhood of Detroit, Michigan; the only thing that will fix us is the selfless love of Christ.

For specific (and lengthy) thoughts from Godly men I greatly respect, read Thabiti Anyabwile’s article Why I Believe The Grand Jury Got It Wrong and Voddie Baucham’s Thoughts On Ferguson.

But I do more than thank

Ephesians 1:15-23

Thanksgiving Day 2014!

So many things that one can be thankful for! I am sure that between all of us we could write a nice long list of things we are thankful for.

But I want to challenge you to something else. Take a little time today, and as you give thanks to God for the people in your life also pray the same things Paul prays for the Ephesians:

I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!

Be Blessed,

Bo M.

“In Christ”…


Eph 1:3-14 (NRSV)           Eph 1:3-14 (The Message)

How many times have you used the phrase “In Christ”?  How many times have you thought about what “In Christ” really means?  On Sunday morning, when you hear the confessional pardon which begins, “anyone who is in Christ is a new creation…”, does God’s Holy Spirit tap you on the shoulder – right there in the pew – and ask, “are you listening?”.

The phrase “in Christ” and its close variants (“through Christ,” “in him”) are used ten times in these verses alone, thirty-four times in Ephesians as a whole – one quickly gets the impression that this is something for us to not just read through the words but allow the Holy Spirit to illuminate to us what they mean.  So stop for a moment or two and ponder “in Christ” and you…..

But there is one more very important word in this passage…”us”.  This letter is written not to an individual but to a community of individuals – the church at Ephesus, actually, “To the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus.”  The blessings of God are not simply individual in nature, they are for a community…the church.  Blessings “In Christ” should provide a new dawning for each of us as a church – how we see ourselves and one another, neighbor or stranger – how we are to realize we are indeed  a new creation.

“In Christ”…all of our experiences…accomplishments, joys, doubts, temptations, losses.  “In Christ” reframes our lives as Christians, both individually and, more importantly, as a church.  “In Christ” we are to understand the presence of God and the call to live “In Christ”.  God’s choice of Christ and God’s choice for all of us “in Christ”…Jesus…in whom all humanity becomes real.  In choosing Christ, God chooses all of us with a  love that is uncompromising and so incredibly persistent.  “In Christ”…how different can we be?


Build Well…


I Corinthians 3:10-23 (NIV)      I Corinthians 3:10-23 (The Message) 

Paul, through the grace of God, laid the foundations of many churches in his ministry.  And then there were many people who built upon the first foundations of those local churches. Of course the foundation of any church is Jesus Christ.  And the good news is that we, you and I, get to build upon the foundation of the church we serve and love.  It was true in Paul’s day and time and it’s just as true in our time.

This passage reminds us to give careful thought to how we build upon the foundation of the church. We can build well in our service and ministry and Paul means that when he writes “using gold, silver, costly stones.”    Or we can build poorly with our service and ministry and Paul mentions that when he writes “using wood, hay, or straw.”

One day we will be held accountable for how we did build upon the foundation of the church which is Jesus Christ.  If we built well then we will receive a reward; if not we will suffer loss, learning that what we did, didn’t meet God’s approval.  If what we gave was not pleasing to God it will burn up.  It will be as if we entered heaven having passed through the flames by the seat of our pants.

The community of faith, the church, is the temple of God in which God’s spirit dwells.  God wants us to build well when we serve the church.  The wisdom we need to do so comes from God in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Look to Jesus this day and ask, “Lord, how should I build up your church this day?”  May each one of us build with care, love, and joy– the church community that Jesus so loves and died for.  Build well this day.

Some Good Advice…

Galatians 6:1-10

In this passage, Paul plays the part of a corporate CEO in addressing different issues and the actions of personnel within his organization. He calls for the following actions…

  1. He urges all employees to tactfully correct those who are doing wrong (v. 1).
  1. He commands the each, regardless of rank, to help each other (vv. 2-5).
  1. Paul tells each to share what they know (v. 6) with others in the organization freely. If one has been taught something beneficial share that something with someone else. This practice will minimize formalized training costs, apparently.
  1. There is a plea (vv. 7-9) to work smart and hard. It will pay off eventually.
  1. Finally, there is a call for common decency (v. 10) towards people everywhere, especially towards those within the organization.

I don’t see anything here that is particularly spiritual or religious. It is simply a litany of what should be Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) for members of any organization. Certainly, these should be adhered as a bare minimum for members a Church under the jurisdiction of Christ. It is simply some good advice…

Craig Randolph

James 5:13-20 – Fraudulent Harmony

James 5:13-20

At the risk of minimizing the unbelievably inspiring message of the first six verses, I want to think about the last two for a minute.  Sometimes I worry that we’re not willing to go after each other.  We watch people slip out of fellowship with God.. or into a lifestyle that doesn’t please God.. or into a life of distraction from God and we don’t go after them.  Why?  Because its not entirely polite to suggest that someone is wrong.  This is pretty absurd really.  Of course we’re wrong sometimes! I’m wrong too.. just ask Shelby!  But for whatever reason, suggesting that someone is wrong in a church community is just unimaginable (at least.. suggesting it to their face:)    Maybe my reading of this passage is tainted by a hyper-aggressive personality, but I fear that we’ve traded the words, “I love you.. but I’m a little concerned about you and Phil….”  for the words, “Did you hear about Phil and Margaret?!?”    In an effort to be affable to everyone, we sometimes kill loving rebuke and along the way create a fraudulent harmony.

A diffrent type of patience

James 5:7-12

Patience and suffering, things that the Bible speaks quite a bit, might not be our favorite Christian virtues that we long for. Truth be told we might even try to avoid them in our social and cultural context.

And still patience and suffering, have so much to do with shaping our characters as followers of Christ. Even more so in the context of today’s passage, where it seems that James talks to people about getting along and being civil to one another because everyone is in the same boat. Patience and suffering, as virtues of the prophets, as virtues of you and I, as we go about meeting other brothers and sisters, that might be struggling just as we do.

I do not have it all together, I don’t have all the right answers, I get upset about trivial things and get consumed by passionate conversations just like the next guy. I know that about myself. But I also know that every day, is a new day where I receive grace and I am to extend grace. Every day is another day in God’s workshop where my own character and my whole being is being transformed in the same way yours is. And if I failed today, chances are I am not alone.So I am asking you to be patient with me, to “suffer” along side and pray for me as I do for you when I need to be patient to you.

And I pray that as we stay on that course, our lives indeed will be a gift, a blessing for many.

Be Blessed,

Bo M.

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