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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

November 2014

Do right voluntarily…

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Today’s Passage: James 4:13-5:6

First, sorry for being late – honestly thought I was due tomorrow.  Today’s message from James is one that is tough – right between the eyes for us.  It comes to us in 2 parts – the first about boasting…can you see James talking to an individual who is proud of his/her own plans – apart from God.  Plans that come from his/her confident nature – they are assertive…doing this and that on their time schedule…carrying on business…making money?  Don’t get me wrong – as is typically the case in the Bible – making money is not usually the problem.  The problem, like this passage, is again, the individual’s focus and it is not solely about money – it is the prideful nature…the boasting that is the problem.

Segue into the second part where James talks about a life lived in the wrong direction.  Just like every other reading on storing up of riches, well, you all know how that goes and James only serves to punctuate the point clearly.  Riches rot away…

The phrase I land on today comes in 4:17.  When I was working for Exelon and involved in management/union negotiations these were, to many, times to be avoided because they were tense – often filled with anger and animosity…both sides wanting to get their own way…not budging an inch…individuals acting selfish and only interested in their own personal desires.  On both sides, greed was a driving force.  I learned something from these sessions – “do right voluntarily”…most of the individuals at the table knew the right things to do but greed usually got in the way.  When we could focus on the bigger picture we could easily get to “do right voluntarily”.

James points us in the same direction…do right voluntarily – we need to be focused on the bigger picture each day.  Just like the negotiating sessions, things will not always be perfect and end in a “smiley-face” day but it did create a sense of what was important.  Do right voluntarily today!  Each one of us as Christ-followers are here for a much bigger reason…do right voluntarily!

Wisdom

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James 3:13-4:12 (NIV)       James 3:13-4:12 (The Message) 

“Live well, live wisely.”  There is wisdom from above and wisdom from below.  James writes about both in this passage.  At first we might think that wisdom and understanding would be demonstrated most clearly by speech and verbal skills.  For James wisdom and understanding are demonstrated by living the good life and by good deeds.  Our faith in the Lord Jesus must be put into action.

There’s a lifestyle that demonstrates our faith.   “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:17, NIV).

Here’s what we read in The Message Translation, “17-18 Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.”

Chapter 4:1-12 invites us to submit ourselves to God and live the wisdom that comes from above rather than the wisdom that comes from below.

Today, we can ask ourselves, how shall I live and act and speak as a Christ-Follower?  Will I live the wisdom that comes from above?

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Taming the tongue…

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Today’s post comes to us from Cyndi Schwartz…

Today’s passage from James 3:1-12 could easily be a yearlong sermon series. One verse covered for a month of Sundays for an entire year.

Each of us could easily conjure up several analogies and metaphors for the “tongue” according to its use; a sword, like beast, destructive as fire. It can to build up or break down. Very powerful and deceitful, the spoken word can change the course of relationship, a life, or reputation to name a few. A deeper truth is James’ conviction that what we allow to come out of our mouths reveals our belief in God while trapped in our flesh.

Several areas of the Bible exhort the mismatch of works and behavior exhibited through our words. We would do well by memorizing as many as we can.. but two of my most recited and regularly forgotten.

** Proverbs 12:18 states, “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

**Ephesians 4:29: “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

Our tongue truly is untamable. And we would be wise to accept this truth. We would rather say it has a mind of its own. However, it is more of a reflection of our hearts not our minds. This is also why we are instructed to “protect our hearts because it is the well spring of life.” The mouth will always reveal what is in our hearts.

When my Grandma would catch me speaking unkindly she would remark “you eat with that mouth?” and today we reflect as James calls each of out, “you say,Praise the Lord” in one breath, and in the next breath they say evil things about another person, made in the likeness of God”. And Jesus reminds us in Matthew of “the judgment that God will be upon us for the damage our tongues have committed.”

In 2006 I attended a Hearts from Home conference for woman. I chose a presentation by a woman who spoke on taming the tongue. The speaker gave an illustration we could share with our families that represents the irrevocable damage of an untamed tongue.

She squirted a tube of toothpaste across the edge of her bathroom sink in front of her 5yr old daughter after she said something mean to her. The mother asked her child to imagine the tube of the toothpaste as her mouth. The toothpaste are the words that come out.. good or bad. And then she asked her child to put the toothpaste back into the tube. The child tried diligently but could not put the toothpaste back into the tube. Although we ask others and God’s forgiveness for the terrible things we say… you can’t ever take (put) them back. I tear up every time I’m reminded of this lesson.

I don’t know about you but there has been a lot of toothpaste that has come out of my tube and would like to put back. I should have calluses on my knees from asking forgiveness.. but I don’t have those either.

Lord Jesus, I pray to walk in the Spirit, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ;

To speak to one another in truth and love with gentleness and humility , to be quick to forgive , to seek reconciliation so no evil takes hold in our hearts. And thank you for your grace and your Holy Word that reminds me of your Son’s gift of himself for me. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

James 2:14-26 – Faith Acts.

James 2:14-26

I think the reason this passage is so poignant is because we’ve all lived it out to some degree.  We’ve all seen a situation (a homeless guy, a family struggling to keep the lights on, a friend who just lost a job etc.) that we most likely could have had some immediate, direct positive impact on.  What James is saying (rather clearly) is that our wishes for the best aren’t enough.  Its not enough to say: “man, I wish he had a job” or “I hope that guy gets some warmer clothes”.  James says that real faith, authentic faith takes action.  Its too easy to take the sidelines.  Our rationale goes something like “well, I can’t change everything” and that’s true to some degree, but a lot of us live without trying to change anything. My prayer for us this morning is that we’re sensitive to God’s leading. That we take action even if it means discomfort and financial loss.

Jesus loves you but I am his favorite

Jesus-favorite James 2:1-13

Do you ever wonder if God has favorites? And if he does what will it take to make his list? Think about it for a second or two. What do you think?

I am sure you will say that God has no favorites, that we all are equal in his sight. And you are right! But I want to ask you a different question: Why does James has to write in such a strong manner against favoritism in church? Why does he need to remind the believers of showing mercy and kindness at all times to all people? Why does the church fails to receive the poor, the needy and treat everyone in a manner that’s worthy of the call of Christ? Why does James needs to speak about all this?

Because even today, in the christian church we need to hear that message. The church of Christ is about welcoming people, about treating others as we want to be treated, the church is not about cliques or groups, about holding grudges against one another. The church is not about who is better, or who is smarter, or more loved by God.

The church is about mercy! The church is about acceptance! The church is about showing grace.

So next time you are in church I pray that you would do exactly the same thing that James is encourages to do: go and find someone and show them God’s love.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall…

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Today’s Passage:  James 1:16-27 (CEB)

Many love the letter of James – it’s a letter that seeks to shape Christian life.  It’s often seen as a practical book…easy to understand…but with some very difficult lessons for the lives we live as Christians.  For example, throughout the letter, James talks about that what counts is faith that is lived out daily in our lives.  We see in our passage today, that the importance of a faith lived out comes in the preamble to the main part of today’s reading:  “Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father…”  James is telling us who God is…it is God who gives…God who is perfect…God who chooses us.

And then, James tells us who we are…born of God’s true Word, the first crop of God’s creation…we are the recipients of God’s good gifts…perfect gifts…why?  This is where the letter of James gets tough…we are asked – having been made aware of who we are…we are asked to stand in front of a mirror and asked,  “Do you see who you are?”

It’s easy to do this right?  I would bet that each one of us looks into the mirror as one of the first things we do every day.  We see if our hair needs combing, or we are dressed properly for whatever we are doing.  But this isn’t what James is getting at…we are to look into that mirror and see if we reflect back what has just been pointed out to us at the beginning of today’s passage…uh oh!  I know I don’t always measure up…

What happens when we forget who we are?  We’ve been give a great deal.  So…let’s look into the mirror again:  Mirror, Mirror on the wall…let’s look and see first that we are loved beyond compare and then let each of us be doers of what God created us to be.

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A Servant’s Path

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James 1:1-15 (NIV)  James 1:1-15 (The Message)

Being mature and complete in Christ takes time, experience, listening, asking, and learning.  Testing and perseverance must have their way for this is a refining process.  The twelve tribes reference indicates that this is written to Jewish believers who are probably suffering for being Christ-Followers.  It’s the outcome of trials and suffering that brings joy and not trials and suffering in and of themselves.

God is generous and gives wisdom to those who ask.  We are to ask in faith believing that God is good and generous.  The humble are exalted and the rich are reminded that life does not consist in possessions.  Humility is at the heart of our faith.  Those who persevere are blessed by God.

This passage reminds me what Paul wrote in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

May you persevere in your journey of following Jesus Christ this day and always.

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Faithful and True

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Faithful & True

Revelation 19:11-21 (The Message)

I want to focus on the following verses of this passage…

19-21 I saw the Beast and, assembled with him, earth’s kings and their armies, ready to make war against the One on the horse and his army. The Beast was taken, and with him, his puppet, the False Prophet, who used signs to dazzle and deceive those who had taken the mark of the Beast and worshiped his image. They were thrown alive, those two, into Lake Fire and Brimstone. The rest were killed by the sword of the One on the horse, the sword that comes from his mouth. All the birds held a feast on their flesh.

These final three verses strike interest and maybe some fear in me as well. Here we have Jesus in all His glory, coming down from heaven on a horse, with the armies of angels following behind, and here we also have the silly human race thinking that, through the human kings, we will be able to defeat the rider and his army. The human race is so blinded by their own human-created power that they don’t even recognize who it is coming down upon them and they don’t realize they don’t even have a chance to defeat him.

I wonder, will we, in our humanness, be able to recognize when the day comes, who it is revealing himself? Will we rise up with the rest of the human kings and try to fight back against the rider, or will we recognize him as “Faithful and True”?

I pray that we don’t lose sight of the one who is Faithful and True, instead becoming blinded by our own human ways. I pray that we remain faithful and true to Him, and that we are able to recognize who the rider of the white horse is when he makes his triumphant return to Earth.

Matt Blaser

Three things we probably know about Revelation 19:1-10

Revelation 19:1-10

1. Babylon probably isn’t Babylon.
The passage today is heaven rejoicing over the fall of a great evil city called Babylon (ie. “the great whore” in revelation 19).  This is probably a future city.  Some think it was Rome.. some think it represents the United States.. there are a million theories but if we’re honest we don’t know.

2.  We don’t take sin as seriously as God.
In chapter 18 we see a list of grievances against the city.  Its pretty bad.  The chapter talks about the city being full of the blood of the saints and rampant immorality.  One thing that comes up repeatedly is the fact that the city’s wealth has caused them to self-glorify.  If you were unsure, the glory is God’s.. not ours.

3. God is merciful… and just.
In the Old Testament God typically follows a pattern.  He patiently waits for people to turn to Him.  He gives warnings and second.. third.. and fourth chances; he’s merciful.  Its obvious from this passage that He’s also just.  Eventually His patience runs out.  He can’t stand by and watch His people abused and His law flaunted forever. Sometimes God’s justice makes us uncomfortable (ie. Old Testament)  but its important to worship God for who He is.. and not for who we want Him to be. If we get to construct a God we always like then suddenly we’re not made in God’s image, He’s made in ours.  Worship God for His mercy and justice this morning.

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