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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

December 2014

Let’s talk about John!

John 1:19-28

I know we are in the middle of Advent, Christmas is just a week away, but come on, how can one pass this opportunity to speak about John the Baptist, his ministry and his character? You see for me, John the Baptist doesn’t get a fare share of exposure when it comes to Bible exposition. There is so much more to John the Baptist, than the camel hair coat, or his draconian diet. There is more to him than just being a voice in the wilderness.

John the Baptist is indeed a prophet by those old standards of the old testament, he has a message that draws multitudes in the wilderness, his voice and mission brings people closer to God, people repent people get baptize and they leave the place transformed. If you look at John’s ministry you can see that fire of the old time prophets burning in his heart.He wants people closer to God, he works hard to bring the message of repentance to them, he faces opposition, and some people mock him for who he is. And not to mention that later on he loses his head over all this. John is all that and even more. A prophet, a man of God, humble and ready to serve, obedient, a man that sometimes had his doubts in his faith, but still able to stand in from of many proclaiming: “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

The reason we need to talk about John, is because John should be a reminder to all of us about who we are as follows of Christ. We are to be humble, we are to be ready and willing to serve even when opposition arises against us, we are to love people and proclaim the kingdom of God to them. We need to be able to say at some point in our life: I am John! because the love for the lost, the love for the needy is so burning in my heart that I need to cry out, even in the wilderness, for them. I am John!

I pray that in this season of great anticipation, we can all pause and think of what it is important to us, to God. And maybe pause for a moment and in between the wrapping of presents, cookies baking and all the good cheer we can talk to those close to us about this Jesus we keep hearing a lot during this season. Who knows maybe someone somewhere might hear the voice and will go down to the river to pray.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

Who do you say Jesus is?

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Today’s Advent Passage:  John 1:15-18

“No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.”

So…today I am going to “cheat” just a little and share something from an article I came across while in seminary.  I think it speaks clearly to verse 18 today – more importantly I think it makes us realize that Jesus is bigger and greater than we often make him out to be…Many claims are made like, “I have Jesus in my life”, or, “I have a relationship with Jesus”, or, a host of many others…Who do you say that Jesus is?  I hope you find Kevin DeYoung’s writing on this to be as thought provoking as I did a few years ago and still today….

The greatness of God is most clearly displayed in his Son. And the glory of the gospel is only made evident in his Son. That’s why Jesus’ question to his disciples [in Matthew 16] is so important: “Who do you say that I am?”  The question is doubly crucial in our day, because [no one is as popular in the U.S. as Jesus]—and not every Jesus is the real Jesus. … 

There’s the Republican Jesus—who is against tax increases and activist judges, for family values and owning firearms.  

There’s Democrat Jesus—who is against Wall Street and Wal-Mart, for reducing our carbon footprint and printing money.

There’s Therapist Jesus—who helps us cope with life’s problems, heals our past, tells us how valuable we are and not to be so hard on ourselves.

There’s Starbucks Jesus—who drinks fair trade coffee, loves spiritual conversations, drives a hybrid, and goes to film festivals.

There’s Open-minded Jesus—who loves everyone all the time no matter what (except for people who are not as open-minded as you).

There’s Touchdown Jesus—who helps athletes fun faster and jump higher than non-Christians and determines the outcomes of Super Bowls.

There’s Martyr Jesus—a good man who died a cruel death so we can feel sorry for him.

There’s Gentle Jesus—who was meek and mild, with high cheek bones, flowing hair, and walks around barefoot, wearing a sash (while looking very German).

There’s Hippie Jesus—who teaches everyone to give peace a chance, imagines a world without religion, and helps us remember that “all you need is love.”

There’s Yuppie Jesus—who encourages us to reach our full potential, reach for the stars, and buy a boat.

There’s Spirituality Jesus—who hates religion, churches, pastors, priests, and doctrine, and would rather have people out in nature, finding “the god within” while listening to ambiguously spiritual music.

There’s Platitude Jesus—good for Christmas specials, greeting cards, and bad sermons, inspiring people to believe in themselves.

There’s Revolutionary Jesus—who teaches us to rebel against the status quo, stick it to the man, and blame things on “the system.”

There’s Guru Jesus—a wise, inspirational teacher who believes in you and helps you find your center.

There’s Boyfriend Jesus—who wraps his arms around us as we sing about his intoxicating love in our secret place.

There’s Good Example Jesus—who shows you how to help people, change the planet, and become a better you.

And then there’s Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. Not just another prophet. Not just another Rabbi. Not just another wonder-worker. He was the one they had been waiting for: the Son of David and Abraham’s chosen seed; the one to deliver us from captivity; the goal of the Mosaic law; Yahweh in the flesh; the one to establish God’s reign and rule; the one to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, freedom to the prisoners and proclaim Good News to the poor; the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.

This Jesus was the Creator come to earth and the beginning of a New Creation. He embodied the covenant, fulfilled the commandments, and reversed the curse. This Jesus is the Christ that God spoke of to the Serpent; the Christ prefigured to Noah in the flood; the Christ promised to Abraham; the Christ prophesied through Balaam before the Moabites; the Christ guaranteed to Moses before he died; the Christ promised to David when he was king; the Christ revealed to Isaiah as a Suffering Servant; the Christ predicted through the Prophets and prepared for through John the Baptist.

This Christ is not a reflection of the current mood or the projection of our own desires. He is our Lord and God. He is the Father’s Son, Savior of the world, and substitute for our sins—more loving, more holy, and more wonderfully terrifying than we ever thought possible.

Source:  June 10, 2009 by Kevin DeYoung, “DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed” blog, “Who Do You Say That I Am?”.

The Word Became Flesh

Greetings Family,
When we go to the Word of God how do we prepare our hearts to receive the fullness of His message for us? I tend to begin with music.. Please enjoy this selection before you read today’s Scripture selection.

Now meditate on these powerful lyrics…

I chose this song because the Word (God) was made flesh in the form of a baby boy birthed by an innocent obedient teenager. And Mary was instantly changed… ” She kept these things in her heart”

Jesus came to dwell with us, to feel us, relate to us, teach us and then three years into his radical ministry DIE for us, descend into hell for us, and shedding his blood for us so His Father would not see our sin! But his powerful ministry lives on….

Now let’s read together John 1:1-15

This poetic passage HAS NOTHING to do with the birth of Christ. It HAS EVERYTHING to do with OUR birth in Christ! John’s testimony in these verses compels us to embrace the person of Christ and His redemptive message found in His Holy Word (in HIM) And John so lovingly and intimately translates his EYE witness from his heart.

In the moment this was scribed, I imagine John an old man reflecting on all of what he has SEEN, FELT, EXPERIENCED as the first apostle and the last, a passionate effort for all to proclaim the divine truth that Jesus IS the Living God! Then, Now and Forever!

My prayer is that all of us see beyond the babe in the manger and BEGIN a more intention pursuit of living and loving THE WORD without end. Amen

Cyndi Schwartz

Matthew 1:18-25 – Just another 16 year-old pregnant with a future convict.. named God.

Matthew 1:18-25

Our faith is based on a 16 year old girl becoming pregnant through the the Holy Spirit.  The same Holy Spirit that is completely unique in His personhood, as are the Father and Son, yet still one.  The baby of this 16 year-old girl will be 100% God and 100% man.  He’ll walk around earth focusing on the underprivileged and going from wildly popular to being convicted and executed. His death was payment for our sins, not His.  After three days He resurrected proving that God the Father accepted the sacrifice that Christ made.  For those of us who are predisposed to doubt the legitimacy of Old Testament miracles, the New Testament is even more of a logical nightmare!  This is Christianity… and Christmas. Join me in worshiping the God who makes a living confounding the brilliant and proving Himself to those who are willing to humble themselves.  Join me in thanking God for Jesus, the most unlikely of Saviors but the only person who can both sympathize with me in my weakness and save me from sin.

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” 

Impossible is our response… not God’s

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Today’s Advent Passage:  Luke 1:26-38

This is Gabriel’s second proclamation visit – remember Zechariah 2 days ago?  Gabriel foretells the birth of John 2 days ago and Jesus today.   Each story involves individuals chosen by God for a purpose.  Each story has 2 questions.  Each story has 2 individual responses.

Zechariah was of the priestly line and granted privilege to enter into the “sanctuary of the Lord” while Mary was a servant girl from Nazareth.  The common thread though is that God reached out to each of them for his mission.  What is dramatically different are their responses:  Zechariah and ‘prove it to me’ and Mary’s, “here am I the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word”.  Make no mistake, Mary asks a question of Gabriel but clearly by response, Gabriel sees no doubt in Mary.

I wonder…what it would be like if, as Christians, we could set aside all our “stuff”…biases and prejudices…selfishness…idols…fears…busyness…you can add others – and really believe…I mean REALLY BELIEVE, and trust, that God is working in and through us…each of us…if we really believed that the Almighty God we worship – that, for him, nothing is impossible.  After all, think of Mary, a frightened teenager, was, without any doubt, able to tell God’s representative ‘here I am – use me’…Do you really think that Mary woke up that morning expecting God to tell her that the Savior of the world would enter this world through her?

Like Mary, are you open to God’s radical transformation?  Mary went from servant girl to prophet…from Mary of Nazareth to mother of God.  Can we see the miracle of Christmas for all of us?  Moreover, remarkably, impossibly, Mary’s story demands that we acknowledge the very transformation of God. It is no small journey to go from our comfortable perceptions of God to God in the manger, vulnerable, helpless, dependent. Yet, this is the promise of Christmas…with a radical transformation, the word IMPOSSIBLE becomes…. I’M POSSIBLE….

Grace and Peace to each of you in the name of Jesus Christ this Third Sunday of Advent…may each of us listen for God’s call…may each of us hear God’s call…may each of us respond, without doubt, to God’s call.  Amen

You are The One!

Mark 1:1-8

Do you ever get caught in that vicious cycle of duty, obligation, sense of urgency on one side and feeling stressed, overworked, feeling that your effort or serving others goes unnoticed? I know I do. It’s something that times and times again comes up in so many conversations I have with many of you. It feels at times that it’s almost a shadows that follows Christians time and time again.

It’s something that I get to think about quite a bit. You might of heard me say that life, real life, transformational living happens where we do pause and ask the identity question: Who are we? What is our identity in Christ?

As we look at John the Baptist we quickly realize that he had a clear answer to that question. I am the voice in the wilderness, I am the one that prepares the way. For John, identity merged in to a message that attracted lots of people, and caused quite a stir among the people that heard it. You can say it caused quite an awakening of their spirits, a revival. But i do have to ask: How is John the Baptist any different in his mission than anyone one of us? Are we not called to be a voice in the wilderness, a voice that proclaims     the Christ? Are we not fueled by the same passion, to see people’s lives changed?

Yes we are! I know many of us will answer with no hesitation. But then, a few minutes later we mind find ourselves thinking: why me? why always me, so and so can do this too! I am not the only one in this church you know. And that my friend is that cycle I was talking about early on. That thin line between being excited about what God is doing and actively seeking to take part in it, and staying behind, living someone else deal with it, waiting for someone else to raise to the occasion so to speak

If there is one thing we can learn from John the Baptist, this should be it: We too can be the voice that brings God closer to people, or the people closer to God, we too can be that voice that calls people. Advent is about hope in the middle of the wilderness, about finding hope in the one that is to come.

I pray that we each can be filled with excitement, joy and find our inner John as we journey though this Advent season.

Be blessed,

bo m.

Prove it to me?

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Today’s Advent Passage:  Luke 1:5-25

How many times have you said, “prove it to me”?  Why is it that we say this phrase for so many situations?

We’ve just heard that both Zechariah and Elizabeth are righteous before God – both from the priestly line of Aaron.  And we learn about the son, John, that will be born who will have 6 amazing characteristics:  He will be a joy and delight; He will be great in the sight of the Lord; He is never to take wine or other fermented drink; He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth; Many of the people of Israel would he bring back to God; He will go on before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah.

And Zechariah’s response?  Prove it to me?  He’s in the presence of God’s agent, Gabriel – you have to believe he knows what this means.  He’s entered the inner sanctuary of the temple – a rare privilege.  He responds, “How will I know that this is so?”  Now I realize that Zechariah knows he and his wife are “getting on in years”.  But consider where he is and who he is talking to…  Gabriel reinforces the message…”I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news”.

Zechariah doubted the word of God through the angel. He wanted a sign. And so God gave him a sign: he shut his mouth! God has always wanted our trust…to take him at his word…no doubts…only trust.

Prayer:  Gracious God, as we enter into your presence and, more importantly, when you enter into ours…may we trust – believing that nothing is impossible for you.  May we be willing to push our doubts aside and trust in you.  Amen.

Philippians 4:4-9 – I “Trust” God

Philippians 4:4-9

I’m a pretty forgetful person.  I predictably get my priorities done but often the smaller things get left undone.  As a result, Shelby worries about how much tupperware accumulates in my office (its a lot…) and if I remembered that we have dinner with so-and-so on Saturday.  I used to pretend to be hurt by the fact that she doesn’t trust me with those details.  Now I realize that the reason she worries about those details is because I’m not trustworthy with those details.  On the other hand, she never once has asked: “did you remember to pay the mortgage this month?” or “does my car need an oil change?”  Those things are priorities for me and I always deliver, so she doesn’t worry about them.  I’m trustworthy in those areas.

I’m sure you’ve noticed what I’m doing here. There’s a direct link between worry and trustworthiness.  The obvious question here is: do you believe that God is trustworthy?  Do you believe that He can handle your finances?  The future?  Your children?  Do you trust that His plan is best even if its not easiest?  This is isn’t a rhetorical question.  It has an answer.  Your worry is directly tied to how much you trust God.  So stop worrying.  God has it.  He’s been around for a while and taken care of situations bigger than yours.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

No Fear; Live in the Light

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I Thessalonians 5:1-6 (NIV)  I Thessalonians 5:1-6 (The Message) 

As we prepare for the birth of the Savior we are reminded that Jesus is the light of the world that shines in the darkness (John 1).  We give thanks to God that the darkness cannot overcome the light of the Christ.  When we receive him and believe in his name we become children of God (John).  We are children of the Light.

As children of the Light, followers of Jesus, we can live in anticipation of his second coming.  Even though we cannot know when he will return we need not be afraid.  We do not need to live in fear of Christ’s return.  While we do not know the day or time, for he will come like a thief in the night, we will not be surprised because we are not children of the darkness.  We are sons and daughters of the light and the day.  We are followers of Jesus, the Savior, who loves us more than we can even put into words.  We follow the One who will return and make all things right.

This Advent Season, give thanks to God for the Light of Christ and living in his light and love. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8).  Nothing can destroy the light of Christ.  Let us live in the light with great joy!

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