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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

January 2015

Paul’s Mission & God’s “Mysterious Plan” Revealed

Ephesians 3:1-12

 In this passage, Paul maps out his mission and authority to preach Jesus Christ to the Gentiles even though He did not know Him in the flesh. Paul only knew the resurrected Christ (1 Cor. 15:9). Paul’s mission is to “make the mystery known” (v. 9) by way of and through the Church (v. 10).

The fact that Gentiles were to be saved was not a mystery (Rom. 9:24-33, 10:19-21). The mystery “hidden in God” was the bringing together of the Jew and Gentile to form a wholly new thing “the Church, which is His [Christ’s] body,” formed by the baptism with the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:12-13). In His Church, God does not see any distinction between Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:4-15, Col. 3:10-11).

The revelation of this “mystery” was foretold but not explained by Christ (Matt. 16:18). Those details, concerning doctrine, position, walk and the destiny of the Church, were left Paul and fellow “apostles and prophets” by the Spirit (v. 5). These details have been committed to (Phil. 1:27, 2 Th. 2:15, Ti. 1:9, Jude 3) by Christians through history in the face of decaying societal morality.

Craig Randolph

Ephesians 2:11-22 – Pauls Clear; You’re No Longer An Alien.

Ephesians 2:11-22

11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

The passage today, as well as the passage Craig discussed yesterday, is full of contrasts. Today’s passage contrasts hopelessness, alienation, separation and hostility with peace, fellowship, reconciliation, sonship and sainthood.  Its a contrast of our relationship to God before and after our salvation through faith in Christ.  Without the work of Christ we are natural born enemies of God.  Not by His choosing but by ours.  By His grace He reaches down, changes our hearts and makes us whole.  As a result we have fellowship with God; we’re not enemies of God, we are adopted sons and daughters.  Every time I think deeply on this truth I am amazed by the fact that God chose to save me.  Fellow Saints, take time today to thank God that although we were hopelessly lost and far off, we’ve been made near by the sacrifice of Christ.

SOUL SHIFT

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Ephesians 2:1-10 (The Message)         Ephesians 2:1-10 (NIV)  

How great it is to move from death to life!  What a transformation it is to go from being dead in our sins, shortcomings, mistakes, and failures to being alive in Christ!

Here’s how Eugene Peterson translates this difference-making change in The Message Translation, “It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat.”

“Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish!…we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.”

Rejoice, gives thanks and be glad this day for being alive in Jesus Christ.  God’s grace has transformed you!  You are forgiven, loved, and redeemed.  Celebrate this extraordinary gift from God!  Celebrate by doing the good work Jesus wants you to join him in doing.  Go about the ministry and mission that Jesus wishes to do through you.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Everyone has the power to be great, not for fame, but greatness, because greatness is determined by service.” Live the joyous life of a Christ-Follower and Give Thanks!  You Are Alive in Christ!

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I pray …

Ephesians 1:15-23

Let’s talk about prayer today: Prayer ism ore than a few words that we say in a rush as we wake up in the morning, and brushing our teeth or driving to work. Prayer is more than the same words that almost sounds like a chant or something that we had learn as kids. Let’s talk about prayer as part of who we are as christians. Prayer is the breath of our soul, prayer is that deep conversation where we become stubborn in spending time with God. Let’s talk about prayer as a conversation between two friends, a conversation between a loving God and His sons and daughters.

Let’s talk about prayer the same way Paul talks about it. Something that is part of who he is, something that it’s connected to the people that he cares for, something that is going to    produce change, something that is not just words spoken in ether, but something that has the power to change lives and change people’s lives.

Today I pray the same way that Paul prayed: I pray that God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[a] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

Blessed and a Blessing…

CIAV

Today’s Passage:  Eph 1:3-14

There is a great deal in today’s passage…too much to adequately cover here:

  • God blessings in Christ
  • God choosing us
  • God adoption of us in Christ”
  • God revealing his mystery in Christ
  • Redemption
  • Inheritance

These major points lead to terms like election, redemption, and adoption which have become part of my vocabulary more deeply as a result of my time at seminary.  While I do believe that there is a plan for the fullness of time – a mystery God has not fully revealed – it is hard to remain rooted in this because of the things that happen in our world.  Paris, France…Ferguson, MO…hunger, poverty, sex trafficking…murders in our own communities.  And even while I say this, I know in my heart that there remains a tension between what God has already done – we just celebrated part of this in the last month and now we journey to Easter – we know what God has done in Jesus the Christ and what remains to be done in our world.

So…where am I going with this?  Hear again the opening to today’s passage, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ…”  Blessed us…not “us” as individuals but “us” as the body of Christ…the Church.  God has blessed HIS CHURCH in Christ “with every spiritual blessing”…blessed such that our proper response is for his Church to live for the praise of Christ’s glory.  Proper responses… the Church that is in service for the world and not just those in the pews…the Church that lives in peace among itself for the greater goal of working for the peace in it’s communities and the world…the Church that understands and lives out reconciliation within its own walls so that its focus can be on reconciliation among our sisters and brothers in Joliet, Plainfield, Shorewood, Crest Hill, Illinois, the US, North America and, yes, the world.

May each of us be blessed and be a blessing in Christ to others guided by the Holy Spirit to the praise of God’s glory.

Ephesians 1:1-2: Keep After It

Ephesians 1:1-2

“…to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus.” From the opening 2 verses of Ephesians, we get quite a different feel about this church versus the Galatians. We’ve just finished Paul’s letter to Galatia in which he wastes no time telling that church they are heading down the wrong path and cursing those who are deceiving Gentile believers into obeying the law – specifically things like circumcision. This time Paul opens with Praise for the faithfulness of the community he’s writing to. 

If things were going so well, why did Paul think he needed to write to them? Well, of course it was because Paul was given a message from God for this church. But if things were going smoothly in Ephesus, didn’t Paul have other churches who needed a word from him more? On the other hand…

Have you ever noticed that when things are going smoothly it’s easy to lose passion for seeking God, for staying in His word, and that fellowship can take on a superficial tone because, well, things are pretty good and we don’t want to muck that up with other people’s problems? Yah. That. 

I think this letter provides us with affirmation, teaching, and encouragement so that we will continue to seek God, be in His presence, and grow in faith, not losing sight of the gift of grace and that the peace we enjoy comes from salvation in Christ. Paul was trying to keep this church on the right track and prevent them from getting sidetracked or completely off course.

I hope you’ll join me in reading this letter with new eyes and an open heart–open to the love and encouragement Paul sends to believers through these words. And I pray that we will experience spiritual growth and an increase in the maturity of our faith.

Anna Johnson

Galatians 6:11-18 – Lets try to make everyone happy… that always works.

Galatians 6:11-18

I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that the Old Testament Law is a pretty big theme in Galatians. In this chapter, Paul’s major concern is circumcision.  Paul is worried that new converts are being pushed toward circumcision.  They’re not really being pressured because people want to follow the OT law, instead they’re being pressured because it will make everyone settle down.  Those who follow the Jewish law will be pacified and it will provide a tenuous peace between Jewish believers and Gentile believers.  Paul isn’t the least bit interested in that; he’s worried that the Gospel is being compromised.  It makes me think, when have I been willing to compromise the Gospel for convenience?  When have I mortgaged truth in order to have a short lived peace?

Live Creatively, Do the Most Good

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Galatians 6:1-10 (NIV)          Galatians 6:1-10 (The Message)

Live well, generously forgive others, use your gifts in doing the work the Lord calls you to do, and don’t compare yourself to others; instead run your own race of faith, and never tire of doing good.  It’s true, we reap what we sow.  “What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life” (Gal. 6:7-8, The Message).

Through it all, remember the journey outward for others.  “Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith” (Gal. 6:10, The Message).

To be or not to be!

Galatians 5:22-26

One of my favorite illustration about faith has to do with a Priest and a Rabbi. And no they are not walking in to a bar as you might be thinking. The priest says: When it comes to faith how many years do you have free so we can talk about it; while the Rabbi says: DO you have time for a walk? Come and I will show you my faith.

I love that parable because it has to do with faith in practice terms, with what people see when they look at our lives. Now in fairness to the priest, as Christian we tend to be a little more vocal about our faith, we like to express how we feel, process things aloud, and try to figure it out in our small groups or with our friends and so on. So it might seem that we talk more about faith than living out our faith. Christianity is maybe at the intersection of internally processing our faith and living it out. And here is where I believe God makes his home. Here is where you see the fruit of the spirit comes to blossom. Because when we are connected to God, to the source of life, who we are becomes something amazing. We become extensions of the tree of life. And yes, who God is will start to manifest in our lives.

So how do we get there? Maybe we just need to start with that walk in the garden in the morning, spending some time with our God, and then walk out in the real world looking for those moments when we can say Lord here I am use me.

May God help us be fruitful and may His spirit fill our lives daily.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

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