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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

February 2016

More than a word

1 Corinthians 15:3-9 The Message (MSG)
3-9 The first thing I did was place before you what was placed so emphatically before me: that the Messiah died for our sins, exactly as Scripture tells it; that he was buried; that he was raised from death on the third day, again exactly as Scripture says; that he presented himself alive to Peter, then to his closest followers, and later to more than five hundred of his followers all at the same time, most of them still around (although a few have since died); that he then spent time with James and the rest of those he commissioned to represent him; and that he finally presented himself alive to me. It was fitting that I bring up the rear. I don’t deserve to be included in that inner circle, as you well know, having spent all those early years trying my best to stamp God’s church right out of existence.

Atonement – one of those words that contain so much meaning and depth. In short we can  explain atonement this way:  God has provided a way for humankind to come back into harmonious relation with him. In many ways our faith edges on this truth. Sometimes we short our faith by talking about grace, and not talking about the sacrifice of Christ.

I want to share with you this thoughts from The Canons of Dort (1618-1619):

This death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sins, of infinite value and worth, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world. This death is of such great value and worth because the person who submitted to it is not only a true and perfectly holy man, but also the only-begotten Son of God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for these qualifications were necessary for our Savior. Further, this death is of such great value and worth because it was accompanied by a sense of the wrath and curse of God, which we by our sins had deserved, (Second Head, Articles 3 & 4).”

I pray that all of us can understand the heart of God, God’s deep love for human kind, and that we all can respond to it daily.

Be Blessed,

Bo M.

When the time comes…

worry

“Worry pulls tomorrow’s cloud over today’s sunshine.” (Chuck Swindoll, Questions Christians Ask)  Worry, it plagues nearly everyone I would have to guess.  I can remember my first Chemistry 109 lecture at Purdue…nearly 500 in the room and Prof. Lipschutz addressed the class as follows, “Welcome to Purdue…look on either side of you…chances are, they won’t be here at the end of the semester.”  Well, how about that!  Another similar experience – I can remember my very first day in seminary in 2009.  Dr. Gary Hansen greeted us with these first words…”Welcome to grad school, you are going to work very hard…700-1000 pages of reading each week…but I want you to think about this…” and he read from Matthew 6:25-34, you know the passage…Do not worry.  I particularly like verse 34 from The Message…“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”  “When the time comes”…indeed, something to think about.  So why allow worry to cloud today’s sunshine as Swindle said?  Allow the Shepherd to lead you beside still waters and restore your soul.

Some thoughts on Faith

This week, I asked the confirmation class the following question: Who is God to you? One answer was so profound that I thought I would share it with you. “God is something that at times I believe in and sometimes I struggle believing in.” Now you have to understand that for a 7th-8th grader, to share is a big deal, in part because it captures their own struggle with life at this age. It captures someone that tries to make sense of what life is bout, of the things you learned so far and you try to build a belief system on.

But his answer also made me think about faith as we try to understand it in our modern world. We live in a culture that appreciates the exact, answers and facts, a culture that is somehow uncomfortable with the unknown, with mystery.

Hebrews 11:1-2 The Message (MSG)
Faith in What We Don’t See
11 1-2 The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.

Faith and mystery goes hand in hand. Knowing the facts that establish our faith and acting on it should bring us the same comfort as the constant sense of exploring and trying to understand more and more about that faith and the one behind it. In seminary I had became familiar with this idea: The more I know about faith, it also means that there is so much more that I do not know.

I pray that we too can have the same understanding that the young man shared in class, and take each day as a new opportunity to discover our faith, with a sense of wonder and a sense of trust.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

I shall not want….

all-i-need_t1

We’ve read it, uttered it, delighted in it: but have we thought about it? Or lived it out in reality? I shall not want? Our whole life is about wanting: I want, I shop, I look, and when I have it, I want new stuff. In our consumer culture, I shall want, I shall always want. I shall never stop all my wanting because the mall entices me with ever new, shiny, unnecessary objects, and I am instructed from childhood on to want–and not merely to want, but to have.

What if…for today…we really stopped to listen to the following words, “The Lord is my Shepherd…I shall not want.”  What is it…truly, that we lack? iPhones…vacation homes…new cars?  One of the most stunning realities for me was the reading I did in seminary about our mortality.  At the time of death, individuals rarely speak of material things.  One individual, in the process of dying, reached out for my hand and asked, “Dale…do you really believe this stuff about Jesus?  I am afraid and uncertain.”  My answer was simple, “absolutely – no doubts”.

What do you really lack?  Think about the following…”The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”

 

 

A Great and Awesome God

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Psalm 23(NKJV)

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”  We often read Psalm 23 at memorial and funeral services.  It’s a wonderful Psalm but it is a Psalm for life; all of life.  It begins with the Lord is my Shepherd and the rest of the Psalm describes or explains what that means.

We have a great big God in whom we can trust.  The word David used for Lord is the Hebrew word “Yahweh.”  We see what that means in Moses encounter with God in Exodus 3:13-15 (NIV). Here God says “I am who I am.”  It may also be translated, “I will be what I will be.”  What is does mean is that our God is an awesome and great God, too big to be confined to our understanding.  Max Lucado in Traveling Light writes, that God is “Unchanging, Uncaused, Ungoverned.”

The good news, right at the start, of Psalm 23 is that this great big God is our “shepherd.”  In Jesus we see the amazing love of the “Good Shepherd.”  Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11, NIV).  With that kind of shepherd we “shall not want.”

Know this day that you are deeply loved by the Good Shepherd of all the Universe.  He still searches for his sheep that he may lead them “beside the still waters.”

A journey through Lent

What is Lent? If we are to look just at the meaning of the word LENT, we find that in its origins Lent is about days getting longer signaling the coming of the spring season, and in a way new life.

C.S. Lewis,talked about Lent as a season of a kind of “happiness and wonder that makes you serious.” A season of celebration while in mourning, a celebration of new life we have in Christ in the shadow of Christ’s sacrifice.

Paul said in Galatians 3:13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’”

Today I want to encourage you to think about these opposites: curse and life. May God’s light give us hope as we start the journey of Lent.

Be Blessed,

Bo M.

Pancake Tuesday?

delicious-pancakes

Today is a day of celebration in many parts of the world.  Often called Pancake Tuesday…Fat Tuesday…Mardi Gras and Shrove Tuesday.  Each of these are different names for today – the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday…before the start of Lent.  The Tuesday before the start of Lent has become the last day of celebration and feasting before the period of fasting required during the Lenten season.

Shrove Tuesday has a variety of customs that have derived from different regions around Europe and the Americas. England began the tradition of serving pancakes, and for this reason the day is known as “Pancake Day”.  The most prominent customs are the balls and pageants in New Orleans and Rio de Janiero.

So what are you doing today?  Maybe you are thinking about this thing we call Lent that I talked about a few days ago.  As a church, we just finished up a 6-week look at relationships through the lens of Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  Tomorrow night we begin a look at the things in life that bog us down…the baggage of life.  We’ll see how Psalm 23 can help us to better know the God who is our Good Shepherd.  We will see how Psalm 23 is a poem of faith…a testimony to trust in God.

So, whatever your tradition on this day, I want you to think about connecting Max Lucida’s book, “Traveling Light” and Psalm 23 and then joining us each Sunday and Wednesday as we journey toward Easter:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me; You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.

“Being On the Way, the Lord Led Me”

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Genesis 24 (NKJV)

“Being on the way, the Lord led me” is something that Les’s mom would always say to Les and her brother and sister as they were growing up.  Mom took that guiding insight from the story of Genesis 24.

It is here that we read the story of how Isaac, the son of Abraham, met his wife.  The oldest servant of Abraham was sent on a long journey back to where Abraham’s family lived to find a wife for Isaac, Abraham’s son. The servant was given provisions for this journey.  He knew the destination where he was sent to go.  However, he did not know what would happen along the way during such a long journey.  He did not know if he would be successful on this journey.  Nevertheless he went in faith to place he was told to go.

This journey is an analogy of our journey of life.  God has provided for us in life and we know we will return to the Lord in the end.  But during the journey we do not know all that is before us.  We do not know the mountain tops we will rejoice upon and neither do we know the valleys of sorrow we will enter along the way.

Les’s mom considered this passage to be a metaphor for life and focused upon a portion of verse 27 where the oldest servant of Abraham worships God and prays, “Blessed be the Lord God… As for me, being on the way, the Lord led me…”

“Being on the way, the Lord led me.”  Mom always taught that we needed to be on the way, that is doing our part to follow the Lord.  And when we were doing what we should, what we could do, we would find the leading of the Lord.  We should not sit around doing nothing but be in pursuit of the way of God and trust that the Lord would indeed lead us and share his will and way with us.

I think of Philippians 3:12-13 (NIV); “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”  Isn’t it good to know that God is at work in us. Yet we must do our part too in following the Lord.

Today may each one of us seek to “be on the way” of the Lord that God would so lead us in all things.  Dallas Willard writes, “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.”  What do you need to do today to “be on the way” that God has for you?

What strengthens you?

Strengthen-your-love

What strengthens you?  When life is going really well what strengthens you?  When life places you in the valley of despair, what strengthens you?  We have been working through the book of Philippians and Paul’s letter deals with this very question:  What strengthens you?  I would bet that the vast majority of society rarely asks this question.  The pastor who married Tari and I asked me to repeat after him… “I Dale, take thee Tari, to be my wife. To have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, and I promise my love to you..” Now, aside from getting it a little backwards and saying I thee Dale…I can guarantee you that when I said these words that I wasn’t thinking about the sickness/poorer side of the equation.  I only saw awesome!  But we know that life isn’t like that.

Yesterday, Craig told Bo and I that Les’s mom is in the process of dying and that both of them were going to drive to the east coast today.  For those of us who know this valley of despair…saying goodbye to our mom or dad is never easy.  I can’t imagine how long that car ride will be for Les and Craig so I would ask you to keep them and the rest of the family in your prayers – that they would know Christ’s peace and comfort in this difficult time.

Does Christ’s peace and comfort strengthen you in the highs and lows of life.  This is what Paul is talking about in Philippians 4:10-13…I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it.  Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have.  I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”  This is one of the top10 misquoted verses in the Bible – people want to apply it to everything.  It is not about pursuing your dreams or following your passion…it is not evidence that I can do whatever I want.  It is about our testimony about Christ…our constant rejoicing in Christ…our constant security…our one true hope.  It is about rejoicing in Christ always!

Why did I bring up Craig and Les?  Because I believe that their car drive to the east coast, despite the pain of the shadow of death, will be grounded in Christ…rejoicing in Christ!  Grace and peace to each of you today in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…

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