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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

April 2016

Giving Grateful Praise

Psalm 100  Ezekiel 45:1-9 Acts 9:32-35

How often do we take time to be grateful for all our blessings? In Psalm 100 it states “shout for joy, worship the Lord with gladness, come before him with joyful songs. We need to stop and realize we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. We need to enter his gates with thanksgiving and praise. His love endures for ever.”

In today’s society of violence, Ezekiel states ” Give up your violence and oppression and do what is just and right”. Imagine a society that follows God’s words and guidance.

From Acts we need to understand and accept that “Christ heals us” (mentally and physically). “Get up and roll up your mat”.    Todd Garrison

I Believe In Miracles

Psalm 100.         ACTS 9:32-35

My parents were divorced when I was quite young, and my mom didn’t get the support settlement she deserved.  I grew up with a consatant, subtle worry over whether or not the next would be paid, if there would be gas for the car, or enough in the bank to go to the grocery store.  Mom was amazing at stretching every dollar, but I know that the real reason we made it and I was even  able to attend a private, Christian school was Mom’s faithfulness to God and her deep belief and confidence that He would provide.

One summer we were struggling more than usual, due mostly to the fact that my dad had stopped paying child support.  Mom prayed and cried over the house payment that was due, at a loss for how she would be able to meet that obligation.  One afternoon just days before the payment would go into late staus, one of the pastors of our church drove up to our house and gave my mom a check.  He explained that they had been in staff meeting that morning and felt clearly God speaking that they were to give my mom a particular amount of money that day.  So they did.   It was the exact amount of the house payment, something Mom hadn’t shared with anyone.

For us, it was a miracle.  One that has never left my memory and has been a defining moment in my own faith development.   So when I read the words of Peter I. ACTS 9:35, “Aeneas,  get up!  Jesus Christ heals you…and he was healed,” and the promise of Psalm 100: 5, “For the Lord is good…his faithfulness continues to each generation,” I know these words are true, and miracles still happen.  Do you beleive?

A Future Reunion

Psalm 23     Ezekiel 28:25-26     Luke 12:29-32

All three of these passages are similar in that a caring God attends to His own.  I can’t think of anything to add to previous discussions and sermons about the 23rd Psalm.  The Ezekiel passage points to a future regathering of scattered Israel.  The current worldwide residence of the Jewish people is perhaps the keystone or central prophecy (Lev. 26:32-39) of the Bible.  It seems to me that all the others, including those about Jesus, are kin to it.

Finally, the Luke passage relates to the 23rd Psalm in that God is portrayed as the shepherd of His.  Our circumstances – that is to say our anxiety, worry, etc. are matters covered by His Providence.  Quite often, God’s provisions are distributed through a network of human agents who knowingly or unknowingly participate in divine-human partnerships.  I have witnessed this phenomena at work recently in the actions and words of many with the recent passing of my in-law.

Run the Right Race

running-pic

Hebrews 12: 1-3

For those that don’t know me very well, I am a runner, like my father before me. At one point in my younger days, I was actually pretty good at it. But in my 20’s I got away from running, and didn’t pick it back up until my mid 30’s shortly before my son was born. Since then, I have accomplished distances I never thought possible, completing my first ever half marathon two years ago. Running has become something that allows me to burn off the stress of the day, to get out and be alone, if only for a short amount of time, and get lost in listening to music along the way. Call me crazy, but I enjoy this stuff.

Recently, I was looking for a new book to start reading, and I stumbled upon something that I have heard of before, but never really looked into it called “Run for God.” According to their website, their mission is “Preparing people to be better witnesses for Christ…physically, mentally, and spiritually.” The founder of the website talks about how he became so involved in running and training for races, that it became an idol for him, but then he began a ministry for runners, and changed his perspective from running for himself, to running for God. The mentally part of the mission statement goes along with part of this Hebrews passage. The mentally refers to “Learn the disciplines and endurance it takes to “Run the race set before us” (Heb. 12:1).

I have been reading the devotional book published by the Run for God ministry for just over a week now, but after having read the first devotion, it completely changed my perspective on my runs. It is written by a woman named Melissa Weimer, who was running a marathon on the same day of the death of her mother, and during the race, was trying to block out all distractions except for running. But partway through the race, she realized that other runners around her were ENJOYING themselves, while she was “in the zone” and focusing on finishing the race. From then on, she changed her focus from what her time would be when she crossed the finish line to enjoying the race and noticing things like nature, photo booths, cheering on-lookers, and other things you find along a race route. I, too, have stopped worrying about my time on my regular runs, and about the little voice in my head that often creeps in telling me that I am never going to finish a run. As a result, my last few runs have been much more enjoyable, and my times haven’t fallen off all that much. Go figure.

In the Hebrews passage, the writer says we first must “throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles.” Only then can we “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”  If we are to do this, then we must fix “our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” So, no different than the 10K I will run this weekend, life too is a race. If we focus too much on the things of this world, on how we will finish in life, we will get bogged down and miss out on the joys of life. Let us set aside those things that hinder us and let go of sin, and fix our eyes on Jesus. There is much more joy in that life.
Matt Blaser

I want my bible to feel good

Psalm 23

Ezekiel 11:1-5

Revelation5:1-10

Let me first start by saying Revelation is not a book I read by choice.  Not only is it challenging, it’s in of dark and depressing. The Post-Apocalyptic, the sky is falling, world is coming to an end. But doesn’t that sense of doom seem somewhat appropriate in this day and age? If you turn on the news every morning there is some kind of tragedy, albeit natural or manmade. Just in our own backyard. Guns, gangs, hatred. It is a terrifying time for many of us. Forget the everyday challenges. Throw in political unrest, hunger, climate change, cancer, war, the economy. It is a lot to swallow. Where is the relief? Give me a book full of kitten videos and Soldiers returning home any day. I want my bible to feel good when I read it.

In Revelation the Apostle John is writing of events that God showed him, told him were going to happen, things that were difficult to understand. But the book also tells us of a new heaven and earth. It shows us how amazing heaven will be to those of us who believe in Jesus as their Savior. It does give us hope from those good “feels” that we so desperately need.

It is a really scary world. There are things coming at us that we have been warned about, by our parents, teachers and leaders. There are evils seen and unseen. It is not always a pretty world. But we have that God from Psalm 23. The one that is our Shepherd, that makes us lie down, that leads us to still waters. He restores us. In a uncertain world, in the midst of pain and affliction. In all of this chaos, there is that promise to the believes of safety and security within his fold.

What a gift we are given in our relationship with Jesus Christ. When the world seems to be closing in, when life is more than we can bear. When the reality of life is just too much. Though we walk in the valley of the shadow of death… we will fear nothing. God is with us! Amen.

 

 

-Kristina

Mirror, Mirror on the wall

John 1:43-51

If you hanged around this blog for the past couple years, by now you might know a little bit about some of the writers, about what makes each one of us unique, about some of our favorite things we like to talk about and so on. And maybe if you get to meet us in person you might be able to say that our writing reflects who we are, our personalities and beliefs and ultimately it speaks about authenticity.

Of course it takes time to built that type of relationship where one can speak just like Jesus spoke about Nathaniel: “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit”.In my opinion it takes more than time, it takes willingness to let our guard down, to be open about who we are, about the those loses and victories that make us who we are. It takes a little work from each one of us to move from the superficial, from the expected, from the nice, cultural image that is expected from us; to that image that God sees in each one of us.

There is a need today for that authenticity, for that realism. And your church, your friends and family needs that from you. It is something that we all need. So today I pray that we can be willing to say: Lord make me authentic, let my life reflect who I am and let your life became my source for all I am and do.

 

Be blessed,

Bo M.

Marriage and the 3-Legged Stool…

Illustration of a cartoon styled wooden stool or table with shadows
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

This past weekend I had the privilege of officiating a wedding for the son of one of my Purdue classmates and his fiancé – both Purdue grads as well.  It was a special blend of Tari and I seeing our friends of 38 years and a new generation beginning their life together.  The couple picked a passage from Ecclesiastes as their wedding scripture…a book describing what provides true meaning and happiness in life. This passage, I believe, provides the difference between a good marriage from one that is GREAT. It means never being satisfied with a good marriage but always working toward a GREAT marriage. It’s hard work. Two are good…but a chord of 3 strands is not easily broken. God is the third strand.  It’s like a 3-legged stool… husband and wife and God…and if one of the legs is missing, well, the stool does not stand.  It was a wonderful weekend, and Kassandra and Ian are on their way in their journey together…with each other…and, with God.

A Prayer for You…Resurrected Living

After-Easter-Resurrected-Living

Ephesians 3:14-21(NIV)

This is a prayer, by Paul, for the church in Ephesus.  It’s a prayer for followers of Jesus, which makes it a prayer for you and me.

The prayer recognizes God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The accent is on God’s love and power at work in us through Christ Jesus who is alive in our hearts through faith and the Spirit of God.

When Christ Jesus lives within us we have the opportunity and privilege to let his amazing love fill us, guide, and flow from us.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

When Christ dwells in us and his love flows from within us we live beyond ourselves and beyond our capacities through the power of God.

“20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

What will you ask God for today?  How do you imagine Christ at work in you and through you this week?  How will you pray and live knowing something of “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ?”

speaklife

How Secure Are You ?

photos-02

2 Cor. 5. 21

Ro. 5. 17-21

Gal. 4. 1-6

In the past I have encountered churches  and individual Christians who insisted that the scripture teaches our salvation is dependent upon perfect behavior, or else you could lose that salvation. To be reinstated with God a person would have to start again with confession of sins, a repentant heart, accepting Jesus as Lord, and the procession of again following Jesus. This was a never ending cycle of insecurity of salvation, somehow Jesus forgave past sins but could not forgive present sins or future sins.

I believe the word of God teaches a very different gospel. 2 Cor. 5.21 says that, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Romans 5.21 states that “as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  And Gal.4.4-5 ” God sent forth His Son… that He might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”  We are not just sinners saved by grace,  but we are righteous in the sight of God.

Years ago I had a dog named Chrissy, that I got from the dog pound, who’s past owners had abused. She would allow me to approach her and pat her, but would never come all the way to me for treats,  pats, or anything,  no matter how I coaxed her. She would always stop short, put her tail between her legs and lie down, cowering in fear. How I wanted her to come bounding up with abandon, leap on me, shower me with licks and show me she trusted me, but she just couldn’t bring herself to do it.

I think God wants the same from us. Gal. 4.6 says God has given us His Spirit in our hearts where we can run to Him and call Him Abba, papa. We who believe must lay aside our past and fears, throw caution to the wind and run to our Heavenly Father who loves us with reckless abandon and has forgiven all our sins, past,  present, and future. Trust Him my friends, He surely loves you way beyond my love for a dog named Chrissy.

There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Ro.8.1

 

Karl

 

 

 

 

 

 

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