First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @


May 2016

In the name of Jesus



Acts 3

Today’s verses was supposed to be Acts 3:1-10, which describes the healing of a crippled beggar by Peter and John outside the temple gate. However, after further reading, I found that it made more sense to include the entire chapter here.

So again, in the opening verses of this chapter, John and Peter are about to enter the temple, when they come upon a crippled beggar. This is a man whose only source of income comes from spare change that people are willing to surrender to him because he is unable to work due to his condition. People entering and leaving the temple would have encountered this man EVERY DAY, asking for money. All of us who have spent any time walking downtown Chicago have encountered beggars looking for cash from strangers. What is your normal reaction when you see people begging for money? I know my reaction typically is to say sorry and keep walking. Is it un-Christian for me to do this? I’m not sure, but I know my reasons for not handing out change to every beggar I pass.

But this beggar in this situation is different than most of the ones I see in cities like Chicago. This man has been crippled since birth. In ancient times, this would have been a devastating condition for a man, since most men did manual labor jobs. So when Peter and John encounter him as they walk up to the temple, my first wonder is, how many times before have they seen and passed this man and given money? Or how many times have they just walked past and not done anything? But on this occasion, the holy spirit moved them to do something different. They healed him, IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST!

What happens after this? All of the people who witnessed this man now walking and jumping through the city, praising God are all amazed! They are amazed that two seemingly ordinary people, John and Peter, have healed this person. But this still isn’t the important part. It is Peter’s sermon that is what I want to get to here. Peter states that his ability to heal didn’t come from within, but from Jesus, whom the people of Jerusalem just had crucified not long before this.

So the important part here, you might ask? I think it is important to get the whole story here because it is important to see that the holy spirit leads us to do things that we do at the times we do them because of what the outcome can be. Here, because of this miracle, hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people who were in the temple at this time got to see the power of those who do works in the name of Jesus. They got to see and hear what this Jesus of Nazareth has to offer to those who believe. In the same way, the holy spirit provides us with opportunities every day to do God’s work in the name of Jesus, that we may bring someone to Christ.

My prayer for all of us today is that we use the opportunities set before us by the holy spirit to do God’s work in the name of Jesus. We may not even realize at the time what we were really doing. But upon reflection of our interactions of the day, we may come to know how we did God’s work each day.

Psalm 42

Today I want to share with you a Psalm where I find refuge time and time again. I pray that you too can find comfort in the words of Psalm 42.

Psalm 42The Message (MSG)

A psalm of the sons of Korah

42 1-3 A white-tailed deer drinks
    from the creek;
I want to drink God,
    deep draughts of God.
I’m thirsty for God-alive.
I wonder, “Will I ever make it—
    arrive and drink in God’s presence?”
I’m on a diet of tears—
    tears for breakfast, tears for supper.
All day long
    people knock at my door,
    “Where is this God of yours?”

These are the things I go over and over,
    emptying out the pockets of my life.
I was always at the head of the worshiping crowd,
    right out in front,
Leading them all,
    eager to arrive and worship,
Shouting praises, singing thanksgiving—
    celebrating, all of us, God’s feast!

Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
    Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—
    soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
    He’s my God.

6-8 When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse
    everything I know of you,
From Jordan depths to Hermon heights,
    including Mount Mizar.
Chaos calls to chaos,
    to the tune of whitewater rapids.
Your breaking surf, your thundering breakers
    crash and crush me.
Then God promises to love me all day,
    sing songs all through the night!
    My life is God’s prayer.

9-10 Sometimes I ask God, my rock-solid God,
    “Why did you let me down?
Why am I walking around in tears,
    harassed by enemies?”
They’re out for the kill, these
    tormentors with their obscenities,
Taunting day after day,
    “Where is this God of yours?”

11 Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
    Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—
    soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
    He’s my God

Faith Statements…

Confirmands 2016

This past Sunday was a special day for the Church – one of the highlights of the year for me…having the opportunity to listen to the statements of faith of those going through confirmation.  It is a joy to listen to them wrestle with topics like the Trinity, salvation, creation, etc.  Knowing what you believe and why you believe it has important implications for Christians.  I especially like to hear things like, “I’m not sure” or, “I don’t know”, because these provide a reality check for all of us I think.

What do you believe?  How would you articulate your own personal faith statement?  Don’t have one?  Why not start right now by jotting down your thoughts about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit…church, worship, etc.  As you begin to think about this, let the words of Paul to the Colossians guide your prayer today: As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:12-17, NRSV)

If Only We Could See…

images  rainbow-over-ocean

images-2      images-1

Colossians 1:13-20 (NIV)

We went to a wedding, for our nephew, last weekend and nearly all of our extended family attended.  Smartphones were blazing away for all of the picture opportunities throughout the weekend.  Now we have a share file with nearly a 1,000 pictures.  The pictures are great to have once you sort through them all to select the really good ones and especially because we do not get together as an extended family often enough.  And now we have lots of good pictures to hold onto and to treasure.

If only we had a picture of God!  But we do, in a sense, for Colossians 1:15 reminds us that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God,…”  Jesus told the disciples on one occasion, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

“Jesus is a picture of God, and as I gaze upon Christ, I yearn to see God, to be with God, to hear God’s voice, to see God’s movements. I yearn for some of the mystery of God to dissolve so that I may see and experience God more fully.  But for now, I have Jesus, the image of God, and I must gaze on him in the Gospels.  For when I gaze upon the words of Jesus I hear the voice of God; and when I gaze upon the activities and actions of Jesus I see God; when I observe the suffering of Jesus, I  know God’s deep, aching love for me; and when I reach out and touch Jesus in the Gospels, I lay my hand upon God.  Thanks be to God for the gift of Jesus and a clear and beautiful picture of God.”  Norman Shawchuck, “A Guide to Prayer for All who Walk with God”  




2 Corinthians 5. 14-21

Reconciliation: To make friendly again or win over to a friendly attitude,  to settle a dispute, to bring into harmony.

2 Cor. 5.16-20 Paul states that as believers ,”we recognize no one according to the flesh,” that is, according to the outward appearance,” for if “any one is in Christ he is a new creation, the old things are passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation., namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ.”

There are a lot of pictures in scripture regarding the concept of salvation, a lot of descriptive words affiliated with redemption, but I especially like the word reconciliation as used in this passage. I have just recently been involved with the production of “The Music Man” where I sang with the  quartet singing barbershop harmonies. We practiced long and hard to learn our parts and when it finally came together, what a joy it was to hear ourselves in harmony.  We each knew immediately  when one of us were on the wrong note and a quick glance from each other emphasized that everyone else knew too.  But to be in harmony with God is an even greater joy, which of course is an understatement.

The former Joliet Crusaders for Christ, a gathering of about 45 churches in the Joliet area is again uniting this summer to set up our tent at, at least two locations to invite the unchurched people of the area to come to Christ, and to unite the body of Christ in all of our participating churches.  As ambassadors for Christ we have seen dozens of people come to Christ and dozens more come back to a fruitful relationship with our savior over the last five years.

First Pres. will be involved again this year taking a night, we are tentatively scheduled for July 26  to do our part in this evangelistic outreach, so watch for further notice, and ask God if He wants you to be involved in this particular reconciliation activity.


How Do We Live?

After reading Ephesians 5:15-20 and Proverbs 8:4-21, certain versus seemed important to me as to how I live my life. “Choose my instruction instead of silver, my knowledge rather than gold and for wisdom which is more precious than rubies. I love those who love me and those who seek me find me. With me are riches and honor, wealth and prosperity.”

“Be very careful how you live, not as unwise but as wise. Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

To me this shows the importance of daily scripture reading and study, for these words will give us guidance as to how to live our spiritual life on a daily basis. By doing this we give honor and glory to our God.

Todd Garrison

Wisdom Part 2

Proverbs 7:1-4.     Ephesians 4:7-16

“Love wisdom like a sister; make insight a beloved member of your family.”  Proverbs 7:4, NLT.

A few weeks ago I wrote about wisdom coming from God and coming from studying His word and walking in His presence.  Today, we are once again instructed on wisdom by King Solomon, who compares wisdom to a sister and treasured family member.

I don’t know if you have a sister or whether she is older or younger than you – maybe you have both!  My sister is 12 years older, and growing up she was my second mother.  I wasn’t at all thrilled about that a good deal of the time; often screaming at her that she couldn’t make me clean our bedroom and that she was NOT MY MOTHER!!!

Then I became an adult and went away to college and our relationship changed.  While we still don’t see eye to eye on some issues,  I appreciate her wisdom, her patience, and the example she sets of a godly woman.  She is the wife of a pastor and for 40 years she has opened her home and heart to thousands of people young, old, local, and foreign as helper to her husband and also to fulfill the ministry of hospitality that God clearly gifted her with so others could be blessed.

Ephesians 4:15 -16 tells us to …”grow in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.  He makes the whole body fit together perfectly, as each part does its own special work…”  May we keep God’s wisdom close in our hearts, like a treasured member of our family–maybe even a bossy, older sister–so that we can discern our gifts and bless others for the Kingdom of God today.


God’s Glory & Man’s Dominion

Psalm 8     Proverbs 4:1-9     Luke 2:41-52

This Psalm is a favorite of mine.  In it, David confesses the glory of His divine name (vv. 1, 9), and creation (v. 3) as demonstrated in the night sky. To be human is to be less than God, yet still capable of greatness (v. 5). God has given the human race dominion (v. 6) over creation.  Only God’s chosen are capable of rejecting their own ego and acknowledge God as his or her maker and LORD.

It’s also worth noting that the Book of Hebrews (Heb. 2:6-11) extensively quotes from from Psalm 8; together with it and Romans 8:17-21 they tell of “many sons” whom Christ will bring together in glory to be joint heirs with Him.  It’s all part of the God’s overarching plan to “bring it all together” as laid out in Psalm 2, another favorite  of mine.

Humble Yourself


Keeping on pace with Craig’s message this past Sunday, this Ephesians passage reminds us how we are to treat each other. Notice it doesn’t say to only be this way to the people who we are closest to. It just states that we are to “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient; bearing with one another in love” in verse 2. It doesn’t mention any names, or groups of people. We even need to have these traits with the person who pulls out in front of us on the road, to the rude person in the aisle at the store; you get the idea.

By the way, sorry for the late post. Didn’t realize until just now that I was up to bat today.

Matt Blaser

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