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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

May 2016

Fresh faith

Psalm 78:1-7

As some of you might know, this year I had the pleasure to teach the confirmation class. 7 teenagers that were encouraged to explore what faith means to them. The interesting part of confirmation class was the process of of taking some of doctrines and teaching that form our Christian foundation and filter them through who I am now and where I am in my faith walk. I think we all need to pause on our faith and ask ourselves: Why do I believe what I believe?

For me that is a process I find myself engaging on regular bases. I have to do it, not just because I have to brush up all those things I learned in seminary, but because I want have a vibrant faith, something that will give me the drive to share what I know with people around me. Because down deep I believe that faith is life that flows through us and it is meant to reach others. Because I believe that faith is something that grows, something that does not stop with me, with us but something that has to be pass on to the next person and generation. Because of that I believe that I need to look at what I believe and refresh my faith again and again.

When was last time you asked yourself: What does baptism means? Why do we baptize children? Or why is it such a big deal for Christians to serve? And the list goes on and on?

So today I encourage you to pause. Think about Christ’s sacrifice. Think about the creation or maybe what the church means to you. May God have you refreshed and energized for the days to come.

 

Blessings,

Bo M.

Authenticity…

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Remember the advertisement…”Is it live or is it Memorex”?  Ella Fitzgerald shattering a glass in person and from a recording – impressive.  Cassette and VHS tapes have become virtually non-existent but the idea of authenticity still prevails…even though a cultural understanding of it seems to be as elusive as trying to catch a fish bare-handed.  This year, an election year, we hear lots of talk about authenticity from all of the candidates…they use words like transparency or trustworthy.

So how about being a Christian?  What does authenticity and being a Christian have in common? Today, we hear a common word that I think is often meant to substitute for authenticity…. relativism, or…whatever seems right to me has to be OK with everyone else.  A flip side to this is the use of hypocrisy as the antithesis of authenticity and this can certainly be true – just read what Matthew has to say on the subject in Matthew 23.  Unfortunately, like relativism, our human perspective is often from what the beholder believes constitutes hypocrisy.

I think there is a more solid ground to be found on the subject of authenticity and it begins with the following passage of Scripture:  Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” (Proverbs 3:5-7) The starting point of being an authentic Christian is being able to trust in God, and along the same lines…leading to being a trustworthy person.  We have a role:  to trust in the Lord with our entire being.  Then there is God’s role:  he shows us the way to life…a life of authenticity.

The Wonderful and Mysteriously Profound Meek

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Matthew 5:1-5 (NIV)

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (NIV)

A common interpretation of “meek” is that it means humility and that’s about it.  It lends itself to thinking meek is weak.  How could the meek ever inherit the earth?

However, once you dig deeper into this mysterious word you find there are layers of meaning all bundled together and that this saying of Jesus is most profound.

The meek* is a translation of the Greek word “praus.”  There are at least three layers to this word.  It’s all about relations between people.  Aristotle uses the word to describe the virtue which is the mean, the halfway point between recklessness, on one side and cowardice on the other.  The virtue is courage. The Meek have courage.  Jesus meek and mild, lily of the valley is a misnomer as Jesus was a suffering servant who willingly went to the cross, demonstrating great courage.

The next layer of meaning is about being angry.  The one who becomes angry in the right manner, at the right moment, and for the right length of time is meek.  We see Jesus in a holy furor; in righteous indignation whipping the money changers out of the Temple, saying, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations (Gentiles). But you have made it a den of robbers.”  Here we see righteous anger.

And there’s, yet, one more layer to the meek.  They are those who accept guidance of God and obediently follow God’s will.  This is the point of humility.  The meek live in close relationship with God in that living out God’s will and way of life are paramount to their joy in the present; that is their being blessed.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (NIV)  We might then ask a few questions.  When do we show courage in following Jesus?  Have we been angry for the things that anger God?  If so, were we angry in the right manner, in the right moment, for the right length of time?  And finally, do we live in such a close walk with Jesus that his guidance directs our life?

Courage, righteous anger, and God’s guidance at the center of one’s life brings joy in the present life.  The meek aren’t weak at all.  They are remarkable followers of Jesus.  May it be so of us.

  • The Meek-  based upon Kenneth E. Bailey’s wonderful book “Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels.”

GRACE

2 C0r. 6.1

Evangelicalism, a word coined by Lewis Johnson, to describe a large portion of the churches in America today.  He defined it as, “being entertained rather than coming to know the  truth of God by being built up in the things of God that really count.”  I tend to agree, not that I am the foremost expert on Christian doctrine, and have my finger on the pulse of all things Christian. I can’t even get my finger on the right button on the computer about half the time, if you knew how many times I have tried to respond to blogs on this site and instead of posting merely deleted it all you would laugh.

A  question, on the radio the other day asked,  where does your mind go during the day when you have a moment of down time. Do you think about your finances, your favorite sports, family, pressing health issues, sailing, repairs needed on the house, etc., or do you think about God. Perhaps you think about how God is going to resolve some of the more pressing issues we face, like health, finance, relationships. We need to be aware of the presence of God in our lives, and ever conscience of His word, and what our relationship  Him is.

An acronym for the word grace is, God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. In 2 Corinthians 6.1 we are urged to”not to receive the grace of God in vain,” that is don’t not use it. The varied concept of what grace is and it’s usefulness is amazing. Grace is Gods word, the bible, Romans 3.1 says that a great advantage for the Jew over the gentiles was they  were entrusted with the oracles of God. We in this day have even more, for we have the entire second chapter of the word of God, as  a Jewish friend of mine once called the new testament. Grace isn’t fairness or justice it’s forgiveness, it’s strength in times of trouble, it’s hope,  it brings salvation,  it brings calm, understanding, grace reveals God’s word to us, and gives us utterance when we don’t know what to say or even pray.

We need to have our minds tuned to the word and worship of God, so that in down times our minds turn to Him.  As Randolph stated in his blog the other day, and scripture confirms there is a cost for discipleship, Luke 9. 57-62 records Jesus parables of the dens, the dead, and the dirt. When asked by his followers Jesus responded ” the foxes have there dens but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” “I need to go take care of  my father until he dies, I retire and settle my affairs then I will follow,” says the next one, Jesus replied” let the dead bury the dead.” Finally the third responded in similar fashion “I need to settle affairs, and get family permission to follow,” To which Jesus says ” no man after pitting his hand to the plow and looks back, like Lot’s wife, is fit for the kingdom of God.”   All quotes are my paraphrase.

Let’s be diligent to study God’s word, build each other up, focus our lives on God and rely on His grace.

Karl

Music

When reading Psalm 104, one sentence touched me: ” I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live”. Music has always played an important role in my worship. When I was working I listened to a lot of groups when driving; Mercy Me, Casting Crowns, Matt Maher, Bill Gaither’s group. Now I listen on my computer at home. We are fortunate to have much great music at our church, both services. I always remember when the youth group “Heartbeat” when they sang “Lord, I need you”. This has become a worship song that plays a part of my life.

All of us have different ways of worship, but music is important to me. Let us all sing praises to our God. Todd Garrison

Take a Walk

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Continue reading “Take a Walk”

The Cost of Discipleship

Psalm 29     Ezek. 3:12-21     Luke 9:18-27

This Luke passage mentions that being a disciple of Christ costs something (vv.23-26).  The other writers of the Gospels thought it important enough that they echo (Matt. 16:24-27, Mark 8:34-38) Luke’s words.

Jesus’ message is a paradoxical command that His are to freely give up their self-gratification, their cravings for pleasure, and their own security and live for and serve others.  I know from personal experience when I’m of some benefit to others, it brings with it a feeling of well being, of having a purpose to my living.  Of course, we don’t do it alone.  Other Christians are there helping us along the way.  So, also is God (Heb. 12:1-2).

 

Why have you forsaken me?

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2 Chronicles 15:1-15

Of course there are plenty of things to love about kids, but one of the more frustrating things for me is when a student or my son comes to me asking for help finding something, when they haven’t made an honest effort first on their own. For example, a student who has a missing assignment on the grade book, who will then come to me saying that they know for sure they turned the assignment in, only to find out it was in their folder the entire time, ungraded, meaning it never was actually turned in. Or when my son says that he can’t find a certain toy that he wants to play with, only to walk into the room, and without too much effort find it for him.

This Chronicles passage reminds me of how we sometimes say that we are searching for God in our lives, but maybe aren’t making an honest effort to seek Him. Of course, in this passage, the people of Judah did more than just not really look too hard for God, but they replaced His presence with idols of all sorts. But at the same time, don’t we also replace God in our lives with idols of sorts. Maybe not golden calfs, but maybe instead, it is the TV, or our landscaping, or shopping, or sports, our electronic devices, and the list can go on for miles I am sure.

The prophecy from Azariah is very straightforward and easy to comprehend. In verse 2, we hear this: “The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.” And how did Asa respond? By immediately removing all idols from Judah and making sacrifices to the Lord to earn back His favor. How will we respond? What sacrifices are we going to make for God? Let us seek God each day, and because He is always faithful and just, He will seek us in return.

But I’m only human

PSALM 29
Exodus
Acts 16:35-40
This story in Acts is all to relevant in today’s world. Story upon story of wrongly accused being beat, punished and even killed. The news is just filled with stories, and the pleas of the wrongly accused to be exonerated, the police to be held accountable for actions. Isn’t that what Paul and Silas were looking for? Isn’t it human nature to hold a grudge and want some noise to be made when you have been wrongly accused.
I like to think that I am forgiving. I like to think that I can move past hurt and betrayal. But I’m only human, I want those that have hurt me to be led to the light. To be held accountable for their actions against me, but all to often the actions of others are kept in the dark and we just have to hold our heads high and suck it up. When we want to point fingers and call them out we must remain gracious.
It is not up to us to provide that judgement. Those who wrong us are held in a higher court. They have God to answer to. While we hope they receive some sort of equal justice for the actions, it isn’t our job to do this. It’s our job to remain graceful and dignified against the injustice.
God is powerful! His words and actions far outweigh any that we could. As in Psalm 29. God thunders across the waters, his thunder spits fire, sets the trees dancing, he reigns above all and rules the world with power that makes his people strong… and gives them peace.
Remember that, when someone hurts you, wrongs you, misjudges you, treats you with disgrace. That God’s words, God’s power over them is far better than holding a grudge or using your own words to discredit or dole out your own justice.
Kristina

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