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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

July 2016

For or Against?

ForOrAgainstDebate

Today’s focus is Ephesians 3:14 – 4:6….lately, I am really frustrated with so many who try to convince me and others of “who their candidate is”.  The problem I have with so many is the inability to articulate a basis for their support absent a litany of disdain for “the other candidate”.  Everyone could take a lesson from Paul…he applies a distinct focus on what he is for…and, who we should be for.

Paul starts with God…Creator of all good.  And he prays that God will strengthen us – and, in so doing says, don’t rely on ourselves.  More importantly, Paul tells us that God is abundantly able because of the power of the Holy Spirit and the Living Christ dwelling in us.  Paul then goes on to tell us how and he does so in a very unique way…he begs us!  Begs us.  But, he begs us in the context of a unique set of parameters – humility, gentleness, patience, love and peace.

Unlike the vast majority of individuals today who want me (or you) to understand why they are for or against someone…aka, Clinton or Trump, the prevailing argument lies in a basis of the other candidates failings.  Paul doesn’t present the failings of those who sin…instead, from Chapter 1 on he discusses the grace of God and the blessings of Christ as his basis for what he is for.  Make no mistake – Paul does not support sin…however, grace is his argument.  In today’s passage, he punctuates that with the fact that we are “to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called”…Paul presents the basis for what he is for.

Friends…the other reality is this…no matter who wins this November’s election, I still will affirm who I am for and it won’t be Clinton or Trump.  Why?  Because, no matter who is President of this country, my faith is not in either one of them…my faith lies in the one to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

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How Shall We Live?

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Ephesians 4:17-29 (NIV)

Just before these verses Paul writes about the grace of God at work in and through Jesus creating the church and providing gifts for God’s people to be the church.

Here, in our passage, the topic shifts to how followers of Jesus, who have received the grace of God, should live.  There is a way of life for the follower of Jesus and there is a way of life that is of the world.  The Greco-Roman culture was a pluralistic culture which was open to greed, corruption, licentiousness, impurity, all kinds of religions and gods, etc.  Look around our society, in the U.S., and you can find our culture open to just about anything and everything.  Everyone has their own story and way of life and who is to say what is right, good, and true…and so it goes.  Yet we are called to allow Jesus to live in and through us in our day and time and place.

Here in Ephesians 4:17-29 we are reminded that there is a way of life that is good, true, and right; the way of a Christ-Follower. There is a way of life that gives life, joy, hope, and peace and that life is in Jesus Christ.  There is only one Savior and Lord.  The Good News is that this life is not just for us but is open and available to others and to all the world.

Today, let’s pause and think about how we live; that we may live for Jesus in all we do and say.

Ministry

Luke 11.13

Galations 5.22

II Corinthians 6 1-3

 

Working these last two weeks on the evangelical crusade with Churches United for Christ I have become very aware of how easily people are offended.  Something I am sure our pastors face weekly.  If you were to state a political opinion you have alienated one half of the audience. If you were to generalize in any way, masculine vs. feminine, blue collar vs. white collar, racially, culturally, height, weight, health, strength, you name it, someone is waiting to be offended or alienated.  The point here is, Paul in II C0rinthians 6.1-3 says “Working together with God-Giving no cause for offense in anything, in order that the ministry be not discredited.”  The only way this can possibly happen is with the working of the Holy Spirit.  In Luke 11.13  Jesus states that if even we on earth” know how to give our children good gifts, how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”  And in Galations 5.22 the fruit of the Holy Spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”  So we all must daily  be filled with the Holy Spirit just to be inoffensive.  I am a pretty nice guy on my own, though there are some who know me best, that might find a few minor flaws in my being. If you talk to my children they can find a couple more to add to the list.  Just leave my wife out of this, her list is endless, and undoubtably biased.  So I, like you , must turn to the Lord daily to find all this fruit of the Spirit, and be amazed at how He cleans us up and makes us acceptable to Himself and others we are ministering to.

I Call To God

To continue some of Anna’s thoughts from today; as she states: that we tend to make life complicated. If we truly read scripture, our life can be less complicated. From Psalm 55 comes many guidelines to follow: “I call to God and the Lord saves me. I cry out in distress, he hears my voice and rescues me unharmed, cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you, he will never let the righteous be shaken, But as for me, I trust in you Lord”.

Lord, help us to trust in you at all stages in our lives.

Todd

Getting Right With God

Romans 9:30-10:4

Why do we make things so difficult and complicated?  Especially our relationship with God?

In this passage in the book of Romans, Paul expresses his wish that all the Jews be saved, but laments that they are still trying to earn favor with God by keeping the Law.

The Gentiles, on the other hand, had become right with God through faith alone.  They weren’t even trying!

What can we learn from these contrasting ways to find peace with God? God is looking at our hearts, restoring to him those that trust Him and put their faith in Him.  Following a long list of rules doesn’t change the heart towards God and others.  However, following God’s commands because of faith and seeking to know his will cause hearts and minds to be changed, and behavior–keeping God’s commands–will follow as a result.

Live in faith and let God make you right with Him, enjoying His presence and leading in your lives.

Anna

RE: Anxiety

Psalm 55:16-23     Esther 5:1-14     Colossians 2:16-21

I’ve chosen to comment the whole of Psalm 55, from today’s Lectionary readings although I must admit that the “power packed” Colossians passage is tempting as each verse is deserving a whole host of commentary.  I’ll leave ’em to others.

The reason I’ve chosen the Psalm passage is that it expresses feelings I have about what is going in my life at the present hour; the apprehension I feel regarding happenings in our country and in the rest of the world generally.  Perhaps you have the same sensations.

The heading for this Psalm in my Bible reads “To the Chief Musician: With Stringed Instruments.”  A Contemplation of David.  The genius of Mozart has accomplished this.  I like reading of the exploits of David; he certainly had his share of weaknesses which I easily identify with.

To begin with the verbiage of “55” is somewhat disjointed (vv. 2-5) apparently owing to the fact that David is undergoing emotional distress (vv. 9-11) due in part to his being in Jerusalem.  It seems to me that those on the south and west sides of Chicago are able to identify with this; those in several cities in Europe as well.

As such, David decides to flee his urban problems for the country (vv. 6-8). However, David’s real problem is that a former friend has become an enemy (vv. 12-14, 20-21).  For this I am reminded of the feud that existed between former friends John Adams and Thomas Jefferson at our countries founding or what’s going on between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz today.

When it gets personal, it gets impossible – and the Psalm openly expresses this feeling (v. 15).  Notice that David does not seek revenge by himself; instead he calls on God (vv. 16-23) to relieve his anxiety.  Situations like these are  beyond are ability to solve on our own; we need to ask for help.

No Worries

dont20worry20be20happy

Matthew 6:25-34

Decision making is not always an easy task. In the case of this blog entry, I have been trying to nail down exactly what to write about for my entry for today. I finally decided that this passage from Matthew is fitting considering all of the negativity that surrounds us on a daily basis.
I think the message here is very straight forward. There are so many things that get our worries going each and every day. How will I get the bills paid this month? How can I afford to buy groceries? Will my family stay safe today? And on and on we can go. But where does all of that worry get us? Stressed. Anxious. High blood pressure. Things that prevent us from living the life that God intended for us to live. Here, Jesus reminds us that the birds and the flowers have no worries, yet they are provided for. How much more does God care about you and me than he does those things? Much more than we can imagine. So today, tomorrow, and as often as possible, when life seems to be knocking the wind out of you, think of these verses. In the words of Bobby McFerrin, “Don’t worry, be happy!” (Sorry that you may have that song stuck in your head the rest of the day).

Stairway To Heaven

Recently I was listening to my music when a oldie but goodie song hit my ear. It was LED ZEPPELIN’s “Stairway To Heaven”.

“There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.
When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for.
Ooh, ooh, and she’s buying a stairway to heaven.”

I am sure that many have so many interpretation for what these lyrics might mean or what they might try to say, and I am not going to discourage anyone to have their thoughts heard.

What I really what to draw your attention to is this one though: She is buying a stairway to heaven.

How many times are we faced with the thought that the things we do, our own good deeds, alms and everything that might be seen as a sacrifice is going to get us there?

Paul said in Colossians 3:1-4
The New Life in Christ
3 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3 for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your[a] life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

I would pray today that as we live each day in faith we can live out not with a sense of fear or religious duty as a bargaining chip for the pearly gates, but I pray that we would live our lives boldly without fear, with the understanding that the one who died for us payed the price so we could indeed live a new life as citizens of God’s Kingdom and that our lives will reflect that in everything we do.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

 

S…F…T…

fear-2What are you afraid of?  Are you afraid Hilary will be president?  How about Donald?  Afraid your favorite sports team won’t fare as well as you’d like? Afraid of what the new day might bring?  The new school year?  Just what causes fear for you?

I’m not about to say that there aren’t things in this world that bring fear into our lives.  What I will say is that you have a choice in how you choose to deal with it.  So….let’s think about:

Psalm 27

Psalm 27 provides an understanding of a foundational basis for all those who claim Christianity…trust in the Lord.  The psalm makes a few points that are important:

  1. In this psalm we find 2 parts – confession and trust…it provides for us an understanding of the close relationship between need and trust.  We find the reality of trust available when we are aware of our own vulnerability.
  2. Trust is there for those who claim Jesus as Lord and Savior.
  3. Trust grows and is nurtured in our exercise and discipline of our faith.
  4. The opposite of trust in the Lord is our individual fear.

So, what can we do?  I offer the following – S.F.T.

S:  See HIS face.
F:  Feel HIS presence.
T:  Trust in HIS love.

Simple right?  S.F.T.  Everyday…in your prayers…in reading your Bible…in others around you.  How is the Spirit of God guiding you to seek HIS calling in your life?  You see, I really believe that fear ends where faith begins.

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