Search

First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

July 2016

In Search of Wisdom

images

 

 

 

 

 

 

Psalm 9:1-12 (NIV)

I Corinthians 1:18-25 (NIV)

People are hungry for wisdom, meaning, and purpose.  Foolishness is so easily available, as it has always been.  Where is the wisdom we need for life?  Where is the wisdom and power which society and all people need and yearn for?  Where is the wisdom which produces the good life?

The scriptures speak of where the search for wisdom ends: the Lord God.  “Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

Psalm 9:10-12

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
11 For through wisdom your days will be many,
and years will be added to your life.
12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you;
if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.

I Corinthians 1:24-25 (NIV)

24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

May you grow in the wisdom of the Lord this day that God’s power, love, and hope may be brought to life in and through you to the world.

Evangelism

John 1.12-13, 3.16

Luke 15.11-24

In our world today we find Christianity becoming less desired and understood than in days past.  The news media tries to present every crackpot that makes the headlines as a Christian, they try to present Christians as intolerable haters, as narrow minded bigots with a disdain for more progressive ideas, and stand in the way of anything the rest of the world views as fun. As one neighbor of mine asked me, ” you spend so much time in church when do you have time for fun?”  As a result we find the younger generation believing the lies, and wanting the so called freedom and joy of not going to church and seeing no value in the Christian lifestyle.  Life in the United States is relatively easy, jobs are available with a little effort, and without going completely crazy one can dabble with the fringes of illegality and come away pretty unscathed.

In Luke 15. 11 Jesus tells the parable of the prodigal son, who wanted so badly to be alone and on his way with life, that he desired his inheritance, which only comes upon the death of someone,  so that he could be on his way to seek a completely wanton lifestyle without cultural restrictions. We are told he travels to a far country to escape the bonds of his own heritage, but his choices leave him completely devastated and repentant, wanting only to be forgiven and in the care of his home. Without getting into the vast theological cluster presented in this story we see a clear presentation of a loving father who waits, not just patiently but with anticipation for the return of his son, throwing cultural restrictions to the side and “runs” out to meet the returning child.  A picture of the nature of YHWH who waits for His children to call out to Him for salvation.

We, as a church, are engaged with  Churches United For Christ, an evangelical outreach organization here in Joliet, including 30 churches, who are committed for two weeks of outreach to our unchurched community. Last night alone we saw two people commit their lives to Christ, receiving Jesus as Lord and savior. The Lord is working today calling people to Himself, and we can be an active part of this great work. The meetings are every night at seven at the tent on south Chicago St. at Third ave. and will move next week to west Jefferson St. by J.D. Byriders.  Come see what evangelism is all about. 1st Pres. will host on July 26th.

Promises kept

We as humans make promises at different points in our life. Sometimes they are kept and sometimes not. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons for not keeping them, sometimes not, and then this leads to feelings of guilt. We do know that the promises that God makes to us in scripture stand the test of time. I refer to Psalm 15.”Who may dwell in your sacred tent”? Those whose walk is blameless, does what is righteous, speaks the truth, utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, casts no slur on others, honors those who fear the Lord, who keeps an oath (promise) even when it hurts, who lends money to the poor”.
“Whoever does these things will never be shaken”.
Todd Garrison

The Depth and Width of God’s Love

A couple of years ago, I was involved in a discussion around the question of having a “life verse” which is a single verse or passage of scripture that somehow defines who you are in your walk with the Lord or describes how you got to where you are today.  At the time, nothing g came to mind that was of particular significance.

A few months later I was wrestling with praying for my adult children, all of whom have wandered from the faith they were baptized into.  I had begun reading “The Power of a Praying Parent” by Storm Omartian, and she encouraged parents to take a promise in scripture and pray it for their children, insert g their names to make the promise and prayer come alive personally.

Ephesians 3:14-19 has now become a “life verse” for me as I regularly pray for my children through these words.  I encourage you to pray the same way.  See what new light and encouragement and confidence can be found when we pray promises and lift up our loved ones by name.

Blessings and peace,

Anna

 

Abram & Sarai in Egypt

Psalm 15     Genesis 12:10-20     Hebrews 5:1-6

Our Bible is comprised primarily of  histories and theology.  If given the choice to think on either of these, I gladly choose the histories for their insights on the nature of the characters involved are to compared to ourselves.  I realize that St. Paul labels this practice foolish (2 Cor. 10:12), nevertheless it is a way one can learn something from these histories.  Quite often, theology is taught within the confines of these histories.

This Genesis passage is of note.  Previously, we have God directly communicating with Abram in the form of a covenant (Gen. 12:1-3) to leave his home and dwell in the land of the Canaanites.  This unusual proposal is based simply on Abram’s trust or faith in God and His provisions.  Surprisingly Abram, at his elevated stage in life (v. 4) decides to do as God prescribes rather than enrolling in a Chaldean retirement village.  Most of us become more conservative as we age, but not Abram.

When he and Sarai arrive in Canaan, they are met with famine (v. 10) and decide to seek food and shelter in Egypt.  Abram does what most of us do when we find ourselves in a tough situation – he tells a lie (v. 13).   Sari was indeed his half-sister (Gen. 20:12), but what he voiced was certainly done with the aim of deceiving the Egyptians.

The summary of this passage is as follows…

  1.  Abram acts in going to Egypt.
  2. Abram’s lie reveals his plan is simply to keep he and his wife alive.
  3. God intervenes (v. 17).
  4. Pharaoh’s speech (v. 18, 19) reveals his intentions.
  5. Pharaoh acts to repair the damage (v. 20) by sending them on their way.

This history revels Abram’s faith in God in going to Canaan; it reveals Abrams weakness in his dealings with the Egyptians, and it demonstrates God’s power to intervene and pull Abram and Sari through the situation despite themselves.  The theology lesson is the high value  (Heb. 11:6) God places on peoples trust in Him, to the point of overcoming our shortcomings.

Love One Another

Matthew 5:38-48

Mark 3:23-26

John 13:34

 

I fear for the state of affairs that currently exist in our nation. We live in a time where we have “politicians” running for office that regularly spew messages of hate and divisiveness toward their opponents. We have the continuing saga of politics in Illinois, where neither side of the aisle can seem to put their own personal agendas aside for the betterment of the citizens of Illinois. We have the now all-to-regular mass shootings. We have the growing tensions between our police forces and African Americans. And no matter what side of any of these issues you stand, what are you trying to accomplish?

 

As I was reflecting on the recent events, Abraham Lincoln’s “A House Divided” speech came to mind. His speech was with regards to slavery and whether or not the country could survive if half of the states were free states and the other half was slave states. We all know how the history with regards to that turned out. But here we are over 150 years later, and have things changed very much?

 

In Mark, and also in Matthew 12, Jesus makes the statement that a house divided cannot stand in response to religious leaders of his time calling him out as being possessed by an evil spirit and accusing him of casting out evil spirits in the name of Satan. Jesus’ response is that Satan would not continue to exist if he drove out his own evil spirits. A house divided against itself cannot stand. So what are we to do?

 

In Matthew 5, in his sermon on the mount, Jesus gives instructions on how to carry your lives, and we have some familiar verses to us all. In the passage included here, we have the “turn the other cheek” and “love your enemy.” In John 13:34, we have “Love one another as I have loved you.” We should not be trying to end violence in this world by bringing more violence. We instead need to come together as a nation, and to see both sides of the situation, and love one another. Only then can we start to heal.

 

Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.
Hate multiplies hate,
violence multiplies violence,
and toughness multiplies toughness
in a descending spiral of destruction….
The chain reaction of evil —
hate begetting hate,
wars producing more wars —
must be broken,
or we shall be plunged
into the dark abyss of annihilation. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Wisdom loves life

Psalm 25: 19 See how numerous are my enemies and how fiercely they hate me.

As I watch the news in recent weeks I am heartbroken at the nature of people. The Godless and loveless actions of people is heart wrenching. But it is nothing new. This kind of hate, judgement, persecution and evil has been around us since the beginning. This is not a new thing. So I do we overcome? How as Christians, as humans, bounce back, press on, lean in to do justice and mercy. To love, to serve, to give, to heal.

I am saddened by the events in Orlando, Louisiana, Minneapolis, Chicago (the list goes on) over the last few weeks. I am grieving for all people for those who are cast out, for those who feel so threatened by another’s skin tone or sexual preference that they are swift to act out their hate. We say “Love has no color” Well the same goes for the hate. It has no color, no gender, no warning signal, no way to decipher where or when it’s going to happen. It’s bred in the shadows, it lurks in the darkness, and this evil conceals itself in seemingly harmless people… There is no identifying it until it is too late. This kind of hate is not new, look at Cain and Abel, the story of Moses. These themes are not new, the characters and events change, but the story remains the same. When one person’s color, gender or status threatens another person’s it ends in tragedy. Senseless violence and killing.

My children are getting older. The older they get the less “control” I have over them. As babies they are under my watchful eye. At 5 we send them to school and for 7 hours a day we have to trust they are cared for and safe. At 10, 11, 12 they want more freedom to play and roam and make decisions for themselves. At 16 they can drive off. At 18, they leave the nest. How do we protect them? We practice stranger danger, the buddy system. They have phones so they can check in. We join forces with other parents. We do all we can do to protect them, but in reality we are not in control. There are influences greater than us, ones we cannot see or hear. Ones we don’t even anticipate. It’s a terrifying time.

As I read the passages my hope comes from this. The teaching of the bible, the lessons of God’s love and care. The influence of the church and its people. We have these tools to help us make wise choices, to help us identify Satan and evil doers, we have scripture to lean on when tragedy occurs. We have to hope and pray that the Love of God fills our hearts, and those of others. For every evil act there is also good. The key is to identify the good in others and nurture it. Practice God’s love every day. In the face of adversity and hate practice love and acceptance. Those that act out of hate, or ignorance will not prosper. We cannot meet ignorance with ignorance we must rise above. Proverb 19:11 The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.

 

 

Live generously

Matthew 5:38-42The Message (MSG)
Love Your Enemies
38-42 “Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.

Today I find it hard to wrap my mind around what’s going on around me. It seems that the country I love, a country that has welcomed me as a son, a country where democracy, freedom, equality and acceptance are not just words we hear in political speeches but are indeed foundational to everything that we are; it’s a country divided, broken, full of hurt and fear. I want to say something about it, about the loss of life, about the hurt communities experience when someone losses their life. I want to say something about it … But words can’t or won’t fill in the anguish, or my own personal fears, my own inequity, or my own desire for justice and peace. I want to say something about it but I know that anything I might say would not fill the void. So I choose to do. I choose to be friendly, to walk to person next to me and say Hello, I choose to listen when someone is venting frustration without judging and condemning, I choose to help someone without questioning their situation, I choose to do something.

And today I am asking you to do the same, say your prayer and ask God for mercy, but also for God to give that opportunity to do something. Live generously.

 

Be Blessed,

Bo M.

A Challenge for the Church…

grape-vines

John 15:1-17    Ephesians 4    1 Cor 12-13

I’m still thinking about John’s daring vision of the church in this passage…a community… where individuals are known for the acts of love they do in common with all the members rather than their individual gifts.  John tells us that the way to measure how well the church is working is how well it loves…not who its members are.  I have to believe that this was something radical then and it clearly is today because our society really does seem to emphasize individual accomplishment.  Some of you might say, “well what about Paul’s thoughts on this subject”?  Good question…I think if you take the time to read the passages from Ephesians and 1 Corinthians…you will see that John and Paul agree.  It’s what makes the promotion John offers so challenging:  servant to FRIEND.  First Pres can be a premier place where anyone…regardless of who they are or where they have come from…where anyone’s desire for loving connection with the vine and its branches can be satisfied.  It is a tough challenge – are you up to the challenge?  Can you bear the burden of being promoted from servant to FRIEND?

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑