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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

August 2016

Oh my, the temptation to judge others…

Shirts Hanging on Clothes Rack --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Matthew 28:16-20 / Colossians 3:12-17

Today’s news is filled with things like Colin Kaepernick refusing to stand for the national anthem, ongoing complaints about responses to the flooding in Louisiana, gun violence deaths in Chicago, etc.  How many of you are trying to convince others your particular perspective on Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump, etc.  What do you do when you don’t like what someone says or does?  Do you apply your own opinion and process your judgment accordingly?  Is it possible to see the perspective through the lens of another?  The temptation to force an opinion…to demand a point of view…to force a particular direction – we humans are capable of much when it comes to our opinions.  And yet, we try to wrestle with how God wants us to interact and influence the lives of those around us and those we meet.  We hear the words, “go, therefore and make disciples of all nations…” and yet, we often forget that those disciples that climbed that particular mountain following Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, met in worship and some of them, believe it or not…doubted.

When I worked for Exelon, there were certain expectations that had little margin for interpretation.  It is pretty easy to understand expectations like 0 lost time accidents or $8.65 per MWe/hr.  But…in our everyday lives trying to be faithful Christians…how do you deal with virtues like: “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience”…or, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.”  And when someone offends us, or doesn’t have the same opinion as us…how do we work through “forgive as the Lord forgave you”.

The temptation to be judgmental is all around us and we often forget simple assurances of pardon like, “Who is in a position to condemn?  Only Christ.  And Christ died for us, Christ rose for us, Christ reigns in power for us, Christ prays for us.” (Romans 8:34 paraphrased)  The words from our author of the letter to the Colossians is appropriate here, as followers of Christ we are urged to be patient…to be gentle with each other.  And when we want to lean on the word “admonish”, we should understand it in the context of the entire passage…in wisdom and gratitude as we worship God.

When we are tempted to judge others based on our own opinions, we should remember that it is Christ’s peace that is to rule.  Another way to sum up the words of Paul might go like this…because of Jesus we are reconciled to God so you/we are at peace, so let’s live out that peace in our personal and gathered life together….and, don’t forget to be thankful in response to God’s grace in all we do in word or deed”.

 

 

 

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Living In Faith and Joy

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Acts 2:42-47 (NIV)

Acts 2:42-47 (The Message)

The early followers of Jesus were intentional about a number of things that created life, joy, impactful service, and faith.

They were committed “to the apostles teaching,… fellowship,… to the breaking of bread and to prayer [that is worship].  They shared their lives and resources and were a community of love and grace. Others around them beyond their community took notice and saw the quality of their lives.  “God added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

Today, as we take some moments for reflection, scripture, and prayer we might assess our commitments.  To what will be commit ourselves?  What will capture our interest, energy, and devotion?  How will we live this day?  Faithful living is about keeping worthy commitments.

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Endurance

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II Cor 6.4

In the true Christian life as defined by the scriptures it is not we who make demands on God, as some of the more charismatic sects of Christianity might suggest. Such as the  “name it and claim it,  I want it and I want it now ,” sort of  crowd.  Rather it is God who rightfully makes demands of us.

He demands that we endure hostilities, and that we endure in holiness. A true mature believer, changed by the Spirit of God, seeks not comfort but endurance, not prosperity but purity, not popularity but obedience, not acclaim but sacrifice, not desiring the pleasures of this world to look like an overfed politician, but rather the pleasure of God to look like Jesus Christ.

The paradox of responses to our service to God is the result of the flesh versus the spirit, as Paul describes here in the sixth chapter of II Cor. verse 4. ” but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance; in afflictions, hardships, distresses, stripes, imprisonments, tumults, labors, watchings, fastings.” This is endurance or survival on the fleshly response to ministry, satan’s attacks,  as it were. But we also endure or never waver in the spiritual side by giving up on living in ” purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, in the Holy Spirit, genuine love, the word of truth, the power of God, by the weapons of righteousness, for the right hand, ( righteousness) and the left, (judgement.)”

I pretty much doubt that any of us will have to face the endurances that Paul faced, but his salvation was predicated on Acts 9.16 ” for I will show him how much he must suffer for my names sake.” We on the other hand are required to endure in purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, etc. exemplifying the fruit of the Spirit as defined in Galations 5.22.  “Love, joy,peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control.”  This is the power of God in us, so that when calamity arrives we too can endure all things.

The end is nearer than you think,  let us not grow weary in well doing.

Karl

Christian Conduct

Psalm 112     Proverbs 18:6-12     1 Peter 4:7-11

This  Peter passage is in regards to how we live, here and now. In it, Peter states that the “end is at hand” (v. 7).  It must have seemed so at the time of this writing.  It seems so at the present hour.  From there, we have a fervent call for love (v. 8) of one another, doubling what is said in Proverbs 10:12.  This love is exhibited through hospitality, and the exercise of one’s gifts for the betterment of society (v. 9-11).  Christ, by His passion, sacrifice, and love for us saved us.  It is through our conduct that we are given the opportunity, in a small but significant way, to imitate Him for our own good.

Conversations on Religion, Church & Faith

Last night I got to spend some time with some childhood friends, catching up with life, talking about history, politics and so on. Soon enough the conversation turned towards religion, church and faith. Sometimes those three words seem to be interchangeable, but if we are to take a close look, we soon discover the huge differences between the way each one affects our lives.

I found the conversation with my friends very refreshing, very sincere and very practical. In a way it was that element, of what I am going to do with all the information I have about God, that made me ask myself the following question: Do I have my eyes and ears opened to what people are really asking when they talk about religion, church or faith? Do I understand the questions they really ask or I just brush the whole conversation under the rug of good philosophical exercise?

I want to believe that when those conversations happen we all can have the spiritual insight to dig deeper and be real about out our own lives, struggles and questions that help us discover the beauty of the divinity. May our lives be filled with deep and rich conversation, where God can penetrate the superficial and where faith springs forth.

May we all be blessed to host, entertain  an engage those conversations on daily bases.

 

Be blessed,

Bo M.

What motivates you?

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Today’s passage comes from Romans 12:1-8…familiar words…”offer your bodies as a living sacrifice…do not conform to the pattern of the world but be transformed…”  For 11 chapters Paul has been talking about doctrine…justification by faith through grace, salvation.  Now he transitions to what it means to live out this doctrine.  Again, the opening words are common, however, we often gloss over the rest of these opening words…”Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you…”  Paul opens with an understanding of what defines worship (12:1-2) and then how this worship leads to service (12:3-8).  

Paul is telling us that what we worship is what we will serve.  He says don’t let pride get in the way…don’t be selfish…  What motivates each of us is important.  Paul’s emphasis here is not on the individual – it is on the individual as part of the collective body…the Church.  For Paul, worship is full-bodied. It happens in community as we live out our faith by serving to build up the body of Christ. The quality of our worship is not measured by what happens on only Sunday mornings, but by what happens when we live out the Christian faith Monday through Saturday.  What we worship is what we serve…Paul is ever clear on this…”Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)  

Paul’s focus is on the Church…specifically, individuals living lives of constant worship, as living sacrifices, so that there is greater Church.  So, what motivates you?  Each of us is gifted with multiple gifts…what are you going to do with what God has given you, in humility, so that the Church of Jesus Christ is built up!  This is Church Growth.

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Getting Life In Focus

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Hebrews 12:1-4 (NIV)

Life is filled with things that can distract us and get us off track.  It might be busyness or allowing good things, things that are second best to take the highest place in our lives and crowd out what is truly best.  Success can cloud our judgment and distract us from the highest good.  Still yet, hardship and suffering can overwhelm us and at times lead us in to the valley of bitterness.

What do we do?  The writer of Hebrews reminds the we have a cheering section of God’s people, “we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…”    Next he encourages us to run our own race of faith “with perseverance.”  God has it “marked out for us.”

But the most important thing for us is to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”  Jesus has already run the race of faith through the mountain tops of joy and the deepest valleys of suffering and pain.  He has promised to run with us and lead us; “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:16-20).

Let us think about our focus in life.  Are we out of focus and missing the presence of Jesus?  Or do we have our sights fixed upon the Lord?

 

For Richer, For Poorer

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II Corinthians 8.9

Matthew 20.1-16

I suppose many of the parables that Jesus taught revealing the kingdom of God are interpreted many ways, often without much insight into what the kingdom of God is really like.  Too many times we walk away none the wiser for having heard them, read them or been taught them. This parable from Matthew 20 is one such story.

The parable is simply; A master`goes out to hire workers for his vineyard, he finds laborers who agree to work for a denarius for the days work. At nine in the morning he goes back to the market place and hires more men without agreeing on a price. This happens every three hours, until  about five in the afternoon when he hires men for the last hour. When it comes time to pay, everyone gets a denarius. Of course there are complaints from those who have worked the whole twelve hour day, reasoning how unjust the master was, they should have been paid more. The master responds ,”Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?  Or is your eye envious because I am good?  Thus the last shall be first, and the first last.”

So we have  the variety of views that argue for workers rights, that the apostles who were with Jesus from the beginning gain no more than the thief on the cross who repented, that the Hebrew nation is worth no more than the last gentile nation to be reached with the gospel, and on and on.

If in the context, this is a glimpse of the kingdom of God, I see a very different message here.  The complaining workers want more, this is human nature, albeit a little unjust, they did agree to the wage. The master is willing to give a more generous amount to some. He chooses to be poorer while the workers want to be richer. It definitely  is not fair, but then neither is grace.

The kingdom of God is grace, the master gives generously, salvation is offered to all, some come early in life, some come late, some have many gifts and work tirelessly, some have fewer and aren’t called to do much, but  the underlying base to it all is II Cor. 8.9 ” For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”

I prefer grace to justice every day, thank you Lord Jesus.

Karl

 

SINS FORGIVEN

As Christians do we fully understand the concept that God forgives our sin?  We pray to God to repent and God forgives us. Many times though even though we have repented and have been forgiven, we take the sin back from the past as if it were never forgiven. When reading Psalm 32 it gives us a deeper understanding of sins forgiven. The following comes from this Psalm.

“Blessed is the one whose sins are forgiven whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them. You forgave the guilt of my sin. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble. the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in Him.”

Lord help us to repent knowing that you do forgive. We can let go of the past guilt of our sins.

Todd

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