First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @


September 2016

God vs. Evil

Psalm 37:1-9

2 Kings 19:8-20, 35-37

Revelations 2:12-29

The lectionary readings :for today all have one thing in common: evil is taken care of by God and punished, and the faithful are rewarded and protected.  While that speaks for itself, I have just a couple thoughts to add.

Every day we are bombarded by images of evil on television, the internet, newspapers, and social media. If you, like me, have a tendency to despair and wonder just how bad it’s going to get and when it will end, remember that God is in control and evil will not prevail.

God is good–all the time.  He sees our hearts, knows our deeds and intentions, and will not leave or forsake us.

I’m encouraged by these passages and am thankful for the peace that God’s word brings to me when I begin to worry or get bogged down by negativity and bad news.  Let’s thank him for his sovereignty and goodness.  Amen.


2 Corinthians 5.17

John 3.1-16

The Corinthians passage says, “Therefore if any man is in Christ he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold new things have come.”

John 3.6 ” That which is born of the flesh is flesh, that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

John 3 1-2  A man of the Pharisees, Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, came to Jesus by night and says to Him, ” Rabbi we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with Him.”

A Pharisee was one of about 6000 Jews in a population of maybe 2 million in the nation at the time of Christ. Having their start maybe 150 years before Christ was born, and some sources trace their roots as far back as the Babylonian exile, but for practical purposes they were an established group of men who desired to keep the law, define the law, and determined to be above the fray of the ordinary. With noble goals they started, determining a very regimented lifestyle, doing what the Law required, to the letter. But as we all know, the flesh is weak, and that’s all they had. Their lawful behavior and disciplined lifestyle made them stand out from the rest of society.  When one is noticed as being better than the rest,  pride has a way of creeping in.  By the time of Christ the Pharisees had a reputation of of being perfect, of being the guides for the rest of society, of being “the teachers”, and looked upon with envy. They had become quite powerful, a political party as it were.

To be noticed by a Pharisee would be an honor for a rural young teacher who just came on the scene, but  Jesus on the other hand  was no ordinary hayseed stumbling around looking to be noticed. He was remarkable in what He said and did.  They didn’t necessarily notice Him but He noticed them, He could see their weaknesses, their faults, and their deception.

Thus when Nicodemus says ” we know you have come from God,” one might think that is a great statement of insight from the point of faith.  Jesus said then to him vs. 7 “You must be born again.”  He was not telling him that all was well, or that he was on the right track, or just add a little more devotion, maybe little more prayer, humble yourself a trifle, or clean up your language.  Jesus proclaimed a complete turn around, a complete regeneration. “that which is flesh is flesh, that which is spirit is spirit.”  He raised the high jump bar so high that no one could humanly clear it.  How could we completely start over, how could we enter our ” mothers womb” and be born again?

John 3.16 ” For Elohim so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Nicodemus, a keeper of the Law, recognized something remarkable about Jesus, but it wasn’t enough. He too had to be completely regenerated. The scripture tells us by his actions, Nicodemus, with the Spirit of God living in Him, then went on to prove the change God had brought into his life by standing against the other Pharisees prior to Jesus trial , John 7.50, and helped prepare the body of Jesus for burial, John 19.39.  Both were extremely risky positions to take in light of the politics of the time.

I believe that we are in the “last days” and that soon enough we are going to have to take a position of denial of our faith, or reliance upon it.  Only faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, complete rebirth, will allow us to make the right choices of obedience in the days to come.

Come quickly Lord Jesus





Nice guys finish last? Not really!

Matthew 19:16-30


Nice guys finish last! We’ve all probably heard this statement before. In a world where the gap between the haves and the have nots seems to widen all the time, we (or at least I) find ourselves trying harder and harder to keep up with the Joneses. We are constantly reminded about what we don’t have but badly need to have by way of advertisements. Catch an episode of ET or TMZ, and hear all about the celebrity life. In listening to Monday night’s presidential debate, it seems that both candidates have plans for how to create jobs in our country by either raising or lowering taxes on the most wealthy Americans. All the while, here we all are, just trying to live our lives by what is right and provide for our families.

How are we as Christians called to live their lives? Here in this Matthew passage, we hear about the wealthy man who asked Jesus how he should be living his life. Jesus’ response was to the man was about following several commandments, which the man states that he does follow. What does he still lack? If he wants to be PERFECT, he should go sell all of his possessions and give the money to charity. And the man leaves sad because he doesn’t want to lose all of what he has earned in his lifetime.

A couple of thoughts that I have here. First, I’m wondering how we all would react if Jesus told us to sell EVERYTHING we have and give ALL of the money to charity, how would we react? I can guarantee I would hesitate. And I am far from rich in comparison to the Warren Buffets of the world.

The word that catches my attention here is the word PERFECT. Is there really a such thing as perfect in human terms? I don’t believe so. We are a fallen race living in a fallen world. We aren’t expected to be perfect. Thanks be to God for sending Jesus to take the place of our imperfection. What we ARE called to do though is to not make idols that take the place of God. We all have exactly what we are meant to have; no more, no less. You and I may never be driving our Ferrari’s to church on Sundays, or visiting one of our multiple “summer homes.” But that isn’t what we should be striving for in life. We are here on Earth to serve, not to be served, or to self-serve. It is my belief that we should give up some of ourselves in service to others and ultimately to God. As it says in Matthew 25:40, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

May we not work so hard or worry so much about being the best or standing out above others. Jesus said “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the Earth.” We may not be the BEST or PERFECT in this lifetime, but this lifetime is short in comparison to eternity. We need to become last here so we have a chance at being first in eternity. God bless.

So you survived the last night debate …What now?

1 Timothy 2:1-2

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

As so many of you, I turned the TV on last night to watch the the First Presidential Debate of this election cycle. And just as many of you, or many others around the land, I start browsing my Facebook, my Twitter feed and the news along the way. One thing is certain: People are passionate about their opinions. If I can go back a few years ago, these conversations normally happened face to face, around Sunday dinner, or while sharing a beer with your friends. But now our platform of expressing our convictions had changed. And with that change we became detached in many ways of the things we say, the way we say it, and it seems to me that somehow we lost the personal touch with those we might agree or disagree with us. There many things that are being said on today’s social platforms. Some things that we can all nod our head in agreement, and some that have us shaking our heads in disagreement.

But there is another reality that we are confronted by. Is the reality of God’s  sovereignty. The reality that while we watch two people debating, trying  to capture our passion and ultimately our vote, God is still present, and working in our lives. It is that reality that encourages each one of us to look at the world though God’s grace and love towards those next to us. It is that reality that makes skim trough the newsfeed and say: Lord have mercy. Have mercy on us as people trying to do your will. Have mercy as we try follow your word, to be concerned for the needy, to show mercy and do our best to be faithful in the things we are passionate about.

So here I am praying. Praying for our country, for the its future, for those that are leading now and those that will lead us in the near future. But even more so, praying for all of us. Praying that we can be kind, that we can be merciful and walk together even when we disagree. Praying that we will not get tired of doing the right things, that indeed we will live godly lives and let God shine through who we are.

I would like to share with you this beautiful song and these words to encourage you as you go through the day:

Let There Be Peace on Earth”

Let there be peace on earth,
and let it begin with me;
let there be peace on earth,
the peace that was meant to be.

With God our creator,
family all are we.
Let us walk with each other
in perfect harmony.*

I bind unto myself today…


Today’s passage comes from the conclusion of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians…”The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”  (2 Cor 13:14)  We hear these words often as the Benediction to worship services but what do these words really mean.  In today’s sermon, I used a portion of Patrick of Ireland’s prayer, commonly known as “St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer” which I think lends insight to what the passage at the conclusion of 2 Corinthians intends…here is the entirety of Patrick of Ireland’s prayer:

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the cherubim;
The sweet ‘well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the Prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

On Deep, Enduring Happiness


Psalm 146 (NIV)

Proverbs 28:11-18 (NIV)

Luke 9:43-48 (NIV)

“Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.” (Psalm 146:5)

Blessed- that is, deeply happy, with a happiness and joy that cannot be taken away, that endures through anything in life- “are those whose help…and hope is in the Lord their God.”

What does it mean to live with one’s help and hope in the Lord?

Proverbs 28:11-28 is a list or a series of snapshots of what faith looks like in real life.  Take a few moments and read through these proverbs on the life of faith.  What would they look like in your every day life?

Then Jesus adds to this by teaching the disciples who desired greatness, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.” (Luke 9:48)

May you welcome the presence, inspiration, and guidance of Jesus in your life as you go through this day and any day.

Pitching in

Psalm 146

Proverbs 28:3-10

Ephesians 2:1-10


At work I’m responsible for quite a lot of things. I am an integral part of operations here, but I don’t operate alone. I can’t complete my tasks without direction from my boss or assistance from others in the office. I probably could figure out a lot on my own, because I’m resourceful, and there are some tasks I can do without direction, but not all. I submit much of myself to my superiors at work, so that I can complete the jobs they need done in order for things to run smoothly. What I do directly affects the programs that take place and people getting paid. When things go well I am appreciated, when I don’t follow direction to try to do something I’m unsure of, mistakes can be made. I am just 1 part of a complicated body.

There is one passage in particular that sticks out to me in today’s readings, in Psalm 146 is says 7“He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry”. He goes on to talk about all the acts that HE does. But how does God do all those things himself? Much like my employer God’s busy, he’s got a lot of irons in the fire. So how does HE accomplish all he promises to us. The answer is simple. By using us, as his hands and feet! We are the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). We act out what he asks of us, and by doing so, HE works. If it weren’t for direction from my boss and help from my co-workers this facility wouldn’t run. The same goes for the Church. Without direction from the Bible and the word of God, his mission and vision can’t be followed. He needs all of us within this family to work together to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, lift up the oppressed, love the unloved.

Today while at work, at home or at play remember that what you do is only a small part of a larger operation. Without your help even a seemingly efficient process can break down. We are all required to pitch in. God cannot operate without us. He needs every person to do their part in spreading the Gospel and Love of Christ.



95% Solution

This past Saturday morning at Men’s Bible Study (7 AM – all men invited), Karl Darley brought in a book that was on the subject of the “last things.” Perhaps he will chime in on it’s title and author.  The book rattles on for hundreds of pages where the author quotes scriptures and fits them into his beliefs regarding the Rapture of the Church, the Great Tribulation, the Return of Christ, and ultimately the New World.  It was very logically constructed.  I’m confident that tens of thousands, if not millions, of books like it have been penned and sell as Karl’s can attest.

The problem that I have with books like these is their strict adherence to the Greek ideal of logic to justify itself.  Nowhere does the Bible claim to be completely logical. It is profound arrogance for any person to suggest that they have a complete understanding of God on any subject, much less on how how and when our world will be transformed. Broadly speaking (95% is my guess), Christianity and our Bible is logical.  However, there are sections of it that are not.

Recall, critic’s during The Enlightenment used the logic of Euclidian Geometry (assume perfectly parallel lines exist, etc.) proofs to analyze the Bible.  Their mission was to find and innumerate all the inconsistencies or anything that could not be explained within the pages of the Bible to discredit it.  Many exist.  How can something be trusted that defies the laws of logic?  This line of thinking threw the Bible believing church for a loop.  How can we define ourselves according to a book that logically does not entirely add up?

Around 200 years passed and some German and Russian mathematicians discover and developnon-Euclidian Geometry (perfectly parallel lines really don’t exist – no matter how perfect we try to make them they will intersect somewhere in outer space, etc.).  From this, it occurred to proponents of the Bible that there exist truths that are beyond logical.  The Bible itself makes this clear – see Job 26, Isaiah 55:8-11, Romans 11:33-36.

What the Bible gives us is an overall impression regarding God not a precise photograph.  There are two reasons for this.  The first is that we are incapable of grasping complete understanding of our being (Psalm 139:1-6).  The second naturally follows, if we were capable of complete understanding we would have no need of God or faith in Him (Hebrews 11:5-6).  By our faith, we allow God to be God.


Giving Up So Others Gain

1 Corinthians 9:19-23
We’re hearing a lot about rights these days. MY rights. YOUR rights. Immigration rights, State’s rights…the list can go on and on. And rights are a very constant and hot topic with political candidates right now, as well. Amidst the noise and clamor and arguing, where do Christians find guidance on this issue? How should we interpret our rights versus the rights of others?
Paul spends the entirety of Chapter 9 discussing the issue, and making the comparison between slave and free, of having spiritual authority regardless of recognition by people. He has made the case that his words, actions, and decisions are not his own, but divinely directed by God through the Holy Spirit. I encourage you to read the whole chapter so that our verses of interest have the proper context.
When Paul reaches verses 19-23, he has made the argument a number of was that he is free, and not a slave of the law. However, in order to spread the Good News and share in the blessings, he describes how he puts others before himself, ignoring his own rights of freedom in the interest of attracting non-believers to Christ. This is not how ancient culture worked, or our culture now, for that matter. “Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to ALL PEOPLE to bring many to Christ (verse 19)… I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some (verse 22b),” emphasis is mine.
Contradictory? Counter-intuitive? Genius?
Imagine the impact we would have in our families, workplaces, schools, and neighborhoods if we—Christians—shared Paul’s convictions and followed the behavior he models. Would we shed more light? Would people discover love and respect that had been previously absent? I like to think that we can, and will impact the world, and that others will find salvation by our loving behavior leading them to want to know the person of Jesus. It’s a tough challenge every day, but the Great Commission depends on it.

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