First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @


September 2016

A Wonderful Savior


John 3 .16-18

Hebrews 3. 14-19

There are so many concepts in scripture to ponder, so many verses that I skip over seeing the more obvious revelations, that when I go back again and again I see more and more. That is what draws me to the scripture.  Finding more than enough in the Word of God to satisfy my longing heart, yet desiring even more. Is that a paradox or is it what the scripture describes as “exceeding abundantly.”

Pastor Craigs’ sermon on Sunday morning touched one of those points of pondering in my estimation, in John 3.18. I have always stopped wondering after John 3.17. The Christ did not come to condemn, how beautiful is that, He came to save!  What more do you want?  Well that next sticky verse says something about “if you believe then you are not judged but if you don’t believe then you are judged already.”  What can that mean?   Craig well described the meaning by his description of the beauty of a painting by Monet, or some other fine art,  if discounted or rejected by a person, says nothing about the painting but everything about the person who can’t see the beauty in the art.  The painting is not judged, the man without artistic intuition is.

Well,  my mind immediately jumped to Hebrews chapter 3.16, where it tells of the Hebrews during the Exodus, when they came to the edge of the promised land and could not find themselves able to trust in Yhwh. This One who had brought them through the Red Sea, after causing their release from bondage in Egypt, and feeding them with manna, protecting them with a pillar of fire, guiding them with a pillar of smoke, revealing Himself to them in such power that they trembled at the sound of His voice and begged that He no longer speak directly to them, but only through Moses.  This God who was so intimately involved with them daily, they couldn’t find any trustworthiness, any strength, any power, any supernaturalness, any beauty in Him when faced with a perceived insurmountable obstacle called, the Promised Land. The promised land in and of itself seems rather obvious by it’s name alone.  But they chose not to believe in Him.

Paul says in Hebrews  3.19 that “they were not allowed to enter that promised land because of unbelief .”

Christ has come to set us free from our bondage, our sins are forgiven, all that is left is for us to believe.  If we don’t, that says nothing about the Christ or what He  has done,  it does  say  volumes about us. Put all of your trust in Him, for He cares for you, daily, eternally.  As believers we also choose daily to put our trust in Christ in obedience, as we live in a world filled with sin and temptations to not believe.  He is a beautiful Savior.

Thanks Craig


True Salvation



I first need to apologize for being late getting this out today. Busy weekend and nearly forgot today was my day. But on to today’s reflection:

There are a couple of things that stand out to me from this text passage. First, we have Peter and John being seized by the guards and being jailed for preaching the Gospel. Despite being detained and an overnight in Jerusalem’s finest, the people who heard John and Peter’s message were not frightened off, but instead more people began to believe the Gospel. When I think about our current times, and probably throughout most of history, if we see someone being jailed for a certain behavior, we are not likely to perform the same behavior ourselves. But, moved by the Holy Spirit, many who heard the message believed, and the numbers of the early church grew to 5,000 men (not including women and children).

The other thing that stands out is Peter’s conviction, guided by the Holy Spirit, that what he is doing is the absolute correct thing: preaching and spreading the Good News, and proclaiming Jesus Christ is Lord. Again, in our modern times, people all too often try to find maybe relief in worldly things to bring them peace and happiness, whether it be something constructive like a hobby, or destructive like alcohol, drugs, and such. The issue with any of these is that they too will eventually fade away and we will be left with our final judgement and all of eternity. But our true salvation comes only by faith through Jesus Christ.

So my prayer for you today is to remain faithful that there is a greater plan than any of us may ever even know. I pray that God leads, and that we may have an open mind and eyes to follow, and that His plan may be made known to us in time.


Back to basics

2 Peter 3:18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

It feels to me, that we talk a lot about growing in our churches. We talk a lot about growing matured in Christ, or growing in numbers, growing as communities of faith and so on. That is not a bad thing! I have no problem with growth, I like growth, I like to see people growing in faith and walk with God. I like to see communities grow, I love to see people getting connected in Christ and developing strong relationships that are filled with grace.

I love to see grow happen. But growth does not come by chance! It is intentional! It requires effort! It requires discipline! And time and time again growth requires sacrifice!

What are the basics of Christian growth? You might be surprised that a great sermon is not the elixir that would turn you in to spiritual giant. Or the great service project that just happened to require your special skills, might not be that thing that makes you a strong believer.

It’s the simple things, the basics that not only help us grow but also sustain us along the way. It is opening the word, meditation on it, it is praying when no-one is watching, it is helping when your name is not in the lights, it is listening to a hurting soul when there is nothing to gain from it, it is loving the unlovable. You know the basics. The simple things.

The crazy thing about the basics is that everyone, and I mean everyone can excel in the basics. There is no formula or crazy algorithm that will help you grow, but there is the understanding of being close to the Savior, of knowing more about who Jesus is and what Jesus will have you be that will help you grow.

So let’s not complicate things! Let us go back to the basics.

Today, I pray that each one of us can find the basics and find strength and comfort as they spend time with their Savior.


Be blessed,

Bo M.

Do you see God at work?


I want to share something I shared with our Session this month.  It seems, and I am as guilty as the next, that it is so easy to fall into the trap of focusing on the things we want.  Equally easy is the idea of landing on the things we don’t like.

Today’s devotional passage is 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is believed to be one of the earliest writings – he is dealing with new converts. He is writing about what is lacking in their faith.  These first century new Christians are being persecuted but they have also stopped working for the Kingdom.  Paul is encouraging them to stay the course and keep their eyes on the one who is faithful to you and to “Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

It is easy to want…it is also easy to talk about what we don’t like.  It is understandable to have wants and desires – I want a cure for Lupus…I want the Cubs to win the World Series.  But…how often do we give thanks for how God is at work in and among us?  When was the last time you stopped to really see what God may be hard at work doing and to give thanks?

Can we hear the message Paul had for the Thessalonians and us today...”Now, may the God of peace himself cause you to be completely dedicated to him; and may your spirit, soul, and body be kept intact and blameless at our Lord Jesus Christ’s coming. The one who is calling you is faithful and will do this…The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you.”


Faithful, Just, Truthful, Merciful, and More!


Psalm 113 (NIV) 

Exodus 23:1-8 (NIV)

Romans 3:1-8 (NIV) 

In these three passages we learn of the greatness, faithfulness, justice, truthfulness, and mercy of God.  And yet there’s more as you read through them.

The Psalm is all about the praise of God.  Praise God always each and every day.  You get the sense that if we don’t praise God the praise of God is incomplete.

Why praise God?  God is the creator and we are invited to be his servants. God is greater than any and all of the nations. And this powerful God is also a God of compassion for “7 He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; 8 he seats them with princes, with the princes of his people. 9 He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children.”

How wonderful to have a compassionate God who cares for hurting and broken people.  Since God is compassionate and also just, we read in Exodus 23 how we should then live.  God’s people are instructed to live with each other in truthfulness, justice, and mercy.

Finally, just as the Jewish people were “entrusted with the very words of God” (Romans 3:2), the Old Testament.  We too have been entrusted with not just the Old Testament but also the New Testament.  God is faithful in bringing his word and ways to his people in every age.  While having God’s word is an advantage we know that like all people in any age we sin and fall short.

We need to remember that God is against whatever is sin for sin hurts others, the creation, and separates us from God.  Even though God is full of grace and compassion we should not sin more, that God’s grace, truthfulness, and glory may increase or abound.

Praise and celebrate the Lord today.  Give thanks to the God who is faithful forever.


No (wo)Man is in Island.

No (wo)Man is in Island.

There are some great message in these readings today and many that are extremely relevant. In Psalm 73 we read of arrogance and envy. Envy of others is a tough obstacle to overcome. It’s hard today when we are faced with daily updates of everyone else’s good fortune. What are exclamations of joy and excitement off come off as braggers and arrogant. We think “why do they have that house, car, vacation, perfect family and I have nothing? Unfinished house, no cash, single parent, no help? I’m a good person, I go to church, why not me?” It is SO easy to compare and think that nobody else has struggles and that we are alone in the world. We back ourselves into a corner, painting a pretty picture of everyone else’s live that make ours look dull and gray.

The passage from Job is an excellent conversation between God and Job, and one that we at one point or another we have probably had with God. God questions Job and asks him why he thinks he’s in this alone? Does he have all the answers? What do we need God for? This sounds very similar to conversations I have had with many people in my life. Often times, because I have to do some much alone, I think that I have all the answers. And when I become full of myself God likes to knock me down and remind me that I am NOT an island. I do need his help, I need his guidance, I need his mercy and his love. Just as Job needs to recognize that he cannot do without God’s help. His response is priceless – I messed it up God, I got in over my head, I muddied the waters, You told me what to do, and I didn’t listen… next time I’ll listen.

We need to remind ourselves daily of 2 things… all the gifts we have, all the blessing we receive are all from God. What others get and have is not our concern. We have a God that loves us and wants us to love ourselves and be good and faithful. The other thing is simple as well, we aren’t in it alone. He wants to help. He can tell us what to do, guide us and direct, if we LISTEN to him and allow him to work in us.

“How, then shall we live?”

The above quote is from Leo Tolstoy.  The quote was made as a challenge to his readers.  The challenge, after one reads a passage of history, a piece of scripture, a novel, etc. is “What difference does it make?,” in how we live and/or think about living.  Tolstoy believed that the true test of great literature was that it positively impacted its readers living.

My reading style is cursory.  I leave it to others to pour over every sentence, every printed word analyze, in depth, what is said and unsaid, and so on.  For myself, I’m trying to quickly read to gain an overall impression of what the author is saying, to learn from it,  and determine whether or not it matters to me or should.

As the regular reader of this blog is aware, I normally concentrate on just one (read: laziness) of the three common lectionary scriptures to comment on.  For whatever reason, possibly driven by The Spirit, I feel that each of the three for today are very worthwhile.  So here goes…

Psalm 73, entitled “A Psalm of Asaph.” This Psalm addresses the problem of the prosperity of the wicked.  There appears to be a discrepancy, at times, between the Israelite ideal of living an upright life and not prospering  vs. living wickedly and becoming wealthy.  When life is measured strictly in terms of prosperity in all of its forms, it would appear that the wicked path is best.  This reasoning is blown apart when one turns towards God for advice (v. 17) and are taught that the wicked have no real  future (vv. 18-20).  God’s followers, often referred to as righteous, have an inheritance and a future (vv. 23-26).

Jonah 3:1-10.  Nineveh was one of the greatest cities in antiquity.  Jonah is compelled to preach there in order to save the city from God’s judgement.  Subsequently, what happened was the greatest revival in recorded history (v. 10).  None of the physical miracles in this book compare to the marvel and extent of this spiritual miracle.  The modern equivalent would be the preaching of the Gospel in Chicago which leads everyone in the city to devote their way of life and way of life to Him.

Finally, in this 2 Peter 3:8-13 passage it is stated that the human conception of time (v. 8) is irrelevant.  What appears slow to human eyes is God offering mercy by way of His patience.  Mentioned (v. 9) is the will of God.  I recall my Mother telling me, as a child, that the won’t of God significant too.  There are three aspects of the will of God in the Bible: (1) His sovereign will (Isa. 46:9-11, Dan. 4:17, 35, Heb. 2:4), (2) His moral will/laws (Mk. 3:35, Eph. 6:6), and (3) His desires (Ezek. 33:11, Matt. 23:37).  The sovereign will is a certainty, the moral will/laws are followed and not followed by human beings – they are  optional, and the desires of God are adhered to only to the extent that they are included by His sovereign will.  God does not desire that any should perish, but it is clear that some will not come to salvation (Rev. 21:8).  The reason for this is not clear at the human level, only the divine.

Trading Envy for Thanks

Psalm 73

Yesterday we remembered the 9/11 attacks which took place 15 years ago.  For my family, we also celebrate the birthday of my oldest child.  For the past 15 years, we have had an odd juxtaposition of remembering, solemnity, and celebration.  Psalm 73 puts into words some of the thoughts I’ve had about this and points to how to respond to evil.

One of the hardest things for me to understand is why wicked people seem to prosper, get rich, and live easy lives.  I admit, there have been times I have become envious of others who are not living a Christ-like life because of their wealth and success.  The Psalmist describes them as fat-cats, wearing pride like a jeweled necklace, having everything their hearts wish for, and living painless lives.  The writer asks God this question, “Did I keep my heart pure for nothing? Did I keep myself innocent for no reason?”  I’ve had those same thoughts looking at the evil in the world and seeing those who perpetrate it and seem to get rich and escape justice.  How should I respond instead?

Verse 21 expresses how I believe God wants me to think and act: “Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside.”  Hard to admit, but so true.  And only admitting that I’ve been bitter and envious can I reach the point of thankfulness that the psalmist models in the final verses, offering up praises to God saying, “…I belong to you; you hold my right had.  You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny…my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart…I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter.”

I you, like me, have been tempted to compare your life to others, to be envious and wonder why we even try to live a godly life, take time to read this Psalm and appreciate how God can change your mind, your perspective, and your grumblings into thanksgiving.



To Serve The Living God

Psalm 51.10

Genesis 8.20-9.17

John 10.11-21

Hebrews 9.13-14

As we read these passages of scripture we find David weeping and crying to Yhwh for forgiveness.  Calling upon the use of the Law as provided for cleansing, for sin offerings, for guilt offerings, for atonement.  But the Law also required punishment for violations as in the death of adulterers, and so it seems David wanted the forgiveness provided in the Law without the penalty of the Law. As it turns out in the revelation of Yhwh through the scriptures this is, in fact, what God offers.  Forgiveness and mercy for those who humbly cry out to Him.  David did indeed humble himself and called for cleansing of his heart.  “Restore to me the joy of my salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.”

The pattern found in these scriptures all point to humility, confession, and crying out to the God of our salvation, and He will hear and act.  Hebrews 9 tells us ” for if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, then how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”  David had the shadow we have the substance through  Jesus Christ. We still serve a living God who is still in the restoration business.

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