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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

November 2016

Jesus is Coming Again

 

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Psalms 141

Ezekiel 43.1-12

Matthew 23.17-24.14

How easy it is to get distracted from the important things in life.  In this last election the news was not what the candidates were proposing to do but rather accusations against each other of evil doing, a distraction from what we needed to hear.  In our lives we get distracted by what we are told is important rather than what we know is important.  Bigger, brighter, faster, cleaner, shinier, newer, cooler, plus the places we need to go to and see, and experience.  The place I find solace from this distracting world is the Word of God.  Believe me when I say I believe the Word of God.  Many Christians I come across don’t.  Isn’t that unbelievable.

Our reading today starts with Psalms 141, which is a prayer for protection from evil doers, protection from eternal death, victory over evil men, standing with the righteous, and victory over sin.  Hear my prayer O LORD, hear my prayer.

In chapter 43 of Ezekiel, Ezekiel is still in the spirit being shown the temple of the LORD, where God fills the inner room with His Shekinah Glory and Ezekiel is told that the LORD will return there to dwell forever, at a time in the future.

Finally in Matthew 23 and 24 we find Jesus lowering the boom on the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and scribes.  What phonies they turned out to be, though keeping the law so religiously.  Everything about these guys was on the outside appearance, there was no love for God or man, only themselves, there was never mercy, forgiveness, kindness, no fruit of the Spirit, for there was no spiritual life happening. Then the disciples ask Jesus, “Tell us when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus simply said there will be hatred, lying, stealing, wars, famines, floods, betrayals, Christian persecution, they will deliver you  to be persecuted, and killed.  Your so called friends will turn you in, your so called brothers will turn away from the faith, and love of many will grow cold. But he that endures to the end will be saved.  Sounds kind of like the year 2016, or so.

Friends, the Word of God is true, the signs of the times are everywhere, it doesn’t matter if the Cubs win the World Series, or the Bears fail, or who wins the presidency.  What matters is, do you know the saving and keeping power of Jesus.  He alone matters, are you actively following Him, is the Spirit of God leading you in righteousness?  I hope so.

Karl

Come Together, Right Now

 

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1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1

Mark 3:24-25

Over the course of the past few years, there has been an increasing divide in our country. We have seen a growing divide between politicians on either side of the aisle. We have seen an increasing division in the past week or so again with the results of the election. The racial divide in this country continues to grow and an alarming rate. Black lives matter…blue lives matter…all lives matter. Seemingly non-stop protests in the streets, shutting down major roads, for all sorts of reasons. Who’s right and who’s wrong?

I think that today’s lectionary reading of 1 Corinthians does a great job of answering what we are to do with all of these recent events. I can remember growing up and hearing what then was a common saying; “It’s a free country, I can do whatever I want.” We have a constitution in our country that has along with it 10 amendments that we know as the Bill of Rights. We have the right to bear arms, freedom of religion, freedom of press, freedom to protest, and so on.

So let’s put those rights into perspective. They were written over 200 years ago as our nation was formed. At the time, the arms that people were wanting to bear were single shot rifles that took as long as 30 seconds to reload. The reason this was written into our constitution was because the British Empire was trying to prevent the colonists from owning firearms and possible staging a revolt (how did that work out?). The freedom of religion was written because the original settlers that came here were not allowed to freely practice their religion in their homeland. Freedom of press because the British Empire did not allow the colonists to write anything that was critical of the royal crown. And finally, freedom to protest for the same reason; that the British Empire disallowed the colonists to speak out against their “authority.” These are all important freedoms that make our country what it is today, and we should continue to have them.

However, there are people in this country who use these freedoms in a way that is self-serving, and to try to validate their own actions, regardless if those actions are beneficial or harmful to the others around them. When our right to bear arms includes high-powered automatic reload rifles, what are those likely to be used for? When our right to protest turns into rioting, including burning down buildings, or lynch mobs who beat people simply for having differing opinions, who are we really helping? Or are we just letting frustration and anger get the best of us?

Martin Luther King Jr. famously gave a speech in which he stated “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” I was not yet born to live through the civil rights era, but what I know is that time and time again, Dr. King preached peaceful protests. Time and time again, he preached for love, not hate. Yet, here we are in 2016, with so much hate. And it is not just one group of people. It is not just blacks, or whites, or republicans, or democrats. It is on all sides. I am afraid of where this country is headed, and that we are taking steps backwards into another era.

We are not going to bring peace to this world, or this country, by having conservatives and liberals spewing hate toward each other. We are not going to have peace in this country while racism continues as it is. I can’t even begin to comprehend how one person can decide to hate another person simply because of the color of their skin. Or their religious beliefs. Or what language they speak.  

Paul, in 1 Corinthians says it perfectly, when he says that “Everything is permitted, but everything isn’t beneficial. Everything is permitted, but everything doesn’t build others up. No one should look out for their own advantage, but they should look out for each other.” Instead he says “ whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, you should do it all for God’s glory. Don’t offend either Jews or Greeks, or God’s church. 33 This is the same thing that I do. I please everyone in everything I do. I don’t look out for my own advantage, but I look out for many people so that they can be saved. 11 1 Follow my example, just like I follow Christ’s.” Finally, Jesus says “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

Apologies for such a long post, but I believe we reside in a scary place in our country. The rest of the world is watching, and we are very vulnerable. This isn’t a post directed at any one person or group of people. Both Hillary and Donald and their supporters need to keep these words of Paul and Jesus in mind as they speak and act. People of all races need to do the same. It is time, as the Beatles sang in 1969, to “Come together, right now.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A prayer from long time ago

There is nothing new under the sun – it is something that you hear time and time again. How did the early church dealt with turmoil, political struggle or lived under in peace and unity being true to their essence? That question has been on my mind for the past week, and it is something that became my prayer for the past week. This might be surprise to you, I love the church fathers, their spirituality and their understanding of being light and salt. And that is what I had done for the past week, turned my mind to a some of their writings. Along the way I had found that their writings had capture in many ways my own struggle.

Today I want to encourage you to find comfort in knowing that indeed there is nothing new under the sun, and your own personal witness and the ministry of the church has shined bright even in times when it seemed that everything was crumbling.

Augustine (354 – 430) prayed the following prayer that captures many of our own feelings in today’s world.

Look upon us, O Lord,
and let all the darkness of our souls
vanish before the beams of thy brightness.
Fill us with holy love,
and open to us the treasures of thy wisdom.
All our desire is known unto thee,
therefore perfect what thou hast begun,
and what thy Spirit has awakened us to ask in prayer.
We seek thy face,
turn thy face unto us and show us thy glory.
Then shall our longing be satisfied,
and our peace shall be perfect.

Let his prayer be your prayer as you navigate the day ahead and let your heart be molded by God as you try to do God’s will.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

 

Commitment…

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I have heard a great deal of opinions and positions by a great many individuals in the past few days…many of them from those who call themselves Christians…including some pastors.  So many “perspectives” on the outcome of this election.  So many are praying to God for answers and help to reconcile relationships and simply to seek divine guidance as they weather this storm.

Todays passage comes to us from Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 6, verses 39-49; the conclusion of Luke’s Sermon on the Plain (similar to Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount).  “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and do not do what I say?”  It emphasizes the need to act on Jesus’ words  and not just claim Jesus’ name.  Why?  Because throughout Scripture, Jesus has a very distinct stance on those who talk about a relationship with him and those who live out the reality of that relationship.

As human beings we have never ever really lived in harmonious, blissful peace – unaffected by petty disputes.  It is true…we elected a president, but we belong to God.  Scripture is clear on how we Christians are to act toward this individual – Donald Trump deserves and needs our prayers, support, and all the love we can muster (ref. Romans 13:1-14).  My point is simple…if we claim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives, we are called to a different standard of behavior – a standard to truly live out the reality of what it means to claim Christ as Lord of our lives.  It doesn’t mean that you have to agree with what everyone says or does…it does mean that you will love with the love of Christ despite the differences.  And, quite frankly, if we want to see substantive change in this country, I would submit that the millions of Christians in this world have a far better chance of realizing a world that is better than any politician will ever be able to achieve.

So, my challenge to you is this…where is your commitment?  Are you involved in the church?  Are you involved in making the community around the church a better place to live?  Will you love those you disagree with…those that you didn’t vote for and so on.  It is easy to complain and spread venom.  But, can we would work…TOGETHER…to achieve what Jesus made clear – LOVE GOD & LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR… to do to the least of those who are members of Christ’s family (ref, Matt 25:34-40).  I think if we focused more on working toward the things God wants us to work on rather than the things we want God to give us, we might just begin to see change happen.  “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and do not do what I say?”  If you are grieving because “your candidate” did not win, that’s ok – take the time you need.  If “your candidate” did win, it is ok to celebrate without demeaning the others in the race.  But…at some point, it is time to get on with being a Christian and living out the life Christ calls us to.  It takes commitmentare you up to the challenge?

 

King of the World

Repentance, What are the Signs

il_fullxfull.389981128_qogi2 Corinthians 7. 5-16

 

At our men’s Bible study this week instead of a more usual open discussion on the scripture I led a rather rare, for me, directed study.  It could have been a sermon in another format.  I was surprised at the detail given in 2 Corinthians 7-16 on the signs Paul saw in the repentance of the Corinthian church.

Paul had planted a church in Corinth, stayed with them preaching and teaching for 18 months. After he left he received word that some trouble makers came in and started questioning Paul’s rights and authority.  At that same time of discord sin had crept in, in the form of adultery, that was a shame to them all.  Paul wrote letters of correction to them and was extremely troubled by their response and then sent Titus to try to reason with them and see their reaction, how they felt about their Christianity, their walk with God.  When he finally caught up with Titus he was overjoyed with their repentance as reported to him. These are the signs that Titus had observed and related.

ch 7 Vs. 7 Loyalty,  Titus  reported a longing , a mourning, a zeal for Paul. They had mutinied against Paul, believing lies about him, but now they were showing a loyalty to him in love, realizing the truth.

Vs. 8-10 Repentance, the letter Paul wrote caused sorrow among them, but that emotion had resulted in a Godly sorrow leading to repentance.

vs.11 Purity, turning toward Holiness, innocence, what anger at their own sin that resulted in their desire, longing, eagerness to make it right. What avenging of wrong.

Vs. 12 Revelation of spirituality, Paul says he wrote not for the mutinee, or the mutineer but for the sake of the body, that they might see their own selves in the sight of God.  When we sin we are still the children of God, misbehaving, but still belonging to Him.

Vs. 13 Unity, even Titus was refreshed by you, your love for God poured out on him and you barely knew him. When you are walking with God everyone is the recipient of God’s love in you.  When a person starts sinning he looks for support and vindication of his decision, when one turns from the sin he also looks for confirmation of forgiveness and his own righteousness.

Vs. 15 Obedience, to the Word of God, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.

Vs. 16 Confidence, there is no longer any doubts about what is happening in your life, everyone sees Jesus in you, and there is no wondering about it.

This is what we should see in our lives when we truly confess our sins and are repentant before God our Father.

 

RE: General Election Day

On this day, I think it appropriate to reflect on God’s original plan regarding the leading of Israel, they had no king or queen, only God (1 Sam. 8).  Exasperated  with this situation, the peoples of Israel demand a king (v. 5, 19-20) “like all the nations.”  Samuel warns them that this ask (vv. 10-18) would have consequences.

The original governance of Israel, established at Sinai, through which God would bless all other nations (Ex. 19:5-6) was to have a divinely appointed mediator (read: like Moses & Joshua) to carry out needed governing functions.  The visible symbol of God’s endorsement of this ruler and for Israel was the Shekinah glory (Ex. 40:34-38) that filled the tabernacle , filled Solomon’s temple (2 Chr. 7:1-2) and spectacularly departed with Babylon’s capture of Israel (Cp. Ezek. 11:23 with Dan. 2:31-38).

The kingdoms of earth are but a part or phase (1 Cor. 15:24) of the universal kingdom of God which monitors and controls, as needed all objects, persons, events, and history without exception (Ps. 103:19, Dan. 4:17) including our election results.

Human history teaches that great rulers are the exception not the norm.  I believe that the Western Empire of  Rome had 5 or 6 in the space of 1500 years, the Northern Empire of Israel had none, the Southern Empire of Israel had a few, our Mount Rushmore has only four heads carved on it and I have my reservations about Teddy.  It is these realities that drove the Athenian Greeks to invent their democratic form of governance; to give the common person the opportunity to direct their leaders and country.  Sadly, they according to Thucydides, or ourselves can’t even get this right as confirmed by countless past elections and the state of our current and past affairs.

Could it be that we are largely incapable of controlling ourselves with ourselves?  Could it be that we’ve created problems that are bigger than ourselves?  Could it be that the solutions to our problems need to come from a source that is better than ourselves?  Could it be that the root cause of our leaders faults is a result of their pride and arrogance which drove their desire to become government leaders in the first place?  Could it be that God foresaw our governmental problems thousands of years ago through His omniscience?   Could this be the reason why God’s preferred method issuing needed government to the peoples of the earth was via divinely appointed mediators?  Could His original governance scheme be better than what we currently endure?

 

A Snowball’s Chance in…

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Exodus 20:1-4

Romans 12:2

I’ve received official word that the first ever snowball fight will be organized by Satan himself for later this week. Hell has officially frozen over. The Cubs are world champions of baseball. An estimated 5 million people made their way down to the Michigan Avenue/Millennium Park/Grant Park area of Chicago yesterday for the victory celebration. I’m wondering how many millions of dollars were lost by businesses whose employees called in sick with “blue fever” yesterday to be a part of the celebration. I’m also wondering how many millions of dollars ticket brokers made selling tickets for the games both in Chicago and Cleveland. Ticket prices for standing room only at Wrigley Field for game 3 were going for $2,000 each to “be a part of history.” And I wonder how many people “prayed” that they would do anything if God would “just let the Cubs win” this world series.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m excited for Cubs fans for their team winning the series. As a fan of the game of baseball in general, it was a fun playoffs season to watch. And the Cubs are going to be a force to be reckoned with for the next few years at least with the youthful talent they have locked up.

But I am always amazed at what we humans value and spend our money on, and how easily we spend money on the things that we find important, but how hard it is for us to give money to charity or to God. I’m also amazed at how easy it is to stay up until after midnight on a work/school night to watch the games, but how difficult it is to find time for regular prayer, bible study, and church attendance. How many of those same people that dropped $10,000 dollars to get seats at Progressive Field for game 7 behind the Cubs dugout would also walk into Sunday service this week and give $10,000 to the church.

We are called by God to have no other gods before Him. Those gods don’t have to be actual beings that we pray to or icons that we worship, but instead are anything that get in between us and our relationship with God. Paul says that we are not to conform to the ways of this world. It may be awesome that the Cubs have broken the curse (I ain’t afraid of no goats), just as it has been awesome to watch the Blackhawks win 3 of the last 6 Stanley Cups, the Sox to win in 2005, the Bulls in the 90s, and the Bears in ‘85. But let’s not lose focus on what is most important; which is our relationship with God.


So enjoy it while it lasts Cubs fans everywhere. Soon, it will be baseball season again, and they will begin the defense of their championship. They will most likely be favorites to win again next year, and possibly the next few years. But, just like all other things of this world, this too shall pass, and what will be left with. My hope and prayer is that we are left with our faith in the one true God and our place in eternity by His grace given to us through Jesus Christ.

 

Just be held…

lighthouse-in-the-storm-7532

I am still thinking about Sunday’s sermon text…Mark 9:14-29…for me it is a fascinating look at the realities we live today.  The main point on Sunday was our ability (or inability) to dare to trust…to dare to believe solely in Christ – amidst all the other powers we lift up.

Well…there was a tremendous amount of possibilities in that text – certainly too much for a 20 minute sermon slot.  I think the point I want to make here is the following…in addition to Sunday’s sermon…if we are paying attention in our daily lives, we will find the many ways God by his Holy Spirit seeks to work in us.  Many will call these coincidences…that is their choice.  But…I believe the God of all Creation seeks to work through those who open themselves to such potential.  We need to come down from the mountain in the arms of the One who we can trust…even when life has got us down.

As I was driving to the church on Sunday a song from one of my favorite groups, Casting Crowns, was playing…“Just Be Held” (you can listen to the whole song here).  I think the following portion of the lyrics supplements well the thoughts from Sunday:

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

Lift your hands, lift your eyes
In the storm is where you’ll find Me
And where you are, I’ll hold your heart
I’ll hold your heart
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who won’t let go

Presidents or politicians won’t do it…the Cubs winning the World Series may create a temporary euphoria…trusting in others is bound to lead to disappointment at some point…Go to the One…Jesus, who can satisfy your needs…provide you real rest.  Allow yourself to be held.

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