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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

December 2016

Do you know who you are?

who-am-iToday’s Passage:  John 1:19-28

Jen Gabl provides us today’s blog post, “Do you know who you are?”

In this passage, John is confident in who he is and who he is not.  He’s not the messiah or a prophet.  He is a “regular” person, but more importantly, he is a Christ follower and he is determined to get the message out.  The king is coming!  Will you be ready for him?

I can think of numerous words that describe myself: wife, mother, Christian, down to earth, loyal, good listener, stubborn, sarcastic, lazy, and the list goes on.  Did God create me to be all of these things?  Indeed he did.  He knows who I am – he knew before I was born who I would be.  But he also created me to be more than the sum of my personality traits.  He created me uniquely qualified to minister to those who he planned to put in my path – my family, my friends, my coworkers, the people I meet at the grocery store.  I can listen to them, tell them about God, show his love to them.

I, with my weaknesses and flaws, can show others what it means to be a Christ follower.  I, a regular person, not a minister or Biblical scholar, can love other people in the way God intended them to be loved.  Plain old me can spread the news that God is coming.  Here’s the catch:  I have to be confident in who I am – a Christ follower.  I need to put aside my self-doubt and uncertainties to let God work in me.  He will use me to further his kingdom if I stop questioning myself and start believing that my true purpose is to lead others to Christ.

Are you ready to say, “I know who I am.  I am a Christ follower!”?

RE: “The Word”

John 1:1-14

Since the overriding subject of our above Advent scripture has to do with “The Word,” I might do well to make the following points in it’s regard…

  •  Human beings are word driven and coincidentally made in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26-27).  Nothing has ever happened in the history of human existence without the medium of language or words, written and/or spoken, to drive it.  To some extent a persons speaking or word reveals who a person is (Matt. 15:18-20, Mark 7:20-23).
  • Webster defines “Word” as 1) a thought or idea, 2) the expression or utterance of a thought or idea.
  • This passage tell’s as Paul Harvey liked to say “the rest of the story” to the baby Jesus accounts elsewhere (Matt. 1, Luke 1:5- 2:20)in that it deals with His Origin and His mission.  It is also strikingly similar to the creation history of Genesis 1:1 – 2:5.
  • In reading, one is led to infer that “Word” = “Christ” as 1) Christ is the embodiment of the thoughts and ideas of God (1 Cor. 1:24, Col. 2:2-3) and 2) His incarnation expressed the thoughts and ideas of God (Jn. 14:9-11, Col. 2:9).
  • Another equivalency, “Word” = “Jesus” = “Light and Life” (v. 4) distinguishes it from darkness and evil (cp. Gen. 1, Rom. 1:18-25).
  • The world’s negative response (vv. 9-11) to “The Word” will be it’s rejection of it; even by those chosen to relate it (cp. Jn. 7:3-5, 18:35-40).
  • The world’s positive response to “The Word” (vv. 12-13) make them “children of God,” that is to say blood related by being “born again” via the Holy Spirit (Jn. 3:3-8, 7:37-39).
  • Finally, this “Word” becoming flesh and dwelling among us (v. 14) contrasts with how God had previously communicated with His people (Ex. 33:7-11, 40:1-38, Num. 8:1-22, 17:8-13).  Even so, it was done to more fully reveal to mankind who God is (Col. 1:15-19).

And so, this “Word” is Christmas.

Have Faith

21101

Luke 1:26-38

Well, this is a day late, but better late than never. In reflection on this passage, where the angel appears to Mary to announce that she will give birth to a baby who will be Jesus. Mary, of course, is taken aback at the beginning of the conversation, as I am sure we all would be if an angel of the Lord appeared to us to inform us of how the Lord is going to be using us. Increase the confusion when the angel tells Mary that she, a virgin, will give birth to a child. Wait, what? I’m going to be doing what? Is this for real?

But after the initial shock, how does Mary eventually respond to her new calling? 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” I can only hope and pray that my response would be as faithful as Mary’s response. Nowhere in this passage does it say “Mary asked the angel for 24 hours to think it over, and talk to her family and friends.” There is no hesitation on her part. She simply responds with “I am your servant.” I also don’t see anywhere where it says “Thanks for the offer Sir Angel, but I’ve been pretty busy lately and really don’t have time for this. Can you please pick someone else instead?” Rather, Mary states “I hope what you say will come true.”
We too need to be faithful to God’s calling for us, and trust his plan. If we have this faith, nothing will be impossible (Matthew 17:20).

Joseph the Just

 

 

 

mystery_of_faith_seriesMatthew 1. 18-25

 

Joseph was a righteous man according to verse 19 of this text, meaning that he kept the Torah, the books of Moses, that he was obedient to that Law.  He had just heard that his future wife, Mary, the one he was betrothed to was pregnant.  The Law gave him the right to break the engagement to Mary of Bethlehem, and/ or have her stoned as an adulterous woman, or confess that he and she had engaged in fornication and marry her.  Seeing that he and she had not violated the Law in fornication, and seeing that he had no stomach for stoning, others might call for this action but not at his desire.  He chose to simply divorce her, the equivalent of breaking their engagement.  This is in keeping with the Law of Moses, by Joseph the righteous man.

Now an angel of the Most High arrived on the scene in a dream to Joseph. He is told by the angel that what was conceived in Mary had been accomplished by the Holy Spirit.  Mary is still a virgin, yet she is pregnant.  And you, Joseph, will call the child’s name Yeshua,  that being translated is, Yahweh’s salvation.

Joseph now has a choice to make, obey the Law of Moses, by which he maintains his righteousness, or follow the instructions of the angel in the dream.  The dream must have been very vivid, very real, very convincing because Joseph decides to obey the words of the angel, and trust God beyond the commands of the Law.  A New Covenant is about to be ushered onto the scene, where the Holy Spirit will lead men into righteousness beyond the commands of the Law, as prophesied by Jeremiah 31.31. “Behold, days are coming declares the LORD, when I will effect a new covenant with the House of David and the House of Judah,…I will put my laws into their minds, and I will write them upon their hearts, and I will be their God and they will be my people.”

Joseph did act in faith, and took Mary as his wife keeping her a virgin until she gave birth to a son, and he did name the child Yeshua.

Joseph was righteous, by faith,  according to the standards of Hebrews 11.1-2. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. For by it men of old gained approval.”

Yeshua is the savior of mankind, He was born of a virgin, He did come to save His people from their sin, He did suffer and die on a cross, and He did rise again on the third day,  He is sitting at the right hand of the Majesty on High ever interceding for us, and He will come again to redeem us for eternity.  When we put our complete faith in Him, we like Joseph will be justified by the same faith that he showed. For his righteousness came by faith, not by the works of the Law.

Karl

A message for life-change

Mark 1:1-8The Message (MSG)

John the Baptizer

1-3 The good news of Jesus Christ—the Message!—begins here, following to the letter the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.

Watch closely: I’m sending my preacher ahead of you;
He’ll make the road smooth for you.
Thunder in the desert!
Prepare for God’s arrival!
Make the road smooth and straight!

4-6 John the Baptizer appeared in the wild, preaching a baptism of life-change that leads to forgiveness of sins. People thronged to him from Judea and Jerusalem and, as they confessed their sins, were baptized by him in the Jordan River into a changed life. John wore a camel-hair habit, tied at the waist with a leather belt. He ate locusts and wild field honey.

7-8 As he preached he said, “The real action comes next: The star in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will change your life. I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. His baptism—a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit—will change you from the inside out.”

John the Baptist was quite the man, set apart before his birth to be the prophet the voice of God announcing the Messiah. One can say that he was set up for greatness before he could even walk. People recognized that call on his life, and responded to his message and he developed a great following. But I have to ask: Why would people flock to hear John when his message was not necessarily the most positive and welcoming message ever. He asked people to change their lives, change priorities and adopt a new set of principles that challenged them to the core.  But at the same time his message came with a promise: Forgiveness !

So I have to ask: What would you do, what would you sacrifice in order to experience that soul refreshing, heart liberating forgiveness?

May I suggest that we would start by being honest with ourselves, and willing to hear that challenging voice that is calling us again to go in the desert and find the voice of God, and let that encounter transform us once again.

Today I pray that we can indeed quiet ourselves and hear God’s call. May we will find peace this season.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

Trust…

mary-joseph-and-jesus

Today’s passage: Luke 1:5-25

Trust…different thoughts and beliefs depending on individuals and situations of life.  Trust can be difficult to hold on to.  Mostly…trust comes down to what we believe.  Trust exists in many cases even though we may not have the least bit of evidence to demonstrate or prove our trust.

In today’s text we find Zechariah, an old man – one who had served in the temple all his life.  It would be easy to state that Zechariah probably gave all he had to God over his lifetime.  And all his life, he hoped for a son…a son he would name John…a son of significance.  God had special things in mind of this child – a special purpose.

But…even the faithful may grow dull in their expectations…here was a man who was praying fervently but who was not prepared for his prayers to be answered.  Zechariah, present in the sanctuary, but he did not really expect to experience God’s presence.

Zechariah reminds us…challenges us, to trust in God expectantly.  A trust that results in us being prepared for God’s response to us.  So often, many just go through the motions of prayer and worship…many times not expecting to meet God in the midst of our daily lives.  Even the faithful, like Zechariah, need to recover the vitality of worship.

Today, is it possible for all of us to see in the birth of a child God’s continuing affirmation of hope for the world in which we live…and in this possibility..trust?

The Bells of Peace…

bells-of-peace

“And in despair I bowed my head.  There is no peace on earth I said.  For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth good will to men.”  So go the lyrics of the third verse of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” penned by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  I was listening to it in the gym earlier this week sung by Casting Crowns (you can listen to it below)…as I was listening, I wondered how many hear the bells today.

Todays passage from 2 Thessalonians 3:6-18, is part of a letter written to the Thessalonian Church that knew hostilities and constant threats.  This passage speaks to the peace that believers already have…a peace they carry with them always.  As such, the church could know that they would not have to face such difficult times alone.  Difficult times we too know today!

Peace in all ways and all times was and is available!  What an awesome thought…and comfort…in Jesus the Christ…the Lord of Peace.  The Lord of Peace can bring you peace…a peace that is always available…a peace that knows no end!  This peace is the great confidence of the Church today and all her believers!!

And so we hear the following verse…“Then peeled the bells more loud and deep; God is not dead nor does he sleep.  The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth good will to men.”  Listen for the bells of peace…can you hear them ringing in your heart?  Let the Lord of Peace ring in your hearts today and always!! 

Click Here to Listen to “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” by Casting Crowns

Peace

Phillipians 4:4-9

During the holiday season we often see decorations that include the word “peace” and the phrase “Peace on Earth.”  Holiday cards often include sentiments about peace, the “peace of the season” and peace in the world.  These are nice thoughts; thoughts that don’t offend any particular group or belief.  but is this really what Jesus meant in John 14:27 when he says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

While ending violence, disagreements, poverty, and strife between people and nations are worthy and noble goals, this is not what Jesus meant, nor is it the essence of the Advent season, as is explained in our passage from Philippians.  Paul teaches that prayer and study of God’s word along with meditation on the things that are true, right, pure and lovely is what brings real peace to our hearts.  Jesus says clearly that he didn’t come to give peace like the world wants peace.  He came to bring peace to our hearts and minds, and to cast out fear and worry in spite of the world around us.

This is what I believe about world peace this Christmas season:  If believers around the world headed the words of Christ and the teaching of Paul concerning peace, we would experience a peacefulness of spirit that the world would notice and that would impact our situations at home and work and school.  This would bring greater peace to the world, one person, one situation at a time.  That is the peace that passes understanding.  That is the peace that can unify and change the world.

May you find this peace today.

Anna

In a Nutshell

Hebrews 10:5-10

To begin with, something needs to be said about the quotation of the first three verses of this passage (vv. 5-7) vs. Psalm 40:6-8.  One notices that the author of Hebrews, possibly Paul or in the very least someone who is “in tune” with Paul, does not employ an accurate quotation.  There are other areas in the Bible where this has also occurs (Matt. 1:23 cp. Isa. 7:14, 1 Cor. 14:21 cp. Isa. 28:11-12, Gal. 4:30 cp. Gen. 21:10, Rom. 11:26-27 cp. Isa. 59:20-21 & Isa. 27:9, Rom. 9:27 cp. Isa. 10:22-23, and Matt. 2:6 cp. Micah 5:2).

Clearly, there is some variability what is known as the “Inspiration of Scripture.” Yet, they speak to essentially the same subjects.  Part of it has to do with the apparent fact that NT authors had either some or all parts of the OT memorized to the extent that they were able to paraphrase it in their writing.  I doubt they had immediate access to OT scrolls wherever they happened to be writing.  This phenomena has led me to believe that the Holy Spirit can, has, and is inspiring writings,sermons, hymns, events, etc. which are outside of our Bible as well.

This quoting of Psalm 40 is far from the only text in the OT where it is indicated that God was tiring of the old sacrifice system (cf . Isa. 1:11-13, Jer. 6:20, Amos 5:21-25, Micah 6:6-8).  Notice, the addition of “body you have prepared for me” in the Hebrews (v. 5) compared to the Psalm passage (Psalm 40:6).  This is interesting in the light of Christ and His redemptive sacrifice.  Through Christ’s actions the worship of God as set up by the Law (v. 8) has been replaced (v. 9).  He has sanctified us (v. 10).

Speaking of Inspiration, GF Handel certainly was so with his renditions of Isaiah 40:5, 9:6, and Luke 2:14, it is “Messiah Season” after all.

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