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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

February 2017

Thanks Mom

Psalm 119:33-40

 

Exodus 22:21-27

1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1

“Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

This statement from I Corinthians can be overwhelming. It suggests, no it really states, that every action a person takes needs to be giving glory to God.  Think of just the basic implications of this – sleeping, eating, brushing your teeth, texting, watching Netflix, – everything should have the aim of honoring God.

If this was truly our goal every moment as a Christian, how would our lives… how would your life have to change?

When I was younger, my mother had a habit of praying while she was driving. This is a practice I do not necessarily condone. At times it was a little disconcerting as my brother and I would watch our mother drive while at the same time sending her requests up to God – often for the better part of five to ten minutes! If, during these prayer sessions,  one of us would start to say something the other would blurt out, “Wait! Mom’s not done with her prayers yet.” Perhaps the greatest moment in this prayer-driving history was the morning when my mother was so distracted by her silent prayers that she side-swiped the garage door, ripping the driver side mirror off the car. We have never let her live that down.

What was especially interesting to me as a boy was that my mother often prayed for things that seemed somewhat pointless. She might pray for a trip to the grocery story, a drive to another city, our day at school, or even going to a movie. As a 10 year old, I sometimes imagined that maybe she expected our family to stand outside the grocery story with a mega phone telling people they needed to repent. But, then she would always end her prayer with this statement, “That through this we will somehow bring you glory”.

As I read I Corinthians 10 today, I now realize that my mother was teaching my brother and I how to follow this great commandment. Her prayers about every day things were not pointless, but instead were showing us the main point. The main point being that the Christian life is not random, it is not about ourselves, but is instead a constant opportunity to reflect God’s glory.

Real need around you…

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When was the last time you met a real need?  Many are very quick to quote, “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.” (1 John 3:16)  Lay down one’s life for someone else…not the first thing that comes to one’s mind now is it? An authentic community seeks to meet the needs of others…

Today’s Passage: “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.” (Romans 12:9-13)

What was Paul saying?  I think you can sum this passage up in the following way:  If the real you focuses on and seeks to meet, with intentionality, the real needs of others for all the right reasons and in the right way…then authentic community can be realized like Paul outlined.

Authentic community – it’s more than sipping coffee at a Bible study or greeting friends and newcomers on Sunday.  Authentic community is more than a friendly smile or providing a meal to someone in the church.  Authentic community is looking past all “the stuff” in this world and the real you being concerned with meeting real needs of those around you…at home, in the church, at work, in school, etc.

Devotional Thought:  Do you know some of the real needs in your circle of friends, co-workers, etc?  What are some things you could start doing today to begin meeting real needs of some of those around you?  Seek to live in authentic community with those around you.  Are you listening for how God may be speaking to you?

Mercy Wins…

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Psalm 119:9-16 (NIV)

James 2:1-13 (NIV)

James 2:1-13 (The Message)

The commands are good and lead to life and Psalm 119 reminds us of the importance of God’s word and commands.  At the heart of God’s word, way, laws, decrees, commands is mercy.   God’s foundational rationale is about love.   The “royal law found in Scripture” is, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  When we do that we are “doing right.”  Sometimes that’s easier to think about than to live out.  Some people are easy to love while others are tough to love.  Yet we are commanded to love.  How should we love?  What does love look like?  According to James we need to be merciful.

Favoritism, as we see in our world and culture, is not right.  God has a heart for the poor and expects us to have one as well.  And in God’s way of life, it’s mercy that wins.  “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (NIV) Or as The Message translates, “Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time.”

We need and thrive upon the mercy of God.  Therefore God expects us to show mercy.  Today, let’s remember that mercy wins.  How should be treat others?  Think mercy, live mercy, show mercy.  May Christ’s mercy flow through us throughout this day and always.  Mercy wins.

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The Ten Commandments

Exodus 20: 1-21

Six important facts should be kept in mind regarding these laws:

  1. Their Origin & Source – God (Ex. 31:18, Acts 7:53).
  2. Their Distribution – Moses & Angels (Jn. 1:17, Gal. 3:19, Heb. 2:2).
  3. Their Nature – Holy, Just, Good, & Spiritual (Rom. 7:12-14), but Not Grace (Rom. 10:5, Heb. 10:28).
  4. Their Effects – They Declare All Guilty (Rom. 3:19) everywhere and at all times (Rom. 5:20, 7:7-13, 1 Cor. 15:56).
  5. Their Relationship to Christians – As Tutors (Gal. 3:24) but Not Saved by Them (Gal. 2:21), & Not Living Under Them but by Grace (Rom. 5:2, 2 Pet. 3:18).
  6. Their Addressee – To the Individual Persons of Israel Alone (v. 2).  Israel is bound to God’s Laws because of what He did for them.

These laws have been written in peoples hearts everywhere for all time, have been codified by all nations, and are of universal application.  They define mankind’s relationship to God (I – IV), and mankind’s relationship with one another (V – X).  Prior to their revelation the fear of God (19:16) was the predominant feeling of Israel because of their past and present experiences (19:18-25).

Their fear of God continued after the revelation (21:18-20), but the reason for it changed.  Israel’s fear of God was to be used as their motivating factor to obey these Commandments and avoid disobeying (read: sinning) them.

 

A Picture From Luke

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Luke 15.  1-23

The despised tax collectors and the sinners were gathered around Jesus listening to His words of instruction and grace.  The Pharisees and the scribes grumbled about the fact that Jesus, this new teacher who has just come upon the scene, speaking with authority and wisdom, yet no one knows what school He has been taught in, actually receives these out casts, and dines with them.  He welcomes them.  So Jesus tells them a series of stories that  includes them in the response required.

The lost sheep, if a man loses even one of one hundred sheep, so valuable is that animal to him, he will go to great effort to find it and restore it to the flock. So it is with your Father in heaven, even the angels rejoice when a sinner repents.

The lost coin, if a woman loses one of her ten silver coins, so valuable is that coin that she searches in the house feverishly, sweeping and taking a light to every nook and cranny, until she finds it.  She calls her friends and rejoices greatly for the return of her loss. So it is with your Father in heaven, even the angels join in the celebration.

The lost sons, if a man has a son who goes beyond all norms of society, and demands his inheritance now, leaves the house and homeland, plays the part of a fool, and wastes it all on wine,  women,  and song.  When he has repented and returned home, his father will humble himself and receive him.  The other son in his own rebellion regards his life in the home as nothing more than slavery, and rejects the repentant brother.  The father humbles himself a second time to receive this son also.

Thus we see a picture of our heavenly Father who in the first parable guards our lives and protects us, seeking to restore us when we go astray.  In the second parable is a picture of completeness, our heavenly Father leaves not one detail unfinished, nothing is lost, not one of His is left behind. In the third parable we see the freewill of mankind to wander away, seeking shiny new things, desires to be fulfilled, passions satisfied.  We love the unknown, are foolishly proud, and foolishly self indulgent. Yet our heavenly Father anxiously waits for us to come to our senses, repent and return home to where we find Him running out to greet us.

These are pictures of Divine love. As the pharisees were called to respond so are we.

Karl

Settling Differences

1 John 2: 7-17

On or around Christmas of 1914, in the middle of World War 1, Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary stoppage of the war so that Christmas could be celebrated by both sides (History.com). There never was an official stoppage of the war, as both sides refused, but there was an unofficial cease-fire and both sides celebrated Christmas right there on the Western Front. Imagine that, right in the middle of a massive war between two different ideologies, two sides finding time to set differences aside to celebrate something they have in common.

A few years ago, I read a novel written for a middle school aged audience titled Playing with the Enemy by Gary W. Moore. It is a biography about a man (the author’s father) who had all the makings for a catcher in the major leagues, who suffered a catastrophic injury that prevented him from living out his dreams. It also prevented him from being able to serve in World War 2 as a soldier. Instead, because of his baseball talent and his ability to be a leader on the field, he was sent overseas to teach German soldiers in a prison camp how to play baseball to orchestrate an exhibition game between the American soldiers and German prisoners on this military base in Europe. In the end, the game was played, and in some cases, friendships were made between the German prisoners and the American soldiers. In the midst of a major war between two different ideologies, people from both sides were able to look past their differences and come together as one.

In this passage in 1 John, we are told that those who love are living in the light, and those who hate are living in darkness. Those who spread love, who put aside their differences with each other are living out God’s intentions for us, and are living out what Jesus preached during his ministry. If we can look past our differences and recognize each other as part of God’s creation, and that even though we may not believe the same ideas, we aren’t living out God’s purpose for us by being divisive, by speaking words of hate and discrimination.

It isn’t the only problem, but at least part of the problem is an unwillingness to listen to and feel empathy for the people on the other side of these issues and just at least make an attempt to understand their side of the story. Wouldn’t it be nice if, with all of the different social and political issues that are so deeply dividing our nation right now, if we could just agree to listen to each other, learn WHY the other side thinks or feels the way they do, and then work out the differences? I know, that may be too utopian. But what I also know is that it would we might find that people with different philosophies on life are still people and really are no different than the rest of us.

The Twilight Zone

Do you remember that show THE TWILIGHT ZONE? I do. As a kid i loved getting caught up in it, and let my mind explore the what ifs. Even more so I was always fascinate by what people accomplished, of their super powers, and the way they used who they were for good or for evil at times.

I was talking with the kids at zoom last night about being peacemakers, about the importance of being a calming presence when faced with adversity and troubling times. We talked about the fruits of the spirits, how God uses us in our own world and circumstances as people his calming presence, as a reminder of who God is in this world.

Can you pause for a moment the soundtrack of today, and pray that God will use you, that His spirit will bear His fruit in you, in a way that might even sound miraculous?

Galatians 5:22-23
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Can you turn the tables around and say:  And LOVE, JOY, PEACE, FORBEARANCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS, and SELF CONTROL are my super powers, are my call in life? These are the things that God has called me to

I pray that your day and your life will be that calming presence in a troubled world.

 

Be blessed,

Bo M.

Find Your Light

Psalm 119:105-112

Proverbs 6:6-23

John 8:12-30

  Many people have a fear of the dark or, more specifically, they fear what might be lurking in the dark.  In our modern life, the way to remove darkness from a room is to simply flip a light switch. Think about it for a moment, the light comes on and automatically the darkness is gone. Now ask yourself, what would it be like if we had to have the ability to first move the darkness out of the room before the light could do it’s work? The idea is almost mind bending and the task beyond our human limits. If this were the task, we would simply have no light.

Throughout the Gospels, especially the Book of John, Jesus spent a lot of time talking about how he is the light of the world. His spiritual light works very much like our modern light switch, it can cause light to flood our lives and replace all darkness. This had not always been true. Before the life and death of Jesus Christ, those who followed God had to try and manually remove the darkness from their hearts. Maybe this was through sacrifices, fasting, prayer, or an attempt at strict adherence to the Ten Commandments. But, just as we would find it impossible to remove darkness from a room, they too found it impossible to fully remove sin from their lives.

That is why the light which Jesus Christ offers is so essential. His sacrifice of love created a light that was not dependent on human knowledge, efforts, or ability. Another passage in John says “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all” or more famously “A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it”. The light given by Jesus changes the whole challenge of light versus dark. No longer are we asked to move the darkness out before the light can get in. Now we are promised that through Jesus Christ the light is permanently on and the darkness has lost its place.

Will Ward

How are you doing?

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“I’m offended…”

“You hurt my feelings…”

“I don’t like that…”

Common phrases today.  Others will say things that hurt you…make you angry…even offend you. Maybe you’ve been the source of these thoughts in others.  You wouldn’t be alone in this world. Unfortunately, while we may wake up each day hoping to make a difference in this world and being a joy in the lives of others…there is a pretty good likelihood that you will hear something that might offend you or you saying something that offends or hurts someone else.

Today’s Passage:  “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.  When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.  I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!  This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.  There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.  You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.  This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:9-17)

Devotional Thought:  There is no mandate in life that we have to like everything others say or do. There will be times when our feelings get hurt and others offend us.  The challenge is this:  Can we still love them?

Frank Powell said the following…“If Jesus left us every time we offended him or mocked His name, Jesus would have two dudes left: the Father and the Holy Spirit. So, walk in step with the gospel by pushing through conflict and not running from it.”

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