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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

July 2017

BE…the Church!

Our Tuesday Adult Discussion Group just wrapped up the summer with the following question…”If someone asked you, ‘Why do you go to your church?’…What would you say?”

Sometimes I think we have a mixed up way of looking at church.  When you read your Bible, you find that the first century church was a gathering of God’s people who came to be strengthened in God and went into the world to live out the gospel of Jesus Christ – you know, that often used phrase, “we are the hands and feet of Jesus”.  Marva Dawn, has some very specific thoughts on “Going to church”. Dawn is emphatic…”We are NOT going to church!  We are going to a sanctuary to participate in an order of worship together with other people of God gathered in community to be nourished by all that we do there together so that we can go out into the world and BE THE CHURCH.”

“Be the church…”  What does that mean to you?

One of the individuals in our Tuesday group suggested saying more about what we believe it means to be a “member” of a church. Here’s what the PCUSA (Source:  PCUSA Book of Order G-1.0304) believes about  “Membership in the Church of Jesus Christ is a joy and a privilege. It is also a commitment to participate in Christ’s mission. A faithful member bears witness to God’s love and grace and promises to be involved responsibly in the ministry of Christ’s Church.  Such involvement includes:

  • proclaiming the good news in word and deed,
  • taking part in the common life and worship of a congregation,
  • lifting one another up in prayer, mutual concern, and active support,
  • studying Scripture and the issues of Christian faith and life,
  • supporting the ministry of the church through the giving of money, time, and talents,
  • demonstrating a new quality of life within and through the church,
  • responding to God’s activity in the world through service to others,
  • living responsibly in the personal, family, vocational, political, cultural, and social relationships of life,
  • working in the world for peace, justice, freedom, and human fulfillment,
  • participating in the governing responsibilities of the church, and
  • reviewing and evaluating regularly the integrity of one’s membership, and considering ways in which one’s participation in the worship and service of the church may be increased and made more meaningful.

Let’s try something different today…each day we provide a passage of Scripture to reflect upon…today, for each one of the bulleted items above, each one has one or more biblical references…how many are you willing to find?  “Be the church…”  What does that mean to you?

 

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Grant me by your grace

If you read our blog, you might be familiar by now, that from time to time I share some prayers from the Church Fathers, prayers that I find meaningful and prayers that I use in my own spiritual walk from time to time.

Today I want to share a prayer I came across by St John Chrysostom (344–407 AD). What makes this prayer meaningful o me is the relation between the recognition of the human nature ready to be transformed by God’s Grace.

Be blessed,

Bo M

Lord, deprive me not of Your heavenly joys. Lord, deliver me from eternal torments. Lord, if I have sinned in mind or thought, in word or deed, forgive me. Lord, deliver me from all ignorance, forgetfulness, cowardice and stony insensibility. Lord, deliver me from every temptation. Lord, enlighten my heart which evil desires have darkened. Lord, I being human have sinned, but You being the generous God, have mercy on me, knowing the sickness of my soul. Lord, send Your grace to my help, that I may glorify Your holy Name. Lord Jesus Christ, write me Your servant in the Book of Life, and grant me a good end. O Lord my God, even though I have done nothing good in Your sight, yet grant me by Your grace to make a good start. Lord, sprinkle into my heart the dew of Your grace. Lord of heaven and earth remember me, Your sinful servant, shameful and unclean, in Your Kingdom. Amen.

The Wicked Will Be No More

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Psalm 37 (NRSV)

Psalm 37 (The Message)

I think this chapter of Psalms is a great reminder to stay true to what matters most and to not get caught up too much in the wants, pride, privilege, and arrogance that surrounds us. I think some of the CEOs of this world could use this passage as a reminder to not be too greedy. I think our current president could benefit from reading this passage daily.

I remember back to my youth, and there was a saying at the time that was popular, and screen printed on t-shirts that said “Those who have the most toys still die.” The point, of course, it that even if you had everything in the world that you could ever want, you still have to die eventually. Dale reminded us of this in his message last Sunday. Those two certainties of life, death and taxes. In that same sermon, Dale told a story about a man who was dying and wanted to take some of his stuff with him to heaven. He was granted one suitcase to take with by the angel. So the man filled the largest suitcase he could find with as many gold bars as he could. Worth billions here on Earth I’m sure. When he gets to the gate and is questioned by St. Peter about what was in the suitcase, the reply from Peter was “You brought paving with you?” The same thing that was worth so much to the man on Earth was worthless in heaven because, ya know, the streets in heaven are paved in gold, aren’t they? The point being that all the fame and fortune here on Earth is worth nothing in heaven. So rather than storing up treasures here, we should be storing up treasures for our heavenly future.

So how are you living my life? Of course, we all will falter. I know I fall off the wagon all the time. But, by the grace given to us through Jesus, if we remain faithful to Him, we will be invited to an amazing place where evil will no longer exist. We will be mistreated time and time again, and have many who will try to mislead us. But if we stay the course, even if we seemingly have little now, we will have so much more when our time comes to be called up to heaven.

 

The Wrath of God

 

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Romans 1.18

John 3.36

Ez. 7.19

Eph. 2.1

Psalms 76.7

Oh my, what a subject.  Let’s start by quoting together John 3.16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have ever lasting life.”  What a great statement of our Christian faith in the love of God our father.  So as we continue to the end of this same chapter let’s recite together John 3.36, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”  Here lies the stumbling block for so many 21st century people.  How can God be both love and anger ?

The scriptures cited above are but a sampling of the passages in scripture that speak of the anger of God.  This anger is always aimed at those things that are unholy, unrighteous, sinful, iniquitous, and transgressing against the holiness of God.  The book of Romans points out with great clarity that we would never understand sin without the law defining what is acceptable in the eyes of God, Romans 7.7.  So also we could never understand righteousness without both sides of right and wrong.  Justice is the reward of good and punishment of wrong.  The scriptures tell clearly of the universal concept of retributive justice, that in the end evil is punished and goodness is rewarded.  The counselors in the book of Job try exhaustively to convince Job that he had done something wrong to deserve such a punishment from God,  and it turns out that though in this particular case that wasn’t the reason for calamity in his life, yet God revealed that Job wasn’t quite as pure as he contested he was.  Thus Job stated in Job 42.6 “Therefore, (since I am not as pure as I thought,) I retract, I repent in dust and ashes.”

Our great God, Yahweh, is described in Habakuk 1.13, “thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil.”  Psalms 76.7 “You, even You are to be feared ; and who may stand in your presence when once You are angry.”  God hates sin, no evil or wrongdoing is allowed to dwell in His presence, all sin is to be punished, (Romans 6.23,) and all men are sinful, (Romans 3.23.)  Yet the good news is God our Savior has provided a way.  Jesus the only righteous one, with no sin whatsoever, (2 Corinthians 5.21,) bore the wrath of God on our behalf so that we who believe in Him might have a right to stand in the Holy presence of Yahweh.  We cannot fully understand the completeness of the Love of God without understanding His complete hatred of sin.  God is Holy.  God has provided a way.

Karl

A Psalm of David

Psalm 139

Review:  The first bit (vv. 1-6) admits the omniscience of God…..Next (vv. 7-12), is David’s understanding of divine omniscience.  It describes the human effort to escape God either up (heaven), down (hell), by air, by water, by day, or by night as folly…..The third strope (vv. 13-18) is on the human construct and God’s role in it…..Finally, David turns his attention to the enemies of God – the murderer’s (v. 19), those who outwardly oppose (v. 20) and contrasts them to his own efforts to follow Him (vv. 23-24).

Commentary:  If this is not the strongest of the Psalms, it is certainly competitive…..Each verse is worthy of a study on their own…..For those who follow God, Paul summarizes our path (Acts 17:28)…..All of it, God knows – our thoughts and actions before they become our thoughts and actions (vv. 1-6)…..The going’s on in our Mother’s womb, where we were constructed, was divinely guided (vv. 13-16), including our gender…..Again, there has always been those opposed to God, and His people, and His ways (vv. 19-20) contrasted to His followers (vv. 23-24)…..Why?  A complete answer to that is beyond David (vv. 5-6)…..Certainly, contrast is a factor…..God has authored light and darkness…..God has awarded us with all that is good (Gen. 1:31, James 1:17) and permitted evil (Isa. 45:6-7, 46:9-10, Col. 1:16) in all it’s forms…..Why?  To make human beings responsible for most, we’re not responsible for our being or our general situation, of what happens…..What I’m trying to say is that there is an unknown connection between God and evil.  There is a known connection between fallen humanity and evil, whether it’s admitted or not…..God’s folk are to stand for God and His values (Deut. 28, Luke 12:48, Gal. 6:5, Col. 3:23) against the spectacle of both the rot and decay of the earth and it’s peoples.  Living so glorifies God (Isa. 25:1, Ps. 29:1-2, 115:1, Matt. 5:16, Jn. 3:30, Rev. 7:12) which is what we’re here to do.  It also gives us something to look forward to (Rev. 21:4)…..The historical examples (Deut. 4:9, Zech. 1:4, 1 Cor. 15:6-11) of evil are to propel the follower to resist (Prov. 7:25-26, Luke 11:4, 1 Cor. 10:13, James 4:7) and do something about the surrounding rot and decay.

Great, Good, and Gracious God

Psalm 103

David provides a wonderful understanding of God for us to rest in and celebrate.

God is holy, forgiving, loving, compassionate, good, righteous, gracious  and everlasting and more.  The Lord is interested in us; he “satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed…”

Take some time today to meditate on these verses from Psalm 103.

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;

Know today, that you are deeply loved and forgiven by God.  How will you respond the Lord’s love this day?

Craig Herr

What makes church a special place to be?

Colossians 3:12-14The Message (MSG)

12-14 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

WhenI am asked: Why go to church? – one of the things that I always speak about is the people you find in church. Trough the many years I spent in church as a  regular church goer and also as a minister, I discover the beauty and the strength that comes from being part of this thing called church. As Christians, we are not perfect, and I will be one of the first ones to tell you that. Yes you will find different people in churches that might make you wonder about their kindness, or compassion and at the same time time you will find others that are just an example of what it means to be transformed by God’s grace.

It is in that together walk, when people from different background molded by God’s love that we grow, we learn and start to make sense of what God is doing in our lives. We need to be in that togetherness, we are called to step out from or shell and be part of something bigger than us. Church for me, is seeing God at work in a practical way, in my life and in the lives of those around me.

Today I pray that as we think church, we can all be challenged to be listen, to grow and to serve as we never did before. Because we are the church, the body of Christ, the very visible presence of who God is in a world that is looking for answers, for authenticity and for grace.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

Gossip…

Gossip…we all know what it is and it’s safe to say we’re all guilty of it sometimes…right?  But…just to refresh ourselves, here’s what most dictionaries say about gossip: “idle talk or rumor especially about the personal or private affairs of others”.  Our Bibles have a lot to say as well…The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.” (Prov 18:8).  And if you think gossip is just limited to you or me talking, we would be wrong…gossip comes in the form of listening as well, “Wrongdoers eagerly listen to gossip; liars pay close attention to slander.” (Prov 17:4)

Each of us has a certain propensity for gossip…”Did you hear about_______”; “Can you believe what ‘they’ are doing?”; “Did you know ______?”.  Gossip happens when 2 or more are gathered in most any place or event…it happens at school, at church, at work, at social gatherings.  It happens when we don’t like how someone has acted or decisions have been made.  It happens especially when we think we are the font of wisdom about a particular subject or situation.  Let’s face it, gossip is something that not only happens but can be divisive and mean-spirited.

As Christians…people who claim to follow Jesus – which means we are also imperfect people…gossip is a hard habit to avoid or break.  Paul offers us some words to ponder in this light from 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 – I’ve chosen The Message translation because it is a little more to the point.

 

He will take you by the hand

John 16:13-15 The Message (MSG)

12-15 “I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t handle them now. But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won’t draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said. He will honor me; he will take from me and deliver it to you. Everything the Father has is also mine. That is why I’ve said, ‘He takes from me and delivers to you.’

Today I want to follow up on the Sermon I preached couple weeks ago: I believe in the Holy Spirit.

I have to admit that as a guy I have a hard time asking for directions or for help. It must be that “I am a man and I can handle it” mentality that men are so known for. I will confess to you that I get lost when I drive, I need the GPS to tell me where to go and provide me with clear turn by turn directions. Today I rely on my phone for that function, because it works. I do not have to be concerned with watching a screen, or shuffling through a map, I just drive and follow the voice.

Getting to this point of comfort it has not come easy for me. I did not trust the machine at first, I had to check and plan my route myself, I ignored the directions multiples times. But I am at the point where I am comfortable with just listening and following the voice of the GPS.

It is the same with God. As we start our walk in the Spirit, the voice and the direction God will have us follow it will seem strange to us. Not only that but we tend to rely on ourselves and make our path, even when we know what God wants. I see that in me. I see that in you. I see that around us day after day. We are called to love and yet we live in discord. We are called to help our neighbor and yet we still try to define who the neighbor is. And all along the gentle reminder of God’s will, The Spirit of God is tugging at our hearts, come this way and follow me, come and see Jesus.

I pray that as we walk with God, we will be tuned in the Spirit’s frequency and be able to follow where God leads.

 

Be blessed,

Bo M.

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