First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @


August 2017


Today’s Passage: Acts 2:42-47

This passage is part of the very first church sermon, given by Peter, on the day of Pentecost…the day the Holy Spirit descended on God’s gathered people. Today’s passage gives us a picture of what the Church really is supposed to be like.  Peter provides a vision of real community through relationships developed and strengthened.

Today, people want real community and many come looking for it in the church. Real community is more than just being friendly.  Friendly is easy to do – smiling faces…warm handshakes and kind hellos are nice but without the right foundation they lack what most people long for most out of the Church…deep, authentic relationships.  Authentic relationships when the storms of life arrive…authentic relationships that are developed and nurtured during the good times of life, preparing you when the storms arrive.

We are given a clear picture of what it takes to grow in authentic relationship with each other:

  • God’s gathered people were devoted to teaching – they studied God’s Word
  • They spent time together…they ate together…everyday…they prayed
  • Their time together yielded glad and sincere hearts praising God (i.e., daily living worship)

We then see what happens when authentic relationships are the heartbeat of God’s gathered people….”The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”  The Church grows!!!

Devotional Thought:  Consider all those that come through our doors Sunday or any other day…their first thought is not about the mission, vision and values of our church…their first thought is this:  “Can I find authentic relationships here?”  Authentic relationships…real community, are more than being friendly – it’s about demonstrating “God’s goodness to everyone”…this is how the first church grew and I believe it is how God will grow our church as well.

I close with one of my favorite prayers from Ephesians 3:14-21 that can further help strengthen your foundation in Jesus:  “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people,to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”


Out of the Mouths of Babes


Psalms 8

Exodus 1. 1-7

Matthew 21.16, 19.14

Psalms 8.1  O LORD, our LORD how majestic is your name in all of the earth, who hast displayed  Thy splendor above the heavens!  2. From the mouths of infants and nursing babes Thou hast established strength.

The story of Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob, had a dream, as recorded in Genesis 37,  where all his brothers were to bow before him.  Joseph was a type, or prophecy of the Messiah.  He was despised by his brothers, thrown into a pit, yet raised from it and eventually seated in power over all the land of Egypt.  His brothers, in their poverty, came to him for salvation, bowing before him just as his dream revealed, and Joseph forgave them, restoring life to them and their families.  As the sons of Jacob continued to live in Egypt they prospered greatly, multiplying the size of their family and lived in peace.

This story shows the arrogance, hatred, rebellion, lying, deceit, pride, attempted murder, and all sorts of evil that is prevalent in the hearts of the sons of Jacob and therefore of mankind by type.  Yet eventually when confronted with the truth by questioning from Joseph, in his position of power over them in their dire need, they confess their sin one to another.  They realize that there is a “reckoning for his blood” as they are the ones responsible for his demise, as to their understanding at this time. The Lord God is working in them and they now have to face the reality of judgement.  In humility and repentance they come again only to be shown forgiveness, and restoration.

When we are confronted with our own sin, we can stand strong and say it doesn’t matter,  that we are as good as our neighbor or anyone else, or we can come to the throne of grace that Christ has established to find mercy and help in the time of need, Hebrews 4.16.  In Psalms 8.2 the statement is made ” out of the mouths of infants and babes Thou hast established strength.”  Matthew 21.16, and 19.14 Jesus stated that we must be like little children, who trust instinctively, and in this type of faith we are guaranteed  salvation and strength.  Nothing eternal is accomplished by our efforts, only through obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit by faith, like a little child,  can anything be accomplished of lasting  value.

O LORD our Lord, How Majestic is your name in all of the earth.


A Book Report

Recently, because it was next in line on my bookshelf, I read The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James, written in 1900.  Dr. James was professor of Psychology and Philosophy at Harvard University.  He gave a series of lectures at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland in 1902-1902 on the nature of religion and the neglect of it’s science in academia.  His source material was thousands of testimonials (i.e. documented religious experiences) from Christians (almost all), Buddhists, and Hindus.  This book is a compilation of said lectures.  He makes the following main points…

  • Science is criticized for ignoring the unseen systems of the universe.  In doing so, some of reality is ignored.
  • The main goal of living should be the pursuit of happiness (Ps. 1:1-6).  The religious tend to be far happier compared to the un-religious.
  • Personal prayer (Matt. 6:5-6, Ja. 5:16) to the deity is the most fundamental of religious acts, superior to that of corporate religion.
  • Some, termed “once born,” (Ps. 91:1-16, Luke 10:19) do not consider evil to be part of this world.  They are forever optimists about everything and everyone.  Any bad they encounter is believed to be on its way to becoming good (Rev. 21:1-8).  Walt Whitman is the best example of this type.
  • Others, “twice born,” (Jn. 3:3, 1 Pet. 1:22-23), consider the world good but evil is exists.  This ill condemns them to struggles with depression and melancholy.  Leo Tolstoy was given as a prime example of this type.
  • Conversions are either instantaneous (Acts 9:1-9) or over a longer period of time (Luke 24:13-35).  It should, if authentic, change some of a persons character and/or habits.
  • The efficacy of a conversion is similar to that of love for another.  To begin with, the passion burns white hot.  Over time, the flames wain (Luke 8:13, cp. Heb. 10:35-39).
  • The “practical fruits” (Matt. 7:16-17, Gal. 5:22-23, Eph. 5:8-9) of conversion is saintly living.  This is characterized by purity, charity, strength of soul, and ascetic (pleasure in sacrifice) acts.
  • Regarding mysticism, Dr. James states “I believe that feeling is the deepest source of religion, and that philosophic and theological formulas are secondary products.”  Mystical experience is unpredictable (Jn. 3:8).  It is the sense of losing ones self to the Other.
  • Philosophy cannot explain the religious experience because it is beyond logic and cannot be fully explained.
  • Finally Dr. James expressed the need to provide room (Gal. 3:28, Ja. 2:1-4, Rev. 7:9-10) for each person’s religious experience.  As each is different, so also is each experience.

I enjoyed this read.  There was nothing here that was exactly new or that I haven’t known or experienced myself.  It was good to see it all organized and exhaustively written about.  After all, the best books are those that are known before they are read.


Something Missing

Mark 10:17-31 (NIV)

The man who approaches Jesus knows that something is missing in his life.  He goes through the motions of the faith as he understands it and has perhaps been told by others, most likely his family.  He has kept certain laws and practices in his life since he was a boy, but he realizes that he doesn’t have the wholeness and purpose he is searching for.  The life that is life is illusive to him.

He recognizes the Jesus understands and has the vibrant faith and meaningful life that he is missing.

Notice that Jesus loved him.  He was important to Jesus.  Once Jesus sees how much this man is interested in finding life in God, he is very honest with him. “One thing you lack,…Go sell everything you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

We might ask ourselves what is it that holds us back from what Jesus truly wants in our life?  Is there something missing in our walk of faith?  Is there one thing we lack?  Is there something that we need to release to completely follow Jesus?

“Do I want to know God’s will more than anything else?  This question is the entryway into discernment.”  (Rueben P. Job, A Guide to Spiritual Discernment in A Guide To Prayer For All Those Who Walk With God.)

Today, let us seek Jesus’ will and way for our life.  In Christ we will not remain empty.


What would you do?

Today’s Passage:  (Luke 10:25-37)

Devotional Thought:  I am reminded of the words from John Wesley, “Do all the good you can.  By all the means you can.  In all the ways you can.  In all the places you can.  At all the times you can.  To all the people you can.  As long as ever you can.”  There is enough to do right in our own backyards…our little corner of the world.  The Samaritan helped a fellow traveler when no one else would.  “Go and do likewise.”

When we are able to act out of love, the possibilities are endless.  So many people today are seeking genuine, authentic love – it’s hard because we are inundated with so much hate and anger.  I recently heard this stated slightly differently and clearly challenging: we, as followers of Jesus Christ, simply do not get the luxury of choosing who we love and who we don’t.  The following 2 passages link up very well with the Good Samaritan passage:

  • Matthew 22:36-40; “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’   All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
  • Matthew 5:43-48;  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Can we “Go and do likewise”?

When 2 or more….

I still have Joshua on my mind…”Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid; do be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:1-9)  Today, though, I am thinking of it directly in the context of this amazing statistic in America…75% of Americans claim to be Christians. [Barna State of the Church 2016]  If so many Americans REALLY believe they are Christians, then why can’t we begin to turn some of this mess around beginning in our own little corner of the world?

So….I thought about a passage where Jesus was talking about when 2 or more of his followers gathered in his name that he would be present….Matthew 18:19-20.  Now I know that Jesus was primarily talking about prayer, but this is a passage that many Christians like to quote…so I wanted to pursue it….a little bit.   We know that when 2 or more gather in the name of Jesus…he promises to be with us.

We also know that when 2 or more gather…even though we call ourselves Christians, there can be complaining….division…tension…disappointment.  Rivalry and jealousy can pop up unexpectedly.  Try as we might…the light will shine on our less than desirable qualities.  It’s hard not to want your own way because change is really only something I think that is desired in babies…changing their diapers that is.

When this happens…what is it we are to do.  It is here where we need to be reminded…Like God reminded Joshua…that we need to trust and hope in the real leader of the church…because, the real leader of the Church has not changed.  The real leader of this church…any church…Is Jesus Christ.

So……Church – whether it be First Pres or any other church that claims to follow Jesus Christ, what is it going to be?  If the national statistic of 75% applies to us, the real question is this…how are we making a difference beginning in our own community around our church…in Joliet, Plainfield, Crest Hill, Shorewood…you get the point. I offer this quote from Bob Goff…”Don’t listen to the loudest voice, find the truest one.”  Friends, the voice of Truth is calling each of us to listen…when we gather – to listen…and then to act in his name…in Jesus’ name.  It’s a choice that we are faced with every day… If we claim to gather in Jesus’  name…are we making a difference…or, is there some other motivation to our gathering?


A Stone of Hope


Ephesians 4:29-32

1 John 2:9-11

Galatians 3:28

John 13:34-35

To say the past week has been difficult in this country would be an understatement. The amount of hatred and violence that has been demonstrated as the result of the events in Charlottesville last Saturday is disheartening. In my own lifetime, I can’t remember a time where there was this much division across the entire nation. And that is an unfortunate thing.

I have been reflecting on this a great deal over the past, now, eight days. I have been reading news articles; watching interviews from witnesses, law enforcement, and other “experts;” reading posts by people I know on social media, and the dreaded comments sections that go along with those posts. It is most disheartening the amount of hatred being so easily tossed from one person to the next.

In Ephesians, Paul tells us to (paraphrasing) not let any hurtful speech come from our mouths, and do not spread hatred. Instead, be compassionate and forgive. It is VERY difficult to forgive someone who is standing and waving a flag with a swastika on it. It is VERY difficult to forgive a person who has purposely injured or killed another person for their beliefs. But to return violence with more violence is not the solution. Martin Luther King Jr. understood this when he stated, “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that.”

And also…

“But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”

As John states in his letter, if we live in this world with hate on our hearts, we live in blindness and cannot see where we are going. Of the posts that I have seen on social media, most have been blind anger and hate toward one group or another. Many of these comments directed at groups of people are made by people who are just simply reacting without even finding out the true facts. They are choosing to live in blindness by their anger rather than giving thought to what they are saying.

We need to live in a nation where we can treat each other with respect. We all are different. We all have different life experiences. We all have different beliefs. We will never see a time when all 350 million people in this country are 100% in agreement on every topic. You will not agree with all that I have to say, and that is fine with me. I am not going to agree with all of your political views either. We are not black or white or Latino or Asian. We are all one in Jesus Christ.

So, let’s get it together America. There is no room in this nation for extremism. There is no room in this nation to hate someone because they are Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal. There is no room in this nation to hate someone simply because of the color of their skin. There is no room in this nation to hate someone because of their sexual orientation. It is not acceptable to be an adult and use insults or name-calling. It is time that we all learn to coexist and LOVE EACH OTHER. It is what Jesus commanded us to do.


There is Healing in His Wings



Know-God-e1487433559210Psalms 133

Genesis 42.1-18

Matthew 14. 34- 36

Malachi 4.2

Joshua 3.13

The story, historical account, that we look at today is of the re-uniting of the twelve sons of Jacob.  As you know Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob, was irritating to his brothers, so much so that they were plotting his death.  Reuben stepped in and negotiated the selling of his brother into slavery rather than killing him.  Years later as Joseph has prospered by the hand of Yahweh the brothers come to him in Egypt for grain, though they don’t know they are dealing with their own brother.  In Genesis 42.11 they present themselves as “honest men,” which is typical of mankind to easily overlook their own faults and sins and only see the good in themselves rather than reality.  They even go so far as to declare  “one of our brothers is dead,” and yet never disclose their culpability in the matter.

The psalms declare how beautiful it is to dwell in harmony with our brothers.

How do we do that, when one half the time our brothers aren’t honest with us and the other half we aren’t honest with them.  How can we expect peace when we are so deceitful, and dishonest with ourselves and our brothers.

Malachi 4.2 declares there is healing in Yahwehs wings.  The word wings in the Hebrew is Kanaph, which means an edge, the corner of a garment, a hem, a wing. We all remember the story of the woman in Matthew 9.20  with an issue of blood who dared to crawl through the crowd and touch the hem of Jesus cloak and was healed, and in Matt. 14.36 we are told the same thing that the crowd who came for healing “implored Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched were healed.” This is the reality of who Jesus is, prophesied from centuries past of what to expect from the Messiah.

There is a prerequisite though.  All the people who wanted healing had to actually reach out and touch His garment.  Just as in the passage from Joshua 3.13 when Israel was about to cross the Jordan, the priests had to actually walk into the river with the Ark of the Covenant before God would part the waters.  Salvation, peace, healing, recovery, help in any way, is already available to us through the “finished work of Jesus,” but we have to step into the waters, we have to touch the hem of His garment. Wanting isn’t enough, we must be obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit, we must actually be proactive.


“Joseph” – The World’s First Novel

Genesis 37 – 47

Review:  Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son (37:1-7) and therefore despised by his other 11 brothers (37:8-19)…The 11 attempt to kill the prodigy, Joseph (37:20-27) by pitting him.  He is rescued by one who happens to be passing by (37:28-36)…Next, is an aside revealing the sexual exploits of Judah (38:1-30)…In Egypt, enslaved, God is with Joseph (39:2-3, 23)…When propositioned by an Egyptian officials wife, Joseph flees (39:1-12) and punished for his fidelity (39:13-23)…Even incarcerated, God works thru dreams that further Joseph’s cause (40:1-23)…Pharaoh also dreams.  Joseph is introduced as an accurate dream interpreter (41:1-39) and rewarded for his skill (41:40-57)…As CEO of Egypt and unrecognized by his starving brothers, Joseph orders their food bags filled, keeping Simeon as payment (42:1-38), and sends them home…The Egyptian and Canaan drought continues, the starving brothers return to Egypt and are served a feast by Joseph, who favors his younger brother Ben (43:1-34) to make a point.  He fills their food bags, etc….Judah steps forward as a substitute (44:1-13) to serve time for Ben’s cup crime (44:18-34)…Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and chronicles how God has brought them to this point (45:1-15)…Transportation is arranged to bring all the brothers households and Jacob to Egypt (45:16-28)…Israel immigrates to Egypt (46:1-34)…Israel and Egypt are unified (47:1-12)…Israel accepts Egypt’s bondage and taxes in exchange for food (47:13-26)…Newly situated in Egypt, Jacob is promised by Joseph to return his remains to Cana after he dies (47:27-31).

Analysis:  The genius of this history is its twists and turns, aptly indicating that things may not be as they physically seem.  Believing that they always are is stupid…That some folk have been given more and better abilities than others can be a point of resentment.  This phenomena leads to the attempted destruction of Joseph (37:20-27)…Jesus dismisses acts of jealousy like this one with the talent parable (Matt. 25:14-30)…It’s not what we’ve been given, it’s what we do with what we’ve been given…Like Jesus, Joseph was favored by his father (37:3 vs. Matt. 3:17)…Both were despised by their brothers (37:24 vs. Matt. 27:35-37)…Each became a blessing to the Gentiles (41:1-45 vs. Eph. 5:25-32)…Finally, both reconciled with their brothers (45:1-15 vs. Rom. 11:1-26)…This blog is a little long…What do you expect for a novel review?


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