First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @


April 2018

Against the Grain


1 Samuel 22-24; Psalm 52; Acts 11

1 Samuel 22-24

Basically speaking, Saul and David are playing a game of cat and mouse. Saul is tracking David for the purpose of trying to take him out. David, receiving guidance from the Lord, eludes Saul several times. Finally, David has a chance to end Saul’s life and prevent being slaughtered. But instead of taking out Saul, he only cuts a small corner of fabric from Saul’s cloak. Ultimately, a covenant is made between the two men and the chase seems to be over.

Psalm 52

This psalm goes hand in hand with the story of David from 1 Samuel. David is feeling the pressure from an enemy coming for his life. David calls out his tormentor for his evil plots and says that God will deliver him from this evil plot.

Acts 11

In the first half of this chapter, some apostles and believers who were circumcised (Jewish believers) were being critical of Peter for eating with people who were uncircumcised. At the time, there were many who believed that one must become Jewish and be circumcised before becoming a follower of The Way. Peter puts them in their place by telling of a vision of the Lord instructing him to go to the Gentiles to preach to them too. After this vision, Peter is immediately summoned to a house to speak to group of people, who immediately speaking in tongues.

The second half of this is about how the church continued to grow in number. I think the most significant part of this passage is that it is in Antioch that the followers of The Way are first called Christians. According to a timeline I found on BibleHub (see this link), the events of Acts took place about 7 years after the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.


I think there is a common thread that weaves each of these passages together. In all three passages, we see examples of relying on and trusting in God’s plan, even if it goes against the grain of society. In the cave, David’s men wanted him to kill Saul while he had the chance, but deep in David’s heart, he knew there was a different outcome meant to be true for Saul. And as a result, Saul lived. In the psalm, David is being chased and he fears for his life. Yet, he knows that God is on his side and will deliver him from the evil that lurks behind him. And Peter goes to teach to the Gentiles, even though it was not what the other disciples and apostles thought should be happening. And as Peter was meeting with the Gentile people, the Holy Spirit makes an appearance, demonstrating that God wanted more than just Jewish people as followers. The kingdom of God is open to all who believe, and not just the circumcised Jews.

Here is 2018, it is very easy to find people who maybe are somewhat like what the Gentiles were thought of 2000 years ago. It is easy to point out immoral behaviors and automatically write people off as hopeless in terms of their path to eternity. But I would like to believe that is the complete opposite of the truth. I think that if Peter were walking the Earth today, he would be dining and spending time with the people who many people would not give the time of day to. I can remember many times being told by people who are Christians, not to associate myself with people who don’t live what they consider to be a Christian life. But I think that is exactly the opposite because people are less likely to become Christian while being voted off the island by the people who call themselves Christians. I always go back to the hymn, They Will Know We are Christians By Our Love. We have a better chance at non-Christians becoming Christian by demonstrating time and time again what a Christian life being lived out looks like. So my hope is that we listen for God’s plan for us, and to live out that plan, even if it means doing something that isn’t the most popular. Dine and talk with the “Gentiles” of 2018. And who knows, maybe the church will start to grow in numbers similar to what happened in the growth of the early church.


Sunday Reflection: God as Capable

Power…we know it when we see it.  While at Exelon Nuclear, I understood the power of harnessing the atom to provide electricity to thousands of homes and businesses.   Watch the space shuttle lift off or take off in a 737 and you understand power.  Freight trains are powerful as are tornadoes.  Baseball has its power hitters and basketball has power forwards.  Power…

Why then do so many have difficulty when understanding the power of God?  I think one of the problems (and there are probably many), lies in how you answer this question:  “Can I think of anything that is too big for God?”  Now I know that it is not as simple as this but we, far too often, worship a small God instead of the God Paul prays to in the following prayer:  For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Do you know the power of God?  Do you believe in the power of God?  Blessings to you today!!


This Coming Week’s Readings:

4/30/18 1 Samuel 22-24 Psalm 52 Acts 11 Matt
5/1/18 1 Samuel 25-27 Ecclesisastes 11:1-5 Acts 12 Bo
5/2/18 1 Samuel 28-29 Psalm 53 Acts 13 Karissa
5/3/18 2 Samuel 1-2 Ecclesiastes 11:6-10 Acts 14 Dale
5/4/18 2 Samuel 3-4 Psalm 54 Acts 15 Craig H.
5/5/18 2 Samuel 5-6 Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 Acts 16 Craig R.

Love Without Limits


1 Samuel 19-21

Ecclesiastes 10. 19- 20

Acts 10

Life is filled with prejudices, we all are prejudiced toward the way we understand life.  In our American society we have many variables, such as city dwellers versus suburban dwellers, versus country living.  Some have never owned a car while others can’t understand life with out one, while still others only see the need for a pickup truck.  There are preferences for higher education, versus only practical intelligence.  Some see art as an expression of the soul, while others only want an exact replication of the object or scene.   Then there are the races, some prefer their color of skin versus all others,  their culture and style of life versus all others.  Money separates people, those who have an abundance prefer the company of only those people who have as much as they do.  While reverse is true also, a poor man does not enjoy hanging with any one who isn’t struggling also.  Blue collar, versus white collar, versus no collar.  Political parties separate people, I don’t understand people who see life differently than I do.  Music is a great divider, humor sets people apart, styles, jobs, neighborhoods, all speak of differences amongst us.

King Saul was the first Israelite royalty, God warned Israel about what that would be like.  He became the first ruling class they knew.  He loved the power, the freedom from labor, the vast wealth, the praise, everything it brought about.  The violation of God’s rules for him were incidental to him because of his position.  He alone could decide that it was a small matter to offer a sacrifice in place of the Priest,  who alone was responsible for that duty. Deciding to not fully obey God’s command concerning King Agag and his choicest spoils was of little concern to him, he was the king. All others, including the Lord God Jehovah should surely understand.  Then fears set in that He might not be all that secure in his position, and David becomes the focus of his prejudices.  David is the enemy who threatens his domain.

Acts 10- Peter has lived his entire life as a Hebrew, one of the chosen people of Jehovah.  No other people enjoy this position and standing.  Even though they are currently occupied as a nation by the devils known as the Romans, it is surely only time before God will set them free.  All other nations are so insignificant they are grouped together and known only as gentiles. God opens Peters eyes.  The gentiles too, are worth much to God who gave His only son to redeem them also.

He, God, loves  without prejudices.  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  All are in need of salvation, love, forgiveness of sins, acceptance, and redemption.  Even gentiles, even people who are so vastly different than we are, who think differently, act differently, and look differently.  It seems so obvious, but prejudices do get in the way of even we who are so enlightened.  Let us love as Jesus loved, without prejudice.



David and Goliath

1 Samuel 16-18     Psalm 51     Acts 9

Review:  Samuel goes to Bethlehem to search out and anoint Saul’s successor (16:1-5)…Of Jesse’s sons, the LORD chooses the least likely David (16:6-13)…Troubled Saul (16:14-16) seeks some diversionary music; this is the start of Saul’s and David’s relationship (16:17-23)…The Philistines encamp against Israel (17:1-3)…The giant, all 10′ of him, challenges Israel to a duel (17:4-11)…David, Saul’s court musician, is available for duty (17:12-16)…David observes the Philistines (17:17-30)…David informs Saul that he is up to Goliath’s challenge, with God’s help (17:31-37)…David falls Goliath (17:38-58)…Jonathan and David develop a friendship (18:1-4) that will become critical later on…Saul’s jealousy drives his murder attempt of David (18:5-16)…David marries Saul’s daughter, Michal (18:17-30).

Analysis:  What God sees versus what we see (16:7) is among the most hopeful passages in our Bible…The Spirit coming and staying (16:13) with David, through thick and thin, is a precursor to Christianity…With the completion of the anointing of David by Samuel, it is simply a matter of time and political intrigue before David becomes king…In simplest terms Saul and Israel lived in mortal fear of the Philistines (17:11)…Eliab’s reprimanding of David (17:28-30) is what one would expect of an eldest brother vs. his youngest brother…It’s what my childhood was guilty of, as often as I was able…Typically, the conflict between David and Goliath is presented as a match of unequals…In fact, David held a distinct advantage with his rock and sling (Judges 20:14-16, 2 Chr. 26:11-15)… By getting off a quick shot before Goliath protected himself (17:28-29) the conflict ended before it should have really begun…David’s need of God was not due to his lack of size or for any weakness; rather it is to enable David to do something that is well within his capabilities.  It is more than possible that he was highly practiced…David’s ascension is brought about by the vacuum left by Saul’s failings…Envy (18:8-9) as a motivator is human nature at it’s worst…Saul hopes in David’s demise in the foreskin collection/marriage of daughter saga (18:20-27)…The Philistines are vanquished, leaving Saul with a more immediate enemy to deal with – David (18:28-30).

Wisdom, Foolishness, and Faith

I Samuel 13-15, Ecclesiastes 10:1-11, and Acts 8 (NIV) 

In I Samuel we see King Saul who is not wise and faithful in following what God wants.  In Saul we see foolish living and leadership, as he repeatedly refuses to obey God and chooses to do what he thinks is right.  The prophet Samuel sums up the rule of Saul as King.

13:13-14 “You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lordyour God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time.  But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”

When we find real faith in God, in these chapters, we find it in Saul’s son Jonathan.  We also find active faith in God in Samuel, the prophet.  When Samuel died it was a great loss for Israel.

Saul does not have a heart of faith for the Lord and it shows in his actions and leadership.  Thus, we read about Saul, “And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.”  What a sad commentary.

In Ecclesiastes 10:1-11 we learn more about the difference between wisdom and foolishness.  Fools “lack sense” and do not live and act out of faith in the Lord.  The wise understand the Lord’s will and are able to translate their faith into everyday life.

In Acts we see a vibrant faith in the Lord Jesus being lived out.  There is persecution as the followers of Jesus live in the strength and joy of Resurrection reality and Christ’s presence and guidance. They are eager to share Christ and as they are persecuted they scatter.  As they scatter, they preach Christ and the church grows and extends its influence.

For the early church and leaders the Holy Spirit is actively guiding them in the way of Jesus and making Jesus present to them.  If you have Jesus in your life you have the Holy Spirit within, leading and guiding you.  For some it was hard to believe that Samaritans could be people of faith.  Jews and Samaritans did not associate with each other.  But right from the very beginning of the church, we find that through Christ the wall of hostility, that separated Jews and Samaritans, came down.  In Samaria Peter and John find real faith and notice that even Samaritans receive the Holy Spirit.

14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Peter and John are wise leaders eager to see the Gospel flourish even in Samaria.  May we be wise in faith as God does new things in our midst and in our world.  May others see in each one of us “an intentional life well lived” for Christ Jesus.

I am God…Your God!

Today’s Reading (all 1 link):  1 Samuel 10-12, Psalm 50, Acts 7

Saul has been anointed king…the king the people wanted…desired…demanded!  The king would not just take office even though coronation was the political act of establishing the king as ruler.  Anointing was a religious act.  The anointing was the act that made the king God’s representative to the people – one performed by a priest or a prophet.  The ceremony reminded the king of the great responsibility to lead the people…by God’s wisdom and not his own.  Regardless of good times or bad, the reminder is…“I am God…Your God!”

This is the message of Psalm 50 – verse 7 to be precise.  It’s really easy to think about making sacrifices to God…while we may not slaughter animals today, what are the things we think we sacrifice in our worship of the God we follow?  Do we fall into the same pattern of those noted in Psalm 50?  Do we simply participate in the rituals of the church…service, tithing or…attending church out of habit rather than the love we are supposed to have for the one who is God…our God?

If you are looking for a role model here…look not to Saul who was anointed king, but to Stephen who, even in the greatest fear you and I probably have – death…even in the face of death, Stephen knew the God he worshipped and was unafraid to call to task those who should have known but “covered their ears”

What is it that you want?  Desire?  Demand?  And when faced with the many difficulties life often deals each of us, what is it that you do?  Stephen didn’t defend himself…he told them about the God who was God for him – he told them about Jesus…Stephen simply shared his faith.  Can we do the same?







Bury the Workman

1 Samuel 7-9
Ecclesiastes 9:11-18
Acts 6

After reading today’s passages I immediately went to my Spotify and played “Bury the Workman” by Unspoken. I love this song. It is all about how no matter what humans try to do, God’s work will prevail.

Let’s examine today’s passages with that ideology in mind.

In the Samuel passages we first see how God’s greatness stopped the Philistines with a clap of thunder. How mighty and great is He that an entire army could be subdued by thunder? What battles are you facing in life now? What battles do you need to hand over to God? Remember: the Lord will fight for you, you need only be still (Exodus 14:14).

Then, as is human nature, we see God’s people turning away from Him and demanding a king. He see them desiring the ways of the world rather than the His. So, the Lord in His infinite and perfect love allows His people to choose poorly–like a father who lets his son make a bad choice so that he may learn. He gave warning, but they did not listen.

Yet, God’s work continues. The story of the Bible is perfectly tied to together and amazing. Saul was anointed by Samuel, David follows after Saul (you’ll read about that soon enough!), and it is from David’s line that Jesus is born.

You can bury the workman, but the work will go on most certainly.

To be honest, burying doesn’t even necessarily mean death–it could just as easily mean sin. Jesus was born through a line plagued with sin. God’s chosen people sin repeatedly, they are buried in those sins, but God’s work continues time and time again.

The Acts passage mentions Stephen, which actually trigged my thoughts about the song, and you will find that Stephen was persecuted as well. He was actually buried. Yet, God’s work pushes on.

Brothers and Sisters, I want to give you the blessed relief that God’s plan will manifest and continue no matter what. God is stronger than our sin, He has overcome death, and His perfect will will always persevere through any storm.

Many Blessings,

A lesson on being bold

1 Samuel 4-6 Psalm 49 Acts 5

Acts 5 is a fascinating chapter in the history of the church. We meet Ananias and Sapphira, maybe the first people in the history of the church that tried to buy some sort of influence or privilege in the church. The fascinating thing to me about their story is that God is using their story to remind everyone that we are called to live our lives above reproach in a way that is worthy of the call we have on our lives.

The second part of the chapter deals with what the church should really be about: sharing the gospel, healing and strengthening the community around. It is a great picture of the plan that God has for the world, the witness of the church as the agent of change. And just like it is today, whenever we set our hearts and minds to do God’s work, that work sometimes is met by opposition, in the case of the church in Jerusalem persecution. For the apostles sharing the message of Christ, was more important than being silent, or compromising their message.

So I have to ask you: What is that one thing that is important to you, that you are willing to stand for? Could you be as brave as Peter and stand before everyone because of your love of the Gospel? How is the community or church you are part of is enriched by who you are or by your ministry?

The reason for my questions is simple: You and I are called to be more, and it is up to us to discover our place in this big plan that God has.

Today I pray that we can be bold, honest and passionate about our faith.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

Sunday Reflection: God as Sovereign

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God[b] swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good…” (Genesis 1:1-3) “And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.” (Revelation 21:5-6)

These opening passages are bookends of the Bible…about the God we worship, for many of us, today.  Today, we think about our God as Sovereign.  The picture I chose for today is a Wordle…where you can take a sentence or just a bunch of words and create a picture of words.  All of the words in today’s picture are ways to think about God – the first 2 opening passages are another.

Another way to consider God as Sovereign comes from Psalm 103 – pay particular attention to verse 19:

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and do not forget all his benefits—
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the Pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good as long as you live[a]
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works vindication
    and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far he removes our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion for his children,
    so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
14 For he knows how we were made;
    he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for mortals, their days are like grass;
    they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
    and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
    on those who fear him,
    and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
    and remember to do his commandments.

19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
    and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his bidding,
    obedient to his spoken word.
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
    his ministers that do his will.
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
    in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.

This Coming Week’s Readings:

4/23/18 1 Samuel 4-6 Psalm 49 Acts 5 Bo
4/24/18 1 Samuel 7-9 Ecclesiastes 9:11-18 Acts 6 Karissa
4/25/18 1 Samuel 10-12 Psalm 50 Acts 7 Dale
4/26/18 1 Samuel 13-15 Ecclesiastes 10:1-11 Acts 8 Craig H.
4/27/18 1 Samuel 16-18 Psalm 51 Acts 9 Craig R.
4/28/18 1 Samuel 19-21 Ecclesiastes 10:12-20 Acts 10 Karl

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