First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @


March 2019

The Mustard Seed Parable

Luke 13:18-19

18 He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? 19 It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” 

Analysis: Here’s what we know about tree seeds.  They are small.  They are numerous.  When planted, they grow irregularly depending on the environment they find themselves in, i.e. the soil, the climate, and the periodic weather.  After many years, the seed grows into a substantial tree such that birds may dwell on it’s branches.  Previously mentioned, nesting birds hint at a great kingdom (Ezek. 17:22-24, 31:1-9, Dan. 4:10-12, 20-22).  Birds are free creatures, capable of making their own independent choices as to where they land and live.  Our kingdom-tree offers security and protection (cp. Ps. 104:8-12, 16-17).

Redemptive Expectations

Mark 4:1-9 (NIV)

There are several ways to interpret this parable.

One way is to look at our ourselves and ask if we have allowed the seeds of the Gospel to grow in the good soil of our own lives.  Do we hear the word of Christ, accept it, and allow it grow and flourish?  Do we let Jesus guide, direct, and lead us?  Or do we ignore the council of Jesus, or fall away when we face sorrow, or chase after the so called good things of life so they dominate and the things of Christ are relegated to the sidelines of our life?  Is there good soil for the seeds of the Gospel present in us or not?

Another way to interpret the parable is from the point of view of a disciple.  As a follower, we serve in many ways in order to sow the seeds of the light, life, and love of Christ Jesus.  When we serve, in whatever capacity that may be, what do we expect?  Do we expect quick results?  Or do we have a patient perseverance about us?  Do we expect there will never be any hardship?  Or do we expect some suffering?  Do we expect that all that we do will produce returns?  Or we realize we may not see results for a long time?

In this parable Jesus is teaching his disciples to persevere and not lose heart.  Yes some seed falls on the footpath, some falls on rocky places, some falls among the thorns, that is; some seeds never really take root and grow.  That’s what sowing the seeds of the Gospel is truly like in our world, communities, neighborhoods, and families.  Yet some seed falls on the good soil and there is a wonderful harvest!  Jesus takes root in people’s lives and they are forever changed in him.  In other words, keep searching for good soil.

Today, we can pray and ask ourselves if we have the patience and the perseverance to keep on keeping on for Christ Jesus. Please pray this prayer today.   Lord, help us to persevere in doing good, in sharing the news of Jesus, in serving others.  Wonderful God, help us to persevere and not lose heart.  We are grateful that there were those followers of Christ, in our lives, who did not give up on us.  Gracious God, guide us this day to nurture your love and grace in others.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.


Satan’s Bound Strength

29 “Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.

Matthew 12:29

This verse comes to us after the Pharisees say that Jesus is a demon and not the Son of God. Jesus goes on to explain that a house divided could not stand. He uses this parable to demonstrate that He has overcome Satan and bound him. He says this to tell the people He is not of Satan.

I think the ESV study Bible does a great job explaining this:

Jesus was able to expel demons because he had bound Satan, the strong man. Beginning with Jesus’ victory in the wilderness (4:1-11), Jesus demonstrated that Satan was powerless to prevent him from proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and demonstrating the reality of its presence through his work and his words. Satan’s house represents the sinful world over which, until the coming of Christ, he had such power. Jesus has come to plunder his house and rescue people for the kingdom of God (see Colossians 1:13).

Let’s praise God for His goodness, let’s celebrate the victory of Jesus, and remember that Jesus who has overcome this world lives inside you.

What stronghold are you fighting? How does Jesus’ already won victory help you fight your daily battles?


The need of new…

Luke 5:37–39

Can you put new wine in old wineskins? Can you teach an old dog a new trick? Can you venture on a new road vs. the same path you always take? Can you join a new group of people and expand your circle of friends?

We can go on and on with this line of thinking… There is one truth that speaks so loud in today’s parable: There is always something new but in order to receive it you have to be malleable flexible, willing to expand who you are. 

Change is part of us, I know I sound like captain obvious when I say that, but change is something that we do not fully comprehend or want to accept at a very deep level.

From time to time I fall into that trap myself, I look at everything that is coming new around me and I feel a need to push back. I am normally quick to embrace new technology, but lately, I had found myself even pushing back on getting a new cell phone… It’s not because I am afraid of the new but because I am comfortable with what I have.

And there is the need for new. Something we jump in the new without having an understanding of it, of what it can bring, the challenges ahead and so on. The more I read today’s parable I found myself thinking about the need to embrace the new in the light of existing wisdom and experience. After all, wisdom is part of us just in the same measure that change will be part of us.

Today, I pray that we will learn to dance this two-step of venturing in the new, in the change, and also be able to rely on the experience and wisdom that God has provided us along the way.

May, we all be open to the spirit of God and the things that God is doing new in our lives.

Be blessed,



“No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light. Then pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away.”  (Luke 8:16–18)

There is a school of thought that says once you know something it is tough to not do something about it – even not doing something is doing something.   There is an edge to Luke’s words – an urging to heed what Jesus is saying.   The reality of this passage is fairly simplistic in nature…if you know the message of Jesus and believe it, there is an action that is intended.  For example, when a lamp is lighted, it is lighted for a reason – to bring light to the room.  In a similar way, once you know about the light of Jesus…more importantly, once you have received the light of Jesus, it is incumbent on each of us to increase the light – to spread the light.

As I write this, I think about today’s sermon and our response to having received the light of Christ by grace.  Having received the light of Christ, we are compelled to do good works in response to the grace of God to bring light to the WHOLE world.  Being light in a dark world, is part of being a disciple and something that is not an option.  Just like giving light to a dark room is what a lighted lamp does.  More importantly, this light is one that is borrowed.  It is because you and I have received light from Jesus that we are able to shine in this world…shining in such a way that does not seek congratulations or accolades.  We are to shine in such a way that those observing us – those who see us, those who see the church, will give glory to the Father.  It is the light that is to shine and not those privileged to be bearers of the light.

Devotional Thought:  Friends, like a lighthouse, let your light shine – the light you know that comes from Jesus – let your light shine so that others can see and in return, they…they can give glory, honor and praise to our God!!  In Jesus’s name, Amen.


The Faithful Servant

The Faithful Servant

Luke 12:35-48

In this parable, Jesus tells of a the proper behavior of a servant. Servants should continue to do their jobs to the best of their ability even if the master is away, and be ready for the master to return at any moment. That servant should be prepared to greet the master and fully serve him, no matter when he returns.

He goes on to tell of a servant who is left to manage the remaining servants. This servant keeps his word to do his master’s will while he is away. The servant continues to do this, even though he doesn’t know exactly when the master will return. But woe to the servant who mistreats the rest of the servants and makes a bunch of poor decisions with the mindset that the master has been gone a long time and may not be coming back. Neither servant knows exactly when the master will return, but only the one who has held up his end of the bargain will be rewarded, while the other will suffer severe punishment.

In the same way, we are to live our lives like the faithful servant. We should be serving others with our able hands, and treating others with fairness and respect. We cannot be like the foolish servant and live like it will be a long time before Jesus makes His return. To use a term that is often used to refer to the rockstar lifestyle, live fast, die young. To live that life is to be reckless with the ONE life we have been given. But even if we aren’t living the life of the party animal, and even if we are active in a church and showing up faithfully to our nine to five job still doesn’t mean we are living as a faithful servant. Because the way we treat those around us also matters. It is best to always choose to treat those with whom we interact with kindness and respect, even if they aren’t the easiest people to be kind and respectful toward. For, we never know when The Master will return to hold us accountable for our actions. The last thing that I would want is to be is the one mentioned in verse 46:  “He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.”

Lessons from a fig tree…

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.  So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates.  Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Matthew 24.32-35)

A parable of Jesus of the fig tree.

Preceding this parable in chapter 23 of Matthew Jesus has just excoriated the Pharisees and the scribes for rewriting, or adding to the Law of Moses, known as the “ takanot,” mostly concerning laws to restrict behavior, or to define rules such as tithing, labor on the Sabbath, adding to the peoples burden of keeping the Law of Moses. Finally placing on them the guilt of the persecution and death of all the righteous who had died at the hands of their fathers, from Abel to Zecharias. Then He makes a proclamation that until Jerusalem says, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!”, they will not see His return.

Storming out of the temple Jesus’ disciples point out the beauty of the temple that took 46 years to build, and Jesus predicts it’s destruction which is also a picture of His death. The disciples ask when these things will happen, what will be the sign of Your coming, and the end of the age? Then He gives them warnings of the coming destruction of both Jerusalem and the world. The questions asked were presumed by them to be one occasion yet were concerning separate events. They had no vision of His going anywhere so they were not asking about His return, the phrase concerning “your coming” was in reference to His Kingdom that they thought would be established very soon. So their questions and His answers were on different pages altogether.

He answers the questions of the destruction of the temple and the scattering of Jerusalem, of His ascension and return, and the end times and destruction of this world. There are many parallels in the destruction of Jerusalem and the destruction of the world at Jesus second coming. That is why there is some confusion as to the timing and the words of Jesus that this generation will not pass away until these things begin to happen. Some believe that there was a second coming of Jesus in 70 A.D. at the destruction of Jerusalem, but it was spiritual and silent return, (Preterism). Yet verse 27 states “Just as the lightening flashes from the East To the West, so will the coming of the Son of Man be,” and verse 31, “And He will send forth His angels with a Great Trumpet and They will gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.” Friends there is no secret, silent, or hidden second coming of Jesus, everyone who is alive when it happens will know.

So now we have the parable, “Learn the parable of the fig tree: when its branch is tender and it puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see these things, (those just described), recognize that He is right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

Much of the prophecies in scripture are surely hard to understand, as we can see here the questions asked are not at all pertaining to what Jesus answered, as so many times when He was asked questions, His answer was not clear at all and only left the listener with more questions. Such is a lot of scripture written so that we might reach and wonder and study to gain insight, to know more. About three years ago after an event at the tent meetings a 17 year old boy came to me with his concern about his future. He wanted a job, an education, marriage, and to move away from his parents, to be on his own, and he wanted me to give him a definitive answer from God as to how to accomplish all this at once. I told him that life is like a trip from Chicago to California a man was planning. So he went to the auto parts store to buy a set of headlights that would shine from here to California. The man told him the best he had to offer only shone about two hundred feet in front of his car. This, I told the lad, was the best God would do for us. He would let us see tomorrow, but to be sure we had to live right today, tomorrow we could see a little further. So he should go to work on each of these things and not be anxious about God’s leading, but take another step each day.

Concerning end times we can be sure Jesus will come back, it won’t be secret or silent, and we don’t know much more than that, many people have very convincing arguments from scripture, but no one knows the hour or the day. We should be sure to love Jehovah, live holy, and love your neighbor.


The Great Banquet

Luke 14:15-24

Review:  A certain, wealthy, estate owner decides to throw a large supper party.  Many of his associates are invited.  But, one-by-one, excuses come to the owners servant from the invited for their missing the event.  The servant reports to his boss that none of the invited will attend.  The owner then instructs his servant to search the streets and alleys of his city and bring the poor, the lame, the maimed, and the blind to supper.  With this, the servant reports that empty seats remain.  Enraged, the owner demands his servant to get more, anyone, to fill the seats surrounding his table.

Analysis:  Clearly, this banquet is allegorical to having a seat at God’s table (v. 15) for His bread.  God extends invites, those invited find something better to do and refuse to attend.  As a result, invitations are offered to social outcasts, anyone, including Gentiles.  Even at this, the invite must be accepted and pursued.  The “compel them to come in” (v. 23) is of note.  One interpretation is the servant asked very persuasively.  Another is the invite came with a physical threat.  Such was the interpretation and justification for the Inquisitions and Crusades in the Middle Ages.  However, this interpretation is clearly outside the bounds of the rest of what the Bible says about the”whosoever” (cp. Matt. 10:8, 1 Cor. 2:9-12, Rev. 22:17) nature of Christian conversion.  The plenary teachings of the Bible and what these teachings have meant over the course of history should always be considered on any subject spoken to by our Bible.

Challenging Parable: Crystal Clear Clarity

Matthew 21:33-46 (NIV)

In the Parable of the Tenants Jesus is speaking clearly to the Chief Priests, Sadducees, and the Pharisees who are the religious leaders of Israel.

By this passage in Matthew, Jesus has entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  He has overturned the tables of the money changers in the Temple.  The religious leaders publicly question Jesus’ authority. They neither recognize the legitimacy of the John the Baptist’s ministry nor Jesus’ ministry.

Then Jesus tells this Parable after another short Parable in vs. 21:28-32.  In our parable, Jesus indicates that the religious leaders are disobedient tenants of the vineyard given to them by God.  In other words, they have no interest in the authentic will of God, managing the ministry which the Lord has given to them.  Instead they take things into their own hands and go so far as to murder the owner of the vineyards son.  For a long time the Chief Priests and Pharisees have been plotting to put Jesus to death and in a few short days that’s in fact what they will do.

The interpretation of the Parable is in verses 42-46.  They reject Jesus and therefore the Kingdom of God is taken away from them and given to a people who will produce fruit.  That is the church.  The extension of God’s saving love is to all those who follow the Lord Jesus Christ into the world, Jew and Gentile, free and slave, male and female.  Acts tells the story of amazing growth of the Kingdom of God in and through the church and all who confess Jesus as Savior and Lord and live in witness to him.

The Chief Priests and the Pharisees were sincere; they acted on their strongly held beliefs.  But, unfortunately, they were sincerely wrong and outside the will and purpose of God. We might ask ourselves about what we sincerely believe and humbly ask the Lord if we are on target with the will of God in and through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Lord, help us this day to humbly know your will.  And in understanding what you want, help us to so live and love in the light of Christ Jesus, always.  We make this prayer in the Savior’s name, Amen.

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