First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @


May 2019

Who’s in Charge?

The Head of the Church:    Ephesians 4:1-16

How many times in life have you asked the question, “Who’s in charge?”  In virtually every social structure we know today, there is a hierarchy of order.  Trying to deny it makes for a difficult time.  Arguing about this hierarchy or protesting about it really just leads to individual frustration.  Families have parents, gangs have a leader, schoolrooms have a teacher, a school has a principal and schools have a superintendent who, in turn has a Board of Education.  Sports teams have coaches or managers with a management structure above them.  Corporations have CEO’s and CEO’s are accountable to a Board of Directors who, in turn, are accountable to the stockholders.  Governments have Presidents, Governors, Mayors, etc.  I think you get the point.  Look around and ask the question, “Who’s in charge?” and someone is sure to answer.

The Church is no exception to this hierarchy of order.  The Presbyterian Church (USA) has it’s own structure as well.  At the local church level there are pastors who “report” to the session.  The local church is part of a Presbytery or grouping of churches by geography.  Presbyteries belong to Synods and all the Synods are part of the General Assembly.  However…through all the structuring comes an important reality that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle.  Like all social structures there are things that cause decay and begin eroding the structure itself.  Things like power, greed, selfishness, jealousy and so many others.

Our passage from Ephesians tells us clearly that, when it comes to the Church, Jesus is in charge.  One of the things that makes me cringe is when I hear people talk about “my church”.  Now I know pretty much what they mean and it is good intentioned.  But, “my church” can begin the slippery slope of decay.  Paul takes this head on by telling us to have a proper perspective on our individual and collective place within the body of Christ…the Church.  Each one of us has a role to live out in Jesus’ Church…with one and only one outcome…that when we are all doing our part the Church of Jesus Christ grows and builds up in love.

The Great Shepherd of Sheep

20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

The verses above are from Hebrews 13:20-21. It is the benediction for the book of Hebrews, and serves a prayer that God’s will be done through us, and that He gives us what we need to carry out His will, so that we may bring glory to His name. I often make a similar prayer when I am about to do something. For example, I was finally able to get on the road for a short run this past weekend for the first time in a while. I usually say a quick prayer that God gives me the strength to have a good run, and that through my running I somehow bring glory to His name by using my body for something positive. We don’t need long fancy prayers to please God. This reminds me of what Jesus said right before he shared with us what we now refer to as The Lord’s Prayer. Here is what Jesus said in Matthew 6:7-8 (The Message): “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Sage advice from the all-knowing Son of God. Keep your prayers simple. Pray that God use you for His will, and that He opens your eyes and ears so as to lead you, and open your heart that you may accept His will. This is what He will find pleasing.

Wonderful Counselor

Isaiah 9.6
The Prince of Peace is coming ! This was the prophecy of Isaiah, not only to Israel but to the Gentile’s also. Isaiah 9.2 says “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.” As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, a city in Greece, 2 Corinthians 4.6 “ For God who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus.” In other words Romans 3.23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” a statement of the depravity of mankind, after coming to a saving knowledge of Christ and being transformed into a Spirit filled being, we are now “beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory,” 2 Corinthians 3.18. So as we are being changed into the image of Christ, as the knowledge of Christ is revealed to us, we are living in Christs’ kingdom, a spiritual realm, where we are led by the Spirit of God to accomplish His will for us, with eternal results.

As the Isaiah prophecy continues, Isaiah 9.6 “ And the government will rest upon His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal father, Prince of Peace.” When Jesus walked on earth from the moment He began His ministry, after the Baptism from John, and the 40 day fasting in the wilderness, “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district. And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all.” Luke 4.14-15. We could rewrite the entire four Gospels to prove the title “ Wonderful Counselor,” but for lack of time, it must be condensed to an understanding that Jesus counseled people wherever He went. He caused the blind to see, the lame to walk, lepers were cleansed, the deaf could hear, the dead were raised, the captives set free, and the poor had the good news preached to them.

Jesus was no respecter of persons, from the banished lepers, and the cast off beggars, the despised tax collectors, the Samaritan half breeds, the unclean, to the highly respected Pharisees, the wealthy, the Sadducees, the Priests, and men of high office He taught and proclaimed the truth wherever He went. He proclaimed, ”your faith has made you well” to the woman with the issue of blood. And “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” To Nicodemus He said, ”you must be born again.” To the hierarchy of Jerusalem He said, “You search the Scripture because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me.”

The wisdom of Jesus is beyond dispute, for He proclaims the wisdom of salvation for all who believe. Christianity is the only religion on earth that proclaims a God of Love has desire for you. He not only loves you, but wants you to know it, and experience that love. So what does love have to do with anything? Everything! Do you matter to God? Does God care about you? Just read His letter to you, the Bible, it surely will reveal that Jesus is a Wonderful Counsellor, one who spoke with such wonder that when the temple officers came to arrest Jesus, in John 7.32, they returned to the Chief priests answering, “Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks.” John 7.46



10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, 11 Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. 12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test. 13 Then Isaiah[a] said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman[b] is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.[c] 15 He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.  (Isaiah 7:10-16)

Analysis:  It’s interesting that this prophecy of Immanuel would come to Ahaz – a decidedly bad king…Ahaz, despite his faults, still was related to the “house of David” (v. 13)…This far off promise of Immanuel is one of many promises God made and kept with the “house of David” through Christ (cp. 2 Sam. 7:8-17, 1 Kings 8:16, 2 Chron. 21:7, Psalm 89, Jer. 23:1-6, 33:15-21, Ezek. 34:20-31, Amos 9:11-15, Luke 1:26-33, Acts 2:22-36, 15:13-18, Rom. 1:1-6, 2 Tim. 2:8)…Given the context of this passage, Assyrian troops at the gates of Jerusalem, Ahaz’s not wanting to test God (v. 12) seems rather pious…The promise (vv. 13-14) of a virgin birth to the royal court of David is God’s promise beyond Israel’s current situation…David’s dynasty, through our Lord Jesus Christ, will go on…It has no biblically predicted end.

From Darkness to Light

John 8:12 (NIV) 

“Light is an important theme in the Bible.  You could say the story of the Bible is one of moving from darkness to light. Look at the way the Bible begins in Genesis: ‘The earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep’…Then God said, ‘Let there be light; and there was light’ (1:2-3).  The first thing God spoke into existence was light.  Go to the book of Revelation to the description of the new heaven and earth: ‘There will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light’ (22:5).  Many of the prophecies of a coming messiah use the image of light: ‘Arise, shine; for your light has come’ (Isa. 60:1).  ‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light’ (Isa. 9:2).  the Bible constantly affirms that when God comes on the scene, there is light.”  From The God We Can Know by Rob Fuquay, (pgs. 40-41).

Jesus comes teaching, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12).   Here we see that following Jesus and living in the Light is a choice. People can choose to live in darkness and they do make that choice today.  However, we have chosen to live in the light of the Christ.  And when we choose to live in the light of Jesus he calls us to be light.  When we decide to live in relationship with the Savior, the light of the world, we are called to share Jesus with others.

How are you doing today?  Are you living in the Light?  Are you sharing the Light of Jesus with others?  Thank God, for the Light of Jesus in the world and in our lives!  May His Light shine through each one of us. In Jesus name, Amen.

The Bright and Morning Star

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”

Revelation 22:16

According to my study Bible, this is a reference to a prophecy from Numbers 24:17. Feel free to explore more of that on your own!

When I think about the bright Morning Star, however, I am reminded of old stories where sailors used the sky as a map and the morning star was their guide. I think about adventure, battles, heroes, the slaying of beasts, and all the glorious things involved with a great old story. I think about these heroes, so weary from battle, getting on their ship to sail home–back to their home and heart. Then I picture those tired eyes looking at the morning star and thinking “that’s the way home.”

Can you picture it?

Now think about our lives. Think about the adventures we have on our own. We may not be exploring mythical lands with talking dragons, but we have plenty of adventures in our own world. We have battles. Sometimes we think we’re battling spouses, children, bosses, or people… but let us not forget the words of Ephesians 6:12. If we’re battling against spiritual forces then I 100% declare we are living a life of adventure like the above pictured!

What’s more, after our battles when we are weary, bruised, standing with scars, and wanting to go home we have our very own Morning Star that points us home.

I pray this morning you all realize what an amazing life you are living, that it is filled with everything we had read about as kids, and that you trust our Morning Star the same way the ancient fabled heroes did.


John 6:48-58 “I am the Bread of Life”

Let’s face it folks there is a lot going on in these 10 verses. Instead of getting caught up in the particulars I am going to deal with the general message. The people following Moses it the Exodus had to gather manna everyday, if they kept it, it rotted. People had to go our again and again just to be satisfied. If you remember the story even with the bread that God supplied them they were not content.

Jesus says He is the bread of life and whoever eats of it will live forever. In order for us to truly appreciate the bread of life, we need to hunger. We have to have a yearning, a want, that will not be satisfied any other way. Humans have all sorts of ways to fill that need: drugs,sex, work, play, appearances, even religiosity. Religiosity may surprise you. Activities at church, no matter how good there are will not satisfy the real need, real hunger.

What we need is a relationship with Jesus to satisfy this hunger. By relationship I mean a personal, intimate, closeness with Jesus. It begins with confessing that we are sinners in need of a savior, and accepting Jesus as our Savior. From there all else begins. To really feed of the bread of life we need to start with loving Jesus with our hearts.

Shalom, Mark


The King of Kings & Lord of Lords:  Revelation 19:6-16

In Chapter 19 we are greeted with the growing climax of the biblical message and of all human history…Jesus first came as the Lamb of God and was the sacrifice for the sin of the world and now, the promised return is at hand.  Heaven opens and we see, returning on a white horse, a symbol of victory, the Conquering King returning with the battle lines drawn.

The servants of God Almighty rejoice…Hallelujah!  The wedding of Christ and his bride, the Church, is at hand.  Hallelujah!  Some may be disappointed with the war-like imagery here and throughout Revelation.  Many see the Prince of Peace not one of war.  And yet, friends, never forget there is an ongoing battle between good and evil…between God and evil, that continues every day. We know the victory was won through the cross and resurrection but what is ultimately at stake is the final triumph over evil through Jesus!  Hallelujah!!

So, like any great story or musical score, we see a building crescendo to the climax in today’s passage – we see it in the names of the Victor: “Faithful and True…The Word of God…King of kings and Lord of lords”…Hallelujah!!  In the words of George Frideric Handel from his great work, “Messiah”, are these words from the “Halllujah Chorus”:

The kingdom of this world is become
the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and of His Christ;
and He shall reign for ever and ever
and He shall reign for ever and ever
and He shall reign for ever and ever
and He shall reign for ever and ever

King of kings,
for ever and ever. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
and Lord of lords,
for ever and ever. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Devotional Thought:  This chapter from Revelation always takes me back to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday.  The crowd shouted Hosana, save us, as they were expecting a conquering king in Jesus who would free them from the bondage of the Roman Empire.  And just a few days later, many of these same individuals shouted “crucify him” because the king they imagined didn’t materialize.

As you look back today and remember what took place over 2000 years ago, I encourage you to see today, tomorrow and the future a little differently.  Ask yourself this question, “Do you really believe with all your heart about Jesus suffering, death and resurrection and, most importantly, Jesus’ promised return…and, are you counting on it?”

The Way, The Truth, and The life

John 14.6 “ And Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father but through Me.’ “
John 13.1 “ Now before the feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, …” During supper He girded Himself and washed the feet of His disciples, teaching them to have a servants heart and to serve one another. He then reveals Judas as the betrayer sends him out and tells the others to love one another, as deeply as He loved them.

John 14.1 Continuing His teaching He says, …don’t be concerned or defensive about my well being, “You believe in God, believe also in me.” I am leaving soon and I will return to take you with me, “ An you know the way by which I am going.” Vs. 4 So Thomas speaking for the rest of them says, “ Huh? we don’t understand about half of what you tell us. Does anyone else get it? We don’t know where you are going so how can we know the way?” (My paraphrase.)

John 14.6 Jesus says, “ I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes unto the Father but through Me.”

The Way: 2 Corinthians 8.9 “ You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.”

Galations 3.13 “ Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us.”

2 Corinthians 5.21 “ He made Him who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

The Truth: John 14.16 “ I will ask the Father, and He will send an Advocate, the Helper, that He will be with you forever, that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”

John 1.14 “ And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 1.17 “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.”

The Life: 1 John 5.11 “ The testimony is this: God has given us eternal life and this life is in His Son.”

1 John 5.12 “ He who has the Son has life.”

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 everlasting life.”

He is the Way, without him there is no going. He is the Truth, without Him there is no knowing. He is the life, without Him there is no purpose, no being, no hope, no eternity.

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