First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @


June 2019


Isaiah 48.17
Galatons 3.13
1 Corinthians 6.20
Redeemer/Redemption:   To buy back, to free from captivity by payment or ransom.
In the Law given in Leviticus chapter 25, land in Israel could not be sold permanently, but always carried with it the right of redemption, until the year of Jubilee, when all debts were canceled and all property was returned to original ownership, yet with valuation added to it.  There always was a price attached to the right of redemption, sometimes a value allowed by the Priest in accordance to the number of years left until Jubilee, sometimes a set value of 20 %.  People also could sell themselves if poverty came upon them, and then could be redeemed by extended family members, or wait until Jubilee, when all debts were cancelled.  
So in a nutshell we see the original base concept of redemption.
Job cried out in his turmoil and agony, in 19.25 “ As for me I know that my redeemer lives, and at the last, will take His stand on the earth.”  He understood the concept that Jehovah would be the one who would buy him back from whatever caused his current disaster.
In Galations 3.13 Paul wrote that the Messiah, the Christ has redeemed us, the sinners, from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us.  This is a replacement type of redemption, having taken our place to set us free, thus the doctrine of imputation.  A ransom for our souls, His life for our life.
I Corinthians 6.20  “ For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God with your body.”   Again the concept of redeeming, of buying back that which was lost.  Jesus is in fact our redeemer.  The one who has purchased us with His sacrifice on the cross. 

The First Christmas

Luke 2:1-20

Commentary:  The “world” spoken to is the Roman Empire (v. 1) … This forced census (v. 2) require very pregnant Mary and Joseph to trek 80 miles from tiny Nazareth to his ancestral town of Bethlehem … The census was done for the dual purposes of taxation and military conscription … When they arrive in Bethlehem, no lodging is available (v. 7) … The birth of Jesus (v. 7), the most momentous event in the history of the world, was done not in a beautiful home but in a stable … The Savior was brought into the world like a poor shepherd boy … The angelic announcement (vv. 8-14) of the Savior was to shepherds, not the most reputable of groups … This song (v. 14) is variously translated “… peace among whom God favors” or “… peace, good will among all people” or “…peace, good will among those whom God is pleased.”  There can be no dogmatic conclusions about it … The shepherds pay Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus a visit (vv. 15-20) … It’s worthwhile to note that at this time belief in polytheistic gods was declining … It was widely held that the gods, if they existed at all, had no experience with what they had created and therefore no appreciation for the human condition … No self respecting god would diminish themselves by coming to the earth, ever … This was the prevailing belief of most of the peoples of the Roman Empire at the time of Jesus’ birth.

Life That is Life

John 11:25-26 (NRSV) 

Here we read about the Life that is truly Life.  This Life is in Jesus; the Life that comes from being in relationship with Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Lazarus has died while Jesus was not there.  He has been dead four days.  And his sister Martha, knowing Jesus’ healing power says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  She believes that Lazrus will rise on the last day, the end of time, when God brings in the new heavens and earth.  But Jesus means that Lazarus is going to rise again now. And of course, he will rise again in the last day, as well.

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

We celebrate and give thanks for the Resurrection of Jesus each and every Sunday.  We know that Jesus’ Resurrection carries the promise of our resurrection.  All who believe in Jesus, “though they die, will live.”  Ultimately, we will be resurrected when Jesus returns and never die.  And we enjoy the “abundant life” in Jesus right now.  Give thanks this day for the Life that is Really Life!


My Lord and my God!

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

John 20:28

Let’s give some context to this verse: Jesus has defeated death and is resurrected. He has shown himself to his disciples and a few others. Those who have seen Jesus tell Thomas, one of Jesus’s disciples, that Jesus is risen!

And Thomas says (basically) “Yeah, right. I’ll believe it when I see it. I’ll believe it when I touch it!”

Then Jesus appears to Thomas and allows Thomas to touch his wounds. And Thomas makes this proclamation.

A sermon at First Pres talked about this moment back in April. On April 28’s recorded sermon you can hear all about turning doubt to belief and a few other key transformations that Jesus does.

What’s important about this text for us, believers alive 2,000 years after Thomas’s declaration, is Jesus’s response to Thomas.

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

John 20:29

I added the emphasis. In that moment Jesus agrees with Thomas that Jesus is Lord and God. He doesn’t punish Thomas for wanting the proof of his wounds. He doesn’t reject Thomas as a follower. No. Jesus just blesses those who believe without seeing. Paul later writes in Hebrews 11:11 that Faith is assurance of what we cannot see.

And I have a passionate faith that Jesus is Lord and God.

Blessings, my beloved brothers and sisters;

Words on Leadership

2 Corinthians 2:14-17

Over the course of my teaching career, I’ve worked for three different principals, and several more assistant principals. Each had their own different style of leadership. There have been those that were micro-managers, needing to have their hands on each and every single thing that happened in the building. There were those that were mostly hands off, and at least half the time, probably had no idea what was going on in the building. There were those that were more like coaches, cheering us on to be our best. There were those who were always on the cutting edge, always reading and researching and relaying to us teachers new and inspiring ways to lead our students. Those leaders have always led by example; demonstrating how they envision our building operating. Trying out new things, knowing that they may fail, knowing that not everyone will accept the new ideas. Yet they still stuck their neck out so they could lead by example.

Some have been very laid back and somewhat reserved, while others have been very extroverted and go-getters. And in each and every case, how they led us teachers trickled down to how teachers led their students. Good leaders can be and usually are instruments for positive change. And they are instruments of positive change, not for themselves, but for the betterment of the entire community.

At the other end of the spectrum are the receivers of the leadership. We teachers had to be willing participants in order to carry out the expectations of our building leaders. At times, most teachers received our building leaders with open arms and respected them most of the time. At other times, they have not. When you have strong leaders and also willing participants, it makes for a great work environment.

In this passage, something similar is being talked about. Paul and other leaders of the young church were moving through the region preaching the Gospel. As leaders of the church, they were commissioned (by God) to spread the Good News to all sorts of people. Those words sometimes fell on listening ears that were willing participants, who wanted to make a change in their lives. Those words also fell on ears that were not willing; who did not believe what they were hearing. They were leading by example. They were simply teaching others the message of Jesus. Not for their own good, or for their own reward, but for the reward of those listening. Some received and were therefore saved, while others did not receive and were not saved. And, unless I’m missing something here, it doesn’t say that Paul and his compadres judged or ostracized those who continued to live their lives however they wanted to. It just says that some believed, while others didn’t

So what type of leader does our current society need? Ones who micro-manage, and try to force the Word of God down peoples’ throat (or ears I supposed)? Or ones who simply lead by example, without judgment of those who do something differently? Our current political situation, dating back for many years now, has included words and actions that divide, and that as a result has trickled down to the rest of the country. Our church (not First Pres in particular, but THE CHURCH) has seen many people over the centuries who have tried to lead by force and judgmental behavior (the Crusades, the Inquisition, Nazi Germany, the KKK), and rather than bring more people to Christ, have driven many people away. But it’s not just extremism that drives people away. In general, from what I have observed over time, Christians who freely and openly judge the actions of others also drive people away. People who are not Christians (thinking agnostics or atheists) see Christians as hypocrites. They see us as people who are agenda pushers while not following our own rules or expectations; in other words, our interpretation of the Word of God.

As I have blogged about many, many times now, I think we’d best spread the Gospel by focusing most of our energy on the two greatest commandments, as spoken by Jesus himself. From Matthew 22:37-40: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Add also the Golden Rule from Matthew 7:12: So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you,for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

It is my belief that if we are going to be leaders of The Church, that it needs to start with these 4 verses. So, what type of leader are you going to be?

God Will Never Leave You

God Will Never Leave You
Hebrews 13.5 
“Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He, (Jehovah,) Himself has said ‘ I will never leave you, Nor will I ever forsake you,’ “
What a great promise!   If we could only believe it, or fully grasp the entire concept of its truth.  The reality is as we go through the troubles this world throws at us, we pray and seek God’s help.  As time goes by and the answer seems so elusive, we can guess what would be the best answer, and slowly see it develop, and our views change and become refined to what God kinda has in store for us, and then a breakthrough comes and all the troubles seem to be resolving.  Victory is within sight and we are praising God for the with-in grasp victory, then another wrench is thrown into the gears and there is a major set back.  Another delay and discouragement sets in.  Where is God!  It is honestly so hard to understand why evil so often flourishes and good is punished.  Yet we still pray, we ask God for resolutions, for relief, for complete answers and restoration.  Yet He says wait.  The Scriptures say that He will never leave us, but really, two years have passed and the answer sought after is as far away as when we started.  What now?  Vengeance seems so delightful.  Is mayhem and chaos a part of the church’s doctrine?   
No!  Yet you and I know that sometimes, actually many times it is hard to trust God.  It is hard to believe that He cares for me.  Oh we hear that He cares for us, yet so hard to believe that I am a part of this us.  He honestly seems to care for everyone but me.  Where do I go, to whom can I turn, the answers to my prayers are so faint I honestly can’t hear them.  Wretched man that I am who will set me free?
Do you see the plight of, and cry of Job in this more personal, and current update to his condition?   Yes, we all find ourselves in situations where we have been misled, lied to, lied about, and all has been believed by the powers that govern.   What do we do?  Where do we turn?  Friends fail us, often they believe the lies too.  Often we feel as alone as Job.   
But God!  Always He finds a way to be heard.  A voice on the radio, a word spoken by a true friend that seems to just pop up, a scrap of paper with a word of scripture on the floor of the car.  Who can guess where He will show up.  Yet He will show up!  Just as all seems to be going to Hell,  God shows up.  Oh, He has always been there, but you couldn’t see Him clearly, because of fears, troubles, anxiety.  As we sometimes have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death,  what a joy when we come through it and find our Lord and Savior on the other side, as covered with mud and blood as we because, in fact, He was with us all the way.
Jehovah truly will never leave us, nor forsake us.   He loves us way too much, and yes you are a part of the us!

Safe & Sound

Romans 8:18-34

Commentary:  Every verse in this passage is worthy of memorization to comfort one’s soul … Whatever ill you’re experiencing, it’s temporary (v. 18) … The idea of a flawed creation (vv. 19-23) awaiting renewal is not new (cp. Gen. 3:14-19) … Someday, creation will be renewed (Isaiah 11) … Hope (vv. 24-25) for a better tomorrow, in whatever form that may take, is the basis of our Christian faith … When one doesn’t know what to pray for, the Spirit intercedes with groaning’s (vv. 26-27) … For myself, the Spirit’s intercession is a great comfort … Sometimes, given the complicated times in which we live, I’m unsure what I should pray for … Some of my prayers requests are short sighted … Fortunately, God has left many of my prayers unanswered … I hazard to think whit my life would be like if all my prayers had been positively answered … Having it, somehow, all working together for our good (v. 28) is a comfort … “For those He foreknew, He also predestined…” (vv. 29-30) is a Presbyterian hallmark … Regardless of our circumstances, Christ is with and for us (vv. 31-34) … In my opinion this Romans 8 is a summation of what a Christian ought to understand and believe.

He’s Greater!

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

1 John 4:4

How can I even begin this devotional without embedding MercyMe’s Greater? That’s right. I can’t.

I think the song about sums it up and gives a great pep talk. How can you not feel like an overcomer after clapping along to that!?

If contemporary Christian music isn’t really your vibe and that did not feel like a proper devotional, no worries! Let’s meditate on the verse for a moment: “the one living in you is greater than the one who is living in the world.” Who lives inside us? The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, lives in us.

Who lives in the world? People we don’t like: murderers, thieves, annoying aunts who kiss you too much at Thanksgiving, dads who don’t respect boundaries while you’re a growing teen, overbearing bosses, a neighbor who refuses to cut his lawn, a boyfriend who beats you, a wife with a shopping addiction that’s causing bankruptcy… I mean, everyone lives in the world. Right?

When you’re thinking about these people, as hard as it may be, I want you to remember Ephesians 6:12. If we are not fighting against flesh and blood, but against the evil spirits who wish to do us harm and influence those with flesh and blood let’s come back to our verse for today:

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

1 John 4:4

How do we know God is greater?

Because of the Resurrection. Because Jesus overcame Death and broke the Gates of Hell. This article by Joe Rigney at DesiringGod is a great look into Jesus overcoming death. Because let’s remember, brothers and sisters, the wage of sin is death. That is the ultimate price. When Jesus went to the Cross he paid that price and declared “It is finished!” Our debt is paid. The Holy Spirit, the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, now lives in us.

And that is why he who lives in us far greater than anyone in this world.


Mediator of the New Covenant


We’ve all been there before, haven’t we? Ever make a mistake that resulted in making someone feel disappointed or hurt? It’s pretty much part of human nature that we say or do things at times that end up hurting someone else. So when that happens, how do you make amends? Do you take the person out to dinner? Buy them a small gift? Or simply just say sorry and hope that is good enough?

In the Old Testament, God established a set of rules with Moses, and in turn, the Israelites, for how they were supposed to atone for their sins. In Leviticus Chapter 4, God explains different possible sin scenarios and the type of animal sacrifice that is supposed to be made as a burnt offering to God. In each of the cases, the offering is to be of an animal of some sort without blemish. We have seen animal sacrifices to God in chapters previous to Leviticus, such as God sparing Abraham’s son by providing a ram caught in a thicket, or the Israelites sacrificing unblemished lambs in what became known as the Passover. In much of ancient history, people made animal sacrifices (or sometimes even human sacrifices) to please their gods.

wpid-wp-1426785893998But then something majorly different happened when God provided a different sacrifice. That being His own, and only, son, who also was without blemish. In Hebrews 9:11-14, the writer tells us that the animal sacrifices of the past sanctify to make us outwardly clean. However, the sacrifice to end all sacrifices, that Christ, cleansed us in a completely different way. It cleansed our soul. And so we get to verse 15 then: For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. As a mediator, He is a go-between, or a liason, between us and God. He provides a new promise to us. Since the fall of man way back in Genesis, we have been slaves to sin. Throughout the Old Testament and up until Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, mankind had to make regular sacrifices to atone for their sins. But now there is a new sheriff in town; a new agreement has been made. That agreement is that there is no sacrifice that can substitute the blood of Christ. We are promised life eternal because of this one unselfish act by someone who was without blemish; one who did not deserve to die. But because of His unselfishness, we are saved from our own selfishness. Because that’s basically what every sin that exists really amounts to; selfishness on our part. Thanks be to God for His unending love.

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