First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @



God’s Providence: The Importance of Our Actions, Part 1

It’s important to bear in mind that typical providential care is done through human actions. Forgetting this, we begin thinking that the choice we make don’t make much difference or do not have much effect on what happens. We still are responsible for our actions! They have real and significant results. In these, God preserves the characteristics of our responsibility and significance.

God’s created rocks that are hard, water that is wet and plants and animals that are alive. Similarly, God has created us as responsible for the choices we make. Good choices result in good results, by in large. Bad, sinful choices, result in bad results, by in large, perhaps in judgement. The passage of time is the purest of tests.

The Bible never blames God for sin, as Adam attempted long ago (Gen. 3:12). Blaming God for our misdeeds is to wrongly interpret the doctrine of Providence for it is the created, not God, that is responsible for ill results (cp. Rom. 9:19-20). It is God’s right to rebuke – discipline and punish evil. When we confront the same it is important that we behave similarly. We should never say “God willed…therefore it must be good.” We must recognize that somethings that God’s wills or decrees are not in themselves good. They should not receive our approval, just as they do not receive God’s approval.

God has ordained that our actions have their effects. God has ordained that events come about by our causing. If we trust and obey God, we will discover that he has planned good things through that obedience. This reality brings vitality to all events in our life, nothing in it is happenstance. Calvin wisely notes “God is pleased to hide all future events, in order that we should resist them as doubtful, and not cease to oppose them with ready remedies, until they are either overcome or pass beyond all care…God’s providence does not always meet us in its naked form, but God in a sense clothes it with the means employed.”

The Source of Healing

Luke 17: 14-19

Mark 1: 23-24

Mark 1:44

Matthew 8:4

John 4: 9

Jesus is in the midst of His ministry to Israel, He is unveiling the ‘Kingdom of God’, establishing the Spirit of the Law as superior to mere adherence to the rules, and the goal of the Law, which was to bring men into a true worship of, and relationship with the Creator of the universe, who desires to have true communion with mankind.

Luke 17: 11-14 Jesus was passing through an area near Samaria, while there, ten men with leprosy, alienated from society, cry out for mercy. Jesus orders them to “go and show yourselves to the priests”. They all obey. “And as they were going, they were cleansed”. This is good, they did not question, or wait for confirmation, they went. As a result of obedience to the command, their faith in Jesus, and the compassion of Jesus, they were all cleansed.

Luke 17: 15 “Now one of them, when He saw that He had been healed, turned back, glorifying Jehovah with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at Jesus feet, giving thanks to Him…” This is a representation of the goal of Jesus ministry. This is a picture of relationship of man to God. When one sees the great goodness of God, he should be compelled from within to glorify God, to give thanks, to bow in humility, to worship. “…and he was a Samaritan.”

John 4: 9. “For Jews have ‘no dealings’ with Samaritans.”

These ten men, of differing nationalities, have a common malady, leprosy, a contagious bacterial infection, that deadens the nervous system, which results in injury that they can’t feel, and leaves them often disfigured and mutilated. It is transmitted through coughing or sneezing, over months of contact. This infection, for protection of the community, results in isolation of the infected, and though hideous as that is, in this case seems to have broken down the prejudices between these mens nationalities. This common enemy of Leprosy seems to have joined these men together in their misery.

In Mark 1: 44, and Matthew 8: 4 Jesus heals lepers, and tells them to remain silent about the cleansing, and to only report it to the priests ‘as a testimony to them’. In Mark 1: 23, in like manner, a demon is cast out and silenced from proclaiming Jesus as the ‘Holy One of God’. In all these cases, the time was not right for this news for the promised Messiahs’ having come to be proclaimed.

Now however, at this time, there is no restriction given to the announcement of their divine cleansing, and though all ten were healed, only the Samaritan returned to glorify God. Luke 17: 17 “Then Jesus answered and said, ‘ Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine-where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?’ And He said to him, ‘Stand up and go, your faith has made you well.'”

Though all ten men were cleansed of the leprosy, only one understood the Divine meaning of what had happened. There was joy for being healed in all the men, yet only one saw the ‘source’ of the healing, and he was compelled to return and worship the Healer.

This one man saw the spirit of the command from Jesus, and the relationship of that command with the One who gave it. So he bowed down and worshipped.




Luke 17: 5-10

Luke 17: 11-19

Leviticus 14: 1-32

Luke 5: 12-14


When you enter into a contract, one of the requirements is that all expectations of duty to the contract will be fulfilled. As in the parable of the servants working for the Master, Luke 17: 5-10, the requirements have been expressed: to work the fields, to prepare meals, and to serve the meals. (Modern versions of this story is that of a slave doing the labor, yet in the original language, it is not a slave, but a servant). Therefore there will be fair compensation for the labor. So the requirement of obedience to the contract is expected. And when fulfilled the response of the servant is, “I have only done that which was required of me.” The master is not obligated to thank or ‘reward’ the servant. The servant is obligated to obey the limits of the contract.

Luke 17: 11-19. “While Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. (This area was north of Jerusalem, Samaria was an area populated with Jews who had intermarried with gentiles, and Galilee itself was known as Galilee of the Gentiles, another impure area of Israel. Yet Jesus entered both areas often to teach the Good News of the coming Kingdom of God). “As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus , Master, have mercy on us!” (These men were doing as required by the Law, Leviticus 13-14, to isolate themselves from the populace, yet they cried out for more than the Law demanded), “When He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they were going they were cleansed.”

This is a clear example of what Jesus has been teaching about obedience. These leprous men were obedient to the Law, but they went above and beyond the Law, without violating the Law, and cried out for Mercy. Luke 4: 27, Jesus taught, “There were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them were cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” In fact no one of Israel had ever been cleansed of leprosy in Israel’s history, in spite of the extensive rules concerning the priests responsibilities to it. But Luke 5:14, at another Leper’s healing by Jesus, said, “But go and show yourself to the priests and make an offering for your cleansing, just as Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” This shows that the cleansing of a leper was to be a sign of testimony to the priests that the Messiah had come. And they then would announce to Israel that Messiah was here.

Note: Jesus told the lepers to go. The lepers obeyed. v. 14, “…And as they were going they were cleansed.” They didn’t examine themselves first to see if they had been healed, they didn’t hesitate, they didn’t falter or faint, they obeyed.

This is a magnificent point in this passage, it is the beauty of obedience. The beauty of faith. The beauty of asking for mercy. The beauty of mercy shown.



God’s Providence: The Decrees of God

The decrees of God defined – The eternal plans of God whereby, before the creation of the world, he determined to bring about everything that happens and that would happen.

This doctrine is like Providence with the added “before the creation of the world,” rather than Providence being exercised in real, at least our definition of, time. This is the experience of David and Job (Ps. 139:16, Job 14:5). The crucifixion of Christ was planned (Acts 2:23, 4:28) before the world began (Eph. 1:4). Likewise, our good works are foreordained (Eph. 2:10, cf. Jude 4).

These examples have affiliated with them many diverse, good and ill, human choices and activities. Nonetheless, they happened as planned by God. The benefit of an understanding of the decrees of our LORD should make us realize that God does not make plans as time passes. He knows the end from the beginning. He will accomplish all of His good purposes as planned beforehand. This should be a comfort to us and increase our trust in Him, especially when life is hard.

Authority in Prayer

Luke 17: 5-10

Mark 9: 22-23

Luke 17: 5. “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’

Mark 9: 22-23. In a similar event where a man asked Jesus to help his unbelief: No one could help this man whose son was cruelly possessed by a demon, so he said to Jesus, v. 22. “If You can do anything, take pity on us, and help us!” v. 23. “And Jesus said to him, ‘If you can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” v. 24. Immediately the boys father cried out and said, “I do believe, help my unbelief.”

Jesus response to this man was that of incredulity, “If you can?” in reference to the mans question, ‘If’. Jesus had just been transfigured by Jehovah into His Shekinah Glory, as confirmation of HIs coming sacrifice and resurrection, in front of Peter, John, and James on the mountain top. There was no question of who Jesus is/was, and the power of the Holy Spirit in Him. So Jesus turns the onus, the responsibility onto the man, who asked if He could help. The question is not, ‘does Jesus have the power over demons, or healing’, but does the man asking Him for help ‘believe’ that Jesus has the power?

So for the apostles to ask for an ‘increase of faith’, to be able to fulfill Jesus’ previous requirement to ‘rebuke a brother when he sins, and to forgive him when he repents,’ is a cry of humility. They, of all men, have seen Jesus power on display, they are following a leader, they want to be a part of His kingdom, but they don’t know much about this ‘faith to believe .’ So they ask.

v. 6. “And the Lord said, ‘If you had faith like that of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’, and it should obey you.'”

v. 7. “Which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’?

v. 8. “But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’?

v. 9. “He does thank the servant because he did the things which were commanded, does he?

v. 10 “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'”

It’s not complicated, when you have an employee, his job requirements are listed and agreed to before he is put to work, employed. For him to do his job is not praise worthy. Every pay day is his reward. If you are a computer programmer, you program. If you are a salesman, you sell. If a truck driver, you drive.

If you are a believer, you believe. We can read about the wonders, and miracles of Jesus, of His compassion for the needy, of His love for us, of his mercy to sinners, of His power to save, and to heal. He has shown this power in our lives also, so what’s to not believe.

If in fact you have trouble trusting Jesus, it very common to ask for Jesus to “Increase your Faith.” But try to understand that it is up to you to believe. If you don’t ask, there will be no answer! If you don’t pray, your prayers will not be answered. If you don’t command the tree to move, it won’t move.



God’s Providence: Government

God has a purpose in all that he does in the world and he providentially governs or directs all things in order that they accomplish his purpose.

This definition clearly indicates a control or oversight over the governments as Scripture clearly indicates (Ps. 103:19, Dan. 4:35, 1 Cor. 15:27, Eph. 1:11, Phil. 2:10-11, cp. Rom. 8:28).

As I mentioned a few months ago, we understand God’s will on two levels – revealed and secret. His “revealed” or moral code/will is what is known from Scripture – the 10 Commandments, those teachings of Jesus in the NT, what can be inferred, etc. How we should live if we want to rightly live for God. His “secret will” is in part his providential governance. This includes the good and the bad. For example, Jesus was allowed to be crucified by “lawless men” (cp. Acts 2:23), etc.

It has been argued that these two wills conflict with one another. However, we know from our own experience of living that something we don’t care for in the short term, yields something we do care for in the long term. Getting sick for a few weeks is a drag but afterwards having immunity from that illness for a few years is a prime example. If this is possible for ourselves, certainly it is infinitely possible for him. To say this is a “self-contradiction” in God is to fail to understand the distinctions – revealed and secret, made so that this explanation is not contradictory.


Luke 17: 1-4

Psalm 133:1

Psalm 51: 16

Micah 6:7

Luke 16: 16. Jesus has just encountered the Pharisees who were scoffing at His teachings, because they had the world in their grasp, for they were lovers of money, and they were doing very well. Jesus then told them that the Law of Moses and the Prophets were the guiding light of Israel until John the Baptist had come, who then started making aware the Spiritual aspects of the coming Kingdom of God. Jesus then took that truth about the Coming Kingdom and rightfully applied it to Himself. Saying, basically the Law and the Prophets should lead a man to the Christ, to the promised Messiah, the Savior of Israel, to Himself.

Luke 16: 31 Revealed, if you don’t understand what the Law and the Prophets are saying, you won’t understand the work and ministry of the promised Messiah either.

Luke 17: 1. “Now He says to His disciples, ‘It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through through whom they come. It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble.’

Luke 17: 3. “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him;” (Jesus has just done this to the Pharisees). “And if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent’, forgive him.”

In this statement by Jesus, he is doing what the ministry of John the Baptist started, and He is completing, that is, to escalate the Law from its physical requirements to a spiritual level. According to the Law if a man sins, he must present a guilt offering, or a sin offering, and make restitution for the sin committed. Ultimately, Jesus is going to be ‘that offering’ for the sins of the world, but at this time He is making aware the Spiritual aspects of the requirements of the Law.

Psalm 51: 16. “For You, O God, do not delight in sacrifice otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

Micah 6: 7. “Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, in ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my first born for my rebellious acts, the fruit of my body, for the sin of my soul?”

These prophets understood the spirit of the Law, the need for the man offering the sacrifice to be broken in his spirit, to feel truly repentant for his sinful deeds, and thoughts. This is what God wants, so much more than any animal sacrifice, or grain offering, or oil presentation. These material things are just a physical representation of the repentant spirit of the man. When we sin against God we must repent before Him. If we sin against a brother we must confess that to our brother. And the one sinned against, must forgive.

It is inevitable for us to live without slighting someone, sometime, to not be offending in someway. So we must be aware, and the offended should say something, gently of course, so the offender then can apologize. And, when you offenders realize your boorish behavior, don’t let pride or callousness inhibit you from confession. Most of all don’t harbor these offenses, and let them grow into hatred.

Psalm 133:1 “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.”




Luke 16: 27-31

Romans 1: 18-20

A parable, by Jesus, to the Pharisees who were lovers of money, about a rich man and Lazarus, a disabled and poor man. After death, Lazarus is carried by the angels to Abrahams bosom, while the rich man finds himself in Hades, being in torment. He cries now for help, but it is denied.

Luke 16: 27. ” And he said, then I beg you, Father, send Lazarus to my fathers house, for I have five brothers–in order that he might warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.”

Mankind knows the varying degrees between good and evil, God has revealed such things through Divine providence, so that no man is without excuse, (Romans 1: 18-20). “Creation itself, in its ridiculously complex design, reveals His invisible attributes, eternal power, and divine nature”.

In this parable the rich man is still attempting to give orders, however veiled in his wording, he wants to send Lazarus back from the dead, for the noble purpose of turning his brothers to Godliness. Even in hell, this man wants to give orders, to manipulate, to find an angle of escape. In his cry, there is no confession of wrong doing, there is no repentance, he is still trying to force his way, his method of salvation onto Father Abraham. Perhaps, in his thinking, if Lazarus gets to go back to earth, then maybe I can twist my wording to be able to go back also, for a ‘do over,’ a second chance.

16: 29. “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.” The Word of God is sufficient to bring truth to mankind, the Law is revealed, and the warnings, and promises of the Prophets is enough, when heeded, for righteousness.

16: 30. “But the rich man said, ‘No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes back from the dead, they will repent!'” Do you notice the arrogance of this man, sitting in torment, telling Abraham, the Father of their nation, that He is wrong.

16: 31. “But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'”

This is a prophetic promise, by Jesus, to Israel, as it were, of His immanent sacrifice for their atonement. Jesus would be killed and put in the grave, as a sacrifice for sin, only to rise again on the third day, as a justification of His sacrifice. Is that not enough proof of the power of God to save.

God provides, we agree.



God’s Providence: Do We Have”Free Will?”How “Free” is it Anyway?

If God has providential control of everything and everyone how are we free? The answer centers on what is meant by “free.” By in large, everyone agrees that we are free in our will and in our choices. However, John Calvin explains that the term is so misunderstood that he himself tries to avoid using it. This is because “free will is not sufficient to enable man to do good works, unless he is helped by grace.”

Calvin continues by explaining how “free” is easily misunderstood:

But how few men are there, I ask, who when they hear free will attributed to man do not immediately conceive himself to be the master of both his own mind and will, able in his own power to turn himself toward either good or evil…If anyone, then, can use this word without understanding it in a bad sense, I shall not trouble him on this account…I’d prefer not to use it myself, and I should like others if they seek my advice to avoid it.”

Nowhere in the Bible is “free” beyond God’s control or being able to make decisions that are not caused by anything. If we could make totally free choices our will would be equal to God’s, something it cannot be. This sort of “freedom” is only possible in a universe void of providential control, a freedom outside of God’s sustaining and controlling activities (cp. Heb. 1:3).

But we are free nonetheless in the greatest sense of any of the created could be free – our choices are willing, our choices have real effects. When we choose, we are aware of no restraints imposed on them by God. They are “willing,” our own, otherwise we fall into the being fatalists concluding it all to be predetermined. That our will, our choosing does not matter.

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