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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

The Israelite in Us

Psalm 78

A few years ago I was listening to a sermon about the Israelites in the desert and the golden calf. I remember laughing at them. The God of Israel just spread the Red Sea for them! God provided manna from thin air so they wouldn’t be hungry. God listened to the cries of His people and answered them. Then the Israelites built a Golden Calf to worship and I laughed.

That was arrogant of me.

How often have I, in a time of fleshly grievance, sat before The King and cried that I was lacking? How often have I told God His miracle for me was not good enough because it was not exactly what I wanted?

Too many times to count.

This Psalm illustrates the cycle that we today know all too well: love God, receive abundance, forget God, worship idols, feel the consequence of our sin, turn to God, and repeat. It is a dance God’s people have initiated from the beginning of time: Eve with the tree of knowledge, Sarah with the prophecy of her Son, the jews when their Messiah was given to them, and us when we turn to God in our deepest sorrows but find self-sufficiency in times of greatness.

Thankfully as believers we live in Hope.

The ending of the Psalm is an ending that continues to show the Grace of God. Despite the cycle of sin God gave the people a mighty (heavily flawed, loved, and human) king:  David. David was called a man after God’s own heart. As believers, who is our King now?

Jesus.

Despite the cycle of sin, despite our world and our brokenness, God has given us Jesus. He has given us the most perfect King who is not only our divine judge, but He calls us friend and co-heir.

We are children of God.

On this Monday morning I pray that reality sink in. You are chosen, loved, and blessed beyond any imagination.

 

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Something to ponder

This week I was thinking about the many confessions that shape our faith. For the church, these confessions were meant to be an aid, help clarify and present some very clear points of doctrine. Now, I understand the fact that most believers do not get too excited about reading or memorizing these confessions. In all honesty, some of them are very long and use a lot of theological terms, and at the end of reading some of the confessions, you can really feel overwhelmed. I can say, even for myself, these are not necessary devotional readings.

If you want to take a shot at some of the confessions, please head over to the PCUSA website and have a look: https://www.pcusa.org/site_media/media/uploads/oga/pdf/boc2014.pdf

But I digressed. Some of the confessions are really beautiful reads, and full of deep meaning. For example the Nicene Creed:

We believe in one God,
      the Father almighty,
      maker of heaven and earth,
      of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
      the only Son of God,
      begotten from the Father before all ages,
           God from God,
           Light from Light,
           true God from true God,
      begotten, not made;
      of the same essence as the Father.
      Through him all things were made.
      For us and for our salvation
           he came down from heaven;
           he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary,
           and was made human.
           He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
           he suffered and was buried.
           The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.
           He ascended to heaven
           and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
           He will come again with glory
           to judge the living and the dead.
           His kingdom will never end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit,
      the Lord, the giver of life.
      He proceeds from the Father and the Son,
      and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.
      He spoke through the prophets.
      We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
      We affirm one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
      We look forward to the resurrection of the dead,
      and to life in the world to come. Amen.

I just love it. In part because it gives so much more insight into the Trinity. But also because it helps me understand more about the Holy Spirit and the work of the Spirit throughout the ages. Creeds like this sometimes get overlooked, because they tend to be too long, or the wording might be a little confusing for a Sunday service. And yet they are still an amazing window into our faith.

Today I want to encourage you to think about your own faith in terms of what you believe. Dig a little deeper than saying “I believe in God”. Discover your faith in a new way today. Let your mind and your heart speak into your life about who the God you believe in is. Let faith arise in your circumstance from the deep of your belief.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

 

pm. If you have time I will also encourage you to think about how some of the confessions addressed social, theological issues along the history, helping the church be relevant in the culture of the day. (i.e. See the Belhar Confession – https://www.presbyterianmission.org/wp-content/uploads/Confession-of-Belhar-text-2016.pdf)

Humility vs. Privilege

Philippians 2:5-11

NRSV

The Message

Humility – a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.

Privilege – a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.

The Jews had long awaited for a Messiah who would come in, guns ablazing per se, who would restore Israel and oust the oppressive Romans. The God of Abraham and Jacob would demonstrate his full power by ridding the world of evil. There would be no question about when the time of the Messiah was actually happening. Everyone would know…

Instead, we find Jesus. God took on the form of a regular, everyday human. The son of a Jewish carpenter and his young wife to be. Jesus came to us just like every other human, had the same human feelings and emotions. Had to eat and drink water, and all of those other regular human necessities. He even died a human death in the most humiliating and painful of ways.

He could have used his status as an equal to God and recused himself from his situation, but he chose not to. He remained obedient to God’s ultimate plan to save all of humanity from the death they had in the sins of the law. Imagine our most privileged humans, maybe a wealthy CEO or Hollywood star giving up all of their privilege they have through fortune and fame, and maybe becoming a missionary like Mother Theresa. Can you imagine a Mark Cuban deciding to give up all of his wealth and moving to a third world country in service of others? Can you imagine giving up whatever it is that you have accumulated in your lifetime to do the same?

I know I can’t imagine that for myself. I don’t think that makes me a bad person, but I try to keep that mindset in perspective when I find myself getting caught up too much in what I wish I had. I know that I am blessed beyond measure, and for that I am forever thankful. In this holiday season, and as we are about to welcome a new addition to our family in a few weeks, I am counting my blessings and remembering all that God has done for me…and for you too. I have plenty to be thankful for this year and every year.

Righteousness

reading-the-early-church-fathers

I Timothy 6.11-12

Ephesians 6.12

Hebrews 10.12

James 4.2

As usual, in my last blog about the temptation of Christ, I am never content with my musings, and there is never enough space to complete the entire thought, so this is more on the subject of temptation, sin, and righteousness.

Sin is a shortcut.  Satan tempted Jesus with making bread out of stones for immediate satisfaction of His hunger, casting Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple to see if God the Father would protect Him from destruction, which Jesus would have to face in the grave, and offering Him immediate power over the world which would be Jesus’ position after the resurrection when all things are put in subjection to Him. We in turn are tempted in the same manner in our own lesser lives, but none the less  tempted with shortcuts to protection, provision, and power.

Jesus refuted satan with scripture, and had an uncompromising desire to maintain His righteousness.  God in turn gives every believer the same desire for righteousness.  Understanding who we are in Christ is essential to Godly living.  Hebrews 10.12 says,  “Jesus having offered one sacrifice for sin for all times sat down at the right hand of God.”  Understand this, He didn’t forgive only past sins, but present sins, and future sins.  Romans 5.21 “God made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

However we still have a body of flesh to contend with that is still prone to wander from God.  I Timothy 6.11 says ” Flee from sin you people of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, and perseverance.”  We still, trapped in this flesh,  become preoccupied with the cares of this life.  We worry about provision, we worry about protection, we worry about authority, too often we become preoccupied with all the cares and needs of this world.

As young people there is an education to be obtained; And Enoch walked with God.           Then there are all the politics to sort through; There was Noah who was a righteous man.  How about life decisions like marriage, and children; Abraham was called Gods’ friend.   Providing for the family is no small task; God called David a man after His own heart.       The World Series is on, and Super Bowl is coming; Moses asked to see God’s face.                                                                                                 Retirement needs to be planned for;  John the baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother womb.

All these cares are not new to life, they do not take God by surprise, the truth of the scriptures stay true.  We can do both, that is live in our culture and be obedient to God.  We can pursue righteousness, while providing for our families.  We can pursue Godliness, while studying for exams, doing research papers, and preparing projects.  We can pursue faith, every day in the kitchen, doing laundry, cleaning the house.  We can pursue love, with each encounter with our neighbors, co-workers, children and spouse.  We can pursue perseverance, while contemplating current affairs and politics.  We can pursue gentleness, each day while driving.

Giving in to the temptations of sin is refusing righteousness.  Nothing of lasting value comes easily.  Oswald Chambers said in his book ‘My Utmost for His Highest’, ” If my reach doesn’t exceed my grasp, then what’s heaven for, and for what do I ask?”  Are you comfortable in your walk with Christ?  Ask yourself,  is your holiness good enough?  Your faith strong enough?  Your love sufficient?  Your perseverance satisfying?  Your gentleness pleasing?  If not then reach out to Jesus, if you want more ask, seek, and knock, God will answer.

Karl

Land Acquisition

Joshua 10

Review: God is active in the conflict (vv. 8,12)…It is God that creates a “panic” by the enemy of Israel, making time stand still (vv. 12-14)…There is little doubt of Joshua’s past (v. 19) and future leading (v. 25)…A listing of Israel’s conquests are enumerated (vv. 29-39)…Special mention is made of the successful southern campaign as prescribed by the LORD (vv. 40-43).

Analysis: It is the LORD that inflicts the slaughter of Israel’s enemies (vv. 10-11)…I’m not sure what happened with the “sun stood still” bit (vv. 12-14)…Other’s aren’t either…Recall, there are other peculiar happenings in the OT (see Ex. 14:24, Deut. 2:15-25, Judges 4:15, 1 Sam. 7:10, 2 Sam. 22:15, Ps. 18:14-15)…The authority for the conflict passed from God through Joshua through Israel through Israel’s enemies…Leadership is a definite theme in the book of Joshua…Humiliation of the defeated (v. 21) is a recurring phenomena in the OT (2 Sam. 22:39, 1 Kings 5:3, Ps. 110:1)…Losing in antiquity, as penned in Homer’s “Illiad,” was as unpleasant as unpleasant could be…On the whole, the OT is a struggle for land, the distribution of it, and Israel’s obedience/disobedience towards the LORD and the ensuing repercussions.

Freedom is about Our Yes and Our No

Galatians 5:13-25 (NIV)

Real freedom has to do with what we say yes to and what we say no to; it ‘s about choices.  The good life in Christ is about choosing to live by “walking by the Spirit.”

When we say yes to “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control we live a Spirit-filled life, which is rooted in Jesus Christ.

There are other ways to live and we find a long list of dangerous paths, which we can choose to go down, such as: sexual immorality,…idolatry,…hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition,…envy,…etc. You can read the entire list of such things.  And it is best to say no to these things as we move through life.

Today and tomorrow, what will you say yes to and what will you say no to?  Freedom to live the Good Life in Jesus depends upon our choices.  I encourage us all (me too) to say yes to life in the Spirit, which is the way of Christ, the good life God has in mind for us all.

 

Live in peace…with everyone?

Romans 12

I love Romans 12…a tremendously challenging chapter.  The first part discusses how God has gifted individuals with faith appropriate for different roles in the church of Jesus Christ.  Specifically, how love reaches out for the common good of Jesus’ church with our example of how to love being Jesus himself.  This is where is gets hard…love those who don’t treat you so well or those who make fun of you.  Love rather than getting even.  When trouble comes your way, be patient.  When people are in need, help them.  Be hospitable…eagerly.  Don’t be proud, but live in harmony…more specifically, “live in peace with everyone”.

Challenging, right?  Live in peace with everyone?  Bears and Packer fans?  Cubs and Sox fans?  Purdue and Illinois fans?  Republicans and Democrats?  Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Methodists and Non-denominationals?  Different ethnicities?  Can this be possible?

This past week has been “magical” in more ways than one.  True, Tari and I had a wonderful vacation with some wonderful friends.  More importantly, to think in terms of Paul, the scales were removed…while at Disney World we were among thousands of people from, literally, all over the world.  Different cultures coming together in a place that brings joy to so many.  I’m pretty sure there were a few Republicans and Democrats amongst the thousands in all of Disney’s parks.  And you know what…regardless of lines and all our differences, we laughed and smiled.  People treated each other with kindness…sure, there were 1 or 2 who lost control, but the greatest majority were happy in that magical place.

I thought about Romans 12 and Paul’s thoughts on authentic love – yes, I know, not everyone there was a Christian but we sure found a way to get along with each other.  Authentic or genuine love is the very deepest of themes in this chapter.  I know that Joliet or Shorewood or Plainfield or New Lenox or Channahon are not Disney World…but, what if our love could be genuine despite our differences?  What if we could truly live in peace with everyone…not just those who are like us or think like us…but, everyone!  Genuine love…living in peace with everyone!  If we really believe that we are followers of Jesus then life is all about faith working through love because “love can thaw frozen hearts” (yup…from “Frozen”)!!

The Message translation provides more than just a hint as to how we can begin…“Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

Like I said…challenging!  There is one other secret friends…with God, made real in Jesus, “all things are possible”!!

 

 

 

 

 

Our Daily Choices

Psalm 107:1-7
Psalm 107: 33-37
Joshua 2:15-24
Matthew 23:13-28

Yesterday I went to the Holocaust museum in Skokie. The building is beautiful, elegantly designed to be a memorial to those who lost their lives in a genocide that is fading further into history. However, my interest was not peaked by the architecture or interior design. I was amazed by the empowerment bestowed by our tour guide unto the group of high schoolers I was visiting with.

If you ever go I can only hope you are lucky enough to be guided by Ruth, a poised and beautiful woman whose Jewish parents escaped Germany in 1938, weeks before the German borders were closed. Her story is invigorating and personal, showcasing just how close tragedy lives to our front door.

Perhaps you are struggling with your own turmoil, your own pain:  death in the family, divorce, violence, drugs, or sickness. Truthfully, the list of tragedies can go on and on, but I see no need to glorify the Enemy. I would rather sing praises to the One True King.

So, how does all of this tie together?

Ruth talked about choices a lot on this tour. She mentioned there are five people in any given oppressive situation: the victim (usually choiceless in what is done to them), the perpetrator, the accomplice, the bystander (who watches but does nothing), and the upstander (who fights against the injustice). We are faced with choices in our behavior every day. We choose to show grace to the man who cut us off on the highway or ignore the phone call of a lonely great aunt who likes to talk endlessly. We are faced with the choice to stand up for the least of these or join the bully as he tears down another kid in the hallway.

If you see someone in a desert (even if you are in your own) or if you see someone wandering in pain I ask you to be like Rahab in Joshua. She was an outcast and publicly deemed unworthy—but she was used by God. Likewise, if you are feeling inadequate or unable due to your own hardships to stand up and fight for what you know to be true please know this:  God’s love endures forever, He turns deserts into pools of water for those He loves, and parched ground into flowing springs.

I want us to hold onto these promises when we walk through the valleys. I want us to share these promises with everyone around us. We are not here to keep this Salvation a secret. We are not here to worship a relic while forgetting Who made the relic sacred.  We are not here to make fun of those around us because of clothing, background, employment, language barriers, or home life. We are not here to hide ourselves away and keep safe because we are afraid of what may come if we act with boldness in love.

If God is for us, who can be against us?

Go forth, brothers and sisters, and stand like Jesus with the fisherman and the tax collectors and the least of these. Help those in persecution. Be encouraged to know that the same power that raised Jesus from the grave lives in you. Remember we all have choices to make.

I pray you make your choices with Christ in mind.

To serve and to keep going

“At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. Then He healed many” (Mark 1:32-34).

This past Sunday Pastor Craig preached on the story of Jesus retreating to a quiet place pausing to recharge and continue his ministry. That story follows the verses above. I had found these verses interesting from the perspective that ministry is never finished. You never get to file serving under the done and completed projected that you do not have to visit again. Serving is part of who we are, in a way it is result of Christ living in our hearts, the fruit of our faith. Serving people and having faith goes hand in hand.

But sometimes this can exhausting, demanding and it might feel like an unending chore. If you ever got to that point, I just want to remind you, Jesus had those moment too, when every step of his ministry was about serving people, when we can see the needs of many overwhelming  his ministry. So it seams. And then you see Jesus stepping aside, praying recharging and continuing to minister.

Today I pray that as you serve you will find joy in serving, strength for your faith and love for those you serve. I pray that you will be refreshed and encouraged by your service. I pray that when exhaustion kicks in you will remember that God is our source of life and we can always recharge and get ready for a new day.

Be blessed,

 

Bo M

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