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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

No Turning Back

Today’s Readings:  click here  –  Psalm 93; 2 Kings 2:1-12; Ephesians 2:1-7     (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)

Today’s reading of Psalm 93 is very similar to Psalm 91, which I believe has been the beacon of hope for many of us during these past few months.  It’s hard to imagine that we would ever be in these conditions in a world so advanced and powerful as ours.  But Psalm 91 and  93 reminds me just how much more powerful our God is.  And it’s even more astounding to see God work through the hands and hearts of those who love and serve him. We are not strong on our own, but together with God we are mighty. Let Him show us just how much.

2 Kings 2:1-12 passage illustrates the astounding account of the solid bond of friendship between Elijah and Elisha to the very end.  Elisha recognized Elijah’s unwavering faith, strength, perseverance, and determination to serve his God, and Elisha wanted that too.   In verse 9, when asked what Elijah can do for him, he requested ‘a double share of his Spirt over him.’ Of all the things he could ask for, he asks for faith so reverent and unwavering just the same. How beautiful.

 As an adult, in my early days of walking with Christ, it was all so new.  I loved what transformation was stirring inside my heart, and how things around me were taking shape as well.  I would notice a gentle character or a sense of peace in someone that was so subtle yet so strong, I knew that was what I wanted for myself as well. For instance, understanding prayer, how to pray, the power of prayer, it was beyond captivating.  The young gal from my first women’s bible study could pray in such a way that just mesmerized me from head to toe.  It was soft, gentle, reverent, and bold all at the time.  I remember I had prayed, ‘Lord, I want to pray LIKE THAT…’  ‘Live Like That’ by Sidewalk Prophets .

As I look back, I see the people God put in my path through the years that helped me understand and know God’s love, grace and mercy. With my heart so exposed, searching for more than what this world had to offer, prayer became that significant ingredient as I was discovering who I am in Christ Jesus.   2 Corinthians 5:17.   Are you looking for change in your heart, in your life?  Take God at His word and believe in your heart that He will see it through, whatever you ask of Him. Make prayer the greatest part of your day, every day.  

Ephesians 2:1-7 is a beautiful passage about dying to oneself, being ‘Born Again’.  This was something that I didn’t quite understand in the beginning.  I kept hearing and reading scripture about it, but it was never very clear.  Until I experienced Jesus’ love for me first hand. I knew that I had to lay down my old self, let Jesus in, put on my new self, and believe I was changed.  I am a new creation and Jesus lives in me. It was like the layers of an onion being peeled away revealing the ME who God created me to be.  It was so freeing to know a love so real and so strong.  Luke 9:23.  I knew there was no turning back.   Every day, I feel Him with me and there is nothing I can’t do when I make Him first and foremost in every part of my life and put the world behind me.  Believe and trust in His unfailing and unchanging love. Let Him into your heart and see what he has in store for you.

Enjoy these two songs – let them speak to your heart this day.

‘One Step Away’ by Casting Crowns

“Because of Your Love’ by Chris Quilala

Prayer:   Lord, I know that every day I fall short of your glory. I find hope and peace in your very presence in my heart.  Trusting, believing and walking by faith are what align my heart with yours.  Continue to unveil your purpose and plan for me every day.  I welcome you Lord in every part of my life because as I put the world aside and walk with you by my side. I am complete.    AMEN!

Kris

In a world where you can be anything, be kind.

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Psalm 93; Deuteronomy 5:22-33; 1 Peter 3

Today’s psalm and passage from Deuteronomy focus on God’s authority and the truth in His word. They are a reminder to me (us) that we need to read and meditate on the Bible with regularity so that we can better understand what God has in store for our lives. 

1 Peter 3, though written nearly 2,000 years ago, still is relevant today, and is something that we need to hear now more than ever I think. Although I’m sure that there have always been issues with people repaying evil deeds with more evil deeds, I feel like as time goes on, it is happening more and more often. That may not be true, but at least it seems that way. I spent some minutes scrolling through Facebook this morning, like I do every day for more time than I’d like to admit, and it is disheartening to see how people “talk” to each other over social media. If I post something that you disagree with, and you would like to have a discussion/argument about that over social media, that’s fine. I have no problem with you disagreeing with me, because I learn from your perspective. But there is no reason to go down the road of hateful words. Yet, it only takes less than a minute of reading a thread on any news media post to see just how ridiculous people can be. How childish adults can be. And we wonder why kids bullying kids seems to be worse now than ever; it’s because adults model that behavior themselves. 

Now as I type this, I’m not even going to pretend that I’ve never been guilty of getting angry at someone and quickly find myself trying to get back at them. Guilty as charged. Not so much on social media, but if someone cuts me off driving down the road and I’m laying on the horn. (Confession is good for the soul). I used to get much more aggravated than I do now. I guess I’m becoming more mellow of a driver as I get older. But also, what’s the point at retaliating. It doesn’t help the situation even just a little bit. 

So today I’d like to challenge all of you (and also challenge myself) to remember in those times when others are being unkind, to say the least, that we follow the words of Jesus (Matthew 5:38-40) to turn the other cheek. It doesn’t mean being a pushover either. It’s okay to stand up for yourself when necessary. But there is a fine line between standing up for yourself and getting back at someone. So I pray for us all today that we are able to show grace and mercy to those who are unkind, and that we don’t cross over that line to where we are seeking retaliation. 

 

Water of Life

Sunset

Psalms 93

Genesis 9:8-17

Acts 27: 13-38

 

Psalms 93  Jehovah reigns, He is clothed in Majesty, and Strength.  There is no evolution of life, no eternal matter to evolve, that is another religion.  Jehovah created the heavens and the Earth, they are fixed and cannot be moved!  His throne is established from eternity.  The oceans, and lakes, and mighty rivers lift up their voices in tribute to their creator.  All the testimonies of man and nature about the faithfulness of Jehovah are true, and His Holiness lives forever.

Genesis 9   Mankind has risen up in rebellion against God in the days preceding Noah, and judgement came in the form of a worldwide flood, where God saved Noah and his family on an ark He instructed Noah to build.  Now that the sun can be refracted through rain drops, we can see the colors of the sunlight divided in the sky as a sign that God has established a covenant to not use floods in judgement against rebellious mankind again.  This does not mean that mankind will not rebellion again, as we see in life and state all around us.  In these last days we will witness Jehovah’s victory against all who rebel against Him, in both the heavens and the earth.

Acts 27   Paul, under arrest and being transported to Rome in the Fall of the year when sailing is most dangerous in the Mediterranean Sea, is on a ship when  a storm arises which threatens them.  Paul had also warned them of impending doom, but they took the chance and set sail anyway, to their dismay.  Now after fourteen days of never-ending contrary winds and rain they are in despair, but an angel has appeared to Paul saying it was important to God for Paul to reach Rome, and He would spare all those on the ship with Him, 276 persons.  This is quite an exciting story of the Mighty hand of God protecting Paul. He delivered Him safe from harm, so that Paul could be taken to Rome and put under house arrest,  for two years.  Once there he solemnly testified to the Roman Jews, using the Torah and the Prophets, and to all who came, the salvation that is available to mankind through Jesus the Messiah.

Paul did not value his life as of any more importance to him than his servitude to Jesus.  1 Corinthians 9.19 “For though I am free from all men, yet I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win some.”  Compare this with the story Jesus told of the Prodigal Sons in Luke 15.11, where the younger son regarded himself a slave through repentance, “Father I have sinned against heaven and against you, just make me a slave around the house, don’t even call me your son.”  While the older son, (whom we never preach about,) regarded himself a slave through rebellion, “I have served you all these years, and never neglected a command of yours.”

Karl

A Restoration Is Coming

Jeremiah 23:1-8

Review & Analysis:  Rulers are criticized for their destruction, scattering, mis-feeding, and general mis-handling of the flock Israel (vv. 1, 2) … Afterwards, the LORD will regather Israel from foreign lands back to Israel (v. 3) … A note in my Bible indicates this as a “final restoration,” is not to be confused with the Judah revival under Nehemiah (cp. Ezra) … The upgrade involves improved rulers from David’s lineage (vv. 4-6, cp. Luke 1:31-33), led by a King … Concluding (vv. 7, 8)  is this promise from our LORD, the regathering of Israel from all of the lands of the earth is a done deal (cp. Acts 15:13-18).

An Aside:  Obviously, my reference materials greatly aid my blogging … I don’t believe all the notes in my conservative “Scofield Bible” or those from my liberal-leaning Ecumenical and Catholic “International Bible Commentary” … My theology isn’t formed by these, only sharpened somewhere between them … I try to be, as much as possible, a fact based person … Nevertheless, most of what I spew are my opinions.

Another Aside:  The delay in this printing has been due, in part, to getting over COVID-19 … My wife and I were evaluated with it a week and a half ago … Sarah was basically through her suffering in 4-5 days … It’s taken me a little longer to get over what is most like a mediocre cold … This COVID crisis is such that the talk about it is far worse than the crisis itself … I realize some are dying from COVID-19 … I further realize some have died previously for reasons far more tragic, that were not termed a “national emergency.,” but really were to the alarm of scarcely anyone.

Faith, Love, and Hope Prevail

Psalm 66:8-20, Genesis 6:5-22, Acts:27:1-12 (NIV) 

There are times and circumstances, which test us.  And, to be sure, the scriptures tell us that God tests us.  Sometime the hard circumstances of life and God’s testing overlap, while sometimes they don’t.  But know that there are some bold folks who will presume to tell others that God is testing them or the nation or the world and they are sure of it.   I think a more humble approach is better as God is the judge, not people.  I believe that when we have a chance to look backwards to reflect on the meaning of times, events, and our own lives we can see more clearly and spiritually and come to understand those situations when God tested us to refine us.   Others can not really say as they look from the outside in.  Some circumstances are due to the fallen sinful world in which we live and we get tested by them, nonetheless.  While God allows them, it doesn’t mean God is punishing us or the world.

Certainly, this COVID-19 Pandemic is testing all of us and the world in so many ways.  We pray to God for healing, for vaccines, for medicines and for better days.  May the sound of God’s praises come from us as we seek to follow the Lord Jesus, love others, and love our God.

Noah lived in a an evil time and God preserved him and his family.  Paul went through challenging times in prison, on the seas, of persecution, and was executed for being a follower of Jesus.  Yet from prison, Paul wrote letters that expressed the joy of knowing Christ and how,  even in challenging situations, God’s love can live and flow from his people.  The church in every age has known times of testing, challenge, loss, hardship, and extraordinary joy. That’s the way it is in a fallen world.

In this time that tests us all, may we live well in faith.  Let us draw our strength from the grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Live in Hope, Christ is Risen, Indeed!

 

It’s In The KNOWING…

Today’s Readings:  click here  Psalm 102:1-17;  Proverbs 3:13-18; John 8:31-38                                                       (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)

Given the times we are experiencing right now where so much has changed, so many restrictions and limitations are enforced, as well as staggering unanswered questions, cause us to toil to wrap our minds around the circumstances to embrace a peace that surpasses all understanding.   We seem to numb from what is happening around us. Each of us affected, but with varied conditions and circumstances

Psalm 102:1-17 is known as a prayer of the afflicted, one suffering, like us; in a state of being overwhelmed; a call  out, of our complaint before the Lord.  But in our storms and toils we must trust and believe we are not alone and can uncover safe comforts and surroundings through our Lord who saves us, even now.

Proverbs 3:13-18 speaks of the wonderful benefits of God’s corrections for us in pursuit of wisdom.  Here Solomon describes a longing for his son (and each one of us) to seek after wisdom.  In the fear of the Lord, wisdom and understanding are often the result of God’s loving correction for us; an opportunity  for each of us to experience a truly happy life even through the rain and storms that come to pass.  This gain of spiritual wisdom is better than material gain. It imparts the kind of character and training that brings contentment and quality of life that money can’t provide; an inner peace that births a calmness through the trudging waters of life.  Seek God’s wisdom through scripture, prayer, devotions, faith study discussions, and many other Christian resources available to us.  Our dry and weary minds and bodies can be filled and restored in that moment when we trust and believe God’s goodness and seek His faithful wisdom. 

Seeking wisdom from God has a lot to do with discipline; to be still and listen to God’s instruction. This gives us  favor with God, the Holy Spirit and our savior Jesus. .  It is not what we do for the Lord, but listening and obedience to the Lord are the key to His heart, favor and wisdom.  Ask faithfully and humbly with a heart of assurance.  (James  1:5 )

John 8:31-38 passage encourages us to continue in God’s word; God’s truth. It is in this TRUTH that reveals the means in which TRUTH sets us free.  I first believed this passage to be about being truthful. Tell the truth and you are FREE from the bondage and depravity of your lies. As that is true, however, I later discovered what this passage also means.  To be in the WORD, God’s Word, to trust and believe, continually breathing in the abundant breath of life from scripture, THAT is the FREEDOM the passage highlights.  And with that FREEDOM comes peace, contentment, calmness and understanding; all the things long for, especially these days. 

Enjoy this beautiful song for today’s devotion: Wisdom Song by Laura Woodley Osman

Prayer:   Lord, our world is hurting. Your people are crying out and wrestling with faith in this storm of uncertainty.   We need you Lord to fill us with your truth and wisdom as we are still and listen for your direction through reading your faithful word.  Help us to be steadfast in our desire to draw close to you as you paint our canvas of life with your word of TRUTH and WISDOM, through our earnest faithful prayers, now and always. AMEN!

Kris

A Story

Psalm 102:1-17
Proverbs 3:5-12
Acts 7

When I was 22 Proverbs 3:5-6 was the wallpaper on my cellphone. I became a reborn Christian at 21 and drank in every word of the Bible that I could. Memory verse sticky notes littered my nightstand and a memory verse was always my background (it still is).

In December of 2014 I got a phone call from my half sister, Storm. She was upset because our paternal grandma was dying. She wanted to say goodbye to her, but our brother wouldn’t go and she was afraid to see our dad alone (he’s a sick man that’s scary at times).

I told my sister I would meet her at the hospital. Here’s the catch, I was 22 and hadn’t seen my dad since 8.

Anxiety wanted to set in, but I’m pretty good and compartmentalizing and pushed it way down. I went through my work day as a hostess for a pizza place with a fake smile and that anxiety bubbling in the pit of my stomach.

Fast forward to me in the parking lot, hands shaking. My sister wasn’t here yet. I felt that tug, you know that Holy Spirit “go and do what I’m telling you to do” tug? That’s what I felt.

So I got out of my car and made my way into the hospital. My sister had told me which room the family was in.

And here’s where memory verses become so important.

I couldn’t make it to the elevator. I could barely get pass the welcome desk. I was just frozen in fear.

Finally I asked a nurse if there was a chapel–most hospitals have one. The woman pointed me in that direction and I made my way there.

I fell on my knees instantly, ugly crying, hyperventilating, and begging God to help me. And then my phone lit up and I saw Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways seek Him
and he will make your paths straight.

I began to say that out loud–without ceasing–for at least ten minutes. By then my breathing was under control and it was just silent tears. I knew this was the most peace I was going to get, so I left the chapel and headed to the elevator.

I repeated this verse under my breath the entire elevator ride, the entire walk to the hospital room, and even that moment where I just stood in the doorway staring at mourning strangers I didn’t know, but who were supposedly my family.

Memory verses are important because if it wasn’t for that verse, I never would have been able to go up to the hospital room and be with my sister when our grandma died. If it hadn’t been for that verse, I honestly don’t know what I would have done–either left or stayed crippled with fear in the chapel.

There is power in our testimony. The Bible even says it in Revelation 12:11: They have overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony.

Our stories are important because it shows others how alive the Word is. I have kids who don’t understand how a book 2,000+ years old is relevant. Our stories make it relevant. The ways that Christ has changed us, comforted us, encouraged us, moved us to be braver than we used to be.

What’s your story?

Many Blessings,
Karissa

Jehovah is My Refuge

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Psalms 31: 1-5, 15-16

Genesis 12: 1-3

Acts 6: 8-15

Psalms 31: 1-5, 15-16   In this passage David writes the many ways in which he views Jehovah.  In verse 1, he sees Him as a city of refuge, where he can hide from blood avengers, and live in safety.  He calls on God’s righteousness to save him, where in Micah 6.5, there is an understanding that righteousness, often limited to holiness, includes the very saving acts of God in rescuing Israel.  He sees Him as his rock of strength, a stronghold, and one who will pay a ransom.  David ends this by saying, “Into your hand I commit my spirit.”  To David, God is his everything.

Acts 6: 8-15   The beginning of the trial of Stephen, a deacon chosen to serve the widows their food, yet even in this small ministry, he was full of the Holy Spirit.  This passage says Stephen was “full of grace and power.” We don’t often think of the word grace being used in this manner, yet grace is an enabling attribute of Jehovah.  There are enduring attributes of Jehovah, which are His nature, and enabling attributes, which are His actions.  So, for example, Love is enduring, while Grace is enabling.  Thus we say, “Love drew salvations plan, while Grace brought it down to man.”  So Stephen was full of enabling grace.  As the Synagogue of the Freedmen, tried arguing with Stephen, to no avail, they then resorted to hiring false witnesses against him in court.  Not unlike todays society, truth can be bought.  As the court assembled, when Stephen came in, they saw him as glowing like an angel.  Stephen was filled with grace and power, which gave him the strength to withstand what was coming his way.  (For those who don’t know, the council rushed at Stephen, and cried with a loud voice, they drove him out of the city, and began stoning him to death, because they didn’t like his defense, his view, his religion.)  In verse 60 Stephen cries out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Stephen was filled with grace.

In these passages we are reminded that we live in a troubled world where Satan has power to influence the masses, who regard the followers of Jehovah, Jesus, as the enemy. Yet the followers, believers,  who choose to be obedient to the call of Jehovah, will be filled with the view of God as their strength, their stronghold, their redeemer, their righteousness, and enabled by His grace to withstand the attacks of Satan.

Stephen was martyred for his faith in Jesus.  We, in kind must ask the question, will a day come in this lifetime when we believers are faced with the same persecution?  Many say no, that Jesus will protect us from such things, a few say yes, and the  day is very near.  The question is, “In whom do you put your Faith, and how do you really view Jehovah,  is He your stronghold and strength, how well do you know Him?”

Karl

We Belong

Psalm 100; Ezekiel 34:23-31; Hebrews 13:20-21

We belong to God as each passage today teaches.  In Psalm 100:3 we read, “We are his people, the sheep of his pastor.”

Since we belong to God, the Lord wants us to have a good Shepherd, in this case one like his servant David, which we know from the New Testament, to be Jesus.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the Sheep (see John 10 ).  We are reminded once again in Ezekiel that we belong to God. “ You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.’” (Ezekiel 34:31).

And what is does the Lord to whom we belong desire for us?  The One who raised Jesus from the dead, wants to “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.” (Hebrews 13:21)

Isn’t it good to know that we belong to God who loves us deeply, so much so, that we are equipped, with what is good, in order do God’s will each day!  We belong to the God who raised Jesus from death to new life.  And in Jesus, we are connected in faith and belong to one another.  We are not alone.

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