Search

First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

On To Christmas!

Isaiah 40

Review: Israel’s travails are ending (vv. 1,2)…An unknown voice announces superhuman work is to be done for YHWH’s entrance (vv. 3-5)…God’s Word proceeds His coming (vv. 6-8)…Upon arrival, He is presented as a caring shepherd (vv. 9-11)…What follows amounts to God’s defense of Himself (vv. 12-26) to a questioning Israel (v. 27)…Isaiah invites Israel to think on what God has displayed by way of creation and His mercy (vv. 28-34), reminding them that He does not tire of laboring on their behalf.

Analysis: This section of Isaiah, which runs from 40:1 to 56:8 reads as if Israel is captive and awaiting deliverance…Because of this, it has been alleged that another author, possibly with the same name?, wrote it as it’s literary style and theological viewpoints differ from what precedes it…Regarding hard evidence to support this view, these are really only two pieces 1.) Cyrus, the Persian leader of Israel’s conqueror’s Babylon, is mentioned (45:1) a century before his time & 2.) Israel’s captivity is assumed rather than predicted…The first is easily answered if one believes in predictive prophecy…As to the second, the northern tribes of Israel were captured by Babylon during Isaiah’s lifetime…  Judah’s continued sin and reckless living made it clear to Isaiah that is was simply a matter of time before they met the same Babylonian fate…Given these circumstances, it isn’t too much of a stretch to imagine the Spirit of God urging Isaiah to write something to encourage the faith of the godly during their upcoming dark days of captivity in Babylon…The passage (vv. 3-5) is echoed by John the Baptist (Matt. 3:1-3)…Also in the NT, “…you who bring good tidings,” (v. 9) is spoken of in conjunction with the spreading of the Gospel (e.g. Luke 1:19, 8:1, Acts 8:4, 10:36, Rom. 1:15, 1 Cor. 15:2, etc.), evangelism that is…On To Christmas!

Advertisements

Gratitude for the Unsurpassed Greatness of Jesus

John 1:1-14 (NIV)

Colossians 1:15-20 (NIV)

Philippians 2:5-11 (NIV)

This Sunday is the Reign of Christ Sunday for the church.  It is the Sunday before Advent.  It’s an opportunity to acknowledge the amazing, life altering, awesome Lordship of Jesus over all things and everyone.

I chose three passages for they speak to us of the supremacy, wonder, power, and extravagant love of the Lord Jesus.

I encourage you to read these passages on this Thanksgiving Day that you might pause and give thanks for Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:19-20)

And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:8)

Know that you are deeply loved by the Lord Jesus Christ.  Give thanks!

Thanksgiving…

What are you thankful for?  It seems to be more of a cliche than a real question.  How many times are you asked this question?  How many times do you ask this question of others?  When you really think about it…I mean, really think about it, what are you thankful for?

We’ve become a culture of one or two word answers…stringing words together to form a sentence with a cogent thought is becoming a relic.  So…I’ll give it a whirl.

I am thankful for family – both organic and adopted.  My family has dwindled over the years.  Mom and dad on both sides have been gone a long time.  Tari is my rock – 35+ years together and a strength in my life beyond compare.  Brian and Kelly live in Ohio and while it seems close, at the holidays, it can be a long, long way away.  Lisa lives an hour away and she, too, has her own life in full gear.  Lisa will be here with Tari and I for Thanksgiving – it will be a joy.  Karen, my sister, is now in Arizona starting a new life there.  And yes, there are a few cousins left, but they are distant at best.  My organic family has shrunk dramatically. Then there is adopted family…Craig, Karissa, Bo, Diane, Tracy, Sherry, Jen, Ken and my new friends at The Center, Kelly, Rick, Wayne and so many more – individuals I work with nearly every day along with my church family (too many names to mention).   I am thankful for family!!  It may sound simplistic but know it is an awesome statement.

Beyond family, I am thankful for the abundance God has placed in my life.  The many gifts he presents each and every day – opportunities to make a difference in this world.  We can try to look in our rear view mirrors and hope and, yes, even pray for “the good old days” but I don’t believe this is what the Creator of the universe has in mind for us.  I believe our God desires us to greet him with thanksgiving in the morning and again when we lay our heads down on our pillows at night.

All of this has had me thinking about a question I was asked on Monday about my favorite verse.  When I think about “favorite verse”, I think about my life verses…verses from the Bible that have significant meaning in my life.  Verses that provide direction and guidance each day.  Having just one is difficult:  Colossians 3:17, Proverbs 3:5-6, Romans 1:16-17….all good ones and, over many years, each has provided life insights.  With over 31,000 verses in our Bible though, the one that is most significant for me is Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  This verse is a constant reminder to me about my focus regarding thanksgiving…our God is with us wherever we go…do you believe this?  

So, what about you?  I know that many of you read this daily blog and find great joy in it.  Maybe you might want to share something for which you are thankful this year.  Or, how about sharing a verse from the Bible that is special for you…or, both!!  With over 31,000 verses in the Bible, what is your life verse?  If you struggle with having a life verse, try this link to get you going…http://www.magiquiz.com/quiz/what-should-your-life-verse-be/

I’ll close by wishing you many blessings for more than just one day of thanksgiving…every day should be a day of rejoicing and giving thanks to our God and remembering the following words:

The Lord said to Moses, Say to Aaron and his sons, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The Lord bless you and keep you: The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you: The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.  So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” (Numbers 6:24-26)

 

To all the People who Helped me Grow

1 Thessalonians 5:12-18

I have been beyond blessed to have strong Christians in my life:  the youth advisor who gave me hope at thirteen, a mentor who loved me as I was when I was at my lowest, a woman who took me into her home as family, a mother who humbles herself before the Lord to sing His redemptive praises, a leader who encouraged me to lead my own group, and more still who show grace, love, and compassion.

Without these people I would not be me. Without them, to be completely honest, I probably wouldn’t know Jesus.

That being said, I may not always like what they had to say. Paul talks about how we need to hold those who admonish us in the highest respect. Do you know what admonish means? To warn against or reprimand someone firmly. I can’t think of a single person who enjoys that being done to them.

However, it is important to have these people in our lives. I need the people who love me enough to call me out when I am flirting with sin because, I don’t know about you, but what I want to do is not always the right thing nor is it good.

Call me human.

Thank God I have people in my life who recognize this and remind me that whatever instant relief I may feel from sin it is not worth the long-term turmoil. I need someone to warn me when they see me going wayward–whether it is in music, television, or actions.

Who in your life is keeping you accountable? Who in your life is brave enough to call you out on your garbage?

Whoever that person is, love on them today. Thank them for their continual service to your growth and well being. Doing what is right, good, noble, and helpful is far from easy.

Then, turn around and be that person for someone else. With gentleness and in love point out a harmful pattern or habit in someone’s life. Remember, this is not about being better than anyone, this is about being Christ’s disciple. Jesus came to Earth so that we would be right with God. No longer do we need a priest or religious man to do the reconciliation and sacrifice for us–we can be the hands and feet of Jesus as soon as we accept Him as our Lord and Savior! Show Christ’s love to someone you know by pointing out what is good and encouraging them as a brother or sister thereafter.

I want to thank the women in my life who have shown me what it means to be a Godly woman. These women have gone from teacher to friend in a beautiful cycle. I want to thank the Christian men who have stepped up to be Godly examples when my family lacked them.

I am loved and held accountable by people who wish to see my thrive.

I am a grateful girl.

I leave you with the words of Paul when he says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

 

 

Complaint Box or Rejoice?

complaining

Philippians 2:12-18

I’m not sure if you are like me, but very often, I find that it is so easy to fall into the trap of complaining about things. Complain about the traffic. Complain about the weather. Complain about having to get up so early to get to work. Complain about chores. Complain complain complain.

But what if all of those things that we complain about are there for a reason? What if the traffic is there because we have been blessed with the means by which we have a car. By God’s grace, I have a job that creates income that allows me to have a roof over my head, put food on the table, and to actually have table. I get the honor of working a job in which I can make a difference in the lives of others. I have dishes to wash and grass to mow because I am fortunate to have those things.

Pride is a deadly sin if we let it rule over our lives. But, in my own opinion, it is important to take pride in the things we have in our lives, which I believe can lead to us caring for those things in our lives that we have been blessed with. I take pride in doing my best at work, because, even though I work in a public school where talking religion is frowned upon, I am still doing God’s purpose set before me. I take pride in taking care of the possessions I have because they are a blessing to even have them at all. But there also has to be a balance between pride and obsession I think.

As Paul states here, we should work out our salvation, and do so without grumbling. Whatever God’s purpose for you may be, it probably isn’t going to be an easy road. There are going to be things that cause you to stumble. There are going to be things that cause stress, heartbreak, and all sort of other negative feelings. But through those things, you will grow as a person and as  Christian. So, instead of complaining about all of those things that can bring us down, retrain your mindset to see the silver lining in those tougher times. And, as Paul states, be glad and rejoice.

Evangelism

IMG_1513

 

Hebrews 3.15 – 4.13

Luke 24.31

In this passage from Hebrews, the writer paints a picture of the Hebrew nation being set free for bondage to Egypt where they labored as slaves for centuries building palaces and monuments to the Pharaohs .  As they then wandered across the wilderness to the land promised by Jehovah, being fed with Manna and being protected by God Himself, when given the opportunity to enter that land resisted going in because they didn’t believe God would protect them and give them the victory.  We are told it was unbelief that kept them out of the the promised land, and the writer also describes this promised land as God’s rest, for as slaves they surely knew what labor was, and by default understood rest.  Later that labor becomes synonymous with the keeping of the Law, and rest synonymous with the finished work of Christ and salvation through Jesus.

In our Wednesday night men’s Bible study Dale asked me where I start when witnessing to seekers.  What scriptures do I use.  Of course there is no set standard place to start and every time is unique, (though some like to memorize useful tracts like the Four Spiritual Laws,) but for me studying the Bible, pondering passages long after the book is closed is of benefit. I compare passages that seem to intertwine and support each other, memorizing to one degree or another verses containing great wisdom,  and peruse the harmony of the scriptures as a whole.  I believe almost any scripture will tell the story of God’s great salvation when understood.  I have used the books of Revelation, Hebrews, 11 Peter, the Beatitudes from Matthew, and Acts to name a few.  Hebrews 4.12 paraphrased “for the Word of God is rich, and living, and active, dividing the flesh from the spirit, revealing truth from lies, and it pierces the soul, judging the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

One thing I know on this subject is, only sincere belief in the Lord Jesus Christ will ready you for witnessing.  Head knowledge or peripheral understanding will never equip you.  It’s got to be real, inside your heart and soul, alive like a fire burning inside.  Studying the Word equips, preparation helps, but the reality is only the Holy Spirit will guide you into the right words the seeker needs to hear.  We as witnesses honestly don’t know what will spark belief, that is why it never depends on us but the insight of the Holy Spirit.  For God saves, we don’t.

Luke 24. 31  Their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight.  They said to one another, ” were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the scriptures to us?.”

Karl

A History of Israel

Judges 2

Review: Israel is rebuked, via an “Angel of the Lord,” for it’s way of living (vv. 1-4)…Joshua, at the ripe old age of 110, dies and is buried (vv. 5-9)…The new generation loses sight of YHWH (vv. 10-15)…Because of Israel’s “blindness,” God raises new leaders or judges to lead and deliver them (vv. 16-19)…As an example to measure themselves against and also as a test, God allows the nations of the peoples on Israels’s land to co-habitate with them (vv. 20-23).

Analysis:  The theme of this book are “all the people did what was right in their own sight” (17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25) and it’s corollary “Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD” (2:11, 3:7, 4:1, 6:1, 10:6, 13:1)…The complete extermination of the Canaanite peoples was an exaggeration (Josh. 10:29-11:23)…Enough existed that Israel was tempted to adopt their culture and religion (vv. 21-23)…This “Angel of the LORD” appears periodically in the OT (cp. Gen. 16:9, 22:11, Ex. 3:2, 14:9, Num. 22:22, Jud. 6:11, 2 Kings 19:35, Isa. 63:9, Zech. 1:12, 12:8) as a guide…It is generally the case that peoples grip on God, if it is not periodically renewed, goes away with the passage of time…This worship of the fertility goddess Ashtoreth and Baal was typical of Israel in decline (Jud. 10:6, 1 Sam. 7:3-4, 12:10, 1 Kings 11:5-33, 2 Kings 23:13)…Judges (v. 18) were raised up by God as representatives of Himself to Israel…These judges must have been both patriots religious leaders as Israel’s national security and prosperity were inseparably linked to their obedience to the LORD…There are obvious parallels that can be drawn between this text and the manner of our society today; they are self-explanatory…Is it possible that our plight, to an unknown extent, is similar to that of Israel’s?…Do judges exist today?

 

Refreshing Goodness

Psalm 103 (NIV)

Psalm 103 (The Message)

Problems abound in our world.  Or at least the media: whether print, TV, or web-news feeds, focuses on communicating all the trouble that is troublesome.

Then we have our own problems and disappointments that are common to this life.

Yet there is much that is good.  There is an abundance of good things taking place in our world each and every day.  All we need do is look for them and share them.

Today, I invite you to read Psalm 103 several times, in both versions above,  that you might rest in the goodness of God and see evidences of the Lord’s love and grace as you go through this day.  Perhaps it will spill over into the next day and the rest of this week.

Know that God is good.  “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.”  Rest in the goodness of God this day and always. 

Hope for today…

Clare Boothe Luce said, ‘There are no hopeless situations; there are only people who have grown hopeless about them.”  I stumbled across this as I was thinking about today’s blog and the passage that was on my mind, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30).  

Too often, I hear Christians say, “in the next life all will be better” – while I believe this to be absolutely true, there is the underlying thought that goes along with this…that this world we live in now is hopeless…a thought with which I absolutely dis-agree.

The tough part, though, is the reality of life today.  Trying to make sense of sex abuse scandals, natural disasters, hatred, anger, greed…the list is long.  Many of you reading this have hopes: hopes for a white Christmas, hopes the Bears might actually win a couple, hopes the winter will be short, hopes for better health, hope for a new job, hopes that people would just be nice and loving to each other…again, the list is long.  However, while both lists are long, can you hear the invitation in today’s passage?  Yes, invitation.  An alternative to how many live today. An Invitation of hope…“come to me”.

“Come to me, all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens.”  Jesus invites us to come to him when we’re burdened; but what do we have to do? Nothing, except come to him…take that first step.  Humbly admit that we need Jesus…that salvation is a gift—absolutely free and utterly undeserved…no substitute for a personal commitment to Jesus Christ.

Did you also notice the 2nd invitation in this passage?  “Take my yoke and learn from me.”  Many want the easy Christian life…go to church on Sunday, attend a Bible study now and then.  Many want to “pick and choose” with this passage – many want “the rest” without the yoke”.  Jesus not only lifts our burden, he places his burden on us…his yoke. To take the yoke of Christ is to become his disciple – more than just going to church or attending a Bible study…it means a life transformed such that we submit our lives to Jesus.  Sound hard?  Some may think so but I dis-agree.  The burden we lose when we commit to Jesus is heavy but the burden gained living life in Christ is light.

The invitation is to freedom and in this freedom is the reality of daily hope.  The hope of this freedom is “the rest” that is gained. Truly a paradox of life as a Christian – under Jesus’ yoke we find rest; through service we find freedom; when we lose ourselves in loving, we find ourselves; when we die to our self-centeredness, we begin to live.  Freedom in the yoke of Christ…HOPE for today…and every new day.

One last thought, while at EPCOT, Tari and I and a couple of our Purdue friends were standing in the center of the Italy portion of the park.  Above us we heard a plane…well, you can see for yourself what the plane was doing in the picture below.  There is always hope for today in Jesus!

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑