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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Team Jesus

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Micah 1-3; Psalm 143; Matthew 13

Micah 1-3

Israel and Judah have been behaving badly. They have done evil in the eyes of the Lord. The people of the land are breaking many of the commandments, including coveting and stealing. The ones who consider themselves to be prophets are actually leading the people astray. The leaders of these two great lands treat they people they rule with hate in their hearts. They take bribes and do not judge people equally. But a chosen few will be led like sheep to their pen, by the One who will pass through the gate before them.

Psalm 143

Sometimes it can seem like the entire world is working against us. It can wear us down and we grow weary. It seems like we can’t go on any further. But then we can remember all that God has done, and what He can do for us in our lives. We can cry out to Him, knowing that He can bring us peace and restore us in our time of need.

Matthew 13

In this chapter, several parables are told by Jesus to explain what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. There is the parable of the sower of seeds, the parable of the weeds, parable of the mustard seed, yeast, hidden treasure and the pearl, and fishing net. In most of these parables, Jesus teaches about how those who have true faith will see the the kingdom, while those whose “faith” is more for show in public places will not see the kingdom. Most of this is mud he is slinging at the religious leaders, the Pharisees, who place themselves high above everyone else, yet they are complete hypocrites.

 

Reflection

There are so many days when it seems like we are fighting an uphill battle, and the path only grows steeper day after day. It can get to a point where there is no end in sight at times. In the past week alone, I’ve had someone try to hack my Apple account, got a fraud alert for one of my credit cards, had to have my garage door replaced because it got hit by a car (not mine), work piling up, teething baby, and the list goes on. Keep my head above water? Barely sometimes. Yet, I know that all of these things that come my way on a daily or weekly basis are all just minor bumps in the road. By my faith, I can rely on the fact that Jesus has my back. There might be lots of turmoil in the world around me. But, as we read in Micah,

12“I will surely gather all of you, Jacob;

   I will surely bring together the remnant of Israel.

I will bring them together like sheep in a pen,

   like a flock in its pasture;

   the place will throng with people.

13 The One who breaks open the way will go up before them;

   they will break through the gate and go out.

Their King will pass through before them,

   the Lord at their head.”

Jesus will be with us like a shepherd leads his sheep to pasture. As was in Craig’s sermon this past week, Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He knows us by name, and cares for us. All the rest of the craziness of this world doesn’t matter when we have Jesus on our team. Thanks be to God.

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Fundamentals…

Jonah 3-4:   As the story of Jonah continues in chapter 3.1 ”Now the word of Jehovah came to Jonah the second time. “ Is this not enough evidence?  Our God, Jehovah, is gracious and kind, forgiving and long suffering.  Many people today say that He is a God of second chances, and that is very true, yet I would add that he has given me many, many more than two chances.  He surely is a grace giving God.  Understand that Jehovah has sent Jonah, a Hebrew, one of the chosen ones, to a gentile nation, an unchosen people, to offer them forgiveness.  Nineveh was an especially evil city, with child sacrifice, and impure from every view point.  Jonah, the Hebrew, wants the vengeance of Jehovah to come upon them, yet he obeys God and gives a less than compelling warning.  “ Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown!”  This might be a rather brief warning or at least an incomplete picture of the future, I would want to know who said, and what do we do to stop this impending doom, and other unanswered questions.  But it seems to be enough for the Ninevites.  Jehovah is pleased with their response and Jonah is disturbed and disgusted with Jehovah.  In the Hebrew mindset, blessing comes only with the destruction of evil, or enemies.  There is no separation between the two, you can’t have one without the other.  Isaiah 61.2, in the passage that Jesus read in the temple that caused such an uproar in Luke 4. 16-30.  It says, “To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God;”  in Luke Jesus deleted the “vengeance “ part of the reading and it sorely disturbed the people in the temple.  You simply can’t have one without the other, no blessing is really a blessing if the enemy isn’t destroyed also.  That’s why Jonah was so despairing of life after Nineveh’s repentance and God’s forgiveness.  

Proverbs 25: is one of the Proverbs and base for Jesus sermons as recorded in the Gospels.  Verse 6 “It is better to be exalted by others than to blow your own horn.”  Verse 11 “Use gentleness in your reproof of others, clumsy, harsh words only alienate.”  My friend Rob always reminds me of this one, as I am blurting something out, he merely says, “Love, Karl, Love.”  Verse 17, “Don’t overstay your welcome.”  Verse 21 “Give food and drink to your enemy and therefore heap coals of fire upon his head, and please God.”

Mathew 12:  Many people, even Christians, wonder about the story of Jonah.  Really, a great fish swallowed Jonah?  He was alive after three days in the deep, or in the belly of the fish?  This is a fable right?  A story with a moral, right?  Well friends, it seems Jesus believed it!  In verse 39 He reveals, after being asked to give “a sign to the Pharisees,” by the Pharisees, “ …no sign will be given to this generation, but the sign of Jonah the prophet.  For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” ( And that means three days and three nights. I can count, can’t you? )  Another major theme in this chapter is the truth that, “the Law was made for man, not man for the Law.”  The legalists, from the time that Jesus was on earth, to our current times, are overcome with detail that doesn’t save, or even help mankind.  It’s akin to straightening the pictures on the wall as your house is on fire.  Christian principles like “Don’t lie, always tell the truth,” sometimes depend on the way a question is asked.  The question by our wives might be “Does this dress make me look fat?”  might better be asked, “Does this dress make me look fit?”  In either case it’s better to be diplomatic, gracious and kind.  “A soft answer turns away wrath.”  In many cases the legalist will want unadorned truth that surely will hurt the other party, and our response needs to be seasoned with grace, and common sense.  There are many times that wisdom is the better part of valor. 

Pray daily that the Holy Spirit comes upon you to lead you in righteousness.  Live Holy before the LORD, and be kind one to another.

Karl

Jonah, Jonah, Jonah

Jonah 1-2     Psalm 142     Matthew 11

Review:  The LORD contacts Jonah imploring him to go to Nineveh (1:1-2)…Jonah decides to sail in the opposite direction (1:3)…In doing so, he puts his ship and it’s sailors in peril (1:4-11)…Apparently asleep in the bowels of the ship after the storm hits, Jonah is tossed into the sea and swallowed whole by a great fish (1:12-17)…From the belly of this fish, Jonah prays to God (2:1-9)…The fish spews Jonah onto dry land alive (2:10).

Analysis:  That Jonah was called out by God was nothing new for OT prophets (Hos. 1:1, Joel 1:1, Micah 1:1, Zeph. 1:1, 1 Kings 19:9)…Jonah means “dove.” (cp. Hos. 7:11, Ps. 74:18-19)…Nineveh is in Assyria and is viewed as evil (cp. Isa. 7:17-20, Jer. 50:17, Hos. 9:1-6, 11:1-5)…Jonah is not fleeing the Ninevites, he is fleeing God…When confronted with a fierce stomach at sea, the sailors become God fearing (1:4-6)…While the ship is on the verge of sinking, Jonah sleeps (1:7-16, cp. Mark 4:35-41)…Many quibble with Jonah’s swallowing by a great fish (1:17)…The real miracle is after he spent three days and nights (read: dead, dead, dead) inside said fish, and was still alive…With nowhere else to turn, Jonah turns to God (2:2-9, cp. Ps. 22)…Then and there (2:10), Jonah’s course corrects and he heads for Nineveh…A miracle from God, from time to time, is what a Christian should expect in a chaotic world (Rom. 8:19-23)…The beginning miracle is that we’re all here and have nothing to do with it!

 

Challenge and Opportunity

Obadiah 1, Proverbs 24, Matthew 10 (NIV)

Obadiah– “When Judah’s capital city of Jerusalem fell to the Babylonian army in 587/6 BC, those in the neighboring kingdom of Edom joined in the looting of the city.  They intercepted fleeing Judeans and turned them over to the Babylonians to be executed or enslaved.  They showed no compassion even though they were related to the Judeans.  Edom was descended from Esau, the brother of Jacob, who was the ancestor of the Israelites.”  Obadiah, the prophet, here in this chapter “rebukes the Edomites for their ruthless treatment of their neighbors and foretells their destruction” (You Version Bible Introduction).  In the end God will judge all the nations and Judah will belong to the Lord.  Edom missed her opportunity to do good.

Proverbs– In this chapter we read about the many benefits of Wisdom in one’s life and practice of faith.  “If you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.”  The wise prevail and the the fear of the Lord is the key to such wisdom. Wisdom opens up many opportunities and provides guidance for challenges that inevitably arise in life.

Matthew 10– This is a chapter in which Jesus instructs the disciples on what it means for them to be sent out into the world to live for him and to extend the good news of the Gospel.  It is interesting to contrast this chapter with the other chapters in the Gospels in which Jesus sends the disciples out to do ministry in his name. In Mark chapter 6 and  Luke chapter 9, Jesus sends the disciples out to do ministry and we learn of the results when they return and they accomplish much.  Then in Luke chapter 10, Jesus sends out a wider group of disciples, 72, and they return with joy at what occurred, and Jesus says, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”

But here in Matthew 10 we do not read of the results of the disciples labors.  Instead the entire chapter is devoted to teaching and preparing the disciples for ministry in the future.  We read of what they can expect and did happen once Jesus was crucified, dead, resurrected, and ascended.  After Pentecost the disciples went into the world and they were prepared for the wonderful expansion of the church as well as the persecution and suffering that inevitably came to the follower of Jesus.  The disciples made the most of many opportunities to live for Jesus and found strength to endure the challenges of carrying the cross of Christ.

Devotional Thoughts– The people of God and followers of Jesus live in the world, which is a challenging place.  At times it is a place of hardship, sorrow, and suffering.  Yet, when we live in the wisdom of the Lord and in faith and trust of Jesus, God works in and through us to extend the witness and hope of the Gospel to others.  Opportunities to serve and live in the grace of the Lord Jesus abound each and every day.

Today, let’s live and pray for the Lord to extend his love, grace, and hope through us in the world for the sake of the Savior.  Let us overcome the challenges of the day and seize the wonderful opportunities that are ours in Christ Jesus.

More than just age…

Today’s Passages:  Amos 8-9; Psalm 141; Matthew 9

Amos 8-9:  These verses remind me all too well of a time not so long ago.  Money…financial gain was the overriding focus of the Israeli businessmen.  To them, the Sabbath, got in the way of their wheelings and dealings.  And so, the people became so busy with “their business” that a famine was about to descend upon them…maybe the worse of all famines…the famine of hearing the word of the Lord.  The people would try desperately to inquire of God…but, he would not answer them – not by dreams…not by prophet.

Psalm 141:  Here in this Psalm we find David emphasizing his confidence in the Lord God Almighty and praying that God would deliver him from the wicked traps of those around him.  David is confident in the Lord…confident in the God of all creation….praying that God would deliver him from the troubles of those around him

Matthew 9:  So often, we talk of God’s power to heal physical sickness.  While a very good thing and something not to be doubted for those who believe in the one who can deliver someone from their troubles, we should not forget about Jesus’ power to forgive the ills of sin…spiritual sickness in other words.  In this passage from Matthew, Jesus saw that the man in need of healing was in need of spiritual healing…restoration of spiritual health rather than physical health!!.

Devotional Thought:  As we grow older, it is not uncommon to suffer more and more from physical maladies…we tend to not move as fast as we once did…we find it harder to get up out of that chair or even that pew on Sunday…maybe you can’t quite play full-court basketball as well as you once did or keep up with “the younger folks” like we used to.  Yes, getting older brings many new “issues” each day.  Unfortunately, sin is something that is not limited to age.  Jesus can work on our behalf in both of these areas…

 

 

 

 

Sunday Reflection: God as King of Kings

When I hear this phrase, “King of Kings”, my first thoughts go to the Hallelujah Chorus…

“King of kings and lord of lords
And he shall reign forever and ever…”

The source of these soaring words of joy and hope come from Revelation 19.  Many have tried to silence those who fall to their knees worshipping the Lord God Almighty!  Leaders and worldly kings tried to silence Jesus…even thinking that death would finally bring the end of Jesus and his followers.  And as I was talking with our men this past Wednesday about those like Hitler who have tried to control the church in the hope of silencing the followers.  Far too many think reason and logic can debate Jesus away.  And yet…Jesus continues to reign!

If you have let such bold imagery become dull, Advent is a time for you to refresh the picture. This King of Kings has one goal…a relationship with me, and you!!  So, rejoice that Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords…Lord God Almighty!!


This Coming Week’s Readings:

12/10 Amos 8-9 Psalm 141 Matthew 9 Dale
12/11 Obadiah Proverbs 24 Matthew 10 Craig H.
12/12 Jonah 1-2 Psalm 142 Matthew 11 Craig R.
12/13 Jonah 3-4 Proverbs 25 Matthew 12 Karl 
12/14 Micah 1-3 Psalm 143 Matthew 13 Matt
12/15 Micah 4-5 Proverbs 26 Matthew 14 Bo

Heart Check

Amos 6-7
Proverbs 23
Matthew 7-8

Amos 6:1 speaks volumes to me: “Woe to you who are complacent in Zion.” Have you ever gotten into a routine of your faith? I know I have. I have been in a pit where I am praying the Armor of God over me every day, anointing my office, and thanking God every hour. Then the storm settles and I am once again complacent. I am once again in a place where I pray nightly, but they aren’t heartfelt conversations. I’m not giving my everything to God because I’ve come to a place where I forget I need Him every hour of every day. Then what happens? Another storm comes and the cycle repeats.

I thank God the cycle repeats. I thank God for the storms because they always bring me back to Him. The Lord is pretty clear that the first will be last and I do not want pride to be my downfall. I will happily endure hardships if they mean that I come back to God time and time again–these trials and tribulations often save me from myself.

(A blog post on pride is going to have to be a blog post in itself, but check out this article from Dan Allender to help gage a better understanding. I know that my fight against pride sometimes put me in a prideful place where I think I’m nothing.)

So I hold onto things like Proverbs 23:26 which says “My son, give me your heart and let your eyes delight in my ways.” God knows what makes us happiest and I have to pray against the thrills and temptations of this world daily (and when I don’t pray against them, I am more inclined to fall to them). I want the word of the Lord tattooed on my heart, I want to be a woman after God’s own heart, and I want to be everything that God has created me to be.

Thus so, I keep my eyes on Christ and (mostly) mind my own business. Jesus says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be used to measure you” (Matthew 7:1-2). I know that if I were to be judged by the same measure I look at others I would fall just as short as they fall short in my eyes. I say I mostly avoid this because sometimes I am a victim to the comparison game, but I try so desperately to stay away from it. And when I can’t I confess my wrong to God.

See, in a world of instagram, Facebook, and twitter comparison is easy. Not only do we compare whose lives look better than our own, but we compare those whose lives look worse. I would bet most of us have said “At least I’m not as bad as…” at some point in our lives.

The truth is, friends, we have to constantly be doing a heart check on ourselves. We must always be looking at Christ and our own actions while trusting God will do what is right for everyone else. Jesus says the gates to salvation are narrow and he says that many will come to him and he will say “I never knew you.”

What would Jesus say to you if you met him today? Would he say “Well done, good and faithful servant” or would he say “I never knew you. Away from me!”?

Do an honest heart check this morning. Check your complacency, notice if the world is tempting you with bait you won’t refuse, and have a real honest conversation with Lord Jesus.

Blessings,
Karissa

 

Advent – Come close

Amos 4-5Psalm 140Matthew 6

Advent! For many people, advent is just a long way to Christmas Eve. A way to get ready for Silent Night, and the celebration of the Birth of Christ. But Advent is so much more. It is a call to all to grasp and embrace the call to be right with God.

Amos speaks about repentance and the need of returning to God. In many ways that call is still true today. As people, we tend to stray away from God when life seems to be fine when our world seems to be in balance. Israel seemed to be caught up in the same vicious cycle once again. The meaningful living in God’s will became another exercise of meaningless tradition, of sacrifices without heart, of worship without a soul. Sounds familiar? To me is just a picture of how many of us go through the Advent. We focus on the trees and decorations, the gifts the dinners and all that comes with it and miss the opportunity to reconnect with God. 

And when you read Matthew, the very first sentence calls us out to practice our faith for what it really. Advent once again is about understanding that very thing. When you pray, when you help the needy … do not let those things be known, do those things in secret, live your righteous before God and not before people.

It seems to be the way God’s kingdom is built. With righteous hearts, with understanding the heart of God for the people around us. Advent is that call.

Today I would like to ask: How do you approach Advent? What makes it special to you? How do you capture the heart of God in this season?

Be blessed,

Bo M. 

Tough Love

love-of-god

Amos 1-3; Proverbs 22; Matthew 5

Amos 1-3

The list of sins is long for all of the nations surrounding Israel. The sins of Israel and Judah are equally as long. Despite their sins, God stuck with Israel and has helped them numerous times. Despite this, the Israelites have been ungrateful and continue to fall away. God sends a warning that He can bring destruction to them just as He has to everyone else.

Proverbs 22

Much of this chapter is in regards to being generous and how to treat others. It is better to be humble, generous, and treat others well. To do anything else brings dishonor to the Lord.

Matthew 5

Jesus gives instructions in his Sermon on the Mount about how to live. His instructions include treatment of others, turning the other cheek, loving your enemies, and leading by example.

Reflection

These 5 chapters are some tough words. They remind me of when I was a child and my parents would reprimand me for making a terrible mistake. Unfortunately, this probably happened much more often than I’d like to admit. But just as my parents lectured and disciplined me for poor choices not to be mean, but because they love me, the same is so much more for God. As much as we all love our own children or other family members, God’s love is so much greater. I don’t always recognize it in the moment, but hindsight is always 20/20, and when I look back at when times were tough, I know without a doubt it was God speaking to me and bringing me back to Him. And it has happened often, and I am always grateful for it when it happens.

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