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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Sunday Reflection: God as Rest

“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.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Listen to the culture around you and you will, more times than not, find an underlying thread of self-sufficiency being portrayed.  Who needs religion…the church…Jesus? With modern science, the vastness of technology, remarkable advances in health…et, I can do this on my own.  Today, speed, comfort, convenience, power and information are all there for you…a culture that tends to play to our natural desires of independence and self-sufficiency.

Yet, I have seen so many individuals buckle under the weight of grief and hardship – not knowing where to turn.  When life seems like it is against you, whom do you rely upon?  When you are driven to weariness and despair, where is your anchor?

Can you hear Jesus calling to you…come to me, all of you who are exhausted…come to me, all of you who are weighted down by great burdens.  But this is not to imply that we just dump our problems in Jesus’ lap.  Rest does not mean inaction on our part – Jesus says, place yourself under his yoke and learn from him.

Irish poet, W. B. Yeats said: “Can one reach God by toil?  He gives himself to the pure in heart.  He asks nothing but our attention.”   Mentally searching for God can be as futile as trying to deal with everything on our own – knowing God has so very little to do with mental searching.  Giving our attention to Jesus the Christ – well, that is an entirely different thing…our attention – heart, mind, soul and strength because in Jesus we see and know and fell what the Lord God Almighty is like.

Today…cast your problems and burdens on Jesus and give your attention to his teaching and his love to guide you through the tough spots of life and to help you soar each and every day!!


Readings and Authors This Week:

5/28/18 1 Kings 19-20 Psalm 68 Romans 7 Dale
5/29/18 1 Kings 21-22 Job 9 Romans 8 Ed Schultz
5/30/18 2 Kings 1-3 Psalm 69 Romans 9 Craig R.
5/31/18 2 Kings 4-5 Job 10 Romans 10 Karl
6/1/18 2 Kings 6-8 Psalm 70 Romans 11 Matt
6/2/18 2 Kings 9-10 Job 11 Romans 12 Bo
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Justice

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1 Kings 11-12

Psalm 66

Romans 3

O my Lord!  Romans 3 alone would require about a week of blogs just to skim the surface of it’s depth.  What are the benefits of being Jewish?  What then, are we as gentiles better than they?  No there are none righteous, not even one!  The Law was given to establish sin, for a man might reasonably say he knew nothing about sin, so the law was given to show mankind that he was utterly sinful, then the prophets came to declare that a savior was coming who would free man from his sin.  The savior came and was revealed as the sacrifice for sin, the righteousness of God, who Himself was the source, Jesus was God’s agent do His will and glorify Him.  Jesus is the satisfaction of God’s requirement for the payment for sin.  All the blood of all the animal sacrifices of all Israel’s history did nothing but allow God to overlook the debt that was needed to be paid. Vs. 25 “In His forbearance He passed over the sins previously committed.”  But not satisfied, until Jesus.

Vs. 26 ” For the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He, Jesus, would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”  Christ’s death was to glorify God, in that it declared God’s utter righteousness.  A perfect sacrifice of a perfect man as a substitution for each of us sinners was received by God the Father in that Christ was raised from the dead and made Lord over all.  Christ death exalted God’s grace in that it was given freely to mankind, initiated by and orchestrated by God alone without any cost to us.  It revealed God’s consistency from the beginning of Adam’s sin to provide for the delivery of man from his sin.  It confirms the truth of the word of God which declared through the prophets that an anointed one was coming.

Christ died a substitutionary death to satisfy God’s justice.  Therefore when we believe we admit our sin and accept that justice of God available through Christ, to be justified.  So Christ is both just and justifier of all who believe in Him.  When we believe we also glorify God in recognizing the great work He has done, which for the most part is way more difficult to grasp than this short expose.

In Joshua 7.19 Achan had kept some spoils from a battle.  Joshua called him in, he then confessed his sin, gave glory to God and then paid the price for his sin.  Thanks to Calvary we now get to skip the “pay the price for our sin” part, it’s been paid by the blood of Jesus.  Praise be to God !

Karl

The Splendor of Solomon

1 Kings 9-10     Job 6     Romans 2

Review:  God speaks to Solomon unconditionally about the Temple (9:3) and conditionally about everything else (9:1-2, 4-9)…King Hiram of Tyre and Solomon exchange gold, cities, and building supples (9:10-14)…The extent of Solomon’s fame and holdings is substantial (9:15-28)…The Queen of Sheba visits Solomon (10:1-13)…Everything of Solomon’s is adorned in gold (10:14-23)…The wisdom of Solomon is sought by many (10:24-25)…Silver is cast aside as worthless (10:26-27)…Commerce was part of Solomon’s plans (10:28-29).

Analysis:  Apostasy, that of abandoning God, is a frequent feature of the OT…The reason is it’s such a problem for people is a prime source of help is cut-off…A contract of some sort existed between King Hiram and Solomon for time and materials (9:10-14), so true to real life…Forced labor, by the “peoples of the land, ” (9:20-21) was due to Israel’s military conquests since the time of Joshua…Sheba is envious of Solomon’s servants (10:6-9), a testament to the high standard of living level enjoyed in Jerusalem…All the good that happened to Solomon was the LORD’s response to his prayer for wisdom (3:1-13)…Some of the wealth of Solomon came by way of land trade (9:26-28), sea trade (10:22), and transportation toll taxes (10:15)…To some, Solomon’s wealth was due to God’s blessings and his choices…To others, Solomon’s wealth was due to his indulgence and greed…It depends on one’s perspective.

How are you “Building” your life for God?

Today’s Guest Blogger is Bob Becker!!

Today’s Readings (all 1 link):  1 Kings 7-8, Psalm 65, Romans 1

In Kings we see that Solomon, who had been given by God (in his heart and mind), the ability to build such a great and “Holy” dwelling for the Ark of the Covenant.  This temple was the largest of large and spared no cost when it came to what went into it’s construction.  Material and size were not a concern and everything was planned out for the glory of God.  This place would be the permanent dwelling place of the Ark, containing the tables with the Ten Commandments that had been received by Moses.  Pillars set in the entry, in which all people coming into the temple would pass between, were named:  Jachin on the right and Boaz on the left… “he will establish” and “in it is strength”.  The delivering of the Ark, to the temple upon completion came with great respect from many, since it was carried out by the priests and no others and even the way that they carried the Ark was so very different, so nobody was allowed to touch the Ark.

In Psalms we hear the purpose being that of thanksgiving…  We hear the prayers thankful for growth and for the forgiveness of sins and for the clearing of the sins, as long as there is love for God by the sinner.  We also find that salvation has no boundaries and will find us because of God’s ability as long as people continue to come to him.  How great are the things that are seen on this earth:  mountains, seas, animals and even the skies in all their beauty. These were all made by God, because of his infinite power and love.  We also know that what God wants to grow, grows and what God wants to be dormant will lay dormant.  These are all accomplished through us in ways that we help with the growing of all living things while we are here, but it is only because of God’s power that it grows.

In Romans we hear how Paul comes out to say the he is proud to be a servant of God and that is because it is God’s idea that he is a servant.  Paul tells us that he is always thankful for others that have chosen to spread their faith in the Lord, even though sometimes they will sacrifice many things, up to including their lives for their faith.  Paul also tells us that we need to see and appreciate the power all around us that God has given us, always be thankful to him for what we have. Paul also touches upon the ways in which we were given the ability to serve upon other things other than God, especially in terms of passions that are outside the honorable relationships we should have with each other while on this earth.  Paul states in this chapter that we should know and follow what is right with God in order to have the eternal life in him and not in death.

In looking at these passages today, how are you doing with building your temple for God?  Are you bringing the best material to him or to others around you, in order to build more “Temples” in others, that house the true love of God reaching others around YOUR world?  When you look at the things that we have on our planet and see the greatness in each, do you ever think about… How incredible is God for giving this to us?  How can I thank him today for what we have and how we can bring others to it in his glory? Maybe the next time you see that incredible sunset or sunrise, will you Thank God for giving you another day here to do what he has given you to do with what he has planned for you to do.  Like Paul says… Do what is right by God and he will acknowledge your love for him.

I pray for you all today my brothers and sisters…

Build for God…  He Deserves OUR very Best!

Sunday Reflection: God as Hope

There are many passages throughout our Bible about hope…literally, from beginning to end. There is one passage that stands out for me….Romans 15:13…“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  

When you reflect on this passage today…do you believe that this verse can apply to you?  Is your life filled with all joy and peace in believing?  Do you abound in hope amid all of the trials and tribulations that surround us?

Reflect today on the one and only God of hope who made himself real in the person and work of Jesus the Christ and by the power of his Holy Spirit for all those who claim faith in him!


This Coming Week’s Readings:

5/21/18 1 Kings 7-8 Psalm 65 Romans 1 Bob B.
5/22/18 1 Kings 9-10 Job 6 Romans 2 Craig R.
5/23/18 1 Kings 11-12 Psalm 66 Romans 3 Karl
5/24/18 1 Kings 13-14 Job 7 Romans 4 Matt
5/25/18 1 Kings 15-16 Psalm 67 Romans 5 Bo
5/26/18 1 Kings 17-18 Job 8 Romans 6 Karissa

Your best?

Today’s Readings (all 1 link):  1 Kings 5-6; Job 5; Acts 28

Growing up I used to hear get cleaned up, put on clean clothes and shine your shoes because you have to look your best for God…yes, often heard on Sunday morning.  I think today’s passages have a theme of understanding the best we have to offer.

In 1 Kings 5-6, Solomon is the one to build the temple to honor God and he chooses the cedar of Lebanon as the primary construction material.  This cedar was prized throughout the ancient Near East.  Kings used cedar for royal buildings. Cedar signified royal power and wealth.  Cedar symbolized growth and strength. 7 years to build…it must have been magnificent structure.  We have no reason to believe that Solomon had misguided intentions in building a temple that would honor God – the temple God had approved.  In reality, we can easily be led to understand the reverence Solomon had for this project…look at verse 6:7…apparently Solomon felt that the noise of construction was not appropriate for this temple in view of its purpose. So he had all the building parts cut and fitted at the quarry so that they could be assembled quietly on the site.

Job’s friends present another understanding of best…sometimes best can be skewed.  Eliphaz continues where he left off yesterday by advising Job to appeal to God because He is majestic, powerful, and benevolent, sending rain for crops; God provides for the poor and those who suffer, frustrates schemers, while the poor have hope.   Basically, this is very good advice…except for one thing…Eliphaz wrongly assumed that Job had sinned.  Therefore, God was correcting Job so Job should be grateful for the discipline.  Eliphaz maintained that if Job would have the right attitude God would bless him.  Eliphaz was just another friend trying to help – we have no basis to believe he was giving Job anything but his theory on why Job had fallen on hard times…based on what Eliphaz had observed in life (yesterday’s reading).

Paul makes it to Rome – despite being imprisoned, he uses Isaiah to help state his case…the people have hard hearts, eyes that can’t see, ears that can’t understand…yet, Paul told all who would visit him of the hope found in the salvation of God through Jesus.  “He lived there two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him,  proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.”  Paul gives his best…even in prison…

So, what really, is your best?  Solomon commissioned the Cedars of Lebanon – the very best for the God who deserved only the best.  Job trusted in the God he, too, worshipped – despite the “best” his friends portrayed.  Paul, even in prison, continued to give everything he had to God.  What is your best?  What are you giving every day to the one who created you in his image?  If it is all about image, I might suggest that a little recalibration could be necessary.  What really, is your best?

 

 

The Power of Prayer

1 Kings 3-4
Psalm 64
Acts 27

 

 


When I was a little girl I thought it was rude to pray for myself.

My family watched a lot of Unsolved Mysteries and I was convinced murderers were everywhere. At night I would pray “Now I lay me down to sleep…” and then I would add on a few things: “thank you for everything, please forgive me of my sins, please don’t let anyone in my family be killed tonight, and if it’s okay with You please don’t let anyone kill me tonight either.” The last bit was said quickly in the manner of a child asking for a cookie before supper–I thought it was wrong because it was a prayer for me.

That was my prayer life.

At five years old I lived in guilt, fear, and always felt like I wasn’t even good enough.

Everything is so different now and I thank God for that.

Sometimes my prayers are like Solomon’s in 1 Kings 3:7-9 and I ask God to equip me for whatever He has called me to do. Sometimes my prayers are like David’s in Psalm 64 where I praise His great name and cry out for protection. I recently did that, I mentioned it just last week in my blog post! Sometimes my prayers are like that of Paul in Acts 27 where I listen to God’s promises and just follow through on faith that He will do what He says He will do.

I think we live in a culture that is quick to dismiss the power of prayer. There is danger of it becoming routine and almost chore like. The moment prayer becomes a drainer instead of a power source something is wrong and I encourage you to reach out to brothers and sisters in Christ to talk it out, search Scripture, and pray together.

The best part about prayer is that there is no specific way to do it. If you are a person of order, pattern, and repetition there is nothing wrong with repeating the Lord’s Prayer as your prayer. If you are someone who is always on the go you can pray anywhere! I pray in the shower, in the car, in my office, while I clean, and anywhere else you can imagine. If you like words your prayers can be as poetic as you wish. If you don’t like words your prayer can be as simple as repeating the name of Jesus.

As my confirmands learned this year, prayer is a conversation.

Have a conversation with God today.

And don’t forget to listen for His response.

Many Blessings,
Karissa

How long does it take?

 

1 Kings 1-2      Job 4       Acts 26

It seems to me that time is of the essence theme stands tall in today’s reading. From a king that takes too long to pass the baton to his kin and almost causing a civil war, to a man dealing with mortality and personal loss, and to a bold messenger standing before a king proclaiming his faith.

Of course, we can always make the case it is all about timing, about being at the right time and the right place or exactly the opposite. I am always reminded that when it comes to our relationship with God we live in two different time zones. Our time vs. God’s time.

We live in a word of now, instant gratification, instant results, 30 days diets and so on. Somehow we are being conditioned on acting and responding quickly when a situation arises.  But there is so much more to it… isn’t it? Sometimes long planning can be a wonderful thing, seeking God’s wisdom as we look down the road and planning for something can save us from a lot of trouble. Sometimes dealing with emotional pain takes time, a sense of loss and instant healing do not go hand in hand. Time will heal… I heard that said many times, there are lessons to be learned, even if they are painful at least that is what Job seems to learn as his friends speak. And lastly, it is about perseverance, doing something knowing that it will come to bloom at the right time.

All of that is so different than I need answers now. So take time and say your prayers as you pray, trust God’s presence as you wait for his healing hands and stay faithful knowing that indeed God can work even if it takes a long time.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

Abide in Me

better-late-than-never

2 Samuel 23-24; Psalm 63; Acts 25

As was the case with Jesus, the religious leaders of Paul’s time were trying to bring accusations against him for the purpose of putting him to death. And no different than the feelings of Pontius Pilate toward Jesus, Festus (procurator of Judea) could not find reason to have Paul executed. Paul asked to be tried directly in front of Caesar because he is certain that even the emperor himself will find no wrongdoing by Paul. Yet another ruler, King Agrippa, showed up on the scene and wanted to see Paul and hear what he had to say.

Christians of modern times face trials no different today than what Jesus and Paul, and other Christians for that matter, faced 2,000 years ago. We are put to the test on a regular basis by people who are non-believers. Christians are ridiculed by those who think all of this religion stuff is a farce. In some places in this world, Christians are killed simply for being Christians. Yet, it continues to be the largest religious group on the planet, and we add to the numbers all the time.

It would have been easy for Paul to just give up and move on with his life; cut his loses. He could have decided to stop preaching and live his life without fear of execution. But he continued because he believed so strongly in what he was preaching. My prayer for all of us is that our faith remains strong, even as the world seems to close in on us. There is much evil in this world, and it seems as everywhere we turn, there is someone else denouncing Christianity or making fun of Christians. But, just like Paul, stay the course. Jesus said “Remain in me, as I remain in you.” We have so much more to live for than what the world can provide for us.

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