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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

A Psalm of Deliverance

Psalm 7

Review & Remarks: David puts his trust in the LORD, yet he laments his situation, apparently paranoid (vv. 1-2) … Leaders of all ilks typically suffer from some degree of paranoia … Not all of it is justified, some of it most likely is … David conditionally surrenders to his adversaries judgement of, through YHWH (vv. 3-5) … In effect, David claims innocence … He asks the LORD to judge his circumstances and decide for Himself (vv. 6-9), expressing confidence in His verdict (v. 10) … The wicked will face God’s wrath (v. 11) … Additionally, the violent will be judged violently (vv. 12-16) … Therefore, God should be praised for His righteous goodness by way of song (v. 17) … This writing brings to mind the subject of criminal activities … The number of perfectly and completely undetectable crimes are very few … My belief is our perfect LORD shines light on most of the dark criminal activities of people(s), bringing them to account and eventually justice (Ezek. 7:20-27).

We Can Count on God

Psalm 7; Esther 2:1-18; 2 Timothy 2:8-13

All three passages speak to us about how we can trust in the Lord God for our care, security, and salvation. The Lord comes through for his people.

In Psalm 7, we learn that David takes “refuge in” God. He trusts the Lord to protect him from all the enemies who pursue him. We too, can pray to God for deliverance from whatever seeks to undo us in life.

In Esther 2, we see how God works in and through a most challenging situation for his people, while at work through those who govern. God works to save and sustain his people. God is at work in our world at all times and we need eyes of faith to see what the Lord is doing.

In II Timothy 2:8-13, we are encouraged to remember the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ through which we are saved. Jesus has lived for us, died for us, was resurrected, and reigns for us. “If we endure, [in faith in him] we will also reign with him.” Jesus remains faithful, always!

Prayer: Redeeming and faithful God, we are grateful for how you have loved us so deeply in and through the Lord Jesus Christ and how you love us still. Hear our prayers of Thanksgiving this day for your gracious love. We make this prayer in Jesus name, Amen.

The Mirror That Changes Us

Today’s Readings:  click here  –  Psalm 100; Isaiah 40:1-11; Revelation 22:1-9       (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)

As we approach this coming week of Thanksgiving, and given what 2020 has brought us thus far, searching our hearts for giving thanks might just be more difficult than we thought possible.  Psalm 100 is ‘A Psalm of Thanksgiving’, so appropriate and fitting for this coming week. This is an invitation to enter into the presence of God joyfully and His faithfulness is for us now just as it was and is to come.  David brings to mind that we are to acknowledge that the Lord is God, our creator.  How do we do that?  We shout our praises, bear witness to his authority in all the land and within our lives in accordance to his unfaltering guidance and we give thanks and praise for His unending and faithful love for us. He is worthy of our worship and praise, with heartfelt thanksgiving as we witness and claim his almighty goodness.

In the Isaiah passage today, there were many years yet to come of trouble and exile before the fall of Jerusalem, and God tells Isaiah to be gentle and tender and to comfort His people of Jerusalem as the seeds of comfort take root in the soil of adversity.  In a sense, that is a pretty fitting counsel for us today in this futile year we’re wrapped up in and our lives seem to be falling apart. We ask God for His comfort, love and protection as we go through hard times. His comfort gives us strength to endure each fragment of what we are facing, and this comfort is found in His word, His presence, and His people. This is comfort at its finest. Jesus is our great shepherd, gently tending to our every need.  Both Psalm 100 and the Isaiah passage uses the word SHOUT over and over. The message here is that we are to make noise, raise the rooftops, shake the walls, and let God’s glory and goodness be known  to all through our actions and praises.

Revelation flows through each chapter staging the scene, setting the foundation and preparing us for our eternal life when Jesus comes again. Metaphors and truths are widely used, restated and repeated so that we are certain to get the point and stay on task. Here, the river represents our eternal life. The tree symbolizes the tree of life in the Garden of Eden. The importance of worship is spoken here to John by the Angel.  Worship is the first step toward a meaningful bond and a deep desire to know God through a personal relationship with His Son Jesus. Scripture promises us, that when we trust and believe in Him, He draws near and His spirit is within us and our needs are satisfied.  This continues with confessing our sins and choosing to live a faithful life according to God’s laws and plan for us. Jesus is our living example, our hope.   As a Christian,  we are to do our best to be more like Him in every way. To mirror His life and actions is what changes us.  Thus, the world will see less of us and more of Him and to produce a gnawing sense and desire to seek His goodness.

Here are a few songs for your spiritual listening pleasure and meditation:

‘Your Love Awakens Me’ by Phil Wickham

‘Shout It Out’ by Vertical Church Band

‘This Is How We Know’ by Matt Redman   

Lord, I come to you with praises of thanksgiving. You satisfy my every need. You are with me through every mountain of joy and every valley of heartache.  I am so thankful for your example of a life of faith that binds me closer to you and my Heavenly Father.  May the reflection I see in the mirror be that of you, to guide and lead me every day. I pray this and so much more, with shouts of praises to you!  AMEN.

Kris

In Times of Trouble

Psalms 83: 1-4, 9-10, 17-18

Exodus 2: 1-10

1 Thessalonians 5:12-18

Starting with the passage from 1 Thessalonians 5:12-18 Paul wrote to this church, which had undergone great turmoil and persecution from the local Jewish community. When Paul first arrived there, as was his custom, he went to the local synagogue and started proclaiming the gospel of Jesus as Messiah. From the beginning these men had not understood the prophecies and foretelling of the Messiah in the scriptures, and when it was revealed to them they rebelled, out of jealousy, and went out to hire thugs to disrupt all gatherings of ‘the church,’ with particular hatred for Paul and Silas, Acts 17:5-10. So Paul wrote to the church, in part, to understand and appreciate their leaders and pastors, who were in constant trouble and trials from the enemies outside the church, and even within, there is plenty of unrest. Even today all pastors and leaders have to deal with unrest from within the church. There are always unruly people to calm down, there are people who are strongly opinionated, and disagreeable, there are those who are timid and weak, and then there are those gentle souls that are easily frightened. So appreciate your pastors, not everyone is as kind and calm as you are. Also the church is called to be patient with all these personalities, and no one is to take things into their own hands and repay evil for evil, but rather look for the good in each other. Look for ways to rejoice, rather than complain, go outside and look at the sunset, there you can marvel at God’s grace in creation. When you see a brother who has recovered from an illness, thank God and rejoice with him for good health. Thank God at the grocery store for full shelves, and at the gas station for a full tank of gas. Never stop praying, for God hears our prayers and it glorifies Him when we pray, because it reveals our submission to Him, and our need for Him.

Exodus 2: 1-10 This is a select passage concerning the baby Moses whose mother defied the edict of the Egyptian Pharaoh to kill all the Hebrew male children. She hid her son, putting him a basket in the Nile river, only to have him be found by the Pharaohs daughter, who brought him into the palace to be raised as her own. There is great irony here, in that the King of Egypt is raising the very one who will return to set God’s people free. The bigger picture though, is that when trouble comes to us, God always provides a way of escape. In this example the mother thought of a basket to put Moses in, maybe it was a short term solution, but it was God who gave this mother the thought, she acted on it in faith, and Jehovah orchestrated the end.

Psalms 83: 1-4, 9-10, 17-18 An imprecatory psalm of Asaph. “O God, do not remain quiet. Do not be silent and, O God, do not be still. For behold Your enemies make an uproar, And those that hate You have exalted themselves….They have said let us wipe them out as a nation, That the name of Israel be remembered no more.” He goes on asking God to remember the mighty works He performed against other enemies of Israel, and for Jehovah to shame His enemies, so that they will know that Jehovah is El Elyon, God Most High over all the earth. The truth is that God understands our emotions, and He can handle it when we express our frustrations, anger, and desire for reciprocal justice. We are living in such times as these currently, and it’s okay to rant occasionally to our God. But ultimately we make requests and not demands, knowing that God has planned good for we who believe, and not destruction, Jeremiah 29:11-14.

When trouble comes our way, whether in the form of temptation, or mishap, or disaster, our response should always be to cry out to Jehovah for help. Concerning temptation, 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man, and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape, so that you will be able to endure it.” That way of escape is called Grace, it’s available to us for the asking. Grace makes the way of escape, faith takes the way of escape. Concerning disaster, Job 2:10 ” But Job said to her..’Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity.”‘ No one likes hard times, calamity, or trouble but they are a part of life and it is our privilege to call upon the Name of our LORD for help in the time of trouble. We can ask for wisdom, James 1:5, which he freely gives, we can ask for grace, 2 Cor. 6: 1-2, we can ask for help in any way we can think of, and He will hear and answer our prayers according to His kind will.

Karl

Deborah Heads Israel

Judges 4

Review & Remarks: Israel’s evil has brought them under the control of Jabin, king of Canaan, and his 900 chariots for a period of 20 years (vv. 1-3) … Deborah, a prophetess, heads Israel (vv. 4-5) … She questions Barak regarding the LORD’s command to attack Canaan’s army headed by Sisera. Barak commands an army of 10,000 from the tribes of Jebulun and Naphtali (vv. 6-7) … Barak complies with the LORD’s command to attack under the condition that Deborah accompanies them in the expedition (vv. 8-10) … The armies of Jebulun and Naphtali completely destroy those of Canaan on that day with it’s General Sisera, the only survivor, fleeing the scene (vv. 11-16) … Sisera escapes to a foreigners tent of Jael, a Kenite wife of Heber and distant relative of Moses (vv. 11, 17) … There he sleeps and is killed by way of a tent stake driven through both his temples (vv. 18-21) … His remains are displayed to a pursuing Barak (vv. 22) … God leads Israel in its destruction and conquest of Canaan and it’s king Jabin (vv. 23-24) … God uses a woman, Deborah, to lead a military campaign … Barak endorses her authority by refusing to go without her (vv. 8-10) … Another woman, Jael the Kenite, finishes the job in her execution of Sisera (v. 21) … It would appear YHWH is equally adept at employing women to further His cause as men … It simply depends on the situation.

For Such A Time As This

Today’s Readings:  click here  –   Psalm 123; Judges 2:6-15; Revelation 16:1-7  (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)

For such a time as this, peace, calmness and understanding may be among things we are seeking the most.  Prayer, especially, becomes our weighted blanket bringing much needed peace and comfort, like a healing balm. Reading, studying and applying scripture, likewise, is crucial to our well-being. Psalm 123:3 calls out to God to have mercy on us, for we have had our fill of a multitude of contempt.  With this upsurge of disorder, anarchy and utter madness in our midst, Jesus really is our only hope and help in such a time as this.  We may be experiencing that prayer is being pushing aside as unwarranted helplessness that overshadows our power of hope. Here’s an idea to reclaim hope in Jesus by talking with Him when prayer just seems so aloof –

* Set a specific and realistic length of time that you will spend in devoted prayer (2min, 5min, etc)

* If words still won’t come, begin with giving thanks for the day, and other things that come to mind.

* Still having Prayer-Jam? Pray the Lord’s Prayer. It pretty much covers everything. Remember, God  

       knows your heart, He is just so delighted to spend this time with you, His child.

* Finally, just be still. Be still and silent.  Let the Holy Spirit fill you with a renewed energy and

      calming tranquility, that surpasses all understanding. (Philippians 4:4-9 ). 

We are like this psalmist, waiting and watching for God to cover us with his mercy, because His judgement against sin is certain and warrants His wrath when evil and darkness plague us.  The more we are still and waiting, our prayers become cries and our cries give us enduring hope from darkness to light.

Like the Israelites in our scripture today from Judges vs.10, (10 After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel) after Joshua died, that next generation kinda resembles our up and coming generation now, displaying selfish attitudes, corrupt behavior, cynical antics, unimaginable beliefs and wage on war, that just seem to continue escalating.  God is cringing, I just know it.  How hurt He must be to see our world in shambles yet again with many idols at our fingertips and filling our lives.   He is forewarning us, just like He warned the Israelites (15 Every time Israel went out to battle, the Lord fought against them, causing them to be defeated, just as he had warned. And the people were in great distress).   I feel we are at constant battle everyday, and our distress seems stifling and unmeasurable.  God is getting our attention, but many don’t know his voice, nor care to. 

Despite the Israelites disobedience and worship of other gods and idols, God showed boundless mercy by raising up judges to save the people from their sins and oppressions. Mercy has been defined as ‘not giving a person what he/she deserves’ and it is what God did for them then and continues to do for us now through his Son Jesus Christ.  Our sins and disobedience demands firm judgement, by all means. Through Jesus, God has given us a way out of our tangled mess of sins and waywardness, to repent and change our ways.  When we talk with God, seeking forgiveness, we are asking for something we do not deserve.  Yet, when we trust God that Jesus is our ‘Saving Grace and a Merciful Hope’ and that He is working on our behalf, we experience ultimate and endless forgiveness that unlocks the grips of sin and lets hope  in.  

Our Revelation passage today mirrors the same warnings of God’s final wrath with the Israelites and other generations throughout scripture. That in the end, God ultimately opposes and destroys evil. Those who choose to revolt against God, in the end, will suffer and forfeit an eternal life in heaven.  God does not play by our rules with appeal of tolerance and absolution. God sets standards, rules and judgement with His power, according to the perfection of His morals and commandments we are called to live by.  

So, let us be mindful to stay alert, remain prayerful, spread the good news of the Gospel, proclaim Jesus as our Savior, protecting us from the unthinkable and intense disorder and anarchy of our world, because in such a time as this, the darkness lurks everywhere, but it cannot overcome the light, God’s light. (John 1:5).

Here are a few songs for your spiritual listening and meditation:

‘Graves Into Gardens’ by Hilsong Worship w/Brandon Lake

‘Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus’ by Lauren Daigle

‘Never Once’ by Matt Redman

‘For Such a Time as This (Esther’s Song)’ by  Marty Goetz & Misha  

Lord Jesus, thank you for another day that brings me closer to you. Help me to not fear this world, because You have overcome it.  I shout your name in praise for your mighty strength that I would remain unwavering with faith in this life with the greatest reward.  Please forgive me of my transgressions. Set me on your lofty throne. In Jesus’ holy and mighty name, I claim this now.  AMEN

Kris

Do We Recognize God Moments?

Psalm 78; Nehemiah 8:1-12; 1 Thessalonians 3:6-13

I feel like so many of my posts lately have been about keeping our lives focused on faith. However, it is important to realize that having faith is only a part of the battle. At least as important, if not more important, we have to be receptive to the signs all around us that God is very much still with us. In Psalm 78, there is a long list of the times that God did amazing things witnessed by thousands upon thousands of people, and yet people still asked for more signs. Parting the Red Sea. Water from a rock. Manna from heaven. Pillar of smoke by day, pillar of fire by night. And still, people didn’t believe and fell away. The people of Thessalonica believed in the Gospel without ever having witnessed any of Jesus’ miracles. Paul and Timothy praised them for their faith and hoped that they would continue to grow in faith. 

I see people write or hear people say all the time that God needs to send a sign. People say things like “where is your invisible God?” Even people who are people of faith, at times, seem to be stuck in a rut in feeling like God is leaving us behind. But I refuse to believe that God is turning His back on us or is not present at all times. Sure, there are going to be evil deeds done. There are going to be people who will not believe no matter what. Seemingly, the general masses may be living more for worldly desires, which makes it seem more and more like God is not with us. But, we all know better. We look for and find God present in all the little things in our daily lives. You have a bad day at work, but while making a quick stop at the store on your way home, you have a great 30 second interaction with a fellow shopper or the cashier, and some of your stress is melted away. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Feeling like things are down and not going well, so you go out for a short walk at a local forest preserve, where a deer and her fawn cross the path right in front of you, and suddenly you forget about the entire rest of the world. Coincidence? Not a chance. God puts people or events in our lives, as miniscule as they may seem, as a sign that He is with us always. When I feel like things aren’t going well, and feel anxiety creeping in, there is always something or someone that crosses my path that resets my system. And I can’t help but think, as I reflect, that God played a role. That is when I am reminded of Jesus’ words at the end of Matthew when He says “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” 

God may send the same dramatic messages from above that He sent the Israelites in OT times. But He is still there, with us, every second of every day. We just need to open our eyes, hearts, and minds to recognize those God moments. 

Let’s Be Like Jesus

Joshua 24: 25-33

Psalm 78

1 Corinthians 14: 20-25

Joshua 24: 25-33 At the end of his life Joshua has summoned all the elders of Israel to gather at Shechem, which is described as a valley most beautiful in all the land of Israel. There Joshua has brought a challenge to the leaders, in verse 15, to choose this day whom you will serve, the gods of Egypt, or the gods from beyond the River Euphrates, or Jehovah, the one who has led you by the hand from the days of Moses to this very day. This is where Joshua then made the definitive statement , “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Then the leaders made a covenant with Joshua, and said “We will serve Jehovah our God and we will obey His voice,” So Joshua wrote these words in the book of the Law of God and set a large stone by the sanctuary of the LORD, as a testimony of the covenant they made. Israel then served Jehovah all the days of Joshua, and the elders living at the time who had seen and heard of all the wonders and deeds of Jehovah.

Psalm 78 A song of difficult performance, a Maskil of Asaph. This psalm is a beautiful poem of the works of Jehovah, the constant rebellion of Israel, the chastisement of God, their repentance, and God’s forgiveness. It’s a roller coaster existence that Israel has with Jehovah. One moment they are pledging their allegiance, then they are secretly chasing after foreign gods. Such poetic words are used to describe their journey, as in verses 13-17, “He divided the sea and caused them to pass through, And he made the waters to stand up like a heap, Then He led them with a cloud by day, And all the night with a light of fire. He split the rocks in the wilderness, And gave them abundant drink like the oceans depth, He brought forth streams also from the rock and caused waters to run down like rivers.” He talks of Manna falling from the heavens and how they were eating ‘angels food.’ Jehovah made the quail to fall from the sky in the midst of the camp, like the dust of the ground.

Yet in the midst of plenty Israel complained, and rebelled, again and again they tempted Jehovah, and followed foreign god’s. Three times the story is repeated in this Psalm, ending with the reign of David, of whom it is said, “shepherded them with the integrity of his heart.”

1 Corinthians 14: 20-25 Paul is writing to the church in Corinth, where troubles abound. The Corinthians are much like Israel, in that they have developed a roller coaster existence with Jehovah. They have adopted the ways of their culture and forgotten their first love. In the last chapter Paul has gone to great lengths to describe love to them, how love is not self centered, does not seek it own, does not act unbecomingly, or take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in corruption, is not provoked, but rather rejoices in truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never gets tired, or ever fails.

In chapter 14: 20-25 Paul continues this greater thought says, “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking,” as in selfish, self centered, ego-centric, wanting to be the center of attention, “but in your thinking be mature.” He then goes on tho discuss the use of tongues and prophecy in the worship services. Though this has little impact in our culture of American church services, the greater point is, we are to be oriented to love of the brethren, and maturity. As in Romans 14, the mature Christian is to understand the immature brother, yet the immature Christian doesn’t get to remain immature forever. There are gifts of the Holy Spirit available and active in the church today, but those who are aware of their gifts are rarely clamoring to be noticed because of their giftedness. The immature Christian probably isn’t aware of any gifts of the spirit in himself, and so only has physical talents and abilities, which are useful until a level of maturity arises and spirit awareness falls on him. Maturity doesn’t come overnight, and can’t be rushed. Just as a teenager who wants so badly to be accepted as an adult, yet hasn’t arrived.

Life as a Christian doesn’t have to be a roller coaster existence with God, like Israels was, but can and should be like an inclined plane, ever growing, becoming more and more like Jesus. 2 Corinthians 3:18 “But we all with unveiled face. beholding as in a mirror the glory of the LORD, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory…” Christian maturity comes from true study of the scriptures with a true desire to learn and know. Christian maturity comes from a disciplined prayer life, a disciplined lifestyle, and focus on Jesus Christ. Hebrews 12.1, “Therefore since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at he right hand of the throne of Jehovah.” Let’s be like Jesus.

Karl

Obedience at Ai

Joshua 8

Review & Remarks: Israel is in the process of it’s conquest of Canaan … With it’s victory at Jericho (Josh. 8), followed by Achan’s sin of taking prohibited valuables from Jericho (Josh. 7:1, 10-26, cp. Josh. 6:18-19), Israel fails in it’s first attempt to take Ai (Josh. 7:2-9) … Achan’s indiscretion results in loss for the whole of Israel … Sin can be like this, when one is committed (Josh. 7:1), many may suffer because of it (Josh. 7:11-12) … Back to Chapter 8, through previous failings YHWH now has Joshua and Israel’s complete attention … The war plan, in accordance with the LORD, is for Israel to divide its forces. A small group of 5000 will draw the frontal attention of Ai, meanwhile a larger group of 30,000 lay to ambush as indicated by the above diagram (8:1-13) … It all goes as planned resulting in the destruction of Ai and its king (8:14-29) … To memorialize the event Joshua at Mt. Ebal and Gerizim builds an alter, gives burnt and peace offerings, carves the Laws of Moses into stones, and performs a reading of blessings and cursing’s as prescribed in Moses’ Book of the Law (8:30-35) … This reading is most likely our Book of Deuteronomy … The assembly was composed Israel’s men, women, and children along with “strangers” (vv. 33, 35) … No one, not even “strangers” are excluded from this reading or this Joshua led adventure with God, or it’s benefits.

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