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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

A book unlike any other

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Ecclesiastes 1 

I have to admit that I’ve never really read much of the book of Ecclesiastes, let alone study it as closely as we are about to over the course of the next few weeks. I’m not really sure why, other than it just has never been part of any Bible study that I’ve participated in up to this point, and I can’t recall any sermon series covering it either. But based on the opening chapter, I can say this book starts off unlike just about any other book in the Bible. 

In a nutshell, what this chapter is telling us is that pretty much everything in this world that means anything to me (or you) isn’t worth the price of admission. All the worries that I had in the past week at my job. Meaningless. The worries this weekend about getting all of the outside stuff ready for winter. Meaningless. At the end of the day, the sun will set as always, and rise again the next day. The rivers will start at their sources and run to the sea, just to start all over again. 

I like in verse 10 where it says “Is there anything of which one can say, ‘Look! This is something new?’ It was here already, long ago; it was before our time.” It brings to mind words I hear people say all the time about how out of control society is becoming, as if any of the “problems” of our world are new. Well, ok, maybe some of the issues that involve technology are new, but then again not really. Identity theft is seemingly on the rise, but is it really? Or is it just different? I mean, theft has been around since the beginning of time. Cyber-bullying or sex crimes involving technology? Maybe the means of carrying out such crimes is different, but these crimes have always existed. Nothing that is going on now is really actually new. It’s just more in our faces thanks to the 24-hour news cycle and social media. We can’t escape it anymore. And it’s those types of stories that make the news anyway. Who would tune into the news every night if all they covered were stories like “Man holds open the door for a disabled person”? Or woman praised for paying for the Starbucks order for the car behind her in the drive-thru. 

Anyway, I digress. As I stated before, I haven’t read or studied this entire book before. But I get the sense that the main point of this book is to not focus on worldly things. Instead, focus on God and His purpose for us. Living life to the fullest doesn’t have to mean live fast, die young. Living life to the fullest can (and probably should) mean living a Christ-like life. 

On a side note, I have some people in my life who could use some prayers. My Aunt Cheri was recently diagnosed with cancer. My best friend, also named Matt, recently had surgery to remove a tumor on one of his kidneys and ended up losing the whole kidney. Finally, a family friend recently passed away suddenly at the age of 46. So prayers for my Aunt Cheri, my friend Matt, and the family and friends of Steve Fleck. 

The Sayings of Agur

Proverbs 30

Review & Analysis:  Agur (v. 1) translated from Latin is understood as one who writes … To begin (vv. 2-3), an admission of stupidity is in comparison to God (cp.  Job 11:8-9, Prov. 3:5-7) … These (v. 4) question and probe the mystery of God and His Holy Name … That which we don’t understand, whatever it is, God does (2 Sam. 22:31) … The Word of God is pure, in need of no additions (vv. 5-6, cp. Job 24:22-25) … But we do anyway, including this blog?! … This request (vv. 7-9), a prayer of sorts, is Agur’s admission of vulnerabilities … These sayings (vv. 10-31) are led by ALEPH, the first of 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet … This was possibly done to the benefit children, teaching them their ABC’s and wisdom at the same time … Agur is aware of generational conflicts (vv. 10-14) … Some of dying (vv. 15-16) is beyond our ability to understand … As is how we got here in the first place (vv. 18-19) … The earth itself won’t tolerate some things (vv. 21-23) … Nature clearly displays our LORD’s intelligence and integrity (vv. 24-28) … Early music composers used profound harmonic designs to reflect the many ways in which God’s creation harmonizes with itself … Two verses (vv. 17, 20) seem apart for the others … We end (vv. 32-33) with advice that leads to a peaceful life … I read somewhere the French mathematician Blaise Pascal (see “Pascal’s Wager”) began each day of each month reading the day coinciding chapter of the Book of Proverbs, there being 31 chapters and days in most months … After going through this study, I more fully appreciate why.

Out-think, Out-live, Out-love

Proverbs 29 (NIV)

Proverbs 29(MSG)

This Chapter is filled with Wise Insights and Sayings.  It leads me to think about what T.R. Glover noticed about the early church. The famed Oxford historian T.R. Glover concluded that the early Christian church succeeded because it “out-thought, out-lived, and out-loved” its adversaries in the pluralistic Roman Empire.

Proverbs, and this chapter in particular, are all about living a faithful life, which makes the world and relationships better, that is righteous in the best sense possible.

We read in Verse 2- When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan (NIV). I like how the Message Bible translates verse 2- “When good people run things, everyone is glad, but when the ruler is bad, everyone groans (MSG).  Then in Verse 4- A leader of good judgment gives stability; an exploiting leader leaves a trail of waste (MSG). The righteous “out think, out-live, and-out love” others and make a tremendous difference in their world. 

There are more insights on righteousness in this chapter: Verse 6- “Evildoers are snared by their own sin, but the righteous shout for joy and are glad.” Verse 7- “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.”  Verse 16- “When the wicked thrive, so does sin, but the righteous will see their downfall.” 

May we seek the righteousness of God and encourage others to live in the righteousness and joy of the Lord.

 

Power

Proverbs 28

Leadership comes in many forms. You have your standard and understood higher ups: Kings, Presidents, Tyrants, Czars, etc… But beneath each great title are the people who helped make that title. In various ways, each of us are rulers over own domains.

A teacher leads her students, parents lead the family, even a friend leads another friend through hardships. This is not a question of if we get power, but a matter of when get that power and how we’re to handle it.

Proverbs 28 has many marks of a good leader. Here are two big ones:

  • Be humble with your money (v. 3, 6, 16, 25, and 27).
  • Fear the Lord (v. 1, 4-5, 14, 20, and 26).

When we think about those who follow us, it’s important to always be thinking about the example we set. We need to think about our choices. Are we being selfish with our blessings? Are we mocking the poor? Are we trying to be our own God? These questions are good for our own check-ins, but sometimes it’s a motivator to remember that we’re examples and lights in a dark world.

A final thought:

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper,
but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

Proverbs 28:13

I love that our God has always been about confession and the freedom in confession. There’s always mercy in it. God just wants to know us and be known.

I love it.

Blessings,
Karissa

Proverbs 27- Look in the mirror

As I read this chapter of Proverbs, I am taken by one imagery: people are like a peacock boasting if they lack wisdom.

Yes, I know, it might seem a little harsh and maybe even a little mean, but really look at the text: we boast about tomorrow when we do not have any certainty of it, we live for words of praise, the very desire of our heart seeks what is false and runs away from the truth.

The more I read this chapter, again and again, my heart agrees with how fleeting and easy corrupted we are as people. Is it wrong to be praised for something you had done? Is it wrong to seek approval of your work? Is it wrong to seek people in your life? No, the answer is no as long as your heart is in the right place.

What is the right place? The right place is where you know who you are, where you find a balance between praise and rebuke,  a place where you are open to advise just as quick as you are to give advice. The right place is a place where you know your value.

So, what are you worth? Who are you? What do you have left at the end of the day, when the noise has stopped and you find yourself alone with your thoughts and your God?

Today, I pray that each one of us will be able to look in the mirror. As we gaze at that image may we see the beautify that God has placed in our lives but also be ready to clean any schmutz that we see!

Be blessed,

Bo M.

Proverbs 31

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King Lemuel penned these words which his mother taught him.

 

As a ruler, a king, a sovereign, though you have the authority to, do not ruin your reputation with your liberty to:  1. Dally, flirt, toy, or trifle  with women. 2. Drink wine or strong drink, (beer), for you will be unfit to make solid decisions.  But Do: 1. Open your mouth for the those who have no voice. 2. Judge, as to save, those rights of the afflicted and needy.

A virtuous woman, makes an excellent wife, her worth is indescribable.  1. Her husband works without worry, brings home his pay, lays it on the table and always knows she will not spend it foolishly.  2. She never undermines him, but does good for him always.  3. She is industrious, constantly thinking about her household as a unit unto itself.  4. She is not lazy, or considers herself a princess, she arises early and works with a purpose until dark.  5. She keeps herself healthy and strong.  6. She reaches out to the poor and the needy.  7. Hard times do not bring her any fear for she has prepared for them, knowing that those times are inevitable.  8. Her love for her family is obvious to all whom she encounters, she has the children clean, fed, and trained for good behavior and politeness.  9. In her view there is no better man in all the city than her husband.  10. Again she is industrious and clothes her self with strength and dignity, and welcomes the change that the future will bring.  11. Love, kindness, strength, wisdom, and nobleness are her virtues, the whole city knows it, but mostly her children, and her husband who praises her and blesses her, and thanks God for her every day of his life with her.  12. Beauty comes from deep within, it starts in the heart but can’t be contained there, it spills out in all that you do.

Only God can develop a woman of this type.  I like to think the Samaritan woman at the well, who was, from our understanding, of low self esteem, and dependent upon any mans attention, changed into a woman who like this.  After her encounter with Jesus she ran to the city declaring who she used to be.  “Come see a man who told me all about myself.”  But now there was hope for real change, a new beginning that started with Jesus.  John 4.7-30.  “Old things have passed away, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians 5.17.

Karl

P.S. I love my wife.

Proverbs 25

 

This chapter of proverbs and wisdom sayings deals mostly with integrity.

Speaking in terms of purity, of undefiled idealism, it is surely God’s sovereign right to conceal anything.  It’s His right to cover any discoverable matter, whether physical or philosophical with shadows, so that they may be discovered, but not with out great effort and learning.  In like manner it is the glory of a true, honorable monarch on earth,  one who truly seeks righteousness, to search out such matters, through not only his own personal disciplines, but also through those learned men in his rule.  No man is an island, that can’t learn from others efforts, and studies.

The integrity of rulers, of  teachers, bosses, government officials, spouses, anyone who makes decisions, affect others in their care, or realm of influence. They are to be without reproach.

If you have a conflict with a neighbor, try to settle it privately without fanfare or threats. By patience and civility, a kind approach and a soft answer, does much more to resolve the matter than anything else.  And you won’t be accused of, or thought of, as to acting the part of a fool.

A simple question asked, or a word of wisdom stated, with the express purpose of keeping a friend from going the wrong direction, or making a grand mistake, is like precious jewelry.  When heeded, those words will be remembered, and treasured for a lifetime.

To show unexpected kindness to, or trust in a troubled, angry person most often results in a mockery of said kindness.  Don’t expect a response of gratitude, you have just exposed to him his weaknesses, and like vinegar and soda, he will get all frothed up.  The LORD knows your heart, He sees your acts of goodness and He rewards.

A righteous person should never quit being good, running away from contentiousness, and evil undermining evaluations of your persona.  The wicked always trample and destroy everything in their path, including the things that are of benefit to them, such as wisdom and good advise.

Overindulging your senses and desires results in overdose.   No one wants to clean up after you.    That goes for overstaying your welcome also, know when it’s time to go home.

No one can stand a liar.  That goes for a con-man, or a junkie, learn to recognize them, and don’t give them the time of day, they’ll rob you.

A kind, uplifting word rewards your heart, but don’t push for more.  It’s not good to receive too much praise, for it builds pride, and you will begin to think too highly of yourself.  Do all your righteousness as to the LORD.

Karl

Wisdom Revisited

Proverbs 24

Review & Analysis:  Wisdom is presented as a power (vv. 1-12) that saves lives (vv. 1,2), that maintains households (vv. 3,4), that wars as necessary (vv. 5,6cp. Deut. 20:1-5) and is excellent (vv. 7-12) … When I was young, some time ago, an objective most had was to be smart, simply wisdom by another name … I no longer hear this talked about as a living objective … Is it because most believe that our gadgets have supplanted the need for “smarts”? … An aside, Edward Gibbon traced the decline of the Roman Empire and stated near the end that “bizarre behavior passed for sophistication” …  Solomon terms smart, reasoned living as wise … This saying (vv. 13-22) teaches the path to future happiness includes correct discernment (vv. 13, 14) and resisting evil (vv. 15-20) … These two verses (vv. 21, 22) flatly state that YHWH and the king are at the center of a nation … Is YHWH a center of attention in America? … Finally, we have some independent sayings regarding wisdom (vv. 23-34) .. Wisdom distinguishes between innocence and guilt (vv. 23-25) … Truth is likened to a kiss on the lips (v. 26) … There are worse things in this life …   Tend your fields, build your house (v. 27) … Do not lie (v. 28), do not repay evil with evil (v. 29) … The lazy (see Prov. 6:6-11) destroy the household and, coincidentally, serve as an example to the wise (vv. 30-34).

 

Restraint, Wisdom, Education & Insight

Proverbs 23 (NRSV)

Proverbs 23 (The Message Bible)

Remember the Value of Restraint:

*Be shrewd and savvy when eating with the powerful and influential.

*Be rich in faith, not in things, for riches disappear.

*Avoid the stingy and fools and save your time and wisdom for better people.

*Do not take advantage of the poor and orphans by stealing their land.

*Do the hard work of disciplining your children.

*Do not be envious of the fleeting fortunes of sinners.

*Drink wine but do not be a drunkard.

*Listen to the wisdom of your parents.

*Avoid prostitutes and promiscuous women.

Go for Truth, Wisdom, and Instruction:

*Don’t sell out for the love of money and and false hopes.

*Give your mind, your attention, your focus to instruction, education, knowledge and good judgement.

*Hold on to what is good for your Redeemer is strong.

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