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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

How Can It Be?

Today’s Readings:  click here  –  Psalm 28; Genesis 37:29-36; 2 Peter 2:4-10 (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)

Psalm 28, another beautiful prayer and praise of David.  Sound familiar?  It should, because that is exactly how we should be praying.  Trusting and praying out to our God in times of trouble ,fear and doubt.  Even in our waiting, we praise His great name and mighty works in our life, because when we can’t see what is happening within and around us, God is at work.  Someone wise once told me to pray, praise AND thank God often for answered prayers, even those yet unanswered because He IS working on my behalf all the time and it reminded me to be patient and grateful in the waiting, for God’s timing is always perfect. Here’s a wide list of scripture that confirms this:  Scripture – God’s  Timing.

Our Genesis passage today picks up after Joseph’s brothers throw him in a hole and deceive their Father to believe that Joseph has died.  They didn’t expect him to really be dead, which is what they thought when Joseph was no longer captive in the hole.  After Reuben’s reaction that the hole was empty, you might have thought there would be some positive action taken by the brothers. Perhaps they could have chased after Joseph and rescued him.  No?  Not these brothers. The first thing they do is set about to cover up their idiocy and deceive their father. There’s no remorse or sadness until they see what heartache and grief it brings to their father. And even then, they only try to comfort him. There’s no attempt whatsoever to try and make things right.   Lesson to learn here?   When we screw up badly, and we all do, it only makes it that much worse when we try and cover it up with lies and deceit.   And it just snowballs until things are totally out of our control.  So don’t cover it up.  It won’t work anyway. Deceit and lies are against God’s law right from the beginning with Moses and the 10 Commandments. God will ALWAYS reveal the truth in His timing and His magnitude. That stuff just eats at our hearts and our conscience until we can’t handle it anymore and we break, with God right there to rescue us, and revealing His mighty love and mercy for us, always.

Reading 2 Peter 2:4-10, one of many, certainly seems deemed for the days we are currently living. Our world is out of control, overwhelmed with fear, anxiety and uncertainty, so much changing and not for the better. These days align with what Jesus and the Prophets, Joel & Daniel and others, forewarned us about to prepare us for the ‘Last Days’ and Jesus’ return to save His people from destruction and take us to our heavenly eternal home.  Today, more than ever we need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, read and study scripture and pray without ceasing to generate a sense of healthy and holy thinking and living when the world around us tells us otherwise.  We will be tempted to the point of destruction, but Jesus is our saving grace from our sins.  Hold fast to His word, love and mercy and find healing, strength and wisdom in these troubled days. Surround yourself with other believers to build each other up and stay on the straightaway with Jesus as  your guide. When fear, guilt, shame, doubt and temptation fill your heart, do not give in to them, release them to Jesus to remove them from your troubled heart and overflow your cup with his amazing unending abundance love, peace and joy, even in this troubled world.  It really is a beautiful thing if you just let Him in. Pray today that Jesus will hold your heart captive, to surrender your whole being, mind, body and soul to Him.  In a world so dark and sinful, let Jesus bring light to your life which is so worth living, for His glory.  Live everyday with Jesus at the helm.

Enjoy a few songs – let them speak to your heart today with prayerful thought and meditation.

‘Carry Us – Psalm 28’  by Matt Searle, performed by Miriam Jones

‘How Can it Be’ by Lauren Daigle

‘Christ Our Hope in Life and Death’ by Keith & Kristyn Getty, Matt Papa

‘Live Like That’ by Sidewalk Prophets

Prayer:   Lord Jesus, in one breath I pray and praise your marvelous, wonderful and mighty love for me.  Thank you for your unending mercy and forgiveness. Lead me and guide me in a way of life that brings glory to your name and illuminates my heart is this dark and crazy world unfolding around me. I trust you in my days of doubt and fear, my ever and always protector.  Thank you Lord for bestowing your love on me, abundantly than I will ever know.  In your holy name, Jesus, I pray this and so much more. m AMEN!

Kris

The Exploits of Jacob

Genesis 31

Review:  Jacob is told by Laban’s sons that he is rich (vv. 1-2) … The LORD commands Jacob to return to Canaan, away from Laban (v. 3, 13) … Jacob then recounts to his wives, Leah and Rachael, how their father Laban has cheated him (vv. 4-8) … In a dream, an Angel of God reveals the LORD has paid attention to Laban’s wrongs (vv. 9-12) … Rachel and Leah claim their inheritance (vv. 14-16) … While Laban is shearing sheep, Jacob camels his possessions, including Leah and Rachael, and treks for Canaan (vv. 17-21) … Laban pursues and catches Jacob’s caravan in Gilead, having been told in a dream not to be critical of him (vv. 22-29) … Laban questions Jacob about the taking of his gods and searches for them (vv. 30-35) … Jacob criticizes Laban for mistreating him for 20 years (vv. 36-42) … Laban proposes a treaty or malediction, that is a LORD supervised covenant marked by a pile of stones.  Whereby Jacob will rightly treat Rachael and Leah and Laban will end his pursuit of them and do Jacob’s family no harm (vv. 43-53) … Jacob offers a sacrifice to God, eats, and sleeps in the Gilead hills (v. 54) … The morning after, Laban kisses all of Jacob’s family good-bye and heads for home in Syria (v. 55).

Analysis:  This is a story of Canaan based Jacob taking leave of Syria based (probably Mesopotamia) Laban … Rachael’s taking of Laban’s gods (v. 19) and his subsequent all-out seek and search mission (vv. 33-35) testifies to their importance.  They were most likely heirlooms, proof that Laban was the rightful heir and leader of their family … That Jacob was angry in being accused of stealing such valuable possessions (v. 36) is not surprising. He is completely unaware of Rachael’s heist (v. 19) … Later these god’s are buried (Gen. 35:2-4) … The deal at Mizpah in Gilead (vv. 43-53) calls on YHWH t righteously judge either Laban or Jacob if they violate their agreement … To say there was a lack of trust between them, the same as today with Israel and the nations which surround her, would be an understatement.

Trust Jesus

Psalm 17:1-7, 15; Isaiah 43:1-7; Matthew 15:32-39

I’m going to keep this one pretty short I think. As I look at all three of these passages, one broad theme that I see through all three of them is that we just need to trust that God is in control. Giving up control is something that, if you are like me, is not easy to give up. I admit it, I can be a control freak at times. But in uncertain times, in an uncertain world, I know that I can’t control everything going on around me. As much as I would like to try, it just isn’t going to happen. I had a nice 2 minute conversation with a woman today who was picking up lunches for her children and we were talking about schools going back or not going back. And something she said that has stayed with me the rest of the day was that she keeps praying that God’s will be done. I’ve heard so many people talk about freedoms we have as laid out in our constitution, and those freedoms are what makes our nation great. But way more freeing than even those words written about 250 years ago by our founding fathers are the words from the Lord’s Prayer; “thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.” When we put our fate in God’s hands and trust that things will work out, it frees us from stress, anxiety, and depression. It’s not easy to trust God’s plan, but the more we leave our fears at Jesus’ feet in prayer, the easier I think it will be to leave this wild ride of life up to God to navigate for us. 

Last week was virtual VBS, and the catchphrase that was stated over and over again throughout the week was “Trust Jesus!” We just need to trust Jesus that all of this craziness will eventually simmer down and we can pick up the broken pieces and learn from them hopefully. Trust Jesus! 

Liberty

Philippians 2.1-2

Philippians 2.1-2 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, any affection and compassion, make my jot complete by being of the same mind,…

Concerning: affection and compassion. Romans 8.5 “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, on the things of the Spirit.”

Philippians 2.3 “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind, regard one another as more important than yourselves, do not merely look out for your own interests, but for the interests of others also.”

We are all of great interest, and value to Jehovah. The key to caring, affection, compassion is regarding another persons needs as higher priority than your own. have no pride in yourself as to supersede the value of others.

Romans 8.32 “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things.”

Ephesians 2.7 “So that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” This is the affection of Jehovah, the love of God. There are, by my count, 49 individual attributes of Jehovah as revealed in the Scriptures, of which are affection and compassion. We also are not shallow single phase, or single planed persons, but multi faceted, and all of us are capable of affection and compassion, being as it were created in the image of God.

Romans 12.9-12 “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in in brotherly love; giving preference tone another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, servant in spirit, saving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation; devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.”

In Mark 5.1-20 the story of the demoniac in the Gerasenes is told. This man was exceedingly strong, beyond any normal man. He also was possessed, screaming in torment, frightful to be any where near, and naked, while also harming himself, and seemingly out of his mind. Any attempt to contain him was useless, even chains could not hold him. Then comes along Jesus who upon landing on the shore of the area, saw this man, called out to him, cast the demons out and got him clothes, and was having a conversation with him when the people from the near by village appeared. They were more afraid of Jesus than they were of the man, for He had the power to tame this man. As Jesus was departing the same night that He came, he appointed the man the mission of going through this are of the Decopolis and telling of the works of Christ.

Do you see that the mission of Jesus was to cross the Sea, for one night, for one man, for one reason. Compassion and affection, i.e. salvation, for this one man was the driving force for this mission.

Let us be of the same mind.

Karl

Promises Times Three, No Four

Psalm 17:1-7, 15; Isaiah 41:8-10; Romans 9:6-13 (NIV)

There’s an old Hymn, Standing on the Promises and the chorus is,

Standing, standing
Standing on the promises of God my Savior
Standing, standing
I’m standing on the promises of God

These three passages are about promises, the promises of God.

David is running for his life from Saul the current King who is jealous of David’s successes.  David was anointed to be the next King of Israel yet he is on the run lest Saul kill him.  Saul is hunting for David and David hides out.  David had an opportunity to kill Saul and bring this running to an end.  Yet David has respect for the position of King in Israel being chosen by God.  So David waits for God to make him King and does not take matters into his own hands.  David trusts in the promise of God even when it is most difficult to believe.

The passage in Isaiah is about Israel in captivity and it seems impossible that they will return home once again and be a nation. God speaks into this time of disappointment and discouragement.  They are reminded that God has still chosen them and not rejected them.  They must, in faith, even in a dark time, hold onto the promise of God, “I am with you…I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you…”

The Romans passage is the most difficult of the three given the choice of Jacob over Esau part of the passage.  Yet this passage, too, is about the promise of God.  “Children of the promise” connected to Abraham are the ones through whom God’s covenantal presence will be manifested. They are children of faith who like Abraham believed in God’s promise to them.  See Genesis Chapter 12 for Abrahams expression of faith in the Lord. Physical connections are not necessarily faith connections to God.  In each and every generation God is looking for those who believe, who are “children of the promise.”

Think about the promises of God today, such as the one that comes to us through the Lord Jesus, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Prayer: Wonderful God, Mysterious God, Loving God, Lord of all of your promises, help us to believe in you, your word, and your promises to us.  We make this prayer  Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

July 30, 2020 “What’s Your Super Power?”

Today’s Readings:  click here  –  Psalm 17:1-7, 15; Isaiah 14:1-2; Philippians 4:10-15

(to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)

This Psalm passage today, like many others, is a prayer. As there is a time to weep and a time to rejoice, so there is a time for praise and a time for prayer.  Here, we can dare to believe that  David was now persecuted, most likely by Saul, who hunted him like a flock on the mountains; with fierce battles and inward fears, both impelled him to plead his heart to the throne of mercy.  He calls for God to hear him and take refuge on him.  Psalm prayers are beautiful heartfelt tools to help navigate and guide us through any hardship or toil, joy or praise, through prayer

Our passage from Philippians today, embodies a very powerful, affirming and encouraging verse that many Christians draw strength from,  as well as confidence and contentment when faced with adversity, defeat, challenging struggles, weakness, uncertainty, doubt, discernment, even  persecution;   13’I can do all things because Christ gives me the strength’, and  37For nothing will be impossible with God’  (Luke 1:37) and  9Each time Jesus said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.”  So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me  (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Philippians 4:13 as well as the other  scripture passages mirrored here, were a familiar dose of encouragement and power of positive thinking for our family as our kids were growing up and we were parenting.  With kids, often the struggle is very real, to achieve or accomplish goals they set and a common but not favorable word spoken is  ‘Can’t’ ;  I can’t do it, I just can’t. We taught them early on that when this word overshadows anything you are attempting to do… PRAY.. pray these words… I can do all things because Christ gives me the strength.  God never failed them.  Their eyes were so wide open to see first hand what they could do with God’s help, to never settle for less, defeat, failure, or unworthiness of any kind. 

This prayer conveyed unfailing positive attitudes, spiritual and mental clarity, and became our eclipsing factor upholding our family’s constant reminder of God’s love, strength and power to overcome any difficulty or trouble we faced. It truly was ‘Our Super Power’.  We believe these words to our very core. Both of the boys chose this scripture to be inscribed on their Confirmation stole. As a parent, it was so refreshing to see how they held tight and believed in  such power.  

Are you facing some tough times, decisions, distractions, or tasks of your own?  Start here with this prayer of powerful positive thinking: I can do all things because Christ gives me the strength.  Believe also that ‘Nothing is impossible with God’ (Matthew 19:26).  Let these be constant words in your heart and from your lips.  You will find strength to do, to not do, to overcome, to out do, out last whatever is set before you.  Making prayer and conversation with Jesus a ‘First’ go to, a priority is just an glimpse of what more our Father in Heaven has in store for us when we love and trust His Son, Jesus.  I say, ‘what can you lose’… in the eyes of our beholder… NOTHING!; but how much more we CAN lose if we don’t.

I found a delightful and uplifting commentary written on this Philippians passage with a focus on contentment,  ‘A Life of Contentment’.  It’s an encouraging read.  If you have time, I highly recommend it.   In depth commentary read; Philippians 4:1-15 Commentary by Steven J. Cole

Enjoy a few songs – let them speak to your heart this day.

‘I Can Do All Things’ – with worship motions

‘Feeling At Home in the Presence of Jesus’ by Gloria & William J. Gaither

‘Stronger’ by Hillsong Worship

‘You Are My Strength’ by Hillsong Worship

Prayer:   Lord Jesus, thank you for loving me enough to give me your strength through my weakness, direction when I am wandering, love when I am empty, clarity when I am blinded.  I find contentment, peace and strength in trusting and believing in you.  I know I am not alone on this journey and that comforts me.   AMEN!

Kris

God’s Perfect Plan

Psalm 65:8-13; Genesis 30:25-36; James 3:13-18

Psalm 65

These verses from Psalm 65 fit perfectly with part of Carrie’s sermon this morning (July 26th) for those of you who got to see/hear it. Part of it was about how perfect God’s plan is and how He thought out all of the tiny details. Her example was how fire ants are able to build a living bridge of ants to cross a moving stream, and how they work together to make that happen. As I was listening to that part of the message, it made me think of another scientific fact that I find amazing and demonstrates God’s perfect creation. Do you know that total solar eclipses are unique only to Earth? No other planet in the solar system has eclipses like us. The reason? Because the ratio of the size difference between the moon and sun is almost identical to the ratio of the difference in distance between the Earth and moon and the Earth and the sun. The sun is about 400 times bigger than the moon, and it is about 400 times further away from the Earth than the moon. So when they cross paths we get a total eclipse. And I think this psalm message is saying the same thing. That God is the master architect that created everything good. Perfect in fact. 

Genesis 30

Jacob really wanted to get out on his own after serving his due time to Laban, and after the birth of Joseph. Sweet freedom. I imagine the feeling of freedom that Jacob was hoping to feel might be like when I finally get my student loans or my mortgage paid off. My debts cleared. But Laban realizes what has happened to his wealth under Jacob’s time served and he’s thinking “wait a minute, I’m not ready for you to go yet.” Laban knows that with the departure of Jacob will probably also involve the departure of some of (or much of) his wealth not having someone around who is so good at what they do. Jacob makes a final deal with Laban that is accepted. As I read up on this a bit, I found that Laban was most likely was sure that once the few speckled sheep were removed from the flock, the likelihood of the flock producing any more speckled sheep would be unlikely, and therefore he would keep Jacob for much longer. Laban was thinking selfishly, but Jacob was trusting in God’s plan. Reading the rest of Chapter 30 you will find that Jacob was able to produce a large flock of strong animals for his own herds of speckled sheep. 

James 3

If ever there was a passage that is needed in 2020, it is these verses from James. Wherever you have envy and selfish ambition you will find disorder and evil practice. If you look around or follow anything on the news or social media, you can pretty much sum up almost all of our nation’s issues as being the result of envy and selfish ambition. The number one thing people seem to be most concerned about is themselves and getting what they want. The phrase I use at home all the time with my kids is the old Burger King slogan “Your way, right away.” Everyone wants what they want when they want it…and they want it yesterday. “17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” The last two verses also fit perfectly with today’s sermon message. As a church, as Christians, we should be striving for peace; being considerate; submissive (meekly obedient and passive), which is not easy to be; full of mercy, which is also not easy; impartial, which is seemingly impossible in our very divisive political climate; and sincere. 

Reflection

God’s plan is perfect in every way, and we are flawed. We need Him to guide us. We need to trust that he has control, like Jacob trusted God to provide for his family. We need to work hard every day to try to be all of those attributes in the last two verses of the James reading for today. As Christians, we can’t just hide behind our Bibles and fish magnets on the back of our cars as proof that we are part of God’s chosen people. We need to live out the life that we have been called to live, as demonstrated perfectly by Jesus. As the old saying goes and as I have blogged about numerous times, actions speak louder than words. 

Is God Working Still?

Philippians 2:1-2

“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”

Paul asks this rhetorical question in the context that he himself was experiencing imprisonment for preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ, and to encourage the church to be strong because persecution will come to all who believe, and proclaim the name of Jesus.

So we are to dwell on this truth for our own good, as we read and study the scriptures we will find many stories and parables exemplifying each category that Paul asks about.

Is there any ‘encouragement in Christ’, of course; John 4:1-42 in the story of the woman at the well. The significance of this story is revealed in many ways. In this patriarchal society Jesus breaks the ban on speaking to women, making them equal in the sight of God, on the barrier between Samaritan and Jew, making all nations equal in the sight of God, and the focus on Spiritual things superior to physical things, specifically food in this case. This is encouragement to all mankind.

Is there any ‘consolation of love’? Without any doubt; in John 7:53-8:11 Jesus is confronted by the Jewish leaders with a woman, whom they cast down in front of the crowd, who is an adulterer. He turns their hatred for the woman whom they would have die, to himself by standing along side of her, requiring they prove themselves without sin. He therefore is her substitute, her atoner, as he turns their misguided views and hatred to himself, and He refuses to condemn her also. This is love to all mankind.

Is there any ‘fellowship of the Spirit?’ John 3: 1-7 The story of Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night. Nicodemus admits that only Jehovah could do the works that Jesus had done. Here Jesus reveals the need to be born of the Spirit to him, and states; “that which is boron the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. So marvel not that I say, ‘you must be born again.’ ” And Paul writes in all of his epistles about the need to walk in the spirit.

Is there any ‘affection and compassion?’ Luke 16: 19-30 the story of the rich man and Lazarus. A rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen, which indicates that even his underwear was costly, and dined sumptuously each day, yet at his gate lie a poor beggar, Lazarus, begging to fed with the crumbs from the rich mans table. After death the rich man who showed no compassion or recognition of the poor while on earth, went to Hades. While the poor man rested on Abrahams bosom, meaning that Lazarus was at the Great Banquet of Isaiah 64, at Abrahams right side, a position of honor, dining for eternity.

As we study the scriptures we find a myriad of examples of compassion, love, encouragement, and fellowship of the Spirit. Plus we have our own lives with Christ and examples all around us of Christ working.

Look around you and see what God is doing. Every week in my Bible study class I start by asking those in attendance, “What’s God been doing in your life this week?” Stay alert to His working and His calling.

Karl

Jacob Vertures To Haran

Genesis 29

Review:  Jacob heads east and encounters a water well, sheep, and Laban’s daughter Rachel (vv. 1-6) … Laban’s sheep are gathered, fed, and watered from the well (vv. 7-8) … Jacob greets Rachel, his first cousin, with a kiss and helps water the sheep (vv. 9-12) … Laban greets Jacob as one of his own (vv. 13-14) … Laban proposes Jacob serve him for free for 7 years (v. 15) … Laban has two daughters – Leah the elder and Rachel the younger and beautiful (vv. 16-17) … Jacob loved (lust at first sight?) Rachel and served his 7 year term (vv. 18-20) with the expectation of wedding her at it’s conclusion (vv. 21-23) … After 7 years, Laban presents Jacob with Leah telling the custom of his land is to give the first born to wed first (vv. 24-27) before the younger … Jacob obliges and is given Rachel as incentive for another 7 years free labor (vv. 28-30) … Leah, unloved by Jacob, gives Jacob four sons – Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah.  Rachel, loved by Jacob, womb is barren (vv. 31-35).

Analysis:  Previously, Jacob leaves his place of blessing (Gen. 26:1-5) for Laban’s greener pastures after being threatened by his brother Esau (Gen. 27:41) … Nevertheless, despite all of his missteps Jacob is still supported with God’s care (Gen. 28:13-15) … Proving turnabout is fair play, Laban deceives Jacob by presenting Leah for marriage instead of Rachel (vv. 21-26).  Jacob deceived Issac to receive his blessing instead of Esau (Gen. 27:18-33) … Jacob’s experience with the LORD is typical.  He is given his freedom to make a mess, yet God sticks with him (cp. Deut. 31:6) … The opening scene with Rachel is similar to Abraham’s servant finding Issac a bride in Rebecca (Gen. 24), it’s happening is beyond descriptive words.  Love and marriage are like that … Laban’s two girls cost Jacob 14 years free labor, a cost he willingly paid … Just as America has a figurative father in George Washington, because he gave control of the Continental Army to the Congress instead of appointing himself Emperor of America.  Israel has literal father.  Jacob begot through Leah, her maid Zilpah, Rachel, and her maid Bilhah 12 sons that were the foundation of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (Gen. 29-31).

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