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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

I’m Just a Jealous Guy

Do you remember the song by John Lennon _ Jealous Guy? I do.

The lyrics and the melody is beautiful and so meaningful:

I was dreaming of the past
And my heart was beating fast
I began to lose control

 

Somewhere along the line we can identify with that human condition of feeling and being jealous of what other people achieve or have. King Saul surely went through it. As he was seeing David raising up in his leadership and status in the country, the Bible records these words:

“Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands!” (1 Sam. 18:7 nlt). Saul was outraged and “from that time on . . . kept a jealous eye on David” (v. 9 nlt).

If we continue to read on, we find out that Saul just looses his composure, and his driven mad about everything that David is doing, and his life is being ruled by fear.

David on the other hand continues to be thankful, focuses on God, and always tries to keep a reverend attitude towards Saul and serve the people around him. Now that is the make it or break it moment that we can relate: Can we look at the positive in our lives, and can we find things that build us rather than keeping us jailed?

Today I pray that we can be like David, and keep a clean heart before God and before people.

 

Be blessed,

Bo M.

 

Yahweh Reigns with Power and Strength

Psalms 93

Dueteronomy 5.22-33

I Peter 3.8-12

Psalms 93.  Jehovah reigns, clothed with majesty and strength. He has created the worlds and they are in orbit, every aspect of the creation, from the minute balance of the environment, to the minute balance of our very beings, are running like clockwork with out incident.  The oceans, strong, deep, mighty, sound  your strength as they crash against the shore O LORD.

Duet. 5.22-33.  The book of Deuteronomy is the call of Moses, to Israel, to remember.  He cries out to them to remember Mt Sinai, where Jehovah gave the commandments to them.  How the voice of the LORD was so strong and fearful, and the mountain was ablaze with fire, that they trembled with fear.  They wailed for the Lord God to use His indoor voice and only talk to Moses, so frightful was His presence they thought they would perish just being close to the mountain.  Hebrews 12.18-21 reiterates that same image.  Verse 19 says “the blast of the trumpet and the sound of the words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them.”  Yet they agreed that whatever God has said they would do.

! Peter 3.8-12.  ” To sum it all up, be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning insults, but giving a blessing instead.”

So how do we make sense of these passages put together?  I used to run a house framing crew of up to ten carpenters. Even though I am a kindhearted, gentle person who prefers peace and quite, on the job site I was a strong leader.  Everyone of my men knew to listen to my instructions, to obey without debate, to work hard, and to be precise in their work.  As a result of their adherence to my demands, we were among the fastest, best quality framing crews in northern Illinois.  We would frame 35 custom homes a year without call back.  My guys loved being on a winning team, hearing the praise of the builders, being the envy of the other framing companies.  No one likes a leader who is afraid to lead, to make decisions, or understand the final goal.  My men wanted to apply their knowledge of their trade, work hard and steady, and to make money, they did.  They hated standing around and waiting for materials, decisions, the next house. They didn’t have to, it was all set up ahead of time, orchestrated by myself and others.

Isn’t this the way God works?  He establishes who He is, with power to create, power to sustain, power to protect and provide, then presents to us the requirements for a relationship with Him and what His expectations for us are, with our best interest in mind.  He created us, provided salvation for us when we fell away from Him, then asks us to live in harmony with Him and one another, all for our benefit.  I realize my example of my work is rather weak in comparison to the full description of how God is and what He has done, but nonetheless God is to be feared, loved and obeyed.  The end goal will be worth any effort we put into it.

Karl

Human Government

Genesis 8:15 – 11:32

Summary: After the flood subsided, Noah & Co. leave the Ark behind (8:15-19)…..Noah builds an alter for his burnt offering to God putting a cap on God’s judgement of the earth and begins the restoration process (8:20-22) despite the fact that the nature of humankind is unchanged…..The earth appears to be recreated (9:1-7).  Mankind may eat animals, not their blood.  Whoever murders shall be put to death (capital punishment) begins humans governing themselves…..God initiates a covenant with Noah and his descendants (9:8-29)…..Noah’s encounter with wine (9:20-24) reveals the character of Ham vs. Shem vs. Japheth…..The genealogy (10:1-32) maps out, to a large degree better than any other source, the peoples of nations…..At this time, all of mankind was unified by it’s common language (11:1) both against God and wanting to become God themselves…..Babylon was apparently the greatest city, the most cosmopolitan, on the face of the earth (11:2-3)…..

Comments: In my opinion, Genesis is the most significant book in the Bible in that it maps out who God is and who we are…..Other books in the Bible may be more important than Genesis…..The title “Human Government” has to do with God declaring that murder is to be avenged (9:6).  This is the highest calling of government, the protection of human life.  The idea being the society protects itself from further murders by executing those thereby safeguarding the sanctity of human life because it is God’s most profound gift…..This delegation of authority by God to humans to govern themselves is Christ endorsed (Matt. 22:21), at the same time it holds mankind responsible to God for our actions and inactions…..So, Christians are to act at the same time both inside and outside of our beliefs.  This paradox is unlike any other world religion where one is to act only within the confines of said religion – more or less a totalitarian way of life…..The final section of this passage is a demonstration of man’s inability to govern themselves and the ensuing consequences (11:1-9)…..The covenant with Noah is 1) man rules themselves (9:5-6), 2) no more curses on the ground (8:21), 3) no more floods (9:11-16), 4) seasons are set (8:22), and 5) eating animals is approved (9:3-4)…..It’s difficult to know the extent of the incest in Noah’s wine/nakedness episode (9:20-21).  Possibly it’s related to the condemned Canaanite lifestyle (Lev. 19)…..Broadly speaking, Noah’s three sons blossomed the three varieties of peoples we have on earth…..Ham begot Canaan who are called to be the servants of the earth (9:25-26).  This group are the “…ites” of our Bible, generally leading to the modern Bedouin peoples.  From the human perspective, it would appear that this group has been designated by God to be the servants – essentially slaves to everyone else.  Jesus’ perspective on servanthood differs from the typical human (Mark 10:35-45)…..It is a reality that that those who work, control the work, and control what happens…..The two varieties of people are 1) those who work or serve and 2) those living off those who work or serve….Shem’s sons are those chosen by God (9:26) for His revelation, the modern day Semites…..The “enlarged” sons (9:27) of Japheth (10:2-5) are the rest of us.  Most (not all) of the advances in the earth’s civilization – art, science, etc. have been accomplished by these peoples.

 

On Forgiveness

Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV)

Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV)

Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)

Colossians 3:13 (NIV)

It has been said, “Forgiveness is the deepest secret that characterizes the love of a follower of Jesus.”  Is there a limit to forgiveness?  Peter wondered about it and asked Jesus, “How many times shall I forgive my brother or sister…”

Jesus replied,  “70 times 7,” meaning there is no limit?  “Why, we ask?”  Because we desperately need the forgiveness and grace of God.

Reinhold Niebuhr’s once said, “Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.  Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing we do, however, virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love.  No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.”

Even what we consider to be our most virtuous acts need some measure of forgiveness here on earth.  Of course there are many times when we are not even close to being virtuous.

Perhaps that’s why C.S. Lewis wrote, “To be Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

May the loving and forgiving grace of God in and through the Lord Jesus Christ be alive in us, each and every day.

 

Good Risk???

Risk…is it part of your life?  Sure it is!!  Nearly every day we face risk in many forms.  Every time we drive a car or ride a bike…making life decisions like how much time to study for a quiz or test or going through that intersection on the yellow light. There are even times when risk is present yet we push it to the background like in the foods we eat or even riding your bike to get ice cream. There are many examples of risk – things we often steer clear of because of the negative implications.  Today, though, I want to talk about good risk.

Good risk?  Please read Matthew 25:14-30 (The Message translation)

Jesus is talking about the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus is telling the story – a parable.  Now it’s easy to get lost in details, however, in parables, Jesus always makes a clear point…which usually comes with a shock factor.  For you and I, today – just like those listening to Jesus then, the shock factor for us comes when we see ourselves in the parable.

In today’s parable, there are some things we often overlook.  First, the master gave no instructions as to what to do with the great wealth he distributed.  Second, when the first 2 servants report to the master, the context is one of joy on their part – they couldn’t wait for him to start counting.

Then there is the 3rd servant.  Some see him treated unfairly…until you understand the point Jesus is making in this parable.  While this 3rd servant is making excuses about not having lost any of the money and that he didn’t hold anything back when the master returned, Jesus is saying that the kingdom of heaven is like those who tend to the kingdom now while we await Christ’s return. This parable is about living faithfully – living responsibly and making good decisions.  Each of us has a responsibly to take initiative and to risk in a good way rather than burying what we’ve been given and not risking anything.  Faithfulness goes beyond obedience…each servant must decide how to use the opportunities given in the master’s absence.  Are you taking risks for the kingdom or sitting on what’s been given to you?

 

P.S.  Pastor Bo wanted me to pass on to you his apologies for not getting his blog done yesterday – he has been reading statements of faith by our confirmands.

Turn to God

Psalm 102:1-17

World got you down? Surrounded by the enemy? Seem like you have nowhere to turn? We all have those moments in our lives. For some of us, they are but a moment. For others, those moments may seem like they have engulfed much of our days. I am going to keep this one short and to the point this time around. If…no…WHEN you hit those moments in our life like the world is closing in on you from all sides and you have nowhere to turn, this Psalm passage seems like a great place to turn to first. What a great reminder that God is listening! I am reminded of Matthew 7:7-8 in which Jesus assures us that God is listening if we only ask, seek, knock.  

12 But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever; your name endures to all generations.
13 You will rise up and have compassion on Zion,
   for it is time to favor it;
   the appointed time has come.
14 For your servants hold its stones dear,
   and have pity on its dust.
15 The nations will fear the name of the Lord,
   and all the kings of the earth your glory.
16 For the Lord will build up Zion;
   he will appear in his glory.
17 He will regard the prayer of the destitute,
   and will not despise their prayer.
I don’t think you can go wrong when you turn your heart to God.

Impatience, What’s It Good For?

 

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Psalms 102.1-17

Exodus 13.17-22

Acts 7.17-40

Starting with the passage from Acts, Stephen is giving his defense to the Council, who have authority over all things religious in nature.  He is explaining the history of the Exodus from Egypt, and the reality of Israel turning away from Jehovah, primarily because of impatience.   God was not acting fast enough, Moses was gone on the mountain too long to suit them, so they cried out for Aaron to make a statue resembling the gods of Egypt.  They resorted to the gods of their past, while captive in slavery, even though they were now set free by the mighty hand of Jehovah, who was still present with them.  The pillar of smoke was there by day and fire by night, they were still eating manna daily, yet they were unsettled as to whom to serve.

Exodus 13 tells the same story which again explicitly declares that Jehovah was ever present with Israel in this journey.  He never left them, always led them in safety, avoiding the way through Philistia, which surely would have sparked a war with them. He guided them through the Wadi Wadir to the Red Sea, which directed the pursuing Egyptians only one path of attack.  They took the bones of Joseph with them to again provide them with a presence of fulfilled prophecy that Jehovah was surely protecting and providing for them as a people chosen.

Psalms 102. 1-17.  The cry here from the writer shows again the frailness of our souls.  WE, as mankind, never seem to remember God’s presence with us.  We can’t remember His promises to us.  He describes his life like smoke that disappears so quickly, but might have referred more accurately to our memories of God’s care for us.  If God isn’t jumping up and down with a flag in front of us constantly we start losing hope in Him and feeling alone, and crying that He doesn’t care, or hear our prayers.  Job cried out, “how faint is the whisper” of His answers to prayer.  It’s almost like seeing the Israelites with their mouths stuffed with Manna, muttering “why isn’t God providing for us.”

Jehovah is the only true God of the heavens and earth.  He cares for you, He loves you, He provides for you, protects you, and is ever present with you.  Don’t forget that.  He has a direction for your life, unique for you.  He patiently directs your path, like He did for Israel, and is always hearing your prayers.  Sometimes we forget these truths, we get ahead of ourselves impatiently  wanting things right now.  It is so amazing to see God’s direction looking at the past of our lives, yet so hard to trust Him for the future.  Let’s not be like fickle Israel, unstable, self serving, and impatient.  Let’s be like a wise man who calmly waits upon the Lord, renewing our strength daily.

Karl

Captive Judah

Jeremiah 25-26

Review: “You have not listened” seems to be a recurring theme (25:3-8)…..Because of this devastation and desolation are the inevitable result (25:9-11)…..The 70 years of exile in Babylon (25:12) puts a limit on the judgement and exile due to Judah’s inattention…..The wine cup (25:15-29) symbolizes a lack of control, an inability to stand, which leads to a fall by the sword…..YHWH is more upset with the shepherds (25:30-38) than the sheep for the crisis…..Because of Jeremiah’s prediction, he’s put on trial (26:1-12)…..It is the religious leaders (26:8-9) most threatened by Jeremiah’s words during the reign of Jehoiakim…..He enjoys the support of the royalty and common people generally (26:10-16)…..An account is given (26:18-24) of two contemporary prophets to Jeremiah, Micah and Uriah, to compare his fate to Judah’s.

Commentary: One of Judah’s main transgressions, though not mentioned in the text, was their inability to keep the Sabbath (cp. Lev. 26:33-35, 2 Chr. 36:21)…..It’s interesting that Daniel, captive in Babylon, was well aware of Jeremiah’s “writings” (Dan. 9:2) as if he picked them up at a corner scroll store…..There were three deportations – in 604 , 597, and 586 BC…..Captive Judah was released from Babylon by the decree of Cyrus (Ezra 1:1-3)…..The predicted 70 years exile appears to be a round number – not exact…..Typically wine in the OT is a symbol of joy and gladness, not in this case, owning to the dual nature of this beverage…..God holds leaders more accountable than the public at large (Luke 12:41-48)…..The scope of Jeremiah’s prophecy isn’t simply limited to Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion, it leaps to all of us (25:29) with seemingly no escape (Joel 1:15, Rev. 19:17-19, cp. Isa. 2:10-22)…..The deal with the prophets Micah and Uriah…..Uriah attempted to run from the Babylonians and was killed for his flight…..Micah accepted Babylonian captivity, along with Jeremiah, and stayed alive…..For Jeremiah, it turned out that he had less to fear from Babylonians than from the officials of the Temple.

Loss and Triumph

Sometimes it takes the loss of one prominent figure or the end of one loved tradition to bring about an explosion of change.

In 1927, an animated character named Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was created by a young animator. Very quickly this Oswald character became one of the most popular cartoon figures in theaters across the country.  Oswald’s young creator traveled to New York City to make a deal with a large company that would give him the funds to create movies, serials, and an entire new universe around his Lucky Rabbit. Yet, when he arrived in the Big Apple, there was no deal. The company had instead sold the rights to Oswald to another set of artists. The devastation and injustice had to have been painful and completely defeating.

However, on the train back to his home town, the young artists began to sketch again. In the long hours after his humiliation and loss he began to rework and perfect the drawing of a colorful mouse. Little could that young man named Walt Disney have known that the demoralizing loss of one character, Oswald, would lead to the birth of a new one- Mickey Mouse. As we all now know, Walt’s loss actually led to triumph.

Our Scripture readings for today talk about the work of God in an unpredictable, often unjust, and regularly defeating world. In particular, it is the story of Stephen that asks us to consider how loss and even defeat can be the birthplace for amazing change. Stephen was the first martyr within the early Christian movement. The Bible says that he was so well-spoken and wise that the best his enemies could do was lie and convince the crowd that Stephen was trying to overthrow the teachings of the Old Testament. Unjustly, the crowd decided to end the life of an innocent Stephen by stoning.

If we stopped there it would seem as if public humiliation and death were the end to Stephen’s efforts. But, God had other plans. In the crowd that day was a teacher of the law named Saul. This Saul would experience the witness of Stephen, be struck down on the road by the Holy Spirit, become a tireless evangelist to the Roman world, write the majority of the New Testament, and help plant the foundations of the Christian church. Stephen’s death gave birth to a movement the likes of which he had never even imagined. Loss led to triumph.

Are you mourning the loss of something in your life? Have you faced humiliation, injustice, and defeat?  Then use Stephen as your guide. Look up to God. Believe that He is working. Expect triumph.

Will Ward

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