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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

June 2014

Job 42:10-13, “Expectant Hope”

Job 42:10-13 (click on the link below)

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+42%3A10-13&version=NIV

Job suffered much.  His friends were not all that helpful in their insistence that he must have done something to deserve such suffering.  Even though suffering is pervasive on this fallen earth there is also a mystery to deep pain and sorrow.  We wonder about suffering.  We want answers like Job did but we do not receive answers for it all.

Job is bold enough to question God and demand answers for his suffering.  Throughout the Scriptures, particularly in the Prophets and the Psalms we find faithful people questioning God, getting angry with God, and crying out to God.  We can do the same.  God can handle it; after all God is God.

Finally, God speaks and Job is silent but Job experiences the greatness of God.

And after that we read Job 42:10-13.  After experiencing the awe inspiring greatness and wonder of God, Job prays for the friends who were not much of a comfort to him and asks God to forgive them.  The story of Job ends with God blessing him.  After all of the troubles and tragedy and hardship and suffering, Job receives blessings.  Obviously, God allowed the suffering of Job as God allows suffering to exist in our world.

In the New Testament we find that sorrow and suffering comes before the blessings of Resurrection.  The Cross comes before the Crown of Victory.  We do not always understand suffering, especially undeserved suffering, but we know that one day God will bring an end to sorrow, suffering, pain, and death. We live in that expectant hope.

Job 38-42:9 – I’ll shut up now.

485px-119.Job_Speaks_with_His_FriendsJob 38-42:9

Job is still suffering.  His “friends” have stopped by to “encourage” him.  Mostly they’ve told him that if he was a better person he wouldn’t be suffering.  Job responds by saying,”you don’t get it, I obey God. I don’t deserve this.”  I don’t think Jobs reaction is sinful, I just think he’s confused about why tragedy occurs.  He and his friends seem to think that pain is a punishment for sin.  Clearly that’s not the case.

God has had enough of the conversation so he challenges Job.  The first few verses of chapter 38 summarize; “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?  Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.”  God essentially says:  “You don’t think your suffering is deserved?  Why are you whining when you have no idea how the world works?!?”  For two chapters God continues: “Wait Job.. did you create the world?  Hang the stars in the heavens?  Did you ordain physics? ”

After two chapters of being reminded of his humanity, Job is done. He responds to God in chapter 42; I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”  That’s ancient shorthand for “I’ll shut up now.”  The truth I see in the passage is pretty simple: God’s knows and we don’t.  Everyone has been through tough stuff.  Life throws a lot at all of us.  We have to trust that God is who He says He is.  He’s good and works situations for the good of those who love Him, even if we don’t understand the logic.

Job 1- 2:13 – Curse God And Die

250px-119.Job_Speaks_with_His_FriendsJob 1-2:13

So there’s this guy named Job.  He’s blessed by any measure.  He’s a wealthy man with a big family.  If you add up the numbers of livestock the Bible says Job owned and sold them at today’s market value then you’re look at somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 million dollars.  For whatever reason Satan shows up to talk to God.  God says “Man Lucifer.. have you ever seen anyone as faithful as Job? Its remarkable…”  Satan is skeptical, “Of course he is.. you spoil him rotten.”  “Mmmm.. no.. I think He just think He loves me and understands life.”  God replies.  So Satan proposes that he be given the opportuinity to test his hypothesis.  God allows it.  At first glance this is horrifying, but I think to often we assume that pain is a bad thing (James 1).

So Job loses everything; his health, children and all his wealth.  Job is sitting in sackcloth scraping his wounds with a piece of pottery and his super encouraging wife notices that he’s not blaming God.  Her suggestion: “why are you taking all this from God?  Curse God and die…”  Job’s response is awesome: “Are we supposed to accept good from God but not bad?”  The example of Job is amazing.  It makes me wonder, if God took everything from me, including my health, would I still be faithful?  Is God enough or is our relationship with God dictated by circumstances?

 

More than a letter

writing_a_letterEzra 7:1-28

How many of us would not want to be in the position than Ezra finds himself in? Over night  Ezra finds all his desires for Jerusalem within his reach. Not only that but he has power, real power at his disposal to help him carry this vision to completion. The king has granted Ezra things that not only set him up as a leader in the home land, but also material things to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. It is one of those rare moments in history, when it seems that things are looking up for the people of Israel. It is a great day for Israel, for the Israelites than are living in Babylon.

Can you imagine if this story would be our story? A story of renewal? A story of rebuilding? A story where the people are excited to see new things happen? A story where you and I are able to dream about the things of God and work towards accomplishing those things?

These past few weeks I have been struggling with the idea of “summer season” and church. You know that time when you miss seeing people on Sunday morning, when it seems that church and ministry goes in to a slow gear. And when I find myself in that thinking mode, I tend to dislike Ezra. I desire to see God at work, his ministry among us expanding, people growing in faith, in their relationships and able to rebuild the broken world that is around us. It is at times like these that I ask myself: What will it take? What stops us? Is it a king’s decree? Or crazy amounts of money? Or maybe it has to do with something much deeper?

Ezra’s heart might hold the key to those questions. He is ready to go, his heart is in the right place, spiritually he is ready to lead, and ready to make some sacrifices along the way.

And that has become my prayer for us as a faith community: to be able to depend on God, for us to be open and ready to see God at work but also ready and willing to make those small or big sacrifices that at the end will help us see the walls rebuild.

May this day be that day when our hearts are refreshed and we all become energize to rebuild our lives, our ministries and be ready for those things that God has in store for us as a church.

Be Blessed,

Bo M.

Trust…in a Faithful God!

 

King Hezekiah prays to the faithful God...
King Hezekiah prays to the faithful God…

Today’s Passage:   2 Kings18-20:11

Don’t let the length of today’s reading deter you – King Hezekiah is an important read!

Remember Ahab’s resume?  Well, Hezekiah is the polar opposite:  he “did what was right in the Lord’s eyes”; he “trusted in the Lord”; he “clung to the Lord”; “there was no one like him among all of Judah’s kings – not before him and not after him”.  The writer of 1 and 2 Kings devoted more space and gave more commendation to Hezekiah for his accomplishments than to any king except Solomon.  Wow!!  What a legacy!!

Hezekiah began his reign by bringing religious reform to Judah. Hezekiah was not willing to court the favor of the Assyrian kings. The temple in Jerusalem was reopened. The idols were removed from the temple.  Hezekiah restored the temple desecrated by his father, Ahaz.  More importantly, Hezekiah stood up to his primary oppressor – Sennacherib of Assyria.  In the face of imposing threats…Hezekiah did not back down.

For me, this is one of those ultimate stories that provides solid foundation for why we, day in and day out, seek to always develop our faith.  These stories about Hezekiah are about trust…bold and decisive in the will of God.  Trust that, as the narrator of 2 Kings points out throughout, may not have immediate or even visible results.  In the real world, even those who trust God are confronted with political realities.  Hezekiah, despite all his faith and trust, still had to face humiliation at the hands of Sennacherib…he even had to strip the Temple of its wealth in order to pay off the bully.  We see that no mater how great our faith or trust, it will not prevent the threats of others.

And in all this, we see the model lifted high for each of us…in the face of great adversity…Hezekiah prays to the God that is with him.  The real message in this story is not about faithful Hezekiah…it is about our faithful God.  For each of us there are stumbling blocks ahead…Paul tells us about this…”Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence!” (1 Cor 10:12, The Message).

 

 

II Kings 2:1-11; “It’s Hard to Say Goodbye”

II Kings 2:1-11 (click on the link below)

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=II+Kings+2%3A1-11&version=NIV

Elisha doesn’t want to be separated from his mentor, friend, and fellow prophet.  Three times he says, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.”  And that’s understandable.  Who wants to see someone they love; someone who shaped, impacted, and made a difference in their life depart from them.  Elisha wants to stay with Elijah; he wants Elijah to remain with him.  Nevertheless, no matter how much Elisha wants to stay with his master and mentor,  it’s time for Elijah to go to the Lord.

There’s a time when those whom we love depart to be with the Lord. I’m sure we can think of loved ones- family, friends, mentors, teachers, etc. whom we wish were still with us.  Their departure, even to be with the Lord, is a loss and leaves quite a void or empty place in our lives and heart.  That’s why Paul wrote about “the sting of death” even after the resurrection.  “Death is at the last enemy to be conquered.”  This is what Elisha is going through in this passage.

Finally, Elijah asks if there’s anything he can do for Elisha before the Lord takes him up.  Elisha asks for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit.  Unlike the days since Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out and given to everyone who is a Christ-Follower; in Old Testament Times only the prophet, priest, and king received the Holy Spirit.  Asking for a double portion, while difficult for Elijah to give, was a wise thing.  Being anointed by the Holy Spirit set a person apart for God’s calling and purpose.  And so we see that even in a very hard and difficult time Elisha did want to live according to God’s leading and purposes.  Even when losing a master, mentor, and friend Elisha knew he belonged to God.

Separation from those whom we love, whoever that may be, is one of life’s most difficult ordeals.  Yet we belong to God.  And in the final book of the scriptures we are comforted with these words for one day, “God’s dwelling place [will be] among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4-5)

I have a list of those whom I miss and it grows longer, the longer the longer I live.  There  are those whom I long to talk to and to see again.  Someday, the Lord will bring down the curtain of history and bring in the New Heavens and the New Earth and we will see face to face once again.  With Christ-Followers of all time I too say, “Come Lord Jesus, Come.”

 

 

 

1 Kings 18:17-40 – A Royal Rumble

DOMENICO FETTI-XX-The sacrifice of elijah before the priests of Baal

1 Kings 18:17-40

Ahab and Elijah didn’t care for each other.  Elijah had brought punishment from God on Ahab in the form of a drought that had devastated Israel economically.  So when Ahab said, “Is it you troubler of Israel?”  There’s some history talking.  Elijah goes right for it and challenges Ahab to a god contest.  You know.. where two or more gods get into the cage for a few rounds.  This brings up some WWF (not world wildlife foundation)  imagery for me.  We have potentially thousands of people on this high place.  We have two alters, 450 false priests, the spectators, a king and a prophet of God.

Elijah challenges the people of Israel first.  How long are you going to serve two mutually exclusive God’s?!? Pick one!  Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal next.  Build an alter.. put a sacrifice on it and ask Baal to light it.  If he does, he’s God.  No questions asked.  Baal’s prophets did just that. For hours they worked themselves into a frenzy.  They screamed and cut themselves hoping Baal would hear them.  Elijah’s response cracks me up.  “Yell louder!” “Perhaps he took the day off!” “Have you considered the possibility of him being on the toilet…”

At this point Elijah gets to work.  He rebuilds the alter of God. He lays the wood and the bull and soaks it with water three times.  At this point it would have been humanly impossible for Elijah to light this sacrifice with anything less than a few drums of diesel.  Then Elijah prays: “God… show them who you are.”   God responds immediately with fire.  He doesn’t just light it, he blows it up.  It doesn’t sound like there’s much left but a crater.  Using our Royal Rumble analogy… this is a 2 second knock-out submission.  All the hype.. all the pageantry and its an immediate win.  Everyone one’s left wondering… what just happened?  Quite simply, God happened.  He doesn’t share worship.  He’s God alone.  That’s what I see, what do you see?

1 Kings 17:17-24 – Bandwagon Fan

elijah_raises1

1 Kings 17:17-24

Over at fpjstudents.wordpress.com we’ve started a page to keep up with our students as they prepare to serve in Wisconsin, Georgia and Guatemala.  If you sign up to follow the page, you’ll get updates 1-2 a week until the trips are over. After that you won’t see any updates or the page itself until next summer.  Follow our students as they serve!

I really struggle with this passage.  Saturday, God provided for this widow.  In faith the widow brought Elijah everything she had and God provided more; abundantly more.  In this passage the widow loses her son. A terrible loss.  Not only did she lose her only child, she lost her hope of life outside of poverty. As mentioned before, my parents lost my brother as an infant. Although I wasn’t around for it I can’t imagine just how painful that must have been.  What I struggle with isn’t the widows grief but her accusation against God.

I understand that posture, but for me it doesn’t seem consistent for someone who God has quite tangibly and miraculously provided for in the past.  Her words at the end of the passage are grating: “now I know that you are a man of God.”  Really? The never-empty oil jar didn’t seal that for you?  Don’t get me wrong.  I see a lot of myself in this woman.  I can’t help but think that the descriptive moral of the story is simply our lack of faith.  What if we were the kind of people who trusted God even when He didn’t tangibly provide?  What if we were people who love God with everything that we are even if God asked us to live out our lives in constant pain or struggle?  I empathize with the widow, but I have to believe God has called us to more.  Feel free to expand/disagree.

The Lords provides

1 Kings 17:8-16 

Can you imagine living in a time when there is very little food available in the land because of the lack of rain? I recall a story from my dad’s childhood about such a time. The region where he grew up experienced a long drought, that affected the crops of corn and wheat. Because of that, bread was hard to come by even if you had money. My grandpa had to travel a long distance to buy flour for the family. The story goes that my dad cried and complained about the little bread they had, that the priest who lived 3 streets over could hear him. We are not really sure how much truth there is to that story, but it gets told time and time again when brothers get together. 

The story we read today, is a story of need, desperation and loss of hope. A long time of no rain affected the whole land. People lost all hope in God, and the whole land seemed cursed. Elijah enters the scene and challenges the widow to believe once again. In her desperate time, Elijah asks her to put her faith in the Lord but also show her faith by doing something as a token of faith.

How familiar this story is to many of us? How many times have we experienced God’s grace, his provision for our needs when it seemed that there was no way for us to make it? 

I know for myself that the Lord works, and when I had experienced that  my heart was filled with thanksgiving but also felt humbled. For me those experiences are something that i cherish, and find strength for my prayer life. But I also recall that when those hard times, I needed a “man of God” an Elijah to come along and challenge my faith. You know why? Because the worries of this world, the day to day tend to grow so big that the little hope and faith we have in those times disappears under the heaviness of the circumstances we experience.

At times we need someone to speak a word of faith in our lives. At times we need to speak a word of life in someone’s life. And that is in a nutshell the covenant we have as believers: that when life becomes a burden we will be there for each other, lifting each other up, praying for one another and helping the other person remember the goodness of God.

I pray that we can all speak words of faith but also live out in faith every day of our lives. 

Be blessed

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