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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

July 2014

The Central Issue

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Matthew 27:45-54 At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 46 At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,[j] lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”  47 Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. 48 One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink.49 But the rest said, “Wait! Let’s see whether Elijah comes to save him.” 50 Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, 52 and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead.53 They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people. 54 The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, “This man truly was the Son of God!”

Christianity in a nutshell.  This passage exposes the holiness and anger of God.  A God who simply cannot tolerate the presence of sin to the point that He would turn His back on His own Son.  It points to God’s love.  Love so great that it would cause a Holy God to send His perfect son and the love of Christ, willing to go to the cross even if it meant leaving perfect heaven.  It shows our hopelessness.  The fate that we deserved.  But at the same time it clearly shows the grace we’ve been given.  Grace so great that God no longer sees our horrible sin that deserved eternal death, but instead when God sees us, He sees the righteousness of Christ.  All of eternity past and future converged at a single pivotal moment.  Through faith in this passage we are reconciled to God.  Its nothing less than life-changing! Amen?

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Deborah Delivers Israel

Morning:  Psalm 143; 147:12-20

Evening:  Psalm 81; 116

First Reading:  Judges 4:4-23

Second Reading:  Acts 1:15-26

Gospel Reading:  Matt. 27:55-66

Selected Text:  Judges 4:4-2  Deborah Delivers Israel

The story of Deborah serves a couple of important purposes…

1. It demonstrates that women were more than capable of leading Israel.

2. It shows that a woman is capable of leading an army that is wholly comprised of men.

3. It allows that a woman may fill the offices of judge, prophet, and deliverer.

It is of interest to note that the status and integrity of the male Judges of Israel are not at all associated with their spouses; that is to say that their wives are not mentioned as a contributing factor to their strength and valor.  In the case of Deborah, her legitimacy is established as being the wife of Lapidoth (v. 4) and that she appointed Barak to lead the army against Sisera.

Barak and Deborah are “hand in hand” in this military campaign.  Barak refuses to go to war unless Deborah is with him (v. 8-9).  It is not Barak that kills Sisera but another woman Jael, a Kenite (v. 21) thus demonstrating the efficacy women on the field of battle.

This history, along with those on Sarah (Gen. 12-18), Miram (Ex. 2:1-10, 15:19-21) and the wise woman of Tekoa (2 Sam. 14:1-20), reveal the ingenuity and strength of women in various dire situations.

Deborah’s leadership abilities parallel those of Samuel.  Both had permanent places where people consulted them for decisions on cases brought (v. 4, cf. 1 Sam. 7:15-17).  Both went to battle with their troops (v. 6, cf. 1 Sam. 7:8).  Deborah appoints Barak to general the army (v. 6) against Sisera.  Samuel appoints Saul to lead against the Philistines (1 Sam. 10:1).

Craig Randolph

When the world is upside-down

Tuesday, July 29
Morning: Pss. 54; 146 4257rusty_anchor
Evening: Pss. 28; 99
Judg. 2:1–5, 11–23
Rom. 16:17–27
Matt. 27:32–44

Psalm 54 – When the world is upside-down 

It happens to all of us from time to time. It happens more often that we would like. Something comes our way that rattles us, that makes us lose our balance and we start to struggle not only with our faith, but also with who we are, both as people of faith and also our confidence and personhood. There are times when something happens that turns our world upside-down.

It happened to David, and as a results he writes this psalm, a psalm that sounds more like a confession of faith than a prayer. It sounds like a anchor, a reminder of one’s faith, a way to become grounded again not because of who one person is but because of who God is. 

Christian faith is not about who we are, but about who God is. We need to remember our foundation, the things that keep us grounded and helps us rebalance our lives. And sometimes those things or answer come to us, by confessing our faith, but reaffirming our conviction of who God is. We need those reminders, because who we are depends of understanding who God is.

So who is God to you? For David, God was his strength, his hope and David understood that who he is, is about who God is. 

I pray that each and every day we would know who God is, and that would become our anchor in those times when our world turns upside-down.

 

Be Blessed.

Bo M. 

 

Life tough these days?

Ps 57-7

Daily Readings:

Selected Text: Psalm 57 (TNIV)

Life got you down?  Having troubles?  Things not going the way you planned?  Facing some uncertainties?  This is another line I think we all stand in…more often than we think.  In 23 days (8/20) I will have surgery to fix my torn ACL and meniscus – a common procedure done arthroscopically today…just an hour and a half procedure out patient.  No problem…home in time to watch any one of those “amazing” day time TV offerings in the afternoon…..Right?

This Psalm is about David’s experience hiding from Saul in a cave (cf. 1 Sam. 22; 24). Despite David’s trials…the relentless pursuit of Saul…David expressed his desire that God be exalted. Amidst the “lions”, David prayed for deliverance from his enemies.  But notice what he does next…he sang a song of triumph for God’s faithful love with an expectation that whose out to get him would be caught in their own devices.  In an instance like this it is easy to understand, despite all of David’s issues, that he was a man after God’s heart (1 Sam 13:14).

There are many in our congregation, our community and the world, that are facing troubles and issues in their lives. Those struggling with how to pay the bills…those whose job is uncertain and/or causing them fits…those who are preparing to send their child to first grade or high school or college…maybe you are soon to be an empty nester – it’s hard letting your little birds go off on their own…maybe you are worried about entering high school or college…maybe you are facing health issues of your own…maybe you have had to make a decision to take a loved one off of life support…I think about Hope Lutheran who has lost a beloved pastor…or the many abused women in Joliet…I think about those many children at Angel House without parents or the families who must rummage through the garbage of Guatemala…the list is seemingly endless.

Let us be people after God’s heart and sing a song of praise and thanksgiving for God’s faithfulness!  Today…pray this psalm with yourself in mind…then pray with a friend or two in mind…and again for any one of many issues and troubles in our community and world…sing a song of triumph for God’s faithful love…praise God this day that he would be exalted, and that his glory would be over all the earth.

God’s Support In Struggle…

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Saturday, July 26

Morning: Psalm 56, Psalm 149

Evening: Psalm 118, Psalm 111

First Lesson: Joshua 23:1-16

Second Lesson: Romans 15:25-33

Third Lesson:  Matthew 27:11-23

We see several themes in the passages for today. God supports us even through the struggles of life.  God is the One whom we can count on to keep his promises.  God, in and through Jesus, knows what it is to struggle and even die.

We see David (Ps. 56) crying out to God in a time of struggle and turmoil.  And when David is afraid he puts his trust in God.

In Psalm 118 we find struggle and rejection and victory, “Give thanks to the Lord his love endures forever… when hard pressed I cried to the Lord,…the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”

Paul certainly knew many struggles as he traveled from place to place visiting believers, strengthening the church, and starting new churches.  He asks the Christians in Rome to pray for him (Romans 15) as he makes his way to Jerusalem with his collection to help the poor and as he anticipates coming to Rome to see them.  The possibility of hardship and struggle were always there as Paul traveled.

Jesus endured the struggle of suffering through the ordeal of rejection and the cross.  Imagine his heart wrenching experience and what must have gone through his mind when he heard the cries for his crucifixion as he faced the hostile crowd and Pilate. Jesus may have remembered the words we read in Psalm 118, “the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” and found strength to endure.

God nevers fails to deliver on his promises to his people; promises for good and God seeks to do good to those who love him.  But in the end God will keep his promise to punish if we completely forsake him and serve other gods (Joshua 23).

In Psalms 149 and 111 we read how good God is and can join in our praises to the Lord.

Today, may we find comfort in knowing that God supports us in our struggles, keeps his promises, and seeks to do good.  “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”

 

Psalm 130 – Constant Hope

What a cool Psalm.  Have you ever been smacked in the face with your own short-comings?  For those moments there’s Psalm 130.  We fail, God doesn’t. Through the blood of Christ our sins are no more. Its that simple. That’s a tremendously encouraging message for God’s people.

From the depths of despair, O Lord,
    I call for your help.
Hear my cry, O Lord.
    Pay attention to my prayer.

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins,
    who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness,
    that we might learn to fear you.

I am counting on the Lord;
    yes, I am counting on him.
    I have put my hope in his word.
I long for the Lord
    more than sentries long for the dawn,
    yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.

O Israel, hope in the Lord;
    for with the Lord there is unfailing love.
    His redemption overflows.
He himself will redeem Israel
    from every kind of sin.

Matthew 26 – It comes home to roost

status33Matthew 26:59-75

I resonate with this passage.  Its unlikely that I’ll ever have such a high stakes decision as Peter; he thought his life was at stake when he denied Christ.  Even so, it makes me wonder how I practically deny Christ.  I read this passage and think of all the times I’ve changed my behavior to be less Christ-like but more palatable to those around me.  It makes me wonder how many times I’ve hesitated in sharing the Gospel simply because the story of a murdered wood-worker seems less than compelling.  Sure sure.. we don’t usually have the giant denial moments Peter had.. but I wonder if our complacent, comfortable lives aren’t equally as much a denial as the words of Peter.

A tale about helping your fellow travler

walkwayWednesday, July 23
Morning: Pss. 15; 147:1–11
Evening: Pss. 48; 4
Josh. 8:30–35
Rom. 14:13–23
Matt. 26:57–68

Rom. 14:13-23 – A tale about helping your fellow travler 

Some years back, it seems like ages ago, we had dinner at my parents house, and as it was customary for my father, he brought out wine and beer to compliment the epic meal. One of the guest that evening, which later we find out had a no drinking policy, asked a very strange question: How does that glass of beer taste? Does it taste as good as I remember? 

The reason I share this story with you today, is because time and time again, I have found that my own so called christian liberties or interpretations, had carried something more than just good intentions; they carried a sense of careless, a sense of misunderstanding someone else’s troubles and weaknesses. I am sure that as you read Romans, you will quickly come to the conclusion that Paul does not speak about food or drink, but rather he speaks about who we are as people and the way we conduct our lives. This is about walking along side, and yes I am conscious I use that parable often, it is about sharing with your fellow travelers your life, the good and the bad, the things that make you strong or weak, but even more than that is about sharing how God is working in those very moments in your life. 

As we read: Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. – we read about the call we are called to; to help build each other in a way that promotes God’s purpose. When it comes to christian life, we need to understand the relational nature of our walk, the many dependancies and ramifications that one’s words and deeds carries when it comes to those around. In the past weeks I had a few conversations on some of the decisions the PCUSA reached as a denomination this year. Some of those are stirring up a few controversies, and not only that but as believers we are affected by some of the ripples. 

As I think about those conversations, I am reminded of this very passage we just read today. And I feel the need to pray for unity, for understanding, for peace and ultimately that the work that God has started in so many people’s lives will continue in a way that the kingdom of God will expand and Jesus ultimately be glorified. 

As many of you, I do not have answers or solutions, but I am sure of one thing that I have: The power to pray that my own life and my own struggle will be used for the unity of the body of Christ and fellow travelers along the path will be edified by the things that God is doing and has done in my own life. 

 

Be Blessed,

 

Bo M. 

 

I am running late

No that’s not the title of an awesome blog written by yours truly it’s just my morning confession when I realized that I still need to write a blog for today.
As soon as I get back in the office from running around and playing soccer with our 23 kids at camp I will get to write my blog.
Until then here is a blog posting from a seminary friend that I found thought provoking. April Feet is a great woman in ministry and a gifted writer. Hope you will enjoy her blog:
http://aprilfiet.com/theology-culture/gospel-140-characters-or-less

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