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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

March 2016

Remember

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Isaiah 44:21-24 (NIV)

Isaiah 45:21-25 (NIV)

II Timothy 2:10-13 (NIV) 

From time to time it is good to remember.  The season of Lent is a time to remember who God is and who we are in our journey of life and faith.  When we remember who God is we are more likely to know who we are and how we should live.

Isaiah 44 reminds us to remember that God says, “I have made you, you are my servant;…I have redeemed you.  Sing for joy, you heavens, for the Lord has done this;…[I am] your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb;…”  Again in the next chapter of Isaiah God says, “And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me.”

Remember today that “the Maker of all things” is the Savior who loves us and has redeemed us in Christ Jesus.  With Paul in II Timothy we can celebrate and remember Christ Jesus who “remains faithful” always.  When we remember who God is we can remember who we truly are and find joy in being a servant of the Lord Jesus.

Today, take a few moments to remember what matters most.

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What the Law Could Not Do

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Lev. 23: 1-8

Ps. 31: 9-16

Luke 22:1-13

Ro. 8:3

In the book of Lev. we see the law concerning the Passover of the Lord, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread described for Israel to keep for all generations. A remembrance of the passing of the Angel of death over all households displaying the blood of the sacrificed lamb on their door posts and lintels, while they were in bondage to Egypt just prior to the exodus. This is a picture of the future sacrifice of the Messiah to cover our sins.

Now in the Psalms we see David in anguish crying for the grace of Elohim to come to him. He is aware that his adversaries are scheming against him seeking his very life!  Yet he says his trust is ultimately in Yhwh, his Elohim. He knows that deliverance will come.

In Luke we see the preparation for the Passover concerning  Jesus and his disciples beginning.  They are keeping the law of Moses as is their responsibility under the law. We also know that in the preparation for the passover all leaven has to be removed from the household 7 days in advance, along with associated cleanings, being a  picture of the removal of the sin of pride, and covetousness from their houses. But the text reveals that the chief priests were conniving with Judas for the purpose of getting rid of this Jesus who revealed the priest’s sin, all the while meticulously keeping the letter of the Law of Moses.

The question arrises, how do the Pharisees say they love God and keep His commandments and then so callously plot a murder? Where is the disconnection? It comes from trusting the works of the flesh in the adherence to the law that the book of Romans tells us is too weak to to accomplish what it demands. The law was never meant to set us free or make us clean, but to reveal our weaknesses, and lead us to grace. Thus David and the other patriarchs of the faith all cried out for the grace of God, beyond the law. They knew they could not earn salvation, that the blood of bulls and goats could never cleanse their conscience from sin, Hebrews chapters 9 and 10, and the promised Messiah would come to finally redeem them.  This is the Good News, for what the law could not do weak as it is in the flesh, God did through His son Jesus, the savior of mankind.

Count it all joy

Psalm 31:9-16

Isaiah 54:9-10

Hebrews 2:10-18

In Psalm 31 it states “Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress”. There have been times in my life (of almost 73 years) that I found myself in some type of distress. Two incidents stand out. The first was the death of my father when I was 9 years old. The other incident is when I died twice one day in 1998 from heart problems.

As a child I prayed a lot to the Lord to help me and bring my father back. During the 2nd incident I prayed to God (whom I knew at a young age). I prayed over and over and over “Count it all joy-Count it all joy” from James 1st chapter The verse came to my mind and I kept repeating it. Through all of this I can relate this to Hebrews when it states “because Christ himself was tested by what He suffered, He is able to help those who are being tested.”

“I trust in you O Lord; I say you are my God”. Psalm 31 “My steadfast love shall not depart from you and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord who has compassion on you”. Isaiah 54. “I’m grateful for his compassion and Grace to still be among the living and was able to work in a helping profession.

“Count it all joy”! Amen

When Grief Becomes Glory

Psalm 31:9-16

Isaiah 53:10-12

Hebrews 2:1-9

Last night I went with friends to see the new movie “Miracles from Heaven.”  Based on a true story, this Hollywood-produced movie chronicles a season of life for a family dealing with the terminal illness of their 10-year old daughter, Anna.  The mother loses her faith and walks away from her church family after some “friends” deliver a cruel and accusatory message to her.  Where was God in this illness when Anna was in constant pain and suffering? Why was God silent, refusing to answer the prayers of many faithful, devoted Christians who where asking for healing?

Our readings today focus on suffering as well. King David as he is fleeing from King Saul and hiding in the mountains to save his own life.  Jesus’ prophesied death which would wipe out the sin and suffering in the whole world and turn pain and grief into glory and honor.  The struggles of a new Christian church in danger of losing their focus and forgetting what Christ did for them.  In these and so many other stories in the Bible, suffering and grief become the gateway for miracles, signs, and wonders; for Victory over circumstances by trusting an all-powerful, all-knowing God who works all things together for Good for those that love him.

In Miracles From Heaven, Anna is wondrously and miraculously healed.  And God can heal each and every one of us today, wherever we hurt, wherever we are, and from whatever is dogging our faith.  God does his greatest work in the most difficult, dark, and scary times of our lives.  That is incredible news!  What is your difficulty today?  Where are you struggling in the darkness?  God in his mercy is working in your life to give change your grief into glory so that you, too can share just high and wide and deep is the love of the Father for you.

Blessings,

Anna Johnson

PS I HIGHLY recommend the movie.  Bring kleenex as your heart will be touched and your faith challenged.  And prepare to sing worship songs in the theater!!

RE: Old Testament Prayer

Psalm 20      Habakkuk 3:1-19     Luke 18:31-34

Prayer is an integral part of worship in both the Old and New Testament.  This Habakkuk prayer is a model for prayer in the Old Testament.  OT prayers were made by Israel’s leaders and prophets, acting on behalf of the people, based on what were known to be consistent with God’s character and seven covenants.  These covenants were made at different times, places, and people (Eden, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Palestinian, and with David).  Frequently, they appeal to honor the name of God as they issue a plea to fulfill promises that He has previously made and were known by His people (Gen. 15:2-3, 18:23-32, Ex. 32:11-14, 2 Sam. 7:18-29, I Ki. 8:22-53, 18:36-37, Dan. 9:3-19).

Choosing a Leader

Psalm 20

Judges 9:7-15

1 John 2:18-28

There are no words that describe how annoyed I get when it comes to politics in America. It doesn’t matter if it is Illinois politics or U.S. politics, republican or democrat, it is all the same. We basically end up on election day making the choice of the least of the evils available on the ballot to lead us for the next handful of years. Any one of them will say whatever it is that will get them elected, then continue to say things that will get them re-elected, all-the-while not accomplishing much that is positive while in office.

And then there is the whole election process, where people may or may not educate themselves on who is running for office and what they stand for, and instead simply vote based on the same party line, despite what that person stands for. What do we end up with? A broken system that may or may not be beyond repair, in large part because we have tried to secularize our political system and rule by our human nature.

In each of the passages above, we find that a true leader is one who finds his inspiration based in scripture. In Psalm 20, David states that his enemies trust in their horses and chariots, but he places his trust in the Lord. In the Judges passage, we hear a parable about searching for someone to lead, but ending up with a less than desirable ruler. Finally, in 1 John, we hear about how we will be led astray often by the many different antichrists that we will encounter in our lifetime. In this passage, we read about the Antichrist (capital A, the one who will signal the end of days), and we read about antichrists (lowercase a, all people who will try to tempt us). My prayer for us all is that we seek guidance from God, and not place our hope in the human race. God, whom we have access to through Jesus, will set us on the right path, the path of righteousness. All others will lead us astray.

To meet & to connect

My mother is one of those people who when you call, she answers. When I was little and I had a bad dream she would come running to comfort me. When I was in college and got sick, she would take a day off and drive down to bring me food, or take my laundry home. As an adult she has on more than one occasion dropped everything to be by my side in a crisis of heart or health. She is one of those people who has built her life around showing love and kindness to those who call her. She lives a life of service to others and to God.

When I was a kid, you went to church, every Sunday, no questions asked you went to worship. Because that is what you did. I can remember getting dressed for church every Sunday, buckling my little patent leather shoes, grabbing my little bible or maybe a purse and going to church with my family. Because you go to church to worship God. There is a church, an altar, a pastor, a congregation and God. All the elements of worship. It becomes your way of life, your routine, your comfort. To my mother it is not a chore, it is her way of life. She has dedicated her life to giving and loving and modeling Christ’s love.

Now I know as an adult that I don’t go to church because my mom made me, but I’m sure glad she made me, because it allowed me as an adult to explore the faith on my own, to formulate my own opinions, to start my own walk by choice. Had I not grown up in the faith, I don’t know where I would have ended up as an adult. Maybe in a church, maybe not. But because I was “in the habit of doing” as it says in Hebrews 10:25 and encouraged by those around me I have continued my weekly ritual of going into my adult life and now it’s my job as a parent to keep my kids “in the habit of doing”.

In the passage of Exodus, God gives Moses instructions on setting up the tabernacle and preparing a place of worship. Giving implicit instruction to prepare the altar, anointing it and everything to make it a holy place, even anointing his son Aaron to make him a priest (and all his sons) so that they too may serve and so and so on.

On any given Sunday, in any town in America, in any place in Joliet there are people meeting at the altar together. With one universal goal. To come closer to God. We utter the response, we read in unison and sing praise as one voice. We pass the peace in solidarity, and we give of ourselves in offering to build and grow the place we gather. As verse 22 of Hebrews reads  we “draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”

Two big things jump out at me from these passages. First we need a place to meet, second we need others.  Both are things the church has to offer us and two things we often take for granted. In this passage of Hebrews we look at the intentionality, and not alone. Not just meeting with each other, but encouraging one another. What does this mean as a Christian? Can we only worship in a church and with other Christians? Does our walk only count if it’s within the church walls? Is God present in our daily life? The greatest thing of this relationship that we build with our God  is reinforced in our reading of Psalm 20. As we build a faith base within our church and with our church friends there is a 3rd element that comes in to play and that is our personal relationship with God. The part that goes with us when we are at home, work and play. When our friends aren’t around and when we are lone or surrounded by strangers. What does this mean? To me it is reinforced in reading of Psalm 20. because of my faithfulness, because I have been baptized in the word, because I offer my life as a sacrifice through daily practice and participation in the church I can rest assured that when need him he will be there for me. When I call him, he will answer. Pretty much the way my mother did when I was little and still does even though I’m grown.

Nothing in the hand of God

Nothing is something that makes us uncomfortable. We do not like to have nothing, we hate being nothing. Nothing speaks about failure, about defeat, nothing is about emptiness and desperation.

But what if nothing was not all that? What if nothing in the hand of God will speak something different to us? Out of nothing God created the world. God took a nothing out of  Ur, and made him -Abraham the father of many. Time and time again, a people of nothing overcame kings and nations, and by that proclaiming a powerful God. People of nothing, of no influence carrying an ounce of faith changed the entire Roman world by preaching about Jesus.

So what is your nothing? What is your nothing with God? Is much more that you can imagine! It is something that many will not understand!

So I pray that you will find comfort in the God today knowing that to him you are more than nothing!

Philippians 4:6

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Luke 1:37
“For nothing will be impossible with God.”

What are you looking for?

comeandsee

John 1:35-42  In this passage, Jesus calls his first disciples – 2 of which have been following John the Baptist around the countryside.  Jesus asks a very interesting question, “What are you looking for?”  The disciples answer, “where are you staying?”.  Don’t you find this interesting?  John the Baptist has been talking about the One who is coming into the world…the Light…and these individuals want to know where Jesus is staying.  Life is like this as well.  “What are you looking for?” is often asked but what we are looking for is different on different days.  Take Sunday morning for example…on average we have about 200-250 who come through the doors of First Pres and if you took a poll of all of them you would get a lot of different answers to the question, “What are you looking for?”.  Some are curious…some are coming because mom and dad said they had to…some are looking to deepen their journey with Christ…some are hurting.  Each would answer the question in a different way.

Jesus responded to those that day…”Come and see.”  Jesus invited them to come take a look, see what he had to offer…to come and hang out with him for a while.  “What are you looking for?” – many are looking…won’t you invite them to “Come and see”…to come and hang out with you for a time…to get to know them and for them to get to know you…for them (and you) to hang out with Jesus for a while.  “Come and see”.

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