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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

October 2016

Just Have Faith

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Psalm 46 (NIV) 

Jeremiah 34:31-34 (NIV)

Romans 3:19-28 (NIV)

John 8:31-36 (NIV) 

In troubling times or any time we are instructed and encouraged to have faith in God.  God is still our refuge and strength even when the world seems dark and foreboding.

God has given us the new covenant (written about in Jeremiah 34) through our relationship to Jesus Christ; it’s all through faith.  Paul writes about it, “The righteousness is given through faith in Christ to all who believe…”

God makes himself known to us most fully in Jesus. When we hold onto Jesus’ teaching, presence, and direction and allow the Savior to lead us we will “know the truth and the truth will set us free.”

Review the key verses from todays four passages and allow the Holy Spirit to strengthen and renew your faith today.  The future is secure in Christ Jesus for all who believe.  God is remains faithful and invites us to put our faith and trust in him.

(Psalm 46:1-3) 1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

Jeremiah 34:33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord.  “I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.  I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

(Romans 3:22) This righteousness is given through faith in Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

(John 8:31-32) Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Wrestling with God

Job 22 – 23

This past weekend a friend of ours in southern Illinois, Mike Quandt, suddenly past away dying of an apparent heart attack while doing yard work.  He was 57 years old.  While this is a horrible event in itself, it could be far worse.  First, I believe Mike to be a Christian, so I will be catching up with him when my time comes.  Second, both of his daughters, Sara and Whitney, are adults, married, and able to fend for themselves.  He leaves behind a wife, Tami.  Our thoughts and prayers are needed for this difficult and unexpected situation.

One of the lectionary readings for today is from the book of Job.  In our daily living we have our perspective vs. God’s perspective.  Our sense of timing, which is understood within the context of movements of everything vs. God’s timing which is beyond the movement of anything.  Our understanding vs. His understanding.  What we have amounts to wrestling with God, much like Jacob (Gen. 32:22-32), in both a figurative and literal sense.

In Job 22, we have one of Job’s friends, Eliphaz, attempting to explain to Job why he is in the situation he finds himself in.  Job’s problems stem from his inattention to those surrounding him – the hungry, thirsty, widows, and orphans (vv. 6-9).  This commentary goes right along with OT generalizations regarding the fate of the wicked and blessings for the just.

In Job 23, we have Job’s bitter complaint towards God – he cannot find Him (vv. 3, 8-9) anywhere.  Yet, Job does not lose his faith in God (v. 10).  To me, this is the high point of the book. Nevertheless, Job is mystified and terrified at God’s actions or inactions towards him at the present hour (vv. 13-17).  It seems to me, this is where many of us live from time to time.  We’re left to ponder why?

Grace relives guilt

Psalm 32Proverbs 15:8-11

 

This past Tuesday I was subbing for a Freshman English class during which the kids were taking 2 tests. I observed one young man simply give up. It was obvious he had not studied and prepared, so he resigned himself to failing. It reminded me of my Senior year in High School when I forgot about a major literature exam and didn’t study. With the help of a friend, I cheated on the test and knew I’d gotten an “A”. Well, within about 20 minutes of leaving the class, I just couldn’t handle the guilt I felt and went back to the teacher and tearfully confessed I had cheated. I was ready to accept the consequences of my actions which paled in comparison to the spiritual anguish I had just put myself through. My teacher was merciful, forgave me, and let me re-take the test–a different version, of course. I earned a good grade.

 

David describes this spiritual struggle and triumph in Psalm 32:5.

“Finally, I confessed all my sins to you

and stopped trying to hide my guilt.

I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”

And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.”

 

When we pursue godliness, the Lord responds with love and mercy. Proverbs 15:9 tells us, “The Lord detests the way of the wicked, but loves those who pursue godliness.” The word “pursue” is really important here. Scripture doesn’t tell us to be perfect, to never sin or God won’t love us. Rather, if we confess our guilt and continue to strive to be like Him and honor his commands, we enjoy peace, joy, and a thriving relationship with Him and others.

 

The mercy my teacher showed me is nothing compared to the mercy of God who forgives us when we go to Him and are honest about our short-comings. I’m so thankful for a God who loves me as I am, sees my heart, and allows me to continue to pursue godliness and receive his love. This is Grace, and it relieves my guilt.

 

Grace and peace to each of you,

Anna Johnson

I Know My Redeemer Lives

 

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Psalms 19.14

Mark 5.22

Mark 7.25

Ruth 3.2-9

In the incredible story of Ruth, we find through unforeseen calamity a woman, Naomi and her daughter-in -law Ruth in  poverty, with no one to provide for them they are reduced to gleaning the fields for their sustenance. Upon notice of the owner they are given extra sloppy harvesting waste (to their advantage). Then with instruction from Naomi, Ruth the Moabitess, went to Boaz after the days work and laid at his feet, upon arising the next day he proceeded with the process of redeeming Naomi and Ruth. As a kinsman he was legally able to pay the redemption price for their future, in redeeming land and rights.

in Mark 5.22 we see Jairus, a synagogue official, fall at the feet of Jesus, on behalf of his daughter who was at deaths door. As Jesus enters the room of the now dead girl He takes her by the hand and brings her to life.

In Mark 7.25 , a Syro-Phonecian woman beseeches Jesus falling at his feet for the release of her daughter from demons. Upon much pleading, because of her tenacity and faith Jesus casts the demon out of the daughter.

The law for redemptions are in Leviticus 25. The concept of falling at the feet of your redeemer are older than that, with Job making the surprising prophetic cry in the midst of his agony Job 19.25 “As for me I know that my Redeemer liveth.”

In our hymns we sing about falling at the feet of Jesus, or taking our burdens and placing them at the feet of Jesus,  we are are on pretty solid ground with these concepts.  Because Jesus tabernacled with us He is our kinsman, and because He paid the price for our sin by His death and resurrection, He is our redeemer.  In humility we can come to Jesus and get phenomenal answers to our prayers, for He is more than wealthy enough to pay the cost and is more than willing to do so.

Psalms 19.14  “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight O Jehovah, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Friends, don’t be shy about crying out to Jesus, He has already paid the price.  He has redeemed us!  We are set free, use His attributes for the glory of God and for your benefit also. ” O what peace we often forfeit, Oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer.”

Kar

 

 

 

Timeless Words

1 Peter 5:1-11

In this short passage there are several different takeaways that can be immediately applied to our daily lives. In the first paragraph, we hear that we are to be willing and eager servants, and to lead by example. In verse 6, we are told to be humble and to give all anxiety in our lives to God because he cares about us. Next, we are told to beware of the devil and to stand firm in our faith. Finally, we are reminded that God is always there for us, and even though we may go through sufferings from time to time, He will restore us and make us strong.

I think of a simple prayer that I learned a while back that goes something like this: “Father in heaven, fill me with your spirit and guide me through this day.” I would like to add to that prayer these words: “May you guide me to lead by example, so they will know I am Christian by my love. Please, Lord, keep me humble, that I may not become too boastful. Protect me from the enemy and help me to remain faithful to you. Finally, thank you, God, for always being there for me, and for bringing me out from the depths of my suffering. I trust in you always. Amen.”

Faith because of God’s love

  • 1 John 4:18-19
    18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.

    Last week I was talking with a dear friend and catching up about life and all the things going on in their life.As the conversation went on, I was overwhelmed by one thought: Love for God trumps fear. Fear of the unknown, fear for the future seemed to face away in the presence of faith in God.

    I have to admit that this is in many ways a strange concept for today’s world. We tend to worry about tomorrow, we let fear conquer our lives without even realizing how it will affect us. In many of the conversations that we have, if we pay close attention to what is said, we find people worried, or carrying a certain feeling of worrying. And that is normal. We are human after all. But as Christians we cannot let ourselves get stuck there. We have to go beyond worrying, and uncertainty. We have to go the place where we remember who we are in Christ, and letting God’s love be our strength and source of life for anything that life might bring our way.

    It is this reality of living in Christ, that helps us move on when the storms come in our lives. It is faith that keeps us moving on, when everything else around us seemed to try to stop us.

    Today I pray that we all can grasp the love that God has for us, and the way God provides for us time and time again.

    Be blessed,

    Bo M.

The Church…

247348da415b21a249bc6f0095bde6e9If you want to know how a community of faith should live…1 Corinthians 13 provides a deep and intense picture for us.  It also provides a huge challenge.  Simply put…a church must do more than believe!  The church must be a church of faith, hope and most importantly, love.  We Christians may possess any and even many spiritual gifts…but…without love, each gift is useless.  The same is true for the gathered body of Christ…the church.

What good is it to believe in Christ – the epitome of love himself – if hate is harbored individually or in the church?  Paul uses the word love – agape – meaning, love of the undeserving…love that gives.  The reality of this love for us as Christians and the Church is found in Romans 5:8, “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”

The Church must do more than believe… I’ve been reading lately about Auschwitz and the internal crisis the Jewish people had with other humans who wanted to eliminate the entire Jewish population from the face of the earth and, yet, go to church on Sunday…Nazis reading Scripture and singing hymns along with German Christians who “exalted the racially pure nation and the rule of Hitler as God’s will for the German people” (PCUSA Confession of Faith – Declaration of Barmen, May 1934).

A Church of faith is not measured by it’s successes – Why?  Because God’s definition of success and the world’s definition are diametrically opposing.  God’s idea of success for individuals and his Church is the cross…agape love…love of the undeserving…love that gives.  In May 1934 some in the churches resisted. Among those few determined church leaders who did oppose the church’s captivity to National Socialism were pastors Hans Asmussen, Karl Koch, Karl Iraruer, and Martin Niemoller, and theologian Karl Barth.

The Church in this world is the Church under the sign of the cross…where faith, hope and love combine to lead all who claim to follow Christ into the world.  This Sunday…as you go OUT the doors of First Presbyterian Church you will be going into a world that is begging for faith, hope and love.  The Church must do more than believe…

While I encourage all to read a confession of faith prepared in a terribly atrocious period of time, I offer the following – Sections 8.17 and 8.18 regarding “The Church”:

“The Christian Church is the congregation of the brethren in which Jesus Christ acts presently as the Lord in Word and Sacrament through the Holy Spirit. As the church of pardoned sinners, it has to testify in the midst of a sinful world, with its faith as with its obedience, with its message as with its order, that it is solely his property, and that it lives and wants to live solely from his comfort and from his direction in the expectation of his appearance.  We reject the false doctrine, as though the church were permitted to abandon the form of its message and order to its own pleasure or to changes in prevailing ideological and political convictions.”  Amen

Mindset, Attitude Adjustment

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Luke 18:9-14 (NIV)

Philippians 2:1-11 (NIV)

Our mindset, our attitude shapes how we see life, the Lord, and other people.

The Pharisee in Luke 18 has an arrogant attitude toward others; he is better than other people.  There’s no doubt in his mind and he tells God all about his superiority in his prayer.  He doesn’t need anything from God.  The Tax Collector, in absolute humility. begs God for mercy.  He falls before God understanding that he has tremendous need for grace.

Jesus was humble, although God the Son, equal with God, coming to earth to empty himself and serve.  He emptied himself so much so, that he would allow people to crucify him to death.  Jesus served well, with an attitude we all can imitate as we seek to follow him and serve well, that others may know that he is Lord, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Our attitude shapes our mindset; that is how we see others. how we see God, and how we serve others and follow Jesus.  Sometimes I need an attitude adjustment that I might walk humbly with God, remember the extraordinary grace of the Lord Jesus to me, and then serve humbly and faithfully.

How is your attitude today?  Do you have a mindset to humbly ask God for mercy and to joyfully serve others in Christ’s name? Do you need an attitude adjustment like me?

Yes, our Attitude is significant but Jesus is everything.

RE: Leadership

On the political trails, one hears comments such as “he did such-and-such and that disqualifies him from being such-and-such” or “she prevented such-and-such from happening by having such-and-such influence…and therefore she never be elected such-and-such.”  I need to give my thoughts freedom on the subject of leadership. To  begin, let us review the biblical record of five noteworthy men – two led the nation Israel, one saved a great city from destruction, and the last two are keenly responsible for the spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire and our understanding of it.

Moses had difficulties communicating (Ex. 4:10).  In his youth in Egypt, he killed someone and “covered it up”(Ex. 2:11-12) the ran.   Eventually, he suffered the consequences of this act (Deut. 32:48-52).  He was known to have fits of anger and suffered from a lack of faith (Num. 20:7-13).

Jonah was a stubborn and disobedient (1:3).  He was a belligerent complainer (4:1-3) that caused great difficulties not only for himself but, also for innocent sailors (1:4-9) who were not remotely responsible for his forced business trip to Nineveh.

David, the one referred to being “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14), led a troubled life.  He had difficulty telling the truth (2 Sam. 11:7-8, 12-13), with covetousness (2 Sam. 11:3), with stealing (2 Sam. 12:9), with adultery (2 Sam. 11:4), and he was a murderer (2 Sam. 11:17, 12:9).  By my reckoning, that’s an infraction of half of our Ten Commandments.

Saul began his public life as a Pharisee and a persecutor of the early church (Acts 7:58, 8:3).  After a change of heart and name to Paul (Acts 9:1-22) his attitude changed.  Nevertheless, he was known for his temper (Acts 16:18), his arrogance (Acts 16:37), his disrespectful attitude towards others (Acts 23:3), and led a life fraught with risk taking  (2 Cor. 11:24-27).

Peter, the so called “rock” (Matt. 16:18), was not exactly a scholar or a gentleman (Acts 4:13) at the start of his ministry.  He was known to be irritable and angry (Jn. 18:10).  These two led to a preponderance of hasty and, at times, rash (Luke 22:31-34) decisions.

Of course, all of these leaders had positive attributes.  No person is perfectly bad.  Chief among their positive characteristics was their overall faith and willingness to work with God to further His kingdom.  That’s the rub.  Which of our present day candidate(s) seems more open to God’s leading?  Which candidate(s) do you think God prefers?  These are difficult questions to answer, especially based on their highly checkered past.

History seems to suggest that good leaders of a society came from societies that were, generally speaking, good.  And vise versa.  Dickens penned something like “…every person living is a profound mystery…”  Nevertheless, withstanding these bits as a backdrop, we must still decide.  It would be useful to have knowledge of what makes these people really tick, unfortunately we can’t.  Only God can (Ps. 44:17-21).  We are left to ponder and especially to pray about it.

 

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