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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

October 2016

The Psalm of the Precious Secret

Psalm 57

I had a High School class ring that was made from gold and engraved with symbols representing the school and my personal interests. It was unique to me, and had a secret: engraved on the inside of the band was my signature. My ring was a Miktam, a golden, precious, inscription that commemorated an important period of my life.

At the beginning of Psalm 57 we are told that David was hiding in the caves from Saul when this was written, and it is a “Miktam” of David. Reading it and looking for an overall theme, I got a little more curious about what a Miktam was. So I did what most of us do these days, and asked the Google Machine. Can I just say that I love Google because of the doors it opened and insight gained from asking a simple question: Definition of Miktam. I think I could write a whole essay on this, exceeding the scope of our focus here, so I’ll give you some highlights and ask you to dig deeper and read more today as we study the word the word together. I hope some of you will share your own insights with us later in the comments. So, here goes:

Bible scholars and translators don’t necessarily agree on the meaning of the word Miktam, but the most common interpretations are that it is a musical or technical term (makes sense); there are 5 other Psalms labeled “Miktams” (16, 56, 58,59,60); and the ancient meaning of the word was something like golden, precious, or an inscription. Some have even suggested that the Miktams contain a precious secret. In the Bible commentary, Treasury of David, Charles Spurgeon refers to this collection as “The Psalm of the precious secret.”

Psalm 57 and the others in this collection start with lamenting danger and persecution and pleading to God for help, then change course in the middle and end with great praises and exaltation of the God who saves and is personally present. According to Skip Moen in his blog “Hebrew Word Study,” this is unusual because to the ancient Jewish reader, the scripture and words from God were tied to community and God saving and protecting Isreal, making a personal plea unique for the time. So, “If a miktam is a poem about personal deliverance in the face of danger, then we all need a miktam…YHWH is MY God and he cares for ME! (Moen)” http://skipmoen.com/2009/04/what-is-it/

I’ve included the link to Skip Moen’s blog and hope you will read it and further follow the link to see Spurgeon’s entire comment on this Psalm ( http://www.spurgeon.org/treasury/ps016.php ). Then, like my class ring that was engraved with a cross, musical symbols, and the Armor of God, create your own Miktam today. A prayer, a poem, a picture, a reminder of any sort that we have a personal God who listens to each of us individually while caring for all peoples.

Blessings,

Anna

Conquering the Distance

the-race-pk-600x369

Ephesians 6:11-17

Hebrews 12: 1-3

I don’t like to miss church all that often. But next Sunday will be one of those weekends when I won’t be around. Instead, I will be completing a journey that originally began back in the spring. I will be making my second attempt at the Naperville Half Marathon. For those of you thinking (or saying out loud) that I am crazy, remember that I am only half crazy, because I didn’t choose to do the full marathon.

All kidding aside, for those of you who may have dabbled with running as a hobby, or maybe have run a 5K or two in your lifetime may know that running isn’t an easy habit to take up, and to run a half marathon, let me tell you, it takes an enormous commitment to train for such a long run. So, why do I do it? Why would anyone in their right mind choose to train for a race that will take me a little over 2 hours to complete? One reason of course was because I wanted to work on my personal fitness.

But another reason takes me back to Jim Mullins’ sermon from last week about getting closer to God by being in nature. I have always been an outdoor animal. I love to fish. I love to golf. I love to camp. But those things take huge chunks of time in one lump sum to complete, which I don’t always find the time for. But I can get out on the road for a quick 3 mile run and only be gone about a half hour. And that half our escape allows me to get away from the everyday grind, take in some fresh air, lose myself in the music coming from my iPod, and melt off the built-up stress from the everyday grind. It is a way that I can connect with God.

In the same way that it is important to train and keep up with training when taking on a half marathon, the same is true about training for everyday living in general. If we are going to be successful Christian people, we need to train for the things we will encounter on a day to day basis and how God intends for us to handle those things. Of course showing up on Sundays can be and should be part of that training, we need more. We need to dive into scripture on a daily basis.

To put on the armor of God is to know and study the Bible. I have heard many people on a regular basis say things like “the Bible is so old and outdated.” Sure it was written 2000 or more years ago, and there is no mention of smart phones, social media, or reality television. But I find passages all the time that still apply, even today. Take the scripture passages above. We can shield ourselves from the evils of this world by knowing and understanding the Bible. We are called to run the race of life with perseverance, just as Jesus persevered over death and the cross, and the scorn he faced throughout his ministry.

I’m ready to take on my race next weekend because of the blood, sweat, and tears of my training. In the same way, I am more prepared today than yesterday to take on the world because of the training I receive through my reading and study of scripture, and attending Sunday service on a regular basis. How’s your (life) training going?

How Holy Is Holy

Matthew 9.3-5

Duet. 15.9

2 Corinthians 7.1

Starting off with the passage from Paul in the context of his call to the Corinthian church to be pure, quoting a tapestry of scripture to “come out from their midst and be separate,” and “do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you,”  for we are the temple of YHWH.  Chapter 7.1 “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of YHWH.”

The whole concept of separation from the world, as Craig Randolph recently blogged, seems to me to be the same as holiness. Through out scripture we are told to live pure lives out of respect and love for God our savior.  But what a queer message that is today.  The message we are taught in modern Christianity is to get along with our neighbor at all costs, to walk a mile in his shoes, to bear his burden, and to never offend him by being different, and/or holier than thou.  Talking about religion is strictly taboo, and to be seen with a Bible in your house, car, or hand is outrageous, pushy, and pretentious, (well maybe not in your house.)

The scriptures are clear about living a holy life and sin in a Christians life, we are called to “be Holy as your Father in heaven is Holy,” “perfecting holiness in the fear of YHWH.”  Holiness has to do with our commitment to God.  If we are completely committed we will most likely be very aware of sin creeping into our lives. Sin comes in primarily three categories, sins of commission, those are the things we do that are not pleasing to God, deliberate actions. Sins of omission, those are the things we should have done yet didn’t, because we were indifferent, faithless, lazy, etc.  The last is, sins of our thought life.  Not to be confused with a passing temptation, as all sin starts with a thought, it’s what we do with that thought.  Do we act on it, or do we harbor it, relishing the very concept of it, or do we discard it.  Jesus in Matt. 5.28 describes the thought life, Prov. 24.9 warns of foolish thought, Duet. 15.9 tells of base thoughts,  Matt. 9.4  says Jesus knew their evil thoughts,  James 1.14 reveals each one is tempted when carried away by his own lust.

If we truly want to live holy lives, we will be aware of, and concerned with sin in our lives. I John 1.9 tells us that we can confess our sins and Jesus will be faithful to forgive us.  I Cor. 11.28  “But let a man examine himself…”As we live holy lives we will find that we are naturally separate from the world, and they, the world, will take note of it. At least that has been the case in my life. Not that I am saying I live more holy than you, but people do notice when Christ is in you.  Weekly confession, though very appropriate in our services at 1st Pres., is not often enough in my opinion, but daily examination and confession. I know my wife would not be appeased with a weekly apology of my dastardly life style and offenses committed against her, so I believe it is with our Father in heaven.

This is supposed to be a blog, not a book, or even a remotely complete thought on holiness.  It is not an accusation against anyone, or group, but merely a reminder to us of truth we already know.  Let us live our lives in holiness and by every means attempt to be pleasing to God in all that we do and say.  Amen

Karl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yay God!

noahs-ark-5
The Ark Encounter is a one-of-a-kind historically themed attraction in Williamstown, Kentucky.

Today’s devotion comes from Genesis 6:9-7:11 – a lesson we can learn from a man named Noah. Most church-going people can say something about Noah…like God asking Noah to build a big boat – a boat, an ark, about 4 times the size of a luxury yacht.  A big boat that would hold birds and animals – 2 of every kind…male and female.  Along with all of these birds and animals, Noah was to ensure enough food existed for the birds and animals along with the 8 human passengers:  Noah and his wife along with Noah’s 3 sons and their wives.

Now…it is easy to get lost in questions like: What do you think it smelled like on that ark or do you think it was ever quiet?  Good questions but hardly important in this passage.  What is important is why Noah built that ark.  Noah did what God instructed him to do because Noah walked with God…Noah trusted God.  Noah trusted God to keep his promise…that God’s covenant would be with Noah and the other 7 passengers on that ark along with all those animals and birds.

This past Wednesday evening at our mid-week worship service I used an example that many of us…in fact, I would bet that each of us is very familiar with in our own lives.  Parents often ask their children to do things like make their bed or clean their rooms.  The response many times is one that is, lets say, less than obedient.  Yet the children trust the parents promise to take care of them, put food on the table, and protect them.

So, let me ask this question:  Do you trust God?  Today is a new day…a fresh start…a new creation.  We humans make promises – we make commitments…all sorts of things we promise to do.  Sometimes, we humans don’t always do what we say we are going to do.  God’s promises are different…do you trust God?  And, if you trust God, will you walk with God?  And, if you trust God and will walk with God…will you listen for the “big boat” he asks you to build?

Here’s the closing prayer we used Wednesday evening:

God promised Noah a love that would never end…and the people respond, “Yay God!”

The promise God made for Noah is also for us…and the people respond, “Yay God!”

God will never stop loving us no matter what…and the people respond, “Yay God!”

We can trust God’s promise…and the people respond, “Yay God!”

 

The Greatness of God

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Psalm 121 (NIV)

Isaiah 54:11-17 (NIV)

Acts 17:22-34 (NIV)

In these three passages we are given a glimpse into the Greatness of God.  The door is opened to who God is, what God does, and how God loves his people and all the world.  We also learn what God is not like.

In Psalm 121 we meet the God who helps his people and carefully watches over you.  “the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”

In Isaiah 54 God promises to rescue and rebuild the “Afflicted city,” that is a figurative description of restoring Jerusalem.  It’s an image of bringing Israel back from captivity in foreign nations.  When God protects you, you need not fear, for “tyranny” and “terror will be far removed.”   God accomplishes what he declares.

In Acts 17, Paul speaks to people in Athens, actually learned people in the meeting of the Council of the Areopagus.  They presided over the religious and moral teaching of Athens at that time.

Paul reminds them that God is great, “24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.”

In fact, the one true God is so great that he raised “the man he has appointed,” that is Jesus from the dead.  And everyone (the world) will be judged “with justice by the man he has appointed,” which is Jesus.

This day look out at the world and the people whom you see and remember that God helps us, that God created all things, and that Jesus died and rose again for us.  The standard for a life, well lived, faithfully lived is Jesus.  One day God will bring history to a close and judge, that is, make an assessment of how we have lived.  The standard is Jesus.  When we are a follower of Christ Jesus we receive the grace of God to cover all of our sins.  In Jesus, the greatness of God, is most fully revealed.

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Thou Hypocrites!

I think it appropriate in this election season to study what our Bible has to say on the subject of hypocrisy.  It is breathtaking to me when one candidate accuses the other of immorality, and that same candidates party has done everything – it’s actions, it’s legislation, it’s affiliations, it’s media, etc. to promote societal immorality.  Sometimes it becomes too much for me to take without screaming (as the above suggests) at my television.

For the past month or so our Men’s Bible Study has been painstakingly, led like only Karl Darley can, going over a few verses (2 Cor. 6:11-18) which speak to the subject of separation.  Many others exist as well.  The OT is primarily about a people, the Israelites, that were to be peculiar and set apart from (Deut. 7:6) those surrounding them.  When they didn’t live up to their high calling, they encountered all forms of calamity.  Additionally, in the NT, Paul encourages believers to separate from the lost (Rom. 16:17, Gal. 1:8-9, 2 Tim. 3:1-5, Titus 3:10) and “expose” (Eph. 5:11) them.

What do you call the peoples of the world that desire to separate themselves from their own land?  These people are called Americans.  From it’s inception, the main attraction of America has been it’s liberty.  It was the Athenian Greeks that linked the ideals of liberty to those of a democracy.  At the heart of liberty is independence.  No other country that I’m aware of celebrates Independence Day.

This recent American political push to gather people under the leadership of one (“I’m with her!”) is an invader to our fair land – that of a socialist at best or a communist at worst.  I view these as the environmental equivalents of the foreign species of carp in our lakes and streams and dandelions in our lawns.  The socialist and communist mindset is attributable to the feudal mindset of classical Europe and Asia where leadership forced their tribe to rigidly adhere to their leading through the employment of propaganda and a not so secret service.  Read Orwell’s “1984” and Huxley’s “Brave New World” to learn more.  It is my opinion that God gives special insight to some authors into events and situations that will take place perhaps hundreds of years after they die.  That certainly was the case with many of the authors in our Bible.  I’m confident that it is true with the authors of many of our great and classic books.

The OT prophets warn against hypocritical leadership (Isa. 29:11-16, 58:1-7, Ezek. 33:23-33) and Jesus’ most profound criticism was reserved for them (Matt. 6:1-8, 15:1-9, 23:1-36, Luke 13:14-17, 11:39-44) compared to the “garden variety” sinners such as ourselves.   The reason for this is hypocrisy of any sort undermines a leaders ability to be taken seriously or govern effectively.

Heavenly Father, by your grace you have breathed life into us.  By your grace we live.  LORD, by your Spirit, give us the courage and conviction to live to glorify you in both what we say, believe, and do, without hypocrisy.  I pray all these things for Jesus’ sake.    Amen

Water, Rocks, and Sanctuary

Psalm 61: 2-4, New Living Translation

“From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed.  Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me.  Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings.”

If you were in Church yesterday, you heard a wonderful message delivered by Jim Mullins about the gift of nature and how we were created to be in it, enjoy it, and be stewards of this magnificent creation.  As we listened to Jim, Mark and I smiled at each other, knowing that following our time of worship in our beautiful church, we would continue to worship God out in his lovely creation from the vantage point of the Illinois River.

14647443_10208996533043483_133817879_oThis is a picture I took that shows how the river has carved sanctuaries into the rock over the millenia. Birds, plants, small animals, and even people have found refuge in these rocks which have provided a fortress of safety over the centuries.

Have you thanked God for providing the warmth of the sun today?  Have you gone to Him for sanctuary as you face problems and difficulties today?  Have you gone outside and rejoiced in the gift of nature and everything it provides through God’s design?  I hope you take a few minutes to do those things today and never forget how God is our refuge, our help, our Rock of Safety.

Anna

Love One Another

Unity in the Community Logo2

Ephesians 4: 1-16

As a teacher, it is important to make connections and build relationships with my students and their families as much as possible. If I want to be able to squeeze as much effort as possible out of each and every student, and push them to their fullest potential, I need them to know that I am doing it because I care about them and their success. Because I take this approach with my flock every school year, I typically don’t have too many major behavior issues, and typically have good relationships with the parents of my students. And by these relationships, I know that students feel comfortable and confident in my classroom to take risks, grow, and learn.

In the same way, we as Christians need to treat other human beings with the same care. If we are to spread God’s love to others, and show others what this Jesus character is all about, we need to start by building relationships and treating others with compassion. By building relationships with people, even non-believers, we can spread God’s love and grace through our own actions. It will be these relationships that bring more people into the church and to the reading and study of scripture, and ultimately to a relationship with Jesus.

My prayer is that those with whom we come into contact will know we are Christians by our love and by our actions. I pray that God will guide us to be compassionate, to have grace and mercy, and to forgive those who do wrong against us. There is too much hate in this world, and life is too short to be so full of hate and anger.

I want to complain

I want to complain about the weather! What is this in inbetween weather? It’s not hot, it’s not cold! It’s not raining but it could rain… And don’t get me going about what this weather is doing to me. My body is officially on Fall Strike. I wake up like I am a sloth, i go to bed like I am a bear ready for hibernation, and I ache. And on top of that it takes me a long time in the morning to decide what to wear because I really do not know how the day will be.

By now, you are thinking: Boy is he cranky or what??? He hates Fall!

Yeah, maybe I am a bit cranky but I love Fall. I love the change of color, the brisk cold mornings, the evenings when I open the window and I smell the rain. I love even the days when the rain hits the windows of my office. I love walking thought the rain under my big blue umbrella.Sometime I even turn into a little kid and kick the water in a rain puddle. I love seeing Max (the little dog that thinks he’s a lion) running in the back yard and getting muddy, but smiling like there is nothing else in the world. I love this season, because it is special, it holds so many memories and things that makes me who I am. I love this season because, no matter how much I might complain about the weather and so on, this season is like an old shoe that just fits, or a big cup of soup bringing you comfort.

But you  will never know any of those things about me, if you did not hear the second part. It is easy to talk about the things I do not like, it is very easy to complain about seasons, places and people. It is easy to let your soul surrender to those negative thoughts, it is easy,  way to easy. But the joy of life is not in surrender, the joy comes when you look for things that are going to build us up. Joy comes when we find meaning. Joy comes when we see the rainbow in the rain. Joy comes when we look for God’s fingerprint in the things that causes us discomfort.

So today I pray that each one as we go through our daily complains, we will also have the strength to find the joy that each day brings, in each person we meet, in the things and places we go.

And one more thing: Go outside yourself and enjoy what God is doing, because each day is a brand new beautiful day in its own way.

 

Psalm 34:8The Message (MSG)

Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—
how good God is.
Blessed are you who run to him.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

 

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