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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

November 2016

Startled!

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Bob Haas provides today’s devotion on Isaiah 6:1-4

Wow!  Surprise! A new awakening for the long time priest Isaiah.  Something happened this morning.  I saw the Lord, exclaims Isaiah.  And he was startled all the way to the depths of his being.  Woe is me, he proclaims.

Does it sometimes happen to you?  Are you occasionally shook to the very roots of your being?

The season of Advent, the four weeks of anticipation, of waiting, of preparation, is designed to help us be awakened to this new reality, fresh once again as we wait for birth and rebirth in our hearts and lives once again.  So, as we wait, as we worship, as we do the many tasks that this period calls for, let us also be startled, let us be awakened to the reality of the Living Lord in our midst.

Blessings,

Bob Haas

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What’s Your Reputation?

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Hebrews 11:1-4

“1 Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.”

I remember memorizing Hebrew 11:1 in Sunday School, Bible studies, and for the Bible Classes that were required by the Christian School I attended from 7-12th grades.  Today, let’s have a closer look at verse 2 as we wait for the coming of Jesus and Christmas.

It is interesting to me that the New Living Translation (quoted here) translates the text to state that the “people of old” earned a good reputation through their faith.  I have never really considered that my reputation could be tied to how I live out my faith.  If this is the case–and surely it is as it is written in scripture–then Advent becomes a fabulous opportunity for all of us to gain a good reputation and show the world around us what faith looks like and how we can live.

My mom has a reputation of being a woman of faith.  Her former colleagues, students, and church members all refer to my mom this way and have stories to tell of her prayers and steadfastness.  As a teacher at my Alma Mater, she left a legacy of faith that defines her reputation today.

What is the reputation that you have earned?  Will you use these days and weeks of Advent to demonstrate faith and in so doing earn a good reputation that is a reflection of Christ here on earth?  Let’s pledge to do this together as a faith community and followers of Jesus.

May this season bring you joy, and peace that you can share with others.

Anna

Advent is here…

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Advent…not yet Christmas.  Like rushing past Thanksgiving to Christmas, we like to avoid the 4 weeks before Christmas Day known to us as Advent.  A time of reflection on where we are in our walk with Christ.  So, for the next four weeks we are going to look at Bible passages that are focused on both the First Advent and the yet to be realized Second Advent.

We begin with 2 Peter 3:1-10

I want to focus on verse 9, “The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness…” For most of us, “slow” is not something done well.  In our culture, it is safe to say that “slow” is often seen as unproductive, silly, etc.  But, “slow” is something we need to focus on a little more in this time before Christmas.  Advent is the Christian challenge to look in the mirror and understand better how we are living our lives as Christ followers.  Why?  Because the return of Christ will “come like a thief in the night”…when we least expect it – a time known only to the Father (see Matthew 24:36-44).

In this this passage we see God’s patience…his desire for us to really understand what is at stake. God gives us extra time to prepare ourselves.  So, as the rest of the world tries to hurtle us to Christmas, let’s slow down and embrace the Advent season with joy!

Prayer:  Father God, for you a “thousand years are like a day”.  As we rev up our engines and start to speed toward Christmas, slow us down.  Help us to cast aside the demands of those around us so that we may reflect, with humble hearts, how we are living in your Light.  Father, guide us to be fruitful and abundant with others as we prepare for your return in your time.  Amen.

 

The Ark

The lectionary passages for this last day before Advent are as follows…

Psalm 122     Genesis 6:11-22     Matthew 24:1-22

The recurring theme of each of these passages is that of a time and place.  As Karl blogged yesterday for Psalm 122, Zion is a stronghold, a good place, and the only place for legitimate Israelite worship (Deut. 12:13-14, 16:16).  Again, for the Matthew passage, the place is Jerusalem.  This passage begins to answer the question “What will the end of our age look like?”  There is a great deal there to talk about, too much for me.  Perhaps one of the other bloggers can tackle it.  The accompanying question to this one is “When will the end of the age happen? (Luke 21:20-24)”  Zion is not surrounded by armies yet, so we’re not there yet.

Our Genesis text is an account Noah’s Ark, a passage that is a point of emphasis for children, but rarely looked at seriously by adults.  What is really going on here is anything but “child’s play.”  To begin with, the ark is a safe place, away from God’s flood judgement against the “corrupt and lawless” (v. 11).  Noah is portrayed as the only person on earth willing to work with God (vv. 14-16).

The dimensions given seem reasonable to this semi-trained eye, especially compared to Greek mythology’s ship of Berosus that was reported to be 3000′ long, 1200′ wide at the beam and 260′ tall – silly big?!  If one cubit = 18″, we get a vessel that is 450′ long by 75′ wide at the beam and 45′ tall.  This is the approximate size of our modern day cruse ships.  Certainly, the construction of Noah’s Ark was a monumental engineering challenge given the building technology available at that time or even today.  My family and I are planning a little road trip to Kentucky this summer to experience the Ark for ourselves.  Nevertheless, when compared to the centuries of Egyptian pyramid building, it looks doable with Noah’s unshakable will to “get ‘er done.”

The saving of two (v. 19) of every kind of animal was a confirmation to Noah that God’s purpose was not to wipe creation from the face of the earth, but to point creation in a new direction.

Finally, Peter uses Noah’s exploits to illustrate the meaning of our  baptism (1 Pet. 3:20-21) and as a commentary on how readily folk scoff (2 Pet. 3:5-7) at judgement which is staring them in the face.  What we have in our Bible are examples (1 Cor. 10:1-15) to inform and enlighten “whosoever.”

 

Fallen but Redeemed

Psalms 122
Gen. 6.1-10
Hebrews 11.1-7

Psalms 122
David in this Psalm is praising YHWH for the city of Jerusalem where the House of God was and for the opportunity for all of the tribes of Israel to gather as the chosen nation and the children of YHWH to worship, give thanks, and pray for continued peace, and prosperity.  All this for the sake of the house of God and for the sake of the brotherhood.

Genesis 6.1-10
This is the account given where the daughters of men were married to the sons of God, which can be understood as Angels, fallen angels, or other beings we don’t know about, but the result was a group known as Nephilim, Giants perhaps as Numbers 13.33 suggests, and they warred with Israel in the account in Numbers.  In this early time of mankind on the earth already God was seeing that their hearts were prone to evil continually.

Hebrews 11. 1-7
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.  Faith, as used in the broad sense in scripture, is always used in reference to trust in the Messiah. In the Old Testament it was in reference to the coming of the promised Messiah, in the New Testament it used referring to the Messiah as having already come. The cross being the focal point of all history.  As these scriptures point out the fallen state of mankind, the heartfelt desire of man for peace, and the result that God accomplished through the redemption of mankind through the finished work of Christ, as Romans 5.1 says so clearly. “Therefore having been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  When the Angels sang at Christ’s birth about peace on earth they were not referring to a time of no more war, but of the peace that would come between God and man, the barrier of sin being done away with.

Give thanks this season for the forgiveness brought to us through our Savior Jesus our Lord.
Karl

A Time to be Thankful

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1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

On this Thanksgiving Day, we all have so much for which to be thankful. Even in these times of discontent in our country, we have been blessed with so much. And through it all, we have God to thank for everything. So, let’s keep this short and sweet today by remembering to be thankful for our families, friends, food to eat, clean water to drink, and all of God’s beautiful creation. May you all have a great holiday weekend with whomever you will be spending time with, and I pray for safe travels for all. And, as Paul ends his first letter to Thessalonica, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

What if…

 

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Luke 17:11-19

This week is Thanksgiving…a holiday that has, in my opinion, gotten lost in our culture.

On his way to Jerusalem, between Samaria and Galilee, Jesus enters a village and hears the cries of 10 lepers desperate for healing…“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” These 10 know they are supposed to keep their distance.  Only a priest could certify that a person was truly clean and able to return to the community.

As the lepers make their way toward the priests, they are miraculously cleansed.  One turns back.  He was of another race, region and religion. But of a group of 10 who were healed by Jesus, he was the only one who really knew how to live. Only one gives thanks. Only one takes the time to count his blessings. Only one bothers to come back to Jesus and say thanks.

Have a Great Day!  A common phrase in our culture. But, what if we turned that into “Have a GRATEFUL day”!  What if each day we were able to arise and see first the things in our lives to be grateful for.  Then, go one step further, and change your mantra from “have a great day” to “have a GRATEFUL day”!  What if we were able to be the start of change with a simple wish to others…Have a grateful day!  I’ll bet that an attitude of GRATTITUDE can turn a grueling day into a great day.

So…let’s not rush too fast into the season that follows…let’s challenge ourselves to count our blessings – large and small.  What if we first remember to turn to the One who is the source of every good and gracious gift.  What if each of us could look into our own mirrors and wish ourselves a grateful day.  What if we could wish others to HAVE A GRATEFUL DAY!!  What if…

 

In God’s Hands…Give Thanks for…

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Psalm 121:1-8 (NIV)

Philippians 4:4-9 (NIV)

Mother Teresa once said, “Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God.”

At this Thanksgiving Season we can put ourselves in God’s care and have a “Grateful Thanksgiving,”  as Pastor Dale Ambler said this past Sunday.

Paul puts it this way, “4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

The Psalmist wrote, “1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?  2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Take time before you go asleep (since I didn’t have this ready for you this morning) and take an inventory of your day.  What are you thankful for? Is there something for which you can say, “Thank you God.”  One of our members shared with me how she does this each and every day.  On some days there a so many, many things on her list of thanksgiving.  On other days she admits she has to search her mind for that one thing.  Some days are hard, she says, but she does manage to find something.  And doing this each day bears much fruit.

Give thanks this evening for at least something.  Perhaps for a drink of water, sunshine coming in your windows today, colorful leaves blowing off of the trees into your neighbors yard or yours, a phone call from a friend, an energetic dog that you saw being walked by your house, your daily bread,…something.

May God bless you as you give thanks in some way to close your day.

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Just Wondering

The lectionary readings for today are as follows…

Luke 1:68-79     Jeremiah 21:1-14     Hebrews 9:23-28

I must say that each of these are worth one’s attention.  This Jeremiah, especially so because it forces one to wonder about the course of human events and whether or not there is something driving them that is far greater than ourselves.

Chapter 21 of Jeremiah takes place around 588 BC, we know this because the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar is mentioned.  This conflict is in stark contrast to an earlier one, 700 BC, where YHWH miraculously intervened (Isaiah 36, 2 Kings 18) on behalf of Hezekiah and  Jerusalem.

With the Chaldeans at the gates of the city, King Zedekiah asks Jeremiah to speak to the people regarding their desperate situation.  Jeremiah offers them the choice between life and death: surrender and leave your land if you wish to live, otherwise die.  This is in direct contrast with Israel’s earlier history (cp. Deut. 30:15-19) where the land and its possession meant “life” while the loss of it meant “death.”

The explicit mention of Zedekiah seems to indicate that what Jerusalem is facing is due to his failings as a head of Israel due to their desire for personal aggrandizement rather than living up to their covenant with God (2 Kings 23:3).  What follows (vv. 11-14) judges the “kings of Judah” and the “House of David” for their arrogance for considering themselves protected due to their height; that is to say Jerusalem is located in a mountainous, arid location.  The LORD, speaking through Jeremiah, uses the image of an all consuming and uncontrollable fire to threaten the arrogant self-sufficiency of Zion.

What we have here is an example of failed leadership at the head of state and it’s consequences for the rest of us.  Leadership failures are common in other walks of life too.  The best example in literature that I’m aware of is Captain Ahab’s disastrous pursuit of a large fish in Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.”

“Human madness is oftentimes a cunning and most feline thing.  When you think it fled, it may have but become transfigured into some still subtler form.”                                                                                                                 – Herman Melville, “Moby Dick

 

 

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