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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

January 2017

Through it all…

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Genesis 45:1-28

What we know as the story of Joseph begins in Genesis 37 with dreams.  Chapter 45 provides a climax to this story (Genesis 37-50).  The reality though is that these chapters narrate the story of God’s people…Israel.

Joseph is a dreamer.  His brothers have hated him…they sold him into slavery giving him up for dead.  In the climactic meeting of Joseph and his brothers, we see that Joseph does not scold or blame them.  Joseph doesn’t try to make them feel guilty or shameful.  Joseph asks for no confession of sin and offers no absolution.

Instead…Joseph says, “And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.” Joseph’s words to his brothers provide us the theological lens through which to view this whole story.  The significance?  God did not make the brothers do what they did but God was able to use their hateful actions – their sin – for God’s own purposes.  Joseph was seen as arrogant early on…Jacob was seen as loving Joseph more than all the others…Joseph’s brothers hated Joseph.  Through all this human family dysfunction, God was able to turn it to good – to preserve life.  To preserve the life of Jacob’s family and the lives of many people including the Egyptians.  What we know as the story of Joseph is, in reality, the continuation of God at work all along.

The descendants of Abraham…all of humanity, continue to be flawed.   Through it all, God remains faithful to his promises and providing for his creation…preserving life in spite of and, yes, even by means of human sin.  Something to be thankful for wouldn’t you say?

 

 

Windows and Doors of Opportunity

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Mark 6:1-6 (NIV)

Mark 6:1-6 (The Message Bible)

Jesus visits his hometown of Nazareth early in his ministry. How excited he must have been to teach in the Synagogue in which he grew up.  How great to see friends and those adults who spoke into his life during his formative years. And initially it’s a great experience.

But then, suddenly, many remember Jesus’ mother and family. And they begin to say, wait a minute, we know him.  He grew up here.  Here’s his family.  How dare he speak to us this way!  And immediately they turn on him. Jesus heals a few sick people but could not do any miracles because  of their lack of faith.  Jesus was amazed, astounded at their lack of faith!

Think about the windows of opportunity and doors of faith that could have been open to the people of Nazareth.  But they slammed shut the windows of their hearts and doors of their lives to Jesus.  They shut their doors of faith to Jesus.  It staggers the mind when you think about it.

And yet we might ask ourselves in this new year if we are opening the windows of our heart and doors of our soul to Jesus?  If we are honest we must admit that there are times when we close our hearts to what God wants to do in and through us.  We are human and we fall short of what the Lord wants and we sin.  Thank God that Jesus is still a friend of sinners.  He asks us to open up our lives to him.

Think about what Jesus can do in and through us individually and as a church family if we keep the windows and doors of our heart, mind, soul, and spirit open to our Lord.  I encourage you to remain open to Jesus this day, this week, this year, and always.  May Jesus speak into your life and shape this new year for his glory, honor, love, grace, hope, faith, and peace.  Take time to share with others what Jesus is doing as this year unfolds.

May the Lord increase our faith and service.

Craig Herr

 

Don’t Hide it in Your Heart

Psalm 40:1-11

As we know, King David was an accomplished musician, poet, and composer.  He knew the secret to pouring out his heart to God whether in praise or passion or pleading was in the words and melodies coming from his heart through his voice and lyre.  Psalm 40 is one of the collection of Psalms he wrote for the choir director, to be sung in the court and for worship.  We also know that David was a very troubled person from the time of his youth throughout his rule over Israel.  His Psalms give us insight into his thoughts, emotions, and conversations with God.

This morning verses 6-10 speak to me loudly:

You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings.
    Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand[a
    you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings.
Then I said, “Look, I have come.
    As is written about me in the Scriptures:
I take joy in doing your will, my God,
    for your instructions are written on my heart.”

I have told all your people about your justice.
    I have not been afraid to speak out,
    as you, O Lord, well know.
10 I have not kept the good news of your justice hidden in my heart;
    I have talked about your faithfulness and saving power.
I have told everyone in the great assembly
    of your unfailing love and faithfulness.

When God is working in our hearts and lives, when we have a living, growing faith,  sharing what is in our hearts is important.  Find a way to let people–believers and non-believers–know what God is doing, how he is living and working in your life.  He deserves the praise, and our lives will be enriched and blessed for it.

Blessings and peace to all of you,

Anna

Jacob & Esau

Genesis 27

One of the lectionary scriptures for today have to do with the ongoing family feud between Issac & Rebecca’s sons.  From the story we’re presented, the following points need to be made…

  1. The name “Jacob” means “crooked” in the Hebrew language.
  2. The manner in which the story plays out is similar to the rivalry hunters, represented by Esau, and shepherds, represented by Jacob had with one another.
  3. Jacob, the youngest son, becomes the inheritor of the blessing and heir to the promised land with the aid of his Mother Rebecca.
  4. Jacob cheated Esau (v. 36) not once but twice (25:27-34, 27:27-33).
  5. Esau brought misfortune on himself by selling his birthright (25:33), his polygamist marriage to Hittite wives (26:34-35), and his murderous rage (27:41).

While it’s true that Jacob lives up to his name in this instance, it’s also true that Jacob’s subsequent life sets in motion God’s plan up through Christ (Matt. 1:1-17) while Esau had a destiny of his own (Gen. 36).

Examples such as this one bring to light the subject of the omniscience of God.  In this account, we learn of Jacob’s scandalous actions and yet God chose to work through him because he eventually came around (Gen. 28: 10-22, 32), even making amends with Esau (Gen.33:1-16).  For this reason, we should not sell ourselves or others surrounding us short or “give up” in any situation.  Today is passing away.   It may have no relationship whatsoever to what God has in store (1 Cor. 2:6-9) for tomorrow.  Only God knows and holds the future.

He Leads, We Follow

 

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Luke 11.13

Romans 8.5-8, 14-17

2 Corinthians 3.8

I was a teenager in the 1960’s and 70’s, I had a lot of friends that got into the hippie, free spirit, hitchhiking, walk in my shoes, pot smoking, FM listening, feather in your hair, free love movement. Everyone was searching for acceptance while trying to be different.  Many times after trying to converse with these friends it would not be uncommon for them to stop, stare straight at me and ask what I thought about our conversation, as though I were a third party observing and critiquing this rambling interchange.  To me it was agony although I didn’t verbalize those thoughts.  For the most part I couldn’t figure out what “grooving” meant, I didn’t know how “to keep on trucking,” and please, help me understand what an “omnigatherinium” is.

Today in the Christian world, I still find myself at a loss in trying to figure out what is meant by a “faith walk,” and being “relational,” and having “commonality,” and “functionality,” with the brotherhood.

I closed my last blog with these words, “We need to bask in the glory that God loves us to the end and supplies us with everything we need to be as beautiful as He is.”  I wondered after I wrote that, that perhaps those words were as cryptic to some, as my friends in the past were to me.

In the Luke passage,  Jesus tells a parable about a man who calls to his neighbor, at midnight,  that he needs to borrow some food to give to an unexpected guest. In their culture it would not be an uncommon occurrence at all. So the friend gives the begging one the food.  Jesus then goes on to compare human fathers with God, in verse 13, He says “If you being earthly know how to give good gifts, how much more will your heavenly Father give  the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” This is the fulness of the New Covenant that Jesus and Paul talked about all the time. The old testament Law couldn’t bring the Holy Spirit, the prophets were filled with the Spirit but couldn’t bestow Him to others. Only Jesus death, and resurrection could open the door for the Holy Spirit to come down, at the feast of Pentecost, to indwell those who believed in the finished work of Christ, Acts 2.4.  In Romans 8.14 we are assured, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God , these are the sons of God,” and Romans 8.16 ” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the chldren of God.”

The Holy Spirit is the good gift that God gives us, a pledge for our security in Him, 2 Cor. 5.5, and the very one who leads us in righteousness, interceding for us in prayers, Ro.8.26. As we live our lives in submission to the leading of the Holy Spirit, 2 Cor. 3.18, we all “beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”  Like the waves of the sea hitting the shore, never ending, the Spirit is changing us into His likeness.  We are being made as beautiful as He is, when we yield ourselves to His leading, always listening for His voice, and following Him. To be sure, the Holy Spirit is God, in the indwelling form, taking up residence in all who believe.  We know with certainty when He is guiding us, changing us into His image.

Karl

The True Gospel

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Galatians 1:6-12

There are fewer things more annoying to me than to buy into an advertisement that I read about or see on TV, only to get the big letdown when the actual product arrives at my home. Advertisements have one goal: to sell their product. At all costs. I am reminded of advertisements like the one below:

Of course, these false advertisements eventually catch up with the companies who are putting them out there to peddle their products. Eventually, the proverbial cat is let out of the bag and the truth becomes known.

The same can be said for false teachers of the Gospel (and the Bible in general). Paul warns against the false teachings of the Gospel that obviously were running rampant in Galatia in the early first century church. Paul warns the Galatian church to not fall into the pitfalls of following these false teachers. There is only one true Gospel, the Gospel of Jesus. Paul writes of this Gospel as someone with conviction; one who 100% whole-heartedly believes it to be truth. He, after all, did have the experiences of his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus and a very immediate conversion from a persecutor to believer. The point I am trying to make here is that he gained this strong conviction despite the fact that he is writing his letters prior to any of the actual gospels we know in the Bible were written down. He is writing with this conviction based on his own experiences in his walk of faith and his relationship with Jesus.

My prayer is that we all are able to recognize a false teacher when we hear one, and that we aren’t led astray by their perversions of the one true Gospel. I also pray that we all have a faith and conviction as strong as that of Paul, because there is only one Gospel; that is Jesus. As Jesus said in John 14:6, he is “the way and the TRUTH and the life.”

What Would You Do?

Have you ever watched that show “What would you do?” It is a show where people are put in a controversial situation that is meant to get a reaction from the people around. Something like someone leaving their wallet on a table, or leaving a restaurant without paying the bill, or being rude to people around. Somewhere during the show, the host pops out and asks people why they acted the way they did. I love that show, because it reminds me of the good that is in people.

Our life is a reminder of that in a nut shell. We are faced every day with choices, choices that stretch us, that challenge our moral compass and how we go about who we are. And as we go about life, trying to do the right thing, maybe we should ask a second question: Why we do it all?

When life gets bumpy, I try to remember that.

Colossians 3:17  New International Version (NIV)
17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

I want to encourage you today to do good, to go the extra mile, to be positive and see the best in people even when the road is bumpy. Why? Because you know who you are in Christ, and you know what you are called to do.

Live High! Live mighty! Live Righteously!

Be blessed,

Bo M.

Fishing…

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Today’s Passage: Luke 5:1-11

Simon had been fishing all night with no success, then working during the early morning hours cleaning his nets.  Exhausted…thinking most likely about sleep alone and Jesus hops into Simon’s boat.  Intrusion?  Inconvenience?  Natural human responses…right?  Yet, Simon does what Jesus asks.

You know what happens next…Simon is caught by surprise – an amazing catch!!  Going about his daily activities…even a lousy day at work and surprise!  Simon is amazed…afraid…and, aware – aware of his own unworthiness…his sin.  Jesus tells him, “Do not be afraid, from now on you will be catching people.”  In a brief moment, the lives of Simon Peter and his fishermen friends, are changed…redirected.

Are you often too weary to put out into deep water for fear of not seeing any results?  What does it mean for you and I to go deep-sea fishing with Jesus?

Run With Endurance

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Hebrews 11:32-12:2

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”  Hebrews 12:1, NLT.  Familiar words from a familiar verse, but words that spoke to me differently today.

In the last verses of Hebrews, Chapter 11, Paul takes the time to recount the people and faith of some of the greatest examples in the Bible.  we see how God used ordinary people, royalty, rulers, and common folk to establish what a life of faith looks like.  And what faith looks like from person to person, situation to situation, is as different as the individual snowflakes that fall.  No two alike, and no situation without the hand and guidance of God the Father.

I don’t know about you, but I’m still in “New Year, New Beginnings” mode, and so this passage spoke to me today differently than it has in the past.  What stood out today is that Paul states very clearly that the result of living a life of faith was different for all the saints he listed.  Some were welcomed into palace life, some were rewarded with wealth or fame, and some lived destitute, the objects of abuse and hatred.  I was reminded that I must stop comparing myself to others and looking for a different level of success or prosperity.  Living out my faith is to be my focus, and the end result and rewards are not here in this life.  I’m not a Christian for what it bring me here, today, in this life.  I am a Christian because I believe that Jesus was the son of God, he paid the price for my sins, and has a place for me in heaven for eternity.  That is my goal and prize.  Not my title, not my paycheck, not the size of my house or the status of my car.  I hope and pray that all of you reading my words today will join me in this focus and sense of purpose for our lives.  It is what truly matters.

Blessings this new year,

Anna

 

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