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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

March 2017

Traditional Christianity

Ephesians 5:1-9     Luke 11:14-28

If you were a parishioner going to the Lutheran Church in Weimar, Germany on the 3rd Sunday of Lent, March 24, 1715, you would be exposed to what would become the 54th Cantata of JS Bach entitled “Stand Steadfast Against Transgressions“…..Bach’s Church Cantatas are based on Scriptures related to the Lutheran Liturgical Season calendar…In this performance there is but one woman’s voice, an alto…..The instruments are 2 violins, a viola, a cello, a bass, and pipe organ…..The mood of the 3-movement piece is sober in keeping with the overall reflective, purple mood of Lent…..What is striking when learns what was done in Christian Churches of yesterdays is folk apparently came to Church 3 consecutive days for Christmas & Easter…..There is little doubt that the Church and it’s doings of yore played a far bigger part in the common persons life compared to today….. A quick review of Traditional Christianity follows…..He or She believes in the Authority of the Bible which speaks of a Triune God…..Christ sacrificial crucifixion atones for the sins of all it matters to…..Christ’s resurrection and ascension into heaven are proof of His identity and God’s sin forgiveness for humans that feel the need for it…..Following Christ is a choice that some are compelled, for a variety of reasons, to make…..The ideal Christian life is achieved by allowing the Holy Spirit to lead him or her to live a morally and ethically (read: 10 Commandments, examples of Christ, and so on)…..A Christian should feel the need to help a lost world find itself and God/Christ along the way….The celebration of the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper by a follower basically commemorates and reaffirms what she or he  believes…..The rest of Christianity is controversial, less important, but still fun to talk about with people that have the right attitude towards our latitude (Romans 14-15:13) in beliefs …..The English language translation of German language Cantata follows…..

ARIA…..Stand firm against sin, otherwise its poison seizes hold of you…..Do not let Satan blind you for to desecrate the honor of God meets with a curse, which leads to death.

RECITATIVE…..The nature of loathsome sins is indeed from outside very beautiful; but you must afterwards with sorrow and frustration experience much hardship…..From outside it is gold but if you want to look more closely it is shown to be only an empty shadow and whitewashed tomb…..It is like the apples of Sodom and those who join with it do not reach God’s kingdom…..It is like a sharp sword that goes through our body and soul.

ARIA…..Who commits sin is of the devil, for it is he who has produced them…..But if against its despicable mobs with true devotion you stand firm, sin has at once fled away.

I’m curious to any and all reactions and commentaries to all of this…..

 

He Can Calm the Raging Seas

orange-clouds

 

 

Jonah:  chapters 1-3

John 3.16

“The word of the Lord came to Jonah,”saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh that great city, and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before me.”  Jonah, a Hebrew, was being called to go to a Gentile nation, to call them to repentance. This must have been so against everything that Jonah knew. Was Jonah prejudiced against the gentiles?  Yes, as were all Jews, they were the chosen ones of God and were told in the Torah to keep themselves pure, and separated.   So Jonah arose and went the other way to the port city of Joppa to catch a ride on a boat to Tarshish, most likely the island city of Tyre, Isaiah 23.1, which was still in the provinces of the Jews.

To be succinct, a storm arose, Jonah was thrown into the sea, a fish created by God swallowed Jonah, Jonah finally cries out to God, the fish spits him up onto dry ground, the word of God comes to Jonah a second time, Jonah obeys God and  goes to that great city, he cries out that destruction is coming, the city repents from the greatest to the least, and God relents from destroying the city.

Our concern today is the sailors on the ship going to Tarshish.  A great wind arises while in the Mediterranean Sea and the storm is about to break up the ship.  The sailors fear for their lives all crying out to their gods, while throwing the cargo overboard to lighten the load,  fear has everyone in it’s grip. Except Jonah, he is sleeping through all this chaos, calm as a sleeping cat.  Scurrying about, in full panic mode trying everything they could the captain finds Jonah, gently nudges him,  and says, “Awake, O sleeper!  Call upon your God!  We have tried everything we know, our gods don’t hear us,  maybe your God will be concerned about us so that we will not perish.”

Maybe?  Maybe your God, the great I Am, Yahweh, Elohim, Jehovah, Adonnai, the Creator of this world, the Deliverer of Israel from the Egyptians, the Redeemer of mankind, the Sustainer of all life, maybe He is concerned about us?   A more pure and simple question could never have been asked.   Yes, a resounding yes!   In fact and deed Jehovah did care about those men, He calmed the sea, He spared their lives!

In Mark 9.22 a similar question was asked by a man whose boy was demon possessed, ” if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us,” and again yes,  Jesus could do something for the boy, and did cast that demon out.

John 3.16 ” For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life,” tells of God’s concern for mankind,  He was the one who was sending the Israeli prophet Jonah to the gentile nation where Nineveh was the capital city, and when His word reached their ears they heeded His call and repented.

Like the sailors who knew nothing about the God of the Hebrews, and the father of the child who didn’t even know what to ask Jesus for, we too sometimes limit ourselves in our relationship with God because of ignorance of what to ask Him for or what He is capable of accomplishing in our lives.  The scriptures truly reveal all there is to know about our Savior, but we need to act in faith upon that knowledge.  When the sailors acted by throwing Jonah overboard, the winds stopped, and when the father declared his belief in Jesus, his son was healed.

John 4. 41, ” It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Karl

 

There is hope for us all

hopeJ

John 7:53-8:11

In this passage from John, we hear about an encounter between Jesus, the scribes and Pharisees, a crowd of people, and a woman accused of adultery. Jesus and his disciples are in Jerusalem for the Festival of the Tabernacles. I, not being much of a Jewish historian, had to do a little research to learn what this festival was all about. The Festival of the Tabernacles was a week-long remembrance of the Exodus and the Israelites’ time living in booths in the wilderness. All male Jews were required to attend, and they built booths to stay in outside the city to live in with their families. See Leviticus 23:33-44 and Nehemiah 8:13-20 to learn more about the requirements.

In attending this required festival, Jesus has basically walked right into the lion’s den so-to-say. In John 5: 1-18, Jesus heals a lame man, and the Jews were looking to have him killed for performing a miracle because he did so on the Sabbath. Compound that with the fact that in this same John 5 passage, Jesus states that he is God, which infuriates the Jewish people even more.  So to show up at the Festival of the Tabernacles is just asking for more trouble to ensue for Jesus.

Not one to back down from a debate with the religious leaders, Jesus goes back to the temple to teach. While there, the Pharisees bring forth a woman whom they have just caught in the act of adultery. According to the Law, see Leviticus 20:10, this woman should be put to death. I find it interesting that only the woman from the situation is being brought forth, but I digress. The Pharisees are looking to trick Jesus, but he is ready for them. He nonchalantly draws some words in the dirt and ignores them for the most part. But, his judgement is awesome…whoever hasn’t sinned ever before can cast the first stone. And what happens next, as Jesus continues to play in the dirt? Everyone leaves because they all know they too are sinners.

What I take away from this is that there is still hope for me, and for you too. Going back to 613 laws of the Old Testament, we all fall way short of expectations. If I just look at the first 10 commandments only, I fall short. I’m guessing you do too. But Jesus came to this world to save, not condemn, us (John 12:47). We are expected to live according to what the Bible tells us, but Jesus knows we will falter over and over again. He still loves us all the more. Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.

All You Need Is Love (from Jesus)

Psalm 128; Numbers 21:4-9; Hebrews 3:1-6

 

The section of Hebrews talking about Jesus being greater than Moses got me thinking about how the people of that time must have reacted. This led me to think about the time John Lennon said the Beatles where more popular than Jesus and the outrage ensued.  Of course, what Lennon said was less based on religion and more on the insane popularity of the Beatles at the time.  However this passage in Hebrews comes from a prophet who was proclaiming the Word of God and what should be done in a post Jesus era.

At that time, Moses would have been seen as one of, if not the greatest prophet.  He had brought the Israelites out of Egypt, through the desert and to the edge for the promise land.  In addition to all of that – he had communicated the laws by which God’s followers should live. 

Can you imagine the massive shock to the people of the New Testament days!  They were being told that Jesus should be held in a higher regard then Moses –  the prophet they had been adhering to for centuries.  I’m sure the reaction was a mix of confusion from some and anger from others.

It is a great reminder to us during this lenten season that Jesus Christ is the greatest figure to have ever lived.  He trumps Moses and even the Beatles.  In these days of so many people following celebrities and political figures – may we remember that first and foremost we follow Jesus!

 

Will Ward

Hearts are open

“Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy name through Christ our Lord. Amen.” – a prayer from Collect for Purity – an Anglican Prayer Book

I have to admit that sometimes my prayers are very selfish, or one sided. I catch myself praying for things that agree with my point of view, or for certain things that seem right to me and my beliefs. You might even agree with me and say nothing is wrong with that. We are passionate people, and we spend a lot of energy on the things that we care about.

But from time to time, I get to ask myself: If prayer is about a spiritual dialog with God, is it right for me to always have an agenda when I pray?

Today I want to encourage you to think about your own prayers. About how open you are to listen and seek that quiet voice of the Holy Spirit.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

Our daily prayers…

Today’s Devotional Passage:  Luke 18:9-14

“What do you want?”  It’s a question we often ask of others. Want…we want a lot of things throughout our life.  The “wants” of our life fall into many categories and fill our prayers…better health, a new house, a new car, a new job…the lists are long.  We want a great many things and our motivations are important.  Specifically, trusting in ourself vs. trusting in God.  This trust is a common theme throughout the Bible.  The Israelites wanted out of bondage in Egypt but complained repeatedly in the desert…all the while being blind to the ever faithful presence and grace of God.  Blindness of our position to God is a common problem.  We see this in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector from Luke’s gospel – Luke 18:9-14.  The heart of this parable comes down to the Pharisee asking nothing of God – he believes that who he is and what he does is ample evidence of how good he is and his perceived standing with God.  On the other hand, the tax collector states his unworthiness before God.  The Pharisee asks nothing of God and the tax collector boasts nothing before God.  Trusting in our own righteousness often leads to regarding others with contempt and turning away from trusting in God’s grace. This parable is more than a warning against arrogance, self-reliance or a relationship with God because of one’s own works – things that blind us to the other side of this parable…which shows the ugly combination of claiming an elevated position with God and contempt for the tax collector.  The Pharisee had enough religion to be virtuous but not enough to be humble…and it drove him away from the tax collector instead of toward him.

Both the Pharisee and the tax collector went to the temple to pray.  Here are some thoughts to avoid that could help each of us as we begin each new day…in other words, have you ever found yourself saying/thinking the following?

  1. Of course I am a Christian!
  2. I am more comfortable with those from MY church than those who don’t go to church.
  3. If he/she knew the Bible as well as I do, his/her life would be better.

And of course there are many more similar thoughts.  How is your journey through Lent going?  Have you had any new revelations that have caused you to grow in your faith?

 

 

The Very Best Help Available

Psalm 121 (NIV)

Micah 7:18-20 (NIV)

Romans 3:21-31 (NIV)

From within the depths of our being there are those moments when it is crystal clear to us that we need help.  We do not have the strength, the perseverance, the wherewithal to meet life’s challenges and demands.  In those moments we know that we need help and guidance for all of our life.  The Psalmist reminds us where we can and should go.  “…where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”  God watches over us, seeks us out, and is there for us.

Micah reminds us that God “pardons,” “forgives,” “delight[s] in show[ing] mercy” and is “faithful.”   Paul, in Romans, takes this a step further and shows us that God’s help, forgiveness, and grace are available through faith in Jesus Christ.

“22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus 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. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.”

Although we fail, fall short, and sin God transfers the righteousness of Jesus to us through faith.  This saving, renewing faith is for everyone, all people, Jew and Gentile.  Today, let’s give thanks for God’s wonderful, saving help, grace, and love given to us in Christ Jesus.  The Best help, God’s help,  is available through faith. Live in faith this day and always.

A New Exodus

Isaiah 51-52

This is a continuation of my “stream” blogging…..In this passage, we are repeatedly implored to either “listen” or “wake up” or “look” or “awake.”  In other words, pay attention to what is going on…..It is a what I was warned while in elementary school…..And still need it today…..Consider the Example of Abraham & Sarah (51:1-2) from barren to forging a nation, Zion or Jerusalem can do likewise (51:3-13)…..Isaiah longs for a time where God will openly display His power to the earth – a new Exodus (51:14-16) including the “Arm of YHWH,” (51:9 – 52:12) which is similar to Israel in Egypt (Ex. 6:6)…..God’s justice is eternal but that of the earth is temporal (51:7-8)…..I hear this via the media each day…..This “My Servant” who’s “visage was marred more than any man” (52:14) is similar to Christ on His way to the cross…..So, too, this “sprinkle many nations” (52:15) is used by Peter (1 Pet. 1:1-2) to describe Jesus’s sprinkled blood on those “elect” pilgrims from different countries addressed in his letter…..Isaiah’s manner of writing is akin to the impressionists in art in that his language is not precise, still it is able to make it’s points, nonetheless……That is if one is pays attention to it…..”Consider your origin, you were not formed to live like brutes but to follow virtue and knowledge.”- Dante Alighieri, “The Divine Comedy”…..Matthew 5:16…..”A tooth is much more to be prized than a diamond.” – Miguel de Cervantes, “Don Quixote”…..”Brevity is the soul of wit.” – William Shakespeare, “Hamlet” (Act II, Scene II)…..

 

 

The Romans Road

sun-shining-through-trees

 

Micah 6. 1-16

Romans 3.10, 3.23,6.23, 5.12, 5.8, 10.9-13

In Micah, chapter 6,  Jehovah is calling Israel to court, but this time He is not acting as judge but prosecuting attorney.  In verse two and three it is so cool how He calls as witnesses both the mountains and the foundations of the earth.  They were there when the Law was handed down to Israel at Mount Sinai. When a covenant is accepted and sworn to a witness is required to validate it. In this case because it is generational,  all the human witnesses present at the time  have long ago died, only the earth is still present to verify it happened.  God aptly states that He has not broken His part in the covenant with Israel, yet though they  ratified the covenant with God in Exodus 19 .8,  Israel had not kept their part.  They were in slavery to Egypt, doing nothing for their release when Jehovah came forth and brought them a deliverer.  God, without provocation, saved them, then gave them the Law for their benefit, which they eventually rejected, breaking the covenant.

Israel thinks, at this time in their history, that the sacrifices of the law are what pleases God, not their lifestyle.  So He points out that rivers of oil and thousands of slain animals bring no delight to Him, but He would rather have them to live justly, love mercy and to walk humbly.  Their life in the city has corrupted them to where there is no honesty in measures and weights, there is violence, men speaks lies, and there is deceitfulness and sin everywhere.  The wickedness of their fathers has gone before them and they have chosen the same path.

Flash forward to the 21 century where we find mankind in much the same position as Israel was 3000 years ago. We still walk in trouble, that hasn’t changed. Men hate men, that hasn’t changed. There are  lies and deceit in every walk of life, that hasn’t changed. Nations rise against nations, that hasn’t changed.  Men still turn away from God and that hasn’t changed.  Many people still today think going to church  a couple times a year is what God wants, or maybe giving up something for lent, maybe giving a little offering too.  These people miss the whole point, as did Israel.   What does God really want from us?

Micah 6.8 still sets the tone for us today just as it did for Israel.  First, if we truly live justly then we must admit our failings and accept the penalty of the law,  for what is fair is fair. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.  Romans 3.23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 6.23 a”For the wages of sin is death.”  Second, we would want to love mercy, Romans 6.23b “but the free gift of God is everlasting life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”   Romans 5.8 “For God demonstrated his love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  Thirdly we are to walk humbly with our God , Roman 10 9-13 ” if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Many Christians I know have trouble witnessing and don’t know how to show someone how to be saved using the Bible, so I put this here as a template, using the book of Romans to show the plan of salvation. This is known as the Romans Road to salvation.

Karl

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