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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

May 2017

Beyond Sinai

Numbers 10-14

Summary:  Israel depart from Sinai in obedience to Moses and the LORD (10:11-13)…..Foreigners were also on this wilderness march (10:29-32)…..Grumbling brings a fiery response (11:1-3)…..They tire of God provided manna, instead hunger for good, old Egyptian cuisine (11:10-15)…..Moses is overwhelmed by complaints and solicits committee help (11:16-25)…..Miriam and Aaron have their doubts about Moses (12:1-2), Miriam is punished for her trouble (12:10-15)…..Spies are sent to explore Canaan (13:1-20)…..They report – strong people, walled cities, and giants (13:26-33)…..Israel no longer complains against the LORD, now they complain against it’s leaders (14:1-4)…..God interprets the rejections of His leads as a rejection of Himself and threatens judgement (14:11-12)…..Moses wins a pardon for Israel at the cost of 40 years of wandering (14:20-38) and foreign militia attacks (14:39-45).

Commentary: As is typical with human enterprises, our story starts well ordered and ends in bedlam once again confirming the validity of Entropy > 0…..It seems, based on my living experiences, that more complaints are registered “on the road” compared to  the home front…..There’s something exciting but also unsettling about the road…..Their appetite for the onions, garlic, etc. of the earth rather than divinely provided fare is a reflection of Israel’s spiritual condition…..Even the provided quail BBQ (11:31-32) did little to satisfy Israel…..This whole episode is explained by Israel’s lack of faith which seems incredible given what they had physically experienced with God to get them to this point (read: Exodus!)…..Israel’s unbelief appears as an example elsewhere in our Bible (14:22-38, cp. Deut. 1:19-40, 1 Cor. 10:1-5, Heb. 3:12-19)…..Apparently seeing and experiencing is not believing…..Believing is believing…..Are we any different?

Pray, Love, Serve, Speak…

I Peter 4:7-11 (NIV)

Peter speaks to people of faith in a difficult time.  It is a time of chaos, suffering, and persecution for Christ-Followers.  He reminds them that the Lord will return, writing, “The end of all things is near.”

But what to do until Christ returns? How then shall we live? Peter teaches that there is a way to live in praise of God in every time.

We should pray, love each other deeply, offer hospitality to each other, use our gifts to serve others, speak as if to speak the very words of God, and serve with the strength of God.

Why live this way? “So that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”

Notice, Peter talks about loving and serving each other as followers of Christ and serving beyond the community of believers to those who are unchurched.  Beyond the church we are to “use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace…”

God wants his grace to flow through us to others.

Let’s pray and live this day, this week, always so that the grace of God will touch our church, community, and world.

 

Relationships…..

Today’s Reading:  Acts 2:42-47

People want real community today and many come looking for it in the church.  I’m not talking about just being friendly.  Friendly is fairly easy to do…smiling face, warm handshake, a kind hello.  Book after book has been written (and continues to be written) about individuals who are looking for real relationships…deep, authentic relationships.   They are looking for relationships where there is true concern, compassion and deep caring for others.  We find this in the first church where, “All the believers were united and shared everything.  They would sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them.  Every day, they met together in the temple and ate in their homes. They shared food with gladness and simplicity. They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone. The Lord added daily to the community those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47)

Devotional Thought:  Many new people come through our doors looking for a community of people that is emotionally connected by their mutual love for Jesus and their commitment to each other because of Christ. Real community is more than being friendly – it’s about demonstrating “God’s goodness to everyone”…this is how the first church grew and I believe it is how God will grow our church as well.

So….we are going to try something new – similar to today’s passage….this, simply, is the idea behind going out to lunch after church on Sunday, June 11 – developing community through authentic relationships.  Finally, since so many want rules about how to do things….

  • Admit that you like to eat.
  • Be ok with meeting new people
  • Commit to going out to breakfast, brunch or lunch after your favorite worship service on Sunday, June 11
  • The hardest part may be deciding on a place to go

Why not give it a whirl…

I’m Just a Jealous Guy

Do you remember the song by John Lennon _ Jealous Guy? I do.

The lyrics and the melody is beautiful and so meaningful:

I was dreaming of the past
And my heart was beating fast
I began to lose control

 

Somewhere along the line we can identify with that human condition of feeling and being jealous of what other people achieve or have. King Saul surely went through it. As he was seeing David raising up in his leadership and status in the country, the Bible records these words:

“Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands!” (1 Sam. 18:7 nlt). Saul was outraged and “from that time on . . . kept a jealous eye on David” (v. 9 nlt).

If we continue to read on, we find out that Saul just looses his composure, and his driven mad about everything that David is doing, and his life is being ruled by fear.

David on the other hand continues to be thankful, focuses on God, and always tries to keep a reverend attitude towards Saul and serve the people around him. Now that is the make it or break it moment that we can relate: Can we look at the positive in our lives, and can we find things that build us rather than keeping us jailed?

Today I pray that we can be like David, and keep a clean heart before God and before people.

 

Be blessed,

Bo M.

 

Yahweh Reigns with Power and Strength

Psalms 93

Dueteronomy 5.22-33

I Peter 3.8-12

Psalms 93.  Jehovah reigns, clothed with majesty and strength. He has created the worlds and they are in orbit, every aspect of the creation, from the minute balance of the environment, to the minute balance of our very beings, are running like clockwork with out incident.  The oceans, strong, deep, mighty, sound  your strength as they crash against the shore O LORD.

Duet. 5.22-33.  The book of Deuteronomy is the call of Moses, to Israel, to remember.  He cries out to them to remember Mt Sinai, where Jehovah gave the commandments to them.  How the voice of the LORD was so strong and fearful, and the mountain was ablaze with fire, that they trembled with fear.  They wailed for the Lord God to use His indoor voice and only talk to Moses, so frightful was His presence they thought they would perish just being close to the mountain.  Hebrews 12.18-21 reiterates that same image.  Verse 19 says “the blast of the trumpet and the sound of the words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them.”  Yet they agreed that whatever God has said they would do.

! Peter 3.8-12.  ” To sum it all up, be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning insults, but giving a blessing instead.”

So how do we make sense of these passages put together?  I used to run a house framing crew of up to ten carpenters. Even though I am a kindhearted, gentle person who prefers peace and quite, on the job site I was a strong leader.  Everyone of my men knew to listen to my instructions, to obey without debate, to work hard, and to be precise in their work.  As a result of their adherence to my demands, we were among the fastest, best quality framing crews in northern Illinois.  We would frame 35 custom homes a year without call back.  My guys loved being on a winning team, hearing the praise of the builders, being the envy of the other framing companies.  No one likes a leader who is afraid to lead, to make decisions, or understand the final goal.  My men wanted to apply their knowledge of their trade, work hard and steady, and to make money, they did.  They hated standing around and waiting for materials, decisions, the next house. They didn’t have to, it was all set up ahead of time, orchestrated by myself and others.

Isn’t this the way God works?  He establishes who He is, with power to create, power to sustain, power to protect and provide, then presents to us the requirements for a relationship with Him and what His expectations for us are, with our best interest in mind.  He created us, provided salvation for us when we fell away from Him, then asks us to live in harmony with Him and one another, all for our benefit.  I realize my example of my work is rather weak in comparison to the full description of how God is and what He has done, but nonetheless God is to be feared, loved and obeyed.  The end goal will be worth any effort we put into it.

Karl

Human Government

Genesis 8:15 – 11:32

Summary: After the flood subsided, Noah & Co. leave the Ark behind (8:15-19)…..Noah builds an alter for his burnt offering to God putting a cap on God’s judgement of the earth and begins the restoration process (8:20-22) despite the fact that the nature of humankind is unchanged…..The earth appears to be recreated (9:1-7).  Mankind may eat animals, not their blood.  Whoever murders shall be put to death (capital punishment) begins humans governing themselves…..God initiates a covenant with Noah and his descendants (9:8-29)…..Noah’s encounter with wine (9:20-24) reveals the character of Ham vs. Shem vs. Japheth…..The genealogy (10:1-32) maps out, to a large degree better than any other source, the peoples of nations…..At this time, all of mankind was unified by it’s common language (11:1) both against God and wanting to become God themselves…..Babylon was apparently the greatest city, the most cosmopolitan, on the face of the earth (11:2-3)…..

Comments: In my opinion, Genesis is the most significant book in the Bible in that it maps out who God is and who we are…..Other books in the Bible may be more important than Genesis…..The title “Human Government” has to do with God declaring that murder is to be avenged (9:6).  This is the highest calling of government, the protection of human life.  The idea being the society protects itself from further murders by executing those thereby safeguarding the sanctity of human life because it is God’s most profound gift…..This delegation of authority by God to humans to govern themselves is Christ endorsed (Matt. 22:21), at the same time it holds mankind responsible to God for our actions and inactions…..So, Christians are to act at the same time both inside and outside of our beliefs.  This paradox is unlike any other world religion where one is to act only within the confines of said religion – more or less a totalitarian way of life…..The final section of this passage is a demonstration of man’s inability to govern themselves and the ensuing consequences (11:1-9)…..The covenant with Noah is 1) man rules themselves (9:5-6), 2) no more curses on the ground (8:21), 3) no more floods (9:11-16), 4) seasons are set (8:22), and 5) eating animals is approved (9:3-4)…..It’s difficult to know the extent of the incest in Noah’s wine/nakedness episode (9:20-21).  Possibly it’s related to the condemned Canaanite lifestyle (Lev. 19)…..Broadly speaking, Noah’s three sons blossomed the three varieties of peoples we have on earth…..Ham begot Canaan who are called to be the servants of the earth (9:25-26).  This group are the “…ites” of our Bible, generally leading to the modern Bedouin peoples.  From the human perspective, it would appear that this group has been designated by God to be the servants – essentially slaves to everyone else.  Jesus’ perspective on servanthood differs from the typical human (Mark 10:35-45)…..It is a reality that that those who work, control the work, and control what happens…..The two varieties of people are 1) those who work or serve and 2) those living off those who work or serve….Shem’s sons are those chosen by God (9:26) for His revelation, the modern day Semites…..The “enlarged” sons (9:27) of Japheth (10:2-5) are the rest of us.  Most (not all) of the advances in the earth’s civilization – art, science, etc. have been accomplished by these peoples.

 

On Forgiveness

Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV)

Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV)

Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)

Colossians 3:13 (NIV)

It has been said, “Forgiveness is the deepest secret that characterizes the love of a follower of Jesus.”  Is there a limit to forgiveness?  Peter wondered about it and asked Jesus, “How many times shall I forgive my brother or sister…”

Jesus replied,  “70 times 7,” meaning there is no limit?  “Why, we ask?”  Because we desperately need the forgiveness and grace of God.

Reinhold Niebuhr’s once said, “Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.  Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing we do, however, virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love.  No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.”

Even what we consider to be our most virtuous acts need some measure of forgiveness here on earth.  Of course there are many times when we are not even close to being virtuous.

Perhaps that’s why C.S. Lewis wrote, “To be Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

May the loving and forgiving grace of God in and through the Lord Jesus Christ be alive in us, each and every day.

 

Good Risk???

Risk…is it part of your life?  Sure it is!!  Nearly every day we face risk in many forms.  Every time we drive a car or ride a bike…making life decisions like how much time to study for a quiz or test or going through that intersection on the yellow light. There are even times when risk is present yet we push it to the background like in the foods we eat or even riding your bike to get ice cream. There are many examples of risk – things we often steer clear of because of the negative implications.  Today, though, I want to talk about good risk.

Good risk?  Please read Matthew 25:14-30 (The Message translation)

Jesus is talking about the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus is telling the story – a parable.  Now it’s easy to get lost in details, however, in parables, Jesus always makes a clear point…which usually comes with a shock factor.  For you and I, today – just like those listening to Jesus then, the shock factor for us comes when we see ourselves in the parable.

In today’s parable, there are some things we often overlook.  First, the master gave no instructions as to what to do with the great wealth he distributed.  Second, when the first 2 servants report to the master, the context is one of joy on their part – they couldn’t wait for him to start counting.

Then there is the 3rd servant.  Some see him treated unfairly…until you understand the point Jesus is making in this parable.  While this 3rd servant is making excuses about not having lost any of the money and that he didn’t hold anything back when the master returned, Jesus is saying that the kingdom of heaven is like those who tend to the kingdom now while we await Christ’s return. This parable is about living faithfully – living responsibly and making good decisions.  Each of us has a responsibly to take initiative and to risk in a good way rather than burying what we’ve been given and not risking anything.  Faithfulness goes beyond obedience…each servant must decide how to use the opportunities given in the master’s absence.  Are you taking risks for the kingdom or sitting on what’s been given to you?

 

P.S.  Pastor Bo wanted me to pass on to you his apologies for not getting his blog done yesterday – he has been reading statements of faith by our confirmands.

Turn to God

Psalm 102:1-17

World got you down? Surrounded by the enemy? Seem like you have nowhere to turn? We all have those moments in our lives. For some of us, they are but a moment. For others, those moments may seem like they have engulfed much of our days. I am going to keep this one short and to the point this time around. If…no…WHEN you hit those moments in our life like the world is closing in on you from all sides and you have nowhere to turn, this Psalm passage seems like a great place to turn to first. What a great reminder that God is listening! I am reminded of Matthew 7:7-8 in which Jesus assures us that God is listening if we only ask, seek, knock.  

12 But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever; your name endures to all generations.
13 You will rise up and have compassion on Zion,
   for it is time to favor it;
   the appointed time has come.
14 For your servants hold its stones dear,
   and have pity on its dust.
15 The nations will fear the name of the Lord,
   and all the kings of the earth your glory.
16 For the Lord will build up Zion;
   he will appear in his glory.
17 He will regard the prayer of the destitute,
   and will not despise their prayer.
I don’t think you can go wrong when you turn your heart to God.

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