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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

August 2017

Troubled Times? Make Space…

Psalm 25 (NIV)

In troubled times, or in any time, but especially in tough times it’s good to make space for God.  There is life in creating time and space for the Lord.

For “No one who hopes in you [the Lord God] will ever be put to shame,…”  (Ps. 25:3).  There are plenty of enemies of what God wants in our world and time that can wear us down, out, or create havoc and discouragement. David, the boy who became King of Israel, knew that all to well and speaks of it in this Psalm.

David sets his trust, hope, and attention upon God.  He was good at making space for God in his life, even though he was not a perfect follower of the Lord.

Making space, carving out time for contemplation to rest in God’s presence is most significant.  “Contemplation is the ever-fresh world of the spiritual heart” (Tilden H. Edwards Jr. in  A Guide to Prayer for All Who Walk with God).  “In contemplation we allow ourselves to be acted upon rather  than act as agents” (Keith Beasley-Topliffe in A Guide to Prayer for All Who Walk with God).

Let God act upon you, in your life this day.

“In you, Lord my God, I put my trust…No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame,…Show me your ways Lord, teach me your paths.  Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”                               Psalm 25:1,3,4,5

What about trust?

Matthew 14:22-36

The realities of today are fascinating…scary…discouraging…the adjectives you can come up with are numerous.  Let me ask you this…in what do you trust?  Do you think you can get through this life all by yourself?  How deep is your faith?  Really, how deep is your faith?  Are you able to trust?  Can you dare to believe solely in Jesus…even amidst all the other powers we lift up?

How well do you pay attention to your daily life?  Can you see and hear through all the distractions each new day brings?  Have you ever thought about the many time and many ways that God may be seeking to inch into your life?  Maybe you call them coincidences…if you know me, you know that I do not buy coincidences.  I believe the God of all creation seeks to nudge you…to enter into your life – he doesn’t shout…I think he whispers.  More importantly, do you have any idea how our God loves you?

Yesterday’s blog was about worry…today is about trust and where you stand in that trust.  There are many things that remind me of what trust is and how to trust, but I think today about a song by Casting Crowns, “Just Be Held” (if you like, you can listen by clicking here).  Take the following words…

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

Lift your hands, lift your eyes
In the storm is where you’ll find Me
And where you are, I’ll hold your heart
I’ll hold your heart
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who won’t let go

When all you see is your worry, you lose sight of Jesus.  When all you see is your fears, you lose sight of Jesus.  When all you hear is the noise around you, it is incredibly hard to hear the One who so often whispers into our lives.  Trusting in yourself alone or others is bound to lead to disappointment at some point…so, go to the One…Jesus, who can satisfy your needs…provide you real rest.  Allow yourself to be held.  Blessings to you!

Do you worry?

Matthew 6:25-34

Worry…something each of us has to deal with.  Worry…something that has a tendency to paralyze us…mostly because, I believe, we have a tendency to fear.  Fear of the unknown…fear!

Today, there are many worries…Charlottesville Virginia, North Korea, the state of the economy, however you feel/think about our local, state and federal government and whether they are doing what you think they should be doing.  Worry…my guess is that it plagues many these days.  40 years ago (enough with the OLD jokes), I remember my Freshman Chemistry professor uttering the following words, “Welcome to Purdue…look on either side of you…chances are, they won’t be here at the end of the semester.”  Wow!  Talk about pressure and worry. And then, 2009, Dr. Gary Hansen speaking to me and a group of new seminary students, “Welcome to grad school, you are going to work very hard…700-1000 pages of reading each week…but I want you to think about this…” and he read from Matthew 6:25-34, you know the passage…Do not worry.  Worry leads to fear and fear will stifle…even kill, your dreams…more importantly, your fear will stifle you hearing God’s desires for you.

The Message translation gives a deep understanding, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”   Are you aware of what God is doing in your life right now to make a difference in this world?  Are you aware of how God really wants to use you to start to change this world beginning not in North Korea or Charlottesville, but right where you are right now?  Have you sought God’s presence in your life? The kingdom of God begins where you are…right now…today… and he desires your presence with him.  Are you ready?

Transformed in Christ​

John 4:13-14

13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

Today, I visited the church I helped plant about 18 years ago. This past week I had a chance to spend time with my Pastor friend Ovi, and talk about the church, the people the things that God has been doing over the years. Things have surely changed. The kids we once minister to have kids of their own, they come to church faithfully and you can see their faith manifested in their lives. The people that were the first ones to welcome us are still there as a testimony to the grace and love we were blessed in the early years. Over the years, the congregation has moved a few times, and today we actually worshiped in the place that once finished will be a beautiful place of worship that they will be proud to call it Our Church.

For sure things had changed. But all these visible changes will not be possible without that transformation that comes from the inside, that transformation the Scripture calls “new life”. The new life that brings new life. It is indeed the transformation that we experience when we let Christ in our lives, and we dare to look for Christ’s kingdom.

Today I pray that we all can experience anew that transformation. That our lives will be changed once again and new life will spring forth as we follow the will of God.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

Give Peace a Chance

Matthew 5:9

Matthew 24:35-37

Matthew 28: 19-20

1 Corinthians 6:20

There is plenty to be afraid of these days. I’m not just talking spiders and snakes here. Just sit down and watch a half hour of the local or national news, and you know what I am talking about. Just scroll through Facebook or Twitter and you will know what I mean. Half the time, you may not be sure if you are supposed to do the Monty Python…“Run away!” or seek vengeance like Maximus Decimus Meridius (Gladiator).

And why does it seem like there is so much evil in this world all of a sudden? Isn’t there ANY positive left in this world? Why do newscasts seem to only focus on the negative? Is there really more crime in the world today than there was 50 or 100 years ago, or is it just that the 24 hour news cycle is never-ending and only covers the negative?

I’ve been reading and hearing people say that we are headed toward end times and that all that we see in the media is obvious evidence that the ball is in motion. Should I be concerned about this? Is Kim Jong Un or Donald Trump going to start the war to end all wars? Or what about global warming? Should I really be concerned about this? Do I/we really have any control over what happens with our global climate?

I think it is very easy to get caught up in all of this thought. I can say that I am somewhat concerned with what is going on this the world here in 2017. I do get concerned with the crime rates and how close to home some of the violent crimes have been. I do get concerned over the rhetoric between the U.S. and North Korea. I do worry a bit about the amount of pollution humans inject into the environment and the ramifications of those actions.

But at the same time, I have to ground myself in scripture and remind myself of a few things that could benefit all of us. First and foremost, even though there may be some “signs” of the end of the age, we don’t really know for sure. Back in the Middle Ages, people thought we were at the end of the age as half of Europe was dying of bubonic plague. But that didn’t happen. Sure, we could be at the end of times, but no one, not even the Son of Man, knows the time. So I choose to put that in the hands of the Lord. Second, rather than poking the proverbial beehive or seeking retaliation, I choose to be a peacemaker. Now I do have to admit here that my German and Irish background have also granted me stubbornness and a short temper at times, which get in the way with my peacemaking. But I would rather see diplomacy than war. Finally, I have the reassurance that no matter what, Jesus is always with us. Although we may forsake Him from time to time, he will never forsake us.

So, today and always, let’s be peacemakers and put our trust in the Lord. We have no control over His plan, but we can trust in it. Our job here on Earth is to bring glory to God’s name. I pray that somehow, the rest of the world would do the same.

Are You On the Firing Line?

Psalms 105

Genesis 36. 1-8

Acts 18. 24-28

Psalms 105.1  O give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name; Make known His deeds among all the peoples.  2.  Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; Speak of all His wonders.  3.  Glory in His name;  let the heart of those who seek the LORD be glad.

Genesis 36 1-8 is the record of Esau, brother to Jacob, who was swindled, impersonated, and cheated out of his birthright and blessing from his father by his brother Jacob. In the end he was turned from hatred, to peace and love for his brother by Jehovah.

Acts 18.24-28 tells the account of Apollos, a gifted speaker with only the knowledge of the baptisms of John, for the repentance of sin, and had no knowledge at the time of the death and resurrection of the Messiah Jesus.  When instructed with the Good News he became even more exuberant about the message of salvation through Jesus the Christ.

I have spent this summer visiting other churches and other evangelistic venues than my normal outreaches.  On one occasion I came into contact with Mike whom I haven’t seen for 49 years.  He is still on the firing line just as he was back then, not much has changed other than the aging process. Time and again as I run into my old Christian friends from years ago, I am surely encouraged that they are as exuberant about the Gospel of Jesus Christ as we were in the days of our youth.  We heard the word of salvation and diligently spread it to all who would listen.  The LORD God had changed our lives and it only seemed right to tell others.  Not everyone liked the message but some did, and their lives were changed also. These scriptures tell of the life changing power of Jehovah, through the finished work of Yeshua, and call us to praise His name for the mighty work He has done.

I spend my life singing God’s praises on the job, in the yard, in the car, as the Spirit gives opportunity I tell others about salvation, about the power of prayer, how the Lord can change their lives, etc.   One familiar gospel song is, “Keep on the firing line,” and it well describes what these scriptures tell also, that when God changes your life He doesn’t just rearrange the existing you, He makes you a new creature, 2 Corinthians 5.17, “if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation.”   If that doesn’t inspire you I don’t know what will.  Does the Word of God still inspire you, are you still calling upon the name of God to hear your prayers, are you still excited to see what he will do in your life to change the lives of those who come into contact with you?   Are you still on the firing line?  I hope so.

God’s Faithfulness, Israel’s Unfaithfulness

Psalm 105, 106

Review:  In 105, the covenants with the patriarch’s are reviewed (vv. 8-15)…The story of Joseph (vv. 16-22) is retold…Eight of the ten “plagues” of Egypt (vv. 23-26) are recalled…The Exodus (vv. 37-43) from Egypt results, eventually, in their promised land arrival (vv. 44-45)… In 106, the same history is recounted from the viewpoint of the weaknesses of Israel, beginning with a rebellion in the crossing of the Red Sea (vv. 6-12, cp. Ex. 14:10-12)…Continuing onto the wilderness (vv. 13-15) and the Dathan and Abriam (vv. 16-18, cp. Num. 16) affair…Idol worship (vv. 19-23) at Horeb…Israel grumbles (vv. 24-27)…More idols are worshipped (vv. 28-31, cp. Num. 25) in Baal of Peor’s temple and in the promised land (vv. 34-36) itself…For Israel’s sins were consequences (vv. 40-43)…All of if, forces Israel back to the LORD (vv. 44-48).

Analysis:  These two Psalms are historic recounting the history of the Exodus of Israel from Egypt…Idolatry, that is putting something in the place of God, certainly was a persistent problem…In many ways, these Psalms complement Psalm 78 and are studied together to contrast God’s light vs. Israel’s darkness and recount what God had seen Israel through (105:1-6)…This struggle is ongoing.

No Fear, Live in Faith

Isaiah 43:1-7 (NIV) 

No fear, live in faith is easier said than done sometimes. Our world has plenty of threats: terrorism, North Korea, Iran, ISIS, unrest, anger, disease, etc. Perhaps, there have been threats in every time and era in which faithful people have lived. We see this in Isaiah’s time.

God’s people are soon to be conquered by Babylon and carried away in captivity as a result of their idolatry, injustice, and years and years of forsaking the Lord.  Tough times are on the horizon.  The first part of Isaiah, chapters 1-39 (The Book of Judgment) speak to this reality.  Please understand that they brought this upon themselves from decades upon decades of disobedience to God.

But then there’s the second half of Isaiah, chapters 40-66 (The Book of Comfort).  God still loves his people and promises to redeem them and bring them home again.

To the faithful God says in effect No Fear, Have Faith.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
    Cush[a] and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
    and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
    nations in exchange for your life.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
    I will bring your children from the east
    and gather you from the west.

The Lord promises to be with them, redeem them, and return them to their homeland.  Those who live in faith, no matter what happens, will know the presence, love, guidance, and redemption of the Lord.

We live in interesting and scary times but God is still Lord of all.  We can rest in God’s strength and caring presence; he knows us by name.  As Jesus often said, “Be not afraid.”

Walking back

As I continue my little journey down the memory lane in my home town, I am reminded of the many blessings I experienced through the years of my youth. Some of the memories are not as sweet or pleasant, there are things that still, today, bring to surface sadness or even a sense of hurt. It is not always easy to walk the path of the past experiences. Who we are today is a collection of all those experiences. I surely will want to always lavish in the joys of the past, but sometimes the harder experiences where my character was built might bring so much more comfort than the easy joyful times.

Of course, none of us desire the harder times, the Israelites did not either. And God made a point for them to remember the good and the bad. They are part of who we are, part of us, part of the blessings that God brings even when we do not see them as such.

I would encourage you to read the verses below and give thanks for all those time in your life when it seemed that things were working against you. Even in those times, God was near.

I pray that today can be one of those days when maybe walking a little bit through your past experiences will fill you with a sense of gladness, a sense of thankfulness knowing that God has never forsaken you all along,

 

Be blessed,

Bo M.

 

Deuteronomy 8

Remember What the Lord Has Done

Make sure you obey every command I’m giving you today. Then you will live, and there will be many of you. You will enter the land and take it as your own. It’s the land the Lord promised to your people of long ago. Remember how the Lordyour God led you all the way. He guided you in the desert for these 40 years. He wanted to take your pride away. He wanted to test you to know what was in your hearts. He wanted to see whether you would obey his commands. He took your pride away. He let you go hungry. Then he gave you manna to eat. You and your parents had never even known anything about manna before. He tested you to teach you that man doesn’t live only on bread. He also lives on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes didn’t wear out during these 40 years. Your feet didn’t swell. Here is what I want you to know in your hearts. The Lord your God guides you, just as parents guide their children.

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