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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

October 2017

Reformation Day No. 500!

Summary:  In JS Bach’s time (1685-1750), this day was viewed so significant that the Lutheran church held a feast commemorating it.  Bach wrote a cantata, three actually ( 79, 80, and 192), for the occasion. Typically, the Lutheran Church service in Leipzig began with a cantata performance, followed by a sermon.  I have no clue what anyone could say that would be comparably significant following one of these dazzling musical displays.  The particulars and a youthful performance of 79 follows…

BWV 79 “The Lord Is Son And Shield”

  • Readings – Revelation 14:6-8, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8
  • Overall Theme: The sun is used as a metaphor for God which shines brightly down on us by His Word which is our protective shield.
  • Key: G-Major.

Cantata for Reformation

  1. CORO: God the Lord is sun and shield.  The Lord gives grace and honor, He will allow no good to be lacking from the righteous.
  2. ARIA (A): God is our sun and shield!  Therefore this goodness shall be praised by our grateful heart, which He protects like His little flock.  For He will protect us from now on, although the enemy sharpens his arrows and a vicious hound already barks.
  3. CHORALE: Now let everyone thank God with hearts, mouths, and hands, who does great things for us and to all ends.  who has done for us from our mothers’s wombs and childhood on many uncountable good things and does so still today.
  4. RECITATIVE (B): Praise God, we know the right way to blessedness; for Jesus, You revealed it to us through Your word, therefore Your name shall be praised for all time.  Since, however, many yet at this time must labor under a foreign yoke out of blindness, ah! then have mercy also on them graciously, so that a they recognize the right way and simply call You their Intercessor.
  5. DUET (S,B): God, ah God abandon Your one ones never again!  Let Your Word shine brightly for us: although harshly against the enemy rages, yet our mouths shall praise you.
  6. CHORAL: Uphold us in the truth, grant eternal freedom, to praise Your name through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

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This Day, Time, Season

Psalm 20 (NIV)

Matthew 5:3 (NIV)

The “poor in spirit” are those who cast themselves, their lives, their hopes, their trust on the Lord each day, in any time or any season of life.

They are those who say, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7). 

Through all the joys of life, through the challenges of life, when the world is a scary place, in any season of life “the poor in spirit” are those who go to God.  They cast all their joys, hopes, and fears on the Lord and rest in God.

Jesus said there is great blessing in that, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).  

This day, whatever is going on in your life; whether you have joy, or hope or sadness and sorrow, or fears and anxiety, however your life is going, I encourage you to cast yourself into God’s care. Let God know what you are thinking, feeling, fearing, celebrating and trust the Lord with all of it.  God will speak into your life.

Remember, Jesus says,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

So you want a simple life?

Luke 10:38-42

I often hear people talk about being exhausted, weary, overwhelmed, over-scheduled, burnout, dissatisfied, tired…Thoughts like these are not limited to male or female, professionals, parents,  wealthy or not.  Equally true is the subsequent “I can figure it out on my own” or, “I just need to get rid of few things off my plate”.

This passage is not about the priority of study or faith over service.  We live in an either/or world much of the time – choose correctly is an ever present thought.  This passage on Mary and Martha provides a barometer for living in this type of environment.  The story of Mary and Martha provides for us the insight that levels the playing field when we are weary, overwhelmed, over-scheduled etc.  This passage reinforces the foundational understating of knowing what the most important thing in your life is at the moment and choosing it, with confidence…even though it means turning away some things that are very good.  However, these very good things simply don’t equal the importance of being very clear about the center of our values.

That leads to the obvious questions:  What if your life could be different?  Simplified living is more than clearing the clutter off your schedule or cleaning out your closets or desk drawers…it requires uncluttering the center of your life.  Simplified living requires action like that seen in our passage today.  You can’t go and find a pill to deal with the clutter or busyness in your life but you can begin by focusing on relationship…a simplified life begins in your relationship with Jesus.  So, in light of all your activity, don’t lose sight of relationship.

Reformation Sunday and you

Today I would like to take a little time and encourage you to looks at your faith through the lens of 500 years of Reformation. For Martin Luther faith was about restoring faith to a religious system that kept people in religious bondage, and helping the individual to pursue a personal relationship with God.

Over the years the reformation continued to evolve and challenge people and many theologians continued to reshape that faith based on the principal of: Reformed always reforming. But three tenants has stood the test of time.

  1. Sole Authority of Scripture (“Sola Scriptura”)
  2. Justification by Faith Alone (“Sola Fide”)
  3. Priesthood of the Believer (Direct access to God through Christ Our Only Mediator: “Sola Christus”)

Because of this principals faith has become something personal, the vail that kept people away from God has been broken when the Bible made it in the hands of those looking to grow closer to the Creator, and brought out the call to use all our gifts as we serve the ones around us as believers. Without these at play, we would still depends on a priest or the church to open and explain the Scriptures to us, or putting good works at the center of who we are as people of faith always depending on a 3rd party to lead us by the hand in our journey.

At yet, because of this movement, we understand that each one of us is beloved by God, each one of us can come close to God by our own prayers and our daily devotions. Because of this we understand that the church is a living organism, where each one of us is an important part in God’s plan to show the world what living according to the will of the Father looks like.

So today I pray that each one of us can truly experience the joy and freedom that comes from having that faith that so many fought for over the years.

Be blessed,

Bo M

PS. One more thing: Martin Luther really like singing in church, so that is like a cherry on top for all of us that enjoy singing on Sunday.

Only Jehovah

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Isaiah 52.7-10

Acts 2.22-24

Hebrews 10-5-7

So how do you perceive the holy Scriptures?  Are they merely a compilation of sayings, truths, and proverbs that have a simple meaning that we can use for the moment?  Are they a storybook telling of the life and times of an age gone by that are of historical value?  Are they magical and can be called upon for mystical use to ward off evil spirits? Or is it the living Word of God Most High that is the revelation of Jehovah to mankind for our use to understand the message of life, the wisdom of God, the understanding of the Spirit of God, and a direction for us to live in complete harmony with our Savior.

Who is Jehovah? Why does He love us is a mystery that is revealed in the Scriptures, how He redeemed us is spelled out completely, how He sustains us, how he justifies us, how He judges, all are fully revealed in this amazing book of revelation.

In Isaiah 52. 7-10 we are told; “How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news. Who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, And says to Zion, ‘Your Elohim is King!’   Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices, they shout joyfully together; For they will see with their own eyes when the LORD restores Zion.  Break forth. shout for Joy together, You waste places of Jerusalem, For the Jehovah has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD has bared His holy arm In the sight of all the nations; That all the ends of the earth may see the salvation of our God.

Only Jehovah could call the 2nd member of the trinity to be incarnate, to design atonement, to satisfy His wrath, design His satisfaction of justice without the destruction of mankind (the sinner,) make the unholy acceptable to His holiness, and design a way to make the law and the lawbreaker compatible.

Wow!  What a story, what a revelation from our Creator to us.  What a mystery revealed. Let us all take the time to read, investigate the minute details, wonder, and study this amazing book that has the plan of God Most High revealed for our immediate needs and our everlasting future.

All Praise to our God who loves us with an everlasting love!

Karl

Fire Tested

Daniel 3

Review:  We have state enforced worship of the head of state’s statue; decked out in gold no less.  For those numerically inclined Nebuchadnezzar’s likeness measured roughly 90 feet tall x 9 feet wide (vv. 1-7)…Three Jewish boys refuse to bow and worship the idol statue (vv. 8-18) which, in turn, provokes the king to anger…As punishment, the three are sent into a burning, fiery furnace (vv. 19-23)…Remarkably, within the furnace, they meet their deliverer (vv. 24-25)…Nebuchadnezzar recognizes God and “His Angel” as the reason Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego survive the furnace (vv. 26-28)…By decree, God is publicly recognized and boys are give status in Babylon (vv. 29-30).

Analysis:  That Nebuchadnezzar had an ego is a gross understatement…Here is an example of state enforced (v. 6) worship of said countries leader.  Other examples of this happening that come to mind include Roman Emperor’s. Japanese Shinto’s, and communist Russia’s worship of Lenin, and his remains…At some point, going forward, the Bible predicts something like this will become a worldwide phenomena (cp. Rev. 13:4-15, 14:9-11)…The furnace is actually a crematorium…Babylon is bent on repeated propaganda (cp. vv. 5, 7, 15) to convince the populous of it’s right governance…One recall’s similar repeated broadcasting in Orwell’s “1984”…The boys simply decided not to participate in Babylon’s national insanity…That their actions not to worship Nebuchadnezzar is worthy of a death sentence comments on the extent of the totalitarian government that existed…The refusal to worship (vv. 17-18) Nebuchadnezzar  and his idol regardless of whether God acts to save them or not is certainly one of the “crown jewel” testimonies in our Bible…Strikingly, the boy’s deliverance (vv. 24-27) is from within the furnace, not from it…There certainly are some big ideas in such a small chapter.

Can you hear me now?

1 Kings 19:1-13

Can you hear me now?  Remember the Verizon commercial?  Our passage today has the great prophet Elijah distraught.  He is running from King Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, who is out to eliminate all worship to Yahweh and Elijah for elimination of her Baal priests.  Up until now, Elijah has been guided and protected by God.  But here, the pressures of his calling as a prophet are getting to him.  He is so distraught he runs and hides and, in the process, asks that God take his life.  Sounds a lot like George Bailey, right?  You know, “It’s a Wonderful Life” George who also was in trouble and wished he had never been born.  Ever been in the same boat?

Instead of turning to the God who has guided and protected him along the way, we see Elijah turning inward – he’s having a real pity party.  Despite his behavior, God is there to help once again.  As you look at verses 11-13, I want to ask you, “how do you listen for God?”  Do you look for God to come to you in the miraculous, the extraordinary…the over-the-top booming voice from above?  Or…are your ears tuned to that still small voice, “a gentle whisper”?  Just how do you listen for God to speak into your life?

There are some who try to tell me that they don’t think God speaks to them.  Each time, I encourage them to go back and listen more intently.  I ask them about their prayer life – is it a relationship with God or is it a “I need this or that” session?  If you are having trouble hearing God speak, try the following…open your Bible and read it out loud.  Can you hear him now?

This past Wednesday, I shared with the men’s discussion group the following story to illustrate how well we listen.  It’s a little long, but it is worth your time I promise…

An Indian was walking in downtown New York City alongside a friend who was a resident of the city. Right in the center of Manhattan, the Indian seized his friend’s arm and whispered, “Wait. I hear a cricket.”  His friend said, “Come on! Cricket? Man, this is downtown New York.”  He persisted, “No, seriously, I really do.”

“It’s impossible!” was the response. “You can’t hear a cricket! Taxis going by. Horns honking. People screaming at each other. Brakes screeching. Both sides of the street filled with people. Cash registers clanging away. Subways roaring beneath us. You can’t possibly hear a cricket!”

The Indian insisted, “Wait a minute!” He led his friend along, slowly. They stopped, and the Indian walked down to the end of the block, went across the street, looked around, cocked his head to one side, but couldn’t find it. He went across another street, and there in a large cement planter where a tree was growing, he dug into the mulch and found the cricket. “See!” he yelled, as he held the insect high above his head.

His friend walked across the street, marveling, “How in the world could it be that you heard a cricket in the middle of downtown, busy Manhattan?”

The Indian said, “Well, my ears are different from yours. It simply depends on what you’re listening for. Here let me show you.” And he reached in his pocket and pulled out a handful of change–a couple of quarters, three or four nickels, and some dimes and pennies. Then he said, “Now watch.” He held the coins waist high and dropped them to the sidewalk. Every head within a block turned around and looked in the direction of the Indian.

It all depends on what we’re listening to and for. We don’t have enough crickets in our heads–we don’t listen for them. Perhaps, like that crowded street full of people, you have spent all your life searching for a handful of change and you’ve missed the real sound of life?

You see, there is no life in any one of those coins, nor can they buy happiness even if you have millions. The only way we find true satisfaction or meaning in life is to hear the invisible, inaudible voice of the living God, the Lord Jesus, through developing our capacity to hear and see Him by spending time alone with Him.

A Life Worthy of Christ

Philippians 1:27-30

John 8:1-11

We have a job as Christians. It is our job to “live a life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ,” as Paul states at the beginning of this passage. We are to be role models of what Christian living is like. Of course we are surrounded by people who are not living Christian lives, and it is easy to point out their sins. But, in those times, I am reminded of Jesus at the scene of a stoning of an adulterous woman caught red-handed. When pressed about casting his judgement on the woman, his response is one of my favorite Jesus verses…”Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” So, it is not my job as a Christian, in my living a life worthy of the Gospel to judge people on their sins.

Along our journey as Christians, we come across people who will cast judgement at us, slinging insults at us and making it seem as if we have it wrong. Paul reminds us that we should not be intimidated by those naysayers, because they are just building up evidence of their destruction, while we are building up our salvation. We SHOULD expect some suffering along the way in our Christian journey. All of those sufferings are tests of our faith and will make us stronger. We need to stay true to ourselves and our beliefs. Jesus, Paul, and many others throughout the Bible experienced suffering at the expense of their beliefs. But those sufferings only made them stronger in their faith.

So as you live out this day and the days to come, as the hymn goes, let them know we are Christians by our love. By showing grace and mercy to those around us, we will be living out our lives just as Jesus does for us.

 

I Quit

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Jeremiah 20. 7-13

Acts 4.19-20

Do you ever feel like doing it?   Is life too complicated?   Decisions made in the past, directions chosen based on sound advice, investments that seemed so sure, plans that were well thought out, all gone awry?  How about the decisions being made by your children, where you ask yourself, “How could they possibly arrive at that conclusion?” So many times I wonder how I ended up in life where I am, I certainly had opportunities that I let slide by, or procrastinated on.  How about those times when in absolute purity of heart you try to help someone or seek to warn of impending disaster a friend, or child who refuses to heed your warning and sure enough disaster comes, and you get blamed for it?  I think you get the point here, life is hard, life is less than smooth and rosy sometimes, and you wish you could just throw in the towel and run away and hide.

Our passage today is from the life of Jeremiah the prophet of Jehovah who was to warn Israel of impending doom and destruction if they did not return to the LORD’s law, and covenants.  Israel had taken a horrible turn away from God, they had let worship of  Baal creep into their midst.  It starts so innocently with just a statue bought only for its artistic value,  then perhaps you hear of a neighbor who claims the statue granted a wish, then you find yourself and friends praying to it, hoping for a miracle from this new god.  In a little time this Baal becomes more and more dominant in your thinking and sure enough you are worshipping at the bigger than life structure with your neighbors, and the demands of its worship grow greater and greater.  Israel had even gotten to the point of child sacrifice, Jeremiah 19.5,  God says “things I never commanded or spoke of, nor had it ever entered my mind.”

Now Jeremiah is sent to warn Israel, purely speaking Gods word, not changing anything, or adding to it, giving some really creative life examples, pictures as it were of what was to come if they didn’t return to proper worship , things any rational Hebrew should know.  But sin was dominant in Israels collective mind, and they turned against the prophet.  They wanted him gone, or dead. They threw him into a pit, jailed him, put him in stocks, they laughed at him and mocked him.  Finally Jeremiah had enough, in chapter 20.7-8 he cries out to God and says “I quit.”  “Your word has become derision and reproach for me,”  “You have deceived me and I was deceived; You have overcome me and prevailed, I am a laughingstock all day long.  Everyone mocks me.” All of his warning to Israel had resulted in nothing, no judgement had come, he was just another fool walking the streets, making noise, so he wanted to quit.  Life was too hard to serve the LORD he thought.

Jeremiah 20.9  “So I said, I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name;  But His word was in my heart, like a fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not refrain.”  When our lives seem to be a mess, when all our efforts seem to end in failure, or embarrassment, and we feel like quitting, our God is still there.  Jehovah never quits being God Most High.  As Craig said in last weeks sermon we sometimes need to see a bigger picture, a wide angle lens that allows us to see from God’s perspective.  Jeremiah couldn’t quit because the LORD God Jehovah  was so real in him, so alive, so burning in his soul.  Peter and John in Acts 4.19-20 said ” Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard.”  Again, God’s word in them was no intellectual assent to a truth, but vibrant, alive, real.

The pressures and efforts of this life are real and burdensome, weighing us down sometimes, but remember Jesus has the words of eternal life, where can we go but to Him, John 6.68.  Let His words burn in your heart also.

Karl

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