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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

October 2017

Dispersion & Restoration

Amos 9

Review:  We have the LORD present and presumably approving of the break-up of the center of worship (vv. 1-4) as witnessed by Amos…This all done by the LORD (vv. 5-6), the creator of our living planet…At this point the LORD isn’t playing any favorites (vv. 7-8), equating Israel with Ethiopia, the Philistines, etc….In the sifting process (vv. 9-10) of Israel, the good are screened from the lost, those that fall to the ground…All hope is not lost, restoration is in the offing (vv. 11-15) both to the City of David (v. 11) and to a remnant of peoples (v. 12).

Commentary:  The overall theme of Amos is sin and it’s consequences…An alter typically speaks to mercy in the OT, based on a substitute sacrifice (cp. Jn. 12:31-33).  With no sacrifice or a despised sacrifice, the alter is judgement only…Paul also speaks to God eventually treating all peoples alike – no privileges by way of heritage, race, religion, color, nationality, etc. (Rom. 2:11, 10:12, cp. Gal. 3:28)…The “tabernacle of David” (v. 11) had and has fallen into a serious state of disrepair (cp. Isa. 11:1), pointing to the need for something or someone beyond ourselves to fix it…My Bible points to a linguistic concern (v. 12)…Language translations are fragile things…With the change of just one letter in the Hebrew language, the translation changes to “That the rest of mankind may see the LORD, and all the nations upon whom My name is called.”…This translation is certainly more inclusive compared to what we have…Interestingly, James testified (Acts 15:14-17) before the Jerusalem Council concerning this point…Amos’ game plan going forward is (1) the restoration of David’s throne (v. 11); (2) the conversion of nations (v. 12); (3) the transformation of Israel’s land productivity (v. 13); (4) the regathering of the Tribes of Israel (v. 14); (5) the reconstruction of cities (v. 14); (6) Israel permanently resettles in her own land (v. 15)…Questions?

Space to Think

Psalm 46 (NIV)

Mark 1:35-39 (NIV)

Life is busy, fast paced, and hectic for most people today.  And if we are honest, it seems to be going in the direction of gaining speed rather than slowing down.

More than ever before it is necessary for us to pause from all of our busyness, doing, and activity to think.  It is important for us to slow down and find space to reflect upon our lives and our God.

This has been a need for people in every time for we read in Psalm 46, God saying to his people, “Be still, and know that I am God.”  Jesus in his life and earthly ministry found time to stop and seek the presence of his Heavenly Father.  We read in Mark that “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”

I hope today you find time, make time, to pause and look to the Lord and think about your life.  It is good to create space to think and seek the presence of Jesus.  Then God will speak to you and guide you.  I know that this has been true in my life.

Seeing the GOOD in others!

Matthew 5:43-48

Can we see the good in others?  Can we see the good in those who might be our enemies?  In today’s passage Jesus is pushing against cultural norms when he says, “You have heard that it was said…but I say to you, love your enemies”.  Now the word “enemy” can be either a political or national threat as well as that person who just gets to you – the one who can push all your buttons.  An enemy can be someone who has it in for you…could be anyone.  Maybe its because you’re smarter at something or the way you dress or wear your hair.  You may not have done anything to cause such “persecution” but you are living it, or have lived it, aren’t you?

No matter what you do, that person is out to get you.  So, what do you do?  Well, one thought came to mind as I have been preparing for Sunday’s message.  I used to love to watch Mr. Rogers Neighborhood as a kid and I remember this one song, “Sometimes People Are Good”.  Even that bully at school or the ornery co-worker, or the person who sits in your pew at church (lol).  Next time you run into someone like that think about the following song and try to see the good in that person…

Sometimes people are good
And they do just what they should.
But the very same people who are good sometimes
Are the very same people who are bad sometimes.
It’s funny, but it’s true.
It’s the same, isn’t it for me and…

Sometimes people get wet.
And their parents get upset.
But the very same people who get wet sometimes
Are the very same people who are dry sometimes.
It’s funny, but it’s true.
It’s the same, isn’t it for me and…

Sometimes people make noise
And they break each other’s toys.
But the very same people who are noisy sometimes
Are the very same people who are quiet sometimes.
It’s funny, but it’s true.
It’s the same, isn’t it for me and…

Sometimes people get mad
And they feel like being bad.
But the very same people who are mad sometimes
Are the very same people who are glad sometimes.
It’s funny, but it’s true.
It’s the same, isn’t it for me and…

Sometimes people are good
And they do just what they should.
But the very same people who are good sometimes
Are the very same people who are bad sometimes.
It’s funny, but it’s true.
It’s the same, isn’t it for me…
Isn’t it the same for you?

There is an element of “bad” in each of us.  And…there is an element of “good” in the worst of us.  So…look for the good in others and maybe you’ll have a different perspective.  You’ll have to “tune in” on Sunday to hear, in the infamous words of Paul Harvey…”the rest of the story”!

Lessons from a confirmation class

John 1:12
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God

Romans 6:6
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin

This week in confirmation class we looked at baptism. Baptism has been at the center of Christian faith and in our faith tradition is one of the sacraments,  a holy response to God’s grace shown to us. In baptism we find the promises that God makes to us, and also the promises made in faith through faith from our families (when we are baptized as infants) but also the promises that the church makes before God to pray and to be supportive of ones faith journey. But also in baptism we find the picture of dying to the old self and being raises to new life in Christ. It is indeed a rich and meaningful sacrament.

I love talking about baptism in part because it has to do with our identity, with who we are and what is driving our lives. When we proclaim Christ is Lord, our lives are changed, the self, the old nature that speaks in our lives is crucified. Christ becomes our new identity, our new life, we are a new creation called to live in a new way – the Christ’s way. Now I will say this,  it is not always a walk in the park being on this road. But we get to journey as Children of God, sons and daughters of the most high, people changed by grace.

And that is a daily challenge a call to put on Christ daily. And that’s my prayer for you today: to embrace your identity in Christ, to walk boldly with the Lord living out as a new creation.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

Win-Win!

win win

Philippians 1:18-26

NRSV

The Message

Paul, speaking from prison, is speaking about how Christ is being proclaimed to the people. He is rejoicing in this proclamation of Jesus! What stands out to me in this passage begins with the last part of verse 20, spilling into verse 21 through 24. Paul is having an argument with himself and the readers of his letter about which situation is better; to be alive and preaching the gospel, or to die and be in eternity with Christ. What a difficult choice to make? Really?

Let’s play a game; Would You Rather. For example, would you rather be stuck in the middle seat on an airplane, or have to eat only lima beans for a week? In the case of Paul’s passage, would you rather be in the living flesh preaching, or be dead and be in heaven? More simply stated, would you rather be alive or dead? That is one heck of a question.

Paul finds the positives in both of those possibilities. If he is alive, although in this case, imprisoned, he gets to spread the message of the gospel further. However, if he dies, he gets to live in paradise for eternity. Paul sees this as a win-win situation. I like how it is worded in The Message translation: “I can hardly wait to continue on my course. I don’t expect to be embarrassed in the least. On the contrary, everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn’t shut me up; they gave me a pulpit! Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose.”

Applying this to my daily life, I am going to enjoy the days I have left in my life, which I DO hope are many. But my joy in my days that remain will be in hoping that I am a good person to those that I come into contact with, in hopes that I brighten someone’s day, therefore spreading God’s love. At the same time, I look forward to what heaven will be like too. In that, I can have hope in what is to come, and try to not worry too much about death. Because in order for there to be life (eternal), there first needs to be death. So either way, whether by living, or in dying and going to heaven, I am in a win-win situation. How about you?

Psalm 139

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Psalm 139

Psalm 8

Psalm 8 a paraphrase:  “When I contemplate the vastness of Jehovah, how He created the world, the stars, the constellations, the works of His fingers, which He alone has ordained;  how is that You can even consider mankind, let alone me.  O Jehovah, our LORD how majestic is your name.”

Psalm 139 a paraphrase:  “O Jehovah, You have searched me, and known me. You know when I sit down after work, and when I arise in the morning, You alone know my thought patterns, how I reason, how I contemplate things and come to the conclusions I do.  You scrutinize my path in minute detail and my resting, if any,  And are intimately acquainted with everything I do and are interested in it.  Even before there is a word on my tongue, O Jehovah, you know it all.  Just like when you led the nation Israel out of captivity, you have enclosed me behind and before, And you laid your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, I can’t contain it, it’s too high, I can’t reach it.”

There are times when I grow weary, I actually become worn out.  I’m trying to do too much, being too busy, helping too many, working too long, serving in too many places it seems.  My shoulders ache, my hands cramp, my eyes burn, you know what I mean, and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight.  It is at these times that I absolutely love Psalm 139.  “Where can I go from your Spirit? ”  Not that I am hiding in sin, but just the loneliness of weariness, of serving incognito, of helping in the middle of the night, and oh sure some say “thanks” but others somehow just expect your aid.  Yet Jehovah is always there, He sees us, He knows, He cares, and He loves us.

Look around, everywhere you gaze you can see the hand of God, and He sees us!

Karl

Re: Trust

Psalm 144

Review:  This Psalm is self-identified to be from David (v. 10)…The tenor of this Psalm changes between versus 11 & 12…David is grateful for how God has Gotten him to this point (vv. 1-3)…He admits to the fragility of himself and humankind (v. 4)…Past conflicts are alluded to (vv. 5-11)…David had his share of enemies (vv. 7,8, 11)…The next stanza is certainly pastoral (vv. 12-18) in it’s nature…A family is modeled (v. 12)…The country life is romanticized (vv. 13-14a)…Finally, Jerusalem’s peace, undoubtably what was on the mind of David, in it’s streets is spoken to (vv. 14bc, 15).

Analysis:  My Bible references other Psalm passages (Psalm 18, 8:5, 39:6-7, 33:2-3) in this Psalm…All of them are reported to have been penned by David…This Psalm can be viewed as a composite or compilation of the aforementioned works…Undoubtably, it was written after these…What we have is a summary of what David had experienced with God…The ultimate peace in our city streets, including Chicago, points to the Jerusalem of the future (Rev. 21:3-4)…Until then, we should prayerfully wait…Yeah, and do something about our plight during the interim.

 

Tired and Weary?

Isaiah 40:28-31 (NIV)

Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV) 

Max Lucado in his book Grace talks about being tired and weary.  “Let’s face it in today’s world people are fatigued.  You and I are tired and wearied and weighed down by many things.  Weariness is not an alien word.

We know all too well it’s fruit:  burning eyes, slumped shoulders, gloomy spirt, staring eyes. You are tired.  We are tired. A tired people.  A tired society.  We race.  We run.  Workweeks drag like Arctic winters. Monday mornings show up on Sunday nights.  We slug our way through the long lines and long hours with faces made long by the long lists of things we need to do, or people to please.”

Then we look out at our world; and we see and hear about hurricanes, forest fires, earthquakes, North Korea, Middle East wars, and the shockingly sad, Las Vegas shootings.  And then there’s the constant, contentious political chatter and endless bantering and pitting of people against one another.

We get tired and weary; understandably so.  And into the weariness of it all Jesus speaks to us “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  God speaks to us, “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

If you are tired and weary this day come to the Lord Jesus and put your hope in God.  Rest in the Lord and allow the Holy Spirit to comfort and strengthen you.

Love my enemies?

Matthew 5:43-48

Today’s passage is a real challenge…love my enemies?  As I let the words fall over me, the challenge is for me to understand God’s love for his people then look again at my life.  The context is simple…God makes his sun shine on the evil as well as the good and he affords rain to the righteous as well as the unrighteous.  It leads me not so subtly to an understanding that as a follower of Jesus, I really don’t get to choose who I love.  Said a little differently, we are to love without limits.

We often think of “our enemies” in the extreme…terrorists, mass murderers, nations, etc.  Could it be that our understanding of “enemy” is skewed?  God provides without bias – his love and provision extends to all people without distinction of moral or any other human standard.  Today’s passage clearly shows that God does not limit his blessings to whose who serve him faithfully.  We also are made aware that our God provides good things to even those who oppose him as well.

Today’s passage is about a higher standard of love – the word perfection is used.  Jesus sets this challenge before his followers and it is a tough one – am I able to be vulnerable enough to love those who I find less lovable?  Am I able to see something good in someone I see as less than lovable because I know that God will not withhold his generous love.  Jesus’ point is that there is always something to strive for – a wholeheartedness of being his follower.  “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven…”  

This reminds me of a C. S. Lewis quote from “The Four Loves”…“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”  Love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me…a tough standard to be sure…being a higher standard of love in who I am and how I serve Jesus with regard to both my “enemies” and my friends.

 

 

 

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