Search

First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

November 2017

Complaint Box or Rejoice?

complaining

Philippians 2:12-18

I’m not sure if you are like me, but very often, I find that it is so easy to fall into the trap of complaining about things. Complain about the traffic. Complain about the weather. Complain about having to get up so early to get to work. Complain about chores. Complain complain complain.

But what if all of those things that we complain about are there for a reason? What if the traffic is there because we have been blessed with the means by which we have a car. By God’s grace, I have a job that creates income that allows me to have a roof over my head, put food on the table, and to actually have table. I get the honor of working a job in which I can make a difference in the lives of others. I have dishes to wash and grass to mow because I am fortunate to have those things.

Pride is a deadly sin if we let it rule over our lives. But, in my own opinion, it is important to take pride in the things we have in our lives, which I believe can lead to us caring for those things in our lives that we have been blessed with. I take pride in doing my best at work, because, even though I work in a public school where talking religion is frowned upon, I am still doing God’s purpose set before me. I take pride in taking care of the possessions I have because they are a blessing to even have them at all. But there also has to be a balance between pride and obsession I think.

As Paul states here, we should work out our salvation, and do so without grumbling. Whatever God’s purpose for you may be, it probably isn’t going to be an easy road. There are going to be things that cause you to stumble. There are going to be things that cause stress, heartbreak, and all sort of other negative feelings. But through those things, you will grow as a person and as  Christian. So, instead of complaining about all of those things that can bring us down, retrain your mindset to see the silver lining in those tougher times. And, as Paul states, be glad and rejoice.

Evangelism

IMG_1513

 

Hebrews 3.15 – 4.13

Luke 24.31

In this passage from Hebrews, the writer paints a picture of the Hebrew nation being set free for bondage to Egypt where they labored as slaves for centuries building palaces and monuments to the Pharaohs .  As they then wandered across the wilderness to the land promised by Jehovah, being fed with Manna and being protected by God Himself, when given the opportunity to enter that land resisted going in because they didn’t believe God would protect them and give them the victory.  We are told it was unbelief that kept them out of the the promised land, and the writer also describes this promised land as God’s rest, for as slaves they surely knew what labor was, and by default understood rest.  Later that labor becomes synonymous with the keeping of the Law, and rest synonymous with the finished work of Christ and salvation through Jesus.

In our Wednesday night men’s Bible study Dale asked me where I start when witnessing to seekers.  What scriptures do I use.  Of course there is no set standard place to start and every time is unique, (though some like to memorize useful tracts like the Four Spiritual Laws,) but for me studying the Bible, pondering passages long after the book is closed is of benefit. I compare passages that seem to intertwine and support each other, memorizing to one degree or another verses containing great wisdom,  and peruse the harmony of the scriptures as a whole.  I believe almost any scripture will tell the story of God’s great salvation when understood.  I have used the books of Revelation, Hebrews, 11 Peter, the Beatitudes from Matthew, and Acts to name a few.  Hebrews 4.12 paraphrased “for the Word of God is rich, and living, and active, dividing the flesh from the spirit, revealing truth from lies, and it pierces the soul, judging the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

One thing I know on this subject is, only sincere belief in the Lord Jesus Christ will ready you for witnessing.  Head knowledge or peripheral understanding will never equip you.  It’s got to be real, inside your heart and soul, alive like a fire burning inside.  Studying the Word equips, preparation helps, but the reality is only the Holy Spirit will guide you into the right words the seeker needs to hear.  We as witnesses honestly don’t know what will spark belief, that is why it never depends on us but the insight of the Holy Spirit.  For God saves, we don’t.

Luke 24. 31  Their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight.  They said to one another, ” were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the scriptures to us?.”

Karl

A History of Israel

Judges 2

Review: Israel is rebuked, via an “Angel of the Lord,” for it’s way of living (vv. 1-4)…Joshua, at the ripe old age of 110, dies and is buried (vv. 5-9)…The new generation loses sight of YHWH (vv. 10-15)…Because of Israel’s “blindness,” God raises new leaders or judges to lead and deliver them (vv. 16-19)…As an example to measure themselves against and also as a test, God allows the nations of the peoples on Israels’s land to co-habitate with them (vv. 20-23).

Analysis:  The theme of this book are “all the people did what was right in their own sight” (17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25) and it’s corollary “Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD” (2:11, 3:7, 4:1, 6:1, 10:6, 13:1)…The complete extermination of the Canaanite peoples was an exaggeration (Josh. 10:29-11:23)…Enough existed that Israel was tempted to adopt their culture and religion (vv. 21-23)…This “Angel of the LORD” appears periodically in the OT (cp. Gen. 16:9, 22:11, Ex. 3:2, 14:9, Num. 22:22, Jud. 6:11, 2 Kings 19:35, Isa. 63:9, Zech. 1:12, 12:8) as a guide…It is generally the case that peoples grip on God, if it is not periodically renewed, goes away with the passage of time…This worship of the fertility goddess Ashtoreth and Baal was typical of Israel in decline (Jud. 10:6, 1 Sam. 7:3-4, 12:10, 1 Kings 11:5-33, 2 Kings 23:13)…Judges (v. 18) were raised up by God as representatives of Himself to Israel…These judges must have been both patriots religious leaders as Israel’s national security and prosperity were inseparably linked to their obedience to the LORD…There are obvious parallels that can be drawn between this text and the manner of our society today; they are self-explanatory…Is it possible that our plight, to an unknown extent, is similar to that of Israel’s?…Do judges exist today?

 

Refreshing Goodness

Psalm 103 (NIV)

Psalm 103 (The Message)

Problems abound in our world.  Or at least the media: whether print, TV, or web-news feeds, focuses on communicating all the trouble that is troublesome.

Then we have our own problems and disappointments that are common to this life.

Yet there is much that is good.  There is an abundance of good things taking place in our world each and every day.  All we need do is look for them and share them.

Today, I invite you to read Psalm 103 several times, in both versions above,  that you might rest in the goodness of God and see evidences of the Lord’s love and grace as you go through this day.  Perhaps it will spill over into the next day and the rest of this week.

Know that God is good.  “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.”  Rest in the goodness of God this day and always. 

Hope for today…

Clare Boothe Luce said, ‘There are no hopeless situations; there are only people who have grown hopeless about them.”  I stumbled across this as I was thinking about today’s blog and the passage that was on my mind, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30).  

Too often, I hear Christians say, “in the next life all will be better” – while I believe this to be absolutely true, there is the underlying thought that goes along with this…that this world we live in now is hopeless…a thought with which I absolutely dis-agree.

The tough part, though, is the reality of life today.  Trying to make sense of sex abuse scandals, natural disasters, hatred, anger, greed…the list is long.  Many of you reading this have hopes: hopes for a white Christmas, hopes the Bears might actually win a couple, hopes the winter will be short, hopes for better health, hope for a new job, hopes that people would just be nice and loving to each other…again, the list is long.  However, while both lists are long, can you hear the invitation in today’s passage?  Yes, invitation.  An alternative to how many live today. An Invitation of hope…“come to me”.

“Come to me, all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens.”  Jesus invites us to come to him when we’re burdened; but what do we have to do? Nothing, except come to him…take that first step.  Humbly admit that we need Jesus…that salvation is a gift—absolutely free and utterly undeserved…no substitute for a personal commitment to Jesus Christ.

Did you also notice the 2nd invitation in this passage?  “Take my yoke and learn from me.”  Many want the easy Christian life…go to church on Sunday, attend a Bible study now and then.  Many want to “pick and choose” with this passage – many want “the rest” without the yoke”.  Jesus not only lifts our burden, he places his burden on us…his yoke. To take the yoke of Christ is to become his disciple – more than just going to church or attending a Bible study…it means a life transformed such that we submit our lives to Jesus.  Sound hard?  Some may think so but I dis-agree.  The burden we lose when we commit to Jesus is heavy but the burden gained living life in Christ is light.

The invitation is to freedom and in this freedom is the reality of daily hope.  The hope of this freedom is “the rest” that is gained. Truly a paradox of life as a Christian – under Jesus’ yoke we find rest; through service we find freedom; when we lose ourselves in loving, we find ourselves; when we die to our self-centeredness, we begin to live.  Freedom in the yoke of Christ…HOPE for today…and every new day.

One last thought, while at EPCOT, Tari and I and a couple of our Purdue friends were standing in the center of the Italy portion of the park.  Above us we heard a plane…well, you can see for yourself what the plane was doing in the picture below.  There is always hope for today in Jesus!

The Israelite in Us

Psalm 78

A few years ago I was listening to a sermon about the Israelites in the desert and the golden calf. I remember laughing at them. The God of Israel just spread the Red Sea for them! God provided manna from thin air so they wouldn’t be hungry. God listened to the cries of His people and answered them. Then the Israelites built a Golden Calf to worship and I laughed.

That was arrogant of me.

How often have I, in a time of fleshly grievance, sat before The King and cried that I was lacking? How often have I told God His miracle for me was not good enough because it was not exactly what I wanted?

Too many times to count.

This Psalm illustrates the cycle that we today know all too well: love God, receive abundance, forget God, worship idols, feel the consequence of our sin, turn to God, and repeat. It is a dance God’s people have initiated from the beginning of time: Eve with the tree of knowledge, Sarah with the prophecy of her Son, the jews when their Messiah was given to them, and us when we turn to God in our deepest sorrows but find self-sufficiency in times of greatness.

Thankfully as believers we live in Hope.

The ending of the Psalm is an ending that continues to show the Grace of God. Despite the cycle of sin God gave the people a mighty (heavily flawed, loved, and human) king:  David. David was called a man after God’s own heart. As believers, who is our King now?

Jesus.

Despite the cycle of sin, despite our world and our brokenness, God has given us Jesus. He has given us the most perfect King who is not only our divine judge, but He calls us friend and co-heir.

We are children of God.

On this Monday morning I pray that reality sink in. You are chosen, loved, and blessed beyond any imagination.

 

Something to ponder

This week I was thinking about the many confessions that shape our faith. For the church, these confessions were meant to be an aid, help clarify and present some very clear points of doctrine. Now, I understand the fact that most believers do not get too excited about reading or memorizing these confessions. In all honesty, some of them are very long and use a lot of theological terms, and at the end of reading some of the confessions, you can really feel overwhelmed. I can say, even for myself, these are not necessary devotional readings.

If you want to take a shot at some of the confessions, please head over to the PCUSA website and have a look: https://www.pcusa.org/site_media/media/uploads/oga/pdf/boc2014.pdf

But I digressed. Some of the confessions are really beautiful reads, and full of deep meaning. For example the Nicene Creed:

We believe in one God,
      the Father almighty,
      maker of heaven and earth,
      of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
      the only Son of God,
      begotten from the Father before all ages,
           God from God,
           Light from Light,
           true God from true God,
      begotten, not made;
      of the same essence as the Father.
      Through him all things were made.
      For us and for our salvation
           he came down from heaven;
           he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary,
           and was made human.
           He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
           he suffered and was buried.
           The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.
           He ascended to heaven
           and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
           He will come again with glory
           to judge the living and the dead.
           His kingdom will never end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit,
      the Lord, the giver of life.
      He proceeds from the Father and the Son,
      and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.
      He spoke through the prophets.
      We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
      We affirm one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
      We look forward to the resurrection of the dead,
      and to life in the world to come. Amen.

I just love it. In part because it gives so much more insight into the Trinity. But also because it helps me understand more about the Holy Spirit and the work of the Spirit throughout the ages. Creeds like this sometimes get overlooked, because they tend to be too long, or the wording might be a little confusing for a Sunday service. And yet they are still an amazing window into our faith.

Today I want to encourage you to think about your own faith in terms of what you believe. Dig a little deeper than saying “I believe in God”. Discover your faith in a new way today. Let your mind and your heart speak into your life about who the God you believe in is. Let faith arise in your circumstance from the deep of your belief.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

 

pm. If you have time I will also encourage you to think about how some of the confessions addressed social, theological issues along the history, helping the church be relevant in the culture of the day. (i.e. See the Belhar Confession – https://www.presbyterianmission.org/wp-content/uploads/Confession-of-Belhar-text-2016.pdf)

Humility vs. Privilege

Philippians 2:5-11

NRSV

The Message

Humility – a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.

Privilege – a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.

The Jews had long awaited for a Messiah who would come in, guns ablazing per se, who would restore Israel and oust the oppressive Romans. The God of Abraham and Jacob would demonstrate his full power by ridding the world of evil. There would be no question about when the time of the Messiah was actually happening. Everyone would know…

Instead, we find Jesus. God took on the form of a regular, everyday human. The son of a Jewish carpenter and his young wife to be. Jesus came to us just like every other human, had the same human feelings and emotions. Had to eat and drink water, and all of those other regular human necessities. He even died a human death in the most humiliating and painful of ways.

He could have used his status as an equal to God and recused himself from his situation, but he chose not to. He remained obedient to God’s ultimate plan to save all of humanity from the death they had in the sins of the law. Imagine our most privileged humans, maybe a wealthy CEO or Hollywood star giving up all of their privilege they have through fortune and fame, and maybe becoming a missionary like Mother Theresa. Can you imagine a Mark Cuban deciding to give up all of his wealth and moving to a third world country in service of others? Can you imagine giving up whatever it is that you have accumulated in your lifetime to do the same?

I know I can’t imagine that for myself. I don’t think that makes me a bad person, but I try to keep that mindset in perspective when I find myself getting caught up too much in what I wish I had. I know that I am blessed beyond measure, and for that I am forever thankful. In this holiday season, and as we are about to welcome a new addition to our family in a few weeks, I am counting my blessings and remembering all that God has done for me…and for you too. I have plenty to be thankful for this year and every year.

Righteousness

reading-the-early-church-fathers

I Timothy 6.11-12

Ephesians 6.12

Hebrews 10.12

James 4.2

As usual, in my last blog about the temptation of Christ, I am never content with my musings, and there is never enough space to complete the entire thought, so this is more on the subject of temptation, sin, and righteousness.

Sin is a shortcut.  Satan tempted Jesus with making bread out of stones for immediate satisfaction of His hunger, casting Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple to see if God the Father would protect Him from destruction, which Jesus would have to face in the grave, and offering Him immediate power over the world which would be Jesus’ position after the resurrection when all things are put in subjection to Him. We in turn are tempted in the same manner in our own lesser lives, but none the less  tempted with shortcuts to protection, provision, and power.

Jesus refuted satan with scripture, and had an uncompromising desire to maintain His righteousness.  God in turn gives every believer the same desire for righteousness.  Understanding who we are in Christ is essential to Godly living.  Hebrews 10.12 says,  “Jesus having offered one sacrifice for sin for all times sat down at the right hand of God.”  Understand this, He didn’t forgive only past sins, but present sins, and future sins.  Romans 5.21 “God made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

However we still have a body of flesh to contend with that is still prone to wander from God.  I Timothy 6.11 says ” Flee from sin you people of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, and perseverance.”  We still, trapped in this flesh,  become preoccupied with the cares of this life.  We worry about provision, we worry about protection, we worry about authority, too often we become preoccupied with all the cares and needs of this world.

As young people there is an education to be obtained; And Enoch walked with God.           Then there are all the politics to sort through; There was Noah who was a righteous man.  How about life decisions like marriage, and children; Abraham was called Gods’ friend.   Providing for the family is no small task; God called David a man after His own heart.       The World Series is on, and Super Bowl is coming; Moses asked to see God’s face.                                                                                                 Retirement needs to be planned for;  John the baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother womb.

All these cares are not new to life, they do not take God by surprise, the truth of the scriptures stay true.  We can do both, that is live in our culture and be obedient to God.  We can pursue righteousness, while providing for our families.  We can pursue Godliness, while studying for exams, doing research papers, and preparing projects.  We can pursue faith, every day in the kitchen, doing laundry, cleaning the house.  We can pursue love, with each encounter with our neighbors, co-workers, children and spouse.  We can pursue perseverance, while contemplating current affairs and politics.  We can pursue gentleness, each day while driving.

Giving in to the temptations of sin is refusing righteousness.  Nothing of lasting value comes easily.  Oswald Chambers said in his book ‘My Utmost for His Highest’, ” If my reach doesn’t exceed my grasp, then what’s heaven for, and for what do I ask?”  Are you comfortable in your walk with Christ?  Ask yourself,  is your holiness good enough?  Your faith strong enough?  Your love sufficient?  Your perseverance satisfying?  Your gentleness pleasing?  If not then reach out to Jesus, if you want more ask, seek, and knock, God will answer.

Karl

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑