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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

December 2017

Who is Your Role Model?

Philippians 3:17-21

If you would have asked me when I was a very young child who my role model was, I might have said Superman or Luke Skywalker or someone like that. Who wouldn’t want to be the Man of Steel or a Jedi knight? If you would have asked me the same question when I was in my teen years, I might have said someone like Michael Jordan or Frank Thomas. I had visions of playing small forward for the Bulls or pitching for the White Sox one day…we all know how that worked out for me.

As an adult, I’m not sure who my earthly role model is. The older I get, the fewer “famous people” that I can find that I look up to or truly admire. I guess as I sit here and think about it, I like what I see from a local favorite, Chance the Rapper, who is doing so many great things for inner city kids of Chicago. When you are a kid yourself, you look up to someone famous because you also want to maybe be rich and famous and have all of the fancy things that a celebrity has. As an adult, I am looking for someone who has a different skill set. I want someone who is compassionate, empathetic, trustworthy, and willing to put their own ego aside for the sake of others.

But maybe sometimes we look for these people in the wrong places. I’m sure there are plenty of “famous people” who fit the bill that I like in a role model that just don’t get the same amount of attention in the media as those who behave in a manner that is less than desirable. We can find people who have my sought after qualities just in everyday people at First Pres Church, and throughout the Joliet area. We have an amazing church family at First Pres who serve freely and willingly, who put others before themselves time and time again for the sake of Christ. For the sake of making their small slice of the world a better place. I want to be one of those people.

Like Paul. Here is a man who went from overseeing the execution and imprisonment of early Christian to being a leader of the church. I find Paul as a role model in my life, because if Jesus still accepted him into his ministry after the previous life he lived, there is still hope for me as well. I fall short time and time again, yet I know that I can find hope in Jesus, just as Paul did. I hope that one day I can be more like Paul, living more of a Christlike life.

I pray that as we see out the remaining days of the advent season, and the coming celebration of the birth of our savior, that we remember what is most important. The perfect gift for our loved ones, a specially prepared dinner, time with family are all great things. But let’s not forget what we are really celebrating…life in Christ.

In Tune

Matthew 11. 7-15

On Ingalls Ave. in Joliet near Essington Road is the People First Bank.  I worked on the construction of the building and several times over the years on remodeling and conversions as needed.  In the main entrance,which is two stories tall, hang  nine puck lights on very thin cables about ten feet long.  Each light on it’s own cable.  One night as I was leaving, I spoke to a lawyer whose office was there, as he was taking a break leaning on a railing over looking the front entrance.  He pointed out one light in particular whose cable was vibrating, he said it vibrated all the time and was alone in doing so, and wondered why.  Knowing a little about the subject I explained how each building has a heating system that makes noise, and lights make noise, and all the operating systems combine to create a tone for the building.  It just so happens that this one cable was stretched and tuned to the exact tone of that building, and so it vibrated in harmony with the building.  If you play a horn in a room with a piano and blow a particular note, maybe a C, the C string on the piano will vibrate in tune with the note being played if they are in exact tune with each other.

In Matthew 11. 7 Jesus, speaking to the crowds concerning John, the forerunner of Christ, said, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaking in the wind?”  As it turns out many did, for what happens when the wind blows through the reeds is it creates quite a whistling, rustling tone.  John the Baptist cried out for Israel to repent and be baptized, to turn from their sin and enter the cleansing waters of Baptism. These waters of baptism the  apostle Paul tells us are reminiscent of the crossing of the Red sea.  In fact it was a type of baptism for the nation of Israel he says in 1 Corinthians 10.2.  For by faith they had to enter the sea, though on dry ground, yet the walls of water on each side reached a height of nine hundred feet at the center of the Sea, which probably was quite fearful to say the least.  So in fact they had to trust Elohim to take that first step, and every step after that until they reached the other side, no turning back.  That is a picture for us to keep in mind, Christianity is trusting God every step of the way until we reach the other side.  So when all of Jerusalem and Judea came to see John they had their ears tuned to the sound of his voice, the voice of a prophet, one who was speaking the very words of God.  They knew they had sins to be washed away and they believed the words of God through John. They heard, as it were, the reed shaken by the wind and repented of their sins.  Verse 15 Jesus says “let he who has ears, hear.”

We too, like all the players at the birth of Christ, Mary, Joseph, Zacharias, Elizabeth, the shepherds in Bethlehem, the astronomers from the East, Simeon, Anna, who obeyed when they heard the voice of God, should have our own ears tuned to His voice. Christianity is not just being good, but rather obedient to God’s will and call in your life.  Christianity is not just knowing, but doing

Tune in.

Karl

Elisha Succeeds Elijah

2 Kings 2

Review: Three times Elijah tells Elisha not to follow; three times Elisha follows.  Three groups of prophets question Elisha twice; twice he tells them to shut up.  Finally, the prophets see Elijah and Elisha cross the river – into another realm (vv. 2-8)…Elisha asks for something hard – a double of Elijah’s spirit and prophetic insight (vv. 9-10)…Elijah separates from Elisha in a whirlwind (v. 11)…Elisha’s parting the waters with the mantle of Elijah confirms the transference of power (vv. 12-14)…Elisha retraces Elisha’s steps in reverse order: the Jordan River (vv. 15-18), at Jericho (vv. 19-22), and back to Bethel (vv. 23-25).

Analysis: Elisha is independent minded and devoted to Elijah (vv. 2-8)…It is hard to tell what Elisha sees when Elijah leaves (vv. 11-12)…This whirlwind is a clear example of a miracle in the OT; after all it is what might be expected from divine love towards a morally and physically disordered world (Rom. 8:19-23)…I don’t know about anyone else; I could use at least miracle each day…Elijah’s mysterious disappearance echo’s Moses’ death (Deut. 34:5-8) and previous parting of water (Ex. 14, Joshua 3-4)…The prophets acknowledge Elisha’s “Spirit,” nevertheless they need confirmation (vv. 17-18) introducing the world to the concept “trust, but verify”…Animals and other things of nature can be signs of divine protection (1 Kings 13, 20) or punishment…The passage ends at Mount Carmel (v. 25) sight of Elijah’s initial public triumph (1 Kings 18:20-40).

Life, Light, Living With Us

John 1:1-14 (NIV)

John 1:1-14 (The Message)

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. (NIV)

14 The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. (The Message)

The wonderful news of Christmas is that Jesus, “The Word,” the one through whom “everything was created,” decided to come and live among us.  The word “dwell,” literally, means tented, pitched his tent among us.  It’s Old Testament imagery of the people of Israel living in tents in the wilderness.  So God in Christ Jesus comes to earth.  And I like The Message Translation, “moved into our neighborhood.

Jesus comes to bring life and light to all who will receive him.  He “moves into our neighborhood.”  He gives life even where there is despair, disappointment, and death.  He brings light even in the darkness and evil of this world.  And whoever receives him receives the life, the light, and family membership he offers and becomes a child of God.

John the Baptist, in verses 6-8, reminds us no matter how good we may feel about our life and ourselves that we are not the light.  We need the Light; we need Jesus the Savior.  Yet we can let the Light of the Christ shine through us and reflect the One True Light to everyone around us.

May you know the joy of reflecting the Light and the Life of The Word, Jesus to others wherever you may go this day and season and always, until the Lord calls you home.

In the wilderness…

Matthew 3:1-12

It would be difficult to label John the Baptist as fun-loving.  Or, one with a bubbly personality.  Even though the number of passages devoted to John the Baptist are few, John is an impressive Advent figure.  “The voice crying out in the wilderness…prepare the way of the Lord.”  Connecting John with the prophet Isaiah.

The doors of Matthew’s Gospel suddenly swing open and there stands John in the wilderness of Judea looking like Elijah of old.  After 400 years of prophetic silence, it’s a shock to see him.  Who would have guessed it?

His surprising appearance lays claim that God’s ways with the world are often strange and unpredictable.  John the Baptist is a real call to worship, one that shakes the cobwebs off the pews.  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”  In a place where none of us would consider building a dream home.  Where his food and clothes separated him from the elegant and elite and the food he ate was that of a prophet in the wilderness.  Later in Matthew, Jesus calls John a prophet, identifying John with Elijah who is to come.  Fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy.

John’s role was clear…to prepare the way for Jesus.  Jesus pointed beyond himself…he was a signpost to God.  People went miles to hear John preach and be baptized.  Crowds from Jerusalem and all Judea and the region along the Jordan.

“Prepare the way…”  In the wilderness where life is sometimes in doubt.  In the wilderness, where those faint of heart…those with weak knees…those who are fearful and those who believe they have no voice there is hope.  Here, in the wilderness, this is what Advent is all about.  Here, in the wilderness – in Advent, the church thinks afresh about how to join God in the movement towards a world that is more like the realm of heaven.

Are you up to John’s challenge?

 

 

He is Good.

Habakkuk 3:2-6

Like Habakkuk I have questioned the goodness of God. When tragedy comes sweeping into life it feels like a natural response to question–maybe even accuse–Him. How could you let this happen? Why did you do this to me? How could a good God allow that to happen?

I can’t answer they “why” questions. I do find peace knowing that God will use whatever tragedy I have endured and will face in the future for His good (Romans 8:28). I have even been blessed enough to see the worst moments in my life blossom into the most beautiful part of my soul.

Through it all what have I learned? God is steady, constant, infinite, and more than we could ever imagine. He endures more than we could imagine. He suffered the Cross for us, is rejected daily, watches his Beloved harm themselves through sin, and allows what he can’t stand to fulfill a purpose we can’t understand (I stole that last phrase from this blog, it’s really good and you should check it out). He takes on the burdens of the world and just carries on.

He is steadfast.

He is a great maker who allows us to choose to love Him. He is a loving father who welcomes us home after we have rejected Him and rebelled against Him. He is a healer who turns beauty from the ashes when sin (whether the sin was ours or someone else’s) has marred the masterpiece He created when He created us.

Time passes. People come and go. The world appears to end (and one day it will).

But the Lord endures forever.

 

 

A Lesson In Goal Setting

goal-setting-that-works

Philippians 3:12-16

If there is one thing that I know to be true, it is that if you are going to be successful at anything, you first need to set a goal. What are your goals for your life? Depending on where you are on your path in life, your goals will be different than others. Ask any middle school student, and they probably would tell you that they want to go to college, and get a job that will make them lots of money. Ask a recent college graduate, and they may say they want to find a job relating to their degree so they can pay the bills. At this point in my life, I know one of my main goals is to raise my two boys (which is great to be able to say that number now) to be fine, upstanding, respectful, God-fearing citizens. Any elite athlete became elite because they had goals, and worked very hard to achieve those goals. As we approach the 2018 Winter Olympics, we can think about all of those athletes who have dedicated their lives to intense training in order to qualify to represent their countries in the games.

There are some important parts to setting goals. First and foremost, you need to identify a possible goal. But that isn’t enough, because you need to evaluate that goal to ensure that it is something that is achievable. For example, I know at this point in my life, saying that I want to play quarterback for the Bears, is not something that is achievable (well…maybe with the level of play from their team as of late, maybe it isn’t too late yet). So, set a goal that you can achieve.

Next, you need a plan of attack. How are you going to get to that goal? What level of training do you need to go through? What time span do you need in order to get to your goal? Who do you need in your life to help you get there?

Also, you need to evaluate your progress as you work toward your goal. What are your successes, and what are your areas that still need improvement? Reflection is one of the most important parts of the learning process. Reflecting on strengths and areas of improvement will help you celebrate successes and further develop your plan so you can continue to grow.

This passage is all about setting goals. But Paul’s goal here isn’t one that is going to bring him any sort of Earthly glory. He won’t get a trophy to put on the mantle. He isn’t going to get a green jacket or represent his hometown of Tarsus at the games in Athens. His goal is one of eternal importance. It is something achievable with a plan in place. That plan includes focusing on a life rooted in Jesus. And Paul is reflecting on where is and where he is going. He knows he isn’t perfect and that there is work left to be done. But his plan is to continue to press forward, always seeking first the Kingdom of God. He isn’t going to place too much emphasis or worry too much about his past mistakes, but he is going to continue to make progress and improve on his life. In doing so, he will reach his goal of a “heavenly call of God in Jesus Christ.”

So, I ask again, what is your goal?

P.S. – Sorry for the delay in getting this out. I lost track of my days of the week. 🙂

The New Covenant

spread-the-news-300x168

Hebrews 8.8, Jeremiah 31.31

Exodus 19.8, Galations 3.24

2 Corinthians 3.6, Romans 8.3

Whenever we have a communion service on the first Sunday of the month, we recite from 1 Corinthians 11.25 “This is the new covenant in my blood.”   So have you ever wondered what that new covenant is and in contrast what is the old covenant it is replacing?

Theologians I have read try to somehow include the six or eight covenants specifically stated in the scripture, such as the covenant with Abraham, Noah, David and so on, when they address this issue.  Yet when Paul writes about this subject he doesn’t specify any particular one but rather refers simply to the old covenant.

In Exodus 19.5 at Mt. Sinai Moses spoke the words of the LORD, “…if you will indeed obey my voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession,…”  Vs. 8 And all the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.”  Thus the covenant was ratified by the nation Israel, that they wold keep His word, by no power other than their desire, self effort.  The Law then was handed down through Moses and the people started failing to keep their part of the covenant.  They couldn’t do all that the Law required.

Then came the prophets, Jeremiah 31.31 says “Behold days are coming, says the LORD, when I will establish a New Covenant with Israel,” Vs. 33 “This is the covenant which I will make, …after those days I will put my law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God and they will be my people,” God effort.

So why was the Law given in the first place if no one could keep it by their own efforts?  Galations 3.24  “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”  So we see the law came to show us that by our effort we could never keep the law, and through the blood of animals gain forgiveness of sins, and  deserve everlasting life.  But under the New Covenant in Christ’s blood, He fulfilled the Law and imputes His righteousness to we who believe.  It’s God’s doing not ours.  Romans 8.3 “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was in the flesh, God did, sending His own Son… as an offering for sin.”

Concerning  the difference between the two covenants, the flesh versus the Spirit, Paul says, 2 Corinthians 3.5 “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who made us adequate as servants of a New Covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

I hope this helps.

Karl

Refreshment

Summary:

  • BWV 18 “As The Rain & Snow Falls From Heaven”
  • Event: Sexagesima Sunday (2nd Sunday before Lent)
  • Composed/Location: 1713/Weimar, Germany
  • Readings – Gospel: Luke 8:4-15, Epistle: 2 Corinthians 11:9-12:9.
  • Overall Theme: Like precipitation, God’s Word comes to us as God’s means of refreshing the world.
  • Instrumentation: 4-part viola’s, cello, bassoon, 2-part recorder, continuo, SATB chorus
  • Key: G-Minor

Analysis: The idea behind all of JS Bach’s cantata music is to use the media to amplify the readings…This idiom is commonly called “program music”…Descending notes indicate God’s commune with the earth, ascending notes indicate a reply (possibly prayer) to God by humankind…Long, sustained notes indicate the constancy of God…Minor-keyed music indicate the problems and sadness of life due to the fallen nature of the earth and its peoples…Major keyed music indicate the Glories of God and life’s joys…I’ve heard it said that it cannot be proven that God exists…It is also true that one cannot prove any intelligence beyond one’s own (Plantinga)…This case is similar to that of electricity, magnetism, and the wind, while their existence cannot be directly observed, certainly their effects can be metered and measured…One of God’s effects is to compel people, throughout history up to the present hour, to compose music which glorifies Him….Enjoy!

J.S. Bach BWV 18 (Complete Cantata) – Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel Falt

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