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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

January 2018

Fools say…

Exodus 25-26

Psalm 14

Matthew 25

Psalm 14
Denunciation of Godlessness
To the leader. Of David.
1 Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
there is no one who does good.
2 The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind
to see if there are any who are wise,
who seek after God.
3 They have all gone astray, they are all alike perverse;
there is no one who does good,
no, not one.
4 Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
who eat up my people as they eat bread,
and do not call upon the Lord?
5 There they shall be in great terror,
for God is with the company of the righteous.
6 You would confound the plans of the poor,
but the Lord is their refuge.
7 O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion!
When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people,
Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad.

 

Wow! What a way to make a statement! “Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” – King David. This psalm seems to capture David’s understanding of his days. The whole world is filled with bad, wicked people, none want to follow the righteous ways and most are enemies of God.

Now I do not know much about politics, but I have to say that he is not making too many friends. Yes, I know that the psalm is about the enemies of Israel and that King David is talking about the faithfulness of God, but boy as I was reading this psalm I was struck by the negative tone of the psalm. It kind off reminded me of Jonah crying to himself about his self-righteousness and telling God: No.

Whenever I read texts like this one, I sometimes wonder: What will it take to see God transforming that situation? It will take grace, love and maybe going out of our ways to reach out to those people. For David, it was pretty much the way of war, settling things by the way of the sword, but for Jesus, it was a little bit different. It was about sitting down and having a meal with the fools, the sinner of the world. For Jesus, it was about finding those that are lost and show them God’s love.

I would love to hear what Kind David would say about our world today, he might even add few more words to that list about fools. But that is not as important as what Jesus is saying to us today, and for me, that is as simple as asking the question: Who did you show grace to?

I pray that each day we would run into people that might be the fools that David is talking about. I pray that each one of those encounters will be filled with grace and that in each of our conversation, we can say: God loves you.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

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Guard Against False Teaching

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Exodus 23-24

Proverbs 13

Matthew 24

Exodus 23-24

Moses continues to receive laws from God about how to treat others, and about annual festivals. God promises to always have the backs of the Israelites in battle, as long as the Israelites remain faithful to God. Moses goes up Mount Sinai to receive tablets with the laws written on them.

Proverbs 13

We continue to receive recommendations for Godly living. Each stanza is written in an if-then statement. If you do this, then this is true. If you do this, then this is true. If you are faithful, God will be there to support you. If you are not faithful, then there is a price to be paid.

Matthew 24

As the time nears when Jesus will be handed over for crucifixion, he tells of what is to come in the future upon his return. His return is known only to the Father, so we best be ready for it at anytime.

Reflection

In all three of these passages, we read of the result of faithfulness and the judgment coming to those who lack faith. God has clearly laid out the expectations to us through scripture. There is no gray area in these expectations. We, of course, will fall short often because, afterall, we are human. But, by faith, we are saved. As we enter the battles of life, God will have our backs as long as we are faithful to Him. Through study of scripture, we will better understand His expectations for living. Through this study, we will be better prepared to determine if those around us are “wolves in sheep’s clothing” trying to lead us astray and trick us. The time of Jesus’ return will come like a thief in the night, and we have to be ready.


So, continue to study scripture. With our current blog study, it may be challenging to keep up with the enormous amount of reading. I know it is for me. But any and all that you ARE able to do is for your benefit and will provide you with armor to protect you in this world filled with false messiahs.

Hypocrisy and Honesty

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Exodus 21-22

Psalms 13

Matthew 23

This section of Exodus is filled with various laws that are hard to understand in our American way of thinking, laws of personal injury, property rights, ownership of slaves, and others.  To pull these two chapters out and comment on them is beyond me.

In Matthew 23 Jesus is near the end of His ministry and about done with His encounters with the religious leaders.   He looks at them and their utter hypocrisy accusing them of seating themselves in Moses seat, which is an illusion to the authority of Moses receiving and dispensing the Law that Jehovah revealed during the Exodus.  The pharisees had no such authority to rewrite or add to the Law of Moses, yet they did it.  This was their utmost rejection of anything Holy or sacred, such was their pride and vanity.  Then He lays out the Eight woes to them.  Woe to you for you are distorting truth so much that no one following your instruction will ever get through to heaven. Woe to you for you have zero compassion for the even the most vulnerable.  Woe to you for as you teach others your ways they become less fit for heaven than you.  Woe to you for you are blind guides only interested in money.  Woe to you for you select only the parts of the Law that you desire to obey, while ignoring the more weighty ones that can actually benefit others. Woe to you for though you look righteous on the outward appearance  you are rotten inside.  Woe to you for you honor the tombs of the prophets your very fathers killed, and swear you wouldn’t have allowed it if you had been there, but live the exact same life style of your fathers.  Your deeds will prove my words correct.

Psalm 13  is one of the saddest psalms because it reveals the despair felt by David as he waited for God to respond.  I am sure that some of us have had similar experiences,  wondering if God is even listening, or cares.  “How long, O LORD?  Will You forget me forever?”  ” Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death.”

As life throws it’s curve balls at us, we personally are experiencing mental health issues in our family.  We are finding it’s quite a maze to navigate through.  Understanding their state of mind, our state of response, how and when to properly respond, what to actually pray for, what are realistic expectations, looking for improvement, and hoping for healing.  Then there are grandchildren to be concerned about for their care and what we can do to help them.  Yet we realize there are no quick fixes and agree with David at the end of this Psalm, “But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.  I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”

Karl

Sunday Reflection: God as Almighty

First, how are you doing on your journey through the Bible as we come to the last Sunday in January?  Maybe you are right on track – great!!  Maybe you need to do a little catch up – not a problem!  Remember…as long as you remain in God’s Word and seek to be guided daily by his Holy Spirit all is good!!

This Sunday we think about God as Almighty…what comes to mind when you hear or read that phrase?  One of our confessions in the Presbyterian Church USA, The Nicene Creed, begins this way…“We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen…”  Another of our confessions of faith, The Apostles’ Creed, begins…”I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth…”

Question 26 of The Heidelberg Catechism, another of our confessions of faith, asks:  ” What do you believe when you say: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth”?  The Answer, in part, provided by this Confession is, “That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who out of nothing created heaven and earth and everything in them, who still upholds and rules them by his eternal counsel and providence, is my God and Father because of Christ the Son. I trust God so much that I do not doubt he will provide whatever I need for body and soul…’  Knowing what you believe and why you believe it is important, so, this Sunday, reflect on what you believe about God as Almighty.


Our 12 confessions of faith provide a rich tradition of what Christians believed about their faith in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.  If you would like to explore these Confessions further I would suggest beginning with:

Why Do We ‘Confess’ Our Faith? by Perky Daniel

And if you would like to actually read some of the 12 Confessions, here is a searchable PDF document link:  THE CONSTITUTION OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (U.S.A.), PART I, BOOK OF CONFESSIONS 

This coming week’s readings:

Monday, January 29, 2018 Exodus 21-22 Psalm 13 Matthew 23 Karl
Tuesday, January 30, 2018 Exodus 23-24 Proverbs 13 Matthew 24 Matt
Wednesday, January 31, 2018 Exodus 25-26 Psalm 14 Matthew 25 Bo
Thursday, February 1, 2018 Exodus 27-28 Proverbs 14 Matthew 26:1-16 Karissa
Friday, February 2, 2018 Exodus 29-30 Psalm 15 Matthew 26:17-46 Dale
Saturday, February 3, 2018 Exodus 31-32 Proverbs 15 Matthew 26:47-75 Craig H.

The Law

Exodus 5-6     Proverbs 12     Matthew 22

Review:  The exact location of Sinai is not enumerated (19:1-2)…YHWH, the superior, speaks to Israel, the subordinate (19:3-5), but still at liberty (“if”) to do as she pleases, yet is labeled holy (19:6)…Moses, and to some extent Israel as a whole, encounters a theophany with guidelines (19:9-20) at the foot of Sinai…YHWH’s mountain is to be treated with respect (19:21-25)…The Ten Commandments are spelled out (20:1-17) to each one…Moses is made mediator between God and Israel (20:18-21)…Since God speaks from heaven, He can’t be properly imaged, hence it’s prohibition (19:22-23)…The alter specification (19:24-25) is due to Israel’s nomadic existence, at that time.

Analysis:  Because of Israel’s lawlessness (Gal. 3:19-24), laws are given to her…The giving of these laws teach us 1.) God’s holiness (19:10-25), 2.) the ugliness of sin (Rom. 7:7-14, 1 Tim. 8-11), 3.) the necessity of disciplined obedience towards God (Jer. 7:23-24), and 4.) the universality of mankind’s failings (Rom. 3:19-20)…Israel misinterpreted the purpose of the laws (1 Tim. 1:8-10) by seeking it’s own brand of righteousness (Acts 15:1, Rom. 9:31-10:3) by way of good deeds and ceremonial ordinances (read: “The Talmud,” “The Mishnah,” the festivals, the pilgrimages to Jerusalem, etc.) which led it to reject it’s own Savior (Jn. 1:9-13)…Another way of looking at is that they, as we ourselves, shaped a god of their own choosing…Israel’s existence, whether in the wilderness, in their own land, or scattered amongst the peoples of the world has been that of habitual law breaking contrary to their initial response (19:8).

Challenges, Criticism, and Convictions

Exodus 17 and 18, Psalm 12, Matthew 21

We see a number of similarities in the responses to Moses’ Ministry and Jesus’ Ministry.   Moses is the greatest prophet of the Old Testament and Jesus is the greatest prophet of the New Testament.  Jesus, in a sense, is the second Moses.  Yet Jesus is more than Moses; he is Lord and Savior and completely faithful and without sin.

We see the following in both Moses’ ministry and Jesus’ ministry: There’s Respect and Rejection, Complaint and Conviction, Criticism and Commitment, and Faith and Unbelief.

The people complain to Moses about not having water.  It is difficult to be in the wilderness and desert or anywhere without water.  Yet Moses had led them well and God had provided for them over and over again.  Here we see unbelief and a lack of trust in God.  Moses cries out to God for help, worried that the people will stone him and take his life.  Jesus meets rejection, criticism and disbelief in Jerusalem.  His authority is challenged and the leaders plot to arrest him and want to put him to death.  There are challenging times for all who would be faithful to God and follow the Lord Jesus.

We also see that we cannot do life and walk by faith all alone in these passages. We find that Moses could not live out his calling all by himself.  He needs Aaron, Hur, and Joshua.  When attacked Moses was to hold the staff of God upward, raise his hands.  When his hands were raised the battle went in Israel’s favor.  When Moses tired and lowered his hands the Israelites were losing.  Moses tired and when Aaron and Hur helped hold up Moses hands the Israelites prevailed and won.

When Moses father-in-law Jethro came to visit, he was delighted to hear from Moses all of  the good things God was doing.  Yet when Jethro saw Moses trying to listen to all of the issues of the people, acting as the only judge he was troubled.  He told Moses it was not good for him to do this all alone.  Fortunately Moses took his father-in-law’s advice and taught capable people to become leaders in this ministry.

Jesus does not enter Jerusalem alone; the disciples are with him and there are other followers in the city who will provide what Jesus needs to ride into Jerusalem.  Here we see that life is a team sport.  We need other people who love God around us.

We live in a challenging world and we live in need of God.  Psalm 12 is a good reminder for us, “You, Lord, will keep the needy safe and will protect us forever from the wicked, who freely strut about when what is vile is honored by the human race.” (Psalm 12:7-8)

The Good Life!!

Today’s Passages:  Exodus 15-16    Proverbs 11     Matthew 20 [All 1 Link]

Isn’t it great when we think that God is acting in our lives?  But what about those times when life seems to be contrary to what we think?

The Israelites have just passed through the Red Sea…by God’s hand.  They are rejoicing  with tambourines and dancing…singing their praises to God…“The Lord will reign forever”.  Then, 3 days later, the complaining continues.  The Lord reminds the people, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God…”  And God provides for them.  One month after the Red Sea, more complaining – this time about food.  What does God do?  He, once again, provides.

In how many ways do we rejoice with tambourines and dancing when God provides?  And then, the opposite question…how many times do we complain?  Do we really recognize God’s provision in our lives?  God brought the people out of bondage in Egypt. God provided water in the desert. God provided manna and quail in the desert.  God fully revealed himself in Jesus and provided for those who were lame, blind, and poor, etc…many believed in him but, many complained and sent him to the cross.

The power of God’s provision for us is realized in the following verse from Matthew 20:  “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”   When we understand this simple set of 21 words, we come to really know the God for whom we claim to worship…the Father who provides in ways we, all too often, are often blind to seeing.

There are many cultural ideals of “the good life”…I encourage you to draw closer to the One who offers the one and only GOOD LIFE you and I should seek…after all, He showed his steadfast love in a way I am absolutely certain you and I could never live out ourselves…nonetheless, that is the challenge we have as followers of Jesus.  It is the very heart of what so many call Christianity…it sets us apart form all other religions.

Often, on Sunday, you hear the words…may you always know the grace of the Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the fellowship and communion of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 13:13) all your days…so, let’s sing and dance because these are far more than words…they are indeed, the essence of today’s passages and, I believe, The Good Life!!

 

A Wednesday Morning Prayer

Today’s Readings:
Exodus 13-14
Psalm 11
Matthew 19

God will fight for you, you need only be still.
Exodus 14:14

What a great reminder for us today. When it comes to many of our battles our culture demands self sufficiency. However, these battles and burdens were never meant to be ours. God created us to be in the Garden. His original intention for all of us was to be in fellowship with Him. When that was broken God sent Jesus to be the ultimate sacrifice and restore that bond. Again, He wants us to be in community with Him. He does not want us pulling away and trying to fight the Egyptians on our own. He has a plan to defeat them and it will bring much more glory to His name than any ‘victory’ we could win on our own.

If you are feeling heavy this morning–filled with the burdens of the world–I highly recommend surrendering them to Jesus. Remember, His yoke is so much lighter.

Here’s a little prayer you can say today if the weight of the world is on your shoulder (and it takes includes all of todays readings, plus some. There is something very powerful in praying Scripture back to God):

Abba! Father!
It is in You that I take refuge.
You are my Keeper and my Strength.
I praise You for You are the Great I Am.
I come humbly before You
With burdens too great to bear
And surrender them to You, Lord Jesus.
Your Word promises Your yoke is easy and Your burden is light.
With awe and gratitude I exchange my heaviness for Your lightness.
Help me to abandon my earthly riches for Your Great Eternity.
What good is it for me to gain the world and lose my soul?
I want You:  Your Hope, Your Peace, Your Light.
I stand on the strong foundation that You are Good.
In Jesus’s sweet and precious name, with gratitude and praise, I pray.
Amen.

PS: I highly encourage everyone to pray for marriages. I’m not married, but I hear it’s not easy. Marriage was in the Garden and later becomes the imagery used to describe Jesus and the church. How much do you think the enemy hates marriage? I’ll tell you: an awful lot. Pray for your marriage, your friend’s marriage, your boss’s, co-workers’, parent’s marriages. Pray over your religious leaders and their marriages, same with the staff, and volunteers.

Praying blessings over someone’s marriage is a powerful act of love that the Lord sees and others feel.

Happy Wednesday!
Safe driving! We look forward to seeing you tonight at Family Mid-week!

Karissa

 

Who is the greatest?

Today’s Readings:

Exodus 11-12 Proverbs 10 Matthew 18

Matthew 18

The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

What is the greatest? That is something I had been wondering on and off for a while It comes to mind everytime I hear the news or talk to a friend about who we are as a country in this world. But is this what Jesus is asking of us?

I Tend to belive that Matthew 18 might be a little diffrent than that. It is about humility and rellying on God. Greatness is about a certain child like faith and atitude towards those around us, about being humble and walking in that humble spirit when it somes to day to day life. It might not be about what I want but about what God wants.

So today I ask you to pray with me on being great at being humble. Not just an individual but as a local churh, as the whole church and as a nation. Lord help us to be humble.

 

Be blessed,

Bo M.

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