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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

January 2018

Power of God

the-power-of-salvation-1

Exodus 9-10, Psalm 10, Matthew 17

In these passages, a common theme that is present is that God is all powerful, and nothing is impossible with God. Pharaoh and his officials have hearts of stone and keep questioning the power of God. But through His humble servants, Moses and Aaron, He brings plagues that terrorize pharaoh and the land of Egypt (except the land of Goshen). Livestock and crops are destroyed by natural disasters of epic proportion, the people of Egypt are covered in painful sores, and there is such great darkness that people couldn’t see each other for three days.

As I think about this last part, a couple of things come to mind. For there to be this amplitude of darkness, that would mean that no sun, moon, or stars for those three days. Keep in mind, there wouldn’t be any city lights to overcome the darkness. But, a part that may be overlooked here is the Egyptian religious beliefs surrounding the sun, moon, and stars. The main Egyptian god was Ra, the sun god. Their belief was that Ra was born each morning, survived one whole day, and died each evening, and he was the giver of life (along with the Nile). Egyptian pharaohs were believed to be direct descendants of Ra, and therefore be a direct link between their main god and the people of Egypt. The fact that Ra did not rise for THREE DAYS would lead one to maybe believe that this God of the Israelites was more powerful than Ra, since He was able to prevent Ra from appearing for three days. But I digress…

The Psalm talks of the many enemies of God. The number of those who are wicked and argue that there is no god is many. But, despite their efforts, God cannot be held back. He will protect those who believe and release them from their oppressors, just as He did with the Israelites in Egypt.

And in Matthew, we see the appearance of Jesus be changed to be angelic, and two very important prophets come to personally talk with him, all in the sight of Peter and James. I can only imagine the fear and confusion that was felt by the two disciples, who, after witnessing this event, are told they can’t tell anyone. In the day and age of Facebook, where we feel the need to take pictures of our dinner plates and post them so people will know, I am guessing it would be virtually impossible for this transfiguration sort of news to not spread quickly. Nonetheless, it appears as if the disciples stay quiet about what they saw.

Later, we see the disciples struggle with healing a demon-possessed boy due to their lack of faith in their abilities. Jesus gets the job done, of course, and reprimands the disciples by calling them faithless. I can almost picture him doing the forehead slap, like a parent who has seen their child make the same stupid mistake for the 500th time, and think “what is wrong with you?” Nevertheless, Jesus doesn’t give up on his disciples and uses their mistake as a teachable moment.

As much as we think we are in control, we aren’t. Ultimately, the Almighty and All-Powerful God is the one who has the final say in what happens. As much as we might like to fight it and try to do it on our own, that mindset is futile. Each time the Israelites, and the disciples, lost sight of the power of God, they failed miserably. The fact that pharaoh refused to believe in the God of the Israelites nearly caused the destruction of Egypt. No one can hide from the power and judgment of God. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to be on the winning side.

 

 

 

Sunday Reflection: God as Provider

Most followers of Jesus love to use the phrase, “God will provide”.  How often, though, do we believe we are strong and self-sufficient?   Today, we are to reflect on God as our Provider.  What comes to mind for me is Psalm 23…”The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”  Even in our most chaotic environments, most do not expect to find “green pastures” and “still waters”…most are not even looking for them.  One of the many challenges we face is to stay focused on our God who promises to provide even while we go through the many difficulties and changes of life.  Too often, we try to urgently respond to the many demands and issues of our world when, like today, we need to step back…sit down…and seek the God who is our Provider.

I’ll close out our reflection time together with this passage from Hebrews 13:20-21, Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,  make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Here are the readings for the upcoming week:

Monday, January 22, 2018 Exodus 9-10 Psalm 10 Matthew 17 Matt
Tuesday, January 23, 2018 Exodus 11-12 Proverbs 10 Matthew 18 Bo
Wednesday, January 24, 2018 Exodus 13-14 Psalm 11 Matthew 19 Karissa
Thursday, January 25, 2018 Exodus 15-16 Proverbs 11 Matthew 20 Dale
Friday, January 26, 2018 Exodus 17-18 Psalm 12 Matthew 21 Craig H.
Saturday, January 27, 2018 Exodus 19-20 Proverbs 12 Matthew 22 Craig R.

It’s Spiritual Man

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Exodus 5, 6

Proverbs 9

Matthew 16

Friday nights are date night for my wife and I.   No fooling, its the night we take for ourselves.  We make an appetizer at home, relax a while, talk about the week, get re-aqainted with each other after the craziness of this thing we call  life, then go out for a relaxed dinner.  No exceptions allowed.  I was at the church all day cleaning the walls after our fantastic day of service on Monday stripping wallpaper in Hoffman Hall.  Then the phone rang, it’s the person that called the other day about wanting to buy my old van.  They want to come buy it, and take it home tonight.  It’s 3.45 and they’ll be here in an hour or so.  I get home and tell my bride, “but it’s date night,” she says.  “It will be alright,” I say, “only a short delay. ”  So do you see it coming?  After five phone calls back and forth, I was fit to be tied, Becca was cool, and we waited.  Fanny and Barry showed up at 8.15, after I met them at CVSand led them to our house.  When they get out of the car I walked toward them and Fanny started talking, praising God for finally getting to meet me, Barry told me later that she confided in him that she was certain that I was a man of God.  It was nothing in particular that I said but rather the Holy Spirit in us.   The feeling was mutual, there is no doubt that they were spiritually alive in Jesus Christ.  Fanny, it turns out, was in the local news this week, it was her house on Union street that burned down.  “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”  We only talked for an hour or so, hugged, and blessed each other as they departed.  My bride and I ate frozen pizza tonight.

The passages we examine today are all about wisdom, and understanding that the LORD God Jehovah is Spirit.  Those that worship Him, must worship in spirit also.  Exodus tells us that He appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai, God Most High, but now to Moses as YHWH, the Self Existing One.  There are some 35 names describing Jehovah in scripture defining His attributes. It’s good and wise to understand Him.  King James simplified those names to God, and LORD, a disservice in my opinion.  We miss understanding Adonnai, or Olam, or Jehovah Jireh, or El Gomer, or El Elyon.  It’s spiritual revelation of the God of Israel, YHWH.

The Proverbs passage describes wisdom as a female, having built her house, set the table, prepared the food, and invited all to come and dine.  Forsake folly and live, and proceed in the way of understanding.

Finally in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus warns of the hypocrisy and pride of the Pharisees.    Don’t be pulled away into a life of performance, and posture.  When pressed, Peter actually reveals that he understands that Jesus is the Christ, to which Jesus said, “Flesh and blood have not revealed this.”  Then Jesus calls him the adversary, satan, shortly thereafter, for we can be filled with the Spirit or act in the flesh, the choice is ours.  It seems the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

To sum it up I guess, we really can be led by the Spirit, when we don’t think too highly of ourselves, actually study the scriptures, seek YHWH, seek wisdom, and live like we believe what we say we believe.  I believe Fanny and Barry do.

Karl

P.S. ask me for more details

A Start

Exodus 5-6     Psalm 9     Matthew 15

Review: Enslaved Israel have previously heard YHWH’s message from Moses and Aaron, thus begins negotiations to gain their release from Egypt…Moses and Aaron pay a visit to Pharaoh (5:1-5)…Pharaoh “lays down the law” to Israel’s production foreman – no provided straw, same quota of produced bricks (5:6-9)…The country-wide search for straw and begins (5:10-14)…Pharaoh’s demand for bricks is unwavering (5:15-19)…The production foremen meeting with Moses and Aaron is less than optimistic (5:20-21)…Moses chats with YHWH, expressing his concerns.  YHWH predicts action (5:22-6:1)…Moses is commissioned to lead Israel out of Egypt by YHWH (6:2-13)…A genealogy for Moses and Aaron ensues (6:14-27).

Analysis: The theme of the Exodus, “Who is YHWH?” is voiced by Pharaoh (5:2)…Keeping Israel working seems doable (5:1-5)…The bricks are of adobe, sun dried (5:6-9)…It must be appreciated that Pharaoh essentially was the god of Egypt, worshipped by his people, the head of everything…As typical with the start of any project, it’s a mess (5:20-21)…Moses’ installation as the head of Israel was in response to prayer (6:5), to God’s promise to save (6:6-8), to follow orders (6:9-11), and despite his public speaking abilities (6:12, 30)…YHWH promises to redeem Israel, regardless of the actions of Israel (6:6-8); God chooses Israel, not the other way around…The genealogy (6:14-30) of Moses and Aaron represent their survival, how they came to be.  This was an important detail to the ancients, from whence the leaders are from…Most important is their lineage with the Levites (6:16), those eventual clergy (see Ex. 28) who will eventually control the Temple in Jerusalem…What questions do you have?

Hope…

Today’s Readings (all 1 link):  Exodus 1-2, Psalm 8, Matthew 13:24-58

On one level, it is easy to see today’s readings as covering a broad range of life.  As I read the passages, I kept hearing the word HOPE in the words.  God’s word to us is often like this –  where we hear a common thought, and, so,  I encourage you to listen in a way similar as you read through the Bible with us.

The bookends of today’s reading begin in Exodus with the start of oppression of the Israelites in the bondage of Egypt’s Pharaoh.  There is the emergence of Israel’s hope in Moses in Exodus and, the reality of some who reject Jesus concluding today’s reading.  I’ll save Psalm 8 for a bit later.

Think about this simple question…think about it deeply…what do you hope for?  It’s easy to think about all the ills of this world.  We can find lots of reasons to be unhappy about something…even to the point of thinking that we, too, are oppressed. And when the dust settles, is this really true?

As I write this, Tari and I have been to the Joliet Hospice Home – saying goodbye to our bocce ball partner and I just got home from getting my hair cut. Not to be confusing…it’s been a day of ups and downs like most of us know about.  I will miss Bart and, yet, I was renewed while getting my hair cut.  I go to The Salon Professional Academy in Shorewood – a teaching school for those wanting to cut and style hair.  I started going there about 8 years ago when my daughter Lisa’s college roommate was there and needed to practice cutting men’s hair.  I’ve been going ever since – it is a place of learning and hope for those who want to get into the “hair business”.  Well, tonight, I started with a new student who has had many hardships in the area of “being a parent”.

Now, why would I tell you of this?  You see, tonight was another example of someone who has been through some incredibly difficult times as a parent and yet, realizes that God has been in her life…guiding her and offering her the hope only he can.  Obviously, I cannot tell you of the details, but, I am renewed by her faith despite all the trials she has endured…this young lady has a faith that is nothing short of hope-filled in a God who is majestic!

Have you really read Psalm 8?  Go back and do it again.  Listen to the words…When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them,  mortals that you care for them?’  Let me ask once again…what is your hope?  When you are feeling oppressed…what is your hope?  Who is Jesus to you?  Is Jesus your hope – yesterday, today and tomorrow?  

The Paths we Choose

Genesis 48-50
Proverbs 7
Matthew 13:1-23

How is everyone doing on their journey of the Bible in a year? I am applauding those of you who have said “yes!” to this challenge!

Today’s readings all speak about the paths that we are offered in life and the paths that we take based on that.

Let’s start with Joseph.

The story of Joseph begins when he is just a boy. Life happened to him, he had no choice when his brothers sold him into slavery nor when he was accused of attempted rape.

Has life ever happened to you to the point where you feel completely lost, desolate, and hopeless?

Joseph’s life continues to be painful for a while longer; however God saves him and uses him to save Egypt. This all comes to a beautiful end when Joseph says “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).

While the path that Joseph was on for so long looked bleak, God saw a different path–an entire picture and journey. He saw what would happen in the end and it was good. Joseph could have lost faith at any point along the journey and would we, as humans, have blamed him? But he didn’t. He stayed faithful to God and continued to hope for what seemed impossible.

Furthermore we look at the proverb guarding against adultery. Certainly it can be taken at face value to mean only avoid the adulteress woman; however would it surprise anyone if the proverb was a warning against all temptation? Visually speaking, an attractive woman with a ready bed is a brasher image than a bottle of vodka–but to an alcoholic is that bottle not just as beautiful and tempting as the woman?

This proverb is telling us to not walk the path of temptation. The man in the proverb willfully walked into sin and it caused his destruction. This proverb is saying sin is our destruction. Does that sound familiar?

Be careful, friends, of the paths you choose. For me, if I begin to question whether a decision is “okay” or “bad” I usually already know the answer… it’s bad. Listen to that small voice, it’s attempting to protect you from whatever great loss you are about to walk right into.

Lastly we have the parable of the seeds. We must choose to be rooted. How often have you found hope in the Gospel only to have that hope snatched away by the enemy or a tragedy as Jesus warns? I know my hopes have been squandered when I was not properly grounded and rooted.

Do not be disheartened, friends. If you are struggling to understand any part of The Word or The Message or anything at all you are surrounded by people who love you and are willing to converse with you on those those topics! Grow roots in community, in prayer, and with a devout heart.

You can do this!

With love,
Karissa

Blessings abound

Genesis 26-27  Psalm 4 Matthew 6

Today I was torn as I was looking at the passages I had before me. Genesis is about Abraham learning a lesson on humility and obedience, Isaac and Esau start a family feud over the blessings of the firstborn. The Psalm is about trusting God at all times, and Matthew is about living right before God by looking out for the people around you.

As I was contemplating the texts before me, I just had to pick Matthew, in part because of the Lord’s Prayer but also because of the way the prayer is introduced to us. The Lord’s Prayer is known to us and indeed serves as a model of praying for our devotional life. From it, we learn about a God that cares for our lives, a forgiving and gracious God. But even more so the prayer is spoken in the context of living righteously carrying for the poor and the needy, living with a right sense of what is important, right priorities and depending on God.

You see the Lord’s prayer is not just a magical prayer, some special chant that we have access to that will somehow change and transform everything about who we are. The Lord’s prayer is a creed, a deep conviction that molds our life and brings balance to who we are. It is about understanding who we are in the light of having faith in God. It is about letting the heaven touch our hearts and minds.

When we allow ourselves to be those citizens of heaven, we learn to rely on who God is and live out in faith. Now that is the difficult part of Christian life. Something that can be described as a process, a step by step a learning of the heart. But is something in our grasp.

Today I pray that as each one of us is wrestling with life, we might be able to learn just like Abraham or Esau or Jacob and be able to rely on God for everything we need.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

 

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]
    but deliver us from the evil one.[b]

Day of Reflection: God as Healer

Today’s day of reflection asks us to contemplate “God as Healer”.  We’ve read through nearly all of Genesis and close to half of Matthew’s Gospel.  What comes to your mind when you think about “God as Healer”?

Would you be willing to share your thoughts on our readings thus far or your thoughts on “God as Healer”?

Blessings in Christ!

Here are the readings for the upcoming week:

Monday, January 15, 2018 Genesis 45-47 Psalm 7 Matthew 12 Bo
Tuesday, January 16, 2018 Genesis 48-50 Proverbs 7 Matthew 13:1-23 Karissa
Wednesday, January 17, 2018 Exodus 1-2 Psalm 8 Matthew 13:24-58 Dale
Thursday, January 18, 2018 Exodus 3-4 Proverbs 8 Matthew 14 Craig H.
Friday, January 19, 2018 Exodus 5-6 Psalm 9 Matthew 15 Craig R.
Saturday, January 20, 2018 Exodus 7-8 Proverbs 9 Matthew 16 Karl
Sunday, January 21, 2018 DAY OF REFLECTION: God as Provider

Brotherly Love & A Lighter Load

Since I inadvertently posted this earlier this week instead of scheduling it at the correct time, here it is again.

 

Genesis 43-44, Proverbs 6, Matthew 11

NRSV

CEB

The Message

Genesis 43-44 Summary

After having been wronged by his jealous brothers, Joseph is having a little “fun” with his brothers. Famine has come across the land, just as Joseph had predicted. Chapter 42 states that famine covered the world, so people from all over came to Egypt for grain. The brothers have been to visit Egypt once already, and were greeted by their brother, whom they did not recognize, but he recognized them.

In chapters 43 and 44, the brothers make a second visit for more grain, but at Joseph’s request (demand?), they bring their youngest brother, Benjamin, with them. Israel rejects the idea of Benjamin going, but Judah steps in and agrees to look out for Benjamin. As the brothers reach Egypt and stand before Joseph a second time, Joseph is overcome by emotion at seeing Benjamin. Joseph then gives grain to the brothers, but hides a silver cup in Benjamin’s sack, setting him up to be stopped and questioned after they hit the road to go back home. The hidden silver cup is found in Benjamin’s sack of grain, and he is arrested and taken back to Joseph. Keeping his word, Judah makes a plea to Joseph to release Benjamin to spare Israel the pain of losing his youngest son.

Spoiler alert!! – Things are about to change for the brothers and Israel in the next couple chapters.

Proverbs 6 Summary

This proverb offers a few different lessons. The first 5 verses warn against making agreements with someone without first thinking about what you are agreeing to. If you find yourself in this type of situation, get out of it any way that you are able to. Beg and plea. Or, in the words of one of my favorite movies…Run away! Run away!

The second lesson in verses 6-11 warn against laziness. This particular descriptor is a word that I don’t understand. We, as humans, were made to work. Nothing good comes as a result of laziness. As this proverb states, no one has to tell the ant what to do, but it still spends all of its days storing up food for the winter. If you are waiting around for someone else to tell you what to do, it is probably time to figure out on your own what needs to be done. Take charge!

Verses 12-15 tell the tale of what is to come for those people we know who I will call phony. You know the ones…they are nice to your face, but talk about everyone behind their backs. As it describes them in The Message translation, they talk out of both sides of their mouth. Avoid being one of these types of people, because, as the saying goes around, what goes around comes around.

Next is a list of 7 characteristics that God isn’t a big fan of, and you can read that list in the passage on your own. The final lesson comes in the remaining 15 verses, regarding adultery. With all that has come to light in the media in the past few months regarding “hostile working environments,” I think there are many people in this world that need this lesson. Choose to have an affair, and it WILL catch up with you eventually. It may only take a few hours to get caught, or it may take years, but it will eventually catch up with you, and the price to pay will be significant.

Matthew 11

Jesus is asked by John the Baptist, through John’s followers, if He is the Messiah. In true Jesus fashion, rather than give a direct answer, he responds by basically saying “Look around, see what has been going on. There is your answer right in front of you.” Then Jesus tells the surrounding crowds about the greatness of John the Baptist, and that he IS the prophet spoken about that was to prepare the way for the Messiah. Next, Jesus warns against cities (people) who choose not to repent their sins. The destruction of those who refuse to repent will be judged even more harshly than the people of Sodom.

But I think the most important set of verses in this Matthew passage is the last 3 verses. 28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” In the previous few verses, Jesus condemns the religious leaders of the time and their self righteousness. Then He closes out the chapter by basically saying that the rules that are being enforced by the religious leaders are a heavy load to carry, but to follow Jesus is much simpler. Rather than being judgmental and pointing out all of the flaws of the average everyday person, Jesus gives us grace. He still loves us and accepts us, even when we falter.

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