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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

February 2018

Go Through the Struggles

Numbers 16-18, Psalm 26, Luke 4

We see the struggle of God’s people and leaders in these passages. In Numbers 16-17, Moses and Aaron’s leadership is challenged.  Three individuals lead 250 Israelite men to oppose Moses and Aaron.  When God becomes angry with the entire assembly of Israel, not just the 250, for all of Israel has been ungrateful and unfaithful to the Lord; Moses prays for God to spare the people.  Moses has a heart of compassion for the people he leads even though they continually grumble about his leadership and are repeatedly unfaithful to God.

Numbers 18 is a description of what the priests and levites do in the life of the community of Israel.

Psalm 26 is a Psalm of David in which David discusses some of the struggles he encounters.  He stays away from the influence of the deceitful, hypocrites, and evildoers.  Instead, David seeks the congregation of God’s people to worship and praise the Lord.  He remains mindful of God’s unfailing love whether life is good or challenging. May we see through our struggles to the light of God’s unfailing love.

In Luke 4 we find Jesus beginning his ministry.  He endures the wilderness struggle with the devil.  Jesus is tempted as we all are and yet he did not yield to temptation as we all do.  The struggle with satan does not end as the devil “left him until an opportune time.”

Jesus faces struggles in his hometown of Nazareth and is rejected.  He is rejected to such an extent it is hard to imagine. The people of his hometown become so furious with Jesus that, “They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff.”  However, thank God, Jesus’ ministry did not end there.  “But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.”  In Mark’s account we read that Jesus “could not do any miracles there,…He was amazed at their lack of faith.”  Can you imagine wanting to throw Jesus off a cliff to end his life?  

Jesus goes to other towns which receive him and there he casts out demons, heals the sick, and teaches.  Having gone through intense struggles, Jesus endures to find people who respond in faith and are amazed at his ministry.  “They tried to keep him from leaving.”

No matter the struggles we face in life may we be people who want God to be present.  May we be those who treasure the love, grace, joy, and presence of Jesus.  He is the One who will never leave us.

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Following the right path…

Today’s Passages (All 1 Link):  Numbers 13-15, Proverbs 25, Luke 3

I’m going to try something a little different today…a simple summary of each section.

Numbers 13-15 tells us that God has a plan for his people to enter into the promised land and, in this case, like many, how the people turn away from the plan for many reasons – fear, difficulty, etc.  Spies were sent to determine the nature of the land itself and determine the strengths and weaknesses of its inhabitants.  What the majority saw overwhelmed them.  Two men had a different perspective, Caleb and Joshua – they believed in the Lord God Almighty and would realize a different outcome in their lives.  Turning away from God has it’s consequences as we see in this passage.  This section concludes with God reminding Moses and Aaron to teach and reinforce what good worship to God looks like for those that would cross over into the promised land.

Proverbs 25 continues perspectives on life – wise sayings in verses 2-7, in particular about the king.  These proverbs applied to all kings of Israel and Judah. God has chosen not to reveal everything about Himself and His plans. This means that kings, to make proper decisions, must investigate matters fully. Whereas God delights in concealing some things, kings delight in being investigative.

Finally, Luke 3 begins with the ministry of John the Baptist who points the way to Jesus.  We see the baptism of Jesus.  The purpose of the baptism was to anoint Jesus with the Spirit and to authenticate Him by the Father for beginning His ministry. Each Person of the Godhead was involved in the activity of the Son on earth, including His baptism. The Son was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended on Him, and the Father spoke approvingly of Jesus. In His baptism Jesus identified Himself with sinners though He was not a sinner.

Closing Prayer for Today:

Father God, with joy and awe we praise you for claiming us as your sons and daughters, and for pouring your Holy Spirit upon us. Help us to prepare this earth for your glory, and shine your light on all your faithful children, for the sake of the one whose birth and baptism brought renewal and transformation to this world, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

 

 

O Merciful God

Numbers 10-12

Psalm 25

Luke 2

While reading Numbers I was again reminded of how much I relate to the Israelites in the desert, how relevant the Old Testament is to me today, and the Mighty Power of God.

In today’s readings the people are tired of eating manna. They want meat and cry out to Moses bemoaning their plight–telling him they wish they were back in Egypt. Understandably so, God gets angry. He gives them so much meat it’s too much then sends a plague. Boom.

Justice served.

Many might believe this type of action lives in contradiction to God in the New Testament. We talk about Grace and Salvation with Jesus. We live on the verse “There is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). How can we reconcile these two Truths?

First, let’s all admit how much we bemoan at God. I would say at least weekly I whine to God about something or another:  I don’t like my clothes, I have a craving for something I can’t name, I don’t want give up a Saturday for service, I don’t understand why friendships can’t last forever, etc… Even if I’m not whining to God in prayer, He knows my thoughts. He knows my heart is beginning to brew against Him and stir into some mirky waters of ungratefulness and pride.

So why am I not given a plague? Why do I receive mercy?

Because God is just and merciful, all at the same time. He is infinitely both and He has always been so.

By His ever present mercy God sent Jesus to die so that His blood may cover my sin. His perfect Justice is still present and has been served because of Jesus. God did not suddenly decided to be merciful and send Jesus, that was always His plan. God did not suddenly decide He was no longer going to cast judgement. A.W. Tozer says it best in his book The Attributes of God when he says (and I’m paraphrasing) God has still cast His judgement and is delaying the execution for the unbelievers. God still put all His perfect justice and judgement on the Lamb of God so that we, as believers, could be given the free gift of Salvation.

Our Gospel reading today in Luke talks about the birth of Jesus and how He brings Salvation! Are you having a hard time wrapping your brain around this whole idea? That’s okay. Most days I do too.

Read the Psalm again and put your trust in the Lord. He is just, merciful, perfect, sovereign, strong, and everything we need.

Many Blessings,
Karissa

Sunday Reflection: God as Faithful

So often Christians talk about being faithful…our faithfulness.  How often, though do you stop to think about God’s faithfulness to not just you, but to ALL of his children…the words from Matthew 5:45, “This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty.” (The Message)

By now you have probably figured out that the Bible reveals that faithfulness is foundational to the character of the God we worship – God’s faithfulness.  And while we can say these words, have we ever stopped for a few minutes to think about just what they mean to not just ourselves but to humanity as well.  Maybe some…based on the number of people I talk with, this is typically after thought.  If we truly believe that God is faithful, then we, as followers of Christ, will live this out in who we are – every day.

This past week, Billy Graham died – many remember the passion and commitment he had for spreading God’s Word to as many as possible.  In his book, “Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well” he spoke of a truth that all of us who deeply know God’s faithfulness should remember:  “…we have forgotten one of the Bible’s central truths; every day — without exception — is a gift from God, entrusted to us to use for HIS glory.  This is true for your woking years , and is equally true for your retirement.”

For today (and everyday), ponder these words.  Know that we love and serve a God who is faithful beyond imagination.  A Loving Father who made himself known to the world in Jesus and who continues today to be alive and active…leading those who claim Him by the Holy Spirit.  God’s faithfulness should yield in each of us a burning passion to be used by Him for His good…His will.  For today, think about the words…God’s Word to us…in Psalm 100:

1  Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth!
 Serve the Lord with celebration!
    Come before him with shouts of joy!
3  Know that the Lord is God—
    he made us; we belong to him.
    We are his people,
    the sheep of his own pasture.
4  Enter his gates with thanks;
    enter his courtyards with praise!
    Thank him! Bless his name!
5  Because the Lord is good,
    his loyal love lasts forever;
    his faithfulness lasts generation after generation.  

Amen.

 

I am an offering

Today’s readings

Numbers 7-9
Proverbs 24
Luke 1

I actually enjoyed reading the listing of all the offerings brought before God. Maybe it was the generosity of each of the tribes that came together to establish the Tabernacle, the place where all the people of Israel were called to come and worship as one, or maybe it was because of the amazing book-keeping.  All kidding aside, their offerings were given with the understanding that it was their best and with a sense of thankfulness for all that God has done for them in Egypt. By placing them in the tent of meeting, the offerings were to be a testimony to the generations to come about who God is, about the character and mercy of God. An offering that spoke to the future, that made an impact for all people that will come and worship as one before God.

As I was reading that I was reminded of Romans 12:1 I appeal to you, therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

The Gospel speaks of Christ being the perfect sacrifice that brought all people before God. In that sacrifice, we all are called to rejoice but also to live out as the testimony of God to today’s world about who God is. Our lives are to be just that: a way that will speak about who God is to a world that needs to hear God’s call.

And that is my prayer for us today, that each day will be an opportunity for each one to speak about the grace we had experience in knowing the sacrifice of Jesus. I pray that each day will be a new offering before God.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

Don’t Lack Faith

09-10-17-daring-faith-six-phases-god-uses-to-grow-your-faith

Numbers 4-6; Psalm 24; Mark 16

I apologize upfront, as I am not reflecting on all of these passages this week due to time constraints. In Mark 16, I want to clue in on one thing in particular. UNBELIEF. All of the closest followers of Jesus, who have been near him throughout his ministry and have learned so much from him, cannot believe that He has risen from the dead. He only foretold this event for his entire ministry, yet, when it finally happened, they didn’t believe that it was possible. It wasn’t until they actually, physically, saw Him, that they FINALLY believed. And, yet, through all of their lack of belief, Jesus still commissioned them to do great things. They were commissioned to spread the Good News. They were to “ cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes in their hands,[e] and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Throughout the Bible, we come across stories of major characters who lacked faith, or who committed horrible acts against humanity. And, yet, despite their “deadly sins,” God still looked upon them with grace and gave them important jobs. Paul stands out to me. Specifically oversaw the execution of early Christians, and we know how God ended up using Paul. The disciples, who walked side by side with Jesus for 3 years, also lacked faith, even though they were regularly in His presence.

If God had grace on these people, despite their shortcomings, how much will his grace be for us. We also fall short on a regular basis. But there is hope because we have a God who loves us.
In closing, and going off script from today’s readings, I come to Philippians 4:4-8, part of the current Lenten study. Despite our shortcomings, be anxious for nothing. Instead, through prayer and supplication, make your feelings known to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will be with you. Our faith may falter from time to time, but God will always be waiting for us to return to Him.

A Royal Priesthood

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Numbers 1-3

Proverbs 23

Mark 15

Numbers 1-3  The LORD spoke to Moses in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the month Iyyer in the  second year after they had come out of Egypt.  Take a census of the sons of Israel.  So Moses counted all the men over 20 years from all the tribes. Then he placed them in the camp according to instructions from YHWH.  He then received instructions for the Levites and their duties were defined, they were to be Priests before YHWH.  Their duties were of high honor as representatives of their nation to YHWH.

Proverbs  23  Here we have warnings about power, wealth, selfishness, foolishness, and drunkenness.  Furthermore we are to desire to make our parents proud of us because of the wisdom we have gained at their behest.

Mark 15  Here is the account of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus, the Son of God, the Annointed One, the Messiah.  Mark depicts the complete disregard the Priests have for the Scriptures.  They are to be representing Israel before YHWH, they had not done that for some time, rather they were using their position to gain more wealth for themselves, along with power, selfishness, foolishness, and many other undesirable qualities.  They had already redefined the rules of the Torah to better themselves, and now conspired to commit murder through the hands of the Romans, simply to reduce the competition they perceived they had from Jesus, who was a threat to their position and power.

Every day we get to make decisions concerning our view of life. Do we love wealth more than Jesus, do we love fame, power, friendships, leisure, travels more than Him.  It sometimes seems silly to ask but, do we wake each morning desiring to be pleasing to our Savior.  What is your first thought each day?  I am working hard at focusing on service to Christ each day, to take the teaching of the scriptures to heart, to be pleasing to God in all that I do and say.   1 Peter 1.13 “Prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”   2.9 “For we are a Chosen Race, a royal priesthood, A Holy Nation, A People for God’s own possession, so that you may declare the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” The scripture teaches the Priesthood of the believer, where, since the veil of the temple was torn in two, which separated  the Holies and the Holy of Holies, there is now no need for the Levitical priesthood

Let’s live like we believe this glorious truth!

Karl

Blessings, Chastisements, & Dedications

Leviticus 26-27     Psalm 23     Mark 14

Review: Laws of the land (26:1-2)…Conditions for being blessed (26:3-13)…Chastisement for disobedience (26:14-15)…Distress (26:16-17)…No rain (26:18-20)…Attack from animals (26:21-22)…Disease (26:23-26)…Famine (26:27-31)…Dispersement (27:32-39)…Even so, the covenant God made with Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3) remains intact (26:40-46)…Regarding persons dedicated to the LORD (27:1-25)…The firstborn belong to God (27:26-27) as do things (27:28-29), land, trees, and animals (27:30-33)…Finally, there is a reminder of Israel’s connection with the LORD by way of  Sinai (27:34).

Analysis:  Chapter 26 needs to be read in conjunction with the Palestinian Covenant (Deut. 30:3-10), having to do with the land the LORD entrusted Israel with…These judgements are described as discipline (26:44-45), in other words God’s intention is to correct His own, not punish…What God has done to those He cares for, He repeats (Prov. 3:11-12, Heb. 12:3-15)…To make a promise to the LORD (27:2-8) meant time in the sanctuary, either the person or a family member…The value of properties (27:16-24) was proportional to the number of years that had to elapse before the Jubilee Year.  It was worth less with the passage of time, as the land reverted to the original owner during said year….These two chapters are typical of OT theology…The dispersement chastisement (27:32-39) has been literally fulfilled at the present day.  Jews populate every country on the face of the earth.

Worship, Wisdom, and Christ’s Return

Leviticus 23-25, Proverbs 22, Mark 13 (NIV)

The worship of God by his people is a theme that spans the Bible from the beginning to the book of Revelation (Revelation 1:4-8, NIV). Here in Leviticus 23 and the beginning of 24 we find many special festivals for remembering and celebrating who God is and what the Lord has done for his people.  They are to build into the fabric of their life worship and celebration of the goodness of God.  We can consider and think about how we are doing in acknowledging the greatness, goodness, and glory of God throughout the week and in each day.  Do we worship the Lord often or somehow, just put that off?

Next in the rest of Leviticus 24 and 25 we read about blasphemy, which is about denying who God is and disparaging the Lord’s name and character.  The punishment was severe and provides insights/background on why the Pharisees and Religious leaders wanted to put Jesus to death.  They saw Jesus as a blasphemer and missed the Messiah in their midst.  They sought to kill him.

The Sabbath Year, every seven years, and the Year of Jubilee, every fiftieth year, are next.  These were to acknowledge the Lordship of God and provide a rest and gift to his people.  The Year of Jubilee is an acknowledgement by God that there will be injustice in the world and hardship so that a family loses their ancestral land over the forty-nine years cited. There was the opportunity for a new start, a fresh start by returning the land to its original owners.  It is interesting to note that Israel never celebrated the Year of Jubilee.  They never put this into practice.

In Proverbs 22 we find much wisdom as we do throughout Proverbs.  Wisdom comes from the Lord and there is much we can learn from God’s word to us in scripture.

2 Rich and poor have this in common:
    The Lord is the Maker of them all.

4 Humility is the fear of the Lord;

19 So that your trust may be in the Lord,
    I teach you today, even you.

Finally, in Mark 13 Jesus weaves together events/things that will happen in the near-future, during the lifetime of those he is speaking to and then in the far-future at the end of time when the “Son of Man” returns.

In 70 A.D. after a rebellion the Romans destroy the temple and level much of Jerusalem, which was devastating to the people and to Israel.  Some day Jesus will return and come again as Lord of all.  However, no matter how many books are written and time tables produced by “prophecy experts” we are given Jesus’ own words about his second coming, Mark 13:32-33,

 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.”

With disciples in every time we can pray, “Come, Lord Jesus, come.”  John in Revelation 21 gives us a glimpse into what the return of Jesus will mean.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

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