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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

March 2018

The thrill of victory…

Today’s Passages (all 1 link):  Joshua 7-8, Ecclesiastes 4:17-16, John 7

Remember the “Wide World of Sports” opening, with the skier taking that astounding fall? That image and Jim McKay’s famous line — “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”.  This is what I think about in the 2 chapters from Joshua today.  It can even apply to the passages from Ecclesiastes and John.  What I mean is this…the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, like an Indy 500 winner or a ski jumper careening out of control, can refer to those on either side of God or you and I depending on the circumstances.

After Jericho came Ai…Israel’s next objective in its path of conquest.  Smaller than Jericho, defeating Ai would lead a path of control for the Israelites.  Joshua made preparations but was unaware of Achan’s misdeed.  Because of Achan, the city of Ai withstood the Israelites…the agony of defeat.  Once Achan was dealt with we find in Chapter 8 that the Israelites fulfill God’s mission regarding the city of Ai…the thrill of victory.

There is a similar message in Ecclesiastes regarding the selfish greed seen in the beginning verses and the advantages of companionship.  In John 7, the agony of defeat is seen in those who stand against Jesus…while the thrill of victory would wait until later in John’s Gospel.

Today, Holy Saturday…is a day for us to think about the words “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” as we remember Good Friday and think once again about the celebration of resurrection tomorrow.  Friends…while we remember we live in the present reality of victory!  Hear the words of our Victor, Jesus the Christ, who has conquered the world…“I am the resurrection and the life.  Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

 

 

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Walking by Faith

Joshua 5-6
Psalm 39
John 6

 

Have you ever felt lost? “Oh sure!” you may say, “I was lost, but now I’m found!”

But what about when you feel lost even as a believer? What about when your marriage is crumbling? Or when your kids have become mini monsters? What about when school doesn’t go as planned, your career changes, you lose your job, you lose your house, or you stop feeling God’s presence? What about that kind of lost?

I’ll be the first to tell you I feel that kind of lost often. I’m twenty-five and single. I have a Bachelor’s degree in English and I live with my mom. I am no where near where I thought I would be when I was twelve years old.

And God’s grace is sufficient through that.

The Joshua passage today is so incredible. I love words, but I don’t think I can articulate the importance of Jericho as well as Pastor Steven can in this sermon (watch 17:47-22:40).

My favorite part is when he says “just because your progress isn’t obvious doesn’t mean your faith isn’t working.” When I saw this sermon I wasn’t working at First Pres. I was interning for free with The Center (God Bless Kelly Corcoran for offering me that position and a beautiful summer spent learning about the Gospel, teen ministry, and how to run a ministry) and thought my life was never going to be more than the rut I was in. I was certain that I had ruined my life (all before the age of twenty-five!).

But I was faithful that God would use me.

Now I’m here. I am honored to serve our teens. It is a blessing that I am able to be the person I needed as a teen. See, my progress was not obvious until August 2017. I thought I was getting nowhere with my degree, my odd jobs, and my personal adult ministry work. The bricks of my Jericho were stationary… but I kept marching.

Have you heard how I got this job? How God orchestrated the entire thing so that I could become part of this family? It’s a rather amazing miracle if I do say so myself.

The Psalm today talks about how our hope is in God alone. My hope is in God. Still, to do this day as I cry out for desires of mine to be filled, I rest in God alone. I am walking by faith–that He is good, that His plan is perfect, and that He knows what I need because He is the bread of life.

Brothers and sisters, do you feel lost today? If so I encourage you to reach out and ask for a friend to walk alongside you as you navigate this fallen world. Sometimes it’s hard for me to look to Jesus–my shame is too great or my pride gets in the way. That’s why I need friends; they point me back to to Truth when I can’t do it on my own.

Yes, sometimes I feel lost; but I am so grateful that I am not alone on this journey. I am grateful for every person who has spoken life into me and those who continue to do it. I am grateful that Jesus calls me Beloved. I am grateful that the Bible is filled with Truths of who I am. I am grateful that Jesus is my guide. I am grateful for a patient God who loves me when I am unloveable, gives me grace when I deserve none, and gives me peace beyond all understanding when I ask. I am grateful for the Passion.

Today is Good Friday. As a dear friend reminded me yesterday:  There is no Easter without Good Friday and there is no resurrection without death. May we spend today in remembrance and praise.

Many Blessings, my friends;
Karissa

Jesus on Authority

Today’s texts

Joshua 3-4 Ecclesiastes 4:1-6 John 5

Today I would like to encourage you to read John 5 focusing on the words of Jesus about the relationship between the Father and the Son and the Son’s authority in this world.

I choose to focus on this tex today in part because of the Maudy Thursday, and the events of the day, Jesus having a last meal with his folowers.

“Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.”

In many ways that is the whole ministry of Christ: revealing who the Father is in a way that the people around him would understand who he is and follow him. How many times did people question who he was? Or what authority he has to cast demons or to heal and forgive sins? And Jesus answers them: The Father sent me.

A simple and yet powerful answer, who I am is who the Father is, what I am doing is what I see the Father doing. I really like that answer. In part because it reminds me of who I am as a follower of Jesus, I am one that He sent, one that he empowered, one that he comissioned to go and show the father’s love.

So today I would encourage you to remember Jesus’s authority and remember that he chooses you to be a reflection of who he is.

Be blessed,

Bo M

Hope for All

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Joshua 1-2, Psalm 38, John 4

A prostitute in Jerhico. King David. An adulterous Samaritan woman. The people of Samaria. A royal official. What do all of these people have in common? They all definitely have their faults. In their respective periods of time, they would not have been looked upon as being model citizens for followers of God. Rahab and Samaritan woman were both adulterers, and we are all very familiar with seventh commandment regarding those sorts of relationships. King David saw to it that Uriah would be killed in action so that he could take Bathsheba as his wife. He also is known to have had several wives. And in the times of Jesus, the Jewish people were as likely to interact kindly with the Samaritan people like a pride of hungry lions at an antelope convention.

But, despite the shortcomings of all of the characters in these passages, God still used THEM to further his kingdom. We see this time and time again throughout the Bible. One of the most important biblical characters, Paul, oversaw the execution of countless Christians, before having his eyes opened. So, if God’s grace and mercy and compassion can bring hope to these characters of the Bible, how much does He have in store for you and me? I would say quite a bit.

Right in line with the last chapter or two of “Anxious for Nothing” by Max Lucado, the things of the past for us are just that; in the past. We cannot hold on to our past mistakes. Nor can we give much concern to what may come in the future. Read in Matthew 6:26-30 what Jesus had to say about concerns for the future. All we have is the here and now. We can leave our faults of the past and our worries about the future with God, and trust that He will take care of all of that for us. Therefore, we can simply live for the here and now and do our best to live a life worthy of Christ.

Succession & Song

Deuteronomy 31-32     Psalm 37     John 2

Review:  Moses is 120 years old and appoints Joshua as his successor (31:1-8)…Moses then re-pens the torah (31:9-13) and encourages it’s reading…Joshua is commissioned in a tent meeting (31:14-15, 23) to lead Israel…The LORD informs Moses of Israel’s ensuing apostasy (31:16-21)…Moses composes a song against her (31:22)…The Levites are called out for future rebellions (31:26-29)…Moses’ song (31:30-32:44) appeals to heaven and earth to witness (32:1) and implores it’s teaching to spread (32:2)…Israel is God’s own (32:8-9)…Israel has been led to a fertile land (32:10-14) but looked to it’s gods under rocks (32:15-18)…Others are used to punish Israel (32:22-27), yet these do not understand that their deities do them harm (32:28-35)…Israel is handed over to no god (32:37-39), but still sword protected (32:40-43)…Moses is ordered to Mount Nemo (32:48-52) to see the promised land and to die.

Analysis:  Moses writes “this torah” and hands it over to the Levites who are to recite it every 7 years at the Feast of Tabernacles to make sure Israel knows and understands it (31:9-13, cp. 17:18-19).  This is the definitive required reading…The Song of Moses amounts to a legal document with it’s witnesses (32:1-3), case statement (32:4-6), prosecution (32:7-14), indictment (32:15-18), and judgement (32:19-25).  It is a prophetic accusation…If Israel betrays God (32:15, 18, 30-32, 37), it is guilty and will suffer consequences like abandonment (32:19-27)…According to a note in my Bible, this Jeshurun (32:15) means an “upright” or ideal Israel that falls into idol worship (32:16-18)…Israel is repeatedly reminded of the primary position of the LORD in their existence (32:39, cp. Isa. 43:11, 45:5-6. 48:12).

 

Sunday Reflection: God as Peace

What do you think of when you consider “God as Peace”?  Starting simply, you can either think of this as living peacefully with others.  While a very good thing, much of our Bible wants us to understand something different…the peace of God…the peace that God places in those who believe in him.  This is the peace I’d like for you to consider today…the Peace of God.

Consider this passage as you think about the storms in your life...”And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)  We are not without problems.  Jesus does not promise to calm every storm in your life.  Jesus does promise to calm you in the storms of your life!


This Coming Week’s Reading:

3/26/18 Deuteronomy 31-32 Psalm 37 John 2 Craig R.
3/27/18 Deuteronomy 33-34 Ecclesiastes 3:9-22 John 3 Karl
3/28/18 Joshua 1-2 Psalm 38 John 4 Matt
3/29/18 Joshua 3-4 Ecclesiastes 4:1-6 John 5 Bo
3/30/18 Joshua 5-6 Psalm 39 John 6 Karissa
3/31/18 Joshua 7-8 Ecclesiastes 4:17-16 John 7 Dale

The Way of Life

Deuteronomy 29-30, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, John 1 (NIV)

There is the way of life that brings life to us and to others and there is a way of living that brings death and darkness and disappointment.  Moses makes this clear to the people of Israel just as they are about to enter the Promised Land.  Loving the Lord God and treating others as God desires brings life, joy, hope, and so much more.

“See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.  For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them,  I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess” (Deuteronomy 30:15-18). 

Ecclesiastes reminds us that “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:…” (3:1).   I think of “a time to be born” as I am invited to baptize children or see infants baptized in worship.  This week I am reminded that there is “a time to die” as I prepare for three funerals in the next four days. 

And yet even in death there can be life for we worship and serve the Risen Christ.  Thank God for sending Jesus to us and to all the world, which see in Chapter 1 of John’s Gospel.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth…Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:14, 16-17). 

In Jesus there is the way that leads to life.  When we choose Jesus we choose the life that is truly life and light; and we walk away from the way of death, darkness, and disappointment.  Jesus is “The light [which] shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).  And Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6).

Choose life this day in all you do, say, and think.  Live in the Light and Love of the Christ.  Choose Life!

A real foundation…

Today’s Reading (all 1 link):  Deuteronomy 27-28, Psalm 36, Luke 24

In Deuteronomy 27-28, we see a transition to what is known as the blessings and the curses i the context of covenant renewal with the people.  In Israel’s history, it was necessary to call the nation to renewals of covenant commitment and obedience.  Such renewals usually occurred at key points in history…like preparation for entering the Promised Land.  This is what Moses is doing as he gives directions for a ceremony for the covenant renewal that would occur when the people entered the Promised Land.  Moses then returned to the current point in time by establishing the blessings and curses of the covenant.  Blessings were promised for faithfulness to the renewal of covenant and curses were for disobedience.

We find a parallel in Psalm 36…where blessings were promised for faithfulness, we find the source of blessing in Psalm 36.  “How precious is your steadfast love; all people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings…for with you is the fountain of life; in your life we see light.” (36:7-9 paraphrased).  We realize our dependence on God.

Lastly, in Luke 24 we find, albeit a week early in our journey through Lent, the foundation for our ultimate hope.  We realize that the ultimate blessing happened because of the cross and the empty tomb.  We realize that we need not worry about trying to rely on our own efforts.  The resurrection of Jesus is at the very core of Christian history.  On this foundation, the Church is built.  Many religions rely on rule following – on ethical parameters, etc.  The Christian faith…the very Church of Jesus Christ has its foundation on a God who became human and who literally died for his people – this God…this Jesus, was raised from the dead in power and glory – to be the one head of the Church – a Church that will never die.  We are reminded of this time and again – every time we break the bread of life and drink from the cup of grace…

As we enter into what we know as Holy Week, please be reminded that our dependence…our foundation is not on ourselves but with the one God who loved his creation so much that he chose to enter into our time and make himself known in Jesus the Christ – the one who lives on yet today and tomorrow by the presence of his Holy Spirit and who will return again one joyous day.  My hope is that you and I will be able to live out all our days on this earth in a manner captured in this quote by Billy Graham…“But I look forward to heaven…most of all, I look forward to seeing Christ and bowing before Him in praise and gratitude for all he has done for us, and for using me on this earth by His grace…just as I am.”

 

This is Amazing Grace

Deuteronomy 25-26
Ecclesiastes 2:18-26
Luke 23

This morning on my way to work I was listening to Shine FM (89.7), or K-Love (99.1), or WBGL (104.7) and Phil Wickham’s “This is Amazing Grace” came on. For me this song has a special connection because on January 25, 2015 I was baptized while the worship band played this song in the background. To me this song represents freedom, love, and hope. So I did what I do best when feeling sentimental:  I cried.

Then I read today’s passages. Luke 23 is about Christ’s death. This Bible reading was followed by a staff meeting where we talked about Palm Sunday and my heart began to ache in remembrance. Jesus was greeted as a king and then days later He was crucified. He was stripped, tortured, and hung on the cross. For us.

The Deuteronomy passage talks about laws and about tithes. It specifically states that the foreigners, the widows, and the fatherless will be given a portion of the produce so that they may satisfied.  Did not Jesus’s death fulfill this law? He is the Bread of Life and He came so that the outcasts may be loved the way God always intended them to be loved.

The Ecclesiastes passage talks about working for something you can’t keep. The author mentions that someone may labor with wisdom and then a fool inherits the that fruit. Again, is this not Jesus? He suffered immensely and was humiliated so that Jews, Greeks, and Gentiles may find freedom. He is the wise and we are the fools, always chasing after fleeting desires only to come back to a place of repentance and grace. We gain His fruit.

This life we are living is fueled by Amazing Grace.

I want all who are reading to take a moment and think about this Truth. I want you to know how deeply loved you are by the King of Kings.

Many Blessings,
Karissa

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