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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

March 2018

Finding peace at the table

Deuteronomy 23-24 Psalm 35 Luke 22

Luke 22 recalls the last meal Jesus had with his disciples. We are so familiar with the story, we know the players, the events, the preparation, the fellowship around the meal and the betrayal. As Christians, we remember that meal often as part of our worship. We come and partake in the meal set before us, we bring our faith forth as we take the bread and the wine, we leave in faith knowing that God is with us.

But there is so much more to this sacrament than a simple exercise of faith. The Lord supper is about forgiveness of sins, about finding hope in the promises of Christ. The Lord supper is about remembering the future, yes you read that right, at the table, we are called to remember the things to come, a time when we will be at a celestial table in the presence of our savior, it is Christ’s promise to us of the things to come. As often as you do this – remember me.

But the Lord’s supper is a call to tomorrow, a call for you and me to step out in faith and proclaim who Christ is. The supper we celebrate in our worship on a Sunday morning is a call to Monday morning fearless living, trusting in God and proclaiming through word and deed who Christ is. The blessing received on Sunday is the blessing to be proclaimed in the days to come.

Today I pray that each one of us can step out in faith and live out the life we witness in Christ.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

What Makes You Anxious?

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Deuteronomy 21-22, Ecclesiastes 2:1-17, Luke 21

Deuteronomy 

In these two chapters, more instructions are given about living a life that is worthy of God. Most of these instructions are related to marriage, divorce, and sexual relationships. Most of the offenses listed in these chapters have a sentence of death by stoning. In each of the instances where a rule has been given, followed by the sentence of stoning, the paragraph ends with the words “You must purge the evil from among you.”

The dictionary defines purge as “rid (someone) of an unwanted feeling, memory, or condition.” God instructs us to rid evil from our memory. We live in a fallen world, and there is evil lurking around the corner. But we can purge our hearts of evil thoughts by turning to God. I am reminded of our current Max Lucado book study, that in every situation, turn to God in prayer. If we are to purge evil from our hearts, we need to go to God in prayer. Give thanks to God for his sovereignty and his grace, which can wash away our sins.

Ecclesiastes

We live in a world where materialism is rampant. I think of the old Queen song “I Want It All,” in which Freddy Mercury and crew sing “I want it all, and I want it now.” There are many people who are never completely content. Not too long after they have that shiny new object of happiness, it’s luster slowly fades and it is no longer good enough. A common place where I see this all the time is with cell phones. Apple comes out with their latest smartphone version, only to come out with an even newer version within a year. All of a sudden, last year’s model seems so obsolete; so outdated.

The writer of Ecclesiastes tried out living like this. Anything that he wanted, he got. Huge chunk of property, complete with gardens and livestock…CHECK! Huge house…CHECK! Servants…CHECK! You get the idea. And despite having seemingly all that he could ever possibly want, it still wasn’t enough. There was always a new hole to fill.

The same happens with people in modern times. Just look at the modern celebrity life. Read any tabloid magazine, and you will read of stars who have all of this stuff, and yet suffer from depression. You will find those who, despite all of their wealth, squander it all away and end up in bankruptcy court. Trying to fill the hole with “stuff” isn’t the answer. We will never be able to keep up with the Joneses (whoever they are). The hole that exists in our hearts is waiting to be filled by God.

Luke

Much of this passage involves Jesus telling what all will happen before the end of times. Something that comes up more than once in this passage, again, is the word anxiety. Jesus says that all of these things that will happen before his return, but not to worry. But, those of us who have faith and believe that God will deliver us from the evil things yet to come, have nothing to fear. God has our back!

Summary

In each of these passages, we see a theme that is consistent with our lenten study of anxiousness. This is a characteristic that I have struggled with throughout my life, and even more so as an adult. But, when I get into a funk of seemingly overwhelming anxiety, I come back to God, through prayer and study. And when I recenter myself in Him, my anxiety dissipates. Lust. Greed. Envy. Pride. All of these things can well up feelings of anxiety. We will never fill the hole with these things. But, through prayer and petition, we can bring these to God and request that they be taken away from us, and be replaced with God’s love, grace, and mercy.

Jesus Is Our Refuge

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Deuteronomy 19-20

Psalms 34

Luke 20

Deuteronomy 19-20  Continuing in the establishment of laws, Moses declares that three cities of refuge are to be established in all the area that Jehovah gives Israel.  When a man dies by accident caused by another the perpetrator  can run to the city of refuge to await a fair judgement.  The blood avenger hired to pursue him may not enter the city of refuge.  This is a picture of the coming Messiah who indeed is our refuge that we may flee to Him, escaping damnation.

Psalms 34  A psalm concerning Jehovah, our provider and deliverer. I will bless the LORD, my soul will boast in the LORD, I sought the LORD and He answered me, and delivered me, the poor cried , and the LORD heard him, the angel of the LORD surrounds me, O taste and see that the LORD is good.  Verse 22 ” The LORD redeems the souls of His servants, And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.”

Luke 20  Jesus gives a parable concerning the setting aside of Israel, and the coming age of the gentiles, which it seems the hearers understand and are duly offended, saying “May it never be!”   Jesus responds, “What then is this that is written, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, This became the chief corner stone.’ (Psalms 118.22)  Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter like dust.”  Isaiah 8.9 gives us a glimpse of what is being stated here, to Israel a believing remnant, is told, “Be broken, O peoples, and be shattered…” Vs. 14 “Then He, (the LORD of Hosts,) shall become a sanctuary; But to both houses of Israel, a stone to strike, and a rock to stumble over.”  This coming Messiah will be a source of living water, (a stone to strike,)  and/or  a stumbling stone on whom they can trip.  So it is better to be broken and contrite before the LORD than to let your pride lead you to a crushing destruction.

In a discussion this last week the conclusion was reached that todays generation is so very opposed to repentance.  The concept that Jesus loves is stated so often with out restrictions that it seems almost repulsive to suggest a person has sins he needs to admit to.  Isaiah 6. 5 in his vision of the throne room of Jehovah, Iscried out “Woe is me, for I am ruined!  Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips.” Romans 3.23 ” For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Luke 18.10 “But the tax gatherer standing some distance away, was not willing to lift his eyes to heaven but beat upon his breast, saying ‘God be merciful to me, the sinner.’ ”  Pride was the cause of Israel’s rejection of Jesus, don’t let it get a grip on you.

Karl

Sunday Reflection: God as Helper

Friday evening was a night filled with wonderful and, more importantly, hopeful music.  Tari, Joan, Ed and I headed to Olivet Nazarene University to hear ‘I Am They’ and ‘Casting Crowns’.  Maybe some of you just stopped reading…don’t get me wrong here, I love both traditional and contemporary music but what makes a night of contemporary music so special is to hear the personal witness of those present.  Some might call it performance…but these 2 groups clearly understand it as worship…they were leading 3000 others in worship of the God we claim as Creator of the Universe and who provided a Savior in Jesus Christ – a Savior to a world still very much in need of HELP…

Today, we ponder “God as Helper”…many try so hard much of the time to make it on their own in this world.  Truth be told, so many today both hold this expectation of themselves…and others.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t work hard.  I’m not saying that success is a bad thing either.  My question to you today is this…have you asked God what your next step is…to ask Him for help in whatever your next step might be?  Are you able to trust, that when things aren’t going your way…when you don’t know in which direction you should turn…when you are hurting or the diagnosis is not what you expected…are you able to surrender to the God Casting Crowns sang about last night?  When you are struggling for answers…when you are in the middle of a storm…when there are no more tears to cry…are you able to Just Be Held?

 

And if Casting Crowns isn’t your thing, that’s ok…maybe this Psalm (#121) will help you understand the depth of God’s help…

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
    from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time on and forevermore.

Be at peace in the God made real in Jesus the Christ and the presence of his Holy Spirit today and forever more…allow yourself to….Just be Held.


This Coming Week’s Reading:

3/19/18 Deuteronomy 19-20 Psalm 34 Luke 20 Karl
3/20/18 Deuteronomy 21-22 Ecclesiastes 2:1-17 Luke 21 Matt
3/21/18 Deuteronomy 23-24 Psalm 35 Luke 22 Bo
3/22/18 Deuteronomy 25-26 Ecclesiastes 2:18-26 Luke 23 Karissa
3/23/18 Deuteronomy 27-28 Psalm 36 Luke 24 Dale
3/24/18 Deuteronomy 29-30 Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 John 1 Craig H.

Offerings, SCOI, Priests, & Prophets

Deuteronomy 17-18     Ecclesiastes 1:12-18     Luke 19

Review:  Offerings are to be as perfect as can be found (17:1)…Those who worship anything other than God are to be stoned to death (17:2-7)…A Supreme Court is set-up in Jerusalem, of Levitical priests (17:8-13), to decide homicide cases…Concerning a king (17:14-20)…Regarding Levite priests (18:1-8)…Messing around with spirits is forbidden (18:9-14)…Prophets, like Moses will be raised up (18:15-22).

Analysis:  Officials (16:18-18:22), they are judges, kings, priests, and prophets, are appointed to make Israel’s religion, as informed by the Torah, a societal reality…One is tempted to keep the best animals for one’s self (17:1)…Apostates, witnessed by more than one person (17:6) shall be stoned to death…How many piles of rocks would we have, laying around, if this edict were a reality today?  Just sayin’…Israel’s king, chosen by God (17:15), is subject to the Law (17:16-20), like everyone else…He is not to multiply his horses, precious metals (17:16), or wives (17:17)…In other words, he is not to act like the typical king…The Levite priest assignment is to actualize or make a reality the Torah (18:5) in the lives of all of Israel…Eight banned practices (18:10-11) are fairly common and even endorsed by some nowadays…Many modern news commentators do not meet the requirements of a godly prophet (18:21-22) and yet they are allowed to continue  broadcasting…One might summarize that Christ is the prophet Moses speaks to (18:15-19).  This is made clearer in the NT (Jn. 1:19-22, 6:14, Acts 3:22-26, 7:35-37).

 

Let Blessings Abound

Deuteronomy 15-16, Psalm 33, Luke 18 (NIV) 

The common theme we find in these passages is that God blesses that his people may be a blessing to others.  God loves us that we may show love.  God gives to us that we may give to others.  The Lord is righteous and just that we may demonstrate right living and show justice to others.

Practically, in every day life, God’s blessings to his people were to be made available to those who were in need.  At the end of every 7 years debts were to be canceled and people given a new start.  The poor were to be provided for as faithful people were to be openhanded and to lend freely to those in need.  People of faith were not to be hardhearted or tightfisted.   Those who sold themselves to work for someone else were to be set free every 7 years.  Some of this may be hard for us to imagine today.  How could people of faith live like this?

They needed to remember the Lord their God who brought them out of the land of slavery into freedom; into the promised land.  Worship and honoring the God from whom all blessings flow would provide strength, guidance, and joy for life. Understanding that people aren’t perfect, they were to appoint judges who would fairly judge any disputes.  Injustice, partiality, and bribery were not part of God’s design for Israel’s legal system; nor our own society, for that matter.

God wants us to worship him and live in righteous and justice.

Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous;
    it is fitting for the upright to praise him.

The Lord loves righteousness and justice;
    the earth is full of his unfailing love.

In Jesus’ ministry, shown to us in Luke, we learn that God will “bring about justice for his chosen ones.”  We are cautioned that God blesses the humble.  Jesus looks for child-like faith and a deep, deep trust in him, rather than possessions.

Sacrificial service is noticed by our Lord who said, “Truly I tell you,…no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”

Then Jesus talks about his own sacrifice to come as he predicts his suffering, death, and resurrection.  Still on his way to Jerusalem and great sacrifice, Jesus has time for a poor blind beggar who cries out for mercy.  We might think about who we notice or fail to notice on our way to whatever we consider important.

Today, may you find great joy In the blessings of God, express your gratitude in worship, and show your compassion and love for others you meet.  We are blessed to make God’s blessings abound.  Amen! (Yes, may it be so!)

 

 

How are you informed?

Today’s Passages in 1 Link:  Deuteronomy 13-14, Ecclesiastes 1:1-11, Luke 17

Today’s passages got me thinking about who and/or what informs you and I and it brought to mind the famous line of the TV series, the X-files…”The Truth is Out There”.

In a world of 24/7 news reporting…with news flashes coming to our computers and cell phones, it is nearly impossible to not have someone or something trying to inform you.  Many are capable of speaking or writing persuasively and directing you and I to their perspective including the wrong direction.  How, as in the words of Deuteronomy, do you know the difference between those telling you the truth or the words of a false prophet?

The Israelites were warned about the influence of false prophets and those trying to get them to worship other gods.  Why?  Because the temptation to stray from what we know as the truth from God can sneak up on us.  Whispers of doubt or the one with the loudest voice – we can find ourselves easily distracted.

This line of thought leads me into the passage from Ecclesiastes – a very interesting book whose main perspective is found in verse 2 of todays reading which basically says that all human accomplishments and possessions are ultimately meaningless – only the pursuit of God’s truths bring real satisfaction in life.  Again, discerning real truth is a difficult thing for us but knowing who and what informs us is critical in life.

I think the stories of faith and the lepers help to reinforce this…knowing the truth is important – all the lepers were healed.  One, however, saw…noticed….let it sink in….then responded.  This leper not only saw what happened, but he recognized the source of the sight – the reign and power of Jesus.  Because he saw what happened, the leper is thankful – he worships and praises God with a loud voice causing him to change direction – turning away from his original plan of seeking the priest and instead, returning to seek Jesus – the source of truth for him.

Pay attention to what informs you – the news?  Radio?  TV?  Friends?  Family?  Do you seek the truth of God to inform you?  Try it each and every day – make it the focus of your day and see if your perspective is enlightened!!

 

 

From Generation to Generation

Deuteronomy 11-12
Psalm 32
Luke 16

Do you remember sitting at the feet of your grandmother listening to stories from her childhood? Maybe even your father would put you on his lap and retell some family tale from a long time ago. The art of story-telling is as old as time and interwoven in the very nature of humanity. It is history, truth, and familiarity. One of my favorite quotes I found in a textbook introduction and it says “Literature makes visible the invisible and at times unfathomable reality that we are all connected.”

I love stories. This is why every month I bring people to the Wildfire Youth Group to share their stories with our teens. Every testimony is a story of God’s goodness.

This is a practice commanded to us in Deuteronomy 11:19-20. While that verse commands us to teach the commandments does not Jesus say the two greatest commandments are to love God and love your neighbor? How better to teach kids than through your life experiences and how God has rescued you. Jesus taught through story all the time, as seen in our Luke passage today!

If you have ever had a moment like David in Psalm 32 imagine the power that story has to influence. Psalm 32:5 says, “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” That is all of our testimonies. We sinned, we asked God’s forgiveness, and He washed us white as snow though our sin was red as crimson.

I encourage you to tell people how you have been saved by Grace. Parents, I encourage you to begin this practice in your home. Be open and vulnerable, allow your children to see imperfections and hurts. The more cracks you have the more the Light can shine through you. Remember, we have been called to be bold and courageous!

Many Blessings, friends;
Karissa

Seek God First

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Deuteronomy 7-8, Psalm 31, Luke 14

Deuteronomy 7-8

These two chapters can be summed up as obey God’s commands, and He will bless you. If you forget His commands, He will allow for your destruction. In Chapter 8 verses 2-5 we read “2 Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.” God allowed His people to spend 40 years in the wilderness to humble their hearts and remind them that they cannot survive this world alone. They needed God in their lives to have what they NEEDED. And the same is for us. We will be led to the wilderness throughout our lives as a lesson that we need God in our lives. WIthout Him, we will falter. But with Him to guide us, we will be led to the land of milk and honey.

Psalm 31

We can find refuge in God. He will be our protector against our enemies. We might be surrounded on all sides by people who wish to see us fail miserably. Yet, we can find hope and redemption so long as we do not forsake God.

Luke 14

In the parable of the great banquet, the master of the house invites his distinguished guests to his house for a big party. He has prepared all of the amazing food. The DJ will be there to spin the most popular tunes. There will be lights, fog machines, a disco ball. It will be a red carpet affair. Yet, when the time came for the party to begin, he found all of his invited guests are too busy doing their own thing to show up to this great gathering. So, instead, the host goes out into the streets and invites all of the poorest citizens, those who have nothing to get in the way of their attendance at the party. They are the most humble people, who don’t have possessions to get in their way.

In the same way, there are those in this world who are all too caught up in their own possessions and their own self-glorification. They live a life that says “God who? I don’t need God. Look at all that I have.” Yet, what do they really have? All that they have will get them nowhere when their lives here on Earth come to an end. There is an old saying that says “He who has the most toys still dies.” Accumulating lots of stuff here doesn’t translate into God’s kingdom. The Ancient Egyptian pharaohs filled their tombs with all sorts of goodies they thought they would need in the afterlife. I’m guessing they were disappointed when they got their and realized those possessions meant nothing.

Reflection

In each of these passages, the takeaway that I see is that we need to remember who God is. Psalm 46:10 says “Be still and know that I am God.” I John 15:5, Jesus says “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” We cannot live a life worthy of Christ if we live a life of want and envy. Rather than seeking material goods, seek first the kingdom of God…and all of this will be given to you.

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