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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

April 2018

Life Without Abandon

1 Samuel 1-3; Ecclesiastes 9:1-10; Acts 4

1 Samuel 1-3

In this passage, we see the calling of birth and calling of Samuel. Samuel’s mother, Hannah, was barren for many years, and prayed to God for many years in hopes of giving birth to a son. Her prayers were eventually granted. After the young child was weaned, he was given to the Lord at the temple, where the priest, Eli, took him under his wing. When enough time had passed, Samuel was called by the Lord.

Ecclesiastes 9:1-10

Here, we see what I will refer to as one of only two certainties in life; you know, death and taxes. In this case, we are reminded that death is a certainty, no matter if you live a life of good or evil. And those who are “good” or who swear allegiance to God are not much different than those who shun God. There is evil in all of us…sin. We can’t hide from it until we are dust. So, who are we to judge who is and who isn’t evil? Judgment should be left to God, and God alone.

Acts 4

Peter and John have been teaching and healing in the name of Jesus. They have just healed a crippled man and have been jailed for doing so in the name of Jesus. The man they healed is in his 40’s, which in those days, was a very ripe old age for the most part. The high priest and the Pharisees put Peter and John on trial and make the request that they no longer do acts in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John hold their ground tell them they cannot stop. Finding nothing that they could actually charge Peter and John with, Caiaphas let them go. Upon release, the disciples and new believers of The Way pray to God, in the name of Jesus, to guide them so that they live out His purpose for them. And the Holy Spirit comes over them and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

Reflection

God uses ordinary, everyday people to do extraordinary things. Hannah was just an ordinary woman who was unable to have children for the longest time, but then gave birth to one of the most important prophets of the Old Testament. Peter and John were just commoners of their day; fishermen. And God called on them to heal the crippled, among other things. Even the highest ranking Jewish officials, the Pharisees, couldn’t make sense of how such ordinary people could do these things.

 

So, here we all are, seemingly ordinary people. But God has a plan for us all to do His will to bring Him glory. We may falter at times; we definitely will all fall short time and time again of the expectations. But we live in grace and are forgiven of our sins, so we can live a life worth living. Are you living life without abandon?

Look at Us

Are you ready?

Ruth 3-4

Psalm 48

Acts 3

The book of Ruth tells a very interesting story about a Moabite women who married an Israelite man, then became attached to his mother after his untimely demise. They then returned to Israel and she was eventually lawfully redeemed to a relative of her husband, and was therefore brought into the lineage of Jesus. The biggest prophetic picture here is the act of redemption.  She was bought with a price, she was placed into Israelite heritage through the compassion of another.  She did not earn it, or merit it, she was redeemed.

Fast forward to the book of Acts, just weeks after Christ’s ascension, the day of Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Peter, with the eleven, starts defending the uniqueness of their being filled with the Spirit and speaking in languages they had no way of knowing,  thus being accused of drunkenness.  He calls for repentance of sins and baptizing in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.  He reached three thousand that day.

Now in Chapter three of Acts, a lame man encounters Peter.  Note that the man is carried by his friends to the gate of the temple called Beautiful, which tells us of the compassion the community has for it’s disabled.  Every time we read of Jesus encounter with beggars, we must understand that its their friends that  have brought them there, and at the end of the day will take them home.  As this man is calling out for alms, which gives the passers by an opportunity to show mercy, and he to receive that mercy, which  reveals the Hebrew view of giving and community.  To show mercy is in the Law, and is not considered a burden but an opportunity.  As Peter passes by the man cries out with eyes looking downward, a humbling posture, Peter says “Look at us!”  A cry of worth, or value of the person. “I don’t have any money but I have something of vastly greater value, in the name of Jesus the Nazarene, ( Yeshua the salvation of God,) walk.”  Not hesitating a second Peter grabs him by the right hand, the hand of righteousness, and raises him up.  The man had no opportunity to believe, or not believe it happened so fast, he was pulled into it.  The fact is, Peter believed, he was the one filled with the Holy Spirit, He was the one who acted in faith, the recipient was again just an opportunity to receive mercy.

Our God works through His children, and when we pray and act, being filled with the Holy Spirit, believing that God can do what He says, miraculous things really do happen.  I think sometimes, or most of the time, when we pray we add, “Your will be done,” into our prayers, we are building a disclaimer into it because of unbelief. Therefore when our prayers go unanswered we assume it wasn’t God’s will.  I want us to have such faith in God, who is so mighty, so loving, so able, that we honestly, adamantly believe He is going to answer our Prayers.

Do you believe in our Savior like Peter did?  God didn’t redeem us to be passive, or timid. He redeem us to be bold in His Name, to be active in His calling to each of us.  I am excited about what He has in store for me, how about you?

Karl

About Ruth

Ruth 1-2     Ecclesiastes 8:10-17     Acts 2

Review:  It is believed that the Book of Ruth took place roughly around 1000 BC, about the same time as the first half of the Book of Judges…Famine hit Judah forcing the family of Elinelech to cross the Jordan River, east of them to Moab, and avoid starvition (1:1-5)…While in Moab, Naomi, Elinelech’s wife, is completely devastated.  First her husband dies (1:3), then her two sons die (1:5)…The famine ends prompting Naomi to move back to Judah (1:6-9) with Ruth, the widowed wife of her son Chilion (1:10-18)…The two very vulnerable widows settle in Bethlehem (1:19-21) in the fall at the start of the barley harvest (1:22)…Boaz is introduced as a well to do relative of Naomi’s deceased husband (2:1)…Ruth gleans the fields of Boaz (2:2-7) to care for Naomi (2:17-23) and is noticed by Boaz (2:8-16).

Analysis:  There is little doubt of Naomi’s bitterness towards God at what has happened to her (1:11-14, 20-22)…How would you react?…Ruth’s devotion to Naomi testifies to her inherent goodness (1:16-17)…Naomi’s name change is typical of the OT (Gen. 41:45, 2 Kings 23:34, 24:17, Dan. 1:7)…Grain gleanings in Jewish environs are legally protected for the needy, including foreigners (Lev. 19:9-10, Deut. 24:19)…Indeed, this is a God endorsed welfare program…However, the recipients still needed to toil mightily to gain their grain…Ruth’s ambition is on full display (2:5-16)…The character of Ruth is undeniable – her loyalty (1:14), her new-found faith (1:16-17) and her hard work (2:3)…Because of these attributes, she is noticed (2:8-14).

 

Wise Governance, Winsome Ministry & Mission

Judges 19-21, Psalm 47, Acts 1 (NIV)

Space will not permit a full discussion of the Chapters in Judges.  Suffice it to say or rather quote the last verse of chapter 21, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.”  That is a significant theme throughout the entire book of Judges.  Good and wise and godly governance is something a people, a nation, or any organization needs.  Moses and then Joshua, provided good and wise leadership to Israel and now there was a vacuum in leadership.  Chapters 19-21 show what can happen when people do whatever they want, with no restraint.

Psalm 47 is about the universal reign of God as the True King of Israel and of all the nations. It looks forward to the day when God will reign over all.  The Christian Church throughout the years has used this Psalm as a celebration of Christ’s Ascension, verse 5, “God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets.”  

Acts begins with Jesus’ Ascension.  Jesus speaks of the wonderful and extensive ministry and mission that will take place when he ascends and the Holy Spirit empowers the disciples to reach other disciples and other disciples.  Through disciples in every age, the Holy Spirit (making Jesus present in and through his followers) extends the reach of Christ Jesus “to the ends of the earth.”

“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8). 

Our Church Mission Statement is based on this scripture passage.

“The people of First Presbyterian Church are called to be Servants of Jesus Christ. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we seek the vision and courage to minister to one another, our community and our world.  In response to God’s grace, we show our commitment to love and service through our Ministry Plan.”

In Acts 1:8, Jerusalem in effect is our community and town, Judea and the ends of the earth represent the wider world in which we live. Samaria represents those people and places we would rather not go.  Remember, Jews had no dealings with Samaritans; except that Jesus went to Samaria to do ministry. Christ calls us to open our lives and ministry to even difficult people and places.  Finally, throughout the Gospels and NT we are instructed to love one another and minister to each other for we are part of the body of Christ, the church.

As we read these passages today, we might ask if we let Jesus ascend in our lives and have preeminence.  Is Jesus truly our leader? If Jesus is Lord, then are we serving as his followers to minister to one another, our community, and our world?

May Jesus reign in our lives to his glory, always!

3 times…blessed!!

Today’s Passages (all 1 link): Judges 16-18, Ecclesiastes 8:1-9, John 21

When we find ourselves faced with times of trouble, how many chances do we get?  Samson found himself in times of trouble…3 times he would not tell Delilah.  But, as is often the case, when the pressure becomes too great, well, our defenses break down.  Samson found himself in this very situation. He had turned away from his Nazarite upbringing – he broke down and gave away his secret and, well, the end was inevitable.  Peter found himself in a very similar situation – 3 times he denied Jesus.

Samson found himself in, let’s say a tough spot, and he returned to the One whom he first trusted.  In spite of Samson’s past, God still answered his prayer and destroyed the temple and worshipers. God still loved him. He was willing to hear Samson’s prayer of confession and repentance and use him this final time. 

That’s the most amazing part about the God we worship…no matter where we are…no matter where we have been…no matter what happens – the God we worship is one who keeps on forgiving.

Likewise…on that beach, Peter found the redemption that can come from only Jesus.  3 times Jesus asked…”do you love me?”  The answer is clear friends…follow the One who will continue to come back to us…all we need to do is go to him just like Samson, ““Lord God, remember me and strengthen me…”  Love him with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and follow Jesus.

 

 

The Strongest Foundation

Judges 13-15
Psalm 46
John 20

The first time I remember hearing about Samson (and Delilah) was in 2011 when I saw an episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and they played the song Samson and Delilah by Shirley Manson (which is actually a Grateful Dead cover, right?). I loved the song, but knew nothing of the story. I was nineteen, barely going to church, and I didn’t pursue looking into Samson and Delilah–I didn’t even know it was Bible story! How would I? My family didn’t read the Old Testament and we only read three stories from our Children’s Bible Story Book (Creation, Esther, and Jesus’s Resurrection).

So, I went on ignorant about this song and Samson. Then, in 2017 I began a Bible in a year challenge (like this, I understand–it is tough!) and began reading the OT. I remember beginning the journey less than excited. I thought the OT was boring, filled with numbers, horrible laws, and a wrathful God. It definitely has numbers, the Law, and our just God; but it also has so many intense narratives!

I tell parents of avid readers who can’t “get into” the Bible to encourage their teens to read Judges, Samual, any of the OT really because it reads like a novel in many parts.

Samson is one of those narratives.

My passage does not get into Delilah (I am envious of who gets to write on that because it is a great story of flirting with sin and what God will allow. I recently read this article on it and it’s wonderful!), but we are introduced to Samson and we witness his strength. He is the strongest man.

But Samson is still man and he will fall in due time.

Psalm 46 talks about how this world too is not stable. It begins by telling us “though the earth give way” (Psalm 46:2a). God is greater than the mountains, stronger than the warriors, and is “our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

What else can our God do to prove His strength and might than overcome death? How long has humanity bemoaned death in art, literature, and attempted to beat it through fables and science? Death has been our curse since the Fall. If we can agree on nothing else, we all agree that humans die.

Jesus’s resurrection defeats the one unifying fear I would say humanity has.

If you are like me and do not fear death I venture to say it is because you have accepted and believed the Promises of the Lord. Doubting Thomas was given proof of scarred hands and a pierced side. Us? Well, Jesus very clearly says “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

We have belief and life in the Strongest One. He is stronger than Samson, a better king than David, wiser than Solomon, and He loves us. He deeply deeply loves and cherishes us.

Build on that Truth. Live your day from that perspective:  remembering the greatest warrior fights for all those who believe in Him.

 

Many Blessings,
Karissa

Sunday Reflection: God as Lion and Lamb

We ask many questions in life…some include, “Who is in charge?”, “How are you?”, and a question many ask, “Who is Jesus?”.  Revelation 5, a book many struggle with, helps us to answer this last question.

Revelation 5 finds God holding a scroll with 7 seals and an angel searches for one to open the scroll and break it’s seals…no one is found worthy.  John breaks into tears – and an elder tells John he can stop weeping because the Lion of Judah has conquered and is worthy – Jesus is the only one worthy.  John sees a Lamb headed to the throne.

Jesus is pictured as both a Lion (representing authority, power) and a Lamb (representing obedience to God’s will).  Jesus, the perfect sacrifice for the sin of all and the only one who can save us from the terrible events to be revealed in the scroll.  Jesus…the Lion is the one who leads the battle where Satan is defeated and Jesus the Lion is the victor because of what Jesus the Lamb has already done.

For you and I, we participate in Jesus’ victory, not because of our efforts or, no matter how hard we try to be good…we simply need to believe…to trust….in Jesus and fall to our knees singing in praise, “worthy is the Lamb”!


Upcoming Week’s Readings:

4/16/18 Judges 13-15 Psalm 46 John 20 Karissa
4/17/18 Judges 16-18 Ecclesiastes 8:1-9 John 21 Dale
4/18/18 Judges 19-21 Psalm 47 Acts 1 Craig H.
4/19/18 Ruth 1-2 Ecclesiastes 8:10-17 Acts 2 Craig R.
4/20/18 Ruth 3-4 Psalm 48 Acts 3 Karl
4/21/18 1 Samuel 1-3 Ecclesiastes 9:1-10 Acts 4 Matt

The day that Jesus died

Judges 10-12 Ecclesiastes 7:14-29 John 19

John 19 captures the day that Jesus was crucified, a day that is filled with political intrigue, betrayal, grief, and loss. And maybe after 2,000 years, not much has changed. Whenever we are presented with the statement: “Here is the man!”, we are faced with making our own decision regarding who the man is. Is Jesus really who he says he is? We might be facing the question just as Pilat did, trying to speak to the situation without really knowing who the man is. I find it to be true that people have an understanding of God, but not knowing God. You might find that to be true to in the conversation you have with people you run into. I recall a conversation where a person referred to a piece of jewelry as a cross without the little man on it. Maybe it was lack of words rather than the knowledge of the who the man on the cross was, but nevertheless, it was a discouraging moment for me.  In part because I start asking myself the question: Is this how faith comes to die?

Faith in Christ goes beyond general belief, it has to do with a relation with experiencing the Christ and living out that faith. But without hearing the word of God, without growing in the knowledge of Christ we might soon find out ourselves in a situation similar to that of Pilat: knowing and yet not knowing who the man before us is.

Today I pray that we all can know who Jesus is in the true meaning of Christian faith and that the future generations will be able to trust the Christ the same way as all those that walked with Jesus.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

Jesus, Messiah

you-are-purposed-for-the-presence-of-god

Judges 4-6

Ecclesiastes 7

John 17

In the discourse that runs from John 14-17 Jesus reveals His final destiny and what is in store for His followers.  While He is on earth He can only be with a few men at any given time, but when He has accomplished what the Father has set for Him to do the Holy Spirit will come and fill the believers and direct their lives.  He will be everywhere the believers are, not limited to a few at a time.  John 16.8-13 tells us when the Holy Spirit comes He will convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgement.  Sin is then defined as not believing in the Lordship of Jesus.  Righteousness is defined as the finished work of Jesus the Messiah, including His ascension to Heaven, thus revealing and confirming the full acceptance of His perfect sacrifice. Judgement is defined as Satan has been found guilty and sentenced to eternal punishment. When the Spirit comes into our lives He will lead us into all the truth, revealing things beyond the obvious, insights into the mind of God. Troubles will come because you are still in the world but if you ask anything in my name the Father will give it to you.

John 17 continues with the same vein of thought in Jesus prayer, that the Father will glorify the Son because of His accomplished work, bringing salvation to men.  The believers are not of this world just as Jesus is not of this world, for we have been transformed, changed from dead to living. The world hates them just as they hated Jesus, because of the conviction of the Holy Spirit as stated earlier. But the Spirit brings Unity and Joy and Peace and Love into the hearts of the believers.

God is still in the life saving business. Though the world is in opposition to Him He still calls men, He still changes hearts, He still reveals and shines light into the darkest recesses of mens lives and saves them. God glorifies Himself daily in our lives when we yield ourselves to Him.  God has big plans for you as you bow to Him daily, and there is nothing so satisfying as seeing the Holy Spirit step into someones life bringing eternal change to them.  Pray today for Jesus to glorify Himself in you.

Karl

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