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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

May 2018

The Power of Prayer

1 Kings 3-4
Psalm 64
Acts 27

 

 


When I was a little girl I thought it was rude to pray for myself.

My family watched a lot of Unsolved Mysteries and I was convinced murderers were everywhere. At night I would pray “Now I lay me down to sleep…” and then I would add on a few things: “thank you for everything, please forgive me of my sins, please don’t let anyone in my family be killed tonight, and if it’s okay with You please don’t let anyone kill me tonight either.” The last bit was said quickly in the manner of a child asking for a cookie before supper–I thought it was wrong because it was a prayer for me.

That was my prayer life.

At five years old I lived in guilt, fear, and always felt like I wasn’t even good enough.

Everything is so different now and I thank God for that.

Sometimes my prayers are like Solomon’s in 1 Kings 3:7-9 and I ask God to equip me for whatever He has called me to do. Sometimes my prayers are like David’s in Psalm 64 where I praise His great name and cry out for protection. I recently did that, I mentioned it just last week in my blog post! Sometimes my prayers are like that of Paul in Acts 27 where I listen to God’s promises and just follow through on faith that He will do what He says He will do.

I think we live in a culture that is quick to dismiss the power of prayer. There is danger of it becoming routine and almost chore like. The moment prayer becomes a drainer instead of a power source something is wrong and I encourage you to reach out to brothers and sisters in Christ to talk it out, search Scripture, and pray together.

The best part about prayer is that there is no specific way to do it. If you are a person of order, pattern, and repetition there is nothing wrong with repeating the Lord’s Prayer as your prayer. If you are someone who is always on the go you can pray anywhere! I pray in the shower, in the car, in my office, while I clean, and anywhere else you can imagine. If you like words your prayers can be as poetic as you wish. If you don’t like words your prayer can be as simple as repeating the name of Jesus.

As my confirmands learned this year, prayer is a conversation.

Have a conversation with God today.

And don’t forget to listen for His response.

Many Blessings,
Karissa

How long does it take?

 

1 Kings 1-2      Job 4       Acts 26

It seems to me that time is of the essence theme stands tall in today’s reading. From a king that takes too long to pass the baton to his kin and almost causing a civil war, to a man dealing with mortality and personal loss, and to a bold messenger standing before a king proclaiming his faith.

Of course, we can always make the case it is all about timing, about being at the right time and the right place or exactly the opposite. I am always reminded that when it comes to our relationship with God we live in two different time zones. Our time vs. God’s time.

We live in a word of now, instant gratification, instant results, 30 days diets and so on. Somehow we are being conditioned on acting and responding quickly when a situation arises.  But there is so much more to it… isn’t it? Sometimes long planning can be a wonderful thing, seeking God’s wisdom as we look down the road and planning for something can save us from a lot of trouble. Sometimes dealing with emotional pain takes time, a sense of loss and instant healing do not go hand in hand. Time will heal… I heard that said many times, there are lessons to be learned, even if they are painful at least that is what Job seems to learn as his friends speak. And lastly, it is about perseverance, doing something knowing that it will come to bloom at the right time.

All of that is so different than I need answers now. So take time and say your prayers as you pray, trust God’s presence as you wait for his healing hands and stay faithful knowing that indeed God can work even if it takes a long time.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

Abide in Me

better-late-than-never

2 Samuel 23-24; Psalm 63; Acts 25

As was the case with Jesus, the religious leaders of Paul’s time were trying to bring accusations against him for the purpose of putting him to death. And no different than the feelings of Pontius Pilate toward Jesus, Festus (procurator of Judea) could not find reason to have Paul executed. Paul asked to be tried directly in front of Caesar because he is certain that even the emperor himself will find no wrongdoing by Paul. Yet another ruler, King Agrippa, showed up on the scene and wanted to see Paul and hear what he had to say.

Christians of modern times face trials no different today than what Jesus and Paul, and other Christians for that matter, faced 2,000 years ago. We are put to the test on a regular basis by people who are non-believers. Christians are ridiculed by those who think all of this religion stuff is a farce. In some places in this world, Christians are killed simply for being Christians. Yet, it continues to be the largest religious group on the planet, and we add to the numbers all the time.

It would have been easy for Paul to just give up and move on with his life; cut his loses. He could have decided to stop preaching and live his life without fear of execution. But he continued because he believed so strongly in what he was preaching. My prayer for all of us is that our faith remains strong, even as the world seems to close in on us. There is much evil in this world, and it seems as everywhere we turn, there is someone else denouncing Christianity or making fun of Christians. But, just like Paul, stay the course. Jesus said “Remain in me, as I remain in you.” We have so much more to live for than what the world can provide for us.

Nothing of Value is Attained Easily

GODISABLE-main-4

2 Samuel 21-22

Job 3

Acts 24

Nothing is free, it always costs someone something.  If I give a gift to someone it costs the price of the gift to me.  If I help someone who has a problem, it costs me time, effort, knowledge, wisdom, etc.  Even the free gift of salvation cost Jesus much suffering.  There is a cost for everything.

In our passage from 2 Samuel 21-22 we read about the famine in the land during David’s reign. The LORD revealed to David, ” it was for Saul and his bloody house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.”  David asked how he could make atonement for Saul’s action.  The answer to David was very unusual to our peace loving minds, they chose to have 7 men from the sons of Saul to be put to death by hanging.  Having accomplished this and burying their bones along with Saul and Jonathon’s bones along with prayer the famine was lifted from the land.  Israel’s comfort and peace was restored at quite a heavy price.  Nothing is free.

Job 3   In the cosmic wager between Jehovah and satan,  Job the somewhat innocent, laments that God has him hedged in, and all his fears are come upon him.  Thus not only has his family been taken from him along with his health, but mental anguish plagues him also with fears real and imagined.

Acts 24  Trumped up charges are brought up by the Jews, against Paul, to Felix the governor.  Felix is not easily fooled and relishes conversation with Paul and hence keeps him under house arrest for two years, talking to him and hearing the gospel many times. He doesn’t give into the Jews but he doesn’t release Paul either.

In each of these stories from scripture there is a common thread that is revealed of life. We cannot escape hardships, turmoil will come into each life, sin has a cost attached to it, doing the actual true Lord’s work is no guarantee of bliss, and everything has it’s price. Each passage we looked at today seems very dark, yet in 2 Samuel 22. 2 David writes “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;” vs.47 “The LORD lives and blessed be my rock; and exalted be God, the rock of my salvation.”  A great psalm that lifts and exalts God showing that there is one true stable entity in this chaotic world we live in.

We need Jesus, the world needs Jesus, our Savior.

Karl

Absalom, O Absalom

2 Samuel 19-20     Psalm 62     Acts 23

Review: This saga (2 Samuel 15-20) has Absalom tapping into a dissatisfied Israel to create a civil war (15:1-12)…David withdraws from the walled city of Jerusalem for some unexplained reason to reconstitute his power (15:13-16:14)…Absalom and his faction take and pillage Jerusalem (16:15-23)…Inexplicably, Absalom pursues David (17:1-18:8), gets “hung-up” and killed by Joab (18:9-18)…David grieves the loss of Absalom (18:19-33) and is criticized by Joab for it (19:1-7)…David is re-installed as king over all of Israel (19:8-40)…Civil unrest remains (19:41-43, 20:1-3)…It is somewhat subdued by Joab  (20:4-22)…David’s palace “cabinet” (20:23-26) is enumerated.

Analysis: It seems to me that this whole saga was avoidable if David had simply stayed put within defense ladened Jerusalem…That said, Absalom is a symptom, not the cause, of unrest between Israel and Judah; the North vs. the South; a common divide within counties…The capital city of Jerusalem within Judah is Davidic blood related and a source of irritation to Israel along, of course, with taxes (cf. 1 Kings 12:16-24)…Taxation…Representation…And so on…Of note, is God’s absence of a role in this political power struggle…The read is as ambivalent as the struggle itself…Whatever questions one has of this episode, they are left unanswered…We know more about David than about anyone else in the OT, yet it is precious little…My overall impression is similar to that of my life and life generally on this good, but fallen, planet – with better council and choices, better ways and outcomes always seem possible when one reckons a history…This can’t possibly be an example of God’s best.

Sunday Reflection: God as Shepherd

A year or so ago, we focused our Lent study on Max Lucado’s book, “Traveling Light”.  It is a wonderful book grounded in Psalm 23 and the baggage of life we carry around with us…worry, envy, disappointment, grief, etc.  In the book, Lucado says, “Of all God’s animals, the sheep is the least able to take care of himself.  Sheep are dumb!”  Then, Lucado asks a profound question, “Why didn’t he (David) choose something other than sheep (for Psalm 23)?”  You see, David was a shepherd and he remembered all the time and attention required of him to care for his sheep – day and night.  David, as a shepherd, slept with the sheep at night and watched over them.  All of this reminded him of how God cares for us…You can almost here David shout out…”The Lord is my shepherd…I am his sheep!”

Now think of John 10“I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…I am the good shepherd.  I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.”

Know the Good Shepherd of Psalm 23…

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord, Forever.


This Coming Week’s Readings:

5/14/18 2 Samuel 19-20 Psalm 62 Acts 23 Craig R.
5/15/18 2 Samuel 21-22 Job 3 Acts 24 Karl
5/16/18 2 Samuel 23-24 Psalm 63 Acts 25 Matt
5/17/18 1 Kings 1-2 Job 4 Acts 26 Bo
5/18/18 1 Kings 3-4 Psalm 64 Acts 27 Karissa
5/19/18 1 Kings 5-6 Job 5 Acts 28 Dale

 

Telling your story…

Today’s devotion is brought to us by Marvin Balsley.

Today’s Reading (all 1 link):  2 Samuel 17-18, Job 2, Acts 22

In Acts chapter 22, Paul tells of his background as a Jew.  He tells us his education with the famous teacher Gamaliel (grandson of Hillel) and establishes for the reader his credentials as a knowledgeable person of scripture.  He then tells of how he was converted while on his was to Damascus known to us as the “road to Damascus conversion” story.  He gives his personal testimony for Christ and all are listening until he brings up the stoning of Stephen and their guilt in this.  At this they reject  him and threaten him.  He is led off by the Roman guard and put in jail (probably for his own protection).

What I learn from this is the importance of one’s personal testimony.  No one can challenge or discount your own personal testimony.  Years ago I had a healing which I feel was a direct result of Christian men laying hands upon me and the requesting of the Holy Spirit for a healing.  It’s my testimony and that’s just that.  If someone chooses not to believe that’s their choice, but no one can challenge what I  know happened to me.  My left ear was so crusted up that removal surgery was discussed and scheduled.  But I knew and could feel healing coming as soon as these Christian men were done laying hands on me and praying over me.

Today you can’t tell the difference between my two ears.  That’s my testimony and I’m sticking with it.  It’s a lesson to learn that we can all give testimonies of how Christ has worked in our lives.  Others may scoff and even ridicule us as they reject the Holy Spirit  but we are to keep on testifying for Christ no matter what.  I’ve been a Christian since Dec. 14, 1954.  So my testimony is a virtual lifetime of intervention by the Holy Spirit and the story above is just one of them.

Marvin “Buck” Balsley

A firm foundation…

Today’s Passages (all 1 link):  2 Samuel 15-16; Psalm 61; Acts 21

I think, today, the Psalm is center stage between the antics of Absalom and Paul’s journey to Jerusalem.  Specifically, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; for you are my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.” (61:2-3)

Absalom has been plotting for awhile…2 years plotting the murder of his brother and 4 years preparing to kill his father, King David.  We hear Absalom exclaim, “If only I were judge of the land!”  (15:4)  In Absalom’s eyes, King David is a failure and he can certainly do a better job of caring for the weak and the needy.  It’s as if Absalom is reasoning…”It’s not fair…the people need a competent king for the good of the country and here I am – in a God-given position to do something about it!”  It sounds like Absalom is not plotting a murder but working for justice…hmmmmm.

Then there is Paul in an episode – a journey to Jerusalem that shows how the Holy Spirit guides him.  But, as is typical of Paul’s journeys, things have a tendency to go against him.  Paul tells James and the elders of Jerusalem all that God has accomplished through him among the Gentiles.  Paul hears from James..how many Jews have accepted the gospel message.  James then suggests, worried about Jerusalem Jews who may take action against Paul, he urges Paul to purify himself which Paul does…simply to keep the peace in Jerusalem rather than taking away from his identity in Christ.  Things are going well until just about the end of the purification period when chaos breaks out.  Paul is arrested for his own safety but he begs to speak to the people…knowing the real safety that comes in and from God…so, motioning for silence to a crowd that is ready to lynch him…“and there was a great hush that fell over the people as Paul began to speak in Hebrew…” (21:40)  Can you imagine the very power of Jesus flowing through Paul at this moment?

“Lead me to the rock the is higher than I”, (PS 61:2) prays the psalmist…in other words saying…help me find safety that I cannot find on my own.  God was not the refuge for Absalom but God WAS the refuge for David and Paul…and God can and wants to be your refuge.  We can think over and over, “IF only I were ____________” (fill in the blank).  or, we can find firm ground in “Let me abide in your tent forever, find refuge under the shelter of your wings”. (Ps 61:4)

Praising in the Storm

2 Samuel 13-14
Job 1
Acts 20

The first passage tells a great story of generational sin (David’s sexual sin with Bathsheba was passed down to Amnon’s rape of his sister Tamar) as well as redemption (David misses and finally kisses Absalom after he kills Amnon in revenge). 2 Samuel really is a great book rich in warnings and grace.

Then we move to Job. In the first chapter Job loses almost everything:  his herd, his sheep, and his children. In one catastrophic event after another Job learns his entire world is turned upside down. And how does he respond?

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” –Job 1: 20-21

I did the italics for worship to emphasize that in his utter distress, sorrow, and heartache job praised God. Have you ever done this? In 1666 Anne Bradstreet did this with her poem Verses upon Burning of our House. I told some of my junior highers that I’ve done this before. When I was heartbroken over the suicide of my friend rather than stew in agony and “what if’s” I cried out (and it was a real dramatic cry out of Biblical proportions) that God was good and I thanked Him for all His goodness. In those moments of praise I found the most peace.

Maybe you’re like the junior high boys and think I’m mad. That’s okay! I challenge you to try it once and see what it does to your spirit, your mood, and your day. There is something so powerful in taking devastation and saying “No, God is still good.”

In the Acts passage Paul reminds us we are to have a life of tribulation and that despite it we are called to share the Good News. And when we share the Good News how can we not be happy?

Paul talks about running a race and we know this race has a joyful end. We know we have a loving and perfect God in this broken and fallen world.

Praise God always, especially when it’s hard.

If you are struggling today I recommend listening to Even If by MercyMe. You may recognize the band even if you don’t listen to Christian Music because the lead singer is the inspiration for the I Can Only Imagine film. Or listen to Hilary Scott’s Thy Will. Read through Job. Read Anne Bradstreet’s poem.

Gain inspiration from fellow believers who know the hurt of the world, but fully know the goodness of God.

Many blessings,
Karissa

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