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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

August 2018

Choices…

Today’s Passages (all 1 link):  Isaiah 29; Song of Solomon 2. 1-7; 2 Timothy 1

As the true forefathers did in 2 Timothy, Paul writes his next letter to his protege to stay true and strong in his faith.  Paul declares that he is serving Jehovah with a clear conscience, there is no shadow of doubt that what he is declaring is true.  He is appealing to very core of truth, that he absolutely believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the very anointed one of God the Father, the one spoken of by the prophets who was to come and save the people from all troubles, from their sin, from oppression, from death.  To make such a claim is to alienate all other points of view. Perhaps Jesus was Himself a forerunner of the anointed one, perhaps He was  a type of Christ, a pictorial prophecy of the true one to come.

There are lies, and fabrications of the truth that started with the Roman soldiers who actually saw the resurrection of the Christ and were so dumbstruck that they were speechless and immobile, yet went for the money and fear they fabricated a great story that this Jesus was stolen by some fiends who were able to overpower them and the iron seal placed on the stone sealing the tomb where Jesus was laid.  This iron seal whose remnants are still visible today, and would require upward of 70,000 pounds strength to break, is an easily believable story to embrace if you choose. And that seems to be the whole dilemma, if you choose to believe or not believe.  A person can find any number of reasons to not believe, but to believe is absolutely from the heart, from the Spirit of God, who speaks to you in way that is sometimes impossible to explain, yet is so real it completely changes your life.  Only true believers can understand the Spirits moving in their lives, can understand the protection of the Spirit, the leading of the Spirit, the complete love of the Spirit of God.

Paul, having seen Jesus on the road to Damascus, was completely changed by the experience, because he was faced with the truth.  Jesus is real, the very Son of God come in the flesh to save His people from their sin, to make them whole again, to give them their birth into eternal life. The stories are real, the testimonies of changed lives are real, the historical events are real.  Just as the stories were real back then, they are still real today.

Paul says he serves God with a clear conscience, as his forefathers did,  and we should wonder if we do the same.  Do we fully believe with a completely clear conscience or do we harbor a hint of doubt?  I pray that I fully believe, and am available for God to lead wherever He chooses, ministry is all around us, we aren’t responsible for everything and everyone, but we are responsible for those God appoints to us.  Let us all serve God with a clear conscience.

Karl

Too Much To Drink

Isaiah 28     Psalm 101     1 Timothy 6

Review: Woe to the drunkards of Ephraim – they are the northern tribes of Israel (28:1-4)…Yet, a remnant will remain (28:5-6)…Meanwhile, the drinking continues (28:7-8)…It seems that Isaiah can’t find anyone to teach (28:9-13)…Jerusalem is warned of impending doom (28:14-19)…Isaiah turns to a metaphor to further explain Jerusalem’s demise (18:20-29).

Analysis: I believe all the talk of drunkards (28:1, 3, 7, 12) is to bring attention to their “hardened hearts” towards God (cp. 6:9-13)…I don’t believe there was more drinking back then and there compared to any other time or place in history…One can be “stone cold” drunk and still be conscious of God…They “would not hear” (28:12)…There are two types of ignorance…The first is a lack of knowing due to a lack of resources or environment…My way of thinking is that one is only responsible for what one knows…A main reason for knowing anything are circumstances which enables knowledge transfer to happen…Some circumstances we have control over, others we don’t – like who our parents are…Or what country we’re born into…The other form of ignorance is willful (cp. Prov. 1:1-6, 3:13, 13:16, Eccl. 7:11-12, Eph. 4:11-16)…I don’t know, I don’t want to…The lost is are a controversial subject…I’m on Jesus’ side, I letting Him sort the “lost” scrambled eggs…I’m concerned about the lost…I don’t feel better about my saved situation because the lost are condemned and punished into eternity…But, that’s just me…Knowledge can be prayed for (Col. 1:9-12) and sought (Heb. 6:1-12, 2 Peter 1:5-14)…Given our electronic technology circumstances, with the knowledge of the ages at the tips of our fingers, access to knowledge is no longer a very good excuse…Surely, God is aware.

 

Sunday Reflection: God as Truth

One of the first things I think about regarding God and truth is the question that Pilate asked Jesus…”What is truth?” (John 18:38)  Think about it…Jesus standing before Pilate – you had to believe that Pilate knew about the many things Jesus had been doing.  Jesus gives Pilate a chance I think…telling Pilate that he came into this world to testify to the truth and that “everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”  And still, Pilate is more concerned with ensuring the emperor is king and Jesus’ threat to that empire.  

Time for Reflection:  How do you know truth? Are we so blind to what is going on around us that we cannot see the truth when presented to us?  Truth, I believe, is present with us primarily in God’s Word to us…the Bible inspired by the Holy Spirit.  While I also believe that truth is present in nature around us and in God’s working through humanity…I think you will find it hard to “see” and know if you don’t know the source of truth revealed in the Bible.


This coming week’s readings:

8/20 Isaiah 28 Psalm 101 1 Timothy 6 Craig R.
8/21 Isaiah 29 Song of Solomon 2:1-7 2 Timothy 1 Karl
8/22 Isaiah 30 Psalm 102 2 Timothy 2 Matt
8/23 Isaiah 31 Song of Solomon 2:8-17 2 Timothy 3 Bo
8/24 Isaiah 32 Psalm 103 2 Timothy 4 Karissa
8/25 Isaiah 33 Song of Solomon 3:1-5 Titus 1 Dale

Restoration, Love in Marriage, and Care for Others

Isaiah 27, Song of Songs 1:8-17, I Timothy 5

In Isaiah 27 we see that God wants to deliver his people from all evil.  The phrase “In that day,” refers to the end of all evil as we know it. The Leviathan in ancient literature was a seven-headed monster, the enemy of God’s created order.  Here Isaiah is comparing the slaughtering of that great enemy with God bringing an end to the wicked and all evil.  In the New Testament we read of Jesus’ second coming and the final judgement and the coming of heaven.  The imagery of the vineyard is one used in the scriptures by God to refer to Israel.  When the vineyard is faith there is fruit and fruitfulness.  When the vineyard, Israel, is unfaithful there are weeds, wild grapes, and dead branches.  The trampled vineyard of Isaiah 5 (see Isaiah 5:1-7) will be restored in God’s new earth and heaven.  Always we see God reaching out to save and rescue his people; sometimes just trying to get their attention.

We can ask, if this week we have been God’s faithful and fruitful people in our relationships, work, neighborhoods and families?   If we have been less than faithful to Jesus we can ask for forgiveness, knowing that God longs to restore and heal all of our sins and shortcomings.

In Song of Songs we read of the joy and wonder of a husband and wife on their wedding day.  Here we see that the love, sexual intimacy, and companionship between a wife and husband are gifts from a good and wonderful God.  Take a few moments today to pray for all those whom you know are married.

In I Timothy 5 we read instructive teaching on caring for widows and elders.  Instructions for slaves are in Chapter 6 and for Monday’s blog.  In the Greco-Roman world of the early church there were no pensions & 401-K programs, no social security, no life insurance, and much fewer honorable jobs for women.  Thus it was not unusual for many widows to be unable to support themselves.  Their support was often a responsibility of their families.  The early church stepped into areas of need in their culture and society and had a heart for caring for widows, as well as orphans, the poor, and disabled.

And so here we find practical guidelines for giving care.  The idea was to serve those in need and to encourage those who could work to not be idle.   Elders, older men and women were to be treated with respect.  The elders who direct and lead the church were to be paid and elders who fell short of what Christ wants were to be called to task, fairly, and given the opportunity to repent.

Take some time today to pray for those who are elderly, widowed, and leading in our churches.

May the Lord bless you to be a blessing this day wherever you go.

Training…

Today’s Passages (all 1 link):  Isaiah 26; Psalm 100; 1 Timothy 4

Isaiah 26…this is a song celebrating God’s defense of Jerusalem and the defeat of Jerusalem’s enemies.  The people sing in confidence about their future – a future from God.  We live in a world filled with strife and turmoil but here, we are reminded of a peace…Shalom…from Yahweh for those who keep their faith in him – who trust in him.

Psalm 100…one of my favorite Psalms – it’s message is simple and to the point.  Know that the Lord is God, the Creator who made you and I.  If you know this the natural response is to sing our praises to God…to give thanks to God…to worship God.  Why?  “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”

1 Timothy 4…The theme of knowing and trusting in God continues into this passage where Paul is writing to Timothy about dealing with hypocrites and liars who seek to get others to believe a different reality about God.  In this warning comes some insights into knowing truth…are you nourished on the words of faith in and of Jesus?  Are you training yourself in godliness?

Devotional Thought:  We talk a lot in this country about being physically in shape.  But what about your spiritual fitness? Ask yourself…what does it mean to train yourself in godliness and how would you go about doing it?

Oh, how God loves you!

Isaiah 25
Song of Solomon 1:1-7
1 Timothy 3

Yesterday I was with an older Christian woman and after I had rambled on about some sin I’m struggling with (anger can be a beast, am I right?) this woman just smiled so softly and said “Oh, how God loves you, Karissa!” To be honest, I was a little surprised by her response because I was certain I should have been scolded or reprimanded for being angry.

The Song of Solomon remind me of that “oh, how God loves you!” feeling. I know there is theological debate surrounding the Songs and I am not well versed in that debate. When I read through Songs I see a groom so in love with his bride. I see a beauty in this relationship–and is the church not the bride to Christ?

So in Song of Solomon 4:7 when it says, “You are altogether beautiful my darling; there is no flaw in you.” I see Christ speaking to me and He says “You are altogether beautiful my darling Karissa; there is no flaw in you.”

When she says, “Dark I am, yet lovely…” (Song 1:5-7) and goes on to speak that she is dark because of the misfortune in her family I once again think of me–I think of the misfortunes in my life and how God has made them lovely.

Have you ever personalized a verse to speak to you?

Would you like to try it this morning?

Many Blessings,
Karissa

The Lord’s reigns

Isaiah 24 Psalm 99 1 Timothy 2

This past week I watched thousands of people protesting against the Romanian government, a protest that drew Romanians from across the world. The meeting that started out peacefully turned violent with thousands being pepper sprayed or bitten by the police forces. All I can say is that as I watched the events unfold in Bucharest, I could not believe what I was watching and my heart was crushed by the violence displayed.

I was also confronted by the reality that each government, leaders of parties and presidents are to serve the greater good, raise above the events and promote peace and seek the welfare of many.  And the thought that the “Lord reigns” kept ringing alongside the crowds on the TV. How are we, as Christians, going to respond to situations like these? How are we going to stand with integrity and faith before God in the middle of a troubling world?

Today’s texts seem to align to this struggle. On one hand, you have devastation that God brings as means to deal with the sin of the world, and on the other hand, you have people praying and living their lives with the understanding that God can and will sort things through. Psalm 99 speaks about that perfect balance between the two, The Lord reigns, the king fears the Lord, the priests serve the Lord, everything is working hand in hand and the people of the land enjoy God’s blessing. I wish that for all of us. I really do. But there is a price to it. Timothy calls all Christians, to prayer, to living just, to follow God’s teachings and in holiness.

As I was thinking through all this, I had to ask myself: Am I living my life with that understanding? Are we as Christian ready to embrace this standard for our lives.

Today I pray that as we walk through life, as we face the ups and downs of our world, we will be awakened as believers, and embrace prayer, holiness, and justice as our compass.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

PS. Say a prayer for safe traveling for me as I am heading back home on Tuesday. 🙂 See you soon.

Faith of Job

Isaiah 23; Job 42; 1 Timothy 1

We finally reach the culmination of the story of Job. As we have all read through the past several weeks, Job, who was a man of great faith. God allowed Satan to put Job to the test to see just how faithful he actually was. Job lost everything. In a very short period of time, he lost all of his wealth, his sons, and his livestock. He suffered from physical ailments. Life went from great to horrendous. Then Job sought out counsel from his wife and two of his friends, all of whom attempted to steer Job in the wrong direction by placing blame on Job himself, saying that his sins have been too great and that God is bringing his wrath upon Job. As we all know now, in the end, by faith and continuing to trust in God, Job’s life gets turned back around. Job’s blessings are doubled in the later years of his life.

In all of our lives, we will all face tests; many of which may seem impossible to overcome. I am a believer that we all must go through these difficult times in order for us to rely on God to bring us out of the difficult times. If everything was 100% perfect 100% of the time, we might forget that all of those amazing things come to us by the grace of God. But if we face challenges that we can’t handle on our own, we will ultimately come to God to ask for guidance and redemption. My prayer for all of us is that as we face difficulties throughout our days, we remember to rely on God to lead use out. If we remain faithful to him, he will remain faithful to us. Jesus said “Abide in me as I abide in you” (John 15:4). We can’t do this life alone. We need Jesus daily.

Praise!!

Today’s Passages (all 1 link):  Isaiah 22; Psalm 98; 2 Thessalonians 3

Isaiah 22:  Concerning this passage from Isaiah, which is so hard to comment on separated from the rest of the book, my first comment to myself was, there awaits destruction for the lazy.  In verse 12 “The Lord God of hosts called you to weeping, to wailing, to shaving the head, and to wearing sackcloth.  Instead, there is gaiety and gladness,..eating of meat, and drinking of wine…”  It seems the people were seeking a more leisurely life style, not pursuing Godliness or trusting Him for their protection, but taking an easier course.

2 Thessalonians 3:  Paul is closing his second letter to this group of believers.  He asks them to pray for the future salvation of many through his ministry, and warns them about evil and perverse men who actually try to disrupt his teaching and evangelizing. It also seems there are men among this group who have taken the idea that they can depend on the graciousness of others to provide them with food and other necessities.  Paul says to stop that, anyone able to work needs to work.  The return of Christ is no excuse to be lazy until He comes.  Just as Israel exiled in Babylon was told to build houses, and plant crops, so we are to engage in everyday commerce to earn our own living.

Psalm 98:  is a great psalm of praise to Jehovah, “for the mighty works He has done. He has made known His salvation, He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations… Shout joyfully to the Lord all the earth!”  Which brings to mind,  as we say things like, “Praise the Lord,” shouldn’t we then do it?
Just last night on the news I heard the tragic story that in Kansas not too far from where we now live, a van full of teens from a church, on their way to a retreat, blew a tire, lost control, rolled over and three kids were killed.  Three more were hurt badly and the van was totaled.  This strikes very close to home for me, for as many of you know, while moving down here to Missouri, just a few weeks ago, I was driving my work van loaded with about 1,000 pounds of tools, to our new home in advance of our actual move.  15 miles short of our destination I had a double blow out on Highway 70, at 70 miles an hour.  Both rear tires blew out at pretty much the same time, I fishtailed for a short distance on the steel rims, having almost no control, finally hitting the guard rail with the rear fender.  This then spun me perpendicular to the highway.  At this time, because in these situations everything seems to happen in super slow motion, I turned my head and looked out the drivers side window to see what vehicle was going to crash directly into the side of my van and send me to eternity.  There was no one even close, God had placed my vehicle far enough ahead of the next group of cars to allow me to drive with control across the highway to the left shoulder and pull parallel on to it safely.  I had two nephews following me in another truck who witnessed the entire event and pulled safely to the right side of the road. After two cars passed us they then were able to cross to the left side ahead of where I stopped.
Had the guard rail not been there, had I been in a pack of cars, had any of a variety of circumstances occurred, other than the mighty hand of God protecting me, my wife would be a widow, a few people would mourn my passing, and life would be different for my family.  As to why some are protected and others allowed to die tragically I have no answer, but I think of this event often and praise Jehovah’s mighty name for the protection He has afforded me. He will protect and provide for your every need also.

Karl

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