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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

September 2018

Sunday Reflection: God as Goodness

Well…since I used the Fruit of the Spirit last Sunday for “kindness”, I’ll go to another favorite of mine when I think about “goodness” – although, you know, goodness is another Fruit of the Spirit (albeit this is translation dependent).  The passage I am thinking of today is the last verse of Psalm 23“surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.”

Psalm 23 is often thought of as a funeral psalm.  While it is true that it is often read at a funeral, I believe there is a most important reason – Psalm 23 is a psalm of life!  We officiate at funerals not for the dead – for those who die in Christ will know him forever, it is for the living that funerals exist to provide hope amid the grieving.

Throughout Psalm 23 we see God’s leading, guiding and protective hand at work for his flock.  And remember Jesus’ words in John’s gospel about him being The Good Shepherd.  The psalm concludes with maybe one of the greatest of biblical promises…that God’s leading, guiding and protective hand will follow his flock all the days of their life until they finally rest in his presence for eternity!  What an amazing assurance for all of us to think about today!!


This coming week’s readings:

10/1 Isaiah 64 Psalm 119:9-16 1 John 2 Karl
10/2 Isaiah 65 Psalm 119:17-24 1 John 3 Matt
10/3 Isaiah 66 Psalm 119:25-32 1 John 4 Bo
10/4 Jeremiah 1-2 Psalm 119:33-40 1 John 5 Karissa
10/5 Jeremiah 3-4 Psalm 119:41-48 2 John Dale
10/6 Jeremiah 5-6 Psalm 119:49-56 3 John Craig H.

 

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Thy Word

Isaiah 63     Psalm 119:1-8     1 John 1

Review:  Speaking of the Bible…Blessed are those who abide by it’s Laws (119:1)…Blessed are those who keep His Testimonies, who seek His Will with their all (119:2)…Blessed are they who do right, who follow His sayings diligently (119:3, 4)…Blessed are they who live by His Commandments (119:5, 6)…Blessed are those who continue to learn His Ordinances (119:7)…Blessed are those who keep His statutes and pray not to be forsaken (119:8).

Analysis:  There are linguistic nuances in this passage…Laws (119:1) are divine legal pronouncements of right and wrong…His Testimonies (119:2) is another way of saying His Word which is a disclosure of His Will…Commandments (119:4, 6) are those given to Moses (Exodus 20)…Precepts (119:4) have to do with our obligations to our Creator…Statues (119:5, 8) are a kin to His Laws and Commandments in reference to the Mosaic System (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) of Laws…All boiled down, a person who follows, or at least attempts, all the above is follower as advised by Christ (Matt. 9:9, Mark 8:34-38, John 12:23-36).

The Bottom Line, Count On It.

Isaiah 62, Psalm 118, 2 Peter 3 (NIV)

When it comes to life what can you count on? What will never change? Who can you go to for help, for life?  The Scriptures say over and over again, in numerous ways, we can count on God.  That’s the bottom line.  But what can we count on God to do and to be?

We can count on God to rescue, redeem, and save people!

11 The Lord has made proclamation
    to the ends of the earth:
“Say to Daughter Zion,
    ‘See, your Savior comes!
See, his reward is with him,
    and his recompense accompanies him.’”
12 They will be called the Holy People,
    the Redeemed of the Lord;
and you will be called Sought After,
    the City No Longer Deserted.

Here in Isaiah 62 God promises to save and redeem his people; and that’s us too!

In Psalm 118 we are reminded that we can count on the Lord.  We can depend on his goodness and love and take refuge in him.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.                                   It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.

In this Psalm we find a reference to Jesus, in verses 22-23, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;  the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.”  What God promises will be done, as the Lord’s promises ring sure and true through all time.  Peter uses these very words describing Jesus, the Living Stone in the New Testament, in I Peter 2:7.  

And in 2 Peter 3 we read of the Day of the Lord, which is the return of Jesus, his second coming.  There is judgement as God will do away with all that is evil; everything evil will be destroyed.  And we wonder, why doesn’t God act now? There is so much in our world that needs to be made right.  What is God waiting for and why is this taking so long?

We need to Remember; remember the Lord ” is patient” and the Lord “is good; his love endures forever.”  He is “Savior.”

Peter writes, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Paul also reminds us of this very same thing in one of his letters.  We are to pray for everyone, all kinds of people. Why?  “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people” (I Timothy 2:3-6). 

The Bottom Line, Count on it, is that the love of God “endures forever.”  “God wants all people to be saved.”  And God wants to use us in this mission.

Hope, and caution…

Today’s Passages (all 1 link):  Isaiah 61; Psalm 117; 2 Peter 2

Isaiah 61:  Do these words sound familiar?  If you go to Luke 4, you will see these words begin Jesus’ ministry in Luke’s gospel as he proclaims good news to the poor.  The words in Luke 4 come from Isaiah 58 and 61.  Jesus saw his mission revealed clearly in the words from Isaiah.  These words are a message of hope for the hearers then…when Jesus proclaimed them and for us today.  The hope was in God responding to Jerusalem with hope in reconciliation.  More importantly, God’s capacity to save Israel is far greater than Israel’s capacity…and ours…to turn away.  And in Psalm 117, the shortest chapter in the entire Bible, comes a reaffirmation of the same God when we hear the words, For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever!”  Now that is a real message ofhope!

2 Peter 2:  Amid this great hope comes a great caution – there are many “out there” who will try to tell you all sorts of things…even about being a Christian.  We live in a culture, not unlike the cultures identified in our Bible, where we can sometimes get our priorities mixed up.  There are those – even those who would call themselves followers of Christ whose teaching has deviated from that of Jesus.  Jesus calls out false teachers repeatedly in the gospel narratives and the same threat was seemingly important also in 2 Peter.  There are many who will try to draw you to them in this chapter, we see what might be that of a Most Wanted Poster – a detailed description of these false teachers with the intention of readying you and I to be on the look out for them and avoid their teaching.

Devotional Thought:  Today, tolerance seems to have become the major focus of the culture around us and something that all too easily creeps into the church itself.  How many times have you heard someone say to you or someone else, “judge not lest you be judged”.  After reading 2 Peter there may be even some who read this who say, “wow, that Peter is really harsh”.  I want you to think about this for a moment…why then did this particular chapter make it into this book we call the Bible?  (You can also read Jude and see similar thoughts)  If you believe, as I do, that God by his Holy Spirit inspired the writing of these words then you have to ask yourself which way you want to think about this subject.  I believe that these words…all of them – even as judgmental as some may think, are there to cause followers of Jesus to stop and think about what they hear and read – so that you and I can spot these false teachers wherever we are and avoid them like the plague.

 

 

Promises

Isaiah 60
Psalm 116
2 Peter 1

Today I was talking to another Christian woman about my journey through faith. She was laughing at herself because a Scripture she wanted wasn’t coming to mind and I told her it was more than okay because she had such vast knowledge of it. She reminded me she’d had many more years with the Bible and I was reminded (and surprised), once again, that I’ve only been reading my Bible for four years.

She asked how I got started.

I told her I was starved for the Word of God when I began reading and I couldn’t stop. It was a blessing to feel that kind of hunger.

She asked me if I knew why I was hungry and told me that I was hungry for Hope, for His Promises, and for the World of Life.

And how right she is.

When we’re reading through the Scriptures this is not just a book. There are promises throughout the Bible–Old Testament included!

Look at Isaiah 60:15-22. He promises peace, wealth (in ways more than monetary), and security.

Look to Psalm 116:1-9. He promises to hear our cry, to deliver us, and to show compassion.

And the 2 Peter passage is filled with promises of salvation and the Holy Spirit.

Today’s been a long day–and I’m holding onto those promises.

Which promise stands out to you? Which one are you thirsty for today?

Remember, our God is the Bread of Life and Living Water.

Blessings, Karissa

Sin, Confession, Redemption​

Isaiah 59 Psalm 115 1 Peter 5

Isaiah 59

1 Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save,
    nor his ear too dull to hear.
2 But your iniquities have separated
    you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
    so that he will not hear.

The reformed tradition puts a great emphasis on this snippet into the human struggle. Our understanding of God, God’s mercy and kingship are defined in part by the way we understand sin. Do we look at sin as a common occurrence in our lives, something as mundane as the rain, something that comes and goes?  Do we look at sin as more than that, do we see the implication sin has on our lives? Do we see sin as separating us from God, or hurting and separating us from people around us?

For the reformers, sin was a “big deal” in understanding their walk with God. Sin not only marked the downfall of the human race but sin also defined the nature of the human kind but also the need for faith in God for redemption. Martin Luther said: “Be a sinner and sin strongly, but more strongly have faith and rejoice in Christ.”

Sin without confession, without the realization and confrontation of God’s redemption, it will just lead people to a deeper failed state that when it started. Basically, without redemption, a sinner will become a worst sinner in the process. And that where the beauty of God comes into play. God does not desire for us to go down that spiral, but God intervenes and helps us change our course.

v. 21 “As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips, on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants—from this time on and forever,” says the Lord.

Today I pray that each one of us can face our sin, and find the power to ask God for forgiveness and also the peace of mind that his grace can bring in our lives.

Be blessed,

 

Bo M.

 

 

Live to Serve, Not for Rituals

1-peter-4-10

Isaiah 58; Psalm 114; 1 Peter 4

Isaiah 58

The people of Israel are crying out in frustration, because they don’t quite understand the purpose of fasting. It appears that as long as they follow the laws of fasting, they can do whatever else they want. But the Israelites have missed the boat. The purpose of fasting isn’t just a religious ritual that can be marked off on some “holy checklist” to score points for eternity. It is to be obedient to God’s commands. Those commands are meant to make living easier, and to be a good person to others. If you follow the commandments of the Lord for reason they are meant to be followed, you will find joy in the Lord.

Psalm 114

Fear of the Lord. The God that we worship isn’t just any run-of-the-mill god. He is powerful enough to make the seas tremble; for rivers to change course; for mountains and hills to flee. This isn’t any god, this is the God of Jacob; of Judah; of Israel. He is a God to be respected and feared (if disrespected).

1 Peter 4

We are called to serve others in the name of Jesus, rather than to conform to the evil ways of the world. There will be plenty of people to lead us astray, and/or to slander us for our beliefs. But we must stay the course. Those who stick with Jesus will be saved. To focus on the last couple of verses, if it is hard work to get into heaven as a righteous person, how much harder will it be for someone who does not believe?

Reflection

God has expectations for us that are meant to bring us closer to him. These expectations are meant to make life easier for us. They are meant to give us a seat at the table in eternity. These expectations aren’t meant to be followed in order to add badges to our uniform to show off. They aren’t just hoops to jump through. They are for us to be in a relationship with God, and to better understand the nature of God. We shouldn’t get too tied up in the religious aspects of Christianity, but instead we should live joyfully, serving others out of love. Living a life of joyful serving and love is worth way more than any religious ritual that can be checked off the list.  

Sunday Reflection: God as Kindness

Today’s reflection comes from 2 passages (there are so many)…first, from Galatians 5:22-26, better known as the Fruit of the Spirit where we find kindness as one of the fruits.  This “fruit” is not something we produce on our own rather, it is produced by and through the Holy Spirit…God.  The word “fruit” is singular, indicating that these qualities constitute a unity, all of which should be found in a believer who lives under the control of the Holy Spirit. In an ultimate sense this “fruit” is simply the life of Christ lived out in a Christian.

And if this “fruit” comes by and through God, well. then this has to be the character of God himself and, so, our second passage comes from Psalm 145, where the greatness and goodness of God are proclaimed!  Think, today, about God’s goodness…his kindness and rest in that amazing comfort and peace!!


This Week’s Readings:

9/24 Isaiah 58 Psalm 114 1 Peter 4 Matt
9/25 Isaiah 59 Psalm 115 1 Peter 5 Bo
9/26 Isaiah 60 Psalm 116 2 Peter 1 Karissa
9/27 Isaiah 61 Psalm 117 2 Peter 2 Dale
9/28 Isaiah 62 Psalm 118 2 Peter 3 Craig H.
9/29 Isaiah 63 Psalm 119:1-8 1 John 1 Craig R.

Blessings! Blessings! Blessings!

Today’s Passages (all 1 link):  1 Peter  3; Isaiah  57; Psalms  113

I guess we will approach this from the back door.  In Isaiah 57 we are very eloquently, but simply told that, verse 21  “There is no peace, says Elohim, for the wicked.”   Verse 1 and 2, When the righteous perish, and devout men are taken away, that is die, they enter into Peace, they rest in their beds.

Psalms 113:We are to praise Jehovah, for He “raises the poor out of their poverty, He makes them to sit with Princes. “ “ From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of Jehovah is to be praised.”  He who is enthroned  on high, who humbles Himself to behold things on earth, raise the poor, lifts the needy, and makes the barren fertile.

1 Peter 3: Godly living.  1 Peter 2. 23  sets the opening for the controversial, “ You Wives,” passage.  Verse 23 “ He committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth, and while being reviled He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.”
Now 1 Peter 3. 1 “ In the same way, you wives…”  and verse 7  “You husbands in the same way, …”  We all are to be honored as joint heirs to the grace of life.  Grace is the defining word here, undeserved, unmerited, unearned, gifted, handed to, any concept that can describe that we did nothing to gain such favor is a part of this word Grace.  The hymn “At Calvary”  verse 3 says “Oh the love that drew salvations plan, Oh the Grace that brought it down to man, Oh the mighty gulf that God did span, At Calvary.” Do you see we as believers are completely dependent on the completed work of the Messiah, we have no ability to earn favor, for He did it all and we now have an example to follow, so submission is for all of us as followers of Jesus Christ.  God rewards the faithful, and obedient.

My friend Manny Salazar, a devout believer, says constantly throughout the day,   “Blessings my friend, blessings, all blessings from Jesus, all blessings from God, blessings.”

Karl

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