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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

September 2018

The News In Brief

Isaiah 56     Psalm 112     1 Peter 2

Review:  Live like you know you should (56:1-2)…Outsiders are invited and welcome (56:3-8)…Metaphorically, I think, Israel’s rulers, the “beasts of the field” are called out for not leading as they should (56:9-12).

Analysis:  The overall theme of this passage is that of gathering…This delay in salvation (56:1), apparently, is because sin is in the way or those in need of it are not ready…Even so, God keeps His promises and invites “whosoever,” to Him on His terms…Those who won’t come to God have a condition known as a “hardened heart,” (Exodus 5-14) something that can have disastrous consequences…Those who turn to God are considered “blessed” (56:2) or “happy” in some translations…Typically, Jewish and Christian societies are considered closed to outsiders…This passage and others (2 Peter 3:5-9) indicate otherwise…”What God Does Is Well Done” according to JS Bach (BWV 100).

Choose What Endures

Isaiah 55, Song of Solomon 8:8-14, I Peter 1 (NIV) 

What is it that endures in life?  What can we count on? What can we be sure of as we make our way through life?  Both Isaiah 55 and I Peter 1 caused me to think about what endures.

We can spend our money and work for what seems to satisfy in the moment yet does not stand the test of time.  Society is filled with false promises and shallow satisfactions.  In Isaiah 55 the Lord raises the question of what endures and truly satisfies.  Ultimately, God is the One who satisfies our deepest desires and longings.  God delivers on his promises as he makes “everlasting covenants” and “faithful” promises.  The Lord invites us to seek him.

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
    Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on.   them,  and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

God’s word “will not return..empty.”  We can count on the Lord for his word endures forever. God pardons and forgives and invites people to seek him once more.  We can count on it.

In I Peter, once again, we must consider what truly endures.  It is a time of persecution, probably during Nero’s reign.  And both Gentile and Jewish Christians who were in Jerusalem at Pentecost (see Acts 2:9-11) are scattered into Asia Minor.  It’s a challenging time as they are suffering for their faith.  Therefore, they must, they are forced to focus on what truly lasts.  Peter reminds them in his opening chapter of what endures.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little whileyou may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

We are invited into a Living Hope in Jesus Christ that endures forever.  Today, I invite you to remember that our God endures and satisfies the deepest longings of our soul.  Rejoice in the Living Hope of Jesus, our Savior, always!

 

Tired and Weary?

Today’s Passages (all 1 link):  Isaiah 54; Psalm 111; James 5

Isaiah 54:  Sunday, we reflected on God as Eternal and today we see soaring words like “eternal covenant of peace”, “everlasting love”, “steadfast love”…in short, we read about great comfort in the God who announces restoration.  More importantly, we should realize our Eternal God is not only on Israel’s side…here, he establishes a covenant of peace and that no enemy will successfully raise up weapons against Israel.

Psalm 111:  Psalms 111-118 are called hallelujah psalms. Hallelujah means “praise the LORD” and expresses the uplifting and optimistic tone of these songs.  In 111 we see once again that our God is mindful of his covenant…something truly deserving of our Hallelujah’s!!  The psalmist concludes with, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding.  His praise endures forever.”  Fear of the Lord…reverence for the Lord…living life in awe of God – this means that those who claim to follow the God made real in Jesus, will live a life of worship and obedience not as a duty…not as a “to do list”, but as praise that belongs to the Lord.  It means that our life of faith is not just found in the pew on Sunday morning but is, rather, a public faith, with us all the time wherever we are.

James 5:  Here…comes the abrupt and sharp reply of James, “Come now…Listen!” and he goes on to lay out why public faith is often hard…the worthlessness of riches not the worthlessness of the rich.  “Riches” has many possible ideas…it can be monetary wealth certainly, but richness of life comes in many forms and most definitely includes our Hallelujah’s for an Eternal God.

Devotional Thought:  I think James provides a very nice summary of all our passages today when he refers to the “sick”.  The word he uses for sick certainly can mean physical illness but in truth, it literally means “to be weak”.  If you read this word in the Gospels, it often refers to physical maladies but in the Book of Acts and the Epistles, it refers to a weak faith or a weak conscience (cf. Acts 20:35; Rom. 6:19; 14:1; 1 Cor. 8:9-12).  James was not referring to the bedfast, the diseased, or the ill. Instead he wrote to those who had grown weary, who had become weak both morally and spiritually in the midst of suffering.

A couple of days ago I blogged on “Faith Check Up” – periodically, it is healthy to ask ourselves about our faith.  Are we just tired and weary of the world around us, or, in the midst of the suffering, do we find a life of Hallelujah for our Eternal God made real in Jesus?  Friends…I do not believe that, on its own, the world will really change…but, we can and our public faith can make a difference in our circles of life.

He is Jealous for Me

Isaiah 53
Song of Solomon 8:1-7
James 4

Let’s begin with a little worship–this song is the first thing I thought of while reading today’s Bible plan:  The amazingly undeserved jealousy God has for us.

Let’s talk about the verses a little out of order.

Song of Solomon 8:6 says, “Place me like a seal over your heart,/like a seal on your arm;/for love is as strong as death,/its jealousy unyielding as the grave./It burns like a blazing fire,/like a mighty flame.” I added the emphasis via italics.

Let’s take a look at Songs of Solomon again. This is authored by Solomon and tells the story of courtship, marriage, and lovers. It is a passionate book describing the goodness and gift of marriage–as well as the intimate details that some Christians shy away from.

Some also see it as a description of Christ and the church.

The passion in Song of Solomon, the love in this book, can depict the love of Christ. In a book I read called Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul the author, Stasi Eldredge, talks about accepting Christ as our lover–allowing Christ to court, woo, and love us; just like the lover in Songs of Solomon.

How many have ever experienced or witnessed a jealous lover? If we have experienced the tainted human version of a jealous lover imagine how much mightier and righteous the jealousy of God is for those He loves and created.

Furthermore, in James 4 we see James calling our attentions to the battle of falling into the pleasures of the world. He blatantly says, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4). Agains we see the language of a lover with “adulterous” and we are reminded that God harbors a righteous jealousy for us that we can only compare to that of a good lover. We cannot be friends with the world and stay faithful to Him.

Please remember, when we speak about God’s jealousy it is not in the unhealthy form that many have experienced on this side of heaven from people. The jealousy of God is pure, righteous, and more than we could possibly imagine.

He wants us.

He chases us.

All of us. We see this when James warns us against judging our neighbor in James 4:11-12 which says, “Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgement on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you–who are you to judge your neighbor?” This is akin to Matthew 7:1-3, isn’t it?

Every person is created in God’s image and thus has extreme value, like Pastor Craig talked about on Sunday. Do you not see that just as Jesus has died for you and your sins He died for the world’s sin as well? So that whoever accepts Jesus as Savior may take that righteousness.

Let us remember Christ’s crucifixion as the Prophet Isaiah spoke about it, well before the Gospels were written, when he says, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

God was so jealous for us, to have us as His and His alone, that he sent His only beloved son (John 3:16).

The Bible is filled with God’s desire to have us as His–which is mind blowing.

The Lord Almighty, creator of Heaven and Earth, wants us. And He is willing to do whatever He has to do for us to choose to be His.

What a wonderful and awe-inspiring reality we live in where this is the Truth!

Blessings,
Karissa

Wisdom for all

 

Isaiah 52 Psalm 110 James 3

Wisdom! Something we all need in life. We strive to be wise, we read, we educate ourselves and spend a lot of time trying to do the wise thing. One of my favorite Romanian proverbs goes like this: All our life we strive to be wise but when the day comes, we die unwise. I like that proverb so much because it points out our human nature and the limitation of who we are.

James 3 speaks to that. From the power of our words, with the ability to build or destroy, to wisdom as seen in the light of God’s wisdom.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

We could probably say that v17-18 are the markers of good folks, of people that had been changed and transformed by God’s word. But even more, it is something we all strive for.

Today I want to ask you a few questions for you to ponder:

How easy does it come to you to be peace loving?

When you are faced with a decision, what is yours to go to mechanism?

Can you remember a time when you were shown mercy beyond belief?

How easy does it come to you to show mercy?

I had asked myself the very same questions, and I was grabbed by this deep feeling of being a work in progress. But each day I strive to go farther than the day before.

Today I pray that all of us would struggle with that element of our faith, of feeling that we had not arrived yet and there is so much more to learn to grow into.

May God grant you wisdom, peace, and grace.

Blessings,

Bo M.

 

Sunday Reflection: God as Eternal

When I stop to think about God as Eternal, some of the passages of Scripture that come to mind include:

  • Revelation 1:8; “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
  • Hebrews 13:8; “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
  • Isaiah 40:28; “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired His understanding is inscrutable.”

Think about Abraham for a moment…called by God to leave his home and go to an unfamiliar place he did so in faith.  Imagine what it might have been like – how likely would you be to just get up and leave your home and friends?  Abraham’s trek was that of a nomad – it had to be the opposite of a life of leisure.  Can you imagine the feelings of Abraham?  Not knowing who was friend or foe?  What began in Genesis 12 with Abraham’s finds some initial resolution when Abraham calls upon El Olam (used for the first time) …meaning the eternal or everlasting God (Genesis 21:33).

Despite all the uncertainty in Abraham’s life, it is encouraging to know that in the face of all that, Abraham never wavered in his understanding of the God who first called him…the God he loved…the everlasting God.

Do you have a favorite passage that speaks about our Eternal God?  Maybe you would share them with the other readers today.  Most importantly, do you know the Lord as El Olam, the everlasting or eternal God?


This Coming Week’s Passages:

9/17 Isaiah 52 Psalm 110 James 3 Bo
9/18 Isaiah 53 Song of Solomon 8:1-7 James 4 Karissa
9/19 Isaiah 54 Psalm 111 James 5 Dale
9/20 Isaiah 55 Song of Solomon 8:8-14 1 Peter 1 Craig H.
9/21 Isaiah 56 Psalm 112 1 Peter 2 Craig R.
9/22 Isaiah 57 Psalm 113 1 Peter 3 Karl

Isaiah 50

Isaiah 50

Psalms 109

James 1

Wow!  In each of these passages from scripture for today’s reading, I see one major theme revealed.  First in Isaiah Jehovah speaks through His prophet telling Israel to turn from their selfish and foolish pride, to remember who it was that broke through time and space to call them and separate them from the world, to reveal to them Himself and sustain them with power, not of this world.

Then the Psalm, written by David, reveal quite a cry for Jehovah to crush and shame his enemies.  There are those out there who hate David, and honestly Jehovah also, and would like him utterly destroyed.  This is known as an imprecatory prayer, calling for destruction. There are also Messianic phrases in this passage but overall a cry for help.

Finally in James, who is a brother to Jesus yet refers to himself as a bond-slave of Jesus, not regarding any other relationship as important, calls for us to keep ourselves unstained by the world.  All three passages deal with sin, and our, mankind, propensity to be drawn to it.  Sin is so subtle, Satan is so devious, we are so prone to wander back to the days of our youth before Christ changed us, that we need to be on guard all the time.  The warnings are throughout scripture for us to be aware, to not let pride in, to not lust, to run from anger, to turn from the desire for riches, to hate evil in all forms.  I just finished reading “ From a Far Country “ by Chris Yuan, a former homosexual, top line drug dealer, in federal prison, who came to Christ and is now a professor at  Moody Bible Institute, in Chicago.  In his book dealing with the issue of homosexuality, Chris said that the opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality, but rather holiness.  Just as the opposite of those who struggle with heterosexual sins is not homosexuality, but holiness.  The opposite of all sin is holiness.  The call from scripture is to keep ourselves unstained by the world, and we do this by staying in close communion to our Savior, always aware that sin is lurking just around the corner.

Karl

In Closing…

Isaiah 49     Song of Solomon 7:1-5     Hebrews 13

Review:  Treat others well (13:1-3)…Marriage is good (13:4)…Be content with what you have (13:5-6)…Think about those who rule over you (13:7)…Christ is changeless (13:8-9)…As the burnt sacrifice of animals and of Christ was done outside the city, Christians are to encounter Him on life’s journey (13:10-14)…Giving thanks and good works are viewed as sacrificial (13:15-16)…Be submissive to those who rule over you (13:17-19)…A benediction (13:20-21) and greeting (13:22-25) conclude this letter.

Analysis:  I’ve heard it said that the geometry of the cross was not simply happenstance…It is to remind the Christian of the vertical component of living, between the LORD and themselves…And the horizontal component, between each of us…Both made possible by Christ’s sacrifice and confirmed by His resurrection…On and from the cross…The paragraph (13:7-18) touches on the Christian life, it’s faith (13:7-8), rejecting what it it isn’t (13:9-14), praising God (13:15), all within the confines of his or her community (13:16-18)…Finally, the mention of Timothy (13:23) along with a greeting from Italy (13:24) suggest the letter was sent to a group of Jewish Christians east of Jerusalem within the Roman Empire.

Remember, the Redeemer…

Isaiah 48, Psalm 108, Hebrews 12 (NIV) 

In all three passages we find that God loves his people and because of his love he disciplines, instructs, and reclaims and redeems.  Jesus, who needed no discipline or correcting at all, “endured the cross” and “such opposition from sinners.”  But we who are sinners, who fall short and make mistakes, do need to receive discipline and correction.  It may be the consequences of our sins that provide the discipline or at times we see the clear working of God through the operation of the Holy Spirit making corrections in our lives.

We see that, although God deeply loves his people, Israel, there is a need for discipline and correction.  It occurred through warfare, great loss, and being taken away into captivity.  Still God loved and still God planned to bring them home to their land and to himself.  We read of that in Isaiah 48 and Psalm 108.

Isaiah 48:17-18

17 This is what the Lord says—
    your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
    who teaches you what is best for you,
    who directs you in the way you should go.
18 If only you had paid attention to my commands,
    your peace would have been like a river,
    your well-being like the waves of the sea.

Psalm 108: 3-4, 6

I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
    I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, higher than the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

Save us and help us with your right hand                                                                                 that those you love may be delivered.

In Hebrews 12 we read about the discipline of suffering for the Lord. If Jesus suffered we certainly can suffer and should to endure through his strength.

12:1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.

Today, reflect and look back on the good discipline received from life’s consequences and from the God who deeply loves us in Jesus.   Think about how far the Lord has brought you in your faith and life.  Remember, the Redeemer is shaping us for his wonderful, incredible, gracious Kingdom of love and light and life.  Remember, the Redeemer is shaping you as you Run the Race of Faith.  Remember, the Redeemer is Shaping You, out of Love.

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