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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

November 2018

The Return

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Daniel 1-2; Proverbs 15; Luke 15

Daniel 1-2

Historically speaking, Daniel takes place at at time when the Babylonians have conquered Judah and have exiled them to their land. Daniel and three other men have been selected to be part of the king’s court. While the polytheistic Babylonians worshipped gods that they created, Daniel and his companions were faithful to the one true God and placed all trust in Him. While in training in the king’s court, Daniel chooses to not eat and drink the food that would be typical for people in his position. Instead, he trusted that God would nourish him, even if Daniel only ate vegetables and drank water.

Later, the king has a dream that disturbs him. None of the magicians in his court could or would interpret his dream’s meaning. The king orders the magicians to be put to death, but Daniel pleas for them and tells the king that he will interpret his dream. Daniel, through God, fully explains the king’s dream. As a result, he is promoted to a high position in the king’s court, and his companions are appointed to higher positions as well.

Proverbs 15

As with most of the proverbs, this one is a long list of do this, not that. We read of the righteous and the wicked. The wicked despise the Lord, and their words cut like a knife. Their words only generate anger and hate. Much of this chapter focuses on choosing words wisely. Choose your words carefully. Be slow to anger. Be patient. Be humble with your words rather than those that try to bring honor to yourself.

Luke 15

Here we see the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. Each of these three parables are about how we fall away from God, but when we return to Him, he is overjoyed and accepts us back with open arms. Even the one who takes total advantage of his inheritance and blows it all on sex and booze can repent and be accepted back without hesitation.

Reflection

We serve a loving, caring, amazing God. Because of our human nature, we are going to continually make mistakes. Some mistakes will be small, while others will be so bad they might seem impossible to overcome. But God always accepts us back. Like a shepherd excitedly celebrates the finding of his lost little sheep, or parent has a huge celebration for the return of an estranged child, God is overjoyed every time we repent and come back to Him. There is nothing, no matter how terrible that it may be, that can prevent us from being accepted back into His loving grace.

May we always remember this, and always fall on our knees in repentance, knowing that we are always welcome back.

Jesus tells stories with a purpose…

Today’s Passages (all 1 link):  Ezekiel  46-48; Psalms 132; Luke 14

Today I want to focus on the passage from Luke, because of the misunderstanding of many  of Jesus’ parables and examples. First I want to look at Matthew chapter 5.21, where Jesus is speaking on the mountain to a group of disciples.  The sermon on the mount, where He gives the Beatitudes and advice on Godly living, then in verse 21 He starts talking about the standards of the Law, and the standards of the kingdom.  If the Law says don’t murder, I say don’t hate.  If the Law says present an offering I say go find a brother you have offense with and be reconciled first, then bring your offering.  If the Law says don’t commit adultery, I say don’t even lust.  If you right eye, which indicates righteousness, offends you, then pluck it out.  If your right hand offend you, then cut it off.   What Jesus is teaching here is the demands for obedience to the Law are far and above what the Pharisees are accomplishing, He is pointing out the sheer impossibility of purely keeping the Law, the spiritual side of keeping the Law.  He was not requiring them, or us, to actually mutilate ourselves, He was pointing out a ridiculous ly high standard for actually keeping the Law.  They needed a Savior, they cannot purely obey the Law, no one can.

Now we go to Luke 14 and we see a similar teaching in the house of a Pharisee, which by the way is a common ministry for Jesus, who is known as only associating with the sinners and the outcasts, but really is reaching out to the so called righteous ones also. He breaks the Law by healing on the Sabbath, but points out we all would if the right circumstances presented themselves.  Thus was the Law made for man, or man for the Law?

Next Jesus points out the pride of those who came for dinner in their wrangling for seats of honor, and the need for humility, when one of the guests says something like, won’t it be wonderful to eat in peace in heaven, a rather haughty statement, which Jesus responds to with a parable.  A man giving a big dinner with many invited, gets stood up by all his invited guests with really ridiculous excuses.  One is buying a team of oxen, sight unseen and must try them out now that they are bought. Another is buying a piece of property, sight unseen and must go to view what he bought. The third just got  married and forgot to tell everyone.  In this culture these are absolutely hilarious excuses. Jesus says the host will invite anyone else but this lot to his banquet, they are rejected and the rest of the world will replace them.

Finally, with a slight change of listeners, a crowd is now following Jesus to hear more, He takes the narrative to the demands of true discipleship. If you want to follow me, consider the cost of your life, pick up your cross, and follow me. If you build a house you don’t start with out knowing the cost, if a king goes to battle he weighs the cost, if you don’t disown your family, that includes father, mother, brother, sister, wife, and kids, don’t even start.  Of course this is an obvious overstatement for the purpose of getting His audience to see their need for a Savior.

He will be their Savior, He is our Savior also as the Gentile nations, He will offer Himself, He will be mutilated, He will separate Himself from His family, He goes to the highways and Hedges to call all men to Himself.  Yet as heavy a burden the Law was presented to these people as, Jesus says in contrast to the Law, in Matthew 11. 28,  “Come unto Me you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Karl

Sunday Reflection: God as Rock

Search through your Bible and you will find many references to God as a rock – clearly a metaphor and one that is important in our day to day lives…reflect on these passages today:

“There is no Holy One like the Lord, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.” (1 Sam 2:2)

“The Rock, his work is perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God, without deceit, just and upright is he;” (Deut 32:4)

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:2)

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14) 

Reflection:  You’ve heard the phrase, “between a rock and a hard place”, right?  How many times do you find yourself in such a “spot”?  The challenge is recognizing when you are in a difficult situation…i.e., a hard spot, you know who the Rock really is – it doesn’t need to be just another impossible impediment.  Try seeing the Rock as the Holy One…“a faithful God…my rock in whom I take refuge”…who is there for you if you simply acknowledge his presence.  Here’s one last passage to reflect on today – the words of Jesus:  ““Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  (Matt 11:28-30)

 


This Coming Week’s Readings:

11/19 Exekiel 46-48 Psalm 132 Luke 14 Karl
11/20 Daniel 1-2 Proverbs 15 Luke 15 Matt
11/21 Daniel 3-4 Psalm 133 Luke 16 Bo
11/22 Daniel 5-6 Proverbs 16 Luke 17 Karissa
11/23 Daniel 7-8 Psalm 134 Luke 18 Dale
11/24 Daniel 9-10 Proverbs 17 Luke 19 Craig H.

The Visions of Ezekiel

Ezekiel 42-45     Proverbs 14     Luke 13

Review:  The dimensions of a yet to be built Temple are given (42)…Afterward, the glory of the LORD fills it (43:1-5)…God’s throne is described (43:6-12)…The sacrifice alter is dimensioned (43:13-18)…Sin offerings of various animals are spelled out (43:19-27)…The gate facing east is always closed (44:1-3)…Glory fills the Temple (44:4-5) upon it’s completion…Abominations are listed (44:6-8)…The uncircumcised are not allowed in (44:9)…It is the Levites duty to administer Temple rites (44:10-16)…Because of this duty, their life is strictly regulated (44:17-31)…Land is divided for the priests and sanctuary (45:1-5), public land (45:6), and for the prince (45:7-8)…The princes are to treat the commoners fairly (45:9-10)…Measurements (45:11), currency (45:12), offerings (45:13-19), Passover (45:20-24), and an unnamed feast (45:25) are described.

Analysis:  From the above diagram, it is apparent that symmetry is an important element in it’s architecture…Barriers fronting the entrances are obvious, possibly to inhibit defamation, something Ezekiel previously railed against (8-11)…The east or “golden gate” (44:1-3) was always closed as through it God’s glory entered…Circumcision (44:1) was proof of conversion to Judaism…The issue with Levite priests was idolatry (8-10), hence the reform to employ the sons of Zadok priests for this Temple (44:15-16)…The pecking order is altered in this vision…No longer are kings mentioned as heads of state; instead princes (44:1-3, 45:7-9)…Post exile, the prince serves at the pleasure of the priests who are the only ones with access to the Holy of Holies or YHWH (42:13-14)…Ezekiel had heard, seen, and experienced enough of the kings of Judah apparently…I’m uncertain if this vision is that of an idealized Temple of something that will actually be built…Of note, from Ezekiel’s dimensions, it would fit on the existing Temple mount in Jerusalem…Intriguing, isn’t it?

That’s All That Matters…

Ezekiel 39-41, Psalm 131, Luke 12 (NIV) 

In Ezekiel chapters 39-41 we find hope for God’s people.  God is Lord of all the nations.   And just as he has sent Israel into captivity, so will he save them from captivity and bring them home and judge the other nations.  We see the promise of restoration and the rebuilding of the temple once the Israelites return home. The building of the Temple points to the time of complete restoration to the exiles, a time when God would return to his people.  The Temple was built from 520 to 515 B.C. (see Ezra 5-6 but it fell short of Ezekiel’s plan).  This passage can also be seen as a vision into the future of the eternal reign of God when his presence fills the earth.  (The author of Revelation uses the imagery from these chapters to describe Armageddon prior to the millennium.)

The Temple represents the presence of God to his people.  The good news is that God loves us and wants to be present to his people wherever they may be, in every time and place.  In Psalm 131,  David reminds us of the significance of placing ourselves in God’s presence.  When we become still and quiet before the Lord we find a calming contentment, which builds our hope in God.

In Luke chapter 12 Jesus gives us many reasons to trust in God, seek the Lord’s presence and fix our hope in him.  Pharisees, that is, those who talk a great line of faith but live far less of what they say are not to be imitated.  Their hypocrisy is plain to see.  The important thing is please God and remember how much we are worth to him.

Some people are rich in things.  They know all about possessions but possess little attachment to God, as they are possessed by what they acquire and own.  Instead it is best to be rich toward God and find joy in his  presence.

The bottom line here is to seek first the Kingdom of God.  Seek to serve the Lord above all else and live in God’s presence without fear or worry.  Then one day, when Christ appears again or we go home to our Lord, we will be included among all those who have lived in faith and hope in God.

Live in the presence of real hope this day, that is live in the hopeful presence of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  At the end of this day may it be said of each one of us, that we were rich toward God.  That’s all that really matters, in the end.

Trustworthiness…

Today’s Passages (all 1 link): Ezekiel 36-38; Proverbs 13; Luke 11

Ezekiel 36-38:  Today’s passages from Ezekiel bring us a renewed message emphasizing God’s sovereignty and trustworthiness.  God was concerned about salvation…not only of his people, but of the whole world.  Why?  Because allowing his people to remain in their sin and be destroyed by their enemies would lead these enemies and other nations to conclude that the pagan gods they worshipped were more powerful than Israel’s God.  God promised to restore Israel – to restore them physically and spiritually.  What they needed was a renewed heart.  What they needed was the Spirit of God to be within them…transforming them and empowering them in God’s mission.  Chapter 37 vividly illustrates the promise of chapter 36.  God had just announced Israel’s restoration but this seemed nearly impossible because they were essentially dead as a nation having been deprived of her land, king and temple.  While restoration may have seemed impossible by many of the Israelites, God stressed his sovereign power was the way forward.  Fulfillment of God’s promises depended on God, not on circumstances.

Proverbs 13:  In this chapter of Proverbs we see wise counsel on the power of words, blameless living, the need for advice in our lives and wisely choosing our friends as just a couple of wisdom in the words we read.  The one that resonates particularly well tonight as I write this is the power of words – a subject we have been discussing the past 2 weeks in our men’s discussion group.  The point is driven home by James in Ch. 3 when he says, How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire.”  How we use our words is important.

Luke 11:  Prayer is a key emphasis in Luke’s Gospel and for the first 10 chapters the emphasis has been on Jesus’ prayer life.  Until now where an unnamed follower having seen Jesus’ prayer life results in Jesus being asked to teach the disciples to pray.  Prayer, in Luke is foundational to relationship with God.  This prayer life is in contrast to the woes described on the backside of Ch. 11.

Reflection:  Our words have meaning…in what we say and don’t say as well as our relationship with God.  What is sustaining your relationship with God?  Who is Jesus to you?  Do you have the confidence to go to God, the Father – your Father in prayer?  How is your trust level with regard to God’s promises?  When you think things seem impossible do you trust and rely on God – the one made real in Jesus and present with you by his Holy Spirit?  Sometimes, the vision of Ezekiel 37 – the dry bones – can be renewing for us today as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Forgiving God

Ezekiel 33-35
Psalm 130
Luke 10

With today’s readings I am again reminded that we have a forgiving and redemptive God.

The more I read the Old Testament the more I like it. Also, the more I read it the more I grow frustrated when Christians claim the “Old Testament God” is angry, wrathful, and different from “the New Testament God.” God is the same. God is who is, who was, and who is to come. I have made a few comments about this on other blog posts, but I feel like it’s worth mentioning again.

In Ezekiel God is very clear that He wants people to turn away from their sins. I find Ezekiel 33:11 especially powerful, it says “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?'” Again, we see that God does not enjoy destruction. He is not waiting somewhere with a lightening bolt hoping to smite someone.

God is merciful. He always has been and He always will be.

Ezekiel 34 goes on to talk about how God will be a shepherd to the lost. Again, we see God’s mercy. He wants to find the lost, to heal the broken, and bring them back to green pastures.

All of this is in the Old Testament!

Then we go to Psalms.

Oh, David. David, David, David… A man after God’s own heart who became a lazy king, fell into lust, killed the woman’s wife, and then felt heartache while his kids caused mayhem. He is a great example of a forgiving God in OT times. Psalm 130: 3-4 reads, “If you, Lord, kept record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.” Despite all of his bad stuff God still loved David and still considered him a man after God’s own heart!

In Luke we see God’s love for all the people and His mercy when the parable talks about a Samaritan helping a hurt Jewish man. A Samaritan. Do you realize how much distance the Jewish people put between themselves and Samaritans? A lot. Jesus speaks to a Samaritan woman at the well, as well, and that is another great example of forgiveness.

As we go through our day today please remember this: God is forgiving. If he can forgive the wicked in ancient Israel, the Samaritans, and you I hope you know He can forgive all those who have caused you pain.

I challenge you to think about the love that God has for all people–even the ones that have hurt you in ways that seem unforgivable. Trust God with them. Forgive them, hand them over to the Lord, and trust Him to handle that person with His mercy.

Blessings,
Karissa

PS: I’m sorry I missed last week. Forgive me!

Sunday Reflection: God as Maker

Last Sunday I used Genesis 1 for “God as Beginning”…that means something needs to be different this week – although Genesis 1 is an excellent choice for today’s topic.  Instead, for today, I am going to use a little “reverse Bibliology”.  In the fourth century, there was great conflict over the nature of Jesus the Christ – of most importance was the divinity of Jesus – Arius, a priest of the church in Alexandria, asserted that the divine Christ, the Word through whom all things have their existence, was created by God before the beginning of time – this was to become a great heresy in Christendom (as you know, John 1:1-4, clearly refutes Arius).

From this great and widening rift in the church came the Nicene Creed in AD 381 where the church set forth what it believed based on biblical evidence.  You see, while reading your Bible is clearly important, knowing what you believe and why you believe it is just as important.  It is very easy to get lulled into our own intelligence…and, as Arius, showed, great heresies occur.  What do you believe about God as Maker?  For today, I offer the Nicene Creed which, if you study it, clearly has a biblical basis from beginning to end.

We believe in one God,

the Father, the Almighty,

maker of heaven and earth,

of all that is,

seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,

the only Son of God,

eternally begotten of the Father,

God from God, Light from Light,

true God from true God,

begotten, not made,

of one Being with the Father;

through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation

he came down from heaven,

was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary

and became truly human.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;

he suffered death and was buried.

On the third day he rose again

in accordance with the Scriptures;

he ascended into heaven

and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,

and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son,

who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified,

who has spoken through the prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic (meaning universal) and apostolic Church.

We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

We look for the resurrection of the dead,

and the life of the world to come. Amen.

For today and everyday, ask yourself what you believe and why you believe it.  Take the Nicene Creed and find the biblical basis for every statement.  Just like knowing the answer to 2+2 is 4, you, too, should know the foundation of calling yourself a Christian – a disciple of Jesus the Christ.  If you struggle with finding some of the bases for this Creed, email me your question and I will provide you some help.  Blessings in Christ!

 


This Coming Week’s Readings: 

11/12 Ezekiel 27-29 Psalm 128-129 Luke 8 Matt
11/13 Ezekiel 30-32 Proverbs 12 Luke 9 Bo
11/14 Ezekiel 33-35 Psalm 130 Luke 10 Karissa
11/15 Ezekiel 36-38 Proverbs 13 Luke 11 Dale
11/16 Ezekiel 39-41 Psalm 131 Luke 12 Craig H.
11/17 Ezekiel 42-45 Proverbs 14 Luke 13 Craig R.

Understanding our relationship with God

Today’s Passages (all 1 link):  Ezekiel 23-26; Proverbs 11; Luke 7

Ezekiel 23-26:  Again, and consistently Jehovah is talking through His prophet Ezekiel, personifying the sins of the leadership and the common man of Israel.  In these chapters God gives both Israel and the separated portion known as Samaria names of Ohola and Oholibah, and calls them sisters in harlotry.  They have defiled themselves with Idol worship.  Chapter 23.35 “Thus says the LORD, Because you have forgotten Me and cast Me behind your back, bear now your punishment…” and in verse 39 “ for when they had slaughtered their children for their idols, they entered MY sanctuary on the same day to profane it, and thus they did within My house.”  So yes, Israel tried to mix absolutely vile and heinous practices of child sacrifice to pagan idols, then tried to appease YHWH by going through the motions of Judaism on the Sabbath.  It seems they didn’t want to leave anything to chance, but sacrificed to all the gods, including Jehovah, as though all were equal in their understanding.  Israel surely forgot what Jehovah had done for their fathers, the songs of remembrance, the stories and readings of the work of God’s hands were relegated to the same status as fairy tales.  Other examples were given as to Israels behavior as cooking in a rusty pot, no good can come from it, it is defiled, it must be cleaned from the inside out.  Even Ezekiels wife is an example at her death, Ezekiel is commanded to ignore mourning and ritual, to show that the nation had no regard for their rejection of Jehovah, for false, dead, non living idols.  To forget Jehovah, to regard Him as non existent or useless is like forgetting our spouses.  The woman who bore our children, who prepared our meals, organized our households, who did our laundry, cleaned provided companionship, love, added sensitivity to our boorish ways, and basically civilized and made us fit for society.  To merely forget my wife at her passing, would be impossible in my view, I honestly don’t know how I would recover.  Yet this is the example Ezekiel was called on to act out for Israels forgetting Jehovah.

Proverbs 11: This chapter is a classic comparison of good and evil.  Considering fairness, “A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, while a just weight is His delight.”   Looking at gossip, “He who goes about as a tale bearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.”  Upright and honorable behavior, “He who diligently seeks good seeks favor, But he who seeks evil, evil will come to him.”  The wisdom of consumption, “There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, And there is one who withholds what is justly due, and it results in want.”  There is wisdom in spending wisely and justly.

Luke 11:  In this small slice of Jesus ministry, we are introduced to the welcoming of the gentiles.  Up until now all of Jesus work is completely isolated to Israel, after all He is the prophesied Messiah of Jehovah come to save His people from their sins.  This is exclusively Hebrew prophecy, Hebrew relationship to Jehovah.  How very odd that Israel would not recognize their anointed Savior, the leaders who were steeped in the writings of Moses, the prophecies of the psalms and the writings of the prophets.  I believe they knew, they just didn’t like the idea of disrupting their lifestyle.  So we read of Jesus healing a Roman Centurion’s slave, thus showing that God is reaching out to all mankind as a result of His being rejected by the Jewish hierarchy. The Pharisees say they are appalled by his association with the sinners of Israel, the traitors, and the tax collectors.  Jesus points out their rejection of John the Baptizer, who most likely was an Essene, a sect that known for their separation from sin,and lived truly pious lives that dwarfed the Pharisees so called piety, and when Jesus came living a lifestyle much more associated with the Pharisees, yet with out sin, they reject Him also.  Jesus added love to the Law, the main thing missing from the actions required by the Law.  The reality is we can no more keep the law in our own strength than we can love mankind and keep the law in our own strength.  Jesus came to save us from our sins, that which allows us both to love, and obey.  The prostitute from Nain who washed Jesus feet with her hair and tears is that example of worship and gratitude that comes from having your sins forgiven and being accepted as you are, not that you will continue in sin but that your past no longer has to define your future.  Simon the Pharisee chose to continue his life thinking too highly of himself and not seeing his need for forgiveness.  Israel as a nation rejected Jesus, but individual Israel citizens accepted salvation from their Messiah.  In the Law there were acts of forgiveness for sins, the Atonement that was a national act by the priests with the two goats, then there was the individual act of the passover, where each man had to put the blood on his own dwelling.  So it is today, each man must decide for himself if he wants to be forgiven of the sins he knows are his alone, and follow Jesus, or simply reject the idea that anything is wrong with himself.

Israel inherited lies and traditions from their parents that led to misunderstanding and false worship of Jehovah, and worship of false gods.  We have also inherited false truths about our relationship with God, and eternity.  We need to be diligent to accurately understand our relationship with the creator of the universe through His Son Jesus the Christ. What a wonder it is to be born again.  To be alive spiritually, we who were dead in our trespasses and sins, but now born into new life with our Savior.

Karl

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