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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

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December 2018

Same Reward For All Who Believe

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Zechariah 1-3; Proverbs 29; Matthew 20

This school year has been exceptionally challenging for me. In reality, they are all challenging in their own way, but this year, I am teaching English language arts, a subject that I have zero experience teaching, and I have gotten WAY behind in what the kids are reading these days. So I have been reading lots of books. I just finished one last night titled Orbiting Jupiter, which is by Gary D Schmidt. It is about a family who lives in rural Maine, and who takes in a troubled teen as foster parents. This young 14 year old man, Joseph, has been in trouble with the law multiple times, and comes from an abusive home. So when he moves in with his foster family and starts attending the local school, he has a reputation that precedes him, and isn’t a pleasant reputation. Needless to say, most of the students and many of the staff members, the principal and assistant principal included, barely even give the kid a chance to be successful. They make the assumption that he will make all sorts of bad choices and that everyone should just stay away from him. He almost never had a chance to prove that deep down inside there really is a good person in there, just being suppressed by horrible experiences in his life prior to moving in with the foster family.

But there were people in this rural Maine town who did believe in him, and did give him a chance. And with their love and support, he slowly showed that he actually was a kind, caring, loving kid who had some anger issues penned up because his mother had died when he was young and his dad was abusive and an alcoholic, and his best friend and girlfriend tragically died. But his foster family and a few teachers at the school believed in his potential, and gave him a chance. And in the end, he proved to everyone who believed and who doubted that he had a good heart and just wanted to find something that was important to him that was taken from him.

There is a lot more than that, but I don’t want to give too much away in case anyone decides to pick the book up. Anyway, how does this relate to today’s passages? As I read the Zechariah chapters and the parable of the vineyard workers, it reminded me that God knows who we are deep down inside, our true character. And whether we have been there with him since the beginning, or if we are just becoming acquainted with him, or for those who have yet to turn to him, we all will be accepted the same. There won’t be a bigger reward for those who have been with Him since you were a young child than someone who turns to Him on their deathbed.

So continue to pray for everyone at this holiday season. Pray for those who have been with God their entire lives that they continue to live in His love, and pray also for those who have not yet discovered or believed, that they may find their way to Him so that they may also have the same reward in heaven.

Merry Christmas to all of you.

Possibility…

Today’s Passages:  Haggai; Psalm 147: Matthew 19

Haggai: In the second year of Darius the Mede, the Word of the LORD came to Haggai. Build My house. So Haggai goes to the exiled Israelites and tells them that Jehovah has ordained the re-building of the temple. A key verse in this book is 1.12 “ And the people showed reverence for the LORD.” Then a question is to be asked to the priests, “Can something Holy redeem the unholy, or does the unholy defile what is Holy.” So it is with Israel, they have been in defilement, in sin, in rebellion for so long that what was Holy had to be removed from their midst. They were with out God, alone in their exile, until they came to their senses and “showed reverence for the LORD.” Verse 19 of chapter 2 Jehovah said “From this day on I will bless you.” Without confession, without repentance there is no redemption.

Psalm 147 Verse 11: “ The LORD favors those who fear Him, Those who wait for His lovingkindness.” Throughout this psalm it tells of the wonders of Jehovah’s creation, how He counts the stars, He covers the heavens with clouds, and provides rain, He supports the afflicted, He binds the wounds, and heals the broken hearted. Jehovah alone makes peace on our borders, He alone brings the harvest. And He declares His words to Jacob, His statutes and ordinances to Israel. As Gentiles we know about Jehovah because of Israel, they were the keepers of the word of God. Many of us don’t fully understand the detail to which the priests and scribes went through to keep the Word pure and accurate. The number of letters on each page were counted, and not one mistake was allowed, not one letter was out of place. For that alone we have much to be thankful to Israel for, and of course the LORD who made such stringent demands for protection of His Word. Bibliology is that study of the origins of the word of God.

Matthew19: Jesus is again being tested by the Pharisees, to see if He can be trapped into saying something wrong. Divorce is the subject today, Jesus answer is simply Jehovah never intended for two people who were married to divorce, but because of hardness of heart, because one of a pair wants to dominate, because of wayward desires, Moses permitted divorce, but it is not God’s first choice for mankind. Jesus then lays hands on the little children and prays for them in their innocence, for of such is the kingdom of heaven. We don’t understand all that is to come, or all that is available to us in the kingdom of heaven, so in like manner we are children, trusting that our Heavenly Father knows best. Finally a rich young man comes to Jesus and says “What good thing must I do to obtain eternal life.” Jesus, as in Luke 10, says “Why are you asking about what is good, there is only one who is good,” in reference to Himself, meaning a person coming to Him must confess that He is God. In the plan of salvation one must admit they are sinners, they must repent or turn away from sin, they must acknowledge that Jesus is LORD, and then follow Him. Jesus tells the young man to sell everything, give it to the poor and “Follow me.” The disciples are confused about this seemingly impossible demand on becoming a Christ follower, and Jesus explains simply, “What is impossible for man, is possible with God.”

The whole salvation story seems impossible, the demands, the order, do we confess first or repent first, what does it all mean, yet all things are possible with God who is in the redemption business. Just as Jesus could always read the hearts of the Pharisees, He also reads our hearts. When we cry out to Him He is reading our hearts desire, He makes it all possible, He saves, the order and the words we stumble through are of little value, what counts is our hearts condition. Come to Him in faith, and He will do the saving part. Even in our prayers, it’s not so much our words we pray as it is our hearts condition and desire. The song says it very well, “O how He Loves you and me.”

Karl

The Book of Zephaniah

Zephaniah   Proverbs 23     Matthew 18

Review:  Zephaniah penned this prophecy under the reign of Josiah of Judah (640-609 BC)…It was a tumultuous time.  Babylon was in the process of becoming the predominant regional power and with its sack of Assyrian Nineveh (2:13), it did…Bad times are ahead for Judah and Jerusalem (1:1-18)…A call is made to seek the LORD in the midst of these calamities (2:1-3)…Judgments are spelled out for nations surrounding Judah (2:4-15)…Against Judah as well (3:1-7)…Judah is called to wait on God (3:8-9)…Eventually a remnant of Israel will be restored (3:9-13) and revel in it (3:14-15)…Jerusalem is called to trust God (3:16-18) because in the end it will work out for her (3:19-20).

Analysis:  The destruction looks to be complete (1:2-3), much like the flood (Gen. 6:5-7)…Judah is singled out for her idolatry (1:4-5) and indifference towards God (1:6)…Jerusalem’s day will be a bad one (1:8-13)…Then we have what appears to be a more universal day of judgement for the rest of us (1:14-18)…The “undesirable” nation may be Judah.  It must repent quickly as judgement is on its way (2:2-3)…The judgements of these nations (2:4-15) and of Judah (3:1-7) are all for the same sins – idolatry and pride, which is a type of idolatry.  That of making ones self out to be a god…They, like we, believe in our own god’s and ourselves (2:13-15) more than the real God…After the smiting will come conversion (3:9, cp. Ps. 2:5-8, Dan. 2:34-35, Rev. 19:19-20:6) because God’s overall attitude towards the earth is that of love (3:17)…Israel’s destiny and fame (Deut. 26:16-19) will come to be eventually (3:20).

When We Live in Faith, Praise, and Listen

Habakkuk, Psalm 145, Matthew 17 (NIV)

Habakkuk- Habakkuk lived in Judah and prophesied near the time when the Babylonians were going to conquer them and carry them off into captivity.  Habakkuk was perplexed that wickedness, injustice, and strife were prevalent in Judah and yet God seemed to do nothing.  When told that God was going to do something through the Babylonians Habakkuk wondered how God who is “too pure to look on evil” (1:13) could use such an evil nation for the judgement of Judah.  God makes it clear that the Babylonians will also be judged and found wanting in due time.  Habakkuk learns to rest and trust in God’s plans.

Perhaps the best known verse of Habakkuk is the second half of 2:4 “but the righteous will live by their faithfulness.”  Paul builds his theology and the Book of Romans on justification by faith when he writes in Romans 1:17, “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Psalm 145- This is a wonderful Psalm to read and I would encourage you to read it once a day for a week.  This Psalm celebrates the wonderful God we worship and serve.  Here we read of God’s abundant goodness, righteousness, grace, compassion, and love, and much, much more.  It concludes, “My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.  Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.”  May we join in such joyful and passionate praise of God.  

Matthew 17- In Matthew we read of Jesus’ Transfiguration, the Healing of a demon-possessed boy, prediction of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and paying the Temple Tax.  We see the wonder, compassion, obedience, and respect for the law of Jesus in his ministry.  Perhaps the best verse to remember is when God speaks in 17:5, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

Devotional Thoughts- In these passages we learn that, “The righteous will live by faith.”  It is good to live in praise of the God who so deeply loves us for the Lord is abundant in goodness. Life is at its best when we listen to Jesus.  This day allow Jesus to speak into your life that you may live in faith and to the praise of God.

Doubt or trust….

Today’s Passages (all 1 link):  Nahum; Proverbs 27; Matthew 16

Nahum:  When was the last time you read this book?  In this season of hope, it is a bit odd that we read the poetic images of God’s coming judgment against Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire.  Judah felt relief in the coming destruction of Nineveh – comforted in the reality that God is in control.  And isn’t this the primary message of the season we celebrate – that God is indeed in control – that our God is sovereign even over those many of us think are seemingly invincible?

Proverbs 27:  Interestingly, 16 of the 27 verses in this chapter deal with the relationships between the people.  While we know about a warning of tomorrow’s uncertainty, we know that we should not boast about the future.  The future is uncertain for all of us, therefore, we should be diligent…acting with foresight – thinking about those in our lives who are important.

Matthew 16:  How many times have any of us asked for a sign from the God of the universe to prove himself to us when what we needed most of all is to believe.  Believe…a simple word really, but one that is something we take for granted or, a word, for us sinful humans, grounded in a foundation of doubt.  Why is so hard for us to remember that with and in God, all things are possible?

Today’s devotion is simple…we have a choice – doubt or a trust in the sovereign God of all creation to be who be says he is – the God made real in Jesus!!

 

 

 

 

Sunday Reflection: God as Savior

Well…just about a week to Christmas!!  Are you ready?  Now that’s a rather silly question don’t you think?  Every 365 days, December 25th comes around.  Like clockwork…don’t you think?  But, the question, “are you ready?”, is a most profound question if you stop to think about it.  The simple truth, every “Christmas” for the past 2000 years is this…God sent Jesus into our world – crashed into our world to show us who he is…grace and truth.  Reminding us who he is – God with us…Leading us….Guiding us.

Devotional Thought:  What are you looking for this Christmas?  Are you focused on the one true God who wishes to be part of your life?  Ponder these words anew today…”But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:  to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)  The promise came over 2000 years ago and the promise remains for our future that Jesus will again return to redeem his creation…are you ready?  

 


This Coming Week’s Readings:

12/17 Micah 6-7 Psalm 144 Matthew 15 Karissa
12/18 Nahum Proverbs 27 Matthew 16 Dale
12/19 Habakkuk Psalm 145 Matthew 17 Craig H.
12/20 Zephaniah Proverbs 28 Matthew 18 Craig R.
12/21 Haggai Psalm 146 Matthew 19 Karl
12/22 Zechariah 1-3 Proverbs 29 Matthew 20 Matt

 

John the Baptist and Jesus

Micah 4-5Proverbs 26Matthew 14

In the last few weeks, Pastor Dale and I had a lot of conversation about John the Baptist in the context of Advent. John the Baptist is an important figure in the Bible story, and with all that many times his role is downplayed or all together ignored in the context of Advent.

In part because we tend to look at Advent as it only pertains to Jesus as a baby. In that light, the season of Advent becomes all about the Birth Story, and do not get me wrong, is important but is not the whole picture. Advent as the church celebrates it is more than that: it is about the coming of Jesus: as a baby, as a savior and as a King yet to come. Advent does not stop at the manger, it goes to the river Jordan, it goes to the cross and looks forward to the time that Jesus will return.

If we are to embrace this wider view of Advent, of “to come” it is easier for us to understand how John the Baptist becomes an important piece in the narrative, in part because he is there to pave the way for the Messiah. As he is preaching in the wilderness, he helps people see the call that God as for all: return and change your lives, go further and live worthy of your Father in heaven. 
Today’s reading in Micah speaks about such a time: 

“In that day,” declares the Lord,

“I will gather the lame;
    I will assemble the exiles
    and those I have brought to grief.
I will make the lame my remnant,
    those driven away a strong nation.
The Lord will rule over them in Mount Zion
    from that day and forever.

A time when people will return to God and God will return to them. That is what Advent season should e about: celebrating the way God is entering our world again and again. That was the message of John, that became the message of Jesus, and it is the message on our lips this season. 

John’s story has a tragic ending indeed, but his message to repent and return to God has survived for so long. Maybe this season we can all gather around the manger, celebrate the baby Jesus but also remind ourselves that every day is a call to advent, a call to Christ entering our world.

Be blessed,

Bo M. 

Team Jesus

im-on-team-jesus-imnotreligious-ima-christian-imperfectandunworthy-saved-by-8899994

Micah 1-3; Psalm 143; Matthew 13

Micah 1-3

Israel and Judah have been behaving badly. They have done evil in the eyes of the Lord. The people of the land are breaking many of the commandments, including coveting and stealing. The ones who consider themselves to be prophets are actually leading the people astray. The leaders of these two great lands treat they people they rule with hate in their hearts. They take bribes and do not judge people equally. But a chosen few will be led like sheep to their pen, by the One who will pass through the gate before them.

Psalm 143

Sometimes it can seem like the entire world is working against us. It can wear us down and we grow weary. It seems like we can’t go on any further. But then we can remember all that God has done, and what He can do for us in our lives. We can cry out to Him, knowing that He can bring us peace and restore us in our time of need.

Matthew 13

In this chapter, several parables are told by Jesus to explain what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. There is the parable of the sower of seeds, the parable of the weeds, parable of the mustard seed, yeast, hidden treasure and the pearl, and fishing net. In most of these parables, Jesus teaches about how those who have true faith will see the the kingdom, while those whose “faith” is more for show in public places will not see the kingdom. Most of this is mud he is slinging at the religious leaders, the Pharisees, who place themselves high above everyone else, yet they are complete hypocrites.

 

Reflection

There are so many days when it seems like we are fighting an uphill battle, and the path only grows steeper day after day. It can get to a point where there is no end in sight at times. In the past week alone, I’ve had someone try to hack my Apple account, got a fraud alert for one of my credit cards, had to have my garage door replaced because it got hit by a car (not mine), work piling up, teething baby, and the list goes on. Keep my head above water? Barely sometimes. Yet, I know that all of these things that come my way on a daily or weekly basis are all just minor bumps in the road. By my faith, I can rely on the fact that Jesus has my back. There might be lots of turmoil in the world around me. But, as we read in Micah,

12“I will surely gather all of you, Jacob;

   I will surely bring together the remnant of Israel.

I will bring them together like sheep in a pen,

   like a flock in its pasture;

   the place will throng with people.

13 The One who breaks open the way will go up before them;

   they will break through the gate and go out.

Their King will pass through before them,

   the Lord at their head.”

Jesus will be with us like a shepherd leads his sheep to pasture. As was in Craig’s sermon this past week, Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He knows us by name, and cares for us. All the rest of the craziness of this world doesn’t matter when we have Jesus on our team. Thanks be to God.

Fundamentals…

Jonah 3-4:   As the story of Jonah continues in chapter 3.1 ”Now the word of Jehovah came to Jonah the second time. “ Is this not enough evidence?  Our God, Jehovah, is gracious and kind, forgiving and long suffering.  Many people today say that He is a God of second chances, and that is very true, yet I would add that he has given me many, many more than two chances.  He surely is a grace giving God.  Understand that Jehovah has sent Jonah, a Hebrew, one of the chosen ones, to a gentile nation, an unchosen people, to offer them forgiveness.  Nineveh was an especially evil city, with child sacrifice, and impure from every view point.  Jonah, the Hebrew, wants the vengeance of Jehovah to come upon them, yet he obeys God and gives a less than compelling warning.  “ Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown!”  This might be a rather brief warning or at least an incomplete picture of the future, I would want to know who said, and what do we do to stop this impending doom, and other unanswered questions.  But it seems to be enough for the Ninevites.  Jehovah is pleased with their response and Jonah is disturbed and disgusted with Jehovah.  In the Hebrew mindset, blessing comes only with the destruction of evil, or enemies.  There is no separation between the two, you can’t have one without the other.  Isaiah 61.2, in the passage that Jesus read in the temple that caused such an uproar in Luke 4. 16-30.  It says, “To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God;”  in Luke Jesus deleted the “vengeance “ part of the reading and it sorely disturbed the people in the temple.  You simply can’t have one without the other, no blessing is really a blessing if the enemy isn’t destroyed also.  That’s why Jonah was so despairing of life after Nineveh’s repentance and God’s forgiveness.  

Proverbs 25: is one of the Proverbs and base for Jesus sermons as recorded in the Gospels.  Verse 6 “It is better to be exalted by others than to blow your own horn.”  Verse 11 “Use gentleness in your reproof of others, clumsy, harsh words only alienate.”  My friend Rob always reminds me of this one, as I am blurting something out, he merely says, “Love, Karl, Love.”  Verse 17, “Don’t overstay your welcome.”  Verse 21 “Give food and drink to your enemy and therefore heap coals of fire upon his head, and please God.”

Mathew 12:  Many people, even Christians, wonder about the story of Jonah.  Really, a great fish swallowed Jonah?  He was alive after three days in the deep, or in the belly of the fish?  This is a fable right?  A story with a moral, right?  Well friends, it seems Jesus believed it!  In verse 39 He reveals, after being asked to give “a sign to the Pharisees,” by the Pharisees, “ …no sign will be given to this generation, but the sign of Jonah the prophet.  For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” ( And that means three days and three nights. I can count, can’t you? )  Another major theme in this chapter is the truth that, “the Law was made for man, not man for the Law.”  The legalists, from the time that Jesus was on earth, to our current times, are overcome with detail that doesn’t save, or even help mankind.  It’s akin to straightening the pictures on the wall as your house is on fire.  Christian principles like “Don’t lie, always tell the truth,” sometimes depend on the way a question is asked.  The question by our wives might be “Does this dress make me look fat?”  might better be asked, “Does this dress make me look fit?”  In either case it’s better to be diplomatic, gracious and kind.  “A soft answer turns away wrath.”  In many cases the legalist will want unadorned truth that surely will hurt the other party, and our response needs to be seasoned with grace, and common sense.  There are many times that wisdom is the better part of valor. 

Pray daily that the Holy Spirit comes upon you to lead you in righteousness.  Live Holy before the LORD, and be kind one to another.

Karl

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