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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

April 2019

Who is the Justifier?

Today’s Passage:  (Romans 3:19-28)

How many times have you said something like this, “I am justified (in/of having done something) because…”  Or, maybe you have been quick to quote verse 23, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” in response to someone while leaving out the most important verse 24.  As is often the case, quoting the Bible is a tricky thing you know.  There is nothing wrong with memorizing Bible verses but it is important to understand context. 

The key to today’s passage is not primarily about sin or the law but, as is often the case with the Bible, today’s passage is about God.  God’s action.  God as the Justifier.  In seminary we read a few sermons by the 18th century preacher Jonathan Edwards.  One, in particular, is on Romans 3:19 and titled, “The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners”.  Now there’s a title sure to get some attention.  Edwards preaches the contrast of our sin against the holiness of God and, in short, to sin against God is a terrible crime deserving infinite punishment.  Infinite as in eternal.

Edwards’ sermon concludes with the following thoughts:  “I will finish what I have to say to natural men in the application of this doctrine, with a caution not to improve the doctrine to discouragement. For though it would be righteous in God for ever to cast you off, and destroy you, yet it would also be just in God to save you, in and through Christ, who has made complete satisfaction for all sin. Romans 3:25, 26. “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” Yea, God may, through this Mediator, not only justly, but honourably, show you mercy. The blood of Christ is so precious, that it is fully sufficient to pay the debt you have contracted, and perfectly to vindicate the Divine Majesty from all the dishonour cast upon it, by these many great sins of yours that have been mentioned. It was as great, and indeed a much greater thing, for Christ to die, than it would have been for you and all mankind to have burnt in hell to all eternity. Of such dignity and excellency is Christ in the eyes of God, that, seeing he has suffered so much for poor sinners, God is willing to be at peace with them, however vile and unworthy they have been, and on how many accounts soever the punishment would be just. So that you need not be at all discouraged from seeking mercy, for there is enough in Christ.”  (Source: http://www.jonathan-edwards.org/Justice.html)

Devotional Thought:  The question Paul is trying to answer is this, “How can a holy God be just if he pardons guilty sinners?”  The answer is simple yet ultimately troublesome for us humans who want to be in control – we celebrated the answer just a week ago…Jesus’ sacrificial death is what satisfied God’s wrath showing God’s justice in justifying sinners who have faith in Jesus. Justification by grace through faith in Jesus!

 

 

 

 

Our Heavenly Father

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Matthew 6

There is a lot to take in from this chapter of Matthew. But if I had to sum it up in just a few words, I think the main gist of this passage is that what humans think they need to do to please God and what we really need to do to please God are off by a little bit. As I read this chapter, I was reminded of the last sermon that Micah preached at First Pres. His main point was that all of the religious rituals that are done in some churches or by some people are not what God really wants from us. Instead, what God really wants from us is what I blog about all the time. Love God and love others…in that order. God wants us to have a relationship with him through prayer, but those prayers don’t have to be long, fancy, and full of big words. This chapter also says that what we do to attempt to please God shouldn’t be boastful just to show off for others. I believe that to mean that we don’t have to only pray in secret, or only make anonymous donations to the needy. It’s more of a matter of what’s on our heart at the time that we are doing those things. If I have something that I need to pray to God for while I’m at the mall, there is nothing wrong with me saying a quick prayer in a very public place. But if I drop to my knees in the middle of the walkway so that everyone will see me (and maybe because I know people will see me and know I am religious), then maybe I’m doing it for the wrong reasons. In the end, only God knows what is on our hearts and what our intent is.

Finally, the part of this chapter that is both the most reassuring and most difficult is the last paragraph about worrying. I don’t know about you, but I can be the model citizen for worry. I get worried about lots of things that in the end probably really don’t matter. I always have to take a step back and ask myself in the grand scheme of life, how much does this really matter? Worrying about those things won’t add anything to my life. In fact, it is just the opposite. Worry takes away from my life. It makes life absolutely miserable at times. But again, I think there is a difference between worry and general concern. I worry about things because I care. But maybe I care a little too much. I truly believe that everything that I have is a gift from God, so I always make sure to make the best effort to take great care of everything that I’ve been blessed with. I work my butt off at my job for that reason. I take care of my belongings for that reason. I try to not be wasteful with money for that reason. But sometimes, I get too focused on being “perfect” with those things, even though there isn’t really a such thing as perfect. God created, and it was good. As long as I am trying my hardest to be the best that God made me to be, then I think I am doing right by Him. But to overextend myself and make too much of a deal out of those same things is trying to be someone God doesn’t intend for me to be. At that point, Satan has taken over my thoughts and causes unnecessary stress.

So, keep it simple for God. He doesn’t need or want big and fancy. He just wants you to be devoted to Him. And know that God will always provide for you exactly what you need and not a penny more. No need to worry too much about things because God’s plan for us is much greater than what we can see in front of our own eyes. Trust in His plan. Not easy to do, but all we can do is keep trying to focus on Him and ask for his guidance through simple prayers.

Our Maker

Psalm 95.6 “ Come let us worship and bow down, let let us kneel before YHVH O’SAYNU, ( the LORD our Maker.) “ This Psalm starts with a call for joyous singing to Jehovah, to shout joyfully to the Rock of our Salvation. In Deuteronomy 32 we can read the Song of Moses where he refers to Jehovah as the Rock, verse 4. This is a reference to the rock at Mount Horeb, where the children of Israel were grumbling to Moses after the Exodus from Egypt, that they had no water. So Jehovah instructed Moses to take his rod, pass through the crowd and strike this enormous free standing rock of flint that is some 60 feet tall. There the water flowed out of the split in the rock from top to bottom, in such abundance as to fill about a half mile adjoining depression in the ground and form a small lake for the Israelites to drink from. This is one of the life saving miracles God performed in the wilderness to prove His ability to protect and provide for His chosen people. The Psalmists then, who were very aware of their history and the power of their Savior Jehovah, often draw upon these references in their songs of praise to Jehovah. Deuteronomy 32. 18 then refers to this same depiction of Jehovah with, “You neglected the Rock who begot you, and forgot the God who gave you birth.” So then not only is Jehovah our Provider and Protecter but is in fact our Maker, or Creator. Note also the wording of these references as to both the Masculine and Feminine attributes of Jehovah. We see these same attributes through out the New Testament as in John 3, “you must be born again.”

In Isaiah 54.5 “ For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is The LORD of Hosts; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” Here we the same reference to Jehovah yet in a purely masculine depiction. Yet one verse later, “ For the LORD has called you like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit,” the point being that God is beyond sexual identity, and has all attributes used to describe Him revealed in scripture, to us, that we might better be able to understand Him. For those who have a hard time relating to a man God, can also understand Him as having many attributes of a feminine nature.

There is none like our God Jehovah, who is the Creator, and Maker of all life as we know it, and probably beyond what we know. He is most worthy of our worship and praise for what He has done and is still doing in our lives individually, collectively, and universally. The God of Israel is the same God of the gentiles, who have been grafted into the vine of Israel. There is no such reality as Replacement Theology, the very God of Israel who chose them, is Immutable, and will not break covenant with them, though He has put them in a time out for disciplinary reasons, and will draw them back to Himself in these last days when they cry out,” Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD.”

Karl

Mighty To Save

Isaiah 63:1-6

Review:  This arrival is strange, indeed, it fills Isaiah with astonishment.  He comes from Bozrah, Edom.  His garment is royal purple, stained with the blood of his enemies from the “day of vengeance” (v. 4).  His journey and struggle is a solitary one.

Analysis:  My Bible indicates that this passage is similar to others (cp. Isa. 2:10-22, Rev. 19:11-21).  The writing of each is highly symbolic, although some of what is stated can literally take place.  We have is the supreme struggle of the coming ( the second time for Christians) Messiah against a fully fallen world, with apparently most all that is Godly and/or good removed.  This Messiah confronts the sin of humankind alone, abandoned as he was when he confronted the same issue the first time at the cross (Mark 15:24-41).  All of this is shockingly violent.  Such are some aspects of life on this planet as those Christians who attended services this past Easter in Sri Lanka can attest.  Please pray for God’s healing and for persecution of Christians worldwide to end.    The judgement of sin and mankind failings is also an aspect of Jesus’ ministry (Jn. 9:35-41).  No, it won’t be easy or pain-free.

A God Who Raises the Dead

Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.

2 Corinthians 1:9

The Good News, indeed!

Easter Sunday may be over, but you know what a friend of mine recently reminded me of? The Jesus of Resurrection Sunday is the same Jesus every day. Jesus does not change. God does not change.

Miracles are not limited to holy weeks or holidays.

The Bible is filled with God raising people from the dead. Check out this fun little list just to get an idea.

Resurrections don’t stop there. They happen daily within ourselves. Remember Romans 6:23. We are reminded that we were dead in our transgressions in Ephesians 2:1 too and Jesus saved us.

Let’s get personal.

I was dead before I came to Christ. He was chasing me throughout my childhood, but I never took his hand. I kept hiding, thinking I was too broken and dirty to be loved by such a Good and Gracious God. I became a zombie.

Do you know what that’s like?

Smiling on the outside while dying on the inside? Feeling like any moment the facade you’ve put up is going to crumble at your feet and you’ll be left with the twisted innards exposed that you have worked so painstakingly hard to hide?

That was me. Going to school. Working. On the outside I looked like I had it all together: good grades, getting high reviews at work, loved by family and friends… but the inside was numb and separated from God. That separation, that was my death.

Then God called me by name and I finally listened.

And my world exploded into one of light and life.

This morning I pray the Lord above brings anything that is dead in you back to life. I pray that if you’re going through the motions like I was that you stop and accept the loving embrace of the Lord. Listen for that still small voice, my friends. It’s there.

With great blessings and love,
Karissa

Author of Salvation…

Hillsong, in their song “Mighty to Save” sings these words…

Savior he can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave 

As we approach Good Friday and then Easter resurrection, these words and their overall message of promise are so encouraging.  It is very good to remember what Jesus did for you and I and anyone else who confesses with their lips that Jesus is Lord and believes in their hearts that God raised him from the dead that they will be saved (paraphrase Romans 10:9).  And, Hebrews 2:10 tells us that Jesus is the pioneer of salvation.

So, for those who claim Jesus as Lord and Savior, it is incumbent on them to be a living witness to this very reality…especially for those who have yet to know the saving grace of God.  I have known many who avoid Good Friday claiming that it is too brutal. Yet, unless you understand and accept the depth of love God has for all his children made real, in part, in the pain and agony of Good Friday, one cannot fully comprehend fully what salvation really means.

Devotional Thought:  As you look back today and remember what took place over 2000 years ago, I encourage you to see today, tomorrow and the future a little differently.  Ask yourself this question, “Do you really believe with all your heart about Jesus suffering, death and resurrection and, are you counting on it?”

The song by Hillsong, “Mighty to Save” ends this way and provides a bias for action on our part…based on your confession of faith!!

Shine your light and let the whole world see
Were singing for the glory of the risen king Jesus 

A Father of Mercies & God of All Comfort

2 Corinthians 1:3-7

So today I was supposed to only blog about verse 3, but that verse alone didn’t quite do justice for describing the title of today’s entry. I see this passage as being somewhat of a pay it forward situation. When we are feeling down and troubled, God will be there to console us. He will see us through to the end, even if the end isn’t what we had hoped for. We have to remember that He has the big picture and we basically only have tunnel vision. Consoling us might not mean we are getting a get out of jail free card if only we pray hard enough. His plan might be for something much more significant. It might be the next spectacular thing. We just have to struggle with some things first, and God is there to see us through it, even if it isn’t easy for us.

But, we also will have people placed in our lives that need us to be there for them too. As tough as times might be for us, everyone else is struggling with things of their own. A phrase we use a lot at my school is “Be kind. Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” As challenging as times may be for you, there are probably people with the same if not bigger challenges. We need to show them compassion and give them support, as difficult as that may be for us to do.

The final paragraph says that we have to endure the hard times just like you enjoy the good times. I tell my son Creighton often that nothing good comes without hard work. Things aren’t always going to be easy. You need to have a little grit. The old saying that I remember from when I was a kid is that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Look to God in prayer for guidance and strength to carry on. Know that He is there. He is the footprints in the sand carrying you when you can’t go any further. It may not be easy, but you CAN do it.

A Father of Lights…

James 1. 17

Luke 11. 11-13
James says “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”

Jehovah is the Father of lights, in Him there is no darkness, no shadow arises in His presence because His light is all consuming, there are no shifting shadows because He never moves or changes. And all is revealed or exposed in His light, nothing is hidden from His sight. As the Torah and the Prophets and the Books of Wisdom reveal Jehovahs character and attributes we understand that nothing happens on earth that catches Jehovah by surprise. In other words, “has it ever occurred to you that nothing ever occurs to God?”

He is also the complete picture of Love. There is nothing more to add to, or better describe perfect love, than the description of Jehovah as revealed in the scriptures. John 3.16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but has everlasting life.”

Luke 11. 11-13 “ Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; will he not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? “Or if he asked for an egg, he will nor give him a scorpion, will he? “If you then being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.”

I guess by extension we can safely say that the one perfect gift given is in fact the Holy Spirit. James is not talking about cars, or phones, or lotteries, or any material things. Once we are born alive in the Spirit, all fleshly things pale in comparison to the spiritual. Yes we are still required to live on this earth and we have necessary needs, and we are even allowed to have certain luxuries, but they are not the true focus of our lives. We are in the world but not of it. We have a certain desire for spiritual things, and the greatest good gift given by our Heavenly Father is the promised Holy Spirit, that would only come after Jesus ascension, and is our advocate, our comforter, our seal, and our pledge.

We are seeing a lot of divine appointments here in Missouri, a lot of the Holy Spirit’s working, answered prayers, changed lives, and good things abounding all around. I wish there was more time and space in these blogs to fill you all in on some details, but it is enough to tell you that the Holy Sprit is alive and active, what a perfect gift from God the Father.

Karl

For Unto Us…

For a child has been born for us,
    a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
    and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

According to Handel’s Messiah it sounds…

A bit of Christmas to get our Holy Week started.  Physically speaking, the former was a requirement of the later.  Theologically speaking, His sacrifices at the the cross, the later were necessitated by His birth, the former.  That’s the hidden meaning behind Christmas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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