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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

August 2019

Free from Law of Sin & Death

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

Romans 8:33-34

The beginning of this passage, Romans 8:31, is one of my favorite verses: If God is for us, who can be against us?

When we talk about the Law of Sin and Death we have to look back to the Jewish Law and the strict guidelines (though mercifully given by a perfect God to an imperfect people with precise directions instead of wishy-washy ways) of the Mosaic Law.

When Jesus came as the perfect eternal sacrifice on the cross to atone (cover) our sins, we were freed from the Law. This does not mean the Law was bad. This does not mean that we are free to be as sinful as we want. This means that God, in His perfect love, saw that we had defects that would keep us forever apart from Him. Our God knew from the day of the Fall (from day 0, I’m sure) that we would need a redeemer. God gave us a Savior in the form of His only begotten son, Jesus.

This means that the price for our sins has been paid in full. We no longer go to alters or sacrifices, but instead have bodies which are living sacrifices and temples to the Holy Spirit. No man can look down on us with his own ideology and condemn us–brothers and sisters in Christ can use the word of God to point out a fellow Christians area of struggle and offer support in that area with love knowing a life apart from a sinful habit is far better and freeing that one where we are tied to sin’s bondage.

This verse means we have security in our salvation knowing that God will fight for us and with us. What will He hold back on giving to us in this manner when He has already given us His Son? Nothing. There is nothing keeping us apart from God and His love for us.

Blessings,
Karissa

 

Jesus’ Suffering For Us

1 Peter 2:21-25

Review & Analysis:  “Christ’s suffering for you, leaving you an example of steps to follow” (v. 21) … In the past, suffering for the LORD’s sake has been an integral part of the Christian experience (cp. Isa. 53:1-12) … Jesus’ suffering was both in His passion and His hanging on the cross … His suffering resulted in our salvation (vv. 22-24) … The motif of the shepherd corralling sheep (v. 25) is a common concept in both the New and Old Testaments (cp. Ps. 23, Ezek. 34, John 10) … The example of Christ’s suffering is foundational to Christian beliefs and practices.  It is the identity of a Christian called to do good works in the face of persecution or called to return good for evil.  In doing so, the Christian fulfills God’s will and at the same time experiences His grace.

Rely on Love…

I John 4:7-16 (NRSV)

John reminds us that as followers of Christ we should love one another.  Why is this so?  There are several reasons.  Let’s begin here; God first loved us, “10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.”

Here’s the second reason.  Twice in this passage, in verse 8 and then in verse 16, John tells us that “God is love.”  How wonderful is that!  Read this over and over again and put it in your heart. “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.”

Today and every day let us rely on the love of God, which is alive in all who follow and love the Lord Jesus.  God is love! May we live in, think from, and act out of the amazing love of God in Jesus.

 

Seek First

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 6:33

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I am very cautious when it comes to telling people that God will give them things they pray for. I know God doesn’t give us everything we think we need or want.

Which is why this verse is important.

Rather than worrying about today, we are called to seek first God’s Kingdom–work towards being disciples, knowing who God is, being who God created us to be–before anything else. This also means checking that our wills (my personal Karissa will) and God’s will are lining up to look alike.

One of my most heartfelt prayers I give to the Lord is “Not my will, Lord, but yours be done.” Sometimes I ask Him to have our wills align, other times I just accept God’s will (even if it doesn’t feel great at the moment), and still yet sometimes I fight God’s will.

Then I need songs like the one below to help me out:

There’s a few other songs out there about God’s will being done that might help you out if you’re struggling. Sometimes, when I’m struggling bad enough, I use contemporary Christian music as a prayer while I drive. It’s filled with Scripture, truth, and articulates so well what I’m thinking!

It’s okay to wrestle with God, it’s okay to question God, it’s okay to be in a conversation with Him and asking Him what He’s doing. It’s okay that sometimes He doesn’t answer us right away. It’s okay that we feel behind, forgotten, or forsaken so long as we remember the truth.

Here’s a final song inspired greatly by Psalm 42 (1-5):

This woman’s cover is wonderful, by the way.

Blessings,
Karissa

Good to ALL People

Galatians 6:1-10 The Message

Galatians 6:1-10 NIV

Today’s thoughts begin with Galatians 6:10, which says “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (NIV translation). Craig’s sermon message from this past Sunday, based largely on Mark 12:28-31, was about where our priorities as Christians should lie. Love God, and love your neighbor…in that order. It isn’t always easy to love our neighbor, seeing as our neighbor is anyone we come into contact with, and also those we never cross paths with but read about or hear about in the news. With THAT being said, then, it is very difficult to do good to ALL people. It is probably even difficult to do good for other Christians, as some people who claim to be Christians may not always behave in a Gospel-spreading kind of way. 

I’ve added the rest of the first ten verses of Galatians 6, because I think there are some key words in there to help guide us along our path in doing good to ALL people. The first in verse one is “restore that person gently.” We aren’t supposed to correct the wrongdoings of people with a punch to the gut of words. Next, we are to carry each other’s burdens. I think somewhere in those words, I hear the word empathy. This is a characteristic trait that seems to be slowly fading away in our currently, growingly divided society. Also, there is a person reaps what they sow (slight change of words to be more gender neutral). If we want to see the best in people, we have to first give our best to them. The best can’t include being judgmental, demeaning, or lacking in empathy. 

So, today, tomorrow, and always, live out Paul’s words to do good to ALL people, Christians and non-Christians alike. It won’t always be on Easy Street, but your efforts will not go unnoticed by God. 

Not of This World

trust-god_71412

 

John17.16

1 John 2.2

Exodus 16.3

Jesus is praying in this passage from the gospel of John, referring to the issue that His disciples, who are believers in Him as their Messiah, are not of this world, but have been elevated to a higher level of understanding of the works of Jehovah.  He himself being of the spiritual realm, of an eternal existence, is also not of this world.  He was about to be put to death as a fulfillment of the sacrifice needed according to the Torah, the Law, that a perfect sacrifice without blemish must be offered to Jehovah.  This sacrifice would result in the justification of sins, and righteousness for all who believe in the finished work of the Messiah.

1 John 2.2 says ” and He Himself, (Jesus,) is the propitiation for our sins and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”  So we see the concept that is in tune with Hebrews 3.12-4.5, and 2 Corinthians 5.14-15, and Romans 5.15-19, that Jesus died for all mankind, offering Himself as the justification for our sin. Justification means, to absolve, to declare guiltless, to hold blameless.  It’s the picture of Israel in slavery to Egypt, when God sent Moses to set them free from that slavery,  they then went into the wilderness free from bondage, yet when faced with entering into the Promised land they could not enter because they had no faith in Jehovah to care for them there.  Hebrews 3.19 “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”  Now in like manner Jesus has set mankind free from slavery to sin, and we now are in the wilderness of life, standing at the border of eternity and what will keep us out of eternity with our Savior, unbelief. Righteousness is not the same as justification, righteousness is the result of the saving act of Jehovah.  It is afforded only to those who trust in the work of the Savior Jesus Christ.

As a result we, as believers, are living as strangers and aliens in a foreign land, we are born into a spiritual life, John 3.3, “You must be born again”, and Romans 8.23, “..even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.”

Exodus 16.3   In the wilderness Israel, having been set free from slavery to Egypt, start complaining to Moses about being hungry saying, “Would that we had died by the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of meat, there we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into the wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”  Isn’t it unbelievable that they would rather go back to slavery than to continue in the new freedom they have with Jehovah.  This new freedom is so unstructured, it’s so grace full, it’s so freeing they could hardly stand it. They needed the comfort of their slavery, their aimless, unfulfilling lives, where they worked day and night for a substandard existence.

Do you see the parallel to our lives in Christ, where we are in this world, yet not of it.  And yes, too often, we as believers long for slavery to sin again because it’s so comfortable, its the life we know have known for so many years, it’s hard to not see everything through it’s lens.  Yet who would trade the freedom of life in Christ for the life of bondage again.  In Christ we have the Holy spirit to guide us, fill us, and to lead us in righteousness each day.  Just as Israel was given Manna each day for nourishment, so the Holy spirit fills us each day for spiritual nourishment, as we trust in the finished work of our savior.

Let us live each day as strangers to this world, keeping our eyes on eternity with Jesus.

 

Karl

 

God’s Purpose

Romans 8:28-39

Analysis & Commentary:  This “all work together for good to those who love God” is joined to “those who are called according to His purpose” (v. 28).  This creates a scenario of meaning to living, and all of it’s circumstances, to the followers of Christ … Some indicate, and apparently believe by what the say and do to others and themselves, that life has no meaning … It’s the godless fools, that’s who (cp. Psalm 14) … It is a promise to the chosen (vv. 29, 30) … In support of God’s purpose, He foreknew, He predestined … In my opinion, this verse (v. 31) is the high point of the entire Bible … It is God’s answer to why we have sin and suffering … God the Father is the Ruler of history (vv. 28-30) and it’s Judge (vv. 30, 33) … Above all, God is a God of love (v. 39) who did not spare His own Son but delivered Him up for all of us (v. 34) … God the Son is presented as the firstborn of the brethren (v. 29) and their Savior (v. 34) … I don’t know about you, but for me the grandeur of this passage is almost too much … I am wholly inadequate to do it justice … It is a BIG DOSE OF GOOD NEWS … Most shocking of all is that someday we will “be conformed to the image of His Son” (v. 29) … When that happens, I certainly won’t be as I am, that’s for sure!

Holy Life, Holy Calling

II Timothy 1:5-11 (NIV)

Here, Paul is encouraging Timothy who is a young leader of the Church in Ephesus. Paul reminds Timothy of the faith in Jesus that lives in him and which has been passed down from his grandmother to his mother and then to him.  Clearly God is at work in him even though he might feel inadequate and not up to the task of leading the church.

Paul writes, (verse 9), “He [that is God] has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,”

Each one of us who follows Jesus are called to a holy life, that is, we are set apart to fulfill our purpose for the sake of the Gospel.  A holy life is one that is different from the world and distinctly lived for Jesus.

God in and through Jesus Christ has a purpose for each one of us.  We are gifted because of the grace of God at work in us. Each day we have the opportunity to live into our holy calling and purposes.  What will this day mean? How will we serve Christ Jesus by serving others this day?  What purposes of God will we fulfill today?

Redeemed from the Hands of the Enemy

Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story–
those he redeemed from the hand of the foe

Psalm 107:2

When we talk about enemies I think it’s important to remember that we have one collective enemy: The Devil. Once we remember our collective enemy we can remember the words of Paul when he says that we are not fighting against flesh and blood, but spiritual things (Ephesians 6:12).

That being said, we are delivered out of the enemy’s hands. Christ destroyed Death when He rose to life again. The devil will not win our souls so long as we admit we are sinners, believe in Jesus, and confess Jesus is Lord.

When a physical enemy in the shape of a person presents themselves (an uncle you don’t like or a co-worker who just has it out for you) we can remember that we are not fighting the person (the person is made in God’s image and is thus more valuable than we will ever know) but the spiritual war around us. When this moment happens, how will your battle play out? What move will you make?

Will you listen to the devil, whispering sweet nothings of revenge and wrath and cold-heartedness? Or will you allow yourself to be redeemed and choose Christ and His code of conduct?

The choice isn’t easy.

But every choice makes a great story for God and we must not be afraid to tell these stories.

“And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by reason of the word of their testimony…” Revelation 12:11

Each time we talk about Christ it matters. So keep talking. Keep sharing what God has done for you.

Blessings,
Karissa

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