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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

September 2019

Proverbs 1

 

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Proverbs are comparisons between common images and lives profound truths.  They are simple moral statements that teach and highlight fundamental realities about life.  The book Proverbs in the Bible is a practical book teaching skillful living in many aspects of everyday life, such as, “a soft answer turns away wrath.”  Sayings like these are useful in many areas of life, at work, at home, even with children, and not so much the saying itself but the attitude, the acceptance of the truth applied.

The book of Proverbs includes instruction on: 1. Wisdom and folly, 2. Righteousness and wickedness, 3. Pride and humility, 4. Justice and vengeance, 5. Work and laziness, 6. Poverty and wealth, 7.Friends and neighbors, 8. Love and lust, 9. Anger and strife, 10. Bosses and workers, 11. Life and death, 12. The family, 13. The tongue.

The title, The Proverbs of Solomon, does not imply that Solomon authored all the Proverbs,  but are compiled under his name, many were authored by Lemuel and Agar, amongst other unnamed writers.  In fact the first nine chapters of Proverbs are not even technically proverbs but are longer wisdom sayings and probably added after the original book was presented.  This is a book of wisdom and compiled over many years.  Nonetheless it is a useful book, and when read in short settings is easier to digest and gain instruction from.

In our day of high speed information, facts at our fingertips, science, mathematics, precision info, speed, and immediate gratification we need what is missing most in this whirlwind lifestyle, and that is wisdom.  Information without discernment, and concern for the recipient often falls on deaf ears because of pride, fear, embarrassment, shame, etc.  Practical application of new information is necessary to be of any value for change or improvement.

Proverbs 1:  The wise will always seek to understand, while the fool will reject instruction.  Sin will always be enticing for it offers a shortcut to success, but those doing the enticing are sinners and will always be untrustworthy.  Your fathers instruction in right, wise, living is like a trophy, or a medal of victory around your neck.  If you heed his instruction you will be a winner.  Wisdom is shouting all around us, take time to listen.  To reject wisdom is to invite undo stress and calamity into your life.  The naive and fools hate knowledge, and do not choose the fear of the LORD.  They go their own way and are devoured by their own devices.

2 Timothy 2.15  Study the Word of God and show yourself an approved workman, accurately handling the Word.

Karl

 

The Temptations of Jesus

Matthew 4:1-11

Review:  It states Jesus was “led by the Spirit” (v. 1).  This testing would seem to be pre-planned between our Triune God and the devil to prove the uniqueness of Christ … After a long fast (v. 2), Jesus is tempted to feed Himself (vv. 3-4) … Jesus then finds Himself at the top of the temple and is tempted to throw Himself to the ground, Satan tells the angels to catch Him before he strikes the ground (vv. 5-7) … Finally, Jesus is led to a mountain top and offered the whole of the world and it’s control for a simple vow to worship the devil (vv. 8-11).

Commentary:  It is debatable if Jesus was tempted from His perspective (James 1:13-18) … From our perspective, Satan’s offerings were very tempting indeed, something most of us would find difficult to resist.  Simply look at those today who covet the power to control us through whatever means, to be a god …  Many similarities exist between this account and the OT …For the first test,  Jesus’ fasting (v. 2) eludes to Israel’s 40 year road trip from Egypt (cp. Deut. 8:2-5) … As one who has fasted for a day on a couple of occasions, I can attest to the power hunger has over my own weak flesh … For the second test (vv. 5-6), the devil employs a Psalm (Ps. 91:11-12) as a promise of God’s protection of Jesus in the event of a fall … Jesus’ negative reply contrasts with Israel’s putting God to the test (Deut. 6:16) to quench their thirst at Massah (Ex. 17:1-7) … Jesus passed the test that Israel failed … Finally, the last test – the ultimate in avarice (vv. 8-9) – all power and wealth … Let us re-examine the Eden situation … Eve fell to temptation (Gen. 3:1-6).  Adam, disconnected from the passion of Satan’s sell and the immediacy of the fruited tree, succumbed to Eve (Gen. 3:6) … To Paul’s eye, Adam is counted the more guilty of the two (Rom. 5:12-21) because Adam, created first, was given the position of leadership (Gen. 2:18-25) … Gazing at Eve’s situation after the devil’s proposition regarding the fruited “tree of knowledge,” don’t you want to know more?   Aren’t you naturally curious about many things?  Don’t you want to be like God, putting aside for a moment the whole reality of this request? … Eve’s response is understandable, regrettable but understandable … Jesus rejects the devils offer of “it all” by casting aside the power and authority of the devil to grant “it all” (vv. 10-11) … Jesus passed the test Adam & Eve failed.

The Word to Keep

Joshua 1:5-9 (NIV) 

Here we read about one of the  most significant changes in leadership for the people of God.  Moses has died and a new generation is ready to enter the promised land.  Now Joshua is going to be their new leader.  The Lord speaks to him about what is important.  We learn how Joshua can be “strong and courageous” in this momentous new chapter for God’s people.  Joshua 1:8, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

Joshua needs to study, understand, and keep in his consciousness the word of God, “this Book of the Law.”  (Moses was given the same command in Deuteronomy 31:23-24.)  Yet, it’s not enough to know and understand God’s word.  Joshua must be careful to obey and put God’s word into practice, that is, “do everything written in it.”

Jesus said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:28).  Today we can live in the presence of the Lord Jesus who is present to us and wishes to speak into our lives.  And once we hear his word of hope, guidance, or correction then we are blessed as we obey.  Today is a time to, as the old hymn states,  “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, But to trust and obey.”

 

Remain in me…

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

John 15:7

Do you see the first part of this promise? If you remain in Christ and His words remain in you, then you will be given what you ask for. Want to know why? When you abide in God you won’t be asking for things that are outside His will for you and so you will be given what you ask.

Are you walking outside His way? Do you have a grudge with God? Are you in a season of waiting (and frustration because waiting seasons are some of the toughest)? Sometimes prayers are unanswered–especially when we’re out of sync with Him.

One of the bravest prayers we could pray is “May You be glorified no matter what” and then trust that whatever happens will bring glory to God one day. That’s allowing yourself to step out of the driver’s seat and telling God “Yep, you got this. I trust you.”

Do you think you could pray that today? Give God whatever circumstance is bothering you, whatever you are praying for, and tell Him His will be done. Ask Him to show you what He wants for your life and ask for guidance. Read Scripture too! It’s amazing how a verse can pop into minds at just the perfect moment.

Blessings,
Karissa

The Power of Words

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Mark 13:31 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

I think it is worthwhile to read all of Mark 13 to help put this verse in context. One of the disciples opens the chapter by marveling at all of the amazing buildings in Jerusalem. It doesn’t say which disciple says this, but based on this statement, I would be willing to bet this is a first time visit for this disciple. I think back to when I visited New York about 13 years ago, and the first time that I saw Times Square at night in person. I was blown away by Times Square, how much bigger Manhattan is than the Loop, the Statue of Liberty, and Central Park. I’m sure most of you have had a similar experience somewhere that you have visited in your lifetime. 

What does Jesus say in response to the excitement of the disciples experiencing Jerusalem (during the Passover mind you) maybe for the first time, or at least for the first time in a while? In a nutshell, he says “Ya, see all these buildings? They will all be destroyed and nothing will be left standing.” I’m sure that took the wind right out of the sails of that particular disciple. 

From there, Jesus goes on to teach the disciples about the end of times and what it will be like, as well as all the things that need to happen before that time comes. Some people might argue that the ball has begun to roll, seeing as we’ve had so many tragic natural disasters and a seemingly uptick in wars worldwide. Jesus does warn us that, though we may see things that may signify the end of times, we don’t really know for sure. Not even Jesus himself knows the time or day. So, in the meantime, we need to just keep living in His Word. 

But through it all, although all other things will come to an end, the Word of God will never come to an end. Even right up until the end of times, and beyond, God’s Word will live. This makes me think about something that Bo said in his sermon today. From “In the beginning…” times to The Revelation, and all the words in between are The Word of God. The Bible means so many different things to so many different people, and there are interpretations abound. But regardless, as we wrestle with our own faith journey and understanding of scripture, God’s words will never pass. 

I Commend You To God

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Acts 20. 32

 

In this portion of the book of Acts, Luke is detailing Pauls departure from Ephesus.  He actually is passing by from the North and calls for the Ephesian elders to meet him close by in Miletus. There he bids them farewell amidst many tears, for he has been with them for three years, amongst much undermining from the Jews there, solemnly testifying of repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Now he is leaving and will never come back.

As a father figure to them, who by the Holy Spirit of God, was led to take the Gospel of truth, of salvation to them, teaching them the depth of the Hebrew knowledge of Jehovah.  The Hebrews after all were the keepers of the oracles of God, the Torah, and were the chosen people of God.  They were given the very Words of God and meticulously maintained their integrity yet in most cases they did not fully embrace, commit to, or understand completely all that was being said in the Scriptures.

Without the history of Judaism, without the Torah, which contains the revelation of Jehovah, to man, our understanding of Jesus Christ is almost pointless.  How are we to understand  the death of a man, is somehow related to our sin?  In other words, if someone dies while rescuing me, I understand the depth of his sacrifice.  Yet if someone dies and it in no obvious way rescues me, of what possible benefit is it to me?  So without the revelatory background of the Hebrew encounter with God, we as Gentiles have no base of understanding, or relating to the truths expressed.  Jesus, while on earth, often taught in parables in order to bring flesh to spiritual concepts, and realities.  For instance, in Luke 15, the well known story of the prodigal son, was not so much the repentance of the son, but rather the enduring love of the father.  The older son also, who was every bit as much the rebel as was his brother, never understood the depth of love of his father. He considered his life at home as one of slavery,  and rebelled against his father, yet he was shown the same unmerited love as his brother.  Their father actually humiliated himself for their benefit.  Understand and compare Philippians 2. 6-8

The parable of the Good shepherd, also Luke 15, and the lost sheep, shows the value the shepherd puts on each sheep, and the effort he will go to to find, rescue, and restore that lost one to the fold.   Also it reveals what part the sheep plays in this drama, he is entangled, trapped helplessly and offers nothing but to be found.

These parables are pictures of grace, unearned, unmerited grace.   So as Paul taught the  Ephesians well, the full gospel of Christ, he concludes with, ” I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are being sanctified.”

We are in that same prayer, being entrusted to Jehovah, and to the word of His saving grace, His enabling grace, His empowering grace, His delivering grace, His sufficient grace, His life changing grace, His freedom from the past grace, His pressing on to the prize of the high calling of God grace, His work together with me grace, His building you up grace, and His give you an inheritance grace.

Do you see, we have been commended to God, we have been left in good hands.  Understand this: Grace makes, Faith takes.  Its available for us to take and use.

Karl

The Resurrections

1 Corinthians 15:1-34

Review & Commentary:  Apparently, some in Corinth did not believe that the resurrection of the dead was possible.  Paul asserts that Jesus’ resurrection was witnessed by many (vv. 1-11) … Christ “died for our sins,” (Isa. 53) and “rose again on the third day” (Hos. 6:2) are ideas from the OT … A denial of Jesus’ past resurrection amounts to no future resurrection for Christians and no future hope (vv. 12-19) … The cause of death was Adam’s sin; the cause of everlasting life is Jesus’ resurrection (vv. 20-22) … The order of the end of the present age is Christ and His resurrect (v. 23).  Christ then hands over the kingdom of the earth to God, having overthrown all its powers (vv. 24-25) … The final enemy, death itself, is destroyed by way of Jesus’ resurrection (vv. 26-28) … It is possible the Corinthians had a practice of baptizing for their dead (v. 29).  Paul does not judge this custom.  Instead, he uses it for his argument … Paul reviews the prevailing Greek schools of thought (vv. 30-32); the Epicureans – live it up today, after you die its over with the Stoics – a life well lived is caused by the practice of virtues, after you die your soul lives on … Paul’s thinking certainly is closer to the Stoics (vv. 33-34) compared to the Epicureans … The congregations at Corinth must have had a mixture of beliefs, imagine that?!

Approval Rating?

II Timothy 2:8-15 (NIV)

As we make our journey through life there are people that we seek to please.  Part of this is because we have people in our lives who are significant to us.  We want approval from family, friends, church friends, etc.  From time to time we might think about all of these people in our lives from whom we want approval.  Why do we seek or think we need this approval?  Who are these people and what are they expecting from us?  Are these good, right, and faithful expectations?  Is this a healthy desire for approval?  Or are we seeking approval from the wrong people and places?

In this passage, Paul uses a trustworthy saying, to instruct us to remain faithful to Jesus Christ.  Then he reminds us to seek God’s approval. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15).

Above all we are servants of Jesus Christ.  When we think, do, and say what Jesus teaches we live as an approved worker or servant of Christ Jesus.  Today, and every day, may all we say and do be approved by God.

Qualified

and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light.

Colossians 1:12

A great way the devil has found a way to fill the hearts of those blessed by so much with discontentment is with the lie of “you aren’t good enough.” We have so much to be grateful for in this era of technology while living in a country where we can go to church on a Sunday without persecution, and most of us live in a class where we don’t worry about our home or food. And yet, we have found a way to be sad.

This day and age has given birth to an era of comparison that is easily accessible, hard to validate, and altogether painful. In an era of social media where even your professional life is on display on LinkedIn it is so easy to get caught in the trap of “I’m not qualified. I didn’t go to school as long as she did, I didn’t grow up in the environment that he grew up in, my clothes don’t look as nice as hers, my vocabulary isn’t as big as his…” the list of things we say to ourselves could go on.

Here’s the good news: What we say to ourselves doesn’t have as much finality as what God says of us. And He has qualified us to be His beloved–just like that.

This comes back to Salvation being a free gift that we could not purchase or win with works. It just is what it is–and it’s great.

Are you having difficulty embracing the free gift of grace and God’s immediate qualification for you to inherit the Kingdom of God? If so, could you reach out to a friend? Is there a sin that’s weighing you down? Confession is good for the whole church body (see James 5:16). Is your past making it difficult to accept this? Or something else?

I highly encourage you all to find at least one friend of faith with whom you can have real conversations, read and analyze the Bible at your own pace, and openly talk about the difficulties and joys of being a believer. Open up to them about what’s happening in your life and allow this friend to walk with you, allow them to pick up some of that burden and carry it with you.

As a church and a family we are not alone. If you feel lonely, please reach out.

Blessings to you today as you meditate on today’s verse,
Karissa

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