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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

December 2019

Extraordinary Out of the Ordinary

bethlehem-micah-5-2

Micah 5:2

This is going to sound like a John Mellencamp song, but I was born in a small town. Born and raised in Elwood, IL. Growing up, the population sign as you drove into town said 720. We used to joke that there were more cows than people. Fast-forward to 2019, and the middle school where I work has more students than the entire town of Elwood had when I was growing up. My 8th grade graduating class was 33. I teach 5 class periods a day that have about 30 students each. When you grow up in a small town, you never expect anyone coming out of there and going on to become world famous. For example, how would anyone from such a small town ever have a chance to get scouted for a professional sport or by an acting talent agent? In the age before social media, it just didn’t happen. 

Since then, Elwood has undergone significant changes. Lots of warehouses, and trucks. But also, we gained a national cemetery, Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery. And several years ago, for Memorial Day, President Obama came to little old Elwood as part of the Memorial Day festivities at the cemetery. In all my childhood, I never thought we would have a sitting or retired president ever come to my hometown, and yet it happened. 

In the same way, no one would have ever imagined anything amazing coming out of Bethlehem. It was just a small village built on an oasis in the Judean hill country. It was known for its excellent farmland. But, here in Micah, written 700 or so years before Christ, it is announced that little old Bethlehem is destined for something big. In the most unlikely of places, a savior for all humanity will be born. I’m sure as this was being read aloud for the first time, people were all looking at each other and giving the collective eye roll, the same eye roll I get from my middle schoolers every time I tell a good dad joke. Really? Bethlehem? 

Funny how God always has a habit of using the small, unassuming, unimportant places and people for his works. And, when he came to this Earth in human form, he stooped so low as to be born the same way as every other human before and after. He went through the vulnerability of infancy and the rest of childhood just like everyone else. Apprenticed in a carpenter shop. Had just a regular old life for the most part in his first 30 years. In all of his greatness, instead of coming down to Earth with clouds and lightning bolts, he came no different than any of the rest of us. Instead of being born in a palace into a wealthy family, he was born in a stable to a blue collar family. 

God continually has used ordinary people and places to make extraordinary things happen for his glory. And, if we stick with him, he also will use ordinary you and me to amazing things for his glory as well. Will you be ready when he calls your name? 

A Star Out Of Jacob

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Numbers 24.17

1 Peter 1.10

Numbers 24.17  “I shall see Him, but not now;  I shall behold Him, but not near;  There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel,” and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.

This is one of those great prophetic passages that the prophets saw and heard from Jehovah, telling of the coming Messiah, yet they had little idea of the depth of what they were seeing or saying.   1 Peter 1.10 says, “as to this salvation the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating ….”   This prophecy in Numbers was through the prophet Balaam.  You know the story , Balaam, who tried to sit on the fence and speak only what Jehovah said to him, but tried also to make a little profit from it, from King Balak of Moab.  Yet Balaam, in prophesying of Israel’s coming victory over Moab revealed that he saw the Messiah, but His time was not now, and he saw that at some point in time he would see this Savior, but the time was not near.  Yet there was a Star coming, and a Ruler was to arise out of Israel.  He could see it, he didn’t understand, but there it is right in front of his eyes.

Friends, the outrageous idea that the immortal could become mortal, the eternal one could become flesh, is so marvelous it’s almost unbelievable.  How could the Creator become a creation.  Balaam saw it from afar and recognized its marvel.

Karl

 

A Parenthetic Passage

Malachi 3:1-6

Review & Analysis:  The LORD’s coming to the temple will be sudden (v. 1) as quoted in the NT (Matt. 11:10, Mark 1:2, Luke 7:27) … On this basis, “My messenger” (v. 1) is John the Baptist … Malachi’s vision is a bit blurred regarding the coming Messiah … Both advents are viewed to together with no separating interval (Matt. 13:16-17) … Israel did not and does not acknowledge the Messiah’s first coming … The longed-for (second, from our point of view) coming of the Messiah is described as refining and soap cleansing (v. 2, Jer. 2:22), not of total destruction … The refining targets the “sons of Levi,” the Jewish priests (v. 3) … No one is exempt from this refining/cleaning process … After the process is complete, the offerings of Israel will be pleasing to God (v. 4) … YHWH judges a wide variety of evil doers (v. 5, cp. Ex. 22:18, Lev. 19:12, Deut. 18:10, 24, Jer. 7:9, Mal. 2:11, 14) … God has not changed towards His people (v. 6) … He relates to Israel as Father, Lord, God, and Judge … Despite their inadequacies, God still cares for Israel, they are survived to the present hour.

Our “Yes!”

II Corinthians 1:18-22 (NIV)

In Advent, as we anticipate the Savior’s birth, we celebrate and we remember the centrality, the significance, and the preeminence of Christ Jesus.  All of the promises of God are “Yes” in Jesus, as Paul writes.

Eugene Peterson translates the first part of verse 20 this way, “Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus” (II Cor. 1:20, MSG).

The entire verse reads,  “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God” (II Cor. 1:20, NIV).

Amen is a word used in worship.  It is derived from the Hebrew word amen, meaning truth or certainty.  It means “yes” or “so be it” or “it is so.”  It is an expression of belief, assent or affirmation.   As we worship, serve, and follow, and are obedient to the Lord Jesus, our lives become a living “Amen” to God, a “Yes” to Jesus.

“Remember it took a “Yes” from Mary before God could send forth his Son,” writes Abbie Jane Wells.  I invite you to consider, this Advent Season, how your daily life can be a resounding and resplendent “Yes” to Jesus.  What if we said, “Yes” to Jesus each and every day?

Prayer– Gracious God, who sent your own Son to prepare the way for our salvation, give us the grace that we might say “Yes” to Jesus and know his forgiveness, peace, and guidance.  We make this prayer in the name of Jesus who lives and reigns forever. Amen, so be it, “Yes”!

Spiritual GPS

SPIRITUAL GPS –

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Psalm 25:4   &  Matthew 1:1-12

Just as the Shepherds, Wisemen and Herods Army navigated with the STAR as their GPS (Global Positioning System) , we too have various devices that lead and  guide us all the time in countless directions and with  infinite possibilities.

For instance, many of us  have a GPS devise or a GPS APP on our phone that guides us to where we need to go, to find  places we’re looking to go,  or suggest the best places we should go.  I think about how we SURVIVED years ago without today’s technologies. Seems impossible, better yet, catastrophic. 

Actually, our everyday life itself requires a GPS, better known as God’s Positioning System: To Grow, Proclaim and Serve for HIS glory.  When we’re tuned into what that might be, there are numerous ways in which we are guided.  (Isaiah 58:11, Psalm 119:105)

First and foremost we are guided  by God’s word, the Bible. The entire bible is full of guidelines, guiding principles, course of actions, directions, plans, procedures, parameters, teachings, standards, strategies, rules, regulations and so much more than we can even imagine.  It IS our operator and owners manual of life at our fingertips! (Proverbs 16:9, Psalm 32:8)

Whether we know it or not, ‘We ARE who we hang with’. We  are easily swayed and influenced by others. So it is vital to surround ourselves with those of like mind and faith to strengthen and protect our GPS signal.  (Proverbs 1:5, Isaiah 31:1)

What we watch and listen to are essential  life tools  that are most often misunderstood of what damage they can do, because in truth,  ‘We ARE what we watch and listen to’ as well.  So using good measures in our choices in this capacity is very crucial to our GPS path in life.  (Philippians 4:8, Isaiah 30:31)

Advent is a time for our GPS to recalculate, set a new path, synchronize our hearts and minds  with Jesus as we celebrate a birth so deserving, so life changing.    I pray that the power of prayer is a colossal instrument for each of us to secure our GPS (God’s Positioning System) to live a life which satisfies and bring glory to our KING of KINGS, our Prince of Peace, our Jesus.  (Isaiah 52:7-9, Matthew 21:22, Mark 11:24)

Prayer:   Lord, let our Spiritual GPS’s recalculate and bring us closer to you this Advent season, that our hearts would overflow with your abounding love and let  peace fill our hearts.  Help us to always check our GPS to be on a path that leads only to YOU.  We pray this prayer in our Savior Jesus’ mighty name. Amen.

Kris

Waiting for You

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:13

Jeremiah 29:11 is a verse that is commonly given to people going through a hard time. Without context, the verse almost sounds like a quick fix.

It’s not a quick fix.

But it is a promise.

Jeremiah is written during a time when the Hebrew people were in a state of rebellion. Thus so, they were taken captive and away from their lands. It was in this time of captivity (imagine the pain, the sorrow, the loss these guys felt losing everything) that God makes a promise to them.

It is in darkness that God’s light shines brightest.

Even so, isolating Jeremiah 29:11 with that context still does not give the full richness of the text. In verse 12 Jeremiah says the people will come and pray and He will hear them. After that we get today’s main verse: “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all of your heart.”

The Hebrew people had to turn from their ways and back to the Lord.

God has always been a God after our hearts.

Once they repented and turned their lives around (by once I mean 70 years. Change is a hard hard process, we all know it) they were allowed back to their homeland with fortunes restored.

On this Advent journey may we be a people who turn our hearts back to the Lord.

May we seek Him with everything we have.

Many Blessings,
Karissa

To quiet down and to repent

Isaiah 30:15

15 This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.

 

Advent, as I said on Sunday, is a much needed time for me. In part, because it helps me slow down in a way that allows me to focus towards the promise of God we receive anew on Christmas day but also helps me look towards a time when Christ will come again.

There is something so deep ad profound about us finding that time when we can reflect on our lives in the light of God’s promises. God is always inviting us to come and sit in God’s presence, a time to take account of who we are and also of God is.

This call to repent and find rest for our soul goes hand in hand with finding trust and strength in the presence of God. Each one of us has a way to come stop and find rest, recharge and find balance. The problem is that it takes us some time to embrace that moment of rest, we rush and rush, we run and run and we never stop until it is too late.

Today I pray that in your rush, you can come to a place of rest, a place to pause and find peace and rest. Accept the call of God for you this season.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

The Sheep Of His Pasture

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Psalms 119.176

Isaiah 53.6

Psalms 100.3

 

Psalms 100.3 declares that Israel, the chosen people of Jehovah, the ones set apart to receive God’s word for mankind, are to know Jehovah.  They are to become intimate with Him, to not only be familiar with His Law, but to know the story behind it, as to why God has chosen them and what His requirements mean.  ” Know ye that the LORD, He is God; it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of His Pasture.”  And by proxy we, as gentiles grafted into the root and vine of Israel, are also His sheep.

Isaiah 53.6 states that as the sheep of His pasture, ” all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way.”

Psalms 119.176.  In like manner the psalmist declares personally that “I have gone astray like a lost sheep.  Seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy Commandments.”  Here we have a shift in perspective from the corporate to the individual.  In the Israeli sacrifice system there is a sacrifice of Atonement, which is corporal, a national feast, and there is a sacrifice of Passover, which is personal.  In Atonement a goat is sacrificed for the sins of Israel, and in Passover the blood of the lamb is individually spread on the door posts and headers of each dwelling.

Isaiah 53.6 continues that; “we have turned every to his own way, and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”  Prophetically speaking about the Messiah, the Christ, Isaiah has revealed that a savior is to come who will bear our sins and our sorrows upon Himself and like the sheep that we are, Vs. 7,He would go to slaughter like a lamb, with out saying a word of protest.  Vs. 4, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.”  As our Savior was redeeming us from our sins, in the very act of it, we stood there and watched thinking it only the right thing to do, understanding nothing of the magnitude of His sacrifice.

John 10.11 Jesus declares that He alone is the good shepherd, ” I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.  But he that is a hireling, and not the shepherd whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees; and the wolf catches them and scatters the flock.”

In this season of Advent, we remember the Saviors entrance into this world of flesh.  We also understand the reason He came, how He humbled Himself to become a man, lived amongst us, bore our sins upon Himself, conquered death, and rose again to eternal life, so that we could be redeemed from the curse placed upon Adam, and have the hope, the promise of eternal life for all who believe.

Karl

 

The Sheep o

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