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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

March 2020

Jehovah, The Stable One

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Psalms 143

1 Kings 17:17-24

Acts 20:17-24

I guess that we are the cause of most of the calamity that comes into our own lives.  In the unstableness our own minds we bring uncertainty upon ourselves. We doubt the decisions we make, how well we have raised our children, the jobs we have taken, how much money we have spent, who are friends are, and basically how and why we live the way we do.   We ask ourselves, what if I had done this, or did I do enough, shouldn’t I have been better prepared?   Wasn’t it Pogo that said “I looked for the enemy and he is us.”

The Psalms for today declares something much like this.  The writer cries out to Jehovah and says “Don’t judge me yet.”  The enemy is winning now, and I’m in a dark place, I hate it here, I don’t know exactly how I got here, for I remember You, O LORD, I remember Your works, Your doings, Your presence, and I’m reaching out to You now.  Of all the times I have needed You to be stable and unchanging it is now, don’t turn away.  Deliver me from my enemies and myself, teach me, lead me, deliver me.  You Jehovah alone are Adonai, and El Elyon,  for your sake take me back, save me from me, revive me, and make your Name Holy in my midst.

1 Kngs 17:17-24   Here is the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarapheth, and the bowl of flour, and jar of oil that never ran dry.   She recognizes Elijah as a prophet of the Hebrews, though she is a Gentile, and welcomes his visitation and the mighty works he performs.  Yet when her son dies shortly after this time, she blames herself.  “It’s my sin that brought this calamity, your holiness Elijah, illuminates my wretchedness.”  Elijah falls upon the boy and graciously calls upon Jehovah to heal him and He does, to the mothers delight, but don’t think Elijah didn’t need to see God work in this matter just as much as the woman did.  Jehovah glorified Himself in their midst.

Acts 20:7-12  In a similar story of healing we have Paul in Troas, about to take leave of that city, and gathered with a crowd in an upper room.  It’s a Sunday evening, and they are about to have communion, a breaking of bread, when Paul, having no social awareness, preaches until midnight.  A young boy falls both asleep and out of a third story window.  He dies and Paul, in like manner of Elijah, falls upon the boy embracing him and Jehovah restores life to the child.  Now the boy could blame himself for falling, the parents could blame themselves for not watching him closely enough, Paul could blame himself for preaching too long, and these things happened for all those reasons, but more importantly, also for God to glorify Himself in their midst.

I believe that the fabric of our lives is so intricate, so finely woven together, in such a complex, and beautiful way that we find ourselves wondering how and why things happen to us. We can’t see the finished project yet, so we doubt. There was turmoil and self doubt in the heart of the Psalmist.  There was turmoil and self doubt in the heart of the widow of Zarapheth.  There was turmoil and self doubt in the lives of the crowd at Troas.  Yet Jehovah was the stable one in whom they all turned to.  He healed and brought calm to all of them.   He sometimes works huge miracles to make His name Holy amongst us, He sometimes merely calms us and soothes our doubts and fears when we are still, and calling upon Him.

In whom do you put your trust?   Do you have current events troubling you?  In any time of turmoil, small or large scale, the one who is stable like the Rock of Gibraltar is Jehovah, our Savior and our God.  He is always there, and now is the time to call upon Him.

Karl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listen, Heed, or Suffer

Ezekiel 33:1-20

Review & Analysis:  The LORD appoints a sentry to oversee and warn, by sounding a figurative (possibly physical?) trumpet, the people of impending danger (vv. 1-3) … Ezekiel is said watchman for Israel as were other prophets (cp. Jer. 6:16-21, Hos. 5:8, Hab. 2:1) … Those deaf to said warnings will suffer deadly consequences (v. 4) … Those heeding to the warnings stay alive (v. 5) … Ezekiel is entrusted with rightfully airing the LORD’s warnings to Israel or suffer deadly consequences himself (vv. 6-9) … Israel admits to their revolt with no remorse or movement towards God (v. 10) … YHWH states flatly He gains no pleasure in punishing anyone for their misdeeds, even the wicked (v. 11) … Regarding activities apart from YHWH – right actions can yield both good and bad results, wrong actions can yield both good and bad results (vv. 12-16) … That’s life as we know it …  To this, Israel accuses God of being unfair (vv. 17-20) … Israel’s concern is her works, her doings, her standard of living and YHWH’s judgement of it all … YHWH’s concern is relational with Israel … Does Israel desire communion or estrangement with God? … The same could be asked of America in these troubled times.

Come SEE for Yourself

Todays Readings:  click here  –  Psalm 146; Isaiah 60:17-22; Matthew 9:27- 34 (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)

Matthew 9:27 begins the passage often referred to as ‘The Authority to Give Sight’.  The two blind men were seeking healing from Jesus, crying out ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David’.

Mercy, to be undeserving, yet receive something good. We cry out for Jesus to help us in our time of need BECAUSE we BELIEVE that HE can.  Ephesians 2:4-5

These men were physically blind and wanted to see. They did not just believe that Jesus was a miracle worker like one of the prophets, they BELIEVED  that Jesus WAS the Messiah Himself.  Sometimes one  may have physical sight, but is  blind to God’s TRUTH, Spiritually-Blind.  John 9:13-41

We may not be physically blind, but certainly can be spiritually-blind.  We can receive God’s mercy when we cry out.  We not only receive healing but spiritual healing no-doubt takes place.  How could it not, when we witness God’s answered prayers unfold right before us. It brings a whole new light that we can now SEE Jesus our Savior at work in us. James 2:5

The more we call on Jesus in our lives, the greater our faith takes shape and finds its home deep within our soul. We find ourselves making time in our lives to spend quite moments in prayer, worship with song and praise, reading the Word of God with such intense and vigorous desire, and unconditionally loving and serving others, that our eyes become WIDE OPEN to see Jesus all around us, and have a heart that truly experiences His love and purpose for us.  This is faith in action, growing and taking shape. We NEVER stop growing in faith. It’s just not possible when we remain focused on Jesus, read His word and love others and ourselves.  Acts 26:18

Feeling blind? Sight not so clear? Heart wandering? Mind whirling?  Try just being still. Believe that Jesus IS who He says He is, and that He loves you beyond measure and wants you to cry out to Him, to heal you in whatever way you need healing.  Watch how He takes over and turns things around.  Know that you will be changed. Changed to take that next step to believe a little more, trust a little deeper, hunger for healing and protection, and seek Him forevermore with eyes wide open.

Here is one of my favorite songs that spoke to my heart about SEEING myself through God’s eyes.. “Through Your Eyes” – Britt Nicole.  When we ask, God will open our eyes, revealing His truth in the world around us. This changes everything. Just believe. Matthew 6:22-23

Prayer:   Lord, please remove these blinders that so repeatedly keep me from seeing you and the world around me through your eyes. Thank you Lord, for once I was blind, but NOW I see.   AMEN!

Kris

Seeking Wisdom

Psalm 146
Isaiah 42:14-21
Colossians 1:9-14

The ways of the Lord may seem mysterious, but we can also agree they are Mighty. The Psalm mentions how He is the Maker, sets the prisoner free, and how He remains faithful forever. Then Isaiah talks about what the Lord will do to the world while also lighting up dark places and making rough places smooth.

Lastly, we have Colossians: “For this reason…we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with knowledge of His will through wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives” (v. 9). When Paul was writing to the Colossians, He knew God’s ways were mysterious. He understood that the early Church was messy and that Christ fulfilled the prophecy of Messiah in a way that the Hebrew people weren’t quite expecting.

So he prayed they’d have wisdom. In Proverbs 1 Wisdom is referred to as a woman calling out in the street. She cries out that she is waiting for them, ready to offer wisdom to those who seek it, but instead people ignore her.

And isn’t that still like today? We choose to ignore wisdom, passing her in a rush of Fake News and crazed panics.

So Paul is intentional in mentioning that he is praying for this church to have wisdom.

When was the last time you prayed for wisdom? When was the last time you asked God to show you His heart? Or asked Him to help align your will with His? We can do as many Bible studies as we want, but without relationship with Christ our King I’m not sure we’re going to move much farther in our Christian walk than reading stories of greatness.

Don’t you want your life to become one of those stories?

Pray, seek out answers, ask for help. Stay in communication with God the Father.

Many Blessings,
Karissa

 

Psalm 23

Psalm 23; 1 Samuel 15:22-31; Ephesians 5:1-9

Psalm 23 seems very fitting in our current times. It is so easy to lose sight of the God we worship when things seem so dismal here on Earth. We have daily reminders with the 24 hour news cycle plus social media to give us the daily statistics of the spread of Covid-19. As horrible as it all may be, we have to keep the faith. 

Verse 2: he makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters

Verse 3: he restores my soul

Verse 4: Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil, for you are with

me; your rod and staff, they comfort me

Verse 5: my cup overflows

Verse 6: surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life

We are going to make it through this together, supporting each other, and with God at our sides to pick us up when we are feeling down. Earlier today, Dale Ambler posted something on social media that I want to share in case you aren’t on Facebook, because he said it way more eloquently than I can. He said “Friends, hope is the one thing that we have and together, pushing aside the negativity around us I believe we will find a way through the darkness…not on our own but by the love and grace of God!!” 

As I’ve had lots of extra time these past few days to think about all of this, I know that I am not nervous, or scared, or any of that. I know that we will come out of this much stronger than before it first began. 

So I leave you with the words that I hear so often at the benediction of each worship service, from Numbers 6:24-26. 24 “‘“The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’

Lead us in Righteousness

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1  Samuel 15:10-21

Ephesians 4: 25-32

Psalms 23

 

Psalms 23   The LORD is my shepherd.  He leads me, He restores me, He Guides me, for His names sake.  Though death may be all around me, I don’t fear it, for my Shepherd is with me.  He invites me to supper at His table, He greets me at the door and anoints my head with oil.    Mercy and goodness are mine forever, for I will live with Jehovah.

1 Samuel 15: 10-21  A sad day when Israel’s first king is revealed as a liar, and full of pride, and a deceiver.  Jehovah said to destroy Amalek utterly, and King Saul said, “keep the best of the herds for us, along with King Agag.”  Samuel confronts Saul with his sins and then has to listen to his sorry excuses for disobedience.  “I wanted to save the best to offer as sacrifice to God.  I wanted to show God how much I loved Him by building a big offering to Him.  The people made me do it.”   Samuel the prophet said to him, ” Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.”

Ephesians 4: 25-32   ” Speak truth each one with his neighbor, don’t let the sun go down upon your anger, work for what you want, don’t connive, steal, or cheat for your livelihood.  Don’t speak lies and disparaging words about others, but only words to uplift and promote them.  Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit of God, (who by the way is here with us while Christ is removed from the earth for a little while,) by your sinful desires and actions.  Let no bitterness, wrath, anger, glamour, and malice be associated with your character.  Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other just as Christ did to you.”

I personally hate when I am likened to King Saul, in my sad excuses to myself for sinning.  We all attempt to cover our bad behavior with noble excuses to ourselves, and on occasion to others when found out.  On the road to Jericho, the Priest and the Levite had very valid excuses for passing the wounded man by the roadside.  In their own minds they were completely justified for passing by and not helping.  Yet, Jesus regarded their action as sin, they completely missed the mark of goodness, and kindness.

In todays political climate there is enough hatred out there in the world that we as true believers in Christ don’t have to get involved to the point of engaging in hatred and vile behavior.  Ephesians 5:1-2 “Let the mind of Christ control you, loving one another, forgiving one another, be kind and tender-hearted.  Therefore, be imitators of Jehovah, as beloved children, and walk in love, just as Christ loved you..”

 

Karl

The Cost of Sin

Jeremiah 2:1-13

Review & Analysis:  The section begins with a remembrance of an earlier time (vv. 1-3a), when Israel reciprocated YHWH’s love and care up to the present disunion (v. 3b) … In this light, Israel’s sins are more damming … The LORD recounts the Exodus from Egypt, through the journey’s travails, finally arriving (vv. 4, 6-7) … The sin of idolatry, that of supplanting God with something or someone more vital, has been a continual problem (v. 5) … The ordering of the 10 Commandments (Ex. 20:1-17) was not haphazard … The first (Ex. 20:3), “no other gods before me” is a preamble to the rest … Failure to adhere to #1 most likely leads to further failings down the line … Israel’s leaders – Priests, rulers, and prophets, did not lead as they should have (v. 8) … The LORD charges Israel with abandonment (vv. 9-13) … Sin can be viewed as an illness … For human beings, it is common for one physical ailment to lead to others … So it is with sin.

God Is Present and Faithful

Psalm 81, Genesis 29:1-14, I Corinthians 10:1-4 (NIV)

We are in troubling times, critical circumstances and a weary season of life right now.  Yet God still speaks to us indicating that he is always present and faithful.  That is the common theme in todays passages.

In Psalm 81 we are asked to “Sing for joy to God our strength…”  God loves his people and sets them free from challenging circumstances and gives them a good life.  We read about Israel being set free from Egyptian oppressors and being rescued by the Lord.  They knew many good times for awhile.  That is, until they decided they didn’t need the Lord and stopped listening to God and following in faith. Then things became difficult as they turned to other gods and ways of life.

Yet God was still there and faithful to them, saying, “If my people would only listen to me, if Israel would only follow my ways, how quickly I would subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes!”

In all seasons God is present to us and faithful.  In Genesis we read about Jacob traveling to meet family and find a wife.  He wondered if God would be present and faithful to him.  Jacob said  “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey…so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God.”  God was with him and he followed and served the Lord.

Finally, in II Corinthians we read how God was with the people of Israel on their journey with Moses to the promised land.  God parted the waters to save them from Pharaoh and was with them as a cloud during the day and as a pillar of fire during the night.  God provided water for them and we learn that even Christ Jesus was present to them.

Today, as we all hunker down in our homes or offices, for who knows how long, we can know that God is present and faithful.  The Lord is our strength.  Allow Christ Jesus to speak into your life during these difficult and different times.  The Lord is near.

Prayer- It Changes US!

Today’s Readings:  click here  – Psalm 81 Genesis 24:1-27; 2 John 1:1-13   (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)    

Genesis 24:1-27 tells the story of Abraham sending out his servants to find a wife for his son Isaac. The senior servant does not want to disappoint his master so he prays to God  with absolute  confidence  and unwavering assurance to help lead him to find the woman to be Isaac’s wife.  And God answers him clear as day.

 I LOVE when God works that way. It happens more times that I know I can count.   Witnessing God’s steadfast care in situations or answering prayers only confirms His immeasurable and powerful existence  and  boundless love for us.

I didn’t always pray continually. In fact, I didn’t always pray. My walk with Jesus began in my late  30’s.  New friends and church family would pray. We would pray. Things began to change. I remember, someone in our women’s group who prayed with such deliverance, confidence, assurance and fierceness, that I recall saying, ‘I want to pray like THAT’. I wanted to make prayer my first GO-TO.  Often, I would realize , ‘oh wait, I should pray about this.’  Over time, with reverence and supplication, I began to feel  my heart change and a relationship with Jesus take root and prayer began to flow from my heart. 

Trusting God to hear our prayers and work on our  behalf is molded within the  foundation of our  faith.  It is the first step, but never an easy one.  Experiencing answered prayers, big and small, continues to validate His very existence and unconditional love.

When we are faced with challenges, storms in life, uncertainty of our destiny… Pray, and then pray some more. Pray that God will reveal His will for us  in the  situation we are facing and the prayers we are bidding.  Often times, it’s just a matter of our hearts being open to allow God’s love to flow through and praying for God to CHANGE our hearts, change us, is powerful all in itself.  We don’t always see God’s plans unfold in clear sight, or sometimes we do, either way, give thanks and praise that He hears us and is always working on our behalf. . 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Let the power of prayer be our  saving grace and mercy.  God wants to hear from us. He wants to give us our hearts desires according to His will.  Psalm 37:4Prayer is an open and endless conversation with God through our Savior, Jesus. Experience His love that covers us the more we  trust Him  entirely and wholeheartedly . Song: Grace Flows Down

Prayer:   Lord, help me to make prayer my first go-to. In any and all situations, to trust you. Open my heart and eyes to witness your amazing love all around, allowing it to cover me, protect me, change me!   AMEN!

Kris

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