Search

First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

March 2020

God with Us

Psalm 95
Exodus 16:9-21
Ephesians 2:11-22

A friend of mine came over recently. We were talking about faith, Bible reading, and our daily lives. I was in a sour mood and told her I preferred the Old Testament because I relate to the prophets and their imperfections so much: Jonah refusing God and then weeping over a dead tree, Elijah who needed food and a nap, Moses snapping and breaking the tablets, Isaiah who needs to be touched by holy fire (a hot coal) before he gains the courage to say “Send me!”, and the list goes on. Imperfect people that God kept using.

My friend didn’t remind me of the imperfect people in the New Testament (Jesus’s entire clique was filled with outcasts, sinners, and imperfection); but instead she reminded me that because we live in Christianity–after the New Testament has been written and Christ has risen from the dead–we have the gift of the Holy Spirit. Always.

In the Old Testament, God’s presence lives in a tent, temples, and His presence isn’t always there. His presence is rarely with individuals.

In our readings we can see the absence of God and the presence. The Psalm talks about God’s anger and wrath, how He disconnects from the people because He’s so angry. Today’s Exodus passage shows the miraculous manna and our reading ends before they begin to complain it’s the same thing over and over again.

And then we get to the New Testament where we are reminded, like my friend reminded me, that God is with us the moment we become Believers and His presence doesn’t go away. We are called “fellow citizens” and “members of his household.” It’s a beautiful reminder that we are adopted.

May this reminder that we live in a time where the Holy Spirit is always with us strengthen you today.

Many Blessings,
Karissa

He Who is Without Sin

woman-of-adultery-with-jesus

Psalm 128; Ezekiel 36:22-32; John 7:53-8:11

Jesus sure had a way of putting people in their place and leaving them speechless. John 8 is one of my favorites for sure. Here are all of these “religious experts” and probably a bunch of “devout Jews” calling this woman onto the carpet and wanting her executed for her sin. 

When I picture in my head what Jesus’ demeanor would have looked like while all of these people were questioning him and trying to get a reaction out of him, I picture it being a bit like when I have a group of students come up to me to try to tattle on someone just to try to get them in trouble. My reaction to that situation would probably be somewhat similar. Like, “Are you guys finished yet? Is this a little thing or a big thing? And before I go talk to that person, tell me if I’m going to find out from them something that you did too.” 

So Jesus just kind of ignores them a bit, doodling in the sand with his finger. When they finish whining and making their accusation, he finally announces his verdict with an ultimatum. Whichever of you has not sinned can be the first one to throw a rock. Back to doodling in the sand. After a bit, he looks up and they are all gone. BECAUSE, all of them were sinners as well. Then he pronounces the woman free to go and commands her to sin no more. 

Some thoughts that I’ve always had as I’ve read this story is what about the man involved in the adulterous behavior? Shouldn’t he have also been brought to trial and execution? 

At the end of the day, what we can get from all three of these passages is that only God can make us right again. We have to keep coming back to Him, praying for forgiveness. We can’t live recklessly, and then just say “Sorry God.” We also need to make every effort to not sin, as Jesus commanded the woman in the story to do. But it is reassuring to know that every single time we screw it up, we have a loving father who welcomes us back with open arms. 

How Blessed Are All Who obey

blessed-church-katy-anglican-episcopal-houston-new-sermon-blessed-2

 

Psalms 128

Isaiah 65:17-25

Romans 4:6-13

 

Psalms 128   This is a blissful Psalm that tells how wonderful it is to live a peaceful life,  a life with out stress because of faith in Jehovah, the deliverer, as described in the name Elohai Tzebaoth, God is Deliverer.  He is the one who saves, who delivers from slavery.  You can eat of the fruit of your labor, your wife can fill your house with children, and you will live long enough to see your children’s children.   Trust in Jehovah and obedience to His ways and Laws are the path to peace, both for the nation and for the individual.

Isaiah 65: 17-25  The prophet of Jehovah, Isaiah, was appointed before the divided nation Israel and Judah went into there respective exiles.  Isaiah warned Judah of impending doom if they continued to ignore Jehovah.  But he also told of the future of God’s plan for the nation because of His nature, which includes love and peace.  God is Holy, He hates rebellion, He is patient, and allows for repentance, but His patience does not endure forever, He punishes persistent rebellion, and He also promises forgiveness and a bright future by a plan He alone devises.  He will create a New Heaven and a New Earth, His people will not plant and have someone else harvest, nor will your children be born to risk their lives in war.  In this kingdom, while you are praying God will answer that prayer, and the lamb will graze with the wolf, the ox and lion will eat together.  This is a picture of the Millennial Kingdom, and reign of Christ.

Romans 4:6-13  Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, has, as his gospel requires, to explain the Hebrew history to the Gentile nations in order for the gospel to make any sense at all.  Jehovah revealed Himself to the people Israel, and they lived and worked out a history of mankind with Jehovah, typical of all mankind, so that all mankind could be brought back into harmony with their Creator.  Israel was chosen to be the vehicle for the revelation of Jehovah to mankind.  The letter to the Romans is a classic explanation of the history of Israel, and the history of all men without God.  As Israel sinned against God so did all mankind.  As Jesus became the Savior of Israel, so He became the Savior of all mankind.  As Israel tried to be good and keep God’s Law, yet fell short of that, and their sin was revealed, so is all mankind’s.  As Abraham’s faith in Jehovah was reckoned to him as righteousness, and Israel’s faith was to be in the finished work of Jesus their Messiah, so is all mankind’s.

The History of Israel is essential for us to know, in order to begin to fully understand the way God has brought about our salvation.  Without Israel’s history, then what is redemption, what is a ransom, what is a refuge, what is a Passover, an Atonement, Grace?  Paul was sent to write his epistles for the Gentiles to understand the fulness of so great a salvation.  When we study the Scriptures, and what a depth there is in the Scriptures, we then are better equipped to tell others of salvation in Jesus, to be bolstered in our own faith, and more, much more to live with out fear of the future.

Blessed are those whose faith is in the LORD.

Karl

 

The Serpent On A Stick

Numbers 21: 4 – 9

Review & Analysis: Israel is on their wilderness trek, nearing the end of their 40 years of wandering, going around the land of Edom (v. 4) … These Edom folk are descendants of Esau (Gen. 25: 27-34) and are to be avoided … The Edomites primary issue is their pride (Obad. 3) … Petra is their remains … The area is predicted to revive (Obad. 18), only to fall to the House of Jacob again (Obad. 21 ) … Complaints are waged against Moses and God – no food, no water, and they are tired of manna (v. 5) … In response, the LORD sends Israel fiery, biting serpents – many die from the encounter (v. 6) … Israel repents as Moses prays for them (v. 7) … Moses then creates a bronze serpent on top of a stick to cure the bitten (vv. 8, 9) … Harkening back (see Gen. 3:14-15) to antiquity, things stuck to the top of a pole, like heads, are viewed as losers … In this quarrel, and in the ultimate one to come (Rev. 12:7-12), the serpent comes out on the losing end … Thanks be to God.

Help and Hope in the Lord

Psalm 121(NIV)

Micah 7:18-20 (NIV)

Romans 3:21-31 (NIV)

Look out across your world.  When you need help where do you go? Who can you always count on to come through for you?  Psalm 121 says look to the Lord: “My help comes from the Lord,…He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber;…The Lord will keep you from all harm—…he Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”

Furthermore, God “pardons sin and forgives.”  We have a God of compassion who watches over us.  We need not have anxiety that the Lord is present.  Then Paul reminds us that even though we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” that we are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  We are “received by faith” in Jesus.

It is so good to rest in the presence the compassionate and caring God who loves us and forgives us in Jesus as we come to him in faith.  Read todays passages in hope and rest in God’s assurances and presence.

Stirring Up Awesomeness

2 Timothy 1:6-7 (NKJV)    Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.  For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Today’s Readings:  click here  – Psalm 121;   Isaiah 51:1-3;    2 Timothy 1:3-7       (to open the scripture links – hoover over, right click, open hyperlink)

Timothy has a reputation of being timid and reserved, with many leadership responsibilities of the church, he tends to sit back quietly to the point of letting things work themselves out. Paul’s letters remind Timothy of his genuine faith, to be bold and step forward with his strong and compelling spiritual God given gifts. Paul confirms these gifts that Timothy received  when he laid hands on him. These gifts are the bold power to lead the church and the people, to love beyond the walls of the city, and of self-discipline to stay true and faithful to God.

Often I feel much like Timothy, fearful, distracted, anxious, insecure, self-reliant, and sometimes even self-righteous in many aspects of my life.  When things get complicated or uncertain, it tends to bring on that feeling of ‘things coming apart at the seams’ and I feel overwhelmed with what I have to do that I end up just doing nothing. John 15:4-5 .

Until… I remember… God has given me these gifts to serve Him by serving others, in a capacity that only He can equip me with, that when I try to do things my way, or without Him, it really does NOT work.  I have to take a step back, breathe in God’s goodness, strength and wisdom and exhale all that has cluttered my mind and potential success and pray boldly for God to come rescue me. Matthew 19:26 .

Occasionally, friends will ask me how I have time to do so much?  I never really know how to answer that actually, in just a short response.  The truth is, I do these things because I feel called by God to do them. When I take on a new task, I prayerfully consider the invitation and let God show me the path in which it fits and brings Him glory. Anything that is not for His glory, is a waste of my time.  I find myself praying repeatedly for clarity, to prioritize and for His help to see things through, giving me just what I need, when I need it, to carry my tasks to completion, and my heart fills with great joy.   Matthew 5:14-16 .

Don’t sit passively waiting for God to use YOU.  God is waiting for YOU to STIR UP THOSE GOD GIVEN GIFTS THAT ARE IN YOU.  During this time of Lent, be intentional to prayerfully ask God to reveal those gifts which are in you, to be a good steward of those gifts.  I guarantee, the more you do, the MORE you will do.  When things get a little crazy or feel out of control, just take a breath and pray God’s presence to reveal clarity and affirmation.  Live Like That – Sidewalk Prophets .

Prayer:   Lord, I want nothing more than to serve you in every portion of my life.  Help me to see YOUR will for me, and grant me the wisdom to choose wisely, that I may glorify You, always.    AMEN!

Kris

Relentless Pursuit

Psalm 32
Exodus 34:1-9, 27-28
Matthew 18:10-14

All of these passages are beautiful and filled with God’s unrelenting pursuit of us.

In the Psalm, we see David talk about his sins being covered (and we all know what an adulterous murderous sinner he was–and God still loved him and David has gone down as the greatest King of the Hebrew people). He talks about how it was through confession of these sins that the Lord forgave him.

Then the Lord becomes David’s refuge. The Lord is a safe place in the midst of a troubled life–the way a strong rock protects a man from tumult waters, so the Lord protects us from the chaos of life.

He doesn’t stop the storm, He lets us find safety in Him though.

Then we move onto Moses and see more of God’s faithfulness. Moses has broken the first 10 Commandment tablets in a fit of rage after the Hebrew people built a false idol. Notice–Moses snapped, not God. So God tells Moses to rewrite the Commandments. And Moses cries out, with so much truth, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin…” (v. 6a) The rest of the verse isn’t as “warm and fuzzy,” but still good and true. I didn’t include it right now because I don’t want you to be mistaken by Moses saying “guilty” because guilty is not the same way we look at guilty now. Moses means God will punish those who do not confess.

Which… I think is more than fair. Just think. All God is asking is that we confess our sins and love Him.

We see this in the Parable of the Wandering Sheep. The sheep has wandered off, we as people have sinned. The shepherd goes for the sheep, God pursues us. The sheep is found and celebrated, the same way the Heavens celebrate when we finally turn around and allow God to save us.

From beginning to end, the story of God is one in which He pursues us because He loves us.

This is one of my favorite praise songs and I hope it helps start your morning off beautifully.

Many Blessings,
Karissa

Some thoughts on Cain

Psalm 32,Genesis 4:1-16,Hebrews 4:14-5:10

Have you ever asked yourself why is confession such an important thing in the Scriptures?

If we think of Cain and Able’s story in the light of who God is, their story can be seen as a very cruel story, a story where God is taking sides, a story where you can’t point to and just say: God is unjust. After all, both brothers brought their offering, both of them did the work that was required of them, and yet one rips the rewards while the other one is left with an eternal curse.

This is one of the heart stories of the Bible. Especially if we miss the depth of the story.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

If you do right… Those words capture the heart of this conversation. Obligation vs. Service, Act of Service vs. blind Obedience. Cain failure came from missing God’s heart, missing the connection, the deep relationship that comes from understanding and following God’s will.

By contrast, Abel looked at his work as an act of worship, a way to stay connected to God and serve.

When all comes together, this is a story about knowing and be known. If we believe that God knows everything, we acknowledge that God knows the intent of our heart, the reason we do the things we do, and what we are made of. It is that our relationship with God it is forged, it is here that we find meaning and set the course of our lives.

As we go through the Lent season let us keep an open heart, let us open our hearts to God in a way that helps us receive God’s grace and helps us know God’s heart.

Be Blessed,

Bo M.

Carry That Weight

 

Psalm 32; 1 Kings 19:1-8; Hebrews 2:10-18

“Boy, you gotta carry that weight

Carry that weight a long time

Boy, you gonna carry that weight

Carry that weight a long time” 

~John Lennon/Paul McCartney

I love all genres of music, although I think I could do without opera…sorry to fans of that genre. Rock by far is my favorite, and I love classic rock. The Beatles are in my top 10 or so favorite bands of all time, partially thanks to my mom who has always been a huge fan. As I read today’s passages, the song Carry That Weight came to mind. 

The weight of sin can be a heavy load to carry on our shoulders. The song is about the weight being carried by Paul trying to keep the band together, despite lots of turmoil amongst the members and management (See Song Facts). But I think the song connects well to all of us as we all have things that can weigh us down and, at times, bring us through dark, stressful times. If we aren’t careful, we can carry the things that weigh us down for a long time. 

Luckily, we can bring our burdens to a loving God who cares about us. It is so easy to try to get through the tough times on our own, without bringing our burdens to God. To go a step further, if you are anything like me, at times, I don’t even bring my burdens to my closest friends, just to vent and let off steam. Bottling things up inside over and over again can become a weight that is too much to bear if you aren’t careful. 

Psalm 32 is a perfect description for what happens when we bring our burdens before the Lord and ask for forgiveness and guidance. 

Verse 7 – 8: “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me

with songs of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I 

will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”

Verse 10: “but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him.”

And in 1 Kings 19, toward the end of the passage, Elijah is at a breaking point where he feels like he can’t go any further, but the Lord provides for him through an angel, giving Elijah strength to carry on for 40 days. 

It think it’s so important to realize that it’s perfectly acceptable to cry out to the Lord, either in joy, or in pain and suffering. To make a request to God to take this burden from our shoulders. Remember that scene at Gethsemane where Jesus cried out to the Father to take this cup from him? Not my will, but yours? (Matthew 26:38-39) Jesus, being fully human, also needed the Father, and cried out to take away the heavy burden of what was to come. 

So, just like David. Like Elijah. Like Jesus. Cry out to the Lord. Lay your burdens at His feet. And rest easy knowing that God has your back. 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑