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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

April 2020

Give Thanks

Psalm 134; Exodus 24:1-11; John 21:1-14

When times are tough, it can be challenging to stop and think about the things for which to be thankful. Take right now for example. Millions of people worldwide are fighting covid-19 virus. Jobs have been lost, suspended, or hours have been significantly reduced. We are being asked to not visit the people we love the most. Go out to the store or for a walk, and people seem less friendly as they try to maintain a certain distance. For some people, just seeing everyone in masks can be intimidating. BUT…even through this challenging set of circumstances, there is still plenty of reasons to give thanks to God. 

With that being said, when times are good, and everything seems to be going smoothly, it is also very easy to forget to thank God for those good times. We fall into the habit of just feeling good and not giving God the thanks he deserves for those good times. 

In these three passages today, praise is being given to God. The psalmist is praising God. Moses and the Isaelites are making sacrifices and making burnt offerings to the Lord in thanks for the new covenant they were given in the 10 commandments. And some of the disciples are seeing the resurrected Lord for the third time (significant number of times, huh), and are thankful and honoring their Teacher by obeying his commands. At first they didn’t realize who was giving them orders, but once their nets were filled with fish, they immediately knew who they were talking to. And their excitement and desire to be close to him is very apparent in their reaction. And I’m positive they were thankful. 

As I reflect more on the John passage, literally as I type, the more I am thinking about the times in my life that God was right there with me and I didn’t realize it at first…or for a looooooong time. Just like the disciples didn’t recognize it at first either. So, as things happen on a daily basis, remember to find God in the various moments of life, and to give him thanks for being there for you. 

Practical Truth

Unknown

Psalms 134

Proverbs 8:32-9:6

1 Peter 2:1-3

Daniel 6

Psalms 134  “Bless the LORD you night watchers in the House of the LORD.”  Wisdom says it’s good to put locks on your door, and to be prepared for the obvious possibilities of probable calamity.  When we used to do the Joliet Churches United evangelistic tent crusades, we always had a night watchman, someone who stayed at the tent all night to guard against theft and vandalism.  Many people volunteered for the job, some got a little pay, John King spent many a night by himself watching.  It only takes a minute or two for a thief to take advantage. It’s good to acknowledge those who do that job.

Proverbs 8:31 – 9:6  Wisdom is speaking here.  You don’t have to experience touching a hot stove to learn about burning flesh, or falling into a briar patch to learn about thorns.  Other people can tell you about their experience with such things, and if you will, you can be guided by the wisdom of others.  Wisdom has prepared the food, mixed her wine, set her table and sent out the servants to invite all who will come.  Yet some people just have to touch the hot stove in order to learn.  There is also an analogy about an electric fence that is an appropriate example here too.

1 Peter 2:1 – 3   If you have been Born Again, as stated in John 3, and looking forward to the completion of the process, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, at the resurrection when Christ returns, and we are changed from the mortal into immortal, then it makes sense that we should put aside the baggage of this life in the flesh.   Your life should exemplify a spiritual sacrifice acceptable to Jehovah through Jesus Christ.  There is no need for deception and hypocrisy, saying one thing, yet living another, no malice, envy, or slander.  The church in general has a reputation for being hypocritical, because of the hypocrisy of it’s members.  We say we love the world, and desire salvation for all, yet we secretly, and often not so secretly, don’t like a lot of people.  We say we read our Bibles through and through, yet we really don’t study much at all.  We love the 1/2 truth theologies that “God is my co-pilot,” or “God’s got my back,”  yet no one has ever pointed to any scripture that teaches it.  In fact the scripture teaches explicitly that we are His servants, He is our Lord, He is the shepherd we are the sheep, He leads we follow.  This is the wisdom of Jehovah.  This is the Word of God that Peter says we should desire.   Like new born babies desire pure milk, so should we desire only the whole truth, no half baked theologies that allow us to lead, that allow us to harbor hatred, or tell destructive tales about others.

Daniel, in his book chapter 6, after being exiled, and serving now under King Darius, the Mede, is currently under the proclamation of not being able to pray or worship anyone but King Darius.   Daniel is about eighty years old now, and as he goes home, he throws the windows open, kneels down and pray aloud, not in secret, but so all can see, even those who set the trap.  But mostly he wants to be seen by his God, Jehovah, in whom he puts all his trust.  You know the story, he gets arrested and thrown into the lion’s den, it was a true conspiracy set by some men who hated Daniel, but also secretly hated his God. Jehovah then performs a saving act, after Daniel obeys, and closes the mouths of the lions, in his presence, and allows the King and the enemies to see His righteous acts. Daniel could have prayed secretly and silently, and no one would have known. He then could have told everyone, or no one, about how God protected him from the lion’s den. But I doubt the effect would be the same.  God won’t protect you from the lion’s den if you don’t need protecting.

I believe that  we are in the beginning of the end times.  There is no time better than right now to be completely devoted to and consumed by the truth of God’s Word.  Jesus Christ can and will save us in the time of troubles.  We are called to endure to the end, not cowering in fear, but standing strong  in the strength of His might.

Karl

A Look Back & Possibly Forward

Genesis 18

Review & Analysis:  The Lord appears to Abraham in the form of three men (vv. 1-2) … Noted in my Bible is this Theophany (vv. 1, 17, 22, 33), guessed to be the Son accompanied by two angels (cp. Dan. 10:4-9) … It’s not clear to me what Abraham physically saw … No one has seen God (cp. 1 Jn. 4:12) … Whatever it was, either reality or a vision as per Daniel, it moved Abraham to provide the Three foot washing, bread, and veal (vv. 3-8) … They announce to Abraham that Sarah will have a son with Sarah listening unseen in a tent (vv. 9-10) … Sarah, old in years but not in what matters, laughs internally at the prospect (vv. 11-12) … The Three question Sarah’s laughter, saying “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (vv. 13-15) … The Three and Abraham head for Lot and his family in Sodom and Gomorrah with the Son drawing a contrast between Abrahams’s right behavior and these cities sins (vv. 16-21) … Abraham stands before the LORD (v. 22) … In defense of S&G, Abraham inquires to the LORD’s destruction of them if they contained 50, 45, 40, 30, 20, or 10 righteous in them … In each case, the LORD’s reply is to spare the cities for the righteous’ sake (vv. 23-32) … With that, the Three depart and Abraham goes home (v. 33) … Some have used this S&G model for God’s disposition of a sinful world … As long as any righteous remain, Christian are righteous (cp. Rom. 3:21-26, 10:10), God will spare the world of fire purification as He did to Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:23-29, cp. 2 Pet. 3:10-13).

Distinct and Different

Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19; Isaiah 26:1-4; I Peter 1:13-16 (NIV)

If we want a better world then we need  better people in this world.  We cannot have the good world we want unless we are the good and faithful people God wants in the world.  Better people make a better world. And God is looking for us to be his better people; that is Christ-Followers in the every day world in which we live.  Peter, in I Peter 1, uses the biblical word “holy,” to describe what it means to be better people.  Just as God is holy, so we are called to be holy.

We may think that means to be perfect and then think about how imperfect we really are in our life of faith.  However, when we study the word “holy” in both the Old Testament and New Testament we find that it means to be set apart for God; to be distinctively different because we belong to God in Jesus.

As followers of Jesus we “do not conform to the evil desires” we had when we were not disciples.  We are not to “conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind.” (Romans 12:2).  Through the Holy Spirit at work in us we can be the better people, the transformed people, Jesus had in mind when he called us to be his followers.

Today, let us allow Jesus to work his will and way in us through our thoughts, words, and actions.  Then we will be God’s holy, distinctively different, and better people in our world.  Then world needs better people.  Let’s be those better people for Christ and his Kingdom.

Prayer- Gracious Lord, open us up to your saving and transforming love and Holy Spirit so others will see Christ Jesus at work in and through who we are and what we say and do.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

BE the CAUSE

Today’s Readings:  click here  –   Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19;   Isaiah 25:1-5;   1 Peter 1:8b-12                                   (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)

Looking at Psalm 116:1-4  today…

I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications. Because he inclined his ear to me,  therefore I will call on him as long as I live. The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;   I suffered distress and anguish. Then I called on the name of the Lord:  “O Lord, I pray, save my life!”

The word to highlight today is  … BECAUSE…

Growing up un-churched and having a few Christian family friends, I often wondered WHY? HOW?… they knew to live so differently? What did it take or mean to HAVE FAITH?   They modeled a life of faith. I knew it, I saw it, but I didn’t understand it.  UNTIL, as an adult (in my late 30’s, as a wife and mother)  God got my attention and Jesus rescued me.  I started going to church, praying, studying scripture and watched intently, those who LOVED Jesus. 

Following my curious and starving heart for a life of faith, I filled my much of my time with many small group studies, Christian conferences, new friends and I soaked it all in. I knew my heart had changed, and  I soon began to see a transformation of my heart,  my life and those around me, and I soon knew I was headed on the GLORY ROAD.

I think back to those earlier days, had those friends and families shared a little more… for instance:

…  I love and serve the Lord…

BECAUSE He LOVES me.

BECAUSE He KNOWS me and my inner being,

BECAUSE He HEARS my prayers.

BECAUSE He GIVES my life purpose.

BECAUSE He SAVES my soul for eternal life.

BECAUSE HIS LOVE endures forever.

BECAUSE I am a NEW CREATION in Christ Jesus.

BECAUSE He has rescued me from miry pits of my life.

BECAUSE HOPE fills my heart in the deepest of any despair I may know.  

BECAUSE SALVATION comes to me through the message of the gospel when it is preached, believed, and then confessed by me.

 Having heard this, may have changed my life, made better choices, lived life more purposefully.

I think about our upcoming adult generation and those to follow.  They may see us living and loving in a Faith-based manor, but do they know why?   Do we take the extra measure to explain our BECAUSE?  Are we are modeling Christian character and Jesus’ love for the mere purpose that others would  just follow suit?   We model, but do we explain?   Our hearts are wildly on fire for Jesus, BECAUSE, we live according to His will and promises. BECAUSE our hearts are in training with what Scripture tells us a life of faith looks like and that anything less than that just feels wrong and sinful.

I think perhaps most of humanity today might be missing a very vital piece of understanding the ‘GOOD NEWS” of the Gospel.  Beyond living and modeling an admirable life of faith, set apart with God, we may want to consider the compelling paradigm of sharing with others WHY and BECAUSE we LOVE and LIVE for Jesus.

What might this look like?   I imagine it could begin with taking a little extra time when complements or appreciations come our way to just explain a little further, starting  with a BECAUSE reply.  We add a little conversation, letting others know we are, we do, BECAUSE…

A college and seminary professor at Liberty University,  Dr. Elmer Towns compiled   ‘The Six Types of  Christian Faith in the Bible’.  If we ourselves can  understand the WHY, we can surely take the BECAUSE a little deeper:

1.  Doctrinal Faith –  Called “the faith, ”Doctrinal Faith refers to the content of Christian belief.  “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints”(Jude 3).

2.  Saving Faith – Saving Faith is what it takes to trust in Christ and in Him alone for salvation.  “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house”(Acts 1:31).

3.  Justifying Faith – Justifying Faith is the believer’s reliance on the fact that God has declared him righteous.  “And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).

4.  Indwelling Faith – When you trust God’s Word implicitly and its ability to work in and through us, you have developed indwelling faith.  “I am crucified with Christ:  nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me”(Galatians 2:20).

5.  Daily Faith – Daily Faith is that day-to-day dependence on God, which is part of the sanctification process.  “For we walk by faith, not by sight”(II Corinthians 5:7).

6.  Gift of Faith – This is a special ability of faith, resulting in a vision of what God can do.  This faith is the means by which we can achieve that vision, and the power with God to get answers to prayer.  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  For by it the elders obtained a good report.  Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” Hebrews 11:1-3).

Enjoy today’s  devotional song  ‘Let Them See You’ by JJ Weeks Band

Prayer:   Lord, I want to be your  faithful servant, especially in sharing the GOOD NEWS to others. Help me to remember all the Why’s and share every BECAUSE with others so they too can know your goodness and love even deeper.  AMEN!

Kris

The Belly of the Fish

Psalm 114
Jonah 2:1-10
Matthew 12:38-42

It feels like we’re in the belly, doesn’t it?

There has been so much fear, waiting, praying, and unknown happening during these past 4 weeks. It’s not easy and I’m not going to pretend it is.

At the end of the story, though, Jonah is delivered. God’s people are always delivered. Best yet? As followers of Jesus we are living in a time and in a way that God’s Hebrew people didn’t get to experience. We have the Holy Spirit with us always. We have a Savior who took on God’s wrath so we don’t.

It feels like we’re in the belly of the big fish, but we’re in a much better place. We’re in peace with God. We’re in hope. We are alive with Him who lives forever.

The Psalm gives breath to poetry in a way that most people think of poetry as: full of symbolism and lyrical and just beautiful. Then verse 7 says “Tremble, earth, at the presence of the Lord” and that is a truth that is not hidden in poetic beauty.

God is in control.

I am not telling you to ignore social distancing. I am not telling you to protest. I am not telling you to do anything that defies what the CDC is recommending in this long season. I am reminding you that God is still in control. Even in this chaos.

He was in control when he split the Red Sea. He was in control when the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years. He was in control when Jonah was in the belly. He was in control when Nineveh repented.

He was in control when He sent His Son to the Cross.

He’s in control now.

We don’t have to understand it, brothers and sisters. We don’t have to “like” it (I don’t know about you, but I grew up in a house where hate wasn’t allowed and my biggest insult to my sister was “I love you AND I don’t like your right now”). God’s big enough to handle it if you don’t like Him. If you don’t like this pandemic. If you don’t like the separation from your family and loved ones.

He’s not afraid of it.

And at the end of the day; after we’ve bemoaned the situation, after we’ve cried and screamed, and expressed ourselves, we’ll be delivered. Why? Because God is faithful and always delivers his people.

It feels like the belly of the fish, but we are in a much better place than that my friend.

Express yourself truly. Know God is good through it all.

And remember we’re in this together.

With all my love, dear FPJ family;
Karissa

PS: I know the Bible says “Big Fish” and everyone has a misconception it’s a whale… but try finding a picture of a “big fish” vs. a whale for the Featured Image. Also, this PS is supposed to make you smile a little. So, I hope that worked.

Keep the Faith

 

Psalm 114; Judges 6:36-40; 1 Corinthians 15:12-20

Psalm 114

If there is one thing that is certain, it is that God can do anything for and through those that believe he can. The Israelites had seen it time and time again through many different people of many different generations. This psalm is written as a reminder of what God can do for those who trust in him. 

Judges 6

Growing up, I was always taught that when your boss asks you to jump, you don’t question it, you just do it. When the boss says to jump, you say “How high?”. Shouldn’t it be like that with God? I mean he’s the ultimate “boss” of sorts. But here is Gideon asking God, not once, but twice, for a sign that he is who he says he is and that he is going to do what he said he was going to do. I think something that is important here is that we can go to God with any request, and if it is his will, he will provide for what we ask. We shouldn’t be afraid to make a request to God. Psalm 145:8 says “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” Because of this, Gideon was able to ask God to confirm his intent two times. And because of this, we too, can rely on God. 

1 Corinthians 15

One would have to guess that the people of Corinth didn’t believe that the dead could be or would be resurrected. Paul provides for them the most obvious and best example of the fact that one day the dead will all be resurrected. Jesus, fully human, died a human death, and yet, three days later was back. If he was raised from the dead, then resurrection must exist. And if it does not exist, then Christ himself was not raised from the dead, and therefore we all are worshipping a false god. But we all know that is not true. And therefore, one day, through faith, we too will be raised and will be in heaven. 

Reflection

With everything that is currently going on in our world, time and time again, we can be reassured that everything will work out when we read and study our bibles. This too shall pass. Just like God led the Israelites from Egypt, gave Gideon the ability to save Israel from its captors, and raised Christ from the dead, he will bring us out of this too. Abide in him, as he will abide in you. 

Take Hope

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Psalms 16

Song of Solomon 5:9, 6:13

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

1 Corinthians 15:1-11  Paul the Apostle, appointed by Jesus Himself, wrote to the Greek church, correcting bad behavior in their midst.  At the end of this letter he tells them the very message he had come to know.  That Christ died for our sins, that He was buried, and rose again on the third day, all proclaimed by the Hebrew prophets in the scriptures.  Christ then appeared to the 12 apostles, including Matthias, the added apostle after Judas was gone.  Then Jesus also appeared to about 500 people at one time, and last of all He appeared to Paul the apostle chosen to go to the Gentiles.  Paul was considered unique because Jesus was the Messiah of Israel, God’s chosen people.  The message of salvation was revealed to them, not to the nations.  After the Resurrection, the Gospel was then released through Paul, to the nations.   We, as Gentiles, are a grafted in branch to the vine of Israel, we have no inheritance without being brought into the family of Israel.  John 2.2 says that “Christ died, not for our sins alone, (Israel) but for the sins of the whole world (Gentiles).  Paul, who described himself as chiefest of sinners, because he persecuted the church of God, stated that by the grace of God alone, “I am what I am,” I was a persecutor of the church, I was a zealot for wrong because I persecuted even Jesus, but I am not what I will be by the grace of God, and whether it is me preaching to the Gentiles or the others preaching to the Jews, it is the same message.  Christ atoned for our sins!

Psalms 16   In like manner the psalmist cries out, “You are my refuge O LORD, there is no good outside of you. I admire all the saints who have paved the pathway for me, they are Majestic.”   ” Sadly some of our group have turned to other gods, but my inheritance is with  Jehovah.” ” I lie awake at night and ponder the scriptures, I am ever mindful of Jehovah, I will not go to the grave and be abandoned.  In Jehovah I see the path of life, the fullness of joy, and pleasure forever.”

Song of Songs 5.9  Question:  “What kind of beloved is your beloved, that thus you adjure us?”      And 6.3 “I am my beloved’s and and my beloved is mine.”  In this very unique writing about a man and a woman’s love for each other, we have a glimpse into the relationship of Christ and His Church.  Jesus told parables of the ten virgins, and of the marriage feast, and often referred to the church being His bride, as also did Paul make the same comparison.

When we see Jesus as one who divinely loves us, and identified with us to the point of bearing our sins to the cross, all the while knowing no sin, and not only having never sinned, but never knowing the ravages of sin, the result of sin on His life.  He never lied, he knows nothing of the need then to continue to cover up his lie.  He never knew the embarrassment of getting caught doing wrong, the guilt that is inherent with sin.  The shame that we feel when we deceive someone is completely lost on Jesus.  That is until He bore our sin to the cross, it was then that all the burdens of all our sins, the shame, the guilt, the embarrassment all fell on Him.

Does He love us?  Do we love Him? Does anything in this life even compare?  As the world power grabbers wrangle for domination, as this world is slowly being conditioned for hell, as we see glimpses of the coming tribulation, there is no fear for the true believer in Christ, for His love and protection is sure.

Karl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Psalm Of Comfort

Psalm 16

Review & Analysis:  David starts by putting his absolute trust in God, for life itself (vv. 1,2) … It is personal in it’s first person writing – “I,” “My,” etc. directly address God … “Saints,” they are God’s own, are excellent (v. 3) … “Another god,” (v. 4) (there is but one supreme God (cp. 1 Cor. 8:5-6)) has to do with other apparent beings – those mythological, those pagan, those made by human kind hands, and those imagined by the human mind and spirit, to the extent they supplant the one true God in ones pecking order of importance (2 Tim. 3:1-5) … A relationship with God involves “my cup,” “my lot,” “lines, and “night seasons,” – boundaries in other words (vv. 5-8) … Success at anything is done within confines … There is nothing practical with the concept of “limitless freedom” in anything … Boundaries promote gladness (v. 9) as they define the “out of bounds” … Imagine playing basketball on a court with no lines and shooting to many different sized baskets of variable height?! … The ending (vv. 10, 11) expresses confidence in the face of death, come what will, David trusts God … A great deal is said in just 11 verses, just 11.

 

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