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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

April 2020

When Love Endures, Fear Fades and Hope Lives.

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24, Joshua 3:1-17, Matthew 28:1-10 (NIV) 

Here we see what life is like when “God’s love endures forever.” When God is present there is love, there is strength, and there is salvation and more.  Nothing can change this reality.  There may be dark days, disruptive times, and suffering seasons.  Yet the Lord still acts and works through his people and is present in the world.

We go to the latest news, whether on TV- 24 hour news outlets, or online sites and apps, or all news radio, or newspapers and we hear the sad news.  We receive a daily recitation of how many are sick and the number of people who have died.  Yet there are so many stores of people who have recovered, and the sacrificial, caring service of healthcare servants and first responders and essential workers.  We see how every day people are supporting one another  and helping others in this challenging time.  God is alive and will bring us through this pandemic darkness.

In Psalm 118:22, we find a passage which the NT writers quote to tell us about Jesus, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;…”  Jesus is “the stone rejected” who rises from the dead to reign forever.   Jesus is alive and God is doing marvelous things in our day and time even now.

God parted the waters of the Jordan River for his people and we can trust that somehow, someway the Lord will help the world endure through this Coronavirus Pandemic.

Just as hope and life prevailed on that first Easter morning over fear and death so too will hope in Jesus sustain us in this time.  As he said so long ago, Jesus speaks to us today, “Do not be afraid.”

V-I-C-T-O-R-Y

Today’s Readings:  click here  –  Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; Exodus 15:1-18; Colossians 3:12-17                             (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)

Today’s scripture readings seem to be streaming a theme of VICTORY. With the Easter Celebration still fresh in our hearts, VICTORY is very evident…

 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;  his steadfast love endures forever!   The Lord is my strength and my might;   he has become my salvation. There are glad songs  of victory in the tents of the righteous:

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord: “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;…’

and from Colossians, our victory is inevitable… And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

VICTORY – a word right now most of us are undoubtedly finding grueling to perceive in a world so troubled.  Who can look forward and beyond these days of fear and isolation to see a VICTORY?  We can.

I’m raising my hand!    This victory is triumphant in THE CROSS, as we hold fiercely to our faith, with newfound strength in a God who stays and saves.  The God Who Stays- Matthew West .   

Truthfully, it is not easy and it doesn’t happen by chance, but with intentional prayer, time spent reading God’s word and the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, it calms and assures me for a VICTORY every day.

A VICTORIOUS Christian life is a journey of faith, not just for eternal salvation, but of daily decisions building up into a lifestyle that reflects Christ Galatians 2:20.  Faith is the calm assurance that what we do not yet see is far more real, more substantial, more trustworthy than what we do see .  A life of faith leads us to CHOOSE to believe God in all things Romans 4:3 .

 “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” Colossians-3:14 .

Victory is ours every day because of Jesus’ blood that was shed on the cross for us.  That VICTORY brings forth a desire to choose victory over our problems or situations with persistent determination, refusing to settle for nothing less than what God’s plan is,  to not passively sit around waiting for something good to happen.  Right action begins with right thinking with the transforming of our minds.

Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Victory laced with God’s will brings peace. Joyce Meyer described it as God’s peace operating like an umpire of our heart, calling the shots and we obey accordingly.  Follow our instincts. If we don’t have absolute peace about something, that is the voice of God and his perfect will piloting us. Trust in that and experience God’s amazing peace, every time.

Choose VICTORY today. Experience the peace that surpasses all understanding. Philippians 4:7

Enjoy this VICTORY song by Elevation Worship  See A Victory.

Prayer:   Lord, I want to know your peace inside and out in all parts of my life. I choose victory today and every day.  Fill me with your wisdom to know your perfect plan and purpose for me and let victory will prevail.  AMEN!

Kris

Sometimes, it’s not warm and fuzzy.

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Exodus 14:10-31
Exodus 15: 20-21
Colossians 3:5-11

So, real talk: I normally write all my blogs in one day and time them so they go out at the perfect time of 6:00am on my scheduled blog day. Luckily, it’s Sunday and I remembered my day was tomorrow–so it’ll still come out bright and shiny at 6:00am.

But with everything going on, I can’t write a blog or a devotional for you 3 weeks ahead. It doesn’t feel right. COVID19 moves too fast, time is too slow, and I want you all to know that we really are in this together.

PSA: This might be a little long, but it’s going to be so worth it. Pinky promise.

Let’s start with the beginning:

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
his love endures forever.
Let Israel say:
“His love endures forever.”

Psalm 118:1-2

In times like this, when the entire world is facing pandemics, economic crises, and so much more it’s hard to proclaim “The Lord is good! His love endures forever!” It’s harder when the world’s crises begin to hit home. I almost listed the ways this is impacting those I love, but stopped.

Because this isn’t about me.

This is about you. This about God.

However this pandemic is hurting your family, I challenge you to follow Psalm 118:14 and declare: “The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.” Say it. Out loud. Say it over and over again. Your words are powerful and the more you say it, the more you’ll begin to feel your heart lighten from its heavy burdens.

Versus 22-24 are clearly talking about Jesus: “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.”

While the Psalm is talking about Jesus, I can clearly see it applying to right now. The pandemic is totally rejected–no one is happy. However, it is becoming a major part of our lives (I won’t say cornerstone because that is reserved for Jesus). So I want you to examine what is happening in the world and I want you to find the good–find the gifts God has given you in this moment of Shelter in Place.

Here are things am I rejoicing in during this time: phone calls from friends, my sister came home from Boston before everything shut down, my teenagers are still joining my Zoom meetings (sometimes twice a week!), I am enjoying being a homebody, working from home has caused long hours–but they are long hours with my cat and in the comfort of home, I am lucky enough to enjoy great meals, and I can sleep i a little.

What has happened that you can rejoice in?

The Exodus passage is a great story: it’s where Moses splits the sea. My favorite passage?

The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.

Exodus 14:14

I have held onto that verse for many years on many occasions. And now? In this time of so much unknown, loneliness, and I’ll even say fear, we have this verse to hold to.

Hear me, this is not a band aid of a verse. Your feelings are valid. I am validating you and telling you it is okay to no be okay.

And I am giving you this verse to hold close to your heart so when I’m not with you, you can have something strong to hold onto. Because what is stronger than the Lord?

NOTHING. Nothing is stronger than our God.

The Colossians passage is a good reminder for life. Here’s the verse I want to focus on though:

But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.

Colossians 3:8

It is so easy to be negative right now. It is so easy to curse the government, hate on the CDC, and even just yell at your family. It is stressful.

During this time I challenge you to breathe before you speak. Take a moment to think if what you’re about to say (whether to family, about government, about hospitals, about other neighbors) is going to show the love of Christ or if it will harden your heart. If it hardens your heart, pray for a softer one.

We really are in this together and I am so happy that we are of one body spiritually.

Many blessings, my sweet friends
Karissa

In Remembrance

easter_lastsupper_gu2018

Exodus 12:1-14; Psalm 116; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Exodus 12 & 1 Corinthians 11

These two passages sort of go together as we progress through Holy Week. Here we are on Thursday of Holy Week, also known as Maundy Thursday; the day celebrated as the day of the Last Supper. It was the Passover festival is an 8 day festival to commemorate the liberation of the Jews from Egyptian slavery, and also the passing over of the angel of death as all of the first born sons were slaughtered in Egypt. The Exodus passage describes God’s rules for the Jews to follow in preparation for that night of the final plague. Read here for God’s law as to how the celebration should be carried out. 

So as we reach the day of remembrance of the Last Supper, we can be reminded that on that night 2,000 years ago, Jesus and his disciples were celebrating the Seder meal as all devout Jews would have done. As part of that evening, Jesus stooped to a new servant low by washing the feet of the disciples (see John 13:1-17). Also on that evening was the first celebration of what we now call communion. 

So in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul gives those famous words that we hear on the first Sunday of each month as we celebrate communion. Communion is a time to remember the New Covenant that we have through the death of Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 9:14-15)  Several times during his ministry, Jesus spoke of his impending death, and he was well aware that this Seder would be his last night with his disciples. Always the teacher, on this night he was demonstrating all the ways that his disciples, and all the generations to come after them, were to remember his sacrifice. We were once sentenced to death by way of the Old Covenant (The Law), but we have now gained eternal life through the sacrifice of Jesus’ body and spilling of his blood for our sins. 

Psalm 116

The writer of this psalm is giving thanks to God for delivering him from a difficult time. This psalm is very fitting for this week and also for our current pandemic situation. In the final days of Jesus life, and the days to follow would have been difficult for his closest companions to watch for sure. They were at a loss for words after watching him be tortured and then hung on a tree to die a humiliating death. But then a few days later, they were finally able to “get it” when they saw him again, risen from the dead. 

Now here we are with this Covid-19 crisis, and for many people, this is a terrifying time. And like during so many other times throughout history, this will be all over with, and we will hopefully be better for it. And when the time comes that we can declare the pandemic over, we need to remember to give thanks to God for seeing us through to the other side. In the meantime, while we are in the thick of it, we also need to remember to thank all of our essential workers who are being sent out into the trenches. 

Reflection

So as we enter the final days of this important week on the Christian calendar, remember what these days are about. Give thanks to God for sending Jesus to teach us, but more importantly, to take the place of our sins on the cross and to become our intercessor to God. Only through him can we have eternal life. And because of that, we have no reason to fear, for God is good…all the time. 

Endure

image-2

Isaiah 50: 4-9

Psalms 70

Hebrews 12:1-3

Isaiah 50:4-9 (A Paraphrase) ” The Lord God has allowed me to speak as a learned man, an expert, that I may sustain those who become weary with concern.  He awakens me in the morning, He opens my ear to learning, and to hear His voice.  I have opened myself to abuse by being obedient to His leading.  I am insulted, punished, they strike me with rods, they pull my beard out, slap me, spit on me, and humiliate me.  But Jehovah is with me, I know that in his sight I am not disgraced, I see not them but Him, I will endure, they will fail.  He is my vindicator, my help, they have no power over me.  They may kill the body but they cannot touch my soul.”

Psalms 70 (A Paraphrase) ” O Jehovah help me, deliver me. They who say ‘Aha, got you,’ and who seek my demise will be ashamed as they are turned away.  Let those who delight in You, Jehovah, and actually love You, and Your salvation say, ‘Let Jehovah be magnified!’  But right now I am afflicted and need comfort, rescue me O LORD.”

Hebrews 12:1-3 (A Paraphrase)  “Do you see that we have a great history of believers who have paved the way for us.  We are not the pioneers, we are merely following the path that has already been forged.  So like them let us not be weighed down with unbelief as though we are the only ones who have trod this road, and have many enemies to contend with.  So lay aside unbelief, and the prejudices of the past, the baggage of our lives and look ahead to Jesus through spiritual eyes.  He endured the cross, not with His head down as in pulling a plow, but looking beyond the agony, He saw the reward awaiting Him, and therefore endured the pain and the abandonment.   Consider Him, really consider Him, who endured such aggression and misguided hatred by sinners against Himself, so that you too will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:4 that he regarded himself a servant of God, and protecting the integrity of his ministry, gave no cause for offense in anything.  Rather than offend, he endured affliction, hardship, distress, and the list goes on and on.  The word endure is “hupomone” in the Greek language, and it is defined in Strongs Greek Dictionary of The New Testament 5281 as “cheerful, or hopeful endurance, waiting, patience.”  The same word is used in Hebrews 12:2 “Fixing our eyes upon Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him ‘endured’ the cross despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the Throne of God.”   Romans 8.18 carries the same idea, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

We who believe in the finished work of Jesus Christ, have no fear of the future, as we may be living in the first steps of the beginning of the end, not so much from the CCP virus, but from the world power grabbers.  Conspiracies are plentiful, truth is obscured, trust is thin, and the immediate future is uncertain, but our hope is not in governments, or powerful men, rather it is in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as we endure.

Karl

The Servant(s)

Isaiah 49:1-13

Review & Analysis: This passage addresses Servants of the LORD … What’s unclear is who these Servants were or are supposed to be? … Conjectures include Cyrus (2 Chron. 36:22-23), Prophets (Isa. 1:1, Jer. 1:5, Ezek. 1:3, Dan. 10, Obad. 1, etc.), David (Isa. 37:35), the Nation Israel (Isa. 42:8-16, 44:1-8), the Messiah or Jesus (Isa. 42:1-12, 53:1-12, cp. Mark 10:45, Luke 18:14, Jn. 13:4-8, Phil. 2:5-8, Heb. 2:17), and others (Gen. 24, Jer. 27:6) … A Servant of God (1) is contacted by God for service, (2) performs the service such that he/she wins others to said service (Jn. 4:5-38), and (3) glorifies not self, but God (1 Chron. 16:23-29, Ps. 50:15, Rom. 15:4-13, 1 Pet. 2:9-12) … If a semblance of the previous has or is happening to you, you are a Servant of God … No one can prove you aren’t a Servant, just as no one can prove there is no God … Many important beliefs can’t be completely logically substantiated, they must be supplemented with faith.

Meanwhile, back to the Isaiah passage in question … The Servant speaks both for himself and God (vv. 1-8) and was predestined from his mother’s womb to serve (vv. 1-3) … His words cut like a sword (v. 2) … The elect whom God glories in (v. 5) labor in vain and vent over their unproductive labor (v. 4) … Verse 7 is Jesus to the Christian, a big unknown to everyone else … The Servant is a “light to Gentiles” (v. 6), and a “covenant to the people” (v. 8) … The Servant constructs an exodus by gathering prisoners, those in darkness, and those from everywhere else for a road trip that levels mountains (vv. 9-13) … So concludes this vision of Isaiah.

 

It’s Worth the Gain!

Todays Readings:  click here  –   Psalm 31:9-16; Job 13:13-19; Philippians 1:21-30                                           (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)

Paul’s letter to the church of Philippi, in Chapter1, verse 21-30, he is imprisoned in Rome awaiting trial before Caesar. His charge is pretty extreme against the Empire and most likely he realizes he will most likely be sentenced to death. As a man ready to die, verse 21 ‘”For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” , regardless of the verdict, Paul remains faithful to God.  He is reflecting on two competing appeals. On one hand, as a believer, he wants to serve God and bring others to Christ through his life. On the other hand, as a Christian, he yearns to leave suffering behind—to be with God in eternity, but he confirms that it’s better to live until God calls him home, so he can serve God by caring for his fellow men. He assures the people of Philippi that his conviction, good or bad, he is confident he will be see them again, either here on this earth or in heaven, for all adds to the glory of Jesus Christ.

As we ourselves currently face these days of uncertainty with strenuous measures to avoid catching or spreading this potentially deadly virus, faith is the answer here.  Faith in Jesus, just like Paul had and to be content in the assurance of eternal life through Jesus, no matter what is happening around us. When Christ is our ‘everythning’ in life, when we die we will have even more.

When we are at a point of personal saving faith in Christ, we can face troubles, even death fearlessly, because we know that death will usher us immediately into the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And, like Paul, if we live, we gain more time on ‘The Glory Road’, a second chance, to follow and serve our King, until He calls us home. But, until then, if we remain faithful IN all circumstances, all trials, tribulations, sickness and the unknowing, He will redeem us each and every time, and so to die would be a

So. Do I worry? Yes, I’m human.

Am I afraid? Absolutely, this world is scary.

But if I worry or am afraid, it is for only just a moment, because then I remember how big my God is and that Jesus is on my side to see me through, every single time.  And if THIS time is my time that He calls me home, then I am ready, and this calms me.  I know for certain that whether I am here, He is with me and if I am THERE, I am HOME! Either way, I win.

Each one of us is wanting to live. But willing to die?   With a fierce, unshakable and unwavering faith in Jesus Christ,  the answer is clear and straightforward. It is  our gateway to glory, eternal life with God our Father. Like Paul’s faith, it was the immediate passage into the very presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.  And just as for us, when the Lord Jesus is everything, we long to be where Jesus is.

The Kingdom of God offers this assurance of life, to live or die with Christ Jesus.  This is the hope we can hold on to everyday, in every circumstance, especially in these days of enormous fear. Now, more than ever, we need to trust and hold close to Jesus through the reading and study of God’s word, sustaining prayer, daily life application and resolved clear confidence.  To Live is Christ – Sidewalk ProphetsGive Me Jesus – Jeremy Camp .

Prayer:   Lord, I know that this life is just temporary and  I am created on purpose for a purpose until you call me home, and until then, I will call upon you Jesus to see me though each day, for you are my ROCK and my SALVATION.  I will hold on to the TRUTH that brings everlasting  hope that comforts me.    AMEN!

Kris

The Next Right Thing

Psalm 31:9-16
1 Samuel 16:11-13
Philippians 1:1-11

Sorry for the delay in this! I’m sure we can all agree that life has made us a little scattered brain. This overwhelming sense of doom, but so much of life looks the same–kids still laugh when they play, we go for walks, birds chirp, and the sun comes out. Yet, we hear the news, we see the CDC stats and then it gets personal because we see our loved ones working in the hospitals–right in the hot zone.

So, this morning I am writing to you from the comfort of my bed, while my mother is enjoying a day of rest after picking up overtime at the hospital as a Respiratory Therapist.

All this to say one thing: The world changes, but God doesn’t.

Today’s Psalm may ring true for you today. It is about sorrow and agony. These emotions are okay to have! It is okay to tell the Lord how heartbroken and sick and powerless you feel right now. David does, over and over and over again the Psalms.

Which speaking of David… He’s a real Cinderella story. In the 1 Samuel reading we Samuel looking for the next great man that God had promised and he went to Jesse. Jesse had these older sons and was proud of them, but he ignored Jesse. The Lord had to prompt Samuel to ask for another and still Jesse was like “well, I got a youngest. But he’s tending the sheep.” Even after a prophet of the Lord asked to see David, Jesse was in denial. But eventually David came and the rest is a messy but beautiful history.

Which finally brings me to Paul’s words. He is grateful for the Philippians. Do you know what he prays for them, though? Health, Wealth, and Happiness?

NOPE.

He prays that they abound in knowledge and depth of insight so that they can discern what is best so they may be pure and blameless.

In troubling times like this, it is important to know that you’re allowed to feel those scary emotions. Then based on the other readings, it’s important to know (in the words of Anna from Frozen 2) all we can do is the next right thing: listen to the prophet calling for the lowest son, pray for discernment of God’s will, trust that asking for that will give you a peace you don’t understand.

Blessings & Stay Connected,
Karissa

Okay… Here’s the music just so you have too. I know it’s secular, but the message… Guys. It’s too perfect for today’s time to NOT listen. **This is a SPOILER.**

Lord, hear my prayer

I would like you to pause for a moment and read out loud Psalm 143:

 

Psalm 143

A psalm of David.

Lord, hear my prayer,
    listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
    come to my relief.
Do not bring your servant into judgment,
    for no one living is righteous before you.
The enemy pursues me,
    he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in the darkness
    like those long dead.
So my spirit grows faint within me;
    my heart within me is dismayed.
I remember the days of long ago;
    I meditate on all your works
    and consider what your hands have done.
I spread out my hands to you;
    I thirst for you like a parched land.[a]

Answer me quickly, Lord;
    my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
    or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
    for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
    for to you I entrust my life.
Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,
    for I hide myself in you.
10 Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
    lead me on level ground.

11 For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life;
    in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.
12 In your unfailing love, silence my enemies;
    destroy all my foes,
    for I am your servant.

Anxiety is present in all of us at this time. It is our daily bread just as much as we seek to be faithful or find comfort in God’s promises. People of God, no matter when or where experience that. It is part of us, part of the human experience.
Time and time again we come to experience it, and sometimes it will overwhelm our spirit. This does not make us less of a people, this does not speak about less of a faith, and it certainly does not speak about the way God sees us in times of struggle.
And yet, as Christians we will experience all of it: the doubt, the fear, the despair. Why? Because we are human.
Kind David’s life is a reminder to all of what it means to be open about the things that weigh heavy on our hearts. If we follow his life, we rejoice with him in his faith, we cry with him as his he’s overwhelmed by the circumstance, we cheer him on as he ventures into battle, and cry with him as we identify with his weaknesses.
Today’s Psalm is about dealing with those deep feelings of not being strong enough, of losing faith and fearing for his life. And yet from the cry of his soul, his faith peaks up time and time again. It is like a small flower bloom after a long winter. Fragile and yet powerful. Small and yet ready to grow.
I read this psalm a few times today because I can find myself in it, I can identify with David, with his anxiety, his feelings, and I can see my faith in it as well.
Today I would like to pray and ask God to sprinkle that seed of faith and life that is in our hearts so it will bloom and we can all find peace and strength for the day ahead.
Be blessed,
Bo M.

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