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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

May 2020

A Story

Psalm 102:1-17
Proverbs 3:5-12
Acts 7

When I was 22 Proverbs 3:5-6 was the wallpaper on my cellphone. I became a reborn Christian at 21 and drank in every word of the Bible that I could. Memory verse sticky notes littered my nightstand and a memory verse was always my background (it still is).

In December of 2014 I got a phone call from my half sister, Storm. She was upset because our paternal grandma was dying. She wanted to say goodbye to her, but our brother wouldn’t go and she was afraid to see our dad alone (he’s a sick man that’s scary at times).

I told my sister I would meet her at the hospital. Here’s the catch, I was 22 and hadn’t seen my dad since 8.

Anxiety wanted to set in, but I’m pretty good and compartmentalizing and pushed it way down. I went through my work day as a hostess for a pizza place with a fake smile and that anxiety bubbling in the pit of my stomach.

Fast forward to me in the parking lot, hands shaking. My sister wasn’t here yet. I felt that tug, you know that Holy Spirit “go and do what I’m telling you to do” tug? That’s what I felt.

So I got out of my car and made my way into the hospital. My sister had told me which room the family was in.

And here’s where memory verses become so important.

I couldn’t make it to the elevator. I could barely get pass the welcome desk. I was just frozen in fear.

Finally I asked a nurse if there was a chapel–most hospitals have one. The woman pointed me in that direction and I made my way there.

I fell on my knees instantly, ugly crying, hyperventilating, and begging God to help me. And then my phone lit up and I saw Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways seek Him
and he will make your paths straight.

I began to say that out loud–without ceasing–for at least ten minutes. By then my breathing was under control and it was just silent tears. I knew this was the most peace I was going to get, so I left the chapel and headed to the elevator.

I repeated this verse under my breath the entire elevator ride, the entire walk to the hospital room, and even that moment where I just stood in the doorway staring at mourning strangers I didn’t know, but who were supposedly my family.

Memory verses are important because if it wasn’t for that verse, I never would have been able to go up to the hospital room and be with my sister when our grandma died. If it hadn’t been for that verse, I honestly don’t know what I would have done–either left or stayed crippled with fear in the chapel.

There is power in our testimony. The Bible even says it in Revelation 12:11: They have overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony.

Our stories are important because it shows others how alive the Word is. I have kids who don’t understand how a book 2,000+ years old is relevant. Our stories make it relevant. The ways that Christ has changed us, comforted us, encouraged us, moved us to be braver than we used to be.

What’s your story?

Many Blessings,
Karissa

Jehovah is My Refuge

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Psalms 31: 1-5, 15-16

Genesis 12: 1-3

Acts 6: 8-15

Psalms 31: 1-5, 15-16   In this passage David writes the many ways in which he views Jehovah.  In verse 1, he sees Him as a city of refuge, where he can hide from blood avengers, and live in safety.  He calls on God’s righteousness to save him, where in Micah 6.5, there is an understanding that righteousness, often limited to holiness, includes the very saving acts of God in rescuing Israel.  He sees Him as his rock of strength, a stronghold, and one who will pay a ransom.  David ends this by saying, “Into your hand I commit my spirit.”  To David, God is his everything.

Acts 6: 8-15   The beginning of the trial of Stephen, a deacon chosen to serve the widows their food, yet even in this small ministry, he was full of the Holy Spirit.  This passage says Stephen was “full of grace and power.” We don’t often think of the word grace being used in this manner, yet grace is an enabling attribute of Jehovah.  There are enduring attributes of Jehovah, which are His nature, and enabling attributes, which are His actions.  So, for example, Love is enduring, while Grace is enabling.  Thus we say, “Love drew salvations plan, while Grace brought it down to man.”  So Stephen was full of enabling grace.  As the Synagogue of the Freedmen, tried arguing with Stephen, to no avail, they then resorted to hiring false witnesses against him in court.  Not unlike todays society, truth can be bought.  As the court assembled, when Stephen came in, they saw him as glowing like an angel.  Stephen was filled with grace and power, which gave him the strength to withstand what was coming his way.  (For those who don’t know, the council rushed at Stephen, and cried with a loud voice, they drove him out of the city, and began stoning him to death, because they didn’t like his defense, his view, his religion.)  In verse 60 Stephen cries out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Stephen was filled with grace.

In these passages we are reminded that we live in a troubled world where Satan has power to influence the masses, who regard the followers of Jehovah, Jesus, as the enemy. Yet the followers, believers,  who choose to be obedient to the call of Jehovah, will be filled with the view of God as their strength, their stronghold, their redeemer, their righteousness, and enabled by His grace to withstand the attacks of Satan.

Stephen was martyred for his faith in Jesus.  We, in kind must ask the question, will a day come in this lifetime when we believers are faced with the same persecution?  Many say no, that Jesus will protect us from such things, a few say yes, and the  day is very near.  The question is, “In whom do you put your Faith, and how do you really view Jehovah,  is He your stronghold and strength, how well do you know Him?”

Karl

We Belong

Psalm 100; Ezekiel 34:23-31; Hebrews 13:20-21

We belong to God as each passage today teaches.  In Psalm 100:3 we read, “We are his people, the sheep of his pastor.”

Since we belong to God, the Lord wants us to have a good Shepherd, in this case one like his servant David, which we know from the New Testament, to be Jesus.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the Sheep (see John 10 ).  We are reminded once again in Ezekiel that we belong to God. “ You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.’” (Ezekiel 34:31).

And what is does the Lord to whom we belong desire for us?  The One who raised Jesus from the dead, wants to “equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:21)

Isn’t it good to know that we belong to God who loves us deeply, so much so, that we are equipped, with what is good, in order do God’s will each day!  We belong to the God who raised Jesus from death to new life.  And in Jesus, we are connected in faith and belong to one another.  We are not alone.

Shepherding Well

May 4, 2020

 Today’s Readings:  click here – Psalm 100;  Ezekiel 34:17-23;  1 Peter 5:5                             (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)

Through Old Testament and New Testament, there are many scriptures like Ezekiel 34:17-23  and 1 Peter 5:1-5  underlining  ‘Tending the Flock of God’.  Most instances we are the sheep of the flock and cared for by the great Shepherd our Lord. In this passage of Ezekiel it is highlighting the righteous, the leaders of our nations, to tend to their sheep and how that should be done.  Everyone, at some point, or time in their life will themselves be THE SHEPHERD, and prayerfully on the path of righteousness to the Glory of God. 

Who do you shepherd?  A nation?  Persons in the office?  People of a congregation?  A Sports team? A classroom? A family?   The list can go on and on, and at some juncture in life, we experience ‘Shepherding a Flock’, and it will bring challenges and uncertain pathways, but if we seek God’s reverence it becomes shepherding a flock of God’s kingdom.  

The Ezekiel passage instructs us how we are to treat those we shepherd. Reminding us that we are not above or more than another.  I think about myself and how I shepherd my family.  Caring for them means that I care from my heart.  I know them inside and out.   I put them before myself, provide for them in specific ways that they need, not lacking in love, care and compassion.  Caring and loving them as my Father in Heaven loves and cares for me and how He has given me His Son to watch and guide me to do His will for His kingdom.

One of my favorite images of scripture is that of Jesus shepherding me, His flock, loving and caring for me.  Keeping my mind set on Him, he guides, leads and protects me.  I desire to serve others as a reflection of Jesus’ care for those who whose hope is in the Lord.

These passages of caring for God’s flock are what our hearts hold tight to when times are tough and we have days when we may feel abandoned, struck down, even unloved. These feelings can take root in our hearts and blind us from God’s unconditional love and obscure our vision to love and server others well.  It is in times like this that we need to be reading and  hearing God’s word, that He, our Great Shepherd, will rescue us and pull us back into his arms so we may go forth and shepherd our people with full loving force.

In these current dark and uncertain days of isolation and quarantine, we have had to adjust how we shepherd those we love and care for, but Jesus is our same shepherd today as he was yesterday and will be tomorrow. Our hope is in Him who gives us the strength and consciousness to love, serve and care for others, even 6-feet apart.

Be well and hold fast to the words of our Great Shepherd. By the power of His word and spirit, He makes Himself known to us.  He feeds us.  He guides and guards us. He heals and restores us. The Great Shepherd (Isaiah 50:11) .

Here’s a beautiful song for reflection and meditation ‘The Great Shepherd’ by Psalmist Raine.

Here’s a vibrant song with a powerful message  ‘Beautiful Stranger’ by Rebecca St. James .

Prayer:   Lord, I know full well that your great shepherding covers me.  Help me to shepherd well,  those in my care. Open my eyes to those in need and make known to me the path in which leads me to be a gallant shepherd for your kingdom and your glory always.   AMEN!

Kris

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