First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @


June 2020

Fighting with Family

Psalm 47
1 Kings 18:36-39
1 John 4:1-6

I had not known much about Elijah until I worked at First Pres and was asking a co-worker what her favorite story in the Bible was. She told me Elijah. I am embarrassed to say I had to look it up (despite reading both Kings during another church’s read the Bible in three months marathon!). However, rather than look it up in the Bible I went to handy dandy Youtube. The video I watched is below. After watching the video I totally understood why; it’s such a powerful story of God’s majesty! PS: The narrator’s accent is just a great bonus.


Now, onto the meatier part of our devotional.

How often have you been told you’re following a false prophet? Or, how many times have you told someone they were following a false prophet? Recently, a man I knew that had grown up in faith told me an author I was reading was a false prophet–and no, it wasn’t Beth Moore who came under attack after posting A Letter to My Brothers. The book I was reading wasn’t written by a woman at all. He is a praised Baptist Preacher and author.

The content of this book didn’t align with the person’s personal feelings and he was very quick to call the author a false prophet and continued to tear down my belief system and even gender.

Yes, it sucked. Yes, I struggled big time on what to do.

I kept thinking about how the Bible says to “test spirits because there are false prophets” but that’s where my memory verse stopped. Luckily, as we have it, my devotional content includes this verse!

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

1 John 4:1-3

Last Sunday, Pastor Craig mentioned Christians are so quick to cut each other up–as this man was so quick to cut up my faith and reading materials. However, the man I was reading, this Baptist Preacher, does acknowledge that Jesus Christ came in the flesh and is from God.

That’s the key.

We throw out the words “false prophet,” and “antichrist” so painfully quick and don’t actually look to see how John the Evangelist told us to do to test spirits to see how we can find a true false prophet and a spirit of the antichrist (see that? Spirit of the antichrist… Not even the antichrist himself).

I want all of us to remember this when we don’t like the teachings of a man or woman: if the man or woman says Jesus is God in the flesh then they are not a false prophet and they are not the antichrist.

I called this fighting in the family because we are so much more inclined to fight about this with people in the faith. We’re probably still going to fight because our flesh will fight ideologies and translations and historical context that makes us uncomfortable.

My challenge to you: if someone wants to share a fellow Christians teaching I beg you to be open minded about it. Test the teachings in this way: do they say Christ is Lord? Christ is God in the Flesh? Do they claim to know Jesus as their own Lord? If the answer is “yes” to all of those and you still don’t like what they’re saying there are two more things to consider:

  1. Do you dislike it because it makes you uncomfortable in a convicted kind of way. For example: you think people need to wear their Sunday’s best, but the preacher talks about how Jesus sat with the lowliest of lows and took them as they were and now you’re convicted by how judgmental you were about the new family who had their teen dressed in denim shorts and a tank top. That kind of conviction hurts and opens the door to really mold your heart to be more like Jesus.
  2. Maybe there are human errors. For example: Taking Scripture out of context. Let’s say we are listening to a sermon (from a preacher who has met our criteria about knowing Jesus and professing with their mouth Jesus is God in the Flesh) and his whole sermon is based on Leviticus. He’s saying God doesn’t like women. He’s going through all the laws that showcase that men have it easier when faced with adultery and only women are tested. He’s missing the context of Leviticus. First, those rules were written for a community that had been enslaved by pagan people for hundreds of years. Second, if you look at those laws carefully, they are in place to protect women in a time and society when women were mistreated so frequently and were more like property than people. Third, God says over and over again He wants to give mercy to the people–not punishment. This sermon is filled with historical misunderstanding and thus void.
    1. Major point though: This is not the teaching of a false prophet! This is the teaching of a misinformed man.

I give you these examples because telling your family that they are following false prophets out of anger hurts. It hurts us so much to the point that we can’t help but react with our flesh that we may offer forgiveness and never reconciliation…

And maybe you’ve been where I am. If you have, that pit in your stomach has been so heavy and you wanted to know how to test the spirit–here it is! Here is how you can find comfort in that you are listening to God.

And at the very end of the day: Are you seeking the approval of God? Or man?


The True Gospel

Psalm 13; 2 Chronicles 20:1-17; Galatians 5:1-12

Psalm 13

David has grown impatient waiting for God to answer his prayers. He is basically yelling at God. Complaining like a child who isn’t getting the answer he wants from a parent. Yet, at the end, he states that he knows that God is there, and he trusts God’s plan for him. 

Chronicles 20

Jehoshaphat is before an assembly of men who have just informed him that Israel is about to be attacked by a large army. Before the siege begins, and in front of the council, Jehoshaphat prays to God asking for guidance. Part of that prayer includes complaining to God about how Israel listened to his command and didn’t destroy the people already who are now coming to attack. “Our God, will you not judge them?” In other words, “God, how can you let this happen to us?” 

Reflection #1

We all have those times in our lives where things aren’t going great even though we have been faithful (in our own minds anyway), and we have prayed for God to guide us or relieve us of impending doom and gloom. Sometimes, God acts quickly and things work out. And some of us are still waiting days, weeks, months, or even years later for an answer. But, as we can see in both of these passages, it is perfectly acceptable to cry out to the Lord, just like our children do (or did when they were young) demanding things or answers to questions. Just like we are all loving parents who listen and will do whatever we can to help our children when they are in need, God does the same for us. We do it for our own children, even though we may do the eye roll when our kid asks us for something they want…AGAIN. Sometimes, we make them wait a long time before we give them an answer or give them what they are asking for. We don’t always jump up immediately and give what they want. 

God is the same way with us. Imagine if this was like in the movie Bruce Almighty, where God grants every prayer request immediately and without question. It would be a complete disaster. We don’t always understand His reasons or His purpose, but we have to simply trust that He knows what He’s doing. Just like David in Psalm 13. Just like Jehoshaphat and the Israelites. 

Galatians 5

Paul is speaking of the Judaizers largely in this letter to the churches in Galatia. The Judaizers are Jewish Christians who believe that, while faith in the Gospel is important, people still need to also participate in some of the Old Testament rituals, such as circumcision. Earlier in the letter, Paul writes that it isn’t by rituals that God gives us the Holy Spirit or eternal life. It is by faith alone. Freedom is in just simply believing what Jesus taught us. Doing good deeds is important. Serving the Lord is important. Attending church to worship together as one body in Christ is important. But at the end of the day, it is by faith alone that we are saved. Paul uses an analogy that everyone at the time would understand well, and was also one of Jesus’ many parables. Just a small amount of yeast works through the entire batch of bread dough. That message can work both for the good or for the not so good. It only takes a small number of people banding together to spread a false message before it spreads quickly through the whole community. The same is true for those who are spreading truth. This is true now more than ever with the 24 hour news cycle and social media. 

Reflection #2

Over the past several months, I’ve heard and read so much about our freedoms as a country as laid by our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. But those freedoms don’t even come close to the freedom we have from The Law just simply through believing everything the Gospel has to sell. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-10, it is by grace that we are saved. Not by works so that we can boast. Not by the Law. It is much simpler than that. It is just by the grace granted to us by God through Jesus Christ. The true Gospel. 

Prayer for Help

Psalm 13

Micah 7:18-20

Galatians 5:2-6

A Psalm of David: “How long, O Jehovah? Will you forget me forever?” These words are sometimes the very words I have cried out to God with. When the delay of God’s answer is years in coming, when the delay in the return of a child to his mother is trapped in the courts, with no one who has the authority to decide caring. It’s complicated, there is an obvious delay being perpetrated by the opposing side for control, and to us as grandparents we see our grandson’s life passing by, and it’s agonizing. “How long O, Jehovah? Will you forget me forever?” …”How long will my enemy be exalted over me?” ...”And my enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him,’ And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken.” … “But still I will sing to the LORD, for He has dealt bountifully with me.” Yes, I have read about Abraham and Sarah in Genesis, and the promise of a son to them by Jehovah, in their old age. Yet even then they had to wait 13 years. I try to understand, but I really don’t like it. I know in my heart that Jehovah has complete control, and I trust Him, but I still wonder, “How long, O God?”

Micah 7:18-20 My, o my, what a description of current events in the world today. I know that we are supposed to be concerned with just a couple of verses, but the beginning of this chapter 7 is stellar. Speaking prophetically and looking at current conditions in our land, Verse 2 says “The godly person has perished from the land, and there is no upright person among men. All of them lie in wait for bloodshed;….Concerning evil, both hands do it well. The prince asks, also the judge, for a bribe, and a great man speaks the desire of his soul; so they all weave it together. The best of them is like a briar. The most upright are like a thorn hedge.” 5. “Do not trust in a neighbor; Do not have confidence in a friend. Guard your lips. For son treats father contemptuously, Daughter rises up against her mother, Daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; A man’s enemies are the men of his own household.” What a bleak picture of the future this is , yet it is happening here in our own houses. The youth of today have made their parents generation the enemy. To them, there is no valid history beyond their own experience. I try to explain to my youth, that we were very involved in environmental and social issues from the 1960’s onward, really, physically involved. Action, not words. Yet their response is, “You didn’t do enough.” As though their protests today will actually ever accomplish anything good. Verses 18-20 gives us hope though, “For there is no God like Jehovah, who pardon’s iniquity, And passes over the rebellious act of the remnants of His possession. …He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities underfoot. Yes, He will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”….

Galatians 5:2-6 The continuing theme of these three passages is to be that the works of man, through the strength of his own flesh will always lead to failure. Paul then uses the example of circumcision, to demonstrate the effectiveness of physical effort, versus spiritual effort. Circumcision was a sign for the the Jews, that would make them physically separate from all other peoples. As though a tattoo might identify you with a group, yet could never change you, from the inside out. So as Paul says in verse 6; “For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.” Jehovah is our only hope, as in times of old, with Israel, only trust in the Holy one to save you, both individually and nationally, is valid. It’s Spiritual man.

“My hope is in the LORD; Who gave Himself for me; And paid the price for all my sin; At Calvary.

Prayer for our national and local leaders is paramount, to be transformed by the saving power of Jehovah.


The Trials of Judah

Jeremiah 39-45

Review & Commentary:  Jerusalem has fallen to the Chaldeans under the leadership of Nebuchadnezzar (39) … The threats Jeremiah warned of are now reality … Those captured are dealt with one one of three ways (40:1-12) … The willing, able bodied of Judah are enslaved and deported to Babylonia … The heads of their theocratic state, that being the clergy of the temple, are executed … The poor and elderly, including Jeremiah who is given a choice, are left behind in broken Judah … With the destruction of Judah’s social order comes violence and evil (40:13 – 41:18) … A request is made to Jeremiah to hear from YHWH (42:1-6) … He receives a message from God 10 days later (42:7) … Summarizing, the LORD tells those remaining of Judah not to fear the rule of the Chaldeans and DO NOT GO TO EGYPT!(42:9-22) … Quite naturally, a very vulnerable Judah remnant decides to travel to Egypt (43:1-7) … I wonder how often, nowadays, folk take what they believe to be a direct word from God and do just just the opposite? … Along the way, in Talpanhes, Jeremiah receives more from YHWH telling of the doom by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians in conjunction with the Egyptian “fire” gods (43:8-13) … In Egypt, lots of unspoken bad happens to Judah (44:1-12), many die … Many of Judah worship Egypt’s gods, burn incense to them, drink offerings, etc. (44:15-30), more die and suffer … Some suffering is worse than dying … Through it all a few, a remnant, remain faithful to YHWH (44:14, 28) including Baruch, son of Neriah (45) … As it’s always been, a remnant, stay loyal to the LORD … This hope serves as a invitation to one and all.

Promises Kept

Psalm 86:11-17; Genesis 25:12-18; Revelation 2:8-11

David relies on God’s promise of faithfulness. “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15).  

Abraham dies (Genesis 25) and we see that God remembers his promise to Abraham, providing Ishmael with descendants and land. We can count on the Lord to fulfill whatever he promises.

Finally, we read about the Church in Smyrna (one of the seven churches in Revelation 2-3), whose people are suffering for following Jesus.   God, through Jesus Christ,  calls them to endurance and faithfulness and then provides these words promising victory to those who are faithful.  “These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again…Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown” (Revelation 2:8, 10).

From Genesis to Revelation and throughout the Bible we meet the God who loves his people and who promises to be faithful.  Like David, in Psalm 86 we can praise the Lord our God with all of our heart and glorify him forever.  In Jesus we will be victorious, even over death itself. Today, let’s remember what the Lord has done for us throughout our lives.

Prayer:  Lord God, we give you thanks for your everlasting promises to all those who love the Lord Jesus Christ, “who died and came to life again” for us.  We are grateful that we can count on you; In Jesus name, we pray, Amen!

First Love

Today’s Readings:  click here  –   Psalm 86:11-17; Genesis 16:1-15; Revelation 2:1-7           (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)

Much of this passage of Psalm 86 delivers me back to the early days of my faith walk. So new, so inquisitive, yearning for something new, so willing to change, such similar words were what came from my heart and out of my mouth as I prayed for my relationship with Jesus to take hold of me.

11Teach me Your way, O Lord, I will walk and live in Your truth;
Direct my heart to fear Your name, [with awe-inspired reverence and submissive wonder].

And giving thanks all the while.

12I will give thanks and praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart;
And will glorify Your name forevermore.

Ever so piercingly, I could feel my heart change and transform as I began to trust and know Jesus more intimately with my whole-being. The more I searched, the more my eyes were unveiled to see his goodness all around me.

13For great is Your lovingkindness and graciousness toward me;
And You have rescued my life from the depths of Sheol [from death].

Knowing who He is, helped me see clearly, His LOVE that was like no other.

15But You, O Lord, are a God [who protects and is] merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness and truth.
16 Turn to me, and be gracious to me; Grant Your strength [Your might and the power to resist temptation] to Your servant, And save the son of Your handmaid.

My demons and foes were before me, as I sought God’s sovereign salvation and witnessed a transformation so rooted in Jesus’ that all I desired was for others to less of me and more of Him.

17Show me a sign of [Your] goodwill,
That those who hate me may see it and be ashamed,
Because You, O Lord, helped and comforted me.

And through the years, we are always a work on progress, ever changing, seeking comfort, peace, patience, with steadfast bold prayer and earnest supplication.

In today’s Genesis passage, we read about Abram and Sarai. Sarai not being able to bear children, she gives her mistress slave to Abram as a wife to bear children, an heir, for Abram. Why?  She didn’t trust God in His promise that should would conceive a child, an heir to Abram’s heritage. So she took matters in her own hands, to make sure that a child would be born to her husband, no matter what was at stake.  She couldn’t wait for God to come to the rescue.  Sometimes, we too do the same thing. Perhaps, not in this fashion, but in our lives, how often do we read scripture and know full well in our hearts that God will prevail, yet we take thing upon our own strength and petition to get things done, NOW.   And then… BACKFIRE.  If only we should have waited on God. His timing is always perfect. Now we have to seek forgiveness, repent and start the waiting process all over.  It’s never effortless to be patient, to trust in things we cannot see, to understand God’s plan and will for us, to do good over evil, to choose wisely, and seek wisdom, that is why we need to know God’s word intently, and to pray persistently with boldness.  This way of thinking and acting eradicates the efforts we put on ourselves to take action of our own plan.

And now, the Revelation passage.   A book that has in someways intimidated and terrified me, bringing on a sense of panic in a stream of assurance, all at the same time.  For example, the fact that this passage points to fading faith.

4But I have this [charge] against you, that you have left your first love [you have lost the depth of love that you first had for Me]. So remember the heights from which you have fallen, and repent [change your inner self—your old way of thinking, your sinful behavior—seek God’s will] and do the works you did at first [when you first knew Me]; otherwise, I will visit you and remove your lampstand (the church, its impact) from its place—unless you repent.

Faith, that over time, dwindles, clouds over, or pushed aside while we work on our own agendas.  This frightens me, because when I read it today, I feel a sense guilt, as I think back of how my heart was on such fire and desire to know Jesus more and more, and to change a little bit everyday.  Did I lose that ‘first love’?  I’d like to say not, but I think with anything new, that newness wears and fades through time.   I want that FIRE and NEWNESS to remain and that can only happen when I sense a stagnant faith and seek the Holy Spirit to wash me clean and rekindle that fire within me. This, by no means, is an easy approach. We have to stay faithful and on-task every moment of everyday, never letting our guard down.  We do this by knowing we do not walk this journey alone and that in our weakness we are made strong through Christ.

Phew, that was a lot… so much great stuff in today’s readings.

Give thanks and praise. Be patient, give it ALL to God. Rekindle your faith today! Pick up your bible, let God’s word speak to you and let your prayers be heard.

Enjoy a few songs – let them speak to your heart this day.

‘Start A Fire’ by Unspoken

‘Can Anybody Hear Me’ by Meredith Andrews

Prayer:   Lord, we pray, asking  that you fill our hearts with your goodness and  love, that we would remember we are created on purpose, for a purpose.  Rekindle in us everyday,  your fire of faith and renew our spirt to align with your word and great works. We pray this mighty and heartfelt prayer in our Savior Jesus’ name.     AMEN!



Psalm 86:1-10;
Genesis 35:1-4;
Acts 5:17-26

First; I am so sorry this is being posted later in the day instead of right in the AM.

When I am in distress, I call to you,
because you answer me.

Psalm 86:7

So I’ve been in distress lately (haven’t we all?). This week in particular has been an entire mood in its own right for various reasons that concern family, school, and work. Just like everyone else, I am struggling. However, since we are collectively struggling it is really hard to help lift someone up. Am I right?

We can try to overcome evil with good by writing letters to friends of love when we’re sad, or making a gratitude list when we are feeling helpless, or clean a messy room when our brains feel messy–but that doesn’t always lift the heaviness in our hearts.

Why? Because all those acts are just acts and we need God.

David is confident that God will answer him when he calls on Him.

So last night I tried it. It was a bit of calling out in distress and a bit of Jacob style wrestling. A lot of heartbreak confession. A lot of anger and fear. Some repentance (Here’s a James 5:16 style confession for you: shame is a big stopper for me when it comes to repentance) and very little gratitude (which I confessed to God in that moment).

But in that moment, so wrapped up in my emotions with a deep pain in my chest that felt like it was caving in and would suck me up from the inside out, I felt like David. I realized his poetry and dramatic language weren’t so over the top–they were honest, real, and raw.

Brothers and sisters, we all have stuff. Today I encourage you to go to the Lord with it. There is no formula for prayer, there is no right way or wrong way. Because we are covered in the blood of the Lamb, we don’t even have to worry about some discipline like boils for speaking irreverently to the Lord. Instead, He just takes whatever we have to say and only sees wrapped in robes of righteousness.

I”m going to end with a song (because I love songs, Psalms are songs, and they help me pray when I don’t know what to say).

I hope you love this song as much as I do.


Have Faith

Psalm 126; Nehemiah 9:1-8; Luke 6:12-19

Karl already did a great job of covering Psalm 126 yesterday, but here are my 2 cents on how it speaks to me. For all of the suffering that one might endure within their lifetime, there is redemption through our belief in God. We need to recognize and rejoice in the times that things are going well and give thanks to God. The year 2020 has been challenging to say the very least, but if we remain confident that God will provide what we need, he will restore us. Verse 4 mentions the Negev, which is a dry desert area in Israel. As I had to look it up, it receives about 2-3 centimeters of precipitation per year only. In climates like that, when it does rain, it can come down torrentially for a very short time. In those short rainy periods, the gullies and other low areas would quickly fill up, and therefore be restored with water for a period of time. God’s restorative power can have the same effect on those of us who trust in Him. 

Nehemiah and the Israelites are celebrating and giving thanks to God after the completion of the wall around Jerusalem after returning from exile in Babylon. The prayer at the end of the passage, in particular the part that spans part of verse 5 and all of verse 6, is a great short prayer that could be recited daily as part of your regular prayer routine. 

In Luke, Jesus has just selected his 12 apostles. I think that it is important to point out that there are words here that refer to a large number of disciples who came to hear him speak and be healed. We are most familiar with the 12, but there were plenty of other followers who faithfully would gather to listen to him speak. I also think that it’s important to point out that people were there just simply to reach out and touch his cloak for healing. Imagine that kind of faith, that your hope is to just barely nick the outer cloak of Jesus in hopes of being healed of your ailments. That’s true faith! It makes me picture the fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel where God is straining to reach out to a nonchalant Adam. He wants to be with us. If we just return the favor and reach back for Him, we too can be healed. 

Rescue For Those That Trust

Psalms 126

Genesis 25: 7-11

2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5

Psalms 126 Again, a Psalm of Ascents, meaning a song most likely sung by those returning from the 70 year exile in Babylon. Though few remembered the actual event they did know that Jehovah was redeeming them from the captivity of their lifetime, to return to the homeland of their forefathers. In verse four where it says “Restore our captivity” is poorly translated and most likely means to turn our captivity into prosperity, like the Negev ( a rainy season waterway) in the south into a raging river. Those who sow on tears, will reap with joyful shouting.

Genesis 25:7-11 Abraham, the father of the nation Israel, who lived by faith in Jehovah, who trusted Him before anyone of his lifetime knew of this God, has died. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in an appropriate grave with alongside of his deceased wife Sarah. Afterward God blessed Isaac, the son of promise, whom God gave to Abraham.

2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5 A benediction of Paul to the church in Thessalonica. In verse fourteen Paul declares a truth that he first wrote about in Romans 3.23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and what a change that occurs after trusting in Christ our Savior, that “we gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In 2 Corinthians 3:18 He says “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory,…”

The overall theme in these passages is that Jehovah blesses, and redeems, and changes those who respond to the eternal truth that God loves us and desires us who will only trust Him and the eternal truths contained in the scriptures.

Satan is alive and well and is distorting everything that we regard as common truth, turning truth into lies, and good into evil. The world today is being upended, where we as believers will soon be made into the enemy of all that is pure and right, because we will be shown to unloving and haters, just as Jesus warned in Matthew 24:9-13. We must be on guard and not fall prey to the current “truth,” but put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver us from the coming tribulation.


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