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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

June 2020

Going Home

Psalm 126

Review & Commentary:  This psalm is believed to be a hymn sung by those returning to Israel from Babylonian exile … God is praised for enabling those inclined to return to Zion (vv. 1, 4) … Zion is understood to Jerusalem … This return is the rebirth of Jerusalem … From being apparently dead to being very much alive, a resurrection of sorts … Gladness fills the hears of captive Israel in being set free (vv. 2-3) … To finish, an agricultural image is employed (vv. 5-6), that of sowing in arid Israel, waiting, believing in faith that the LORD will bless their efforts with rain … The symbolism is oppression …  Of the Babylonians, of the thirsty Negeb desert … And of redemption – going home to Zion to harvest a previous desert … Amen & Amen.

 

 

 

Precious and Painful

Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19; Genesis 24:1-9; Acts 7:35-43

     Precious in the sight of the Lord
    is the death of his faithful servants. (Psalm 16:15)

It is so good to read of God’s love for his people. Another translation puts it this way, “How painful it is to the Lord when one of his people dies!” (GNT)  In the Genesis passage Abraham is near death and wants to make sure his son Isaac carries on the family legacy and faith.  He arranges a plan, asking for God’s blessing, to find a wife for his son.  God answers his prayers and it works out.  Abraham, who believed God, soon thereafter dies.

When we move to the Acts passage we find Stephen, a devoted follower of Jesus and leader in the early church speaking, courageously, for Jesus. He is being questioned by the Sanhedrin, the ruling theological-political body in Jerusalem, for speaking boldly about Jesus.  Stephen challenges them for their unbelief and persecution of the prophets in their history as God’s people. They resent it greatly and take Stephen out and stone him to death.

The death of the martyrs are the seeds of God’s church down through history and even in our world today.  The Psalm is right, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants.” Or in the Good News Translation, “How painful it is to the Lord when one of his people dies!”

I encourage you today to think of those followers of Jesus who have gone to the Lord, whom you miss, treasure, and long for.

Prayer– Gracious God, we thank you that you still raise the dead.  We make this prayer in Jesus’ name, the Resurrection and the Life. Amen.

We Cry Out

Today’s Readings:  click here  –   Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19; Genesis 21:1-7; Hebrews 3:1-6                                 (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)

Psalm 16:1-2 (I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me,
    I will call on him as long as I live).  is a beautiful prayer of the psalms when we experience God’s presence and answered prayers.  The more we trust in the power of prayer, our faith grows, our hearts become more aware to see God’s existence and power right before our eyes over and over again. He hears our cries, everyone of them.  Praise the Lord! I will call on HIM.

Psalm 116:12-19 continues with rejoicing responses to the Lord’s goodness. When we experience blessings and answered prayers we can’t help but to rejoice.  We rejoice and reclaim our salvation, are witnesses in this land as we vow our faith daily, bringing freedom to a troubled heart with a resolve to remain faithful and serve the Lord, a love so deep that takes our hearts captive and embraces it. This is faith. Faith so profound and true that we are transformed by its power daily, through our heartfelt prayers and attitudes of gratitude.

Steadfast faith requires patience and understanding of God’s sovereign love for us. Finding comfort in His perfect timing is challenging, but in the end, so rewarding, just in the case with Abraham’s wife Sarah. God promised Abraham a child conceived through his wife’s barren womb. Though many years of doubt filled their hearts, Gods vow made true in due time and their son Isaac was born, just as promised. What delight and rejoicing erased the many years of doubt, despair and uncertainty.     2 Peter 3:8-9 .   It is not for us to know God’s timing, but to TRUST God’s timing that comes wrapped in His love and goodness for us, just as Adam trusted and Sarah rejoiced.

Given what we have all witnessed and experienced these last few months, deep, genuine and earnest prayers have been a constant for so many of us. We can’t stop now.  These prayers bring comfort and stability as the whirlwind of anxieties and doubt increase.  Our prayer-filled faith and hope is what we cleave to as we wait with desperate measures for answers and understanding in a world so drenched with deceit and destruction. Keep crying out!  Cling to God’s sufficient grace.  Believe without a doubt that God is with us, He hears us, and we are made stronger in our weaknesses through him, surrounded by such unsettling times as now.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Perhaps you are reading this and asking yourself, ‘Are my prayers heartfelt, authentic? Do I truly trust God in ALL of this, in ALL of my life? How can I have a closer relationship with Jesus and a solid heart for prayer?’ 

It’s all about letting Jesus in.  Wanting Jesus to take over your heart and guide you through each breath, and knowing when you fail, because we all do, His grace and mercy cover us and carry us through with unconditional love and forgiveness.  Cry out this prayer with a heart ready to experience an uncontainable love so deep and wide:

Lord Jesus.  I admit I am a sinner. Please forgive me. Come into my heart this day. Take captive my thoughts, words and actions, cleansing me of my unbelief and unlovable ways.  I believe in you and in your salvation through your blood shed on the cross and you are my gateway to my Father in Heaven. Today I turn from sin and choose YOU Jesus, trusting you alone as my savior, now and for eternity. In the holy name of Jesus. Amen.

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

‘Heal Our Land’ by Kari Jobe

‘All To Jesus, I surrender All’ by Vineyard

‘We Cry Out’ by Jesus Culture

Prayer:   Lord, we trust that you hear our cries and pleas.  Bring peace to our hearts as we pray, hope and wait. Your people cry out together. Hear us now.     AMEN!

Kris

Tremble

Psalm 29
Job 39:26-40:5
John 14:25-26 *

Psalm 29

I have noticed that in the Midwest we (usually) love thunderstorms. My sister told me when she moved to the East Coast, thunderstorms were something she missed.

They boom of the thunder is best when it’s so loud you can feel it in your heart. The flash of lightening is most beautiful when everything goes white for a moment. The pouring rain that hits the windows is both nice to look at and calming to hear. Finally the howl of the wind, the miracle that an invisible force can bend trees.

Sometimes storms aren’t a source of comfort, I understand that. After the Plainfield tornado it’s understandable there would be trauma and fear. Not long ago we experienced a storm in Joliet that flooded the streets, basements, and uprooted trees.

All in all, whether through delight or fear, a thunderstorm brings a sense of awe to us.

In that same manner, if you read Psalm 29, you’ll see the Lord does the same. His voice brings beauty and trembling. His might is breath taking and can be destructive.

Yet, because He is the Lord, it is all good.

So whatever thunderstorm you’re  going through (and I know we’re all going through at least two storms together), I pray we take comfort knowing that God’s power in this is meant to comfort just as much as it’s meant to strike fear.

Blessings,
Karissa

 

Jehovah is still on the Throne

Psalms 8

Job 38: 12-21

2 Timothy 1: 2-14

Psalms 8, is a favorite Psalm for most believers. It explores the greatness, and glory of Jehovah in a very few words. It brings to mind the great victories that He led Israel in, while using the most childish means. An example being Gideon, whom Jehovah used to defeat the Midianites by an exceedingly small number of 300 men, using only trumpets and torches. Again in the battle of Jericho, Israel, by the hand of God defeated that great city with the blowing of trumpets. Again and again Jehovah shows His power, Psalms 8:2, “From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength. Because of Your adversaries, to make the enemy and the revengeful cease.” God is in complete control, He needs only obedient servants who follow Him to complete His will on earth, which is really just letting us go along for the ride while He does everything. How majestic is His Name.

Job 38:12-21 At the end of the horrific trial that the man Job has been put through, while he has been faithful, though a little too much complaining and challenging of God, Jehovah answers some of Jobs complaints with a lesson. This lesson reveals that there is probably some limitations to what man knows by comparison to the Creator. Which brings to mind the audacity of the theory of evolution, thats states with authority that out of nothing, something came, and then out of that inanimate something animation occurred, and here we are. And they call it science. It really is just another religion that started about 150 years ago, and is allowed to be taught in our schools. The point here is there is little we know in comparison to the knowledge of our Creator.

2 Timothy 1: 2-14 A warning to Timothy to not give up, to not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or the fact that Paul was in prison, which was being leveraged against the truth of the Gospel. Paul goes on to say in verse 12, “For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day.”

These passages come together to prove to believers that Jehovah is in fact our Creator, our advocate, our Savior. He uses the weak of this earth to prove His power. As the world seems to be falling away from decency, truth, justice, goodness, honesty, and such, it is to be considered normal. As Karissa said in her blog, “how else are the unsaved supposed to act?” As satan’s power on earth is more and more concentrated, as violence and chaos continues, don’t be surprised as though we weren’t warned it would happen. As we approach the tribulation as revealed by Daniel, Jesus, and John, the world will only get more and more removed from Godliness as a standard. Our faith in Christ should only increase as the days grow dark. Lives are still being changed through the blood of Jesus, God is still in the business of salvation, reconciliation. and grace. When He returns then we will be released from this world of woe, to an everlasting peace.

Karl

God Cross-Examines Job

Job 38:1-17

Review:  Previously, Job and his associates have talked about God … At this point, a whirlwind of the LORD confronts Job face-to-face (vv. 1-3) … Job is questioned about the composition, size, and foundations of the earth (vv. 4-6, 18) … Job is asked of the wonders of the night and early morning sky (v. 7) … Limits are set for the clouds and sea (vv. 8-11) … So too, are limits set for what constitutes a day (vv. 12-14) … The wicked are kept in the dark (v. 15) … Our rivers and oceans have been designed as such (v. 16) … Job, asks God, “What do you know about death (v. 17)?”

Commentary:  One question after another is raised by God – Where were you?  What do you know?  Can you? … Job has no answers (cp. Job 9:2-3), who would? … Job previously admitted that he was not a “know it all” (Job 12:7-25) … The modern impulse is to have an answer to every situation …  Even if the answers a certifiably wrong … This is exhibited with our current COVID – 19, black citizen/police relations, and civil unrest issues … All of these underscore the problem of “answer” in a world that is good but, alas, fallen … Some questions are too difficult for us to rightly “answer” … Haven’t we tried our own understanding (cp. Prov. 3:5-8) for long enough? … The “answer” to society ills are first addressed by each one addressing their own personal ills, something the LORD confronts prideful Job with … Previously individual, quiet, introspection (cp. 1 Cor. 11:27-34, Gal. 6:2-5) was considered essential for one’s spiritual and mental outlook … Today, this practice, not so much.

Unalone and Unafraid!

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; Numbers 11:24-30; John 7:37-39 (N(V)

It is not good to be all alone in life, in the faith, and in leadership.

The Spirit of the living God is involved in the creation of life, Psalm 104 indicates. “When you send your Spirit,  they are created, and you renew the face of the ground” (verse 30).  Notice it says, “they are created,” which indicates more than one.  God has made us for community, which is why being separated at this time due to COVID-19 is so challenging.  We were created for human community and joy.

It also explains the terrible indignity of the murder of George Floyd, which creates estrangement and antipathy and rage and more. In one way it fractures community and isolates people one from another.  Though in another way, our common shock and disgust at such injustice unites us.

We find Moses leading the Israelites from slavery in Egypt on their journey to freedom and the promised land.  This was hard and challenging while at the same time it was exciting and exhilarating.  Yet for Moses, as a leader, it was an exhausting and lonely calling.  Moses needed help.  This was an enterprise too large for one person to lead.  The Lord provided increased leadership to assist Moses and upon the leaders God sent the Holy Spirit. In those days only prophets, priests, and kings received the Spirit of God in this way.  Adding capable leadership sustained Moses in his calling from the Lord.  We see this in Numbers 11:25.

“Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders.”

Once we reach the New Testament we find out we are Pentecost People (last Sunday was Pentecost Sunday).  Acts Chapter 2 describes Pentecost but John accounts for Pentecost in his Gospel, John 7:38-39.

” Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”[a] 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”

We, as followers of Jesus, have the Spirit of God alive within us.  We are not alone.  The Holy Spirit lives in us and unites to Jesus and to each other in Christ, guides us in our walk of faith, interprets the scripture to us, gives courage to speak and act on Jesus’ behalf, and comforts us and more.

We are not alone and we are given strength for the moment and the day.  We are Unalone and Unfraid for Christ Jesus is with us through the power of the Spirit of the Living God.

Lord God, give us your wisdom, strength, guidance, and sustaining joy in and through your Holy Spirit at work in us.  We make this prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Wordless Prayers

Today’s Readings:  click here  –   Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; Ezekiel 39:7-8, 21-29; Romans 8:26-27      (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)

Reading today’s scriptures, I see deep woven patterns of God’s love for his people, reminding us of His grandeur creation and plan for us.  Given the recent actions taken in our cities and towns this past week, Psalm 104:35 reminds us to pray for the healing of our land and God’s people to be steadfast in His righteousness,

But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more. Praise the Lord, my soul. Praise the Lord.

As in the Ezekiel passage, God’s glory will be shown among the afflicted and He will restore His land.  This brings us the hope we ought to be clinging to. His face shines upon us and brings us peace.  We must not stop praying for peace to arise and our world to heal. We are in this together, and as a praying, faithful community, we lift  those of troubled and wondering hearts to be tamed and found in God’s forgiving favor.

Just as we were slowly and ever so gently unfolding as a nation, we are yet again, cast into unexplainable and certainly  avoidable chaos, terror and violence, that we really are experiencing what the passage from Romans today speaks about, not knowing ‘what to pray’. There just seems to be NO WORDS. 

I don’t know about you, but that is surly how I have felt, not only now, but these last 3 months as well. Much of it is just beyond comprehension that we are faced with such obstruction and destruction, causing immense levels of fear, worry and anxiety in all of us.  Sometimes, I feel levels of suffocation overwhelming me and I tremble in that fear searching for the words to cry out to God to hear His people pleading for restoration, healing and signs of hope.

Romans 8:26-27 validates our often word deficient pleas, wordless groans of  feeling helpless, overwhelmed and insecure, and it restores reassurance and strength we seek, reminding us just how GREAT our God is… even with speechless heavy hearts.  It is our hearts that He hears, our pain that flows through our veins that He feels and His  spirit we cling to that reaches for us.

 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

In those heavy laden moments that words just won’t form… be still, call out to Jesus and His Spirit will intercede on your behalf.  Trust and find hope in this day and everyday with Jesus who loves us with an overwhelming and unconditional love… HOLD TIGHT TO THAT, ALAWAYS.

Enjoy these two songs – let them speak to your heart this day. (I do not own the rights to these songs or videos)

‘Groanings Too Deep For Words’ (Romans 8:26 ESV) – from Labyrinth by David Baloche

‘I Am Not Alone’ by Kari Jobe

Prayer:   Lord, how reassuring it is to know that you do hear our pleas, our cries even when no words form on our lips.  Hear our hearts this day and everyday Lord Jesus. We put our trust in you and find new and restored hope everyday.  Thank you God for your Spirit that connects us even when we are silent and don’t understand.   AMEN!

Kris

Today’s Hopeful verses.

 Psalm 104:24-34, 35b;
Joel 2:18-29;
Romans 8:18-24

What is there to write today?

Pain that goes beyond anguish is filling the hearts of every human (not just Americans) and cities are burning. Friends are fighting with friends. Families are being torn apart. Emotions are so high that articulation is out the window for so so many.

Everything hurts today.

As Christians there are a few things we need to remember: Christ is who we follow first and foremost. What is Jesus calling you to do in this moment? Our calls aren’t going to be the same so today is a day to really meditate and listen to what He’s saying. Also remember, we can’t expect Godly behavior from nonbelievers. They don’t know Jesus. They don’t get it. Did that stop Jesus from being with them? Absolutely not. He continued to live my examples and bring people up.

Here are a few verses from today’s reading that I pray strengthen you:

“How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” Psalm 104:24

“All creatures look to you to give them their food and the proper time.” Psalm 104:27

“I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praises to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord.” Psalm 104:34

“Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice. Surely the Lord has done great things!” Joel 2:21

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten” Joel 2:25

“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people…Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.” Joel 2:28-29 (Fun fact: These are the days we’re living in!)

“I consider our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

May you all seek Hope through the Lord our God and pray some of the most dangerous prayers: Your Will be done, Send me, Break my heart for what breaks Yours.

Oh my sweet friends,
God Bless,
Karissa

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