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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

July 2020

Promises Times Three, No Four

Psalm 17:1-7, 15; Isaiah 41:8-10; Romans 9:6-13 (NIV)

There’s an old Hymn, Standing on the Promises and the chorus is,

Standing, standing
Standing on the promises of God my Savior
Standing, standing
I’m standing on the promises of God

These three passages are about promises, the promises of God.

David is running for his life from Saul the current King who is jealous of David’s successes.  David was anointed to be the next King of Israel yet he is on the run lest Saul kill him.  Saul is hunting for David and David hides out.  David had an opportunity to kill Saul and bring this running to an end.  Yet David has respect for the position of King in Israel being chosen by God.  So David waits for God to make him King and does not take matters into his own hands.  David trusts in the promise of God even when it is most difficult to believe.

The passage in Isaiah is about Israel in captivity and it seems impossible that they will return home once again and be a nation. God speaks into this time of disappointment and discouragement.  They are reminded that God has still chosen them and not rejected them.  They must, in faith, even in a dark time, hold onto the promise of God, “I am with you…I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you…”

The Romans passage is the most difficult of the three given the choice of Jacob over Esau part of the passage.  Yet this passage, too, is about the promise of God.  “Children of the promise” connected to Abraham are the ones through whom God’s covenantal presence will be manifested. They are children of faith who like Abraham believed in God’s promise to them.  See Genesis Chapter 12 for Abrahams expression of faith in the Lord. Physical connections are not necessarily faith connections to God.  In each and every generation God is looking for those who believe, who are “children of the promise.”

Think about the promises of God today, such as the one that comes to us through the Lord Jesus, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Prayer: Wonderful God, Mysterious God, Loving God, Lord of all of your promises, help us to believe in you, your word, and your promises to us.  We make this prayer  Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

July 30, 2020 “What’s Your Super Power?”

Today’s Readings:  click here  –  Psalm 17:1-7, 15; Isaiah 14:1-2; Philippians 4:10-15

(to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)

This Psalm passage today, like many others, is a prayer. As there is a time to weep and a time to rejoice, so there is a time for praise and a time for prayer.  Here, we can dare to believe that  David was now persecuted, most likely by Saul, who hunted him like a flock on the mountains; with fierce battles and inward fears, both impelled him to plead his heart to the throne of mercy.  He calls for God to hear him and take refuge on him.  Psalm prayers are beautiful heartfelt tools to help navigate and guide us through any hardship or toil, joy or praise, through prayer

Our passage from Philippians today, embodies a very powerful, affirming and encouraging verse that many Christians draw strength from,  as well as confidence and contentment when faced with adversity, defeat, challenging struggles, weakness, uncertainty, doubt, discernment, even  persecution;   13’I can do all things because Christ gives me the strength’, and  37For nothing will be impossible with God’  (Luke 1:37) and  9Each time Jesus said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.”  So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me  (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Philippians 4:13 as well as the other  scripture passages mirrored here, were a familiar dose of encouragement and power of positive thinking for our family as our kids were growing up and we were parenting.  With kids, often the struggle is very real, to achieve or accomplish goals they set and a common but not favorable word spoken is  ‘Can’t’ ;  I can’t do it, I just can’t. We taught them early on that when this word overshadows anything you are attempting to do… PRAY.. pray these words… I can do all things because Christ gives me the strength.  God never failed them.  Their eyes were so wide open to see first hand what they could do with God’s help, to never settle for less, defeat, failure, or unworthiness of any kind. 

This prayer conveyed unfailing positive attitudes, spiritual and mental clarity, and became our eclipsing factor upholding our family’s constant reminder of God’s love, strength and power to overcome any difficulty or trouble we faced. It truly was ‘Our Super Power’.  We believe these words to our very core. Both of the boys chose this scripture to be inscribed on their Confirmation stole. As a parent, it was so refreshing to see how they held tight and believed in  such power.  

Are you facing some tough times, decisions, distractions, or tasks of your own?  Start here with this prayer of powerful positive thinking: I can do all things because Christ gives me the strength.  Believe also that ‘Nothing is impossible with God’ (Matthew 19:26).  Let these be constant words in your heart and from your lips.  You will find strength to do, to not do, to overcome, to out do, out last whatever is set before you.  Making prayer and conversation with Jesus a ‘First’ go to, a priority is just an glimpse of what more our Father in Heaven has in store for us when we love and trust His Son, Jesus.  I say, ‘what can you lose’… in the eyes of our beholder… NOTHING!; but how much more we CAN lose if we don’t.

I found a delightful and uplifting commentary written on this Philippians passage with a focus on contentment,  ‘A Life of Contentment’.  It’s an encouraging read.  If you have time, I highly recommend it.   In depth commentary read; Philippians 4:1-15 Commentary by Steven J. Cole

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

‘I Can Do All Things’ – with worship motions

‘Feeling At Home in the Presence of Jesus’ by Gloria & William J. Gaither

‘Stronger’ by Hillsong Worship

‘You Are My Strength’ by Hillsong Worship

Prayer:   Lord Jesus, thank you for loving me enough to give me your strength through my weakness, direction when I am wandering, love when I am empty, clarity when I am blinded.  I find contentment, peace and strength in trusting and believing in you.  I know I am not alone on this journey and that comforts me.   AMEN!

Kris

God’s Perfect Plan

Psalm 65:8-13; Genesis 30:25-36; James 3:13-18

Psalm 65

These verses from Psalm 65 fit perfectly with part of Carrie’s sermon this morning (July 26th) for those of you who got to see/hear it. Part of it was about how perfect God’s plan is and how He thought out all of the tiny details. Her example was how fire ants are able to build a living bridge of ants to cross a moving stream, and how they work together to make that happen. As I was listening to that part of the message, it made me think of another scientific fact that I find amazing and demonstrates God’s perfect creation. Do you know that total solar eclipses are unique only to Earth? No other planet in the solar system has eclipses like us. The reason? Because the ratio of the size difference between the moon and sun is almost identical to the ratio of the difference in distance between the Earth and moon and the Earth and the sun. The sun is about 400 times bigger than the moon, and it is about 400 times further away from the Earth than the moon. So when they cross paths we get a total eclipse. And I think this psalm message is saying the same thing. That God is the master architect that created everything good. Perfect in fact. 

Genesis 30

Jacob really wanted to get out on his own after serving his due time to Laban, and after the birth of Joseph. Sweet freedom. I imagine the feeling of freedom that Jacob was hoping to feel might be like when I finally get my student loans or my mortgage paid off. My debts cleared. But Laban realizes what has happened to his wealth under Jacob’s time served and he’s thinking “wait a minute, I’m not ready for you to go yet.” Laban knows that with the departure of Jacob will probably also involve the departure of some of (or much of) his wealth not having someone around who is so good at what they do. Jacob makes a final deal with Laban that is accepted. As I read up on this a bit, I found that Laban was most likely was sure that once the few speckled sheep were removed from the flock, the likelihood of the flock producing any more speckled sheep would be unlikely, and therefore he would keep Jacob for much longer. Laban was thinking selfishly, but Jacob was trusting in God’s plan. Reading the rest of Chapter 30 you will find that Jacob was able to produce a large flock of strong animals for his own herds of speckled sheep. 

James 3

If ever there was a passage that is needed in 2020, it is these verses from James. Wherever you have envy and selfish ambition you will find disorder and evil practice. If you look around or follow anything on the news or social media, you can pretty much sum up almost all of our nation’s issues as being the result of envy and selfish ambition. The number one thing people seem to be most concerned about is themselves and getting what they want. The phrase I use at home all the time with my kids is the old Burger King slogan “Your way, right away.” Everyone wants what they want when they want it…and they want it yesterday. “17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” The last two verses also fit perfectly with today’s sermon message. As a church, as Christians, we should be striving for peace; being considerate; submissive (meekly obedient and passive), which is not easy to be; full of mercy, which is also not easy; impartial, which is seemingly impossible in our very divisive political climate; and sincere. 

Reflection

God’s plan is perfect in every way, and we are flawed. We need Him to guide us. We need to trust that he has control, like Jacob trusted God to provide for his family. We need to work hard every day to try to be all of those attributes in the last two verses of the James reading for today. As Christians, we can’t just hide behind our Bibles and fish magnets on the back of our cars as proof that we are part of God’s chosen people. We need to live out the life that we have been called to live, as demonstrated perfectly by Jesus. As the old saying goes and as I have blogged about numerous times, actions speak louder than words. 

Is God Working Still?

Philippians 2:1-2

“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”

Paul asks this rhetorical question in the context that he himself was experiencing imprisonment for preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ, and to encourage the church to be strong because persecution will come to all who believe, and proclaim the name of Jesus.

So we are to dwell on this truth for our own good, as we read and study the scriptures we will find many stories and parables exemplifying each category that Paul asks about.

Is there any ‘encouragement in Christ’, of course; John 4:1-42 in the story of the woman at the well. The significance of this story is revealed in many ways. In this patriarchal society Jesus breaks the ban on speaking to women, making them equal in the sight of God, on the barrier between Samaritan and Jew, making all nations equal in the sight of God, and the focus on Spiritual things superior to physical things, specifically food in this case. This is encouragement to all mankind.

Is there any ‘consolation of love’? Without any doubt; in John 7:53-8:11 Jesus is confronted by the Jewish leaders with a woman, whom they cast down in front of the crowd, who is an adulterer. He turns their hatred for the woman whom they would have die, to himself by standing along side of her, requiring they prove themselves without sin. He therefore is her substitute, her atoner, as he turns their misguided views and hatred to himself, and He refuses to condemn her also. This is love to all mankind.

Is there any ‘fellowship of the Spirit?’ John 3: 1-7 The story of Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night. Nicodemus admits that only Jehovah could do the works that Jesus had done. Here Jesus reveals the need to be born of the Spirit to him, and states; “that which is boron the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. So marvel not that I say, ‘you must be born again.’ ” And Paul writes in all of his epistles about the need to walk in the spirit.

Is there any ‘affection and compassion?’ Luke 16: 19-30 the story of the rich man and Lazarus. A rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen, which indicates that even his underwear was costly, and dined sumptuously each day, yet at his gate lie a poor beggar, Lazarus, begging to fed with the crumbs from the rich mans table. After death the rich man who showed no compassion or recognition of the poor while on earth, went to Hades. While the poor man rested on Abrahams bosom, meaning that Lazarus was at the Great Banquet of Isaiah 64, at Abrahams right side, a position of honor, dining for eternity.

As we study the scriptures we find a myriad of examples of compassion, love, encouragement, and fellowship of the Spirit. Plus we have our own lives with Christ and examples all around us of Christ working.

Look around you and see what God is doing. Every week in my Bible study class I start by asking those in attendance, “What’s God been doing in your life this week?” Stay alert to His working and His calling.

Karl

Jacob Vertures To Haran

Genesis 29

Review:  Jacob heads east and encounters a water well, sheep, and Laban’s daughter Rachel (vv. 1-6) … Laban’s sheep are gathered, fed, and watered from the well (vv. 7-8) … Jacob greets Rachel, his first cousin, with a kiss and helps water the sheep (vv. 9-12) … Laban greets Jacob as one of his own (vv. 13-14) … Laban proposes Jacob serve him for free for 7 years (v. 15) … Laban has two daughters – Leah the elder and Rachel the younger and beautiful (vv. 16-17) … Jacob loved (lust at first sight?) Rachel and served his 7 year term (vv. 18-20) with the expectation of wedding her at it’s conclusion (vv. 21-23) … After 7 years, Laban presents Jacob with Leah telling the custom of his land is to give the first born to wed first (vv. 24-27) before the younger … Jacob obliges and is given Rachel as incentive for another 7 years free labor (vv. 28-30) … Leah, unloved by Jacob, gives Jacob four sons – Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah.  Rachel, loved by Jacob, womb is barren (vv. 31-35).

Analysis:  Previously, Jacob leaves his place of blessing (Gen. 26:1-5) for Laban’s greener pastures after being threatened by his brother Esau (Gen. 27:41) … Nevertheless, despite all of his missteps Jacob is still supported with God’s care (Gen. 28:13-15) … Proving turnabout is fair play, Laban deceives Jacob by presenting Leah for marriage instead of Rachel (vv. 21-26).  Jacob deceived Issac to receive his blessing instead of Esau (Gen. 27:18-33) … Jacob’s experience with the LORD is typical.  He is given his freedom to make a mess, yet God sticks with him (cp. Deut. 31:6) … The opening scene with Rachel is similar to Abraham’s servant finding Issac a bride in Rebecca (Gen. 24), it’s happening is beyond descriptive words.  Love and marriage are like that … Laban’s two girls cost Jacob 14 years free labor, a cost he willingly paid … Just as America has a figurative father in George Washington, because he gave control of the Continental Army to the Congress instead of appointing himself Emperor of America.  Israel has literal father.  Jacob begot through Leah, her maid Zilpah, Rachel, and her maid Bilhah 12 sons that were the foundation of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (Gen. 29-31).

A Life of Freedom

Today’s Readings:  click here  –  

Psalm 139:13-18; Genesis 33:1-17; Galatians 4:21-5:1                                              (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)

Opening with a passage from Psalm 139 today, captures some eloquent imagery of God’s astounding and unconditional love for us.  The fact that he knows our inner most being since before we were conceived in our mother’s womb… that right there fills my heart to overflowing measures.  My vision here, I see God saying ‘So here, now this is my child, they will call her Kris, whom I love dearly and have great plans for.’  (From the Late Greek name Χριστόφορος (Christophoros) meaning “bearing CHRIST”, derived from Χριστός (Christos) combined with φέρω (phero) meaning “to bear, to carry”. Early Christians used it as a metaphorical name, expressing that they carried Christ in their hearts).   Picturing and knowing this to be true, how can I not live my life according to His plans for me?  I think back of all my early years wandering and stumbling without knowing the love of my King and Savior, and think, ‘Dang, I sure did waste a whole lot of time… ‘. But God, in His all knowing and infamous ways, knew when I would embrace a life of love and freedom in His care.  He took care of me all those earlier years, I know it.  I look back and I see his mighty and powerful hand that saved me more times than I can count, and for this I give praise and thanks to my KING because I was created on PURPOSE for a PURPOSE.

The book of Genesis, is the first book of the bible, and rightly so. It lays the groundwork of  fundamental truths about God, His people, our ancestors, and history all in itself.  Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption and eternal life in heaven.  Here, we learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God’s chosen people.  Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis . Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains and depicts the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus and all the others to follow.  

Studying the beginning of chapter 33 today, Jacob has just left a miraculous encounter with God, which left him with a new name and a limp (Genesis 32).   When finally faced with meeting his estranged brother Esau, he is exceedingly surprised. Not sure what to expect, Esau runs to Jacob to hug and kiss him. They weep together. After meeting Jacob’s family, Esau tries to refuse Jacob’s enormous gift. Jacob insists, saying that seeing Esau’s face is as seeing the face of God. The bible isn’t really clear why, but  Jacob, refuses to travel back to Seir and instead journeys to Shechem.  This later sets up a tragic instance of assault and revenge, involving Jacob’s daughter, Dinah. (Bibleref.com)

Our study in Galatians today, expounds on the second of Paul’s exhortations to the Galatian believers.   Paul uses the story of Hagar and Sarah from Isaiah, in  Galatians v21-23, intently illustrates its meaning in v24-27, and in  V28-29 he applies it with exquisite clarity.  Then Paul ends with the exhortation –  V30-5:1

 (AMP)  ‘So then, believers, we [who are born again—reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, and set apart for His purpose] are not children of a slave woman [the natural], but of the free woman [the supernatural].   It was for this freedom that Christ set us free [completely liberating us]; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery [which you once removed].’

What a beautiful thing… the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. Our bond ransom paid in full. A love so amazing, we will never fully comprehend, but as long as our hearts belong to Christ, we have a purpose and a plan. Choose Jesus today, and everyday. Be  clothed in compassion and purpose and live free with eyes and heart wide open.

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

‘Far Too Wonderful (Psalm 13) by Shane & Shane

‘In the Beginning’ by Joel Payne

‘There Was Jesus’ by Zach Williams & Dolly Parton

Prayer:   Lord God, thank you for creating me, loving me, and guiding me.  Thank you for your Son Jesus whose death on the cross paid the ransom for my sins and to live in love and freedom.  My heart is filled with love and kindness because I know my future and plan for me. Thank you for a life with my Savior by my side.  Jesus Christ – I am who I am because of you.   AMEN!

Kris

Who’s Side Are You On?

Psalm 139:23-24, Isaiah 44:1-5, Hebrews 2:1-9

In this short passage from Psalm 139, David asks God to know his heart, test him, and lead him to everlasting life. This is a perfect, short prayer that could be prayed several times a day as a way to center ourselves and to remember who is captaining this ship. 

Isaiah 44 reminds us that Israel was God’s chosen people. And God will restore Israel in its time of need, just like the ground and meadows are restored with the rains. God will pour his spirit down on His people, and His people will praise His name. 

Hebrews 2 is a great reminder of why it is so important to pay attention to and remember the Gospel, that is Jesus, and the salvation we have through Him. We once were subjected to the Law of the Prophets and the just punishment doled out by the angels. But now we have Jesus. Now we have a new covenant. Now we are no longer slaves to the law, but instead have eternal salvation by grace through faith in Jesus. Jesus came in the flesh, lived and died a human death, so that we may live. 

Reflection

I think what ties these three passages together is the fact that we NEED God in our lives. We NEED Jesus in our lives. Apart from Him, we are nothing. But in Him, we can pray (continually), asking Him to know us and lead us to everlasting life. We NEED Him because He has the power to restore us when we falter. We NEED Him, because through him we have salvation. Through Him, we are no longer bound by the laws, but instead have been granted grace. 

With the turbulent times we are currently living in, I think it is important to not lose sight of what, or rather WHO, will get us through it. We are all so quick to take sides. Either you are for my side or you are for their side. There is no common ground. There is no collaboration or compromise. If you are not for us, then you are against us. At this time, as a nation, we really need that short prayer in Psalm 139. We need God to know and open our hearts, and we need to remember that God can restore our nation. We need to remember the grace received through Christ and be gracious to each other. The time for choosing sides needs to end. Sooner rather than later. 

You Are My Help

Psalms 42

I cry aloud to Jehovah

I ask for help from Jehovah

I complain

Tell Him my troubles

My spirit gets overwhelmed, yet Jehovah can see my path;

There are traps along the way

I look to the right (for righteousness) and no one is there

No one is looking out for my good, or cares about my soul

Many are on the left (for destruction) laying traps, hiding, waiting to attack

But You are my refuge, my safe house, my share in the land of the living

You hear my prayers

I am in great turmoil, hiding in a cave, being pursued and persecuted for no valid reason, falsely accused, and judged guilty based on the accusation alone. There is no evidence against me, all is a fabrication and lies. But there are too many of them, and they are too strong. Release me from this prison so I can give thanks to the name of Jehovah. Then the righteous will surround me. You, Jehovah, will reward my righteousness.

Matthew 13:10-17 Jesus: “when it comes to spiritual matters, only those who desire it it will be rewarded. To hear the truth of salvation, to hear the truth of the fall of man, the first Adam, and the redemption accomplished on the cross by the second Adam, Jesus, does in no way accomplish reconciliation. Only by hearing, accompanied by believing, with faith, does spiritual awareness come alive. Al those who desire to worship Jehovah must worship in spirit and in truth. This is a new awakening to understand that the Law of God merely reveals the sin in us, but in no way solves that problem. But what the Law could not do, the Son of God has done, canceling out the certificate of debt, consisting of decrees against us, having nailed it to the cross, and brought us the only way of salvation.”

“These are matters that the prophets of old desired to understand as they spoke the Words of God, saying them but not able to understand the full prophetic utterances.” Look at the prophet Balaam in Numbers 24:15 “The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, and The oracle of the man whose eye is opened, The oracle of him who hears the words of Jehovah, and Knows the knowledge of El Elyon,(God Most High), who sees the vision of El Gibon, (the Almighty), Falling down, yet having his eyes uncovered. “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come forth Jacob. A scepter shall arise from Israel, …. ” This is the Messianic portion of Balaam’s vision of which he had no idea of what it meant and yet he longed to understand it’s meaning.

The truth of the Word of God is what we depend on as it reveals who God is, and what He has done, and His love for us. In all times of trouble, chaos, and unequivocal evil that confronts us today we must cry out to Jehovah for strength, composure, peace, and help in our time of great need.

God cares!

Karl

A Prophetic Voice

Jeremiah 49

Review:  There are groups of people and individuals that are opposed to YHWH … This has been the case from the beginning of recorded history to the present hour … As such, YHWH opposes them … In our opening segment, God is opposed to the Ammonites (vv. 1-6), they will suffer destruction … Yet, “afterward” Ammon will be restored (v. 6) … This prophecy against Edom (vv. 7-22) is related to my previous blog on Jacob & Esau (Gen. 25-27) … Those of Edom are descendants of Esau … Recall Esau’s errors – the sale of his birthright (Gen. 25:27-43), his Hittite marriages (Gen. 26:33-34), and his wanting to kill Jacob (Gen. 27:41-46) … As Esau feuded with Jacob, proud Edom (v. 16) feuded with Judah and is judged as Sodom and Gomorrah were judged (vv. 17-18) … Damascus or Syria suffer against YHWH as the pains of a woman in labor, they will be fire purified (vv. 23-27) … The peoples of Kedar and Hazor (Bedouin nomads, not near Judah) will be taken out (vv. 28-33) by God’s servant Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 25:9) and the Chaldeans … Finally, the destruction of Elam (vv. 34-39) by “four winds” (v. 36) hints of their wide dispersion to the “four corners of the earth” … YHWH will become their king and will eventually restore them (v. 38-39).

Analysis:  Passages like these and others (cp. Isa. 8, 10:5-34, 14:18-23, Jer. 46-48, Ezek. 14:1-11, 26:1-14, 38-39, Joel 2:1-11, Nahum, Zeph. 2:4-15, etc.) are a blow to those believing our LORD doesn’t periodically (possibly He always does?) choose sides in disputes … One is left to ponder the annuals of history and decide for one’s self if the victors were circumstantial or YHWH supported … The Bible teaches the freeing of enslaved Israel from Egypt was by divine design (Ex. 1-14) … The sins of the vanquished are always the same: not believing they have any need or council from God, idolatry – trusting and worshipping the works of their hands, pride, and arrogance – believing they cannot lose regardless of what they attempt … Yet, the opportunity has always existed, and still does, to come to our LORD, who wants none to perish (2 Pet. 3:9).

 

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