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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

August 2020

Staying Alive in Christ

Psalm 83:1-4, 13-18; Exodus 4:10-31; Revelation 3:1-6 (NIV)

In the Psalm God’s people cry out to God to protect them from their enemies. They put their trust and safety in the Lord’s hands.  We look to God for protection against enemies such as Covid-19, violence, suffering, etc. We, too, pray for protection as we make our journey in faith through this life.

God wants to do more than just protect us.  The Lord wants to send us into the world in mission and to live out our particular calling and ministry.  We see this with Moses.  Sometimes like Moses we do not feel up to the task, or equipped to accomplish what God wants, or gifted enough to fulfill a particular ministry that God is urging us to do.  That’s natural.  But as we see in Moses life, God does not send us out alone.  The Lord is with us and we are part of God’s people, the community of Christ, the church.  So we too, need to respond in faith.

In Revelation 3:1-6 we learn about the church in Sardis.  There they “have a reputation of being alive, but…are dead.”  They need to “Strengthen what remains and is about to die.”  They have “unfinished” deeds.  The appear to be alive but they are dying.

That can happen to us. On the outside we appear to be alive; we appear to be doing Christ’s work and ministry but on the inside we are shriveling and dying; losing our spiritual vitality.  I encourage you, even in the difficult world of 2020, to keep praying, reading the scriptures, and worshipping the Lord with God’s people whether in Online Worship or in Live Worship.  We need to attend to our spiritual vitality and strength in Christ Jesus.  And we need to go out into our world and allow Jesus to work in and through us.

Remember Jesus words: ““I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing… I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:5,11).  

Prayer- God of hope, wholeness, and strength, hear our prayers to remain connected and strong in the Lord Jesus, that we may serve Him well. We make this prayer in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Singing On A Prayer

Today’s Readings:  click here  –  Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45b; Exodus 3:16-22;                                         2 Thessalonians 2:7-12 (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)

I do encourage you to read the above passages, but the devotional today is going to take a more personal and desirable route.  Given the evil and darkness lurking in every sphere of our lives lately,  it may seem somewhat of the normal and possibly understandable to feel saturated with fear and doubt, as we raise questions to diminishing faith and surrounding obscurities in ourselves and others.  Quenching our dry and thirsty selves in our down time, quiet time, work time, any time with God’s mighty and faithful words, is the very thread of hope and strength we need to stand firm together in this falling world.

Reading and studying scripture is and has always been the foremost effective means to growing faith and favor with God.  It opens our hearts and minds to the life God has prepared for us and to his endless love and hope-filled  promises.  I never really was very good at this. I would read and study but it just didn’t make sense until I started to  engage in group bible studies, discovered bibles  that include life application commentaries that have proven to open my mind to understand and move towards living my life for a whole new reason.;  living my life for the glory of God.

Finding time to read and study scripture proved to an endless struggle.  But right from the beginning I discovered Christian music and radio. If I wasn’t reading, studying or praying, then I was LISTENING.  Every song sanctioned God’s love, promises, strength, hope and salvation, filling my heart and mind to feel Him close, understand Him more, and  grow an endless desire to live a  life of faith by serving a Mighty God and His Son who gave His life for me.

Christian music speaks volumes, piercing my heart with hope and strength to be brave and hopeful in this world.  It is like constant and continuous prayer with each note and lyric. Even if it is just playing in the background, my mind is still tuned in and can receive the blessings and messages it’s pouring out.

If you’ve never listened closely to the words and values of God’s word through music, continue reading here and witness the power that blasts captivating and authentic prayer and God’s word through each song.  Often, I experience songs that speak specifically to my unsettled heart, and this comforts me. Whether it is a specific lyric, verse or chorus, and in some cases, the whole song, that restores joy in my soul, like these few favorites here:

In the eye of the storm you remain in control, and in the middle of the war, You guard my soul. You alone are the anchor when my sails are torn. Your love surrounds me in the eye of the storm.  When the solid ground is falling out from underneath my feet, between the black skies and my red eyes, I can barely see.  When I realize I’ve been sold out by my friends and my family I can feel the rain reminding me;, You remain in control.  “Eye of the Storm” by Ryan Stephenson

This world has nothing for me.  This life is not my own. I know You go before me and I am not alone. This mountain rises higher. The way seems so unclear, but I know that You go with me so I will never fear. I will trust in You whatever will come our way, Through fire or pouring rain, we won’t be shaken.  You know my every longing.  You’ve heard my every prayer. You’ve held me in my weakness ’cause You are always there.  So I’ll stand in full surrender, It’s Your way and not my own. My mind is set on nothing less than You and You alone, and I will not be moved“We Will Not be Shaken” by Building 429

In my weakest moment I see you shaking your head in disgrace.  I can read the disappointment written all over your face. Here comes those whispers in my ear, saying ‘Who do you think you are? Looks like you’re on your own from here, ‘cause grace could never reach that far.’  But, in the shadow of that shame, beat down by all the blame, I hear You call my name sayin’ it’s not over and my heart starts to beat so loud now, drowning out the doubt.  I’m down but I’m not out.  There’s a war between guilt and grace and they’re fighting for a sacred space, but I’m living proof, grace wins every time!  No more lying down in death’s defeat. Now I’m rising up in victory. Singing hallelujah, Grace wins every time! Words can’t describe the way it feels when mercy floods a thirsty soul.  A broken side begins to heal, and grace returns what guilt has stole. And, in the shadow of that shame, beat down by all the blame I hear you call my name sayin’ it’s not over and my heart starts to beat So loud now, drowning out the doubt.   ‘Grace Wins’ by Matthew West

Lord, keep me in the moment. Help me live with my eyes wide open, ‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me. Singing oh Lord, show me what matters. Throw away what I’m chasing after, ‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me. Keep me in the moment, ‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me‘Keep Me In the Moment” by Jeremy Camp

This one right here struck a cord in my heart the first time I heard it, like it was written just for me:  You’re lifting my head up.  I was keeping my head down. I didn’t know love, But I do now. Cause You stood right there, and then You broke apart the lies. You told me I had something beautiful inside.  You brought to life the part of me I thought had died.  ‘Cause You stood right there until I saw me,  I saw me through Your eyes“Through Your Eyes” by Britt Nicole

Some see just a wooden cross but I can see the grace of Your redemptive heart. Some say, this is foolishness, but I believe the truth of Your redeeming love.  And some will say this place belongs to history. But I can see.  Yes I can see a cross that changes everything, and a love that sets the captives free, a hope that resurrected me, and the power of God for all who believe. I believe.  ‘Your Cross Changes Everything’  by Matt Redman

There are millions of songs that have and continue to fill my heart, restore my soul, renew my joy, seal my salvation, experience Jesus’ presence, reveal  my sin and wash me with forgiveness, satisfy my uncertainty, wipe away any doubt and fear, remind me I am a child of God, consumes my whole being with the earthshaking, unwavering, unfailing love of God. ‘Unfailing Love’  by  Chris Tomlin .

I encourage you to find a means wherever you are, whenever you can, to listen and pray through the lyrics of Christian Music. Try it for ONE month and see how God will work in your heart and life through each song.   Here are a few ways to do so:

WBGL Radio             https://www.wbgl.org/

KLOVE Radio           https://www.klove.com/

SHINE FM                 https://www.shine.fm/

SIRIUS Radio           https://www.siriusxm.com/themessage   THE MESSAGE

PANDORA                https://www.pandora.com/genre/christian-contemporary

Prayer:  Lord, help me to focus my life on seeing and hearing you through every part of my everyday.  I want to know you more, feel you move in my life, and experience wholeness throughout my soul.  I know that  is what you want for me, and I give you my life to mold me and make me an instrument of your LOVE and peace that serves and brings you glory.  AMEN.

Kris

Grace: An Amazing Gift

Psalm 8; Exodus 2:11-15a; Romans 11:33-36

In the Exodus passage, Moses has committed murder. Of course he was trying to defend one of his own people, but it was murder nonetheless. And then he tries to cover it up. But as it happens most of the time, the mistakes that we make eventually come back to haunt us. The word has obviously gotten around that Moses had killed the Egyptian man and everyone is talking about it. So Moses, now afraid of what will happen to him because Pharaoh knows what happened, runs away and hides in Midian. 

But we all know what happens in the life of Moses sometime after this event. He becomes a major player in God’s plan to free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and in leading them toward the Promised Land. I think the point to take away from this is that, even though we all have made mistakes and will continue to make more mistakes, even the ones that seem absolutely irrevocable, they may still be used as part of God’s plan. If Moses hadn’t killed that Egyptian man, then run away, maybe he wouldn’t have gotten to the point where he freed the Israelites from captivity. This isn’t to say that we should all go on and do horrible things purposely because God will use those things for his plan. But it does mean that we shouldn’t dwell too much on our mistakes. Pray, confess, ask for forgiveness, and then move on and try to be better. Because maybe God will use those mistakes to fulfill a part if his plan for his creation. 

I want to focus on two verses of Romans 11. “‘34 Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?’ 35 ‘Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?’” In the course of my lifetime, I have needed counsel from people many times. I don’t know everything about everything, and so I lean on people I know who can help me. Then I try to repay those people who help me by doing things for them in return. It’s the right thing to do I think. But God, on the other hand, is all knowing. He doesn’t need my counsel. Even though there are times when we think we know what God should do in a situation, we really don’t know. He doesn’t need our advice or critique. And never have I done something so amazing for him that he would ever feel the need to repay me. Yet, he has repaid me by sending Jesus to be sin for me, so that I, and you, can have life eternal. Kind of crazy that, despite all of our shortcomings, God has still given us the greatest gift of all. Grace. And that can’t be taken away by anyone. Thanks be to God. 

Justification

Genesis 3:6-10

2 Corinthians 6:13-7:1

Luke 18:9-14

Genesis 3:6-10 In the Garden of Eden when Eve transgressed and gave of the fruit to Adam and he ate also, their first response was to try to cover their nakedness with leaves. Then when Jehovah came to see them they hid because of shame.

2 Corinthians 6:13 Paul in his letter to the Corinthian church, has exposed their sinful behavior, to which they have appropriately responded in repentance to, and now he is requesting them to open wide to him, to come out of hiding. It is in the human nature to hide because of shame. When we are caught in sin, or have it revealed to us we often shut down, and go into hiding because we are ashamed. In verse 13 Paul is basically asking these Corinthians to come out in the open, after all, they have shown signs of repentance, 2 Cor. 7.9, and need to no longer hide from him. If, after we have sinned and repented, there is no forgiveness, then Christ has died needlessly. 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins he is faithful and Just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The key word in this passage from John is Justice.

Justice is a judicial word meaning complete fairness according to the requirements of the Law. In Christianity we have the doctrine of Justification, which is summed up in Romans 3:26 “For the demonstration of God’s righteousness at the present time, so that He, (Christ), would be both just and justifier of the one who has faith in Him.” This means that the sinner who has faith in Christ, is freed by the benefits of faith from condemnation which his sins deserved. Romans 8:33 asks the question, “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?” The answer, “God is the One who justifies.” and “Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the one who died, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who intercedes for us.”

Justification means to “acquit of guilt, him who has been accused.” “Therefore, since God justifies us by the the intercession of Christ, He absolves us, not by the confirmation of innocence, but by the imputation of righteousness. 2 Corinthians 5:21 “He made Him who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Acts 13:38-39 “Therefore let it be known to you brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed, (justified), from all things, from which you could not be freed, (justified), through the Law.”

Luke 18: 9-14 tells the parable of the Pharisee and the tax gatherer who went the Temple to pray. The pharisee stood apart from the crowd who had gathered for the daily Atonement sacrifice, because he did not want to be defiled by the unwashed masses, and bragged to God loudly about how good he was. The Tax man then, also standing afar off because of the position he put himself in as a traitor to his nation, realizing his sin, his shortcomings, beat upon his breast and asked, “is there an atonement for me, even me?” Not willing to even lift his eyes to the heavens. Jesus said of this last man, “I tell you this man went to his house ‘justified’ rather than the other; for whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

This is all accomplished through the suffering, death, and resurrection of our true Savior Jesus Christ, who sent the Holy Spirit to be our advocate and to lead us in righteous works. We who believe are in fact acquitted of our sins and now are free to serve the Living God, for 2 Corinthians 6:16 says “we are the temple of the Living God.”

Knowing from scripture what and why we believe what we believe is important for us to know. We then have an answer for those who would question us as to why we do believe. As satan increases his attacks on this world we need all the more to be strong in the word of God and ready to defend our faith.

Karl

A Psalm of David

Psalm 124

Review & Remarks:  David flatly states the LORD is on the side of Israel in her disputes with its surrounding nations (vv. 1-2) … The question is why?  Why has God sided with Israel? … The “big picture” answer is His need to bring the peoples of the earth to the Savior … The smaller, quieter answer is Israel has in it’s past and present, however flawed, desired a relationship with YHWH … A relationship with God must be on His terms, not humankind’s … The Bible is a record of God’s terms and how well or poorly His precepts have been followed … The peoples surrounding Israel have either had many gods – polytheism/paganism, or worshipped presumbably the same ALLAH altogether differently … Drowning water tells the danger Israel was in versus the armies surrounding her (vv. 3-5) … A helpless feeling, I experience it as a kid, is floundering in the deep end of a Howard Johnson’s swimming pool with a foot cramp … Thankfully my Daddy was there to drag me to the safety of the wall … Israel has been saved from being the food of scavengers – vultures most likely (vv. 6-7) … “Our help is in the name of the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.” (v. 8) … The occasion for which David penned this psalm is not clear … On the other hand, it’s sentiments, from the perspective of one of His followers and experienced God in His or her life, are timeless.

Thanksgiving to Our Helper

Psalm 124; Genesis 49:1-33; I Corinthians 6:1-11 (NIV)

David writes, “Our help is in the name of the Lord,
                         the Maker of heaven and earth” (Ps. 124:8). 

God has saved the people of Israel from a dangerous confrontation with their enemies.  Now they are briefly telling the story and giving thanks in this Psalm.

This week I sensed God’s help through my surgery on Monday. I was in pain Friday through Sunday from a hernia that appeared on Friday.  I must have carried too many logs to the street from the downed tree limbs in our yards earlier last week.  It caught up with me apparently.  Sunday, after church, I went to immediate care for the diagnosis and they said for me to go straight to the hospital to be admitted, which I did.

I sensed God care and help through the medical staff who cared for me at immediate care and the hospital.  Once I passed my Covid-19 test I was admitted to a room.  I was fortunate in being able to request the surgeon I preferred and late on Monday afternoon I had my surgery.  I returned home on Tuesday afternoon and I am recovering very well at home thus far.

I want to thank everyone for your prayers and kinds thoughts in these days.  I hope to reappear at the office next week.  I just can’t lift anything larger than a gallon of milk.  So far, I am listening and plan to follow the surgeons orders.

I appreciate everything Bo and Jen and the staff are doing to make up for my absence in this time. I sense God’s presence, goodness, and healing help in this time.  I continue to live in hope.

Blessings to all and you can read the other passages besides Psalm 124 for the day if you choose.

Prayer- Lord we give you thanks and praise for your caring presence and help each and every day.  In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.

More Than A Miracle

Today’s Readings:  click here  –  Psalm 130; Genesis 45:16-28; Matthew 8:1-13 (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)

Our scriptures today come together woven in a common thread – ‘the assurance of God’s forgiveness.’  One of God’s greatest of many promises is ‘the forgiveness of our sins’, but it is two-fold, requiring something from us; our hearts to love, trust and believe God for who He is, as our creator and Heavenly Father and our awareness of our sins to confess and repent of them. Throughout the Old Testament, God promises forgiveness with unwavering faith and hefty disciplines for those who love and trust Him, obey and follow the disciplines to receive His unconditional love and abundant grace and mercy. It wasn’t easy then and it isn’t easy today either, as we face temptation, deception and accusations daily by the enemy, who comes to steal and destroy,  when our faith is weak, we can so easily and unknowingly  be misled and become defenseless under attack.

Psalm 130 opens with a personal testimony of God’s rescue from the depths of one’s guilt and shame, marked by an awareness of sin and a powerful assurance of forgiveness. . Here we can identify what the psalmist expresses;  his desire towards God (v. 1, 2), his repentance before God (v. 3, 4), his attendance upon God (v. 5, 6), and his expectations from God (v. 7, 8). We find comfort in the freedom of forgiveness we experience through Jesus Christ, who suffered and died on the cross for each and every sin, yours and mine.

Our Genesis passage underlines the merciful forgiveness that Joseph had for his unfaithful and cruel brothers when they came to Egypt to find help from the famine, only to discover that he was governor of all the land of Egypt. This is the same gracious forgiveness that Jesus has for us when we trust, believe and seek Him. God washes us with His goodness even when we mess up and fall short of His glory, because He loves us that much and even more than we could ever imagine, and that is a promising assurance to cling to.

Confessing our sins to God is an act of worship, and like many of the Psalms, in our reading today, we  can be comforted in  the depths of our despair as we cry out, compelling us to confess our sins, receive God’s mercy, forgiveness and redemption. God does not keep a record of our sins, nor set limits or thresholds, or even hold a grudge when our heart weeps for His favor, love and blessings over us.  

Matthew’s message in our reading today, gleans the universal theme that Jesus’ message, especially forgiveness, is for everyone.   As I read it, it brought to mind what we are experiencing today with this pandemic, with quarantine, isolation, separation, fear, and even anxiety, just as the lepers experienced.  Like leprosy, covid or any other disease without a cure, sin is also like an incurable disease – and we all have it.  Just like the leper, we first must recognize our inability to cure ourselves and ask for Jesus’ healing through the forgiveness of our sins as our mind, body and spirit are renewed.  This is freedom at its finest.  Who wouldn’t want this freedom, this healing, this restoration?  Jesus, who is our gateway to our heavenly Father and works fully on our behalf, wants to draw near to each of us. We just have to choose to draw near to him and we will begin to see things through the lens of faith in action. Call upon Jesus today and everyday, seeking forgiveness of our sinful human nature, letting faith take root, love abound, and healing begin.

Enjoy a few songs – let them speak to your heart today with prayerful thought and meditation.

“Holy Water’ by We The Kingdom

“Red Letters”  by Crowder

“How Can It Be” by Laruen Daigle

Prayer:   Lord, I call out your name from the depths of my own despair, heartache, doubt and sin. Wash me clean with your blood shed from the cross, with your love flowing through my veins, I find comfort, healing and a renewed faith. You are loving and  faithful, and I trust in you to care for me in every way. I give of myself freely to you Jesus, for the renewing of my mind, body and spirit, today, tomorrow and always. You are my rock and my foundation where I stand firmly in your arms.  AMEN.

Kris

The Holy Spirit

John 16: 7-16

John 16:7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Advocate, your Helper, will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. vs.8 “And He , when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness and judgement;”

vs.9 “concerning sin, because they do not believe in me,” I am no longer a physical body that can be seen and referred to, I am now a Spiritual Being which is much harder to grasp, thus it is now the Holy Spirit’s job to reveal and reprove sin. When the non-believer has his sin exposed by the Word of God, and they reject it, it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to reveal that sin and their need for redemption.

vs. 10 “and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me;” My living standard of absolute Holiness and truth which was visible for all to see and witness is now absent from the earth. The visible, actual standard for righteousness which exposed sin, and pride, and self-serving is now gone. The Holy Spirit is now able to reveal this Spiritual reality of the truth to those who believe. John 20:29 “Because you have seen me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen.” This statement in the context of the letter to the Hebrews comparing the old testament law, versus the New Covenant in Jesus, shows the dividing point between the old and the new. The old testament followers of Jehovah looked, by faith, forward to the Messiah’s coming, while new covenant followers of Messiah look backward in time to His having appeared. The Cross being the focal point of all Spiritual history!

vs. 11 “and concerning judgement, because the ruler of this world has been judged.” The ruler of this world, at present, is ha-satan, the adversary, the prince of the power of the air, he will be judged by Jesus, at the appropriate time. Which is to come at the end of time as we know it. There are, according to scripture, many legal proceedings which have to be adhered to in the heavenly realm, because of the very nature of Jehovah who does all things according to His will, and have not yet been accomplished. Revelations 12:10 predicts, “Now the salvation and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of the Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.” When ha-satan is actually cast out of the heavens, and no longer has access to the Father to accuse us before Him, he will then be confined to this earth, and that is when all hell breaks loose, called,’ the great tribulation.’ Judgement of our adversary is sure to come, it just hasn’t happened yet. The title deed to the earth was lost, to satan, by the first Adam in the garden of Eden when he succumbed to the temptation of satan. That title was regained by the second Adam, Jesus who did not yield to any temptation by satan, at the cross when He presented himself as the sinless, unblemished sacrifice, acceptable to God the Father, for our sins. Jesus lived a sinless life, not to be an example to Israel of how to keep the Law, not to be a martyr for a good cause, or to be an ethical standard, but to be a sinless sacrifice, acceptable to Jehovah, as an atonement for our sin.

We need to understand all of scripture, yield to the work of the Holy Spirit, live thankful lives, pray for peace, walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, and love one another.

Karl

Any Dream Will Do !

Genesis 40

Review & Remarks:  Previously Joseph has been falsely accused, due to an altercation with Pontifer’s wife, and imprisoned (Gen. 39:13-23) … The King of Egypt puts his personal baker and butler in the same cell with Joseph (vv. 1-4) … In antiquity, dreams were believed to the the vehicle by which the divine communicated with humans (cp. Gen. 31:24, Joel 2:28, Dan. 2, Matt. 1:20, 2:12-13, 27:19) … The easiest secular example of this belief is soothsayer’s assignment to the Roman Emperors, et. al. … Moderns have dismissed this metaphysics, believing dreams the result what one has previously eaten, drank, or smoked … Imagine having the job of a soothsayer? … I wonder if college degrees are offered in soothsaying anymore? … A modern day economist is pretty much statistical soothsaying …  Joseph is asked to interpret the dreams of the baker and butler (vv. 6-8) … The butler dreams of a grape vine having three branches producing fruit, eventually their juice becomes Pharaoh’s drink (vv. 9-11) … Joseph interprets the three branches as three days after which you, Mr. Butler, will be restored to your former position.  Remember me, Joseph, here in the dungeon upon your release (vv. 12-15) … To the chief bakers dream, Joseph states the three baskets on his head signify three days.  Birds eating the baked goods from the top basket tell of your being hanged by with scavenger birds picking at your dead flesh (vv. 16-19) … Three days pass, Pharaoh’s birthday comes (v. 20) … Just as Joseph predicted the butler is employed by Pharaoh once again, the baker hanged (vv. 21-22), with the butler forgetting Joseph in jail (v. 23) … This example is one of God enabling the future to be known through dreams … The dreams right interpretation is guided by those guided by God … In these examples God, through dreams, is preparing those involved for their future – good or ill … Might God be doing the same today? … Are we, here and today, sensitive to this possibility?

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