First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @


September 2020

God’s Plan

Psalm 114; Exodus 14:1-18; Acts 7:9-16

Acts 7

I’ve added Acts 7 in its entirety for a purpose that I will explain later. But the three combined passages have a common theme of God being the ultimate conductor of the orchestra that is humanity. We may not understand why things happen the way they do, and we may never know. But we just have to trust that He knows what He’s doing. Instead of trying to control everything ourselves, let Jesus take the wheel and trust in Him. I think this is a perfect group of passages of how God’s plan worked out for the better in the end in each of these Old Testament stories. And I think it fits perfectly with the current pandemic times; the current social unrest; and today, on the anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. The latter obviously a horrible memory in our country’s history. I don’t believe that God wanted any of these things to happen, but I do believe that he will use these horrible events in history for his purposes and to bring us closer to Him. 

So why Acts 7? As I was reading just the 7 verses that were part of today’s lesson, I at first was confused about why I felt like I was reading an OT passage instead of a NT passage. So I looked up the whole chapter to see the whole context. That is when I realized that it came from Stephen’s sermon to the Sanhedrin, which led to his stoning. I wanted to add the whole chapter to give those verses a little more context. I think it also adds to the overall lesson today about how God uses people for His purpose of furthering His kingdom on Earth. Stephen stood up for what he believed in, even though he probably knew what the end result would end up being. Did God WANT Stephen to be stoned that day? I’m guessing He was pretty sad about the outcome. But I do think he wanted Stephen to give that speech that day to say to the hard-headed Sanhedrin that they had God literally living amongst them to teach them, and they literally killed God, and then Stephen, because they couldn’t see the forest for the trees. 

I think sometimes we put on our blinders and are so focused on what we believe to be true, that we miss the bigger picture. Look at any social media political post and the commentary from the peanut gallery, and you will find a whole bunch of people who are so set in their own personal bias that they can’t see the whole picture. 

My prayer for you today is that God open our hearts and minds to the whole picture. To His plan for us. And that as that whole picture tries to come into view, that he gives us the tools that we need to act on that plan. 

We Have A Redeemer

Psalms 114

Exodus 13.17-22

1 John 3. 11-16

Psalm 114: I love the imagery of the writing in this Psalm which personifies nature as seeing Jehovah and submitting to His will. The Red Sea saw Jehovah coming and drew back in proper response to His majesty, for everyone knows that you move out of the way in humility when the King of the Universe is approaching. The Jordan River steps completely out of the way, bowing low, when the Creator appears. The mountains, they skip for joy at the sight of their Creator and the hills also they jump like lambs in the spring for the delight of Jehovah’s visitation. Why do they do this? Why do the inanimate take on animation? Because all nature and created things instinctively know the source of their origin. Don’t misunderstand, it was the God of Jacob that called His people, by His choice, out of slavery to Egypt, to follow Him into freedom, as He showed His power, protection, and provision to them. He even split the rock of flint, at Mount Sanai, which stood like a soldier, alone, sixty feet tall, down the middle, and out of it flowed ton’s of water onto the dry ground, where it pooled deep enough to satisfy Israel’s million plus people and their livestock for their duration at that location.

Exodus 13. 17-22 Jacob’s family had grown to become a really big family while in Egypt, so big as to become a threat to the rulers, who then subdued them to slavery, as many ruthless and Godless rulers always do. Jacob’s family is now known as Israel, a nation who knows little about their God, Jehovah, whose name they didn’t even know until Moses came on the scene. So Jehovah took some time with them on the wilderness journey to reveal some of His attributes to them. This short passage tells of little more than God was their protector and guide, a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

1 John 3. 11-16 I guess I don’t understand the concept of sectioning scripture into such small limited paragraphs, and expect to understand very much from the limited scope they provide, out of the context of the surrounding material. But I suppose this passage tells us to love the brethren because Jehovah first loved us.

In the broader Exodus passage the concept of redemption has been introduced, from every animal they own who gives birth, the first male is to be offered as a sacrifice to God as a redemption, a reminder, and a rehearsal of what lengths God had to go to, to set His people free from Egypt’s bonds of slavery, and what would be required of God to set mankind free from the bonds of sin’s slavery.

All Scripture is to be understood as a full description of the character of who Jehovah is, and how He has acted in history, and how He will act in time to come. Jehovah is our Redeemer, through Jesus sacrifice on the cross, who did redeem us through His death, burial, and resurrection. And offers everlasting life to all who believe on Him. If then we believe on Him, who is our example of pure and undefiled love, we also ought to love our brethren.

As Jesus looked beyond our faults and saw our need to be loved, so should we look beyond the faults of our family of believers and see their need. As my old friend and neighbor Rob used to remind me, as we would be once again involved in some project, or ministry, that seemed overwhelming, “Love, Karl, Love.”


The Firstborn, The Feast

Exodus 13:1-16

Review & Remarks: The firstborn of the children of Israel are claimed by YHWH (vv. 1-2) … For whatever reason Moses changes gears at this point and speaks to the Feast of Unleavened Bread (vv. 3-10) … Israel is to remember their day of exodus from Egypt when no leavened bread was made or eaten (vv. 3-4) – even in Canaan, the land flowing with milk and honey (v. 5) … A week long Feast of the Unleavened Bread is instituted by the LORD in the month of Abib as a memorial to YHWH’s act of bringing Israel out from Egyptian slavery (vv. 6-10) … Since this feast in in early spring, it represents new beginnings … Regarding the making of bread, typically a yeast brew is employed for leavening … This “brew” is comprised of mostly old and a little new yeast … Using no leaven at all is a certain break with the past, onto something completely new … Back to the firstborn (vv. 11-16) … Canaan’s land is given to Israel (v. 11) … Some would quibble with this gift believing an unfairness of God towards the Canaanites … What is known about the peoples of Canaan’s lifestyle is less than ideal … This outlook can be likewise be applied in assessing the conflicts of history – winners and losers … Might it be that our LORD sides with the winning side, not because they are perfect or even God fearing, but because the are less bad than the losers? … Possibly leading to something from them at a later date (cp. Jer. 29:11, Prov. 16:1-4, 19:20-21, 1 Pet. 1:3-4) … All firstborn male humans, donkeys, lambs, etc. (vv. 12-14) are dedicated to the LORD for Israel’s redemption from Egypt … This redemption contrasts with the killing of the firstborn in Egypt (vv. 15-16, Ex. 11) and the Canaanite sacrifice of them … Enslaved Israel’s redemption from Egypt is a “bringing back” of them to their homeland … By the way, it was through the Book of Exodus that the world first got the idea that slavery is wrong even though the vast majority of the world today practices slavery.

Help and Hope

Psalm 121, Exodus 12:29-42, Romans 13:1-7 (NIV) 

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth…

the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

Psalm 121 reminds us that our wellbeing and care rests in the Lord.  The good news is that God is our helper who watches over us always!

In the Exodus passage God sets Israel free from slavery in Egypt and sets them on their journey to the Promised Land.

In the Romans passage we learn that God provides government, “governing authorities” to serve and protect people.  Without government there would be lawlessness and chaos in the world.  Yet everything governing authorities do is not established, instituted or ordained by God.  Thus there is a need for governments to be held accountable and for reform.  Nevertheless, these three passages remind us of the God who cares for us and in real ways watches over us.

Today, I encourage you to give thanks for “The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.”

Remember “the Lord will watch over your coming and your going both now and forevermore.”

Prayer-  Great, Good, and Gracious God we are grateful for your presence, care, and guidance.  Help us, this day, to live into your will for us and serve other according to your good pleasure.  We make this prayer in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Living In Hopeful Submission

Today’s Readings:  click here  –  Psalm 121; Exodus 12:14-28; 1 Peter 2:11-17  & Romans 13:1-5                                                  (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)

I am going to solely focus on our New Testament reading today, 1Peter2:11-17 and would like to add Romans 13:1-5.  As collective and faithful  people of God, we live in a world of great turmoil and growing faithlessness.  God calls us as His own through Christ and has set us apart as a people who are devoted to one another in love and service. But living as ‘scattered people’ has also become a reality.  As Christians, our public faith is a valuable witness and asset to the world of God’s goodness and His character in hope , that some people will see our transformed hearts and lives and be compelled to faith through it.  Many of us may feel the urge to hide our faith and fit into the world that is around us. But Romans 12:2 instructs us;  “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing and perfect will. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

What an intense, possibly puzzling concept. 2Peter 2:11b-12a warns us to ‘keep away from worldly desires that wage war against our very souls. Be careful to live properly among unbelieving neighbors.’   Given our recent measures of 2020 and the rising fear factors of increasing levels of evil outburst, destruction and dismantling of authority everywhere, as Christians, we are trying to understand what is happening and how can we be positive forces in this uprise of such chaos.  How do we understand the minds and hearts of those who seek to kill and destroy?  How can we bring sense and fairness to such disorder?

 I know my mind certainly is not able to comprehend all that is going on and what 2020 has brought upon us, hence, fear, anxiety, judgement and rage creeps in.  I don’t know about you, but it makes me want to crawl within the walls of my home with deadbolts on every door, shades down, and a blindfold and ear plugs to just hide away until I die or Jesus returns, which ever happens first, preferably the latter!   But his is not reality nor what God has called me or any of us to do.

Growing up, most kids like myself, when it came to parents and dealing with ‘KID STUFF’, we felt they really didn’t understand us.  We felt they had no clue what we were going through. We believed they had no idea what help or advise we needed, as if they had never been a kid themselves. We may have repeatedly disregarded their authority and rules, with the idea that ‘We KNOW what’s best for ourselves’.  At least that’s some testimony of my youth.   As I became a young adult and then a parent, that reality diminished completely.  I began to see just how much they really did know, had experienced and set rules in place for my safety and well-being. I used this revelation on my own kids, confessing my rebellion and now how I wish I would have trusted, listened and obeyed my parents more, because they REALLY did understand and wanted only the best for me by setting specific rules and guidelines that would eventually shape and nurture me into a young adult, wife and mother, and eventually a follower of Christ Jesus, which unfortunately came  later than sooner in life, but none the less, here I am!

We may not always understand or agree with authoritative rules or guidelines at any level, but 1Peter 2:13-17 highlights the importance and virtue of respecting people in authority, all human authority, without compromise to our faithful conscience, to not indulge our own desires; but to reach for the best God has for us, letting our freedom sing of power, joy and love – accountable to God, and devoted to others.

We have to believe that God has appointed them to govern and lead a nation, a city, a church or a family, and trust that ‘God’s Got This’ and that He empowers authority at every level and as evil lurks in all corners and fairways, we must be diligent in our commitment to trust and respect God’s perfect plan, that in the END He will prevail.  

Our freedom is not a ticket to do evil, in pursuit  to attain any fairness or equality.  As Christ followers, we must stand firm in these days of destruction and ever-present evil.  ‘In the midst of all this evil, the people who know their God will firmly resist [the evil one]’ (Daniel 11:32b). We must  ‘stand firm and take action’ with fervent prayer and outward faith that expounds the Gospel and true living as a believer in Christ Jesus.

In Matthew 10:26-28, Jesus is speaking,  “So do not be afraid of those who threaten you. For the time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all.  What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the rooftops for all to hear. .  Do not fear those who kill the body, for they cannot kill the soul; rather fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

In light of what evil and devastation is happening all around us, this is a warning to be prepared for what will soon be revealed.  Stand firm, resist evil, give thanks and trust our mighty God and bear witness to His power and authority over all the Earth, His creation!

Here are a few songs for your spiritual listening pleasure!

‘Together’ by For King and  Country with Tori Kelly  – standing firm together

‘You Restore My Soul’  by New Wine Worship  – God is our ever present love and protector

‘Holy Roar’ by Chris Tomlin  – ROAR  from the ROOFTOP!

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, how unsettled is my heart to see and witness such evil and devastation all around the world, and even more so right here within reach.  I know I should fear no evil, for you are with me, and your rod and staff comfort me, but sometimes, it’s just crushing.   Help me to stand firm with your mighty truth that fills me and your armor that covers me.  Show me where and how to speak truth in such a dark and angry world, pointing your truth and love to those who do not know You. Help me to change the hearts of those who are consumed with hatred and unrest, who seek for answers and justice through destruction.  Let your glory and strength rush through my veins, with a  pouring-out of your love and compassion to the world around me.  I pray this Jesus, in your mighty name.  AMEN


No Straw – Bricks!

Exodus 5-6:1

Review & Remarks:  This passage can be divided into 6 different scenes of Pharaoh vs. Moses/Aaron … In scene one (vv. 1-5) Pharaoh wonders “Who is YHWH?”  The Hebrew slaves are ordered back to work … Pharaoh’s wondering is pretty common …  The three day flight (v. 3) preludes the same from Egypt to Sinai (Ex. 15-19) … Next (vv. 6-9), Pharaoh cuts off the supply of straw for the Hebrew production of adobe bricks (mud dried in the sun) … It’s unclear if Pharaoh is being mean or no straw was available … Straw served as a binder and filler in brick making … The third scene (vv. 10-14) has the Hebrews scouring the Egyptian landscape in search of straw or a suitable substitute, yet Pharaoh maintains his production quota … Scene 4 has the representatives of the Hebrews meeting with Pharaoh (vv. 15-19) regarding their brick shortfall … Scene 5 (vv. 20-21) apparently is another meeting, this time involving Moses and Aaron.  This verbiage is a bit confusing.  This “Let the LORD look on you and judge…” is a call by an Egyptian, possibly Pharaoh himself, for God to curse the future children of Israel … The last scene (vv. 22-6:1) has a discouraged Moses going to YHWH for all of the dismal things that have happened to Israel … Moses learns (v. 6:1) better days are ahead – a release from Egyptian and Pharaoh’s bondage … As is often the case, darkness precedes light … Before there is blessing, inevitably, there is testing.

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