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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

November 2020

For Such A Time As This

Today’s Readings:  click here  –   Psalm 123; Judges 2:6-15; Revelation 16:1-7  (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)

For such a time as this, peace, calmness and understanding may be among things we are seeking the most.  Prayer, especially, becomes our weighted blanket bringing much needed peace and comfort, like a healing balm. Reading, studying and applying scripture, likewise, is crucial to our well-being. Psalm 123:3 calls out to God to have mercy on us, for we have had our fill of a multitude of contempt.  With this upsurge of disorder, anarchy and utter madness in our midst, Jesus really is our only hope and help in such a time as this.  We may be experiencing that prayer is being pushing aside as unwarranted helplessness that overshadows our power of hope. Here’s an idea to reclaim hope in Jesus by talking with Him when prayer just seems so aloof –

* Set a specific and realistic length of time that you will spend in devoted prayer (2min, 5min, etc)

* If words still won’t come, begin with giving thanks for the day, and other things that come to mind.

* Still having Prayer-Jam? Pray the Lord’s Prayer. It pretty much covers everything. Remember, God  

       knows your heart, He is just so delighted to spend this time with you, His child.

* Finally, just be still. Be still and silent.  Let the Holy Spirit fill you with a renewed energy and

      calming tranquility, that surpasses all understanding. (Philippians 4:4-9 ). 

We are like this psalmist, waiting and watching for God to cover us with his mercy, because His judgement against sin is certain and warrants His wrath when evil and darkness plague us.  The more we are still and waiting, our prayers become cries and our cries give us enduring hope from darkness to light.

Like the Israelites in our scripture today from Judges vs.10, (10 After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel) after Joshua died, that next generation kinda resembles our up and coming generation now, displaying selfish attitudes, corrupt behavior, cynical antics, unimaginable beliefs and wage on war, that just seem to continue escalating.  God is cringing, I just know it.  How hurt He must be to see our world in shambles yet again with many idols at our fingertips and filling our lives.   He is forewarning us, just like He warned the Israelites (15 Every time Israel went out to battle, the Lord fought against them, causing them to be defeated, just as he had warned. And the people were in great distress).   I feel we are at constant battle everyday, and our distress seems stifling and unmeasurable.  God is getting our attention, but many don’t know his voice, nor care to. 

Despite the Israelites disobedience and worship of other gods and idols, God showed boundless mercy by raising up judges to save the people from their sins and oppressions. Mercy has been defined as ‘not giving a person what he/she deserves’ and it is what God did for them then and continues to do for us now through his Son Jesus Christ.  Our sins and disobedience demands firm judgement, by all means. Through Jesus, God has given us a way out of our tangled mess of sins and waywardness, to repent and change our ways.  When we talk with God, seeking forgiveness, we are asking for something we do not deserve.  Yet, when we trust God that Jesus is our ‘Saving Grace and a Merciful Hope’ and that He is working on our behalf, we experience ultimate and endless forgiveness that unlocks the grips of sin and lets hope  in.  

Our Revelation passage today mirrors the same warnings of God’s final wrath with the Israelites and other generations throughout scripture. That in the end, God ultimately opposes and destroys evil. Those who choose to revolt against God, in the end, will suffer and forfeit an eternal life in heaven.  God does not play by our rules with appeal of tolerance and absolution. God sets standards, rules and judgement with His power, according to the perfection of His morals and commandments we are called to live by.  

So, let us be mindful to stay alert, remain prayerful, spread the good news of the Gospel, proclaim Jesus as our Savior, protecting us from the unthinkable and intense disorder and anarchy of our world, because in such a time as this, the darkness lurks everywhere, but it cannot overcome the light, God’s light. (John 1:5).

Here are a few songs for your spiritual listening and meditation:

‘Graves Into Gardens’ by Hilsong Worship w/Brandon Lake

‘Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus’ by Lauren Daigle

‘Never Once’ by Matt Redman

‘For Such a Time as This (Esther’s Song)’ by  Marty Goetz & Misha  

Lord Jesus, thank you for another day that brings me closer to you. Help me to not fear this world, because You have overcome it.  I shout your name in praise for your mighty strength that I would remain unwavering with faith in this life with the greatest reward.  Please forgive me of my transgressions. Set me on your lofty throne. In Jesus’ holy and mighty name, I claim this now.  AMEN

Kris

Do We Recognize God Moments?

Psalm 78; Nehemiah 8:1-12; 1 Thessalonians 3:6-13

I feel like so many of my posts lately have been about keeping our lives focused on faith. However, it is important to realize that having faith is only a part of the battle. At least as important, if not more important, we have to be receptive to the signs all around us that God is very much still with us. In Psalm 78, there is a long list of the times that God did amazing things witnessed by thousands upon thousands of people, and yet people still asked for more signs. Parting the Red Sea. Water from a rock. Manna from heaven. Pillar of smoke by day, pillar of fire by night. And still, people didn’t believe and fell away. The people of Thessalonica believed in the Gospel without ever having witnessed any of Jesus’ miracles. Paul and Timothy praised them for their faith and hoped that they would continue to grow in faith. 

I see people write or hear people say all the time that God needs to send a sign. People say things like “where is your invisible God?” Even people who are people of faith, at times, seem to be stuck in a rut in feeling like God is leaving us behind. But I refuse to believe that God is turning His back on us or is not present at all times. Sure, there are going to be evil deeds done. There are going to be people who will not believe no matter what. Seemingly, the general masses may be living more for worldly desires, which makes it seem more and more like God is not with us. But, we all know better. We look for and find God present in all the little things in our daily lives. You have a bad day at work, but while making a quick stop at the store on your way home, you have a great 30 second interaction with a fellow shopper or the cashier, and some of your stress is melted away. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Feeling like things are down and not going well, so you go out for a short walk at a local forest preserve, where a deer and her fawn cross the path right in front of you, and suddenly you forget about the entire rest of the world. Coincidence? Not a chance. God puts people or events in our lives, as miniscule as they may seem, as a sign that He is with us always. When I feel like things aren’t going well, and feel anxiety creeping in, there is always something or someone that crosses my path that resets my system. And I can’t help but think, as I reflect, that God played a role. That is when I am reminded of Jesus’ words at the end of Matthew when He says “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” 

God may send the same dramatic messages from above that He sent the Israelites in OT times. But He is still there, with us, every second of every day. We just need to open our eyes, hearts, and minds to recognize those God moments. 

Let’s Be Like Jesus

Joshua 24: 25-33

Psalm 78

1 Corinthians 14: 20-25

Joshua 24: 25-33 At the end of his life Joshua has summoned all the elders of Israel to gather at Shechem, which is described as a valley most beautiful in all the land of Israel. There Joshua has brought a challenge to the leaders, in verse 15, to choose this day whom you will serve, the gods of Egypt, or the gods from beyond the River Euphrates, or Jehovah, the one who has led you by the hand from the days of Moses to this very day. This is where Joshua then made the definitive statement , “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Then the leaders made a covenant with Joshua, and said “We will serve Jehovah our God and we will obey His voice,” So Joshua wrote these words in the book of the Law of God and set a large stone by the sanctuary of the LORD, as a testimony of the covenant they made. Israel then served Jehovah all the days of Joshua, and the elders living at the time who had seen and heard of all the wonders and deeds of Jehovah.

Psalm 78 A song of difficult performance, a Maskil of Asaph. This psalm is a beautiful poem of the works of Jehovah, the constant rebellion of Israel, the chastisement of God, their repentance, and God’s forgiveness. It’s a roller coaster existence that Israel has with Jehovah. One moment they are pledging their allegiance, then they are secretly chasing after foreign gods. Such poetic words are used to describe their journey, as in verses 13-17, “He divided the sea and caused them to pass through, And he made the waters to stand up like a heap, Then He led them with a cloud by day, And all the night with a light of fire. He split the rocks in the wilderness, And gave them abundant drink like the oceans depth, He brought forth streams also from the rock and caused waters to run down like rivers.” He talks of Manna falling from the heavens and how they were eating ‘angels food.’ Jehovah made the quail to fall from the sky in the midst of the camp, like the dust of the ground.

Yet in the midst of plenty Israel complained, and rebelled, again and again they tempted Jehovah, and followed foreign god’s. Three times the story is repeated in this Psalm, ending with the reign of David, of whom it is said, “shepherded them with the integrity of his heart.”

1 Corinthians 14: 20-25 Paul is writing to the church in Corinth, where troubles abound. The Corinthians are much like Israel, in that they have developed a roller coaster existence with Jehovah. They have adopted the ways of their culture and forgotten their first love. In the last chapter Paul has gone to great lengths to describe love to them, how love is not self centered, does not seek it own, does not act unbecomingly, or take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in corruption, is not provoked, but rather rejoices in truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never gets tired, or ever fails.

In chapter 14: 20-25 Paul continues this greater thought says, “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking,” as in selfish, self centered, ego-centric, wanting to be the center of attention, “but in your thinking be mature.” He then goes on tho discuss the use of tongues and prophecy in the worship services. Though this has little impact in our culture of American church services, the greater point is, we are to be oriented to love of the brethren, and maturity. As in Romans 14, the mature Christian is to understand the immature brother, yet the immature Christian doesn’t get to remain immature forever. There are gifts of the Holy Spirit available and active in the church today, but those who are aware of their gifts are rarely clamoring to be noticed because of their giftedness. The immature Christian probably isn’t aware of any gifts of the spirit in himself, and so only has physical talents and abilities, which are useful until a level of maturity arises and spirit awareness falls on him. Maturity doesn’t come overnight, and can’t be rushed. Just as a teenager who wants so badly to be accepted as an adult, yet hasn’t arrived.

Life as a Christian doesn’t have to be a roller coaster existence with God, like Israels was, but can and should be like an inclined plane, ever growing, becoming more and more like Jesus. 2 Corinthians 3:18 “But we all with unveiled face. beholding as in a mirror the glory of the LORD, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory…” Christian maturity comes from true study of the scriptures with a true desire to learn and know. Christian maturity comes from a disciplined prayer life, a disciplined lifestyle, and focus on Jesus Christ. Hebrews 12.1, “Therefore since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at he right hand of the throne of Jehovah.” Let’s be like Jesus.

Karl

Obedience at Ai

Joshua 8

Review & Remarks: Israel is in the process of it’s conquest of Canaan … With it’s victory at Jericho (Josh. 8), followed by Achan’s sin of taking prohibited valuables from Jericho (Josh. 7:1, 10-26, cp. Josh. 6:18-19), Israel fails in it’s first attempt to take Ai (Josh. 7:2-9) … Achan’s indiscretion results in loss for the whole of Israel … Sin can be like this, when one is committed (Josh. 7:1), many may suffer because of it (Josh. 7:11-12) … Back to Chapter 8, through previous failings YHWH now has Joshua and Israel’s complete attention … The war plan, in accordance with the LORD, is for Israel to divide its forces. A small group of 5000 will draw the frontal attention of Ai, meanwhile a larger group of 30,000 lay to ambush as indicated by the above diagram (8:1-13) … It all goes as planned resulting in the destruction of Ai and its king (8:14-29) … To memorialize the event Joshua at Mt. Ebal and Gerizim builds an alter, gives burnt and peace offerings, carves the Laws of Moses into stones, and performs a reading of blessings and cursing’s as prescribed in Moses’ Book of the Law (8:30-35) … This reading is most likely our Book of Deuteronomy … The assembly was composed Israel’s men, women, and children along with “strangers” (vv. 33, 35) … No one, not even “strangers” are excluded from this reading or this Joshua led adventure with God, or it’s benefits.

A Time to Trust

 

Psalm 78:1-7; Joshua 5:10-12; Revelation 8:6-9:12

Those who trust in the Lord God have a strong, reliable, and secure foundation for their lives. This is so vital and true that it’s a necessary responsibility, a wonderful privilege, and a sustaining joy to pass on such faith to the next generation. We are to share our trust in the Lord, our faith in Jesus, our dependence upon the Holy Spirit with our children, neighbors, friends and family, etc. We place our trust in God for the Lord provides for us and loves us deeply.

We see God’s care of his people in the Joshua passage. As they pass into the promised land there is food for them there, the fruit of God’s creation, and no longer do they need the manna that God provided in the wilderness. Yet all good things come from the Lord God, in whom we trust.

The final passage is about God providing even through the downturn of the tribulation when the return of Jesus is close. The Revelation passage is about beginning of the tribulation. There are seven trumpets that will bring the onset of the the times of tribulation and the first five are in our passage. Trumpets are important in the Old Testament and John in Revelation uses many, many images from the OT. Trumpets were used in the story of Jericho and they were also used in worship. Here they signal warning and the judgment that comes at the end. Even with the onset of tribulation here in this part of the book of Revelation, we need to remember that major theme of Revelation is God saving his people.

Even when the worst happens, the worst things are not the final things. God comes through to save all who trust in him. Today I encourage you to remember the Lord provides and to find rest in God’s loving arms. Remember the Lord Jesus said, “Come to me all who are weary and overburdened and I will give you rest.”

Prayer: Almighty, Wonderful, and Loving God help us to rest in your care this day. Guide us in the way we should go throughout today and this week. We make our prayer in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Unbalanced

Today’s Readings:  click here  –  Psalm 128; Joshua 10:12-14; Matthew 15:1-9         (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)

Psalm 128 highlights that good family life is a reward of a life that is focused and centered on God, with the laws and values of love, service, integrity, honesty and prayer in the forefront and foremost.  When life throws curveballs that send us in a whirlwind spin, it is always God’s word that sets us right again, with guidance, strength and a sense of security that He is with us, in control  and sees us through our troubled times (Acts 10:34-38  and 1 Peter 5:10 ).  Satan is always right there, waiting for our guard to be down to step in to trip us up with despair and bitterness toward God. Cry out against Satan’s attack. Claim victory in Christ Jesus. (James 1:1-15). Our acts of faith are our ‘Good Family, Good Life’ reward.

Often, we experience, see or hear of unexplained happenings, but with a heart trusting and believing in the undeniable and unlimited power of God, we know that anything is possible with God ( Matthew 19:23-30 ). Scripture confirms that, like Joshua, we can move mountains. (moving mountains ). Our mountains may be situations or circumstances that trip us up, but with a faithful and unshakable faith,  we can claim God’s power over us for strength to ‘move our mountain’.  It is amazing what our eyes can see when our faith is alive and our hearts believe and love beyond question. Miracles do happen. God is good… all the time!

Our scripture today in Matthew, connects the elements of a faithful heart of truth and allegiance to our Lord Jesus, to the laws of our God and family traditions.   It is common for us to read scripture and put our own spin on what God’s laws really means, tweeking them with traditions to fit our lifestyles , history and cultures.  Some traditions, customs and conducts are not bad and can actually generate rich meaning to life, but we should not elevate them to a sacred standard. Scripture in itself is still the WORD OF GOD. God’s principles never change and are in no need of additions.  Our traditions should benefit our way of life to understanding God’s laws better, not to hold them as laws themselves and deceive ourselves, causing disconnection in our relationship with our Lord Jesus and heavenly Father.

This scripture forewarns us be keep our eyes open with our heart seeking to genuinely KNOW God, not just know a lot about God.  This leads to a false life of faith. Claiming to honor God, but not really knowing God and his love for us, leaves us with empty prayers and hopeless cries for God’s presence.  We are encouraged to embrace  the conduits and styles of faith and worship that channels us to grow closer to God with a deeper relationship with Jesus, but not at the expense of putting aside what groundwork and foundation He has laid down before us.  When my kids were little and my baby-steps of faith were bursting with such enthusiasm and energy to serve God, I became fixated on the fact that ‘It’s for the church, serving God, doing things for the good of others’,  that it wasn’t long before my family started questioning all my time away from home. They felt a sense of abandonment.  This really was an eye-opener for me. I was called to examine my commitments and responsibilities that I had taken on and filled my plate with (bible studies, leadership, councils, small groups and more) and yield to be still and listen for God’s direction and discernment on how my priorities were so muddled and out of context of His plans for me. Overtime, my plate cleared, and my focus was a faith filled family life, not a faith-filled Kris life. Soon, I understood what  ‘Good Family Life’ looked like from the inside out and I then acknowledged every opportunity and request to serve with heartfelt passion and  steadfast prayer before I took on new commitments.  Waiting to hear from God on the direction and purpose to be fulfilled. 

It’s ok to respond to such requests with ‘that sounds like a wonderful opportunity, and I’m grateful that you find me so fitting for such an task, but I’d like to pray about it for a bit and see what part of my schedule God sees fitting for that role.  I will get back to you within the week. ‘   This poise of maturing yet growing faith became the balancing point of our unbalanced ‘Good Family Life’.  God warrants our hearts and lives to draw Him close to be part of even the little things, bringing balance to our ‘Good Life of Faith!’

Here are a few songs for your spiritual listening and meditation:

‘Way Maker’ by Mandisa

 ‘Holy Water’ by We The Kingdom

‘Till I Found You’ by Phil Wickham

‘The God I Know’ by Love & The Outcome

Lord Jesus, a life centered on you, with concrete  laws and unconditional love,  yield absolute comfort and control, cloaked in the rewards of your goodness and contentment .  Help me to remain in the shadow of your wings for daily guidance and self-control. May the mountains before me crumble and my faith soar beyond the heavens.  You are my strength and my shield, for this,  my grateful heart belongs to you.  AMEN

Kris

Careful Who You Trust

Psalm 128; Joshua 4; 1 Thessalonians 2: 13-20

Psalm 128

This Psalm is part of a set of 15 psalms that are titled “A Song of Ascent.” According to Jesus Walk Bible Study, the songs of ascent likely were sung by pilgrims on their way up the hills toward the entrance to Jerusalem for the great Jewish feasts. Those who stick with Team God will be blessed. You and your household will be blessed as long as you remain faithful. It is a great reminder who really has our back in this world. 

Joshua 4

The Israelites, under the command of Joshua, are crossing the Jordan with the Ark of the Covenant. In Chapter 3, as the priests were about to set foot into the river to cross, the river stopped flowing and backed up so that everyone could cross on dry land. Sound familiar? See Exodus 14:21-22. So in Chapter 4, God instructed Joshua to select one person from each of the 12 tribes to take one stone from the middle of the Jordan and carry them to the place they camped after their crossing as a way to remember what God did for them that day. 

1 Thessalonians

Paul founded a church in Thessalonica during his second missionary trip and made another visit there during his third missionary trip. When Paul made his first stop in Thessalonica, he was driven out of town and had to sneak out in the dark of night (Acts 17:8-10). Just like Paul was run out of town by the Jewish leaders, the newly established Christian believers were also treated very unfairly. In his first letter to the Thessalonians, he is excited for their continued acceptance of God’s word, despite the ridicule they were experiencing in doing so. The works of Satan ran Paul out of town and prevented him from returning to Thessalonica, so he is writing this letter to them instead. 

Reflection

As we head into election week, it is important to remember in whom we should actually place our trust. If you are hoping for this politician or that politician, or this party or that party, to be the savior of our nation, you are placing your eggs in the wrong basket. Although it is our civic duty to vote for the people we feel will be best for the future of our country, we need to remember at the end of the day, those people are human and have faults, just like we do. Trust in the word of the politician will only get us so far in life (and seemingly less and less far all the time). But put your trust in God, just like the pilgrims in Psalm 128, Joshua, Paul, and the believers in Thessalonica. 

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