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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

December 2020

El Yashua (God Our Salvation)

1 Thessalonians 5:1-6

1 These. 5:1-6 Paul the Apostle, evangelist, made his way to Thessalonica in about 52 A.D. where he preached the Good News, starting in the synagogue. There he showed them from the scriptures about the suffering Messiah, (probably from Isaiah). As he proclaimed this scripture he was able to introduce these Thessalonians to Jesus of Nazareth, proclaiming Him to be the Messiah prophesied about. Some of the Jews there believed, along with many Greeks, among whom were some prominent women, according to Acts 17. After just a few weeks the non-believing Jews stirred up a riot and the authorities against Paul, and the church. He then fled to Berea, then to Athens, and finally to Corinth where he wrote this letter to the Thessalonians.

In this letter Paul praises the believers for their love, and their devotion to sanctification as believers. They are doing what Christians are supposed to do, and Paul encourages them to excel even more. Now he gives them some more information as time didn’t allow when he was in there presence. Concerning those believers who have died and the possibility of Jesus Christ’s return, what happens to the dead? So Paul explained that if that happens the dead in Christ will rise with those who are alive, they will not be left behind, at the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God.

Chapter 5.1 Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you know full well that the day of the LORD will come like a thief in the night. While they, (non-believers, enemies of God) are saying, “Peace and safety,” then destruction will come upon them suddenly, like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they won’t escape. vs.4. But you brethren are not of the darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night or darkness, so let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.”

If we now turn to Revelation 16:15, we can get a glimpse of the metaphor that Paul uses here of a thief. Vs. 15: Elohim Mauzi, God, the Almighty says, “Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.” In the Levitical priesthood a priest would be assigned to stay awake all night and tend the fire in the altar, so that it would be stoked and ready for the morning oblations, and first sacrifices of the day. The High Priest, who in this role was known as ‘the thief,’ would then, on occasion, check on this priest who was assigned night duty, to see if he was alert, or sleeping. If he was caught sleeping, the High Priest would then take some coals from the altar and sprinkle them on the sleepers cloak, eventually setting it on fire, awakening the priest, who would then tear his outer garment off and be caught naked and shamed. It certainly doesn’t pay to get caught sleeping. God is not portraying Himself as a robber and a crook, but rather as a High Priest in the role of ‘the thief.’

So, Paul says, we are of the day, and not the night, we also are not sleepers, but alert as to the Second advent, knowing and anticipating Christ’s promised return. Though we don’t know the day of His return, we are aware of the signs and are even more alert and ready for His return. As the prophecies concerning the First Advent were cryptic and hard to read, so are the ones concerning the Second Advent. Yet we stay alert and wait, for our God, Jehovah, El Yashua loves us so very much and is our salvation, and soon we will be with Him for eternity.

Karl

An Offering

Hebrews 10:5-10

Previous to the above the author, probably a Jewish disciple of Paul, criticizes sacrifices for sins as an inefficient system (Heb. 10:1-2), due to the “leftover” sins at the end of each year (Heb. 10:3) not removed by the blood of bulls and goats (Heb. 10:4). According to Jewish Law, on the Day of Atonement or “Yom Kippur,” unaccounted sins are managed (Lev. 16:20-34). Yom Kippur, the most solemn day on the Jewish calendar, is both a remittance and remembrance of sins. This is signified by the priests blood sacrifice of one goat and the freeing of another as a living reminder of committed sins to both the individual and the whole community. This freed goat is known as the scapegoat.

To this sacrifice system, the author expresses God’s new rejection (vv. 5-7 = Psalm 40:6-8). Not that He hasn’t expressed the same sentiment previously (cp. Isa. 1:11-13, Jer. 6:20, Amos 5:21-25, Mic. 6:6-8). When viewed with Jesus in mind, these verses recall His incarnation and His obedient sacrifice, blood and all, once for all (vv. 8-10). To the Christian, the prior form of OT worship of God (v. 9) has been replaced through the offering of the body of Christ (v. 10).

God Reigns!

Isaiah 52:7-10 (NIV)

God speaks through Isaiah to comfort and encourage the people of Israel who are in captivity in Babylon. They are reassured that the Lord will redeem them and bring them home to Jerusalem once again. Although they are far away from home, in challenging circumstances, they can live in hope.

The “feet of those who bring good news” is a reference to the messengers who ran from the scene of battle to bring news of the outcome to the waiting king and the people. Here we read of the good news of victory to come.

“The Lord will lay bare his holy arm” is language used in the Old Testament for redemption and salvation. We see that language used when God delivered the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt to the Promised land.

The Christmas Story of the birth of Jesus is the beginning of the good news of great joy and salvation to all who will trust and believe in the Savior. Jesus is the One who delivers us from all sin and hopelessness. We too can proclaim peace and salvation and shout out, “God reigns!” We too can live in hope.

The return of God’s people to Jerusalem reminds us that God rules over all the world, which he created in love. We remember that Jesus, born to us in the stable in Bethlehem, who lived for us and died for us, also reigns for us. Jesus will come again and usher in God’s Kingdom in all of its fullness. We live in hope, awaiting that grand day.

Prayer: Lord God we thank you for your plan of salvation in and through Jesus and your promises, which come true. Help us to live in hope because of all you are doing and will do. Guide us through this difficult and disappointing time of pandemic and national discord. Help us to find strength and joy in the Lord Jesus in this Advent Season. We make this prayer in Jesus’s name, Amen.

One Baby For The World

Today’s Reading:  click here  –  Romans 13:11-15 (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)

As we continue through this season of Advent and center our hearts on the HOPE of a Savior, may this be the perfect time to for us to consider further what Advent is all about.  As we light each Advent candle, let us clothe ourselves in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ and fervently wait with undeniable expectations of HOPE, FAITH, LOVE, PEACE and  JOY to celebrate and rejoice in the wondrous birth of our Savior.

As our passage today warns us, may we be awaken to the shadows of despair, sorrow,  war, violence, captivity, hate, and all sin within us, for our salvation is near.  We enter the shadows, those places where all hope seems lost, and we are  awakened to the HOPE of new life through a Savior, born into the world as a baby, who will one day rule the world and bring everlasting life to all who place their faith and hope in Him.  This can start right now.  From here, we can proclaim the good news with rightful living, with the hope that rings out in the midst of catastrophe.  At the very essence of destruction, the point of what is “revealed,” is that God is on the way, turning our world around.  One baby for the whole world.  And precisely because of this, all of us should be watchful and alert over the days and weeks ahead, cultivating a mindful attentiveness to the signs of hope and wonder.  Be alert, be ready.   “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit,” Jesus says. “Be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks” (Luke 12:35-36)

The Advent candle of HOPE is also  known as the “prophecy candle.”  It assures us we can have hope that God will fulfill the prophecies declared in the Old Testament about Jesus. Hope doesn’t disappoint us (Romans 5:5) .  We hope for a Messiah to save us from the sin in the world (Isaiah 9:6-7) . We anticipate our Savior’s arrival.  In this day and age, where evil abounds and all seems lost, we can hope that the prophecies about Jesus’ second arrival to earth will also be fulfilled.  We wait. We are ready.

Hope, in the Bible, exists as a secure assurance, a trust placed in a trustworthy God. A God that has not failed us in the past, and therefore, if He claims He will do something in the future, we can have a hope that He will fulfill that claim.  Hope waits and hope endures. It isn’t fragile or merely wishful thinking. This hope can withstand fire, trials, and despair. Let us fix our hearts on the HOPE of a Savior born to us for everlasting life.  We are clothed for such a day as this. Christ Jesus is born to us.  One baby for the world.

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

‘Be Born In Me’ by Francesca Battistelli

‘When Hope Came Down’ by Kari Jobe  

‘The Hope of Christmas’ by Matthew West

‘Hope Has a Name’ by River Valley Worship (turn it up – It’s a good WORSHIP song!!)

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, help me as I prepare and wait in HOPE this Advent season, shedding sin and shame from the crevices of my life, to step into the light of my Savior, to be clothed in humble and pure wonder of a baby born to save me. Clothe me in your righteousness and lead me Lord, to rightful living this day and always.

Kris

When God entered our world

Colossians 1:15-20

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstbornfrom among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Celebrating Christmas is so much more than remembering the birth of a baby in a little village some long time ago. It is the celebration of the first promise made by the creator of the universe to the first two people who enjoyed the paradise. In a way is a picture of reconciliation and the start of a new relationship between the God and people. And in another way is a call to all humanity to see who God is.

So when we look and celebrate Jesus birth, we remember our story from the time of creation, our fall and the promises of God, we remember walking with God in the early hours though the dew of Eden, and the love of a creator for his creation. In Christ, the invisible, the one we thought distant and removed from our world, the God of universe enters our world. Christmas cards have a magical way of capturing that feeling of peace, and calm that the birth of Christ brought in our world. But that peace is o much deeper than the card, it is a peace that broke the chains of sin, that brought the world back a place where God with open arms welcomes the creation back to him.

But even more than that, it is an invitation to walk again hand in hand with the creator. In Christ, God has flesh, he is walking in front of us, showing us what it looks like to live in that deep and wonderful relationship with the father. As we follow Jesus, we learn again who God is, his plan for us and our world, and how to live “your kingdom here on earth, as it is in heaven”.

I want to encourage you today, to celebrate that peace, to step out in confidence that God’s love is surrounding us even at times like this.

Be blessed.

Bo M

The Lord Our Righteous Savior

2371.) Jeremiah 33 | DWELLING in the Word

Jeremiah 33:14-16

Jeremiah was one of the major prophets of the Old Testament. His ministry took place during a not so pleasant time in the history of Judah. The king of Judah, Josiah, was killed in battle against the Egyptians, despite warnings to avoid conflict in a battle that didn’t originally involve the Kingdom of Judah. Following this, Judah entered a time of turmoil at the hands of the Egyptians, Babylonians, and terrible leadership by the successors of Josiah. The Kingdom of Judah, you could say was headed the wrong way down a one-way street toward destruction. In fact, Jeremiah correctly predicted the fall of Judah and the exile of the people of Judah as a result of said poor leadership. 

With that background in mind, we get to chapter 33 of Jeremiah. There is a promise ahead that will restore Judah. Help is on the way. That help will come from the line of David, and he will do what is just and right. He will save Jerusalem, and Jeruselam will live in safety. This person will have a specific name. He will be called “The Lord Our Righteous Savior.” 

As we gear up for the Christmas season, and the yearly hustle and bustle of the shopping, decorating, and dinner preparations for the holiday itself, let’s not lose sight of the true reason we are celebrating this time of year. It is easy for the true meaning to get lost in translation of our modern times. Now as much as any other time in our history, we are in need of a savior. As much as we may think that shiny new toy, or a big screen TV, or a Lexus (like who actually gets a Lexus for a Christmas gift as the commercial suggests we do?), what we really need can’t be boxed up, wrapped, and have a bow placed on it. More stuff is exactly what we don’t need. There is so much more hope in the birth of that one child on that one day in Bethlehem so long ago than in anything that can be bought in a store. So, now and always, let’s focus our hope on Jesus. 

Micah

Micah 5:1-4

Micah, “Who is like the LORD,” was a contemporary with Isaiah. He was from Moresheth, a small village 20 miles southwest of Jerusalem, and prophesied to the Kings of Judah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah concerning Samaria, and Jerusalem, the capitals of Israel and Judah. Through Micah, Jehovah pleads for these Kings to turn their kingdoms back to Him.

The nation Assyria is like a rod of discipline that Jehovah is promising to use against all of Israel if they don’t repent of their idol worship and turn back to God. Under Jeroboam, at the dividing of the kingdoms into the two southern tribes and ten northern tribes, he set up worship centers at Dan and Bethel, adding to the worship of Jehovah, other gods. So the northern tribes had not only idol worship, but illegal worship centers. Jehovah is not happy with this and warns that this behavior will eventually seep into Judah.

In Micahs prophecy there is condemnation and captivity, rebuke and restoration, and pleading and assurance of mercy. As in many prophecies concerning the state of affairs in their current warnings, the prophets occasionally have a vision that tells of a future event, which is completely unrelated. 1 Peter 1:10 “…the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted, the sufferings of Messiah and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which have now been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven–things into which angels long to look.”

Micah’s seemingly unrelated prophecy is in Chapter 5: 2-4. Out of nowhere, in mid-thought it is revealed to Micah, “But as for you Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel, His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity. Therefore He will give them up until the time, when she who is in labor, has born a child. Then the remainder of His brethren will return to the sons of Israel. And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the LORD, and in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God. Because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth. This One will be our Peace.”

700 hundred years later, from this passage, the religious leaders of Jerusalem were able to tell King Herod where the new King, Messiah was to be born, when the Maji inquired it of him. The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, He would be from eternity past, making Him of the Godhead, there will be a returning to Jerusalem and Jehovah, and peace established between God and His people, through the redemption by Jesus the Messiah.

Of the 400 or so prophesies concerning the coming Messiah, I Peter 1:12 says “It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven–things into which angels long to look.” Let us then, as modern day believers, Philippians 1:27, “Conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” The miraculous birth of our Savior was only the beginning of the work He was sent to perform. Let us therefore worship the Savior, and glory in our salvation.

Karl

The Sign

Isaiah 7:10-16

The historical setting for this passage is that a state of war exists between Israel and it’s king Ahaz and Assyria (735 BC approx.). The choice given Israel & Ahaz, like any of us during a crisis, is between fear and faith. Will Israel choose to “stand firm” against the onslaught or simply act as a coward?

Within this context that the LORD tries to supplement Ahaz’s resolve with a sign (v. 11). To this offer Ahaz piously objects, not wanting to put God to the test (v. 12). A more likely reason he is unaccepting of any “sign” is he has no desire to become involved with God. An agreement to accept would be an admission of faith in God, to be led by the God’s desires not his own. This acceptance is something Ahaz is unwilling to do.

What follows – the sign of a virgin bearing a Son named Immanuel, that He will refuse evil, He will choose good (vv. 13-16), is proclaimed by the LORD. At that time, it’s meaning was, despite the war with Assyria (cp. 2 Sam. 7:1-17), the royal court would continue under the lineage of David as the kings of Israel. Recall it was addressed to the House of David, not faithless Ahaz.

We Christian’s, 2800 years later, view “the sign” as the Virgin Mary giving birth to the baby Jesus. His name, “Immanuel,” expresses “God is with us,” as Jesus’ life testifies to the living proof of salvation offered to all. Coincidentally, Immanuel was an is Ahaz’s heir.

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