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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

February 2021

‘Tis Mystery All

Psalm 110:1-5

Job 19: 23-27

1 Timothy 3:14-16

Psalm 110: 1-5 This Psalm of David, in our English translations, is more confusing to us than the Hebrew texts were to the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus day, and yet even they were completely stumped as to it’s meaning. Matthew 22: 41-46, Mark 12: 35-37, and Luke 20: 41-44 all describe the same event that happened in the life of Jesus, concerning this Psalm. (According to BHS Westminster morphology, and Ginsburg edition of Masorah, pp.105-15 there are two words of similarity concerning Diety, which are Adoni and Adonay, the first being a ‘master’, or ‘Lord’ in King James English terms, the latter being substituted for YHVH, or ‘LORD’ in KJV English terms.) The psalm states in verse 1, “YHVH says to my Adoni, (master) “Sit at my right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for your feet.” This is a reference to the Messiah. Then in verse 4 the text reads, “YHVH has sworn and will not change His mind, ‘You are a Priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.'” verse 5., “Adonay is at YHVH’s right hand; He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath. He will judge among the nations, ….” The point being, the Scribes of Jesus day could not understand, nor could it enter their minds, that the Messiah could be mortal man, and God also. David, wrote this Psalm under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and revealed that Messiah, (Jesus) would actually be both God and Man, not just a Prophet, or an anointed one, or a deliverer like Moses, but YHVH Himself, in the form of a Son. It is from passages like this that we formulate the concepts of a Triune God, God in three different persons, the Trinity, yet still one God. Jesus posed this passage to the sages of His day, who if under the leading of the Holy Spirit could understand, a Father, a Son, and a Holy Spirit, but if not Spirit lead, they could not understand. Jesus is both Adoni and Adonay, both master and God, both God and Man.

Job 19: 23-27 A testimony of Job, who writes, “I want my words written down, Oh that they were written in a book, or engraved on stone forever! “As for me, ‘I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.’ Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold,” not my descendants, not my ancestors, not symbolically, nor figuratively, “Whom my eyes will see, not another, The thought of this makes me faint.” Job knew in his heart of hearts that God was his Redeemer, His Advocate, His Judge who was Just, and the Justifier of all who believe. He could not possibly tell anyone how it would work, but he knew that He would rise, and stand someday, to see His Savior.

1 Timothy 3: 14-16 To Timothy from Paul, “I may not make it in person to see you, so read this. There is a proper way to conduct yourself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the very pillar and the ground of the truth. By common confession, all agree, great is the Mystery of Godliness: “He who was revealed in the flesh: Was vindicated in the Spirit: Seen by Angels: Proclaimed among the nations: Believed on in the world: Taken up in Glory!”

Israel just could not understand that their coming Messiah, the conquering King, would show up on earth as a baby. They could not believe that this conquerer would be a suffering servant. They would not believe that the victory would be over sin, not nations. They could not understand that salvation was not for Israel alone, but for Gentiles also. Who could explain such a strange design as this salvation? How does the immortal, take on mortality? How does the Creator, become the creation? Only God!

As Job stated “I know that my Redeemer lives.” And that’s enough!

Karl

Sinai: The Laws Are Given

Exodus 19

Review & Remarks: This chapter begins the covenant between YHWH, the superior, and Israel, the inferior (Ex. 19-24) … YHWH issues orders, Israel promises to comply … Both promise loyalty … Because of this agreement, Israel becomes “God’s chosen people” … The precise location of Mount Sinai is unknown (vv. 1-2), possibly Jebel Musa pictured above … YHWH reminds Moses of Israel’s enslaved Egyptian past – how they have gotten to this point (vv. 3-4) … This Mosaic Covenant is specifically addressed to Israel, to which they totally agree with no reservations (vv. 5-8) … Israel was afforded the freedom not to accept (v. 5) … From this example, one might infer God to some degree accepts corporate or individual liberty for or against Himself … YHWH will manifest on Sinai to Moses in a ceremony (v. 9) … For this, Israel is to prepare their hearts, wash themselves and their clothes, and steer clear of Sinai until the sound of trumpeting is heard (vv. 9-13) … After three days of thick clouds, thunder, lightening, smoke, fire, and earthquakes from and on Sinai, a blast of trumpets is sounded (vv. 14-19) … Moses meets YHWH on top of Mount Sinai (v. 20), telling him to warn the priests and any from Israel not to ascend the mountain (vv. 21-22) … Moses’ reply is “they won’t” (v. 23) … Aaron is to accompany Moses, no priests or anyone else, on their next ascent to the summit of Sinai … The overall tone here is one of respect and reverence towards YHWH and His temporal enclave atop Sinai … One’s approach towards YHWH is on His terms, not one’s own … How could the created approach to the Creator be otherwise?

Still Saving Sinners

Psalm 50:1-6; I Kings 14:1-18; I Timothy 1:12-20 (NIV)

We are reminded in Psalm 50 that God is mighty, creator, and sustainer of all creation. God is the judge of people but we learn that the Lord makes judgement with righteousness and justice. If anyone were to judge us we should prefer God who is fair, right, truthful, and just in all his thoughts, evaluations, and decisions. We learn through our readings today that God is also merciful.

In I Kings we meet Jeroboam, the first King of the divided Kingdom of Israel, the ten tribes in the North. David’s son Solomon had elevated Jeroboam to a leader of the laborers because of his hard work. Jeroboam rebelled against Solomon and then fled to Egypt when his rebellion didn’t succeed. Once Solomon dies Jeroboam returns and becomes King over the northern tribes that left the previously united Israel.

The problem with Jeroboam was his unfaithfulness to God and leading the people to worship idols and forsake the Lord. He and his family come under God’s fair and righteous judgment and his reign comes to an end. Yet he ruled for some 22 years.

Had Jeroboam responded to God as Paul did with repentance, a change of heart and confession things would have been different. Paul, in I Timothy 1:12-20, writes to Timothy about “The grace of our Lord [which] was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” When we have a change of heart and confess our sins we are shown God’s abundant mercy and forgiveness.

Paul reminds Timothy of something we should all remember, treasure and give thanks, “15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” How good to know that Jesus’ “immense patience” is available to us!

Today I encourage you to give thanks that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” just like you and me. Let’s say today with Paul, “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (vs. 17) Let us hold “on to faith and a good conscience” in our journey as disciples of Jesus.

Prayer: Wonderful, All Mighty, and Gracious God we give you thanks this day for your extraordinary mercy, grace, and love given to us in Christ Jesus. We thank you that in Jesus you still save sinners, even us. We make this prayer in Savior’s name, Amen and Amen!

No Longer Saul

Today’s Reading:  Click Here  –   Psalm 50:1-6; 1 Kings 11:26-40; 2 Corinthians 2:12-17  (to open the scripture links – hover over the highlighted areas, right click, open hyperlink)  

The 2Corinthians passage today brings to mind things like, transformation, renewing, even born again. Why? Because it lead me to remember or think back to my own BC (Before Christ) lifetime. Having grown up unchurched, with a pretty precarious, shameful and untamed young adulthood past, those words fully illustrate and define what transpired when I realized that Jesus was who I needed, faith was what I was missing, and salvation was what I wanted.

Thinking back now, I’m ashamed to say that I was much like Saul who persecuted Christians.  Although I was not out  harming or murdering them, none the less, I did not know or understand their ways, and in my mind, my thoughts and words were not kind.  As vs.15 describes, their peaceful, calm and obedient smell of smells was a like a dreadful and forsaken smell to me.  I could see something good, but did not know how to obtain that. I inwardly mocked their customs and behaviors as a waste of time, and carried on with my own sinful nature as I wandered aimlessly through life. In the beginning, I was in no way, shape or form adequate for such a task, as spoken in vs.16. But God raised me from the miry pits of despair of a dishonorable life ( Psalm 40:1-4 ).  Until, one day, I prayed. I prayed big and I experienced God move in such a way no words can describe.

The life-giving message of the Gospel soon became my framework of living and THIS fragrance of God’s message filled my heart and lungs. Gradually and with much grace, I was transformed from the inside out, and continue today to still be a work in progress.  I remember, as I began to experience something different about me, and seeing things and people around me soon were different too. The renewing of my mind, heart and soul brought new light to my life, and being born again into the grace of God’s love and mercy was a beautiful feeling, to be a NEW Creation, in Christ Jesus.   It was like Holy Water poured over me with an aroma of a sweet perfume that filled my lungs with every breath, as if breathing for the first time. I was LIVING for the first time.

You see, it’s never too late for anyone to halt and do an about-face redirect, letting go of the things that burden and weigh us down and let Jesus take the wheel of our life.  It really is simple.  The hardest part is making that decision. It’s a choice. It’s ours to make.  There’s never a better time than the present to receive the present of God’s amazing gift; His Son, Jesus and experience a relationship like no other.   We acknowledge we are sinners and that we fall short of God’s glory,( Romans 3:21-24 )  but that’s ok, because when we believe that God sent His son Jesus to fix the gap between us and God our Father, and that Jesus died for each and every sin, mine, yours, every ones, we are claimed as His own and we are REDEEMED, just like the beautiful redemptive story of Saul ( Acts 9 ).

Are you ready to Let Go and Let God?  He’s at the door of your heart, just waiting (Revelation 3:20 ). Waiting for YOU.  Feast at the table of the Lord, be no longer a Saul, but a righteous and redeemed Child of the One true King.

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

‘Holy Water’ by We the Kingdom

‘Less Like Me’ by Zach Williams

‘When Mercy Found Me’ by Rhett Walker  

‘The Table’ by Chris Tomlin

PRAYER

Lord, how amazing is Your love and countless ways that You work in my life. Everyday, I am renewed and set apart from those who do not recognize your sweet aroma. Let me be your hands and feet to bring the work of the Gospel to those much like Saul. Everyday I am grateful for a life transformed, renewed, and redeemed! For this I give you praise and glory. In Jesus’ holy name. Amen.

 Kris

Letting Go

Jeremiah 29:10-14

I will start by saying the struggle is real. The past almost year has been a challenge to say the least; most notably the past several weeks. I’ve neglected my responsibilities writing for the blog because I’ve been bogged down (blogged down?) by work responsibilities. But tonight, I’m wedging in a few minutes to write for the first time in a few weeks. 

I was struggling with what to write for tonight, so while I was working through writer’s block, I decided to scroll through social media for a few minutes. That’s when I stumbled across this post from someone I grew up with. Although I don’t believe that this statement is true 100% of the time, I do believe without a doubt that we need to trust God’s role in our lives. 

Let me explain further. The idea that life is what it is and it can’t be any different isn’t completely true. Like if I am trying to keep up with my New Year’s Resolution (that I don’t ever actually make) to lose weight, but then choose to eat an entire quart of ice cream after a stressful day at work, I know that “it” could have turned out differently. I could have exercised a little more self-control and maybe allowed myself a single scoop of ice cream rather than the whole tub. 

But there are other things that just happen, and they are out of our control and there is no other way around it. That pretty much sums up my fall from late September through Thanksgiving. There were some things that happened that were not in anyone’s control. There isn’t any good explanation for why those things happened like they did. It would be easy to be angry, anxious, depressed. Question why that happened? Why us? And although things are definitely on an upward trend right now, the next near-tragedy could be lurking just around the corner. 

God has a way of challenging us and our faith. It doesn’t always make sense. At times, it is downright painful and difficult to understand. There are times when it is easier to throw our hands up and say “I give up!” But we have to remember that God has a plan for us. 

In Jeremiah 29, God was about to send Israel into exile for quite some time. The significance of 70 years can’t go unnoticed. In those days, that many years would mean that more than one generation likely will have passed before they were freed and able to return to their homeland. I can only imagine how stressful that would have been to have to up and leave home. I could imagine that it involved not knowing where the next meal would come from, or where people would find safe shelter. Not for a day or two, but for generations. 

Right now, in our very own country, we’ve had many trials and tribulations in the past year (or more I suppose, depending on who you are talking to). None of what has been going on makes much sense most of the time. We can shout out things like “Why God?” or “When will this end?” But at the end of the day, we have to trust that we will get through this. 

I love history. Whether it is reading about it, or watching a documentary or even a movie based on a historical event, I find it all fascinating. And the interesting thing is that much of what we have endured in the past year isn’t new nor the first time some of these things have happened. And yet, here we are. I’m sure there will be things that will change. Some for the better, some not I’m sure. But what matters most is where we place our trust. 

I definitely trust God way more than I trust the humans running any governmental agency. I trust God way more than I trust any talking head I see on TV or read about. I don’t know what His plan is for the future. It may go more smoothly eventually, or we may be just at the tip of the iceberg here. Either way, I know that I trust Him. And I hope you do too. 

Life After Death?

Psalms 102:12-28

2 Kings 4:8-17

Acts 4: 1-7

What is your view and understanding of Jehovah? What is your view and understanding of the resurrection of the dead? What is your view and understanding of everlasting life? These questions are the theme of todays readings.

Abraham was called by Elohim/God from the land of Haran. He heeded the call and received a promise/covenant from Elohim/God to possess a land unknown by him and for his descendants to inhabit the land, but he never knew the name of this Elohim/God. Elohim’s name was not revealed to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, his eleven brothers, and descendants until Moses. Even until the encounter Moses had with the burning bush, the name YHVH (Jehovah in English) was a mystery. So were the concepts of eternity and everlasting life, or life after death.

Psalms 102:12-18 This passage starts with the statement that Jehovah abides forever, that somehow He lives on endlessly, but maybe that is expected of gods. Jehovah’ name also will endure for generations to come. The servants of Jehovah find pleasure in the smallest detail of His creation, and His favor shown to Israel. He hears the slightest prayer, and answers those prayers, all the nations know of His glory. A people yet to be created will sing His praise, He will endure and the children and descendants of Israel will continue.

A general concept here is stated that through our children we endure forever. Is this then an ancient/early concept of everlasting life?

2 Kings 4: 8-17 Elisha was approached by a widow from the wives of the sons of the prophets, who had two sons, had substantial debt that was due now with no means to pay, and a famine was on the land. Elisha asked her what her possessions were, was there anything of value in her house. She replied that she had a vial of oil. Elisha then told her to go beg, and borrow from her neighbors anything that would hold liquid, from vases, to urns, to buckets, get them all. Then go into your house, close the door and start pouring from your vial of oil into all the vessels you have borrowed. When all are filled, sell the oil, use the proceeds to retire your debt, and use the rest to live on. This then is a story of the workings of a prophet to relieve the distress of a family with nowhere to turn, Jehovah is mentioned as one whom the widow’s husband feared. Her debts and troubles are temporarily taken care of, yet there is no sense of perpetuity.

Acts 4: 1-7 Peter and John, filled with the Spirit of God, have just healed a lame man by fixing their gaze upon him and declaring, “though they have no earthly means to help him, no silver or gold, no temporal solution for his malady, yet what they do posses they offer, and say, ‘in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.'” That possession they have is Spiritual Power. As Peter and John continued speaking to the crowds, as you can imagine they had created quite a stir, the Sadducees, priests, and temple police, being greatly disturbed, came to them because they were proclaiming in Jesus, the resurrection from the dead. The Sadducees, descendants of Zadok, a chief priest from the days of King David, were a sect similar to the Pharisees, yet not as powerful, and did not believe in resurrection from the dead, but only in this physical life. They then had Peter and John jailed overnight. The next day the Pharisees and High Priests joined the first group and began questioning Peter and John by what power or in what name they had performed this miracle of healing.

The answer to their question is given later in the text, beyond our reading for today, but what we are to understand from these combined passages, is the full development of the revelation from Jehovah to man concerning Spiritual life, Resurrection from the dead, and Everlasting life. Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 15:16-19, “For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” verse 21: “For since by one man, (the first Adam), came death, by a man, (the second Adam), also came the resurrection of the dead.” John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Friends, through time, the Scriptures, our Bible, true Spiritual life has been revealed, Forgiveness of sins has been revealed, and Everlasting life has been revealed, all in Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man cometh to the Father but through me.” Peter said of Jesus, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven, that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” There is life beyond this physical, temporal realm, there is life in the eternal realm, there is value way beyond the “wealth of this domain.” What is your hope in? What is your faith in? What are your desires for the future? They should have nothing to do with this world, this government, or any possessions.

Karl

Elihu Speaks

Job 36-37

Review & Remarks: There are many correct interpretations of the Book of Job, one is not necessarily better than another … Including this one … It is not terribly surprising to find humans complaining to God regarding His justice … Even today … Job’s associates – Zophar, Eliphaz, Bildad & Elihu are simply speculating on the “why?” of Job’s problems … Broadly speaking, sin and suffering are related to one another, but not always … Real world answers to “why?” something happens are rarely straightforward or simple … Unlike glass breaking when it strikes a cement floor … Life can be puzzling (cp. Gen. 18:22-33, Psalm 37, 73, Jer. 12).

This book may be, in part, a transcription of conversations that took place between Job and his associates … I have purposely avoided using the word “friends” because their goal seems more to renounce rather than remedy … This reading (Job 36-37) is Elihu’s commentary on what he has heard … Elihu seems to be a “know it all.”

Elihu’s knowledge is perfect (36:1-4) … God is fair to all, understands all, and attempts to instruct all (36:5-10) … Obedience is related to prosperity (36:11-13), hypocrisy to judgement (36:14-18) … Wealth is not an “end all” (36:19-21) … God instructs by way of power, creation, clouds, rain, thunder, lightening, and food. All are His (36:22-33) … Ancients believed a great deal of God’s revelation was to be found in His creation … Elihu continues is his amazement towards the elements – thunder, lightening, snow, cold winds, and ice (37:1-13) … According to “climate change,” mankind bears some responsibility for these … What are you going to personally do to prevent or at least minimize the next snowstorm? … I, for one, have tired of shoveling! … Job, are you sensitive to your environment (37:14-20)? … To fully appreciate the Almighty is impossible for humankind (37:21-24), that is the finite attempting to comprehend the infinite … It it were possible, what would be the value of the faith of the finite?

Greatness of God, Goodness, and Grace

Psalm 147:1-11, 20; Proverbs 12:10-21; Galatians 5:2-15

In Psalm 147 we read of the greatness of God, as we encounter the grandeur and wisdom of God. We also read of the Lord’s unfailing love and delight in his people. Throughout the Psalm we can see that we are made to live in praise of our most wonderful God who cares deeply for us.

In the verses in Proverbs 12 we read of the differences between the Righteous, the Wicked, Evildoers, and Fools. The Righteous are caring, honest, and truthful. Relationships matter to them. There are different ways of living and treating others, which we see in this passage.

Then in the Galatians text we see Paul arguing strongly that we are saved by faith and forgiven through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Old Testament circumcision is no longer needed in the church. There is no need to go backwards and depend upon the law to save.

The greatness of God is demonstrated in the grace of the Lord Jesus to us, which we hold onto by faith. This day I encourage you to rest in the greatness of God, seek to respond in gratitude by living the good life of faith, and grow in the grace of the Lord Jesus.

Prayer: Great and wonderful God we give you thanks for your unfailing love and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Help us through your Holy Spirit to grow in our faith and your righteousness and goodness. We make this prayer in Jesus’ name, Amen.

REWIND

Today’s Reading:  Click Here  –   Psalm 35:1-10; Numbers 22:22-28; 1 Corinthians 7:32-40   (to open the scripture links – hover over the highlighted areas, right click, open hyperlink)  

The scripture from Psalms today sure does raise an eyebrow for me.  I can absolutely relate to David’s harsh words, thought or spoken, against an enemy. So often, I say things that depict my hurt, frustration, anger and even visions of revenge.  Rage inside us can escalate and cloud our minds and impact our actions that we may later regret. That is why it is so important to examine how David’s actions are true characters of a Christian, one who walks with God, in the footsteps of Jesus and of those who went before us.  David calls upon God so often to deal with his enemies with extremely harsh and overstated pleas.  David’s heart was sincere.  He did not act on his words of rage, wrath, or revenge.  His words here were merely what he was feeling, a petition for God to step in, his suggestions on how God should handle the matter.

I think we all can admit, guilty as charge, that in our own moments of fear and rage, we scream out what we are feeling and what we would like to do.  And sometimes, that’s all we need, and we feel better.  But not always.  In those times, one of good faith would realize, vengeance is not worth the effort or consequence, and that God is in charge, our words are a faithful cry out to God who knows our hearts, to remove the thoughts and temptations from our midst, just as David had done. It is a good thing that God does know our heart, because when we are in a moment of anger and duress and such thoughts spew from our mouth and our heart,  we can embrace His mercy with the image of placing these words, feelings, temptations and impulses at the cross and walking away, letting God deal with them. It’s like a REWIND, a pass to start again. It’s MERCY! It’s the armor we wear everyday!

I got married in my late twenties, had my kids in my early thirties.  I can totally recall the pressure I felt to find the right guy, get married, have kids. Like it was a prewritten life plan.  I don’t even recall if it was MY life plan.  I didn’t know Jesus then, Had I, I often wonder how different my life would have turned out, the different choices I would have made. I love my husband, kids and life together and Jesus is a big part of it now, and I wouldn’t change a thing, but I do wonder.

Today’s 1st Corinthian passages pesuades me to REWIND, to imagine if I were single and had found Jesus then, how I could have served Him wholeheartedly without the strenuous interruptions of life and family.  I figure that it might have been much different but with its own level of challenges. I don’t know if I would  have had a different perspective and a clear plan for my life then,  but it certainly would have been an extraordinary opportunity to serve Christ committedly and with vibrant enthusiasm.

I am grateful that I now walk with Jesus and my heart is filled with compassion, excitement and determination to serve Him with all that I have.  I put Him in the center of my life and let Him lead and take the wheel so often.

I think what the scripture is saying here is, single or married, love, commitment and honor to God is the same, just with different challenges and underlying disruptions, and that he loves us none the less.

So REWIND your mind that is telling you otherwise, and fill it with the goodness of God!

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

‘Dear Younger Me’ by Mercy Me

‘Truth I’m Standing On’ by Leanna Crawford    

‘New Today’ by Micah Tyler

PRAYER

O Lord, how amazing are you; for you know me inside and out and my every thought before I even speak a word.  You seek and search me always, to guide my path and fight my battles. The depth of your love covers me and fills my heart. I love and serve you completely, this day and always. I pray this in my Saviors’ Holy name. Amen

 Kris

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