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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Author

craigfpj

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!

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.

Journey Inward, Journey Outward*

Psalm 46; Proverbs 8:1-21; Mark 3:13-19a

Each and every day we can give thanks for “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). We do not need to live in fear for the Lord is always near.

Furthermore, God is the source of all wisdom for us, more precious than silver or gold or rubies. “Nothing [we] desire can compare with her [God’s wisdom].” And in the New Testament we find that Christ Jesus crucified is the the power and wisdom of God. “but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God” (I Corinthians 1:24). The wisdom we read about, in Proverbs 8, is thought to be a precursor or representation of Jesus.

In Mark 3 we see again the importance of “God with us,” Jesus’ presence with his disciples. Jesus calls the disciples, why? Here we find two important reasons in verse 14, “that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach.”

This is important for all who follow Jesus. Jesus wants to be with us and desires to send us out into the world for his mission and vision of life. Thus we have two very important characteristics of what it means to follow Jesus right here in this verse: We are to take the Journey Inward, that is to be close to Jesus who wants to be near us, guide us, and speak into our lives. This is the journey of spirituality, being with Jesus. Next there is the Journey Outward, that is to be sent out into the world to share the love, hope, and words of Jesus with others. This is the journey of ministry and mission, in Jesus name.

I encourage you today to think about your walk with Jesus. Are you taking the Journey Inward, spending time with the Lord Jesus who wants to be with you? And are you taking the Journey Outward, spending time doing what Jesus wants in your world and area of influence?

We can describe the Christian life as the Journey Inward and the Journey Outward.

Prayer: Lord God, our refuge and strength, we are grateful you are near to us, our present help. We thank you for the Lord Jesus who calls us be with him and desires to speak into our lives. This day, help us to pause and listen to the Lord Jesus. May he, indeed, speak to us through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

*I am grateful to Elizabeth O’Connor for her book Journey Inward, Journey Outward. It’s a great read for insights on following Jesus and being a part of his Church.

Trust and Obedience

Psalm 86; I Samuel 15:10-31; Acts 5:1-11 (NIV)

In the prayer of David, Psalm 86, we find him expressing his utmost trust and dependence upon the Lord God. He asks God to answer his prayers for he is “poor and needy.” David depends on God for life, safety, and guidance. “Arrogant” and “ruthless people” are attacking him and trying to take his life. This could be about enemies within Israel or enemies outside the nation. We don’t know. Nevertheless, David holds on to God and lives by faith and trust in the Lord.

When we turn to King Saul in I Samuel 15:10-31 we find a King who is head strong and willful. Saul gets caught up in the moment, the experience of victory’ and does not listen to the Lord who wanted Israel to not bring back any spoil from the battle. However, they do bring back spoil and the Lord is upset with this personal aggrandizement and disobedience of a clear command. Saul was more interested in being a popular King than being an obedient servant in his role. The Kingdom is taken away from him and given to another. Samuel has to speak truth to power, telling Saul this sad news. Samuel stays up all night praying realizing that bringing such bad news to the King could be the end of his life. Yet Samuel trusts the Lord and does what God asked and is spared.

In Acts 5:1-11 we see another example of disobedience on the part of a couple, Ananias and Sapphira. As others in the church had done they sold a piece of land and brought the proceeds to the feet of the Apostles. However, they pretended to bring all of the proceeds while actually bringing only a part of the money. That would have been fine had they been honest about it and told the Apostles here’s a portion of the sale. But they wished to appear more generous than they were and enjoy the praise of the early church. Their deceit, dishonesty and pretended generosity, as we see in this story, were most serious. The early church needed people of integrity, real generosity, and faith and trust in the Lord to impact their world.

In every time, there are temptations to God’s people to go with what appears to be popular and easy in the moment. Sometimes fear overcomes faith, convenience replaces commitment, self-trust shuts out trust, and greed nullifies grace. We are all “poor and needy” people who need the mercy of God. We can always call on the Lord who is a “compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”

We can “Trust and Obey” as the old hymn says. Let’s trust the Lord in all things this day and always.

Prayer: Gracious, compassionate, and merciful God, look upon us with your favor and love this day. Empower us through your Holy Spirit to be faithful followers of Christ Jesus. We make this prayer in the Savior’s name, Amen.

By Faith- Updated

Psalm 69:1-5, 30-36; Genesis 17:1-13; Romans 4:1-12 (NIV)

We live by faith even in difficult times.

In Psalm 69, a Psalm of David, we read of a most trying and troubling time for the King. Enemies are seeking to destroy him and so he cries out to God, “Save me, O God…I sink…I have come into deep waters…I am worn out…”

This past year we have all been through deep waters and the beginning of 2021 is challenging as well. We too can cry out to the Lord and share our troubles and challenges knowing that we will be heard. The Psalm ends with the praise of God for many reasons and because, “The Lord hears the needy…” Here we find faith.

In Genesis 17 we find faith in God on the part of Abraham. Just as Abraham left his home (Genesis 12) to go to a land that God would show him, in faith, so here we see Abraham, in faith, accepting God’s covenant with him. By faith Abraham says yes to God’s covenant and promise of many descendants even though he and Sarah are growing older and they don’t even have a single child. In faith Abraham says yes to God.

Sometimes it is in faith that we say yes to God for a future we cannot see but only trust God to bring to fruition. The Lord holds the future and even in dark times we can rest in the loving arms of our Heavenly Father.

Finally, in Romans 4, Paul reminds us that, just like Abraham we are justified by faith. Abraham’s faith in God was credited to him as righteous. When we trust in the Lord Jesus, put our faith in him, the righteousness of Jesus is applied to our lives and all of our sins are forgiven. We are accepted and loved by God.

It is by faith that we live. We can trust the Lord Jesus to see us through this new year of 2021 in each and every moment.

Prayer: God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, we thank you for your saving grace and presence. Guide us this day and through this year and empower us to live by faith. We thank you for your amazing love shown us in the Lord Jesus, in whose name we pray, Amen.

By Faith

Psalm 69:1-5, 30-36; Genesis 17:1-13; Romans 4:1-12 (NIV)

We live by faith even in difficult times. In Psalm 69…

We Yearn for Better Days

Ecclesiastes 3:1-13, Psalm 8, Revelation 21:1-6 (NIV)

We yearn for better days ahead as we start this new year of 2021. Last year, in 2020, while there was ” a time for everything,…and every activity,” there was too much disappointment, discouragement, and death. The covid-19 pandemic has ta ken too many lives, closed so many businesses, evaporated a lot of jobs, and devastated many dreams. On top of this there was political unrest and polarization that is still with us.

We yearn for better days with more life than death, worthy and productive work, and more wholeness, unity of purpose, reconciliation, and worthy accomplishment. We yearn for more because God “has set eternity in the human heart.” We know more positive transformation and accomplishments are possible for as Psalm 8 indicates, “[God has] made them [us] a little lower than the angels and crowned them [us] with glory and honor.” As the footnote specifies other translations have, “You have made them a little lower than God…”

We are wonderfully made and through God’s strength and guidance so much is possible. That’s the promise of God who seeks to work in and through his people in human history. As we long for a better world we can pray for better people and better leaders through whom the Lord can accomplish what is good and right and true. A better world needs better people and we can start with ourselves. We can ask the Lord Jesus to work in and through us so we are transformed, that we might be a transformational presence for Christ Jesus in our corner the world.

Given the sorrow and suffering of 2020 we long for that day, we read of in Revelation 21, when Christ returns and God “will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” We serve a wonderful, loving and powerful God who is “making everything new!” May God renew us as we begin this new year.

Happy new year to you and know that the Lord is alive, present, and active in our lives and in our world for good.

Prayer: Good and gracious God work your will and way in our lives through your Holy Spirit and the presence and strength of the Lord Jesus. Grant that we may grow and flourish in Christ as each day unfolds in this new year. Bring healing from the pandemic, strength to endure, and new hope as we make our journey of faith in 2021. We make this prayer in Jesus’ name, Amen.

LIVE IN THE LIGHT

Isaiah 9:2-7 (NIV)

In dark, dark days, when the ‘Assyrian nation was sweeping through Israel in the North, (the nation is divided into Israel in the north and Judah to the south) God’s people in Judah are given a bright vision of hope. Isaiah provides this vision of light in one of the best known passages in the Bible.

First we read of a nation victorious as it emerges from war, in verses 2-5. God opens a new future for his people. There will be increased joy.

Then we read the remarkable prophecy of the child. “For to us a child is born.” This refers to Immanuel, God with us, mentioned in Chapter 7 of Isaiah. The child is the Messiah who will usher in an age of peace and righteousness, as we read in verse 7.

At the heart of this vision of light and hope, we learn of the divine qualities of the child, “And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

As Wonderful Counselor, he is all wise and counsels all those whom he loves, in the way of life. As Mighty God, he protects his people. As Everlasting Father, he cares for his followers. As Prince of Peace, he brings lasting peace.

We celebrate the birth of Christ Jesus, the Lord who is far greater than we can imagine or even fathom. This passage in Isaiah helps enlarge our understanding of just how great and wonderful Jesus truly is as our Savior. May you have a blessed, renewing, and meaningful Christmas celebrating the Savior.

Prayer: Amazing God, we thank you that even in dark, dark times you bring the light of your love and grace into our world. We are most grateful for the life, love, and light of Christ Jesus given to us and to all the world. Sustain us and all of your people through your Spirit and presence. Lift the darkness of the Pandemic and sorrow of all sin. We make this prayer in Jesus name, Amen.

“The Paradox of Blessedness”

Luke 1:39-45 (NIV)

“The Paradox of Blessedness” is a significant insight, which William Barclay writes about in his Commentary on the Gospel of Luke.

Mary visits her relative Elizabeth. Both are expecting an important child; Elizabeth, John the Baptist and Mary, Jesus. Led by the Holy Spirit Elizabeth speaks twice about Mary being blessed. We read, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! Then she says, Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!

What does it mean to be blessed in this sense? There is the tremendous joy of being the mother of the Son of God, Jesus, who brings God’s grace and salvation to all the world. There are many blessings in believing the Lord God. Yet there is also deep sorrow involved in faith. There is the suffering of Jesus dying on that cruel Roman cross. The calling of God is not an invitation to a life that is easy or comfortable. There is the cost of carrying the cross as one lives in faith. And so, faithful people experience great joy and profound sorrow.

Blessedness is both a joy and a challenge. Although there is a crown of glory, there is also a rugged cross. Angels announce Jesus birth, yet the Savior is born in a stable because there was no room in the inn. When Jesus calls us to follow him there is joy and purpose but there is also challenge and suffering as we become one with Christ Jesus. We see both in the Christmas story.

Prayer: Mighty and loving God, we thank you that you have blessed us in many, many ways through Christ. As we remember and are grateful for your blessings, help us to also endure the hardships and suffering, which come for all who seek to follow the Lord Jesus. We make this prayer in the suffering Savior’s name, Amen.

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