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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

A Life of Freedom

Today’s Readings:  click here  –  

Psalm 139:13-18; Genesis 33:1-17; Galatians 4:21-5:1                                              (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)

Opening with a passage from Psalm 139 today, captures some eloquent imagery of God’s astounding and unconditional love for us.  The fact that he knows our inner most being since before we were conceived in our mother’s womb… that right there fills my heart to overflowing measures.  My vision here, I see God saying ‘So here, now this is my child, they will call her Kris, whom I love dearly and have great plans for.’  (From the Late Greek name Χριστόφορος (Christophoros) meaning “bearing CHRIST”, derived from Χριστός (Christos) combined with φέρω (phero) meaning “to bear, to carry”. Early Christians used it as a metaphorical name, expressing that they carried Christ in their hearts).   Picturing and knowing this to be true, how can I not live my life according to His plans for me?  I think back of all my early years wandering and stumbling without knowing the love of my King and Savior, and think, ‘Dang, I sure did waste a whole lot of time… ‘. But God, in His all knowing and infamous ways, knew when I would embrace a life of love and freedom in His care.  He took care of me all those earlier years, I know it.  I look back and I see his mighty and powerful hand that saved me more times than I can count, and for this I give praise and thanks to my KING because I was created on PURPOSE for a PURPOSE.

The book of Genesis, is the first book of the bible, and rightly so. It lays the groundwork of  fundamental truths about God, His people, our ancestors, and history all in itself.  Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption and eternal life in heaven.  Here, we learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God’s chosen people.  Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis . Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains and depicts the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus and all the others to follow.  

Studying the beginning of chapter 33 today, Jacob has just left a miraculous encounter with God, which left him with a new name and a limp (Genesis 32).   When finally faced with meeting his estranged brother Esau, he is exceedingly surprised. Not sure what to expect, Esau runs to Jacob to hug and kiss him. They weep together. After meeting Jacob’s family, Esau tries to refuse Jacob’s enormous gift. Jacob insists, saying that seeing Esau’s face is as seeing the face of God. The bible isn’t really clear why, but  Jacob, refuses to travel back to Seir and instead journeys to Shechem.  This later sets up a tragic instance of assault and revenge, involving Jacob’s daughter, Dinah. (Bibleref.com)

Our study in Galatians today, expounds on the second of Paul’s exhortations to the Galatian believers.   Paul uses the story of Hagar and Sarah from Isaiah, in  Galatians v21-23, intently illustrates its meaning in v24-27, and in  V28-29 he applies it with exquisite clarity.  Then Paul ends with the exhortation –  V30-5:1

 (AMP)  ‘So then, believers, we [who are born again—reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, and set apart for His purpose] are not children of a slave woman [the natural], but of the free woman [the supernatural].   It was for this freedom that Christ set us free [completely liberating us]; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery [which you once removed].’

What a beautiful thing… the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. Our bond ransom paid in full. A love so amazing, we will never fully comprehend, but as long as our hearts belong to Christ, we have a purpose and a plan. Choose Jesus today, and everyday. Be  clothed in compassion and purpose and live free with eyes and heart wide open.

Enjoy a few songs – let them speak to your heart this day.

‘Far Too Wonderful (Psalm 13) by Shane & Shane

‘In the Beginning’ by Joel Payne

‘There Was Jesus’ by Zach Williams & Dolly Parton

Prayer:   Lord God, thank you for creating me, loving me, and guiding me.  Thank you for your Son Jesus whose death on the cross paid the ransom for my sins and to live in love and freedom.  My heart is filled with love and kindness because I know my future and plan for me. Thank you for a life with my Savior by my side.  Jesus Christ – I am who I am because of you.   AMEN!

Kris

Who’s Side Are You On?

Psalm 139:23-24, Isaiah 44:1-5, Hebrews 2:1-9

In this short passage from Psalm 139, David asks God to know his heart, test him, and lead him to everlasting life. This is a perfect, short prayer that could be prayed several times a day as a way to center ourselves and to remember who is captaining this ship. 

Isaiah 44 reminds us that Israel was God’s chosen people. And God will restore Israel in its time of need, just like the ground and meadows are restored with the rains. God will pour his spirit down on His people, and His people will praise His name. 

Hebrews 2 is a great reminder of why it is so important to pay attention to and remember the Gospel, that is Jesus, and the salvation we have through Him. We once were subjected to the Law of the Prophets and the just punishment doled out by the angels. But now we have Jesus. Now we have a new covenant. Now we are no longer slaves to the law, but instead have eternal salvation by grace through faith in Jesus. Jesus came in the flesh, lived and died a human death, so that we may live. 

Reflection

I think what ties these three passages together is the fact that we NEED God in our lives. We NEED Jesus in our lives. Apart from Him, we are nothing. But in Him, we can pray (continually), asking Him to know us and lead us to everlasting life. We NEED Him because He has the power to restore us when we falter. We NEED Him, because through him we have salvation. Through Him, we are no longer bound by the laws, but instead have been granted grace. 

With the turbulent times we are currently living in, I think it is important to not lose sight of what, or rather WHO, will get us through it. We are all so quick to take sides. Either you are for my side or you are for their side. There is no common ground. There is no collaboration or compromise. If you are not for us, then you are against us. At this time, as a nation, we really need that short prayer in Psalm 139. We need God to know and open our hearts, and we need to remember that God can restore our nation. We need to remember the grace received through Christ and be gracious to each other. The time for choosing sides needs to end. Sooner rather than later. 

You Are My Help

Psalms 42

I cry aloud to Jehovah

I ask for help from Jehovah

I complain

Tell Him my troubles

My spirit gets overwhelmed, yet Jehovah can see my path;

There are traps along the way

I look to the right (for righteousness) and no one is there

No one is looking out for my good, or cares about my soul

Many are on the left (for destruction) laying traps, hiding, waiting to attack

But You are my refuge, my safe house, my share in the land of the living

You hear my prayers

I am in great turmoil, hiding in a cave, being pursued and persecuted for no valid reason, falsely accused, and judged guilty based on the accusation alone. There is no evidence against me, all is a fabrication and lies. But there are too many of them, and they are too strong. Release me from this prison so I can give thanks to the name of Jehovah. Then the righteous will surround me. You, Jehovah, will reward my righteousness.

Matthew 13:10-17 Jesus: “when it comes to spiritual matters, only those who desire it it will be rewarded. To hear the truth of salvation, to hear the truth of the fall of man, the first Adam, and the redemption accomplished on the cross by the second Adam, Jesus, does in no way accomplish reconciliation. Only by hearing, accompanied by believing, with faith, does spiritual awareness come alive. Al those who desire to worship Jehovah must worship in spirit and in truth. This is a new awakening to understand that the Law of God merely reveals the sin in us, but in no way solves that problem. But what the Law could not do, the Son of God has done, canceling out the certificate of debt, consisting of decrees against us, having nailed it to the cross, and brought us the only way of salvation.”

“These are matters that the prophets of old desired to understand as they spoke the Words of God, saying them but not able to understand the full prophetic utterances.” Look at the prophet Balaam in Numbers 24:15 “The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, and The oracle of the man whose eye is opened, The oracle of him who hears the words of Jehovah, and Knows the knowledge of El Elyon,(God Most High), who sees the vision of El Gibon, (the Almighty), Falling down, yet having his eyes uncovered. “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come forth Jacob. A scepter shall arise from Israel, …. ” This is the Messianic portion of Balaam’s vision of which he had no idea of what it meant and yet he longed to understand it’s meaning.

The truth of the Word of God is what we depend on as it reveals who God is, and what He has done, and His love for us. In all times of trouble, chaos, and unequivocal evil that confronts us today we must cry out to Jehovah for strength, composure, peace, and help in our time of great need.

God cares!

Karl

A Prophetic Voice

Jeremiah 49

Review:  There are groups of people and individuals that are opposed to YHWH … This has been the case from the beginning of recorded history to the present hour … As such, YHWH opposes them … In our opening segment, God is opposed to the Ammonites (vv. 1-6), they will suffer destruction … Yet, “afterward” Ammon will be restored (v. 6) … This prophecy against Edom (vv. 7-22) is related to my previous blog on Jacob & Esau (Gen. 25-27) … Those of Edom are descendants of Esau … Recall Esau’s errors – the sale of his birthright (Gen. 25:27-43), his Hittite marriages (Gen. 26:33-34), and his wanting to kill Jacob (Gen. 27:41-46) … As Esau feuded with Jacob, proud Edom (v. 16) feuded with Judah and is judged as Sodom and Gomorrah were judged (vv. 17-18) … Damascus or Syria suffer against YHWH as the pains of a woman in labor, they will be fire purified (vv. 23-27) … The peoples of Kedar and Hazor (Bedouin nomads, not near Judah) will be taken out (vv. 28-33) by God’s servant Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 25:9) and the Chaldeans … Finally, the destruction of Elam (vv. 34-39) by “four winds” (v. 36) hints of their wide dispersion to the “four corners of the earth” … YHWH will become their king and will eventually restore them (v. 38-39).

Analysis:  Passages like these and others (cp. Isa. 8, 10:5-34, 14:18-23, Jer. 46-48, Ezek. 14:1-11, 26:1-14, 38-39, Joel 2:1-11, Nahum, Zeph. 2:4-15, etc.) are a blow to those believing our LORD doesn’t periodically (possibly He always does?) choose sides in disputes … One is left to ponder the annuals of history and decide for one’s self if the victors were circumstantial or YHWH supported … The Bible teaches the freeing of enslaved Israel from Egypt was by divine design (Ex. 1-14) … The sins of the vanquished are always the same: not believing they have any need or council from God, idolatry – trusting and worshipping the works of their hands, pride, and arrogance – believing they cannot lose regardless of what they attempt … Yet, the opportunity has always existed, and still does, to come to our LORD, who wants none to perish (2 Pet. 3:9).

 

Well Lit

Today’s Readings:  click here  –  Psalm 119:105-112; Deuteronomy 32:1-10; Romans 15:14-21                                                (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)

Our reading in Psalms 119 today, begins with verse 105, with words to a hymn that I fell in love with right from the beginning; ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path’.  It was one of the first Christian songs I would sing in the shower. Hearing this brings me right back to those early days of my faith journey and oh how I love to embrace those memories; a time when feeling new and alive was a spark to a forever flame.  Like many songs, hymns and scriptures, back then I didn’t quite understand their full meaning or how they would weave amid the fibers of my heart and soul. God’s word truly is the lamp within me and that lamp is the light on the path before me.  God’s light.  I began to embrace that light more and more, trusting it and calling upon Him as I would fill with God’s light and love through His word, song and prayer; changing me, and pouring out strength and confidence with His light upon my path.  

The word of God directs us in our work and way, and a dark place indeed the world would be without it. The commandment is a lamp kept burning with the oil of the Spirit, as a light to direct us in the choice of our way, and the steps we take in that way.

David continues that because of God’s goodness, he keeps his word and commandments in focus and close at heart.  It appears easy to see how we would want to always strive to live out God’s plan according to His will, word and His blessings. The hard part is that we are human and obscurities veil us, that keeping our eyes on the prize becomes somewhat demanding to remain focused on His love, grace, and mercy.   In the end, it is eternally rewarding.

Deuteronomy 32 is one of the many songs that were given by God to Moses to write. Here we listen and are reminded of Israel’s rebellion, and as a  witness to God for their rebellion. It begins divinely with God commanding the heavens and earth to listen to the words of His mouth, and in doing so His teaching and doctrine drops as the gentle and perfect rain. As we read and witness the authority written with every word, our hearts are cleansed and shaped to identify God’s mighty love and purpose for us. This in itself is comforting.

In Romans 15, Paul is reminding us the importance of being filled with the Holy Spirit and to share the GOOD NEWS of the Gospel, always, whenever and wherever we are. We  never know when we may cross paths with someone who has never heard such a message. Or possibly someone who carries excruciating heavy burdens and can see no way out; but hearing God’s message of His son Jesus and the salvation and freedom His love extends, could be life changing, life saving. We may never know how many lives are saved because we share the gospel, but what a feeling it leaves when we do.

So never pass up opportunities to speak God’s word, truth and love with others, either through word, prayer or actions. We have to trust that our works are God breathed. We set the foundation and He does the rest.  It’s like cleaning a dirty window so God’s light can shine and Jesus can take captive their heart.  That is the grandeur plan after all. 

Enjoy a few songs – let them speak to your heart this day.

‘Thy Word’ by Michael W. Smith & Amy Grant

‘Deuteronomy 32’ by Highpoint Worship  

‘Nobody’ by Casting Crowns

Prayer:   Lord Jesus, as we read and study scripture we know  you are the lamp within us that lights our path. Let us not lose sight of that and always be on our guard, ready to share the Good News of the freedom and salvation we have in you, Jesus. Keep our light bright, our path lit, our hearts attentive, and our eyes wide open. Come Lord Jesus, let your Holy Spirit fill us now and always.  AMEN!

Kris

Lamp

Psalm 119:105-112
Exodus 3:1-6
Romans 2:12-16

Today’s great because there are verses in each reading that really resonate with me and I want to share with you why they resonate with me and how they are still applicable today.

Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.

Though I constantly take my life in my hands,
I will not forgot your law.

Psalm 119:105 & 109

Light and dark are common themes in the Bible. To simplify it: The World (and all the sin that it has) is dark and the Lord (with all His Truth, Grace, and Mercy) is light.

The author here knows that the World is filled with darkness. Imagine walking down a dark hallway–you can’t see in front of you, behind you, or either side of you. Now imagine there was a suddenly light just enough for you to see the next step forward. So you step. Then another light shows you where to step next. On and on and on.

That’s what it’s like to have the Word as a lamp that guides you.

A little further down I love it because the author admits that he tries to take his life into his hands (and if you tell me you’ve never tried to control you’re life I am not afraid to call you a liar) and he knows taking his life into his own hands because he uses the the word “though.” So, despite the author trying to control his life, he cannot forget the laws of God and the Word of the Lord keeps guiding him–even when he wants to take a side step.

I know I’ve side-stepped; but because the Word of the Lord is tattooed on my heart and I belong to the Lord through Christ His bright light will always guide my path back to Him.

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground”

Exodus 3:5

There are a lot of ideas about bare feet when it comes to the Lord: we were created naked and so our feet were in constant contact with the earth, to go on holy ground the Old Testament men were to take off their sandals, and Jesus’s gift of washing feet requires the removal of sandals.

In my narrative English based brain what I see is a connection to God when we take off our shoes–a chance to experience what God wanted for us before sin entered.

It also reminds me of this spoken word, which you should listen to because it’s awesome.

The Romans verse needs to be read in full Romans 2 context to really understand what Paul is saying.

The main point of Romans 2 is declaring God’s grace, His lack of favoritism, and that because of Christ the Jew and the Gentile are equal. The beginning of Romans 2 reminds us not to judge others.

Many Blessings,
Karissa

Spring always comes after winter

Song of Songs 2:8-13; Genesis 29:1-13 (The Message)

Romans 3:21-31 (NIV)

Song of Songs 

One of the Books of Wisdom, Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon) is a poem of love between a man and a woman. In chapter 2, she speaks of her excitement for her lover’s return to her, and he invites her to come with him into the countryside. Springtime has arrived and love is in the air. 

Genesis 29

Jacob has come to the land of Paddan Aram, to land owned by a member of his family. He meets some shepherds who know Jacob’s uncle, Laban. As he is conversing with the men, he sees Rachel, who is Laban’s daughter, making her Jacob’s cousin. In perfect manly fashion, Jacob removes the stone covering the well by himself. Likely, this stone would have been very heavy and required at least a few men to move it. But Jacob, in his excitement to see Rachel, and probably to show off, removes the stone all by himself. 

Romans 3

What Paul writes here, I can imagine, would have been somewhat controversial in its time. Paul says that there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles. They are all one in Christ. But in that time period, the relationship between the Jews and Gentiles was pretty contentious. The Jews saw the Gentiles as being less, and the Gentiles saw the Jews the same way. There was definitely no equality between them socially or politically…or religiously. But through faith in Christ Jesus, that barrier that existed between them was torn down. There was no longer Jew nor Gentile. 

Reflection

As in the Song of Songs, after the dark and cold of winter comes spring and a rebirth of all things that grow. The same eventually will be true for the tumultuous time we are going through now. Covid-19, quarantine, racial tension, and political tension all have us in some pretty dark and difficult days. But this too shall pass eventually. Hopefully we will all learn from it and grow as a result. My hope is that we get to a point where opposing forces can finally come together, work together, collaborate, compromise, and come out better on the other side. But all of those things are tough, even for adults apparently, and so we face some growing pains. But just like in Paul’s letter to the Romans, and also seen in Galatians 3:28-29, there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free man, etc. etc., eventually we all have to get over ourselves and our ever-present need to be right while the other person is wrong. Eventually we need to see everyone as equal and one body in Christ Jesus. The phrase uttered hundreds of times in Game of Thrones was “Winter is coming,” and it was a long winter. Hopefully this winter proves to not last much longer. And when it finally has come to an end, there will once again be a spring, and a new beginning. And we will have learned from the mistakes of our past and grown together as a people. One nation, under God. 

A Messianic Prophecy

Song of Songs 2:8-13

Genesis 27:30-46

Romans 1:18-25

1 Corinthians 15:45-47

Romans 1:18-25 reveals that mankind in general has rejected the goodness, beauty, majesty, and power of Jehovah for a lie. All of nature has pointed man to this view of the goodness of Jehovah, but somehow we knew better and exchanged the truth for a lie. As in the beginning Adam chose the lies of Satan over the truth of Jehovah. 1 Corinthians 15:45 speaks of this in the comparison of the first man Adam and the second Adam, Jesus the Christ, who came to restore mankind through spiritual re-birth to the righteousness of God.

Genesis 27:30-46 tells of the story of Jacob and Esau, which again is addressed in 1 Corinthians 15:46-47 where Paul expands on the concept of the first and second Adam saying, “However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then comes the spiritual. The first man is from the earth, earthy; while the second man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy, and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.” Paul is describing the new life through Jesus Christ when we are born again, not of the flesh but the spirit.

Now concerning verse 1 Corinthians 15:46 the scripture reveals that, in fact, this is a Messianic prophecy, as in Mathew 20:16 Jesus said at the end of a parable about the kingdom of heaven, “so the last shall be first, and the first last.” And in Genesis 25:23 “The LORD said to Rebekah, ‘Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples will be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger.” So it was in the life of Esau and Jacob, where the older was to serve the younger, the first was to serve the last, the natural, earthy man was born first to serve the spiritual, heavenly chosen man, born last. So it was through out scripture, Aaron was the first born son and Moses was second born, but the first served the last. In the story of Abraham’s sons, the first born Ishmael, was the son of the flesh, the second born Isaac, was the son of promise. The first served the last. 1 Samuel 17:13 Jesse’s first born was Eliab, and his last born was David. David was the one who became King of Israel, and the first served the last. Even in the sons of Jacob, the older served the younger, though not as exacting, the younger son Joseph who was spiritually minded, was served by the older brothers who were earthly minded. These are in fact, Messianic, typical prophecies, meaning they are a type prophesy of the coming Savior.

When Jehovah goes to such intricate detail in the lives of His people, and the construction of the Scriptures, to reveal such detail, and exhibit such excruciating minutia in the creation of the universe, will He not also bring about the conclusion of the rebellion of Satan, and his minions, and the rebellion of mankind in like manner? In other words we can trust Jehovah to bring to a conclusion His salvation for those that love Him and serve the living God.

Since the rebellion of Adam and Eve there has been sin, turmoil, and strife on earth. As I was watching the History Channel the other day, they were discussing the great architecture of various empires from the Romans to the Chinese. As the different empires grew and expanded and built monuments and cities to their legacy, there were great engineering feats accomplished. In modern times we marvel at how it was done without electricity, hydraulics, steel, welding, or gasoline engines. The ugly truth is they did it through slave labor. People, the conquered people, were expendable. It was mentioned on the show that in Florence Italy where a great expansion was being planned, the the one thing that stood in the way were the rebellious citizens. So they gathered them together and killed them. Then all the others citizens were much more compliant and the work began. From the beginning of time there has been sin, turmoil, and strife on earth.

Only when Jesus returns, after the tribulation, will there be peace on earth.

Karl

A Typical History: Jacob & Esau

Genesis 27

Review:  Old Issac, nearly blind, tells his eldest son Esau to hunt down some game for a meal (vv. 1-4) … Issac’s wife Rebecca overhears and tells the youngest son Jacob to kill two choice young goats and she will stew them for Issac (vv. 5-9) … Jacob (means “crooked” in Hebrew) is to take said stew to his father for a blessing (v. 10) … Taking advantage of Issac’s dim vision, Rebecca stages Jacob to feed the stew to Issac and impersonate Esau physically (vv. 11-16) …  Jacob, acting the part of Esau, presents the stew and bread (vv. 17-20) … Rightly suspicious Issac attempts to verify the person of Esau by feel (vv. 21-26) and by smell (v. 27) … After the meal, Issac blesses Esau (really Jacob) telling him the riches of the earth and it’s people are at his control (vv. 27-29) … Esau, returning from his hunt, identifies himself to Issac (vv. 30-32) … Issac recognizes his erred blessing to Jacob (v. 33) … Esau laments his lost blessing (vv. 34-37), wanting one for himself (v. 38) … Issac tells Esau of his uneven future (vv. 39-40) … Esau hates Jacob to the point of wanting to murder him (v. 41) … Rebecca relays Esau’s intentions to Jacob, telling him to flee to brother Laban’s residence until Esau cools (vv. 42-45) … Weary Rebecca questions her future worth if Jacob weds a daughter of Hittite (v. 46).

Analysis:  For those believing the Bible not true to real life, refer them to Genesis 27 … Scandals and intrigue are a feature of our life, theirs too … Clearly both sons covet the value Issac’s blessing, rightly due to Esau … Rebecca plays the leading role in this scam (vv. 21-24) … Esau has a checkered past in selling his birthright to Jacob (Gen. 25:27-34), his multiple Hittite wives (Gen. 26:34-35), and in his wanting to kill Jacob (v. 41) … Jacob, the victor, did wrong … Esau, the vanquished, did more wrong … Such is history, winners and losers, neither are perfect, both sides are in the wrong to some degree (cp. Job 15:14, 25:4, Psalm 51:4, Rom. 3:9-20, Gal. 3:22, etc.) … It is a matter of faith (Heb. 11) to believe God sides with the “less wrong.”

An Aside:  I must relate my experience with blogging … I choose one passage around a  week before it’s date and begin to form my opinion of it … I do pray about it, questioning God what to do … A few days before, because I can’t type and think at the same time, I jot down on a piece of paper how to proceed … By the time I’m done, it’s nothing like I began … Might the Spirit be at work within even me?

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