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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Leadership and the Church

Psalm 74   1 Chronicles 1-3  1 Corinthians 3

Leadership is one of the most talked about things these days. The lack of leadership or great leadership, the struggle and the small victories of a leader are making the rounds in the media. Leadership is key to the culture of a company.  Just recently CEO of Starbucks announced that he will hand over his position to focus on others projects and that raised a few concerns with all the Starbucks fans. I am sure the coffee will be just as strong and your cappuccino will be just as sweet. But the idea of a change of leadership causes anxiety.

The church is no different and not exempt from anxiety and strife. Paul addresses the church in Corinth, with some very strong words, basically telling them to stop acting like children and understand the heart of God regarding the Gospel. I had laid the foundation but someone else will build upon it, someone else will plant and someone else will harvest. And with all that, there is no need for division and strife. Because the call we are called too is so much bigger than one person.

We all are working together in the same vineyard, and that should bring us joy. So today I want to encourage you to pray for spirit lead leadership and unity in the church. Pray for churches across the land to cling to the heart of Jesus for their vision and ministry, pray that each one of us can step out in faith and plant the seed of God’s forgiveness and grace in this world.

Be Blessed,

Bo M.

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Sunday Reflection: God as Center

In the world of Church, there is a common phrase used by many…Christ-centered life.  Our mission statement says we are servants of Jesus Christ.  We have servant values that hang on the walls of our sanctuary (Spirit-filled, Empathy, Renewal, Visibly seeking out, All-together, Nearing God, Teaching, Submission).  All good things…right?But, Christ-centered is always easier to talk about than live…isn’t it?  I was reading a blog post by Paul Tripp who got me thinking this would be a good source for today’s reflection post – he poses the question about how we live our lives in relation to Jesus.  So, today, as you think about this common phrase ask yourself the following questions in relation to living a Christ-centered life:

  1. Is Jesus the source of everything you are…all day, every day?
  2. Is there room for Jesus in your Christianity (meaning, does the person of Jesus define your faith or is it squeezed out by tradition, sentimentality, pride, etc.)?
  3. In everything you do, does Jesus always get the glory?
  4. Is Jesus your hope both for today and eternity?

Tough questions…and I, for one, have a lot of work to do.  But these questions, cause me to stop and think…blessings to you today as you ponder them as well.


This Coming Week’s Readings:

6/11/18 1 Chronicles 1-3 Psalm 74 1 Corinthians 3 Bo
6/12/18 1 Chronicles 4-6 Job 15 1 Corinthians 4 Karissa
6/13/18 1 Chronicles 7-9 Psalm 75 1 Corinthians 5 Dale
6/14/18 1 Chronicles 10-12 Job 16 1 Corinthians 6 Don B.
6/15/18 1 Chronicles 13-15 Psalm 76 1 Corinthians 7 Craig R.
6/16/18 1 Chronicles 16-18 Job 17 1 Corinthians 8 Karl

Forget Me Not

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2 Kings 24-25; Job 14; 1 Corinthians 2 (NIV)

2 Kings 24-25; Job 14; 1 Corinthians 2 (The Message)

2 Kings 24-25

Here, we read about 3 kings of Judah: Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, & Zedekiah. Each of them did evil in the eyes of the Lord. Each of these three kings ruled at Jerusalem during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar, who was king of Babylon.

Job 14

Job is lamenting of his troubled recent history. He is crying out to God, asking why God makes people suffer so much. I’ve included The Message translations above. In one verse in this translation, Job says to God, “So why not give us a break? Ease up! Even ditchdiggers get occasional days off.” As he continues, Job is asking for God to remove these troubled times from him. Job KNOWS God is the only one who can make the trouble go away and restore him to a time when life was better. Job knows that when that time comes, God will watch over him each and every day, but not count his sins.

1 Corinthians 2

Paul speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit amongst the people of Corinth, work that still is being done to this day. When Paul and the people who accompanied him there first came to Corinth, they kept their teachings simple, only talking about who Jesus is and what he did. They didn’t speak in fancy theological terms in order to impress the Corinthian people in to following Jesus. To do so would have been to use human nature to try to bring people to Jesus, which would be futile. Rather, they allowed their simple message, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to work in the Corinthian people. Once they become more mature in their spiritual journey, then more specific theology can be taught to them. But, in the end, it is only by the Holy Spirit that they can and will continue on this journey.

Reflection

Doesn’t this passage from 2 Kings ring so true today? We have leaders around the world who struggle to be good leaders, and are often unsuccessful at being good leaders. Why is that the case? Because they, like the rulers of 2 Kings, are probably trying to do too much on their own, without seeking guidance from God. We worship a God who is always faithful to us…as long as we remain faithful in HIM! But, I truly believe, that he doesn’t pay us as much attention when we leave him out of our lives. In my search of this, I found a passage in 2 Chronicles 16:7-9. Here is a small part of those verses: “Yet when you relied on the Lord, he delivered them into your hand. 9 For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.”

Job’s situation went from bad to worse to nearly impossible to face, and the bad times seemed relentless. But Job knew very well that only God could deliver him from his difficulties. So he stated that he would continue to wait on Him. At that time when God called on him, he would be ready to answer. Despite all of the terrible things that happened to Job in such a short time, he continued to maintain his faith on God.

Paul knew exactly what he was doing when he visited each of the places where he started new churches. He didn’t go in like a professor from Oxford, using big fancy words to try to impress. He didn’t pull out all of his framed diplomas, or make mention of his accolades that were accumulated in his lifetime. Rather, he met people where they were at. He kept his message simple. In the education world, teachers are successful only if they are willing to meet students where they are at and build them up from there. I can’t teach my students quantum physics if they don’t first understand the basics of physics. In the same way, people aren’t going to become followers of a religion they don’t understand by starting them with the advanced class.

So, may you always remember that you won’t be successful in you life on your own. You NEED God in your life. To live any differently would be to be like the rulers of 2 Kings. We all will falter and fall away from time to time, but as long as we keep coming back, God will always be waiting. Job knew this. Even though he struggled, he still came back to God, and in due time, God restored him. And we don’t have to dazzle others and rub our religion in their faces. I truly believe that if we are going to be true evangelizers, we need to do so by acting out of love and kindness first, and then once people recognize that we are genuine, they might listen more about who this Jesus character is and what he is about.

Blessed are the Pure in Heart

Pick_up_your_Cross

2 Kings 21-23

Psalms 73

1 Corinthians 1

Matthew 5.8   In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus declares , “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  Now it is well understood in Christianity that the beatitudes are characteristic of the change that has occurred in one who has been saved, a believer in Jesus, rather than a list to achieve.  In the Psalms 73 passage verse 1 says that God is good to those who are pure in heart. Then Asaph goes on to compare the wicked, to the righteous man.  Why do the wicked prosper, why do they grow fat and die in wealth without pain, why do they pleasure in the calamity of those whom they oppress?  Well I pondered this, says Asaph, until I came into the house of the LORD.  There I saw the wicked mans end, it was destruction.  To live righteously is better than wickedness, to achieve heavens goal, is far superior to hell’s destruction.  Our God is the strength of our heart, the nearness of God is my good, I have made the LORD God my refuge.

1 Corinthians 1,  Paul writing to the Greek believers in Corinth as usual starts by offering them grace and peace from God, who saved them when they heard and believed the truth of the good news of Jesus. He then goes on to describe the purity of the wisdom of God in choosing the simple, almost ridiculous concept of the cross.  Who in their wisdom could imagine that to win a battle you must die?  To gain victory you must perceivably lose?  The Jewish religious leaders asked always for a sign, a proof, a miracle, to again prove the validity of the claims of Jesus, the anointed one, the Messiah.  He couldn’t do enough miracles, they wanted more because it was not believable to them, even when He was raised from the dead!  The Greeks wanted wisdom, always pondering and questioning, they had a hard time reasoning the concept of giving to gain, the foolishness of the cross was indeed difficult to grasp.  Yet that was the very wisdom of God, as in 2 Kings 21.13, God says “I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down.”  Psalms 73.21-22, ” When my heart was embittered and I was pierced within, then I was senseless and ignorant, I was like a beast before You,… You have taken me by the right hand, ( the hand of righteousness,) and with Your counsel You will guide me, and afterward receive me to glory.”

The purity and beauty of the cross of Jesus, the wisdom of God which confounds the wisdom of man, the simple truth that God indeed loves us, the grace which brought that truth home to us, is almost more than we can grasp.  There is a spiritual world all around us, the physical world is not all that exists.  God lives in the spiritual world, He is Spirit and those that worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.  Indeed, blessed are the pure in heart, those that see beyond the physical, for they surely shall see God.

Karl

RE: Hezekiah

2 Kings 19-20     Job 13     Romans 16

Review:  King Hezekiah consults with his Temple clergy, including the prophet Isaiah, and prays (19:1-5)…The LORD replies through Isaiah (19:6-7)…Assyria lays siege to Jerusalem and send a written letter Hezekiah to that effect (19:8-13)…Hezekiah prays for deliverance (19:14-19)…Through Isaiah, the LORD refutes King Sennacherib of Assyria’s arrogant claims (19:20-28) assuring Hezekiah by way of the vineyard sign of future security (19:29-31) and salvation from their present situation (19:32-34)…One night, an Angel of the LORD destroys the Assyrian army (19:35)…Back home in Assyria, Sennacherib is assassinated by his son’s (19:36-37)…Hezekiah becomes gravely ill (20:1) and prays about it (20:2-3)…Isaiah reports to Hezekiah that his life will be extended and Jerusalem safety is assured (20:4-11)…Hezekiah is visited by the King of Babylon and openly displays his crown’s jewels to him (20:12-13) and is informed of future trouble because of it by Isaiah (20:14-19)…Hezekiah dies (20:20-21).

Analysis:  Previously, Assyria has captured all the northern Israel tribes; Judah stands alone (2 Kings 18)…I find Hezekiah’s reaction to the serious trouble he and his country is in to be in line with what anyone would do – he pray’s for help beyond himself…It is curious that the LORD doesn’t directly reply to Hezekiah’s prayers, instead answers by way of Isaiah (19:6-7, 21-34)…Any ideas why?…Sennacherib’s demise in Assyria by way of the sword (19:36-37) was prophetically predicted by Isaiah (19:6-7)…Hezekiah’s illness was some form of melanoma (20:7)…Hezekiah’s requests and receives a security sign from God regarding his illness (20:8-11).  This is such a human response, given our frail faith…The retreating shadow on the sundial (20:8-11) is symbolic of the LORD’s allotment of additional time to Hezekiah’s lifespan…It’s not clear why Hezehiah shows his riches to the King of Babylon (20:12-13), gets reprimanded for it by Isaiah (20:14-18), and reply’s saying “it won’t be a problem for me.”…This failing is a case study of the decisions of the current government of Judah leading to big problems for the future government of Judah, that is its captivity to Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon (2 Kings 24-25) roughly 100 years later…That said, on the whole, Hezekiah while not perfect was still good for Judah …In many respects the game of chess, with its little piece moves which lead to ultimate victory or defeat, nicely reflect the game of life…Little acorns as is said…Speaking of parallel’s – those relating to the financing of the State of Illinois’ pension obligation choices are glaring me in the face.

A God of Hope…

Today, our guest blogger is Todd Garrison!!

Today’s Readings (all 1 link): 2 Kings 16-18; Psalm 72; Romans 15

When reading 2 Kings, we read about the evil kings such as King Ahaz. He is seen as one of the worst kings of Judah. He burned his son as a sacrifice, took silver and gold from the House of the Lord. He was an idolater and embezzler. We then read that Israel is conqured and exiled by Assyria. The people of Israel did things that were not right secretly against the Lord. The Lord was angry with Israel, removed them out of His sight. None was left but the tribe of Judah.

In Chapter 18 we read about King Hezekiah the son of Ahaz. Hezekiah did what was right. He trusted the God of Israel. He destroyed idolatry and rebelled against Assyria and fought the Philistines. We also read of Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah and of Rabshakeh’s blasphemies.

Psalm 72– David begins with a prayer for Solomon, a prayer of a father for his child, hoping that the wisdom of God might be in him. This is considered a prophecy of the Kingdom of God to bless God in Christ and submit to Christ’s authority like David. The Psalm shows the goodness and glory of God’s Kingdom.

Romans 15–Paul wants all Romans to live in harmony together and to glorify God together without worry about differences. Christ is with all: Jews, Gentiles and Christians. He encourages us to help those who have a weaker faith, to encourage our neighbors for things good. Paul then plans a visit to Rome. He asks that others pray to God for him to be kept safe from unbelievers.

When we see the struggles of the early church over the many years we can see the God of Hope, then and now. We see His care and concern for others. In our own personal struggles we can see how those of the past were able to survive with God’s Hope, Love and Mercy. We pray to be like-mind of Hezekiah, David and Paul. Help us to do what is right. Amen.

One mission…

Today’s Passages (1 Link): 2 Kings 14-15; Job 12; Romans 14

As you read today’s passages, I’d like you to think about the idea of how we work God’s to what God would have each of do both as individuals as well as united together…

2 Kings 14-15:  Sometime when reading the Old Testament – especially 1 and 2 King, it is easy to get lost in all of the details provided.  Since many may be reading these passages for the first time, I would draw you to two particular phrases that often occur…1) “He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” and, 2) “He did what was right in the sight of the Lord”.  Then what follows is descriptive information about the phrase itself.  Today, for example one of the kings we find out about is Amazaiah  who did what was right in the sight of the Lord…he is compared to his father Joash and King David.  Here though, there is an asterisk just like the other kings in today’s passages that also did right.  While they did right, they left some things undone and we see the consequences.  Failure to eradicate the pagan shrines and idols was an issue then and yet today.  God doesn’t just want some of us – he wants all of us…to put him first in all areas of life.

Job 12:  As Job answer’s Zophar’s argument he does so with great sarcasm punctuated by the fact that his friends did not need to explain God to him.  The point that job is making and in a way related to the 2 Kings passage is the notion that no one, especially a leader, has any real wisdom apart from God.  The world cannot provide wisdom that is better than God’s.

Romans 14:  Paul moves to relationships between other believers – other Christians…specifically with an emphasis on harmonious relationships within the family of God.  Paul’s point here is that believers are accountable to Christ – not others.  While it is tempting to judge others for any number of reasons – many of them very good and reasonable in our own minds, the reality is that in so doing we demonstrate a weak faith.  One Christian is not above another as his judge; all are equally under Christ.  Instead, Paul says, if a Christian is going to judge then judge himself in order to to be a stumbling block to others.

A good summary for today would be:  everything you and I do affects someone else and others collectively.  God created us to be INTER-dependent, not independent – working together for his good.  Should you have a faith that is strong then, without pride and arrogance, treat others with love and patience…helping them to grow in their faith and, together, building up the body of Christ…doing what is right in the sight of the Lord!

 

 

Monday Morning Meditation

2 Kings 11-13
Psalm 71
Romans 13

Happy Monday!

This morning, as you are on your way to work or enjoying your morning cup of coffee, I want you all to meditate specifically on Psalm 71.

The Book of Psalms is filled with prayers written by David, a man after God’s own heart. Despite his lowly beginnings (I heard a theory once that said David might have been an illegitimate child and that’s why he was in the field when God called upon him, which was a huge societal setback then) and his adultery with Bathsheba he was still a beloved of God.

This truth is yours as well.

Remember, there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God.

This morning I challenge you to answer a few questions in a journaling exercise or even as a conversation with God.

What was your faith like as a child? Is this a place you want to go back to? (v.5)

Do you find your hope in God and thus praise Him all the more? (v. 14)

Do you give glory to God for all your goodness: traits, deeds you did with the heart He gave you, or your means? (v. 16)

Did your answers match up with what you want them to say? Give glory to God today for who you are because you are right where He always knew you would be. Keep chasing God, brothers and sisters.

My favorite prayer currently is a simply one. God, please make my heart’s desires align with yours. 

What are you praying for these days?

If you are looking to explore the psalms more and enrich your prayer life I encourage you to check out this devotional by Tim Keller:  The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms

Many blessings, my church family.
Karissa

 

Sunday Reflection: God as Restorer

What do you do when trouble strikes you?  When things just don’t seem to be going your way?  How many times have you heard…well, there are people far worse off than you.  Or, how many times have you said…you, there are others in greater need.

King David had been king for a long time.  He also had a few issues in his past – remember Bathsheba?  David saw her and well, you know.  He ordered the death of Bathsheba’s husband and Nathan, the prophet called him out on it.  To say that family life for David wasn’t quite the same would be an understatement.  Absalom, David’s son, kills David’s oldest son, Amnon (for raping his half-sister Tamar).  As a result, Absalom flees into exile.  David refused to see or talk with Absalom for 2 years.  Absalom’s resentment toward David grew until he came to the conclusion he would be a better king than his father David.  David flees in order to survive.

What do you do when life falls apart?  David wrote Psalm 3…

Psalm 3

A psalm of David, regarding the time David fled from his son Absalom.

O Lord, I have so many enemies;
    so many are against me.
So many are saying,
    “God will never rescue him!” Interlude[a]

But you, O Lord, are a shield around me;
    you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
I cried out to the Lord,
    and he answered me from his holy mountain.

I lay down and slept,
    yet I woke up in safety,
    for the Lord was watching over me.
I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies
    who surround me on every side.

Arise, O Lord!
    Rescue me, my God!
Slap all my enemies in the face!
    Shatter the teeth of the wicked!
Victory comes from you, O Lord.
    May you bless your people.


This Week’s Readings:

6/4/18 2 Kings 11-13 Psalm 71 Romans 13 Karissa
6/5/18 2 Kings 14-15 Job 12 Romans 14 Dale
6/6/18 2 Kings 16-18 Psalm 72 Romans 15 Todd
6/7/18 2 Kings 19-20 Job 13 Romans 16 Craig R.
6/8/18 2 Kings 21-23 Psalm 73 1 Corinthians 1 Karl
6/9/18 2 Kings 24-25 Job 14 1 Corinthians 2 Matt

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