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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Clothe Yourselves in Christ

Isaiah 2:1-5

Psalms 122

Romans 13:11-14

I’m going to add Matthew 24:36-44 to these three passages. Isaiah 2:1-5 and Psalm 122 are related to the second coming and the judgment of Israel. Romans 13:11-14 is about being prepared for when that time comes. I am adding the Matthew passage as a reminder that, although we may see the current times as headed toward apocalyptic times, Jesus himself said that even HE didn’t know the time, but only the Father. For the record, as crazy and out of control as the world seems now, keep in mind that in the Middle Ages, as the plague was ravaging all of Europe, killing 25% of the European population, people in those times thought that was the beginning of the end times. Yet, here we are about 800 years later. 

So, although we can see the signs all around us that COULD be pointing to the second coming, we don’t REALLY know. With that being said, so now what? If you ask me, whether or not the second coming is before I can post this blog entry, or 10,000 years from now, we should be following the advice Paul gives in Romans 13. “12b So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.”

Sometimes I (and probably most everyone) get that empty feeling inside. Some people get that feeling more than others. Some of those people fill that emptiness with sexual desire, drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc. Instead, we should be filling that “hole” with the love of Christ. Filling the hole with those other things is only a temporary fix, and often leaves you feeling worse afterwards. But filling that void with the Word is everlasting, so long as you believe it to be true. I leave you with one of my favorite, and most reassuring,  Jesus verses from Matthew 28:20b: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

Working Together With Him

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2 Corinthians 6.1

 

A fascinating passage in this Pauline epistle is Chapter 6 verse 1. “And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain.”  Very simply the context in which this is written is, the Greek believers in Corinth are struggling with what is acceptable behavior.  They have come to accept some blatantly wayward, fleshly concepts, that are unacceptable to God.  Just as in the church today, as time goes by the habits and culture of this world start to seep into the church.  Pre-marital sex, adulteries, pride, arrogance about the forgiveness of sin, grace being abused, alcohol being abused, tolerance for sin in general is rampant.  Paul addresses each issue and the pleads with the Church to be reconciled to God, to be brought back into harmony with God in His holiness, and purity.    2 Cor. 5.17 ” If any one is in Christ he is a new creation, the old things have passed away. behold all things are new.”  2 Cor.5.21 For ” He made Him who new no sin, to be sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

We, who are believers, are new creatures. and are made righteous, which includes holiness, and purity.  Then Paul declares that He is in partnership with Jehovah, the Creator and King of the Universe, working together with Him, and as we are being brought back into harmony with God: A. it is a privilege to be a part of God’s kingdom, “We are new creations,”  B. it is by desire to please Him that we serve completely, we are not along for the ride but on the team, C.  with integrity, and holiness we never discredit the ministry.

As believers in the Messiah of Israel, we are plugged into God’s grace, filled with His love, led by the Holy Spirit, sensitive to His leading, in communion with Him daily, and fed by His Word.

Galations 3.3 “Are you so foolish, having begun by the Spirit are you now being perfected by the flesh?”   I don’t think so, but let us be on guard to be aware that the world and the satan are constantly trying to infiltrate, deceive, confuse, and disrupt our lives both at home and in the church.  Ephesians 6.10 “Finally brethern be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might,” in this new Year.

With Love, Karl

Wickedness On The Earth

Genesis 6:1-7

Review & Analysis:  What we have is a history of the earth in it’s early development, of it’s population multiplication (vv. 1-2, cp. Gen. 1:26-31) … The LORD reveals impatience with mankind and their fallen nature, putting an upper age limit of 120 years on the lot of them (v. 3) … “Giants,” “sons of God,” “daughters of men” beget more kids (v. 4) … These giants, I don’t know … According to the Greek Mythology bit known as Gigantomachy, at the start of the earth, a battle was waged between the gods and giants or titians.  The vanquished giants were buried within the earth with Atlas condemned to supporting it along with the heavens, the new residence of the gods … The proof of this reality are the god related constellations of the night sky and earthquakes caused by the defeated titans that continue to rumble to the present day … Accounts parallel – Noah’s flood (Gen. 7-8, cp. Gilgamesh), that of the Persian king Cyrus (Isa. 44:21-28, 45:1-4, cp. Dan. 6:28, 10:1, 2 Chron. 36:22-23, Ezra 1, Herodotus) come to mind to start, to those in our Bible indicate it’s telling was not in isolation but is an integral part of world history … The wickedness and evil of mankind was evident everywhere, at all times, from the LORD’s viewpoint.  He expresses sorrow for His land and sky mobile creations and decides to destroy them,  all the animals, and all the birds (vv. 5-7) … That it all went so terribly wrong was not surprising to an omniscient God … The expression of remorse can be understood from the perspective of a parent knowing in advance their offspring are headed for an tumble before they actually fall … Not all premonitions are beneficial or comforting … We have passages like this in our Bible to serve as examples (cp. 1 Cor. 10:11-15, 2 Pet. 2:1-14, Jude 5-7 ) of what happens when we take leave of the precepts and values God has awarded  us … The Bible is the most complete book ever penned … Complete and truthful … Happy New Decade!

The Gift of Grace

Psalm 122 (NIV), Daniel 9:15-19 (NIV)James 4:1-10 (NIV)

In Psalm 122, David writes of the joy of going to the house of the Lord to worship and pray.  The prayer is one for peace; the shalom, the well-being, the wholeness and peace of God for Jerusalem, and thus for all of Israel.  Part of this peace is peace with God, which includes forgiveness.

In Daniel we find the prophet praying, asking God to forgive Israel for her sins and to return his people to their homeland from captivity; and “your city” in the prayer is Jerusalem. “ Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”

In James, we read about sinful desires and actions that are a result, which hold people captive to sin.  How to avoid these sins?  James writes, “Submit to God,” depend on God’s “grace,” and “come near to God…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”  We find that God favors the one who is humble and confesses.  God lifts them up from their sin and failures.

We can give thanks for the grace and forgiveness the Lord showers upon us.  Paul writes, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2)

As 2019 draws to a close and 2020 is about to begin, we can be grateful for the gift of forgiveness in the Lord Jesus, our Savior.  That’s Good News any day of the year!

Craig Herr

Fourth Saturday of Advent – December 28

Fourth Saturday of Advent – December 28

FOUND

Isaiah 65:1  I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was FOUND by those who did not seek me.  To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, “Here am I, Here am I”.

This word , ‘FOUND’,  has been my very foothold from the beginning.  When Jesus revealed himself to me,  He found me when I did not realize I needed finding.

When I think of how my life changed, I can’t even begin to put it into words. What does come to mind is this:

I recently adopted my Sweet Mazie-Grace from the shelter. She was found as a stray and was a complete mess.  They cleaned her up, helped  her to get  stronger and healthy, then  prayed for a FUR-Ever home for her.  I fell in love the minute I held her and knew I could, and would give her a good home with unconditional love and TLC, a life I don’t think she ever had.   Mazie-Grace was so afraid of everything and everyone, including her own shadow.  She slowly began to trust me.  Everyday she reveals a little bit more of herself as she learns a new life and to trust a little more.  She is making new discoveries everyday.  We are well on our way to a beautiful relationship.

That is pretty much how it was for me… Jesus RESCUED me. I was lost and wandering.  He brought me in, cleaned me up from the inside out.  I found my place in His house (Church)  with friends to do life with that soon became family. I  began to see life  around me change as I felt my heart stirring and my mind seeking. It was a transformation from the inside out.   I discovered peace and purpose that I never knew.  His patience with me never wavered and everyday was a NEW day to encounter His unconditional love and TLC. I was and continue to make new discoveries everyday  of God’s amazing love and Jesus’s saving grace. I am well on my way to a beautiful relationship!

Today, I am grateful to have been FOUND, to have been SAVED!  To live each day in a relationship with my Lord Jesus, with my heart and eyes wide open, I  see His amazing grace at work all around me. He is my strength when I am weak (2 Corinthians 12:9) my assurance when I worry,   (Matthew 6:25-26),  my light in the darkness,  (John 12:46), my grace when I mess up, (Lamentations 3:22-23), my hope when all seems lost (1 Peter 5:10) a heart of prayer (James 5:15) and my rock and salvation for eternity (Romans 8:38).

I can relate to how Mazie-Grace is experiencing a new life of love and each day is a new day, a beautiful day because we have been FOUND!

 

Prayer:   Lord, how amazing in your love for me. I am grateful for your presence in my life. Help me to stay close to you. Thank you for a life of hope through our relationship together. I feel you near me always. Let me never doubt your love for me.  My heart knows peace because I have been FOUND.   AMEN!

Kris

Our Perfect King

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

As Americans, the idea of a king is far away. We may see and follow stories of the Royal Wedding in England–but even that is distant.

And with that distance we lose a lot of the importance in saying Jesus is King.

Quick run down of some Old Testament history: The Jewish people flourish in Egypt and then become slaves, they are freed by Moses. Moses’s brother, Aaron, becomes the first Priest and his family becomes priests. The people need more help than Moses and the priests can give. That’s when we get Judges (shoutout to Deborah!) and when the judges weren’t enough they cried out for a king. They had some crummy kings.

Then King David came.

He was a mess, but he loved the Lord and everyone loved him.

A king was something desired. A king was someone who led and protected his people.

But kings are human and they disappoint. They hurt (even the beloved David hurt a lot of people).

So when Jesus came, the perfect King, it was a big deal.

He is selfless, He is caring, He is fearless, He will suffer on our behalf. He is everything you could dream of in a leader and a friend and He is our King.

Let the awe that the ruler of our lives is that amazing. That we have a King who truly, whole-heartedly, and selflessly loves us.

Blessings,
Karissa

Go and See

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Luke 2: 15 (8-15 actually)

Once again, we see a time when God came to regular, everyday, blue collar people with whom He shared His message. To me, it’s interesting that God chose shepherds as one of the first groups of people not named Mary & Joseph to bring to the birth scene. 

I think about the birth of both of my boys, and the first people we made sure came to see them were the grandparents, aunts and uncles, some close friends, and our beloved First Pres pastors. I think it would have been strange for us to have gone down to, let’s say, the local public works people (which would have been Bolingbrook & New Lenox respectively) to come see them first. Like, hey, you men and women do an important job for this town, come and see this new child that has been born. That would have just been weird. 

But God has a different way of doing things. He does extraordinary things through ordinary people. And he reveals his message to and through the same ordinary people. To add further, the people that the angels went to were shepherds, who were charged with keeping their flocks safe from the dangers of the world. Later, in Jesus’ ministry, he used the imagery of shepherds caring for their flocks as parables on more than one occasion. For example, see John 10:27. Just like shepherds knew each and every member of their flock and their flocks knew the shepherd’s voice, the same is true for our relationship with God. 

So the calling on ordinary people is important, but there is one more important part of this story. Not only the calling, but also the response. The shepherds could have responded by saying something like “man, we really need to lay off the wine.” The could have just ignored the whole thing and gone about their day (or night) and not gone to Bethlehem. Instead, their response was “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 

In the same way, God calls on us to be His witnesses. We always have two choices. Go on with our lives and ignore the call. Or we can “Go and see.” My prayer for all of us is that we recognize the call and respond with “Let us go and see this thing that has happened.” 

Merry Christmas to all of you. 

John 1.14

 

John 1.14   “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  The Word as identified here is Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, as stated earlier in this chapter, “the Word was with God and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.”  Jesus was not created by God, but was in fact God.  As the scriptures teach, we worship a Triune God, who is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Jesus who came in the form of man, in the flesh, according to Philippians 2.6-8 “although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance of a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  This is also known as the humility of Christ, as He humbled Himself to be born of a woman, and then humbled Himself to die, even the humiliating death of a sinner, a criminals death on a cross.

This is a perplexing concept that the immortal could become mortal, and that the immortal then could somehow die.  This a part of the mystery that the angels longed to look into, how can it be?  But we know from scripture that it did happen, the Christ was born of humble means and lived without sin, though tempted in all ways as we are, yet without falling into sin.  Therefore He can sympathize with us who do fall into sin, He understands the temptations we face, and He cares.

John then says that, ” we beheld His glory,” John saw it with Peter, and James on the Mount of transfiguration, Matt.17.2.   Jesus glowed, He outshined everything imaginable, shining like the sun and these three guys saw it and wrote about it, 2 Peter 16-18 .  There was no question that He was the Son of God.  In addition to the miracles and healings that they witnessed Jesus doing, they saw Him Glorified.

And full of Grace and truth.  Love is the enduring attribute of God that drew up the plan for the salvation of man.  John 3.16 ” For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son.”  Grace is the enabling attribute of God that brought it down to man. Ephesians 2.8 “For by grace you have been saved  through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”  Grace is a gift, it takes on many forms, and is the blessings of all the wealth of God in the heavenlies, at our disposal, for our use in righteousness.   John 1.16  Jesus was full of grace and truth, and ” of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.”  This statement is made for us to realize that we can never run out of grace.  It is endless, the coffers in God’s storehouse are full and all we must do is call upon Him and He freely gives us His grace.  In a builders world Love is the blueprint, and Grace is the building of the structure.  God’s love sent Jesus, full of grace to implement the workings of salvation.  Then He left the Spirit to lead us, and be our advocate, and gave us a storehouse of grace as often as we need, for our use.

We serve a Living God who provides for us everything.

Karl

A New Testament Psalm

Luke 1:67-80

Review & Commentary:  Previously, this priest Zachariah was muted by the angel Gabriel until his wife Elizabeth, both of them well advanced in years, gives birth to John the Baptist (Luke 1:5-20, 57-66) … Zachariah, driven by the Spirit, lets fly reviewing the experience of Israel (v. 67) … His visiting, His salvation, His prophets, their enemies, His covenants, His holiness, His righteousness (vv. 68-75) … Zachariah’s newborn son is addressed saying John will be His prophet, will prepare His ways, will impart knowledge of His salvation (vv. 76-77), God is rich in mercy, wanting to be known (v. 78), to guide and help humankind (v. 79) … John grew up (v. 80) … God’s experience with human beings and vice versa are virtually identical in both the New & Old Testaments and up to the present hour … This isn’t terribly surprising; the basic nature of human beings remains constant, as is the constancy of God (Ps. 55:19, 102:27, Mal. 3:6, Heb. 13:8) … Promises made, promises kept … Have a blessed Christmas, one and all.

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