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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Spiritual Understanding

Psalm 110

Proverbs 22:1-9

Luke 6: 27-31

Psalm 110 As we look at this psalm of David in our English translations it is more unclear than the Hebrew texts, which were somewhat unclear themselves, thus confusing even the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus day. Matthew 22:41-46, Mark 12:35-37, and Luke 41-44 all describe an event Jesus had with the scribes concerning this Psalm. (According to BHS Westminster Hebrew morphology, and Ginsburg edition of Masorah, pp.105-15 There are two words of similarity concerning Deity which are Adoni and Adonay, the former being a ‘master’ or ‘Lord’ in KJV English terms, the latter being substituted for YHVH, or LORD in KJV English terms.) The Psalm of David states in verse 1, “YHVH says to my Adoni, (a master) “Sit at my right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for your feet.” Thus a reference to Messiah, then in verse 4 the text says, “YHVH has sworn and will not change His Mind, ‘You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.”‘ 5. “Adonay is at YVHV’s right hand; He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath. He will judge among the nations,…” The point here being the scribes could not understand that Messiah could be a mortal man, and God also. David in this psalm under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit reveals that Messiah, (Jesus) would 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 passages like this from which we understand God in three persons, the Trinity. Jesus posed this passage to the sages of His day, who if under the leading of the Holy Spirit could understand, a Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but if not, they could not. Jesus is both Adoni and Adonay, both master and of the Godhead, both man and God.

Proverbs 22:1-9 A proverb about good and profitable conduct, or living. At the end of life do you want to be remembered for your good name, or your wealth? It is good to be wise and prudent, and there is nothing wrong about wealth. Some are wealthy and know how to make money, others don’t, but in all cases, both rich and poor, we are to be humble and generous. When you raise your children, they will understand your values, whether merely spoken or actually lived, they will know your real values, and will copy them, to your pride or shame. How do you want to be remembered?

Luke 6:27-31 In the sermon on the plain, the teaching of Jesus replicates here the sermon on the mount, recorded in Matthew. Verse 27 is the key to most of Jesus teaching, “let he who has ears hear,” in other words understand what I say as Spiritual teaching. The New Covenant that Jesus is introducing was prophesied by Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, and many others, and in a nutshell is, the Spirit of God is coming to indwell all who believe. We must be born again, we must be born of the Spirit. When that happens it’s easy to understand spiritual matters. Jesus taught, in part, “Do not regard wealth as something to be held onto,” ” pray for those that mistreat you,” ” give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours do not demand it back.” “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”

The simplicity and the complexity of the Word of God depends whether you are understanding Spiritually or earthly. The Law of Moses was understood by Israel as with an earthly mind, or as Paul described it in 1 Corinthians 15:45 “So also it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living soul.’ The last Adam became a life giving spirit.” 46. “However the spiritual is not first, but the natural, then the spiritual.” 47. “The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven.” Therefore, Paul explains in Romans 8:3 “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, Jehovah did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” If we walk according to the Spirit we cannot be victimized, no one can defraud us, or cheat us, or take anything away from us, for we have already given it away. The Lord gave all possessions to us and they are on loan until He decides to move it on to someone else. When that happens we merely wait patiently until blessing from God comes our way again. Desire not earthly things, but eagerly seek the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, and He will take complete care of you. You are born of the Spirit, therefore walk in the Spirit, trust in the One who loves you, and be not conformed to this world and it’s economy.

Karl

Spiritual Wisdom

Proverbs 3

Review & Remarks: A covenant exists between those whose heart and life has been changed by the Word of God. It gives life to peace, mercy, and truth. Not only is the Word to be remembered, it is kept before the eyes so it cannot be forgotten (vv. 1-4) … Trusting in God is an admission of one’s incomplete knowledge (v. 5) … One who has been humble in their own self-assessment can more easily be YHWH guided (v. 6) … A wisdom driven life denounces self-sufficiency, evil, and fears the LORD, resulting in strong bones and healthy flesh (vv. 7-8) … There’s little doubt Western Civilization has had more fear of the LORD than she currently does … Humanism, that of mankind being the center of earthly life – including the control of weather and climate, has played a part … Certainly, His capabilities have not diminished … The LORD blesses life, with beginning it. Part of blessing is correction. The LORD’s chastisement is to help one grow in wisdom (vv. 9-12) … Wisdom and understanding are to be prized as the most precious of anything, simply nothing compares to them. All that is good is based on understanding and wisdom (vv. 13-20) … We have an invitation to enjoin the LORD in His wisdom (vv. 21-26) … Finally, instructions and good advise are penned on how to be at peace with each other and coincidentally in communion with the LORD (vv. 27-30).

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.

Choose Light!

Today’s Reading:  Click Here  –  Psalm 148; 1 Kings 3:5-14; John 8:12-19 (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)   brave

As 2020 rolls to the finish line and a new year awaits, we reflect on all we have experienced; a deadly virus, lock-downs, isolation, mask wearing, unemployment, shootings, BLM protests, a presidential election, and our own personal experiences on what this year has revealed.  As winter frigidly arrives, we find ourselves still experiencing the darkest days of the year, we can rest assure that scripture sustains us and faith remains, even in darkness as a child of God.  Christ proclaims He is the Light of the world. He promises us that as Christ followers we have the Light of Life before us and within us, as our scripture passage today (John 8:12) declares.  What a gift to be shared in these dark and uncertain times.

Jesus’ claim to deity throughout the scripture, demands a response. A response of obedience by following Him.  (James 1:22, John 14:23, 1 John 2:17, Matthew 7:24, Proverbs 10:17) .

As we enter into a new year, this usually warrants some resolutions laced with challenges, and this year brings  its  own alterations rooted by our unsettled and disturbed world.  We read in our 1Kings passage today that, when Solomon was beginning his reign as King, he was seeking guidance.  In a dream God asked him a question, “What shall I give you?”  Wow!  How would you respond?  He could have asked for anything, but in his faithful love for the Lord, Solomon humbly requested an understanding mind, and the ability to discern between good and evil in order to govern well.  What an inspiring and direct request with such a simple plan, to govern well.   We too can pray for that same wisdom that Solomon asked for, the wisdom to live well in these new ways of living that has plagued our nation and is required of us all, when we can step back into our life of normalcy, whenever and whatever that may be.  Until then, we have a choice to seek God’s strength and wisdom in all situations to see the LIGHT ahead, keeping it in focus, always.

A friend shared with me this week that as upsetting and unbearable that 2020 has been, she reminded me of the importance of focusing on the blessings and presence of God.  They are there, we just have to look a little harder for them.  Her heart embraced the blessings of finances, good health, a warm house, return to a job she loves, mind-blowing technology to worship online and keeping in touch with family and friends. This brought me to do the same, looking back through the year to see God in the midst and through every dark corner. I am grateful and blessed.

Today, being December 31st, 2020 , we approach the end of one race as the beginning of a new race unfolds before us, just like that!   We have a choice to make, a choice to choose how we plan to step into the new race of the new year ; with demise and regret from the past, OR  with eyes wide open ready for whatever lies ahead with confidence and trust in an omniscient God with one step and one day at a time?   Bring on 2021, we can AND will prevail!  Our Lord Jesus goes before us and prepares the way through the darkness, with an illuminating Light that we cannot deny.  May we undeniably trust in Him as if it’s the first day of the rest of our life, secure in the Light of the World!  Immeasurable faith, hope, peace, joy and love to you in the coming New Year! Choose Light!

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

‘Let The Light In’ by Kari Jobe

‘Best News Ever’ by Mercy Me

‘All Things New’ by Big Daddy Weave

‘Day One’ by Matthew West

PRAYER

Lord Jesus, as we close out this year, sadly being so apart, we light a candle and give thanks for all the gifts and blessings received: health, safety, support, love, family, friends and our forever gracious and loving Lord of Light.  In this new year, may our faith and spirit be renewed to sing praises to you, Lord, who loves and guides us towards your Light.  Light of Life, thank you for your ever saving grace. May we be the bearers of your Light and grace throughout the new year, now and always. In the name of our Lord Jesus, we pray this and so much more. Be still our hearts, AMEN.

Kris

God’s Family

Psalm 148; Isaiah 49:5-15; Matthew 12:46-50

Psalm 148 is an excellent prayer of praise for God, who created all things. All of God’s creation should praise His name for what He has done. There is no one greater than He who brought all things into being. 

Isaiah 49 (v. 5-15) is a foretelling of the coming Messiah and what He will mean to the world. And because of the One who will save us all from sin, we should praise the Lord. But, instead, correctly foretold, Israel rejected the One sent. People will say that God has forsaken them. But how could God, the Father, forget his children? Does a mother forget the children to whom she has given birth? No! And neither would God forget any part of His creation. 

In Matthew 12, Jesus defines who is His family. It’s not just his earthly mother and brothers, but all of those who follow Him. We, as part of The Church, are part of the family of Christ, and therefore of God. 

There will always be those who reject God, but then instead of looking at themselves in the mirror, will blame God for all of their problems. Not everyone will be part of the Family of God. But that’s not because He has left them out or forgotten about them. Rather, it will be because they walked away from the ultimate prize; salvation. As long as we keep our sights set on Him, then He will be there for us. We shouldn’t forget that…ever. 

Prayer

Heavenly Father, today and always, I pray that my heart and thoughts be open to you and your path set out before me. I pray that I never lose sight of the real prize, which is eternal life and salvation found only in you through Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Out Of Egypt

Psalm 148

Jeremiah 31:15-18

Matthew 2: 13-18

Matthew 2:13-18 Continuing with the birth and childhood of Jesus, the Son of God, and the miraculous fulfillment of prophecies concerning Him. When King Herod, who had inquired of the visiting Babylonian Maji as to where this prophesied King of Israel was to be born, found out that the Maji had taken another way home, he became enraged. It’s comical when an accomplished liar finds out not everyone believes them and they become angry at the person who disbelieves. King Herod then demands that all male youth under the age of two, in and around Bethlehem are destroyed, for he wants no competition to his throne. This act then has been revealed to Joseph, by an angel of the LORD, prior to any action by the soldiers sent to destroy, to move his new family to Egypt for safety, until Herod dies. This also fulfills a prophecy, Hosea 11:1, describing both Israel as the beloved son of Jehovah, and the Greater Son, Jesus the Savior of Israel and mankind, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” A near and far fulfillment of the prophecy.

Another prophecy is then described in verse 18 as being fulfilled, Jeremiah 31:15-18, “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be comforted, because they were no more.” This is again a prophecy describing the agony that the women of Bethlehem incurred because of the actions taken by the demonic King Herod.

But again, as so many prophecies reveal, there is more than one fulfillment to them. Jeremiah said these were things to come, yet until this time there were no mass killings in the city of Ramah. Ramah is a city in Ephraim, to the north of Jerusalem, and of the southern kingdom, Judah. In the now divided kingdom, there are two southern tribes, Benjamin and Judah. The northern ten tribes, that broke away under the reign of Rehoboam, are known as Ephraim, it has been this way for centuries. Jeremiah in his prophecy in chapter 31, is unknowingly describing a prophecy of the Christ, yet also symbolically describing in near times, the breaking apart of Gods chosen people, and ultimately their restoration. Rachel being the wife of Jacob, is known as the mother of Israel, the entire nation, and there is great lamentations over the divided kingdom. Yet Jeremiah continues in verse 17, “there is hope for your future, and our children will return to their own territory. I have heard Ephraim grieving, You have chastised me, and I have been chastised, like an untrained calf….” A near and far fulfillment of the prophecy.

Psalm 148 “Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens, Praise him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His Hosts!” The psalmist calls for all creation to Praise Jehovah, everything that He created, everything that He established, everything that has breath and those things that don’t. “His Glory is above earth and Heaven. He has lifted up a horn for His people, Praise formal His Godly ones, even for the sons of Israel, a people near to Him. Praise the LORD.”

We can be sure of this, that Jehovah fulfills His word, His prophecies. In all times, in all circumstances, in all current events, in all the world, God is sovereign, nothing escapes His notice. He works all thing to the good, for the complete salvation of this who love Him and are called according to His Purpose. Rest assured that as prophecies have near and far fulfillments, all bring Praise to the Father, and instill hope in we who believe and love Him.

Karl

The Greatness of Christ

Isaiah 53

Review & Remarks: This section of Isaiah (Isa. 40-56) deals with Israel in exile, due in large measure to their committed sins towards God and one another … This recurring history exists outside of Israel too, both on corporate and individual levels … These exile episodes recur until said sin issues are dealt with, once and for all … To address these sins, God calls out a Servant (v. 11) … This Servant is of lowly status and appearance (vv. 1, 2), one hated and cast aside (v. 3), one acquainted with sadness and difficulties (v. 4) … This is not someone to whom people are drawn to … This despised Servant, seemingly rejected by God, bears our wrongs (v. 5) … On Him, the LORD has laid all the ugliness of our sins (v. 6) … To this, He accepts His death fate silently, without a hint of protest or revolt (vv. 7-9) … Subsequently, God approves, willing this suffering to the Servant (v. 10) … The chapter concludes by summarizing the successful mission of the Servant, that of taking the “sins of many” and interceding for them all (vv. 11-12) … This passage seems more fit for Lent rather than Christmas Day, yet it is what the liturgy has planned for us on this day … It must be that this was the plan for Jesus’ death. Hence the main, but certainly not only, reason for His life … The first day of which is Christmas Day … Merry Christmas!

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.

Peace Begins With Me

 Today’s Reading:  Click Here  –  Matthew 2:1-12  (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)

Looking at our scripture passage today, it tells the story of the Wise Men and their travels far and wide to see the King of the Jews, and how they responded with adorning joy, pure worship and extravagant gifts, which is quite a different approach we may see these days. Often, one may expect God to come looking for them, to explain Himself, prove who He is, and give them gifts.  But those who are WISE will seek Him and worship Him, NOT for what they can get but for WHO Jesus is.

It was the acknowledgement of a future king that the wise men sought after the news of a king born in Bethlehem, and presented exquisite gifts. These gifts symbolized Jesus’ identity and what greatness He would accomplish;  Gold was a gift of royalty; Frankincense was a gift of deity; and myrrh was a spice used for anointing a body for burial.  They brought gifts and worshiped Jesus for who He was, even as a baby, born in stable.  The true essence of worship is honoring Christ for who He is and being willing to give Him all that is valuable to us.  As the perfect almighty Creator of all,  He is worthy of the best we have to give.

Just like the wise men were warned by God to not return back the same path traveled after finding the baby Jesus, we too may be called to take a new direction or path in life when we experience and find Jesus, one that is responsive and obedient to God’s word. A path that is most rewarding and full of life. A new life we choose when we acknowledge, trust and follow Jesus.

As we come into our final week of Advent, and Christmas is just days away, we light the Advent candle of PEACE and we recall what the angels proclaimed “Peace on Earth” when the Baby Jesus was born. Today, we wonder, as we listen to the evening news, is peace really possible? I believe it is and that two kinds are of peace exist and are needed in our lives; inner peace; peace of mind, heart and soul. The second being an outward peace; peace with others.  Through scripture, God addresses both and He tells us how to acquire and experience them.  

Inner peace hinges on our trust in God (Matthew 22:34-40)  and begins with a personal relationship with Jesus. (Make it personal). As we cultivate our relationship and faith, exchanging our weaknesses for His strength (2 Corinthians 12:9),  we can cling to God’s words from Isaiah 26:3, and personalize it ;  “[God] will keep [me] in perfect peace as my mind is devoted to Him and I fully trust in Him.”  

Perhaps, inner peace is eluding you these days and anxiety is spilling over in your life.  It’s no surprise given the circumstances and situations all around us that we all seem to be experiencing, this year especially.  We have to CHOOSE to trust God and draw from His source of power for patience and wisdom to move forward as He guides us through our maze of life. And when we CHOOSE to trust Him in those blind corners of anxiety, stress and worry, we can begin to experience inner peace as he leads us down that road.  Choosing not to trust Him can create a downward spiral to disaster, unsettled stress and discontent.  Inner peace is there for the choosing when our heart and mind aligns with what God’s word confirms. Various forms of training, techniques, or practices such as, centered prayer, meditation  breathing exercises or journaling are just some ways to help settle our mind, heart and soul as peace sets in.

The Second kind of peace mentioned is defined in Matthew 5:9,  “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God”.  God has called each of us to be peacemakers in our world. This is no easy task, but when we understand what God is calling us to do, we can accept and embrace this call to love others and bear peace in broken relationships, shattered lives and our imperfect world.  Don’t miss the blessings that God promises to us when we respond to His call to be a peacemaker, bearing peace, one heart at a time.  

With our attention on being a peacemaker and wondering what does that look like, I am reminded of the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.  

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me show  love; Where there is injury, show pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; and Where there is sadness, joy… Divine Master; Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

Be the source of peace and light in a darkened world that so desperately needs more Jesus, and with more Jesus, He is our perfect and unfailing portion of love, hope and peace to share with the world. May the HOPE, LOVE, FAITH and PEACE that is born on Christmas day, be the REASON for the season to celebrate the birth of our Messiah, Eternal Savior, Almighty Son of God, Good Shepherd, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace.

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

‘Peace Has Come’ by HIllsong Worship

‘Glory – Let There Be Peace’ by Matt Maher

‘Light of the World’ by Lauren Daigle

‘Christmas Offering’ by Casting Crowns

PRAYER

Lord Jesus, regardless of our circumstances or our situations, you offer us peace that surpasses all understanding, now through the Christmas season and always, no matter what our chaos or situation bids us otherwise.  Lord, keep us in your perfect peace as our hearts and minds are secure in your love. We look to you for our guidance, wisdom, hope and peace this day. We pray this and so much more in our mighty Savior, Jesus’ name. AMEN.

 Merry Christmas, Kris

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