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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Reflection: God as Lord of All

One of the questions we ask all Deacons, Elders and Ministers of Word and Sacrament in their ordination is this:   Do you trust in Jesus Christ your Savior, acknowledge him Lord of all and Head of the Church, and through him believe in one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? (PCUSA Book of Order) I think it is a question that is worthy for all who claim to follow Jesus – who call themselves Christians.  So this Sunday…if you need to catch up on your reading, that’s ok…if not, I urge you to think about this question – it is at the heart of Christian faith.

This coming week’s readings:

2/12/18 Leviticus 6-7 Psalm 19 Mark 6 Craig H.
2/13/18 Leviticus 8-10 Proverbs 19 Mark 7 Craig R.
2/14/18 Leviticus 11-12 Psalm 20 Mark 8 Karl
2/15/18 Leviticus 13-15 Proverbs 20 Mark 9 Matt
2/16/18 Leviticus 16-17 Psalm 21 Mark 10 Bo
2/17/18 Leviticus 18-20 Proverbs 21 Mark 11 Karissa
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2 Turtledoves….

Today’s Passages (all one link):  Leviticus 4-5, Proverbs 18, Mark 5

3 French Hens…2 Turtledoves…and a Partridge in a Pear Tree!!  Oh, that’s the Christmas song but, in a way, the text from Leviticus kinda reminds me of this song.  It’s easy to get lost in the requirements for atonement in Leviticus.  Bulls, goats, sheep, pigeons, rams and turtledoves.

I think the most fundamental pillar of the Bible is our relationship with God.  A relationship that was broken with Adam and Eve – a relationship tainted with sin and needing a way for humans to return to God.  In the OT, this way back is atonement by sacrifice.  In today’s 2 chapters we see Sin Offerings and Guilt Offerings.

Have you ever done something wrong without realizing it until later? Or, sworn to do something only to realize how foolish your promise was?  Although your sin was unintentional, it was still sin. Both individuals and groups could be guilty of unintentional sin and, in both cases, the relationship with God needed repair, therefore, the offering – something of value offered to God. The intent of both Sin and Guilt Offerings is to restore the relationship with God.

Here, I’ll segue to Proverbs 18…similar in foundation to that of Lev 4-5.  In the context of this post, I find verse 13 interesting: “If one gives answer before hearing, it is folly and shame.” Good leaders communicate or they don’t last very long.  In a way, we Christians are leaders…and we spend a great deal of time honing certain skills like reading our Bibles, going to Church, etc.  But, more important is the idea of listening.  Listening for, and to, the One we claim to follow.  Good listening will not prevent sinning completely, but, it will surely reduce the incidence if we are listening to the right voice.

The right voice…the Voice of Truth…is seen in Mark 5 where the power and authority of Jesus is made clear…even in the spiritual realm.  Jesus exorcises demons and raises the daughter of Jairus to life.  The leader of life speaks in many ways…even the demons recognize his voice.  So, listen carefully to God’s Word to you as it will guide you and keep you grounded in relationship with Jesus by the power of his Holy Spirit and you too will be amazed at the results.

Rest in the comfort of Jesus as our ultimate Sin and Guilt offering…In the words of the hymn writer, “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

 

 

 

 

Jesus the Rescuer

Leviticus 1-3
Psalm 18
Mark 3-4

Welcome to the Leviticus section of our journey! Feeling overwhelmed? Grossed out? Confused? The Bible Project has this great video that explains Leviticus in a way that makes it relatable and relevant. Watch from the beginning to 3 minutes for today’s readings and watch the whole thing to gain an understanding of the whole book!

When I began reading the passages I was a little daunted on how I could relate these three together. However, God is gracious and He told me while reading Psalm 18 for the third time what He wanted me to write about:  Jesus is Rescuer.

We see it in Leviticus. We see that the Israelites had strict rules, sacrifices meant for atonement, and all of these had to come from pure sources. Who came to Earth, the purest man of all, and sacrificed Himself for us? Yeshua. Jesus!

We see in the psalm that God is the rescuer of David.

In the Mark readings we see many times that Jesus is rescuer. He heals a man on the Sabbath and berates the others for allowing evil for the sake of tradition. We see Jesus is accused of being the the prince of darkness because he can cast out demons. Jesus is deeply hurt and reminds us that Satan cannot drive out Satan. Jesus has come come to rescue us from spiritual oppressions! We see Him as rescuer in the parables. He is the good soil to plant our seeds in, He is the lamp which will make all things light (have you ever been afraid of the shadows? Jesus will rescue you from those!), He is why the seed grows on its own, and he calms the storm–physically and emotionally!

He is the rescuer and He is waiting to rescue you with an outstretched hand. All you have to do is take it.

Many blessings,
Karissa

More than a tent – The presence of God

Today’s readings

Exodus 39-40   Proverbs 17  Mark 2

I would encourage you to read the Exodus text today and ask yourself the following question: Was attention given to the vestments and building of the tabernacle really necessary?

I am sure that someone can argue that historically it made sense since religious figures at the time had a flare about dressing the part or some other argument about the mystical powers given to the one wearing the garments. For me the tabernacle, the tent of God and the priest ring a different tune. A constant reminder of who God is.

If I look at the history of Israel, I can see that back and forth between the people and God where God is getting close to them and the people push back. From Moses coming to them in Egypt as a reminder, I am still with you my people, to walking them through the desert in the cloud and the pillar of fire, constant reminder of who God is. And then you have the people complaining and pushing back, maybe is better for God to speak through a few people, it is a bit scary for us to see all this. All this culminates with the tabernacle, the place where God lives in the Holy of Hollies right between the cherubins wings. In a way, it seems that they managed to box God in out of their life once again.

For me, it comes down to this: What if we are to realize that we can not run away from God’s presence, what if we are conscious of this partnership and we are to live our lives accordingly. God does not live in a Sanctuary where we go visit on Sunday, or with the minister when they are wearing the clerical collar or the little cross pin on their coat. God lives with us, in our hearts and minds, in every breath and step we take. And yes that might be a scary thought but it is also a comforting one.

So while the garments and the tent might off been a great visual help for the Israelites, a great reminder of God is with us, they also represent a limited understanding of who God is. Again this is my own opinion.

Today I pray that we all experience God in a tangible way, a reminder of I am with you all the way. Even so, I pray that we all be challenged to find a way to share who God is with those around us.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

 

Obedience

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Exodus 37-38

Psalm 17

Mark 1

Exodus 37-38 Summary

I am going to summarize this one by simply saying that Bezalel builds the ark of the covenant, an alter, a lampstand, a table, and a tabernacle, as instructed in previous chapters of Exodus.

Psalm 17

This Psalm perfectly demonstrates David’s trust and belief in the power of the Lord. David has remained faithful to God, and knows that God will listen to his cry. David has many adversaries and people who have made attempts to lead him astray, yet he has remained true to the One True God. And here, we read about his confidence that God has his back and will prevail over David’s enemies.

Mark 1

We begin a new Gospel with the first chapter of Mark. In this very first chapter, we zip through the first 30 years or so of Jesus, not saying anything about his birth, and only briefly mentioning his baptism by John and his temptation in the wilderness. Mark gets right into the ministry of Jesus, and the calling of some of his first disciples. In this chapter, we see Jesus exorcise a demon, heal Simon’s mother-in-law and many others at her house, and he cleanses a leper. He also begins his tour of the region of Galilee.

I think an underlying common theme in each of the above passages lies with one word: obedience. Bezalel is obedient to the instructions of God in the construction of things meant to house the most holy documents of the time. David has been obedient to God and trusts that God will overpower his enemies and free him from their threats. And all of the people throughout Galilee learn very quickly that Jesus isn’t any ordinary man; but instead that He holds a power unseen up to that point. They come from all of the surrounding lands to see Him, hear Him teach, and to be healed knowing that He has the power to do so. If we are obedient to God, we, too, can accomplish great things in His name. But we have to listen and trust His calling. His plan and our plan may not always align. But we need to trust that His plan is so much better for us in the end.   

The LORD Directs His Steps

 

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Exodus 35-36

Proverbs 16

Matthew 28

Exodus 35-36.  While still at Mt.Sinai select men and women are gathered, chosen for their above average abilities in their given trades.  Some were weavers, some were carpenters, some were workers of metal, some were dyers, some were tailors.  Moses was given a design for the tabernacle, the furniture, and the utensils to be used in the worship of YHWH.  Each man or woman chosen was screened for high standards not unlike the example given in Proverbs 16. 2, where we are told that “the LORD weighs the motives of a man,” and vs. 9. “the mind of a man plans his way but the LORD directs his steps.”  So the work begins on this huge mobile worship center.  Then Moses goes with instruction from YHWH to ask the people for a free will offering.  Whoever is of a willing heart, bring gold, silver, bronze, fine linen, goats hair that can be spun, oil for lighting, spices, jewels, etc.  Well the people were so generous that after a while it had to be called off, for there was too much material and goods brought in, there was a surplus, there was too much in the treasury to pay the workers.  The people were too willing.   What a problem!

Matthew 27-28  This is the only gospel that records an earthquake, graves bursting at the crucifixion, saints were awakened from the dead, and 3 days later after Christ’s resurrection these saints were seen walking the streets of Jerusalem, many saw them. The order of the Spring Feasts of the LORD are;  Passover on the 14th day of Aviv ( first Hebrew month,) the next day starts the Feast of Unleavened Bread which lasts 7 days, then the day after that is the day of Firstfruits.  Firstfruits is where the first ripe sheaves of barley are brought in, and a wave offering is presented to the LORD. These sheaves are brought to the High Priest, who is ceremonially clean and cannot be touched by anyone until he presents the offering.  In John 20.17  Mary Magdalene upon seeing Jesus after the resurrection starts to grasp Him and He rebuffs her telling her, “stop touching me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father,” while later He welcomes others to touch His hands and feet.  The Day of Firstfruits had not yet taken place and he had not yet presented these saints walking the streets of Jerusalem to YHWH as the first fruits of many to come.  The Feasts of the LORD are a remembrance of things past and a rehearsal of things yet to come.  All major prophesied apocalyptic events yet to come will happen on the days of the Fall Feasts of the LORD.  The Spring Feasts have already been accomplished.

Many sightings of Jesus take place, at first everyone is frightened and astonished, then He gathers  in Galilee and commissions them to tell everyone about His propitiation of sin, and the hope of eternal life. When you begin to fully understand the Love of Christ, the satisfaction of sin He accomplished, the conquering of death and the grave, the fulfillment of prophecies, the foolish attempts of man to thwart His plan, and the Spirit filled life, what can keep you silent and idle concerning His call on your life?  If only we could let go of the physical realm and embrace the Spiritual we would be absolutely astonished at what could be accomplished for Christ!

Karl

 

The Journey Continues

Exodus 33-34     Psalm 16     Matthew 27

Review:  The journey to the “Promised land” continues with an angel in the lead (33:1-6)…Tent meetings (33:7-11)…Moses begs to differ with YHWH (33:12-17)…The encounter with the Theophany is made ready (33:18-23)…The Theophany meeting is a step-by-step process – Moses climbs Sinai alone (34:1-4), YHWH meets Moses (34:6), the terms are laid out (34:6-7), finally Moses worships (34:8)…Israel’s perils are not over (34:10-11), even with Her commandments (34:28) and everything else…The results of the Theophany are on Moses’ face (34:29-30, 33-35)…The regathering of Israel reaffirm her relationship with YHWH (34:31-32).

Analysis:  The “Angel of the LORD” and YHWH are distinct (33:4-6)…There seems to be confusion where and with whom these tent meetings took place (33:7-11)…Moses argues that the Angel is insufficient (33:12) and argues with YHWH (33:13-17), to some extent succeeds…This Theophany is similar to that of Elijah (1 Kings 19:9-11)…Symbolically, the making of the new tablet is a renewal the covenants YHWH has with Israel (34:1-4)…There is little doubt that the prohibition of idols (34:17) and intermarriage (34:16) are ethical implying a separation of Israel from their surrounding peoples as…The 40 day and night bit is a recurring theme in the Old and New Testament (34:27-28 cp. Deut. 9:9, 18, Matt. 4:2)…The veiling and unveiling of Moses’ face indicates the authority he possessed (34:29, 33-35), something further explained by Paul (2 Cor. 3:7-4:6).

Sunday Reflection: God as Alpha and Omega

One of the hymns we sing on occasion begins this way:

Of the Father’s love begotten
ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega;
He the source, the ending He,
of the things that are, that have been,
and that future years shall see
evermore and evermore!

The hymn is “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” and reminds me, in part, of the meaning of Alpha and Omega.  The other reminder for me is, of course, from Scripture…3 times in the Book of Revelation are heard the title, “I am the Alpha and the Omega”.  Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet…God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – first and last, beginning and end…eternal.  God, who created everything out of nothing and who promises to all who will place their faith in him this vision of hope…

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell[b] with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them, he will wipe every tear from their eyes.  Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”  And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children.” (Revelation 21:1-7)

Hope…in this often hard world we hear the words, Alpha and Omega, and we can be renewed in hope that there is more for those who believe and trust in God made real to us in Jesus the Christ by the power and daily presence of his Holy Spirit who gives us the end of the story, See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”  If this is not the greatest love, well…..


This coming week’s readings:

Monday, February 5, 2018 Exodus 33-34 Psalm 16 Matthew 27 Craig R.
Tuesday, February 6, 2018 Exodus 35-36 Proverbs 16 Matthew 28 Karl
Wednesday, February 7, 2018 Exodus 37-38 Psalm 17 Mark 1 Matt
Thursday, February 8, 2018 Exodus 39-40 Proverbs 17 Mark 2 Bo
Friday, February 9, 2018 Leviticus 1-3 Psalm 18 Mark 3-4 Karissa
Saturday, February 10, 2018 Leviticus 4-5 Proverbs 18 Mark 5 Dale

Remembrance…

Today’s Passages (1 link):  Exodus 29-30   Psalm 15   Matthew 26:17-46 

The goal of reading the entire Bible is not an easy one…some material like today can be tedious. While some will see rich material, others can struggle to get through the detail (spoiler-alert…you’ll see it again in Leviticus 8-9).  So, one might ask why would God set up such an elaborate priesthood?  Part of our answer comes from a passage we read a few days ago – Ex 19:6 and the priestly kingdom.  God expects that his people live a life different than others.  Unfortunately, there is this thing called sin that gets in the way.  A sinful person could not approach God – it was through the priest, and a system of sacrifices that provided the people a way to God.  God promised to forgive the sins of the people through the sacrifices offered by the priests on behalf of the people.  And when we see the Bible as one book, we can then see the preparation God was making for the one true priest…Jesus.  You can better understand this by taking a look at Hebrews 10 – then you can see how these Old Testament passages show us that, through the priests, the people could access God…until Jesus came and changed all that.  All of this is reinforced in today’s Psalm (and also, Psalm 24).  One can see Psalm 15 as a gateway – the type of life necessary to approach God in worship, or, our life of worship to God.

Now, move ahead to Jesus and his 12 followers – those that have been with him now for some time.  They are all gathered around the table – we know this as The Lord’s Supper.  I want you to think about who was seated with Jesus around that table in the context of the passages you have read today.  Do you see the contrast?  In Exodus and the Psalm, it might be easy to think that no one was truly worthy of approaching God except for a select few.  But who is seated with Jesus?  One who would betray him, Judas, even after knowing who Jesus was.  One who would deny him, Peter, again, after seeing and knowing who Jesus was.  Those who couldn’t stay awake in Gethsemane.  And all but one who would abandon Jesus at the cross.  When you see who Jesus invites to the table, you should quickly realize the ultimate grace offered by our God to all who would come and sit down.  No matter where we have been in life…or, where we are today…no matter what we’ve done or left undone, there is an invitation by our one true priest…Jesus.

Enter into Jesus’ presence with joy and thanksgiving…everyday…it’s why we have the words – words you hear the first Sunday of every month…take the bread of life and drink from the cup of grace…remembering always who is truly priest to all – Lord and Savior to all who will claim him and follow him…Jesus, the Christ!!

 

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