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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

The Friend At Night

Luke 11:5-8

Summary: A friend comes by, after a long trip, knocking at your door late at night, looking for something to eat.  Your first thought, since it is late, the house is quiet and the kids are asleep is to reply “buddy, take a hike.”  After a second thought, since it is your friend after all, you decide to answer the door and feed him.

Analysis: In the following two verses (11:9-10) Jesus comments on “asking,” “seeking,” and “knocking” which lead to “receiving,” “finding,” and “opening.”  This parable attempts to explain God fearing persistence.  Our omniscient God knows our needs, He doesn’t need to be cajoled into supplying them.  Nevertheless, Jesus commands we “ask,” “seek,” and “knock” in addressing God and simply believing or trusting when doing so that He will provide in His own time.

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A Wider View of Life

Luke 10:25-37; The Parable of the Good Samaritan

An expert in the interpretation of the scriptures, one well acquainted with the priests and levites, stood up to test Jesus. This would be a public setting, for everywhere Jesus went  people gathered to hear him.

The expert is not authentically asking what he must do to live a life of faith and enter into eternal life.  He is testing Jesus in front of everyone; he is arrogant. But all too quickly his test of Jesus becomes a test for him.  Jesus immediately asks the expert a question and now he is on the defensive whether he realizes it or not.

After answering Jesus well with, “Love God and love your neighbor” the expert still wants to test Jesus,  justify himself in front of everyone. So the expert asks, “And who is my neighbor?”

“Who is my neighbor?” is a great question for us especially as we begin a new year.  It’s a good question any time of the year and one we might ask each day as we seek to serve the Lord Jesus.  Who is my neighbor today, Lord?  Show me, I pray.

Jesus tells the story of a man attacked by robbers on his way to Jericho.  Everyone knew that was a dangerous route to travel and it wasn’t unusual for robbers to attack people there.  One would expect that religious leaders, priests and Levites, would stop the help anyone in need particularly someone who was barely surviving a terrible beating.  But the priest and the Levite just pass by.

But a Samaritan stops, helps, and goes beyond what is expected to care for the beaten man.  Samaritans and Jews didn’t mix.  They had different beliefs and it was also a racial thing.  Yet Jesus took his disciples to Samaria.  Jesus even talked with a Samaritan woman, notorious for her sins, and an outcast in her village. Jesus, just before he ascended into heaven (Acts 1), told the disciples to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth and he specifically mentioned being witnesses in Samaria.

The Samaritan lives the command, love your neighbor, in Jesus’ story.  The test of the expert continues as Jesus asks him, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor…?”  The expert is good with answers, “The one who had mercy on him.”  He would not say Samaritan.  The final test; Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.”  While the expert was good with answers, I wonder if the expert was good at living. Because he was all about testing Jesus I think his walk of faith and love of neighbor wasn’t what it should be.

“Who is my neighbor?” is a great question.  Jesus wants to widen our perspective of neighbor beyond our family, friends, our kind of people to whomever we meet who is in need. Today, any day,  as we seek to follow the Lord Jesus, let’s ask, let’s pray, Who is my neighbor today, Lord?  Show me, I pray.

Anonymous crowd of people walking on New York City street sidewalk in 2013

 

Hide It Under a Bushel? No!

“I’m gonna let it shine!”

Today’s blog comes from the parable in Matthew 5:14-15 which reads:

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” (NIV)

Let’s go through a scenario I think is fairly common among people.

Mary Sue is a ‘good’ Christian. She prays every morning and evening, reads her Bible, and attends church regularly (as well as being involved in a few ministries!). She loves Jesus. Mary Sue works at a hardware store. She knows her boss, Jane, is also a Christian and she knows that her co-worker, John, is not. Around Jane, Mary Sue freely expresses her excitement over life and the miraculous things that God is doing for her but around John she finds it hard to talk about anything. Sometimes he tries to talk about his weekend filled with drinking, gossip, and sex. These stories make Mary Sue uncomfortable, but she doesn’t want to offend or hurt John so she keeps quiet. John thinks Mary Sue might be a Christian because he associates her conservative dress and speech to be associated with the Christian attributes portrayed on TV, but he isn’t sure what any of that even means.

Have you ever been Mary Sue? Excitedly talking about Jesus with a fellow believer, but timid with someone you know doesn’t follow Jesus? How can you combat that mindset?

In my own personal life (and in relation to the above verse) this is what I have found to be beneficial to all parties involved.

  1. Always let your light shine. If you are excited about things happening in your life talk about them! Share them with people. Did money show up out of nowhere right before Christmas? Did you car start after you prayed for it to be fixed? Did a package come early even though tracking said it wouldn’t? Do you have a sense of peace even though your life looks like it’s crumbling around you? Do you have a deep sense of joy even though you just experienced a loss? These miracles (big and small) are great opportunities to share the light that comes from the Holy Spirit.
  2. Let people come to you when they see your life. I have found that the response is far better when someone comes to me. They witnessed me living out a life for Christ with a happiness that they can’t comprehend and then asked me why am I that way. I feel like this is a good example of being fishers of men.
  3. When this happens give credit where credit is due: God. James 1:17 reminds us that every good and perfect gift comes from God. So when you’re in a season of plenty, good cheer, etc. let the people witnessing this know it’s coming from God.
  4. Let the person take or leave what you have to say. You are not responsible for anyone’s salvation–only the Holy Spirit can turn hearts. You are responsible for spreading the Good News and living out a life that reflects the great goodness that God has given you by saving you.
    1. If someone wants to know more invite them to church! If church is too intimidating invite them to a fellowship event or ministry the church hosts (Sunday potluck, Project Linus, Dinner Out Group… Check out our “Ways to Connect” section of the church website).
    2. If they do not want to know more and brush it off do not be discouraged, dear heart! Keep living out The Truth and know that God is smiling down on you for living a life that reflects His love and mercy.

 

Brothers and sisters, I look forward to continuing to be a light with you in the New Year.

Blessings,
Karissa

 

Some thoughts on Forgiveness

Luke 7:41–43

Forgiveness – A word that it is used so much in our mundane life. We get to a meeting late we apologize and move on, we spill something or wrong someone in a minor way and expect to be forgiven without too much fanfare.

We say sorry, and we move on with our lives. Nothing wrong with that. Yet, for me, I end up asking myself if along the way we had lost the meaning of the act of forgiveness and more exactly the what happens when we forgive someone and we really mean it.

Today’s parable addresses that problem in a way. It is a reminder that we all had sinned, some sins we see them as being nothing more than mistakes, while some other are a little more major and some get that category that we do not even speak about because they are so big. In God’s economy a sin is a sin, and what makes the difference is how we respond to the act of forgiveness.

This parable is a reminder that an act of forgiveness is about having the right attitude, the right understanding of the act itself, and it goes a step further about what happens once we experience that forgiveness. Because the act of forgiveness implies a changed heart, change actions and moves us to a new place of understanding grace.

Today, I pray that as you experience forgiveness you will also experience the inner peace and the transformation that comes along. May your life be always filled with forgiveness, peace and grace.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

Happy New Year!!

We begin the new year with an extended look at the parables of Jesus which should get us to Lent.  After having read through the entire Bible in 2018, we thought a look at application might be a good place to begin the new year.  Another small change will be that we will only be blogging Monday to Friday.

Let’s start with a basic understanding of parables which are stories, especially those of Jesus, told to provide a vision of life, especially life in God’s kingdom. Parable means a putting alongside for purposes of comparison and new understanding. Parables utilize pictures such as metaphors or similes and frequently extend them into a brief story to make a point or disclosure. Nevertheless, a parable is not synonymous with an allegory.  The difference between a parable and an allegory is in the number of comparisons. A parable may convey other images and implications, but it has only one main point established by a basic comparison while an allegory makes many comparisons through a kind of coded message. 

We begin with the Parable of the Growing Seed from Mark 4:26–29:

He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

This parable shows a contrast between the action of the one who sows…simply scattering seed here and there to the imagery of the harvest.  Did you catch the subtlety of this parable?  Did you see that the grain grows whether the one who sowed is is asleep or awake…and, more importantly, the sower doesn’t know how it happens.

What might the point in this parable be?   There is an ancient Jewish prayer that says…”Blessed are you O God, king of the world, who brings forth bread from the earth”.  This prayer reflects the basic attitude of wonder over the growth of crops that lies behind this parable. Jesus’ point is that the kingdom of God begins with the apparently insignificant action of “sowing” the message, but will finish as a great harvest. God, who gives the grain harvest, will also give a great result to the present ministry of Jesus and his disciples.  Growth because of God’s initiative.

Devotional Thought:  Stay focused on the promised great harvest through God’s initiative – the great harvest yet to come.  Don’t let bad soil or weeds get in your way or discourage you in your journey of faithful service and witness to Jesus!!  A good way to begin our new year!!

A Year in Review

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Malachi 3-4; Psalm 150; Matthew 28

So, here we are, the final day of 2018. Another year in the books. If you have been able to keep up with the reading each day, at this point, you have read the entire Bible in less than 365 days, seeing as there weren’t any passages on Sundays. Now the question is, how will you apply all of it to your daily life? There is so much to read and try to apply from 66 total books. But, I think if you boil it down to just a few things that you can easily apply daily, the chapters for today give some great action steps to consider.

First, in Malachi, we read about the coming Messiah and his pending judgment on mankind. But those set aside, those who have remained faithful, will be His treasured possessions (3:17). Although we know that Jesus has once walked this Earth in physical form once already, we know that he is set to come again sometime down the road. And, because of our faith, we have hope because we are STILL His treasured possessions.

Second, in Psalm 150, we are reminded about God’s greatness and how we are to praise Him for all things. It reminds me of the video clip that Craig used for his Christmas Eve (and Christmas Eve Eve) sermon of treating everything as a gift. If we were to recognize that even the mundane things in our lives are gifts from God, then we would always give praise and thanks for those things. If you are like me, you tend to take things for granted because they have always been there. I’ve never known true hunger, or lacked clean drinking water, or electricity for more than a few hours. In modern times, people in their early 20s and younger have never known a time without the internet, or even smart phones. We just assume that we will have those things always, and sometimes forget that the fact that we have anything at all, even life itself, is a gift from God.

In Matthew, we read of the resurrection. This is the coup de grȃs, what defines us as Christians. With the resurrection, we have hope in something else beyond our bodily, earthly death. We will be restored and be with God in heaven without any of the things that bring us down here in our current lives. In the Great Commission at the end, we get our charge from Jesus as to what we are to do with our lives while we are physically here on Earth. To go and make disciples of the people that we come across in our lives. And we have nothing to fear, because Jesus is with us, until the end of the age.

So, there you have it. Three simple things to walk away with after a year of studying the whole Bible. Know that Jesus is coming again, and that we owe God our praise for everything we have every day, and we have so much to look forward to after this life.

Happy New Year to all of you.

Sunday Reflection: God as Love

There can be only one passage to sum up “God as Love” – even though, by now, you have realized that reading through the entire Bible is a journey of God’s love for his people.  The passage I am thinking of is:  1 John 4:7-21

I think there is an important distinction in this passage.  John states clearly that God IS love not that love is God.  People talk about a God of love and while that is true, it doesn’t fully complete an understanding of the God of all Creation who IS love itself…pure, holy, just and perfect.  We so often get love wrong by thinking of it as a feeling or some morally correct thing to do.  Try thinking today about love in a different way that real love is God

Today’s Devotional Thought:  God is love.  An intimate relationship with God will produce love.  And, like light, love is intrinsic to the character and nature of God and those who know this God walk in his light.  Saying that we love this God has to be more than showing up at church for an hour on Sunday or volunteering once in a while.  Don’t misunderstand here…being part of the church is foundational to being a Christian and “volunteering” is important.  I would submit to you, though, that the word volunteer is never used by Jesus.  Why might that be?  The answer, I think, is simple…loving God is not a thought or a feeling, it is a way of life.  Loving God is seen in how we treat everyone around us…how we talk about people or think about others – those created in God’s image.

Fulfilling His Word

Malachi

Psalms148

Mathew 27-28

Malachi   Where do we begin?  So much of the Prophets who spoke the word of Jehovah to Israel is so relevant to the church today.  And our attitudes today are so much like that of the children of Israel back then.  The biggest difference between them and us is we are supposedly filled with the Holy Spirit, while they were under the Law proving their need for the Holy Spirit.   Nonetheless Jehovah spoke to them, through the prophet, and said He was unhappy with their offerings and wished someone would lock the door so they couldn’t offer such useless sacrifices.   They were bringing in blind and maimed animals when they should have been the best and perfect from the flock.   God was getting the leftovers.  In chapter 3. vs 8 Jehovah offers a challenge to them and us, “Will a man rob God?  Bring the whole tithe in and see if I won’t open the windows of heaven, and pour out blessings until it over flows!”   Then He goes on to say “Then I will rebuke the devourer for you,…”  It seems if we are unwilling to bring to God the whole tithe, something happens where there is a devourer who will take the extra we are thinking is ours and squanders it uselessly, be it unseen expenses we didn’t count on, such as car repairs, or other breakdowns.  No one can say for sure how this happens but blessings do come from Jehovah and we know what is right to do,  so don’t try to hold out on God.  
Psalms 148  A great Psalm of praise, read it.  Note that it says in verse 5 to praise the name of the LORD.  King James and pretty much all English translations of scripture substitute LORD for Jehovah, (YHWH) or God for Elohim.  In the English we really should praise Jehovah,  that is the true name of our everlasting Father.  
Mathew 27-28   This chapter starts with Judas who kills himself rather than repent of his sins, a poor choice.  Pilate knew the Priests were lying, they were envious of Jesus, so he tried to wash his hands of the matter.  Now we come to the crucifixion,  outside the walls of Jerusalem, on a roadway where all crucifixions took place so everyone passing by could be warned against wrong doing by Roman rules.  Understand also that this is taking place at the time of the Hebrew feasts of Passover, Aviv 14, and Unleavened Bread, Aviv 15, which also includes the Wave Offering of First Fruits.  (Leviticus 23)  So Jesus fulfills the spring Feasts as the perfect Passover Lamb,  and Matthew writes in chapter 27.51 that the veil in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; ( a sign of our access to the Holy of Holies i.e. God the Father,) and the earth shook and the rocks were split.  It is understood through archaeology finds that the Ark of the Covenant which has been hidden and considered missing since the Babylonian exile, was in a cave, and still is, under the spot of the Crucifixion of Jesus so that when He was pierced in the side His blood fell down through the rocks to land on the Mercy Seat of the Ark Of the Covenant to symbolize, and fulfill our complete forgiveness of sins.( In the Passover ritual the blood of the lamb was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat of the Ark, so was Jesus Blood.)  Verse 52 tells us that tombs were opened when the earth quaked and many saints who were dead were raised, after Christs resurrection.  They appeared to many in the holy city.  In John 20.17 he records that Mary grabbed Jesus after the resurrection, and He told her to let go for He had not yet ascended to my Father.  Now this reference is not to His ascension in the book of Acts, but to take the first fruits of the harvest to heaven as the First Fruits offering, a Wave offering to the Father. These resurrected bodies were the first fruits of the harvest yet to come.  Thus Jesus fulfilled all the Spring Feasts, which were performed by Israel as a remembrance of the things past and a rehearsal of things yet to come.  The high Priest of Israel would gather the sheaves of grain, brought in to the temple, and could not be touched by anyone until the Wave Offering was completed.  So that’s why Jesus said “don’t touch me” to Mary.  He must be ceremonially clean to offer the Wave Offering.  
Isn’t this stuff fascinating, to see the past and the present brought together in such minute detail.   Our Heavenly Father leaves out no detail in fulfilling His Word.  He won’t leave out any detail for that which is to come also.  We are not following some cleverly devised tale, but the Living God of Israel, the Creator, KIng eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, to whom belongs honor and glory forever.

Karl

On That Day

Zechariah 13-14     Psalm 149     Matthew 25-26

Review:   A fountain cleansing is coming for the house of David (13:1)…Idols & false prophets will be shamed (13:2-6)…A Shepherd will arise for Israel (13:7)…2/3’s will be cut off, 1/3 will be tested and refined resulting in “My People” (13:8-9)…All the world is against Jerusalem (14:1-3)…The Mount of Olives, outside Jerusalem, will be split in two (14:4-7) resulting in an east-west flowing river (14:8) and usher in the LORD as King (14:9-15)…Even with this happening, some will remain unmoved and judged accordingly (14:16-21).

Analysis:  The order prescribed here appears to be the following…

  1. A gathering of the nations against the Israel (14:2, cp. Rev. 16:13-16).
  2. A remnant will be delivered (14:3).
  3. The Messiah returns to a significantly changed Mount of Olives (14:4-8).
  4. All of the above brings the LORD’s Kingdom to fruition and with it full earthly blessing (14:9-21).

That all this happens in response to prayer (Matt. 6:9-13, cp. Dan. 2:44-45, 7:24-28, Luke 1:26-33, 1 Cor. 15:20-28), even by we ourselves…Some will scoff and say that this is impossible, it could never happen…To that, my response is given what we’re experiencing, what we know of world these days, is this scenario far beyond the realm of possible…Further, it is certainly more possible for this to happen than any who have lived or is living to be on this livable planet in the first place as Heidegger attempts, unsuccessfully to my eye, to get to the bottom of…Happy New Year!

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