Category Archives: Ezra

Ezra 7-10; Psalm 97; Revelation 4

When God loves me, He expresses it through so many different ways.  He cares for me, protects me and keeps me safe. Here is the simple story told through the eyes of Ezra and King David.

Beside the Ahava River,[n] I[o] asked the people to go without eating[p]and to pray. We humbled ourselves and asked God to bring us and our children safely to Jerusalem with all of our possessions. I was ashamed to ask the king to send soldiers and cavalry to protect us against enemies along the way. After all, we had told the king that our God takes care of everyone who truly worships him, but that he gets very angry and punishes anyone who refuses to obey. So we went without food and asked God himself to protect us, and he answered our prayers. We are slaves, but you have never turned your back on us. You love us, and because of you, the kings of Persia have helped us. It’s as though you have given us new life! You let us rebuild your temple and live safely in Judah and Jerusalem. – Ezra 8:21-23;9:9

 

Love the Lord
    and hate evil!
God protects his loyal people
    and rescues them
    from violence. – Psalm 97:10  CEV

I know it sounds too simple but it is.  I mean every day of my life I enter into it knowing that I am loved this way.  It does something to me each morning as a learn a new character trait of who God is and how He thinks.  But this simple story, the one of care, protection and safety do not grow old on me.  I find that when Revelations describes worship, I fit right in.

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord,
the all-powerful God,
who was and is
and is coming!”

“Our Lord and God,
you are worthy
to receive glory,
honor, and power.
You created all things,
and by your decision they are
and were created.”

Revelation 4:8,11  CEV

Father, You know more than anything on how much I want to honour You and Your purposes in my life.  Even though I cannot wait to join so many others in worshipping You in Your Kingdom, I can wait for such a time once my work is done here on earth.  In the meantime, I know I walk with You and in Your care, protection and guiding eye. I am so thankful and am enjoying all the attention You are giving me.  I love You.

Erwin (evanlaar1922)

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Ezra 5-6; Psalm 95; 3 John

My first impression reading of the prophets speaking over the people was of God’s sovereignty.

At that time the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem. They prophesied in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jehozadak responded by starting again to rebuild the Temple of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them and helped them (Ezra 5:1-2, NLT, emphasis added).

I thought about God’s sovereignty in the wait. When rebuilding was questioned and archives were searched to verify permission, I thought about what their life might have felt like in the wait. (I thought of what my life has felt like in times of wait.)

Then I saw his abundant provision. The prophets of God were with them and helped them. King Darius responds to the query, confirming permission and payment in full from the taxes collected so that their work wouldn’t be interrupted, and he adds:

Give the priests in Jerusalem whatever is needed in the way of young bulls, rams, and male lambs for the burnt offerings presented to the God of heaven. And without fail, provide them with as much wheat, salt, wine, and olive oil as they need each day. 10 Then they will be able to offer acceptable sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the welfare of the king and his sons. (Ezra 6:9-10, NLT, emphasis added)

Father God, you remind me: You are sovereign. You are my provider. You are my portion. I keep my eyes fixed on you, seeking your kingdom, listening for your voice.

Come, let us sing to the Lord!
    Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come to him with thanksgiving.
    Let us sing psalms of praise to him.
For the Lord is a great God,
    a great King above all gods.
He holds in his hands the depths of the earth
    and the mightiest mountains.
The sea belongs to him, for he made it.
    His hands formed the dry land, too.

Come, let us worship and bow down.
    Let us kneel before the Lord our maker,
    for he is our God.
We are the people he watches over,
    the flock under his care.

If only you would listen to his voice today! (Psalm 95:1-7, NLT)

God affects life in his big-picture way, and allows us to be agents on his behalf in the details, rolling up sleeves like the prophets did in Ezra, supporting others in ministry, using gifts and talents for God’s kingdom.

Dear friend, you are being faithful to God when you care for the traveling teachers who pass through, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church here of your loving friendship. Please continue providing for such teachers in a manner that pleases God. (3 John 5-6, NLT)

And, in response to Diotrephes’s pride and motivation:

11 Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God. (3 John 11, NLT)

Lord, thank you for meeting me every morning for a sunrise walk, for speaking into and over my life, for changing my heart and changing my vision. Thank you for letting me show your love when I serve others. This is a sweet privilege.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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Ezra 3-4; Psalms 92; 1 John 1

“When the builders completed the foundation of the Lord’s Temple, the priests put on their robes and took their places to blow their trumpets.  And the Levites, descendants of Asaph, clashed their cymbals to praise the Lord, just as King David had prescribed.  With praise and thanks, they sang this song to the Lord:  “He is good! His faithful love for Israel  endures forever!”  Then all the people gave a great shout, praising the Lord because the foundation of the Lord’s Temple had been laid.  But many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seem the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation.  The others, however, were shouting for joy.  The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance.”  Ezra 3:10-12 NLT

Restoration has been a theme in my life for the past few years.  I can understand the feeling of joy mixed with sorrow.  The grief over what was and the hope for what will be.

These verses encourage me to…

Press On (the rebuilding of the new temple didn’t start until 50 years after the old one was destroyed).

Expect opposition.  Satan is a very real enemy, who wants to take me down. (“The enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were rebuilding a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel…Than the local residents tried to discourage and frighten the people of Judah to keep them from their work. ”Ezra 4:1&4 NLT)

Anticipate what God is doing.  Wait on him and be watchful. Listen to his voice.  Even when things don’t look like I thought they would, know that he can be trusted.

But the godly will flourish like palm tress and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. They will declare, “The Lord is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!” Psalms 92:12-15 NLT

No one can stop the work that God has begun.

“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all wickedness.” 1 John 1:9 NLT

Dear Father, thank you for your faithfulness.  Thank you that you are working eveything for my good.  That you forgive my sins. For your promise to always be with me. Amen.

Amy(amyctanner)

 

 

 

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Ezra 1-2; John 21

The scene is set. Peter and Jesus are sitting around an early morning charcoal fire… Just like the charcoal fire the night Peter denied Jesus three times…

Jesus then asks Peter if he loves Him and asks Him three times.. Read below:

15 Then when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these do?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus told him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Jesus said a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus told him, “Shepherd my sheep.” 17 Jesus said a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” and said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus replied, “Feed my sheep. (John 21:15-17 [ESV])

Jesus always looks past our sin to what we can do for Him in His kingdom. Peter had done the unthinkable. He had denied Jesus three times. Even when Jesus takes Peter aside and tells him He was praying for him Jesus looks past the denial. We read the following:

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31&32 [ESV])

One of the greatest sins ever committed and Jesus doesn’t demand an apology. He let’s Peter know He knows in the passage of this morning, but His call to ministry was the focus of Jesus here.

If Peter hadn’t turned back, or had blown off the sin Jesus wouldn’t have had the early morning breakfast meeting with him. Jesus knows our hearts probably more than our words.

Some of us have struggled with sin and we have asked and asked and asked for forgiveness. The first time would have been enough, but even still Jesus knows your heart. He knows you are sorry and when He does He gives you a new mission to accomplish in His Kingdom work.

We have all had to ask for forgiveness but has dwelt there. Jesus wants us to look forward to the new assignment He has for us. Satan is the one that keeps us at the sorry point putting the lie into our heads that we are no longer any good to God. God is waiting to give you your next assignment in His Kingdom. What will it be for you?

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Genesis 19; Matthew 18; Nehemiah 8; Acts 18

I was 15 years old and my older brother had just left home to live his life on his own at the ripe old age of 17.  In my brokenness, I fell onto the living room couch telling God what was the use of following Him when He could not even intervene.  As if an audible voice inside me responded – He said, “You don’t even know me.”  I immediately became very hungry to read, meditate and understand what God was describing about Himself and what He wanted me to do.   

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” – Matthew 18:1 NRSV

When I am around those mighty Phd’s in philosophy and theology, I take comfort that my faith, growing and maturing as I spend time with my Father, puts me into my own special relationship with God.  I am actually totally dependent on Him.  He provides me with everything I need.  I may be skeptical or I have been known to argue with Him from time to time, but for the most part I just believe He is the source of my life and is completely necessary.  

And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.  – Nehemiah 8:12 NRSV

So one has to love Ezra who decides to hold a seven-day Bible conference to get the rookies all ordained in the ways and directions that God has established for those who want to journey with Him.  Clearly, simply, completely – until they understood every Word.  I get it when they leave that conference with so much joy – the truth will set you free!

Now there came to Ephesus a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria. He was an eloquent man, well-versed in the scriptures.  He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord; and he spoke with burning enthusiasm and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John.  He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately. – Acts 18:24-26 NRSV

How encouraging for me to know that even Apollos, a disciple of John the Baptist, was humble enough to know that he did not get it all – most of it – but not everything.  Probably had all the dots, just was not quite sure enough on how to make all the connections.   

Lord, I am thrilled to have mentors around me to hear me pontificate the importance of what I know and then to have them loving take me aside and explain the Way of God more accurately.

 

evanlaar

 

 

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Genesis 6; Ezra 6; Matthew 6; Acts 6

Life has a way of getting me down sometimes and when that happens, I realize my connection to my Source has become a little disconnected. Chances are pretty good that my attention has been drawn more to circumstances going on around me than to Who is in control of those circumstances.  As I read through these chapters in The Message translation, I was reminded of several truths of God that I need to remember—they should be etched on my heart!

First, He loves me and wants to be part of my life. Genesis tells us He could have destroyed mankind not long after He created it.  He wanted to, He thought about it.  But God liked what He saw in Noah and used him to continue life.  God saved humanity because of one man; Jesus died on a cross for me!  That kind of love is so personal.  It was personal for Noah, it is personal for me.

God saw that human evil was out of control. People thought evil, imagined evil—evil, evil, evil from morning to night. God was sorry that he had made the human race in the first place; it broke his heart. God said, “I’ll get rid of my ruined creation, make a clean sweep: people, animals, snakes and bugs, birds—the works. I’m sorry I made them.”

 But Noah was different. God liked what he saw in Noah.

Also, in Matthew, Jesus tells us that God conceived us in love and is working quietly and unobtrusively behind the scenes for us. He is working on our behalf out of love. So many times if I only took my eyes off what is going on and focused on God instead, I would see that.

When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.

Second, there is nothing He can’t accomplish. He is in control. He can change the minds of Kings to do His will—and get them to pay for it! Why should I worry about the outcome?  It is in His hands.

God had plunged them into a sea of joy; he had changed the mind of the king of Assyria to back them in rebuilding The Temple of God, the God of Israel.

Finally, His Word is alive and living in me (thank you Beth Moore for that one)!  He is present and because of His Word my life has prospered.  His Word has changed me and He wants me to share that with others.  We are called to make disciples.

The Word of God prospered. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased dramatically. Not least, a great many priests submitted themselves to the faith.

Stephen, brimming with God’s grace and energy, was doing wonderful things among the people, unmistakable signs that God was among them.

Father, I pray to be brimming with Your grace and energy and do wonderful things among the people in Your name. Your Word tells me how much You love me, want to be with me, and it reveals Your sovereignty.  It is alive!  Oh the joy of sharing that good news with others.  May it continue to teach me, change me, comfort me, and grow me more in the image of Jesus.  In His name, Amen

Cindy (gardnlady)

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Genesis 4, Matthew 4, Ezra 4, Acts 4

I love the word ‘blessing’ – I go around blessing everyone – even a database company I hired set my password up as ‘blessings’ because I blessed them so much – too funny. So you know I love the new year and all the possibilities I have too bless.

It is possible that I am consumed by blessings because I am very much aware of curses.  God was clear when promising Abraham that there were curses as well.  So when Cain was cursed with a mark, and some think it was wild and ferocious in nature that it rendered him an object of universal horror and avoidance, I believe that I can be an object that people can see the face of God.  Amy Grant came out with a song when I was a teenager, My Father’s Eyes, and it was a prayer of mine that others could see that I had my Father’s eyes.

So when Jesus arrived, it had to be His plan to further His kingdom – I believe that He came and aspired to world domination and to deliver His blessing.  The temptations in the wilderness all took aim at that aspiration, trying to make Him take a shortcut, adopt the methods of the curse. I love this quote from Marcus Dods that reflects why the road to blessing/redemption was through the path of suffering —

Satan whispered, “You have come to bind men in a universal brotherhood, but it is hopeless to effect this by acting on men individually and spiritually. Men do not care to be delivered from sin; they do not wish to be led back to God, and you will never make the world what you wish it. But make an earthly kingdom for yourself; that is possible; no mere shadowy imagination. The people are now waiting for a leader who will throw off for them the Roman yoke, and lead them to dominion.” We know it when we wish Christ had provided for his people earthly good as well as spiritual. Nothing but a preference for what is spiritual will secure us against the temptation to wish, either for ourselves or others, what constitutes the glory of this world. 

What does that look like for me?  I think that I keep forgetting about the universality of Christ and at the same time His uniqueness.  The Lausanne Covenant would probably be my version of the Nicene Creed when it comes to my missional statement. It is my book of Acts in covenant form.  In particular, my interest would be in Covenant #3 for today.

If Ezra could see the ‘kingdom’  that describes a king’s rule – and if Jesus is my example on how to lead – then my blessing is to decrease that He might be an increase and in truth, a blessing to a world entering 2017 with quite some uncertainty.  

Lord, may You  lead me and teach me  to be that blessing and to bring about your kingdom in 2017.

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