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kyrie

Two days ago I had an appointment.  I had been transiently thinking for over a year on the beauty and meaning of the two words I was going to get tattooed on my wrists: Kyrie, eleison.

Kyrie eleison is pronounced “keer-ee-ay  ee-lay-uh-son.”  It is from Greek and means, “Lord, have mercy.”  Growing up in the Lutheran church, the words could be found in the liturgy as an invocation.  It is a way of calling upon God – namely his mercy – before imploring him to help, to hear, or to be praised.

The words kyrie eleison are deep, rich, and special to me personally.  The Lord always seems to bring them up when I need to remember his mercy most.

Anyway, I made a mistake when I scheduled my tattoo appointment.  My husband and I had been talking about getting new tattoos over the past few months, but we hadn’t settled on anything.  It has been about 15 years since my last tattoo and maybe 10 since his.  So I made an appointment without asking him what he thought.

Later, I told him about my plan and he wasn’t quite as excited about it as I was.  He didn’t tell me not to go, he just didn’t like the idea.  I had a few weeks until the date.  I thought surely he would change his mind before then.

We spoke about it a couple times and his answer was the same.  Two days before the appointment I understood that he really did not want me to get this done.  So, I cancelled my appointment.  My wrists are pristine.

I’m not going to lie, I was a little bit bummed.  I actually want a whole sleeve of tattoos on my right arm.  I’ve had the art picked out for a number of years.  I do not have them but what I do have is a really awesome husband who works hard, loves me well, and protects me daily.

That husband also encouraged me strongly to quit coaching cheerleading this year.  I spent three seasons building a competitive cheer program from the ground up – and, by God’s grace, succeeded.  I was never a cheerleader in school, but because my daughters wanted to cheer, I learned what I could as fast as I could and I finally feel like I understand the sport.  I love coaching and I love the program because it is character-building as well as competitive.  There’s only one problem.  I already have a full time job.  I am Tim’s helper.  I am Mia, Addie, Maylee, and Sonny’s mom.  I am Linda’s daughter.  I can do a whole lot of things and succeed, but if they are interfering with how well I can accomplish my main goals in life – raising and caring for my family – then they aren’t conducive to true success.

It’s been a hard pill for me to swallow, really, because I like independence.  We all love our autonomy, don’t we?  I’m sharing these things because I believe there is a great, big, huge, gigantic LIE in our culture that many people believe.  That lie is that autonomy is supreme and if commitment gets in the way of our autonomy, commitment must be sacrificed on the altar of our personal freedom at all costs.  This, friends, is a giant lie.

We see this tragedy every day in small and big ways.  Everything from not returning text messages to how many children we should have is sacrificed on the altar of autonomy.  I’m here to tell you that commitment to other people is far superior to commitment to yourself.  I know it “sounds” crazy!  It’s because the world’s rhetoric and false narrative on the subject is so ubiquitous and goes right along with our own selfish human desires.  But, the truth is, though we are supposed to love and care for ourselves, our main goal and purpose in life is not to please ourselves.  Our main goal and purpose in life is to put God and others first – says the Creator of the Universe.

Others first, not self.

I literally have to preach this to my desperately selfish self every single day multiple times.  And I still make selfish choices.  I preach it to my kids.  I pray that God helps me put away selfish desires.  He answers by giving me others to deal with who interfere with the carrying out of my selfish plans.

Listen, do not buy the lie that says you are ultimately the most important human on earth.  I am here to tell you that, according to the Bible, you are not.  I am not.  And while we’re on the subject, you and I are most certainly NOT enough.  Please, please stop with that terrible mantra.  If you and I were enough, we wouldn’t need a Savior.  We do.  You do.  I do.  Everyone does.  You are NOT enough.  Kyrie, eleison!

When others are first, everyone wins.  When others are first, people communicate instead of ignoring one another when its inconvenient or difficult to answer or dialogue.  When others are first, people consider how others will feel if they act on selfish desires.  When others are first, life is hard, but it is good.

Commitment is sacrificial.  Autonomy is self-fulfilling.  One builds character.  The other builds walls.  Choose wisely.

 

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confession-youfirst

In the final two chapters of the book of Ezra, we find some very necessary, very relevant, very practical examples of how a Godly leader rightly deals with a great number of ungodly leaders within his group.  If there ever was a portion of scripture that needed to be studied, understood, and applied by church leadership in today’s world, this is it.

About four and a half months after the exiles had returned to Jerusalem with Ezra, some officials came to Ezra and told him of the sin that was being committed.  Likely after Ezra began to preach and teach God’s Word to the people again, these men were convicted of the sin still going on in their midst, and, in their lives.

Note, good leaders expose sin rather than hide it.  Good leaders do not deny or cover-up sin to make things more comfortable, easy, or to save their own reputation when presented with Biblical correction and truth.  Only hired hands and religious fakes do that.

The sin of God’s people was that of engaging in forbidden relationships.  The reason God forbade these particular relationships was to protect his people from idolatry and keep them from going astray. It was a matter of purity before God for the Jewish nation.  They directly disobeyed God because they wanted something (someone) they knew they were not allowed to have.  Albeit the forbidden relationships here were with foreigners, we can apply this principle today to many types of ungodly relationships that the Lord has strictly forbidden for his people.  Do not be unequally yoked.

Notice who was most guilty in this great offense:

“The people of Israel and the priests and Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands and their abominations…And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost.” ~Ezra 9:1-2

We are talking about the priests, Levites, and officials here, first and foremost the text says.  The leaders of God’s people who should have been helping others not to sin were MOST GUILTY of sinning in this way and being, as it says, utterly faithless.

Has anyone heard anything about religious leaders engaging in forbidden relationships that dishonor God and lead others astray lately?  There’s nothing new under the sun.

When Ezra hears about the sin of his people, consider what he does and does not do.  He does not dismiss the charges.  He does not consider how he might cover-up their sin or save their reputation.  Instead, Ezra grieves.  He personally grieves.  He fasts.  He sits appalled all day until evening on the day he hears of their sin.  He prays.  He takes on the shame of the guilty despite his own innocence in the matter.  Ezra does not even beg mercy from God.  He only confesses the great guilt of the sin.  He knows there is no basis by which to bargain or to beg.  They have messed up so many times and they have again deliberately disobeyed God doing the same things that got them exiled in the first place.  Think about that!

These guys have just spent 70 years in exile for their disobedience.  They have been given great mercy and deliverance.  They are finally home rebuilding and they and especially their leaders decide its time to do whatever they want and completely disregard God’s Word AGAIN.  These guys are extremely slow learners.

Ezra reacts to this atrocity rightly.  He is truly a leader who looks like Jesus.  Notice what he does when he gets in front of the people who were guilty:

“While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly.” ~Ezra 10:1

Confession and repentance beget confession and repentance.  Because the righteous, obedient leader wept over their sin, the people wept over their sin.  Because the righteous, obedient leader confessed, the people confessed. (Ezra 10:2)

We have to get this, Church!  THIS is the remedy for scandalous sins inside the church and in church leadership!  We must follow the example of Christ – taking on the shame of the guilty, confessing, fasting, praying, grieving, repenting over sin in full view of everyone if there is to be any restoration, healing, or mercy given to us by God in a time such as this.

After the confession, the guilty people then made an oath and a promise to God to put away the forbidden relationships once and for all.  Ezra fasted and made a proclamation for all to see and hear – no hiding or cover-ups here!  He said anyone who does not comply within three days time would forfeit their property and be excommunicated.  Judgement begins at the house of the Lord.

The transgressors came back to Ezra and said they could not do this task in three days because it was so big and so complex – which it was.  They were willing to repent but they proposed an organized way by appointing times and dates for each to come before the officials and their individual cases to be heard.

“All these had married foreign women, and some of the women had even borne children.” ~Ezra 10:44

Consider that many of these individuals had actually married and even bore children to the foreigners.  God is not moved by the, “I can’t help who I love” speech.  God asks, “Did you obey me?”  and if the answer is no, separation may indeed be the painful result of our sin against him and his clear Word.  Therefore, the sooner we confess and repent, the better off we will be.

Here ends the book of Ezra.

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This is my response to this article:

http://www.heresthejoy.com/2018/07/the-unbelieving-spouse-is-sanctified-by-the-believer-examining-1-corinthians-713-16-part-one/

Hi.  I appreciate your willingness to consider the scriptures and investigate them.  I do have some concerns about what it written here and I’d like to share what I have found in my own studies and compare some notes.  Please do not take offense, rather, keep an open dialogue about these matters so we might be able to present the truth together in unity and precision.

You begin your article by asking some questions and then answering them.  I’d like to address that.

“Who is the unbelieving husband?”

The scripture itself never makes the distinction that you are making here – that this only applies to those unbelievers who claim to be unbelievers.  If we take the Word at face value and read it in a straightforward manner, it simply says, “…a husband unbelieving…”

An unbelieving husband is just that.  A husband who does not believe.  It does not say a husband who does not believe and admits it.  It does not say a husband who does not believe and does not pretend to believe.  (Lying is part of being an unbeliever, right?)  It simply says an unbelieving husband.

Many, many, many bona fide unbelievers in our world today profess belief.  In fact, I would argue that the majority of the organized church today could be properly termed unbelievers.  Yet all of them profess.

An unbeliever is known by their fruit, not their profession of faith or lack thereof.  Therefore, the first claim you have made in expositing this text is incorrect.  Everything coming after is skewed due to missing the mark here, but let’s look at the following statements as well and why this is true.

Let’s say a man (or woman) does change after the honeymoon as you suggest.  Perhaps they indeed were pretending to love God and they truly do not.  They are completely different than before in very bad ways.

This is the very situation the scripture is calling the believing spouse to obey in!  If it were not so, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.  If my spouse is not a believer – whether I knew it at the front of the relationship or I found out later, the command is still the same.  If he/she wants to stay, I exemplify Christ, love, serve, and submit until that spouse 1. Dies, 2. Is converted, 3. Becomes physically abusive or 4. Commits adultery.  I would argue that God even redeems marriages who experience abuse and adultery because I am living proof.

Now, in this case you refer to 1 Corinthians 5:11:13.  Paul is addressing leaders within the church as well as the entire congregation – not an individual.  The reason that is important to note is because when we read the bible, context is everything.  The Corinthian church at this time was allowing gross immorality to go on within its walls – even approving of it – without proper church discipline, correction, or accountability.  That is exactly what we see today within the church in many areas of sin, but, most importantly for our focus, abusive marriages.

Paul’s whole point here is that it is the job and responsibility of THE CHURCH to hold men (and women!) accountable for sin.  Not only the church, but the victimized spouse as well.  That is always our call when someone is sinning against another person and fails to repent when first approached.  (See Matthew 18.)  When they refuse to do so or worse, victim blame and coddle offenders, the church becomes irrelevant and abusive itself.  Welcome to Churchianity 2018.

Again, this is an experience I personally have lived out thrice over in three separate churches among several others who contributed.  The church refuses to deal with the sin of the offending spouse and instead throws both the offender and the victim out of the church in order to avoid “problems.” Yes, three times excommunicated and I’ve yet to be told why.  But I know why and that is another reason I had to respond to this post.

This whole duck and run deserter mentality of the church as a whole – the spouse, the culture, and everyone who is ever confronted is getting so tiring and it is literally going to be the end of the truth in our generation if people do not start dialoging about differences, thinking critically, and allowing open communication even with those with whom they disagree.

Anyway, you go on to Romans 16:17-18. Romans is about false teachers who flatter and deceive by their charm.  If that describes my spouse, first of all, he is not deceiving me because I already know better if I am in this situation.  Secondly, because I am not deceived by him, I can expose him AS I SHOULD for his own good, my own good, and the purity of the church.  And that’s the prescription for a spouse whose unbelieving spouse is deceiving others with false teaching and flattery.  Expose them.  The problem actually comes when the church disbelieves you and continues to listen to lies and flattery because it’s easier than dealing with a man who is unstable.

I don’t dessert or avoid my spouse on account of his or her divisiveness.  That would contradict what the Bible has already told me to do when I find myself married to an unbeliever which is to let him or her stay and dwell with me.  The Bible never, ever contradicts itself so we must reconcile these two passages and let scripture interpret itself rather than making up our own ideas.  We must place greater value on the passage that speaks most specifically and most directly to my particular situation (1 Cor 7:13) rather than the one I am inferring and applying to my situation that is actually speaking most specifically to a completely different kind of situation (not marriage, but false teachers within the church.)

Next, you talk about what it means to be “pleased to dwell” with the unbeliever.

If you are the believer and you are not doing all you possibly can to love, serve, and, yes, speak to the unbeliever especially within a household and a marriage (but why stop there —that is the most obvious place where this inclusion and dialogue MUST take place with an unbeliever, but it must also happen at work, at the grocery store, and, absolutely 100% AT CHURCH because THESE are the very people whom God has commanded us to go out and share the gospel with!!!), but if you are not doing this in your house and your marriage, you are most definitely ALSO in sin.  Make no mistake, the scripture does not just apply to those who are offending us.  It also applies to us when we are being offended.  It’s still true no matter how I feel and the Word of God is not a book of suggestions, it is a book of instructions and commands.

If we are disgusted at the sight of our own spouse because he is an unbeliever who treats us and others poorly, we have some repenting of our own to do.  Amen and amen.

As far as what you’ve stated about a root of bitterness, please refer to and read Wendy Alsup’s articles on this passage.  It is very well-said and eye-opening for this argument.  You can find them here:

https://theologyforwomen.org/2011/07/what-bitterness-really-is.html
https://theologyforwomen.org/2014/06/the-root-of-bitterness-at-mars-hill-church.html

You go on about if we are loved by our spouse, then it makes sense to be able to sanctify them through our Christ-like behavior.  Of course it makes sense, because if that’s the case then it’s easy.  Saying that misses the whole point of why it needs to be said in the first place.  Again, the scripture makes no distinction regarding whether the unbelieving spouse loves us or shows love properly to or even treats us kindly or poorly.  We are to live holy, serve Christ by serving them, loving them, and being an example of godliness no matter what they do – as we are with ALL unbelievers in fact – unless and until we are in physical danger or abandoned by that spouse.  That’s what the scripture teaches and I would bet all I own on that fact.

Lastly, what you say about being sanctified does not line up with the context either.  Think about it.  Just as bad company corrupts good character, if I was with Jesus all day every day, I would become different.  That’s what this is.  I SHOULD be hanging around Jesus every day if I am in this situation (or otherwise) –becoming like him even in his suffering, humility, and allowing him to comfort and defend me and while I look more and more like him, my unbelieving spouse (and everyone around me) may indeed change.  That is absolutely what the scripture is teaching here whether our modern eyes and ears are willing to hear and accept it or not.

I know that I know that God and His Word are altogether faithful and true because this was my life!!  My marriage was worse than bad but was redeemed and completely restored after 14 years of pain and hardship.  God is faithful to his Word and his people and I now have the very best marriage I could have imagined.  We just celebrated 18 years.  Let God be true and every man a liar.  Amen.

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Key to Leadership

How many Christian leaders do you know that are actually embarrassed to rely on the world to help them?  Ezra was that kind of guy.  Ezra chapter 8 gives us a look at some real godly leadership.

Ezra had just been given literally everything he needed from the king himself.  He was given peace, men, authority, money and goods, tax exemption, and full trust to teach and to judge among the men he was going to serve.  The king had given all this to Ezra and sent him off to his home in Jerusalem after many years of exile in a foreign country.  Ezra had witnessed about His about how great, mighty, powerful, and able His God was to the king and all his men.  When Ezra sets out to leave, what he does and does not do is worth noting and meditating upon.  Let’s consider Ezra’s initial actions as leader of God’s people.

First, Ezra gathered all the men he had with him and figured out who was there.  He recognized that some men, the Levites, were missing so he sent for them and they came.  Once all the men he needed were present, the very first thing he did was call a fast.

“Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. 22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, ‘The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.”  So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.” ~Ezra 8:21-24

Responsible men must rely on God, not self.  At first glance Ezra’s refusal to ask the king for soldiers and horses for protection on this journey may seem prideful or even foolish.  But, given the context, we can see that at the very root of Ezra’s intent is a great faith in God’s providence and humility about himself.

Think about it.  The men travelling with Ezra are strong, equipped, leading, able-bodied men with authority over others.  They are heads of their fathers’ households.  One would think these guys could hold their own.  Still, they are not so foolish to think for one moment that they can get themselves and everyone else where they need to go without God.  Self-sufficiency is of Satan because nothing is more offensive to God than pride.  These guys know better.  They have been humbled by their time in exile.  They understand that God wants us to come to him, to rely on him, and to humble ourselves before we do anything – but especially when we have responsibility over other people and are embarking on a new and difficult task.  Notice what Ezra’s fast is for in verse 21.

Firstly, the fast to a way of humbling themselves.  When we know God, we will know ourselves and our ever-present tendencies to be prideful and foolish.  Because Ezra knows God, he knows his need to humble himself  before God and put away any pride he may have over his newfound leadership roles.

Next, the fast was called to implore God for safety and protection for the leaders themselves, the children under their care, and the good they were carrying with them.

I pray for people all the time in the hospital.  Many times, what I find, especially with men but women as well, is that they will ask me to pray for everyone except themselves – when they, in fact, are presently in a position where they are the ones who need prayer the very most!  They will tell me that they never ask God for anything for themselves.  At first, this practice may seem unselfish, but when we line it up with scripture we find that it is not only unwise but it is also rooted in pride.  I bring it up because here we find just the opposite.  Ezra and his leading men call a fast to pray for their own protection before anyone else’s.  They aren’t so arrogant as to think they don’t need anything from God like everyone else under them does.  They know that if they are killed or captured on the way home that it will leave all who depend on them unprotected as well.  They pray and fast for themselves and their own safety knowing they need God just as much as their children do.

They also pray and fast for their children.  A good leader will think of all who are under his care and be responsible about their spiritual, physical, and emotional protection as much as he is his own.  Responsible men do not leave those whom God has entrusted to them to fend for themselves.  They sacrificially fast and pray for those who are weaker and strengthen others through prayer and intercession.

Lastly, Ezra and his men pray for protection for their material items.  They have been entrusted with a great amount of gold, silver, wheat, wine, oil, salt, etc.  They have been given much, much wealth and provision by the king and king’s treasury.  To not pray for protection of their goods during this journey would be to treat them as unimportant.  These were the very things they would need in order to accomplish their purposes in Jerusalem.  These were the very blessings of God given for their success in carrying out the will of God in the temple and among his people.  God wants to be included in our handling of the material things he so generously gives to us.  It all belongs to him.  We are just using these things on his behalf and in order to be good stewards, we must pray his blessing and protection over all that which he entrusts to our care.

Now, notice what Ezra says next.  This is the crux of the entire passage.

22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, ‘The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.”  So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.” ~Ezra 8:22-24

The reason Ezra called the fast and refused to ask for soldiers and horsemen is because he was ashamed to ask for worldly help after he had testified to the greatness and power of his God.

When is the last time you were embarrassed to ask for help that came from anyone or anything besides God?  Consider this…Ezra had favor with the king.  He could have asked for literally anything and been acquiesced.  Soldiers and horsemen were not an unreasonable request for this dangerous journey.  Many might even argue that he needed them.  But Ezra cares about one thing that is evidently much more important than his own comfort and ease and that is God’s glory.  GOD’S glory. God’s GLORY.  God’s glory matters immensely to learned little scribe Ezra.  Ezra cares so greatly for God’s good name that he absolutely refuses to allow anyone to think God needs any human king or kingdom to assist him.  King Artaxerxes may have been the most generous and gracious king Ezra had ever met, but he wasn’t getting God’s glory.  God would get his glory and he would do it by disallowing Ezra to accept worldly protection.  No one was going to be able to say King Artaxerxes led the Jews to Jerusalem out of exile.  Only God could do that.  And do it he did.

We find from the conclusion of the chapter that, “The hand of our God was on us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambushes by the way…” (Ezra 8:31)

When given a responsibility or leadership, prove faithful.  Pray first, before you set out.  Fast for yourself, all those under you, and your goods.  We cannot accomplish anything apart from God.  We cannot do this life alone and we cannot save ourselves.  Christ is the only one who can lead us out of the captivity and exile of sin and lead us home, and he will be the only one who gets the glory for our salvation.  Never be ashamed to need God.  Be ashamed NOT to trust him.  Amen!

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weary

Her rest is overdue.  She fights.  She’s well past the point of being tired.  Still, she runs.  With every once of fire she has left, she tries to hide from me.

I find her.

She cries.

I pick her up.  She squirms.  She screams.  She fights.

I put her down in the very place she does not want to stay.  I speak softly.  She grimaces.  I play her favorite song.  She frowns.  I put my hand on her face.  She quiets.  I sing to her.  She closes her eyes.

I hold her hand.  Soon, her countenance lifts.  She reaches up.  She fears I will leave.  She tries to pull me down into her space.  “I can’t come down there.  I’m too big.  I won’t fit.”

I sing a few minutes more and then we pray.

“Goodnight, little one.  See you in the morning,” I whisper as I walk out.

I begin again.  Page number one.  My new notebook begs to be briefed.

She is me.

My rest is overdue.  I fight.  I am well past the point of being tired.  Still, I run.  With every once of fire I have left, I try to hide from Him.

He finds me.

I cry.

He picks me up.  I squirm.  I scream.  I fight.

He puts me down in the very place I do not want to stay.  He speaks softly.  I grimace.  He plays my favorite song.  I frown.  He puts my hand on His face.  I quiet.  He sings to me.  I close my eyes.

He holds my hand.  Soon, my countenance lifts.  I reach up.  I fear He will leave.  I try to pull Him down into my space.  “I can’t come down there.  I’m too big.  I won’t fit,”  He says.

He sings a few minutes more and then we pray.

“Goodnight, little one.  See you in the morning,” He whispers as He walks out.

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
    all the remnant of the house of Israel,
who have been borne by me from before your birth,
    carried from the womb;
even to your old age I am he,
    and to gray hairs I will carry you. 
I have made, and I will bear;
    I will carry and will save. ~Isaiah 46:3-4

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psalm

After the temple was completed, God sent a man named Ezra to teach his people.  Anywhere there is a legitimate house of God, God will send a teacher of his laws.  Ezra was a scribe well-educated on the Law of Moses.  He knew the law, he understood the law, he practiced the law, and because of those three facts he was prepared to teach the law to God’s people.   He had favor with the king and text tells us twice that God’s hand was on him.

Long before he was called by the King or by God to lead others, Ezra had made his main purpose and goal in life to know God’s Word and follow it.  Ezra 7:10 says, “Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.”  

Don’t miss this!  Ezra did not just diligently study the law and teach the law he knew so well.  The Bible says Ezra did the law.  Ezra set his heart to study the law of the Lord, to do the law of the Lord, and to teach the law of the Lord.  Far too many teachers and preachers of God’s law fail to do what they so willingly teach others they must do.  Beware of religious men who teach what they refuse to do and live.

Ezra is not just a say-er, he is a do-er of God’s laws.  For this reason, God’s hand is upon him.  Ezra is given great favor and charge from the king, which, ultimately, is simply an indication of the great favor and charge he has been given from God.  These are the things King Artaxerxes wrote in a letter to Ezra the priest:

  • “Peace.”  The king greeted Ezra with the salutation of peace.
  • He gave Ezra and whomever wanted to follow him from Babylonia back home to Jerusalem leave to move.
  • He gave Ezra the job of checking up on Judah and Jerusalem according to God’s law.
  • He gave Ezra all the gold and silver in Babylonia to take with him and instructed him to buy whatever was needed for God’s house.  Whatever was leftover, he left up to Ezra to distribute/use however he saw fit.
  • He gave Ezra access to his own treasury for anything additional he would need.
  • He commanded his own treasurers to give Ezra anything he needed or asked for.
  • He blessed Ezra and cursed anyone who would oppose Ezra’s projects.
  • He exempted Ezra from paying any and all taxes to his kingdom.
  • He gave Ezra the job of choosing leaders including magistrates and judges according to the laws of God.
  • He commanded Ezra to teach God’s laws to everyone who did not know them.
  • He gave Ezra authority to execute judgement on those who would not follow the laws of God.

    WOW!  What a great amount of trust and responsibility King Artaxerxes gave to Ezra!  What favor!  What help and honor!  Because Ezra had spent his life pouring into the things of God, diligently studying God’s laws, and personally following them, God raised him up to lead and teach his people.  God gave Ezra so much favor that his king gave him charge of everything in Jerusalem and provided all he needed to accomplish his tasks and then some.  Ezra thanked God.  (Ezra 7:21-28)

    Ezra did not decide to lead God’s people one day and show up at the temple the next.  Ezra diligently studied for years learning and practicing the ways and laws of God so thoroughly that he was ready when God called on him to lead.  Likewise, every follower of God is responsible for diligently studying and practicing God’s Word.  We are called to study to show ourselves approved.  We must not only know God’s Word, but do it.  And if we will be faithful in our love for God’s Word and truth, God’s favor will be on us.  When the time is right, he will use us mightily as he used Ezra.

    Ezra 7 is a great encouragement.  It reminds us that in all the years spent as scribes – learning God’s Word, studying diligently, and learning to obey it, God has not forgotten us.  God honors long-term, honest commitment to His Word and truth.  God will call on the faithful workers and use us in big ways when the time is right.  Be patient and keep your hand raised.

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The building of the temple in Jerusalem had restarted after about 17 years of pause.  The prophets Haggai and Zechariah heard from God, commanded the people, and the people obeyed and began rebuilding again.  The neighboring governors had sent word to the king reporting their activity and King Darius is now making a decree regarding their rights.

King Darius did not just grant permission to build or forbid it based on a whim of his own preference.  King Darius did what any just and wise leader would do in a situation where he wasn’t sure what the truth was.  King Darius sought after facts.  The text says that when the governors came to him seeking his will on whether the building project was allowed, he made a search.

“Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in Babylonia, in the house of the archives where the documents were stored. And in Ecbatana, the citadel that is in the province of Media, a scroll was found on which this was written: “A record…” Ezra 6:1-2

King Darius searched diligently for the truth in a matter that he was not personally involved in.  He was fair and just in his approach toward God’s people.  When the documents were found stating that Cyrus had indeed given permission for this project, they were found 300 miles from Babylonia where King Darius began the search.  300 miles.  When is the last time you were willing to search far and wide fro truth and justice for the sake of someone else?

Here is a man – a leader – a king, who cares.  Here is a man who doesn’t make decision based on opinion or personal preferences.  King Darius was a man of integrity, at least in this instance, and because he cared about the facts and the truth, he was willing to go to great lengths to find it in order to do what was right by God and men.

Not only did King Darius search for the truth until he found it, when he found it, he added his own blessing and curse to it.  When he finds the documents proving that King Cyrus had commanded the Jews to build the temple for God.  King Darius tells the neighboring governors who had come to him to “keep away” and “let the work of this house of God alone.”  He also tells them that they are to pay the Jews to complete the work from the royal revenue.  He says to do so immediately and in full. He commands the governors to give them everything they need every single day and ask them to pray for him and his family.  Finally, he adds a curse of death for anyone who would stop the work.

So the temple was finished and God’s people celebrated and had Passover 20 years after they set out to complete this work.  Out God is a giver-backer.  He is a God of restoration, redemption, and reconciliation.  God restored all his people had lost when they obeyed.    Ezra 6:14 says the reason they prospered was “through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo.”  The Bible credits the success of God’s people to the prophesying of God’s prophets, not the political king who subsequently gave permission, materials, and monetary aide.

Never underestimate the power of God’s Word coming to you through one he has chosen to help you obey.  It was the prophets who commanded and restarted God’s true work in the people and it was they who were credited with the prosperity of God’s people when the people obeyed.  The king was just a guy whose heart God turned for the sake of his people.  Ezra 6:22 says the people had been made joyful because the Lord turned the heart of the king to them so that he aided them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.

God can turn the heart of any man, woman, or child.  He can turn the heart of any servant, leaders, or king.  When we obey God, there is no limit to the amazing help and restoration he will – either here or in the afterlife – provide.  One day all things will be brought to light and made right.

 

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