Ezra 3 – Returning Home

Ezra was a priest, a scribe, and a great leader. His name literally means “help” and this is exactly what Ezra did.  Ezra helped fulfill the promise of the Jewish people returning to Jerusalem. In this short chapter,  Ezra 3 has some powerful insights and reminders that can speak to your heart today.

The first insight is noticing one of the most important things the Jews did upon returning to the city.  Their first focus was on creation and use of the alter.  It was the symbol of God’s presence back in Jerusalem .  What does God’s presence look like to you? Is there a presence in your home? For me I think of some of the little things that represent and remind me of our trust in Him.  The verses that hang on our walls, the calendar that shows family pictures with verses written, the kids Sunday school handouts hanging on our fridge, the Resolution certificate framed from our marriage small group study sitting in our dining room.  In a kitchen you can find a mason jar full of prayers and praises from this year.  I also reflect on what do we model when others come stay? What are we modeling when we are alone? Are we intentional in having a place where we can rest in His presence and show our trust in His protection and presence like the Jews did upon returning home?

3 Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices.

The second focus was on building of the temple, the people didn’t look ahead at the finished product, or the walls to protect the city, they focused on the foundation.  This could be a sermon on its own but I’ll keep it short.  Our foundation is everything.  It doesn’t matter if you are building  temple, house, or a fort.  The foundation is essential.  It’s Just like in our lives.  Our marriages, decisions about jobs, raising a family, making a decision to move…  really anything we do has to be given to God first. Our foundation has to be in God. If you short change, alter the appropriate materials, or modify the accurate dimensions of a foundation it can lead to disaster.  For some of the Jews, this had already happened to them once.  They didn’t want it to happen again. If our foundation is not strong, and when pain kicks in, hardships, fear, anxiety or lowliness sets in, without a solid foundation you will waiver and eventually fall.  Take time daily to build your foundation! Now, think about how the people reacted once the foundation was done. It says they sang, praised, and gave thanks. For He is good, and His loving kindness endures forever… Ezra 3:11 Take time today to sing, praise, and give thanks! Amen

2 Timothy 2:19 says, 19 Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”

Lastly, look at the end of Ezra 3.  At first I was unclear about verses 12-13. The contrast between shouting for joy and weeping? In my study bible it talks about the mix of emotions being felt at that time between the generations.  That some Jews had lived when their first temple was originally built, while others were part of something for the first time.  How many times does the Holy Spirit produce that same emotion in us?  I can be standing in church arms up, praising God singing,  without any care for my pitch.  The next moment, my hands wiping tears from my face convicted once again.  I can often become sobered by my shortcomings, and full of joy, thanksgiving in other moments. In these moments I can see how there are times when it is hard to decipher.  Only God can move us that way.

12 But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. 13 No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.

 

Where do you turn when your world has been flipped upside down? Maybe it was a marriage, job, your own child, a bad decision? Where do you return? You return home to the Lord.  If you have been lost, or maybe just need to rebuild.  Head into the wonderful arms of our Lord.

Have a blessed Tuesday.

United In Christ

Good Morning, today’s Bible Journal post is by my friend and brother in Christ Jeremey Helmer.  Praise! 1 Corinthians 3

As I read through the first few chapters of 1 Corinthians, especially Chapter 3, I can’t help but be reminded of the spiritual journey my wife and I have been on to find a church home since we wed ten years ago. I grew up Catholic while she spent her childhood in Baptist and evangelical churches, so we began our journey miles apart from a theological and liturgical perspective. I think we’ve regularly attended somewhere around ten churches in the ten years we’ve been married. Now, some of the changes were due to relocating from city to city. However, others were admittedly due to the fact that we just couldn’t find a pastor or church that (insert subtle sarcasm) represented a perfect blend of our Catholic/Baptist backgrounds.
Or, to put it another way, since we were both walking away from the faith traditions of our childhoods, we wanted to be sure we found a pastor that was undeniably “right” in both our minds.

Fortunately, through the frustrations of this journey, I’m thankful we’ve returned to Christ as the foundation of our walk together. And now, hopefully we’ve come to a minimal level of spiritual maturity to see the how what we’ve been searching for has been here all along. So with this context in mind, Paul’s opening of Corinthians speaks volumes about spiritual maturity and the roles of the church and its leaders.

The chapter begins with Paul essentially saying, “Look, the fact that there’s division among you regarding which pastor you choose to follow is demonstration that you’re still spiritual infants.” Basically, Paul pointed out that the envy and strife among them should have been evidence that they were completely missing the point. Neither camp was going anywhere fast because they had taken their eye of Jesus as the foundation of their faith. So for Andrea and I, the more we clung to our theological background and held on to our own right-ness, the more prone we were to take our focus off the person of Jesus Christ.

Paul then goes on to explain “Apollos and I are just servants. Don’t boast or brag that you follow either of us. And, even worse, if you can put together a 43-point narrative about why I’m right and Apollos is wrong, you’re even further from the truth.” Several times this past week, I saw a post pop up from a pastor at a small church calling out and refuting some remarks made by Franklin Graham. I won’t go into details on the post, but I was struck by some of the conversations and remarks between sympathizers of the small-town church pastor and fans of Franklin Graham. Each side was firmly entrenched, supporting the leader of their cause to the detriment of their brotherhood and sisterhood. At one point, I too, caught myself thinking “yeah, this guy is completely right, and anyone that supports the other guy just doesn’t have a clue.” It’s so easy to fall into that trap. But then I wondered, “where and how does the reconciliation begin? How could these two sides ever come together to form a body of Christ that would be a beacon of light to the world?”

I could be wrong, but I have to think the communal reconciliation begins the same way that Andrea and I have reconciled our differences through the years – returning to Christ as the foundation, and laying down our entrenched “wisdom.”

Christ Alone ~ Hillsong