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.

Fellowship of the Word

“I’d rather spend every Sunday of my life hanging on a cliff to rescue someone than spend more time sitting in a pew next to hypocrites that talk about what they will do to better themselves and the world when they get around to it.”  – Shannon L Alder

Today’s reading: Deuteronomy 2; Psalms 83–84; Isaiah 30; Jude 1

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. -Jude 1:17-23

As I attempt to stand against the tide of culture and the temptations of the world, it is my honor to have good friends who share this journey. Those, who by the grace of God, fight the battle to stand among the righteous, endeavoring by surrender and perseverance, to win the race for the greatest prize in all creation. So it is to my fellow bible journal.net writers I say, “thank you!”  Each of you hold a special place in my heart, among others with whom we share this journey of faith. image

This is a remarkable journey. Amidst the delusions of life, my faith in Jesus Christ stands out as a metaphysical and experiential reality of Divine proportion. Life is but a series of existential crises for us all. Thankfully, God has not only spoken the universe into existence, but he has also placed His profound truth in the hearts of all people, to be discovered and responded to through His revelation in nature; law; and powerful examples from others (Psalm 19). God offers a complex, yet simple, written history of His plan for the restoration of a fallen world. Truth is offered to all and begins with the desire to know who God is; and is bound in the decision to pursue a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. These two things don’t always happen at the same time, as I can attest.

What is remarkable, is how God’s plan is tailored specifically for each of us. It is a plan based upon who we are, and upon who God is. It is a plan that challenges us to become the “people we were designed to be” (Jon Harris). imageIn the process of pursuing this plan, as we learn to love God and others, we find supernatural joy and peace in our lives. As we live lives of faith, following the path of Jesus, we are transformed by God’s Holy Spirit, and it is in this transformation that we gain spiritual traction, moving faster into the arms of God.

It is extraordinary how common it is for believers everywhere to experience divine appointments; holy conversations; God’s perfect timing; peace that transcends all understanding; and a true and lasting joy. Interestingly, this common experience is still unique to the individual. Our precious identities are not lost in Christ, but there they are found!

Despite this truth it hasn’t always been easy for me to see it.

They say to the seers, “See no more visions !” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!” -Isaiah 30:10-11

Yet beyond all the confusion, among the many voices that surround us, it is from the best examples of believers (above all) and acts of love from others who seek the light, that Christ is seen. This is the truest, straightest and most illuminated path to the richest fellowship with God.

Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. -John14:6

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So thank you to: Jillian Koch McGriff for your brilliant words and empowering faith; Jennifer Armstrong for your sharp mind and insightful teaching; David Lafrance imagefor your open heart and amazing faith journey; Michael Somers for your wisdom, dedication and perseverance; imageJon Harris for building people up through constant encouragement; and BJ Armstrong for your mighty faith, vision and leadership. Each of you have enriched me in countless ways in the past five months of writing. Thank you! May God continue to bless you and your families with wisdom, truth and power from His Holy Spirit. In the name of Jesus. Amen.