May 31, 2016

Today you should read: Ezra 6

After a time of opposition the building plan has finally been reaffirmed! As we have seen the last few days as we have been walking through Ezra, there have been people who have stood against the building of the temple. In this chapter, we get to see the completion of the temple! We also see that the people of Israel celebrated the Passover, as one’s who had returned from exile. God had been working and moving in the hearts of many different people to accomplish his purpose.

What is important for us to recall today is the faithfulness of the Lord. In verse 22 it says: “And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy, for the Lord had made them joyful and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.” The people’s hearts were filled with joy following the Lord fulfilling His promises.

When we think of this joy in light of the opposition that faced the people just a few chapters ago, we are reminded, like we are so often in scripture, that God is in control even when situations seem like they have lost all hope.

When is the last time that you have lost hope? What was your natural response to that? If it was not to trust God, why do you think that was? What does that say about your heart?

By: Graham Withers

May 30, 2016

Today you should read: Ezra 5

There seem to be two distinct responses to the work of God here on Earth. As individuals, when we feel God leading us, calling us, or convicting us, we can either respond with a faithful “Yes, Lord,” and eagerly join God in the work He is doing in our lives, or we can stubbornly dig our heels into the dirt and sinfully challenge God’s authority in our lives. Obviously, as Christians, we know what a joy it is to strive for our lives to reflect the first option more and more every day.

Yet as we seek to live obediently, we can anticipate two responses from the groups around us, as evident in our reading of Ezra 5 today. First of all, we should eagerly anticipate the support from our family of believers. As Zerubbabel and Jeshua were undertaking the rebuilding of the temple, “the prophets of God were with them, supporting them” (5:2). As family members in the body of Christ, we have the great privilege of both encouraging and being encouraged by our fellow believers.

Yet we must also be prepared for the world to respond differently to our obedience. Just as Tattenai challenged the faithful obedience of the builders, so also will the world question us. As the world watches our obedience, it may bombard us with criticisms, doubts, or mocking (which may actually provide a great opportunity for us to witness). Friends, we may rest confident in the fact that if our God is for us, none may stand against us.

So as we enter into our day, what are some ways that we can share God’s work in our own lives with our fellow believers and invite them into it? How can we specifically build up a brother or sister who is seeking to be obedient to God today? How can we prepare ourselves for the challenges of the world, that we may share the gospel and not be hindered our obedience?

By: Logan West

May 28, 2016

Today you should read: Ezra 4

Beginning at creation, Satan has been interrupting the work of God. The serpent tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden and deceived them by twisting the words of the Lord:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5 ESV)

Satan could not change the rules and bounds that God has set in place, but he could deceive them by perverting the words of God. Satan cannot create, he can only pervert or twist what has already been made. He has been striving to disrupt the work of God throughout history and that is exactly what we see him working toward in today’s passage.

The children of Israel are finally allowed to return from exile and rebuild the Temple when immediately they run into trouble. A group of locals who are introduced as “The Enemies” ask to join in the building project, but the Israelites wisely decline. Their stated ground for declining the help is that the decree of Cyrus applied only to the returning exiles. No doubt they understood that the actual intent behind the request was to frustrate the project. Those enemies then exaggerate the situation to the Artaxerxes, the king of Persia, who eventually demands construction to cease.

What we have to keep in mind when we think about Satan’s work in the world is this: God is always in control, and He is never surprised by any event. God is completely sovereign over the universe that He spoke into existence. Unlike fantasy movies, there is not a cosmic battle between good and evil that has an unknown outcome; God has already won. There has never been a time in history where Satan has overcome God. When Christ offered himself on the cross and died to atone for all of creation’s sins, He rose victoriously from the tomb, defeating death, Hell and the grave. For us today, we can rest in God’s complete sovereignty over our own lives. Even if Satan has set things in your path to disrupt you from doing God’s work, you can rest assured that God has already defeated Satan.

By: Alex Boswell

May 27, 2016

Today you should read: Ezra 3

I like to reminisce on special moments from my past. My wife, Serah, could tell you just how nostalgic I am. Plus, my mind is a steel trap when it comes to those past events, whether about sports, school, family, or spiritual monuments. Many of those moments are cause for worship and thankfulness to God. A good number of them will stay with me for a lifetime.

How special do you think this moment was for the builders and laborers? Verse 6 tells us that the foundation of the Temple was not laid, but the rest of the chapter explains that these faithful workers would lay it. Imagine the significance… they had the divine privilege of laying the Temple foundation. You can tell how colossal this is simply by reading to the end of the chapter. Priests and Levites came in to celebrate. People sang. Some even wept! This day could never be forgotten for them.

It’s incredible that Zerubbabel was the one to get to do this work for God and His people. This “job” would help restore proper worship for the people of Israel. It would be a focal point for them concerning their saving God. Zerubbabel is also mentioned in an important New Testament passage: the lineage of Jesus Christ:

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.
And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel… (Matthew 1:6-12, ESV)

Pretty neat epitaph for that guy, right? “Laid the foundation for the Temple… oh, and I was also a part of the family foundation of Messiah.”

What are some of your spiritual monuments? What are the unforgettable moments of God’s work in your life? We’d love for you to share.

By: Todd Thomas