Unchangeable, Promise Keeping God

And the journey continues….Ezra. Ezra is a history book about the Jewish people’s amazing return to Jerusalem from Babylon. Due to their evil idolatrous ways and forsaking of the worship of the one true God, they were carted away to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. Jerusalem was destroyed along with the temple. The precious gold bowls and articles of worship were carried away too. Their exile, which was warned about by a multitude of prophets, was accomplished by the Persian army and many of the Jewish citizens were deported to Babylon. All the prophets had foretold their exile and also their return. No date was given in earlier prophesy’s to their return but God promised to bring them back. As the time for exile approached, God sent a message to the people through Jeremiah that they would be exiled for 70 years and then be brought home to Jerusalem. The events in Ezra tell us how God used a pagan king to accomplish this feat and see to His people’s return 70 years after their deportation.

Daniel, one of the exiled Jews, spoke of how God uses all in His world to accomplish His will in his prayer. Daniel 2:21 He changes times and seasons;
    he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to the discerning.
Daniel knew that God controlled who was in power and determined the future of His people.

The book of Ezra opens 70 years later. Ezra is a Jewish official, a scribe and a priest in the service of King Cyrus of Persia. The regime has changed and Cyrus had a revelation from God and his heart was moved towards the Jewish people living in his realm. Ezra 1:1-4  “In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the Lord fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom:

“This is what King Cyrus of Persia says:

“The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any of you who are his people may go to Jerusalem in Judah to rebuild this Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, who lives in Jerusalem. And may your God be with you! Wherever this Jewish remnant is found, let their neighbors contribute toward their expenses by giving them silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock, as well as a voluntary offering for the Temple of God in Jerusalem.”

There are several amazing things about this occurrence. Their return was foretold by Jeremiah before their exile in Jeremiah 25:11-12 and 29:10. Here is 29:10 “This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again.” God was very specific on the number of years they would be in exile (70) and that when they returned they would have provisions. Cyrus ordered fellow Jews remaining in Babylon to support them and their efforts to rebuild the temple. He, a pagan king, was used by God in a mighty and miraculous way aid in the return of God’s people. They did return and began rebuilding the city, walls and temple. Ezra stayed, led in the instruction of the people in God’s ways so that they did not sin continue to sin against God. He had to return to Cyrus’ court and Nehemiah was led to go and continue this restoration.

What lessons can we take from this story? Foremost, God keeps His promises. God said they would go, they did. God said they would return, they did. The events were orchestrated by God and not by the Jews who were in exile. God knew the correct time for their return and who was going to be in power. God knew Cyrus would listen to His message and act upon it. One would never have thought that the golden bowls, etc. that were taken as plunder and placed in the Babylonian temple by King Nebuchadnezzar were there for safekeeping. Only God could take away, preserve and then return them to where He wanted them to be. That same God is the God we know today. Hebrews 13:8 tells us “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” He is our unchanging all powerful God who watches over all of us. This account gives me hope and assurance that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do, always and forever. It also assures me that God is Sovereign over nations, those in power and events happening in our world. When things look bleak, I need to always remember that God is indeed in control and walk trusting Him for my safekeeping. I know God keeps His promises!

Be encouraged by God today.

Linda

Waiting…Let’s get busy!

When Jesus ascended back into heaven He promised a gift from the Father would come. He did not tell them how long they would wait, but He did say don’t go home. They trusted that the wait would be short enough that they would not want have to return to fishing in Galilee. Scripture gives us some insight into their waiting period which we know was 10 days. The Holy Spirit came on Pentecost which was 10 days after Christ’s ascension into heaven. Acts 1:12-14 “Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”

During those days of prayer and fellowship they came to the decision that they needed to chose another apostle to take Judas’ place due to his betrayal of Christ and suicide. Acts 1:15-17 “In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.” Peter quoted a prophecy from Psalms in Acts 1:20 “ “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms: “‘May his place be deserted;    let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, “‘May another take his place of leadership.’ They all felt that Jesus wanted them to have 12 Apostles representing the 12 tribes of Israel. There seemed to be several men that met the criteria of having been with Jesus who had followed Him from baptism to crucifixion. This was a unique time period and in the future, after the coming of the Holy Spirit, they no longer cast lots to chose leaders. With the Holy Spirit as their guide, they did not have to use this manner and here is the last mention of it in the Bible. Acts 1:21-26 “ Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.”

What do we take away from this scene? The disciples knew what Jesus expected of them, their mission was to tell others about Him and to live and walk with him each day. Knowing that they needed 12 Apostles, they set about identifying those amongst themselves that met the criteria of having been with Jesus. They let God choose which would take up this responsibility when they chose by casting lots. So what does God require of us as we await His return? Is it not the same? We have our mission and purpose to tell others the good news of Jesus’ love and forgiveness. We have lives to live that are to glorify Him in all we say and do. We are to walk with Him each day leaning upon His wisdom, understanding, hope and eternal justice as we seek to live humbly, before Him. AND, don’t we have work to do so that we have the methods, people and places ready and in order to carry out His mission. Waiting is not idle time but it is work time. Spreading the good news is essential and filled with purpose.

So… get up, get busy and be about His work while you wait. Study, learn, memorize, speak out, praise, pray, encourage and support one another in love until He comes again!

Linda


Aftermath- a Homeward Journey

The old saying, “It is so good to go but oh so nice to come home”, could be said of Joseph, Mary and Jesus in this last episode of the Christmas Story. God again directed their pathway and protected them from harm. He led them to the place Jesus would call home until His public ministry began some 30 years later. Matthew 2:19-23 “But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.”

As this portion of Jesus’ life concludes we see the hand of Sovereign God protecting the child and his parents yet again from the evil leader who might seek to harm the child. Archelaus was evil and tyrannical like his father Herod. He only remained in power for 10 years but was know as unusually cruel and tyrannical before being deposed. His reign was short and Judea a became a province of Rome thereafter and was ruled by those appointed by the emperor. Again, God spoke and Joseph listened and obeyed his dreams. Going back to Nazareth was probably comfortable as that was where they had lived prior to having to go to Bethlehem for the census several years before. Even though people would have known their history, they were returning as a married couple with a small child. Scripture does not indicate there was any animosity towards them or held beliefs or prejudices. Nazareth was a quiet backwater type of town where obscurity could be achieved and the child protected. Again, this protected location is seen in the prophesies that Jesus would be called a Nazarene. These exact words are not found in the Old Testament but their meaning of one who is despised and rejected is referred to in Psalm 22:6 and Isaiah 53:3. Being referred to as a Nazarene in Jesus’ day was synonymous with one who is despised. Surely, nothing good could come from Nazareth was the assumed idea. No one would look for the ‘king of the Jews’ in such a place and no one did!

What can we take away from this story today? We see that God’s will and plan for the redemption of mankind through His Son could not be thwarted by men. God had a plan for our salvation and nothing could disrupt it. Job 42:2 reminds us of this ““I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” We also see God’s hand of protection in Mary and Joseph’s story and His guidance to Bethlehem, Egypt and back to quiet Nazareth. So many things could have befallen them on their journey, but God protected and guided them home. He can and does this for us in our lives, too. We may not see it, but as God grows our faith and opens our eyes to His goodness as we come to trust more fully in His plans and ways. It is a life long process of growing in the Lord that matures our faith. I’m confident that this ‘journey’ was one of growth and trust in the Lord for both Mary and Joseph.

As we leave this last installment of the Christmas Story, let us remember with confidence that God’s plan is sure Job 42:2, His ways are not our ways Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord,” His ways are always right Psalm 71:19 “Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you? and He does things for our good and His glory Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Praise God for His blessings and what He teaches us through His Word. The Advent Season is one to be cherished and loved. We can cling to the Hope, Love and Redemption we see throughout the year. Jesus is the reason for Advent Season! “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”. John 3:16

Linda

Where are you placing your future? Is it done with Hope and Assurance?

Do you have verses that are yours?  One of my life verses is Jeremiah 29:11.  I first connected with this verse when I was asked to choose a verse for my grandson at his baby dedication. God led me to Jeremiah 29:11 and I began to cling to the promises it holds.   The connection for today and every day is the hope contained with God’s Words. romans 8-28“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”   This verse tells me God knows me and my future and He has good planned for me.  Those things He has planned are designed to give me hope and a positive future.  I am convinced that God loves me and wants the very best for me.  I am convinced that God is good,  desiring the best for me- for my good and His glory.  How can I not have hope?

Does this mean that everything will always be good, happy and fulfilling? No.  It means that whatever happens in my life, God can use it for my good.  Romans 8:28 confirms Jeremiah-29-11this, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”   Since I know and love Jesus, I am assured that He can and does use all things in my life for good.  In the hard times, it is difficult to be assured of this,  but looking back or looking at others suffering we can often get a glimpse of this truth.  This calls for our faith and trust in Him.

I cling to the truths of Jeremiah 29:11 when hard times come, when I see amazing things happen, when I look and plan for the future and seek to know what He would have me do.   I ask for His help and guidance as His will is perfect His direction is true.  Let Psalm 25:4-5 be your prayer as it is mine.                                                                                            psalm 25 5 “Show me your ways, Lord,
    teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my Savior,
    and my hope is in you all day long.

Linda

May Thanksgiving be on your lips today!

happy-thanksgivingAs you gather around your Thanksgiving table today, let praise and thanks lead your discussion.  David expressed it this way in Psalm 107:21-22 :                                                     Let them praise the Lord for his great love
    and for the wonderful things he has done for them.
22 Let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving
    and sing joyfully about his glorious acts.

What praises do you have for the Lord today?  Can you tell of things He has done for you this year?  As you tell your family, offer your words in thanksgiving to God for His gracious provision, help, love, care and guidance.  All we have we owe to Him as He is the provider of all things.  If things look dark today, place your hope and trust in Him remembering His promise in Jeremiah 29:11, “ For I know the plans I have for thanksgiving tableyou,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”   God is good and has good things planned for you just as He promised.

Have a day filled with thanksgiving and praise!

Linda

Are you tapping into God’s wisdom? If not, why not?

Because Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, I have access to God’s wisdom.  In James 1:5 we learn that though Christ we have the ability to ask God for james 1 5wisdom. If any of you lacks wisdom [to guide him through a decision or circumstance], he is to ask of [our benevolent] God, who gives to everyone generously and without rebuke or blame, and it will be given to him.”   James makes it known that God gives wisdom to help us in our daily decisions and won’t put us down in any way for asking.  James also assures us that God generously wants to give us wisdom for living.  We can trust that all God’s advice is good.  Nahum 1:7 assures us of God’s goodness and Jeremiah  29:11 reminds us that all God’s plans and purposes for us are good. Therefore, we can be assured that good advice always comes from Him.   Nahum 1:7 The LORD is good a refuge in times of trouble, He cares for those who trust in Him.”  Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  God is good; it is an integral part of His character.  We can trust Him and know that He will not give us bad advice or lead us in the wrong way.  I don’t know about you, but it comforts me to know that God is willing to share His wisdom with me and guide me.

How do I get godly wisdom?  Proverbs 1:7 tells us “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;  fools despise wisdom and instruction.”   Having the right heart attitude that shows reverence for God and His great wisdom is the place to start.  Then look into God’s Word, spend time in prayer fellowshiping with Him allowing God the opportunity to lead you in His way.  If we are diligent and patient, God will reveal His perfect will to us. God tells us “We do not have because we do not ask.  We do not receive because we ask with wrong motives.” James 4:2b-3  Prayer that is honest, sincere and heartfelt is required.  One other thought, the Lord promises to give us wisdom generously.  We won’t get just a little bit of wisdom but enough to do what God has for us to do!

Lindaneed wisdom

Suggestion:  Think of a problem that is coming up this week, a relationship that needs work, or a task that needs to be accomplished.   Pray and seek God’s wisdom in how to specifically proceed.  Then wait and be amazed at the results.