Monday, December 15, 2008


I’m guessing you’re familiar with the children’s fable of the tortoise and the hare. The hare (A “hare” is a rabbit – for those of you who missed the zoology portion of freshman biology) begins the long race fast and furious but runs out of juice and is defeated by the slow but steady pace of the tortoise. Well, I’m a rabbit, who married a tortoise. One of my husband’s mottos is, “Wait as long as you can and say as little as possible.” He believes if you sit back and wait, many things will ultimately resolve themselves. I, on the other hand, believe that situations are better dealt with immediately so they don’t have time to fester. As you can imagine, these opposing views on life and how to deal with it have given us many opportunities to…um…well…compromise. As parents of (nearly) adult children, I still want to be a rabbit-mom and rush in to give my opinion/aid/censure. My husband has taught me that a turtle-mom is much more effective. When a virus invades our computer (like happened to me last week), my husband is learning that rabbit’s get far less damaged than turtles by such rampant sniffles. I guess my point is that God created both the tortoise and the hare, and as is true with most things, it’s a lifelong process to discern the proper time to become the appropriate creature. In Ezra’s case, both were needed – first the rabbit, then the tortoise. But the most important thing to remember is that they finished the race set before them…

Just a reminder of what’s happening:
Ezra 10:5-6 – “So Ezra rose up and put the leading priests and Levites and all Israel under oath to do what had been suggested. And they took the oath. Then Ezra withdrew from before the house of God and went to the room of Jehohanan son of Eliashib. While he was there, he ate no food and drank no water, because he continued to mourn over the unfaithfulness of the exiles.”
Now here’s what those who took the oath did:
Ezra 10:7-11 – “A proclamation was then issued throughout Judah and Jerusalem for all the exiles to assemble in Jerusalem. Anyone who failed to appear within three days would forfeit all his property, in accordance with the decision of the officials and elders, and would himself be expelled from the assembly of the exiles. Within the three days, all the men of Judah and Benjamin had gathered in Jerusalem. And on the twentieth day of the ninth month, all the people were sitting in the square before the house of God, greatly distressed by the occasion and because of the rain. Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, ‘You have been unfaithful; you have married foreign women, adding to Israel's guilt. Now make confession to the LORD, the God of your fathers, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples around you and from your foreign wives.’”

  • Three days? Yikes! Short notice for people who had to travel on donkeys or on foot from up to fifty miles away through mountains and/or a wilderness. Why three days? Remember Ezra in Jehohanan’s room without food or water? Well, the human body can live without food for forty days before starvation begins to take its toll, but it can only survive for three days without water before severe dehydration sets in.

Ezra 10:12-17 – “The whole assembly responded with a loud voice: ‘You are right! We must do as you say. But there are many people here and it is the rainy season; so we cannot stand outside. Besides, this matter cannot be taken care of in a day or two, because we have sinned greatly in this thing. Let our officials act for the whole assembly. Then let everyone in our towns who has married a foreign woman come at a set time, along with the elders and judges of each town, until the fierce anger of our God in this matter is turned away from us.’ Only Jonathan son of Asahel and Jahzeiah son of Tikvah, supported by Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite, opposed this. So the exiles did as was proposed. Ezra the priest selected men who were family heads, one from each family division, and all of them designated by name. On the first day of the tenth month they sat down to investigate the cases, and by the first day of the first month they finished dealing with all the men who had married foreign women.”

  • Imagine the scene. Thousands of people seated on the ground in front of God’s Temple in a driving rainstorm, and Ezra shouting at them to repent of taking foreign wives. And the multitude cries out with one voice, “Huh? We can’t hear ya ‘cause of the rain, but we know we messed up. Give us some time, and we’ll fix it!” Now, Ezra seems like a rabbit kind of guy to me, but in this case, he must have had the patience of a tortoise to deal with God’s people. Sin seldom comes into our lives overnight, and oftentimes we must patiently, methodically overcome it.

Ezra 10:18-22 – “Among the descendants of the priests, the following had married foreign women: From the descendants of Jeshua son of Jozadak, and his brothers: Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib and Gedaliah. (They all gave their hands in pledge to put away their wives, and for their guilt they each presented a ram from the flock as a guilt offering.) From the descendants of Immer: Hanani and Zebadiah. From the descendants of Harim: Maaseiah, Elijah, Shemaiah, Jehiel and Uzziah. From the descendants of Pashhur: Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad and Elasah.”

  • The priests are the only ones listed as presenting a guilt offering. Perhaps others did, and it was just assumed. Or perhaps because priests in the Old Testament were the people’s representatives to God, they had a greater spiritual responsibility, and thus a greater burden of restitution. Jesus’ death on the Cross made a “priest” unnecessary since we all have equal access to God through the sacrifice of Jesus; however, spiritual leaders today still have a heavy responsibility for those they are called to shepherd.

(Don’t panic at all the names. I’ve bolded the headings and two particular names I want you to focus on later…)
Ezra 10:23-44 – “Among the Levites: Jozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah (that is, Kelita), Pethahiah, Judah and Eliezer. From the singers: Eliashib. From the gatekeepers: Shallum, Telem and Uri. And among the other Israelites: From the descendants of Parosh: Ramiah, Izziah, Malkijah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Malkijah and Benaiah. From the descendants of Elam: Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth and Elijah. From the descendants of Zattu: Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad and Aziza. From the descendants of Bebai: Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai and Athlai. From the descendants of Bani: Meshullam, Malluch, Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal and Jeremoth. From the descendants of Pahath-Moab: Adna, Kelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui and Manasseh. From the descendants of Harim: Eliezer, Ishijah, Malkijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon, Benjamin, Malluch and Shemariah. From the descendants of Hashum: Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh and Shimei. From the descendants of Bani: Maadai, Amram, Uel, Benaiah, Bedeiah, Keluhi, Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Mattenai and Jaasu. From the descendants of Binnui: Shimei, Shelemiah, Nathan, Adaiah, Macnadebai, Shashai, Sharai, Azarel, Shelemiah, Shemariah, Shallum, Amariah and Joseph. From the descendants of Nebo: Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel and Benaiah. All these had married foreign women, and some of them had children by these wives” (emphasis added).

  • We can’t end this study without addressing the sad truth that these women and children were cast away from their husbands simply because they were foreign – they were not Israelite by birth. But once again, I beg you – place blame where it belongs. Are you thinking God is too harsh? Ezra too harsh? The leaders too harsh? Please go back and read all those names you skipped over, and realize that each one made a choice to disobey God and unite himself with a woman who observed the detestable practices of the foreign people of Canaan. Please lay the blame at the feet of all those difficult to pronounce names above. Remember that before Jesus Christ, God’s people lived by the Law and were required to follow it to the letter in order to receive forgiveness of sins. Then rejoice in God’s amazing grace that came through Jesus’ sinless life, sacrificial death and powerful resurrection. Now, we live by the law of the Spirit of life, in which God’s forgiveness is through faith.

Lord, two critters so different – a tortoise and a hare – equally precious to You, each giving us insight to our reactions. Two portions of history – the Old Covenant governed by the Law, prescribing death and separation for sin; the New Covenant governed by Grace, prescribing faith in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of my sin. Each plan is precious to You because each has its purpose – the Old foreshadowing the New. Teach me to value both the tortoise and the hare in my life, Lord, and discern which the better choice in any given situation is.

Monday, December 08, 2008


Which of these precious darlings do you think might have led their father to such drastic discipline...

Parenting ain’t for wimps, and my husband is one of the toughest dads I’ve ever met. Not because he’s terribly mean or strict, but because of his creativity in discipline. One of our daughters was a teenager, and she had crossed the line – more than once. It was the third time she’d come in past curfew, and we were out of ideas on discipline. Well, I was out of ideas. Roy was just getting started. He called the wayward offspring into the living room and seated her on the couch. “I’m going to punish you,” he explained, “by taking your punishment on myself.” I gawked at him, as did our daughter. He continued to explain, undaunted by our furrowed brows. “I’m going to deny myself something I value very highly, something I’ll miss dearly. Each time you see my sacrifice, you’ll be reminded to honor your curfew next time.” Our daughter’s face brightened, thinking she’d completely wriggled off the hook. Dinner came, and when it came time to pour the drinks, Roy refused the Pepsi we usually poured for him. “No thank you,” he said. “I won’t be having any Pepsi for a month.” That’s how long the grounding would have been for our daughter if we’d have implemented the rules of the house. She looked at her dad with daggers in her eyes, and poured his glass of water. After a week of pouring dad’s water at dinner and enduring his loving, sacrificial spirit, the grounding looked more and more appealing. Sometimes as a leader, we must suffer with those we lead. Sometimes they must come to their own conclusions. Sometimes they must ask for their own discipline…

Ezra 10:1-4 – “While Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites--men, women and children--gathered around him. They too wept bitterly. Then Shecaniah son of Jehiel, one of the descendants of Elam, said to Ezra, ‘We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us. But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel. Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all these women and their children, in accordance with the counsel of my lord and of those who fear the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law. Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it.’”
  • What a beautiful picture of leadership at its best. The shepherd burdened by the Lord, and the people receiving the same burden in prayer. The body coming to a consensus and then committing to act in support of the shepherd as he leads in that decision. Notice that the body encourages the leader when he despairs, and the leader trusts the direction of the people committed to God’s Word. Also take note that the people place ultimate authority back into the leader’s hands, offering their support and continued encouragement.

Ezra 10:5-6 – “So Ezra rose up and put the leading priests and Levites and all Israel under oath to do what had been suggested. And they took the oath. Then Ezra withdrew from before the house of God and went to the room of Jehohanan son of Eliashib. While he was there, he ate no food and drank no water, because he continued to mourn over the unfaithfulness of the exiles.”

  • As the leader, Ezra secured the plans for action…and then he took his fingers out of the pot and empowered others to do the work. His job was to fast, pray, and maintain the fervency of the calling – even when he wasn’t involved in every step of the process. But don’t you imagine those doing the work noticed Ezra’s continued burden? Don’t you imagine they were inspired by his continued faithfulness in prayer?

Lord, it’s hard to allow others to do the work I feel so passionately about. Help me to be faithful in prayer and allow You to work in others’ hearts according to Your will and Your Word. Show me that putting my trust in You is sometimes lived out by trusting Your work through others.


This is my sweet friend, Ve. God has given her the spiritual gift of bridge-building. From a very young age, she was placed in circumstances to open the hearts of white folks to black folks and vice versa. The love of Jesus mingles with her precious smile, and she shares her African American heritage in such a way that I am awed, intrigued and humbled. I used to think that NOT being prejudice meant I had to think people of color were the same as me. Ve has taught me that's not true. Some African Americans are very different than me. Some are more similar. Some, like Ve, embrace a rich African American heritage and revel in its uniqueness. I love that and I'm learning its nuances through the loving, patient teaching of my bridge-building friend. Ve is writing her memoires, and though racism is not the central theme, it is a golden thread that is woven throughout her lifestory. I'll let you know when it's published! Racism is the mistaken belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.[1] God chose a single race for His purposes, but God is NOT racist. He did choose Israel, however, to be the apple of His eye, to guard and retell His-story (history) in order that redemption could come to all people.

Ezra 9:1-2 – “After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, ‘The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness’” (emphasis added).

  • After the incredible joy and celebration of his successful journey, Ezra is almost immediately faced with a crisis of public rebellion to God’s command (sin) not only by the people of Jerusalem but by those in leadership as well. Notice that the scandal was not just that they had married the neighboring people, but that they had not separated themselves (remained holy) from these people’s detestable practices. It is not the people God hates, but the sin those nations represent.

Ezra 9:3-4 – “When I [Ezra] heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled. Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me because of this unfaithfulness of the exiles. And I sat there appalled until the evening sacrifice.”

  • What do you think went through Ezra’s mind to cause this violent reaction? Why did those watching join him in this reaction? When was the last time sin (mine or someone else’s) affected you this deeply? Sin seems to have become the norm and obedience the oddity at which we marvel. Until we are reawakened to sin’s appalling affects on our lives and the lives of those around us – we can’t feel or communicate the desperate need for our Savior.

Ezra 9:5 – “Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the LORD my God… (emphasis added).”

  • Having a regular time of personal worship is essential to break the cycle of whatever has captured our minds – discouragement, sin, materialism, unreal expectations, etc. Even godly sorrow must end in order to move forward, and the personal discipline of consistent worship recenters our focus. It gives us the opportunity to voice upward all that churns inward.

Lord, some problems could overwhelm me. They’re too big for me to fix, too vast for me to feel any hope – until I break that cycle of hopelessness by coming to you on a regular basis and laying it at Your feet. Only there can these huge issues roll off my shoulders and into Your capable hands. My responsibility is to be obedient and faithful in my own attitudes and actions toward those around me. Let it be so, Lord, to Your glory.


Monday, November 24, 2008


If you’re going to be an instrument of God, you’d better be in tune – and it helps if you don’t quit the band. That was my problem. I quit band. Several times. I was in fifth grade when I quit the first time, and we were just learning how to play those “flute-a-phones.” I think they called them “recorders” when our daughters played them. They’re those black, squawky plastic tubes with holes in them. Anyway, I was first chair flute-a-phonist and I already knew how to play, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or whatever other stupid song we were playing. (I was kind of a brat, can you tell?) Well, the P.E. teacher had gotten a trampoline from the high school for the day. The kids who didn’t have band could jump on the trampoline. I very politely asked my band teacher if I could be excused from my flute-a-phone duties to jump on the trampoline. He said no. I said, “Fine, I quit.” Did I mention that I was a brat? In sixth grade, they got a new band teacher. The other guy probably ran far, far away because of kids like me. My three girlfriends were playing clarinet – so I talked my parents into letting me rejoin the band to play clarinet. They sunk a couple hundred dollars into a clarinet that I played for about a year and then I quit band again because…my girlfriends and I got into a fight and decided not to be friends anymore. Did I mention that I was a brat? Well, Ezra was anything but a quitter. In fact, he became the instrument itself and allowed God to play a sweet tune for us to enjoy…

Ezra 8:21-23 – “There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, ‘The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.’ So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.”
  • If we’re going to toot our horns for God, we’d better be ready to play the whole song. Don’t put an “I love Jesus” bumper sticker on your car and drive like a maniac. We must be willing to step back and interpret our actions as an unbeliever would view them in order to live in a way that can win them to Christ. And while we’re thinking about that – we may just discover how we should have been living in the first place!

Ezra 8:24-30 – “Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests, together with Sherebiah, Hashabiah and ten of their brothers, and I weighed out to them the offering of silver and gold and the articles that the king, his advisers, his officials and all Israel present there had donated for the house of our God. I weighed out to them 650 talents of silver, silver articles weighing 100 talents, 100 talents of gold, 20 bowls of gold valued at 1,000 darics, and two fine articles of polished bronze, as precious as gold. I said to them, ‘You as well as these articles are consecrated to the LORD. The silver and gold are a freewill offering to the LORD, the God of your fathers. Guard them carefully until you weigh them out in the chambers of the house of the LORD in Jerusalem before the leading priests and the Levites and the family heads of Israel.’ Then the priests and Levites received the silver and gold and sacred articles that had been weighed out to be taken to the house of our God in Jerusalem” (emphasis added).

  • It is the instrument itself God values, not just the music it plays. Think of the different shapes and sizes of musical instruments, the different sounds they make, the creative minds that invented them. Now, think of the thousands (perhaps even millions) of faces you’ve seen in your lifetime, the different lives they’ve lived, the infinite Creator the formed them. Then, imagine the sheer joy He finds in the music of our voices raised in praise, in prayer, in teaching, or in honest searching, repentance or even anger. He loves the instrument, and when the music plays, He is doubly blessed.

Ezra 8:31-36 – “On the twelfth day of the first month we set out from the Ahava Canal to go to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was on us, and he protected us from enemies and bandits along the way. So we arrived in Jerusalem, where we rested three days. On the fourth day, in the house of our God, we weighed out the silver and gold and the sacred articles into the hands of Meremoth son of Uriah, the priest. Eleazar son of Phinehas was with him, and so were the Levites Jozabad son of Jeshua and Noadiah son of Binnui. Everything was accounted for by number and weight, and the entire weight was recorded at that time. Then the exiles who had returned from captivity sacrificed burnt offerings to the God of Israel: twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven male lambs and, as a sin offering, twelve male goats. All this was a burnt offering to the LORD. They also delivered the king's orders to the royal satraps and to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, who then gave assistance to the people and to the house of God” (emphasis added).

  • For most instruments, you must take in a breath in order to breathe out the music – and even the drummer must lift his hand to beat the drum. After a 900 mile journey, these people needed rest before they could complete the ministry they’d been called to do. They could have pushed themselves, gone to the Temple immediately, delivered the goods, offered a half-hearted sacrifice and fought with the local magistrates. And their music would have been discordant and out of tune. Instead, they rested first and then offered God the sweet sounds of whole-hearted, faithful, sacrificial worship, and they didn’t quit the band.

Lord, give me wisdom to balance my rest and service. It’s so hard to know when to breathe and blow, to lift my hand and beat the drum. Perhaps that’s the problem. I’m the instrument trying to tell the Great Musician how to play me. How utterly ridiculous! I rest in Your hands, waiting to feel Your gentle touch, feel the Breath of Your Spirit flow through me and know that any music I play is by Your hand alone. Thank You, Lord, for choosing me as part of Your band.


Now, you see, these cats have been praying for a fish to eat. Do they expect one to miraculously jump out of the water or should they pounce on the one the man with the pole will catch? When is it time to get off our knees and roll up our sleeves? What’s the difference between active faith and meddling with God’s plan? In pastoral ministry for fourteen years, my husband had lots of opportunities to wait on God to fill leadership positions and provide volunteers for various ministries. I once asked him why he didn’t just make an announcement that he needed a volunteer for a Sunday school teaching position. His answer? “Because I might get one.” Roy’s approach was similar to that of Ezra – pray ‘em in and then seek ‘em out. Pray, and let God send someone to fill the position. If no one shows up in time, use godly wisdom to seek out the best person for the position. But most of church ministry is based on volunteerism. One of the churches we served held a fish fry twice a year as a fundraiser. We needed lots of volunteers because this was a community event that drew people from adjoining towns. Well, one particular family had always been in charge of frying the fish. It just wouldn’t be a Jonah Fish Fry without the Stump family slaving over the frying vats! Two brothers, their wives and kids – all huddled in the back lawn, rain or shine, twice a year. Guess what? As sign-up sheets for the fish fry were posted one spring, not a Stump family name appeared in the frying section! The earth shifted on its axis! Ice crystals formed on the Lake of Fire! Pastor Roy, the designated volunteer hit-man, was immediately dispatched for a home visit. Why? Because years of godly fish-frying was on the line! I’m kidding, but I’m not. My husband did talk to the Stump family to ask why they had suddenly bowed out of this ministry. He encouraged them to use the skill and wisdom they’d gained in their years of service to train their replacements, and he pushed them to serve even though ministry fatigue had set it. Yep, pushy Pastor Roy. So they fried fish. With glad hearts. They did it for God, not for Roy.

Ezra 7:13 – “Now I [King Artaxerxes] decree that any of the Israelites in my kingdom, including priests and Levites, who wish to go to Jerusalem with [Ezra], may go.”
Ezra 8:1-14 – “These are the family heads and those registered with them who came up with [Ezra] from Babylon during the reign of King Artaxerxes: of the descendants of Phinehas, Gershom; of the descendants of Ithamar, Daniel; of the descendants of David, Hattush of the descendants of Shecaniah; of the descendants of Parosh, Zechariah, and with him were registered 150 men; of the descendants of Pahath-Moab, Eliehoenai son of Zerahiah, and with him 200 men; of the descendants of Zattu, Shecaniah son of Jahaziel, and with him 300 men; of the descendants of Adin, Ebed son of Jonathan, and with him 50 men; of the descendants of Elam, Jeshaiah son of Athaliah, and with him 70 men; of the descendants of Shephatiah, Zebadiah son of Michael, and with him 80 men; of the descendants of Joab, Obadiah son of Jehiel, and with him 218 men; of the descendants of Bani, Shelomith son of Josiphiah, and with him 160 men; of the descendants of Bebai, Zechariah son of Bebai, and with him 28 men; of the descendants of Azgad, Johanan son of Hakkatan, and with him 110 men; of the descendants of Adonikam, the last ones, whose names were Eliphelet, Jeuel and Shemaiah, and with them 60 men; of the descendants of Bigvai, Uthai and Zaccur, and with them 70 men.”
  • King Artaxerxes asked for volunteers, and these are the ones who showed up. Approximately 1,500 men registered to make the trip from Babylon to Jerusalem with Ezra. Now, v. 21 mentions children, and with children come mothers to corral them on this 900 mile adventure. So you can see, Ezra has his hands full of far more than 1,500 calm, determined, capable, qualified men. He had a wild, excited horde of humanity with various passions, strengths, weaknesses and motives for their journey. Sound familiar to any of you pastors and leaders out there?

Ezra 8:15-17 – “I assembled them at the canal that flows toward Ahava, and we camped there three days. When I checked among the people and the priests, I found no Levites there. So I summoned Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah and Meshullam, who were leaders, and Joiarib and Elnathan, who were men of learning, and I sent them to Iddo, the leader in Casiphia. I told them what to say to Iddo and his kinsmen, the temple servants in Casiphia, so that they might bring attendants to us for the house of our God.”

  • Ezra registered the volunteers and affirmed their service; however, he recognized a gap in the practical ministry need. Should he have simply accepted those who presented themselves as God’s provision and moved on? He didn’t think so. Ezra affirmed the passion of those whose hearts God had stirred to volunteer, but he also pursued those who would provide vital leadership in Jerusalem. Passion and proficiency are both necessary components of successful ministry.

Ezra 8:18-20 – “Because the gracious hand of our God was on us, they brought us Sherebiah, a capable man, from the descendants of Mahli son of Levi, the son of Israel, and Sherebiah's sons and brothers, 18 men; and Hashabiah, together with Jeshaiah from the descendants of Merari, and his brothers and nephews, 20 men. They also brought 220 of the temple servants--a body that David and the officials had established to assist the Levites. All were registered by name.”

  • What if the Levites had not agreed to come? What then? Does that mean God is no longer gracious? Or could that mean Ezra had rolled up his sleeves when he should have stayed on his knees?

Lord, I believe You call me to walk on my knees, continually taking one step past my ability. When the answer comes, as it did for Ezra, You receive the glory. When the answer doesn’t come, I simply remain on my knees and know that You have said, “No, my child,” or “Not now.”

Monday, November 10, 2008


This is the great group of people from Mt. Hermon, who taught me some basics of fiction writing. Then, there are three special women, who read every word of my manuscript before it was sent to the publisher - sometimes reading it twice or three times, actually. Amazing people. Thank you so much....
I recently got the incredibly good news from a publisher offering a book contract on my Song of Solomon novel. Thinking they were being magnanimous, they even offered me a 2-book deal, asking that I write one of the “future projects” listed in my original proposal. I should have been thrilled, right? Wrong. Months before, right after turning in the proposal, I had researched that “future project” topic and came up totally blank. Instead, my heart had been drawn to a different topic for my next book. The publisher had no way of knowing this, of course, but the great news of my first book contract was now tainted with worry over how I would produce a manuscript on a topic I had no research or passion to write. Well, it’s a good thing my daughters knew CPR (heart-to-heart talks with mom) and my husband knew resuscitation techniques (a few kisses always help) – because I needed reviving several times before I called the editor, asking to change the topic of the second book. She took the decision before the publishing committee. My faithful team of prayer warriors battled on their knees, and by the time the committee made their decision, the Lord had opened my heart to either choice for that second book. But by God's grace, the committee changed the contract to the book of my passion, and they still offered the 2-book contract. “Good news, bad news” became pure, unabashed great news! Our friend Ezra experienced the same kind of roller coaster emotions, when the great King Artaxerxes offered a gift he couldn’t refuse….

Ezra 7:21 – “Now I, King Artaxerxes, order all the treasurers of Trans-Euphrates to provide with diligence whatever Ezra the priest, a teacher of the Law of the God of heaven, may ask of you…”
  • Imagine if you were one of the treasurers of the Trans-Euphrates, and this little Jewish guy walks up with a letter from the king, ordering you to fulfill every whim of the man standing before you. What would be going through your mind? Wouldn’t you wonder how he managed to bamboozle the king so thoroughly?

Ezra 7:22-23 – “…up to a hundred talents of silver, a hundred cors of wheat, a hundred baths of wine, a hundred baths of olive oil, and salt without limit. Whatever the God of heaven has prescribed, let it be done with diligence for the temple of the God of heaven. Why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and of his sons?”

  • A good healthy fear of the Lord is one reason King Artaxerxes is being so cooperative. He must have read the part about the Exodus/Moses, the plagues of Egypt and Pharaoh’s firstborn son, huh? But fear is a short-term motivator. This kind of long-term commitment drips with respect – for Ezra and the “God of heaven” to which the king refers again and again.

Ezra 7:24-27 – “You [treasurers of Trans-Euphrates] are also to know that you have no authority to impose taxes, tribute or duty on any of the priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, temple servants or other workers at this house of God. And you, Ezra, in accordance with the wisdom of your God, which you possess, appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice to all the people of Trans-Euphrates--all who know the laws of your God. And you are to teach any who do not know them. Whoever does not obey the law of your God and the law of the king must surely be punished by death, banishment, confiscation of property, or imprisonment. Praise be to the LORD, the God of our fathers, who has put it into the king's heart to bring honor to the house of the LORD in Jerusalem in this way…”

  • The king has just taken away both gold and government from the treasurers of Trans-Euphrates – both of which mean power. As a general rule, how eager are men to give up money and power? Hmmm. How popular do you think that would make Ezra among the treasurers of Trans-Euphrates? Hmmm, again. Ezra is not stupid. He sees the great news of the king’s generosity toward the Jews – and the bad news of the dissension he faces when he arrives in Jerusalem. But his first response to the impending struggle is praise. He realizes IT’S ALL ABOUT GOD. IT’S NOT ABOUT EZRA AND HIS COMFORT OR HIS STRUGGLE.

Ezra 7:28 – “…and [the LORD] who has extended his good favor to me before the king and his advisers and all the king's powerful officials. Because the hand of the LORD my God was on me, I took courage and gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.”

  • When Ezra’s attention did finally turn inward, he focused on how God’s faithfulness had been displayed in his life. He admits his fear (“I took courage”) and uses his God-given wisdom to surround himself with top-notch people. Thinking of God first doesn’t mean we belittle our own needs. It means we move forward in a power beyond ourselves.

Lord, You never said this life was supposed to be easy; in fact, just the opposite. You have called us to take up our cross daily. The Good News is that the Cross is empty – because You conquered it 2000 years ago. The bad news is I must carry it for as long as I live in this sin-sick world. The Great News is that one day I will see You face to face, and there will be no more crosses to bear.


I have a friend I’ll call “Joann.” She’s given me permission to share her stories as long as I don’t use her real name – to protect the innocent…and the guilty – ha! I’ve only recently gotten to know Joann, but she’s kept me in stitches with the hilarious recounting of her life’s ebb and flow. Most of all I’ve been amazed at the single golden thread that’s woven through each story – the thread of the Gospel shared with a needy soul and God’s transformative power in that person’s life…and in Joann’s. Her first story began with her arrest due to a false accusation. Then a crooked lawyer gave faulty advice, and she was given a yearlong sentence on a work-release crew on weekends, while living at home and working a full-time job Monday through Friday. The result? The work-crew foreman gave his life to Jesus, and revival swept through the county work-crew officers. A few years later, she answered her door and found a policeman standing there with an apologetic smile. “I’m here to arrest you again,” he said. This time she didn’t cry. This time she even put on make-up for the mug shot. After being led to the cell block, when it was the second tiered cells’ turn for walk about, she yelled at the top of her lungs, “Alright, who prayed that God would send someone to pray with them tonight? Because I didn’t do what I’m accused of doing, and I shouldn’t be here, so somebody must have prayed for help. I’d like to go home, so if you could just tell me who you are, we could talk about the Lord, and then I can go home.” A little voice in a corner cell said, “I prayed.” Before the night turned to day, that little voice was raised in the sinner’s prayer. And from that night’s experience, Joann began a women’s Bible study at the jail on Sunday mornings at 6:30am. Sometimes God puts us in places we can’t imagine in order to do BIG things for Him. Joann influenced in a prison, Ezra influenced in a palace. We don’t usually get to choose where or when we have or use our influence, but how we handle the opportunity is our own to determine...

Ezra 7:11-12 – “This is a copy of the letter King Artaxerxes had given to Ezra the priest and teacher, a man learned in matters concerning the commands and decrees of the LORD for Israel: Artaxerxes, king of kings, To Ezra the priest, a teacher of the Law of the God of heaven: Greetings.”
  • Artaxerxes, a pagan king, is about to use a considerable amount of papyrus to ensure this foreign priest/teacher safe passage on a journey to worship a god that’s not the king’s own. However, it’s clear that Artaxerxes has spent much time with Ezra learning about this “God of heaven.”

Ezra 7:13-14 – “Now I decree that any of the Israelites in my kingdom, including priests and Levites, who wish to go to Jerusalem with you, may go. You are sent by the king and his seven advisers to inquire about Judah and Jerusalem with regard to the Law of your God, which is in your hand.”

  • These verses tell us WHY Ezra was sent to Jerusalem – to ensure the Law of God was being taught and followed in Jerusalem. They also tell us how a copy of the Law found its way back to Jerusalem – in the capable, safe hands of Ezra the priest and teacher.

Ezra 7:15-17 – “Moreover, you are to take with you the silver and gold that the king and his advisers have freely given to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem, together with all the silver and gold you may obtain from the province of Babylon, as well as the freewill offerings of the people and priests for the temple of their God in Jerusalem. With this money be sure to buy bulls, rams and male lambs, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings, and sacrifice them on the altar of the temple of your God in Jerusalem.”

  • This part of the letter reveals Artaxerxes’ familiarity with the Law of God. The specific terms he uses for offerings, “freewill…grain…drink,” and his specific reference to bulls, rams and male lambs for sacrifice shows some familiarity with Ezra’s teaching.
Ezra 7:18-20 – “You and your brother Jews may then do whatever seems best with the rest of the silver and gold, in accordance with the will of your God. Deliver to the God of Jerusalem all the articles entrusted to you for worship in the temple of your God. And anything else needed for the temple of your God that you may have occasion to supply, you may provide from the royal treasury.”
  • This pagan king just wrote a blank check and gave it to Ezra – without an itemized receipt for the supplies. And he did it based on his belief that Ezra would hear and KNOW the will of his God.

Lord, You haven’t placed me in a palace, but You have placed me in a circle of people that only I can influence. There are people in my life that will hear my voice, people in whom I’m supposed to plant seed, some whose seed I’m supposed to water, and perhaps some I’ll even be blessed to harvest the fruit of others’ planting. Help me to be a faithful influencer of those in my life, Father.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


We're made up of a hundred little pictures, a thousand little events, emotions, evolutions (not the ape kind) that shape us into the image of who we are...I used to be an ESFJ, but I’m not sure anymore. My husband is an ENTJ, and I would guess my older daughter as an ESFJ and the younger as an ENSP. And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m guessing you’d like me to explain pdq, asap! Those letters are descriptors assigned after taking the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator test. Maybe you’ve heard of other personality tests like the Keirsey Bates or perhaps you’ve heard tossed around the terms sanguine, choleric, phlegmatic or melancholy. Someone might introduce themselves by saying, “Hi, I’m a phlegmatic melancholy.” To which I would reply, “Go take some cough syrup and cheer up!” Then I would promptly get kicked out of the conference or class or whatever social gathering I was attending. Some have tried to define a person by these standard personality tests, which is of course impossible. God created each of us uniquely with billions of different combinations of pasts, presents, and futures. Each decision, each experience shapes the person we become. The personality indicators are wonderful tools – and incredibly interesting and insightful. But they don’t define us. It takes much, much more to know a person. Let’s get to know a man named Ezra….

Ezra 7:1-6a – “After these things, during the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah, the son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub, the son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth, the son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki, the son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest-- this Ezra came up from Babylon. He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the LORD, the God of Israel, had given.”
  • WHO is Ezra? Well, Ezra’s lineage was of great importance to the Jews because it gave him spiritual “clout” as a direct descendant to the first chief priest of Israel (Aaron was Moses’ brother). Our lineage, our childhood, our past shapes us – for better or worse. However, his ancestors couldn’t learn the Law of Moses for him. That choice he made for himself…as we must.

Ezra 7:6b-7 – “The king had granted [Ezra] everything he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him. Some of the Israelites, including priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers and temple servants, also came up to Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes.”

  • These verses also tell us HOW Ezra is perceived by others. He enjoyed the favor of his king, his God and his peers. Even though we can’t/shouldn’t derive our value or worth from other people’s opinions of us, the way we’re perceived by others does in fact shape a portion of who we are. The most important opinion, of course, is God’s view of us – and to Him, we’re worth dying for.

Ezra 7:8-10 – “Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the fifth month of the seventh year of the king. He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.”

  • WHAT we do also helps reveal who we are. Ezra didn’t just talk about the Law of Moses. He observed the Laws that he studied, and he embarked on a perilous 900-mile journey, arriving just 4 months after he began because of God’s gracious protection. He was a man of faith and action.

Lord, it’s so tempting to sit and learn. It’s so difficult to learn and GO. I want to become a person of faith and action. When my circumstance limits my activity, show me creative ways to serve. When my circumstance calls for new steps into uncomfortable territory, give me the courage and commitment to make the journey. I want to know myself and be known by others as a person who studies and acts on the Word of God. Let it be so in me, Lord.

Monday, October 20, 2008


My mother-in-law, Glenda, celebrated everything. She chewed bubble gum til the day she died because every day had something in it worth blowing bubbles about! When my husband, Roy, was a senior in high school, she brought him breakfast in bed every morning! Pop-tarts and bacon, five days a week. Boo-yah! And Glenda was like the Energizer Bunny on steroids when we went on vacations. She planned every detail and crammed every minute full of activity. On one such marathon trip, we were at a hotel in Canada, and she woke up our two daughters so the three of them could sneak into a little 3-wheeled cart race-track that was closed at night. The rules said Glenda was too tall to ride the carts while an attendant was on duty. So obviously, when an attendant was not on duty, Glenda shrunk to the right height. At least that’s the reasoning we used with our girls (I don’t think they bought it either). The picture above is a memory of her last official celebration on earth - watching her older son receive his doctoral degree. Three months later, heaven celebrated her homecoming. Sometimes I use the excuse that I’m just too tired to celebrate. I fall into the trap of “let’s just stay home and rent a movie” rather than finding creative date night ideas. I buy a birthday cake and stick a few candles on top instead of baking a cake and cooking the birthday person’s favorite meal. When you really think about it, celebrating is hard work – but it yields great rewards. God loves our celebrations – so much so that He commanded feasts and festivals – because He knew celebrations are life-giving.

Ezra 6:13-15 – “Then, because of the decree King Darius had sent, Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates carried it out with diligence. So the elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, a descendant of Iddo. They finished building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia. The temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius” (emphasis added).
  • God provided both external/political (the king’s decree, Tattenai accountability) and internal/spiritual (Haggai’s and Zechariah’s preaching) motivators to complete the work on God’s Temple in 3 ½ years of sustained effort because the Temple was the central focus of all celebration and worship for the Jews.

Ezra 6:16-18 – “Then the people of Israel--the priests, the Levites and the rest of the exiles--celebrated the dedication of the house of God with joy. For the dedication of this house of God they offered a hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred male lambs and, as a sin offering for all Israel, twelve male goats, one for each of the tribes of Israel. And they installed the priests in their divisions and the Levites in their groups for the service of God at Jerusalem, according to what is written in the Book of Moses” (emphasis added).

  • Notice that their celebration was God-focused. They sacrificed and installed priests according to God’s directive. They did it to please Him, not just themselves. That’s true worship; that’s diligent celebration.

Ezra 6:19-20 – “On the fourteenth day of the first month, the exiles celebrated the Passover. The priests and Levites had purified themselves and were all ceremonially clean. The Levites slaughtered the Passover lamb for all the exiles, for their brothers the priests and for themselves.”

  • The Temple was completed in the twelfth month (Adar – v. 15), and depending on whether this was a leap year (in which the Jewish calendar adds a thirteenth month), Passover would have been at least one month after the Temple celebration. So often after big events, like Christmas or Easter, churches especially notice a downturn in enthusiasm and service. It’s easy to “letdown” after a celebration, but what’s “easy” isn’t what’s best.

Ezra 6:21-22 – “So the Israelites who had returned from the exile ate it, together with all who had separated themselves from the unclean practices of their Gentile neighbors in order to seek the LORD, the God of Israel. For seven days they celebrated with joy the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because the LORD had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria, so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.”

  • Notice that the remnant now included anyone who honestly separated themselves to the LORD. Also, it's also good to refresh our memories on the original purpose of Passover. God commanded that the Israelites celebrate the Passover Feast as a lasting testimony of when God passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and struck down all the firstborn in Egypt. God had delivered the nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt, but now this remnant celebrated that they’d been brought back from captivity in Babylon. Suddenly, Passover became personal.

Lord, I remember the first time You, Jesus, became my personal Passover Lamb. Because of Your blood, smeared over the doorframe of my heart, the death angel has passed-over me, and my eternal life with You has already begun. You have delivered me from the captivity of sin. I am no longer a slave to my desires. I am Yours, Father, and someday I will see you face-to-face. Help me to celebrate that deliverance each time one of those sinful desires rises up to ensnare me. And remind me that every day is worth celebrating - because my eternal life with You has already begun.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Sometimes you know exactly where you're going - and sometimes, well.... Now, I don’t even like to shop, but set me in the middle of a shopping mall and I instinctively know which way to turn in order to arrive at the correct store. It’s actually quite fascinating. When my husband gets bored, he blindfolds me and spins me in circles and sets me free to find my way out of the mall – no, not really. But it sounds like a great new reality show, doesn’t it? On the other hand, navigating road signs, atlases and even MapQuest has been a learned skill for me. When Roy and I ventured in 1984 from Anderson, IN to the honeymooner’s dream-spot of Cincinnati, OH, I routed us into the heart of a downtown ghetto – iron-barred windows, guys with chains hanging from their belt loops. We were supposed to be finding a suburban hotel – oops! Well, we serve a God Who doesn’t need road signs or MapQuest to direct His people. In fact, He doesn’t even have to use His people to carry out His plan. He sometimes uses people whose hearts are far from Him to accomplish His purpose.

Ezra 5:17 – [Governor Tattenai sent a letter to King Darius saying,] “Now if it pleases the king, let a search be made in the royal archives of Babylon to see if King Cyrus did in fact issue a decree to rebuild this house of God in Jerusalem. Then let the king send us his decision in this matter.”
Ezra 6:1-2 – “King Darius then issued an order, and they searched in the archives stored in the treasury at Babylon. A scroll was found in the citadel of Ecbatana in the province of Media, and this was written on it…”
  • By God’s design, King Cyrus wrote his original decree all those years ago rather than simply speaking it. At God’s prompting, Darius’ heart was moved to order the search. And talk about your proverbial needle in a haystack! Within the entire Persian Empire – one scroll with Cyrus’ decree on it was found.

Ezra 6:3-5 – “Memorandum: In the first year of King Cyrus, the king issued a decree concerning the temple of God in Jerusalem: Let the temple be rebuilt as a place to present sacrifices, and let its foundations be laid. It is to be ninety feet high and ninety feet wide, with three courses of large stones and one of timbers. The costs are to be paid by the royal treasury. Also, the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, are to be returned to their places in the temple in Jerusalem; they are to be deposited in the house of God.”

  • Look back at Tattenai’s (governor of Trans-Euphrates) letter to King Darius in Ezra 5:8-16. Tattenai had no way of knowing IF King Cyrus had even made a decree eighteen years ago, let alone the exact words recorded on the scroll. But look at the words of Tattenai’s letter – his own words and the words he told King Darius the Jews had said when questioned. Compared to the words of Cyrus’ scroll, they’re almost identical. Two exceptions: 1) Cyrus says the royal treasury gets to fund the construction, and 2) Cyrus gives the dimensions for the Temple. In this way, God uses the past to affirm, finance and direct the Jews’ future.

Ezra 6:6-10 – [King Darius instructed…] “Now then, Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and you, their fellow officials of that province, stay away from there. Do not interfere with the work on this temple of God. Let the governor of the Jews and the Jewish elders rebuild this house of God on its site. Moreover, I hereby decree what you are to do for these elders of the Jews in the construction of this house of God: The expenses of these men are to be fully paid out of the royal treasury, from the revenues of Trans-Euphrates, so that the work will not stop. Whatever is needed--young bulls, rams, male lambs for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, and wheat, salt, wine and oil, as requested by the priests in Jerusalem--must be given them daily without fail, so that they may offer sacrifices pleasing to the God of heaven and pray for the well-being of the king and his sons. Furthermore, I decree that if anyone changes this edict, a beam is to be pulled from his house and he is to be lifted up and impaled on it. And for this crime his house is to be made a pile of rubble. May God, who has caused his Name to dwell there, overthrow any king or people who lifts a hand to change this decree or to destroy this temple in Jerusalem. I Darius have decreed it. Let it be carried out with diligence” (emphasis added).

  • Isn’t it amazing how God can even direct the favor of some very hard hearts toward His people? Obviously, if King Darius can randomly decree men to be impaled, he’s not a warm fuzzy kind of guy! Yet he looked with favor upon the Jews – perhaps out of fear – because he was especially interested in their prayers for himself and his sons (maybe he’d heard of the plague of the firstborn when God delivered Israel out of Egypt). And notice the way God ingeniously placed the people of the Land in constant daily contact with the Jews. Wouldn’t this also give them daily testimony of the Great God of Heaven?

Lord, Your ways are unfathomable. Your plan is so far beyond my reasoning and ability to comprehend. Remind me that when I receive favor in the eyes of those around me – especially when I’ve done nothing to deserve it – it’s simply Your grace with skin on. Thank You, Lord, for those little reminders that You’re very near.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Sorry that the last 2 posts are out of order. I've been a little scatter-brained over the past couple weeks. I'm so thankful for God's grace and the grace of kind friends.

Just wanted to share some good news with ya'll! The publisher has sent my manuscript through committee for "financial analysis and managerial review" - meaning, "If we publish it, will it sell?" Which also means I get to wait another 3-4 weeks for the final answer. I thought yesterday was going to be the final answer, but I'm finding that there are many "final answers" in the publishing process. Argh. So thanks for your prayers, and keep 'em comin!


This dog is a perfect picture of how I feel inside when I come up against a question I can't answer. And believe me - there are lots of unanswerable questions. If a tree falls in the forest, but no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Which came first – the chicken or the egg? Can God create a rock too big for Him to move? Does a bear p--p in the woods? Oh, wait! That fourth question we CAN answer! Ha! But the first three questions are famous unanswerables, aren’t they? There are a few questions atheists like to throw out with a smirk. Then there are those favorites from Darwin’s followers. The most troubling unanswerables, however, are the personal ones. I was relatively young in my faith, and my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. She deteriorated to the point of needing to be in a nursing home, and the last time I saw her I railed at God. “Why! Why does she have to suffer like this? Why can’t you just take her now?” My Mom-Mom Cooley was a mighty woman of God. Ornery to the core, but she loved Jesus. She lingered on this earth, suffered in pain; and I was angry with God. Finally, the night she died her favorite nurse was on duty and in the room with her. My grandmother, in her dying moments, prayed the salvation prayer with that little nurse. Did God wait too long to take my grandmother to her eternal home? The little nurse doesn’t think so. Her eternity rested on that lingering. I got the answer to my “Why” question. But I must tell you – there are dozens…maybe even hundreds of other “Why” questions that I’ve never had answered. So what do we do when we don’t understand?

Ezra 4:17-22 – “The king sent this reply: To Rehum the commanding officer, Shimshai the secretary and the rest of their associates living in Samaria and elsewhere in Trans-Euphrates: Greetings. The letter you sent us has been read and translated in my presence. I issued an order and a search was made, and it was found that this city has a long history of revolt against kings and has been a place of rebellion and sedition. Jerusalem has had powerful kings ruling over the whole of Trans-Euphrates, and taxes, tribute and duty were paid to them. Now issue an order to these men to stop work, so that this city will not be rebuilt until I so order. Be careful not to neglect this matter. Why let this threat grow, to the detriment of the royal interests?”
  • Okay, don’t read this like a textbook. Be there. Remember the remnant (50,000 people) walked 900 miles from Babylon in order to build God’s Temple. They’ve already endured terrible persecution for years just to be able to sacrifice on the altar they built. Now, a new king has double-crossed them – after they had FULL support of the previous administration. Just because a couple of dirty rotten, mean-girl, politicians got their shorts in a bunch and sweet-talked the new king over to their side. Hrumph! Why would God let this happen? I mean they’re building the Temple for Him – at His command, to fulfill His prophecy through Jeremiah (Ezra 1:1).

Ezra 4:23 – “As soon as the copy of the letter of King Artaxerxes was read to Rehum and Shimshai the secretary and their associates, they went immediately to the Jews in Jerusalem and compelled them by force to stop” (emphasis added).

  • King Artaxerxes’ decree said nothing about using force. That was just a little gift from the local politicians to add salt to the wounds.

Ezra 4:24 – “Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.”

  • Sometimes God’s plan is postponed, but it’s never cancelled. God ALWAYS wins. He always fulfills His promises. Always.

Lord, I’m so NOW oriented that I forget tomorrow is Yours, too. Remind me of Your faithfulness and Your perfect understanding of the whole plan for the whole world for all time. When I realize your presence in the future as well as the past, all the unanswerable questions suddenly come under the comforting umbrella of Your knowledge and protection. Thank You, Father, for being the God of the now, the then and the to come.


You don’t have to live long before the past tries to poison the future. One spoonful of strained peas is enough to convince most babies that anything green and slimy on a spoon is going to taste “just like last time.” But that kind of thinking has caused many poor little tikes to pass up pistachio pudding or green Jell-o with cool whip! As we get older, the stakes get a little higher. Another friend is diagnosed with cancer, and we’re afraid it’ll turn out – just like last time. Our younger child begins displaying the same rebellious behavior as his/her older sibling, and we’re afraid of the pain that waits down the road – just like last time. Some of you know that I deal with several chronic illness issues. Fibromyalgia, daily migraines and a goofy condition called P.O.T.S. make the future an uncertain place. Each of the conditions ebbs and flows, flares up and calms down. When a flare-up begins, guess what goes through my mind? Will it be…just like last time? And of course my mind always fears the worst time. Have you noticed a word running rampant throughout this opening paragraph? Actually, it’s a concept revealed in two words: afraid & fear. These words are the arch enemies of faith, but when a scenario begins to follow a familiar pattern, fear of repeated disappointment or pain often settles in. Just like last time is a problem common to us all….

Ezra 5:1 – “Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them.”
  • After ten years of inactivity, God’s Spirit moved. One man of God felt called, another confirmed the call, and they acted together on it.

Ezra 5:2 – “Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, helping them.”

  • They worked on this project together, in the fellowship of the Body, drawing on each other for encouragement.

Ezra 5:3-5 – “At that time Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates went to them and asked, ‘Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and restore this structure?’ They also asked, ‘What are the names of the men constructing this building?’ But the eye of their God was watching over the elders of the Jews, and they were not stopped until a report could go to Darius and his written reply be received” (emphasis added). (See vs. 6-12 for the Jews’ responses to Tattenai’s questions)

  • This governor was sending a letter to another king – just like had been done before. However, God was doing something good in the current difficult circumstance – and they noticed it.
Ezra 5:6-12 – “This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates, the officials of Trans-Euphrates, sent to King Darius. The report they sent him read as follows: To King Darius: Cordial greetings. The king should know that we went to the district of Judah, to the temple of the great God. The people are building it with large stones and placing the timbers in the walls. The work is being carried on with diligence and is making rapid progress under their direction. We questioned the elders and asked them, ‘Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and restore this structure?’ We also asked them their names, so that we could write down the names of their leaders for your information.” This is the answer they gave us: ‘We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, one that a great king of Israel built and finished. But because our fathers angered the God of heaven, he handed them over to Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldean, king of Babylon, who destroyed this temple and deported the people to Babylon” (emphasis added).
  • It wasn’t about them as individuals. It was about God, and who they were in relation to Him. That knowledge not only brought glory to God, it also kept them out of hot water!

Ezra 5:13-17 – [the letter to the king continued…] “However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, King Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild this house of God. He even removed from the temple of Babylon the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to the temple in Babylon. Then King Cyrus gave them to a man named Sheshbazzar, whom he had appointed governor, and he told him, “Take these articles and go and deposit them in the temple in Jerusalem. And rebuild the house of God on its site.” So this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God in Jerusalem. From that day to the present it has been under construction but is not yet finished.’ Now if it pleases the king, let a search be made in the royal archives of Babylon to see if King Cyrus did in fact issue a decree to rebuild this house of God in Jerusalem. Then let the king send us his decision in this matter” (emphasis added).

  • A deeper look at this letter reveals that Tattenai was a man of very different character than the previous enemies, Rehum and Shimshai (Ezra 4). Tattenai includes a careful dictation of the Jews’ response. He seems to genuinely desire the truth. When the Jews heard another governor was sending another letter to another king they could have given up and expected results – just like last time. But they didn’t…

Lord, give me the strength to try, to keep building, to keep believing, to put one foot in front of the other when everything inside me fears it will be – just like last time. Remove that phrase from my heart and mind. Take away the memories of strained peas! I don’t want to miss the pistachio pudding that You have waiting for me. Let it be so, Father.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Girls are mean. If you’re a man, you need to find a woman a shake her hand. Congratulate her on surviving her childhood and teenage years – because girls are downright mean. So much so that Hollywood made a movie called, Mean Girls, and it grossed over $86,000,000 because every scarred female in America went to see it! I, too, have been scarred. In fifth grade I was included in a tight-knit group of four friends: Annette, Julie, Janice and me. Two of the girls’ last names were “Scott.” Well, over one weekend, the two “Scotts” spent quality time at each other’s homes, and when they came to school on Monday, they had formed a tight bond, calling themselves the “Scott Sisters.” They produced a box of Scott tissues and proclaimed it their symbol of solidarity (They of course didn’t call it solidarity in 5th grade, but you know what I mean…). Well, Janice and I felt terribly left out, and we responded to their taunting with a little taunting of our own. We began calling them (quite appropriately, I thought) the “Snotty Scotty Sisters.” Get it? Scott tissues – Snotty Scottys. See? Girls are mean. Boys on the other hand simply punch each other in the nose and get over it…that is, until they grow up and get into politics. Then they turn into girls. They get mean. They turn into Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. The remnant in Jerusalem had to deal with some of these mean political scoundrels, and it’s good to analyze some of the common tricks of the enemy. Because our enemy still uses some of the same ones today.

Ezra 4:6-7a – “At the beginning of the reign of Xerxes, they lodged an accusation against the people of Judah and Jerusalem. And in the days of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel and the rest of his associates wrote a letter to Artaxerxes.”
  • TACTIC #1 – THE ENEMY IS RELENTLESS – Twenty years separated these two kings, and the enemy renewed the accusations with Xerxes new administration. Oftentimes the enemy’s plan is simply to wear us down.

Ezra 4:7b, 18 – “The letter was written in Aramaic script and in the Aramaic language…the king sent his reply…The letter you sent us has been read and translated in my presence.”

  • TACTIC #2 – THE ENEMY SPEAKS HIS OWN LANGUAGE – The enemy fills our minds with his words – negative, fearful, self-loathing, cynical words. Then, too often we translate it into our own lives.

Ezra 4:8-11 – “Rehum the commanding officer and Shimshai the secretary wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king as follows: Rehum the commanding officer and Shimshai the secretary, together with the rest of their associates--the judges and officials over the men from Tripolis, Persia, Erech and Babylon, the Elamites of Susa, and the other people whom the great and honorable Ashurbanipal deported and settled in the city of Samaria and elsewhere in Trans-Euphrates. (This is a copy of the letter they sent him.) To King Artaxerxes, From your servants, the men of Trans-Euphrates…”

  • TACTIC #3 – THE ENEMY EXAGGERATES HIS POWER – Rehum and Shimshai wrote this letter, but it sounds like many more, doesn’t it? Satan was defeated when Jesus rose from the grave! Our enemy blusters and makes himself sound far more powerful than he really is. He’d like us to forget the power Christians possess in Jesus’ Name.

Ezra 4:12-13 – “The king should know that the Jews who came up to us from you have gone to Jerusalem and are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are restoring the walls and repairing the foundations. Furthermore, the king should know that if this city is built and its walls are restored, no more taxes, tribute or duty will be paid, and the royal revenues will suffer.”

  • TACTIC #4 – THE ENEMY EXPLOITS OUR FEARS – A king’s treasury meant success or failure, life or death. What are you most afraid of? That’s where the enemy will most likely attack – or where he’ll threaten attack.

Ezra 4:14-16 – “Now since we are under obligation to the palace and it is not proper for us to see the king dishonored, we are sending this message to inform the king, so that a search may be made in the archives of your predecessors. In these records you will find that this city is a rebellious city, troublesome to kings and provinces, a place of rebellion from ancient times. That is why this city was destroyed. We inform the king that if this city is built and its walls are restored, you will be left with nothing in Trans-Euphrates.”

  • TACTIC #5 – THE ENEMY SPEAKS FLATTERY AND A FORM OF TRUTH – In this letter, the enemy assures the king of his allegiance before accusing the remnant of treason. They say Jerusalem was “a rebellious city, troublesome to kings…from ancient times.” But there were a lot of facts surrounding Jerusalem’s history that weren’t included, so the twisted truth takes root in the king’s mind as a lie that seems factual.

Lord, when I referred to “the enemy,” in most instances I was speaking in the spiritual sense of my eternal enemy, Satan. But, just as the remnant in Jerusalem faced human enemies that sought to destroy their efforts toward You, I have faced people who sought to harm me physically, emotionally and spiritually. Show me how You want me to act in those relationships. Show me how to see them through Your eyes as worthy of Your love and yet protect myself from further harm.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


How do you know who to trust? When should forgiveness also be coupled with renewed relationship? Who is a true friend, and who is “fair weathered?” These are questions we all grapple with at some point – or many points – in our lives. My husband came home with a story he shared in one of his college classes. A fable of sorts. “The Little Bird In The Barnyard.” There once was a bird in a barnyard on a cold and snowy winter’s day. The poor little bird was freezing to death, and its little beak was chattering. “If only I had a friend to warm me,” it said. Along came a cow and pooped on the little bird, warming it and bringing new life. “Gross!” said the little bird. “That stinks!” But the little bird’s beak no longer chattered and its wings were warm – sticky, but warm. (Okay, I threw in the sticky part – actually, I’m making a lot of this up as I go.) Then along came a cat and asked the bird, “Would you like me to rescue you from the poop?” The little bird was so relieved. “Oh, yes!” cried the little bird. So the cat ate the bird. Moral of the story: Those who poop on you aren’t always your enemies, and those who get you out of the poop aren’t always your friends. Words to live by, don’t you think? Well, the Israelites thought so....

Ezra 4:1-3 – “When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the LORD, the God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, ‘Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.’ But Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered, "You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the LORD, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.’”
  • Zerubbabel identified his enemies as cats – they were offering help, but he saw their hidden motives. But how did he recognize their deception?
  1. They spoke divisively – they mentioned an Assyrian king of the past. Any hint of divided allegiance might jeopardize the remnant’s favor with the current king of Persia.
  2. Actions always speak louder than words – they said they’d been sacrificing to the LORD. Where was the altar, the faithful sacrifices, festivals and offerings? No action = no truth.

Ezra 4:4-5 – “Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. They hired counselors to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia.”

  • Time reveals true colors. Had these people’s hearts been truly committed to Zerubbabel and the remnant, to building the Temple and worshiping the LORD, they wouldn’t have responded so maliciously. A person’s response to our decision tells us as much – or more – about that individual as their original request.

Lord, thank You for giving me a gauge with which I can check my decisions. Time is a great gift that I often grudgingly endure with impatience. However, in testing a relationship, time is my best friend. Teach me the patience of proving a relationship over time before I offer my whole heart as the prize.

Monday, September 08, 2008


This is our daughter, Trina, on the day she returned home from her vacation in Indiana. While back in Indiana, she spent time with her college friends and grandparents. She saw the endless fields of corn and the changes to the house and community where she grew up. It was a wonderful time, a hard time, bittersweet. And then she came home. She had missed home, was glad to be home, but...mixed emotions.

A daughter’s wedding. A Christian’s funeral. These are events in which my friends and I have experienced mixed emotions. Many proud fathers are reduced to a puddle of tears, while marching their lace-gowned daughters down the aisle. Parents pray for God’s choice of husband for their daughter, and then cry a river of tears when our little girl grows up and leaves the nest. Mixed emotions. A Christian’s home-going is cause for celebration – their eternal release from deterioration and pain. But those who remain live with the gaping reality of loss. Mixed emotions. How about less monumental occasions? Like children going back to school? We love them, and summers are a wonderful time of family building. But there’s just something about putting them back on that school bus that brings a sigh of relief. Mixed emotions. Our spiritual journey is also full of mixed emotions, too. The remnant in Jerusalem experienced a whole gamut of feelings as they took the next step in building the Lord’s Temple…

Ezra 3:7-11a – “Then they gave money to the masons and carpenters, and gave food and drink and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre, so that they would bring cedar logs by sea from Lebanon to Joppa, as authorized by Cyrus king of Persia. In the second month of the second year after their arrival at the house of God in Jerusalem, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Jeshua son of Jozadak and the rest of their brothers (the priests and the Levites and all who had returned from the captivity to Jerusalem) began the work, appointing Levites twenty years of age and older to supervise the building of the house of the LORD. Jeshua and his sons and brothers and Kadmiel and his sons (descendants of Hodaviah) and the sons of Henadad and their sons and brothers--all Levites--joined together in supervising those working on the house of God. When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the LORD, as prescribed by David king of Israel. With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the LORD: ‘He is good; his love to Israel endures forever’” (emphasis added).
  • After two years of faithful sacrifice on the altar, the remnant of Israel had more work ahead. They secured the workforce of laborers and foreigners, and they did it with praise. We don’t know if they did it with joy, but we know that they did the work that was authorized by King Cyrus with the praise songs prescribed by King David. They were faithful, and it bore fruit even if they did the work with mixed emotions.
Ezra 3:11b-13 – “And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. 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. 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.”
  • Everyone shouted praise at first. Then, the older ones remembered the glory days and began to weep and wail their regrets. The younger ones let hope raise their volume. Two important concepts here:
  1. People far away were watching – people pay attention to our example, our reaction to God’s working in our lives.
  2. Tears look the same, whether they fall in joy or sorrow.

Lord, why did You make all tears the same but my emotions so different? I can feel such a range of emotions in the same teardrop. Two people can look at the same object or circumstance and feel two completely different emotions as well. Help me to love those who feel differently than me, and help me not get stuck in my disappointment, but somehow turn it to praise.

Monday, September 01, 2008


Did your mother make you eat your vegetables? When my husband and I started dating, the only vegetables he ate were corn and salad. Actually, he considered potatoes a vegetable, which I suppose technically, they are. However, I came from a family in which something green graced the table at every meal – except breakfast. And green jell-o didn’t count. Green leafy, green crunchy or green smooshy. We always ate our vegetables. So I grew into the habit of eating my vegetables first, get it out of the way before I feasted on the really good part of the meal. I could skarf down brussel sprouts and spinach if I knew steak and macaroni and cheese was next. When Roy and I had children of our own, our first daughter was raised according to my heritage. Her infant tummy was introduced to strained peas before she ever tasted the delicacy of mashed peaches. Something peculiar occurred. To this day, she actually likes vegetables better than fruit! When our second child came along, we decided to experiment (Sorry, Em, that happened a lot). We introduced fruit before veggies. Sure enough. To this day, our second born would rather snack on peaches than suffer through peas, while Trina craves asparagus and cringes at pineapple. Sometimes in our spiritual lives, we’re called to start with the vegetables of sacrifice and end with the sweet blessing of God’s felt presence. Sometimes our taste grows accustomed to the rigorous vegetables of spiritual discipline, and we forget to enjoy the sweet blessing of His presence. The remnant of Israel ate a lot of spiritual spinach…

Ezra 3:1-3 – “When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, the people assembled as one man in Jerusalem. Then Jeshua son of Jozadak and his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his associates began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, in accordance with what is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. 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” (emphasis added)
  • We can always find something to keep us from worshiping God, some excuse to interrupt our quiet time. For the Israelites, 1) the seventh month meant plowing and sowing of seed in order to eat in the spring. 2) They had just gotten settled in their new homes. 3) Building a new place of worship was an overwhelming task, especially in a new land where 4) the current residents were hostile to newcomers. All these excuses could have kept them from building their altar to the LORD. But it didn’t.

Ezra 3:4-6 – “Then in accordance with what is written, they celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles with the required number of burnt offerings prescribed for each day. After that, they presented the regular burnt offerings, the New Moon sacrifices and the sacrifices for all the appointed sacred feasts of the LORD, as well as those brought as freewill offerings to the LORD. On the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the LORD, though the foundation of the LORD's temple had not yet been laid.”

  • They built the altar of sacrifice before they experienced the Temple of God’s presence. Sometimes we spend many hours in God’s Word or in prayer without any goosebumps, without any brilliant revelations. But spending time on that altar of sacrifice is necessary preparation to experience His presence. But don’t misunderstand. It’s not a bargaining chip. God doesn’t come because we spend a certain number of hours reading the Bible or praying. We may feel those dry times for any number of reasons. But we feel the sweetness of His presence in a completely different – more spectacular – way, when we’ve faithfully prepared our hearts on the altar of worship beforehand.

Lord, I’d like to have a whole plateful of Your presence all the time. I don’t particularly enjoy the dry spiritual vegetables of hard-to-interpret Scripture and uninspiring prayer times. Remind me that it’s not about what I enjoy. It’s about my sacrifice of worship to You. Let me set my mind and heart on You alone – and then be awed by Your presence, when it comes.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Have you heard the saying, “Life is hard, and then you die?” Well, in August of 2007, I amended it to, “Life is hard, but moving is harder.” And moving ourselves 2,200 miles across the country in a couple of 26ft. Penske trucks was downright – well, challenging. For such a long-distance move, we agonized over what to take and what to leave behind, give away or throw away. We’d lived in our current home for fourteen years, plenty of time to accumulate lots of “treasures.” One of our daughters would be moving half of her stuff to Washington with us and leaving the other half in storage at college – a logistics nightmare, but a space relief for the move. The other daughter was graduating from college and would be living with us. Funny thing. She actually wanted to take her college apartment possessions with her. Go figure. Well, by God’s hand, we did it. We moved approximately 2 ½ households 2,200 miles across 9 states in 4 ½ days. My father-in-law went along to drive a truck; Roy drove the second truck, both trucks towing vehicle dollies. The girls and I took turns driving our van. No breakdowns, flat tires, physical assaults or murders. Now, stop for a moment and imagine 50,000 people with 8,200 pack animals going 900 miles from Babylon to Jerusalem. That means 6 people shared a single pack animal –horse, mule, camel, or donkey – as well as what each one could carry on foot. How did they decide what to pack for their new lives in a new land?

(I’m not going to copy all the verses because much of it consists of names and numbers. I was afraid you’d get spooked and stop reading! So, I’ll use this: “…” and pick up where the story begins again.)

Ezra 2:1-61 – “Now these are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken captive to Babylon (they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town, in company with Zerubbabel…) The list of the men of the people of Israel: the descendants of Parosh 2,172…The following came up from the towns of Tel Melah…but they could not show that their families were descended from Israel” (emphasis added).

  • They couldn’t just run down to the nearest courthouse and check out the computer database or microfiche, so how were some able to show they were descended from Israel? Scrolls and parchments tucked away. Impeccable records of family heritage and the Law were maintained and treasured – and undoubtedly given top priority on a camel’s back to Jerusalem. God entrusted Israel with maintaining the Holy Scriptures so that you and I could have access to the full revelation of His Word – from Creation through Revelation. God has guarded it, and generations have sacrificed their blood for it, so that you and I can read both the Old and New Covenant God made with humankind.

Ezra 2:62-70 – “These searched for their family records, but they could not find them and so were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. The governor ordered them not to eat any of the most sacred food until there was a priest ministering with the Urim and Thummim. The whole company numbered 42,360, besides their 7,337 menservants and maidservants; and they also had 200 men and women singers. They had 736 horses, 245 mules, 435 camels and 6,720 donkeys. When they arrived at the house of the LORD in Jerusalem, some of the heads of the families gave freewill offerings toward the rebuilding of the house of God on its site. According to their ability they gave to the treasury for this work 61,000 drachmas of gold, 5,000 minas of silver and 100 priestly garments. The priests, the Levites, the singers, the gatekeepers and the temple servants settled in their own towns, along with some of the other people, and the rest of the Israelites settled in their towns” (emphasis added)

  • These people made a priority of two things when packing for their journey: proof of their heritage and offerings to Jehovah. Now, my husband is a packrat, and I’m incredibly un-sentimental. We had more than a few disagreements on what went to Goodwill as we packed for our move. I believe the remnant of Israel discovered two important rules of thumb on cleaning out the proverbial closet. Keep it if it has 1) family significance, or 2) potential for ministry significance. Those Israelites who settled in their own towns, did so because they knew their family history. Those who couldn’t find their important papers…probably had an overzealous closet-cleaning wife!

Lord, oftentimes my decision to keep something is based on materialism or a doubt that You can provide for my future needs. Teach me the discipline of simplicity, while working in my heart to value the truly irreplaceable treasures of family and ministry opportunities.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Would you do it if you had the chance – whatever your “it” is? Would you go back to high school and stand up to the bully? Would you make the right choice – now that you know what you know? Would you hug your kids more and shout at them less? Would you take an all-expense paid trip to the homeland of your ancestors? What if the trip included airfare, hotel accommodations and guaranteed job placement once you arrived. Oh, did I mention it involved complete relocation – not just a visit? By the way, this little adventure is being sponsored by the most powerful man in the world, and he’s bankrolling the whole thing. Anyone of your ethnic descent can go. Your family can also accompany you, but each of you can only take one suitcase because the airlines charge extra for a second suitcase! Now, as an added bonus, all your neighbors have pitched in to help with your expenses – at the strong suggestion of the guy bankrolling the expedition. This guy has also –offered to you, from his own private stash, items he stole – excuse me – borrowed from your ancestors seventy years ago. He has asked that when you arrive in your homeland, you build a church and place these items of worship in the church. Sounds easy enough, right? Ready to sign up? Would you do it – if God asked you to?

Ezra 1:2 – “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah…

Ezra 1:3-5 – “Anyone of his people among you--may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem. And the people of any place where survivors may now be living are to provide him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem. Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites--everyone whose heart God had moved--prepared to go up and build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem.

  • You might look at the gargantuan task of moving from Babylon to Jerusalem by camel, and say, “I could never do something like that.” Well, guess what? God didn’t ask you to! He placed you in 2008 and has given you a car (thank you, God!). He’s surrounded you with your own family and friends, and He’s allowed the current joys and challenges you’re facing. The KEY is in v. 5: “…everyone whose heart God had moved….” If God moves our hearts, it’s up to us to get the rest of our anatomy to join the caravan.

Ezra 1:6-11 – “All their neighbors assisted them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in addition to all the freewill offerings. Moreover, King Cyrus brought out the articles belonging to the temple of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his god. Cyrus king of Persia had them brought by Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah.

This was the inventory:
gold dishes 30
silver dishes 1,000
silver pans 29
gold bowls 30
matching silver bowls 410
other articles 1,000

In all, there were 5,400 articles of gold and of silver. Sheshbazzar brought all these along when the exiles came up from Babylon to Jerusalem.”

  • When God moves in our hearts to do something, we’ll generally see confirmation all around us. Our efforts will never be problem-free, but we’ll sense a general blessing. There’s a difference. Satan always tries to foil God’s good plan; however, when God’s light shines on our path, darkness must flee.

Lord, it’s easy to become discouraged by small frustrations when I’m a little uncertain about a decision. Help me to weigh Your blessings as gold and Satan’s discouragement as dust.