Where Revival Begins

Ezra 10:7
“And they issued a proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the descendants of the captivity, that they must gather at Jerusalem”

Imagine a scene where the leaders of the nation call its citizens to gather at the capital with the purpose of repenting from evil and seeking the Lord. Imagine the National mall filled, not with people outraged because they feel somehow neglected or mistreated by the government but because they have realized they are guilty before God and are there to plead with Him for forgiveness. Imagine what a powerful impact a revival of that magnitude would have upon the very fabric of society. That is exactly what happened in Ezra’s day. The people realized they had turned from God and were ready to make whatever changes necessary in their lives and families to restore right relationship with God.

What strikes me about this is how it started. We read that Ezra saw the condition of the nation, fell on his face, fasted, prayed, confessed his sin and sought the Lord to bring revival to the land. He prayed, “give us a measure of revival in our bondage.” All that followed stemmed from one man crying out to God and making the necessary changes in his own life. Before a family, nation, society or culture can experience revival it must begin in the heart of an individual. It has been said if we want to see revival we need to draw a circle on the ground, step into the circle and pray for God to revive the heart of the person within the circle. When that heart is revived and that person’s life begins to honor God we are well on our way to seeing revival break out across our land.

One man wrapped in the garments of sorrow over personal sin, crying out God for forgiveness can spark a work of God that will transform the face of a nation

Jim

 

Prophecy 

Ezekiel 26:3
“Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and will cause many nations to come up against you, as the sea causes its waves to come up.'”

Predictive prophecy is one of the greatest evidences of the inspiration of Scripture. Peter explained, it was like a light shining in a dark place (2 Peter 1:19). Scripture is filled with two types of predictive prophecy. The first have already been fulfilled. They were future in the life of the prophet, but are in our past.

The second group is unfulfilled prophecies; the fulfillment of these prophesies lie somewhere in our future. The proof that future prophecy will come true is embedded in the prophecies that have been clearly worked out in the past. This prophesy in Ezekiel is one of the most amazing prophecies in Scripture. Ezekiel speaks of the city of Tyre, a coastal city located north of Israel on the Mediterranean Sea. Ezekiel revealed that many nations would come against the city in attempts to destroy it. He spoke specifically of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, who would build a seize mound against the city and level it to the ground. He also speaks of the walls being broken down, cast into the sea, and the dust being scraped from the rocks. Ultimately, he declares that the site of this city would become a place where fishermen would dry their nets.

History records how Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came against Tyre in an attempt to overthrow the city. He camped his soldiers outside the city, and for a period of time he besieged the city. Since the city was surrounded by a great wall, the inhabitants were safe and used this time to move the population to an island that sat a half mile off the coast. When Babylon’s forces finally broke through, the people had evacuated to the island, and without a navy, Nebuchadnezzar was unable to take the island fortress. In rage, he leveled the ancient city and looted what remained of their wealth. Over 200 years later, Alexander the Great marched through the area conquering the lands that had once been under Persian occupation. When he came to Tyre, the people refused to surrender, feeling safe in their island city. Alexander, not willing to let an ocean stand in his way, took the rubble from the old city and built a bridge out to Tyre. They used the dirt to level the road, built enormous towers with wheels, taller than the city walls, and rolled them out on the bridge to attack and eventually conquer the city. Today, what was once a thriving city, is a place where fishermen dry their nets. God’s word is true. He is faithful to do all that He has said.

Pastor Jim

 

Drowning

Ezra 9:6
“And I said: ‘O my God, I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens.’”

After some initial reforms, the remnant, who had returned to Jerusalem from captivity, soon began to drift from the Lord. The ways of the world are always tempting for the child of God; as such, many of the people began to pick up the customs of the day. Soon, it was difficult to see any difference between believer and unbeliever. News of the people’s behavior devastated Ezra, and he began to cry out to the Lord. His prayer reveals what to do when we find ourselves overwhelmed by our own failures.

There are times in the life of many believers when we are drawn away from the Lord, and find ourselves caught up in sin. Tangled like Jonah in seaweed, we find ourselves caught in sin, with seemingly no way to escape. The guilt can be so great we are ashamed to even begin steps of repentance. I think Ezra was experiencing this. He realized how they had taken advantage of the goodness of God by pursuing the ways of the world. Instead of remaining in his failure, Ezra reminded himself of the grace of God, and His desire to restore the fallen saint. It was the grace of God that caused Ezra to seek forgiveness, even when he was neck deep in the guilt of sin.

Perhaps you have failed in a big way. Perhaps the guilt of past, present, or continual sin, is keeping you from moving away from it, and toward the Lord. Can I encourage you to do what Ezra did? He went before the Lord, confessed his sin, trusted in grace, and made the appropriate changes in his life. God is willing to forgive. Are you willing to return, receive and repent?

Pastor Jim

 

Desperation 

Ezra 8:23
“So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer.”

Ezra and his company were traveling hundreds of miles without a military escort and carrying the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars in gold, silver and bronze. Had word got out of their precious cargo, they would no doubt be the target of thieves, and their lives would be at risk. Caravans have been attacked and lives taken for far less than they were carrying. In their desperation, Ezra made a calculated decision not to ask the king for protection, but to gather the people, proclaim a fast and seek the Lord. In the end, they not only made it safely to their destination, but they were able to see God accomplish the miraculous. This story reminds me of a statement made by Gideon when he was hiding in a cave from the Midianotes. He said,

“…where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about?” Judges 6:13

We hear this sentiment repeated over and over today. Perhaps we have even thought it ourselves. We read the Bible and see God doing things for people, and we look at our own lives and wonder where the hand of the Lord is in our circumstances. Allow me to suggest that part of the reason we do not see God intervening, is that we do not ever want to find ourselves in a position where we are desperate for Him. We do everything we can to not have to depend on God. If we were making the journey from Babylon to Jerusalem, carrying a boat load of cash, wouldn’t we do everything in our power to ensure our own safety, and the safety of our cargo? Or would we gather the people, proclaim a fast and seek the Lord? I wonder if a fraction of the time we spend ensuring that we are not dependent on God was spent seeking after God, what miraculous stories we might have of His intervention in our lives?

We are all facing something that occupies a great deal of our thought life, and that we struggle not to worry over. Whatever this current issue is, why not follow the example of Ezra and dedicate it to God. Determine that you are going to seek Jesus to intervene, no matter how long it takes. Perhaps it is time to make ourselves more dependent upon Him so that we can see His hand intervene in our story.

Pastor Jim

 

Adjectives

Ezra 7:11
“Ezra the priest, the scribe, expert in the words of the commandments of the Lord...”

Webster’s dictionary defines an adjective as, “a modifier of a noun to denote the quality of the thing named… or to specify a thing as distinct from something else.” I wonder what adjectives would be used in a biography of my life. Would I be described as tall or short, grumpy or friendly, rich or poor? It fascinates me that when Ezra’s life was all summed up, he was described as a priest, a scribe, and an expert in the Word of the Lord.

A priest was more than his vocation, it described him as a man who spent time in the presence of God. As a scribe, he was one who transcribed the Scriptures (Tradition holds that Ezra was involved in developing the Old Testament canon). Being an expert in the Word, was the result of spending day after day getting in the Word of God.

When all is said and done, these are the adjectives we should seek to have describe our lives. Take time today to get in the Word and spend time with Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

Back To Work

Ezra 5:2
“So Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak rose up and began to build the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them, helping them.”

Not long after returning to Jerusalem, the people became greatly discouraged in the work of the Lord. Things were moving slowly, and they were facing a great deal of opposition from those around them. Soon, the work of the Lord ceased all together. It is worth noting what encouraged the people to resume the work, and finish the task to which God called them. We read simply, “the prophets of God were with them, helping them.” The help was provided in the form of exhortations to the people to continue in the work of God.

From the book of Haggai, we learn these discouraged people neglected the work of the house of God, and their efforts were spent building and remodeling their own homes. It seems they were experiencing the effects of having a divided heart. They had expressed a desire to help further the kingdom of God, only to be sidelined with pursuits of their own. Haggai’s message was simple,

Haggai 1:4 “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?”

I wonder how often we have found ourselves in the same situation. The difficulty of serving the Lord has caused us to neglect ministry. Perhaps all we need is a solid nudge to get back to work. Whatever we are facing, it is time to get involved in the work of the Lord.

Once the people determined to get back to work, they faced the same struggles which caused them to quit in the first place. The work was still difficult and the opposition great. It was at this point that Zechariah added to Haggai’s message. He declared,

Zechariah 4:6 “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.”

For years our yard was a mess. A hurricane had leveled trees, and a broken irrigation system caused nothing but the weeds to grow. My approach was to ignore it; I felt the job was just too big. After an extended period of time and gentle nudges from my wife, I finally decided to tackle the project; only to find I lacked the strength to accomplish it on my own. I quickly found I was not really on my own. Upon making a couple phone calls, others came to my aid. They helped remove tree stumps, weeds and unwanted thorn bushes. Too often, we neglect the work of God because it is too much for us to handle; not realizing we are not, in fact, on our own. The Spirit of God will always provide whatever we need, to do whatever He has called us to.

Pastor Jim

 

Guilty As Charged 

Ezra 4:15
“That search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. And you will find in the book of the records and know that this city is a rebellious city, harmful to kings and provinces, and that they have incited sedition within the city in former times, for which cause this city was destroyed.”

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The enemies of Israel wrote to the king of Persia encouraging him to look through the record books regarding Israel’s past. They claimed these books would reveal that Israel had been rebellious before, and if allowed to continue, they would prove to be rebellious once again. A few things strike me as I consider this text.

First, the enemies of Israel were correct. Israel had failed in the past. Seventy years earlier, Jeremiah warned the nation that Babylon was coming and they should surrender and allow themselves to be taken captive. Instead of heeding the Word of God, they rebelled and this rebellion was now coming back to haunt them. We need to be careful. Sin always has consequences even if it takes years for them to revel themselves. Had Israel obeyed, the enemies would have no charges against them.

Second, a record book of all Israel’s wrongs was kept in the library of the king. All their past failures and sins were stored up in a book and they are now being found guilty. Jesus explained that the same is true of us.

Matthew 12:36 “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.”
The word “account” is a translation of the Greek word “logos.” The concept is that the words we speak are recorded in a ledger and that ledger will be read on the final day of judgment.

Revelation 20:12 “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.”

This should frighten all of us. All our sinful acts, both small and great, are recorded in a book and that book will be used to testify against us in the court of heaven. Secret sins that you thought were hidden or forgotten will be held up to witness of your guilt before God. We know that one sin is enough to condemn us in heaven’s court and we know that we are guilty of far more than one sin.

Fortunately, the story does not end here. Revelation 20 speaks of another book called life. In this book is recorded all who have trusted in Christ, and by doing so have had their sins washed and forgiven. Paul explained that when we trust Christ, the handwriting of requirements that were against us are wiped out. Once our names are found in the book of life, all the charges kept in the other book are erased.

If you have received Christ, you do not need to fear eternal punishment for your sins. If you have not yet believed in Him, do so right now. Don’t wait until it is too late.

Pastor Jim