A Record of Wrongs

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While Ezra prayed and confessed, weeping and falling facedown before the house of God, an extremely large assembly of Israelite men, women, and children gathered around him. The people also wept bitterly. Then Shecaniah son of Jehiel, an Elamite, responded to Ezra: “We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the surrounding peoples, but there is still hope for Israel in spite of this. Let us therefore make a covenant before our God to send away all the foreign wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the command of our God. Let it be done according to the law. Get up, for this matter is your responsibility, and we support you. Be strong and take action!” Ezra 10:1-4

Ezra and his fellow exiles investigated all the families and found anyone who had gone against the Lord’s declaration by marrying foreign women. I don’t blame them for going through things with a fine tooth comb. They had suffered enough in exile and were finally trying to get back to the doing the right thing so they could “avert the fierce anger of God” (v.14) in this matter and any other.

The following were found to have married foreign women from the descendants of the priests: from the descendants of Jeshua son of Jozadak and his brothers: Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib, and Gedaliah. Ezra 10:18

The list of offenders continues through verse 43! Check it out. What struck me about this passage was that every offender and their descendants are listed out and in the Bible. It’s one thing to be in the news feed for a few days after a scuffle or indiscretion, but can you imagine having your sins and name listed out in the most read book of all time. Forever, in the word of God their names are there with their sin listed out.

Pondering this, I realized that to often our sins are hidden away, out of sight and tucked in our hearts so it’s easy to overlook them and move on. If we knew all our sins would be listed out in the Bible, (or tomorrow’s news feed) we might take a closer look at our actions, words and deeds throughout the day. We might think twice before giving in to sin. In fact, we might go to God on a more regular basis for forgiveness and strength to do the right thing so we can avoid the sin all together.

Even though our sins aren’t written out in the Bible, God knows every one of them and desires to clean the slate or wipe the page if go to Him and ask. Just ask! No special form, no fee and no hoops to jump through. Just ask and He will wipe the page clean for you.

How fitting that just yesterday we celebrated Easter and a Risen Savior. The one who died on the cross to cover all those nasty sins and start a new covenant with our Lord. This week ends our journey through the Old Testament and begins our adventures in the New Testament. What an awesome way to begin the New Testament as we read and study more about the Son of God who made forgiveness and eternal life for us possible with the blood He shed for us.

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Robbing God?

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Oh, here we go. Tithing! This is the topic everyone hates to sit down and find out their pastor is teaching on in church. Feelings of guilt, anger and resentment can flare up and create such a wall that the message of giving back doesn’t even make it to our hearts. In the book of Malachi, as God’s people trickle back to their city and the temple is rebuilt, the Lord reminds them of all the ways they need to return to His statutes. It’s beautiful to me when He says, “Return to Me and I will return to you.”

“Since the days of your fathers, you have turned from My statutes; you have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord of Hosts.

But you ask: “How can we return?” “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me!”

You ask: “How do we rob You?”

“By not making the payments of the tenth and the contributions. You are suffering under a curse, yet you—the whole nation—are still robbing Me. Bring the full tenth into the storehouse so that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this way,” says the Lord of Hosts. “See if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing for you without measure. Malachi 3:7-10

Tithing is important to God but also for us because it increases our faith and trust in God. All we have is really His and can be taken away in just a moment. My family and I lived this out several years ago. There’s a book about that too! Revision of A Heart is about the lessons we learned during some very tough financial times. Even in the midst of those times, we continued to give to the church. When others (even family) thought we were crazy, we were to worried to stop because we knew God was providing for us along the way. We knew we would not make it without Him and didn’t want to turn away from him out of fear. We have experienced His provision in incredible ways because we remained faithful by giving back that $1 out the $10 He had blessed us with. Hand me down clothes for our kids would arrive out of the blue, gift certificates, free services and discounts for things that we would have never asked for came our way from all different walks of people. Most not even knowing our situation. This was God! We chose not to test Him in that way and keep what was rightfully His to ourselves because of fear of our financial situation. It rocked our world to see His grand provision and we will never stop giving back to Him!

I’m sure many of you have your own stories of provision from your own faithful giving. I would love to hear them if you are willing to share. If you haven’t stepped out in faith and started giving back to God, please consider it today. Start small and work up to 10%. God will amaze you with His provision and blessings when He sees you start to trust Him and give back.

May these verses touch your heart and bring you courage to follow His ways and commands.

At that time those who feared the Lord spoke to one another. The Lord took notice and listened. So a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who feared Yahweh and had high regard for His name. 17 “They will be Mine,” says the Lord of Hosts, “a special possession on the day I am preparing. I will have compassion on them as a man has compassion on his son who serves him. 18 So you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him. Malachi 3:16-18

But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings, and you will go out and playfully jump like calves from the stall.[a] You will trample the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day I am preparing,” says the Lord of Hosts. Malachi 4:2-3

No Brainer!

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It was so wonderful to find myself back in Zechariah. After writing 30 Days In Zechariah a few years ago, I had moved on to other books and topics in the Bible and not revisited it. This prophetic book never ceases to amaze and astound me. It’s such a great reminder of the God we serve.

A declaration of the Lord,
who stretched out the heavens,
laid the foundation of the earth,
and formed the spirit of man within him. Zechariah 12:1

So often, I hear others say that studying the Bible is difficult to understand and vague. Today, I want to look at two verses tucked into Zechariah that are so clear and so concise there is no way around their meaning and the intention the Lord has set for us to follow.

These are the things you must do: Speak truth to one another; make true and sound decisions within your gates. 17 Do not plot evil in your hearts against your neighbor, and do not love perjury, for I hate all this”—this is the Lord’s declaration. Zechariah 8:16-17

Those of you who have read my books and blog know I’m a Type A personality. I love a list and I love to cross things off my list as I accomplish them. God doesn’t usually set a list before us . . . so when He does I grab it. This is a very clear list and the Lord is VERY clear about our “must do’s” and what He “hates”.

We must: speak the truth and make true (real or genuine) and sound decisions

We must not: plot evil against others or love perjury (breaking an oath and lying)

The Lord is sharing this “list” with Zechariah in a vision and promising that He will bring His people back to Jerusalem once again. For the Lord of Hosts says this: “As I resolved to treat you badly when your fathers provoked Me to anger, and I did not relent,” says the Lord of Hosts, “so I have resolved again in these days to do what is good to Jerusalem and the house of Judah. Don’t be afraid. (Zechariah 8:14-15)

The Lord promised to bless His people once again and was encouraging them not to be afraid about provoking Him. Just speak truth and make genuine decisions, don’t plot evil and break your oaths, the Lord explains, and you will be fine.

Honestly, it really can boil down to those things for each of us. Think about how those 2 do’s and 2 “do- nots” encompass all the Ten Commandments and could guide our actions, words and deeds every day of our lives. If we could just get these four things down with a bit more precision, our lives would be on a track to live life in a closer walk with our Heavenly Father.

Stay tuned . . . . there are only four more weeks of Old Testament blogs and then we will finally be in the New Testament! It’s been so much fun to discover all the nuggets of truth and wisdom tucked into the OT, but I’m ready for some Jesus after all this exile! How about you?

Even If God Doesn’t . . . .

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I was thrilled to arrive in the book of Daniel this week! What food for my soul as I was reminded of the wild and bold faith he held onto through the trials of Babylonian living. Daniel had trusted and honored God’s ways and laws in the midst of the toughest of times. He didn’t look to the world around him as his guide, but kept his eyes on God. God saw this and honored him in amazing ways throughout his years in Babylon. And what about Daniel’s friends (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego). It is good to surround yourself with like-minded people and Daniel did just that. Surely, they encouraged one another for it is easier to stand alongside others than by yourself at times.
When these three were faced with falling down to worship the king and his gods or be burned in the fiery furnace, they chose the furnace! Not only that, they said:
If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.” Daniel 3:17-18
They realized and trusted that God could save them if He chose to, but “even if He didn’t” they would not give in and turn away from Him. How many people do you know who haven’t gotten what they wanted from God and have turned from Him out of anger, resentment or disgust? I have met quite a few and it breaks my heart to see what they are missing out of simple because they didn’t get what they wanted or thought they deserved. Daniel and his crew realized something that we may tend to forget at times.

Our God, is the . . . .
God who holds your life-breath in His hand and who controls the whole course of your life. (exert of Daniel 5:23)

When we allow that to truly sink into our hearts, we will be radically changed and able to trust God more boldly than we ever imagined. I pray as we trust and look to God for answers and direction, He will honor us with clear answers, blessings and revelations, but EVEN IF HE DOESN’T we will praise Him as David did in Daniel 2:20-23.

May the name of God
be praised forever and ever,
for wisdom and power belong to Him.
He changes the times and seasons;
He removes kings and establishes kings.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those
who have understanding.
He reveals the deep and hidden things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
and light dwells with Him.
I offer thanks and praise to You,
God of my fathers,
because You have given me
wisdom and power.
And now You have let me know
what we asked of You,
for You have let us know
the king’s mystery.