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About Kevin Jesmer NIU UBF

Kevin Jesmer NIU UBF has been a member since July 10th 2011, and has created 2270 posts from scratch.

Kevin Jesmer NIU UBF's Bio

I am a originally from Canada. I am a pastor of a house church ministry praying for the people of DeKalb, IL and the students of NIU. I also work as nurse. My wife Julie and myself are raising five wonderful children, who are serving the Lord together.

Kevin Jesmer NIU UBF's Websites

This Author's Website is http://christianfamilyonchristsmission.com/

Kevin Jesmer NIU UBF's Recent Articles

Nehemiah 1:1-11. NEHEMIAH’S PRAYER-devotional 11-18-19

Nehemiah 1:1-11. NEHEMIAH’S PRAYER-devotional 11-18-19

Nehemiah 1:1-11                           Kevin E. Jesmer

Key Verse: 1:11                             11-18-19

O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” Now I was cupbearer to the king.” (NIV)

Lord, thank you for helping us to find comfort, hope, peace and direction in your word. Help me to make meditating and applying your word in my life a daily exercise. I pray that your Gospel may spread across our land and transform this nation to be more Christ-like. I pray that you may help me to learn many lessons from this passage. I thank you and I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Part 1: Nehemiah Reflected God’s Heart For His People. (1-4)

Verses 1-4, “The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, 2 that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. 3 And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” 4 As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.

Who was Nehemiah? He was a Jewish exile living in Susa in Babylon. Nehemiah was no ordinary citizen in the land of exile of the Jewish people, his ancestors. (V. 11) He was born in exile. He was either the son of one of the nobles of the Israelite people, or risen to nobility by being of exceptional intelligence and ability. He had a high position in the court of King Artaxerxes; he was the king’s cupbearer. Not a minor position in the political structure of the Persia, but one of the most trusted and closest attendants to the King himself.

History tells us that men in such a position have everything that a man wants to live securely and to be happy in life. Such men and women are sheltered from the events of life which harass the common people and make them miserable in the insecurity of day to day survival. Nehemiah was cup bearer! He had everything that life could offer.

One day some men–including Nehemiah’s brother–came from Judah bringing news of Jerusalem and the people living there. He must have eagerly awaited any news about them. He wanted to know if they had settled well. If the people had returned to the worship of God at the temple. If their lives were in danger or if they were well provided for. His brother reported to Nehemiah that the condition of the exiles was pathetic. They were in great trouble, and they were in disgrace as well. The walls of Jerusalem remain broken, and the gates have been burned.

Nehemiah was a man of heart…a man of concern. Look at verse 4, “As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” When he heard that the city wall of Jerusalem was broken down, leaving her helpless and disgraced, he sat down and wept. He fasted and prayed. He was different from those who were in such high positions of life. He did not ignore the suffering of his people. He was especially concerned about the exiles who had returned to the promised land and had settled in the city of Jerusalem. He cared about the city, the church and the people who had returned earlier.

Nehemiah was a man of sincere love. The news affected Nehemiah personally. It was as if it had happened to him. He was a like a father mourning over the troubles of his son and daughter. When he loved God’s people and God’s city Nehemiah took it to heart. he made it his own problem. He broke down and cried. Nehemiah was a man of genuine concern.

God’s people, throughout the generations, should show concern about their brethren. When the Lord Jesus taught us prayer, he taught us to pray like this: “give us each day our daily bread.” It was to help us concern ourselves with the wellbeing of our brothers and sisters. Christians need to be concerned about what is happening to God’s people and the church of the living God, around the world. The Christian way teaches us that “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4) We too must be concerned about my brother, my coworker, my fellow Christians, my church.

When did I anguish over the suffering of God’s people, in America and Canada and around the world? When did I have anguish about the condition of God’s church? I pray that I may be concerned about God’s people and their physical and spiritual condition. I pray that I may take steps to always encourage.

Nehemiah was reflecting the heart of God. God is concerned over us like our Heavenly Father. He is able to express this concern and act on this concern because we have been brought into a right relationship with God through Jesus and his precious Gospel.

A relationship with God, where his concerning about his people, was not like this. Even in this passage we learn about our human condition prior to being forgiven by Jesus. Look at verses 6b-8, “…we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. 7 We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses.” Yes, Nehemiah was talking about the sins of his people at that time. But surely it applies to people without Jesus even today. We sure are a lost lot without our Savior. We were actually enemies of God, rejecting God and resisting his while rejecting his word. This made us an enemy of God.

But God did something to stop us from being his enemies. He forgave all of our sins through the shed blood of Jesus. We have become his precious children. We are no longer his enemies. God now has a genuine concern over us. He weeps for us as a father weeps for his children. The Gospel made this possible. Nehemiah was reflecting this great love of God.

Part 2: God Helped Nehemiah to Decide Through Prayer (5-11a)

Verses 5-11, “5 And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. 7 We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. 8 Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, 9 but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ 10 They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” Now I was cupbearer to the king.”

Nehemiah was moved to do something for his people. He did not know what to do, but he wanted to do something. He would approach the king. This would not be easy. But he decided to risk his job, and even his life, and speak to the king. But first, he prayed.

In his prayer he confessed the sins of his people, and he included himself. The people were living in exile because they had not lived according to God’s word. God had kept his promise to scatter his disobedient people; he was keeping his promise to restore repentant people.

Nehemiah did not know what can be done for the suffering people of God. Nor did he know what can be done for the broken walls of Jerusalem. But God knew what to do and God already had a plan to solve the problem and to remedy the situation. Nehemiah simply had to come to God in prayer for his people.

In the book of Acts God Almighty promises this. He says: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17) it was a long-ago prophesy given to the prophet Joel. It has to do with the New Testament church. But God still worked to plant vision into the hearts of his people in Nehemiah’s time.

God was faithful. When Nehemiah wept and fasted and prayed for the suffering people of God, and the broken walls of the city of God, God planted a vision in his heart…the vision to go and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Later on, he confessed that God had put it in his heart what to do.

We too need a vision in our hearts. We need a vision to know what God has in store for us to do in life. For those who pray with a genuine concern for the Gospel, when they pray with sincere love for others, to those God pours out his holy vision in their hearts, and calls them to serve his purpose. They know what they are to do. They have a vision. Their lives are like Nehemiah’s with a mission that tugs at their hearts until they have fulfilled the purpose of their lives.

Part 3: Nehemiah Was a Person of Humility (11b)

Read verse 11b. “I was cupbearer to the king.” It is not by chance that Nehemiah put these words at the end of his prayer instead of at the beginning. He was a cup bearer to the king. In the world, this position would be the top position in a political or social system. But in spite of his position, he was first a man of God. A servant in God’s house. He was a brother to those who were suffering. He was a father to destitute. And then he was a cup bearer.

It takes great humility for a man or woman to know who they really are. God is the King of the heavens. He is creator and the sovereign over all things. And we are only men and women who have been forgiven of our sin. We are full of weakness in need of a Savior willing to submit to his lordship. To know this is humility— the humility to come before God as a child, as a forgiven sinner, as one who loves God and is deeply indebted to his grace.

It takes humility to move God’s heart to listen and to guide in a way that honors and glorifies God’s name. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Nehemiah did not pray dressed in the splendor of a cup bearer to the king. He prayed dressed with humility and tears. It is the essence of all those who have prayed in history knowing who they really are, and that only God can equip them with what they need to fulfill whatever God has destined them to fulfill in their lives.

May God help us to have concern for God’s house and God’s people, to love them sincerely from our hearts, knowing that this is actually God’s concern for us and his church. May our love for all of God’s people drive us to prayer. When we do God will reveal ways to serve his church. May God Almighty humble us to know who we are, who he is, and what he has called us to do for his own name’s sake.

Prayer: Lord, help me to see my nation’s problems as my own, pray with a humble, repentant heart, and act by faith.

One Word: Reflect God’s heart for his people and his church.

Nehemiah 1:1-11. NEHEMIAH’S PRAYER-devotional 11-18-19

Nehemiah 1:1-11. NEHEMIAH’S PRAYER-devotional 11-18-19

Nehemiah 1:1-11                           Kevin E. Jesmer

Key Verse: 1:11                             11-18-19

O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” Now I was cupbearer to the king.” (NIV)

Lord, thank you for helping us to find comfort, hope, peace and direction in your word. Help me to make meditating and applying your word in my life a daily exercise. I pray that your Gospel may spread across our land and transform this nation to be more Christ-like. I pray that you may help me to learn many lessons from this passage. I thank you and I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Part 1: Nehemiah Reflected God’s Heart For His People. (1-4)

Verses 1-4, “The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, 2 that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. 3 And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” 4 As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.

Who was Nehemiah? He was a Jewish exile living in Susa in Babylon. Nehemiah was no ordinary citizen in the land of exile of the Jewish people, his ancestors. (V. 11) He was born in exile. He was either the son of one of the nobles of the Israelite people, or risen to nobility by being of exceptional intelligence and ability. He had a high position in the court of King Artaxerxes; he was the king’s cupbearer. Not a minor position in the political structure of the Persia, but one of the most trusted and closest attendants to the King himself.

History tells us that men in such a position have everything that a man wants to live securely and to be happy in life. Such men and women are sheltered from the events of life which harass the common people and make them miserable in the insecurity of day to day survival. Nehemiah was cup bearer! He had everything that life could offer.

One day some men–including Nehemiah’s brother–came from Judah bringing news of Jerusalem and the people living there. He must have eagerly awaited any news about them. He wanted to know if they had settled well. If the people had returned to the worship of God at the temple. If their lives were in danger or if they were well provided for. His brother reported to Nehemiah that the condition of the exiles was pathetic. They were in great trouble, and they were in disgrace as well. The walls of Jerusalem remain broken, and the gates have been burned.

Nehemiah was a man of heart…a man of concern. Look at verse 4, “As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” When he heard that the city wall of Jerusalem was broken down, leaving her helpless and disgraced, he sat down and wept. He fasted and prayed. He was different from those who were in such high positions of life. He did not ignore the suffering of his people. He was especially concerned about the exiles who had returned to the promised land and had settled in the city of Jerusalem. He cared about the city, the church and the people who had returned earlier.

Nehemiah was a man of sincere love. The news affected Nehemiah personally. It was as if it had happened to him. He was a like a father mourning over the troubles of his son and daughter. When he loved God’s people and God’s city Nehemiah took it to heart. he made it his own problem. He broke down and cried. Nehemiah was a man of genuine concern.

God’s people, throughout the generations, should show concern about their brethren. When the Lord Jesus taught us prayer, he taught us to pray like this: “give us each day our daily bread.” It was to help us concern ourselves with the wellbeing of our brothers and sisters. Christians need to be concerned about what is happening to God’s people and the church of the living God, around the world. The Christian way teaches us that “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4) We too must be concerned about my brother, my coworker, my fellow Christians, my church.

When did I anguish over the suffering of God’s people, in America and Canada and around the world? When did I have anguish about the condition of God’s church? I pray that I may be concerned about God’s people and their physical and spiritual condition. I pray that I may take steps to always encourage.

Nehemiah was reflecting the heart of God. God is concerned over us like our Heavenly Father. He is able to express this concern and act on this concern because we have been brought into a right relationship with God through Jesus and his precious Gospel.

A relationship with God, where his concerning about his people, was not like this. Even in this passage we learn about our human condition prior to being forgiven by Jesus. Look at verses 6b-8, “…we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. 7 We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses.” Yes, Nehemiah was talking about the sins of his people at that time. But surely it applies to people without Jesus even today. We sure are a lost lot without our Savior. We were actually enemies of God, rejecting God and resisting his while rejecting his word. This made us an enemy of God.

But God did something to stop us from being his enemies. He forgave all of our sins through the shed blood of Jesus. We have become his precious children. We are no longer his enemies. God now has a genuine concern over us. He weeps for us as a father weeps for his children. The Gospel made this possible. Nehemiah was reflecting this great love of God.

Part 2: God Helped Nehemiah to Decide Through Prayer (5-11a)

Verses 5-11, “5 And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. 7 We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. 8 Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, 9 but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ 10 They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” Now I was cupbearer to the king.”

Nehemiah was moved to do something for his people. He did not know what to do, but he wanted to do something. He would approach the king. This would not be easy. But he decided to risk his job, and even his life, and speak to the king. But first, he prayed.

In his prayer he confessed the sins of his people, and he included himself. The people were living in exile because they had not lived according to God’s word. God had kept his promise to scatter his disobedient people; he was keeping his promise to restore repentant people.

Nehemiah did not know what can be done for the suffering people of God. Nor did he know what can be done for the broken walls of Jerusalem. But God knew what to do and God already had a plan to solve the problem and to remedy the situation. Nehemiah simply had to come to God in prayer for his people.

In the book of Acts God Almighty promises this. He says: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17) it was a long-ago prophesy given to the prophet Joel. It has to do with the New Testament church. But God still worked to plant vision into the hearts of his people in Nehemiah’s time.

God was faithful. When Nehemiah wept and fasted and prayed for the suffering people of God, and the broken walls of the city of God, God planted a vision in his heart…the vision to go and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Later on, he confessed that God had put it in his heart what to do.

We too need a vision in our hearts. We need a vision to know what God has in store for us to do in life. For those who pray with a genuine concern for the Gospel, when they pray with sincere love for others, to those God pours out his holy vision in their hearts, and calls them to serve his purpose. They know what they are to do. They have a vision. Their lives are like Nehemiah’s with a mission that tugs at their hearts until they have fulfilled the purpose of their lives.

Part 3: Nehemiah Was a Person of Humility (11b)

Read verse 11b. “I was cupbearer to the king.” It is not by chance that Nehemiah put these words at the end of his prayer instead of at the beginning. He was a cup bearer to the king. In the world, this position would be the top position in a political or social system. But in spite of his position, he was first a man of God. A servant in God’s house. He was a brother to those who were suffering. He was a father to destitute. And then he was a cup bearer.

It takes great humility for a man or woman to know who they really are. God is the King of the heavens. He is creator and the sovereign over all things. And we are only men and women who have been forgiven of our sin. We are full of weakness in need of a Savior willing to submit to his lordship. To know this is humility— the humility to come before God as a child, as a forgiven sinner, as one who loves God and is deeply indebted to his grace.

It takes humility to move God’s heart to listen and to guide in a way that honors and glorifies God’s name. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Nehemiah did not pray dressed in the splendor of a cup bearer to the king. He prayed dressed with humility and tears. It is the essence of all those who have prayed in history knowing who they really are, and that only God can equip them with what they need to fulfill whatever God has destined them to fulfill in their lives.

May God help us to have concern for God’s house and God’s people, to love them sincerely from our hearts, knowing that this is actually God’s concern for us and his church. May our love for all of God’s people drive us to prayer. When we do God will reveal ways to serve his church. May God Almighty humble us to know who we are, who he is, and what he has called us to do for his own name’s sake.

Prayer: Lord, help me to see my nation’s problems as my own, pray with a humble, repentant heart, and act by faith.

One Word: Reflect God’s heart for his people and his church.

Ezra 8: 1-36. EZRA’S RETURN TO JERUSALEM-11-1-19 Devotional

Ezra 8: 1-36. EZRA’S RETURN TO JERUSALEM-11-1-19 Devotional

Ezra 8:(1-14),15-36                                          Kevin E. Jesmer

Key Verse: 8:22                                                11-1-19

For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” (ESV)

Dear Lord Heavenly Father, thank you for helping us to sense your leading and showing us open doors through which we can do your will. You have led our church through an open door this past Parade event. You have helped Julie and I go though an open door by helping a young missionary get funding to live as a full time missionary. Continue to open our eyes to see your leading so that you work through us. Help me to accept your word into my heart today. I thank you and I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!

Part 1: A People With A Strong Spiritual Identity And United In Purpose (1-14)

Verses 1-14, “These are the heads of their fathers’ houses, and this is the genealogy of those who went up with me from Babylonia, in the reign of Artaxerxes the king: 2 Of the sons of Phinehas, Gershom. Of the sons of Ithamar, Daniel. Of the sons of David, Hattush. 3 Of the sons of Shecaniah, who was of the sons of Parosh, Zechariah, with whom were registered 150 men. 4 Of the sons of Pahath-moab, Eliehoenai the son of Zerahiah, and with him 200 men. 5 Of the sons of Zattu, Shecaniah the son of Jahaziel, and with him 300 men. 6 Of the sons of Adin, Ebed the son of Jonathan, and with him 50 men. 7 Of the sons of Elam, Jeshaiah the son of Athaliah, and with him 70 men. 8 Of the sons of Shephatiah, Zebadiah the son of Michael, and with him 80 men. 9 Of the sons of Joab, Obadiah the son of Jehiel, and with him 218 men. 10 Of the sons of Bani, Shelomith the son of Josiphiah, and with him 160 men. 11 Of the sons of Bebai, Zechariah, the son of Bebai, and with him 28 men. 12 Of the sons of Azgad, Johanan the son of Hakkatan, and with him 110 men. 13 Of the sons of Adonikam, those who came later, their names being Eliphelet, Jeuel, and Shemaiah, and with them 60 men. 14 Of the sons of Bigvai, Uthai and Zaccur, and with them 70 men.”

These people were full of faith. They left their lives in in Babylon. They probably gave up small businesses and family and friends to travel to an underdeveloped region. They were facing hardships and difficulties. There was racism and prejudice and religious persecution awaiting them. There was no such thing as social security and government benefits. They were going to have to work hard and rebuild their lives. But they were very happy to do so, for they knew they were following the will of God upon their lives. They were making history. They were involved in frontier efforts to make the Name of the Lord known.

   These people had a strong identity of who they were. They knew exactly who the founding person of their clan was. They knew where they fit into God’s scheme of things. They were carrying on with the vision that their forefathers had. They had a deep sense of history about the work of God among them and through them.

How different it is today. Some people do not even know who their fathers are. They have no knowledge about their grandparents. They don’t know their identity. And most young people don’t seem to care. Most people who go to church don’t know about the history of their church and the vision of the founders of their church.

I think that some Christian families may have a sense of their spiritual identity. I have heard of people who have accepted Christ because they had a handwritten letter from their grandparent urging them to accept the Lord. They are carrying on their grandparent’s spiritual legacy. I pray that I could have a long line of believers emanating from my family, and that there may be some unity among them as they serve the Lord Jesus together. I also pray that the vision of the founding families of our church may be carried on by the current member, that KBC may be a Bible teaching church with Reformed theology.

Part 2: Ministers for the Temple of God Must Go (15-20)

Verses 15-20, “15 I gathered them to the river that runs to Ahava, and there we camped three days. As I reviewed the people and the priests, I found there none of the sons of Levi. 16 Then I sent for Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah, and Meshullam, leading men, and for Joiarib and Elnathan, who were men of insight, 17 and sent them to Iddo, the leading man at the place Casiphia, telling them what to say to Iddo and his brothers and the temple servants at the place Casiphia, namely, to send us ministers for the house of our God. 18 And by the good hand of our God on us, they brought us a man of discretion, of the sons of Mahli the son of Levi, son of Israel, namely Sherebiah with his sons and kinsmen, 18; 19 also Hashabiah, and with him Jeshaiah of the sons of Merari, with his kinsmen and their sons, 20; 20 besides 220 of the temple servants, whom David and his officials had set apart to attend the Levites. These were all mentioned by name.”

God provided his servants to serve together in the temple. Look at verse 15. Ezra looked over the list of those going with him to Jerusalem and realized that he needed more Levites to help people worship the Lord at the temple. Levites were lay servants of God who did the real work in the temple and in temple worship. He insisted that men who could serve at the temple must go with him. Ezra thought about the spiritual condition of the fledging community. He knew what was the most important.

The gracious hand of God was on him to supply faithful and capable servants of the Lord. God is faithful. He sees the need and he supplies the need, especially when the need is for servants of the Lord to help minister to the people. Matthew 9:37-38 read, “37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” God desires to and is able to send out workers into his harvest field. Our role is to ask the Lord in prayer. And as part of our prayer, we can take practical steps, like Ezra did, to get qualified people to come.

I can see that Ezra had a spiritual priority to have servants of God with him and his was intent on helping the people worship of the Lord right from the beginning. How easy it would be to just consider the essential people, like engineers, architects, stone carvers, carpenters etc. Most people starting up a new community think only about the practical matters. After the community is built, then they may think about building a church and bringing a pastor and an assistant pastor.

All of the people were important and useful to God. Some people think that only the pastors and the people who run the church are those who are useful to the Lord. But where would the pastors be without their congregation? What would they worship in if someone had not built their church? We are all in this boat together. Together we build up the community of believers. But, for certain, Pastors and spiritual leaders and the church is vitally important and must be at the forefront of all of our plans. It is a way to practically obey Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Can we put a priority on spiritual things in all of our ventures of life? What about students who go to college? How long does it take to find a church to worship the Lord? What about when a family moves to another city? How long does it take to find a home church? Is it a priority? How about making time during your busy days to have devotions to the Lord? Let’s make worship of the Lord a top priority in our lives. God will surely bless us when we do.

Part 3. Utter Dependence on God (21-36)

Verses 21-36, “21 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. 22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” 23 So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty. 24 Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests: Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their kinsmen with them. 25 And I weighed out to them the silver and the gold and the vessels, the offering for the house of our God that the king and his counselors and his lords and all Israel there present had offered. 26 I weighed out into their hand 650 talents of silver, and silver vessels worth 200 talents, and 100 talents of gold, 27 20 bowls of gold worth 1,000 darics, and two vessels of fine bright bronze as precious as gold. 28 And I said to them, “You are holy to the Lord, and the vessels are holy, and the silver and the gold are a freewill offering to the Lord, the God of your fathers. 29 Guard them and keep them until you weigh them before the chief priests and the Levites and the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel at Jerusalem, within the chambers of the house of the Lord.” 30 So the priests and the Levites took over the weight of the silver and the gold and the vessels, to bring them to Jerusalem, to the house of our God.31 Then we departed from the river Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was on us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambushes by the way. 32 We came to Jerusalem, and there we remained three days. 33 On the fourth day, within the house of our God, the silver and the gold and the vessels were weighed into the hands of Meremoth the priest, son of Uriah, and with him was Eleazar the son of Phinehas, and with them were the Levites, Jozabad the son of Jeshua and Noadiah the son of Binnui. 34 The whole was counted and weighed, and the weight of everything was recorded. 35 At that time those who had come from captivity, the returned exiles, offered burnt offerings to the God of Israel, twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven lambs, and as a sin offering twelve male goats. All this was a burnt offering to the Lord. 36 They also delivered the king’s commissions to the king’s satraps and to the governors of the province Beyond the River, and they aided the people and the house of God.”

Ezra was a man of prayer. Look at verse 21, ”Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods.” Proclaiming a fast meant sincere and honest prayer. They were sincerely seeking the Lord and imploring him to help them on their journey. It was a dangerous journey, 900 miles on foot. He and the twelve leading priests were carrying great treasures of gold and silver for the temple, and the journey was through bandit-filled territory. It was about 25 tons of precious metals. He and the people humbled themselves before God in fasting and prayer, and asked for a safe journey. They carried on with journey full of faith in God. They were prepared and strengthened in their faith through prayer. The hand of God was with them and they arrived safely in Jerusalem.

This example challenges me. Do I every seek the Lord in prayer this intensely? Never, to be honest. I am basically depending on my human strength and in keeping my own regular schedule. I pray to be a Christian with intense prayer, who seeks the Lord’s favor in all lengths of my pilgrimage here on earth.

God got Ezra and his company safe to Jerusalem. They were not robbed. They were even helped by the people of the land instead of being persecuted. God is so great. He guides, protects and provides for his people who are intent on doing his will. I pray that God may continue to provide for our needs so that we can serve him in DeKalb, but also serve him among the First Nations people in NW Ontario.

Ezra cared about the glory of God among the people of the world. Look at verse 22, “For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” Ezra had told the king that God is with everyone who looks to him for help. So, he was ashamed to ask for a military escort. He did not want, in any way, shape or form, to dishonor the name of the Lord in the eyes of worldly people. This is important for all believers. Our daily lives must glorify Jesus and honor his holy name. Then we can be used by God proclaim his Gospel to the ends of the earth.

Prayer:Lord, thank you for answering the prayers of your people. Help is to humble ourselves before you in fasting and prayer. Teach us that type of intensity.”

One Word: The gracious hand of our God is upon us.

 

Ezra 10:1-17 (18-44) HOPE FOR REPENTANT SINNERS -devotional 11-11-19

Ezra 10:1-17 (18-44) HOPE FOR REPENTANT SINNERS -devotional 11-11-19

Ezra 10:1-17 (18-44)                             Kevin E. Jesmer

Key Verse: 10:2b                                   11-11-19

“…. “We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this”

Dear Lord Jesus. Thank you for your word that is a light unto our path. Thank you for your word that drives up to take hold of Jesus our Savior. I need you Lord. Stay near and help me to serve you by faith. Please help me to learn many new things from this passage. Help me to grow through it. I thank you and I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!

Part 1: Sitting In The Rain In Misery (1-15)

Verses 1-15, “While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly. 2 And Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, of the sons of Elam, addressed Ezra: “We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. 3 Therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God, and let it be done according to the Law. 4 Arise, for it is your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it.” 5 Then Ezra arose and made the leading priests and Levites and all Israel take an oath that they would do as had been said. So they took the oath.

6 Then Ezra withdrew from before the house of God and went to the chamber of Jehohanan the son of Eliashib, where he spent the night, neither eating bread nor drinking water, for he was mourning over the faithlessness of the exiles. 7 And a proclamation was made throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the returned exiles that they should assemble at Jerusalem, 8 and that if anyone did not come within three days, by order of the officials and the elders all his property should be forfeited, and he himself banned from the congregation of the exiles.

9 Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin assembled at Jerusalem within the three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month. And all the people sat in the open square before the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of the heavy rain. 10 And Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have broken faith and married foreign women, and so increased the guilt of Israel. 11 Now then make confession to the Lord, the God of your fathers and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.” 12 Then all the assembly answered with a loud voice, “It is so; we must do as you have said. 13 But the people are many, and it is a time of heavy rain; we cannot stand in the open. Nor is this a task for one day or for two, for we have greatly transgressed in this matter. 14 Let our officials stand for the whole assembly. Let all in our cities who have taken foreign wives come at appointed times, and with them the elders and judges of every city, until the fierce wrath of our God over this matter is turned away from us.” 15 Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahzeiah the son of Tikvah opposed this, and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite supported them.

Ezra’s tears of repentance moved the hearts of the returnees. They realized that their only hope lay in real repentance. So, on an appointed day, all the men gathered in the square in Jerusalem. It was raining hard. Ezra ignored the rain; he reminded them that they had been unfaithful to God in marrying godless women. He challenged them to repent and separate from the godless people of the land. They didn’t argue; they agreed to do as he said— but they wanted to come in out of the rain!”

I can see here, phases of repentance. At first, they recognized their sin. They saw it with the sincere repentance of one man, Ezra. Then they confessed their own sin. They then made a covenant with God, beginning with their marriage situation. They took practical steps to engage in very real repentance. All of the leaders had to come to a central meeting place and enter in to this new covenant. They took repentance very seriously. There were some serious consequences for those who did not want to participate in this corporate repentance.

Can we repent like this? It is so rare. I remember reading about the very real and very public repentance that took place among the missionaries in North Korea in 1904. There was a missionary who repented publicly. God worked through this and soon a vast number of people followed suit and repented of their sins publicly. Not long after that a revival occurred. It was called the Pyongyang Revival.

Revivals begin with repentance. Repentance allows God to work in our hearts to fundamentally change us from the inside out. When God convicts us to repent then there is a time of refreshing from the Lord. Our lives are changed.

I can see here that God works through one person to bring repentance. The leaders saw Ezra weeping and repenting for the sins of his people. God worked through the very visible repentance of Ezra to move the hearts of the leaders. During the Pyongyang Revival, all it took is one missionary repenting publicly. God can accomplish so much through the sincere faith of even one of his people.

Let’s think about hard it is for the people to repent of their intermarriage with women from other religion. They had loving marriages. They had children. Though the command to send them away seemed very extreme, intermarriage among the pagan peoples was forbidden. Deuteronomy 7:3-4 reads, “You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, 4 for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly.” (ESV).

But it seemed to involve only a small percentage of the families. It only involved 113 of approximately 29,000 families. (Life Application Bible p. 791) But it needed to be dealt with. Ezra saw how devastating intermarriage in the northern Kingdom of Israel was. He did not want this type of compromise to happen with the people of the southern kingdom of Judah.

Part 2. The Fruit Of Repentance (16-17)

Verses 16-17, “Then the returned exiles did so. Ezra the priest selected men, heads of fathers’ houses, according to their fathers’ houses, each of them designated by name. On the first day of the tenth month they sat down to examine the matter; 17 and by the first day of the first month they had come to the end of all the men who had married foreign women.”

The returnees repented of their unfaithfulness and compromised lives. They set a drastic course of action. It seems very extreme to us, but it was a matter of spiritual survival of God’s people at the time.

God worked through Ezra’s life of faith and ministry to save his people. It began by teaching repentance and the obedience that comes from faith and the display of one person’s sincere faith.

I hope and pray that God may work through my life and family in order to be a blessing to the people of this generation. I pray to be such a blessing to the congregation at KBC and the missionaries in the North.

It is not easy to take the role that Ezra took. It is never easy to publicly confess sin. It is easy to agree with God that we are sinners and fall short of his holy standard. But what is not easy here is to repent with a sincere attempt and a plan to stop sinning. And not only that, to encourage others to do the same. This is very hard. May God grant all of us to live a life of humble repentance that blesses others.

It is also not easy to preach repentance. Our pastor is preaching on Nehemiah 9-10. It is a very hard chapter. He preached about sincere repentance and encouraged us to talk about repentance in the home groups. Though it was a hard message, some people were responding with some loud “Amen” s. We all need to hear messages about sincere repentance now and then.

Part 3: Those Guilty of Intermarriage (18-44)

Verses 18-44, “18 Now there were found some of the sons of the priests who had married foreign women: Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib, and Gedaliah, some of the sons of Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brothers. 19 They pledged themselves to put away their wives, and their guilt offering was a ram of the flock for their guilt. 20 Of the sons of Immer: Hanani and Zebadiah. 21 Of the sons of Harim: Maaseiah, Elijah, Shemaiah, Jehiel, and Uzziah. 22 Of the sons of Pashhur: Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad, and Elasah.

23 Of the Levites: Jozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah (that is, Kelita), Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer. 24 Of the singers: Eliashib. Of the gatekeepers: Shallum, Telem, and Uri.

25 And of Israel: of the sons of Parosh: Ramiah, Izziah, Malchijah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Hashabiah,[e] and Benaiah. 26 Of the sons of Elam: Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth, and Elijah. 27 Of the sons of Zattu: Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad, and Aziza. 28 Of the sons of Bebai were Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai. 29 Of the sons of Bani were Meshullam, Malluch, Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal, and Jeremoth. 30 Of the sons of Pahath-moab: Adna, Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui, and Manasseh. 31 Of the sons of Harim: Eliezer, Isshijah, Malchijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon, 32 Benjamin, Malluch, and Shemariah. 33 Of the sons of Hashum: Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei. 34 Of the sons of Bani: Maadai, Amram, Uel, 35 Benaiah, Bedeiah, Cheluhi, 36 Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib, 37 Mattaniah, Mattenai, Jaasu. 38 Of the sons of Binnui:[f] Shimei, 39 Shelemiah, Nathan, Adaiah, 40 Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai, 41 Azarel, Shelemiah, Shemariah, 42 Shallum, Amariah, and Joseph. 43 Of the sons of Nebo: Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel, and Benaiah. 44 All these had married foreign women, and some of the women had even borne children.

So many men had married foreign women, and some of the women had even borne children. They were even the spiritual leaders, the Levites, the singers, the gatekeepers. They repented of their sins and pledged themselves to put away their wives, and their guilt offering was a ram of the flock for their guilt. They were willing to take drastic measures in order to make things right with God and engage themselves to live as a people of God.

Can you imagine if this marriage compromise happened today in the church? What if the leaders of the church, the people who are ministering to those who attend, can you imagine if the pastor married a Muslim lady? What if the greeter at the door married a Hindu lady? What if the praise band were dating and marrying women of the Buddhist faith? It would be just plain old wrong. It would be shocking.

We shouldn’t wait until there are shocking sins in our congregation. We need to have a spirit of repentance to deal with the smaller sins that are creeping into our hearts and lives. Jesus, by his word and Spirit will let us know and teach us how to repent of them.

I was thinking about missionaries that go into areas where there is polygamy. What does one do with converts? Do they need to send away a couple wives and their kids? What if the wives could not survive on their own? They might have to provide for their needs and their kid’s needs, while choosing to live with their first wife. What about converts or Christians who are married to non-Christian spouses? Surely, they should not divorce. As you can see that things get very complicated. Pastors need wisdom from Christ.

Prayer: Lord, help us to realize that we can’t compromise with sin and show us where we need to repent. Help me to teach your word faithfully, as Ezra did.

One Word: There is hope if we repent

Ezra 9:1-15 -GOD HATES COMPROMISE. 11-2-19 Devotional

Ezra 9:1-15 -GOD HATES COMPROMISE. 11-2-19 Devotional

Ezra 9:1-15                                           Kevin E. Jesmer

Key Verse: 9:15                                   11-2-19

“O Lord, the God of Israel, you are just, for we are left a remnant that has escaped, as it is today. Behold, we are before you in our guilt, for none can stand before you because of this.” (ESV)

Dear Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you for elevating our eyes from all the stories of death in this world and helping us to fix our eyes on Christ and placing all of our hope in the Kingdom of God. You fill us with your life and your hope and even though the waves of death and despair pound against our life boats, you are the solid rock on which we stand. Thank you for that gift. Please grant me one word of God to hold onto thorough thus passage. I thank you and I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!

Part 1: God Opens Ezra’s Eyes To See The Condition of His People (1-4)

Verses 1-4, After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. 2 For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost.” 3 As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled. 4 Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, gathered around me while I sat appalled until the evening sacrifice.”

When Ezra and his entourage arrived in Jerusalem, Ezra could not believe what he had discovered. Look at verse 1, “After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.”   Ezra was appalled to see that many of God’s people, including the leaders, had intermarried with the Canaanites. (v. 2)

Why mention about the marriages? I think it is not just about marriage. Marriage is a barometer about something else. It is an outer expression about an inner realty. The people who should have been standing up as God’s holy people failed to do so. They were not obeying the word of God. They ignored the importance of a Christian marriage. Their inner spiritual condition was not good. Their attitude towards the word of God was compromised. And Ezra saw this and was appealed by it.

Why is God so concerned about marriage among his people of faith? The Canaanite culture was corrupt. It involved sexual perversion, idol worship, etc. God had told his people not to compromise with the Canaanites and not to intermarry with them. God has plans for his people. He wants to shine forth Gospel through families of faith. He wants to reveal his love and the mechanics of the Gospel through families. The work of God, through a servant of God, can only progress as far as the quality of their marriage. If their marriage is not God honoring, then this will constantly hinder their ministry throughout their lives.

God cares about the happiness of his people. The quality of a marriage is so much better if both marriage partners are on the same page spiritually. They have the same goal to glorify God. The have the same mission…to proclaim his word. They have the same hope…eternal life in the Kingdom of God where they will be with their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. While living in this world they will live with a common love for each other and for their neighbor. It is because they know the grace of God. They will also be able to forgive one another because both of them have been forgiven by Jesus. Their kids and grandkids and possibly their great grandkids, nieces and nephews will be blessed because of their common faith in the Lord. And this is just touching the tip of the iceberg concerning the blessings that come when two people marry with the same common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. God truly cares and wants the best for all of his people.

When Ezra saw how marriage had degenerated from a holy institution into a human arrangement, he tore his clothes and sat down on the ground all day in self-abasement. Then he fell on his knees in prayer.

“How could the people of God have degenerated like this?”, must have been at the forefront of his mind. They must have let go of the word of God. If there were Bible teachers among them, God was not blessing their Bible teaching. The people were wandering away from the straight path in droves. The kids were not following the faith of the parents and grandparents. They were veering from the tried and true path of faith in the God of the Hebrews.

The spiritual identity of the people was threatened. It is a slippery slope when one or two generations compromise their faith. The people of God could be reduced to simply being a nationality, no different than the different nationalities around them. They would simply melt into the Babylonian melting pot. God could no longer work through them to reveal his glory to the nations. How tragic? The world would not have a kingdom of priests and a holy nation to turn to in order to find Jehovah. (The name of God in the Old Testament). They would not know their true Savior and the way of salvation. Yes, that is tragic.

I am impressed about how much Ezra cared about the spiritual condition of the people of God. He truly exhibited the very heart of God. It is obvious that many churches are falling down road of compromise. Do we care? Do we pray in all earnestness? I know I don’t. I repent and pray that I can reflect the heart of God in my prayers and reveal God’s concern for his church.

Part 2: Ezra’s Deep Prayer (5-15)

Verses 5-15, “5 And at the evening sacrifice I rose from my fasting, with my garment and my cloak torn, and fell upon my knees and spread out my hands to the Lord my God,” 6 saying: “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. 7 From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt. And for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been given into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as it is today. 8 But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant and to give us a secure hold within his holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our slavery. 9 For we are slaves. Yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant us some reviving to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us protection in Judea and Jerusalem. 10 “And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken your commandments, 11 which you commanded by your servants the prophets, saying, ‘The land that you are entering, to take possession of it, is a land impure with the impurity of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations that have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness. 12 Therefore do not give your daughters to their sons, neither take their daughters for your sons, and never seek their peace or prosperity, that you may be strong and eat the good of the land and leave it for an inheritance to your children forever.’ 13 And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, seeing that you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserved and have given us such a remnant as this, 14 shall we break your commandments again and intermarry with the peoples who practice these abominations? Would you not be angry with us until you consumed us, so that there should be no remnant, nor any to escape? 15 O Lord, the God of Israel, you are just, for we are left a remnant that has escaped, as it is today. Behold, we are before you in our guilt, for none can stand before you because of this.”

This is a model prayer. Let’s think about it. (1) Ezra shared the responsibility for the sins of his people in his confession. (2) He thanked God for his mercy in sparing a remnant to return and rebuild the temple. (3) He confessed their sins and guilt in disobeying God’s word and intermarrying with the people of the land. (4) He continued to reveal God’s grace and the nation’s sinful condition. (5) He brings it all before the Lord in prayer and leaves it there at the throne of grace.

I need to learn to pray like Ezra. My prayers are so two dimensional compared to his. I prayer for myself and my own needs. I might pray for the needs of a few people close to me. And I surely do not connect myself with the sins of my own people, the Canadians and the Americans. My most common prayer nowadays, is “Lord help me to carry on each day and help me to find joy and meaning in my work.” I definitely need to grow in the scope of my prayers, just like Ezra.

Prayer: “Lord, we are sinners who cannot stand before you. It is only through your grace that we can do so. Purge us from our idolatry and heal our unfaithfulness.”

One Word: Care about the spiritual condition of the people. See, teach the Bible and pray.

Ezra 7:1-28: THE HAND OF THE LORD WAS WITH HIM- 10-28-18 devotional

Ezra 7:1-28: THE HAND OF THE LORD WAS WITH HIM- 10-28-18 devotional

Ezra 7:1-28                                   Kevin E. Jesmer

Key Verse: 7:6                             10-28-19

“For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” (ESV)

Dear Lord Heavenly Father, you are my strength, my Rock, my hope, my fortress. I depend on you each day. I pray that you help me to follow you each day. I pray for the KBC outreach at this year’s parade. May the Gospel go forth. Reveal your truth in my heart. I thank you and I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!

Part 1: A Teacher of the Word of God (1-10)

Verses 1-10, “Now after this, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah, 2 son of Shallum, son of Zadok, son of Ahitub, 3 son of Amariah, son of Azariah, son of Meraioth, 4 son of Zerahiah, son of Uzzi, son of Bukki, 5 son of Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the chief priest— 6 this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the Lord, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him.

7 And there went up also to Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king, some of the people of Israel, and some of the priests and Levites, the singers and gatekeepers, and the temple servants. 8 And Ezra came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. 9 For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. 10 For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.”

Some 60 years after the completion of the temple, Ezra led the second group of exiles back from Babylon. Xerxes ruled from 486 to 465 BC. Artaxerxes, his son ascended to the throne in 465BC. The hand of the Lord was with Ezra, and the king granted him everything he asked.

Who was this Ezra that came to Jerusalem? Look at verse 5b-6, “…. son of Aaron the chief priest— 6 this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the Lord, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him.”     First, he had a lineage that went all the way back to Aaron the priest, 15 generations. That means that he had a strong sense of identity of who he was and what he was called to do. It is like a person becoming a pastor, knowing that his dad and his grandfather and great-grandfather were all pastors. Having a calling and an identity as a servant of God is very important. We can get this when we are converted, even if no one in our family was a Christian we are still blessed with a strong sense of identity that we are not only children of God, but also servants of God. Spiritually speaking, believers come from a rich spiritual heritage, all the way back to Jesus and even all the way back to the Garden of Eden. But it is that much more of a blessing if our actually ancestors were servants of God life Ezra’s. The stronger the sense of identity, the better.

I need to hold onto my identity as a servant of God at each moment. God will open doors where we are called to represent the Lord. A day ago, a group of people at work learned about a devastating event. At that time, I felt the urge to stand up, speak some encouraging words and say a prayer. But I hesitated and failed to act as a servant of God. I am glad that God’s work does not fail because of my failings. I forfeited a blessing however. I pray for strength to make the right choices in the future so that Jesus may be glorified and to reveal to others around me where to turn to for salvation.

Ezra was also a prominent man in Artaxerxes’s’ court. He was able to ask for and receive a royal proclamation for his mission. But Ezra gave it all up in order to travel into a remote and even hostile region so that he could teach God’s to God’s people. Now that is faith! Don’t get me wrong. No everyone can go to a frontier region and preach God’s word. Some need to faith to stay behind and build up the church at home. I just hope that when God calls me on a mission, that I and Julie may have the faith to fully trust in God and step out of the comfort zone in order to follow God’s leading.

God’s hand was upon him as he engaged in the mission. Look at verse 9b, “… for the good hand of his God was on him.” Ezra answered the call of God. He went to Jerusalem to rebuild. But all of his efforts would have come to not, if he was only working with his own power and will. But he was not. God’s hand was upon him.

We can attempt to do many things for good. But If God’s hand is not in it, it will not bear fruit. Ultimately, it was be burnt up on the day of judgement. 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 reads, “12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (ESV) This was not the case for Ezra. God was with him and blessing his efforts. His work makes a lasting legacy that will endure for eternity.

He was a very devoted and scholarly Bible student and Bible teacher. Look at verse 10, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” Ezra was a priest and a Bible teacher–and a shepherd. He devoted himself to Bible teaching, and helped the people put God’s law into practice. He could do so because he knew the importance of the Word of God. He knew how God works in this world. God works by his word and his Spirit. That is why Ezra focused on the Word of God during his ministry.

He was a student of the Bible. Ezra’s approach to the word of God definitely was not casual. He was determined and focused in mastering the Bible. He wanted the knowledge of the Bible to be a well hewn tool so that God would be able to work through him to reach others. To have such an attitude, practically means that a person needs to engage in a daily meditation of the word of God. I am inspired by my wife, Julie, who reads the entire bible every year for the last 29 years! What an inspiration to me. I pray that I can remain faithful to write devotionals, for they are a means for me to study the word of God. I also pray that God may help all the members of my church to keep on engaging in a scholarly study of the word of God.

He practiced what he preached. Look at verse 10b, “…and to do it…”. It is not right to simply study the word of God and not do it. If we do this then we will become self-righteous. We will become like spiritual ET’s, with a large head and small arms and legs. The study of the word of God must be coupled with obedience to the word of God. Then God can truly work through people. Think about John the Baptist. Why was his ministry so powerful and fruitful? His lifestyle matched his message. Jesus’ lifestyle matched his message in every way. We do not live a perfect life. There are so many sins and weakness and limitations in our lives. But we can have an attitude of obedience to the word of God and “do it”. NIKE was not the first to make up the motto, “Just do it!”. It came from the Bible. Ask God in prayer how you can practice obedience to his word in your life today.

He taught others. Look at verse 10c, “….to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” We need Bible teachers. We need people to teach the statutes of God to the people. This is not just the work of the trained pastors. It is not just the work of the elders. It is the work of everyone in the congregation. There is always a way to teach the word of God to someone else around us…someone else whom God has placed. Ask God in prayer to reveal who that person is.

Teaching the word of God is the basis of building the foundations the church, lives and families and even a nation. God was working through Ezra’s teaching to help build the foundations of a restored nation of Israel. Teaching the word of God, purely and simply, is the means to begin the restoration of the foundations of our lives, our families and our churches. The foundations of our nation can be shored up by God through the faithful teaching of his word.

Part 2: The King’s Mandate (11-28)

Verses 11-28, “11 This is a copy of the letter that King Artaxerxes gave to Ezra the priest, the scribe, a man learned in matters of the commandments of the Lord and his statutes for Israel: 12 “Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven. Peace. And now 13 I make a decree that anyone of the people of Israel or their priests or Levites in my kingdom, who freely offers to go to Jerusalem, may go with you. 14 For you are sent by the king and his seven counselors to make inquiries about Judah and Jerusalem according to the Law of your God, which is in your hand, 15 and also to carry the silver and gold that the king and his counselors have freely offered to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem, 16 with all the silver and gold that you shall find in the whole province of Babylonia, and with the freewill offerings of the people and the priests, vowed willingly for the house of their God that is in Jerusalem. 17 With this money, then, you shall with all diligence buy bulls, rams, and lambs, with their grain offerings and their drink offerings, and you shall offer them on the altar of the house of your God that is in Jerusalem. 18 Whatever seems good to you and your brothers to do with the rest of the silver and gold, you may do, according to the will of your God. 19 The vessels that have been given you for the service of the house of your God, you shall deliver before the God of Jerusalem. 20 And whatever else is required for the house of your God, which it falls to you to provide, you may provide it out of the king’s treasury.

21 “And I, Artaxerxes the king, make a decree to all the treasurers in the province Beyond the River: Whatever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven, requires of you, let it be done with all diligence, 22 up to 100 talents of silver, 100 cors of wheat, 100 baths of wine, 100 baths of oil, and salt without prescribing how much. 23 Whatever is decreed by the God of heaven, let it be done in full for the house of the God of heaven, lest his wrath be against the realm of the king and his sons. 24 We also notify you that it shall not be lawful to impose tribute, custom, or toll on anyone of the priests, the Levites, the singers, the doorkeepers, the temple servants, or other servants of this house of God.

25 “And you, Ezra, according to the wisdom of your God that is in your hand, appoint magistrates and judges who may judge all the people in the province Beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God. And those who do not know them, you shall teach. 26 Whoever will not obey the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be strictly executed on him, whether for death or for banishment or for confiscation of his goods or for imprisonment.”

27 Blessed be the Lord, the God of our fathers, who put such a thing as this into the heart of the king, to beautify the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem, 28 and who extended to me his steadfast love before the king and his counselors, and before all the king’s mighty officers. I took courage, for the hand of the Lord my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.”

Ezra returned with the blessing and full support of King Artaxerxes. The king knew that rebuilding the moral foundations of the country was even more urgent than rebuilding the country materially. The king respected the God of Israel and sent Ezra back to Jerusalem to teach the Bible to the people, so that they could live and worship according to God’s laws. Ezra realized that the hand of God was on him, so he took courage and persuaded the leading men of Israel to go with him.

I can see God’s sovereign protecting his people and going on before them to secure the path. The writing of this royal proclamation is amazing! God was making this proclamation known to the right people at the right time through the letter! This is like missionaries ministering in First Nations communities getting a band council resolution to do so. God is our Sovereign Lord and he is watching over his people. Why are we afraid to step forward in mission? The hand of our God is upon us. He is leading us by his sovereign will. If God is for us, who can be against us? Even our failing become opportunities for the Gospel to shine forth.

Ezra honored God. Look at verses 27-28, “27 Blessed be the Lord, the God of our fathers, who put such a thing as this into the heart of the king, to beautify the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem, 28 and who extended to me his steadfast love before the king and his counselors, and before all the king’s mighty officers. I took courage, for the hand of the Lord my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.” Ezra is being used by God to accomplish marvelous work of God. How easy it would be for him to take the credit for himself? But he did not. He knew the eternal truth that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. He knows that he is prone to sin and so many shortcomings. He feels the aches and pains of his weak body each and every day. It is obvious that all that is being accomplished is being accomplished by God.

I pray that I can always give glory to God for all that he has done in my life, family and ministry. On my own I can only work, eat and sleep. And even to do that I need many prayers for God’s strength. “Lord, grant me your strength to get up.” All that I am and have and am able to do, is all because of the Lord God Almighty. It is only right to give him thanks and praise.

Prayer: Lord, your hand is upon me. Help me to step out in faith and do your will. Help me to study your word, obey your word and teach it to others.

One Word: Study, obey and teach the Bible trusting God’s hand is upon you.

Ezra 6:1-12. The Temple Is Completed. 10-23-19 Devotional

Ezra 6:1-12. The Temple Is Completed. 10-23-19 Devotional

Ezra 6:1-22                     Kevin E. Jesmer

Key Verse: 6:10             10-23-19

that they may offer pleasing sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the life of the king and his sons.”

Dear Lord Father in heaven…thank you for your love and grace poured out on us. You give me strength to carry on and serve your will upon my life. Sometimes it is hard to move forward, but in your strength I move forward. Please reveal your grace to the people of this community. Help me to make meditating and writing about your word a daily part of my life. Help me to understand the main points of this passage. I pray in Christ’s name. Amen!

Part 1: The Decree of King Darius (1-12)

Verses 1-12, “Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in Babylonia, in the house of the archives where the documents were stored. 2 And in Ecbatana, the citadel that is in the province of Media, a scroll was found on which this was written: “A record. 3 In the first year of Cyrus the king, Cyrus the king issued a decree: Concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, let the house be rebuilt, the place where sacrifices were offered, and let its foundations be retained. Its height shall be sixty cubits and its breadth sixty cubits, 4 with three layers of great stones and one layer of timber. Let the cost be paid from the royal treasury. 5 And also let the gold and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple that is in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, be restored and brought back to the temple that is in Jerusalem, each to its place. You shall put them in the house of God.”

6 “Now therefore, Tattenai, governor of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and your associates the governors who are in the province Beyond the River, keep away. 7 Let the work on this house of God alone. Let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its site. 8 Moreover, I make a decree regarding what you shall do for these elders of the Jews for the rebuilding of this house of God. The cost is to be paid to these men in full and without delay from the royal revenue, the tribute of the province from Beyond the River. 9 And whatever is needed—bulls, rams, or sheep for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, or oil, as the priests at Jerusalem require—let that be given to them day by day without fail, 10 that they may offer pleasing sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the life of the king and his sons. 11 Also I make a decree that if anyone alters this edict, a beam shall be pulled out of his house, and he shall be impaled on it, and his house shall be made a dunghill. 12 May the God who has caused his name to dwell there overthrow any king or people who shall put out a hand to alter this, or to destroy this house of God that is in Jerusalem. I Darius make a decree; let it be done with all diligence.”

God answered his people’s prayer and moved the heart of King Darius. Look at verse 1-2, “Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in Babylonia, in the house of the archives where the documents were stored. 2 And in Ecbatana, the citadel that is in the province of Media, a scroll was found on which this was written: “A record.” It was the practice to record business transactions and historical data on clay and papyrus documents. Many of these were stored in huge libraries. He looked up the records and found that King Cyrus had indeed authorized the construction of the temple.

Based on Cyrus’ royal decree, King Darius told the district governor not to interfere with the building of the temple; rather, to assist in any way they could. He ordered that construction costs be paid from the royal treasury, and that animals for sacrifice also be provided. He requested prayer for himself and his sons. Verse 10 reads, “, that they may offer pleasing sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the life of the king and his sons.”

Here we see the sovereign hand of God, who was with his people. He led the officials to a small document in a pagan library. He moved their hearts to respect the legal clause therein. In this way God delivered his people from persecution and even helped to propel the work of building the temple forward. God is the ruler over all rulers. He can deliver his people in ways that we can never even imagine. We need to just stop and trust in his power and love, even in the face of opposition.

I need to trust that God can and will work, even in very unexpected ways. I have seen this happen in Canada. The region seems impervious in 2012. But God helped us to meet the right people. He opened doors. He even led us to a sister church in the North to work through. He even provided a band council resolution to build missionary housing in the heart of a First Nation community. He is opening doors and creating allies in the mission at every turn. If it is his will, nothing can stand in God’s way.

God has called us to build up the “walls” of the church. It seems like a daunting task. But it is not so daunting when we know how God works. He can work even among the pagans to bring forth his will. I trust the Lord and step out in faith.

Part 2: Two Joyful Celebrations (13-22)

Verses 13-22, “13 Then, according to the word sent by Darius the king, Tattenai, the governor of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and their associates did with all diligence what Darius the king had ordered. 14 And the elders of the Jews built and prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. They finished their building by decree of the God of Israel and by decree of Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes king of Persia; 15 and this house was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.

16 And the people of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the returned exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. 17 They offered at the dedication of this house of God 100 bulls, 200 rams, 400 lambs, and as a sin offering for all Israel 12 male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. 18 And they set the priests in their divisions and the Levites in their divisions, for the service of God at Jerusalem, as it is written in the Book of Moses.

19 On the fourteenth day of the first month, the returned exiles kept the Passover. 20 For the priests and the Levites had purified themselves together; all of them were clean. So they slaughtered the Passover lamb for all the returned exiles, for their fellow priests, and for themselves. 21 It was eaten by the people of Israel who had returned from exile, and also by everyone who had joined them and separated himself from the uncleanness of the peoples of the land to worship the Lord, the God of Israel. 22 And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy, for the Lord had made them joyful and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.”

The people joyfully dedicated the temple. It represented God’s presence in their midst. They studied the Bible and established temple worship according to the word of God. Then, they joyfully celebrated the Passover, remembering God’s grace and his deliverance, and how he had worked to change the attitude of the king.

There was feasting and celebrating at the dedication of the temple. This celebration reminds us of the celebration of the temple in Solomon’s. But Solomon sacrifice 200 times more animals. (1 Kings 8:63. Life Application Study Bible). The servants of the temple were divided up to provide service there. This is reminiscent of Moses’ dividing leaders to serve the great number of people.

The Passover celebration was an annual celebration commemorating Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. (Ex 12:1-30). The deliverance from Egypt was a joyful event. The people were freed from slavery and were able to start their own nation dedicated to the Lord God Almighty. It was definitely a reason to celebrate.

God’s presence among his people brings joy. When God is with is our hearts are unburdened by his grace. We experience his grace. We are reminded of his grace. There is great joy to be had in this.

     God brings deep spiritual joy to those who are engaged in his work, and serving him according to Gods word. There is something to be said about the joy of Koinonia. Koinonia is uniquely, Christian fellowship. There is no other joy like this in the world. It is more joy than a 7 day all-expense paid trip to Disney World. It is generated by God himself, among his people who are living according to his word. We can taste this joy as we serve Jesus through the church. We can taste this joy when we serve alongside other Christians in a Gospel mission. We can taste this joy when we witness the life transforming work of the Spirit in believer’s hearts and lives. It is a joy that the world cannot give and cannot understand and cannot take away. I thank God for blessing me with such joy. May all members of our congregation and the missionaries up north be filled with his joy.

I learn also that this joy is intimately linked to a study of the word of God. People can try on their own to generate joy in their lives without God’s word. But that is like trying to throw a dart at a dart board blindfolded. We need to let Jesus, with his word and spirit guide our hearts into his presence. He will guide our hearts into his joy. I pray for making a daily meditation on God’s word my daily practice.

Prayer: “Lord, thank you for opening a way for your people when they do your work by faith. Help us to rejoice in your presence.”

One Word: God’s presence brings joy.

Ezra 5:1-17 – GOD WATCHES OVER HIS PEOPLE -10-22-19 devotional

Ezra 5:1-17 – GOD WATCHES OVER HIS PEOPLE -10-22-19 devotional

Ezra 5:1-17 Kevin E. Jesmer
Key Verse: 5:5 10-22-19

But the eye of their God was on the elders of the Jews, and they did not stop them until the report should reach Darius and then an answer be returned by letter concerning it.” (5)

Dear Lord Heavenly Father, thank you for helping us to stand by faith in you. This world is full of death and things to drag us down. Without you we would be totally despaired of life. But we have TRUE LIFE in you. Lord, thank you that we can ride the waves all the way to the kingdom of God. Please help me to share the life-giving Gospel with others. They need to know. Grant me one word through this passage. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!

Part 1: God’s Servants Give Direction (1-4)

Verses 1-4, “Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. 2 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and the prophets of God were with them, supporting them. 3 At the same time Tattenai the governor of the province Beyond the River and Shethar-bozenai and their associates came to them and spoke to them thus: “Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?” 4 They also asked them this: “What are the names of the men who are building this building?”
A political change occurred in the Persian Empire and Darius became emperor. A few men of faith saw their opportunity. Haggai and Zechariah were men of God. They “prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem.” That means that they taught God’s word to the people of God. God inspired the hearts two leaders. He encouraged Zerubbabel and Jeshua to begin again to build the temple. They began by faith. The people were working together and the prophets were also there supporting them as the wall was being built.

God was protecting His people and His own name. Look at verse 1b, “….in the name of the God of Israel who was over them.” God was there with his people. He was concerned about his own name. He was over the people, even when there was opposition to the work that they were engaged in. God was bringing glory to himself, through the obedience and faith of his people. Actually, God brings glory to himself no matter what!

I trust God. God is over me and his people. He is protecting us as we serve him. He is protecting our family thus far. He is building up our church. He is with the missionaries up in Canada and fulfilling plan among the First Nation people. God protects his work among his people. Why? It is for the glory of his name. Doing all things for the glory of God is the highest cause. What ever we do we must do it all for the glory of Christ.

The servants of God worked hard alongside their people. Look at verse 2b, “….and the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.” One gets the impression that these servants of God were not just preaching the word of God to their people. But they were also with their people supporting them in more ways than just preaching. One catches a glimpse of this from some passages in the New Testament. Ephesians 4:11-13, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,”. Also look at 1 Corinthians 14:3, “On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.”

I thank God for sending many of his servants to not only preach the word of God, but also to stand beside us in life and ministry. I need to be such a Christian.

There was opposition to the work of God. Look at verse 3b and 4, “…“Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?” 4 They also asked them this: “What are the names of the men who are building this building?” The governors of the region were not happy with the resurgence of work being done on the walls. They were not Jews. They were people who transplanted there by the Babylonians. The last thing they wanted was a strengthened Jewish presence in their midst. And so, they confronted the workers. They were intent on stopping the work.

The truth is, that whenever we try to do something for Jesus and to expand his kingdom, there will always be people who are determined to frustrate the work of God. But we must trust in the Lord and in his almighty power. God, in his sovereignty, will surely accomplish his will, no matter who tries to thwart it.

Part 2: The Eye of Their God Was Watching Over Them (5-6)

Verses 5-6, “But the eye of their God was on the elders of the Jews, and they did not stop them until the report should reach Darius and then an answer be returned by letter concerning it. 6 This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai the governor of the province Beyond the River and Shethar-bozenai and his associates, the governors who were in the province Beyond the River, sent to Darius the king.”

God’s eye was upon the people. Look at verse 5a, “But the eye of their God was on the elders of the Jews…” Sure enough, the local officials came to investigate. They wrote down the names of the men who were building. They had no building permit! The Jews were fearful, but they knew that God was watching over them. They kept on building.
Having this faith is imperative for all believers. How can we continue on, doing his world, in a world that seems to oppose us? Right now, God has called us to build up the body of Christ at KBC. How can we be faithful to the work he has called us to? We can do so when we have confidence that the eye of God is on us. God is the sovereign Lord. He is watching over us. If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

We should not be surprised that there will be opposition to the work of God. It is the last thing that the devil wants. He does not want an expansion of the Kingdom of God. He will oppose it at every front. There is opposition when we stand the Gospel. One day I was passing out Halloween candies in front of a church office in the downtown area. One group of adults walked by the church office. One asked what church it was. Another adult said, “It is some cult.” How wrong he was. But he did not know better. He was either not affiliated with any church or maybe he was from another denomination. Whatever the reason, to call our church a cult was totally unreasonable. But we need to see it from a spiritual point of view. One adult in their entourage was sincerely interested in what was going on in the church. But the devil quickly shot down the inquest through the negative words of her friend. It happens. Christians should not be surprised. They should be ready to keep their eyes on Jesus and focus in the task at hand when it comes.

Why does persecution come? God allows opposition to strengthen His people and their relationship
with Him. God could make everything go well so that there are no troubles. But does he want that for us? I don’t think so. He wants to strengthen his people in faith, through the persecution. The roots of a mighty oak tree grow deep because wind blows on the oak sapling. The Christian church thrives when there is opposition and persecution. It is lulled to sleep when there is no opposition. That is just the way it is. God wanted all of his people to grow in faith as they worked together to build the wall.

Part 3: A Letter To King Darius (7-17)

Verses 7-17, “7 They sent him a report, in which was written as follows: “To Darius the king, all peace. 8 Be it known to the king that we went to the province of Judah, to the house of the great God. It is being built with huge stones, and timber is laid in the walls. This work goes on diligently and prospers in their hands. 9 Then we asked those elders and spoke to them thus: ‘Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?’ 10 We also asked them their names, for your information, that we might write down the names of their leaders. 11 And this was their reply to us: ‘We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the house that was built many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and finished. 12 But because our fathers had angered the God of heaven, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house and carried away the people to Babylonia. 13 However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, Cyrus the king made a decree that this house of God should be rebuilt. 14 And the gold and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple that was in Jerusalem and brought into the temple of Babylon, these Cyrus the king took out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered to one whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor; 15 and he said to him, “Take these vessels, go and put them in the temple that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be rebuilt on its site.” 16 Then this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and from that time until now it has been in building, and it is not yet finished.’ 17 Therefore, if it seems good to the king, let search be made in the royal archives there in Babylon, to see whether a decree was issued by Cyrus the king for the rebuilding of this house of God in Jerusalem. And let the king send us his pleasure in this matter.”

The governor’s letter to the king was not negative. He reported on the work; he reported what the builders had said about why they were building the temple. The governor was fair in his depiction of the situation in his letter to Darius.

The leaders were not afraid to clearly identify themselves. Look at verse 11, “11 And this was their reply to us: ‘We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the house that was built many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and finished.” They were not fearful at all. God had emboldened their hearts. They clearly identified themselves as believers and the work that they were doing as God’s work.

I agree with this principle, but we need to always make sure that the work we are standing up for is actually the work of God. Is it truly the work of Jesus or it the mission of some sect or some self-glorifying mission? If we are going to be bold about the work we are doing, please be bold about authentic work of Jesus.

The leaders of the Jews were not self-righteous. They confessed their sins. Look at verse 12, “But because our fathers had angered the God of heaven, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house and carried away the people to Babylonia”. I like this quality here. It is humble. It is devoid of nationalism. It is not self-righteous. It is humble. That is why God could work through these people at this time. The God of the Bible opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)

The leaders had a clear understanding of history. Look at verse 13, “13 However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, Cyrus the king made a decree that this house of God should be rebuilt.” God did not call us to put our heads in the sand. We need to know God’s history. We need to know what is going on, in the past, present and future.

Prayer: “Lord, help me to do your work before your eyes. Keep your eye on us; protect and guide and defend us.”

One Word: The eye of God is on his people

Ezra 4:1-24. ENEMIES HINDER GOD’S WORK. 10-6-19 Devotional

Ezra 4:1-24. ENEMIES HINDER GOD’S WORK. 10-6-19 Devotional

Ezra 4:1-24                                                   Kevin E. Jesmer

Key Verse 4:3                                                10-6-19

“But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel said to them, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.” (3; ESV)

Dear Lord, thank you for the grounding you bring about from you’re the truth of your word. Thank you that we are not swayed here and there by “every changing of wind.” I can find peace and rest in you. Work through my family and I to preach the Gospel. Help us to properly advertise Christ in our lives. Help me to accept your word deeply in my heart. I thank you for this time and I pray in the mighty name of Jesus.

Part 1: We Will Build Alone (1-5)

Verses 1-5, “Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel, 2 they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ houses and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us here.” 3 But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel said to them, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us. 4 Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build 5 and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.”

The historical enemies of Israel had been relocated in the northern kingdom. The people of the land said that they also worshiped God and they offered to help build the temple. But their religion was mixed with idol worship (2Ki 17). They were adherents to the worship of foreign gods. They absorbed some elements of the worship of the Israelites but they were not the people of God. They were just adding to their collection of idols.

They sought to infiltrate and frustrate the building attempts of the Israelites and so they offered to help with the rebuilding of the temple. They wanted to keep a close eye in what was happening. They did not want Jerusalem to become strong again.

The Jews refused their offer of help. Their refusal seems narrow-minded, but according to 4:1, the people who were offering their help were enemies. When God’s people refused to compromise, the people of the land actively sought to hinder them.

Believers can expect opposition when they try to do God’s work. 2 Timothy 3:12 reads, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, “ Unbelievers and evil spiritual forces are always working against God’s people. When people accept God’s mission and begin to do his work, the devil always sends enemies to harass them.

They faced discouragement and fear. Look at verse 4, “Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build “Discouragement and fear are two of the greatest obstacles to completing God’s work. Discouragement eats away at our motivations and fear paralyses us from acting at all. But they did not have to give into tools of the devil. God will always be there to help them to overcome. They have fellow believers that they can stand with.

But God protected his people and his work from those who would seek to infiltrate the work and hinder it. God stands with his people, protecting them and helping them to overcome fear and discouragement. It wasn’t always so. Without Christ we were enemies of God. God was not our protector. We were adrift in this world, victims of sin and fear and constantly becoming discouraged. But Jesus died in the cross to that we are forgiven of our sins. We have become children of God. God is our heavenly Father. God is now our mighty God and Savior. It is all because of what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross.

What kind of discouragement am I facing? What kind of opposition am I facing as I serve the Lord? I don’t face much opposition at all. I am serving God but there is not much opposition. It is because my Gospel ministry is serving based. There is not much preaching coming from my mouth. There is not much disciples raising. I am not become involved in the conversion of lost souls. If know that if I preached the Gospel to a person and they become a disciple of Jesus I would receive opposition from family members who don’t want to see their loved one becoming a Christian who follows Jesus. Opposition would happen even in the USA. Lord, help me to become actively involved in a conversion of new Christians and their discipleship. Grant me strength to bear up under any fear and discouragement.

I want to become involved in the building up of the congregation of KBC. God works through his church. When the church grows and becomes strong then the devil does not like that. The enemies of God do not like it. I am thankful for the studies of Ezra and Nehemiah. I pray that God may work through these studies for all of us to band together to help build up the work of God here at KBC and abroad.

I may be getting some opposition from being ignored. People close to me seldom visit. Maybe everyone experiences this. It could be because I live far away. It could be because I am boring. It could be because people are just plain old busy. But it also could be because my family is Christian. I am not sure. But no matter what, God is with me and grants me strength. He helps me to continually build up the work of God in my small portion of the world.

Part 2: Discouragement and Political Pressure (6-24)

Verses 6-24, “6 And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.

The Letter to King Artaxerxes

7 In the days of Artaxerxes, Bishlam and Mithredath and Tabeel and the rest of their associates wrote to Artaxerxes king of Persia. The letter was written in Aramaic and translated. 8 Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king as follows: 9 Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their associates, the judges, the governors, the officials, the Persians, the men of Erech, the Babylonians, the men of Susa, that is, the Elamites, 10 and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Osnappar deported and settled in the cities of Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River. 11 (This is a copy of the letter that they sent.) “To Artaxerxes the king: Your servants, the men of the province Beyond the River, send greeting. And now 12 be it known to the king that the Jews who came up from you to us have gone to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are finishing the walls and repairing the foundations. 13 Now be it known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and the walls finished, they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll, and the royal revenue will be impaired. 14 Now because we eat the salt of the palace and it is not fitting for us to witness the king’s dishonor, therefore we send and inform the king, 15 in order that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. You will find in the book of the records and learn that this city is a rebellious city, hurtful to kings and provinces, and that sedition was stirred up in it from of old. That was why this city was laid waste. 16 We make known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls finished, you will then have no possession in the province Beyond the River.”

The King Orders the Work to Cease

17 The king sent an answer: “To Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe and the rest of their associates who live in Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River, greeting. And now 18 the letter that you sent to us has been plainly read before me. 19 And I made a decree, and search has been made, and it has been found that this city from of old has risen against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made in it. 20 And mighty kings have been over Jerusalem, who ruled over the whole province Beyond the River, to whom tribute, custom, and toll were paid. 21 Therefore make a decree that these men be made to cease, and that this city be not rebuilt, until a decree is made by me. 22 And take care not to be slack in this matter. Why should damage grow to the hurt of the king?”

23 Then, when the copy of King Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum and Shimshai the scribe and their associates, they went in haste to the Jews at Jerusalem and by force and power made them cease. 24 Then the work on the house of God that is in Jerusalem stopped, and it ceased until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.”

This letter confirms the mighty work of God that God did among his people in the previous centuries. This was recorded and confirmed on the clay tablets. God did in fact bless his people so much in the past and he wanted to continually bless his people. I

Discouragement is the devil’s most useful tool. The enemies of God’s people worked hard to discourage the returnees. They planted fear; they tried to frustrate the work. When this failed, they seized an opportunity when Artaxerxes became Emperor. They wrote him and lodged a complaint. Artaxerxes did not want to help in the rebuilding of Jerusalem that historically had contained people that rebelled against kings. These leaders of the land were doing everything within their power to make the work of God grind to a halt.

His reaction makes sense from a worldly point of view. He did not want any trouble threatening his reign. But he could not see God. He was only concerned with his self-preservation. Because of this fear mongering the work of the temple did halt. Though their charge was groundless, the work was stopped for nearly 15 years.

God’s people could only pray and wait. That is how God’s people of every age need to respond. They need to pray and wait on God’s time to continue on with the work of the Lord. It is hard to relate to this in the USA where there is so much freedom to worship and serve God. But what about in countries where Christians are persecuted? They are facing so much persecution, including imprisonment and death. They really know how to relate to this passage.

Prayer:Lord, help me to overcome fear and discouragement, and to wait on your time and pray.”

One Word: Don’t compromise; wait and pray to continue building up the work of God. Trust God he will open up the way and rescue us from all fear and discouragement.

Ezra 2:1-3:13: LAYING THE TEMPLE FOUNDATIONS-10-1-19

Ezra 2:1-3:13: LAYING THE TEMPLE FOUNDATIONS-10-1-19

Ezra 2:1-2, 68-3:13                         Kevin E. Jesmer

Key Verse: 3:3                                 10-1-19

“They set the altar in its place, for fear was on them because of the peoples of the lands, and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, burnt offerings morning and evening.” (3) (ESV)

Dear Lord Heavenly Father, thank you for your transforming work in our lives through the Gospel. I am grateful for the hope in the Kingdom of Heaven. I am grateful for the Bible’s teachings. Where would my life be without you, your word and the hope in the Kingdom of God? Please help me to understand your word in Ezra today. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Part 1: Survival In a Hard Land (2:1-2,68-70)

2:1-2, “Now these were the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried captive to Babylonia. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town. 2 They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah. The number of the men of the people of Israel:”

The land had been filled with people from other lands. They had been transplanted there by the Babylonians. There were also poor Israelites that had been left there to tend the fields. The land was underdeveloped, filled with villages and towns of people trying to make lives for themselves. Indeed, life was hard. But the returned exiles were bound together. They were enlivened in their spirits by the Lord. They were eager to build and develop a society for the glory of God.

They moved into their towns and gave a free-will offering for the rebuilding of the temple. Though they began the hard task of surviving, they kept their focus on the reason they returned. They were to be a people dedicated to the Lord, a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation.

There are times when God wants us to set out and live a new life for his glory. This may be a time after experiencing much spiritual discipline. We may be recovering from some very hard training. But God enlivens our hearts as he turns the page in a new chapter in our lives. He inspires us to join with other believers and build up the work of God for his glory.

I feel that a new chapter is beginning for Julie and myself. We are going to be completely empty nesters in December. We are poised to be free to serve the Lord with no children living at home. God is enlivening our hearts to serve through the church. We are more willing to invite people over to our home to eat and hangout with us. I don’t know where everything is leading but God is doing something. He is enlivening our hearts to join with others in the church to serve his Gospel mission.

The people made a priority to make an offering to build the temple. When we are in a hard situation, we seldom want to offer to the church or build up the church. We tend to think that there are more pressing priorities, priorities that include securing our basic needs, like food and shelter and future security. Most people, only give to the work of God if these needs are first met, if they ever give to the work of God.

But the people in this passage were living a more insecure life than we will ever live. They were very uncomfortable and insecure and yet they offered for the temple to be built. This reminds me of the western expansion in the USA in the 1800’s. People moved westward and build new towns. One of the first things that were built in the towns was the church. People made their worship of God a priority and they knew the importance of making a sacrifice to build the church even before their own future was secured. I repent of wanting to wait, and wait, and wait, until I am fully funded and everything is paid off before I serve Christ. I want to serve Christ now without worries. I want to make Christ and his Gospel mission a priority in life.

Part 2: Rebuilding The Altar “As It Is Written” (3:1-6)

3:1-6, “When the seventh month came, and the children of Israel were in the towns, the people gathered as one man to Jerusalem. 2 Then arose Jeshua the son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel with his kinsmen, and they built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. 3 They set the altar in its place, for fear was on them because of the peoples of the lands, and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, burnt offerings morning and evening. 4 And they kept the Feast of Booths, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number according to the rule, as each day required, 5 and after that the regular burnt offerings, the offerings at the new moon and at all the appointed feasts of the Lord, and the offerings of everyone who made a freewill offering to the Lord. 6 From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord. But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid.”

Spiritual survival was most urgent. The people of the land were godless and materialistic, so it was not easy for the returned exiles to have a clear identity as God’s people. Fear was on them because of the people of the land. Yet, through faith in God, they overcame fear, rebuilt the altar and began worshiping God in the way prescribed in the Bible.

I can see here that they tried to fashion their new lives according to the Bible, “as it is written”. They were not trying to create something according to their own ideas. It was from the word of God. I feel that this is very important. If we are going to build up the church, we need to do it according to the word of God. Anything that is built must be built on God’s principles and precepts. For if it is not, it will not last.

Part 3: Laying The Temple Foundations And Tasting God’s Joy and Love (7-13)

Verses 7-13, “So they gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the Sidonians and the Tyrians to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the grant that they had from Cyrus king of Persia. 8 Now in the second year after their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak made a beginning, together with the rest of their kinsmen, the priests and the Levites and all who had come to Jerusalem from the captivity. They appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to supervise the work of the house of the Lord. 9 And Jeshua with his sons and his brothers, and Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together supervised the workmen in the house of God, along with the sons of Henadad and the Levites, their sons and brothers. 10 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord, according to the directions of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord,

“For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.”

The attitude and the faith of these people amaze me. What amazes me more is the God who inspired their hearts and their passions and desires. He fanned into flame these inner realities. Laying foundations is hard. It requires a decision of faith, much work and sacrifice, and co-working. The work of God is never easy. But when God is with his people, he makes it happen.

Engaging in the work of God is a very joyful undertaking. When the foundations were laid, all the people shouted praise to the Lord. Some shouted for joy, some wept in sorrow, but all praised the Lord. God was making his people elated and come alive. They were rejoicing all together how God’s steadfast love endures forever. They could declare this because they tasted God’s steadfast love all together as they were serving the Lord.

As we live by faith and put God first and do things that require faith, then there is great joy. Of course, there are times of sorrow and burnout etc. But overall, living a life of faith in Christ is joyful. I have never had so many adventures, and have never laughed so hard, than when I was serving the Lord. Some of my best memories has come when I was working with others to propagate the Gospel of Christ. I know that all of that is not in the past. It can be part of Julie and my present and future as we seek to lay foundations for new works of God.

Prayer: “Lord, help us to lay spiritual foundations through the church, along with your people. Help us to trust in you so much that you are our priority and we are able to live sacrificial lives of faith. “

One Word: Overcome fear; lay foundations and experience great joy in the Lord and God’s steadfast love.

Ezra 1:1-11: GOD MOVES PEOPLE’S HEARTS – Daily Devotional 9-30-19

Ezra 1:1-11: GOD MOVES PEOPLE’S HEARTS – Daily Devotional 9-30-19

Ezra 1:1-11                                                Kevin E. Jesmer

Key Verse: 1:1,5                                        9-30-19

“1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:” (ESV)

“5 Then rose up the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem.” (ESV)

Dear Lord Heavenly Father. Thank you for your eternal stability. You are a rock that cannot move. When this world is going crazy and loosing hope, you are that Rock. Thank you. I thank you for the opportunity to meditate on Ezra. What a great book. Help me to learn about your word and be inspired by it and apply it personally. I thank you for this time. I pray in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.

Part 1: God Keeps His Word (1-4)

Verses 1-4, “1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: 2 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3 Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. 4 And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.”

In 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, conquered Jerusalem. He leveled the walls and burned the temple. He had already taken the king and many nobles and promising young men like Daniel, into captivity. This time, he took almost everything of value, including most of the remaining people, into Babylonian captivity. This was God’s sovereign plan and his will. They had broken the covenant. They sinned against the Lord their God who had brought them up out of Egypt. They worshiped other gods and followed the practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before them. He was broken-hearted.

God wanted his people to repent and turn to him. They did not listen to the prophets. So he disciplined them in love. Babylon was the rod of God’s discipline. The Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem in 597 BC. They took away the treasurers of the temple and those of the royal palace.

Let’s look at some of the Biblical references that are presented here.

Isa 44:28; “who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.”

Jer 29:10;For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.”

The Lord had promised that after 70 years the Jews exiled in Babylon could return to Jerusalem. The Prophet Jeremiah lived in Jerusalem. He knew that it was God’s will that Jerusalem be destroyed and that God’s people go into exile in Babylon. He was accused of being a Babylonian sympathizer and a traitor to his people. He was punished and almost killed. During these last days of Judah and Jerusalem, there was, however, one note of hope. It was in Jeremiah’s message. Jeremiah not only spoke of the destruction of Jerusalem and of the exile to Babylon; he also promised that God would bring his people back after 70 years in exile.

    God had not abandoned his people. After 70 years, a remnant of God’s people who were in exile in Babylon would return to Jerusalem and reoccupy the Promised Land. (2Ch 36:21-22; Jer 25:12;29:10-11)

Our God is a God who makes and keeps promises. In God’s right time (539 BC), Cyrus conquered the Babylonian empire. This happened 47 years after Jerusalem fell and the temple destroyed.

God kept his word by allowing Cyrus king of Persia to conquer Babylon. Then he moved the king’s heart to allow the exiles to return and rebuild the temple of the Lord. (See Isa 44:28; Jer 29:10.)

Cyrus, king of Persia, was a believer in the God of heaven. He did not know the God very well, but God knew him. Some 200 years before the events in the book of Ezra, God gave a remarkable prophesy through Isaiah. Jeremiah had echoed this prophecy. Cyrus acknowledged the God of heaven; he recognized that his power came from God, and he believed that God had appointed him to build the temple in Jerusalem (2).

God moved the heart of Cyrus, king of the Persian Empire and believer in the God of heaven. In his first year, Cyrus ordered anyone who was willing, to go Jerusalem and rebuild the temple of the God of heaven. (2Ch 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4) He offered to support them materially.

What a great victory God produced for his people! God controls history. Sometimes he uses kings and worldly people to accomplish his purposes. But we can trust that God loves his people and works out the best for his people.

I learn here that I need to trust in God, always. He was making promises about Cyrus, 200 years before the event! That is like a prophecy being made in 1819 that a particular person will arise who will accomplish a herculean task for the glory of God and even naming that person. What are the chances of that happening? I can trust God for all things. I can trust him with the church. I can trust him with the future of my family. I can trust him with how he is leading this world and this nation.

Yes, this world is going crazy and pollution is rampant and the climate is changing. We need to do what we need in order to take care of God’s planet. But we must never despair because we know that God is ultimately in control. He has a great and wonderful plan, that will eventually lead to all of his people being with him in paradise forever.

I also learn that God disciplines those he loves. His discipline for his people lasted 70 years plus. But they had gone astray. They were inflicting suffering upon themselves. They needed to return to the Lord. God helped them. It was not pleasant, but it happened and now it was time to be over. There is an end to the discipline. If the discipline lasts a lifetime and seems unbearable, there is an end. The end may be when he takes us home to be with him in heaven. The end may come when we find peace in the midst of suffering. Maybe there will be release from suffering, temporarily in this world.

I thank Jesus for the good times and the bad times. I thank him of the aches and pains and for all the struggles of life. I know he is drawing me closer to himself.

Part 2: God Moved The People’s Hearts (5-11)

Verses 5-11, “5 Then rose up the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem. 6 And all who were about them aided them with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, with beasts, and with costly wares, besides all that was freely offered. 7 Cyrus the king also brought out the vessels of the house of the Lord that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and placed in the house of his gods. 8 Cyrus king of Persia brought these out in the charge of Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah. 9 And this was the number of them: 30 basins of gold, 1,000 basins of silver, 29 censers, 10 30 bowls of gold, 410 bowls of silver, and 1,000 other vessels; 11 all the vessels of gold and of silver were 5,400. All these did Sheshbazzar bring up, when the exiles were brought up from Babylonia to Jerusalem.”

At first, life in exile had been hard. After many years, however, they became Babylonians. The Jews bought into Babylon, and it was hard to leave and return to the devastated land of Judah. God moved the hearts of a few leaders to accept this mission and return to rebuild the temple.

There actually was a small percentage of the people who returned to the land. Most of the people stayed in Babylon. I used to think that those who stayed behind were somehow compromising and that they would disappear into the melting pot of Babylon and cease to exist as a people of God. But I don’t think that way anymore.

The people who stayed behind continued to live for the glory of God. There was Daniel and Esther to name a couple of the people. There were also the very young, the old and infirmed people who could not make the journey through the arid wilderness back to Jerusalem. They had to stay in Babylon and live by faith.

It is like today. There are some who go as missionaries and some who stay behind. They can all serve Jesus and glorify God wherever they are. I need to see the hand of God in all peoples’ lives and ministries. I need to encourage them where they are at.

I need to be content where I am at. I love relating to the missionaries and encouraging missionaries. But I am not a missionary in some far-off place. That is OK. I am still glorifying Jesus and one day I hope to actually be a missionary, crossing borders and cultural and language barriers.

But is Jesus does call me to some specific mission, I pray for strength to answer his call. I pray that Julie and I may launch out in faith and trust in the God who keeps his promises…faith in the sovereign Lord who control history to be with his people. I pray for strengthen and endurance to continue encouraging the missionaries who are going to First Nation communities in the North.

Prayer:Lord, help me to see what you want to do with my time and accept your mission wherever it may be, or how hard it may be. Thank you for keeping your promises and being our Sovereign Lord whom we can trust along life’s journey.”

One Word: Trust God for all things and serve him where his wants you to be.