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==========
Agosto 30, 2020
EL PROCESO DE RENOVACION
==========

Esdras 7:1-10

Características que deben ser parte del Pueblo del Señor:

A.- ES ALGUIEN QUE AFIRMA SUS PASOS EN LA PALABRA DEL SEÑOR.

1.- Estudioso de la Palabra del Señor
2.- Practicante de la Palabra del Señor
3. Dispuestos a enseñar a otros la Palabra.

B.- ES ALGUIEN QUE DEPOSITA SU CONFIANZA EN LAS PROMESAS DEL SEÑOR.

1.- Pidan y se les dara.
2.- Busquen y van a encontrar
3.- Llamen y se les abrira.

C.- ES ALGUIEN QUE DECIDE VIVIR EN SANTIDAD DELANTE DE DIOS.

1.- Hay un reconocimiento de que se han cometido pecados.
2.- Se Identifica con el pecado del pueblo.
3. Hacen las correcciones necesarias para vivir agradando al Señor.

Conclusión:
Siempre está en nuestras manos la decisión de agradar a Dios:
-Con nuestras Vidas.
-Viviendo conforme a su Palabra.
-Viviendo confiando en su Palabra.
-Debemos apartarnos de aquello que sabemos qué entristece el corazón de nuestro Dios.

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Istrouma Baptist Church
Aug 30, 2020

==========
August 30 | Ezra (BR)
Welcome Back! We're glad you've joined us today for our Sunday morning worship service! For more information about Istrouma, go to istrouma.org or contact us at info@istrouma.org.  

We glorify God by making disciples of all nations.
==========

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August 30, 2020  | Jeff Williams
"Renew"

Renew means to resume after an interruption; to give fresh life or strength to

Renewal begins with an acknowledgement that change is necessary

Spiritual renewals involves a movement towards Jesus in my attitude, priorities, and actions.

Ezra 7:10
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.

Renewal is Bible centered

Renewal is application driven

Renewal is contagious

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“Renew”

Sermon Series: Ezra

Ephesians 2:8-10

Istrouma Baptist Church – Jeff Williams, Interim Pastor

 10:45 AM Sermon August 30, 2020

 

Good morning. 

I’m so glad that you're here and that you have chosen to worship with us today. If you have your Bible, you can turn to Ezra chapter seven as her chapter seven. We'll be there in just a few moments before we jump in, though, I felt like I needed to give just a little bit of a disclaimer. I'm sure those of you that were here last week are more excited about what I'm wearing today than what I wore last week. And I have to admit that I turned on my Facebook earlier in the week. You know, in sometimes during the week they put like little clips of whatever we talked about. And when I turned that clip on, when it popped up and all I saw was that that Bama shirt that's like just staring just really just boldly at me. I thought that's probably not fair for people that weren't there that don't know the context. I think what an arrogant jerk, that guy is wearing a Bama shirt in the middle of Louisiana. So, I made my own personal commitment. I'll share it with you that I won't ever speak on this stage ever again with Bama attire. So I know some of you will come back now, wait at the clap,  that wasn't really necessary, but anyways, but I'm just so thankful for just what God is doing through our college students and what a great time that was last week to be able to celebrate with them, tons of them that were in our 11 o'clock service. And so, thank you just for the way that you love and support college students in our area. Just an amazing, amazing opportunity for us as a church to be able to minister to just the next generation. Yesterday. I did a, a wedding for a couple in our church and it was in Kentwood, Louisiana. That's the first time I've ever been to Kentwood, but was a, just a great experience, but it actually wasn’t, their wedding ceremony. It was their, the renewing of their vows. Now I I've done renewal of vows, you know, for five years and for 10 years and for 15 years and for 20 and 25 and even for 50 years, but I've never done a vow renewal for a couple of this, been married for five months. All right. But that's what we did yesterday. And the reason was, is because their wedding was originally scheduled about four or five weeks after COVID just exploded. And so, they had to shut down the big ceremony and we just did a backyard wedding five months ago. And so yesterday we did the vow renewal in front of all their family and friends was just a great experience them. And so, like Monday when the light, the storm is starting to roll in, I'm thinking, oh my goodness, if this, this couple, if their wedding got messed up and then their, the renewal got messed up because of the storm. So, I was thankful that they were able to do it, but it was just a great time together. But within that, I started thinking this week is we're looking at the word renewal. That's the focus for our time together today. I begin to think about when you do that, whether it's at five months or whether it's at 50 years, there's a purpose while people renew their vows, it is a recommitment or a reminder of exactly what they started with with a vow that they made before, but between one another before God, I want you to think about that concept renewal today, as it relates to your relationship with God.

So, first of all, let's think about what that word means. The word renews simply means to resume after an interruption to give fresh life or strength to. I like the end of that for many of us, when it comes to spiritual renewal, what we have to remember is that many times there's an interruption in terms of our passion for God, right? There's something that happens that distracts us or gets us off track. And we're not as passionate about Jesus maybe we once were. And so, we have a renewal. It means that we decide that we're going to resume that, we decide that we're going to get back on track. We decide that we're going to change some things in our life in order to give back to where we know God wants us to be. And what happens when we do that, then it gives fresh or strength. It gives you something that you did not have before. It renews that thing in your life that was missing. And I don't know about you, but I've been through periods of time in my life to where there was just a going through the motions you ever been there or mean there was things that you were trying to ignore as we talked about the last couple of weeks that, you know, you needed to deal with, but you just didn't. And you just come to that point in life where you say enough is enough, tired of playing games. I'm tired of going through the motions. I'm tired of ignoring it, just, just surviving day in and day out. I want that passion to be renewed. I want that in my life again. I want that fresh life. I want that strength that comes from being exactly where God wants us to be.

Okay. So within that concept, I want you to think about it. A couple of things related to this idea of renewal, first of all, is this is that renewal begins with an acknowledgement. That change is necessary, that if you're going to renew you yourself, you have to begin with the idea or the concept that you say, you know what? There is change that is necessary in my life. And so for every single one of us on a day like today is we're going to participate, Lord’s Supper in just a few moments that as we do that, it is a reminder. And we'll talk more about this in a minute, but there is a reminder of the fact that there's change that is necessary in my life. The Bible describes in First Corinthians that anytime you take the Lord's supper, that what you are to first do is to examine yourself, to see if there's anything in you that is unworthy of partaking of the body and the blood of Christ. So within this concept of renewal, it begins with you recognizing there's something in my life that's not the way It should be. So the question You want to be asking yourself throughout this morning is what is that for you? What is that thing? Or what is that issue or what is that relationship that just needs to change in your life? Now let's take it another step forward. As it relates to a specifically spiritual renewal, that spiritual renewal involves a movement toward Jesus. All right. In my attitude, my priority, in my actions. It makes a conscious effort in your heart and mind just as I I've moved away from where Jesus, Jesus didn't move, right. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. But what happens oftentimes is that we move away. We, we drift, or we're distracted. And so, what spiritual renewal is, if you make the decision today that I need to renew, whether it's my attitude, my priorities, or my actions, I want to make a step towards Jesus. And we're going to talk about, and just a few moments about what that looks like. So when we look, at the book of Ezra, that was the purpose of Ezra. Now we finally, this is the last week of the series, and we're finally getting to the, the, the Ezra, the man, right? We've been looking at the book of Ezra, but now he enters the scene in chapter seven. And when he enters the scene, the King who was Artaxerxes decided that he was going to send him back. This is the second wave of people that return to Israel. And as they're returning, everything has been rebuilt in terms of the temple, in terms of the city, things are beginning to happen, but there's all of these interruptions that have been going on.

We talked last week about between Chapter Four and Chapter Five, that there was a 16-year period of time where the wall stopped being built. Then we see that begins again. We looked at that last week and when we get to the end of Chapter Six, there's another 60 to 70-year period of time between Chapter Six and Chapter Seven. Now, what’s interesting is that earlier in the year, we studied the book of Esther, right? The book of Esther, all the things that we studied happens right there between chapter six and chapter seven. So, on the end of everything we studied in Esther, we find King Artaxerxes he sends, he sends Ezra back to Israel with another group of people. And the focus of this is the renewal. It is the idea that there needs to be renewal amongst the people. That's why God led the King to do that. That's why as is returning Ezra was a scribe Ezra, basically when we look at the New Testament and we think about Pharisees and scribes, that Ezra was the part of the foundation of what that became. They were the religious leaders. They were the ones that knew the word. They were the ones that their heart was supposed to be focused on leading the people towards God. So Ezra, as he returns, we see this in Chapter Seven and Chapter Eight, that he, he leads the leaders of this group into a time of prayer and fasting for the people for the will of God and what he desires for them to do. And then as he returns, there's something interesting that happens in Chapters Nine and Chapter Ten, that as Ezra as he returns, he identifies that many of the Jewish people had intermarried with other people that had been displaced to Jerusalem. And what he sees is that people were intermarrying with people of other faiths, of other religious people that were pagans that were not fearers of God. And so, he does something that's very odd. He does something that seems strange in light of what we know that scripture teaches us related to the issue of divorce and he challenges them. And he calls on them to leave their, their wives and the children that were not of the Jewish faith that were not fearers and followers of God. He's, he calls them to divorce them. And basically, to start all over again. Now, when you read that, that can be confusing, right? It can be confusing because it seems to go against everything that we know that God's Word teaches us about scripture.  listen for, if we were just to be honest, and that there's times in scripture, that we read things that we're not sure completely how to wrap our minds around it. We're not sure that we completely understand them. And so I want to give you just a couple of things to think about when you come to those times as you're reading scripture is that anytime you come to a passage of scripture that is confusing to you, or that you have trouble wrapping your minds around, understand this, that you never build what you believe or your theology around the things that you don't understand, you always interpret what you don't understand in light of what is very clear that you do understand.

And here's, what's clear in scripture. It is clear in scripture; you look at the book of Malachi. It says that God hates divorce. So this is obviously not God's ultimate desire or God's ultimate plan is a divorce is not something that God desires. You can't take the book of Ezra and begin to build a theology that says, well, the person that I am married to is not a strong follower of Jesus, or they're not a follower of Jesus. And so I want to be with this person. And so Ezra gives me the right to divorce them and go over here.

You can't do that because the reality is, is that the scripture is clear that God hates divorce. Scripture is also clear in the New Testament. We can look at the book of Matthew. You can look at the book of First Corinthians and it describes the times that God allows divorce. But even in those allowances, he ultimately says that God's desire is for man and woman to stay together. Now, I don't want us to get off on all that means and what that looks like, but here's what I want you to see is that we can look at the book of Ezra and build our theology on what Ezra leads the people to do about the way that we live our lives, because there are other things in scripture that are very, very clear about what God feet, how God feels and what God desires as it relates to the issue of divorce.

So what do we learn from this passage then? Right? Ezra is basically giving us the history of what took place and why was he leading them to do that? And that's the thing that we need to emphasize. As we look at that at this section of scripture, the reason that Ezra was calling them to divorce and to make sure that purity remain among the Jewish people is he was trying to protect, look at this, don't miss this. He's trying to protect the lineage that the Messiah was going to come through. You see, God had been promising for generations, that the Messiah was going to come through the Jewish people, that through the people of Israel, the Messiah that was God's chosen people, he had set everything up for the world to see that what God desired is for them to follow him. And so he set up his own people that he was going to have favor upon that he was going to lead and protect and guide, and the whole purpose of that was so that eventually, and ultimately that the whole world would come to be followers of Jesus, simply because they recognize that God was the only true God and that he was in control.

So within this passage of scripture, what we see is Ezra protecting the purity of the Jewish people, because it was the way that Jesus, the Messiah, was going to come. So basically, here's the way that we have to view that, that in essence, what we see in Ezra Chapter Seven through Chapter Ten is God showing us through scripture, a description of what he did at a specific place in time. It is the history of what happened. It's a history of the story of God. And what happens is oftentimes is we take the things in scripture, or we take the things in life that are meant to be descriptive, and we make them prescriptive, which means that we take the things that God is describing a point in history where God did a certain thing in a certain way. And we try to make that about us and about the way that we make decisions. And scripture is very clear about the reality that is sometimes they're describing what God did in a series of time.

And then other times he's giving us specific instructions about what we are to do. Think about that in light of the church, that oftentimes here's what churches do. churches hear about the story of what God is doing somewhere else, right? And God just doing some amazing things through lots of different churches of different styles, with different leadership. I mean, just, there's just some amazing things that God is doing literally all over the world. But the problem is that when churches and leaders in the church, when they see what God is doing somewhere else, and then they try to go and copy that for what God is doing right here. And the reality is, is that just because God does something as a certain way, somewhere else doesn't mean that's the way that he wants to do it here. It’s a description of what God is doing at a specific place at a specific point in time. But we cannot relate that and say, well, then we must copy what they did, because if God did it there, that he wants to do it here, because the reality is that every church is different.

Every circumstance is different. Every leadership is different. All the things about a specific church are different. It also can relate to us as an individual body of believers. In January, we celebrated a hundred years of Istrouma as a church. Doesn't that seem like that was like a hundred years ago. I mean, I can't, it's hard to believe that was just a few months ago, but we celebrated the story of what God has done. And the, one of the worst things we could do is to, is to begin to think in our minds, well that for the next hundred years, it has to look exactly like it did for the first a hundred years, because the reality is, is that the story of the first hundred years was about how God used this church at different points along the way, because of who we were because of where we were because of the community around us to do things at that season in time.

So For the next hundred years, we're in a transition for the last several weeks. We've heard just testimonies and videos of from our pastor search team that we're in that moment or in that time of looking for what the story is going to look like as we go forward. And then it'll be something that all of us should be excited about and should we should be praying about, but the reality is, is that what God desires to do? We don't know yet, because the reality is that God is working in God, uses his own story as a part of what he wants to do in and through us about the larger picture of who God is and what he's doing.

But the emphasis of that passage is not just the issue of divorce. The emphasis of that passage is on Ezra, leading the people towards spiritual renewal. You say, well, Jeff, how does all that fit together? I mean, I just gave you a ton of information, sorry about just throwing all that on you one time. But the way that all that fits together is that when we think about the story that God has placed us in,  that throughout that story, you look at the people in Israel, how many times that they had to go through spiritual renewal because they got distracted or they got off track. And you think about how God used spiritual renewal to show himself, to be glorious, to show himself, to be powerful over and over and over again. So then for us today, as we think about where we are, and we think about praying for the next step in our journey, and we think about us individually, and as a body of believers, the times that we get distracted or we get, get off track or whatever it might be that today, the emphasis is we see Ezra’s model is for us to come to a place of spiritual renewal of saying today as a part of what God wants to do in my life and the life of this church, I want to make a move towards Jesus in my attitude, my priority in my actions. That that sounds good. Right? So how do we do that? Well, I want us to look at just one verse of scripture and Ezra Chapter Seven, that shows how Ezra led the people towards this place of spiritual renewal. And so remember everything I just shared with you about his challenge for the people and about them being pure about an essence, what they were doing is socially distancing from the rest of the world. It wasn't that they thought they were better than them, but there was something that God wanted them to do, that they needed to be seen as separate. They needed to be seen as different. And so in Ezra Chapter Seven and verse Ten, it describes exactly what Ezra did, 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. That was his vision. He was returning to have this, this movement of spiritual renewal. And this is the vision of what Ezra said. This is the reason why I'm returning. This is what God has placed in my heart. These are the things that I'm going to do. And if you and I are going to experience spiritual renewal, if we're going to be a part of God's story and our life at this point in time, here's the three things that God wants us to do. They all revolve around this idea of renewal. We're going to look past this next passage of scripture when it come back to it. And just a moment, but let's look at those three things that God calls us to do as it, as we see in this passage, first of all, we've seen that renewal is Bible centered. What we see from Ezra in Ezra Chapter Seven, verse Ten is first of all, is that renewal is Bible centered. Look back at what he says there. And as her Chapter Seven and verse Ten, it says there, I can't see, because I don't have my glasses on. Can we put it back up on the screen as we're chapter seven, verse 10, it says for Ezra had set his heart to do what what's that next word say, study, to study the law of the Lord. That if you and I are going to be renewed, we have to understand that it has to be centered in the Bible. This spiritual renewal is not about emotion. Spiritual renewal is not about a feeling. It's not about the right set of circumstances that at the center of spiritual renewal, we must understand that the study of the word of God must be priority. Think about what Romans 12 says, Romans 12. It says, I appeal to you, therefore brothers, by the mercies of God that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice Holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. This is the idea of renewal, right? And then he tells you how to do that. He says, do not be conformed to this world. That's exactly what Ezra was saying to the people of Israel. When he returned, he says, Hey, listen, we need to be seen as separate. It's not an arrogance that we're better than everyone else, but it means that we don't live life based on the principles and the standards of the world around us, that we are to be seen as separate and different.

Not in our mindset towards people. We love everyone, but we're to be seen as separate in the way that we make decisions in life. And it says that we are to be transformed. Look at this by the renewing or by the renewal of our, what, Minds.You see, it begins with the word of God, because the word of God must get into our hearts and our minds. It must be something that we study. Notice it. Doesn't say, just read I in the essence of what God wants you to do is to recognize that even what happens in this room on Sunday mornings, if this is the only time that you open the word of God, if this is the only time that you are receiving anything from the word, and then you are missing out on the, the biggest part of what God wants you to be, to be a part of God gave you his word, and God gave you the Holy Spirit so that you can have a daily relationship with him. And if you're going to be renewed in terms of within your spirit, if you're going to begin that journey of moving towards Jesus, it begins about you renewing your mind. It begins by you studying in and immersing yourself in who God wants you to be. And the only way that you can find that ultimately is through the word of God. We take it for granted though. Don't we. Probably got Bibles all over your house, right? That are just sitting there collecting dust. We have all kinds of technology that at any moment at any time, probably most of you in the room have an app on your phone that has the Bible on it is everywhere around this, but yet how often we just take it for granted. And we re we don't recognize the reality that the lack of the scripture being in our minds, the, the lack of studying the Word of God is the reason that we struggle with making those moves towards Jesus.

I would say that for most of us in this room, if I were to ask you today, you say, man, I love Jesus. And I want to serve Him, and I want to follow Him, but I just can't seem to get over this. Or I just can't seem to get past this, or I just can't seem to stop doing this, or I just can't seem to change my mind. I just, all of us have those things that we're constantly struggling with. And the reason is, is that we are trying to move towards Jesus in our own efforts, with our own minds, with our own strength and what we need to recognize and understand that the power for every single one of us is in the Word of God. Get in there. If you don't know what to do in terms of where to start, what I would challenge you to do is just start with the gospel of John. Just start reading it every single day and to listen. What I challenged people to do is take the first chapter and read it every day. This week. If you can't read it every day, if you say, man, I don't know if I could do that. Just at least try four or five times this week just to read through John chapter one. And when you read it, you say, well, I don't know what I'm looking for. Well, this, and that's the reason why God gave us the Holy Spirit that you pray and say, God, would you teach me something from your word? And you just stay in it. Listen. It's like anything else that we do, there must be a commitment. There must be something that you're willing to do day in and day out. And here's, what's amazing. That happens is that over time, if you will make a commitment to the word of God, that what God will do is God will use the Holy Spirit and he will make the word come alive in your life. But it begins with renewal can happen in your life. You're not going to make that move towards Jesus without the Word of God.  renewal is Bible centered. number two, renewal is application centered. Renewal is application centered. Look back again at Ezra Chapter Seven, Ezra Chapter Seven. It says there that Ezra set his heart to study the law of the Lord and then what, to do it. I mean, that's pretty simple, right? I don't know how much more I need to expound on that. And you're thinking, I hope you don't right, but there's really not much else to say about that, but you just got to do it, because think about, go back to Romans Chapter 12 for just a minute. Verse two, look at verse two, do not be conformed to this world, but be look at that next word to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. You see for many people, they love to study the word because they can't wait for somebody to ask them a Bible trivia question, because they're going to have the answer or they know all those Kings and all those different things in the Old Testament, because they've been studying the word. But here's what happens is that many times people get stuck in. They want to know the facts of the word, but God did not give you this word for information. God gave you his word because he wants it to be something that transforms your life. So as, as much as we need to make sure that we are constantly immersing ourselves in the word of God, we need to make sure that the things that we know that God's word teaches us to do that we're applying them and actually doing them. You see, because it doesn't do us any good to have all this information in our heads, if we all follow it. So renewal, first of all, this Bible centered, but second of all, it is application oriented, driven. You have got to find yourself in a situation where you understand that I need to apply the word of God to my life. You say, well, Jeff, there's just things in there. I don't understand yet. Let me ask you this simple question. All the things that you do understand are you being obedient, and all those areas just start there. listen. If we all just started by being obedient in the areas that we already understand, we got plenty of work to do this week, right? I mean, we got plenty of work to do for the rest of 2020, and then beyond, because the reality is, is there things that are clear in scripture that we all know that at times that we're just not being obedient to. So if you want to make that move towards Jesus, you need to recognize that what God desires is for you to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

And then finally, what we see in this passage is that renewal is contagious. Renewal is contagious. You say, I don't understand why you would say that. Well, look back one more time. But as we're chapter seven, this is for Ezra set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to do it and look at this and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel, that what God wants to do in your heart and life God's not doing that just for you. God's doing that as a part of his bigger story of what he wants to do in our community, and what he wants to do in the world. So what we see in Ezra is that he studied the law of the Lord. He began to apply it and he let the word, transform him, but then he began to invest that and others, you know what, that's a picture of. That's a picture of the great commission, right? That's exactly what Jesus taught his disciples to do is to understand, Hey, listen to what I'm telling you, put it into action and then go and make disciples.

You see, because that's the desire of the way that God wants the gospel to go forth is by you and I making a move towards Jesus and what that looks like his studying of the word, applying it to our lives, and then doing everything we can to influence and invest that word, to invest that, that gospel and to the people that are around us. You see, God has a plan for the people of Israel. And we see that story played out in the Old Testament. God had a plan for his disciples into the life and the death and the resurrection of Jesus. And we see that in the early church and over and over again, both in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, we see time and time again, where people had to take stock of where they were. They had to take a deep breath and they had to make the ultimate decision. There are things in my life. That just aren't right. And I need the word of God. I need the application in order for me to make a move towards Jesus. And then as I made that move towards him, what God is going to do is to use me to influence those around me. They're going to see the light of the gospel in my life. But for many of us we've been there before, right? and we've renewed our faith in Jesus. We know we've recommitted, and we've grown up Baptist. We rededicated our lives to the Lord, right? And after a while, for many of us, we just get tired of doing that. We feel like such a failure because we just seem to not be able just to get it all together. But can I encourage you today with the simple reality that God knows that God knew long before you were ever born, that you were going to struggle.

God knew long before you ever existed, that you were going to see it. And they were going to be areas of your life that you were just going to need that constant renewal, that constant reminder. And so God gives us different things in his word. He gives us different instructions about things that we need to do to be reminded of who he is, what he's done for us. And what is planned is for our life. One of those is the Lord's Supper. You see Jesus told his disciples, as often as you do this, do this in remembrance of Me. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of what matters don't we sometimes we just need to take a step back, take a deep breath and remember all ultimately what matters in life. That's the reason why we do the Lord's Supper. that’s the reason why we do that? Because the bottom line at the end of the day is that all the other stuff that you're worried about, and then being distracted by, and you've gotten off track because of all of those things they’ve paled in comparison to who Jesus is, what he's done for you and the way he feels about you. God loves you. God has not given up on you and God desires for you to live his life in his life. According to scripture is an abundant life. So this morning, as we take a few moments and just stop and we take a deep breath and we remember who Jesus is, and we remember what Jesus did for us. I pray that God will use this as the catalyst for all of us to make a step towards Jesus. So here's what we're going to start. I'm going to ask you if you would just to bow your heads and close your eyes Because you see this time begins with us, examining our hearts and lives. What area of your life do you need to confess to him?

The Bible says that if you will confess your sins, that he is faithful and just to forgive you of your sins and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness, just talk to him right now, prepare your heart for this time. Be encouraged that his grace is sufficient for you,

Lord. This is your time. God, I don't know what all the needs are in this one, But I do know that Our ultimate need for all of us, regardless of the circumstances of life is you. God forgive us where we failed. You Forgive us where our lives just haven't measured up. God, forgive us for not taking you and your words seriously for just ignoring you or setting you on the shelf.  Forgive us for trying to live lives that are our own efforts. Forgive us for the decisions that we've made. That just don't honor. You God, thank you that your grace and your mercy overflow into our lives. Give us your peace right now to know that as we confess our sins, that you are faithful and just To forgive us, God cleanse us right now, allow us to receive from you in a way that brings you honor and encourages and Bolsters are heart

I’d ask if you would to take the elements that you received when you came in and if there's any of you that did not receive it, if you just raise your hand, one of our men will bring those to you, someone right down here looking to see if there's anyone else. So once you received that, if you take out the bread that's on one side of that I just want you to hold that in your hand for a minute. And I want you to think about what this bread represents; this bread represents the body of Christ. Why is that so significant? Well, to me, and this is what I want you to focus on today. That is significant because it represents how much God wants you, Jesus, God, in the flesh, the Bible describes that he came to this earth and he lived a perfect life, but he did it as just a regular, ordinary, not a King, but just a man. And that he went through all types of things throughout his life, all of the emotions and all of the struggles and all of the temptations that the Bible says that everything that you and I. He did that because he loves you. And the Bible says that at the end of his life, that is, he was arrested. He was beaten. When you read scripture, you find that his body was beaten to the point that it couldn't even be recognized. And at any point he could have stopped it, but he did because he loves you And Jesus.

The perfect spotless Son of God allowed his own body to be placed on a cross. That was meant for the worst of the worst. And he died and excruciating death, not because he had to because he loves you. And when Jesus was on that cross, he knew every sin you were ever going to commit. He knew everything you were ever going to do, but yet he died for you anyway. You know why? Because he loves you. And so as we take this bread today, no matter who you are or what you're facing or how discouraged you are, or what have you been living for or anything else in your life, be reminded that the God of Heaven who loves you with all His heart. The Bible says that Jesus took the bread and he blessed it and he broke it and he gave it to the disciples, and he says, take and eat this is my body.

The cup represents the blood of Christ. The Bible describes that the shedding of blood was necessary for the forgiveness of sins. We see that in the Old Testament, with sacrifices that were made. And so when Jesus died on the cross, as the only person who ever lived a perfect sinless life, God in the flesh that when his blood was shed, when he died, that he gave you and I, the opportunity to have a relationship with him both now and for all of eternity in heaven. And so, one of the things I think is so crucial about us being renewed and coming to a place where we're reminded of what Jesus did for us is to go back to the time and the place when we began a relationship with Him. Cause I'm going to ask you to do this before we partake of the cup. I want you to bow your heads and close your eyes just one more time. And I want you to think about the day that you've surrendered your life to Jesus. The day that Jesus came and took over your life. Would you just thank Him? The Bible says that Jesus took the cup and he blessed it. And he gave it to the disciples. It says, this is my blood, which was shed for many, for the forgiveness of sins.

I'm going to ask you if you want to stand with me. As you stand, we're just going to simply sing together today as we close. And as we do this, be reminded, God loves you. And he has given you everything you need to live the life he wants you to live. So let's focus this week on studying the word of God, applying it to our lives, and then doing everything we can to disciple others and lead him towards the God that loves them too.

Direct download: IBC_20200830.mp3
Category:Ezra -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

“Renew”

Sermon Series: Ezra

Ephesians 2:8-10

Istrouma Baptist Church – Jeff Williams, Interim Pastor

 10:45 AM Sermon August 30, 2020

 

Good morning. 

I’m so glad that you're here and that you have chosen to worship with us today. If you have your Bible, you can turn to Ezra chapter seven as her chapter seven. We'll be there in just a few moments before we jump in, though, I felt like I needed to give just a little bit of a disclaimer. I'm sure those of you that were here last week are more excited about what I'm wearing today than what I wore last week. And I have to admit that I turned on my Facebook earlier in the week. You know, in sometimes during the week they put like little clips of whatever we talked about. And when I turned that clip on, when it popped up and all I saw was that that Bama shirt that's like just staring just really just boldly at me. I thought that's probably not fair for people that weren't there that don't know the context. I think what an arrogant jerk, that guy is wearing a Bama shirt in the middle of Louisiana. So, I made my own personal commitment. I'll share it with you that I won't ever speak on this stage ever again with Bama attire. So I know some of you will come back now, wait at the clap,  that wasn't really necessary, but anyways, but I'm just so thankful for just what God is doing through our college students and what a great time that was last week to be able to celebrate with them, tons of them that were in our 11 o'clock service. And so, thank you just for the way that you love and support college students in our area. Just an amazing, amazing opportunity for us as a church to be able to minister to just the next generation. Yesterday. I did a, a wedding for a couple in our church and it was in Kentwood, Louisiana. That's the first time I've ever been to Kentwood, but was a, just a great experience, but it actually wasn’t, their wedding ceremony. It was their, the renewing of their vows. Now I I've done renewal of vows, you know, for five years and for 10 years and for 15 years and for 20 and 25 and even for 50 years, but I've never done a vow renewal for a couple of this, been married for five months. All right. But that's what we did yesterday. And the reason was, is because their wedding was originally scheduled about four or five weeks after COVID just exploded. And so, they had to shut down the big ceremony and we just did a backyard wedding five months ago. And so yesterday we did the vow renewal in front of all their family and friends was just a great experience them. And so, like Monday when the light, the storm is starting to roll in, I'm thinking, oh my goodness, if this, this couple, if their wedding got messed up and then their, the renewal got messed up because of the storm. So, I was thankful that they were able to do it, but it was just a great time together. But within that, I started thinking this week is we're looking at the word renewal. That's the focus for our time together today. I begin to think about when you do that, whether it's at five months or whether it's at 50 years, there's a purpose while people renew their vows, it is a recommitment or a reminder of exactly what they started with with a vow that they made before, but between one another before God, I want you to think about that concept renewal today, as it relates to your relationship with God.

So, first of all, let's think about what that word means. The word renews simply means to resume after an interruption to give fresh life or strength to. I like the end of that for many of us, when it comes to spiritual renewal, what we have to remember is that many times there's an interruption in terms of our passion for God, right? There's something that happens that distracts us or gets us off track. And we're not as passionate about Jesus maybe we once were. And so, we have a renewal. It means that we decide that we're going to resume that, we decide that we're going to get back on track. We decide that we're going to change some things in our life in order to give back to where we know God wants us to be. And what happens when we do that, then it gives fresh or strength. It gives you something that you did not have before. It renews that thing in your life that was missing. And I don't know about you, but I've been through periods of time in my life to where there was just a going through the motions you ever been there or mean there was things that you were trying to ignore as we talked about the last couple of weeks that, you know, you needed to deal with, but you just didn't. And you just come to that point in life where you say enough is enough, tired of playing games. I'm tired of going through the motions. I'm tired of ignoring it, just, just surviving day in and day out. I want that passion to be renewed. I want that in my life again. I want that fresh life. I want that strength that comes from being exactly where God wants us to be.

Okay. So within that concept, I want you to think about it. A couple of things related to this idea of renewal, first of all, is this is that renewal begins with an acknowledgement. That change is necessary, that if you're going to renew you yourself, you have to begin with the idea or the concept that you say, you know what? There is change that is necessary in my life. And so for every single one of us on a day like today is we're going to participate, Lord’s Supper in just a few moments that as we do that, it is a reminder. And we'll talk more about this in a minute, but there is a reminder of the fact that there's change that is necessary in my life. The Bible describes in First Corinthians that anytime you take the Lord's supper, that what you are to first do is to examine yourself, to see if there's anything in you that is unworthy of partaking of the body and the blood of Christ. So within this concept of renewal, it begins with you recognizing there's something in my life that's not the way It should be. So the question You want to be asking yourself throughout this morning is what is that for you? What is that thing? Or what is that issue or what is that relationship that just needs to change in your life? Now let's take it another step forward. As it relates to a specifically spiritual renewal, that spiritual renewal involves a movement toward Jesus. All right. In my attitude, my priority, in my actions. It makes a conscious effort in your heart and mind just as I I've moved away from where Jesus, Jesus didn't move, right. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. But what happens oftentimes is that we move away. We, we drift, or we're distracted. And so, what spiritual renewal is, if you make the decision today that I need to renew, whether it's my attitude, my priorities, or my actions, I want to make a step towards Jesus. And we're going to talk about, and just a few moments about what that looks like. So when we look, at the book of Ezra, that was the purpose of Ezra. Now we finally, this is the last week of the series, and we're finally getting to the, the, the Ezra, the man, right? We've been looking at the book of Ezra, but now he enters the scene in chapter seven. And when he enters the scene, the King who was Artaxerxes decided that he was going to send him back. This is the second wave of people that return to Israel. And as they're returning, everything has been rebuilt in terms of the temple, in terms of the city, things are beginning to happen, but there's all of these interruptions that have been going on.

We talked last week about between Chapter Four and Chapter Five, that there was a 16-year period of time where the wall stopped being built. Then we see that begins again. We looked at that last week and when we get to the end of Chapter Six, there's another 60 to 70-year period of time between Chapter Six and Chapter Seven. Now, what’s interesting is that earlier in the year, we studied the book of Esther, right? The book of Esther, all the things that we studied happens right there between chapter six and chapter seven. So, on the end of everything we studied in Esther, we find King Artaxerxes he sends, he sends Ezra back to Israel with another group of people. And the focus of this is the renewal. It is the idea that there needs to be renewal amongst the people. That's why God led the King to do that. That's why as is returning Ezra was a scribe Ezra, basically when we look at the New Testament and we think about Pharisees and scribes, that Ezra was the part of the foundation of what that became. They were the religious leaders. They were the ones that knew the word. They were the ones that their heart was supposed to be focused on leading the people towards God. So Ezra, as he returns, we see this in Chapter Seven and Chapter Eight, that he, he leads the leaders of this group into a time of prayer and fasting for the people for the will of God and what he desires for them to do. And then as he returns, there's something interesting that happens in Chapters Nine and Chapter Ten, that as Ezra as he returns, he identifies that many of the Jewish people had intermarried with other people that had been displaced to Jerusalem. And what he sees is that people were intermarrying with people of other faiths, of other religious people that were pagans that were not fearers of God. And so, he does something that's very odd. He does something that seems strange in light of what we know that scripture teaches us related to the issue of divorce and he challenges them. And he calls on them to leave their, their wives and the children that were not of the Jewish faith that were not fearers and followers of God. He's, he calls them to divorce them. And basically, to start all over again. Now, when you read that, that can be confusing, right? It can be confusing because it seems to go against everything that we know that God's Word teaches us about scripture.  listen for, if we were just to be honest, and that there's times in scripture, that we read things that we're not sure completely how to wrap our minds around it. We're not sure that we completely understand them. And so I want to give you just a couple of things to think about when you come to those times as you're reading scripture is that anytime you come to a passage of scripture that is confusing to you, or that you have trouble wrapping your minds around, understand this, that you never build what you believe or your theology around the things that you don't understand, you always interpret what you don't understand in light of what is very clear that you do understand.

And here's, what's clear in scripture. It is clear in scripture; you look at the book of Malachi. It says that God hates divorce. So this is obviously not God's ultimate desire or God's ultimate plan is a divorce is not something that God desires. You can't take the book of Ezra and begin to build a theology that says, well, the person that I am married to is not a strong follower of Jesus, or they're not a follower of Jesus. And so I want to be with this person. And so Ezra gives me the right to divorce them and go over here.

You can't do that because the reality is, is that the scripture is clear that God hates divorce. Scripture is also clear in the New Testament. We can look at the book of Matthew. You can look at the book of First Corinthians and it describes the times that God allows divorce. But even in those allowances, he ultimately says that God's desire is for man and woman to stay together. Now, I don't want us to get off on all that means and what that looks like, but here's what I want you to see is that we can look at the book of Ezra and build our theology on what Ezra leads the people to do about the way that we live our lives, because there are other things in scripture that are very, very clear about what God feet, how God feels and what God desires as it relates to the issue of divorce.

So what do we learn from this passage then? Right? Ezra is basically giving us the history of what took place and why was he leading them to do that? And that's the thing that we need to emphasize. As we look at that at this section of scripture, the reason that Ezra was calling them to divorce and to make sure that purity remain among the Jewish people is he was trying to protect, look at this, don't miss this. He's trying to protect the lineage that the Messiah was going to come through. You see, God had been promising for generations, that the Messiah was going to come through the Jewish people, that through the people of Israel, the Messiah that was God's chosen people, he had set everything up for the world to see that what God desired is for them to follow him. And so he set up his own people that he was going to have favor upon that he was going to lead and protect and guide, and the whole purpose of that was so that eventually, and ultimately that the whole world would come to be followers of Jesus, simply because they recognize that God was the only true God and that he was in control.

So within this passage of scripture, what we see is Ezra protecting the purity of the Jewish people, because it was the way that Jesus, the Messiah, was going to come. So basically, here's the way that we have to view that, that in essence, what we see in Ezra Chapter Seven through Chapter Ten is God showing us through scripture, a description of what he did at a specific place in time. It is the history of what happened. It's a history of the story of God. And what happens is oftentimes is we take the things in scripture, or we take the things in life that are meant to be descriptive, and we make them prescriptive, which means that we take the things that God is describing a point in history where God did a certain thing in a certain way. And we try to make that about us and about the way that we make decisions. And scripture is very clear about the reality that is sometimes they're describing what God did in a series of time.

And then other times he's giving us specific instructions about what we are to do. Think about that in light of the church, that oftentimes here's what churches do. churches hear about the story of what God is doing somewhere else, right? And God just doing some amazing things through lots of different churches of different styles, with different leadership. I mean, just, there's just some amazing things that God is doing literally all over the world. But the problem is that when churches and leaders in the church, when they see what God is doing somewhere else, and then they try to go and copy that for what God is doing right here. And the reality is, is that just because God does something as a certain way, somewhere else doesn't mean that's the way that he wants to do it here. It’s a description of what God is doing at a specific place at a specific point in time. But we cannot relate that and say, well, then we must copy what they did, because if God did it there, that he wants to do it here, because the reality is that every church is different.

Every circumstance is different. Every leadership is different. All the things about a specific church are different. It also can relate to us as an individual body of believers. In January, we celebrated a hundred years of Istrouma as a church. Doesn't that seem like that was like a hundred years ago. I mean, I can't, it's hard to believe that was just a few months ago, but we celebrated the story of what God has done. And the, one of the worst things we could do is to, is to begin to think in our minds, well that for the next hundred years, it has to look exactly like it did for the first a hundred years, because the reality is, is that the story of the first hundred years was about how God used this church at different points along the way, because of who we were because of where we were because of the community around us to do things at that season in time.

So For the next hundred years, we're in a transition for the last several weeks. We've heard just testimonies and videos of from our pastor search team that we're in that moment or in that time of looking for what the story is going to look like as we go forward. And then it'll be something that all of us should be excited about and should we should be praying about, but the reality is, is that what God desires to do? We don't know yet, because the reality is that God is working in God, uses his own story as a part of what he wants to do in and through us about the larger picture of who God is and what he's doing.

But the emphasis of that passage is not just the issue of divorce. The emphasis of that passage is on Ezra, leading the people towards spiritual renewal. You say, well, Jeff, how does all that fit together? I mean, I just gave you a ton of information, sorry about just throwing all that on you one time. But the way that all that fits together is that when we think about the story that God has placed us in,  that throughout that story, you look at the people in Israel, how many times that they had to go through spiritual renewal because they got distracted or they got off track. And you think about how God used spiritual renewal to show himself, to be glorious, to show himself, to be powerful over and over and over again. So then for us today, as we think about where we are, and we think about praying for the next step in our journey, and we think about us individually, and as a body of believers, the times that we get distracted or we get, get off track or whatever it might be that today, the emphasis is we see Ezra’s model is for us to come to a place of spiritual renewal of saying today as a part of what God wants to do in my life and the life of this church, I want to make a move towards Jesus in my attitude, my priority in my actions. That that sounds good. Right? So how do we do that? Well, I want us to look at just one verse of scripture and Ezra Chapter Seven, that shows how Ezra led the people towards this place of spiritual renewal. And so remember everything I just shared with you about his challenge for the people and about them being pure about an essence, what they were doing is socially distancing from the rest of the world. It wasn't that they thought they were better than them, but there was something that God wanted them to do, that they needed to be seen as separate. They needed to be seen as different. And so in Ezra Chapter Seven and verse Ten, it describes exactly what Ezra did, 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. That was his vision. He was returning to have this, this movement of spiritual renewal. And this is the vision of what Ezra said. This is the reason why I'm returning. This is what God has placed in my heart. These are the things that I'm going to do. And if you and I are going to experience spiritual renewal, if we're going to be a part of God's story and our life at this point in time, here's the three things that God wants us to do. They all revolve around this idea of renewal. We're going to look past this next passage of scripture when it come back to it. And just a moment, but let's look at those three things that God calls us to do as it, as we see in this passage, first of all, we've seen that renewal is Bible centered. What we see from Ezra in Ezra Chapter Seven, verse Ten is first of all, is that renewal is Bible centered. Look back at what he says there. And as her Chapter Seven and verse Ten, it says there, I can't see, because I don't have my glasses on. Can we put it back up on the screen as we're chapter seven, verse 10, it says for Ezra had set his heart to do what what's that next word say, study, to study the law of the Lord. That if you and I are going to be renewed, we have to understand that it has to be centered in the Bible. This spiritual renewal is not about emotion. Spiritual renewal is not about a feeling. It's not about the right set of circumstances that at the center of spiritual renewal, we must understand that the study of the word of God must be priority. Think about what Romans 12 says, Romans 12. It says, I appeal to you, therefore brothers, by the mercies of God that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice Holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. This is the idea of renewal, right? And then he tells you how to do that. He says, do not be conformed to this world. That's exactly what Ezra was saying to the people of Israel. When he returned, he says, Hey, listen, we need to be seen as separate. It's not an arrogance that we're better than everyone else, but it means that we don't live life based on the principles and the standards of the world around us, that we are to be seen as separate and different.

Not in our mindset towards people. We love everyone, but we're to be seen as separate in the way that we make decisions in life. And it says that we are to be transformed. Look at this by the renewing or by the renewal of our, what, Minds.You see, it begins with the word of God, because the word of God must get into our hearts and our minds. It must be something that we study. Notice it. Doesn't say, just read I in the essence of what God wants you to do is to recognize that even what happens in this room on Sunday mornings, if this is the only time that you open the word of God, if this is the only time that you are receiving anything from the word, and then you are missing out on the, the biggest part of what God wants you to be, to be a part of God gave you his word, and God gave you the Holy Spirit so that you can have a daily relationship with him. And if you're going to be renewed in terms of within your spirit, if you're going to begin that journey of moving towards Jesus, it begins about you renewing your mind. It begins by you studying in and immersing yourself in who God wants you to be. And the only way that you can find that ultimately is through the word of God. We take it for granted though. Don't we. Probably got Bibles all over your house, right? That are just sitting there collecting dust. We have all kinds of technology that at any moment at any time, probably most of you in the room have an app on your phone that has the Bible on it is everywhere around this, but yet how often we just take it for granted. And we re we don't recognize the reality that the lack of the scripture being in our minds, the, the lack of studying the Word of God is the reason that we struggle with making those moves towards Jesus.

I would say that for most of us in this room, if I were to ask you today, you say, man, I love Jesus. And I want to serve Him, and I want to follow Him, but I just can't seem to get over this. Or I just can't seem to get past this, or I just can't seem to stop doing this, or I just can't seem to change my mind. I just, all of us have those things that we're constantly struggling with. And the reason is, is that we are trying to move towards Jesus in our own efforts, with our own minds, with our own strength and what we need to recognize and understand that the power for every single one of us is in the Word of God. Get in there. If you don't know what to do in terms of where to start, what I would challenge you to do is just start with the gospel of John. Just start reading it every single day and to listen. What I challenged people to do is take the first chapter and read it every day. This week. If you can't read it every day, if you say, man, I don't know if I could do that. Just at least try four or five times this week just to read through John chapter one. And when you read it, you say, well, I don't know what I'm looking for. Well, this, and that's the reason why God gave us the Holy Spirit that you pray and say, God, would you teach me something from your word? And you just stay in it. Listen. It's like anything else that we do, there must be a commitment. There must be something that you're willing to do day in and day out. And here's, what's amazing. That happens is that over time, if you will make a commitment to the word of God, that what God will do is God will use the Holy Spirit and he will make the word come alive in your life. But it begins with renewal can happen in your life. You're not going to make that move towards Jesus without the Word of God.  renewal is Bible centered. number two, renewal is application centered. Renewal is application centered. Look back again at Ezra Chapter Seven, Ezra Chapter Seven. It says there that Ezra set his heart to study the law of the Lord and then what, to do it. I mean, that's pretty simple, right? I don't know how much more I need to expound on that. And you're thinking, I hope you don't right, but there's really not much else to say about that, but you just got to do it, because think about, go back to Romans Chapter 12 for just a minute. Verse two, look at verse two, do not be conformed to this world, but be look at that next word to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. You see for many people, they love to study the word because they can't wait for somebody to ask them a Bible trivia question, because they're going to have the answer or they know all those Kings and all those different things in the Old Testament, because they've been studying the word. But here's what happens is that many times people get stuck in. They want to know the facts of the word, but God did not give you this word for information. God gave you his word because he wants it to be something that transforms your life. So as, as much as we need to make sure that we are constantly immersing ourselves in the word of God, we need to make sure that the things that we know that God's word teaches us to do that we're applying them and actually doing them. You see, because it doesn't do us any good to have all this information in our heads, if we all follow it. So renewal, first of all, this Bible centered, but second of all, it is application oriented, driven. You have got to find yourself in a situation where you understand that I need to apply the word of God to my life. You say, well, Jeff, there's just things in there. I don't understand yet. Let me ask you this simple question. All the things that you do understand are you being obedient, and all those areas just start there. listen. If we all just started by being obedient in the areas that we already understand, we got plenty of work to do this week, right? I mean, we got plenty of work to do for the rest of 2020, and then beyond, because the reality is, is there things that are clear in scripture that we all know that at times that we're just not being obedient to. So if you want to make that move towards Jesus, you need to recognize that what God desires is for you to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

And then finally, what we see in this passage is that renewal is contagious. Renewal is contagious. You say, I don't understand why you would say that. Well, look back one more time. But as we're chapter seven, this is for Ezra set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to do it and look at this and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel, that what God wants to do in your heart and life God's not doing that just for you. God's doing that as a part of his bigger story of what he wants to do in our community, and what he wants to do in the world. So what we see in Ezra is that he studied the law of the Lord. He began to apply it and he let the word, transform him, but then he began to invest that and others, you know what, that's a picture of. That's a picture of the great commission, right? That's exactly what Jesus taught his disciples to do is to understand, Hey, listen to what I'm telling you, put it into action and then go and make disciples.

You see, because that's the desire of the way that God wants the gospel to go forth is by you and I making a move towards Jesus and what that looks like his studying of the word, applying it to our lives, and then doing everything we can to influence and invest that word, to invest that, that gospel and to the people that are around us. You see, God has a plan for the people of Israel. And we see that story played out in the Old Testament. God had a plan for his disciples into the life and the death and the resurrection of Jesus. And we see that in the early church and over and over again, both in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, we see time and time again, where people had to take stock of where they were. They had to take a deep breath and they had to make the ultimate decision. There are things in my life. That just aren't right. And I need the word of God. I need the application in order for me to make a move towards Jesus. And then as I made that move towards him, what God is going to do is to use me to influence those around me. They're going to see the light of the gospel in my life. But for many of us we've been there before, right? and we've renewed our faith in Jesus. We know we've recommitted, and we've grown up Baptist. We rededicated our lives to the Lord, right? And after a while, for many of us, we just get tired of doing that. We feel like such a failure because we just seem to not be able just to get it all together. But can I encourage you today with the simple reality that God knows that God knew long before you were ever born, that you were going to struggle.

God knew long before you ever existed, that you were going to see it. And they were going to be areas of your life that you were just going to need that constant renewal, that constant reminder. And so God gives us different things in his word. He gives us different instructions about things that we need to do to be reminded of who he is, what he's done for us. And what is planned is for our life. One of those is the Lord's Supper. You see Jesus told his disciples, as often as you do this, do this in remembrance of Me. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of what matters don't we sometimes we just need to take a step back, take a deep breath and remember all ultimately what matters in life. That's the reason why we do the Lord's Supper. that’s the reason why we do that? Because the bottom line at the end of the day is that all the other stuff that you're worried about, and then being distracted by, and you've gotten off track because of all of those things they’ve paled in comparison to who Jesus is, what he's done for you and the way he feels about you. God loves you. God has not given up on you and God desires for you to live his life in his life. According to scripture is an abundant life. So this morning, as we take a few moments and just stop and we take a deep breath and we remember who Jesus is, and we remember what Jesus did for us. I pray that God will use this as the catalyst for all of us to make a step towards Jesus. So here's what we're going to start. I'm going to ask you if you would just to bow your heads and close your eyes Because you see this time begins with us, examining our hearts and lives. What area of your life do you need to confess to him?

The Bible says that if you will confess your sins, that he is faithful and just to forgive you of your sins and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness, just talk to him right now, prepare your heart for this time. Be encouraged that his grace is sufficient for you,

Lord. This is your time. God, I don't know what all the needs are in this one, But I do know that Our ultimate need for all of us, regardless of the circumstances of life is you. God forgive us where we failed. You Forgive us where our lives just haven't measured up. God, forgive us for not taking you and your words seriously for just ignoring you or setting you on the shelf.  Forgive us for trying to live lives that are our own efforts. Forgive us for the decisions that we've made. That just don't honor. You God, thank you that your grace and your mercy overflow into our lives. Give us your peace right now to know that as we confess our sins, that you are faithful and just To forgive us, God cleanse us right now, allow us to receive from you in a way that brings you honor and encourages and Bolsters are heart

I’d ask if you would to take the elements that you received when you came in and if there's any of you that did not receive it, if you just raise your hand, one of our men will bring those to you, someone right down here looking to see if there's anyone else. So once you received that, if you take out the bread that's on one side of that I just want you to hold that in your hand for a minute. And I want you to think about what this bread represents; this bread represents the body of Christ. Why is that so significant? Well, to me, and this is what I want you to focus on today. That is significant because it represents how much God wants you, Jesus, God, in the flesh, the Bible describes that he came to this earth and he lived a perfect life, but he did it as just a regular, ordinary, not a King, but just a man. And that he went through all types of things throughout his life, all of the emotions and all of the struggles and all of the temptations that the Bible says that everything that you and I. He did that because he loves you. And the Bible says that at the end of his life, that is, he was arrested. He was beaten. When you read scripture, you find that his body was beaten to the point that it couldn't even be recognized. And at any point he could have stopped it, but he did because he loves you And Jesus.

The perfect spotless Son of God allowed his own body to be placed on a cross. That was meant for the worst of the worst. And he died and excruciating death, not because he had to because he loves you. And when Jesus was on that cross, he knew every sin you were ever going to commit. He knew everything you were ever going to do, but yet he died for you anyway. You know why? Because he loves you. And so as we take this bread today, no matter who you are or what you're facing or how discouraged you are, or what have you been living for or anything else in your life, be reminded that the God of Heaven who loves you with all His heart. The Bible says that Jesus took the bread and he blessed it and he broke it and he gave it to the disciples, and he says, take and eat this is my body.

The cup represents the blood of Christ. The Bible describes that the shedding of blood was necessary for the forgiveness of sins. We see that in the Old Testament, with sacrifices that were made. And so when Jesus died on the cross, as the only person who ever lived a perfect sinless life, God in the flesh that when his blood was shed, when he died, that he gave you and I, the opportunity to have a relationship with him both now and for all of eternity in heaven. And so, one of the things I think is so crucial about us being renewed and coming to a place where we're reminded of what Jesus did for us is to go back to the time and the place when we began a relationship with Him. Cause I'm going to ask you to do this before we partake of the cup. I want you to bow your heads and close your eyes just one more time. And I want you to think about the day that you've surrendered your life to Jesus. The day that Jesus came and took over your life. Would you just thank Him? The Bible says that Jesus took the cup and he blessed it. And he gave it to the disciples. It says, this is my blood, which was shed for many, for the forgiveness of sins.

I'm going to ask you if you want to stand with me. As you stand, we're just going to simply sing together today as we close. And as we do this, be reminded, God loves you. And he has given you everything you need to live the life he wants you to live. So let's focus this week on studying the word of God, applying it to our lives, and then doing everything we can to disciple others and lead him towards the God that loves them too.

Category:Ezra -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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Istrouma en Español
Aug 23, 2020

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Agosto 23, 2020
Superando el Desánimo.
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Esdras 5:1-2
Cuando los profetas Hageo y Zacarías, hijo de Iddo, profetizaron a los judíos que estaban en Judá y en Jerusalén, en el nombre del Dios de Israel que estaba sobre ellos, Zorobabel, hijo de Salatiel, y Jesúa, hijo de Josadac, se levantaron entonces y comenzaron a reedificar la casa de Dios en Jerusalén; y los profetas de Dios estaban con ellos apoyándolos.

1.    Reencontrarnos con la Palabra de Dios.

Entonces vino palabra de Jehová por medio del profeta Hageo, diciendo ¿Es para vosotros tiempo, para vosotros, de habitar en vuestras casas artesonadas, y esta casa está desierta? Hageo 1: 3-4

En el octavo mes del año segundo de Darío, vino palabra de Jehová al profeta Zacarías hijo de Berequías, hijo de Iddo, diciendo: Se enojó Jehová en gran manera contra vuestros padres. Diles, pues: Así ha dicho Jehová de los ejércitos: Volveos a mí, dice Jehová de los ejércitos, y yo me volveré a vosotros, ha dicho Jehová de los ejércitos. Zacarías 1.1-3

a.    Confronta nuestro pecado.
b.    Confirma su gracia.

2.    Regresar a trabajar para Dios.

Así ha dicho Jehová de los ejércitos: Meditad sobre vuestros caminos. Subid al monte, y traed madera, y reedificad la casa; y pondré en ella mi voluntad, y seré glorificado, ha dicho Jehová. Buscáis mucho, y halláis poco; y encerráis en casa, y yo lo disiparé en un soplo. ¿Por qué? dice Jehová de los ejércitos. Por cuanto mi casa está desierta, y cada uno de vosotros corre a su propia casa. Hageo 1: 7-9

a.    Reorienta nuestras prioridades.
b.    Restablece nuestra relación con Dios.

3.    Reconocer nuestra identidad en Dios.

Entonces respondió y me habló diciendo: Esta es palabra de Jehová a Zorobabel, que dice: No con ejército, ni con fuerza, sino con mi Espíritu, ha dicho Jehová de los ejércitos. Zacarías 4.6

a.    Confía que el cumple sus promesas.
b.    Corrobora nuestro propósito.

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Category:Esdras -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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Istrouma Baptist Church
Aug 23, 2020

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August 23 | Ezra (BR)
Welcome Back! We're glad you've joined us today for our Sunday morning worship service! For more information about Istrouma, go to istrouma.org or contact us at info@istrouma.org.  

We glorify God by making disciples of all nations.
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August 23, 2020  | Jeff Williams
"Come to Jesus Meeting"
Ezra 5:1-2
Haggai 1:1-9

Ezra 5:1-2
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. 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.

Haggai 1:1-9
In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.” Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord. You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house.

What are you building?

What are you ignoring?

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“Come To Jesus Meeting”

Sermon Series: Ezra

Ezra 5:1-2

Haggai 1:1-9

Istrouma Baptist Church – Jeff Williams, Interim Pastor

 10:45 AM Sermon August 23, 2020

 

How many of you are really excited to see me right now? So, yeah, I really wouldn't expect in that response, but anyway, so, Hey, listen, here's the deal I did. I wore this shirt today as a service to Mike and the team. Cause I figured this would help you out pray a lot faster to get rid of me. So anyway, but I, I should know better. My wife encouraged me to wear this shirt today (Alabama shirt) and I told her, I said, look, I said, I'm not going to get a great response. And she said, well, you're just temporary. What are they going to do? Fire you? And I said, well, I really don't want to be fired today. You know, it was kind of embarrassing for the interim to get fired. So anyway, but I should have known better because I may have told some of you this story before, but my very first day in Baton Rouge, I mean the very first day that I rolled into town, I was driving at you haul truck. And I was pulling my daughter Taylor's car behind. And I was, I'm not very good mechanically. And I wanted to get that car off of the, of the tow and get it unloaded. And so, I was rushing to get here. The, the big U-Haul place on Florida closed at 10 o'clock and I was trying to make it there by then so they could help me unload it. And so, I mean, I'm just, I'm not stopping. So, you know, you need to stop from time to time when you're traveling. So, I wasn't stopping. And so I get there and I just, I just needed to go to the little boy’s room, that's what I needed to do. And so I pulled up and I said, Hey, do you have a restroom? And the guys pointed me inside. So it was December right before Christmas. And I had on a Bama jacket. Right? And so I walked in there my first day in Baton Rouge. Right. And I should have known better. And I walk in there kind of running in there and I said, Hey, do you have a restroom? And the guy old guy just looks at me. He says, yup, sure do. And he just stood there and I said, well, can I use it? And he says, yep, you sure can. And he used some other descriptive words that I won't share in church today. But basically, what he said is, is if you go take that jacket off, he described my jacket. But if you go take that jacket off and you can come back in and use my restroom. Well, I laugh because I thought he was joking, and he just stood there. And the dude made me go to my car and put my jacket up before I could use the restroom. So that was my introduction to Baton Rouge. And yet I'm still stupid enough. I'm still wearing the shirt, but anyway, we'll do the best we can. So took our daughter to college this past week. She's going to Ouachita University, which is in Arkansas. And so we're walking around the bookstore and we're thinking, you know what? We need to support our daughter. This is where she goes to school and we need to, to wear the things that she wears.

And so you know, so that we can, all our money's going here. We might as well wear a shirt or something like that. And I'm looking around. It's like you, people are basically haunting me no matter where I go, because Ouachita, their mascot is the tiger. And guess what their colors are is purple and gold. And so all they had was go tiger shirts. Of course, they spelled go right over there. But anyway, that all they had was go tiger shirts everywhere. And I just couldn't buy one. So, I just, I just couldn't make myself do it, even though my all my money is there. So anyway, so what we need to do right now is before we jump into the message is, we need to stop and pray so that you can repent of all the things that you're thinking and saying to the people around you about me.

 

But no, seriously, I do want us to, to pray before we jump into this today and on a completely serious note is that today is very simple. What I want to share with you, but it has the opportunity. I believe to be very penetrating to our hearts if we'll allow it to. But the way that we allow that to happen is by the Holy Spirit speaking to us. But before I pray for you, what, what I want to make sure that you understand is that I want to be very direct and very honest.

I believe that the words we're going to read this morning are very direct and very honest, but what I want to make sure that you don't do is that you don't hear anything I say is that will, Jeff is telling me that I have to do this today. Or Jeff is telling me that this is wrong because if we're not careful, oftentimes if we just listened to what people say to us, it can come across as very religious and very legalistic. But today is not about that. I want to be honest with you. I want to share with you what God's word clearly, I believe says to all of us. And then I want all of us to ask the Holy Spirit just to speak to us because the reason God gave us the Holy Spirit was to lead us and to guide us, direct us, to convict us when we need it, but to encourage us to be the people that he desires for us to be. And I believe that God wants to do that this morning. And so, I'm going to ask you if you would just to bow your heads and close your eyes before we jump in. And before I pray for us, would you just take a moment and just the best, you know, how, if this was your first time that you've ever been here or whether you're here every week, would you just give God the chance to speak to you today?

 

Just say, God, I opened up my heart. God, I give you the freedom to speak to me today. Lord, we love you, God, I thank you for this church and God, just for the ministry that you do in this place and through this place. And God, I pray today that for us as a body, but also for us as individual followers of you, that God, that you will just make a very simple message, very, very clear, and very, very applicable to a hearts and lives. Speak to us today. We give you our hearts. We give you this time and it's in Jesus name that I pray. Amen. Amen. Amen.

 

We're walking through the book of Ezra and just been an encouraging time for me to just study this book. And I hope that if you haven't been here through all the weeks, that you'll go back and just watch those or listen to those. And as you do that, understand that all throughout this book. And it's just seems to be the theme of this entire season for us as a church. And that is, is that God's always moving, and that God is always working. And despite the opposition, despite our own fears, despite all the stuff in life that we can always count on the reality that God is always behind the scenes doing what only he can do. And if you and I will do the hard work that he calls us to do, if you and I will do the simple things that he calls us to do, that we can trust him no matter what. And I was thankful last week I was out at the Ascension campus. And so, I went back Sunday afternoon and listened to Micah, spoke here and did the same message that I did there. And I was very thankful that more people got to hear his message than mine, because his was by far a million times better. If you didn't hear his message last week, I encourage you to go back and listen to that. Just a great explanation of what God does in chapter four, but at the end of that, and just a side note and not just because he's in the room, but I'm thankful that as a part of our lead team and as a student pastor, that God has given us a man such as him, most student pastors, I don't know if he knows this or not, but most student pastors are really good at making up games and finding ways for the church to get sued. So that's the way most student pastors are. And so, I'm thankful that we have one that not only doesn't get us sued, but also, it's just an incredible student and teacher of the word. And so, Micah, you thank you for what you do and for the way that you lead. So, and you, you don't have to pay me for both services to do that. Just want to be fine. Okay. But no, seriously, I'm thankful for that. And it really was just a great handling of that chapter. And so I hope that if you didn't listen to that or watch that or hear that you could go back and do that this week, but at the end of that passage of chapter four, it says that the building of the temple that stopped and for 16 years, nothing happened.

 

And so this morning is we pick up and chapter five. And, but if you have your Bibles, I don't want you to turn to Ezra chapter five. I actually want you to turn to the book of Haggai chapter one. And you're thinking, why are we doing that? It'll make sense in just a moment because we're actually going to spend most of our time this morning in the book of Haggai talking about the book of Ezra. If you're confused, just hang on. I promise it will make sense in just a moment. So for 16 years though, the temple stopped, and it was because of opposition. It was because of the decree of the King. It was because of people. They didn't want that to happen. And in the process of that, here's what took place. The people that had come back for one purpose, they had come back to build the team, the Temple of God for the Glory of God, that now all of a sudden, they're not doing that. And their lives have become to a place to where things are just different than what they were intended to be when they came back. And as I looked at this passage that we're going to read in just a moment.

 

And as I look at the book of Haggai, which we're going to look at that in just a moment as well, there were two questions that just, just kept rolling in my mind this week. And really these two questions are the only points that if you're taking notes that, that you, that I'll give you to write down, that there may be some other things that God gives you to write down. But I just want you, as we walk through the next a few moments, I want you to think about these two questions. And these two questions are really what we find from the prophet, Hagia and Zachariah as they come to the people of Israel during this time. And it's really very direct is really very straightforward when we titled the message to that. It's just a come to Jesus meeting and you know what that is, right? I mean that that's never a pleasant thing, but that's exactly what we find here. And throughout this come to Jesus meeting, there's two questions that basically that I believe are at the forefront need to be in the forefront of our minds today. And that is number one. What are you building? And number two, what are you ignoring?

I want you to Think about those as we walked through this passage today, when it comes to your life, when it comes to what you are investing in, what you are doing, what in your life, what are you building and what are you ignoring? So you say, what do you mean when you say that? Well, first of all, when we talk about what we are building, here's what I want you to think about what you are building represents, the things that that does that make you feel comfortable. They're the things that, that bring you comfort in life. Now I'll explain that a little bit in just a few minutes, but they're, they're the things that we, we tend to gravitate to for lots of different reasons, based on our personality, based on our convictions, based on our passions, but the things that we build, the things that bring us comfort. And so what is it that you're building in your life? What are you pursuing? What are you working for? What is it that makes you feel comfortable? What is it that feels good for you? You know, we, we oftentimes, as, as Baptists we don't want to talk about our feelings, right? Because we just want to focus on the word, but the reality is, is God gave us feelings. God gave us emotions. And a lot of times what we are building is the things that just make us feel good in life. But then also what things in your life that you should be paying attention to, are you ignoring the things that we ignore most of the times are the things that scare us, the things that make us fearful. So we just set them aside. We just kind of go the other way. It's things that we just don't want to deal with. So with those questions in mind, look at what it says in Ezra chapter five, we're going to put this on the screen, and then we're going to jump to Haggai out as chapter five in verse one. So now remembers for 16 years, there's nothing that's been built. It just stopped. So now the profits Hagia, Zachariah, the son of who prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who is over them, then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel. Jozadak and Joshua with the son of Jehoiada arose and begin to rebuild the house of God that is in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them supporting them. So Haggai and Zachariah come and speak to the people. And what we find in the book of Haggai is we find basically four messages that he gives to Zerubbabel that’s the entire book. And we're going to look at part of that in just a moment during this season. So the book of Haggai happens right here in Ezra chapter five. And so, as we look at this, what you're going to find is that the message that he gave to them is spurred them on to begin to rebuild the temple.

 

So here's what happens in the rest of chapter five and chapter six, they begin. And we're going to come back to this message because this message is where we want to focus. But the rest of chapter five and chapter six, here's what happens. They begin to rebuild. And didn't the governor that was over this region over Jerusalem. He finds out that they're re they're rebuilding. And so, he's not necessarily a follower of God. He's an acknowledged or of God, but he's not someone who is a follower or a servant of God. He finds out about this. And for most people in the political world, and even in the religious world, they were very nervous about the people of Israel coming back and rebuilding the temple because everything to them was about power. And so the governor gets nervous about them rebuilding. He doesn't want anything to threaten his power. And so he goes to the King and it’s not the same King who sends Zerubbabel back. This is a different King, but he goes to him and says, Hey, what the people told me is that God basically told them to come back and that they were sent by the King Cyrus to come back and to rebuild the temple. And I want to know whether or not this is true. So since it's a new King, he doesn't know about that decree, but he has his people go and research whether or not the people of Israel were telling the truth, the ones that were rebuilding the temple.

 

And so what he finds is that the statements that they made about rebuilding the temple, that they were a hundred percent accurate. That that is what King Cyrus had told them to do. And so this King goes back to the governor who, the reason the governor brought it up is because he wanted this movement to stop. He wanted the rebuilding to stop. He did not want them to do anything to threaten his power, but the King, when he read the decree that was given by the previous King, he says, yes, they can continue to rebuild. And I love how God works. He says, not only can they rebuild, but what we're going to do is all the taxes that you're collecting, that you've been keeping for yourself. We're now going to use that so that they can be helped and rebuilding the temple. So what this man sought to do to destroy God used it, not only to not destroy it, but to aid them in their process. And the reason I tell you all of that is because when you look at the hard words that Haggai says, and just a moment, what we need to be reminded of is the simple reality that if you and I will build the things that God calls us to build, that he will do things behind the scenes he will provide for us. And if we will get past all of our fears about following him and being obedient to him, God will do things that are far greater than you can possibly imagine, because he is always working, even when we can't see him. So even though these words are tough, that we're going to read today, they strike at the heart of where I believe many of us have the tendency oftentimes to be what we're going to find is that if you and I will answer these questions, what are you building? And what are you ignoring? And if you and I will address them head on that, God will begin to do something in your heart and life. And even though it may scare you to death, God cannot be stopped. God's plan cannot be overtaken, but the choice you have to make is whether or not he is going to use you as a part of his plan, or whether he's going to use someone else who's willing to trust him. So what are you building? And what are you ignoring? So with all of that said, Haggai out chapter one. Remember this message happens in between chapter four in the beginning of chapter five, that Haggai comes. He's one of the prophets that comes and the prophets in this day and time, that they were, they came to the people of God as the voice of God for us, God speaks to us through his word and through the power of the Holy spirit. He uses other people, but this was the primary means by the way, that God would speak to his people, this through prophets.

 

And so Haggai comes to the people of God and look at what he says, Haggai chapter one in verse one in the second year of Derrius the King in the six month, on the first day of the month. Now Darrius, the King is the one that came back. I shared with you just a moment ago. He's the one that came back and told the governor to let them rebuild. But also, at that, that they were going to use those taxes for that purpose. So he comes to the word, Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerrubble the son of Shealtiel governor of Judah. And to Joshua, the son of Jozadak, the high priest thus says, the Lord of hosts. These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord. Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet. And so the reason he's coming to them is because basically what the people that were sent back to rebuild the temple have said was now is not the time you ever heard those words now is not the time. Usually when people say those words now is not the time what they're doing is avoiding something that doesn't need to be avoided, right? They're usually in what there's happening there. Is there something that needs to be dealt with? There's an issue that needs to be addressed. There's something that should be being done, but right now is not the time. It's a statement of avoidance. And that's where the people of Israel work. So look at what it says and the next verse. Next section, there's a hint of sarcasm here. I really kinda liked this. Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore thus says the Lord of Hosts, consider your ways. You have sown much in harvested, little, you eat, but you never have enough. You drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourself, but no one is warm and he who earns wages does So to put them in bags with holes. So let's stop right there and see what he's saying here. The hint of sarcasm is, is that you're living in your paneled houses, which meant that You have these nice houses. You have spent all this time on investing in your own personal homes while the house of the Lord lies in ruins. In fact, when you look at all the history of what we believe was taking place here is that when the temple stopped being built, that people begin to settle. They begin to focus on their own lives, on their own agendas, on the things they wanted to do. And so they took the materials that were set aside for the temple, and they begin to use them to make their own homes. The things that God had given them for God's purpose, for God's agenda, they now had taken them and were using them for their own purposes and their own agenda. Sound familiar. You ever found yourself in that situation where maybe you've taken the things that God gave you for a Holy purpose, for a righteous plan or, or a mission And what you chosen to do is all the things that God has given you, that you began to use them for your own purposes, for what you desire. He says, put in doing that. What you found is it gets some of the, of the descriptors that he gives there and says that that when you consider your ways, you sewn much, but you harvest a little, in other words, you're working, you are, you're building for something. You're putting a lot of effort into it, but you're not really getting much back. You eat, but you never have enough. You drink, but you never have your fill. In other words, no matter what you get, you're just not satisfied. You ever felt that way. And listen, if you are building things that are not of the purpose of God, if that is the focus of everything that you're doing, if what your life's centered around is on saying, Hey, I need to build my financial wealth so that I can be secure. That's what makes me feel good. Or I want to, to build up my, my children, because I want them to be the greatest athletes, or I want them to be the greatest scholars, or I want them to be very successful. That all of those things, those are the things that I find comfort in. There's nothing wrong with saving for retirement. There's nothing wrong with investing in your kids. There's nothing wrong with a lot of the things that we pursue. But the reality is if that is the goal of our life, if that is the mission of what we do, if that is what we are building, what Haggai is telling the people is that, Hey, don't you recognize that it's just never enough, that you are Never satisfied. You're pursuing what you want, but it's never, ever, enough. I love the end of that section. He says he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. So thus says the Lord of Hosts. Here's what he says to them. Now, remember, this is when the 16 years where they're not building anything. And so he says, here's the, this is what you're doing. What you are building is not of God. You, you are a building the wrong thing. So here's what the Lord of Hosts. He says, consider your ways, answer those questions in other words, what are you building? What are you ignoring? Consider your ways. Go up to the Hills, bring wood and build a house that I may take pleasure in it. And that I may be glorified, says the Lord. He says, you look for much and behold, it came to little.

 

And when you brought it home, he says, I blew it away. In other words, God's not going to allow anything to stand. God's not going to allow you to ever be satisfied or to have enough. If you are pursuing the things that he doesn't desire for you to pursue, it's the blew it away. Why declares the Lord of hosts because of my house that lies in ruins. While each of you busy as himself with his own house, that's tough words. He says, my house lies in ruins in modern day for you I, it would be like us saying that the mission of God has stopped in our lives, the purpose for what he has created us to do. The things that he desires to be the priorities in our life, us living a life of obedience to him has stopped. While we busy ourselves with all the things that we want to do, what are you building? What is it that you are living for? You see, because for this group of people, there's lots of reasons why they were focused on their own homes. For many of them, they were scared to death about what it would look like if they took the risk of rebuilding, because obviously there's all this opposition. A lot of people didn't want them to rebuild. And some of them were just comfortable because it was nice to live in a nice house, right? It was nice not to have to go and work for something that wasn't going to in their minds personally benefit them. Because at the end of the day, the things that make us comfortable are the things that we desire, the things that we want, the things that allow us, that we think to have our own satisfaction. But what Haggai points out is that that's where you think you're not only your desire is, but that's where you think you want to be, but it's just never enough. So he says, consider your ways. You see, for some of the people that they were building their own homes instead of a building the house of the Lord, even though that was the, the sole reason they came back and the reason they were doing it is because they just wanted to focus on the things that make them feel good. But for others, it was more about the things that scared them. They were ignoring the house of God, because they were fearful about what that would look like. Would God provide, would I be ostracized? Would I look like a fool? I mean, just the list goes on and on and on. And the reality is, is for all of us in our lives, we find ourselves at times where we are building things that really aren't the focus of what God calls us to do. And it may be a mission, or it may be just an area of obedience in your life. But no matter what it is, if you are building the things that are not a part of what God's word says and what God calls you to do, and about being obedient to him. And if you're ignoring those things, because you don't really want to deal with them, then where are you going to find yourself in a place where you're just constantly working? You're just constantly seeking, but it's just never enough. When you look at that passage in Haggai chapter one in light of what I shared with you happens in the rest of Ezra chapter five and six. It just makes sense to say, if I'm constantly building for myself, I'm never going to be satisfied. It's never going to work out, is going to end in destruction. But when I follow the ways of the Lord, when I do the things that he asks me to do, God shows up and God provides in some absolutely amazing ways.

 

When we were in the process of moving from Arkansas to Baton Rouge. You know, one of the reasons that we moved here was to help a good friend of mine begin a nonprofit. And so when you're moving into that kind of realm, you're moving into a world of uncertainty in for lots of reasons that it was just a time for us to, to, to leave in terms of a pastor in the church that we were. And we were moving here just to kind of get a fresh start and start all over again. And our church just was such a gracious, incredible people. And so they, they wanted to, to help us in launches as we moved here. And they, they, they provided a salary for us for six months’ time, which was incredible. I mean, just w we couldn't imagine that just the generosity that they provided for us, it was also scary because you had that for six months, but then what about after that? And so I remember during that season that I went into, you know, as we often do as humans, and I think men, we probably do this even more. I went into fix it mode. Like I was going to find a way that I was going to fix everything. And I wanted, because what I was trying to build was the best amount of financial security I could for my family. And so, as a result of several different things, to be honest with you, that this, my heart was just not in a great place. And there was a lot of discouragement, a lot of frustration, just a lot of emotions that really weren't of God. And because of that, I began to turn inward and as opposed to looking for God, to God, for the answers, I began Jeff to begin to try to fix it. And so one of the ways that I decided that I was going to fix it was that I was going to make sure that we saved as much money as we possibly could over the course of that period of time. And so we, we had been giving, and I only shared this number for you for a specific reason. All right, I'm not trying to brag. I just want to share this with you because it's very relevant to the story in just a moment. But we had been giving at that point about a thousand dollars a month to our church. And so what I decided was is over that next six months as we were transitioning, we weren't going to have a church home. I just decided, Hey, we don't have a church home. So we don't have to give to any church during that period of time. And so we can save in that $6,000 that we can set aside that we can use to help us just be more financially secure. So I shared that brilliant plan with my wife, and she didn't say anything. So the next morning we woke up, I mean, I'm telling you, I just, my heart was in a place of just, just wasn't really a good place, but she looked at me and she says, you know, we can't do that. She said, you know, that we can't just ignore that. We have to give and what we don't have church. And so we're just going to give to the church that has been providing for us and taking care of us. So we're just going to give there, even though we're not even going to live in the same state. So for the next six months, we decided that we were going to give a thousand dollars a month. I was scared to death. I said, okay, now I didn't say, okay, immediately. It was like later that night that I said, okay, because I wrestled with it all day long, but really, and honestly, my heart still wasn't in a great place, but it was more out of a guilt. And I know I knew that she was right. So I gave in.

 

Next morning, comes a knock on my door. Three years ago, still just blows my mind. I answered the door and it was a lady that was living in our community. Her and her husband owned a restaurant. And she said they had recently joined the church. And I had helped them with just some different things in terms of just some counseling and stuff. And, and she said, Hey, she said, I didn't get a chance to see you the other day, but I wanted to stop by today because my husband and I, we love you. We love your family, and we want to help support you as you launch out. And so we just want to give this to you and just want you to know that we love you and that we care about you. I went back Inside. It was an envelope. I just figured they owned a restaurant. I figured like it was some gift cards to the restaurant or something like that, you know, whatever. And I sat down and opened it up and I don't know why she did it this way, except that God instructed her to do this way. But we had made the decision that starting in January for January, February, March, April, may, and June for six months, that the first of each month we were going to give a thousand dollars to the church. in that envelope were six, $1,000 checks dated January the first, February, the first March, the first April, the first may, and June the first. And I remember just sitting there and just weeping because in that simple moments, God used that woman to show us that when you trust him, he will provide, and he will. He has, he will. And when I doubt him again tomorrow, guess what? He will still be there. But my problem was in that moment before we made that decision by the Holy Spirit now also known as Wendy before I got that point, that what I was building was my own financial security. And I decided that I was going to do at Jeff's way. And what I was ignoring was the principle that God so clearly lays out in his word. And I didn't want to deal with it because that principal scared me to death, but what God taught me through that and what God has taught me time and time again, because I'm a very slow learner, is that when I build my life on what he calls me to do in this word, that the things that scare me, the things that I would rather ignore, the things that I don't want to deal with, those are the things that God wants to use to build our faith and to bring himself glory and to bring us to a place where his light can shine through us and that people's lives and the world in which we live will be changed. And, you know, what's amazing about that, that when you and I stop ignoring the things that scare us, and we begin to build the things in our lives that God wants us to build around, then what God does is that emptiness and that unsatisfaction that we felt when we were doing the other things, he replaces all of those things with a joy and a peace that is far beyond what you could ever buy or what you could ever understand, because that's the God that we serve.

 

So what are you building? And what are the things that you are ignoring that are preventing you from building the things that God wants you to build? Let's pray together today. Would you take a moment before we end today and just wrestle with those two questions? Talk to God. He knows your heart. What is the one thing in your life that needs to be different, that you've been ignoring? Would you just confess that to him right now? And as you confess that, would you make a declaration right now that you're going to take one step toward building that area of your life on the truth of God's Word and what he desires for you?

 

God, we love you. God, I thank you that you never stopped Teaching us, never stopped reminding us and you never give up on us. Lord, I thank you for the direct words from the Prophet Haggai that we see to the people of Israel, but God also to the people of Istrouma today, Lord, I pray that we will be people that are building our lives on you and your Word, God, help us this week to address the things that scare us, help us to be bold enough, but also at the same time, humble enough to confront the areas of our life that need your hand, that needs your correction, that needs your touch. And God, I pray that as we do that, that you will give us confidence that you will remind us that just as you were in the book of Ezra, you are today and the same God that provided for them and some supernatural ways desires to provide for us today. So, we ask you to do that. We thank you that we can trust you, and it's in Jesus name that I pray. Amen. Amen.

 

Well, thank you so much for being here today, and there's always that there's ways that we can help you or minister to you, We'd love the privilege to be able to do that after the services and a hope that more than anything that you will take, God's word to heart, that you will apply it to your life this week. Hope that you have a wonderful week and we'll see you back again next Sunday. Thank you.

Direct download: IBC_20200823.mp3
Category:Ezra -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

“Come To Jesus Meeting”

Sermon Series: Ezra

Ezra 5:1-2

Haggai 1:1-9

Istrouma Baptist Church – Jeff Williams, Interim Pastor

 10:45 AM Sermon August 23, 2020

 

How many of you are really excited to see me right now? So, yeah, I really wouldn't expect in that response, but anyway, so, Hey, listen, here's the deal I did. I wore this shirt today as a service to Mike and the team. Cause I figured this would help you out pray a lot faster to get rid of me. So anyway, but I, I should know better. My wife encouraged me to wear this shirt today (Alabama shirt) and I told her, I said, look, I said, I'm not going to get a great response. And she said, well, you're just temporary. What are they going to do? Fire you? And I said, well, I really don't want to be fired today. You know, it was kind of embarrassing for the interim to get fired. So anyway, but I should have known better because I may have told some of you this story before, but my very first day in Baton Rouge, I mean the very first day that I rolled into town, I was driving at you haul truck. And I was pulling my daughter Taylor's car behind. And I was, I'm not very good mechanically. And I wanted to get that car off of the, of the tow and get it unloaded. And so, I was rushing to get here. The, the big U-Haul place on Florida closed at 10 o'clock and I was trying to make it there by then so they could help me unload it. And so, I mean, I'm just, I'm not stopping. So, you know, you need to stop from time to time when you're traveling. So, I wasn't stopping. And so I get there and I just, I just needed to go to the little boy’s room, that's what I needed to do. And so I pulled up and I said, Hey, do you have a restroom? And the guys pointed me inside. So it was December right before Christmas. And I had on a Bama jacket. Right? And so I walked in there my first day in Baton Rouge. Right. And I should have known better. And I walk in there kind of running in there and I said, Hey, do you have a restroom? And the guy old guy just looks at me. He says, yup, sure do. And he just stood there and I said, well, can I use it? And he says, yep, you sure can. And he used some other descriptive words that I won't share in church today. But basically, what he said is, is if you go take that jacket off, he described my jacket. But if you go take that jacket off and you can come back in and use my restroom. Well, I laugh because I thought he was joking, and he just stood there. And the dude made me go to my car and put my jacket up before I could use the restroom. So that was my introduction to Baton Rouge. And yet I'm still stupid enough. I'm still wearing the shirt, but anyway, we'll do the best we can. So took our daughter to college this past week. She's going to Ouachita University, which is in Arkansas. And so we're walking around the bookstore and we're thinking, you know what? We need to support our daughter. This is where she goes to school and we need to, to wear the things that she wears.

And so you know, so that we can, all our money's going here. We might as well wear a shirt or something like that. And I'm looking around. It's like you, people are basically haunting me no matter where I go, because Ouachita, their mascot is the tiger. And guess what their colors are is purple and gold. And so all they had was go tiger shirts. Of course, they spelled go right over there. But anyway, that all they had was go tiger shirts everywhere. And I just couldn't buy one. So, I just, I just couldn't make myself do it, even though my all my money is there. So anyway, so what we need to do right now is before we jump into the message is, we need to stop and pray so that you can repent of all the things that you're thinking and saying to the people around you about me.

 

But no, seriously, I do want us to, to pray before we jump into this today and on a completely serious note is that today is very simple. What I want to share with you, but it has the opportunity. I believe to be very penetrating to our hearts if we'll allow it to. But the way that we allow that to happen is by the Holy Spirit speaking to us. But before I pray for you, what, what I want to make sure that you understand is that I want to be very direct and very honest.

I believe that the words we're going to read this morning are very direct and very honest, but what I want to make sure that you don't do is that you don't hear anything I say is that will, Jeff is telling me that I have to do this today. Or Jeff is telling me that this is wrong because if we're not careful, oftentimes if we just listened to what people say to us, it can come across as very religious and very legalistic. But today is not about that. I want to be honest with you. I want to share with you what God's word clearly, I believe says to all of us. And then I want all of us to ask the Holy Spirit just to speak to us because the reason God gave us the Holy Spirit was to lead us and to guide us, direct us, to convict us when we need it, but to encourage us to be the people that he desires for us to be. And I believe that God wants to do that this morning. And so, I'm going to ask you if you would just to bow your heads and close your eyes before we jump in. And before I pray for us, would you just take a moment and just the best, you know, how, if this was your first time that you've ever been here or whether you're here every week, would you just give God the chance to speak to you today?

 

Just say, God, I opened up my heart. God, I give you the freedom to speak to me today. Lord, we love you, God, I thank you for this church and God, just for the ministry that you do in this place and through this place. And God, I pray today that for us as a body, but also for us as individual followers of you, that God, that you will just make a very simple message, very, very clear, and very, very applicable to a hearts and lives. Speak to us today. We give you our hearts. We give you this time and it's in Jesus name that I pray. Amen. Amen. Amen.

 

We're walking through the book of Ezra and just been an encouraging time for me to just study this book. And I hope that if you haven't been here through all the weeks, that you'll go back and just watch those or listen to those. And as you do that, understand that all throughout this book. And it's just seems to be the theme of this entire season for us as a church. And that is, is that God's always moving, and that God is always working. And despite the opposition, despite our own fears, despite all the stuff in life that we can always count on the reality that God is always behind the scenes doing what only he can do. And if you and I will do the hard work that he calls us to do, if you and I will do the simple things that he calls us to do, that we can trust him no matter what. And I was thankful last week I was out at the Ascension campus. And so, I went back Sunday afternoon and listened to Micah, spoke here and did the same message that I did there. And I was very thankful that more people got to hear his message than mine, because his was by far a million times better. If you didn't hear his message last week, I encourage you to go back and listen to that. Just a great explanation of what God does in chapter four, but at the end of that, and just a side note and not just because he's in the room, but I'm thankful that as a part of our lead team and as a student pastor, that God has given us a man such as him, most student pastors, I don't know if he knows this or not, but most student pastors are really good at making up games and finding ways for the church to get sued. So that's the way most student pastors are. And so, I'm thankful that we have one that not only doesn't get us sued, but also, it's just an incredible student and teacher of the word. And so, Micah, you thank you for what you do and for the way that you lead. So, and you, you don't have to pay me for both services to do that. Just want to be fine. Okay. But no, seriously, I'm thankful for that. And it really was just a great handling of that chapter. And so I hope that if you didn't listen to that or watch that or hear that you could go back and do that this week, but at the end of that passage of chapter four, it says that the building of the temple that stopped and for 16 years, nothing happened.

 

And so this morning is we pick up and chapter five. And, but if you have your Bibles, I don't want you to turn to Ezra chapter five. I actually want you to turn to the book of Haggai chapter one. And you're thinking, why are we doing that? It'll make sense in just a moment because we're actually going to spend most of our time this morning in the book of Haggai talking about the book of Ezra. If you're confused, just hang on. I promise it will make sense in just a moment. So for 16 years though, the temple stopped, and it was because of opposition. It was because of the decree of the King. It was because of people. They didn't want that to happen. And in the process of that, here's what took place. The people that had come back for one purpose, they had come back to build the team, the Temple of God for the Glory of God, that now all of a sudden, they're not doing that. And their lives have become to a place to where things are just different than what they were intended to be when they came back. And as I looked at this passage that we're going to read in just a moment.

 

And as I look at the book of Haggai, which we're going to look at that in just a moment as well, there were two questions that just, just kept rolling in my mind this week. And really these two questions are the only points that if you're taking notes that, that you, that I'll give you to write down, that there may be some other things that God gives you to write down. But I just want you, as we walk through the next a few moments, I want you to think about these two questions. And these two questions are really what we find from the prophet, Hagia and Zachariah as they come to the people of Israel during this time. And it's really very direct is really very straightforward when we titled the message to that. It's just a come to Jesus meeting and you know what that is, right? I mean that that's never a pleasant thing, but that's exactly what we find here. And throughout this come to Jesus meeting, there's two questions that basically that I believe are at the forefront need to be in the forefront of our minds today. And that is number one. What are you building? And number two, what are you ignoring?

I want you to Think about those as we walked through this passage today, when it comes to your life, when it comes to what you are investing in, what you are doing, what in your life, what are you building and what are you ignoring? So you say, what do you mean when you say that? Well, first of all, when we talk about what we are building, here's what I want you to think about what you are building represents, the things that that does that make you feel comfortable. They're the things that, that bring you comfort in life. Now I'll explain that a little bit in just a few minutes, but they're, they're the things that we, we tend to gravitate to for lots of different reasons, based on our personality, based on our convictions, based on our passions, but the things that we build, the things that bring us comfort. And so what is it that you're building in your life? What are you pursuing? What are you working for? What is it that makes you feel comfortable? What is it that feels good for you? You know, we, we oftentimes, as, as Baptists we don't want to talk about our feelings, right? Because we just want to focus on the word, but the reality is, is God gave us feelings. God gave us emotions. And a lot of times what we are building is the things that just make us feel good in life. But then also what things in your life that you should be paying attention to, are you ignoring the things that we ignore most of the times are the things that scare us, the things that make us fearful. So we just set them aside. We just kind of go the other way. It's things that we just don't want to deal with. So with those questions in mind, look at what it says in Ezra chapter five, we're going to put this on the screen, and then we're going to jump to Haggai out as chapter five in verse one. So now remembers for 16 years, there's nothing that's been built. It just stopped. So now the profits Hagia, Zachariah, the son of who prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who is over them, then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel. Jozadak and Joshua with the son of Jehoiada arose and begin to rebuild the house of God that is in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them supporting them. So Haggai and Zachariah come and speak to the people. And what we find in the book of Haggai is we find basically four messages that he gives to Zerubbabel that’s the entire book. And we're going to look at part of that in just a moment during this season. So the book of Haggai happens right here in Ezra chapter five. And so, as we look at this, what you're going to find is that the message that he gave to them is spurred them on to begin to rebuild the temple.

 

So here's what happens in the rest of chapter five and chapter six, they begin. And we're going to come back to this message because this message is where we want to focus. But the rest of chapter five and chapter six, here's what happens. They begin to rebuild. And didn't the governor that was over this region over Jerusalem. He finds out that they're re they're rebuilding. And so, he's not necessarily a follower of God. He's an acknowledged or of God, but he's not someone who is a follower or a servant of God. He finds out about this. And for most people in the political world, and even in the religious world, they were very nervous about the people of Israel coming back and rebuilding the temple because everything to them was about power. And so the governor gets nervous about them rebuilding. He doesn't want anything to threaten his power. And so he goes to the King and it’s not the same King who sends Zerubbabel back. This is a different King, but he goes to him and says, Hey, what the people told me is that God basically told them to come back and that they were sent by the King Cyrus to come back and to rebuild the temple. And I want to know whether or not this is true. So since it's a new King, he doesn't know about that decree, but he has his people go and research whether or not the people of Israel were telling the truth, the ones that were rebuilding the temple.

 

And so what he finds is that the statements that they made about rebuilding the temple, that they were a hundred percent accurate. That that is what King Cyrus had told them to do. And so this King goes back to the governor who, the reason the governor brought it up is because he wanted this movement to stop. He wanted the rebuilding to stop. He did not want them to do anything to threaten his power, but the King, when he read the decree that was given by the previous King, he says, yes, they can continue to rebuild. And I love how God works. He says, not only can they rebuild, but what we're going to do is all the taxes that you're collecting, that you've been keeping for yourself. We're now going to use that so that they can be helped and rebuilding the temple. So what this man sought to do to destroy God used it, not only to not destroy it, but to aid them in their process. And the reason I tell you all of that is because when you look at the hard words that Haggai says, and just a moment, what we need to be reminded of is the simple reality that if you and I will build the things that God calls us to build, that he will do things behind the scenes he will provide for us. And if we will get past all of our fears about following him and being obedient to him, God will do things that are far greater than you can possibly imagine, because he is always working, even when we can't see him. So even though these words are tough, that we're going to read today, they strike at the heart of where I believe many of us have the tendency oftentimes to be what we're going to find is that if you and I will answer these questions, what are you building? And what are you ignoring? And if you and I will address them head on that, God will begin to do something in your heart and life. And even though it may scare you to death, God cannot be stopped. God's plan cannot be overtaken, but the choice you have to make is whether or not he is going to use you as a part of his plan, or whether he's going to use someone else who's willing to trust him. So what are you building? And what are you ignoring? So with all of that said, Haggai out chapter one. Remember this message happens in between chapter four in the beginning of chapter five, that Haggai comes. He's one of the prophets that comes and the prophets in this day and time, that they were, they came to the people of God as the voice of God for us, God speaks to us through his word and through the power of the Holy spirit. He uses other people, but this was the primary means by the way, that God would speak to his people, this through prophets.

 

And so Haggai comes to the people of God and look at what he says, Haggai chapter one in verse one in the second year of Derrius the King in the six month, on the first day of the month. Now Darrius, the King is the one that came back. I shared with you just a moment ago. He's the one that came back and told the governor to let them rebuild. But also, at that, that they were going to use those taxes for that purpose. So he comes to the word, Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerrubble the son of Shealtiel governor of Judah. And to Joshua, the son of Jozadak, the high priest thus says, the Lord of hosts. These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord. Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet. And so the reason he's coming to them is because basically what the people that were sent back to rebuild the temple have said was now is not the time you ever heard those words now is not the time. Usually when people say those words now is not the time what they're doing is avoiding something that doesn't need to be avoided, right? They're usually in what there's happening there. Is there something that needs to be dealt with? There's an issue that needs to be addressed. There's something that should be being done, but right now is not the time. It's a statement of avoidance. And that's where the people of Israel work. So look at what it says and the next verse. Next section, there's a hint of sarcasm here. I really kinda liked this. Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore thus says the Lord of Hosts, consider your ways. You have sown much in harvested, little, you eat, but you never have enough. You drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourself, but no one is warm and he who earns wages does So to put them in bags with holes. So let's stop right there and see what he's saying here. The hint of sarcasm is, is that you're living in your paneled houses, which meant that You have these nice houses. You have spent all this time on investing in your own personal homes while the house of the Lord lies in ruins. In fact, when you look at all the history of what we believe was taking place here is that when the temple stopped being built, that people begin to settle. They begin to focus on their own lives, on their own agendas, on the things they wanted to do. And so they took the materials that were set aside for the temple, and they begin to use them to make their own homes. The things that God had given them for God's purpose, for God's agenda, they now had taken them and were using them for their own purposes and their own agenda. Sound familiar. You ever found yourself in that situation where maybe you've taken the things that God gave you for a Holy purpose, for a righteous plan or, or a mission And what you chosen to do is all the things that God has given you, that you began to use them for your own purposes, for what you desire. He says, put in doing that. What you found is it gets some of the, of the descriptors that he gives there and says that that when you consider your ways, you sewn much, but you harvest a little, in other words, you're working, you are, you're building for something. You're putting a lot of effort into it, but you're not really getting much back. You eat, but you never have enough. You drink, but you never have your fill. In other words, no matter what you get, you're just not satisfied. You ever felt that way. And listen, if you are building things that are not of the purpose of God, if that is the focus of everything that you're doing, if what your life's centered around is on saying, Hey, I need to build my financial wealth so that I can be secure. That's what makes me feel good. Or I want to, to build up my, my children, because I want them to be the greatest athletes, or I want them to be the greatest scholars, or I want them to be very successful. That all of those things, those are the things that I find comfort in. There's nothing wrong with saving for retirement. There's nothing wrong with investing in your kids. There's nothing wrong with a lot of the things that we pursue. But the reality is if that is the goal of our life, if that is the mission of what we do, if that is what we are building, what Haggai is telling the people is that, Hey, don't you recognize that it's just never enough, that you are Never satisfied. You're pursuing what you want, but it's never, ever, enough. I love the end of that section. He says he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. So thus says the Lord of Hosts. Here's what he says to them. Now, remember, this is when the 16 years where they're not building anything. And so he says, here's the, this is what you're doing. What you are building is not of God. You, you are a building the wrong thing. So here's what the Lord of Hosts. He says, consider your ways, answer those questions in other words, what are you building? What are you ignoring? Consider your ways. Go up to the Hills, bring wood and build a house that I may take pleasure in it. And that I may be glorified, says the Lord. He says, you look for much and behold, it came to little.

 

And when you brought it home, he says, I blew it away. In other words, God's not going to allow anything to stand. God's not going to allow you to ever be satisfied or to have enough. If you are pursuing the things that he doesn't desire for you to pursue, it's the blew it away. Why declares the Lord of hosts because of my house that lies in ruins. While each of you busy as himself with his own house, that's tough words. He says, my house lies in ruins in modern day for you I, it would be like us saying that the mission of God has stopped in our lives, the purpose for what he has created us to do. The things that he desires to be the priorities in our life, us living a life of obedience to him has stopped. While we busy ourselves with all the things that we want to do, what are you building? What is it that you are living for? You see, because for this group of people, there's lots of reasons why they were focused on their own homes. For many of them, they were scared to death about what it would look like if they took the risk of rebuilding, because obviously there's all this opposition. A lot of people didn't want them to rebuild. And some of them were just comfortable because it was nice to live in a nice house, right? It was nice not to have to go and work for something that wasn't going to in their minds personally benefit them. Because at the end of the day, the things that make us comfortable are the things that we desire, the things that we want, the things that allow us, that we think to have our own satisfaction. But what Haggai points out is that that's where you think you're not only your desire is, but that's where you think you want to be, but it's just never enough. So he says, consider your ways. You see, for some of the people that they were building their own homes instead of a building the house of the Lord, even though that was the, the sole reason they came back and the reason they were doing it is because they just wanted to focus on the things that make them feel good. But for others, it was more about the things that scared them. They were ignoring the house of God, because they were fearful about what that would look like. Would God provide, would I be ostracized? Would I look like a fool? I mean, just the list goes on and on and on. And the reality is, is for all of us in our lives, we find ourselves at times where we are building things that really aren't the focus of what God calls us to do. And it may be a mission, or it may be just an area of obedience in your life. But no matter what it is, if you are building the things that are not a part of what God's word says and what God calls you to do, and about being obedient to him. And if you're ignoring those things, because you don't really want to deal with them, then where are you going to find yourself in a place where you're just constantly working? You're just constantly seeking, but it's just never enough. When you look at that passage in Haggai chapter one in light of what I shared with you happens in the rest of Ezra chapter five and six. It just makes sense to say, if I'm constantly building for myself, I'm never going to be satisfied. It's never going to work out, is going to end in destruction. But when I follow the ways of the Lord, when I do the things that he asks me to do, God shows up and God provides in some absolutely amazing ways.

 

When we were in the process of moving from Arkansas to Baton Rouge. You know, one of the reasons that we moved here was to help a good friend of mine begin a nonprofit. And so when you're moving into that kind of realm, you're moving into a world of uncertainty in for lots of reasons that it was just a time for us to, to, to leave in terms of a pastor in the church that we were. And we were moving here just to kind of get a fresh start and start all over again. And our church just was such a gracious, incredible people. And so they, they wanted to, to help us in launches as we moved here. And they, they, they provided a salary for us for six months’ time, which was incredible. I mean, just w we couldn't imagine that just the generosity that they provided for us, it was also scary because you had that for six months, but then what about after that? And so I remember during that season that I went into, you know, as we often do as humans, and I think men, we probably do this even more. I went into fix it mode. Like I was going to find a way that I was going to fix everything. And I wanted, because what I was trying to build was the best amount of financial security I could for my family. And so, as a result of several different things, to be honest with you, that this, my heart was just not in a great place. And there was a lot of discouragement, a lot of frustration, just a lot of emotions that really weren't of God. And because of that, I began to turn inward and as opposed to looking for God, to God, for the answers, I began Jeff to begin to try to fix it. And so one of the ways that I decided that I was going to fix it was that I was going to make sure that we saved as much money as we possibly could over the course of that period of time. And so we, we had been giving, and I only shared this number for you for a specific reason. All right, I'm not trying to brag. I just want to share this with you because it's very relevant to the story in just a moment. But we had been giving at that point about a thousand dollars a month to our church. And so what I decided was is over that next six months as we were transitioning, we weren't going to have a church home. I just decided, Hey, we don't have a church home. So we don't have to give to any church during that period of time. And so we can save in that $6,000 that we can set aside that we can use to help us just be more financially secure. So I shared that brilliant plan with my wife, and she didn't say anything. So the next morning we woke up, I mean, I'm telling you, I just, my heart was in a place of just, just wasn't really a good place, but she looked at me and she says, you know, we can't do that. She said, you know, that we can't just ignore that. We have to give and what we don't have church. And so we're just going to give to the church that has been providing for us and taking care of us. So we're just going to give there, even though we're not even going to live in the same state. So for the next six months, we decided that we were going to give a thousand dollars a month. I was scared to death. I said, okay, now I didn't say, okay, immediately. It was like later that night that I said, okay, because I wrestled with it all day long, but really, and honestly, my heart still wasn't in a great place, but it was more out of a guilt. And I know I knew that she was right. So I gave in.

 

Next morning, comes a knock on my door. Three years ago, still just blows my mind. I answered the door and it was a lady that was living in our community. Her and her husband owned a restaurant. And she said they had recently joined the church. And I had helped them with just some different things in terms of just some counseling and stuff. And, and she said, Hey, she said, I didn't get a chance to see you the other day, but I wanted to stop by today because my husband and I, we love you. We love your family, and we want to help support you as you launch out. And so we just want to give this to you and just want you to know that we love you and that we care about you. I went back Inside. It was an envelope. I just figured they owned a restaurant. I figured like it was some gift cards to the restaurant or something like that, you know, whatever. And I sat down and opened it up and I don't know why she did it this way, except that God instructed her to do this way. But we had made the decision that starting in January for January, February, March, April, may, and June for six months, that the first of each month we were going to give a thousand dollars to the church. in that envelope were six, $1,000 checks dated January the first, February, the first March, the first April, the first may, and June the first. And I remember just sitting there and just weeping because in that simple moments, God used that woman to show us that when you trust him, he will provide, and he will. He has, he will. And when I doubt him again tomorrow, guess what? He will still be there. But my problem was in that moment before we made that decision by the Holy Spirit now also known as Wendy before I got that point, that what I was building was my own financial security. And I decided that I was going to do at Jeff's way. And what I was ignoring was the principle that God so clearly lays out in his word. And I didn't want to deal with it because that principal scared me to death, but what God taught me through that and what God has taught me time and time again, because I'm a very slow learner, is that when I build my life on what he calls me to do in this word, that the things that scare me, the things that I would rather ignore, the things that I don't want to deal with, those are the things that God wants to use to build our faith and to bring himself glory and to bring us to a place where his light can shine through us and that people's lives and the world in which we live will be changed. And, you know, what's amazing about that, that when you and I stop ignoring the things that scare us, and we begin to build the things in our lives that God wants us to build around, then what God does is that emptiness and that unsatisfaction that we felt when we were doing the other things, he replaces all of those things with a joy and a peace that is far beyond what you could ever buy or what you could ever understand, because that's the God that we serve.

 

So what are you building? And what are the things that you are ignoring that are preventing you from building the things that God wants you to build? Let's pray together today. Would you take a moment before we end today and just wrestle with those two questions? Talk to God. He knows your heart. What is the one thing in your life that needs to be different, that you've been ignoring? Would you just confess that to him right now? And as you confess that, would you make a declaration right now that you're going to take one step toward building that area of your life on the truth of God's Word and what he desires for you?

 

God, we love you. God, I thank you that you never stopped Teaching us, never stopped reminding us and you never give up on us. Lord, I thank you for the direct words from the Prophet Haggai that we see to the people of Israel, but God also to the people of Istrouma today, Lord, I pray that we will be people that are building our lives on you and your Word, God, help us this week to address the things that scare us, help us to be bold enough, but also at the same time, humble enough to confront the areas of our life that need your hand, that needs your correction, that needs your touch. And God, I pray that as we do that, that you will give us confidence that you will remind us that just as you were in the book of Ezra, you are today and the same God that provided for them and some supernatural ways desires to provide for us today. So, we ask you to do that. We thank you that we can trust you, and it's in Jesus name that I pray. Amen. Amen.

 

Well, thank you so much for being here today, and there's always that there's ways that we can help you or minister to you, We'd love the privilege to be able to do that after the services and a hope that more than anything that you will take, God's word to heart, that you will apply it to your life this week. Hope that you have a wonderful week and we'll see you back again next Sunday. Thank you.

Category:Ezra -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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Istrouma en Español
Aug 16 – 17, 2020

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Agosto 16, 2020
Bajo fuego enemigo.
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Esdras 4:1-5
Cuando se enteraron los enemigos de Judá y de Benjamín de que el pueblo del destierro estaba edificando un templo al S EÑOR, Dios de Israel, se llegaron a Zorobabel y a los jefes de casas paternas, y les dijeron: Vamos a edificar con vosotros, porque, como vosotros, buscamos a vuestro Dios, y le hemos estado ofreciendo sacrificios desde los días de Esar-hadón, rey de Asiria, que nos trajo aquí. Pero Zorobabel y Jesúa y los demás jefes de casas paternas de Israel les dijeron: No tenéis nada en común con nosotros para que juntos edifiquemos una casa a nuestro Dios, sino que nosotros unidos la edificaremos al S EÑOR, Dios de Israel, como nos ordenó el rey Ciro, rey de Persia. Entonces el pueblo de aquella tierra se puso a desanimar al pueblo de Judá, y a atemorizarlos para que dejaran de edificar; y tomaron a sueldo contra ellos consejeros para frustrar sus propósitos, todos los días de Ciro, rey de Persia, hasta el reinado de Darío, rey de Persia.

Siempre que te comprometas con el Señor, prepárate para enfrentar a un enemigo que intentara hacerte retroceder.

1.    Nuestro enemigo espiritual se opone a todo intento de avance espiritual.
2.    Formas incorrectas de responder a los ataques del enemigo.
3.    Formas correctas de responder a los ataques del enemigo.

La oposición puede retrasar la obra del Pueblo de Dios, pero no puede detener la Obra de Dios.

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Category:Esdras -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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Istrouma Baptist Church
Aug 16, 2020

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August 16 | Ezra (BR)
Welcome Back! We're glad you've joined us today for our Sunday morning worship service! For more information about Istrouma, go to istrouma.org or contact us at info@istrouma.org.  

We glorify God by making disciples of all nations.
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August 16, 2020  | Micah Cating
"Opposition is real"
Ezra 4

Jeremiah 29:4-7, Jeremiah 29:10-14
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

“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. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

Ezra 4:1-3
Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel, 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.” 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.”

OPPOSITION BEGINS WITH COMPROMISE

2 Kings 17:33
So they feared the Lord but also served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away.

OPPOSITION WILL USE DISCOURAGEMENT AND FEAR TO DISTRACT GOD’S PEOPLE

Ezra 4:4
Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build

Ephesians 6:10-12
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

OPPOSITION DOES NOT DISAPPEAR QUICKLY

OPPOSITION WILL MISREPRESENT GOD AND HIS PEOPLE

Ezra 4:14-16
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, 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. 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.”

OPPOSITION MAY SLOW THE WORK OF GOD’S PEOPLE, BUT IT CANNOT STOP THE WORK OF GOD

Ezra 4:24
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.

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Ezra

Istrouma Baptist Church – Micah Cating, Youth Pastor

 9:30 AM Sermon August 16, 2020

"Opposition is real"

Ezra 4

Jeremiah 29:4-7, Jeremiah 29:10-14

 

 

Well, good morning. Hope you're doing well today. It really is great to see so many of you in the room as we begin to slowly regather back. And for those of you who are watching online, we're so grateful that you're doing that 2020, right? It's been a crazy year. I love mornings like today where we get to see people, baptize families dedicate their kids because not only is it a sense of normal, but it's just a great reminder that God is at work. Not everybody feels that way right now, though. People feel overwhelmed, stressed out, maybe opposed by different things. And I saw something the other day online. It just made me laugh. And you've probably seen it too. It's like, let's just put up the Christmas tree and call it a year. Right? Anybody seen that? I saw the other day, there's a dr. Pepper shortage. And I was like, Lord, what more do we have to give up? So it's just rough. I am experiencing virtual school in my house with our first grader, Luke, he'll be here next hour. And it's been crazy. We're so thankful his school has done a great job transitioning us to virtual school. But if any of you or anybody in that world, you've got virtual school happening at your house. Okay. We'll pray for you again later. It's crazy. Like even though it's, well-planned everything, it's just a different kind of wife and it's hard. And it reminds me that some seasons of life are just harder than others. And I read an overview of the life of a man that you'll actually know who he is when we're done with this, but he had experienced many hard times in his life. And so I just kind of took notes of some things that happened in his life. And I thought I'd share them with you. I'm not trying to depress you at the start of this.

 

I just think it's helpful getting where we're going. So this guy, when he was seven years old, his family was forced out of their home and he had to go to work to help support them. So seven years old when he was nine, just two years later, his mother died fast forward a little bit. When he's 22, he's been working as a store clerk for years. He loses that job. He wanted to go to law school, but he didn't have the education because he'd been working all of his life. So at 23, he went into debt to become the partner of a local little small store in his town. At 26, his business partner died that left him a massive debt to have to figure out on his own. At 28. I love this when he started courting a girl for four years, so thinks things are going well. He asked her to marry him and she says, no. I'm like man at 37 on his third try, he finally gets elected to Congress. But two years later, he fails to get reelected. And 41, his four-year-old son dies and 45. He runs for Senate again and he loses 47. He runs for vice president and he loses 49. He ran for the Senate again and he loses. He thinks at this point he would just give up. But at 51, he was elected president and that man was Abraham Lincoln. You know, and I've heard stories of his life all my life. And I feel like we hear so many of the amazing things that happen in his life later in life, but to see where he came from and the hardship that he went through gives a greater appreciation for some of the things that he was able to accomplish.

 

The truth is life is rarely easy. I think many of us know that right now, but one of the things that I think is important to distinguish is that a live of following the Lord doesn't really end in years of just guaranteed easy days. And it doesn't really end in a chorus of people cheering our name and saying how great we are just because we love the Lord. Especially in today's setting. I find that most of the time in today's setting, if you out to go out to honor the Lord with your life, you'll probably face numerous setbacks. And some of these setbacks are just a result of living in a fallen world, right? We live in a broken world. That's full of sin. We sin ourselves and have consequences that we face as a result of our sin. But sometimes the challenges that we face are more than just the result of being in a fallen world. Sometimes those challenges are really the outworking of a spiritual battle that rages below the surface of everything. And so, one of the things that I wanted us to think about today as we continue our series on Ezra is, I want us to think about the idea that opposition, spiritual opposition in our lives is real.

 

As we've been walking through this book, we've kind of come around three words, you've seen it at the end of our video. Maybe you've seen it on some of our social media posts, the three words of return rebuild and renew. And I think those are three great words to think about in our lives in the world that we're living in. And so, as we've looked in the book of Ezra and we continue to study this book, if you remember, we've, we've talked so far about how these people who are exiled from Jerusalem taken off in a Babel and how they've come back, they've returned. And today we're going to talk about how they're attempting to rebuild the temple. And then later they'll try and rebuild the city. But before we jump into the book of Ezra, I thought it'd be good for us to think back a little bit about where these people had been. And what they'd seen is it'll help us understand a little bit about how they face spiritual opposition. You see, it's been 70 years when we start our passage today, it'll have been 70 years since the Israelite exile had begun. If you remember it, King Nebuchadnezzar came into Jerusalem, right? He destroys the city destroys the temple. Like Rob's the temple of all of its like precious things. All these things that people would have held, dear, he would have taken like the best and the brightest from Israel and he have taken them off into exile. And what we know is that during this period of exile, there's some amazing stories that happened. The story of Daniel Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego all happened while they're in exile. And for the particular part that we're looking at today, this portion of their history is right when the story of Esther happens in scripture. In fact, one of the Kings that we'll talk about today is the same King that Esther is married to. And thing his opposition was nothing new to these people. Not at all. Jerusalem was in shambles. The temple was in ruin and the people were spread all over the world. But every time opposition rose up for these people for God's people, God's provision was there as well. And so I want to read a portion of Jeremiah 29. You probably know one verse from Jeremiah 29, but I want to put some context around it, just to tell a little bit about a message that the people of Israel receive at the very beginning of exile. So if you remember the first week of this series, when King Cyrus is sending them back, right, that's sitting in the back, I'm talking about way before that, right after Jerusalem is destroyed and they're sent off into Babylon and they’re re land in Babylon. This is the letter that they receive. It says in Jeremiah 29, verse four, it says, thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles who I'm sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon build houses and live in them, plant gardens and eat their produce, take wives and have sons and daughters take wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage that they may bear sons and daughters multiply there and do not decrease, but seek the welfare of the city where I've sent you into exile and pray to the Lord on its behalf for it's in your welfare, you will find your welfare for thus says the Lord when 70 years are completed for Babylon, and this is where we're going to be talking about today, seven years later, I will visit you and I'll fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place for, I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord plans for welfare, not for evil to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me. And I will hear you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart, and I'll be found by you declares the Lord. I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I've driven. You declares the Lord. And I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you in to exile. What an amazing thing. When I think about the people that this was written to, they had no question that opposition was real. They had seen it seen the temple of the Lord destroyed.

 

They had been separated and scattered, but in the midst of it all, they had hope. They had hope because of the promises of God. They had hoped that 70 years later, they would have a chance to return. And what I think is amazing about this is when we talk about the people of the pastors that we're studying today, they not only have hope that God might do something there. I have confidence that God might do it because they've seen it do it. They're sitting in Jerusalem; they're living there again. They're working to rebuild at this point, they have rebuilt the altar and they're actually worshiping at the site of where the temple had been. That would have been a dream for people 50 years before they've seen the goodness of God. And they're beginning to rebuild the temple. They're beginning to make efforts to do it. And they have great trust that God is at work. And that brings us through our main passes for today, which is Ezra four. And we're just going to kind of read this through in chunks as we go. And we're going to start in verse one, Ezra four verse one says this. Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin, which are two of the tribes of Israel, heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of the father's houses and said to them, let us build with you for, we worship your God. As you do pay attention to that for, we worship your God as you do. And we've been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon King of Assyria who brought us here, but as Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the father's houses in Israel said to them, you have nothing to do ,with us and building the 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 to do first one really quickly establishes that the people who approach the people of God who were building the temple was people who approached her adversaries of God. And one of the things that we learned by looking at these peoples, we understand that opposition begins with compromise because what happens is these people come up and they say, Hey, we're with you. We worship the same God as you do. But the fact that verse one calls him adversaries really helps me process the response of the leaders of Israel. Cause they're pretty rude. They're like, they don't say, Hey, no, thank you. Maybe we'll call you. If it gets a little rougher, they're basically like getaway. You have nothing to do with us. You have no right to be here. You have no reason to be here, go away. God has called us to do it. Not you, which is not usually how our churches operate today, but I think we can learn something from it, but their response is harsh. And the reason it's harsh is because these people were trying to get the people of God to compromise what they're doing. Okay. You have to understand a little bit of the history of this time to understand what they're trying to do. These people, that approach are actually the forefathers of some people that you would know from the new Testament. They're the forefathers of the Samaritans because here's what happens when Israel is taken into exile, Jerusalem.

 

And a lot of that area is left. Mostly empty. People are left behind, but not a ton. And so there's a place to send people there. So the Assyrian King later sends basically immigrants into Israel and tells them to settle there. And they start marrying with the Jews that are left over in that place. And the Samaritan race is born. And one of the problems is when those people are there, there's a lot of hostilities they're trying to live there. And so the Assyrian King sends a priest out of exile back to Israel and says, Hey, teach these people the ways of God. And so he teaches them, the rituals, the routines, the sacrifices, all of the things that they would need to know. And so these people, without a temple, without an altar, which would have been blaspheme in the eyes of the Jewish people at that time, they continue to sacrifice, even though there's no temple and they attempt to worship the Lord, but there's a passage from second Kings 17, that kind of explains this history that lets us understand if those people are the same people who approach the builders of the temple. If those people actually are fully devoted to the Lord. And so second Kings 17:33 says this, these people fear the Lord, but they also serve their own gods after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away.

So these people bring their history of worshiping other gods and they just meld it together with the worship of the God of Israel sound familiar. It should have, because it happened all throughout the old Testament. And I would say it even happens a lot in our world today. And so these helpers’ approach, the temple builders, and they said, Hey, we can help you. We worship your gun too, even though that wasn't really true. And if these people would have infiltrated the building of the temple, it really could have been disastrous because not only could they have watered down the faith of the people of Israel, if they would have helped build the temple, they would have had a place in the temple worship. They had been able to say, we're a part of this process. And as they would have gathered in the temple, they would have brought their other gods, their other beliefs into that moment. But here's what I think is interesting. God's people say no, and they say no harshly, but they say no. And I think it's interesting because they could have used the help building a simple is not easy. Their progress is slow. They could have used more bodies. They could have used a strong cultural and economic connection with the people who already live there. Remember they're new back in this place. Once you come back, they're really old. They were really young when they were there. And if they're kind of middle-aged, they probably were born in exile. Like they, they need connections, but they still say no. So when I think about that, and I think about the temptation for our faith to be watered down, I'm always reminded that matters of theology are not the place to compromise what we think about God matters. What we know about how we form a relationship with God. It matters the reason behind our service to other people. When we go out into the community, it's not just being kind, it matters. It's a bridge to the gospel. So don't compromise is what I hear. When I see this passage, don't compromise to be inclusive and don't compromise to get the job done More quickly. Another thing we see about the opposition from this passage is that opposition will use discouragement and fear to distract God's people. As where four, four says, this is interesting. All right, the people have offered to help. They've been told no rather harshly. And so it says the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build discouragement and fear. And they bribe the counselors against them to frustrate their purpose all the days of King Cyrus of Persia, even until the reign of Darrius King of Persia.

 

To me, it's really amazing how quickly that turns, Hey, let's build together. We worship your same God, and now it becomes, Hey, we're not only trying to discourage you and make you afraid. We're kind of like paying lawyers to come against you and make your job even harder. And what that shows is that the true motives of the opposition are revealed. They weren't really motivated by let's worship the same God together. They were motivated by having influence and control. They were focused on themselves. And what's interesting is they were really pawns in a spiritual battle. And I don't know if they even knew it. But one good thing to remember is that the opposition we face in our lives often goes deeper than the people that we encounter. And Ephesians six reminds us of this. Ephesians six, 10 through 12, says this finally be strong in the Lord. And in the strength of his mind, put on the whole armor of God that you may be, be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. We don't wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers against the authorities against the cosmic powers over this present darkness against the spiritual forces and evil in the heavenly places. I think this happens a lot, but we can't lose sight of the fact that the enemy is at work in the world. You know, we say opposition is real. To be more clear. Satan is real. The work of evil in our world is real, but the good news is the Lord is at work in our world as well. But without a clear recognition of the spiritual battles that exist around us, we'll be tempted to overlook, maybe ignore and kind of minimize the way that we see the enemy working in our midst. So we just have to recognize that there's certain things in our life that lead us to discouragement and fear, and they might not be at the Lord. Here's what happens when praying plants, the compromise us fail. Like we see these people come into the temple when that fails discouragement and fear usually happen next. And so I wonder for you in life right now, if you're struggling at all with discouragement or fear, maybe life's been so busy and hectic and crazy that you haven't had a chance to stop and think about it, but maybe the enemy working in your life to discourage you and make you fearful.

 

Maybe it looks like questions like this thoughts like this, maybe thinking what you're doing won't make any difference in this world or any eternity. So why try, maybe you're a teacher, like we mentioned earlier, and you think, man, these kids, they don't appreciate my efforts. I'm looking at them through a screen. Why even bother, let me just float through and miss the opportunity you have to impact the next generation. Maybe you're watching online and you're like, man, I've gone this long without being a church in person. Do I really need those people? And you isolate yourself. What if you're worried about, I don't know if we have enough money to make this month's bills or what if someone, I love to get sick or maybe you're just thinking like so many, how much longer we have to live. Like this man was this over. We have to recognize that sometimes those thoughts are the enemy working in our lives to distract us from what God is doing. And we recognize that the most fearful and discouraging thoughts are often not from the Lord. We're really free then to start thinking about the things of God, because opposition uses fear, uses discouragement to distract us. The next thing is can be discouraging is that opposition doesn't disappear quickly. We've seen this in verse six and seven. Hang with me for a minute here on the history of this. I know we've dived into a little bit already, but those people opposing the building of the temple. They're so frustrated with the work that's being done, that they write a letter to King Ahasuerus. Now this is probably why they called him Xerxes. All right. He had another name and King Xerxes is the same King that we find in the book of Esther. And so they write him a letter, but the letter that's actually included in chapter four here is not the letter to Artaxerxes. You'll probably see it in your notes, in your Bible. It's a letter to Artaxerxes who reigns later on. And so the writer of this book, Ezra, who hasn't shown up in person yet at this point in Ezra, he's writing kind of the history what's happened for the people who were his contemporaries are in his life.

 

And he's trying to show his people that he's writing that even after the temple one day gets built. People are still opposing the work that they're trying to do to build the city of Jerusalem at the time that Ezra writes 80 years later. And he's trying to say, Hey, this isn't new these people from the beginning. And so the opposition doesn't go away easily or quickly and recording the opposition, how they consistently challenged God's people allowed as we're to set an example, say, Hey, here's how we can follow the Lord.

 

Well, and here's how we need to avoid struggling, but it is possible to be faithful. And so here's what you got to see. It's 80 years of opposition and Israel's people are mostly faithful to the Lord, but here's an important thing for us to know their faithfulness to God, didn't make the opposition go away, right? Their faithfulness, the Lord didn't stop it. So that's a reminder to us today, as we face opposition, to know that we have to dig in at times and we have to hold strong and do what is right, because opposition doesn't disappear quickly. And the other thing we see is that opposition will misrepresent God and his people. And we see this one begins to dig into, Hey, what did they write to the King? And what they do is they totally misrepresent the people of God. And they pull up the kind of the bad stuff from their history. And they write a very one-sided letter because we know, Oh, that opposition will say anything to stop the work of the Lord. Satan. It's not described as a truthful person. He's a liar, he's a deceiver. And so the letter that we see written here was written by really powerful and influential people that lived in Jerusalem that were Persian officers. It was the treasurer of King Cyrus. One of the Persian officials in Sumeria, these were men of renown and very famous in the government of Syria. And they used their position to stop the work of the Lord. Ezra four verses 14 through 16, gives us a little bit of what they wrote. Artaxerxes. It says this now because we eat the salt of the palace. That's them saying, Hey, we're faithful to you King, and it's not fitting for us to witness the King's dishonor. Therefore, we send and informed the King 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 learned that this the city is a rebellious city, hurtful to Kings and provinces. That sedition was stirred up in it from old. That's why the city was laid to waste. We make known to the King that the city is rebuilt, and its walls are finished. You'll have no possession in this province beyond the river. So again, you see the opposition showing their true colors, who they're really faithful to. We're faithful to the King. We're not faithful to these people building and they're troublemakers. And they tell them all about the history of bad and how it's. But what we have to see is that it's not really the whole truth because reality is especially an exile. God's people had a history of living in a peaceful existence in Babylon, and it was under God's direction. Maybe you caught it in that very first passage we read from Jeremiah.

 

Jeremiah instructed the people living in Babylon. He didn't say, Hey, rebel and tear this whole thing down. He said, be peaceful. He said, build homes, plant gardens, like your kids married each other. Let them have kids. Let's let our numbers increase, but let's pray for the welfare of the city because in the city's welfare as well, you'll find where you find your own. And I wonder if that's how we would define ourselves as people who are praying for our country, for our nation, for our city. Are we people who pray that way? Who seek the good of it? I think we are. I'm always encouraged by, but what's amazing is how the opposition at this point leaves all that out and just says, hey man, they lead to rebellion. They're going to take all your power. And the truth is twisted. In this case to make the people who are pursuing the Lord seem like the enemy there's made to seem irresponsible, irresponsible, rebellious, and dishonest.

 

And the world often twists the truth to make godly people look wicked, feel like I see that in the world today, where Christians are often labeled as bigoted and hateful and bullies. Right, I know you see that. And you sense that you see it and it comes the views on reproduction rights, sexual orientation, gender identity. I was like, man, they don't include anybody. Look how hateful they are. Look how bigoted, but the truth is opposition will misrepresent God and his people all the time. And the point is to make us the enemy. So, where does this leave us? Just a couple final thoughts? Really important thing to recognize is that opposition may slow the work of God's people, but it won't stop the work of God. Ezra four 24, it gives some sobering news. It says the work on the house of God, that's in Jerusalem stopped. And it ceased until the second year of the reign of Darrius King of Persia, work on the temple stop for more than 15 years, but it didn't stop forever and delays in God's work. It's not the same as God being defeated or God not being real or God not being there. And the truth is God has purpose and all, even things that when we see it, we go, man, I feel like the church has been defeated. I feel like God has been defeated. I feel like God may not have power to do anything, but the truth is we can be temporary print temporarily delayed, but we won't be permanently defeated. So don't lose sight of God in the waiting. Don't be tempted to compromise because things get hard or because you need the help. But here's what happens to God's people. When the work stops, they lose sight of what God had done. Like they knew that the prophecy from Jeremiah, they were the, like the living proof of it. They had returned back. And when the work stops, they just lose focus and they go settle into a new routine that loses sight on the Lord.

 

We'll talk more about this next week, but they basically take the supplies for the temple and go build houses and go, alright, well, here we are. But God was still at work. He was still in control. And so, we have to recognize that God's provision in the opposition, not to settle for good enough when spiritual opposition comes, which is what these people do. They go, man, we're back in Jerusalem. Good enough, I guess, right? The Temple's not here, but at least we came back. Maybe part of what God said is true with the most powerful King of the world, just shut us down. So I guess we're stuck here. So don't settle for good enough. And then also don't give too much credit to the opposition. I think sometimes we like credit the opposition and then instead we make it easy to justify our spiritual laziness. We say things like it must not be the Lord's will or his timing for something to happen, just because something gets hard. And in reality, God may be waiting for us to take some initiative. We say things like where God guides, he provides, which is true, but maybe our idea of provision is skewed.

 

Maybe God's providing us just what we need through the opposition that we face, because the reality is the opposition that faced the temple builders. It wasn't outside of God's knowledge, his plan or his control. And he was doing something in that opposition. But a lot of times we mistakenly assumed that if the Lord's in it, we won't have hassles, setbacks and frustrations. While we tried to get the work of the Lord done, but that's really inconsistent with scripture.

 

So let's remember something today that feels kind of weird. Opposition is a gift. It's a gift because it reminds us that, Hey, I'm not in control, but God's in control. Opposition is a gift because it reminds us not to be spiritual wimps and just give up. But to be reminded of second Corinthians four were afflicted in every way, not crushed, but not crushed perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken struck down, but not destroyed. Opposition reminds us, Hey, I'm human and frail, but God's not. And he's in control. And he's working even in the face of those who oppose him. I think back to last week, you remember Jeff Williams was teaching and he said, worship is not about us. It's about the Lord. I think that's a great thing to remember when it comes to opposition, it's not ultimately about us. It's about the work of the Lord that opposition will blow through us to try and attack the Lord, but he's sufficient and he's strong and opposition that can result in us having more dependence on him, or it can result in us, settling into complacency and building our own houses with things that were intended for the house of the Lord. So, our hope is that Istrouma would be a people that rejects compromising our faith. Then when we see people try to come into the church and change theology, or we see movements that don't embrace what the heart of the gospel is that we recognize it and we reject it, that we'd be people at Istrouma that discern where God is at work. And we want to join it, that we would endure through opposition. That comes our way. And in the end, we become people who were more like the Lord because there's a chance that opposition in our lives exist. So that we'll be more focused on the Lord and what he's doing in our lives and in the world, his opposition is real, but the good news is, so it was our God and he's in control. So let's take a minute and pray together and then you'll be dismissed.

 

Lord. We love you, God, we thank you for today. We thank you for the book of Ezra and what it teaches us God so much about your promises and your faithfulness. And Lord had even teaches us how to face opposition.

God, I pray for each one of us here, Lord that for whatever we're walking through today. And so many of us are walking through times that are hard and God, some of us are even walking through things that are real spiritual opposition in our lives. God, we pray that we would be focused on you, that our dependence on you would grow. And in the end, we would see your goodness at work in our lives and in the world around us. Lord, God, we love you, Lord. We thank you for today and we thank you for a chance to gather here in person and even online Lord.

Amen

 

have a great day.

Direct download: IBC_20200816.mp3
Category:Ezra -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Ezra

Istrouma Baptist Church – Micah Cating, Youth Pastor

 9:30 AM Sermon August 16, 2020

"Opposition is real"

Ezra 4

Jeremiah 29:4-7, Jeremiah 29:10-14

 

 

Well, good morning. Hope you're doing well today. It really is great to see so many of you in the room as we begin to slowly regather back. And for those of you who are watching online, we're so grateful that you're doing that 2020, right? It's been a crazy year. I love mornings like today where we get to see people, baptize families dedicate their kids because not only is it a sense of normal, but it's just a great reminder that God is at work. Not everybody feels that way right now, though. People feel overwhelmed, stressed out, maybe opposed by different things. And I saw something the other day online. It just made me laugh. And you've probably seen it too. It's like, let's just put up the Christmas tree and call it a year. Right? Anybody seen that? I saw the other day, there's a dr. Pepper shortage. And I was like, Lord, what more do we have to give up? So it's just rough. I am experiencing virtual school in my house with our first grader, Luke, he'll be here next hour. And it's been crazy. We're so thankful his school has done a great job transitioning us to virtual school. But if any of you or anybody in that world, you've got virtual school happening at your house. Okay. We'll pray for you again later. It's crazy. Like even though it's, well-planned everything, it's just a different kind of wife and it's hard. And it reminds me that some seasons of life are just harder than others. And I read an overview of the life of a man that you'll actually know who he is when we're done with this, but he had experienced many hard times in his life. And so I just kind of took notes of some things that happened in his life. And I thought I'd share them with you. I'm not trying to depress you at the start of this.

 

I just think it's helpful getting where we're going. So this guy, when he was seven years old, his family was forced out of their home and he had to go to work to help support them. So seven years old when he was nine, just two years later, his mother died fast forward a little bit. When he's 22, he's been working as a store clerk for years. He loses that job. He wanted to go to law school, but he didn't have the education because he'd been working all of his life. So at 23, he went into debt to become the partner of a local little small store in his town. At 26, his business partner died that left him a massive debt to have to figure out on his own. At 28. I love this when he started courting a girl for four years, so thinks things are going well. He asked her to marry him and she says, no. I'm like man at 37 on his third try, he finally gets elected to Congress. But two years later, he fails to get reelected. And 41, his four-year-old son dies and 45. He runs for Senate again and he loses 47. He runs for vice president and he loses 49. He ran for the Senate again and he loses. He thinks at this point he would just give up. But at 51, he was elected president and that man was Abraham Lincoln. You know, and I've heard stories of his life all my life. And I feel like we hear so many of the amazing things that happen in his life later in life, but to see where he came from and the hardship that he went through gives a greater appreciation for some of the things that he was able to accomplish.

 

The truth is life is rarely easy. I think many of us know that right now, but one of the things that I think is important to distinguish is that a live of following the Lord doesn't really end in years of just guaranteed easy days. And it doesn't really end in a chorus of people cheering our name and saying how great we are just because we love the Lord. Especially in today's setting. I find that most of the time in today's setting, if you out to go out to honor the Lord with your life, you'll probably face numerous setbacks. And some of these setbacks are just a result of living in a fallen world, right? We live in a broken world. That's full of sin. We sin ourselves and have consequences that we face as a result of our sin. But sometimes the challenges that we face are more than just the result of being in a fallen world. Sometimes those challenges are really the outworking of a spiritual battle that rages below the surface of everything. And so, one of the things that I wanted us to think about today as we continue our series on Ezra is, I want us to think about the idea that opposition, spiritual opposition in our lives is real.

 

As we've been walking through this book, we've kind of come around three words, you've seen it at the end of our video. Maybe you've seen it on some of our social media posts, the three words of return rebuild and renew. And I think those are three great words to think about in our lives in the world that we're living in. And so, as we've looked in the book of Ezra and we continue to study this book, if you remember, we've, we've talked so far about how these people who are exiled from Jerusalem taken off in a Babel and how they've come back, they've returned. And today we're going to talk about how they're attempting to rebuild the temple. And then later they'll try and rebuild the city. But before we jump into the book of Ezra, I thought it'd be good for us to think back a little bit about where these people had been. And what they'd seen is it'll help us understand a little bit about how they face spiritual opposition. You see, it's been 70 years when we start our passage today, it'll have been 70 years since the Israelite exile had begun. If you remember it, King Nebuchadnezzar came into Jerusalem, right? He destroys the city destroys the temple. Like Rob's the temple of all of its like precious things. All these things that people would have held, dear, he would have taken like the best and the brightest from Israel and he have taken them off into exile. And what we know is that during this period of exile, there's some amazing stories that happened. The story of Daniel Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego all happened while they're in exile. And for the particular part that we're looking at today, this portion of their history is right when the story of Esther happens in scripture. In fact, one of the Kings that we'll talk about today is the same King that Esther is married to. And thing his opposition was nothing new to these people. Not at all. Jerusalem was in shambles. The temple was in ruin and the people were spread all over the world. But every time opposition rose up for these people for God's people, God's provision was there as well. And so I want to read a portion of Jeremiah 29. You probably know one verse from Jeremiah 29, but I want to put some context around it, just to tell a little bit about a message that the people of Israel receive at the very beginning of exile. So if you remember the first week of this series, when King Cyrus is sending them back, right, that's sitting in the back, I'm talking about way before that, right after Jerusalem is destroyed and they're sent off into Babylon and they’re re land in Babylon. This is the letter that they receive. It says in Jeremiah 29, verse four, it says, thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles who I'm sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon build houses and live in them, plant gardens and eat their produce, take wives and have sons and daughters take wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage that they may bear sons and daughters multiply there and do not decrease, but seek the welfare of the city where I've sent you into exile and pray to the Lord on its behalf for it's in your welfare, you will find your welfare for thus says the Lord when 70 years are completed for Babylon, and this is where we're going to be talking about today, seven years later, I will visit you and I'll fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place for, I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord plans for welfare, not for evil to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me. And I will hear you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart, and I'll be found by you declares the Lord. I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I've driven. You declares the Lord. And I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you in to exile. What an amazing thing. When I think about the people that this was written to, they had no question that opposition was real. They had seen it seen the temple of the Lord destroyed.

 

They had been separated and scattered, but in the midst of it all, they had hope. They had hope because of the promises of God. They had hoped that 70 years later, they would have a chance to return. And what I think is amazing about this is when we talk about the people of the pastors that we're studying today, they not only have hope that God might do something there. I have confidence that God might do it because they've seen it do it. They're sitting in Jerusalem; they're living there again. They're working to rebuild at this point, they have rebuilt the altar and they're actually worshiping at the site of where the temple had been. That would have been a dream for people 50 years before they've seen the goodness of God. And they're beginning to rebuild the temple. They're beginning to make efforts to do it. And they have great trust that God is at work. And that brings us through our main passes for today, which is Ezra four. And we're just going to kind of read this through in chunks as we go. And we're going to start in verse one, Ezra four verse one says this. Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin, which are two of the tribes of Israel, heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of the father's houses and said to them, let us build with you for, we worship your God. As you do pay attention to that for, we worship your God as you do. And we've been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon King of Assyria who brought us here, but as Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the father's houses in Israel said to them, you have nothing to do ,with us and building the 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 to do first one really quickly establishes that the people who approach the people of God who were building the temple was people who approached her adversaries of God. And one of the things that we learned by looking at these peoples, we understand that opposition begins with compromise because what happens is these people come up and they say, Hey, we're with you. We worship the same God as you do. But the fact that verse one calls him adversaries really helps me process the response of the leaders of Israel. Cause they're pretty rude. They're like, they don't say, Hey, no, thank you. Maybe we'll call you. If it gets a little rougher, they're basically like getaway. You have nothing to do with us. You have no right to be here. You have no reason to be here, go away. God has called us to do it. Not you, which is not usually how our churches operate today, but I think we can learn something from it, but their response is harsh. And the reason it's harsh is because these people were trying to get the people of God to compromise what they're doing. Okay. You have to understand a little bit of the history of this time to understand what they're trying to do. These people, that approach are actually the forefathers of some people that you would know from the new Testament. They're the forefathers of the Samaritans because here's what happens when Israel is taken into exile, Jerusalem.

 

And a lot of that area is left. Mostly empty. People are left behind, but not a ton. And so there's a place to send people there. So the Assyrian King later sends basically immigrants into Israel and tells them to settle there. And they start marrying with the Jews that are left over in that place. And the Samaritan race is born. And one of the problems is when those people are there, there's a lot of hostilities they're trying to live there. And so the Assyrian King sends a priest out of exile back to Israel and says, Hey, teach these people the ways of God. And so he teaches them, the rituals, the routines, the sacrifices, all of the things that they would need to know. And so these people, without a temple, without an altar, which would have been blaspheme in the eyes of the Jewish people at that time, they continue to sacrifice, even though there's no temple and they attempt to worship the Lord, but there's a passage from second Kings 17, that kind of explains this history that lets us understand if those people are the same people who approach the builders of the temple. If those people actually are fully devoted to the Lord. And so second Kings 17:33 says this, these people fear the Lord, but they also serve their own gods after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away.

So these people bring their history of worshiping other gods and they just meld it together with the worship of the God of Israel sound familiar. It should have, because it happened all throughout the old Testament. And I would say it even happens a lot in our world today. And so these helpers’ approach, the temple builders, and they said, Hey, we can help you. We worship your gun too, even though that wasn't really true. And if these people would have infiltrated the building of the temple, it really could have been disastrous because not only could they have watered down the faith of the people of Israel, if they would have helped build the temple, they would have had a place in the temple worship. They had been able to say, we're a part of this process. And as they would have gathered in the temple, they would have brought their other gods, their other beliefs into that moment. But here's what I think is interesting. God's people say no, and they say no harshly, but they say no. And I think it's interesting because they could have used the help building a simple is not easy. Their progress is slow. They could have used more bodies. They could have used a strong cultural and economic connection with the people who already live there. Remember they're new back in this place. Once you come back, they're really old. They were really young when they were there. And if they're kind of middle-aged, they probably were born in exile. Like they, they need connections, but they still say no. So when I think about that, and I think about the temptation for our faith to be watered down, I'm always reminded that matters of theology are not the place to compromise what we think about God matters. What we know about how we form a relationship with God. It matters the reason behind our service to other people. When we go out into the community, it's not just being kind, it matters. It's a bridge to the gospel. So don't compromise is what I hear. When I see this passage, don't compromise to be inclusive and don't compromise to get the job done More quickly. Another thing we see about the opposition from this passage is that opposition will use discouragement and fear to distract God's people. As where four, four says, this is interesting. All right, the people have offered to help. They've been told no rather harshly. And so it says the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build discouragement and fear. And they bribe the counselors against them to frustrate their purpose all the days of King Cyrus of Persia, even until the reign of Darrius King of Persia.

 

To me, it's really amazing how quickly that turns, Hey, let's build together. We worship your same God, and now it becomes, Hey, we're not only trying to discourage you and make you afraid. We're kind of like paying lawyers to come against you and make your job even harder. And what that shows is that the true motives of the opposition are revealed. They weren't really motivated by let's worship the same God together. They were motivated by having influence and control. They were focused on themselves. And what's interesting is they were really pawns in a spiritual battle. And I don't know if they even knew it. But one good thing to remember is that the opposition we face in our lives often goes deeper than the people that we encounter. And Ephesians six reminds us of this. Ephesians six, 10 through 12, says this finally be strong in the Lord. And in the strength of his mind, put on the whole armor of God that you may be, be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. We don't wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers against the authorities against the cosmic powers over this present darkness against the spiritual forces and evil in the heavenly places. I think this happens a lot, but we can't lose sight of the fact that the enemy is at work in the world. You know, we say opposition is real. To be more clear. Satan is real. The work of evil in our world is real, but the good news is the Lord is at work in our world as well. But without a clear recognition of the spiritual battles that exist around us, we'll be tempted to overlook, maybe ignore and kind of minimize the way that we see the enemy working in our midst. So we just have to recognize that there's certain things in our life that lead us to discouragement and fear, and they might not be at the Lord. Here's what happens when praying plants, the compromise us fail. Like we see these people come into the temple when that fails discouragement and fear usually happen next. And so I wonder for you in life right now, if you're struggling at all with discouragement or fear, maybe life's been so busy and hectic and crazy that you haven't had a chance to stop and think about it, but maybe the enemy working in your life to discourage you and make you fearful.

 

Maybe it looks like questions like this thoughts like this, maybe thinking what you're doing won't make any difference in this world or any eternity. So why try, maybe you're a teacher, like we mentioned earlier, and you think, man, these kids, they don't appreciate my efforts. I'm looking at them through a screen. Why even bother, let me just float through and miss the opportunity you have to impact the next generation. Maybe you're watching online and you're like, man, I've gone this long without being a church in person. Do I really need those people? And you isolate yourself. What if you're worried about, I don't know if we have enough money to make this month's bills or what if someone, I love to get sick or maybe you're just thinking like so many, how much longer we have to live. Like this man was this over. We have to recognize that sometimes those thoughts are the enemy working in our lives to distract us from what God is doing. And we recognize that the most fearful and discouraging thoughts are often not from the Lord. We're really free then to start thinking about the things of God, because opposition uses fear, uses discouragement to distract us. The next thing is can be discouraging is that opposition doesn't disappear quickly. We've seen this in verse six and seven. Hang with me for a minute here on the history of this. I know we've dived into a little bit already, but those people opposing the building of the temple. They're so frustrated with the work that's being done, that they write a letter to King Ahasuerus. Now this is probably why they called him Xerxes. All right. He had another name and King Xerxes is the same King that we find in the book of Esther. And so they write him a letter, but the letter that's actually included in chapter four here is not the letter to Artaxerxes. You'll probably see it in your notes, in your Bible. It's a letter to Artaxerxes who reigns later on. And so the writer of this book, Ezra, who hasn't shown up in person yet at this point in Ezra, he's writing kind of the history what's happened for the people who were his contemporaries are in his life.

 

And he's trying to show his people that he's writing that even after the temple one day gets built. People are still opposing the work that they're trying to do to build the city of Jerusalem at the time that Ezra writes 80 years later. And he's trying to say, Hey, this isn't new these people from the beginning. And so the opposition doesn't go away easily or quickly and recording the opposition, how they consistently challenged God's people allowed as we're to set an example, say, Hey, here's how we can follow the Lord.

 

Well, and here's how we need to avoid struggling, but it is possible to be faithful. And so here's what you got to see. It's 80 years of opposition and Israel's people are mostly faithful to the Lord, but here's an important thing for us to know their faithfulness to God, didn't make the opposition go away, right? Their faithfulness, the Lord didn't stop it. So that's a reminder to us today, as we face opposition, to know that we have to dig in at times and we have to hold strong and do what is right, because opposition doesn't disappear quickly. And the other thing we see is that opposition will misrepresent God and his people. And we see this one begins to dig into, Hey, what did they write to the King? And what they do is they totally misrepresent the people of God. And they pull up the kind of the bad stuff from their history. And they write a very one-sided letter because we know, Oh, that opposition will say anything to stop the work of the Lord. Satan. It's not described as a truthful person. He's a liar, he's a deceiver. And so the letter that we see written here was written by really powerful and influential people that lived in Jerusalem that were Persian officers. It was the treasurer of King Cyrus. One of the Persian officials in Sumeria, these were men of renown and very famous in the government of Syria. And they used their position to stop the work of the Lord. Ezra four verses 14 through 16, gives us a little bit of what they wrote. Artaxerxes. It says this now because we eat the salt of the palace. That's them saying, Hey, we're faithful to you King, and it's not fitting for us to witness the King's dishonor. Therefore, we send and informed the King 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 learned that this the city is a rebellious city, hurtful to Kings and provinces. That sedition was stirred up in it from old. That's why the city was laid to waste. We make known to the King that the city is rebuilt, and its walls are finished. You'll have no possession in this province beyond the river. So again, you see the opposition showing their true colors, who they're really faithful to. We're faithful to the King. We're not faithful to these people building and they're troublemakers. And they tell them all about the history of bad and how it's. But what we have to see is that it's not really the whole truth because reality is especially an exile. God's people had a history of living in a peaceful existence in Babylon, and it was under God's direction. Maybe you caught it in that very first passage we read from Jeremiah.

 

Jeremiah instructed the people living in Babylon. He didn't say, Hey, rebel and tear this whole thing down. He said, be peaceful. He said, build homes, plant gardens, like your kids married each other. Let them have kids. Let's let our numbers increase, but let's pray for the welfare of the city because in the city's welfare as well, you'll find where you find your own. And I wonder if that's how we would define ourselves as people who are praying for our country, for our nation, for our city. Are we people who pray that way? Who seek the good of it? I think we are. I'm always encouraged by, but what's amazing is how the opposition at this point leaves all that out and just says, hey man, they lead to rebellion. They're going to take all your power. And the truth is twisted. In this case to make the people who are pursuing the Lord seem like the enemy there's made to seem irresponsible, irresponsible, rebellious, and dishonest.

 

And the world often twists the truth to make godly people look wicked, feel like I see that in the world today, where Christians are often labeled as bigoted and hateful and bullies. Right, I know you see that. And you sense that you see it and it comes the views on reproduction rights, sexual orientation, gender identity. I was like, man, they don't include anybody. Look how hateful they are. Look how bigoted, but the truth is opposition will misrepresent God and his people all the time. And the point is to make us the enemy. So, where does this leave us? Just a couple final thoughts? Really important thing to recognize is that opposition may slow the work of God's people, but it won't stop the work of God. Ezra four 24, it gives some sobering news. It says the work on the house of God, that's in Jerusalem stopped. And it ceased until the second year of the reign of Darrius King of Persia, work on the temple stop for more than 15 years, but it didn't stop forever and delays in God's work. It's not the same as God being defeated or God not being real or God not being there. And the truth is God has purpose and all, even things that when we see it, we go, man, I feel like the church has been defeated. I feel like God has been defeated. I feel like God may not have power to do anything, but the truth is we can be temporary print temporarily delayed, but we won't be permanently defeated. So don't lose sight of God in the waiting. Don't be tempted to compromise because things get hard or because you need the help. But here's what happens to God's people. When the work stops, they lose sight of what God had done. Like they knew that the prophecy from Jeremiah, they were the, like the living proof of it. They had returned back. And when the work stops, they just lose focus and they go settle into a new routine that loses sight on the Lord.

 

We'll talk more about this next week, but they basically take the supplies for the temple and go build houses and go, alright, well, here we are. But God was still at work. He was still in control. And so, we have to recognize that God's provision in the opposition, not to settle for good enough when spiritual opposition comes, which is what these people do. They go, man, we're back in Jerusalem. Good enough, I guess, right? The Temple's not here, but at least we came back. Maybe part of what God said is true with the most powerful King of the world, just shut us down. So I guess we're stuck here. So don't settle for good enough. And then also don't give too much credit to the opposition. I think sometimes we like credit the opposition and then instead we make it easy to justify our spiritual laziness. We say things like it must not be the Lord's will or his timing for something to happen, just because something gets hard. And in reality, God may be waiting for us to take some initiative. We say things like where God guides, he provides, which is true, but maybe our idea of provision is skewed.

 

Maybe God's providing us just what we need through the opposition that we face, because the reality is the opposition that faced the temple builders. It wasn't outside of God's knowledge, his plan or his control. And he was doing something in that opposition. But a lot of times we mistakenly assumed that if the Lord's in it, we won't have hassles, setbacks and frustrations. While we tried to get the work of the Lord done, but that's really inconsistent with scripture.

 

So let's remember something today that feels kind of weird. Opposition is a gift. It's a gift because it reminds us that, Hey, I'm not in control, but God's in control. Opposition is a gift because it reminds us not to be spiritual wimps and just give up. But to be reminded of second Corinthians four were afflicted in every way, not crushed, but not crushed perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken struck down, but not destroyed. Opposition reminds us, Hey, I'm human and frail, but God's not. And he's in control. And he's working even in the face of those who oppose him. I think back to last week, you remember Jeff Williams was teaching and he said, worship is not about us. It's about the Lord. I think that's a great thing to remember when it comes to opposition, it's not ultimately about us. It's about the work of the Lord that opposition will blow through us to try and attack the Lord, but he's sufficient and he's strong and opposition that can result in us having more dependence on him, or it can result in us, settling into complacency and building our own houses with things that were intended for the house of the Lord. So, our hope is that Istrouma would be a people that rejects compromising our faith. Then when we see people try to come into the church and change theology, or we see movements that don't embrace what the heart of the gospel is that we recognize it and we reject it, that we'd be people at Istrouma that discern where God is at work. And we want to join it, that we would endure through opposition. That comes our way. And in the end, we become people who were more like the Lord because there's a chance that opposition in our lives exist. So that we'll be more focused on the Lord and what he's doing in our lives and in the world, his opposition is real, but the good news is, so it was our God and he's in control. So let's take a minute and pray together and then you'll be dismissed.

 

Lord. We love you, God, we thank you for today. We thank you for the book of Ezra and what it teaches us God so much about your promises and your faithfulness. And Lord had even teaches us how to face opposition.

God, I pray for each one of us here, Lord that for whatever we're walking through today. And so many of us are walking through times that are hard and God, some of us are even walking through things that are real spiritual opposition in our lives. God, we pray that we would be focused on you, that our dependence on you would grow. And in the end, we would see your goodness at work in our lives and in the world around us. Lord, God, we love you, Lord. We thank you for today and we thank you for a chance to gather here in person and even online Lord.

Amen

 

have a great day.

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Category:Ezra -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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August 9 | Ezra (BR)
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August 9, 2020  | Jeff Williams
"Starting Right"
Ezra 3:1-6

Ezra 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. 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. 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. 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, 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. 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.

Worship focuses our attention

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Ezra 3:10-13
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. 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. 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, 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.

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Category:Ezra -- posted at: 8:37am EDT

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Agosto 9, 2020
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Esdras 3:1-13
Cuando llegó el mes séptimo, y los hijos de Israel estaban ya en las ciudades, el pueblo se reunió como un solo hombre en Jerusalén. Entonces Jesúa, hijo de Josadac, con sus hermanos los sacerdotes, y Zorobabel, hijo de Salatiel, con sus hermanos, se levantaron y edificaron el altar del Dios de Israel, para ofrecer holocaustos sobre él, como está escrito en la ley de Moisés, hombre de Dios. Y asentaron el altar sobre su base, porque estaban aterrorizados a causa de los pueblos de aquellas tierras; y sobre él ofrecieron holocaustos al S EÑOR, los holocaustos de la mañana y de la tarde. Y celebraron la fiesta de los tabernáculos como está escrito, con el número diario de holocaustos, conforme a lo prescrito para cada día; y después ofrecieron el holocausto continuo, y los de las lunas nuevas, los de todas las fiestas señaladas del S EÑOR que habían sido consagradas, y los de todos aquellos que ofrecían una ofrenda voluntaria al S EÑOR. Desde el primer día del mes séptimo comenzaron a ofrecer holocaustos al S EÑOR, pero los cimientos del templo del S EÑOR no se habían echado todavía. Entonces dieron dinero a los canteros y a los carpinteros, y alimento, bebida y aceite a los sidonios y a los tirios para que trajeran madera de cedro desde el Líbano por mar hasta Jope, conforme al permiso que tenían de Ciro, rey de Persia. Y en el segundo año de su llegada a la casa de Dios en Jerusalén, en el mes segundo, Zorobabel, hijo de Salatiel, y Jesúa, hijo de Josadac, y los demás de sus hermanos los sacerdotes y los levitas, y todos los que habían venido de la cautividad a Jerusalén, comenzaron la obra y designaron a los levitas de veinte años arriba para dirigir la obra de la casa del S EÑOR. Entonces Jesúa con sus hijos y sus hermanos, Cadmiel con sus hijos, los hijos de Judá y los hijos de Henadad con sus hijos y sus hermanos los levitas, se presentaron todos a una para dirigir a los obreros en la casa de Dios. Cuando los albañiles terminaron de echar los cimientos del templo del S EÑOR, se presentaron los sacerdotes en sus vestiduras, con trompetas, y los levitas, hijos de Asaf, con címbalos, para alabar al S EÑOR conforme a las instrucciones del rey David de Israel. Y cantaban, alabando y dando gracias al S EÑOR: Porque Él es bueno, porque para siempre es su misericordia sobre Israel. Y todo el pueblo aclamaba a gran voz alabando al S EÑOR porque se habían echado los cimientos de la casa del S EÑOR. Pero muchos de los sacerdotes y levitas y jefes de casas paternas, los ancianos que habían visto el primer templo, cuando se echaban los cimientos de este templo delante de sus ojos, lloraban en alta voz mientras muchos daban gritos de alegría; y el pueblo no podía distinguir entre el clamor de los gritos de alegría y el clamor del llanto del pueblo, porque el pueblo gritaba en voz alta, y se oía el clamor desde lejos.

1.    La adoración enfoca nuestra atención.

2.    La adoración fortalece nuestra esperanza.

3.  La adoración alinea nuestras prioridades.

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Istrouma Baptist Church
Aug 2, 2020

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August 2 | Ezra (BR)
Welcome Back! We're glad you've joined us today for our Sunday morning worship service! For more information about Istrouma, go to istrouma.org or contact us at info@istrouma.org.  

We glorify God by making disciples of all nations.
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August 2, 2020  | Jeff Williams
"Starting Over"

God is never distracted or defeated

Jeremiah 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.

Isaiah 44:28
who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose’; saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’”

Isaiah 45:1
Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed:

Ezra 1:1-5
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: “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. 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. 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.” 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.

God is not nervous or fearful about your mess

Ezra 2:64-69
The whole assembly together was 42,360, besides their male and female servants, of whom there were 7,337, and they had 200 male and female singers. Their horses were 736, their mules were 245, their camels were 435, and their donkeys were 6,720. Some of the heads of families, when they came to the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem, made freewill offerings for the house of God, to erect it on its site. According to their ability they gave to the treasury of the work 61,000 darics of gold, 5,000 minas of silver, and 100 priests’ garments.

God takes whatever we have to offer and multiplies it for His glory

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Istrouma en Español
Aug 2 – 3, 2020

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Agosto 2, 2020
Constructor Divino
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Esdras 1:1-6
En el primer año de Ciro, rey de Persia, para que se cumpliera la palabra del S EÑOR por boca de Jeremías, el S EÑOR movió el espíritu de Ciro, rey de Persia, y este hizo proclamar por todo su reino y también por escrito, diciendo: Así dice Ciro, rey de Persia: «El S EÑOR, el Dios de los cielos, me ha dado todos los reinos de la tierra, y Él me ha designado para que le edifique una casa en Jerusalén, que está en Judá. El que de entre todos vosotros pertenezca a su pueblo, sea su Dios con él. Que suba a Jerusalén, que está en Judá, y edifique la casa del S EÑOR, Dios de Israel; Él es el Dios que está en Jerusalén. Y a todo sobreviviente, en cualquier lugar que habite, que los hombres de aquel lugar lo ayuden con plata y oro, con bienes y ganado, junto con una ofrenda voluntaria para la casa de Dios que está en Jerusalén». Entonces se levantaron los jefes de las casas paternas de Judá y de Benjamín, y los sacerdotes y los levitas, y todos aquellos cuyo espíritu Dios había movido a subir para edificar la casa del S EÑOR que está en Jerusalén. Y todos los que habitaban alrededor de ellos les ayudaron con objetos de plata, con oro, con bienes, con ganado y con objetos preciosos, además de todo lo que fue dado como ofrenda voluntaria.

1. El Propósito de Dios en la historia.
“En el primer año de Ciro, rey de Persia, para que se cumpliera la palabra del Señor por boca de Jeremías.”(v. 1ª)

2. La Providencia de Dios en corazones.
“…El Señor despertó el espíritu de Ciro, rey de Persia.” (v.1b)

3. La Provisión de Dios en sus manos.
“Entonces se levantaron … todos aquellos cuyo espíritu despertó Dios para subir á edificar la casa de Jehová, la cual está en Jerusalén.” (v.5)

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