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Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry

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Bible

Follow Me-A Priest Gets Ready to Go

Ezra 7:6-10

This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the Lord his God upon him. And there went up some of the children of Israel, and of the priests, and the Levites, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, unto Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king. And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. For upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him. For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.

Ezra 7-10

As various Persian Kings granted the authority to do so, various groups of Jews who had been in the Babylonian Captivity began returning to Jerusalem to re-establish the thing which had been destroyed during the conquest some 70 years before. There were three waves of returnees. Wave one was the group led by Zerubbabel, who returned to rebuild the Temple. The third was the wave led by Nehemiah, who returned to rebuild the city wall of Jerusalem and the city itself. The second wave was led by Ezra and was going to rebuild nothing which was physical. Ezra’s mission was to restore and rebuild the newly free nation spiritually. He was to teach all the things of the law and restore Israel to proper worship of their God.

Clearly, Ezra was called for this mission, and clearly, God saw the need for a man to return to Jerusalem to accomplish it. Why is this clear? Well, twice in the above passage we are told that the hand of God was upon Ezra. This leaves little doubt as to his calling and the need for Ezra to answer. So, some 60 years after the Temple was completed, Ezra headed that direction as commanded. So, what quick lessons can we glean here?

First, Ezra went. That seems self-evident, but it isn’t really; men and women decline to answer the call of God in their lives all the time. While Ezra was probably a strong, intelligent and competent person, it is God’s call and hand in it which ultimately enabled Him to succeed in his mission. God will give us all we need to do His will; the only thing He won’t provide is the willingness on our part. So, had he not been willing, then this post would have been about somebody else.

The need for spiritual instruction and restoration is as real to Christians today as it was to the Jews in that day. The need for men willing to step forth boldly and accomplish that is also as real today as it was then. There is something else we who are called should have in common with Ezra:

Ezra 7:10 For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.

Friends, that right there sets the standard for all who are called to be teachers of God’s Word to others. If we approach it any other way, then we are not performing to standard. Anything less and we are half stepping.

Ezra prepared his heart. Being a teacher of faith to others is not an accident. We have to be prepared spiritually. This will require much prayer, study and meditation on both the Scriptures and about God’s desires.

What did Ezra prepare his heart to do? He prepared it to seek the law of the Lord. Nothing has changed here, only we seek the knowledge of God’s completed canon of Scripture. If we are attempting to be teachers and are not striving to be as knowledgeable of our teaching as possible then, again, we are half stepping.

Ezra strove to do it. We can’t learn God’s Word until we study it, but once we know it, we should attempt to live it. Can any of us live it perfectly? Of course not. We won’t see perfection until we see heaven. Here is a tough word, teacher friends. If we aren’t at least trying to live God’s Word, we aren’t ready; in fact, if we ignore, openly rebel, or turn a blind eye to disobedience around us we simply should not be leaders or teachers. This is worse than half stepping.

On after Ezra learned God’s Word did he try to live it. Only after he lived it did he try to teach it. He had two things: God’s hand on him, and his own willing and prepared heart.

Friends, the Israelites deserved this from the man who was to teach them God’s law, and those we are responsible for deserve it from us.

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Follow Me-A Priest Follows God Not Man

Ezra 10:2,3

 And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing. Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.

Ezra 9 and 10

Men of God, if you want your feelings stroked, stop reading now; continue and you might get your feelings hurt.

For many, Ezra 9 and 10 are problematic. In summary, some of the Jewish men, after returning to Jerusalem from captivity had taken pagan wives, and their sons and daughters had likewise taken pagan spouses. In a nutshell, God directed Ezra to deliver the news that these men were to all put away, or divorce their pagan wives and send them and the children of those unions away. We won’t belabor this issue here, just remember friends that, while God doesn’t change, He may change how he deals with His children at different times in their lives just as any Father might.

What had happened here was extremely serious. It was things like this, among many others, which had been the cause for the exile and captivity in the first place! Full restoration to the Law of God was not going to be possible in the face of such pagan influences in the congregation, and quick decisive action was needed. The tailspin this was going to cause had to be reversed.

There is a little known man in this story who responded in an epic way. Actually, it wasn’t really epic; this is exactly how all men of God should respond when faced with a choice like he had.

The priest Shechaniah, as we can see above, did not hesitate to come on board with God’s plan here; after all, he personally was not guilty of the problem offense. But, wait, there’s more! This man may have not been personally guilty, but a perusal of the genealogy of the offenders at the end of Chapter 10 reveals something interesting; his father and five of his paternal uncle WERE guilty. Ouch, right? This is almost an unimaginable situation, and the pain of standing on God’s Word must have been very real. Yet, Shechaniah did just that

As we covered earlier, this was a situation that was very dangerous. This mixing with the pagan world, and ignoring open, notorious sin and willful rebellion were very dangerous. In fact, there was little doubt that eventually, it would cause the undoing of the nation of Israel yet again. God will NEVER bless rebellion and disobedience. Open sin, rebellion and willful disobedience are like cancer that destroys a congregation from the inside, and decisive often painful treatment is required.

Friends, there is nothing new under the sun. Nothing has changed. Open sin, rebellion and willful disobedience are still like cancer. Today, these things will kill a New Testament church. The patient may linger, as we provide treatments that prolong the illness, but offer no cure. Without the proper, quick and decisive treatment needed, the patient(the church,) will finally die. That’s grim, isn’t it?

It need not be though, friends. When we see this around us what will we do? Will we ignore it, turn our head and pretend nothing is wrong? Worse, will we celebrate it and react with joy? Hey! Awesome sin, way to go! God forbid anybody construes this as some legalistic, judgmental tirade because it is not. Yet, some things are simply wrong, and when we ignore them, the impact is huge. God won’t bless that, we look like hypocrites, and the list goes on.

Where is Shechaniah when we need him? Who will stand with God even when it hurts? Who will stand with God even when it means turning our backs so to speak, on those we love? Who will stand with God even if we have to stand alone? Who will stand with God even when it hurts our pocketbook? This man Shechaniah provided his answer by his actions.

Godly leadership must act; we cannot stick our heads in the sand. When we do, we are more guilty than the offender.

What is OUR answer? We have been warned.

 

 

Just a Thought

If we are patient to do God’s will, He will take our weakness and give us His strength


Isaiah 40:31 

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Bogard Press Daily Devotional-Judas Betrays Jesus

by Robert Brock

Judas Betrays Jesus

Mark 14:43-52

“And he that betrayed him had given them a token, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; take him, and lead him away safely,” Mark 14:44.

In William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, Caesar’s close friend, Marcus Brutus, helped the Roman senate stab the dictator to death. Caesar looked Brutus in the eyes and said, “Et tu, Brute” (you too Brutus?). Jesus looked Judas in the eyes and said, “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” (Matthew 26:50).

Judas went on all the mission trips; he was trusted as finance officer of the first church and carried the purse. None of the other apostles doubted Judas’ integrity or loyalty. When he left the last Passover meal, the eleven thought he went to give alms to the poor. Actually, he went to betray Jesus to the Pharisees for the price of a servant.

In John 10:9 Jesus said, “I am the door.” Judas kissed the door to Heaven and went to hell. How close to salvation can one get and still miss the mark? “Those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12). In Matthew 13, Jesus taught that Satan would plant tares among the wheat. Tares are weeds that look like real wheat but are empty. Peter said in Acts 1 that Judas had taken his own life.

THOUGHT: We must make sure we do not sell out Jesus 
for much less than Judas did—a TV show, a few extra hours of extra sleep—while our pew remains empty.

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Just a Thought

God doesn’t give us a blank check for superhuman strength to do whatever WE want, but He will always provide what we need to do what HE wants.


Philippians 4:13 

 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Bogard Press Daily Devotional-Pilate Resorts to a Custom

by Robert Brock

Pilate Resorts to a Custom

Matthew 27:21-26

“Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified,” Matthew 27:22.

Pilate was not in charge. God had allowed the Pharisees to back him into a corner and force his hand. After Lazarus’ resurrection, the Jewish leaders met. “If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation” (John 11:48). Pilate proclaimed Jesus innocent several times and asked the Jews whether or not they wanted him to release their king. The Jews sprung their trap; He says He is king. If you release Him, you are no friend of Caesar’s.

In spite of the Jews’ vindictive plan, Pilate proclaimed under Roman law that Jesus of Nazareth was the King of the Jews and had that statement nailed to His cross. Pilate had asked Jesus whether He really was the King of the Jews, and Jesus had responded “To this end was I born” (John 18:37). The Pharisees pleaded for the release of a thief named Barabbas and the crucifixion of Jesus.

Even though Jesus was promised in Genesis 49:10, the Jewish religious leaders willingly gave him up to be crucified. The Jews wanted to protect their plush positions granted them by Caesar to rule the people and keep down riots.

The Pharisees paid the soldiers to spread a rumor that Jesus’ disci-ples carried away His body and hid it. Jesus raised many believers and sent them to town wrapped in grave clothes, implying to the religious leaders: “What are you going to do about this?”

THOUGHT: God springs His trap on His enemy in His own time.

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Bogard Press Daily Devotional-Peter’s Empty Boast

by Robert Brock

Peter’s Empty Boast

Matthew 26:33-35

“Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples,” Matthew 26:33-35.

Two thousand years later on the other side of the cross, we see Peter’s brag as empty. However, when it was proclaimed, it was sincere to Peter. This was a public proclamation of Peter’s faith in the Lord, even though he did not understand the vanity in his boast. Noteworthy, all the other apostles swore they too would die for him, when in all actuality, Jesus would die for them. The entire passage has a prophetic ring. The Good Shepherd would die for His sheep, and they would scatter. However, after the crucifixion and all His resurrection appearances, they actually did die for Him. By that time, their testi-mony was sincere. The death of the saints has always been the seed of the churches. When one was martyred, a thousand stepped up and laid their lives on the line. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.…Nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).

THOUGHT: They were disciples indeed. How sincere is our faith?

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Just a Thought

Brothers and Sisters, we are NOT required to roll over in the face of the wolves.


Jude 3 

Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

Bogard Press Daily Devotional-The Impulsive Action of Peter

by Robert Brock

The Impulsive Action of Peter

John 18:10, 11

“Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant‘s name was Malchus. Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” John 18:10, 11.

“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). “Then said he unto them, But now…he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough” (Luke 22:36, 38). “And he [Peter] said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death” (Luke 22:33). Peter was definitely confused since Jesus had told them to carry a sword. In all this confusion, Satan was able to persuade him to deny Jesus three times.

We must not be too judgmental toward Peter’s expectations of a king. In Matthew 19, Jesus had promised them a throne as princes when He set up His kingdom. Coming down to the crucifixion, He was telling them He was going to let the Jewish leaders kill Him. Peter had given up three years of his life following Jesus, expecting to set Him on the throne. One can become so fearful of making wrong decisions that he becomes nonfunctional, not wanting to make a mistake and offend God.

THOUGHT: Often we have to go through many experiences with God before we can learn to just do what He says, even if we do not understand. We might end up like Paul, battered and bruised, but a little closer to learning how to live by faith.

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