Month: March 2022

The Resources To Rebuild – Liberating Passover

Ezra 1:1-8, 11, 2:64 – 70 NIV

Cyrus Helps the Exiles to Return

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing:

“This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:

“‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them. And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’”

Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites—everyone whose heart God had moved—prepared to go up and build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. All their neighbors assisted them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in addition to all the freewill offerings.

Moreover, King Cyrus brought out the articles belonging to the temple of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his god.[a] Cyrus king of Persia had them brought by Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah.

11 In all, there were 5,400 articles of gold and of silver. Sheshbazzar brought all these along with the exiles when they came up from Babylon to Jerusalem.

Ezra 2:64-70 NIV

64 The whole company numbered 42,360, 65 besides their 7,337 male and female slaves; and they also had 200 male and female singers. 66 They had 736 horses, 245 mules, 67 435 camels and 6,720 donkeys.

68 When they arrived at the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, some of the heads of the families gave freewill offerings toward the rebuilding of the house of God on its site. 69 According to their ability they gave to the treasury for this work 61,000 darics[a] of gold, 5,000 minas[b] of silver and 100 priestly garments.

70 The priests, the Levites, the musicians, the gatekeepers and the temple servants settled in their own towns, along with some of the other people, and the rest of the Israelites settled in their towns.

Expect Delays – We Can Make Our Plans But The Lord Determines Our Steps

*Expect Delays*

Are you kidding me ? I was already late. But the road sign ahead instructed me to adjust my expectations: “Expect Delays,” it announced. Traffic was slowing down. I had to laugh: I expect things to work on my ideal timeline; I don’t expect road construction.

On a spiritual level, few of us plan for crises that slow us down or reroute our lives. Yet, if I think about it, I can recall many times when circumstances redirected me — in big ways and small. Delays happen. King Solomon never saw a sign that said, “Expect Delays.”

But in Proverbs, he does contrast our plans with God’s providential guidance. He wrote : _“Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word.”_ Solomon restates that idea, where he adds that _even though we “plan our course . . . the Lord establishes our steps.”_ In other words, we have ideas about what’s supposed to happen, but sometimes God has another path for us.

How do I lose track of this spiritual truth ? I make my plans, sometimes forgetting to ask Him what His plans are. I get frustrated when interruptions interfere. But in place of that worrying, we could, as Solomon teaches, “grow in simply trusting that God guides us, step-by-step, as we meditate to seek Him, await His leading, and – yes – allow Him to continually redirect us”. – Adam R. Holz_

I know not what the day may bring. Tomorrow waits unknown; But this I know, the changeless God, My Lord, is on His throne_. — Anon.*Our unknown future is safe in the hands of the all-knowing God. Trade anxiety for trust. God will guide your way.*

Stay Blessed My Friend

Hope For Justice – Justice and Adversity

Job 42:1-6 NIV

1 Then Job replied to the Lord:
2 “I know that you can do all things;
    no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
    Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me to know.
“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.’
My ears had heard of you
    but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
    and repent in dust and ashes.”

Job 42:10-17 NIV

10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver[a] and a gold ring.

12 The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters. 

14 The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. 15 Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.

16 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17 And so Job died, an old man and full of years.

To other countries I go as a Tourist, to India I come as a Pilgrim

After six full days of travel, Martin Luther King Jr. had finally arrived. He was met with wreaths of flowers and driven to a luxury hotel near the India Gate. He undoubtedly had jet lag, but before he could sleep it off, a news conference was set up in the lobby.

“To other countries I may go as a tourist, but to India I come as a pilgrim,” he told the two dozen reporters gathered there on Feb. 10, 1959.

They peppered him with questions. Was it true interracial marriage was illegal in the American South? Could nonviolent protest work in colonized Africa? Was he a vegetarian?

The Montgomery bus boycott three years earlier had been closely watched in Indian newspapers, particularly since King, as the young leader of the boycott, espoused the teachings of Indian leader Mohandas K. Gandhi. Now, he would be spending a month in India to learn more and pay homage to his hero.

King first learned about Gandhi as a seminary student in 1949, just a year after Gandhi had been assassinated. He soon wrote about Gandhi in his schoolwork as a person who “greatly reveal[s] the working of the Spirit of God.”

Six years later, after the arrest of Rosa Parks, King led the 381-day boycott that would make him famous. Of the nonviolent direct action technique, he said, “Christ showed us the way, and Gandhi in India showed it could work.”

The story of how Michael King Jr. became Martin Luther King Jr.

King had always hoped to visit India, but the civil rights movement kept him too busy for years. Finally, in 1959, a trip was organized and co-sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee and the Gandhi National Memorial Fund. His wife, Coretta Scott King, and biographer Lawrence D. Reddick joined him on the trip.

Everywhere they went, they were treated as honored guests, King later remembered. They had to turn down hundreds of invitations but still had a jam-packed schedule throughout their stays in New Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta and Madras.

One of their first stops was to the samadhi, or cremation site, of Gandhi’s remains. King and his party laid a wreath of flowers; according to one observer, King was “deeply moved” and knelt to pray for a long time.

He met with India’s prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and vice president, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who had been close associates of Gandhi’s during India’s struggle for independence. Later, in her memoir, Coretta King said her husband compared it to “meeting George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison in a single day.”

King met with many of Gandhi’s friends and family, who gave him their blessing to continue spreading Gandhian teachings. He visited Buddhist and Hindu temples and with leaders of movements to redistribute land and eradicate the caste system.

He also gave lectures at several universities. In Bombay (now Mumbai), he had a particularly spirited discussion with African students who challenged him on whether nonviolence could be effective in the struggle against colonialism in Africa, according to the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University.

“They felt that non-violent resistance could only work in a situation where the resisters had a potential ally in the conscience of the opponent,” King later said. “They, like many other students, tended to confuse passive resistance with non-resistance.”

Coretta joined King at many of these talks, and “the Indian people love to listen to the Negro spirituals,” King wrote later in Ebony magazine. “Therefore, Coretta ended up singing as much as I lectured.”

While in Bombay, King was also invited to stay at Gandhi’s private residence. He wrote in the guestbook, “To have the opportunity of sleeping in the house where Gandhiji slept is an experience that I will never forget.” (Adding “-ji” to a name signifies reverence.)

Toward the end of the trip, one of his guides observed “both the Kings (especially King himself) are JUST PLAIN EXHAUSTED.”

Martin Luther King Jr. was stabbed by a deranged woman. At 29, he almost died.

King gave a final news conference and radio address on March 9, the night before their departure, telling listeners he was leaving India “more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity.” (You can listen to the audio here.)

King had another news conference when he arrived back in New York City a few days later, but it doesn’t appear to have been well attended; neither The Washington Post nor the New York Times mentioned it.

Four days later, he returned to the pulpit for a Palm Sunday service. He preached to his congregants about Gandhi’s life and martyrdom, comparing him to Jesus and Abraham Lincoln. He told them — six years before the march from Selma to Montgomery — about the Salt March in 1930, when Gandhi led millions on a 218-mile nonviolent protest of an unjust law. Hundreds were beaten by British authorities and more than 60,000 arrested, but, “the British Empire knew, then, that this little man had mobilized the people of India to the point that they could never defeat them,” King said.

Jesus once said he had other sheep who “were not of this fold,” King reminded the congregants, before concluding, “It is one of the strange ironies of the modern world that the greatest Christian of the 20th century was not a member of the Christian church.”

Sweet Fruit From A Thorny Tree

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was no stranger to suffering. Known in his day as the “Prince of Preachers,” Spurgeon faced trials of various kinds throughout his life, some physical, some circumstantial, some internal and personal.

Such a man—one so saturated with Scripture and seasoned through suffering—has much wisdom to offer us. This is wisdom for everyone, because the question of suffering is not a question of if we will face it, but when. Suffering is one of life’s certainties, as is the good which God produces through it. We would therefore do well to listen to the Spurgeon as he offers counsel to prepare us for the suffering we will face.

In an article entitled “Sweet Fruit from a Thorny Tree,” Spurgeon provided insight from his own experience of suffering. He describes himself as one “who ha[s] of late been a prisoner of the Lord in the sick chamber.”[1] Yet his time in the figurative cell was not wasted, as he goes on to say that his experience of darkness and depression and difficulty has yielded good fruit. It is the fruit he wishes us to taste, so as to strengthen us to face the thorns.

1) “Pain Teaches Us Our Nothingness”

The first lesson Spurgeon learned from suffering and shared is that “pain teaches us our nothingness.”[2] When we’re healthy, it’s easy to think we have the world by the tail. When we’re strong and not facing the uncertainties of biopsies and tests, it’s tempting to enlarge our sense of self-sufficiency and self-esteem. When this happens, our inflated self-perception becomes unmoored from reality. According to Spurgeon, it is in the experience of limitation and weakness that we discover the truth about ourselves. “How,” he writes, “have I felt dwarfed and diminished by pain and depression!” He goes on to describe his experience: “The preacher to thousands could creep into a nutshell, and feel himself smaller than the worm which bored the tiny round hole by which he entered.”[3]

Most of us are far too great in our own estimation. Often, God chooses to use sickness and disappointment and heartache in order to confront us with our frailty. In other words, He must discipline us as a loving Father. And while the discipline is unpleasant, “it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

2) We Learn Where to Find Hope and Cast Our Cares

The second lesson from Spurgeon is that “heavy sickness and crushing pain shut out from us a thousand minor cares.”[4] Some forms of suffering leave us unable to tend to our normal affairs—life’s “minor cares”—forcing us to entrust to the Lord all the things we are helpless to do. We often experience this in our own lives and ministries, when we have been totally incapable of fulfilling our usual duties. What a gracious reminder to see that Jesus Christ is well able to take care of everything without our help! The experience of suffering reminds us of our reliance on God. Even the apostle Paul, himself well acquainted with sorrow, confessed that one divine purpose of his suffering “was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God” (2 Corinthians 1:9).

The question of suffering is not a question of if we will face it, but when. Suffering is one of life’s certainties, as is the good which God produces through it.

Spurgeon says, “The reins drop from the driver’s hands, the ploughman forgets the furrow, the seed-basket hangs no longer on the sower’s arm.” In other words, nearly all of us eventually reach a point in life where we cannot do the tasks that we so often take for granted. And this experience, he says, cuts us “loose from earthly shores” and provides us with a dress rehearsal when our life’s work will end and we will be no more.[5] What an invaluable lesson that can be learned through no other means!

3) Pain Leads to Tenderness

Spurgeon also observes, “Pain, if sanctified, creates tenderness towards others.”[6] Without the grace of God, the pain, disappointment, heartache, sadness, and sickness we endure may simply harden our hearts and make us resentful. But when grace sanctifies our pain and sickness, our trial may become the occasion for our hearts softening and genuine sympathy prevailing. Indeed, we may be equipped through it such that “we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:4).

The way Spurgeon puts it, suffering will open doors of ministry that would have otherwise remained closed to us: “The keys of men’s hearts hang up in the narrow chamber of suffering, and he who has not been there can scarcely know the art of opening the recesses of the soul.”[7]

4) The Old Is Seen in a New Light

Finally, sickness and other trials may cause us to become all the more focused and diligent when we have been favored—if we have been favored—to return to the place of our service. “Pain,” says Spurgeon, “has a tendency to make us grateful when health returns.”[8] The “wasted” months may lead to an economy of life wherein we’re more earnest, more careful, more prayerful, more dependent upon God, more passionately committed to doing the work of the Gospel than before we went in the chamber and found the keys hanging on the hook.

We do not know what kind of suffering we will face. But how encouraging it is to see the fruit God has produced through the suffering of His people! There are lessons in the school of suffering that we could not otherwise learn, and God Himself will walk with us through each trial. He has brought us thus far, “through many dangers, toils, and snares,”[9] and He will lead us home. The Lord Jesus—the Suffering Servant of Isaiah’s prophecy—was a man of sorrows, was acquainted with grief, and yet endured it for the joy set before Him (Isaiah 52–53). We now go through our sufferings in His footsteps, enduring no darkness that He has not endured before us and for us. And so our suffering will make us like Him—and that will be the sweetest fruit of all.