EZRA CHAPTER 3
12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses,old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.
Don’t let the memory of past troubles drown out the knowledge of current blessings.
In Chapter 3, the Jewish people are laying the foundation of God’s temple. Many of overjoyed at the prospect at having a place to worship their God again. However, there are some who remember the old Temple and the old days and weep because they are gone. The Temple will never be as glorious as the first. We often do the same thing today. At least, I do. I focus on the negatives and blind myself to the blessings God gives me NOW. At THIS moment. It is easy to get caught up in how rough you had/have it. I’ve gotten pretty good at picking out how sinful I am and how messed up my life is. I forget to be thankful. I forget to worship Him for all the things he has given me. He has even given me His son so that I can live in perfection with him forever. And I find that once I stop concentrating on all the bad things and focus on the good, my attitude toward life, others, and Christ changes! I am happier and hopeful, knowing full well that this world is not my home. God loves me and He love you and we will see His glory. That’s a promise (Psalm 27:13-14).
Lord, thank you for all your blessings. Thank you for who you are. I confess that my mind is clouded with the past and I tend to dwell in these thoughts. Please help me to focus on your love and truth and not myself. Amen.
We’ve all been through trials, though they look different to everyone. A trial could be a bad day at work, parent’s divorce, battling depression, or a a midlife crisis. One person’s trial is no different than another’s and all can be pretty tough to deal with. I’ve had a pretty rough time these past few months and through the pain, confusion, and despair, God has amazingly shown me the benefits of going through tough times:
- Compassion for Others
I have always considered myself an empathetic person, but no matter how empathetic you are, it is still hard to relate to something someone is going through if you’ve never been there. For example, I have never lost someone super close to me so the grief that accompanies the loss of a loved one is foreign to me. Suffering through a trial creates relatable experiences and opens our minds and hearts to others’ loss.
“…That there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” – 1 Corinthians 12:25-26“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” – Romans 12:15
- The Realization that we need Christ
Even if your trials are not brought about by a sin you committed or something you have personal done, they have a way of humbling us. I have never felt so unredeemingly broken as I do when going through a trial. I have felt lost, confused, a sinner, not enough and too much all at the same time. And Jesus lovingly reminds me that it’s ok. He doesn’t need me to be anything else than what I am. I don’t need to do anything. Just wait on Him as He moves.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:35-39
- Patience is a virtue
I always think I am the most patient person ever until I have to wait on a trial or ‘season’ in my life to pass. WHAT IS TAKING SO LONG? I always wants to be ‘fixed’ now. Learn whatever God is teaching me NOW. But alas, God has his own timing. And me being impatient often makes the trials even more agonizing. I’m still learning to trust God and his way of doing things. Because if I’ve learned one thing in my life, its that I have the worse timing.“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! “- Psalm 27:14
“For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” – Habakkuk 2:3
“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” – Proverbs 16:9
- The Need for Others
Growing up I always kept things to myself. I kept all my emotions, worries, and fears locked inside a tiny box deep inside and wouldn’t share them. I have come to find that my reasons for that were two things: The fear of being “too-much” for people and the desire to be completely self-sufficient. And unfortunately, I didn’t have the community I have now back when I was little (or at least I didn’t reach out to one). Over the past year, God has shown me the power that comes from biblical community. There is love, compassion, accountability and strength in that power. And we need that. God did not create man to be alone. And through community I have learned that I am never “too much” and that God gave me community to share my burdens with me. And most importantly, I can’t depend on myself. I will undoubtedly lead myself down the wrong path if unchecked by loving and faithful community. I need to depend on Christ and on the people he put in my life.“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:24-25
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2
Hope. It sounds easy but it’s actually quite hard. It requires faith. And though Faith is my middle name (true story.) , in the midst of a trial its pretty shaky. It’s hard to believe in something good when everything around you is anything but. But God promises good to us. To those who know and love him. And though we may not feel hopeful or cheery and the idea of considering the trial “as pure joy” is infuriating, it doesn’t matter. God’s truth remains true. Everything will work out for our best.“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10
So my ‘trial’ isn’t over and some days I feel like giving up, curling into the fetal position, and crying. But I am confident that God’s goodness will prevail over my circumstances. And that gives me the strength and stubbornness to reject Satan’s lies. And though James 2:3-4 can make me so mad sometimes, I am starting to see how you can truly consider your trials as pure joy. And I am excited to see the end result.
“Fewer guns means fewer murders” – Bloomberg
I do not condone violence in any shape or form, but I think it is ignorant to assume violence will stop if a weapon is banned. People determined to kill will kill by any means necessary. This isn’t a gun issue. It’s a heart issue. The problem lies in the current moral state of this country and if we don’t change the way we raise our children, these acts of evil will only get worse. We need to drastically change the morals and fundamentals we teach future generations. We don’t teach them to face the consequences of their actions. Instead, we teach them to disrespect authority by eliminating punishment and coddling them. We teach them that they can do whatever makes them happy even at the expense of others, which engenders a mentality of “I can do whatever I want. You can’t touch me”. We teach them to value wealth and status achieved through power, manipulation, and greed instead of teaching them the value of education, service to others, and temperance. We let them have it all and wonder why they can’t practice self-control. We encourage experimentation with sex, drugs, and alcohol at an early age and are surprised at the teen birth rate and the commonness of alcohol poisoning and drug overdoses. We teach our children easy fixes to their problems instead of showing them how to persevere through trials, watching in wonder as the abortion rate rises, graduation rates fall, and the number of divorces increase. Guns are not our problem. It is much deeper than that. A little band-aid of a gun control policy will just make the wound messier. We need to take a good look at ourselves and at this country. The United States isn’t the greatest country anymore. But it can be. This next generation has the choice to continue on a path of destruction or to make a change and, in my humble opinion that change starts with the church. We need a revival. We need to start walking the walk and no longer simply practicing what we preach, but LIVING it. No more hatred and legalism, but loving rebuke. We need to not compromise our beliefs but share them with other in love and with purpose. This world is not our home. As believers, we need to start living out our faith, and proving it. A faith without works is a dead faith (James 2:17). The world today is a scary place with evil around every corner. But we have hope. We have a God who loves us to the point of committing his son to die on a cross so that the evil among us and within us won’t separate us from eternity with Him. God will have His justice and Evil will not win.
“For the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out.” Proverbs 24:20
“If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still.” Ecclesiastes 5:8
My family has been through a lot over the past 2 years. I have been constantly reminding myself to consider my trials pure joy (James 1) and that God is in control. Though I’ve told myself this many times, it didn’t really sink in until tonight. Not only does God have a plan, but he knows our sinful nature. He knows all. Nothing is hidden from Him. He knows its our nature to sin and has planned ahead in order to bring about His glory and the glory of His Son, Jesus Christ.
“For we know all things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28)
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
It is truly a comfort to know that though the trials we go through are caused by our sin, our sins are not too big or too messy for God. He has already planned ahead and made everything work out in the end. No matter what happens, nothing can stop God’s children from being redeemed through Jesus Christ. That is God’s plan: an eternal relationship with us, His children. All we have to do is accept His gift.
So God really does have a plan. God has planned to use these trials I’m going through to bring me closer to Him and make me a stronger daughter of Christ. As hard as it can be at times, I’m going to take every day as a gift from God, no matter what happens. Despite the trials we face daily, each day is truly a joy and ultimately brings us one day closer to an eternity with our Heavenly Father.
And knowing that brings me pure joy.