Welcome to Palmerston EMC!

Palmerston EMC is made up of people from various walks of life.  A somewhat traditional church, we reflect a small town personality with strong family ties.  Agriculture and agricultural related business employ a large portion of our congregation, while some of our people are self-employed or work in industry, service or government.  We are a practical, service oriented congregation with a heart to see God’s work in Palmerston move ahead. We have a strong desire to worship and serve God, to reach out to our community, to grow spiritually and to see new people come to faith in Jesus Christ.

You are welcome to join us!

Canadian Bible Engagement Study

read bibleIn 2013, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, in partnership with the Bible League of Canada, the Canadian Bible Society, The Gideons, Open Doors, Wycliffe and a few others, released the results of a survey that asked Canadians about their engagement with and belief in the Bible.

It is important for Canadian Christians to understand the results of this survey as it applies to our culture. But the results of this survey are also a wake-up call for Canadian Christians.

One line stood out above all of the others in the report of the survey. It is this line: “The Bible engagement of self-identified Christians as a whole is not very different from Bible engagement of Canadians generally.”

Brothers and sisters, this should not be so!

There are positives. People who read the Bible regularly are 6 times more likely to attend church regularly, and 10 times more likely to consider the Bible God’s Word.

13% of Canadians and 23% of Canadian Christians agree that the Bible is relevant to daily life.  That is encouraging! Those who believe that the Bible is relevant to daily life are over 10 times more likely to read the Bible frequently and are four times more likely to attend church weekly.

The Bible engages and changes lives! But we as Canadian Christians need to be setting the example and leading the conversation.

For more information about the survey, please go to: http://www.bibleengagementstudy.ca/

Here are the survey result files:
CBES Executive Summary
CBES Full Report

Let me encourage you my friends: be engaged with the Living and Active Word of God!

Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9:1-17: Boldness

Today’s readings make me oddly sad as I read about the death of John to the Baptist and the reason for his death. Essentially he died because he spoke the truth into a situation where the truth was not welcome. I do find it interesting that both Matthew and Mark indicate that King Herod was not interested in killing John, and Mark even seems to insinuate that Herod respected John and even respected him despite the message John spoke that Herod did not want to hear. That message was that the marriage between Herod and Herodias, who was his brother Philip’s wife. According to Jewish Law, a man was not allowed to marry his brother’s wife unless the brother was killed and the man was fulfilling the redeemer role that Boaz fulfilled for Naomi and Ruth.

I don’t know if you have ever been in a situation where you’ve had to speak truth into a corrupt or sinful situation, but it can be very stressful and difficult, especially when the person involved in the questionable activity is unwilling to hear what you have to say. In this case, Herodias was more than unwilling to hear John’s words, she was murderous in her rage against him.

It must have been challenging for John to speak into that situation, knowing it would get him in trouble with the royal family and their powerful friends. Why keep at it? I think the answer is simple: the truth burned so strongly in John’s heart and mind that he had no choice but to speak out against Herod’s sinful relationship. It is much the same passion that caused Paul to write, in 1 Corinthians 9:16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach.Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

The words of the gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, burned with such passion in Paul’s heart that he was COMPELLED to preach, it would not be contained. I think John was much the same way when he spoke to Herod about Herodias. The truth within him compelled him to speak out. Now let’s be honest, neither Paul nor John appear to be timid, shy guys. They both come across in scripture as very forward guys who laid the truth out plainly, whether it hurt or not. Were they that way because it was their personalities, or because the Holy Spirit’s prompting was so strong that they had not choice.

I think we assume it was their personalities, but I wonder if we’ve misread that a little bit. If we assign that boldness to their personalities, it leaves us an out when we are in similar situations. “I can’t say anything about that, I’m too shy. I’m no preacher.” But if it was their passion for the truth of God that prompted them to speak, empowered by the Holy Spirit (the same Spirit we have by the way Romans 8:11 tells us that), then it leave us no excuse to be just as bold as John was in this situation.

Something to ponder.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: John 6

Matthew 9-10

I must admit something. As I am working through these readings to write these blog posts, I am finding it very difficult to determine what to write about. Reading two chapters involving the life and teaching of Jesus and writing about one thing is like trying to pick out the red gumball in a bowl of red gumballs. I can’t possibly mention everything that catches my attention.

Let me mention one thing then from Matthew 10 verse 16. Jesus is sending the disciples out on their own for their very first taste of first-hand ministry. Before doing so he gives them some instruction and some advice. We might be tempted to consider his training a bit on the light side by today’s standards. He doesn’t run them through a 6-week course on how to share their faith, he doesn’t give them any nifty acronyms to remember evangelistic principles and he certainly doesn’t give them any tracts to hand out. It is very much trial by fire where they have to rely solely on their faith to see them through. This is shown even in Jesus’ command to take nothing with them but to rely on the provisions given to them by others along the way.

Then in verse 16, Jesus tells his disciples to be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves. These are to characteristics that we need to take to heart as Christians today. First we have to understand that shrewdness is not a negative thing. To be shrewd means to be astute, to have good judgement. In Bible speak it means to be discerning, to have an understanding that pierces through things and sees their true nature. Too often I have seen Christians be the exact opposite of that. I have seen Christians be taken in by very ungodly things because they are not shrewd, they have no skill in perceiving the underlying truth. This includes being taken in by scams to being lured into cult-ish practices. Things like the use of crystals, involvement in secret societies (like the Masons), fortune telling, wigi boards, they are all activities that I have known Christians to be involved in because they did not understand the true spiritual nature behind the practices. We need to be shrewd my friends.

And we need to be innocent. Paul writes: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:12) The reason we are to be innocent is so that there will be nothing to say against us by those who don’t believe in Jesus. Pause for a second and think about if you have lived up to that standard. Don’t think about anybody else, I’m sure we’ve all known Christians who have fell in this regard. But this is about you. Have you been as innocent as a dove? If someone were to dig deep into every crevice of your life, what would they find? It is a very sobering command Jesus gives here. Be innocent so that when your life is examined by others they will see nothing to use to disprove your faith.

Shrewd and innocent. To key characteristics for us to have in our lives.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9:1-17

Matthew 8:14-34; Mark 4-5: Beg

begGood morning again my friends! It is nice to be writing to you again after being away at the EMCC’s Pastor’s Retreat and then enjoying some time away with my family camping over Thanksgiving weekend. Yes, you read that right, we were camping. It was kind of damp and chilly, but we have a nice tent trailer and a couple of heat sources. Actually let me pass on a bit of clever information that I had not thought of: if you are going camping and will be on a site with electricity, take an electric space heater with you. You are paying for electricity anyway, save your propane (if you have a furnace) and burn the electricity instead. Hadn’t thought of that before and a friend mentioned it to me before we left this past week. Worked well!

I want to focus on something today that I had not picked up before in reading through these gospel chapters. That’s why I love reading scripture by the way, different things stand out at different times.

In the Matthew 8 reading we find Jesus dealing with two demonic men. He casts out the demons, the men are freed and the villagers who hear about it beg Jesus to leave their area. Then we read through Mark 4-5 and we see a similar thing happen. Jesus is in the boat with his disciples, a storm comes upon them. Jesus calms the storm and the disciples are terrified of him.

I had not picked up on how often people displayed some pretty strong discomfort with Jesus before. Even the teaching parts of what we read today are not easy teachings. They challenge us to the core of who we are and why we do things.

Our reaction to Jesus can be similar. Jesus can be ready to teach us something difficult or be wanting to do something powerful in our lives and instead of welcoming him in to do the work he wants to do, we beg him instead to leave. Like in the story of the demons and the pigs, Jesus will do as we ask.

It is interesting that in these chapters today we see the opposite thing displayed as well. We see the reaction of the demon possessed man once he is healed and we read about the woman with the bleeding disorder who is healed and we read about the synagogue leader whose daughter is brought back to life. None of them respond with fear. They place their faith firmly in Jesus and respond in joy to the transforming work that Jesus does in their lives.

But notice the difference: the ones who respond in fear and discomfort are the ones who are not in desperate need, but the ones who respond in faith and joy are the ones who are in desperate need and find relief in Jesus. I wonder if sometimes we don’t realize that desperate need we are all in from a spiritual standpoint and so our response to Jesus is a bit off.

If you know that Jesus wants to work with you on something, that he wants to heal you of something or teach you something, let me encourage you to react with joy and faith in his transforming work in your life. Don’t beg him to leave.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Matthew 9-10

Matthew 2; Luke 2:29-52: Mystery

MysteryI don’t know if you have ever noticed, but there is a fair part of Jesus’ life that is shrouded in mystery. I say that not create a crisis of faith, so don’t get too worked up. But there are different moments and time periods in Jesus’ life that we just don’t have a complete picture about.

Today’s readings reflect this.

First there’s the Wise Men. These three apparent royal astrologers who follow a start to pay Jesus homage and present him with gifts. While I always like to consider the Magi from the perspective of their gifts to Jesus and lead that into pondering what gifts we bring to Jesus (typical pastor type of thoughts), it struck me as I was reading about them this time just how mysterious they are. We don’t know their names. We don’t know exactly what country they are from. We’re not even sure that there were three of them (we just assume as much because there were three gifts…and you know what it means to assume :) We’re not even sure when they visited Jesus. I know we place them in our manger scenes, but I think that is more out of a need to keep things simple during our Christmas pageants. It’s kind of difficult to have the manger scene with the angels and shepherds and then do a quick set change to show the Magi visiting Mary and Jesus in some house. The truth is that the second description is actually what Matthew tells us. Matthew 2:11 says: “entering the house…they worshiped him.” Stable and house are two very different places.

The passage from Luke 2 offers us another mystery because it contains the only mention of Jesus’ childhood between the Magi visit and his baptism. A brief glimpse into a 12 year old boys trip to Jerusalem to observe the Passover, a trip that finds him schooling the religious experts at the Temple. Side note: did you notice in those verses from Luke 2 that it is said that Jesus was asking the teachers questions, but it was the teachers who were astonished with Jesus’ answers. That pattern will continue all through Jesus’ life as the religious elite try to trip Jesus up by asking him questions; questions he always has a very clever answer to. Just thought I’d point out to you.

So much of Jesus’ early years are shrouded in mystery. Even some events during his ministry years are passed over with little to no detail. For instance we know that Jesus made it a habit to get up early and go away to a private, quiet place to pray. But what did that look like? Was he visited by the Holy Spirit? What did he pray about? We just don’t know.

I point this out for two reasons, well one reason split into two I guess. God uses the Gospels to tell us everything we need to know about Jesus in order to put our trust in him. We are told who he is, what his life was like, what his main teachings were and how he fulfilled is mission to seek and save that which is lost (that’s you and me by the way). The second part of that reason, I believe, is that faith required us to believe in what we do not see or fully comprehend. Jesus says to his disciple Thomas: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Part of believing in Jesus is accepting the mystery, the parts that we don’t understand or even fully see yet. 

So don’t get caught up trying to figure out where or why the Wise Men appear on the scene, and don’t try to figure out where Jesus was from his birth to 12 and then from age 12 to 30. It’s not worth it. Let the mystery be, trust that God will fill in those blanks when the time comes. Trust that we know everything we need to know.

Take 2 Peter 1:3 to heart: His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Matthew 3; Mark 1; Luke 3

Matthew 1; Luke 2:1-38: Be careful

I found myself tempted this morning when I was going back over this reading to crash through it fairly quickly. These opening chapters the gospels are probably ones that I have heard or read the most in my life. Between yearly readings through Advent and Christmas, they have been in my life at least once per year. They have become familiar, which is nice, but also a bit dangerous. It is easy to think that I’ve heard or discerned all that there is to learn.

Two falsehoods are contained in that thought. First, we can never fully comprehend all that scripture has to teach us. Second, even if I’m familiar with a passage of scripture, I still need what it has to teach me, even if there is nothing “new” about it. Sometimes what we actually need the most is a reminder of what we think we know.

For instance: after reading through the Old Testament, does the genealogy of Jesus from Matthew 1 mean something different to you this time around? Are the names more familiar? Do the names tell you anything after reading their stories? Or have you stopped to consider the immensity of what God does by fulfilling prophesy through Mary in the way he does? Have you stopped to consider how Joseph must have felt through all of this?

There are always things we can either learn or be reminded of when we read scripture. We must be careful never to feel so comfortable with scripture that we are not asking the Holy Spirit to show us something, to minister to our hearts and to give us fresh wonder at the amazing things God does.

Here’s another perspective to consider: we are walking toward Thanksgiving and we are reading what would normally be a “Christmas story”. I think it is actually pretty cool that we are reading about the birth and ministry of Jesus leading up to Thanksgiving. It gives us something to focus our thanks on as we enter that holiday.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Matthew 2; Luke 2:29-52

Luke 1; John 1:1-14: Continued

I’m sure for some of you out there reading this, today marks an exciting day. Today we begin our journey through the New Testament toward the completion of our Bible Challenge for 2014. As of today we are 75% finished this challenge! What an amazing thing.

But as we being our turn into the story of Jesus, let me remind you that we must not think about the Bible as two separate stories or two separate entities. The Bible is one story, creation to redemption. It is not “the old plan” vs. “the new plan”. It is not vengeful God vs. grace filled God. The Bible is one story, and both of the Testaments are key to that story. So while it may seem natural to rejoice that we are leaving the Old Testament behind, please do not forget everything that the Old Testament has taught us. It has taught us about God’s love for humanity from the very beginning, and how we threw that love in his face when we disobeyed him (and continue to disobey him). It has taught us about God’s reaction to sin. We call that reaction judgement, but let’s not forget that God is holy, and his very nature makes the sight of sin abhorrent to him. But even in the Old Testament, God provided a way through sacrifices, to shift his anger over sin away from his people. The Old Testament has taught us about God’s mercy and grace as well. Grace is not a New Testament invention, and God’s grace is certainly evident in many places in the stories of the Old Testament.

I think the thing that has stood out for me the most from our Old Testament readings was how many of the promises we cling to as Christians are actually Old Testament promises. Promises about God’s provision, about God’s faithfulness, about God’s plan for us, about our uniqueness in God’s eyes, about God’s watchfulness over us, they are all Old Testament promises that are either repeated or build on in the New Testament.

Of course, the biggest promise from the Old Testament that we are beginning to explore today is God’s promise to send his Chosen One, the Root of Jesse, the Messiah to save his people from their sins. Jesus. While today is not about the birth of Jesus, our readings today set the stage for God’s physical entrance into human history. The main figure in that preparation is John the Baptist, born to Zechariah and Elizabeth among more than a couple miracles.

Allow me to remind you of something that is important in light of Gabriel’s visits to Zechariah, Elizabeth and Mary; Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy (remember she was barren) and Mary’s visit from the Holy Spirit. We have transitioned from Old to New Testaments with the turn of the clock. Bible time did not happen that way. Between the writings and prophesies of Malachi and Gabriel’s entrance on the scene in Luke chapter one, four hundred years had passed. Four hundred years in which God was silent. No prophets, no angelic visits, no movements of God’s angels to rescue or punish his people, nothing. Biblical scholars call these the “400 silent years”. Out of that silence, these things start to happen.

Does that mean God was not working or present during those 400 years? No. And to be honest I can’t explain why he was silent for such a long period of time. All I know is that the huge silence was followed by the biggest noise creation had ever experienced. To be honest, creation will not experience such a noise again until Jesus returns with the trumpet blast and the shout of the archangels. But that’s a story for another day.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Matthew 1; Luke 2:1-38

Malachi: Honour God

I don’t know how many of you have ever read Malachi before. I’m sure some of you will be familiar with some of the verses out of this book, even if you were unaware that Malachi was where those verses lived in the Bible. In all my years in church, I don’t think that I have ever heard a sermon out of Malachi, and I can honestly say that I have never preached one. That will change this weekend, as Malachi is the text I will be using for my sermon on October 5.

Malachi is a pretty simple book to understand really: it all boils down to honouring God in your heart. The context of Malachi’s words on this topic is the way the people of Israel were dishonouring God with their offerings at the temple. The people were bringing sick or lame animals for sacrifice instead of the perfect ones expected of them. Malachi also points out to the people that they were not honouring God by bringing in their 10% tithe to the temple at harvest time.

I know church people do not like to talk about money, and to be honest pastor’s don’t usually like talking about it either. For too long people have been convinced that the church is after their money, which should be the furthest thing from our minds. We should be concerned that people are going to hell.

At the heart of the matter, those two topics (money and hell) are all about the same things: honouring God. The way we give (joyously or grudgingly) and how much we give (from our excess or from our gain) really comes down to how much we honour God in our hearts. Malachi is God’s way of reminding his people, that’s us too by the way, that God deserves all glory, honour and praise. The way we give and how much we give should reflect that.

There is also a second topic mixed into the conversation about honouring God. There is a prophetic element mixed in  as well. Specifically chapter 2:17-3:6 and chapter 4 both talk about the future coming of God’s kingdom and the judgement that will come with that day. It may seem odd that these two sections crop up in Malachi’s otherwise very pointed message, but if you think about it, these two messages go very well together. If we don’t honour God, then we will face the consequences, either in this life or at the moment when God judges everyone. Malachi is not talking about salvation earned through works here. He is talking about faith that shows itself in how we live our lives. Our faith in God, our desire to call him King of kings, should show up in how we make decisions and the kind of life we live; a life that honours God.

The hard part is, it sometimes does not seem very worth it to follow God. Sometimes it actually feels like the hard road instead of the easy road. Some of Malachi’s audience must have felt this way. Chapter 3:13-4:3 addresses this very issue, and in those verses God confirms his commitment to reward the righteous and punish the wicked.

This is a challenging little book and I hope you take the time to let the Holy Spirit lead you in a search of your own heart to determine just how much you are honouring God.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Luke 1; John 1:1-14

Nehemiah 6-13: Leadership

As we closed out Nehemiah yesterday, I thought it wise to comment on something that caught me off guard. I was raised in the church. I have seen the best the church has to offer, and I have seen the worst the church has to offer. But one thing has been kind of constant in every church that I have ever attended, including the two that I have lead as pastor. It is this: the church does not do well in handling conflict or pulling those who are doing wrong up short. If I would use a single word to describe this aspect of church culture, I would say it is passive. There are many reasons for this that I can see:

First, adults in our culture do not take correction or rebuke well. In fact, most adults have a pretty strong independent attitude that does not take well to being corrected. People get offended, they get angry, some get vengeful…and it doesn’t seem to matter how lovingly or gently the correction is given.

Second, I know pastors are often reluctant to dole our correction because, to be quite frank about it, it endangers their jobs. Many a pastor has taken on someone of “importance” in a church and found themselves on the curb.

Third, I find that the church itself is so badly out of practice when it comes to correction or discipline that even when they decide to take action it goes horribly wrong for everyone involved. This leads to either more problems or an even stronger reluctance to take corrective steps the next time around.

As I read the end of Nehemiah’s story, I was completely knocked off of my feet reading about how he dealt with those who required correction. Nehemiah was not someone who beat around the bush, and he certainly wasn’t someone who let things slip. But I cannot imagine acting like he acted in today’s church culture. Take his actions in the last account of chapter 13 as an example. Some of the Israelite men had taken foreign wives and were having children who not only were of mixed blood but who did not even speak the Hebrew language. This made Nehemiah furious and he responds by not only pointing out the wrong but acting rather violently, beating some of the men and pulling their hair out (pulling hair out was an act of humiliation in that culture).

We would not tolerate leadership doing something like that today. But it does raise an interesting discussion about how appropriately we respond when people blatantly disregard God’s commands. One of the stipulations God laid out for Israel through Moses was that they were not to take foreign women as their wives or give their daughters in marriage to foreign men. Yet here we find the returning exiles doing just that. It is the disregard for God’s law as well as the disregard for God himself that makes Nehemiah so furious.

The people were to honour God in every way and in every area of their lives. Their disregard for this overall command is what lit Nehemiah’s fuse.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture

Tomorrow’s Reading: Malachi

Ezra 7-10 & Nehemiah 1-5: Two perspectives

This is a good opportunity for me to remind you that Ezra and Nehemiah come at the rebuilding of Jerusalem from two different perspectives: Ezra is a priest and an expert in the Mosaic Law who is interested in the Temple and spiritual purity, while Nehemiah is a social leader, determined to get the walls around Jerusalem rebuilt and the people back in shape as a nation.

The interesting thing about both men is that they are convinced that both areas of Israelite life, both Temple life and city life, were to be governed by the will of God. Both men arrived in Jerusalem because God sent them there. Both men were convinced that the fate of Israel as a nation had been because of its unfaithfulness to God and its continuing willingness to follow other gods. (This will come out more strongly in our third reading of Nehemiah on Sunday).

This raises an potentially interesting conversation about our societies obsession with the separation of church and state. It has been maintained throughout North American history (perhaps more strongly in the U.S.) that the role of church and state be completely and totally separate, one was not to influence the other. Of course this is a pipe dream and a bit of a farce really. The state is continually making decisions and legislation that affect the spiritual rights of the individual. The rule really intends to keep the church from affecting the running of the state.

Unfortunately, the Bible shows us on multiple occasions that such a separation is not only impossible but against the will of God. As Sovereign Lord, the Bible teaches us that God does indeed influence the leaders in this world, bringing some to power and stripping others of it. It certainly teaches us that our spiritual beliefs and practices greatly affect our social attitude, values, abilities and successes.

Here is one thing I will point out specifically from Nehemiah today: as you are reading about the groups rebuilding the different sections of the walls, be careful not to gloss over it too quickly! Notice who is rebuilding the walls. It is not just masons and stone cutters. There are merchants mentions, goldsmiths mentioned, apprentices mentioned. Everyone, regardless of their “trade” or talent came together and helped to get those walls back up. And look at what they did! They rebuilt the walls (some estimate their total length to be just over 4 km, or 2.5 miles)  of Jerusalem in 52 days. Many hands to indeed make light work.

More importantly, the people were willing to help in tasks that were not within their “gift set”or their area of comfort. Yet they banded together and got the job done.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture

Tomorrow’s Reading: Nehemiah 6-7

Esther

Esther…one of the most beloved books in the Old Testament for so many people; and compared to yesterday’s reading through Zechariah, also much easier to read and get into. Esther is entirely a book of narrative, one big story. A story about a Jewish girl who becomes queen, her adoptive father (Mordecai) who helps and encourages her to rescue the Jewish nation from treachery and the hand of God working to save his people.

It has all the elements of a great story. A beautiful woman, a wretched villain, a noble king, a tense plot and a happy ending. Disney could make millions off of this thing.

The thing that I especially love about Esther is how is displays God working in the background on behalf of his people. Especially when you consider where this story fits into the story of the exiles returning to Jerusalem under Ezra first and then Nehemiah. The exiles were facing some pretty trying times and some strong opposition to their work. Here we have a story in Esther of God working on King Xerxes in Persia, who would eventually give Mordecai carte-blanc in sending all the aid he wanted to the Jewish people all through the Persian kingdom.

Have you ever been in a tough spot and wondered why God wasn’t doing anything to help you? I see in Esther the answer to that question. I’m sure the returned Jews were wondering where God was in their struggle to rebuild the Temple and Jerusalem and why he wasn’t getting rid of the incredible opposition to their work. But we get this incredible glimpse into the back room of God’s plans. We see God working in the background in the throne room itself to secure his people the help they would need.

God works that way. In ways that we can’t see and in times that we don’t comprehend.

There are two lessons for us in this. First, if you are the one wondering why God isn’t helping, rest secured in the story of Esther that God often works in ways we don’t see right away to bring us aid. Second, we are sometimes that source of that divine aid. Sometimes God asks us to be Esther, to step forward in boldness, to act out on the prompting of his Holy Spirit. Sometimes God needs us to obey in order to bring about the aid that someone else needs.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture

Tomorrow’s Reading: Ezra 7-10

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