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TEARS ARE CONTAGIOUS

Ezra 10:1 “Now while Ezra was praying and making confession, weeping and prostrating himself before the house of God, a very large assembly, men, women and children, gathered to him from Israel; for the people wept bitterly.”

OTHERS CAN SEE BROKENNESS

Let me set the scene for you.  Ezra returns to Jerusalem and discovers that many of the Jews had intermarried with the pagans, against God’s command.  He tears his clothes, pulls out some of his hair and beard and lies down before the Lord and begs God’s forgiveness.

People are watching him and obviously fall under conviction.  Seeing Ezra repent in brokenness moved them to repentance.  This was no small feat and one Ezra could not have done except for the movement of the Spirit of God on the people.  God used Ezra to model a repentant spirit.

TEACHING MOMENT

Children are watching us.  They watch to see how we repent.  When we blow it and they see that, they watch to see if and when we will make it right.  When we publicly blow it we need to make sure our children know of our repentance.  They also need to hear us praying for their repentance when they have sinned against the Lord.  Our prayers can move them to repentance.  We can’t confess the sin for them (I know some of you hover parents want to, lol), but we can lead them to the very throne of grace.

As you model and teach repentance, make sure you are not doing it just to show your children.  Make sure your repentance is real.  Make sure your repentance can be seen in changed behavior.  Lead your children in that way and they will have a huge head start on developing a broken and contrite heart.

Are you keeping your heart clean and useable through confession of sin?  When you sin against your child through a harsh word or action, do you ask the Lord to forgive you and do you ask your child to forgive you?  Humbling yourself before your God in the presence of your child may seem like an act of weakness.  It’s not!  It’s a sign of strength!

Lord, my God, You are my only source of strength.  To You I bow my knees in confession and brokenness.  Teach me to be an example of a repentant heart to my children and others.

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TRAVELING COMPANION

Ezra 7:6 “This Ezra went up from Babylon, and he was a scribe skilled in the law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given; and the king granted him all he requested because the hand of the Lord his God was upon him.”

GOD IS MY CO-PILOT?

You have probably seen that bumper sticker – God is my Co-pilot.  Well, there is just one thing wrong with that statement.  God needs to be the pilot, and we should be the passenger.  If we let God do the driving, we are much more likely to stay on the right course.  The moment we take over navigating or steering we are doomed.

Ezra was sent back to Jerusalem from Babylon by King Artaxerxes.  But he didn’t go alone.  He had lots of traveling companions.  However, the first one mentioned is God.  The verse says, “the hand of the Lord his God was upon him.”  Ezra was safe and secure because his God was with him.  Now that is a great traveling buddy.

TEACHING MOMENT

Your children are going to grow up and leave home.  Okay, grab a tissue and go ahead and cry, Moms.  Our job is to prepare them to leave and to live independently.  Well, not quite independently.  They need to continue to rely on our Lord.  He needs to be living and traveling with them, wherever they go.

If we teach our children to invite the Lord Jesus to live in and through them, then they are much more likely to succeed in life.  Does that mean they won’t have hard times?  Of course not.  But even the bad times will make sense if they know that it is the Lord who has is leading the way.

What are you going through right now?  Are you in a place due to your steering or God’s?  If you got yourself there, stop and give the wheel to Him.  If He led you there, then just watch what He does as you trust Him each day.  God does not play game with us.  He does everything with intentionality, including your life decisions.

God, You are my PILOT!  Take me wherever and whenever You want.  I trust that You know best.  I am just along for the ride.

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GET BACK TO WORK

Ezra 5:1-2 “1 When the prophets, Haggai the prophet 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, 2 then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them supporting them.”

IF GOD SAID IT…

This whole temple rebuilding thing was getting to be crazy.  Cyrus had sent back the people to rebuild the temple, but over the years the locals got upset and got them stopped.  Now, after hearing from Haggai and Zechariah (remember those names?) two men, Zerubbabel and Jeshua, said, “Enough’s enough!  Let’s get back to work!”

Sometimes we have to get up off our blessed assurance and get to work.  Even if others are afraid to move, we must begin to do what God has called us to do.  You may face opposition.  You may face apathy.  You may face downright hostilities.  But if God has said it, you need to do it.

TEACHING MOMENT

What a great lesson for our kids!  If they can learn this at an early age, it will benefit them greatly in their walk with Christ.  Sometimes, the directions of the Lord may seem, well, crazy.  But when He has spoken clearly, our only option is to obey.  How can you teach your children to hear God’s voice?

Perhaps other believers will remind them of God’s Word.  Haggai and Zechariah were used to stir these two men back to the work of rebuilding the temple.  Perhaps God will speak to them directly from His Word, which requires them to be in the Word, right?  And perhaps He will speak through their prayers.  The key is they must listen.

Are you listening?  What has God clearly told you to do that you are NOT doing?  Get up and go!  Do it!  Stop procrastinating.  Get to work for Him.  Don’t just do something! Do what He has told you.

Father, You are my commander in chief!  I will obey You no matter the cost.  Give me the strength and boldness I need to follow You.

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DON’T YOU LOVE GETTING GIFTS?

Psalm 127:3 “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord,  The fruit of the womb is a reward.”

YOUR INHERITANCE

We have probably all read or heard this verse, right?  Children are a gift of the Lord.  Did you know, however, that the word “gift” can also be translated “inheritance”?  That changes the whole meaning of the verse.  Think about it.  If children are just a gift from the Lord, that could imply that He just gave you something.  It could or couldn’t belong to Him.  He could have found it by the road.  You may think little Johnny is such a gift sometimes.  Just kidding.

But if children are an inheritance of the Lord, then that means they belonged to Him before He gave them to you.  He has just passed them down to you.  They meant something to Him before you got them.  It’s your job now to take care of the Lord’s inheritance.

TEACHING MOMENT

You may have a family heirloom you plan on passing down to your children.  Why not use that item to explain this verse to your children?  They need to know how precious they are, and this verse explains that.  They need to know they are the Lord’s.  They belonged to Him long before they came to you.

I’ve said it before, but this verse begs for it to be said again.  We are not raising children.  We are raising child raisers.  One day, Lord willing, they will have children too.  They are to receive them as the Lord’s inheritance, to be held and protected.

Do you see your children that way or do you grow tired of your parenting duties?  I know it is tiresome.  Kids can push your last button.  But if you view them as the Lord’s which you are simply protecting, that will change your attitude (at least most of the time).  Parenting is hard work, but remember that if the Lord entrusted His inheritance to you, He knew you could handle it.

O Father, my children came to me from You.  You trusted me enough to give me what belonged to You first.  Give me the wisdom and strength to guard them well.

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UNGRATEFUL HOMECOMING

Ezra 2:68 “Some of the heads of fathers’ households, when they arrived at the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem, offered willingly for the house of God to restore it on its foundation.”

ONLY SOME

You really need to read chapters 1 and 2 of Ezra in their totality to understand my title today.  Cyrus has just released the exiles to return HOME to JERUSALEM after 70 YEARS in captivity to rebuild the temple.  He even gave towards that.  Chapter 2 gives the list of all those who returned.  Even their mules were numbered.

Then verse 68 said “Some of the heads of fathers’ households…offered willingly.”  Really?  Are you serious?  Why in the world would only “some” of them give?  Wouldn’t they ALL want to give?  After all, it was THEIR temple!  Why would they NOT give towards this after being released from exile?

TEACHING MOMENT

Our children need to learn that giving is an expression of thanksgiving.  We give to the Lord’s work because of all He has blessed us with in this world.  We give back WILLINGLY because we don’t deserve a single thing He has given us.

I have to admit I haven’t always given willingly.  There have even been times when I gave begrudgingly.  Sometimes, the Lord has directed me to give towards another area than the one I wanted to give.  But giving is an act of obedience and an opportunity to experience joy.  Why would we not want our children to experience that?  Find ways to allow them to earn and give.

I guess the returning exiles are not much different than the typical church today.  “Some” give and others don’t.  That hasn’t changed much in the past centuries.  Which side are you on?  Are you a faithful giver?  Do you give willingly?  Do you think first of God when you get paid or do you think about vacation or something you want to buy?

Father, help me to think first of You as I receive Your blessings.  Teach me to give willingly and joyfully.  Receive my humble gift and use it to further Your work on this earth.

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I TOLD YOU SO

Ezra 1:1 “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia,…” 

PROPHECY FULFILLED

Jeremiah had prophesied that the Babylonian captivity would last 70 years.  Well, here we are, at the end of those seven decades.  What happens?  Cyrus fulfills the prophecy by returning many of the exiles to Jerusalem.  But not only that, Cyrus helps rebuild and reopen the temple.

When God says something, you can bank on it.  Now it took 70 years.  I imagine many of those who were taken into exile died in Babylon.  Their children and grandchildren had heard the stories of the promised return prophesied by Jeremiah.  It finally happened, just as Jeremiah said it would.

TEACHING MOMENT

What a great promise to teach our children.  We can’t put a clock on God’s promises.  He may take decades to deliver what He has promised.  We may not see His promises fulfilled this side of glory.  But when God says something, we can be assured it will come to pass.

The problem is our children (and us too) are impatient.  We are more impatient than ever.  How many times have you stood at a microwave and tapped your foot waiting on that “slow thing”?  How about getting frustrated with the rotating hour glass on your computer screen.  30 seconds seems like a lifetime, doesn’t it?  God doesn’t work on our timetable.

Will you allow the Lord to work – no matter how long it takes?  Let Him teach you in the silence.  Allow Him to prepare you for the fulfillment of His promises.  Have you ever thought about the fact that just maybe God is prolonging the answered prayer because you just can’t handle it yet?  Yield to Him.  That might just speed up the process.

Father, You are a patient God.  You see all eternity while I count seconds.  Replace my clock with Yours.  Allow me to see time as You do – fulfilled already.

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NAPTIME

1 Thessalonians 4:13 “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.” 

IT’S JUST A LONG SLEEP

When my wife and I got married she could not understand my family.  Whenever we visited my family in South Georgia, if we stayed over a Sunday afternoon, inevitably my family members would take a nap after a big Sunday lunch.  We would be laying down in a bed, stretched out on the couch, or curled up in a chair.  She would sit there wide awake and watch us “sluggards” just lying there.  Lol.  After over 30 years of marriage, guess who enjoys those Sunday afternoon naps.  Yep, her!

I love the fact that Paul describes a believer’s death as just going to sleep.  Our spirits are instantly with the Lord at death, but our physical body is “asleep” waiting to be awakened at the rapture of the church.  Our bodies will be raised up and “refreshed” with our glorified body.  Now that’s better than any cup of coffee.

TEACHING MOMENT

Do your children still take naps?  Waking them from naps can be difficult. Use that to explain to them how we will awakened by the shout of the Archangel.  They won’t be groggy or grumpy when that happens.  They will “jump” right up.  The important part, I believe, for our children to understand is that death for a believer is NOTHING to be feared.  It is just a portal to glory.

In fact, read them the last part of this verse, too.  We do not grieve as the rest, who don’t believe.  Yes, we are sad when a loved one dies, but if they were a believer, then parting is only temporary.  We will see them again.  And when we do, it will seem like just a second has gone by.

Are you fearful of death or dying?  Trust the Lord!  Allow Him to give you peace.  Allow Him to put your spirit at rest.  Do not grieve as the rest!  Let His Word be that balm you need to heal your heart when you lose a loved one.

Father, death is welcomed thing for me.  I will not fear in the face of death, mine or a loved one’s who knows You.  I long to see Your face and know that death will allow that to happen.  In fact, Father, I should say “Happy Death Day” with the same joy I say “Happy Birthday.”  Entering heaven will be such a celebration.

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