A Pattern for Prayer

Today’s Bible Reading – Genesis 31 & 32 and Matthew 16

After Jacob had served Laban in Padan Aram for 20 years, God told him to go back home.  It was finally time for him to face his past.  Remember, he had cheated his brother Esau, and had run for his life.  He had about 500 miles to go to get home.  He sent some servants ahead to let Esau know he was coming home.  When the servants returned, they told Jacob that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men.  Jacob was terrified, and prayed a beautiful prayer that is recorded in Genesis 32:9-12.

He started, “Oh God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac…”.  In this section, I see Jacob acknowledging the history his family had with following God, ever since God called Abraham in Genesis 12.

He continued, “O Lord, who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and to your relatives, and I will make you prosper’. ”  In this section, I see Jacob acknowledged what God had told him to do, and he had followed what God had told him to do. 

Next, he acknowledged his own unworthiness, praying,  “I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant.  I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two groups.”  And he acknowledged what God had done for him, even though he was unworthy.

He continued, “Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children.”  In this section, he admitted his fear to God, and then he finally got around to begging God for what he needed help with – “save me”.   Note that he didn’t give God suggestions as to how God could solve the problem.  He just turned it over to God.

He concluded with, “But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’.”  He closed with reminding God of His promises.

In this prayer, I see a potential model for our own prayers.  It goes sort of like this:

  • Start by thanking God for his provision until now for our family, including for our ancestors.
  • Today, God speaks to us through His word.  I think it is important to be familiar with his word and follow his word.  And I think that’s a perfectly fine topic to bring up in prayer, “God, you said to …, and I have done that as you commanded.”
  • I believe we need to humble ourselves before God, and acknowledge that we don’t deserve all he has done for us.  I think it also helps to remind ourselves in our prayers what God has done for us.  (We don’t need to remind God.  He already knows.)
  • We should admit whatever we’re feeling to God.  (He already knows anyway, but it helps us maintain an open channel of communication with Him.)
  • We are finally at the point in our prayer where we should clearly lay out the problem we’re facing.  And we don’t need to offer God suggestions as to how He could solve our problems.  He can come up with solutions better than we can even imagine.
  • I think in the closing of Jacob’s prayer, he was not just reminding God of the promises God had made.  I think he was also looking forward to those promises himself.  We should do the same.

And I think it’s fine to pray something like, “God, you promised that everything works for the good of those who love you.  I don’t understand how that is possible in the situation I’m in right now.  Please open my eyes to understand that, or at least to accept it as truth.  I know you have promised that nothing can separate us from your love, not even death.  God, things aren’t looking very good from my perspective right now, but I’m holding on to your promise that when Christ returns, you will wipe every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.  God, I’m really wanting that now.  Please keep me focused on you, and living for you.  And please send Jesus soon.  Amen.”

–Steve Mattison

How to Get a Spouse

Today’s Bible Reading – Genesis 23 & 24 and Matthew 12

In Genesis 24, we find the story of Abraham sending his servant to find a wife for his beloved son Isaac.  It’s interesting that the story of creation as recorded in Genesis 1 required only 31 verses, but that this chapter about a wife for Isaac, with its 67 verses is the longest chapter in Genesis.  In addition to the obvious story we read in this chapter,  I think there are additional things we can learn from this chapter.  As I read about the story of finding a wife for Isaac, I see a parallel with GOD (Abraham in this story) finding a bride (the church for Christ, Rebekah for Isaac) for His beloved son, Jesus (Isaac in this story).  I also see lessons for us to consider when seeking a spouse.  This will get long, but I’ll try to touch briefly on the story, the comparison with God, and application for marriage.

Abraham had been following the Lord for 65 years by this point in our story.  Abraham wanted to arrange the marriage for Isaac to the right wife, before he died.  The story starts with Abraham giving instructions to his servant.  Genesis 24: 3-4 says, “I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I’m living, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.”

The servant travelled hundreds of miles (possibly nearly 500 miles) with servants and 10 camels loaded with gifts to get to where Abraham’s relatives lived.  Once he got there, before doing anything else, he prayed, as recorded in Genesis 24: 12-14, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, give me success today and show kindness to my master Abraham.  See, I am standing beside this spring and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water.  May it be that when I say to a girl, “Please let down your jar that I may have a drink. And she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too.’ – let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac.”  He not only prayed, he also asked for a sign to know who was the right one.

While he was still praying, Rebekah came out to draw water.  He asked her to give him some water – which she did, and then went ahead and watered his camels too, without being asked.  (Note:  a single thirsty camel can drink up to 40 gallons of water – she was obviously a hard worker.)  During all this, the servant just watched quietly and waited.  

He then asked, “whose daughter are you.”  Once he found out she was related to Abraham, he immediately bowed down and worshiped God.  When he did this, Rebekah ran back home to tell her mom what happened – leaving the servant at the well.

Rebekah’s brother, Laban, came out to invite the servant to come home with him.  Before the servant would even eat, he wanted to tell the reason for his visit.  Once he told them about Abraham, and Isaac, he asked the family if Rebekah could marry Isaac.  They decided to leave that up to Rebekah, who said, “Yes.”

The servant gave both Rebekah and her family many gifts.  The servant also told how rich Abraham was, and that he had given everything to his son Isaac – indicating how rich Rebekah would be once she married Isaac.

The next day, the servant wanted to take Rebekah and go back home.  Her family wanted to wait a while.  They asked Rebekah, and since she was eager to go too, they left right away.

As soon as they got back to Isaac, the servant gave an account to Isaac of all he had done.  Then Rebekah married Isaac, and they lived happily ever after – or at least, “So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.”

Parallel:  I see similarities between Abraham as a loving father, and God.  And between Isaac, who had a miraculous birth, and was obedient to the point of being sacrificed, and Jesus.  Rebekah, the bride for Isaac, reminds me of the church as the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:22-24).

Neither Abraham nor Isaac went to find a bride, instead, Abraham sent a faithful servant, who swore to be obedient to Abraham’s wishes.  The unnamed servant referred to Abraham as “my master” 19 times in this chapter.  Everything he did was to obey and serve his master.  (We would do well to take this to heart ourselves, as servants of God.)  Neither God nor Jesus are physically present today to build the church.  God sends faithful servants to invite “sinners” to become “the bride of Christ”.

The servant was eager to complete his master’s mission.  Once the bride accepted the invitation, she too was eager to complete the task.  I think it’s imperative that we faithfully serve God eagerly.  Also, once a person decides to accept the invitation to join God’s family, I think it is imperative they respond quickly, otherwise, they may slip away.

The servant gave gifts that were sort of a down payment of immeasurable wealth Rebekah would receive once she joined the family, which is reminiscent of 2 Cor 1:22 which says God’s Holy Spirit in believers is a deposit, guaranteeing the promise that is to come.

Finally, when the servant got back, he had to give an account to Isaac, which reminds us that one day, each of us will have to give an account of our lives (Romans 14:12) and even for every idle word we say (Matthew 12:36).  Will we be a “good and faithful servant?”

Application for marriage:  Christians should not marry non-Christians.  2 Corinthians 6:14 says that believers should not be unequally yoked to unbelievers.  1 Corinthians 7:39 says that if a woman’s husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wants, but only a believer.

Christian’s should pray for God’s direction, ask God for confirmation, watch the person’s character to see if this may be the right one, verify they are a hard worker and they are in the right family (the family of God) – all before ever considering asking (or accepting) “will you marry me”.

–Steve Mattison

Where He Leads

Acts 15-16


When I started my teaching career 24 years ago, I had no idea that I would spend two and half decades in the same district. I only agreed to the original interview because I thought that it would be good practice for interviews with school districts that were better funded and closer to where I wanted to live. But through the years, I have had amazing students, super supportive principals and supervisors, and colleagues who have become my closest friends. 


There have been times where I sought other jobs outside my district. The crazy thing is that I have never had an invitation to interview for those other positions. Now either I have a highly inflated self-perspective of my skills, or I don’t know how to complete and submit an application, or just maybe, God wants me to stay where I am. 


So I can relate a little bit to Paul in Acts 16 when he realizes that he’s not supposed to go into Asia but rather head up to Macedonia.


Can you imagine setting out on a road trip and not really knowing for sure where you’ll end up?


It makes sense to pray and seek wisdom and discernment before making major life decisions. But this is how God wants us to live our day-to-day lives too. Yes, dreaming up plans, setting goals, and creating task lists are good things to do, but it’s also important to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Asking God to help determine the best use of your time each week, each day, is a good way to practice your listening skills and hone your sensitivity to God’s direction. 


As we go about this week, pause and think about what you already have on your calendar of things to do and places to be at and people to meet up with. Does any of that need to be revised? Does something need to be removed or added? Do you have enough margin in your day-to-day that you can spontaneously respond to God’s leading? 


If nothing specific comes to mind or your days and week go pretty closely as you expected, that’s okay too. What really matters is that you sought God. You took time to listen and you were willing to act on his call. That’s the kind of heart God desires.

-Bethany Ligon

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 15-16

Tomorrow we will read Galatians 1-3.

Share Jesus – at all costs

Acts 4-6

            Earlier this year, in June, I experienced a first.  Let me walk you through the moment.  I was preaching at the North Hills Church of God in Springfield, Ohio, as I do every Sunday.  At this point in time, our church chose to worship outside because there were a lot of unknowns of the Coronavirus.  There were very strict rules in place to help prohibit the spread of the virus.  During my message, a police officer slowly pulled through our long driveway and checked what was taking place.  For a split second, I thought that I was maybe going to get in trouble for hosting a large group gathering.  I thought I could get in trouble for preaching to a group of people.  It was the first time in my life that I ever wondered whether or not I would get in trouble with preaching God’s Word.

            To say that we have it pretty easy in the United States is quite the understatement.  I praise God that we have the freedom to share God’s Word with others without even having the fear of being persecuted.  I have spent all of maybe 5 seconds in my life thinking that I could get in trouble/persecuted for sharing God’s word.  If I had to guess, I would say that most people reading this would have a similar experience to myself.  There are people today who do not have this luxury, and this was especially true in the book of Acts

            In Acts chapter 4, our heroes, Peter and John, were sharing God’s Word with others.  When they did this, they were arrested and presented before the Jewish council.  The council questioned Peter and John, and the council commanded them to no longer share the good news about Jesus and remain silent.

            I absolutely love Peter and John’s reply to this command to remain silent: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard,” (Acts 4:19,20).  Burn baby to you, council!  Peter and John made it obvious to the council, that they must listen to the voice of God over the voice of men.  They had to preach the good news of Jesus, for that is what God wanted them to do, not the council.  Peter and John did not care what the consequences would be for preaching about Jesus.

            Peter and John were eventually released after receiving more threats from the council.  Word got out of what had taken place to Peter and John.  The Christ followers responded by praying to God for boldness.  The early Christ followers did not succumb to the external pressures of the world.  Rather, they prayed to God and came together as one to share this radical message of the Messiah.

            These Jesus followers gave their all to further spread this message.  They were even willing to contribute all of their possessions to spread the knowledge of Jesus the Messiah, and that is literally what they did.  They pooled all of their possessions together for the good of the gospel message (outside of a few greedy people *cough* Ananias and Sapphira *cough*).

            My oh my!  Imagine what good we could accomplish today if we had the same mindset of the Jesus followers in Acts.  These people had no cares in the world what would happen to them for sharing the gospel message, even though the threat was very real and evident.  All they did was pray for more boldness, and it didn’t stop with just their voices either.  They were willing to give all of their possessions to help spread this gospel message.

            What great examples these early Jesus followers provide for us today.  In comparison, today, we seem to be a whole lot more reserved in our approach to spread this gospel message.  Maybe we should take a note from the early church and take some more extreme measures in our life to spread the gospel message.  If we do, God can work so many wonderful wonders in and through us. 

            Be bold and give it all to God!

-Kyle McClain

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 4-6

Tomorrow we continue the exciting, inspiring historical account of the early church with Acts 7-8. Come read along!

Jesus’ Final Teachings

John 14-17

The contents of John 14 to 17 are Jesus’ final words to his disciples (except Judas) and his prayer to his Father moments before he is handed over. The one dominating overarching theme in these four chapters is the absolute unchallenged supremacy, beauty, and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus states the following:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me” 

– John 14.6

“If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” – John 14.14

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” – John 14.27

“Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; abide in my love” – John 15.9

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation but take heart I have overcome the world” – John 16.33

“…these things I speak in the world so that they may have my joy made full in themselves” – John 17.13

What Jesus prays for in chapter 17 is what he taught and instructed in chapter 14 to 16. Jesus prayed for each believer to have unity with him, to be filled with his joy, to be sanctified in the truth. The life we have in Jesus is so beautiful and precious. Jesus Christ is the living water. Let us drink from him deeply and without reservation. Let us be always dependent and in communion with Jesus. Abiding and communing with Christ is the key to realizing the fullness of joy, peace, and love. In addition, we see the work of the Father, the work of the son, and the work of the spirit active in lives of those whom God has saved. The Father has chosen us, the son has died for us and bought our salvation, and the spirit makes us alive.

To God be the glory in the name of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit!

-Jacob Rohrer

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – John 14-17

Make sure you come back tomorrow when we will read Matthew 27 & Mark 15. We are getting to the end of the gospels.

The Most Needed Ministry

Matthew 26 & Mark 14

In the closing moments of Jesus’ life after the last supper he took his three closest disciples and prayed. Jesus was a man of prayer and it is fitting that in the final moments before he is handed over he prays to his Father. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of prayer. Many of us are guilty of not praying as we ought to. Look at the degree to which Jesus expected his three closest disciples to pray. In Matthew 26.36-41 and Mark 14.32-38 he asks them to remain and watch while Jesus went off and prayed. Watch and pray are synonymous words. To watch is to pray and to pray is to watch. 

When Jesus comes back the first time he questions Peter, James, and John and says, ”You couldn’t keep watch for an hour?” Jesus expected his disciples to pray for a whole hour! Many of us can only last a few minutes let alone an hour. If prayer was important to Jesus and his ministry and his relationship with God CERTAINLY it must be a priority for us. I would venture to say prayer is one of the most neglected and undervalued ministries. Jesus never believed prayer was expendable, neither should we. 

Do you want to grow with God? Do you want to grow in spirituality? Do you want deeper intimacy in your relationship with God and other believers? Do you want to combat spiritual darkness? Do you want to see people saved? Pray. Pray. Pray. 

If we will give ourselves over to the ministry of prayer and intercession God will grow and mature us. Prayer is too valuable to discard, it’s too precious to pass over, and it’s too powerful to be ignored.

Lord Jesus stir in our hearts a desire and hunger for prayer! Raise up men and women who will pray! Amen!

-Jacob Rohrer

Today’s Bible passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 26 & Mark 14

Tomorrow we will read Luke 22 & John 13.

Who are You Imitating?

Matthew 5-7

Today’s reading comes from Matthew 5-7.  You may know this as “The Sermon on the Mount”, and this may be among the most well known passages in the Bible.  The Jews Jesus was teaching knew the Old Testament laws really well.  Jesus took this opportunity to focus on what God really requires – he focused on matters of the heart, not just following the letter of the law.

For example, the old law said, “Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.”  Jesus took it further and taught, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.”  This is a difficult teaching, but wait – there’s more.  

Then, in Matt 5:42-45, Jesus tells us, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” – This is even harder to follow.

In this passage, Jesus is telling us more of the reason behind his new rules.  God loves even those who hate him, and he does them good – in spite of their hatred for Him.  And we should imitate this characteristic of God.  Jesus takes this even further in verse 48, where he said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  – Ok, now this isn’t possible to obey without some serious help from God.

In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus said, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  Basically, this is asking God to forgive me only to the extent I forgive others.  Jesus then told us plainly in Matt 6: 14-15, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  – This is a pretty good reason to forgive others! – But still not easy to do.

Then, Jesus tells us in Matt 7: 1-2, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  – Did you catch that?  I will be judged in the same way I judge others.  This is a pretty good reason for me to not condemn others!  This goes back to the old saying, “Hate the sin, but love the sinner.”

As I read these passages, a couple things jump out to me.  First, I need to imitate God as much as possible. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at doing this, so I need to beg for His forgiveness.  Fortunately, He is loving and extends grace.  From His example, I recognize I need to be loving, and extend grace too.

Second, once I recognize I am a worthless sinner, saved only by the grace of God, it’s suddenly easier for me to be less eager to condemn others.  Then, if I can see them through God’s eyes – as other sinners in need of grace – that makes it even easier for me to extend grace to others.  And that grace may take the form of forgiving them, or of not judging them, or even turning the other cheek if they hit me.  On our own, this isn’t possible, but we can do these things with God’s help.  Ultimately, we can (again with God’s help) come to the point of loving or enemies, and blessing those who persecute us.

Jesus closes this section talking about the wise builder (who built on a rock) and the foolish builder (who built on sand).  The wise man was likened to someone who listened to Jesus’ teaching, and put it into practice – building his life on the rock.  The foolish man was likened to someone who listened to Jesus’ teaching, and didn’t put it into practice – building his life without a foundation.  In both instances, storms come.  But only the house built on the rock survived.  By analogy, only the life founded on Jesus’ teachings will not be destroyed.

So again, we find that today’s reading has implications for us today, and for eternity.  And just knowing these truths isn’t enough, we must put them into practice.  Please join me in taking this seriously.  Apply this to your life.  Ask God’s help living up to these requirements that are impossible to accomplish on our own.  Become an imitator of God.  The reward is eternal.

–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 5-7.

Tomorrow’s reading will be Matthew 8:1-13 and Luke 7 as we continue on our Bible reading plan. SeekGrowLove.

All Night Long

Matthew 12:1-21, Mark 3 & Luke 6

There were so many good topics from today’s reading, it was hard for me to pick just one for today’s devotion.  But I finally settled on discussing what Jesus did immediately before calling the 12 apostles.

Jesus had many disciples following him.  A disciple is a follower, an apprentice, someone who is learning.  From among these followers, Jesus was going to choose his apostles – his chosen messengers with a special commission. We’re told in Luke 6:12, that before choosing his 12 apostles, Jesus spent the whole night in prayer.  Did you catch that?  Jesus spent the whole night praying.

Why would Jesus need to spend the whole night praying? First, opposition to him was growing – immediately before this story, we’re told the religious leaders wanted to kill Jesus.  He knew this would eventually end in his crucifixion.  I’m guessing he was praying for strength for the task that lay before him.  Second, this was a turning point in his ministry.  Until how, he had just been a one man show – a traveling preacher and healer.  Now he was picking the men who would be the foundation of the church after he was gone.  I’m guessing he was praying for discernment.  Finally, according to John 6:64, Jesus knew from the beginning who was going to betray him, and He was going to pick him as one of His apostles.  I’m guessing Jesus was struggling with emotions at that prospect; it was through prayer that He made this difficult choice.

We find many instances of Jesus devoting lots of time to prayer.  Whether it was getting up before dawn to pray, or sending the apostles away in a boat so he could pray, or … You get the idea.  But wait, Jesus was the Son of GOD!  In John 3:34, we’re told that Jesus was given the Holy Spirit without measure.  And He still spent a tremendous amount of time in prayer!

What should this mean for me?  

For starters, I suspect I need God’s help far more than Jesus did.  For one thing, I’m a wretched sinner, and Jesus was perfectly sinless.  Also, Jesus had the Holy Spirit without measure, me – not so much.  

From Jesus’ example, I see that I need to spend far more time in prayer, whether asking for strength, or for discernment, or struggling with emotions, or… for dealing with everything life throws at me.  And that’s just the requests for my needs.  Then, there are prayers for confessing and asking forgiveness.  Then, all the prayer requests for people I care about.  Then, there is honoring, praising, and magnifying God in prayer.  And the list goes on.  Bottom line – I need to spend more time in prayer.

What about you?  Will you join me in committing to spending more time in prayer?

This will not only benefit me and you, it may benefit the whole nation.  I’m reminded of one of my many favorite Bible verses, 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

And God knows our nation needs healing.

— Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 12:1-21, Mark 3 and Luke 6

Tomorrow’s reading will be Matthew 14, Mark 6 and Luke 9:1-17 as we continue on our Bible reading plan.

Response to a Broken World

Nehemiah 1-5

I love the man Nehemiah! I love his passion, his prayers and his “get ‘er done” action. At the start of our story he holds the position of royal cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, so we can assume he is no slacker but is quite driven, reliable and trustworthy. He has spent his whole life in Babylon/Persia, and done very well in this “foreign” environment. But kudos to those who raised and influenced him, for his Jewish heart was still steadfast in serving the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and his ancestors.

It had been 90 years since the first group of Jewish exiles had returned to Jerusalem. And just 13 years ago Artaxerxes had allowed Ezra to return to rebuild the temple. Nehemiah learns some have just come from Judah and he asks them how his “homeland” is doing. And what he hears breaks his heart. It is natural to be heartbroken at bad news. But for a lot of people the heartbreak is soon replaced with other feelings – perhaps relief that it didn’t happen to you, perhaps just busy-ness with other daily activities. But Nehemiah mourned, fasted and prayed (with confession) for several days when he heard that the people of Judah were still in distress and the walls of Jerusalem were still torn down. Just as this was breaking God’s heart, Nehemiah allowed his heart to be broken, too. And as he prays and fasts he listens for God’s answer, and just like Esther he too uses the position God has placed him in to be a part of the solution. If you find yourself mourning what God mourns, and you don’t know what to do…follow Nehemiah’s example with prayer and fasting and watch for God’s plan to develop – and then do it!

I won’t retell the rest of the story that Nehemiah tells so well – but make sure you catch some of the neat details that we would do well to remember when we seek to do God’s work.

Nehemiah was scared to death going before the king – this was not an easy thing to do, and it could even cost him his life – but doing God’s work is always worth it.

Even as the king was asking Nehemiah what he wanted, Nehemiah was praying away! He knew he wasn’t doing this on his own – and he would continue to give God the credit for the king’s generosity and for the work that would be done.

Nehemiah didn’t try to build the wall on his own. There was something for everyone to do – and Nehemiah got them going. The city officials, the temple servants, the families, the daughters, even the goldsmiths and the perfumers were out there working. Certainly most of them would never have said their spiritual gift was rebuilding walls – but Nehemiah provided the leadership, the need was presented to them and, most of them, were ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work. What job is God calling you to do with your brothers and sisters?

I would have loved to see Baruch the son of Zabbai complete his section of the wall – Nehemiah reports he “zealously” did his work. This wasn’t a half-hearted effort for him. Will you be known as one who zealously does the work of the Lord?

The world didn’t stop to applaud God’s construction team – in fact, God’s people faced much opposition, ridicule, anger, threats and violence from many sides. It would have been easy to give in to their fears and give up. But instead, they responded FIRST with prayer and then they kept at it – with one hand to do the work and one hand to carry the weapon to defend themselves if needed. They meant business. They looked after one another and once again commited themselves to finishing the job God gave them.

Nehemiah also stood up for those who had been taken advantage of and he corrected those who had performed acts of injustice for their own selfish gain.

The world could sure use more leaders like Nehemiah. How will you step up? There is much broken in our world today. What is breaking your heart and God’s? Begin with prayer and fasting. And then continue with prayer as you attack God’s work with wisdom and action even in the face of opposition. His work is always worth it.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Nehemiah 1-5

Tomorrow we will read the next two chapters in Nehemiah’s story as we continue on our journey through the

Can you believe next week we start the New Testament!

Love and Marriage

Ezra 7-10

Ezra, who was from the lineage of Aaron the high priest came up from Babylon. He was skilled in the Mosaic Law. King Artaxerxes gave the children of Israel the right to return to Jerusalem if they chose. In 7:10 it says, “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel”. A letter was given to the ones returning from the king. Interestingly enough, this would have been the stepson of Queen Esther. Maybe he had heard about God through her. He starts out “Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, a scribe of the Law of the God of heaven:” He allowed the Israelites who wanted to return to go back, they were given gold and silver from the royal treasury, and then they were urged that if they needed anymore, that they were to pay for it from the king’s treasury. Ezra said in 7:27 “Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem.” It sounds like Queen Esther must have talked about God to her family, and the king acknowledged that he was the God of heaven, and he did not want to have the wrath of God on him or his sons.

In chapter 8 they list those who returned, I love 8:21 “Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions.” They fasted and prayed to God before making any decisions, just like we read in Esther as well. It is important that we follow these guidelines in our lives before we make decisions, pray about it and ask God to lead us in the direction that He would have us take.

In Chapter 9, we see the beginning of some problems, the children of Israel had taken pagan wives for some of their sons and daughters, even the religious leaders were included in this sin. Ezra was very upset at this and he prayed and wept before God because of their sin. They had been forbidden in Deuteronomy 7:3, to take foreign wives. Now, this was not a matter of being racist, because the foreign people could convert to Judaism, but the ones they married were pagans, which meant that they continued to worship idols. In 1 Kings 11:2b “the Lord said to the children of Israel “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your heart after their gods. Solomon clung to these in love.” V.4 “For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David.” This was when their idolatry began which eventually led to the kingdom being conquered by the Babylonians. It is a fact that if we marry outside our faith it makes it more difficult to love God with our heart, soul, and might. That’s why we are told in 1 Corinthians not to be “unequally yoked with an unbeliever.” I believe who we choose to marry is one of the most important decisions we can make in our lives. I have a friend who said that of her four children, only one remained in the faith. She said it was who they married that made the difference. One married someone who was an active participant in church, two would go on occasion, and one married an atheist. When we marry, we are to be one, and it works best to be in accord with one another, and to both be pulling in the same direction. You will not get very far if the two oxen are trying to go in opposite directions.

The assembly decided that they would put away the pagan wives and children that they had with them. They confessed their sin and repented of it. Ezra 10:2b “We have trespassed against our God and have taken pagan wives from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope in Israel in spite of this.” 10: 10b-11 “You have transgressed and have taken pagan wives, adding to the guilt of Israel. Now therefore, make confession to the Lord God of your fathers, and to do His will; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land, and from the pagan wives.” There was hope when the people repented because God will always accept us back when we return to him.

That is what is so encouraging to us as we read the history of the Old Testament. None of our patriarchs were perfect but God is able to use imperfect people to accomplish His will. We all need to be willing to let God use us in our imperfections. When we sin and make mistakes, that isn’t the end, if we return to God, he will return to us as we read earlier this week.

-Sherry Alcumbrack

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Ezra 7-10

Tomorrow we will begin the book of Nehemiah (chapters 1-5) as we continue on our