Friday, April 30, 2010

Suggested readings for week of May 1st - Psalm 115 and 116

Project Ezra
Suggested readings for week of May 1st
Psalm 115 and 116

Hello all! This week we are in the book of Psalms, and the suggested reading is chapters 115 and 116. These chapters focus on God’s work, and in giving the glory to him. I particularly like verse one of chapter 115:

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
(taken from the ESV)

As I was getting ready to write this blog, I was listening to a couple of contemporary Christian songs and was struck by the contrast between them and these Psalms. They were good songs, and communicated biblical truth, but the difference in emphasis was noticeable. While those seemed to talk primarily about choices made by the believer, the believer taking a stand, giving his all, and the like, the emphasis seemed to be “I”. In these Psalms, the focus seems to be not on I, but on He. The focus is God, his glory, his work in us and for us, and his deliverance of his people. There were certainly expressions here of what our right response to God should be as well, and that’s good, but God is clearly presented as the source our benefits and our salvation.

In the same way, most of the unsaved people you will talk to will focus on the “I”, looking inward for salvation, depending on themselves to clean themselves up. If they believe in a god of another religion, it is still their actions that they think will or will not make them right with that god. Even an atheist will generally present themselves as a good person, and claim to have the best interests of society as a whole at heart. We need to show them that their dependence must be on the true God alone for salvation, the Lord of the heavens, who does as he pleases. All praise to him that he was pleased to save us.

So for your gospel presentation, I would encourage you to ask people what they are depending on. An idol? Their own good works?

Then discuss sin, and how we are deserving of judgment and hell for our moral crimes against a holy God.

Then talk about God’s steadfast love and faithfulness, and that God is patient, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Remind your listeners that God will hear our pleas for mercy if we come to him in humility. He rejects the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

I would also encourage you to work on your own at finding additional supplemental verses dealing with subjects such as idolatry, the lack of goodness in man, God’s anger at and hatred of sin, faith rather than works as the source of salvation, and other verses that represent the pieces of a biblical gospel presentation. They will be immensely helpful in adding clarity to your preaching.

All for His glory!


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Suggested readings for week of April 24th - Job 9

Project Ezra
Suggested readings for week of April 24th
Job 9

Hello Project Ezra. This week’s suggested reading is Job chapter 9. I believe the theme of Job 9 is the same theme as the whole book of Job: God is God and we are not. Job seems to be complaining a bit (not surprising based on everything Satan has thrown at him), but regardless, much of what he says is true. We are God’s creation and this is his world, and it is inappropriate and pointless for us to answer back to him. But Job seems to be struggling in this chapter between his understanding of God’s sovereignty and his frustration with his circumstance, which don’t make sense to him. Many people I have talked to who claim to be agnostic or atheist will use circumstances very similar to those in Job as their reasons for walking away from God, for not considering him to begin with, or for doubting his goodness. The subject of suffering and the goodness of God is obviously not something that we can address here, but we can touch on a few things that will make good springboards to the gospel:

Verses 2-12 – God’s power and dominion. He is the creator and can do what he wants with his creation.

Verses 13-24 – God’s judgment on the world, both the “good” and the evil. This is also reflected in the New Testament in Matthew 5:45, although in a different context. Of course, none but God is truly good, but regardless, negative circumstances here on earth may or may not reflect a direct judgment of God. In a general sense they all reflect the fallen state of our world due to sin.

Verses 25-26 – Life is short and passes quickly. We should not take our time on earth for granted.

Verses 27-35 – This passage again talks of God’s judgment, but seems to be more self-reflective. Job is almost despairing, knowing that no labor he can do will cleanse him in God’s sight, and there is no arbiter between him and the Almighty.

Of course, we know that the arbiter, the mediator Job was desperate for, became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, and only through him do we escape the judgment that we deserve, as Job did. So, though this chapter does not contain the entirety of the gospel, it sets it up very well. I would suggest using some of the verses above as an introduction. Then, clarify how we have all broken God’s law and are guilty and deserving of punishment and hell. Finish up with the amazing good news of Jesus’ substitutionary death and resurrection, and obtaining his grace through repentance and faith. Have a great time of outreach, and remember, before you spend your time on the street, spend time in the word and on your knees. It’s a spiritual battlefield out there, so make sure you have your armor on.

All for His glory!


Friday, April 16, 2010

Suggested readings for week of April 17th - Jude

Project Ezra
Suggested readings for week of April 17th

Hello Project Ezra. This week we will be reading the book of Jude. As with much of the New Testament it is written primarily to believers, but still has a lot to say to non-believers as well. For the believer, it is a clear message to watch out for pretenders in their midst, as well as for false teachers. For the non-believer, it should be a challenge to, as 2nd Corinthians 13:5 says, “examine yourself to see if you are in the faith.” It seems like many, if not the majority, of professing Christians, at least here in the states, are the result of false teachers and false ideas like those described in Jude. They are also frequently told NOT to examine themselves or doubt their faith. They have grown up in church, or said a prayer, or walked an aisle, so they must be saved, despite the obvious lack of any of the fruit of the spirit and despite their ongoing willful disobedience to God’s word.

If you plan to share the gospel following your reading, or any time for that matter, it is important to challenge your listeners to examine what they believe. And be sure to include what you are saying into that admonition. The reason I believe in Project Ezra as strongly as I do is because God’s word, in and of itself, has more transformative power than all the sermons of all the greatest preachers who ever lived. Sure, we strive to be accurate and convincing in our presentations, but ultimately we should be drawing people to God and his word, not to our preaching and teaching.

Challenge those listening to see if any of the descriptions in Jude apply to them. Have they defiled their flesh by indulging in sexual immorality or unnatural desires? Given in to their animal instincts? Rejected authority? Blasphemed God? Have they been grumbling malcontents or loud-mouthed boasters? Have they shown favoritism to gain advantage? Are they scoffers who follow ungodly passions? Or have they rejected Jesus Christ as Lord and God?

You can then point to the just punishment described in the book. Jude mentions eternal fire, the gloom of eternal darkness, and destruction. It also specifically identified the Lord (Jesus) as the one who rescued Israel from Egypt and then destroyed those who did not believe. This is a great response to those who like to play the Old Testament/New Testament dichotomy, saying the God of the Old Testament is an angry God and the God of the New Testament is a loving God who will simply overlook their sin. God has not changed between Testaments, and is just as angry at sin now as he was then. If he wasn’t, Jesus wouldn’t have gone to the cross.

And finally, grace. As the doxology at the end of the book states, it is only through Christ that we can be kept from stumbling and be presented as blameless before the glory of God.

Hopefully this will give you some ideas for your gospel presentation. We will be praying that God is greatly glorified through your faithfulness and that souls are saved.

All for His glory!


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Suggested readings for week of April 10th - Hebrews 1

Project Ezra
Suggested readings for week of April 10th
Hebrews 1

Hello Project Ezra brothers and sisters. This week’s reading, Hebrews 1, is an amazing statement of Christ’s deity. Even among those who would call them selves “Christian” I have met some, as I’m sure many of you have, who would call Jesus the son of God, but not God the Son. This chapter thoroughly destroys that argument. Jesus is shown as God in his very nature, as the creator and sustainer of all that exists. The realization that the creator also became our savior through his death on the cross is awe-inspiring.

There are several themes that, either combined or individually, would make excellent springboards into sharing the gospel:

Verse 3 – Jesus made purification for sins. Talk about the nature of sin and how Jesus accomplished that purification.

Verse 9 – God’s love of righteousness and hatred of wickedness. This flies in the face of the Jesus most people believe in, the one who smiles at their sin. God hates wickedness. How does our behavior measure up? 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 would be an excellent follow-up or addition to this.

Verses 2 and 10 – Jesus as creator of all. If Jesus created it, he owns it, and we are responsible to him. This is a good verse for those who think they are totally autonomous from God and have the right to do whatever they please with no consequences.

Verse 8 – Jesus as Lord and sovereign. As with verses 2 and 10, this is a very different view of God than many people are used to. God is not only worthy of our love because of his incredible gift of grace, but is worthy of our awe and reverence simply because of who he is, and if we are wise we ought to take his commands seriously.

I pray this will be helpful in your preparations to share the word. Please remember to lift up your brothers and sisters in prayer this weekend as they are reading the word in public around the world. If you have not posted your location recently to be added to our participation map, please post your location on the wall of the Project Ezra Participation Map event.

All for His glory!