Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Getting Ready for First John on July Fourth

Greetings Project Ezra brothers and sisters. We are just a few days away from First John on July Fourth. So far we have about 70 people signed up to participate, which is fantastic, but if you are not committed to participating, please prayerfully consider doing so. Millions of people will be out on the streets this weekend, celebrating the gift of freedom, but having no idea what true freedom is. True freedom comes only through the gospel of Jesus Christ, and there are many believers around the world who endure incredible persecution every day who are far more free than most people that we meet.

As preparation for your reading, or even if you will not be reading, I would encourage you to read through First John daily, and spend some time considering what you have read. The book is only five chapters long, so even if you read slowly, it shouldn’t take you much time to get through it. You might also consider consulting a good bible commentary, which can give you an understanding of the background and themes of the book. Sharing God’s word is an amazing privilege, and we want to make sure that whatever message we share after our reading is drawn from the text, not imposed on the text. And, of course, pray daily that God will provide wisdom, humility, protection from spiritual attack, favor with the authorities, and divine appointments.

If you are a member any social networking sites (most of us are probably members of several), please put up a link to our Facebook group or blog site. The web addresses are below, along with the link to our participation map.

Facebook Group


Google Participation Map

All for His glory!!


Thursday, June 24, 2010

This Week’s Project Ezra - Galatians 3

Greetings Project Ezra brothers and sisters. This week’s reading is Galatians 3. It is the central principles in this chapter that distinguish Biblical Christianity from every other religion on the face of the earth. Every other faith is about meriting a better afterlife, or sometimes this life, through good works. Christianity is about Jesus becoming a curse for us that we might be justified by faith.

In the beginning of this chapter Paul seems to be somewhere between pleading and exasperation in speaking to the Galatians. It’s almost as if he’s saying “They’re going to put their faith in the flesh? Again?? After Christ was publicly portrayed to them as crucified? What is WRONG with these people?” The idea that works could ever justify anyone makes no sense after even a cursory reading of the New Testament, and clearly Paul and the other disciples have covered this ground with the Galatians before. If we could be justified by the law, why did Christ need to die? Wouldn’t following the law of Moses be enough?

But not only does Galatians 3 stress the necessity of grace over works, but it indicates the true purpose of the law. Verse 24 says the law was our guardian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. Some other versions say the law is a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ. But whether the law is a guardian or a schoolmaster, the principle is the same. The law was meant to protect us by showing us our failure to meet God’s standards, so we would see our need for grace and be driven to the savior.

When you are sharing the gospel, whether one-on-one or through open-air preaching, most people will proclaim their own righteousness. Most people think that, if there is a heaven, they are good enough to get there on their own. But, of course, none of us are. So stand them in front of the mirror of God’s law, so they can see their own reflection and know themselves in truth. There are a couple focus points below which may give you some ideas for sharing the gospel:

No salvation comes by works

Salvation is by faith and by faith alone.

Those who rely on works under a curse, and those who do not keep all of the law are under a curse

Christ redeemed us by becoming a curse for us, being hung on a tree

The law was our guardian and schoolmaster until Christ came, that we may be justified by faith

All are one in Christ, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female.

We are just over a week away from 1st John on July 4th. There are few other times of year where there will be as many crowds of people out in the streets, so it’s a great time to publicly share the gospel. We have about 60 people signed up right now, and I KNOW we can do better than that! Please check your schedule and carve out some time to join us in reading 1st John in the open air. Also, please post the event information on your Facebook or other social networking site, and invite your believing friends to join Project Ezra and take part in the event and, of course, let us know where you will be participating so I can add you to the participation map. I would like to post some more participant videos and pictures in the near future, so please document your reading if you can and send it over. Have a great independence day and don’t forget to tell people where real freedom comes from.

All for HIS glory!!


Friday, June 18, 2010

This Week’s Project Ezra - Leviticus 19

Greetings Project Ezra brothers and sisters. This week’s reading is Leviticus chapter 19, and working through this passage was interesting. Due to the way the books of the Bible are divided up for Grant Horner’s Bible reading system, some lists make the task of choosing a chapter more challenging than others. However, my goal is to touch on as many books of the Bible as possible, since I firmly believe God’s gospel is present in all of them, though in some places it is closer to the surface than in others.

Chapter 19 addresses several different aspects of God’s law. Moral law, civil law and ceremonial law are all addressed, but some of the specifics are easier to deal with than others. Staying away from idolatry and dishonest business practices, being kind to the less fortunate and respecting your parents, avoiding the occult and not selling your daughter into slavery are moral norms we are familiar with. Not mixing cloth in your garments or mixing two kinds of seed when planting are not so easy to explain. Some of these laws deal with accepting the perfection of God’s creation, some deal with cultural realities at those times, and some deal with not participating in behavior that would appear to associate people with the pagan practices of the day. I would encourage you to look up some of these details in a good commentary (several of which are available online) so you have a starting point in case these questions come up.

However, there is a common thread, a theme that runs through the chapter, which will help us understand the flow of thought, if not every specific thought. It is this: God is Holy! To call God holy is to say that he is perfect, set apart from and exalted above all of his creation. He is morally perfect and pure, and his laws flow from that perfection and purity. God’s laws are never arbitrary, but are always a reflection of his character. I believe this is the reason that the phrase “I am the Lord your God” is repeated after so many of the statements. We are not to make idols because he is the Lord, and the only one worthy of our praise. We are to help the poor and the needy because he is the Lord our God, who has blessed us and abundantly provided for us. We shall not blaspheme his name because he is the Lord our God and is worthy of our respect and reverence. We are to bring the first fruits of our harvests to him because he is the Lord our God who has given us everything good. We are to use just balances and weights because he is the Lord our God and he is just and righteous, and so on.

Below is an outline that may be helpful in moving through the different aspects of God’s law to his gospel of grace.

The Lord our God is holy
Holy means perfect, set apart from, and exalted above all His creation
God is absolutely morally perfect and pure

God’s laws are not arbitrary declarations, but are expressions of His character, of who He is
His commands are given because “I am the Lord your God”
The phrase is repeated for emphasis, to remind us why His laws are His laws.

Dietary laws were given, at least in part, for our physical health, because God is kind and loving. But all foods are acceptable if they are taken with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:4)
Some laws are meant to keep us away from the idolatry, since only God is worthy of our praise and worship, and is a jealous God
We were given civil law because God is just and righteous, a God not of disorder, but of peace. We are no longer part of a theocracy, but these laws are still the ideal, and were the basis for our legal system
Ceremonial laws were given as a foreshadowing of the future means of God’s atonement for sin. God will by no means clear the guilty, and there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood. This law was fulfilled in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.

God’s moral law was given because God is just, holy, and morally pure. His eyes are too pure to look on sin. This law stands today. In the Old Testament God wrote the moral law in stone with his own finger. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus magnified these commandments, showing God sees the thoughts and intents of our hearts, not only our physical actions.

No one can keep God’s moral law. We are all law breakers who are guilty and worthy of punishment for our moral crimes against a holy God. Eternity in hell is the punishment God has ascribed for sin.

God is loving and rich in mercy, so he sent his son to live the perfect life, to perfectly fulfill every aspect of the law, and to die as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Then he rose on the third day, proving his power over sin and defeating sin and death for ever.

Only Jesus Christ lived the perfect life, only Jesus Christ paid the price for sin so God’s justice could be satisfied, and so only through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone can we be justified and seen as righteous in God’s site. Repent and trust in Christ today. Do not presume on his patience. None of us is promised a tomorrow.

I hope this is helpful, and I would love to hear your feedback. God bless you as you go our to herald his gospel, and please pray for your brothers and sisters around the world who are doing the same.

All for HIS glory!!


Thursday, June 10, 2010

This Week’s Suggested Reading - John 3

Hello Project Ezra! We are blessed that you can join us again this week. This week’s reading includes what used to be the best known verse in the Bible. I think Matthew 7:1 “Judge not or you too will be judged” is likely the best known now, but that’s another blog post! This chapter is very much about the centrality of Christ in our salvation, and about what Christ said about himself in relation to our salvation. It also speaks very strongly about God’s love, but not in the general “God is love” manner that we hear most frequently from the world. It speaks not just that God loved us, but specifically how God loved us, through the giving of the Son to die on the cross so that through his sacrifice we would not be condemned. But it is also made clear that God’s forgiveness is not simply given to all. It is given to those who believe in the Son. Those who love evil and thus hate the light will remain under God’s wrath. This is a hard, and extremely unpopular, truth in this day and age, and therefore needs to be specifically emphasized. John 3 is the perfect chapter for it because it gives the entire picture, both wrath and grace. Here are some points to ponder as you prepare to share the gospel:

As you prepare to read, remember that our ultimate goal must always be to exalt Christ, as John the Baptist did in this chapter. He must become more and we must become less.

You must be born again to see the kingdom of God. We must be born of the Spirit, which is a supernatural act.

The Son of Man must be lifted up (the cross), so whoever believes in him may have eternal life. Through the cross justice is satisfied, so we need to look to the cross to be saved.

Whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. Only through Jesus is eternal life available.

Jesus was sent not to condemn, but to save. He who believes is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already. Regardless of what we believe, apart from Christ we all stand condemned before a perfect and holy God.

People loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. People do not want their evil works exposed. Encourage them to step into the light and see themselves in truth, as God sees them, so they see their need for repentance.

He who believes has eternal life, he who does not obey will not see life, the wrath of God remains on him. Obedience does not bring eternal life, but it an indication, evidence of eternal life. God’s wrath remains on the disobedient.

We have a little less than a month before First John on July 4th. Please consider inviting people starting now. That way they have time to pray, rehearse, and mentally and spiritually prepare themselves for the reading. As many of you know, stepping out of your comfort zone to read the word is tough, and we will be spiritually attacked, so we need to start soaking it in prayer now!

All for His glory!


Thursday, June 3, 2010

This Week's Project Ezra Readings: Acts 10:34-48 and 13:16-43

Hello Project Ezra!

This week’s readings are two passages out of the book of Acts. Both are public addresses (appropriate for this group), one by Paul and one by Peter. Both are appeals to the crowds to trust their testimony regarding Jesus Christ, and both have a number of points that are common not only to these passages, but to multiple passages within the New Testament. It is interesting that so often, those who choose to reject God’s word claim we have nothing but blind faith, and that there is no basis for the truth of the Bible. But Peter and Paul’s appeals paint a very different picture. Consider these appeals:

They appeal to their listeners’ knowledge of the truth – There are no true atheists. People may suppress their conscience, but it is still there. Remind your listeners that they know these things to be true, and challenge their motives for rejecting the truth.

They appeal to their eyewitness testimonies – The Bible was not written hundreds of years after the fact, as is sometimes claimed. Over and over, the Bible, and the New Testament particularly, claims it is based on eyewitness accounts.

They appeal to actual historical events – Not only are the events of the Gospels historical, the events that frame them, those mentioned as background material for the stories they relate, are historical. The historical truth of God’s word has been demonstrated over and over again.

They appeal to the witness of the prophets – Many of the events in the Bible were specifically predicted hundreds of years in advance, including many details of Jesus life, death, and resurrection. The prophecies were not vague, but specific and detailed. Look at the prophecies of the destruction of Tyre for a good Old Testament example, and the specifics of Christ’s crucifixion for a New Testament example.

Appeal to the fulfillment of God’s promises to his people – Many of the prophecies regarding Christ are not only examples of fulfilled prophecy, but are examples of God’s fulfilled promises regarding the salvation he would provide through the line of David.

And, of course, their final appeal is to turn from sin and trust in Jesus as the judge of the living and the dead, and the only source of salvation.

These are just another example of what sets Christianity apart from every other faith. An honest look at the Bible will convince any fair-minded person that it is true. Consider this quote from Spurgeon: “Defend the Bible? I would as soon defend a lion! Unchain it and it will defend itself.” So true! So loosen his chains and let him roar!

Thanks again to all of you who participated in Sermon on the Mount Saturday. We had folks all over the States and Canada, and several overseas as well. Be sure to mark your calendars for First John on July Fourth, and start inviting people now. We’re only a month away and, needless to say, the Fourth of July is, at least here in the United States, one of the best days of the year to hit the streets, with thousands out and about to enjoy the festivities and the fireworks. I’ll have the event up on the Facebook Page soon. Also, check out our participation map and be sure to add your name and location.

All for His glory!