Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ecclesiastes 2 – The Vanity of Pleasure and Possessions

Hello Project Ezra!  Today is Thanksgiving (at least for us in the United States), and we celebrate the day by spending time with family and giving thanks for the many gifts God has given us.  Sadly, many people are also preparing to stand in line for hours in the early hours of the morning to satisfy their need for the best and the newest.  I work in the busiest shopping center in my area, and have been watching the Black Friday Scramble for the past decade.  For those of you outside the States, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, and marks the beginning of our Christmas shopping season.  It is the busiest shopping day of the year, with many stores opening at midnight with many special deals to draw people in.  It is sad to see so many so obsessed with possessions.  Thankfully, it can also provide an excellent opportunity for evangelism, since there are few days of the year where more people will be out and about.

This week we will be reading from Ecclesiastes 2, which deals with the vanity of worldly possessions.  Rather than a complete outline, I’ve given a few bullet points, along with a couple other passages that I think would be good follow-ups.  I would encourage you to put together your own outline based on these passages, or other appropriate passages.  Be sure to include the essential aspects of the gospel message.  For more information on sharing the gospel biblically, I encourage you to go to, and listen to Hell’s Best Kept Secret and True and False Conversion.  They are free, and will give you an excellent foundation for sharing the gospel Biblically.

I pray this will be a blessing. 


Read Ecclesiastes 2

Solomon had the best the world had to offer, but realized the best could not satisfy.

Possessions are not bad in themselves.  God has given us many gifts for our pleasure.  But they will never satisfy, because they are not what we were created for.

Matthew 6:19-24
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
"The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
"No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

We were not created to possess.  We were created to know and be known by God.

But because of our sin, the relationship between us and God has been broken, and we are in danger of judgment for our rebellion.

Adam and Eve coveted, desired what God had not given to them.  In order to possess what was not theirs and not meant for them, they broke God’s law.

Like Adam and Eve, many of you have coveted, desiring that which is not yours, as I have.  God’s law says you shall not covet your neighbor’s house, his wife, or anything else he owns.

Luke 12:13-21 - Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." But he said to him, "Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?" And he said to them, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." And he told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' And he said, 'I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God."

If your life was demanded of you tonight, would you be ready to start before God?  Would He see you as good enough to enter heaven?


The greatest gift we can possess, salvation through Christ.

The greatest fulfillment, since it is what we were created for.


Jesus rose from the dead, proving His power over death

Jesus is now seated at God’s right hand, and is our advocate with the Father.

If we repent and trust Christ alone, we can be saved.

Christ’s righteousness laid to our account.  We are still guilty, but our fine has been paid, and justice satisfied.

Time is short, and none of us is promised tomorrow.  Turn and trust in Christ while He has given you time.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Job 1 – Live for the Eternal

This week we revisit a theme that we have looked at several times in our weekly readings.  The more I read scripture the more I see the same themes, frequently regarding who God is, His character and nature, and how he deals with mankind, repeated time and time again.  This is true from Genesis through Revelation.  Even though God operates and relates to man somewhat differently (although not as differently as we may sometimes think) in the Old Testament than He does in the New Testament, the nature and character of God, which stands behind both, is unchanged and unchangeable. Job 1 is another great example of this.

This week we again ask the question, “What are you living for?”  So many people are living for the temporal, rather than the eternal, putting their trust in money, power, prestige, and the like.  Job knew better than most that possessions are fleeting and can be snatched away in a second.  He had money, power and prestige, yet he still walked in humility before God, submitting to His will and lordship, even when had the best the world could offer and more, and even when it was all taken away, and while it was clear that little if any of what happened to him made any sense at the time.

So this week we encourage people to live for the eternal and trust in God, as Job did.  We don’t have to know every detail of why God does what He does.  We only need to recognize that He is trustworthy, and put our lives in His hands totally.

I pray this reading is a blessing to you and those who hear it.



To many, the story of Job, one of the oldest in the Bible, may seem strange, or even cruel

Job, by God’s own words, was right and obedient before Him, yet he had tremendous struggles

But whether in prosperity and joy, or in poverty and despair, Job worshipped and trusted God.

Does that sound strange to you?  Does it sound like insanity to allow such things to happen to you?

Then consider for a moment what you are living for.

Job, although he struggled with the meaning behind his circumstances, lived for God, even when he didn’t understand the purposes behind what God was doing.

Job lived for eternity, knowing that His trust in and faithfulness toward God was of more value than everything else.

What are you living for?  What do you strive for, and what keeps you going day to day?

Are you living for money?  Pleasure?  Fame?  Power?

Every one of these things is temporary.  There is nothing wrong with joy, or pleasure, but to live your life for them is the ultimate in foolishness.

The Bible says that we all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

We live in a world of sin, and our sin and the corruption it has caused in our world will eventually rob us of everything of value, including our very lives.  Why spend your life striving for something you can’t keep?

John 17:3 tells us that “this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

If you are wise, and we pray you will be, you will live for the eternal, and for the knowledge of God.  That means to know the truth of who God is, the truth about eternity, and the truth about this world. 

The world we live in is not our own, and does not center around us.  It centers around God.

God created us and the world, and revealed Himself to us in His word, to tell us more about what He is like, and how and why He created us.

The Bible tells us that God is love, and that He is merciful.  It also tells us that He is holy, and righteous, and just.

God is holy.  That means He is perfect, pure, and incorruptible.  He is the creator of all that exists, and is the only true standard for all that is right and good. 

Every good thing you have ever received is, at some level, a reflection of His goodness, though that goodness is frequently twisted out of shape by sin.  Every pain or sorrow you have ever experienced is a direct result of sin’s corrupting influence, and of man’s rebellion against God’s truth.

A sin is a moral crime, a breaking of God’s law.  He gave us His law to show us what sin is, so we can see how we compare with His holiness

If you look at God’s law, the 10 Commandments, you will see that you have broken God’s law more times than you can count.

You will see that lying lips are an abomination to Him, and know that you have lied.

You will see that His name is above all other names, and you will know that you have used that name disrespectfully, and thus are a blasphemer.

You will realize that you have committed adultery, either with your body or through lustful, impure thoughts, and see that no adulterer will inherit God’s kingdom

You will know that the true God is not like the god you have created in your mind to suit yourself, and know that you are an idolater.

You will stand before God and fully realize just how good, and gracious God has been in providing for you, and know how covetous you have been, always desiring more.

You will know, as I will know, just how short we have fallen of God’s holy standard.

God is a God of justice, who must punish sin, and a God of wrath, who will punish sin, and punish it completely

Sin will punished in a place called hell.  Hell is not a place of unbridled sin where you will enjoy an eternity with your friends doing whatever you want, and it is not ruled by the devil. It is ruled by God, and the devil is God’s devil.  He may only do what God allows him to.  Hell is a place of pain and darkness and fire that will never end, and no one in their right mind should want to go there.

That is the bad news.  There is a hell, and we all deserve to go there.  But there is also good news, very good news!

Lamentations 3:32 tells us that “Though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love”
The good news is this.  God is not only a God of justice and wrath, but a God of grace, and mercy, and steadfast love.  And because of the love, grace, mercy and patience of our God, you don’t have to go to hell, although every one of us, including me, deserves just that.

2000 years ago Jesus Christ, God the Son, and the creator of all that exists, made a way for your sins to be paid for.

On the cross, sin’s debt was paid.  On the cross, justice was satisfied when God’s hatred and wrath toward sin was poured out on Jesus Christ.

Then, three days later, He rose again from the dead, proving his power and authority over sin and death.

But not everyone will be saved through this sacrifice.  Jesus said “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” and “Unless you believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.”

The only means of escape from the penalty of sin is through Jesus Christ!  Only He died to pay the price for sin, and only He rose to stand at God’s right hand as our advocate, our lawyer for the final judgment.

So, what will you do with this truth?  You may choose to reject God’s incredible gift, and try to earn heaven on your own, through good works or ceremonies or religious rituals.

But if you are wise you trust in God no matter the circumstances, as Job did.  If you are wise, you will turn to the only name under heaven by which we must be saved, the name of Jesus Christ.

Please turn to Him today while He has graciously given you time.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Revelation 5 - Worthy is the Lamb

Hello Project Ezra!   I’m running a little late this week due to some big events at work, but I’m excited about this week’s reading.  Revelation 5 takes us to the throne room of God at the time of the final judgment, and the end of the world.  Although the passage is highly symbolic, and much of the book of Revelation is, it makes a very strong point that needs to be at the center of all our gospel proclamation.  That is the person of Jesus Christ as God, and the ransom He paid on the cross.  It is impossible to take an unbiased look at this chapter and not see Jesus as God in the flesh, and as our only means of salvation.

The verse we will be focusing on the most is verse 9, where the four living creatures are singing Christ’s praises as He who is worthy to open the scroll, because by His sacrifice He ransomed a people for God from every tribe, language, nation and people.   It is the fact of that ransom, that legal remedy paid which satisfied God’s holiness and justice, that is most frequently missing from modern day gospel presentations.  Without an understanding of the depth of our sin and the judgment we deserve because of that sin, the cross makes no sense, and the exclusivity of the Christian faith makes even less sense.  And without understanding the truth of who God is, and the deity of Jesus Christ, the full impact of His sacrifice cannot be understood.   
By God’s grace, and your faithfulness, I pray that this reading will help with that understanding.

As we near the holiday season, we will be preparing for several special readings.  We will have a Black Friday reading (the day after Thanksgiving, the busiest shopping day of the year, at least here in the States), our True Gift of Christmas reading (when we will have groups reading the entire gospel of John) during the week before Christmas, and a New Year’s reading.  Now is the time to start encouraging others to join you for one of these readings, and to introduce them to Project Ezra.  I will try to put up an introductory video in the next few days, something that you can send to people who want to know what our group is about.  I’ll also have the events up on Facebook soon, so stay tuned.

Finally, I pray that your Halloween weekend readings went well.  We have not gotten many posts yet, and it would be a great encouragement to hear how your readings went.  Ours locally, which we did the Saturday before Halloween, when our local bars and clubs had most of their parties, was very intense, but very good.  We had two members of our team, Amanda and Jared, open-air for the first time.  Both did a great job and it’s always a huge encouragement to see someone break the sound barrier for the first time.  We hope to have video up in the near future, but there is a huge amount of footage to sort through.  Please pray for our videographer, Jared Duba, that he will have the wisdom to pick the footage that will be most encouraging, and give God the most glory.  You can view last year’s video, which he also did, here:   

I pray this reading is a blessing.



 If you have not heard Revelation read before, some of this material may seem odd to you.  The book of Revelation is highly symbolic, and can sometimes be hard to understand

However, you don’t have to understand every detail of this book, or of the rest of the Bible, to understand the focus of it, and it’s primary message.

The primary message of God’s word is His salvation of His people, which He accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In this passage Jesus Christ is described as a lamb, standing as if slain.  I the history of the Jews, a perfect lamb was sacrificed in the temple every year to atone for the sins of the people.

In this passage the Lamb is the only one found worthy to stand before the throne of God, and open the scroll

We are told He is worthy because it was by His blood that God’s people were ransomed.

The death and resurrection of Christ for the salvation of His people, to ransom them from their sins, is the greatest act of mercy and love, in fact the greatest act of any kind, in the history of the world

Jesus Christ was more than just a man.  He was God in human flesh.  He was and is the Lord and ruler of all that exists.

John chapter 1 tells us that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.   And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

He is the creator and Lord of all that exists, and yet He chose to come to earth as a ransom for sin

The idea that God the Son would humble Himself, walk the earth, and die for sin should amaze you.  If it does not, you have too low of view of who God is, and too low a view of your own sin, and the ransom that needed to be paid

We needed to be ransomed, because the Bible tells us that outside of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, we are slaves to sin.

If you are willing to look at yourself truthfully, you will know that is the case.  You, and I, have sinned every day of our lives, and more times than we could count.

Look at yourself in light of God’s law, and you will see that you are guilty of sin.  And if you look into your own heart, you will see that you cannot escape it.  You are indeed sin’s slave, and need to be ransomed.


Because we are in sin, we deserve judgment.  We deserve God’s anger and wrath.  And we deserve punishment, which the Bible says will be in a place called hell.

Hell was created to punish the devil and his fallen angels, and those who deny God to live in their sin will be punished there for eternity

It is a place of darkness, and fire, and pain.  It is separation from God’s goodness, and mercy and love, and being in the presence of His anger and wrath, and it will last for all of eternity.

But although we all deserve this punishment for our rebellion against God through sin, Christ paid our ransom!

Jesus, often called the Lamb of God because of His sacrifice, died on a Roman cross two thousand years ago, and then rose from the dead to defeat death and pay our fine.

The Bible says God’s mercy is great, but His justice is great as well.  Both justice and mercy saw their ultimate expression on the cross.

The cross shows God’s justice in the punishment of sin, and His mercy and love in His sending His own Son to take that punishment.

So now you and I, though we were slaves to sin, can die to our sin and be alive in Christ

The Bible says that we are made right through repentance and faith.

To repent means to turn.  You must turn from your sin, from those things that you know to be wrong.

And you must trust in Jesus Christ, and in Him alone.  Only He died to pay the price for sin, and only He rose again, and sits at God’s right hand as our advocate.

Only through His righteousness, acting as payment for our sin, can we be seen as right on the final day, when we stand before God’s throne. 

So today, while God has given you time, while He has been patient with you, repent or your sins, turn to Jesus Christ alone, and be saved!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Ephesians 1 - To the Praise of His glory

Hello Project Ezra!  This week’s reading addresses one of life’s great questions: Why do we exist?  Although many have asked and wondered about the answer, for the Christian, it is simple.  We exist for the glory of God, and to live in fellowship with Him, and there is not greater privilege that that!  Ephesians 1 deals with this issue strongly, repeatedly proclaiming that all God’s plans, from creation to salvation, are for His glory, and for our good.  God has lavished us with blessings that are hard to comprehend, the greatest of all being His gift of grace, which was given to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  And for these things we should give thanks and sing God’s praises.

However, for those who do not know Christ, this will likely make no sense at all.  For someone who does not understand the depth of their own sin and their true standing before God, the idea of someone dying on a cross 2000 years ago, and that having anything to do with them, may seem ridiculous.  In fact, the Bible tells us this is the case.  In 1 Corinthians 1 it says “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”  It doesn’t make sense because the unsaved who don’t understand their sin, are spiritually blind to the goodness of God demonstrated in the cross of Christ. 

But the word also says that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and it is the gospel we must preach.  Although we should be careful in over-emphasizing God’s gifts as an incentive to draw people to salvation (since scripture never promises ease or prosperity here on earth), Ephesians 1 deals with the spiritual and salvific blessings given through salvation, and it is absolutely appropriate to deal with these, particularly in the context of dealing with sin, and the just punishment we deserve.  So that will be the emphasis for this week’s reading.  I pray it will be a blessing.

All for His glory,



This chapter gives us insight into one of the greatest questions of all time, why mankind exists. 

Every one of us was created with a purpose.  None of us exist by accident.

We were created for a purpose, and that purpose is to glorify God.

When we talk about glorifying God we are talking about bestowing honor, respect and admiration on Him, of singing His praises, both figuratively and literally, and of worshipping Him.

You may have no desire to glorify God.  In fact, the idea of glorifying God may make absolutely no sense to you, or may seem absolutely foolish.

But as a Christian, I know that is what I was made for, and there is no greater joy in my life.

His word says that in Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.

We are more than servants or slaves to an all-powerful God.  Those who trust in Him are adopted into His family, as His children.

Our purpose in Christ is a great blessing, and comes with great spiritual benefits.

God’s word says He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing

It talks of the riches of His grace, which He has lavished upon us.

And the greatest gift He has given us is the blessing of God’s grace, and redemption through His blood.

The good news is that we can be redeemed!  But from what?  What does redemption mean, and why does it matter?

The message of the cross may not make any sense to you, just as giving glory to God makes no sense to you.  God’s word says “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

If this seems like foolishness, it is because you are perishing, you are dying outside God’s will.  I pray you will stay and listen for a bit as I share how you can be made right with God.

Why are we perishing, and what do you need to be saved from?

The reason we need redemption is because of our sin, and because of our moral crimes against God, we need to be saved from His justice, and wrath.

God is holy.  He is perfect, and pure, and totally without sin.  And because of who He is, he cannot and will not allow sin in His presence.

Habakkuk 1 says, describing God, “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil
and cannot look at wrong,”

Exodus 34 says He will by no means clear the guilty.

In the gospel of John He tells us He will judge, and His judgment will be just.

This is our problem.  God will judge justly, and we are lawbreakers.

If you doubt that you are a lawbreaker, take a moment to look at yourself in light of God’s moral law, the 10 Commandments.  God gave us His law to show us what sin is, so we would see our true position before Him. 

We need to recognize sin.  It Is a deadly disease that will kill every one of us if we are outside God’s grace.

Every one of us, including me, is a sinner and deserving of God’s justice

God tells us the punishment for rebellion against Him is an eternity in hell, a place of fire and torment which will last forever.

Hell is not a place where we can do and enjoy whatever we want, and it is not ruled by Satan

Satan is completely at God’s mercy, and he doesn’t want to be in hell any more than you should.  Hell was created as a place of punishment for him and the other fallen angels.

It is a place of eternal fire and torment, separation forever from all of God’s goodness.  We are here sharing with you because we don’t want to go there, and we don’t want you to go there!

But there is good news!  God is a just judge, but He is also a loving Father, who takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

God demonstrated that love in sending Jesus Christ, His only son, to humble Himself, walk the earth, and then die on a Roman cross as payment for our sins.

When Jesus Christ was on the cross, He was paying your debt.  A legal transaction was taking place.  Jesus Christ’s suffering and death paid the fine for sin.

As His word says, in Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses

Jesus died so that we might live, and be set free from the bondage, and from the punishment, of sin.

Three days after Jesus died, He rose again from the dead, as He had prophesied He would, and we are told He is now “Seated at the right hand in heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come”, and that all things have been put under His feet

Through Jesus Christ, and because of God’s goodness and mercy, we can be saved from our sin, and saved from the punishment for sin, eternity in hell. 

In that salvation, we see both God’s justice, shown through the punishment laid upon Jesus, and His love and mercy, demonstrated through Christ’s sacrifice for us.  And through all of these truths, God is greatly glorified.

So today, we are praying that you will do as the Bible says, which is to repent, or turn from your sins, and put your trust in Christ alone.

It is only through Jesus Christ that you can be saved.  Only through His sacrifice can your fine be paid.

So turn to Him today, while He has graciously given you time.