Friday, June 29, 2012

1st John on July 4th 2012

Hello Project Ezra! We are coming up on our July 4th reading for this year, and I pray that many of you will be able to join us in reading 1st John in the open air.  As is common when we read a full book, or multiple chapters, I will not be giving a full outline, but will be suggesting a few possible springboards into good gospel presentations.  With a weekend on either side of the holiday, it would be very easy to read the same material multiple times and have a fresh topic each time.  Even for those outside the States and Canada who don’t have a holiday this week, there is easily two weeks of regular reading material in 1st John, so I pray you will still join us.  If you are planning to participate, please let us know.  I will be posting our participation map soon, so let us know where you will be and we will add you.  The map is always an encouragement, and if you are on Facebook be sure to visit our Facebook group and add your name there. 

Here are a few suggestion for gospel springboards.  If you see any I didn’t list that you believe are particularly helpful, please let me know so we can use them as suggestions in the future.

1 John 1:1-4  The words of life, being manifest through Christ Jesus, with the Apostles as eyewitnesses

1 John 1:5-10  Walking in the light, confessing our sin, and being cleansed by the blood of Christ.  If we say we have not sinned, His wo1rd is not in us.

1 John 2: 1-2  Jesus Christ, the propitiation for our sins.

1 John 2:3-6  Walking in obedience out of love for Christ

1 John 2:15-17  Do not love the world.  The world passing away along with its desires

1 John 2:18-28  The Antichrists, the deceivers who deny the Father and the Son

1 John 3:4-10  The practices of sin and righteousness.  The fruit of true repentance and faith

1 John 4:1-6  Test the spirits.  The Spirit of God and the spirit of error

1 John 4:7-12  The love of God made manifest through us in Christ Jesus

1 John 5:1-5  Those born of God overcoming the world

1 John 5:6-12  The testimony of God concerning His son.  He who has the Son has life.

I pray this will provide a few good starting points, and I look forward to hearing what God does in your readings this coming week.  I would encourage you to spend some serious time in prayer and fasting prior to going out to share the word.  I am reminded regularly of how important it is that whenever we head out to share the gospel that it is done in the Spirit of God, and not in our own power.  And I pray that He will work powerfully through the reading of His word.  May God be glorified!  I hope to hear from you all soon, and pray for hearts changed and souls saved by God’s grace working through you.

All for His glory,

Friday, June 22, 2012

Exodus 24 – The Blood of the Covenant

Hello Project Ezra!  I pray that you are doing well, and that the LORD has blessed you with many opportunities to share His blessed gospel.  Here in the States we are coming up on one of the best opportunities of the year for sharing, our Independence Day celebrations on and around the Fourth of July.  Parades, picnics, crowds of people waiting to watch fireworks, and the like are great situations for either open-air scripture reading and preaching or one-on-one conversations.  We have just under two weeks (or less if you are in Canada, since Canada Day is the 1st) to invite folks to join us in sharing the gospel.  For that event we will be reading 1 John, as unusual.  It’s a short book, but very powerful, particularly in its convicting statements to those who believe themselves to be saved, whether they really are or not.  So take the time to start inviting people now, and to be an encouragement to other brothers and sisters who need to take a step out of their comfort zone.

This week we will be reading Exodus chapter 24.  It gives part of the account of God’s dealings with Moses and Aaron, and the nation of Israel.  He had just given them the 10 Commandments, and he continues through Exodus giving the rest of His law.  Here God established His covenant with Israel, and particularly with its leaders.  That covenant was a covenant of blood, based on sacrifice for cleansing from sin.  But this foreshadowing of a greater blood covenant to come the covenant and sacrifice provided through Jesus Christ on the cross.  

So this week, I would like to encourage you to use this passage to show the serious nature of sin and our constant breach of God’s holy law, and of the true blood sacrifice through which we can be cleansed.  There are a number of principles that will make great illustrations, and I’ll try to touch on a few of those as well.  God bless, and don’t forget to invite folks to participate in First John on July 4th!

All for His glory,


In Exodus, God establishes a covenant with His people, a covenant of blood

The passage tells us that Moses threw the blood of the sacrifice on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with these words.”

It was here that He gave His law, and here that he established the temple sacrifices for the covering of sin

In the book of Hebrews we are told:  “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”  (Hebrews 9:22 ESV)

This situation, animals being sacrificed and blood being thrown on people, may seem an odd thing to you, but I would ask you to consider what this passage can teach us.

God is true and holy, and consistent in His character and nature, and this passage shows us some important truths about what He is like.

God is a God who communicates with His people, and expresses Himself.  It is not true that God cannot be known.  Here in Exodus He was made himself known to His people
Commanded that His words and will be written down

His prophets wrote His words

Those words were shared with His people, and read aloud in public, in some ways similarly to what we are doing today.

God is holy and pure
We are told the glory of the LORD like a devouring fire

Only Moses and elders allowed to come near

We cannot stand in the light of His true holiness

Isaiah, one of God’s greatest prophets, said this:  “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:
           “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”  (Isaiah 6:1-5 ESV)

Even Moses was told, when he asked to see God’s glory, that he could not look on His full glory and live.

Sin is real, sin is serious, and sin is deadly
The death surrounding atonement for sin shows us this

When God appeared before Moses, He stated that, though He was merciful and gracious, He would not leave the guilty unpunished

If you look at God’s law, the 10 Commandments, listed earlier in this book, you will see that you are indeed guilty.


So how can these two be reconciled?  How can God’s justice, and our guilt, the punishment we deserve, be reconciled with God’s patience and loving kindness?

They can be reconciled only through the power of the cross of Jesus Christ

2000 years ago another blood sacrifice was made, a perfect blood sacrifice.

Jesus Christ spilled His blood on a Roman cross, and suffered under the wrath of His Father, so that those who come to God through Him could be saved

On the cross, Jesus Christ paid our debt.  Romans 2 tells us that because of our hard and impenitent hearts we were storing up wrath for the day of wrath, when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.

God is a good and righteous judge.  Just as a good human judge will make sure a criminal receives 
 the justice he deserves, so God, as not only a good judge but the source of all goodness, will make sure justice is satisfied.

God’s justice was satisfied by Jesus Christ on the cross.  Repentance and trust in Christ alone, and His sacrifice, is the only way to be made right with God.  Otherwise, you must pay the cost of your sin yourself.

God’s word also tells us that Jesus Christ Is now seated at God’s right hand as our advocate, our lawyer for the Day of Judgment, and our high priest.

The book of Hebrews also tells us that He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

So turn from sin and trust In Christ alone!  He is one and only living God, and the only source of eternal life.

He is a good God, and is mighty to save! 


Friday, June 15, 2012

Luke 15 - The Prodigal Sons

Hello Project Ezra!  This week we are back in the gospels, and I’ve decided to look at a very familiar parable, the prodigal son.  Like me, you’ve probably heard the story dozens of times at the very least.  But I recently got somewhat of a fresh perspective on the story while listening to some discernment training materials, and I think that perspective is very accurate, and will work very well as a springboard into sharing the gospel.  I always thought of this story as a picture of the gospel, and the response of our loving Father to our repentance, and on one level it certainly is that.  But rather than being just a picture of one rebellious sinner, it’s really the picture of two.

I believe there are a couple of primary ways people try to escape God’s authority, a couple directions for human rebellion.  One is modeled by the younger son in this story, the son who took all the good gifts his father gave him, and went out and squandered them on foolish, sinful, wasteful living.  There are many people who do that today, and I’m sure you know some of them.  But I can guarantee you know the other type too.  They are the legalists.  They want to work their way into God’s favor, thinking that enough good works will put God in their debt, that He will have to give them mercy because they’ve done their part.  This is the older son, who’s pride in his own obedience to the letter of the law led him to believe that he was superior to his brother.  But the condition of his heart said otherwise.  Both are rebels who want God’s authority for their own, and both show a clear ignorance of the true depth of their sin before God.

So this week, let’s address both in our sharing of the gospel.  It may seem easier to preach to the pagan, and to the un-churched, and to identify the sins they need to repent of to get right with God.  Often those sins are right on the surface.  But the legalist is just as lost and in need of grace, whether he realizes it or not.  And it is pride that is the foundation stone of both.  So, by God’s grace, may the hammer of the law shatter that foundation stone, and expose hearts that will be tender to the gospel.

All for His glory,


The Bible says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God

That’s true.  Every one of us has sinned, and we cannot escape our sin

There are two primary means people use to try to escape the truth of their own sin, to convince themselves their sins are not an issue, and this parable in this passage shows both

I challenge you to stay for a few minutes, and see if one of them applies to you


The attitudes of the two brothers in this story are a good picture of our attitudes toward God

And regardless of which perspective you start from, you are still in need of God’s grace

Some people try to run from God and from the truth of their sin.  They deny sin exists, or they deny He exists. 

They drown themselves in self-indulgence, hoping the pleasures of the flesh will soothe their conscience, because in their hearts they know the truth

But whether that self-indulgence is expressed through sex, drugs, alcohol, money, power, prestige or even knowledge and education, it is empty, and their conscience remains.

Others try to please God through self-righteousness and good works.

They are legalists, straining at the minutia of what they believe God’s word to be. 

They are like the Pharisees of Jesus day, and are often the cause of people frustration when they talk 
about “arrogant” religious people

In their hearts, they hope that by living as good a life as they can, they will put God into their debt.   

They believe that their best is good enough, and He will be obligated to give them heaven based on that.

But anyone who thinks they can work their way into God’s favor does not understand the depth of their own sin.

If you look at yourself in light of God’s law, you will see yourself in truth.

We all know that God exists, and we all know that we are guilty before Him.  And neither working nor running will help us escape that truth

Have you considered God’s law, His moral standards?  If so, you see something much higher than any human expectations.

If you have acted contrary to God’s commandments, by lying, stealing, using His name lightly or disrespectfully, then you are deserving of judgment and hell.

His word says all liars will have their part in the lake of fire, no thief will inherit the kingdom of God, and He will not hold him guiltless who misuses His name.

But sin does not only include the work of our hands and the words we speak.

God judges the thoughts and intents of our hearts.

Jesus said if we look with lust we commit adultery in our hearts.  His word also says that if we are angry without cause we are worthy of judgment, and that anyone who hates his brother is a murderer.

Imagine for a moment that I could plug your brain into a computer, and record every thought you think for the next 24 hours

Then imagine I took that recording, invited all your close friends and family over, and showed them that recording.  What would your reaction be?

I’m sure, like me, you would be so ashamed that you would hope to never see those people again.

Every one of us has thought things in the last 24 hours that are so wicked and so vile that we would not share them with our closest friends.  And you know I’m right.

You, like I, are a guilty criminal, by thought, word, and deed. 

Your sentence has already been passed, and you are simply waiting for the hammer of God’s justice to fall.  And in your heart, you know that you deserve that justice

No matter how far you run, you can’t escape it

No matter how hard you work, you will never be worthy of anything else

We all stand at the brink of Hell, a place of fire and pain and darkness which will last forever, and it is only by God’s grace that every one of has not already been cast in.

But there is one who is worthy, who is good and right and pure, and that is the good news, because through His righteous, His right standing before God, you can be seen as righteous as well.

By His work you can be washed clean of your sin, because He has paid the penalty for your sin.

That person is Jesus Christ.  But He was not just a person.  He was, and is, God in human flesh.

2000 years ago Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, came to earth and lived a perfect, sinless life.

Because He was God he could live that perfect life that we could not.  He was perfect and pleasing to God in every way.

They roughly 33 years into His life, He willingly went to a Roman cross. 

No one forced Him to go there.  Many times before He had escaped death, simply because it was not yet His time.

Jesus was hung on the cross to die, though those who put Him there knew Him to be innocent.

There He became the perfect sacrifice for sin, and God’s anger, hatred and wrath toward sin was poured out on Him, so it did not have to be poured out on us.

Jesus’ sacrifice paid the full penalty for sin, so that those who turn from their sins and trust in Him alone can be saved.

Have you done that?  Have you turned from your sin and put your trust in Jesus Christ alone?

God’s word encourages us to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith, and to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.

I would plead with you to do so today, because none of us is promised tomorrow.

One day, I will be in heaven, though I don’t deserve it.  I will be there by the grace and mercy of God, and through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

When I get there, I hope to see you there too.

So please, repent and trust in Christ today, and you will be saved!!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Acts 16 - Two Miracles, Two Reactions

Hello Project Ezra!  I’m glad you are able to join us this week in sharing the truth of God’s grace through the reading of His word.  This week’s chapter is Acts 16, and I’m excited about reading it.  I’ve read the chapter many times, but never saw the truths that are contrasted in it until recently, and they are profound.  I’ll keep the introduction minimal this week, since I think the outline addresses the subject well enough.  I pray this is a blessing, and that you will not only participate yourself, but will encourage others to do so as well.  As always, I’m excited to hear your testimonies. 

All for His glory,


This chapter talks about two miracles, and two different groups who saw those miracles

Their reactions were very different.

I would ask that you ponder those differences as I read.

I will share more on those differences after the reading


Two groups of people who had the privilege of seeing God work

Two miracles with two very different responses

One group considered only what was taken from them

Other group praised God for what they were given

If you were there, what would your reaction be?

The chapter talks about a slave girl with a spirit of divination.

She was a demoniac, and she followed Paul and Silas, crying out after them 

She was telling the truth, though most likely in mocking.

Eventually Paul, in frustration, cast the demon out through the power of Christ

Owners saw an exorcism.  They should have seen a miracle of God.

But all they could see was the money they had lost.  Their god was their money.

So they lied in order to have Paul and Silas thrown into prison

The Roman jailer also saw a miracle.  He and his family responded much differently.

Paul and Silas had just been arrested, stripped, and beaten, and were now locked the stocks.

Despite their suffering, they were praising God and singing hymns to Him

That may seem strange, but there is a joy in knowing and serving God that surpasses any earthly troubles

Then there was an earthquake, and all the prison doors flew open

If a Roman jailer had his prisoners escape, he would lose his life.

He was ready to commit suicide, but Paul stopped him.

The same power that opened the doors to the prison kept the prisoners from leaving

The jailer saw that he had been rescued from deadly peril, that his life had been given back to him

He fell to his knees, and begged Paul and Silas to show him how to be saved.

He was not angry for what he could have lost, but grateful for what he had been given.

Like the jailer, your life is in danger.

Like the jailer, through Jesus Christ, there is an escape

You are in danger because you have broken God’s law and offended Him

God is so holy He cannot allow evil in His presence

He is such a perfect judge that He will not leave any guilt unpunished.

That should terrify you, because you are evil and guilty, just like me.


What can you do to remove your guilt?

You can’t do anything on your own

But, but God’s grace, you can be delivered, just as the jailer was. 

Jesus Christ, through His death on the cross, paid the penalty for our sins

His suffering, under the weight of His Father’s wrath, satisfied God’s justice.

Because justice has been satisfied, those who repent of their sins and trust in Him, and His sacrifice alone, can go free

Only through repentance from your sins, and faith in Christ alone, can you be made right with God

Only through faith in the one who carried your guilt, and satisfied justice through His sacrifice, can you be forgiven

Have you done that?  If not, please do so today!

Like the slave owners, you will be distracted by the riches of this world

Many things will catch your eye and entice you, drawing you away from God’s truth

But I pray that today, God will open your heart to hear the gospel, as He did for Lydia in this chapter

God is a good and loving God, and be merciful if you repent and trust Him

Life is short, and none of us is promised tomorrow, so don’t delay

His patience will not last forever, and there are no second chances

About 150,000 people die every day

You don’t know when your day will come, but you do know that you will be dead longer than you will be alive

So repent and trust in Christ today while He has given you time


Friday, June 1, 2012

Malachi 1

Hello Project Ezra!  I hope and pray that your week is going well.  Mine is, but due to some additional responsibilities I’m taking on at work, things have been very busy.  So this week, rather than a more complete exposition of a chapter which, sadly, I have not had time to do, I will give you the chapter and let you struggle through some of the details on your own.

Being given the responsibility, and the privilege, of writing Project Ezra each week has truly been one of the greatest gifts of my Christian life.  It has driven me to study more deeply, it has driven me to pray for faithfully, and it has driven me to consider carefully the context and meaning of every passage.  It has frequently been a struggle, but in a good way.  I’m positive I haven’t gotten everything right, and my theology is far from perfect, but simply the fact that others, such as many of you, will consider taking what I have presented and used it when you go to the streets with the aim of glorifying God is amazing and humbling, and I can’t and don’t take that lightly.  And it is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that I am able to do it at all.

But isn’t that the thought process we have whenever we handle God’s word?  It seems to me that the Bible is often handled very lightly and superficially in our culture, and can be twisted and bend to meet personal desires.  But if we love God, we will desire to honor and glorify His rightly, and to understand Him in the way He has chosen to reveal Himself.  It shouldn’t matter how difficult or unpopular that truth is, either to those we talk to or to ourselves. We must do all we can to be faithful to God intended His message to be in the scriptures, and that’s what I am challenging you to do this week.

There are a few point to consider listed below.  Of course, we are reading from the Old Testament, so Christ is not mentioned specifically, and many of the details of Salvation as presented in the New Testament have not been clarified.  But God never changes, and His character and nature is clearly presented from Genesis to revelations.  And I believe man’s sinful nature, apart from Christ, is just as consistent.  It is that nature, and how false worship and false faith manifest themselves, that I think is a good focus for this chapter, and a good springboard into the gospel.  I pray they will be helpful.


Despising God’s name by offering polluted sacrifices

Presenting God with less than your best

Officering God grudging, rather than joyful, recognition

Promises to God that are not delivered.

Sacrifices with resentment rather than sacrifices with joy

These reactions show your motives.  For self rather than for God

Offering corrupt sacrifices is evil

If you present that level of work or dedication to your wife, boss, the government, will they accept it?

If you are giving your best out of joy, do you really understand the depth and breadth of God’s gift?

True sacrifice doesn’t make you right with God, but indicates the truth or falseness of your belief.

If these describe you, you have reason to fear

Examine yourself to see if you are in the faith

Please remember to include the essential aspects of the gospel in your presentation
                The Holiness of God

                The sinfulness of man

                The righteousness of God’s judgment and the truth of hell

                God’s goodness, mercy and grace demonstrated in the cross of Christ

                The substitutionary and legal nature of Christ’s atonement

                Salvation through repentance and faith in Christ alone

                The supernatural nature of salvation and the heart changed by God

Thanks all, and I will be praying for many divine appointments, and hearts and minds open to hear the truth of the gospel.

All for His glory,