Friday, January 25, 2013

Joshua 23 – The Pervasive Sin of Idolatry

Hello Project Ezra!  It’s amazing to me that we are almost at the end of January already.  The new year is passing quickly.  But God is good, and there have been many opportunities to share His message of grace.  Have you seen those opportunities in your life?  Be sure to look, they will always be there.  Though the project is primarily about reading and sharing God’s word in the public square, the principles of evangelism that we are trying to encourage here are the same principles that can be used for one-to-one witnessing to friends, family, co-workers, etc.  I know personally it has been easy to compartmentalize, to have my “evangelism time” separate and distinct, and to feel fulfilled in having completed my obligation in my weekly trip to the streets.  But ultimately that is a foolish notion.  I want to see God’s hand in every situation, and to see Him open heart and minds to hear His word regardless of where I am and what I’m doing.  I’m still working on and praying about this, desiring to see His working in the mundane and day to day activities of life, and by His grace I am seeing Him do so more and more.  I would encourage you to do the same.

This week, in Joshua 23, we are looking at a particular sin, the sin of idolatry.  I don’t believe we have had a previous post that focused on only one sin, but because of the themes in this chapter, and because of the pervasiveness of idolatry, it seemed appropriate.  Like pride, idolatry is the fertile ground that allows many other sins to take root.  When we think we have a right to believe in a god that suits us, rather than in God’s truth as he has revealed Himself to us, we can make as much space as we need to excuse ourselves for breaking His law and dishonoring His name.  In the case of the nation of Israel, they were told clearly that they would lose their inheritance if they chose to follow after idols and forsake His law.  History tells us they did just that time and time again.  But God is faithful, and kind, and merciful, and because of that fact of His character they lived, and we live through repentance, and faith in Christ alone.  So pass on that hope this week to the idolaters you meet, and pray they we turn and trust Christ, as I pray you have.

All for His glory,


In this chapter, God promised to push other nations back, and told the Israelites they were to possess the promised land

He also told them to follow what was written in the Book of the Law of Moses

They were told not to mix with the nations around them, or to mention their gods, or to swear by them, serve them, or bow down to them

God said “Cling to the Lord your God just as you have done to this day” and “Be very careful, therefore, to love the LORD your God.”

He told them if they turned back and clung to the remnant of these nations remaining among them and made marriages with them, and thus became influenced by their false religions, that He would no longer drive out these nations before them, and they would be a snare and a trap, a whip for their sides and thorns in their eyes.

He told them that if they served and bowed down to other gods, then His anger would be kindled against them, and they would perish quickly.

Many people today say that what you believe doesn’t matter, as long as you are sincere.

They say that what matters is not what you believe, as long as you believe something.

But is it really true that everyone has a right to his or her beliefs?  God's word says differently.

While we have the freedom to believe what we want, choices have consequences, and the choice to rebel against God is foolish and dangerous.

The sin of idolatry is the choice to treat anything as more important than God.

Idolatry was the first thing God forbid in His 10 commandments.

It’s a law every one of us has broken time and time again.

If you have chosen to worship a carved or cast idol, an image made by man to resemble any created thing, then you are an idolater.

If you have made a god in your own mind, and in your own image, a god who ignores your sin so you can live as you please, then you are an idolater.

If your life is focused on money, power, or influence, rather than on your creator, then you are an idolater.

If you are trusting in Buddha, or Mohamed, or Krishna, or the Virgin Mary, or Joseph Smith, or any other false deity, you are an idolater.

If you believe in no gods at all, and are trusting in yourself, or humanity, or science, or the natural order of things, you are still an idolater.

If you are living in idolatry, as many are, and as I used to, then you are in rebellion against God, and you have made yourself His enemy.

And like any good king, God will see that justice is served to those rebels who attack His kingdom and threaten His people.

But even though our idolatry is more than enough to send every one of us to hell for all eternity, and even though it would be perfectly just of God to do so, we don’t have to go.

God has made a way for our sin, our idolatry, to be forgiven.

He has made a way for the fine due for our moral crimes to be paid in full

He has made a way for His perfect justice to be perfectly satisfied.

That way is the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

2000 years ago, Jesus Christ, true man, and yet also true God (John 1), took on the form of a servant, and was born in the likeness of man (Phil 2:7)

He laid down His life as the price for sin, a price He paid in full.

Then He rose from the grave after three days, proving His power over death, and proving He was who He claimed to be.

He is now our high priest, and the source of salvation to all who obey Him (Heb 5:8-10)

And He now commands all men everywhere to repent. (Acts 17:30)

Repentance is turning.  It is turning away from our sinful desires and towards God.

It is only through turning from idolatry, in all its forms, and trusting in the true God, the God of the Bible, that we can be saved.

Have you done this?  Have you repented of your idolatry and put your trust in Christ?  Or are you still God’s enemy?

God will not share His glory with anyone (Isa 42:8), and it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:31)

But God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that they turn and live (Eze 18:23)

We are here today because we are praying that you will turn and live, and that someday we will see you in heaven.

So turn today and live!


Friday, January 18, 2013

Proverbs 24

Hello Project Ezra!  This week the suggested reading is Proverbs 24. Like much of Proverbs, there are contrasts made in this chapter between the wise and the foolish.  Our focus will be reminding people that there is nothing wiser than trusting God, and nothing more foolish than desiring evil.  I pray this outline is a blessing.

All for His glory,



Today we are praying you will come to know wisdom and foolishness, and know Him who discerns between the two

There is nothing more important.  A wise understanding of who God is matters eternally.

The book of Proverbs frequently compares the wise man to the foolish

This chapter tells us not to foolishly desire evil, but hunger after wisdom

We have a natural desire for sin.  The things God calls sin can often bring us pleasure.

But this chapter tells us not to be envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them, for their hearts devise violence and their lips talk of trouble.
Rebellion against God’s law does not come without its price.  God’s word tells us we are all by nature children of wrath, and under God’s judgment.

Gaining wisdom can be and often is difficult, but is of inestimable value.

By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established.

Honey is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste.  Know that wisdom is such to your soul.  If you find it, there will be a future.

The Bible tells us in multiple places that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom

But if God is a loving God, why should we fear Him? 

Because He is also a just and holy God.

We should fear Him because He is good, and we are not. He is a just judge, and we are guilty criminals

24:12 tells us God weighs the heart, and will repay man according to His work.

I know enough about my own heart to know I do NOT want to be repaid according to my work!

Proverbs 24:19-20 says “Fret not yourself because of evildoers, and be not envious of the wicked, for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out.”

And Hebrews 10 tells us “For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  (Hebrews 10:30-31 ESV)

If we look at ourselves in light of God’s standard, in light of His holiness, we all deserve judgment and hell for our moral crimes against Him..

Do you doubt your guilt?  Look at yourself in light of His law

God’s law is a reflection of His character and nature, and His word tells us He has written it on our hearts.  Even if you deny His existence, you know this is true.

They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them
(Romans 2:15 ESV)

If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?  Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?  (Proverbs 24:12 ESV)


God is just, and will make sure the penalty for all sin is paid to the fullest

But God is also patient, and merciful, and loving.  He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

So, by His grace and for His glory, He made a way for us to be made right with Him, for our sins to be paid.

Jesus Christ, perfect man and God in the flesh, came to earth 2000 years ago.

He lived the perfect life none of us could live.  Then He died on a cross.

And all our guilt, all our evil, all the pain and suffering we rightly deserved, was laid on Him instead.

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
(1 Peter 2:22-24 ESV)

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”
(Galatians 3:13 ESV)

He took the curse due to us, bore it, and paid it in full.

On the cross, He said the debt was paid in full.

Then three days later He rose again from the dead, and ascended into heaven to sit at 
God’s right hand.

Now, through His death and resurrection, we too can have eternal life, through repentance and faith in Him

Repent.  Turn from your sins.  Though perfect obedience on this side of heaven is impossible, when God come to live in you, you are changed more every day, as the Holy Spirit transforms you into the likeness of Christ.

Faith.  Trust in Jesus Christ, and Him alone, for your salvation.  Only He is true deity.  Only he died for sins and rose again.  Only He is the way, the truth, and the life.

So come to Him today.  Repent and trust in Him, and one day, you will be with Him in paradise!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Psalm 50

Hello Project Ezra!  I pray you are all doing well, and that God has blessed you with many chances to share His gospel this past week, and that He will provide many more this coming week.  I’ve formatted the reading a bit differently this week.  Instead of providing a full outline, I’ve broken the suggested chapter into three themes that are found in the chapter, each one of which could be an excellent springboard into the gospel.  For each theme I have also listed a few additional thoughts, as well as several additional Bible verses that may be useful.  I would encourage you to read through the chapter, consider each theme, and chose one you can expand on for your open-air.  I’m looking forward to reading your testimonies!

All for His glory,


God is a mighty judge, and we are guilty criminals

The Mighty One, God the LORD
 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth
Our God comes; He does not keep silence                                            
Before Him is a devouring fire, around Him a mighty tempest
He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that He may judge His people
The heavens declare His righteousness, for God himself is judge

Eph 2:1-3 – Dead in our trespasses and sin, by nature children of wrath

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:  (2 Timothy 4:1 ESV)

All of us will stand before God some day and be judged.  How will you stand before Him?

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.  (Colossians 2:13-14 ESV)

God does not need us, but we desperately need Him
God does not need sacrifices

I will not accept a bull from your house, nor goats from your folds
For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills,
And all that moves in the field is mine.
If I were hungry, I would not tell you
For the world and all its fullness are mine
Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?

Good works will not help you.  God does not need us

You have nothing to offer to God.  Your so-called goodness does not benefit Him

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.  (Acts 17:24-25 ESV)

Call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me

O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy.  (Daniel 9:18 ESV)

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)

Come to God in repentance and faith, with humility, and you will be saved!

God will not abide hypocrites, and we are all hypocrites
To the wicked God says:
What right do you have to recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips?
You cast my words behind you
If you see a thief, you are pleased with him, and you keep company with adulterers
You give your mouth full reign for evil, and your tongue frames deceit

Everyone knows God’s law.  It is written on our hearts

For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.  (Romans 2:12-16 ESV)

Those who claim to know Him, yet ignore or deny His word, as self-deceived and still in darkness

Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,  (1 John 2:4 ESV)

“Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!
The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God.  (Psalm 50:22-23 ESV)

Only through repentance and faith, through Christ’s obedience, and His blood, shed on the cross, can we be right before God

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.  (Hebrews 5:7-10 ESV)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Job 2 – A God of Purpose

Hello Project Ezra!  I pray that the New Year is treating you well, and that you had many opportunities to share the gospel during the Christmas season.  This week our suggested reading is Job chapter 2.  Job can be a tough book to read and to understand at times, but I believe one of its primary and most powerful messages has to do with God’s purpose.  Job suffered greatly at the hands of Satan, and I’m sure much more emotionally and spiritually as his friends, with what I believe were the best of intentions, tried to convince him that his suffering was due to his own sin.  But while we can look at the book and see God moving through these situations, Job’s many questions to God were not answered.  Even at the end of the book, when God does speak to Job, He does not explain His purposes, but reminds Job who it is that he is talking to.

This can be one of the hardest struggles in life, for the believer as well as the non-believer.  Why all the suffering in the world?  Why do we have so many seemingly unnecessary difficulties in our lives?  Why DO bad things happen to good people?  Of course, if we are in Christ we know that our question should be why good things happen to bad people, since none of us is good by God’s standards.  But even knowing this it can be hard to see God’s plan.  It is certainly hard for those who don’t know Him

The one thing we can know and trust in is that God is sovereign, and that everything He causes or allows has a purpose.  Just as we can see that purpose in Job by reading the end of the book, and seeing the impact it has had on the rest of scripture and on Christian life, you can likely see how the hand of God has worked in your life.  I know there were times of incredible pain and struggle in my early life that made no sense to me at the time, but do now, and many of those struggles made me who I am today.  I thank God for those times, and even for the pain, because they were God’s means of drawing me closer to Him.  And in the same way God uses struggles in other people’s lives for the same purpose.  In a number of occasions, when sharing the gospel with people and talking about their struggles, I have reminded them that it could be that the very reason God allowed those struggles was to bring them to that time and place, and to prepare them to hear His word.  It has always given them pause and made them think, and I believe in some, if not most cases, that is exactly the truth.

So this weekend as you read, remind those listening (and yourselves) that we serve a God of purpose.  Nothing takes Him by surprise.  Nothing is random or accidental.  Everything that happens, whether it is directly caused or merely allowed, whether it occurs through supernatural fiat or through the working of His providence, has purpose, and is the act of a good God working for the good of His children, and for the praise of His glory.

All for His glory,



This is part of the story of Job, one of the oldest stories in the Bible

It reminds us of the reality of pain and suffering in this world

It also reminds us that God is aware of that pain and suffering

Many would ask how a good God could allow such evil things to happen to such a good man.

In truth no man is good, and we should rather think of why good things happen to bad people

But more importantly, we need to know that God is sovereign, or in control, and that everything that He allows or causes happens for a purpose.

Like Job, we may not know what that purpose is, and like him, we may struggle to see God’s goodness is our lives

And like Job, God may not choose to give us the answers we seek. God never answered Job’s questions that we know of.

But this story reminds us that God is sovereign, or in total control, and that He has purpose, even if we can’t see it

So what is your purpose in God’s creation?

The Westminster shorter catechism says man’s purpose here is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

But God’s word  tells us all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

We fall short because we have broken His law and chosen to disobey or neglect His commands, and thus we do not glorify Him

Have you done that?  Have you broken God’s law?

God tells us that the purpose of the law is to lead us to Christ that we may be justified by faith.

So take a few minutes to examine yourself in the light of that law.


The purpose of the law is to show us our sin and our guilt before God

God is holy, and because of His moral perfection, because of His absolute purity, His word tells us He cannot even look on sin, and that He will not leave the guilty unpunished

Therefore God has prepared a place of punishment, first for the fallen angels and then for us.  It is a place called hell, a place of eternal suffering and torment.  A place of fire and darkness and pain that will never end.

The purpose of judgment and punishment in hell is tied to that holiness, to God’s character

God’s justice and holiness must be satisfied, and thus all sin must be punished completely

And if you look at yourself in truth, you know that punishment is exactly what you deserve.

But God has made a way for sin to be punished, and His justice satisfied, so you can be brought into a right relationship with Him

That way is through the suffering and death of the God Man, Jesus Christ

The purpose of Jesus’ death on the cross 2000 years ago is the redemption of mankind through His blood
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
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, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.  (Ephesians 1:3-14 ESV)             

Because Jesus Christ died and rose again, we can be saved from the penalty due us for our sins and brought into a right relationship with our creator.

God’s word says this is done through repentance toward God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21)

So today, while God has given you time, repent, or turn from sin, and put your trust in Jesus Christ alone to save you.