Friday, July 26, 2013

Jeremiah 18 - The Potter and the Clay

Hello Project Ezra!  I pray this week is going well for you, and that you will have the opportunity and privilege of joining us for outreach this weekend.  Our suggested reading is Jeremiah 18, and our focus is on the sovereignty of God.   This is one of the Biblical passages that refer to God as the potter and us as the clay.  It is an apt description, but one that we fight against.  The source of much of man’s sinful attitude is pride.   Men want control and autonomy, so the idea of God’s sovereignty, His absolute authority over every aspect of our lives, frustrates and angers them.  But by the power of the Holy Spirit that pride can be broken, and even the most rebellious heart can be remade by God to love and serve Him.  Let’s pray that God works through our preaching this weekend to bring hearts to Him.

All for His glory,



The God of the Bible is sovereign

What that means, simply, is that as creator and sustainer of all that exists, He is in complete control

Everything that happens on this earth God either allows, or directly causes

Nothing surprises Him, and nothing can stop Him

In this chapter Jeremiah compares God to a potter, shaping a clay vessel

If the clay goes out of shape, the potter simply reworks it into something else, as it seems good to Him

Of course, the analogy breaks down, as all analogies do, since God does not make mistakes

But the principle remains.  We are the creation, God is the creator, and He has the right, and the ability, to do whatever He wants with us.

This God who owns us is a good and patient God.  He tells us in this chapter, and in others, that if those deserving of His justice repent of their sin against Him that He we relent of the disaster He intended for them

But we are by nature rebellious against God.  We would rather go our own way

We cry, as in verse 12, ‘That is in vain!  We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.’

Our nature is that of rebellion.  The Bible says the same of human nature in other places as well

Genesis 8 tells us that the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth.

Ephesians 2 tells us that we are by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind

Romans 3 says even more.  It tells us:
None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." 13 "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." 14 "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." 15 "Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known." 18 "There is no fear of God before their eyes."

You may think that this doesn’t describe you.  You may claim that you are not a rebel against God

But God says those that love Him keep His commandments.  Have you kept His commandments?


In truth, we are all guilty before God.  And if God is a good God, and a righteous judge, what must 
He do with people like us?

Scripture asks rhetorically, will not the judge of all the earth do right?  Of course He will!

A perfect judge means perfect justice, and perfect justice, and perfect justice means we are in trouble

Hebrews 10 tells us
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay." And again, "The Lord will judge his people." 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Hell is a real place, and terrible beyond human understanding

Those who go there will not enjoy unlimited sin, as some seem to think

They will never enjoy anything again.  All enjoyment comes from God, even if we use it wrongly

In Hell we will be forever separated from all God’s goodness, and will be under the weight of His anger and wrath for all eternity.

But you don’t have to suffer for your sins.  God, because of His great grace and love, has provided an escape

Though God is the potter, and we are nothing but clay, though we can offer nothing to Him, still He cares for us

He cares enough that He sent His only son, Jesus Christ, to be the sacrifice and payment for our sin

Colossians 1 says of Jesus:
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Philippians 2 tells us that Jesus:
6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus Christ, for whom and through whom all things exist, humbled Himself, came to earth, and died on a cross for our sin

Then He rose again on the third day, defeating sin and death, and proving who He was

Now He offers salvation to all those who will repent and trust in Him alone for their salvation

The Bible talks about being born again, and that is what happens when we trust in Christ and are saved

Salvation is not just a decision that we make to do better.  It happens when God makes a supernatural change in our very nature

Ezekiel 36 describes it this way:
25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Only through Jesus’ sacrifice as payment, and through this work of the potter, reshaping you for His purposes, will anyone be born again

God is a good God.  He is mighty to save.  He will save you today, if you call out to Him in humility, and in repentance

He will make you a new creation, and will separate your sins from you as far as the east is from the west 

Tomorrow is not promised.  The rest of today is not even promised

Any one of us could step out of this life and into eternity at any time

While God has given you time, turn to Him and be saved!

Friday, July 19, 2013

2 Kings 1 - Idolotry

Hello Project Ezra! My apologies for the re-post last week. I was headed out for a much-needed vacation, and didn’t have time to write a full post. I got home last night, and I pray that this post will be a blessing, even if it’s a bit shorter.

The suggested reading for this week is 2 Kings 1, and the focus of the reading is idolatry. It amazes me how many people I meet on the street who not only engage in idolatry, but don’t think that God has a problem with it. Your average man or woman seems largely ignorant of God’s clear commands in this area, because usually they are. It’s not that God’s command against idolatry is hidden in His word, or hard to discern, but that people simply don’t want to accept it. They want a God who bends to their will, not the other way around. God’s word and commands are, from a worldly perspective, inconvenient, and most people would rather compromise than struggle. As evangelist Leonard Ravenhill said, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It has been tried, found difficult and rejected.” And he is right.

So our goal in this week’s reading is two-fold. First, we want to lay out the truth of what idolatry is and what the Bible says about those who practice it. And secondly, as is always the case, we want to call people to turn from their idolatry and turn to the true Christ. Belief in false gods is false hope, that can only lead to disappointment in this life, and suffering and Hell in the next. Let’s pray that God will work powerfully in the hearts of those who hear the word this week, and that souls will be brought to salvation.

All for His glory,

(If this is too detailed, or if you have been participating for a while, consider re-writing this in outline form, with just a few words per line as cues, and use your own words rather than mine. It will help you grow as a street preacher)



For many thousands of years, God has announced His will to mankind through His prophets

Though we are not prophets as Elijah was, we are still here as messengers of God

We, and all Christians, have been called to be heralds, to proclaim God’s word

We preach the truth of God’s word to glorify Him, and in hope that you may hear, and turn to Him

God word to His people in this passage is on the subject of idolatry

Idolatry is treating anything or anyone, or even any idea, as more important than God
Romans 1 says:
21For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

God’s word says idolatry is not a matter of ignorance, but an act of rebellion.

In fact, it is an act of rebellion we have all engaged in.

Examine yourself, as God’s word tells us to, and you will see that this is the case.

If you have followed a faith or a world view that denies to the truth of the Biblical God, then you have committed idolatry.

If you have bowed down before a picture, or before a statue or image of wood, or stone, or metal, you have committed idolatry.

If you have followed a religion contrary to God’s word, such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, the Jehovah’s Witness faith, Christian Science, Roman Catholicism, or even Atheism, you have committed idolatry.
NOTE: Each of these faiths (and yes, even Atheism is based a faith-based world view) has its own set of issues that can be addressed. In your area, there may be one of more of these faith systems that are more prominent, and you may want to focus on those. Obviously, you may be challenged by a believer in one of these systems, and may be asked to respond to an objection you don’t have an answer to. That’s OK. If you don’t know the answer, say so, and offer to stay in touch with the objector and find the answer for them. Most often the other person in bluffing, and just wants to shut you up, but if they do want follow-up, and you have to do research, it will likely be of benefit to both of you. Remember, God is true, and there is no question you need to be scared of.

If you have cared more about your job, your reputation, your legacy, the pursuit of pleasure or money, or even your family, more that you care about God, then you have committed idolatry

If you have done none of these things, but have imagined a God who is all love and no justice, one who will ignore sin and let everyone into heaven, then you have committed idolatry.

Even if you have lived a life of self-denial and discipline, doing your best to follow God’s word, but are trusting in your own good works to get you into heaven, you are still committing idolatry. You have put yourself in God’s place, intent on saving yourself, when only He can save you.

Idolatry is not a small thing, though we tend to treat it as such. It is an offense against God.

1 Corinthians 10 tells us that worship given to idols is really worship given to demons.

1 Corinthians 6 tells us that idolaters will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

If idolatry is sin, which it is, and we have all committed it, which we have, then we all have a problem.

We are guilty before God.

Every one of us is a criminal in light of God’s law, and guilty criminals deserve justice.

God is a just judge.  In fact, Ecclesiastes 12 tells us God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

Exodus 34 tells us He will not leave the guilty unpunished.

The punishment God has prepared for the guilty is called hell

In Hell all who remain in their guilt and their sin will be separated from all God’s good blessings, and will be forever under the weight of His wrath.

Hell is a place of fire, and of darkness, and of pain, and no one should ever want to go there (Revelation 20).

But though all men are guilty, that guilt can be taken away.

In fact, we are told that for some, God separates them from their sin as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103)

Those who are freed from their sin are those who have repented, and trusted in Christ alone.

Jesus Christ, God the Son, came to earth 2000 years ago, so that men could be free from their sin.

He lived a perfect life, a life none of us could live, and then died as the perfect and final sacrifice for sin.

Hebrews 9 says “But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

1 Peter 1 tells us that we have been ransomed by the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God

Romans 5 also tells us we have been reconciled to God by the death of His Son, and saved through His life!

But He did not stay dead. He rose on the third day, and now sits at the Father’s right hand, as our advocate for the Day of Judgment, if we will repent.

Repentance is turning from sin, and turning to Christ.

It is a realization of the depth of your sin, through the working of the Holy Spirit, and a change of direction and allegiance.

By God’s power, your heart is changed, and you begin to hate your sin, and love your savior.

Ezekiel 36 tells us that God can take a heart of stone, and make it a heart of flesh.

God is mighty to save, and if you trust in Him alone to save you, He will!

So turn from your idols, and turn to Him today, while He has given you time.

Life if short, and none of us are promised a tomorrow.

So turn to Jesus Christ today, and be saved!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Psalm 104 Repost

Greetings Project Ezra!  Since I'm leaving for vacation tonight, this is a re-post an outline from a couple of years ago, with a few small tweaks.  I'm already working on the next post and, God willing, it will be up on time next week.  This week’s suggested reading is Psalm 104.  The Psalm starts with a declaration of the power and majesty of God, and then goes on to examine that power and majesty as it is demonstrated in His creation.  Indeed, it is impossible to have your eyes opened to the wonders of God’s creation and not stand in awe.  But over time it’s easy for us to take it for granted, so it’s a good thing to just stop and think about.  As I write this I’m typing on an amazing piece of human ingenuity called a computer, surrounded by many hundreds of books containing more information than I could every adequately process.  But how often do we think about the fact that something like the houseplant on the windowsill, which seems so simple and takes so much less maintenance, has more order, complexity, and beauty then them all?  It simply boggles the mind.

So the focus of the outline this week, like the focus of the chapter, is greatness of God in His creation.  If we can take creation for granted, the unbeliever does so even more, so we want to bring it to their attention through our preaching.  We will also be contrasting the foundations God has laid and the boundaries He has set for the rest of creation, with the moral foundations He has laid for us and the boundaries He has set for mankind, which they frequently ignore.  I pray it will be an effective transition to the gospel.

All for His glory,



Today I want to proclaim to you the greatness of God as it is expressed in His word

In Psalm 104 it declares that God is the creator of all, and that He is clothed in splendor and majesty.

In His power he laid the foundations of the earth, making them immovable, and stretched out the heavens.

He comes in power, and the clouds are His chariot

It tells us that during the flood He covered the world with the deep as with a garment, and the waters stood above the mountains

Then at His cry they fled away, and He set boundaries for them that they could not cross.

All creation is sustained and held together by Him, and by Him alone   

He declares the times and the seasons

He causes every plant, and every tree to grow

He provides for every creature, every beast, every bird, and every creature of the sea, and they look to Him for their daily food

He also provides good food and drink to men to strengthen them and to make their hearts glad

Everything good thing we have, we have from God, and from Him alone.

If God created us, we are His.  You may not believe in Him, or trust Him to save you, but He is still your Lord, God and king, whether you accept it or not.

And just as He laid the foundations of the world and set the boundaries for creation, He laid our moral foundations and set boundaries for us
His word said he set boundaries that creation may not pass, and His creation obeys.  He set boundary for us as well.  Have you obeyed as the rest of creation does?

One of the boundaries God set for mankind is His moral foundation, His moral law.

If we examine His law, as we would a mirror, we see how we compare with and reflect His perfect holiness

God is holy, holy, holy.  He is perfect, He is pure, and He is set high above His creation, although He is not separated or distant from His creation.

God’s holiness and purity demands our holiness and purity.  He can not and will not allow evil in His presence, and every wicked act will receive perfect justice.

Some may balk at the concept of hell, the idea that God would punish finite sin eternally

But because of God’s perfection and holiness, even the smallest sin is infinitely sinful against an infinitely holy God.  And every one of us has committed more sins than we could possibly count.

We have lied, when God is a God of truth, and His word says all liars will have their part in the lake of fire

We have stolen something, whether it is possessions from others, or honor, glory and worship belonging to God, and to Him alone.  God hates theft, and no thief will enter His kingdom.

We have committed adultery, either by giving our mind over to inappropriate sexual thoughts, or giving our bodies away to those to whom they don’t belong.  In fact, when Israel, God’s chosen people, turned away from worshipping Him, He declared that to be spiritual adultery as well.

More than anything we have failed to give God the worship He is due.  We have either ignored Him, or created an image that makes us more comfortable, one that looks like Santa Clause as gives us what we want, rather than the true God of the Bible.

Because of our sin, and our willful rebellion, God will, and must, by His own nature and character, punish our sin.  He is a God of justice, and His justice must and will be satisfied.

He has told us that His enemies will be bound and thrown into outer darkness, where there will be weeping, and gnashing of teeth.  This outer darkness, this place of fire and pain and torment, is what the Bible calls Hell, and punishment there will last for eternity.

You may ask “What about God’s love?”

Truly, God’s love is beyond comprehension, and His patience is beyond measure

But God did not show His love by ignoring sin, or He would also be ignoring His justice

God demonstrated His love by the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, as the payment for sin

2000 years ago Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, came to earth and lived the perfect life you and I could never live.

Then He went to a Roman cross, and while He was on that cross God’s wrath was poured out on Him, so it didn’t have to be poured out on us.

Romans 3:23-25 says - for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation (or a satisfaction of our debt) by his blood, to be received by faith.

Now, God commands all men everywhere to repent, to turn to His Son and be saved.  That is our call to you today.

Acts 3:19 says - Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord

Let God change you, transform you, and refresh you.  Only through Him, through the power of His Spirit, can you be saved, made right before Him.

So come to God today.  Humble yourself before Him, throw yourself on His mercy, at the foot of His cross.  Repent of your sin, and put your trust in Christ alone.

If God changes your heart and you are born again, then you too will be able to sing His praises, as we do.
God, may your glory endure forever, and may I sing to you as long as I live!

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Power of Public Scripture Reading – A Word of Encouragment

Independence Day (in the States) is just a few days away, and our Project Ezra 4th of July event is already in progress.  Many of you will likely participate, and I know many of you have participated in the past.  For those of you not planning to join us, or who may have considered public scripture reading but have never participated, I hope a story from my reading this last Saturday will be an encouragement to you to do so.

Saturday afternoon, after I got off work, I headed out to join a group from our church at our outreach booth at the Silicon Valley BBQ Championship.  I had not attended this event in the past, so I didn’t know what to expect.  I was praying for good crowds and plenty of people to talk to.  By God’s grace I was able to find parking quickly and found our booth just as quickly, which is unusual at large events.  When I arrived, there were a fair number of people at the event, but the “Free Speech” area, where booths such as ours were set up, seemed a bit isolated from the main event area.  We were tucked into a corner by one of the park play areas, and though there were a couple entrances nearby, few people approached our booth, and the walkways were wide enough that it was easy for people to pass us at a good distance, so it was harder to get tracts into people’s hands.

This has a tendency to discourage me.  Though I have been in similar situations many times, I much prefer larger crowds and heavy foot traffic.  If I’m going to be passing out tracts, I want to get as many out as I can, and I would always prefer to open-air preach when there are more people to listen.  But instead of getting frustrated, I reminded myself that God is not limited by small crowds or light foot traffic, and he puts each of us into exactly the place He needs us to be, regardless of our perception of the situation.  So I took a breath, grabbed a stack of tracts, and started praying, trusting that He would bring those who needed to be there, who He had prepared for a divine appointment that day.

I had several good conversations, and handed out a few tracts.  I was considering doing some open-air scripture reading, but they still had a band playing nearby, and they were too loud for reading to be very effective.  So I kept tracting, and had the opportunity to talk to and encourage a couple of believers who had come to visit the event as well.  One of the best parts of working a booth at a festival is the fellowship with other believers, and I always enjoy it.  Then, just as the event official ended, and the rest of the team was starting to break down the booth, I asked for prayer from a couple of the men, and then stepped up onto my box to read.  

I decided to read the beginning of 1 John, the same book we will be using for our 4th of July reading.  It’s one of my favorite passages to use as a springboard for an open-air gospel presentation.  I believe it has an especially strong impact on those who profess faith but live a worldly life.  I read the first chapter, and the beginning of the second, and as I was getting ready to transition into the gospel, and man came up to talk to me.  I’ll call him Joe, since I didn’t ask his permission to mention him here.  Joe took my hand, and asked if I could pray for him.  Sometimes people will do this as a distraction technique to stop the preaching, but one look at Joe and I could tell that was not the case.  I stepped off the box to talk, and it quickly became clear that Joe was the reason, or at least the primary reason, that I was there that day.

The reading of the word always has a powerful impact, and cuts to the heart.  It’s not by accident or hyperbole that it’s called a sword.  But that impact is not always visible.  With Joe, it was.  He was broken over his sin.  He said he was an alcoholic, and needed help.  He said he had tried to quit, and couldn’t.  He wanted to know what he could do.  Some of the other team members, including one of our church elders, noticed what was happening.  I beckoned them over, and as they gathered around Joe and laid hands on him to pray, I explained to him that there was nothing he could do, and that he needed to surrender himself to Christ.  I told him about the amazing love of his creator, who despite our sin, humbled Himself, took on human form, and died on a cross so that we could be cleansed of our sins.  I encouraged him to turn from his sins, and fix his eyes on Christ, trusting Him alone as the only means of salvation.  I urged him to cry out to God to save him.  And as we prayed for him, with tears running down his face, he did just that.  It wasn’t a fancy prayer, but it was from the heart, and I believe it was sincere.  We were able to spend a few more minutes with Joe, encouraging him, and inviting him to join us at church.  I think he will, but even if he doesn’t, I believe God did a work in him that day, and pray that we will see him in glory.

The encouragement I would like to share is this.  Yes, I was able to share the gospel with Joe.  Our team was able to gather and pray for him.  But I firmly believe that by the time we started our conversation, the work was already done.  The impact, the thing he needed to hear, was the truth of the word of God, bringing to mind his rebellion against God, and breaking his pride.  It was an amazing privilege to talk with him, and to be used in that way, but it was God who changed Joe’s heart, and I believe He will continue to change Joe’s heart, as He has for me and for many of you.  And I got to be there and see it!  There is no greater privilege, no greater joy that I can imagine, than that.

So be encouraged in your evangelism.  If you have not shared your faith through the public reading of scripture, I would encourage you to.  God’s word will not return void.  This story is just one among many, and many other members of Project Ezra have had similar experiences.  God is glorified is the speaking of His word, in the obedience of His children, and in hearts being changed by the gospel.  May He be glorified in you today!!