July 28, 2017 Ezra 4; Psalm 113,127; Titus 1

These are a few of our SOAP notes from today’s reading. We encourage you to read and journal on your own first, then join us in conversation about what God revealed to YOU today. Click HERE to go directly to the daily reading if you wish.

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Wait for It… | Tara Wiley

S~ Then the local residents tried to discourage and frighten the people of Judah to keep them from their work. They bribed agents to work against them and to frustrate their plans. This went on during the entire reign of King Cyrus of Persia and lasted until King Darius of Persia took the throne. Ezra 4:4-5 NLT

O~ This was a long trial. The people of Israel had been in captivity and were now returning to rebuild the temple, the most holy place where they met God. Yet those who obediently began this work encountered a trial of a new kind: nonstop harassment and persecution.

The attack lasted for more than 25 years. The people didn’t get to pray and receive a quick answer – even though prayers for relief from this persecution would certainly be a Godly prayer! As time went by and the struggle continued, they had to get discouraged. Why was God allowing this fight when they were doing exactly what they were supposed to do? Why didn’t He intervene?

But the Israelites also had a history with God. They could look back on their years of slavery in Egypt and see that God did deliver them. They could look at David and how he was delivered from Saul’s persecution. They could see a little of the purpose in the wait in these situations: the Israelites grew in number and power during their time in Egypt, and all circumstances had to culminate in bringing Moses into play as a deliverer who could familiarly approach Pharaoh. They could see purposes for David’s wait as well: as he waited for God’s deliverance and his rise to the throne, he developed a strong, loyal following – and no doubt his leadership skills were strengthened with experience as he matured.

Now, in this present circumstance, the Israelites had to wait for a supportive king to ascend to the throne. No other strong explanation is clear. They just had to wait, doing what they knew they were supposed to do in the meantime.

A~ Sometimes the reason God calls us to wait isn’t obvious. Sometimes it has nothing to do with us. Other times, He has something specific that needs to happen in us as we wait.

Regardless, waiting has always been a part of His plan.

Yuck. I don’t like this. I hate waiting. I want results. I want answers to prayers that I am sure are in the center of His will – why won’t He respond? Even though, like the Israelites, I can look back and see God’s deliverance in so many waiting seasons in my own life, I still resist the process. I still fight doubt and fear. Every time a new waiting season comes, I say, I’ll do it better this time! And yes – I see progress. “I have [not yet] achieved [perfect spiritual maturity in waiting seasons]. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

P~ Lord, thank You for giving so many examples in Scripture where people have to wait. Thank You for the ways You work in waiting. Thank You teaching me much in the waiting seasons of my life. Thank You that I can trust You even when I struggle with the wait. Thank You that I can look back and see that You have matured me over the years, and that I can handle waiting better than I used to. I still fight against it. I still have a long ways to go. But I know Your grace covers my wavering, and I trust You to complete that work You’ve started in me. I will forget my past failures and regret and look forward to what lies ahead, determining to grow more in You as the seasons of life continue – even if they involve waiting.

A hotbed of insurrection | Nikki Metzger

S~ I ordered a search of the records and have found that Jerusalem has indeed been a hotbed of insurrection against many kings.  In fact, rebellion and revolt are normal there! Ezra 4:19 (NLT)

O~ A foreign king is writing this letter to a local leader in Jerusalem.  The local leader wanted the rebuilding of the Temple to stop and he was trying to get the king on his side.  This is a description of Jerusalem.

A~ These words that describe Jerusalem can also describe my heart: hotbed of insurrection (a violent attempt to take control), rebellion, and revolt are normal.

I always want to take control of my life over God.  Even though I’m on a journey of walking with Him, I want to do things my way.

When the Lord looks at my heart, I don’t want rebellion and revolt be what He sees in me.

P~ Father, I always feel like I’m a hotbed of insurrection, I want things done MY way.  I want CONTROL.  Help me let that go!!

Actions speak louder than words | Marisa Tomlinson

S~ They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him. Titus 1:16a (NIV)

O~ Paul is writing to Titus about the church in Crete. The people of Crete have a terrible reputation. “One of Crete’s own prophets” (vs 12) calls them liars, brutes, and gluttons. Paul even calls them detestable in the latter part of verse 16.

A~ What do my actions say about me? Do I reflect my beliefs with my actions? If I’m honest, more often than not, they don’t. This verse hit right at the center of my heart. I would never deny my faith verbally. I fear that my actions do. My mouth says things before I filter them. My thoughts run rampant with judgement of others and negative self-talk. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” I can do that only with His help. As I yield to His control of my thoughts, my actions will follow. I want people to look at my life and KNOW that there is something different about me. I want to reflect my Savior, always. I’m human and I will fail, but with His help, it will be less and less.

P~ Lord, thank you for the opportunity to showcase Your love for the world through my words and actions. Forgive me when I fall short. Remind me in tangible ways before I do something dumb. I want to be someone You are proud of.

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