Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Ezra-The Terrible Storm

By Mary Vee
Ezra 10

From Ezra's Journal



Photo Courtesy
My name is Ezra. I have spent many years studying the Law of Moses as a servant in Babylon. 

The king of Babylon sent me with a large number of Jews back to Israel. My job was to teach the law of Moses to the people.

When I arrived, I heard terrible news. The first group of Israelites had been doing many wrong things. Things that displeased God. 

Many of the men had married women from other countries. These women brought their false gods into the Jewish homes. Now the men were worshiping the false gods with their foreign wives.

I called the Levites and priests and told them to form a plan to get all the men of Judah and Benjamin here in three days. The punishment for any man not attending this very important meeting would be him forced to leave the country and to lose all he possessed.

Three days have passed. I have spent the time praying for the sins of Israel. The meeting was called at the footsteps of the temple. Outside. A powerful storm released it's rain on everyone as the meeting started. The men were bothered by the rain and upset at being forced to come to this meeting.

I didn't care if they were upset. They had disobeyed the law of Moses. I stood before them and said, "You have been unfaithful. You have married foreign women, adding to our nation's guilt before the Lord. Now, you are to confess these sins to the Lord the God of your fathers then do his will. Separate yourselves from the foreign people around you and from your foreign wives."

The men shouted, "You are right. We must do as you say. We want to obey right away but this is the rainy season. We can't possibly send all of our foreign wives back to their country in a short time. Let the officials set up assigned times for each of us and invite the elders to judge us. We will work on this problem until God is no longer angry with us."

This sounded like a good plan.

All the men agreed to this idea except Jonathan, Jehazeiah, Meshullam, and Shabbethai the Levite.

I agreed, too. I chose one man to be in charge from each family. The chosen men  began their investigation of the cases during the tenth month and finished dealing with all the men who had sinned by the first month. A scribe recorded a list of all who had sinned. 

The problem took a few months to solve, but thanks to the cooperation of the men who wanted forgiveness for their sin, everything returned to the way God wanted. No false gods brought to the homes by foreign wives.

*********************************************************************************************
sources: New International Version, New King James Version 
               
1. Why were the men angry (two reasons)
2. Ezra explained the problem to the men. What did the men say when he finished?
3. How many men did not agree with the plan?
4. Did the men who sinned fix the problem quickly? Why or why not?
5. What did God want the men who sinned to do?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Jonathan Goforth: Ignorance that Opens Doors

By Mary Vee
Year: summer 1883
Jonathan Goforth-24 years old


Jonathan Goforth's Journal



Toronto late 1800's - Photo Courtesy
My name is Jonathan Goforth. I will be a missionary to China some day. I feel it deep inside. Until then, I am doing what God shows me to do each day.

Not every experience has been easy. Oh no. In fact...let me tell you what happened that first day at Knox College.

My parents and siblings gave me a great send off. I may have been one of the youngest in the family, but I was the first to go to college. Even Dad and Mom hadn't been to a college. I'm telling you this because none of us knew what I should expect. We were a country/farm family.

I settled into my dorm room. I could tell, just by looking, that the other students came from wealthier families. Their clothes, their hair, the way they walked and talked. None of this bothered me. I liked the country/farm way of living. 

I guess I just assumed none of the other men from my dorm would want to work with the poorest areas of town. When I asked directions to where the needy people lived, the professor warned me of dangers.

What dangers? I honestly didn't have a clue. I mean, I've held my own in fist fights. If someone tried to rob me, I'd hold up my fists to protect myself while telling the robber all about Jesus. The idea seemed quite simple to me.

So with map in hand, I walked to the poor area of Toronto. The neighborhood was called Ward. 

Several blocks away I found the marked area on the map. Men and women sat on front steps, and gathered in groups. I was a bit, okay, a lot surprised at the way they dressed.  The women wore way too much makeup and dresses that would shock my momma. They seemed a bit surprised to see a man in a suit walking their neighbor streets. 

I refused to be afraid. Instead I prayed for God to bless a moment for me to speak with them. These men and women needed to hear about Jesus. 

"Hey, come on over and talk with us," a few shouted at me. They smiled and waved to me.

See there, they were friendly. I knew this would turn out just fine. I walked to the group. We said our hellos then I talked to them about Jesus.

The women seemed interested in what I had to say. After my conversation with these ladies, I walked throughout the very poor neighborhood making plans to visit every home and share the love of Jesus with them.

I walked back to the college, very excited about telling the people who live in Ward about Jesus. I was so excited I told my classmates about my time in Ward. 

They stopped eating and stared at me. "What do you mean?"

These guys had missed a great opportunity for witnessing. I smiled and used both hands as I shared my time in Ward. "The men and women called me over and asked if they could help me with anything."

The guys all laughed. They laughed long and hard at me. What? What had I missed?

One of the guys said, "You country kid. They didn't want to hear about the Gospel, they wanted to sell you things you don't want. Drugs. You know. Things like that."

I felt my face warming. They pointed at me and laughed all the harder at me for not knowing.

I couldn't speak. I was so incredibly embarrassed. How could guys studying to be pastors treat someone like this? It took a long time before the conversation changed to something else. 

I couldn't wait to go back to my room and get away from them.

In my own small room, I thought about the people in Ward. Whether they had bad reasons to invite me over or not didn't matter. I wouldn't give up on them. I would go back and share the love of Jesus with them.

You may be wondering, would I have gone had I know ahead of time that the people of Ward sold drugs and other bad things? 

The answer is, I would go wherever God asks me to go.


Jonathan has many stories to share. Come back each Monday to find out what happened next.



Resources Used for This Series
Being, Janet, and Geoff Benge. Jonathan Goforth: An Open Door in China. Seattle. WA: YWAM Pub., 2001.Print
Doyle, G. Wright. Builders of the Chinese Church: Pioneer Protestant Missionaries and Chinese Church Leaders. Eugene Oregon: Pickwick Pub, 2015. Print.
Goforth, Jonathan, and Rosaline Goforth, Miracle Lives of China, London" Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1931, Print.
Goforth, Jonathan. "By My Spirit" Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1942. Print
Goforth, Rosalind. Climbing; Memories of a Missionary's Wife. Chicago: Moody Pub, n.d. Print
Goforth, Rosalind, How I Know God Answers Prayers; The Personal Testimony of One Life-time, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1921. Print
Goforth, Rosalind. Jonathan Goforth. Minneapolis, MN: Bethan House, 1986. Print
Goforth, Rosalind, How God Answers Prayer: The Mighty Miracles of God from the Mission Field of Jonathan Goforth. USA: Revival, 2016. Print Original copyright not stated.
Jackson, Dave, and Neta Jackson. Mask of the Wolf Boy: Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1999. Print.
McCleary, Walter. An Hour with Jonathan Goforth: A Biography. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1938. Print.
Meloche, Renee Taft., and Bryan Pollard. Jonathan Goforth: Never Give up. Seattle, WA: YWAM, 2004. Print.

.

Let Jonathan hear from you!
Leave a comment below.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Ezra-The Purifying of A People

By Mary Vee
Ezra 10

From Ezra's Journal



Photo Courtesy
My name is Ezra. I have spent many years studying the Law of Moses as a servant in Babylon. And now, thanks to the loving grace of the Almighty God, I stand in Jerusalem. The land given by God to our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The last time I visited you, I had wept bitterly. The leaders told me of a great sin committed by the first group of Jews who returned home. And the worst news, they were still doing the sin.

My heart ached so terribly. How could this much wrong be done in such a short time? I won't go into the details, you can scroll down and read my last post for that.

While I lay on the ground crying out to God for His forgiveness, Shecaniah said to me, "We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples and land around us. As you said, these foreigners have already kept us from our worship and obedience to God. But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel."

I sat up and listened to him. The crowd of men and women who'd gathered around me hushed to hear Shecaniah.

"There is a hope for Israel," he said. "Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all the foreign women and their children as you and the leaders of Israel have said. Let this be done according to the Law." 

He held out his hand to me. "Rise up. This matter is in your hands. We will do whatever you say. Please. Take courage and do what God encourages you to do."

I wiped the tears from my face and accepted Shecaniah's help to stand. "All right, then. I want all the leading priests and Levites to gather over here," I said.

The men I called for moved from the crowd and stood close to me. "You men must promise to carry out this duty. Do not stop until the job is completely done."

Every leading priest and Levite gave their word to do this job. They first met to form a plan. The plan ended with a rule for all Israelites. The rule said every exile living in Judah and Jerusalem must come to Jerusalem. Anyone who failed to appear within three days would lose all his property and be forced to leave Israel. This was the leaders and Levites decision.

During the time of their planning and waiting the three days I went to the house of Jehohanan. I spent my time in prayer and mourning the exiles great sin, refusing to eat or drink.

What I know is that we need to fix this problem before any more improvements can be made in Jerusalem.

*********************************************************************************************
sources: New International Version, New King James Version 
               
1. What was the problem?
2. Who suggested an answer?
3. What was his suggestion?
4. What plan did the leaders come up with?
5. What did Ezra do during this time?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Ezra-The Small Band of Escapees

By Mary Vee
Ezra 8


From Ezra's Journal



Photo Courtesy
My name is Ezra. I have spent many years studying the Law of Moses as a servant in Babylon.

It took four months for the group I led to travel to Jerusalem. We rested and had a time of celebration, praising God for His goodness.

We were the second group of Jews to return home. Time had passed since the first group arrived. The men another families from the first group had fixed their home and were to work on rebuilding the city and temple. I didn't see much of that work done.

I met with the city leaders to see what they had planned. In that meeting they told me news that broke my heart. 

See, a long time ago, when our fathers escaped from Egypt, God gave us His laws. There was the ten commandments and then other laws to help us keep healthy, clean, well, and live peaceably. 

In that second group of laws, God commanded us not to marry anyone from another nation. The reason, God told us, was to keep the false idols from coming into our homes and culture. Jews who lived before us became examples of the truth in God's words. Even King Solomon stopped worshiping God. He worshipped the idols of his wives to make them happy. In the end, he became miserable. 

The leaders told me that people of Israel, including the priests and Levites have married those from other nations. They have taken on the practices of worshiping the idols from the other nations. Not everyone did this, but many had. 

When I heard the news, I ripped my clothes, pulled hair from my head and beard, and sat down with so much sadness and anger I couldn't speak until that evening. 

That night I fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the Lord my God and prayed: 


“O my God, I’m so totally ashamed, I can’t bear to face you. O my God—our iniquities are piled up so high that we can’t see out; our guilt touches the skies. We’ve been stuck in a muck of guilt since the time of our ancestors until right now; we and our kings and priests, because of our sins, have been turned over to foreign kings, to killing, to captivity, to looting, and to public shame—just as you see us now."

I wept and threw myself closer to the ground in front of a large crowd standing at the house of God.

"Now for a brief time God, our God, has allowed us, this battered band, to get a firm foothold in his holy place so that our God may brighten our eyes and lighten our burdens as we serve out this hard sentence. We were slaves; yet even as slaves, our God didn’t abandon us. He has put us in the good graces of the kings of Persia and given us the heart to build The Temple of our God, restore its ruins, and construct a defensive wall in Judah and Jerusalem."

Men, women, and children walked closer to me. Watching. 

“And now, our God, after all this what can we say for ourselves? For we have thrown your commands to the wind, the commands you gave us through your servants the prophets. They told us, ‘The land you’re taking over is a polluted land, polluted with the obscene vulgarities of the people who live there; they’ve filled it with their moral rot from one end to the other. Whatever you do, don’t give your daughters in marriage to their sons nor marry your sons to their daughters. Don’t cultivate their good opinion; don’t make over them and get them to like you so you can make a lot of money and build up a tidy estate to hand down to your children.’

Those watching wept with me. Their cries and wails growing louder.

“And now this, on top of all we’ve already suffered because of our evil ways and accumulated guilt, even though you, dear God, punished us far less than we deserved and even went ahead and gave us this present escape. Yet here we are, at it again, breaking your commandments by intermarrying with the people who practice all these obscenities! Are you angry to the point of wiping us out completely, without even a few stragglers, with no way out at all? You are the righteous God of Israel. We are, right now, a small band of escapees. Look at us, openly standing here, guilty before you. No one can last long like this.”

Oh what sad news. We all wept before the Lord, our Creator.


*********************************************************************************************
sources: New International Version, New King James Version 
                The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

1. Ezra and those who traveled with him were the ______ group to return to Jerusalem.
2. After the celebration to God, what did the leaders tell Ezra?
3. What did Ezra do when he heard the news?
4. Then Ezra prayed. Where was he when he prayed?
5. Who came and watched Ezra pray?
6. What did they do when they heard Ezra's prayer?
7. How do you think the people felt at this time?

Monday, August 15, 2016

Johnathon Goforth-This Country Boy in The Big City

By Mary Vee
Year: summer 1883
Jonathan Goforth-24 years old


Jonathan Goforth's Journal



Toronto late 1800's - Photo Courtesy
My name is Jonathan Goforth. I will be a missionary to China some day. I feel it deep inside.

In fact, I will leave on this morning's train for Knox College. Twenty two other boys my age will be in my class, all studying to be ministers. I'm so excited I can barely talk.

My mother and father couldn't hold in their excitement for me, either. Mother stayed up several nights sewing a new suit and shirt for me. And father had worked extra hard to set aside money for my first semester. 

The train doors opened. I stood between my parents and five siblings standing by them waving to me and those train doors--bursting with excitement. I hugged everyone one, listened to their last words of advice then boarded the train for the big city. Toronto. 

I'd never been to a big city before. My entire life had been spent in the farming community where my parent's lived. As the train soared, the view out the window changed from fields to homes then buildings. Big buildings. I had study science but was amazed at how tall the buildings could be.

When the train stopped, I gathered my belongings and walked to the college. I suppose I could have hired a carriage to take me, especially since I had the suitcases, but Father's money had to last the whole semester. And the truth was, I had more than enough excited energy to haul my own things.

I settled in my dorm room then went straight to the Christian service office. Each student had to do some sort of Christian service, like help in a church, stuff like that. I actually looked forward to the opportunity. Just think. A big city. So many people right here for me to tell about the God who loves them.

I introduced myself to one of the college professors in the hall. "Hello, Sir. My name is Jonathon Goforth."

"Welcome Mr. Goforth. This your first day?"

"Yes, sir. I arrived this afternoon."

"Good. Good. Study hard." He slapped me on the back and smiled.

"I'm assuming my classmates who have already arrived signed up for most of the Christian service opportunities. I was wondering if you could tell me how to get to the poorest part of the city. I plan to tell the people who live there about the God who loves them."

He gave me the directions then said, "Take care, son. They don't call Ward the poorest part of the city for nothing. It isn't safe."

"Thank you, sir." He slapped me on the back, smiled, and walked down the hall.

I looked for a classmate to go with me, but didn't find anyone. That was okay. I walked out of my dorm, and off the campus, following the directions given to me. I wasn't afraid. God would be with me.

Look at the time. This story is going to be too long to finish this time, I'll have to tell more next week. I will let you know,though, that my late afternoon in Ward taught me many lessons. Remember, I was a country boy who had never been in a big city and definitely had never been in a place where people would do anything to get money. Would I have gone if I knew ahead of time. Well, now that is a question for the next story.

Jonathan has many stories to share. Come back each Monday to find out what happened next.



Resources Used for This Series
Being, Janet, and Geoff Benge. Jonathan Goforth: An Open Door in China. Seattle. WA: YWAM Pub., 2001.Print
Doyle, G. Wright. Builders of the Chinese Church: Pioneer Protestant Missionaries and Chinese Church Leaders. Eugene Oregon: Pickwick Pub, 2015. Print.
Goforth, Jonathan, and Rosaline Goforth, Miracle Lives of China, London" Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1931, Print.
Goforth, Jonathan. "By My Spirit" Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1942. Print
Goforth, Rosalind. Climbing; Memories of a Missionary's Wife. Chicago: Moody Pub, n.d. Print
Goforth, Rosalind, How I Know God Answers Prayers; The Personal Testimony of One Life-time, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1921. Print
Goforth, Rosalind. Jonathan Goforth. Minneapolis, MN: Bethan House, 1986. Print
Goforth, Rosalind, How God Answers Prayer: The Mighty Miracles of God from the Mission Field of Jonathan Goforth. USA: Revival, 2016. Print Original copyright not stated.
Jackson, Dave, and Neta Jackson. Mask of the Wolf Boy: Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1999. Print.
McCleary, Walter. An Hour with Jonathan Goforth: A Biography. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1938. Print.
Meloche, Renee Taft., and Bryan Pollard. Jonathan Goforth: Never Give up. Seattle, WA: YWAM, 2004. Print.

.

Let Jonathan hear from you!
Leave a comment below.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Ezra-Going Home For the First Time

By Mary Vee
Ezra 8

From Ezra's Journal



Photo Courtesy
My name is Ezra. I have spent many years studying the Law of Moses as a servant in Babylon.

The Jews who met me by the river leading to Ahava had chosen to leave their homes in Babylon and return to the land of our fathers. A gift from God, promised to Abraham. 

We were excited. And nervous. Our whole lives have been spent living in Babylon as slaves. We didn't know any other way of life. We didn't know what the land would look like. How much work would be needed to restore the ruined homes and buildings when Babylon burned our city? We could only picture these things in our mind.

And so, at the end of our three-day fast and prayer we gathered our things. 

King Artaxerxes gave me offerings of silver and gold for the temple. I called the Levites to gather around the offerings. These were the men who were from the tribe of Levite, the chosen priesthood of the Jewish people. The men in this tribe were given the task to care for the temple by God. 

I weighed the silver and gold items in front of the Levites for the record. The same amount should be weighed when we arrive at Jerusalem.

I said to them, "You and these silver and gold articles are dedicated to the Lord. These articles are a freewill offering to the Lord, the God of your fathers. Guard them carefully until you weigh them in the inner chambers of the house of the Lord in Jerusalem before the leading priests, your brother Levites, and the family heads of Israel."

The men took the job very seriously. They wrapped the articles carefully and packed them for the journey, agreeing to guard them and keep them safe at all times.

I looked around at the people. Everything was packed. We had formed groups to help each other carry our things, care for the animals, and assist those who needed help walking. "Let's go."

This was the twelfth day of the first month. The day we left the bondage of Babylon, the only life we knew, for the freedom of a new-to-us land. 

We arrived in Jerusalem the first day of the fifth month safe because the hand of God was on us. He protected us from enemies and bandits along the way. After the long journey, we chose to rest for three days.

On the fourth day, the Levites and I went to the house of our God. The silver and gold articles were placed in the hands of the priest. Eleazar and a number of Levites were there. All the articles from our journey were accounted for by number and weight and recorded at that time. Every piece had arrived safely.

We had such a great celebration giving offerings and praising the God of Israel. We also delivered the king's orders to the governors of Trans-Euphrates. The orders stated Trans-Euphrates should help us and assist in the repairing of the house of God.


*********************************************************************************************
sources: New International Version, New King James Version  


1. Before the people left Ahava, what job did he give the Levites?
2. Where were the people going?
3. Have they been there before?
4. Why were the people nervous about going?
5. After they returned to Jerusalem, and rested what was done?
6. Was the number correct?
7. That means who did their job honestly?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Ezra-For the Sake of Our Children

By Mary Vee
Ezra 8


From Ezra's Journal



Photo Courtesy
My name is Ezra. I have spent many years studying the Law of Moses while a slave in Babylon.

The king of Babylon has asked me to lead a group of Jews back to our homeland. He has given me the task to teach the Law of Moses to those living in Jerusalem.  

Apparently King Artaxerxes has decided that making Israel a good place for the Jews to live and worship our God is a good way to protect his kingdom from any surprise Egyptian attacks. He may think that is the reason, but I am convinced and praise God for His putting these thoughts into the heart of the king.

I must admit, the job seemed huge to me. I prayed and set my mind on doing the work. Although the king's invitation brought many Jews living in Babylon and willing to move back to our homeland, I didn't see any Levites, the chosen ones to work in the temple. 

I put out a notice for anyone interested in returning home to meet at the canal that flows toward Ahava. This was a river in Babylon near the Euphrates. Once everyone arrived, we camped for three days, hoping, and waiting... and still no one from the tribe of Levi showed. I sent messages to certain Levites who were good men of God and knowledgeable in the Law of Moses. I told them what to say to their brother Levites, hoping they could at least encourage some to go with us. It worked. They persuaded more than 250 Levite brothers to take the journey back to our homeland. 

I stood before all the men and women gathered at the river considering the instructions I would share. This would be a difficult journey. Most of us were born in this land of Persia as slaves. We had not seen the Promised Land given to our fathers by God. None of us really knew what to expect. Neither did we know if the journey would have hardships. We were leaving everything we knew behind. Everything. To go back to the land of our fathers and to build new lives in Jerusalem.

There, by the water's edge, I said, "Let us fast and humble ourselves before our God. Let's ask him for a safe journey for us and our children and all our possessions. I must tell you I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road because we had told the king 'The hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his anger is against all who turn away from him.' I am confident in our God that He will protect us."

Yes. God could protect us.

We continued to camp by the Ahaha canal to fast and ask our God about the journey. And He answered our prayer.  We should go. All of us.

That settled it. 

We were going home. To Jerusalem.


*********************************************************************************************
sources: New International Version, New King James Version  


1. What task did the king give to Ezra?
2. Who were called to meet at the Ahava Canal?
3. What did Ezra ask the people to do while there?
4. What answer did God give the people?
5. Where were they going?