The Jews Tell Their Story

Bible:

This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai the governor of the province Beyond the River and Shethar-bozenai and his associates, the governors who were in the province Beyond the River, sent to Darius the king. They sent him a report, in which was written as follows: “To Darius the king, all peace. Be it known to the king that we went to the province of Judah, to the house of the great God. It is being built with huge stones, and timber is laid in the walls. This work goes on diligently and prospers in their hands. Then we asked those elders and spoke to them thus: ‘Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?’ We also asked them their names, for your information, that we might write down the names of their leaders. And this was their reply to us: ‘We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the house that was built many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and finished. But because our fathers had angered the God of heaven, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house and carried away the people to Babylonia. However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, Cyrus the king made a decree that this house of God should be rebuilt. And the gold and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple that was in Jerusalem and brought into the temple of Babylon, these Cyrus the king took out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered to one whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor; and he said to him, “Take these vessels, go and put them in the temple that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be rebuilt on its site.” Then this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and from that time until now it has been in building, and it is not yet finished.’ Therefore, if it seems good to the king, let search be made in the royal archives there in Babylon, to see whether a decree was issued by Cyrus the king for the rebuilding of this house of God in Jerusalem. And let the king send us his pleasure in this matter.” Ezra 5:6-17 ESV

We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.

He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
 to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
and that they should not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
whose spirit was not faithful to God. Psalm 78:4-8 ESV

Reflection:

Roosevelt and his family were migrant workers. Once his Mamma and Papa had lived on a farm, but now they didn’t have a home and traveled around the country picking crops for other farmers. Roosevelt had two sisters and a brother, and they always asked Mamma to tell them the same stories. They wanted to hear about the farm that Mamma and Papa used to have, with cotton fields and a dog run and pigs and chickens and a garden. They also wanted to hear the story about Mamma’s wedding day, and how Papa had said he couldn’t decide what was more beautiful, Mamma or the blossoming magnolia tree. They wanted to hear about how tractors had taken over the cotton fields and caused them to lose their farm. And Roosevelt talked to his mother about a secret the two of them had together, the hope that someday the family would find a home where they could stay for always and Roosevelt and his brother and sisters could go to school. Mamma’s stories helped the children understand where they had come from, and who they were, and they helped Roosevelt understand his mother’s hope for the future.

When Governor Tattenai wrote his letter to King Darius to find out if the Jews had permission to rebuild their temple, he asked them to tell their story. This story was very important to them, and it helped them remember who they were, and where they had come from, and what their hope for the future was. They told Governor Tattenai about Solomon’s wonderful temple, and how their sins had angered the holy God they served, and how God had allowed Nebuchadnezzar to take them into exile, destroy their temple, and take away the temple vessels. They also told how King Cyrus had given them permission to come home again and had given the decree that they should rebuild their temple, and had also given the gold and silver vessels back so they could be put into the new temple and used again. This story gave the Jews the strength and courage to go on with their work.

We also have a story that helps us understand who we are and what our hope is. God’s story of salvation is our story, because he has made us part of his people. Our story is all about Jesus, and how he came into the world as the promised Savior, and lived and died on the cross for us. Jesus rose again from the dead, and because of what he’s done we have eternal life. The story of Jesus is our story, a story that gives our lives meaning, and a story to share with others. The best thing is that all people everywhere are invited to make this story their own.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to be our Savior, and for making us a part of your story. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

Shotwell, Louisa R. Roosevelt Grady Cleveland: World Publishing Company, 1963.

The Governor’s Questions

Bible:

Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.

At the same time Tattenai the governor of the province Beyond the River and Shethar-bozenai and their associates came to them and spoke to them thus: “Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?” They also asked them this: “What are the names of the men who are building this building?” But the eye of their God was on the elders of the Jews, and they did not stop them until the report should reach Darius and then an answer be returned by letter concerning it. Ezra 5:1-5 ESV

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock. Psalm 27:1-5 ESV

Reflection:

“What are you doing, going into that house?” Mr. McCormack called to Joe. Joe explained to Mr. McCormack that he was taking care of his neighbors’ home for a couple of weeks while they were on vacation. The Mitchells had given Joe a key to their house, and he was supposed to come over every day. He needed to take in the newspaper and the mail each day and lay them on the coffee table, feed the Mitchells’ cat, and water their flower garden. Joe knew that he was doing what he was supposed to be doing when he let himself into his neighbors’ house to take care of things. Mr. McCormack had pulled out his cell phone to call Mr. Mitchell and check on his story, but Joe didn’t wait for the answer. He knew he was doing the right thing and that there was nothing to worry about.

When the people of Judah started rebuilding their temple again, the governor of the area who reported to the Persian king asked them, “Who said you could do that?” He also wanted to know the names of the people who were in charge of the building project. Governor Tattenai was doing his job, but this might have scared and discouraged the people so that they wouldn’t continue working. But the prophets Haggai and Zechariah had encouraged the people with words from the Lord, and they didn’t let the governor’s questions set them back. They just kept on building. Governor Tattenai sent a letter to King Darius find out the truth of the situation, and the Jews continued their work while they waited for the answer. They knew they were doing what God wanted them to do, and they trusted that the Lord would protect them.

When we follow God’s ways, sometimes others question why we are doing the things the way we do, and sometimes they even hassle us because they don’t understand. They might call us names or say mean things or try to make trouble in other ways. Sometimes it’s our own hearts that get in the way, and we feel discouraged or frustrated and want to give up. On our own, we can never follow God’s ways perfectly, and we need the Lord’s help and strength and forgiveness every day. Jesus came to die for us to pay for the ways we fall short of God’s plan, and he loves and forgives us all the time. We can always go to him for help and strength to follow his will.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, please stand beside us when we feel weak and discouraged. Thank you for forgiving our sins and helping us. Amen.

A King on a Donkey

Bible:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
and he shall speak peace to the nations;
his rule shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth. Zechariah 9:9-10 ESV

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” Mark 11:1-10 ESV

Reflection:

Queen Elizabeth II of England has ridden in many royal cars through the years, and they’ve all been very expensive, fancy cars. Some of the cars she’s used have been Bentleys, Rolls- Royces, Land Rovers, and Daimlers. She usually has a chauffeur to drive her, but through the years she has also done some of the driving herself. The queen rides or drives in these cars to do her royal business, and also to visit different parts of her kingdom. What a king or a queen rides is a symbol of wealth and power. It would seem very strange if Queen Elizabeth were to ride in a beat-up old pickup truck or perhaps a motor scooter or roller skates!

The prophet Zechariah described a coming king who wouldn’t ride on the finest war horse the way people would expect. Instead, he would ride humbly on a young donkey. The king they were looking for would be mild and gentle, and he would also be peaceable. He wouldn’t lead his people in war, but instead he would bring the nations under his rule by speaking words of peace to them. The king Zechariah was talking about would be a king worth waiting for!

Jesus was the promised king and Savior, but the people in Jesus’ time were looking for a proud warrior king, and many of them didn’t recognize Jesus as the one they were waiting for. But some people realized that Jesus was the one they had been hoping would come for so many years, and when he rode into Jerusalem on a young donkey, they shouted his praises and welcomed him. But only a few days later the humble king was put on a cross to die, and it seemed to be the end. But Jesus rose from the dead on the first Easter Sunday, and everyone who believes in Jesus has the forgiveness of sins and life forever with God. We are so happy when we see people from all over the world come to know and trust Jesus, and come to know the peace with God he has to give them.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for being our humble and gentle king, and for dying on the cross for us. Amen.

Source:

https://www.thestar.com/autos/2016/04/15/regal-rides-cars-in-queen-elizabeths-motor-stable.html

The Streets of the City shall be Full

Bible:

And the word of the Lord of hosts came, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath. Thus says the Lord: I have returned to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts, the holy mountain. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of great age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets. Thus says the Lord of hosts: If it is marvelous in the sight of the remnant of this people in those days, should it also be marvelous in my sight, declares the Lord of hosts? Thus says the Lord of hosts: Behold, I will save my people from the east country and from the west country, and I will bring them to dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness.” Zechariah 8:1-8 ESV

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9-10 ESV

Reflection:

In the state of Kansas there is a small town called Dunlap where hundreds of freed slaves settled in the late 1800s. By the early 1900s Dunlap had a hardware store, an ice cream parlor, a grocery store, a flour mill, a bank, three churches, a hotel, a restaurant, and a butter and cheese factory. When freed slaves first came to Dunlap, they were segregated from the white people who lived there, but by the 1930s black and white people were going to the same schools and churches and eating together in the same restaurants. This was many years before segregation died down in much of the rest of the United States. But the Great Depression also happened in the 1930s, and people began to move away from Dunlap to try to find work in the big cities. As I write there are very few people living in Dunlap anymore. The businesses are closed and the buildings are abandoned. Dunlap is almost a ghost town now.

When the prophet Zechariah wrote, Jerusalem didn’t have many people living in it. The city had been sacked and burned many years before, and when the people came home from exile they settled in other towns and started to build up their farms. Jerusalem looked a little like a ghost town, with the temple and walls not built and not many people making their homes or opening shops there. But Zechariah spoke an encouraging promise from the Lord to the people. God said he would live in the middle of Jerusalem. He would bring people home to live in the city, and Jerusalem would have a wonderful blessing–lots of people! There would be crowds of children playing safely in the streets without being afraid, and people who lived to be very old sitting in the streets, talking to each other and watching the children play. The people of Jerusalem would be God’s people, and the Lord would be their God.

The Lord promises that someday he will bring all his people to their heavenly home, and that there will be a multitude of people, more than anyone can number. These people will come from all the nations and ethnic groups of the world, and speak all the languages of their different homes, but all together they will praise Jesus, the Lamb of God who gave himself as a sacrifice for their sins and brought them back to his Heavenly Father. God loves the people he’s made, and he wants all people to be blessings and to give others joy. We can be very happy to be among the people of God and to be a blessing to many others.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for making us and for bringing us back to you through Jesus. Help us to see other people as blessings and to be blessings to other people. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

http://www.legendsofkansas.com/dunlap.html

 

A Flying Scroll

Bible:

Again I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, a flying scroll! And he said to me, “What do you see?” I answered, “I see a flying scroll. Its length is twenty cubits, and its width ten cubits.” Then he said to me, “This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole land. For everyone who steals shall be cleaned out according to what is on one side, and everyone who swears falsely shall be cleaned out according to what is on the other side. I will send it out, declares the Lord of hosts, and it shall enter the house of the thief, and the house of him who swears falsely by my name. And it shall remain in his house and consume it, both timber and stones.” Zechariah 5:1-4 ESV

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 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 3:10-13 ESV

Reflection:

A comet is an icy ball that moves through space and gives off a tail of gas or dust. Comets orbit the sun, but they have very long, narrow orbits that take them far out of the inner solar system. For that reason, some comets only travel through the part of the solar system we can see every few centuries, but when they do appear, they can be spectacular. Many ancient peoples were terrified of comets. They thought that the appearance of a comet meant doom. Because they couldn’t predict a comet or its movement, they thought that the gods sent them as warnings of disaster. Some of them thought that the long tail of a comet looked like a woman’s hair, and they thought the comet was a woman who was mourning something very sad that was about to happen. Other people thought a comet looked like a flashing sword, and they saw a comet as a sign of war and death.

Zechariah saw a vision of something flying through the sky that meant doom, but it wasn’t a comet. What he saw was a flying scroll! It was huge–30 feet by 15 feet–and it had writing on both sides. The writing was God’s holy law, a law that curses people who disobey it. In Zechariah’s vision, the curses were especially against people who steal things and against people who used the Lord’s name to swear to things that were lies that hurt other people. God said that this flying scroll would enter the home of people who did these things and burn down their house, wood and stones and all! This is a very scary picture, and the people would have been frightened to hear it. The Lord wanted his people to get a new start and to live once again in their homeland according to his laws.

The idea of a fiery punishment for disobeying God’s law is scary for us, too. We know that we haven’t obeyed God, and have done things that are against his law. The law of the Lord is good and holy, but for people who break his law it becomes a curse. The problem is that the law curses everyone, because there’s no one who can keep God’s law perfectly. But God has had mercy on us, and sent Jesus to be cursed instead of us. Jesus was cursed when he hung on the cross to die to pay for our sins, but because he did that, all our sins are forgiven. Because of Jesus, we are free from the curse of the law. God forgives our sins and sends us his Holy Spirit so that we can have a new start every day and live according to his laws.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for becoming a curse for us and freeing us from the curse of the law. Amen

Source:

http://deepimpact.umd.edu/science/comets-cultures.html

God’s Mounted Patrol

Bible:

On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, saying, “I saw in the night, and behold, a man riding on a red horse! He was standing among the myrtle trees in the glen, and behind him were red, sorrel, and white horses. Then I said, ‘What are these, my lord?’ The angel who talked with me said to me, ‘I will show you what they are.’ So the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered, ‘These are they whom the Lord has sent to patrol the earth.’ And they answered the angel of the Lord who was standing among the myrtle trees, and said, ‘We have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth remains at rest.’ Then the angel of the Lord said, ‘O Lord of hosts, how long will you have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which you have been angry these seventy years?’ And the Lord answered gracious and comforting words to the angel who talked with me. So the angel who talked with me said to me, ‘Cry out, Thus says the Lord of hosts: I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion. And I am exceedingly angry with the nations that are at ease; for while I was angry but a little, they furthered the disaster. Therefore, thus says the Lord, I have returned to Jerusalem with mercy; my house shall be built in it, declares the Lord of hosts, and the measuring line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem. Cry out again, Thus says the Lord of hosts: My cities shall again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.’” Zechariah 1:7-17 ESV

Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.”

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord, for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness. Psalm 96:10-13 ESV

Reflection:

In the late 1800s gold was discovered in northern Canada, and many people came to the area hoping they would strike it rich. When there is a gold rush, there are often problems as people hurry to an area and try to find gold for themselves, while there might not be enough places to live or other services for them. Canada sent a large number of its North-West Mounted Police to patrol the area on horses and keep the peace. They had to deal with fights and other bad behavior as well as people who weren’t prepared to live with the harsh conditions and lack of food of northern Canada in the winter. Many of the North-West Mounted Police (later called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) rode horses to patrol their area, but far north near the Arctic some of them patrolled by dogsled!

The prophet Zechariah spoke the word of God at the same time as the prophet Haggai, and he was given a vision of different colored horses with men riding on them to patrol the earth. These were actually angels, and they were sent by God to keep order in the world. This vision was a picture of the way God sends his holy angels to work out his purposes among the people and nations of the world. Sometimes God allows wars and other troubles in the world, and the people of Judah had known captivity and exile away from their homeland for many years. Now they were home again, but weak and discouraged, and the Lord’s angels were asking God how soon it would be before he would help his people again. The Lord’s answer was that the time for him to help his people had come. He was angry with the nations for going too far in the way they had carried out God’s judgment against the people of Judah. Now was the time that God would give the Jews mercy and comfort. The temple would be built again, and there would be peace and prosperity for Jerusalem and for the land of Judah.

We can’t always know why God lets things happen in the world the way they do, but we can be positive that he is in control and that he is watching over his people. The picture of angels patrolling the earth on horseback like the Royal Canadian Mounted Police can be a very comforting one when it seems like everything in the world is bad and scary. God works his purposes out in history in ways we don’t always understand, but we can always be sure of the greatest purpose God worked out. At the perfect time, he sent his Son Jesus into the world to be our Savior. Jesus was put to death on the cross and rose again from the dead on the third day to break the power of sin and evil in our lives. Because of what Jesus did for us, we can be sure that we are God’s people and that he is watching over us, no matter what happens.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for being in control of the world. Help us trust you when things seem bad and scary. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/en/rcmp-the-north

The Latter Glory of This House

Bible:

In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet: “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people, and say, ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’” Haggai 2:1-9 ESV

And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it,
and holds fast my covenant—
these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.”
The Lord God,
who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares,
“I will gather yet others to him
besides those already gathered.” Isaiah 56:6-8 ESV

Reflection:

In the eastern, original parts of the United States, there are a number of houses that have the claim, “George Washington slept here.” That means the the first president of the United States, in many cases while he was leading the American troops in the Revolutionary War, spent some time living in these houses. One of these houses is called the Timothy Ball house in New Jersey. It’s a farmhouse with clapboard siding as well as brick walls, and a brick chimney. It’s not a very fancy house or a mansion or a palace, but it’s an important place because of the person who lived there for awhile. Because George Washington stayed in the Timothy Ball house, it’s a piece of history. Its owners are very proud that the first president of the United States once stayed in their home, and they like to tell other people about it.

When the people of Judah began rebuilding their temple, the older people who had seen the first temple couldn’t help but feel sad. They remembered the glory and splendor of Solomon’s temple, and the new temple they were building wouldn’t be nearly as glorious. They didn’t have all the gold and silver Solomon had used when he built his temple, so the new temple looked very pitiful and ordinary next to their memories of the old temple. But God spoke to the prophet Haggai and said that the glory of the second temple would be greater than the glory of the first temple. The people might have thought this meant that someday they would get the gold and silver to make the second temple more beautiful, but the Lord had something different in mind. The new temple would be more glorious because of the person who would come to it. The promised Savior, Jesus, would come to this new temple someday. He would be in the temple teaching the people, and many people would hear the God’s word because of him. Haggai also said that the Lord would shake the nations, and that they would bring their gold and silver to the temple. This is a picture of the time when people from all nations would come to know Jesus as their Savior, and bring all their best to him and to his people.

The second temple was destroyed long ago, but the glory that God showed us in Jesus lasts forever. Jesus came to his people to bring them back to God, and he died and rose again so that everyone from all over the world could have their sins forgiven and become part of God’s people. We are happy to be included among the people who belong to God, and he helps us bring our best to him. Our hearts and our lives are more precious to the Lord than all the silver and gold in the world, and we are happy that we belong to the Lord and will live forever with him in his heavenly kingdom.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for bringing the glory of Jesus, your promised Savior, to the world, and for bringing people from all over the world to Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

Source:

http://www.nj.com/inside-jersey/index.ssf/2014/02/george_washington_slept_here_nj_homes_where_our_founding_father_spent_time.html

I Am With You

Bible:

Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord. Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the Lord‘s message, “I am with you, declares the Lord.” And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king. Haggai 1:12-15 ESV

You will say in that day:
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
that you might comfort me.

“Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:1-2 ESV

Reflection:

When Queen Elizabeth I ruled England, the king of Spain sent a fleet of ships called the Armada into the English Channel to invade and conquer the country. The English troops assembled in a field to prepare for battle, and the queen herself came and visited her troops. She gave them a famous speech to spur them on and give them courage in the conflict that was coming. She said, “I am come amongst you at this time . . . to live or die amongst you all.” She said that she would fight with them if necessary, even though she was a physically weak woman. She said she had the heart of a king, and that she was sure that they would win the battle for their queen and their country. Her speech and her presence gave the troops courage, and they were able to defeat the Spanish Armada.

God spoke to the prophet Haggai and told him to tell the people that it was time for them to rebuild the temple. It would take strength and courage for them to do this, because the people of Judah were still surrounded by enemies who would hassle them and try to stop them. But the Lord gave strength and courage to their leaders and to all the people and stirred them up to do this task, and the people followed and obeyed the Lord. He promised them through the prophet, “I am with you.” Knowing that God was with them was what gave them the strength and courage to start building again.

We also face struggles in our lives, and sometimes it feels as though everything is against us. But God promises never to leave us. He gives his people the promise, “I am with you always.” Jesus came to be with us and to show us the love of God. His love took him all the way to the cross, where he died so that our sins could be forgiven and we could become God’s people. Because of Jesus, we know that we are God’s people and that he will always be with us and help us and hear our prayers. We can trust in his promise no matter what happens.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to be our Savior, and for being with us always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

http://www.historyplace.com/speeches/elizabeth.htm

Getting the Priorities Straight

Bible:

In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.” Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord. You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.” Haggai 1:1-11 ESV

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21 ESV

Reflection:

Jessie was a very spoiled rich girl, and all she really seemed to care about was enjoying herself. She did some wrong things until one day she ended up in jail. Her frustrated father said that he wished he’d never had a daughter because she’d caused him so much grief. Then Jessie’s fairy godmother came along and decided that this would actually be a good way to teach Jessie a lesson. The fairy godmother magically erased Jessie’s life, and then bailed her out of jail. Jessie went home to find that her father didn’t know her, and had never had a daughter, so she had to go to work as a maid. While she worked she got to know the other servants in the house, and over time she learned that the really important things in life aren’t being rich and having a good time, but rather things like love and friendship and hard work. Losing what she’d thought was the most important taught her what really was important.

As the years went by, the Jews started to lose sight of what was important to them. Their enemies had written a letter to the kind of Persia, who’d made them stop rebuilding the temple and the city of Jerusalem. But even when a new king Darius (not the same Darius who had thrown Daniel in the lion’s den) came to the throne, they didn’t try to start building again. They were busy building up the other towns of Judah and beautiful houses for themselves and getting their farms back in order. These weren’t bad things to do, but they showed that the people of Judah didn’t have their priorities straight anymore. They had stopped caring about their capital city and about the temple of the Lord. So God started to take away from them the things that they thought were more important. He sent a drought on the land so that the grain and olives and grapes weren’t growing well, and the people were becoming hungry and poor.

Jesus warns us not to worry about having treasure on this earth. Money and cars and nice houses and clothes are all good gifts from God, but when we care about them more than we care about God and his church, we don’t have our priorities straight. Jesus reminds us that all the good things in this world can be lost. We can lose our money and nice things if they get stolen, or if they get lost in disasters like fires and floods. But the things of God last forever. Jesus died on the cross to bring us into his heavenly kingdom, and the heavenly treasure of knowing God and his love for us is the greatest treasure of all. Jesus forgives us all our sins, including for loving his earthly blessings too much, and he helps us to love him back and to put him first in our lives.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for all the good gifts you give us. Help us to always know what is most important, and to love you more than anything else in this world. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

Jones, Amy Holden, dir. Maid to Order The Vista Organization, 1987, Film.

The King Stops the Work

Bible:

The king sent an answer: “To Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe and the rest of their associates who live in Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River, greeting. And now the letter that you sent to us has been plainly read before me. And I made a decree, and search has been made, and it has been found that this city from of old has risen against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made in it. And mighty kings have been over Jerusalem, who ruled over the whole province Beyond the River, to whom tribute, custom, and toll were paid. Therefore make a decree that these men be made to cease, and that this city be not rebuilt, until a decree is made by me. And take care not to be slack in this matter. Why should damage grow to the hurt of the king?”

Then, when the copy of King Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum and Shimshai the scribe and their associates, they went in haste to the Jews at Jerusalem and by force and power made them cease. Then the work on the house of God that is in Jerusalem stopped, and it ceased until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia. Ezra 4:17-24 ESV

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:28-30 ESV

Reflection:

In the United States, the Interstate 90 expressway runs from the city of Boston to the city of Seattle, all the way across the country. In the city of Seattle, there were many ramps leading on and off I-90 planned to be built to connect it with another interstate freeway as well as to other roads. But for almost three decades, these ramps weren’t finished. If you drove by, you saw a number of freeway ramps leading to nowhere, just ending, many of them pointing up and then suddenly ending in midair. What happened was that there were legal challenges to the work, as well as environmental issues, and so what was begun in the 1960s didn’t get completed till the 1990s. For many years, the unfinished project simply sat, with its ramps leading to nowhere.

The same kind of thing happened in Jerusalem. When the people started to rebuild their temple, and the city and its walls, their enemies started to give them trouble. They wrote a letter to the king of the Persian empire accusing the Jews of planning a rebellion, and when the king got the letter he wrote back saying that he agreed that rebuilding Jerusalem meant trouble for him. He had found in his historical records that Jerusalem had once been the capital of a powerful country with kings that had received tribute from surrounding nations, and also that there had been rebellions against powerful empires coming from Jerusalem. He would have read about the glory days of the kings David and Solomon, and also about the way Jerusalem had stood firm when the Assyrian empire had taken the northern kingdom captive. So the king of Persia decreed that the Jews had to stop their building project. For many years the city stood only partly finished.

Sometimes we have things in life that we want to get done, and then something gets in the way and we can’t finish our projects.  It can be very frustrating when this happens, but it’s a reminder that there are many things in life that we can’t control. The most important thing to remember is that if we try to earn our way into God’s favor, we will never even come close to finishing what we need to do! We sin against God every day, and there’s nothing we could ever do to make up for the ways we’ve rebelled against him. But Jesus came to help us with this. He obeyed God’s law perfectly for us from the beginning to the end of his life, and then he laid his life down on the cross for us. The moment he died he said, “It is finished.” That means that Jesus did everything he needed to do to save us and bring us back to our Heavenly Father. As long as we live, we will be unfinished in becoming like Jesus, but we can always be sure that Jesus completely finished our salvation for us.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for your perfect life, and for finishing our salvation by dying on the cross for us. Amen.

Source:

http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19900212&slug=1055692