Thursday, June 27, 2019

A new beginning - building (conclusion)

New beginnings are wonderful in life!
They are wonderful in our spiritual lives, too.
Our last lesson from Ezra 3 focuses one last time on building God's house; remember that we, the believers, are His house now....

When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David king of Israel. 11 With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord:“He is good;    his love toward Israel endures forever.”
And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. 12 But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple,wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. 13 No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away. (Ezra 3:10-13)

New beginnings with God require us to make time for worship. This can be personal worship, or it can be corporate (congregational) worship with other believers. Our worship needs to focus on God and His goodness and love. It can be accompanied by skillful musicians, but if we are focused on them, or on the singers, we are crossing the line into entertainment, not worship. You can see in verse eleven that they were praising God for His goodness and His lovingkindness to Israel.
These worshipers had a different viewpoint than many of us today. They had just come through years of captivity in Babylon, and many of them lost loved ones, possessions and homes when the city of Jerusalem fell. If they'd been focused on themselves, they could have complained about the treatment they'd received. But by faith, they now realized that the Lord had afflicted them out of His goodness:
Before I was afflicted I went astray,    but now I keep your word. You are good and do good;    teach me your statutes.It is good for me that I was afflicted,    that I might learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me    than thousands of gold and silver pieces. (Psalm 119:67-68, 71-72)
So, now they sang of His goodness and covenant love toward them.  Perhaps we are afflicted today, or we are dealing with great adversity. God has not changed His mind; we are still His children and He loves us and has plans for our lives. Perhaps, as Charles Stanley reminds us, we should stop and ask ourselves "what is God trying to teach me" in the midst of this trial? Here is a quote from Stanley:

          "Often times God demonstrates His faithfulness in adversity
            by providing for us what we need to survive. He does not
            change our painful circumstances. He sustains us through them."

When we realize this, we can worship Him and praise Him for His goodness and lovingkindness, just as the children of Israel did in this passage.
Notice, too, that the people expressed their emotions in their praise. They shouted for joy! Some of us are a little too restrained in our worship! We avoid the appearance of repeating the same tune or words over and over; we don't want to be seen as "chanting" or as those who repeat until a state of euphoria is reached. We want to "keep things real." But to tell you the truth, when we focus on the God of heaven, and how faithful and true and loving He is, it will affect our emotions! It's OK! I believe that He smiles when we truly smile and laugh, or when our emotions cause us to get misty-eyed. We can express ourselves to Him in worship and know that He sees and understands.

Finally, new beginnings often require cooperation. Sometimes there needs to be understanding between youngsters and oldsters; sometimes between rookies and veteran Christians. Building the house of God takes cooperation..... the younger people that returned to Jerusalem were thrilled as they saw the foundation of the temple laid. Wow! How exciting! The old timers had seen the temple that Solomon built. This foundation amidst the city rubble must have seemed pitiful compared to their memories. So they wept while the young men shouted.
Now, this could have ended badly! The old timers could have discouraged the younger ones from this new beginning. Oh boy, would that have been sad! They had to start somewhere, right?
And what if the young guys ignored the wisdom and experience of the old timers, and repeated the mistakes and failures of the past? That would have been sad, too! It was going to take cooperation to get the job done: the older folks needed the enthusiasm and joy of the younger folks, and the young ones needed the wisdom and maturity of the old timers.

We see this today, too. There are churches full of old folks clinging to their favorite old hymns and to one translation of the Bible. They can't understand why the younger folks have drifted away. Other churches are made up of mostly young people who have cast off the traditional ways and formed exciting, growing churches with almost no resemblance to the churches of the past. But they are in dangerous territory -- they need to be careful that they don't cast off centuries of Christian heritage and make mistakes that they could avoid if they learned from the older generation.

Long story short: we need all ages in the church of God. God's house is the believers of this world, and we all need to learn from one another!  New beginnings with God are ALWAYS possible, and if we focus on His cross, obey His Word, and work to build His house, we will find that God's door is open. He is inviting all of us to a new beginning with Him.

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