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Weekly Devotions – July 17-21, 2017

Posted on July 16, 2017 at 8:00 pm in .

St. Luke’s Weekly Devotions are written by people just like you. These devotions draw on authentic life experiences, scripture, prayers, and sermon series material to offer inspiration throughout the week. Use these devotions to guide you in your spiritual journey.

Sacrifice    Monday, July 17, 2017

Read:  In early autumn, when the Israelites had settled in their towns, all the people assembled in Jerusalem with a unified purpose. Then Jeshua son of Jehozadak joined his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel with his family in rebuilding the altar of the God of Israel. They wanted to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, as instructed in the Law of Moses, the man of God. Even though the people were afraid of the local residents, they rebuilt the altar at its old site. Then they began to sacrifice burnt offerings on the altar to the Lord each morning and evening. They celebrated the Festival of Shelters as prescribed in the Law, sacrificing the number of burnt offerings specified for each day of the festival. They also offered the regular burnt offerings and the offerings required for the new moon celebrations and the annual festivals as prescribed by the Lord. The people also gave voluntary offerings to the Lord. (Ezra 3:1-5, NLT)

Think About:  It was through God’s power that Cyrus freed the Israelites from their captivity in Babylon. They feared opposition from the local people around them as they rebuilt the altar to resume the sacrificial system recorded in their laws. The people around them included both descendants of the Israelites who were not exiled and other groups such as Samaritans. They remembered it was God alone who sustained them during exile and captivity. When people become fearful, they often turn to God.

After September 11,2001, church attendance grew for a while. Then people started to forget that it was God who sustained and comforted them in the days and months following September 11.

God is with us at the altar of our hearts. He knows the provisions we need. The Israelites made sacrifices mornings and evenings for many purposes, including access to His favor and acceptance by Him. Through the final sacrifice given by Jesus on our behalf, we have assurance of access, favor and acceptance from our Heavenly Father who sustains us and provides for our every need.

The Festival of Shelters (Feast of Tabernacles) was a reminder of God’s protection and love for the ancestors of the Israelites commemorating their desert wanderings. During the festival, the people built and lived in temporary dwellings, such as a lean-to or tent to remind them what their ancestors endured. These offerings were above and beyond daily sacrifices. Voluntary offerings were given to the Lord as well.

An altar or a hand-made temporary shelter can become visual reminders of God’s eternal love and sacrifice for us through Jesus. When you see an altar or temporary shelter of some sort, may it serve as a reminder of God’s eternal love, provision, grace and ultimate sacrifice for our sins through Jesus Christ.

Pray this prayer:  Holy God, help me return to the altar in my heart morning and evening to thank you for the abundant love and provisions you give me. I am grateful for eternal life through Christ.  Amen.

Sacrificial Giving    Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Read:  Fifteen days before the Festival of Shelters began, the priests had begun to sacrifice burnt offerings to the Lord. This was even before they had started to lay the foundation of the Lord’s Temple. Then the people hired masons and carpenters and bought cedar logs from the people of Tyre and Sidon, paying them with food, wine, and olive oil. The logs were brought down from the Lebanon mountains and floated along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea to Joppa, for King Cyrus had given permission for this. The construction of the Temple of God began in midspring, during the second year after they arrived in Jerusalem. The work force was made up of everyone who had returned from exile, including Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Jeshua son of Jehozadak and his fellow priests, and all the Levites. The Levites who were 20 years old or older were put in charge of rebuilding the Lord’s Temple. The workers at the Temple of God were supervised by Jeshua with his sons and relatives, and Kadmiel and his sons, all descendants of Hodaviah. They were helped in this task by the Levites of the family of Henadad. (Ezra 6-9, NLT)

Think About:  Cyrus had put in a proclamation that, “Wherever this Jewish remnant is found, let their neighbors contribute toward their expenses by giving them silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock, as well as a voluntary offering for the Temple of God in Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:4) Cyrus returned the gold and silver articles from the temple that Nebuchadnezzar had pillaged. He returned them to Sheshbazzar, a leader of the exiles returning to Judah. God put it in people’s hearts to help the Israelites accomplish rebuilding the temple.

Before the temple foundation restoration began, the priests were sacrificing burnt offerings to God. The foundation work began in community. The communities of Tyre, Sidon, Joppa, and others participated. The work force was made up of everyone who had returned. Everyone participated in some way. Some were leaders some were laborers, all working together for God’s purpose.

I think about our church, gifted with leaders and laborers, working together for God’s purposes. From Habitat for Humanity houses, Circles Allies to ZOE and everything in between, we are God’s laborers building his kingdom on earth. A new ZOE working group is expected to start in Rwanda very soon. When we work for God’s kingdom, we begin with prayer, planning and preparation. God goes before us in our work. Will you take time to pray for St. Luke’s ministries this week?

Pray this prayer:  Holy God, prepare my heart and hands for work in your kingdom through my church. Lead me to the ministry that pleases you and serves your purposes. Amen.

Joyful Noise   Friday, July 21, 2017

Read:  When the builders completed the foundation of the Lord’s Temple, the priests put on their robes and took their places to blow their trumpets. And the Levites, descendants of Asaph, clashed their cymbals to praise the Lord, just as King David had prescribed. With praise and thanks, they sang this song to the Lord: “He is so good! His faithful love for Israel endures forever!” Then all the people gave a great shout, praising the Lord because the foundation of the Lord’s Temple had been laid. But many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seen the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation. The others, however, were shouting for joy. The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance. (Ezra 3:10-13, NLT)

Think About:  Imagine the sound of the trumpets and cymbals in praise to the Lord! The people praised God and celebrated after completing the temple’s foundation, a monumental undertaking. Some of the older people recalling the original temple, wept. They expected the rebuilt temple to be as majestic as the temple Solomon built. The mix of joyful shouting and weeping reflected the young and old seeing the completed foundation. At times, personal expectations end in disappointment. When we experience disappointment, it is time to pray, to give thanks and to trust what God is doing, letting God form our personal expectations for his purposes.

After the temple was completed and dedicated, Ezra left Babylon for Jerusalem; he instructed all traveling with him to fast and humble themselves before God, and to pray that God would give them safe journey. Ezra was a prayerful man, a scribe and a descendant of Aaron. The name Ezra means “help.” “This Ezra was a scribe who was well versed in the Law of Moses which the Lord, the God of Israel, had given to the people of Israel. He came up to Jerusalem from Babylon, and the king gave him everything he asked for, because the gracious hand of the Lord his God was on him.” (Ezra 7:6, NLT)

Nehemiah completed the wall of Jerusalem in 52 days. He called upon Ezra to read the scriptures to the people just inside the Water Gate. Ezra read aloud from early morning until noon. Ezra made prayer and learning the scriptures a priority in his life. He had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord and to do it.

What can I do to prepare my heart to fast, pray and study the Bible as much as Ezra did? What can I do to be a helper to someone or to my church?

Pray this prayer:  Holy God, help me push aside my expectations to make room for your work in my life. Prepare me to be a generous helper to others and to my church.  Amen.


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