Ugh, I just can't stand the Twilight series. There are a number of reasons why. First, I'm not a teenage girl, so I am not attracted to Edward or Jacob. Second, I am not a teenage girl, so I am old enough to know that vampires kill people and burn in the sunlight. . . not twinkle. Third, and this one is important, I am not a teenage girl, so I know the difference between infatuation and love. Do you know the difference? Let me explain just a few of the differences and try, with my limited knowledge of Twilight, to connect the dots.
A few months ago, I got an E-mail from a friend. He quoted Genesis 1:26 and asked me who is the "us" mentioned. That got me talking to him and a few other people about the Trinity and the Old Testament. Does the Old Testament teach the Trinity? If not, then why not? If God really is one Being who eternally existed as three Persons, then why would He not feel like mentioning that in the Old Testament?
Last week, we left off with the temple about to be completed. God overcame the obstacles the Israelites faced when they took a step of faith. Today, we will see a success story and we will witness God’s amazing faithfulness to His promises.
The Completion and Celebration
Read Ezra 6:13-22
We have finally made it! The Israelites have completed the Temple! Is there hope for God’s people? Yes! The sovereign God has rescued His people from exile. He has brought them home. He has overcome all of their obstacles. Verse 14 tells us why the Temple was finished. It’s because God Himself decreed it. There is hope for God’s people because God is sovereign and God is with them!
Howard Stern is joining America's Got Talent as a judge.
I enjoy watching the occasional episode of AGT on my day off on Hulu. Last season was incredible with the Silhouettes and Team Illuminate. I was rooting for those two acts. Not only is it fun to watch for the serious competition, but the show is fun to watch because of all of the failed auditions and wacky participants. After all, anyone and everyone is allowed to audition! That brings in a lot of entertainment.
Unfortunately, it also brings in a lot of things you may not want to see. Last season featured an act from a male pole dancer who danced in high heels. I found myself fast forwarding through his acts quite quickly. The only judge who seemed to agree with me that this was distasteful and the opposite of entertaining was Piers Morgan. That man has class and on many occasions he fought to remove acts that were distasteful and classless. In many ways, he held the gates and protected the show from being overrun with poor content. Alas, Piers Morgan is leaving the show. And he has a replacement: Howard Stern.
The votes are in. Why do bad things happen to good people? This is one of those questions that we all ask at one point or another. But when we are going through those bad times, answers like this are the last thing we want to hear. Its important to know the answers to these questions before the hard times come so that you have this foundation to help you stand through the storm. Last time, we saw that really none of us are good people and so we should be marveled by God's grace when any good things happen to us. Today, we'll take a lesson from the book of James and see that "bad things" are used by God to mature us.
Last week, God’s people had just returned from exile. They returned to a ruined city and a broken temple. They returned to a land with many old enemies who would love to take advantage of the vulnerable Israelites. Will they be able to rebuild? Will the enemies surrounding them cause trouble? Is there hope for God’s people?
A Good Start
Read Ezra 3
After having some time to settle into their old villages and lands, the people all gather in Jerusalem. Under the leadership of two men, Zerubbabel and Jeshua, the people build an altar and begin making sacrifices and offerings to God as the Old Testament commanded them.
They begin the rebuilding project for the Temple of God. They buy goods from other nations and begin laying the foundation for the new Temple. They appoint Levites (the chosen priests of God) to supervise the work and make sure that everything is done in a way that honors God and obeys the Old Testament. After much work, the foundation is finished. The people celebrate by worshiping God. It is a bittersweet day as they celebrate the new beginning but also realize that this Temple is not even close to the size and beauty of the Temple that had been destroyed. Despite the sadness, they are off to a great start! But nothing is ever that easy. . .
If you read the news or listen to the radio, you've probably heard this story. Julio Diaz (above) was approached after getting off the train by a teen with a knife. After he handed over his wallet, the teen turned around to leave. If I were Julio, at that point I probably would have taken out my cell phone and called the police while walking away. I would be upset that my day had been ruined by such a scary thing and I would want that no good teen caught and punished and I would want my wallet returned. I think that is how most of us would feel.
The votes are in and today's question is: Can demons hurt us? Whether you're a Christian or not, you've probably been scared of demons at one point or another. Have you seen the Exorcist? Have you heard strange, scary, and unexplainable stories around a campfire? The devil and demons can be a scary thing to talk about, but what is true and what is Hollywood? What is real and what is hype?
Last week, we left off in a bad spot. The Israelites had been carried off into exile. Their city had been burned. Their temple was ransacked and destroyed. Their leaders were murdered and their king was in prison. Their freedom was taken. For seventy years they lived as slaves. And a question was left lingering. Is there any hope for God’s people? That’s the question we will be asking every week and we’ll be seeing a fuller and fuller answer every week.
Did you hear about the real life Secret Santa? On Tuesday of this week, a man who wished to remain anonymous handed out $100 bills to complete strangers. He passed out money on bus stops, in laundromats, and all over town in Reading, Pennsylvania. He said he got a lot of joy from being able to help people and he encouraged the people he helped to do something kind for someone else this Christmas season. When it was all said and done, he had given away $20,000! You can read more about it Here.
What a great modern day Santa. Do you know the story of the original Santa? No, I'm not talking about the jolly guy from the North Pole who flies around in a magic sled pulled by mystical reindeer. I'm talking about the man behind the legend, Saint Nicholas. Have you heard his story?
Mark has been happily married for five years, has a year and a half old daughter, and serves as a youth and children pastor in Oak Park.