Harry Potter starts his story as an unwanted nephew living in a storage space under his abusive family's stairs. He ends up the most famous, respected, and powerful wizard in the world. Aladdin begins as a street rat who's gotta steal to eat and gotta eat to live while Jafar is the second most powerful man in Agraba using the Sultan as his puppet. By the end of the tale, Jafar is imprisoned and destined for servitude but Aladdin gets the girl and will one day be the ruler of the kingdom. We love a good flip-flop in a story. One story in the Bible is absolutely filled with them.
Now that I'm back to writing after my break, I can finally write about some of the great movies that came out this summer! Among them is Dark Knight Rises! It's probably for the best that it's taken me time to get to this one because there are so many twists and plot points to spoil. By now, the majority of you have probably seen it, but be warned, "There be spoilers ahead."
Batman Begins was a movie about falling to or mastering one's own fear. Dark Knight was about justice and morality from the common folk on the street to the politicians we idolize and how even great men can fall. Dark Knight Rises picks up right there with an absent Batman and a devastated Bruce Wayne. It is a movie about rising out of the ashes and not letting anything keep us down.
Batman really takes some hard falls in this movie. Just when you think things can't get worse. . . they do again and again. When the movie starts, he is out of shape, has a bum leg, and is an emotional wreck over the loss of his love, Rachel. His company is failing because he sunk its money into a supposedly failed clean energy project. On top of all of that, the people of Gotham hate Batman for the killing spree pinned on him in the last movie.
But come on, he's Batman! He picks himself up, does some push-ups, gets a fancy knee brace, puts on the Batsuit, and jumps back into the action. He even picks up a sidekick in Catwoman. There's nothing to it. Right?
Did you know the Bible tells the story of the most expensive meal ever? Can you guess what it was? Actually, we don't really know much about the meal. We only know it was some sort of red stew. Figure it out yet? This Sunday, I'll be teaching the kids at church about Jacob. But I'd like to share a little bit with you today about his brother Esau. Esau makes a terrible mistake that I believe we can all learn from. Let's set the stage...
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. . .
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.
The Ezra Project
As part of my studies at the Moody Theological Seminary, I have been doing an in depth literary study through the book of Ezra. I’ve learned a lot and been convicted by God’s Word through this study. As a result of that work, I’d like to share what I’ve gleaned with you. Would you join me over the next five Tuesdays on this study? You’ll be able to choose the depth of your involvement, but the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. I’ll give you reading assignments, study questions, and homework that will help you apply the book of Ezra to your life. Its up to you how deep you want to go. If you choose to study along with me, please let me know in the comment section of the blog and please share what you are learning and any questions you have. I look forward to doing this study with you!
Where is Ezra? That’s somewhere after Genesis and before Revelation right?
Have you ever read Ezra? Don’t feel too bad. Most Christians I know haven’t. And if you have read Ezra, chances are you’re like me before I started this project for class. I had read through Ezra before and I knew it was inspired by God and good for me. But I found it boring. Its full of genealogies, lists, numbers, and seemingly unimportant details about who got to carry the gold from one city to another. It seemed to me that this book was a dry historical account about the rebuilding of the temple and that’s it.
So why Ezra? Because there is much more to it than what you or I might see on our first reading. It really is God’s Word and is useful for our lives today. Let me set the stage.
Have you been watching Steven Spielberg's new masterpiece? If you catch Terra Nova on Fox, you're in for breathtaking nature scenes, futuristic technology, and, best of all, dinosaur-packed action!
Enough Sci-Fi, did you know the Bible talks about a Terra Nova?
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.