Sunday, October 25, 2009

"Ezra: the man, the heart, the calling" - notes for sermon 25/10/09

(hear the sermon here)

Ezra 7.1-10


Looking at Ezra the man – not what he did, but who he was.

There's a danger of a disconnect occurring when we see others with clear callings and think, "That could never be me, I'm not like them, but I wish could do something great for Him."

Rick Warren says: “...there are no insignificant ministries in the church. Some are visible and some are behind the scenes, but all are valuable. Small or hidden ministries often make the biggest difference. In my home, the most important light is not the large chandelier in our dining room but the little night light that keeps me from stubbing my toe when I get up at night. There is no correlation between size and significance.” (Purpose Driven Life)

What is our “calling”? Eph 4.1: “I therefore [...] urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.”

GENERAL CALLING = life of holiness, set apart, new priorities/values, our whole lives an act of worship, moving on to maturity, to fulfilling the mandate of showing Jesus to world at large. That's the baseline, GENERAL CALLING...

But we also have a SPECIFIC CALLING, each of us: Eph 2.10: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Not all of us are called to a "renowned" ministry, but we are all called to “significant” purpose(s) that only we can fulfil with the giftings, circumstances, and relationships we've been given; if good works have been prepared for us beforehand by God, then they must be, by nature, SIGNIFICANT!

The working-out is also part of God's plan, part of our calling. God needs to do His greatest work IN you, before He can do His great work THROUGH you!

David, Moses, Elisha, Paul, Ezra, etc: they all took many, many years before they were ready for their callings to come to fruition...


1.He was a scribe (skilled secretaries responsible for providing handwritten copies of documents, letters, government records, sacred writings). In the Jews' gradual return to Jerusalem, the scribes became the go-to guys for teaching.

  • "Scribe" = "Rabbi" (“teacher”) The scribes of Jesus' time had no authority (Matt 7.29). By then, they had added their own laws & definitions, turning a living faith into something dry, unattainable, guilt-inducing, condemning, HELL-BOUND. (Matt 23.4: "They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders"). They believed a set of rules could change the heart. Never! Thus: Jesus says in Matt 11.30, "my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Rabbi's “yoke” = his teaching)
  • Ezra set his heart on doing to the utmost WHAT HIS CURRENT ROLE IN LIFE WAS. Col 3.23-24: "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men... You are serving the Lord Christ". Ezra put God first in his everyday life. Your calling may be as a manager, paramedic, mother, teacher, neighbour, host (opening yr home 4 gospel), and so on...
2."The hand of the Lord his God was on him" (v6) = God's favour was upon him – the king granted ALL he asked because God's clear favour, God's smile, was upon him. Why? Because his heart was in the right place...


There's the key: he "set his heart"... He made a definitive choice.

Ezra SET HIS HEART on see one, do one, teach one (v10): studying/applying/passing on the written revelation of God available to him. Remember, the scribes of Jesus' time studied the word, but didn't apply it. Their "yoke" was a millstone around their & their disciples' necks. We too have the strongest call to study the Word,& DO,& TEACH.

Why did Ezra set his heart on the Word? It was a demonstration of his character. Character is everything. The Sermon on the Mount is all about character, the heart of the matter, not specific activity. People can be called, anointed, gifted, but character affects everything. You may recall some who've shown great potential for the kingdom and fallen by the wayside. When Jesus sent out the 12 in pairs to perform great exploits in Matt 10, JUDAS WAS ONE OF THEM: Performing religious deeds, like the scribes, or moving in the supernatural are not signs of being saved, or of godly character.


We have godly examples of everyday folk who made a big difference for the kingdom:

  • Shiphrah & Puah: Exodus 1: "...the midwives FEARED GOD" and saved a nation...
  • Theophilus: Lk 1.3 & Acts 1.1: a government official/influential Gentile citizen; Luke's patron, paid for his travels to interview eyewitnesses, and gave us 2 books of the Bible - a nightlight who keeps the church from stubbing its toe 2000 years later!!!
  • Aquila & Priscilla: mentioned in Acts, 1 Corinthians and Romans = pillars of the church.
  • Lois & Eunice: mums; of sincere faith: a profound influence on Timothy; prob only teen
  • Peggy & Christine Smith: the Hebrides, 1949: Blindness & arthritis prevented them from joining public worship meetings; spent day & night in prayer at home... Revival came.
See? Midwives, local officials, mums, elderly/infirm, pillars of the church. Normal folk. Made a difference.


...Let's fix our eyes on Jesus. Always; He's the answer to everything. If you want to be used for the kingdom, fix your eyes on Him. Because by doing so, we hear from the Holy Spirit, we hear through the Word, we see circumstances change and people enter and leave our lives, such that we see God's “footprint” emerging; If you want to know your purpose in life, fix your eyes on Him.

Jesus says “Come to me... take my yoke... learn from me... my YOKE is easy”. In Him you'll find the whole reason for being alive. Without Him, we'd end up spending eternity apart from Him/God. With Him, you have an eternal destiny that starts NOW, not just in an eternal future. This life is fleeting and we never know how many chances we have to ensure He is always at the centre of our lives...

Cell Group Questions:

1.Did any points of Sunday's sermon strike you particularly?
2.How can we ensure our hearts ARE in the right place? What should we do, what can we put into practice?
3.Share your own PERSONAL stories of how you've seen your OWN calling, or that of others, unfold...
4.How can we apply what we learned on Sunday from a personal/individual point of view, to Beacon as a body of people? How do we unfold that practically?

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Beacon Touchpaper #15: "Clunk, click. Every trip."

" wise as serpents and innocent as doves." (Matt 10.16, ESV)

We live in a day and age where easy access to information, recreation and titillation is forever on the increase. The internet has become both a boon and a bane: it's a vast ocean of resources (thousands upon thousands of new sites are created EVERY day), but inevitably that ocean also contains dangers lurking just below the surface. For every site that can help equip us as God's people (of which there are genuinely plenty), and others that are God-honouring entertainment, there's plenty of others that can lure folks away from Truth and entrap them in easy-to-obtain vices or mindsets.

Of course, the internet is just one example of the world we live in. Media in general (TV/Radio/Magazines/Books) can all help feed an ungodly mindset just as much as enable our walk with Him. The next time you're in a newsagents, take a look at the varied covers on the magazine racks and you'll see the types of gods people live for: beauty, cars, bikes, fashion, careers, health, wealth, pets, houses, sex and more. And take a step away from media, and still we see influences that may affect our and our children's walk with God: opposing mindsets bolstered by recent changes in law, elements of school curriculum (evolution over intelligent design, sex education) and even decisions made by others of God's own people.

So what to do? Shut ourselves away (separatism)? Merge with the culture (syncretism)? Neither, of course: we are "in the world, but not of the world", and the key to doing this successfully lies in Jesus's warning: " wise as serpents and innocent as doves" (Matt 10.16). There's our how-to: understanding the culture around us and its thinking ("be wise"), yet remaining untainted by its sinful infection ("be innocent"). Remember: innocent does not mean naive. This way, we may live holy lives for Him, whilst still able to engage with the very people God has called us to share His grace with.

Do you understand the mindsets around you? Get researching, but keep your seatbelt on! Know your limitations, know where you get tempted, then show the people around you something of the grace that He has showered upon you. Maybe it's their turn... But just remember: Clunk, click. Every trip.

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