Sunday, August 30, 2020



EZRA BIBLE STUDY                                                                         


The Decree

The book of Ezra tells us the story of a remnant of Israel returning from the Babylonian captivity. This captivity occurred when the Babylonians attacked and destroyed Jerusalem under king Nebuchadnezzar. There were actually several attacks, culminating in a final 18 month siege that ended in the fall of the city in 587 B.C. Many Jews were killed, the walls of the city were broken down andthe temple and the king’s palace were burned down. 

The last king of Judah, Zedekiah, attempted to escape the siege with his two sons. They were caught, the sons were executed, Zedekiah’s eyes were put out, and he was taken to Babylon in chains and was never heard from again. 

Most of the survivors were taken to Babylon. There were 10,000 plus survivors taken away. Among them were Daniel in 605 B.C. and Ezekiel in 598 B.C. Also taken were many treasures from the temple. (2 Chronicles 36) The Lord did all of this because the Jews had turned away from him into idolatry and had refused to listen to the prophets God sent to warn them and to call them to repentance.

This punishment of the Jews was part of the covenant God made with Israel. The covenant included blessings for obedience and curses, or punishments, or disobedience. You can read about both in Leviticus 26. The ultimate punishment was to be conquered, the cities destroyed, and the survivors driven from the land. The Lord kept his word and did what he said he would do, although he gave them may chances to repent.

The last of the prophets God sent was Jeremiah. He warned the king and those in Jerusalem of God’s coming judgment. Instead of listening and repenting, they turned against Jeremiah and punished him. They even kept him in a cistern for a while. Yet, Jeremiah continued to prophesy, telling them that Nebuchadnezzar would come and destroy the land. (Jeremiah 25:8-11) He also told them they would be in exile for 70 years. After that, God would punish the Babylonians for who they had done.

Nebuchadnezzar did what Jeremiah prophesied. He later died and his son Nabonidus became king. In the waning years of the kingdom, Nabonidus and his son Belshazzar were co-regents. Daniel 5 and 6 show us Belshazzar using holy items from the Temple during a feast and how God brought the Medes and Persians to kill Belshazzar and take over the kingdom. Cyrus the Great became king. 

Also about that time Daniel read the book of Jeremiah and realized the 70 years were coming to a close. He began to pray for God bring an end to the captivity. (Daniel 9)  

Daniel survived the regime change into the reign of Cyrus the Great, or Cyrus II, the conquering king. (Daniel 10) So, Daniel would overlap with the people alive at the time of Ezra. But he would have been very old. 

So, the book of Ezra opens up by telling us that the Lord, acting to fulfill his word through Jeremiah, stirred up the spirit of Cyrus to make a written proclamation that the Jews could return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple, the house of YHWH. He called for the people around them, Jews who did not want to return to Jerusalem, to assist them monetarily with the project. (4) We will later be told that Cyrus also gave money from his royal treasury. 

In doing this, Cyrus acknowledged that God gave him his kingdom and says God charged him to build the temple in Jerusalem. (2) There is also a passage in Isaiah 44:24-25:13, where Isaiah relays the word of the Lord that Cyrus would be the Lord’s chosen one to bring the Jews back to Israel.   

In contrast to the writer of Esther, who never mentions God, the writer of Ezra wants us to know from the beginning of the book that God accomplished the return of the Jews to Judah. As Ephesians 1:11 says, God works all things according to the counsel of his will.  

There is a cylinder in the British Museum that is called the Cyrus Cylinder. It was discovered in 1879 in the Marduk Temple of Babylon. Part of its text refers to Cyrus’s  policy of returning the religious artifacts of conquered nations back to those nations and rebuilding their temples, while soliciting their prayers. 


Some Decide to Return

As God stirred up the spirit of Cyrus to decree the return of the Jews to Israel, he also stirred up the spirits of some of the Jews to return. Not all of the exiles returned. But, some did, including the heads of houses\families within the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, along with some priests and Levites. (5) 

Others, who did not want to return, gave them money and goods, as well as animals. (6) Cyrus the king returned the goods that had been taken by Nebuchadnezzar from the temple. (7) They were given to Sheshbazzar to take care of. (8) He is described as a “prince of Judah”, which likely just means he was one of the leaders.  There is nothing else in the book that indicates he is royalty descended from David. The writer lists everything that was returned, adding up to 5,400 total items of gold and silver. 

Why would the writer gives us such a detailed inventory of all of these vessels? 

First of all, they were holy. They were dedicated to God for use in the temple as part of worship. As such, they could not be used for anything else. That is why Belshazzar was killed right after he drank wine from one of the holy vessels. It was an intentional sacrilege. 

Second, these items were symbols of God’s covenantal dealings with Israel. They were items the Jews had been told to make for the temple.  Just looking at them would make the Jews remember the Scriptures they had been taught and the stories they had been told. 

Third, these items would be needed for the Jews to use in the worship of God in the rebuilt temple. Getting them back would be an encouragement and a symbol that they were beginning a journey back into a full covenant relationship with God and were no longer the objects of his wrath.

Fourth, it was the fulfillment of prophesy. Isaiah 52:11-12 says:

Depart, depart, go out from there;

touch no unclean thing:

go our from the midst of her, purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the Lord

For you shall not go out in haste and

you shall not go in flight,

for the LORD will go before you,

and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.

With these items for the temple, their own household items they were taking, family members, and animals, this remnant of Israel began a journey of several months to return to Israel. It was a journey of faith. Many of these people were born in Babylonia\Persia. They were born in exile. They had not seen the magnificence of Solomon’s temple or the city of Jerusalem. They only knew what they had been told. Others likely went into exile too young to remember much about it. Only a few of the oldest had seen the city and the temple and remembered it. Yet, they all went out of faith and a desire to see God honored again in his temple. 

The book of Ezra will show God as sovereign. Even the mightiest ruler on earth is subject to God’s will and purpose.

And the story of redemption continues to move along. It was God’s intention the the Messiah come to his people, the Jews. Therefore, he preserved the Jewish race from extinction and assimilation. It was God’s intention that the Messiah come to country of Israel, so he sent the Jews back to their country when the time for their exile was complete.

God always fulfills his word and keeps his promises. He told the Jews they would go into captivity and he told them he would bring them back and restore the land to them. He did both. 

We can count on him to fulfill the prophesies of the New Testament, too, and to keep his promises to us, including the promise of eternal life to those who believe.

Sunday, August 23, 2020



Esther 9


The Great Reversal

The decree sent out by Mordecai said the Jews could gather and defend their lives. They could kill anyone who attacked them. (8:10-11). This might have been a clever way to counteract the previous decree without revoking it and thereby breaking the law of the Persians. It did not say the Jews could not be attacked pursuant to the first decree, but did say the Jews could attack their enemies or defend against them. 

So, on the day Haman had decreed for the annihilation of the Jews, the Jews gathered together and fought those who hated them and sought to do them harm. It was a great reversal of fortune. 

The fear of the Jews fell on their enemies as it had when the Jews invaded Canaan. All of the government officials also helped the Jews, because they were all afraid of Mordecai, who was now very powerful. His fame had already spread throughout the kingdom. (3-4) 

The Jews also killed the 10 sons of Haman. (7-10) This is important enough to the writer that he lists all of their names. In the Masoretic text, their names are put in columns as was done in Joshua 12, which listed the names of the kings defeated by Joshua. 

They were evidently the last of the Agagites. Agagites were descendants of Agag, a king of the Amalekites. Mordecai and the Jews accomplished what Saul failed to do when God told him to destroy the Amalekites. By killing Haman and his sons, the Jews also fulfilled that command of the Lord to Saul and the word of the Lord the he would destroy them. 

1 Samuel 15 tells the story of God, through the prophet Samuel, commanding Saul to destroy the Amalekites. They were to kill them and destroy their goods. This, in the Old Testament, was called devoting it to destruction or, literally, placing them under the ban. This was what the Lord had Joshua do when he invaded the cities of Canaan. 

That was a judgment on the Canaanites. You might remember in Genesis 15:16, the Lord told Abraham that his descendants would not actually move into Canaan for 400 years because the sin of the Amorites was not yet complete. And the Lord did not want anything left that might pollute the Israelites or lead them into idolatry.

The judgment on the Amalekites goes back to the early days of the Exodus. After the Israelites left Egypt, and crossed the Red Sea, the Amalekites attacked Israel at Rephidim. (The Amalekites were descendants of Esau.) This is the battle where Aaron and Hur helped Moses hold up his arms and staff so that Joshua would win the battle. The Lord told Moses to write down that he would utterly blot out Amalek, fighting with him from generation to generation. 

That is why the Lord told Saul to destroy the Amalekites and their king, Agag, and I think it is why the writer of Esther took pains to tell us Haman was an Agagite and enemy of the Jews. The word of the Lord is finally fulfilled by Mordecai and the Jews of the Persian empire. 

As another reflection of the story of Joshua, the writer tells us that the Jews killed their enemies but took no plunder from them. (10) The picture is that they were devoted to destruction by the command of the Lord.  


Humiliating the Agagites

The king appears to have been amazed and impressed at the success of the Jews against their enemies. So, he granted Esther another request. She actually asked for two things. First, she asked for another day of revenge for the Jews. Second, she asked that the sons of Haman be hanged. The king granted her requests. 

So, there was a second day of bloodshed as the Jews in Susa and in the provinces killed their enemies. Still, they took no plunder. 

Additionally, the sons of Haman were hanged on the gallows built by Haman to hang Mordecai. This is not about killing. The sons had already been killed. But it was a degrading act, displaying the bodies of your slain enemies. It also served as a warning to those who might think of attacking the Jews again. The Romans did a similar thing, crucifying their enemies on crosses lining the main roads, leaving the bodies on the crosses for days after death. 

We saw a similar thing when Joshua hung the king of Ai on a tree after defeating the city (Joshua 8:29). We also see it in the defeat of Israel by the Philistines at Mount Gilboa, recorded in 1 Samuel 31. Saul and his sons were killed, and the Philistines fastened their bodies to the wall around the city of Beth-Shan.

Esther, in effect, conducted a holy war against the enemies of Israel, much as Joshua had done in Canaan. 

When the fighting ended, the Jews gathered and held a feast to celebrate their victory and their survival. It became a holiday for the Jews. 


Mordecai declared the day (14th day of Adar - roughly equivalent to March) to be a holiday forever, celebrating their relief from their enemies. They were to feast and give gifts of food to each other.They called the feast “Purim” after the lots, called pur, that Haman cast to determine the day to kill Mordecai. They said Haman’s plan to kill Mordecai and the Jews returned on his own head. (25) 

After Mordecai sent out letters about this, Queen Esther, also sent out a letter commanding the observance of the celebration each year. This is a feast initiated by people, not by God as the other Jewish feasts were. 

Jews still do this every year. They listen to the reading of the book of Esther all the way through on the night before Purim and again on the day of Purim. They call the book of Esther the “Megillah”, or “the Writings”, although it is one of five books in the collection, which also includes Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes. 

They also give to the poor, either through the synagogue or directly, helping at least two people. They also give gifts of food to each other. Finally, they feast. At the feast, children sometimes dress in costume to represent God’s hidden hand in the deliverance of the Jews through Esther.

Ester 10

The 10th and final chapter of Esther is the wrap up, telling us what happened to Mordecai and the king. The king recovered his finances by imposing a tax on the land. He had abated taxes when Esther became king. He is still in charge of the kingdom and largely unaffected by the upheaval caused by the Jews. 

Mordecai was great among the people and especially the Jews, as he continued to look out for the Jews and keep them living in peace. That was a great blessing for them.  

This reversal was only temporary, of course. The Jews would go on to suffer other oppressions, defeats, and persecutions. 

Ultimately, salvation of God’s people came through his Son. That is the great and permanent reversal. Interestingly, that Son would die hanging on a tree, the sign of being cursed. (Deuteronomy 21:23) He bore the curse of sin in our place. God made him to be sin who knew no sin. (2 Corinthians 5:21) Jesus paid the penalty for our sin, allowing us to come to the Father and receive eternal life.

The Jews celebrated deliverance with a feast. Christians celebrate theirs with a supper, but look forward to a greater feast, the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. (Revelation 19:6-9) An angel said ‘blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb”. That invitation is to the Bride, the church, made up of all of those who have believed and committed themselves to Christ. The Jews celebrate one time each year. We will celebrate every day for eternity! 

We are indeed blessed to be in Christ.  

Sunday, August 09, 2020


Esther 5


Esther’s Plan: Phase 1

When the designated time for fasting was over, Esther put on her royal robes and went to see the king in the inner court, where no one was allowed to go without permission from the king. She did this knowing, if the king did not receive her, she would be put to death for her audacity. 

Archeologists have found Persian art from this time period that shows the king on this throne with his scepter, flanked by his officials, and by a soldier bearing an axe. So, anyone who did not receive the favor of the king could be beheaded in a few seconds. 

But the king did receive her. In fact, verse 1 says she “won favor in his sight”. We can take that to mean she had God’s favor and he gave her favor with the king. He was so glad to see her, he offered to give her anything she asked, even up to half of his kingdom. (3)

Since his kingdom was huge, half of it would be an unbelievably extravagant gift. Not to mention, it is unlikely a king jealous of his power would relinquish half of it. So, we can take this to be hyperbole. He would not expect her to be bold enough to ask for half of his kingdom. But, he was offering to giver her whatever she asked, even if it was a big thing. 

This speaking in hyperbole seems to be a Middle Eastern thing. We can see King Herod make the same offer to his wife’s daughter after she danced for him. She asked for the head of John the Baptist and he gave it to her. (Mark 6:22)

Despite it appearing that the time was right, Esther did not use the king’s favor to eliminate Haman and to save the Jews at that time. Instead she invited the king and Haman to a feast  she had prepared in advance. She had to find a way to undo a law that was not supposed to be reversed and which might cost the king 10,000 talents of silver. 

After the king had eaten, and was enjoying an after dinner glass of wine, he made his offer to Esther again. And again, Esther declined to say what her wish was and, instead, invited the king and Haman to another feat to be held the same day. At that time, she would make her request known. (8)

Despite the king making a decree that every man be the head of his household, Esther is clearly orchestrating the events and the king is clearly anxious to please her. She is, however, doing so with a display of meekness, which the king valued. She said “if I have found favor in the sight of the king” and “if it please the king to grant my wish and fulfill my request’. 

She had, as well, maneuvered the king into a situation where it would be difficult for him to refuse her request. He had stated publicly twice that he would do so. Plus, by accepting her invitation to the second feast, he was practically saying he would give her whatever she wanted. 


Haman’s Bubble Burst

Haman left the feast feeling important and happy. But that bubble burst when he saw Mordecai at the gate, because Mordecai still refused to bow to him. It is funny how the most honored advisor to the king could be so upset over one man who did not honor him. Yet, we see that Haman’s ego is so large it cannot tolerate any slight. Today, we would call him a narcissist. 

Haman became very angry. He went home and summoned his wife and close friends. He told them of all his riches and honors, and his special invitation to the queen’s feast, but that Mordecai’s refusal to honor him took all away all of his pleasure in these things. It is interesting how we can lose perspective so easily, forgetting all of our blessings and focusing on one thing that does not go our way.

Haman’ humor was restored, however, when his wife and friends came up with a solution: build a huge gallows, 75 feet high, and make a spectacle of hanging Mordecai in from of the whole city. Then, go enjoy yourself at the feast.

This was actually very bad advice. Hanging Mordecai on a giant gallows would signify he was a giant of a man, of great importance. It would have been a greater humiliation to execute him quietly with no fanfare, as if he were totally insignificant. But for Haman, a giant wound to his ego could only be healed by a giant display of power. 

Esther 6


Meanwhile, Back At The Castle

While Haman had the giant gallows made, the king was restless and could not sleep. He got up and had the book of memorable deeds read to him. The book contained the account of Mordecai saving the kings’s life by telling him the plot against him. 

Since it was traditional to honor any man who rendered great service to the king, he asked what had been done for Mordecai, only to find out that nothing had been done. 

Seeking to remedy this situation, the king asked who was in the court. He was looking for someone to advise him on what to do. It must have been morning by this time, for Haman had just entered to tell the king he wanted to hang Mordecai on the gallows Haman had built overnight. 

Since Haman was the king’s advisor, the king asked him what should be done for a man the king delighted to honor. In his arrogance, Haman believed the king must have been talking about him, so he came up with this lavish honor, to wear robes worn by the king, to be put on the king’s horse, to wear a kingly crown, and to be paraded through the streets as the man the king wanted to honor. Haman could picture himself looking every bit like the king as he paraded through the city. He would look very important, even regal. Everyone in the capital city would see him and honor him.

Of course, the honor was not for Haman but for Mordecai. And the king had Haman do these things for Mordecai. All that Haman desired was bestowed upon his greatest enemy! to make matters worse, Haman had to lead the procession, experiencing every moment of Mordecai’s honor. You can imagine Haman’s humiliation, his seething anger, and embarassment. 


The Tide Turns

Haman was so upset, he covered his head like a mourner and hurried to home to talk to his wife and friends about what to do. Haman had caused the Jews to mourn, but now he was the mourner. 

When Haman did this before, his wife and friends were consoling and helpful. But not this time. This time they seem to have figured out that God protected the Jewish people. Maybe they saw the turn of events as an omen of Haman’s destruction. They told him, if Mordecai is a Jew, you will not overcome him. You will fall before him. That was certainly not what Haman wanted to hear. 

To make matters worse, just as he was told this, the king’s eunuchs arrive to take him to Esther’s feast. You can see the drama of the writing here. It signals us that a great confrontation is about to occur.


Haman had a great amount of pride. It was, however, a needy pride. He not only had to be important, he had to be seen as important and acknowledged by all. Mordecai’s refusal to honor him, therefore, hit at Haman’s very core. 

The Bible is clear that God hates pride. Pride is all about what is good for me, not what glorifies the Lord. Proverbs 8:13 tells us God hates pride. Proverbs 16:18 is relevant to Haman’s situation. It says “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall”.

Finally, we see God working in the simplest of things to accomplish his will. He would not let the king sleep. He led him to read a book. Everything else fell into place. Psalm 2 asks why the peoples plot in vain agains the Lord and his Anointed. The Lord purposed to bring the Messiah through the Jews. He would not let anything stop that.

It is the same today. What God has said in his Word, he will do. 

Sunday, August 02, 2020


We live in strange and dark times, don’t we? We stay mostly in our homes because of the virus pandemic. Businesses are closed. Many people have lost their jobs or had their pay reduced. Several cities are besieged by rioters and looters. 

And the normal trials of life still continue: people get sick or injured, loved ones die, and tragedies happen.

Since we are used to getting out and doing things, staying closed up at home has an effect on us. Some are angry, some are sad. Some are depressed, others are consumed by apathy or boredom. 

Christians are not immune to these things. In fact, though you should have more time for the spiritual disciplines, you may have succumbed to apathy and spend your time binge watching television. A recent survey showed that only 7 percent of people read their Bibles daily during this time.

How do we handle these times? I think Paul’s words to the church in Ephesus, recorded in Ephesians 6:10-18 are timely for us today.

This passage was Paul’s last exhortation to the church in Ephesus. In the prior verses, he wrote about our life in Christ, our life in the church, our life in the family, and our life in the workplace, all as God intends for it to be. 

But Paul knew that Satan opposes everything that God purposes. So, when Paul began this passage with the word “finally”, he was saying, in light of all that I have written about God’s will for us in these areas, be prepared to fight for them against the enemy that will attack them. Every Christian is involved in the spiritual battle and must equip himself or herself for it.

Paul’s instruction is for us to be strong in the Lord, relying on his strength. (10) We must cover ourselves in the full armor of God. We must do this to stand against the schemes of the devil and his demons. 

That is because we do not have the strength within ourselves to defeat our enemy. Paul deed our enemies as the  devil with his schemes. Paul saw this first hand in Ephesus when the seven unbelieving sons of Sceva the priest tried to cast a demon out of a man. Instead of coming out of the man, the demon empowered the man to beat all seven of the sons. This story is recorded in Acts 19.

The Bible tells us Satan was created as a beautiful and powerful angel. And angels in general appear to be more powerful than humans in this age. Satan is, therefore, a powerful enemy. His agents are rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, and spiritual forces of evil. (12) And he has schemes to defeat you and the church, just as he had schemes to defeat Jesus. 

Remember, for example, his scheme in the wilderness to defeat Jesus, recorded in Matthew 4. He first did this by tempting him to turn loaves into bread. He did this when Jesus was physically weak after fasting for 40 days. Then, he offered him all of the kingdoms of earth in return for his worship, which would allow him to avoid the suffering of the cross. Those were powerful temptations at a time of weakness and exhaustion.

Here is the bad news; he has schemes for you, too. He would love to make every Christian fall and become ineffective for the kingdom. He may appeal to your weakness in suffering illness or loss. He may appeal to you in pride after you have succeeded at something. He will use different methods at different times. He may appeal to your boredom, offering things to you for excitement that lead to sin.  

God is, however, more powerful than the devil. God is the creator. The devil is a creature subject to God’s power and authority just as we are. That is why the devil had to get God’s permission to attack Job. It is why Jesus was able to cast out demons from possessed people. 

Christianity is not a religion of Dualism. Dualism holds that good and evil are equal forces, that God and the Devil are locked in a battle of equals. That is the underlying theology of the Force in the Star Wars movies. But the Bible tells us no one is God’s equal, there is none like him. God cast the Devil from heaven, as pictured in Revelation 12, and He will send the Devil into eternal punishment when it is time, as shown in Revelation 20. 

Since we are weak, but God is strong, we must rely on the strength of the Lord to prevail. Paul tells us how to do that, by putting on the armor of God. He is probably thinking of the gear of the first century Roman soldier and uses these items as metaphors for the things Christ gives us to be victorious. Paul wrote this letter while in confinement, guarded by a Roman soldier. Some of these things are also pictured in Isaiah’s vision as being worn by the Lord when he comes in victory and judgment.

First Paul says, we must put on the belt of truth. Jesus called himself the truth. (John 14:6) We must always be centered in the truth of Christ and his gospel, without watering it down and without redefining it to fit the times. Jesus said no one comes to the Father except through him. We must know the doctrines of the faith in order to defend them. 

We must put on the breastplate of righteousness. The breastplate protected the heart and other vital organs from attack. We have received the righteousness of Christ through faith. When Satan accuses us of not being good enough or worthy of salvation, we deflect his arrow by standing on the righteousness of Christ. 

Having received Christ’s righteousness, though, we strive to live righteously. When we do so, we are much better equipped to fight the enemy that when we are weighed down by our own sin.  

Next, for shoes, we put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. (15) Because we have the peace of God, and peace with God, we are ready to fight the devil as our common enemy. If we are at war with God, we do not have this peace and cannot fight the enemy. It would be like running into battle barefoot. Instead we are ready to take the gospel to our city, our country, and the world. Every soul converted is a victory for Christ and a defeat for Satan. 

In all circumstances, we must have the shield of faith. (16) The Roman battle shield was large enough to protect the whole body of the soldier. When the Roman troops marched into combat, they held up their shields and deflected all of the arrows shot by the enemy. You can see this enacted in the movie “Gladiator”. 

When the devil shoots his arrows of doubt, fear, anxiety, or confusion, we deflect them with the shield of faith. Believing in Christ, his salvation, and his protection, we rely on him and our faith is stronger than Satan’s attacks. We know and believe that Jesus will never leave us, or forsake us, and no one can snatch us from his hand. 

We also put on the helmet of salvation. (17) In Isaiah 59:17, the Lord wears the helmet of salvation when he comes to defeat his enemies at the end of the age and judge them. Our salvation includes eternal life and the promise of a future where all of God’s enemies, who are our enemies also, are defeated. You can face every battle with Satan in this knowledge.

Finally in addition to these defensive weapons, we have an offensive weapon, the sword of the Spirit. That sword is the word of God empowered by the Spirit of God. It is our weapon. 

Going back to the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, we see Jesus defeated all three temptations of the Devil with scripture, the sword of the Spirit. 

So, how do we fight this battle? First, clothed in God’s armor, we stand. That word appears 3 times in this passage. The Greek word refers to a soldier taking a stand to fight the enemy and not retreating. Or in my geeky “Lord of the Rings” way, you stand like Gandalf in the face of evil and say “you shall not pass”. You do not cower or retreat, you stand and face the enemy in the power of the Lord. 

Second, you wield God’s word as a sword. That means you read it, study it, memorize it, all in preparation to use it in battle. The Spirit will then bring the word to mind as you fight the evil one. Again, the example for us is Jesus in the wilderness in Matthew 4, as well as Peter and John before the Sanhedrin in Acts 4 and Stephen in Acts 6.

Third, you pray in the Spirit continually, or at all times. (18) You pray for your own spiritual strength, but you also pray for all the saints. You pray for Christians under persecution in China, in North Korea, in Nigeria and every place they are persecuted. You pray for churches in California who have been told they cannot meet. You pray that our church will stand strong for Christ and preach the gospel to our city.

Fourth, you stay alert with perseverance. Instead of succumbing to apathy and abandoning the spiritual disciplines, let’s double down on them. Spend more time in the Word and in prayer than before the pandemic. Contact your fellow believers and encourage them. Ephesians 5:16 says “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, make the best use of the time, because the days are evil”. 

You cannot put on the armor of God if you have not received Christ as Savior. The second chapter of Ephesians tells us that if you have not been saved, you are spiritually dead in your sins and under the dominion of the devil. But, by placing your faith in Jesus, believing he died to pay the penalty for your sins, you can be saved from your sins and clothed in the armor of God to resist the devil. 

If you have never done this, I urge you to receive Jesus as savior and lord and commit your life to him today.