New York City Circa 1857

Relevant Text: Ezra 10:1 (underlined)
Full Text: Ezra 10; Acts 10-11

Police | It was summer 1857. The NYC Municipal Police Force was massively corrupt under Mayor Fernando Wood. So Albany shortened his second term and created the Metropolitan Police Force. But Wood refused to vacate. He and the Municipals occupied City Hall. Police feuding continued throughout the summer until the Metropolitans – with the National Guard – defeated the Municipals and forced Wood to submit. On July 2, courts upheld the Metropolitans’ jurisdiction [1].

Gangs | Two days later, gangs began rioting. Battles raged on Bowery and Bayard. Bloodshed covered Mulberry, Elizabeth and Baxter. Gangs looted and pillaged neighborhoods. Shopkeepers, pedestrians and residents were all fair game. It only lasted a week, but it was intense and total anarchy.

Banks | Then came the financial crisis. The recession got worse on August 24, when the NY Branch of the Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company failed. Railroad bonds were embezzled, routine transactions ceased, major stocks fell 10%, and depositors demanded gold. Thankfully, a gold delivery from California was expected. On September 12, however, a hurricane destroyed that shipment and fifteen tons of gold sank into the ocean. A month later, the Panic of 1857 took effect and the NY banks were closed from October 13 through December 12.

Revival | In this chaos, God raised up Jeremiah Lanphier – a middle-aged tradesman whose church had relocated uptown. On September 23, he and six others met for noontime prayer on Fulton Street. Fourteen met the next week and twenty-three the week following. By mid-November, over 10,000 businessmen were “confessing sin, getting saved, [and] praying for revival” [2] – like Ezra’s account: “While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly” [3]. Thousands were being saved and mercy ministries were being opened, e.g., The Bowery Mission, The Salvation Army. There were no lead preachers or famous speakers – just humble men hungry for God. They prayed. He moved.

Prayer | Lord, Lead us in a season of repentance, confession and prayer so that we are awakened to a desire for more holiness. Today, as we live in the midst of uncertain times, we bow before you in humility and pray for our church, our city and our nation. Let us be faithful in small prayer meetings and leave the work of revival to you. Amen.



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[1] Historical sources include: (a) The Religious Revival. The New York Times. (original publication: 20 March 1858), (b) Gregory Christiano. 1857: A Year to Forget. Urbanography., (c) Smithwords, The Great Awakening of 1857-1858., (d) Audrey Barrick, Christians Mark 150 Years of Fulton Street Revival. 23 Sept 2007., (e) Program for the 150th Anniversary celebration of the Fulton Street Noon Prayer. 2007. | [2] See [1](c) | [3] Ezra 10:1 ESV

How to Obey When You’re Afraid

Relevant Text: Ezra 3:3
Full Text: Ezra 3, Acts 3

Fear | When your boss asks, “Have you done such-and-such yet?”, you only have a moment to respond. It’s either yes or no. It’s that simple … or is it? When I was working on Capitol Hill for then-Congressman Joe Scarborough, there were always a hundred things going on. Constituents and lobbyists were arriving for meetings, bells were ringing for votes, deadlines were approaching for articles, planes were being reserved for travel. Each day was a chaotic whirlwind. Thus, there were times when Joe asked, “Have you done such-and-such yet?”, and the truth was, “No.” If the task was simple, however, I always wanted to say, “Yes,” and then do it as soon as he walked away without him ever noticing. Yet, in the moment between his question and my answer, I was making a major decision: Whose opinion did I care more about – Joe’s or God’s? I knew that Joe wanted me to get the job done, but I also knew that God wanted me to be truthful. How could I choose to obey God when I feared losing my job? [1]

Despite | In 586 BC, the Babylonians conquered Judah, exiled the Israelites, and destroyed the Temple. Fifty years passed, during which time the Babylonian Empire fell and the Persian Empire grew. Then, in 539 BC, Cyrus the Great of Persia sent the exiles home [2]. When they returned to Judah, they “assembled as one man in Jerusalem” [3] and began rebuilding the temple. But they ran into a problem – their neighbors set out to intimidate them because they didn’t want the temple to be rebuilt. Nonetheless, the Israelites continued despite their fear of the peoples around them[4]. Yes, they were afraid and their fear was real. Yet, their fear didn’t keep them from obeying God. They obeyed in faith because they longed for the joy of the presence of the Lord in the temple more than they feared their neighbors.

Prayer | Lord, Thank you for the testimony of the Israelites because it foreshadowed the obedience of Jesus. In the garden, as he anticipated the suffering and death that would happen if he obeyed you, he sweat blood in agony. Yet, in that moment, he prayed, “Not my will, but yours, be done” [5] – because he longed for the joy of our salvation that would come through obedience [6]. Today, we pray that our joy in you and in obeying you would overcome our fear of others. Amen. [7]



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[1] No, Joe never threatened to fire me over a task forgotten! Yet, I’m sure, depending on the level of importance of any given task, I would have definitely gotten in trouble! We were – and remain – great friends because he is such a delight to work with! Nonetheless, I was a nervous 22 year-old with her first job when I worked for him. There is fear in such a heart no matter how great the boss is!  |  [2] See Ezra 1  |  [3] Ezra 3:1 NIV  |  [4] Ezra 3:3 NIV  |  [5] Lk. 22:42 ESV  |  [6] See Heb. 12:1-2.  |  [7] For an excellent sermon on how to confront all kinds of fear, see Charles Spurgeon, Fearing and Trusting – Trusting and Not Fearing (10 January 1913).

Advent – A King Who Chose Poverty

Advent Reading: Isaiah 61:1-2 (underlined below)

Promise Made | During the decline of Israel, the Lord called Isaiah to prophesy about the coming Messiah, saying, The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor [1].

Promise Kept | In his first public act of ministry, Jesus went to the synagogue in Nazareth and spoke those words from the scroll of Isaiah. Every eye was fixed on him. Then he said, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” [2]. In other words, “The time is fulfilled. I am the one being spoken of. My ministry is the arrival of the long-awaited kingdom of healing and salvation and freedom from oppression. God is now revealing himself as king to save and deliver and help like he never has before” [3].

Promise Meant | Yet, Jesus did not use mere words to proclaim good news to the poor and oppressed. He used his life. In heaven, the King of kings intentionally decided to come as a pauper, not a prince. Rather than choosing a wealthy family to be his own, he chose Mary and Joseph – a couple so poor that they could afford only a poor man’s sacrifice at the temple (pigeons in lieu of a lamb) [4]. Jesus did not embrace poverty and oppression, however, as a clever means to rationalize his otherwise undesirable circumstances; he embraced those values because they said something about his kingdom. His life was a testimony that God’s kingdom was not about money, power, status or celebrity; rather, it was about the riches of knowing God and the freedom of being found in Christ [5].

Prayer | Lord, In the incarnation, Jesus moved from immeasurable wealth to voluntary poverty and – ultimately – to absolute destitution on the cross [6]. And he did this for our salvation. Yet, we confess that we oftentimes seek comfort and ease without thinking too much about what our choices say about your kingdom. Forgive us and incline our hearts away from the riches of this world. Help us make different choices about how we live so that our lives – not just our words – testify to the riches of knowing you and the joy of being in your presence. Amen.

What is the non-advent reading for today? 2 Kings 18:1-8 + 2 Chron. 29:1-2 + 2 Kings 17:1-6
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Footnotes:  [1] Is. 61:1-2 ESV   |  [2] Lk. 4:18-19 ESV  |  [3] John Piper, “The Importance of the Kingdom Today.” 28 January 1990.  |  [4] See Luke 2:22-24 (Under the law, the regular sacrifice was a lamb. If a person could not afford a lamb, however, they could offer two turtledoves or two pigeons. See Leviticus 12:8). Mary and Joseph offered two turtledoves or pigeons.  |  [5] See Phil. 3.  |  [6] See 2 Cor. 8:9.

Advent – He Would Have a Price

Advent Reading: Rom. 15:8-9 (underlined below)

Promise Made | After the exiles returned to Jerusalem, God sent two prophets – Haggai (to encourage them to rebuild the temple) and Zechariah (to encourage them to prepare for entering the temple through repentance and renewal). Yet, the exiles were discouraged because squatters who had settled in their land were opposing them. Thus, God called Zechariah to rekindle their hope in the Messiah [1] – prophesying that he would be betrayed by a friend for thirty pieces of silver that would be cast on the temple floor and given to a potter: “The Lord said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’ – the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord, to the potter” [2].

Promise Kept | Judas handed Jesus over to the chief priests for the negotiated sum of thirty pieces of silver [3]. Yet, when he saw Jesus being prepared for death, “he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ They said, ‘What is that to us? See to it yourself.’ And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed … But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, ‘It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.’ So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers” [4].

Promise Meant | Jesus was priced at thirty pieces of silver because, under Jewish law, that was the price of a slave [5]. Jesus was a slave [6]. To whom? Israel. As Paul wrote, “Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy” [7]. Jesus was a servant of Israel to satisfy the law for them and, thereby, show mercy to the Gentiles as well – for no one could satisfy the law except Christ alone [8].

Prayer | Lord, You are Lord and King over all. Yet, Jesus became a slave to serve us by living a sinless life and then offering himself as a sacrifice [9]. Help us, therefore, to offer ourselves as living sacrifices as we serve one another in the light of your life and love. Amen.


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What is the non-advent reading for today? 2 Kg. 15:32-38 + 2 Chron. 27 + Mic. 1:1-16
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[1] See Zech. 14:9.  |  [2] Zech. 11:12-13 ESV  |  [3] Matt. 26:15 ESV  |  [4] Matt. 27:3-7 ESV
[5] See Ex. 21:32  |  [6] See Is. 53; Mk 9:25; 10:45; Acts 3:13.  |  [7] Rom. 15:8-9 ESV
[8] See Rom. 3:9-20Ecc. 7:20.  |  [9] See Phil. 2:1-11.

the purpose of this blog

This blog aims to show how various personalities and minds approach the Word and, through it, come to know God. Therefore, each posting on this blog will be anchored to a particular verse or a passage of the Bible and how that verse or passage has impacted the author’s life or thinking. In addition, there will be many authors from various cities all over the country, so that a diversity of writing styles and life approaches can be represented. Through this, we hope that you will be inspired to “play” in the Word and find joy in coming to know God through it. [Note: If you would like to be a contributing author, please send a writing sample of no more than 350 words.]

Stay tuned: daily postings will begin in September.