Thursday, March 24, 2011

Stop bowing and start standing

The story of Esther chapter three is one that has been repeated many times throughout history. Dr. Warren Weirsby said that this was “an old enemy with a new name.” You could change the name Haman to Pharaoh, Caesar, Hitler, or Husain and the story would be the same. From the time Israel became a nation, until today there has always been someone wanting to exterminate them.

For four years it has been peaceful in Shushan. Esther is the queen; Mordecai has a new job taking care of the kings business at the gate. Things seem to be going smoothly, but like they so often do, things take a turn for the worse.

I have entitled this chapter “It’s time to stop bowing and start standing.” I feel that too many times the people of God have sat on the sidelines and watched as the enemy prevails. They have taken prayer out of our schools. They have tried to take “under God” out of the national anthem. The Ten Commandments are not allowed to be displayed publicly. Our nation is not supposed to have a national day of prayer, yet the Muslim community can stand in the streets of Washington and pray. It’s time we stop bowing down to the enemy and start standing for what we know to be right.

In the face of evil men we should stop bowing and start standing

In this chapter we are introduced to the third main character in this book. He is a man by the name of Haman. In chapter three Haman is promoted to the position of prime minister. We are also told that Haman was an “Agagite.” The Agagite was the royal family of Amelek. The story of Amelek and Israel goes all the way back to Exodus chapter 17. The Jews are leaving Egypt. The Amalekites come from behind and attach the people marching. Moses commands Joshua to war against them. You know the story Joshua prevailed and won a great victory over Amalek.

The story goes on. Saul, Israel’s first king was commanded by God to destroy Amalek. Saul was to kill every man, woman, boy and girl. Of course Saul disobeyed God and left some of the people alive. Had Saul obeyed God there never would have been a Haman.

Let me stop for a second and say sometimes God tells us to get certain things or certain people out of our lives. We don’t completely understand why He is telling us to do this, and many times we don’t listen. Because of disobedience many people today are fighting Haman’s in their life because they would not get Amalek out when God said to.

I think it’s worth noting that Saul was a Benjamite and he was commanded to kill Amalek. Now Mordecai, a Benjamite, is still fighting this fight with Amalek. Those things in your life that God commands you to get rid of and you choose not to will not only affect you, but your children as well. Don’t be surprised if your children fight with the same Amalek you refused to get out of your life. When we sin we are hurting so many others, besides ourselves.

Because of Haman’s new position it is commanded that everyone bow to him when they see him walking by. In this day to bow meant to get down on all fours. So, when Haman walked by everyone in the kingdom would get down on all fours and bow to him, everyone except for one man.

One man named Mordecai refused to bow when everyone else did. We as the people of God should determine in our heart to be like Mordecai. This world is bowing the knee to many false gods. They bow to the economy, politics, power, popularity, pride and the list goes on and on. The people of God need to stand up and say “I will not bow.” Jesus said that it is impossible to serve two masters. Who are you serving? Mordecai is taking a stand for the first time. It will cost him a great deal to make this stand, but he is willing to risk his life to take a stand for what he knows is right. What are you willing to sacrifice to do what you know is right?

In the face of evil motives we should stop bowing and start standing

As the days go by, Haman becomes more and more angry. Eventually it gets to the point that he wants nothing more than to see this man put to death. But to kill Mordecai would not be enough. He wanted to kill all of the Jews with him. Just like Satan, Haman is a liar and a murderer. Haman brings it to the attention of the king that there are people living among them that do not live by the same laws of the rest of the kingdom. Because one man, Mordecai, would not obey one law, Haman convinces the king that none of the Jews obey any of the laws.

The king takes off his ring with no thought at all and gives it to Haman. In typical Xerxes fashion he acts first and regrets it later. He has just lost up to two million people in his war against Greece, now he is going to have many more innocent people killed.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Go ahead and say it..... Now was that so hard?

Why is it that we have such a hard time expressing the way we feel sometimes?

This is what I thought about today while I was riding around on my lawn mower. It’s funny some of the things that I think about while I’m cutting grass. I hate to do it, but I do some good thinking while it’s going on. Anyway, so I’m riding around thinking that most of us, including myself, have a hard time saying the things that we want to say.

For example, how hard is it to tell someone about Jesus? How hard is it to invite someone to church? How hard is it to tell someone that they did a good job? Many of us have wanted to do one or all of these things, but for one reason or another we didn’t.

The thing that had most of my attention was this: “How hard is it to tell someone that you love them?” I know from experience that those three little words are some of the hardest to say. It’s easy for me to tell my girls that I love them, because they are little. Will I be able to continue saying it when they are big? I sure hope so. I plan on it. I tell my wife everyday that I love her, and I plan on continuing to do so.

It seems the ones that I have such a hard time telling are the ones outside of the four walls of my home. I have a mom and dad that I love with all of my heart, but for some reason I don’t tell them that I love them as often as I think I should. I also have a little sister. Growing up I think she always knew that I loved her, but I didn’t tell her. It just wasn’t the cool thing to do to go around telling your little sister that you loved her, but I should have done it anyway.

So I have decided that this is going to change. Next time I see the family I plan on telling them that I love them before we part ways. I can imagine that it might be a little difficult at first to express those feelings, but it will be worth it.

How about you? Do you have someone in your life that you have been holding back on telling them how you feel? You say, “They know that I love them.” This may be true, but I bet they would like to hear you say it every once in a while.

A friend of mine lost someone that was very dear to him a few years ago. This person’s death was totally unexpected, and way too soon. He said that if he learned one thing from the experience it was that you should never tell someone “goodbye” without also telling them that you love them. I’ve watched him live up to that since. I’m proud of him for doing so.

I don’t want to have regrets. I don’t want to stand at a casket of a loved one wondering if they really knew how much I loved them. How about you?

So, there it is. I hope these random thoughts have spoken to you in some way. It doesn’t seem right to write a blog about telling someone that you love them without mentioning that Jesus loves you. Jesus did what many are not willing to do. He proved His love to you by dying in your place. It takes a lot of love to give your life in exchange for someone else, but that is what He did. Jesus loves you.

To my wife, you are the love of my life. To my little girls, I love you more than life itself. To my family, know that I love you and I always will. (Next time we get together I’m going to tell you before I leave so don’t be shocked and think I want to borrow money or something.)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Failure does not mean Finished

Esther chapter 2

Personal Failure does not mean God is finished (verses 1-4)

In this chapter we will see God use a heathen king, and a wicked contest to bring about His will. When we pick up in chapter two we see a defeated king, who is considering himself a failure.

Every one of us has failed God on many occasions. Sometimes we like to act like we are super spiritual. Naturally we want everyone to think we are the best Christian in the church. The fact remains that every person has their own regrets. There are things that haunt your mind. Things you wish you could do over. Words you wish you would have never said.

In the second chapter of Esther we will see God moving on behalf of His people even when the people are not moving on God’s behalf. When the chapter begins we find King Xerxes in a very low state of depression. In the first chapter he put away his wife, a move he is regretting, and since chapter one he has lost a great military battle. Xerxes thought that he would send large numbers of soldiers to Greece, destroy their army, and virtually take over the known world. Instead the Persian soldiers were whipped by the Grecian soldiers, and sent them home disgraced.

Now some four years after chapter one the king is walking through the palace and regretting the decision he made about the queen. Xerxes would pace up and down the halls of the palace thinking of the queen. No doubt the king had a large number of concubines at his disposal, but there is a difference between physical pleasure and love. The servants see the king depressed and suggest that a contest is held. They will find the most beautiful women in the kingdom, bring them to the king, and he will pick one of them to become the new queen.

This sounds like a good idea to the king, so it is ordered. There is some controversy as to whether this was some kind of a beauty pageant for the women in the kingdom, or if the women were taken with force and brought into the kingdom. In either case, hundreds of women were brought into the kingdom, and presented before the king.

I wonder how many young women were hidden by their parents. I wonder how many parents lied and said they did not have a daughter. I wonder how many women married a man just to avoid being taken to the kingdom. Only one woman would become the queen. The rest of the women would be shut up into a harem. They would never be able to marry. They would forever be the property of the king.

Public Failure does not mean God is finished (verses 5-23)

Beginning in verse 5 we are introduced to two of the main characters in this book, Mordecai and Esther. First we meet Mordecai.

The first question I have is, “Why is Mordecai here?” God had permitted his people to return to their own land. Cyrus had signed a decree allowing them to return home, and rebuild their home land. The problem is that most of the Jews stayed behind. They had grown accustom to the lifestyle, and business of the Gentiles, so they just decided to stay behind. Mordecai was one of them. Mordecai is out of God’s will.

Next we meet Esther. Her name means “star.” Esther was actually her Persian name. Her given name was Hadassah which means “myrtle.” It is interesting that the myrtle tree brings forth flowers that are star shaped. This lady must have really been a star. Esther is being raised by Mordecai, but she is really his cousin, not his daughter.

In these verses we see some real problems. First of all if Mordecai and Esther were passing themselves off as Persians then this means they were not living a kosher lifestyle. For if they were keeping the laws of Moses in relation to their diet, worship and lifestyle they would have quickly been found out.

I’m sure that Mordecai did this for personal safety. No doubt there were people who would hate or harm them if they were discovered as Jews. Daniel and his friends stayed true to the laws of their God while captive in Babylon, why not Mordecai and Esther?

Even more serious is the problem of a Jewish girl being in a harem and ultimately marrying a Gentile. The Law of Moses was clear that the Jews were not to enter into mixed marriages.

It is amazing to see that God allowed all of this to happen. And after all these things He still took care of His people. Just as Joseph found favor in Egypt and Daniel found favor in Babylon, so Esther finds favor in Shushan. Even today God is moving in areas and ways where we just assume that He is absent.

After a year of preparation the time came for the women to go before the king. Every night a new girl was brought to the king and in the morning she was taken to the house of the concubines, unless the king liked her and called for her by name to come to him again.

When the king saw Esther the decision was made. Esther was to be the new queen. Again, this was no accident. This move was essential for God to save His people.

Finally the chapter closes with Mordecai getting a new position now that Esther is the queen. He is sitting at the gate which was where the court was. Mordecai was made a judge. While sitting at the gate he overhears a plot being made on the king’s life. Mordecai immediately tells the plot to Esther, who in turn tells the king. The men that were plotting against the king are found out, and killed. This is a seemingly insignificant event, but we will see in a couple of verses how big of an event this is.

You can watch these lessons taught live by clicking on the links to the right.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

How BIG are you?

I read something this week that really caught my attention. Someone said that “you can determine the size of a man by the size of what troubles him.” Wow, that is pretty strong. So, I’ve been thinking of what kind of man I am. As I thought about this I wasn’t as happy with the answer as I would like to be.

Too many times I am guilty of letting little things bother me. Things that I should just let go, I let get to me. Things that really don’t matter, sometime matter. I’ve never thought of myself as a little man, but sometimes it is good to examine your life and notice where you can use work. It is very easy to point out the flaws in someone else, but it’s a little more difficult to see them in ourselves.

Jesus is our great example of what a man should be. If you study His life you can see many times when He was bothered. He was bothered when people doubted His miracles. He was bothered when the house of God was turned into a house of merchandise. He was bothered when His disciples would not allow children to come to Him. He was bothered when those who heard his teaching refused to accept the things that He taught. These things were very important to Him.

Just as there were things that bothered Him, there were things that didn’t. Jesus taught that if a person was to smite you on the cheek you should turn the other one to him. He taught that if a brother sued you for your shirt you should give him your coat also. Jesus even stood before Pilot as false accusations where made against Him, without being bothered. Could I do this? Could you stand by while people talked badly about you, knowing what they were saying was not true? Jesus did. He knew the truth and that was enough for Him.

So, this brings us to the question. Does it really matter if someone cuts you off while you are driving? Should it matter if the kids make a little mess? They are kids after all, not adults. Why should you care if someone doesn’t like the clothes you wear, food you eat, or the way you talk? There are so many other things to be worried about. You have family members that could die and go to hell. You have a life to live. You have a family to love. Who cares about all that other stuff? I would hate to think that my life was wasted on worries and regrets.

What bothers you? How big of a person are you? Would others consider you a person who enjoys life? Or are you the person that cannot live life because you are constantly bothered about something. One of my Great Aunts gave me and my wife some advise just before our first child was born. She said “don’t sweat the small stuff.” (Thanks Aunt Faye.) I haven’t forgotten, but I wish I would have taken that advice more than I have.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It’s Time to Realize God is in Control

Esther Chapter 1

Have you ever wondered if you could really be used by God to do something great? Has something ever happened in your life, and at the time you did not understand it, but later you realized that it was God moving? I think we all have wondered if God could use us like He does someone else. I think we all would have to say that we have experienced those times of uncertainty, only to later realize God was working in our lives.

Each chapter of the book of Esther seems to have one main theme. The theme of chapter one seems to be “It’s Time to Realize God is in Control”. Throughout the book of Esther you can clearly see the hand of God moving on behalf of His people. The hand of God is very obvious in chapter one.

God uses men to accomplish His will

Throughout the Bible we see that God sets up and takes down men in order to accomplish His will. When Daniel stood before king Nebuchadnezzar he stressed this fact to him.

“Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God forever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, knowledge to them that know understanding.”   Daniel 2:20, 21

The same is true with you and I. God has every one of us exactly where he wants us. You are where you are today because that is where God wants you to be. So many times we think that if we were someone else, or somewhere else, then things would be better. God made you the way He wants you, and wants to use you just like you are to accomplish His will. Don’t try to be someone else. Be yourself, you are how God wants you to be.

In Esther chapter one God uses a wicked king to bring about His will. This wicked king is referred to as “Ahasuerus” in the book of Esther. This was not the kings’ real name, but rather a title given to the king. The title “Ahasuerus” means “high father.” Just like the Romans called their leader “Caesar,” the Persians called their leader “Ahasuerus.” The king mentioned in the book of Esther is probably the Persian king Xerxes.

In this chapter we see that the king is having a lavish celebration, bringing the princes from his 127 provinces into his kingdom. Xerxes purpose was to display his wealth, impress the people, and ultimately gain their approval to invade Greece. For 181 days these men are brought by rotation into the kingdom, pampered and convinced that they could overtake Greece. Xerxes father, Darius I, had invaded Greece and was shamefully defeated. Now it was up to his son to do what the father could not.

At the end of the six month feast the king holds a seven day celebration for the people of Shushan. These were heathen people and they acted like it. They drink and drink and drink. Then the Bible tells us that in the middle of this drunken feast the king does something that he normally would not have, had he been sober. The king calls for the queen to come to the party and display for everyone how good looking she was. For a woman to come to the feast of the men would be against custom and not acceptable.

I don’t care if you believe it is a sin to drink or not. We must all agree that alcohol has caused too many people to do too many stupid things. Yet every year in America thousands of people are killed by drunk drivers. Every year in America, wives and children are beat, and killed by drunken husbands and fathers. Why does the government not step in? Why are we not in an uproar over the use of alcohol?

A Japanese proverb says “first the man takes a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes the man.”

God uses matters to accomplish His will

We may not understand every situation we are put in. We may not know why God has allowed us to suffer while someone else seems to have it easy. We may not understand, but we need to remember that God is in control.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”    Romans 8:28

God is about to use a matter that seems silly and juvenile to save the lives of millions of Jews.

Can you imagine the way this goes down? The king tells everyone that he is going to call for his wife, the queen, because he wants everyone to see how good looking she is. In a few minutes one of his servants comes and whispers into the king’s ear, “She said that she is not coming.” Imagine how embarrassing the king was to stand up and tell all those people that his wife refused to come.

At this point the whole thing gets out of hand. The queen would not come and show off for the king, so his cabinet members have to get involved. They come together to determine what they are going to do to the queen for not coming. It is obvious that there was no law forcing her to come, so they have to make something up.

The queen is put aside. They pass a law that every wife must honor her husband. It is interesting that they had to pass this law. Obviously this was not one of the laws of the Persians. Women obviously had a lot of freedom in Persia.

The stage is now set for two characters to enter the scene; this being Haman, the man who hated the Jews, and Esther, the woman who would save her people from certain doom.

It’s time that we realize that God is in control. Every day God is working in your life. This work may take you through a series of ups and downs, but never forget that He is working in your life. The bible is clear in its teaching that “all things work together for good to them who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Maybe one of the best things to do is get out of God’s way and let Him work. Or figure out what He is doing, where He is going, and get on board.