Baptism at Singles Retreat - 147 Baptized!!!

*******************Baptism at Singles Retreat 147 Baptized!!! ***********************

* Sharing times in the Word and looking for growth. Let's Commune Together!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

God adds context to the circumstances

Scripture Read: Esther Chapter 2:16-17 So Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus to his royal palace in the tenth month which is the month Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign. 17 The king loved Esther more than all the women, and she found favor and kindness with him more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.   

Application: The word for love here has no limit on it’s meaning in the sense of deep love versus carnal love ….

אָהַב [ʾahab, ʾaheb /aw·hab/] - There is little variation in the basic meaning of this verb. The intensity of the meaning ranges from God’s infinite affection for his people to the carnal appetites of a lazy glutton.[1]

So the real issue – as it is with all honest communication is the context we find the word in. For us today what this King did was disgusting – “trying” all these virgins out and then sending them to his harem as concubines. Therefore, it would be easy to classify his love as one that is very selfish. Yet, we know that this story does not hold to that. This King shows real care for Esther and even in this section, it points out that Esther was favored and shown kindness by the King, if it were purely sexual, kindness would not need to be mentioned. Again, we cannot know exactly what was in his heart because the scriptures are silent, but we must remember this is not our culture or era. What we can see is that God was with Esther and now has her in a place where she can save her people. It is clear her circumstances were tolerable to her, which testifies to the truth that God will work all things – even the ones that seem bad – out in a way that is best for us. We should take a moment and ask ourselves two questions from this text: Do I look for God’s moving in every circumstance? & What kind of love do I show to those in my life? We need to see behind the scenes of our life and discover God! We also need to consider the context of our love. We might find that it is not always controlled by God’s desires, but ours. Father, enable us to be honest about the love we express. Lord, also help us to slow down enough to see You in all that happens in our life.

Meditation Questions: Do I react to the surface circumstance or slow down and try and see the deeper truth? Do I pray that Your will be worked out in every situation or do I try to make something happen? Is my love driven by what I get or what I give?

[1] Harris, R. L., Harris, R. L., Archer, G. L., & Waltke, B. K. (1999). Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic ed.) (14). Chicago: Moody Press.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Decision making is a learned wisdom

Scripture Read: Esther 2:12-15 Now when the turn of each young lady came to go in to King Ahasuerus, after the end of her twelve months under the regulations for the women—for the days of their beautification were completed as follows: six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and the cosmetics for women— 13 the young lady would go in to the king in this way: anything that she desired was given her to take with her from the harem to the king’s palace. 14 In the evening she would go in and in the morning she would return to the second harem, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the concubines. She would not again go in to the king unless the king delighted in her and she was summoned by name. 15 Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai who had taken her as his daughter, came to go in to the king, she did not request anything except what Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the women, advised. And Esther found favor in the eyes of all who saw her.   

Application:  As we read this section of scripture we should be so thankful for what God intended to happen between A man and A woman. Sin has so perverted it. Just thinking of what life must have been like for women during this time is tragic. God never had that in mind – but has allowed humans the freedom to make their own life and cultures. It is clear that we really moved far from what God knew was the best and sad to say we continue to do so. The so called freedom that everyone thinks is happening today is in reality a bondage that destroys and leaves so many individuals broken, scarred and lonely. God knows that one man with one woman produces a relationship that can grow into the deepest intimacy and greatest friendship. Yet in this terrible circumstance that Esther finds herself in God is working behind the scenes. Esther shows some incredible wisdom in this section of the Word. She seeks counsel from the one who knows what the King likes. This is exactly what we need to do in our decision making process. Too many only seek their own advice and end up making some very bad decisions. God’s Word warns that a fool is always right in his own eyes. (Proverbs 12:15)

We need to seek counsel – first from Your Word Lord and then from individuals that are “in the know”:

* If your decision concerns business, then you should seek counsel from a person that represents Christ and is successful in their business.

*If your decision concerns life, then you should seek counsel from an individual that clearly shows Christ in their walk and the maturity that brings.

* Meditation Questions: What steps do I go through before I make important decisions? What or Who is the source I go to? Do I make decisions when emotionally high or low? Afterwards do I make a time to reflect on my decision and evaluate it?   

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

He doesn’t hate us – he hates God, so we are also a target

Scripture Read: Esther 2:10-11 Esther did not make known her people or her kindred, for Mordecai had instructed her that she should not make them known. 11 Every day Mordecai walked back and forth in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and how she fared.
Application: I find it so interesting that there seems to be a blindness from the world to the level of hate toward the people of Israel. Here in a book where the name of God is never named - we still see God moving behind the scenes. Mordecai knew the history of his people - so he instructed Esther to keep here identity a secret. Not knowing how in the end God would use this secret to save all of Israel. There is much we can learn from this passage - even though Mordecai did not know the future he must have trusted his instincts - this is something we need to do, although we must approach our instincts with care, after all even our instincts have been tainted by our sin nature. Emotions and "senses" can be deceiving - but we must not ignore that inner sense - it should at least make us pause and pray. 

Another issue is the first thing I mentioned - the unusual hate for the Jewish people that exists in this world. There have been many people groups throughout history that have been abused and enslaved, the black race in my country was enslaved for centuries. As terrible as that was, the whites tried to use them, not extinguish them as a people. In fact, as ugly as the truth is they were treated as animals and so increasing the population would benefit the owner. The evil sin produces is complete. Other people groups in history have been mistreated the same way, yet with Israel throughout history nations have tried to completely annihilate them. Slavery is terrible enough but that never seems to satisfy people when it comes to the Jews. This is a testimony to the reality of God and Satan. Satan hates God's nation with a hatred that is unparalleled in history. If Hitler or Russia hated the Jews so much why not just throw them out of your land - there is something spiritual behind this hatred - Satan hates everything God loves. I have never met anyone that can explain this degree of hatred with no God involved. Father we do pray for the peace of Israel

* Meditation Questions: When you have an inner sense about something what do you do about that? What authority in your life do you give your senses and instincts? If it is true that Satan has brought great persecution to Israel throughout history because they are God’s nation, how should we expect his approach to those that are part of the Body of Christ? When someone hates you just because you are a Christian, what do you feel? What do you do?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Living the same no matter the situation

Scripture Read: Esther Chapter 2:8-9 So it came about when the command and decree of the king were heard and many young ladies were gathered to the citadel of Susa into the custody of Hegai, that Esther was taken to the king’s palace into the custody of Hegai, who was in charge of the women. 9 Now the young lady pleased him and found favor with him. So he quickly provided her with her cosmetics and food, gave her seven choice maids from the king’s palace and transferred her and her maids to the best place in the harem.   

Application: What does God think about this stuff? A harem? Why does the scripture state nothing about how wrong this is as the story is told? These issues cause all of us to struggle as we study the Word. There are some very important things though that we can learn if we choose to remain focused. Primarily – God deals with everyone right where they are, including you and me. Just because He tolerates sin does not mean He condones it. It is clear from scripture that the Lord intended for one man with one woman for life – due to sin that is not what life is. God could decide to not tolerate the sin and bring judgment immediately, remember though that would include you and me. Therefore, the issue for us should never be trying to figure out what God thinks of any particular issue, which is a waste of time because His thoughts are not our thoughts. Instead, we ought to spend our time seeking to find out what God wants us to do where we are at that moment. Look how even Paul handles the issue of slaves. He does not condemn it – and surely, we all would agree God never intended any kind of slavery – instead though Paul raises the bar of behavior for both master and slave to be like Christ. So even though we may not understand why God allows something, the big picture is to become what He desires us to be in the midst of it. 

The other issue from this text is the continued truth in scripture that no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in – if we can see God is there it should make the difference.  Think how terrifying a situation Esther was in – not a little girls dream – yet we know, because of the end of the story, that she had a peace that is not normal. That is the Key! Where can we go from Your presence Lord? No where! You are always with us. Thank You Father for Your faithfulness. 

* Meditation Questions: When was the last time you moved from just knowing that God is omnipresent, to thanking Him for this great truth? When you encounter Scripture that makes no sense to you what do you do about that? When you find yourself in a situation that you know is unfair, do you focus on your rights, or living right no matter the situation? When you do not sense peace what do you do?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Where character begins

Scripture Read: Esther 2:5-7 Now there was at the citadel in Susa a Jew whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite, 6 who had been taken into exile from Jerusalem with the captives who had been exiled with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had exiled. 7 He was bringing up Hadassah, that is Esther, his uncle’s daughter, for she had no father or mother. Now the young lady was beautiful of form and face, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter.   

Application: Can you imagine what it must be like to lose both parents? In this world that would be one of the hardest experiences perhaps, yet with God what would be considered a tragedy to us can be turned into something great by Him. Do we really believe this? Consider this story as it unfolds. All you and I could see is a young girl that lost both of her parents. How terrible and unfair! 

Surely, she will never have a good life. She has such a terrible handicap to her life just as it is beginning. She should not expect life to offer her too much – in fact, we should give her special help and even advantages others don’t have because life has been so unfair to her. I could go on but you get my point. I am not saying that people in tough situations should not be given special help, if we can we should do all we can to help every individual to have a real chance to live life to it’s fullest, but we have moved beyond that today. The sad truth is many times we treat people like Esther as individuals that cannot rise above their circumstances and grab all that life has to offer. I understand why an unbeliever might think like this, but not a believer. We have a Book full of true stories of people facing impossible circumstances, yet with God, they not only handle them, but also overcome and triumph in their life. Who knows if the tragic circumstances we may be facing are not the very thing God will use to put us in a place where we can see His hand move in a mighty way in our life. Thanks Lord for all of the individuals that are like Esther out there. Help us to never lose hope or settle in life due to circumstances. Allow us to keep our eyes on You and expect great things!    

* Meditation Questions: What does it take to stop you? What does that say? When looking at impossible situations, what is the first thing you think of? What is the first thing you do? When something sets you back how do you view that, as a reason to quit or refocus? What does it mean to have peace in life? Would that mean no problems?