Esther 5 Part 1–Esther Has a Plan

Esther finished praying and set a plan in motion.  She went before the king, and the king gladly welcomed her before his throne.  So Esther, who was presented with the offer of being granted anything up to half the kingdom, asked if she could serve the king and Hamaan a banquet…The king, who is never asked if someone could do something for him was estatic. He brought Hamaan and the two partied like rockstars. So The king asked Esther again, I will grant you anything, so Esther asked to serve another banquet to the king and Hamaan. The king agreed and Hamaan went home proud and sure.  Esther knew Hamaan was her enemy, so she was keeping her enemy as close as possible.  She also knew that serving was always better than being served. So she acted selflessly and graciously. The great news is that what was coming would literally save Israel.
 
When faced with a difficult task, it is always critical to start with prayer. Then, if we clothe ourselves with humility and graciousness, odds are we will be well received and be able to be effective in our plans to achieve great things.  We have to be willing to put personal feelings aside and treat even our enemies with grace. Then God will make amazing things happen through us, and we will complete our plans–knowing God is Large and in charge. The critical piece is trusting God and patiently waiting for him to do the work. There can only be one person in charge, We have to allow God to take the lead.
 
God Bless You.

On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance. When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.

Then the king asked, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.”

“If it pleases the king,” replied Esther, “let the king, together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him.”

“Bring Haman at once,” the king said, “so that we may do what Esther asks.”

So the king and Haman went to the banquet Esther had prepared. As they were drinking wine, the king again asked Esther, “Now what is your petition? It will be given you. And what is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.”

Esther replied, “My petition and my request is this: If the king regards me with favor and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them. Then I will answer the king’s question.”

Haman’s Rage Against Mordecai

Haman went out that day happy and in high spirits. But when he saw Mordecai at the king’s gate and observed that he neither rose nor showed fear in his presence, he was filled with rage against Mordecai. 10 Nevertheless, Haman restrained himself and went home.

Nehemiah 5 part 1–Don’t Take Advantage of Each Other

When living in community,It is incumbant on the chosen to treat each other with respect and with kindness.  The people of Jerusalem  had lost sight of that.  The nobels and the wealthy had built a cottage industry around loaning money to the pooor to pay taxes and fees.  The poor would have to work and sell their crops simply to pay back loans to their rich counterparts.  The  in terest rates and fees they were being chaged by their brothers were keeping them from ever improving their lot.  Nehemiah was saddened and ashamed to see brothers taking advantage of eachother.  He called the nobles together and told them to knock it  off.  Amazingly the nobles heard the message and stopped the practice.
 
It is very hard sometimes to look beyond one’s personal needs and empire. If something seems like a  good business, people dive in not considering the impact it may have on their own brothers and sisters.  We have to consider the needs of those around us as important as our own.   We have to remember we are a people saved by grace, and that grace must be extended to others.  If we are not kind and generous, how can we expect God to be kind and generous to us.  Pual said it best in Philippians 2, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain cnceit–but, in humility consider others better than yourself.  Do not only look out for your own interest, but also the interest of others.  Have the same attitude as Christ!”
 
God Bless You

 

Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their fellow Jews. Some were saying, “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.”

Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.”

Still others were saying, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our fellow Jews and though our children are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others.”

When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, “You are charging your own people interest!” So I called together a large meeting to deal with them and said: “As far as possible, we have bought back our fellow Jews who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your own people, only for them to be sold back to us!” They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say.

So I continued, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies? 10 I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let us stop charging interest! 11 Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the interest you are charging them—one percent of the money, grain, new wine and olive oil.”

12 “We will give it back,” they said. “And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.”

I Timothy 1 part 1–Standing Guard for the Faith

Paul loved the Church at Ephesus. He spent nearly 2 years there teaching the Gospel and building a body of believers focused upon Christ, His grace and their amazing Journey. Paul knew, however, that as soon as he departed, the Judaizers and gnostics would attempt to undo the work he and his team spent in building the Church at Ephesus.  Paul charged young Timothy to be the voice of grace and reason when others would try to muddy the waters.  Paul reminded Timothy that the love we have comes from a pure heart, a clean conscience, and a sincere faith. Talks of law based religion and a deeper knowledge that would somehow create better Christians flew in the face of the very idea of grace.   Checklist religion does not, neither then or now, fit the Gospel story. So Paul left Timothy on duty to speak the truth in love and move the church forward in faith.  Even John in Revelation spoke to the church’s faith and service.
 
Then and now, we must also remain on guard to assure we preach the Gospel of grace through faith in Christ! (Ephesians 2:8-9)  It is so easy to fall into the trap of Christian pride that comes from”Superior Knowledge” or checking the boxes of Churchianity! Paul was that guy! Pharisee of Pharisees! God changed him and used him to introduce Christ to the world at large. We, like Paul, need to trust in God’s leadership. We need to exercise peace, patience, and trust in the Lord’s leadership and His power. As we do, we will be on post; ready to call other gospels that add to grace–wrong doctrine and lies. We speak the truth in love and honor God with our lives and our families. Help me, Lord to be watchful and mindful of your grace and leading!
 
God Bless You

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship[a] from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desirings to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers,[b] liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound[c] doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

Galatians 6 Part 2–Closing Thoughts

Paul closes the letter to the Galatians with 2 final thoughts. First, never grow weary of doing good.  It is the character of being a new creation in Christ to want to honor Him.  The easiest way to honor Him is to set aside ones personal needs and desires and focus on the needs of others.  If one pours their lives into the needs of others, they begin to see God’s work in all aspects of life. While the effort seems tiring, the results are amazing. God will in the proper time reward such focus.
 
Finally, Paul reminds the Galatians–It simply is not about keeping Jewish law or tradition. The ones pushing that agenda fail to keep the laws and traditions themselves. Salvation and relationship with God come from the grace and gift of salvation–through Christ. It is our faith, not our actions that redeem us. If we will simply walk by faith, God will honor our faith and redeem, transform and bless us beyond our wildest imagination.  Jesus said it best, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33
 
God Bless You

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Not Circumcision but the New Creation

11 See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!

12 Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.13 Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. 14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which[a] the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to[b] the Israel of God.

17 From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.

I Corinthians 14 Part 1–About Spiritual Gifts

Paul continues to discuss the way of love and focuses upon the gifts of the spirit.  Paul was not discouraging the desire to have the ability to speak in tongues, prophecy, interprets tongues, or heals the sick.  Paul instead was reminding the people that those things are an outpouring of the relationship we have with the Lord and their use should be for the growth of that relationship and the edification of others. From Paul’s perspective, God continues to look at what is coming from our heart and as He blesses His children with the spiritual gifts–it is the Father’s desire that they are used as tools for personal and community development of the body of Christ.
 
The same remains true today. When we follow the Lord, He will grant us spiritual gifts to assist us in our personal walks with Him and to develop the body of Christ. We should not fear the gifts, judge folks for which gifts they manifest nor use God’s gifts to honor ourselves.  Instead, we should seek Him and His Kingdom first. as we do, we can then allow the Father to transform us into His image and lead us toward Him.  If we are to be prophets, speakers of tongues, interpreters, healers or which other gifts he chooses to grant–then as we operate in those gifts, we should do so humbly and with the intent of glorifying God and not ourselves. It was never God’s intent to cause division through equipping His saints–but, you can rest assured the enemy will use anything to neutralize and minimize the church’s impact on the world–division is one of Satan’s best tools!
 
God Bless You

Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue[a] does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. I would like every one of you to speak in tongues,[b] but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues,[c] unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.

Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the pipe or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. 10 Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11 If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me. 12 So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.

I Samuel 17 Part 1–Facing the Giants

The people in Israel were in the midst of regaining their standing as a nation. Saul, their king had been making a name for himself by attacking the Philistine outposts. The battles had gone back and forth–but on this day, Israel had a big problem. His name was Goliath he was 9’6″ and armed to the teeth.  He stepped out to the battle lines and made a challenge. Send anyone from the Israelite army to face Goliath and winner takes all.  From Goliath’s standpoint, there was no one that was nearly close to a match of size or strength.  He neither feared God or men.
 
Across the valley, the mighty army of Israel sat in paralyzing fear.  Their King, Saul had rejected God’s leadership.  He no longer heard from God or trusted God to battle on Israel’s behalf.  So when a mighty warrior almost twice as large challenged them–rather than looking to God; they looked hopelessly at each other. What do we do now?  Israel had become a mighty nation by looking to God for direction and seeking His leadership in war and peace.  Now, since they no longer had God’s direction, they wandered aimlessly and fearfully through the battle.  Make no mistake, God still cared for His people, but the Lord was unwilling to bless a king who rejected Him and His leadership.
 
Israel’s problem was huge–but it was not the giant. Israel’s problem was chasing other gods.  Some had names like idols–Rah. Baal, Asherah. Other God’s were not named–power, riches, lust, and rage. Israel had simply lost sight of the God that freed them, protected them, provided for them and prepared them to take their place as a mighty nation. Never-the-less, God had a plan.  God would, as he always does, bring a warrior like none other.  When he was done, the warrior would make clear that it was God that would battle Israel’s enemies, and God would make Israel victorious.
 
In our lives, we, like Israel, get easily distracted by other gods.  Some have names–Hollywood, sports, politics. Others are unnamed like stress, finances, power, or lust. Still, when we lose sight of God, we begin to be overtaken by fear and confusion.  Our problems seem to be gigantic and armed to the teeth–but, as we learn, they are not the giants we think we see. Instead, it is our lack of submission to God as our Lord. When we humble ourselves, confess our sin and resubmit to God’s leadership; then the Lord himself will battle the giants we face. He will be victorious and He will get the credit. The beauty is that, when God takes the credit–everybody wins.
 
God Bless You

Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokoh and Azekah. Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.

A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span.[a] He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels[b]on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels.[c] His shield bearer went ahead of him.

Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.

Matthew 19 Part 1–Marriage and Divorce

The Church has struggled to deal with broken lives in so many contexts. One of the most difficult is the break up of families. In a society that sees half of all marriages ending in divorce, the repercussions are devastating. It has grown so confusing, that the Supreme Court has even thrown up their hands, succumbed to political pressure and announced that marriage and family is pretty much what ever you want it to be.

God was not nearly so inclusive. He made marriage a union of one man and one woman for a lifetime. Men have failed that model throughout history. Polygamy, homosexuality extra marital relationships either before marriage, during or after marriage–were  never part of the plan God designed for family.  God allowed men to do as they would–not because he liked it, but, because people are stubborn and sinful.

So when the religious leaders were trying to trip Jesus up with questions on divorce, He was not amused.  He simply stated the facts–painful as they were.  Funny thing is, the facts are more painful today.

I am not here to judge. I am grateful for my marriage and my family. I believe in marriage as set out in the Bible. We have raised our children to know–at our house; that marriage is a covenant! Through good times, tough times and in the dark times when marriage takes all our emotional and spiritual energy to continue; we rest in the same hands that protect, prepare and provide for us in every other way, the Lord’s hands. The strength of a nation is, in major part, tied to the strength of its foundational principles–respect for life, liberty, family and authority. As a church, we must stand strong on these principles so that the next generation can embrace the commitment to life and family that will carry our way of life through trials, wars and tribulation.

Help us Lord, to trust You, and honor the principles for families You have set up for us!

God Bless You

When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’[a] and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’[b]So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”