Friday, April 16, 2010

For Such A Time As This

Focus verses: Esther 2:19-20

Esther is an interesting study. We think of her as a kind of savior of her people because of her position in the palace. But let's look a little further into who she is.

First, she is an orphan, having neither father nor mother. Her guardian is her father's nephew, her cousin, who seems to be substantially older than she. Several times, the book refers to her obedience to Mordecai.

In obedience to Mordecai, she is taken to the palace. In obedience to Mordecai, she says nothing about her background or her people.

She seems to have a submissive spirit because she takes with her to her interview with the king only those things suggested by Hegai, the eunuch in charge of the kings harem. She won the favor of every one who saw her.

The nub of this story, however, is in chapter four. When Esther learns of the plot against her people, she is keenly aware of the price she would have to pay for approaching the king without being summoned.

Mordecai reminds her that her life is forfeit in any case, but that salvation will arise from the Lord for His people. He asks her to consider that she may have been placed in the king's palace for just this purpose.

Esther asks Mordecai to have the people fast and pray for her for three days and nights, and she and her maids will do likewise. Then she will approach the king. We all know the rest of the story. While the king's decree could not be changed, there was another decree that allowed the Jews to defend themselves.

So what does this mean to us? First was Esther's obedient spirit. She obeyed Mordecai without reservation. She didn't know why she was sent to the king's palace. She had no idea whether or why she would be chosen to succeed Vashti.

But God knew. He knows the end before the beginning. Our obedience to Him is the key to a happy and fulfilling life. No matter the trials and tribulations that come to us (and we have Jesus' word that they will come), He is still in charge. That fact give us the confidence to walk through whatever life can hand us.

Father, God,

Keep us ever obedient to You and Your purposes in our lives. Remind us that You know the outcome of every trial before it begins. Help us to rely on You alone.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

What's In A Name

Focus verses: Ruth 1:6-18

The story is that Naomi and Elimelech went to Moab with their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, during a famine in Judah. And the sons took wives named Orpah and Ruth.

Translating the names into their respective meanings we get: "MyDelight and MyGodIsKing went to Moab with their two sons, Sickly and Pining, during a famine in Judah. And the sons took wives named Gazelle and Friendship.

During their stay in Moab, MyGodIsKing died. And later both Sickly and Pining died as well. So MyDelight and Gazelle and Friendship were left as widows.

MyDelight decided to return to Judah, the home of her God. Both Gazelle and Friendship started back with her, but MyDelight told them to return to their homes in Moab. Gazelle did go back home (to her old gods), but Friendship had tasted the world of MyDelight's God and would not leave.

She loved MyDelight and the ways of MyDelight's God. She would not leave MyDelight's side.

When we cultivate a friendship with God, nothing can induce us to leave that friendship. We can leave all that we ever knew to be close to God. We cannot pine for what is behind us. We only go on with God.

Whatever is in our past that is not of God deserves to be left behind without regret, without remembrance.

Father, God,

Help us to go on with You, leaving all else behind. Let us not be pulled back into our old ways and old habits.
In Jesus most precious name.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Dedicate Your Gifts

Focus Verses: I Samuel 1-2:21

Hannah is a model of dedication. She wanted a child desperately. She prayed so fervently that Eli thought she had been drinking. Her emotions were raw and visible.

But the Lord heard her and granted her this son. She nursed him til he was weaned, perhaps the age of two or three, and made good her vow that he would serve the Lord all the days of his life.

Imagine taking your toddler and leaving him in the hands of a man who, if you read on, obviously didn't know how to raise his own sons. Hannah had to be trusting in the faithfulness of God, not the wisdom of Eli, for her son.

So what is most precious to you? What gift can you dedicate completely to the Lord?

There are different kinds of gifts, but all can be put to use in the service of God. If you are brickmaker, you make the best bricks possible. If you are a baker, you bake the finest bread. If you are a janitor, you scrub and clean and chase the dust assiduously.

If your gift is hospitality, or evangelism, or wisdom, you use it gently, graciously, as if the Lord himself were the object of your hospitality.

When you dedicate your gift, the Lord increases it. Look at Hannah. She asked for a son which she gave back to the Lord. Then he gave her five more children, both sons and daughters.

But you don't dedicate your gift hoping to bargain with God for more. You simply dedicate it, and yourself, because that is the right thing to do. Then God is responsible for the outcome. Had Samuel been Hannah's only child, she still would have been satisfied because she had given birth to a great man of God.

Father, God,

Help us to realize that anything we have is yours. Grant us the graciousness to acknowledge that fact and dedicate ourselves and all we have to You.
In Jesus' most precious name.