Chosen

Esther 2:17
“The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins; so he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.”

It could have been easy for a woman like Esther to feel forgotten. She had lost her parents at a young age, and was a believer living, in an area where she was surrounded by those who did not know the Lord. As the pages turn, it appears there must have been some level of persecution against the Jews, since Esther chose to hide her heritage from everyone in authority. This rising persecution will set the stage for much of what develops in her story. It seems as though, instead of allowing difficulty to tarnish her view of God, she allowed her situation to give God an opportunity to show His love in her life.

Apparently,  the removal of Vashti from her position as queen, and the king’s decision to select a new bride, must have spread through the kingdom. I can only imagine the wide gamut of emotions that must have run through young Esther when she was selected as a prospective queen and taken to the palace. As the next year unfolded, the Lord began to show His sovereignty and love, as Esther rose above the other candidates. When her turn came to present herself before he king, she was chosen above all others, as the next queen of Persia.

The remainder of this book will illustrate that when God changed her station, He did it to give her a larger platform, in order to be a part of the furtherance of the kingdom of God. This is an important principle to keep in mind. When God blesses us and raises our station in life, we need to ask Him why. Why has God blessed your resources? Is it so you can have a faster car or newer gadgets? Or is it so you can use your resources to further the kingdom. If God has increased your sphere of influence perhaps it is so you can have a larger platform to tell the world about Christ.

Esther teaches us that we are not forgotten, that God knows our current state, and that His plans for us include His desire to raise us up and use us for the furtherance of His kingdom.

Pastor Jim

Grabbing A Dog By It’s Ears 

2 Chronicles 35:21
“But he sent messengers to him, saying, ‘What have I to do with you, king of Judah? I have not come against you this day, but against the house with which I have war; for God commanded me to make haste. Refrain from meddling with God, who is with me, lest He destroy you.,'”

Josiah had a tremendous ministry with wide spreading impact. His personal commitment to the Lord resulted in a national revival that even drew people from other nations to commit themselves to YHWH. While we could discuss in detail the long lasting affects of his ministry, I was struck by what cut it short. We read that he began to meddle in things that were not the Lord’s call on his life. He started fighting the wrong battle, and it cost him his life. A few verses come to mind when I think of the premature death of Josiah.

2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Paul used the phrase “good fight” or “good warfare” on three occasions. Once, he explained that his life was coming to an end and that he had spent it fighting the good fight. Twice he exhorted Timothy to do the same. It was important to Paul, and should be important to us, that we stay focussed and maintain the proper focus in ministry. It is easy to get sidetracked into battles that just don’t matter. Solomon put it like this,

Proverbs 26:17  “He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own Is like one who takes a dog by the ears.”

The imagery is quite vivid. Grabbing a dog by the ears is a really bad idea and will result in an unnecessary hospital visit, which will probably include a shot with a very long needle.

It is possible to lose sight of what we have been called to and get caught up in a host of lesser things. I have seen ministries that were once vibrant in winning people to Christ, making disciples, sending out saints, become sterile. Their focus became building the church, getting too political or becoming overly concerned with what other leaders are doing.

We learned from Martha that it is possible to get sidetracked by just about anything, even duties. The important thing is that we remain focused on what God has called us to do. I remember a quote from Charles Spurgeon that went something like this,

“If God has called you to preach don’t stumble along the way to become a king.”

Let’s keep our eyes focused on Jesus, and our time spent on what he has called us to.

Pastor Jim

What Matters Most

2 Chronicles 17:1
“Then Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his place, and strengthened himself against Israel.”

Sometimes, when reading our way through the Bible, we come across phrases that don’t seem to make sense. This is one of those times. In this text we find the king of Judah, a man reigning over the nation God chose to be a light to the whole world, strengthening himself against Israel. He is building defenses, not against the nations around him, but against the northern tribes who had the same call as he did. Instead of reading that the twelve tribes developed a unified front to reach the world with the message of God, we find Judah had to build defenses against the attacks from Israel.

Sadly, this was not a one time occurrence. Paul’s ministry was plagued with attacks from those claiming to follow Christ. They targeted his character, his audience, and his methodology of reaching the lost. They questioned the message he shared and the way he shared it, and brought upon him a constant barrage of personal attacks, that forced him to strengthen his hands against the church. I am also reminded of Peter who saw a vision of a sheet coming down from heaven filled with a wide variety of clean and unclean animals. While pondering its meaning, God spoke to him that he was no longer to make a distinction between the two. Instead of this message having its primary fulfillment in our diet, Peter soon learned that God was making it clear that the Gospel was designed for the whole world. Peter made his way to the home of a Gentile man who was showing interest in the things of God. As Peter shared Christ with him, the Holy Spirit was poured out from heaven upon the man and his family. As Peter witnessed this, he realized God wanted to reach every man, woman and child in the whole world, regardless of their nationality or religious affiliation. When Peter returned with this amazing news, he was immediately confronted by some who questioned him for eating with Gentiles. That may be the ultimate example of majoring on the minors.

I wonder how powerful the church’s message would become if we stopped fighting over things that don’t matter, and instead, spent our energies on what matters most. There is a world filled with people who desperately need Jesus and some of them live right next door. Let’s be about sharing the love of Christ with a dying world.

Pastor Jim

 

The Ant

Proverbs 6:6-8
“Go to the ant, you sluggard!
Consider her ways and be wise,
Which, having no captain, overseer or ruler,
Provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.”

Solomon used the natural world as a teacher of spiritual truth. Not to the extent that his understanding of God was built on what he saw in nature, but rather that nature has a way of illustrating many Biblical truths. In Proverbs, it is common to find references to the animal kingdom as a teaching method.

The ant is a means of reminding us of the need to plan ahead. To the casual observer, they seem to have no ruler, yet they all march in line to store up for the future. Solomon suggests the reason we fail to prepare for what is ahead is laziness. Twice in the passage, the man who does not plan for his future is referred to as a sluggard. Webster defines a sluggard as an habitually lazy person, or someone who is inactive.

While it seems clear, Solomon has our financial well being in mind, this truth has its fullest application in preparing for eternity. Every person, rich or poor, man or woman, free or slave, will one day breath his last and step out of time and into eternity. Tragically, not all of us are prepared for that. Some put it off thinking they will get around to it later, only to be caught by death unaware. Others, purposely try to avoid any thought of death or eternity by filling their minds with earthly things. Whatever the case, we must “go to the ant” and learn to prepare for our ultimate fate; being face to face with the God who made us.

The way to prepare for eternity is first to receive Christ as Savior and Lord. Accept the fact that you are a sinner and He is the Savior. Bow your head, your heart, and your life to Him and ask Him to forgive your sins. Second, we need to store up treasures in heaven by living for Him on earth. Take time to pray for others and tell them about your relationship with Christ. Look for ways to get involved in serving Him by ministering to others.

Go to the ant, Heaven is waiting.

Pastor Jim

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