4 BIG Lessons From Esther

One of my favorite stories in the Bible shows God’s role in world events, and how the obedience of His people fits into God’s plan. Yet this story doesn’t even mention God by name!

It’s an important reminder that we don’t have to say, “God’s at work here” for God to be at work here. We don’t have to say, “I’m a Christian” to live in a Christlike way.

Have you ever read the story of Queen Esther and her cousin Mordecai? Let me tell you, this is a real page-turner of a story! If you already know the story, skip to the four lessons below. Here’s a quick recap (but you really should read this for yourself)…

  • King Xerxes is the ruler of the most powerful nation on earth
  • Queen Vashti (Xerxes’ wife) defies him and is deposed
  • When the king is looking for a new queen, a young lady named Hadassah catches his eye
  • Hadassah went by her Persian name of Esther, so the king didn’t know he married a Jewess
  • Mordecai was Esther’s cousin, her legal guardian, and a palace worker
  • Mordecai uncovered a plot to assassinate Xerxes, which he shared with Queen Esther, who told the king, who investigated and had the plotters killed
  • King Xerxes had a prime minister named Haman, who was really full of himself
  • Mordecai wouldn’t bow down to Haman because Haman thought of himself as a deity
  • Haman wanted to show Mordecai, and all the other Jews like him, who was boss so he deceived King Xerxes into signing a law that would allow for all the Jews to be killed on a set date
  • Mordecai again told Queen Esther about the plot, but the queen was scared to go before the king unsummoned (where the penalty for doing so could be death)
  • Esther finally had the courage to approach Xerxes and invite him and Haman to dinner
  • At dinner, the king asked Esther why she really invited him to dinner, and Esther said, “Come back to dinner tomorrow night and I’ll tell you then”
  • King Xerxes couldn’t sleep that night so he asked for the royal chronicles to be read to him
  • The king discovered that Mordecai had never been rewarded for uncovering the assassination attempt
  • Xerxes asked Haman what he should do for a man he wanted to honor; Haman thought the king was talking about him, so he gave an elaborate plan of recognition, to which the king replied, “Excellent! Go do all that for Mordecai!”
  • Haman was so ticked off that he built a 75-foot tall gallows on which to hang Mordecai
  • At the second dinner, Esther asked for her life to be spared; the king wanted to know who would presume to attack her and the Jews, and she called out Haman
  • The king stormed from the room while Haman stayed to beg for his life
  • As the king returned, Haman was pawing at the queen in desperation, so the king’s bodyguards grabbed him
  • The king found out about the gallows built for Mordecai and gave orders for Haman to be hanged on those very same gallows
  • Mordecai became prime minister and wrote another law to help save the Jews from annihilation

4 BIG Lessons From Esther for Christians living in a pagan culture today

  1. All of History is His Story. God’s timing to bring all of the key players on the scene at just the right moment is obvious. Even giving the king insomnia at just the right time was a part of God’s plan!
  2. God gives us favor and we win favor by obeying God. The word “favor” is all throughout this story. God-fearing people are given God’s favor which leads to man’s favor as well.
  3. God-following people do make a positive impact on their culture. Esther becoming queen pleased the people, as did Mordecai’s just laws.  
  4. Pride humiliates and destroys; humility elevates the person and glorifies God. Just look at the contrast between Haman and Mordecai!

Do you have any other takeaways from this story? If so, please share them in the comments below.

Poetry Saturday—Presumption

Whenever I am prone to doubt or wonder—
   I check myself, and say, “That mighty One
Who made to the solar system cannot blunder—
   And for the best all things are being done.”
Who sent the stars on their eternal courses
   Has fashioned this strange earth by some sure plan.
Bow low, bow low to those majestic forces,
   Nor dare to doubt their wisdom, puny man.

You cannot put one little star in motion,
   You cannot shape one single forest leaf,
Nor fling a mountain up, nor sink an ocean,
   Presumptuous pigmy, large with unbelief.
You cannot bring one dawn of regal splendor,
   Nor bid the day to shadowy twilight fall,
Nor send the pale moon fourth with radiance tender—
   And dare you doubt the One who has done it all?

“So much is wrong, there is such pain—such sinning.”
   Yet look again—behold how much is right!
And He who formed the world from its beginning
   Knows how to guide it upward to the light.
Your task, O man, is not to carp and cavil
   At God’s achievements, but with purpose strong
To cling to good, and turn away from evil.
   That is the way to help the world along. —Ella Wheeler Wilcox

No Room For God?

My friend Scott delivered a right-between-the-eyes message yesterday. Here are my takeaways.

Quite possibly the deadliest of the relationship killers is pride.

Think of all the ugly things surrounding Pride:

  • Always fault-finding
  • Always defensive
  • Constantly craving attention
  • Disregarding advice
  • Saying “I’m better than you!”
  • Saying “I don’t need your help!”
  • Quick to tell others “Here’s how you should do that”
  • Can’t handle any constructive criticism
  • But always critical of others

In fact, C.S. Lewis said, “Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”

One psalmist got right to the root of the problem of pride when he wrote—

In his pride the wicked does not seek Him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. (Psalm 10:4)

No room for God?!

The Bible is all about relationships. Adam was first created to be in a relationship with God, and then Eve was created so she and Adam could be in a relationship with each other. Jesus reiterated this when He was asked what the greatest commandment was, and He said, “Love God with all your heart, mind and soul.”

But if Pride rules in my heart, and there is no room for God, how can I love Him with all I’ve got? The simple answer is: I can’t.

Jesus quickly added that the next greatest commandment also revolved around relationships when He said, “And love your neighbor as yourself.”

If my proud heart is filled with prideful love, it cannot be filled with God’s love.

If my pride-filled heart has no room for God’s love, then it has no room to love anyone else.

Pride kills every relationship.

Jesus had absolutely no trace of pride when He set aside all His heavenly privileges and came to earth as a Human (Philippians 2:6-8). The Apostle Paul then tells us that our attitude should be the same as Christ’s attitude.

Humility kills pride!

Are you filled with pride? Ask yourself some of these questions:

  • Do I have a problem submitting to authority?
  • When I get into an argument, do I always have to have the last word?
  • Am I willing to accept blame?
  • Can I ask for forgiveness, or am I always right?
  • Do I sometimes cheat at a game just so I can win?
  • If I lose, is it someone else’s fault?
  • If I win, do I brag about how good I am?
  • Do I think I’m the only one who can solve all my own issues?
  • Do I think I can solve everyone else’s issues too?

If you found yourself saying “yes” to these questions it’s probably time to ask the Holy Spirit to do a heart-check on your level of pride. Make sure that in your heart there is increasingly more room for God.

Thursdays With Oswald—Knowing Evil By Living Good

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Knowing Evil By Living Good

     There are some things of which we must be ignorant, because knowledge of them comes in no other way than by disobedience to God. In the life originally designed for Adam it was not intended that he should be ignorant of evil, but that he should know evil through understanding good. Instead, he ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and thereby knew evil positively and good negatively. … 

     The only way to find out things in the moral universe is by obedience. … 

     The philosophy of life is based on the topsy-turvy reasoning of going into things in order to find out about them, which is like saying you have to go into the mud before you can know what clean water is. “I must know the world”—if you do, you will only know good by contrast with evil. … Jesus Christ knew good and evil by the life which was in Him, and God intended that man’s knowledge of evil should come in the same way as to our Lord. … 

     The marvel of the Redemption is that Jesus Christ can put into any man His own hereditary disposition of holiness. … 

     Jesus Christ carried out all that Adam failed to do, and He did it in the simple way of obedience to His Father. … Are we humble and obedient, learning as Jesus learned, or are we hurrying into experiences we have no right to? … We grow spiritually by obeying God through the words of Jesus being made spirit and life to us. … 

     “I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple unto that which is evil” [Romans 16:19]. … When we are born again we have to obey the Spirit of God, and as we draw on the life of Jesus and learn to assimilate and carry out what He speaks to us, we shall grow in ignorance of certain things and be alive and alert only to what is God’s will for us.

From The Soul Of A Christian

I love the fact that Jesus Christ can put into any man His own hereditary disposition of holiness. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, what you’ve thought or said, or what you’ve seen, Jesus Christ can put His innocence into you.

Ask yourself Chambers’ question: “Are we humble and obedient, learning as Jesus learned, or are we hurrying into experiences we have no right to?”

After asking that question, do you need to make some changes?

12 Quotes From “A New Kind Of Apologist”

A New Kind Of Apologist is edited by Sean McDowell and contains a collection of fabulous essays to prepare Christian apologists to be effective in this current generation. You can read my full book review by clicking here. These quotes mainly deal with the attitude that a Christian apologist should adopt.

“Truth must be wedded to grace, and what we say is important…but how we say it is equally critical.” —Sean McDowell 

“To listen to a person will require that we temporarily set aside our objections to what a person is saying and allow him or her to speak openly without fear of being challenged.” —Tim Muelhoff

“Our character and relationships with others have a greater capacity for attracting those around us to the Christian message than do our arguments or rhetoric.” —Ken Wytsma & Rick Gerhart 

“If our beliefs are not expressed in love and by example, we miss the greatest command of all, which is loving God and loving others.” —Dan Kimball

“The Barna Research Group found that twentysomethings who stay in church were twice as likely to have a close personal friendship with an adult inside the church. Those who had an adult mentor at church, aside from the pastor, were almost three times as likely to stay as those who did not.” —Jeff Myers

“Any fully-orbed presentation of the truth about ourselves and God’s plan for us cannot be a disembodied, purely intellectual truth; it must truthfully reflect our nature as created beings.

“Part of being incarnate means that it is good and right for us to have emotions and express them—as our Lord did, for example, by weeping at the tomb of Lazarus and getting angry with the money changers in the temple. The fact that little children wanted to come to Him suggests that He had a welcoming physicality and a warm personality that they instinctively trusted and found attractive. He wasn’t just a walking dictionary of Christian theology.” —Holly Ordway

“At its core, apologetics is the art and science of defending the faith. However, practically understood, the work of the apologist is simply to answer with integrity, clarity, and compassion the questions critics are asking about the gospel (1 Peter 3:15). The context of this passage implies a lifestyle on the part of the apologist that engenders and welcomes questions from their audience. The encouragement of Peter seems to be that we avoid the telemarketer approach of simply enduring questions solely for the sake of closing the deal. Rather, Peter calls us to anticipate and patiently answer the questions of our unbelieving friends, family members, and neighbors in an uncompromising and yet humble manner.” —Christopher Brooks

“We must be Christians first and apologists second, which means our intellectual lives must be primarily shaped by seeking to understand the faith we live within rather than debating, disputing, or even persuading those who do not believe it.” —Matthew Anderson 

“It is our responsibility to share the message of hope through Christ ‘with gentleness and respect’ and ‘with grace,’ as Peter and Paul taught. The gospel message is already offensive to some. We need not make it more offensive by presenting it in a manner that lacks gentleness, respect, and grace.” —Mike Licona

“Truth without grace is abusive and arrogant. Grace without truth is mushy sentimentalism. … As much as possible, always deal with the person in grace and the issue itself in truth.” —Glenn T. Stanton

“Paul doesn’t say that we ought to know how to answer each question [see Colossians 4:5-6]. He specifically teaches us to answer each person. … Paul tells us that we aren’t in the question-answering business. We are in the people-answering business. Today’s apologist must understand that questions don’t need answers; people need answers. … I am convinced that the key to apologetics today is to identify what non-Christians thirst for most and show how the Christian faith alone can slake that thirst.” —Abdu Murray

“The manner in which we communicate the gospel is not a minor add-on to the gospel itself [see 1 Peter 3:15-16]. Very often it is the nature of the communication that determines whether the gospel gets a hearing at all. …

“It remains true that it is not arrogant to make truth claims, it is not arrogant to pursue a knowledge of that truth, and to argue that we’ve found it. It is important that the content of our message is a genuine reflection of the gospel, and that the manner in which we communicate it doesn’t become a stumbling block.” —Tanya Walker

More quotes from A New Kind Of Apologist will be coming soon. You can also follow me on Tumblr and Twitter to read great quotes every single day.

9 Quotes From “The Bad Habits Of Jesus”

the-bad-habits-of-jesusLeonard Sweet explores how revolutionary Jesus Christ’s public ministry was in his outstanding book The Bad Habits Of Jesus. Check out my book review by clicking here, and then enjoy some of these quotes I especially liked.

“As the church we can be Jesus to the world, but only if we are not afraid of the spit in the dirt. To lose our earthiness is to lose our humility, which, in the end, is to lose our humanity.”

“It’s easier to donate money than to put our hand in the hand of a man or a woman who looks dirty, down, and drowned with mud. Yet the church of Jesus is not meant to be a hideaway but a hostel for all of God’s dirtiest who need restoration and healing.”

“Jesus didn’t procrastinate due to slackness or indecision or perfectionism or fear of moving forward. Jesus delayed doing what He wanted or needed to do because the timing wasn’t right, because He was telling time by His Father’s clock and making the most of the time His Father had given Him.”

“Sometimes delay is the best strategy for dealing with a problem, especially problems that have not been prayed over enough in the heart or played about enough in the mind.”

“We especially need to learn to wait on Jesus, which has both a Martha and a Mary meaning. There is the ‘waiter’ meaning of ‘waiting on Jesus,’ which means serving Him by serving others. To put the interests of others before our own is not to be weak but to be strong enough to transcend selfishness. That’s why love is only for the strong, not for the weak. Only the strong can love. … Then there is the ‘await’ meaning of ‘waiting on Jesus,’ which means patiently waiting without hating or wearing out the carpets with our pacing and fretting, sitting at His feet upon His arrival, leaning into His presence, and learning to put on the mind of Christ.” 

“We all need the pendulum swing of snatching spaces of solitude and setting tables of sociability. In fact, the more plugged in and connected we are, the more we need to unplug and disconnect. A world of presence needs a time of absence.”

“Sometimes the Prince of Peace was a disturber of the peace so that He could be God’s purveyor of true peace.”

“When political correctness takes over in the church, it’s no longer about Jesus. … The Gospel becomes not God’s Good News but our own good intentions. … Jesus’ bad habit of not being afraid to offend so offends our PC sense of rectitude that He would be liable to be arrested for indecency.”

“When people today work for the church instead of working for God, love a denomination more than they love God, cherish their traditions more than they cherish their relationship with God, then they steal what is due only God.”

I will be sharing more quotes from this book soon. If you would like to be notified as soon as these quotes are posted, simply enter your email address in the box in the right column and click “Sign me up!” You can also follow me on Twitter and Tumblr where I share inspiring and thoughtful quotes ever day.

Book Reviews From 2016

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