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.

The Promised Power Of Pentecost

When the Israelites were delivered from Egypt on the night of Passover, fifty days later they arrived at Mount Sinai where God delivered the Ten Commandments to them. This became the birth of the Jewish nation. For millennia following this, not only did the Jewish people observe Passover but they also celebrated “The Feast of Weeks” (also known as Pentecost) fifty days following Passover.

But on the first Pentecost after Christ ascended to Heaven, something amazing happened which was a game-changer for the new Christians. An event which became the birth of the Christian nation.

On that Pentecost Sunday, the Holy Spirit was poured out on Christ’s followers in a way never before seen in history. Although this had never been seen before, it was the fulfillment of something God had promised thousands of years before.

  1. Promised

This blessing of the Holy Spirit had been hinted at when God first called Abraham, as He promised that from Abraham would come a blessing for all peoples on earth (Genesis 12:3). Jesus said that this blessing would be realized with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and then Peter tied the Day of Pentecost experience to the fulfillment of those promises (Acts 2:38-39).

  1. Commanded

Jesus had this empowerment of the Holy Spirit and He wanted all of His followers to have it too, so His directive to His follower is not a suggestion. Twice when Jesus tells His followers to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit, the verbs He uses are commands (see Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:4).

  1. Normal Experience

For the first Christians, the baptism in the Holy Spirit was a normal experience for them following salvation. This baptism gave them power to…

  1. Initial Evidence

The baptism in the Holy Spirit is accompanied by an initial physical evidence of speaking in a language you’ve never studied. This is to be an unmistakable proof—primarily to you—of the Spirit’s outpouring. But the ongoing development of Christlike character is the continual evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

So what’s the controversy? Why do people spend so much time arguing this baptism isn’t for us, or for now? If we start down that path, what else are we going to say is outdated or exclusive for some?

Doesn’t seem much more logical to simply accept what God promised all His people?!

So here’s the question I would ask you—Have you been baptized in the Holy Spirit? If not, why not?

10 Quotes On The Difference Between Christianity And Islam

Nabeel Qureshi wrote a couple of outstanding books to help those in the West better understand Islam (Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus and Answering Jihad).

Answering JihadIn Answering Jihad, Nabeel invests several chapters in looking at the differences between Christianity as displayed in the Bible and Islam as displayed in the Quran. Here are some of the more noteworthy quotes I pulled from this book. The references in parenthesis in these quotes are references to a chapter and verse in the Quran.

“Christians believe Jesus is God, but the Quran is so opposed to this belief that it condemns Jesus worshipers to hell (5:72).”

“According to Jesus, God is our Father, yet the Quran very specifically denies that God is a father (112:1-4).”

“Islam roundly condemns worship of the Trinity (5:73), establishing in contrast its own core principle of Tawhid, the absolute oneness of God. Tawhid emphatically denies the Trinity, so much so that it is safe to say the doctrine of God in Islam is antithetical to the doctrine of God and Christianity. … The Trinity teaches that God is not a person, but three Persons: Father, Son, and Spirit. To assert that the God of Islam is the same person as the God of Christianity becomes almost nonsensical at this point, as the Christian God is tripersonal, two persons of Islam specifically denies in the Quran.”

“The Trinity is an elaboration of Jewish theology, not a rejection. By contrast, Tawhid is a categorical rejection of the Trinity, Jesus’ deity, and the Fatherhood of God, doctrines that are grounded in the pages of the New Testament and firmly established centuries before the advent of Islam. The earliest Christians were all Jews, incorporating their encounter with Jesus into their Jewish theology. Nothing of the sort is true of Muhammad, who was neither a Jew nor a Christian. Islam did not elaborate on the Trinity but rejected and replaced it.”

“Christians worship the triune God: a Father Who loves unconditionally, a Son Who incarnates and Who is willing to die for us so that we may be forgiven, and an immanent Holy Spirit Who lives in us. This is not who the Muslim God is, and it is not what the Muslim God does. Truly, Tawhid is antithetical to the Trinity, fundamentally incompatible and only similar superficially and semantically. Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God.”

“The warfare the Quran commands is not due to any evil action, but rather due to the beliefs of non-Muslims, such as the Christian belief that Jesus is the Son of God (9:29, 30).”

“Warfare in the Old Testament is not about subjugating inferior peoples. Yahweh does not promise the Jews that they are the best of people and that their enemies are less than they are. He makes this quite clear in Deuteronomy 9:4-6. … The Quran, by contrast, envisions Muslims as the best people: ‘You are the best of all people, evolved for mankind’ (3:110). It teaches that Jews and Christians who do not convert to Islam are the worst of all creation: ‘Those who do not believe [in Islam] from among the Jews and Christians and the idolaters will go to hell. They are the worst of creatures’ (98:6; see 98:1-5 for context). This is why the Quran in 9:33 commands Muslims to fight Jews and Christians, so that Allah may cause Islam ‘to prevail over all religions.’”

“Muhammad’s life moved from peaceful to violent in a crescendo, reflecting the trajectory of the Quran, and he died just after conquering the Arabian Peninsula. His words in the canonical collections were, ‘I have been ordered by Allah to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshiped but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah’s messenger. … [O]nly then will they save their lives and property from me’ (Sahih Bukhara 1.2.25). Muslims are commanded to follow Muhammad’s example, and his example was jihad.

“By contrast, the stories in the Old Testament do not enjoin Jews or Christians to fight today. Though commands to fight are recorded in the text, no Jew or Christian is commanded to memorialize these battles as ongoing conduct. They were a part of the history of Israel, certainly, not a mandate or continuing command going forward.”

“Violence has a very different place in Islam and Christianity’s theological frameworks. The final marching order of Islam is jihad. The final marching orders of Christians are grace and love.”

But I especially love this thought from Nabeel: “One can both love Muslims and insist that the God they worship is not the same as the Christian God.” Amen!

Other quotes from Answering Jihad are here and here.

Additional quotes from Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus are here.

How Do You Kill 11 Million People? (book review)

How Do You KillAndy Andrews is an amazing storyteller. So when I saw a book from him with the intriguing title How Do You Kill 11 Million People? I just knew it was going to be hard-hitting.

And, boy was it! 

Andy says, “The past is what is real and true, while history is merely what someone recorded.” So he goes back to the eyewitness accounts of one of the saddest chapters in our recent past to to get the factual historical record on how Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were able to kill 11 million people.

After exploring the historical context, Andy doesn’t stop there. He then brings it home to where we live in the United States of America. Do you think the kinds of atrocities that Hitler and the Nazis got away with can’t be repeated? Do you think that something like that wanton destruction couldn’t happen in civilized, sophisticated, educated America? Then you are in for quite a shock. 

You can read How Do You Kill 11 Million People in less than an hour, but the haunting images and nagging images that Andy Andrews presents will stick with you for a long, long time. And that, I believe, is a very good thing.

This book is appropriate for all ages, but I think a very effective study would be for parents and children to read this book together.

7 Bible Study Ideas From D.L. Moody

Pleasure & ProfitAs I read D.L. Moody’s book Pleasure & Profit In Bible Study, I made note of several ideas that could stimulate a great Bible study. Check out my review of this book by clicking here, then check out these great study-starters:

“If you are impatient, sit down quietly and commune with Job. If you are strong-headed, read of Moses and Peter. If you are weak-kneed, look at Elijah. If there is no song in your heart, listen to David. If you are a politician, read Daniel. If you are getting sordid, read Isaiah. If you are chilly, read of the beloved disciple. If your faith is low, read Paul. If you are getting lazy, watch James. If you are losing sight of the future, read in Revelation of the promised land.” —Richard Baxter 

“Every chapter [of Mark] but the first, seventh, eighth and fourteenth begins with ‘And,’ as if there was no pause in Christ’s ministry.”

“Matthew begins with Abraham; Mark with Malachi; Luke with John the Baptist; but John with God Himself. Matthew sets forth Christ as the Jew’s Messiah. Mark as the active worker. Luke as a man. John as a personal Savior.”

“[In John’s Gospel] the word repent does not occur once, but the word believe occurs ninety-eight times.”

“Dr. A. T. Pierson says: Let the introduction cover five P’s; place where written; person by whom written; people to whom written; purpose for which written; period at which written.” 

“Some time ago a man wanted to take my Bible home to get a few things out of it, and when it came back I found this noted in it:

  • Justification, a change of state, a new standing before God.
  • Repentance, a change of mind, a new mind about God.
  • Regeneration, a change of nature, a new heart from God.
  • Conversion, a change of life, a new life for God.
  • Adoption, a change of family, new relationship towards God.
  • Sanctification, a change of service, separation unto God.
  • Glorification, a new state, a new condition with God.”

“I was wonderfully blessed by taking the seven ‘Blesseds’ of the Revelation. … Or you may take the eight ‘overcomes’ in Revelation…. I have been greatly blessed by going through the ‘believings’ of John. Every chapter but two speaks of believing. … Take the six ‘precious’ things in Peter’s Epistles. And the seven ‘walks’ of the Epistle to the Ephesians. And the five ‘much mores’ of Romans 5. Or the two ‘receiveds’ of John 1. Or the seven ‘hearts’ in Proverbs 13, and especially an eighth. Or ‘the fear of the Lord’ in Proverbs.” 

“No scripture is exhausted by a single explanation. The flowers of God’s garden bloom, not only double, but seven-fold: they are continually pouring forth fresh fragrance.” —Charles Spurgeon

Links & Quotes

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Some good reading (and watching) from today…

[INFOGRAPHIC] Look how devastating sex trafficking is! What you can you do to stop this horror?

At the current rate, with the mass exodus which is being witnessed by the world, the number of Christians left in the Middle East will be slim to none.” Read about Jewish and Christian extinction in Iraq.

Yeah, this isn’t suspicious at all (he said sarcastically): IRS destroys the hard drive that contained the potentially incriminating emails.

[VIDEO] John Maxwell encourages us to enrich others’ lives.

[VIDEO] This is so sweet! The way this Dad goes all out for his daughter with mitochondrial disease is the essence of true fatherhood.

“Do we have to wonder why our kids today lack values? Should we wonder why their ethics are so fuzzy that three-fourths of them cheat on tests to get through college? They are fuzzy because we’ve been fuzzy. Thanks, Derek, for your clarity. Your team will be better adults for your example.” Read this story Tim Elmore relates about a coach who lost a title but won huge credibility.

A challenge to purity: 12 Questions To Ask Before You Watch Game Of Thrones.

Links & Quotes

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These are links to articles and quotes I found interesting today.

“The Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nation. … [God] ordered the Jews to preserve and propagate to all mankind the doctrine of a supreme, intelligent, wise, almighty sovereign of the universe… the great essential principle of morality, and consequently all civilization.” —John Adams, in a letter to Judge F. A. Van der Kemp, February 16, 1809

I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man. (Hosea 11:9) 

The Lord thus makes known His sparing mercies. It may be that the reader is now under heavy displeasure, and everything threatens his speedy doom. Let the text hold him up from despair. The Lord now invites you to consider your ways and confess your sins. If He had been man, He would long ago have cut you off. If He were now to act after the manner of men, it would be a word and a blow and then there would be an end of you: but it is not so, for “as high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are His ways above your ways.” 

You rightly judge that He is angry, but He keepeth not His anger forever: if you turn from sin to Jesus, God will turn from wrath. Because God is God, and not man, there is still forgiveness for you, even though you may be steeped up to your throat in iniquity. You have a God to deal with and not a hard man, or even a merely just man. No human being could have patience with you. You would have wearied out an angel, as you have wearied your sorrowing Father; but God is longsuffering. Come and try Him at once. Confess, believe, and turn from your evil way, and you shall be saved. —Charles Spurgeon, Faith′s Checkbook (February 16) 

Stomach-churning: Former Planned Parenthood Nurse Speaks Out

“It was not an easy task which the Church faced when she came down from that upper room…. Left to herself the Church must have perished as a thousand abortive sects had done before her, and have left nothing for a future generation to remember. That the Church did not so perish was due entirely to the miraculous element within her. That element was supplied by the Holy Spirit who came at Pentecost to empower her for her task. For the Church was not an organization merely, not a movement, but a walking incarnation of spiritual energy. And she accomplished within a few brief years such prodigies of moral conquest as to leave us wholly without an explanation—apart from God.” —A.W. Tozer

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