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.

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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.

Is The Christian Life Difficult?

“We find the Christian life so difficult because we seek for God’s blessing while we live in our own will. … We make our own plans and choose our own work, and then we ask the Lord Jesus to come in and take care that sin shall not conquer us too much, that we shall not go too far wrong; we ask Him to come in and give us so much of His blessing. But our relationship to Jesus ought to be such that we are entirely at His disposal.” —Andrew Murray, in Absolute Surrender

Poetry Saturday—Desire

Matthew ArnoldThou, who dost dwell alone;
Thou, who dost know Thine own;
Thou, to whom all are known,
From the cradle to the grave—
Save, O, save!

From the world’s temptations;
From tribulations;
From that fierce anguish
Wherein we languish;
From that torpor deep
Wherein we lie asleep,
Heavy as death, cold as the grave—
Save, O, save!

When the soul, growing clearer,
Sees God no nearer;
When the soul, mounting higher,
To God comes no nigher;
But the arch-fiend Pride
Mounts at her side,
Foiling her high enterprise,
Sealing her eagle eyes,
And, when she fain would soar,
Make idols to adore;
Changing the pure emotion
Of her high devotion,
To a skin-deep sense
Of her own eloquence;
Strong to deceive, strong to enslave—
Save, O, save! —Matthew Arnold

8 Quotes From “Jesus Always”

jesus-alwaysSarah Young does a masterful job in speaking the words of the Bible to us through the first-person voice of Jesus Christ in her book Jesus Always. Be sure to check out my review by clicking here. Below are a few quotes from this keepsake book.

“Train your mind to think great thoughts of Me! Many Christians are defeated by focusing mainly on less important things—the news, the weather, the economy, loved ones’ problems, their own problems, and so on. Granted, in this world you will have trouble, but don’t let troubles become your primary focus. Remind yourself that I am with you and I have overcome the world.”

“Be careful not to attach your sense of worth to your performance. When you’re dissatisfied with something you have done, talk with Me about it. … Your imperfect performance reminds you that you are human. It humbles you and helps you identify with flawed humanity. Since pride is such a deadly sin—the one that ultimately led to satan’s expulsion from heaven—being humbled is really a blessing. So thank Me for the circumstances that have diminished your pride, and draw near to Me.” 

“Praying not only blesses you but provides an avenue for serving Me. Rejoice that you can collaborate with Me through prayer as I establish My kingdom on earth.”

“When the task before you looks daunting, refuse to be intimidated. Discipline your thinking to view the challenge as a privilege rather than a burdensome duty. Make the effort to replace your ‘I have to’ mentality with an ‘I get to’ approach. … Remember that My Spirit who lives in you is the Helper; ask Him to help you when you’re perplexed.”

“Do not despise suffering. It reminds you that you are on a pilgrimage to a far better place. … While you continue your journey through this world, be thankful for the comforts and pleasures I bless you with. And reach out to others who are suffering. I comfort you in all your troubles so that you can comfort others. Offering help to hurting people gives meaning to your suffering—and Glory to Me!”

“Your natural tendency when you’re feeling anxious is to focus on yourself and your problems. The more you do this, the more you forget about Me and all the help I can supply. This worldly focus only increases your anxiety! Let the discomfort you feel at such times alert you to your neglect of Me. Whisper My Name, and invite Me into your difficulties.”

“Today is the time to delight in the blessings I have provided. Since you don’t know what tomorrow will bring, make the most of what you have today: family, friends, talents, possessions. And look for opportunities to be a blessing to others.”

“Thank Me frequently; be on the lookout for My blessings, searching for them as for hidden treasure. Praise Me not only in prayer and song but in your words to other people. Tell them about My marvelous deeds; declare how great I am!”

I will be sharing more quotes from Jesus Always in the near future. If you want to be notified as soon as these quotes are posted, please subscribe by entering your email address in the right column.

I’ve also been sharing quotes from this book (and lots of other high-quality authors) on both Twitter and Tumblr. If you’re not following me there, please do so.

7 Quotes From “Hope … The Best Of All Things”

HopeJoni Eareckson Tada knows what it is to battle darkness and depression. And she also know the power of hope in those dark places. Hope … The Best Of All Things is an encouraging book for anyone going through a difficult place (please check out my book review here).

Here are some of the quotes from Hope which especially stood out to me.

“People are angry; cynicism and despair are on the rise, and the nightly news reminds us we are only one terrorist plot away from another national nightmare. Oh, how we need to grasp the soul-settling hope found in the pages of God’s Word—not only grasp it, but allow the hope of God to fill and overflow our hearts, transforming us into people who are confident and at peace with themselves, their God, and their circumstances.”

“For me, suffering is still that jackhammer breaking apart my rocks of resistance every day. It’s still the chisel that God is using to chip away at my self-sufficiency and my self-motivation and my self-consumption. Suffering is still that sheepdog snapping and barking at my heels, driving me down the road to Calvary where otherwise I do not want to go. My human nature, my flesh, does not want to endure hardship like a good soldier (2 Timothy 2:3) or follow Christ’s example (1 Peter 2:21) or welcome a trial as friend. No, my flesh does not want to rejoice in suffering (Romans 5:3) or be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15). But it is at Calvary, at the Cross, where I meet suffering on God’s terms.”

“Do you know who the truly handicapped people are? They are the ones—and many of them are Christians—who hear the alarm clock go off at seven-thirty in the morning, throw back the covers, jump out of bed, take a quick shower, choke down breakfast, and zoom out the front door. They do all this on automatic pilot without stopping once to acknowledge their Creator, their great God Who gives them life and strength each day. Christian, if you live that way, do you know that James 4:6 says God opposes you? ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’”

“Take up your cross daily and follow the Lord Jesus (Luke 9:23). I must qualify that statement. Please know that when I take up my cross every day I am not talking about my wheelchair. My wheelchair is not my cross to bear. Neither is your cane or walker your cross. Neither is your dead-end job or your irksome in-laws. Your cross to bear is not your migraine headaches, not your sinus infection, not your stiff joints. That is not your cross to bear. My cross is not my wheelchair; it is my attitude. Your cross is your attitude about your dead-end job and your in-laws. It is your attitude about your aches and pains. Any complaints, any grumblings, any disputings or murmurings, any anxieties, any worries, any resentments or anything that hints of a raging torrent of bitterness—these are the things God calls me to die to daily.”

“You see, we are to God the fragrance of Christ. The world can’t see Jesus endure suffering with grace because He’s not here on earth, but you and I are. And we can fill up in our flesh what is lacking in His afflictions (Colossians 1:24), and in so doing become that sweet fragrance, that perfume, that aroma of Christ to God.”

“God mandates that we go out into the streets and the alleys and the highways and the byways. He mandates that we find the poor, the blind, the disabled, and the lame, and help them get busy living, because misery might love company, but joy craves a crowd. And the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit crave a crowd of joy, joy spilling over and splashing and filling the hearts of thirsty people in this world who are absolutely dehydrated from a lack of hope.”

“The hope we wait for is our only hope, the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13). It is Jesus for Whom we have prevailed through all of this suffering, and, oh, for the sweetness of melding one heart into His in that intimacy that is so precious. … Our hope is for the Desire of the nations. Our hope is the Healer of broken hearts, the Friend of sinners, the God of all encouragement, the Father of all comfort, the Lord of all hope. And it is my prayer that the eyes of your heart might be enlightened so that you might know this hope to which He has called you.”

Jon Bloom On Humility

Jon Bloom“Humble people view other people as God’s marvelous image-bearers, windows to God’s glory, not as mirrors that enhance or diminish their own self-image. But this also means they aren’t absorbed by how others view them. …

“Humble people are unusually unaffected by this pressure to conform. They can be hard to categorize because they often don’t fit neatly into any cultural mold. They tend to eschew using trendy fashions or interests or social media as means of personal branding. They have preferences about those things, but they hold those preferences as ways of enjoying God’s manifold goodness rather than image-enhancers. …

“One of the things that can surprise us about truly humble people, which can sometimes be mistaken for pride, is that they can be quite offensive. Humble people, being without guile, say it like it is. And saying it like it is can sting, and even sound condemning. … But there is a qualitative difference between the offensiveness of the proud and the offensiveness of the humble. The proud offend to exalt or defend themselves and control or manipulate others. The humble offend in order to advance the truth for the glory of God and ultimate good of others. Humble offensiveness may not be popular, but it’s always loving.” —Jon Bloom

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