Archive for August, 2008

Importance of Good Choices

Well, I’ve been torn as to whether I should stay my own course of Bible reading and blogging, or let St. Philip’s 3-year-bible-reading-plan dictate what passage I should read for the day. I’ve decided to follow St. Philip’s reading plan.

So you may get a few missed chapters along the way (especially when they ask for more than one chapter a day!). Otherwise, if I fall one or two chapters behind, I have tendency to just skip it all together. So, God and I shall rendezvous around the chapter given by St. Philip’s for the day.

So today I am sacrificing the hope-giving story of Esther 3 for the fierce warning of judgment against Judah and Jerusalem in Isaiah 3.

God, in no uncertain terms, is letting them (and us) know that obsessing over extreme luxury while stealing from the poor shall NOT be tolerated. No wonder He responds with a shortage competent leaders.

He shall give the people what their wicked hearts desire, ungodly, incompetent leaders. Things can become so bad, that in the minds of the people, the smallest achievement will qualify a man for leadership. (you can read 2 Kings 24:14 for the fulfilled account of God’s warning…guess He wasn’t kidding). The lack of strong godly leaders will lead to shortage of water, food and justice.

Governor of the Universe and hearts of mankind, I pray for the United States and the upcoming election. May your choice (and not our own) be elected. Grant us a person who will lead us on in righteousness.

I’m struck, that if Jerusalem and Judah could have sinned against God in what they say and in what they do, does that necessarily mean that we can glorify God by what we say just as much as by what we do?

Guardian of my Life, I pray that You would set up a centurion over my mouth and lips so that I will only say that which glorifies You and edifies others. May my deeds and words be pleasing to You.

It seems to me as if God is rather passive in judgment (though we know He is always in control). For example, in today’s passage all He does is leave Judah alone, and they end up bringing evil upon themselves. Often times we choose pain and heartbreak rather than follow His guidance.

Great Shepherd, I pray that where You lead, I will follow. I know if left to myself I will surely fall headlong into evil, so I pray, keep close to You and Your flock.

Wow! When you look at the list of accessories that the women devoted too much of their lives too, you can’t help but imagine the size of the malls they must have had in Jerusalem! Though it is often argued that the fact these accessories are mentioned in regards to judgment, that they are wicked in and of themselves, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Isaiah tells them this is for oppressing the poor and making them pay for your luxuries. You might say even in their day, there were the ‘have’s’ and the ‘have-not’s’ with the rich taking from the poor more and more.

And as it always seems to be, He drives us yet again to Himself for direction. We can’t get it from anyone else, or from headquarters to inquire just exactly where that fine balance is. We must get it for ourselves from the Creator and Designer.

But there is one apparel that we can be confident that is pleasing to God as He commends it in 1 Peter 3:3-4:

Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.

BTW: verse 17 makes me wonder if the last part of the verse refers to rape. It does make me wonder about that life-long question: “where is God when something as atrocious as rape is occurring?”

Lord Jesus, thank You that You are in control, and thank You for taking the time to communicate with us Your ways. I pray that we will always find ourselves running to You, our Creator and Designer, for guidance and direction, rather than to some rule book or person or board of directors. We want to use our ignorance as just another excuse to come and rendezvous with You. Thank You for Your warnings. Strengthen us all to choose the way that is right in Your eyes. In Jesus’ name. Amen

Personalized Leadings from God!

Esther 1:3 & Esther 2:16 gives us indication that the “After these things” found in 2:1 doesn’t just mean “after the party that had a flopped-finale,” but is broader than just the events of the previous chapter. These verses show us that there was a four-year span between chapters one and two.

During that time King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) made an unsuccessful invasion of Greece and he came home a defeated man, wanting to cheer his heart through sensual diversions. There was no Vashti to soothe his weary-worn state. So……..let’s have a “Miss Persian Empire” contest.

It seems that Esther didn’t really have a choice about whether she was going to a participant in this event or not. And yet we see how God can used the evil of man. God did not make Ahasuerus drunk, or make him demand that his queen present herself in an immodest way before the governors of the kingdom; yet God allowed this sinful action of man to fulfill a purpose in His greater plan.

I find assurance in the truth that no other person, no matter how evil they are, can defeat God’s plan for my life, no matter what they have done to me or will do to me.

Esther and Mordecai were part of the large Jewish community that was forced to relocate out of Judah, and then decided not to return with Ezra. I wonder how many returning Jews judged Mordecai and Esther for staying behind in “the world” and partaking in its system. And yet we see just how remarkable Esther’s life has been so far.

She was the child of Jewish exiles, who both died (or were they murdered as the movie depicts it?); she was raised by her cousin in a foreign and often hostile land; she was taken by compulsion into the king’s harem; she found favor with all whom she met; and she was finally selected to be the queen of the realm.

Is it possible that God could lead some to return to “God’s Country” and just as certainly, lead some to stay behind in “worldly Babylon”?

Great Shepherd, thank You that You are not just a book full of rules that we can turn to for guidance, but that we can come to You individually, personally and intimately. Thank You that You know exactly what we were made for, with our characteristics, our traits and sensitivities and You have a plan for us. I pray You would help me to walk in Your way for me and discover the joy of it all! Also, grant me discernment when to “judge” and when not to! In Your name, Amen.

Boldness to Protect God’s Child

Wow! The St. Philip’s 3-year-reading plan is zipping through Esther at 2 chapters a day. I’ll probably get a little behind here as a result, but it is such an interesting book, perhaps we will be able to make it through them all in good time. As long as I keep taking the time to meet with God, I shall be more than content!!

Before I scribble on, I will just say, that there is a pretty good rendition of Esther put out by Hollywood called One Night with the King”. It’s a clean edition, some critics have said ‘too clean.’ But I found the movie very enjoyable and just fine without having to change the rating from PG.

Anyway, Esther is said to be the only book in the Bible that the name of God does not appear (though I still haven’t found God or Lord in the Song of Songs). But the providence of God is throughout the whole book, perhaps even the purpose of the book.

It’s like the book of Esther is a commentary, or an example, of the truth found in Romans 8:28:

All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

The whole book of Esther occurs chronologically between Ezra chapter 6 & Ezra chapter 7. Zerubabbel took a group of Jews back to Jerusalem, while most stayed behind in Persia. Hence, we have the book of Esther, the meanwhile, back at the palace kind of perspective of the story of the Jews.

The Persian Empire was the largest the world had ever seen. It covered Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel; and also parts of modern day Egypt, Sudan, Libya, and Arabia.

The Royal Court threw 3 feasts, apparently as a matter of pride and with hopes that they might win some allies as they prepared to take on Greece 3 years later.

1) The first feast was ½ year long! A party that never seems to end! But Xerxes did just that, with the upper echelon of society as the participants.

2) He threw another feast, this time for every citizen of the capital, but it only lasted 7 days!

3) Meanwhile, Queen Vashti was throwing her party for the women in the royal palace.

I’m sure the Xerxes popularity went up in the opinion polls during this time (except for the few naysayers who understood that it was probably the public treasury that was footin’ the bill!)

As the parties were all coming to a close, the King, with his wine-impaired mind, thought it would be a great idea to use his wife’s beauty as the grand finale for all men to google at! And, as is often the case, we shall find the king regretting the deeds done and decisions made while in the intoxicated state.

But what strikes me most strongly in this chapter is Vashti’s sense of values as well as her strength to follow through with those values despite being in a very dangerous position with the king. With the understanding that this was a drunken revelry where emotions can go from merry to furious in a heartbeat, Vashti wisely choose not to put herself in the midst of it.

Some argue that the king was asking Vashti to come out and be immodest. But even if he wasn’t asking for anything immodest, the idea of putting such a beautiful and desirable woman in the presence of men with authority, who are drunk beyond reason…who cannot commend Vashti for not exposing herself to “a group of drunken Bacchanalians”*. Her prudence and modesty and courage should be emulated.

*Adam Clarke’s commentary

By the king passing his decree, he instead gave men everywhere throughout his whole kingdom the right to coerce their wives into unwise and dangerous situations. As a result, all respect was lost, for respect comes only when their a choice (which could lead quite nicely into a blog about free will!!)

BTW: Ahasuerus = Xerxes depending on which translation you are reading, and the events of this chapter occurred around 483 BC when Greece was celebrating their 79th Olympic Games!

Lord Jesus, thank You for giving us worth, purpose, and joy. It is a gift from You and it seems to be the way that we can best glorify You…is to walk in that way of joy. I pray You would give us the same boldness and courage that Vashti had, to protect Your children as well as to protect Your name. Grant us discernment to know when it is just being plain ole selfish and when it is righteously protecting purity and honesty. Thank You for being a tender, gracious, loving, patient King! In Your name we pray, Amen!

Zeal to Keep My Word!

We read of Nehemiah being so radical in the rest of chapter 13, that we wonder if perhaps he isn’t a bit irrational and overbearing. But I’m sure the memory of the day the people of Israel made a solemn covenant to God regarding three things grieved his spirit deeply.

1) In Nehemiah 10:30 they promised not to have ungodly romantic relationships.
Some 10-12 years later, they were steeped in that exact sin which provoked Nehemiah to address it in 13:23-31.

2) In Nehemiah 10:31 they swore off buying and selling on the Sabbath day.
But alas! Nehemiah’s righteous judgment is stirred as in 13:15-22, we find them violating the 4th commandment given by Moses.

3) And then to top it all off, in 10:32-39 they pledged to support the work of God with money as He commanded.
But ten years later Nehemiah returns to the restored Jerusalem only to find that the work of God had fallen into neglect because no one had supported it in 13:10-14.

Nehemiah was radical. He was earnest. He was zealous. He was a man of action and a leader. I may not want to try to implement that style in dealing with all sins or bad choices in everyone else’s lives, but I do want that kind of passion when it comes to protecting me and my relationship with God!

Lord Jesus, thank You for Your patience, for communicating with us and giving us clear direction. You are our creator and know better than anybody what is best for us and what will help us function to our fullest joy and to Your greatest glory. Help us to walk in Your ways. And oh for some of Nehemiah’s passion and leadership! In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Radical Enough to Protect!

In reading Nehemiah 13:1-14 today, I was struck at the radical measures Nehemiah took to protect and purify the people of God.

Worshipping and celebrating often leads to direction and guidance—and that according to God’s standard. That is what happened to the Israelites—as they drew near to God they became aware of His standards and areas they needed to work on in their lives. But what is more, they had the boldness to carry it out. Nehemiah 13:3

If they were like me, I’m sure they would have thought of 20 sound reasons why NOT to do what the word of God plainly told them to do.

  • “That command was made long ago, and speaks to a different time.”
  • “Perhaps there is a mitigating factor involved that we didn’t read about that provoked that rule.”
  • “Things are different now.”
  • “That totally violates my PC sensibility.”
  • “That was written to a different culture.”
  • “Let’s not go overboard.”
  • “We should assign a task force to examine the issue!”

But these folks just plainly, outright, forthright obeyed. (Surely I’m not the only one convicted by that 🙂

Nehemiah went back to his post in Persia for about 10 years after the revival in Jerusalem. When he came back, boy was he surprised to see that ole Ammonite enemy named Tobiah (Nehemiah 2:10) not only living amongst the Israelites, but he actually booted God out of His own house so he could camp out there. Is that something similar to hiring someone who is actively opposed to God to be your elder or deacon?

And though the spiritual leader Eliashib disagreed with Nehemiah, I stand in admiration of that bold leader Nehemiah as he had
the wisdom to not confuse love with being “nice” and
the wisdom to know when to take bold action.

I don’t want to get tangled into the thinking that
Nehemiah was overreacting or that
he was being insensitive or
accuse him of missing an opportunity to “win someone to God” by being their friend.

Rather, Nehemiah saw the situation for the danger that it was—someone is in the Temple courts of Jehovah, openly opposing His purposes and His people.

I’m wondering if I could rise to such integrity if I were confronted with the same kind of situation that Nehemiah or Jesus (remember? He cleansed the temple out twice…once at the beginning of His ministry and once at the end of His ministry) found God’s people in. Or would I take such radical steps to protect just one of God’s people? Myself? Hmmm.

Lord Jesus, thank You for Your patience. And that while You do love us, You are also jealous for us and will take radical measures to protect us from ourselves, sin and any other kind of harm. I pray that You will grant us discernment to know how to interact Christ-like with others. I invite You Lord to come and be a Nehemiah to cleanse my life of any tobiah-like behavior. In Jesus’ name. Amen

Returning to My Jerusalem!

In Ezra and Nehemiah we learn of the Jews who have returned to Jerusalem to tryst with God once again in the Temple, so I too hope to rendezvous with God on a consistent basis again, by the work done by the Final Temple, Jesus Christ.

Thankfully, it hasn’t been 70 years since I have written, but I did miss nearly 500 years!!

So I’m picking up with St. Philip’s 3-year-reading plan and am looking at Nehemiah 12:27-47Dedicating a Wall unto the Lord! It seems rather appropriate after taking a four-month course about boundaries and protecting oneself! My ceremonial dedication (i.e., graduation) took place on August 10th.

And though I didn’t have quite the line up of thanksgiving choirs that Nehemiah and the Levites had, there was much rejoicing for God had made us rejoice with great joy! Well, enough about Pathways and what it meant to me…on to Nehemiah 12:27-47.

  • Celebrate
  • Dedication
  • Gladness
  • Thanksgivings
  • Singing
  • Music
  • Choirs
  • Sang loudly

Having God’s chosen city (or child) fully protected is something that is worth celebrating! And the Levites, the leaders of worship, sure knew how to do that!

(FYI: I once heard that there are 22 different instruments mentioned in the Bible…including the four mentioned in this passage!)

Have you ever heard that probably-most-famous-passage in Scripture (and I don’t mean John 3:16!)? But rather, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Matthew 7:1. Well, the rest of that Matthew passage says:

First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

And so the priests did exactly that in verse 30 of Nehemiah chapter 12:

Then the priests and Levites purified themselves, and then purified the people, the gates and the wall.

The fact that they purified the gates and walls, also shows me that I too should have my surroundings wholesome and pure.

Verse 43 is beautiful expression of joy, the source of joy and the extent of joy….everyone got to rejoice in the great joy the Lord gave them…even the women and children 😉

And notice what was heard throughout all Jerusalem…it wasn’t the singing, but rather The Joy! I can think of a few places where the joy of the Lord has been unmistakably heard! Can you?

Purification –> Celebration –> Rejoicing –> it certainly makes giving and offering a delight instead of a burden or a hard task! So we see it happening even in the day of Nehemiah!

Lord Jesus, I thank you for Pathways and the healthy boundaries you have helped put in in my life through them. I pray Lord that I would have such a celebratory lifestyle that those around me would hear the Joy of the Lord! Above all Lord Jesus, keep me pure, keep my focus on You! Amen!