(Re Verse reading this week–Esther 4.) Esther faced a dilemma we know well– remain silent or speak up, seek safety or get involved. It is always a costly choice. We may not face death (a real possibility for her). It will cost us our time and our energy, our comfort and sometimes our friendships. Thank God for the Mordecais of the world who challenge us to something higher than safety and self. Sunday is a Dedication Day for us at FBC (and for those who watch/follow around the nation and world) We will rejoice in the Re Verse Study System and dedicate ourselves to a new year of spiritual power that comes from reading His word in unity. Question–Isn’t God’s purpose for us to SPEAK what we learn to others? Mordecai’s challenge hangs in my heart. “If you remain silent. . .you and your family will perish” May God give us courage in these crisis/opportunity days.
It is a matter of stewardship–recognizing that what God gives me (talent, health, opportunity, friendship) is not for selfish purpose but for service. “Who knows whether you have attained to royalty for such a time as this” says Mordecai to Esther. (Esther 4:14) He begs her to consider the underlying purpose of God in the events of her life.(including the tragedies). Her status and station are for something. Do we ever stop to view our own lives through the same filter? Is life just a succession of coincidences? Or, has God given us “talents” (cf Matt 25) and experiences that give unique opportunities for Kingdom service? “I am a debtor” said the Apostle Paul in the classic New Testament expression of this idea. What God has given me is a “gift” that I am obligated to “use”. What would life be like, how would we pray, if we felt the same?
This week, we will be reading the story of Esther. It will be rich reflection for followers of Christ. While the book never mentions God (a fact that caused great consternation for the Reformers), it points to his presence and providence in the events and choices of Esther’s life. The Jews still celebrate this story and call it Purim. The Persian word for dice(singular) is pur. “Dice day” is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the roll of the dice that “determined” when the Jews would be destroyed, when God was actually protecting and guiding the whole situation. Do you believe in chance? Do you believe that WHO you are and WHEN you are have been determined by blind force and circumstance? Or, do you believe that behind all things, even the ones that seem tragic, God is at work, expecting from you the choices of faith? More on this as the week progresses. I will be praying for you. Don
It came one night this week as I slept–a burden to “get the word out” to people who do not know God through trust in Christ. It is a focus that I often lose. I get so caught up in the immediate and urgent (me) that I forget the truly important (others). Sometimes, God be praised, He uses difficulty in my life to wake me. Problems tend to loosen my grip on “right now” and help me consider “someday”. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were captured and carried away, but used mightily in the conversion of Nebuchadnezzar. Would they have even known him apart from their suffering? Fascinating! God does not see them (see me) as a victim. He regards us as sons and servants of an eternal plan. May the Lord make us like these 3 remarkable young men–faithful even when life falls apart. I will look for you in a few hours. What a privilge we have to study His word! Don
It is a choice that will be made in the quietness of a morning prayer. It will be a decision between several options. I will be tempted to PLEASE others–to believe that approval and support is what I need most. I will also be tempted to avoid PAIN–to find the easy road, to follow the fun. But like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, ( Daniel 3) if I listen, I will hear the Spirit of God whisper a higher wisdom–the PATH marked by the PRINCIPLES of God’s Word. It will require courage. I will feel lonely at times. But God will be faithful. “Thy Word is a lamp to my feet, a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105) Note–I am looking forward to seeing you tomorrow. In this moment of national crisis, true worship is the only cure. Come! Encourage others to come with you! We have decisions to make together and the time is short. Know of my love and my prayers. Don
It is not complicated. Childlike actually. Serving God is first a matter of NOT doing what He says NOT to do and then depending on Him to bless and protect. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Daniel 3) are examples. (I always wondered why they were called “the three Hebrew children) “We do not need to defend ourselves” they say to King Nebuchadnezzar. Like Jesus who ” did not open his mouth” in his own defense, they were calm and unafraid. They had made a simple choice–to do God’s will as they understood it from the scripture. Having made it, they were certain that God would save them or not, but they were spared any further anxiety. They trusted God. They obeyed God. Simple! I wonder whether the prayer, “Lead us not into temptation” has much power until we make the same simple choice. (How can He lead if we will not follow?) I am praying for you (and for myself) a childlike heart. Don
The Greek language gives us a clue. Our English word for problem is formed from two Greek words. Pro means “forward”. Balein means “to throw”. Problems are those things that “throw us forward”, force us to learn, require us to change. Daniel 3 is the perfect illustration. In one sense, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were victims of tragedy. (Taken captive in their teenage years, nation defeated, temple destroyed) In another sense they were “more than conquerors” because they did not dissolve into self pity and unbelief. In the midst of tragedy, they found the Lord and became “vessels for honor” (2 Timothy 2:21) in bold and unbending witness to Nebuchanezzar. What an inspiring truth! My problems are not excuses. They are, in fact, useful to the Lord in causing my growth and leading others to faith. “The flame shall not hurt thee, I only design thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.” May the Lord make us like these young men.
“We are NOT going to serve you gods or worship the golden image you have set up.” (Daniel 3:18) I will seem intolerant to some. It will actually be the road home. Truly repentant people have a spiritual stubborness that they have learned from God. Those who have been through AA (successfully) are no longer tolerant toward alcohol. They allow no margins. They are intolerant and unbending so far as their own involvement is concerned. Shadrach and Meshach and Abednego are no longer tolerant toward sin. “Make NO provision for the flesh” (Romans 13:14) NONE! They have SEEN the results of disobedience–the destruction of Jerusalem. They have become spiritually stubborn–at least about the things that are clearly taught by God’s word. Will this appear intolerant to some? Yes. Is it a sign of true spiritual life? Yes. Dear God, make us as unreasonable as your Son. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
You will probably think about this if you ever have cancer. I know I did. God is “able to save”. (Daniel 3: 17) I knew that one word from God would send cancer rushing miraculously away. He is able! Is He willing? A very different question. Shadrach, Meshach and Adednego seem confident of the first and unconvinced about the second. Not unbelieving, just uncertain. “Even if He doesn’t (save us)”, they tell the King, “we will not worship the golden image”. (Daniel 3: 18) A miracle is not always God’s answer. “Some were tortured, stoned and put to death” says the writer of Hebrews of some very faithful people. (Hebrews 11:35-37) To presume that God always wills to intervene in the natural course of disease or difficulty is to end up disappointed and confused. God may or may not save us from death(physical). Whether He does or not has nothing to do with HIS ability, OUR faith, or HIS faithfulness. We trust Him!
“Be not conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2) It is a pressure we all feel–the pressure to conform. Even though God creates diversity (and seems to love it!), the world fears it and exerts pressure (read crowd control) for people to ” get in step”. Daniel 3 is a familiar story. While it does not argue against submission to appropriate authority ( that would be anarchy), it does teach respectful but stubborn noncomformity to any king, parent, government, council, or pastor who requires us to act against the clear dictates of scripture and conscience. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were “stepping to the beat of a different drummer” long before Thoreau was even born! How free are you from the expectations of those around you where worship is concerned? How true are you being to your own conscience and the teaching of God’s word? Do you sometime “go along” so as to not to rock the boat? More as the week progresses. I am grateful to be your Pastor. Don