The “separation of church and state,” such as it is, should keep the government from imposing a religion upon the people of this country.
But regulations that squelch the speech of pastors? Can the US Government tell pastors what they can and cannot talk about?
There is no law that I’m aware of that restricts the speech of pastors, but IRS regulations in place for over 50 years threaten to withdraw the tax-exempt status of churches that speak on politics. I am convinced this is a contributing factor to the decline of morality in the USA. The churches are the center of what we consider moral in the country, and if the pulpits are silent, immorality blossoms.
Some pastors have begun specifically defying this regulation by specifically mentioning candidates by name. Their goal is to overturn the IRS regulation through the court system. Listen: all rules and regulations in this country should follow the US Constitution, right? Here’s the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution -
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
That tells me that the government can’t pass any laws on what churches can and cannot say, anymore than they can tell newspapers what they can and cannot print. Read that amendment and explain to me how it could be interpreted otherwise.
If you’d like to read more, the Alliance Defense Fund is spearheading this project.
â€œPastors have a right to speak about Biblical truths from the pulpit without fear of punishment. No one should be able to use the government to intimidate pastors into giving up their constitutional rights,â€ said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley.
It’s a government restriction on the freedom of speech and the expression of religion. I cant see how anyone could interpret the Constitution any other way.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
When the US Government funds anything remotely Christian in nature, all sorts of “separation of church and state” groups get upset. The ACLU files a lawsuit and the “offensive” Christian material is removed.
So why is it ok for US tax dollars to be used to oppose Christianity? Shouldn’t the same standard be used? PBS, a government funded liberal and atheist propoganda tool (not that I’m opinionated on the subject) is funded by the US government and is producing a show that attacks the underlying tenets of the bible.
Among other things, this show says -
- Abraham, Sarah and their offspring didn’t exist.
- There is no archaeological evidence of the Exodus.
- Monotheism was a process that took hundreds of years.
- The Israelites were actually Canaanites.
- The Israelites believed that God had a wife.
For me as a Christian, it’s bad enough when free speech is exercised to attack my beliefs; my right to free speech also belongs to others to say the opposite. Will my tax dollars also be used to fund a show friendly to my beliefs? Probably not; the ACLU will sue to prevent the use of tax dollars for Christian-friendly projects. So why is the government allowed to fund an attack on Christianity?Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 8 so far )
Even though lunch today is at Fajita Flats, I brought along a suggestion from a restaurant I was recently visiting called La Place in Hengelo, The Netherlands. Hereâ€™s also a list of todayâ€™s specials; I can highly recommend the voorgerecht.
(Other handouts go here: the complete menu, shopping flyers, German newspaper, Dutch newspaper, French airport guide. If youâ€™re reading this online, youâ€™re out of luck.)
One of the toughest things about traveling is the language barrier between us and the country. Itâ€™s rewarding and exciting to travel outside of the touristy areas, but the further you get away, the more language becomes a problem.
About a year and a half ago, Diane accompanied me on a business trip to Europe, and one of the places we stayed at was a little French town of Honfluer in lower Normandy. It was quaint, a little fishing village of about 8000 people. Diane and I had just arrived in France earlier that day and driven in from Paris and were sitting down to our first meal. We chose a little outdoor cafÃ© where we could watch the sights and the people and enjoy the sunshine. The waitress came by to drop off some menus and I asked, â€œEnglish menus?â€ and she shook her head no. Diane and I stared at the words in French.
So, like a gentleman, I offered to order for Diane. When the waitress came back, I pointed at Diane and said, â€œSheâ€™ll haveâ€ and then pointed at the menu, â€œthis, this, and this.â€ Then I pointed at me and said, â€œIâ€™ll have that, that, and that.â€ The waitress wrote it down, smiled, and walked off.
Diane asked me what I had ordered. â€œFor you, I ordered this this and this. For me, that that and that. Pay attention.â€ I had little idea what I had ordered. I recognized a few words from previous trips, so I was fairly certain I had ordered some sort of chicken with potatoes, but I may have ordered snails with motor oil.
Communication is very difficult when there is a language barrier. You know, Iâ€™ve discovered that, even when we all speak English, communication is difficult. We say one thing, our spouse hears another. Our spouse says one thing, we hear something else. Why is communication so difficult? Letâ€™s turn to Genesis 11 and study the chapter on scrambled communication, The Tower of Babel. Genesis 11:1-9:
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel â€” because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
I had to look up the pronunciation since Iâ€™ve heard it pronounced â€œbabbleâ€ and â€œBAY-bell.â€ Turns out the correct pronunciation is â€œbuh-BELL.â€
Verse 1, â€œNow the whole world had one language and a common speech.â€ When did this take place? Some scholars look back a chapter at Genesis 10 verse 5, 20, and 31 which tell us that Noahâ€™s offspring had their own language. For instance, in Genesis 10:5 it says, â€œFrom these the maritime peoples spread out into their territories by their clans within their nations, each with its own language.â€ So it seems reasonable that the building of the tower took place soon after the flood and before Noahâ€™s offspring had completely left to populate the earth. This makes sense; in Genesis 9:7 as God was placing His rainbow in the sky, God told Noah, â€œAs for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.â€ And Genesis 10 tells us that Noah had a son named Ham who had a son named Cush who had a son named Nimrod and that Nimrod was a mighty hunter before the LORD, and Genesis 10:10 says Nimrod founded Babylon in the plain of Shinar. Instead of these sons of Noah spreading out and populating the earth, though, men thought they knew better than God. Instead of spreading out, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. Huh. Direct disobedience to what God told them to do. Of course, *we* would never do that, would we?
Genesis 11:3-4 says,
They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
Whereâ€™s God in this decision? Let us make bricks, let us build ourselves a city, so that *we may make a name for ourselves* and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth. We see man deciding that he knows better than God. When we go against Godâ€™s instruction, it is always evil. It is always sin. It is the same sort of sin that has tempted man since the Garden of Eden. We know better than God what we need. We know better than God whatâ€™s important. So here we see Godly men, mighty hunters before the LORD, giving way to their own desires again.
The evil in this case is in numbers; the safety in numbers is a flawed concept when compared to being in the safety of God, but these men wanted to make a name for themselves. Perhaps with the flood still fresh in their minds, they wanted to build a tower of safety. Instead of trusting Godâ€™s rainbow, they will trust themselves. This is the beginning of secular humanism, thousands of years before we gave it a name. Safety in numbers does not provide safety in the world. Safety in the world is obtained by trusting in God. Correct worship of God is in trust and obedience in Him.
This secular humanism, trusting man instead of God, continues today. While we can blame our secular society for teaching to trust in man, in separation of church and state, it continues inside each and every one of us. We give lip service to trusting in God, but when we find some instruction from God in Godâ€™s Word that we donâ€™t like, we trust ourselves first. Oh, Iâ€™m not going to do that, certainly God canâ€™t mean that. Or, I know that God says that, but he doesnâ€™t understand our difficult that is, so Iâ€™m going to do it my way. This secular humanism, this trusting in ourselves, leads to pride. If weâ€™re going to trust ourselves, then we must promote ourselves until we are on equal footing with God. Or we must bring God down to our level so that we seem better than we are. These descendents of Nimrod are saying, â€œlet us build a tower so that we may make a name for ourselves.â€ Trust in ourselves leads us to inflate our own egos. Let us not be fooled; we are not God. Making a name for ourselves is not Godâ€™s plan. Fellowship with our Lord and giving praise to Godâ€™s name is His plan.
Is God pleased by pride? Genesis 11:5-7,
But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
While men believed they were building a tower that reached to the heavens as a monument to themselves, from Godâ€™s perspective, this was a puny little project. Whatever they were trying to build for themselves, these people had no claim to greatness. When people begin to rely on people and we inflate our own egos and we begin to act like we are gods, nothing seems impossible. But look at our track record as people independent from God. Have we ended war? Have we ended poverty? Have we ended hunger? Have we ended sickness or disease or global warming or pollution or overpopulation or illegal immigration or child abuse or murder or stealing or anything else? Is there anything man has accomplished apart from God?
This puny tower did not threaten Godâ€™s sovereignty. This puny tower was only huge in the eyes of the people that created it. I donâ€™t believe God took the building of the tower as a threat, but God did take the sin of pride that led to the building of the tower seriously. Godâ€™s plan was for man to spread out and populate the earth, and instead, man has staked a spot in the desert and is building a monument to himself. This is a step along the path to disobedience and the resulting consequences. Whenever we attempt to be our own God, God will confuse our plans. God already has a plan and doesnâ€™t want us to make our own plans independent from Him. The common language of the people led to achievement, which led to prideful disobedience. They substituted their own purposes for Godâ€™s purposes.
Discussion questions -
If we believe we can accomplish anything, is that right or wrong? Why?
What things do people do today that show they trust themselves more than they trust God?
I think of how powerful and omniscient and holy God is, looking down at this pitiful little tower and seeing man placing their faith in their own accomplishments. How little it takes for us to develop pride in ourselves. Apart from Him, we can do nothing, but often we think we can do anything we want without repercussions. God could have easily toppled the tower, just given it a little tap and knocked it over. But I think weâ€™d be like some sort of human ant colony, weâ€™d start scurrying around and swarming and rebuilding the monument to ourselves. Instead of using brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar, weâ€™d delude ourselves by upgrading the building material. Weâ€™d build towers out of steel and glass, skyscrapers reaching to the sky to demonstrate the power of man. Itâ€™s still all self-delusional accomplishments. It pales next to the creations of God.
God does something more amazing than knocking over an anthill; He confuses their language. While Nimrod and the people have this wonderful idea to band together to worship themselves, God effortlessly stops them. Nimrodâ€™s idea to unite the world in one religion of secular humanity depended on effective communication. With the inability to communicate effectively disabled, Nimrodâ€™s idea still gave birth to alternative worship, alternative man-made gods, that we still are dealing with today. Nimrod may have failed at creating a single unified counterfeit religion, but he still created the basic idea of a counterfeit religion. Even now, manâ€™s belief in his own superiority leads to confusion, conflict, wars, and often based on counterfeit, man-made religion. All because man attempted to create a plan independent of God.
The sin of pride in manâ€™s own accomplishment no doubt led to the first of Godâ€™s Ten Commandments, â€œThou shalt have no other gods before me.â€ God acts here to prevent man from establishing a counterfeit, uniform worship that would disrupt Godâ€™s plan of redemption. By confusing their language, man could no longer find adequate safety in numbers. With communication problems, now they become suspicious of each other, sometimes angry at each other when communication is impossible. They had tried to band together to show they could unite in rebellion against God, but now, effortlessly, God made that impossible.
Lastly, in Genesis 11:8-9,
So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel â€” because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
Itâ€™s ironic; they find themselves doing Godâ€™s will, whether they want to or not. They wanted to proclaim themselves free of God, able to do their own will, but God scattered them all over the face of the earth. Where they once had freedom to go where they wanted to and fulfill the Lordâ€™s command to populate the earth, now the Lord simply scattered them. In search of their own freedom, they now find themselves in slavery to their sin. The Lord is always in control and His will is always done. We can have the freedom to do it His way, or He will accomplish His will without us. God works out His plan through people who resist Him as well as people who obey Him. Nimrod and his followers discovered Godâ€™s control through His judgment. Ultimately, every human who rebels against the Lord also discovers the same thing. God is and always has been and always will be in control. We have the freedom to be in His will, but we do not have to freedom to override His will.
Why do people, even believers, sometimes resist Godâ€™s will and directions?
How does God accomplish His will anyway even if people resist Him?
So â€œbay-bellâ€ or â€œbabbleâ€ or â€œbuh-bellâ€ in the ancient Hebrew means â€œto confuse by mixing.â€ Where is the tower of Babel today? The plain of Shinar is todayâ€™s modern day Iraq, and Babel eventually became Babylon. Today, itâ€™s an area of ruins about 60 miles south of Baghdad. Itâ€™s amazing that the defiance of God and the source of much of the worldâ€™s continuing confusion still emanates from the same place after all these centuries.
Is it Godâ€™s will that we cannot communicate with each other? No, Godâ€™s will here at the Tower of Babel ended manâ€™s ability to unite together in defiance of God. Man is still in defiance of God, but there are dozens and dozens of man-made religions and are no longer united against the Lord. Godâ€™s will is that we are able to communicate His purpose. In Acts 2 as the Holy Spirit came upon men, it says â€œwe heard them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!â€ When we unite behind Godâ€™s purpose, God can facilitate our communication. The first thing, though, before we communicate with each other, is to communicate with God. We read Godâ€™s Word so He speaks to us; we go to the Lord in prayer so we can speak to Him. How can we possibly know Godâ€™s will if weâ€™re not in communication with Him? We should choose to talk to God and cooperate with Him first. I believe weâ€™ll find our communication with each other is far, far better if weâ€™re in communication with our heavenly father first.
As humanity spreads out across the earth, we see a small remnant that worships the one true God, and the rest of humanity abandoning God and worshiping itself or other false religions. And we can begin to see how God is going to take this mess that humanity makes and offer us a true relationship with Him. From Adam and Eve who sought to become their own gods and know right from wrong, Godâ€™s justice banned them from the Garden of Evil and the Tree of Life. We saw through Cain and Abel as humanityâ€™s ability to sin further separated us from God as Cain killed Abel. The true worship of our Lord continued through Seth, the son of Adam, but by the time of Noah, the true worship of God was only alive in one man, and through the story of the ark, Godâ€™s grace was extended to Noah and his family and the human race was spared. And even with the flood, we see that manâ€™s ability to try to make himself his own God continuing as Nimrodâ€™s people attempt to build a tower, a monument, to their own secular power.
At the end of Genesis 11 in verse 10, we see a genealogy emerge. We know from Genesis 10 that Noah had 3 sons to continue the true worship of the Lord; Ham, Shem and Japheth. Ham fathered Cush, Cush fathered Nimrod. The apostasy of Nimrod led to the rise of the pride in humanity and the consequences of the Tower of Babel. But in another line from Noah, Godâ€™s true name is worshipped. Two years after the flood, Shem became the father of Asphaxad who fathered Shelah. Shelah fathered Eber who fathered Peleg. Peleg fathered Reu who fathered Serug. Serug fathered Nahor who fathered Terah who became the father of Abram. And in Abram the worship of God is being preserved.
We see a repeat of Noah; Abram alone is worshipping the one true God while the rest of the world, now a confusion of many languages. Will God repeat the flood? No, He made a covenant with Noah and sealed it with His rainbow. No, God will not destroy humanity with another flood. God has a new plan of redemption that He will establish, beginning with Abram. While Nimrod said, â€œLet us build a city,â€ through Abram God promises, â€œI will make of thee a great nation.â€ The nation that God will create through Abram shall identify the one true God to a world that has turned from Him. Nimrod, the mighty hunter whose name means â€œrebellion,â€ sought to make a city, a tower for themselves. Godâ€™s plan was to make a nation unto Him.
Our communication problem, even when weâ€™re all speaking English, is a result of manâ€™s pride so many centuries ago. God did not create us to create little monuments to ourselves. God created us to show His glory in a world that continually turns its back on Him. While His perfect judgment led to our multitude of languages, His Holy Spirit unifies us and gives us a singular purpose. We become one in the body with each other when we are in communication with He who created us. Let us seek Him and communicate with Him through prayer and worship and obedience, and we will find that we can communicate with each other far better than if we try to do it without Him.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 6 so far )
I first saw the news yesterday that governor of Georgia was going to lead a prayer for rain. I only briefly glanced over it; if I thought of it at all, it was to remark to myself that it’s probably only a photo op to appease his votors, or if he’s sincere, a passing wonder if an answered prayer for rain was within God’s will.
But today, the news is different. The mere act of praying, now, violates the imaginary separation of church and state. The protestor is disgruntled because the governor is praying “in the name of Georgia.” Bah. There’s a lunatice so concerned he might accidentally receive a blessing from God that he’s going to protest that somebody is praying for rain.
Do me a favor today, would you? Pray for rain for the devout people of Georgia. Pray that the rain will show the mighty hand of our Lord at work in our world. And if you’re a government employee, please make sure to pray in the name of the local, state, or U.S. government agency that you work for. (There’s probably a government form for rain prayers somewhere but I don’t have time to look it up.)Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )
Sometimes we bite off more than we can chew. I remember my grandfather saying to me that my â€œeyes were bigger than my stomachâ€. He was referring to the way Iâ€™d heap food on my plate and then be unable to eat everything. My eyes were bigger than my stomach.
Home remodeling projects can easily be underestimated. Diane and I shared last month about our plumbing issues. I thought we had a little leak, an air conditioning pan with a plugged drain. All we have to do is clean out the drain, right? And by the time it was raining in the master bathroom, wallpaper soaking and sagging, sheetrock being torn off the walls, ripping out old galvanized pipe to replace it with copper tubing, and three large sweaty men carrying old water heaters out of the atticâ€¦ at some point I realized I had seriously underestimated the project.
Iâ€™ve discovered that following Christ is a lot like underestimating a home remodeling project. When Christ says, â€œyoke is easy and His burden is lightâ€ (Matthew 11:30), He means it. Picking up the yoke is easy. But as we give more of ourselves to the Spirit, we find that the home remodeling requires a lot more work than we first thought. Turning away from our surface sins, sins we could easily see, was easy. Turns out there was wood rot underneath that we didnâ€™t know about, with termites happily munching away. Learning to lean on Christ, loving our enemies, turning from pride and materialismâ€¦ that requires more time and energy.
I think about those South Korean missionaries in Afghanistan from time to time; they didnâ€™t get a lot of media coverage, probably because Taliban fundamentalists executing peaceful Christians wasnâ€™t a topic the news media found interesting. The missionaries certainly found the task far more than they expected. They were beaten and threatened by gunpoint to convert to Islam or die. The pastor, Bae Hyung-kyu, was executed first, and his last words to the remaining missionaries were, â€œOvercome with faith.â€ Later, they executed another man, Shim Sung-min. They remaining 21 hostages, 18 of them women, were later freed, but only after the South Korean government agreed to ban further missionary work in Afghanistan.
You know who my compassion goes out to most? Not the pastor Bae Hyung-kyu or the missionaries; their eternal destination with the Lord awaits, where there is no pain or tears. My compassion goes out to the Afghan children that will now be raised by barbarian murderers instead of being exposed to the love and peace of Christ Jesus.
Q: What are Christian missions and who are missionaries?
Our lesson begins today at Matthew 9:35-38, and Jesus tells us why followers of Christ should spread the Good News.
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Jesus, of course, sets an example for us; Jesus is on the very first â€œmissionâ€ trip to spread the word that the Son of Man has come. Notice that Jesus went through all the towns and villages. It requires effort to spread the word; youâ€™ve got to get up off the sofa. Jesus does three things here â€“
- He teaches; what do the scriptures say? How shall we live?
- He preaches; this is different than teaching; the word can also be translated â€œheralding.â€ Itâ€™s an announcement of something important.
- And he heals. Taking care of the sick and wounded shows compassion on those who need it most.
The crowds were like sheep without a shepherd; those that have not heard the good news, that we can enter heaven without being perfect, that Jesus paid the price for us, are lost. Sometimes they know theyâ€™re lost; most of the time they donâ€™t. I know I didnâ€™t. I only know that now Iâ€™m found.
â€œThe harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.â€ I mentioned Afghanistan earlier, but there are many, many places where the good news hasnâ€™t been heard, or if it has been heard, the word is confused or distorted. When we went to Kenya a couple of year ago, one thing that struck me was the lack of bibles. A teacher from one of the other classes donated enough money to buy hundreds of Swahili bibles; they were almost devoured hungrily when we gave them away, people that had given their lives to Christ but were now left without knowing what Christ wanted from them. There are so few missionaries with so few resources, and the need is so great. Things havenâ€™t changed much in 2000 years; the size of the harvest is still huge, billions of people, yet so few people sharing the Word. Who owns the harvest, who is the Lord of the Harvest? And who are the workers in His field?
We are the workers. Fred and Joanna are on their way to Damascus in a couple of weeks; Michael & Aura are just back from Honduras; care to share what you saw there?
Once upon a time in our lives, we were called by Christ to follow Him. We experience the love and forgiveness and the peace and joy that comes with giving our lives to Christ. We grow, we become sanctified through Him, we become greater by becoming less. Then what? Think about this â€“ somebody went out of their way to share the joy of Christ with you at some point in your life. Your parents, a friend, an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, a stranger. Isnâ€™t about time you returned the favor and shared that joy with the lost? You are one of the workers in the field. You know the phrase, â€œthey pay isnâ€™t much, but the retirement benefits are out of this world.â€
Matthew 10 begins with Jesusâ€™ instructions to his twelve disciples. Not all of this is entirely applicable to us today; for instance, in verse 5 Jesus tells his disciples not to go among the Gentiles or in Samaria. Verse 6 tells them to stay among the lost sheep of Israel. Why the unusual instructions? Part of it was that the experience of the disciples here was limited; perhaps Jesus felt they were not yet equipped to witness among the Gentiles, especially since Jews and Gentiles didnâ€™t get along all that great. Also, time was limited here; Jesus had a mission that would end on Calvary, and in order to use his resources efficiently, Jesus limited this mission to Israel. Also, the Jews were Godâ€™s chosen; it only made sense for God to reach out to His chosen people first. I think we can learn from Jesusâ€™ instructions to use time and resources wisely. Itâ€™s also worth noting that it was only this first mission that was limited to Israel; later, Jesus himself went into Samaria and Jesus healed among the Gentiles. The Great Commission tells us to go to all nations.
In The Message, Matthew 10:5-8 says,
Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.
We think of missions sometimes as going off to some far off land; but sometimes the most rewarding mission is right here in our own back yard.
What sort of response can we expect when weâ€™re on a mission? Matthew 10:16-23 -
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me, but those who stand firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. “
Apparently, sharing the gospel is hard. The instructions from Jesus now have more concrete instructions to us today. What do you think the phrase “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” means?
Matthew 10:24-33 â€“
“Students are not above their teacher, nor servants above their master. It is enough for students to be like their teacher, and servants like their master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!
“So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
“Whoever publicly acknowledges me I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever publicly disowns me I will disown before my Father in heaven.”
If sharing the gospel is hard, Jesus tells us why we should be reassured and comforted. Jesus warns us that we can expect persecution and danger when we proclaim from the roofs that Jesus Christ is Lord. Satan, after all, “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8). When you are spreading the gospel, when you are witnessing, you are walking into the lionâ€™s den. Itâ€™s dangerous.
But do not be afraid. In Afghanistan, the pastor Bae Hyung-kyu discovered that Satan can destroy the bodyâ€¦ but Satan has no power over the soul. Evil men can destroy the bodyâ€¦ but evil men have no power over the soul. Only God has power over the soul.
As a Christian, remember this: you are a new creation. When you give your life to Christ, you are already dead. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” Our earthly lives have been given up, and we have already begun our eternal lives. From an earthly perspective, weâ€™re confused; we think weâ€™re alive, and when we die, we go to heaven. Thatâ€™s wrong. From a heavenly perspective, weâ€™re dead. When weâ€™re born again, then we go to heaven. We canâ€™t live until we die.
One of my favorite songs on the radio is really, really odd, but I like really, really odd. I think itâ€™s all about missions. The Newsboys in their song, â€œWherever We Go,â€ sing â€“
Hands up, Holler back here
Let’s throw this party in gear
We brought the welcome mat
Wherever we go, that’s where the party’s at.
Yeah I know, they ended the sentence with a preposition. You know the song?
Hands up, holler back now
We don’t claim any know-how
We’re giving God all that
Wherever we go, that’s where the party’s at.
Wherever we go, the dumb get wise
And the crime rates drop and the markets rise
It’s a curious thing
But it’s just our thing
Bullies make nice, crooks repent
And the ozone layer shows improvement
It’s a curious thing
And it’s humbling
Wherever we’re led, all the Living Dead
Wanna leave their Zombie Mob
It’s a touching scene when they all come clean
God help us, we just love our job
Itâ€™s a great song, and it illustrates, I think, our lesson today. Itâ€™s shrewd and innocent, certainly, and says weâ€™re being led among the living dead, and once they hear the gospel, they want to leave their zombie mob, too. Just like us.
Once we realize that this life is temporary and real life is eternal, then Satan has no power over us. All he can do is kill us, but weâ€™re already dead. We live for Christ now. Why? Because He died so that we may live. God loves us so much that he gave us His son. So do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Our soul is worth more than many sparrows and the hairs on our head are numbered.
Is this scary? Does this make us afraid? To risk our earthly life, our material comforts? Recognize whatâ€™s at stake â€“ those around us without the love of Christ are dead. By risking our lives for them, weâ€™re following the example Jesus set for us. He, too, gave His life for us. Is it too much to ask that now our salvation is secure that we risk our temporary life so that others, too, may live? Somebody did it for us or we wouldnâ€™t be here today. The fear is understandable, but remember; the opposite of fear is faith. Faith is not believing that God can. Faith is knowing that God will.
It sounds from our lesson so far that we are called to share the gospel in unwelcome places, but Jesus tells us that He wants us to share our faith publicly. “Whoever publicly acknowledges me I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever publicly disowns me I will disown before my Father in heaven.” But what about things weâ€™ve all been taught about respect, about peace and love and harmony and getting along and diversity and separation of church and state? If Jesus is always love and peace, then we should only share the gospel only when weâ€™re asked, right? If they donâ€™t want to hear it, as peaceful loving Christians we should keep our mouths shut so that we can all get along, right?
Thatâ€™s not what Jesus says. Remember, when weâ€™re sharing the Gospel among those who donâ€™t want to hear it, weâ€™re bringing the Living Water to those who are dead. We are to love our enemies; sharing the word of God can sometimes make enemies. If we have to choose between Jesus and peace, what do we choose? If we have to choose between Jesus and anything, what do we choose? Look at Matthew 10:34-39 -
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn
” ‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-lawâ€”
your enemies will be the members of your own household.’
“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves a son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
Jesus is quoting prophecy about the Messiah in Micah 7:6 which goes on to say
But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD,
I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.
Does this sound like the opposite impression of Jesus that our culture teaches us? That Jesus loves peace, heâ€™s passive and never raises a fuss? Jesus own words tell us differently. Jesus is indeed the king of peace, but it is His peace. People are to love people, but they are to love Him more. Sometimes that separates people. Iâ€™ve seen first hand, as Iâ€™m sure you have too, that talking about Jesus can drive people apart.
God does want us to have a good life, and God does want us to be happy, but he wants us to have goodness and happiness from an eternal perspective. Obedience to God brings goodness and happiness from an eternal perspective, but it may mean risking our comfort in this life. Is this risk worth it? Letâ€™s see what Jesus says in Matthew 10:40-42 â€“
“He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.”
Picking up your cross and following Jesus may mean a lot of hardship, may mean loss of comfort, may mean a loss of life. Does this mean we lose our joy? Now, we are joyous because we love Him who first loved us. Is it scary? Yes, certainly, but perfect love drives out fear. If we donâ€™t risk our lives, do we risk our salvation? No, we are still children of God. But if we want to be disciples of Jesus and grow in the Spirit, we must learn to set aside our fear and our comfort. To love our neighbor is to want to have them in heaven with us, and the only way for them to know the love of Jesus and His perfect sacrifice is for somebody to tell them.
I think that somebody is you and me.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 4 so far )
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know I haven’t posted much. Been really, really busy.
I wanted to blog about how the Democrats are findng religion. Apparently it’s ok with The Media if the Democrats talk about their faith, but if the Republicans talk about their faith, they’re religious nutjobs not respecting the so-called separation of church and state. Bah. They’re not fooling me, their faith is shallow and pretentious, done solely for political reasons. (So is the faith of the Republicans sometimes, but that’s another story.)
I wanted to blog about Mike Piazza, All-Star catcher with the Oakland A’s. I love it when sports players openly proclaim their faith. His answer on why he doesn’t pray for victory is exemplary.
I spent the weekend at Bro’s playing with his animules and shoping at the Spring Ho arts art crafts. It was sort of like shopping at Wal-Mart without air-conditioning. Had a great time, Bro, thanks for inviting us.
This week, I have to update the Christian Carnival stuff tomorrow, buy some Astros baseball tickets, and prepare for bible study this weekend (Zachariah 4-6 in case you want to read ahead). I should be at the PIP Machinery conference tomorrow if something doesn’t upset that applecart. Looks like there’s some business travel coming up, too.
Sigh. If you have any spare time, email it to me.
Update: Jennifer suggests I link to Teammascot.com and I couldn’t come up with a reason not to.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 4 so far )
Barrack Hussein Obama describes himself as a Christian and the New York Times is almost besides itself with glee. Notice the picture and how holy Obama appears.
I like Christians, I really do. I happen to be one. But those people that routinely exhibit their Christian faith are routinely trashed by the New York Times. George W. Bush, for instance, would never get a glowing NY Times article abut his faith. Instead, we get scare stories about upcoming theocracies and how important the separation of church and state is. So why does Obama get special treatment for his faith? If the New York Times trashes most Christians but praises Obama, then it’s likely Obama is not like the other Christians. My hackles of suspicion are raised.
I repeat my repetition: liberals are going to try to split the conservative Christian vote by portraying themselves as Christian. Conservative Christianity is bad (separation of church and state! we don’t want a theocracy!) while liberal Christianity is good (wow, Obama is practically a saint!) according to liberal media.
â€œBe strong and have courage, for I am with you wherever you go,â€ Mr. Obama said in paraphrasing Godâ€™s message to Joshua.
Now, I’m all in favor of liberals quoting scripture. In fact, I’m all in favor of liberals quoting the entire bible. I think liberals (and conservatives, for that matter) that selectively quote scripture to support their position ought to be challenged by scripture the candidate doesn’t like.
As a presidential candidate, Mr. Obama is reaching out to both liberal skeptics and committed Christians. In many speeches or discussions, he never mentions religion. When Mr. Obama, a former constitutional law professor, does speak of faith, he tends to add a footnote about keeping church and state separate.
What I’ve seen in the news recently is more than just a challenge to church and state; it’s a downright hostility to any public policy that mirrors faith. The recent decision by the Supreme Court to uphold partial birth abortion – a decision Obama “strongly disagrees” with – was decided 5-4 justices. All the justices that upheld the ban had Catholic upbringing; those that voted against it did not. This same New York Times that praises the most holy Barack Obama also decries the influence of Catholics in the partial-birth abortion ban. As if any belief that a Christian might hold is automatically suspect, and Christians are OK only if they actively vote against Christian principle in order to demonstrate their progressiveness.
Color me unimpressed with the New York Times hypocrisy.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )
I don’t see how this passes for news. A Houston Chronicle reporter doesn’t like bible studies going on in the courthouse.
Just before 12:30 p.m. almost every Tuesday, Judge James Squier leaves his 312th Court and heads upstairs to the seventh floor of the Harris County Family Law Center.
There, in an associate judge’s chamber, he joins 15 or 20 other courthouse Christians â€” lawyers, bailiffs and clerks â€” for Bible study. The group spent about two years combing through the book of Matthew, and another two on Acts. Right now, they’re about a year into John.
“Isn’t that a problem?” I asked Squier recently. He knew I wasn’t talking about the study group’s less-than-blistering pace. I meant the very existence of courthouse Bible study. To me, Bible study sounds like “church,” and the Harris County courthouse sounds like “state.” Aren’t church and state supposed to stay separate?
Apparently it’s non-factual news. Other than media-driven misperception, there is no “separation of church and state.”
I don’t see the purpose of the article, either. Lisa Gray has a large megaphone in the Chronicle, and to print this as “news” is inadequate. It’s personal prejudice against Christians. She’s already well aware that it’s perfectly legal, she just doesn’t “like it”. Since when does the personal prejudice of a reporter get to be news? I don’t like eggplant, but that doesn’t seem to make the news.
I may not like it. I may not think it’s fair. But at the county courthouse, crawling through the New Testament a few verses a week could help you to the fast track.
Before she makes an accusation like “crawling through the New Testament a few verses a week could help you to the fast track” again, perhaps she ought to spend a few months reading the bible with the judge and see what really happens.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
What’s my gripe with public education? Besides the fact they seem to be devolving into a giant secular babysitting service, it’s public money – my money – being used to teach young people values that oppose my values. I don’t mind being opposed, really. I *do* mind being taxed to fund my opposition.
The latest examples I’ve read this week are examples of schools performing terrorism drills. That in itself is ok, but who are the terrorist examples? Right-wing fundamentalist Christians. Sheesh. With all the terrorist attacks in the last 5 years, what percentage were these atrocities committed by right-wing fundamentalist Christians? A teensy weensy amount, if any. Couldn’t they come up with a more representative terrorist?
- In Burlington Township, PA, Hostage drill prepares school for crisis (a similar story about the same township is here):
The mock terror attack involved two irate men armed with handguns who invaded the high school through the front door. They pretended to shoot several students in the hallway and then barricaded themselves in the media center with 10 student hostages.
Two Burlington Township police detectives portrayed the gunmen. Investigators described them as members of a right-wing fundamentalist group called the â€œNew Crusadersâ€ who don’t believe in separation of church and state. The mock gunmen went to the school seeking justice because the daughter of one had been expelled for praying before class.
- In Muskegon County, MI, Christian homeschoolers are planting bombs:
The exercise will simulate an attack by a fictitious radical group called Wackos Against Schools and Education who believe everyone should be homeschooled. Under the scenario, a bomb is placed on the bus and is detonated while the bus is traveling on Durham, causing the bus to land on its side and fill with smoke.
It’s outrageous. I don’t want my tax dollars to fund public education anymore. I want my money back.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 6 so far )
On a Christian forum website I regularly read, one of the Christians had posted some sad news. He had participated regularly with a Christian Missionary organization called Honduras Outreach. This week in a remote mountain village in Honduras, their vehicle was in an accident in rugged terrain. There were 28 adults from four church groups from Georgia. Ten people suffered various injuries from head injuries to a broken femur; three people died. They were in Mal Pais, Honduras to bring fresh water to villages, build chimneys in homes to reduce lung inflammations, lay concrete floors, and build latrines. I found the press release and made copies for everyone; it includes the names of these heroes and links to their individual churches. Pray for their families this week and this organization that is doing so much to help people and spread the love of Christ.
The Christians that participate in this forum I read were supportive and offered prayers and condolences; the original poster was concerned that people might be afraid to serve with Honduras Outreach that does so much good for some of the poorest people on the planet. That if people realized how dangerous this missionary work is, people would not sign up for it. There are a lot of non-Christians and even atheists that participate on that forum â€“ God bless them, Iâ€™m learning a lot about what the world teaches people and itâ€™s often not pretty. One post from an atheist begins, â€œDo you really believe any of this stuff yourself? Or is Christianity just one big social club?â€ The atheist asked, â€œ”God works in mysterious ways” is usually a good one for you — but it solves nothing. For example, why didn’t God just keep his eye on his good missionaries in South America and save them from being killed in the first place? Do you suppose he wasn’t pleased with their â€˜workâ€™? Do you suppose he just wanted to â€˜call them homeâ€™?â€
Yes, God works in mysterious ways, but the more one studies God and learns these mysterious ways, the clearer answers to questions like these becomes. Many Christians â€“ and non-Christians â€“ believe that Godâ€™s primary function is to protect us, preserve us, prosper us. An omnipotent Santa Clause where we line up, confess Jesus as our Lord, and then hold a big bag open for God to pour in His blessings. A belief in a God like this cannot understand why God would lead people someplace where they would be uncomfortable or be in some sort of danger. Why God would send missionaries to Honduras and then not use His big supernatural hand to keep their bus from tipping over. Scripture confirms and comforts us that God loves us and He cares for His children. We can take great comfort in knowing the almighty Lord is in control. But Godâ€™s primary purpose is not to pamper us. Godâ€™s will is not what we will it to be, and rather than trying to find out why God isnâ€™t doing our will, we can study our entire lives to find out what Godâ€™s will is. It took Moses 40 years of study before he was able to know the will of God. We only have about 30 minutes today, not nearly enough time to learn all about God. Weâ€™re going to see today that Godâ€™s primary purpose is accomplishing His will through His people. Those purposes are not always comfortable, not always safe. Sometimes it will require sacrifice; sometimes it will require great personal risk. The Lord expects His people to exercise faith in obedience to His will in whatever situation the Lord leads.
Weâ€™re continuing the book of Esther this week, chapter 3 and 4. Last week, Fred introduced us to Esther who was a poor Jewish orphan girl. Through a series of â€œcoincidences,â€ she was elevated to a very high status, the Queen of Persia. How did she arrive there? Through submission to her faith, submission to her cousin who was her acting father, her inner and external beauty. This beauty is a gift from God, and like all gifts, we are entrusted by God to use it wisely, for His glory alone, in obedience to Him. The old Queen Anna Nicole Smith, er, I mean Queen Vashti, weâ€™re told, was very beautiful on the outside. But she was not going to use her God-given beauty to further Godâ€™s purposes, so she was removed, and Esther became queen. Esther also had external beauty, but also internal beauty.
In Chapter 3 of Esther, the plot thickens, mwahaha. Enter the villain of our lesson, Haman. In Esther 3:1-2,
After these events, King Xerxes honored Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles. All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor.
This is ominous. Hamanâ€™s father was Hammedatha the Agagite, which means he was a descendant of Agag the king of the Amalekites. The Amalekites were a tribe from Canaan who had constantly opposed the Israelites throughout history, from the Exodus out of Egypt throughout the reign of David. In Exodus 17:8-16, around 1440 B.C, just after Moses struck the rock and the water flowed, the Amalekites attacked the Israelites. Joshua led the battle against the Amalekites, and Moses stood on top of a hill with his arms raised in glory to the Lord while Aaron and Hur held his arms up. When the Amalekite army fled, Exodus 17:14-16 says,
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. He said, “For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD. The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”
Then, 400 years later around 1040 B.C, the book of 1 Samuel chapter 15, Saul is commanded by the Lord. 1 Samuel 15:1-3, it says,
Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD. This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’ “
And of course the Israelites were obedient, right? But noooooâ€¦ Saul gets this idea to spare King Agag of the Amalekites and keep the sheep and cattle and fat calves and lambs. The next morning, Saul tells Samuel, â€œI did it, I followed the Lordâ€™s instructions!â€ And Samuel is like, â€œDo I hear sheep?â€ And Saul says, â€œAh, the sheep. Well, um, well we saved Agag and the sheep and cattle, but, um, other than that we followed the Lordâ€™s instructions.â€ The Lord kept trying to protect Israel by ordering Israel to destroy the Amalekites, and the Amalekites kept coming back and attacking Israel.
Now, another 500 years later, around 500 B.C., we find Haman, an Amalekite and descendent of Agag, has been elevated to a position of power in the kingdom or Persia where the Israelites live as subject to the king of Persia. This is really bad news for the Jews like Mordecai and Esther living there.
King Xerxes (or Ahasuerus) of Persia does orders all the royal officials to bow down and pay honor to Haman. Itâ€™s not clear what Haman did to deserve this promotion, or exactly what his new position is. From some of the other verses in Esther, it seems that King Xerxes and Haman were drinking buddies. But Haman gets a new lofty title, likeâ€¦ Darth Vader, and everybody is supposed to bow down and give homage to him.
Mordecai refuses to bow down. Now, itâ€™s not against Jewish law to bow down and give respect. The Jews bowed down before their own kings in other books of the bible, like 1st and 2nd Samuel and in 1st Kings. And Mordecai also almost certainly bowed down to King Xerxes or he wouldnâ€™t be alive.
Some scholars believe that one reason Mordecai would not bow may be that as a descendent of Agag, Haman would believe he was devine or semi-devine, a god. Mordecai would certainly not bow down before another god. Other scholars believe it was simply because Mordecai would not bow down before an enemy of God, an Amalekite who hated Jews.
Whichever one it was, Haman certainly noticed the one man standing while everybody else at the kingâ€™s gate bowed down to him. The other royal officials tried to pressure Mordecai to comply, but Mordecai refused, obeying his faith.
Haman was enraged that this one man would not pay homage to him, and when Haman found out Mordecai was a Jew, he wasnâ€™t satisfied with just killing Mordecai. No, Haman decided this would be his chance to destroy all the Jews. A religious, ethnic cleansing.
Then Haman said to King Xerxes, “There is a certain people dispersed and scattered among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom whose customs are different from those of all other people and who do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will put ten thousand talents of silver into the royal treasury for the men who carry out this business.”
Haman could not come right out and tell King Xerxes he wanted to kill all the Jews. Xerxes would know that the Jews were loyal subjects; Mordecai had himself saved King Xerxes life in the second book of Esther. So Haman mixes in half-truthsâ€¦ a â€œcertainâ€ people. Theyâ€™reâ€¦ â€œdifferent.â€ They donâ€™tâ€¦ â€œobey.â€ You shouldnâ€™t have to â€œtolerateâ€ them. By laying out an incomplete picture with half-truths, Haman was able to convince the King that these â€œcertain peopleâ€ should be killed.
As Christians, weâ€™re still at war with the Amalekites. Dagnabbit Saul, why didnâ€™t you do as you were told? The Amalekites in positions of power today still sit at the kingâ€™s gate, and weâ€™re still not bowing down. The Amalekites sit at the gate of information. They taint Christians with half-truths:
- Control freaks. Instead of focusing on attempts to save the lives of unborn children, they paint us as trying to control what women do with their own bodies.
- Hate-mongerers because we encourage people to turn from sinful ways.
- Uptight people that do not want to have fun, or let anybody else have fun.
The Amalekites sit at the gate of entertainment:
- Movies and television that portray Christians as uptight people, like Ned Flanders of the Simpsons
- The NBC show â€œThe Book of Danielâ€ that portrayed Christians as hallucinogenic, influenced by drugs and dysfunctional.
The Amalekites sit at the gate of Academia:
- No recognition of God in our schools. No Christmas, no Easter.
- We control our own destiny, evolution happens all by itself without any influence by our grand designer.
- That case in California, near Oakland, where schools used role-playing to teach seventh graders about Islamic history by making them wear nametags with Islamic imagery, memorize Islamic religious teachings as â€œfactâ€, wear Islamic clothing, recite phrases from the Koran and mimic the fasting of Ramadan. This was in 2002, after 9/11.
The Amalekites sit at the gate of the political establishment:
- The Oakland case on teaching Islam was upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
- People believe the U.S. Constitution mandates a â€œseparation of church and state.â€
- â€œUnder Godâ€ removed from Pledge of Allegiance (which is still being fought in the courts).
So with half-truths and innuendos, Haman convinced Xerxes to sign the death warrant for the Jews.
Persia was a big empire, and this ethnic cleansing could not happen immediately. Haman cast lots (v7) and decided the annihilation would occur in the twelfth month of Adar, about a year away. All the royal secretaries were summoned (v12), and the decree was written in every language of Persia and then distributed to all the satraps, governors, in all the provinces. This took a lot of time since they didnâ€™t have email or FoxNews. In Esther 3:13-14,
Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews â€” young and old, women and little childrenâ€”on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. A copy of the text of the edict was to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nationality so they would be ready for that day.
The Jews would have an entire year to fear their fate. Apparently this was met with a lot of confusion in the city of Susa. In verse 15, King Xerxes and Haman sit down to drink a toast to the destruction of the Jews, but the city itself was bewildered. The Jews had been loyal subjects. Why had the king ordered them destroyed?
Mordecai is a little troubled by all of this, if you can understand this. By refusing to bow down before Haman, he had set in motion the destruction of all of his people within the year. Esther 4:1 â€“
When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly.
Part of this was a public display against the orders of the king, but most of it was probably genuine grief. Heâ€™s going to die. All of his loved ones are going to die. All of the people of his faith are going to die. Esther 4:2,
But he went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it.
Apparently they had some sort of dress code and Mordecai was not allowed inside. Esther 4:3,
In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes.
All of the Jewish people are scared, mourning, praying, crying. Esther apparently is oblivious, though, because she sends the kingâ€™s eunuch that was assigned to attend her to go find out whatâ€™s up with the sackcloth.
The eunuch, Hathach, went out to Mordecai to get the scoop, and Mordecai is very prepared. Mordecai tell Hattach everything that has happened, how Haman has ordered the destruction of the Jews, and also gives him proof â€“ look, hereâ€™s a copy of the edict. Mordecai tells Hathach to explain all this to Esther and tell Esther to beg the king for mercy for the Jews.
In verse 9, Hathach reports back to Esther and tells her everything Mordecai has said, including Mordecaiâ€™s request for Esther to go before the king. Estherâ€™s like, uh, no, thatâ€™s a bad idea. As queen, Esther did not have a husband/wife relationship like we understand it today. Esther was still a servant of the king, and she could only appear to him when summoned. The law was strict â€“ if you crash the kingâ€™s party, you die. There was a possibility that the king could hold out his golden scepter and your life would be spared. But whatever relationship Esther and the king had, it was not currently in the best of conditions. Esther had not been summoned by the king for 30 days. She was certain that to appear before the king would mean her death.
How do we understand God, who created us and everything we see? Do we decide who He is, and then assume God will do what we want? Or do we decide to be obedient and try to understand what God wants? Do we stay safe, keep silent, avoid taking risks? Or do we try to be obedient?
God’s will will be done, whether we obey or not. We can choose to participate, be a spectator, or deny Him altogether, but we cannot thwart God’s will. God sees history all at once, past, present and future. God creates us for a purpose and plants us right where we are. Your job, your family, your pretty face, your intelligent brain, your feelings, your money, your talents have all come together for this one instant, this one instant that will never occur again. In another minute, in another hour, this moment will have passed.
In 1 Corinthians 7:17-24, Paul explains this concept to new Christians. It says,
Nevertheless, each of you should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to you, just as God has called you. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. Each of you should remain in the situation you were in when God called you. Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble youâ€”although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For those who were slaves when called to faith in the Lord are the Lord’s freed people; similarly, those who were free when called are Christ’s slaves. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. Brothers and sisters, all of you, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation in which God called you.
In other words, Paul tells us as Christians we are to bloom where we are planted. How? It says, right in the middle of those verses, â€œkeeping Godâ€™s commands is what counts.â€ Not the legalistic old testament stuff, but the attitude and love of Christ Jesus, with all your words and all your actions.
Sometimes we feel stuck in a rut and canâ€™t bloom. I read a story about a woman who was complaining about working with heathens. The boss was mean, her coworkers poked fun at her faith, and out of a hundred employees, she was the only Christian. Her pastor complimented her and told her God must think a lot of her to trust her with 100 people. If she quit, the only light these people have would be gone. Maybe she wasnâ€™t stuck. Maybe she was just planted.
And donâ€™t fall for that â€œgrass is always greener on the other side of the fenceâ€ philosophy. The only reason grass is green is because itâ€™s watered and cared for. If you want your grass to be green, bloom where you are planted.
Mordecai knows all this. Esther is exactly where God put her. God removed Vashti and placed Esther as queen. She had every resource she needed to do Godâ€™s will. But will she do it? Will she risk everything given to her to do what God wants her to do? God had given Esther so much. God gave her external beauty, and it was her beauty that gave her and her alone access to the king. Would she put her beauty on the line and risk death? God gave her position â€“ she was queen and had access like nobody else. Would she put her position as queen on the line and risk death? Esther also had her inner beauty and love for her people. Most important, Esther had the entire kingdom of heaven behind her. She had everything she needed, but would she risk it, or would fear hold her back?
Mordecai delivers at this point one of the most memorable lines of the bible. He tells Esther that God will accomplish His purpose, nothing she does or does not do will change that fact. If Esther will not do it, the God will save His chosen people another way. Estherâ€™s choice is whether she is going to participate in Godâ€™s plan and realize that her entire being, her beauty and position, was orchestrated by God, and God will accomplish His will through His obedient people. Mordecai also tells her that if sheâ€™s trying to save her own skin, sheâ€™s probably going to lose that, too. Sheâ€™s a Jew â€“ if the Jews are eliminated, that includes her. She cannot save her own life. All she can do is choose to be obedient, or not.
Mordecai says in Esther 4:13-14,
“Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”
The entire purpose of Estherâ€™s life had come to a point of decision. Her entire existence had a purpose. What was more important, being queen, or being the liberator of the Jews? God will not fail to keep His promises or fall short of His purposes, therefore, the deliverance of the Jews was certain. God had made Esther queen so that she could deliver His people. God places people exactly where they can serve Him.
Our beautiful Esther, spurred by her cousin of faith, chose to do Godâ€™s will, and fully aware of the consequences. Esther 4:15-16,
Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”
And if I perish, I perish. Godâ€™s will be done. Esther did the right thing, obeying God, even though it was against the law and at risk to her life. This is a key to understanding all you are. You are Godâ€™s child and entrusted with your life to serve him. If I perish, I perish.
While Christians in other nations like Sudan are risking their lives, in America the risk to life is pretty small. In fact, we mostly just risk our own comfort. Afraid to defend the words of Jesus because we donâ€™t want to look silly. Afraid to tithe because if we just had a few more dollars we could afford that Lexus. Afraid to serve because we might miss out on an episode of American Idol.
What are you doing with the resources God has given you? Are you using your talents, your money, your looks, your heart, in a way that is pleasing to God? Are you taking risks in service to Him who created you? Or are you afraid?
Dr. Young and Wallace Henley of the West Campus sent the following that I thought wrapped up todayâ€™s lesson well. It says,
79 years ago God brought us together as the family that would be known as Second Baptist Church. On that founding Sunday, the first pastor preached the first sermon in the life of this church. His text was Esther 4, the very passage we study today.
That pastor said to the congregation assembled in 1927â€”â€œWho knows but what God has brought us as a body of Christ to the kingdom for such a time as this?â€
History has proven him right. The generations who followed caught the vision, and because of that tens of thousands of people have been transformed by Jesus Christ. Theyâ€™ve impacted families, educational institutions, politics and government, businesses and the marketplace with the vision, values and worldview of Godâ€™s Kingdom.
They sacrificed, many giving sacrificially so the great ministry of this church could be carried out. They did so because they understood Godâ€™s providence and that He had a plan for them individually, and their resources.
Now the question is before usâ€”Will there be a generation a century from now who will still be standing like Mordecai, still be using the best of the themselves and their resources, like Esther, for Godâ€™s Kingdom?
That answer is in our willingness to say of our personal lives and resources, â€œIf I perish, I perishâ€¦â€
Examine yourself and where you are in this world. God placed you right here for a reason. Our talents, our money, our selves should be used for Godâ€™s purposes, every minute of the day. Take a risk at being uncomfortable for God. Bloom where you are planted.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 8 so far )
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