Let Him Grieve!

When Esther’s maids and eunuchs came and told her about Mordecai, she was in great distress. She sent clothes for him to put on instead of his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. Esther 4:4

Mordecai was grieving. He wore sackcloth and ashes as a sign of mourning, as was the custom of his people. Esther couldn’t bear to think of him in this much pain so she sent him a set of clothes. He refused them, for his grief was simply too profound.

Each of us expresses pain uniquely. No one can write our script for us, though many
try. Sometimes our pain makes others uncomfortable because it tempts them to feel powerless. They may lash out, tell us to get over it, or ‘send us a new suit of clothes’ in hopes that we’ll change our face and our rhetoric. Those who are the most uncomfortable are those who have not had the courage or opportunity to express their own grief. Perhaps the intensity of their emotions frightened them. Or, they might have feared that they faced a deep abyss from which there was no safe return.

800px-Rembrandt_Harmensz._van_Rijn_-_Jeremia_treurend_over_de_verwoesting_van_Jeruzalem_-_Google_Art_ProjectMordecai heard the news of the impending Jewish holocaust. He felt the gravity of the king’s decree. He expressed himself appropriately. The times were dark and weeping was a reasonable response. His refusal to put his grief aside could have been the very thing that got Esther’s attention and ignited her to take courage to intervene. In essence, Mordecai’s actions said to her, “I can not and will not stop grieving. The Jews are facing a crisis. The world feels like it’s coming to an end.”

Oftentimes, I may be the only one who sees the gravity of certain situation. I may express my concern; even show my grief over impending doom. Others may try to tone down my fervent pitch. If I have the courage to persevere – despite their protests – I may motivate them to see that the story is as bad as it is. Only when the truth is faced, can a true solution be entertained and implemented.

Lord, I often see trouble coming before others do. Give me the courage to express myself in a way that reflects the danger without communicating that there is no hope whatsoever. Faith still cries. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Am I Loyal To a Righteous Cause?

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. Esther 4:1

Mordecai had already been in hot water when he refused to bow down to Haman. When he was asked why, he explained that he was a Jew and would only give homage to Yahweh. He took a stand among the few who encountered him everyday at the king’s gate.

Things escalated from there. Haman rose to power and declared war on all Jews. That might have been the time for Mordecai to hide. He did not. He not only vented his grief, but took it to the streets. He publicly identified with his people, the enemies of the crown. He knew theirs was a righteous cause and must be defended, even at personal risk.

b7eb77de81e1fa97b7e9d2b4edcc9cd1There may be times in our lives when we are called to stand beside someone who bears the brunt of undeserved, negative public opinion. We perceive that a lynching is taking place, driven by an unholy agenda. The test of our character is on the line. If we identify with them, we will share their stigma. If we hide, we will lose our self-respect and forfeit God’s favor.

Mordecai did not know the end of the story. He could not have predicted deliverance, though he prayed for it. He was familiar with the dark history of his people. That they would again be assaulted would not have been a surprise to him yet God infused him with the strength to take a stand in spite of the real threat of personal injury and death.

I have lived long enough in this world to know that there is often no justice here. Not all who are mis-judged will be vindicated. If my goal is to be well liked, I will never take risks and put my reputation on the line for the sake of someone else. If my goal is to identify with Jesus however, I will be willing to identify with someone who suffers righteously. To be like Mordecai, I must begin by taking a stand in remote corners. Then when called, to public places. His boldness lived on throughout history in the lives of the apostles who stood before rulers and religious leaders and defended their faith at great cost.

Jesus, You were never afraid to stand for the truth. My goal is not to live comfortably, but to walk behind You. I must not only profess it but mean it when the time comes. Help me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

An Anesthetic For A Nagging Conscience

Spurred on by the king’s command, the couriers went out to present the edict that had been issued in the citadel of Susa. The king and Haman sat down to celebrate but the city of Susa was bewildered. Esther 3:15

The king granted Haman the power to enact a course of action against the Jews. He even gave him his signet ring so that the king’s signature would be applied to Haman’s royal documents. All Jews, men, women, and children would be killed. The massacre would take place on a single day, eleven months from the signing of the decree.  What did Haman and the king do upon issuing the Jews’ death sentence? They sat down to drink! Perhaps Haman didn’t want the king to be sober and rational, fearing that he might come to second-guess his judgment of trusting Human to such extreme degrees. Whatever the reason, they turned to a narcotic to further numb whatever conviction was left.

Convictions can not be trusted when they are not in submission to the Spirit of God. While most of mankind has a sense of right and wrong, his moral compass will fail at some point. He will wield his power in destructive ways, often unknowingly, and leave a wake of bodies in his path. How many of us have suffered under careless leadership that looks like this?

  • A boss instituted new policies that were beneficial only to him. The rest strained under the yoke while he enjoyed a payoff of some kind.
  • A government, plump with extraneous programs, taxed the people to pay for their self- absorption. The people languished under the burden while the government fattened.
  • A parent, stressed by life, made a critical decision that caused all in the household to suffer.

Oftentimes, those who wear power so recklessly know they have acted unwisely. But instead of owning their mistakes and making restitution, they are like King Xerxes and his advisor, Haman, who sought for a way to sedate their failing consciences.

If I bear the consequences of others’ poor choices today, God has not forgotten me. All is not lost. What Satan planned for evil, God can still redeem for good.

If I am the one who holds the scepter of influence, may I be like Solomon and thirst for wisdom. God will show me how to make decisions that characterize His perfect leadership.

I will use power today in a way that affects other so I submit my conscience to You.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Suffering. Timely Or Untimely?

Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews–young and old, women and little children–on a single day, and to plunder their goods. Esther 3:13

Haman’s attempt to turn the King against the Jews was successful. Xerxes issued a decree that would bring about the destruction of every living Jew. Terror was felt throughout the kingdom and the sound of wailing could be heard throughout the land. It was a foreshadowing of the many future times when similar orders would be given. The terror of the Jewish people under Adolf Hitler was no less traumatic that what the Jews in Esther’s time felt.

Spiritual+Warfare+2But here’s the thing with suffering. There is a time for us to suffer patiently but there is also a time to fight against evil, knowing that the plan for our demise is not of God and must be battled in heavenly places. Discerning the difference is the key, isn’t it? God tells me that I will suffer. I’m called to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. But knowing whether or not it is my time to do so is critical. If it is, God allows me to participate in the story of redemption of this fallen world. I am given an opportunity to showcase His glory, just as Jesus did as He faced the cross. However, some trials are not mine to embrace. Often, God told Jesus and his followers to flee in order to avoid untimely plots and satanic plans enacted to thwart the purposes of God. There were times Jesus withstood the attacks and held His tongue. There were other times that He slipped through the crowd and disappeared until things calmed down.

Satan is at work every day. He will orchestrate destruction of every kind against me. I must live so close to Jesus that I am able to discern whether this is my time to suffer or to fight on my knees. When sickness arrives at my front door, for instance, I automatically engage in warfare. More than half the time, I discover that it was an arrow of the enemy, sent to destroy the work God has called me to do. After praying, I heal quickly and avoid the full version of the illness. Other times, God does not deliver me and I understand that my infirmities are meant for a higher purpose; sovereignly allowed by God for my good.

The Jewish people in Susa and beyond went to prayer, calling out for deliverance and falling on their knees in repentance. They battled in the spiritual realm for their lives and God’s power was unleashed. Their lives would be spared and evil would be exposed. When trouble comes, I will pray about whether or not I should go into battle mode in prayer. Or, I will know that this is one of the times it is necessary for me to suffer a trial so that others may see Christ in me.

Show me the difference as I listen for Your voice. I can not begin to figure this out on my own. You couldn’t either and listened to Your Father. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

When In Doubt, Offer Money

“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.” Esther 3:9

Money talks. If someone is asked to do something about which he has reservations, add money to the offer and he will more than likely accept. It was true for Judas and it was true for the king in Esther’s story.

Haman had just made the suggestion to the king to massacre all the Jews in the kingdom. He painted them as traitorous. Knowing the king might be indecisive, Haman wrapped his package with the glitter of money. He, personally, offered to chip in 10,000 talents of silver to pay the men who would carry out the extermination of a race. He was making it difficult for the king to find a reason to object. Now, while it might have appeared that Haman would have to empty his bank account to make such an offer, he probably intended to take the spoils of the Jewish people and put some of it in his back pocket. When greed is a person’s stronghold, it will be daring and ongoing in its violation of conscience.

Getting-Into-a-Savings-MindsetThere are those who often attempt to buy me off in order to get what they want. “If you do that for me, I’ll make it worth your while,” I am told. I’m usually offered something they know I want, or even something I really need, which makes the proposition so attractive and hard to resist. The glitter of it can blind me to good judgment. I am in danger of compromising my ethics and even rationalizing that this could be God’s answer to my prayer. Not only will the transaction corrupt me but I will have missed the opportunity to experience God’s provision down the road.

The counterfeit always looks great but its shiny veneer begins to peel with time. It will eventually reveal itself for what it is in my hands. What was once so beguiling becomes distasteful as it represents foolish choices.

In contrast, God’s gifts are precious jewels that shine as monuments in my foundation of faith. They are beautiful the day they are given and only grow more precious with time. Nothing erodes in God’s kingdom ~ not even the ones I’m given this side of heaven.

Help me to desire You more than what could allure me to betray You. Overwhelm me again with the story of how You bought me at a great price and sacrifice. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Forked Tongue

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. Esther 3:8

If Haman had possessed unlimited power earlier in his life, he might have tried to exterminate the Jews long before this but his stature had been small and his influence limited.

Nature: Fox TalesIf we want to see the true measure of a person, we just need to begin to observe them when they find themselves in a place of position to wield some power. With final authority in their grasp, their true nature will be revealed. What they value will be promoted and what they hold in disdain will be eradicated. Haman’s twisted agenda made its way from his heart to his tongue. With it, shrewdness surfaced. Forked speech was needed to mask his real intention because he wasn’t the king. His power, though large, wasn’t ultimate. His arguments were slick and the ability to be cunning was enhanced by the power of the devil.

Haman’s speech to the king was masterful. He could have honestly said, “I hate Jews. I want them exterminated!” That, however, would have been too radical. Instead, Haman needed to warm Xerxes up to the idea another way. He twisted the facts with the goal of presenting the Jews as traitors of the crown. He sought to incite the king’s indignation, making it seem that the Jews were committing something mutinous against him.
Never is someone more dangerous than when fueled by the powers of hell. Their charisma deceives the masses. That’s because their natural giftedness for speech and persuasion are fed with supernatural giftedness from the kingdom of darkness. Why would Satan care? Because he hates whatever, and whomever, God loves. He needs warm bodies to do his work – willing participants to carry out evil without a conscience keeping them in check.

The art of posturing an agenda in conversation needs to come under divine scrutiny. The line can be blurred even for believers. There is such a thing as diplomacy and tact but I must remember that posturing should always have the divine good of the listener as its goal. When the Spirit of God directs my words, speech and motives are compatible. But when the deceiver shapes my words, the language will be calculating and the goal will always be ominous and in the shadows.

Help me say what I mean. I lay all my motives on the table, to be viewed in the light of Your holiness. Save me from manipulative speech for my own selfish ends. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Am I Prejudiced?

Yet having learned who Mordecai’s people were, Haman scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes. Esther 3:6

Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman. He would not give homage to someone serving the purposes of the kingdom of darkness. Haman could have killed Mordecai. That would have been enough of a crime but he also sought a way to get the most mileage out a single act of retaliation. Why kill just one Jew when thousands more could be annihilated!

Haman’s revenge could appear to be the retaliation of a wounded ego. It was much more than that. The enmity between Haman’s people, the Amalekites, and Mordecai’s people, the Jews, dated back to the time of the Exodus. The war between these two nations was so fierce that when God saw it, He declared that these two nations would always be at odds with one another. Haman’s hatred for Mordecai was fueled by a generational prejudice that was in his very blood.

540480-Charles-R-Swindoll-Quote-Prejudice-is-a-learned-trait-You-re-notBehind enmity of any kind, there’s always something bigger going on; something sinister in the spirit world that exacerbates seeds of discord. Satan loves division among people groups. He favors anything that God hates. God calls His children to unity; Satan calls his children to discord. God calls His children to love one another; Satan calls his children to kill and destroy. Whenever prejudice is not dealt with, it intensifies with each generation. Sin is never dormant. Left to itself, it will grow, giving Satan an opportunity to get even more mileage out of hatred.

Prejudice still exists. Blacks against whites. Arabs against Jews. The North against the South. Old money against new money. The rich against the poor. But God would want me to personalize this even further. We are often born into homes with family prejudices. I was. There were feelings of animosity against a certain relative who, sadly, couldn’t do anything right to lessen the feelings of hatred. There was a prejudice against a neighbor who had acted foolishly years back. Their name couldn’t even be mentioned without the re-telling of their story of shame. It’s possible for us to hear family stories around the dinner table and feel a dislike for someone without a personal reason of our own. It’s in the blood, just as it was for Haman.

God is a God of reconciliation. Whenever prejudice can stop with us, let’s make this our holy ambition. Seeds of righteousness will be passed on to our children. A war, local or even international, might just be prevented if generational biases were healed at the foot of the cross.

Show me if there is anyone I would hate to see You bless. Then, I ask You to show me Your love for them. I will repent and end the war. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Stand Firm With Holy Boldness

Then the royal officials at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, “Why do you disobey the king’s command?” Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply.   Esther 3:3-4

A day with significant pressure can usually be survived quite admirably. Adrenalin comes to our aid. Coping skills are fresh and haven’t been taxed yet. But let that pressure last weeks, months, even years, and the real proof of a person’s faith emerges. Stamina with holy responses can only flow out from someone who walks intimately with God. A smile given through gritted teeth is not the smile produced by the Holy Spirit.

I wonder if Mordecai knew the long road that lay ahead for him on the first morning he refused to bow down to Haman. Probably not. Little did he know that the next day he would be tested again. And the next day, and the next. The royal officials who served with him at the gate of the palace kept asking him, “Why do you disobey the king’s command?” I’m sure they were nervous to see whether he would stand firm or break under the strain. They knew the cost and felt the tension.

When the fires are hot and the stresses too numerous to recount over coffee with a friend, the body and soul are in a fragile place. Only my spirit, the part of me that communes with God, holds the key to whether or not I will be crushed under the weight. When I worship, pray and meditate, it is my spirit that does so. Then, my spirit transmutes the benefit of that encounter to my soul and to my body. The grace to stand firm is the result. In every part of me then, I am fortified to make righteous choices.

I know people with guts and am acquainted with those who have a strong will. But the kind of battle in which Mordecai engaged was not about human stubbornness. It was about strength of spirit and a courage that resulted from time with God. Without it, any strong man would crumble.

Mordecai was a man who worshiped deeply. His faith was not formed on the day he defied Haman. That would have been too late. No, it was fashioned in the dailyness of life, in the years leading up to his great test of faith. There is nothing more important today than fattening up my spirit for whatever lies ahead. The victory won through ‘Haman-like tests’ are won only if we prepare today.

My time with You comes first, Jesus. I am weak and easily defeated unless my strength comes from knowing You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

An Act Of Service Is Often Returned

During the time Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, became angry and conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. But Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai. Esther 2:21-22

No one can afford to ignore God’s promptings. When He nudges any of us to serve another with an act of kindness, it often comes back to us in a critical time of need. While that shouldn’t be our motivation, it can be the unexpected outcome.

While sitting at the palace gate, Mordecai overheard a plot to kill the king. He could have chalked it up to male bravado but God must have impressed upon him the gravity of the threat because he voiced his concern to Esther. Mordecai did the king a good turn without regard to himself. But in God’s sovereignty, the king would have an opportunity later to do Mordecai, and the Jews, a good turn.

imagesI have been humbled over the years to see how important it is in ministry to handle each encounter with grace, whether a skycap, a store clerk, or a college student who offers to help with some heavy boxes at a conference. Oftentimes, the most important work I can do for the Kingdom is what seems trivial at the time. An 18-year-old kid who helped me in my early twenties grew up to become someone’s boss. A newly married guy in his twenties, working as a sound tech in one of my early concerts, became a vice-president and the decision maker for a publishing company.

I have lived long enough to receive some kindnesses of those in high positions because, many years ago, God led me to stop and say a prayer or offer grace to someone who was barely hanging on.

Now, I’m sure I’ve withheld when I should have reached out. I’m flawed and must fight selfishness like everyone else. Nonetheless, by God’s grace, I have received gifts of grace from those I never expected to meet again. God gets mileage from the simplest acts of obedience. If I serve, I will reap what I sow. It’s a sowing and reaping world, after all. What I consider to be small things matter a lot. Small things are big things when God is in it.

Help me love others without expecting anything in return. But I know you, Lord Jesus. You hold unexpected gifts in your hands from unexpected sources. You are a generous Father. Amen.

Royal Generosity

And the king gave a great banquet, Esther’s banquet, for all his nobles and officials. He proclaimed a holiday throughout the provinces and distributed gifts with royal liberality. Esther 2:18

The king was in a great mood. He was in love and true love celebrates. History records that he gave gifts throughout the kingdom ‘according to his riches’. He granted a release to the provinces; criminals received a pardon and there was a remittance of overdue taxes for the general population. Royal generosity! He had been waiting for Esther and when he found her, she was everything he had wanted.

Lightstock-Image-with-CrownWhen God found me, when I responded to His invitation to know Him intimately, He also celebrated. He crowned my head, made me an heir to His kingdom, and called me His daughter. He threw a party in heaven and the invitation might have read, “Come and help me celebrate. My lost child has come home!” Now, he also gives to me ‘according to His riches.’ My God shall supply all your needs, according to His riches in glory through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

Though I live in desperate need of love, peace, mercy, and daily grace, and though I might be satisfied with the crumbs He could offer, He chooses not to be stingy. He gives out of His riches. That’s what love does.

  * He offers forgiveness for sins I’ve repented of time and time again. He does not deliberate and then decide that I’ve used up all my token apologies.

  * He extends second chances, even if I rebelled, even if it was premeditated.

  * When He opens a door that was once closed, I discover that there are many open doors on the other side. God maximizes every opportunity.

I want to love like my Father. May my life today reflect that I live in celebration of His love. May others’ experience me as one with a gracious and generous spirit, giving more than expected.

You pardoned me, though I was deserved death. You erased my debts by paying for them with Your Son’s life. Every gift you give is so much more than I ever thought it would be. I celebrate You today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.