What Are You Entertaining?

Then the king’s personal attendants proposed, “Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king. Esther 2:2

So that the king could forget Vashti and what he had regrettably done against her, he put out a search to find beautiful young virgins to replace her. It was a contest and one would be chosen out of the ‘best of the best’ of his kingdom. Distractions are usually very effective to drown out a guilty conscience plagued with regret. Satan makes sure of that because his ultimate goal is to see the same sin happen again.

An appetite that strays from God’s prescription for a prosperous life will become, over time, twisted and unquenchable. There’s no other way it can go because sin begets sin. Iniquity can never stay small. The journey to the land of perversion is slow paced because the changes in a sinful appetite seem subtle at first. It is like lowering the lighting in a room a little bit at a time. It isn’t until I’m nearly in darkness that I wake up and say, “Hey, wait a minute. I can’t see.” I am oblivious to the changes as I head toward ultimate blindness.

The degree of sin I will tolerate tomorrow is directly linked to what goes unnoticed today! A stray word, a lustful thought, a brief contemplation of revenge; these are the seeds which sprout spiritual weeds. No wonder Paul encourages each of us to take every thought captive. He’s not encouraging OCD but the prevention of small things becoming big things.

Some time back, a Christian businessman in our small city did the unthinkable. He threw away his future and the future of his family when he robbed a bank here in Athens, GA. It covered the front pages. Everyone who knew him, including me, was stunned. His witness was strong. His family was model. His business was well respected. But somewhere in his thought life, an idea simmered. The time it took from the conception of the idea of robbery to the actual occurrence didn’t happen overnight. It probably took years but the point is ~ it happened.

Did the king act out of character toward Vashti? Probably not. Others must have experienced him as an angry, impulsive person and they walked on eggshells around him. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” I may not be a polygamist like King Ahaseurus but his life teaches me far more than a lesson on morality. His choices, recorded for anyone to read, reveal the gravity of unbridled appetites that begin where thoughts are conceived, out of sight and usually at random.

Magnify my thoughts so that I may compare them to Your Word. I hold every one of them up to the light of Your glory and do daily sifting. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Too Late To Take It Back

Later when the anger of King Xerxes had subsided, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what he had decreed about her. Esther 2:1

Anger can be productive as it causes someone apathetic to become passionate. It’s empowering, too. I can clean my house in record time when I’m worked up about something. But we all know that anger can also be destructive. Once released without discretion, there are long-term consequences that are often irreversible. How many have blown up, said awful things to someone they care about, and then later lament in regret. They would do anything to take back the words and the hurt they caused.

The king, under the influence of too much alcohol, was furious when Queen Vashti refused to cater to his whims. He overreacted, consulted his advisors, and wrote a new law that banished her from his presence. Once his anger had subsided, he missed his wife but it was too late. Once a law was drafted and then sealed with the royal seal, it was irrevocable. Oh, the grief he must have felt over the sudden death of such an important relationship. I wonder if he regretted the law he had made, or regretted his anger that caused him to write it, or even felt sorry for the original order he gave to Vashti to dance for his drunken party. I hope it was all three.

The writer of Proverbs said, “When the heart is hot, the tongue must be silent.” Tempers release words. Oftentimes, it is anger that enables someone to become eloquent under the influence of rage. Usually quiet, they seem to find their voice when anger is hot, though it’s not a voice that speaks prudently.

Righteous speech is always my priority. Being right is not the goal nor is assaulting the offender and leaving him in pieces. My greatest need, when angry, is to hear God and know what His response would be were he to live His life through me. There probably is a truth to be spoken. It may be pointed or soft. It may sting or it may be merciful. I can’t guess God’s will and just wing it. Never am I more wrong than when I act impulsively out of hurt.

Wise words are cultivated in seasons of stillness. Without a season of prayer, I will say something I regret. Words will forever be remembered, reviewed, and continue wounding even though much time has past. The deeper the wound, the greater the chance that an apology will only be a band aid on something that needs intensive care.

Today, I may be wronged. I will feel the turn of the knife in my soul. The fruit of Your Holy Spirit is self-control. Help me walk away, pray, listen, and then respond as You lead me. In Jesus name, Amen.

What Gets Passed Down

But when the attendants delivered the king’s command, Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger. Esther 1:12

King Ahaseurus gave an order to his wife to appear before him and his impressive array of princes. She was to be adorned in splendor, wearing her royal crown. The king and his guests were drunk so Queen Vashti refused his request. The king was furious. He was the ruler of 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia yet he could not rule his own anger. Such a powerful man was captive to his own heart.

The irony burns within me. Of what value is one in authority if he is not in control of himself? His leadership will be deeply flawed. Those under him may submit to him out of fear but they will not respect him. He will be unable to provide an environment of safety to his subjects. The umbrella of spiritual protection will have holes in it ~ allowing the enemy access. Everyone underneath him will be vulnerable to the fallout of his immoral character. This is true whether it’s the kingdom of Persia, a country under a president, a small organization, or a home. Sin begets sin.

I consider how the sins of King Ahaseurus permeated the hierarchy. Drunkenness, anger and intimidation became the culture. Immoral leadership allowed the likes of Haman to be promoted. His ideas and biases flourished because there was spiritual blindness. Solomon wrote, When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan. Proverbs 29:2

The same dynamic happens when a leader is legalistic. Condemnation and guilt become the agents of change. A culture of judgement infects the people.

When sexual sin is swept under the rug, a culture of sexual immorality is introduced and you can be sure there will be more of the same. Someone once shared with me that they attended a church where sexual harassment was commonplace. The leadership was soft when asked to confront it. Why? They were numb to the severity of the sin because it had been the culture of the church for the past 75 years. Many grew up in it and learned from those before them to make light of it.

Solomon’s words prove true yet again. If a ruler listens to falsehood, all his officials will be wicked. Proverbs 29:12

Lord, for every one reading this who exists under toxic leadership, keep us sensitive to righteousness. Give us courage to go against the tide. Amen

God Can Always Make A Way

On the seventh day, when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine, he commanded the seven eunuchs who served him to bring before him Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at. Esther 1:10-11

It was not one of the king’s more sterling moments. While in a drunken state, he sent for his wife for the purpose of parading her in front of other inebriated men. She refused. She was not going to allow herself to be a spectacle that day. In response and in a rage, the king took legal action and banished her from his presence forever. Her daring refusal prompted him to take a new queen. It was Esther who would win the title and eventually wear the crown. God is sovereign over other’s choices and His plan for His child is never snuffed out if they trust Him.

Life is messy. Holy and unholy coexist. Sin runs rampant yet God’s purposes still prevail in the midst of unrighteousness. Think of a few of the ungodly elements in Esther’s story: A king in a drunken state. Exploitation of a wife’s beauty. Wouldn’t such things thwart God’s plans? Ask Esther. Her reign as queen arose as a result of her king’s earlier indiscretion. God hopes we’ll understand that our past cannot destroy His plans of blessing for us. A legacy of unrighteousness is not too daunting for God to redeem. The limits imposed by others on our future do not impede God’s good for His child. Any of us who carries the memories of an ungodly heritage need not despair. God plucks leaders out of the homes of the ungodly as well as the homes of the faithful.

When I feel like my tomorrow hangs in the balance because someone whose heart is far from God is in authority over me, I don’t need to panic. God sees them. They cannot rob your blessing. There are roadways in the wilderness that I do not see. He carves out rivers in the desert sand and leaves me breathless with wonder at His creativity and power to work around, and through, uncooperative people. Reviewing the stories of my biblical ancestors, like Esther, is meant to encourage me when I believe the lie that nothing good can possibly come from my present circumstances. For every Joseph in captivity, know that God can easily produce a cup bearer.

I don’t know how You’re going to bring about good out of
my life right now, Lord. Things look bleak. But just as Your hand was on Esther a dark moment in history, You have not forgotten me. Thank You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

In Esther ~ God Is Not Mentioned

The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases. Proverbs 21:1

In the book of Esther, the name of God is never mentioned. Yet, His presence is so strongly felt that He doesn’t have to say a word. His sovereignty permeates the pages of the story. He is the unspoken architect of history.

Esther was adopted as a child by a righteous man named Mordecai. His godly parenting resulted in a secure, confident young woman with a deep faith. Her poise, coupled with the presence of God in her spirit, impacted the king. So much so, that he made her his new queen. When trouble entered the palace and the plot of Jewish history was woven with dark threads, Esther was able to step up to the plate with discernment and courage. She saved the lives of her husband, her father, and the entire Jewish nation.

Screen Shot 2018-05-20 at 7.07.49 PMI wonder if Esther could have traced the hand of God on the worst of days. I perceive that the dark times obscured her vision of His presence. We, like her, are fooled by the view that only today offers. The challenges, the threats, the seemingly insurmountable mountains, make it appear as if we’re surviving on our own. We embrace the lie that future outcomes are up to us. We stumble under the weight of responsibility that is not ours to bear.

God sees the sweeping story of Esther two ways ~ just as He sees my story. 1. The bird’s eye view. He felt the subtle impacts of Esther’s less than ideal upbringing. He felt her anxiousness as she prepared to meet the king for the first time. He felt the stress of the high stakes when she approached the king to reveal her Jewishness. A bird’s eye view is when God feels what I feel and enters into the moment. 2. The panoramic view. Able to see the past, present, and future within the framework of the grand story of reconciliation and redemption, God aches to see me trust Him with my challenges. He knows what my faith will cultivate. He knows how redemption will unfold. He knew the final outcome in Esther’s story and invited her to take part in the future redemption of His people. It was scary and required courage and though she had not a clue how things would play out, perhaps even facing her own death in the process, she trusted God’s sovereignty in the panoramic view of time.

“I’m here”, God is saying to us. “I’m here, with or without mention!” Your king’s heart is in God’s hands. Your husband’s behavior has not gone unnoticed. Your child’s rebellion is within the realm of His sovereignty. Our life’s tapestry, currently being woven in murky hues of gray, is under the artistic direction of our Creator. History will reveal, perhaps even a year down the road, that God was there all along. The hand of the Weaver will be evident as we view shades of gray displayed against dazzling colors that bring the grey to light. Let us not lose heart but sing of His faithfulness. If you need the warm arms of God in your present moment, He’s here. If you need the comfort of pain’s redemption in God’s panorama of timelessness, it’s there.

I can’t see You today. It’s my eyesight that fails. You are here – creating history. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Holy Imagination

Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them.  Genesis 2:19

Most Christians starve their God-given imaginative gifts and believe that sacred dreaming is reckless and might border on witchcraft?  Does it?

God formed the dust of the ground and made cows, cats, dogs, monkeys, and antelope.  After he completed each, he nudged each one to go to Adam so Adam could name them.  I love how Genesis describes this part of history.  “God brought them to the man to see what he would call them.”  There was a bit of suspense as God saw Adam tap into his creativity. “What shall I call something soft, furry, with a tail?”  God enjoyed seeing Adam use his mind in a creative way.

2df386_01db9e2d7fa14e5e8252978eefe490ef~mv2_d_2700_2025_s_2I am made in the image of God.  He, the one who imagined the earth before He made it, has infused me with the same desire to dream and create.  How can I know if my imagination is safe to use?  I take Isaiah’s advice.  “Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things.”  Isaiah 40:26  If my imagination is brought captive to prayer and scripture, then it is a gifting like all others.

I believe one of the reasons our prayer meetings and personal prayer times are so dull is that we fail to use our imagination in prayer.  What happens when we take a scriptural principle and develop how it might look in the desert of human need?  The possibilities are endless.

  • I can see God kissing a heart of stone and transforming it into a heart of flesh when I pray Ezekiel 36:26 creatively.
  • As I pray from Isaiah 49, I can see God turning my speech into sharp arrows of truth as I ask Him to give me words like Jesus.
  • I can see God standing on the waves of my personal storm, saying, “Peace!  Be still!” as I pray from Mark 4:39

Just as God brought the animals to Adam to name, he brings opportunities my way to engage my mind in ways that more resemble play than work.  Adam wasn’t a child when he thought up all the names yet I picture him having the time of his life as each animal emerged from behind a tree.  He laughed, pointed, exclaimed over God’s playful and creative side, and then conjured up a name.  I know a sense of his joy.  Most days, writing with God in the morning is like playtime.

Because Adam walked with you, his imagination was holy.  Help me use my creative gifts with more confidence.  Amen

Stuffing Things Out Of Sight

Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, and the end of joy may be grief.  Proverbs 14:13

That which weights down my heart like lead is usually difficult to acknowledge.  Somewhere beneath my sanguine exterior, grief pokes at me constantly, begging for acknowledgment.  If it’s too frightening to process, I will run from it. If the grief is terrifying, I’ll run from it indefinitely.

I am in tune with the sad eyes of people at social gatherings.  Those who regale others with the funniest stories of the evening can be the very ones who cry themselves to sleep in private agony.  How many comedians have admitted that they struggle with depression? It seems to be a theme. The jokester is often the troubled soul.

I know the right answers for spiritual and emotional health. I’m sure you do, too. If you’re your pain, explore it with God. Grieve it.  Heal from it.  But ultimately, the failure to do so boils down to a spiritual issue.  I ran from my own painful issues for thirty-five years.  I didn’t have an intimate relationship with God, the kind that would bear the weight of such a journey.  I could have answered questions on a test about God’s character. I would have told you that He is faithful, loves unconditionally, and even redeems what is broken, but I hadn’t connected to Him emotionally to experience these things firsthand.  I needed to feed my faith with abundant time in the Word so that I would gain an absolute trust of the One who would receive my tears.

While I played pretend, God noticed.  He was already acquainted with the events that shaped my grief.  He knew the instant they occurred that I would develop deep scars over the years.  But He also hoped that I would not choose to stuff the memories out of sight.  He, the healer and redeemer, continually reached out to me to draw me to Himself.  He had everything I needed to navigate the journey. Time, insight, perception, comfort, and healing.  After a season of grieving, I finally experienced the day when my laughter was no longer shallow but instead, bore the evidence of a joy too abundant to conceal. While there were and are, no shortcuts, the pilgrimage through the valley of sorrow is a temporary one.

Let me be someone who restores the breech today, mending others’ broken trust in you.  Help me pass on deep attachment to Your Words. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Why Wait? You Can Start Now.

They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32

I’ve been praying on and off for days ~ wondering how to finish this series. I wanted to give some parting word to inspire us to pursue the love of God that is real and accessible to us now as His daughters.

I thought ahead to what it will be like to be with God. Near death experiences (related by a few believers who claim to have visited heaven) talk about the light, the warmth, and the love that enveloped them when they were in God’s presence. When you and I are finally with Him, we will also experience the depths of His love. I believe we will look back at life here and say, “How could I have doubted it? Why didn’t I believe before now? He said He was my Father but why didn’t I let Him get close enough to me to be one? He said He was always with me but why did I complain about feeling abandoned? He said His love was faithful but why did I accuse Him of failing me?”

The day Jesus rose from the dead, He joined two men who were leaving Jerusalem on their way to Emmaus. They were vigorously discussing the events surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection. While walking, Jesus joined them but He blinded their eyes from recognizing Him. The three of them walked and talked on that 7 mile journey and He opened up the scriptures to speak in a manner only He could. Finally, just before leaving them, Jesus opened their eyes to see who they had been talking to. And then it clicked. They knew! They said to one another, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as He talked with us?” In retrospect, it’s always easy to see it. Right?

So, I say ….. let’s not make the same mistake and miss what can be ours right now! Let’s not wait until then to know what is true at this very moment. Let’s not play it safe and continue to live like orphans. We are daughters and we can live like the chosen and cherished daughters we are. We don’t have to wait until heaven to know what it’s like to walk in the light of His favor.

What happens on the days I’m not feeling it? God’s Spirit reminds me that I am a daughter who walks by faith. I verbalize, out loud if need be, who God says I am. When I do that, God is pleased with my faith and is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. When I’m tempted to walk in my old default orphan-pathways, I stop myself short. I will not place my feet in orphan territory. I am a blood bought, forgiven, chosen and cherished child of the King.

As this series comes to a close, drive a stake in the ground of your faith. Draw a spiritual line in the sand. Let this moment be a defining one. Get up and live, girl! You’re a much loved daughter.

Finish your time reading this by engaging with this song.

The Daughter’s Profile #10. I Have A Father Who Respects Stages of Development

Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. I Timothy 4:15

How well do you remember the stages of your life? Earliest memories usually come from toddlerhood. I remember my first doll, learning how to write cursive, learning how to jump on a pogo stick up and down the driveway, learning to play the piano, and learning how to leave home early.

We each grow up in graduated degrees from infancy to adulthood. The same is true in God’s family.  There are kingdom principles that are difficult to grasp if the maturity level is absent. There is the milk of the Word and there is the meat of the Word. If you feed either to the wrong person, there will be indigestion. You can’t expect an infant to walk, or a two year old to cross the street safely. You can’t expect a kindergartner to solve a calculus problem and you don’t believe a teenager is competent to run a company. Expectations of a person must match their maturation level. So it is with the maturity level of God’s children. A fifty year old woman may look like she can handle the meat of the Word but because of her age as a new believer, she can’t yet. Try to speak to her of ‘testing by trial’ and you could bring on full blown panic. She must first start with a milk diet.

spoil.baby_.facebookWith a baby believer, God has to start at the beginning just as new parents spend the first year of their child’s life holding them, rocking them, and cooing to them. God always teaches us elementary precepts first. The first one is, “I love you and this is what My love is like.” There are no shortcuts here. It takes as long as it takes and that depends on the previous life experiences of the believer. If they have only known distorted love and abusive authority, this initial stage will take some time.

One more dynamic comes into play and I know it from experience. I was raised in a Christian home but was never given the time to experience God as a spiritual infant, toddler, then adolescent. I was thrown into graduate level courses, all head-stuff. For three decades, my Christianity was as dry as a philosophy class and I couldn’t figure out why God wasn’t more real to me. Then God allowed a 22 year wilderness to bring me to a place where I reached out for Him and asked Him to start over with my spiritual growth. “Do you really love me? I’m not sure.”

The spiritual desert was a time when God took me back to the basics. I learned how He loves me, what His voice sounds like deep in my Spirit, and how to let Him guide my steps through the truth of simple scriptures. I learned that such lessons are really the foundations of doctrine. When the heart of my Christianity finally plugged into my life-long Christian education, the result was a firestorm that has never fizzled. It is still growing and though I’ve grown up a lot in the kingdom, I ask God daily to help me retain a childlike spirit.

Thank you for starting over. You taught me how to be Your daughter. Amen