King On The Hill

June 29, 2018

Haman added. “I’m the only person Queen Esther invited to accompany the king to the banquet she gave. And she has invited me along with the king tomorrow. 13 But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.” Esther 5: 12-13

We might assume that a promotion would put Haman in such a good mood that he would forget the offenses of one man. Not a chance! The honor Haman received from Esther’s invitations to dinner turned sour in his mouth because of the memory of Mordecai’s behavior. He just couldn’t forget it as his pride was sorely injured. The wound was deep and he was hopeful that a rise to power would give him the means to convert his hatred into an action plan.

Power can be an opiate. I can be tempted to enjoy its privileges, not because I want to serve others, but because there are things in me that I assume it will get healed apart from God.

  • If I was never validated as a child, I can view prestige as a cure for deep-seated insecurity. I foolishly believe that the praise of other people will compensate for not having received the validation of my parents. It never will.
  • If I have been misunderstood and misjudged in my adult life, I perceive an honor as probable vindication. I can believe that the ones who misunderstood me will change their mind once they learn of my advancement. It usually doesn’t work that way.
  • If I have been the victim of unfairness, I will welcome power as a means to exact justice. I may even believe I’m doing God’s work by taking action against evil and forcing good. The problem is, my definition of good is really steeped in a need for untimely justice. I view advancement as a tool to satisfy old prejudices.

The principle is this. My leadership is shaped by the good and the bad in me. If I fail to deal with dark shadows from the past, they will accompany me throughout my lifetime and infect every major decision. Even though I could potentially sit in a place of great honor, childish behavior threatens to rule my conduct. There is no daily discipline more pressing than asking God to search my heart to reveal traces of wickedness. God wants to raise up a righteous leader who can hear the Spirit’s direction without impediment. Sin deceives. Sin blinds. Sin deafens. I can’t afford the price tag.

You’ve put me in a position to affect many people. I do not want to use power ruthlessly and I have no idea the damage I can do. I embrace sanctification. Amen

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

June 28, 2018

Calling together his friends and Zeresh, his wife, Haman boasted to them about his vast wealth, his many sons, and all the ways the king had honored him and how he had elevated him above the other nobles and officials. Esther 5:11

Haman despised the God of the Jews. Therefore he could not see that his ‘seeming’ place of honor was not only temporary, but deceiving. Because his appetite for power and revenge blinded him, he did not begin to consider that an invitation to Esther’s table might mean something other than affection. He was going to step into a web from which there would come humiliation and defeat.

MIrrorThemeI don’t know anyone who respects a bragger. Whether a politician or a family member, it makes the audience roll their eyes. The boaster is deceived by thinking that telling of his exploits will impress people. It does the opposite.

My roots go back to a quaint New England village. In that town of 1200, there lived a ninety-five year old man. He was a family acquaintance and present at most functions growing up. He was a kind of Haman. He had amassed a small fortune at others’ expense and money and power were his gods. He won an election that made him the town’s supervisor and his ego grew to epic proportions. I grew up hearing him boast of his political victories. His rhetoric of self-promotion was similar to the pompous talk in today’s scripture.

This man in my past assessed a person’s worth by how much they loved him! If he was fawned over, he returned it with a buttery kind of speech that would make most people blush. Cross him however, and you became an enemy. His life was characterized by extreme narcissism. Ethically, he was bankrupt, and morally, he was dangerous.
In the end, he became very ill. Those who surrounded him were scavengers, out to benefit from his will. He could trust none of them. Those who clamored for his riches massaged his ego for self-gain and he became aware of it too late. What he had spent a lifetime building was ultimately left to two con artists who spent it all in three years. Today, these two women are poor and worse off than before taking part in their get-rich schemes.

The man of integrity walks securely. It’s a Proverb worth remembering.

Let me learn from history, not by repeating it. Amen.

The Illusion

June 27, 2018

“If the king regards me with favor and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them. Then I will answer the king’s question,” Esther said. Haman went out that day happy and in high spirits. Esther 5: 8-9

Throughout the Old Testament, God raised up one prophet after another who supernaturally discerned a person’s sin and was then sent by God to address them. For the one who had erred, his life shattered. The illusion of all being well dissipated into thin air.

I remember when Nathan came to King David after his sin with Bathsheba and confronted him about his adultery. The altercation pierced the false sense of David’s well being. Psalm 51 was David’s response.

Haman, a different kind of man, was also ultimately revealed. At this point in the story however, he was in high spirits. He believed he was secure in his place of leadership. Everything appeared to be going his way as evidenced by a private invitation to the queen’s banquet. His seemingly bright future was really a house of cards about to crumble.

When I sin, Satan is also eager to make sure I am also rewarded with the illusion of well-being. It would appear to me that I have never been more invincible, that I’ve gotten away with something and have escaped accountability. How I see myself is the exact opposite of what an intuitive servant of God sees. They know that I am perched in a precarious position. They may try to tell me that my life hangs in the balance if there’s not a course correction that begins with repentance.

So here’s the thing. I am only as strong as my ability to stand before God with no pretenses.

There is a barometer for spirituality. If I live in sin, I live in peril. I am only as strong as the person whose voice I obey. I choose You, Jesus. Amen

Evil Can Also Show Restraint

June 26, 2018

But when he saw Mordecai at the king’s gate and observed that he neither rose nor showed fear in his presence, he was filled with rage against Mordecai. Nevertheless, Haman restrained himself and went home. Esther 5:9-10

God shows restraint in order to give us the best things at the best time. He will delay gratification, even wait on a deliverance, if the fullness of time has not yet come where our personal story is concerned.

The sobering truth is that Satan also shows restraint but not for our good. He stalls things in order to render greater destruction. Why inflict a surface wound when, tomorrow, you can strike a mortal blow! This dynamic is what plays out in today’s scripture.

Haman’s rage is simmering. As much as he would love to see Mordecai brought to justice for his refusal to bow down to him, he realizes that by biding his time, he can bring destruction to an entire nation rather than just one individual. He’d much prefer that so he chooses to cool down and re-group. He is like his father, the devil.

Satan is an ace of a strategic planner and works mostly behind the scenes, devising schemes that will bring the most extensive damage to God’s people. I should never assume on a quiet day that he has taken a vacation. Knowing my enemy is critical to my spiritual victory and I must keep in mind that He is never soft towards me. He is not moved by my pain. He dances over it. He never says, “I think she’s had enough.” He has an unending appetite for death and destruction. I am a child of the One he hates, the One whose throne He covets. His war against God is ancient and has only intensified with time.

62c2bba4ff21a388930149b8ee323b4aAnd Satan is imaginative. He is able to conceive the most creative plot to take advantage of my vulnerabilities. When I have a puny image of God, I play into his hands by crying uncle and embracing hopelessness. Only when I refuse to be intimidated (because I stand tall in the power of Christ crucified), will I shine up my armor and fight another day. There may be times I resemble Mordecai at the gate, weary and vulnerable, In reality however, if I obey the God of the angel armies, I am never stronger. Fortified with God’s favor on my shoulder and undergirded with the Spirit of Truth, the forces of hell are forced into submission.

You’ve already won the war and I’m on the victory side. Jesus’ name, Amen.

Like Custom Made Jewelry

June 25, 2018

“If it pleases the king,” replied Esther, “let the king, together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him.” Esther 5:4

I’m sure Esther thought through how to word her invitation. She wouldn’t reveal why she wanted the king to attend, that would have been foolish. Notice what she chose to omit. “You and Haman must come to the banquet because I have something upsetting to tell you. Your own advisor is not trustworthy. I can prove it when we talk!”

Instead, Esther presented these facts to the king in stages, according to his ability to receive it and understand it. She needed to foster a nurturing environment in order to soften the heart of her temperamental king. That was the only way to rekindle his love and trust. As it would turn out, it didn’t take just one banquet for her to accomplish this, but two!

If Esther had done all this for personal gain, we could rightfully call her a manipulative woman. But this banquet was given to stay the hand of a king who was being manipulated by Haman to annihilate a race of people.

Have you ever given away a piece of information too soon? The person you were talking to was not ready to hear all that you shared. Because you discussed things prematurely, you jeopardized the ideal outcome. I’ve done that. I’ve learned that there’s a time to deliver good news. There’s a time deliver bad news. There’s a time to ask someone for advice and a prudent time to ask someone to make a critical decision that affects many people.

How can I know when that right time is? Only with prayer. If I find myself thinking, “I wonder if telling them is a good idea,” then I’d better hold off until I’ve prayed about it. The higher the stakes, the more time is needed to prepare the ground for the conversation.

newslide_2Look at this scripture verse. The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry. Prov. 25:11 An interesting metaphor, isn’t it? When a piece of jewelry is made to order, it is perfectly sized. The type of metal and precious gems are chosen for the person who will wear it. They will delight to own it and call it their own. That is what happens when the soil of someone’s heart is tilled up through prayer. They are ready to receive the message. When it comes, it will connect with them in such a way that the pieces of truth make sense and fit together perfectly. They will willingly own the message, making it their own, and wearing it proudly through application.

All of this is impossible without You. Show me how to live this way. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

A Different Kind Of King

June 22, 2018

Then the king asked, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.” Esther 5:3

I turned 64 this year. I can’t believe it, really. I still feel like a young woman. I’ve got lots of spunk, love to play but also work hard, and I’ve got plenty of dreams I’m still pursuing. When I read this morning that the king asked Esther what it was she wanted, I was reminded that we can have different answers – depending on who is asking us the question.

If a distant friend calls us on our birthday, we’re content with just a phone call. If a relative asks us what they can give us, one with whom our relationship is strained, we will wrestle with our answer. We sense the gift is obligatory and possibly with strings attached. When asked by a spouse or child, we probably have no trouble coming to life and telling them what we really want! We know how their heart feels about us.

light_on_door_at_the_end_of_tunnelEsther was not in the presence of one with whom she was comfortable. She could have been put to death for even approaching the throne. How shocked she must have been by the presence of a king who was generous toward her. It could have gone the other way and she knew it.

I am moved by how different it is when we face our King. He gave the life of His own Son to make intimacy possible.
• Esther faced a proud, imperious man. We come to a loving and gracious Father.
• She faced her King upon threat of death. Our Father bids us ‘come’, and to ‘come confidently’.
• She had the law against her. We come dressed in grace.
• Esther had no one to plead her case. We have Jesus ~ who advocates for us before our Father.

I do not need to shrink back from asking God for anything today. He is anxiously anticipating my arrival to Him in prayer. I don’t need to make an appointment. He has made all the time in the world for me.

I’m not wringing my hands at the thought of coming before Your throne. My name is already on Your lips. Thank You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

A Second Look At Prayer

June 21, 2018

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.” Esther 4:15-16

Everything is on the line. The time for critical action is now. Esther knows she must go to the king despite the danger to herself. She grasps the truth that if God intends to deliver His people through her intervention, the plan will be accomplished through prayer and fasting. However, Esther is also realistic about prayer. She knows it is not a magical act to deliver her from trouble. She recognizes that, even with prayer, she might perish. Her death would not negate the power of prayer. Prayer would would also equip her to rest in the sovereign will of God.

WomanPraying-from-Anger-to-TrustIt is easy to use prayer as a means of delivering a wish list for personal comfort and safety. Whenever stresses press in upon me and those I love, I go to prayer and beg for deliverance. If a trial continues, I shouldn’t erroneously conclude that prayer doesn’t work. I might be tempted to think that either God isn’t all that powerful or His love is imperfect. I could wonder if perhaps this so-called perfect Father fails His children in critical times. Not true.

Prayer mobilizes God to act according to His sovereign plan for my life. Satan is always on the loose, driven to inflict death and destruction. Prayer cripples the best of his strategies and renders him impotent, just as it did when the death sentence of the Jews in Susa was lifted. However, I must not be childish in my expectations. I am told that I will also share in the sufferings of Jesus. Most of the prophets and Jesus’ disciples were murdered and I need only read the first chapter of the Fox’s Book of Martyrs to clear up unrealistic expectations. If you and I perish, as Esther believed she might, we need prayer to give us grace and peace. If you and I are to be delivered, we need prayer to bring about the miracle.

My prayer life is characterized by two requests. “Deliver me if that is in your plan, Lord. Or, give me grace in the fire.”

You are not my fairy god-father. No matter what I experience at Your hand, Your plan for me was conceived in love and wisdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.