Am I Prejudiced?

June 11, 2018

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

June 7, 2018

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

June 6, 2018

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

June 5, 2018

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.

My Doing Or God’s Doing?

June 4, 2018

And Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her. Esther 2:15

When God reveals that it is time to move forward, nothing could stand in our way. The doors, once closed, will open miraculously. The ones with whom we found dis-favor previously, will suddenly have a change of heart toward us. What has changed? Nothing we can attribute to our own ingenuity. It is simply God’s favor resting on our shoulders. It is He who ‘turns the hearts of kings in whatever ways He chooses.’ We are only the instruments through whom His plan is carried out.

Esther entered the king’s quarters and won the admiration of all who saw her. Perhaps they had a difficult time pinpointing what it was about her that captured their heart. I’m sure her beauty was dazzling, her poise impressive, but it was God, infused in her very being, which gave her such distinction. They probably would have described her as someone who lit up with the room. Sometimes light repels but to those whom God’s Spirit has prepared, such as the king, light beckons and warms.

There’s no substitute for trusting God with my future. If I believe in myself, apart from God, and assume that I can be persuasive, creative, and intuitive in a way that will make things happen, it will take a long time for me to depend on God. Especially if I was born with a God-given charisma and natural giftedness.

Bible-Verses-For-Courage-97647825-58ee53383df78cd3fc21da08.jpgWhen it appears I’ve carved my own path and the results were positive, the joy will be hollow. Privately, I know but better. I may seek His blessing but don’t trust Him enough to give it to me in the way He planned, and in a way that I believe is good for me. I want the light of His countenance on my life but am also out to make sure I get it. I simply will not relinquish control, and will manipulate and self-promote. The success feels fragile in my hands because I know that it was done in the flesh. God is discernibly absent though I’ll never admit it to those who might admire me.

Could Esther have won the king’s heart with her beauty and charm? Perhaps. Many women do. But Esther didn’t embark on self-made success. Doors were opened, and then closed, and she didn’t take either personally. She knew to fast and pray for a kingdom outcome.

If I trust God with my future and lay my desires on the altar, I will understand that there are two reasons door are closed. 1.) And open door is not the right time yet or, 2.) It is simply not to be and that’s okay. Esther said, “If I die, I die!” Ultimately, her joy, and my joy, is the result of being someone through whom God carries out His mission in the world. When He does throw open the doors, and I find favor with kings, the favor I enjoy is a God- thing.

There’s no such thing as being ‘stuck’ if I’m following you. There’s no such thing as being ill equipped when doors are open. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Preparing For The Unknown

June 1, 2018

Before a girl’s turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics. And this is how she would go to the king: anything she wanted was given her to take with her from the harem to the king’s palace. Esther 2: 12-13

How anxious Esther must have been the days prior to her night with the king. She was young. And a virgin. Was her connection with God deep enough to give her some measure of peace before an intimate encounter with a stranger? Did God reveal to her somehow that everything would be all right? Or was he silent, beginning to cultivate in her a faith that would survive the challenging times? Esther did not have the Holy Spirit inside to guide her and God spoke so seldom in the lives of ordinary people. Her strength was in the God-stories of her ancestors.

queen_esther_by_verryktIf the night with the king turned out to be traumatic, would that erode her faith? Would she consider God to be faithful if the night was anything but idyllic? Not if she knew the stories of the children of Israel, the ones to whom God entrusted the blessings of leadership but also the burdens of fallen mankind.

Esther’s days were uncertain, mixed with the hues of sorrow and joy. She learned early that life was all about knowing God, bearing His likeness, and taking part in the redemption narrative. This young orphan girl played a pivotal role in the salvation of the Jewish people. Her obedience, starting with the risk of what might happen with a godless king, paved the way for the difficult lessons of faith that lay ahead of her.

Esther teaches me today about risk. God has called me to acts of faith; investing in relationships that appear to yield no return, leading a ministry when I doubted my gifts of leadership, being vulnerable and sharing my story with others when it could reflect badly on me. The risks are numerous.

Risk presents me with the dilemma of how to cope. Will I play it safe by closing the door to my heart so that I can sustain polarized outcomes? Or will I invest my heart, trusting God with outcomes of celebration and/or disillusionment? I am fully alive if I believe that God is strong enough to carry me through both.

I admit my faith is tenuous, Jesus. My words sound so strong today. Tomorrow, my appetite for risk might be minimal. Let me receive what I cannot generate on my own ~ grace and faith. In Jesus’ name, Amen.