For Such a Time

Hathach went out to Mordecai… in front of the king’s gate, and Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the exact sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king’s treasuries for the destruction of the Jews. Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her and command her to go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people. ‘[Tell Esther,] “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews… Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”’ Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.’” Esther 4:6-8,13-16 

Esther recognized the seriousness of the edict against all Jews, and, knowing the law was against her in attempting to approach the king without being summoned, was yet moved by the sense of God’s providence. We can infer that her uncle had taught her of God’s marvelous, hidden, supernatural ways, and that she understood it was He Who had placed her in the palace at this particular time for a special work. Emboldened by the fasting and prayer from her people, she arranged the settings for conversation and maneuvered patiently through timing to uncover the perpetrator’s plot. Her thoughtful, clever planning unfolded and she dauntlessly approached the king with her request.

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Without a mention of God’s name in this book, His hand actively moves throughout, and His voice urges us to follow Esther’s example of willing, confident bravery in our appointed time and place. “He himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.” If God is sovereign, it is not only a comfort to rest in the hard places where He has us, but it should motivate us to be bold and act in the challenges and opportunities He presents. What a privilege to be part of His grand scheme of life and history and kingdom building! (Acts 17:25-26)

What each of us goes through is unique to God’s plan for us. He masterfully entwines our lives with others to give us chances to support, lean on, pray, get involved, observe glimpses of His beauty in all that transpires. I am where I am because of His grace; His providence rules, and in that I can rejoice. Am I prone to compare with envy, or criticism, or dissatisfaction, or do I gratefully accept my lot and place and expectantly listen for His personal call to me?

Father, You have me here and now for Your such time. Keep my knees bowed, my hands and feet ready for Your every assignment, that Your will be done.

Jewels from Light

“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” Psalm 36:9; 119:18

I sat facing a window this morning, and as the sun awoke, it reflected off my diamond ring, splashing tiny jeweled rainbows all over the pages of scripture, delighting my senses. Within moments, the great light that rules the day had shifted the tiniest bit and the twinkles disappeared. What a vivid picture of the gems the Holy Spirit makes pop out of God’s word when we take time to read, the beautiful truths, comforts, assurances, rays of hope, promises, nuggets of wisdom, confirmations, clear answers when we ask God for the light of understanding. We must be present, open-hearted, looking and listening intently, savoring the moment in the ancient words, or the insight may pass by.

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Heavenly light adds much to what we take in of the Scriptures. Without it, our minds can be dull, our hearts unmoved. Interruptions can break concentration, distractions steal sweet thoughts, never to be retrieved. I regret the times I have been on a treasure hunt and stopped half-way, that exploration aborted by some stray thought or task that veered me off course and on an endless detour. When I pause to ask for illumination, and take time and attention to focus, the Lord always comes through with some precious jewel, a perfect truth for that day or situation.

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 2:1-6

Holy Spirit, open my eyes to see and absorb all the delights You have for me in Your word. May I treasure them for the value they hold, eternal words that are the foundation of my soul, a shining light to my path. Teach me new facets of You, Your colors and resplendence and glory, every time I open Your good book. Keep me in the moment, to treasure all You have to convey, to carry me through all You know is ahead. (Exodus 33:13,18; Psalm 119:105; Luke 6:47-48)

Sojourning in the Land

“The LORD appeared to him and said, ‘Dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you,.. and will give to your offspring all these lands… So Isaac settled in Gerar…And Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. The LORD blessed him, and the man became rich, and gained more and more until he became very wealthy… So Isaac departed from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar and settled there. And Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father. But when Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of spring water, he herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, ‘The water is ours…’ And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, saying, ‘For now the LORD has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land’… They said, ‘We see plainly that the LORD has been with you.’” Genesis 26:2-4,6,12-13,17-20,22,28

The LORD’s promises were sure, though Isaac’s steps were not. God gave instruction, and assurance the land would belong to Isaac and his descendants, but this came about through the patriarch’s faltering ways, misjudgment, and antagonism. At first he lied in fear about his wife Rebekah, risking life, reputation, and his seed with King Abimelech, but God in grace protected him and used it for building up his wealth. Then he encountered quarreling with herdsmen over wells. Many were his sojournings and settlings, none without travail, contention, or hostility, until he finally arrived at Rehoboth, “broad places; room,” and built an altar and pitched a tent at Beersheba.

The Lord indeed prepares us room when our hearts prepare Him same, calling upon and honoring His name. He bids us “go,” to sojourn in the land of Scriptures and life, to learn to listen and follow and make wise choices, to interact with others and remain above reproach, to take hold of and appropriate His good promises. We take detours, meet opposition, learn from errors of judgment and relational havoc, but can return by His kind mercy to the altar of worship and know we are in His appointed place. (Proverbs 2:1-8; Colossians 1:22)

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When sojourning takes us through regret and consequences over past choices, or valleys of sorrow, doubt, depression, or conflict with colleagues or family members, or pain of diagnoses or harmful habits, or pressures of job, finances, life challenges, we can know the One Who sends. He is good, trustworthy, present, our constant companion. He has prepared the land for fruitfulness. As I step and turn along the way, what good fruit of love, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control am I yielding? (Psalm 111:7; Joshua 1:9; Galatians 5:22-23)

LORD my King, keep me in Your paths and set my heart to trust and honor You in any circumstance. May the choices I make, the way I interact with others, the places I set up camp, bear evidence that You have been with me.

Giving Not Taking

After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.)  And he blessed him and said, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!’ And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.  And the king of Sodom said to Abram, ‘Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.’ But Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have lifted my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, “I have made Abram rich.”’” Genesis 14:17-23

During a battle between five kings and four where Lot was captured along with the people of Sodom, Abram took his trained army of 318 in a passioned rescue of his nephew. He returned, Lot, women, children, and possessions in tow, and was met by two kings. One, the mysterious King of Salem and Priest of Most High God, gave him both blessing and refreshment, to which Abram responded with generous offering of one tenth (the first tithe). The King of Sodom, whose pride, people, and very position he had restored, offered him the goods he’d retrieved, and Abram wanted nothing of his “reward.” What strikes me is that after such a magnificent military victory, Abram’s joy and reward was to give, to honor and offer sacrifice of gratitude, not to receive. He deflected all glory, owning that only God, Possessor of heaven and earth, could have delivered them and made them rich.

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What is my practice, my impulse, when playing a part in any victory or achievement? When I say no to temptation, when I overcome fear for a task or a new relationship, when after many failures I actually hold my tongue and bless instead of curse, when I realize my tendency to complain is softening into a practice of thanking, do I take credit? Is there a hint of smugness that I knew I could solve it, I have arrived, a feeling of superiority over another who is weaker in a certain area? May it never be! Every victory is a gift of grace, every battle won by the Spirit’s hand. All praise goes to Him.

Abraham did what he had to do; he had no thought for himself, no swagger for position or recognition. His hands were lifted to the Possessor of heaven and earth, his life owned by Him; all honor was His.

God Most High, my Priest and King, may I not only recognize but acknowledge that all comes from You, every victory is Yours, won by Your righteous right hand.

Inverted Thinking

They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’ And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, ‘Who is this?’ And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.’ And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, ‘It is written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer,” but you make it a den of robbers.’”

“And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ they were indignant, and they said to him, ‘Do you hear what these are saying?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Yes; have you never read,“Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise”?’ …Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the Scriptures: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes”?'” Matthew 21:7-16,42

This passage displays the inverted thinking of man. Shouted hosannas to Jesus, the One they called a prophet, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, the royal transport of the time,  voiced the crowd’s anticipation that He was deigned to become their earthly king. Jesus then, in righteous anger, threw over the tables of the dishonest traders in the temple, upending their practiced toleration of taking financial advantage of worshipers. The religious leaders, rather than marveling in gratitude at His merciful, wondrous miracles of healing, are indignant and critical, disturbed because their authority had been threatened. It is Jesus Who points out that the purest praise, the clearest understanding of Who He is, comes from the more innocent, unencumbered, less complicated minds of infants and children.

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He overturns our thinking, too, if we allow Him. We get bent on certain thought-patterns and ride mental paths that travel in a lower, parallel universe from His lofty ways. We get intrigued with and beguiled by lesser, earthly, temporal things, emotions, desires, vantage points, and fail to ascend to His eternal and holy one. We dress ourselves in pride, touchiness, wearing badges of rights and identities and power that are dictated by this world and increasingly restrictive and difficult to discard. We end up rejecting what He has laid as our very foundation of truth and freedom, helpless to change apart from His mercy and renewal.

Lord, cleanse me. Invert my whole thought-process and any hint of perspective that is opposed to Yours, that I might whole-heartedly, with all my soul and might, bless You in the highest.

Broken Lives, Broken Bread

Jesus said to his disciples, You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified…’ And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover… Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'” Matthew 26:1-2,19,26-28

In recent days, my heart is breaking as I have observed much brokenness in lives– cracked and ruptured marriages and fall-out with children; depression and feelings of worthlessness; mental instability that clouds perception, escalates anxiety, and wreaks irreparable harm in relationships; addictions that have shattered careers and trust; death. God, knowing my heart, opened to me this beautiful and familiar passage of the hours preceding Calvary. Jesus, the Whole and Perfect Son of God, broke bread, symbolizing His body, gave thanks, and distributed it to His beloved disciples. He knew that He would soon be put to death on the cross to save them from sin, to redeem them from all the brokenness they and mankind for all ages suffered and will suffer. “Take, eat, this is My body, broken for you.” And for me. Broken bread, a broken body, for broken lives.

“The bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.John 6:33,35

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Jesus went to the cross and was crucified, and buried, vanquishing sin and death, all that is ‘excruciating’ (‘out of the cross’) in our experience. He was broken not only for sin itself, the tainting of Eden, but for all its attending grief, poverty, sickness, longing, separation, antagonism, struggle with the flesh, innocent victims- the weeds in, and banishment from, Eden. Then He was raised from the dead victorious, to open for us in our resurrected Savior His powerful and personal presence with us always in the Holy Spirit, and certain hope for an eternal future with no pain, illness, tears, brokenness. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore.” Hallelujah! (John 14:16-17; Revelation 21:4)

Great Redeemer, You know the burden I carry today, yet You bore this weight and more on the cross. Every time my heart is shattered, every time I partake of the broken bread and cup, remind me of Your inextinguishable love for broken man, of Your triumph, and of Your present and coming glory through it all.

Mindful of His Wonders

“On the twenty-fourth day of this month the Israelites stood and confessed their sins, and they read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day; for another quarter of it they made confession and worshiped the Lord their God. Then the Levites said, ‘Stand up and bless the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise. You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you. You chose Abram… You found his heart faithful before you, and made with him the covenant to give to his offspring the land. And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous. You saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt and heard their cry at the Red Sea, and performed signs and wonders… You divided the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on dry land… By a pillar of cloud you led them in the day, and by a pillar of fire in the night to light for them the way in which they should go. You came down on Mount Sinai and gave them right rules and true laws. You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger and brought water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and you told them to go in to possess the land. 

“But they refused to obey, and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. You sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. You gave them kingdoms and peoples and allotted to them every corner… You multiplied their children as the stars of heaven, and you brought them into the land.” Nehemiah 9:1-3,5-13,15,17,19,21-23

To begin the day with honor to the Lord, in confession and worship and reading His word, is to be mindful of His wonders, permeated with His holy character and enthralled by, and thankful for, all He has done. In turn, He directs our minds, keeps our necks from stiffening, our hearts from yielding to foreign loves. He sustains.

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God was always faithful, though His people waffled and traded loyalties again and again. If I find myself presumptuous and stubborn, fisting my way through the day according to my plans and rules, or doubtful and inconsistent, a wave of the sea driven and tossed by every wind that blows, I have failed to stay mindful of God’s wonders. I must, like Nehemiah’s Israel, be deliberate to set a time, stand (get in position), and recall Who He is, recount His hand through my history, and praise Him. (James 1:6; Psalm 105:5)

Magnificent Lord, remind me of Your works through my moments and hours. Imprint Your grace and glory inside me, and out, that my life proclaim Your wonders. (Psalm 111:4)