I just finished reading The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. This was a great read and I highly recommend it! Because I am unsure of how to explain everything I took away from the book I want to share some quotes … Continue reading
Israel is split in two (Israel and Judah). This immediately made me write down the question, WHY? Why is Israel split? So I researched a little bit. If we go back to 1 Kings 12: 1-24 it talks about Solomon’s … Continue reading
Months ago I stumbled upon this book. Bought it. Put it on my shelf until I had time to dive into it. Dive Deeper: Finding Deep Faith Beyond Shallow Religion by Jenifer Jernigan Monday I picked this book up for … Continue reading
At the beginning of 2015, some teachers on my hallway wanted to start a ladies bible study. Six of us ladies committed to reading through and discussing a book together. We landed on the book Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow.
This great book is full of words of wisdom, testimonies, and commentary on scripture to help women reach contentment. As each A-type personality woman knows, we are anxious, worriers who want every step of life to be clear and fully known in advance of needing to take that step. We do no like to not have a plan. We want to know what to wear, where to be, at what time, and with what in hand.
This book helps to establish content hearts in each reader, and truly I found it to be very helpful. Here are some of my favorite insights:
- Each of us has a choice about how we look at life: We can focus on the mud or lift our eyes and see the stars.
- God’s plan for you and His plan for me embrace far more than the events or circumstances that happen to us.
- Much of our discontent and lack of peace comes from our expectations in our relationships.
- When we spend precious time worrying about what might happen, anxiety becomes negative baggage that weights us down, saps our energy , and leaves us ineffective.
- Faith rises us above our circumstances. Faith enables us to be content even when life doesn’t make sense. Faith is the bulwark that keeps us strong even when we’re assailed by agonizing thoughts about what might happen or by what has happened. Faith is a vital component in our relationship with God an in our ability to be content.
I could keep going with pieces of this book and preach it to you, but I won’t. If you struggle with anxiety and not being content, please consider this book.
When I was in high school I was under a great pastor who taught me how to read the Bible more closely. He used to say things like “Therefore—what’s that there for? Go back and read before any verse that starts with Therefore”. He encouraged us to use a dictionary with any word we had any questions about. He would point out that if we would read the verse with the definitions of the confusing words in place of those words we would have a better understanding of the verse.
When I went to college, I was approached by one of the Christian organizations on campus and I immediately joined their group. I made a ton of friends and was asked to join one of their bible studies. I was so excited! I had moved 256 miles away from home and made new friends. I had found a Christian group to become a part of and learn more about God with.
As I was preparing for bible study I would use the tips my pastor from home had suggested. Then when I was in bible study the leader would say the verse meant something different from what I had taken away from it. I know that we are not all going to get the exact same meaning from God’s word because it is alive and the Holy Spirit speaks to us through it. So I would go back to my dorm and study the word more closely and still didn’t get what they were saying out of the verses. The leaders were suggesting that the verses had this definite meaning. No swaying or other possibilities. I struggled with what to do with this. “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians1:10). I knew then, and still know now, that I needed to talk with the bible study leader one on one. We talked about my disagreement with her teaching. She encouraged me to keep reading my bible and coming to group, but not to share my understanding of God’s word with the group. I didn’t understand that. Why can’t I share what God’s word is speaking to me in my life? Didn’t they know that “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20). I then put my faith in God and voiced my understanding of the Bible in bible study. I knew that God wanted me to share this with the other believers in the group.
What I haven’t mentioned is that most of the people who join this organization are new believers. They do not have churches at home. This group becomes their church home. They haven’t been taught how to read the Bible for themselves. They do not know that someone may be leading them astray. So when I began to voice what God was showing me in His word it really changed some things for the organization. “It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you.” (Galatians 4:18). I knew that this group may change lives forever, but I didn’t want them to lead others astray. I wanted these young believers to learn how to read and dissect God’s word for themselves. I shed light on how to do this and was asked to not join another bible study with the organization.
After being asked to leave the group I didn’t pursue a new group of Christians to fellowship and grow spiritually with. I continued to read the Bible on my own. I would attend church when I was at home and would view a church service online when I was at school. After graduating, I moved back home and read this verse: “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.” (Galatians 5:7-8). This really hit me square between the eyes. I had let the organization deter me from finding another Christian group to join. I had let the negative experience with them keep me from experiencing great things with God in another fellowship of believers. I didn’t want to do that anymore. I knew I needed to join a church and find a great group of Christian friends to fellowship and grow with. “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25). I could only do this by finding a church home and Sunday school class.
God has taught me a great deal through these years and experiences in my life. “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14). To God be the glory for these experiences and times of growth.
I am not a thirteen year old any more. Those girls can talk nonstop, dance all night long, each until they reach the bottom of the bowl, and never get sleep and still keep going…
I spent the weekend with 13 thirteen year old girls from a local church. We talked about all sorts of stuff, but the focus of the weekend was making wise decisions. I was able to read the student questionnaires and was so encouraged by the students I was with. Some what to become missionaries, others were interested in joining the youth praise team. Overall, it was an amazing weekend or worship, bible study, and fellowship.
BUT, man am I exhausted!
God blesses us with gifts. I have been blessed with many gifts. I have never struggled in school or questioned my intelligence. I have a loving and supportive family who helped me attain many things. I have been given many talents and have rarely been teased for my appearance. I am blessed.
As a high school student I had many people compliment my beauty. In college I was scouted to become a model. Even Kyle will tell you that my appearance is what first attracted him. This used to bother me. I wanted people to like me and want to be around me because of my mind, or personality, or even religious convictions. Later I realized that beauty was a part of me. It wasn’t what defined me.
A woman of the bible could say the same thing. Esther was beautiful, but that didn’t stop her from doing something BIG. At the beginning of the book we meet King Xerxes. In chapter one he is having a big banquet (vs. 5). It describes the décor and wine (vs. 6-8). King Xerxes is so happy that on the seventh day of the banquet he wants his wife to come (vs. 10-11). At this time Queen Vashti is married to Xerxes. Queen Vashti is also having a large party (vs. 9). Xerxes sends seven servants to get his wife. “But when the attendants delivered the king’s command, Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger.” (vs. 12)
Basically, King Xerxes was used to getting what he wanted, and when Queen Vashti did not do as he wanted he was finished with her. Literally. He made it a written law that Vashti was never to be in his presence again and that someone else should have her title. She was no longer queen because she did not come to his party.
Are you kidding me?
So King Xerxes sends men out into the land to bring him as many beautiful women as can be found. He is looking for his new wife and he wants the best, and by best he means most beautiful. Many beautiful, virgin women were found including Esther. “This girl, who was also known as Esther, was lovely in form and features” (Ch. 2vs. 7). In Esther 2:8-9 is says, “When the king’s order and edict had been proclaimed, many girls were brought to the citadel of Susa and put under the care of Hegai. Esther also was taken to the king’s palace and entrusted to Hegai, who had charge of the harem. The girl pleased him and won his favor. Immediately he provided her with beauty treatments and special food. He assigned to her seven maids selected from the king’s palace and moved her and her maids into the best place in the harem.”
Can you imagine being beautiful enough to deserve spa treatments and seven maids after meeting someone once? Esther must have been drop dead gorgeous.
Esther spent the next year getting beauty treatments (vs. 12). Esther was liked by everyone but especially the king. Chapter 2, verse 17 says, “Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.”
Esther’s beauty is what attracted King Xerxes (ch. 2). So now Esther is the queen and all problems are solved, they lived happily ever after…NOT! King Xerxes has a right hand man. His name is Haman. Haman thought he was hot stuff. The king honored Haman and all of the royal officials knelt down at Haman’s feet. All of them except Mordecai.
Do you recognize that name?
Have we seen it yet in the story? Look back at Esther 2:7. “Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This girl, who was also known as Esther, was lovely in form and features, and Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died.” How do Mordecai and Esther know each other? Mordecia is like Esther’s father. Mordecia and Esther are cousins. So Mordecia won’t bow down to Haman because Haman is not God. They are to serve no other gods.
How do you think this makes Haman, a gentile, feel?
I would guess angry. Very Angry.
So Haman comes up with what he thinks is a brilliant plan. He convinces King Xerxes that it is bad to have people scattered across his nation not following his laws and they should all be killed (vs. 8-9). Haman convinces Xerxes to kill all of the Jews.
Mordecia is Esther’s…Cousin.
So Esther is…Jewish.
Whether Haman realized it or not, his plan would kill all of the Jews including Esther. The same Esther that was just made queen. The Esther that King Xerxes thought was so pretty. Now King Xerxes didn’t know that Esther was Jewish. He knew that she was pretty. She was beautiful. She was fun to look at. Who needs to know any more than that?
He does if he doesn’t realize that his wife is about to be killed. Mordecia learns of the plans to kill all of the Jews (4:1). Eventually word makes it back to Esther (vs. 9). Her response is, “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that he be put to death. The only exception to this is for the king to extend the gold scepter to him and spare his life. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.” (4:9-11)
So in order to see the king, he must ask to see you. Esther has a problem. The king hasn’t asked to see her for the past 30 days. A month has gone by since King Xerxes has asked to see her. What would happen if she just went for a visit? She would die unless he raised his scepter. Mordecia gets Esther’s message and responds in verses 12-14. He basically says that if Esther stays quiet she may escape immediate death from approaching the king, but she and her family would die eventually and God would send someone else to save the rest of the Jews. Mordecia recognizes that Esther could help save her people, but he trusts that God will send someone else if Esther doesn’t.
So Esther sends word to Mordecia in verse 16 “Go gather together all of 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.”
The Girl Who Said Yes is a book about a young girl who went to Columbine High School during the shooting. She was killed for answer a simple question. Do you believe in Jesus? She said, “yes”. This high school girl was brave (she had a gun to her head when she answered) and bold in her faith. Although she did not live, her biography has shown the love we must all have for Christ and the faith in God to stand up for Him.
Can you imagine stepping out in faith like that? How would it feel to be preparing to face certain death in the hopes of saving all of the people like you?
Scary, Crazy, Uneasy.
In Esther 5:1-2 it says, “On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king’s hall.”
Imagine how hard her heart was pounding.
“The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance.”
Imagine Esther taking a deep breath.
“When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.”
Relief. A sigh. The king welcomed her.
Let’s stop here for a minute. Esther’s beauty attracted King Xerxes to her. Esther became Xerxes bride. Esther became Queen. Not based off of knowledge, or athletic ability, but off of beauty alone. Xerxes didn’t even get to know her. Your beauty, your spiritual beauty that is, attracts God to you. God doesn’t care what your outward appearance is. He doesn’t care what your SAT scores are or how fast you can run a mile. He sees your spirit. God is attracted to your spiritual beauty the way Xerxes was attracted to Esther’s physical beauty.
Esther was the bride of Xerxes.
You are the bride of Christ.
Esther approached her King even though she could have died. She knew the only way to save her people was through Xerxes. She could not wait to be summoned. She had to approach the throne. She had to approach the king.
You can approach your King, God, without fear of death. You don’t have to be summoned into the throne room of God. You don’t have to hope that a scepter will be extended to you. You don’t have to hold your breath wondering if you are going to be welcomed. God’s throne room is always open. He is there for you always. In Matthew 7 and 8 it says “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Jesus tells you in verses 7 and 8 that all you have to do is ask, seek, or knock.
Esther left the security of her beauty to save her people. Esther listened to God’s guidance through Mordecci.
Will you listen to God’s guidance through the holy spirit? Will you approach the King, God almighty?
Will you ask?
What do you have to lose?
Esther’s story continues. Esther throws a banquet. Haman is invited. At the banquet the king asks what Esther’s petition is. She says, “If I have found favor with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request. For I and my people have been sold for destruction and slaughter and annihilation. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.” (vs. 3-4) The king asks who is going to kill her and her people, and Esther says, “The adversary and enemy is this vile Haman.” (vs. 6). King Xerxes was furious and had Haman hung on the gallows that Haman had built to kill Mordecia and all of the other Jews on.
Esther’s story begins as one of beauty. Her beauty won the heart of a king. Her story continues as one of courage. Her courage saved her life as well as the lives of her people. Her story ends as one of request. Esther asked for her life and the lives of her people to be spared and King Xerxes answered with more than she had asked for.
Beauty fades, don’t let it be your story.
Esther approached an earthly king facing death. You can approach the King of Kings with no fear of death. In Hebrews 4:14-16 it says, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” You can approach the throne of grace, God, with confidence. You will find mercy and grace at His throne in times of need. Do you take advantage of this promise?
Spend some time right now asking God to occupy every corner of your life. What corners might you still be withholding from God? Relationships? School? Family? Recreation? Be as honest with yourself as possible and take inventory of your life. Then invite the King to take control in every area.