June 22, 2017

He Loved Me To The End

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I won’t give up, He loved me to the end
I will press on, He loved me to the end
I set my mind on things above, He loved me to the end

And so will I love Him
I have to give Him everything

Be faithful unto death
Oh, He loved me to the end

To be with Him in paradise, He loved me to the end
I’ll be clothed in a robe of white, He loved me to the end
I’ll cast my crown at the feet of Christ, He loved me to the end

We have overcome
We have overcome
We have overcome…by His blood

Oh, He loved me to the end

International House of Prayer-KC
written by Jenny Powell
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The Lord God Almighty, our Heavenly Father, had it in His heart to provide a Savior for all mankind.  A Redeemer who would save us from eternal damnation and would be THE Way to eternal life and grace for all time.  God purposed throughout mankind’s history to bring His plan into existence.  Nothing ever thwarted or deterred our God from bringing His perfect plan—a plan of love and grace—into fruition. And His Son, our Lord, willingly sacrificed Himself to execute His Father’s plan.

From early in His earthly ministry, Jesus told His disciples about this.

…but there is One Who has come down from heaven—the Son of Man
And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert [on a pole],
so must [so it is necessary that] the Son of Man be lifted up [on the cross],
In order that everyone who believes in Him [who cleaves to Him, trusts Him, and relies on Him]
may not perish, but have eternal life and [actually] live forever!
For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world
that He [even] gave up His only begotten Son,
so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him
shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.
For God did not send the Son into the world
in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world,
but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him.
John 3:13-17

God’s Son came to the earth and lived His life on this earth single-mindedly to do His Father’s Will.  God’s plan was one of Love, and Jesus’ life was all about Love—Love to the end.

[Now] before the Passover Festival began, Jesus knew (was fully aware)
that His hour had come to depart from this world and return to the Father.
Having loved those who were His own in the world, He loved them to the end.
John 13:1

Jesus purposed to share a final last meal and communicated many important things with those closest to Him.  The Gospel of John, chapters 13 through 17, records just some of Jesus’ words to them (and to us) that He spoke during this Last Supper just prior to His betrayal, His persecution, and His death.  He spoke to them (recorded in chapter 13) about loving one another in the same way that He had shown His love to them (verses 2-19), and demonstrated it through the lowly task of washing their feet…He clearly pointed out exactly who His betrayer was (verses 20-31)…He again commanded them to love one another (verse 34).

In chapter 14, Jesus shares with them about the Comforter—the Holy Spirit—Who He was sending to take His place.

In chapter 15, Jesus shows the importance of dwelling with Him and abiding in Him.  He talked with them in so much detail about His and the Father’s love…and how our love toward Them is proven by our obedience.

In chapter 16, Jesus is deeply concerned that they will be prepared for His leaving.  He communicates, with encouragement as well as admonition, as He tells them again about the Comforter.

And in chapter 17, Jesus prays for them.  We ‘hear’ as He speaks with the Father of His great concern and love that He had for them.  How beautifully and compassionately He asks the Father to care for them.  He truly loved them to the end.

And, wondrously, He even spoke of us:

Neither for these alone do I pray [it is not for their sake only that I make this request], but also for all those who will ever come to believe in (trust in, cling to, rely on) Me through their word and teaching,  That they all may be one, [just] as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be one in Us, so that the world may believe and be convinced that You have sent Me. (verses 20 and 21)

Our Lord, Who knew exactly what was transpiring and how His betrayal was imminent prayed these final words for them:

I in them and You in Me,
in order that they may become one and perfectly united,
that the world may know and [definitely] recognize
that You sent Me and that You have loved them
[even] as You have loved Me.
Father, I desire that they also
whom You have entrusted to Me [as Your gift to Me]
may be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory,
which You have given Me [Your love gift to Me];
for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.
O just and righteous Father, although the world has not known You
and has failed to recognize You and has never acknowledged You,
I have known You [continually];
and these men understand and know that You have sent Me.
I have made Your Name known to them
and revealed Your character and Your very Self,
and I will continue to make [You] known,
that the love which You have bestowed upon Me
may be in them [felt in their hearts]
and that I [Myself] may be in them.
(verses 23-26)

Perhaps this coming week as we are contemplating and considering just what it took for God to fulfill our redemption through our Lord’s suffering and death, you could read the Gospel of John, chapters 13 through 17.  Nowhere else in the Scriptures, is so much communicated to help us know beyond a shadow of a doubt of our Father’s and our Lord’s unconditional love for us.  Our Lord’s entire life was all about love…and He truly and completely and perfectly loved us to the end.

Sweet, Sweet Spirit

psalmshymnsspiritualsongskjvIt’s December 22, 1990. It’s cold outside—and inside, really.  I’m wearing a green velvet dress and I’m waiting to walk down the aisle.  It’s my sister’s wedding. Not expected really, two daughters marrying in one year. We needed the Holy Spirit now, more than ever. See, my sweet daddy was giving away his baby, his last daughter and it wasn’t supposed to be this soon. She had a sweet blessing on the way and made the decision to get married. She and I both always wanted our dad to sing in our weddings and here we were. He had just sang at mine and that was hard but now he could barely choke out the words. We were “praying and we were praying through.”

A lady by the name of Doris Akers wrote this beautiful song in 1945. One night, as she prayed with her own choir, she felt they weren’t ready for the service and they really needed to pray. Again and again they prayed and they didn’t feel Him. Then she said, “We need to pray and pray through!”  They did and the Holy Spirit came down in a powerful way, just like it did that day in December during my sister’s wedding. The next morning, Doris had this song in her mind, playing over and over. She titled it, “Sweet, Sweet Spirit.”  Here are the lyrics:

There’s a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place,
And I know that it’s the Spirit of the Lord;
There are sweet expressions on each face,
And I know they feel the presence of the Lord.

Sweet Holy Spirit, Sweet heavenly Dove,
Stay right here with us, filling us with Your love.
And for these blessings we lift our hearts in praise;
Without a doubt we’ll know that we have been revived,
When we shall leave this place.

There are blessings you cannot receive
Till you know Him in His fullness and believe;
You’re the one to profit when you say,
“I am going to walk with Jesus all the way.”

If you say He saved you from your sin,
Now you’re weak, you’re bound and cannot enter in,
You can make it right if you will yield,
You’ll enjoy the Holy Spirit that we feel”

Words and Music: Doris Akers / Performed by Gaither Vocal Band & SSQ

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When Jesus left earth to go back to His Father, He left us with a task that we could not possibly do on our own. He made it clear that we would need the power of the Holy Spirit.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you
and you will be my witnesses.
Acts 1:8

Have you ever thought about how your life is different because you have the Spirit living inside you? He is your comforter, advisor, encourager, and strength. He guides us in the way we should go!

So as believers, we do feel the “sweet sweet spirit” in this place.  And we know that it’s the Presence of the Lord.  Need Him today? Call on Jesus, ask the Lord for His Holy Spirit to fill you and guide you in every direction and every aspect of your life. And pray and pray and pray through!  What a gift we have been left by Jesus Himself.

And like the song says, “I am going to walk with Jesus all the way!”

Let us pray:  Dear Lord Jesus, we thank You for the gift of Your Holy Spirit to guide us and comfort us and fill us so that we can have the joy and freedom given by being saved.  Help us to empty ourselves of us and receive Your Spirit and all that goes with that.  We love You and we praise You for giving us the strength to resist temptation, to be able to love each other, to spread Your hope and good news to the world.  Thank You for the Spirit to intercede on our behalf when we don’t even know what to say.  Help us to keep our eyes on You.  For it’s in Your Name we pray, amen.

 

CHRISTLife – One: A Crucial Question

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Who are you? Is your first response, ‘Don’t ask me that question!’ or perhaps, you have a ready litany to spout out of accomplishments and positions you hold, of who you are in relation to your little world.  So I ask you again (and believe me…we are going to ask this question of each other and of ourselves many times during this study!)

Really now…who are you?

As the answers rise up within you, I suggest that you write them down.  Keep a running list.  And don’t NOT write down any response that is a little ugly or dark or something you don’t want to admit.  As we move along through this study, we will purposefully and intentionally work to find the Truth from the Scriptures of just God says you are.  And your list can be overwritten with those Truths.

Now, when you ask yourself ‘Who am I?,’ how do you feel about looking within?  Is it uncomfortable…painful even.  We each have areas of our hearts, our memories, our minds where we have pushed down the things that we don’t like and the things that we don’t want to deal with.  And perhaps there are things in your heart way down there that you aren’t even aware of anymore.

The Psalmist knew that it was God, and God alone, Who knew the depths of his heart! Over and over we read of him asking God to show him his heart.  In Psalm 139, he declares,

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
Verse 1

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Verse 23

Throughout our lives, situations and circumstances have led us to believe ‘things’ about ourselves—things that are simply not true. For many of us, perhaps even the majority of us, because of life events, our thoughts and beliefs about who we are have been molded without our even knowing it.

I encourage you to let the Holy Spirit reveal to you these lies that you believe about yourself. This will not be easy…most probably, very uncomfortable! But what great value there will be to not holding onto these lies anymore. And to shed light where there was darkness! And to hold onto the Truth that is revealed—the Truth about who God made you (each of us!) to be.

For You, O Lord, are my Lamp; the Lord lightens my darkness.
2 Samuel 22:29

This little song, sung by a few teenager girls, expresses my heart. How about yours?

“Search my heart, Lord, find anything, anything that keeps me from You
Find everything, everything that leads me away from Truth
I’m asking You, Lord, now know my heart
Every little secret, every hidden part
And what You ask of me, Lord, I’ll do…anything.”

Day by day, chapter by chapter, week by week, as we choose to persevere through this study, we will come to recognize just who we are in Christ!  Oh, to trust and believe it—I am who God says I am.

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Oh, heavenly Father, I pray for each and every one of my sisters asking, Lord, that You will fill each of their hearts with the Truth of who they really are and how very much You love them. I ask that You would help each one of us to replace every single lie that is counter to the way that You see us with Truth from Your Scriptures.  Please help us to believe that ‘I am who God says I am!’  With Jesus’ precious blood we have been redeemed and made whole; it is in His Name that I ask and pray these things. Amen. Thank You, Lord.

16 Day Love Challenge: Chapter 12 – Love Always Protects

16daylovechallengealwaysprotectsOn its face, it seems rather simple – we all want our loved ones protected, right?  I can definitely say that I am protective of my friends and family – physically and spiritually. But I have tried to take the “Love Challenge” outside of just my immediate relationships and think bigger each time, so it begs the question: if I am to be loving to everyone, how do I protect someone I don’t even know?

To make sure I understood what it meant to protect, I once again sought the definition of the word.  As I looked into its meaning, and tried to focus on how I could embody this characteristic in my life, I began to get emotional. To protect means “to keep safe from harm or injury” (Google Dictionary); however, another source says further “to keep someone from being harmed or lost” (Merriam–Webster Online Dictionary).  Synonyms of protect include: save, shield, hedge, shelter, guard.  Any of those words look familiar?  Perhaps because in many passages in Scripture, Jesus is described as being any and all of those things for us.  So, to get this straight – if we are showing love to others, we are to save them from being harmed or lost.  Sounds a lot like what is at the heart of the Great Commission, if you think about it. Love always protects.  To get to the meat of this one was actually a little challenging for me, sisters.

It still seems a bit hard to grasp…how can I protect the person that cuts me off in traffic? The person who is in front of me in line at the grocery store?  How can I protect the person at work who is intent on undermining me?

Here are a few things that I was shown:

  • Guard your tongue.  Proverbs 18:21 tells us that “the power of life and death are in the tongue.”  There are many more Scriptures about guarding our tongue and watching what we speak, but let me try to be more specific.  What comes out of your mouth when that person cuts you off in traffic? Be honest, sisters.  Are you speaking life or death over that person? I’ve started trying to pray in those situations that God will watch over the reckless driver and keep him from bringing harm to him and others on the road. What we say holds spiritual power, sisters!  Guard your tongue and choose to speak life over a situation or a person.
  • Intercede. Prayer seems to be a natural partner with guarding our tongues.  However, I am asking you to take prayer a step further.  I am suggesting that if you want to protect someone that you not just pray for them, you intercede for them.  To intercede means that you plead someone’s case – almost like a lawyer.  In Exodus 32 we see that Moses has been in the Presence of God for so long that the Israelites decided to worship a golden calf. God is so angry that He told Moses He was about to destroy everyone and start over!  However, the Bible says that Moses sought favor from God and pleaded with Him to spare their lives—and God relented. Live on a street with crazy neighbors?  Pray that God reveals Himself in such a way that they come to know God. Pray for our nation.  Have a friend or acquaintance that refuses to acknowledge God and ridicules you on top of that? Don’t be angry or offended – pray that they come to know the truth – you may be the only person praying on their behalf!
  • Be merciful.  There is a particularly sobering passage (at least it is to me) in Jude – in verse 23.  Jude says “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them…” (NIV). Sisters, let me plead with you – show mercy to all. As believers, we have no right to be self-righteous – the only reason we are saved is because Jesus showed mercy to us – extend it to everyone. How can you practically show mercy? Can you donate to a food bank? Give a homeless person a blanket? Can you hold your tongue when you’d really like to give someone a piece of your mind? Can you forgive? Can you reserve judgment? Donate your time? Can you step out of your comfort zone and ask God to show you what it really looks like to be the “hands and feet” of Jesus – and then act that way?? Would you allow God to open your heart to love someone (anyone!) in such a selfless, potentially heartbreaking way that you “snatch them from the fire??”

Will YOU be protection from harm?

 

Let’s pray:

Dear God, I have been challenged so much and in so many ways.  Help me, God, to dig deeper. Help me to love more fully. Help me to see all people as You would see them. Thank You, God, for being my Protection, my Shield, my Rock and my Fortress. Thank You for sending Your Son to die for me to protect me from evil and your angels to stand guard around me. I want to live my life in such a way that I protect and guard not only those that I love, but those You put in my path. Help me to decrease so that You may increase in my life. Help me to walk in love all of my days!  I love You, Lord!  Help me show it. In your Son’s name we pray, Amen.

16 Day Love Challenge: Chapter 7 – Love Is Not Self-Seeking

Hello, sisters!  Today, we are challenged with “Love is not self-seeking (selfish).”  That goes against the grain of this world, doesn’t it?  We are inundated with messages about looking out for yourself, improving yourself, taking care of yourself, making yourself look better.  Any bookstore or library will have a HUGE self-help or self-improvement section. We are constantly told, “You better watch out for #1!” or  “If you don’t take care of yourself, no one will!”  The message is almost everywhere, and unfortunately, sisters, we’ve bought into it.  MINE.

We learned that word as young children, didn’t we? My toys…my snacks…my food??  ME do it! As adults it looks a little bit more like my agenda, my life goals, my job, my money, my time, and my talents.  We often pride ourselves on our ability to work hard or on our achievements.  We’ve got it twisted, ladies, and God is calling us to change that way of thinking.  Not our agenda, our life goals, our job, our money, our time, our talents, but HIS. And here’s the kicker: they belong to Him anyway.  Ladies, let’s take a hard look  and examine ourselves. Are we being selfish…with God?

  • Are you looking to fulfill God’s interests first or your own?
  • Are you protective of your money? Or do you see it as belonging to God (ALL of it; not just what you contribute/tithe)?
  • Who has set the goals in your life?  You or God? Do you know what God wants you to do with your life?  Have you even asked Him?
  • Does God get your “prime” time, or your leftover time?

WHY are we so reluctant to give God EVERYTHING we are and EVERYTHING we have?  Why do we selfishly cling to what is ours?

Can I tell you a lesson I learned about God from interacting with my dog?  (Seriously.  God speaks to us in many ways.  I’ve even had a kingdom revelation while playing Candy Crush, but I digress….) I have a rescue dog, Dyson.  He is my “special needs” dog. Very shy, fearful, and mistrusting, even as a pup.  When Dyson is done eating, he will often pick up his food bowl and carry it around with him, crouching around it.  When I come to pick up his bowl to give him more to eat, he’ll often clamp down on it with his mouth and growl at me. I then have to do what I can to coax it away from him.  One day I was already frazzled, and Dyson and I start the “food bowl dance,” but Dyson was extra protective – he even snapped at me! My heart was broken; after all, I am his caregiver!  I broke down in tears and started telling Dyson: “Don’t you see that mommy would never hurt you?  Mommy will ALWAYS feed you!  Mommy will ALWAYS give you more to eat! Mommy LOVES Dyson! Mommy will ALWAYS take care of Dyson!”  As tears were streaming down my face, God gently touched me and said, “Don’t you see that I will never hurt you? I will ALWAYS feed you. I will ALWAYS give you more. I LOVE YOU!!  I will ALWAYS take care of you.”   The weight of what He said really sunk in.  Why do I hold back from God when He only wants what is best for me?  He wants to give me MORE.

Sisters, we live our lives like Dyson.  We protect what is “ours” because we don’t see the storehouse of blessings God has for us when our bowl is empty!  We mistrust God’s provision for us because we can’t physically see what is around the corner.  Dyson is always literally steps away from his reserve of food AND treats! We look to our own interests because we don’t believe God cares about them.  We are selfish with others because we don’t understand how freely and abundantly God gives to us. When we understand that everything belongs to God, then we realize He can replace whatever we give away!  The day I learned that I could trust God to supply for me even more than I could possibly supply for my dog was the day I became free of the bondage of selfishness.  God LOVES you!  He will ALWAYS take care of you!  He wants what is best for you!  You can trust God!

Will you be free from the bondage of selfishness today?  Give God your “bowl” today – he wants to fill it to overflowing!!

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Let’s pray:

Holy God, I thank You that You are my kind and loving Father.  I thank You that You take care of my every need and promise to always take care of me in Your Word!  Forgive me, Lord, when I am selfish and look to my own needs instead of Your needs.  Help me to realize that when I seek You first, then You will supply all my needs through Your Son, Jesus.  God, I love You and I want to give to others as You have freely given to me.  Help me to live a selfless life!   In Your Son’s name we pray.  Amen.

16 Day Love Challenge – Chapter 2: Love is Kind

Luke 6 35

Kindness.  Just seeing the word makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn’t it?  It makes you smile.  If I asked you to share a time when someone was kind to you, what comes to your mind?  We read at the beginning of Chapter 2 that “Kindness can be described as having the qualities of being friendly, generous and considerate.”  But is it really that easy or simple?  Let’s not dismiss this attribute as elementary, sisters.  We are challenged at the end of the chapter to ask God to show you where you have been unkind.  If you will, take a moment now and ask God; “Lord, am I truly and consistently kind?  To everyone?”

When we look in the Bible, there are MANY directives given to be kind or show kindness.  We see in Galatians 5:22 that it is one of the many fruits of the Spirit—evidences that we are being led by the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.  In 2 Peter 1: 5-9 we see that kindness is one of several qualities that will help us to be more effective and productive in our knowledge of Jesus.  In Ephesians 2:6 and 7 we are told that “God raised us up with Christ” in order to show us the “incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” We are directed to be kind to women, children, the poor and the oppressed, so there must be more to kindness than just being “friendly.”

When I looked up the word, “kindness” again, I saw the same definition—friendly, generous, considerate.  Then I looked up the word “kind.”  The fourth definition was “forbearing or tolerant.”  Here we go… here is where we are shown the difference between just opening the door for someone and truly taking on the nature of God.  In Luke 6: 32-35 we are shown a challenging passage that, like our passage in 1 Corinthians 13, exemplifies the true actions of a loving person.

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?
Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.
And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you?
Even ‘sinners’ do that.
And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?
Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners’, expecting to be repaid in full.
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them
without expecting to get anything back.
Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High,
because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. (NIV)

In preparation for this blog, I started the 16 Day Love Challenge a little early. Even as I was reading about patience (yep, I need to work on that…), God was convicting me about “kindness.”  He showed me two areas that needed improvement—how I spoke to my husband and how I dealt with customers at work.  Now don’t get me wrong, I try very hard to be a submissive, loving, supportive wife (AND a godly, cheerful, positive person at my job!).  But with my husband, sometimes I can be…critical. <Ugh. Anyone out there with me?>   There are times when, instead of seeing and recognizing what my husband does right, I pick out the small detail that is not to my liking and make some kind of comment about it.  Often, after it comes out of my mouth, I think “Why did I say that???”  Well, for the past several days I have been HIGHLY aware of what comes out of my mouth, because those little, tiny, nitpicky things have a tendency to wear someone down.   (And you know what, sisters?  We reap what we sow.  Do you have relationships that have a problem with criticism?  Do an honest check to see what you are sowing into it….) Not only have I tried to bring every thought under submission to God, but I’ve been happier…as has my husband.   I work part-time at a cute shop in town that sells cupcakes, and it can get rather busy.   I am the only person that works during my shift, and so a line to the door of often impatient customers can raise the stress level a bit.  There are many times when a customer wants to take a LONG time figuring out what just the right cupcake will be, and wants a description of the ingredients/frosting/sprinkles, etc. for every cupcake!  (Did I mention the line of customers behind him/her is to the door?  And they are being audibly impatient?)  Needless to say, I have a tendency to then become impatient and try to rush the customer along.  Is that showing love to that person?  NO.  I am being neither patient nor kind to those types of customers.   So I prayed to be more loving (patient and kind) to the difficult customers that came in the door.  It made for a much less stressful shift!

Let’s accept the challenge to exemplify “kindness” today – not only to those that are kind to us, but especially to those that are not!  If we do, our “reward will be great!” (Luke 6:35)

Let’s pray:

Kind father, THANK YOU for loving me!  Thank You for your blessings, and for every good and perfect gift that comes from You, especially for Your Son Jesus, and the hope we have through Him!  Show me where I can be kinder to those around me, and help me today to show the true love of Jesus in my actions.  Help me to give kindness as generously as You have given it to me.  In the name of Your Son we pray.

Amen.

Esther – Chapter 9:6-16

16DayCover

Please join us for our next Online Bible Study!

“16-Day Love Challenge:

Matching our Words and Actions with

1 Corinthians 13:4-8″

by Cherie Zack and Rebecca LeCompte.

This study begins November 4th.

Be sure to go to our Registration page for more details, and to sign up today!!

The Registration page can be found by clicking on this LINK.

We hope you will join us!!

The king said to Queen Esther, “The Jews have killed and destroyed five hundred men and the ten sons of Haman in the citadel of Susa. What have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces? Now what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? It will also be granted.  If it pleases the king,” Esther answered, “give the Jews in Susa permission to carry out this day’s edit tomorrow also, and let Haman’s ten sons be hanged on gallows.”
Esther 9:12-13 NIV

In my Bible, the introduction to Chapter 9 is entitled “Triumph of the Jews.”  The enemies of the Jews thought they could take out their enemies, but the Jews were able to turn the tables on them! We also see that Haman’s ten sons were killed in verse 9 – so why the strange request from Esther?  Why hang ten dead men on the gallows?  Seems a bit—literally—like overkill. We’ve seen that all of Esther’s actions have been intentional so far, so what is the point of this request?  Darlene mentions that a public execution would put fear in the people (page 103).  It would do that, to be sure!   My Study Bible gives additional insight.

In Deuteronomy 21:22-23, God gives these directions through Moses: “If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, you must not leave his body on the tree overnight.  Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse.”  To the Jews, this is a reminder of God’s deliverance and fulfillment of a promise made to them long ago through Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse…” (Genesis 12:3 NIV).

If you go to your Bible, you will notice that I didn’t include the remainder of verse 3 in Genesis.  It concludes “… and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Wow, what an amazing promise!  Did you realize that the promise to Abraham became your blessing, too?  Through Abraham, God makes a mighty nation—the Jews—His chosen people.  Through Abraham, God sends Jesus to fulfill His plan and redeem us all.  Hallelujah!  One of the beautiful revelations of studying Esther is how Esther’s story is our story!  We are all Esther–beautiful, favored by the ultimate King (God), chosen, given a helper (the Holy Spirit), redeemed and saved from our enemy (Satan)!  But here is a key difference—and please give it the reverence it deserves—in our life story, the One hung on the gallows, the One hung on a tree – is Jesus…yes…Jesus.

In Galatians 3:13 -14 (NIV) Paul writes “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’ He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.”   I read this and I am so humbled, so grateful, so joyful!  You see, Jesus became the sacrifice that saved me from death.  Jesus became the curse so that I can receive the blessing!  Because He triumphed over the cross, over curses, over death, He rendered Satan’s power ultimately useless over me!  Just like the Jews’ enemies in Persia, who thought they were going to destroy them, Satan has had the tables turned on him! WE ARE SAVED!!  WE ARE REDEEMED!!

Praise God today, sisters, because He has made the power of the Cross available to us who believe in Him!  Don’t live in fear of the enemy; live in the hope and confidence of those redeemed out of the hand of the devil.  Just like the Jews were overwhelmingly victorious – so will you be in your life.  Read the story of Esther again and apply this knowledge to your life – I am Esther and, just like God worked in her life, He works in mine! God bless you, sisters!  WE ARE REDEEMED!! Let the knowledge of that change your life!

Let’s Pray:

Holy God, thank You for the Book of Esther!  Thank You for Your words that give us wisdom, knowledge, hope and all of Your precious promises.  Help us to live today and every day with the knowledge that You love us very much and that You want us to live abundant lives of joy! Thank You that Your son became the curse, OUR curse, so that we can receive the blessing HE deserved. May we be eternally grateful and strive to live out our days in humble, grateful submission to You and fulfill the purposes You have for us!  Thank You for loving us!  Help us to love others the same way. In Your Son’s name we pray, Amen.

Esther – Chapter 8:16-17

16DayCover

Please join us for our next Online Bible Study!

“16-Day Love Challenge:

Matching our Words and Actions with

1 Corinthians 13:4-8″

by Cherie Zack and Rebecca LeCompte.

This study begins November 4th.  

Be sure to go to our Registration page for more details, and to sign up today!!

The Registration page can be found by clicking on this LINK.

We hope you will join us!!

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Hope. That’s what I feel when I put myself in Esther’s place. Even before the deliverance actually happens, even before lives are really changed, there is joy when you realize that victory is possible. When you see that God has made a way out and it works and we know the instant joy and peace. Don’t you know there was joy in Susa that day? Mordecai is being honored and the city is shouting with gladness. Mordecai is now in control and the people are relieved and at peace and actually full of joy throughout the whole kingdom. Esther’s mission is accomplished.

What a great relief she must have felt, as we do when the truth breaks upon our hearts that God has made a way out. Not a way out of our circumstances always, but a way out of defeat from our circumstances. Can you relate? Romans 6:14 says, “Sin shall not have dominion over you for you are not under law but under grace.” Read that again. Let it leap off the page and resonate in your heart. “Sin shall not have dominion over ________” (fill in your name)!

Have you been wrestling with problems in your life that you have no victory over? Are you at the point of despair? Can you not find a way out? You have everything you need to claim victory that is rightfully yours through Your Redeemer Jesus Christ who died for you. Mission accomplished.  Though we may not understand the whole process of how victory happens, we have faith in His word and the things that were made to defeat you will lie in pieces at your feet and you will be free. No matter how long you’ve been in bondage, the Lord has fulfilled His promises and joy is yours!

And many from the peoples of the country declared themselves Jews,
for the fear of the Jews had fallen upon them.
Esther 8:17

The Gentiles became Jews, adopting the principles and beliefs of God’s people, giving up paganism and turning to the only One True God.

Do people want what you have? Do they see a difference in how you are living your life and want the same? When your reactions to the trials and challenges you face are much different than they used to be, others are going to be struck by this change and become followers of Jesus—like you.

When your life can no longer be explained simply in terms of your human personality, when your reaction is contrary to what others have been led to expect, the questions are asked, * “What makes _______ do this?”  * “How can ________ do this?”  * “What makes _________ react this way?”

Once again, God gets the glory for the awesome change in His people and others are drawn into Him and become hungry for more of Him. Then you find yourself praising Him for the very trial that you thought would break you for good, and your mess is His message and Heaven will receive more angels.

God is always working with us and through us. He wants all of His children to follow Him and to be ready for that day when “Every knee shall bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”  He rejoices over each new believer. Praise God that you get to be a part of this; and, like Esther and Mordecai, lead people to change their lives all throughout our kingdoms.

Step out and do the impossible thing that God wants you to do. Obey Him and let Him bless you!!

Let’s Pray:

Dear Father, thank You so much for this study, for letting us see in our own lives the light that You placed there for the world to see. Thank You for freedom from bondage, and for the good news You have given us through Your Word. Thank You for hope and victory through You. Thank You for loving us unconditionally and seeing the good in us when we cannot see it and for being patient with us when we keep repeating the same mistakes over and over. Thank You for grace. May we always shine Your goodness and be a witness to a hurting world and may we turn eyes toward You with our actions. We love You and praise You. In Jesus’ name.

Amen.

Esther – Chapter 8:7-8

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness,

faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23 NIV

Oh, how I love this scripture, sisters!  We looked at it when discussing our “beauty regimen” in chapter 2 and now, as we revisit it, we see those “fruits” are also the proof of the Holy Spirit living and working in you! (But first, let’s get back to Esther….)

Things are FINALLY looking up for her, Mordecai, and the Jews!  Haman is gone, Mordecai and Esther have been redeemed and in verses 7-8 we see that the estate of Haman has been given to Esther.  Moreover, another decree is now being written in the King’s name on behalf of the Jews which not only allowed the Jews to protect themselves, but also to destroy anyone that attacked them AND plunder the property of their enemies.  This decree we see is sealed with the King’s signet ring and signifies the irrevocable nature of the new decree.  Hooray!

Darlene then compares this seal to the seal, or mark, of the Holy Spirit, which is given to us when we become a child of God.  Let’s look at the Scripture she provides: 2 Corinthians 1:21-22.

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ.  He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (NIV)

My Study Bible gives this further explanation regarding the seal of ownership: “It was both the first installment on a loan and a guarantee of its complete payment” (Quest Study Bible).  So if the Holy Spirit is a deposit and a guarantee of future payment – how amazing will the payoff be??  How exciting!!

The Holy Spirit is vital to your life as a believer!  Darlene provides a sampler of Scriptures to discuss the role He plays in our lives.  We see:

  • that He is a counselor (John 14:16)
  • that He will convict the world in regard to sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:7-11)
  • that He is a guide into all truth (John 16:13)
  • that He glorifies Jesus (John 16:14)
  • and He testifies about Jesus (John15:26)

Think of the Holy Spirit as the ultimate Guide to help you navigate your way in this life and help you enter Heaven with as many rewards as possible!  In fact, different versions of the Bible will translate “Counselor” in John 16:7 as “Advocate” or “Helper.”  (For an incredible, in-depth study of the Holy Spirit and His role in your life, may I recommend “The Helper” by Catherine Marshall.)  But just like Jesus, the Holy Spirit will not work in your life against your will. We must choose to cooperate with the Holy Spirit.  Example: My GPS will give me the correct directions to reach my destination, but if I don’t turn it on, or if I ignore its instructions, it can’t help me!

How do we know if the Holy Spirit is guiding us down the right path?  How do we know that He’s working?  Well, that brings us back to Galatians 5:22-23, the first Scripture mentioned today.  When you see a tree, you know what kind of tree it is because of the fruit that is hanging from it.  Likewise the “fruits of the Spirit” are evidences that can be seen in our lives that we are allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us.  The more we allow the Spirit to shape our lives, change our thinking, and mold our behavior, the greater the evidence – the greater the harvest of fruit!

So…. How are YOU doing??  I’d love to know!  Is there a fruit that is your favorite?  And which one do you need to cultivate more often in order for it to grow in your life?

Let’s Pray:

Heavenly Father – You are a kind and gracious God!  Thank You for redeeming us from our enemies.  Thank You for sealing us as Your children and giving us the Holy Spirit, not only as a promise for the future, but to help us in the present!  I ask You to help me listen to the guidance that Your Spirit longs to give me and help me to blossom into a beautiful, fruit-filled tree for all to see!  Thank You for Your blessings, Your goodness, Your grace and Your love.  May I be able to show those qualities to someone who needs them today.  In Your Son’s name we pray.

Amen.

 

Esther – Chapter 8:1-2

As I read Esther chapter eight, one phrase continually comes into my thoughts: “There is none like You…You alone are God!”  And I praise and exalt Him for His sovereignty, His all-knowing and His ALWAYS knowing!  Would you praise Him along with me?

We have watched this incredible story of redemption, blessing,  provision, protection, and submission unfold day by day over the past seven weeks throughout our study of Esther: The Beauty of Courageous Submission.  At times, my heart has been so caught up in the moment-by-moment real life drama of Esther’s life.

There are no words throughout all ten chapters of the Book of Esther which are attributed to God, or His dealings with Esther, the King, or Uncle Mordecai.  No directive, no command, no blessing…no actual interaction with the Almighty God that is recorded.  However, we clearly can see His hand of blessing, His hand of direction, His guidance and His provision—His providence.

PROVIDENCE is defined as “foresight; timely care; particularly, active foresight, or foresight accompanied with the procurement of what is necessary for future use, or with suitable preparation.  In theology, the care and superintendence which God exercises over his creatures.”

The Bible Dictionary says,

“When applied to God the idea takes on a vastly larger dimension because God not only looks ahead and attempts to make provision for His goals, but infallibly accomplishes what He sets out to do. And because it is God’s governance that is in view, it encompasses everything in the universe, from the creation of the world to its consummation, inclusive of every aspect of human existence and destiny. This divine, sovereign, and benevolent control of all things by God is the underlying premise of everything that is taught in the Scriptures.”

And the Scriptures contain so many examples of His divine providence; here are just a few.

  • Baby Moses, being hidden in a basket in the river; found by Pharoah’s daughter and adopted into Pharoah’s family.
  • Daniel a Jewish slave in Babylon, and becoming Nebuchadnezzar’s advisor.
  • Joseph, envied by his brothers, sold by them into slavery in Egypt and becoming second in power after Pharoah.
  • Jonah’s refusal to obey, his consequences, and through them, the Ninevites choosing to repent.

Throughout the Scriptures, we are reminded of God’s desire to have His people (you and me!) recognize His perfect care for and love for us as evidenced by His providence.

Earnestly remember the former things, which I did of old; for I am God, and there is no one else; I am God, and there is none like Me,  Declaring the end and the result from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure and purpose,
Isaiah 46:9 and 10

The world calls this coincidence…happenstance…serendipity…fate.  We call it the providence of God—His AWEsome watching over, His perfect care, His provision (both immediate and in the future).

Ecclesiastes 8:16 and 17

When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to see the business activity and the painful effort that take place upon the earth—how neither day nor night some men’s eyes sleep — Then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun—because however much a man may toil in seeking, yet he will not find it out; yes, more than that, though a wise man thinks and claims he knows, yet will he not be able to find it out.

Psalms 139:16 and 17

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God!

Ultimately, our great God, has all of eternity in mind and planned for us.  His sovereign plan which includes all the faithful who have come before us will come to pass for one reason alone—He is God, and that’s just the way it is!

And all of these, though they won divine approval by [means of] their faith, did not receive the fulfillment of what was promised, Because God had us in mind and had something better and greater in view for us, so that they [these heroes and heroines of faith] should not come to perfection apart from us [before we could join them].
Hebrews 11:39 and 40

…making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.  In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.  In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit….
Ephesians 1:9-13

What other examples of God’s providence can you remember from the Scriptures?  How about His providential hand of blessing in your own life?  (Perhaps you might share your answer in the comments below.)

* * * * *

Let’s Pray:

Almighty God, the Great I AM, throughout time You have always taken such AWEsome care of Your people providing in ways that are beyond our ability to fathom or understand.  We thank You, as we continue to read about Esther’s (and the Jewish peoples) life, for Your providence— Your perfect provision and guidance. You have ‘declared the end from the beginning’ and Your plans always come to pass.  Please help us, Father, when we cannot see even the next step to be comforted in trusting that You see far into the future…truly to eternity!  We love You and trust You!  And pray in Jesus’ name.

Amen.