Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Can you see the cross in Purim?

READ Esther 9-10

Here we have the record of the beginning of the Feast of Purim that is celebrated by the Jews. After they were allowed to defend themselves against their enemies they set aside the 14th and 15th of Adar as days of feasting and gladness because these were “the days on which the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday” (9:22). This feast was commanded by Mordecai and Queen Esther (9:29-32).

As Christians we don’t celebrate Purim. But is there a time when we celebrate getting relief from our “enemy” and having our sorrow turned into gladness? I would suggest that is what we do at the Lord’s Supper. It is at the Lord’s Supper that we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes again. We celebrate and memorialize Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross where our enemy, Satan, was crushed and his head was bruised (Gen 3:15). At the cross our sorrow for sin and the lasting results of sin was turned into joy and gladness at the realization of eternal forgiveness and mercy from God. Because of his death on the cross there will be no more death for his people just as the Jews were rescued from death in the days of Esther.

Glory to his name! “ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)

Prayer: Father, help us to remember that our Savior Jesus defeated our adversary and took away the sting of death for us. Thank you, Father, that you turned our mourning into dancing with joy at the victory over death when you raised Jesus from the dead on the third day. Lord, never let us forget that our life and our joy and our union with You was purchased through his blood at the cross.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Can there be more than one "such a time"?

READ Esther 3-4

This is a fairly well-known story among Bible readers. The decree to kill the Jews is made and Uncle Mordecai asks Esther to go before the king on behalf of her people to seek help. She is afraid that she will be killed and is reluctant, at first, to go. But Mordecai challenges her with those immortal words, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such  time as this?” (4:14)

Perhaps that’s a question we ought to ask ourselves more often. Does it have to be only a one-time thing? When we are faced with helping that person who is needy and we are in a position to do something, is it possible that God has put us there “for such a time as this?” When there is an opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a lost friend or family member, maybe just maybe, God has put us there “for such a time as this.” When we are faced with resisting temptation not only for our own good but also for the good of those around us, could it also be that we have come to that moment “for such a time as this?”

It’s a good question to ask. And I believe the answer will usually be “yes.”

Prayer: Father, help me to be aware of those divine appointments in my life where you have orchestrated the events and timing. Help me to be strong and courageous in doing what will honor you the most. Help me to constantly be discerning of the opportunities you give me.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Preparing Like Esther

READ Esther 1-2

As the ESV Study Bible says: “The book of Esther never mentions God’s name, yet God clearly orchestrated all of its events.” In these first two chapters we see the beginning of the story which takes place between the first return of the exiles from captivity and the time when Ezra and Nehemiah came back to Jerusalem. Esther’s uncle Mordecai was obviously a very old man for he had been among those taken into exile from Judah. Esther was born during the exile.

As I read these chapters, one thought occurred to me while thinking of what to say in this devotional. The scene is being set, the intrigue is building, God is clearly about to do something, but one thing stands out — we are not to the end of the story yet. And that’s exactly where we find ourselves today, isn’t it. We know that Jesus came, lived a perfectly sinless life, died on the cross for our sins, rose again on the third day and ascended to be with the Father. But not, the intrigue is building…the scene is being set…Jesus is going to return…but we are not to the end of the story yet.

So what do we do in the meantime? Just like Esther, we are to make ourselves ready for his return. Esther was over a year in preparation to make herself as beautiful as possible before meeting King Ahasuerus. We do not know how much time we have before we meet our Savior, whether through death or rapture. But we are to beautify ourselves through holy and righteous living for that day. Think of your opportunity in this life to adorn yourself with Christ-likeness because, “Beloved, we are God 's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)

Prayer: Father, help us to live in such a way that in the moment we see you we will not be ashamed but filled with ecstatic joy and meeting you face to face.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Model for QT's

READ Nehemiah 9-10

In these two chapters we have a long, national Quiet Time (or Time Alone With God or whatever you like to call your daily devotional time). I see here a wonderful model and outline for us as we spend time with the Lord on a regular basis. Notice: Word; confession; praise; petition; commitment.

1. They read from the Word of God. (9:3) Notice it was for “a quarter of the day.” We should hunger for God’s Word and not be content with small patches. It is good for us to bath ourselves in the Word of God daily.

2. They confessed their sin…again, for “a quarter of the day.” (9:3) This was no light confession. They had come before the Lord in deep humility (9:1) as we should also. The Word had brought conviction upon them of the depth of their sin and they confessed it to God.

3. They praised God (9:5b-31). The primary praise device they used was to recount all the marvelous ways that God had blessed them from creation to the present day. A recurring theme is the mercy of God which brought forgiveness and blessing over and over to his people.

4. They asked God for specific things (9:32-37). Only after the reading of the Word and the confession and the praise did they get to their petition. They asked God to remember the hardship of their present circumstances. They were slaves. But even in their slavery they saw the faithful hand of God because of their own sin (9:33).

5. They made a covenant (9:38-10:39). This was their commitment to God of how they would live in obedience to his Word. This is a wonderful example for us. After we have studied the Word, confessed our sin, praised and thanked God for his blessings and asked God to help us in our need — then we should determine in our hearts what we are going to do based on his Word (James 1:22).

A great national devotional that serves as a model for our private devotionals. Let’s do it.

Prayer: Father, your Word is so righteous and live-giving. Thank you that it convicts us of our sin and shows us your faithfulness. Help us to live according to what you teach us through your holy Word.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Best Definition of Preaching

READ Nehemiah 7-8

Many years ago, while I was studying in school to prepare to be a pastor, I came to this part of Nehemiah and was profoundly impacted by it. For me, we have here the best definition of what preaching is to be. It’s found in 8:8: “They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.” How simple, yet profound, is that idea. Ever since that time I have sought to follow that model in preaching to God’s people week after week.

I do note that, though Ezra was doing the primary reading, there were others there who also “helped the people to understand the Law” (8:7). Preaching, in its fullest sense is not a one-man job. I am so grateful for our other pastors and teachers in our church who also help folks to understand the Word of God. Their role is vital in the teaching of God’s Word to the church.

So pray for me and for our other pastors and teachers. Pray that we will be faithful to the Word of God to read it and explain it so that people can understand it. That really is all we are called to do. I think when Paul gave his admonition to young pastor Timothy to “preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim 4:2), he was calling him to do exactly what Ezra had done that day in the courtyard of the Water Gate. There is no higher calling.

Prayer: Father, thank you that you have strengthened me to teach your Word all these many years. Thank you that you have given me a place to do that. That you that you have given faithful people who want to hear the Word proclaimed. Help us all to be faithful to your Word and may your Word bear fruit in us and among us. Help us to be doers of the Word and not hearers only.