Category Archives: January 2017 theme: Obedience

For Such a Time As This

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For Such a Time As This

I teach our Women’s Ministry Bible Study at church. We are studying the book of Esther. It has been a great study for us to really dig into. I was surprised at the number of women who had not read it before or knew very little about the story of Esther. We have been going through it, one chapter each time we meet. Last night we were rooted in Chapter 4 and as I was preparing to teach this section, verse 14 stood out to me…

If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. What’s more, who can say but you have been elevated to the palace for such a time as this.

In this one verse it says the word time twice. When things are repeated in succession in the Bible, pay attention. Mordecai is pleading with Esther to make a choice…risk death by Haman’s plot to kill all Jews, or risk death by entering King Xerxes’ chamber, uninvited, to plead with him for deliverance from their annihilation.

No one knew yet that Esther was a Jew herself, except her cousin Mordecai. She had been orphaned, brought to live with him in Susa, a Persian providence, and brought to the King’s palace as a young virgin in the harem when he banished Queen Vashti. Xerxes was to choose a new queen from these virgins. Esther was elevated above them all, and won Xerxes heart and he made her Queen of Persia.

When Esther first learns about the edict to kill all the Jews, she is deeply distressed but I don’t think she quite got the seriousness of it. She sends out clothes for Mordecai to cover himself instead of his public display of mourning, wearing sackcloth (burlap) and ashes. Mordecai refuses and sends her back a message of the exact details of the plot and pleads with her to go King Xerxes and beg for the lives of her people. I believe he did this to explain to her the urgency of this situation. She feels stuck, not knowing what to do, and says “What do you want me to do, risk dying trying to talk to him when he hasn’t summoned me?”  Mordecai becomes irritated and points out to her “you will not escape the same fate, maybe this is why God has elevated you to the position of queen, for this very thing!”  Then comes Esther’s dilemma… die at the hands of the Persian army when they found out she was a Jew, or die trying to enter the King’s inner court, uninvited, to plead for the deliverance of her people. (Read the rest of Chapter 4 to find out what she chooses if you don’t already know!)

I couldn’t help but ponder, which offers the greater risk? On one hand, she dies like all the other Jews under the verdict carried out by the Persian army, and disappoints God by not defending His people. Or on the other hand, she goes before her husband’s throne, risking death because she was both uninvited and exposing that she had not revealed her true identity to him, but pleasing God in the process because she was willing to die for His chosen people.

We see God’s Provision in Esther’s life because of the importance of her position as queen. We are not queens, nor do most of us hold the high position that would pale in comparison to hers. Most of us can’t even fathom the immensity of the fulfillment of this significant destiny that God places on her life. So how can we apply her situation to our lives?

Take this to heart. We are royalty in the most literal sense possible because we are daughters of the King of the Kings, the Lord of Lords. We have royal blood in a way that even Esther did not because the crimson blood of Jesus Christ flows through our veins.

  1. Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (there is a time and place for all things!)
  2. Have you ever had a “for such a time as this” opportunity in your life? If so, how did you use the gifts and talents entrusted to you by God on the behalf of others?

Four Principles we can learn from Esther…

  1. God has a special plan for each of our lives.
  2. Sometimes you have to go against your own common sense, against what other people advise, even against what you want to do, in order to follow God’s plan.
  3. Don’t wait to follow God’s plan for your life. The time is now! At some point you have to gather up the courage to move forward, one step at a time. Otherwise you stay stuck and complacent.
  4. Trusting in God completely and wholeheartedly brings great rewards but it takes radical obedience! Be sold out for God, living to please Him above all else.

 

God loves you and so do I,

Leslie

 

Photo courtesy of theadoptshoppe @ etsy.com

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A Quote by C.S. Lewis

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C.S. Lewis

“[E]very time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state of the other.”

C.S. Lewis

 

Sin Has Consequences

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“What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?….For the wages of sin is death…”Romans 6:21-23

As you can see, I’m still pondering January’s theme. Beth Ann’s post about abortion made me think of this verse.  Not just because abortion kills babies, but also because as Beth Ann said, a piece of her died also.  When we disobey God, we harm others, and we also harm ourselves.  Sin may look pretty, or easy, or feel good for the moment, but it has consequences that are not good for anyone. We’ve all experienced this.

Guess what else I notice in this verse.  We earn the consequences of our sin.  It is the wage we receive for the things we do. It’s not foisted upon us; it doesn’t just happen–we work at it!  In case you have any thought like, “I haven’t done anything too awful, so this doesn’t apply to me” listen to this:

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

Not some of us, or most of us, but ALL of us are sinners.

Fortunately, I haven’t given you the full story.  Here’s how Romans 6:23 ends:

“…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

And Romans 3:23:

“…and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

God gave us a way out of our sin.  We don’t earn this;  it is a free gift.  We don’t choose our salvation, but we can choose how we live in view of it.

“…I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.”  Deuteronomy 30:19

Choose obedience.  Choose life.

 

 

 

The Lack of-obedience.

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I am not special. There is nothing about me that makes me better than anybody else. I do not have the discipline of perfect obedience. Though it seems many are under the (false) impression Christians think they are better. I can’t get inside everyone’s head, so I suppose I can’t say that there aren’t some (who call themselves Christians) that do think they’re better. To this I bring up one simple fact. They are then wolves in sheep’s clothing. That kind of thing occurs in ALL group types.

That being said- let me attempt to reassure. No true Christian thinks this. What we do know is that we have is a gift. Like a big secret no one has seen, yet is plainly visible. A secret that is shouted from hill tops and sung praises about, but no one has heard. Why are we less stressed, more content? The reason is we know no matter what earth throws at us; a brighter more vibrant life awaits us. When we make a mistake (which happens often) we are aware that grace is our lot, and forgiveness is our helper. We have placed our trust in the one name, that we believe is above all others. Jesus Christ.

It’s not that we think our “stuff don’t stink”, it’s not that we’re so much better at rules . . . (although because of our love and understanding of a great mercy given we do try, and fail) it’s simply that through the word of God and the help of the Holy Spirit, we are AWARE.

Aware of grace and love. Aware of a wonderful creator, and His steadfast love. We are aware that we’ve been adopted into His family, NOT because we have accomplished some awesome feat. But because He chose us. He first loved us, and through the power of his word alone, we now know.

It may be though as the good book says, that the deaf whose ears have been opened and the blind whose eyes see, believers in Christ, keep the secret that really isn’t secret. Will it be that no matter how much we praise God in song and show the wonders of His good and perfect creations, that some will remain blind and deaf?

For the record, I sometimes claim to be a rebel. Proof of my imperfections. I am no better than those who don’t hold to my beliefs. But I do have a secret I’d like to share.

What About the Women?

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mother-teresaIn all of the rhetoric that comes out of things like the Women’s March and even the March for Life I never hear of anyone speaking about what happens to the women in the life or death situation called abortion.  This is a very personal and very emotional choice that happens to hundreds of women every day.

I wonder if anyone ever thinks about what happens to the women who decide to have an abortion?  Does anyone recognize the pain and the hurt that these women experience?  I don’t think that all these women walk out of the clinics thinking ‘I feel better now that it’s taken care of’.  I think most are crushed, shamed and emotionally devastated.

You see, I was one of those women, back in the ’70s, who walked out of a clinic.  The situation was bad; I was not married and had gotten myself tangled in a sexual situation that I found I couldn’t get out of.  Sexual addiction is a topic for another time, but that’s where I was.  When I got pregnant I went to the baby’s father and he just wanted me to “take care of it”.  Abortion hadn’t even crossed my mind until then.  I had to get the money together and with every ounce of courage I had, I walked into that clinic and had an abortion.  The amount of emotional pain I experienced can’t be explained.

The story doesn’t quite end there.  I couldn’t get out of this sexual situation.  It was an actual addiction; I hated and loved it at the same time.  So later when I thought I was pregnant again I couldn’t handle even thinking about it.  It was one of those stupid things that people do; if I don’t think it’s true, it isn’t true.  When I started bleeding I was relieved.  Then I didn’t stop bleeding.  I finally went to the doctor, who put me in the hospital thinking I was having a miscarriage.  This time my parents needed to be informed  and the shame was compounded.  I overheard the doctor talking to my mother that the baby was “viable” and the bleeding was from a severe infection.  He had decided to go ahead with the “D&C” (abortion) because of the situation.

I was so emotionally devastated that I couldn’t talk about what had happened, not with my parents, my pastor or my friends.  I ended up bottling it up inside me.  I would cry at night when no one was around.  Everyone around me thought I was doing alright but I was a mess inside.

One night while I was crying, I heard an audible voice (only to me, I’m sure) that said “you killed my children!”.  Of course I knew this.  I knew who was speaking to me.  I was raised in the church.  I knew the sixth commandment.  I ended up confessing it all to the Lord and afterwards I felt His love and His peace.  Yes, I’m forgiven and I know this with a peace that I don’t understand.  The emotional pain and grief that I feel now is like a person would feel when a child dies.  I mourn the loss of my children.

What about the women?  In all the talk  I don’t hear anyone address the issue of the women.  The emotional and mental stress of having an abortion is overwhelming.  These women need love and acceptance.   We must be sure that women who have made this choice in their lives get to hear that they can be forgiven.  When we are speaking against abortion, we need to be mindful of those who have walked that road.  These women do not need to be judged by others. The anger and hate that I have seen do nothing but compound the shame and pain that this procedure causes.  I know, because I have felt it.  For this reason I don’t talk about abortion very much.  This isn’t an abstract idea for me.  It’s very personal.

We need to be aware of the emotional and spiritual consequences of abortion.  It’s not just killing a baby.  It kills a bit of the mother as well. We need to hold out our hands to the women who, for whatever reason, have suffered this emotional pain in silence.  We need to reach them and let them know that the Lord loves them, even if they think that He couldn’t.  They need to see that they don’t need to carry the burden of guilt and shame.  Yes, the pain remains.  But for me it’s a reminder of our Lord’s forgiveness.  I carry those children in my heart and I hope to see them in heaven one day.

What is Sin?

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What is sin?  In today’s culture, we often trivialize it.  We don’t even like to talk about it.  Rather than admitting to sin, we say we “made a mistake”, “used poor judgement,”  or “messed up.”  We blame it on factors we can’t control–our difficult upbringing, our desperate situation, our friends or our DNA!  Adam and Eve tried that, too.  Eve told God,

“The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Genesis 3″13

and Adam goes even further, seeming to blame God Himself:

“The woman whom you gave to me, she gave me the fruit of the tree and I ate.”  Genesis 3:12

The apostle doesn’t mince words when he describes sin:

“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness;  sin is lawlessness.” 1 John:3:4

A lawbreaker is a criminal;  a person who deserves punishment.  Someone who is lawless is a rebel — unwilling to obey authority.  I don’t like to think of myself this way, and you probably don’t either.  However, admitting what I really am (a lawless rebel) is the first step toward true reconciliation with God.

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us.”  1 John 1:8-10

Calling sin what it is isn’t easy;  but it is necessary.

Tools of the Trade

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Image result for images of the armor of godWhen it comes to obedience, Satan is our enemy.  His wiles were behind the very first instance of disobedience in the garden, and he continues to lead us astray today.  However God has given us tools to resist the devil.  In Chapter 6 of Ephesians, the apostle Paul describes these tools and calls them “the armor of God.” (Ephesians 6:13-17)

When and how do we receive this armor?  I believe it comes with our baptism.  This is the day God claims us as His own, the day that we “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 13:14)  Only in Him do we become righteous and capable of true obedience.

Here’s what the Lutheran Catechism says about baptism:

“It (baptism) signifies that the old Adam in us, together will all sins and evil lusts, should be drowned by daily sorrow and repentance and be put to death;  and that the new man should daily come forth and rise, to live before God in righteousness and holiness forever.”

This is based upon Romans 6: 4

“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised form the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

So here’s the question Paul poses:

“How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:2)

You and I are new creations.  God gave us righteousness through Christ.  We have the armor of God.  Remembering this can help us to be obedient.

 

 

 

A Prayer of Personal Dedication (Obedience)

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This prayer is from the Via de Cristo Pilgrim’s Guide, so some of you will recognize it.

Lord of my life, I know that my life is not my own.  By your death and resurrection you made me your own.  Help me to live under your direction, always ready to hear the call, “Follow Me;”  always aware of your presence;  always knowing that I have received the gift of your Spirit;  always living so that others may receive your love and mercy through me.

It is not easy to ask for these things, Lord because I know I have much to give up.  I can no longer pretend that my life is my own.  My prayer is my surrender to your care and direction.  I want to follow, Lord, but it is very hard.  I will get very tired.  I will make selfish mistakes.  I will fail time and again.  I will fall.

Show me again that there is love and mercy in your hand.  Use me in spite of my reluctance, doubt and disobedience.  Pour into me your good Spirit, so that I am not afraid to follow and fall and follow again.  Amen

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Psalm 1–A Psalm of Obedience

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Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers;

but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his day they meditate day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither.  In all that they do, they prosper.

The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Obey Your Leaders

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“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.  Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Hebrews 13:17

Many of you know that Hebrews is my favorite book of the Bible, and so I couldn’t let the month go by without seeing what the author had to say about obedience.  These verses come from the last chapter which is titled (at least in the NIV) “concluding exhortations.”  It contains a list of instructions to the church.  I encourage you to read this entire chapter, as it gives a wealth of good advice, boiled down to succinct statements about how Christians should behave as part of the body of Christ.

Anyway, back to our leaders.  As the wife of a Pastor, I can tell you it is not an easy job.  In fact, it’s not a job at all –it’s a calling.  Most of the pastors I know would not say they chose to be a pastor because it matched their talents, gave them a steady salary or earned them respect and recognition.  They are pastors because it’s what God wants them to do and they can’t refuse to do it without great pain.

My husband is fond of saying that the pastor is not the CEO of the church.  He is not our “boss.”  God did not give him to us as a manager, or administrator, but as a teacher, mentor and leader.  Submitting to our pastor and other church leaders, like submitting to our spouse, should not be what we have to do, it should be what we want to do.

Submitting to someone you are in a loving relationship with does not mean you can never express your opinions or disagree.  It does not mean you cannot ask questions.  It does not mean you can’t try to change their way of looking at things.  I does mean you recognize that person has your best interests at heart, and you should listen respectfully and thoughtfully to what they tell you.  If that person is an authority, you should obey them.

My husband (and other pastors) are not happy to have members blindly accept whatever he says.  He is also not happy when members simply walk away and abandon the congregation because they don’t like something he said or did.  He is happy when a member listens, and if he or she disagrees, studies the subject and asks questions.  He is happy when someone who is upset with him comes to him and talks the issue over.  These kinds of responses lead to spiritual growth and maturity, and trust me, this is what your pastor wants to see in you and in others!

So make your pastor joyful in his task.  Learn from him.  Love him.  Pray for him.  Obey him, because God has given to you.