God’s Mighty Hand

TRUST

Here we are at the end of our Esther study and I truly hope that you have been able to see this story in a new light. I pray that is has been a blessing to you and a means by which you have grown in the knowledge of your God.

The story of Esther is a beautiful story of God’s perfect hand working through people and events. From a young Jewish girl being made queen and risking her life to help save the Jewish nation, to the steadfast faithfulness of Mordecai, and the downfall of evil Haman, Esther has a happily-ever-after kind of ending. Esther remains queen, the Jews are safe, and Mordecai is lifted up to a high place of prominence, second only to the king himself. What a beautiful ending.

Before we close the door on this study I would like us to dig a little deeper and take a quick look at the doctrine of the providence of God. I love this doctrine, it allows me to catch a glimpse of the greatness and power of God which I find awe-inspiring, peace-filling, and worship-inducing.

“For I know that the Lord is great; our Lord is greater than all gods. The Lord does whatever He pleases in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all the depths!”
Psalm 135:5-6

We need to begin with a really good definition of what the providence of God is and the Heidelberg Catechism provides just that.

The almighty and everywhere present power of God; whereby, as it were by his hand, he upholds and governs heaven, earth, and all creatures; so that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, and all things come, not by chance, but by his fatherly hand.
– Heidelberg Catechism, Q/A 27

God is the almighty God which means he doesn’t just hold some power, but all power. He isn’t a little in control, but completely in control. This has tremendous application for us in all areas of our lives, but I just want to highlight a couple.

1. The Providence of God kills Fear and Gives comfort

Many, if not all, of us have experienced times of fear and anxiety. This usually comes about because we feel that we are no longer in control of our circumstances. But here is the thing–we were never in control.  The providence of God teaches us that it is not man, or Satan, or this world, that is in control, but God alone. God brings life and death (1 Sam. 2:6), he gives riches and makes poor (1 Sam. 2:7), he sends the weather (Job 38) and controls the animals (Is, 7:18). God is in control, and because we know that our God is also good and trustworthy, his providence overcomes our fears and comforts our hearts. Rejoice that you are not in control because you would make things worse. Your righteous God reigns, presently in your life and in all things.

The LORD is righteous in all His ways And kind in all His deeds.
Psalms 145:17

2. The Providence of God kills our self-righteousness

How often do we have proud thoughts of ourselves. Maybe it was the fact that our kids are well behaved or that we have a nice home. Maybe we understand the word of God easily while others struggle. Perhaps our marriages are doing really well. Any or all of these things are not merely the result of your efforts. They are all gifts. Whatever it is you have has been given to you by God. Whether we are talking about money, position, beauty, brains, wisdom, talents, or anything else, all good things are gifts from God given to us to bring glory to him (James 1:17). Of course, this also goes for the things that hurt. Our afflictions and trials also come with God’s providence. Maybe you are struggling financially or have a number of health issues. God has allowed those things into your life in order for you to fix your eyes on Jesus and experience first-hand that He is all you really need.

3. The Providence of God encourages faith, love, and humility

The more you study and understand God’s governing hand over all things the more humbled you will become and the more you will love and trust your God. He is the embodiment of wisdom. He can do no wrong and makes no foolish choices. Isn’t it great that he is the one who is ordaining all things? Sure, at times it may look a little messy. We will often, like the Psalmists, have a lot of questions. But nothing is left to chance, nothing is an accident, and nothing comes about through fate or karma. Instead, we can sleep peacefully at night knowing that God’s hand is actively involved in all things, down to the minute details of life. He is active, he is involved and he is perfect. This encourages a humble, vibrant, faith.

While God’s name was never mentioned in Esther we see his hand working day and night. We see him lovingly bringing about the events that he ordained all the while caring for his people. We may not understand all that God is doing because we are finite and God is infinite, we only see part of the picture but God sees the whole, but we can trust him him with our lives and joyfully go into our days no matter  what the day may hold because it will always include God’s powerful hand.

Looking to Jesus,
jen-sig

 

 

jenthorn.com

Week 7: Overcoming Worry

Esther Week 7 Header

Welcome to week 7 of our Esther study.

The King and Haman go to have dinner with Esther. Remember that at this point neither one of those men know that she is Jewish. I assume Haman felt that he could relax a little despite the events of the previous chapter. He knew that Mordecai was a Jew and that his death sentence had been signed and it was just a matter of time before the Jews would be annihilated, including Mordecai.

While at the banquet, the King asks Esther what her request is. At this point Esther’s heart must have been beating out of her chest. It was time to reveal who her people were and ask for their salvation.

I am sure that she must have laid in bed the night before nervous and possibly anxious. I would have been. If what she was going to reveal to the King angered him, it could cost her her life. I am sure she spent a fair amount of time battling anxiety and fear. This brings us to today’s verse.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Phil 4:6

We are not to worry about anything! Why is that? Because worry is a sin. Yikes, that is a hard word for us. It is one of the sins Christ died for. Why is worry a sin? Let me mention just a few reasons.

1. WORRY IS DISOBEDIENCE TOWARDS GOD
Twice in Matthew 6 Jesus tells us directly not to worry and yet it seems like no matter how many times we have read those verses we worry anyway. Worry is a form of disobedience. We are never given an exception in this.

2. WORRY DOUBTS GOD
Remember who you are in Christ. You have been adopted by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He has promised us an unimaginable inheritance, he promises to care for us, to love us unconditionally, and to vindicate wrongs done against us. He promises to be for us and with us always. Do we really believe these promises? Because if we do, we of all people, have no reason to worry.

3. WORRY CALLS GOD A LIAR
Worse than merely doubting God, worry calls God a liar. God has told us that though this life won’t be easy, he will be with us and for us. When we worry we are telling God that his word, that his promises, are not true.

Here’s the thing; as much as we want quick fixes, there is no quick fix for learning not to worry. Overcoming worry is a process, and it’s going to take time and work. Here are a few ways to work on killing worry in our lives.

1. KNOW GOD
Do we really know the character of God? Is he all-powerful? Is his love all consuming? Is he truthful in all things? Is he in control of all things? It’s not enough to say “yes” here, we must believe these truths–rest in them. Do we know how these truths intersect with and make sense of every situation in our lives? One step in overcoming worry is committing ourselves to studying every facet of God’s character and applying it to our lives.

2. PRAY AND KEEP PRAYING
The answer to our anxious thoughts is found on our knees. This may seem very unexciting, but when we pray we are approaching the throne of God, drawing near to him for help in our time of need. We are speaking to Jesus, our High Priest and intercessor. We have his full and undivided attention at all times and He is ready to help (Heb. 4: 14-16).

3. STUDY PHILIPPIANS, OR EVEN MEMORIZE IT
Though written in a prison, the book of Philippians is a very cheerful and encouraging book. J.R. Miller says that the words found in Philippians are “golden words for all believers.” If we are prone to worry this will prove be a good book to read, study, and even memorize.

4. CHANGE YOUR THINKING
When we worry we are often thinking about all the “what ifs” our situations could produce. But “what ifs” are not real or true. As Shakespeare said, “fears may be liars.” Most of our worries are false and dishonorable. We need to focus not only on what is true, but also on what is good. We really need to train our minds to see the right things. Philippians 4 tell us to think on things that are true, noble, right and pure. We are to focus on things that are lovely, admirable and praiseworthy. Sometimes our situations are so hard that the only lovely and praiseworthy place to set our eyes is Jesus. He must always be before us so that when we look at our circumstances we look at them through the love, strength and power of Jesus.

5. WORSHIP
Whether it’s coming together with other believers on Sunday morning to worship our risen Lord, or simply putting on worship songs in our homes, lifting our hearts to God in worship will also lift our countenance and confidence. Christ-centered worship will point us to the cross where everything we will ever need was purchased at a very dear price.

The truth is we will not banish worry forever, but we can get to a point where worry does not overtake our hearts. Where we are able to see the signs of worry creeping into our lives, we need to crush it under gospel feet. It won’t be easy, but with God all things are possible.

Looking To Jesus,
jen-sig

 

 

 

WEEK 7: READING PLAN

WK 7 Reading Plan

 

WEEK 7: MEMORY VERSE

Esther week 7 memory verse

WEEK 7: CHALLENGE
Weekly Challenge w7

Bless Those Who Curse You

LOVE

So Haman got the robe and the horse. He robed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city streets, proclaiming before him, “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!”  Esther 6:11

This verse is a perfect recap of what has been going on this week in our study of Esther.

Haman thinks the King is going to honor him but instead it is Mordecai who will receive special favor from the King. After the worst day in Haman’s life, he goes to his home destroyed with shame. There is nothing he can do to the man he hates the most.

And what about Mordecai? He returns to the King’s gate. He is still concerned about the threat against the Jews and heads right back to the palace. He doesn’t let the honor that was given to him make him haughty or idle.

The man Haman cursed was now exalted and blessed, and Haman, who sought his own self exaltation was cursed. I want to spend a little time talking about the idea of blessing those who curse us. The verse for our SOAP today is Genesis 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

God is promising Abram that he will fight against his enemies. They will be cursed and those who are for Abram will be blessed. He is letting Abram know, in no uncertain terms, that He, the Lord, is on his side and through him he will bless the nations.

This promise extends to you and me as well. Over and over again God tells his people that he is on their side. He tells us that if we are children of Abraham (through faith in Christ) we will be blessed (Acts 3:25). And in Romans 8:31 Paul asks, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” It is only through the blood of Jesus that God can be for us.

If we are honest, it doesn’t always feel that God is on our side (Psalm 73). We have a lot that seems to be against us like governments, institutions, individual people, and circumstances. But God who is in us and for us is stronger than any circumstance or person that comes against us (1 Jn. 4:4).

OUR RESPONSE

Here is something that is very important to remember. Nowhere are we told to curse those who curse us. That is God’s job alone.

The Lord will vindicate us (Psalm 138:8)

This is a good reason why we should bless those that curse us, because it is enough that God will curse them.
– Matthew Henry

Instead, we are told to bless those who curse us (Lk. 6:28). Wow, that is a very high calling. So what does that mean?

Loving our enemies or people who are against us means seeking their good. It means restraining our feelings of resentment or wishing them ill. It is getting rid of that desire in our hearts to return evil for evil.

And how do we do this? By praying for them, speaking kindly of them and to them, AND doing good towards them.

Here is the thing; loving our enemies, loving the people who wish us ill, who annoy us, who don’t love us back and talk badly about us and are hateful to us, goes against our nature. It is not natural for us to extend this kind of grace.

Our Lord God must be a pious man to be able to love rascals. I can’t do it, and yet I am a rascal myself.
– Martin Luther

Yes, we are rascals and worse! Thank goodness for our perfect example, Jesus. He showed grace and kindness to those who spit in his face, accused him of all kinds of false things, laughed at him, tortured and killed him.

Not only is he our example he is also our hope. I don’t know about you but this is impossible for me. Even if I could be kind to their face I would struggle in my heart. This does not excuse me, but it makes Christ sacrifice all the more precious. He loved his enemies perfectly for us, he endured wrong accusations and gossip with perfect grace for us and he died on the cross for all the times that we would fail in blessing our enemies.

We are called to take the high road, to bless those who curse us and to love those who are against us, but we are not called to take this road alone. God is with us and for us and in the end he will vindicate us because truth will win.

If we stand up for what’s right, we will have enemies. They feel justified in their hostility. But Jesus says, love them anyway. Hostile people expect hostility in return. Jesus says, surprise them.
– Ray Ortland

Looking to Jesus,

jen-sig

 

 

 

jenthorn.com

Sleepless in Persia

Esther Week 6 Header

 

Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value the one who speaks what is right.
Proverbs 16:13

We left our drama last week with Haman planning the downfall of Mordecai. The gallow was being built and Haman was happy that once and for all, Mordecai, who had been a constant annoyance to him, was going to be done away with.

But God…

We read this phrase throughout the Bible and while it is not stated directly in Esther, it is implied through the events that are unfolding.

But God had other plans. Sleep is a gift from our Lord (Ps. 127:2) and he chose to withhold it that night from King  Xerxes.  He used the insomnia of a king to set into motion the downfall of one man and the salvation of a whole people group. Instead of calling for some soothing music like King Saul used to do (1 Sam. 16:23 ) Xerxes asked for the book of records to be brought to him. This may sound like a boring book of dry facts but it was actually a very interesting work written in poetry form.

As chronicles were composed among the Persians, a more instructive and interesting work could not be brought before the king; because they were all written in verse, and were generally the work of the most eminent poets of the empire.
The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

I love seeing God in the details. The fact that the king couldn’t sleep and that he ended up reading the account of Mordecai saving his life, an account buried by 5 years worth of other accounts, was no accident.

While there is one grand, overarching story in Esther, we also see smaller stories woven throughout this book. Stories within stories. As we have said many times in this study we see salvation of the Jewish people, but we also see a story of two men, Mordecai and Haman. One is truthful, honorable and humble, while the other is self serving, proud and dishonest. One will be praised and honored as a hero while the other will be humiliated and then killed as a villain.

Does this sound familiar? Can you think of an even greater story that parallels what we are reading about? As the children’s Bible states, “Every Story whispers his name”, the name of Jesus. The entire Bible is the telling of one grand story, the story of the salvation of the people of God. But interwoven are lots of smaller stories. Stories that show the exaltation of the humble and the downfall of the prideful. We see stories that show the virtues of truth and the ugliness of deceit, and there are stories that show brokenness and the hope of all things being restored.

What story is your life telling? Is it one of honor, truth and humility or is it one of deceit, pride and selfishness? I am guessing we see many of these vices and virtues in our lives because we live in a world that is broken and have hearts that are sinful, but hopefully we see God working in us as we work in his word and like Mordecai will be honored for our faithfulness, truth and honor.

(Click here if you are having trouble viewing the video  http://youtu.be/ugchekDU76U )

Looking To Jesus,
jen-sig

 

 

jenthorn.com

 

W6

{Week Six} Memory Verse:

Esther week 6 memory verse

 

{Week Six} Reading Plan:

WK 6 Reading Plan

The Guidance of God

 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;   I will counsel you with my eye upon you. ~ Psalm 32 : 8 #LoveGodGreatly

Chapter 4 of Esther shows us why Esther needed to be queen. God had orchestrated all things in such a way that when his people would be in trouble, through the evil of Haman, Esther would be there to extend her arm of help toward them.

Esther’s help would not be easy. The king had not seen her for a month, and no one, not even the queen, just walks up to the king. Not if you valued your life. And I am sure Esther must have been more than a little nervous about going before the King uninvited. Esther needed guidance and encouragement in the face of hard choices and God provided her with wisdom through Mordecai.

I’m the kind of girl who likes step by step instructions, the more detailed the better because I tend to second guess myself all the time. But life doesn’t come with detailed instructions like that.

How often do we wonder what our next steps should be? What is God’s will for my life in this circumstance?  Wouldn’t we all like for God to speak to us in a loud booming voice and tell us very clearly what we are to do? I sure do.

Discerning the will of God has been made much more complicated than it is. There really are only two ways in which God’s will is talked about in scripture. One is his will of purpose, and the other is his will of precept.

Through God’s will of purpose we end up where God wants us to be even though we may not consciously plan on being there. His will of purpose is his sovereign will–what he has determined will come to pass. We see this will of God throughout the book of Esther. God planned and orchestrated all the events within this book so that Esther would end up who she was and where she was in order to save his people. No one, and nothing can stop God’s will of purpose.

“But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.” (Psalm 115:3)

The other way God’s will is talked about in the Bible is his will of precept. This is what he has revealed to us and requires of us.

Chuck Swindol said that “the better you get to know the Word of God, the less confusing is the will of God.” Why is that? Because he has revealed his will for us in the Bible. What does God want from me? How does he want me to live? It is right there in the word of God.

Everything we need for life and godliness (1 Thess. 4:3; 1 Thess. 5:18; 1 Peter 2:15; Ps. 119:105)  is found within our Bibles. That is one of the reasons we are to study it so diligently. Is it easy? No, because our feelings get in the way and sometimes we just don’t like what we read. Other times the verses take some work to understand and quite frankly, we don’t always want to put work into it. But Spurgeon said that “Our responsibility is to seek out and walk in the good old paths (Jer 6:16), even if it goes against our own wills.”

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Our will sometimes hinders us in doing God’s will. We may not like what we read and we refuse to obey. This is not a godly response and it leads us to become stubborn and self-reliant. Our job is to work to align our will with God’s will–as revealed in Scripture.

We don’t have life all figured out, but God does. Esther has a hard task ahead of her, as she is guided by God’s will of precept (protect the innocent, honor the Lord) and prepared by God’s will of purpose. She must approach the king, and risk her life, if her people have any chance of being saved.

Are we willing to follow God’s leading even if it doesn’t feel good?

Feelings come and feelings go,
And feelings are deceiving;
My warrant is the Word of God–
Naught else is worth believing.”

Martin Luther

One thing to remember is that while the Bible holds the will of God for us, it is also a book full of promises. The biggest promise being that where we have neglected and disobeyed the will of God Jesus has kept it and followed it perfectly for us.  God promises that everything is leading up to the return of Jesus and the salvation of his people. This is our hope and joy.

Looking To Jesus,
jen-sig

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