God’s Mighty Hand

Trust the past to God's mercy, the present to God's love and the future to God's providence ~ Augustine #LoveGodGreatly

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

 

 

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The Tables Were Turned…

ostuni village

After months of waiting, the sun finally broke free from the night and the dreaded day arrived, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar.

Yet God, in His amazing involvement in the story of Esther, had “turned the tables”.

Though Haman’s evil plan could not be stopped, the Jews were able to defend themselves from their enemy’s attacks.

The Jews went from possibly over-powered to having the upper hand.

Now they stood assembled…united.

Think for a second what the Jews must have went through as they waited months for this day to finally arrive. Each sunset drew them closer to their approaching doom. As days turned into months, the anti-Semitic mistreatment, which began first with Haman, had continued to grow day-by-day.

Sleepless nights became a norm and fear increased with each approaching sunrise.

But God turned the table on Haman’s evil plan and the Jews stood ready to defend themselves.

Armed with the new edict written by Mordecai, the Jews had a choice to make.Would they simply defend themselves, or would they retaliate?

The world tells us to fight back; “an eye for an eye” is the battle cry.

Yet the Jews choose to restrain themselves and use self-control instead.

“But they did not lay hands on the plunder.”

It was a right they could have taken.

The Jews had been given the same freedom to kill and plunder that their enemies had been given by Haman, yet they choose not to.

They defended themselves and their families from their enemies, but they stopped and did not venture into the land of revenge. Though they had the right, they did not plunder the property of their enemies.

What is our response suppose to be when God has “turned the tables” in our favor? Are we to retaliate the same way the world does? Are we to seek revenge?

Just because legally we can, doesn’t mean that morally we should.

That’s what we see in Esther 9:1-10.

The Jews legally had the right to kill anyone and everyone who came against them and to plunder their goods. But just because they had the right to do something, didn’t mean it was the right action to take.

So what is our reaction to those who plan to do us harm?

Look to God and pray your heart out.

Place your hurt, your pain, your heartbreak into His hands….and leave it there.

And when it all boils up in your heart, because it will….again and again, keep giving it to Jesus.

Trust Him.

Choose faith over your fear.

And remember, like in Esther, though you may not see God, He has not left you. God is at work in your life, He has a plan and a purpose and one day He will turn your sorrow into joy!

 

Love God Greatly!

angela

 

 

 

 

 

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Our NEW upcoming study!

When we think of thankfulness, we typically look to temporary things: our health, our family, the food on our table… All wonderful things to give thanks for! But the heart of gratitude should stem from a much deeper place…

Join us for ‘The Source of Gratitude,’ from November 10th to November 21st! During the first week of this study, we’ll take a closer look at who God is and what he has done. This will inspire us for the second week of our study, when we examine what our response should be.
Gratitude should permeate our lives each day of the year! When we glimpse of the greatness of God, our response of gratitude will follow.
We are so excited – we can’t wait for you to join us!

Please note that there will be no formal enrollment for this study. Groups are not available unless you are already in one, but we invite you to study along with us here on the blog…or grab some friends to form your own group and study together. Either way is fine, the most important thing is getting into God’s Word!

Week 8: From Hopeless to Hope Filled…

Esther Week 8 Header

Oh friends, we are winding down our study and what an amazing 8 weeks it has been! The study of Esther has spoken to me in ways I wasn’t expecting! Encouraging me, inspiring me and strengthening me as I look to my future and what lies ahead. I pray the Esther study has done the same for you!

(If you’re unable to see this video, you can view it here.)

Have you ever been in a situation or relationship that seemed hopeless? Maybe you’ve had someone in your life devise an evil plan to hurt you or those you love, and not even a ray of hope can be found in it?

Reading through Esther these past eight weeks and studying her marriage to King Xerxes, I would say the king lived his life detached from his wife, at best. Esther may have been an orphan girl turned queen, but her marriage to King Xerxes was no fairy tale.

He was a man who seemed to possibly have a drinking problem. Think back on how many events from our story center around banquets and wine.

He was a man who was easily angered. Who reacted first and thought later.

We know he was not a good judge of character. He surrounded himself with unwise counsel, whether it was Haman or his board of advisors. Need an example? Think back at the advice his men gave him when dealing with Queen Vashti.

If that wasn’t enough, it appears Queen Esther’s marriage to King Xerxes had cooled, since the king had gone 30 days without requesting to see her. Think about that for just a moment. 30 days without having any sort of contact with your husband… a woman could begin to feel as though she was forgotten, not needed… unloved.

To top it all off, Esther then has to muster enough courage to be the one who approaches her husband…to the point of risking her own life for her people, and at the encouragement of the only man who has truly loved her, her cousin and adopted father figure Mordecai.

I say all this just because my heart hurts for her.

As a woman.

As a wife.

She must have wondered at times if King Xerxes really was who she was supposed to be married to. Though her life looked glamorous from the outside, inside the palace walls it was far from a fairytale.

You can almost sense the heartache Esther was feeling in chapter 8 as she falls to her husband’s feet, weeping and pleading with him to stop the evil plan – which, may I remind you, he and his buddy Haman, “devised against the Jews.”

In his defense, the king seems almost shocked at his wife’s response to him. From his perspective, he had given her everything she wanted. Haman was dead and his estate was given to her, which she, in turn, gave to Mordecai. What more did she want?

But that wasn’t enough.

Because he really didn’t understand what she was truly after.

This wasn’t really about her… but about THEM.

Her people.

The king didn’t seem to comprehend the threat of disaster that was looming over Esther and her people, even after Haman was dead. The evil edict was still in place, and something needed to be done about it. It’s as though the light bulb goes off and King Xerxes finally sees the severity of the plan he and Haman put into action.

And then something happens: a ray of hope shines on the situation.

King Xerxes begins to understand the seriousness of the situation, and his heart turns toward his wife and her people.

What was once hopeless is no longer.

God is at work and deliverance is on the horizon.

Now instead of being divided on this issue, they are united.

Though the previous law cannot be stopped, King Xerxes gives Esther and Mordecai the power to write another edict, allowing the Jews to defend themselves on the day planned for their annihilation!

Have you ever been in a situation that seemed hopeless? If so, be encouraged today that God, in His timing, can change the situation. He brought hope and deliverance to Esther, Mordecai and all Jews living under King Xerxes’s reign! He did it then, and He can do it again!

What was once a hopeless situation can be changed to a hope filled situation when God works through His people!

Let’s Talk: Have you ever went through a situation in your life where you felt hopeless? If so, how did God work in your life to move you from hopeless to hope filled?

Love God Greatly!

angela

 

 

 

Week 8: Reading Plan

WK 8 Reading Plan

Week 8: Memory Verse

Esther week 8 memory verse

Week 8: Challenge

Weekly Challenge w8

It Ain’t Over Yet

God Is The Hero

It ain’t over yet. All the events in our story have led us here to the moment when Haman is hanged on the very gallows he had meant for Mordecai. “So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai.” {Esther 7:10} 

Although I’m a bit squeamish about the severity of Haman’s demise, in my heart I am breathing a sigh of relief that justice has finally come. And I’m tempted to stay there. Rest in the small victory. Good overcame evil. I’ll stop there, thankyouverymuch.

But this story of redemption is far from over. It Ain’t Over Yet.

How many times have I done this in my own life, settled for the small win, instead of pushing through to final victory? Answer? A lot. Rather than pushing through, trusting God to see the mighty happen, I settle for the little win, and convince myself it is enough. I can think of many areas in which this is true….healthy eating, prayer, intercession for others, marriage, kids, I could go on.

But as the dawn begins to break for Esther, as she sees the possibility of her people saved, she isn’t rejoicing yet. It Ain’t Over Yet. She still has work to do. God still has work to do. They aren’t finished. They are pushing on.

And in the midst of this, let us never forget that our Almighty God is the real hero in this story of ultimate redemption, turning every story from tragedy to triumph. How can I make such a bold statement? Isn’t that a little over the top to say that every story is turned to triumph? Because He has already redeemed our story! He is the hero of our story!In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.” {Ephesians 1:7}

God and His sovereign hand, though not even mentioned in these verses, is woven into the very fabric of this story, working things according to His plan. What a mighty God we serve!

And in this moment, when we are feeling a bit uneasy about seeing justice come to Haman, we should ask the Lord to turn our eyes to One in a similar situation, though undeservedly. Our Lord Jesus Christ. And what was meant for evil by Satan, was really mighty triumph by Jesus Christ! And when He declared, “It is finished,” THAT is when it was finally over!

Read these words:

“Like the 75-foot wooden gallows Haman had built outside his home to destroy and shame Mordecai, the tree upon which Satan intended to destroy and shame Jesus Christ became the very place where Jesus openly triumphed over him. God turns the ultimate evils into the ultimate redemptions. The triumph of the cross and the empty tomb stripped God’s enemies naked and exposed their ultimate impotence before him. Though they will continue to rage until that day when Jesus uses them as his footstool, he has dealt their decisive deathblow. All glory and honor to our King!” – Mary Wilson ESV Women’s Devotional Bible

God, our God, the same God who was the hero in Esther’s story, is also the hero in ours. It may not seem like it, but God’s sovereign, loving hand is woven into every bit of our story too! And remember, It Ain’t Over Yet!!

So, let’s chat: Where have you been tempted to settle for a small victory instead of trusting God for full redemption? How can knowing that “It Ain’t Over Yet” bring hope to your current situation?

Share with me in the comments!

All for Jesus,

joy signature

joyforney.org

When your identity is your deliverance…

Week 7 quote

I tried to hide my tears in church that morning.

I’m not a crier usually. My husband’s eyes were bloodshot by the time our wedding ceremony was over from the abundance of tears he shed… but me?

Nothin’, baby.

Not because I wasn’t deeply moved. Plenty moves me to my core. I just have a habit of smiling and holding it together most of the time. Seventeen years later, both personalities have served our marriage well.

But that morning was different.

Truth? My eleven year old caught a glimpse of my profile as we continued in worship, and he was so concerned about me that he came home and cleaned my house and folded my laundry for the rest of the afternoon. That’s huge, you guys.

Completely, utterly undone.

I could say it a million ways. Paint beautiful work pictures or dance around the truth, proving myself positive and strong. But none of that does any good tonight. Simply put, my heart needed redirected back to its proper place, and my tears were a result of the Spirit’s work in me. It was ugly, messy and beautiful all wrapped up in one.

I once again ended up at the foot of the cross.

We sang.

“Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe…”

Oh, how my heart needed to sing.

We sang words that focused on everything opposite of this world. Words that offered up praise instead of destruction. Words that lifted high the name of Jesus instead of elevating man. Words that had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with Him.

“Oh, praise the One who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead…”

A whole new identity. Life over death. Sweet deliverance once and for all.

Deliverance that – let’s face it – I have to daily revisit as the world’s stormy waves smack hard against me. Headlines scream of international tragedy and national chaos, and our hearts scream of injustices even closer to home. And dare we admit, while the waves are bruising our backsides day in and day out, much of the time it feels like deliverance is too far out of our reach.

But in case you haven’t heard, the world isn’t winning…

“Your name is higher than the rising sun…”

“Hallelujah, name above all…”

“We exalt You…”

And yet so often we spend more time exalting an earthy identity that will only fade away…

Chapter 7 begins with Esther walking the tightrope between two identities: the one the king had always known, and the one he was about to find out. Each had its battling pros and cons; moments of comfort, security and clarity depending on the day… but ultimately there was only one identity that would bring real, lasting freedom.

The time had come for Esther to come clean. It was time for her true identity to become her deliverance.

We teeter too, don’t we? Between the world and who we are in Christ, and sometimes it takes hard times and a revisit to the foot of the cross to remember where our true identity lies.

At the foot of the cross we meet unexpected, scandalous grace, and it’s only there where our true identity can be found.

I closed my eyes and sang some more.

No longer just words on a screen, but now life-giving words that sunk deep into my soul. Words that cleansed deep spaces; words that brought hope and healing to the war going on around me and deep down inside of me. And I let the tears fall freely. No longer tears of despair, but tears of great hope and freedom because I was reminded to Whom I belong. And listen right now, those waves don’t have anything on Him.

The battle rages on all around us, but sweet child of God…

“It is well…”

Has it been too long since you visited the foot of the cross? Drop to your knees in His grace today, and let your deliverance begin…

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.

Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,

for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

~ Joshua 1:9

At His feet,

*LET’S TALK: Would you be willing to share your stories of how you met Jesus in the comments section today? Because it’s always good to revisit – and rejoice – over our deliverance…

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