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…

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

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