ESTHER TEACHES US TO RELY ON GOD

August 27th, 2014 | By admin

by Paul Holland 

    How do you live upright in an upside down world? You trust in the providence of God. I want you to have an unshakeable conviction in the God of heaven that He will, lovingly, always do the right thing by you if you are one of His children.

     As you move through the text of Esther, keep this thought in the back of your mind – Mordecai is going to refuse to bow down to Haman, staying truthful to God’s word. Haman, motivated out of anti-semitic racism, is going to influence King Ahasuerus to kill Mordecai and all his people – the Jews. The question is: How is God going to work behind the scenes, without violating man’s free will, to not only save His people, the Jews, but also to influence Persians to accept the Jews’ God as the one true God, even becoming Jews themselves? That’s the story of Esther. That’s God’s silent sovereignty at work, to use brother Cecil May’s subtitle to his book,Providence.

     Chapter 2:21-23 are important to the overall context of the book as it explains to us how King Ahasuerus is saved by Mordecai which leads to the king wanting to honor Mordecai. Why was Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate that day? How did the plot become known to Mordecai? These are questions – even as we have questions in our own lives about how God works – that we cannot answer, except to say it is the “silent sovereignty of God.”

     Esther was the only person who could save the Jewish people. She had to do something! Look at 4:13-14 and see an expression of Mordecai’s faith in the silent sovereignty of God. We also see Esther’s conviction expressed in verses 15-17.

     The first sentence in chapter 6 saves the life of the Jews. The king could not sleep. Why could King Ahasuerus not sleep? Only God knows but He is working behind the scenes. That insomnia led King Ahasuerus to call for the history books to be read to him and then, he learned that Mordecai saved his life but had never been honored for that act of loyalty.

     Isn’t it ironic that in the middle of this government-sponsored pogrom against God’s people, that Persiansactually want to be members of this minority religious sect (8:17)? These Persians had been inspired and encouraged by the religious and spiritual lives of the Jews. It is always true that if/when Christians act like Christians, that is, when they serve Christ and follow His word, non-Christians will be inspired to become Christians (cf. Acts 5:11, 14). When you do things God’s way, God will bless you for it.

     At the end of his discussion of Esther in his book on providence, brother May comments: “God is still keeping watch above His own. Any one of us at any time could be in a situation that would call for faithful, effective action on our parts to bring about God’s will for His church. Who knows whether we may have come to the kingdom for just such a time as that? Let us be perceptive and ready” (pg. 87).

     How do you live upright in an upside down world? You trust the “silent sovereignty of God.”

TRAVEL ON MY KNEES

August 25th, 2014 | By admin

by Paul Holland 

    Sitting in my mom’s dining room, going through old papers, I found a poem I sent to them while we were in Romania. It was written by Raymond Jackson: “Last night I took a journey, To a land across the seas. I didn’t go by boat or plane, I traveled on my knees. I saw so many people there, In the darkest depths of sin. The Lord Jesus told me I should go, Those many souls to win.

     “But I said, ‘Lord Jesus, I can’t go And work with such as these.’ He answered quickly, ‘Yes, you can, By traveling on your knees.’ Said He, ‘You pray, I’ll meet the need; You call, and I will hear. Be anxious over all lost souls, Of those both far and near.’ And I tried it; knelt in prayer, And gave some some hours of ease.

     “I felt the Lord right by my side While traveling on my knees. As I prayed on and saw men saved, And blighted spirits healed, I saw God’s workers’ strength renewed While laboring in the field. Said I, ‘Yes, Lord I have a job, ’Tis Thee I’ll ever please. I’ll gladly go and heed Thy call By traveling on my knees.”

     I sent that to my parents and the rest of our supporters in February, 2001. We had been on the mission field eight months. Jackson reminds us through that poem the power of prayer. We are familiar with the words of James: “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (5:16). Translating the statement literally, he says, “Much is competent prayer of the righteous, working.” The one who is righteous, through the blood of Christ, can competently accomplish much good, appealing to the heart of the Father.

     Jackson’s poem reminds me of the song titled Ready to Suffer. One verse reads, “Ready to go or ready to stay; Ready my place to fill. Ready for service, lowly or great. Ready to do His will.” We participate in evangelism when we pray as well as when we go.

     Pray for those lost in sin and pray for those trying to reach them. Your prayers can accomplish much.

HOW TO HANDLE RELATIONSHIPS WITH NON-CHRISTIANS

August 22nd, 2014 | By admin

by Paul Holland 

    In Acts 17:6-7, Paul and Silas are in Thessalonica and have stirred up opposition. The Jews have dragged some Christians before the secular authorities, complaining that “These men who have upset the world have come here also; and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.”

    The context of Matthew 10 follows on the heels of Matthew 9:36-38. Not only did Jesus pray to send out workers into the harvest but He also fulfilled that need – Matthew 10 is Jesus sending out His apostles on what we call the “limited commission.”

     How do we handle our relationships with non-Christians…?

 DO GOOD (10:1-4):

    To these twelve, Jesus gave power to perform miracles, establishing the veracity of their message (Mark 16:17-20). Today, we, too, help our cause bydoing good (Gal. 6:10). These apostles were – from the occupations we recognize – middle-income Palestinians. They were not part of the religious elite. It is noteworthy one worked for the government (Matthew) and one worked against the government (Simon the Zealot, Canaanite).

TEACH JESUS’ MESSAGE (10:5-15):

    The “sent out” in verse 5 carries the idea of delegated authority. The authority was not in themselves. It was in Jesus; in their message. It is with us today as we are ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:18-20). The authority is in the message (Titus 2:15).

     The message (for them – vs 7) was that the kingdom was near at hand. Our message is that Jesus is coming again to separate the sheep from the goats (Matt. 25:31-46), to put an end to sin and to death (Rev. 20:12-15).

 YET, SOME WILL (VIOLENTLY) REJECT THE MESSAGE(10:16-23):

    We are to be wise in our presentation of the Gospel (10:16). Compare Colossians 4:5. We do not have tounnecessarily provoke non-Christians! See 2 Timothy 2:24-26 and how we should teach non-Christians. “Innocent” means “unmixed” with the world’s values (cf. 2 Cor. 6:14-18).

     But, the message they should preach would come from God (10:18-20). To us, the Holy Spirit has revealed His message, through those same messengers (Eph. 3:3-5).

    Jesus does not call us to pointless martyrdom (10:23).

 JESUS ENCOURAGES THE PERSECUTED (10:24-33):

    Just because we are living as “good” Christians, we should not expect people to love us all the time (10:24-25). It may be because we are “good” Christians that people hate us!

     Yet, we are still to preach boldly (10:26-27). The early Christians did not pray that God would take away the persecution; they prayed for courage (Acts 4:23-30). So should we (Eph. 6:18-20).

IN THE MIDDLE OF PERSECUTION – JESUS MATTERS THE MOST (10:34-39):

    It may be our own family who persecutes us (10:34-37). The peace Jesus came to bring (cf. Isa. 9:6-7; Luke 2:14) is fundamentally peace between God and man. Jesus separates us from the values / worldview of society.

 BLESSINGS AWAIT THOSE WHO RECEIVE CHRIST’S MESSENGERS (10:40-42):

    “Little children” does not refer to physical children. It refers to Christ’s disciples metaphorically, picturing them as dependent and helpless.

     In living upright in an upside down world, we must choose Christ first, even in the face of persecution from our family and friends. “I am resolved to enter the kingdom, leaving the paths of sin. Friends may oppose me, foes may beset me. Still will I enter in.”

Paul Holland is the minister of the Swartz Creek church of Christ, Swartz Creek, MI

DATING LEADS TO MARRIAGE

August 20th, 2014 | By admin

by Katt Anderson

Girls and boys everywhere are looking at each other and wondering if they would like to date each other. This is the way God intended us to be. He wanted us to admire the other sex, not the same sex. He wanted us to procreate and fill the world with people like us. That’s why it’s important when we begin to date to have a focus on marriage. You may not think you are interested in marriage right now, but dating prepares you for marriage.

First of all, you want to pick the right boys to date. That is girls date boys and boys date girls, not girls date girls and boys date boys. God intended male and female to marry and have a life together. No place in the Bible do we read about divorce until Moses was in the wilderness. I wonder sometimes if the Israelites learned about divorce from the Egyptians. Divorce was not something God planned in the beginning. We were to have one mate. If you’re a woman, it will be a man. He wanted us to live with that person until the death of one. That’s something to think about if your looking at a boy to date. Can you live with him for a long time?

I like Matthew 19:4-6 when Jesus is questioned by the Pharisees about marriage. Read what he says. “And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.’” That puts it pretty simple, doesn’t it.

As the Pharisees continue to try to trick Jesus, they asked about divorce. In verses 8-9 of that same chapter, we read Jesus’ answer. “8 He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.’”

Second, why am I talking about divorce? You can’t get a divorce if you’re not married! Think about that person you want to date. Would he make a life-long companion. Oh, I know you’re not thinking about it right now, but have it in the back of your mind. Would you live happily with someone who degrades you with each word coming out of his mouth? What about someone who hits you? These things happen when we’re dating someone and it’s something to be aware of. Many women enter marriage because the guy is the cutest thing on earth, but he may be mistreating her and she’s afraid to tell.

If you are ever in a situation when a boy mistreats you for any reason, run away as fast as you can. You don’t have to live like that. Don’t listen to him when he tells you he’ll quit, he loves you or some other ridiculous thing, because he doesn’t. Get away, you’re worth more than that. Respect yourself when you’re dating someone.

Footnotes:

THE CLEANSING POWER OF GOD

August 18th, 2014 | By admin

by Andrew Hallenbeck

As I sit and listen to the thunder and rain, I’m keenly aware of God. I gaze out the window and although the trees, bushes and grass are saturated with the grey of rain, I feel sunshine within my soul. I know God exists. He speaks.

Bang! 

Lightening illuminates the sky and thunder follows. Nature, thirsty from the summer heat, drinks the life sustaining water. They gulp and are satisfied. I, too, am filled. I watch and as God works. He, indeed, gives life. He saturates. He is the essence of happiness, but I must drink of His living water. Freely given, freely and humbly I must take.

I think of my life and the provisions given by Him. I am unworthy, but our Lord gives anyway. I am selfish, the opposite of God’s character, but He forgives. He teaches love in unbounding avenues and I follow. Follow, yet stumble. He picks me up and I continue. God forever cleanses.

The water of immersion cleanses and makes new. It adds me to his body. The doorway is open and I walk in obedience. As the rain rejuvenates the thirsty grass, I too, feel emboldened. Humbled and unworthy, I watch the river of rain on the street carry away the rubbish of prior days. My soul, too, is washed as I ponder God’s mercy. Undeserved, I receive. Given without due honor, I take. Feely He continually gives.

I bow, both physically and emotionally, before our Creator. He gives and I take. Selfish I am, but He continues to forgive. I ask humbly and my sins are purged. Mercy without end. Although at times I reject, He in unwavering, waiting for me to return.

Bang! 

Again the echo of the thunder demands attention. The rumble shouting as flashes reach though the window and dance on the wall. My bible sits on the table, its pages speaking God’s truth. I smile and know God lives, loves and forgives. I know His precepts, they speak though his God News. I’m grateful.

Andrew Hallenbeck is a minister of a church of Christ in Ft. Worth, TX.

LEADING THE PEOPLE TO PRAISE THE LORD

August 15th, 2014 | By admin

By Paul Holland

The book of Psalms is certainly one of our favorite books in the entire Bible. Perhaps because it is, in the words of OT scholar, Gerhard von Rad, “Israel in the presence of Yahweh.” We are in the presence of Jehovah when we assemble together to worship in Jesus Christ. We all want to be in the presence of Jehovah when our lives on earth are fulfilled. We try to avoid those things that hinder and affect and impede our position in the presence of Jehovah. The book of Psalms runs the gamut of human emotion and human activity – all done in the presence of Jehovah.

Psalm 148 is a psalm or hymn of praise. C. S. Lewis wrote a devotional book, Reflections on the Psalms in which he writes: “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. …In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him” (95, 97).

Here is the psalm from the NASV: “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all stars of light! Praise Him, highest heavens, And the waters that are above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord, For He commanded and they were created. He has also established them forever and ever; He has made a decree which will not pass away. Praise the Lord from the earth, Sea monsters and all deeps; Fire and hail, snow and clouds; Stormy wind, fulfilling His word; Mountains and all hills; Fruit trees and all cedars; Beasts and all cattle; Creeping things and winged fowl; Kings of the earth and all peoples; Princes and all judges of the earth; Both young men and virgins; Old men and children. Let them praise the name of the Lord, For His name alone is exalted; His glory is above earth and heaven. And He has lifted up a horn for His people, Praise for all His godly ones; Even for the sons of Israel, a people near to Him. Praise the Lord!”

Derek Kidner in the Tyndale OT Commentary Series calls this psalm a “Choir of Creation” – (487). You are familiar with this psalm because you have sung it frequently in worship. In 1893, these words were set to music by William Kirkpatrick.

The first two words of this psalm in the Hebrew Bible are “Hallelu” and “jah.” Hallelu comes from the verb hālal meaning to “praise, boast” and “connotes being sincerely and deeply thankful for and/or satisfied in lauding a superior quality(ies) or great, great act(s) of the object” (TWOT, I:217). One-third of the passages which use “hālal” are in the Psalms and most of those are commands to praise. “Yah” is a shortened form of the divine name “Yahweh” or transliterated usually as Jehovah.

Our goal is to get all the earth to praise Jehovah God.

IN-LAWS AND OUT-LAWS

August 13th, 2014 | By admin

By Katt Anderson

As a young person, I’m sure you have an idea of the person you want as your spouse. We all want the most handsome man, the most caring man and the man most devoted to us. It’s not horrible to have these expectations. They help us to strive for something better. But, when you’re thinking about marrying someone, think about their family. You’re also marrying them.

Probably the best in-law in the Bible was Naomi. Ruth loved her because she loved Ruth. She was devoted to Naomi. Read Ruth 1:16-17. This is repeated at weddings, but it shows Ruth’s devotion to her mother-in-law. Later on in the book, we see how Naomi encouraged Ruth to find a husband, not any husband, but a good husband. As you know, the story goes on and Ruth marries Boaz. The book of Ruth is so short, you can read it in one sitting. Try it, it will enlighten you.

A good father-in-law was Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses. His daughter Zipporah was Moses wife. Jethro was also called Reuel. Numbers 10:9 says  Jethro was the priest of Midian, so he was a religious man. He also seemed to care for his son-in-law. In Exodus 18:1-27 we read about Jethro making a visit to see Moses and Zipporah. During that visit he saw how over-worked Moses was with all the decisions he had to make concerning the goings on with the children of Israel. He was concerned by the work load of Moses and made some suggestions which turned out to be good. He was a good father-in-law.

Now, let’s look at Jacob and his father-in-law, Laban. The custom at that time was for the first daughter to marry first, but Jacob didn’t love the oldest daughter, Leah, he loved Rachel. The bride was covered, much like we see Muslims today, and Jacob did not know he had the wrong woman until the next morning. What a shock! What a mean thing for a father-in-law to do to his future son-in-law. How upset Jacob must have been to find out he married the wrong woman. Leah was not a kind person either, she made fun of Rachel because Rachel could not have children. That had to be a very unhappy household, but Laban was the cause of it all. Really, God had a plan and through that plan, we have Christ. Judah had to be the great-great-and many greats-grandfather of Jesus. Judah’s mother was Leah, not Rachel. How interesting! Jacob made the best of his situation and helped Laban increase his cattle.

Be aware of what your in-laws will be like before you marry that perfect man. Know that you will have to make allowances and learn to overlook things. It’s just like everything in life. We find good people, helpful people and loving people. We have to accept them for what they are and learn to love them. Everyone has little quirks, but it doesn’t mean we can’t identify them and live with them.

 

BACK TO SCHOOL

August 11th, 2014 | By admin

By Katt Anderson

This is the time of year when a lot of you are either  going  back in school or will be going soon. It’s scary and exciting both at the same time, if you are leaving home and entering college for the first time.

My husband has the worse story of going to college. He lived about nine hours away from the college he wanted to attend. His parents were not rich, just regular people. He told me his father, brother and himself left in the afternoon and drove all the way from Shady Valley, Tennessee to Henderson, Tennessee. That’s from the furthermost end of the state in the northeast to almost the end of the state in the west. Tennessee is a long state and there were no interstate roads back then. He said they arrived early on the morning before the dorm opened, and they put his things on the steps of his dorm and left. He’s always said it was the hardest thing to see his father and brother drive away in the wee hours of the morning.

When our children went to college, we moved them in and made sure they were settled, but I know it was hard for them to see us go. This is the biggest step they’d taken in their lifetime. They’d both had jobs and were used to dealing with people, but dorm life is different. The worse part was they knew no one, as both my husband and I did. Our son’s roommates have been friends since then. Our daughter didn’t have such a good experience, but she made it and had a better roommate her second year.

When you’re writing a book, you get to a point of no return. Your character’s can’t go back and change things. They have to forge ahead. I was thinking about that today because our oldest granddaughter moved into her dorm to start her college life. It’s a big step and she says it’s scary. I agree. I remember my first day at college and I wasn’t fortunate to have a good roommate until later in the year.

You have to get used to change in your life. It isn’t easy. I think about David and the changes he had to make in his life. First, he was tending his father’s sheep and only interested in doing what needed to be done every day. Then he took his brothers provisions and ended up killing Goliath. My, how his life changed! He was a hero. Can you imagine this happening in your life? We see things like this happening in the movies, but it really happened to David.

As David grows older, King Saul began to hate him. That had to be horrible. We’ve all had someone dislike us, but to hate us so much they wanted to kill us is a different thing. He overcome all those struggles and became king. His Psalms tell of his heartaches and his joy and his trust in God.

So, student, what can you learn from David. He took a lot and kept on believing God would help him. God did. He had faith. Keep your faith in God when things get scary and you feel alone. Pray for God’s guidance. He’s there to help you. Greet each day with a smile and remember God loves you, your family loves you and your friends love you. Keep your faith in Him.

BE CAREFUL, YOU MAY RUN OVER YOURSELF

August 8th, 2014 | By admin

By Paul Holland 

    When I was sixteen and learning to drive, I had a 1970 Ford van, Seafoam Green with a white stripe down the side. Dad had to go with me while I had the learner’s permit. I mowed 25 yards from April to September and kept quite busy.

    After inspection, we realized the carter key that kept the rod in place that led down from the gear stick had come out. We were at a yard, which we mowed, and were getting ready to leave. I sat in the driver’s seat and shifted gears. Nothing happened. I knew the rod had come out of place. So, I crawled under the van to put it into place.

     The rod would not reach the hole, so I pulled on it. When I did, I knocked the van into neutral and it started rolling. I was perpendicular to the front wheel, which was headed for my pelvic bone. I yelled to Dad as I scrambled out from under the van. He jumped across the engine shroud as he put on the brake and I ripped a hole in my jeans and made a gash in my knee, a scar I carry to this day. I almost ran over myself.

     A similar thing happened in Florida recently. In Gainesville, a 48-year-old man (drinking according to police reports), angry at the woman behind him, got out of his truck and started banging on her car window at a red light. She drove away but nothing was holding his truck in place and it rolled into him. It fractured his hand and foot for which he was treated at a hospital. He was charged with a DUI and property damage.

     Be sure your sins will find you out. That is a biblical principle we see playing out all around us. That’s what Moses told the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh if they did not go fight with their fellow Israelite brothers: “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numb. 32:23). Solomon said, “The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh” (Ecc. 4:5). In Paul’s words, “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap everlasting life” (Galatians 6:8).

     Be careful. Think before you leap. Otherwise, you might run over yourself.

THIS ONE THING

August 4th, 2014 | By admin

By Paul Holland

Philippians 3:4-14

     What we think about affects what we talk about. Where our lives are focused is what drives our lives. Too many people, unfortunately, when asked, “Where are you going with your life,” they respond, “I don’t know.” If you ask them, what is the goal of your life? They respond, “I don’t know.”

     But, the apostle Paul talks to us from Philippians 3:4-14 about his aim in life, his motivation, his goal, his focus – “This One Thing.”  Let’s look at Paul’s “one thing.”

 IT IS NOT THE PAST - 3:4-7:

    Some of the Christians Paul is writing to, having been influenced by the Jews, think that circumcision or some other kind of physical “show” is what is important to Christ. So, Paul wants to show that if anyone could“boast” in the flesh, he could as well. From the perspective of a Jew, look at what Paul says he was at one time.

     Sometimes, the results of our best-aimed intentions are not what we expected them to be. Proper focus, proper goal-setting means looking beyond the obvious and checking for other possible outcomes of our decisions…

 WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? - 3:8-9:

    In the following paragraph, Paul refers to Christ by name or pronoun nine times! “Christ fills all of Paul’s vision” (Hansen, 231).

     How did Paul view those things in the past? “To be loss.” He had suffered the loss of these things for the sake of Christ, considering them “rubbish.” “Paul is using the strongest term he could get hold of to show how little he valued everything else in life in comparison with possessing Christ” (Earle, 342).

     Paul had come a long way from “Jerusalem” to “Damascus” – that is, from Judaism to Christianity. Paul learned that he could not be whole, pure, holy, righteous without the righteousness that is available through faith in Christ (vs 9).

 THE ONE THING: KNOWING CHRIST - 3:10-14:

    Beginning in verse 10, Paul mentions three things he desired to know. 1.) Him (Christ); 2.) the power of His resurrection; 3.) the fellowship (koinonia) of His suffering, being conformed to His death. “Fellowship” and “power” have the same definite article. These are the same experience.

     Then, in verse 11, Paul says the ultimate purpose of him knowing Christ is to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

     Perhaps Paul would have agreed with the fellow who said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy planning more important things.” The most important thing we’re “planning” is seeing Jesus! Does our life reflect that “one thing?”

Paul Holland is the minister at Swartz Creek church of Christ, Swartz Creek, MI


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