Write 31 Days- Day 18- Prostitutes Thieves and Murderers OH MY!

write

At the end of yesterday’s blog post I wrote about excuses.  And remember I mentioned Mark Hall’s quote about Christians having big BUTS.  Well after much contemplating I have decided to explore a few of the biggest BUTS Christians  seem to hold onto:

BUT you don’t know my past

This one gets me often because we don’t have to look far into Scripture to see that God takes the messiest lives and transforms them into the most beautiful servants  for his work.

She was a Prostitute

But not just any prostitute , she was a prostitute with 7 demons.

We don’t know much about her past or her family. just what she was and what she had.  Thankfully Jesus is in the business of reception.  He healed her and forgave her and she became one of the faithful women who went with Jesus.

She was indebted to Him for all that he had done.  he had transformed who she was.  She was at the crucifixion, the burial and the Resurrection.

She took a anointed Jesus’ feet with her tears and her hair.  She seemed to have an understanding of what was going to happen.  This woman. Her name was Mary Magdalene.

one of my favorite Hymns is  “In the Garden”. It has always resonated deep within my soul.  I had no idea the story behind it, but I knew I felt just as the person speaking in the song.  Two years ago I was sitting in the tabernacle of the camp we hang out at every summer and the worship leader shared the back story. I was BLOWN away.  It is the account of Mary Magdalene.  It is a picture of her deep personal relationship with Jesus.  The type of relationship I want to have with my  Savior.

Let’s also not forget Rehab the prostitue that help the spies  defeat Jericho.

He was a Thief

They couldn’t go anywhere.  they were stuck there in agony.  Their last moments on this earth…at least for one of them. All seemed hopeless.  There was no chance to have a godly influence…or was there?  The thief that hung next to Jesus on the cross had nope of life, at least on this earth.  He saw his need, he saw the redeemer and he asked for forgiveness. And in the blink of an eye the most hopeless  of situations gave the greatest hope of all….ETERNITY in Heaven.  And that man is an immense influence.  How you might ask?   well He’s the Bible!  His brief story mingled with anguish inspires hope in me.  A mom in the 21st century that it is NEVER too late for hope…EVER!

They were murderers

He grew up in pharaoh’s palace in Egypt but by blood he was an Israelite so his blood boiled when he saw an Egyptian task master beating his fellow Isrealite  He killed him, and then he RAN away from his problems and HID in another country. But you cannot hide from God and God came a calling in the form of a burning bush. And God had a job for Moses.  It involved going before Pharaoh and saying O baby let my people go….Um never mind.   (raise your hands if ya sang that song at teen retreats and Youth events). Anyway God was going to send him right back to where he had run from, Mooses said BUT BUT BUT my speech, I am not eloquent.   (Wow din’t I JUST write about all these things).  God said go He went and was used by God to save the Israelites from their enemies.

Fast forward to the New Testament and the book of Acts. Saul hated Christians and he hated Jesus.  He was passionate about this and was perhaps one of those who threw stones to kill Stephen.  And yet God is in the business of redeeming the most unlikely to be one of his Children.  It’s a miracle that these people are reached.

BUT it’s not really because God has been doing it for thousands of years. AND he still does it today.

I know a guy

Actually I know a whole bunch of guys and gals with amazing redemption stories like those mentioned above.

There are two guys who spent most of the 70’s strung out on LSD amongst other things.  The now suffer from schizophrenia, but they sing the praises of Jesus

I knew a girl whose father was murdered by an axe murderer while serving Jesus in another country.  When she returned to the states she moved to the worst part of her city and worked with the kids there.  I helped her.  It was hard, but amazing .  It was in that ministry I had the privilege of leading my  first person to Christ.  and a fire was lit.

There is this cool kid that has autism, and as folate he is struggling which means that I as his mom am struggling.  Mostly because I don’t know how to make it better.  BUT his heart, despite people being mean to him, he still wants his friends to come to AWANA and church.  His heart is golden and precious and God uses hum and all the others because of one reason alone…..

THEY LET HIM.

Your past is made beautiful when Jesus redeems you, You just have to let Him!

 

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Write 31 Days- Day7: Esther’s Influential Attribute : Persistence

Persistence

The Power Of Persistence

Another way Esther influenced her world was by being persistent.  She didn’t give up.  She said she was going to do it and she stuck with it, even when plans changed.  So what was she Persistent in?  She had to add a second banquet because God had a plan to make King Xerxes remember some important details about the man Mordecai who saved King Xerxes’ life. We don’t know why exactly she didn’t spill her guts at the first banquet.  There is a lot of speculation BUT for whatever reason we know that God used it for HIS good!!

Other Biblical Examples of Persistence

Moses didn’t think he could go to Pharaoh.  He felt he wasn’t able to speak well enough for such a task and yet God equipped Moses to go before Pharaoh 14 times throughout the beginning of the book of Exodus.  

How about Ruth- the Moabite daughter-in-law of Naomi?  She  along with Orpah and Naomi lost  their husbands.  When Naomi decided to leave  Moab the girls decided to go back to Israel with her.  At one point Naomi urges the girls to go back to their families, stating that she had nothing to offer them and really had nothing to offer them.   Orpah heeded Naomi’s instructions but Ruth  told Naomi That she would not leave her and that her Naomi) people  would become her (Ruth) people and that her (Naomi) God would become her(Ruth) God.  She had no idea what she was getting into.  I’m sure Naomi told her how the Israelites felt about foreigners.   And yet THAT was not her concern.  She wanted to care for  Naomi.   She worked so hard in the fields to provide  for their little family.  And yet God took that persistence and blesses Ruth greatly.   So much so that Ruth will be in the line of David and eventually Jesus.

Perhaps the Most Persistent Man in American History

This person lost 8 elections  in various state and local positions (he didn’t win one single election),

he had two failed businesses,

Lost numerous loved ones including his wife.

He suffered a nervous breakdown ……..all before we called him PRESIDENT Abraham Lincoln.

I find this story inspiring because by the worlds standards he WAS a failure.  BUT he was so persistent  that just by being so persistent makes him an inspiration.  That He wasn’t willing to give up and throw in the towel.   He fought through all of the negative and became a success! And he revolutionized the United States!

Abraham Lincoln like Esther had been persistent, and they were both called “for such a time as this”.   Their Persistence paid off!

The  Command to be Persistent- To Persevere

Another word for Persistence in the Bible is PERSEVERANCE!  To  Persevere  means to be steadfast in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success!

Hmmm sounds a lot like both Abraham Lincoln AND Esther AND a HUGE amount of people scattered throughout Scripture!!

Check out these verses that relay our need for perseverance in our everyday  lives: 

Romans 5 :3-4

Not only so, but we] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

James 1:2-5

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

I Quit….I Give Up….

The opposite of persistence or perseverance is Quitting.

We quit because bad things happen or because things aren’t working out the way we envision them or in the time frame in which we want to accomplish  goals. 

 Many times Christians will tack on it’s God’s will to quit. The problem starts though when they first say it was God’s will or God has told them to do something and then all of a sudden they say God told them He doesn’t want to do that anymore.   If God had called or told us to do something then we really need to be persistent and persevere through all the hard stuff that comes with serving God! If we don’t it leads to a whole lot of troubles.  

 We are promised in  John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world  you WILL have trouble. BUT take heart , I have overcome the world.”  AND YES that means in dealing with other believers.  At some point we as Christians forget that we as Christians are still human and we let each other down. No one is perfect.  GASP NOT EVEN OURSELVES.  I’n guessing that you have hurt your fair share of people too.  Just as I have.  I try my hardest to make things right, this is where grace comes in.  At this point this is where I begin to hear echos in my own head saying but you have no idea how much I have been hurt.  You have no idea how much people have hurt me and then come all the stories flowing out like bitter flood waters that have been stuffed deep down within their souls.  I deal with that same stuff.  Because I have been hurt deeply.  And then I remember one thing and it puts it into perspective: Jesus died for everyone including those who crucified HIM.  Realistically if one person in this world would be justified  in holding a grudge it would be Jesus.  He was perfect, sinless and He was made the fool and died a humiliating death. The ultimate hurt and betrayal.  AND HE FORGAVE THEM AND ME!!!   I need to be persistent and persevere despite all the hurt.  

Other times it’s a test from God to see just how serious we are to follow where He has called us.  He wants us to trust him fo HIS purposes  NOT our own.  He wants to know that we are dedicated to HIS ways, despite our ideals and preconceived ideas of how things SHOULD go!

And when that happens oftentimes a person with influence in looked  as CRAZY.

Write 31 Days-Day 5- Esther’s Influential Attribute :Faith

Faith

Yesterday we discussed Esther’s Willingness.  She was willing to do what was right and as we see by the end of the story she was blessed but more on that Later!  Today we will see that Esther’s second attribute that really influenced others around her was her Faith.  And this REALLY piggybacks off of the attribute of willingness and really they all do.   Faith is a choice. Transparency is a choice. Persistence is a choice. Action is a choice and we ALL know that being crazy and making the seemingly illogical CRAZY is a choice!!

Missing BUT Still Present

Ya know what though as we get deeper into the book of Esther we realize that there is a person not yet mentioned in this book.   Do you know who it is?  It’s GOD!  But just because God isn’t mentioned in this book does it mean God isn’t there?  NOPE!  God is ALWAYS there, even when He is not acknowledged, or talked about.

The {Faith} Struggle is Real

As I look back over the Bible and I take a deeper look into the people’s lives who are documented in it’s pages I see a pattern.   I see that they ALL struggled with their FAITH!!  EVEN JESUS did but more on that in a second.

So What is FAITH?

A few years ago I wrote that on the very first page of this super cute journal I had purchased- and then I promptly lost the journal.  That was the only thing written in it.  Fast forward a few YEARS later, I was organizing my book shelf making room for new books and there neatly on the shelf was my journal.  I opened it up and chuckled because of the question. I set it on the table  and I was determined to use it for my summer/ camp journal.   The next morning I opened this thing of beauty and I was reading my devotions ( I was reading through the book of HEBREWS). when I started Cjaper 11. My mouth fell open.

Hebrews 11:1 gives the definition of faith, as clear as crystal it says, ”

Faith is Confidence in what we hope for.

AND

Assurance about what we do not see.

!!!!

Esther’s Faith

Esther had confidence and assurance that God would fulfill the promises made throughout  the Old Testament.  Promises that He would protect His People the Jews.    She, though it was hard, trusted that she was put into this place  for such a time as this.  To be  the one used to save an entire nation from another Man ruled by his pride and anger.

But Esther had to battle through doubts and fears.  She knew that if she entered the kings presence with out being summoned, she would more than likely meet her demise much sooner than she had hoped for. And what good would that do her OR her people.  And yet she had to make a choice to trust God or Trust logic. to have faith that God would do what He said He would do.

Jesus’s Faith Struggle

Now before you go excommunicating me for hearsay, let me explain.

Jesus didn’t’t want to die!  Three times we see Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane toiling and struggling asking God to “Let this cup pass from me”. Matthew 26:39-46.NIV. In this passage He tells his disciples that He is greatly distressed and overwhelmed with sorrow and he asks them to keep watch and Pray with him.  I can’t even imagine how much more sorrowful he was when he found them sleeping THREE times!

In another Gethsemane account we are told that Christ was so anguished that He sweat great drops of blood Luke 22:41-46.

And in the end as this passage says the angel of the Lord came to Him and strengthened Him. and in the end He surrendered His will and says ” Not my will Father But Yours.  The struggle to trust God for His best not ours is what REAL FAITH is all about.

The Hall of Faith-Hebrews Chapter 11

Basically this chapter is a reminder of who God used and how.  They are a pretty Wiley group too.  They were not perfect.  they had stained pasts AND presents.   And the underlying  2 things about each one of them

  1. they were willing
  2. they had faith that God was who He said He was and He was going to do what He said He was going to do!

Hebrews 11:32-38 Msg

32-38 I could go on and on, but I’ve run out of time. There are so many more—Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets. . . . Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection. Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless—the world didn’t deserve them!—making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.

WOW!!!

The  “OTHER” Choice

I have been rather clear that each one of these attributes is an active choice.   You have  two options: Be willing or unwilling.  Have faith OR DOUBT!!! and let’s be honest EVERYONE struggle with doubt! And everyones doubt looks different.  Sarah Laughed when she was told she was going to have a baby at 100.  Thomas didn’t believe that Jesus had raised from the dead though Jesus had promised it on multiple occasions

Doubt is often used by Satan to keep us from influencing others.  

Doubt can be caused by many things.  It can come from people.  Or it can from our hearts, when we let questions  (Like Eve) roll around about God’s goodness, his love for us.  Did He really sayThat?  How can He love me??   We all do it but how do we chase the doubts out?

3 Practical Steps to chase out Doubt

  • Learn who you are in Christ- memorize these post the Scriptures  and place those answers Scripture in prominent places as constant reminders as to who you are are in Christ!
  • In her book Loving God with all Your Mind Elizabeth George recommends taking Philippians  4:8-9 and asking yourself questions based on this passage.  So ask yourself is this TRUE?  -Say that God is not with you during this trial.  Your answer should be No because God says He will never leave us nor forsake us in TWO places! Deuteronomy 31:6 and then the author of Hebrews encourages the Hebrew believers He is writing to reminding them of what is written In Deuteronomy in Hebrews 13:5 &6.

 PHILIPPIANS  4:8-9. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

  • PRAY.  this is not just some pat Christian answer.  This is  our biggest defense against every temptation we face.   This can be as simple as “God help my unbelief”.  Or it can be a fall to your knees, crying out to God,Eat Carpet type of prayer.  No matter what it looks like you cannot overcome this doubt alone.  You NEED God’s help.  Who better to help you break down your doubt THAN the very person in whom your faith struggles!

These three steps have become my hope renewers when my faith falters.   God has used these three things to bring healing to my people pleasing heart and has brought me to a place of understanding that I answer to Him.  Putting aside when others let me down and claiming the promise that HE WILL NEVER LEAVE ME OR FORSAKE ME helps me to realize that He is the ever constant LOVE in my. life that  has NO conditions tied to it!

Let’s Chat:  How about you?  what doubts has God broken through? oOR is currently breaking through?

 

 

 

 

Write 31 Days- Day 4- Esther’s Influential Attribute- Willingness

willingness

As  we begin to look at Ester and her six influential attributes, (Willingness, Faith, Transparency, Persistence, A tad bit of Crazy, and Action.) I want you to understand that these were the 6 attributes that stood out to me in the months I spent studying her.  When you read Esther you might just see 6 more attributes that will stand out to you.   So you can say, “Yeah Mary, but what about_____?”   and That My friends is what  God is talking about in Isaiah when He states ,

 

Isaiah 55:11
New International Version
so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Willing? Really?

Yep That is EXACTLY what I mean!   Yes I know she was kidnapped (against her will of course). So how on earth can I possibly say she was willing.  Well heres the thing She had a choice, a hard choice. but it also seems like a small, seemingly insignificant choice.  It was her choice to be willing, but will for what?

Ester was willing to:

  •  Listen -listen to wise counsel….the counsel of the king’s Eunuchs,  who gave extra preparations to Esther because they saw something different in her.
  • Listen to Mordecai’s advice both to say nothing about being a Jew and then when the time was right to say she was a Jew.
  • Lay her life on the line when she approached the king.
  • She had to be willing to wait, because God’s plan sometimes (ok often times does not look like what we think the plan should).She had to hold two banquets because God’s plan  was bigger. 
  •  Change,  both her opinions and he plans. (Yeah I just said that-OUCH!!)

Esther 4:15-17

New International Version (NIV)

15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

17 So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther’s instructions.

Hebrews13:20-21

20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen

Did you see that!!! In the Hebrews passage it says ” God WILL equip you with everything good for doing His will”. Wow!!  what an amazing promise!

Now as I was studying out this passage we had the opportunity  to go to a Newsboys concert back in April. and as we sang and danced and enjoyed the concert with church friends and our family, Micheal Tait said something that spoke right into what I had been studying.

We arenot called because we are gifted, we are gifted because we are called.

Esther was not trained to be a Persian Queen nor was she gifted in over-throwing evil plots to wipe out a genocide plot for an entire people group.  We have people in this country who are highly trained in these areas.   And here we find a teenaged girl who finds herself in just these circumstances.  She was Called for such a time as this, but you can be called and not be willing.

BUT Willingness Works Two Ways!

However there is a negative side to willingness as well.  And that comes in the form of what we are willing to let influence us.

 Is it negative messages from music, TV or people OR do we feed ourselves negative messages.  They usually start with I Can’t…..

 BUT She ….

If only I….

Someday when I….

Those influences  take the focus off God and put them on me.  But it’s not about me.

Esther’s Influences

Mordecai is clearly the most influential person in Esther’s life He was willing to take in his orphan Niece.  Esther could have chosen to let the   Persian culture influence every part of her life.  She could have also  been the opposite of willing and chosen to be stubblorn, Digging in her heals saying “NOpEI’m not gonna do It Because…..” And we would not have blamed her. BUT I’m pretty sure  we wouldn’t have  the book of Esther either.

Examples in Unwillingness

The closest Kinsman in Ruth Chapter 4 Said he wasn’t  going to take Ruth because his own inheritance would be on the line.  And yet HE CHOSE to lose out on a fantastic legacy of being in the line of Jesus.

Pharaoh admitted to sinning 2 different times.  He knew the choices he was making were  wrong and yet when he couldn’t have his own way because the plan had changed and   he became angry. He then  let his  anger influence his decision making. His pride and his anger were his influences.  Not even his advisors could change it. his mind!

So What’s It Gonna Be?

You and I have a choice too.  Are we willing to be  a Christ-like influence. Sacrificing our own desires, likes and dislikes, pet peeves , insecurities, hurt feelings,  misunderstandings, discouragements, circumstances,  ( I can keep going , and going and going). We let all these things  influence us and in the end we are rendered ineffective because what ends up happening is those  “things” start eating at us and before long we are rooted firmly in bitterness, anger, self doubt, discouragement, and completely focused on ourselves. And unfortunately we tend to think that we are hiding these things but in reality, the condition of our hearts are revealed through the words of our mouth,

Matthew 15:18 NIV
But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.

That’s hard but when we let those negative influences into our lives we are willingly  choosing  to forfeit  that being equipped by God to do his good work.  We are essentially putting ourselves first whether we are protecting ourselves -like Esther could have .  Thankfully she didn’t   So what’s it gonna be ?  Are you gonna be an Esther or that nameless dud in Ruth protecting HIS rights, HIS comfort, HIS whatever?

Let’s Chat:  This is someone in Your Life who exemplifies Willingness to serve God with every ounce of who they are, sacrificing their safety, comfort, finances, and/ pride to make God Famous?

 

Write 31 Days-Day 3- Esther:An Unlikely Influencer

Esther

HERE IT IS AS PROMISED ESTHER!!!  Early this year a friend of mine came to me and asked if I would do a Bible study with her.  She has been going through some tough stuff and this study I had done in Esther while I was going through some tough stuff came to mind, so we set to work.    And quickly I realized that as I sat and studied Esther God was using this  study to work a miracle in my heart , but more on that later.  I found myself  (yet again) being influenced by a person I have never met, and more so dead!   I’m sure Esther had no idea what on earth God was going to do in her life.  I’m sure she had no idea that millions  of people would read about sweet Esther in the Bible.

Esther- A Invisible Teenager

Let’s lay some ground work for this young woman:

  • She was young- most scholars place her around 14-16 years old
  • She was a Jew that had been exiled to Persia.
  • She was an orphan being raised by her cousin Mordecai..
  • She wasn’t married.

By all rights Esther didn’t really fit the bill for an influencer at all.  They were living in another country because God had punished the Israelites by kicking them out of the promised land (they had ample warnings to change).  Esther was just in the age bracket to get married, common in those times.

Esther-Kidnapped

So not only did Esther have a sad  childhood when we pick up with her in the Bible, we are about to see that her teenaged life is about to take a turn for the worse.   But let’s talk about the king of Persia- Xerxes.   I don’t know much about this dude other than what the Bible tells me and some other details  from other sources but no matter what you read there are two things about Xerxes that they all agree on.  XERXES LOVES HIS ALCOHOL and  XERXES LOVES PARTIES!!   And we find Xerxes in the midst of a crazy party where there was no limit on the alcohol.  He then calls for his queen-Vashti!  She says no. He consults his buddies and basically they say if you don’t de-throne her and you let her get away with this, we too are gonna have trouble with our wives and it’s gonna be your fault!

So Vasti is moved  to the concubine house to live out her remaining days.

Now the king needs a new wife.

and so his med ride throughout the kingdom  “collecting suitable women”.  Let’s stop right there.  Does that sound familiar? Can you say HUMAN TRAFFICKING?  they kidnapped all these girls and brought them to the palace and you guessed it Esther is in the mix.  these girls were given a years worth of beauty treatments and then one by one they went in to spend one night with the king and in the morning they would be taken to the concubine house where many women would live out their remaining days , never to see the king’s face again.

Esther’s Initial Influence

So here is this young Jewish girl amongst all of these Persian women.  I’m sure she wasn’t the only Jewish girl there but Esther stood out above the rest.  Her character influenced the eunuchs  and they gave Esther special treatment.  We aren’t given very many details  as to what exactly this entailed but we do know that they instructed how to carry herself before the king and wha to bring with her.

Esther’s Impact So Far

I don’t know about you but if I were in her shoes I’m pretty sure I would be a basket case!  no longer able to see my family and being kept in a home that wasn’t mine with women who also didn’t want to be there. Whew!   I would also be asking some serious questions of God and I know it doesn’t give details about God working in this book (because He isn’t mentioned once) we can see him fulfilling his promises to his people to protect them.

Sitting here writing this account, it seems so hopeless for this young woman, BUT the cool thing is I have the rest of the story

Over the next 6 days we will look at the 6 Influential Attributes of Esther.  Tomorrow we will start  with her WILLINGNESS, won’t you join me?

Let’s Chat:  What are some positive influential attributes  in others lives that have really impacted you?