Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Ladies breakfast coming up: Esther

We all know the story of Esther – the beautiful young Jewess who became a Queen of Persia at the time of the Jewish exile, who then saved her people from annihilation. She is chosen for King Xerxes’ harem and eventually becomes Queen. Her uncle and adoptive father, Mordecai, is a Jew who learns of a plot to exterminate the Jews. He tells Esther who, after much heart-searching, prayer and fasting risks her own life to approach the king. She then waits for the right moment before pleading with the king to save her people as eventually the plot is exposed, the perpetrator – Haman – is put to death and the Jewish people are saved.

1 Vashti was banished, and Esther became Queen (Esther 1 & 2)
Queen Vashti refused to obey the orders of her husband King Ashasuerus, so he divorced her and sought a new queen. This new queen was to be the most beautiful woman in the land. A young Jewish girl, Esther, was chosen. Her uncle, Mordecai, overheard a plot against the king, and warned him through Esther.
Esther’s fate was decided for her. She had no choice. She made the best of it. 

2 Esther saved Mordecai from Haman (Esther 3-8:14)
Mordecai offended a high court official, who decided to kill not only Mordecai but all the Jews in the Persian empire. Esther pleaded with the king at two banquets she gave. Mordecai was saved from death, and Haman was punished.

3Esther saved the Jewish people of Persia (Esther 8:15-10)
Letters were sent throughout the kingdom repealing the decree of death for all Jews. There was great rejoicing, and an annual festival was celebrated to commemorate the courage of Esther and the deliverance of the Jews. This festival was called Purim.
Esther must risk her life to approach the King, reveal her identity, and make the request to save her people, or she could remain silent and rest in the apparent security of her lavish surroundings. She fasted; waited for God’s direction; stepped out in faith; used her position.
Esther was out of the safe environment of her Jewish home and friends. No one in the palace knew of her heritage and she had influence and security there. Still, she risked her own life to save her people.

Refusing to take matters into her own hands, Esther waited three days.
· In stressful and dangerous situations, can we wait for God’s direction and timing?
· Do we request prayer from fellow believers? Do we join in prayer for others?
· Mordecai stood by his belief in God even when it looked like it would cause calamity for him and his people. Can you confess your Christian belief in the midst of adversity?
Matthew 10:32 "Whoever acknowledges Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven."

Do we look for God’s hand in all situations?
Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him."

Is there pride in our lives that needs to be dealt with?
Proverbs 8:13 "I hate pride and arrogance"

Do we remember and celebrate the blessings we have received?
Psalm 100:4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise;
Give thanks to Him and praise His name."

And, finally, something to think about:
I Peter 3 - 4 Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses;  but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Hearing from God in daily life

As I prepare for this month's breakfast, I am reminded of these notes from last month...thinking about hearing from God in daily life.

Colossians 4:2
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. NIV
Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude. The Message
Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. New Living Translation

1 Chronicles 12:32
When David was living in Hebron, after Saul had died but before he became king – he was still fighting the house of Saul (2 Samuel 3:1) – many men joined him. 1 Chronicles 12 lists the men from the different tribes, detailing their gifts – what they brought to the battle to turn Saul’s kingdom over to David, as the Lord had said (v23)(1 Chronicles 10:13 – 14)
This caught my eye:
from Issachar, men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do—200 chiefs, with all their relatives under their command; (NIV) these leaders knew the right time to do what needed to be done; (Contemporary English Version). In other words, they were wise

Matthew Henry’s commentary on those who came to Hebron:
When the throne of Christ is set up in a soul, there is, or ought to be, great joy in that soul; and provision is made, not as here, for a few days, but for the whole life, and for eternity. Happy are those who wisely perceive it to be their duty and interest, to submit to the Saviour Jesus Christ, the Son of David; who renounce for his sake all that is not consistent; whose earnest endeavours to do good are directed by the wisdom that God giveth, through acquaintance with his word, experience, and observation. If any man lack this wisdom, let him ask it of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.

Acquaintance with his word: knowing what the Bible says
Experience: remembering what has happened in the past – being encouraged. Eg a timely word
Observation: this is risky; needs sensitivity and discernment;

Pray in the morning
Pray on the job
Work with humility

Isaiah 33:6 (CEV) says
you are the foundation on which we stand today.
You always save us and give true wisdom and knowledge.
 Nothing means more to us  than obeying you.

Micah 6:8 -9 New Living Translation
No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.
Fear the Lord if you are wise! His voice calls to everyone in Jerusalem:

Joshua 1:9
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.

Saturday, 26 March 2011


I've just read a blog post over at InAMirrorDimly. A simple reminder about worship. It says 'I won’t find anything in this world that can replace the peace and joy that comes with God’s Spirit. Worship opens us to him so he can begin to work in and through us.'

This really resonates with me – it’s a timely reality check: that we are made to worship God and that I am ‘only in my right mind when worshipping Him’. The dictionary definition for ‘right mind’ is ‘all there, compos mentis, healthy, in good health, in one’s right mind, lucid, reasonable, right, right-minded, sound, together, well-adjusted, whole. It also means wholesome, all there, balanced, both oars in water, commonsensical, compos mentis, discerning, fair-minded, fit, having all marbles, healthy, in one's right mind, intelligent, judicious, levelheaded,logical, lucid, moderate, normal, of sound mind,oriented, playing with full deck, prudent, rational,right, right-minded, sagacious, sage, sapient,self-possessed, sensible, sober, sound, steady,together*, well, wise’.

I love the implication in that: that when I am NOT worshipping Him, I am not in my ‘right’ mind – I am off focus, askew, awry; in fact, I am insane, unsound and irrational. Not something I want to be!
I’ve recently moved to a church with a focus on liturgy and formality – not my recent experience and not my comfort zone either.What I need to remember when I go to the church service is that I go to WORSHIP. So, with the first hymn, I need to remember to focus on God, to worship HIM, to concentrate on the words of praise even though the tune may be unfamiliar or uncomfortable.

2 Timothy 1:6-8 says,( in another context) in the King James Version, that God has given us a 'sound mind'. Other versions translate it as 'self-discipline, discipline, or self-control'. I need to discipline myself to 'enter His courts with thanksgiving in my heart, enter His courts with praise...'

Then I can truly be of ‘sound mind’.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Friendship - with a sigh...

Once upon a time, when I was younger, just out of school, making friends without a second's thought, keeping them with long chats, letters, smiles and laughter, I thought friends were for keeping. For ever and happily ever after.
I wish.
(On the other relationships would not be the same. We would be 'facebook' friends who never have time to meet face to face or word to word save for the odd one-liner. Time does not expand to accommodate all the relationships we have.)
Yet now, in the middle of the story of my life, I still know that friends are for keeping.
Some of them.
Some are for losing - natural wastage - as I move from on situation to another. From workplace to workplace they fade away; from one stage in life to another, they move on; from one life focus to new direction, as interests wax and wane - they wave their quiet farewells. Usually, I send them on their way, rejoicing that I have known them, however short the duration of our acquaintance.
I now know that friends are for a season. Seasons of time, seasons of place, seasons of interest, seasons of life circumstances.
I keep those friends for ever and happily ever after in my memory, my thoughts, my smiles, my laughter. Though the friends are no longer part of my life, I cherish the times we had together.
Loyalty and faithfulness, to state the obvious, are gifts I am glad to have.
Yet sometimes it doesn't happen like that. Some friends do not lose their immediacy.
Because some friendships survive the removal times. They survive the change of house, neighbourhood, school, work, exercise class, book group...(even that). They survive through letters, emails, Christmas cards, maybe even the occasional brief phone call, snatched meetings - maybe even once every ten years.
These friends - heart friends, beneath the skin friends, joined at the hip friends - are ever lasting, happily ever after, for all eternity friends.
Often, usually, predominantly, friends of the faith. Fellow Christians. For these are friends who are closer than a brother (or sister).
So what is hard, doubly hard at the moment, is when friendships that I thought were solid, true, close, supportive, caring, loving, almost perfect...when these friendships do not survive a change of church.
The change was not for any wrong reasons. No, it was not because we had become dissatisfied with the worship (it's not for us anyway), nor the preaching (my responsibility is to HEAR properly, not criticize those who speak the words God gives them), nor even bad relationships. It was simply a response to God's call, so, reluctantly, we moved. Perhaps for a season - we might be back. We don't know.
It's a hard move.
So it's been a shock when I return to visit - which I do regularly - and become invisible. Those brothers and sisters seem to have forgotten that I am part of the family. Their lives have moved on, without me.
That's a shock, but it's inevitable. I can cope with that. I realise that not everyone uses the same industrial strength friendship glue as I do. Their loyalties lie in other directions.
No, what hurts is the friend I'd thought was a 'keeping friend'.  The friend I drank coffee with, walked with, laughed with, cried with, prayed with, the friend I thought loved me.
The friend who, busy with her life, almost acts as if I am ignoring her because I do not meet her at church any more.
Yet I long for her support, her acceptance of my move, her love.
We're still friends, but it's not the same, There is a new tension. She says things which make me feel unwelcome around her. She is irritated with some of my new friends. She doesn't text or call.
So what now?
I have always believed that god standard - better than gold standard - friendships reach a level of intensity that is make or break. The godly response is to make. It takes two.
Watch this space. And read this blog post over at incourage.. .

Sunday, 13 March 2011

And yet another...

Anne Graham Lotz: My Heart's Cry

I love this book. It is such an encouragement to me as I strive to live for Christ. So often, the busyness of life takes over and we can find it hard to focus on God. Billy Graham’s daughter Anne, in just a dozen chapters, provides practical inspiration to help us centre on Jesus and the life he has for us.

A mix of encouraging stories and Biblically-based reflections help us to want, as Anne does, simply more of Jesus. I particularly love the way she presents ideas almost poetically, deliberately choosing to set them out in a way that is not only easy to understand but makes them easy to remember.

Here are a few: I just love the pattern, rhythm and repetition - poetry!

 if my praise is interrupted by
                my circumstances or my complaints
                                my selfishness or my suffering
                                                my desires or my depression
                                                                my indifference or my insistence
                                                                                or by anything at all...
the light will grow dim in my life as I sink into the mire of self, and instead of causing others to praise Him, I will draw them down into the darkness with me.

who is seeking to meet Jesus because of what He has done for me?
When have I told someone about how he raised me from spiritual death?
When have I told someone about how He forgave my sin and removed my guilt?
When have I told someone about the disease He healed, or the prayer He answered, or the blessing He gave, or the promise He fulfilled?

No means of measure can difine his limitless love...
No farseeing telescope can bring into visibility the coastline of his shore-less supply...
No barrier can hinder him from pourikng out his blessings...

He forgives and he forgets.
                He creates and he cleanses
                                He restores and he rebuilds
                                                He heals and he helps,
                                                                He reconciles and he redeems,
                                                                                He comforts and he carries,
                                                                                                He lifts and he loves.

He is the God of the second chance,
                the fat chance,
                                the slim chance,
                                                the no chance...

he discharges debtors,
he delivers the captives,
he defends the feeble,
he blesses the young,
he serves the unfortunate,
he regards the aged,
he rewards the diligent,
he beautifies the meek.

He guards the young.
He seeks the stray.
He finds the lost.
He guides the faithful.
He rights the wronged.
He avenges the abused.
He defends the weak.
He comforts the oppressed.
He welcomes the prodigal.
He heals the sick.
He cleanses the dirty.
He beautifies the barren.
He restores the failure.
He mends the broken.
He blesses the poor.
He fills the empty.
He clothes the naked.
He satisfies the hungry.
He elevates the humble.
He forgives the sinner.
He raises the dead!

He supplies strength to the weary.
                He increases the power to the faint.
                                He offers escape to the tempted.
                                                He sympathises  with the hurting.
                                                                He saves the hopeless.
                                                                                He shields the helpless.
                                                                                                He sustains the homeless.

He gives purpose to the aimless,
                reason to the meaningless,
                                fulfilment to the emptiness,
light in the darkness,
comfort in the loneliness,
fruit in the barrenness,
future to the hopeless,
life to the lifeless!

In considering different aspects of Jesus’s life and character, Anne shows how we can become more like him. There can’t be anything better than that!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Voices of the Faithful - Book 2 Inspiring Stories of Courage from Christians Serving Around the World By Beth Moore, Kim P. Davis, International Mission Board

Not blogging much recently, I have been reading - and working - quite busily. This is a review I wrote for Booksneeze.

This book serves as a daily devotional, with selected Bible readings, prayers, and a reflection for each day – a page for each date on the calendar. The reflections, however, come from missionaries serving all over the world. The topics give insight into their lives and inspiration for daily living.
The snippets I had previewed were interesting and challenging, so I was a little disappointed with the first few days and weeks, particularly as I ‘read forward’ – some of the daily entries just didn’t ‘connect’ with me. However, as I persevered  with the daily readings, sticking religiously to the dates, I found the Scriptures, prayers and stories of encounters with God and his people remarkably applicable. Each day began to bring fresh insight into my own life and I started to read with interest, eager to find God’s messages to me.
This book is by no means any kind of serious Bible study, but it does offer, through its readable, well-structured format, encouragement for daily living. It gives us the opportunity to widen our horizons as we consider the practical living out of the gospel around the world. In fact, the lives of the missionaries themselves are inspiring as we read between the lines and appreciate their eagerness to forget themselves in their dedication to Jesus.
The only disadvantage to this collection of devotional readings is that, as a paperback, it is quite large. I prefer pocket-sized versions so find that this is a ‘bed-side’ book rather than being one which I can carry about with me.  I was given the book (see below) and might not have bought it had I picked it up in a bookshop.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255