Category: Reflections


A Very Special Church

Ephesus IEntrance to the Library in Ephesus

Ephesus was home to the goddess Artemis, or Diana as the Romans knew her.  Her temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and pilgrims flocked to Ephesus to worship her.  This provided ample opportunity for silversmiths to peddle their wares.  Ephesus was a large and important city on the coast of Asia Minor.  Its seaport made it the most important trade center west of Tarsus.  Nearby Pergamum was the capital of the province, but Ephesus was larger with an estimated 300,000 residents.  Ephesians prided themselves on their culture.  The ruins betray her community baths, gymnasiums and impressive buildings including a huge library.  Excavations have uncovered very wealthy homes with frescoed walls.  But her adoration of Artemis was her real draw.  Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo and daughter of Zeus.  She was known as the hunting goddess, a fertility goddess and the moon goddess.  Temple prostitution was commonly practiced in Ephesus, as well as magic.

Paul had a special place in his heart for the church at Ephesus.  It should come as no surprise since he spent more time ministering there than he did any other single location.  Ephesus provides a unique opportunity to track the life of one church to glean insights into its successes and its struggles.  While Acts and Paul’s letter to the Ephesians provides us with the most comprehensive look at the church there, digging into the details of other Scriptures provides details that help to piece together its distinctive history.

Arguably no other church had the intense and continual discipleship from early church leaders that Ephesus enjoyed.  It was a very different church than Corinth.   As we analyze the topics that Paul addressed in his letters to Timothy, we gain further insight into the struggles that this young pastor endured.  Paul cared about this church from his imprisonments.  He wrote to them from his house arrest in Rome, and later he wrote to strengthen and encourage Timothy there even while his own death was imminent.

The Church today needs discipleship to be the sustaining lifeblood of the Church. We see in Ephesus that discipleship was ongoing, deliberate and intentional.  These babes in Christ were nurtured by mature believers and in the end were able to stand firm against false teachers.

What is your definition of discipleship? Why would discipleship be the lifeblood of the Church today?

How are you actively being discipled? Who are you actively discipling?

Hope of the World

Why-Do-We-Exist-As-A-Local-Church

Bill Hybels, Pastor and visionary leader at Willow Creek Church, says that, “The local church is the hope of the world.” Why would he say something like that? Doesn’t he know the problems that exist in the local church? Doesn’t he realize that the humans that make up the church today are flawed?

The book of Acts helps us to see a time of transition for the church. We see many changes and transitions such as:  from Jesus to Apostles; from hiding to boldness; from no Spirit to indwelling Spirit; from national Israel to universal Church; from Jerusalem to the world; from Jew to Gentile; from Judaism to Christianity; from synagogues to churches.  But something we don’t see change…God’s character and His plan. He still deeply desires to reach the world with His message of reconciliation and redemption because he cares for people. The only thing that has changed is that now he will do it through the new community of faith, empowered by the Spirit.

While Acts is not a model for all churches for all time, it teaches us about the sovereign progress of the Kingdom message in spite of struggles and persecution along the way.  The Lower Story persecution only served to spread the Upper Story of redemption to other parts of the world!  The new church was founded upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Notice how many times in Acts the resurrection is mentioned.  The resurrection changed everything!  The risen Jesus spent forty days providing infallible proof that He was alive, and teaching the disciples things about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3).  Then He instructed them to wait for the power of the Holy Spirit who would embolden them to spread the redemption message throughout the whole world.

The local church has and will continue to have problems because humans are a part of the system. This does not mean that we should stop doing it or find some other way. Christ loved the church so much that he gave up his life for it. No matter what our feelings are towards the church or how we have been hurt by it, we need to keep in mind what Christ thought of it.

The Church (people) is God’s plan of getting to those who are outside the church today. Today the strategy must change. We can’t simply run a new program or offer some giveaway, we give them the only thing that will get at the problem; Jesus. We do this in different ways because we are all different. Each of us, as the Church, has a sphere of influence. We have friends both in the church and outside the church but that doesn’t mean we have to change who we are. We need to not be afraid to open up the conversation to spiritual matters. God is working to pursue people still today and he is working in the lives of people around you, but are you paying attention? It might be as simple as a word or action, that will provoke a question.

God is working through the Church today, whether we like it or not. The local church can and should be the hope of the world.

How can we as the Church have God’s passion for those outside the Church today? What part do you see yourself playing in God’s plan to reach?

Cornerstone of Christianity

He is Risen

Of all the world religions, only one claims that its founder returned from the grave. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the very cornerstone of the Christian faith. Read what the Apostle Paul said concerning the resurrection of Jesus:

“Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

Really!?! We still believe this today? A dead man who has come back to life? In our sophisticated age, when myth has given way to science, we can’t really take those claims seriously, right? Some argue that Jesus never died, some say he was completely made up. With so many conflicting stories the empty tomb seems suspect.

Doesn’t that all sound familiar? If you have watched any shows on History, Discovery, or wherever during Holy Week before you have heard people posing these same questions. It is really tough to know the truth when so many different types of stories are reported by “credible” people. Jesus Christ risen from the dead is a life changing reality. The evidence is there all we have to do is see with for ourselves.

The resurrection was a public act that hundreds of people bore witness to. The scriptures testify to this fact as it often names a source and then says if you don’t believe me go and ask them, they are still alive. As they told the story of the resurrection they were not trying to hide any of the facts. The biggest testimony to this is the part of the women being the first to witness his resurrection. Women in the first century were not credible witnesses, their testimony was not valid in court. Yet the gospels show women to be the first to the tomb. If they were crafting a good story that they wanted everyone to believe they would have left out the part about the women. Instead, the story is told as it unfolded before their very eyes.

The disciple and Gospel writer, John, was strategic in his writing and intentionally did not say everything about Jesus. But all four gospels agree that on the events leading up to the passion, they agree on the events of the cross and they all fully believe in his bodily resurrection. The evidence is real but the cross will always seem like foolishness to those who are perishing. John wrote his gospel that some might believe that Jesus is who he said he was.

The resurrection is real and not a metaphor. There are some who deny the resurrection ever happened, but there are also some who believe that the story of the resurrection was simply a metaphor that we can rise from whatever held us captive or we need to resurrect some good behaviors or whatever. If the resurrection is only a metaphor then we (Christians) should be pitied (felt sorry for). Without the resurrection there is no Christianity. If this is just a metaphor on how to live life, Christianity is just another made up myth that can be thrown to the side with all the rest.

Jesus came out of the grave because death could not hold him. I pray that if you don’t know the risen Christ that you investigate the evidence for yourself and place your hands in his side, hands and feet to see if it is real.

Have a blessed Easter! He is Risen!

What’s your perspective of the cross?

Don’t Make the Familiar, Forgettable

the week that changed the world

The Story schedule was designed so that chapter 27 falls on Easter (Resurrection) Sunday.  This week’s chapter precedes and culminates on Palm Sunday.  But the content of the chapter ranges from the Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday through the crucifixion.  Obviously, then, it covers a great deal of crucial Scripture.  All of it is important.  Most of it is somewhat familiar.  As the holiest of all our Christian holidays, this week has often been eclipsed by the commercialism of Christmas.  Yet, without the events leading up to Easter ever occurring, Scripture says our faith is in vain.  Only a few church bodies today have continued to observe the holy week traditions which include Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, while many evangelical church bodies have foregone the traditional observances and skipped right to Easter morning.  Perhaps we have “thrown the baby out with the bathwater” in this case. Should we not try to make the familiar stories of Palm Sunday and Holy Week, come alive for us every year? How do we not let the familiar become forgettable?

Some people would tell you that we only celebrate Jesus resurrection because that is what he is, alive. They say there is no benefit in lingering on his death. But, it is in his death that we see our own. We see our sin being put to death and our lives are tied directly into the work that only Jesus could do. It reminds me of who I am and where my identity lies; not as a sinner without hope, but as a forgiven child of the almighty God. There is no greater assurance than that. Next week as holy week is once more observed, take the opportunity to see the familiar, to look at it with new eyes and hear it with new ears, to see and experience God’s grace once more just for you!

What will you do this year to help see this familiar story in a real way? What have you done in the past that has helped you before? If Holy Week was never a part of your observance, how can you incorporate that into your experience this year?

Who is this Jesus?

Jesus photo

In “The Story” chapter 25, Jesus asks his disciples who people say he is. They mention John the Baptist back from the dead. Others say Elijah the prophet, the one who would come before the messiah. People get a small glimpse of who Jesus is when they see him or hear him but when they actually open their mouth we can see they really are not grasping the big picture. This establishes for us an understanding that Jesus was not completely understood by everyone he came into contact with.

Jesus then turns to his disciples and he asks the important question “Who do you say I am?” It is not about what everyone else thinks right now. You have seen me, heard me…so tell me if you got it. Peter speaks first and makes the profession that he is the Christ – the anointed one. Peter correctly identifies Jesus as the Messiah, and the Christian reader today celebrates that someone has finally got it right in the midst of all those who have been off. But the celebration doesn’t last long because Jesus then immediately says that He must suffer and that He must die. Whoa!!!! Reverse that train and put it back in the station…he must do what?

The idea of a suffering Messiah, although present in the prophecies, was never even considered by the Jews. He was to come to defeat evil government and reign supreme. The people of Israel were supposed to be elevated to a place of prominence and how could they do that with a dead messiah. Thus comes the harsh rebuke from Peter as he pulls Jesus aside to tell him, that is not what the messiah is supposed to do. Once again, Jesus will not conform his mission to fit the Pharisees, his family or his disciples ideal vision of who they want him to be. He tells Peter, “Get behind me Satan.” He will not allow Peter to distract him from what he came to do. The Messiah must die and will rise again.

This is a big chapter because we have seen opposition from the Pharisees. Their message is wholly different from what Jesus is proclaiming, so we get why they clash. The disciples finally hear plainly the destination to which Jesus is headed towards and they seem to be opposed to it. Jesus will offend both the religious and irreligious…which is why we know that Christianity is not just for one people or one culture but the Gospel goes across all cultures and speaks to every sinful heart.

The beautiful part about all of this, is that through Jesus things change. The transfiguration (metamorphosis) of Jesus in this chapter shows his divinity (Godhead) but also that with his change he will also change the hearts of all those who believe. Jesus changes us! This is stuff no mere man could do. So, who is this Jesus? You need to answer that for yourself.

So who do you say Jesus is? Have you still been trying to create him in your own image like the Pharisees and his disciples? How can you discover and hold to the true confession of Jesus?

Everything Seems Upside-down

upside-down

Jesus never ceases to amaze me! He shocked the religious and the irreligious in his earthly ministry. The standards and ways of the world would not dictate how Jesus responded and spoke. The beautiful thing about all of this, is that he still does it today.

The Bible is full of references and themes that suggest God is on the side of the poor, outcast and marginalized of our society. God wants his people to reach out to them and declare his love for them. It would be hard to find a part in the Scriptures that would refute this idea at all. The Gospels and Jesus ministry thrust the “least of these” before us because they were always before Jesus. Our calling as Christians is clear, we are to care for them.

But this is where Jesus’ mission surprises all of humanity. As we work to fix the injustice of this world as we want relief to come to the poor and justice for the oppressed. But what do we want for the oppressors, the ones creating all the problems? What do we want for the abuser, the one in charge of human trafficking rings, the thief on Wall St. that stole every penny of someone’s savings, the bullies, etc? This is where it gets difficult for me. I want justice to be had with these people but it is exactly where Jesus acts in an upside-down way. Jesus not only loves the victims of suffering and injustice, but he loves the perpetrators of those very injustices. Jesus goes after the oppressed and the oppressor. This is what separates Christians from “good people.” We don’t just seek to save the lost who are poor, destitute and marginalized…we also seek to offer the good news of salvation to the ones we believe are outside of God’s grace because that is exactly what Jesus did and continues to do today.

Jesus works on both sides of the spectrum even when we think he shouldn’t care. Chapter 24 of “The Story” we see Jesus acting in upside-down ways. Through his parables we learn about the Kingdom of God and Jesus’ heart for people far from him. The Luke 15 parables all point to the rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents. The lengths Jesus will go for one lost person is truly amazing. This gospel has the power to redeem and restore, and even in the face of extreme evil the Gospel has the power to turn it back.

How far are we willing to go? Would we fight harder for some people and not others? How can we take on the full spectrum and be for the oppressed and oppressor?

Come and See!

Jesus-calling-His-disciples

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there? Nathanael asked. Come and see, said Philip”

Philip found Nathanael and told him that he had found the one Moses wrote about in the law. That is a pretty big claim to put out there. No wonder Nathanael was a little bit leery of the whole thing. This is a subject you don’t mess around with, we’re talking about the Messiah, and not just some street corner prophet.

I love this story and the interaction that takes place. Philip didn’t have all the answers to Nathanael’s objections. He didn’t even try to fumble his way through some theological jargon to convince him otherwise. It was as simple as “Come and See!”

Do we have the same interaction with people around us? Have we lost the joy of discovery? We have a real fear that we need to know everything about Jesus and how to defend every objection before talking about him with anyone. Philip obviously didn’t know everything and neither do I, but it shouldn’t stop us inviting people to see who Jesus is for themselves.

What does this invite include? I believe people are skeptical today of anything that smells like organized church. An invitation to know Jesus means I have to sit in a strange place, with strange rituals, and often times strange people. Instead, invite them into a relationship where you can sit down one-on-one to talk about and discover together who Jesus is, what he said and if this is true what does it mean for your lives. It still might be scary but be open to discuss the topics and questions that arise and find out what it all means.

An interesting parallel exists in chapter 23 of “The Story.” Throughout the chapter, people are looking to discover who this guy Jesus is. The end of chapter 22 points to this fact as it says,

“Who was this Jesus? A New prophet? A scholar destined to be a great rabbi? Perhaps a political leader with the charisma to finally send the oppressive Roman armies, who controlled Judea, back across the sea?”

We are invited to discover who this Jesus is as we ask the questions, but it is followed up when we hear from him in his own voice but also hear from the eye witnesses to the story.

To emphasize this point, Jesus has a face to face interaction with a Samaritan woman at the well and after the conversation she goes back to her village and says, “Come, see…” We are invited into a discovery. It is not a lecture given, but a journey of exploration that will last a lifetime.

Are you ready for the ride of your life? Come and See!

Perfect Timing

No-Ordinary-Man-screen-one

We often don’t have any idea of the time period between the Old Testament and the New; unless of course you have roots in the Catholic church and read your Apocrypha. Beyond that most people look at those years as the “silent years.” As if God pulled away from people he loves to leave them on their own.

What I want to do in this post is talk about some history with the help of my friend, Sue Wilson, who took some time to recap the story. This will set us up to see why Jesus came at the perfect time in history. So let’s get started!

The Jews were barely comfortable back in Jerusalem after Malachi’s passing when things in the world turned upside down. But this time the Jews had little political pull or power. They were washed back and forth by the rest of the world.

Alexander the Great’s army marched to Egypt almost within the hearing of Jerusalem. His new empire, whether they really knew it or not, included Judah and all of what was about to become Palestine. Fortunately for Jerusalem, Alexander was no Assyrian.

The city of Ephesus, for example, was destroyed by an enemy after Alexander had freed the area and began assimilating the inhabitants as allies instead of serfs.  Alexander stepped in, saved the ruined Ephesus, and forced her enemies to rebuild the city and its temples.

When he was only 33, and shortly after declaring himself a god, Alexander died while getting ready to lead his army to India. He took power at age 22 and had led his army on foot 20,000 miles in 11 years, never losing a battle.  He is also credited with initiating what would be called Hellenism, the spreading of Greek culture throughout the known world.

Greek culture flooded into the area of Jerusalem along with Alexander. The Jews were appalled. Hellenism was very man-centered. Their gods were just like men and women. The Jews rejected all of what the culture upheld.

After Alexander’s death in 323 B.C. his heirs were killed and his four generals divided up the empire. Palestine fell to Ptolemy.

The Ptolemys and Jews coexisted peacefully. This continued when a second general’s family, the Selucids took over rule in 195 B.C Though  there was no actual religious persecution in these years, the silent imbedding of Greek culture went on.

Due to the influence of Greek culture, young Jewish men gave in to the popularity and promise of glory in the naked games at the gymnasiums built-in Palestine, including Jerusalem. Because they were ridiculed by their naked opponents, many young Jews had surgery done to erase the appearance of being circumcised–the symbol of the covenant erased.  Their parents were horrified not only at the destruction of the covenant symbol but at the games themselves, which were dedicated to Zeus and Apollo.

Greek settlers considered the Jews superstitious atheists since they would not erect statues of their God.

Peace ended in 175 B.C. with the coming to power of the Selucid, Antiochus Epiphanes IV (ruling 175 to 163 B.C.)  Antiochus seized control of the priesthood. High Priest became a political appointment that could lead to great power. Antiochus delighted in appointing puppet priests chosen on the basis of their politics and bribery skills.

A group of orthodox Jews joined together to fight this affront. They were the Hasidim that later developed into the Pharisees.

168 B.C.:  Antiochus sent representatives to little Modin, about 20 miles from Jerusalem, to enforce pagan worship laws. A Jew named Mattathias killed one of the king’s high officials and also a fellow Jew who had complied with the new worship laws.

This action began what is known as the Maccabean Revolt, led by Mattathias’ son, Judas Maccabaes. The Hasidim supported the revolt. In 142 B.C. Antiochus gave in and ended the war, not because the Jews won, but because he didn’t have the manpower to fight two battles.

During the following years the Jews were ruled by a group called the Hasmonean princes. Politics, materialism, and a love of the Greek culture that had overtaken Rome led the princes to thirst after any bone the Romans would toss the yet independent state.

In 109 B.C. things got worse. The Jewish faith was virtually discarded by a Hasmonean named Hyrancanus, who moved closer and closer to Rome. He obtained a paper of confirmation of independence and Roman “protection.”

This eventually resulted in civil war in 76 B.C. when a Aleander Jannaeus ruled.  It was Jannaeus’ total elimination of priestly office and Jewish faith that finally caused the war. The Pharisees (the earlier Hasidim) led the revolt but failed to dislodge Jannaeus. Eight hundred Pharisees were crucified by their own countrymen and their families killed. Another group, the Sadducees, did not lift a hand to aid the Pharisees–widening the gap between the two.

In 63 B.C., one of the warring Jewish groups went to the Roman general, Pompey, in Rome. Pompey, fearing the consequences if the inter-Jewish squabble continued any longer had the answer. Rome will rule over Palestine. Pompey then installed a puppet king in the new province of the Empire.

In 63 B.C. the Jews lost their status as a free nation for the next 2,000 years.

In 37 B.C. the soon-to-be-hated Herod the great, through manipulation of the rulers in Rome, became King of Palestine.

I hope you are still with me because this is where it makes sense that God’s timing is perfect!

It was the perfect time for Jesus birth; for God incarnate to come:

  • Times in the Empire were bad morally and spiritually
  • Travel around the empire was easy with the vast Roman road complex (easing the spread of the Gospel)
  • There was peace!  As well as religious toleration
  • Rome gave the entire known world a common language, Greek, so all could understand the Gospel
  • The Empire was so large that there were no physical or political barriers to the Gospel

Even when we could come up with a hundred reasons why that wasn’t the right time…the facts remain that there would have been no better time for Jesus to come in all of history. God’s timing is perfect!

When it comes to your life, does it always seem that God’s timing is perfect? Looking back on my life I can see the timing was perfect…but in the moment of trouble or wanting a particular plan to go right, it didn’t seem like the timing was right. I wanted God to act immediately and exactly the way I had asked. Does that sound familiar?

It is kind of scary letting God be God and not trying to take his place. Which is why our tendency is to bottle him up and treat him like a genie that we will pull out when we need it. When he doesn’t grant our request or act like we think he should, we put him off to the corner to be discarded like trash.

C.S. Lewis talks about this in his book A Grief Observed,

“My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of his presence? The incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins. And most are ‘offended’ by the iconoclasm; and blessed are those who are not.”

Our thinking about God’s timing and ideas of the way we think He will work need to be shattered time after time. God has never promised life to be easy or pain-free, but he has promised to always be with us through it and know that Jesus Christ has overcome it for us.

When have you seen God act in perfect timing in your life? When has God shattered your perspective of him?

Who are Ezra and Nehemiah?

Ezra-Nehemiah

Ezra and Nehemiah are books that most people skip over to get to the New Testament. Let’s take a moment to learn about these books, so that we may stop, take a look at their importance and their message, and we will find that they too can give us great hope.

According to Hebrew tradition, the books of Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one book.  The two books have historical unity and therefore are still considered together even though we separate them in our contemporary Bibles.  Nehemiah roughly covers the twelve-year period that he served as governor in Judah, from 445 B.C. to 431 B.C., or perhaps a few years after that.  It was in 445 B.C. that Nehemiah received the news that the Jerusalem walls were in such dreadful shape.  He arrived in Jerusalem in 444 and got right to work.  His was the third group to return to the Land.  Zerubbabel led the first group in 536 B.C.  Ezra led the second group back from captivity in 457 B.C. and finally Nehemiah’s return was in 444 B.C.

Remember that the Persian Empire conquered the Babylonian Empire and changed the organizational structure and philosophy.  Under King Darius I, the Persian Empire was divided into twenty satrapies.  We might compare these “satrapies” to our own fifty states.  Each one was governed by a Persian “Satrap” or commissioner.  Perhaps we’d compare him to a state’s governor.  These satrapies were quite independent and their governor’s wielded a lot of autonomous power.  They had the authority to levy taxation and to organize troops.  Each satrapy was then further divided into provinces, which we might compare to our own counties.  These provinces were managed by a local governor who was usually a descendant of the local noble family similar to a mayor today.  Judah belonged to the satrapy “Beyond the River,” which was essentially everything west of the Euphrates.  Zerubbabel and Nehemiah were governors of the province of Judah within “Beyond the River.”  Their enemies were also their neighboring provinces which were all part of the same satrapy.  The province of Samaria was governed by Sanballat while the province of Ammon-Gilead was governed by Tobiah.  Geshem governed the province of Arabia-Idumea.  These characters show up in our Story chapter as the antagonists that Nehemiah faced.  They were not particularly opposed to the reestablishment of the religious life of Judah, but were concerned that Judah would become a more powerful political threat to their own provinces.

The most important purpose for the books of Ezra-Nehemiah was the survival of the remnant community that God restored from the Babylonian exile.  The promise made to King David that his royal descendants and nation would never end was at stake.  Essentially, the promise-keeping ability of God was at stake.  The nation who had gone into exile for her consistent disobedience returned to their Land to rebuild the temple and restore their people to a relationship with God.  But they were easily discouraged and their work stalled.  Ezra and Nehemiah were reformers who were determined not to allow this re-emerging but fledgling nation to fall back into her old ways.  Their stories and subsequently these books were written to encourage joy in returning to a relationship with God to a fearful, discouraged, needy group of Israelites who were no longer sure of their own identity.  Therefore, Nehemiah concentrated on first rebuilding the city walls and then rebuilding the broken people.  High Priest Ezra led the spiritual reformation that culminated on what had to be an all-out revival. These people listened to the Word from sunup to noon as they listened attentively. They wanted and needed to hear the Word once again.

Sadly these two Old Testament books tend to be the dustiest, least used books in the Bible.  Perhaps by bringing Ezra and Nehemiah to life, we will see the need for all Christians to embrace key and strategic leadership positions in every sector of our own communities. God can breathe new life into us as we read and take to heart the message of hope found in these books.

What was your biggest take away from reading Ezra, Nehemiah or chapter 21 of “The Story?”

Two Brave Queens

wedding crown

Todays reflection is written by Laura Rath. She has written on this blog many times before and we are always blessed by her. Enjoy the reflection and post your thoughts and questions below.

God’s upper story. Two lower stories.

God isn’t mentioned in the Book of Esther, and yet, He’s there weaving the lower stories together for His purpose—to save His chosen people from annihilation.

And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this? Esther 4:14 NIV

We don’t know much about Queen Vashti, but I wish we did.

What we do know is that she is queen when King Xerxes throws a 7 day banquet, following a full 180 days in which he displayed his vast wealth.

King Xerxes likes to show off.

During the banquet, in which he has provided unlimited amounts of wine to all of his guests, he commands Queen Vashti to join them.

Scripture doesn’t say how long she’s been queen, but I imagine she knew what he was like—that He liked to drink and put what was his on display.

She also would have known that when the king issued a command, he wasn’t asking for an opinion. He wasn’t issuing an invitation and asking for a RSVP. A command was expected to be carried out, or there would be consequences.

Queen Vashti had to have known this, and yet, her answer was no.

But when the attendants delivered the king’s command, Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger. Esther 1:12 NIV

Although I’m not-so-secretly cheering for Queen Vashti, I have to ask, Why now?

What made Queen Vashti take a stand and refuse the king’s command? It probably would’ve been easier to do what he “requested,” get it over with, and get back to the banquet she was giving at the time.

But she decided to not obey the king’s orders, and she was banished from the palace, with her royal title being stripped from her.

Queen Vashti’s lower story doesn’t make sense. But her piece fits into God’s upper story.

There is now an opening for a queen, and whether she likes it or not, Esther gets the role.

And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this? Esther 4:14 NIV

Esther makes the best of the situation and everyone likes her, including the king.

Helping her situation is the fact that her uncle Mordecai overhears of an assignation plot, and Esther is able to warn the king.

When the plot is investigated and found to be true, both Esther and Mordecai gain credibility with the king. And credibility, along with having won the king’s favor, is what Esther needs to walk through the next part of her lower story.

Mordecai tells Esther of Haman’s plot to annihilate the Jews, and instructs her to go to the king and beg him to save her people.

Esther is not naïve. She knows what happens to someone who refuses the king’s command, as well as someone who goes to the king without being summoned. Queen Vashti proved that no one is exempt from the king’s temper.

Where Queen Vashti made her choice, Queen Esther doesn’t have much of a choice. If she goes to the king, she may be put to death. If she doesn’t go to the king, her people will be wiped out. What an enormous responsibility for a young Jewish orphan girl who was thrown into being queen!

Esther’s lower story on its own doesn’t make sense. But when we see the lower stories of Vashti and Esther woven together, we see God at work.

Our lower stories often don’t make sense, but who knows that maybe God brings us into situations as well—in His time, for His purpose.

In Christ,

Laura

Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith

Click on the link to visit Laura’s blog

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Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12

Hardwired

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A "Literal" approach to God's word

If Jesus meant something else, he would have said something else.

Follow The GLS

Leading ordinary people to an extraordinary life in Christ.

TimSchraeder.com

Leading ordinary people to an extraordinary life in Christ.

the Pangea Blog

Leading ordinary people to an extraordinary life in Christ.

Seth Godin's Blog on marketing, tribes and respect

Leading ordinary people to an extraordinary life in Christ.

Michael K. Reynolds

Leading ordinary people to an extraordinary life in Christ.

Re:Sourceful

Leading ordinary people to an extraordinary life in Christ.

Rachel Held Evans - blog

Leading ordinary people to an extraordinary life in Christ.

Steven Furtick Ministries

Leading ordinary people to an extraordinary life in Christ.

Jon Acuff

Leading ordinary people to an extraordinary life in Christ.

14 Clicks

Leading ordinary people to an extraordinary life in Christ.

Tyler Saldaña

husband • writer • pastoral resident

Eyes Wide Open

Looking Up and Living in God's Truth and Love

Jeremy's Journey.

My documentary of my journey through life.

Theology, Culture, America

A topnotch WordPress.com site

Chief of the least

Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief....

Of Dust & Kings

Empowering Faith. Transforming Culture.