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STAR

Orphan. Chosen. Beautiful. Favor with the king. Queen. Obedient. Brave. Hadassah or Myrtle. No matter how we describe her, Esther was the one God used to save the Jewish people from annihilation.

Indeed, as an orphan girl, her cousin Mordecai took her to raise her as his own and changed her name from Hadassah to Esther, which means star, to protect her identity. At an early age, God purposely placed her in a position to save her people, who were ultimately God’s people.

If you haven’t read the book of Esther in a while, I encourage you to read the story, not just for the entertainment, but for the bigger picture. As the ESV Study Bible puts it, if the evil plot by Haman had succeeded, he would have destroyed all the Jews. What does that mean to us? This goes much farther back than one may think. It runs back to Abraham and Christ. The promised seed was at stake. It is not just a story about the Jewish people in general. It is part of our heritage as God’s people.

This story has a little bit of everything. An evil villain, ethnic hatred, a heroine who is a young orphan girl who becomes queen and finds favor with the king so she can foil the evil plot and save her people. It even evokes laughter at Haman’s expense. But it also shows her faith, God’s providence, and human responsibility.

There has been some controversy over the inclusion of the book of Esther in the Scripture because the author does not mention God’s name, and this is the only place where Esther’s name appears in the Bible. But God’s fingerprints are all over this story. We must take a deeper dive to see how God was working in this young girl’s life.

Esther’s role in the story of Jesus is no less significant because her name does not appear in other parts of the Bible, just as God’s role in Esther’s story is any less prominent because the author does not mention God in the book of Esther.

The Key Word Study Bible gives us several interesting reflections on the book: The fact that Esther asked the Jews living in the capital city to fast shows that she was relying on the grace of God to resolve the desperate situation (4:16, ESV). Esther feared for her life, but Mordecai’s reply led her to ask for the fast, and she found favor with the king who overturned the evil plot to kill the Jews. What he said to her is the most famous verse from the book, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this” (4:14, ESV, emphasis mine).

But we must also go back a line or two to see Mordecai’s faith, “for if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place.” (4:14, Emphasis mine) This shows that he believes in God’s divine providence. He knows God keeps His promises and that the Jews had to survive to fulfill them. Haman had persuaded the king to agree to the annihilation; he had sealed it with the signet ring, which meant it was irrevocable. But God seals His promises with a Holy Kiss, and they are irrevocable because God cannot lie. It also means if Esther refused, God would choose someone else to fulfill His purpose.

It was thirty years before the efforts of Ezra and Nehemiah, which leads many to suggest that their successes would not have been possible without Esther, Mordecai, and Daniel paving the way with their conduct and accomplishments.[1]

We don’t know what effect our actions will have years down the road. We should consider it a great honor when God chooses us for any mission that fulfills His purpose. I hope that my actions pave the way for others who will come after me, whether I see the results or not. We must take heed to what God is calling us to do today that could have ramifications or great accomplishments, like Esther, for others that come behind us.

Orphan. Chosen. Obedience. Favor with the King. Beautiful. Star. I see so much correlation here to our relationship with God. We were orphans and God took us as His own, heirs with Christ, chosen for a purpose. Christ tells us that He will give us a new name (Rev. 2:1, ESV). In our obedience, we too find favor with the One True King.

One time I asked God how He sees me, His answer fits nicely into this comparison with Esther. “I see you like a star. My children are like beautiful glowing lights. The difference is that I can see inside the light at every intricate detail of your life.”


[1] Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing company of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

NAME THAT TUNE

Several years ago, in the early years of my marriage, we owned a vehicle for a little while that I called the Tonka truck. It was a small truck, but it sat on a large 4-wheel drive frame, making it sit several feet above the ground. Do you remember when musical horns were popular? If so, you know about the timeframe I am speaking of, because this truck had one. We also owned a fishing boat and went out on some large bodies of water, too large for someone who did not know how to swim. Sometimes the larger boats would toss us around for a scary ride until the waves calmed back down.

Regardless, for a while, it was my job to load the boat onto the trailer at the end of the day. Then for some reason, I don’t quite remember, we switched jobs. I was the one who backed the trailer down the ramp and into the water so he could load the boat. Maybe I thought that would be safer since I was a non-swimmer.

Burnside had the steepest ramp of any we had visited. On this occasion, I got the truck, backed it down the ramp, and as I sat there with my foot on the brake, I felt it slipping. The brakes went out, and I began to slide back toward the murky waters. I had no idea what to do, other than panic, push the brake with all my might, and grip the steering wheel with white knuckles.

By what I see now as divine intervention, that crazy horn started playing. It wasn’t even a song. It just made these loud obnoxious noises until some men who were on the dock saw that I was in trouble. Two or three of them ran over and grabbed the front bumper of the truck just as the muffler blew bubbles in the water behind me. It was a blessing that it did sit so high, or I would have been in the water long before. It was a long time after that before I could sit in a vehicle on a slope without it feeling as if I were sliding backward.

I look back now and realize that is exactly where my life was going. I lost control and began sliding backward into murky waters. Like that crazy horn, the noise of the world played so loudly in my ears that I could not hear God’s voice. Just as I was about to drown, God changed my story and the trajectory of my life. He rescued me and brought sweet harmony to my life. He helped me gain ground by making better choices. Without Christ, my life would still be in a sea of troubled waters, gripping the wrong relationship with white knuckles, and letting others control my life as it slipped away from me.

YOU MAY BE SURPRISED

Many years ago, my oldest sister sent me a postcard from California that depicted a sequoia tree that was so magnificently large that they made a tunnel at the base of its trunk for cars to drive through. That image left an impression on me, and I knew I wanted to see it someday.

Fast-forward several years later; when the day finally came in which I thought I was going to see these famous trees for the first time, my plans abruptly changed when she and I were in a car accident, less than 24 hours after my arrival in northern California, and just a few days before our planned trip to the park.

I did not get to check that one off the bucket list until a few years later when I returned by myself to bring closure to an unfortunate event that took my sister’s life and changed mine forever. That was only one of the tragic events that happened that year but was the one that woke me up and helped me realize God had other plans for my life. Plans that I never imagined for myself.

Recently, my attention went back to the giant sequoias. With Earth Day in the rearview mirror, I thought it was a suitable time to share some information about them. According to the Giant-Sequoia website that the largest trees range 275-310 feet tall. The General Sherman, which is the largest tree on earth, is 52.500 cubic feet in volume.

With that in mind, and the original image of driving a car through the trunk of one of these massive trees, wouldn’t you think that the root system would go for miles down deep into the earth to secure these royal beauties? Quite the opposite is true. Not only do they begin as a tiny flat seed about the size of a pinhead, but their roots also actually only go down about 12-14 feet. What they lack in depth they make up for in their reach. According to the website, their roots are a matted, shallow, wide-spreading system that can occupy over one acre of earth and hold 90,000 cubic feet of soil.

This just adds another wow to my natural wonders and fabulous mysteries of God file. In my research, I found another site that compared their team to redwood trees. Susan Williamson, of the John Maxwell Team, describes themselves with similar characteristics to the sequoia roots- an army of men with arms interlocked, standing and supporting each other. Just as the roots of the trees intertwine with other redwood trees, they hold each other up and depend on each other for nutrients. Their roots are like arms locking, ready to help each other grow, and stand tall, as they reach for the sky.

This imagery is a model for how we are to stand together, unified in love, to help each other grow in spiritual maturity, so we can stand tall while keeping our focus on the kingdom of God and His righteousness. I hope you will plant a spiritual seed today for someone who needs to hear the good news of Christ. Even if you do not get to see the result, you can rest assured that God is working to bring others behind you to water it.

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (I Cor. 3:6, ESV).

THE FEET OF JESUS

Since I was a kid and had a cousin point out that they were ugly, I have been self-conscious about my feet. If that wasn’t enough, I broke my middle toe on the couch leg one year and it has never been straight since. To add insult to injury, when I was in an abusive relationship, he made a point to tell me that I should never wear sharp-pointed shoes because it only made my feet look even bigger. Thanks a lot for that unnecessary observation.

For my height, my shoe size is much larger than one might think. I inherited the feet size without the height to match it and am the shortest in my family. It only made it worse when I went to buy running shoes a few years ago and the clerk told me that they recommend runners buy a size up. Now, that hurt my feelings. For years, I would find a super cute pair of size six sitting on the display shelf only to have my excitement replaced with disappointment after trying on my size. They just never looked the same.

Recently, God directed my attention to Romans 10:15, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” There is also a longer version of this verse in the OT in Isaiah 52:7, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings the good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’

Not only do I share the good news about Christ through this blog, but God has also allowed me to share with others through support groups, a middle school girls’ group, co-workers, neighbors, and even strangers on the street.

My feet carry me on God’s path and mission for my life and enable me to run, which is an extension of my time with God. As I strive to be the hands and feet of Jesus, that makes my feet beautiful. God has redeemed so many things from my past, but I just realized that God even redeems hurtful childish remarks so that I can have a new perspective and appreciate that part of myself in a new light.

God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places” (Hab. 3:19, ESV).

GOD MADE THE MAP

Recently, I was running on one of the windier mornings. I turned towards a straight stretch on my route and realized I was heading into the wind. It was so strong that I felt like I was running in place. After pushing through it, I finally changed direction, and it was much easier because the wind was at my back.

Some days can feel like we are running into a strong headwind, not making any progress. On other days the wind is at our back, and we are making record pace. In both scenarios, God is still working.

There is a pattern, a plan, and a recipe. We can trust God to move us in His perfect timing. We just need to push through it and follow the One who knows the plan. He not only has the map, but He also made the map. A lot of people wander around in the wilderness for years and lose their way. But, when we keep in step with the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:25, ESV) and ask God for guidance, our path becomes easier and when the wind shifts, we can be sure we’re going in the right direction.

“…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder, and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” (Heb. 12:1-2, ESV).

WHAT’S IN YOUR POCKET?

Satan pulled out every trick in his back pocket to get Jesus to sin during His forty-day trek in the wilderness. He waited until Jesus was hungry and tired and then he went on the prowl. Isn’t it just like the enemy to tempt us when we are down? Jesus was victorious despite Satan’s attempts to thwart God’s plan of redemption. He wanted Jesus to fall into sin and disobedience so He could not be the sinless Savior who gave Himself as a perfect sacrifice for us.

            Each time Jesus was tempted by Satan He quoted the book of Deuteronomy, linking His experience to the Israelites’ forty years of testing in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11, ESV). They weren’t as successful, thus the need for Jesus, as the spotless Lamb.

Finally, Jesus told Satan to get lost. “Be gone, Satan” (Matt. 4:10)! Because of this we now have a weapon in our back pocket that we can pull out when the enemy is tempting us. When we couple this phrase with Jesus Christ’s mighty name, he must flee. He has no choice. The ESV Study Bible explains that God never tempts us. But He can use the circumstances to test a person’s character. God always gives us a way out. We may not see it or believe it, but it is true. Satan will try to keep us down and make us think there are no options. But the door is always open. There is always a choice (I Cor. 10:13).

As Christ-followers, we are to tell others about the door.

            A braided cord is strong because it has many layers woven together to form a bond that can withstand more than a single strand can on its own. Likewise, the right Christian community and friends who work together in the Body of Christ can withstand the enemy and his tactics. We are called to support, encourage, and even challenge each other in keeping the ways of the Lord. We can use our gifts and talents to help each other grow closer to God, stay strong, and diligent, even when everything around us is discouraging. The braided cord is also symbolic of the Trinity- God, the Father, God, the Son, and God, the Holy Spirit. Three in One. Alone they are a powerful deity in and of themselves; together they are ultimately the powerful force that we can lean on for strength to get us through rough times.

            God will lift us high on wings like eagles (Is. 40:31), to soar above our circumstances and temporary mis- comings of this world. Those who fight off the enemy and hold their ground to give honor to God in obedience will receive a crown of glory. Look not to the left or the right, but straight into the eyes of Jesus, Your Savior, King, and Friend.

            This is reason to sing, dance, laugh, love, and be joyful; rejoicing in the love of Christ as the ultimate Savior and Friend who is capable of changing lives through His grace and goodness. His righteousness is our saving grace. There is a space reserved in our hearts for the Holy Spirit. When we defile our bodies, we are leaving no room for God. The more room we make through our obedience to His Word, the more of His presence we will receive.

“You shall be holy, for I am Holy” (I Peter 1:16).

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

MINOR REPAIRS

Have you ever covered up a nail hole in your wall by hanging a picture over it until you have time to fix it? Time gets away from us and then before we know it, we have several holes in the drywall and not always the right picture to cover it up. The day finally comes when you must spackle it, sand it and repaint it to fill all the holes.

            We all have plenty of mistakes from our past that we would like to hide. We are ashamed and try to cover them up with pretty parts of ourselves and mask the real holes in our life. But until we allow God to fix them for us, they’ll always be there, haunting us. We will always be damaged.

            Our past is like a big gaping hole in the drywall that only Christ can fill and repair for us. Small mistakes lead to big ones, small white lies to cover up our mistakes lead to bigger ones and before we know it if we aren’t working on damage control, we are in over our heads. Years can go by while we are waiting to repair our damage. We put it off until another day and then another. Before long we start to believe the lies. Our holes get bigger and harder to cover up.

            But God sent His Son to cover all our mistakes and repair our damage so we could have a new life, a fresh start to try again with a new perspective. We can’t fix all the holes in our life by ourselves. But with Christ, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26, ESV).

            Our problems and mistakes seem very big to us, especially when we are in the middle of them. But God is bigger than all our mistakes combined! He can cover all of them for us if we just give them to Him and stop trying to do our damage control every single day. On our own, we can’t get our heads above water. But God turns the water we are drowning in, into Living Water to sustain us and wash away our sins. He throws us a lifeline and then helps us with all the repairs.

            To God, all our damage is minor repairs in preparation for a new life with Christ. What would it look like in your life today, if you chose to let God be your handyman? Ask Him to fill the holes in your life and cover all your past mistakes with the beautiful picture of Christ.

He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless (Isaiah 40:29).

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most (Hebrews 4:16).

For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time- to show us his grace through Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 1:9).

WORK IN PROGRESS

The smile, laugh, and love I share with others is my living testimony to a Christ who rescued me and changed my life forever. He gives me the strength and courage to fight like a warrior. I see myself decked out in pink camo and combat boots, putting on the armor of God, wrapping myself in zeal as a cloak (Is. 59:17, ESV), not only for myself but for the freedom of others.

His gifts are precious and come in many forms that I can never imagine for myself. But they are not just for me, they are to help others too. The key is paying attention and being willing to go where He leads. My life is a token of His love and the patience He has with His children, as He waited for the day He could bring me back into the fold, and hold me in His loving arms, to one day accept Me home for eternity into the family of Christ. I was the lost sheep He came after with a vengeance, full of love, grace, and forgiveness like only He can do. I am forever grateful for that.

We should all see ourselves how He sees us and be happy about who we are in Christ. I don’t know about you, but I want to take care of my body, mind, and spirit as the temple of God (I Cor. 6:19, ESV). He created us to be like His Son Jesus; that is a tall order, but with the Holy Spirit inside us we can achieve anything because nothing is impossible with God (Matt. 19:26, ESV). We will never be without sin as Jesus was, but we can strive to be more like Him every day.

We should love ourselves as He loves us without regard to our mistakes, flaws, blemishes, and brokenness. He made each of us uniquely who we are. Our flaws are perfectly us – there is no one exactly like you or me. We are special just like all His creation.

I am still a work in progress. He is molding me to be who He created me to be. I want to use my knowledge wisely to help others grow and live their best lives by being an example, role model, and friend, but firstly a faithful servant of Christ.  Obedience to His Word is key to making this possible. I encourage you to read the Bible and pray for wisdom and discernment in how to apply it to our lives today. We cannot find these types of answers on our own or in any self-help books. A relationship with Christ is worth the effort and daily discipline it takes to reach the inner peace, healing, and joy that only comes from Him.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, ESV).

NO LIMITS

With modernized technology in our culture, it may sometimes be hard to believe that Jesus can understand the things we are dealing with today. Think about it, when Jesus walked the Earth, there were no cell phones, computers, or automobiles; all the things most of us now rely on just to get through the day.

            Who do you think gave the inventors the knowledge of how to advance technology? Col. 2:3 says that all the treasures, wisdom, and knowledge are hidden in Christ. God is the One who created this world and everything in it. There are no limits on God. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning, and the End (Rev. 1:8; 22:13, ESV). He knows all, is all, and sees all.

            Our view of God is sometimes too small. If you have never watched the Awe Factor video from Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love, click here to watch it now. Are you blown away at the magnitude of God? Think about our brains and the signals it sends us to let us know when we are in pain so we can pull away from the hot burner.

            What about the butterfly, have you thought about how their antennas work? Did you know they use them as light receptors? The antennae track the position of the sun and turn that information into the time of day. They also can help them fly in the right direction while giving them a balanced life. The antennae can help them sense the direction of the wind and changes in the direction, so they can ride the currents without losing their way. At the base of the antennae is a special organ (Johnston’s organ) it draws information from the antennae to help keep the butterfly balanced.

            So, in short, their little antennas provide a lot of meaningful purposes: Smell, internal clock, navigation, balance, and even help with finding the right mate. They can recognize the wingbeats of their species. How amazing is that? I could take a much deeper dive into many other creatures and the intricate details and thought God put in each one, but you get the picture.

            If God created an insect that uses its antenna to do all these things and our brains which send signals to our body to help us navigate each breath, and a vast universe where He put each star in place (Hebrews 1:3; 1:3), something we can never fully imagine, what is hindering Him from understanding how a cell phone works? We certainly did not produce these inventions all on our own. People can use technology in the wrong way, but overall, it is good, and God is the One who gave us the wisdom and knowledge to create it. There are many other examples I could give, such as the advancement of medicines and the doctors who save lives, even they did not do it on their own. John 15:1-4 tells us a branch cannot bear fruit by itself.

            Alone we can do nothing. God can use even non-believers for good things. We cannot put Jesus in a box. He has no limits. I don’t know about you, but I take great comfort in serving a God who is big enough to oversee all the problems that arise in my little corner of the world. We misplace our loyalty and give the wrong people credit when we should thank God and praise Him for everything we have today- even our cell phones.

Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty? It is higher than heaven- what can you do? Deeper than Sheol- what can you know? Its measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea” (Job 11:7). (Emphasis added)

THE GLORY OF THE LORD

In Ezekiel 43:5, it tells us that “the Glory of the Lord filled the temple.” In the OT this is referring to an actual building constructed exactly according to the measurements God gave. Once it was complete, His Glory filled it. Since the OT points to Christ and the NT, we know that after Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to fill all believers and serve as a comforter and guide. From this, we now have a picture of God who dwells inside the believer, or the temple, which is our bodies.

            If we want God to fill our temple, we need to make it presentable and not defile it by how we live. The Holy Spirit is the Glory of the Lord, who now fills us. John 15:4 says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”

            To make room for Him we must rid ourselves and our hearts of the sins that block Him and His presence. When we are allowing other things to rule in our hearts, it takes away from God’s glory and His presence in us. In other words, we are not bearing fruit. We are to take care of our temple and keep it holy as God is holy. We can do this by praying for God to reveal to us any areas of our life that are blocking His Holy Spirit from entering. We can use the prayer David used in Ps. 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

            We are not complete in Christ until we remove the sin in our lives and strive every day to be more like Jesus. A tall order that we will never achieve this side of heaven, but one that we can work towards as we walk in His light, abide in Him, and seek the Kingdom of God more than anything else. It is only then that Christ will fill our hearts and temple with the full measure of His glory.

The ESV Study Bible notes that the measurements and regulations for the temple in Ezekiel are not merely interesting details, but they communicate something of the character of God. Likewise, our temple must be in alignment with His regulations (our character) and the precisely measured room in our hearts (without sin or the things we put before Him) will allow His glory to abide in us. This is just another way of saying that anything less takes away from His glory and presence within us, the temple.