Archive for the ‘ Church ’ Category

VerseD: Galatians 6:10

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Galatians 6:10, ESV

Let us give thanks to God for every opportunity we get to serve others, especially within our family in Christ: the Church.

VerseD: Psalm 100:4

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!

Psalm 100:4, ESV

God has called us into community with Him and with His Chosen people. May we come together and thank God for this brotherhood: the Church filled with the Holy Spirit.

VerseD: Proverbs 17:17

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

Proverbs 17:17, ESV

We can choose friends, but Christ chose us as His friends, and He has given us a brotherhood of believers to help us through life and into eternity.

VerseD: Ecclesiastes 4:9

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.

Ecclesiastes 4:9, ESV

We need each other, and more importantly we need God. The community we have in faith in God unites us and gives us strength and hope.

VerseD: Romans 15:5

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus

Romans 15:5, ESV

Sometimes we disagree, maybe even extremely dislike (hate?) each other. Yet God grants us peace and fellowship in Christ by the Holy Spirit.

VerseD: Philippians 1:3

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you

Philippians 1:3, ESV

We show our love for God by loving the Church. May we pray for and fondly think of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Sermon: Tasting Bitterness and Goodness – Esther 8

I preached again!

As usual, these are my rough notes, so not necessarily everything I said while preaching.

Tasting Bitterness and Goodness – Esther 8

Coffee

Pastor Scott has been leading us through the book of Esther.

There is a reminder that this is the only book of the Bible that does not mention God. We know that sometimes the things in this life can make it feel like God is not there, but our sovereign God is always moving the pieces, even if we can’t see.

It is like going to the coffee shop.

I work part-time in a coffee shop. I like making coffee for people.

Isn’t interesting how many people think they can tell their barista how to make their coffee, even to the point of giving not just bad advice but downright wrong advice about what they like?

Some people even complain that they don’t know what is happening on the other side of the counter, because they can’t see what the barista is doing.

Take it from a barista: most of us know what we’re doing, and we are not big fans of being told how to do our job or having to answer the same quality questions over and over.

Coffee obviously is not for everyone, because it is a cup of bitterness. With a good barista, that cup of bitterness can become a delicious treat. (Unless you really can’t stand coffee or have a medical condition, but that is beside the point.)

But, you may be asking, does this have to do with the book of Esther?

We know the Jewish people were handed the bitterest of cups with their people being condemned to slaughter, but we see how God made something good from it.

Promotion

Esther 8:1–2, ESV

On that day King Ahasuerus gave to Queen Esther the house of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mordecai came before the king, for Esther had told what he was to her. And the king took off his signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman.

Go back into chapter 7: the day is when Haman was revealed and put on the very gallows he had built for Mordecai.

The day Mordy should have been lifted up and killed, Esther tells the king that he is her relative who raised her, and he is instead lifted up in promotion to the old job of Haman.

Imagine the elation of the Jews: one of their own is now one of the most powerful leaders in the empire!

It is very much like elections here: when a leader we dislike is elected, we whine and complain and riot … I mean feel sad; but when a leader we like is elected, we’re happy (even if we don’t always like everything they do.)

Maybe now some good things will come.

Now some real decreeing and declaring can happen!

Let’s see how that plays out.

Seeking the King

Esther 8:3–8, ESV

Then Esther spoke again to the king. She fell at his feet and wept and pleaded with him to avert the evil plan of Haman the Agagite and the plot that he had devised against the Jews. When the king held out the golden scepter to Esther, Esther rose and stood before the king. And she said, “If it please the king, and if I have found favor in his sight, and if the thing seems right before the king, and I am pleasing in his eyes, let an order be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, which he wrote to destroy the Jews who are in all the provinces of the king. For how can I bear to see the calamity that is coming to my people? Or how can I bear to see the destruction of my kindred?” Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, “Behold, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and they have hanged him on the gallows, because he intended to lay hands on the Jews. But you may write as you please with regard to the Jews, in the name of the king, and seal it with the king’s ring, for an edict written in the name of the king and sealed with the king’s ring cannot be revoked.”

First, notice how Esther approaches her husband, the king: she still comes humbly, still has to await seeing if she has his favor, which seems obvious after this past chapter, but this was a pagan king who could kill anyone who approaches without being summoned.

Second, notice how she Esther asks the king: at his feet, weeping and pleading. This is a contrite woman who knows her people are still in danger (even if she and Mordy will probably be okay).

Third, we see the dangerous side of the Persian government: a kings decree is un-revocable. Because of this law, the king now has a possible civil war on his hands. (We also see the reminder of how impulsive he is, because he killed a mildly disobedient wife, signed a decree based on “Please, because I hate them,” and little consideration for the future.)

He has a problem he helped create, but he also now has good counselors in Esther and Mordecai. He puts his trust in them to figure out a way around the first decree.

Decreeing

Esther 8:9–14, ESV

The king’s scribes were summoned at that time, in the third month, which is the month of Sivan, on the twenty-third day. And an edict was written, according to all that Mordecai commanded concerning the Jews, to the satraps and the governors and the officials of the provinces from India to Ethiopia, 127 provinces, to each province in its own script and to each people in its own language, and also to the Jews in their script and their language. And he wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed it with the king’s signet ring. Then he sent the letters by mounted couriers riding on swift horses that were used in the king’s service, bred from the royal stud, saying that the king allowed the Jews who were in every city to gather and defend their lives, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, children and women included, and to plunder their goods, on one day throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. A copy of what was written was to be issued as a decree in every province, being publicly displayed to all peoples, and the Jews were to be ready on that day to take vengeance on their enemies. So the couriers, mounted on their swift horses that were used in the king’s service, rode out hurriedly, urged by the king’s command. And the decree was issued in Susa the citadel.

We recall from chapter 3 that Haman made the decree on the 13th of the first month, Nisan, to kill all the Jews in the twelfth month, Adar.

The 13th of Nisan is the day before Passover. So, the day before the Jews celebrate redemption, a law is passed saying that at the end of their year they will be killed.

It would be similar to either an Easter or Christmas massacre for Christians.

  • Christmas 2021 at a church in Myanmar (Burma).
  • Christmas 2016 in a marketplace in Berlin, Germany.
  • Christmas 2008 at churches in Congo as well as the Ortega Family in California.

But now, here are Esther and Mordy, two months and ten days after the decree, able to write their own decree: on the 13th of Adar (less than 9 months away), the Jews can not only defend themselves, but they are allowed to kill, destroy, and plunder from anyone who attacks them!

This is good news!

Now, we could ask why God would even allow these things to even happen.

As many of you know, I greatly enjoy coffee. My wife and I became coffee snobs, because there is much, MUCH better than Starbucks and many of the other chains out there. I tell you this so that you can understand where this video is coming from.

[James Hoffman video about coffee tasting]

What does Mr. Hoffman and myself drinking bad coffee have to do with God allowing such horrible things to take place (or almost take place)?

Whenever we as humans have things go well, we eventually get tired of the good things and complain. So God actually promised that He would help break the cycle.

In Deuteronomy 28 and 30, we read:

And as the Lord took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the Lord will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you. And you shall be plucked off the land that you are entering to take possession of it. “And the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known.

Deuteronomy 28:63-64, ESV

“And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, and return to the Lord your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you. . . . when you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

Deuteronomy 30:1-3,10, ESV

So, God brings the curses, the bad things, to bring us back to Him.

Now – look around at our nation today. See the obvious rebellion and problems that necessarily follow: a culture that says people can be whatever they want, love whom they will, kill their babies (and in some countries and states the elderly and sick), inflation, hatred, etc.

As Paul told us in Romans 1:

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Romans 1:24-32, ESV

Oh, yes. I believe God is cursing a country that was once based on God’s Law and Christian morality.

So, will we be a people that whine and complain about how horrible things have gotten, or will realize we have the ear of the King, humbly approach Him with tears and pleading, and ask Him to save this land?

Will we be a people who realize our King has already sent out His decree (Matthew 28:18-20):

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.””

Are we going to do our part and carry this decree to everyone as quickly as we are able?

Because we have the truth, and we have received our promotion and a decree to declare to the whole world.

Good News

Esther 8:15–17, ESV

Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal robes of blue and white, with a great golden crown and a robe of fine linen and purple, and the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced. The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor. And in every province and in every city, wherever the king’s command and his edict reached, there was gladness and joy among the Jews, a feast and a holiday. And many from the peoples of the country declared themselves Jews, for fear of the Jews had fallen on them.

Esther and Mordecai were real people in a real place in history. But we also see what God was pointing us toward.

Jesus of Nazareth, the long-awaited Messiah/Christ, was God come to us, putting on flesh, to give the example of living out God’s holy commands, to then sacrifice Himself in our place for the punishment WE deserved for our breaking His commands, and then to rise back to life and give us hope for the future.

When we believe this truth, like Mordecai, we are raised up with Christ as heirs of the promises of God. We are clothed in bright white robes of the righteousness of Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit (blue), and we are given a crown of glory that comes from Christ.

His authority is lived out in us to take this good news to all parts of the world, that some may declare themselves part of our People – that they may put their faith in Christ, our King who has given us freedom from the fear of death.

Like a good barista, our Maker does His work in us through the bitterness of this world. We know what the best of life is like, so we willingly go into this world full of nastiness and wrongness, and we share that bitter cup of Christ (sacrifice) that others may be able to taste and see the goodness of God.

VerseD: Revelation 7:9-10

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Revelation 7:9‭-‬10, ESV

We don’t and probably can’t comprehend how great the saving grace of our God is, and one glorious day we will join with the multitudes of saints in universal praise of our God!

VerseD: 1 Thessalonians 5:15

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

1 Thessalonians 5:15, ESV

We rebelled against God, yet He came to show goodness to us.

Likewise, we show kindness to each other inside and outside the Church to show His goodness.

VerseD: 1 Corinthians 12:25-27

that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

1 Corinthians 12:25‭-‬27, ESV

We tend to be selfish, self-focuded. In Christ, the Holy Spirit helps us genuinely care for others, joining in weeping and pain as well as celebrating and laughing. All to the glory of God.