Thursday, May 3, 2018

AN UNLIKELY CHOICE


AN UNLIKELY CHOICE...
By Jeannie Horton Life Christian University Theology Student
INTRODUCTION

In the eyes of the world, God often calls those who seem to be the least likely candidate to do His will. The condition of our hearts, not our performance, is what is important to Him. He works through our imperfections and supernaturally intervenes on our behalf. He wants the world to know that the amazing work being done is Him working through us, and they will glorify Him. “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven” Mathew 5:16). Because God is omniscient, He knows all about us: He knows everything we’ve ever done in our past, every word spoken, every sin and He knows what we will do in our future. God knew what He was getting into when He adopted us into His family. He still chose us! God has a unique and individual plan for each of us that can only be fulfilled by the person He calls. He shows us continuous favor and He wants us to be obedient to Him when He calls us to do His will. Even at times when it seems as if God is not moving and working on our behalf, He is. He is always there. God called Esther, a young orphan Jewish girl (possibly a teenager) to bring deliverance to the Jews.

I. ESTHER INTERVENES ON BEHALF OF HER PEOPLE

I can’t imagine what it was like for Esther in the time in which she lived. She lost her parents at a young age and was being raised by her uncle Mordecai. Esther was born during a time of slavery, wars, polygamy, concubines, and women were often treated like property. In the story of Esther, she leaned on God, obtaining His strength in her obedience to Him.  She put aside her own purpose and plan for her life and sought to do God’s will. “We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose” (Romans 8:28).

In the book of Esther, the King of Persia King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) divorces his wife, Queen Vashti. She had refused to show off her beauty to his friends during a party that lasted several months. The king was angry and afraid the queen would set a bad example for the other women in Persia. So not only did he divorce Vashti, he wrote up a letter and had it sent out to everyone in the kingdom. It said that all men were to be masters in their homes.
After some time, the king’s anger subsided. He was beginning to feel lonely and decided he wanted a new wife. After getting advice from his staff, he had many young girls placed into a harem (likely against their will) as a possible replacement to the queen. They would go through a yearlong preparation of beauty treatments to get them ready for one night with the king. He would then pick the girl that he liked the best and she would become the new queen.
I think it would be very easy to judge Esther and the situation she was in. We could call her nothing but a concubine. We could say that she was weak for not fighting back when they took her and placed her in the harem. The Bible doesn’t mention Esther’s thoughts or feelings or what her life was like when she was taken. Maybe she was completely upset and terrified at her new predicament?  The king had to be at least twice her age! Or maybe she saw it as an opportunity? Was it a chance to win the heart of the king and a chance for status and power? She was in a possible bad situation. Yet, having favor already with God, Esther had favor with everyone that she came in contact with. She was picked by the king to be the new queen of Persia.
King Ahasuerus promoted a man named Haman to be second to him. Haman became used to people bowing to him whenever they saw him. However, Esther’s uncle Mordecai refused to bow down to him. This greatly angered Haman who was very prideful and easily angered. Haman sought the rewards of the world. He liked having status, power, and fame. He expected others to accept and respect him. However, Haman was truly never satisfied. The rewards of this world are empty. Our satisfaction, acceptance, and reward truly can only be fulfilled by Jesus. “For He satisfied the longing soul and fills the hungry soul with good” (Psalms 107:9).  
Haman knew Mordecai was a Jew. He decided that having only Mordecai killed wouldn’t be enough to satisfy his wickedness. Haman met with the king to discuss having all the Jews in the empire destroyed. Haman told the king that he would pay 10,000 talents of silver into the king’s treasury. So a decree was written, signed with the king’s signet ring and sent out to all the empire.  People all over the land were in mourning at the news that they would be destroyed in one year, including Mordecai. Mordecai who through one of the king attendants, pleaded with Esther for help, saying: “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance shall arise for the Jews from elsewhere, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows but that you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this and for this very occasion?” (Esther 4:14). Esther had already put aside her own interests and plans for her own life when she was placed in the Harem. But now God’s will for her life became apparent when she learned that her people were about to be destroyed.
Esther knew that she needed to use her position to take the chance to save her people.   She had to step out of her comfort zone and step into obedience to God, regardless of the consequences of doing so. She would have to go to the king without being invited, putting her own life in jeopardy. “Then I will go to the King, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). She instructed Mordecai and all the Jews in the empire to fast and pray for three days prior to her going to the king. On the 3rd day, she put on her royal robes and went to the king. He saw her in his court and he held out the scepter for her.
Esther met with the king and requested that he and Haman have dinner with her. During dinner, she didn’t tell the king that she was a Jew per Mordecai’s advice. Even after the king asked her what she was requesting, even offering her up to half the kingdom. She only requested that he and Haman have a second dinner with her. They both agreed. I believe Esther showed patience, tact, and grace in not just blurting out what she wanted and this impressed the king.
God has a book of remembrance. It is a book of every good deed we ever do, and every good word we ever speak to others or in prayer. “Then those who feared the Lord talked often one to another; and the Lord listened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who reverenced and worshipfully feared the Lord and who thought on His name” (Malachi 3:16). King Ahasuerus wasn’t able to sleep the night that he had dinner with Esther and Haman. Like God’s book of remembrance, the king had one. He ordered the book to be brought and read to him. He learned Mordecai had saved his life, yet nothing was done to reward him. I believe this was an important moment in Mordecai having favor with the king and could likely be a reason the king was so agreeable to Esther when she asked the king for help.
During the second dinner with the king and Haman, Esther told the king all about Haman’s evil decree against her people. The king was very angry and had Haman assassinated using the same device that Haman intended to kill Mordecai with! Esther was then given Haman’s estate and put Mordecai in charge over it. Esther begged the king to help her and her people:
If it pleases the king and if I have found favor in his sight and the thing seems right before the king and I am pleasing in his eyes, let it be written to reverse the letters devised by Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, which he wrote to destroy the Jews who are in all the king’s provinces. For how can I endure to see the evil that shall come upon my people? Or how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred? (Esther 8:5-6). 
Because the original decree could not be reversed, the king agreed to a second. It was written and signed with the king’s ring. It stated the Jews could defend themselves and fight back. And with God on their side, they did. “What then shall we say to [all] this? If God is for us, who [can be] against us? [Who can be our foe, if God is on our side?]” (Romans 8:31). During the battle, the Jews’ enemies were overpowered and slain, including Haman’s 10 sons.
To celebrate their victory against Haman’s evil plan to destroy them, the Jews celebrated. They had a feast which became a holiday known as the Purim:
To command them to keep the fourteenth day of the month of Adar and also the fifteenth, yearly, as the days on which the Jews got rest from their enemies, and as the month which was turned for them from sorrow to gladness and from mourning into a holiday-that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days of sending choice portions to one another and gifts to the poor (Esther 9:21-22).
Mordecai was promoted, being made the king’s new second to him. He cared for the well-being of others and had favor with his Brethren. He and Esther both refused to quit, putting their lives on the line to see that the Jews were saved. They relied on, trusted in, and were obedient to God.

II. CHRIST IN ESTHER

Even though the book of Esther doesn’t mention God, He is present everywhere. He intervened supernaturally by orchestrating the events that took place. Esther and Mordecai already had favor with God. They were a team, being led by Him the entire time to bring deliverance to the Jews.  God caused Mordecai and Esther to have favor with man so His promise of deliverance would not come back void. The following lists some of the ways that Mordecai and Esther are a type of Christ:

·        * Haman had a book of remembrance that lists the memorable deeds of the people in his empire, and God has one for us.

·       *Christ was obedient to do the will of His Father. Esther put aside her own purpose to do God’s will.

·       * Even when Esther was in danger of losing her life, she was willing to die for her people. Christ was also willing to die for His people.

·      * Esther saved her people from death just as Christ saved mankind when He died on the cross for our sins.

·     *Christ was kind, sympathetic, and faithful to everyone. Mordecai and Esther were faithful, kind and sympathetic not only to each other but to their people.  

·       * Mordecai was paraded on horseback in the city by his enemy. Jesus too was paraded on a donkey by the same people who would a few days later demand his crucifixion. 

·       *Just as Christ was honored and promoted to High Priest, Mordecai and Esther were also honored and promoted. Mordecai was promoted to the king’s new second. Esther was given the house of Haman’s estate.

·        *Mordecai and Esther displayed Christ-like character.

CONCLUSION
God promises to never leave nor forsake us. When bad things happen, God can turn these things into good for His glory. We were created for His glory and to glorify Him. We can see God’s glory in His wondrous hand throughout the story of Esther. Esther displayed a lot of courage in how she displayed herself with the king and her obedience to God. She glorified God in her actions.  The plans that we have for ourselves don’t always go as we like. Sometimes we need to change our plans and help God. We ought to actively seek to do the will of the Lord.  To carry out his plans and purposes, He needs us! True fulfillment, satisfaction, and joy can only be found in Him. Trust in Him and be obedient like Esther, saying “Yes Lord, how can I help?”

Friday, April 20, 2018

Living a life through Christ

Living a life through Christ and serving Him is not boring. Romans 12:11 says never lag in zeal and in earnest endeavor; be aglow and burning with the Spirit, serving the Lord.
We are to serve Him hot, not cold or lukewarm. We are to stay on fire for Him. We can do this by continuously speaking out scripture, saying praises and thanks to Him and worshipping Him. We can stay on fire for Him by getting around other believers in our church, and doing good in a world that is desperately needing help, kindness, and love. Ask the Lord each day who He wants you to help, how you can be a blessing to others. Every morning that I wake up I say, "thank you Lord that something great is going to happen to me today and that something great will happen through me today."

Open to change

We are not meant to stay in the same place in life with the same goals, and same dreams. We are to grow and stretch.You may need to let go of the "conveniences" of this world, so that God can get you to the next level of where He wants to take you. It could be a job, a relationship, activity, or even an attitude you have toward someone. These things may or may not be bad for us. They could be things that God doesn't want us to have any more, things that are not producing any fruit in our life. Perhaps you don't have any peace anymore about it? That's God speaking to you. He's done with it and He wants you to be as well. 

Let me give you an example. Years ago when I was living in California, I was lonely and depressed. I heard from God. He wanted me to open up a Facebook page. I named it Dare to be different. It was mainly a fitness and motivational page. It actually grew in just a few years to over 26,000 likes. It was a blessing while I had it and it gave me some a joy, I felt like it was something that I could control. I could be a positive influence to others, be a blessing to others when I was feeling sad. When we move back to Oregon, I felt a strong desire to delete the page. After praying about it for sometime I deleted it and felt that it was what God wanted me to do. A few times after deleting it I tried to open up another page but I really was not having any peace about it nor did I feel like God was blessing me to have a new page. They just didn't work out and I deleted those pages. God was done with it. What I didn't know at the time is that He wanted me to start going to Theology School and spend a lot less time on social media. 


Letting things go that we've grown accustomed to can be uncomfortable for us. But we don't see what God sees and what God knows. And if we were just let them go we would be blessed tremendously by Him. Our eyes would be open and would find out that we really didn't even need the things we didn't want to let go of. Our fleshly desires get in the way. He wants to bless us we just need to trust him. Say yes in obedience to Him today.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

THE POWER OF GOD’S WORD



THE POWER OF GOD’S WORD
By Jeannie Horton Life Christian University student
INTRODUCTION

In 2011 my family moved to Crescent City, California. I knew mountain lions and black bears lived in the Redwoods and surrounding forests, and as a distance trail runner the danger frightened me. I started training for a 100-mile foot race, and I liked to run on a very hilly trail and fire road in Gasquet, California which was about 15 minutes away from Crescent City. I knew that there was a big possibility to see a black bear or a mountain lion, so I always came prepared with protection. The trail to the fire road is 3 miles long, and the fire road goes on for many miles and is rarely used. There is only one way back to my car and it is back down the 3-mile long trail. During one run, I’m just about on the trail to head down to my car when I kept hearing a noise in the forest. I thought to myself, “If I hear that noise one more time, I’m going to stop and check it out.” I then notice less than 1/4 mile away there is a black bear and it looks really big. I first pull my body alarm and the bear doesn't even look up. I yell at it and it looks up and starts walking towards me! I keep yelling and pull the alarm again and it doesn't stop walking! I walk away from it, going in the opposite direction that will get me to my car. I then stop and walk forward again to see if it's still there. The bear is now stopped and looking at me. I yell again and it starts walking towards me again! I then prayed, “Help me, Lord!” God tells me to enter the forest where there is no trail or road and go around him. That worked and I see it run away to the opposite side of the forest. I breathe a huge sigh of relief, thanking God from all of my heart. I then run a personal record in speed all the way back to my car. The next week I went right back to the area where I saw the bear because I didn’t want to live in fear. I didn’t want the fear of this bear to prevent me from doing what I loved! It was extremely scary and I fortunately never saw any bear again. We moved back to Portland a few months later. “Then they cry to the Lord in their trouble, And He brings them out of their distresses” (Psalm 107:28). I had cried out to God in my trouble, He heard and He saved me. His word was not void.
Because of God’s great love, He wants to have a relationship with us. He didn’t just create this wonderful home for us to live, to only fend for ourselves. He has always been here for us in love. He is omnipotent which means that He has unlimited power and He can do anything. He has given us the Holy Spirit to comfort, intercede, educate and to guide. God speaks to us and helps us. His word is so powerful and it does not return to Him void. “So shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth: it shall not return to Me void [without producing any effect, useless], but it shall accomplish that which I please and purpose, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).
I. GOD SPEAKS TO US
God is speaking to us and He is able to do so in any way He desires. He wants to give us messages about His will, encouragement and to teach and guide. So how does He speak to us? Here are a few ways that God speaks to us:
·        The Bible.
God speaks to us through His word, as it is God-breathed. It is a love letter to us from Him, a good news message to all of us. It isn’t just an instruction manual on how to live. People learn about Jesus by reading the Bible, about Salvation, about love, relationships, faith, hope, joy and about our enemy and how we can protect ourselves.  

·         His Son, Jesus Christ.

God sent His Son, Jesus, and during the short time that He was here amongst us, He touched so many peoples’ lives through His teachings and healings. Even today, through His commandment in the book of Mathew, He’s still touching lives through His believers: “Go then and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all the days (perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion), to the [very] close and consummation of the age” (Mathew 28:19, 20).

·         Holy Spirit.
When Jesus ascended up to heaven He left believers the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us. We need to listen to that still small voice and obey. A Christian friend of mine told me the story of how she was doing some shopping one day. She decided to drive home using a different route. As she was waiting at a rather long light to turn left, she heard in her head “go right.” Unfortunately, she did not obey. Then all of a sudden, someone hits her car and yells at her. She pulled over the best that she could, opened her door and the woman was yelling at her rather mad letting her know that she had almost hit her! She was absolutely horrified and very apologetic. She did not know how she did not see the other woman. She learned two things that day: God spoke to her, trying to get her out of that situation but when she did not obey, He stepped in and saved that woman and her from what could have been a very tragic accident. The Holy Spirit is a gift to us from God.
·         Through prayer.
Pray throughout the day with a spirit of thanksgiving. It’s important to listen to God and what He wants to say; don’t just do all the talking! And make sure it is actually God that you are hearing. His word will always line up with scripture. In the book or Romans, it talks about how the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. It says: “So too the [Holy] Spirit comes to our aid and bears us up in our weakness; for we do not know what prayer to offer nor how to offer it worthily as we ought, but the Spirit Himself goes to meet our supplication and pleads in our behalf with unspeakable yearnings and groaning too deep for utterance” (Romans 8:26-27).
·         Nature and God’s creation.
There are so many beautiful and wondrous things that He has given us for our enjoyment and for education. For example, we learn from animals about love, life, and death. We learn about transitions, change, and beauty from the sunrises and sunsets. With each new day and season there is potential for change and growth. He created the rainbow to remind us of his promise that He would never flood the earth again.
·         Other believers.
God uses other believers to communicate messages from Him. It is important to check scripture for truth in what the other believer is saying. It needs to line up with God’s word and if God has already confirmed the truth in your heart.
·         Dreams and visions.
“And afterward I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions” (Joel 2:28). I was bullied in high school. I felt so helpless and sad, to the point that I remember thinking that I wanted one of the girls to die. One night God spoke to me in a dream. He said two simple words, “It’s over!” My bullies never bothered me again. He showed me even as a young teenager how much He loved and wanted to help me.  People do need to be careful with dreams and visions as He doesn’t always speak to us this way. It may not be from Him. Check scripture and pray about what you have heard.
·         Music.
A lot of Christian artists are singing the word of God in their music and people are ministered to while worshiping Him. Praise and worship brings peace and allows you to feel close to God; He will speak to you!
II.      STUDYING THE MESSAGE IN ISAIAH 55:11
In Genesis, in the beginning of the creation of the world, God spoke. “And God said, Let there be light; and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). In Ezekiel, He spoke the word to the dead bones to rise and they did. “Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath and spirit to enter you, and you shall live” (Ezekiel 37:5). These are just two examples of the power in God’s word. “His word will not return to Him void, but will accomplish and prosper that which He pleases and purposes” (Isaiah 55:11). As a believer in Christ, that is powerful! We just need to have faith in Him!  
God’s word is a seed and seeds have life! And like the seed that fell upon the good ground in the parable from Luke chapter 8, we need to allow His seed, His word, to take life within us and not let the cares of this world choke it to where it doesn’t produce life. His word needs to abide (remain) in us continuously and deep in our hearts so that it can bring forth fruit in our lives and in the lives of others we come in contact with. When we are born again, God changes us from glory to glory. We are to learn His word, His commandments, and statues and follow them. He wants to bless us. He wants to use us, but we need to do our part. We cannot let our flesh run our lives and do what it wants; we need to do what God’s word says. If we allow Him, He will prune away the thorny parts of our flesh to the point that we are producing good fruit in our lives.
God wants us to accomplish His will; He wants our will to line up with His. He needs us, we are partners with Him. “As Christians, we’re partners with God; this means He has a part and we have a part. And the simple truth is, if we will do what we can do, God will do what we cannot do” (Joyce Meyer). He has a good plan for your life. His plan for each of us is God-ordained, unique and personal and He won't change His mind and give your plan over to someone else. So if you've gone astray with your walk with the Lord, just repent. God loves you and is receiving you with open arms. He never left you and the plan He has for you can only be filled by you! In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed: “Saying Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet not my will, but [always] Yours be done. And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him in spirit” (Luke 22:42-43). Only Jesus could do the will of the Father, being sent to the world as a human to redeem us and restore what was lost.
God’s word spoken in faith from a believer’s mouth can change circumstances. His word and His promises are powerful, and they are full of life! One word from God can change circumstances. It can open doors that you could never imagine being opened. He can change hearts, and people are healed, delivered, and set free!  Don’t let circumstances get you down. Don’t speak negatively about circumstances. We are to speak to our circumstances as we want them to be, not as they are currently! “Who gives life to the dead and speaks of the nonexistent things that [He has foretold and promised] as if they (already) existed” (Romans 4:17). If you are in debt, don’t say “I never have enough money; I’ll never get ahead.” Say “Thank you God that I am a lender and not a borrower.” Believe that God is going to help you because He loves us and is a God that restores! Believe He has more in store for you.
II.      DOING OUR PART
We need to be diligent about making God number 1 in our lives. It is important to let Him into every area of our lives. We need to completely renew our minds and we can do this by not only reading our Bibles but actively studying and meditating on His word throughout the day.  He wants us to be in continuous communication with Him by speaking His word and listening to Him through worship and prayer. Prayer doesn’t have to be for several hours a day, but just as you would talk to your children or spouse. You can say things like, “Thank you God that it is such a beautiful day!” or “thank you God that I slept great last night!” If you notice a friend needs prayer, lift them up in prayer. We also need to go out in love and speak to others about Jesus, sharing our testimony, and teaching them about God’s great love for them and about His word.
CONCLUSION
            We serve an awesome God! He loves us so much and wants a relationship with us! If we believe in His Son Jesus, we will have an eternal and everlasting life. He has clearly demonstrated this to us by sending Jesus to save us and bring us into a right relationship with Him. I believe in the power of God’s word. I believe it is true and it will prosper and not return to Him void, but will indeed prosper what He purposes.  “For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life” (John 3:16). I believe this is the greatest example of Isaiah 55:11. His word has not returned to Him void.






Friday, February 9, 2018

Persevering for Christ



Every endurance athlete knows what it’s like to persevere. I think back to my experience with
running Javelina Jundred, a 100 miler in the McDowell Regional Park in Fountain Hills, Arizona and how perseverance came in to play. When you’re out on the course and it’s getting tough and everything hurts, it’s dark, you have blisters, you’re tired and you still can’t see the finish line, you know you’re no where near being finished. You want to quit, but you know if you do, you won’t get the prize of being a finisher and having that sense of accomplishment. Nobody who signs up for a race wants to quit, it’s that last thing from our minds. They don’t stand at the finish line and think, I’m just going to quit. We know what it takes to get through those times when it’s tough and it no longer feels good. But we keep putting one foot in front of another, keep on believing, and keeping our spirits up. We’ll get through our suffering with a little confidence and a lot of hope. I like James 1:4 from the amplified Bible. It says, “But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfectly and fully developed, lacking in nothing.” When I think about my relationship with God, I want to do His Will. I know that He has a great plan for me that is uniquely for me and I know that ultimately I will be happiest if I say yes to His will and His plan for my life. I think about some of my struggles that I have in my personal life and I don’t give up when times are hard, I try not to complain when things aren’t going the way that I like them to. I keep my eyes on God, I choose to rest in Him and I thank Him for all that He’s doing in my life. God is a restorer, so I thank Him for the work that He is doing and the peace that He has given me. If I’m in God’s will, if I go to Him when things are hard and give thanks continually in the good and bad times, resting in Him and thank Him for all His wonderful gifts and blessings, I lack nothing.