Tag Archives: power

Esther 1-3; Psalm 139; Revelation 1

This is the world awaiting Esther: a king, his military officers, his nobles and officials had just previously spent 180 days partying.

In the third year of his reign, he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. He invited all the military officers of Persia and Media as well as the princes and nobles of the provinces. The celebration lasted 180 days—a tremendous display of the opulent wealth of his empire and the pomp and splendor of his majesty. (Esther 1:3-4, NLT)

Then, an additional extravagant week of limitless indulgence, for the people, the greatest to the least.

Drinks were served in gold goblets of many designs, and there was an abundance of royal wine, reflecting the king’s generosity. By edict of the king, no limits were placed on the drinking, for the king had instructed all his palace officials to serve each man as much as he wanted. (Esther 1:7-8, NLT)

This was Queen Vashti’s world, a glimpse of it anyway. Partying. Excess. Vanity. And I think, perhaps, she’d had enough. At least that day, anyway. I can’t know for sure, because there isn’t much detail about her perspective.

10 On the seventh day of the feast, when King Xerxes was in high spirits because of the wine, he told the seven eunuchs who attended him (…) 11 to bring Queen Vashti to him with the royal crown on her head. He wanted the nobles and all the other men to gaze on her beauty, for she was a very beautiful woman. (Esther 1:10-11, NLT)

(You can read the whole of it in Esther 1-3 if you haven’t, but Vashti refuses to be gazed upon “for her beauty” by the king’s drunken nobles and all the other men.)

I look closer at the king and his advisors. I look at the world they lived in. Instead of being starstruck by these delicious words: tremendous display, opulent wealth, pomp, splendor, majesty, abundance, no limits, all they wanted–I see a stage that feeds a king’s ego and his anger, and a group of advisors enjoying a luxuriant life in his good graces–a lifestyle they don’t want jeopardized by opposition or upheaval.

His advisors tell him to banish Vashti so other women don’t stand up to their husbands. And, later, that Haman, whose own ego is affronted when a man won’t bow in his presence (by order of the king), when those around him egg him, “Are you going to let him get away with that?”, his own pride and power position leads him down a murderous, vengeful path.

Then Haman approached King Xerxes and said, “There is a certain race of people scattered through all the provinces of your empire who keep themselves separate from everyone else. Their laws are different from those of any other people, and they refuse to obey the laws of the king. So it is not in the king’s interest to let them live. If it please the king, issue a decree that they be destroyed, and I will give 10,000 large sacks of silver to the government administrators to be deposited in the royal treasury.” (Esther 3:8-9, NLT)

Simple. Tidy. Just get rid of them. And the king agrees. There’s more to the story, but that’s all for my reading today. A pot of turmoil brewing.

But as I read on in other books, I am comforted and held by the words in all of Psalm 139. Of a sovereign and just God who knows me (he formed me), who goes before me and behind me, who holds a book listing every single day of my life, whose thoughts about me are precious and so many they can’t even be numbered. I know that no matter what today holds, or what tomorrow holds, I am held and known and loved by God.

And I am encouraged by John’s words in Revelation 1:9, NLT:

I, John, am your brother and your partner in suffering and in God’s Kingdom and in the patient endurance to which Jesus calls us. I was exiled to the island of Patmos for preaching the word of God and for my testimony about Jesus.

A brother and partner in suffering. In God’s Kingdom. In the patient endurance to which Jesus calls us. Who was exiled for preaching the word of God and exiled for his testimony about Jesus.

Lord, thank you for your word. Thank you for true stories of courage and perseverance. Thank you for your repetition of your love for me, for all of us, for your sovereignty and plan. I am reminded I am not alone–you won’t leave me. And I am comforted reading a message from John, who knew you and loved you and served you with patient endurance.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Chronicles 28; 2 Kings 17; Psalm 66; 1 Corinthians 7

When I think of worship, I think of song. But worship is more than that, isn’t it? Judah, Israel, the surrounding nations, all of them were guilty of turning from the Lord and worshiping something else. They installed their idols in shrines and altars. They offered sacrifices to idols. So worshiping is more than just singing to something–it’s giving it a place of honor; consulting and trusting in it for needs, favor, salvation; placing all hope in it; giving offerings/making sacrifices to it; revering it; talking about it. In all, worship is giving something/someone a place of honor, and power, over us.

22 Even during this time of trouble, King Ahaz continued to reject the Lord. 23 He offered sacrifices to the gods of Damascus who had defeated him, for he said, “Since these gods helped the kings of Aram, they will help me, too, if I sacrifice to them.” But instead, they led to his ruin and the ruin of all Judah. (2 Chronicles 28:22-23, NLT)

King Ahaz rejected the Lord, even in his times of trouble. He gave honor and power to something else, which led to his ruin. And it led to the ruin of his nation.

This disaster came upon the people of Israel because they worshiped other gods. They sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them safely out of Egypt and had rescued them from the power of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. They had followed the practices of the pagan nations the Lord had driven from the land ahead of them, as well as the practices the kings of Israel had introduced. The people of Israel had also secretly done many things that were not pleasing to the Lord their God. They built pagan shrines for themselves in all their towns, from the smallest outpost to the largest walled city. 10 They set up sacred pillars and Asherah poles at the top of every hill and under every green tree. 11 They offered sacrifices on all the hilltops, just like the nations the Lord had driven from the land ahead of them. So the people of Israel had done many evil things, arousing the Lord’s anger. 12 Yes, they worshiped idols, despite the Lord’s specific and repeated warnings. (2 Kings 17:7-12, NLT)

The Israelites put in great effort and attention to worship other gods and idols. They were intentional. When I read this passage from 2 Kings 17, they were busy and active pursuing practices of other nations, as well as funding and building things to revere in place of the Lord.

The Lord sends a message through prophets and seers–he persists to turn them from their sin. Like a parent warning a child of imminent danger: “Don’t do that!” The warnings go ignored.

14 But the Israelites would not listen. They were as stubborn as their ancestors who had refused to believe in the Lord their God. 15 They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their ancestors, and they despised all his warnings. They worshiped worthless idols, so they became worthless themselves. They followed the example of the nations around them, disobeying the Lord’s command not to imitate them.

16 They rejected all the commands of the Lord their God and made two calves from metal. They set up an Asherah pole and worshiped Baal and all the forces of heaven. 17 They even sacrificed their own sons and daughters in the fire. They consulted fortune-tellers and practiced sorcery and sold themselves to evil, arousing the Lord’s anger. (2 Kings 17:14-17, NLT)

It’s easy for me to point to the leaders of these nations for setting a dangerous course. Leaders do carry responsibility. And leaders are accountable for their actions.

But so am I.

Lord, help make it clear to me who I follow, where I put my trust and hope, what or who I’ve given power to. And if it’s not you, help me to see my error and correct my way. I cannot imagine a better life or truer calling apart from you. Thank you for your persistent love.

Courtney (66books365)

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Exodus 13-15; Psalm 114; Ephesians 3

It’s easy to want to chalk a hardship up to an enemy’s plans (and perhaps less easy to one’s own poor choices or inaction). But what if it’s God’s divine hand? Maybe it’s happening just so you know.

Then the Lord gave these instructions to Moses: “Order the Israelites to turn back and camp by Pi-hahiroth between Migdol and the sea. Camp there along the shore, across from Baal-zephon. Then Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are confused. They are trapped in the wilderness!’ And once again I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after you. I have planned this in order to display my glory through Pharaoh and his whole army. After this the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord!” So the Israelites camped there as they were told. (Exodus 14:1-4, NLT, emphasis added)

The things that are out of my control, and the things within my control that are hard to control, can I submit them to the Lord? I think of Erin’s post on Monday, how Moses gave excuses to get out of God’s task–and God, whose plan would further demonstrate who He is. Lord, can I accept what is and seek you in the midst of it?

In Exodus I read as the Israelites complained that they were better off slaves, that they were thirsty–this after they had just witnessed the waters parting and were singing of God’s power. Father God, help me. Help me to remember Your goodness and sovereignty. Fear, dread, even basic needs like thirst can knock the feet from under one. Maybe when I’m undone, I’m relying on my own power rather than remembering and relying on yours.

Paul writes several books of the Bible from prison, and I’d post all of Ephesians 3 here because it is so rich. But I land briefly here:

Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ. I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning.

10 God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.

12 Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence. 13 So please don’t lose heart because of my trials here. I am suffering for you, so you should feel honored. (Ephesians 3:8-13, NLT, emphasis added)

Paul sees God’s plan even in prison, and accepts that imprisonment is part of the plan. Paul operates from this perspective and truth. He does what God has appointed him to do. That’s some serious kingdom focus.

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21, NLT, emphasis added)

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Kings 10, 11; 2 Timothy 1; Hosea 2; Psalm 119:97-120

28 In this way, Jehu destroyed every trace of Baal worship from Israel. 29 He did not, however, destroy the gold calves at Bethel and Dan, with which Jeroboam son of Nebat had caused Israel to sin.

30 Nonetheless the Lord said to Jehu, “You have done well in following my instructions to destroy the family of Ahab. Therefore, your descendants will be kings of Israel down to the fourth generation.” 31 But Jehu did not obey the Law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He refused to turn from the sins that Jeroboam had led Israel to commit. (2 Kings 10:28-31, NLT)

A nightmarish scene. Merciless slaughter and destruction. He moved through the area with purpose. Taking in the scene with the eyes of a spectator, I’d say he gave it his all. But reading the words that follow, seeing the unseen, I learn that he didn’t. I am frozen by the subtlety of sin that takes refuge in a heart.

14 “But then I will win her back once again.
    I will lead her into the desert
    and speak tenderly to her there.
15 I will return her vineyards to her
    and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope.
She will give herself to me there,
    as she did long ago when she was young,
    when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt.

23 At that time I will plant a crop of Israelites
    and raise them for myself.
I will show love
    to those I called ‘Not loved.’
And to those I called ‘Not my people,’
    I will say, ‘Now you are my people.’
And they will reply, ‘You are our God!’” (Hosea 2:14-15, 23, NLT)

Jezreel–God plants–and the fruit transforms generations. I am touched by his tenderness, his faithfulness, his grace.

I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:5-7, NLT, emphasis added)

Lord, I sit with your words today in deep contemplation. I don’t want to sleepwalk through my life, thinking I’m doing my best and then realize how much I held back (or how much I held onto). Help me to fan into flames the gift you’ve given me, to live in the power, love and self-discipline of the spirit you’ve given me.

105 Your word is a lamp to guide my feet
    and a light for my path. (Psalm 119:105, NLT)

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Samuel 17; Romans 15; Lam. 2; Ps.33

“Don’t worry about this Philistine,” David told Saul.  “I’ll go fight him!” “Don’t be ridiculous!” Saul replied.  “There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth.”  But David persisted.  “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said.  “When a lion and a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from it’s mouth.  If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death.  I have done this to both lions and bears , and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God!”  The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from the Philistine!” 1 Samuel 17:32-37 NLT

I have pictured David’s time as a shepherd being fairly easy.  I never thought of him rescuing lambs and killing lions and bears.  He didn’t know at the time how God was preparing him to fight Goliath. David was ready.  He didn’t let Saul’s lack of faith deter him from what God wanted him to do.

“Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand , and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.  We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength and character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment.  For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:2-4 NLT

Like David, I usually can’t see how my faith was strengthened by a trial until God brings me into another one.  I can look back and draw strength from how God brought me through in the past.  It can be hard for me to find joy in the midst of my pain. I want to  scream, cry, run or avoid it at times.   I am thankful for a God who understands my emotions. I can run to him and  find comfort in knowing that he with me and doesn’t leave my side.

“For the word of the Lord holds true, and we can trust everything he does.  He loves whatever is just and good; the unfailing love of the Lord fills the earth.  The Lord frustrates the plans of the nations and thwarts all their schemes.  But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken.  What joy for the nation whose God is the Lord, whose people he has chosen as his inheritance.  But the Lord watches over those who fear him, those who rely on his unfailing love.  He rescues them from death and keeps them alive in times of famine.  We put our hope in the Lord.  He is our help and our shield.  In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.  Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone” Psalms 33 NLT

Dear Father,  Thank you for your unfailing love.  I rely on your strength when I am weak.  Thank you for giving me your Holy Spirit.  I praise you for who you are.  Amen.

Amy(amyctanner)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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