Tag Archives: suffering

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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Filed under 5 day reading plan, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan

Jeremiah 8-10; 2 Corinthians 11

If I were to sum up a theme in these readings, it would be a warning about false teachings.

You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed. (2 Corinthians 11:4, NLT)

What of the false teacher? What is deceit’s disguise?

14 But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15, NLT)

A deceiver knows how to disguise and hide. Some disguised themselves as apostles of Christ. That’s tricky. Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. We are told this for a reason. Bad intentions can sport good appearances.

But what of truth? Shouldn’t truth have an easy road? After all, it is right and pure. If Paul’s story is any example of trying to bring truth to light, that road is far from comfortable. For example, he:

  • worked harder
  • was put in prison more often
  • was whipped times without number
  • faced death again and again
  • 5 different times the Jewish leaders gave him 39 lashes
  • 3 times he was beaten with rods
  • he was stoned
  • 3 times he was shipwrecked
  • he spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea
  • he traveled on many long journeys
  • he faced danger from rivers
  • he faced danger from from robbers
  • he faced danger from his own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles
  • he faced danger in the cities, and in the deserts, and on the seas
  • he faced danger from men who claimed to be believers but were not
  • he worked hard and long
  • he endured many sleepless nights
  • he was hungry and thirsty
  • he often went without food
  • he shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep him warm (from 2 Corinthians 11:23b-27, NLT)

I read the account again, and this time, I imagine standing next to him. Working. Whipped. Shipwrecked. Facing danger–again and again. Exhausted. Hungry. Thirsty. Cold. And when I read it again, I look into the eyes of other prisoners, assailants holding whips and rocks, intimidating authorities, forceful robbers, a shunning community, even the ones who claimed to be believers. Paul’s not telling a passing story of what he did over the weekend. He’s telling a story of how he faced the extreme pressure to abandon the truth and abolish his faith.

I am ever more grateful for these words in my hands. Grateful for all the people who came before me, speaking and preserving truth, so that I could know Jesus and live. I will never know all that it cost them. But I know if they hadn’t persevered, my ignorance would have cost me my life.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 2 Corinthians, 5 day reading plan, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, New Testament

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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Filed under 1 Samuel, Lamentations, Psalms, Romans, Uncategorized

1 Samuel 1; Romans 1; Jeremiah 39; Psalms 13,14

“Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord.  And she made this vow: “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you.  He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut.  I am the very woman who stood here several years ago praying to the Lord.  I asked the Lord to give me this boy, and he has granted my request.  Now I am giving him the Lord, and he will belong to the Lord his whole life.” And they worshiped the Lord there.” 1 Samuel 1:10&11; 26-28 NLT

I can understand Hannah’s desire for a child.  And the hopelessness I felt after having two miscarriages.  Now we have a total of four kids.  There have been other times when I didn’t understand what God was doing.  I’ve prayed prayers like the one that David did in Psalms…

“O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand? Turn and answer me, O Lord my God! Restore the sparkle in my eyes, or I will die.  Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.  But I trust in your unfailing love.  I will rejoice because you have rescued me.  I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me.” Psalms 13:1-6 NLT

Waiting on God can cause me to get weary.  I am grateful for others that encourage me in my faith, even when I don’t realize I need it. A friend stopped by the other day and dropped off a note and a gift she made for me. Her thoughtfulness lifted my burden and gave me the strength to get up again.

“When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.  For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ.  It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes-the Jew first and also the Gentile.  This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight.  This is accomplished from start to finish by faith.  As Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” Romans 1:12-17 NLT

Dear Father, Thank you for your faithfulness.  For hearing my prayers.  Help me to listen to your prodding, to encourage someone else when they need it.  Give me the courage to share my story with those that need to hear it.  Amen.

“Who will come from Mount Zion to rescue Israel? When the Lord restores his people, Jacob will shout with joy, and Israel will rejoice.” Psalms 14:7 NLT

Amy(amyctanner)

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Filed under 1 Samuel, Jeremiah, Psalms, Romans, Uncategorized

Deut 21; Psalms 108,109; Isaiah 48; Rev 18

“She bought great quantities of gold, silver, jewels, and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk, and scarlet cloth; things made of fragrant thyine wood, ivory goods, and objects made of expensive wood; and bronze, iron, and marble.  She also bought cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, olive oil, fine flur, wheat, cattle, sheep, horses, wagons, and bodies-that is, human slaves.  “The fancy things you loved so much are gone,” they cry.  “All your luxuries and splendor are gone forever, never to be yours again.” Revelation 18:12-14 NLT

Reading through this list of luxuries, I think about the wise men giving the frankincense and myrrh to Jesus.  I look into my own heart.  How is it like Babylon? What am I grasping onto for myself?  Am I looking to others for what they can do for me? Or am I genuinely loving them like Jesus?

“This is what the Lord says-your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow.  Oh, that you had listened to my commands! Then you would have had peace flowing like a gentle river and righteousness rolling over you like waves in the sea.  Your descendants would have been like the sands along the seashore-too many to count!” Isaiah 48:17-19 NLT

What am I looking to for fulfillment? I don’t want to miss out on spiritual blessings, because I am so consumed with the things of this world.  And hold on to them so tightly that it becomes an idol…forgetting that it is all His anyway.

“My heart is confident in you, O God; no wonder I can sing your praises with all my heart! Wake up, lyre and harp! I will wake the dawn with my song.  I will thank you, Lord, among all the people.  I will sing your praises among the nations.  For your unfailing love is higher than the heavens.  Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.  Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens.  May your glory shine over all the earth.  Now rescue your beloved people.  Answer and save us by your power.  Oh, please help us against our enemies, for all human help is useless.  With God’s help we will do mighty things, for he will trample down our foes.” Psalms 108:1-13 NLT

Dear Father, I want to have a grateful heart.  Thank you for all the ways you have provided for me.  I desire to be a good steward of your gifts.  Give me eyes to see your beauty all around me.  Help me to have an eternal perspective.  You get the glory. Amen.

Amy(amyctanner)

 

 

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Filed under Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Psalms, Revelation, Uncategorized