Christianity 201

September 20, 2018

For Such an Evil Time as This

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , ,

by Clarke Dixon

How do we respond when evil threatens to undo us? We see how one young lady responds to the declaration of genocide against her people in the Book of Esther, chapter 3. Esther initially responds to the bad news from Mordecai with fear, and who would blame her? Though going to her husband, the king, might seem like a no-brainer, a certain wrinkle would make anyone think again:

Then Esther spoke to Hathach and gave him a message for Mordecai, saying,  “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—all alike are to be put to death. Only if the king holds out the golden scepter to someone, may that person live. I myself have not been called to come in to the king for thirty days.” Esther 4:10,11

Mordecai provides some further encouragement:

When they told Mordecai what Esther had said,  Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews.  For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” Esther 4:12-14

Esther’s next response is instructive for  when we face evil, whether great or small:

Then Esther said in reply to Mordecai,  “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.”  Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him. Esther 4:15-17

Two things stand out.

First, Courage! Esther commits to making a courageous connection with the one person who can make a difference. “I will go to the king”. Though it might cost Esther her life, she is resolved: “I will go to the king”. Esther knew who could make a difference. “I will go to the king”.

When evil is facing you down do you have the courage to connect with someone who can help, a difference maker? Facing depression? With whom might you need some courage to connect with? Facing addiction, mental illness, financial stress, spiritual darkness, bullying, harassment, abuse, or what have you, who might be your difference maker? Do you have the courage to move, to get up and go to them? Let us pray for courage. Let us follow Esther’s example.

Second, Desperation. Though God is not explicitly mentioned in the Book of Esther, the fasting Esther called for and committed to was a sign of desperation for God. There is a desperation about the situation, which becomes a desperation to connect with God. Fasting is sometimes turned into a very pious thing, “look at what I am willing to go without”. Here in Esther, it is not a sign of piety, but of desperation.  It is the acting out of the petition, “God help us!”. Fasting is a very human thing, something you do naturally in the face of grave evil. Who could eat at such an evil time as this anyway? Are we desperate for a connection with God, the Great Difference Maker? Do we have a desperation for His presence in our lives?

Are we more like a cat or a dog? We adopted a cat once. We filled out all the paperwork and made the commitment to care for this cat and give it a good home. We got the cat home, assuring her that our home was now her home, that we would love her and take good care of her. She looked at us, as cats do, with that expression that says “I suppose I can let you live here with me if you must.” We can be like that with God. He adopts us into His family, giving us the assurance of His love. We respond with “well I suppose you can be in my life if you must”. Dogs on the other hand have a desperation about them. With school having recently resumed our two dogs took up their positions, with no cue from me, at the front door about half an hour before the boys were expected to be home. When the boys came into view, the dogs got to their feet, tails wagging furiously. As they came closer and closer the dogs got crazier and crazier. They were desperate. Dogs have a desperation for their people. Are we like that with God? He is far more to us that we could ever be to any dog.

Do we know we are welcome before the king? Esther had no confidence in approaching the king even though she was his wife. We, however, can have great confidence in approaching the King of kings:

Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God,  let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:19-22

He is not just King of kings, but our Heavenly Father, and, as a recent songs remind us, a “good, good Father”. We know this because of Jesus.

Esther demonstrated courage in connecting with a difference maker and desperation in connecting with The Difference Maker, God. That made all the difference in the world. When we face such an evil time as this, whatever that evil is, it is time for courage in our connection with difference makers, it is time for desperation in our connection with God, the Great Difference Maker.


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada. Listen or download the 35 minute sermon on which this is based: Click here.

Read Clarke Dixon’s blog, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon.

Scripture references are taken from the NRSV

August 27, 2015

The Reward of Sacrificial Following

Today we’re at the website TillHeComes.org and before we jump into the text, here’s the setup from the previous verse:

28Then Peter said, “See, we have left all and followed You.”

Peter’s ears perked up when Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor, and then come follow Jesus. This is very close to what Peter and the other apostles had in fact done.  And so Peter is a little curious. He says, “Hey, we’ve done what you told that rich young ruler to do. We have left everything. We have followed you. What does that mean for us?”

And Jesus, knowing that all of his apostles except Judas truly has believed in him for eternal life tells them what their sacrifice and service will result in. He doesn’t rebuke Peter for asking a selfish question, for it is not a selfish question. There is nothing wrong with seeking the things of God.

Many times we refer to the cost of following Christ, but in Luke 18:29-30, Jesus, replying to Peter, suggests there is also great reward, even reward to be had in this life (“in the present time”) as well as the age to come, which the commentary below emphasizes.  The webpage here — and we’ve linked to Jeremy Myers before — deals with a much longer section, verses 18-30.  To read it all (encouraged!) click on the link below.

Paying the Entrance Fee

29So He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

You see, good works and sacrificial service are very beneficial, but only AFTER one has believed in Jesus for eternal life. They earn reward and privilege and greater responsibility in this life and in the next. It most often will not be financial reward, but spiritual rewards of one sort or another.  And this verse should not and must not be used to justify neglecting your family for ministry. We know when we get married and have children, our first sphere of ministry is in the home. Men, your primary ministry is to your wife and children. If you fulfill that ministry and have time left over, you can serve some at the church. Women, same thing for you and your ministry with your husband and your children.

What Jesus means by talking about leaving parents, brothers, wife and children is to make sure that they are not holding you back from God’s will for your life. Ministering to them is God’s will for your life, but if there ever comes a point where they try to keep you back from doing the rest of God’s will for you life, this is when you must choose to serve God or serve others.  If you choose to serve God, and leave your family for the sake of the kingdom, Jesus says that your reward will be great, both in this age, and in the age to come.

Here Jesus teaches his disciples about reward. He doesn’t rebuke Peter for wondering what he is going to get in heaven. Instead he encourages Peter to keep on serving in the Kingdom of God, because the better you serve, the more reward in heaven you get. It is not selfish to seek the things of God.  We all want more of God in our lives. That is not selfish. We all want to know the Bible better. That is not selfish. We all want God to answer our prayers. That is not selfish. We all want God to be at work more in our lives and to see his hand at work in our presence. That is not selfish.  Neither is it selfish to want riches in heaven, and to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

The rich young ruler, though he came asking about eternal life, revealed that he was only seeking to hold on to his worldly wealth. Peter and the other apostles, after having believed in Jesus for eternal life, gave up their wealth and worldly relationships. As a result, they earned for themselves great reward in heaven.

How great? The Bible tells us that in the Millennial kingdom, the twelve apostles will sit on twelve thrones ruling over the twelve tribes of Israel (Mt. 19:28). Israel will be the greatest nation in the world and will rule over the entire world also, and so the apostles will be some of the twelve most powerful men on the earth during that time. And we are fairly certain that it was Paul who will take the place of Judas.

Now, Luke 19:11-27 tells us that the rest of the world will be divided up and given to faithful servants of God to rule over. That means that you and I, if we are faithful servants, may also be given cities or maybe even countries which Jesus Christ will want us to rule. Not all will rule, some will simply be subjects in the kingdom, and they will be ruled over, rather than be rulers.

Some Christians will be given positions of reward and responsibility for a life lived in faithful service to Jesus Christ. Other Christians will enter the kingdom because they have believed in Jesus for eternal life, but they won’t have much gold, jewels, precious stones or crowns that will be given to them.  We will be talking about eternal rewards a lot more in the weeks to come. Let me just close with this. The lesson from the rich young ruler is that all of us are sinners. If a person is self-righteous like the rich young ruler, the law can be used to shows them that they have indeed offended a holy God.

And once they have seen this, it is much easier to show them that they only way they can be reconciled to God is by the blood of Jesus, through our faith in Him.  But once we have done that, we must make sure we do not stop there, for there are great rewards and blessings in store for those who make service to Christ a top priority. And we’ve seen the two extremes today. One man, the rich young ruler, who didn’t want to give up his riches. And one man, Peter, who gave up all to follow Christ.

Which category do you fall in? Are you seeking the things of this world, where moths and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, or are you seeking after the riches of the world to come? The first may give you momentary pleasure while on this earth, but the second will give you everlasting joy in the kingdom which is to come.