Rights and Responsibilities

As Americans, we love our rights. We like to quote them. We enjoy living them.

It’s been that way from the beginning. To get the Constitution passed, our Founders even had to concurrently adopt the Bill of Rights.

The right to free speech, free press, bear arms, and a host of others are dear to us. We would fight – -and we have fought – -to preserve these freedoms. Each generation has stepped up, sent men and women into harm’s way, to ensure our freedoms are preserved.

But with a right also comes a responsibility. The right to free speech does not mean we can yell “Fire!” in a movie theater if there is no fire. The right to a free press does not mean falsehood can be published. The right to bear arms does not mean we can recklessly take the life of another.

In a sense rights are really privileges – ones many of us hold dear, while others take for granted.

As followers of Christ and Americans, we enjoy dual citizenship: we are citizens of both heaven and the United States. Both come with privileges and responsibilities. Do we take those seriously? What is the practical application of exercising both?

Psalm 33:12 says:
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD….

I’ve often heard this quoted, as followers lament how America has fallen. We no longer follow God or the Christian principles on which we were founded, many say.

But who is the nation? Is it not the people making it up? All Americans are United States citizens, but not all United States citizens are also citizens of heaven. Only those with dual citizenship follow God and call Him LORD. How can we, as followers of Christ, expect unbelievers to behave as believers? The better question is: Do we behave as citizens of heaven? Do we do our part individually to live out Psalm 33:12? Is God Almighty the LORD of my life and yours?

As I listen to the news, read the headlines, and see the chasm growing wider between those who call Him Lord and those who don’t, the thought comes to me: It’s on us. We, as believers, bear the responsibility for what we see happening. Here are some challenging questions I’m wrestling with this Independence Day:

  • Does my life – my thoughts, words, attitudes, actions – reveal that God is the LORD?
  • Is anger and criticism my first response to legislation and legislators?
  • Do I pray for those in authority over me?
  • What have I done to promote dual citizenship – am I praying, sharing the gospel, loving on those who do not know Jesus?

When Benjamin Franklin stepped outside the Philadelphia courthouse during the Constitutional Convention, a woman asked, “What kind of government have you given us, Mr. Franklin?”

His response: “A republic madam. If you can keep it.”

America is 241 years old today and that truth still rings true. Can we keep it? Can we continue to exist as a democratic republic? I believe that hinges on accepting the responsibilities that come with our rights.

And for those of us with dual citizenship, we have additional responsibilities. As we fly our flags, enjoy our fireworks, and grill our burgers today, let’s also be challenged to step up our commitment to behave like we believe: Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.

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Book Review: Start With Amen

I first met Allen and Ruth Ewing when my husband Kevin and I (young marrieds at the time) were part of the small group they were leading at our church. Ruth was a special mentor to me. Her quiet, gentle spirit, ever-ready smile, and love for our Lord and His Word drew me in and made her a safe go-to person for questions young moms have. Her success as a mom was clear to me then and is even more evident now as I devour this book written by her now-grown-up daughter, Beth (Ewing) Guckenberger.

Beth drew me in right away with this dedication:

To my mom, Ruth Ewing:
I have a thousand memories of your Bible open on
our kitchen table. Thank you for teaching me about
the rock from which I was cut. After a lifetime of
your influence, I know for sure: presence matters.

Well done, Beth. And well done, Ruth!

The Word of God is powerful. A mother’s faithful devotion to God’s Word does not return void.  I hope that spurs you on as it does me. And we haven’t even gotten to the book yet!

Start With Amen, was a treasure and a delight. Beth is a master storyteller and weaves in firsthand experiences as she unpacks biblical truth. Her unique way of praying is the thread woven throughout. She flips our rote prayers on end – and begins with amen.

Amen means,  So be it. By starting with amen, Beth teaches us to begin our prayers by agreeing with God. We are essentially affirming who He is, aligning ourselves with His plan, His way, and His will.

For me, praying this way has brought on a spiritual re-alignment. As I’ve cultivated this new way of praying, it has settled and redirected me. My prayer life has been transformed in many ways:

  1. Opening with amen reminds me of who He is and who I am not! God is still very personal, but this brings on a heightened sense of reverence as I approach God.
  2. Opening with amen has changed the content of my prayers. It’s prompted me to pray less selfishly and more eternally.
  3. Opening with amen stirs my heart to be open to answers different than what I wanted or expected.
  4. Opening with amen helps me end on a personal level: Dear Jesus.

Beth and her husband Todd served for several years on the mission field in Mexico. They have fostered/given birth to/adopted ten children! Many of her joys and challenges are interspersed. Her transparency is refreshing and her passion for Jesus inspiring.  She makes scripture come alive and demonstrates what it looks like lived out loud.

I highly recommend this remarkable book!

You can order your copy here:  Start With Amen

 

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Write the Word: REST

REST.

Are you in need of it? Do you make it a priority?

What does it look like in your life? Does the word REST bring to mind an afternoon nap or a week to bake at the beach?

I’ve been blogging at AReasonForHomeschool.com and I think my Cross My Heart readers might enjoy my Sunday Soaking blog posts. The topic for June is REST.

You can also download a free printable bookmark here: http://areasonforhomeschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/WritetheWord_bookmark.pdf

It’s part of my first monthly series called, Write the Word. Each month a different key word is chosen and a month of daily verses is provided that include the word for that month. Hope you will consider using these daily verses to prompt some thinking/praying/journaling on God’s Word.

And, as an added bonus, leave a comment on the AReasonForHomeschool blog post and be entered into a drawing for a free Dayspring journal.

Hope this summer finds you pressing into Jesus for soul rest, sabbath rest, and physical rest.

If you know Christ, you’ve found the ultimate REST that will bring eternal reward!

 

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He Has Risen!

It was the women who showed up first thing Sunday morning. They were rewarded by being the first to hear the news:

He is not here;
He is risen, just as he said.
Matthew 28:6

The angel made it clear: He called it and He did it. The body was not stolen or moved.  He is no longer dead. He is alive!

We serve a risen Savior!

Friday’s death brought mourning, but Sunday’s resurrection is part of the “mystery of Christ” referred to by Paul:

  • Incarnation:        God became man
  • Substitution:      God paid our bill
  • Salvation:            We trade up – -our junk for His glory
  • Resurrection:     He is alive!

The words of Matthew 28:6 prompted Alfred Henry Ackley to pen these worshipful lyrics:

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.

The reality that He lives changes everything.

  • Christianity is not just a club of happy smilers encouraging each other to play nice.
  • Christianity is not just about changing behavior to be a good person today.
  • Christianity is not just about being the best you can be.

It’s about truth. Life. Eternity.

We may indeed play nice, change our behavior, and transform into a better person – but it’s all the result of a heart change from the inside out. It’s not a manufactured, buckle-down-and-do-it outer change. It’s an overflow.  It’s a natural by-product of a transformed heart. And it all happens because He is risen!

  • Because He is risen, the tables are turned. Death is not the end. Death does not win.
  • Because He is risen, Friday’s dirge becomes Sunday’s party.
  • Because He is risen, I have confident assurance for eternity.
  • Because He is risen, I choose Him. I live for Him. I am His.

Why serve a dead god when you can serve a risen Savior?

Because He is risen, I celebrate Him. Forget 1999 – let’s party like it’s Easter morning.

He has risen indeed!

Photo attribution: http://static.kidspot.com.au/cm_assets/73309/istock_000056892658_medium-20160114154603.jpg~q75,dx720y432u1r1gg,c–.jpg

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Take a Little Time

 

On the third day…
Esther 5:1a

Esther chose to deal with the crisis in her world by taking time to fast and pray. Esther not only prayed … she prayed for three days.

The edict has gone out.  This is CRISIS mode! But rather than just shooting up a quick arrow prayer, Esther makes time to do the real work of prayer – for three days.

These words by Oswald Chambers were uttered hundreds of years after Esther lived:

Prayer is not a preparation for work, it IS work.
Prayer is not a preparation for the battle, it IS the battle.
Prayer is two-fold: definite asking and definite waiting to receive.

I think Esther and Oswald were on the same page where prayer was concerned.

Esther took not three seconds…or three minutes…or even three hours to pray.

She prayed for THREE DAYS.

She was a young woman.  Her life and the lives of her people are threatened and her actions can impact whether they live or whether they die – and whether her own young life is cut short.   Surely she was afraid.  Certainly she was concerned about saying and doing the right thing.  She presented all that emotion…all that fear…concern…trouble and trepidation….she gave it all to God.

Psalm 56:3-4 says:

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?

There are layers of truth in this powerful Psalm. Do you see them?

The antidote for fear – is prayer.  We come to God with our fears.  We place our trust in HIM – not in our own abilities, not in the advice of a self-help book, or the answer to a survey question on Facebook.

Our trust is in HIM and in HIS WORD.  Cultivating a habit of daily Bible study– saturating ourselves in the Word of God —  is actually preparation for the difficult times that will surely come.  God’s Word is foundational to responding well, to surviving and thriving through hard times.

And do you see the word PRAISE embedded here? Really? Praise? Is it weird – is it even possible to praise God in a fearful situation? Yes.  Yes it is.  And as we press in to Him in prayer, a quiet calm and peaceful assurance will come over us.  A peace that the world cannot give and does not even understand.  The peace that is the fruit of the spirit.  Peace that can only come from God.  The peace that in Philippians 4:6-7 Paul called the peace which transcends all understanding. 

Are you facing a hard thing—a difficult decision, a troubling circumstance, a rough road? Have you prayed? Will you choose to take time – -to make time – to really pray?

The woman of God prays first.

Before she does anything else – she prays! She knows prayer is the preparation for the crisis.

Prayer may change the situation or it may change us.  Sometimes God calms the storm, but sometimes He just calms the believer in the midst of the storm.

After three days, nothing had really changed on the outside for Esther.  The edict was still in place.  The king had still not called for her.  Haman has not repented or turned from his wicked ways. The annihilation of God’s people is still scheduled.

And as you and I complete our own prayers and say amen and rise to our feet – -the cancer may still be there, the marriage is still hard, the stack of bills is still unpaid, the addiction challenges are ever present, the prodigal child is still out there.

But we are changed. We are steadfast and resolute.  We have the peace that passes understanding. Our hearts are aligned with His. And we may even have a new plan or a new insight.

Esther’s situation had not changed when she said Amen.

But Esther is changed.  She is ready to go forth.  She has a plan and I believe that plan was given by God as she took time to pray.  Are you ready to take a little time today…to pray?

 

You can hear the entire teaching lecture for Esther Lesson 4 here:

https://fbcsiloam.podbean.com/e/esther-lesson-4-laura-macfarlan/

 

 

Photo attribution:
https://www.pexels.com/photo/black-and-white-alarm-clock-at-2-34-38267/

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For Such a Time as This

God’s name is not mentioned by Mordecai in his words to Esther, but God’s Sovereignty and His provision are clearly evident.  Mordecai’s faith in God Almighty is steadfast.  He has confident hope that God will provide.  The only question is: does Esther choose to be part of the blessing?

Will she see that all the events and circumstances of her life have been orchestrated to have her in this position for this specific time and this opportunity?

There are many cautions in scripture about speaking rashly, gossiping, criticizing, and letting nothing unholy come out of our mouths.

The sin of commission is easy to identify and I have many times needed to apologize for my words.  (You know – once uttered, words are like the proverbial toothpaste in the tube – -hard, if not impossible, to put back).  Once uttered, our words are out there and can’t be pulled back in.

But this passage addresses our sin of omission when it comes to our words.  Just as it is sinful to speak when we should be silent, so it can be sinful to remain silent when God is calling us to speak.

  • Are you and I holding back a word of praise or affirmation that needs to be released to encourage another?
  • Are we shirking on our responsibilities as mothers to use words to discipline or correct our children?
  • Are there words of kindness or sympathy that we need to make time to share?
  • Are there words of truth that need uttered when the character or reputation of another are being maligned?

God orchestrates opportunities for us to speak up and it is our responsibility to rise up in obedience – to respond as He prompts in a way that is Spirit-led and God-honoring.

Esther faced a dilemma that many of us face when God provides such an opportunity.  Rather than our physical life perishing (which was the very real possibility for Esther), for you and me it might be death to a relationship, a position, or it might invite criticism we would not welcome.

  • When your girlfriend begins to complain about her husband, might you encourage her to pray for him…or ask her if she could identify five positive things about him she is grateful for?
  • When a group of friends begins to gossip about another friend, might you have the courage to speak up and vouch for the one being condemned?
  • When conversations are going south, might you have the courage to change the subject?

Are we willing to take a chance on our popularity perishing among our group of friends?

Sometimes being quiet is a hard thing, but sometimes speaking up can be even harder.

Are you and I open to seeing our presence in every conversation and situation as a for such a time as this opportunity?

Esther’s response shows again she is the star shining brightly in a dark place at a dark time.  She demonstrates that she learned well from her cousin and father-figure Mordecai.  Here’s her reply to him:

Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me.
 Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day.
 I and my attendants will fast as you do.
 When this is done, I will go to the king,
 even though it is against the law.
 And if I perish, I perish.
Esther 4:15-16

We know that in Scripture, fasting and praying go hand in hand. The commentators I read agree that this is a call to pray.

Esther is taking this battle very seriously.  She is stepping up to be a warrior woman.  She is calling everyone to pray on her behalf.  All the Jews in Susa – those outside the palace are to pray. And inside – Esther and her attendants will do the same.

I’m guessing that most likely her attendants are not Jewish, so reading between the lines, it would seem that Esther’s faith has made an impact on those who serve her. She is living as a woman of God –allowing her faith in Him to shine brightly in this dark place.

She is resigned to what she must do. But she is convicted that before she goes, she must prepare by spending time in prayer.

Her final words – –If I perish, I perish — are in essence an AMEN.  A so be it.  A confident faith that she is placing her life in God’s hands.

Her choice to go to the king may result in her death.  She knows this.  So how does she prepare – order her favorite last meal? Call for more beauty treatments or order a new dress or lingerie? Does she spend time having a good cry?

She does none of that. She prays! She woman’s up and she gets down on her knees.

I pray that you and I would respond the same in a time of crisis.  God can use a crisis to create revival in us individually and in our community.  Trouble is a revealer.  It proves our faith genuine.

Only a woman of faith can say, “If I perish I perish.”

Paul may have written these words long after Esther’s time, but I think she not only believed them, but lived them:

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,
since what is seen is temporary,
 but what is unseen is eternal.
II Corinthians 4:18

The woman of God fixes her eyes on what is unseen.

It is prayer that brings on that eternal vision.  It is through prayer that we are prepared for battle.

As we begin to cultivate a habit of prayer and strengthen our prayer muscles, we can be sure that God will provide – or life will bring – opportunities for the application of prayer.

You can listen to the entire teaching lecture for Esther Lesson 3 here:

http://fbcsiloam.podbean.com/e/esther-lesson-3-laura-macfarlan/

 

PS If you need to order something from Amazon anyway, please consider using the link below. 

Amazon is celebrating its #1 ranking in customer satisfaction by the ACSI! Today, March 16, Amazon will donate 5% (10 times the usual donation rate) of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to Cross My Heart Ministry.
Get started at smile.amazon.com/ch/46-4702149

 

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Esther: Shining In A Dark Place

Esther’s name means star.

Verse 7 describes her as “..lovely in form and features ..”

She is beautiful, but most likely all the girls brought to the palace are beautiful.  What makes Esther different? Why does she stand out from the others?

Esther is put under the care of Hegai, the manager of the harem.  As a eunuch, he would have been forced to give up much to serve the king.  Perhaps many of these girls treated him as a servant or possibly as less than a man.  Maybe they  even disrespected him or made fun of him behind his back.

But Esther somehow earned his favor.  Perhaps just by honoring him with respect and kindness.  We can’t know for sure, but we do know from verse 9, She pleased him and won his favor. And from verse 15, “When the turn came for Esther … to go to the king, she asked for nothing other than what Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the harem, suggested…”

She followed the advice of Hegai and it paid off.  Not only with those looking on…but with the one who really mattered. The King. He chooses Esther above all the others to be his queen.

Esther’s coronation is the direct result of her teachable spirit.  She chose to listen and learn from Hegai – the eunuch – someone others would possibly dismiss.

If you want to know how to please your new boss, his secretary is a good source of information.  The janitors, the cooks, the housekeepers of this world tend to know way more about what goes on in any organization than some in upper level management.  We can learn from all people – not just those in a high position of authority and importance.

The book of Proverbs is chocked full of scripture on the topic of wisdom and listening to advice and learning:

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Proverbs 1:8

Listen to advice and accept instruction and in the end you will be wise. Proverbs 19:20

Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning. Proverbs 9:9

Our teachable spirits mean we learn from others, we learn from his Word, and we even learn from the decisions we make and life’s experiences – the good ones AND the bad ones. We are to be life-long learners.

The one thing that hinders us from learning is pride.  Thinking we know best and we’ve got it all figured out means we don’t learn from the Hegais in our world.  Proverbs 11:2 gives this warning:

When pride comes, then comes disgrace,but with humility comes wisdom. Proverbs 11:2

The woman of God has a teachable spirit.

Does that describe you? Would you pray that it would?

 

You can listen to the audio teaching on Esther by clicking on the links below.

Introduction:  http://fbcsiloam.podbean.com/e/esther-bible-study-introduction/

Lesson 1:  http://fbcsiloam.podbean.com/e/esther-lesson-1-laura-macfarlan/

Lesson 2:  http://fbcsiloam.podbean.com/e/esther-lesson-2-laura-macfarlan/

 

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Runway or Running Away?

This is the first Miss America, Margaret Gorman.  She was crowned in 1921. Check out that crown!

The Miss America Pageant was originally a “Fall Frolic” – an event launched by local Atlantic City businessmen in 1921 as a gimmick to extend the summer season.

Since that time The Miss America Organization has expanded to include not only swimsuit, but evening gown, talent, interview competitions – and millions of dollars in scholarship money each year.  Representatives from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia compete for the coveted national title.

Perhaps you watched the 2017 Miss America competition where Arkansas’ own Savvy Shields from Fayetteville was crowned Miss America!

Many of us probably can pull up memories of being nine years old, watching the pageant with our mom or grandma and dreaming, “Could that be me?” A lot has changed since you and I were nine. Beauty queens get to walk the runway–waving to adoring fans and supporters—but  life for many of us brings a desire to run away from it all.

A first read of Esther Chapter 2 might stir up memories of watching the Miss America pageant. Perhaps you even closed your eyes and could almost hear Bert Parks singing, There She is…Miss America.

But a closer reading of the text and a deeper understanding of the Persian culture means that if we are looking for a modern day analogy, the Miss America Pageant might not be the best comparison. Continue reading

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Protection from Pride

For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom
and the splendor and glory of his majesty.
Esther 1:4

Do you see the pride dripping from those words?

If we were playing The 25,000 Pyramid and the category was King Xerxes Banquet, we would use words like:

  • Lavish
  • Elegant
  • Extravagant
  • Excessive
  • Unrestrained

You learn a lot about a man – or a woman – by the way he or she entertains guests.  Xerxes is all about showing off what he has got.  He is rich, pompous, arrogant, and prideful.

The Psalmist conveys this caution regarding pride:

For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much
to detect or hate his sin.
Psalm 36:2

Do you see the truth here? Pride has us so self-focused and self-absorbed that we can’t even sometimes make a course correction. We believe we are always right–that our ideas and our ways are always the best and everybody else is wrong.

Our flattery of ourselves renders us unable to see our own sin – -much less acknowledge it, hate it, confess it, and repent of it.

The antidote for pride is worship.  Coming into the presence of God reveals clearly who we are and who we are not…and who He is.  Our daily time with Him…our choice to stay tethered to Him continuously…to walk in worship …is our protection against the insidious and destructive nature of pride.

We must, as women of God, make time.  We must allow room for the Spirit of God to take the Word of God and lovingly, kindly but also specifically and truthfully show us His truth and His way.  We were created for HIS GLORY.  As we place ourselves in His presence daily and as we put ourselves in a position to hear from HIM, we are protected from pride – protected from the addiction to self. We are equipped to live for HIS glory and not our own.  We are able to respond in humility and not pride to life’s situations and challenges.

The woman of God is protected from pride as she worships God.

Pride is the root of Xerxes problems, but pride doesn’t have to be our problem.  Our worship of God can release us from its hold.

You can listen to the entire teaching lecture for Esther chapter 1 here:

http://fbcsiloam.podbean.com/e/esther-lesson-1-laura-macfarlan/

Posted in #ForHisGlory, Esther | 1 Comment

Esther: God’s Great Provision

We are studying Esther this semester in the Bible study I teach locally and you are invited to join along! You can do so by:

The theme of this book is the providence of God in the preservation of His people.  It’s interesting to note that God’s name is never mentioned in the book of Esther, but God’s hand is all over it.

The heroine of this book which also bears her name has been made queen. At first glance the book of Esther reads like a Cinderella story.  The king’s men are sent throughout the kingdom to find all the young girls and bring them to the palace. All would be given beauty treatments and one would be made queen. But then a more detailed reading reveals these girls were not really given a choice upon being recruited.  They become part of the king’s harem and are essentially concubines.

Life for our heroine, the poor little Jewish girl who becomes queen, really is not a fairy tale.  She is married to a man who could have her killed just for coming into his presence without being summoned.

Her Jewish heritage is at first kept secret. An orphan, she had been raised by her older cousin, Mordecai. When an edict is issued to annihilate the Jews, he sends word for her to act.

The enemy of God has worked throughout history to annihilate God’s people –the Hitler of the 21st century was not the first.

Esther’s understandable reluctance is answered by Mordecai. His words are found in Esther 4:14 and they are the key verse for our study in the book of Esther:

For if you remain silent at this time,
relief and deliverance for the Jews
will arise from another place,
but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that
you have come to royal position
 for such a time as this?
Esther 4:14

God’s unfolding promise to bless the world through the Jewish people to Abram back in Genesis 12 was not forgotten.

God is faithful to keep His Word.  The Hamans and Hitlers of the world don’t’ stand a chance against the true living God.

Mordecai’s words confirm his confident belief in God: relief and deliverance for the Jews will be provided. The question is, “Esther, are you going to choose to be part of it? Are you going to get to be part of this blessing – or will God choose someone else for it?  Perhaps you were even brought to this position for such a time as this!”

Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham.  He is the blessing to the world who made eternal life possible for all with His once and for all sacrifice.  If you claim Jesus as your Savior, you are part of the blessing promised to Abraham.  Our identity in Christ means we are grafted in!

And that means  are also blessed with “such a time as this” opportunities, as well!

Do we see them? Acknowledge them? Do we eagerly look for the doors God opens and walk on through? Or do we stay seated and allow God to allow someone else to claim the blessing He intended for us?

God was not in heaven wringing His hands and thinking, “Oh no – whatever will I do if Esther doesn’t step up? Years of planning wasted…my people are goners… the lineage for Jesus to be born will be eliminated….” NO! Of course not! God is God! He is almighty and all powerful! He will have His way!

He doesn’t need us – He allows us to be used by Him.  He loves us and wants to draw us into what He is doing. This is not duty, but delight! This is not have to, but want to! Are you all in?

The link to the entire Introductory lecture on Esther can be found here:

http://fbcsiloam.podbean.com/e/esther-bible-study-introduction/

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