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/

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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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#ForHisGlory


Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? How can I find purpose? When will I find fulfillment in my day-to-day every day routine?

Most folks will at one time or another ask those why, what, how, and when questions.  Rising early, checking off the list, never accomplishing everything I really want and need to do leaves one discouraged, depressed, and defeated.  All those downer words are often the result of rising early, working hard, staying up late and then getting up tomorrow and doing it all over again.

To answer the why, what, how, and when questions means we have to go to the WHO of life.

The answer to WHO is GOD.

Isaiah 43:6b-7 speaks to His why for creating us:

“…Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created  
for my glory,
 whom I formed and made.”
Isaiah 43:6b-7

He created us. He loves us. He longs to have a relationship with us.  He reveals His glory to us so that we can respond with joy and praise to Him.

It’s impossible to love someone you don’t know.  Knowing Him requires spending time with Him.  Knowing Him is the reason we study His Word, the Bible.

My upside down, spinning and turning world is righted. I find due north in Him, the anchor of my soul. When my world is viewed through the lens of His glory, an unfolding narrative begins to take shape.  A tapestry with the thread of His love and His purpose is revealed. I am threaded in. I am part of something that transcends this life.

I was made for more.  I was created for Him. My life and my purpose, the rhythm and routine in the dreary gray day-to-day has been energized and colorized.  I live #ForHisGlory.

When life is full and challenging – especially when life is full and challenging – I must not neglect my daily worship. The more I know Him, the more I love Him. My daily life becomes a continual walking in worship, as my thought life becomes a continual conversation with the One who loved me first and loves me best.

Do you know Him? Do you want to? Let’s have coffee and talk.

 

 

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2017: What’s Your Identity?

All those who were in distress, or in debt or discontented
gathered around him,
and he became their leader…
I Samuel 22:2

David was Israel’s most loved and successful king. He stands alone in Scripture as the one God called, “a man after my own heart.”

Our society may lead us to believe that being a successful coach, president, chairman, pastor, general, or any kind of leader requires a “dream team” of followers.

But look at David’s crew—they are described as being in:

  • Distress
  • Debt
  • Discontent

But when they chose to follow David, they joined a winning team. They would later be called, “David’s mighty warriors.”

Their new identity was wrapped up not in their own past failures,
but in who they chose to follow.

I’m following Christ in 2017.  Are you with me?

Your 2016 may have included some distress (mine sure did). It may have included some unexpected debt (health, appliance failures, kids going to college). Maybe you find yourself just in that general “D” state of discontent for not one reason, but many.

Whatever is bringing you down, it’s time to look up.

Allow 2017 to be the year you choose to fix your eyes on Jesus. The year you choose to give him not a just glance, but a daily glaze:

My eyes are ever on the LORD,
for only he will release my feet from the snare.

Psalm 25:15

I’m ready for a mighty 2017 – how about you?

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2016 Newsletter ~ Merry Christmas from Cross My Heart!

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Remembering Becky…

Last week I attended a service remembering and celebrating the life of my friend Becky. We had been acquaintances for years – friends of the same friends – but I really got to know Becky well when she began attending the Bible study I teach.

I’m so blessed to call her my friend.

She was beautiful, creative, witty, and the best cook ever. Her home and her garden could grace the covers of magazines. When she brought a dish to Bible study, the last poor soul in line was left to try and lick the spoon to get a delectable bite. She was fun and she was funny. (At her request, her obituary ended with her quote, “The shell is here but the nut is gone.”)

But most of all, I remember and honor Becky because she loved people.  She loved her family. She loved her friends. She loved her Lord. She loved us all well.

Her son Jordan stood and recounted how she would always sing, “I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck” as she sent them off. How appropriate that her memorial service ended with this upbeat song.  Enjoy the lyrics here, as you listen to them sung by Doris Day:

A Bushel And A Peck

Then go out (whether you were blessed to know Becky or not) and honor her memory – -and the Lord she loved – by hugging someone you love and telling them:

I love you a bushel and a peck
A bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck

What a joy to know that as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, our dear Becky is with Jesus.

Merry Christmas to you and to those you are blessed to know and love.

 

 

Graphic attribution: www.swtblessings.com

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Making a List


 

 

 

It’s what we do at Christmas –right?

  • The gift list
  • The shopping list
  • The baking list
  • The Christmas card list
  • The decorating list

Some are then broken down into sub-lists.  The shopping list, for example, might be subdivided to grocery shopping, mall shopping, and on-line ordering. The decorating list might be inside and outside.

It’s fun and frenzy. It’s happy and hectic. It’s stressful and sensational. It’s Christmas.

How refreshing to note a list also included in the Christmas passage found in the Gospel of Matthew.

Matthew 1:1 begins:

“A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ…”

And Matthew 1:17 ends:

“… Jesus, who is called Christ.”

The first seventeen verses of the New Testament are devoted to tracing the heritage of Jesus—42 generations in all. Lots of names, some familiar and others not so much.

Is it a coincidence that His name is at the beginning and at the end? He is the alpha and the omega. He is the beginning of our real life – the “life that is truly life” (I Timothy 6:19) – and the end – our “blessed hope” for eternity (Titus 2:13).

We are often told that doing less is more. We are challenged to simplify, eliminate, cut down, and cut back. Create white space. I’ve tried. I can’t.

My solution instead is to keep HIM first and last. To put Jesus at the top of every list. I’m asking the Holy Spirit to give me a Christ-centered focus as I go about shopping, wrapping, decorating, baking, packing, mailing, delivering, cooking, hosting, and every other ing that finds its way to my life and my list.

Go ahead.  Make the lists. Check them and then check them off. But keep Christ at the top – the first and the last – of every list. After all, it’s HIS birthday we are celebrating!

 

Photo attribution: www.clipartkid.com

 

 

 

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“…consider what great things he has done for you.”

thanksgiving-candleAs for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart;
consider what great things he has done for you
.
I Samuel 12:23-24

In Samuel’s farewell speech, he promises to pray for the people. He taught them what was “good and right.” He challenged them to allow what they learned to alter their behavior.

What we believe about God changes how we respond and what we do for God.

As Samuel wrapped up his speech, he called the people to thankfulness as he challenged them to “consider what great things he has done for you.”

That’s still good advice for us today all these years later.

  • Remembering that we owed a debt we could not pay.
  • Remembering that we were captives and He set us free.
  • Remembering that He is a gracious God who gives us what we do not deserve.
  • Remembering that He is a merciful God who does not give us what we do deserve.

Take a little time. Remember. Consider. Be thankful.

Allow gratefulness to settle over you. And then allow it to fill you and fuel you. Allow it to prompt you to praise Him with the Psalmist:

“I will sing to the Lord for he has been good to me.”
Psalm 13:6

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends!

 

 

 

Photo attribution: http://www.drfranklipman.com/help-yourself-to-happier-holidays/

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Time for a U-Turn?

u-turn

With her two daughters-in-law
she left the place where she had been living
and set out on the road
that would take them back to the land of Judah.

Ruth 1:7

After moving to Moab for “awhile,” (see last week’s blog), tragedy strikes Elimelech’s family.  Elimelech dies and then more tragedy as both sons also die.  Naomi, who traveled down the highway to Moab with a family of four is now left alone.  How do you think she feels?  How would you feel – perhaps abandoned by God or forgotten by God?

But Naomi really wasn’t really alone.  She is left with two Moabite daughters-in-law.  Hearing the famine has ended in Bethlehem, she packs up her bags and, along with her two daughters-in-law, heads back home.

Ten years have passed and still Naomi decides to go back.  It is not too late.  Have you made a choice a long time ago and decided that it is too late to turn back?  Is there a relationship that needs to be mended?  Do you need to go back and release forgiveness to someone–or ask for forgiveness from someone?  Has it been 10 years or more?  What forgotten road would God have you travel to make things right?

Sometimes God wants to take us down a brand new road and sometimes He wants us to do a U-turn and go back over a long-forgotten but familiar road.

Would you pause now and ask God:

  • Who do I need to seek out?
  • To whom do I need to release forgiveness?
  • Do I need to make a u-turn?

The Christian life is not about always getting it right, but cultivating a spirit of humility that follows God’s leading to go back and make it right.

For the woman of God it is never too late to go back.

 

You can listen to the audio for Lesson 1 here:
http://fbcsiloam.podbean.com/e/the-book-of-ruth-lesson-1-laura-macfarlan/

 

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The Book of Ruth: How long is a while?

ruth-picWhat is your favorite chick flick – You’ve Got Mail, The Sound of Music, or maybe Meet Me in St Louis?

If your recipe for a great movie or a great story includes a Cinderella-type plot where the poor girl gets the rich guy, also a little gossip, hardship, a scary twist and even a happy ending with a wedding and a baby – then the book of Ruth does not disappoint.

But as we chase the storyline, let’s not miss the big story here.  You see, this is not really a book about Ruth or Boaz or Naomi.  It is really a book about God.  He gets the award for the lead male role in the Book of Ruth.  This is a story of redemption, a story of faith, hope and love. I hope you will read and study along the next few weeks as we journey through the book of Ruth together. I’m praying we all know a little more about our great God as we complete our study and that the Spirit of God uses the Word of God to change us to be more like Him.

The Book of Ruth opens with introducing four characters:  Elimelech, Naomi, Mahlon and Kilion.  The family is originally from Bethlehem but because there is a famine in God’s land, they are leaving God’s people and heading to the country of Moab. Moab had a long history with Israel and it wasn’t good.

Genesis 19 tells that the Moabite nation actually began by an incestuous union between Lot and his oldest daughter.  Lot’s daughters got their father drunk and seduced him in order to preserve the family line.  You see, you don’t necessarily have to watch 21st century TV to find perversion.  Sometimes it is found right here in the Bible.

In Deuteronomy 23:3 God instructs that no Moabite may enter the assembly of the Lord but yet those are the very people Elimelech chooses to live among.

Elimelech and his family were taking a road that would lead them to physical provision to stop their famine problem, but in solving their hunger dilemma they completely disregard the potential spiritual consequences.  The hunger problem may be solved, but it introduces a grave spiritual problem.

Do we do the same thing?  Do we choose to satisfy our short-term needs to be entertained by watching something on television that is inconsistent with God’s standards?  Do we satisfy our needs for friendship by hanging with people who have standards inconsistent with those of God and then adopt those same behaviors into our own lives?  Do we neglect one-on-one time with God using the “I-don’t-have-time-excuse” but yet always seem to have time to shop, do our nails, or check email? What short-term day-to-day decisions are you and I making at the expense of a long-term consequence?  Where do we need to stay the course—even when times are difficult?

Verse 1 tells us that Elimelech intended to live in Moab for a while.  Do you ever tell yourself, “I’ll just hit this news button one time and then I will get up and read my Bible” or “I’ll just watch this decedent TV show for a while and then I’ll turn it off” or “I’ll just visit this web site for a while and then I’ll do what I’m supposed to do.”  Fill in the blank with your life.  Look at Verse 4 – How long did a while turn in to?  10 years. TEN YEARS. The day-to-day choices that we make do indeed define the course of our lives.  We can have all the good intentions in the world, but what we are doing today to become the women of God that he is calling us to be? Where have we gotten off course?  What do you and I need to make a course correction?

 

 

 

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