Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Character Study: Mordecai, Part 2

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Romans 8:28-29

Today, I want to expand a little on the last point I touched on yesterday - that Mordecai was of Jewish nobility. If Mordecai can trace his family line back to King Saul through Jonathan and Mephibosheth, we can see that as evidence of God's mercy even as God's wrath is being expressed. In past studies of the book of Esther, I've learned that Haman the Agagite who sought the destruction of the Jews was descended from Agag the Amelikite whom King Saul spared when he had been commanded to wipe out all of the Amalekites and their sheep and so on. Because of his disobedience, the kingdom is taken away from Saul. Saul's family line is almost completely wiped out. He dies. His sons die. Most of his grandchildren are wiped out too. Eventually a descendant of Agag wansts to wipe out the Jewish people. How fitting is it that Mordecai is descended from Saul's family line. Though Saul disobeyed and lost his kingdom and his actions led to the eventual near genocide of the Jewish people, God through His wisdom and mercy preserved a remnant of Saul's family line to save His people.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Character Study: Mordecai

Today, I'm going to start a bit of a character study of Mordecai whom I had the pleasure of reading about this week as I read through the book of Esther. I've read the book of Esther at least 20 times and always my attention seems to turn to Esther (I know, big surprise). However as I read through Esther this time (as part of my read the entire Bible in year that I've been doing each year for nearly 20 years), a few things about Mordecai jumped out and caught my attention. From the Biblical account, he was quite a man and there is much worth noting about him as well as much worth emulating. So, I'm going to take some time and pore over some of these things this week.

5 Now there was a Jew in Susa the citadel whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, a Benjaminite, 6 who had been carried away from Jerusalem among the captives carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away.

Esther 2:5-6 (ESV)

There's several things I want to note from just this introduction to Mordecai:

  1. He was living in exile - Mordecai was a Jew living in exile in Persia. Though he was living in exile, he still maintained his Jewish identity and remained loyal to God. Much like several others whose lives may have overlapped his (Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego), he remained true to his God even in a foreign land.
  2. He may have been a Persian official - He was living in the citadel and we find out later was found at the city gate. Like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, he had probably been trained as a government official.
  3. His name may have been Babylonian in origin - We remember Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego by their Babylonian names given to them in exile. Though his name may have been a tribute to a Babylonian god named Marduk, we know where his loyalty lay.
  4. He was probably of Jewish nobility - Though the genealogy presented in Esther may contain gaps, it is clear that Mordecai was a Benjaminite descended from the youngest (and second most beloved son) of Jacob. Some Rabbinic literature gives more detailed account of his ancestors showing that he is descended from Kish (mentioned here in Esther) through his son Saul (the first king of Israel) and Jonathan (Saul's son and BFF of David) and his son Mephibosheth. The fact that Mordecai's family was carried away with Jeconiah (King Jehoiachin) may also indicate that he was of the Judean nobility.

Just from his introduction in Esther, we can see that He was probably a notable important man at the time. We will start delving into his character tomorrow.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Complaining

2 And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, 3 and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Exodus 16:2-3 (ESV>

I'll admit it. That sounds like me some of the time. I'll be on my way, following God's lead, and it won't quite be to my liking. So I complain. Most of the time, I won't do it out loud. After all, I don't want to set a bad example. But if you could hear what's going on inside my head (or even inside my heart), you'd hear me yelling like the cranky old man that I am and complaining.

It's so easy really. It's easy for me to focus on something that's going on around me or something that I want that I don't have or something that somebody else is doing that has no bearing on what I need to be doing. I lose my focus and I start to complain. A word to the wise, stay out of my way when I am complaining.

However, if I take time to remind myself of who Jesus is, what He did for me, who I am in Him, and what my ultimate goal is, I stop complaining. I'm glad to say that this is becoming easier - but it's still far from automatic. I need to focus on Him, the Truth, and His Word.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:6 (ESV>

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Friday, September 19, 2014

Selling Yourself: Worship As A Way Of Life

I found this post that has been in draft form for about 7 years. Maybe I'll go ahead and finish it and then finally put it up.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Romans 12:1

I'm guessing that at some point in your life, you've probably been on one end or the other of a sales presentation. Perhaps it was in person at your home or it was over the telephone or through the mail (or even spam email). When considering reputable sales presentations, there are perhaps a few commonalities, which though not universal, that may be ubiquitous enough to consider truths about sales presentations:

  1. The seller had something they thought had value that they were able to offer
  2. The seller had a target audience to which the offer was being presented who had interest in the offer
  3. The seller was seeking to maintain an ongoing relationship with the intended audience

What do I mean by this? Let me illustrate by reflecting on when my wife and I had a new deck built. Each company that came to give us a bid had experience building decks as well as the manpower to build the deck (#1). They were making their sales pitch to someone who owned their own house - not someone who was renting a 10th floor apartment (#2). They were hoping that not only would we choose them to build our deck but also that we might have other projects for them (patio, fence?) and that we would refer neighbors and friends to them if they too wanted a deck built (#3).

So how, then, does this relate to worship? When I read Romans 12:1 and get to the word "present," it made me think of a sales presentation.

What do I have to offer to God in worship? Not just my amazingly adequate bass and guitar playing, but my whole life: my family, my job, my belongings, my activities, my busy time, my "free" time, all of it. It is living sacrifice. I'm presenting it "at the altar" and yet I don't have to kill it, drain the blood, sprinkle the blood, burn it up or any of those other those things that were required in the Old Testament of the various sacrifices and offerings. I sacrifice it and yet it lives on. Not to be a new sacrifice on some other day, but to be continually sacrificed and offered to God. Because of Jesus' death on the cross for my sins, what I am presenting is made holy and acceptable.

Who am I presenting to? I am presenting to God. I know that He will accept it, because He asked for it and He made it acceptable. Of course, I need to remember to "worship in spirit and truth" and make sure that what I am offering is appropriate. I need to keep focused on His Truth as revealed in His Word and to be actively seeking His will. As a good salesman, I need to be remember what it is that my target audience wants from me.

Do I want to maintain an ongoing relationship with God? Absolutely! I am not selling some cheap product. I want my God to use me to bring glory to Himself. I want Him to transform my family, myself, and others around me to be more like His Son. I want to finish my life and hear the words "Well done my good and faithful servant."

So, dear reader, don't sell yourself short, but offer your living sacrifices to God and worship Him in spirit and in truth!

Something to say?

Wow, it's been over two years since I've blogged.  Maybe it's time to clean this place up and get writing again.  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

On Turning 47

Today is my 47th birthday. There isn't anything really auspicious about 47. It's the ultimate answer to life, the universe, and everything PLUS FIVE. I suppose I am now in my late forties rather than my mid forties. As my friend John pointed out (not that I hadn't already noticed), my two favorite baseball teams are in first place in their respective divisions (the Nationals have spent most of the season there, the Orioles just clawed their way back into to a tie for first).
I thought I might turn to the Bible for a little bit of wisdom. Not many of the books of the Bible have 47 chapters so I'll try and pull a little perspective and wisdom out of some of the chapter 47s. First I'll look at Genesis:
And Pharaoh said to Jacob, “How many are the days of the years of your life?”
Genesis 47:8
Well, duh, I'm 47, aren't I? Maybe I can find something in the 47th chapter of Isaiah:
Your nakedness shall be uncovered,
  and your disgrace shall be seen.
I will take vengeance,
  and I will spare no one.
Isaiah 47:3
That was for Babylon not me - right? I really don't want to spend the day naked and disgraced. Keep reading...
Our Redeemer—the Lord of hosts is his name—
  is the Holy One of Israel. 
Isaiah 47:4
A reminder of who God is. That's good. Let me focus more on that today (no disgrace please...)
Sing praises to God, sing praises!
  Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth;
  sing praises with a psalm!
Psalm 47:6-7
47 won't be so bad. So far it doesn't feel any worse than 46. I'll probably be spending some time listening to All About Worship Collective, Volume 4 today. It's got some really wonderful songs on it. I've really loved the 3 prior collections they've release and this one is probably my favorite. If you haven't, you should download it!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The ticking of the clock...

So it's been almost a year since I last posted. What can I say? Obviously not much...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Five Reasons Easter Sunday is better than Superbowl Sunday

  1. Superbowl Sunday: Just one game
    Easter Sunday: At my church, we've got five services! (plus a sunrise service off-site)
  2. Superbowl Sunday: Endless commercial breaks
    Easter Sunday: No commercial interruptions
  3. Superbowl Sunday: Half-time show often features a classic rock act that won't go away
    Easter Sunday: The stone was rolled away! Classic!
  4. Superbowl Sunday: People will be talking about the outcome for days
    Easter Sunday: People have been talking about the outcome for millenia
  5. Superbowl Sunday: Vegas has odds on who will win
    Easter Sunday: We already know who won!

1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words.


Luke 24:1-8 (NIV)

Saturday, January 01, 2011

First post of the year 2011

Good morning. Let me wish all who read this a happy New Year!.

Today, January 1, 2011 is New Years Day and in recognition of the new year, I'd like to commemorate a few firsts of this year.

First Bible reading of the year

Genesis 1 - Genesis 3. Yes, Adam was the first man to wake up and find a woman whose name he didn't know laying next to him! Adam was also the first victim of the age old proverb "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach." Adam was also the first blame shifter and his quote "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate." (Genesis 3:12) gave context millenia later to Marion Barry's epic quote "B*!#h set me up." Way to go Adam! But more hopefully, Genesis 3:15 provides our first promise of a savior!

First songs listened to in the New Year

Yes, I'm a master of putting the iPod on shuffle and then hitting next until I hear a song I want to listen to, but here's the first three songs that I listened to all the way through:

  1. "Praise Him" from Cross-Centered Worship by David L. Ward
    This was also one of the last songs I listened to in 2010 while driving back from the car wash. A good song to start the year with, too!
  2. "Completely Done" from Sons & Daugthers by Sovereign Grace Music
    "The old is gone, the new has come
    What You complete is completely done
    We're heirs with Christ, the victory won
    What You complete is completely done"
    New Years Day seems to be a wonderful time to remember that the old is gone and the new has come!
  3. "The Stand" from Passion: Awakening by Kristian Stanfill
    "What can I say, what can I do, but offer this heart, oh God, completely to you."
    That's my prayer to start this year.

So as 2011 kicks into gear, may God bless you this year!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Flattery

OK, it's been a while since I've posted. I have done some posting on other blogs, but nothing substantial in over four months. Well, this morning as I was reading, a verse struck me that I just had to blog about.

He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.

Daniel 11:32 (ESV)

I realize that I am living outside of the historical context of this prophecy, but nevertheless, I am challenged by it. There is a stark and even dangerous choice presented here and I want to examine that closely.

"...seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant..." This seems to me to be a two-way street. Depending on which translation each half of this comes first sometimes. Violating the covenant may lead to being seduced by flatteries. Being seduced by flatteries may lead to violating the covenant. It's easy to let a simple "Atta boy!" or "Good job" cause your head to swell, isn't it? Let a little pride slip in and it drives a wedge between you and God. It's even easier to swell up with pride if you've already turned your heart away from God. It's one thing to accept kind words of edification, it's another thing entirely to be seduced by them.

...but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action Stand firm and take action sound really good don't they? I think I will stand firm and take action. Isn't that great? Yes it is, thank you! Who's going to stand firm and take action? The people who know their God! This one isn't a two-way street. Standing firm and taking action will not necessarily lead you to knowing God. But, knowing God will lead you to standing firm and taking action. Knowing God is the key to this.

1O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 2You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

    you discern my thoughts from afar.

3You search out my path and my lying down

    and are acquainted with all my ways.

4Even before a word is on my tongue,

    behold, O LORD,

    you know it altogether.

5You hem me in, behind and before,

    and lay your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

    it is high; I cannot attain it.

Psalm 139:1-6 (ESV)

Know God and stand firm and take action or violate the covenant and be seduced by flatteries. The choice shouldn't be that hard. At times it's harder than it should be. Our circumstances may change even though God does not. It's real easy to get distracted. God doesn't change. He causes all things to work together for the good of those that love Him and are called according to His purpose. Know God. Stand firm. Take action. Know God. Know God.