Don't you wish that life had only happiness and no sadness? Even though his wife was battling cancer at the time, Bob Ross explains why darkness has value.
When you find yourself in a position to make a difference, you have a choice to make.In Esther 4, Mordecai encouraged Queen Esther, who was Jewish and his own cousin, to appeal to the Persian King Ahaseurus to spare the lives of the Jewish people. The Jews were threatened with extinction due to the hatred of one of the king's officials, Haman. Only an edict from the king could stop the wicked plan from being executed.
Esther, however, was scared. If she entered the presence of the king without being invited—even though he was her own husband—she faced the possibility of being executed herself. Mordecai reminded her that because she was a Jew, she was also in danger of Haman's wrath. And then he added these words of hope: "And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14).
Esther was convinced. She now believed that the unseen Lord was quietly orchestrating the events in her life so that she could make a difference. Esther chose to act, and the Jewish people were saved.
There are two questions that deserve reflection today. The first is this: Where has God placed you to make a difference? In other words, define your sphere of influence. Who can you persuade, convince, or nudge? Whose life can you impact with your words or actions?
Once you can answer the first question, the second becomes clear: What choice will you make? What will you say that can encourage faith, give hope, or express love? What can you do that will change someone's life?
Perhaps you have been placed where you are "for such a time as this."
In Deuteronomy 26, the nation of Israel received instructions about what they should do after they entered the Promised Land. Once they arrived at the land which God gave each tribe and family, they were to plant their crops. When the harvest came, they were to go to the place where the Lord would establish his name and give an offering of the firstfruits of their harvest. They would accompany their offering with these words: "Now behold, I have brought the first of the produce of the ground which You, O Lord, have given me" (Deuteronomy 26:10).
In 2012, the Lord gave me new soil from which I was to bring him a harvest. The church was called Cotton Ridge. It began in 2010 when a group of hurting believers joined together to seek God's healing and see what the Lord would do. Through a unique set of circumstances, this small congregation in a small west Texas town seemed destined to invest its resources not in property, buildings, and other temporary things, but in people. For over six years it supported orphans, ministered to widows, rebuilt homes for the needy, fed the hungry, prayed for the sick, witnessed to the lost, and baptized those who wished to follow Jesus. The church was able to accomplish all of this without ever owning a building, a kitchen, or even a baptistery because the people believed a very fundamental truth: people are the church.
The Lord has now shown the church's members that the most effective way to serve God's kingdom is to take that same spirit and belief into other welcoming congregations in the community. Our final worship service together was a commissioning service to carry out that goal. The only thing Cotton Ridge leaves behind is that which lasts forever: changed lives.
As for me, I believe that the Lord is preparing new soil in which I will plant my life and ministry. My offering to the Lord as a pastor will result in a harvest that is accompanied by the same words spoken by Israel: "Now behold, I have brought the first of the produce of the ground which You, O Lord, have given me."
The Lord gives us both the soil and the harvest. We must do the work.
The tenth chapter of the biblical Book of Ezra begins this way:
"While Ezra prayed and made this confession, weeping and lying face down on the ground in front of the Temple of God, a very large crowd of people from Israel—men, women, and children—gathered and wept bitterly with him. Then Shecaniah son of Jehiel, a descendant of Elam, said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God, for we have married these pagan women of the land. But in spite of this there is hope for Israel. Let us now make a covenant with our God to divorce our pagan wives and to send them away with their children. We will follow the advice given by you and by the others who respect the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law of God. Get up, for it is your duty to tell us how to proceed in setting things straight. We are behind you, so be strong and take action” (Ezra 10:1-4).
The longing of every true and faithful servant of God's people is to lead a repentant congregation that stands ready "to proceed in setting things straight." Repentance, however, is rare in our day.
Repentance is dependent on at least three factors being present within us:
We must be willing to examine our lives according to God's standards.
We must be willing to be humbled.
We must be willing to pay the cost of setting our past errors straight and living life God's way from this point forward.
Are we willing to repent? If so, God will visit us and heal us.
Two weeks after U.S. Soccer announced that their men's and women's teams will be wearing rainbow-colored jerseys in support of gay pride month in June, one player has removed herself from the team.
Jaelene Hinkle has seemingly taken a very unpopular stand on a hot-button issue. I say seemingly because she has simply stated "personal reasons" for her decision.
From what outsiders such as myself can determine, Ms. Hinkle is a Christian woman with deep convictions. Her self-removal from the team gives every appearance that she followed her principles when presented with the following scenario: The team made a decision that would require her to violate her convictions. In response, she quietly and voluntarily removed herself from the team.
It is notable that Ms. Hinkle did not blame anyone for the decision, nor did she try to come across as a victim. She did not blast out on social media her reasons for leaving the team. She simply stated "personal reasons," even when pressed to expand on her answer.
The manner in which we respond to others is often as important as our beliefs. Ms. Hinkle seems to understand this. Here are some lessons we can learn from her:
No one can cause you to violate your convictions.
Sometimes the most powerful witness is a quiet one.
Season your courage with kindness.
What convictions are important reflections of your faith? If a situation arises in which you are asked to set them aside, how will you respond?
Today I had the distinct pleasure to meet and listen to Rabbi Daniel Lapin. He was in Dallas to honor the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War.
In that war, Israel was very much outmanned and outgunned. The old city of Jerusalem had been captured by Jordan during Israel's war of independence in 1948. As a result, synagogues were destroyed and Jews were forbidden from visiting their holy sites.
Almost twenty years later, the forces of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria were ready to strike in an effort to wipe Israel off the map. But Israel made a surprise preemptive strike, and the Lord provided miracle after miracle to keep the young nation in tact.
Importantly, Jerusalem was freed and unified. Israel quickly allowed people of any faith—Jew, Christian, and Muslim—to practice their religion freely in the city.
Today, Israel is a land with no oil, not enough water, and many enemies around the world. Yet it stands as a model of liberty and prosperity to its neighbors.
To learn more about Rabbi Daniel Lapin, check out his website at rabbidaniellapin.com.