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S.O.A.P. September 8, 2017

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Sept. 8, 2017

Esther 3

To read this text click HERE.

Scripture: Esther 3:5-6, When Haman saw that Mordecai would not bow down or show him respect, he was filled with rage. He had learned of Mordecai’s nationality, so he decided it was not enough to lay hands on Mordecai alone. Instead, he looked for a way to destroy all the Jews throughout the entire empire of Xerxes.

Observation:  In this chapter, we are introduced to Haman, the king’s right hand man.  The king issues a decree that all the king’s servants are to bow down to Haman when he passes by.  Mordecai, Esther’s relative who serves at the king’s gate, refuses to do so.  We can assume that it wasn’t bowing that was a problem for Mordecai (bowing was simply a sign of respect), but specifically bowing down to Haman.  Mordecai saw Haman as an enemy of God’s people. (See the next paragraph for background on this.)   Mordecai refused to bow to Haman as a sign of loyalty to God.  He knew there would be consequences to this act of defiance, but he did it anyway.  Haman then decides this is the perfect opportunity to not just punish Mordecai but the whole Jewish people. 

Background - While certainly Haman had a huge issue with pride, there was more than just a big ego behind his hatred for the Jews.  Haman was descended from the Amalekites who fought against the Jews during the time of King Saul.  The animosity between the Jews and Amalekites actually went all the way back to Moses (see Deut. 25:17-19).  In I Samuel 15, God commanded Saul to kill all the Amalekites, as they were an enemy of God’s people. Saul did attack but he spared the life of the king and some of the people, disobeying God’s command.  The hatred between the two groups had been festering for generations.  Fast forward, Haman now sees this opportunity to get back at the Jews for good. 

Application:  Standing up for our principles can often be difficult.  We live in a world in which it is easy to let things slide to get ahead in our job, to get along with others, or to not appear weird.  But as Christ-followers, we aren’t supposed to fit so neatly into our culture.  One of my favorite scripture verses is from Romans 12:2 (The Message) and speaks to this:

            “…Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

There will be times in which God calls us to take a stand for what is right, to advocate for the marginalized, or to say no when asked to do something unethical or immoral.  And like Mordecai refusing to bow to Haman, our God-honoring decisions may sometimes have undesirable earthly consequences.  Our first allegiance is always to God.  As difficult as it is, I would rather face the scorn and ridicule of human beings and have a clean heart before God. Are you facing a difficult decision?  Are you being pressured to give in to something you know is not right?  Pray to God for wisdom, discernment, and courage.  God will guide you and give you the strength to do the right thing.

Prayer:  God, This world is broken and so are we.  Give us wisdom and courage to do the right thing and to stand up for the right thing, even when it’s hard, and all the while be conduits of your grace and love.  Help us not fit so well into this culture that we become Christians in name only.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Blessings,
Rev. Vicki

P.S.  Continue to pray for those in the path of Hurricane Irma.  As of this morning, we are still planning to have worship on Sunday morning (so bring your UMCOR flood buckets and hygiene kits -http://www.umcor.org/UMCOR/Relief-Supplies for victims of Harvey and possibly Irma).  However, we will reassess the situation this evening and will let you know if anything changes.  Regardless, stay safe!

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S.O.A.P. September 7, 2017

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...for what God wants to do through you next?

 

September 7, 2017

Read: Esther 2

To read this text click HERE.

Scripture- Esther 2:16-17- Esther was taken to King Xerxes at the royal palace in early winter[d]of the seventh year of his reign. And the king loved Esther more than any of the other young women. He was so delighted with her that he set the royal crown on her head and declared her queen instead of Vashti.

Observations- One of the interesting things about the Book of Esther is that God is never mentioned. The Lord is, of course, present behind the scenes in numerous details as the story unfolds, and Esther receives a position of honor from King Xerxes- only because she won the rose from the "Bachelor." Vashti refused to be objectified and suffered the consequences from a small minded king, but Esther was now in a position to have great influence for the people of God in exile. 

Application- One thing I affirm a lot is that we can't have a better past and God wants to use every experience we have for His glory. Whatever our story is God wants to use it to make Jesus famous and to build up the Body of Christ. Esther had no clue what God was up to in her new role as queen, but it wasn't merely for her own comfort and convenience. God had something big in store for her, and God has something big in store for us as well. 

Prayer- (by Hildegard of Bingen- female Christian leader in the middle ages- 1098-1179) God is the foundation for everything. This God undertakes, God gives. Such that nothing that is necessary for life is lacking. Now humankind needs a body that at all times honors and praises God. This body is supported in every way through the earth. Thus the earth glorifies the power of God. Amen.

"You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected." (Matthew 24:44),

Pastor Jamie

P. S. - Obviously, we hope everyone is praying and preparing for the potential impact of Hurricane Irma on our region. This is an extremely large and dangerous storm. Some people have inquired about whether or not we will have services this Sunday. At this point in time I think it's too early to make such a decision, but we'll know a lot more later in the week and we'll communicate again on Friday. Be smart and stay safe.

God is with us,
Pastor Jamie
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