Saturday, September 8, 2012


For Such a Time as This

Part 3


             Before any of the young women were presented to the king, they had to spend an entire year being prepared physically.  In other words, twelve months of beauty treatment; six months with oil of myrrh and six months with perfumes and cosmetics (Esther 2:12).  Even though they were chosen because they all possessed an inherent natural beauty, this was not enough for the king.  He desired that they also be transformed into beautiful women of the palace, women upon whom there was no longer any lingering obvious evidence of the world they grew up in.

            Now I was curious as to why six months was devoted entirely to being treated with oil of myrrh, so I did some research and found that oil of myrrh is said to possess some amazing qualities.  When used externally, its antiseptic, anti-fungal, and astringent properties are supposed to help heal wounds, eliminate such things as athlete’s foot and ringworm, and help restore and smooth the skin.  And if taken internally, it purportedly helps boost the immune system and promote general health.  Therefore, it seems that the first six months were dedicated to healing and restoration.

            [As a side note, I found it interesting that the most frequent use of the word “myrrh” in the Bible is found in Song of Solomon, a book that is an allegory of the intimate relationship that the Lord desires to have with His people.  Is it possible that the more intimate we become with Him, the more we are healed and restored; and the more we are healed and restored, the more intimate we become with Him?]

            The next six months, then, were dedicated to perfumes and cosmetics, thus eventually eliminating all aroma and appearance of the life they lived before coming to the palace.  It was only then, after being transformed, that they were presented to the king.

            I believe that if we are to fully experience all that God has for us in “such a time as this,” we must also be transformed!  Being “saved” got us a ticket to heaven when we die, but we all know that that experience was not some sort of magic wand that instantly made us perfect in every way!  Even though we were forgiven, made into a new creature in our spirit-man, and reconciled with God, there was still a lot of work to be done!  Some of us quickly and eagerly embraced the transformation process, while others of us were more reluctant and had to be patiently convinced of our need for it or perhaps dragged kicking and screaming into it!  Like it or not, we all need it, and God loves us enough to make sure we have every opportunity to get it.  How, then, are we transformed; what is the process?  I believe that it is much the same for us as it was for Esther, but it is a spiritual instead of a physical process.

            The “oil of myrrh” treatment that we need is a change of mindset.  Rom.12:2 (NIV) says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  And how is our mind renewed?  We find the answer to that in Ps.1:1-3 (NIV), “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.  That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.”

            What causes most of our problems is stinkin thinkin!  Every deliberate action we take is thought about first.  Therefore, the way we think directly affects the way we act.  And because of original sin, because of our own sin, because of our upbringing, because of our former lifestyle, and because of other factors; our way of thinking often produces wrong actions.  It needs to be changed!  And how is that accomplished?  By spending a lot of time in the Word of God (the Bible), reading it and meditating upon it.  That is the primary place where we can find healing and restoration for our souls.

            Then the beautify treatment that we need following our healing and restoration comes from exposure to the glory of His presence.  Because of the salvation that we have experienced, we have the ability to come boldly into His presence.  Heb.10:19-22 tells us, “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. And 1Cor.3:13-18 (NIV) says, “We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”  What could be more beautiful than becoming more like Jesus?  And the more time we spend in His presence, the more we become like Him, thus being made presentable to the King!

Thursday, July 26, 2012


For Such a Time as This
Part 2


            When Queen Vashti offended King Xerxes, he took the advice of his counselors to depose her and begin searching for another to take her place.  Word was sent out, and all the beautiful young virgins were gathered from every province of the kingdom and brought to the palace where they would each, in turn, be presented to the king so that he could choose the successor to Queen Vashti.  Esther, of course, was among those taken to the palace, but she did not tell anyone that she was Jewish.
            Now think about this for a minute.  Here is a young woman who had already lost both of her parents and was being raised by a cousin.  She is now taken away from her home, from her friends, and from the only family she has left, and she is sequestered in a place that is totally foreign to her.  I am sure that she found herself completely out of her comfort zone, but this separation was absolutely necessary if she was going to fulfill God’s plan for her life.
            Separation is also a necessary part of the process that God puts us through in order to prepare us to fulfill the plans that He has for our lives.  But what is separation really all about?  Some would tell us that separation means that we must avoid contact with anything or anyone considered by them to be “worldly.”  Depending on who sets the standards, this can include such things as watching TV, going to movies, wearing certain clothes, playing or watching sports, dancing, listening to non-Christian music (and even some Christian music), going to theme parks, etc.  They even tell us to have only such contact as is absolutely necessary with anyone who is considered “dangerous.”  This includes not only all non-Christians, but also those believers whom they consider to be “too worldly.”  To justify their position, they like to quote 2Cor.6:14-18 in the King James version which says,
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?  And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?  And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.  And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
No wonder many believers are reluctant to get “radical” in their faith!  They have been dissuaded by what they have been told about how much they must “give up” in order to follow Jesus.  But those who would try to dictate to us how we should live are missing something here:  God is more concerned with issues of the heart than with anything else.  While man looks on the outward appearance, God looks at the heart (1Sam.16:7).  These legalistic naysayers don’t seem to realize that when someone’s heart is separated unto God, the heart itself helps that person decide which activities and relationships are pleasing to the Lord and, therefore, proper for him or her to be involved in.
However, this kind of separation is not something that comes naturally or easily.  The “original sin” that we all inherited from Adam means that our hearts are naturally attracted to the things that would draw us away from our relationship with our loving Heavenly Father.  Even after we come to know Him, we still have to deal with the things in our hearts that try to pull us away.  David understood this, and that is why he cried out in Ps.51:10 for God to create a clean heart within him, and why in Ps. 86:11 he asked God for an undivided heart.  Paul also expresses this dilemma in Ro.7:21-25 (The Message), where he says,
It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
So, then, the key to having a heart separated unto God is pressing into a more intimate relationship with Jesus.  That relationship must become more important to us than anything else.  That is why, in Mt.10:34-39 (The Message), Jesus says,
Don't think I've come to make life cozy. I've come to cut—make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law—cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God. Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies. If you prefer father or mother over me, you don't deserve me. If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don't deserve me. If you don't go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don't deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you'll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you'll find both yourself and me.
Now, He is not telling us that we should not love our families or look after ourselves in certain matters; what He is saying is that He must be preeminent in our lives!  When He is more important to us than life, itself, or anything or anyone in it, then our hearts are truly separated unto Him.  That is the separation He desires for us.  Although we have not fully attained it yet, let us keep pressing in to know Him more!
            Next:  Part 3, Transformation

Friday, May 25, 2012

THOUGHTS ON ESTHER: "For Such a Time as This"

Part 1


For several months, now, I have been thinking a lot about the Book of Esther, and I am always encouraged by seeing how God was not taken by surprise by the scheme that the devil was trying to work against the Jewish people.  He did not strike His forehead with the palm of His hand and say, ”Wow, I didn’t see that one coming!”  Instead, He already had a plan in place before that scheme ever began to unfold through Haman.  He had been preparing an unknown young Jewish orphan to be in just the right place at just the right time to do something to thwart that scheme before it could be activated.  As Mordecai, her cousin, wisely observed, Esther had “come to the kingdom for such a time as this.”

Now, please understand that this was no small thing that was going on here.  The devil had put hatred for the Jews who were living as captives in ancient Persia (modern-day Iran, which at that time extended from India to Ethiopia) in the heart of Haman, one of King Xerxes’ high officials.  Haman then devised a plot that, if left unchecked, would have wiped out most of the Jewish people alive at that time!  But because of Esther’s intervention, God not only stopped the scheme, but instead turned it completely around so that the Jews were able to wipe out THEIR enemies instead!  Amazing!

What I have found especially intriguing as I have been meditating on this story is the similarity of the conditions of the world in which we live today to those found in the Book of Esther.  All over the world the devil is devising schemes to destroy God’s people, both Jews and Christians alike.  The heads of the government in Iran would like nothing better than to wipe Israel off the face of the earth; radical Muslims the world over hate both Israel and the U.S. (calling us the great Satan); and even here in our own nation, it seems that the only clearly-defined people group that can be openly criticized, persecuted, and condemned for their beliefs are committed Christians.  Is this taking God by surprise?  Did He not see it coming?

No!  God is never ignorant of what is happening, nor is He guilty of playing catch-up!  He already has a plan in place to do something, and that plan involves people; people like you and me!  I believe that those of us who belong to Him were brought to the kingdom (His Kingdom) “for such a time as this!”  God does not make mistakes.  He planned for us to be alive right now because He desires to use us in the strategies that He is already putting into play that will destroy the works of the devil.  You and I have a far more significant role in this thing than we give ourselves credit for.  Think of it this way:  when time is running out, and the game is on the line, who does the coach send in?  The third-string players?  Someone out of the stands?  No, he sends in the best he has available for “such a time as this!”

God wants to send us into the game because time is running out, and the game truly is on the line.  But we have to be among the best that He has available; and we can be!  As we look at what happened with Esther so that she became the best available at that time, I believe that we will see some areas in which the Lord desires to work in us so that we, also, will become those whom He chooses to put in the game “for such a time as this!”

Next:  Part 2, Separation

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Still Imperfect!

Even though I have read the Book of Jonah many times, I am still bothered by the way it ends.  I mean, you would think that Jonah would have learned something from his experience in the belly of the fish; yet here he is angry at God!  First he is angry because God relented when the people repented and Nineveh is NOT destroyed.  Then he is angry because a plant that was giving him shade IS destroyed.  How proud and selfish can one man be?  His pride is wounded because the judgment that HE decreed over Nineveh did not happen --- he thinks it makes him look bad.  And his selfishness is apparent because obviously his level of concern for the plant is directly related to his own degree of personal comfort.  As a result, he has compassion for the plant, but none for the people of Nineveh.  Looks like misplaced priorities to me!  Sounds kind of like the radical environmentalists who want to preserve all species of plant life, but who are also pro-abortion, doesn’t it?

But lest we too quickly judge others, let us also look to ourselves; or maybe I should just look to myself.  I hate to admit it, but there have been too many times when I, also, have allowed pride and selfishness to cause me to be more concerned for myself than for others.  This is just the opposite of what Rom.12:10 (NIV) exhorts us to do when it says, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”  We can only effectively do that as we learn to die to “self” and begin to take on more of the character of Jesus.  The Gospels tell us several times that He was moved by compassion.  Compassion is a fruit of humility and selflessness.  May we become more compassionate towards others as we lay aside our pride and selfishness!

O.K., back to Jonah.  In my opinion, he must have learned something from the rebuke that God gave him in chapter 4, because he is later referred to as a prophet; and the book about him did make the final cut to be included in the Bible.  But what can WE learn from this final chapter?

First, we should never think that just because we have properly responded to God when He has revealed something to us in one area of our lives that needed changing does not mean that nothing else about us needs changing.  We must do everything we can to keep our hearts tender before Him so that He can continue the process of changing us “from glory to glory” more and more into the image of Jesus (2Cor.3:18).

Second, even though we all still have areas in our lives that need to be dealt with, God continues to love us and to use us for His glory.  In fact, He knew all along that we would not be perfect, yet He chose to use us anyway!  That way, He gets the glory when something really good happens.  That’s why it says in 2Cor.4:7 (NIV), “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

And finally, it’s all right if things don’t go the way we think they should.  In fact, it’s O.K. if we even come out looking bad!  As long as God brings about what He wants and He comes out looking good, it doesn’t really matter what happens to us.  After all, it’s not about us, now is it?  As John the Baptist said in Jn.3:30 (NIV), “He must become greater; I must become less.”

I hope you were blessed by something you read in “Thoughts on Jonah!”

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


How’d You Do That?!?

Chapter 3, verses 4 & 5 say a couple of interesting things that could be easily overlooked if we aren’t careful. “Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, ‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them.” (NAS)

The first thing to notice is how quickly the people of Nineveh began to repent. Verse 3 tells us that it takes three days to walk across the city, yet Jonah was only into his first day’s walk when they were already repenting!

The second thing is that Jonah is no great preacher! He only says eight words, he has only one point to make, and he does not even elaborate on it with any jokes or illustrations! Had he been in my Homiletics class at Phillips University, he never would have passed! So, obviously it was not Jonah’s great preaching abilities that produced repentance in120,000 people including even their king. So, what was it then?

Some have speculated that word of what happened to Jonah had preceded him to Nineveh and that the people were already starting to repent before he even arrived. Others say that his appearance after being in the belly of the fish for three days was enough to cause people to repent! Well, he probably was quite a sight: hair and skin bleached by stomach acids, perhaps some blisters on his face and hands, smelling like vomit! But, come on now; this was Nineveh! These were a fierce and greatly feared warlike people; not easily moved by what they saw and heard. So what caused them to repent so quickly and fully?

It must have been something about the presence of God on Jonah! As we see throughout Scripture, whenever God’s presence shows up, the first thing that happens is that people become aware of their sin --- His light exposes it. Then people either choose to run (like Jonah did the first time) or they fall on their faces before Him and repent. No wonder He’s always saying, “Fear not!” It was obviously God’s presence there with Jonah that affected the people so dramatically.

So, what did Jonah do to merit God’s presence with him so strongly? How did he earn it? The truth is, he didn’t! We cannot merit or earn God’s presence. When Jonah repented and obeyed, he began to walk in the anointing of God’s presence. It didn’t matter how eloquent he was or how he looked, God’s presence was all that was needed to touch a city!

And you know what? The same is true for each of us. When we are confronted with and touched by His presence, and we choose to repent and obey Him in whatever He wants from us, we may discover that the anointing of His presence is with us, also! Try it; you’ll like it!

Next: Part 6

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


About, Face; Forward, March!

I find it interesting that it took THREE DAYS in the belly of the fish before Jonah finally repented! I mean, I’ve known some really stubborn people in my life (myself included), but you’d think that five or ten minutes in a fish’s stomach would have been more than enough time to solicit repentance from even the worst of us! So why did it take THREE DAYS for Jonah to repent? Well, most likely, Jonah began to cry out to God immediately after he was swallowed, but it probably took that long before GENUINE repentance took place!

In the early 1970’s I was an Adult Probation Officer for Harris County, Texas (the Houston area), and I had a caseload of over 100 people placed on probation by the District Court for some kind of felony offense. Back then, Possession of Marijuana was considered a felony offense, so my caseload consisted of people on probation for everything from possession of an ounce of marijuana to committing murder, and everything in between. I placed a couple of Christian posters up in my cubicle, and I took advantage of every opportunity I could to witness to those who had to report to me on a regular basis. Several actually gave their hearts to the Lord during that time, but there were also quite a few who got in trouble again while on probation and wound up back in jail. Some of them would then write to me from jail and describe how they had begun praying and asking God to forgive them; then they would ask me to help them get out! They were experiencing what I began to refer to as a “jail-house conversion.” Oh, they were truly sorry, all right; sorry they got caught; sorry they were paying the consequences of their actions; and they were trying to “plea-bargain” with God! You know what that is, right? It’s when you say something like, “God, if you’ll just get me out of this, I promise that I will ___________ (fill in the blank)!” Of course, none of us has ever done anything like that, right?!?

But that is not genuine repentance. Genuine repentance is something that begins in the heart. This is what Jonah was expressing in chapter 2. He wasn’t looking for an escape; he was speaking out of a heart that had truly changed! True repentance begins when we see our sin for what it really is in all of its ugliness, and we are truly sorry for what we have done. The Greek word in the New Testament that we translate as “repent” is the same word that would have been used in the military to give the command, “About, face!” It means that we must first make a 180 degree turn IN OUR HEARTS, and that we then begin to walk it out in our lives (“Forward, march!”).

The walking-it-out part is where our repentance is made complete. Without it, our “repentance” is just faith without works which, as Paul tells us, is useless (Jas.2:20 NAS). It is at this point that we must rely heavily upon the grace of God (Grace = God doing in us, for us, with us, through us, or to us what we cannot do ourselves.)! Without His grace we try to change and fail, then we fall into condemnation and eventually give up. Or, if by some chance we manage to walk part of it out in our own strength, we fall prey to pride and need to repent again! However, when we ask for His grace to walk out what has transpired in our heart, then He gets the praise and the glory as we see our lives being changed!

When God saw that Jonah had truly had a change of heart, He responded with His grace and caused the fish to vomit Jonah out on dry ground! Jonah now had the opportunity to walk out his repentance!

Next: Part 5, HOW’D YOU DO THAT?!?

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Part 3: Can God Use THAT?!?

When Jonah fled from God’s presence, he went down to Joppa and boarded a ship bound for Tarshish. Obviously, no one can hide from God, and Jonah’s sin not only put him in jeopardy, but also everyone else on board the boat when the storm God sent threatened to sink it. At first the sailors had no clue as to why they encountered this storm, but they were so terrified by its ferocity that each one began to pray to his own god. When this didn’t work, they cast lots to see who was responsible for the calamity, and the lot fell on Jonah. After Jonah admitted that he was the source of their problem and told them that the only way to resolve it was to throw him overboard, they still tried to row through the storm because they didn’t want to kill him. When they finally admitted that there was no other way to escape death themselves, they relented and agreed to throw Jonah over. Jonah 1:14-16 then says, “Then they cried to the LORD, "O LORD, please do not let us die for taking this man's life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, O LORD, have done as you pleased." Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.”

Did you notice the change that took place? The sailors forsook praying to their old gods and began to pray to the Lord, and when they saw the sea grow calm, they apparently turned their hearts fully toward Him! God used Jonah’s disobedience (and the way He dealt with it) to reveal Himself to others!

So, Ron, are you saying that God can use a believer’s sin (be it disobedience, rebellion, or whatever it may be) to bring about something good? Yes, that’s exactly what I am saying! Consider Samson as another example. His lust after foreign women (and especially Delilah) was totally against the law of God, yet God used it to bring defeat to the Philistines! Or what about that rebellious, self-serving prophet Balaam who wanted to be paid to prophesy bad things against Israel, yet God forced him to prophesy blessing instead?

Or what about me? While I was attending college in the late ‘60’s, I gradually slid farther and farther away from a close relationship with the Lord and engaged in activities that I much regretted later. On one occasion, I was attending a going-away party for some friends who had just graduated. As was the custom at such events, alcohol was abundant, and everyone (me included) was freely imbibing. At one point in the evening, some of the guys began making toasts, and one of my friends raised his glass and offered a toast to me, thanking me for introducing him to the girl he was soon to marry. Before I even had time to think about what I was saying, I responded with, “Yeah, well, you think that was good, some day I’ll introduce you to Jesus!” I guess everyone was too drunk to even notice what I had said, but my friend kind of smiled at me funny, and everyone went on with the party. As for me, I couldn’t figure out why I had said that, especially at a time like that, and in the condition that I was in. As far as I knew then, he was not yet a believer, but I didn’t even take time to follow up and actually witness to him … too ashamed of the hypocrisy I had been living, I guess. Well, after everyone went their separate ways, we fell out of contact with each other, and it was probably ten years later before I stumbled upon him again; and guess what … he was a pastor of a church somewhere in Texas! When I called and talked with him, he told me that what I said to him that night continued to work in him until he finally gave his heart to the Lord and eventually wound up in full-time ministry! In spite of my backslidden state, God had still used me to plant something in someone else that eventually helped get him into God’s plan for his life!

Now, does that in any way imply that what I was doing was O.K., or that Jonah’s disobedience was not all that bad, or that Samson’s sin was overlooked by God, or that Balaam was not still a rebellious prophet? No! What it does say is that God can redeem something out of any situation, no matter how bad it may be! So, when we find ourselves asking, “Can God use THAT?!?” The answer is, “Yes!” And when He does, it does not justify our sin, but it showcases His mercy!

Next, Part 4: About, Face; Forward, March!