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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Wisconsin winter (photo by Georgia)
My cousin Georgia shared this photo taken in rural Wisconsin.

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"Quietly Sovereign"

"Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, among those taken captive with Jehoiachin king of Judah. Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This young woman, who was also known as Esther, had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died." (Esther 2:5-7). "And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14).

"Teach us to know You, always among us,
quietly sovereign – Lord of our now."

Last night we received a note from a longtime friend who now lives in North Carolina. She recalls when Ester was a baby and was responding to the less than ideal medical report we received following Ester's cath on Tuesday. Our friend has dealt with a lot of adversity over the years and, through it all, remains faithful to the Lord. In seeking to console us regarding Ester's health matters she wrote, "In my moments of despair at times over the years, I have often questioned why God doesn't just "fix" things - He certainly is capable. For me there are no clear cut answers. So what it has boiled down to for me is that God is God and that is all that really matters. That does not make it easier - at times it is just plain tough." Many of our readers will identify with this thoughtful assessment.

It is providential here below to deal with adversity. We are especially mindful of this in our own personal dealings, but we're also reminded when we read the accounts of Bible characters who experienced hard bumps amidst the twists and turns of their life's story.

Esther with MordecaiThe narrative of Queen Esther and the unique way God used her to save the lives of the Jewish people stands out among the Old Testament stories. But let us reflect upon the lesser considered portion of Holy Scripture where she and her cousin, Mordecai, are first introduced in Scripture. Most Bible students are aware of the fact that God is not specifically mentioned by name in the entire book (the only book of the Bible with this distinction). And yet evidence of His presence is seen all throughout this remarkable book.

"Mordecai .... who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon...". Mordecai was among the captives who had been carried away to Babylon at the time of Nebuchadnezzer. What a turbulent time that was, yet a remnant faithfully lived for God, including Daniel and the three Hebrews. I am preparing a series of messages dealing with that time period that we will be sharing with the theme, "Living at the time of Jehoiakim" based upon 2 Chronicles 36. As I assess the increasing hatred toward those who follow Christ I feel we must spiritually prepare ourselves for living in such a time as this. (Of course many of our brethren already live under similar conditions.)

2) "Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah... also known as Esther". She was brought up during this captivity by Mordecai. No information is given concerning what happened to her mother and father. I wonder if she was born in the land of exile which seems likely.
I wonder if Mordecai's uncle was Esther's father. Mordecai must have been older but that is not unusual. Over twenty-five years separate cousins from the oldest to the youngest on my Mom's side. "The young woman had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at." This description is important as the story unfolds! Due to her natural beauty she was unexpectedly placed in a position she never thought possible. She was selected to be the Queen among the other contestants after a year of beauty treatments!

Just as Ruth reminds us that God is at work in the lives of "ordinary people", Esther reveals God at work among the "higher classes."  Both remind us that His work is often "behind the scenes."  He is, as the hymn "God Of The Ages" states, "quietly sovereign."

Esther"Esther moments" have been described as those special times when God's purpose for our life is especially apparent. This concept is based on the second daily text when Mordecai encouraged Esther to take a stand. The Jews faced annihilation (as they so often have throughout history) and Esther was in a position to act for their preservation by appealing to the king.

Mordecai was confident, in one way or another, that deliverance of the Jews would come. He told Esther, "And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?" Amazingly in the bigger picture God's grand purposes are always fulfilled with or without our cooperation. However Mordecai challenged Esther to be the agent of God's deliverance.

Scripture records that Esther did listen to Mordecai and heeded his challenge to present herself to the king, even if it meant death. Notice the resolute attitude she expressed when she made up her mind to be the mediator for her people: "If I perish, I perish" (Esther 4:16). When we're weighing various options in making a decision there's a point that we've got to make up our mind and act upon that decision.

Three Hebrew boysMay our hearts be as resolute as Esther's and other Biblical characters such as her contemporaries Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who refused to bow down to the golden image. Their unyielding response was, "The God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up" (Daniel 3:17,18).

Through these outstanding examples of people with devout faith who took a consecrated stand for God, He sends a message to all true worshipers: we are not to fear the trials that are inevitable when we take a righteous stand in an unrighteous world. Instead we must persevere even if it means death.

Today all over the world God is working through His people, accomplishing His purpose. At times we can especially sense His working through us in a specific way. What a great joy these experiences bring to our spiritual walk. May the Lord grant all of us these "Esther moments". We may not immediately sense the significance of our obedience but obedience always brings blessing. As we begin another year let us all stay faithful to God!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Thankful manDaily prayer:  Father, in certain situations I am fearful when I am called upon to take a stand for righteousness. When You compel me like you did Esther to do or say something that's not within my comfort zone I become fearful of the outcome which prevents me from stepping out in faith and following through with an obedient heart. Would You remind me that there is great blessing when I follow Your leading. In my heart take me back to Biblical models of those who stood without compromise and remained faithful no matter the consequence. Help me not to fear the outcome, for that is in Your hands. Thank You for entrusting me to be a part of your grand purpose. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

Note regarding Ester's name: Our daughter, Ester, was born in a Guatemalan orphanage along the Rio Dulce (Sweet River).  Her birth mother arrived at the orphanage three months before Ester's birth. A volunteer from Germany took special interest in Ester's mom because she appeared malnourished and she feared for her and the baby's health. She prepared nutritious meals and became personally involved in her care. Because of this the director of the orphanage named the baby Ester after this caring German volunteer whose name was also Ester! Her name is spelled the common way Guatemalans spell it, rather than the Biblical character with an "h" included. Her name is pronounced "Es-tair" (like the dancer, Fred Astaire). About 18 months after Ester's birth Brooksyne and I visited the orphanage and stayed in the "Guest House" which was built out over the Rio Dulce river (here on Google map. What a glimpse of third world living conditions we experienced!)

*Esther's also had the name, Hadassah, a female Jewish name. Perhaps it was a middle name like we have today.  Today's text is the only reference using this name in Scripture and yet this Jewish name is making a comeback in commonly used names today. On Christmas Eve I chatted with Eric and Regina Martin who were visiting with Eric's parents at their family gathering following the service. Their youngest daughter, about 1 year old, is named Hadassah. I believe she's the first person I've met who has that name.

Coconut cake 1/1/14
While Ester was in the hospital on Tuesday she mentioned that she'd like to have a piece of coconut cake. In answer to her wishes Brooksyne prepared a coconut pecan cake for our New Year's dinner and Ester took this photo for her Facebook page. I'm sure glad she requested it since I also enjoyed it! She is recovering nicely from her heart catheterization on Monday. She rested all day yesterday and will do so again today before she resumes a more active schedule this weekend. As mentioned in yesterday's personal note we are seeking to have fuller understanding of her present health challenges and will learn more in a few weeks as she will see her cardiologist. Thanks so much for notes and prayers. We are encouraged by them.

Today's Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources

"God Of Every Story"  Video 
Laura Story We shared this song after I (Brooksyne) attended Laura's concert and heard her "story". Her husband, after two years of marriage, developed a brain tumor and eight years later, it continues to require major overcoming for both of them.

"Life Is Hard (But God is Good)"  Video  Pam Thum

"Don't Miss Your Esther Moments"  Video  John Piper (4.5 minutes)

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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