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May 28, 2019, 9:00 PM

Mother's Day - For Such A Time As This


            Today we are celebrating a very special day.  Officially it’s Mother’s Day. And I do want to take a moment to recognize all the moms out there. You are such incredibly special women for the new life or lives you brought into this world and all the time nurturing, teaching and training. Paycheck wasn’t great, but the rewards are awesome. Thank you.

 

            But  today we want to celebrate all women – mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, aunts, grandmas – each of you play a monumental role in God’s kingdom and in the lives of your men, your families and this church. So if you wake up in the morning, even on those really, really bad hair days, you look at yourself in the mirror and can say, I am a woman, then please stand up. And even if you can’t say it every morning… stand up anyway.

 

            Today is all about you ----- women of our church.  

 

I just want to take a moment here and recognize all of you and say thank you for all that you give, your love and support, your time and your sacrifice, your words and your wisdom. This world is a far better place not just because you’re in it, but because of who you are in it, just like the character in our Scripture today – your strength, your courage, your love, your grace, your determination and your passion for life. Thank you.

 

 

Now I have never claimed to be a poet, but with a little inspiration from God, anything can happen. So this one’s from me to all of you.

 

A Godly Woman

Always and faithfully, she seeks God first.

Nothing in this world can ever compare,

To the kingdom rewards she knows He has promised

To all who believe in the hope that He shares.

 

Others come first in this woman’s life

She’s authentic and honest; genuine and true. 

Her relationships start with her love unconditional

Never looking to judge; but sees other’s value.

 

Flattery’s nice, but humility guides;   

A mind that listens to God’s Word alone,

She knows words without Truth can be shallow and empty

But His promise of grace brings hope never ending.

 

And while time may affect her outward appearance

She’s invested her life in what lies eternal

So her beauty and grace endures from within

Because the person inside’s defined only by Him.

 

Thanks for standing for all that. You can sit down now. Let’s pray.

            I really batted around what to do on Mother’s Day. It was definitely going to be focused on one of the great women of the Bible. In a culture where women were secondary, there are so many women who impacted Biblical history; Eve, Sarah, Mary, the Samaritan woman, Mary Magdalene, Lydia.

            Thought long and hard about Ruth. There’s certainly a great story there. But I finally decided it’d be best to follow God’s lead and He took me to Esther. There’s just something about the message in Esther’s story that resonates with me and I think it does with all of us.

            Now Mari gave a tremendous sermon on Esther once. I seem to recall the title might have been similar to this one – maybe identical, not sure. Just wish I could remember what she talked about. But I can barely remember what she told me this morning, so I’m of luck there.

 

            Our Scripture is found in Esther 4:6-17. This passage is really the turning point in her story. And you when you hear it you’ll realize it’s really the turning point in all of our stories. At some point or points in our lives we’re all given the choice to act courageously to honor God or to turn away and live in denial. Sometimes it’s a really hard choice. It was a tough one for Esther. Her life was in the balance. But so were the lives of her people and she chose the path that many of us would turn away from.

 

            Interestingly, Esther is also the only Old Testament book that makes no mention of God, but it is a story of the Jewish people and how God used one woman to save the remnant that lived in her area. This truly is the story of a remarkable woman committed deeply to her faith and her people. So let’s read Esther 4:6-17

 

                Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king's gate, and Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the exact sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king's treasuries for the destruction of the Jews.

                        Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her and command her to go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people. And Hathach went and told Esther what Mordecai had said. Then Esther spoke to Hathach and commanded him to go to Mordecai and say,

                “All the king's servants and the people of the king's provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.”

                        And they told Mordecai what Esther had said. Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews.

                For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”  

                Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”

                Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.

 

 

            Now there’s a lot going on here… just in this small segment. Obviously the Jews were once again the focus of some mass extermination. Seems like they’re always in the cross hairs doesn’t it? So we’re going to do a flyover of Esther’s story so we can understand the pivotal nature of our Scripture. 

           

            Esther’s parents had died when she was young, and she was taken in by her cousin Mordecai as her kinsman redeemer. Mordecai loved her and challenged her in all areas of her life to develop integrity and character and to help her grow strong in her faith. The king at the time, Ahasuerus, or Xerxes for you fans of the movie 300, had put his wife away for her disobedience to him. So he began the search for a new queen. Beautiful young women from all over the country were brought in and “prepared” to be presented to him.

 

            Esther was beautiful. Scripture attests to that and the person in charge of these women brought her under her wing. Ultimately, Esther was chosen from among all the young girls to be queen. And that’s when the real drama began. Haman, one of the king’s trusted advisors, decides to have all the Jews in the kingdom exterminated on a certain day, and the king agrees to it.

            Mordecai gets word to Esther and pleads with her to take a stance for her people. He had faith that God would redeem them through some means, but this was her time. God had placed her in a position of influence. She had gone from a common girl to the wife of the king, almost overnight it seemed. She had the position and the access and she knew what made Him tick.

            But Esther’s challenge was twofold. First, she had never told anyone she was a Jew and so to advocate for the Jewish people would be putting herself out there as one of those very people the king sought to destroy. And second, the king hadn’t called for her in 30 days, so by his own words, to enter his presence without an invitation, in itself, was a potential death sentence.

 

            Then Mordecai who had always challenged her to strengthen her character hits her hard with the words in our Scripture, For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"  Esther was convicted and agreed to approach the king. She asked for fasting and prayer.  Then she hatched a plan that would expose Haman and save the Jews. In the end Haman is ridiculed and Mordecai is elevated to Haman’s position.

 

            Now, that was about a 30,000 foot flyover of the ten chapters in this book. And if you haven’t read it, take the time. It’s a great story with so many truths. Now obviously I can’t connect on a personal level with the story of Esther from a woman’s perspective, but I do believe I can enter the story through Mordecai. I see Mordecai as a bit of a coach, a motivator. He’d taken responsibility for Esther, raised her and taught her as if she was his own daughter.

 

            He’d encouraged her; given her confidence and opportunity, but all the while he kept her anchored in her faith and her Jewish heritage.

            She knew who she was; where she came from; who her people were and how she’d arrived at that moment.  She understood the balance between humility and strength; obedience and courage. Mordecai and God, had prepared her for ‘a time such as this.’

 

            And even though God is never mentioned in the story by name, He is evidenced everywhere. It was no coincidence that Esther was in the right place at the right time to help God’s people. Think back to her story. Her entire life had been designed for that very moment. Evidence of God’s plan? God had placed her there and yes, to test her. The same as He does all of us.

 

            He checks our obedience and He tests our faith. He gives us the tools we need to serve His mission in the way He has designed specifically for each of us. But He also gives us free will to make our own choice whether we will serve Him and others or if we’ll serve self first. It’s really that simple. It’s our choice. The ball’s in our court.

 

            Think about it a second. When was the last time you had to make a really hard decision between Godly and worldly? Between obedience and drifting . Between righteousness and something that was truly sinful in nature? Or just between good and bad. Or doing the right thing and turning your back.

 

 

 

            You see, the farther we let ourselves slide about anything the easier it becomes to slide. For instance we miss one Sunday of church… it happens. Two Sundays… I’ll get there next week. Three Sundays… hmmm, I wonder if they even miss me. Then the fourth, fifth and so on. I’m not standing up here pointing fingers at anybody, so don’t get the wrong idea. But do you see how easy it is to slide if we’re not intentional and focused on Christ.

 

            But the closer we walk with God, the easier it becomes to recognize that slide and take action. Hold on to His hand tighter so we don’t fall away.  The closer we are to God, the easier it becomes to be obedient.  It becomes our nature, our character, who we are.

So ------ what are we hearing in Esther’s story?

 

            Well, it’s just like Mordecai said to Esther and he saying it each of us too, if you don’t do it, somebody else will. God’s will, will be done. And He’s giving you the opportunity to be part of it or to walk away. God has put it within your grasp to make it happen. Whatever it is. This is the moment you are called to. Do the right thing! Look outside yourself… outside your fears or whatever excuses may be holding you back and do the right thing. So however you can enter this story, whether it’s from Mordecai’s perspective or from Esther’s, it’s all about how you respond in the moment.

 

            Now I can’t stand up here and point out those slip ups you all have made in your life and I wouldn’t want to even if I knew them, because then I’d really deserve all those rotten tomatoes you want to throw at me. I’ll let you sort those experiences out for yourselves.

            But I can point out a couple of mine. I’m sure there’s a laundry list, but I can think of two just recently. Now they weren't necessarily game changers like Esther’s, but they were both eye opening and frankly frustrated me with my actions.  

 

            About a week ago I was on my way to work, running late as usual. I exited off I-70 to K-18. Took off over the overpass and headed North. Just as I was passing over the bridge, I saw a car planted nose first into the guard rail. By the time I saw it I was already past it (#1) and my first assumption was that it had happened some time ago, because there was nobody around (#2).         

           

            So I kept on driving. But then as I looked in the rear view mirror, I realized in split second that maybe the reason there was nobody around was because it just happened. Well by that time I was already down the road a bit and there was no shortage of cars in the area, so it was just easier to go on to work and let somebody else deal with it (#3). I almost hate those words coming out of my mouth.

 

            Well as it was Mari drove by about 5 minutes later and told me there were several cars that had stopped. Thank God others saw it in themselves to do the right thing. I think Mordecai said something like that to Esther didn’t he?

Aren’t the situations from our past supposed to prepare us for future similar situations? I want to talk about one of those in my life.

 

 

            Now some years ago my family and I were coming back from Grandma & Grandpa’s at about 2:00 in the morning on narrow 24 highway loaded down with Christmas gifts. The van got a flat tire. Pulled onto a little side road. Got out and opened up the back of the van. The spare tire was under the body, but all the tools were under the floor covered with gifts. And the jack was one of those little screw things that just wouldn’t have worked in that situation at all. Within seconds a truck pulls in behind us. Lights on high beam.

 

            My first thought was – oh boy…now what. But then the guy got out; assessed the situation, pulled a big ole car jack out of the back of his truck and went to work. The kids and I just stood there. He changed that tire in about 10 minutes in a situation where I honestly felt lost.  Frankly I would’ve just slowed him down. I went to the front of the car to get my wallet to give him $20 for stopping… came back and he was gone. I don’t know where he went or who he was. Didn’t even see any taillights anywhere.

 

            And my kids that were still outside the van just said, I don’t know. He just left. Where would we have been that night at 2:00 in the morning if that guy hadn’t stopped? We were in a really dicey situation. I don’t know. For the longest time I adopted the song Angels Among Us by Alabama. I sincerely believed that’s who that guy was that night. Now this message isn’t about angels, but it is about doing the right thing in the moment. He did and I really didn’t get a chance to thank him.

 

 

 

            Fast forward to this past Friday night, my friend Ashley needed a ride to get her car. Well, it was all the way on the other side of Manhattan. I told her I’d be glad to help her out if she couldn’t find anyone else. Well, she found somebody, so I was off the hook. Now we could say I did the right thing, sort of…

 

            Because the world we live in, a Pastor really shouldn’t be alone in a car with another woman. But Ashley is my friend. She’s been here a couple of times. I should’ve been quicker to step up to help. Even if it was out of my way, just like it was out of her way to come here to support me.

 

            Almost starting to sound like a character flaw, huh? It’s not, but I could certainly do better. We all could. Now my point here isn’t to stand up here and beat myself up. We all make choices based on the situation – our filters, our baggage and where we are in life. Some choices are right and some are wrong. But we’re supposed to learn from those choices. We all make mistakes. We try to do better the next time. But we have to learn from those mistakes and become aware of the situations and read them through a filter of Christ in us.

 

            In our story, Esther made the right choice… that time. But how many times before did she make a wrong choice? We don’t know. The story’s not about that. But she was human, so it’s safe to assume she’d made several choices before, some right, some wrong. But each one preparing her for that defining moment of significance in her life. And trust me, that moment will arrive for all of us.

 

            We see that same scenario with the apostles, with Paul, with so many of the characters of the Bible. Just like each of us, they fumble through life making mistakes, wanting to do the right thing, but always it’s the person of self getting ahead of the person of God – until they learn to submit - until we learn to submit, fully and completely to God’s authority. 

 

            God loves us, but He demands our obedience. So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in His ways and by fearing Him. (Deut 8:6)” And it’s through that obedience we’ll be aware of the moment we’re in – alert to the situation around us, aware of the needs of others and submissive to God’s call in that moment.  God presents those opportunities to you and me all the time. And each one of those could be preparing us for that defining moment in our life, just like Esther.

 

            Are you prepared to respond in the moment in obedience? Whatever moment that might be, are you willing to take the risk associated with being a follower of Christ? It could be something as simple as stepping out of your comfort zone and speaking out against something in our culture you know to be counter to Christ. Even in your own family.

 

            Happens all the time and how often do we walk away from it. I really get hung up on Christ’s words, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven (Matt 10:33).” Could the message be any clearer? That denial can simply be our response in the moment. Did I respond in a Godly manner? Did I reflect Christ in that moment or did I deny Him?

            What about today? This moment. Right now? Is God calling you to respond? Has God prepared you for a time such as this; this moment, to do the right thing; to come before your brothers and sisters and commit your life fully to Him or to rededicate your life to service in his kingdom? We try so hard to quench the Spirit, to tune Him out, to ignore His voice. But if He’s calling you, He’s only gonna get louder. Listen. To Him. Submit. Give your life over to Jesus today.  I’ll be down front waiting for you.

           

 


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