For just such a time

Recently, I re-read the book of Esther, as part of a YouVersion Bible App reading plan created by the Bible Project. If you’ve not checked out YouVersion or the Bible Project, I highly recommend them both.

I read the Bible multiple times a day, and YouVersion makes it so easy by being right there on my iPhone – in just about any common translation and many uncommon ones as well. I read during my early morning quiet time and also during lunch with my true love. No more lunches alone.

The phone also makes it easy to read a chapter or two of His Word when I have a spare few minutes throughout my day. It is a way to stay focused on what is truly important in life.

The Bible Project is a series of videos explaining different aspects of the Bible, most notably how all of it ties together. As with any non-Biblical source, it is always good to true back against the actual Bible on your own. While I sometimes disagree with the Bible Project on small details, it is nevertheless an excellent supplemental source of understanding.

This is the third or fourth time I’ve read Esther since I was saved last year. It is one of my favorite books of the Old Testament.

I love Esther’s story. An orphaned Jewish girl has an unlikely rise to become Queen of Persia. Later, she is debating with Mordecai, her older cousin who raised her after the death of her parents, as to whether she should risk death by pleading uninvited to the King to save the Jewish people. This results in my favorite passage from the book:

“Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: ‘Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?'”
Esther 4:13-14

In Genesis, Joseph makes a similar observation in reflecting on the touch of God in his life:

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”
Genesis 50:20

Have you ever wondered why you are where you are in your life? Why you work where you work? Why you live where you live? The reason God puts us in certain places or situations may not always be obvious at first, if ever.

What we have to remember at all times is that there is a plan. God cherishes you, as He cherishes all of us. God has a mission for you. Listen for it.

As for Queen Esther, she rose to the challenge:

“Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: ‘Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die.'”
Esther 4:15-16

Note the fast, a critical decision by Queen Esther to put her fate in the hands of God and to recruit others to her cause. Jesus later spoke of the power of small groups:

“I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”
Matthew 18:19-20

The Queen goes on to use cunning and bravery to save the Jewish people from what could have been a massacre.

God may want you at a certain place to fulfill a purpose. That purpose may have nothing to do with your day-to-day work duties, either. Maybe your kind words and smile are enough to help a tortured soul. You may never know the impact your light has on someone. Know through Him that your smile, your words, can and do make a difference.

And when you face a decision either to light the way as a follower of Jesus or to slip away in fear of the darkness, be strong like Queen Esther. Light the way.

“For God, who said, ‘Let there be light in the darkness,’ has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.”
2 Corinthians 4:6

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.

Virginia Beach | Credit: JC

Yet, He loves me

In the before-times. . . .

A typical work day. When I first wake up, I check twitter on my iPhone and read various websites for interesting pop culture or news stories. Twitter is also a way to stay on top of political opinions and happenings.

Twitter is my companion while eating breakfast, with the TV blaring the news of the day or sometimes cartoons in the background. My day is usually better if I start with cartoons instead of news.

At work, lunch is an inconvenience. I eat alone and as quickly as possible – I can finish a reasonable meal within ten minutes, often far less. During that time, I read twitter. As soon as my food is done, I get back to work. After all, I have an important job.

When out and about in the day, if I have a spare moment, I read through twitter. It is convenient, since I often have my phone with me. It is something to do while waiting. Twitter, of course, can be a valuable tool, but it can also be a dumpster fire of hostility. Some of the tweets I encounter make me sad.

In the evening, I watch TV or surf the web. Sometimes, I read a book – but somehow TV watching and web surfing seems to sap out time for reading. As with twitter, both TV and the web can offer positive experiences, but also negative ones. Certainly on the web, I stray far too often into places I should not be – especially as a person who tells himself that he respects women. I carefully delete web history and hope no one finds the images I save. And deep in the back of my closet there are those DVDs I hope no one ever discovers, either.

I live a life of shame.

“I hate myself. I wish I was dead,” I repeat in my head throughout most days.

Sunlight breaking through clouds
Credit: JC

Then, Jesus saved me.

The focus of my life has changed.

A typical work day. Before breakfast, I have quiet time. Using the YouVersion app on my iPhone, I read at least three chapters of the Bible, often as part of various devotional reading plans. Sometimes, I journal in reaction to what I have read. I then spend time praying to Him.

The Bible, through YouVersion, is also my companion while eating breakfast, preferably with the TV off. My day is always better if I start with Jesus instead of news.

At work, lunch hour is a cherished time. While I sometimes eat with my Bible Study Partner (BSP) and we discuss Jesus, most of the time schedules are such that I am still alone. Though some habits are hard to break, I try not to tear through my food as quickly as I once did. During lunch, I read the Bible/YouVersion. Sometimes, I journal my thoughts again. Sometimes, I pray. Most days, I use my entire break before getting back to work. After all, Jesus is the most important part of life.

When out and about in the day, if I have a spare moment, I read the Bible/YouVersion. It is convenient, since I always have my phone with me. My phone is not only my Bible, but also a connection to my BSP. Reading the Bible or discussing Him with my BSP brings me joy.

In the evening, I rarely surf the web anymore. I still keep up with some pop culture news, but in the grand scheme of things, none of it is important. I have deleted my old twitter account. Most nights, I read the Bible/YouVersion again before saying my prayers.

As for those images and DVDs, they have been deleted and shredded. This blog is about raw truth, so I will tell you there are still times I think about them, but it is fewer and farther between now. Each time, I pray those feelings away.

It is by no means perfect, but I live a life of happiness. I am blessed. Throughout my day, I pray or otherwise think of Him.

Sometimes, my dark thoughts about myself return, though. When they do, I pray. I read the Bible. I listen to praise music. If it is really bad, I reach out to my BSP, and we pray together.

Jesus knows every horrible thing I have ever done and ever will do. Yet, He loves me (Romans 5:8).

The Son of God died on the cross for my sins. God resurrected Him from the dead, and many witnessed Jesus before He ascended back to Heaven. By believing in Him, I am forgiven of my sins and I, too, will have eternal life with Jesus and my other brothers and sisters in Christ.

Jesus loves you, too. No matter what you have done.

Thank you for reading. God bless you.