The Encourager

The Encourager

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"For such a Time as This"

Saturday, January 30, 2021

 

“For Such a Time as This”

by Jeff Curtis

 

The book of Esther is an excellent story of God’s providence in taking care of His children. This book is different from most of the books of the Bible. It is named for a woman and it describes the origin of a feast that is not spoken of anywhere else in the Old Testament. Nor does it mention God by name anywhere within its pages. It is not mentioned or quoted in the New Testament. It has been both greatly admired and viciously attacked by Jewish as well as Christian scholars.

 

In the story of Esther, she has become queen of the Persian empire. She keeps her identity a secret from the king. Knowing she is a Jew she feels may put her life in jeopardy. So, she neglects to tell the king about being a Jew and identifying herself with God’s people; “10 Esther had not revealed her people or family, for Mordecai had charged her not to reveal it” “20 Now Esther had not revealed her family and her people, just as Mordecai had charged her, for Esther obeyed the command of Mordecai as when she was brought up by him” (Esther 2:10,20). The Jews were captives during the Persian reign.

 

In the end, through God’s providential care, her silence regarding her race worked out for the best. In order for that to happen, however, she had to be willing to tell the king that she was a Jew when the critical time arrived. To her credit, she did so, identifying herself as a Jewess and linking her destiny with that of her people.

 

Christians today should be willing, even proud, to identify themselves with God’s people, the church. Jesus identified Himself with the church. When Saul was persecuting Christians, Jesus asked him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4). To persecute members of Christ’s body was to persecute Jesus Christ Himself. In fact, Paul wrote that the church is “the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:23).

 

If we want to identified with Christ, we need to be active members of the Lord’s church. Biblically speaking, no one can truly be a follower of Christ without being a part of Christ’s church.

 

 

True Conversion

by Heath Rogers

“For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:9-10, emphasis mine - HR).

The Thessalonians set a great example when they responded to Paul’s preaching. Notice, their conversion consisted of three actions.

First, they turned away from sin and towards God. To convert means to turn. God calls all men to repent (Acts 17:30). He never promised to save us from our sins while we remain in those sins. Have we turned our back on sin?

Second, they served God. Their faith not only turned them away from sin, but it moved them to pursue the true and living God and do His will. We are saved to serve, not to sit. Our faith must express itself in works of obedience to God’s will (James 2:14-26). Do we serve God?

Finally, they lived in hope. These Christians were suffering for their new-found faith, but they were not throwing in the towel. They knew their Lord had defeated the grave and was reigning in Heaven. It is from there that He will return to punish all who oppose Him and deliver His faithful into the Father’s presence (2 Thess. 1:6-10; 1 Cor. 15:24). Are our eyes fixed on Heaven, or are we still at home in this world?

#notmycaeser

Saturday, January 23, 2021

#NOTMYCAESAR

by David Diestelkamp

Jesus lived primarily during the reign of the Roman emperor Tiberius who ended his reign cloaked in paranoia, violence, and rumors of depravity and corruption. It was probably Tiberius’s face on the denarius Jesus requested to be shown in response to being questioned about paying taxes to Caesar. “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” Jesus asked. They said, “Caesar’s.” “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s,” Jesus said to them (Matt. 22:17-21). Pay taxes to a corrupt government whose governors and soldiers would eventually participate in the murder of the Lord Himself? Yes.

The first Christians lived under the carnage of the cruel and bizarre reign of Caligula. When his reign was cut short by his murder, Claudius was little better. Aquila and Priscilla got to experience firsthand the emperor’s ire when Claudius tried to solve his problems by expelling all Jews from the city of Rome (Acts 18:2). Comply with a megalomaniac emperor’s unreasonable edicts? Yes.

Then it was Nero’s turn to plot and murder his way to the throne in Rome. He is infamous for being vicious and cruel and for his harsh taxation. Nero’s atrocities are legendary. Two thousand years later, the name Nero lives in infamy among Christians for his persecutions. Here is what the apostles wrote at the very time that this man (described by some historians as a “brutal psychopath”) was reigning:

1 Timothy 2:1-2 - Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.

Romans 13:1-7 - Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore, you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

1 Peter 2:13-17 - Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men - as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.

Let me say again: these instructions were written during the monstrous despotic rule of Emperor Nero, the man who ascended the throne by murdering family and possible heirs to the throne; the man who kicked his pregnant wife to death; the man who openly married a man he had castrated; the man who persecuted Christians and blamed them for burning Rome. Pray for him? Yes. Be subject to him? Yes. Honor him? Yes. Pay your taxes? Yes. #NOTMYCAESAR was not an option that Scripture gave to Christians.

Politics have caused a vast divide in our country. Some Christians want to think that a president being elected by a suspicious or even illegal method means they need not recognize or honor him. Some conclude that a president who is immoral, accepts the killing of babies (abortion), or condones the sexually deviant is not “their president.” And some are judging the validity of a presidency based on their perspective on law, rights, taxes, foreign policy, or free trade. We must remember: the first century Roman emperors failed in all these areas; yet Christians were told to pray for them, submit to them, honor them, pay taxes to them.

It is legitimate to ask, “How do we honor the dishonorable?” Obviously, we are not being asked to call evil good and good evil (Is. 5:20). Without enumerating ways to honor in every imaginable case, I want to challenge each of us to examine what is in our hearts: what we say and what we post and share on social media. Is it expressing prayerful submission and honor to our governing officials, even when (and especially when) we strongly disagree with them? If you can’t think of anything positive about the elected official, that should be your challenge to let Christ live in you and prayerfully honor them. It’s hard, but “…this is the will of God…” (1 Pet. 2:15). We are not simply choosing a president; we are choosing whether we will do God’s will or not.

thinkonthesethings.com

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