Anniversary of 9/11- Memories from Wheaton College – and Todd Beamer’s father

Ripples of Faith

An interview with Chaplain Steve Kellough of Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois (previously published on CBN.com)

 

The name Todd Beamer became known across America on September 11, 2001. Todd was one of those on United Airlines Flight 93 who apparently foiled efforts of the hijackers and grounded the flight in rural Pennsylvania.   (His widow Lisa was introduced at the Capitol when President Bush addressed Congress shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks).

 

Todd was a Wheaton College alumnus -as was Jason Oswald, working just above where American Airline Flight 11 struck the south tower of the World Trade Center. Jason had just moved to New York and begun his job 3 months prior.   On American Airline’s Flight 11 was the grandmother of Jacob Anderson, a current student at Wheaton, and Rev. Jeffrey Malednik, a Wheaton grad-school alumnus and pastor at Christ Church of Oakbrook, Illinois.

 

Thus in that single moment in time, hundreds of college students and faculty and thousands of lives in and around Wheaton, Illinois were immediately, deeply, and personally affected.

 

The great majority of Wheaton’s 18-22 year-old students were unfamiliar with death -in any form – and understandably sensitive to such a world catastrophe – especially one that so personally touched them. These classmates, friends, and family members had names. Jeff left a widow, 4 children, and his church family; Jason, his fiancé and both of their families.   Todd’s widow Lisa had 3 children, was expecting and has since delivered their 4th child; Jacob’s grandmother, who had been visiting family in Boston, left a void with many AIDS patients, the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program where she ministered, her 5 children including Jacob, and many more grandchildren.     Like ripples in a pond from a single pebble, the ring of friends, relatives, fellow-students, and other lives that were touched is ever widening.

 

The ripples, however, began long before September 11th as Jeff, Jason, Todd and Jacob’s grandmother each made peace with God at various points in their lives. Particularly because of those personal relationships, Wheaton’s Chaplain Kellough shared with me; staff and counselors found comfort that the student’s responses to their grief were underscored with hope.

 

Though plunged into an abyss of crossroads the students were, he felt, “Looking for ways to use their spiritual resources”. Compelled as all of America to watch the tragedy unfold, students were grieving at the personal loss – not only for Wheaton and themselves but for the world, and “they immediately began thinking more seriously about their faith, using the time of mourning seeking help and seeking God for peace.”   Immediately they left their classrooms, rushing to join the faculty who stood like sentinels, lining the perimeter of the chapel, so students could approach them for prayer.

 

This was truly an “American Moment”, for there were no distinctions at Wheaton that day, – student and staff, class and rank were one in spirit, for all were grieving. Time would show this was no temporary detour – it was a complete and life-changing U-turn for hundreds of students. Staff and the campus community alike witnessed the beginning sparks in the chapel that day. Following an open invitation to come to the microphones and share comfort, scores upon scores of students lined up immediately to share scripture they had memorized or to read scriptures of comfort and hope. Hours later, that first memorial service was closed in unison as throughout the chapel tens of students who had not made it to the microphones turned to those next to them, and communicated through the scriptures the comfort of God to all who had gathered together. The spirit of unity and the cacophony and fervor of hundreds of voices corporately sharing scripture was, Chaplain Kellough shared, not unlike what he imagined might be experienced in heaven.

 

But the students’ “heavenly changes” had just begun. Emotionally drained staff members were amazed at the number of services the students initiated as they saw the need for prayer and worship. The campus where Jason Oswald (described by many as a very Godly man) and his best friend were alumnus hosted a Saturday memorial service officiated by Holy Trinity Church of Hyde Park, the church Jason attended. The following Monday, a chapel service was a tribute to the memory and honor of those 4 lost by Wheaton’s family and the world. Sue Malednik, 3 of her 4 children, and Jeff’s mother joined the memorial service where Sue touchingly commented how proud Jeff was of being a graduate of the grad school and of wearing his Wheaton college ring – even that fateful day. Lisa Beamer was looked up to as a courageous and unique person who was given supernatural grace and strength to be able to set aside her own grieving as she was asked on Larry King, Oprah, and other programs to speak of her faith, Todd’s faith and his character in light of the unusual tragedy and circumstances.

 

Watching Lisa’s faith in action inspired the students to continue their spiritual turnabout. But the students did not stop at inspiration alone. United, their focus galvanized as they held several other special services with as many as 600 students attending individual services. It became obvious to family, friends, staff and community that the students were finding the need for a devotional life more important than before. Suddenly, the chaplain noted, small groups were a more important priority and the scriptures were more compelling. “Another thing that struck me,” Chaplain Kellough shared, “was how their actions demonstrated their interest in debunking consumerism and materialism by affirming their spiritual resources. Like a light at a crossroad, the students showed the way to many, first centering on their spiritual relationship to God, then as well to what they could do – quickly responding to first Timothy 2, verses 1 and two “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone–for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” by praying for their leaders, and praying more fervently than ever for peace in the world.”

 

Then the dramatic U-turn of the students of Wheaton College took on a more personal aspect, for Chaplain Kellough described how the students experienced personal revival. Devouring scripture and given constantly to prayer, they opened themselves to self-evaluation and they rediscovered how Jesus called them to be peacemakers. Unafraid of scrutiny, and putting their new enlightenment into action, student after student called or went home, repairing, affirming and developing closer personal relationships with parents and siblings, as well as friends.

 

Through these students and the staff, Wheaton College’s mission and ministry goal to integrate faith and learning was maximized and lived out during the days following September 11. Although some urban schools closed campuses for security purposes, Wheaton deliberately did not, allowing students and faculty to process all that happened in the light of faith, allowing for prayer and discussion using the particular discipline of each course, finding the Christian response to war and tragedy. Consequently, students’ reaction was that they will forever look at the world in a different way, for such an attack on humanity was a revelation to them of the fallenness of the world. The evil efforts of those who wanted to use the tragedy for their own financial benefit, developing scams within 24 hours that pretended to be collecting money for relief, shocked them and was a grim reminder of the depth of evil in our world today. But, at the same time, they were touched at the contrasts in multitude of reports of the love of God shown through people with acts of genuine caring and love.

 

“These events, though difficult, gave us a realistic view of our world,” said the obviously sensitized Wheaton students — intent on a new mission.   Desiring to do relief work or help those who were struggling in New York, Pennsylvania, Washington and other parts of the world, students responded immediately by changing previous decisions concerning their spring and summer plans. Individually and collectively they began prioritizing and re-evaluating priorities of life – both short and long term. Unashamed, telling how they now felt called by God to work for Christ in some work of compassion and relief for victims of hardship, hundreds of students vocalized and demonstrated that the material things they had been going after “are now unimportant – the goal of a big salary and a nice house were no longer the priority.”

 

A sense of urgency for evangelism pervaded the campus, for the need was seen so much more dramatically as people filled the churches, seeking for resources of faith. It was comforting, Chaplain Kellough assured me, to watch those good things happening in light of all the bad they’d just experienced.

 

Despite the exhausting and demanding time as their link to God as the pastor of Wheaton College, or perhaps because of it, Kellough acknowledged a spiritual deepening himself, citing an intensified personal prayer life, and experiences of an “unusual very-present strength and source of help in the Lord within the unusually increased workload.”

 

As Kellough recalled crying out to God for words to comfort the entire campus, he also recalled how it all began – immediately after the planes hit the trade center and the pentagon: “Even that first question on everyone’s mind of “Why can such a thing as this happen?” – was bypassed, he marveled, as students asked instead – “Who? “Who do we go to in times like these?”

 

Their conclusion – a firm and unshakable resolve – “There is only one place to go to and that is God” was inspiring. Inspiring because it is true, but also inspiring because those young students were open and honest enough to turn from their present course and redirect every area of their personal lives to pleasing and serving God.

 

Their resolve and their God is still active today as these never-the-same students head toward their former career goals with new and deeper perspectives and goals. Oh yes, they will still be lawyers, teachers, pastors, accountants and everything in between – but their vocations are no longer just “jobs” for they have researched well how they can serve in each area as ministers to those in need, while using their talents to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are the first to tell you that the students of Wheaton College are moving forward on their new course. Through their lives, their decisions and their actions they say, “…although there is much evil in this world there is still a loving God, and we need to look to Him for help, for understanding, for comfort and direction.”

 

Their world has already experienced some of the life changes they have made as a result of their resolves and commitments. Our world too, is beginning to bear their fruit – graduates of those who have tossed out into the waters of life their pebbles of faith. Year by year as each of these hundreds of students graduate and carry their faith into the world the ripples will broaden again and again.

 

 

How can I be so certain of this?   The scriptures have promised it.

 

2 Chronicles 7:14

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Let’s pray today for all the families left behind, for all the survivors experiencing PTSD, and for America.

 

Click here for

Todd Beamer’s Father -and others share their stories.

Activating Faith – An Optional Accessory?

Activating Faith is not an optional accessory to our Christian walk – it is an expected outcome.

 

Titus clearly outlined what godly living should look like

 

The basis is that God’s grace changes the church so the church can be a living example of that grace. We (not various buildings) are God’s church.

 

My applications from Titus are:

 

Tell /Show

Titus 2:1 – Tell/speak/show/demonstrate to believers to live the kind of life that is fitting [clearly seen as] sound instruction and builds trust and respect for our faith.

 

Example: displaying through words and actions such profound love and respect that others recognize it as other-worldly and long for it in their own lives

 

Model/Display:

Men: temperate, dignified, sensible, sound (steadfast) in faith, love and perseverance

Women: sensible, pure/reverent behavior focused on family first, respectful of husband, kind, not dishonoring God’s Word in anything

 

Building up and loving one another through all circumstances by depending on God’s Word as a firm foundation for our decisions and actions. Live an example that will show younger couples and children what godly love looks like.

 

Respect Employers and Legal Authorities

 

Do not steal material goods or time from employer. Respect the office even if you cannot respect the person. Look for good things to do and be prepared to be the one who leads doing peaceful and good actions without maligning others. Remember that all have personal pain and gently show consideration for the lives God intended them to have in Christ.

 

Avoid Controversies and Aimless Disputes

Focus on (memorize and study) God’s truth so you can speak calmly and confidently to encourage others not to submit their emotions to those with ungodly goals.

 

Be Fruitful

Dormant faith cannot bear fruit. We must learn to prepare to meet others’ needs and to sow/plant/anticipate God to work through us what is good and profitable for all.

 

In summary our actions should be an affirmation of our words.

Our words should be a confirmation of our actions.

Both our actions and our words should clearly proclaim our faith.

 

Faith that is activated through telling and showing is a natural and expected response to the rescue we have experienced through Christ.

 

Challenge:

Take a look through Titus 2 and 3, putting your name in place of the words you, us and we – and let me know what you find!  What does Activating Faith look like in your life?

Finding Financial Contentment

Living within one’s income and learning to see money as God sees it. Ecclesiastes 5:10

In these tough times many of us have reduced income for various reasons. As followers of Christ it is our responsibility to properly manage whatever we have been given. Some people think once you know the Lord you are immune to human failings and the lure and deceit of the world to spend, spend, spend. Sorry, but we are STILL human, and God said all things are becoming new. There is hardly anything worse financially, than not knowing what is in the checkbook and fearing to answer the telephone because it might be a creditor.

Many people have found help in evaluating their motives and spending habits with the following questions.

What will help you stand firm against making money mistakes?

  • Be on guard – beware of your most vulnerable areas so you can avoid a fall. – I Corinthians 10:13 – Identify temptation
  • Be diligent and discerning – see through the lies and rationalization of the enemy. Matthew 4:3-4

Recognize Money Mistakes that “even Christians” make

Focusing on self

  1. Indulgence (I Timothy 6: 10-11, Phil. 4:11, Hebrews 13:5) (What am I pursuing and longing for)
  2. Impatience (Phil. 4:19, James 1:2-6 and 2 Peter 1: 3-9) (Am I missing anything I need to LIVE and couldn’t wait for?)
  3. Ignorance (2 Cor. 2:11, Eph. 5:6, Eph. 4:17-22) (Have I been fooled by Satan in the past with money)
  4. Pride (James 4:6, Ps. 40:4) (Am I ready to humbly ask God for help)

 

Disobedience (not taking the responsibility to obey)

  1. Procrastination (or laziness) (I Tim. 5:8, Prov. 20:13, Prov. 13:18 (a) (Have I done all I can)
  2. Ungratefulness (Ps. 26:7, Ps. 95:2) (What do I have to be thankful for)
  3. Stubbornness (Prov. 11:14, Prov. 12:15, Prov. 15:22) (Have I sought counsel)
  4. Hoarding (Prov. 11:28, Prov. 11:24, Prov. 3: 9-10) (What can I share with others
  5. Distrust (Eph. 5:22-33) (Am I / are we / following God’s order in our marriage – can my spouse’s heart safely trust me with money?)
  6. Deceit (Gal. 6:7-8, Mark 4:19, Prov. 21:6, and Eph. 5:6) (Have I deceived God or my spouse, or allowed myself to be deceived by others to get something)

Once you have resolved these issues and created a budget be sure you are able to scripturally defend your financial plan and spending. Psalm 119:11

We have been greatly influenced by Mary Hunt’s common sense approach to finances, and have been able to help others using her plan and materials.

Specific tools for getting out of financial difficulty can be found in Mary Hunt’s books and website Living Debt Free.

See http://www.debtproofliving.com/

Regrets…and Hope

Regrets

I think we all have them. I certainly have my share –

 

Things I wish I’d said and done….

 

Things I wish I hadn’t.

 

I want to gift you with a comment a writer friend gave me through one of her characters.

 

In the story, the character’s wife had been unfaithful and unrepentant about it. He was so hurt and angry he stepped away and did not offer her redemption. She was killed in an auto accident shortly after and he regretted what to him felt like a vital missed opportunity.

 

After years of agonizing about his self-identified “un-Christian” attitude and lack of action, he finally confessed it to a friend.

 

The friend’s response:

 

And do you think God was limited by that?

Was God limited in fulfilling that person’s need by the character’s action…by my action…or lack of it?

Whoa. I’d forgotten, just as the character had, that my story was not just my story – it was God’s story. God knows my weaknesses and appreciates my confession and repentance, and then He

forgets my wimping out of opportunities that were given to be a bigger part of a number of stories.

 

Because I failed in the ultimate goal of that moment (to give someone comfort, help, advice, silence, or whatever God led) does not mean that God failed – that the need was not addressed or provided.

 

God promised He would never leave us or forsake us. He did not promise those I love that He would do that only through me or only through me and…but exactly what His Word says – God/Jesus said “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

 

One resource says there are 5467 promises, divine, in the Bible. Another resource says there are 3000 promises to which God answers yes. However many there are, none…

 

None

 

Depend on me.

 

That is not to say God will not use me (or you) in others lives, he will, and I am grateful to get confirmation from time to time that He has given me that privilege.

 

Yes, God does

But it is such a comfort to be reminded that where I have failed, God has prevailed.

 

He does not need to use people, but He often does. And though I may experience loss for those poor choices, procrastination, fear, or lack of follow through and so on, I can be confident that God’s promises have been, are being, and will be completely fulfilled.

 

I look forward to the day when I see and hear the rest of many stories, and to thank whomever God used in my place to correct and fulfill what I should have done (or not done).

 

 

Regret: Dictionary: To feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over (something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity

 

 

 

 

 

2Cor. 1:20 Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God’s Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident.

 

2Cor. 7:1 With promises like this to pull us on, dear friends, let’s make a clean break with everything that defiles or distracts us, both within and without. Let’s make our entire lives fit and holy temples for the worship of God.

 

Heb. 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful

How has God been faithful to you?

What Good is Anger?

What  is Anger? indignation, fury, stirred up emotion, a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility

Anger –  a punishment we give ourselves, usually for someone else’s mistake.

Anger – whoever makes you angry, or keeps you angry, has control of you – your emotions and your attitude.

Anger – God expects it. He understands we will get angry, but gives us a choice and directions of what to let it do and not do.

Prov. 15:18

A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.

What good can anger possibly do?

Anger can help us identify triggers

Anger can motivate us to do something about whatever makes us angry

Anger can help cope with stress by discharging the tension that built up to that point

Anger can make us face consequences (especially if we are angry at ourselves)

Anger can lead us to call out to God when we realize who or what is controlling us

Anger can make us aware of injustice and motivate us to correct it

Anger can be a bargaining tool if it makes the antagonist realize they are being hurtful.

Anger can increase cooperation if the anger is justified and controlled and appropriate

Anger can lead to self-improvement if we improve or change our response to its triggers

Aristotle said: “Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”

The Bible says:

James 1: 19-20

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

Proverbs 29:11

A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.

Proverbs 19:11

Good sense makes one slow to anger,   and it is his glory to overlook an offense

We all have many stories of the hurt anger has caused but do you have a story of some good that controlled anger has brought about?

A Bucket List, A 100-Mile Rummage Sale and a Husband Dare

I don’t often get to spend time with my friend/daughter-in-law (DIL) Kris, so when she saw a bucket list item in the middle of a 100 mile rummage sale, I was happy to offer to be the designated driver and she the designated navigator.

When I informed my husband, however, he had another idea – a dare, really. He originally thought I said we were going to 100 rummage sales, and I suppose that was possible though even the thought was exhausting. We are, like most people our age, at the stage of downsizing, not hunting for gems at rummage sales. Consequently he challenged me to take 100 items and leave one at each rummage sale, so instead of bringing home 100 things, I’d be getting rid of them!

I accepted the challenge and prepared a box of items (though no where near 100 items). I also prayed that God would guide what I would leave where, and if it was his will that I could encourage or connect with at least one person through this special trip.

I’ve become, as daughters, friends and family have indicated, more and more controlling as the years go by – not that I like to control them, but that I like to be in control. I brought along a paper printout of each city stop on the route, with distances etc. Kris put it away in the car and pulled out her GPS! I had to learn trust real quickly.

We had a great time discussing many things and especially books on the way up. At one point I was sharing the synopsis of a current read and thinking dear DIL might like to read it when I was done. She let me go on for quite a bit (apparently patiently used to my detailed descriptions) and then she said, “That sounds like Sarah’s Key,” which it was. It was fun each night to tell her where I was and to answer her queries about how I felt about different characters and happenings.

 

The first day was driving, finding the bucket-list-museum to be nice though a bit underwhelming pole barn. We then began the dare, visiting the sales that were still open at dusk in a near-by town. Kris caught me explaining the dare to one lady and challenged me to slip the goodies onto their tables instead, so I began alternating. The next day was almost total rummaging. I’d drive and we’d see a sign with balloons or ribbons and she’d say yes or no and we’d pull in.

 

Deluded?

At first we were tempted by signs that said huge, then quickly found the seller’s view did not match ours. Even the sign saying biggest, best sale at the high school deluded us. We envisioned the gym filled with tables upon tables of goodies. There were a few tables outside the school and books on blankets in the grass. We were soon laughing when we saw the word HUGE on a sign.

 

We did browse and contribute to the Feral Friends sale. (they capture, neuter and release Feral cats to reduce population. It was located by one of the numerous historical markers on the edge of a little park and a depot in process of restoration.

 

Flea markets were pretty big with raw honey, jam, moringa tea, and lots of unidentifiable things but had a few of what we were looking for (golden books, baby clothes for a new great-grandchild and steam punk items) but the barn sales were very dirty. I grew up near a farm and still did not expect things for sale to be coated with dust and grease and to be priced well over what we knew the value to be. Almost every place we left, we next wanted to go wash our hands.

There was an interesting bohemian couple that found Kris’ broad knowledge interesting, so while they continued to chat and try to convince her to buy more of their books, I slipped over to another sale near the car. I’d seen the woman manning the tables go into the house, so it was a perfect opportunity to slip a couple of surprises on her table. As

we were leaving, the woman came out of the house, and began straightening items on the tables. She was bent over the stack of books on one corner (which now had two additional volumes) as we drove off J.

We did find a place to wash our hands and have a meal with “the best sweet potato fries ever” according to my navigator.

Getting tired of the sameness Kris suggested we try a few more and head north. There came a big green sign with that word on it. HUGE. And so, laughing we headed toward the woods, We drove past probably 7 or 8 green signs taunting us or comforting us, however you wanted to take it, that we were on the right road, we would soon get there, to keep on going, and we were almost there till finally at the top of a hill about 6 miles into the woods we saw a house halfway into the little valley. The 100 mile rummage sale had begun on Thursday so it’s likely the slim pickings should have been expected. I had a few things left in the car and felt I should leave a couple of Christian books at this one. I did not bring them with me to sneak them in. We walked through their goods and chatted with the friendly gals. I told them I was going to purchase a blue candle but I had something for them in the car. Kris was done shopping and entertaining the ladies with stories of our adventure, so she went to the car when I did and stayed there while I returned with the books.

As I re-approached their table, I explained the husband-dare, and like others they laughed and thought it was a great idea they might try someday. I handed both books to the gal sitting at the checkout table and she moved the top book to look at the second and gasped then held that book to her chest and exclaimed possessively, “This one’s mine!”. I asked her what that was about and she said she was amazed. A friend’s grandmother had highly recommended that she read that specific book, she said, and she had been wondering how a gal out in the middle of nowhere was going to find that book. Her friend came over and commented on the situation and the gal kept looking at the book and at me and shaking her head. Kris and I had exchanged info about where we live and so she knew it was a God-led coincidence for us to show up and hand her the book she was seeking at her friend’s grandma’s urging. It was obvious from the conversation the grandmother was a believer and wanted to share her faith with the younger woman.

I did not leave my name or info as I sometimes do, but did have in each book a postcard about where we are in the world compared to the sun. They were reading it aloud when I left.  I did rather float out to the car in happiness.  I love when God answers prayers like that.

A friend visiting today  said that a wise person told him that the longer a person walks closely to Christ, the more unexplainable “coincidences” they will experience. He found it true.

I find it true as well.

What was your most recent unexplainable coincidence?

New Life and A New Name

Today I can celebrate my name with new meanings

Do you like your name? My name, Delores, was a happenstance (carved into the door of the house into which my parents moved). And  though it was better than my mother’s original plan (Fifi Fern), my name got a lot of teasing because of its meaning.

I don’t know what kid would be happy with a name that meant pain. Especially when your early life seemed to be filled with many kinds of pain. When my husband and I found Christ through reading the Bible, I began to look at my name in new ways:

If only I’d thought through and beyond that first name…

 

Delores – still means sorrow, but now it brings to mind the Via Dolorosa – the way of sorrows – that Christ walked to the cross.

 

For me.

 

Let’s repeat that slowly with meaning: for me. For me. For me.

 

This realization lifted off the specter of feeling doomed and chased by sorrows. I’d gloomed around like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, always expecting the worst. Though my life had many sorrows (some I admittedly caused myself), knowing Christ bore the pain and penalty of all my sins and sorrows lifted my heart greatly. Let’s face it, few are the people who make an effort to hang out with the Eeyores of life. More than an external change – I needed a new focus – away from myself and the symptoms of my despair to the only one who could conquer the cause.

 

That change? A trust that Christ would do what he said. By Faith: the origin of my middle name, Fae.

 

Thinking of both of my names as a whole Delores Faith or Sorrows Faith enlightened me that one comes by way of surviving the other. There is no victory without a battle.

When my heart focus changed my spiritual vision and understanding changed too. I daily discovered that God is with us in our circumstances, and He does not want our past or present circumstances to control our new life. That new life is enduring and has purpose, restoration and protection.

 

This God-relationship grows as I spend time listening to His Words, focusing in faith as to what He can do, rather than what I cannot. 

 

Just think, Easter’s celebration of Christ’s resurrection and new life  also brings us new life, and a new identity from our creator Daddy, was planned for each of us, long before we were even born.

 

Have you found yours?

 

What is the meaning of your name?

PURIM – We Got An Invitation!

I got an invitation!

As a Christian, my spiritual heritage is rooted in the faith of Israel and God’s chosen people. Consequently, when I read the whole Megilla (the book of Esther) and learned about Purim I wanted to celebrate too. Then I saw Esther 9:27!

After thwarting Haman’s plan to eradicate them, the Jews established a custom for:

  • themselves
  • their descendants
  • and all those who allied themselves with them

 

Wow. An invitation encouraging us to celebrate together for generations to come, united in these ten teachings from Esther:

 

  1. We don’t need to see God to know He is there

 

Though never directly named in the book of Esther, God is seen is through the existence of over a million Jewish people, including Mordecai and Esther.

 

Every time I meet a Jewish person I see living proof of God’s faithfulness to His eternal and unbreakable covenant: His chosen people would always survive.

 

The enemy’s whisper, “Where is your God?” is routed by blessings, guidance, and deliverances – proof of His promise that as He was with Esther, He is and will be with us.

 

  1. Responding to truth brings peace despite circumstances

 

Actions like Xerxes’ emotional banishment of Vashti, though created by the enemy and based on lies, create a platform where God will work. The Megilla tells how Esther became queen, and God worked His great purpose through her. In the middle of such an ego and power-driven situation, it would be easy to fear.

 

Just as America keeps her eyes on Washington, knowing its edicts can impact and change lives in an instant, so Xerxes’ kingdom must have watched the Persian palace with fear and trembling.

 

If we, like Esther, calmly and confidently look beyond the circumstances and the lawmakers, we confirm the truth of God’s sovereignty over all principalities and power. Relying on God’s Word provides rescue, peace, and hope.

 

  1. Be able to recognize the enemy, so you will know when you have been taken.

 

 

Mordecai had taken Esther…Esther was taken by Persian authorities to the king’s palace.

 

Mordecai’s taken translates: brought – nourished.

The palace authorities’ taken means to tie, bind, imprison.

 

Esther must have felt overwhelmed by the difference. She was captive of a hidden enemy.

 

With Esther we learn the enemy is identifiable after being in God’s presence on a daily basis. God’s mirror reveals Xerxes’ downfall – making decisions and living by emotion and ego. It also reveals God’s character and desire to take us to safety.

 

 

  1. In captivity? There are still choices.

 

Though captured bodily, Esther’s spirit was not overtaken. Mordecai ordered her to not reveal her nationality or lineage and Esther had the choice of response: to obey sullenly, rebelliously, willingly, and without murmuring or grumbling.

 

Taught unquestioning obedience for authoritative figures, Esther’s secret Jewishness did not color her responses to palace authority. Instead, lifetime training was so ingrained she retained it even when forcibly absent from Mordecai’s guidance.

 

We also find comfort in overwhelming circumstances, knowing our sovereign God is here: planning, protecting, and providing.

 

  1. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom

 

Xerxes’ pitiful example illustrated how decisions made in haste, or anger usually ends in regret.

 

Realizing she had no ability or power of her own, Esther chose to trust God on behalf of her people, telling Mordecai to ask all to fast and pray with her for 3 days to seek God’s direction.

 

Too often, only when all our options are exhausted, do we run to God. From Esther and Xerxes stories, we learn to run to God first, trusting Him to work through me, or someone else.

 

The combination of prayer and fasting is mighty. Esther’s example, to step back, evaluate, and seek God’s wisdom instead of reacting, continues to serve us well in our life of constantly impending threats and crisis.

 

  1. Leave plenty of room for God to work

 

 

Whether calculated, or led moment-by-moment, Esther’s actions reveal that she moved ahead while listening for God’s direction – leaving room for God to work.

 

She fasted, and stood in faith, dressed with all authority accorded to her. She went in to the king prepared physically, mentally, and spiritually.

 

Xerxes’ court must have gasped when Queen Esther entered uninvited. I imagine everyone holding their breath, wondering for what concern she would risk her life.

 

Did Esther plan dinners for the King and Haman before fasting or while fasting? Whenever, it had to be done in faith, believing God for the details.

  1. Assimilating to the enemy is never an option

 

Although Esther had somehow entered the palace without outward identification as Jewish, God and His promises still lived within her heart. Mordecai was hated by Haman for his identity, and it had to be only a matter of time until Haman figured out Esther was also Jewish.

 

The situation was delicate, for though Haman had constructed the evil law, the king had signed it. Esther now had to expose Haman without accusing the king, while publicly revealing truth about herself that she had not shared with the King.

 

But once Esther saw the right thing she moved decisively.

 

  1. Remember what God has done

 

 

It had to be a miracle of God to the fasting Jews when Xerxes honored Mordecai. If the restless monarch hadn’t read the chronicles would he have believed Haman instead?

 

God reversed every negative. Haman’s edict brought mourning, fasting, weeping, and wailing; but later in 8:16, it was a time of light, gladness, joy, and honor.

 

God knew Haman would cast lots (Pur) until he got the date he wanted, allowing the intended destruction to be scheduled near Passover. While Esther’s story is a call to Purim…celebrating, feasting and rejoicing, Esther’s destiny reversal is even more about the Passover, commemorating their deliverance with purity (the blood of the Lamb).

 

Passover’s symbolism still proclaims that God is Elohim, reminding us: He who saved our firstborn continues to keep His covenant and His people

 

  1. If we know Messiah, God’s destiny is within us

 

God is sovereign, no matter our circumstance. We can trust Him to provide the only protection that will cause the enemy’s planned disaster to pass over us.

 

Only trusting in God’s truth can we cast aside foolish pride like Haman’s, and depending on God’s wisdom, make the right decisions, unlike Xerxes,

 

We can like Mordecai, be unafraid, despite personal risk, to identify the enemy. Admitting we can do nothing in our own strength, we can bow before God in prayer and fasting like Esther, then confidently move ahead, trusting our destiny ‘s resolution to Yeshua Messiah – King of Kings.

  1. Celebrate the Victory

 

Commandments establishing Purim remind us to regularly practice remembering what God has done for ‘His people’, celebrating Messiah’s victory over every principality and power.

 

Because of sin, we all will face death, revealing our destiny-choices before God. We need to prepare for our remaining days as seriously as Esther, and celebrate our freedom and victories as heartily as all of Xerxes Jewish kingdom.

I can hardly wait to celebrate Purim – together!

 

How To Do a Spiritual Lifeline

Purposes of a Spiritual Lifeline are to help you write out your spiritual story – before your relationship with God, how it happened, and life changes after. It also helps to see if you have questions/concerns not yet answered, helps some to name or acknowledge growth or direction for life and ministry, and to recognize those who helped you along the way.  My sisters Marlene and Marvel  constantly encourage me .

 

Have you had some tough life experiences? Some tender ones?

 

Have you learned from those experiences, and passed along your life-lesson to others?

 

Do you find yourself recognizing others’ similar situations and sympathizing with them?

 

All of those questions lead to revealing your training to Be the Miracle for someone else’s need.

 

Here’s step one of a 5-step way to flesh out your heart-trained skills:

 

  1. Jog your memory – Draw a line across a paper. Add a peak for every a decade and write out one tough and one tender life event for each.
  2. Write a few words by each life event to describe a lesson, a moral, a blessing, a person, an object, a scent, or anything that rekindles the recall of this event and how it affected your life – big moments you want to mark could be physically, emotionally, mentally but especially spiritually.
  3. Now write the person’s name or initials that most affected you in each event, whether negatively or positively. Add the N or the P next to their name in case you need to remember.
  4. Now you should have a list of major events, negative and positive that affected your life. Next to the event you should have the person’s name or initials that most touched you through that experience and an N for negative effect or P for positive effect.
  5. For all the positive highlights it’s time to say thanks! Even if you have done it before, send a brief note saying you were thinking of life highlights and they came to mind. It is always a joy to find a cheerful note among the bills!
  6. For all the negative – make a list on a separate paper and looking at Philippians 4:8 write next to each negative incident something you learned from the circumstance or something you were able to later know compassion about for someone else, or something about God and./or someone who helped you through it. Here is your list from the Amplified Bible – Amplified (Revised): Finally, believers,
  7. whatever is true
  8. whatever is honorable and worthy of respect
  9. whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word
  10. whatever is pure and wholesome
  11. whatever is lovely and brings peace
  12. whatever is admirable and of good repute
  13. if there is any excellence
  14. if there is anything worthy of praise,
  15. think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart].

Thinking on the good results, or the good support can help you redeem the bad situations. Hopefully from that day forward all your highlights on the spiritual lifeline will have positive results!

If you find this exercise helpful, you can later add to it with more specific dates and events, rather than time periods.

Who did you find important on your spiritual lifeline?

Is that you, God?

How far back can I remember? Memories without age or form…

Psa. 139:1      GOD, investigate my life;

get all the facts firsthand.

Psa. 139:2       I’m an open book to you;

even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.

Psa. 139:3       You know when I leave and when I get back;

I’m never out of your sight.

Psa. 139:4       You know everything I’m going to say

before I start the first sentence.

Psa. 139:5       I look behind me and you’re there,

then up ahead and you’re there, too—

your reassuring presence, coming and going.

Psa. 139:6       This is too much, too wonderful—

I can’t take it all in!

 

Unwanted – a mistake – bad seed – all these hurts – yet a knowing – someone – something is here with me. God, is that you?

 

I AM

 

I’ve tried to run away, hiding in the dark, changing my name, wanting to understand if life is so hard why am I here. Dreamer, they call me yet, deep within I hear a voice telling me not to be afraid – God is that you?

 

 

Psa. 139:7 -12

Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?

to be out of your sight?

If I climb to the sky, you’re there!

If I go underground, you’re there!

If I flew on morning’s wings

to the far western horizon,

You’d find me in a minute—

you’re already there waiting!

Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!

At night I’m immersed in the light!”

It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;

night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.

 

I don’t know how I know that my life began before birth, but I do. There’s a sense of the beyond when I look at your creation – the great Orion calls out and says I know you…is that right? Is that you, God?

 

Psa. 139:13-16

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;

you formed me in my mother’s womb.

I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!

Body and soul, I am marvelously made!

I worship in adoration—what a creation!

You know me inside and out,

you know every bone in my body;

You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,

how I was sculpted from nothing into something.

Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;

all the stages of my life were spread out before you,

The days of my life all prepared

before I’d even lived one day.

 

Psa. 139:17    Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful!

God, I’ll never comprehend them!

Psa. 139:18     I couldn’t even begin to count them—

any more than I could count the sand of the sea.

Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you!

 

Thank you, God for making yourself known to me.

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