A Small Investment

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We all are drawn to things that please us.  The beauty of a sunrise.  The aroma of a bouquet of beautiful roses.  The taste of an exquisite meal. The joy of a treasured friendship/relationship.  If we only spend our time focusing on things that please us, we would live a very self-centered world.  In the quest for pleasing ourselves, there usually lays the carnage of people behind us that were in the way of or had to be used so we could get what we thought would please us.

I recently watched a secular video about how to improve your life.  As I listened to the video, I was amazed by how many Biblical principles were included in the talk without using the Bible as a reference.  God’s Word has been with us for thousands of years and the principles that God wants us to live by have been around for even longer.  So why do so many want change in their lives, yet they do not want to put into practice the things that will bring about that change.  As a general rule, we are seeking immediate gratification without thought of the long term effects.

If we choose to eat dessert or overindulge in a particular item at dinner, there may be no immediate results but over time those additional calories add up to extra pounds that were much easier to put on than they are to take off.  So why not exercise the pain of discipline now rather than having to deal with the pain of regret later?   We generally do not choose this route of avoiding dessert because we want to please ourselves right now.

God has given us many verses in the Bible that direct our attention towards how we are to live.  These directives are not given by God so He can laugh at us and watch us suffer.  Rather He wants us to live lives that are not just pleasing to Him, but also will produce for us good fruit.

We could use the analogy of a farmer who gets what he sows.  What about the principle of investing or saving now while denying ourselves a short term pleasure for a greater long term dividend.  The principle of pruning a rose bush of all the dead growth produces more beautiful roses in the end.

It is the little investment now that reaps huge benefits later in life. When faced with a choice, no matter how small there will be a consequence to that choice.  When we say yes to one thing we are saying no to something else.

“Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight.”  (Proverbs 12:22)

If what we say is not truthful or partially truthful, we set ourselves up for mistrust in our relationships.  Trust is easy to lose, but very hard to regain.  The lies may be “small white lies” but something so small can generate large levels of mistrust in our relationships.

“But He gives more grace.  Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” (James 4:6)

What kind of person do we want to be around? One who is proud or one who is humble?  Yet, we make choices each day that support our pride or our humility.  They may seem like small choices, but they do add up.  As they add up, our reputation will precede us as a proud or humble person.

“Love one another with brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10)

I am always up for a little bit of competition.  Have we ever thought about loving and honoring others so much it becomes a bit of a competition?  It changes who we think about.  It changes our focus from what we get to what we can give.  We all appreciate when we are shown honor and respect.  Yet, why do we not do the same thing for others.  Do we look for ways to show honor to every person we meet.  Jesus did not order the disciples to wash His feet, rather He outdid the disciples by showing them honor and washing their feet.  Those that are looking to compete in the honor category do not demand to be served, rather they look for ways to serve.

The list could go on, but I think we get the point.  What we invest will in the end not just benefit those that are around us, it will also benefit us.  God gives grace to the humble not the proud.

If we say yes to something we say no to something else.  If we embrace the pain of discipline now we will enjoy being free of the pain of regret later.

“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

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Respect

 

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RESPECT…we all want it and according to Aretha Franklin it is “what you want… what you need,” and if you do not get the respect you want or need, “you might walk in and find out I’m gone.”  Aretha understood how important a “little respect” to any relationship is and when we do not get it, we have a hard time staying in the relationship no matter who the other person is….whether a husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, friend, acquaintance, or a business relationship. According to Webster (1984) respect means “to feel or show deferential regard for: esteem. Willingness to show consideration or appreciation, polite expressions of consideration or deference.”  This definition does not contain any aspect of whether the other person is deserving of the respect, but rather what is involved in giving someone else respect.

 

The first verse I taught our girls when they were young was Ephesians 6:1-3 “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and your mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long on the earth.”  As I taught them this verse I would ask them questions about the verse to be sure they understood.  I would ask them, “who are the children?”  They always knew who they were…Danielle, Denise, ad Delaney.  We had to learn what the word obey meant.  It certainly comes in handy around the house when we teach our children Scripture and they can put it into practice.  Then I would ask them “who are the parents?”  They knew the answer to this one pretty easily too…you and Dad.  We also had to learn the word honor.  According to Danna honor means, “To do what you are told with a happy heart and a smile on your face.”  Obey was the “doing what you are told” part of the definition, but as a young child showing your parents honor was “doing it with a happy heart and a smile on your face.”

 

In other words honor is respect.  The thing about this verse that I like to point out is that we are to honor or respect our parents even when they do not deserve it.  I tell my girls that even when I have dementia and they have to take care of me, they still have to honor me for the simple fact that I am their mom.  This is a hard to pill to swallow for some as they have had a difficult relationship with their parents.  They have abused them, not taken care of them, or been selfish and not acted towards their children as a parent should act.  I talked with a man who was full of regret over how his alcoholism ruined his relationship with his children.  Even though he had been dry for many years, his children could not get past the hurt he had caused them when they were young.  Yet, these relationships could be healed if Ephesians 6:2 became real in their lives and they honored or respected their father in spite of the pain that had been caused.

 

Respect for someone does not involve being a doormat, but rather how we treat them.  Even in the midst of a discussion with another who may not deserve our respect, when we show them respect the tone of the conversation can change.  The men Jesus chose to be His disciples were part of the lowest class of society.  They did not deserve respect and as we read about their lives with Jesus and how they responded there is even more reason to question His choice.  Yet, Jesus respected them.  He was patient with them.  He taught them.  Through His investment in them, because of His respect for them; the world was transformed by the Gospel.

 

So what are we as Christians called to do?  Show a little respect.  If it is what you want and if it is what you need, then it is safe to assume that it is what someone else wants and needs also.

Humility and Honor, or Pride and Destruction

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Esther 6

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18).  Haman has built himself up in his own eyes and is preparing for the demise of the only one who will not honor him as he feels he deserves.  Honor should not be forced, but should be given to whomever is worthy to receive it.  There are times that people do not deserve honor based on their character but receive honor based on their position such as David with King Saul.  Haman being in such a high position in the kingdom of Persia felt he was owed this honor by all at all times.

God in His infinite wisdom brings about a change in the direction of Haman’s plans by causing King Ahasuerus to not be able to sleep.  Having just finished a lovely meal with the Queen and Haman, he could not go to sleep.  So while Haman had his gallows constructed for Mordecai, the King had “the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, read before the king.” (Esther 6:1).  This book recorded the events that had taken place in the kingdom that were notable and praiseworthy.  In essence, it was the kingdom’s journal.

As the chronicle was read, the story of Mordecai saving the life of the King by overhearing the plot against his life was recited.  The king stopped the reader and asked if Mordecai had been honored for this act of faithfulness, and following the hand of God the act was not rewarded since God had plans for the reward to happen on this day.  Haman shows up in the outer court at just the right moment and the King desires him to enter so he can ask him, “What should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?”  (Esther 6:6).  Again God’s timing is perfect.  Haman can imagine no one more deserving of the King’s honor than himself so he thinks about how he would want to be honored and shares this with the King.  The King thought it was a marvelous idea so he tells Haman, “Hurry, take the robes and the horse, as you have said, and do so to Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the King’s gate.  Leave out nothing that you have mentioned.”

Haman had gone to the King to ask permission to hang Mordecai on his 75 foot gallows but instead he must parade Mordecai through the streets on the King’s horse with the king’s robe as he shouts, “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.”  If Haman knew this honor was not for him he might have suggested something a little less ostentatious.  He had to lead the man he wants to kill through the streets honoring him.  What a change of events, yet God has His hand in all situations.

Mordecai did not go back to the palace after this mini parade, but rather went home and told his wife and his friends all that had happened.  As he sits in the shadow of the gallows he has built for Mordecai, his wife and friends inform him that his future is not as bright as it once was.  “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of the Jewish people, you will not overcome him but will surely fall before him.” (Esther 6:13).  Though God’s name is not mentioned in the book of Esther, the hand of God is seen not just by those of us that can read the story in its entirety but also by those that are a part of the story as it unfolds.  It seems Zeresh and Haman’s wise men see the finger of God moving the pieces of this story before their eyes.  God works in wonderful ways.  Sometimes it is obvious and sometimes it is little steps at a time until the big picture is revealed.  As we submit to God in our lives and willingly follow His leading in our lives, the picture becomes clearer.

As Haman was hanging his head in defeat listening to his wife and friends, the King’s eunuch comes to get Haman for the feast with the King and the Queen.  Haman must have been late, maybe he forgot about his feast with the King and the Queen, or maybe he did not want to go now that his honor had been stripped by Mordecai the Jew.  Whatever happened, the eunuchs hurried him along to the feast.

Questions:

  1. What did the King say about Mordecai in Esther 6:10?
  1. The King obviously knew where Mordecai worked and his nationality. Go back to Esther 3:8-11 and reread what Haman presented to the King.  What are your observations about the passage?
  1. Haman pushed his political agenda and his deep seated prejudice with the King. Since the King had no other wise people he consulted, the entire Jewish race would be wiped out without the King even realizing who was being annihilated.  What does this scenario teach about having wise counselors, mentors, and friends to help guide our decisions?
  1. How do these verses apply to this situation with the King, Haman, and the edict against the Jews? Proverbs 3:35, Proverbs 12:15, Proverbs 14:16.
  1. Once the mini parade was over where did Haman go? Where did Mordecai go? (Esther 6:12)
  1. What does this show about Mordecai’s character?