Who God Is Gonna Use

It’s Tuesday morning, December 20, 2011. You don’t need me to count down to Christmas any more…most of you can count to five, I think. It’s coming up, though. Are you ready? I’m not. I still have wrapping to do.

I said “WRAPPING!” Sheesh.

Anyway…It’s cooler again this morning, here…in the lower forties, and only projected to get to 49 today. The ten day forecast, which includes Christmas day, shows mostly sunny with highs anywhere from 61 to 49. Christmas day, the high should be around 48. Chilly, but no precipitation. No “white Christmas” this year. Can’t say I’m sad about that. We had one of those two years ago. It wasn’t as fun as it sounds.

On to the devotional.

Today’s Bible readings:
Revelation 11; Esther 4-6; Luke 1:5-25

Revelation 11 continues what is called “the second woe.” The scene is still between the sixth and seventh trumpet blasts. There is reference to half of the period of seven years (forty-two months), and it is said that the holy city will be trampled for that length of time. Also during that time, two witnesses will appear. They will have great power to prophecy and speak the truth during the time when the Antichrist is in authority. If anyone tries to harm them, fire will come out of their mouths to destroy their foes. It is said of them in verse 4, These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. This makes reference to Zerubbabel and Joshua from Zechariah 4. But they also have similar abilities to do miracles, as Moses and Elijah did. Whoever they truly are, they are powerful witnesses for God. After their time is done, it is said that the “beast” will kill them. Their bodies will lie in the streets for a time, while people rejoice over their deaths and even exchange gifts to celebrate. But, suddenly, life will come back to them and they will rise up. There will be great fear that will fall on all who see them. They will rise up to heaven in a cloud. Immediately following that, John saw a great earthquake, in which a tenth of the city was destroyed, along with 7000 people. This time, the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. (v. 13) This concludes the second woe.

After this, the seventh trumpet is blown. Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” (v. 15)

And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.” Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. (vv. 16-19)
Things are really about to heat up, as we venture into chapter 12 tomorrow.

The next few chapters of Esther are chock full of irony. Unless I’m using that word wrongly and it’s something else. Esther agrees to help Mordecai and try to rescue the Jewish people from destruction. If you remember, Haman, hates them and has gotten the king to agree to a decree that they be destroyed. Esther risks her life by appearing unbidden before the king. He allows her to draw near, though, and she invites him and Haman to dinner. At the dinner, she then invites them to a feast. In the meantime, the king can’t sleep, so he has the “book of memorable deeds” brought in, in which he discovers that Mordecai had uncovered a plot to kill him. Finding out that no one has honored Mordecai for that deed, he summons Haman and asks him, “What should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?” (v. 6) Haman, full of pride thinks, “Whom would the king delight to honor more than me?” So he answers the king. And Haman said to the king, “For the man whom the king delights to honor, let royal robes be brought, which the king has worn, and the horse that the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown is set. And let the robes and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble officials. Let them dress the man whom the king delights to honor, and let them lead him on the horse through the square of the city, proclaiming before him: ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.'” (vv. 7-9) Much to Haman’s surprise and dismay, the king then says, “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.” (v. 10) I love it! It makes me laugh every time I read this! But Haman had to do it. He had to lead his mortal enemy around the city, proclaiming, “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.” Haman went home and told his wife everything that had happened. And then…While they were yet talking with him, the king’s eunuchs arrived and hurried to bring Haman to the feast that Esther had prepared. (v. 14) Uhoh! Dun Dun Dun….(to be continued)

One famous line that has come out of this passage comes from chapter 4, verse 14: And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this? All of us have some purpose in this life. It may be great, or it may be small. Whichever it is, we never know if we have been placed in this world “for such a time as this.” And, as Rich Mullins sang, you never know “Who God Is Gonna Use.”

Father, we do, indeed, never know who you are going to use. You made a donkey talk. And, as has often been said, if you can use a donkey, you can certainly use me. I give you praise, though, for the way in which your controlling hand is illustrated in Esther. The king couldn’t sleep. Coincidence? He asked for the very book in which Mordecai’s exposure of the plot was listed. Coincidence? I don’t believe in coincidences, Lord. I don’t believe in luck. Everything happens for a reason, and you have it all worked out. Just like yesterday’s blog when I said you were working the plan. That’s exactly what you are doing. You were working the plan in Esther, and you are still working the plan. Sometimes, those of us who are finite can’t understand why it’s taking so long. Or, in fact, we can’t even understand what it is that you are doing. However, I have faith that you know what you are doing and have matters firmly in your hand.

I pray for this day. I pray that Christi and I will have a good day today at work. Let us focus on you and what you are doing in our lives. Let us focus on the grace and love that you have lavished on us. As we approach Christmas in a few days, let us focus on the gift of Christ’s love that came to us.

I pray for our friend Jordan, Lord. He is far from home and feeling depressed. Give him an extra dose of your grace and mercy today. Let him feel your peace.

God can use you. He can use all of us for something. There are no accidents.

Grace and peace, friends.

Working the Plan

Ah, it’s back to Monday morning again. December 19, 2011. Only six more days until Christmas, and 12 days left in 2011. 108 days until Opening Day.

Yesterday was a pretty good day. Our Worship Celebration was good (not the best we’ve ever seen, but it was still nice), and Joel brought us a good message that both encouraged the believer and gave the gospel to those who are not believers. After referencing “It’s A Wonderful Life” as his favorite Christmas movie (“White Christmas” is mine), he played with the title and called his message “Jesus Is the Most Wonderful Life of All.” His main point was that “God sent the wonderful life of Jesus to give us the possibility of everlasting life in Him.”

After church, some good friends at church took Stephanie out for lunch (they were supposed to go groom horses, but it was too muddy after the recent rain we have had), while we went out with Rachel and Justin, who came over for the afternoon. We had a wonderful time with them, and Steph had a blast with the family that took her out. We are so grateful to them for befriending Stephanie in this way. It means so much to her, and to us, as well.

Today’s Bible readings:
Revelation 10; Esther 1-3; Micah 5:2; Jeremiah 31:15

Revelation 10 pauses from the blowing of the trumpets for a bit, and another angel appears, coming down from heaven. He carries a scroll, a little scroll, in his hand. When he lands with one foot on the land and another on the sea, he speaks with a voice that sounds like a roaring lion. When he spoke, “the seven thunders sounded.” However, John was not allowed to write down what the seven thunders said. John was then told to take the scroll and eat it. It tasted sweet in his mouth, but it was bitter in his stomach. Then he was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.” (v. 11) The angel says that, when the seventh trumpet is sounded, “the mystery of God [will] be fulfilled.” (v. 7)

The book of Esther is an interesting book, and from what I hear, almost didn’t make it into the “canon” of Scripture. It is a simple story, really, involving a man named Mordecai, one of the Jews who was carried away from Israel, and his uncle’s daughter, Esther. He was raising her, because she had no mother or father. When the king, Ahasuerus (also known as Xerxes), commanded his queen to make an appearance, so that he could show off her beauty, she refused. He became so angry that he decreed that she be never allowed to be in his presence again (I’m actually surprised that he didn’t have her killed) and that he would replace her with another queen. Afterward, he sent men out to find “beautiful young virgins” in the kingdom. Esther was chosen, and was groomed for six months to compete for the queen’s position. She won the favor of the king and became the new queen. However, Mordecai had instructed her to not reveal her heritage. At some point Mordecai learned of a plot to assassinate the king, and revealed it to Esther, who, in turn, revealed it to the king. This will come into play later. In chapter 3, a man named Haman decides he hates the Jews, and goes to the king to devise a plot to destroy all of them. The king, not realizing that his queen is one of the Jews, agrees to the plot.

Micah 5:2–But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
Jeremiah 31:15–Thus says the LORD: “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”

Both of these are Scriptures that were fulfilled at the birth of Christ. The Micah passage, because Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and the Jeremiah passage, because, after he was born, King Herod had all male children two years old younger, slaughtered.

Father, as I am running short on time (which is so often the case on Monday morning), I praise you for the way in which your prophecies worked out. As our pastor said yesterday morning, the entire Old Testament seems to be pointing toward Christ and his redemption of us from our sins. He is the perfect sacrifice, which replaced the Old Testament system, and which permanently paid the price for our sins. We need never again be worried about having to make restitution to you for our sins, because Jesus has taken the entirety of the sins of his people upon himself. This is truly wonderful, and is worthy of all the praise and thanksgiving of your people.
It need not concern us, Lord, that words from Daniel and John the Revelator have been shut up, sealed up, so that we cannot know what they heard. The reason it does not concern me is that my faith is in you, and I know that you are in control and you are working your plan. I have no need to know everything that will happen. This holds true for my life, as well. I have no need to know what’s going to happen tomorrow. I don’t know about tomorrow, but I know who holds my hand. You, who watch over the sparrow, care more about me than the little bird. I have confidence in this, and I have confidence in your plan coming to its ultimate fruition.

I pray for this day. I pray that Christi and I will have a good day at work. I pray for Stephanie’s day at home. She has no more meetings with her teacher until next year, so I pray that we might be able to come up with a few things to keep her from getting bored. Give us wisdom to help her, Father.

I pray for this coming weekend that there will be peace in our household as we celebrate Christmas together. Keep us all safe, Lord.

God’s plan is at work. He does not need our help, nor does he need our advice. We do not know better than him. All we need is faith to believe that he is in control and that he is working it out.

Grace and peace, friends.