Malachi 1-4

The Tragedy Of Apathy.

“You have said, ‘What’s the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying his commands or by trying to show the Lord of Heaven’s Armies that we are sorry for our sins?'” – Malachi 3:14 NLT

The Temple has been rebuilt for almost a century. The walls of Jerusalem have been restored. The exiles who had returned under Ezra and Nehemiah have settled down into their new lives in the Land of Promise. Marriages have taken place, children have been born, homes have been built, and businesses started. Life has fallen back into a routine and the people have fallen back into some old habits. Malachi is the last of the Old Testament prophets and he brings a message of warning from God regarding the peoples’ unfaithfulness. It seems that time has passed and with it, the peoples’ enthusiasm for the things of God. Religiously, they are simply going through the motions. Their hearts aren’t in it. They offer sacrifices to God, but He accuses them of doing so with blind, crippled and diseased animals. They are cutting corners and short-changing God – ultimately showing contempt for His holiness. They are treating as common things that should be holy – offering food for sacrifices that does not meet God’s standards. The people complain that it is too hard to serve God. His expectations are too high, His commands are too demanding. So they lower the standards and choose to live by their own set of rules. Instead of honoring their marriage commitments, they become unfaithful and ultimately, choose divorce rather than keeping their vows. They were rationalizing their behavior “saying that all who do evil are good in the Lord’s sight, and he is pleased with them” (Malachi 2:17b NLT). To justify their lifestyles, they were having to twist the words of God.

In spite of all that God had done for them since the day He had chosen them, the people of Israel had chosen to treat God with contempt. He had brought them back from exile and restore them to the land. He had helped them rebuild the Temple and restore the walls of Jerusalem. He had given back to them everything they had lost due to their own sin and rebellion. And their response was more of the same. More contempt. More unfaithfulness. More sin. More selfishness. More disobedience. More spiritual apathy. They had reached the sad point of saying, “What’s the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying his commands or by trying to show the Lord of Heaven’s Armies that we are sorry for our sins?” (Malachi 3:14 NLT). They saw no benefit from serving God, so they just decided not to. Their focus had become myopic and me-centered. They had determined that they would only serve God for what they got out of it. God had become nothing more than a cosmic vending machine in the sky – who existed to dispense blessings and fulfill their desires. If He wouldn’t give them what they wanted, there was little or no use for Him.

Malachi closes the Old Testament. When the last word in penned by this last of the prophets, God goes silent for a period of more than 400 years. He stops communicating with the people of God. There are no more prophets sent from God until John the Baptist appears on the scene. God has said all He is going to say. But He has not done all that He is going to do. He has a plan for His people. He has a plan for all people. He is going to send His Son. He is going to provide mercy, grace, forgiveness, and salvation through the ministry of the Messiah. God will send the ultimate sacrifice to atone for the sins of mankind once and for all. God will do for mankind what it could not do for itself. He will provide a way to renew the hearts of the people and restore them to a right relationship with Him. The Old Testament ends on a sad note. But the New Testament opens with a bright light shining in the darkness – the birth of Christ – the hope of the world.

Father, forgive us for our apathy. We are just as guilty as the Israelites of losing our focus and making this all about us. We can end up going through the motions, without our hearts being in it. Help us to see how easily we can fail to live lives that are truly set apart to You. Don’t let us give up just because living the Christian life can get hard. Never let us lose sight of all that You have done for us through the gift of Your Son. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Psalms 126-127

Unless God….

“Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good.” – Psalm 127:1 NLT

The Bible describes the fool as someone who says, “There is no God!” (Psalm 14:1). They live their lives as if God does not exist, sinning willfully and regularly, expecting no punishment or consequences. But the fool is not necessarily an unbeliever. We have seen how many times the people of God lived their lives as if God did not exist or that He was unable to see what they were doing. They treated Him unfaithfully and never expected anything to happen to them. Then there are the countless times they acted on their own – not in sin – but in living their lives without asking for or relying on God’s help. That is probably the greater offense to a loving God. When we attempt to do anything, great or small, without God, we are living the life of the fool. We are assuming that we can live our lives without Him and accomplish great things without His help. But the Psalmist reminds us that nothing could be farther from the truth. As God’s people, all that we do is to be done in reliance upon the Lord. We can accomplish nothing of significance apart from Him. If we build a house without Him, we do so in vain. We may get it constructed, but if He is not part of the process and central to our lives, what good will that house be without Him. Without His power and presence that house is nothing more than a shell. Ultimately, it can’t provide real shelter and protection. It can’t keep us alive. It can’t bring us joy. It can’t provide us with peace. Only God can do those things.

Think about how much we do without God. Consider how little we rely on Him when it comes to our daily lives. We work hard. We expend a lot of energy. We go to bed tired and wake up the same way, lacking rest and facing another day of more of the same. The Psalmist describes this kind of life as futile. “It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones” (Psalm 127:2 NLT). Our lives were not meant to be lived apart from God, in our own strength. They were created by God for complete dependency upon Him for strength, sustenance, direction, protection, comfort, and rest. Nehemiah knew that rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem without God would have been useless. That’s why he prayed like he did. He knew that posting guards on the walls to protect the workers was pointless if God was not a part of the plan. Ultimately, he recognized that God was essential to all that they did. God had to be the central focus of their efforts. When will we learn the same timeless truth? Unless God…builds our homes, our marriages, our businesses, our communities, our churches, our lives … everything we do is in vain. We may appear successful and satisfied, but we will be missing the only thing we really need … Him.

Father, we need You. We don’t always realize it or live like it, but we do. All the things we try to accomplish apart from You are useless and meaningless in the long run. Give us a perspective that recognizes our utter dependence upon You for everything we do. Don’t let us become fools, living our lives as if there is no God. Keep us in a constant state of need for You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Nehemiah 11-13

A Personal Crusade.

“Remember this good deed also, O my God! Have compassion on me according to your great and unfailing love.” – Nehemiah 13:22b NLT

After 12 years in Jerusalem assisting with the rebuilding of the wall, Nehemiah returned to Persia. He had completed his assignment of rebuilding the walls and had taken part in their dedication ceremonies. He would later return to Jerusalem, and when he did, he was disappointed in what he found. Once again, the people had begun to follow in the steps of their ancestors by disobeying God and forsaking His law. Imagine Nehemiah’s shock upon finding out that Tobiah, the one man who had done more to try and undermine the efforts to rebuild the wall, had been given his own room in the Temple compound. Not only was Tobiah an enemy of Israel, he was an Ammonite and should not have been allowed anywhere near the Temple. But his daughter had married Eliashib the priest, and so Eliashib had converted one of the storerooms in the Temple into private quarters for his father-in-law. Nehemiah wasn’t about to put up with that, so he threw all of Tobiah’s things out and had the room cleansed.

Nehemiah also found people working and selling on the Sabbath – right inside the walls of Jerusalem. So he confronted the leaders of Jerusalem and reminded them that it was this very thing that had caused God to punish them in the first place. Nehemiah took personal responsibility to see that the holiness of the Sabbath was preserved by having the gates of the city locked on Friday nights and not opened back up until the Sabbath was over. He put guards on the gates and personally confronted the merchants who camped outside the gates, demanding that they leave and not return. Nehemiah also dealt with the many men who he discovered had married foreign wives. He reminded them that was the very same sin that had caused the fall of Solomon’s kingdom. Solomon had married many foreign wives and as a result, had ended up worshiping their gods.

Nehemiah was not willing to sit back and watch the nation fall back into complacency and compromise. He was committed to God and determined to see that the people of Judah live in obedience to the will of God. He spoke out and openly confronted sin in the city. He dealt with the leaders of Jerusalem harshly. He put high expectations on the religious leaders. He purged, pleaded, confronted, and worked tirelessly to see that the people of God lived in compliance to the will of God. The role of a godly leader can be difficult at times, requiring hard decisions and resulting in isolation and misunderstanding. Godly leaders are not always popular or well thought of. But Nehemiah was more concerned about the holiness of God than he was about his own popularity. He would rather please God then men. He was not willing to compromise God’s standards to improve his own lifestyle. He could have said nothing. He could have ignored the sins of the people. But for Nehemiah, that would have been unacceptable. So he stood up and spoke out. He did what needed to be done. He made a difference.

Father, make me a Nehemiah. Open my eyes so that I see what You see. Give me a heart for holiness like Nehemiah had. Then give me a boldness to say what needs to be said and to do what needs to be done, regardless of the consequences. May I love serving You faithfully more than I love the praise of men. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Nehemiah 8-10

Our Great God.

“But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love. You did not abandon them.” – Nehemiah 9:17b NLT

The Temple had been rebuilt. The wall had been completed. Now Ezra, the scribe and priest, gathered the people together and read out loud to them the Law of God. The people stood and listened for three solid hours as he read, then they stood another three hours crying, confessing and worshiping God. Then they prayed. And their prayer is a wonderful snap shot of the character of God. It reveals who He is, what He has done, and how He interacts with His people. It describes His majesty, power, grace, mercy, sovereignty, holiness, and love. It reminds us of His transcendence – His otherness and distinctiveness. But it also comforts us with His immanence – His nearness and approachability. Their words focus on God and His involvement in their lives. They look back and see that He had been intimately involved all along the way. From the day He had chosen Abram and promised to make him a great nation, God had been with them.

…you saw…you heard…you displayed…you knew…you divided…you hurled…you led…you came down…you gave… you instructed…you commanded…you did not abandon…you sent…you did not stop giving…you sustained…you helped…you made…you brought…you subdued…you handed them over…you heard…you sent…you rescued…you let their enemies conquer them…you listened…you rescued…you warned many times…you allowed…you sent…you showered…you gave…

The people look back and review their history with God and are blown away at His grace and mercy. In spite of their disobedience, sin and rebellion, He kept giving, rescuing, forgiving and restoring. He had shown extreme patience with them over the years. “But in your great mercy, you did not destroy them completely or abandon them forever. What a gracious and merciful God you are!” (Nehemiah 9:31 NLT). It is amazing that the people reached these conclusions about God by listening to the reading of the Law of God. As they heard the words of righteous decrees of God, they got a better idea of who God was and is. They came to recognize God through the Word of God. They saw His holiness and righteousness. They understood how serious He was about sin and how adamant He was about obedience. They recognized that God had set them apart and expected them to remain that way. “You alone are the Lord!,” they prayed. “You are the Lord God!” They heard the Word of God proclaimed and they comprehended for the first time in a long time the nature of their God. Their eyes were opened and they saw the beauty and majesty of God. God wants us to see Him as He is. He wants us to recognize His character and to worship His nature. He desires for us to see Him as He is, and one of the places we get a glimpse of God is through His Word. It is the revelation of Himself to man. As we study the Word, we see God. But too many of us read the Word to gain academic understanding. We study the Scriptures to get knowledge. But we rarely spend time in the Word just to get to know God. We are more intelligent than we have ever been before, but in many ways, we remain ignorant of God. “While man has never had so much knowledge about the world as he possesses today, perhaps he has never had so little knowledge of God. That is why our times are marked by a singular lack of understanding, appreciation, and genuine insight into the need of the hour” (Sinclair Ferguson, A Heart For God).

May we determine to know God better. May we decide that our greatest need is not more intelligence, but more intimacy with God. Knowing God is everything. Not just knowing about Him, but truly knowing Him. How He thinks, what He loves, what He expects, how He relates, what He has done, and what He is going to do. Make it your goal this coming year to know God as you have never known Him before.

Father, let me get to know You better. Open my eyes and help me to see You as I have never seen You before. When I read Your Word, let me see You. Give me a growing appreciation for who You are. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Nehemiah 6-7

We Do the Work. God Gets the Glory.

“So on October 2 the wall was finished—just fifty-two days after we had begun. When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done with the help of our God.” – Nehemiah 6:15-16 NLT

Against overwhelming odds and facing intense opposition, Nehemiah and the people continued to work on the walls of Jerusalem, and just 52 days after they began – they finished. This rag-tag group of returned exiles were able to accomplish a project of herculean proportions, a job that should have taken years even under the best of circumstances. And when the last brick was put on the wall, the enemies of Judah were frightened and demoralized. Why? Because they knew that God had been involved in this project. There was no other explanation. They had done everything in their power to stop the work, but it continued unabated. They had tried their hardest to discourage Nehemiah and the people of Judah from finishing their work. But they failed. And they knew that it was because God had been a part of the entire process. They could recognize that the completion of the wall in just 52 days was the result of divine intervention. This had been no ordinary construction project.

On how many occasions does our work bring God glory? Do the projects we take on reflect the power of God or simply our own initiative and self-sufficiency? God is always about revealing His glory through His people. He wants to show His power in the midst of our weakness. He wants to display His might through us as we accomplish His will. God is not interested in seeing what we can do. He is not impressed with our strength and organizational abilities. That doesn’t mean we don’t have to be organized or do our part. But we always have to remember, that at the end of the day, when all is said and done, God is the one who should receive the glory. The rebuilding of the wall was God’s idea. He had predicted it long in advance through the words of Daniel (Daniel 9:25). God had arranged for the people to return. He had led Nehemiah to request permission from King Artaxerxes to lead a group of exiles back with the sole purpose of rebuilding the walls. God had protected and provided for them all along the way. And now the work was done. Yes, the people had worked hard. They had the sore muscles, aching backs and blistered hands to prove it. But all their efforts would have been nothing without the help of God, and even their enemies knew it. Nehemiah had led well, orchestrated the work of the people flawlessly and encouraged their efforts successfully, but without God, none of it would have mattered.

We do the work. God gets the glory. That’s the way it’s intended to be.

Father, never let me forget that it is only through You that anything worth accomplishing gets done. You are my strength. You are the one who makes the impossible possible. You give me all that I need to do all that You want me to do. And when it is done, You get the glory. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Nehemiah 4-5

Godly Leadership.

“But because I feared God, I did not act that way.” – Nehemiah 5:15b NLT

Leading others is difficult in the best of times. But when things are going poorly, leadership can be nearly impossible. It is difficult to get others to follow when they are faced with opposition, difficulty, and trials or feel as if they are getting the short end of the stick. Either real or perceived inequality and inequity make it extremely hard for people to want to follow. If they feel like they are getting the raw end of the deal, they will resist and sometimes even rebel. Nehemiah found himself in the non-envious position of leading a people who were surrounded by opposition and who faced a nearly impossible task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Their enemies were constantly taunting and mocking them. When that failed to deter them from building, their enemies began to threaten them with physical violence. On top of that, the construction project they were tasked with was seemingly insurmountable, requiring around-the-clock effort and robbing the people of much-needed rest. It wasn’t long before they began to lose heart. “Then the people of Judah began to complain, ‘The workers are getting tired, and there is so much rubble to be moved. We will never be able to build the wall by ourselves'” (Nehemiah 4:10 NLT).

In the midst of all this, Nehemiah was charged with the responsibility of leading the people and ensuring that the construction of the wall continued, in spite of persistent opposition and the waning hopes of the people. So Nehemiah did what any godly leader would do – He prayed. But he also did one other thing. He took action. He turned to God for help, but he also did what he could do. He organized. He encouraged. He prepared. He took steps to ensure that the work could continue and the people were safe. In other words, Nehemiah relied on the grace of God, but he understood that God’s grace is opposed to earning, but not effort. The steps he took to organize the people and defend the wall were not an attempt to earn favor with God, but to ensure that the work of God could continue uninterrupted. Nehemiah knew that the job they had to do was difficult and it was going to require even more work on the part of the people. He knew that their enemies were real and the threats they were making were not idol. So did what he had to do to make sure the people were safe and the work could continue. They worked in shifts. Some built, while others guarded. They all carried weapons and were prepared to fight at a moments notice. But Nehemiah also knew that they would not be fighting alone. “Then our God will fight for us!” (Nehemiah 4:20b NLT).

But as if their enemies were not enough, Nehemiah also found himself dealing with some significant problems within his own camp. Bickering began over inequities taking place. Some people were mortgaging everything they had just to buy food. Others had been forced to sell their own children into slavery just to pay their taxes. And the sad thing was, the culprits who were profiting from all this were the nobles and officials of Judah. The haves were taking advantage of the have nots. So Nehemiah took charge once again and demanded that the greed, graft and corruption come to an end. And all along the way, he set the example for godly leadership, never drawing his official food allowance, even though he was entitled to it. He worked as hard as anyone else, never claiming exemption from labor due to his role as governor. Nehemiah was a model of godly leadership. Why? Because he feared God. He had a reverence and respect for God that would not allow him to live in a way that brought shame or dishonor to the name of God through his actions. Nehemiah was motivated by his love for God and his belief that he worked for and was responsible to God for the people, the wall, and his own attitudes and actions. For Nehemiah, leadership was not about power, position, authority, or respect. He was not interested in lining his pockets or padding his resume. He simply wanted to use his God-given position to lead the people through exhortation and example. He would trust God for whatever reward God chose to give him for his efforts. He performed for an audience of one – God.

Father, may I be more like Nehemiah – a man who knew who his true boss was. Give me a growing understanding that godly leadership begins with a healthy fear of and respect for You. Let me be a constant example of integrity to those around me, never shying away from hard work or taking the easy way out. Leadership is hard work Father, and it requires effort and energy. But also never let me forget that it requires a dependence on You. Never let me work independently from You, but always in full submission to and reliance upon You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Nehemiah 1-3

God’s Man With The Plan.

“O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.” In those days I was the king’s cup-bearer. – Nehemah 1:11 NLT

Nearly a century had passed since the first group of exiles returned to Jerusalem to restore the Temple and rebuild the city’s walls. A second wave a exiles had returned under the leadership of Ezra just years later, but the walls of Jerusalem still remained un-restored and the gates of the city burned and broken. News of this sad state of affairs reached Nehemiah back in Susa, the capital of Persia, where he was serving as cup-bearer to the king. His reaction? Shock and sadness. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. And he knew he had to do something about it. So he took the issue to God in prayer where he confessed the sins of the people and appealed to God’s mercy and grace. He asked God to give him favor with the king because he had already come up with a plan to do something about the problem. Nehemiah was a take-charge kind of guy who was not willing to sit back and enjoy the relative safety of his royal position when he knew he could be of help back in Jerusalem. In fact, Nehemiah used his position as the royal cup-bearer to request of King Artaxerxes his permission to return to Jerusalem to oversee the rebuilding of the walls and he even asked the king to help fund the project by providing timber for the construction.

God graciously answered Nehemiah’s prayer, giving him favor with the king and seeing to it that Nehemiah had everything he needed to accomplish what was on his heart to do. Less than a year later, Nehemiah made the long trip to Jerusalem and, upon arrival, made a late-night inspection of the walls. What he found was disappointing, but not discouraging to Nehemiah. He had a job to do and he knew that God would honor their efforts to rebuild the walls. Nehemiah was well aware of the fierceness of the opposition and the magnitude of the project. But he also knew the faithfulness of his God. “The God of heaven will help us succeed. We his servants will start rebuilding this wall” (Nehemiah 2:11 NLT). And that’s exactly what they did. Nehemiah organized the people into teams and assigned them sections of the wall to work on. The effort was community wide, with everyone involved. This cup-bearer to the king had showed up in town on a mission to make things happen and in a short period of time had rallied God’s people to take action and do what they had neglected to do for over 90 years. His enthusiasm and planning turned the apathy of the people into action. Nehemiah saw a job that needed to be done and determined to use his God-given abilities to do something about it. There is no evidence in this passage that Nehemiah was “called” by God. He had no dream of vision. He received no direct word from God. He simply heard about the situation in Jerusalem, was burdened because of it, and determined to do something about it. He simply asked God to bless his plan and graciously provide favor with the king. And that is exactly what God did.

What do you see that needs to be done in the kingdom of God today? Where is the work of God being neglected in our community? In what ways do you see the people of God neglecting their God-given responsibilities and allowing the work of God to go undone? Perhaps you are the Nehemiah God is calling into action to do something about it. Maybe God is waiting for someone like you to see the need and step up to meet it. Nehemiah’s efforts all began with a burden. He saw the need, then came up with a plan to meet that need. He asked God to graciously provide a way to bring his plan to fruition. And God did. What is God giving you a burden for today?

Father, there is so much that needs to be done in the world today. The body of Christ, Your Church, is not making the impact on the world that You have called it to make. We are not the salt and light You have commanded us to be. We are not the ambassadors we have been commissioned to be. There are so many unfulfilled tasks that need to be done. Raise up some Nehemiahs who would be willing to drop what they are doing and pick up the mantle of leadership required to lead Your people into action. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Esther 9-10

The Tables Are Turned.

“Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews, had plotted to crush and destroy them on the date determined by casting lots (the lots were called purim). But when Esther came before the king, he issued a decree causing Haman’s evil plot to backfire, and Haman and his sons were impaled on a sharpened pole. That is why this celebration is called Purim, because it is the ancient word for casting lots.” – Esther 9:24-26 NLT

Haman, the enemy of the Jews was dead. But the royal decree he had convinced King Xerxes to implement was irreversible. So on March 7, the edict became official.That was the day that Haman had set aside for every Jew in the land of Persia to be killed. But because of the efforts of Mordecai and Esther, another royal decree had been issued, giving the Jews permission to defend themselves against any and all who would try to harm them. So when March 7 came, the Jews went on the offensive. They “struck down their enemies with the sword. They killed and annihilated their enemies and did as they pleased with those who hated them” (Esther 9:5 NLT). Across the country of Persia, they killed hundreds of their enemies, including the ten sons of Haman. No one could stand against them because they were afraid of them. And as a result of this unlikely victory, the Jews instituted an annual festival called the Feast of Purim This day was set aside each year as a memorial and a celebration of God’s deliverance of them from their enemies.

God had used two unknown individuals, Mordecai and his adopted niece, Esther, to help save an entire race of people from complete annihilation. He had orchestrated the whole affair long before either Mordecai or Esther were even deported to Babylon. God knew what was going to happen and who He would use to bring about His divine plan for protecting His people. These two individuals were instruments in His hands, faithfully answering His call when He needed them. Both did their part. They stepped up and risked their own well-being and comfort in order to be used by God to accomplish His will for His people. They could have easily come up with excuses or hidden their heads in the sand, ignoring what was going on around them. But instead, they recognized that they were uniquely positioned by God to make a difference. They understood that the events surrounding their lives were not just happenstance or luck, but were part of a divine appointment scheduled from the very throne room of God.

Even after these events passed, Mordecai and Esther continued to use their positions for the good of the people. We’re told that Mordecai became the second-highest ranking official in the kingdom. “Mordecai the Jew become the prime minister, with authority next to that of King Xerxes himself. He was very great among the Jews, who held him in high esteem, because he continued to work for the good of his people and to speak up for the welfare of all their descendants” (Esther 10:3 NLT). This man rose from obscurity to power, but never seemed to lose sight of the fact that his position was God-ordained, not earned. He was where he was by the sovereign will of God, not because he was special. Rather than use his position for his own benefit and to see it as an excuse for self-centeredness, he chose to use it as a platform for good. What if each of us saw our role here on this planet from the same perspective? What if we understood that we are here for a reason greater than our own good or our own personal profit? Paul reminds us, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT). We have been placed on this planet for a reason. We have been redeemed by the blood of Christ for a reason. We remain on this earth after salvation for a reason. God has a job for each of us to do and He has uniquely positioned us to make a difference for His kingdom. May we have the same attitude that Mordecai, Esther, Paul, Joseph, Daniel and so many other saints of the past had. We were born for just such a time as this!

Father, as believers we should never wonder what our purpose in life is all about. We have so much to do for You. We have so many opportunities every day to accomplish great things for You as You reveal situations and circumstances in which we can step in and make a difference. Open our eyes and help us see Your agenda instead of ours. Forgive us for our self-focus and self-centeredness. Let us see what You are doing behind the scenes and step alongside Your work. Give us an eternal perspective that is bigger than us. Thank You for the story of Mordecai and Esther, but also for the reminder that it is always You who are working behind the scenes to accomplish the impossible in the lives of men. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Esther 6-8

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up.

“The Jews were filled with joy and gladness and were honored everywhere. In every province and city, wherever the king’s decree arrived, the Jews rejoiced and had a great celebration and declared a public festival and holiday. And many of the people of the land became Jews themselves, for they feared what the Jews might do to them.” – Esther 8:16-17 NLT

The wicked Haman has plotted to annihilate all the Jews living in Persia. He has convinced the king to issue a decree declaring a day on which every man, woman and child of Hebrew heritage will be killed. Mordecai informs Queen Esther of the plan and encourages her to do whatever she can to help stop it. Esther, knowing the risks to her own life, agrees to go before the king, even though it means she must reveal to him for the first time that she too is a Jew.

In the meantime, the king has insomnia one night and in an attempt to make himself drowsy, has his attendants read to him out of a book containing the history of his reign. While doing so, they happen to read how Mordecai foils an attempted assassination plot on the king. When Xerxes discovers that nothing had been done for Mordecai, he decides to ask Haman for advice. When the king asks Haman, “What should I do to honor the man who truly pleases me?” (Esther 6:6 NLT), Haman mistakenly thinks the king wants to honor him. So he comes up with the perfect idea. “…he should bring out one of the king’s own royal robes, as well as a horse that the king himself has ridden—one with a royal emblem on its head. Let the robes and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble officials. And let him see that the man whom the king wishes to honor is dressed in the king’s robes and led through the city square on the king’s horse. Have the official shout as they go, ‘This is what the king does for someone he wishes to honor!’” (Esther 6:8-9 NLT). The king loves Haman’s idea and instructs him to put it immediately into effect, commanding him to do everything he suggested – for Mordecai – Haman’s enemy! As a result, Haman is humiliated.

But wait, it gets worse for Haman. He is invited back to the palace for a second banquet hosted by Esther for he and the king. This time Esther reveals Haman’s plot and that her own life is at risk because she too is a Jew. The king leaves the room in a rage, only to walk back in and see Haman begging Queen Esther to spare his life. To the king it appears as if Haman is accosting the queen right there in the royal palace. This seals Haman’s doom and he is impaled on the very pole he had had erected in his own courtyard and on which he had planned to murder Mordecai. His property is given to Queen Esther and the king’s signet ring, which Haman had worn, is given to Mordecai. And in an attempt to reverse the decree that Haman had convinced King Xerxes to sign, the king gives Mordecai the power and authority to write a new decree giving the Jews permission to defend themselves against anyone who might try to harm them. This second decree is sent throughout the land and the impact of it is significant. The people of Persia not only decide to leave the Jews alone, but many of them convert to Judaism out of fear for what the Jews might do to them.

What had been planned as a plot to destroy the people of God had been used by God to bless them. He had taken the plans of men and used them for His own glory and His peoples’ own good. Haman was no match for God. And Mordecai and Esther were uniquely and divinely positioned to be used by God to accomplish His will on behalf of His people living in the midst of a pagan nation. This story, like all the others in the Bible, is not really about Esther or Mordecai. It is about God. To a Jew reading this historical event, the presence and power of God would have been readily apparent. His hand is all over this story. It was God who planned for Mordecai and his adopted niece to end up as exiles in Babylon. It was God who had arranged for Mordecai to adopt Esther when her parents had died. It was God who predetermined that Esther would become queen. It was God who orchestrated Mordecai’s job working as a gatekeeper at the palace. Every step along the way, God was working behind the scenes, using unlikely individuals like Esther and Mordecai, and ungodly individuals like Haman and Xerxes, to accomplish His divine will. Our God is in control.

Father, why do we doubt You? You have proven over and over again Your ability to control circumstances and accomplish Your will in the face of the greatest challenges and odds. Sometimes we have a hard time seeing Your hand at work. The situation can look dire and the prospects bleak, but we need to continue to remind ourselves that You are not done yet. And we need to remember that You have chosen to work through people like us. So help us to see what it is that You might want us to do to make a difference. Never let us lose hope. It is never too difficult or too late for You to work. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Esther 4-5

For Such A Time As This.

“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 4:14 NLT

Through a series of strange, yet sovereign circumstances, Esther, the young Jewish girl, has become queen of one the most powerful nations in the world. What could easily appear as luck or fate was actually the hand of Almighty God. This dramatic change in the circumstances of this young woman’s life had not just happened, but had been orchestrated by God. As you read the account of Esther, you can’t help but be reminded that God is always working behind the scenes in ways that we often overlook or simply cannot see. As Esther was adapting herself to her new role as Queen, her uncle Mordecai was performing his new job on the royal payroll as a gatekeeper. Both of these people were now in positions where God was going to use them to do something incredibly significant for Him.

After learning that Haman had convinced the king to issue a royal decree to have all the Jews living in the land summarily executed on the same day, Mordecai went into a time of mourning and fasting. As the news spread across the nation, mourning broke out among the people of God. This was devastating news and they were powerless to stop it. Mordecai’s mourning and presence just outside the palace gates seemed to have been an embarrassment to Esther. The king was still unaware of her Jewish heritage and I am sure she feared that Mordecai’s presence and the appearance of her uncle walking around in burlap just outside the palace gates was going to let her secret out of the bag. So she sent Mordecai a change of clothes in the hopes that he might break his fast and stop his mourning. But he refused. Instead, he asked her to go before the king and beg for mercy for the people of Israel. This posed two serious problems for Esther. First, she would have to admit to being a Jew. This was a huge risk for her. She would also have to come before the king uninvited, which could end in her death. But Mordecai sent her a sobering message and a reminder: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed” (Esther 4:13 NLT). Her position as queen would not guarantee her safety once the decree went into affect. The law required that every single Hebrew man, woman and child would be killed on the same day – no questions asked, no mercy given Mordecai went on to remind Esther that if she chose to remain silent and do nothing, God would simply raise up someone else to do His will. Mordecai knew that her refusal to get involved would not prevent God from rescuing His people, but he also seemed to know that God had placed her where she was for a reason. He believed she had a divine appointment, a God-given responsibility to use her new position as queen to intercede on behalf of the people of God. He told her, “Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14b NLT).

There is a certain sense in which Mordecai or Esther could not know conclusively if God had placed Esther in her role as queen specifically for the purpose of saving the people of Israel. God had not spoken to either one of them. Mordecai had not received a direct word from God. But Mordecai knew that it would be wrong for her to refuse to use her position as queen on behalf of the people. She had to do what she could do. She was uniquely positioned to make a potentially life-saving impact on an entire nation. Mordecai seemed to understand that our existence here on this planet is not just to seek our own self-interest and to preserve our own safety and security. God had us here for a greater purpose. He wants to use us for His purposes. He wants us to make a difference in the world in which we live. Esther could have just refused to do anything and just let someone else do something about this problem. She could have just assumed that God would use someone else – someone better qualified and better suited to be a savior. But Mordecai convinced her that she couldn’t sit back and do nothing. She had to act, even at great risk to her own life. Her final words to Mordecai reveal her determination to do whatever she had to do to make a difference. “And then, though is is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die” (Esther 4:16b NLT).

Have you ever stopped to think about why you are here on this planet? Do you ever consider that there might be a more significant reason you live where you live, work where you work, are married to whom you are married, and have the children you do? Is there a chance that God has positioned you for something greater than simply making a living? Who knows if perhaps you are here for just such a time as this?

Father, give us an eternal perspective. Give us the ability to see the bigger picture and not just focus on our everyday roles. Never let us think that we are here just for our own satisfaction. You have bigger plans in store. You want to use us to make a difference in this world. Give us boldness and a willingness to be used by You, even if it is risky and we don’t feel qualified. You have placed us right where we are for reasons that we might not know right now. Help us to see what You see and do what You have uniquely positioned us to do. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men