Today we started the second half of our semester-long journey through the books of Ruth and Esther by looking at an overview of Esther. I’ll get into some of my notes from my teaching in a bit but first I want to share with you our call as the church to Wake Up, Rise Up and Grow Up.
For those of you who have followed my blog for awhile, you’ve heard me say “Wake Up, Rise Up and Grow Up” many times. However, if you’re just joining us, I want to give you a little bit of background about what I mean by this. Here’s a little snippet from the introduction of my book, Tell Your Heart to Beat Again, where I talk about waking up.
It is time for the church to wake up, rise up, and grow up in His Word. We have flat lined, and our hearts have lost hope and become discouraged. We’ve been lulled to sleep, but it’s now time to hear a new song in our hearts. We are not called to be settlers. We are called to be pioneers, joining the saints who went before us, carrying the torch of hope to the world.
One of the issues we face as we awaken is our need to de-clutter our lives. We must make space for God to be our first love, our first priority. We are too busy, stressed, always pressed for time. What has overtaken your life?
I liken what has happened to the church to a loaded potato. Over the years the baked potato has undergone quite a transition, from a simple baked tuber to what is now known as the “fully loaded potato.” To be “fully loaded” requires adding ingredients to the potato–sour cream, chives, cheese, bacon, and anything else you can think of that would enhance the flavor. The problem is that sometimes if we add too much, rather than enhancing the flavor of the potato, we camouflage the flavor. The original taste and texture of the potato becomes lost in the barrage of ingredients competing for the attention of our taste buds. As I pondered writing this book, I realized that our Christian lives could become like the overloaded potato. The original flavor or authenticity of the life of Christ in us becomes lost in the muddle of activity and pressure of life. What if you were to order a loaded potato and say, “Loaded potato, please—but hold the potato?” We would be left with the accessories but not the core ingredient. We can make the same mistake in the Christian life: “Give me Jesus plus—perfect relationships, more money, more time, more joy, less fear and anxiety.” What happened to simply “Give me Jesus”? He is the main ingredient, the One who is the Source of life, hope, peace, and joy. But we ask for the potato, only hold the potato.
Friends, we live in a world filled with stress and fear, with so much that we have no control over, and frankly but for God would be downright terrifying. Yet, we are called to be the hope and light of the world. It is time for the church to wake up, rise up, and grow up, centered on Christ alone. This book is about being overwhelmed by the love of God rather than being overwhelmed by the world. It is about making space for the One who can keep us focused, at peace, and filled with joy so that our hearts can beat again. My hope is that as you take this journey with me, you will find a new way of living, that you will be fully loaded with the extravagant love and grace of Christ, not overloaded with activity, pressure, and fear. If we are to be the hope of the world, then we need to be different from the world, and it is only by His grace that we can shine and hold out a new way of living that is winsome and desirable.
We are all called for such a time as this. We are called to wake up, rise up and grow up to be the light that the world so desperately needs.
I always share some notes from my teaching on the blog so today I’m going to share some background on the book of Esther so you can see what we’ll be studying in the next few weeks:
Setting and Date:
– Reign of King Xerxes who ruled from India to Ethiopia
– 485-464 BC
– Tells how a Jewish girl became the queen of Persia and saved her people the Jews.
– Divine Providence; human responsibility; evil part of our world