Victory Vitamin Blog – Nehemiah 2:17

Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 

-Nehemiah 2:17 NIV

 

When Nehemiah set out to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, his concern was more than cosmetic.  This wasn’t just about appearances.  Yes, it looked shabby, run down, and disgraceful, but the wall provided protection of two kinds.  There was, of course, the physical protection provided by the wall.  It would dissuade thugs, vandals, thieves and foreign armies from harassing and plundering the Israelites, but the wall would also, at least symbolically, protect the Israelites from outside influence.  The Israelites had a long history of wanting to be like the pagan nations around them.  They adopted their sinful practices, worshipped their false gods, and wanted kings like they had.  All along, God desired that the Israelites be distinct, and decidedly different from the pagan nations around them.  The wall would remind them to be in the world, but not of the world.  It may do us well to likewise insulate ourselves, to some extent, from the world around us.  Yes, we should be aware of what is going on around us, we are clearly to be active in loving and serving those in the world around us, but we too are to be different from the world around us.  We are to live holy lives out of respect for the God who has forgiven and saved us.  Some see it as an admirable quality to keep an “open mind”, but if your mind is always open, anything can get in.  We have doors on our homes to keep certain things out.  We open those doors only when we decide that what is on the other side is beneficial for us and our family.  It would do us well to treat our hearts and minds the same way.  Through the power of the Spirit, use God’s Word as a protective barrier for your life.  Be selective about what you read, see, and hear.  God loves you.  God forgives you.  Live a life that shows how thankful you are for God’s love and protection.

Sunday Service Sneak Peek for February 18, 2018 – Nehemiah and Malachi

Sunday Service Sneak Peek for February 18, 2018 – Nehemiah and Malachi

After being captive in foreign lands, and being dispersed among the nations, many Israelites return to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall around the city.  They then weep and rejoice as the Word of God is read.  This week we complete our look at the Old Testament of the Bible and look forward to what God has in store in the New!  Learn more about Nehemiah and Malachi this Sunday at Victory Lutheran Church.

Victory Vitamin Blog – Esther 2:17

Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. 

-Esther 2:17 NIV

 

Esther was a common Israelite girl.  She moved with her adoptive father and many other Jews to a place called Susa.  The king there was Xerxes.  He held what was essentially a beauty contest to find a new queen.  Esther won!  I realize that this whole scenario may seem offensive these days, judging a woman based primarily on her looks is demeaning and shallow, but God was behind this, orchestrating these events to save His people, the Jews.  The Bible tells us that Esther was beautiful.  King Xerxes was looking for someone beautiful.  By bringing Esther into a position of favor with Xerxes, God was carrying out His plan to rescue the Jews living there from certain death.  A scoundrel in the city convinced Xerxes to kill the Jews.  Xerxes didn’t know Esther was one of them.  Esther went to Xerxes, revealed that she was  Jew, and begged Xerxes to spare her people.  Xerxes was enraged at the scoundrel who tried to have the Jews killed, and had him put to death instead.  Esther points us to Jesus, who is perfect and holy, and who interceded on the cross to save us from certain death.  Esther had gifts and abilities other than looking good.  She was wise, courageous, and faithful.  But it was her looks that got her foot in the door of the palace.  My point is this.  You have been given gifts as well.  They may seem shallow, insignificant, and useless to you, but they may be useful in bringing the Good News of Jesus to others.  Ultimately it’s love that will attract others to us and allow us to share what Jesus has done for us, and for them.  Perhaps we haven’t all been blessed with good looks, but the love of Christ is always attractive.  Let it show!

Victory Vitamin Blog – Ezra 3:12-13

”many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy.

-Ezra 3:12-13 NIV

 

Because of their repeated disobedience to the LORD, the Israelites had been taken captive and moved to Babylonian.  The temple in Jerusalem had been badly damaged when Babylon attacked and took them captive 70 years earlier.  Now, at God’s prompting, Cyrus, King of Persia conquered Babylon and assisted the Israelites in returning to Jerusalem and rebuilding the temple so they could worship the LORD there again.  As the rebuilding began, some of the older Israelites wept, while others shouted for joy.  Why?  I’ll let you speculate about that.  All of those present were there to worship, but the hearts of some were heavy, while others rejoiced.  I imagine the same is true whenever Christians gather for worship.  There are times when tragedy and trial make our hearts are heavy.  There are times when God’s grace allows us to be reasonably happy in this life, and there are occasions when our hearts are bursting with happiness because of some great blessing.  On any given Sunday there are people in each of these categories gathered to worship.  I’m thankful for the group of Christians at Victory who are sensitive to the status of their fellow worshipers.  As people loved and forgiven by God, we are to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”  -Romans 12:15 NIV  Continue to be aware of those around you in and outside of worship.  Ask them sincerely how they’re doing, and be prepared to rejoice with those who are happy, and to empathize with those who are struggling.  It’s one of the blessings of life together as Christians.  We have each other.  Most importantly, in an unstable and changing world, we share the stability and constancy of a Savior who loves us more than we can fathom.  He forgives.  He comforts.  Whether we weep or rejoice, God is with us and He cares.