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.

Victory Vitamin Blog – 2 Chronicles 36:16

But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. 

-2 Chronicles 36:16 NIV

 

 

The Israelites always wanted a king.  God told them it was a bad idea, but they wanted a king just the same.  These kings continually led the Israelites away from the LORD.  They encouraged the people to worship idols, and the people were all too willing to obey their kings.  God sent prophets to warn the kings and the Israelites to turn from their evil ways, “but they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words, and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy.”  As a result, the Israelites were taken captive to Babylon and the Nation of Israel would never be the same.  Sadly, they had no one to blame but themselves.  They mocked God until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against them and there was no remedy.  NO remedy.  Think about that.  That’s a terminal diagnosis.  No way to fix it.  It’s over.  There was no remedy for the Israelites under the Old Covenant, but God had promised a new one.  He said, “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…I will forgive their wickedness, and remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31)  God provided the Remedy.  His name is Jesus.  You and I have also disobeyed God, and ignored His calls to change our ways.  His wrath was aroused against us, but there IS a remedy.  Jesus died in our place.  You are forgiven.  Jesus is the Remedy.  God could have punished you directly, but He doesn’t want to.  God is love.  God loves you, that’s why He punished His perfect, sinless son instead.  God loves you.  You’re forgiven. Now act like it.

Victory Vitamin Blog – 2 Kings 17:7-8

“All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the LORD…”

-2 Kings 17:7-8 NIV

 

At this point in Israel’s history the kingdom was divided.  They demanded a king, there was an argument now there were two kings and two separate kingdoms of Israel.  The Northern kingdom was attacked and taken over by the Assyrians and the Southern Kingdom would fall shortly.  Israel would never be the same.  Why did this happen?  Read the verse above.  God had given the Israelites hundreds and hundreds of chances.  They insisted on disobeying Him and worshiping false gods instead.  Since they didn’t want the LORD as their God, the LORD withdrew His protection and they were overrun.  They reaped what they sowed.  They made their bed and now they were lying in it. It’s typical for humans to blame God when bad things happen, but is that really fair?  There are natural, logical consequences for our sinful choices.  If you rob a bank and land in prison, is that God’s fault?  Of course, there are tragic events that do not arise directly from our sinful actions but even then, be careful about blaming God.  We live in a sinful world.  Bad things happen in a sinful world.  Crime, disease, death.  It is best that we hold our tongue and let God be God.  Even in the worst circumstances we rejoice that our God has delivered us from the ultimate consequence of sin.  Jesus reaped what we sowed.  We made the bed, and Jesus laid in it for three days before He came back to life, earning forgiveness and eternal life for all who trust in Him.  All evil happens because there is sin in this world.  Nevertheless, we say, “Thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Victory Vitamin Blog – 1 Kings 18:18

“I have not made trouble for Israel, but you and your father’s family have.  You have abandoned the LORD’S commands and have followed the Baals.” 

-1 Kings 18:18 NIV

 

 

These words were spoken by the prophet Elijah to Ahab.  Ahab was the most wicked king to ever rule over the people of Israel, and that’s quite a feat.  Elijah was literally risking his life by confronting Ahab and telling him that he had abandoned the LORD”S commands, but that’s what the LORD told Elijah to do.  Elijah was telling Ahab something that would benefit him greatly if only Ahab would listen.  But Ahab did not like to be told that he was wrong.  How well do YOU receive rebuke?  Many people tend to get defensive and retaliate by pointing out the faults of the messenger or trying to justify their own sinful actions.  It’s not just little children who need guidance and correction, we’re all sinners, and we all stray from the path God has laid out in His Word.  Whether it’s a friend, your pastor, a church member, or a complete stranger, we should be thankful for those who have the courage to rebuke and correct us when we’re wrong.  Thankfully we have a loving heavenly Father who forgives all our sins.  In mercy and love He provides people to help keep us on track.  Be wise, be humble and listen to them.