Beyond Measure

I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.” (Nehemiah 2:5)
The book of Nehemiah takes place during a time of exile and captivity for the Jewish people. Nehemiah, the Jewish cupbearer to the Persian King Artaxerxes, successfully petitions to take a group back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls after hearing they are in disrepair. King Artaxerxes not only allowed Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem, he even agreed to a request for supplies (Nehemiah 2:8). From what we know of Artaxerxes heritage, this is hard to understand. What made him sympathetic to the plight of the Jewish homeland, even to the point of providing resources? 

The books of Nehemiah and Esther actually appear in reverse order in our Bible. God raised Esther, a young Jewish maiden, to the throne of Persia as queen. Esther’s son is believed to be the Artaxerxes of the opening chapters of Nehemiah. This brutal, heathen king gave the command for Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem to build up the walls of the city. Artaxerxes’ sympathy for the Jews probably had a lot to do with Esther’s witness, influence and integrity.

Apparently there was much “more” to Esther’s mission than the initial saving of the Jewish people from extinction recorded in the Book of Esther. Esther — as an instrument of God’s grace — was sent to the throne of Persia and so moved the heart of her son the king, that he allowed Nehemiah, his cupbearer, to return to Jerusalem. Then Nehemiah began the work of rebuilding the city of Jerusalem.

**In a sense, the rebuilding of Jerusalem is just as much Esther’s legacy as it is Nehemiah’s.**

This observation thrills me beyond measure. There is always so much more than we can imagine when we share in God’s plans for us! He is definitely the God of “more”!

Father, thank you that when I give my will to your plans they surpass all that I ever dreamed or hoped for. Please open my mind to see beyond my capacity. Reveal to me “the unsearchable things of God” (Jeremiah 33:3) and bring light to those “treasures hidden in the darkness”(Isaiah 45:3). May I run and finish my race beyond all human expectation. Father, free me to your expectations.
In Jesus’ name I pray, 

Masking In Pride

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2:5–8).


C.S. Lewis said, “According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind…
… it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.

 If this sounds like exaggeration, it will help us to know that Lewis is not simply giving us his private opinion but summarizing the thinking of great saints through the ages. The desire to lift up and exalt ourselves beyond our place as God’s creature lies at the heart of pride. Weakened by unbelief, enticed by pride, and ensnared by self-deception, Adam and Eve opted for autonomy and disobeyed God’s command. In just a few deft moves, the devil was able to use pride to bring about Adam and Eve’s downfall and plunge the human race into spiritual ruin. This ancient but all-too-familiar process confronts each of us daily: “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14–15).

As people lose or suppress the knowledge of God, spiritual darkness grows and in their thinking God becomes smaller and they become larger. The center of gravity in their mental lives shifts from God to themselves. They become the center of their world, and God is conveniently moved to the periphery, either through denial of his existence or distortion of his character. Self-importance and godless self-confidence grow stronger. The cycle that follows is familiar: people exalt themselves against God and over others. Pride increases, arrogant and/or abusive behavior ensues, and people suffer.

The well-known story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector can help us recognize our own spiritual pride. It tells of a much-despised tax collector and a self-righteous Pharisee who went up to the temple to pray. The Pharisee proceeds to commend himself to God because of his careful observance of the law and to look down with scornful contempt on the sinful tax collector. “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” Notice in his prayer that his focus is not really on God at all but on how good he is and how bad others are. Here is pride wrapped in the cloak of religion and giving it a bad name. The tax collector is so painfully aware of his sins and unworthiness before God that he cannot even lift his eyes as he stands in the back of the temple, far from the altar. Pounding his breast in sorrowful contrition over his sins, he can manage only the desperate plea, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” C.S. Lewis said, “Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense”.

If your pride causes you to exalt yourself, you are painting a target on your back and inviting God to open fire. And he will. For He has declared his determination to bring it low wherever he finds it, whether among angels or humans, believers or unbelievers. However, chances are good that most of us do not see pride in our lives. While it is easy to see pride in others, it is very difficult to see it in ourselves. C. S. Lewis says, “If you want to find out how proud you are, the easiest way is to ask yourself, ‘How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronise me, or show off?” Perhaps we are better off to earnestly seek God in prayer and ask him to reveal to us any sinful pride in our lives so we can repent and forsake it. Pride is a universal human problem. Everyone suffers from it to some degree. When we have exalted ourselves in pride, God does not want to punish us and bring us low but rather to forgive and restore us. He says again and again in Scripture, humble yourselves, and I will exalt you. This gives us hope and encouragement. God takes pleasure in our efforts to humble ourselves, and he loves to bless and exalt the humble. For just as pride is the root of all sin, so humility is the root, mother, nurse, foundation, and bond of all virtue.

Father, forgive me for exalting myself in pride. May I live my life as a servant like you did.

Take Courage, Testify

“The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.’”           Acts 23:11


Paul had endured great suffering and was about to endure much more at the hands of his own people. The Pharisees and Sanhedrin were conspiring to kill him, and he would never fulfill his plan to testify in Rome. But the word of the Lord came to Paul, “Take Courage, you will testify in Rome!”


Here’s what the Lord didn’t say: He didn’t say, “I know you are weary, give it up and go home”. He didn’t say, “I know you are suffering, I know you miss your family, I know the Pharisees want to kill you, I know many of your friends and loved ones have died, I know it seems impossible, I know you’ll be crucified in Rome; therefore, stop testifying about me and go home.” He said, “ Take COURAGE, don’t quit, stay the mission, TESTIFY!”


Today, despite our circumstance, be it weariness, illness, loss of a loved one, or whatever it may be, “Take COURAGE and TESTIFY”. For the most part, as Christians, we spend over 95% of our time supporting other believers. Don’t get me wrong, supporting Christians is a good thing, but are we intentionally positioning ourselves to reach those who don’t know Christ? Are we boldly reaching out to people we don’t know, people of differing cultures, young and old alike? So many people have not yet heard the Gospel and are dying daily in their hopelessness, lost for eternity. The Lord is saying to each of us, “Take COURAGE, I’m not finished with you yet. My plans will prevail. TESTIFY about me. Testify about my great love. Be bold, affirm my gospel to everyone you meet. Take COURAGE and TESTIFY!”

The King’s Gate

“But Mordecai went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it. “(Esther 4:2)

Mordecai was among the first to hear of the horrifying royal decree by the King… that all Mordecai’s people were to be brutally attacked and killed, that not one person was to be left alive. Imagine the horror, an entire people group wiped from the face of the earth. Mordecai’s grief was overwhelming. He tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city. He cried out with a loud and bitter cry. He wailed aloud in the city right up to the “King’s gate”. However, not allowed to enter the gate in his present state, dressed in his garb of woe, he remained outside. No one was allowed to give the king any occasion of grief or trouble. Nothing and no one was allowed to dampen the pleasure of the king.

Thankfully, we serve a king who doesn’t care what we’re wearing or how discomforting our wailing cries; we can always enter the gate to Him. Today I am praying and crying out for my Syrian friends and their families in Aleppo, who are literally being wiped out by war and destruction! May they enter His gate.

Jesus is the approachable king, ready and willing to heal our wounds and mend the broken-hearted. He is an ever-present and loving Father. Look to Jesus. Trusting in Kings or men will inevitably leave you standing at the gate.

Forgive And Live

“Yet having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to kill all Mordecai’s people, throughout the whole kingdom.”(Esther 3:6)

Anger is quick to become a stronghold in our life and, like Haman, if left unchecked, will grow well beyond it’s beginnings.Haman’s hatred grew beyond his desire to kill one man, to a brutal desire to destroy an entire race of people! Anger and unforgiveness had become a stronghold in Haman’s life. His unforgiveness, like a deadly poison, was consuming him.

There is so much talk of hate and unforgiveness in our world today. We hate this, we hate that, we hate readily and freely, not thinking much of the consequences or the power of such a remark. Yet, people need loving the most, when they deserve it the least. If Jesus had waited until His enemies repented He’d never have prayed on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Sure, it’s easier to forgive when others acknowledge their offense. But if that’s a prerequisite, you may never experience victory! Forgiveness, is God’s way OF life and God’s way TO life. So for your own sake, forgive, take back your life, and begin walking in the blessing of the Lord. If we close our hearts to forgiveness, then we close our hearts to God!