Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Well Done!

My son had his first ever soccer game tonight. I was such a proud mama! Especially because at four years old they can play one of two ways - 1) the pick flower and play in the dirt and run around after the other kids, or 2) they see there's a ball and try to kick it...anywhere.  He was actually that second one! I was so happy that he was trying his hardest to get that ball, to listen to his coach and to be where he should be, all with a huge smile. But at the end of the game he said to me, "I'm sorry I didn't score a goal for you, Mom." Oh, no! I told him, "You do not have to score the goals to play well. You did an amazing job tonight and I am so proud of you."

This situation did reruns through my head last night until I finally realized what it was. This was a reenactment of God and his children. You've read the passages of running the race to get the crown, never giving up. Those are great! But often times that leaves me feeling a little "less than." I see the "kids" who go to the mission field and break through to Christians who have been in darkness millenia. I see the "kids" who become nationally known authors, singers, and preachers, reaching millions of people. I see the "kids" who foster households of children. I see the "kids" who travel the world building organizations to combat hunger and poverty. Then I see me and I say, "I am sorry that I didn't score those goals for you, Father." But last night, I hear His response to me, out of my own mouth!

God does not care if you make those "awesome" accomplishments. That may not be the position he has for you. The soccer team consists of more than just the forwards that score; there are middies, and defense, and goalies! Oh, boy, I bet the goalies of our spiritual lives often feel totally useless!! God wants the whole team and he wants you to play your position with dignity and heart. What you do matters, whether big or small or noticed or not. It matters greatly to the outcome of the "game." So feel great today, friend! Because your heavenly Father is proud of you.

His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ --Matthew 25:21

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Kings of the Past Part 3: We Are There

We are finally on our last king before we reach the book of Esther! I am glad that you have stuck with me this far! As we saw in yesterday's lesson, King Darius has ascended the throne, most likely through treachery. Once again, what you read here is my interpretation and not necessarily factual (though I hope I have gotten it right!)

King Darius is found in many places throughout the Bible. He is found in the books of Ezra (4:5; 5:13-6:3), Haggai, and Zechariah (note: he is not the same Darius as found in Daniel, which was a viceroy for king Cyrus, as we discussed in Part 1). There are many interesting events that take place in the reign of Darius, but keep in mind, as we have been working our way to Esther, that this is the father of Esther's husband, Xerxes (Ahaseurus). This is where he grew up and the palace and lifestyle that Esther steps into is formed.

The Royal Family
Darius I was married to a common woman and had several sons. He was the shield bearer to King Cambyses. After assuming the throne, he realized that he was not of royal lineage and wanted to prevent his people from questioning his right to be king. Therefore, Darius married many women of nobility from surrounding kingdoms in order to form alliances with their families. Most notable of these was the daughter of Cyrus himself (the sister of Cambyses), Atossa. {Interesting side fact: Atossa is thought to have had breast cancer. Historians recorded a tumor on her breast that got worse and worse until the royal physician convinced her to have it removed.} When it came time to declare an heir to the throne, Atossa insisted that it be her son Xerxes, not Darius' oldest son from the common woman. It is thought that, as the daughter of King Cyrus (of his favorite wife), that she had learned to read and write. Some historians note that she was the first queen given the title of Lady and that she even advised Darius on matters of war. She must have been a notable woman indeed.

Crowning Achievements
Darius had many conquests and achievements, but those that matter to us are this:
Darius built the palace in Susa (you know, where the great banquet takes place in Esther 1; where Esther lives after she becomes queen?).
Darius gave support to the Jews that had returned to Jerusalem and the temple was completed in the 6th year of his reign.

What is interesting about the life of Darius, is that he was constantly seeking to prove himself. He felt that he did not deserve to be where he was. We are too often that way as well. We constantly seek to prove ourselves because we don't feel we deserve the grace and blessings that have been poured out on us. As we finish up this timeline leading up to the story of Esther, I want you to remember that we are all a part of God's story. We all have a roll to play, whether we are deserving of our position or not is of no consequence. We must do our best to trust in God and follow him instead of trying to prove ourselves by our own power.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Kings of the Past Part 2: Cover Up

So last time we left off with the fall of Babylon to King Cyrus. Here's to sum up the next few events rather quickly. I found some rather interesting side stories here! But please, please realize this is my interpretation of various sources I have read and I am not a historian.

After Cyrus the Great kicks the bucket, his son Cambyses II rises to the throne. Cambyses continued much of his fathers conquests. There are many legends that surround Cambyses' death and other parts of his life, including the famed Lost Army of 50,000 men in the Egyptian desert. Cambyses at one point had his army fight against his brother, who sought his throne, but then claimed that it was an impostor posing as his brother. Not long later Cambyses died of an infection in a wound he had sustained in battle. It is commonly believed that Cambyses, and possibly his brother, were both murdered by Darius I, who at the time served as his shield bearer and wrote the account of both of their deaths.  Darius, therefore, assumed the throne.

This was a big ancient cover up! We see these things happening everyday, right? In reality, it is the response of our human nature. What did Adam and Eve do as soon as they realized they had screwed up and their eyes were open to their nakedness (Gen. 3)? They covered up. Then they placed blame. What do we do when we fail? We try to cover it up. What do we do when we feel that we are unworthy, or unbeautiful? We cover it up. If we are honest with ourselves, we spend a good majority of our lives covering up who we really are. This is not what God wants of us of course. His plan is for Him to cleanse and exalt us. Only one cover up is necessary - the blood of Christ.

"Humble yourself in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you." --James 4:10 (NASB)