When Life Feels Like It’s On a Roll – Chapter 20

Posted by on May 12, 2014 in The Story | 0 comments

Sometimes you may feel like life is a big gamble. Like the outcome of your life is resting on how the dice
roll for you. If they roll right, you get “lucky.” If they roll badly, your life goes down the tubes.
There are times when the stars seem to align just right and you find yourself basking in a bundle of blessings.

Then there are times when everything seems out of sync and you find yourself drudging through
a junkyard of disaster. Some would call this a coincidence. Others would call if pure luck. But another
group would say that someone is working behind the scenes working out your destiny. And they’d be
right! But is more than just someone.

Esther would understand. She is minding her own business as her people are captive in Persia. Meanwhile
Haman—who has been given great authority by the King of Persia—is developing a hatred for
Jews. In particular, he hates Mordecai. It seems Mordecai will not bow down to Haman whenever he
parades through the streets of Susa.

Haman decides to teach Mordecai a lesson. He gets King Xerxes to sign a decree that on a certain day all
the Jews can be killed. And anyone killing a Hebrew would be allowed to keep the personal possessions
of the deceased Hebrew.

To determine the exact day when the Hebrews will be exterminated, Haman rolls the dice. Adar the
13th becomes the target date.

In the meantime, the king is having some issues with the queen. She refuses the king’s summons so she is
released of her queenly duties. Then, because he needs a new queen, he holds the first “Bachelor” contest
to find a new wife. The short story is that Esther gets the rose and becomes his queen.

Yet Xerxes did not know Esther was a Hebrew. Nor that Esther was kin to Mordecai. The king adds
another edict that will allow the Hebrews to defend themselves, which turned out good for the Hebrews
and bad for any Persian that attacked a Hebrew on Adar the 13th.

And Haman? Well, in a strange twist of events he wound up impaled on a pole he himself had erected
for Mordecai. Not sure he got “the point” of the story, but I hope you do. Oddly enough throughout the
book of Esther you will never find the name of God mentioned. Not once.

There are days you may think he is not around either. But the story of Esther reminds us that he is, sometimes
behind the scenes, working things out for “good for those who love him” (Romans 8:28).
And when you don’t feel he is around, that’s more your problem than his.

He has put you right where you are, right now, so you can make a difference. You can say the words
someone needs to hear. You can be the example someone needs to see. You can help someone find
freedom from sin. So let others roll the dice and you let God take care of the rest.

Read The Story. Experience The Story. Used with permission © Zondervan 2010

Read More

Don’t Forget to Wish For the Best – Chapter Thirteen

Posted by on May 5, 2014 in The Story | 0 comments

Here’s something that might bring back memories for some of us. Think back to Christmases of our
childhood: what was the symbol of all our Christmas wishes? How about the Sears Wish Book? Do you
remember it from when you were young? We would hopefully page through the giant catalogue, circle
our choices in pen, and pray that Santa would deliver our requests on Christmas morning.

The first Sears Wish Book was printed in 1933. Over time it has diminished in size and was even discontinued
at one point. It was revived in 2007, but the current books are nothing in size compared to the
books some of us can remember from our youth. Children today don’t really need one. They have the
Internet and their high tech toys to cruise the information highway to identify their holiday “wants.”
But “back in the day” the Sears Wish Book helped us answer the seasonal question: “If you could have
anything for Christmas, what would you ask for?”

You may not need the Sears Wish Book today, but you have some wishes too, don’t you? Next Christmas
how would you answer the question, “If you could have one thing in the world, what would it be?”

Solomon had to answer that one. He asked for wisdom. And God gave it to him. But by the end of his
life he had accumulated more and more: more gold, more horses, more wives. He had it all and wanted
more. In the midst of all these gifts he lost sight of the Giver. He turned away from God and lost it all.

Another King gave us another path to follow. He had it all and gave it all . . . for us. In the Christmas
season, or any season for that matter, you can guard yourself from the tyranny of too much stuff by giving.  Simply give so that others can simply live. That’s what the King born as a baby in the manger did.

And my wish? That you visit the manger and find him.

Read The Story. Experience The Story. Used with permission © Zondervan 2010

Read More

What to Do With Your “Third Week of March” – Chapter Twelve

Posted by on Apr 28, 2014 in The Story | 0 comments

When Pope John Paul died, a man named Rogers Cadenhead quickly registered the web address
www.BenedictXVI.com, thinking this might be the name chosen by the new pope. When Cardinal
Ratzinger was elected Pope, he did choose the name Pope Benedict XVI, causing some to question what
the Vatican would do to get the rights to that domain name.

Cadenhead didn’t ask the Vatican for money. Instead, in a humorous manner on his blog he suggested a
few things he would trade for:
1. Three days, two nights at the Vatican hotel.
2. One of those hats (referring to the bishop’s hat).
3. Complete absolution, no questions asked, for the third week of March 1987.1

Wonder what Rogers did the third week of March in 1987?  Me too, but does it really matter? Most of us
have at least a week for which we’d love to have total forgiveness.

We discover in The Story that David did. One day when the army is at war, David, who is the commander
of the nation’s military, neglects his duties and stays behind. He sees Bathsheba, seduces her, gets her
pregnant, murders her husband, and tries to cover up his actions by deceiving his general and soldiers.
Then he marries Bathsheba and she bears their child.

It looks as if David will get away with all of this. But he doesn’t. God sends his prophet Nathan to confront
David by telling him a story about a poor man with one lamb. David knows something about sheep
and shepherds, so he listens. Nathan says that the poor man has a rich neighbor who needs to slaughter a
lamb to feed a guest, but instead of taking one of his many sheep he steals the poor man’s one lamb.

David is incensed and says that man should be put to death. Nathan then declares, “You are the man!”
At that moment David must have wished he had bought a domain name that he could swap for absolution.
He may have wanted to make excuses. Explain things away. Blame it on Bathsheba for taking
a bath in broad daylight where he could see. But instead of making excuses, David confesses. “I have
sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam. 12:13).

And God did with David’s sin what he will do with yours and mine. He put it away (Psalm 103:12-13).
You can do what David did. Whatever your “third week of March” might be, sit down with it, yourself
and God. Confess your sin. And then let another shepherd from Bethlehem forgive it. That’s better than
any domain name you might secure.

1 http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/American_who_owns_BenedictXVI.com_wants_%22one_of_those_hats%22

Read The Story. Experience The Story. Used with permission © Zondervan 2010

Read More

Facing Your Giants When You Feel Small – Chapter Eleven

Posted by on Apr 14, 2014 in The Story | 0 comments

Imagine the scene: a scrawny sixteen year old shepherd boy takes out a 9’9” tall giant with one rock and
a sling.

You may not have a gigantic giant taunting you to come out and fight. But you are probably facing a few
giants of your own. Giants like the stack of past-due bills glaring at you. Like the divorce papers waiting
on your signature. Or the depression that looms over you like the Hulk. It could be low self-esteem or
insecurity or child abuse in your past. But you have your giants. And so do I. And we would do well to
learn from David.

He could face his “giant” because he had spent time in the quiet with God. When he arrived at the place
of the standoff between the Israelites and the Philistines, he talked about God. He told Saul that “The
LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of
this Philistine” (1Sam.17:37). He did not hesitate to confront Goliath, saying he came “in the name of
the Lord of host, the God of the armies of Israel.”

David was God-focused instead of giant-focused. He mentions Goliath two times and God nine times.
He knew the giant was there and recognized his presence. But his thoughts were twice as much on God.
That focus led him to confront his giant rather than run away. For forty days Goliath continued to challenge
Israel’s army. And for forty days everyone hoped he would just go away. But giants don’t typically
go away until we face them. So David stepped into the gap and slung one well-aimed stone at him.
It helps to have someone in your corner that believes in you. David had his Jonathan. You need yours.
You need at least one person who believes in you and that also believes in God. Someone who can
encourage your faith—give you courage—when you most need it.

And you will need it. Because after you slay one giant, there will be more. You may wonder why David
picked up five stones from the river bed. Was he afraid he might miss? Not likely. He was skilled in his
use of the sling.

2 Samuel 21:18-22 hints that Goliath may have had four brothers. David was ready. He could take on
one giant. You might say knew how to get a head of his giant. And then he was ready for more.
And you can too. Just follow the shepherd from Bethlehem.

Read The Story. Experience The Story. Used with permission © Zondervan 2010

Read More

Giving an Undistorted View of God – Chapter 10

Posted by on Apr 8, 2014 in The Story | 0 comments

Ever since Peter Stuyvesant visited the Palace of Versailles the world has had a distorted view of itself.
Peter was the governor of New Amsterdam—later to be renamed New York City—beginning in 1647.
He was visiting France to discuss colonial land agreements. While at Versailles he was awed by the Hall
of Mirrors.

Peter was determined to bring a similarly amazing showcase to his city. In 1651 he founded the Peter
Stuyvesant’s House of Mirrors. He charged one Dutch gulden for admission.

This house of mirrors eventually morphed into what we know as a Fun House of Mirrors seen at many
carnivals. For a few tickets the fun begins by walking into a maze of mirrors, both convex and concave.
We amuse ourselves by looking at distorted images of our figure.

Today you don’t even have to go to the carnival for this experience. A laptop with a webcam and a silly
photo feature will allow you to take a picture of yourself that you can manipulate to look odd.
It’s all fun. But sometimes distorted pictures can cause trouble. It did in Israel during the time of the
prophet Samuel. One of the major distortions was found at the Tabernacle, that portable place of praise
for God’s people.

It was parked at Shiloh and was meant to be a clear picture of God’s holiness and grace. A system of
sacrifices had been established that foreshadowed the coming sacrifice of the Messiah. Yet anything but
holiness was found there.

Eli the priest had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who dishonored God in their treatment of the sacrifices
and also engaged in immoral sexual activity with women at the Tabernacle (1 Samuel 2:16, 22).
Because the picture of God they were giving was distorted, these two were killed in battle against the
Philistines. When news of their death reached Eli, he fell over in his chair, broke his neck, and also died.
Just like Eli and his sons we are representatives of God. We represent Jesus to others. You may have
heard it said that you may be the only Bible those around you will ever ‘read.’ The question is, “Are you
giving a clear or distorted picture of the One True God?”

Read The Story. Experience The Story. Used with permission © Zondervan 2010

Read More

You Don’t Have to Wait to Be Accepted – Chapter Nine

Posted by on Apr 1, 2014 in The Story | 0 comments

Anyone with college-aged kids knows the inundating routine that is college applications. Visit
campuses. Choose a few schools to focus on. Make applications. Fill out forms. Write essays.
For anyone who hasn’t “been there, done that,” the filing of the application and financial aid forms is
nothing compared to the waiting. It’s like the first time you look at your girlfriend or boyfriend and say,
‘I love you.” You’ve made the first move. And then you wait. You wait to see if they respond in turn.
For the college applicant, the end of the waiting is signaled with a letter in the mailbox – hopefully
saying “You have been accepted.”

We all have a desire to be accepted, don’t we? In fact, that desire made it into Maslow’s well-known hierarchy
of needs. He theorized that acceptance is basic to our nature and to our psychological health.

Ruth had the same need as we do. She was a Moabite living in Bethlehem who we meet in The Story.
She ended up there with her mother-in-law Naomi when her husband died. And she found herself picking
up the leftovers after the harvest in a field owned by Boaz.

Boaz discovered she was an outsider—a Moabite—the same people who would oppress his nation for
eighteen years. You’d expect fireworks when they met. Instead, Boaz tells Ruth, “May you be richly
rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”

His acceptance of Ruth goes a step further. Ruth finds him asleep on the threshing floor and lies down at
his feet. When he awakens, Ruth asks him to “spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a
family guardian.” The word for “garment” is the same Hebrew word for “wings” in the blessing Boaz had
pronounced over Ruth. God’s acceptance came to Ruth through Boaz.

Your acceptance did too. You see, Boaz and Ruth had a son named Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of
David. In Matthew’s genealogy the lineage of Jesus is traced through David. Boaz is there too along with
his mother Rahab (Matt. 1:5). Yes, that Rahab. The prostitute that lived in Canaan and sheltered the
two spies Joshua sent into the land.

1 Story told by Randy Frazee in The Story sermon, Chapter 9.

Read The Story. Experience The Story. Used with permission © Zondervan 2010

Read More