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Popups_title“Then Esther spoke again to the king. She fell at his feet and wept and pleaded with him to avert the evil plan of Haman the Agagite and the plot that he had devised against the Jews. When the king held out the golden scepter to Esther, Esther rose and stood before the king…” Esther 8: 3-5 (ESV)

Just prior to this incident, Haman—enemy of the Jews—was executed upon gallows he had built for Esther’s kinfolk, Mordecai. By this one decisive final act of vanquishing the adversary it was hoped a long season of peace and serenity would follow. Sadly, that’s not the case. Still lingering like a troubling cancer was the earlier orchestrated edict created by the hand of Haman to annihilate Esther’s race. He was gone—his misdeeds lingered on. And though a significant battle was won, a war was still progressing.

You see, not all victories are as instantaneous and thorough like we hope. The defeat of Haman was only the start of ending the terrible nightmare pressed upon the Jewish people. The work-in-progress was defeating the devilish plan of annihilating the Hebrews—a strategy set in motion and unchangeably legislated before Haman went to meet his Maker face-to-face.

Many times issues have deeper roots than first imagined. We don’t always see it as we’re caught-up with the joy of being release of a major problem. The ancillary issues takes awhile to manifest. The answer: a cursory remedy always needs an absolute commitment to find complete victory.

My wife’s computer contracted a nasty virus. She installed some program awhile back that self-started every time she turned on the machine. The results were annoying. She’d go online to visit websites and popup advertisements would open indiscriminately one right after the other. It was annoying and aggravating. She defeated that problem by installing a popup blocker. It resolved the immediate crisis and she was as happy as a pig in the mud.

However, over time she noticed her computer was running slower than ever. She’d won the battle but not the war. She finally contacted someone who knew what they were doing with computers and together they discovered a nasty little program running in the background of the computer’s operating system—effectively eating CPU processing power. They uninstalled the repugnant program and the war was won, victory complete!

Esther must come before the king to plead her case. She must again brave the bowing of the golden scepter to intercede her case for her people. The point being, not all problems have an immediate fix. Courage must continue in the face of adversity in order to press through to victory. Faith must increase to realize deliverance. The victorious must continue to press to completion to gain the complete victories of life.

J. Robert Hanson

God fills us with hope as we turn to Him daily! — Sterling Bennett

If Only!

IfOnlyMartha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” John 11:32 ESV

Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” John 11:32 ESV

Martha and Mary had virtually the same words for Jesus as they meet Him for the first time after the death of their brother Lazarus. That little phrase in verse 32, “Lord, if you had been here,” reads in The Message Bible, “Master, if only you had been here.” While the word choice of “if only” expresses the emotions of the moment, it also calls into question affairs of the past.

How many times have we ever thought, “If only this other thing had happened.” If only the market hadn’t crashed. If only I’d not bought this car. If only I’d not taken this job. If only I’d turned right instead of left. The “if only’s” of life go on-and-on. They’ll bug the daylights out of us if we let them. It doesn’t matter whether the “if only” was our choice or someone else’s, the idiom still plagues us as thoughts of second-guessing the way life could have been.

Here’s the problem: “if only’s” can be one of the great destroyers of faith. There’s a spiritual principle governing the way those loving God choose to look at circumstances. Romans 8, verse 28 reads:

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Our musings of “If only” question whether “all things work together for good.” They basically ruin what we know and understand God’s goodness to be. If you believe God leads you, then walk in the confidence of what you know His goodness is all about—nothing wavering. To the person who loves God and is walking by faith according to His purpose, all the affairs of life are in God’s guiding hands working together for good.

Relief from anxiety and doubt occurs if only we’ll choose to believe He works for our good!

J. Robert Hanson

Empowering Light!

light7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7

Living in light is not something that automatically happens. The possibility that someone called to the light can actually decide to live apart from that light is real. That’s why John writes of a fellowship that includes the idea of walking in the light. The word the Apostle uses for “walk” is the simple thought of being in relationship with God. Walking in the light involves living as if Jesus were standing next to you at any given moment of time. If Jesus can’t be with you in an activity, it’s time to reevaluated behaviors. There are two practical results from this walk in the light: Partnering and Purifying.

a. Partnering

The next portion of the verse reads, “we have fellowship with one another.” Walking in the light produces an inescapable fellowship with others who share the same experience.

Businesses use the phrase “partnering together.” The sense is that they share in ventures. A business weak in a particular area will “partner” with someone who is an expert. Walking in the light produces the same thing—partnering with others. We function together in this great enterprise called the Church, each partner bringing something useful to the table—supporting where another is weak. In this way the church builds itself up in love.¹ The second result of “walking in the light as He is in the light” is:

b. Purifying

In the concluding half of verse 7 we read: and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

I’m not really sure of the mechanics behind this works, I’m just thankful it does. I’ve heard it said the thought here is “if we walk in the light as He is in the light,” the blood of Jesus takes care of purifying us from all sins, even those I’m not aware of. The operative phrase is, “from all sin.” The idea of that word “all” in the Greek language² is the thought of “everything collectively.” In Placentia, when it comes to taking out the trash, we have to separate recyclable items out. It’s a pain and nuisance as surely some piece of recyclable trash is going to get by you.

The idea of this verse is if you walk in the light than every piece of trash is included in forgiveness! The blood of Jesus somehow does the separating and covers anything you may have missed. The one focus of seeing that this happens—living in relationship with Jesus!

This is the Empowering Light! This light is more than just a path to show us the way; the light empowers our daily footsteps in freedom of partnering and purity. The key: walk in relationship with Him!

J Robert Hanson


¹ Ephesians 4:16 ESV: from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

² Vine’s Expository Dictionary of the New Testament, 3956.

In Hot Pursuit

pursuit_titleStrive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14 ESV

The author of Hebrews considers peace and holiness important. In fact, these two nouns are so critical that the writer uses a forceful word of command in connection—strive. Interestingly, many English translations display the Greek word for strive differently. The King James Version uses follow while the New American Standard Bible uses pursue. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon adds it’s insight by defining strive as, “to run swiftly in order to catch a person or thing.” It presents the word as an object running after a target. In my mind I picture a dog chasing after a jackrabbit, the hare just inches ahead of the barking pursuer. There are two things to pursue and strive all out to reach: peace with everyone and holiness.

First: peace with everyone. Is that a vain and empty pursuit? The point of the verse is not to create disillusionment, but urgency. Like the hound that never gives up on chasing the hare, never give up on making peace with everyone. Obnoxious people are easy to quit on. Someone upsets us and we’ll avoid contact with the person. Paul writes in Romans 12, verse 18:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

It’s like Paul expects us to initiate resolutions. He actually seems to believe we ought to at least try to live peaceably with all! Mix that together with Hebrews 12, verse 14 and the idea of pursuing peace sounds like a hound chasing a hare—it’s a real adventure. Strive for peace with everyone means even those we find most disagreeable to be around.

Second: strive after holiness. Initially, you might think of holiness as purity of conduct and righteous living. In the case of Hebrews 12, verse 14, according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary, holiness is most accurately represented by the English word sanctification. It embraces the idea of a person being in separation to God. This is not so much the action of a person’s performance as it is behavior resulting from devotion. It’s the hare inviting the hound to chase so to speak.

Thinking of holiness as activities of “doing good” is easy, natural. But the thought is much deeper. It’s the idea of behavior coming out of devoted pursuit—as the hound focuses on the hare. We chase after holiness out of the pure devotion and focus of discovering the Living God. We know Him personally and that makes a difference in our behavior. F.B. Meyer put it:

“Holy souls see God amid the ordinary commonplaces of earth, and find everywhere an open vision.” – F.B. Meyer

The idea is that holy souls are happening all the time. This is the striving for holiness that finds existence from a 24/7 devotion. According to F.B. Meyer, that devotion is not something tucked away and hidden in seclusion. Holiness is the soul pursuing God amid the ordinary commonplaces of earth! Without pursuing this type of devotion no man will see the Lord.

In conclusion, here are two things to be in hot pursuit of, like a hound running swiftly after the hare: strive for peace with everyone, and holiness!

J. Robert Hanson

hope

“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” 1 Peter 3:15

Everyone experiences hopelessness at sometime—it’s inevitable. When lives fall apart through heartbreak or tragedy, finding optimism can seem impossible. How can a person keep from losing hope in trying seasons of life?

We may think that hope is the happy, smiling demeanor that looks at life like a computer reset button with the ability of starting over. Realistically, that’s not always the case. Sometimes tragedies don’t allow a reset to the routine of life. We’re left with a new normal to contend with, an unwanted change forced upon us. Hope’s job is not so much to get us to smile in hard times, as it is to actually look at calamities with confident expectation that somehow difficulties will make us stronger. Maybe hope will lead to a smile, but then again, maybe not. Having hope is something more; it’s the reason to continue on!

In any case, Peter’s focus is to tell others of the “reason for the hope that is in you.” What is it that moves you forward in difficulties? It’s not that Peter didn’t know what he was talking about. The man lived during days of severe Roman oppression. No doubt the “Here I am awake at 2:00am worries,” was something Peter was familiar with. When you think about it, Peter not only faced the dangers of a hostile society, but also saw his own failures as a denier of Jesus. Without and within Peter was no stranger to tragedy—yet somehow he found a reason for sharing hope with others. How did he keep his hope in the face of adversity?

The start of our verse gives a hint, this time reading it from the New American Standard Bible we find:

“…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence…”

That word sanctify is essentially the thought of “dedicating or hallowing” something that’s too important to be ignored.¹ The NASB translation captures the power of the word cluster as, “sanctify Christ as Lord.” The thought is the object not only receives dedication but also domination, meaning Lordship—because it’s too important to be discounted.

And where does this sanctifying need to take place if we’re to experience hope? The answer is “in your hearts.” That’s more than a “once week I visit God” obligation. What “Christ as Lord in your hearts” implies is an around the clock dedication. Peter is essentially saying that the person that puts Christ first in the heart finds hope; now feel free to share that hope with someone else that needs it too! Strength is found in the midst of tragedy as Christ is honored in the heart as holy. Jesus is the confident expectation that somehow we’re made stronger through difficulties. It’s worth it to set Christ apart in dedication and as Lord of all. Instead of trying to hit the reset button of life, see if He can give you hope by putting Him first!

J. Robert Hanson


¹ Thayer’s Greek Lexicon

 

mind“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:13 (ESV)

Just how important does the Bible consider your “thinking” to be? In this verse Peter reveals the mind (where your thinking takes place) as something to prepare for action. The King James Version presents the verse as “gird up the loins of your mind.” I’ve always taken that connotation as a woman lifting her long dress before running. We’re called to lift up our minds in careful thought, so as to not get tripped in our reasoning.

However, recently my perspective has expanded by reading the English Standard Version of the verse. Here it’s presented as: “preparing your minds for action.” At first I focused a little too closely on the word, “action.” I took the notion of someone carrying out a plan. But, after looking the verse up in a Greek lexicon I discovered “action” is only implied from the word, “preparing.” It turns out the idea of the verse is actually more focused on priming for some upcoming event.

My youngest daughter competes in Cross Country races. She’ll run these three-mile courses at any given competition. In preparation during the week she jogs at least 6-mile distances almost daily. She’s always exercising and conditioning her body so, when the time comes, she’s prepared physically and mentally for the contest. That’s the thought of this verse. The idea of preparing your legs for a race is an analogy of preparing the mind for action, so, when it becomes real and necessary, clear thinking will prevail.

Recently I had someone tell me “God owns the heart and Satan owns the mind.” If that’s true we’re all in big trouble. The devil can manipulate your thinking, but he can’t take ownership of it! Yes, it can be easy access for Satan to mess with minds and reasoning. The devil has studied deception since the founding of the world and understands the mind all too well. He knows how to impede what people think of things! This is masked in many of today’s freethinking attitudes. But, read how Kenneth Wuest translates 1 Peter 1, verse 13:

Wherefore, having put out of the way, once for all, everything that would impede the free action of your mind…”

Impeding the free action of thinking is a trick that politicians, prominent people and even some preachers use. True manipulation is the game of anyone with a self-gratifying agenda. It’s recognized when the instigator fears other points of view—no matter how slight the variations. Again, Wuest reminds the reader, “having put out of the way, once for all, everything that would impede the free action of your mind.” Put it out of the way—once for all! How do we do that? I think Paul lends a little clarity when He writes in Romans 12, verse 2:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…”

We put impeding things out of the way by learning what the Bible says about any given topic and believing it for what it is—truth! The strength of the Bible is that it doesn’t tell you what to think so much as transforms the way you’re thinking. That fear of the truth may be why doubters insist the Bible is a bunch of fairy tales and refuse to believe what it says. The mind becomes blinded to the truth (a true manipulation of Satan) until God shines His light into the darkened heart.

You don’t need to fear the Bible; it does not force you into ideas apart from clear reasoning. What God asks of you is reasonable service. The Bible works by renewing your mind into thinking reasonably about things through the act of believing. In fact, Paul goes so far as to suggest a whole new set of values will develop from thinking about the Bible’s message. In Philippians 4, verse 8 he writes of these new values to consider:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

What’s on your mind lately! Instead of thinking thoughts resulting in negative brewing anger, let there be positive reflections—thoughts preparing your mind for action!

J. Robert Hanson

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