You're listening to A New Beginning with Greg Laurie, a podcast made possible by Harvest Partners helping people everywhere know God.
Visit our website and learn more about Harvest Partners at harvest.org. Don't feel God's presence and we wonder, has God abandoned us? And the answer is never.
He never has and He never will. Jesus said, I will never leave you or forsake you. We've all heard the phrase, for such a time as this. Today we begin a study of where it comes from. Glad you're along for A New Beginning today as Pastor Greg Laurie begins a study of courage in the face of danger and of God's providence when the odds are stacked against us. It concerns a young woman named Esther who was chosen to be queen. But more importantly, how God chose her to help bring deliverance to the Jewish people. It's a fascinating study of a true biblical hero.
This is the day, the day when life begins. Grab your Bible and turn to Esther. This is going to be a fantastic series that I'm really looking forward to sharing with you.
It's been an absolute blast to study for. It's a powerful story. But as you read it, let me take a quick poll. How many of you have read the whole book of Esther?
Raise your hand up. Okay, that's quite a few of you. How many of you have never read it before? It's okay, I won't mock you. Really?
No. Okay, read the book of Esther. You're going to love the book of Esther. I told the story to my granddaughter, Ally, last night. She said, Papa, tell me a story. And I sometimes make up stories and sometimes I'll just tell her a Bible story. So I told her the book of Esther and then afterwards I said, tell the story back to me. I'm telling you she got the whole story.
And you know why? Because it unfolds almost a little bit like a fairy tale. There's no fairies, of course. There's no mermaids. There's no unicorns. But there's a story of a princess who was living in basic poverty.
Who was chosen by God to change everything. It follows almost a fairy tale trajectory. Because so many of those stories it's obscure girl is rescued by a prince. But fairy tales are not true. But this story is true.
This story is actual history. A beautiful orphan girl who wins a beauty contest and becomes a queen. Enter an evil man that plots her destruction along with her people.
But because of her courage she saves a nation and literally the people live happily ever after. Here's a unique feature of the book of Esther. The name of God is not mentioned one time. Not only that but there's not a single prayer offered to God. Well that should not cause us to wonder if it's inspired by God. It indeed is and it's here in the canon of Scripture. But I believe that the author being led by the Holy Spirit used this as a literary device. And by that I mean he told a story of God's providence at work without mentioning God in it to simply make this point. There are times in life when God seems absent but he never is. God is always at work in the life of the believer every hour of every day.
Listen to this. His silence is not his absence. His hiddenness is not his abandonment. So says Timothy Keller. Remember when the two disciples were discouraged after the crucifixion of Christ.
And they thought the plans had gone south and there was no hope for them. And who joins them on their journey but Jesus himself. The risen Lord. He actually says to them guys why the long faces.
What's the problem. Haven't you heard they said to Jesus about Jesus of Nazareth a prophet mighty indeed. We were hoping he was the one to deliver Israel but it's been three days since these things happened. They didn't realize it but Christ himself was walking with them.
And at the end of their journey he revealed himself to them. And life can be that way too. You know we're going through life and there are times we sense the presence of the Lord. There are times when we see the hand of God. And then there are other times when we don't feel God's presence and we don't see his hand and we wonder has God abandoned us. And the answer is never.
He never has and he never will. Jesus said I will never leave you or forsake you. I want to introduce you to a word you're probably familiar with but I don't know if you understand the meaning. It's the word providence. We use that a lot. Oh it was providential. It's providence. What does that mean. The word providence comes from the Latin word providentia. The word pro means before or ahead of time. Videntia means to see.
We get our word video from it. So when we use the word providence we're simply saying this God sees things before they happen. God sees things before they happen. So there's nothing haphazard about the book of Esther.
There's nothing accidental or a result of dumb luck. No it's all guided by the providence of God. And so is our life. Our life is described in the Bible as a story that's already been told. Or if it's easier to understand your life is like a movie.
It has a beginning it has a middle and it has the end. Now some lives are like the sound of music with raindrops and roses and whiskers and kittens. And other lives are like I don't know Braveheart. Lots of conflict.
Lots of battle. But everyone has a life that is being lived and sometimes it doesn't make sense. But if you put your faith in Christ be confident of this. God is at work in your life. As Christians we do not believe in coincidence. We believe in providence. Because scripture says the steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives. I'm sometimes asked what my favorite scripture in the Bible is.
Kind of a hard question to answer isn't it? I have a lot of favorite scriptures don't you? A lot of it depends on what I'm going through in the moment. For instance if I'm in a difficult and worrisome situation I suppose my favorite scripture is Philippians 3. Where it says don't worry about anything pray about everything and the peace of God that passes all human understanding will keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Then again if things aren't making sense or are seeming a bit chaotic maybe my favorite scripture at that moment is John 14. Where Jesus says let not your hearts be troubled neither let them be afraid you believe in God believe also in me. When things are not making sense oh absolutely Romans 8 28 is a go to verse right. For we know that all things are working together to those that love God and are called according to his purpose. And it continues on for whom he did foreknow he also did predestined to be conformed into the image of his own dear son. But overall if I had to just pick one verse I would have to say Jeremiah 29 11 is a favorite. And that's where the Lord says I know the thoughts that I think towards you says the Lord.
Thoughts of peace and not of evil to give you a future and a home. You know if God had simply said I know the single thought that I had about you for a nanosecond says the Lord I would be happy with that wouldn't you? To think that the almighty God the creator of the universe even had a passing thought about little old me or you.
But that's not what God says. He says I know the thoughts not singular plural. I know the thoughts God says that I think towards you so they're not past tense they're present tense and future tense. I know the thoughts that I'm thinking towards you says the Lord. Well that can be good or bad on what kind of thoughts they are. If they're bad thoughts well I don't think I like that.
Well they're good thoughts. I know the thoughts that I think towards you says the Lord. Thoughts of peace and not of evil to give you a future and a hope. Or as another translation puts it to give you an expected end.
You see? So God is at work in your life and he has a plan and he has a purpose. Pastor Greg Laurie will have the second half of his message in just a moment. We're so encouraged when we hear that Pastor Greg's teachings are making an impact on people's lives and relationships. Dear Pastor Greg, I listened to a message you recently gave about going to someone in our past and forgiving them.
My flesh didn't want to do it. But I know that obedience brings a blessing and we are to be obedient to God and not our flesh. I don't know how your message came to me today, but it came at the right time because God's never late right? He gives us what we need when we need it.
And I needed your message today. Pastor Greg, may God bless you and your family. It's a blessing to know that God is using his word to touch hearts. How have Pastor Greg studies impacted your life? Would you let him know?
Drop an email to Greg at Harvest dot org. Well, Pastor Greg is launching a study today in the Old Testament book of Esther. Hopefully you can read along in your copy of God's word. Well, the story of Esther begins with the king of Persia, Xerxes, also known as Ahasuerus, but better known as Xerxes. Now, why are we looking at Esther on the heels in Nehemiah?
Because there's an overlap between these two books. As you recall, the people of Israel were taken into exile by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar turned his kingdom over to Belshazzar, who openly mocked God. And that is when the judgment of the Lord came upon Babylon and they were conquered by the Medo-Persians. So enter Cyrus the Great, who comes in and now is in control. And he changes Babylon to Persia and he releases the Jews.
He says, you can go on home if you want. Go back and build your temple if you want to. Some did, many did not. And that first wave was led by Ezra and they rebuilt the temple. And then later along comes Nehemiah and he rebuilds the walls and we looked at that together.
But now this is a story of the people, the Jewish people, that stayed in Persia, modern Iran, by the way. So Xerxes is a powerful king ruling over this massive empire that ranges from India to Ethiopia. Again, he's the son of Darius the Great and the grandson of Cyrus the Great. History depicts Xerxes as physically towering over his contemporaries.
Archaeologists doing some excavation at Susa have unearthed inscriptions in which King Xerxes is described as the Great King or the King of Kings. So this is a guy that had a big ego and he was very powerful. And so he decided to have a party one day.
Not just any party. He decided to have a party that would last for six months. Food and drink provided by the king. Eat all you want.
Drink all you want. And it was in the beautiful palace on a series of plates and the ornaments and it was just awe-inspiring. And so then the king, after he had shown all of his stuff to his people and all of his possessions, decided to bring out his crown jewel. And that would be Queen Vashti.
So let's read about that. Esther chapter 1, verse 10. On the 70th of the feast, when King Xerxes was in high spirits because of the wine, in other words, when he was drunk, he told the seven eunuchs who attended him, their names are listed, bring Queen Vashti with a royal crown on her head. He wanted the nobles and the other men to gaze on her beauty for she was a very beautiful woman. And when they conveyed the king's order to Queen Vashti, she refused to come. This made the king furious and he burned with anger.
We'll stop there. So Vashti is like the ultimate trophy wife. A woman of incredible beauty, the king gives a decree, tell Queen Vashti to come out wearing her crown. Some commentators believe this implies he wanted her to come out only wearing her crown.
In other words, no clothes, just the crown. But even if that's not the case, the sense here in this verse is that he wanted to sort of put her on display. He objectified his wife, treated her as a servant and didn't value and love her as he should have. He wanted to sort of parade her around his subjects and she wanted nothing to do with that because she thought it would be humiliating. Now the king's in a quandary. If he lets her get away with this, his aides say, none of our wives will do what we want them to do anymore. And what they'll do is they'll say, well, Queen Vashti didn't show up when the king called him.
Why should we show up when you call us? This isn't gonna work. You need to get rid of her. So now the king in his drunken rage makes a decision. He decides to reject Queen Vashti and remove her crown and replace her. Enter Esther. Esther chapter two, verse five.
We read these words. Now in the fortress of Susa there was a certain Jew named Mordecai, son of Jair. He was from the tribe of Benjamin and was a descendant of Kish and Shemai, his family, and had been exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar along with King Jehoiakim of Judah and many others. This man had a beautiful and lovely young cousin named Hadassah who was also called Esther.
When her father and mother had died, Mordecai adopted her into his family and raised her as his own daughter. And as a result of the king's decree, Esther along with many other young women was brought into the king's harem at the fortress of Susa and placed in Hegel's care. Hegel was an assistant to the king that would help to select who this candidate would be to bring before the king. Hegah was very impressed with Esther and treated her kindly. He quickly ordered a special menu for her and provided her with beauty treatments and nutrisystem.
No, I put that in. And he also arranged or assigned her seven maids specially chosen from the king's palace and he moved her and her maids into the best place in the palace. So we'll stop there. So the search is on for the next great beauty of Persia. Whoever won it would be the next queen.
Man, I bet a lot of young girls were hoping they'd win. I want to be queen. I want to wear that crown. What is it with girls wanting to be princesses, right? You know, they want to have the scepter. They want to rule us even when they're little, you know?
Before they can even talk, they want the crown and they want the scepter, right? So I'm sure many girls were pining for this, hoping for this. And many girls today, and young men for that matter, long for something very similar. I read an article about the desire of young people searching for fame today. This article is not written from a Christian perspective, just as an observation of culture.
And I quote from it now. Blame it on reality TV. Blame it on the entrenched loneliness of post-modern America. Blame it on an educational curriculum that's designed to promote self-esteem but ended up overshooting the mark. Pick your cultural poison.
The result remains the same. American teenagers are fixated on fame. More than a third of them would prefer fame over beauty, intelligence, or strength. Even more problematic, the article continues, these teens aren't just dreaming about famous, they're planning on it.
31% of American teenagers expect that they'll be famous one day, end quote. So whoever won this contest would be the most famous person in the kingdom. And here's Esther. I don't think she ever aspired to be a queen, though she was stunningly beautiful. I don't think she had any videos posted on YouTube.
No head shots over on her Facebook page or Instagram. She probably just figured she would live a quiet life in obscurity, marry a nice Jewish boy, and follow the Lord God and have a family. But God had a plan for her life. And even Haggai was impressed with her, he served the king. He saw something special in Esther. What did he see? Was it just her drop dead gorgeous looks?
Well you couldn't ignore that, but there was more. Because Esther was beautiful on the outside and the inside, you see. She was what the Bible calls a woman of virtue. The Bible says who can find a virtuous woman, strength and dignity are her clothing. And she smiles at her future. Though she was very young, there was something special about her because God had put his hand on her. And so the Lord put her in this special place.
But let me close with this. Maybe you're at a point in life where you're saying, I don't feel like God is with me at all. I feel as though I'm all alone.
Well let me just say this. If you are not a Christian, God is with you in a broad sense. Because God is omnipresent. God is everywhere.
You can call on God wherever you are. But there's a difference between God being with you and God being in you. That's really what being a Christian is. It's having Christ live inside of you. And God wants to be a part of your life.
So maybe it seems like God isn't paying attention to you, but actually he is. I read about a hardened atheist who had a young daughter. He didn't want her to believe in God. So one day he told her to read these words.
He wrote these words down on a piece of paper. God is nowhere. And this little girl who was just learning how to read looked at it and he says, I want you to read that out loud. God is nowhere. So she sounded out the words. She said, okay I see it daddy. God is n-o-w-h-e-r-e.
I get it daddy. God is now here. No that's not what I was saying. But he was so touched by that that he himself believed. You might say God is nowhere.
No the opposite is the case. God is now here. God is here with us right now. God was involved in the life of Esther and her people. And God is here with us involved in your life.
In fact does not scripture say when two or more are gathered together in his name he's there in the midst of them. And so he's not only here but he wants to come and live inside of us. Maybe your life isn't making sense to you right now. But I'm telling you God can step in and change everything.
And you'll never be alone again. Jesus Christ who died on the cross for your sin and absorbed God's wrath in your place and rose again from the dead is here with you standing at the door of your life. And he's knocking and he is saying if you'll hear his voice and open the door he'll come in. Have you asked him to come in yet?
He will right now. He's just a prayer away. If you need Christ in your life. If you need your sin forgiven. If you want to know that you'll go to heaven when you die. Respond to this invitation for you to believe in Jesus if you don't yet. And have you then join the family of God. Let's all bow our heads for a prayer please. Father thank you so much for loving us. Loving us so much that you sent Jesus to die in our place. And now Lord Jesus we thank you that you're here. Ready to come into any life that will open up to you. In Jesus name I pray.
Amen. With the fascinating title Lennon, Dylan, Alice and Jesus. It's a deep dive into the lives of some famous names in music and where they stand or where they stood with the Lord. The subtitle is The Spiritual Biography of Rock and Roll. And it's interesting that a pastor is writing a book about rock and roll and rock musicians.
It seems like an unlikely pairing. Well let me just say that I've always loved music. I've always loved rock and roll to quote the great theologian Joan Jett. I love rock and roll. And so I've always been aware of rock. I've always listened to rock. I kind of became aware of it more as a young man watching the Beatles.
But in this book this is not glorifying rock music or rock musicians. This is a book that is exploring the lives of people that have basically experienced everything this world has to offer and have found it empty. It's sort of a modern version of the story of Solomon who had everything this world offers. And then he concluded it was all emptiness. It was like chasing the wind. It was like a bubble that burst. And so you know when you've climbed to the top of the mountain and you've been all that and a bag of chips.
When you've been on a lunch box or on a t-shirt or people you know have your poster hung in their room. You realize how empty all of that is. So I explore these stories. One fascinating section of the book is about the so-called 27 Club.
Ever heard about that? These are artists who are very well known who all tragically died at the age of 27. Jimi Hendrix died at the age of 27.
So did Janis Joplin. You have to put Jim Morrison in there as well. Fast forward a number of years and you put Amy Winehouse in there along with Kurt Cobain. People that had it all and yet died at the very young age of 27. So I sort of show the birth of rock, the growth of rock, the pinnacle of rock in the 60s and 70s. And then the just complete collapse of so many of these iconic people. But then I explore the lives of those rock stars who have come to Jesus Christ and are following him. People I've gotten to know personally like Dion Demucci of Dion and the Belmonts.
Richie Furet of the Buffalo Springfield and Poco and Alice Cooper who I've interviewed multiple times. This is a guy that has experienced all that this world has to offer and has found it empty and now is following Jesus Christ. So it's a book that shows what happens when you make the right and the wrong choices. But ultimately it's a book that I think will offer hope and say to you there is no one that you know that is beyond the reach of God. Yeah, it's full of great reassurance and powerful insights on where fulfillment is really found. So can we send a copy your way? Again it's called Lennon, Dillon, Alice and Jesus.
The subtitle is The Spiritual Biography of Rock and Roll. And it's our gift to thank you for partnering with us right now. Your investments help these studies continue to come your way. And they help us reach out with the gospel as we did several weeks ago at Boise Harvest.
And you know in the last couple of years more than 220,000 people have made professions of faith in Christ. Your donation is a worthy investment. So get in touch with your investment today. You can call us at 1-800-821-3300. That's a 24-hour phone number 1-800-821-3300. Or write A New Beginning, Box 4000, Riverside, CA 92514.
Or go online to harvest.org. Well Pastor Greg, you pointed out the importance of asking Jesus to forgive our sins a few moments ago. Yes.
Could you help those who want to do that very thing right now? Yeah, you know the Bible tells us that Jesus Christ stands at the door of our life and he knocks. And if any man will hear his voice and open the door, he will come in. Maybe as you've heard me speak today, well you've heard another voice speaking to you.
It's the voice of God. And you realize you need Christ in your life. You need your sin forgiven. You want the assurance that you will go to heaven when you die.
Well here's what you need to do. You need to pray. And I would like to lead you in a prayer right now where you will be saying to Jesus, Lord, come into my life. I choose to follow you.
So let's pray. Lord Jesus, I know that I'm a sinner, but I thank you for dying on the cross for my sin. I turn from that sin now and I put my faith in you. Be my Lord, my Savior, and my God, and my friend. I choose to follow you, Jesus, from this moment forward.
Thank you for loving me and calling me and accepting me. In Jesus' name I pray, amen. Listen, if you just prayed that prayer, I want you to know on the authority of Scripture that Christ himself has come into your life. The Bible says these things we write to you that believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.
If you just prayed that prayer in minutes, you can know today you have eternal life. And may I be the first to say to you, welcome to the family of God. And we want to help you grow as a believer. So let us send you our new Believer's Growth Packet. We'll send it free of charge if you prayed with Pastor Greg today. Just call us anytime 24-7 at 1-800-821-3300. That's 1-800-821-3300. Or write A New Beginning, Box 4000, Riverside, CA 92514. Or go to harvest.org and click on Know God. Next time, we'll see how the King selects a new queen, Queen Esther.
But it was actually part of the plan of God to save the Jewish people from destruction. Join us for more next time on A New Beginning with pastor and Bible teacher, Greg Laurie. This is the day, the day when life begins. The preceding podcast was made possible by Harvest Partners, helping people everywhere know God. Learn how to become a Harvest Partner, sign up for daily devotions, and find resources to help you grow in your faith at harvest.org.
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