Today's episode of A New Beginning is brought to you by Harvest Partners. Helping people everywhere know God.
Learn more at harvest.org. And while you're there, browse our library of free ebooks designed to help you grow in your faith. You know, the Bible does not condemn a girl being attractive.
That is all fine. Here's what the Bible is critical of. Only focusing on the outside and neglecting the inside.
Find the balance. Today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie takes us to the book of Esther for insight on how to have godly priorities when surrounded by an ungodly culture. Put God first in all things and have inner beauty as well as who you are on the outside. This is the day when the lost are found. This is the day for a new beginning. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound. Again you hear when the angels are singing. This is the day, the day when life begins. Millions of young girls wish they could look like the models they see on magazine covers.
Well here's a little secret. The models themselves wish they looked like what they see on magazine covers. The pictures have been enhanced by a graphic artist. Well today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie helps us all set our sights on what's real. We look to a real life example of beauty, grace, and godliness as we study the book of Esther. And Pastor Greg also reflects on the life of Dr. Billy Graham.
This is the day, the day when life begins. Well you know a lot has been said and rightly so about Billy Graham and his life and his legacy. And I've read columns written by Christian leaders you know applauding Billy, celebrating Billy, and that's all great. But you know the greatest tribute you can pay to Billy Graham is just do what Billy did. And what did Billy do? When it was all said and done, yes he was a chaplain to presidents and yes he was an influential leader, but really when it was all said and done what Billy did was he shared the gospel and he invited people to Christ. That's what he did. That's what we all need to be doing.
That's why we are always looking for those new opportunities to bring the gospel to people who have not heard it before. You know I was with Billy once and I asked him if he had any regrets in life and he said yes inviting you to come with me. No he didn't say that. He should have. I really pestered him a lot. It was always questions questions when I was around him. So I said Billy do you have any regrets?
He says yes I have a regret. He said I was at the prayer breakfast in Washington DC. This is when President Kennedy was in office and Billy spoke and afterwards the president said Billy I would like you to ride with me back to the White House.
I have something I want to talk to you about. And Billy was very sick. He had the flu. He said Mr. President I would love to but I'm afraid I would give you what I have. Maybe we could get together at another time and have that discussion.
The president agreed and shortly after President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas Texas. Billy says I always regret that I didn't take that ride with the president and talk to him. You know there are strategic opportunities that come in life that drop in your lap.
It is up to you what you do with them. And we are looking at an extraordinary life of a woman named Hadassah better known as Esther who put it all on the line when push came to shove. God put Billy on this earth for a purpose.
I think he fulfilled it beautifully. God has put you on this earth for a purpose too. He has put all of us where we are for such a time as this. Now you can find that purpose and dedicate your life to the glory of God or you can ignore it and chase after the empty promises of this world. It is really your choice. But the book of Esther is about how God placed the right woman in the right place at the right time and she saved the Jewish people.
A.B. Simpson no relation to Homer said, God is preparing his heroes and when the opportunity comes he can fit them into their places in a moment and the world will wonder where they came from. End quote.
Isn't that a great statement? Did it ever occur to you that you could be one of God's heroes? And God is equipping and preparing you for something yet ahead for such a time as this. We are always trying to get out of the situation we are in or the circumstances we are in or maybe a relationship we are in. And maybe there is a place for that.
But then there is also the recognition that God is in control of our lives. Now let's pick up where we last left off. King Xerxes the ruler of the mighty Persia put on a six month feast. Man that is one long party. And the drinks were on the house and the food too. The king was flaunting all of his wealth and his power and his bling. And I think there may have been an ulterior motive for Xerxes because according to history we know on the heels of this feast he mounted a large scale invasion of Greece.
Maybe he was buttering the people up. Getting them ready for this big battle that was ahead and sort of saying to them hey check out all of our cool stuff and all of our power. Man you are on the right team so I hope you are going to back me on this because in attendance at this great feast were all of the leaders of Persia because it was a far flung empire. So the king waited to bring out his crown jewel.
The pièce de résistance. The beautiful queen Vashti. So he gave the order tell Vashti to come out and make sure she wears her crown. Vashti gets a word and she says I am not doing it.
Now some commentators as I pointed out believed maybe the implication is the king said tell Vashti to come out wearing only her crown. In other words not her clothes. Sort of to display even flaunt her before the others.
But even if that is not the case clearly he was treating her more like an object. Look at my awesome wife. Look at my hot wife. My trophy wife.
Don't you envy me. Look at how powerful I am. Vashti wasn't going along with the program. And the king was really embarrassed by this. And so his aides came to him and said you cannot let this stand. You cannot let your wife get away with this because if you do we will never hear the end of it at home. Our wives would be saying well I am not going to do what you want. Queen Vashti didn't do what the king wanted.
You have got to get rid of her and throw her out and remove her crown. Now why did the king go along with this? The answer is found in Esther 110 on the 70th of the feast when King Xerxes was on high spirits because of the wine. Loose paraphrase. He was drunk as a skunk. And when you are drunk you say and do stupid things.
Right. And that is why the Bible warns us against drunkenness. It tells us in Ephesians don't be drunk with wine but be filled with the Spirit. The Bible also tells us in Proverbs 20 verse 1 wine is a mocker and strong drink is a brawler and whoever is led astray by them is not wise. You know having been raised in an alcoholic home and seeing what alcoholism does I can't think of one good thing I have ever seen that has come out of drinking.
But I can see a lot of bad things. And so I have a revolutionary thought for you all to consider. Don't get drunk. How about that. Don't get drunk. Now here is another revolution.
I am glad you agree. Some don't. I don't know about that. I ain't drunk. Yeah right. And here is another revolutionary thought.
If you don't drink you won't get drunk. Ah. There it is. So King Xerxes was drunk. And apparently he was one of those mean trunks.
Some people when they come out of the influence of alcohol get very angry and violent. And that was the king. So he dismisses Vashti. Now after this he goes out and leads his army into battle against Greece. And he was humiliated. And he returns to the kingdom. And now he is lonely. He misses Queen Vashti. Now he had a harem.
Ok. He had a lot of women that snapped his fingers and a woman would be there. But apparently the king wasn't satisfied with just sexual pleasure. He wanted love. He wanted a companion. He wanted someone that actually cared about him. The king wanted a queen. And so he decided that he was going to find that queen somewhere in his kingdom. Now I know as we hear the story it is not a very spiritual story. You have a pagan king with a harem full of women who fires his queen. And now he wants a new queen who is saying, how could God work in a situation like this? Well the fact is God was working.
One thing to consider. If Queen Vashti had been in power when Haman hatched his wicked plot to exterminate the Jews it is very unlikely she would have protested. So God had to get the right woman in the right place at the right time.
And that woman was the beautiful young Esther. So the king says, I need a queen. Which just shows that God is in control. God is in control of kings and queens and prime ministers and presidents. The Bible says that the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord and he guides it wherever he wants it to go. In a moment we will see how the king decided to select his new queen.
It is a spectacle you would expect of Xerxes. More on that in a moment. At Harvest Ministries we hear from people all around the country and in places that are sometimes hard to reach. Dear Pastor Greg, we live out in the wilds of Idaho but are able to enjoy your Harvest at Home broadcast. We call it our home church away and our 13 year old son even gave his heart to Jesus while watching Harvest at Home. Praise the Lord and blessings to you. It's so great to know that the Harvest at Home broadcast has impacted this family in this way.
Do you have a story to tell? If so, would you let Pastor Greg know? Just drop him an email. Greg at Harvest dot org. Again that's Greg at Harvest dot o-r-g. Well we're just getting started in our study of Esther. And Pastor Greg continues at the point in the story where King Xerxes acted on his displeasure with Queen Vashti. So the message goes out to the massive kingdom of Persia that the king wanted a queen.
If this was happening today, no question, it would be a reality show, right? And so the word went out and all these girls applied. The ancient historian Josephus believed there was 400 contestants and these girls had to be virgins. They had to go through an extensive makeover. They had a team of stylists there that would do their hair, makeup, and help them to become as appealing as possible to the king.
And then the winner would be chosen to be the queen. And that's where we pick our story up. Esther chapter 2. Drop down to verse 5 and let's read together. Now at the fortress of Susa there was a certain Jew named Mordecai son of Jer. He was from the tribe of Benjamin and was a descendant of Kish and Shemaai.
His family 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 died Mordecai adopted her into his family and raised her as his own daughter.
We will stop there. So standing up from all of these gorgeous Persian women is the beautiful Jewish girl named Hadassah. She was an orphan adopted by Mordecai. So he became a father figure to her. Most likely her aspirations in life would have been to become married to her.
Most likely her aspirations in life would have been to marry a nice Jewish boy, raise a family, serve the Lord, and live in relative obscurity. But God had another plan for Esther for such a time as this. Reminding us that there are no coincidences in our life. Only providence. No coincidences but providence. And what does providence mean? Remember it means ahead of time. God sees what is coming.
He sees it in detail. So he knew exactly what was in the future and he was getting Esther ready. Now she was a gorgeous girl. We know that because Esther 2 says, Now the young lady was beautiful of form and face. There are two Hebrew words that are used here. One is hote and the other is chiquito. It translates to hot chick.
This is true. No I made that up. I made it up completely. She was. She was a hot chick ok to put it in vernacular. Gorgeous.
Drop dead. Like wow. But the thing about Esther is it is not just that but she was beautiful on the outside.
She was also beautiful on the inside. You know there is so much emphasis put on girls today to be attractive. And a lot of this is driven by social media. I read that plastic surgeries are at an all time high right now because people actually want to look in real life like they look in selfies.
Right. You know when you take a shot of yourself or a picture is taken you have these filters that you can get from these apps and you can make yourself taller, thinner. You can change yourself and well into some of that actually doesn't exist.
And people go to cosmetic surgeons and say make me look like this and all that emphasis and you know oh I have to lose weight and I have to appear a certain way. And you know all the women's magazines out there only support that. I subscribe to quite a few of them. I don't subscribe. But here is the latest issue. Here is an article on growing thicker hair.
I am going to read that later. Lose eight pounds a week eating slimming cereal. I kind of like that. Erase the signs of aging. Oh here is glamour. Spring fashion and beauty. What's next? Next level makeup skills.
Sex without shame. That is the kind of thing you see in these magazines. They promote immorality.
So I was really shocked when I came across the latest cover of Vogue magazine. And it says Queen Esther on doing what is right. Check this out. Here is what is in this issue. The value of virtue. How the daily study of Scripture can help you grow spiritually in your journey.
Twenty Scriptures on how to have a better marriage and be faithful to your spouse. Vogue magazine. How many of you believe this is real? It is not real people. We made it all up.
I had our graphics department mock this up saying wouldn't it be cool if this was out there. But it is not out there. Because you never would see that on the cover of a women's magazine or any magazine. Twenty Scriptures on how to have a better marriage and be faithful to your spouse.
Are you kidding me? They encourage adultery. They encourage premarital sex.
They even encourage abortion. Oh my goodness. What a contrast. But here was this secular environment all about outward appearance. And you know Esther was so gorgeous she fit in and even surpassed many of the beauties. But she had that inner beauty.
And the king took note of it. You know the Bible does not condemn a girl being attractive. I think some people think no I just need to be plain for God's glory.
Really. You know sometimes the question is should Christian girls wear makeup. Hey my response is if a house needs painting paint it. You may need a little brush. You may need a roller.
I don't know what kind. You go girl. The Bible doesn't condemn a girl dressing attractively. Esther was attractive. The woman of Proverbs 31 is commended for her attractiveness. Proverbs 31 talks about the beautiful clothing the woman is wearing.
That is all fine. Here is what the Bible is critical of. Only focusing on the outside and neglecting the inside. That is the focus. It is good to have the outside attractive as it can be. But you want to be godly on the inside. 1 Timothy 4 says, physical training is of some value but godliness has value for all things holding promise for their present life and the life to come. And then over in 1 Peter 3 from the New Living Translation it says, don't be concerned about the outward beauty that depends on fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. So here is the point. Don't make that your primary focus. But on the other hand don't neglect it altogether.
Ok. Just find the balance. Because Jesus said, don't be like the nonbelievers. All they think about is what they are going to eat, what they are going to drink, what they are going to wear. But you should seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you. Put God first in all things and have inner qualities and if you are a girl inner beauty as well as who you are on the outside. So all of the beautiful women of Persia are paraded before King Xerxes. And he chooses Esther. Look at Esther 2 verse 16. Esther was taken to King Xerxes at the royal palace in early winter on the seventh year of his reign. And the king loved Esther more than any of the other young women.
He was so delighted with her that he set the royal crown on her head and declared her queen instead of Vashti. God was at work. Now if this was a fairy tale it would end right here.
Poor little girl becomes the queen and they lived happily ever after. But this is not a fairy tale. This is a Bible story. And Bible stories are true.
They are history. And so here is what happened after that. The plot thickens. As Esther was made queen her cousin Mordecai was made a counselor to the queen. And one day Mordecai uncovered a plot by two of the king's guards to kill him. He revealed it to the king. The guards were arrested.
They were executed. And he was never rewarded for that or acknowledged for that. And you know that happens in life sometimes doesn't it? You know we do something for someone and we don't get the credit.
Maybe it is your idea and someone else stole it and they got all the glory for it. Or at your workplace you choose the path of honesty and integrity and you don't advance while the person who chose dishonesty and scheming did advance. And you are saying this isn't fair. It is not right.
Well hold on now buckaroo. It is not over until it is over. As we are going to see in the book of Esther how things played out in the big picture.
Because among other things the book of Esther is about reaping what you sow both good and bad. Pastor Greg Laurie with good insight from our study today in the book of Esther and as he said there is more to come here on A New Beginning. And then we want to mention the new book we are making available. It is Pastor Greg's new book called Lennon, Dylan, Alice, and Jesus. It is a revealing look at the rise and fall of so many rock icons and the reasons for their self destruction. You know Pastor Greg a lot of the ground you cover in this new book is centered around the 60's and 70's. That unique era in American history which you also address in your upcoming movie Jesus Revolution.
How does this book fit in with the larger projects you have been working on? Well I have always been a fan of music. I like movies. I like music. I like television. You know I like all of these things.
I am interested in them. But I also want to bring Christ to people in these worlds. That is why we make movies. We have done films like A Rush of Hope which reached millions of people. We are making a new movie right now that we are actually calling Fame. And in that film I interview Alice Cooper, Daryl Strawberry, and others.
People who have had the great success in life and have found that is not the answer but Christ is the answer. So all of these projects I work on from A Rush of Hope or this upcoming feature film Jesus Revolution are bridges. Bridges to walk over and tell stories. You know it is interesting I think the time we are living in right now really parallels 1970.
The late 60's early 70's. We have turmoil in the world. We have the threat of war. We have had race riots in our street. We have had the effects of drug use.
We have had the rise of crime. All things we were experiencing in the late 60's and early 70's. It is even funny to me as I see young people today who have rediscovered vinyl and they are playing these old records we used to listen to the first time. You see kids hanging out in hipster coffee shops wearing Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd designs in their shirt or talking about the Beatles as though they are a current band.
It is hilarious. So there is a cultural connection. And I think when we make this film Jesus Revolution which is basically set in 1970 and 71 it will speak to a generation alive today.
It will connect to them because we were dealing with a lot of the same issues they are dealing with right now. So I am looking to build bridges. That is why I write books like Lennon, Dylan, Alice and Jesus or I make movies like A Rush of Hope and Fame and Jesus Revolution and we have our events in stadiums and arenas because we want to reach people that don't know the Lord. Jesus did not say the whole world should go to church but he did say the church should go to the whole world. I want to go to where people are and reach unexpected people in unexpected places in unexpected ways with the gospel that can change their life.
Yeah that is right. And listen if you would like to partner with us and help us reach further than we ever have before I hope you will let us know. Consider how you might invest to keep these daily studies coming your way and also help us reach out with the hope of the gospel or as our mission statement puts it knowing him and making him known.
And with your generous donation right now we would like to send you Pastor Greg's new book called Lennon, Dylan, Alice and Jesus. So get in touch today. Call 1-800-821-3300.
We are here to take your call around the clock. That's 1-800-821-3300 or go online to harvest.org. I don't know if you know about this but we have a weekend service called Harvest at Home exclusively for people that are tuning in literally from around the world.
Listen to this. We even have harvest groups where you can get into a small group with folks from all around this planet of ours and study the word of God. So join us this weekend Saturday and Sunday for Harvest at Home at harvest.org. Well next time some practical takeaway truths from our studies in the book of Esther. We'll see how we can be ready to serve God in our own lives for such a time as this. Join us next time here on A New Beginning with pastor and Bible teacher, Greg Laurie.
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