Last year, I had an email from a young woman who had been reading the blog - she had a sense of frustration. She wanted it to be her for such a time moment. And I understood. Because I've been there. I've been in that place of dissatisfaction; of sensing that there is more than what I am currently experiencing; of feeling held back. Like life will never happen and the remote is permanently stuck either on pause or replay!
This week, it will be one year since the On Becoming Esther website went live and I hit publish on my first blog post for this site. This milestone has got me thinking about God's timing - about how different it often is to our own plans and timetables, but how right it always is.
I blogged for five years elsewhere before I set up this site. Those years were hard years for me - there was a lot of refining taking place; a lot of waiting; a lot of silence. There were a lot of prayers that I prayed that I wanted answered right then and there - and they weren't. I lacked peace as I strived to find my purpose, hungering for my own for such a time as this moment.
Those words, for such a time as this, remind us of Queen Esther's defining moment. Of that point in time when she stepped into her divine purpose and destiny; when she was used powerfully and visibly to free God's people. But Esther's life was not one big highlight reel, and she was not just her for such a time as this moment. She was also all the moments in-between. Every season, every experience mattered as God worked in her heart and life, so that He could also work through her.
Her losses mattered. Esther had been orphaned as a young girl and was raised by her cousin Mordecai, and when we first meet her, she is alone yet again. Stripped of everything familiar, robbed of the future that she had planned for herself, she finds herself caught up in King Xerxes's plans to find a new queen.
Her waiting mattered. Twelve months of waiting for her turn to meet the King. Twelve months of wondering if she would be chosen or discarded - relegated to the King's harem for the rest of her life. Twelve months of preparation for one night. Then later she would learn to wait on God - to come before Him in prayer and fasting. To trust Him in the middle of the impossible.
Her successes mattered. From the favour that she found in the harem, to her coronation as Queen, to when she rose up in faith to speak on behalf of her people, God celebrated her growth and her breakthroughs.
Her silences mattered. From the time she became Queen to her for such a time as this moment of prominence, there are five years where nothing is written about her. Five years of her life where nothing much seems to happen. But it doesn't mean that they weren't important.
And here's the thing that I've learnt as I've gone through my own seasons and moments:
We are just as valuable to Him in our for such a time moments, as we are in our seasons of grief and loss; as we are in our seasons of waiting and preparation. Our lives serve a purpose in both the public and private moments. In our successes and in our silences; when we are living our dreams and when we feel frustrated by delay - our lives are significant. Because the journey of becoming, matters just as much to God as who we become.
In a sense, they are all for such a time as this moments - because we become the sum of not just our moments and seasons, but also of how we choose to respond to them. Of how we choose to live and of how we choose to trust Him in it all.
Don't despise the process of becoming or you will miss out on all the treasures that He has for you along the way. Live every season with purpose knowing that they all matter to Him - that you matter to Him.
Live today with purpose,
Enjoy this guest post from Pastor Mazhar Kefali - his words and wisdom have been shaping my life for years, and I know that the wisdom in this post will help ground you in 2017.
I have learnt over the years that everything and everyone has a ‘context’. To understand the part, the pieces of conversation, the bits of behaviour, the person – we need a context, their story. We need the big picture. My grandfather taught me this valuable life principle when I was young.
He had come up through life the hard way. His parents emigrated from Edinburgh, Scotland, to New Zealand in the late 1800’s. He was born in a tent in a field, as his parents pioneered a new life in our nation. He left school at age fourteen to work and help provide for the family. Starting out in the office of an engineering firm collecting mail, cleaning and making tea and coffee, he eventually became an engineer himself with his own business. He built roads, bridges, buildings and the original Rangipo Prison in the Desert Road in the middle of the North Island, where I spent several years growing up as my mother ran the workers cook house.
One day, I asked him how he achieved this with no formal education, and why he was so good at it. I never forgot two pieces of advice he gave me – “God gave you two ears, two eyes and one mouth. Listen and observe twice as much as you speak. When you speak, open your mouth to ask questions and never be too proud to learn.” Piece of advice number two, was with regards to why he was so good at his work. He was very gifted at reading plans and seeing how everything fit together. He shared how he found people got too bogged down in the details first, before learning to see the big picture. He said you need to stand back and get the bird’s eye view first, and then you can see more clearly where the details fit in the context of the big picture.
As we seek to navigate a year ahead, life itself, we need to learn to live from the perspective of the ‘big picture’ - learning to see life and people through the lens of the Fathers eyes and perspective, understanding the context of their story. We need to learn to listen more than we speak, and to hear the ‘context’ of people’s stories, so we then understand their words and actions more clearly.
Every person has a story, every detail has a context. ‘Context’ is simply the ‘structure, framework, environment, frame of reference, background – the surrounding words and circumstances’, which when known and understood, help us make sense of the details. Over some thirty years of pastoral ministry, I learnt that one of the key ways to understand why a person was behaving, responding, the way they did, was to know their story. I learnt that knowing their story, understanding surrounding circumstances of a person, an event etc., gave context to the details.
“Do not forget this! Keep it in mind! Remember this, you guilty ones. Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like me. Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.
Only God knows the big picture - the end from the beginning - therefore it is wisdom to learn to see through the Fathers eyes. Jesus lived from His humanity with this perspective - doing what the Father showed Him.; conscious of Heaven's bird's eye view.
Likewise, we need to learn to live from Heaven to earth. Life will throw many ‘details’ our way, and we tend to get bogged down in them. We need to learn to push pause, step back, be reminded of what the Father has done for us in the past; to live from the big picture that Christ lived in – that we are the beloved children of the Father. That is our identity before we ever do anything. We must learn to 'think' from Heaven's perspective; to think with the mind of Christ so that we live within His ‘big picture’ purpose. We must allow the details of our lives and circumstances to find their context within the Kingdom of Heaven.
Soren Kierkegaard said:
Life must be lived forward, but can only be understood backwards.
Isaiah invites us, as we seek to navigate the details of life and relationships, to remember what God has done in the past, because testimony says He can do it again! He invites us to live life from the big picture context that our Father knows the end from the beginning - He will outwork His purpose for our lives and nothing can stop that! This year, place the details of your life and relationships within the context of His sovereign love for you.
I don't know what your experience has been, but I've found that life can have a way of distracting me - of pulling me away from my intended purpose and taking my focus off what really matters. Take for example my years at University - I never went to law school with the intention of becoming a lawyer. Instead, I dreamed of becoming a renowned journalist and I'd been advised that the best way to realise this dream, was to get a comprehensive education. So law school it was. But somewhere along the way, I lost sight of why I'd gone there. I got caught up in everybody else's goals and ambitions, and as a result the vision changed. I applied for summer clerkships; I aimed for the top firms - I was going to be a lawyer.
It's an all too easy thing to do - to allow the people around us, the culture that we live in to shape our goals and aspirations. To let it become our measure of success; the yardstick by which we determine our value. But as a new year begins, it's an opportunity to redefine success; to recalibrate our hearts and to set goals that are not about how the world says our lives should look, or what the world says that we should pursue and accumulate - but who God says we are to become.
In Colossians 1, Paul prayed this prayer for the believers in Colosse:
We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might...
As I've entered 2017 and been meditating on these words, I've asked myself the question, what does it look like to live a life that pleases God? What will enable me to look back on 2017 and view it as a success?
Paul reveals some measures of Biblical success in this prayer, telling us that to please God is to be fruitful in good works and to grow in our knowledge of Him. And it's the second that has really struck me. What if instead of measuring 2017 by a list - by what I manage to accumulate and achieve; by the numbers on the scales or in my bank accounts; by how clean my house is or what positions I hold - what if I measured it by whether this year saw me draw closer to Jesus? What if I defined success as a growing relationship with God - as knowing Him more and allowing myself to be known by Him?
When I stepped down from my role as an Associate Pastor, my Dad wrote me a beautiful letter of encouragement - and in it he shared this quote with me:
You take care of the depth of your life and ministry, and God will take care of the breadth of it - Source unknown
If I will direct my attention this year to the depth of my relationship with God, it will follow that I will grow in my knowledge of who He is; that I will as Paul prayed, be filled with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. And with this knowledge, with this growth, will come fruitfulness - will come breadth. Because the more I know God - not just know about Him, but know Him for myself - the more I will become like Him. Jesus put it this way when He said:
As you live in union with Me as your source, fruitfulness will stream from within you - but when you live separated from Me, you are powerless.
I can't know for sure what this year will look like - no matter how much I plan and set goals, I cannot guarantee what lies ahead of me. But I can determine this: I can resolve to pursue God in it all. I can resolve that no matter what twists and turns my journey takes, no matter what mountain tops I reach, or valleys that I walk through, that I will expect to see Him and to know Him more intimately. That I will love Him and allow Him to love me - in the good, the bad and the mundane. That I will believe that there is no part of my life where His power is not available to enable me to keep going - to keep growing.
And that for me will be true success - to look back over this year and to be able to say, I know God in a deeper and more meaningful way than I did at the beginning. So as we set our goals and return to our routines, let's not allow ourselves to be distracted from the one thing that really matters - staying connected to Jesus. Let's pursue Him in all things and fruitfulness will follow.
Live today with purpose,
Join me for a new devotional series in Colossians starting 13th February and let's pursue God together! Sign-up here to get it to your inbox, or if you prefer pen & paper pre-order the hard copy here.
Enjoy this guest post from Karen Frith - Karen and I had a chance encounter in a bathroom one morning and ever since she has been bringing timely words of encouragement into my life and I know that this will be a word in season to help you to step into what God has prepared for you in 2017.
Are you looking forward to what 2017 holds? Could it be that you’ve been looking back over 2016 and reflecting on what did not happen; those things you had hoped would?
Maybe, just maybe, God has wanted our view point of all our dreams and destinies that He has called us to believe for, to die. Not that God wants our dreams to die, but rather our views of how he will do it and how it will look.
I draw parallels from the death of Lazarus as recounted in John 11. Whilst Lazarus is desperately ill, his sisters Mary and Martha beseech Jesus to come. Jesus however, does not rush to Bethany to see Lazarus, instead He REMAINS a further two days where He is, during which time Lazarus subsequently dies.
Yet Jesus decrees in John 11:4:
“This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”
When Jesus does arrive in Bethany, Mary and Martha go to Him, opening up about their distress and pain over their beloved’s brother’s death.
Maybe your dreams and hopes died during 2016 and you feel that the Lord hasn’t answered your prayers as you hoped He would. This is the time to turn to God, not away. This is the time to bring your confusion and pain to Jesus, as Mary and Martha did over Lazarus.
Here comes the different view point. The one we do not always see.
“Jesus said to Martha, your brother will rise again... I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Martha responds to Jesus’s question with a resounding yes, declaring, “Yes Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”
Let 2017 be a time to say look forward; to say yes I believe Lord; to be confident that He hears every one of our prayers. That we will see the glory of God, that the promises will come forth and we will have a greater revelation of Jesus. Because even though Martha believed in who Jesus was, there was still so much more that He wanted her to understand; that He wanted to demonstrate to her.
Jesus can show us in a far better way who He is to us and for us.
And as they arrive at the tomb where Lazarus has been buried, Jesus instructs that they “Take away the stone.” As it is rolled away, He calls out in a loud voice saying, “Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
Even though Lazarus was free from the tomb; even though he was resurrected from the finality of death – he was still wearing the grave clothes of death, and these needed to be removed from his body. Just as Jesus calls Lazarus out from the Tomb, He calls us out from the places of death in our lives. And He asks us to take off our grave clothes; our mourning; our ashes.
Are we ready and willing to give Him those things? Are we willing to make the exchange, to surrender our pain and our past to Jesus?
We are promised beauty for our ashes and a garment of praise instead of garments of mourning. And throughout Scripture, God makes this exchange with His people - taking from them the old, and clothing them in His goodness; in His provision; in His promises.
In the book of Ruth chapter 3, we read about Naomi making Ruth change her clothes. Why? Because Ruth was still wearing the clothes that were linked with Moab and these garments were filled with grief from the loss of her husband. Before she could meet Boaz, her intended – she needed to take off the grave clothes.
In Zechariah 3, satan accuses Joshua the High Priest over his past. The Lord however changes Joshua’s clothing. The dirty clothes which represent his past are taken off and he is given new garments. A new turban is also placed on his head which indicates a change of mind, new thoughts in a new season.
“See I have taken away your sin and I will put fine garments on you”
God wants to give you new clothes for a new year. Clothes that reflect the future and the hope that He has for you. So as we go into 2017, let’s sort out our ‘closets’. Let’s make an active choice to shed our grave clothes - our filthy garments of the past, the clothes which carry mourning and grief - for the beauty and joy that Jesus has promised us.
Mourn no longer, rather rejoice as you go into 2017 in the beautiful exchange that Jesus is offering you. He is the restorer of life - your life!
One of my favourite pass-times as a kid was writing. I used to make my own books and write poetry on our old type-writer. Thankfully both my writing and technology have come a long way!
It is my prayer that these posts from the blogging team encourage you to embrace the season that you are in and to live it with purpose for God's glory.
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