Monday, August 31, 2015

How to Fascinate Others

By Allen White

Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request. For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.”
Esther 7:3-4

Esther makes an eloquent request. She doesn’t cut to the chase. Her words are intriguing. She left a few unanswered questions, and fascinated the king. Her goal was to engage the king’s mind and to evoke strong emotion. And, she succeeded.

Sometimes our attempts at persuasion boil down to a battle of wills. “This is what I want.” “Well, this is what I want.” Where do you go from there? Often confronting a situation directly just blows up in our face. When we take a person head on, they become threatened and defensive. When we speak frankly to another person about him or herself, their defensiveness causes them to miss the point.

People can’t look directly at themselves. It’s too close. It’s too personal. It’s hard for them to see. We can only see ourselves in reflections.

Esther doesn’t lay into Xerxes about his edict to exterminate the Jewish people. Xerxes wouldn’t have connected the dots. He would have felt personally attacked. Esther’s mission would have failed right there.

Instead, Esther causes Xerxes to look at the situation by talking about it indirectly. This wasn’t a passive-aggressive, innuendo and insinuation kind of tactic. Esther’s approach allowed Xerxes to look at the circumstance objectively. He would automatically ask himself, “Who would do such a thing?” before he realized that he was the one.

How do you approach other people? Do you go straight for the jugular? Do you immediately rub their noses in it? How can you discuss the facts without causing them to become defensive? Is there a story you can tell from another situation? Is there a way to invoke their interest without provoking their anger?

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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Hey God, I’ve Got This One

By Allen White

So the king and Haman went to Queen Esther’s banquet, and as they were drinking wine on the second day, the king again asked, “Queen Esther, what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.” Esther 7:1-2

Much had transpired since the last banquet just 24 hours before. Haman had gone from the elation of dining with the king and queen to the humiliation of parading Mordecai through the streets proclaiming his honor. Haman knew in his heart that his plot would be undone. What he didn’t know was that the other shoe was soon to drop.

Haman gathered what little dignity he had left and attended another banquet with the king and queen. If anything, his ego needed some re-inflating, even though he had been warned by his wife, his advisors, and the circumstances of that day.

Pride is a powerful and dangerous trait. The Bible says, “The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 16:5).

Now, if we were completely humble, we could sit back and gloat a little bit. “Those prideful, you-know-whats are going to get theirs.” The problem is that we struggle with our pride too. I don’t say this for us to fear punishment. God’s grace has removed the punishment of our sin (Romans 8:1). But, we do need to be aware of the dangers of our pride.

“In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God” (Psalm 10:4). Is there room for God in our thoughts? Do we seek after God? Or in our life and actions are we telling God, “I’ve got this.” Jesus only did the things that He saw His Father doing (John 5:19). Are we better than Jesus that we can figure things out on our own? That doesn’t mean that we’re bad people. It just means that we’re proud.

Haman’s pride led to his downfall. Mordecai’s humility led to God’s success. Which side of the equation do you want to be on? What does it mean for you to humbly submit yourself to God? What does it mean to release your stubborn pride?

You hold the key to God’s work in your life. As long as you insist on your way, God will give you what you want. Sometimes that’s the worst thing that can happen to us. If you want a life beyond what you can create for yourself, humility is the path.

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

God Trumps Strategy Every Time

By Allen White

Afterward Mordecai returned to the king’s gate. But Haman rushed home, with his head covered in grief, and told Zeresh his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him. His advisers and his wife Zeresh said to him, “Since Mordecai, before whom your downfall has started, is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him—you will surely come to ruin!” Esther 6:12-13 (NLT)

The king’s honor certainly didn’t go to Mordecai’s head. He returned to his post at the king’s gate where he had been keeping a watchful eye over Esther and had been mourning for the fate of his people. Mordecai didn’t brag to his friends. He didn’t see victory over the impending evil. Mordecai kept this honor in the proper perspective. He had done the right thing in reporting the plot against the king, and now he received the king’s reward. But, that’s as far as it went. It was back to business.

While we might have expected Mordecai to have an emotional outburst of celebration, it’s Haman who’s emotions are out of control. The plan that Haman had so carefully wove now had him completely tied up in knots. All of his plotting fueled by selfish motives was now beginning to work against him. Mordecai wasn’t more strategic than Haman. Mordecai’s God was greater than the evil in Haman’s heart. Evil is not overcome with cleverness. Evil is overcome with good (Romans 12:21).

Often we get caught up in the motives and actions of other people. Some people seem so opposed to us that we might even consider them to be our enemies. But, people are not our enemies. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). How much time do we waste struggling with flesh and blood? How much of our energy is devoted to outwitting other people? What if that energy was directed toward drawing closer to God?

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13). Just as Mordecai depended on the promises that his faithful God made to His people, we must depend on the promises God has made to us. Our defense is found in God’s Word, prayer, His righteousness and salvation, faith and truth (Ephesians 6:13-17).

Who are you ready to go to battle against today? Is this really your battle to fight? Could this just be a distraction from what God really wants to accomplish in your life? Have you given this situation over to God?

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

If the Claw Fits

By Allen White

So [Haman] answered the king, “For the man the king delights to honor,

Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king’s most noble princes. Let them robe the man the king delights to honor, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, ‘This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!’”

 “Go at once,” the king commanded Haman. “Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Do not neglect anything you have recommended.”

So Haman got the robe and the horse. He robed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city streets, proclaiming before him, “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!”

Afterward Mordecai returned to the king’s gate. But Haman rushed home, with his head covered in grief,

Esther 6:7, 9-12

The reward Haman requested for the unnamed recipient was obviously Haman himself, at least in his own mind. Haman was practicing half of the Golden Rule: “as you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12). He just forgot the “Do unto others” part. But, the reward wasn’t for Haman.

After learning that the honor went to Mordecai, Haman quickly toppled from the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat. Haman had to parade Mordecai through the city and proclaim, “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!” I would imagine that coming up with a smile was more than a challenge for Haman.

We are all naturally jealous. Maybe we’re not proclaiming the good deeds of our archrival like Haman. We don’t have to go that far to be jealous. If a co-worker gets a promotion or a friend gets a new car, our first reaction is usually not, “Good for you. Way to go.” Our first thoughts are jealous thoughts.

Someone asked years ago, “How do you keep crabs in a basket? You don’t need a lid. You just need two crabs. One will make sure that the other doesn’t escape the basket.” I hate to admit that sometimes the claw fits.

The Bible tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). If we were honest, we would admit that often it’s easier to mourn with the mournful than rejoice with the joyful. I’m not saying that we’re a bunch of Eeyores ready to darken anyone’s day. We’re probably more like crabs.

When someone is suffering, we can pray for them. We can offer our help. We can lift them up. Often when something good happens, there’s nothing for us to do, except maybe envy them. They don’t seem to need our prayer. After all, they’ve succeeded. They don’t need our help. They don’t need to be lifted. They’re already up there. We wouldn’t want them to get a big head or anything. Maybe our job is to keep them humble amid their success. Maybe we need to get over ourselves.

There is something poetic about Haman honoring Mordecai at the king’s request. I don’t think Mordecai took advantage of the situation. I don’t think Mordecai was haughty. I doubt that he gloated. He doesn’t strike me as being that kind of man.

We can certainly cheer Mordecai’s success and even Haman’s humiliation. We all want the good guys to finish first – the tortoise to beat the hare, the underdog and the dark horse to get the advantage. We want the force to be with us. This calls for a little excessive jubilation in the end zone of life. But, we are not called to rub other people’s noses in it.

The Bible tell us to “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:6). It’s not our job to lift ourselves up. It’s our job to humbly submit ourselves to God. God does the heavy lifting.

Where do you feel that you need to assert yourself and your agenda today? Are you considering the good of everybody or just your own good? What signal have you received from God: Stop, Yield or Go?

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

God Shouldn’t Be Your Co-Pilot

By Allen White

That night the king could not sleep; so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him. It was found recorded there that Mordecai had exposed Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, who had conspired to assassinate King Xerxes.

 “What honor and recognition has Mordecai received for this?” the king asked.

 “Nothing has been done for him,” his attendants answered.

The king said, “Who is in the court?” Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the palace to speak to the king about impaling Mordecai on the pole he had set up for him.

His attendants answered, “Haman is standing in the court.”

 “Bring him in,” the king ordered.

When Haman entered, the king asked him, “What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?”

Now Haman thought to himself, “Who is there that the king would rather honor than me?” Esther 6:1-6

Mordecai demonstrated selflessness by reporting the plot against the king. He had nothing to gain from getting involved. Mordecai did the right thing, but was never rewarded. He might have felt the satisfaction of a job well done. He might have felt gypped. Either way, Mordecai could sleep at night.

Haman, on the other hand, was vengeful, arrogant, deceitful and proud. He received a promotion out of the blue and become second in command to Xerxes. Haman was overly impressed with himself. I imagine that he carried a picture of himself in his wallet.

When Xerxes discovered the error of having never rewarded Mordecai, he asked Haman what the reward should be. Haman instantly thought of himself as the one worthy of reward. If you looked up self-centered in the dictionary, Haman’s picture would be right there. After all, who else could the king possibly want to honor?

How much do you tend to think about yourself? When someone makes a passing remark, do you immediately assume that it’s about you? Are you oversensitive or defensive about everything? When we put ourselves in the center, it’s all up to us to make everything okay (for us). That’s a very heavy burden. When we place God in the center, we can feel safe and secure. We can experience peace in our circumstances. It’s no longer all up to us. It’s up to God.

When putting ourselves in the center might feel safe, it is actually much more dangerous than we realize. God shouldn’t be your co-pilot. Let God be your pilot, then go back to first class and put your feet up.

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Monday, August 24, 2015

I Wouldn’t Touch Him with a 75 Foot Pole

By Allen White

His wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Have a pole set up, reaching to a height of fifty cubits [about 75 feet] and ask the king in the morning to have Mordecai impaled on it. Then go with the king to the banquet and enjoy yourself.” This suggestion delighted Haman, and he had the pole set up. Esther 5:14

Fortunately for most of us, public impaling is a thing of the past. Haman was a man in need of a reality check. He had no one in his life who would tell him the truth. Apparently, his family and friends were so enamored with his power and general awesomeness that no one questioned his motives or his thoughts. It’s a dangerous place to live when others support our emotional reactions and irrational behavior. Haman was completely disconnected from reality and could no longer recognize the truth. His ill intentions for Mordecai would eventually become his own undoing.

None of us are exempt from mistakes and misunderstandings. When our voice becomes the only voice that we’re hearing, then we need to get some other inputs. When we find ourselves surrounded only by people who agree with us, we need to seek wise counsel. It’s important for all of us to have people in our lives who love us, but aren’t impressed with us. There is too much at risk to surround ourselves with people who fawn after us and think that we can do no wrong. It might be fun to seem god-like for a season, but it will soon collapse.

Who is speaking truth into your life these days? When was the last time you really talked to someone who doesn’t share your point of view? Who loves you enough to bring up the hard things? Who speaks the truth about the things that you’re blind to? If you don’t have these relationships in your life, pray that God would send someone to speak the truth in love to you (Ephesians 4:15).

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Megalomaniacs Anonymous

By Allen White

Nevertheless, Haman restrained himself and went home. Calling together his friends and Zeresh, his wife, Haman boasted to them about his vast wealth, his many sons, and all the ways the king had honored him and how he had elevated him above the other nobles and officials. “And that’s not all,” Haman added. “I’m the only person Queen Esther invited to accompany the king to the banquet she gave. And she has invited me along with the king tomorrow. But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.” Esther 5:10-13

To say that Haman was in a bad place is an understatement. His pride and over-sensitivity toward Mordecai was the perfect recipe for a megalomaniac. But, Haman’s pride and passion would lead to his own demise.

Pride is a dangerous thing. The Bible gives many warnings about pride. “God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble“ (James 4:6). “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2). “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). If we believe what these verses say, then we understand that our pride leads to disgrace and destruction and brings about opposition from God. Why is it that we risk losing some much when we’re proud, yet it’s so hard to let go of?

Pride encourages us to think highly of ourselves and toot our own horns. But, God challenges us to live humbly and to allow Him to elevate us. “Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor” (Proverbs 29:23). When we realize how much God loves us and how highly He thinks of us, there really is no reason to hang onto our pride. God will do the heavy lifting. We can enjoy His presence.

How is your pride getting the best of you these days? Where do you need to get self out of the way? How do you need to let God or others have their way instead of insisting on your way?

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

God is Always There for Us

By Allen White

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6

Not every promise in the Bible is ours to claim. Often I hear Christians claiming promises like Joshua 1:3, “I will give you every place you set your foot as I promised Moses.” Some Christians have used this verse to support prayer walks and various activities, and I have nothing against praying or walking. It’s just that this promise is not for us. We can’t boldly stride into our neighbor’s yard and claim it for ourselves. I mean, you could try it, but I’m taking no responsibility here.

While every promise was not made to us, these promises can encourage us by reminding us of God’s nature. The promise in Deuteronomy 31:6 was given to the people of Israel to encourage them in taking possession of the Promised Land. The words that God speaks to them are certainly words that encourage us. But, more than the words are encouraging. The outcome is far more encouraging. God’s people did drive out their enemies and came to possess the Promised Land. The Jewish people still inhabit the Promised Land today. God kept His promise. God was faithful to them.

As God’s people today, we possess something far greater than an arid piece of desert land. God has given us His Kingdom (Luke 18:16). He has given His salvation (Romans 1:16). He has given His assurance (Hebrews 10:22). He has promised abundant life both now and for eternity (John 10:10).

This promise from Deuteronomy is great assurance of all that God has promised us. The best part is that God is always with us. Every place that we go, God is there. Often we don’t recognize His Presence or invite Him into our circumstance, but God is always there for us.

I would like to challenge you today. Every place that you go invite God’s Presence to be with you. Just quietly and to yourself. You don’t need to make a big scene. Invite God into every aspect of your day today. Let me know how it goes.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Building Relationships While in Conflict

By Allen White

Then the king asked, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.”

 “If it pleases the king,” replied Esther, “let the king, together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him.”

 “Bring Haman at once,” the king said, “so that we may do what Esther asks.”

 So the king and Haman went to the banquet Esther had prepared. As they were drinking wine, the king again asked Esther, “Now what is your petition? It will be given you. And what is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.”

 Esther replied, “My petition and my request is this: If the king regards me with favor and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them. Then I will answer the king’s question.”  Esther 5:3-8

Rather than focusing on the problem, Esther chooses to focus on the relationships. She doesn’t start the party by blurting out accusations like a crazy person. She entertains not only the king, but also Haman who instigated the plot. Why even invite Haman?

Haman didn’t have the power to act, but he did have the power to influence. Sure, the king could reverse the edict and save the Jewish people, but Haman would just wait until the next opportunity.

It was wise to include Haman in the dinner. This way everyone involved in making the decision would experience the same things and participate in the same conversation. There was no room for interpretation or exaggeration outside of the meeting. No one would forward portions of their emails. They would work all of this out together.

Esther’s banquet invitation led to a second invitation. Whether this was the decorum of the time or a way of showing courtesy and building into the relationship, Esther certainly wasn’t stalling for time. The date had been set. Action needed to take place quickly.

Who are you at odds with right now? How would you rate that relationship? Do you tend to go around this person? Do you go over their head or behind their back? Maybe it’s time to figure out a way improve the relationship. I know that you’d rather have a root canal, but there will be a time when you are grateful for having built this relationship rather than avoiding the person.

What’s the first step?

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Don’t Let Your Behavior Become the Issue

By Allen White

On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance. When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter. Esther 5:1-2

In modern times, Esther’s entrance might have looked more like this: “Are you out of your mind, Xerxes? Don’t you understand that if you kill all of the Jewish people, that you’re also killing me. Maybe rather than hiding behind your servants, you could walk out of this palace gate and see what’s going on for yourself. But, you’ve surrounded yourself with a bunch of yes men and you just do whatever they tell you to do. King, my foot. You’re no Nebucchadnezzar old boy…” But, Esther was wiser than that. After all, Queen Vashti didn’t leave a forwarding address.

There is a place to speak our minds, but I believe that Jerry Springer’s show is no longer on the air. Before we release a head of steam, we have to think about the effect that we will have. No one is motivated by scolding. No one wants to hear how terrible they are. Most of us are already fully aware of our weaknesses. When we treat others disrespectfully, we treat them as less than human. They are no longer a person to reason with. We have lowered them to a mammal that must obey. No wonder they bite back.

There was much at stake in Esther’s appearance in the throne room. If she didn’t handle herself correctly, her cause and her life would end. While most of us are not threatened with death in how we handle conflict or disputes, sometimes our actions will put to death communication and any chance at resolving an issue. Even if the other person seems to be unreasonable that doesn’t give us license to jump off the cliff with them.

Showing respect will go a long way in receiving favor from another person. The days of name calling and ridicule should have stopped in elementary school. If you were the other person, which you could never imagine, how would you want to be treated? Why do they do what they do? What is their motive? What is their heart?

Don’t let your misbehavior become the issue. Let the issue be the issue, and approach the other person with respect.

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Que Sera Sera

By Allen White

When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish. Esther 4:16

Esther decided to approach the king uninvited once the people had fasted. Surely, if everyone was serious about this and determined that Esther’s intervention was the right course of action, then she would move forward.

Her words can be taken in several different ways. Some take “if I perish, I perish” to mean that Esther was resigned to face her fate. She and her people were backed into a corner, so she really didn’t have any other choice.  This is sort of the Doris Day version of the story, “Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be, the future’s not ours, to see…” (Wow, that’s a throwback. I don’t even know how I knew that song. It’s not on my iPod…). Life just happens. It’s fate or dumb luck or whatever. It doesn’t sound like there’s much that we can do about it.

But, Esther’s tone here is not resignation. Esther is showing great courage. She is willing to lay down her life, if necessary, for the sake of her people. There is no greater love than this (John 15:13).

There was no easy solution to this situation. Esther couldn’t just waltz into the throne room and give the king a piece of her mind, considering the fate of the last queen who mouthed off. An uninvited appearance could result in death. Her silence would also result in death. The crucible of her situation forged courage that she might have lacked otherwise.

To use an overused quote, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” Esther didn’t have much choice, except the choice to take action rather than passively submit to fate.

When circumstances are stacked against us, it’s easy to feel like just giving up. The temptation is just to walk away, to escape. But, the path of least resistance makes both men and rivers crooked. God did not place us on this earth merely to let life happen to us. God put us here to make a difference, to build our character, and to glorify Him. Cowardice doesn’t glorify God. Courage wrought by faith does.

What corner do you find yourself backed into today? What overwhelming circumstance are you tempted just to give in to? What is making you entertain the idea of running away or cashing it in? It’s time to take courage and do something about the situation. Giving up may mean giving the outcome over to God, and fully submitting to His will.

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Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Hunger Strike or Drawing Closer to God?

By Allen White

Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do.” Esther 4:15-16

Fasting is often misunderstood, and sometimes is unwelcomed. Most people who fast are preparing for some sort of surgical procedure. To be honest, that’s not a great association. They deny themselves in order to undergo something rather unpleasant. That’s not much of a reward.

In Christian circles fasting is one of those things that people tend to use to amp up their prayer. When prayer alone won’t do the job, they will fast and pray. Now they’re serious.

Don’t get me wrong. We need to be serious about prayer and connecting with God. But, a lot of the fasting that I’ve witnessed seems more like a hunger strike. “I won’t eat until God answers my prayer.” Well, if God answered with “wait,” they’ll be fasting for a while.
If one person’s fast didn’t achieve the answer that they desired, then fellow believers would join in. Their collective fasting and praying would forcefully move the hand of God, or so they though. This seems more like a protest than intercession. God is sovereign. It’s not our place to attempt to move His hand. It’s our place to obey.

Jesus did tell us that some things can only be accomplished through prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29 – Most modern translations, however, put “fasting” in a footnote). But, God is not the one who needs the prayer and fasting. We do.

Fasting offers an opportunity to connect with God. The time that we would spend eating is devoted to prayer. In this time of conversation, yes, speaking and listening, we set aside a time when normally we would provide for ourselves. We seek God’s provision instead.

Fasting is a means of discerning God’s will. The task is not to change God’s mind, but to obtain the mind of God about the issue (Joel 2:12). It’s not forcing God to fall in line with our plans, but to align ourselves with God’s plan. When we are moving in God’s direction, it’s amazing how much will actually go our way.

The byproduct of fasting is benevolence. The money that we save from avoiding meals can be given to the poor. God provides for our needs through prayer, and then God provides for the poor through our generosity.

When was the last time that you fasted? Have you ever fasted? If you have a physical condition that would be affected by fasting, you need to check with your doctor before attempting a fast. If you determine to fast for a long period of time, it would be good to research fasting and consult your doctor as well.

Try a beginner fast: start the day with breakfast then fast from Noon today until Noon tomorrow. Then, eat dinner on the second day. You are allowed to drink fluids during a fast. Some people stick to water and juice only. Some will add milkshakes and smoothies. The point is not to make this a legalistic exercise. This is also not the place to try out the Bassomatic.

You really won’t understand the benefits of fasting until you have experienced it yourself.

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

You Might Want to Flip the Channel Instead

By Allen White

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. James 4:17

James hits so squarely between the eyes that these words really don’t need much commentary.

What is the good that you ought to do? You can’t do everything, but what is the good that YOU ought to do? Who needs your help? Who needs your words of encouragement today? What cause is on your heart that needs to be championed?

As Edmund Burke put it, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

When we think of the immensity of evil in this world, it’s sometimes hard to believe that we could make any kind of a difference. Human trafficking, drug cartels, starvation, disease, terrorism, prostitution, slavery – most of us would rather change the channel than think about any of this.

There is something that we can do. The International Justice Mission works with local law enforcement in countries around the world to stem the tide of human trafficking. Water of Life drills fresh water alongside church planting in West Africa and India. Compassion International provides food, clothing and education for children worldwide.

What about the needs in your own home? How is evil influencing your children? While we all need to monitor in the inputs into our children’s lives, how have you connected with your child’s heart?

Parents are not raising puppies. It’s not merely the behavioral tasks of following instructions, behaving in public, and potty training. Our kids need more than obedience school. How are we influencing their thoughts? How are we teaching them to deal with failure and disappointment? How are we showing them to deal with their emotions?

If we do nothing and hope that all of this just goes away, we are just adding to the problem.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

For Such a Time as This

By Allen White

[Mordecai] sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
Esther 4:13-14

Esther might have thought the palace walls would protect her from the plight of her people. She found herself between the proverbial rock and a hard place. If Esther approached Xerxes uninvited, then she would die. If Esther said nothing, then she would die right alongside her people.

Mordecai makes an interesting point here. He tells Esther that she is in the right position to do God’s will, but if she chooses not to, then their deliverance will come in another way. Mordecai had a firm belief in God’s promises to the Jewish people. He knew that their deliverance was assured once again. The question was whether Esther would be a heroine or a casualty.

Mordecai wasn’t being cruel to Esther. He regarded her as his own daughter (Esther 2:7). It might have been easy for him to say, “You know, Esther has been through a lot. She was kidnapped by the king’s people and forced into a relationship with the king. Hasn’t the poor girl been through enough? Why cause her any more trouble by involving her in this? She will probably survive this as the queen. Why worry her with these things?” But, this was a passive course that Mordecai wasn’t intended to take.

Esther was in the position to do something about the nation’s fate. On one side of the balance was her personal safety, and on the other side was the future of her people. Mordecai’s words tipped the balance. Acting on a God-prompting Mordecai’s concern for Esther wasn’t avoiding trouble with the king. His concern was that when God rescued His people would Esther be among them?

In the providence of God, Esther was positioned to intervene. She was called for such a time as this.

You and I are also called for such a time as this. Have you identified your calling? Are you sensitive to God’s promptings in your life? Are you in touch with what God has gifted you to do?

You are not here by accident. The work that you do, in the marketplace and at home, was determined long ago. Your neighbors, your kids, your in-laws, your boss, your co-workers – they are all part of God’s plan. Why has God put you in their lives? What does He want to accomplish through you? Are you available?

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Wise Men Say Only Fools Rush In

By Allen White

Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.” Esther 4:10-11

The old saying goes, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” At times, I have been that fool. No doubt, Esther was overcome with emotion at the news of the edict, but she also knew that there was a severe consequence for entering the king’s presence uninvited. Esther’s dilemma: would she perish with her people or would she perish first? This king, obviously, had no tolerance for disrespect. After all, consider the queen that she had replaced.

We are not called to play it safe. We are also not called to act foolishly. I don’t know where we ever got the idea that nuts were more spiritual than regular people. I guess from John the Baptist or Jeremiah or someone.

Having been in full-time ministry for just over 20 years, I have heard a lot of prayer requests that sound like this: Pray that we’ll have a safe trip. Pray that I’ll have a safe procedure. Pray that the closing on our house goes smoothly. Pray that the interview goes well. These are prayers for our convenience and our comfort. Don’t get me wrong. I pray for people who need prayer. But, sometimes I wonder if all we really want is a lucky charm, a Saint Christopher medallion to hang from our rearview mirror.

Maybe what we really should be praying for is “Help me to emotionally survive a weekend with my in-laws. Or, Lord, help me find the right neighborhood where I can be a witness for you. Or, help me find a job that will support the ministry that You’ve called me to.” (Every believer has a calling. Do you know what yours is?)

In all of life’s dilemmas, the bottom line is that we live on a promise: “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5). Every believe needs to get to a place where that promise is enough.

Whether things go our way or not, we can rest in knowing that God is always there for us, no matter what, and that is enough. Whether the market is on an upturn or a downturn, God is still on the throne. It may mean that we will have to discover some things about ourselves and some things about God in the process. If only discomfort causes us to grow, then God will ruthlessly eliminate our comfort to get us there.

What do you need to trust God for today?

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Monday, August 10, 2015

The Key to Stress Relief

By Allen White

When Esther’s eunuchs and female attendants came and told her about Mordecai, she was in great distress. She sent clothes for him to put on instead of his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. Then Esther summoned Hathak, one of the king’s eunuchs assigned to attend her, and ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai and why.

 So Hathak went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate.
He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa, to show to Esther and explain it to her, and he told him to instruct her to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people.  Esther 4:4-6, 8

Living safely within the king’s gate, Esther had been sheltered from the news of Xerxes’ edict to terminate her people. Mordecai’s obvious and visible expression of his emotion caught Esther’s attention. Her first impulse wasn’t to hear his lament, but to dress him up and put a happy face on the situation.

Mordecai came prepared. Not only did he voice his distress, he also had a copy of edict in writing. These weren’t the foolish rants of an old man. These weren’t the illogical worries of a person who had over-thought the situation. These were the facts.

It’s easy to become worried and upset over half-truths and suppositions. If the boss gives you a wrong look, you find yourself searching Maybe he just had indigestion. Maybe some other issue was troubling him. You don’t know until you ask.

There is a whole host of things to worry about. Worriers definitely have job security. The potential of things that might go wrong is endless. But, worry was never intended as a state of being. Worry is a signal to pray (Philippians 4:6-7). When our thoughts have ventured out of our depth and out of our control, this is the place where God belongs. It’s beyond our reach, but it’s within His.

Rather than becoming upset over what might be, we need to discover what is. Paul advises us, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-10). The truth is the greatest stress reliever that there is.

If you don’t know where you stand with someone, talk to them about it. If you’re afraid that everything might fall apart, then you need to evaluate your circumstance with Paul’s criteria.

At a minimum, remember this: God is good. God is on your side. God has helped you in the past. God is with you today. God holds your future.

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Sunday, August 9, 2015

God’s Emotional Curriculum

By Allen White

When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly. But he went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it. In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes. Esther 4:1-3

Some things are worth crying over. In American culture, we want to feel happiness all of the time. But, negative emotions, well, we could do without those, especially if you’re a man. The problem is if we stop feeling the bad stuff eventually we’ll stop feeling everything. (I grew up in the Midwest, so trust me on this.)

Many cultures in the world today present elaborate demonstrations of grief. Unless women are wailing, people are throwing themselves on the casket, or folks are jumping into the grave, well, onlookers might doubt their love for the deceased. In some cultures, the family actually hires professional mourners. I know a few people who could make a good living at it.

Mordecai and the other Jews weren’t merely putting on for others. Sackcloth and ashes were common signs of mourning in their culture. Their people were on the verge of extinction as ordered by the king’s edict (Esther 3:12). The day and time had been set. The Jews could do absolutely nothing to defend themselves.

In all of his grief, it’s interesting that Mordecai still followed the king’s rule by not entering into the king’s gate while in mourning. Good grief, what did Mordecai have to lose? Mordecai was a man who determined to do what was right, even when he was overcome by his emotions.

Not to over-analyze this setting, but the fact that the king wouldn’t allow mourners within his gate does speak to the king’s detachment from the consequences of his actions. Xerxes didn’t want mourners in his gates. He didn’t want to face the music of their wailing. Xerxes’ chief interest was Xerxes, and he liked it that way. Just keep the casualties out of site. Xerxes needed to get on with keeping himself happy.

Please understand, I am not encouraging you to become a bunch of cry babies. I also don’t want you to become a clod of dirt either. God created us to feel. In fact, the Bible has quite a lot to say about God’s emotions. God, Himself, is pleased (Luke 2:14), angry (Numbers 22:22), saddened (Genesis 6:6), and joyful (Zephaniah 3:17). Being made in God’s image, we have the same range of emotions.

Our emotions are not just something to get over. Our emotions are also part of God’s curriculum for our lives. Much like the warning lights on our dashboard, our emotions tell us things about ourselves that often our minds miss. Emotions are not something to merely get over. They are signals of something deeper going on inside us. Maybe we’re out of our depth, and we’re anxious. Maybe we’re discouraged and long for someone’s approval, but it’s not the someone we think.

How are you handling your emotions these days? Do you write down your thoughts? Do you hope that bad feelings will just go away? Are you becoming more disconnected every day? Or are you overwhelmed by your emotions and you can’t escape them?

What is God trying to teach you through what you feel?

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

God’s Will for Your Life

By Allen White

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD. Proverbs 16:33

When someone refers to their “lot in life,” it usually comes across as a fatalistic acceptance of whatever trouble they are forced to endure. Some people seem to be lucky, while others are not. But, some people make their own luck. They prepare for a situation. They see beyond the immediate circumstance. They recognize that there are no coincidences in a committed life.

Whether we look at our lives as purpose-driven or we look at our lives as a crap shoot, God is the One who is rolling the dice and determining the outcome. This too could seem quite fatalistic, except that we know God is working for our good (Romans 8:28). He has a plan for us (Jeremiah 29:11). He has a purpose for our lives (2 Timothy 1:9). But, beyond all of the details of our lives, bumps and bruises included, God wills one thing for each and every one of us.

Here is God’s will for you and me: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Whether things go our way or go the other way, God’s will for you and me is that we would rejoice, pray and give thanks in all circumstances. I will admit, there are some circumstances that are hard to give thanks for. There are situations that are hard to rejoice over. There are times when it’s hard to pray. But, this is God’s will for us.

It would be much easier if God’s will was for us to be healthy, wealthy and wise. If all of the good things that entered our lives were God’s will, we would know that we were blessed. If bad things came into our lives, we would know that we needed to straighten up and get our lives back on track. But, here’s the deal: “[God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). When it rains, we all get wet.

So, let’s be honest, when have we grown the most, in good times or in bad? For most of us, the hardships of life have produced far more growth than the easy times. When we face problems, we are more diligent in prayer. We are more careful to remember and recite the goodness of God. Our past victories give us hope for the future. God is far more concerned about our character than our comfort.

What are you depressed about today? What can you rejoice about instead? What are you worried about today? Anything you think about more than three times a day is a worry. Pray about it instead (Philippians 4:6-7).  What are you complaining about today? What can you give thanks for instead?

Is your car broken down? Thank God that you have a car. Are your water pipes leaking? Thank God that you have clean, running water. Many people in the world do not. (To get involved, check out the work of Water of Life at

James wrote a sentence that is more than a little challenging to accept: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

That thing that is bothering you just might be the way that God is working in your life today.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Adult Version of Pitchin a Fit

By Allen White

So the king took his signet ring from his finger and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. “Keep the money,” the king said to Haman, “and do with the people as you please.” Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews—young and old, women and children—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. Esther 3:10-11, 13

Haman had incited a riot in the king’s heart. Fueled by anger, Xerxes quickly acted on Haman’s provocative report. Haman could keep his money. The king was thankful for the heads up. In a fit of irritation, the king determined to destroy the entire Jewish nation that was spread throughout his kingdom. An estimated 600,000 lives were now imperiled. Why? Because a man with a chip on his shoulder allowed his anger and jealousy to smolder to the point of inciting the king and annihilating a nation.

Think about it. Xerxes did more due diligence in deciding the fate of his queen, Vashti, when she disobeyed than he put into deciding the fate of the Jewish nation. Regarding Vashti, Xerxes had a conversation with several advisors before he chose to banish her. More than likely, Xerxes was only consulting them to justify his actions, but at least there was a conversation about it. All things considered, Xerxes was a man who shot from the hip and was driven by emotional overreactions. Do you know anyone like Xerxes?

Reactors work harder at justifying themselves than they do seeking the truth. Little of this is actually intuitive. It’s more the adult version of pitchin’ a fit. Unlike a tantrum, however, these fits are far more damaging to those around.

Xerxes had no strong reasons to trust Haman. Haman was elevated to his new position out of relative obscurity. He had done nothing to merit such a promotion. Based on no evidence and no track record, Xerxes chose to trust Haman. There was no trial run. There was no fact checking. Haman just seemed to fit into Xerxes agenda: the preservation of himself.

Xerxes was accountable to no one. As a wealthy and powerful ruler, he could do whatever he wanted, and there was no one to answer to. It was lonely at the top, and that’s the way Xerxes liked it. No one would question his authority. No one would get in his way. No one would challenge his decisions.

Leaders play a unique role in any organization. Leaders are the people who do the things that other people refuse to do. Leaders make the tough calls and face the consequences. Insecure leaders, however, are dangerous.

Insecure leaders depend on their followers to prop them up. These leaders don’t want a meeting of the minds. They want affirmation. They will ask over and over and over again checking their perception of a situation. They aren’t asking for another’s perspective. They just want to make sure that they aren’t wrong and that others don’t disagree. These leaders surround themselves with people who will tell them what they want to hear. People with a difference of opinion tend to keep those opinions to themselves. What the leaders take as consensus is really just the result of the false world they have created for themselves. There is a whole other conversation going on that they are completely unaware of.Haman successfully convinced Xerxes to his contorted version of the truth. It seemed that Haman was doing Xerxes a favor. Xerxes didn’t try to confirm the information with anyone else. Xerxes’ knee jerk reaction followed. He had accepted Haman’s plot hook, line and sinker.

Who do you trust completely? Why? When you are faced with bad news, how do you investigate the situation? How quickly do you act? Often a rush to judgment leads to foolish actions.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

When People Rub Us the Wrong Way

By Allen White

Then Haman said to King Xerxes, “There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will give ten thousand talents of silver to the king’s administrators for the royal treasury.” Esther 3:8-9

As Haman had thoroughly deceived himself, he begins to deceive the king as well. Haman puts things in a way that will truly be objectionable to the king. “A certain people are dispersed…” They’re everywhere. They “keep themselves separate.” That should tell you something. “Their customs are different…” We don’t know if we can trust them. We should be afraid of them and round them up. “They do not obey the king’s laws.” There you go. “It’s not in the king’s best interest…” You are allowing a foreign people to undermine you right under your nose. “Destroy them.” Call the exterminator. They must be stopped. And, oh, by the way, I’ll pay you 10,000 talents of silver (or 30 tons of silver valued at about $20 million at today’s prices).

Haman was obsessed with eliminating the Jews. He probably spent late nights plotting. He thought of all of the possible negatives about them, and anything else he could exaggerate into a negative. Then, he worded things in such a way so the king would strongly react, and Haman would get his way. Haman’s character was certainly flawed. And, the same can go for some of us.

Think about this: we interpret another person’s actions largely by whether we like them or not. Let’s say a co-worker gets a big raise. If we like them, then we think, “You know, he works very hard, he deserves that.” If we don’t like them, we think, “I work harder than he does. Why did he get a raise? He’s just in tight with the boss. He gets whatever he wants.” Same person. Same raise. Different point of view.

But, how far are we going to take things? To be honest, certain personalities rub us the wrong way. And, we return the favor to other people. There’s not a lot of rationality to this. Have you ever instantly liked or disliked someone because they remind you of someone from your past? You don’t know anything about them, yet you’ve already rushed to judgment.

If someone offends us or sins against us, then sure, there is plenty of reason to dislike them. But, Scripture directs us to go to them if they sinned again us (Matthew 18:15) or if we sinned against them (Matthew 5:23-24). The longer we leave offenses in an open loop, the easier it is for the enemy to get a foothold (Ephesians 4:26-27).

Where do you find yourself being irrational these days? What people irritate you? Who in your life just can’t seem to do anything right? How often do you pray for them? A simple remedy is to pray for God to bless that person. Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28). Try this and see how your heart changes.

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Monday, August 3, 2015

The Trickiness of Our Motives

By Allen White

When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged. Yet having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes.
Esther 3:5-6

There was a long dark history between the Amalekites and the Jews. The Amalekites fiercely attacked God’s people as they were headed to the Promised Land in the time of Moses (Deuteronomy 25:17-19). King Saul was commissioned to eliminate the Amalekites, but failed in completing his mission (1 Samuel 15). In fact, an Amalekite claimed to have killed Saul on the battlefield (2 Samuel 1:1-10). Bad blood ran very deep.

While Haman had a particular hatred toward Mordecai, because he refused to bow, Haman’s hatred was generalized to all of the Jewish people. Whether they bowed or not, Haman was determine to wipe them all out, if for any other reason, to eliminate Mordecai. There was no way to reason with the evil in Haman’s heart. His motives were both personal and dark.

Motives are tricky things to manage. In fact, people can so deceive themselves that they will do irrational and outrageous things to justify themselves. The Bible says, “All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD” (Proverbs 16:2). What we don’t understand about ourselves, God sees very clearly. We need to invite God to examine us, and to make sure that our heads are screwed on straight. “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). None of us sees all sides of ourselves.

Every one of us has blind spots. Think about it. Why is it so easy for us to recognize flaws and poor motivations in other people, yet we have a hard time owning up to our own? When people point out our flaws, we often become irritated. After all, they must be wrong. We don’t see that in ourselves. We all need people who love us, but who are not impressed with us, to speak into our lives. If we surround ourselves with people who only tell us what we want to hear, watch out. This is dangerous territory.

Wrong motives become toxic when they interact with our pride. Stubbornness sets in. At this point, failure is the only thing that can cure us. But, who will be the casualties in the process?

What are you working hard at justifying these days? What insecurities does this justification reveal? Who are you seeking out for godly counsel? What is God saying to you?

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