November 7, 2010
What a day at a2 Church! God exceeded all of my expectations… VERGE: The Worship Experience was amazing! VERGE: The After Party was “off the chain,” to use the words of one of the people who attended.
Thanks to everyone who helped make it all happen! I was blown away by the incredible team God brought together to pull off Sunday AM and Sunday PM! You guys and gals rock! I mean it!
Here’s an overview of the day, with extended notes from this Sunday’s message. BTW, the podcast is available for download on a2’s website or via iTunes. Already pumped about wrapping up this short two week series on Esther this Sunday!
Sunday AM Reflections
VERGE - PART 1
VERGE: The Worship Experience kicked off with a video intro describing the challenges a2 has encountered and casting a vision for a church “on the verge” of something even greater... You can check out the video by clicking here.
The band then launched into the VERGE Medley – three songs about capitalizing on this moment… I’ve got to say, the band absolutely blew it out of the park! Holy cow! They were "smokin'!"
Never Going Back To Okay by The Afters
Right Now by Van Halen
Life Is A Highway by Rascal Flatts
These songs seemed to capture the essence of VERGE.
Janet then read a passage of Scripture (Psalm 66) about the greatness of our God and challenged the congregation to “loudly sing his praises" (Psalm 66:8)! The congregation sang! Wow! I love hearing our people sing! They raised the roof this past Sunday in praise to our awesome God!
Here's the worship set list:
Let God Arise by Chris Tomlin
Marvelous Light by Christy Nockels
Glorious One by Hillsong London
How Great Thou Art (Chorus Only)
That wrapped up any "special elements" for the day.. I then, came up, shared an announcement, and jumped right into the morning message.
After the message, we closed with prayer and by going back and singing a refrain from "Glorious One."
There was a powerful sense of God's presence at the conclusion of our time together. Words can't describe all that God did in and among us... I can't wait to see what happens next...
Here are the extended notes. We’ll wrap up the book of Esther this Sunday, November 14.
VERGE – PART 1
VERGE: n. 1) the extreme edge, margin or border of something... 2) the limit or point beyond which something begins or occurs; the brink, cusp, edge or threshold...
THOUGHTS: “On the verge...” is an expression we've all used... Sometimes we use the word in the negative… For instance, when we're feeling a little stressed, anxious or frustrated, we will say something like, "I think I'm 'on the verge' of a nervous breakdown..."
The phrase is also used in the positive. It’s used to describe a moment, event or opportunity that is latent with breakthrough potential and that can lead to an opportunity for unprecedented growth! Unfortunately, if you miss “the verge,” this moment can also signal the beginning of the end…
“The verge” is the moment, decision or play when a game is either won or lost… It’s a critical or once in a lifetime opportunity when a destiny is either embraced or abandoned…
Leonard Ravenhill described it like this:
“The opportunity of a lifetime must be seized within the lifetime of the opportunity.” ~ Leonard Ravenhill
Paul the Apostle described it like this:
Ephesians 5:16 (NLT), Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.
THOUGHTS: The story of Esther takes place while Israel was in exile. They were far from home with no prospect of a return. It shares the story of a young woman who ALMOST missed her moment…
It’s interesting that the book doesn’t mention Jerusalem, the temple, worship, priests or sacrifice. In fact, God isn’t even mentioned in the entire book, but He is definitely AT WORK.
I want to tie the first half of her story around three important principles…
Seizing Your Destiny:
1. God is always at work, even when we are unaware of His presence or can’t see His activity.
Esther 1:1-5 (NLT), These events happened in the days of King Xerxes, who reigned over 127 provinces stretching from India to Ethiopia. 2 At that time Xerxes ruled his empire from his royal throne at the fortress of Susa. 3 In the third year of his reign, he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. He invited all the military officers of Persia and Media as well as the princes and nobles of the provinces. 4 The celebration lasted 180 days—a tremendous display of the opulent wealth of his empire and the pomp and splendor of his majesty.
Esther 1:5 (NLT), When it was all over, the king gave a banquet for all the people, from the greatest to the least, who were in the fortress of Susa. It lasted for seven days and was held in the courtyard of the palace garden.
Esther 1:10-12 (NLT), On the seventh day of the feast, when King Xerxes was in high spirits because of the wine, he told the seven eunuchs who attended him…11 to bring Queen Vashti to him with the royal crown on her head. He wanted the nobles and all the other men to gaze on her beauty, for she was a very beautiful woman.
Esther 1:12 (NLT), But when they conveyed the king’s order to Queen Vashti, she refused to come.
Esther 1:12b (NLT), This made the king furious, and he burned with anger.
Esther 1:19-20 (NIV), “Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she. 20 Then when the king's edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest.”
Esther 2:1-5 (NLT), But after Xerxes’ anger had subsided, he began thinking about Vashti and what she had done and the decree he had made.
Esther 2:2-5 (NLT), So his personal attendants suggested, “Let us search the empire to find beautiful young virgins for the king. 3 Let the king appoint agents in each province to bring these beautiful young women into the royal harem at the fortress of Susa.
Esther 2:3b-5 (NLT), Hegai, the king’s eunuch in charge of the harem, will see that they are all given beauty treatments. 4 After that, the young woman who most pleases the king will be made queen instead of Vashti.” This advice was very appealing to the king, so he put the plan into effect.
Esther 2:12 (NLT), Before each young woman was taken to the king’s bed, she was given the prescribed twelve months of beauty treatments…
Esther 2:17 (NIV), Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.
Esther 3:1 (NLT), Some time later, King Xerxes promoted Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite to prime minister, making him the most powerful official in the empire next to the king himself.
Esther 3:5-6 (NLT), When Haman saw that Mordecai would not bow down or show him respect, he was filled with rage. 6 He had learned of Mordecai’s nationality, so he decided it was not enough to lay hands on Mordecai alone…
Esther 3:6b (NLT), Instead, he looked for a way to destroy all the Jews throughout the entire empire of Xerxes.
THOUGHT: Haman was so furious with Mordecai’s refusal to bow that he decided to commit genocide on a peculiar minority called the Jewish people.
Esther 3:8 (MSG), Haman then spoke with King Xerxes: “There is an odd set of people scattered through the provinces of your kingdom who don’t fit in. Their customs and ways are different from those of everybody else. Worse, they disregard the king’s laws. They’re an affront; the king shouldn’t put up with them…” 9If it please the king, let orders be given that they be destroyed. I’ll pay for it myself. I’ll deposit 375 tons of silver in the royal bank to finance the operation.”
THOUGHT: Haman is basically offering the king a bribe. He offers the king 375 tons of silver. That was virtually the amount of revenue received by the empire during the course of an entire year. This was basically the equivalent of Persia’s Gross Domestic Product.
Esther 3:10-11 (NCV), So the king took his signet ring off…
That was a symbol of the king’s authority.
Esther 3:10-11 (NCV), …and gave it to Haman…the enemy of the Jewish people. 11Then the king said to Haman, “The money and the people are yours. Do with them as you please.”
THOUGHT: Xerxes basically says, “Okay, whatever…” He doesn’t even take the time to investigate what group of people he had just “OK’d” the annihilation of… He just mindlessly hands over his authority…
Word of the planned genocide leaks out… Check out Chapter 4.
Esther 4:1-3 (NLT), When Mordecai learned what had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, crying with a loud and bitter wail.
First Principle of Seizing Destiny: Remember God is at work even when I can’t sense His presence or see His activity.
THOUGHTS: The writer of book of Esther is very subtle… The name of God never gets mentioned in the entire book… We don’t read anything at all about worship, priests, the temple, the synagogue or sacrifices… Anything! Most scholars believe the author is being very intentional… That these were extremely dangerous times for the Jewish people… They were “on the verge” of extinction… The author was trusting that his audience could read between the lines…
The author knows that while God’s name never gets mentioned in the entire book, His fingerprints are on every page and involved in every aspect of these events… God is definitely at work in unseen, unknown, unlikely and hidden ways throughout the entire story…
Think about this…
• Why did Xerxes throw a party that culminated in him making a decision while he was drunk that ended up costing him the queen?
• What was it that caused Queen Vashti to retain her dignity and hold on to her values and act like something other than a “damsel in distress” in a culture dominated by men, where women were only valued because of their physical appearance and sexual attractiveness?
• What was it that caused Vashti to be deposed and an orphan girl named Esther to end up making the pre-lims in the first ever Miss Universe Contest?
• How was it that out of all the women in the empire – out of approximately 1,000 women who made the finals – this young Jewish, orphaned girl named Esther became queen of the most powerful empire on the planet?
• How was it that out of all the official’s in the Persian Empire, it was Mordecai who uncovered the assassination plot on the king’s life?
Was all of this just chance? Was all of this just fate? Did all of this just happen? Not a chance! The writer wants us to know that even when we are unaware of His presence, God is always at work to bring about the fulfillment of His purposes and His plans!
SHARED THOUGHTS ON THE HISTORY OF a2
Proverbs 20:24 (ESV), A man's steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way?
2. The message of the Bible isn’t that God saves, blesses or uses really good, perfect or beautiful people… The message of the Bible is that God consistently and continually gives grace to people who don’t ask for it, people who deserve it and people who don’t fully appreciate it even after they’ve received it!
THOUGHTS: One of the amazing things about the central players in the book of Esther is that you would be hard pressed to find any scholar – Jewish or evangelical – who at this point in the story believes Esther to be a great role model and a morally exemplary girl…
Feminist scholars believe she’s all too compliant…
Conservative evangelical scholars also have problems with Esther…
Here’s the point, by and large, at this point in the story, the central players in the book of Esther aren’t incredible examples of moral purity and courageous faith… They’re really messed up people…
But despite the fact that Esther was less than the perfect role model, God, in his GRACE, decided to use her in a way that this all too compliant girl would have never imagined…
Grace would eventually transform this compliant, complacent, gutless girl into an amazing woman of God and courageous warrior…
GET THIS: regardless of how bad you’ve SCREWED UP the beginning of your life, you can’t write yourself out of God’s script… God doesn’t have a “Plan B.” Because of GRACE your life can change…
Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV), …by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 5:25-27 (ESV), Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
1 Samuel 22:2 (NIV), All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him.
3. Seizing the “opportunity of a lifetime” will usually demand taking a step of audacious faith and total obedience.
THOUGHTS: Mordecai sends word to Esther, “You’ve got to go to the king… We’re all in your hands, now…” Esther sends back this response to Mordecai.
Esther 4:11 (NLT), “The whole world knows that anyone appears before the king in his inner court without being invited is doomed to die, unless the king holds out his gold scepter. And the king has not called for me to come to him in more than a month.”
Esther 4:13-14 (NLT), Mordecai sent back this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that you will escape there in the palace when all other Jews are killed. 14If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. What’s more, who can say but that you have been elevated to the palace for just such a time as this?”
THOUGHTS: Mordecai was confident that the Jewish people would be delivered. For Mordecai, the ultimate salvation of the Jewish people was not in question. The only thing in question was the role that Esther would get to play in the story God is writing.
Mordecai says, “Esther, the fate of the entire nation is in your hands.” He clarifies who Esther is and what her calling is in life…
He basically says, “Esther, you haven’t been brought to this point in life just for the sake of accumulating an exquisite wardrobe, an incredible jewelry collection and exotic fragrances… You’ve not been brought to this moment to be on the cover of Vogue or to wear the title of “World’s Most Beautiful Woman”.
“You have brought to this point by God! You’ve been brought to this moment to work for justice, spare God’s people from complete annihilation and keep God’s dream alive of creating a new community. You’ve been brought to this moment to oppose a violent man and be a part of God’s dream to redeem the planet. You’re no Barbie Doll… You are a warrior…”
Esther 4:14 (NKJ), Yet who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
Three Possible Options To A “Verge” Moment:
• God, I’ll follow you...if...
• God, I’ll follow you...but...
• I’ll follow you...no matter what.
Esther 4:15-16 (ESV), Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai,16 Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.
THOUGHTS: Survival is no longer this girl’s primary goal! Esther’s life has been given over to something much bigger than her own existence or staying in the palace. Her worst-case scenario is no longer death, it’s disobedience!
Her worst-case scenario is turning her back on God and missing the moment that God us given her.
APPLICATION: Will you capture this moment and take a step of audacious faith in obedience to God's purpose and plan for your life?