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Finding Favor with the King: Week 5

February 15, 2009

Chapters 7 & 8

  

Lord,

             Thank you for the many blessings you have bestowed on us.  Thank you for this bountiful universe, this beautiful life-giving planet, our very existence.  We are grateful for the myriad small ways you enrich our lives, so many that we often don’t even take time to notice.  You cherish us, forgive us, and try to protect us even as we ignore your words and fight against your will.  Thank you for giving us the opportunity each day to take up our plate of life and use it to nourish ourselves so it can help us grow stronger physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Amen

 

Summary

            Something came to light this week that I think we all wrestle with because we are human.  How do we choose to deal with the problems that living presents to us?  Do we walk around with the “dark cloud of disaster” looming over our heads waiting for the next problem, the next irritation, the next stumbling block on our path?  Do we constantly and continually find ourselves “butting our heads” against the same wall of controversy, never trying to seek a different road?  Do we optimistically dump all our problems in God’s lap, hoping that He will deal with them?  Or do we seek God’s guidance and strength to choose how we will react, how we will resolve, and how we solve the problems?  I’ve always heard the saying that, “God never puts more on your plate than you can handle,” but at times this doesn’t seem to be the case.  Sometimes we seem to be surrounded by one problem after another heaped onto to our plate threatening to overwhelm us.  Sometimes people simply refuse the whole plate and run away from the table of life; other times they sit there forlornly and shovel in each problem, complaining the whole time about the awful taste, the lack of appetite, or the upset its causing our system; and then there are the people who choose what they will accept to be heaped onto their plate, what they will choose to eat first, what they need to season with God’s extra blessing, and even what they may share with someone else in order to clean their plate.  Although we didn’t seem to address any of the study questions in Chapters 7 and 8, we did because it became clear that the first and most important step to dealing with our daily problems is to say the blessing first.  Thanking God for “our plateful” may seem strange to some, but what better way to center your heart, mind, and body for the daily serving of life.  Thanking God for all the things for which we are grateful can help to re-establish a more positive outlook, calm our anxious hearts, and strengthen our spirit so we can choose which problems we must take on our plate and which we can leave on the serving dish because there are no resolutions for them, season those problems that need an extra dash of God’s strength to resolve, and share the burden of those problems that seem too heavy, too overwhelming for us alone.  Because we don’t know when or if we will ever have to “risk everything” to become the very thing we are suppose to be, we need to practice now, like Esther shows us, how to handle the banquet of life.

 

What follows are the study questions for Chapters 9 & 10

Study Guide

Chapter  9 – LEARN TO WORSHIP WITH YOUR ENEMY

But Keep Your Eyes on the King

1.  What do you do when someone who opposes you or seems to hate you without cause occupies an office or shares your workspace, sits behind you in class, or moves into the house next door?

 

2.  When you are faced with a problem like the one above, do you focus on the problem or the solution?  Explain why.

 

3.  When your life and livelihood are place at risk by the threats and plots of other people, how will you handle the situation?  Explain

 

4.  Which do bring more of to the Lord, praise or problems?  Why?

 

5.  Have you established a reputation in heaven through your worship on earth?

  

Chapter 10 – DIVINE INSOMINIA

Indulgent Worship Creates a Sleepless King

1.  Have you ever been in a situation where it took a crisis in the situation before you were able to figure out how to go about solving the problem?  Explain.

 

2.  Have you ever had “one of those sleepless nights” that you later discovered were sounding the “warning” of some problem with a family member or friend?

 

3.  What do you prepare for God to feast on?

 

4.  Do you think God has ever left a worship encounter with you thinking, “Wow, I’m stuffed!”?  Why or why not?

 

5.  Do you believe that God is doing the worrying about your life for you?  If you answered yes, then are you still worrying about those same problems?  Why?  If you answered no, why?

 

 

posted by Bonny.

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Esther: Week 5

February 14, 2009

This is the link for Session 4.

When you click on the link “Session 4” (above) it will open a new window with the download instructions. Click on “WMV” (to the left of the question mark) to launch the video. This video download is only available for members of this Bible Study. To participate, you will need the Member book.

We will meet again for discussion at 6:30pm, February 18th. We’ll watch the Session 5 video at 7pm.

Please post your comments/thoughts about this week’s video, the study material or on the book of Esther. This forum provides a way for us to share our ideas and opinions as we move through, and are moved by, our studies.

Links to previous sessions:

Esther: Week 1 (Introduction video)

Esther: Week 2 (Session 1 video)

Esther: Week 3 (Session 2 video)

Esther: Week 4 (Session 3 video)

posted by Fran.

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Finding Favor with the King: Week 4

February 8, 2009

Chapters 5 & 6

 

            “For I say,  through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God dealt to each one a measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3 NKJV)

 

Lord,

            Give us each day the strength to accept that we are just humans and that we can’t do it all ourselves.  We need Your strength and courage to submit to Your will, especially when it seems hardest to let go of the reins of control.  Help us to see past our own hardheaded convictions and be guided by Your spiritual stewards as they seek to guide us on Your path for our lives.  Help us to deepen our relationship with You so that we might more humbly be guided by You.

Amen

Summary

 

            How refreshing and encouraging it was to know that I’m not the only person who is having to learn and re-learn almost every day that I can’t do it all, that I’m not the one “driving the bus.”  This week was one where all the participants admitted that it’s a daily struggle to submit to God’s will when it doesn’t seem to coincide with our plans.  It is very humbling but freeing to admit that at times we are all stubborn (self-driven rather than spirit-driven), and how sometimes we convince ourselves that we understand what God wants because we are filtering our spirit through our “me-centered” lenses.  Our discussion centered almost entirely around this concept as we worked through the discussion questions for chapters 5 & 6.  We discussed how human frailty and human pride can become partners in leading us to believe that we know best the will of the Lord; and how we constantly, day-by-day, need to be reminded of this.  It’s not that we’re stupid and just don’t get it when He keeps trying to tell us that He’s driving the bus.  It’s also not that God has “favorites” so much as those who know God have His favor to guide them because their hearts are open to His guidance.  It is part of our search for Grace to learn how to stop trying to grab the wheel to stubbornly steer our own course. We agreed that it’s not that we should just sit there and wait for God to do it all, but to learn to listen to our God-centered spirit first before taking action.  We also discussed how having a “teachable” and willing spirit and a knowledgeable and truly spiritual “chamberlain” can  pave our way to a smoother and more spiritually fulfilling journey.

 

What follows are the study questions for Chapter 7 & 8:

Chapter  7 – Favor Has An Entourage

Purpose and Jealousy Often Accompany Favor

 

1. How much attention have you focused on knowing God?

 

2.  Have you found that you are satisfied with just having God’s favor, or are you actively seeking to understand what His purpose for your life is?

 

3.  Have you ever failed to do something or stand up and say something that you knew was important because you were afraid of other people’s opinions?  If so, explain.

 

4.  If you have ever accomplished something momentous or highly satisfying, did you stop to ask yourself if God had a purpose for helping to make this happen, or did you assume that it was through your own talents and hard work?

 

5.  Are you eligible material for an impossible task?

 

Chapter 8 – Risk Versus Reward

Spending Favor to Pursue Purpose

 

1.  Have you ever had a problem that you tried not to deal with come back to haunt you?  Explain.

 

2.  Do you think you are ready to risk everything to become the “very thing” you are supposed to be?

 

3.   Has there ever been a time when you didn’t think you were worthy of the grace and forgiveness God was granting you?

 

4.  Can you recall a time when you asked other people to help you by praying for you?  When?  Why?

 

5.  At this point in the study has Esther’s story given you a deeper insight into your own relationship with God and His Purpose for your life?  If so, explain how.

posted by Bonny.

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Esther: Week 4

February 7, 2009

This is the link for Session 3.

When you click on the link “Session 3” (above) it will open a new window with the download instructions. Click on “WMV” (to the left of the question mark) to launch the video. This video download is only available for members of this Bible Study. To participate, you will need the Member book.

We will meet again for discussion at 6:30pm, February 11th. We’ll watch the Session 4 video at 7pm.

Please post your comments/thoughts about this week’s video, the study material or on the book of Esther. This forum provides a way for us to share our ideas and opinions as we move through, and are moved by, our studies.

Links to previous sessions:

Esther: Week 1 (Introduction video)

Esther: Week 2 (Session 1 video)

Esther: Week 3 (Session 2 video)

posted by Fran.

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Finding Favor with the King: Week 3

February 1, 2009

Chapters 3 & 4

 

Lord,

            Grant us the patience to be still and listen to Your voice as You guide us in our lives.  Help us to focus on Your purpose for our lives and accept willingly the challenges that we face, knowing that Your will is at work, on a day-to-day basis.  Through Your wisdom and power, infuse us with the strength to make the right choices so that we might better center our lives to serve You.

Amen

 

Summary

            As we entered Week 3 of our study, we began our discussion of Esther by continuing to compare her choices to our own.  We pondered the question of Esther’s wisdom at such a young age as we looked at the first question for chapter 3 and tried to understand how Esther seemed to know what it was she needed to do in order to find King Xerxes’ favor.  It was interesting as we looked at the first question how some people, even though they are true Christians in other people’s eyes, see themselves as only temporary travelers.  Is that through a sense of humbleness or a feeling of unworthiness?  I, personally, answered that question in honesty as an intimate in God’s Palace.  At the time I didn’t feel presumptuous because I honestly feel that I have God’s love and can seek his face at any time.  During the discussion, though, I could see how others might see it as very presumptuous on my part.  Maybe it’s through my own fumbling ignorance, but I believe God loves me so much that my not knowing the protocols of His palace were not as important to him as my unswerving love for Him, just Him, not what He could do for me, just Him. 

            This boundless love for God led us into the next question about “fear” of God.  Part of my explanation of question 1 was question 2.  My “fear” of God is because of my awe of God.  I am full of awe for God’s power.  He’s so strong and loving , and his capacity for forgiveness always leaves me astounded.  My “fear” comes not from an impending “lightning strike for my sins,” but from the possibility of making God feel sad or disappointed in me, of letting him down.  This led to question 3 where we all agreed that, even though we’re impatient human beings, waiting a lifetime for an audience with God would be worth it.  We all felt fortunate to not have had to wait a lifetime to know Him and talk intimately with Him.

            The next question brought about some serious reflection and discussion about how sometimes we allow activities at the church to become the focus of going to church and the need to find the balance so that the reason for going to church is God.  Yes, the services we do for the church are to help others better worship God, but it is important that the work doesn’t become so great that we lose ourselves and our relationship with God.  This question reminded me of the Martha and Mary story where Martha is so caught up in the work that she forgets the true purpose.  Question five was designed to make everyone take a look at their lives and reflect on whether it is time for a change.  Are we listening to God’s advice for our lives, or are we stubbornly resisting a change that He is offering?  This question segued into Chapter 4 where Tenney really makes the reader take a look at his or her life and examine whether we are listening to His word about the purpose for our lives, or whether we are stubbornly resisting Him and trying to steer our own destinies.

            We ended our discussion by talking about some of the things we were each trying to do to help increase our intimate relationship with God.  We actually kept Bruce waiting because we were so immersed in our final topic of King Xerxes and how he was not a nice guy, and how Esther’s love for God was so strong that she followed his advice on how to find Xerxes’ favor in spite of who and what he was. 

 

What follows are the questions for chapter 5 & 6.

Chapter  5 – Courting a King

What Do You Give a Man Who Has Everything?

 

1.  Take a few moments to consider your life so far?  What “potential” did the Lord see in you when you were first called to his palace?  Have you tried to make the most of that “potential”?  If not, what could you do now that would begin to utilize that potential?  At this time in your life, have you discovered new “potential” that you can use to serve the King’s needs?

 

2.  When was the last time you felt impatient with another person?  Why?  Have you ever felt that the Lord was not listening to your prayers or calls for help?  If so, what prompted the feeling? 

 

3.  Do you feel that your relationship with the King has changed the way you look at life and the way you interact with others?  If so, describe the change?  Were there any habits, activities, or relationships  that you found needed to be changed as a result of your relationship with Jesus?  If so, why?

 

4.  Have you ever found yourself at worship and, instead of giving your full attention to the Lord, you discovered yourself distracted and thinking of other, more mundane, “worldly” things?

 

5.  How committed are you to wooing and winning the heart of the King?

 

Chapter 6 – The Secret of the Chamberlain

Finding Favor With the King

 

1. Have you ever wondered if some people possess some secret formula or personal asset that somehow puts them closer to God than you?  Do you think that God loves them more than you?

 

2.  How many of the offspring of your own ideas have you passed off as the King’s?  How many times have you felt that you haven’t received enough recognition for all you do for your church?

 

3.  Do you have or have you had in the past a spiritual mentor, a chamberlain, to help you learn the protocols of the palace?  How did this person help you in your spiritual journey?

 

4.  Do you feel that you have a “teachable spirit”?  Have there ever been times when you disregarded the advice of your spiritual chamberlain?  If so, what happened as a result?

 

5.  Who do you think is more pleased with your choices for worship, praise, and repentance, your garments and fragrance; yourself or God?  Why?

 

Posted by Bonny

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Esther: Week 3

January 29, 2009

This is the link for Session 2.

When you click on the link “Session 2” (above) it will open a new window with the download instructions. Click on “WMV” (to the left of the question mark) to launch the video. This video download is only available for members of this Bible Study. To participate, you will need the Member book.

We will meet again for discussion at 6:30pm, February 4th. We’ll watch the Session 3 video at 7pm.

Please post your comments/thoughts about this week’s video, the study material or on the book of Esther. This forum provides a way for us to share our ideas and opinions as we move through, and are moved by, our studies.

Links to previous sessions:

Esther: Week 1

Esther: Week 2

posted by Fran.

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Finding Favor with the King: Week 2

January 26, 2009

LORD,

Strengthen us in our search to understand and apply what we learn about Esther and how she was shown her life’s purpose.  As we seek a closer intimacy with you, give us the patience to wait for your timing for our lives.  Help us to stay focused on the true meaning of worship.  Also help us to see your hand at work in the world around us.

Amen

 

WOW!  Our second meeting was so rewarding!  I think we all walked away with such a feeling of God-centered renewal.  The meeting actually began rather slowly as we opened with prayer and then began to look at the questions for Chapters 1 & 2.  I actually jumped over to the Chapter 2 questions because I felt driven to discuss what I’m being called to pursue in this season of my life.  Once I opened the floor to this question, the talk began to flow about what we were each being called to do or seeking to pursue now.  It is reassuring to know that there are others out there that are moving into new and unknown (to us) territory.  I just want to thank each of the ladies who participated Wednesday night for their candor and their trust. 

What follows now are some of the answers we gave to the questions for Chapters 1 & 2.  Please add your comments below to any or all them you would like to share with us.  Also the questions for Chapter 3 & 4 follow.  These were questions I wrote because Tenney’s site only contained study questions for the first two chapters.  Because one of the things that we wanted to accomplish during this study was to refocus our lives and strengthen our relationship with God, I tried to write questions that would draw from both the book and our own lives.

Chapter 1

1. Do you have a “fascination with transformation“?  Are you irresistibly interested in rags-to-riches stories and peasant- to-princess sagas?   Why?

            Every little girl feels drawn to this type of story.  It seems to inspire “hope” that dreams really can come true.

2.  On page 14, Tenney reveals that the Book of Esther reveals “the way God overcomes human weakness and failure to elevate our position and rank all the way to His throne room.”  Do you feel this could really apply to your life? (Explain your answer, but do not change it.  Use it as a marker of the heart.  The Scriptural revelation in this book will confirm your answer or demonstrate a truth you need to embrace.)

            Anyone who has accepted God into his or her life and made HIM the center understands how He, through repentance on your part, can lift you from what seems the pit of despair and refill your heart and soul with love and hope.  Those of us who have become too driven, too busy, too smug, or even too disheartened may suddenly find ourselves taking a hard look and a deep listen to His words in order to re-center our worlds around His purpose for our lives.

 

3.  What makes people who do not know Jesus “incompatible with the glory of the King”?  How can any of us become compatible with divine royalty?

            The people who don’t know Jesus have a hard time discovering the Lord’s purpose for their lives because they have a harder time finding an intimate relationship with Him.  Because they haven’t allowed themselves to become God-centered, they can’t openly seek His face.

 

4.  Whether you are married or currently single, what went through your mind and heart when you read, “It costs you something to prepare for the single most significant day of your life“?  Admittedly, some people make their marriage ceremony somewhat of a joke or fast-service formality…could this possibly say something about the depth of their commitment to one another?

            There’s definitely a reason why such a commitment shouldn’t be a “quickie” thing.  If a person truly feels that this is a lifetime commitment you are making to another person in marriage, then it should take some preparation.  The same can be said for a person’s commitment to the Lord.  The call may be like lightning when it strikes, but the lifetime commitment is a day-to-day striving to learn what makes Him happy, what makes Him feel more loved, to see to His needs, to please Him and seek to be closer to Him.

 

5. Do you believe repentance (pictured in Esther’s six-month cleansing in baths of myrrh) is important in the Christian life?  Is it a one-time act, or a life-long process of transformation for you?

            Repentance is absolutely necessary in the Christian’s life because humans are not perfect and are going to make mistakes and seeking God’s forgiveness when we do err is just part of the life-long process that we will make because we love God and truly want to please him.

 

Chapter 2

 

1.  Whatever impresses you attracts you, and whatever you pursue becomes your purpose.  What impresses you the most ?  What are you really pursuing in this season of your life?

            The boundless love and forgiveness God has for us is what is so irresistible.   This is the question where we began our really heartfelt discussion about how God seemed to be showing us what His purpose for our lives is at this time.  For some it seems pretty clear, for others it seems to definitely be a transitional, searching time.  We talked about listening to God and then finding the strength to do what He is telling us, even if it doesn’t seem to be what “we” intended for our lives.

 

2.  Think about your church life for a moment: Do you attend church primarily for the social benefits, friends, music, or peace of mind it brings?  Or, do you go to celebrate and worship God with your friends, through music, while focused your thoughts and affections on Him?  (If honesty forces you to lean toward the first list, understand that those things are not “bad.”  However, it is better to seek the King first over the benefits of His house.)  Journal your thoughts concerning these questions and thinking points.

            The point that we all have to remember is to stop and focus on God.  If we work from our God-center, then we should travel in the right direction.  We talked about how our lives can become driven by all sorts of external forces and internal, emotional needs and how we can sometimes lose our way.  Having just read Fran’s story in January’s Guideposts, it reminded me how sometimes God steps in and takes over when we are speeding along life’s highway, and He puts the brakes on our life to help us refocus.

 

3.  “You can find God in some of the most interesting places.”  Describe an interesting “God place” or divine encounter in your own life or in the life of someone you know.

            This question really got the discussion exciting as we revealed some different and even amusing ways that God speaks to us and lets us know what His purpose is for our lives.  I hope that the ladies that were there on Wednesday will share their individual stories with you on this page.  I will leave that to their discretion. 

 

4.  “One day of favor can be worth more than a lifetime of labor.”  How may this principle apply to your life?

            That one defining moment when you recognize that God is in your life is what makes all the labors seem insignificant to that reward.  He gave us His favor on that day, and it is a joy after that to strive to please Him.

 

5.  Esther realized that without the king, the king’s place was just a big empty house.  Imagine “church” without God’s presence for a moment, and describe your feelings about investing your time attending meetings in such a place.

            Church would become this building, this shell, where people had meetings, but what would be the point of the meetings?  Without God’s presence, those meetings would become “outer” centered and would never be very fulfilling.  The place would always seem deserted and desolate like one of the ghost town buildings, there might be people coming and going but there’s no “life.”

 

 

Study Guide Questions for Chapter 3 & 4

Chapter  3 – Protocol of the Palace

You Cannot Worship What You Dethrone

 

1.  Do you consider yourself a temporary traveler, a guest, or an intimate in God’s Palace?

 

2.  Do you feel “fear” in God’s presence?  Why or why not?

3.  How much time have you spent waiting to have an audience with the King?  Was the wait worth it?

4.  Do you feel your work and activities in and for your church bring you closer to God , or do you feel that some work and/or activities seem to be keeping you from seeking God’s presence?

5.  Do you need your destiny altered?  Would you like to see your future changed?

Chapter  4 – Intimacy and Influence

How Relationship Trumps Protocol

 

1.  Do you understand God’s purpose for your life?  Have you ever questioned what his purpose for your life is or the direction it seems to be headed? 

 

2.  Have you tried to circumvent what seems to be God’s purpose for your life because of fear or uncertainty?  Why?

3.  Are the choices that you make about your life centered around God and his purpose for you?

4.  Do you feel there are other people who seem to have a more intimate relationship with God than you do?  Describe them?  Why do you think they might be more privileged than you?

5.  What can you do to increase your intimacy with the King?

posted by Bonny