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Sunday: Captive in a Foreign Culture — 22 Comments

  1. In these last days I feel that Sunday worship is the biggest threat God's people have to face. In these hard economic times, we've seen compromise of faith, whereby individuals lower the standards to put food on the table. May God help us to look beyond our challenges to the future that He has promised His children, a future more secure than the prospect of our daily bread.

    (21)
    • The biggest single threat Christians of any denomination face is "no worship at all". When I think of the Christians I know, the number of them who have changed denominations is relatively small conpared to the number who have simply given up because they no longer see the Christian message as relevant. Talking about a secure future to them has little impact if our lives do not reflect the love of Jesus now.

      (45)
  2. I am sure that each culture and person has a different area of challenge. What is truth and in what can we believe seems to be a common theme...

    For my secular science minded friends the challenge is evolution and where is God in science. Even more when you take time to evaluate the vastness and complexity of the universe it is unfathomable. To place faith in a God who created this is to place faith in a power and wisdom that is unfathomable.

    For my christian friends and even myself there is the constant struggle with the anxieties of this life and trusting God in the unknown. As the political and social structures of our world degrades to transition from an intellectual knowledge of who God is to an active trusting that causes me to wrestle with the fears that insinuate doubts. It is a constant re-focusing to walk by faith and not by sight. The bigger the problems I face the bigger I realize God is and my faith in Him must become.

    I am not immune to the fears, doubts, temptations, and struggle of this life just because I am a christian. I must answer the same questions and fears that the whole world does and in this we have common ground. It is the lens of faith that brings into focus a different perspective on what we are seeing. This can be hard to see at times or only dimly seen. At times I need to be reminded.

    To have trust in God despite the storms and controversies... this is the greatest challenge I see in myself and those around me.

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    • Jodi – I very much appreciate your comments - “for my Christian friends and even myself there is the constant struggle with the anxieties of this life and trusting God in the unknown,” You also mentioned that “it is a constant re-focusing to walk by faith and not by sight,” and in your conclusion you say that 'it is the 'lens of faith' that brings into focus a different perspective on what we are 'seeing'.'

      Today’s lesson includes the Scripture reference taken from Isaiah 29. I read the full chapter to gain the right perspective of verse 13 and found that it strengthened my ‘lens of faith’ referenced in your comment. I thought to point this out to you as I am certain that reading it will bless you as well.

      (5)
      • Brigitte,
        Thank you for sharing... I took some time to go back and re-read and reflect on this passage as well.

        It seems to start as a sad commentary on lip service from people who are following what they have been taught without true understanding.
        Unfortunately I can identify…

        However as I read through the end of the passage especially verse 14, 18,19,20 and 24 I find great hope.
        “I will again do a marvelous work among this people”...
        deaf hear…
        blind see…
        humble and poor rejoice in Jesus…
        “These also who erred in spirit will come to understanding, And those who
        complained will learn doctrine.”

        Here I find hope because the Lord does a great work in me - He causes me to see, hear, repent / humble, and rejoice finding riches in Christ, understanding with my heart the things that I have not known before.

        The passage appears to mirror the beatitudes Matt 5:3-11.

        Jesus does marvelous works reaching his people who are searching to know Him no matter where they are or what misunderstandings they have. He is our Hope!

        (7)
  3. The story of Esther is an uncomfortable one for me because it is so culturally different to what we would expect from God-following people today. Here are a couple of things to think about.

    We know that Queen Vashti was given the push from the palace because she did not want to put on a show for the queen. It does not take much imagination to know what sort of show that would be for a group of men who had been drinking for several days. Vashti had courage and is to be admired for that.

    How did Esther come to be considered for the next queen? Some of the illustrations make it look as though Mordecai took Esther along because she was good-looking. The Bible does not mention that.

    So it came to pass, when the king's commandment and his decree was heard, and when many maidens were gathered together unto Shushan the palace, to the custody of Hegai, that Esther was brought also unto the king's house, to the custody of Hegai, keeper of the women. Esther 2:8 KJV

    The story tells of certain officers being commissioned to search out the land for beautiful maidens. It then explains the relationship between Mordecai and Esther. I assert that Mordecai and Esther may not have had much say in the matter of her selection.

    We need to read the story as a palace intrigue in a time when captives were expendable commodities. And as the story reveals, it was easy to fall in and out of favor with the ruler. Keeping one's faith or distinctive culture in these circumstances is not only difficult, it is downright dangerous.

    (38)
    • Did Esther keep her faith and distinctive culture, or did she hide it? Mordecai advised her not to let the authorities know that she was Jewish. Certainly neither the king nor Haman knew that she was Jewish. Everyone knew that Mordecai was a Jew and the fact that he told Esther not to reveal that she was Jewish indicates that Jews were not a favored people. I am also interested to see how that author will use the story as an example of taking God's story to others, since the theme of the story seems to be the salvation of the Jews, not the Persians.

      (11)
        • Hi Brethens,

          For me, this doesn't really matter. It is just as some people assume, or conclude, that Daniel was a eunuch, just because of Daniel 1:3-4 says that he was under the command of the master of the eunuchs, so then Daniel must have been a eunuch. However, the Bible does not specifically state that Daniel and his friends were eunuchs. Bt it is possible that they were made eunuchs after they were given assignment to service to the king of Babylon, which was a common practice in those days. But again, that is assumption. However, it doesn't matter to me if they were eunuchs or not. What matter is that Daniel and his companions did the "will of God", for God's purpose, not their own.

          Also, the Book of Esther, it tells us how God used Esther for His divine plans. So, it doesn't matter to me, what proceed what; just so long as Esther chose to do the "will of God". Just many other Leaders were talked about negatively, they talked about Dr. Martin Luther King; he did this and that, he wasn't a saint; but his past sins don't really matter. I like what Dr King said in his last speech, a few days before his was killed:

          "Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. 'I just want to do God's will.' And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!"

          We all have a calling on our lives, whether big or small, no matter what our sins have been. We just have to purpose in our heart that we want "to do God's will", and have chosen to accept the task that God has given us. But God always give us a choice, to accept, or not to accept. Will we accept the task "to do God's will" as Esther did?

          Lastly, as I read this story, it occurred to me that this is a story of how the devil thought that he would use Haman to annihilate all the Jews, before the Messiah could come out of the Jewish line. But God always have a Better plan to save His people. Always remember, "You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 1John 4:4"

          God's blessing to you All. Have a Safe and Blessed Holiday Seasons.

          (6)
        • In regards to Esther, the situation was so different I don't know if we could really call it fornication. It really was a case of extreme polygamy. In a sense, all the girls became the king's wife once they went into the harem. They were just fighting to be the "official wife". The ones not chosen weren't ever going home. They would never have a true husband. The concubines in David or Solomon's palace weren't all that different.

          Now obviously that kind of life is not what God wants for anyone. But I don't think Esther should be judged for that, especially since she likely had no say at all.

          (4)
        • Remember the does not have all the details you may need. It only highlights important points otherwise we would be able to carry it.

          (1)
        • *Esther 2:17- And the King loved Esther above all the women and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins.

          *Esther 2:19- And when the virgins were gathered together the second time.

          *So I think, they didn't sleep with the King, just ask what they want, but Esther didn't ask anything from the King.

          (0)
          • Lourdes that makes sense. I see your reasoning is logical, however when it refers to the virgins the second time it could have just meant the previous virgins. According to the times and customs of the time, and many Biblical scholars, they slept with the king.

            (2)
      • I think you have seen how now? After the great deliverance some people became Jews as a result. The help which came to the Jews was a witness to other nations that there is God who is above all and who can do wonders . Just check on the last advice of Haman's wife and his friends. They said if Mordecai is of the seed of the Jew then you will fall before him . If Mordecai was respected in the whole region so was his God because he was a man of faith.

        (1)
  4. In a certain sense, we believers are all captives in a foreign culture while we remain on this earth. Consequently, if we love the Lord, we run the risk of losing all comfort while residing here, including life itself.
    Jesus said “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. “ (John 15:18-19)

    We can feel like foreigners within our own family (especially if you are the lone Sabbath keeper), at work if the culture is antithetical to God’s laws, or even in your community if seventh day Adventists are the religious minority.

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  5. I think the real challenge is not to do the right thing because I was taught as a child; the challenge is to do the right thing because my heart tells me so. When principles get out of the "automated educational format" (which can be essential too) to get into a matter of "heart," which means the involvement of emotions (LOVE), then they might be strong enough to withstand any challenge. The "politically correct" sometimes can become a trap. Doing things out of LOVE is different because "the heart has reasons no reason can explain."

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  6. As children of a divine god who created this beautiful awesome world, we can see through nature that he speaks to us every day.He put up, and he takes down.As christians we are facing g unprecented times.Like Easter she was chosen because of her beauty.Mordecai knows that with the king no wasn't an option.But God knows the heart and the intention.So let us hold on to our faith despite the temptations of this life.

    (9)
  7. I suppose it is important to know which spirit prompts ones descent; how ones unwillingness to go along with rules which compromise ones spiritual conscience is best expressed with integrity.

    At this time, I do not see rules established for the general public to obey which would violate the separation of the Spirit governing the organized church and the state. Though I see society seemingly becoming more and more conditioned to accept new moral and ethical norms based on manmade rules. In my opinion, AI, most likely, will play a big role in this re-education effort because it is deemed by people to be ‘neutral’.

    Daniel 6:1-3 – ”It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps, to be over the whole kingdom; and over these, three governors, of whom Daniel was one, that the satraps might give account to them, so that the king would suffer no loss. Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm.”

    At the heart of the fight over the souls of man is a form of 'spiritual jealousy'. It showed itself at the very beginning when Daniel and his friends came to the attention of the kings Nebuchadnezzar and Darius. Two powerful kings who could see something special in Daniel because of the "excellent spirit in him”, and those who's conduct was guided by another spirit. But our God is most powerful. He works in mysterious ways to establish His spiritual kingdom for the salvation of mankind here in earth!

    Whenever man makes rules to use their power to deminish the freedom to express ones conscience freely, people will be either intimidated by those rules and obey, or they rebel outright. David's example shows the better Way! As with David, I am certain the inspiration of the Holy Spirit will guide the dedicated believer to respond with spiritual integrity when facing challenging circumstances.

    (2)
  8. The story of Esther has always puzzled me, and I have always been afraid to ask these questions during discussions about Esther at church. These questions have made me ask myself, "do you realy understand God?"
    These questions are:
    1. Did Esther sleep with the king before he decided that she was the best virgin?
    2. Did Esther have to dress to show her physical beauty, knowing that the king dispensed with Vashti because she refused to do it?
    3. If God places us in positions to reveal him to others, how could Esther have done it when she hid her identity from the king and the nation?
    4. The threat to kill the Jews was not directed against Esther personally, because it was not known that she was Jewish. Esther only revealed it after she was told to do so by Mordecai. Also, Mordecai only told her to do it after the threat was against him personally, plus the reminder of the Jews.

    Last week we studied about Solomon, a man who God chose to write a portion of the bible. However, the bible says that Solomon did evil in the sight of God. How do we explain these anomalies about God? Or do we really understand God? Have we been looking at God mainly from western eyes?

    (11)
    • Good questions... lot of food for thought. As I reflect on them the thought comes to me that God works through less than ideal or perfect situations every day. The people God uses are flawed and full of mistakes, but they trust in God and He leads them because they trust in Him... not because they do everything the correct way.

      I often wonder why God allows His children (and myself) to make such absurd mistakes, but I realize that His Grace covers a multitude of misunderstandings and sin. I am sure that there are many things that I still do not understand and mistakes that even now I am making, but I am thankful that God through His grace will continue to work with me, teach me, and help to correct the pains that I cause to myself and others.

      Only in the hypothetical imaginary world do I see perfect people, acting perfectly, and always doing the right thing in every situation. There are so many problems that can only be mitigated to the least harm but not to back to the original perfect plan. At least not for now, but someday they will be when sin is erased from our planet.

      In my world I want to do the right but even in my best intentions I do not say, do, or at times even understand what that really means.

      Then I stop to realize some of the mistakes I have made and how off track I have been even when I meant to do what was right. God by His grace still worked in and through me but sometimes my misunderstandings still caused pain to others as well as myself.

      While I cannot directly answer the questions I do see the Grace and power of God manifest in His understanding and continued working with flawed people in less than ideal situations. He did not hide their flaws when inspiring the writing of scripture but shows that despite their short comings and misunderstandings He still loves them and works with and even through them.

      (14)
  9. Now that we still are free, it's the right time to determine in our hearts to be obedient to God and train ourselves in it. A time is coming that we won't have that time for training. Willingly, let us not wait to be urged. Righteousness is trained, 2 Timothy 3:16. Obedience that is urged is never obedience.

    (4)

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