Remember What Katrina (Amalek) Did

Young Adult Sunday School Lesson – September 2, 2012

The posts went out, being hastened by the king's commandment, and the decree was given in Shushan the palace. And the king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city Shushan was perplexed. Esther 3:15

It can’t happen again…

Those of us native to the Mid-South experienced another hurricane this week, and although on Monday it appeared to be no call for concern, by the end of the week most of us had changed our minds. No electricity and thousands of gallons of rainwater will do that to you. When we lost power, I connected a generator to the important appliances (air conditioning!) and saved a few amps for the television as our family hunkered down in the living room to weather the storm. Watching the New Orleans stations it came as a mild shock to see people being evacuated from Plaquemines parish via boat and National Guard trucks, despite the urgent requests well before the storm made landfall by all of the pundits in authority. This advice was given out during seemingly round-the-clock news conferences and punctuated by dire, not-so-subtle warnings. I found myself perplexed, indeed. How could this be?

However, later I witnessed an interview with one of the evacuees and it made a little more sense. The rain-soaked and much the worse for wear interviewee stated that “We didn’t figure that it would ever be as bad as Katrina, because we remember what all she did. There are new levees in place and everything was supposed to be taken care of. Plus—it was a much weaker storm!” A warning was given, but seven years of security and extra preparations along with a mere Category One storm classification had lulled her and her family (along with many others) into a false sense of security. I can understand that train of thought. Heck, I can even respect it. But then again, we should always remember our past trials and heed future warnings ahead of time, because you just never know.

In Deuteronomy 25, G_d warns Moses: “Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not G_d.”

G_d charged the Children of Israel to never forget what the Amalekites had done to them while they were on their way to the Promised Land. The books of Joshua and Judges, and later in 1st and 2nd Samuel, are replete with stories of almost constant warfare between Israel and Amalek. Finally, in I Samuel chapter 15, King Saul is ordered by JEHOVAH to slay all of the Amalekites. Saul failed in the task and did not complete the job. The prophet Samuel had to kill the Amalekite King named Agag and there is a graphic description of how he did so included in the chapter. (Incidentally, another Amalekite king named Agag is also mentioned in Numbers 24:7.)

This failure to follow G_d’s plan and heed His warnings is where we find ourselves in this week’s lesson from Esther. In the third chapter, we see an evil man gaining favor and a promotion in King Ahasuerus’s palace. We also learn that he is an Agagite:

After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with himEsther 3:1

Jewish literature considers Haman to be a direct descendent of Agag the Amalekite. The coincidences in the names of the two Kings we mentioned earlier and the heritage of Haman, along with his later actions, are too close to be ignored. G_d had warned his children from the wilderness through the times of the Kings of what they should do and how they should deal with the children of Amalek. Israel’s failure to eliminate Amalek despite several opportunities to do so would almost lead to the utter destruction of their nation in the book of Esther 800 years later.

But what can we learn from this?

In all of our lives, G_d has a plan in place and it is up to us to find it and follow it. He speaks to us through His Word; and through His Holy Spirit He guides us along the perfect path He has put in place for every Christian’s life. Sometimes the instructions appear hazy and open to our own interpretation, but we are warned against this many times in the Bible. We are commanded to “lean not unto our own understanding” and reminded twice in Proverbs chapters 14 and 16 that “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”

In my own life, there are many times I can recall where I have gone against the plan I knew G_d had in store for me, and many times I thought I had slipped under the radar and gotten away with it. A lot of ‘if only’s’ are recorded in those dreary chapters of my life, and they all revolve around ‘if only’ I had listened to the Shepherd’s call at that moment in time, how much turmoil would have and could have been avoided.

Closer, and more personally to the point, I’ve also been known to have ‘pet sins’ that I hang on to—thinking of them as harmless compared to the sins that others commit—all the while knowing that any sin is against G_d’s Law and I will be held accountable for my actions at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Small, insignificant sins are still rebellion from G_d, and left unattended in my own heart can blossom into a proverbial Category 5 Hurricane in my soul. At that point there are no answers. You can find yourself stranded and looking for help all because you thought you were better prepared and, of course, it could never happen to you.

In my foolish heart you could picture me in that interview—dirty, dripping wet, hungry, and lucky to be alive—all the while knowing that I had been warned and had no one or anything to blame except for my own sense of complacency.

It’s a good thing I serve a Living G_d Who is always there to rescue me—even when I don’t deserve it.

Who Wants To Marry A Billionaire

Young Adult Sunday School Lesson – August 18, 2012

And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti.” Esther 2:17

Intro: Theme music plays in the background as the camera pans across an immaculate throne room. The King sits on his royal throne, dressed in splendor with his crown and flowing robes, a golden sceptor in his hand.

Host: This is your E-Persia host Jeff Scoop, and we’re here today with King Ahasuerus, the star of Persian-TV’s new hit series, Who wants to Marry a Billionaire. How are you today, King?”

King: Ah, just call me King Xerxes, it’s much easier to pronounce, sort of. I’m doing great. Life is good. No complaints.

Host: Let’s see, it’s been four, almost five years since you and Queen Vashti parted ways; what have you been doing in the interim—besides this TV show?

King: Well, you know Jeff, I’ve conquered part of Greece. At least Athens. But then there was that little episode with King Leonidas which kind of put a damper on things. But I figured out that if you pit Athens against Sparta, and Sparta against Corinth, well, things kinda take care of themselves. (Smiles mischievously) We now have ‘peace in our time’ in the Kingdom, as those silly Greeks are now fighting amongst themselves. Ha!

Host: Hmm. Class warfare. Great plan, King. Future Kings will probably try and copy that.

King: I know, right? It works, (Spreads arms and smiles) what can I say?

Host: So tell us about your new TV show. How did that all come about?

King: Jeff, when I got home from Greece and after I put down a political coup that was being attempted against me, things got a little too quiet around the palace. Ok, ok, maybe I was missing Vashti a little bit. (Looks down) I was missing her a lot. I mean, man, she was a trophy wife, you know? And other than that one little incident when I was drunk and acting… foolish, well, she was a pretty good wife. (Looks reflectively off past the camera and slouches in a despondent manner)

Host: She was a beautiful woman.

King: I know, right? Well anyway, so I called on my lawyers again to see what they could do. I mean, after all, this was all of their doing, although I will admit—though I wasn’t wrong—it sounded like the thing to do at the time. It was under their advice that I dumped Vashti, and though I am the King and can pretty much do what I want, there is this silly little matter of the law that can’t be changed that I have to deal with. (Straightens up in his seat)

Host: So you trusted the lawyers again to come up with a solution for filling the Queen’s position in the palace?

King: Jeff, they are my brain trust, after all, I gotta trust them. But it reminds me of a joke: What do you have when a lawyer is buried up to his neck in sand?

Host: I don’t’ know, what?

King: Not enough sand. (Slaps his leg and laughs loudly)

Host: (Laughing along) Now that is funny!

King: I know, right? So anyway, where was I, (Puts finger under chin as if thinking hard) oh yeah. We decided to do this reality series, you know—since that is all the rage these days—get all of the fair maidens from across my great empire together in the palace, and let me pick one of them to be my wife and thus, (twirls finger) the new Queen.

Host: Was it any special type of woman you were looking for in particular?

King: Jeff, I set the requirements that they had to be pretty, of course. And then again, they had to be virgins. And once they were chosen by a panel of my most trusted people, well, they were brought to the palace to stay in special apartments I had built for them. We set them aside for a whole year so that they could be cleansed, so to speak, and taught how to act like a queen and so forth. Basically, they had a year to get ready and muster the most beauty they could squeeze out of themselves. (Squeezes his scepter as if to demonstrate)

Host: So what happened, after a year?

King: All of the girls were brought to the throne room one at a time, and they each got to spend an entire evening with me. My job was to pick the one that not only made me happy, but also would be fit to be the Queen of the Empire. Not an easy task, because as the theme of the show suggests, some of them were probably only interested in the title and my money. Probably most of them, I guess. (Face darkens in disdain) But I figured out a way to handle that one, too.

Host: What did you do?

King: (Smirks) The ones I didn’t choose, because you could usually tell where their hearts were only a few minutes into the evening, I returned them to their apartments. And since it would be wrong for them to spend the evening with me and then go on about their lives as if nothing happened, well, they now have to stay and live in those apartments by themselves for rest of their lives. They can never marry, and they still have to put up with me anytime I choose to drop by—if I actually choose to do so.

Host: Wow! It sure sounds like a ‘win it all or lose it all’ proposition. Tough contest, King.

King: I know, right? Heh-heh. But I gotta give credit where credit is due; it’s only what the lawyers came up with. (Frowns, playing to the camera)

Host: Hmm. So tell me about the girl you chose. Her name is Hadassah, right?

King: (Smiles radiantly) Yeah-buddy, but I call her Esther. Sweet girl. Simply beautiful inside and out. Everything I could ever want and even more in a wife or a queen. She has something about her that I didn’t see in any of the others.

Host: And what was that?

King: Jeff, don’t get me wrong here. When Miss Persepolis came in I was struck by her beauty, and Miss Egypt had the total package as well. And there were others, too. But this girl, who actually came from Shushan—I have a palace there you know—well, she just caught my eye. When she came in the room my heart started pounding and it was like bow-chicka-wow-wow! And then when I started talking to her, it was like it was meant to be. I was floored! Dude, it was perfect; like there was some other force present at work there that I can’t even explain.

Host: Like maybe the gods had a hand in you guys meeting?

King: I know, right? It was something else. And even old Hegai, who was in charge of all of these women as far as getting them ready to meet me, he told me after the show was over that she had been his choice for me from the very beginning.

Host: That’s a great story. So where do you guys go from here?

King: Jeff, I’m just living the dream, getting to know her as she gets to know me. We are happy together and look forward to what the future has in store for us. I’m VERY happy. Things are good both in the Kingdom and in my personal life.

Host: One more question; any thoughts still linger in your heart about Vashti?

King: Who? (Looks puzzled, then smiles knowingly)

Host: Well there you have it, folks. A love story between a powerful king and a completely unknown, small-town girl. A Cinderella story without all of that glass-slipper-muckity-muck stuff thrown in. Congratulations, King, and good luck in all of your future endeavors with Queen Esther.

King: Thanks. Jeff. (Gives a fist-bump to Jeff and then gives a thumbs-up to the camera)

The Ten-Count

Stay down, George.” As much as I wanted him to win the fight, I knew that it was over. His eyes were glazed as the referee counted him out, his facial expression providing Magnavoxian-proof that he probably did not even know where he was. Even if he somehow miraculously managed to get up off the canvas, it was certain by his posture and the glazed look in his eyes that he would simply go right back down again—probably before the 8th round was officially over.

I remember a lot of sporting events from when I was young, and can recall them in absolute vivid detail. (Sometimes it’s a blessing, while at others it’s a curse!) I do not remember the date as it was after the fight, but I was watching the replay on ABC’s Wide World of Sports back in late 1974 or early 1975. You remember the show, huh? Jim Mackay’s voiceover during the opening, “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport... the thrill of victory... and the agony of defeat...” with skier Vinko Bogataj’s dreadful crash punctuating that last line. I was 12 at the time, and because there was no ESPN or Internet back then, I was not aware of who had won the fight. To me, a country boy living in a culturally-bypassed McNeill of the time, it was just as good as watching it live. I was pulling for George Foreman in his heavyweight boxing title defense against Muhammad Ali in the now-famous ‘Rumble in the Jungle' that took place in Zaire in October of 1974.

Remembering that look on George’s face reminds me a lot of our country these days, and I see this in the political climate available for my viewing pleasure on the nightly news, no matter where I choose to get it. We have an election coming up in a few months, and I’m beginning to wonder if it even matters anymore. On one side we are reminded that if we do not vote for the Republicans, a dark curtain will descend across America and we’ll fall as a nation; a victim of our debt and the increasing entitlements we have locked ourselves into paying. We’ll become a nation of illegal immigrants with violent ‘flash robs’ and riots occurring in all of our major cities. On the other hand, if we do not vote for the Democrats, Medicare and Social Security will cease to exist while thousands will starve in the streets, and we will find ourselves in a state of perpetual war—bleeding ourselves dry in foreign countries that do not actually like us anyway.

Either way, we as a people have our eyes glazed over and a lost look on our faces, wondering where to turn and which direction it will take to get us out of here. And if somehow we heroically manage to get up off the mat and find a way to re-enter the fight, well, there’s a good chance we’ll only go down again. In the process, we could risk permanent damage to whatever’s left inside of us.

Before he was knocked out, it’s reported that Foreman managed to land a crushing jab into Ali’s chest, a blow that would have normally ended the fight. As Ali covered, he whispered to George, “Is that all you got?” and George quietly replied, “Yeah. I guess it is”.

Saturday as I watched the Olympics, the athletic events were interrupted by news that the Republican Presidential challenger had finally chosen a running mate. The choice is a good man with bright ideas and a notable hard worker—I’m a Republican—I like him. But at the same token, as the weekend wore on, while looking at the sum of the pair I caught myself (more often than not) wondering, “Is this all we’ve got?”

Are the two choices I mentioned earlier, Republican or Democrat, really all that is left to us as a nation and as a people? What will be the final verdict and how will history remember us? Will the United States go out with a bang, or will it be only a silent, pleading whimper?

The way I see it, nothing will change. And that’s not just the Ides of Cynicism rearing their ugly head from within my keyboard this morning. The downward spiral of our nation did not start yesterday, this weekend, or even three or four years ago. It’s been in the works for a lot longer than that. Using a logic/reasoning that the Republicans abandoned long ago, and the Democrats only ridicule these days, it appears to be straightforward: America has turned her back on G_d. We can point our fingers at Roe vs. Wade, or the removal of prayer from our schools, yet these are merely symptoms of the sinful disease of secular humanism that branched out across our country in the aftermath of World War II. We no longer need G_d—we have our intellect, our technology, and our enlightened reasoning—plus we have our government, by George, and don’t you dare forget it!

Meanwhile the dark spiral continues ever downward with each day that passes… unabated.

I guess I’ll apologize for my bleak mood this morning, but I can’t help thinking that somewhere in the epochs of time, those Old Testament prophets are pointing their fingers at our un-masked indifference. “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget G_d.”

Yeah. That’s all we got. We’ve pretty much chosen to own that verse these days. Our eyes are glazed over and we apparently no longer know where or even who we are anymore.

This is where I should cue the patriotic music and talk about the glimmer of hope that yet remains and cite an uplifting example or two. But the means justifies the end in our case. What we really need as a nation is a leader to take charge and solve all of our problems, thus putting us back on the correct paths of old. You know, the ones we used to follow and our nation was originally founded upon. There is a leader out there, and His time is close at hand, but in the meantime all of the signs point to us reaching out to the wrong leader, one who will be a mere caricature of the True Savior, and who is at this moment probably as well as prophetically ready to make his appearance on the world stage.

As Christians we need to be faithful. We need to be wise. But most of all, we need to be ready... it may just be that our redemption is drawing nigh!

Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Matthew 24:44-46


So, how’d this happen? I asked myself, carefully shoe-horning another heavy box into my youngest daughter’s already too-tightly-packed car trunk. Yesterday she was eating Oreos in the kitchen, getting chocolate crumbs all over her clothes and cherubic cheeks. Today she’s loading up books and photos—cherished reminders from long ago when time meant nothing, and I was lulled into taking it for granted that she would always be here and things would go on as they’d always...


Crinoline dresses and taffeta hair bows. Goodnight kisses following prayers that were always deeply sincere; even when she was way-too-young to be doing so. Skinned knees and cheerleader practice, moving off to college and then back home again to commute the following semester, graduations accompanied by the obligatory dance recitals—where did the time go?

As I inspected the last box and its positioning to make sure it would be alright on the journey, I felt tired, and a part of me finally discovered what it really feels like to be on the door-step of becoming fifty years of age. Time truly counts, and keeps counting.


I’m a veteran when it comes to giving a daughter away during a wedding ceremony. I’ve been there, done that, and still have the proverbial tee-shirt hanging in the corner of my heart where I keep those things and their bittersweet feelings hidden from view. I should be merely happy, if anything, knowing that my youngest daughter has ‘driven her ducks to a good pond’, as my mother would so eloquently put it. And I believed it with all of my soul. Well, that is, until I helped her load her car while thinking, once again of always…


I still have a couple of months and figured I would deal with it when the wedding day arrived, but I was caught off-guard as I helped load those heavy boxes into her car. Some things needed to be moved three hours away to a distant town in another State ahead of time—I understand that. But I wasn’t ready for my epiphany of the hidden fragility concealed within maligned adverbs such as ‘always’.

She’s closer to her mother, that one is. They share everything. The little voice inside my head reminds me of what is patently obvious, even to others, most likely. But still, despite what I know and what is real in this life, (And what daughter is not slanted that way?) she is sincerely mine.


Subtraction from my household by a hairy-legged ‘Bama boy cannot and will not ever change that. A wedding, a move to another town, a career and even their own children—it makes little difference between what is and what will be in comparison to what always was. She will always be my tiny princess, twirling to music that only we can hear. (Her always; me only when I can glimpse it in her eyes) She will always have her mother’s looks, yet always my disposition; a Spiritual being born from within both parents and loved beyond the many miles that all-too-soon will separate us.

I’ll set her free—I owe her that and this is the time and place for me to do so. The happiness and feelings of a father are not the main course. They are not even issues worth considering. They merely meld into something that has to be. Daddy is neither Puff the Magic Dragon nor Peter Pan. He cannot remain frozen in time while his daughter grows up around him. I’ve learned that already. I’ve lived it.

Yet, always, I will pray for her. Always I will trust her to make the right decisions in life and learn from those rare but possible choices that will be wrong. Always, in a secret place that a daddy only knows, I’ll still see that tiny girl eating Oreos in the kitchen, asking a million questions, hiding no worries or cares at all behind an innocently beautiful smile. Always, always, I’ll always love her.

She had previously cleaned her room before asking me to help that evening; meticulously boxing keeper things, at the same time weighing them against those that were destined for a garbage bag. That was last Friday and today was trash-day. As I carried the bags out to the can and dropped them unceremoniously into the hopper, a soft sound emanated from the debris; musical, sort of, but with a broken sound at the same time. Peeking into the after-wash of a soon to be changing life, I uncovered an old music box, discarded like the Beatles not long after ‘Hey Jude’. I do not remember where it came from—as a gift or a singular purchase of her own, possibly. But the music it attempted to play was from a familiar tale, an old story from childhood days. The story of a princess who met her prince and lived happily ever after.

That works for me.

For Such A Time As This

Young Adult Sunday School Lesson – August 12, 2012

I'm tired of looking 'round rooms
Wondering what I've got to do
Or who I'm supposed to be...”       Gavin DeGraw

We ended our quarter-long study of Elijah last week and I’m hoping (and working) to get all of the notes condensed and put into a blog-type format to hand out to each of you for future reference. See the thing is, I honestly consider the story of Elijah to be more important today than it was not even five years ago as we are in times/circumstances very similar to the ones he faced.

But you already know that by now.

Our new quarterly study will begin this upcoming Sunday and we will delve deeply into a tale of what I think is very closely related to the subject we have already been studying. If you want a title for these lessons, I can say that something Brother Randall preached from the pulpit last Sunday put an idea into my head, and it is a thought the Holy Spirit keeps pressing my heart about: For such a time as this.

First things first, let’s take a look at the key verse that keeps me awake at night and, when I do sleep—seemingly visits me in my dreams:

For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

The book of Esther in the Bible is a very ironic book. It reads much like a ‘Made for TV’ movie and is fairly easy to understand as a result. Let me give you a little background here... it is the story of a patently pretty, devout young-Jewish woman living in exile in a foreign country where justice and morals have twisted to a point very much akin to what we see in our modern world today. According to records in the Hebrew Midrash, Esther is listed among the four most beautiful women in Hebrew history. (The other three were Rachel, Rahab, and Abigail) Although she is the central character in the plot, there is also a powerful king, a watchful cousin, an evil villain, and even a slighted queen thrown in for good measure. So where is the irony, you ask? In the book of Esther, G_d is not mentioned in any of the chapters or verses, even though it is a book that has been included in the very same Holy Bible we study today. Although He is not mentioned, He is there in every verse and at every turn of events; in control and always on time just when He is needed most. That is very comforting to me when I wrap my mind around it. The G_d who is always in control.

Our last quarter’s study considered the powerful works of JEHOVAH as He delivered His message through Elijah. We witnessed ravens feeding Elijah by the brook Cherith, a widow’s son raised from the dead, fire falling on Mount Carmel—followed by an answered prayer for rain. And there were many other miracles too numerous to mention here without a severe dose of digression on my part. But as we are going to see in this book, sometimes, G_d doesn’t answer with fire or rain, or really via any miracles at all. Sometimes He merely chooses to use people to fulfill His will, even if they are unaware that they are doing so at the moment.

Why the Gavin McGraw lyric? The story opens in just such a manner; a beautiful queen named Vashti decides she is not going to conform to what either society or her husband expects her to do. She draws a proverbial line in the sand that ends up costing her everything and leaving her with nothing in return. Sometimes it’s like that when we take a stand for what is truthful and right—sometimes there will not be a miraculous deliverance and things won’t ‘all work out for the best’—at least in our perspective. But that does not negate the importance of choosing the right path in our lives and standing up for what we know in our hearts to be truth. Yet, by taking that stand, we might finally realize just who we really are.

Since we’ll be examining Vashti’s stand to begin this quarter, some quick historical notes on the first chapter are in order before we get started:

1. According to historians, she was the daughter of Belshazzar, thus the great-grand-daughter of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. When her father had his ‘writing on the wall moment’ and was slain by Darius the Mede per the prophecy of Daniel, she supposedly was captured in the palace and Darius gave her to his son for a wife.

2. Darius was the king who regretfully sent Daniel to the lion’s den and repented of his deeds the next day. Unfortunately his son did not follow in his father’s footsteps, and he is this king in the book of Esther known as Ahasuerus, or secularly known as Xerxes. Yes, he's historically the same Xerxes who fought the Spartans and brave King Leonidas at the Battle of Thermopylae.

3. At the beginning of the story, King Ahasuerus throws a 180-day-plus party which was actually a fund raiser for his expedition to fight the Greeks. In between (probably) chapter 1 and 2 of this book, he would conquer Athens, but eventually be forced to return to Shushan (and our narrative) by the beginning of chapter 2.

I welcome you to come with me on this journey through this wonderful book. We’ll learn how to stand up for what is right at opportune moments, and we’ll be reminded that G_d is always in control; not only in our lives but of the entire world as a whole. The G_d of Esther and Mordecai is the same G_d we worship out at the Chapel on Sunday mornings—and He still wants to remind us of who we are and what we’re supposed to be.

See you on Sunday!