In Esther 5 we see a stark contrast of two powerful people. One wields her power humbly for the good of others. The other grasps onto his power for his own sake at all costs. In this text we'll observe the enslaving trap of pride in Haman and the courageous glory of humility in Esther so that we might guard against pride and grow in humility together.
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In chapter 4, Esther undergoes a transformation from subservient daughter and spiritual compromiser to courageous leader prepared to risk her life to save her people. This Sunday, we'll see not only what changes in Esther but also how we can prepare ourselves to stand for the Lord in the defining moments of our own lives.
Our passage this Sunday concludes with the whole city "bewildered." Has life ever left you lost and confused? Perhaps you've been overlooked, mistreated, or even oppressed? Esther 3 is for you. We'll see how to trust the hidden hand of God in the midst of even the darkest difficulties of our lives.
This week is the once-a-year time in our church when we focus on our finances. We call it Stewardship Sunday. No, this isn't about raising money for the church. It's about prioritizing what God's word prioritizes: More than 2000 verses, including nearly a third of Jesus' parables talk about money! So this week we'll see why God cares so much about our finances and how we can respond.
The 2,500 year old story of Esther is actually incredibly relevant to us in our day. God's people found themselves as a religious minority living in a society that was dominated by spiritual and moral values in great contrast to theirs: ostentatious displays of wealth, sexual promiscuity, and unjust rule. How do we as God's people shine as lights in a dark culture like this? How do we trust the Lord when it is difficult to see him at work? We'll explore these themes and more as we dive into the book of Esther this fall.
This weekend is Vision Sunday, when we mark 149 years of faithful gospel ministry as Ruggles Baptist Church. It is fitting that on this day we come to the conclusion of James' letter, where he paints a beautiful picture of God's supernatural, life-saving power working through the church. In these two little verses we see God's heart expressed through the loving, pursuing, and saving activity of God's people for one another. We'll see how the Lord works through his people to save, and how we can all get in on this.
When you do pray, do you really expect an answer? In our passage on Sunday, James shows us how to pray with confidence--no matter how seemingly minor the matter, or how difficult the dilemma, or how convoluted the context and conditions. We'll see that practical faith is prayerful faith.
Are you a patient person? In our passage this Sunday, James urges us over and over again (three times!) to be patient. But if you're anything like me, this is easier said than done--especially in the midst of challenging circumstances. Fortunately, James gives us both the secret of Christian patience and examples of Christian patience to follow. This week we'll strive to grow in patience, since "we count as blessed those who have persevered" (v. 11).
In this week's passage, James encourages the churches by writing a harsh condemnation of their wealthy oppressors. Yet in his blunt judgment of non-Christians there is a warning for Christians then and now. Because how we steward our wealth reveals our spiritual health. Do we see ourselves in his description of the wicked wealthy? How should our faith change our view of our money?
In our passage this Sunday, James says it's possible to be a Christian atheist--to claim belief in Christ but to live like God doesn't exist. We make plans and decisions about our relationships, study, and work without acknowledging the Lord. This is isn't just unwise, James says. It is sinful! We'll see this week why this is so serious and how we can remember the Lord in our words, plans, and lives.
The local church is supposed to be a caring community that reflects the love of Christ. Yet sometimes this dream is far from the reality, even in our own church. Why is strife and fighting so common among believers--and what can we do about it? That's what our passage is about this week as we continue to strive to put our faith into action.
Do you ever doubt your own salvation? Where do you find the confidence to say that you're truly a Christian? This week we'll explore one of the foundational, and revolutionary, beliefs of Protestant Evangelicals: Christians can have assurance of our salvation.
Being evangelical doesn't mean we vote Republican, or deny evolution, or believe that America is a special Christian nation. It means none of these things, contrary to popular culture. Instead, one of the foundational tenets of evangelicalism is an emphasis on the Bible as God's word and guide for our churches and lives. This Sunday we're going to explore why we believe in the authority and power of God's word and why it is crucial to our church and lives as Christians.
"What must I do to be saved?" This is a question found on the lips of the Philippian prison guard in Acts 16:30, but it has been on people's lips from the beginning--and even still today. This Sunday we're going to explore what Christianity believes about salvation and this doctrine's practical implications in our lives and our church.
Democrats and Republicans. Socialists and Capitalists. Americans and Armenians. Barack Obama and Donald Trump. How do we wrap our heads around Christianity when all of these people (or at least some from these groups) claim to be Christians? As we begin to explore Ruggles' old and proposed new statement of faith, we're going to explore what it means--at the foundation--to be a Christian.
During the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, the cheers always begin at the climactic ending: “O’er the land of the freeee...” Freedom is at the very heart of Americans and many immigrants that come to the United States for study and work. But in the midst of all this “freedom,” do you really feel free? Are we truly free? We’ll explore in Sunday’s scripture text how Jesus comes to bring true freedom to our lives.
Advent is a season when the church remembers Christ’s first coming as we long for His second coming. One way to recognize that the Christmas season is upon us is the lights—lights on homes, in windows, on Christmas trees, and more. This has become part of our culture each year, but there is deeper meaning to all of these lights. Christmas is truly all about a dark world that is longing for Light.
This week we come to the final chapter of Jonah: the climax of the story. Jonah finally gets honest--and angry--with God. It is in this short exchange that we see clearly the true character of the God of the Bible, and of ourselves.
Our mission is to invite people into a life-changing relationship with Christ and his church. Finding salvation in Christ isn't only about intellectual belief, but about tangible action--what God's word calls repentance--or turning to him. This Sunday, we'll see an incredible picture of surprising repentance, and from not only the wicked Ninevites, but from the wayward prophet Jonah and even from...God himself.
Are you ready? Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble" (John 16:33). Either as a consequence of our own sin or simply the fallen world around us, we will all experience times "in the depths." So what will you do when these times of "distress" come? From "the pit"--for the first time in this book--Jonah prays. This Sunday we'll learn from Jonah about why prayer, even an imperfect one, is so powerful especially in times of trouble.