The Cornerstone African congregation is hosting a women’s retreat this Saturday, 16 Nov 2013. It will be a time of worship, prayer and seeking The Lord.
As we are gearing up for the retreat, the Lord has been teaching me and preparing me from the main scripture we have chosen for the retreat. It has been a time of experiencing God’s favor and finding rest in serving Him instead of having to strive to prepare for the retreat.
God has brought different people to help out in the retreat. During a prayer meeting with the organising team, we felt that there will be different ‘flavors’ of worship during the retreat, with women from different nations and different walks of life coming together to worship the King. Over the next few weeks, we have had different ladies from the church agree to help lead us in worship during the retreat, or to accompany on instruments. It will indeed be different ‘flavors’, yet with one passion and desire to worship the King.
As we prayed for the retreat and as I studied the Book of Esther over the last few weeks, a few things have really stood out.
1) Esther went through a period of preparation which spanned one year before coming into the presence of the King – 6 months with myrrh, 6 months with perfumes.
2) The sole purpose of Esther’s preparation was to please the King when she comes into His presence.
3) Esther found favor in the King’s sight and He granted her an audience, and also her desires.
1) Time of Preparation
Each young woman’s turn came to go in to King Ahasuerus after she had completed twelve months’ preparation, according to the regulations for the women, for thus were the days of their preparation apportioned: six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with perfumes and preparations for beautifying women.
It is interesting to note that Esther, like all the other women, had to go through 6 months of preparation with oil of myrrh and 6 months with perfumes.
A little search on wikipedia reveals the following:
“The word “myrrh” derives from the Aramaic murr, meaning “was bitter”.”
“When people harvest myrrh, they wound the trees repeatedly to bleed them of the gum.”
Myrrh is a bitter sap. And it is interesting that Wikipedia uses the terms wound and bleed to describe the process of harvesting myrrh.
I have read that being prepared with the oil of myrrh is like a time of modern-day ‘detoxification’, our bodies being purified of toxins. But just looking this up today revealed more interesting findings. How are our spirits being detoxed? It is by going through tough times (or bitter times). And being wounded, and bled of our own ambitions, pride and self. I know this to be true as during prayer last week, God reminded me that in this time of preparation, there will be difficult times and difficult situations. But as we are wounded and bled, let us not become bitter, but allow the fragrance of Christ to flow out of us.
The next 6 months following the detoxification was a time of being soaked in perfumes. I guess it makes sense that unless we have been washed of our own stinking pride, no amount of perfume can make us smell good. Just imagine using perfume day after day without showering. Hmm… It is exciting to be looking forward to encounters with the Lord that will leave His fragrance lingering on us. I am reminded of Mary who came to anoint the Lord Jesus with an alabaster flask of expensive perfume. As she worshipped and poured out her love offering, imagine the fragrance that would have filled the room. Even as we worship the King this Saturday, I can imagine the fragrance that will fill the room and may that fragrance linger on us as we become carriers of His glory.
2) It is not for us, it is for the King
I shared in our service last Sunday that just the week before, I was looking forward to the retreat as a time of getting away from the busy-ness of life, of being a working mom who’s also involved in ministry. “Oh, how I look forward to being refreshed in the Lord’s presence.” In that week itself, I’ve realized that the retreat is not for me, but for Him.
I was reading one of John Piper’s book and he talked about how bringing Him glory is our sole and main purpose in life. We are never truly satisfied until we have put Him at the centre of all that we do. He asked this question, “Do you feel loved more loved by God because He makes much of you or because, at great cost to His Son, He frees you to enjoy knowing Him and treasuring Him and making much of Him?”
When we shift from being self-centered and inward-looking, and live not for self-gratification, we will find our satisfaction from pleasing God and being in His will.
Even as Esther went through the preparation with the sole purpose of pleasing the King, may our purpose in coming for the retreat be to please the King and pour out our love and worship for Him. No agenda, not for me, but for the King.
3) Being in a place of favor with the King.
Esther found favor in the sight of the King and He granted her her requests.
The place of favor is also a place of rest. When we are in that place, we find that we don’t have to strive to make things happen, we don’t have to fight to get what we want. The King shows favor because He knows His bride is asking for things not for herself, but that are according to His will. He can trust her with His authority and resources knowing she will not work against Him but for Him.
I have seen a little of how that works in the preparation for the retreat. I shared earlier about people coming to lead in worship. I didn’t scramble to get these precious ones, but The Lord moved their hearts to want to be part of this special day of encountering the King and I’m amazed at how quickly they said ‘Yes’ when I approached them to come minister. And even though planning this retreat is right smack in the middle of a busy period at work (and being 8 months pregnant!), I have felt such peace, joy and strength, and also unity and love working and praying with the other ladies in the organizing team.
If you are reading this, I hope you catch what we have prayed and felt for the retreat and it will prepare your heart as you come. Come expecting. If you haven’t decided to come, do come. Come, let us adore Him.