The First Reality Show Ever

I absolutely love reality shows. I believe the obsession began in high school with MTVs “The Real World”. It was “the story of 7 strangers picked to live in a house, work together, and have their lives taped to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real.”


Next came “THIS IS AMERICAN IDOL.” Who didn’t fall in love with Kelly Clarkson!? I survived the Ruben Stoddard and Fantasia Barino fiasco of seasons 2 and 3, voted my heart out for Carrie Underwood, sat stunned as Chris Daughtry, Mandisa, and Katherine McPhee were all eliminated while Taylor Hicks took the title, wondered how Kris Allen could ever beat Adam Lambert, discovered it is possible to hire worse judges than Paula Abdul, and found that if you can sing, people will overlook the fact that your first and last name are the same (Phillip Phillips).

Then Survivor taught us all how to “outwit, outlast, outplay.” Extreme Makeover Home Edition made my roommate and I cry each and every Sunday night. The Bachelorette allowed every girl to live out their greatest fantasy – choosing from 25 very eligible bachelors competing for your attention. And finally, reality TV taught us all that sometimes it is okay to be “The Biggest Loser.”

But did you know that the first reality show was actually in the Bible? Extreme Makeover stole their concept from ancient Persia and the book of Esther.

King Xerxes was wealthy beyond imagination and wanted all the world to know it. He began to flaunt it. For 180 days (that’s 6 months!) the king paraded his grand riches before his nobles. Then he spent another 7 days showing off to the subjects in the kingdom. In the meantime, Queen Vashti was having a party of her own with all of the women of the kingdom. On the last day of the celebration, the king gave these orders, “Bring Queen Vashti to my party! Tell her to put on her royal crown and to wear her finest clothes. I want to show off her beauty in front of my distinguished guests (Esther 1:11).” But the queen refused the king’s order, which infuriated the king. He believed that if the queen refused the king then all the other women would believe that they could refuse their husbands as well. He dismissed Queen Vashti from his presence and decreed that every man should be the master of his own home.

Now the king was without a queen and so the ultimate reality show was born…

Every beautiful young woman old enough to marry was brought to the palace in something like The Bachelor meets Extreme Makeover on steroids. One of these young women was Esther, an orphaned Jew adopted by her cousin Mordecai living in Persia as unwanted exiles. Before going before the king, each woman went through 12 months of beauty treatments. The “executive producer” of the whole show takes a liking to Esther and gives her the advantage of the best beauty treatments and best food available. The rules dictated that each woman could choose whatever she’d like to take with her before the king. Esther was wise and took only what the “producer” suggested. Not only that, but Esther also had special qualities that people were simply drawn to. The king took notice. Esther 2:17-18 says, “The king found [Esther] to be more desirable than all of the other women. Unlike the other young women brought before him, she alone won his heart and his favor. So he made her his queen instead of Vashti and placed the royal crown on her head. King Xerxes invited all of the nobles and officials to a state banquet in honor of Esther, his new queen.” Esther took the grand prize!!

One reality show ends, but a spin-off develops. This one is for the guys and is part COPS and part Sopranos. Mordecai uncovers a plot to kill the king, tells Esther, who tells the king, and the plot is spoiled. In the meantime, the king decides to promote his buddy, Haman, and as a way to honor Haman’s new position, orders that the rest of the royal officials bow down to Haman.

As a Jew, Mordecai refuses to follow the order, which infuriates Haman. Haman wants everyone’s respect and admiration. He decides that punishing Mordecai alone for his defiance is not enough. Haman decides to kill all of the Jews. Sadly, the king agrees with Haman’s plan. The Jewish people immediately begin to both panic and mourn their demise.

Queen Esther, insulated from the real world by the walls of the palace, sends a servant to inquire about why the Jews are upset. Mordecai sends word back to Esther that as queen, she is their only hope. But going to the king without being summoned is a death sentence and Esther hasn’t been summoned by the king in over thirty days! Mordecai reminds her that she is still a Jew herself and adds, “Who knows? Perhaps you have been made queen for such a time as this.”


Even though King Xerxes hadn’t called her, Queen Esther takes a risk and enters his presence. She discovers that his feelings for her have not changed and he welcomes her in. Remembering the King’s love for parties, Esther tells the king that she would like to have a banquet in honor of the king and Haman. The king eagerly accepts her request. At the end of the banquet, Esther invites them back for a second banquet. Haman leaves very pleased with himself and boasts of his riches, his relationship with the king, and his promotion. The thought of Mordecai refusing to bow down spoiled his mood so he decides to hang Mordecai the following morning.

As fate would have it, the king could not sleep that night and asked for the records of his reign to be read to him. The chosen bed time story is of Mordecai spoiling a plot to kill the king and saving the king’s life. The king realizes that Mordecai had never been properly recognized for his actions. The king asks to consult with any official in the outer court. Haman had just arrived hoping to discuss his execution plans with the king. The king begins by asking Haman what should be done to honor a man who has pleased the king. Haman assumes the king is speaking of him and describes his own greatest dream involving royal robes, horses, and a parade through the city.

The king loves the idea and orders Haman to personally carry out every single detail in honoring Mordecai! But Haman couldn’t stay focused on his anger and dismay for long, he had the queen’s second banquet to attend! Esther’s confidence has grown since the first successful banquet. When the king asks her what she wants, she answers with the truth. She states, “If you favor me, my king, and if it pleases you, spare my life… There are some, my king, who wish to rid your kingdom of us (7:3-4).” The king immediately wants to know who would do such a thing and Esther replies, “The man responsible for these actions is wicked Haman (7:6).” Haman is killed on the very gallows he had built for Mordecai. Mordecai is given the prestigious position Haman once held, and the Jews are saved from certain destruction.

What does this story have to do with self-worth and identity? EVERYTHING! Let’s look at the characters in the story. King Xerxes has no strength of character. He needs help making even small decisions. His only source of value is showing off his wealth and his ego is easily hurt when other people do not agree with him. Haman is obsessed with being admired and affirmed by others. Both of these men based their self-worth on things outside of their God-given identity. Mordecai, on the other hand, is passionate, caring and full of integrity. He remains true to his beliefs regardless of the potential consequences. He trusted God for his worth and value. And then there is Esther… she is smart, humble, and modest. She did not set out to be queen. When given the nearly impossible task of saving her people, she does not look for personal glory. Instead, she prays and relies on God for a miraculous intervention on her people’s behalf. She does not find worth in her position as queen, but she finds it in God’s love for her.

Mordecai and Esther understood their calling and purpose in life come from God. They understood that their value and identity come from God. They could only understand this because they had real, life giving relationships with God. Mordecai said it best. We are all placed where we are “for such a time as this.” But we do not rise to the challenge before us alone.


Ephesians 1:11 says, “Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.” We carry out God’s unique calling with Him right by our side and His strength at our disposal. God loves you. God chose you. God has a unique plan and purpose for you. And fulfilling that purpose brings deep meaning, purpose, and value to one’s life. So…you’ve been called “for such a time as this”. What is that purpose? What has God called you to do for His kingdom? And will you respond in faith and with courage like Esther and Mordecai?

time as this

10 things family is…and one thing it is NOT!


So it’s great to say that you and I are children of God, that we are adopted into His family. But what does that really mean? Our earthly families are so broken that it is sometimes difficult to know what it really means to act like family. Here are the top 10 things it means to be part of a family:

1. Family defends one another. My sister and I didn’t always get along growing up, which I’m sure is fairly typical of many sisters. However, no matter how mad we were at one another, we always stood up for one another. No one picked on her without dealing with me too and no one messed with me without messing with her too. We had each other’s back. We too need to have God’s back by standing up for the things that matter to him. We need to stand up and defend the poor, the widow, and the orphan. We need to love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly (Micah 6:8). We need to love everyone and judge no one.

My brother and sister - they've always got my back,
My brother and sister – they’ve always got my back,

2. Family encourages one another. In all of my endeavors, my family has always been my number one cheerleader. Whenever I doubted myself, they would believe in me all the more. In the Bible, Paul seemed to be constantly encouraging the churches and communities he visited. He modeled encouragement and he repeatedly urged Christ followers to follow his example and encourage one another in their faith. We too need to spur one another on in love (Hebrews 10:24).

3. Family accepts one another. Every family has a variety of personalities. The crazy uncle (I have many of those). The nerd (I am one of those). The jock. The fill in the blank. In my family, I was usually too serious for my own good. My sister was known as the chatterbox. And my brother kept us all laughing. My dad is always late. My mom is always trying to get us out the door. We all have our quirks and roles. And we are all accepted in spite of them. God’s family is no different. We are loved and accepted just as we are. Romans 10:12 says, “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him.”

My family
My family

4. Family grows together. Although we are all accepted, we also long to grow into better people. People that look more and more like we were meant to be, more like Jesus. My parents walked along side me as life taught me tough lessons that formed my character. And when life didn’t do a sufficient job, my parents and other mentors would come along and gently encourage me in the way I should go. Proverbs 22:6 states, “Start children off in the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it.” And as our Heavenly Father, God promises to discipline us and mold our character to look more and more like Christ. In Psalms God says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you (32:8).” And though discipline and character formation is not always easy and does not always feel good, when it is housed in the security of God’s love, it leads to great blessings!

cousins then...
cousins then…

5. Family delights in one another. Many of my favorite memories growing up include shopping with my family, especially my mom and sister. We wouldn’t always purchase, but even just walking around the mall provided plenty of entertainment for the three of us. On one particular trip, we ended up laughing so hard that my mom began to cry and couldn’t see and almost put the car in the ditch. My family truly loves being together. My cousins are my best friends and we laugh until our sides hurt when we are together. My aunts and uncles have invested in my life. Family delights and celebrates with one another. Family laughs together. Family enjoys being together. The Psalms repeatedly urge us to delight in the Lord and to shout for joy. The New Testament is full of examples of Jesus followers celebrating and rejoicing with one another. One of my favorite examples is when Jesus shares the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15. When the shepherd finds the little lamb, “he joyfully puts it on his shoulders” and returns to the rest of the flock (Luke 15:5). And Scripture tells us that angels throw a party whenever someone chooses to follow Jesus. As His children, God delights and celebrates us!

and now...
and now…












6. Family also mourns together. When tragedy strikes, family comes together to cry with one another. Ecclesiastes 3 states that there is a time and season for everything, including mourning and weeping. When Jesus receives word that Lazarus has died, he stops and he weeps (John 11:35). And after Jesus’ death on the cross, the disciples gathered together to weep and mourn all that had taken place. Family supports one another and grieves with one another in the dark times.

7. Family works together. Admittedly this isn’t always the fun aspect of family, although my dad did try to make picking up walnuts in our backyard more exciting by seeing who could get the most in the bucket. 1 Corinthians 3:9 says, “For we are co-workers in God’s service…” and in 1 Corinthians 12 Paul reminds us that just like every part of the body is needed for the whole body to work well and be healthy, we all need to work together for God’s kingdom.

Some of my Heavenly family I’m honored to work alongside.

8. Family forgives one another. This truth is probably one of the main reasons we tend to treat strangers we don’t know with more kindness than our own family. We know there is always grace and forgiveness from family.

9. Family represents one another. Your last name represents your entire family. Good or bad, how you conduct yourself reflects on your family members. Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is more desirable than great riches” and Ecclesiastes 7:1 compares a good name to fine perfume. When we decide to follow Jesus and become part of God’s family, we bear HIs name and represent Him.

10. Finally, family loves one another! What does it mean to love someone? It is difficult to define! I know that it is more than a warm, fuzzy feeling towards another person. Loving someone means a willingness to care for them and meet their needs at the expense of your own. 1 John is full of commands to love each other. 1 John 4:7 says, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” So if we claim to be part of God’s family, we must love others the way God loves us!

Family is an interesting thing. We don’t always get along with them but we love them all the same. Some of us have wonderful, loving families. Some of us have distant, hurtful families. But even the most broken earthly family should not deter us from understanding what family is supposed to be. If we are truly children of God, that makes us family. In fact, the blood of Jesus should be stronger than any earthly DNA. Unfortunately, even though we are family, so often we do not treat one another like family is supposed to treat one another.

The one thing being family is not? EASY!! Being family is hard!

However, as part of God’s family, as His beloved, we are entrusted with representing the family name. We must act like a family towards one another and we must share God’s love with those who have not yet received His offer of grace and forgiveness because that’s what our heavenly father wants us to do.

This is obviously not an exhaustive list! What does family mean to you?

Selfies, Statuses, and Snapchats…and You.

Last fall I spent a week teaching at a local high school. By the third day I had noticed a troubling trend among the students. Few of them were able to look me in the eye when speaking to me. I also teach a couple courses at a local college. It is not uncommon for me to return to my office after class to find emails from students I just saw in person voicing questions or concerns. And then there is the sheer panic I see in the eyes of the teenagers who have lost their cell phone or internet privileges upon my recommendation. “But how am I going to talk to my friends?” is a common questioned quickly followed by “But what if their parents answer!?” when I suggest they use a landline to call. And then there are the married couples, who come into my office for counseling and seem to communicate exclusively by text message.


I’m not someone who tends to get overly worried about the direction our world is headed. I tend to trust that God has everything under control and I know the end of the story so why worry about the middle of it. However, it is experiences like these that cause me to pause and wonder what impact technology is having on us and make me fear that it is not positive. Now, before I am accused of being some old fuddy-duddy who just doesn’t get it, let me say that I love technology and use it every day. But it is actually my own use, and overuse, of technology that has made my concern grow. I’m often shocked (and frankly embarrassed) by how much time I spend on Facebook, Twitter, or just surfing the Internet. I hate that I feel “naked” when I forget my cell phone at home. It bothers me that my thoughts become obsessed with discovering what is behind every “ding” and “bleep” my phone makes, even if it means disengaging from the real people I’m spending face to face time with. (Dr. Arch Hart calls this the “Digital Invasion” and wrote a book by that title I’d highly recommend!)


Unfortunately, I fear that the grip and negative impact of technology is even worse for younger people. I believe I receive emails from students because they are afraid (or simply don’t know how) to interact with adults face to face. I worry about young people who find their identity in the number of comments or likes they get on an Instagram post or who feel unloved because they haven’t gotten a “Snapchat” or text message. Most of all, I worry that instead of discovering the person God designed them to be, young people will simply create the person they wish they were in the digital world. Another potential hazard of technology is the ease with which we can compare ourselves to others. Social media allows us to know exactly what someone is doing at any given time. Granted, we compare our real life to the life others create on social media, but conveniently forget this in the process.

On the one hand, finding identity in Christ is as simple as receiving the gift and claiming that truth. On the other hand, it is a constant struggle against the lies of this dark, sinful, and broken world. Technology does not make this fight any easier and may just make the pull to define ourselves in other, ineffective ways more powerful and alluring. Winston Churchill once said that we create the tools and then the tools create us. In our digital world of Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and others, will we opt out of the struggle to find our true identity and continue to opt for a fantasy? I know for me, it might be time to “unplug” more often!

Is your use of technology drawing you closer to God? How is your use of technology impacting your relationships and your view of yourself?