Tuesday, October 17, 2017

3 Lessons while waiting on God

Read Ruth 3.

God's plan began to unfold, but that does not mean those involved could see either when or how those plans would all be accomplished.

The attraction between Ruth and Boaz changed in this chapter to love and commitment to each other.  Naomi knew that Boaz was a relative of her late husband.  Under the law (see Deuteronomy 25:5-10), childless widow's had certain rights and claims on the rest of her deceased husband's family.  As a near kinsman, Boaz could legally buy back Ruth's deceased husband's property and marry her. 

Naomi's instructions to Ruth in verse 3 for this encounter were to get cleaned up, dressed up, fixed up and go meet him.  However, she was to wait until he had finished his dinner.  Good idea!

Nothing immoral is suggested here.  He is a godly man.  She has a virtuous reputation (v.10-11).  In this public place with plenty of people around, and as a servant, she warmed his feet as he slept.  No engagement ring was given.  However, spreading the corner of his garment over her symbolized his intent to care for her and protect her. 

The plot thickens.  Boaz revealed to her that there was a kinsman closer than he.  They would have to wait until morning to find out if there would be any future to their love relationship.  Then, Naomi also told her to wait (v.18).

When a friend noticed the great preacher of New England, Phillips Brooks, pacing the floor back and forth, he asked, "What is the trouble"?  To that Brooks replied, "The trouble is that I'm in a hurry, but God isn't!"

Lessons while you wait.
Lesson #1
Do all you can to make yourself ready to receive the answer to your request and then be prepared to wait for God's timing.
Lesson #2
While waiting, obey God completely and wait with confident faith in Him and His ultimate plan.
Lesson #3
Blessing follows obedience.
"I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.  He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see it and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.  Blessed is the man, who makes the LORD his trust..." (Psalm 40:1-4a)

The wait will be worth it.

Monday, October 16, 2017

There is hope for Tomorrow

Read Ruth 2.

One of the amazing characteristics of the LORD is His omnipresence.  He works in lives of each individual at the same time, fulfilling His plans.  In this chapter, we get to see God work in three people simultaneously.  Verse 3 uses the phrase "she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz."  It may have seemed to just "happen" to her, but it was no accident.  God was in full control, leading her to the exact spot at the exact time.

-He was a godly and wealthy bachelor.   
-He was kind.  Notice the way treated his employees with a blessing.
-He was respected.  Notice the response of his workers to him. 
-He was attentive.  He spotted Ruth immediately and wanted to know all about her.
-He was a caring and generous man.
-He became a protector for Ruth.

-We learned from chapter one how she felt God was against her (1:13).
-She was bitter because of her sufferings (1:20).
-She knew the LORD but could not process her pain with her faith.
-But notice her words in 2:20.  The light went on regarding God's care and possible plan for her.

-She was an alien in a new land.
-She was willing to work to support herself and her mother-in-law (vv.2, 18).
-She was an attractive woman, even as she worked in the field (v.6).
-She had the reputation of a hard worker (vv.7, 17).
-She was humble in her attitude (v.10).
-She listened and followed wise counsel (vv.22-23).

Now, all three of them had a spark of hope for their futures.  Suffering and disappointment do not have to mark the end of our hope.  Indeed, our losses may be the very stepping stones that God will use to take us to His place of blessing.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Today Matters

Read Ruth 1.

In tough times people choose how they will respond.  Some become discouraged and even bitter.  Some throw up their hands and regress in life.  Others make good decisions that set the course for their future.  In this first chapter we see all three of these responses.

Chapter one is an introduction to three widows.
Naomi lost her husband and both her children.  She wanted to be known as Mara, which means "bitter".  She interpreted her sufferings to mean that God was punishing her.  Naomi knew the LORD but could not yet process her emotional losses.

Orpah's response to the death of her husband was to go back to her Moabite family.  This also meant that she would return to the worship of the false gods of Moab (v.15).  She married into a family of faith in the LORD but did not personally embrace Him as her own.

But then there was Ruth.  She suffered the loss of her husband and had no children.  Widows in that culture without other family members to support them were destitute.  However, Ruth's response to her circumstances was to make new commitments that would secure her future, indeed her eternity.

Verses 16-17 are among the most powerful statements of commitment in all of the scriptures.  This passage has often been used at weddings, but actually it is the vow of a daughter-in-law to her mother-in-law.
1. She committed herself to her mother-in-law.
"...where you go, I will go..."
2. She committed herself to the people of God.
"Your people shall be my people."
3. She committed herself to the LORD.
"...and your God my God."

Though not of Jewish descent, Ruth had no idea how these choices would bless her life, the life of her mother-in-law, and bring her into the very lineage of Messiah!

Dr. John Maxwell wrote a wonderful book entitled, "Today Matters."  In it he writes, "the way you live today impacts your tomorrow."  Ruth is a great example of that principle and provides an excellent model for our life decisions today...they matter.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The case for spiritual Leadership

Read Judges 19-21.

These closing chapters recount one of the saddest times in Israel's history.  The sexual immorality in the tribe of Benjamin at the time takes us back to the story of Sodom.  History is clear that homosexuality is the doom of a culture.  Verse 22 of chapter 19 calls them "worthless".  It is the last straw for God to execute judgment.

 Human life had lost its value.  A young girl was abusively murdered.  The actions of the Levite, though gruesome, accomplished its intent to rile a nation to do something about the sin.  They rallied in unity (20:11) to "purge evil from Israel" (20:13).  Everyone suffered.  In the end, 25,100 men of Benjamin died.

The tribe of Benjamin was the smallest of the twelve tribes.  With such great losses of men, in chapter 21 the nation had to agree to a plan to maintain the tribal heritage.

People need spiritual leadership.  God never intended for us to grow and live out our faith in Him by ourselves.  We all need to be taught, to be accountable, and to interact with others as we put the Word of God into practice.

When the book of Judges repeats the theme "in those days there was no king", it is the dangerous reminder that they had no spiritual leadership.  "Everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (21:25).  In other words, left to ourselves, humans do not naturally lean toward God.  Even our faith is a work of the God, the Father.  Jesus said, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44).

We all need the spiritual leadership of God's word, the Holy Spirit's control, and the accountability of a Bible teaching church.

Friday, October 13, 2017

In search of the God-factor

Read Judges 17-18.

Verse 6 of chapter 17 contains a recurring theme that characterizes the book of Judges and explains the 7 cycles.  "In those days there was no king in Israel.  Everyone did what was right in his own eyes."  The statement should immediately alert us that the account here is historical to the writer and that the time of writing was later when Israel had a king.  The closing chapters of Judges are stories, providing specific examples, that fit into the previous cycles.

Micah was a thief.  He stole silver from his mother.  When she pronounced a curse on the one who took her money, Micah confessed and gave it back to her.  In her warped thinking, she decided to counter the stated curse she had put on her son with some sort of religious good work.  Obviously influenced by the pagan culture around her, she took part of the silver to make an idol to worship as her god.  Such an act was an abomination to the LORD.  If that were not enough, they hired their own private priest to lead their false worship.  Sadly, this was one of Moses' grandsons.

The situation is full of pride and rebellion against the LORD.  They had their own god, their own priest, their own way of worship.  All self-made and had nothing to do with the God of Heaven.

In chapter 18, even the tribe of Dan lost their spiritual bearings.  They forcibly took Micah's god and his priest as their own.  Then, they conquered the territory that Joshua had allotted to them in the north.  They set up the god they stole as their own and Dan became a center of idolatry.

Louis Giglio once said, "If you have to carry your god on your shoulder, you need a new god."

It is pride and rebellion in the heart and mind of finite human beings that think they are smarter than the Infinite Creator.  Humans left to themselves will always put their trust in something else to "bless" them.

Instead of worshipping and praying to nature, the stars, and man-made objects, let us worship the One who created and sustains all that we see, including ourselves.  As scientists in Europe are searching for the God-factor in the mass of the universe, the Apostle Paul knew the answer a long time ago.  Concerning Jesus, he wrote, "...all things were created through him and for him.  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together."  (Colossians 1:16b-17)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

5 Insights from the life of Samson

Read Judges 15-16.

Samson was an answer to prayer and prophecy at his birth.  Godly parents raised him.  Even before his birth, he had been dedicated to the LORD in a Nazarite vow for life.  God used him to avenge and overthrow the oppression of the Philistines.  Indeed, he "judged Israel twenty years" (16:31).  Yet, his lack of self-discipline, his pride, and his view of women cost him dearly.

Physically, no man or any group of men could match him.  But he was totally oblivious to the cunning of immoral women.  He used women, toyed with them, and gave into them.

Many have missed the fact that the blessing of his strength came from God, not muscle oor long hair.  Time and time again, he neglected his spiritual health and strength.  The saddest words concerning Samson is found in 16:20-"...he did not know that the LORD had left him." 

Here are five insights for all to learn from Samson's life.
1. Godly parents do not guarantee godly children.  We all, as individuals, must give an account to the LORD for our own responses to Him.  "So then each of us will give an account of himself to God." (Romans 14:12)

2. We all were designed for a life dedicated to God.  "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."  (Ephesians 2:10)

3. We all need protection from our vulnerabilities.  "Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall."  (1 Corinthians 10:12)
4. God will get glory from a life-one way or another.  "So, whether you eat of drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."  (1 Corinthians 10:31)

5. Life is about fulfilling the purposes of God in our generation.  "For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption."  (Acts 13:36)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

It's my life. I'll do what I want.

Read Judges 14.

During this time the nation of Israel lived under the oppressive rule of the Philistines.  In response, God chose a man named Samson to liberate His people.  From Samson's early years, "the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him" (13:25).  The angel of the LORD gave his parents instructions on how to raise him.  Samson would be under the commitments of a Nazarite (not Nazarene).  He was not to drink any alcohol, be strict about what he ate, and not to cut his hair.  In the teaching from Moses, this was a voluntary vow for a period time to separate oneself for a special service to God.  The Bible provides instances where such a vow was made by the parents for the life of their child.  Such was the case with Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist.

Samson is renowned for his physical strength.  But he was a man who violated his vow repeatedly with moral weaknesses.  Instead of seeking a godly woman for a wife from Israel, he lusted after a Philistine woman who did not worship the LORD.  The Mosaic Law prohibited such a union.  He would not listen to God's word, nor the wisdom and objections of his parents.  Why?  Because "she is right in my eyes" (14:3).

Samson's physical strength caused him to believe he was invincible.  This type of pride always leads to a downfall.  At the celebration leading up the marriage, his wife-to-be demonstrated her loyalty to her own people, not Samson.  Her heart was full of deceit.  It cost thirty men their lives and the woman was given to another.  Verse 4 is not an endorsement by God of Samson's sin.  Rather, God had a bigger plan to unfold and overthrow the Philistines.  He would use this occasion to begin the process.

Insights from a bad example:
1. Concerning Parents.
"Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise) that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land." (Ephesians 6:1-3)  When a child grows to be an adult, they are responsible for their own behavior before the Lord.  While they may not be under the obedience of parents, for all-time they are to honor their parents.

2. Concerning Temptations.
The first sin was one prompted by the lust of the eyes.  Eve "saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes..." (Genesis 3:6).  1 John 2:16 warns us, "For all that is in the world-the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions-is not from the Father but is from the world."

3. Concerning Sin.
The desire to live life according to one's own wishes is rebellion against God's ownership.  It is this very sin that sent Jesus to die on the cross.  "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6)

4. Concerning God.
The LORD is in control, even when a person sins.  No matter what, He uses every situation in our lives for His glory and His purposes.  "Surely the wrath of man shall praise you" (Psalm 76:10.  "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).