August 28, 2008

Ruth's Legacy

RUTH’S LEGACY is an entry in "Devoted: the workbook"

I’ve always loved the story of Ruth. Sometimes when I wanted to read a whole book of the Bible to feel studious and productive, I would sit and read Ruth. Four chapters. It’s a great read. Love. Loss. Loyalty. And lineage.

The Book of Ruth is approachable. It is interesting. I hope you get the chance to read it today. Ruth knew that God was leading her to the land of Judah, to His people, and even to Him. Ruth had a destiny to follow. Her integrity and love for her mother-in-law kept putting her in the right place at the right time.

15 "Look," said Naomi, "your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her." 16 But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me." 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her. RUTH 1:15-18

Three times Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, asks Ruth to go home to Moab now that they were all widows. Naomi was grieving and confused. She said that the Lord had brought this pain in her life (1:21-22). But Ruth knew that she would be disobeying God to do what Naomi was telling her to do. Ruth was Moabite; Moab was a pagan, idolatrous country. Even in her limited knowledge of the true God, she referred to him as Lord on this matter. She heard, “Do not leave her.”

Has that ever happened to you? The person that the Lord has given you to love and support (spouse, parent, child, friend) is asking you to give up on them? To give up on God’s plan ? But you know that if you do, you’re going to have to deal with God. Have you recently had that conviction? I’m not talking about a hunch or a feeling. I mean a physical hand on your chest saying, “Do not leave. Do not give up. I am working this out. It is my plan.”

Ruth needed to be in Judah to meet Boaz, to work in his fields for food for herself and for her mother-in-law. But she also was to meet this kind, generous man Boaz and eventually marry him. Their son would be King David’s grandfather.

I get it now. What I love about this story most is that Ruth was destined to be the great grandmother of someone great- Israel’s anointed beloved King David. She had a choice to make. Her choice of obedience fulfilled God’s plan to have the Messiah- the Christ come from the house of David.

Ruth was drawn to Boaz to be his wife. She had an appointment to keep in Naomi’s homeland, and she was determined to go keep it. But her obedience, her response to the call of the Lord created a family line for Jesus. Today’s obedience is very significant. When I am feeling isolated or insignificant, this book reminds me that obedience is always significant.

My grandmother is not quite 80 years old. She is smart and funny and one of the best storytellers I’ve ever heard. She has been reading her Bible and books about the Bible for years. My mom tells me of her as the Girl Scout leader and the Vacation Bible School teacher. (She asked Jesus into her heart at VBS as a little girl. VBS is very important to this family.) But I now know her as the homebody who is tired of going and doing. Eating even seems like work to her these days.

But just a few years ago, I was telling Grandmother about our busy lives and Bible study groups. She responded, “I get to count all of that.” I answered, “M’am?” She then explained that the obedience of her children and grandchildren were a blessing to her. She feels that the Lord saw her part in praying for us and in equipping us. She taught her daughters and each of her grandchildren about the Lord. Encouraging us to serve Him was part of her ministry.

As a new mother – only a few years ago- I was overwhelmed when people talked about my responsibility to teach our daughter about the Word. I just could not take that on; I was a marketing major. I had no plans to be organized or deliberate with teaching her the Bible. But I asked the Lord to help me, to show me how to introduce her to God’s Word. So He gave me a sweet, smart girl who asks me the deepest questions. I am often running to the concordance in order to respond. I do want to equip her in God’s Word- to be faithful to God’s call on my life.

My grandmother is the great grandmother for my kids. She gets to count their pursuit of the Lord too.

Ruth’s obedience blessed her mother-in-law. I want my obedience to bless my family. Not just for bragging rights. But that they would be forever blessed through my response to God’s plan.

August 14, 2008

Goodness of God: James 1

James was written for the believer. We are ready for the book of James, because we are ready to move forward with an active faith that marks mature believers. I am struck by how James' letter calls us to boldness in our prayers, addresses trials, establishes the source of temptation in our lives, and sets expectations for our behavior- all in the first chapter.

While studying James, I am reminded of how rich each chapter in the book of Proverbs can be to situations that we are facing in our lives. Known as the book of wisdom, Proverbs is filled with practical advice for life. We are blessed to have the Word of God in print, to hold and find comfort. James, referring to our access to the Father through Jesus reminds us that we can hear directly from God's Spirit.

James 1:5-6 : If anyone lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt. . .

We are welcome to go directly to God for specific guidance in our lives. When we are stuck in an area, we go straight into His presence, full of faith, and wait for answers. We can receive wisdom. And what a great word: generous. He does not hold back or ration His communication with us. We are not bothering Him. Have you not heard that He is busy with other people and their bigger problems? Well, we will not be pushed away from asking or expecting. He is inviting us to bring our faith, our expectant hearts, and come talk with Him. He wants to see us through the trials of life. He is our stamina, our ability to perservere. He is also our rescue!

Here is your essay question for the day: Differentiate a trial, a test and a temptation. Verses 12 and 13 list that we are blessed when we persevere under trial, that we receive the "crown of life" when we have stood the test, and that God does not tempt anyone.

Can it be so simple? God, who does not use evil as a currency, holds us and helps us and heals us from evil that encroaches into our lives.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

Read and pray through the other half of James 1. We will discuss it together in a few days.

Let's lean in to the Giver of Goodness.

Leigh Ann

August 5, 2008

Reliable or Random?

"They cried to You and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed." Psalm 22:5

I do believe, really I do, that He has come to give us life and for that life to be full. (John 10:10) I have lists of blessings and breakthroughs that have come from the Lord.

Why, then, do I still have a list of things that I do not take to the King of Kings? James remind us, "We have not because we do not ask." Then, there is a disconnect between what I believe and what I am doing. Is it possible that I still somewhere in my soul think that Jesus is doing random acts of kindness? Oh, I hope that I know better.

God is deliberately good. He is Healer and Deliverer. He is reliable. People- not so much. Oh, we try to be. Some are better than others. But when we assign God the characteristics of a good person, we mistake the nature of God. He is not even on the field with the "best" person that you know. Think of a good person. A generous person. A wise person. Not even close to the goodness, generosity and wisdom of the Lord.

When I hear "trust the Lord," I think, "Of course, He's so reliable."

To go deeper, Dan recommends: Read Ephesians 3:12 and Psalm 21:2.