Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

Again I say, don’t think that I am a fool to talk like this. But even if you do, listen to me, as you would to a foolish person, while I also boast a little.  Such boasting is not from the Lord, but I am acting like a fool.  And since others boast about their human achievements, I will, too.  After all, you think you are so wise, but you enjoy putting up with fools!  You put up with it when someone enslaves you, takes everything you have, takes advantage of you, takes control of everything, and slaps you in the face.  I’m ashamed to say that we’ve been too “weak” to do that!

But whatever they dare to boast about—I’m talking like a fool again—I dare to boast about it, too.  Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I.  Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again.  Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes.  Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea.  I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not.  I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.

Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.  Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?

If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.  God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, who is worthy of eternal praise, knows I am not lying.  When I was in Damascus, the governor under King Aretas kept guards at the city gates to catch me.  I had to be lowered in a basket through a window in the city wall to escape from him.  2 Corinthians 11:16-33

Well, I cried to the Lord in my prayer today before I opened my bible and then here was the passage I opened to.  Lets see what we get from here and see how we can apply it to our lives. 

I cried today because I know the work that God has cut out for me.  I know what He wants me to do with my life…bear in mind, I don’t know the minute details, but He has shown me several things about where my life is heading.  And as these thoughts crossed my mind in my prayer this morning, I felt so completely inadequate and utterly weak and unable to accomplish the tasks set before me.  It seems impossible for me to get from where I am now to where I know that I will be one day.  But, then, as Paul has said, ‘when I am weak, then I am strong.’  I don’t know how, when or where all the things that the Lord has shown me will take place, but I know that they will come to pass.  So, with that little side note…lets take a look at the scripture and even the notes from my study bible.

One thing that comes to mind immediately is that Paul uses the terms fool and foolish.  He was asking his listeners to hear him just as they would entertain the follies of a foolish person, at least for a time.  Naturally, with that word, I’m sure you came to the same scriptural thought that I did…

Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you.  Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.  God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.  As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.  1 Corinthians 1:26-29

And then in another passage…

Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God.  1 Corinthians 3:18-19

I wrote once about this back in January of 2008.  God Chose the things the world considers foolish 1 Corinthians 1:27  You might find it interesting reading, but don’t feel obligated.  Paul goes on to recount a list of reasons why he had credibility and authority.  Many times I have read this passage and thought that Paul has a little bit of pride, but today, it struck me a little different.  He says that it is foolishness for him to recount these things, to continue on like he does, and in many ways, it is true, especially from the world’s perspective.  Who cares?  No one really cares about all the trials and hardships that this one man faced, even though he was a child of God. 

Yet, today, I see this passage as a comfort.  Along the same lines of yesterday’s post, I feel like I’ve done more whining and complaining than turning folks to Jesus and His saving power.  Yet, reading this scripture, I realized that it is important to share our trials, sometimes listing them as a laundry list so that other Christians can be strengthened and non-believers can align themselves correctly with the one true God and see that He loves them, even in their hardships because He loves those who are devoted to Him.  Yes, that is foolishness to the world.  absolutely… How about a note or two now?  (Remember, the notes from my bible are in green and my words are always in black.)

Note on verses 22, 23

Paul presented his credentials to counteract the charges that the false teachers were making against him.  He felt foolish boasting like this, but his list of credentials would silence any doubts about his authority.  Paul wanted to keep the Corinthians from slipping under the spell of the false teachers and turning away from the Good News.  Paul also gave a list of his credentials in his letter to the Philippians (see Philippians 3:4-8).

I don’t think I have any authority and I don’t list my credentials either.  But I do try to be transparent, and in that I find that God grants authority to my words because they resonate with my readers.  My sins, my screw-ups and my daily living is nothing to boast of and I certainly couldn’t claim that I’ve lived a life like Paul and endured the kind of pain and torture that he did, yet God gives a certain understandable quality to my posts that I couldn’t relay no matter how hard I tried.  I’m certainly not Paul, but God has and continues to use me just as I am, no matter how foolish I sound or act…God uses me.  I’ve already said much about this before the note, so let’s move on, shall we?

Note on verses 23-29

Paul was angry that the false teachers had impressed and deceived the Corinthians (11:13-15).  Therefore, he had reestablished his credibility and authority by listing the trials he had endured in his service for Christ.  Some of these trials are recorded in the book of Acts (Acts 14:19; 16:22-24).  Because Paul wrote this letter during his third missionary journey (Acts 18:23-21:17), his trials weren’t over.  He would experience yet further difficulties and humiliations for the cause of Christ (see Acts 21:20-22: 22:24-30).  Paul was sacrificing his life for the Good News, something the false teachers would never do.  The trials and hurts we experience for Christ’s sake build our character, demonstrate our faith, and prepare us for further service to the Lord.

There is only one thing that I want to point out in this note and talk about a little bit.  Paul was sacrificing his life for the Good News, something the false teachers would never do.  You don’t know how many times I’ve seen this in my husband and others who say that they are Christians and love the Lord with all their heart.  I can’t say that I’m perfect, so I’m sure that there are times when I fit into this category too.  But, whenever we are unwilling to yield or forego something that we want for the benefit of another, we are like these false teachers.  When we cannot extend even the slightest mercy towards others and give them the benefit of the doubt and help them in some way, then we are not putting God’s kingdom first and are living only for ourselves.  If God’s kingdom reigns in our heart on a daily, even on a minute basis, then we will have tendencies to think of ourselves first, almost always.  When God’s kingdom is in our hearts and His Sovereignty is running our thoughts and hearts, then we will speak and act from that viewpoint and not one from the worlds.  I feel like I’m talking in circles…May God provide clarity to you.

Note on verse 25

Sea travel was not as safe as it is today.  Paul had been shipwrecked three times, and he would face another accident on his voyage to Rome (see Acts 27).  By this time, Paul had probably made at least eight or nine voyages.

Note on verses 28, 29

Not only did Paul face beatings and dangers, he also carried the daily concern for the young churches, worrying that they were staying true to the Good News and free from false teachings and inner strife.  Paul was concerned for individuals in the churches he served.  If God has placed you in a position of leadership and authority, treat people with Paul’s kind of empathy and concern.

I would only add to this note that it doesn’t matter if you have a position of leadership and authority like Paul, but you should treat everyone with Paul’s kind of empathy and concern.  Does it make your heart break when you see a believer fall?  Does it make you cry out to God when you see a person profaning God?  Does it make you want to get up and do something for the Good News when there is so much evil and vile things in this world today?  Do you pray for the unsaved?  Listen up folks, these are your sisters and brothers.  Maybe for their sins they don’t deserve God and heaven, but are we to judge that?  No!  If God loved us enough to send His only Son (John 3:16) while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8), then who are we to say that other sinners aren’t worthy enough for God’s love?  Get with it people, get real!  Jesus came to serve, not be served.  He came to give us an example of how we are to live in this world right now for His kingdom.  We are only passing through, and we should be trying, reaching out to those in darkness and allowing God’s light to shine through us to them so that they can be saved.  We don’t have to be in a special position to do this, we simply have to be in a place where God can use us and He is so powerful that no matter where we are or what we are doing, He can use us for His glory.  Never forget that!

(Sorry for that little rant there…I’ll step down from my soap box now…)

Note on verses 32, 33

King Aretas, king of the Nabateans (Edomites) from 9 B.C. to A.D. 40, had appointed a governor to oversee the Nabatean segment of the population in Damascus.  Somehow the Jews in Damascus had been able to enlist this governor to help them try to capture Paul (see Acts 9:22-25).  Paul gave a “for instance” here, describing his escape from Damascus in a basket lowered from a window in the city wall.  Paul recounted this incident to show what he had endured for Christ.  The false teachers couldn’t make such claims.

The only thing I have here is that we shouldn’t limit false teachings to false teachers.  The devil is a sneaky and vile creature.  He can use even the most devout brothers and sisters that you know for his purposes.  That is why it is imperative to us as believers to ‘study to show ourselves approved.’ (KJV, but the NLT says this…) Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.  2 Timothy 2:15  In other words, we are to ‘rightly divide the Word of truth,’ (again the KJV).  The only way to do this is to read the Word ourselves and see if what we have heard is, in fact, what is in the scriptures.  I could say all kinds of things, but maybe not get a few things quite right.  Then it is not only your responsibility to test what I say against the scripture, but also you must tell me where I have been mislead.  I welcome comments, but all to often, with the exception of my normal readers, I don’t get too many comments.  So, I trust in the Lord that whatever I say, He can help my readers understand.  I know that He does.  I also know that if I say something that isn’t quite right, God will help those that get it and help them to find the real scriptural truth.  My God is greater than any foible that I could possibly find myself in.  Thank goodness for that!

Okay, I’m on another soapbox…I’ll just simply close for today.  God is Sovereign!  That is a most magnificent thought!  Besides Christ shedding His blood and atoning for my sins, which is the most significant thing, I love the knowledge and comfort that the thought of God is sovereign brings to me and my wellbeing.

Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24  I give my body to You because of all You have done for me.  Let my body be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind You will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship You.  I won’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but I will let You transform me into a new person by changing the way I think.  Then I will learn to know Your will for me, which is good and pleasing and perfect.  Romans 12:1-2  Amen.

May God provide the increase.

Read Full Post »

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.  For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.  Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer.  We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.  2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Sometimes I wonder why I even continue to write.  Why do I bother?  Then I think of the countless people, both in the past and those yet to find this site that have been helped by my troubles.  I realize that at times, I have whined and complained more than I should have, yet even then, God can and does use those times to help others, all for His glory.  It is not what I want to be made known for, the whining and complaining, but I do want to be used by the Lord, a tool in His hand, and an avenue for His glory to be made known.  I’m having trouble these days wanting to write.  Partly because I’m having trouble sitting down and reading God’s Word.  I need prayers to dig deep into the Word of God and allow myself to be bathed in the mercy and grace that these pages hold.  Life is always moving forward and there seems to be no stopping until death or the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus.  Blessed be His name for He loves and cherishes us.

I have no idea what to write, so I’ll start with the notes from my study bible. 

Note on verses 3-5

Many think that when God comforts us, our troubles should go away.  But if that were always so, people would turn to God only out of a desire to be relieved of pain and not out of love for him.  We must understand that being “comforted” can also mean receiving strength, encouragement, and hope to deal with our troubles.  The more we suffer, the more comfort God gives us.  If you are feeling overwhelmed, allow God to comfort you.  Remember that every trial you endure will help you comfort other people who are suffering similar troubles.

When I think about all that I have endured over the last several years and compare this time in my life to when I first became a believer, I realize that the things I dealt with back then, though seemingly huge in my mind, were peanuts compared to the things of recent past.  And one day, I’ll look back at this time in my life and think that this was peanuts compared to what I will encounter then. 

God comforts us right where we are, with whatever trials we are enduring.  Even if they are trials that were brought about by our own ways, sins or selfishness, God comforts us.  He gives us grace and mercy to get through it and a hope and faith that there is something greater awaiting us on the other side.  Without that hope, we would surely fall into a spiral of self-condemnation and despair.

The comfort of His hope is such a powerful tool that He has given to us and freely provides for us.

Note on verse 5

Suffering for Christ refers to those afflictions we experience as we serve Christ.  At the same time, Christ suffers with his people, since they are united with him.  In Acts 9:4, 5 Christ asked Paul why he was persecuting him.  This implies that Christ suffered with the early Christians when they were persecuted.

I have suffered much from my husband over the course of my knowing him.  Some would argue that it isn’t suffering for Christ or my faith, and then some maybe would…I’m not going to judge.  I think part of it is for Christ and believing in Him, but I’m not naive.  I realize that some of the suffering is because I have tried to live my life in my own way instead of God’s perfect design.  I can’t claim that everything I’ve went through is because of my faith.  No, some of it, if not most of it, is because of my selfish and stubborn desires to do things my way.  Does that make it of non-effect?  I don’t think so.  I’m weak and vulnerable, just like you and those who read my posts can easily associate with my experiences.  It is God who turns my words around for His Glory and I just praise Him for doing it.  I don’t want to detract from Him or His glory and kingdom.  Should I ever feel that I do that, then I would need to cease posting.  Thank God He uses me, a broken, sin-filled woman for His glory.  I can do nothing without Him.

Note on verses 6, 7

Paul explains that when he and his companions suffered, it resulted in their “benefit and salvation.”  But just as God comforted Paul, God would also comfort the Corinthian believers when they suffered for their faith.  He would give them the strength to endure.

Sometimes, right in the middle of trials and hardship, it is easy to say that God comforts others, but He must have forgotten about me.  How often has this thought or similar thoughts run through my mind.  ‘What about me, Lord,’ is the real cry behind this line of thinking.  When friends tell me of their trials, I can many times see through immediately and see the hand of God and the direction of the Holy Spirit in their hardships.  It even makes me smile and laugh to see God’s work in their lives in such a mighty way, yet, to turn the mirror around on me, I don’t see those things in my life during my trials and hardships.  It is so hard to see when the rain is pouring down in sheets and the sky is so dark and the wind is blowing.  But, just like a movie camera, the person on the outside can see everything you do and everything that God is doing with such clarity. 

I suppose it is well worth noting that sometimes the comfort God gives is not a feeling, but a knowledge and understanding of His Word or Himself.  There have been times that my only comfort was the knowledge that it couldn’t last forever, that one day, God would bring me through it.  It was a simple thought that I would cling to, it didn’t give me feelings of love, mercy, or grace.  It didn’t inundate me with the sensations of ease and comfort, but it did give me a lifeline to His saving grace.  Acknowledging Him in the most basic, most profound way in my mind conveyed to my spirit that everything would be okay.  Once my mind wrapped around that thought, my spirit supplied the sensations and the feelings of comfort were induced.  I suppose what I’m saying is that God’s comfort doesn’t always start in feelings and sensations, but sometimes, and in my case more often than not, God’s comfort started in thought. 

Well, today is short, but I hope that the message is clear.  God’s comfort surpasses all human understanding and all we need to do is allow God to comfort us.  It isn’t with comfort shopping, comfort food, or comfort activities, but with the knowledge of the Lord, the Almighty God and His righteousness.  That is what true comfort is and means.

Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24  I give my body to You because of all You have done for me.  Let my body be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind You will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship You.  I won’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but I will let You transform me into a new person by changing the way I think.  Then I will learn to know Your will for me, which is good and pleasing and perfect.  Romans 12:1-2  Amen.

May God provide the increase.

Read Full Post »

So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin.  I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.  But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good.  So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t.  I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.  But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.  I love God’s law with all my heart.  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.  Romans 7:14-25

My soul is vexed today!  I am at a new level of understanding with the above scripture!  I could not be in more total agreement than I am right now!!!  I know what is right, yet my pride and selfishness is keeping me from doing right.  To fill you in, though things have been roughly heading in the right direction with my marriage, in the last week or so, things have taken the proverbial 1 step back in the 2 step forwards and 1 step back dance…  Over the weekend, we had a huge fight, and kind of made up, but then yesterday evening it seems we have come to another war zone… 

I know that I should forgive and seek forgiveness.  I know that as the wife, I should be submissive.  I know…oh so much of what the scriptures say that I should do, and yet, my pain from past hurts, my frustrations of this present situation and my unyielding soul are all pitted against me to do what is scripturally right!  Argh!  While I was praying just now, asking God why I’m so hard-headed, Paul’s discourse from Romans popped into my head.  So, I thought it was just fitting to pour over this scripture and see what we can learn about our natures, our sin-filled, prideful, self-loving instead of giving of self natures…And to do that, lets take a look at the notes…

Note on verse 14

“I am sold into slavery, with sin as my master” may be a reference to the old nature that seeks to rebel and be independent of God.  If I, being a Christian, try to struggle with sin in my own strength, I will slip into the grasp of sin’s power.

To know when we fall back into the old familiar patterns of life living in sin…we must examine ourselves, being completely honest with ourselves about what attitudes, characteristics, thoughts and even emotions are sinful or even in the very slightest tend toward sin.  I have been fiercely independent all my life.  My husband seems to take pleasure at telling me how I am not a good wife or Christian for that matter because I am, in his words, a militant feminist (sometimes he says with a ‘head covering’).  He is relentless in name calling almost every time we get into an argument.  I know what I am.  I know what I want to be.  He demands that I be his idea of a ‘perfect wife.’  I want to aim for being a ‘perfect wife,’ but not his idea of it.  I want to work at being a ‘perfect wife’ by the standards set forth in scripture…it seems my husband can’t get that point through his head.

Anyway, I recognize the sins that ‘so easily besets’ me:  hardheadedness, stubbornness, selfishness, unyielding to the Spirit, fierce independence are just a few of my tendencies toward sin.  And more often than not, I do try to battle these things on my own instead of taking them to the cross and thanking Jesus for His work there and in my heart. 

Notes on verse 15

Paul shares three lessons that he learned in trying to deal with his old sinful desires: (1) Knowledge is not the answer (7:9).  Paul felt fine as long as he did not understand what the law demanded.  When he learned the truth, he knew he was doomed.  (2)  Self-determination (struggling in one’s own strength) doesn’t succeed (7:15).  Paul found himself sinning in ways that weren’t even attractive to him.  (3)  Becoming a Christian does not stamp out all sin and temptation from a person’s life (7:22-25).

Being born again takes a moment of faith, but becoming like Christ is a lifelong process.  Paul compares Christian growth to a strenuous race or fight (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 4:7).  Thus, as Paul has been emphasizing since the beginning of this letter, no onein the world is innocent; no one deserves to be saved – not the pagan who doesn’t know God’s laws, not the Christian or Jew who knows them and tries to keep them.  All of us must depend totally on the work of Christ for our salvation.  We cannot earn it by our good behavior.

The truth of this is such a stark contrast to how most people, including many Christians think…’If I’m good enough….’  How far from the truth that thought is.  Trials grow faith.  You cannot get around it.  Some people go through life, never facing trials, tribulation or any kind of trouble.  We look upon them with envy at how easy their life must be, yet, I certainly feel pity for them and even want to cry because without these things in our life, how would we ever learn to lean solely on God, how would we ever realize that we are not good enough of our own accord and how would we ever recognize the truth of God’s eternal love bestowed upon us through Jesus Christ and His shed blood.  We could easily say this is true, but would it ever be internalized without these things to make us see our true selves, the depravity that we each have within our hearts and minds. 

As I’ve said many times about my husband, he has great knowledge of the Word of God, but he really doesn’t have the understanding of it.  He knows scripture, but it doesn’t reside in His heart.  He knows and loves Jesus, but Jesus doesn’t live within his heart.  I’m not being negative about my husband.  It is apparent in the way he lives and interacts with people.  To be fair, in the past 2 months especially, God has done major work in my husbands heart, but he doesn’t yet grasp the entire scope of God’s revealed Word.  (Please don’t think that I believe we can ever grasp the entire scope of God’s revealed Word.  That is impossible as long as we live here on this earth, in these bodies.  Scriptures are precise in saying that we each can only perceive parts, see 1 Cor 13:12 for one example.)  Agh!  I don’t know what I’m trying to say.  I pray that God still uses my thoughts to spark knowledge directed from the Holy Spirit in your meditations.

~~~~~~~~~~

This is more than the cry of one desperate man; it describes the experience of all Christians struggling against sin or trying to please God by keeping rules and laws without the Spirit’s help.  We must never underestimate the power of sin and attempt to fight it in our own strength.  Satan is a crafty tempter, and we have an amazing ability to make excuses.  Instead of trying to overcome sin with our own human willpower, we must take hold of God’s provision for victory over sin:  the Holy Spirit, who lives within us and gives us power.  And when we fall, he lovingly reaches out to help us up.

So, when we recognize how desperate we are, how lowly we are and how we will never be able to stand in our own power against the sin that constantly crops up in our lives, how do we deal with that? 

For me, like I mentioned above, I know what the scriptures say regarding my current situation.  Jesus told the disciples to be willing to forgive 70 times 7 if a brother sins against you, no matter how many times he does the same thing.  I’m certainly tired of the name calling and character assassination from my husband, and I’m fully drained of willpower to take the high road, forgive and move on.  (By the way, I don’t want to paint my husband as an evil monster…I’ve done my share of character assassination towards him.  I don’t have as vivid a memory of that because I wasn’t on the receiving end, I just know that I’m guilty of this too.)  In the past 4 years, I have noticed a pattern in myself and it goes something like this:  I argue, fuss and fight in my own power, he retaliates (or vice versa) and things deteriorate between us.  I get so worn down and out that I quite trying, finally turn to God and simply say, “Lord, I’ve screwed it all up again…I will accept whatever you have decided to do.  Thank you for loving me regardless of my shortcomings.”  I simply trust God in the knowledge of vision and ministry that He gave me two years ago and wait on Him to work in and through me to accomplish His goals…not mine.  I trust God.  I’m not trustworthy…

Note on verses 17-20

“The devil made me do it.”  “I didn’t do it; the sin within me did it.”  These sound like good excuses for sin, but we are responsible for our actions.  We must never use the power of sin or Satan as an excuse, because they are defeated enemies.  Without Christ’s help, sin is stronger than we are, and sometimes we are unable to defend ourselves against its attacks.  That is why we should never stand up to sin all alone.  Jesus Christ, who has conquered sin once and for all, promises to fight by our side.  If we look to him for help, we will not have to give in to sin.

From the time of Adam and Eve in the garden, we have had an uncanny ability to cast blame effortlessly on others (or other things) instead of ourselves.  We can combat the sin of blaming others by simply taking responsibility of our actions, thoughts and words.  It is by far easier to take every thought captive, thereby hopefully keeping us from sinning in the first place, but if we do sin, recognize the sin, accept the responsibility of that sin, take it to Jesus at the cross, thank Him for his shed blood and for His forgiveness and then ask Him to help us endure the consequences of our sins.  We were never promised to be relieved of the consequences of our sins.  But we have a Savior that is so full of love for us that, not only did He die for our sins, He has also promised to endure every situation with us, including enduring the consequences of our sins by walking through our trials with us.  Not all trials are brought about by sin though.  I’m simply trying to make a concept clear about God’s grace and mercy, His love and faithfulness.  We are not worthy, yet He loves us anyway…

Notes on verses 23-25

The “law at work within” is the sin nature deep within us.  This is our vulnerability to sin; it refers to everything within us that is more loyal to our old way of selfish living than to God.

~~~~~~~~~~

This inward struggle with sin was as real for Paul as it is for us.  From Paul we learn what to do about it.  Whenever Paul felt lost, he would return to the beginning of his spiritual life, remembering that he had already been freed by Jesus Christ.  When you feel confused and overwhelmed by sin’s appeal, follow Paul’s example:  Thank God that he has given you freedom through Jesus Christ.  Let the reality of Christ’s power lift you up to real victory over sin.

This is hard to do, especially if we are self-absorbed as many people are.  I know that I have a hard time doing this when I’m in the midst of a trying situation.  Yet, it is imperative that I remember to go back to the cross and remember all that Jesus has done for me.  Without reminding myself of this, then I potentially risk staying in a muddled frame of mind indefinitely.  This is why it is important to share our burdens with other Christians.  We all need to be reminded and get that ‘swift kick in the pants’ from time to time.  When we can share with others our burdens, they can pray for us, they can cry with us and most importantly they can remind us to look up to Jesus instead of looking around at our present calamity.  Now, from my own experience, as much as I need to hear these things, I tend to wallow in my own self-pity until I’m ready to get over myself and remember Christ in my life.  That is sin too.  But, even in that Jesus gives us our freedom and through that He shows His great love for us. 

I don’t claim to know everything, but I know that I have been given a very special opportunity with my life.  I can learn from my past mistakes and hopefully improve with each passing trial.  I was fairly upset last night, crying and so forth, because we are once again at an impasse in our marriage.  But, I was much more quick to thank Jesus for all the work He has done in my life, our marriage and my husband’s life.  This may very well be the time we part for good.  But then again, I fully believe the vision and mission that God gave me two years ago and know that one day, even if we are over now, God will reunite us for the work He has designed for us to do…I don’t know when, how or all the trials that I will undergo in between…I just know my God and that He loves me and will be with me through it all…

I’m not perfect.  I never will be while in this life.  But one day, God will make me into what He has envisioned for me all along.  I have a long way to go before I get there.  The road is long and hard.  But by the grace of God, I will make, for His sake and glory.

Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24  I give my body to You because of all You have done for me.  Let my body be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind You will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship You.  I won’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but I will let You transform me into a new person by changing the way I think.  Then I will learn to know Your will for me, which is good and pleasing and perfect.  Romans 12:1-2  Amen.

May God provide the increase.

Read Full Post »

But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property.  He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself.  The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!”

As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified.  Then some young men got up, wrapped him in a sheet, and took him out and buried him.

About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.  Peter asked her, “Was this the price you and your husband received for your land?”

“Yes,” she replied, “that was the price.”

And Peter said, “How could the two of you even think of conspiring to test the Spirit of the Lord like this? The young men who buried your husband are just outside the door, and they will carry you out, too.”

Instantly, she fell to the floor and died. When the young men came in and saw that she was dead, they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.  Great fear gripped the entire church and everyone else who heard what had happened.  Acts 5:1-11

Hello again.  I’m sorry that I haven’t been writing lately…  I have considered what is prohibiting me from writing, and I have concluded that it is simply self.  I have not been writing because I’m lazy, I am not motivated and am wallowing in self, not like I have in the past, but a different kind of wallowing.  That said, it is high time that I get back into the Word and begin each day like I used to, with the Word of God and meditation which should lead to me writing.  So, here we go.

Today, I opened to Acts 5.  I really didn’t want to write about Ananias and Sapphira.  I think I’ve written about them in the past.  But, I decided that I should.  I could easily brush it off and not write anything, so I stuck to my guns and asked God to open my mind to whatever I should learn today.

I read through the notes in my study bible like I normally do and then I thought about my most recent wonderings about scriptures.  In the past I’ve written both about Sarah and Abigail.  I’ve had a conversation in recent weeks with a brother that I work with about how we (we as in women) have to learn a fine line of living like Sarah and Abigail.  He stopped me in my tracks and said that it isn’t a combining of the two, but doing one or the other…I simply don’t know if I agree with that.

So, while I was meditating on Ananias and Sapphira, my mind inevitably turned to Sarah and Abigail.  Now you know the basis for my musings today…let’s take a look at the notes real quick…

Note on verse 1ff

In Acts 5:1-8:3 we see both internal and external problems facing the early church.  Inside, there were dishonesty (5:1-11), greed (5:3), and administrative headaches (6:1-7).  Outside, the church was being pressured by persecution.  While church leaders were careful and sensitive in dealing with the internal problems, there was not much they could do to prevent the external pressures.  Through it all, the leaders kept their focus on what was most important – spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Note on verse 3

Even after the Holy Spirit had come, the believers were not immune to Satan’s temptations.  Although Satan was defeated by Christ at the cross, he was still actively trying to make the believers stumble – as he does today (Ephesians 6:12; 1 Peter 5:8).  Satan’s overthrow is inevitable, but it will not occur until the last days, when Christ returns to judge the world (Revelation 20:10).

It is evident that Satan is still around causing disharmony in the church and in individual lives.  When Christendom is criticized and when Christians are called hypocrites, you can be assured that Satan is in the midst.  We all fall prey to our advisary at one time or another.  We are weak.  When we are found to have inconsistent actions with our stated beliefs, that is Satan working in us.  When we haven’t guarded ourselves appropriately with the shed blood of Jesus we deceive ourselves by thinking we are either okay or there is nothing inconsistent with they way we are living.  As Christians, we are held to a higher standard and it isn’t just Christians that ‘know’ that standard.  The whole world knows the standard and thereby can declare us hypocrites because we don’t do what is readily acknowledged as Christian characteristics.  And people say there is no God!  Ah, I better stop before I get too comfortable on my soap box…

I fail.  I have failed over and over, sometimes on the same thing.  I wish I could get the lesson the first time, but I’m very hard headed.  It is my failures that Christians and non-Christians alike revert to calling me a hypocrite.  And herein is the line that must be walked as a follower of Jesus Christ…we must recognize that we are all hypocrites at one time or another in our walk with Christ.  Over the length of our time with Jesus, as His follower, we will sometimes fail, we will sin, we will not be on the mark with our beliefs, yet, over that same length of time, He brings to our attention exactly where we are wrong and have headed down the wrong path.  Sometimes, it takes more than a ‘still small voice’ to stop us in our tracks and get us heading in the right direction.  Sometimes, it takes life shattering revelations to make us realize how seriously wrong we are in our actions or beliefs. 

That is the essence of the Christian life.  When we can resolutely recognize that we have sinned and rectify our behavior and realign ourselves with scripture, though we have tainted our walk, our testimony for Jesus has become stronger because we can proclaim that we were walking in sin and Jesus, only Jesus, was able to correct us and make us right.  We cannot change our hearts by ourselves.  Changes of the heart for the good originate from God Himself.

Note on verse 3ff

The sin Ananias and Sapphira committed was not stinginess or holding back part of the money – it was their choice whether or not to sell the land and how much to give.  Their sin was lying to God and God’s people, saying they gave the whole amount but holding back some for themselves and trying to make themselves appear more generous than they really were.  This act was judged harshly because dishonesty, greed, and covetousness are destructive in a church, and preventing the Holy Spirit from working effectively.  All lying is bad, but when we lie to try to deceive God and his people about our relationship with him, we destroy our testimony for Christ.

As I’ve spoken briefly of in the past few posts (or at least I did, it’s been a while since I’ve written), things are going much better for my marriage.  The Lord, praise His holy name and I thank Him for it, has dissolved the resident anger and bitterness towards my husband that I had been carrying around for so long.  That doesn’t mean that I no longer hurt, in fact, there are times when he says something or does something that brings those feelings back with a vengeance, it simply means that I can talk with him and look at him without malice towards him.  Thank God for His work in my heart.  But, God hasn’t stopped there.  God has been working in my husbands heart too!  It is exciting to see this new and improved creature of God’s making unfold before my very eyes!  Now, it is true, we seem to do the dance of two steps forward and one step back…But, we’re moving in the general direction of righteousness! 

There is a situation, one that I cannot speak of at this time, within the dynamics of our marriage that I simply cannot agree to.  My husband has deceived himself in believing that he is right in what he has planned, yet, no matter of scripture will influence him and make him realize that his very plan is against God’s Word.  And the reason I speak of this, even cryptically is because in order for his plan to work, I have to go along with it.  I have fought for 3 or so years, every time it comes up, with scripture as to why it is impossible for me to go along with it.  Nothing has deterred him from implementing this plan.  In fact, he demands that I must do as he says because he is my authority and that he will take the heat, not me because I am simply doing my duty of submitting to him!!!!!!  Hence, the Sarah/Abigail musings and the story of Ananias and Sapphira. 

How do we, as women, manage our lives in such a way that we, like Sarah, can submit to our husbands even when they clearly aren’t trusting in God and still be found righteous because of our trust in God’s protection against the foolishness of our husbands, and yet, still be like Abigail and do the right thing, disregarding the fallout of doing it in direct violation of our husbands demands of submission and still be found righteous?  (I know, that was a really long sentence!  Sorry.)

Then, here we are with dire consequences of the decisions made between a husband and wife in the early days of the church.  Death was the result of the scheming of these two.  Sure, we don’t fall dead when we go along with our husbands absurdities and outright distrust, mistrust and dishonoring of God, but if it was worthy of death when Peter stood against them, isn’t it the same today? 

Is trying to win our husbands over with scripture when they have something in mind to do that is contrary to God’s Word enough to cover us when we in the end submit? 

I finally got tired of arguing with my husband about this particular situation that he is forcing upon us as a family and said, I won’t hinder you, but I cannot be the vehicle by which you’re plans are manifested.  Even that didn’t deter him, he still implemented his plans.  I decided to trust in God that I had used scripture to get through to my husband, which he deftly sidestepped, and that God would take matters into His hands.  So, I am waiting for the ball to get rolling and am praying that God will step in any moment now and put a stop to my husbands foolishness…But, the more that the time drags on, the more I doubt if I’m approaching things appropriately.  I think about Sarah and her complete obedience to Abraham, lying for him when he asked her to to save his own skin.  And I think about Abigail and how she saved her household with her swift but bold actions and that by her very action, she seemingly defied her husband’s wishes, yet was also counted as righteous. 

It all comes down to this and the story of Ananias and Sapphira puts it into certain persepective…Is there deception?  That right there is enough to know that it would be against God’s Word.  Who is meant to be deceived?  I believe that a believer is supposed to live transparently.  That would mean that deception, which God detests, is completely out of the question on any level.  If you can’t talk about it in the open, then it probably shouldn’t be done or thought about or said.  However, too many Christians are so closed about their goings-on and therefore we often times live in deception.  This goes without saying, because I can’t open up to you about this specific situation just yet, then it isn’t right, at least in my mind.  When God finally puts an end to this, then I’ll be able to talk freely.  Please remember, I’m walking the line of being the submissive, supportive wife (Sarah) and still doing what I know to be right (Abigail).  Hence, I don’t talk about the details because my husbands soul is more important than me being right and garnering your support or being justified in my position through you.  I know that it makes things as clear as mud, but if I can’t have a positive influence on those closest to me, how in the world could I ever hope to have a positive influence on perfect strangers?

Okay…enough of that…

Note on verse 11

God’s judgment of Ananias and Sapphira produced shock and fear among the believers, making them realize how seriously God regards sin in the church.

Does it shock you when you read this scripture about the punishment given to these two believers?  If it doesn’t it should.  Even though we don’t hear anything about instant judgment in this day and age, we will be judged on that final day, when Christ returns.  And though our sins have already been forgiven, we will still be held accountable for our actions, our words, our thoughts etc.  We will have to give an account for every moment of our lives.  We cannot possibly remember every detail of our lives, yet every second of our lives have already been recorded in God’s great book and He will bring to memory everything and we will need to respond to Him.  Be thankful that Jesus paid the price for all that we have done and do, because without His sacrifice, we would never be allowed to enter into His rest and spend eternity with Him. 

This story is a stern warning to me, as it should be to all believers, that God doesn’t deal lightly with sin.  He may delay His judgment, but it isn’t done lightly.  As I try to be a righteous woman, submitted to God and do all things as unto the Lord, through submission to my husband, I know that without the belief that God can handle this situation and that He will mold it to His glory, I am nothing and I am a sinner.  Only by God’s grace will I know what to do, what to say and how to react.  Only through believing that He orders my steps will I know that I will not be mislead.  Even if I make a wrong choice, a mistake or even if I fall of the horse and sin, God can and will correct me and make things turn out for His glory.  If I go done the path of righteousness, things will be easy.  If I fall of on the wrong path, things won’t be easy.  But either way, God will ultimately get the glory.  I trust that God will keep me from being foolish and from sinning. 

I still don’t know how to mix the attributes of Sarah and Abigail to live a life of righteousness as a wife to my husband, a daughter of the greatest King and the mightiest God, but at the end of my life, God will have brought me through it all and made me righteous through the work He chose to do in my heart and life.

I know that I cannot willingly agree to deception of any kind.  So, God, the master creator, can be creative with how He chooses to open an outlet for me.  I can’t wait to see what He chooses to do in my situation.

Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24  I give my body to You because of all You have done for me.  Let my body be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind You will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship You.  I won’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but I will let You transform me into a new person by changing the way I think.  Then I will learn to know Your will for me, which is good and pleasing and perfect.  Romans 12:1-2  Amen.

May God provide the increase.

Read Full Post »

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says, “The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. On that day the arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw. They will be consumed—roots, branches, and all.

“But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.  On the day when I act, you will tread upon the wicked as if they were dust under your feet,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

“Remember to obey the Law of Moses, my servant—all the decrees and regulations that I gave him on Mount Sinai for all Israel.

“Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives.  His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.”  Malachi 4

Well, by the end of the day yesterday, my husband had nearly returned to his old self.  That is good and also a little depressing…I was so hoping that he had hit bottom, though the truth of it was as I suspected, he bounced back!  There are some things that have appeared to have changed, and they are important… his motivation and priorities for certain things.  He seems to be determined to put the good of our marriage and our family as his first priority.  He doesn’t seem to want or need to demand certain things that would make his life easier and mine harder.  He seems to want to become more humble…we’ll see if it continues.  So far, today, this is the truth.  He has also said that he no longer has thoughts to ‘run’ to India, but wants to build a foundation with me to live together once again, all of us under the same roof…I don’t know, but God does.  Whatever it will take, God will get us there.

On to other news, my step-daughter is getting married tomorrow so I doubt I’ll be writing anymore this week.  We are going to travel about 3-4 hours tonight to get there and then we’ll stay an extra day for sightseeing in the big city.  (The big city around here isn’t New York or Los Angeles, nope we’re in the Midwest – Chicago would be the nearest big city.)

Let’s take a look at the notes…

Note on verse 2 

In the day of the Lord, God’s wrath toward the wicked will burn like a furnace (4:1).  But he will be like the healing warmth of the sun to those who love and obey him.  John the Baptist prophesied that with the coming of Jesus, the dawn was about to break with light for those in sin’s darkness (Luke 1:76-79).  In Isaiah 60:20 and Revelation 21:23, 24, we learn that no light will be needed in God’s holy city, because God himself will be the light.

~~~~~~~~~~

These last verses of the Old Testament are filled with hope.  Regardless of how life looks now, God controls the future, and everything will be made right.  We who have loved and served God look forward to a joyful celebration.  This hope for the future becomes ours when we trust God with our lives.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to be with God.  Imagine, not needing the sun to warm us, or to give us light to see by…I can’t even begin to imagine that, but I can believe that it will come to pass because the bible says it will.  To be with God for eternity, I can’t think of anything better!  I wish I were there now.  I would love to not have to be burdened with the cares of this life, and yes I know that I shouldn’t be because I am supposed to cast all my cares on Him, but I am.  And I have to work through them and make myself ready to cast my cares upon Him.  In eternity, it won’t be a problem…I can’t wait!  I want to spend all my time in His presence.  What is life without God?  What is eternity without being able to praise Him at all times?  I can’t imagine what it will be, but I know that I won’t be self-centered anymore.  Jesus-centered!  Oh how I wish I could master that RIGHT NOW!  Well, I’ll keep trying…

Note on verse 4

These laws, given to Moses at Mount Sinai, were the foundation of the nation’s civil, moral, and ceremonial life (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 4:5, 6).  We still must obey these moral laws because they apply to all generations.

This is probably the biggest way that my husband and I clash.  Our response to ‘What does it mean to be moral?’ is so vastly different that we cannot reconcile our differences easily.  I will say that I have stood firm in my beliefs and I’m seeing changes in him, to God be all the glory!  But, I have also learned that some of the things that I have upheld as morally right are more self-serving than a correct righteous attitude.  So, though much has been confirmed in my marriage about my moral compass, some has been chipped away!  I thank and praise God for finding me worthy to keep working at me to make me perfect in His sight. 

Note on verse 5, 6

Elijah was one of the greatest prophets who ever lived (his story is recorded in 1 Kings 17 – 2 Kings 2).  With Malachi’s death, the voice of God’s prophets would be silent for 400 years.  Then a prophet would come, like Elijah, to herald the Messiah’s coming (Matthew 17:10 – 13; Luke 1:17).  This prophet was John the Baptist.  John prepared people’s hearts for Jesus by urging people to repent of their sins.  Christ’s coming would bring not only unity and peace but also judgment on those who refused to turn from their sins.

Yes, I’m thankful that God judges me.  He will judge me with grace and mercy as His guide.  If another person was given the task to judge me, I’d most certainly suffer!  So, I am thankful that in His righteousness, He has seen fit to judge me.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.  God is a God of justice, but He is a God of grace, mercy, forgiveness, longsuffering and love.  None of us would survive if He wasn’t.

Note on verse 6

Malachi gives us practical guidelines about commitment to God:  God deserves the best we have to offer (1:7-10).  We must be willing to change our wrong ways of living (2:1, 2).  We should make our family a lifelong priority (2:13-16).  We should be sensitive to God’s refining process in our life (3:3).  We should tithe our income (3:8-12).  There is no room for pride (3:13-15).

Malachi closes his messages by pointing to that great final day of judgment.  For those who are committed to God, judgment day will be a day of joy because it will usher in eternity in God’s presence.  Those who have ignored God will be “straw,” to be burned up (4:1).  To help the people prepare for that day of judgment, God would send a prophet like Elijah (John the Baptist), who would prepare the way for Jesus, the Messiah.  The New Testament begins with this prophet calling the people to turn form their sins to God.  Such a commitment to God demands great sacrifice on our part, but we can be sure it will be worth it all in the end.

Can you say yippie!  What kind of a party awaits us on that day?  The bible says that we will be invited to the marriage supper of the lamb, what a thought!  I don’t think it could be summed up any better… God deserves the best, we must be willing to change, family first, sensitive to the refining process, pay tithes and absolutely no pride. 

Though, I would argue that pride is the basis of taking us off track of all the others.  If we are full of pride, then we wouldn’t give God the best, instead we would take the best for ourselves.  If we are proud of ourselves, we won’t want to change.  If pride runs our life, we don’t care about our family, if they don’t like us, too bad, their the ones that are missing out.  If we pride ourselves, then we don’t think we need to be refined, we’re already good enough.  If we have pride, then whatever we make is the result of our own hard work and talents.  Of course I only mentioned the things that the note listed.  I think pride is the basis of most sins.  When we value ourselves higher than we should, then we need to look out.  Pride causes much destruction in our hearts, in our lives, in our relationships, but most importantly, it separates us from God. 

Well, I really don’t have a lot of time today to examine all of my thoughts, but hopefully you’ve found something within this post to think about.  God’s glory reigns!

Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24  I give my body to You because of all You have done for me.  Let my body be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind You will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship You.  I won’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but I will let You transform me into a new person by changing the way I think.  Then I will learn to know Your will for me, which is good and pleasing and perfect.  Romans 12:1-2  Amen.

May God provide the increase.

Read Full Post »

One day Naomi said to Ruth, “My daughter, it’s time that I found a permanent home for you, so that you will be provided for. Boaz is a close relative of ours, and he’s been very kind by letting you gather grain with his young women. Tonight he will be winnowing barley at the threshing floor. Now do as I tell you—take a bath and put on perfume and dress in your nicest clothes. Then go to the threshing floor, but don’t let Boaz see you until he has finished eating and drinking.  Be sure to notice where he lies down; then go and uncover his feet and lie down there. He will tell you what to do.”

“I will do everything you say,” Ruth replied.  So she went down to the threshing floor that night and followed the instructions of her mother-in-law.

After Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he lay down at the far end of the pile of grain and went to sleep. Then Ruth came quietly, uncovered his feet, and lay down.  Around midnight Boaz suddenly woke up and turned over. He was surprised to find a woman lying at his feet!  “Who are you?” he asked.

“I am your servant Ruth,” she replied. “Spread the corner of your covering over me, for you are my family redeemer.”

“The Lordbless you, my daughter!” Boaz exclaimed. “You are showing even more family loyalty now than you did before, for you have not gone after a younger man, whether rich or poor.  Now don’t worry about a thing, my daughter. I will do what is necessary, for everyone in town knows you are a virtuous woman.  But while it’s true that I am one of your family redeemers, there is another man who is more closely related to you than I am.  Stay here tonight, and in the morning I will talk to him. If he is willing to redeem you, very well. Let him marry you. But if he is not willing, then as surely as the Lord lives, I will redeem you myself! Now lie down here until morning.”

So Ruth lay at Boaz’s feet until the morning, but she got up before it was light enough for people to recognize each other. For Boaz had said, “No one must know that a woman was here at the threshing floor.”  Then Boaz said to her, “Bring your cloak and spread it out.” He measured six scoops of barley into the cloak and placed it on her back. Then he returned to the town.

When Ruth went back to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “What happened, my daughter?”

Ruth told Naomi everything Boaz had done for her, and she added, “He gave me these six scoops of barley and said, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’”

Then Naomi said to her, “Just be patient, my daughter, until we hear what happens. The man won’t rest until he has settled things today.”  Ruth 3

I hope that your weekend was great!  I attended the New Conference services this weekend, though once again didn’t get much out of it due to the children.  We don’t practice nursery or children’s classes so it is difficult for me to deal with all three of my children and still listen to what is being said.  Even if I only have one or two and another sister takes the other, it is still hard to pay attention with children constantly needing corrected during service…But alas!

So, I pasted in the 3rd chapter of Ruth today.  Lets see what we can glean from this chapter, shall we?

I had some thoughts about this, but then I read the notes and I just don’t know… so I’ll type in both my thoughts and notes and let you decide…

Note on verses 1-9

As widows, Ruth and Naomi could only look forward to difficult times.  But when Naomi heard the news about Boaz, her hope for the future was renewed (2:20).  Typical of her character, she thought first of Ruth, encouraging her to see if Boaz would take the responsibility of being the “family redeemer” 2:20).

A family redeemer was a relative who volunteered to take responsibility for the extended family.  When a woman’s husband died, the law (Deuteronomy 25:5-10) provided that she could marry a brother of her dead husband.  But Naomi had no more sons.  In such a case, the nearest relative to the deceased husband could become a family redeemer and marry the widow.  The nearest relative did not have to marry the widow.  If he chose not to, the next nearest relative could take his place.  If no one chose to help the widow, she would probably live in poverty the rest of her life, because in Israelite culture the inheritance was passed on to the son or nearest male reltative, not to the wife.  To take the sting out of these inheritance rules, there were laws for gleaning and family redeemers.

We have a family redeemer in Jesus Christ, who though he was God, came to earth as a man in order to save us.  By this death on the cross, he has redeemed us from sin and hopelessness and thereby purchased us to be his own possession (1 Peter 1:18, 19).  This guarantees our eternal inheritance.

It is hard to think, being the romantic at heart that I am, that the story of Ruth begins as ‘family business.’  But, it is so, I’m sure.  However, I can’t help but think that Boaz and Ruth were attracted to each other, more than just physically.  Sure, Boaz was a good and upright man, and looked kindly on his servants, even those who gleaned in his fields who were not his servants, i.e. Ruth.  But, when he returned to his fields to check on them, he immediately wanted to know who Ruth was. 

It is like meeting a new Christian brother or sister for the first time.  There are those that you just knowthat they have Christ living in their hearts through the Holy Spirit.  You hit it off with them immediately, you’re drawn to them, even.  It is an irresistible force and you obey, in so much as for the other as for yourself.  You can’t help it, the Spirit draws to itself always. 

This is demonstrated in the physical world too.  Case in point, Boaz and Ruth.  I do believe, based on many years of observing people, that Boaz and Ruth were drawn to each other, even outside of family business.  Yes, Ruth was following the instructions of her mother-in-law out of respect and because of Naomi’s wise leadership.  Yes, Boaz was going beyond the letter of the law and extending grace and mercy to those less fortunate, and yes he was tending to family business.  But, my impression of their first meeting was one of awe.  They couldn’t stop thinking about, wondering about, or taking their eyes off of each other because there was just something that intrigued them about the other.

No where does it say that Boaz was already married.  So, Ruth would not have been a second wife, but his first wife.  She certainly intrigued him, even though she wasn’t a virgin, and virgins were highly prized.  She was quiet and unobtrusive, a hard worker and unafraid to work hard. 

Ruth, a widow and a foreigner, knew her place and that she didn’t deserve any kindness whatsoever.  She humbled herself beyond the normal and necessary means and made herself out to be nothing simply because she was a foreigner.  She didn’t even dare to hope that she would find the good grace of a man, let along a wealthy man and a family redeemer.  Even when Boaz said there was another, closer relative to redeem her, she didn’t balk or cry out, she simply accepted whatever would come her way.  And, I’ll speculate, that right there endeared her to Boaz even more.  She was willing to do whatever was needed, not necessarily what she wanted.

Note on verse 2

The threshing floor was the place where the grain was separated from the harvested wheat.  The wheat stalks were crushed, either by hand or by oxen, and the valuable grain (inner kernels) separated from the worthless chaff (the outside shell).  The floor was made from rock or soil and located outside the village, usually on an elevated site where the winds would blow away the lighter chaff when the crushed wheat was thrown into the air (or winnowed).  Boaz spent the night beside the threshing floor for two reasons:  (1) to prevent theft and (2) to wait for his turn to thresh grain.  (Threshing was often done at night because daylight hours were spent harvesting.)

Note on verse 4

Naomi’s advice seems strange, but she was not suggesting a seductive act.  In reality, Naomi was telling Ruth to act in accordance with Israelite custom and law.  It was common for a servant to lie at the feet of his master and even share a part of his covering.  By observing this custom, Ruth would inform Boaz that he could be her family redeemer – that he could find someone to marry her or marry her himself.  It was family business, nothing romantic.  But the story later became beautifully romantic as Ruth and Boaz developed an unselfish love and deep respect for each other.

What makes romance romantic?  Happy endings?  That does help a lot, but there are sad romances, often called tragedies.  What made this so special, so romantic?  We don’t see much in the form of human romance in the Bible.  However, we do see it in God’s love for Israel (see Hosaea for example).  Romance is also the subject in Song of Songs (or some might know it as Song of Solomon).  In any case, why is this short book infused with romance nearly from the beginning.  If you don’t agree that it has romance, maybe we could agree that it is full of drama? 

Romance is the heightening of sensations, emotions, and yes, even the intellect.  A person could easily be lost in love, but everything they do or say is based on their intellectual understand of what romance is and does to them.  For instance, a man could climb the highest mountain for the romance he feels in his heart towards his beloved.  Romance is the extreme highs andlows of life.  I think in a way, even Job’s life is romantic.  His is a romance with God Himself.  Romance to me, includes struggle at some point, though not continual suffering.  It is like a yin and yang, you have to have the lows in order to have the highs, otherwise, you wouldn’t know what a high was.

Ruth had had her share of struggles.  She knew what it was like to be lower than the dogs.  She knew what it was like to beg, to be widowed, to take care of the aged, to live a life of hardships, yet, she believed in more.  She believed that even though she didn’t deserve much of anything, she had life and that life was given to her by the God of the Israelites, where she found comfort and refuge.  She lived as an Israelite should have, recognizing that she didn’t deserve anything, and through her obedience to the laws of a God that she wasn’t born to know, she was blessed with fullness of life.

Boaz took note of her because she was noteworthy.  She was what was missing in his life, what he couldn’t find around town.  Their relationship blossomed from inception, the moment of first meeting, yet it was done in the most appropriate and pristine way that God had outlined in any relationship, completely innocent.  She was worthy of respect, not because she demanded, but because she knew she wasn’t worthy of it and yet accepted life.  He found that irresistible.

So, why then did it take Ruth to ask Boaz to redeem her and thereby Naomi through the customary laws, instead of Boaz taking the lead?  That is hard to say.  I agree with this note that Boaz had thought about it beforehand because of the answer he gave about another man being a closer relative.  It could be that he was ‘playing his cards’ right by waiting for the right moment.  Maybe he didn’t want to run Ruth off.  It seems to me that many men become hesitant in the face of romance.  They know what they want, but they aren’t sure if the one they want would have them or wants the same thing.  Oh, it is all so confusing to say the least.  It could be that he knew the other, closer relative well, and had to wait for just the appropriate time to consult with him.  Who knows?  We do know that it was directed by God and that it happened in His timing. 

Note on verse 5

As a foreigner, Ruth may have thought that Naomi’s advice was odd.  But Ruth followed the advice because she knew Naomi was kind, trustworthy, and filled with moral integrity.  Each of us knows a parent, older friend, or relative who is always looking out for our best interests.  Be willing to listen to the advice of a person who is older and wiser than you are.  The experience and knowledge of such a person can be invaluable.  Imagine what Ruth’s life would have been like had she ignored her mother-in-law.

Note on verse 12

Ruth and Naomi must have assumed that Boaz was their closest relative.  Boaz, too, must have already considered marrying Ruth because his answer to her shows he had been thinking about it.  He couldn’t have considered marrying Naomi because she was probably too old to bear any more children (1:11, 12).  One man in the city was a nearer relative than Boaz, and this man had the first right to take Ruth as his wife.  If he chose not to, then Boaz could marry Ruth (3:13). 

Note on verse 18

Naomi implied that Boaz would follow through with his promise at once.  He obviously had a reputation for keeping his word and would not rest until his task was completed.  Such reliable people stand out in any age and culture.  Do others regard you as one who will do what you say?  Keeping your word and following through on assignments should  be high on anyones priority list.  Building a reputation for integrity, however, must be done one brick, one act, at a time.

Boaz, like many men, once he made up his mind, he acted upon it immediately.  He didn’t wait or tarry, he simply took care of business.  And the business at hand was to take care of Ruth and all that came with her.  Even if he didn’t get to have her for his own, he wanted her to have a secure future.  What a righteous unselfish man!  As much as he wanted and was willing to take her himself, he was willing to step aside and allow the law of God to work in their lives.  That is humility at its best. 

I’m sure Boaz believed he was going to get a prize in Ruth.  I believe he did his homework too.  I think that one reason that he waited to address the issue with Ruth was because he wanted to square up his ‘opponent.’  Think about it, what better way to obtain what you want than to know what weaknesses your opponent has?  In the next chapter, we will see what that was, but for the time being, we can only operate on the fact that Ruth was the outright initiator, what Boaz was doing behind the scenes is only guesswork on my part…Until the next post…

Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24  I give my body to You because of all You have done for me.  Let my body be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind You will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship You.  I won’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but I will let You transform me into a new person by changing the way I think.  Then I will learn to know Your will for me, which is good and pleasing and perfect.  Romans 12:1-2  Amen.

May God provide the increase.

Read Full Post »

Now there was a wealthy and influential man in Bethlehem named Boaz, who was a relative of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech.

One day Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go out into the harvest fields to pick up the stalks of grain left behind by anyone who is kind enough to let me do it.”

Naomi replied, “All right, my daughter, go ahead.”  So Ruth went out to gather grain behind the harvesters. And as it happened, she found herself working in a field that belonged to Boaz, the relative of her father-in-law, Elimelech.

While she was there, Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters. “The Lord be with you!” he said.

“The Lord bless you!” the harvesters replied.

Then Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?”

And the foreman replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi.  She asked me this morning if she could gather grain behind the harvesters. She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter.”

Boaz went over and said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields. Stay right behind the young women working in my field.  See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. I have warned the young men not to treat you roughly. And when you are thirsty, help yourself to the water they have drawn from the well.”

Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. “What have I done to deserve such kindness?” she asked. “I am only a foreigner.”

“Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers.  May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.”

“I hope I continue to please you, sir,” she replied. “You have comforted me by speaking so kindly to me, even though I am not one of your workers.”

At mealtime Boaz called to her, “Come over here, and help yourself to some food. You can dip your bread in the sour wine.” So she sat with his harvesters, and Boaz gave her some roasted grain to eat. She ate all she wanted and still had some left over.

When Ruth went back to work again, Boaz ordered his young men, “Let her gather grain right among the sheaves without stopping her.  And pull out some heads of barley from the bundles and drop them on purpose for her. Let her pick them up, and don’t give her a hard time!”

So Ruth gathered barley there all day, and when she beat out the grain that evening, it filled an entire basket.  She carried it back into town and showed it to her mother-in-law. Ruth also gave her the roasted grain that was left over from her meal.

“Where did you gather all this grain today?” Naomi asked. “Where did you work? May the Lord bless the one who helped you!”

So Ruth told her mother-in-law about the man in whose field she had worked. She said, “The man I worked with today is named Boaz.”

“May the Lord bless him!” Naomi told her daughter-in-law. “He is showing his kindness to us as well as to your dead husband. That man is one of our closest relatives, one of our family redeemers.”

Then Ruth said, “What’s more, Boaz even told me to come back and stay with his harvesters until the entire harvest is completed.”

“Good!” Naomi exclaimed. “Do as he said, my daughter. Stay with his young women right through the whole harvest. You might be harassed in other fields, but you’ll be safe with him.”

So Ruth worked alongside the women in Boaz’s fields and gathered grain with them until the end of the barley harvest. Then she continued working with them through the wheat harvest in early summer. And all the while she lived with her mother-in-law.  Ruth 2

So much went through my mind as I was reading this chapter this morning…

First, Boaz greeted his workers with a common salutation…The Lord be with you!  and then the workers replied with the standard reply…The Lord bless you!  I couldn’t help but feel that the workers were genuinely happy to see and to bless Boaz.  I feel a bubbling of merry contentment projected onto these workers when they respond to him.  I don’t know why, but I simply feel this way.  In fact, about every time I read the book of Ruth, I get this feeling. 

Next, the interaction between Ruth and Boaz is rather interesting.  First and foremost, Boaz could have easily taken advantage of Ruth, but in his integrity, he provided and cared for her instead and through her he also provided for Naomi.  In my mind, Boaz is a man intrigued by the mystery of Ruth.  Here, a foreigner who knows nothing of God’s law, right before his very eyes, demonstrates more perfectly God’s law than the Israelites who knew God’s law in and out.  So, he, in essence, sits back and observes the goings-on of this fair young lady.

Oh, I almost forgot…At the very onset of this chapter…Ruth, remaining under the authority of her mother-in-law, and showing complete humility towards her, asked to be permitted to go into the fields to glean.  Ruth felt it her duty to serve her mother-in-law and her duty to take care of her as well as her duty to respect her in all matters.  Ruth faced the dangers of a hostile environment for widowed women resolutely and bravely to ensure that both she and Naomi were provided for.

Conversely, Naomi, knowing the potential dangers, accepted and gave her blessing to Ruth to go out and glean in the fields.  She did not lose sight of the sacrifice that Ruth was willing to undertake in order to provide for her.  The sacrifice of time and sweat equity that would go in to working in the fields.  She knew it could be costly, on so many levels, including ridicule (assault on Ruth’s ego), physical assault (for some reason, I have Ruth pictured as a fair looking young lady) and so many other potential dangers that despised and forgotten people endured at this time.  Naomi graciously accepted Ruth’s willingness to provide for her.  That also showed an absolute humility on Naomi’s part.

And, another thing…When Ruth told Naomi about the man whose fields she worked in, I can’t help but wonder…Did Naomi start formulating a plan to marry Ruth off to Boaz right then or was it only a seed that had been planted?  For the present, I have settled on … Naomi was thankful for God’s providence in the form of a close relative, a family redeemer.  I don’t think she was thinking much beyond the fact that God had turned back to her and was blessing her for her commitment to Him through the years.

I also get the feeling that Ruth and Naomi were really close from this chapter, more so than in the previous chapter.  Partly because I can imagine Ruth coming home excited about the days events, bubbling over and gushing the minute she walked through the door.  I can see them dancing around and holding each other tight and Naomi, as any good woman would be, was eager to hear the days events.  The way the text reads, Ruth told about all the events and everything that happened and saved the man’s name until the end.  I think that is what gives me the above notion.

The very last sentence…But all the while she lived with her mother-in-law….is interesting.  It brings the me back to reality.  This “fairy tale romance” that is unfolding in between the lines between Boaz and Ruth is cast in the spotlight of reality for a brief moment.  It is kind of like a story teller that is so good, that your imagination runs with the story being told and you become part of the story, or at least you are watching it unfold in your mind.  Every once in a while, the story teller or narrator breaks in and adds a bit of technical information.  In this instance, it is to remind us that Ruth is a woman of great character.  She has kept her character intact and remained impeccable in her integrity.  Additionally, Boaz too has protected her reputation and maintained his character and integrity towards her.  When the time came to marry, there was nothing amiss with how their relationship progressed.

Okay…I’ve babbled long enough…let’s check the notes…maybe I’ll add more of my thoughts…

Note on verse 2

When the wheat and barley were ready to be harvested, harvesters were hired to cut down the stalks and tie them into bundles.  Israelite law demanded that the corners of the fields not be harvested.  In addition, any grain that was dropped was to be left for poor people, who picked it up (this was called gleaning) and used it for food (Leviticus 19:9; 23:22; Deuteronomy 24:19).  The purpose of this law was to feed the poor and to prevent the owners from hoarding.  This law served as a type of welfare program in Israel.  Because she was a widow with no means of providing for herself, Ruth went into the fields to glean.

Reading this last sentence in this note, my mind immediately jumps to the Proverbs 31 Woman.  I wonder if Elimelech and thereby his sons were rich or poor.  I wonder if after all the men died (the father and the two sons) was there anything left for their widows?  I wonder if Naomi stayed in Moab until all of her resources provided by Elimelech (and Ruth’s resources provided by her husband) had been used up and then returning to Israel poor with the expectation of relying on the Israelite law for sustenance.

How would have things been different if Ruth, though industrious and resourceful enough, would have had the means to exercise her industry and resources if she weren’t poor.  Thinking about these things, she may never have touched foot in Boaz’s field and thereby may never have had the opportunity to become the grandmother to David and ancestor to Jesus…

Sometimes misfortune befalls us, just as it did Ruth and Naomi.  We can choose to let it ruin us or choose to be overcomers, and we have the added benefit that these women didn’t have…Jesus Christ.  They had the hope of His coming, we have the assurance of His death, resurrection and the hope of His return.  How great is that?!

Note on verses 2, 3

Ruth made her home in a foreign land.  Instead of depending on Naomi or waiting for good fortune to happen, she took the initiative.  She went to work.  She was not afraid of admitting her need or working hard to supply it.  When Ruth went out to the fields, God provided for her.  If you are waiting for God to provide, consider this:  He may be waiting for you to take the first step to demonstrate just how important your need is. 

AhhhSooo!  (Don’t mind my little word of excited acknowledgement there!)  God, in His infinite mercy and grace, has never and will never force Himself onto anyone.  It is unfathomable to me to think about how much God restrains Himself in order for us to have full freedom to choose to follow and love Him.

Many times, I pray for something, maybe change of my heart, my mind or something.  I think I really want it and I pray hard for it.  And then, nothing happens.  I continue on doing or feeling whatever I do and then get depressed and start to despair.  This is all wrong.  I often have to remind myself that I must pray, yes, absolutely, but then, I also must make the effort.  God is always willing to help, to fix me and what not, but I have to be willing for Him to do it.  Often, the reason I keep on doing or feeling the same thing is because on some subconscious level, I am not ready to change.  And only when I am ready to change do I take the steps to do it and then God responds in abundance…it is really amazing and interesting to think about.

Note on verse 7

Ruth’s task, though menial, tiring, and perhaps degrading, was done faithfully.  What is your attitude when the task you have been given is not up to your true potential?  The task at hand may be all you can do, or it may be the work God wants you to do.  Or, as in Ruth’s case, it may be a test of your character that can open up new doors of opportunity.

Oh Boy!  You got me on this one…I hate doing menial tasks!  I know what I’m capable of and I hate it when others don’t see me for the benefits that I bring to the table…And, I need to pray about this.  In fact, this is something that the Lord has been pressing on my heart lately that I need to get my heart and attitude in line!  For me, all it is, is ego.  I want to be recognized for my gifts, my talents, my effectiveness as a worker, a friend, a mother, a wife, etc.  But that is a direct contradiction to scripture.  I am not supposed to retain feelings of worth from who I am, but instead, my worthiness comes solely from who I am in Christ.  Only when I view myself in the light of Christ will I really shine – both to me and to others.  This is one area, I’m afraid, that I need much work on.  Pray for me.

Note on verse 10-12

Ruth’s life exhibited admirable qualities:  She was hardworking, loving, kind, faithful, and brave.  These qualities gained for her a good reputation, but only because she displayed them consistently in all areas of her life.  Wherever Ruth went or whatever she did, her character remained the same. 

Your reputation is formed by the people who watch you at work, in town, at home, in church.  A good reputation comes by consistently living out the qualities you believe in – no matter what group of people or surroundings you are in.

Note on verses 15, 16

The characters in the book of Ruth are classic examples of good people in action.  Boaz went far beyond the intent of the gleaners’ law in demonstrating his kindness and generosity.  Not only did he let Ruth glean in his field, he also told his workers to let some of the grain fall in her path.  Out of his abundance, he provided for the needy.  How often do you go beyond the accepted patterns of providing for those less fortunate?  Do more than the minimum for others.

Note on verses 19, 20

Naomi had felt bitter (1:20, 21), but her faith in God was still alive, and she praised God for Boaz’s kindness to Ruth.  In her sorrows, she still trusted God and acknowledged his goodness.  We may feel bitter about a situation, but we must never despair.  Today is always a new opportunity for experiencing God’s care.  (For more on a family redeemer, see the note on 3:1-9.)

This is such a foundational truth, that if we can only grasp it, we’re well on our way.  If we can do more than grasp it, if we have internalized it, we are truly blessed.  In her sorrows, she still trusted God and acknowledged his goodness.  This note goes on to say that we may feel bitter, but we shouldn’t despair.  Recognizing that we will endure trials, suffering and sorrows is key to understanding God’s loving care, grace and mercy towards us.  We can branch out from there as we recognize that God not only loves us, but loves everyone and cares for each and everyone of us the same…For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.  Matthew 5:45

There is a common saying that goes something like this, “No good deed goes unpunished.”  I would challenge each of you to change it to “No deed goes unnoticed.”  God is always there, and when we are convicted of the above, we start seeing God in places we never realized He was before.  Even in the sorrows, like Naomi, we can trust and acknowledge God’s goodness.  Without at least grasping the idea, we really don’t see God most of the time… 

It is all about grasping the truth and being convicted by the Holy Spirit.  It is our responsibility to make the choice, until then, God sits by patiently waiting for us to make that choice.

Note on verse 20

Though Ruth may not have always recognized God’s guidance, he had been with her every step of the way.  She went to glean and “just happened” to end up in the field owned by Boaz who “just happened” to be a close relative.  This was more than mere coincidence.  As you go about your daily tasks, God is working in your life in ways you may not even notice.  We must not close the door on what God can do.  Events do not occur by luck or coincidence.  We should have faith that God is directing our lives for his purpose.

Yep, I have to remind myself of this all the time.  Sometimes I start thinking about my marriage and my husband and all the problems we’ve had and the problems we still are working through and I think that this was one big mistake after another.  But then, I cling to the belief that God is purposeful in all His dealings.  My husband and I may have started off wrong, but there was a reason the Lord permitted us to fall into temptation and reason for allowing us to sin.  There was a reason we got married.  I never want to go back to where we’ve been, but some days I don’t want to go on in the state we’re in…I just want things ‘back to normal,’ though normal will never be the same for me with 3 children and a husband.  I have to learn a new normal. 

In anycase, when I start thinking it is all in vain, I must remind myself that God is in everything, the minutia of all the details of our lives.  When we sin, God permits it so He can correct us and conform us to His image.  When a difficult situation besets us, it is so He can shape and mold us to conform us to His image.  We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.  Romans 8:28  How can we say that God isn’t interested in our daily lives?

Well, I’m gonna start preaching here soon if I don’t wrap it up, so long until tomorrow.  We’ll discuss Ruth chapter 3…I love the book of Ruth, don’tyou?

Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24  I give my body to You because of all You have done for me.  Let my body be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind You will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship You.  I won’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but I will let You transform me into a new person by changing the way I think.  Then I will learn to know Your will for me, which is good and pleasing and perfect.  Romans 12:1-2  Amen.

May God provide the increase.

P.S.  I thought since you didn’t like leaving responses I could get some interraction from you through polls, that hasn’t happened hardly at all yet.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »