Ruth 3-Part 1–Listen and Humbly Follow

Ruth did not understand the customs of Israel.  She was focused upon the care of her sweet mother-in-law, Naomi.  Naomi was equally selfless in her heart for Ruth. So Naomi prepared Ruth to meet Boaz at the threshing floor. She knew as the family’s Kinsman Redeemer He would be the one to find her a husband. So she prepared Ruth for what to wear and how to respond. Ruth followed her instructions and began an adventure that would literally change the world.
 
In our lives, we are faced with opportunities to trust God. They seem odd, certainly not in our plan. But, if we will listen and selflessly follow the Lord, there is no telling what adventure the Lord has in store.  What is more, we have no idea what impact on others we will have.  We simply need to remain humble and faithful and allow God to do the things He needs to do to make our lives what He has planned.  If we will, the Bible tells us that we can literally be a part of the plan to change the world.  We can at least be part of the plan to change our lives and draw those we love to Him.
 
God Bless You

Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you? Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do.” And she replied, “All that you say I will do.”

So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had commanded her. And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings[a] over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” 10 And he said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich.

Ruth 1 Part 2–How We Define Ourselves

One of the most difficult disciplines in life is the discipline of definition.  Each day, when one awakens, he/she is given the opportunity to define himself/herself.  Some define themselves by their appearance, others by what they have accumulated. Many, however, define their lives by the circumstances that they face.  Naomi was a woman that loved God.  Yet, life had dealt her a very difficult hand.  She lived in a foreign land, she lost her husband and her two sons.  She had two daughters-in-law that she cared for, but needed to send away–simply because she could not care for them.  Ruth, one daughter-in-law refused to part; and so, the two returned to Bethlehem. When they arrived, the women of the town asked is this Naomi (Pleasant)? Naomi replied, DO NOT call me Naomi (pleasant)…call me Mara (bitter).  Naomi had grown bitter under the weight of the circumstances.
 
In truth, it is very difficult to live a life that rises above one’s circumstances.  Day-to-day events and interactions often fill our thoughts and determine the paths that we take.  Once we are in a relationship with God, however, the Holy Spirit allows us to rise above our circumstances and become defined by who we are, and whose we are in Christ Jesus.  The apostle Paul told the Philippians, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance that I am in. Well-fed or hungry, living in plenty or in want, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil 4:12-13. The Father knows the plans He has for us. Jer 29:11. He is never surprised by trials or tribulations. He provides the grace, strength, and direction to face what lies ahead. If we will trust Him, lean into Him and follow He will navigate us through life’s difficulties. Then, when we arrive on the other side, we can look back and see His fingerprints on each step along the way.
 
God Bless You

 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”

16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.

19 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”

20 “Don’t call me Naomi,[b]” she told them. “Call me Mara,[c] because the Almighty[d] has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted[e] me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”

22 So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning

I John 3 Part 2–Love–Love for Us and Our Love for Others.

God truly demonstrated His love for us.  He loved us when we were unlovable.  He accepted us when we were unacceptable.  He calls us to love others the same way.  John reiterated his original message from his gospel, For God So loved the world that he gave his only son. He tells the church –this is how we know what love is…Jesus laid his life down for us. He tells the church its response should be similar…the church should lay their lives down for others.  Selfishness gets parked at the curb and believer’s lives are no longer their own.  It is not a mopey life of dower expression and mundane existence. Instead, it is a life full of meaning and purpose where the needs of others supersede the needs of self.  Amazingly, history reminds us that humans are at their best when they set their personal agendas aside.
 
In our lives, we have to choose each day to live for Christ and not for ourselves.  It is a difficult task. Even on Jesus’s birthday, we can lose the focus and become consumed with the consumerism of the holiday and the consumables we feast upon. If we are not careful, our entire life becomes filled with a desire to promote ourselves and obtain all we feel we deserve.  John’s reminder is stark and plain–live a life like Christ. Lay your lives and agendas on the alter and allow Christ dominion over them. When we live like that, we find ourselves full of life and purpose and we enjoy a glimpse of peace and joy like none other. 
 
God Bless You

 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brothers were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters,[b] if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

I Peter 4 Part 2–Live as if There is No Tomorrow

Peter was truly living as if it was the end times. They were difficult years for the new church. Peter wanted the young church to realize that it was not an easy path.  He did want them to know that the eternal road ahead was critical. Peter encouraged the people to focus on the walk and be sober-minded and have expectations for trials. Knowing that Peter’s message is as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago.
 
Live as if the end is near.  Love people like they will be gone soon. conduct yourself as if it is how you want to be remembered. Leave a good reputation behind.  Show love and grace.  Act with class and character.  Do not be amazed when you suffer as a Christian.  It is the rule, not the exception.  Make sure God is honored in your response to suffering.  It is a journey that requires grace and discipline.  So live as if you expect to meet trials and tribulations and feel blessed and honored that God trusts you enough to go through it. 
 
God Bless You

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Suffering as a Christian

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory[b] and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And

“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”[c]

19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

I Peter 3 Part 2–Living Lives of Distinction

Peter, more than anyone could understand the importance of living a life that honors Christ despite the reaction of the world. He was the guy that denied Christ during Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. He was the one Jesus specifically asked to feed His sheep.  He was the one God had to scold about what God makes clean, is clean indeed.  He was the one Paul got onto for ignoring the Gentiles when the Jewish church folk came to town.  Peter was real, he was not perfect.  Peter was also responsible for thousands of folks coming to Christ. 
 
So, when Peter says the best way to honor God is to live in unity, humility, and holiness, one can count on the fact he taught from experience. It is very easy to understand that our lives affect the lives of others.  Our attitudes, behavior, and response to struggles are apparent for all to see.  That is why it is incumbent that Christians live lives that honor and glorify God. All of our actions, our behaviors, and our discussions are there for the world to expose and criticize the faith.   We have to be the people that show our relationship with the Lord truly makes a difference in how we behave and how we respond.  As we live our lives in that way we will be distinct from the crowd.  In addition, that distinction will draw others to Christ, and it will help us to grow stronger and more like Him each day.
 
God Bless You

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For

“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

I Peter 3 Part 1–Wives and Husbands

Truly one of the most important roles in life is the roles we lead in marriage. Peter discusses the roles in a very specific and direct way.  First, he talks about how critical a wife is to the spiritual condition of her husband and of her family.  Peter tells wives that their respect for their husbands could be the greatest evangelistic tool in their toolbelt.  Men who see Christ in the lives of their wives are more apt to seek him.  In addition, as he talks about wives, Peter says for them to look on the inside and assure it is right before worrying about hair and make-up.  In short, there is so much beauty that Christ produces within us, that it will greatly outshine any outfit, jewelry or ensemble that can be assembled. 
 
Peter also speaks to the Husband.  Husbands are to treat their wives with honor.  Husbands are to lead with grace and realize the critical role their wives have in the family. Wives make the house a home and the group of humans a family.  It is not the role of master-servant, it is the role of CEO and COO.  Husbands are to lead and face the daily battles of provision and protection of their families and their homes. But, that is impossible without a person doing the day to day operation of the home.  With what is provided, wives raise the family and teach them decorum, survival, salvation, and socialization. Husbands that do not understand how critical their spouse is to the survival of the family fail in being the leader God calls them to be. I not only respect my wife and love her; I truly stand amazed at all she has accomplished despite me and my battles in life. She is amazing on all fronts and counts. As a family, we are not worthy of her, but, we are sure grateful that she is who she is–the Chief Operating Officer of this group.  She deserves all the respect and praise available but continues with or without it. Thanks, Wives and Moms (ESPECIALLY MINE) for all that you do!
 
God Bless You

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you[a] of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

James 5 Part 1–Wealth Management

In Philippians 4, Paul lays out his plan for success quite succinctly. Paul tells the Philippians that he has learned to be content in all circumstances. Whether well fed or hungry living in plenty or in want that he could do all things through Christ Who strengthens him. (Phil 4:12-13)  In these verses from James, the author takes the negative side of that argument.  He tells the people who have had plenty and rely upon their riches and wealth for security and peace that they will come to a long and brutal end. Conversely, he tells those that have struggled not to lose hope, that God will provide in His time and in His way.  In short, James tells the people that they need to be content in serving and trusting God no matter what their circumstances may bring.  
 
Fast forward to this week of Thanksgiving.  We as God’s chosen still need to fully rely upon God. If we are wealthy and have all the security we think we need, that is when we should seek Him and lay all that we have on the altar for Him to bless.  When God blesses us with wealth; it is to prepare us to rely upon Him despite our feeling of self-sufficiency.  That is often difficult, but when one finds the ability to be free from their dependence upon their own wealth, it allows God to bless them even more.  Conversely, when one acts completely self-sufficient, they never are quite satisfied, nor are they ever quite secure in their wealth.  Their wealth becomes their prison and they never are free to enjoy the life God has given them. 
 
As for those that struggle to make ends meet; they face the same drama. They live in constant fear of losing what they have. They are always chasing ways to make circumstances better.  James tells such folks, be patient, do not grumble and trust God to prepare, provide and protect you in your journey.  There is very little actual difference in cause and effect. In all circumstances, we must choose to rely upon God for everything we have and how we proceed in the journey. If we will do that, God will, in his time, bless us. If we choose to rely upon our own power, we will sadly find no peace. Solomon said it best, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not lean on your own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all your ways, and He will make your paths straight!” Proverbs 3:5-6
 
God Bless You

Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.[a] You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.

Patience in Suffering

Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.