Nehemiah 1 Part 1–It is about the Community

he Book of Nehemiah is a tribute to both God’s faithfulness and the power of faith.  Nehemiah was a part of the descendants of the Israelites that were taken captive in Jerusalem. He was cupbearer to the King of Persia and lived approximately 150 years after the exile began.  After roughly 70 years, the exiles were allowed to return to Jerusalem and only 2% did so. Those that returned tried to get reestablished and rebuild the temple of God and the city of Jerusalem. 
 
Some 80 years later, Nehemiah inquires as to the condition of Jerusalem and Israel–God’s promised land.  He is greatly saddened to find that the walls of Jerusalem are still not restored and the city was still in shambles.  He is also saddened to hear that the people were a mess and living in shame.  This broke Nehemiah’s heart and he fasted and prayed to the Lord about how he could help. What happened next would be amazing.  
 
In our lives, we are faced not only with personal struggles, but also struggles within the community of believers and the church. If we are not careful, we become so entrenched in our own lives, that we forget we are part of the community.  The result is shameful. We literally forget about the needs of others and only focus on our own needs. 
The great news is that God never loses sight of the needs of his chosen and when the time is right, the Lord will raise those who are willing to be the leaders of restoration.  We simply need to, as did Nehemiah, pray and seek God’s leadership in how to give back.  It may be financially, it may be with our talents and labor. It may be we are to pray and seek assistance from others.  Whatever it is, like Nehemiah, we must have a tender heart for the church and all those who are a part of it! If we will do that, God will accomplish great things.
 
God Bless You

The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah.

Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”

Nehemiah’s Prayer

As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ 10 They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”

Now I was cupbearer to the king.

Ruth 3 Part 2–God’s Plan v. Our Plans!

Boaz had a big job.  As Kinsman Redeemer for Naomi and her family, he was charged to care for them.  What does that look like for a man of means and the poor relations just back from Moab?  Well, first he made sure that Naomi did not starve.  He provided Ruth with grain and care and protection. Next came the job of looking more long term.  Naomi encouraged Ruth to go to the threshing floor and show kindness and humility to Boaz.  She did as she was instructed.  Now Boaz came face to face with the dilemma of being attracted to Ruth and being her redeemer.  Soo he set his heart to do right.  She needed a Husband.  He would present her to the nearest eligible relative to consummate the deal and get Ruth a husband, even if that meant not pursuing her himself.
 
So often our lives, we are faced with the opportunity to trust God to lead us. Many times His ways are not our ways. But, every time His way is best. If we truly believe that God is in charge, and loves us; and if we can cling to his word, then, when facing tough choices, we will honor God and allow Him to make our path straight.  It is very difficult to do so.  we want to “Help God Out” and give the Lord direction and instruction on how to proceed.  Amazingly, He does not need our help–He has this.  “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.  Plans to prosper you–not to harm you! Plans to give you hope and a future!” Jer. 29:11.  
 
We, like Ruth and Boaz, must trust God’s way and follow His plans. If we will–great things will follow.
 
God Bless You

11 And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character. 12 Although it is true that I am a guardian-redeemer of our family, there is another who is more closely related than I. 13 Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to do his duty as your guardian-redeemer, good; let him redeem you. But if he is not willing, as surely as the Lord lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.”

14 So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before anyone could be recognized; and he said, “No one must know that a woman came to the threshing floor.”

15 He also said, “Bring me the shawl you are wearing and hold it out.” When she did so, he poured into it six measures of barley and placed the bundle on her. Then he[c] went back to town.

16 When Ruth came to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “How did it go, my daughter?”

Then she told her everything Boaz had done for her 17 and added, “He gave me these six measures of barley, saying, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’”

18 Then Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.”

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 2 Part 1–I see Fields to Gleen…

When Naomi and Ruth returned to Israel, there was no Indeed.com for them to find work. In fact, there were very few things a woman could do to make a living on her own. Fortunately, the law of the land allowed women to follow harvesters and pick up the leftover grain that remained in the fields. It was hard work, and dangerous; but Ruth attacked the job with a great attitude and ended up in the field of Boaz a relative of Naomi’s husband.  When Boaz saw Ruth and heard how hard she worked, he told her to stay within his fields and she would be safe.  He instructed his workers to watch out for her and provided water and other women’s company to fill her day.
 
God cares for His own. He always seeks to provide and prepare for whatever the need. It is rarely a simple thing, and often we long for an easier path, but, in the end, if we will trust and follow Him, the Lord will provide exceedingly abundantly more than we could ever hope or dream. (Rm 8:18).  The difficult task is to remain faithful and allow God to work His plan in our lives.  It is tough to stay the course.  It is even tougher to do so with a good attitude and a positive work ethic. If we will, however, God will do amazing things to move us along in the journey and bless our efforts–we just have to trust Him.
 
God Bless You

Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, a man of standing from the clan of Elimelek, whose name was Boaz.

And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.”

Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.” So she went out, entered a field and began to glean behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she was working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelek.

Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The Lord be with you!”

“The Lord bless you!” they answered.

Boaz asked the overseer of his harvesters, “Who does that young woman belong to?”

The overseer replied, “She is the Moabite who came back from Moab with Naomi. She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’ She came into the field and has remained here from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.”

So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.”

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

Ruth 1–Better to Live Together

Happy New Year! We are going to spend some time looking at the lives of some critical Bible heroes.  During the time of the judges, things grew steadily more difficult for the people of Israel. Elimillek and Naomi were a couple that had to leave Isreal to find a way to make a living.  They moved to Moab with their sons and started over. During the time in Moab, the sons married Moabite women, Oprah, and Ruth.  The sons died and Elimilek died and Naomi was left with her Moabite daughters-in-law.  Naomi encouraged the girls to return to their families as she returned to Bethlehem. Oprah sadly agreed and left, But, Ruth loved Naomi and agreed to stay with her. In one of the most beautiful statements in the Bible, Ruth tells Naomi, “Wherever you go I will go. Wherever you stay, I will stay.  Your people will be my people and Your God, my God!”
 
When the going gets tough, God’s people see amazing answers to their needs. Naomi would never know how significant Ruth’s commitment would be.  For the time, Naomi did not have to face returning to Bethlehem alone. Often, we are in difficult situations and do not have the answer to solve the problem.  God, however, in His infinite wisdom puts someone or something in our lives to bring us through.  We are, of course, grateful for His plan and intervention, but often have no idea the extent His intervention will impact our lives and the lives of others.  It is certainly exciting to see God’s hand in our lives, but the people He puts in our lives to journey with are often touch so many more lives than we could ever expect. The fun part is to step back and see Him do the work!
God Bless You

In the days when the judges ruled,[a] there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.

Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.

Naomi and Ruth Return to Bethlehem

When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.

Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”

Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud 10 and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”

11 But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? 12 Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— 13 would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!”

14 At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.

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

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

I John 5–In Closing…

In the end, there have always been two great commands from God; Love the true God, and love others as you love yourself.  All other commands and direction fall within those parameters.  John closes his letter to the church by laying that out very clearly.  We are God’s chosen adopted children if we believe that Christ is the Savior and Lord. The evidence of our belief is our love for God and his people.  Further evidence is following Him and doing what He has called us to do.
 
We see the truth through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  We also testify to that truth by our words and our daily lives. We are not expected to be perfect, but, we are called to be different. That difference is a lifetime process of transformation that always centers on the gift of salvation. As we journey, we see God’s hand on our lives and become more like him with the passage of each day. In the end, however, it still comes down to this: “He who has the Son Has Life; and He who rejects that gift does not have eternal life.”
As we end the decade, we need to be reminded that our Journey is swift and our destination is eternity. We, therefore, are called to live for that end and not for the temporary promises of this world.  Happy New Year.
 
God Bless You

 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the[a] Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.