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 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.

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 1–Spiritual Discipline and Christ-like Love

Peter reminds his readers that they are facing the end times.  As such, they need to live with a focus on the eternal and not the temporal. He reminds them that they can no longer chase the passions of the world, but must live in a manner that is worthy of God.  Peter stressed that they had to quit chasing the things that give instant gratification–sexual sin, materialism, selfishness, and lawlessness. He calls them to be self-controlled, sober-minded and prayerful.  He also reminds them to love earnestly and act hospitably to others. 
 
Nothing has really changed, people are still chasing little gods like lust, greed, sensuality and instant gratification. they now worship their phones, i-pads, computer screens, and TV.   We fall into the trap of living in the “Grand Illusion” as sung about by an 80’s rock band Styx. The illusion makes us think that what we see on the screen is a reality, when in fact we live lives that are not nearly so glamorous but so much more substantial. Still, we need to be self-controlled, sober-minded, loving and hospitable.  Peter reminds us that earnestly loving folks covers a multitude of sins. We need to live as ones who are headed for an eternity with the Lord, not just living in the here and now.  If we will, we will experience more life than we can imagine.  Additionally, we will leave a mark of love and compassion that will last well beyond our time here on earth. 
 
God Bless You

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh,[a] arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 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:

I Timothy 3 Part 1–Desire to Lead

Leadership is critical in any organization.  In the body of Christ, the character of a leader is as critical as the leader’s skills and gifts. Paul told Timothy to do a careful search of the character of church leaders. They must live Godly lives, have a noble character, display restraint, gentleness amicability and have families that do the same. Are leaders supposed to be perfect? In Paul’s mind, he knew no leaders–especially himself, were perfect. But, due to the scrutiny and the importance of the role, Leaders need to be a cut above.
 
In our society, we have forgotten that character is often what distinguishes great leaders. Our culture looks at wealth, celebrity, charisma and social status as the hallmark of great leaders. In spite of that, there are many folks of amazing character that rise to the tops of their field and remain unassuming, noncontroversial and humble.  They work hard and are extremely gifted, but see leadership as a wonderful honor; one not to be taken lightly.  They have a lasting influence on those that they lead, and they are recognized and remembered for their legacy and character–not their title and wealth.  God calls his leaders to be servants, He prepares them, promotes them and uses them to shape the church and the community to become like Him.  Thank you, servant leaders, and thank You, Lord, for providing them.
 
God Bless You

Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full[a] respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

In the same way, deacons[b] are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

I Corinthians 13–The Impact Love Has on our Faith and Our Ministry

Paul came to what many would call the climax of his letter to the Corinthians. It was the discussion to end all questions about Life, sacrifice and talent.  It reframed the entire discussion of faith into one single word. Love. Paul starts the discussion with what love is not–1. Love is not saying the right words or teaching the right doctrines–because to do so without love is both noisy and annoying.  2. Speaking the truth and foretelling the mystery of life is not love; to do so without love is worth nothing. 3. Personal sacrifice in deed or death is not love, because making a sacrifice without love gains one nothing.
 
Paul then addresses what love is–it is patient, it is kind, it is humble, selfless, graceful. It does not act brash, rude, boastful nor does it snicker at the sins and crimes of others. Love rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, endures all things, it is always hopeful and always positive about others.  Love is quite simply what we are all about.  
 
When operating out of love the “religious activities” naturally occur.  Amazingly, they are more beautiful, helpful and meaningful when they come from the love we have for God and for one another. As in everything else in Christianity God looks at our hearts, not our deeds.  If our heart is right, the deeds happen. But using the deeds as a way to gain approval, when done without love is a distorted mess. That is the heart of love and that is the heart of ministry.
 
God Bless You

 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.

I Samuel 26 Part 1–Honoring God is Always the Right Answer

It was very simple. David was being protected by God as King. Saul, on the other hand, was being deceitful, murderous and acting in direct rebellion to God. No man would have ever blamed David for killing Saul. David gave Saul countless opportunities to stop the hunt and allow David to live his life in peace. Still, Saul persisted. Now David had Saul’s life in his hands once again…but, David again trusted God and let Saul live.  It was never easy, and I am sure it frustrated his men, but, God was leading David and David had grown to trust God at all cost.
In our lives, we are faced with trials and issues that make us want to take over and try to run our own show. The world encourages it and everyone else seems to be doing that very thing.  In our effort to remain faithful, it looks futile and even those we love, wonder why we would not simply take matters into our own hand.  Like David, we must stay the course and trust that God will prepare us, protect us and provide for us–no matter what the world does.   If we will do that, God will show himself to be faithful and true.  We can never lose hope in God’s faithfulness. If we will only trust him, He will make our lives full and meaningful–just as he promised.
God Bless You

The Ziphites went to Saul at Gibeah and said, “Is not David hiding on the hill of Hakilah, which faces Jeshimon?”

So Saul went down to the Desert of Ziph, with his three thousand select Israelite troops, to search there for David. Saul made his camp beside the road on the hill of Hakilah facing Jeshimon, but David stayed in the wilderness. When he saw that Saul had followed him there,he sent out scouts and learned that Saul had definitely arrived.

Then David set out and went to the place where Saul had camped. He saw where Saul and Abner son of Ner, the commander of the army, had lain down. Saul was lying inside the camp, with the army encamped around him.

David then asked Ahimelek the Hittite and Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, “Who will go down into the camp with me to Saul?”

“I’ll go with you,” said Abishai.

So David and Abishai went to the army by night, and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground near his head. Abner and the soldiers were lying around him.

Abishai said to David, “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I won’t strike him twice.”

But David said to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless? 10 As surely as the Lord lives,” he said, “the Lord himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. 11 But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let’s go.”