Another Story Reflecting Christmas?

What is the Christmas Story? Santa Claus with his bag, family gift exchanges, or maybe it is just time with family. Some of us may think of a cold wintery day in Israel, where a nice wooden manger sets the scene as the star shines brightly overhead. The animals are all quietly laying in the hay while Shepard’s and Wisemen give gifts and look on as the Baby Jesus is lying quietly in the feeding trough. He is bundled up in a beautiful white blanket and everything is so neatly in its place. While his mom and dad are taking in all the festivities surrounding him.

2 Kings 7: 3-4                        NLT

Now there were four men with leprosy sitting at the entrance of the city gates. “Why should we sit here waiting to die?” they asked each other. “We will starve if we stay here, but with the famine in the city, we will starve if we go back there. So we might as well go out and surrender to the Aramean army. If they let us live, so much the better. But if they kill us, we would have died anyway.” 

The passage 2 Kings may not remind you of the Christmas Story but maybe it should. Here we find four lepers. Leprosy is a terrible disease that damages the pain sensors in your entire body. You are unaware that something or someone has caused you pain, even to the point of being unaware that your eyes need to blink, such a small action and yet without that pain sensor we become blind. Sin is like that; it destroys are spiritual senses of pain. We are created in His image but because of Sin we are unaware of the pain that is caused by not seeing the one who loves us so much.

2 Kings 7: 5-6, 8                    NLT

So at twilight they set out for the camp of the Arameans. But when they came to the edge of the camp, no one was there! For the Lord had caused the Aramean army to hear the clatter of speeding chariots and the galloping of horses and the sounds of a great army approaching. “The king of Israel has hired the Hittites and Egyptians to attack us!” they cried to one another. When the lepers arrived at the edge of the camp, they went into one tent after another, eating and drinking wine; and they carried off silver and gold and clothing and hid it. 

The four lepers were sure they would find a full army ready to arrest them. The Story in 2 Kings show us how God can go before us and set the stage for a wonderful outcome. In this case, the Children of God and these lepers needed provisions and God provided them. In the case of that special Bethlehem night, we needed a Savior to restore spiritual vision of a relationship with God. So, the stage is set; crowds everywhere but no one notices, rooms filled but no place available, a King arrives but the only invitees were Shepard’s nearby.

2 Kings 7: 12-14                  NLT

The king got out of bed in the middle of the night and told his officers, “I know what has happened. The Arameans know we are starving, so they have left their camp and have hidden in the fields. They are expecting us to leave the city, and then they will take us alive and capture the city.” One of his officers replied, “We had better send out scouts to check into this. Let them take five of the remaining horses. If something happens to them, it will be no worse than if they stay here and die with the rest of us.” So two chariots with horses were prepared, and the king sent scouts to see what had happened to the Aramean army. 

The King of the Israel hears the stories of great riches just on the next hill. So, he sends out scouts to check out the story. King Herod had heard the story of a King who was born in his territory and he feared a takeover. They told him of a star that had guided their path toward a King that would rise from Bethlehem. King Herod meets with the astrologers and sends them out to see what had truly happened. The astrologers continued their journey but never reported back to King Herod. 

2 Kings 7: 15-16a               NLT

They went all the way to the Jordan River, following a trail of clothing and equipment that the Arameans had thrown away in their mad rush to escape. The scouts returned and told the king about it. Then the people of Samaria rushed out and plundered the Aramean camp. 

Unlike the astrologers these scouts returned with treasures and stories they had found that day. The people were in such great need that they left their city and rushed to find the treasure. Through the action of four lepers, the city found everything it needed: food, livestock, weapons, and hope.

The birth of Jesus takes years to unfold. There is no mad rush, no understanding of the great need, and only a few Shepherds to tell their story. God’s own Son had come to Earth in a messed-up dirty stall for animals, being delivered by a young girl and her betrothed young man. They stayed in Bethlehem for a couple of years with no fanfare. Jesus, just under two years old finally has visitors. They are three astrologers from another country who followed a special star. They brought Him gifts and bowed before the King of Kings. Joseph is told that King Herod is searching for them, so the young family fled to Egypt. The Son of God is on the run, the family is searching for safety.

This is the Christmas Story; we are unable to feel our spiritual pain. We are unaware that we need to blink our eyes, pause for a moment, and look within, so we become blind. This baby named Jesus, the creator of all He was born into, came face to face with the love of His life, Humanity. Not as a King, but in the form of an innocent baby, in a small city, born in a feeding trough. He came so we could find spiritual nourishment, a Peaceful journey, a shield of Faith, Joy in the storm, and true Love.

I Am A Passenger

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I have recently had knee replacement surgery. With that process comes the fact that I cannot drive during my recovery, I have become a passenger. Being the passenger has removed an aspect of the journey that I enjoyed more than I knew. The control that comes with being behind the wheel of my journey; hands on the steering wheel, foot on the gas and ready to stop when I decide. But being the passenger forces me to live under the control of the driver.

Galatians 1: 14                                  ESV

And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.

The Apostle Paul reflecting back on the time when he drove his own life as Saul of Tarsus. This passage is just one example of how that man was in control, we would call him driven. Judaism was his way of life but also it was his career and he excelled at it. He was a rising star inside the ranks of Judaism.

I also, relying on my own strength, worked my way up my career, personal, and spiritual ladder. I pushed hard and showed my worth and abilities to all who could assist me in the climb. I quickly learned that the ability to increase the value of those above me drove my ascent even faster.

Philippians 3: 4b-6                            ESV

If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 

I have mentioned in past Blogs that I grew up in church. If there was a job to fill, I was the one to fill it. I taught classes from children to adults and often on the same Sunday. I filled seats on leadership boards, I started ministries from the ground up, and my last name brought extra attention inside the church we served in, it was a family achievement.

What did all that hard work and respect get me? Church became more of a job than it was a place of worship. I walked the halls with my head up high. One day it all became increasingly clear – I was all about what I was doing to assist God and not what He was accomplishing through me. It broke me and I cried for days just thinking about how I had twisted the very purpose that God had designed me for.

Acts 9: 3-5                            ESV

Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 

Riding on his horse and directing his team on their journey to destroy those troublesome Jesus followers. A light bulb moment happens, and it completely knocked Paul off his horse. Laying on the ground and unable to see, he hears a voice. He hears what others are unable to see, the voice of Jesus.

Acts 9: 13-15                       ESV

But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 

Ananias was a follower of Jesus; Paul was coming to make him renounce his faith in Jesus or die. Instead of driving his own journey, Ananias became an instrument of God’s mercy toward Paul. Yes, Ananias did raise a concern but once God said go, the instrument sounded clearly as Ananias went. Before Paul’s encounter with God’s life changing light, his name was Saul (meaning ask or question). God changed his name to Paul (meaning small or humble).

I have never known an instrument to make a noise by itself. Someone must properly work and create the noise with the instrument. I learned quickly that I was not making God look better by the work I was doing; He was using me to play music that leads others to Him.

This Blog came into being this week not because I am creative but, because I wrote something that resounded through my soul. A friend posted at Thanksgiving with an eye over this past year, realizing that her biggest blessing in 2020 was being forced to slow down and focused on Jesus. Then God placed this note in my heart, “The best place to be is understanding that God is directing your life and you find yourself in the passenger seat.”

Why is Faith Hard?

The very foundation of the question brings doubt, if it is hard then how can we succeed? Let me ask you again, “Why is Faith so Hard”? Jesus tells us we can move mountains if we just believe and not doubt. I have never tried to move a mountain, as a matter of fact, I have never cursed a fig tree. I will tell you that I have faced some very tough situations and I must confess that I struggled with doubt. Oh, I believe that God is on my side and that through Him all things are possible. I have been raised in church and heard sermons every Sunday of my life. God’s word is true and yet I doubt, I struggle with life, and find myself too often unsure of that next step.

Hebrews 11: 6                                    ESV

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 

There it is, it plainly tells me that I am not pleasing God without faith. The question that causes me to doubt, “Why would He reward me”? Maybe, what I am asking for is more about me than it is about God. Who am I that God would stop and listen to me? Why should I be rewarded? Afterall that I have done wrong, why reward me?

James 4: 3-4                          ESV

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 

I continue to hurt my case with each passage I print out. I am living a life of adultery; that is loving my own life instead of living my life for Christ. I am in pain, so I ask to be relieved of this pain. I need to purchase stuff, so I ask for more money. I do not care for more responsibility; I just need more money. My relationship is in trouble, so I ask God to fix the other person in this relationship. I just want a miracle, because they make life better and I can share how God did something special just for me?

Mark 9: 17-19, 28-29                      ESV

And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

The disciples who had spent years walking with Jesus saw each miracle as it happened. Now a young man is before them in need of faith and deliverance, they failed. His father stood confused and hopeless concerning his son. Then Jesus shows up and prays healing over the boy’s life. The disciples asked Jesus, “Why could we not cast it out”?

I have the same question in my own life, why couldn’t I get rid of this issue that is causing my pain? So, did the disciples pray before they saw the boy? Maybe they prayed during the attempt to cast it out? If so, then why does Jesus explain to them that faith requires prayer? It appears they just said to the boy, “Be cast out”! Maybe they even repeated it several times, each one taking their turn. They had forgotten to include Jesus, to pray, to speak with the creator of all things. They forgot to have faith in God, not themselves.  

Mark 9: 21-24                       ESV

And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 

Jesus shows up and talks with the father, “How long as this been an issue?”. Immediately Jesus understands that this man has tried everything. He has been through many doctors and fake messiahs. His trust and faith are at an all-time low. We come across the question within the request, “If you can do anything, have compassion”? Once Jesus explains that all things are possible to those who believe, the man began to pray. His request was simple and yet it was so open, “help my unbelief!”. The child is freed from his challenge and Jesus receives the glory.

Trust God, not yourself. Remove your selfishness and lustful desires of your old heart and place your struggle in God’s hands. Ask and be honest with God, he already understands. Then after applying trust, draw close to God, believe that He is and that He rewards those who seek Him.

Old Becomes New

I had a total knee replacement just recently, so I have not been able to publish a Blog for what seems like months, so much has been happening. Recovery is going well but it seems strange, I just had parts replaced inside my leg. Old pieces were cut and removed, all to fit this new object into my body. They assure me that I will walk better, move easier, and all without pain. I have always got to where I was going, maybe painfully and with a limp. The movement was slow, and my legs were growing more bowlegged with each day. I was no longer walking like the person I was physically designed to be.

Psalms 139: 13-14                             ESV

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 

Before this surgery, I was not walking in the manner of a Human. I found myself sitting a great deal as those I loved continued to move forward. How does my physical breakdown equate to any Basic Bible Thought?

Colossians 1: 9-10                ESV

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 

I was created to be in relationship with God. He gave me a spirit and soul to serve and move in His direction. Adam and Eve walked with God. They talked, laughed, learned, and grew with Him by their side. What happen to Adam and Eve directly connects to what is happening to me today. Sin entered our lives and we started dying from that moment on. As Jesus stated, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”. Without Him we struggle as humans in each of those categories.

I often hear people asking the question, “how do I fit in, what is my purpose?” Without Jesus we lose our Way. We look for answers from great writers and self-help books. We may look to find answers through physical strength. Our business areas are full of work out gyms. Many find answers through religion.

Jesus is just moments away from the cross as Pilate is interviewing Him. Jesus explains that He is here to testify of the Truth, Pilate basically interrupts Him with, “What is Truth?” That question still echo’s today, what is truth. We have twisted and spun words to the point that we are continually adjusting our dictionaries. We can find Truth being adjusted from church building to church building. Here is a truth that never changes, “God wants to walk in relationship with His creation. We blew it, but He continues to pursue it. He died so that we have a path back to Him. Give Him your life and He will give you abundant life.”

Life is only found when you die. Strange statement is it not? This human body has certain cravings and desires that are destructive to living Life. Each day we must die to our own passions and ask God to lead the day. No need to panic here, God created us, so he knows how we are wired and what truly causes our heart to skip a beat with excitement. He will lead you into opportunities you never knew were out there. You will find your Way, by knowing the Truth, that brings us Life.

What does all this have to do with new parts in an old body?

2 Corinthians 5: 14-15, 17                                    ESV

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.  

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 

Due to this new knee I will walk upright again, I will walk with less pain, and I will walk without a limp. God places His spirit within us, removing all the broken, worn, and arthritic difficulties that have grown inside our soul. A new part to replace the old. Faith starts to take hold and we begin to believe that a path as been set for us. A Way is found due to the Truth of Christ and this brings us Life. All from a new part to replace the old.

I Hope you Dance

Lee Ann Womack sings a song entitled, “I Hope You Dance”. I am not much of a dancer, I move around in a chair, tap my foot and slow dance once every couple of years. Today, I was searching the web to research the word, “hope”. This song was a part of the search and so I listened and read the lyrics.

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed

Life is full of joys and sadness; seems the sad times stay with us far to long and joy stays only for the moment. A year like 2020 can leave us less hopeful than the day before. Life becomes more of a blur than an adventure. I hope we never lose that sense of wonder. Reading the Bible, praying and searching for God, leads us to even greater hope.

Romans 8: 24, 26, 28                        New Living Translation

We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) And 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. 

In this country we have so much, we lose that sense of contentment. We struggle with having less, this brings about a feeling of unworthiness, eventually that leads us into despair. The desire to find fulfillment vanishes from our life and hopelessness breathes into our soul. Some solve this challenge with plain greed, but it never is enough.

In the second line of the song, “You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger”, yes, we have plenty of things, but do we have love, joy, and peace? If everything you owned today was gone, do you still have hope? Our life struggle is to become more, not to have more but become more, that is the hunger we must desire. Contentment is found in Jesus, but never be satisfied to only believe in Him. Hunger for Him each moment of each day.

Hebrews 6: 1, 3                                  New Living Translation

So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding. 

“May you never take one single breath for granted”, our bodies perform many functions that we never think about. What brings air into your lungs, what excites you to the point you may scream for joy? Where do you find motivation to mature? We learn so much each day and when God is involved do not miss a single chance to dance with God.

1 Corinthians 6: 19-20                              New Living Translation

Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So, you must honor God with your body.

Since I have pulled lyrics from a song, allow me to pull a quote from one of my favorite movies, The Princes Bride. Prince Humperdinck and Buttercup are getting married and the impressive clergyman is performing the ceremony totally oblivious to the world of chaos around him.

Mawwiage is wat bwings us togeder today. Mawwiage, that bwessed awwangement, that dweam wifin a dream… And wuv, twue wuv, will fowwow you foweva… So tweasure your wuv— 

I will translate if you have not seen the movie; Marriage is what brings us together today. Marriage that blessed arrangement, that dream within a dream… And love, true love, will follow you forever… So, treasure your love.

True love is complete, it is without fear, and full of acceptance. Love is present regardless of the chaos that surround us. Love was there before we were here, and love will be with us long after we are gone. We do not have the ability to understand true love without the creator of love, for God is love.

1 John 4: 7-11                     New Living Translation

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 

According to Britannica here is the meaning of Dance. The movement of the body in a rhythmic way, usually to music and within a given space, for the purpose of expressing an idea or emotion, releasing energy, or simply taking delight in the movement itself.

Once you have asked God into your life it is no longer the same, someone else has taken control. You look for God to provide direction which gives you the courage to live this life in joy, peace, and the strength to love others. Someone once told me an extremely easy way to remember how to spell guidance, (God, you and I dance). With God life is an expression, of emotion where we can take delight in each movement.

2 Samuel 6: 14-16              New Living Translation

And David danced before the LORD with all his might, wearing a priestly garment. But as the Ark of the LORD entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she was filled with contempt for him. 

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance

King David danced, Michal sat it out, David was full of joy and Michal was full of contempt. Do not sit it out, Dance… God will take the lead

So, This is LIFE

There is a board game entitled “Life”. It brings with it a certain set of boundaries and rules for a successful life. The game has a starting point and a path that will lead you through the life, ending in retirement. The journey is dictated more by chance than it does the choices that you make. With each spin of the wheel you travel the path predetermined for your journey, following each direction you find when landing on a certain square. You begin your life with $10,000, a car, and a set of cards that will determine your education level, pay, and secrets that will be unveiled in retirement. You make purchases and borrow money from the bank that must be repaid by the time you reach retirement with interest. Retirement is at Millionaire Estates or Countryside Acres, but to be the winner of life you must create the greatest net worth by retirement.

Real life involves more than the spinning of a wheel, following predetermined direction, and creating wealth. Simply put, Life is hard! Real people are involved not plastic pegs stuck in a plastic car. I have yet to see an orange square under my feet, “buy a better home, draw a new home deed”. If only we had that option, have you ever said to God, “Just tell me what to do.” We make choices every day, but a single decision may alter your direction but often we find that a series of decisions have led us to our current situation.

Life can also be full of joy and peace. Speaking with my brother and sister-in-law just this week, we reminisced over a certain decade that brought us so much happiness. Our family life was so fulfilling as we made a special effort to come together for one purpose, just to see each other. Our church friends were of one mind and we pushed each other into a stronger relationship with Jesus. Work was steady with promotions and pay raises. Is life today just that much harder, or did we create memories minus the distractions and pain?

John 10:10                 New Living Translation

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. 

Some translations read, “Abundant Life”. Rich, Satisfying, or Abundant, I want that type of life. We read and admire those who have made their billions, but do riches bring satisfaction that leads to worthy abundance. We know of several wealthy founders that left their companies to start a life of philanthropy. They found wealth, power, fame, but did it bring satisfaction? Jesus is promising a life that is rich and satisfying, an abundant life.

Maybe these last two blogs come at a time when I have celebrated my 61st birthday and my wonderful marriage of 37 years to the best wife a husband could dream of. For me, Life is closer to the end than when I started all those years ago. I am blessed, please do not misunderstand my writing today. You reach an age when you want to know, “Have I served my purpose and done all I can? Am I living my best life, an abundant life that is rich and satisfying?”

Psalm 37: 3-5                       New Living Translation

Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: 

What does the human heart desire? The very thing it cannot contain! A selfish world that revolves around us, without limits. This type of life is not satisfying. We can only understand satisfaction as we fight through struggles. An uncontained life will always desire more, believing that satisfaction can be found in taking another…  

In Psalms I see David writing about doing good and enjoying safe pasture. When we think of a pasture our mind may imagine barriers that keep us corralled. When we trust Him and commit our ways to Him, then yes, we will have boundaries. Not to punish but boundaries that allow us the desires of our Godly heart.

John 14: 5-6                         New Living Translation

“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me

Thomas wants Jesus to place one of those orange squares from the game of life in front of him and give him direction to the ultimate path. He and the twelve did not understand where the journey would take them. They still believed that overthrowing the Roman Government would bring Riches, Abundance and Satisfaction. Jesus has a pasture for us that is so much bigger than one government! Our minds limit us, whereas Jesus is thinking eternal. He is the Way, the Truth, and the LIFE!

John 10: 14-19                    New Living Translation

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. 

Jesus provided a rich, satisfying, and abundant life, by dying on a cross. I know, it sounds crazy that life can come from death. Jesus is our perfect sacrifice and he allowed it to happen out of His abundance of enriching love that will allow satisfaction in our relationship with The Father.

Life is not a board game driven by a spinning wheel of chance. Life is best enjoyed when we are connected to the creator who died for us. He will guide us into the path that leads to life. If we choose to deny ourselves than we can find that Rich, Satisfying life.

True life begins at the Cross.

Today is NOT Forever!

It is easy to believe that today is our life forever. We start to believe that nothing will change, that this is now the “New Normal”. Let us keep this in mind, tomorrow will not be like today, and yesterday is not returning. What guides your decision process? Have you built a foundation on faith or fear?

I started this blog “Basic Bible Thoughts” when I was furloughed in March of 2020 and found myself with plenty of time.  I asked God, “What can I do that will reflect Christ, beyond my current circle of influence?” A blog that reaches beyond my local church brought fear because I am not a particularly good writer; you do not have to look awfully hard to see the errors in my grammar and spelling. The thought came to stop when I started back to work. Fear of failure and time challenges bring doubts, you see today tells me to stop, but today is NOT Forever!

Ruth 1: 1                     ESV

In the days when the judges ruled, 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. 

Naomi’s husband was looking at forever from today’s situation of a famine in the land. The decision was made, so they moved to Moab in hopes of a better life. He had heard that the land was good for crops and he could make a living for his family, so they left everything.

Ruth 1: 3-5               ESV

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 lives 10 years in Moab with so much pain and loss. These three women would bond over the tragedies in their life. Naomi had left a life of temporary famine, with a husband and two sons, only to find pain and hopelessness. Naomi’s today meant a forever life full of distress, pain, and struggle.

Ruth 1: 7-9               ESV

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 

When we are faced with pain and hurt, with challenges and struggles, we just want things to go back to the way they were. We forget why we left the old normal, it was not working.

Ruth 1: 12-13                       ESV

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— 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!” 

Her today was full of darkness, to the point of believing that the Lord’s hand was against her. Orpah, went back to her family sensing that Naomi was right, forever was not worth the risk.

Ruth 1: 16-17a

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. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.

Ruth saw past today; she saw beyond the pain in Naomi’s life. Ruth remembered the stories that she was told of Naomi’s God and believed that forever is better when He is involved.

Ruth 2: 1

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

Boaz is a relative of Elimelek, Naomi’s deceased husband. In the time that Naomi is gone, a relative of her husband has done well for himself and can provide the needed safety that Naomi is longing for.

Ruth 2: 22-23

Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with the women who work for him, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.” So Ruth stayed close to the women of Boaz to glean until the barley and wheat harvests were finished. And she lived with her mother-in-law.

Take the time to read through this beautiful love story found in the book of Ruth. The story of Ruth and Naomi is all about God’s love and redemption plan for his people. (Spoiler Alert) Boaz marries Ruth and they have a child. Ruth becomes the Great-Grandmother of King David.

Here we have a Moabite Woman, what she knows of God and the Jewish culture is taught to her by her Mother-in-law. Her claim to fame comes from a moment when she believed in a woman who was broken, hurt, and living in the challenges of today. Ruth’s today meant that her forever would stand on the foundation of this statement, “Where you go, I will go, where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God!”

What are the challenges or pain that is the headline of your today? Give it to God and allow Him to be God in your life. Go where He goes, stay where He stays, and your forever will be better when He is involved.

Stopped by Giants

1 Samuel 17: 1-3                 The Message Bible

The Philistines drew up their troops for battle. Saul and the Israelites came together, camped at Oak Valley, and spread out their troops in battle readiness for the Philistines. The Philistines were on one hill, the Israelites on the opposing hill, with the valley between them. 

We find Israel on one hill and the giant on the opposing hill but make note of the valley between them. At this point in the story, all is well with both camps. No weapon has been thrown, no battle has begun, and both sides are preparing for victory. Living life on the mountain is wonderful. Beauty is all around, and we feel like the “king of the hill.” Life does not allow us to stay on the mountains, though. We must come down into the valley. On the mountain, we can see forever, but in the valley, our vision ends at the next obstacle.

1 Samuel 17: 4-7, 11          The Message Bible

A giant nearly ten feet tall stepped out from the Philistine line into the open, Goliath from Gath. He had a bronze helmet on his head and was dressed in armor – 126 pounds of it! He wore bronze shin guards and carried a bronze sword. His spear was like a fence rail – the spear tip alone weighed over fifteen pounds. His shield bearer walked ahead of him. When Saul and his troops heard the Philistine’s challenge, they were terrified and lost all hope. 

In the valley we start to grow concerned, we lose our vision, and we lose faith. The giant overwhelms us to the point that we feel we can’t can even put a dent in him. We start to believe that the giant’s protection is so much better than ours and we are all alone. Inside the limited vision of the valley, we believe that the giant is larger, better protected, and undefeatable.

1 Samuel 17: 20-254          The Message Bible

David was up at the crack of dawn and, having arranged for someone to tend his flock, took the food and was on his way just as Jesse had directed him. He arrived at the camp just as the army was moving into battle formation, shouting the war cry. Israel and the Philistines moved into position, facing each other, battle-ready. David left his bundles of food in the care of a sentry, ran to the troops who were deployed, and greeted his brothers. While they were talking together, the Philistine champion, Goliath of Gath, stepped out from the front lines of the Philistines, and gave his usual challenge. David heard him. The Israelites, to a man, fell back the moment they saw the giant – totally frightened. 

As you begin to face your challenge, you mentally prepare: “I will not allow this to take me down! I have waited long enough. It is time to rid myself of this giant!” The battle lines are drawn, and you’re ready to implement the attack. The giant steps up and shows himself and begins to speak those lies. So you retreat and never advance.

1 Samuel 17: 37-39            The Message Bible

God, who delivered me from the teeth of the lion and the claws of the bear, will deliver me from this Philistine.” Saul said, “Go. And God help you!” Then Saul outfitted David as a soldier in armor. He put his bronze helmet on his head and belted his sword on him over the armor. David tried to walk but he could hardly budge. David told Saul, “I can’t even move with all this stuff on me. I’m not used to this.” And he took it all off. 

David remembered all his past experiences when God had fought his battles. They may not have been  giants like Goliath, but they had been challenges all the same, and God had proven Himself to David through those experiences. Of course, the world around us wants us to fight these battles with proven battle gear. King Saul outfits David with his armor, but the world’s key to battles just does not fit when God is involved. Faith, belief, and trust in God is what protects us.

1 Samuel 17: 47-49            The Message Bible

And everyone gathered here will learn that God doesn’t save by means of sword or spear. The battle belongs to God – he’s handing you to us on a platter!” That roused the Philistine, and he started toward David. David took off from the front line, running toward the Philistine. David reached into his pocket for a stone, slung it, and hit the Philistine hard in the forehead, embedding the stone deeply. The Philistine crashed, face down in the dirt. 

The battle belongs to the Lord. David’s stone hits the giant hard in the forehead, embedding it deeply. The battles we face are not military, they are not political, and they are not solved within our own strength. We discussed a few weeks ago, Romans 12:2. Paul tells us to transformation starts with renewing the mind. We can overcome mind monsters with a stone and a sling with God is in it! When God takes the victory, the whole earth will know that there’s an extraordinary God in our midst. 

Buried Treasure

If you are like me, the title just gave you an image in your mind of a pirate holding a compass and a map. He is steering his ship toward the hidden treasure on a lost island. We will not find pirate’s today, but we will search the Bible (our map) and utilize God’s Holy Spirit to guide us (our compass). Our search can be successful as we dig into treasures such as; overwhelming love, constant joy, internal peace, patience without stress, kindness to all, goodness overflowing, faithfulness that brings more hope, gentleness to all, and Self-Control, just to name a few.

The treasures are available to us but are we willing to dig in? If you are willing, be prepared for what you will find, life with purpose, with balance, and in full abundance. The reason we struggle to locate them is that we are not looking; our days are filled with other thoughts, task, and other less valuable treasures.

Matthew 13:44                                 ESV

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

He finds the treasure hidden. We are not told what was in the box, but this one sentence parable refers us to the Kingdom of Heaven. He immediately covers it and sells everything. If you are imagining yourself peaking into the treasure box; is the treasure a promise of happiness, freedom, or peace? The promise of a balanced lifestyle? Could it be a life fulfilled that brings more joy and confidence with each day? Then again maybe it’s just a normal treasure chest full of gold, silver, and precious coins, “Avast ye hearties”.

Matthew 6: 19-21                            ESV

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 

He sold everything; he has completely given up his life. Everything that seemed so important the day before, no longer is worth his time. He sells it all without any regret. What does he live on, how does he survive, and will he be accepted by the rest of the world? 

Why was something of such great value buried in an open field for anyone to find. Afterall it is a piece of ground that is barren, desolate, and dry. I can hear some of you right now, “Why buy the field, just take the treasure?” True value and worth are not taken but received.

Mark 10: 17-22                                ESV

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 

This young businessman finds a great treasure, the best-known teacher on the planet was just a few feet away from him. He runs up to Him and kneels on the ground with one question that has been eating at him since he first understood that Eternal Life was available. This young businessman had already done so much with his life. He kept the law faithfully and created a business model few could copy. Yet, something was missing. It was not confidence, his willingness to walk up to Jesus and speak boldly of his accomplishments proves that. His success may have brought him joy, happiness, and a feeling of fulfilment? But there was still this question, “What must I do to inherit Eternal Life?” Jesus said to him, “Sell everything and give the money to the poor.” He walked away disheartened and sorrowful.

2 Corinthians 4: 4, 7                      ESV

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

Do you want to know about this valuable treasure? Jesus gave up everything in Heaven for an opportunity to live in these jars of clay. During His life He is often found in fields teaching nuggets of treasure to those who would listen. This treasure is exceedingly rare and finding it will take complete surrender. Once we see our self-created lives as fragile jars of clay in need of restoration, then the search is almost over.

Philippians 3: 13-14                       ESV

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 

Whatever I have accomplished on this planet, it is time to surrender those things and leave them behind. Jesus was crucified in this jar of clay and then three days later he arose with a new body. We must without hesitation leave everything behind and strain toward the prize. This rare treasure ask of us only one thing; surrender, leave it all! I have great news, this treasure has already been purchased, Jesus supplied all the funds needed. The treasure we have found is Jesus residing in these restored jars of clay. Giving us the promise of living with Him in His Kingdom for Eternity.

Surrender and Follow Him, the value is worth the personal loss!

Three Men- Blessed or Cursed

Do you take time to reflect over your life? What have we done with the blessings and how did we handle the challenges? It is a core belief of mine that God creates us with certain gifts, abilities, passions, and desires. I believe these are designed for our service to God. We must accept His will into our life or we find ourselves selfishly utilizing them for our own pleasure.  

Today we will look at a parable given by Jesus; these are stories that are told to enlighten the listener to a deeper truth. This parable is given during the end of Jesus’ ministry and during a time when he is explaining to the disciples how His plan will play out beyond the Cross.

Matthew 25: 14-15                          ESV

“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 

This parable has four characters, each with their own abilities; A King who owns much, a servant worthy of five talents, a second servant worthy of two talents, and a third servant worthy of one talent. The amount of a talent is not the central focus but to better understand the value given to each, a talent was valued somewhere around seventeen years of wages. Each received a gift that was life altering.

Matthew 25: 16-19                          ESV

He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 

What could you accomplish with something of that value? Take seventeen years of your salary, dwell on that amount for a moment, now multiply it by five, or even two. When you have come to the end of your life, have you doubled the value, or at the least made some interest from it? Maybe there were moments when you utilized it for good, only to see it dwindle down due to selfish ambitions?  

I want to state that although the parable is making the point through financial gain, Jesus wants us to see beyond the financial. Maybe you can speak in public, maybe you can write, or maybe you can smile and make someone’s day. Just as this King gave from what he had; God has created us in His image. We are given a part of God’s character. Now dwell for a moment of the value in that gift.

Matthew 25: 20-23                          ESV

And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 

The only difference between servant one and servant two is the number of talents. The increase (doubled) and the reward (well done) are identical. Let us not lose sight that all three were given talents, they did nothing to earn or gain them, they belonged to the King.

Matthew 25: 24-28                          ESV

He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 

Our third servant lived in fear, fear of failure. The value became a burden, so he set it aside and lived life the way he felt comfortable. I have heard it said that living for Christ is not fun, too much pressure to be right. He might demand more than I can give. What if I blow it and all that hard work is for nothing? It is just easier to bury the gift, who am I to bring anything meaningful. Besides, I give to charities and even got some petitions signed to…

However long you have lived, look back over your life. What have you done with want has been given to you? I am fully aware of the number of famously rich people who are doing good with their financial means. I want you to dig harder than that. The King tells the men that they have been faithful in this little thing, (really, seventeen years is little) but He will set us over much. This is about accepting who He has created you to be, so that God, through His gift to you can alter someone’s eternal life and along the way alter yours.

One last thought, the pressure to perform is not on you. God creates us with these gifts, and He sent His Son to allow us the strength to live in them. Along with His Holy Spirit to direct us through them.

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