The story of Naomi and Ruth is an amazing one! Every time I read it, I am blown away by how big God is, how involved He is in details, and mostly, how loving and kind He is toward those who are after His heart. Here's the intro to a Bible study that I wrote that expresses my heart ... sorry guys, this study is not directed at you :)
What does it mean to be a godly woman?
We are women and we are unique. We are not like men, and they are not like us. I know this sounds kind of elementary, but we live in a world that seems to be getting it a little mixed up. To be ‘godly’ seems to have little to do with our past. If it does, I for one failed the test several years ago; in fact I probably failed it the moment I began my journey as a Christian! Godliness has nothing to do with successes and failures, but everything to do with my present posture & state of mind before God. I guess another way of putting it is; a godly past does not justify or acquit an ungodly present.
As I was pondering the question of being a godly woman, I was drawn to the book of Ruth. As I read and reread the book, I was impressed with the many things that we could learn from the lives involved. I was stunned by the significance of Ruth’s choices, especially as I reflected on the genealogy listed in chapter 4 (Ruth 4:13-22). It was then that I saw the women specifically that were used to fulfill the coming of Jesus; unlikely candidates for a King’s lineage! In Matthew 1:1-16; there’s another genealogy account listed for us that takes the one from Ruth all the way to Jesus’ birth. Christ’s lineage includes woman like Tamar (she slept with her father-in-law), Rahab (a harlot & Canaanite), Ruth (a Moabite), and Mary (unwed & young). God takes great delight in using unlikely people for His glory.
The very nature of ‘being’ a Christian is to be constantly growing and learning, ever changing as Christ increases in us and we recognize our intense need of Him. That is my life-long endeavour; to always be teachable, pursuing the heart of God and bringing Him glory with my life. The more I mature, the more I realize that I am like most of those that God used in scripture; unlikely candidates to be used effectively for a King. But, this is mere human reasoning as God takes great delight in taking foolish things, weak vessels, and broken lives to exhibit His salvation.
"Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don't see many of "the brightest and the best" among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn't it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these "nobodies" to expose the hollow pretensions of the "somebodies"? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That's why we have the saying, "If you're going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.""
(1 Corinthians 1:26-31 MSG)
While reading this morning, I knew the Lord was speaking again to a very deep place in my heart...
I've been reading through a chronological version of the Bible and today's chapters were in Deuteronomy where God is giving Moses final instructions & reminders for Israel before they move into the promised land with their new leader, Joshua. So as I come to chapter 18, I glance at the sub-titles: Offerings for Priests and Levites, Occult Practices, The Prophet and dive in. After reading the previous OT books, a lot of this is beginning to look repetitious, but I move on. I resonate with the Levites, agree quickly with the avoidance of occult practices, and want the voice of the prophet. Oh, but I haven't noticed this before... Look at verse 16!
For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”
I want His voice & presence to be near. I trust Him. I honour & fear only Him. I want Him to speak & move through me.
This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children...
"In that day the remnant left in Israel, the survivors in the house of Jacob, will no longer depend on allies who seek to destroy them. But they will faithfully trust the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. A remnant will return... "
Isaiah 10:20, 21a
I hear this call just about everyday, "Return". What? Is Wanda backsliding? Isn't Isaiah talking about the 'remnant' of Israel who survived God's punishment toward them because of their unfaithfulness toward Him? In less words... they were a remnant of disobedient people.
Every day I make choices to either stay close to innocence (God) or not. I see, smell and hear things that want to challenge my desires and appetites - that require some type of response. These parade as allies - fulfilling my imminent needs while sabotaging my future. Often, the best reply I can give is what may look like indifference - to walk away without response. You know; not taking the 2nd look, closing the fridge door, turning the pity off, etc. Otherwise the pity starts to party and the treat turns into bondage.
Sound trivial? Maybe, but these are the things that spoil my connection with the Holy Spirit. I am human. I decided to follow Jesus a long time ago. And I tend to get distracted. When I do, He calls me back.
Maybe one day I'll be so perfect in my desires and pursuits that I will not need to have this reminder. But until that day comes, this remnant will return as often as is necessary!
Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23 (NKJV)
Freedom is not the absence of rules;
it is the release to actually follow them with great joy and satisfaction.
I am concerned that many of us who claim to follow Jesus are mistaken, having watered down the truth of the gospel to fit personal desires. In our desperate search for love and meaning, have we forgotten truth? Has the tyranny of legalism caused us to swing so far that we have forgotten that surrender and obedience are part of God's equation?
I know this seems abrupt, but as I sat reading the Psalms this morning my spirit was stirred. I appeal to you to search the word of God. He does give us guidelines to follow, not because He is a dictator or control freak, but because He knows how we operate best. God's laws come out of His unfailing love. They are liberty for each of us. In them, we find who He is. In them, we find blessing. Freedom is not the absence of rules; it is the release to actually follow them with great joy and satisfaction. When I am free in Christ, I no longer want what I had.
I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments.
Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord. Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths. You have charged us to keep your commandments carefully. Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees! Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with your commands. As I learn your righteous regulations, I will thank you by living as I should! I will obey your decrees. Please don’t give up on me! (Psalm 119:1-8)
Did you know that if you read four chapters a day
in your Bible that you will get through it in one year?
It's amazing to me how I can now be so fed and motivated by the Psalms whereas a few years ago, I did not have the fortitude to read them.
I've been taking the time to read through the book of Psalms again. In all honesty, it has been a very long time since I did this. I mean, I read a Psalm here or there among other things, but I have not journeyed through the whole book now for quite some time.
Today, as I was reading chapter 37, I recalled the struggle of a few years ago. It was after my dad died. The very last thing that my dad said in his right mind was, "The Lord is my Shepherd ... what more is there to say!" From there he went into 3 open heart surgeries (in the span of 4 days!), months of struggling to heal, heavy depression and subsequent suicide...
An anger toward God's seemingly lack of 'shepherding' built up in me to the point that I could not even digest the words of the psalmists. Today, over 12 years later, as I began to read Psalm 37.
"Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. 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: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun."
My mind wandered... The thought flipped through my head, "Wow, anger is really damaging. It distorts truth and works in a kind of short-sited, fast judgment sort of way. I was so wrong in my thinking when I was angry!"
Then my mind went back to Psalm 37 and I continued reading:
"Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil."
Ha! Isn't God funny! He confirmed my thoughts without me even looking for it!!
(read the rest of the story here to finish chapter 37)
God has answered my prayer. He has given me fortitude again to read His word and to believe and trust Him. He can do that for you too. If you haven't allowed your eyes to drink from God's word lately, pick it up. His cup is really full of good stuff!
Maybe I've been looking at this the wrong way.
Is obedience simply something that is required? Is it a chore? How do I do it with joy... with absolute trust?
I've been asking these questions a lot lately. I want to be obedient; in fact, I think that I am for the most part. But, I want to find how to be 'peacefully' obedient. I have come to realize that I can only do this by putting my full trust in the One that I am obeying.
I've been reading in Exodus and in just one sitting I read the following:
Aside from the incredible privilege of seeing that (yeah, yeah; I'm that old! :), I think that the next great reward of obedience comes in the form of 'peace'. What a treasure (& relief) peace is; for when I am not struggling against God well, I am not struggling!
Take time to ponder this today. Obedience to a gracious, kind and merciful God is His way of rewarding us. What a good God we serve.
I was reading Genesis 31-33 today and noticed something in Jacob that sounded
familiar to me!!
Take time to read through this story if you haven't done so in a while.
Jacob would often respond to God obediently, but his methods of response were frequently dictated by fear.
...before you read on I'd like to define the fear that I am referring to first.
I am not talking of the reverential fear/respect for God that we all need.
I am talking of a fear/worry/terror of what others think
or of what we imagine circumstances to bring us.
As I was reading along, it struck me... guilt produces fear! Does that seem right out of the blue? Think about it. Years earlier Jacob had run from his brother Esau because, well, Esau wanted to kill him. It was probably a good thing that he ran; but he ran with the guilt of why his brother wanted his life. Jacob had deceived him & essentially robbed everything from him. Jacob's actions didn't produce remorse, they produced fear and fear flees.
Now, in chapter 31, Jacob is faced with another relational issue, this time with Laban. The difference here is that this circumstance was probably not Jacob's fault. God tells Jacob to leave and go back to his homeland. Jacob obeys... but he obeys with fear operating. Instead of leaving with confidence in the care of God, he fears the worst reaction that Laban might possibly throw and tries to sneak away. It's funny to me how he thought he could do this without being noticed (all the flocks & herds & wives & kids :). Anyway, Laban asks Jacob why he did this and Jacob's response was this, "Because I was afraid, for I said, ‘Perhaps you would take your daughters from me by force.' " (Genesis 31:31)
Fear can sound quite noble. Fear tries to mimic wisdom.
BUT, there is a difference! Wisdom and fear cannot operate in peace together. Both are masters, and both will compete for control. Wisdom is sound and confident, daring and peaceful all at the same time. Fear is irrational and anxious and extremely short sited.
Here's the lesson I learned today from Jacob:
"I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.." Ephesians 1:17
Please inquire for the word of the LORD today. 1 Kings 22:5