Wednesday 21 May, 2014

Ruth 2:1-13

2 Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side of the family. Her husband’s name was Elimelech. The relative’s name was Boaz. He was a very important man. 2 Ruth, who was from Moab, spoke to Naomi. She said, “Let me go out to the fields. I’ll pick up the grain that has been left. I’ll do it behind anyone who is pleased with me.” Naomi said to her, “My daughter, go ahead.” 3 So Ruth went out and began to pick up grain. She worked in the fields behind those who were cutting and gathering the grain. As it turned out, she was working in a field that belonged to Boaz. He was from the family of Elimelech. 4 Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem. He greeted those who were cutting and gathering the grain. He said, “May the Lord be with you!” “And may the Lord bless you!” they replied. 5 Boaz spoke to the man who was in charge of his workers. He asked, “Who is that young woman?” 6 The man replied, “She’s from Moab. She came back from there with Naomi. 7 She said, ‘Please let me walk behind the workers. Let me pick up the grain that is left.’ Then she went into the field. She has kept on working there from morning until now. She took only one short rest in the shade.” 8 So Boaz said to Ruth, “Dear woman, listen to me. Don’t pick up grain in any other field. Don’t go anywhere else. Stay here with my female servants. 9 Keep your eye on the field where the men are cutting grain. Walk behind the women who are gathering it. Pick up the grain that is left. I’ve told the men not to touch you. When you are thirsty, go and get a drink. Take water from the jars the men have filled.” 10 When Ruth heard that, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She asked, “Why are you being so kind to me? In fact, why are you even noticing me? I’m from another country.” 11 Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about you. I’ve heard about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since your husband died. I know that you left your father and mother. I know that you left your country. You came to live with people you didn’t know before. 12 “May the Lord reward you for what you have done. May the God of Israel bless you richly. You have come to him to find safety under his care.” 13 “Sir, I hope you will continue to be kind to me,” Ruth said. “You have comforted me. You have spoken kindly to me. And I’m not even as important as one of your female servants!”

First we are introduced to the character of Boaz. A good man to know and even better to be related to. Then comes Ruth’s decision to go out and glean grain behind the harvesters to feed herself and Naomi. It was Jewish law that the widows and the poor be allowed to collect the left overs for themselves. Ruth goes to work and ‘as it happened’ v3, she winds up in Boaz’s fields. Boaz notices her and finding out who she is he offers her work and protection, firstly because of his Godly integrity and secondly because of what Ruth had been doing for his relative Naomi.

I don’t believe these things happened by chance. It was God’s plan to bless Naomi and Ruth by this kinsman redeemer and through their lineage to bring us Jesus. God works His plans through connections. Family connections and community connections. His instructions to us in His word revolve so much around inclusion and caring for others, and protection of families.

I also love the way Ruth was proactive, taking the opportunity at harvest time to adopt the Jewish custom of gleaning. She was not shy of hard work. In this action God was able to move and bring about His plan.

Sometimes, (often), we are not aware of God’s plans as we go about our everyday business but it exciting to think that God may be working something amazing through us, even if we never see it. This encourages me to keep on in the every day and get out and do life.

Thank you God for the way you care for us individually and at the same time work all things together for the blessing of all your people. Help me to be attuned to your leading. Amen

Written by Dimity Milne

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Tuesday 20 May, 2014

Ruth 1:19-22

19 The two women continued on their way. At last they arrived in Bethlehem. The whole town was stirred up because of them. The women asked, “Can this possibly be Naomi?” 20 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara. The Mighty One has made my life very bitter. 21 I was full when I went away. But the Lord has brought me back empty. So why are you calling me Naomi? The Lord has made me suffer. The Mighty One has brought trouble on me.” 22 So Naomi returned from Moab. Ruth, her daughter-in-law from Moab, came with her. They arrived in Bethlehem just when people were beginning to harvest the barley.

How do we handle life when faced with a personal crisis? Naomi had left Bethlehem with a husband and two sons, and returned a widow, also mourning the death of her two sons.

Naomi is now a cranky and bitter woman, no longer believing that life can be pleasant and joyful, but for some reason, God has afflicted her with pain and loss.

In a short time, the afflictions endured by Naomi have made great and surprising changes in her. She consciously places all her pain, bitter experiences and hopelessness within the structure of God’s sovereignty, and she leaves the explanation and responsibility with him. This way of thinking is fatally flawed. She had forgotten that the God, whom she serves, is so much greater than her problems.  It is interesting to note that Naomi still trusts God, but her perception of God is founded in life circumstances and not on the nature of God.

Isn’t that what we do so often? We need to immerse ourselves in God’s word, spend time in his presence, and be convinced that Gods character is dependability and steadfast love. This will generate a faith in God that will allow you to cope with the uncertainties, pain and bitterness of life.

Father, help me always to remember that you are a loving and faithful God, no matter what circumstances have come my way, and as I submit to You, that all things will be worked for good to change me more into the image of Your son Jesus. Amen

Written by Cathy Croft

2 replies
  1. Kim Fleming says:

    Thanks Cathy great words. I too, like Naomi like to throw pity parties & forget to invite Jesus!

  2. David Newton says:

    It’s the ultimate challenge to ‘faith in God’. Why do bad things happen to good people? The question has perplexed some of the greatest thinkers of all history.
    As a person who has faced significant challenges in my life I confess the temptation to move towards bitterness is strong. The greatest revelation for me happened when I re-framed the question from ‘Why is this happening to me?’ to ‘How should I behave while this is happening to me’?. This does not deny the magnitude of the circumstance but it does changes a tormenting question to an empowering ‘call to action’.
    .
    Cathy, I 100% agree with your formula for overcoming bitterness.
    Thanks!

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Monday 19 May, 2014

Ruth 1:15-18

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 try to make me leave you and go back. Where you go I’ll go. Where you stay I’ll stay. Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God. 17 Where you die I’ll die. And there my body will be buried. I won’t let anything except death separate you from me. If I do, may the Lord punish me greatly.” 18 Naomi realized that Ruth had made up her mind to go with her. So she stopped trying to make her go back.

Ruth had every reason to return to her family when her husband died.  After some encouragement

her sister-in law made this decision and returned to her family.  Ruth, however was adamant that she would remain with her mother-in law, Naomi.  Despite Ruth’s husband’s death she was still committed to his family ie Naomi.  The family she had married into for better or worse and this was certainly the worse.  Ruth made it clear to Naomi that they now shared the same God and people.  It would only be death that would separate them.  Amazing loyalty!

I can’t imagine the conversation between the two widow women as they headed to Bethlehem.

Can’t have been too positive though.  How would they get along without a male in the family? What kind of a livelihood were they facing?

The story of Naomi and Ruth makes me question my own commitment to God and his people, the church.  Is there a deal breaker for me? ie. if something really awful was to happen to me would I return to my former ways? To the comfort of old friends and habits.  All bets are off God!  I’ll take over from here thanks very much.  Or would I continue to believe and remain faithful to the point of death like Ruth? At this time Ruth did not know that she would marry the wealthy Boaz – far from it. Nor did she realize that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, would be her descendant even though she was a foreigner or non Jew.   I can’t help but think that her loyalty and commitment to God and his people had something to do with this.

Dear God, please help me to remain committed to you no matter what upheavals and circumstances I face in life. Like Ruth may you remain my God and your people my people.  Amen.

Written by Ainslie Woods

1 (reply)
  1. Kim Fleming says:

    It was very brave of Ruth to go with Naomi even though Naomi didn’t paint a very nice picture of her God. I would’ve liked to meet Ruth & be her friend and maybe some of her character could rub off on me!

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Sunday 18 May, 2014

Ruth 1:6-14

6 While Naomi was in Moab, she heard that the Lord had helped his people. He had begun to provide food for them again. So Naomi and her daughters-in-law prepared to go from Moab back to her home. 7 She left the place where she had been living. Her two daughters-in-law went with her. They started out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah. 8 Naomi spoke to her two daughters-in-law. “Both of you go back,” she said. “Each of you go to your own mother’s home. You were kind to your husbands, who have died. You have also been kind to me. So may the Lord be just as kind to you. 9 May he help each of you find a secure place in the home of another husband. May he give you peace and rest.” Then she kissed them good-by. They broke down and sobbed loudly. 10 They said to her, “We’ll go back to your people with you.” 11 But Naomi said, “Go home, my daughters. Why would you want to come with me? Am I going to have any more sons who could become your husbands? 12 “Go home, my daughters. I’m too old to have another husband. Suppose I thought there was still some hope for me. Suppose I got married to a man tonight. And later I had sons by him. 13 Would you wait until they grew up? Would you stay single until you could get married to them? No, my daughters. My life is more bitter than yours. The Lord’s powerful hand has been against me!” 14 When they heard that, they broke down and sobbed again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-by. But Ruth held on to her.

After the death of husband and two sons, Naomi decided to return back to Bethlehem where they were came from about ten years ago.

One of the reasons to have Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem was what she heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them which was the reason pushed they moved from Bethlehem to Moab.

Now, while she set out on the road with her two daughters-in-law, she said to them “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show kindness to you, as you have shown to your dead and to me…….”. But these two daughters-in-law were crying aloud and said no, they wanted to go back with Naomi to her people. Naomi did not agree and insisted they had to go because she could not make them to have husbands again (according to Hebrews custom). Then, Orpah kissed-and-good-by, but Ruth would not be parted from Naomi.

Imagine what a tragedy of this. An old woman and two young women/lady were crying there for separating as they lose 3 family members (husbands).

The challenge of this passage to me is:

  1. Do I move/escape from the difficult circumstance without asking God’s direction?
  2. Do I keeping listing/caring about what God has done to my home town?
  3. Will I pray the Lord show the kindness to people who are leaving for any reason?

Dear Lord, thank you for your love and mercy—you always care about your people and never leave me alone. Because “man’s extremity but god’s opportunity” is always true. Amen.

Written by Allen Leu

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Saturday 17 May, 2014

Ruth 1:1-5

1 There was a time when Israel didn’t have kings to rule over them. But they had leaders to help them. This is a story about some things that happened during that time. There wasn’t enough food in the land of Judah. So a man went to live in the country of Moab for a while. He was from Bethlehem in Judah. His wife and two sons went with him. 2 The man’s name was Elimelech. His wife’s name was Naomi. The names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went to Moab and lived there. 3 Naomi’s husband Elimelech died. So she was left with her two sons. 4 They got married to women from Moab. One was named Orpah. The other was named Ruth. Naomi’s family lived in Moab for about ten years. 5 Then Mahlon and Kilion also died. So Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.

I have always loved the book of Ruth and the beauty of the love story that runs on so many levels, but in reading this passage, I am struck afresh by the enormity of the tragedy. Life was hard enough already for Naomi and her husband to flee the famine to Moab – the land of the enemy from an Israelite perspective. Then Naomi loses her husband and both sons in a short space of time. Men in those times were really the only ones who would have been able to earn an income, so it would have almost been a guarantee of death or lifelong hardship for Naomi and her two stepdaughters.

Lord, when life feels hard, give us encouragement to go on and perspective to see that there are almost always going to be others around us in more need than we are.

Written by Justin Ware

2 replies
  1. Andrew Mellor says:

    Thanks Justin, so easy to rush through this part of the story, but wow, these women were hit about as heavy as Job was, they were wiped out.
    Makes the redemption even more incredible!

  2. David Newton says:

    Ruth is one of the most unusual books of the Bible. The story of redemption from a social welfare perspective.

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Friday 16 May, 2014

Hebrews 13:20-25

20 Our Lord Jesus is the great Shepherd of the sheep. The God who gives peace brought him back from the dead. He did it because of the blood of the eternal covenant. May God 21 supply you with everything good. Then you can do what he wants. May he do in us what is pleasing to him. We can do it only with the help of Jesus Christ. Give him glory for ever and ever. Amen. 22 Brothers and sisters, I beg you to accept my word. It tells you to be faithful. I have written you only a short letter. 23 I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been set free. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you. 24 Greet all of your leaders. Greet all of God’s people. The believers from Italy send you their greetings. 25 May grace be with you all.

I’m at Band Camp this weekend. It’s a big job, I’m half way through and I’m pretty tired. Sick kids, dealing with parents, not much sleep, keeping kids safe and happy, still being kind and understanding to the needs of 8 year olds yet being firm and maintaining some disciple. I know that God wants me here but sometimes I don’t feel up to the task.

Verse 21 of his passage says “may He equip you with all you need for doing His will”.   But in the middle of a stressful situation (like Band Camp) how does this work? What is the mechanism that God uses for getting me “equipped”.  Do I need to do anything or will the resources just turn up?

I think the “how” is not for me to know. It’s a faith issue. I need to ask my Heavenly Father for the things I think I need to do His will and then get into the task at hand trusting that the “equipping” is on its way, regardless of whether or not I’m feeling up to the task. God is faithful and He won’t let me down.

Thank you Lord, that you are faithful, you keep your word and you have never let me down. Amen

Written by Boudy van Noppen

1 (reply)
  1. Andrew Mellor says:

    Thanks Boudy, that is very encouraging and a timely reminder for me. God delivers, we don’t always know how, but he always delivers!

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Thursday 15 May, 2014

Hebrews 13:17-19

17 Obey your leaders. Put yourselves under their authority. They keep watch over you. They know they are accountable to God for everything they do. Obey them so that their work will be a joy. If you make their work a heavy load, it won’t do you any good. 18 Pray for us. We feel sure we have done what is right. We long to live as we should in every way. 19 I beg you to pray that I may return to you soon.

Having a healthy relationship between yourself and someone who is in a powerful position is easy – in theory! Here Paul outlines the simple 3 things we should all do for our leaders:

1) obey them
2) submit to them (without grumbles)
3) pray for them

In context here, Paul is almost certainly writing about how we are to relate to Godly leaders, but I don’t feel like that means that this is still an easy command.

For me, I have had quite a journey with my own ability to submit to leadership. As a teenager, I had a very low regard for authority and I believed that even Godly authority should only serve to guide and counsel rather than lead or instruct. I particularly disliked authoritarian figures and I often found myself plotting ways to undermine their power through humour.

Over time I have personally learned that I need to encourage myself to respect leaders and see their vision and perspective, and this helps me to be able to obey and submit.

Praying for our leaders is more of a habit or routine. For me It needs to be scheduled to make sure it happens.

Lord, help us to be better at joyfully and faithfully submitting to our leaders and obeying them. And God, help our leaders – especially help them to put up with me!

Written by Justin Ware

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Wednesday 14 May, 2014

Hebrews 13:7-16

7 Remember your leaders. They spoke God’s word to you. Think about the results of their way of life. Copy their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9 Don’t be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good that God’s grace makes our hearts strong. Don’t depend on foods the Law requires. They have no value for the people who eat them. 10 Some worship at the holy tent. But we have an altar that they have no right to eat from. 11 The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Room. He brings their blood as a sin offering. But the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 Jesus also suffered outside the city gate. He suffered to make the people holy by spilling his own blood. 13 So let us go to him outside the camp. Let us be willing to suffer the shame he suffered. 14 Here we do not have a city that lasts. But we are looking for the city that is going to come. 15 So let us never stop offering to God our praise through Jesus. Let us offer it as the fruit of lips that say they believe in him. 16 Don’t forget to do good. Don’t forget to share with others. God is pleased with those kinds of offerings.

The writer of Hebrews talks of our hearts being “strengthened by grace.” This is written in contrast to the practicing of empty rituals which are of no such benefit. If I think about it, one of the most consistently read about, thought about, and talked about topics around the world is how one can be encouraged, strong, persistent, and fervent in heart. Here in Hebrews, grace is the answer. Grace, in the person and work of Jesus, as the writer goes on to talk about in verses 12-16. And I wondered, what are the empty rituals that I engage in to try and strengthen my heart, where what I really need is the grace of God? With reference to my productivity at work, I can think of countless times where I’ve written another to-do list, done another clearing of my inbox, or tried another productivity app, where what I really needed to do was ask for and expect the grace of God to help me strengthen what was weak in me, and overcome what was broken in my approach.

I need to ask God for His strengthening grace. And expect the fruit of this strength in my heart and life growing in strength, fervency, and consistently. Instead of relying upon empty rituals that have the apparent promise of strengthening my heart, what instead I need to do is look to what God has done for me in Jesus – providing a grace that empowers me to live a life worthy of the God who made me, and practically builds within me the kind of character that will be able to live this worthy life.

Lord, to you I look for strengthening grace. May my heart grow to know your strengthening grace more and more. May my heart love and develop a deep and lasting affection for your strengthening grace, such that at all times and in all situations, I grow less and less distracted by the hollow alternatives that inevitably pop up. Amen.

Written by Ps. Rob Waugh

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Tuesday 13 May, 2014

Heb 13:1-6

13 Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. 2 Don’t forget to welcome strangers. By doing that, some people have welcomed angels without knowing it. 3 Remember those in prison as if you were in prison with them. And remember those who are treated badly as if you yourselves were suffering. 4 All of you should honor marriage. You should keep the marriage bed pure. God will judge the person who commits adultery. He will judge everyone who commits sexual sins. 5 Don’t be controlled by love for money. Be happy with what you have. God has said, “I will never leave you. I will never desert you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) 6 So we can say boldly, “The Lord helps me. I will not be afraid. What can a mere man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6,7)

In this passage we as believers are commanded to look to the needs of others, stay pure in marriage, be free from the love of money and be content. We are encouraged to remember what we do have – we have God on our side. It is possible to be content when we meditate on the truth that the King of the Universe has promised Himself to us, bound Himself to us as our provider and protector. When I think about that truth how can I do anything less than honour Him with obedience. I am excited to live His way.

Thank you God that you direct my ways, you fill me with purpose and empower me to live in alignment with you.

Written by Beth Waugh

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Monday 12 May, 2014

Hebrew 12:25-29

25 Be sure that you don’t say no to the One who speaks. People did not escape when they said no to the One who warned them on earth. And what if we turn away from the One who warns us from heaven? How much less will we escape! 26 At that time his voice shook the earth. But now he has promised, “Once more I will shake the earth. I will also shake the heavens.” (Haggai 2:6) 27 The words “once more” point out that what can be shaken can be taken away. I’m talking about created things. Then what can’t be shaken will remain. 28 We are receiving a kingdom that can’t be shaken. So let us be thankful. Then we can worship God in a way that pleases him. We will worship him with deep respect and wonder. 29 Our “God is like a fire that burns everything up.” (Deuteronomy 4:24)

The writer of Hebrews is comparing early times when God spoke through prophets to His people and now through the Holy Spirit. He also points out that if we don’t listen, so much more will happen. Then the earth shook at the sound of His voice, if we don’t heed His message not only will the earth shake but everything created will shake.

We must be very aware of where we stand with God, His kingdom is the one thing that will not be shaken and we who are part of the Kingdom can stand on firm foundations, with grateful hearts. Our worship must be acceptable and reverent for God is worthy of our utmost at all times.

Lord help us to be mindful of who You are and we thank you for loving us enough to send your Son, Jesus Christ to die for our sins and then rise again. Thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to us to be our comforter and friend.

Amen

Written by Joan Bennett

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