Glimpses of grace seen in the everyday

Posts tagged ‘faithfulness’

A Jewel of a Story

Like a high-quality diamond dazzling on a background of black velvet, the book of Ruth in the Bible stands out against the sordid stories of Judges which just precedes it and during which era the events of Ruth took place.

Having read and studied this jewel of a book countless times already, I am awed again today by the wisdom, love, power, and faithfulness of the great God who orchestrated these events and then made sure they were recorded for all generations to enjoy and learn from.

On the surface, it is a beautiful love story of Ruth, a young foreign widow, and Boaz, a kind and respected citizen of that place.

On a historical level, this story is set in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus.  In fact, the book closes with a brief genealogy which is unique in that it projects forward to link to David who is the great-grandson of Ruth & Boaz and the royal ancestor of Christ. 

On a thematic level, the book of Ruth is a story of faithfulness, the hesed (Hebrew) or loyal love that runs like a golden thread through the whole Bible:

God’s hesed to Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, who lost everything and then received so much more.  (Does this remind us of Job’s experience?)  She and her husband suffered economic loss and displacement, then she lost her husband and sons, her joy and confidence, concluding that God had become her enemy.
        In the end, God restored her to fullness with a daughter-in-law “who is better to her than 10 sons,” a secure place in Boaz’ home and even a very special grandson whom she considered as her own.

Ruth’s hesed to Naomi and to Naomi’s God whom she acknowledged as her own, turning her back on the god Chemosh of her native Moab.  Her pledge to Naomi is well-known:  “Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.”  Ruth’s hesed was displayed in her commitment to the welfare of Naomi and obeying her rather than seeking marriage with a younger man.   

Boaz’ hesed to Naomi and Ruth and even to their deceased husbands and family line.  This is seen first in his unusual kindness to this foreign widow who came to pick up bits of grain left behind by his reaper.  And then as a step of much greater commitment, his loyal love leads him to take on the responsibility for Naomi and Ruth, redeem the mortgaged family land, and allow his firstborn to be considered as another man’s son (Ruth’s first husband, according to the custom). 

While it may well be argued that Naomi is the main character of the story, Ruth and Boaz are its heroes.  They are well-matched! Each of them is called a  “man/woman of outstanding character” (2:1 & 3:11).  And for each of them, this virtue is highlighted by a contrasting counterpart who exhibits the attitude and behavior of a “normal” self-centered person. 

–Ruth’s sister-in-law Orpah decided to go back to the security of her home instead of  going with Naomi and Ruth to embrace a new life with its potential inconveniences.

–Boaz’ unnamed relative decided not to take up the first option of marrying Ruth and all the responsibilities that entailed, thinking first of his own financial security.

Did Ruth have any idea, when she insisted on going with Naomi, of the security and love that she would find, much less that she would have the incredible honor of becoming an ancestor of Jesus Christ?  What might be the surprise ending of my own story as I follow God out of my comfort zone?

By the way, I hope you will take time to read this very short story—whether for the first time or as re-reading a worn love letter.  You’ll love it! 

One of the Saints

In the country where I live, November 1 is a big day at the cemeteries.  People arrived all day with flowers, tables and chairs and food.  Some even stayed overnight next to the graves of their loved ones.  It’s All Saints’ Day, and the next day (so no one will be left out) is All Souls Day.

Ken Anderson & wife, Christian film maker

But to me, November 1 is the day for remembering one of those saints in particular:  my dad.  That is the day on which he entered his heavenly home thirteen years ago.  He was a saint, not because he was perfect, but because that’s what God calls those who become His children through by receiving the forgiveness and new life He offers through Jesus.  (See John 1:12; 1 Corinthians 1:2.)

I honor my dad for many things that he taught me, whether intentionally or just by example.  Here are some of them:

–To love his spouse and honor her.  (I never heard them argue but I often caught them smooching Red heart.)

–To love the Bible.  I would often find him reading it in the morning in his favorite chair.  And he knew how to simply share the message with others, both in church and around the supper table.

–To have fun and enjoy life Smile.  We went camping and enjoyed spontaneous picnics and drives in the country.  We had Family Nights with games, silliness, and snacks. I remember so well his contagious smile.  We even had our “secret” family recipe for candy that he would supervise on special occasions—Yum!

–To put God first in financial affairs. I remember the chart on which he kept track of the family’s giving to several missionaries and other ministries, even on a meager salary.  He and Mom taught me from an early age to give generously to the Lord and also to save for the future.

–To do what is right no matter what.  There were times when this was painful and unpopular, but he wouldn’t back down.  And he was respected for it.  By his example, I learned courage and sisu*.

–To love reading.  To always be truthful.  To honor family and friendships.

–To do one’s best. He made some beautiful things out of wood. He expressed confidence in me and pride in my efforts and accomplishments.  I especially appreciated his help with studying the night before a test. 

–To accept one’s limitations and make the most of them.  He joined in the joking about his lack of musical ability and his short stature.  But to me, he was a great man.  I look up to him and am pleased when someone remarks how like him I am.

 

* Sisu (pronounced – see’-soo) is a unique Finnish concept. It is a Finnish term that can be roughly translated into English as strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity.  (finlandia.edu/sisu-our-finnish-identity.html)

Preparing for Persecution

This noon as I perused the news, I came across several articles where Christians are being persecuted—physically, economically, and verbally—in all parts of the world including the United States.  And it’s predicted to get worse.  A choice must be made:  One can either give up the faith, give in to fear, or give oneself over in trust and loyalty to Christ no matter what

Then it was time for my husband and I to do our daily Greek review.  As we had stopped yesterday in the middle of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, here is what “just happened” to be next:

Blessed are those who are persecuted for doing what God approves of.
The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, lie, and say all kinds of evil things about you because of me. 

Rejoice and be glad because you have a great reward in heaven! 
                                                     (Matthew 5:10-12a, God’s Word translation)

May God give me and all His children commitment and courage to hang in there, endure suffering, and receive the blessing and reward that await at the end of the course.

Maranatha!  Come, Lord Jesus!

While Waiting—How to Live

I keep puzzling over how God’s people should live in this world that’s falling apart at the seams as we wait for His kingdom to arrive in all its power and put it all right.  This morning I read Matthew 24-25 which answers this very question.  Here is what Jesus says:

Don’t be alarmed when terrible things begin to happen.  24:6

Don’t be deceived by false messiahs (or teachings, etc.) 24:5-26

Hang in there, enduring faithfully to the end even when persecutions come. 24:9-13

Keep alert and be ready to meet him whenever He shows up (like a householder on the guard for burglars).  24:42-44

Keep working faithfully, not getting careless about sin (like an abusive manager). 24:45-50

Be wise; don’t slide into apathy or laziness (like the 5 foolish virgins). 25:1-13

Wisely use the resources God has entrusted to us during His absence. 25:14-29

Care, share, & serve others in need, as if they were Christ Himself!  25:31-45

With these assignments, there won’t be time for fussing, fretting, or fear!

Dinner with God! Then what?

A dinner invitation from God?  This actually happened at Mt. Sinai!

Then Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel climbed up the mountain. There they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there seemed to be a surface of brilliant blue lapis lazuli, as clear as the sky itself. And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence!  (Exodus 24:9-11 NLT)  

What an amazing God we have who is always inviting us into His presence!  He actually wants to be with us!  (See also Revelation 3:20 and 22:17 and lots of other verses throughout the Bible Smile.)

Then what long-term effect do you suppose this experience had on those Israelite leaders?  Well, sorry to say, just 40 days later (chapter 32), the people were caught worshipping a golden calf they’d demanded that Aaron make, presumably with the consent of these very 70 leaders who had just seen the true God in all his glory!  They even had the gall to greet this image as “the gods who brought [us] out of the land of Egypt!”

How can people, like those leaders, turn so quickly from God’s truth, power, and beauty — to go along with something dead, deceptive and demonic?  Is it because our knowledge does not come with allegiance?  Have we not totally given Him our hearts and lives?  Are we willing to conform to the demands of the rebellious crowds?  God, help us to be faithful to You and to Your truth, no matter what!

Daniel for Our Day

Reading a book of the Bible in one sitting gives amazing perspective.  A view of the forest which we miss out on if we dive in prematurely. (Pardon the mixed metaphor.) The book of Daniel has amazing messages for today.  No, I’m not thinking primarily of all the prophesies with their strange creatures and the endless back-and-forth battles of the kings of the North and the South. 

Daniel is well-known in Sunday School stories, especially for his escape from the lion’s den and his friends’ from the fiery furnace.  But what is the significance of these stories and how do they fit together with each other and the other chapters of this book?  Too often “Bible stories” are told without showing how they fit into God’s one great story.

So what is Daniel all about?  Think of the three tests of faithfulness—refusing to eat the king’s food, worship the king’s image, or pray to the king instead of to God. 

Think of the three kings of this book who were forced to acknowledge that their power was nothing compared to God’s.  That their kingdoms could be removed like a puff of dust in the face of God’s eternal kingdom and almighty sovereignty which will demolish and outlast them all. 

This encourages me today when faced with arrogant rulers or powerful pressures to conform.  Like Daniel, I am a citizen of that Eternal Kingdom that will outlast them all.  I determine to be courageous and faithful like he was. 

Standing by a purpose true,
Heeding God’s command,
Honor them, the faithful few!
All hail to Daniel’s band!

Dare to be a Daniel,
Dare to stand alone!
Dare to have a purpose firm!
Dare to make it known.

Faithful & Flexible

What does God mean when He calls someone stiff-necked?  According to my study Bible, the person is being compared to a plow animal that stubbornly refuses to take a yoke.  Or in equine terms, this could be the equivalent of an unbroken horse.  In either case, the animal is virtually useless to its master.

Faithful and flexible.  This phrase has been rattling around in my head in the past few days.  This is what I need (and want!) to be through all the changes.  Keeping my goal in mind:  Serving my Master, becoming more like Him.  But being willing to follow a change in the game plan, or even live with ambiguity.  Now, that’s a challenge.

Tag Cloud