Archive for May, 2012
Naomi surprises her daughters-in-law Oprah and Ruth after they begin their journey from Moab to Bethlehem of Judah. She gives each a choice that forces them to make a difficult decision.
The Scripture for this portion of their story is found in Ruth 1:8-19.
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness… ((43:19)
I thought about that verse this week when I decided, again, that well-run meetings should not be our goal.
Ken and I attend a couple of weekly prayer meetings. One is small—about five to seven people—and usually focuses on the needs of a specific ministry. Another is somewhat larger—about ten to twenty-five people—and the focus encompasses a region along with many ministries within the region.
(I don’t think the second is more important; I believe God often accomplishes His purposes when smaller segments hear His voice and respond to Him. Our goal should be responding to Him whenever or wherever He calls.)
But the point is allowing God access—and His goals might be different that our goals. His methods might be different than our methods.
In both prayer groups we’ve seen Him sovereignly interrupt to do something unexpected. This usually happend when the leaders didn’t know which way to turn—so they turned the meeting loose.
Several weeks ago, when the leader of one group couldn’t finish reading an obscure Scripture passage and broke into sobs several times, a man in the group volunteered to finish. And he did.
Then we sat in silence—mostly silence—until we began to pray in a rather halting manner.
The result did not fit most people’s image of a well-run meeting. I can’t quite remember everything we prayed or the subtle ways our prayers changed—but as we trusted God to lead us in this unfamiliar ciricumstance, we somehow transcended our usual inhibitions. God did a new thing by opening our hearts in new ways.
And this isn’t an isolated incident. It happens when people are thrust into unfamiliar and uncomfortable circumstances.
I’ve decided God has agendas we know nothing about.
Why should this surprise me?
Yes, people can and should plan. We should do our best to put things together in orderly fashion.
But God is GOD. And He knows things we don’t know.
Sometimes we think we’ve been successful, because we accomplished our goals. Empahsis on “our.”
But when God enters to do His thing—His “new thing”—we can only stand in awe.
We don’t wonder if He accomplished something—even if we aren’t sure of what that something was.
We know He did. We were simply along for the ride.
And it was so much more than we planned. So much more than we expected.
After Naomi moves with her family from Bethlehem of Judah to Moab, and after tragedy strikes the family, Naomi learns that God has visited the people back in Bethlehem. At that point she realizes she can make a decision to change her life and the life of her daughters-in law.
This lesson looks at key verses, Ruth 1:1-7. In addition, Judges 2:10-12 provide background. Two New Testament Scriptures, Romans 12:3 and James 2:17 also come into play as they define key aspects of faith.
As in, What is man that thou art mindful of him? (Ps. 8:4 KJV)
There’s a poetic ring to the KJV, don’t you think? Perhaps it’s my nostalgia, but I love it. “Man” refers to mankind or people. When I read this verse I don’t feel excluded. I recognize I’m part of a much larger whole.
But the verse asks an important question. Perhaps one that we all struggle with from time to time. I’ve come to believe it’s a sign of spiritual growth. God always does new things in His people. When He does, we have to adjust. We have to figure out what He’s saying. That includes asking important questions.
I didn’t know God personally as a girl or as a young woman, but I often wondered who I was. At times I desperately struggled to find meaning within a larger context. “Who am I?” I would ask. “What am I here for?”
As a Christian I’ve been more apt to ask questions within the context of vision or ministry. I couldn’t count the times I’ve cried out during a time of confusion, “God, what do you want me to do?”
Fact is, I’m experiencing some thorny issues right now. This morning I asked God again if He was really calling me to this venture called blogging.
He reminded me of all the times He’s let me know He’s more interested in my inner responses than in my activities. And I remembered something I heard once: we’re human beings—not human doings.
Yes, He has called me into specific areas of ministry at times. Maybe He’s even calling me to blogging at this time. But if I get caught up in writing or doing whatever it takes to be a blogger–and if I lose sight of being or lose sight of whom I am, any activity becomes meaningless. And any ability to receive a download or His anointing will dissipate.
Because doing doesn’t cut it.
I suspect—no, I know—the question of being somebody in Christ never loses its significance.
But strangely, I’ve also learned I won’t find the answer in myself—although that enters in.
I find the answer when I hear God’s voice and when I turn to Him. And I become myself only through receiving Him.
Galatians 2:20 (NLT) tells me, My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
This isn’t a one-time experience. Receiving Him is an ongoing process.
The old self we read about in Galatians is the part of doing and being that I don’t especially care for. The selfish part, the angry part, the wounded part, the fearful part. The part that cannot be trusted.
When I or anyone releases the yukky stuff to Jesus and let Him take it to the cross, then I’m—then we’re—free to be ourselves. We receive the life of Christ and He releases us to be what He created us to be. We’re even free to exercise dominion within our sphere of influence. (See the rest of Psalm 8)
Furthermore, Jesus never puts us down or overwhelms us. Other people, even other Christians, might try. But not Jesus.
So give yourself freedom to ask God who you are.
You might not hear His answer immediately. It might take time to recognize His voice. But ask God through His son Jesus.
And rest assured, He’s thinking about you and about me and about all mankind.
Because He’s mindful.
The King James Versiontranslates the second half of this verse as, shout unto God with the voice of triumph. We’ve probably all heard that phrase in a sermon or maybe even a song. My point is that the focus in the KJV is shouting loudly, not singing.
The New International and Amplified versions read, shout to the Lord with cries of joy. And the New Living Translation reads Shout to God with joyful praise.
So I researched as well as I could, using Strong’s Concise Concordance, and discovered that, indeed, singing is implied in the original text. Not only is “song” one of the possible translations for the word translated “voice”—but the word translated “triumph” includes “singing” as one of the meanings.
All this additional insight just because I used a different translation.
I purchased my ESV bible some time ago because it is red.
I know. Not the best of reasons.
But red is my favorite color.
All the same, transferring to a new Bible—especially if it is a new translation—is a major move. I didn’t begin using it consistently until about six months ago.
Now I love it.
But I’m digressing. Today I’m grateful for the many translations of the Bible because God used a new version to let me know He values loud songs—songs balancing on the edge of becoming shouts.
Let me tell you, there have been times when I could hardly contain the songs I felt inside. That’s why I love driving the car through open country by myself. I can sing at the top of my lungs without worrying about how I sound.
I don’t drive that much by myself these days—at least not out-of-town. And singing loudly in town doesn’t seem private enough.
But this verse—in the English Standard Version—urges me to sing loudly—really loudly. I feel there will be victory in the spirit realm if I do. I’m excited about the possibility and hope I don’t scare our neighbors—and that Ken will tolerate my efforts.
(Break!!!!—not too long, but long enough to shout and then sing loudly while marching—or perhaps walking is a better description—down our hallway and back to my desk.)
Here’s the kicker. I know my marching looks more like walking than marching. It only feels like marching on my inside. And my singing? Well, I’ve had a bit of prednisone over the years—and was recently on a short-term dose. Prednisone affects vocal chords. Singing loudly means lots of cracks and breaks.
But I swallowed my pride and did it.
Here’s another detail. I initiated the march-with-song because I wanted to offer it as a sacraifice of praise, a prayer of sorts. I was so self-conscious that all I managed was the outward act. Maybe tomorrow or the next day I’ll try again and get beyond myself and enter the spirit realm.
But perhaps I entered the spirit realm today. I feel light. The effort with all it’s limitations was somehow liberating.
And now I’ll share Psalm 47:1 from The Message (a contemporary paraphrase version):
Applause, everyone. Bravo, bravissimo! Shout God-songs at the top of your lungs!
Try it! You might even like it!
It’s been a week of much spiritual activity. Some through scheduled videos on the internet, some through words said at a weekly prayer meeting, and some through insights gained through personal experience.
Truthfully, too much to absorb and too much to share. Identifying and receiving truth is only a beginning. I need to let God work it into the fabric of life before I can write about it. Revelation needs time to take root.
But I can write about our wall. And even make a spiritual application if I try hard enough.
In our living room, the dry-wall tape in a corner was separating almost imperceptibly. We live in a condo with three wings, and Ken says the individual buildings are settling slightly. A fine white line marred the deep red color of one wall—not a lot, but after I noticed it, I couldn’t see anything else.
We felt touching-up with leftover paint would show—the fresh paint would be too bright or too light or too dark or too something. All paints used to be that way and we assumed that red, even with today’s new-and-improved products, would be problematic.
One possibility was covering with a light green to match the nearby den, but our shade of green is no longer the latest color, either. When Ken mentioned it would probably require three coats, I was discouraged.
One day, while praying about something totally unrelated, it occurred to me that we should at least try to touch up the red. That wouldn’t be a huge job—and if didn’t cover, no great loss.
Yesterday he brought up the ladder along with paper to cover the floor, and he stirred the paint. Then I used the smallest brush from a children’s watercolor set to do the job—because I’m our touchup artist.
When I smeared red on the yellow wall via my pinkie before I was properly started, he rubbed it off before retiring to his chair until it was safe to come out.
Meanwhile, I grew excited. Within ten minutes I decided it might work. Half an hour later I was done. An hour after that we declared the problem solved. If I could, I’d have jumped and kicked my heels
Here’s our wall. For us, the deep red is more dramatic than anything we’ve had in the past, and I’m still happy with it after eight years.
The spiritual application?
Don’t ignore stray thoughts that come during prayer time.
Over 25 years ago, when our youngest son still lived at home, he and I had a discussion about salvation. We really did.
Now salvation is a huge subject. We didn’t adequately cover it that day—bit of irony there, in case you didn’t catch it—but we did come to one conclusion: salvation requires trusting God because He alone is able to save. People must not think they can earn salvation.
After that day I pondered what the essentials of salvation would be—and discovered some defining Scripture passages. Monday’s video reminded me of the search, and here are a few passages and thoughts.
[I]f you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
Wow. Pretty straightforward, don’t you think? I would suggest that believing God raised Jesus from the dead includes not only his resurrection but also His sacrificial death—simply because a resurrection is impossible without a death. So the verse tells us that accepting and confessing the reality of Jesus finished work on the cross are the essentials. If we truly believe, we will tell others what Jesus accomplished.
They overcame him [the dragon] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
Another straightforward statement. By faith these people had received and accepted the completed work of Christ because they were covered by the Blood Jesus shed on the cross. And their word or testimony means they told others what God had done for them.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned…
This verse has a different context. Jesus is speaking to His disciples and He emphasizes faith in Himself as a person—perhaps because the disciples hadn’t had time to absorb prior events and because they had not yet received the Holy Spirit.
He also identifies baptism as the second component. To bring this together with the statements above, remember that baptism was a public event. Submitting to baptism was, in essence, a public confession or testimony. The important thing is that faith and a testimony are identified as the core of salvation.
I Corinthians 2:3
I resolved to know nothing when I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
This statement by Paul emphasizes how the early apostles built their ministry (their testimony) on what Jesus accomplished. Their faith and confession were the core realities of salvation.
Likewise, our faith in Jesus and our confession of that faith are central to our identify in Christ—and the core realities of our salvation.