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Archive for June, 2015

Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly, “Why are you being so kind to me? She asked.  I am only a foreigner.”

“Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about the love and kindness you have shown to your mother-in-law…May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully.” (Ruth 2:10-12)

We have been studying to see if there are life-lessons we can learn from the life of Ruth (Ruth 1-4).  While re-reading this short book recently, the kindness of the main characters jumped off the pages.  Ruth exhibited kindness by accompanying her mother-in-law as they traveled back to Judah.  Ruth also took the steps necessary to find the means to provide for Naomi and herself.  These acts of kindness were noticed by others.  Because of the character Ruth demonstrated, kindness was returned to her from Boaz, from his employees, and from others who worked alongside her in the field (Ruth 2:23).  In fact, because of her conduct, she was allowed to work through both the barley harvest and the wheat harvest.

It is so easy to get tired and weary, especially as moms and wives with multiple responsibilities.  There are many days when I don’t feel like being kind to one more person.  I reach the point when I want someone to take care of my needs; someone who will reach out in kindness to soothe my heart.  In those moments, I rarely act in a manner that would be a good example of God’s grace and love.  Ruth had to be just as tired.  After all, she was picking up barley and wheat out of the ruts in the rows of a field that had been harvested; fields that would have been dusty and uneven.

Ruth’s kindness resulted in finding favor with God and with others.  Her character was witnessed by the leaders and the community, “We are witnesses! May the Lord make the woman who is now coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, from whom all the nation of Israel descended” (Ruth 4:11). Ruth was blessed to give birth to a son that became the father of Jesse, the grandfather of David, the King of Israel, who was in the lineage of Jesus Christ  (Ruth 4:18-22).

Oh, Lord, today I woke tired.  I want to be served rather than serve.  I want to be held, rather than hold another in pain.  I want peace of mind and words of encouragement, rather than offer more grace to others.  But in the midst of this difficult moment, You have wrapped Your love around me and urged me to remember that You have today and all of my challenges in Your hand. When I am weak, You are strong. When I am frazzled, I can run to You as my strong tower. Above all, You have been and will be faithful to meet my every need.  Give me the courage and stamina to remain kind toward others so they might meet You while they journey through their day of challenges. Like Ruth, help me to meet the tasks before me with grace, trusting that You will use the little I do to draw others to You.  Amen.

 

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We have been journeying this month with Ruth.  As she and Naomi set out to return to Judah, Ruth offers us lessons to encourage us. She reminds us that we have a choice—we can walk in faith, placing our future in a God we can trust, or we can turn back to what is comfortable and familiar.

On a recent road trip out of state, I observed that the windshield became covered with bugs that required me to take steps several times to restore visibility; yet, not once did I have to clean bugs off the back window or rearview mirrors. Going forward doesn’t mean life will be free of obstacles or without “bugs,” but we can have confidence that God’s grace is available, abundant and greater than all of our sins and failures.  We don’t have to let the events of yesterday keep us from the blessings God has available to us today and tomorrow.  However, looking behind us may keep us from seeing the blessings God offers us in the future.

Ruth’s step of faith to follow Naomi (Ruth 1:16-18) could not have been easy.  She was leaving everything that was comfortable and certain in her life for a land that was unknown and a people who might well have rejected her as she was from Moab.  Ruth may have had a strong relationship with Naomi and viewed her as a mentor or friend, but it probably was also filled with emotional landmines as Naomi had become bitter, blaming God for the tragedies she felt He had allowed with the deaths of her husband and sons (Ruth 1:20-21) Both women were widows in a country that expected women to be taken care of, not acting independently to provide for their needs.  As widows, Ruth and Naomi may not have had skills or many financial resources.  Ruth took on the responsibility of providing for her mother-in-law and for herself.  She didn’t allow the obstacles to keep her from meeting those responsibilities.

Just as I couldn’t let the “bugs” keep me from driving to my destination, today may each of us remember that handling the obstacles of life are worth it to reach the future God has for us—a future filled with abundance and blessings of grace and peace.

“For I know the plans I have for you – this is the Lord’s declaration – plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

~ Jeremiah 29:11

 

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I’ve heard all about you—about the way you treated your mother-in-law after the death of her husband, and how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth and have come to live among a bunch of total strangers.  God reward you well for what you’ve done—and with a generous bonus besides from God to whom you’ve come seeking protection under His wings.”  ~ Ruth 2:11-12, The Message

Ruth followed her heart and acted with integrity.  Because she did, others noticed and her influence and impact in their lives increased.  Instead of being viewed as an outsider, Ruth gained influence and respect from many in the community (Ruth 4:20-22).

In addition to gaining respect and the blessings of being in community with her neighbors, Ruth also understood she was not a foreigner to God.  The Lord accepted her as part of His family.  Ruth understood God invites us to be His adopted children.  With the confidence that comes from understanding whose family she was a part of, Ruth was able to take daily steps of faith with the assurance she was not alone.

Oh, Lord God, help us today to recognize that others are always looking at us, observing our actions.  Remind us, Lord, that we are not alone.  Sometimes acting with integrity can seem scary; but remind us, Lord God, that integrity is what You ask of all of us and that You honor our faithful obedience to Your Word.  Amen.

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It would have been easy for Ruth to feel like a victim, to view her circumstances and ask, “Why me?”  (Ruth 1:1-6).  After all, isn’t that how Naomi felt (Ruth 1:20-22)?  Instead, Ruth realized she didn’t have to be defined by her circumstances, but she could take action and trust God’s leading, which opened the way for Him to change her circumstances.  By stepping out in faith, Ruth found fulfillment and joy according to God’s plan in a way that certainly exceeded all she could have asked or imagined (Ruth 1-4:22).  After all, Ruth was one of only two women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5).

Certainly, for Ruth, there was no way to change the circumstances she and Naomi were in.  They were widows in a society that left a woman without a husband with limited options.  Yet, Ruth did not give in to her grief or become hopeless.  She refused to surrender to her emotions.  Instead, she went to work to find a way to provide for herself and Naomi.  The solution she found involved hard manual labor, but she didn’t let that break her spirit.  She chose to do what she could even though, like any of us, she likely felt emotionally worn down by the circumstances of her life.

Today, women have many more options than Ruth had.  We can choose to have hope and look for a way to overcome the challenges of life.  We do not have to allow our circumstances to define us.  We can grab hold of God’s promises and trust Him to supply all we need, even in the midst of the storms of life. When we find ourselves at the “end of our rope,” there is a saying—tie a knot and hang on. The “rope” we can hold onto is the assurance that God is an ever present help and will meet all of our needs.

“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 4:19

 

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There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven; a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing; a time to search and a time to count as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away; a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to be silent and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.  ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Editor’s Note: As we journey on this adventure called life, we can find wisdom from the women of the Bible to guide us and encourage us through whatever we face…join us as we discover what they have to tell us about life. In the month of June, we will spend time reflecting on Ruth’s journey. As we do, we encourage you to join us by committing to read weekly this brief book of the Old Testament. Her story is as unique as yours, so we welcome your comments on how her story intertwines with your own.

It must have taken a lot of courage for Ruth to leave all she knew, including her family, and travel to a foreign land with her mother-in-law, Naomi (Ruth 1:6-19).  But, perhaps Ruth understood a truth we can all learn from—following a faithful God leads to a future filled with blessings.  God rewards faithfulness.  Because Ruth was faithful to Naomi, God blessed her.  Ruth was one of two women in the lineage of King David and Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5).

It didn’t look like it made sense for Ruth to follow Naomi.  After all, she had family she could have continued to live with.  She could have remained in the community where it was comfortable and where she was known.  But, Ruth did what was right even if it did not look like that to those around her; she followed the convictions of her heart.  By following her heart, she stood out from the crowd and went from being a foreigner to someone the community respected, blessed, and honored (Ruth 4:11-12). She did what she knew was right.

When you follow your heart and do the right thing, God opens the way for further blessings and opportunities to influence others.  So, the lesson we learn from Ruth is to love others and follow our hearts. When we do, we can rest assured that our faithful God always makes a way for those who trust Him and walk in faith.

Oh God, my Redeemer, You are faithful and good.  You always seek the best for us even when we can’t see where You are leading us.  Lord God, help me to follow the convictions of my heart today.  Help me to be sensitive to Your leading.  Speak to me through Your Holy Spirit, and give me the strength and courage to follow where You lead today, even if it seems You are taking me into a foreign land.  I trust You Lord with my day and all of my tomorrows.  Amen.

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