Monthly Archives: August 2018

I’ve Lost It!

The other night, something jolted me awake from a dead sleep at around 2:30 a.m.  My left hand immediately flew to my ear, and I realized that the diamond stud earring that I always wear was gone.  Oh, no!  Quickly I checked my right ear, and that stud was firmly in place.

I checked the left again.  Yep, still gone.

Not wanting to wake my sleeping husband, I began feeling around my pillow in the dark to see if I could find the earring.  I found the back to it, but no diamond stud.  Had my husband added my jewelry on our homeowner’s insurance?  I wasn’t sure…but I knew I had to find that earring.

I went into the bathroom as I thought that would be the most likely place for the earring to have fallen out.  I turned on the light and looked everywhere.  No luck.

I went back into the bedroom and decided that I had to search the bed.  I couldn’t find it by feel, and I started wondering if it had fallen to the floor.  I had visions of it being sucked up into the vacuum cleaner, never to be seen again.  I had to find it, even if it meant tearing the whole house apart in the process.

Eventually I turned on the bedside lamp, hopeful that it wouldn’t disturb my husband.  I turned back the covers….and there it was.  Whew!!!  What a relief.  I quickly turned off the lamp again and then tightly fastened the earring back into my left ear where it belonged.  The whole escapade didn’t even wake up my husband.  🙂

In Luke 15, Jesus tells a parable of a woman who lost a gold coin and turned her whole house upside down looking for it.  A parable is a story that Jesus used to help his contemporaries understand what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.  In the parable, the woman eventually found her lost coin.  When she found it, she threw a party and invited her friends to come and celebrate with her.  In verse 10, Jesus concludes:

“In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  To repent just means to turn away from your sinful ways and to embrace God’s ways.   Jesus says that even the angels of God rejoice when just one sinner repents.  Isn’t that amazing?

I well remember in my own faith story, which you can read here, how God used a pastor’s words to help me “Get found!”  Yes, I was the lost child that God valued so highly that He would have torn apart the whole house looking for me.  When I came out of hiding on October 14, 2001 and got found by Him, there was rejoicing in Heaven – they threw a party to celebrate!  Can you imagine that??  It’s astonishing to me.

You can get found, too, if you haven’t already.  Just pray a humble prayer that you truly mean from the bottom of your heart, and Jesus will accept you.  You don’t have to clean up your act first or get your life in order – He wants you just as you are, right now, wherever you are.  His Word tells us that “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).   You can use your own words, or you can pray this simple prayer:

“Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinful person and I have fallen short of your glory.  I ask that You would please forgive me of all of my sins – past, present and future – and wash me clean.  I no longer want to live that life; I want to follow Your ways.  From this day forward, please come into every area of my heart and lead my life.  Be my Savior.  I receive your gift of grace and I receive your incredible love for me.  Thank You, Jesus.  Amen.”

AMEN!!!  If you have just prayed that prayer, would you please tell me so that I can celebrate with you?  If you’ve already received Him, I’d love it if you’d post your date in the comments below so that I can celebrate you as well.  🙂  Blessings to all of you!

Meeting Boaz

This is the second of a four-part series on the book of Ruth.  You can read the first part of this series here and you can read the second chapter of Ruth here

In the second chapter of Ruth, we find Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi living in Bethlehem with no means of support.  As a result, Ruth asks Naomi’s permission to go and gather grain in the fields of anyone in whose eyes she finds favor, and Naomi agrees.  We continue to see God’s faithfulness as He guides Ruth to the fields of Boaz, who happens to be a relative of Naomi’s on her husband’s side.  Boaz arrives at the field and immediately issues a blessing to all the workers, who respond to him in kind.  This is evidence of the kind of man that Boaz is – one who is well respected and a man of integrity.

Boaz immediately notices Ruth.  We’re not told what it was that attracted Boaz’s attention; it could have been that he noticed there was an extra person in his fields or he may have been drawn by her style of dress (which was likely to have been different than that of the other Israelites).  He may have been drawn by her looks, as the name Ruth means “vision of beauty”.  However, another person noticed Ruth before Boaz arrives, and that was the foreman of the fields.  Ruth’s polite request to work in the field and her hard labor garner his attention, and the foreman gives Boaz a favorable report of her labors when Boaz arrives at the field.

Upon hearing who Ruth is and how hard she has worked, Boaz offers his provision and his protection to Ruth.  He tells her to stay in his fields with his servant girls (provision) and that he has told the men not to touch her (protection).  Surprised by this favor, Ruth asks, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me – a foreigner?”  (verse 10)  As a foreigner, Ruth was of lower social status than the servant girls, so Boaz has also elevated her position.  Boaz explains that he has heard of all of her sacrifices to accompany Naomi back to Bethlehem and, in verse 12, he speaks a blessing over her.  He continues to provide for her as he invites her to lunch where she eats her fill.  Later, Boaz tells his harvesters to intentionally leave some stalks for her to gather.

Ruth continues working hard all day to gather barley, and at the end of the day she threshes the barley before returning to Naomi’s home.  She brought leftover food to Naomi as well as the barley she had gathered during the day, which was about three-fifths of a bushel of grain.  Naomi is clearly surprised  and pleased at the results of Ruth’s labor and asks her in whose field she had been working.  When Ruth tells her it was Boaz’s field, Naomi speaks a blessing over Boaz and then she tells Ruth that Boaz is one of their kinsman-redeemers.  A kinsman-redeemer could purchase the estate of a dead man to whom he was related, assuming that he would also marry the widow.  If the nearest relative would not “buy back” the widow, another close relative would be given the opportunity.

Ruth continued to work in Boaz’s fields until the barley and the wheat harvests were completed, which was a seven week process.  She continued to live with Naomi during that time.

The parallels between Boaz and Jesus are many.  Jesus is our provider, our protector and our redeemer.  He elevates our position from that of sinner to that of child of God.  Jesus is kind, accepting and loving to us.  He is also our Master.  Boaz was all of those things to Ruth, and through Ruth to Naomi.

There are also parallels between Ruth and humanity.  We are all in need of grace, are we not?  🙂  Ruth also approaches both Naomi and Boaz with humility and deference, two qualities that we need to have as we approach the throne of Christ.  We must rely on Him to provide for us and to protect us.

What stands out to you from the second chapter of Ruth?  What application did you find?  Continue the conversation in the comments below, and come back next Sunday for a discussion of chapter three!

 

 

 

A Prowling Lion

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

Have you ever heard a lion roar? I got the full effect of a lion’s roar when I visited a zoo in Chicago. A male lion was just on the other side of a glass partition from me and suddenly he roared. It was so fearsome that it reached something primal inside me, making my insides quake and my hair stand on end!

Have you ever watched a nature documentary that showed a lion on the hunt? Or have you perhaps seen lions stalking their prey in real life? Did you notice their technique of hunting? They are opportunistic hunters that have two primary methods of hunting. They will either stalk their prey while moving from cover to cover and then rush in for the kill or they will lie in wait while under cover in order to ambush their prey. They hunt in groups, working together to drive a herd of prey animals closer to the ones lying in wait. Once a prey animal is singled out, it soon goes down in a flurry of teeth and claws. Then the whole pack of lions gorges on it.

1 Peter tells us that our enemy is “like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour”. I don’t know about you, but I do not want to be devoured by a lion, and especially not this one. How do we keep from becoming prey for the enemy? Here are some tips:

  • Be alert and of sober mind. We have to be aware that even if we’ve given our lives to Jesus, the enemy is not going to come after us any less than he did previously. We must try to avoid being caught unawares. Prayerfully consider in what situations you are weakest (when you’re tired, hungry, stressed at work or home, etc.) and take steps to anticipate the attack.
  • Put on the full armor of God every day. (Ephesians 6:10-20) We must be prepared to meet our enemy in battle, and the only way we can do that is by putting on the full armor of God every day. Isn’t it amazing as you read that passage that God has already armed us in every way for our protection?
  • Stay strong in the Word. One of the enemy’s favorite tricks is to tell us truth with just a little twist. This is what the serpent did to Eve in the Garden and what he did to Jesus when He spent 40 days in the wilderness after being baptized. Note that Jesus was able to battle the enemy because He knew the Scriptures and was not tricked as Eve had been.  We must know the Scripture so that we will not be tricked by a twist on the Scripture and so that we can use it as a weapon against the enemy.
  • Stay in community with believers. This doesn’t mean that you should not associate with anyone who is not a Christ follower, but it does mean that your community of Christ followers is crucial to your successful walk. A good community of believers will help you discern the best path and will warn you about dangers along the way.
  • Remember that the joy of the Lord is your strength!  This truth from the book of Nehemiah is no less true for us than it was for Nehemiah and his contemporaries.  We must continue to look to the Lord as our source of joy, not to our circumstances.  Revel in the ways the Lord speaks to you and reveals things to you and in the ways that He loves you.  Our joy in the Lord is a powerful weapon against the enemy.

What other ways can you think of to guard against becoming prey for the enemy?  Share them in the comments!

Ruth, The Faithful Moabitess

My discipleship group is doing a study on the book of Ruth in the Old Testament.  I thought it might be fun to share with you some of what God is showing us through our study of this small but remarkable book.  At only 4 chapters long, it is quite short, but it is packed full of wisdom and application.  Today, I’ll concentrate on Chapter 1, which you can read in the NIV here.  (I’ll write about a different chapter for each of the next three Sundays.)

Naomi and her husband, Elimelek, lived in the time of the Judges, when man did what was best in his own eyes.  Famine hit Bethlehem where they lived, and instead of trusting God to provide, they moved to Moab, which was in enemy territory.  Their two sons, Mahlon and Kilion, grew up and married Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah, breaking God’s commands not to intermarry with the Moabites.  However, Elimelek and his sons all died, leaving Naomi, Ruth and Orpah widowed.  Naomi now had no means of support and all the money was gone, so she decided to return to Bethlehem as she had heard that the Lord was providing food for His people there.

As Naomi and her daughters-in-law start out, Naomi commands her daughters-in-law to return to their own homes and not to go with her to Bethlehem.  Both daughters-in-law cry, but Orpah leaves to return to her own mother’s home.  Ruth, however, refuses to go.  Naomi tells her, “Your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.” (verse 15)  Ruth’s stunning reply is, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.  Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (verses 16 and 17)  This is truly great evidence of her faithfulness; she leaves behind her own family and her old ways and chooses Naomi as family and chooses the Lord as her God.  So, the two women return to Bethlehem.

The journey from Moab to Bethlehem would not have been an easy one, especially for two women travelling alone.  We don’t know if they had any food at all along the way or any money to purchase any, but it can be inferred that they did not as the point of the return journey was to find food.  They would have had to  traverse the River Jordan as they walked around the Dead Sea from Moab to Judah.  The Lord protects them on their journey, however, as they ultimately arrive safely in Bethlehem.

When they get to Bethlehem, Naomi’s return causes quite a stir among the women.  (verse 19)  In testament to the state of her heart at her change in fortune, Naomi tells them not to call her Naomi, which means pleasant, but to call her Mara, which means bitter.  (verse 20)  She is at the lowest point of her life.  She acknowledges her change in status; there is no pretense.  There is no evidence that Ruth was bitter in heart, however.

Verse 22 tells us another piece of wonderful information, and that is that they arrive in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was starting.  (“Bethlehem” means “House of Bread”.)  This is God’s timing for sure, and His plan to provide for these two women was already in motion.  Barley was the first harvest, followed immediately by the wheat harvest.  After a total of seven weeks of harvest, the Jews would celebrate the Feast of Weeks to thank the Lord for what they had been given.

How often do we, like Elimilek, go our own way and try to provide for ourselves, only to have our plans end in disaster?  (I know I’ve done it more times than I can count.)  How often do we, like Orpah, return to our old ways when things get hard?  How often do we, like Naomi, respond to hard circumstances in our lives with bitterness?  May we all instead have the faithfulness of Ruth, leaving our old ways and facing the unknown with God guiding our steps!

What did you take away from reading this first chapter of Ruth?  Share your insights in the comments.  Let’s start a conversation!

 

 

 

On Wings of Eagles

Have you ever watched an eagle as it soars? I’ve not had that privilege, at least not at a level where I could really study the eagle’s motions as it was way too high in the sky for me to see it. However, there was one day when I was sitting high on the edge of a cliff and saw a hawk circling on a thermal below me. It wasn’t terribly far away from me, so I was able to study it as it circled.

If you’re not familiar with thermals, those are columns of rising air that are created by solar radiation. Thermals are used by birds, glider planes and balloons to gain height, according to Dictionary.com. I’ve seen them be used by eagles, hawks and even vultures to gain lift.

So there I am, trying to have some quiet time with the Lord while sitting on the edge of a cliff, and I see this hawk circling below me. I admit to having a fascination with birds of prey, but it really felt as though the Lord wanted me to pay attention to the hawk rather than it just being a distraction from my quiet time. I watched and studied its every move as it rose slowly higher and higher, circling on the thermal. At first it looked like the hawk wasn’t moving at all, but then I noticed that it actually was making small adjustments as it flew. Sometimes it tipped the front edge of its wing a little bit differently to catch the updraft just right. Sometimes the very tip of its wing made minute adjustments, lifting or lowering ever so slightly as needed. Even the tail was used to make some adjustments. It seemed to fly upwards with very little effort of its own as it stayed in the flow of the thermal.

The Lord began to speak to me as I watched the hawk. I didn’t really hear specific words; it was more of an impression that He made on my heart as I watched. We are meant to live in the flow of God’s love. We may need to make little adjustments along the way, but if we stay in the flow of His love, He will lift us up. It reminded me of the following Scripture from Isaiah 40:

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Doesn’t that sound wonderful? To have our strength renewed by the Lord? To run and not grow weary? To walk and not be faint? Yes, please!

Here are some ways that we can stay in the flow of God’s love:

  • Stay in God’s Word on a daily basis. This is essential to our growth and development as followers of Christ!
  • Attend church regularly. It is so important to be in a community of believers!
  • Serve other people. Volunteer your time and talents through your church or through another organization for which God has given you a heart.
  • Pray, pray, pray. Prayer is just communication with God – you talking to Him and Him talking to you. You don’t have to use flowery language; just talk with Him as you would your best friend.
  • Believe God’s truth about you. Learn to identify the voice of the enemy and reject it. He’s a liar and you don’t have to fall for his lies about who you are. God is the one who made you and He is the only one who can tell you the truth about yourself with accuracy.

What other ways do you use to stay in the flow of God’s love?

Joy and Peace in the Unexpected

I generally do not react well when hit by the unexpected. Unexpected events have typically not been happy ones in my experience, so I like to know what is happening and when. (Talk about an unrealistic goal!) Even today, when unexpected events hit my life, I tend to respond with worry and fear rather than peace and joy. It has become almost a default setting, but it’s not a default that my heavenly Father ever planned for me to have. I’m learning how to walk with true peace and joy, and today I’d like to tell you about my most recent step in this adventure.

Last Friday, I got some potentially bad news: a family member who lives two states away was admitted to the hospital and was likely to have a procedure on Saturday. I was very concerned for him, and started praying about whether or not I should make the drive to be there.

“No,” said Jesus, “I’ve got this. Just let My peace settle over you.”

In spite of His words, I didn’t let the peace settle over me right away. I realized a couple of hours later that I was fretting about it, so I reached out to my husband and to a trusted friend or two to be praying for me to have that peace. I remember thinking, “And today started out to be such a good day, so full of joy, and NOW look at it!”

It was at that point that the Lord broke into my thoughts. “You can still have joy today, Liz. You just have to pick it.”

“Really?” I thought. “That’s all I have to do?” I started reflecting over why I hadn’t received His peace when He first offered it to me and why I wasn’t picking to have joy. Why was I choosing to fret instead of trusting Him to take care of my loved one and receiving the peace that He offered? I realized that my false “default setting” of picking worry and fear had come into play, and I decided that I’ve had enough of choosing those things.

“Okay, Jesus,” I said out loud. “I trust You with his care. I choose peace. I choose joy today.”

A couple of hours after making that declaration, I realized that I did have joy and peace! It wasn’t something that I had to try to manufacture, and it didn’t mean that I didn’t care about the situation. It just was a choice to focus on Jesus instead of on the circumstance.   What a blessing! I did continue to ask trusted friends to pray for the Lord to heal my family member, but my requests came from a settled place in my heart instead of from a place of worry.

The next morning, I called my family member to try to talk and pray with him before he had his procedure. Lo and behold, my call was greeted with the news that he had improved so much overnight that he was being released from the hospital and would not have to have a procedure after all! What great news that was, and what evidence of God’s goodness.

Some of the following verses are probably familiar to you. I have been familiar with them, too, but they have a new meaning for me now:

 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:27

“…for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

From now on, I’m choosing peace and joy. 🙂

 

Below is a link to a video of a popular contemporary Christian song called “joy” by the group For King and Country. I hope that it will encourage you today.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lA7n7TwPDmw

 

The Prayer Stomp

“It’s not FAIR!”

I wanted to shout it, but this was my prayer in my head. It was early in my walk with the Lord. I had been betrayed and abandoned by someone I had counted on to be there forever, and my shattered heart was raw and aching. I had gone out for a prayer walk to try to sort things out with the Lord, but I was so angry and hurt that I was having more of a prayer stomp. Even the beauty of the park and the happy songs of the birds around me did nothing to assuage my dark mood.

I continued stomping around the park, Jesus listening while I listed off for Him in a long monologue all the ways that this person’s actions had wronged me. Then my ugly pride reared its head, and I said, “…And You have NO IDEA what this is like for me!”

Do you really think that I don’t understand betrayal and abandonment?” He gently but firmly asked.

Suddenly, images flooded through my mind – A kiss from one of the people closest to Him to seal His betrayal…Peter’s three denials of Him…Him hanging on a cross with His friends scattered and nowhere to be found in His hour of greatest need.

“Oh, Jesus!” I prayed as I sank to my knees, right there in the middle of the park. “Please forgive me!” I was humbled as I remembered that He experienced every aspect of humanity during His brief life on this planet as a man, and He knew better than I did what the experience I was going through had cost me. He knew what it was like to be on the receiving end of something that was completely unjust in every way – and He died for the sin that had been committed against me, just as He had died for my sin of pride.

I got back up and continued my prayer walk, this time with the two of us talking. He ministered to me and encouraged me. I was able to go home with a whole new perspective (and a much better attitude) about the situation in which I found myself.

I am so grateful that Jesus can handle me at my worst. He meets me with love and with truth right in the middle of my most broken places. I’m also grateful that He truly does understand every situation that I’m in, because He has experienced it. I’m grateful that He is not a distant and uncaring God, but one who knows me, loves me and accepts me just as I am and where I am. What a wonderful God He is!

Do you find yourself today in the middle of hard circumstances? Are you wondering where Jesus is in the middle of it all and how He could possibly redeem your situation? Are you reluctant to share even the messy parts of your life with Him? Friends, He wants to know you and minister to you in the midst of your brokenness and pain. Let the truth of these verses encourage you today:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

22 Cast your cares on the Lord
and he will sustain you;
he will never let
the righteous be shaken. (Psalm 55:22)

The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.” (Exodus 3:7)

The Lord is good,
a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in him. (Nahum 1:6-8)

Jesus sees you. He cares for you. He longs to meet you right where you are. Won’t you meet with Him today?