Tag Archives: redemption

New Year’s Resolutions

Hello and Happy New Year!  I hope your Christmas season was blessed with love and joy and that your New Year is off to a great start.

Did you make any New Years’ resolutions this year?  Lots of people do.  Some of the most common ones are to lose weight, be a better person, make better financial decisions, etc.  Maybe you even made some nice church-y sounding resolutions like “grow closer to Jesus” or “follow Him better”.  However, research shows that most resolutions are abandoned about two weeks into the new year!  Why do you think that is?

Well, I think that it’s because resolutions encourage us to “do better” by “trying harder”.  Trying harder in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing, but I know that for me it just doesn’t work unless I treat my resolution as a goal and make a plan for how to get there.

For example, I know that I want to lose 12 pounds by the end of March.  Breaking that down, it means that I need to average about a one pound per week weight loss, which is a healthy and sustainable pattern.  In order to lose a pound a week, I know that I will have to watch my caloric intake (bye-bye, ice cream) and increase my physical activity (not hard since I’m fairly sedentary).  It means that I will have to go to the gym when I would rather just sit on the couch and read.  I will have to consistently make good food choices.  If I do those things, my goal becomes something that I can reach, whereas with a resolution without a plan, I would probably get to the end of the year without having lost the weight.

One of my financial goals for the year is to save an additional sum of money.  I divided the additional amount I want to save by 52 weeks so that I know how much more I need to put into my savings account to help me reach that goal.  Then I went to my budget and figured out what cuts I could make that would add up to that amount per week.  I am confident that, with the plan I have in place, I will see my savings grow this year.

One of my spiritual growth goals for this year is read through the entire Bible.  I have done this before, and I read it from cover to cover, from Genesis to Revelation.  To do that, I calculated that I needed to read about four chapters each day and I purposed to do it.  This year, I’m reading the One Year Bible which has a daily selection from the Old Testament, the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs.  The plan is mapped out for me and I’m finding it quite an interesting way to see and read the Bible.

Do you know where else the plan is already mapped out for me? It’s in God’s plan of redemption.  This is one place where trying harder to do better will get me NOWHERE.  As soon as Adam and Eve took the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, humanity had a sin problem that we as humans could do nothing about.  The Lord knew that He would send Jesus to us as a human baby to live a blameless (sinless) life and to die on the cross for us.  He took the punishment that should have been given to me and to you and in doing so He broke the chains of sin.  This made it possible for you and I to live in eternity with our Heavenly Father, who is unable to be in the presence of sin.  What an incredible gift!  A gift is what it is, one that we can freely receive or one that we can reject.  I strongly urge you to receive it!  Have you done that yet?  If not, let me know, and I’ll be glad to lead you through a simple prayer to receive it.  You can be washed clean today.  What a great way to start out the New Year!

 

9/11 Remembrance

Seventeen years ago today was one of the worst days in American history.  An unthinkable attack was made on American soil as passenger jetliners were turned into weapons of mass destruction in an act of terrorism.  Innocent people died, and heroes rose and fell.  It was a day that any American old enough to remember will never forget.

At that time in 2001, I was a seeker of God, meaning that I was still trying to figure out who He was and what He was going to mean to me.  One of my biggest roadblocks was trying to reconcile the loving God that I was learning about in my new church with a God who allowed awful things to happen to me in my lifetime.

On 9/11/2001, I was on my way to a hospital in SE Kentucky to hold an open enrollment meeting for its employees when suddenly the news broke that a plane had flown into one of the twin towers in New York.  It wasn’t clear how this had happened; nobody knew if it had been accidental or intentional.  I walked into the lobby of the hospital in time to see the second plane hit the second tower, and the intent then was clear for all to see.

I went through the open enrollment that day in stunned silence.  I functioned on automatic pilot as I did what needed to be done.  The people with whom I met were also in stunned silence.

In between meetings, I stepped into the lobby to watch the news coverage.  As the towers collapsed, the most amazing thing happened – I felt God’s heart actually breaking.  The tears that streamed down my face were mine, but they were also His.  In that moment, I understood that God is not distant and uncaring as terrible things happen on this earth.  Those things grieve His heart deeply as He watches His children suffer.  I think it grieves Him even more when His dearly loved children inflict such pain and torment upon each other.

That experience of feeling God’s heart break was key for me in my seeking journey.  It led directly to my giving my life to Christ, fully and without reservation, on 10/14/2001.  Praise God!

Today, I remember all of those who were lost in those terrible attacks and I pray for their loved ones.  It is a somber day of remembrance for me.  However, I also rejoice that our God is big enough to bring beauty from the ashes of tragic events such as this one.  I look to Him as the source of joy and hope, and I look to Him for restoration and redemption.  He provides those things in my life and I pray that He provides them in the lives of the survivors and the ones who were left behind in the attacks.

What are your thoughts and memories of 9/11?  Please feel free to share them in the comments.

 

 

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!

 

 

 

Refuge Under His Wings

Sometimes – often when we least expect it – life throws a curve ball. Something happens that causes us deep sorrow and grief. Perhaps a loved one passed, or maybe a relationship that was meant to be for life ended, or some other significant loss was suffered. These types of events can leave us at a crossroads in our faith, and we are left to decide how to handle it.

Very early in my walk with Jesus, a woman at my church gave her testimony, and it was as if the Holy Spirit whispered, “Pay attention, Liz; you’re going to need to know this.” She talked about how an unforeseen tragedy hit her life and she was left with the choice to either lean into God or lean away from Him. Her story of leaning into God in her sorrow and the subsequent redemption that He brought really stuck with me.

A couple of years later, unforeseen tragedy hit my life also, and I remembered this lesson. I knew that I had to decide for myself whether to lean into God or to lean away from Him. Well, I had gone my own way for much of my life, and I already knew that that didn’t work well at all, so I chose to lean into God. I had no idea how God might redeem or restore what had been lost, but I knew that He promised to do just that. Still, I felt like the Psalmist who wrote, “Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief.” (Psalm 31:9) Or like Job, who said, “My eyes have grown dim with grief; my whole frame is but a shadow.” (Job 17:7)

I didn’t know much Scripture at that time, but I did know Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” One night I was sobbing and crying out to Him, begging Him to be close to me and to save me. Suddenly, I felt a strange sensation. It was as if I could feel feathers touching my shoulders, pulling me to Him. Peace inexplicably settled over me. Comforted, I finally fell asleep and rested in His arms. It was the first decent night of sleep I’d had in weeks. Much later, I learned of this verse:

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91:4

I truly believe that He sheltered me under His wings on that night.

Are you grieving today? If so, take comfort in knowing that Jesus understands exactly what you’re going through and how you are feeling. The Bible tells us that, “He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.” (Isaiah 53:3 NLT) In both Matthew 26:38 and Mark 14:34, Jesus says, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” He knows what it is like to suffer that soul-crushing grief.

If that’s where you are today, I encourage you to choose to lean into Him, not away from Him. Take courage from the following verses:

My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. Psalm 119:28

You who are my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me. Jeremiah 8:18

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 36:7

God promises to strengthen us and to comfort us, to bind up our wounds and to give us refuge in the midst of our sorrow and grief. You can pray those verses over yourself and ask Him to show you how He is moving in response to your prayers. In addition, feel free to leave a message in the comments below or to message me directly and I will be glad to pray for you!