Friday, April 27, 2012

Returning Home

The Book of Ruth, a Love Story
Returning Home
Ruth 1:6-10
Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the LORD had visited his people in giving them bread.  Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah. And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother's house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me. The LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept. And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.
Naomi, now a widow, believed that the Lord had afflicted her with bitter days until her death. She was without a husband, childless and resentful. Remember, she and her husband, Elimelech, had taken their two sons to the land of Moab from Bethlehem, “the house of bread,” when famine had gripped their homeland. Elimelech had turned his back on his inheritance given to him because of the temporary situation he was in––the famine, a chastisement brought about by God. Elimelech would have been better off with the people of God under God’s judgment, than in the devil’s crowd having his hunger satisfied. Naomi is now living among strangers in the cursed land of the Moabites, destitute, lonely, and embittered by her difficult situation.
How dark and dismal this story would be if it ended with Elimelech’s mistakes in taking his family away from the land of God into the land of the Moabites.  We can rejoice to know––the story does not end there. Naomi hears a rumor from her homeland claiming, “the Lord has visited His people giving them bread in Bethlehem––the famine is over.” All hope had died for Naomi in the land of Moab with the death of her husband and two sons. Her joy soured as bitterness increased and had taken her prisoner. 
When the good news of bread in the land of Bethlehem reached Naomi, she realized that God had not forgotten His people or His promises. What wonderful news for a frustrated, bitter child of God. Naomi was inspired to return home after suffering much pain, hardship and misfortune in her life. Although Naomi was not aware of God’s magnificent plan of redeeming love, His  sovereign purpose and design for Naomi continues to unfold.
Naomi encourages her two daughters-in-law to return to their homes and families. She desires for them to find peace and rest in the land of Moab and to marry again while they are still young. She shares with her young daughters-in-law a need to go home to Bethlehem and then kisses them good-bye. Each are weeping sorrowfully and saying, “Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.” What now? Will one stay with Naomi and continue her life in the land of Bethlehem, Judah? The plan of God is a mystery unfolding in the lives of these women and in the lives of those they will soon come to know.

Thought: Because this is a story of God’s redeeming love for fallen man, Naomi is a marvelous picture of repentance, a picture of God’s will taking us from disobedience to restoration. Repentance is a turning around, an “about face,” a change of heart and a change in direction. True repentance is acknowledging and agreeing with God that you have sinned and that He has the ultimate authority in your life to remove that sin from your life and change you from within.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Love Story

The Book of Ruth, a Love Story
Ruth 1:1-2
Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Beth–lehem–judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Beth–lehem–judah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there. And Elimelech Naomi's husband died; and she was left, and her two sons.  And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years.
The Book of Ruth is an exciting adventure during a most difficult time in history. The story of Ruth occurred during the time, “when the judges ruled,” bridging the time from the judges to the rule of the kings of Israel. It was the worst of times because, “every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” The Book of Judges is a book of apostasy, anarchy, bloodshed and brutality–––a picture of the unregenerate man in an unrestrained time doing “his own thing.” Why did this happen? How could this happen? The answer is made evident in one phrase which is repeated four times in the book of Judges, “there was no king.” What king is missing? God!
During this time in history, we come to the little book called Ruth which has only four chapters and eighty-five verses.  It is a true historical account of God using the most difficult of times to show He is never idle but continuously working in the lives of the people of Israel and in our lives today as well. Ruth is a picture of the helpless, hopeless sinner, alienated from God and doomed to eternal darkness. There is one who is able to redeem and all that come to Him, He will in no wise cast out (John 6:37.) The Book of Ruth is not only a story of God’s amazing grace but a picture of God’s redeeming love for unworthy sinners.
Beginning the story: (The eighth book of the Bible is the Book of Ruth. Eight is the number of new beginnings in Scriptures.)
Ruth, a Moabite by birth married an Israelite man who came to her country to escape the famine in Israel. Elimelech, the father, whose name means “My God is king,” only intended to live in Moab temporarily while waiting for the famine to pass in Bethlehem, Judah. Elimelech’s name signifies that he was most likely a devout man and was committed to the God of Israel. Naomi, Elimelech’s wife’s name means “pleasant,” Ruth’s name means “friendship,” Mahlon and Chilion’s names mean “sick and “pining,” in the order already mentioned and Orpah’s name means “stubborn.”
The Book of Ruth lifts the curtain just enough for us to see the beautiful picture God is revealing to us of His redeeming love. Not all the actors in this small book even realize the impact their 
lives will play in God’s wonderful plan. Ruth, the Moabites, a member of a race that began in an incestuous relationship (Genesis 19) was under the curse of God (Deuteronomy 23:3-6). God’s plan was to take this poor woman in the lowest conditions and bring her to the highest honor of  life...the lineage of Christ. This book has one outstanding message–––REDEMPTION! 
Thought: As you read this delightful story of redeeming love, allow your heart to be prepared for a Biblical account of the doctrine of salvation through the life of Ruth. Look for the picture the Book of Ruth gives of a sinner alienated from God, but comes to know the One who is able to redeem. If you will cast yourself upon His redeeming grace, making no claims to the works of righteousness you have done, but believe in His finished work on the cross for you––––that is REDEEMING LOVE.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Signs of True Conversion
I Corinthians 15:1-4
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;  And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 
The assurance of our salvation is to be enjoyed on the basis of the present and continuing work of the Holy Spirit, as well as fellowship with Christ and the Father. This is truly an essential element in true salvation and with this some questions must be asked––– “Do you enjoy fellowship with Christ and the Father?” Have you said, along with the Apostle Paul,  I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me? Have you experienced the presence of God in your life and have a love for Christ with the joy of sweet communion in prayer? If you have, then you have experienced the fellowship of salvation.
The person that is truly saved will be sensitive to sin in his or her life and cry out as Paul did in Romans 7:24, O wretched man that I am! True believers are to walk in the Light as He is in the Light, (I John 1:7), confessing and forsaking sin as it is made known to them. If we say we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness of sin, we are lying to ourselves and are not practicing the truth–––Light and darkness do not coexist. If you have a desire to obey the Word of God from a grateful heart for all He has done for you, then you are showing signs of true conversion by obedience and not by feelings.
What characterizes a true believer is their rejection of the world and the designed system by the evil one. This world will one day pass away but the ones who desire to do the will of God live forever (I John 2:16-17).  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. The Lord said that those that follow Him are not of this world for He was not of this world even though we must live here for a little while.
Are you so in love with Christ that you are eagerly awaiting His return? It is the Christian’s blessed hope that one day He will return and then we will see Him face-to-face. We are told that our citizenship is in heaven and that one day we will be transformed from this frail, sinful body into a glorious body bearing the image of the heavenly (I Corinthians 15:49b). Longing to see Christ is essential and it indicates the wonderful reality of eternal salvation.
Does sin have a decreasing effect in your life? Unbroken patterns of sin are characteristic of those that are not true believers because we are to be saved from something....saved from sin. This does not mean we never sin again after salvation but that we see a decline in the patterns of sin and are practicing righteousness as He is righteous. If you are seeing victory over sin in your life along with right motives, desires, deeds and words, and you are obviously not the person you used to be, then you will experience the joy of knowing you have eternal life.
Suffering rejection because of your faith is a painful test but you are not to be surprised by this persecution.  Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:  But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy (I Peter 4:12,13). If you are being persecuted by the world and have experienced rejection, bitterness, hostility and alienation, then it is pretty clear to whom you belong and whose name you bear. 
Loving the people of God is made clear in I John 3:10, In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. If a man who says he is a Christian hates his brother, he is in darkness and his eyes are blinded by the darkness (I John 2:9-11). Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).  Are you known for loving other believers and meeting the needs of those in the church? Love is the test that proves you are a true Christian and the evidence of this love is shown by deeds of affection and sacrificial acts  of kindness which are characteristic of your life.
Thought:  God gives us confidence to know that we have eternal life not based on feelings or past experiences but on the truths of Scripture that verify and prove our salvation. If this be true for us, then there is never a reason for any of us to live a ho-hum Christian life. We are to live  our lives experiencing His exceedingly abundant grace and mercy by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and what He has done for us on the cross. Hallelujah!–––God be praised!

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Crucifixion of Christ
Matthew 27:27-37
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!  And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.  And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.  And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.  And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull, They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.  And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots. And sitting down they watched him there; And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
The story of the crucifixion of Christ, is the pinnacle of redemptive history and the center of God's purpose for salvation. This is where the Lord bears the sins of the world and therefore provides salvation to all who believe in Him. The cross is the highest point of the plan of God and it demonstrates the grace, mercy, goodness and love of God like no other event in history can. 
Matthew 27:27 says, Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall (praetorium, judgment hall), and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers.  Pilate has already sinned against his conscience, justice and against truth. He has sold his soul for popularity and security. He is a miserable man. He is cornered by the Jewish population and threatened as to the security of his position. He is forced to do things to Jesus that he knows justice does not require.
Rather than releasing Jesus whom he has pronounced repeatedly as innocent, he desires to try to satisfy the Jews by scourging and mocking Him, then bringing Jesus back out and showing Him to the Jews as a helpless, pitiful individual who is no threat to Rome or Israel. He hopes that will satisfy them and they will stop trying to force him to execute an innocent man.
Jesus endures the scourging. He is tied to a post by His hands, His feet suspended off the ground so that His body, is tight. Two Roman soldiers, on each side, have wooden handles in their hand  to which are attached leather straps, at the end of the straps are bits of rock and bone and metal filed down to a sharp edge. These soldiers proceed to lacerate the body of Jesus Christ extensively until He is bleeding out all over His body and His inner parts are made visible. 
With His body in agony and every nerve made alive in tortuous pain, He becomes the object of the soldiers ridicule as they all gather around Him and begin their little game. They strip Him. In Pilate's Praetorium, there is most likely a discarded scarlet robe, one the soldier's would wear as an outer garment, a rough cloth, used to keep him warm. This robe is meant to mock Christ as if He were a king.
Jesus endures everything––– saying nothing–––– offering no resistance. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth (Isaiah 53:7). He is willing to suffer for sinners, to suffer not only the death on the cross but everything that came along with it. Jesus, carrying His own cross is paraded before the city so that everyone is warned about how it is to violate Roman law and to be brought to execution by the Romans and yet, has committed no crime. The agony is beyond belief. He has had no rest, no sleep, but, He endures the trials, injustices, beatings and scourgings. It has taken all of His strength.  As he begins to walk up the hill through the city, He falls beneath the load of the heavy cross, they find a man from Cyrene, Simon by name, and urge him to carry the cross.
Death by crucifixion includes all that pain and death can hold: dizziness, cramping, thirst, starvation, sleeplessness, traumatic fever, tetanus (a bacterial disease marked by rigidity and spasms) shame, the horror of anticipation, all intensified just up to the point of unconsciousness. The unnatural position of crucifixion makes every movement painful. The wounds inflamed by exposure gradually become infected. The arteries, especially at the head and stomach, became swollen with additional blood while the intolerable pang of a burning and raging thirst add to the agony. Read Isaiah 53:3-7. 
Thought: Don’t ever pass over the meaning of the death of Christ on the cross on the way to celebrating His Resurrection (which of course is worthy of our celebrating). It is the cross that gives meaning to the resurrected Christ and why “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2) is so very important and remains to be the very essence of the gospel message.  The yearning of every believer should be, as stated by the apostle Paul; That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead (Philippians 3:10-11). If you don't know the Savior, if you've not come to Him for forgiveness, embraced Him as Lord, today is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:2 (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.) As He has been lifted up before you today, see Him as the Son of God, the Savior of the world who died for your sins, accept Him by faith and trust Him as your Savior today.