Monday, February 24, 2014


I have to admit, that of all the books of the Bible, I have spent the least amount of time in Ruth. As a guy, I go for the books with all the battles and those which talk less about about love affairs! But in 4 short chapters the book of Ruth brings to light some principles which every believer should not only know, but also implement.
Ruth is a Moabite, a non-jewish woman (this is the only book of the Bible which highlights the life of a non-jew!) following her mother-in-law (Naomi) back to jewish lands. Naomi is bitter, after all, she has lost her husband and both of her sons. But Ruth (her name means friendship), takes care of Naomi and through her efforts provides for the well being of Naomi. Boaz (not the city's most eligible bachelor) sees Ruth and the care she gives Naomi and is moved to help Ruth. In the process he finds that he is related to Naomi. He goes before the city elders declares his intention of redeeming Naomi and Ruth, marries Ruth and they have a soon who would be the grandfather of King David.
*Ruth's name means friend-we should all have a Ruth in our lives as well as be a Ruth to someone else. Being a true friend means we do for someone what they cannot do for themselves. This isn't charity or a social system of care as we know it, it is instead a way to bring hope to those short of hope.
*Ruth and Naomi were sustained by Boaz's adherence to jewish traditional understanding of the OT command concerning the act of gleaning. In short leaving something behind for others to benefit from. Boaz's fields weren't picked clean, but instead some grain was left behind. We have this same opportunity everyday. Leave a bigger tip, pay for a stranger's meal, and possibly most important, leave a Godly legacy our kids and their kids will follow.
* Kinsman Redeemer-Jesus bought us back from slavery. We didn't deserve His grace. But that doesn't mean we should hang our heads in shame, we have a new identity and new family name. We were sinners separated from God by our sinful nature, but now we are Kids of the King, with all the benefits and privileges that accompany this new identity!

God's only requirement? Live like a child of the King!

Ruth is a prophet book of sorts. Written long before Jesus Christ came to redeem humanity, it shows God's plan of redemption, His willingness to publicly address the issue on the cross (as Boaz did at the city gates) and His desire to share the Gospel with everyone.

Monday, February 17, 2014

I did it my way!

 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim: Judges 2:11

Unfortunately we read this phrase 6 more times in the book of Judges. But in spite of what the Israelites did, God was faithful to His promise to care for them. 12 different judges were appointed by God to deliver them from countries that were oppressing and occupying their cities. But at the end of the book we read these words:

 In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

God wanted the best for this nation (Israel) He had built, but they continuously settled for second best. The pattern of sin,repentance,deliverance and rest was a pattern repeated (at least) 12 times in the book of Judges. No matter how many times God saved them, these people continued to do things their way, rather than following God. How many times has that pattern repeated itself in our lives? We may not be conquered by foreign countries, but doing things our way opens up the possibility of being distracted from God's purpose and thereby limiting God's blessings. Here are three principles we can take away from this book (and there are many more!) which can help us as we live in this world, while preparing to meet our Savior in the next.
1. We don't deserve anything.
Hard words I know. Especially when we live in a time and place where hard work does produce results and can help us to achieve our dreams. But in the Kingdom of God, these rules don't apply. We are saved by His grace and His grace alone.
2. Resting is good but should only be a temporary posture for believers. When the Israelites "did evil in the sight of the Lord" they had become complacent. Evil fell on the nation during these times of rest. God invites us to a mission.
3. God is faithful. No matter how bad we mess up God is always there and waiting for our repentance. Forgiveness was applied on our behalf at Calvary, repentance is our way of agreeing with the plans of God and acting accordingly.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Positional Thinking

From different areas of our life we are bombarded by messages which can at times alter our perception of our true identity. In the book of Joshua we find a nation hand picked by God struggling with issues that affect us all. Can God be trusted? Am I really accepted by Him? Does He really mean all those things He promises in the Bible? Are those promises just for the people in the Bible or are they for me as well?
The nation of Israel was given a promise and then God told them exactly what it would take to secure that promise.

6 "Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.
7 "Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.

Joshua 1
Then Paul reinforces this same promise in his letter to the people at Rome.
14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!"
16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,
17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. Romans 8

In short don't let the circumstances dictate your actions from those bad messages we receive from all around us. 
Positional thinking isn't positive thinking (although this process does have some merit). When we realize who God says we are, then act accordingly, we are embracing His promise and His blessings already prepared. We are not making anything happen, it has already happened in Jesus Christ. We merely reach out and possess that which God has already granted. Then we begin to live like free people, unafraid of what people may think, unworried about saying the wrong thing because we are pleasing to God because we are in Jesus Christ. And the last time I checked, Jesus Christ was absolutely pleasing to God!
It is only when we "turn from it to the right or to the left," which means do things our way that we run aground. I call this a spiritual shipwreck. It's like taking a perfectly good boat and rather than stay in a clearly marked channel where it's safe, we decide to short cut in shallow water.
The law to which many people naturally default (because that's all we usually hear and the law is written on our hearts) can't be our guide either. Yes these were holy precepts given by God to guide His people, but these laws pointed to a coming savior. 

23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.
24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.
25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3
So the need for the law still applies for His people in order to remind us to treat one another with love, but also for those who need to know Jesus Christ. Don't let the law take the place of His Spirit.
Positional thinking merely embraces a truth already stated by God and a promise already given by God. The only question is: Do we believe? Is Jesus enough? What part of me rebels in such a way as to take control and "turn to the left or right"? The answer isn't trying harder. It is asking God to show you how to embrace His promises. 
"God show me my place in your Kingdom".

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Letter or The Spirit?

Tension. It exists in many areas of our life. Tension can serve two purposes: it can promote fear and dread of impending events, or it can push us to examine and investigate the questions at hand.
The tension many face in their walk with Christ is, how do the laws and grace coexist within the same Kingdom?
In Deuteronomy, the last book of the Pentateuch, God chooses to reveal himself to a nation of people who would usher in the birth of a new King and this King would announce the construction of His Kingdom. All that from Deuteronomy? Well not exactly. At least not if we get bogged down in the laws contained there as so many do. God goes deeper than just re-quoting His laws, He goes behind the 10 commandments to address the reason of why He gave these laws. The Spirit of the law.
John Walton a professor of Old Testament Studies at Wheaton College in his article "Deuteronomy: An exposition of the Spirit of the Law" 1987 ( , helps us to understand this book's purpose and relieve some of the tension created as we struggle to reconcile OT laws and see God's grace in them.
There a method at work I've missed for years but becomes somewhat clearer as we begin to understand that, while Deuteronomy (which means second law) was being repeated to a new generation of people (the previous generation had passed away in the wilderness), God wasn't merely saying keep these laws or else! He was revealing His heart of compassion to His people in a way more which more deeply explains the motivation behind the laws. In short He was saying what Jesus would 3000 years latter repeat to others. "Love God and Love People". The letter of the law addresses our actions, the spirit addresses the motivation that prompts these actions. God has Moses repeat the 10 commandments in chapter four, but then in chapters 6-24, expounds in a deeper way the spirit behind the laws. Walton further dissects these chapters in 4 categories;
Authority-that God is due and that He gives us
Dignity-The honor God is due and the honor we bestow upon others because of His gift to us
Commitment-That which we have for God and he has for us, and that which we have for one another.
Rights and Privileges-What God can and will do, and what what is expected of us.

I have placed the letter beside each commandment which correlates with Waltons idea.
A     1       Duet: 6-11              D     6    Duet:  16:18-18:22
D     2     Duet:12                   D       7    Duet: 19-21
C      3     Duet: 13:1-14:21     D        8   Duet: 22:1-23:14
R&P  4  Duet: 14:22-16:17     C        9.  Duet: 24:8-16

A       5    Duet: 16:18-18:22    R&P  10. Duet: 24:17-26:15

I realize this isnt my usual blog, but understanding the OT as best we can, provides the foundation upon which to build any spiritual structure. As you read through these chapters, don't look for concrete comparisons, remember the Spirit of the law was God's concern, not verbatim repetition. Merely repeating the laws and then carrying out these laws robotically, is what Jesus preached against.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. Matthew 23:23