The man's name was Elimelech, his wife's name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there (Ruth 1:2)
You can tell a lot from a name. And a name in the Bible can often tell you a lot about the theme of a particular book. Such is true of the first name we meet here: "Elimelech." Here's what it means: "My God will rule," or "My God rules," or "My God is King." (For you who are interested in Hebrew, the "i" = "my," and the "El" = God, and "Melech" = Rule/King).
It's important here because that is the essence of this little, wonderful book - Despite the ups and downs, twists and turns, heartache and pain, God is still ruling, working in all things for good. The quiet, unseen hand of God is at work behind the scenes - in Ruth's life, and in ours. It's called Providence, and that's what this book is about.
You may remember the word "Ephratha" above from an Advent reading - from Micah 5:2 - "But you, oh Bethlehem Ephratha, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me, one who will be ruler over Israel." It's a region of Bethlehem. They went to Moab, you will recall, because there was a famine in the area of Bethlehem. It seemed a dark time; it was a dark time, but remember "Elimelech," - My God will rule, and so the story begins to unfold, as does your story - and mine. Let's watch God's hand at work, shall we?
“Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony.” (John 4:39).
Jesus had visited with her at the well – Jacob’s well in the town of Sychar. He listened, he valued her, he spoke truth to her – in the end, she came to see that he was God’s anointed, the Messiah. She was so struck that she left her water jar (the very reason she came to the well in the first place!), ran back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”
She did three things:
1. She simply said, “Come, see.” - Check it out for yourselves.
2. She shared her experience - “He told me everything I ever did.
3. She asked them a question - “Could this be the Christ?”
I’m not big on formulas for witnessing, but that’s a pretty good one: Invite, share, ask. Let’s try it!
Remember this Sunday is Pentecost – the celebration of the Holy Spirit coming on the large crowd in Jerusalem 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection; the birthday of the Christian Church. Lots of us will be wearing something red, and praying that God will visit us again with the gift of the Holy Spirit as we worship.
Love and prayers, Dan
But Ruth replied to Naomi: “Entreat me not to leave thee. Whither thou goest, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people will be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16)
This beautiful sentiment was sung at Jan and my wedding. It’s a beautiful statement of loyalty, fidelity and love. Here’s the background: Naomi was a Hebrew, from the region of Bethlehem. When a famine came to that area, she and her husband and their two sons went across the Jordan river to Moab (modern day Jordan). Their two sons married Moablite young women. Eventually Naomi’s husband and both sons died. She was distraught; she decided to return home to Bethlehem. Her one daughter-in-law, Orpah decided to stay in Moab, but her other daughter-in-law, Ruth, decided to stay with Naomi, and not only stay with her, but also to worship Naomi’s God.
Evidently there was something about Naomi’s faith in Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, that caused Ruth to choose no longer to follow the Moabite god, Molech, and to follow Naomi’s God. What Naomi did, quietly, lovingly, effectively is called “witnessing,” and it changed Ruth’s life forever, and, indeed, changed the course of history for Israel and for us, for she became the Great Grandmother of David, the great King of Israel.
I want to be a witness like that, don’t you!
Be sure to wear something red this Sunday – it’s Pentecost!
Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth." Nathanael said to him, Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." (John 1:45-46).
Witnessing can be scary, can seem off putting, so let's take the "mystery" away from it, and use another word: "story." Witnessing is just telling your story - in a kind, gracious way: "I find that when I connect with Jesus and rely on Him, I do better inside; I have a greater sense of calm, of strength." Just share your story; authentic, genuine, and in a way that seeks to connect with the other person.
Remember that this Sunday (May 19) is Pentecost Sunday. We encourage you to wear red in celebration of the "tongues of fire" that came down on Pentecost as God poured out the Holy Spirit on the people in a great way. And pray with me, please: "Come, Holy Spirit!" Amen.
"Now as Saul/Paul was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" (Acts 9:3-4)
Sometimes a story "takes on a life of its own," like this story of Paul's conversion - so dramatic, that well meaning people read it and deduce that everyone should therefore come to a relationship with Jesus with similar drama as Paul had. I worried over the fact that I grew gradually in my relationship with Jesus, and it wasn't dramatic at all like Paul's. How unfortunate, because the truth is if you were to survey 100 active Christians, less than 10 % would say their relationship began in a dramatic way.
Someone gave me a helpful illustration: while we can't tell the precise moment that the dawn comes, we can eventually tell for sure that morning has dawned and the light has come. For many, many of us that's how our relationship with Jesus has evolved.
Whichever your experience, the neat thing is that it's your experience; it's the one God has given you, so claim it and celebrate it.
“You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.” (James 2:18)
James is saying what the rest of the Bible says in so many places: We are here to Love God and Love Others, and we show both through our acts of service, acts of kindness. Walk the Talk. Or as the prophet Micah states it in the Old Testament: “What does the Lord require of you – but to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8) – all action words.
We’ve been praying each day these days leading up to Pentecost (May 19), asking God, “What is the next step?” Maybe the next step is a new adventure of service, teaching Vacation Bible School, or teaching Summer Sunday School, or feeding the homeless downtown, or calling someone you know and haven’t talked with in awhile, or praying for someone or…
“Now about spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be ignorant.” (I Corinthians 12:1)
For the rest of this chapter Paul lists various spiritual gifts – or gifts for service that the Spirit gives us. You can take a spiritual gift assessment by going to this web site: www.ministrymatters.com/spiritualgifts/.
Then list your top three gifts. The neat thing is that when we discover these, we are free to live out of our gifts, to serve from our strengths, or, to use a sports term – hit in the sweet spot. Too often in the church we have asked people to serve in areas where they aren’t gifted; far better to discern our gifts and then to serve as we are wired to serve.
Remember: You are gifted! And you are gifted for the purpose of serving the Body of Christ with your gift.
I promise to support this Church with my prayers, my presence, my gifts, my service.
After Jesus had washed his disciples’ feet, he said to them, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” (John 13:14–16)
At the very heart of being a Disciple of Jesus is the truth that we are to be servants; to have servant hearts, to be actively engaged in service. Jesus not only set the example, he stated that he set the example so that his followers would “follow” his example.
Service – will you be praying this week for open doors for you to be involved in acts of service – not out of guilt but our of a clear leading from God?
“I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:8-9).
I really appreciate the first five words above: “I am not commanding you.” That’s not our way; it’s not the way of Jesus, or, as we see, of Paul. We don’t command people, require people, or “guilt” people into doing something (at least we try not to!), but we do encourage one another, and so, this week we have been encouraging each of us to be/become “joyfully generous” with the resources God has entrusted into your care. And remember, there is truth in the notion: that the more God can trust you with His resources, the more God is likely to entrust to you.
Love and prayers, Dan
“Just as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us – see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” (2 Corinthians 8: 7)
Certainly in this city of Gainesville, where we like to boast of National Championships (how ‘bout those UF Gymnasts!!), we understand the language Paul uses here of “excelling.” We want to excel at all kinds of things, and often do. In the same way, Paul encourages us to excel in “this grace of giving.”
In several places the Bible speaks of “the tithe,” which is generally considered to be 10% of the money God has entrusted into your care temporarily (notice I didn’t say “10% of your money). A friend of mine recently shared, “When we began to take seriously our giving, we didn’t think we could possibly do the full tithe, so we started out with a lesser amount, and learned that ‘we never missed it!’ Then we moved on up to the tithe (and now over and above generosity), and we have really enjoyed being able to do that.” He’s right, of course, that it can be scary at first, but oh so rewarding.
Question: are you one of those persons who slowly, carefully, one step at a time, gets into the swimming pool, or are you one who just jumps right in? Whichever you are, you may be the same way with beginning your journey toward joyful generosity: a step at a time, or jumping right in; either way, I hope and pray you’re on the journey.