Jul 24, 2016

Obedience of Ruth

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Obedience Of Ruth

There are perhaps two reasons why we study about people in the Bible - to learn how not to do some things like being deceitful, and how to do the right things like this mornings example Ruth. So this morning we are going to look together at the book of Ruth and discover who Ruth was, what is her story and how we can learn from her as we seek to live a godly and righteous life in Britain in 2010.

Perhaps the key verses for the book of Ruth, which would help us summarise this short story are as we read in Ruth 1:16-18:

But Ruth replied, "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 anything but death separates you and me."  When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.

The book of Ruth is a cameo story of love, devotion and redemption set in the black days of the Judges. It tells the story of a pagan woman giving up everything to cling to the people of Israel and to God Himself. Shows her faithfulness when the nation was faithless.

4 Aspects of Ruth's Obedience

Doesn't that sound a nice lovely story and wouldn't it be good just to leave it at that, and not learn more about the character of Ruth. The greatest thing about Ruth, that we are going to learn about is, her obedience. Indeed elsewhere in Scripture it says that obedience is better than sacrifice. The story of Ruth as we have seen celebrates the gentle beauty of love and loyalty between individuals, and it shows the positive power of obedience to God for both personal fulfilment and wider blessing. By committing herself to Naomi, as well as to Naomi's God, Ruth found satisfaction in service. Instead of losing her identity by her voluntary and complete submission, Ruth's place in Israel and history is confirmed. There are four things about her obedience, that we living in 2009 would be wise to copy as we seek to follow this God with obedient lives that are worthy of Him.

1. WOW! obedience.

Firstly, her obedience is surprising - it has a wow factor to it! The harmony between Ruth and her mother-in-law is even more appealing when we consider the two unusual facets that could have driven them apart.

  • Firstly, Mahlon, the natural connecting link between Ruth and Naomi was dead (Ruth 1 :3-5). Nothing specific is mentioned about the way the two women got along with each other while he was alive during those years in Moab. Instead, the story begins with the development of their relationship after Mahlon's death and at the time of the women's departure for Judah.
  • The second part of this wow, is that could have driven them apart was that Ruth was from Moab. A brief review of the history of this neighbouring nation proves that its land and people were clearly off limits for the Jews. The founding father Moab was the result of Lot's incestuous union with his older daughter (Genesis 19:37). Though Moab was not on the list of nations to be entirely destroyed by the Israelites under Joshua, its worship of false gods were offensive and troublesome (Numbers 25). Judges 3 relates that Eglon the king of Moab, received power from the Lord to punish Israel for eighteen years. When the people of Israel again cried out to God, the Lord raised up the judge Ehud, to kill Eglon and defeat Moab, to bring peace for eighty years.
The story of Ruth as we have heard already, is placed at the time of the Judges. Elimelech's decision to take his family into Moab to escape the famine in Israel probably occurred at a time when Moab was subdued, or at least not hostile towards Israel. However, God, had told the Israelites not to marry into the surrounding nations or join in their worship of false gods. The fact that Naomi's sons chose Moabite women shows that they ignored this instruction. It also indicates the attraction of foreign influences to the Israelites, which God wanted them to stay away from. But we also see mercy in grafting into his line of blessing one Moabite because of her faith and obedience to Him.
Naomi had two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah. In view of their position as Moabite widows, it may seem that Orpah's decision to return to her own mother's house was more natural than Ruth's when Naomi announced her determination to go back to Bethlehem in Judah. We could even argue that Orpah, after politely offering to accompany Naomi, was acting in accord with her mother-in-law's wishes by remaining in Moab with her own people. Ruth, however, clung to Naomi and refused to leave her. But Orpah's obedience was shallow, as her offer to go with Naomi was done out of duty not of love, and Naomi probably saw this and declined Orpah's offer. Ruth however, remained to finish her story and claim a place in the genealogy of David and also of Jesus (Mt 1 :5).

2. Witness in obedience.

Secondly there is a witness in obedience.  Ruth did more than merely remain with Naomi; she was in fact her main support, both during their journey and after arriving in Israel, even though she was a stranger in Bethlehem. News of her faithfulness obviously spread quickly as it  went before her into the fields of Boaz. When she asked why as a woman not from Israel was being treated so kindly, Boaz replied because of her support and friendship of Naomi You can see that in Ruth 2:11. Though directly attracted by her outward beauty and manner, Boaz was already -aware of her reputation for loyal love and service. We see this when Boaz tells her, "All my fellow townsman know that you are a woman of noble character" (Ruth 3:11).
Here we see the powerful testimony and witness of Ruth's relationship with Naomi. Her unselfish devotion to one person, characterized by her obedience, made her appealing to another person and to a whole community. However, Ruth did not abuse -or flaunt her obedience as long-suffering, but held it in her heart as love. She was not looking for praise or pity, and she seemed genuinely surprised that her service of Naomi had been seen and recognized. Not once did she complain about the leadership of Naomi or her own circumstances. Instead of bitterness there was beauty, in her attitude as well as on her face. Ruth found her obedience fulfilling. Her immediate and ultimate rewards far outweighed anything she could have anticipated.  Her obedience was a wow surprise but it was also a testimonial witness that had gone out before her.

3. Wholeness of obedience.

But just how did Ruth's obedience come to have such a tremendous impact on those around her? It all started with a personal commitment, a permanent decision that brought her peace and provided her with direction for all that followed. On the border of Moab, Ruth had told Naomi of her commitment (Ruth 1:16-17) as we read earlier. Ruth's commitment was absolute. Rather than constraining her, this new commitment gave her new purpose and opportunity to develop her character. When they arrived in Bethlehem, Ruth volunteered to pick up the leftover grain (Ruth 2:2). When she returned to Naomi, Ruth shared her grain with Naomi and told her about her day. Then it was Naomi who sensed God's direction and gave Ruth detailed instructions as to how to approach Boaz, which Ruth obeyed perfectly (Ruth 3:1-6). Ruth 4:17 indicates that after Ruth's future and family were secure, Naomi was included in the household redeemed by Boaz, for when the neighbours noticed how much she cared for Obed they said "Naomi has a son." Truly the deepest love, trust and respect were at the centre of Ruth's & Naomi's relationship, bringing both of them mutual fulfillment.
As Ruth obeyed Naomi, so she obeyed Boaz, both at their first meeting and later at the threshing floor. She won both the admiration of Naomi and Boaz as much by the quickness of her unquestioning responses as by her completeness in carrying out commands. Ruth won respect because she offered her respect in the form of obedience.  Her obedience was total and complete.  Not through coercion, but by love and adoration.

4. Worship by Obedience.

Then finally, Ruth's obedience was also worship.  How is this? The result of Ruth's obedience was Obed, the child fathered by Boaz as kinsman-redeemer, the one would inherit the family land and name in place of Naomi's dead husband and sons. Obed in Hebrew means "worship". Is not obedience really the outward action that derives from the inner response of faith love, and trust practised in regard to individuals and God? Jesus said "If you love me, you will obey what I command!" (John 14:15). Ruth's acts of obedience throughout this her story, are also practical acts of worship of the God she had made her own by faith.

So Ruth's obedience has four factors to it: the wow factor, the witness factor, the wholeness factor and finally the worship factor!

Conclusion

Let us ask God to work in us, changing our weak attempts at obedience into acts of divine worship. We find delight in serving the Lord, instead of indulging in resentment over sinful leaders. The result will be inner freedom and release from bitterness, and also a powerful story to those in authority and to onlookers as well. Just as too Ruth's obedience of Naomi, moved Boaz and all Bethlehem, the Holy Spirit will enable us move others (Colossians 3:23-24). While we obey others we can joyfully remember that it is God alone who is worthy of complete obedience. When our confidence in Him is reflected in our submission to others we become living stories to our trust in God's perfect plan. If we follow the example of Ruth, perhaps someone will notice our stories and find the witness, the wholeness, and the worship in our lives of obedience and praise God because of us. And, remember this from 1 Samuel 15v22 "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams."So go from here and be obedient to our awesome and holy God! Through obedience to Him as revealed in Scripture, you will be growing and changing into the very likeness of Jesus Christ whom you follow. Through obedience, you will be able to enduring and be persistent in your Christian lifestyle and evangelism. So much so, that people will ask you for the reason for the hope you have and portray.

Finally, you may well be here tonight but are not yet a follower of Jesus Christ. If that is indeed you, please do not leave here tonight without making yourself known to one of the leaders, or to me, and we will gladly talk more about this Jesus to you.Thank you.


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Jul 23, 2016

Gems in the Gospel of John - Part 39

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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 39 - John 9:38
A journey to faith


This chapter 9 contains the wonderful story of the blind man’s journey to faith. It gives us one of the best of all the stories of the Gospels rated as stories and he stands out as one of the most interesting people of all those that Jesus met. It is too long a passage for me to read it all out so do find a Bible and read it for yourself.

He is quite a character this blind man. Being able to see for the first time will have been quite a difficult experience. Mark tells us about another man who saw for the first time and says that at first he confused men and trees. Only a day or two later this man John tells us about gets hauled in front of a group of learned men who try to trip him up with their questions. But he is having none of it. He answers back in a very clever but straightforward, blunt and truthful way. He is careful not to say anything that can make matters worse for Jesus. He minimizes the number of things that Jesus did on the Sabbath as much as possible. He does not implicate him in anything he thought to be dangerous.

Through it all he comes to faith. Like many people he comes through a journey taking several days. There is a tendency in many quarters to think that coming to faith ought to happen in an instant, on one occasion, but it is not so for many people. Like this guy we may get there only in days, or weeks, months or even years. Our faith is no less valid for that; in fact it may even be stronger.

We can trace where he had got to on his journey by the things he calls Jesus. In verse 11 he says ‘the man called Jesus’. In verse 17 he says ‘he is a prophet’. In verse 33 he is ‘ this man from God’. In verse 38, having been told that Jesus is ‘the Son of Man’ he says ‘Lord, I believe’.

In it all he demonstrates three of the major things Jesus said about himself. These are: I am the light of the world; I am the way, the truth and the life; and I am the resurrection and the life.

The most obvious of these is the first – with a twist. It is all very well Jesus being the light of the world, but what about us? Is he also the light of the individual believer? Yes, he is, and never more so than to this blind man to whom he gave sight. That will have been light flooding into his life not only spiritually but also very physically. And, of course, that is a picture for us, for you, for me. John has recorded how Jesus brought light to the lives of Nicodemus, the learned man, to the woman at the well, the country woman, to the cripple by the Bethesda pool, and to many people on a hillside in Galilee. But this one trumps them all. No one got more light and made better use of it than this guy.

The second thing this story illustrates is the value of truth. In the often forgotten verses that follow 3:16 John says “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” This guy came to the light, willingly and eagerly. We don’t know what his background was but the way he carried himself after he entered the light suggests it was very good. He pursued the truth. I think we can assume that he was also good at finding the way and the life in the days and years after this encounter he had with the Lord of the Universe.

The third thing is perhaps a little more difficult to see. When challenged about the things he was saying he said, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. … Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” That is he said, “look at the facts; he opened my eyes; you can argue all you like but I know what is what because he opened my eyes.” Ultimately if we are challenged about our faith we too must go back to the facts. Two in particular are important. One is the resurrection of Jesus. It stands there in history, a better attested fact than the existence of Julius Caesar, or 1066 (sorry, those of you who are not British – it is the date of the defeat of the Old English by the Normans, the last successful invasion of these islands by a conqueror). But the resurrection can be challenged and is challenged by many people because it seems so unlikely and happened so long ago. The other fact that stands in our history – if we have set out to follow Jesus – is the effect it has had in our lives.

A lovely story is told of a Welsh miner who was converted and began to follow Jesus. Some of his fellow workers teased him rather mercilessly. One day they asked him in jest, “you don’t really believe that Jesus changed water into wine, do you?” The man’s reply was, “ I don’t really know whether Jesus turned water into wine,; I wasn’t there. But this I do know, in my house Jesus changed beer into furniture.” That refers to the second half of what Jesus said. If we can’t be convincing enough about the resurrection before an unbeliever we can be about the second part. Jesus said, “I am the life” and that ‘life’ can be demonstrated in our life.

Jesus was light, truth and life to the man who had been blind. He is still light, truth and life to us if we let him.


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Jul 22, 2016

Friday Prayers 22 July 2016

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Partakers Friday Prayers!


We pray together and when Christians pray together, from different nations, different churches and different denominations - that reveals Church unity! Come! Let us pray together!



Watch, O God,
over those who wake,
or watch, or weep tonight,
and give Your angels
charge over those who sleep.
Tend the sick ones,
Rest the weary ones.
Bless the dying ones.
Soothe the suffering ones.
Pity the afflicted ones.
Shield the joyous ones.
And all, for Your love's sake.

Amen

Based on a prayer of Augustine (4th century)

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Jul 21, 2016

A Simple Way To Pray - Martin Luther - Part 5

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A Simple Way To Pray
Martin Luther

Study 5


The fifth petition. "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."

Say: "O dear Lord, God and Father, enter not into judgment against us because no man living is justified before You. Do not count it against us as a sin that we are so unthankful for thine ineffable goodness, spiritual and physical, or that we stray into sin many times every day, more often than we can know or recognize. Do not look upon how good or how wicked we have been but only upon the infinite compassion which You have bestowed upon us in Christ, Your dear Son.

Grant forgiveness also to those who have harmed or wronged us, as we forgive them from our hearts. They inflict the greatest injury upon themselves by arousing Your anger in their actions toward us. We are not helped by their ruin; we would much rather that they be saved with us. Amen."
(Anyone who feels unable to forgive, let him ask for grace so that he can forgive; but that belongs in a sermon.)



(‘A Simple Way To Pray by Martin Luther’: Prayer, the Lord's Prayer, the 10 Commandments, and the Creed - A Letter to His Barber, Master Peter Beskendorf, Spring 1535. The ebook or PDF is widely available to download for free online.)


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Jul 20, 2016

Issues - Words

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 Partake - Issues

Words

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G'day and welcome to Partake and our series looking at some of the issues facing Christian Disciples in the twenty first century.  Last time we looked at Materialism, and today we look at something that has the capability of affecting every person on the planet.Jesus, our Master, said in Matthew Chapter 12 "How do you suppose what you say is worth anything when you are so foul-minded? It's your heart, not the dictionary, which gives meaning to your words. A good person produces good deeds and words season after season. An evil person is blight on the orchard. Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation." Jesus took words extremely seriously and so must we for we are a result of our speech and we will be judged for what we say.

Words Alive!

Have you guessed what issue we will be talking about? Yes - that's right - the issue is about Words! Words matter and for the Christian disciple they are off the utmost importance as the building blocks of communication: whether by thought or through the tongue. One of the greatest sins of the twenty first century, that all Christian Disciples need to be wary of, is the use of words.  Communication, which is cynical, sarcastic, murderous and discouraging, surrounds us and we are coerced to join in, when in fact we should be standing alone against it. The twenty first century is the communications century - everything can be communicated around the world at the click of a mouse button.  What we say, think and write has the potential to be a sinful action or a sinful inaction.  Regardless of what other people say or do, we are to speak, think and write without sinning. Let those be responsible before God for their own actions and inactions - you are only responsible for yours!Words are the central means of communication regardless of our language, nationality or culture. Needless to say that every one of us has either been hurt, or has hurt others, by communicated words.  The power of the tongue in communication and speech is awesome. It has the power of life & death and those who love it will eat & bear its fruit.  The tongue is a fire, which left unguarded, can corrupt the whole body and set the whole course of life on fire. We need to watch the words we speak and control our speech, or it will control us.

A Right Use!

So what is a right use of the tongue in communicating?  We are to use our words to nourish others, encourage and lift them up.  For the tongue of the righteous is choice silver. (Prov.10:21).  Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet in the soul and healing to the bones.  We find that if we give an apt reply we will find joy and discover the goodness and healing a timely word brings!  But we are not to speak glibly and hypocritically but with truth, sincerity and love - as a mother speaks to her daughter.

Guard it!

How can we guard its use?  By asking the Holy Spirit to watch over our lips and set a guard over our mouth, according to the Psalmist in Psalm 141:3.  It is a measure of wisdom to speak words when required and with discernment.  Any fool can speak words all the time, but sometimes there is a need for silence, for even then foolish people are thought to be wise.  Frequently, we are told by the world to be quick to speak and slow to listen. But as Christian Disciples we are to do the opposite, and stand alone against it!  We are to be slow to speak and quick to listen, according to James 1:19.

Jesus' Words

Jesus' words encouraged and healed, such as to the woman caught in adultery, when he used discernment and wisdom.  He actively encouraged others gently towards paths of right living.  He spoke words lovingly to his mother.  He even spoke words of kindness whilst He hung from His cross, during his last moments before death! He is to be our guide and Master in the use of speech, thoughts and words.  That is not to say he didn't rebuke with an attitude of love, as he most certainly did on occasion to the Pharisees and other religious leaders.Matthew 5v21-22 is an example of the seriousness of words. Jesus speaking: "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."Here Jesus equates calling somebody a fool with the physical act of murder! Murder has its beginning in anger developing into uncontrollable rage! Words, thoughts and attitudes of anger can lead the Christian Disciple to sin even more if they aren't stopped quickly. Similarly, adultery has its beginning in lustful thoughts!  The words we formulate in our minds and those that proceed via our mouths are of utmost importance to God and therefore should be of utmost importance to us!  Let the words you communicate and think about, be like those of Jesus - "full of grace".  Do not sin, either in your deeds, in your thinking and all means of communicating.

How are you doing?

How are you doing in your use of words?  Are your actions backing up your words? Are the words you use always full of grace, uplifting, encouraging and building! Sure there are times when words are to be used for rebuking in love, but always used under the control of the Holy Spirit.  The words you speak reflect your inner attitudes, your inner thoughts and your inner being.  The words you speak and communicate reflect who you are.  If the words you communicate are derogatory, inflaming and cursory then that reflects your inner thoughts and attitudes.  Control your tongue, commands James.  A person who controls their tongue can be likened to a ship with a rudder, and able to be steered to safety!  An uncontrolled tongue reflects a ship that is heading into dangerous water! Your words and all your communication have the power to bring life and encouragement but also on the contrary, has the power to bring corruption, degradation and death.  Let the Holy Spirit who lives inside you if you are a Christian Disciple; help you to use your words for the supreme glory of Jesus Christ, who after all is your Master! By doing that, you will truly be seen to be one of His disciples and be Standing Alone for Him and His majesty!  He is to have supremacy over all things in your life, including your words! Make no mistake, one of the issues facing Christians and a possible barrier to standing alone, is the use, abuse and misuse of words.

For more to think about please do read James 3vv1-11. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. Are the words I speak, words that heal and encourage, or are they also used to hurt and damage people?

Q2. When I am talking with other people, is it for gossiping, maliciousness or are they for healing, encouraging and uplifting others?

Q3. When was the last time I confessed and asked forgiveness for my sinful use, misuse and abuse of words?Thank you.

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Jul 19, 2016

POD - Psalm 125

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Psalm 125

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.
1 Those who trust in the Lord are as secure as Mount Zion;
they will not be defeated but will endure forever.
2 Just as the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds his people, both now and forever.
3 The wicked will not rule the land of the godly,
for then the godly might be tempted to do wrong.
4 O Lord, do good to those who are good,
whose hearts are in tune with you.
5 But banish those who turn to crooked ways,
O Lord.Take them away with those who do evil.
May Israel have peace!

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