Month: June 2020

  • The God of Details

    “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whoa] have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:27-29

    Life can be so messy sometimes. No one is exempt, trials and struggles land across the shoulders of good and bad people. It can be easy to start believing that God is disconnected, removed, and distant.

    But what if God is really the One who sees every detail of our lives from start to finish, and plans ahead, knowing just what we will need, right when we need it? What if God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth could step into your situation and redeem it beyond anything you dare to dream? What if He is doing that in your life right now?

    We catch a glimpse of God doing exactly that in the story of Ruth. You can read the whole story in the Bible in the book of Ruth, but I’ll give you a sort of condensed summary below. 

    Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi was living in Moab with her husband Elimilek (say that 5 times fast) and two sons, Mahlon and Kilion, and their wives, Orpah and Ruth. Originally, Naomi hailed from Bethlehem, but famine in the land had prompted their move to Moab.

    In just a short time, tragedy strikes and Naomi loses her husband and both of her sons,  leaving Naomi to fend for herself along with her widowed daughters-in-law. Naomi hears that there is food back in her hometown of Bethlehem, and having nothing left, she decides to go there. Naomi loves Orpah and Ruth and is concerned for them, so she encourages them to go back home to their families, so they can remarry and have some hope of security. Eventually, Orpah agrees and tearily heads home, but Ruth doubles down and makes one of the most famous covenant promises in the Bible in verses 16 & 17:

    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 even death separates you and me.”

    The bereaved pair go on to Bethlehem and arrive at the beginning of the barley harvest. To Naomi’s surprise, she realizes she has a relative there on her late husband’s side. He was by reputation a “man of good standing”, whose name was Boaz. (You’ll want to remember his name.) 

    During that time, it was the practice of harvesters to allow strangers, widows, and impoverished people to come after the day’s work and glean grain that had been missed or fallen to the ground. So Ruth asks Naomi to let her go glean in the fields to bring them back some grain. 

    This is where Ruth’s story could be a Hallmark movie. The field Ruth just happens to go to winds up being one of Boaz’s fields! Boaz, of course, notices her working there and invites Ruth to stay and work alongside the other women in his household, giving her food, water, and safety.

    Ruth is blown away by Boaz’s generosity and asks why he would show her such generosity, especially as a foreigner. Boaz, being all dreamy like he is, says her reputation has preceded her. He heard about what she did for Naomi and was, frankly, impressed. He blesses her saying “ May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” 

    Ruth is flooded with relief and Boaz invites her to eat with the harvesters and instructs them to let her glean and to even take some grain out of the bundles for her. She keeps working until evening and goes home with about 30 pounds of grain that day!

    When Ruth tells Naomi what happened she’s shocked! She explains to Ruth that Boaz is a relative and a kinsman-redeemer. It was a tradition in their culture that when a man died and was childless, a close relative could marry his widow. Then, the first son born from that marriage would be given the name of the deceased husband and inherit his estate.

    So under Naomi’s wise advice, Ruth continues to work every day in Boaz’s fields until the harvest is over. Then at the right time, Naomi prompts Ruth to go to Boaz and seek him as her kinsman-redeemer.

    Following Naomi’s instructions, Ruth sees where Boaz was sleeping, sneaks up, pulls the blanket off his feet, and lays down at his feet. It’s a strange custom to us in this day and age, but it’s important to know that this was not an act of seduction, but one of submission. She took a service posture at his feet, not at his side. She was requesting that Boaz take her under his protection as his wife. Boaz understood the assignment and happily agreed.

    Like every good Hallmark movie, there was one hiccup. Boaz knew there was another man besides him that was an even closer relative and had the right to be kinsman redeemer first. It was Boaz’s duty to ask him if he wanted to claim that right, knowing that he may not get to marry Ruth. After some suspense, the other relative does not claim his right, freeing Boaz to finally marry Ruth! Roll Credits!

    It is incredible to see all of the “divine coincidences” that happen in Ruth’s story. Each step of the way, we see God’s loving provision and plan unfold, meeting Ruth & Naomi’s every need and then some. 

    Are you ready for the mind-blowing bit? After Ruth & Boaz were married, they had a son and that son would become grandfather to King David, and an ancestor of Jesus Christ. Let that sink in for a sec. God was actively working in every detail of Ruth’s story, redeeming her pain and laying the groundwork for the redemption of all humanity.

    There was no way for Ruth to know that when she was at the crossroads, choosing whether to go home to her family or follow Naomi into unfamiliar territory, her decision would one day make her grandmother to a king, and an ancestor to the long-awaited Messiah.

    But God in His infinite wisdom guided their steps. Ruth and Naomi focused on Him and stayed steadfast in their faith, even when life looked impossibly difficult and painful. They stepped out in faith and God provided for their every need and worked in every detail.

    It might be tempting to think that God was just working things out for Ruth because of who would later be born in her line of ancestry. But Ruth’s story is there for us to get a clearer picture of how God works and see what faith in action looks like. 

    We all have our own story, with twists and turns, some good, some bad. God is actively working in our stories too. He is already present in the details of our lives and gives us the same love and attention He gave to Ruth and Naomi. He sees us, cares for us and provides for us in our present need, and plans ahead for our future ones.

    Through the story of Ruth, we learn that God is not distant and disinterested, He is interested and invested. He plans ahead for us and puts plans in motion on our behalf that will come together at just the right time, and in just the right way.

    I know there have been times that I’ve felt overwhelmed, knocked flat by life’s blows, not knowing what my next step should be. Without fail, when I focus on God, I begin to recognize all the ways He has already been working to meet me in the middle of the mess. 

    Shifting my focus from my turmoil to His provision allows me to zoom out, and instead of grieving my circumstances, I’m left feeling unbelievably loved that He would plan ahead for me with such love and care. God is faithful and unrelenting in His love for us. And there is not a single detail in our lives that is beneath His notice.

    When Naomi and Ruth followed God faithfully in the circumstances that were right in front of them, God used them to help establish a lineage of the coming Messiah that would change the world forever. What if our being faithful in our own circumstances could have a kingdom effect in the world? 

    We are all invited to be a part of God’s greater story of unfailing love and redemption. He weaves our story into His, paying careful attention to every detail and guiding our every step, even the ones that seem mundane. All we need to do is keep our eyes fixed on Him. When we lean in and seek shelter and protection at His feet, he never fails to give it. When we give Him our whole hearts, we can have peace and wisdom in any situation, good or bad, knowing that He is there and will lead us through. The road may be rough at patches, but ultimately, He works all things for the good of those who love Him.

    What area of your life do you see God planning ahead for you? How can you zoom out to an eternal perspective to see Him at work? I invite you to jot some things down and don’t leave out the little “coincidences”. Our God pays attention to detail and if you are looking for Him, you just might see His fingerprints on the details of your life too.

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  • What if your suffering didn’t define you?

    “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” – Mark 5:34

    In Mark 5:24-34, there is a woman who has impacted me greatly. Her story of suffering has given me hope and has helped me see my Savior in a new way. The story doesn’t tell us her name, we only know her as the “woman who suffers from bleeding”.

    For this woman, her suffering was physical. She had been bleeding for 12 years. That’s a long time! Loss of blood takes a toll on the body–it can cause anemia which lowers energy and is linked to depression. On top of the loss of blood, there was the physical pain of the procedures she endured to try to fix her problem. Scripture tells us that she went to many doctors, but it only made her condition worse.

    As with most cases of suffering, the pain was multifaceted. It wasn’t just physical. There was emotional suffering involved as well. Because she was bleeding (assuming it was menstrual) she was considered unclean in her society. That meant she couldn’t be around other people, she couldn’t go to the temple to worship, she couldn’t even touch her own husband. This isolation would have been overwhelming. I wonder if this was the worst part of the suffering.

    Then Jesus walks into the scene. His presence provides hope. She had heard the stories of healing. “Could He heal me?” she wonders. Could he erase 12 years of isolation, loneliness, pain and suffering? She is desperate and leaves her house and ventures out into public to meet Jesus. Jesus is surrounded by a large crowd and was headed on an urgent mission to help a man whose daughter was dying.

    She sees Jesus, but doesn’t have the courage to walk up and ask him for help. Years of being isolated stole that confidence from her. But her faith gave her the courage to reach out to Him anyway. She sneaks up and touches His clothes and in Mark 5:29 it says “immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering”. After 12 long years, she finally receives the healing and relief she was so desperately seeking.

    While she was now healed from her physical suffering, Jesus was not content with leaving it at that. Realizing what had just happened, Jesus turns around and asks, “Who touched me?” He wanted to speak to the person who received the healing. Trembling, this woman who has been suffering and isolated for years, comes before Jesus and confesses what she did. Thinking she was going to be reprimanded, she instead receives words of encouragement. I can imagine Jesus smiling at her, reassuring her that going to him is never something you should be afraid to do and says, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Have peace and be freed from your suffering.”

    These two sentences that Jesus speaks to her are beautiful, and in the moment, it would be easy to miss what he is really saying. He first affirms her physical healing, declaring it for all to hear. But, he is not done yet. Next, he invites her to a completely new life… Jesus tells her to have peace and be freed from her suffering. Why would he need to command her to be freed from her suffering? He just told her she was healed. This is the beauty of Jesus. He knew that physical suffering was only a part of what this woman had suffered over the past 12 years. He knew for 12 years she had been identified as the “woman who suffered from bleeding”. Not only was this how everyone else saw her, but how she saw herself as well. It was a reality that consumed her life and left her feeling isolated and alone.

    Now Jesus tells her to free herself from that identity and live in a new one. She has a new name. Daughter! Remember how Jesus addressed her? Daughter. No longer isolated but a part of a family, an heir in God’s kingdom. Bleeding was part of her story that definitely shaped her, but it was never meant to be her identity.

    I can relate to this. I have often defined myself by my suffering. In my mind the suffering is all consuming and I allow it to become my identity. In my mind, I am “the woman with an anxiety disorder”. I have asked to be free from my anxiety, but it is still my constant companion. So how do I reconcile these different outcomes? I know God doesn’t play favorites. He doesn’t love some more than others. So what am I supposed to learn from this story?

    As I asked God these questions, God spoke to me in this story. The key is identity. My identity is not a woman who struggles with anxiety from dusk to dawn. The anxiety is a part of my story, but it is not who I am. I am Daughter. And God is calling me to live within that identity because it affects the rest of my story. It impacts how I live within the suffering.

    The truth of being called Daughter by God allows me to pause and hold on to God as my anchor when the storm of anxiety overwhelms me. His strength allows me to thrive in anxiety and not just survive.

    It is this strength from God that brought me through one of the most difficult experiences of my life. I remember sitting anxiously in a room in Colorado, crying out in despair while my son continued to suffer debilitating seizures. It appeared that he would never be freed from them and I didn’t know how I was going to cope. God met me there and said, “Daughter, receive my peace and I promise to walk with you as you care for your son.” As I chose to embrace my identity as Daughter and take my suffering to God my Father, my story of pain and suffering became interwoven in a story of redemption, strength, and beauty. It became a testament to the amazing love of my Heavenly Father.

    Are you going through a time of suffering now? If so, be encouraged that God invites you to come to Him with your suffering to receive strength, healing and a new identity. Even if full healing doesn’t happen this side of heaven, our story can change like the woman in this story. Her identity is no longer a woman with bleeding. She is called Daughter by her Savior, Jesus Christ. You also are not defined by your suffering. Your identity has been secured by the one who created you. You are Daughter.

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  • Merciful God And Father, Hear Our Prayer…

    Merciful God and Father,

    You are good, you are mighty and you are just. Our hearts break with our brothers and sisters in the black community as we grieve the tragic and unjust loss of yet another soul. Our hearts ache for our friends and family who are not just grieving, but also shouldering the weight of fear, misunderstanding, bias, discrimination and hate. 

    We come to you in lament, Lord, eyes straining to see your face, and thankful that we can call upon your name. We draw near to your throne, hearts in our hands. 

    God, we call upon your goodness. May your Holy Spirit stir in our hearts compassion, love, kindness, and gentleness. Show us how to help carry the weight of our neighbors’ sorrow and share in their tears. Break our hearts wide open over what breaks yours. Open our eyes to see as you see, and our hearts to love as you love. Lord, instill in us your goodness and mercy. May every word we utter, every action we take glorify you and and point to Christ, so true healing and transformation may take place. May the light of your love shine so brightly through your people that there is no room for darkness to take hold.

    Father, we call upon your might. You sacrificed your own Son that we might live. Lord we are all created in your image, with no one person better than any other. By your son’s sacrifice we are saved under one blood making us brothers and sisters. Let there be no divide in our minds, hearts, and actions. Mighty God, let the power of your presence defeat hatred, racism, injustice, and evil. Reconstruct our hearts and our humanity through the lens of the sacrifice of your Son. Come near to us Lord, and do your mighty work in us and through us today. 

    Lord, we long for righteous justice. Our hearts burn with a desire to see to wrongs made right and justice delivered. But first Father, examine our hearts, and fix what is broken within us. Realign our vision not just to recognize injustice, but to speak boldly and to put love into action. Work in the hearts and minds of our leaders-in government, in our churches and communities and in our very own families. Please grant us wisdom and discernment, and boldness to not be silent, but instead to stand for what is right. You did not give us a spirit of timidity but your Spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. Help us in all circumstances to do what is right and just. Please forgive us when we fall short.

    In all things Lord, you are God and you are good. Help us to really love one another, to hate what is wrong, and to hold tightly to what is good. 

    In Jesus’ Name, 


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