Throwback Thursday ~ In Dependence

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Originally published November 12, 2010

“Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted. So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”

It was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing.
1 Kings 3:7-10

Solomon was a little freaked out. God had just given him the huge responsibility of leading the nation of Israel. And King David was a tough act to follow.

“Help, Lord,” he said, “I have no idea what I’m doing.”

Big, strong Solomon felt the same way we all do when faced with a daunting task– like a scared little kid, clomping around in Daddy’s shoes.

It was, at that moment, that God had him right where He wanted him. Vulnerable. Dependent. Seeking God’s face.

In America, we prize an independent, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, self-made man. God desires exactly the opposite. He wants us to realize that without Him we literally can do nothing. He wants to act for His glory and our good through people who are completely dependent on Him for everything.

And, so, sometimes He leads us to places where we have no other option but to cry out to Him for His help, His strength, His wisdom.

I’m in a place like that right now. My first book will be coming out in less than a year, and I’m learning the ins and outs of the publishing world. Fast. Marketing plans, publicity, sales – all, to one extent or another, my responsibility. Are you kidding me? I’m a homemaker with a degree that’s nowhere near the field of business. My sales experience consists of youth fundraisers and a brief stint as a clerk in an office supply store while I was in college. I am totally out of my element. I’m a little freaked out.

Help, Lord, I have no idea what I’m doing.

I think He’s got me right where He wants me. And it’s a great place to be.

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Ruth: Lesson 3

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2

Ruth 2

Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech. And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!” And they answered, “The Lord bless you.” Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” And the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, “She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest.”

Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.” 10 Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” 11 But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. 12 The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” 13 Then she said, “I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.”

14 And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. 15 When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. 16 And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.”

17 So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. 18 And she took it up and went into the city. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also brought out and gave her what food she had left over after being satisfied. 19 And her mother-in-law said to her, “Where did you glean today? And where have you worked? Blessed be the man who took notice of you.” So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.” 20 And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.” 21 And Ruth the Moabite said, “Besides, he said to me, ‘You shall keep close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’” 22 And Naomi said to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, lest in another field you be assaulted.” 23 So she kept close to the young women of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests. And she lived with her mother-in-law.


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider

1. What is the backdrop of activity/time of year (23) as this chapter opens?

2. What is gleaning? Who was gleaning to provide for according to Levitical law? Where did Ruth and Naomi fit into this law? What sorts of things would Boaz have done to obey this law? (cf. 15,16) How is gleaning an example of God’s love and care for all of His people? How can the gleaning laws serve as an example to the church today?

3. Did Ruth know who Boaz was before she got home and Naomi told her? (19-20) Did Boaz know who Ruth was? How does this demonstrate God’s sovereignty, providence (2-3- Did Ruth really just “happen” to come to Boaz’s field?), the infallibility of His plans, and the truth of verses such as Proverbs 3:5-6?

4. Examine verses 1, 4, 8-16. Write a brief character sketch or description of Boaz. Boaz is a type of Christ. What are some aspects of Boaz’s character that point ahead to the character of Christ? How does Boaz’s (an Israelite) open arms welcome of Ruth (a non-Israelite foreigner) point ahead to God’s inclusion of Gentiles in salvation?

5. Since the story of Ruth and Boaz points so strongly to Christ and to the inclusion of Gentiles in salvation, may we assume that verses 10-12 mean that we will find favor with God, and that He will save us, on the basis of our own good works? Why not?

6. Compare verse 20 with Naomi’s outlook and attitude in chapter 1. How has her focus and perspective changed? How can thankfulness and recognizing how God has blessed us change us from bitter “Maras” to pleasant “Naomis”?

7. Which fruit of the Spirit is most prominently displayed by Ruth to Naomi and Boaz to Ruth? Ask God to grow you in this area and help you find ways to display it to others.


Homework

Boaz’s kindness toward Ruth gave Him an opportunity to “share the gospel” (12-13) – so to speak – with her. This week, look for opportunities to take the time to show kindness to others. Be ready to share the gospel, or even just a tract, with anyone who is receptive.

Testimony Tuesday: Barbara’s Story

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Barbara’s Testimony

I can only start with, “God help me, I’m so very weak.”

Last March I trembled my way to pre-op for open heart surgery. With promises from my husband I’d be okay, I kissed him hurriedly goodbye. I opened my eyes, two open heart surgeries and seventeen days later. Still nearer to death than life. My darling husband smiling down at me.

I couldn’t move. I was so very weak, hallucinating from the drugs they had used to keep me sedated all that time. I was confused and scared. Nothing made sense.

Eleven months later I’ve been through a grinding process of rehab. Eleven weeks in the hospital, finger amputations (tops, tips, half my thumb, toes), lung failure, kidney failure (kidneys are better!) but NO SURGEON could fix my spiritual heart.

I strove, oh I have and do, to live this life as a godly wife, even when some “charismatic ” friends said it was foolish and not really what the Bible said. My sister arguing with me that serving gets you nowhere, if men are too weak or lazy just step in (as if I’m not weak or lazy!)

But there he was, Dave, smiling down at me, so happy I was still with him. I couldn’t move from my bed, I was attached to dozens of lines, but he only left me to go to the hotel to sleep. For weeks he was with me constantly. He made sure I was okay. For the last year he has served me, while I’ve been crazy humbled.

Every day, he helps me dress, get washed, gets me to therapy. Every day, he makes me tea (the best!) and toast. He makes sure I have lunch and checks in on me often. He cooks dinners (say “Hello Fresh”) and then gets me tucked in at night. He listens to Steve Lawson with me in the morning. He prays with and for me.

Why did I type all this? Because, though I was the server, he was a server too. We were a team in that regard. Then it shifted. I was no longer a participant in our marriage in any physical way. AT. ALL.

And he just didn’t care. Oh yes, my pride made me cry a lot. My fear made me cry a lot. But he just said, “Barb, you’ve served me for 27 years. I got this now.” He did. He puts together my 65 pills a day, he rubs my destroyed feet, he holds me when I’m just too tired and I feel I can’t go on. He always has been a godly husband to me, but Jesus has shone through, shining into the lives of tens of other (mostly women) who watch his grave, grace-filled care of me and ask us, “Why?”. And we get to share the gospel.

It’ll be a year soon and I struggle NOW more than ever putting my life in his hands, shutting my tongue, speaking kindly, knowing that my life must have room for tragedy, but that God is working it all out for those that love Him and are called according to His purpose. I don’t know any more about the length of my life now than I ever did. God has surprised me with extended life since my first breath! So, I pray I remember these simple but freeing truths. Freedom from sin, free to trust, free to simply be.


Ladies, God is still at work in the hearts and lives of His people, including yours! Would you like to share a testimony of how God saved you, how He has blessed you, convicted you, taught you something from His word, brought you out from under false doctrine, placed you in a good church or done something otherwise awesome in your life? Private/direct message me on social media, e-mail me (MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com), or comment below. Try to be brief (3-4 paragraphs or less) if possible. I’ll select a few to share on the blog another time. Let’s encourage one another with God’s work in our lives!

The Mailbag: I “feel led” in a different direction from my husband.

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My husband and I recently moved to a new state. After living here a few months, I ‘m not sure this is where God wants us. At the time of our move, my husband had another opportunity for us to go to a different state than the one we just moved to. In prayer and reading God’s word I think we should’ve gone to that state instead. That opportunity is still open, and I feel led to go. I’ve prayed and asked God and still feel led. I’m so confused. I am starting to feel like my husband is a hindrance in my following God’s will. He is supposed to be the leader of the family but he’s not a godly leader. I am a Christian woman who is trying to follow what I think God is leading me to do.  My problem is I have a husband who isn’t in God’s word, nor trying to be, and he says no. 

One of the most stressful situations in a marriage is when your spouse is an unbeliever, one spouse is much more spiritually mature than the other, or there are major differences on theological issues between spouses. I know this is difficult, but I hope I’ll be able to point you in a helpful direction.

It’s good that you’re reading your Bible and praying as you seek God’s direction. I’m not sure (but am very curious) as to which Bible passage you might have read that leads you to believe you moved to the wrong state. I can’t think of one that addresses that issue because the Bible is not personally specific in that way. It gives us wisdom and godly instruction and principles which God wants us to use to make wise choices, but there aren’t any verses that say things like, “You should have moved to the other state,” “Marry Bob, not Fred,” or “Buy the minivan instead of the convertible.”

You say, “I am a Christian woman who is trying to follow what I think God is leading me to do.” That’s great! That’s always the attitude of heart we should have. And the first thing we need to understand is that God leads us through His sufficient and authoritative Word. That means, when we have a decision to make, we don’t go by subjective feelings and impressions, we go to God’s written word and make sure we’re obeying everything it says about our situation.

The good news about your situation is that God spells out His will for you very clearly in Scripture. If you really mean what you say about wanting to do God’s will and follow what He’s leading you to do rather than doing what you want to do and calling that God’s will, here it is:

God is leading you to submit to your husband:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Ephesians 5:22-24 (emphasis mine)

Unless your husband is abusing¹ you or encouraging you to do something sinful, God’s will is for you to graciously submit to his decisions. Denying your request to move to another state may not make you happy, but it does not qualify as abuse or sin. Notice, this passage says wives are to submit “in everything,” not just the decisions we agree with. The remainder of this passage goes on to instruct men about how they’re to treat their wives in a godly way, but it does not say that wives only have to submit to their husbands if their husbands are godly or “in the Word.”

God is leading you to conduct yourself respectfully:

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 1 Peter 3:1-5 (emphasis mine)

Sometimes when we ladies want something from our husbands, we can be like a dog with a bone, talking them to death about it (Dare I say, nagging?). While husbands and wives should talk through major issues and decisions together, if you’ve calmly, lovingly, and respectfully offered your husband your input and he has made his decision, you need to stop trying to convince him to do it your way. Let it go, Elsa. Behave and speak with love, grace, and kindness toward your husband as you move on with life in your marriage. You may not win him over to your opinion, but that’s not your ultimate goal. Your goal – as you mentioned in your e-mail – is for him to be godly and in the Word. Your behavior and demeanor can help win him to godliness.

God is leading you to be content:

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11b-13

If anyone knew what it was like to bear up under unpleasant circumstances and find his contentment in Christ rather than in temporal happiness, it was Paul. Paul had learned the secret to maintaining his contentment no matter what: the strength only Christ can provide. Christ can enable you to be content in this circumstance of your life, too. Just keep your focus on Him and ask Him to strengthen you.

God is leading you to pray for His will to be done and to trust Him for the outcome.

And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39 (emphasis mine)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 (emphasis mine)

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy will be done.” At Gethsemane, He demonstrated it for us. God did not change Jesus’ circumstances, because it was His will for Jesus to be crucified. But Jesus trusted God to do what was right and best, and He obeyed and glorified His Father to His last breath.

Are you praying for God’s will to be done in your situation, or your will? Keep in mind that God is sovereign. If it were His will for you to be in another state right now, that’s where you would be. Nobody can thwart God’s will. Have you ever considered the possibility that it’s not that your husband is a “hindrance in following God’s will” but that it was God’s will for you to be living in this state and that He caused or allowed your husband to move you there because that’s what He wants? Ask God to do His will in your situation, obey Him no matter the cost, and trust Him for the outcome.

Finally, I’d like to address something you mentioned in your e-mail that you didn’t seem to think was connected to your main question. Actually, it is. You said that you found my blog while searching for one of the false teachers I warn against. If you’ve been sitting under the teaching of the woman you mentioned, or these teachers, or any other teachers who don’t properly handle and teach God’s word, that is a large part of your confusion about your situation. These teachers do not correctly teach people how to study, understand, and apply God’s word to their lives.

You’ve been taught to “feel led” to do things that are in conflict with God’s word. God leads us and speaks to us through Scripture, and it is Scripture alone that we are to go to and depend on to live a godly life and make wise decisions, not our feelings, opinions, and experiences. Unfortunately, teachers like the one you mentioned often lead their hearers to attempt to interpret subjective feelings, ideas, impressions, and circumstances as “God’s will” rather than seeking what God has already revealed to be His will in His written Word. I would encourage you to put away the pre-packaged “Bible” studies, simply pick up your Bible, study it, and obey it.


¹Physical abuse. A husband’s decision not to bow to his wife’s wishes in a situation like this does not constitute abuse. Any wife who is being physically abused should get to safety and get help.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Basic Training: The Bible is Necessary

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For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Matthew 4:1-4

I have not departed from the commands of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my daily food.
Job 23:12

More to be desired are [the words of God] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Psalm 19:10

I have a question for you. Try to answer it within three seconds.

Where’s your Bible? (Not the one on your phone or computer- your real Bible.)

Were you able to answer in three seconds because you read it today and remember where you left it when you were finished? Because it stays on your night stand and rarely gets opened? Did it take longer than three seconds because you frequently carry it around with you and can’t remember where you most recently left it?

The point of the question isn’t really where your Bible is in geographical relationship to you, but where you are in relationship to your Bible.

David said God’s word was more valuable to him than gold, even much fine gold.

Job said he treasured God’s word more than his daily food.

Jesus hadn’t eaten a bite in over a month, and He still valued every word that comes from the mouth of God over bread.

If someone put a stack of fine gold in front of you and said you could have it as long as you hardly ever read your Bible, would you take it?

What if you had gone without food for forty days and someone offered you a loaf of bread in exchange for your agreement to put your Bible away and open it only rarely? Could you withstand the temptation?

I’d like to believe I would choose God’s word over a stack of gold or even life-sustaining food. But when I think about all the lesser things I sometimes choose to do instead of setting aside time to study God’s word…

…television
…social media
…reading
…sleeping
…hobbies

…well, I can’t help but wonder:

Do I really value God’s word as deeply as He wants me to?

We need God’s word. It is more necessary to us, spiritually, than food is to us, physically. Yet many Christians unintentionally starve themselves spiritually, thinking a “meal” or two of Scripture at church every week (if they actually attend every week, that is) is enough to sustain them. It’s not. We need to feast on God’s written Word every single day.

We need to know who God is

Saved people are in a one-on-one, personal relationship with God. But how can you have a relationship with someone you don’t really know? How can you love Him, please Him, or enjoy spending time with Him if you know nothing about Him? His character, His attributes, His likes and dislikes, the way He operates – these are all integral to knowing this God who created and saved us. And in His infinite love, God has chosen to reveal all these things about Himself in a book we call the Bible.

We need to know who we are

Just as an employee can’t rightly relate to her employer if she doesn’t understand her role, her place, and her responsibilities, we can’t rightly relate to God unless we understand both who He is and who we are in relationship to Him. We need to understand that He is God and we are not. That He is perfect in holiness and righteousness and we are depraved from the womb. That we are sinners in need of a Savior, created for the purpose of bringing glory to God, servants of the most high King. The only place to learn all of this, and more, about who we are, and where we stand with God, is in the pages of His word.

We need to know what God wants from us

What does God want me to do with my money? How can I be a godly wife if my husband is unsaved? Does God think it’s important for me to go to church? Is it always a sin to lie? Is it wrong to watch pornography? In addition to being a revelation of the nature and character of God, the Bible is also an intensely practical book, instructing Christians on issues of every day life and helping us to understand how God wants us to think, act, and speak. God knows we have questions and in His kindness and mercy has provided all the answers we need in Scripture.

We need to hear from God

While the idea and practice of “hearing God’s voice” is unbiblical, the desire to commune with God- to visit with Him as a loved one – is not. We only have to look back to the Garden of Eden to see that God’s perfect design was for people to fellowship with Him. Because of the Fall, we can’t do that face to face this side of Heaven. For now, we talk to God through prayer and worship. He talks to us through His written Word. Constant communion with God deepens our love for Him and increases our Christlikeness.

More than daily food. More than gold. More than any earthly pleasure, wisdom, or experience, we need God’s word. And we need it every day, all the days of our lives.

Throwback Thursday ~ Order My Steps

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Originally published November 4, 2010

Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it. Deuteronomy 12:32

Remember long division? Some of us probably remember it fondly. For others, it was a nightmare of ghoulish proportions. Likely, most of us can still remember how to do it.

Ever tried to teach it to an eight year old?

That was my life last week.

If you think about it, it’s really not that any of the steps in long division are that hard. You have to know your times tables and you have to know how to subtract. That’s pretty much it as far as mathematical operations go. The tough part is working step by step and getting all the steps in the right order. One number out of place, one step out of order, and the whole thing falls apart.

And then, so does your eight year old.

The Old Testament is the story of long division. God told His people what to do, how to do it, and in what order to do it…

Bring Me the firstfruits, then you can use what is left.

Marriage first, then sex.

Work six days, then rest.

Put Me first in everything.

He spelled it all out for them, even carved it in stone, and still, they couldn’t get it. Many times, the majority of them gave up even trying and openly rebelled. For others, initially desiring to be obedient, striving became the order of the day. They added layers and layers of rules on top of the ones God had given to protect themselves from even coming close to breaking God’s original commands. And somewhere along the way, they lost the heart of God, and began to worship rule-keeping. Their steps were out of order at the deepest and most basic level, and things fell apart for them. Often. And badly.

But don’t judge the Israelites harshly. We do exactly the same thing. Some of us rebel. Some of us strive. And both ways are equally displeasing to God.

Because the first step in coming to God is to realize and admit that we can’t get it right. God never intended that we should be saved and in right standing with Him by keeping His Law and doing good deeds. Galatians 3:24 tells us that the whole purpose of the Law was to show us that we can’t keep it, and to lead us to throw ourselves upon the mercy of God for forgiveness and salvation.

Does God desire our obedience? Of course. But not as a way to garner His favor or to outweigh the bad things we’ve done. Because it’s not our outward behavior itself that pleases Him, it’s a heart that’s wholly His. He desires that we obey out of a heart of love and gratitude to Him for saving us.

Love Him first, then obedience will be a natural outflow.

Just take it one step at a time.

Ruth: Lesson 2

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Previous Lessons: 1

Ruth 1

Photo courtesy of bible-history.com

In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. 2 The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. 3 But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, 5 and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.

6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited his people and given them food. 7 So she set out from the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. 8 But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10 And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? 12 Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, 13 would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.” 14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.

15 And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” 18 And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.

19 So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” 20 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”

22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider

1.  Briefly review the background and setting of the book of Ruth from lesson 1 (link above).

2. What does verse 1 tell us about the period of Israel’s history in which the events of the book of Ruth take place? As we learned in lesson 1, Jair was most likely judging Israel at this time. What else does verse 1 tell us was happening in Israel as the story opens?

3. Describe the sequence of events in verses 1-5 in your own words. Who are each of the people in this passage, and how are they related to one another? What is an Ephrathite?

4. On the map, trace Naomi’s family’s journey to and from Moab. What does the Old Testament tell us about Moab and the Moabites? Were they enemies or allies of Israel? Were they worshipers of God or of idols? What had happened the last time Israel joined with Moab? Did God want His people mingling with the Moabites?

5. Compare Naomi and Ruth’s journey (6) from the pagan land of Moab back to Israel, the Promised Land of God’s people, with the prodigal son’s journey from the pig pen back to his father’s house. How can both of these stories symbolize passing from death in sin to life in Christ?

6. In verses 8-13, what is Naomi’s main concern for Ruth and Orpah? Considering the culture and socio-economic status of women at that time, was this a valid concern? But considering the fact that Ruth and Orpah would be returning to a life of idolatry (15) if they stayed in Moab, why didn’t Naomi concern herself more with their spiritual state and urge them to come back to Bethlehem with her? Is it possible Ruth was already a believer and didn’t want to stay in a land of idolatry? Could this have been one of the things on Ruth’s mind in verses 16-17? (Note Ruth’s mention of “God” in 16 and her invoking of “the Lord” in her vow in 17).

7. Look at the footnotes on verse 20. What do the names “Naomi” and “Mara” mean? Describe Naomi’s outlook and attitude in verses 20-21. The Bible tells us to give thanks in all circumstances. Naomi had certainly been through some sad and difficult times, but she had many things to be thankful for. What were some of those things? What impact might it have had on the women of Bethlehem (19) if Naomi had testified to God’s love, care, and faithfulness in her adversity instead of spewing bitterness?

8. Which of God’s attributes do we see displayed in this chapter? Point to examples in the text of God’s sovereignty, provision, guidance, and other attributes you see.


Homework

Like Naomi, sometimes we can get so wrapped up in our own problems and suffering that we don’t think about what our attitude, words, and demeanor are saying to others about God. Think about a difficult time you’ve experienced in the past (or may be experiencing now). How did you talk about it to others? With bitterness and complaints? What were some things you could have been thankful to God for in that situation? What impact might it have had on those around you if you had testified to God’s love, care and faithfulness instead? Might your testimony about God’s goodness during your suffering have led to an opportunity to share the gospel with someone?

Echo Zoe Radio Guest Appearance: The New Apostolic Reformation

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Last week, I once again had the pleasure of sitting down and chatting with my friend Andy Olson as his guest on the Echo Zoe Radio podcast.

Click here to listen in

as we talk about the New Apostolic Reformation– their beliefs, and how NAR false doctrine can creep into your church. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast and follow Echo Zoe on Facebook and Twitter!


Got a podcast of your own or have a podcasting friend who needs a guest? Click the “Contact” tab at the top of this page, drop me an e-mail, and let’s chat!

The Mailbag: Should Christians drink alcohol?

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I wanted to know what is your stance on drinking alcohol? Meaning drinking not to get drunk but having wine with dinner etc.

Great question, but just to tweak it a little, let’s look at the Bible’s stance on drinking alcohol. I don’t want readers to base their beliefs about alcohol usage (or anything else) on my opinions, but on what the Bible says about it.

The Bible does not prohibit Christians from drinking alcohol, only from drunkenness. Christians are not required to partake of alcohol, but may do so in moderation if they like, so long as their use of alcohol does not violate any other Scriptural principles, such as:

Evangelism
Would your drinking alcohol in some way hurt your witness to lost people? If a lost person came to your house and saw alcohol in the fridge, or saw you buying alcohol at the store, or drinking alcohol in a restaurant, would it inhibit your ability to share the gospel with that person due to her perceptions about people who drink alcohol? Could you hand a person a tract with one hand while holding a bottle of beer in the other?

Love for the brotherhood
Do you love your brothers and sisters in Christ enough to deny yourself alcohol if that would set a better example for them, if it would confuse them or cause them to violate their own consciences, or if it would be more conducive to your discipleship of them? There are many people who have had such bad experiences associated with alcohol that your drinking would destroy their trust in, and respect for, you. There are new Christians who aren’t yet mature enough to understand that seeing you – a godly person they look up to – take a drink doesn’t mean that any and all drinking is OK for Christians. Read what Paul had to say about eating meat offered to idols and apply these principles to your consumption of alcohol.

Flaunting Liberty
I occasionally see Christians (usually in the YRR camp tribe) post pictures of bottles of alcohol, intentionally posed pictures of themselves drinking, and so forth, on social media, and I have to wonder – especially for those who are well aware that this is a difficult issue for many Christians – why? Is it to throw their liberty in the face of other Christians whose consciences prevent them from drinking? Is it to prove a point? Is it a result of being puffed up with the knowledge that they have the liberty to drink? Is it to dare onlookers to take them to task in order to excoriate the person with the Scriptures regarding liberty and alcohol? None of these are godly attitudes.

Authority
Has your husband, employer, school, government, or anyone else in rightful authority over you asked you not to drink? We are to submit to those God has placed in authority over us.

Ambassadorship
Would your drinking in any way tarnish the reputation of Christ, your church, or Christianity as a whole? God is jealous for His holy name, and we are commissioned to represent Him well.

Self Control
One of the fruits of the Spirit is self control. Obviously, if you’re drunk, you’re not really in control of yourself, but there’s another aspect of drinking which requires self control. Are you able to deny yourself your right to have a drink when spiritual concerns, such as the ones mentioned above, outweigh your liberty to imbibe?

Drinking alcohol is a far deeper question than just “Can I or can’t I?” The question we should be asking about drinking (and all other activities) is: “Will doing this further the cause of Christ in my life and the lives of others?”.

Additional Resources:

What does the Bible say about drinking? at Got Questions

Do Not be Drunk with Wine, Part 3 by John MacArthur

Christians and Alcohol by Tim Challies


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Basic Training: The Bible Is Sufficient

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For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

God said to me…/I heard God say…

Listen for God’s voice…

God spoke to me in a dream…

God gave me a vision of…

We hear things like this non-stop these days in pop-evangelicalism. And it’s not just in the whack job Word of Faith or New Apostolic Reformation movements, or in Charismatic churches, either. These words are coming out of the mouths of regular, every day Baptists and Methodists and Lutherans and Presbyterians, too. It’s largely due to the infiltration of Word of Faith and New Apostolic Reformation false doctrine into our churches via a) “Bible studies” from false teachers like Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, Priscilla Shirer, Christine Caine, Lysa TerKeurst and others and b) individual church members who feed on a steady diet of “Christian” television such as TBN, CBN, Daystar, and GodTV. Christians are getting the false idea that they need to hear, or should be hearing, God speak to them instead of trusting in the sufficiency of God’s word.

The theological term for “God spoke to me/showed me in a dream/etc.” is extra-biblical revelation– words or revelations, supposedly directly from God, that happen outside the pages of the Bible. I’d like to share with you six reasons God’s word is sufficient, and extra-biblcal revelation is both unbiblical and unnecessary.

1. Extra-biblical revelation is not the method God has established for communicating with us.
Maybe you and I would prefer it if God would just talk to us and tell us, one on one, in no uncertain terms, what He wants us to do. But that’s not the way that God prefers to communicate with New Testament Christians this side of a closed canon. God chooses to communicate with us through His written word. He says:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. Hebrews 1:1-2

Let’s bear in mind, it is God Himself who breathed out these words. These verses are God speaking to us, and He says Scripture is enough to make us complete and mature, and to equip us for everything He has for us to do.

When we insist on “hearing God speak” outside of Scripture, we’re essentially saying, “God, I reject Your way and demand you do things my way instead.” Remember, God set up this whole Christianity thing, and He gets to make the rules, not us.

2. What makes you so sure it’s God who’s speaking to you?
Just because you have a feeling, an urge, or an intense experience doesn’t mean that was God speaking to you. Maybe it was Satan. Maybe it was your own wicked heart. Maybe it was a temptation to sin. Maybe it was just an old memory resurfacing. How can you know, objectively (not based on your feelings, the intensity of the experience, etc.), beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it was actually God speaking to you? And if you can’t know for sure it was God, why would you put your trust in whatever “He said” to you?

As Christians, we can irrefutably know God is speaking to us when we read His word because we know He is the author of Scripture.

3. Extra-biblical revelation is redundant and unnecessary.
Even those (most of them, anyway) who believe God still talks to people will tell you that God will never say something to you that contradicts His written Word. So why not just bypass the whole “God spoke to me” thing and go straight to the Bible? Or as Puritan John Owen put it:

As God Himself has told us in His written Word, the Bible is sufficient instruction for every situation in our lives. We don’t need God to speak to us verbally. He has already spoken. Why aren’t we satisfied with that?

4. Insisting on extra-biblical revelation demonstrates a lack of trust in God and His ways.
James 1:5 says:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

And where do we get wisdom to handle the situations and decisions of life? Not from a voice from Heaven saying “do this” or “do that,” but from Scripture:

The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. Psalm 119:130

Let my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to your word! Psalm 119:169

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; Psalm 19:7

and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:15

We don’t need God to tell us what decision to make, we want Him to, because that’s easier than doing the hard work of digging into Scripture, studying the biblical principles that apply to our situation, making the best and most godly decision we can, and trusting God for the outcome. But that’s exactly what God wants us to do:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

When we honor and trust God by looking to His written word for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, He has promised to give us wisdom to make godly decisions and make our paths straight.

5. What about being led by the Holy Spirit?
For some reason people often draw a distinction between being “led” by the Holy Spirit and studying the Scriptures He breathed out, as though they’re two different things. Studying, believing, and obeying the words the Holy Spirit inspired is being led by the Spirit.

6. Extra-biblical revelation sets up a class system within Christianity.
Why do some people “hear” from God and others don’t? The reason implied by the Christian leaders (or even your fellow church members) – who make sure you know they’ve personally heard from God – is that people God speaks to are, spiritually, a cut above. Special. More faithful. More favored by God than you are. It’s like a carrot dangling in front of a horse. It keeps you buying their books, attending their conferences, following them on social media, hoping against hope that one day you’ll become one of the spiritual elite.

But how does the idea that others are “hearing God speak” affect a Christian who isn’t hearing from God? She starts thinking maybe God isn’t pleased with her. Maybe she’s sinning against God in some way. Maybe she’s not being faithful enough, praying enough, giving enough. Maybe God doesn’t love her. Maybe she’s not even saved. It turns her into a second class citizen of God’s Kingdom and causes her to covet something she doesn’t have and God never promised her.

None of this is biblical. There are no first tier and second tier Christians. A lot of the people God actually spoke to in Scripture were hardly paragons of spiritual awesomeness: BalaamSaul, and Moses, just to name a few. And God measures “spiritual awesomeness” not in strutting your closeness to Him before others, but in humility, servanthood, and crucifying self.

Ladies, God’s written Word is sufficient for our every need. We can trust that the words of Scripture are directly from the lips of God Himself. No one can say that with any certainty about extra-biblical revelation. Trust God to direct your paths and give you biblical wisdom to make godly decisions as you grow in the knowledge and understanding of His word.


Additional Resources

Where is it written that God doesn’t speak audibly any more? at Naomi’s Table