The Book of Ruth:
April 24th, 2016, - Ruth 4:1-22, "The Redeemer Fights for You"
This week we finished up our series in the book of Ruth. Pastor John reminded us that where we left off everything in chapter three, Ruth had just proposed to Boaz and he had just told her that he did not have the rights to marry her. As they left eachother, Boaz promised Ruth that he would take care of it.
Pastor John started his message by discussing how it always inspires us when we witness someone fight for another on account of love. He stated that even though he didn't have to, we see in chapter four that Boaz did that very same thing, standing up and fighting for the right to redeem Ruth because he loved her. Pastor John read through chapter four and explained the customs and the way in which Boaz was able to convince Ruth's guardian-redeemer to give him the rights to redeem her. He also noted that three things of importance about Boaz in this chapter;
1. Boaz had a conversation. Pastor John made the point that in a difficult situation, Boaz didn't shrink back, but instead went to the man responsible and talk about what needed to be addressed.
2. Boaz got creative. Pastor John explained that often times in challenging situations we can default to complaining or giving up. Boaz, on the other hand was a problem solver and figured out a way to redeem his bride.
3. Boaz committed to Ruth. Pastor John state that too many times when one person desires another they fail to covenant with each other and simply play around without committing. Boaz got the rights to redeem Ruth and then married her.
He explained that all of these things in chapter four point to the major theme, which Pastor John noted was pretty basic--Boaz fought for the rights to redeem Ruth and this is the same way that God fought to redeem us. After making this statement, he asked, so what? What does that mean for us?
Pastor John challenged those who did not yet believe to consider a God that would actually fight for the rights to adopt them--is that not a God that you would want to commit to? He explained that because we have all sinned, we are all slaves to sin and to the Devil. It is only through surrendering to Jesus, that God allows the blood of Jesus to pay the price for our sin, so that we can be redeemed. Pastor John then pleaded with those in the room who had not yet done so, to repent, believe in Jesus Christ and follow Him. He reminded us that when God redeems, He restores and takes a person that was once dead and hopeless and makes them new, bringing new life. Ruth's story was an example of what God does for his children--she had gone from losing a husband and being destitute to being redeemed by Boaz and having a son with him to carry on the family name and restore what seemed impossible.
For those who were Christians, Pastor John asked, Since God has fought to redeem you, are you willing to fight to follow Him? He explained that following Jesus is not easy, because He asks you to forgive your enemies and pray for those who persecute us, etc... Pastor John said that when following Jesus becomes difficult we must fight to follow Him rather than give up and complain. He then gave us three areas of common struggle; 1. Doubt (sometimes we need to battle to hold onto the truth even when we don't feel it), 2. Relationships (they are messy and hard and yet we need to fight to remain at peace, inlove and reconciled to one another), 3. Community (we must fight for those in our community who don't know Jesus yet, by praying, fasting, serving, loving and witnessing to them).
In the moments when we feel overwhelmed by the fight, Pastor John encouraged us to spend time remembering God's love for us and meditating on the reality that He fought for us even while we were still sinners. He concluded with his main idea, God fought to redeem you, will you fight to follow Him?
April 17th, 2016 - Ruth 3:1-18, "Make Your Move"
Last week we found ourselves in the second chapter of the book of Ruth and noted that God's love will always pursue you. As we opened the third chapter we saw that not much has happened since Boaz initially started protecting and providing for Ruth. In essence, the relationship had not yet gone to the next level. Thus, the chapter begins with Ruth's mother-in-law, Naomi deciding that it is time for Ruth to make a move and be redeemed. As he broke down the passage, Pastor John focused on the three parts to the passage; Naomi's advice, Ruth's action, and Boaz's response.
Starting with Naomi's advice, he explained that she essentially told Ruth to tell him how you feel. Pastor John explained that the instructions that she gave her daughter-in-law were aggressive but shouldn't be misunderstood. Looking at verses 2-4, he stated that Naomi was basically telling Ruth to propose to Boaz. By getting all dressed up, laying at his feet and asking him to cover her with the corner of his garment, Ruth was offering herself to Boaz in marriage. Naomi was telling Ruth to go get her man and to communicate that if he wanted to redeem her as his wife (as he was unmarried), she wanted that too.
Pastor John moved on to Ruth's actions and noted two things. The first was that Ruth followed her mentor's advice. He explained that this is such an important principle for all of us to note. In our independent American/Western culture where we celebrate doing things our own way and where we are encourage to think that we are the authority as it relates to everything--the truth is that none of us have it all figured out. Pastor John said, that we all need a mentor, we all need a Naomi in our lives. We all need someone who we can turn to when we don't know what to do. However, having a mentor is not enough. Pastor John noted that we need to be submitted to our mentors and be willing to pray about and in a lot of cases follow their instruction. This is what Ruth did, verse 6 says, "she did everything her mother-in-law told her to do." The second was that Ruth was brave. By taking the blanket off of Boaz's feet, she prompted him to wake up (all part of the plan). When he woke up it was dark and Boaz didn't recognize Ruth. He said, "Who are you?" At this hiccup in the plan in verses 8-9, Ruth could have gotten scared and could have abandoned the plan--pretending to be asleep or just running out. But, that's not what she did, she was brave and she stuck to the plan and made her move, asking Boaz to redeem her. Pastor John made the point that it takes courage to be redeemed--the same is true for being redeemed by Jesus.
The last aspect that Pastor John looked at was Boaz's response. He noted that Boaz responds in the right way. He most certainly wanted to marry Ruth, but he knew something that she did not. He was not the first in-line to redeem her. According to the cultural customs, there was another relative who was closer to Naomi and Ruth who had priority in both the responsibility and the privilege of rescuing these women. Boaz could have just said, Who cares what people say about Ruth and about me and about the legitimacy of this relationship, I am just going to skip over the rules. But that wasn't who Boaz was, he was an upstanding man who was compassionate and righteous. Additionally, Boaz didn't just respond to the situation in the right way, but he also responded to Ruth in the right way. He didn't rebuke her or get angry that she had broken the custom. Instead he did the following three things; 1. he blessed her, 2. he protects her honor, 3. he takes care of her. Pastor John explained that he verbally issued a blessing over her and that was signficant--it wasn't just empty words. He then explained that he made sure that no one would misunderstand her actions and her presence in his tent at night so he made sure that she got out and home without anyone seeing. Pastor John also pointed out that Boaz cared for her by giving her food for her and her mother and a promise to see if he could get the blessing to redeem her. He did everything in the right way, an example for us all in how we ought to live our lives.
Pastor John began his process of application by asking the following questions, What does this mean for us? Is chapter three just about these principles or is there more that God is trying to communicate? He answered himself by stating that yes there was more. He explained that the book of Ruth describes a guardian-redeemer and one who needs to be rescued. Pastor John emphasized that in the same way Jesus is our redeemer and just like Ruth we need make our move towards him. If we are those who have not yet believed, we need to do so to be redeemed by initially repenting and believing. For those who have already been claimed and saved, we as Christians ought to always find ourselves moving towards Jesus in our attitudes, our thoughts and our actions.
Pastor John addressed some of the hurdles that get in the way of us making our move towards Jesus, explaining that it mostly has to do with fear. Fear of leaving behind what we know for what we do not. Fear of being rejected and/or of not being loved or wanted when God finally discovers the "real you." Fear of what God might ask you to do, something that might mess up what you have planned and what you can control right now. Despite all of these fears, Pastor John shared from his own life experience how choosing to move towards Jesus makes us come alive and is so much better than the wealth, convenience and comfort that we too often chase. He pleaded with us to realize the urgency and realize that, Now is the time to make your move towards Jesus.
April 10th, 2016 - Ruth 2:1-23, "The Redeemer Pursues"
As we continued our sermon series in the second chapter of the book of Ruth, Pastor John reminded us that last week we noted that even in times of suffering, God always has a plan. Chapter two, he said would allow us to start to see that plan unfold for Naomi and Ruth.
He began by discussing what it looks like to be pursued (in a good way) and made the point that we all love to be pursued and caught because it communicates that we are loved. Pastor John explained that in hard times, when life feels like it's against us and the whole world is telling us that we are not worth it--getting pursued and caught becomes a rescue and a redemption, where our value and identity feel reclaimed.
As the story of Naomi and Ruth began it became very clear that they both needed to be pursued and they both needed to be rescued and redeemed. As we read chapter two, Pastor John walked through the story, explaining context and paraphrasing what happened leading up to the first meeting between Boaz and Ruth. He then focused on the way in which Boaz began pursuing Ruth, stating that;
1. Boaz pursued her honorably (he made sure that she wasn't married, engaged or spoken for, see verse 5)
2. Boaz pursued her with respect (he first complimented her on who she was and what she stood for, see verses 11-12)
3. Boaz pursued her by protecting her (he set her up with a community of women and told all of the men to serve her and keep their hands off her, see verse 9)
4. Boaz pursued her generously (he gave her the luxuries that he had and gave her and her mother extra food, see verses 14-18)
Pastor John said that this type of behavior was and is uncommon, leaving us to wonder, Who is Boaz? And, Why did he act the way he did? He explained that the answer is found in Naomi's response at the end of the chapter. She says, "he is our guardian-redeemer." Pastor John explained that in those days, this title was given to someone in the family who had the responsibility and the privilege of taking care of anyone in the family or related to the family who had fallen on hard times and was in need. With Ruth, however, Boaz wasn't just acting out of duty, it was love too.
Pastor John then made the connection to Jesus. He noted that in the scriptures, Christ is referred to as our guardian-redeemer. The same way in which Boaz stepped in and pursued Ruth in her time of desperation--to catch her and rescue her in his love, is how Jesus pursues us. Pastor John asked us to respond in one of two ways; 1. if we are a Christian and have found that withdrawn from God, not worshiping Him as we should, we are challenged to allow the reminder of Jesus' pursuit of us to bring us back to Him in gratitude, 2. if we are not yet a Christian, we are challenged to allow ourselves to get caught by Christ's love, turning to Him, repenting and believing in His message of salvation.
Pastor John's big idea was, "God's love will always pursue you."
April 3rd, 2016 - Ruth 1:1-22, "Sweet No More"
This Sunday we began our sermon series in the Book of Ruth. As we read through chapter 1 and saw Naomi's life go from sweet to bitter, we asked the following questions, What do we do when suffering hits? How do we respond? Where is God? Pastor John walked through the text and noted what Naomi did and commented on what we could draw from her actions.
In response to the first question, What do we do when suffering hits? he explained that Naomi looked to God to be the change. Pastor John mentioned that often times in pain we look to everything and everyone else. We turn to the next boyfriend, girlfriend, substance or lifestyle for peace, but we fail to turn to God. We often fail to trust Him to provide. But, Naomi did trust God to provide and she decided to move to back to Bethlehem, where "the Lord had come to the aid of His people by providing food for them."
Secondly, Pastor John looked at the question, "How do we respond to suffering?" When we look at Naomi's response, she gave mercy to those around her. Pastor John then stated that often we allow suffering to cause our hearts to get hard and bitter and then as a result we hurt people. Naomi didn't act that way, instead she released her daughters-in-law from their obligations and gave them the opportunity to live again. She said to them, "May the Lord show you kindness."
Lastly, we looked at the question of, "Where is God in suffering?" Pastor John explained that even in her pain and suffering, Naomi acknowledged that God was in control. He noted that Naomi didn't do it in the best way--she was a little frustrated as she declared that "the Almighty has made my life very bitter." Nonetheless, she did recognize God's sovereignty. Pastor John asked us if we realize that when suffering comes into our lives God has allowed it? He mentioned that sometimes suffering comes to refine us, to correct us and sometimes to draw us closer to God. Even when the suffering continues, Pastor John implored us to remember that God is near and that it won't always be that way. There will be a day when there will be no more tears.
Pastor John concluded the sermon by asking us to consider that God works for the good of those who love Him. As we do so, he asked us to consider whether or not we too have repented and believed in Christ--the ultimate expression of love towards God. Because if we have then He works for our good and that means that even in suffering...God has a plan. He previewed the rest of the story by stating that in their suffering Naomi and now Ruth needed a rescuer, a redeemer and even though they couldn't see it yet, God had a plan.
Pastor John's big idea was, "God is near and He always has a plan."