I was parked in a crowded lot at a Paducah, Kentucky Lowe’s store and couldn’t stop wiping tears away. Before moving my Kindle into the backseat, I had opened it for a second and the first few lines of Michael Whitworth’s latest book, The Bethlehem Road, had captured my attention.
In a matter of minutes, I was engulfed in a story that I had known for years but never had I seen it so clearly that it brought me to tears. I forgot about my shopping list as I quickly swiped the screen taking me to the next page of the newest commentary on the book of Ruth.
Whitworth’s style of writing is refreshing and many times I forgot that I was reading an actual commentary. He transports you into the story while explaining culture and word origins. He includes events from his own life as he relates, explains and offers you every chance to see your own life in the beautiful story of Ruth and Naomi.
Whitworth begins the book by asking that life altering question many of us have uttered in a dark and disparaging time, “What do you do when your dreams are shattered?” And then he tells us what he did. Sharing the story of his father’s life and death brought the water works as I thought about my own father and his battle with ALS.
As you begin the study of Ruth, you will learn the beauty of the word hesed and what it means to your life. You will smile as you remember how God has and will continue to turn your own “heartbreak into Hallelujahs” and you will be blessed by the way our Father watched over and cared for his two beautiful daughters in a time not too long ago from ours.
I’m thankful for a God who works behind the scenes and refuses to give up on any of his children. And I’m thankful for Michael Whitworth and his writing abilities. If you are looking for a great commentary on Ruth or just looking for an encouraging book for yourself or your Bible study group, pick up this book. You’ll be glad you did.
The Compadres blog tour is making a quick stop here and I’m glad you stopped by.
The topic is “The Glory of the Son” and when asked what I would like to focus on, I immediately thought of Mark 9:14-29 and invite you to join me there for the next few minutes.
Why does a story that seems to highlight doubt more than divine grab my attention so quickly? Because too often, I’m the one needing help. The one standing in the middle of stress and negativity begging truth to rebuke my feelings of doom and hopelessness. The one who knows that joy is out there but blinded by the injustice, pain and despair that seem to have taken up residence in front of me.
The father in Mark 9 was forlorn. The son tormented by demons since childhood. Some of us know the misery of having a sick child. Letting the fear of what might happen steal our hopes and dreams for the future. The boy’s father had exhausted the doctors in town. No one could help. Not even those closest to the Rabbi from Galilee. And when all hope seemed lost, enter the Christ with the compassion to stop and ask about this man’s story. And the desire to get involved even when chaos swirled around him.
“If You Can?
Verse 21 offers a glimpse into our own lives. Too often we approach Jesus with reservations.
If you can offer peace?
If you can get me through this?
If you can work this out?
If you can calm my fears?
If you can heal my child? My parent? My marriage?
“If I can?”
Jesus answered initially with a question. And then I wonder if he smiled. Or sighed. Or rolled his eyes. Or all three.
“Everything is Possible for the One who Believes.”
If believing is the epitome of the Christian faith, then it would be so simple. But there is more. Jesus wants belief but he also requires us to follow. And there’s the catch. That’s the part that will change this world. Do it like I did. Love, forgive, teach, help. Get involved in your community. Change lives because I changed yours. Believing is the start but following necessitates more than my mind. It requires my heart, my actions and worse, my reactions.
“I believe. Help my unbelief!”
And here is where I am. With more questions than answers. Believing but not understanding. But praise the Lord above that our doubts don’t diminish his glory.
“Jesus Took him by the Hand and Lifted him Up”
Jesus didn’t tell him to believe more. He didn’t ask if he was a church member. He didn’t ask his views on doctrinal issues. He didn’t schedule a Bible study or have him recite the Sinner’s prayer. He didn’t sign him up for a Bible correspondence course or point him in the direction of the nearest synagogue. He didn’t ask the church to vote or pray. He didn’t call for a committee meeting. He didn’t consult the Greek text to make sure he really said what he just said. He just stopped what he was doing, listened to someone who was hurting and got involved in their lives. And he calls us to do the same thing. Even if we don’t have all the answers. Even if we face days of doubt. Even if we’re broken and hurting and tired. Even if all seems lost. Believe. Follow. Make a difference.
I love Spring Break. I’ve gotten some studying, writing, and relaxing accomplished. It’s been a good week, but last week was one of the worst. Without giving too much information or being too vague let me try to explain:
I thought life was going to go one way. One great, much needed way. A way I had been praying for. A way I needed. A way I expected. A way that would be very beneficial to those I love.
However, life did as life sometimes does and went completely unexpected. It wrecked me. I cried one night and then went sleepless for the next three. I was aggravated at some, grieving for others. And I was frustrated with God. How could he let this happen? I sought counsel from the wisest man I know. We talked, cried, laughed, banged our heads against the wall and knew everything would work out in the end. Still, my stubborn soul was weary.
I know God doesn’t conduct the misguided orchestra of our lives. I also know that he doesn’t sit back and laugh as we beat our 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard of a life into smithereens on our stage. But above all of that, I know he is involved and faithful. I know that all things work out for his children. I’ve read it. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. But. Still. It took me a few days before I accepted the fact of what I already knew, he grieves too. This wasn’t the way he wanted it to go either.
So, when will I quit expecting him to rip open the sky and set things right? Hopefully, never.
I continued to pray but my prayers were weaker. My voice distant and strained. Instead of diving into Scripture and study, I went the opposite direction and watched the entire first season of Game of Thrones.
Doubt seems to be a steady companion but if only I could be more doubtful of my ability to fix this world instead of God’s. When will I stop realizing that life doesn’t go as planned or even as purposed? It just goes and we’re to deal. Sometimes it full of grace and resolve and sometimes I’m a train wreck.
Too often, I fall to my knees in tears, fearful and furious and cry out, “I’m not cut out for this! I can’t handle it!” And that’s when Jesus smiles and replies, “No. You can’t. But I can and I will.”
It’s a beautiful dance. But I really need to stop stepping on his toes.
I was blessed to speak at the Tulsa Workshop this year. I have attended before and love the fellowship, great lessons, and the encouragement that comes from being there. I took my youngest with me this year and I think she said it perfectly, “It’s like a VBS for adults!”
I hope you’ll make plans to attend next year. Here are some of my favorite quotes. There are some that I loved but couldn’t write down quickly enough. If you want, please add yours to this list.
God wasn’t worried about Saul’s past he was concerned with Paul’s future. -Can’t remember who said it. I take lousy notes. Ask any of my college professors.
Don’t go out “for” God. Go out to “join” God. Rick Atchley
What defines us? Out ability to argue or our ability to make peace? Doug Young
Some of the most evil cities of the 1st century now have books of the Bible named after them. Because God didn’t give up on them. Josh Ross
I’ve never heard my black friends say, “We need to go back to the 1950s when this was a Christian nation.” – Josh Ross
It’s easier to do the law thing instead of the love thing. Patrick Mead
We preach to the converted instead of going to the lost & loving them. Patrick Mead
I want to die without stones in my hands, empty hands & open arms. – PMiddy
My agenda is to approach all people without stones. Fearless love. PMiddy
He put on skin & took the most common name of that time. God said, “Just call me, Joe.” PM
We should ruthless in opposing & calling out sin but ours no one else’s. Luke 6:41-42 PM
Salvation is free but will cost everything you have. Pm
Following Jesus means you move. He didn’t call us to stand still
One of the cost of following Jesus is he gets to define your terms.
The closet you get to the Light, the better you are the dirt on your own hands.
I am willing to walk with anyone who is willing to walk with me. PM
Refuse to let anyone take away you love. PM
Luke 6:37 how much grace do you have with you & how much do you give out? Whatever you give put will come back to you. It’s not Karma! It’s Christ. PM
I sat by a very sweet friend recently during the Sunday morning service. He was pretty good considering he isn’t used to sitting still that long and barely five. He was about to drive his young mother crazy when I put my arm around him and pulled him close. I flipped my Bible to the Gospels and pointed at the name of Jesus. Quietly, I read the name and then we went in search of the name of Jesus throughout the entire New Testament. He was so excited that he was “reading” the Bible that he couldn’t wait to turn the pages. Never once did he realize how quiet he was being or how quickly the service was going by.
I love the internet. From the first time I got on back in the early 90s, I have had a ball staying connected to friends and family around the world. I love watching children grow up, get married, and have children of their own. I love watching pictures of my young niece and nephew in real time. I love group chatting with my crazy bunch of friends on topics from the silly to the profoundly theological. I love seeing how Christians can uplift each other by pictures and status updates. I love being able to pray with friends around the world and seeing that other friends are praying, as well.
Social media has been a blessing. Usually. There have been other times when I’ve cringed at the friends with opposing views who, instead of responding in grace or not responding at all, have taken the opportunity to attack another for the whole world to see.
I have mourned over how some Christians have chosen to go into the world. What would never be said face to face is so easily and quickly typed onto a Facebook status. Too often we forget that Jesus said we would be known by our love not by how well we can argue.
Our mission is to show others Jesus even those siting on the other side of the computer screen. Because we love them. Because we want them to go to Heaven. Because we are representing Christ. And because the world is watching. And who would want to be a part of this beautiful family if we can’t even get along with each other.
I have a confession. I was one of those Christians who wanted Jesus kept as far away from Christmas as possible. I surely didn’t want anyone to ever think that I was caving to the huge myth that our Lord was actually born on December 25th.
I would never want anyone to assume that I was propagating any false doctrine or bowing to a pagan “holy day”.
I knew my Bible well and knew that it didn’t specify a certain date for the birth of Christ. I knew that we are not commanded anywhere in Scripture to observe this day nor do we have any biblical example of any first century Christians celebrating the birth of our Lord. I also realized that Christmas is a worldly tradition.
Rarely did I climb upon my soap box and broadcast my beliefs but it was what I had digested from childhood and it was what I passed down to my children.
Sadly, that truth came around and slapped me on the back of the head one day. I’ll never forget it.
It was during the Christmas season and I was shopping the local Dollar Store. The place was busier than usual and with five children in tow; I was on a mission to get in and out as quickly as possible. But in the few minutes that we were there, my oldest child had a brief discussion with another shopper.
We were headed home before he informed me of his tale. He couldn’t have been more than twelve years old at the time but over the rack of nativity scenes he chastised another shopper for her belief. He informed her that the Bible doesn’t say when Jesus was born. He made sure that she knew that no one knows the exact date.
I remember the pompous tone that drenched each of his words and the feeling that rushed through me at his admission. It certainly wasn’t pride. My mind immediately raced to John 13:34-35. The words, “you will be known by your love” resonated in my ears and I was left feeling like I had failed. not only my children, but this poor lady.
Yes, we all know what the Bible says about Christmas. It doesn’t. It does, however, tell about the precious baby who was born in a manger. It reveals the heavenly host singing in all their majesty. It reports on the shepherds who couldn’t wait to find the Christ child.
At a time when my child could have started a conversation about the Savior of the world which might have led to another person’s salvation, he instead wanted to prove how right he was on a subject. A subject of love and grace. A subject that affects the entire world. The only subject that really matters.
Shamefully, I have to admit that his actions that day were not the best way to witness to the world. And it was completely my fault.
I thought long and hard about what I believed and what I had taught my children. Why was I offended that humanity wanted to take a moment to celebrate my Savior? How could I stand on a pedestal and shout that Christ wasn’t born on December 25th to a world who needed him so desperately? Those days were over. I would no longer shake my head and point my finger at people who wanted to observe the birth of Jesus. In fact, I would thank my God that they cared enough to.
When December 25th rolls around, I would rather my children think of the man who loved them so much that he left his throne in Heaven, came to this earth, suffered, died, and rose again than the black Friday sale ads.
In fact, when they think of Black Friday at all, I’d much rather their minds race to that day at Calvary then the local shopping mall.
I would prefer my children discuss the love, grace, and mercy of a King born in a stable than a pepper-spray wielding shopper who wanted the best deals.
And I would much rather my children celebrate the incarnation instead of the greed induced frenzy mob scene that continually threatens to overcome the Christmas season.
When the world looks at his followers what will they see? An assembly with pointed fingers and haughty eyes telling them how wrong they are or someone who wants to tell them more about the baby in that manger. I’ve been in both camps and I apologize for the first one.
So I’m thankful my eyes were opened at a little Dollar Store in Western KY. I’m grateful that for one season the eyes of the world are on a little stable in Bethlehem. And I welcome the responsibility of knowing that if I live my life right and choose my words wisely, some of those same people will care about Him the rest of the year, too.
I came upon a detour recently and it reminded me of the trip I took to Southern Florida a few years ago. I had decided to drive down beautiful A1A instead of taking the Interstate. As we made our way to the east coast from Orlando, we trusted the GPS to get us to the highway.
The longer we drove, the more desolate the landscape became. Where we had been seeing beautiful palm trees and homes we now were passing rows of fencing and fields of bushes.
The GPS showed that we were on the correct route to A1A. However, we began to have our doubts.
Finally, we came to a gate. A man in military garb stood in front with a look that made me a bit nervous. After I informed him of our travel plans, he kindly explained that we were on restricted NASA property. Our route had come to a dead end and a major detour.
There are times in our lives when we think we may be on the right path, nevertheless that road can turn out to be a dead end. It can be surprising. It can be frustrating or it can be absolutely life shattering.
God has allowed us to witness the dead ends and detours of many of his children.
Joseph’s dead end was in a jail cell (Genesis 39:20). His detour led to second in command of Egypt (Genesis 41:40)
The Israelites’ escape came to a halting finish beside a beautiful sea. Their detour involved a powerful miracle and a deliverance they never could’ve imagined (Exodus 14:21).
The disciples at Calvary faced an end so shocking and heartbreaking it left them confused and terrified. But God offered a new beginning that would change the course of history and offer salvation to the world (Matthew 26 -28, Mark 15-16, Luke 22-24, John 18-21).
God can take your failures and broken hearts and turn them into joy and success so don’t allow yourself to get stuck at a dead end. Turn to Christ and hold on to your faith. Your darkest night may be the beginning of your greatest adventure.
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness. Psalm 30:11 (ESV)
Every July in Western KY, dozens of churches come together for an area wide Gospel meeting. This year’s was at Paducah’s Luther F. Carson Four Rivers Center. Looking around the colossal auditorium those nights, I saw friends from several congregations. Their precious faces brought back many memories and made the song “Remind Me, Dear Lord” that much sweeter.
I’m always excited to run into the folks from the little congregation where my dad preached. The news of where their children are now and what they’re doing is always interesting. Hearing stories about my father and knowing that godly people from my childhood are still striving for Christ is a highlight of being together.
I saw friends from the congregation where my grandfather preached, folks from the congregation where my uncle was a youth minister, and several from the church I attended as a young mother.
Seeing youthful faces from the camp where I spend a week each summer is also a blessing.
Each soul was an encouraging reminder of good times, faithful Christians, and an eternal home.
I love being reminded that a day is coming when we will all be together forever but there are other times when God’s promises don’t easily come to mind.
In times of frustration with others, dear Lord, remind me of those moments when you’ve been disappointed with me and how your mercy and forgiveness have always been in abundance.
Lord, when I worry about the politics of this nation and those in the government, remind me that my citizenship lies in a place where crisis is not known, debt has already been paid, and Truth reigns supreme.
When I’m overly concerned about the evil in this world, remind me of your hope, love, and peace.
When I get discouraged at daily details, tell me again where I’ve been and where you’ve brought me from.
When I get aggravated at myself for consequences and failures, remind me that I am loved dearly and always will be.
When Satan whispers that all is futile, remind me once again of your power, comfort, and grace.
When this life seems filled with drama, heartache, and pain draw my thoughts to the manger, the miracles, and the cross.
Father, you know I tend to forget too often your mercies. So when I start to slip back into the anxieties of this life, remind me, remind me dear Lord.
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;his mercies never come to an end; they are newevery morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)