Faith of Women Series: Ruth

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Faith is not gendered specific. Nowhere in the Bible does it state that men can exclusively serve the Lord, pray, fast, or exude tremendous courage and trust in the Lord. In fact, women make many appearances throughout the story of the Bible in key roles. This series is devoted to the great women of faith, past, present, and future.

The last post began this series by looking at Rahab who makes her arrival in Joshua chapter two. Today, we look at Rahab’s daughter-in-law. Ruth is one of my favorite women of the Bible for several reasons which I’ll talk about in this post. Let’s talk about her story.

Ruth was a woman of Moab. This was land on the southeast border of Israel. It was a people often opposed to the people of Israel. Here again, we see God about to use a woman from a pagan people to fulfill His promises. Just like Rahab, she will be plucked out of a people for greater things.

Ruth was also a daughter of hardship. In the book of Ruth, we read that she left her family to be married and not long after, she lost her husband. She also lost her father in law and saw the death of her sister’s husband. Times were not favorable. Out of these conditions, Ruth will endure and go on to see greater days. She was not weak and did not succumb to hardship.

Ruth was extremely devoted. This is one of the character traits that I have been inspired by the most when it comes to her. In the wake of so much loss, Ruth’s mother in law Naomi decides to head back to Israel. Ruth can choose to either stay and start again with someone else in a land that she knew. Or she could follow Naomi. Option one is far easier. But anyone familiar with the story knows that she didn’t take the easy route.

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”

Ruth 1:16-17 NIV

In my opinion, this is one of the great expressions and statements of love in the Old Testament. If more of us were like Ruth, divorce would be demolished, businesses would not fracture, politics would not be plagued with scandals, and everything else rooted in self-interest would dissipate. This is a person emptying herself to care for another. Apart from Ruth, Naomi could have been destined to be destitute. Her love was the driving force of her life and it took tremendous faith to leave everything behind for what she knew mattered the most.

Ruth’s faith-driven obedience didn’t end here. As the story progresses, Ruth does all she can to uphold her promise to Naomi. That obedience eventually leads her to Boaz…the son of Rahab. The story made short, they fall in love and they marry. Naomi’s life is preserved, she is taken care of, her family’s land in Israel is redeemed by Boaz, and the happy couple eventually becomes the proud great grandparents of a king…King David. Her life is proof that our personal faith will have expanding influence and impact. A Moabite woman’s faith preserved the kingly lineage. A Moabite woman’s faith saved a life. A Moabite woman’s faith demonstrated love on a level that many of us only aspire to. Praise God for this Moabite woman’s faith.

 

 

 

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Faith of Women Series: Rahab

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I’ve heard several who argue that the Bible is a misogynistic story with little regard for women. That assertion couldn’t be further from the truth. The pages of the Bible are filled with extraordinary examples of women who have played integral roles in the story-line of the Christian faith and the unfolding of God’s redemptive plan in the world. This series is meant to highlight those incredible women who serve as an inspiration to both men and women across all generations.

It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

Hebrews 11:31 NLT

It may seem like an interesting way to start this series out by highlighting a prostitute from the Bible. I assure you, Rahab’s story is a powerful one. So what do we know about her? She was a Canaanite woman living in the city of Jericho. As mentioned before, Rahab was a prostitute who was also a biblical heroine. According to the narrative in Joshua chapter two, before the conquest of Canaan, Joshua sent two men as spies to see the land. They end up coming to Rahab’s house for lodging and information. That’s when Rahab’s story begins to mesh with God’s plan for her life, which happens to be intertwined with the future of an entire nation…Israel.

Let’s break down a few things. Her home was in a city that stood in the way of a God’s plan to fulfill a promise given to a man named Abraham back in the book of Genesis. That promise was to give certain land to his family, which became known as the nation of Israel as they grew in numbers. The problem was that the land was filled with a lot of people. People who were absent from morality. Think the most wicked of humanity and you’ll get the picture. Hitler had nothing on them. The land needed cleansing and Rahab was going to play a big part in that. Just the fact that God is going to use someone who is part of such a disastrous and evil people to work redemption is incredible. Rahab proves that faith can still exist among a broken society and within broken people.

Rahab finds herself at a crossroads in this story. She can out the spies and alert the city of the impending nation on their doorstep. She can side with those whom she lives among, or she can step out in faith and risk it all. By helping the spies she is ultimately putting her own life, and the lives of her family, at risk. It reminds me of those who chose to hide and help Jews in 1930’s Germany rather than side with the prevalent evil of the nation. That too took tremendous faith.

Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.

Joshua 2:8-11 NIV

This is her statement of faith. She says that she knows the Lord has given Israel the land and that God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. This post opened with a verse from Hebrews 11, commonly referred to as the “Faith Chapter” of the Bible. Rahab is listed there. She is in the so-called Hall of Fame of faith. Her trust in the God of Israel to see His promise through was her motivating factor. Her faith was worth her life if necessary. Her faith drove her to step out of the corruption of the Canaanite people and join herself with God’s people. But this isn’t where her story ends. Rahab was saved amidst the destruction of Jericho and would go on to give birth to a man by the name of Boaz. He goes on to marry the woman of our next post, Ruth. Their line goes through King David and all the way to Jesus of Nazareth. Rahab…redeemed, rescued, and righteous by faith. A woman of the ages.

These Moments are not our Last

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Jacob finds himself wandering in the wilderness, estranged from his family, alone and on the run. (Genesis 28)

Elijah flees to the mountains to escape the tyrant king and queen. He feels exiled as a wanted man. His faithfulness to God has put him in eminent danger. (1 Kings 19-20)

Daniel is cast into a pit of hungry lions, whose soul purpose is to rip criminals to shreds. But Daniel is no criminal. He is the unfortunate recipient of envy and hatred by other in the king’s court. (Daniel 6)

The Apostle Peter is imprisoned for doing what he believed was the call on his life to proclaim the gospel. (Acts 12)

You know what each of these stories have in common? They are examples of people in some of their lowest moments who got to experience the wonders of God. While Jacob was adrift in the wilderness, God showed up to renew His promise. While Elijah was trembling on the mountainside, God showed up in the wind to whisper His love once again. Surrounded by hungry lions, Daniel received a visit from the Angel of the Lord. The chains were loosed from Peter’s wrists and the prison gates flung open that night as God stepped in to rescue him.

These dark moments were not their last. Instead, they allowed each of these men to see and experience glorious things. Dear reader, I’m not sure where you are in your life. But if you’re desperate. If you feel like you’re drowning or suffering. There is always hope. God’s wonders may be right around the corner.  Keep praying. Keep praising. Keep hanging on. The Lord is with you where you are.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships,in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV

How are you viewing God?

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.

Job 38:4 ESV

We all have a way of looking at God. People have been trying to define Him since the beginning. Humanity either places Him in a box of their own design, tries to ignore His existence altogether, or allows God to define Himself. Those are the only three options we have as His created beings. Those who choose to turn a blind eye to God are simply disregarding the amazing discoveries of science that have only served to prove God’s existence. A simple starting list include: the complexity of the human body, the vastness of the universe as well as the fact that it had to have a beginning, the pinpoint accurate calculations for how the Earth is designed to sustain life, the laws of how nature operates, DNA, the 100 percent validity of the Bible, and fulfilled prophecies that could never have occurred outside of divine intervention. People who choose to not acknowledge those things are simply choosing to not look at God. This post is not meant to address that. Instead, it is meant to look at the other two camps for defining Who God is.

“Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
    and caused the dawn to know its place

Job 38:12 ESV

Microscope vs. Telescope

For everyone who is searching to know Who God is, they will come to their conclusions based on what tool they use. In order to fit God into a box, we have to shrink Him down. We have to make Him smaller than ourselves. That looks like creating categories for Him, or saying phrases like, “I couldn’t believe in a God that does that.” It’s apple-picking scripture to design a God that looks good to you. It’s separating God into an Old Testament version and a New Testament version. It’s believing that Muslims, Jews, and Christians all believe in the same God. It’s saying that all paths lead to God. It’s rubbing a lamp and treating God like your personal Genie. It’s defining God based on our experiences rather than viewing your experience through Who God says He is. To make God so small means we have to be viewing Him through a microscope. To do that is to strip God of His majesty. It makes Him lesser than humanity.

“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
    that a flood of waters may cover you?
Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go
    and say to you, ‘Here we are’?

Job 38:34-35 ESV

On the other hand, there are people who view God as infinite. There is always something new to learn about God. They gaze at Him in wonder. He seems so big at times that it can be so overwhelming. Somethings about Him are unknown, while others are in plain view. He is beautiful and vast and so much larger than all we know. For these people, their lives are defined by Who God is. Their very identity stems from being created and loved by Him. To view God in this way is to view Him how He’s made Himself known. It’s to take scripture as a whole. It’s to see the story of human existence as being designed and told by an omniscient being. That’s what happens when we view God through a telescope. He’s not our size, and He’s certainly not smaller than us. Don’t try to limit a limitless God.

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.

Psalm 29:2 NIV

Self Inflicted Tyranny

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Worry is one of the most self-crippling ailments. It’s also one we have complete control over, yet it’s how we punish ourselves the most. We worry when we have too much and we worry when we don’t have enough. We ultimately find things to worry about. Much of what we worry over is way beyond our control. The mind seems to seeks it out. When one thing has passed by, we find another worry to take its place. Anxiety, stress, depression, addictions, and the use of coping devices are all manifestations of the worry plague. It’s the black death of our own making. Worry destroys us emotionally and physically. It doesn’t have to be this way. Worry does not empty tomorrow of its difficulties but it does empty today of its joy. Choose joy this day. Choose life this day. Choose hope and optimism because our God is greater than whatever we are walking through.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:11-13 NIV

*This post was born out of a very stressful time in my life. Inspired by my supportive wife and my amazing God. We all need reminders from time to time. God bless you, brothers and sisters!

Unto Death

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The life of a Christian is not for the faint of heart. We are outcasts in a fallen world. We are counter-cultural no matter what culture we are surrounded by. We are a minority in the world and always will be. We don’t drift with the ever-changing tide of society. Because of that, we are shunned, rejected, disliked, and even hated and killed. According to a worldwide ministry called Open Doors, every month around the world 345 Christians are killed for faith-related reasons, 105 Churches and Christian buildings are burned or attacked, 219 Christians are detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned. That amounts to an average of at least 11 Christians being killed every single day. Even in the wake of all of that hate and discrimination, there are still over 2.3 billion people in the world who identify as a follower of Christ. It is the largest and fastest growing faith in the world.

Here in the United States, we are being labeled as bigots because we stand for sexual purity and the God-given identities of every human being. We are called misogynistic because we value the life of every pre-born child and stand against abortions. But even in the face of the rise in discrimination, we have not had to claim Christ even unto death. It is always important for believers who are outside of the shadow of death, to pray for those who constantly live there. Our brothers and sisters around the world need us to link arms with them and wage spiritual warfare alongside them. One day, it may be you and me who are in the shadows. Will we stand firm, even unto death?

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Ephesians 6:18 NIV

The following is a story from Voice of the Martyrs:

In Albania, the first self-declared atheist state in the world, a young Christian by the name of Valerii Nasaruk was arrested for boldly tattooing a cross on his hand. He wanted everyone to know from the first handshake that he stuck to his faith in God. Valerii was frustrated, however, by not being allowed to verbally tell others about God’s love.

At the trial, the judge told Valerii’s mother, “Tell your son to change his ways so he can go free.” She thought for a while before responding through tearful eyes, “Valerii, my advice to you is to stand firm and not deny Christ, even if it means your death.” In a subsequent letter to the underground church, she wrote, “I attended the trial, which was so hard on me. I wished I could have taken his place. The hardest thing was when they asked me in court to advise Valerii to change his ways, but I could not do it. The world accuses us, his parents, for his being sentenced, saying it is the result of our influence. Even some Christians can’t understand why I did what I did, but then I remember that Jesus was misunderstood. When I struggle with depression, I am reminded that Peter advised Jesus about saving his own life. God gives me the power to bear everything. Please pray for me.”

Can you imagine being Valerii’s mother and making that statement to your child? Can you imagine facing death simply for what you believe? All too many people around the world can.

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Galatians 6:14 NIV

The Message Can’t be Stopped

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“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV

ISIS swept through the Near East like a wildfire leaving havoc in their wake. But just like a fire, they burnt out. The ideology still persists among the radical Islamic populous, but movements are not sustainable. Even though that is the case, one cannot ignore the impact they had. But persecution and hate don’t have the final say. In a recent article, I read, the hot spot of death during the peak of ISIS has seen a rapid rise in followers of Jesus. Kobani was once in the spotlight for horrific reasons. Now, its making headlines because lives are being transformed and God is sweeping through the region with a revival and message of hope.

Kobani is just one example of how the word of God pervades all generations and all obstacles. As the western world becomes more hostile towards Christians, it is only skimming the surface of persecution that Jesus followers have faced around the world. But no amount of threats or violence have been able to extinguish the message of the Gospel. Check out these statistics below:

Africa: Home to many Islamic terrorist cells, Christians have long been the target of hate crimes. But the numbers of Christians are exploding. In 1900 there were around 9 million Christians. Today, there are over 600 million. Polls suggest that Africa will be home to the largest number of Christians by 2050. Nigeria, for example, just surpassed Russia, is way higher than former Christendom (European nations), and are estimated to catch the United States (highest Christian population) in the next couple of decades. Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania are seeing similar rises in believers.

Asia: This continent has a long history of religious struggles. It’s a broad mix of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and more. The rising faith, however, is Christianity. In Nepal, the world’s only Hindu kingdom, there are more than 500,000 Christians. This is amazing considering that the first modern church was planted in 1959. In Mongolia, the four Christians of 1989 have exploded to over 20,000 today. Cambodia is equally fascinating. In the late ’70s, there were around 2,000 believers. Today it’s approaching 250,000. What makes that even more incredible is that the communist wave swept through the country between 1975-1977 killing around 2 million people, many of whom were Christians. The most inspiring, in my opinion, is China. The introduction of communist persecution in 1949 caused a tidal wave in conversions and a burgeoning underground church. The Christian population went from just over 1 million in 1949 to over 100 million today.

Looking back through history, it was persecution that drove the spread of the faith. As psychotic Roman Emperors cracked down on followers of Jesus, the faith ignited into a world-shattering movement that eventually overtook the Empire itself. No ruler, ideology, or armed hate group can ever put down the Gospel. The message of Jesus transcends time. Its power is far greater than anything this earth has ever seen. Hope is rising in this world of darkness. The Gospel has prevailed and always will!

Don’t forget to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world who are choosing Jesus ahead of comfort and conformity. Their bravery is a beacon of hope and courage for the world to pursue.

I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

Job 42:2 ESV

Peace brothers and sisters. The victory is His!