Category: Ruth (Page 1 of 2)

Out of the Ashes

Two Sundays ago at GCR, we gave our pains and sufferings to God. It was a congregational exercise halfway through our “Everything New” sermon series from the book of Ruth. We wrote down the names of the people and things we’ve lost. We wrote down the trials and the heartaches. All the junk, all the stuff that’s cluttering up our hearts and souls. Things that have happened to us. Things we’ve done. The burdens that keep us awake at night and hang over us all day. We wrote it all down on note cards, sealed it up in envelopes, and walked down to the front and gave it to God.

The next morning, all our ministers and church staff prayed over those envelopes. And then we really gave them all to God. We put all those sealed envelopes into the fire. One at a time. It took a while. One by one. All the pain and suffering. All the loss. All the burdens. We gave it to our God–a literal burnt offering. All the stuff our people are dealing with right now. All the pain of their current circumstances. All the suffering they’ve been forced to endure. We gave it to the Lord.

The loneliness. Sickness. Depression. Tough situations. We prayed as the envelopes were literally lifted up to God.

Father, we release our pain and our loss to you. We won’t let these things define us or paralyze us or keep us from what you want to do in our lives. We release the pain and the loss of our situations to you. Take these, Father, and use them to move us into your “everything new,”

Later that afternoon, we collected the ashes from the fire. Then our sister in Christ, Cassie Bundy took them. And did something beautiful and new.

When we give our circumstances to the Lord, when we give him our sorrows and pain and suffering, they don’t always go away. Most of the time, they become a part of who you are. They don’t just disappear. But it’s in those things and through those things that God creates something new. He doesn’t destroy it; he walks in it and through it with you.

Our God walks through your darkness to bring forth his light, he walks through death to give us life, he walks in the pain and the tears to bring you fullness and joy. He works in the soil and ashes of your circumstances to do something beautiful and eternal and new.

“Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you!” Ruth 4:14



Put On Your Simla

When Boaz starts taking an interest in Ruth, the meddling mother-in-law hatches a brilliant plan. She recognizes the reality of their conditions and she moves to seize the opportunity in front of them. Naomi instructs her widowed daughter-in-law to “wash and perfume yourself, and put on your simla” (Ruth 3:3). My NIV translates the Hebrew word simla as “…put on your best clothes.” But the word simla just means a regular robe. Your normal everyday clothes. Simla is just a generic robe by both men and women. It’s not a special dress. It’s not a special anything. And that’s the point.

Remember, Ruth is a recent widow. Her husband died like four or five months ago. And Ruth has probably been wearing special grieving clothes. She’d been wearing something that designated her as a grieving widow and Naomi’s telling her to change into an outfit that would send a different message.

The exact same wording is used in 2 Samuel 12 when David is grieving over the illness of his newborn son. For seven days, David was in a state of mourning, fasting, and praying for his son. When the child died, the Bible says David got up, washed, put on his lotions, and his simla, his normal everyday attire (2 Samuel 12:20). He’s signaling that his grieving is over now. I’m back to business.

That’s what Ruth is doing here. She’s changing into another set of clothes that say she’s available for marriage. She’s not grieving anymore. She’s not focusing on what she’s lost. She’s moving forward. She’s prepared and ready to seize the opportunity in front of her.

As children of God and followers of Jesus, we need to put on the right clothes that signal to the whole world that we are ready and prepared to seize the opportunities around us.

“As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” ~Colossians 3:12-14

The people around you are seeking what’s really important. They’re searching for something trustworthy and true. The people you’re running into every day are disappointed, disillusioned, and divided. But they’re open to something different. They want something or someone that’s real and solid and dependable. They want an answer to everything that’s gone wrong, they’re looking for a solution to everything that’s broken. That way, that truth, that life is our Lord Jesus Christ and the time is right now to make him known to a desperate world.

Clothe yourselves with Christ!

Your life, your words, your actions, your attitude can be living proof to everyone around you that good overcomes evil. You can show people by how you behave that love is greater than hate, that unity is more fun than division, that forgiveness always beats revenge, and that peace is far more effective than violence.

“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” ~1 Peter 2:9

Not just the things you engage in and the ways you act, but also the things you refuse to associate with and the things you say “no” to are a powerful witness to the only One who can truly fix what’s wrong.

“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God.” ~1 Peter 2:12

Peter didn’t come up with that. He’s quoting our Lord from the opening lines of his Sermon on the Mount.

“Let your light shine before all people that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” ~Matthew 5:16

Think about it. What if you and I remained calm when the other people around us are anxious and frantic and demanding? Everything is turned up so loud right now. What would it mean to others if you were quiet and calm?

What if you and I spoke with humility and grace? Instead of saying things and forwarding things and reposting things that insult and disparage whole groups of other people so the people like me know exactly where I stand, what if we only said thing that were encouraging to others and the only thing that came out of our mouths was intended to build those other people up? I believe that kind of language would really stick out as special.

What if you and I tried to love everybody? What if you and I were known for how kind and graciously we treated others, even when we disagree? Especially when we disagree! I really think that would get noticed. And what if we committed to that right now instead of later?

“[All the commandments] are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ …Do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here… Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ!” ~Romans 13:11-14

Put on the clothes that signal to the world you take very seriously your vows to the Lord. Wear the simla that communicates a deep commitment to the ways and means of our King.



Behind the Scenes

How did Naomi find out in Moab that the famine was over in Judah? The text says “she heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them (Ruth 1:6). Who told her? The point in the story is not how she heard; the point is that she heard. The Lord made sure she knew.

The Bible tells us Naomi and Ruth arrive back in Bethlehem just as the harvest was beginning (Ruth 1:22). What a coincidence!

Ruth went to glean in a field and, wouldn’t you know it! “As it turned out,” the text says, “she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz” (Ruth 2:3). What a stroke of good luck!

“Just then,” it says in verse 4, “Boaz arrived!” Right at that very moment! Just then! What do you know? Boaz showed up! What are the odds?

It would take a couple of pages to explain the original Hebrew language here and the funny piling on of adjectives and adverbs at this part of the story. But the author is going out of his or her way to say, “This ain’t luck!” Somebody’s moving behind the scenes.

Four years ago, a young man named David proposed marriage to our middle daughter, Valerie. Several of Valerie and David’s friends were in on it for a couple of weeks before it happened. Family members were in on it. Valerie didn’t know. But that evening, somehow, Valerie just happened to be wearing a nice dress and David just coincidentally had the day off from work and incredibly they both wound up in the same friend’s backyard at the exact time and, wouldn’t you know, somebody was in the bushes taking pictures!

That didn’t just happen.

God is always moving the pieces into place and working out the timing and the details of his magnificent plans for your life. It’s a lot easier to see these things looking back than it is in the present. But the good things that happen to you are not by chance. They’re not the random events of a complex universe that sometimes produces an interesting coincidence. When you belong to God in Christ, what happens to you is by appointment, not accident.

It if were just up to us, we wouldn’t make it. None of us would. When Ruth walked into that field that day, she had no idea that she would marry the landowner and their great-great-grandson would be David, the King of Israel, and through him God would send his promised Savior of the World. She never could have asked or imagined any of that. She didn’t know. But the Lord did. He was working. Mostly behind the scenes. But he was, and is, always working.



Everything New!

The five most exciting words in all of Scripture are “I am making everything new!” I think the Lord’s words in Revelation 21 and Isaiah 43 are electric with excitement. These five words just crackle with potential and promise. They explode with hope and expectation and possibilities. “I am making everything new!”

We are moving from an old year into a new one. We are also moving toward God’s glorious forever where everything we know is made new. Individually, each of us is always moving somewhere, to something. So let’s be intentional about it. Let’s pay attention to it.







At GCR this Sunday, we are beginning a new five-weeks sermon series on the story of Naomi and Ruth. The whole story is about moving: from Moab to Israel, from bitter to full, from three funerals to a wedding and a new child, from famine to harvest, from no future to complete redemption. The story is full of ordinary, mundane matters such as family and work, cities and laws, life and death. So much of this story is easily relatable to all of us today. And we see God’s gracious hand at work in the middle of it all to bless his people and bring salvation to the world.

So, yes, the whole stage and front of the GCR Worship Center is filled with moving boxes, bubble wrap, packing tape, and dollies. We are really focusing on the idea of “moving.” We want to embrace and embody the concept of “moving” toward a wonderful place with our Lord and with one another in his will.

I know we just moved into our newly remodeled room. I know. Don’t worry, we are not planning to move out. But, by our God’s amazing grace, we are wanting to “move” into his “everything new.”




This is the last post in this short series from Ruth chapter 4. This final article covers Ruth 4:13-22.

I believe our gracious God wants you to live in 2021 with great confidence that he is faithfully at work in your circumstances to redeem every part of your life. That’s the whole reason these last verses of Ruth were written. This is our God at work here. This is the Lord moving Naomi from three tragic deaths and three terrible funerals to a beautiful wedding and the birth of a precious baby. Naomi’s emptiness and bitterness and hopelessness is resolved by God and we know he’s been moving the pieces and working out the details the whole time.

Naomi suffers untold tragedy and loss. She has no husband to provide for her, no sons to protect her, no grandchildren to cheer her spirits, and no land to call her own. She is miserably sad and alone. When she gives her approval for Ruth to go glean in the field, she’s just looking to survive. But God is redeeming her story. God moves Naomi from death and emptiness to life and fullness, almost like a resurrection because the name of her husband and their family line will now live on forever. Praise be to the Lord who this day has not left you!

And look at Ruth. I’m calculating she’s a young woman in her late 20s. She’s married and suffers through ten years of infertility and then is widowed. She moves with her mother-in-law to a foreign country where she’s an outsider in a dozen different ways and where the law makes it illegal for anyone to ask her out on a date. But the Lord blesses her with a redeemer of a husband and the Lord causes her to conceive and give birth to a son. When Ruth goes to the field on that first day, she’s just looking to survive. She had no earthly idea that she would marry the landowner and their great-grandson would be David, the greatest king in the history of Israel, through whom God would bring the promised savior of the world. But that’s what our God does. That’s what he is always doing.

By God’s great love and faithfulness, he is always at work in our lives to do what’s best for us. We know that God works all things for the good of those who love him. But our God is also working so the things that happen in your life fit into what he’s doing with the whole world, with all of time and space and salvation history. That’s what our gracious and powerful God is still doing right now today, and that should fill you with confidence.

In his final words to God’s people, Joshua reminded of the great confidence we have in our Lord:

“You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” ~Joshua 23:14

You’ve got to know that and believe it and own it if you’re going to live in all the unknowns that are facing us in 2021.

I don’t know when Amarillo is going to move from Code Red to Code Orange or how much longer we’re going to have to wear these masks. I don’t know how many more people are going to get sick and suffer and die. I don’t know what our church is going to look like at the end of 2021. I don’t know what choices we’re going to make or what decisions we’re going to be forced into. I don’t know how you are going to deal with the loss you’ve suffered in the past year. I don’t know about your pain and how that impacts you in 2021. But I stand today with the apostle Paul who wrote , “I  do know this! I am confident of this! That he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus! The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it!”

As we move into this new year together, allow me to remind you that the Lord’s eye is still on the birds of the air and his hand is still with the flowers of the field. How much more with you, the precious child of his heart?




This is the second of a three-part series on Ruth chapter four. This post considers Ruth 4:5-12.

At first, the nearer relative is eager to buy back Naomi’s property. “I will redeem it!” he says. Immediately. He knows Elimelech is dead and Naomi’s two sons are dead and she’s too old to have more kids, so there are no descendants to Elimelech’s line. This guy can just buy back the land and it’ll become a part of his family’s inheritance. Whatever he has to pay to redeem it, he’ll make up in the value of the property and the produce it provides. Yeah, of course I’ll take it!

Then Boaz observes, “You realize this property comes with Ruth and the obligation to carry on Naomi’s line in connection with the property.” And the first guy says, “If the land comes with a wife, I’m out!” This guy didn’t want to take on the risk or the responsibility. He didn’t want to spend his own money to purchase a wife and a mother-in-law only to have the kids he has with the wife take the property back to the mother-in-law’s possession. “I cannot do it,” he says. It’s not that he can’t, it’s that he won’t. He wouldn’t make the sacrifice. It wasn’t worth it to him.

Boaz thought it was worth it. Boaz wanted to make the sacrifice for the sake of Naomi and her family. So he did. He redeemed for Naomi what she had lost.

It’s easy to see why the Bible calls Jesus our redeemer and why his death on the cross is described as redemption. Naomi and Ruth were too poor to redeem themselves. And so are you.

You and I need a redeemer more than we need anything else. You need a redeemer to buy back everything you’ve lost, everything you’ve given up, everything the devil and this world have stolen from you. You need a redeemer to restore your righteousness and your holiness, to give back to you your honor and your good name and your place in the community of God’s people. You need a redeemer to fix what’s broken in your life and to make right everything that’s gone wrong. And Jesus Christ is the only one who can do it!

If anyone is in Christ: New Creation! The old has gone! The new has come! God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Jesus has become for us our righteousness, holiness, and redemption!

And like Boaz, Jesus had to be related to us to redeem us.

Jesus left his home in glory; he gave up his authority and power and rights, he came to this earth and made himself nothing, he became a servant, he took on our humanity, our flesh and blood; he took on all our weaknesses and pains and sufferings, he took on all the risk and responsibility, and he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross. He did all of that to redeem every part of you because he thinks you’re worth it. The Bible says you were redeemed at a price. Jesus paid that price with his own precious blood to buy you back, to put his name on you, to bring you into the eternal family of God forever.



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