My mind is just blown away! I just got done updating our class roster and we have 59 women signed up for our Summer Bible Study! Can you believe it? For those of you who wanted to make it this last Thursday, but couldn't get there, I'm going to be posting our devotional discussions and questions here for you to review. This will be a great way for you to stay in touch with our study.
This Summer we have chosen to do Kelly Minter's 'Ruth - Love, loss & legacy'. I had the opportunity to do this study last Summer along with Beth Moore's online group and I can't tell you how awesome it is. You really just have to experience it for yourself. As I told our gals in class, the homework is not overbearing, so don't give up! Stick with it. Your heart and soul will be richly blessed for staying at it.
There are two things I always like to do when I start a new study. One is I like to regain perspective on why I study the Bible. The other thing I like to do is set the landscape for what was going on historically during the time I’m studying. Context is very important when we’re studying God’s word. So let's kick this study off with a little history lesson and a reset on our frame of reference for who God is …THEN we’re going to talk about why you and I are doing this study.
Some of you may be new to the whole church thing. Some of you may have been in the church your entire life…either way…we have a tendency to lose perspective on how big God is and sometimes, we lose perspective of how close He is. I think in the time of the Judges, the Israelites had a direct connection with him, yet they didn’t feel Him close. Ruth, whose story takes place during the time of the judges, didn’t even know Him, yet pursued Him…I have an inkling…she felt His closeness. It's hard to find relation between a very big God, but a very close God. In Genesis, at the very beginning we read: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. I read these words and each time I’m overwhelmed at just how big and indescribable God is. I walk outside and I look at the vast sky and I think…’Man, God is HUGE…and He created all of this” it’s easy to get lost in the vastness of God. Then if you jump over to Isaiah 42 God says “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.” This is a foretelling of the coming of Christ..bear with me...I promise I have a point. In Acts 1, Jesus has been crucified and he is getting ready to be taken up to heaven and he says to his disciples: "For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” I want to tell you I do a lot of word study, and in my research what I have found is… The Holy Spirit…is the Holy Spirit. There is no substitute or different Spirit…it just is what it is. So when you boil this down, this big great God…that formed the Heavens…His spirit hovered over the waters…then he sends His son, full of His Spirit to redeem us, is there when the Son of God hangs on the cross, THEN when you would think that having received salvation and redemption is good enough…He infuses all who ask with His Spirit. So I’m not sure if you get that…but let me put it this way…The Holy Spirit…the one that hovered over the waters at the beginning of time…the same Spirit that was with Christ....lives in you…. Take a moment and let that sink it. I don’t know any other way to express the greatness of God and yet the personalization of Him all in one fail swoop. Why am I writing about this? Because sometimes we do Bible study to do Bible study...don't get me wrong...there is absolutely nothing criminal about that...but we do need to respect the greatness of God. I ALSO want you to be totally pumped that you are walking around this world with the Spirit of God living in you! I just think that is SO cool! So while you're studying, ask the Spirit to guide you in your reading. Ask Him to deepen your understanding. I can't wait to hear or read what is being revealed to you.
Now we’re going to jump off that and have a history lesson…I promise it will be quick. So sometime between the beginning of time and right here today at Waterstone church…before His people we’re infused with the Spirit…there was the time of the Judges.
The time of the judges, as you will find from reading that book, was a time when the tribes of Israel were disjointed and subject to all sorts of trauma as a result of their unfaithfulness. Frankly…Judges is a really hard read. Israel was constantly turning their back on God, prostituting themselves to idols and asking God to bail them out. He’d raise up a judge, the judge would direct them, the judge would die and then the cycle would start all over. The book of Ruth is like a lighthouse in the midst of a raging storm. Ruth is not only a story about a woman who's lost everything and find her way to her new life, it is a story of love and compassion. It is a beautiful example of God's compassion and adoration for us.
In examining this study and in reading Ruth over and over in preparation for this time together a few things have come to mind. I’m not sure why you’re taking this study.
Knowing that we’re all tied together…it doesn’t surprise me that we’re drawn together to come study about Him. But there is always a purpose for those who are on His path. So while we get ready to study Ruth I want you to think about a few things. Ruth is a story of moving forward. In the process of preparing it dawned on me that our story starts out with Naomi, she has no place to go so she’s going back…home...bitter. Ruth, lost and insecure…has no place to go…so she’s going forward, hopeful
The stages I’ve come up with are boiled down to 3
1. Sometimes you have examine the past in order to move forward
a. Are you in a place where you have to face the past and heal from it?
2. Sometimes you have to finish the present in order to move forward
a. Sometimes, God continues to plant your right back at ground zero, when you keep trying to move forward…he just wants you to finish before you can move forward. It’s like walking in knee deep snow or trying to run in your dream…you keep trying to move forward and you’re exhausted by God saying nope…go back.
b. In their book God will Make a Way, psychologists Henry Cloud and John Townsend describe a concept called “finishing”. According to Drs. Cloud and Townsend, we all have relationships, experiences and lessons in life that are sometimes painful, difficult and for whatever reason, hard to process. As a result, we walk around with certain feelings, patterns and conflict that do not relate to the present but to people and events from previous time. Because those things are not “finished”, they are in the way of present situations, present relationships, or present goals. What do you need to finish?
3. Sometimes you have to move forward, because the storm moves you forward…and you have no choice
a. From the book ‘Embrace Your Second Calling’ by Dale Hanson Bourke – The book of Ruth tells us that Naomi “went forth out of the place where she was” (Ruth 1:7). There is something definite about that phrase. Naomi was leaving Moab behind. The biblical record says nothing about her packing up her household or giving away her belongings or agonizing over the memories built in this place. She just got up and left it all behind. I almost see an urgency in her move. Like she was propelled in that direction, unwillingly, but nonetheless...going home.
b. I think about the people in that have lost everything from the devastation of a tornado, or hurricane, or the person that wakes up on a seemingly normal day and finds out she’s got cancer. Or as in our story, we walked into a seemingly normal dr appointment to find out what the gender of our baby would be, to find out it was a boy…and he wasn’t going to live. Or it could be a simple as figuring out your child is growing up whether you like it our not. My daughter hurt herself the other day. I, being mommy, said "do you want me to kiss it" she looked at me as if I'd lost my ever lovin' mind. She is moving forward...and whether I like it or not...I'm going wit
In all of these examples…somewhere we HAVE to move forward. I just wonder where you are at in your forward process. There’s a reason we’re all here for this study…some of us it’s to connect with new relationships, some of us feel drawn to do something more…in any case…keep in mind that eventually He wants to move us on confident that what he is calling us to will be so much more than anything He is calling us from.
So write me and tell me, what is your goal for this study? Where do you see yourself in the 'moving forward process' and tell me a little bit about yourself.
I'm praying for you and I can't wait to see where God takes all of us on this journey together of Love, Loss and Legacy.