Old Faithful

This past weekend was one of the most fulfilling weekends I’ve had in a very long time. They were full of wonderful friends, fantastic adventures, new people, warm conversation, and joyous hope for the future. Saturday morning I attended a beautiful baby shower for my dear friend Santana and her husband. After I left the shower, I was blushing with excitement. It was a beautiful afternoon with perfect, sunny weather. I wanted to be romanced, so I turned to the One who loves me most. I decided to see a movie and spend time driving around talking to Jesus. I ended up driving to a department store and meandered inside for a bit.

I’m a simple girl, but for some reason I found myself drawn to the jewelry section. This is usually unlike me. However, I began to glance at the rings and admire their shining magnificence. As my eyes scanned the selection, a certain beauty commanded my attention. I reached for it and read the inscription around the silver band. Believe. I slipped the ring onto my thumb and it was a perfect fit.

ring

Tears sprang to my eyes as I admired the ring on my finger. I felt the spirit of God amplifying lessons and examples of his faithfulness in my life over the course of the last two months. He has been steady, loving and correcting me unconditionally. As memories of his faithfulness swirled through my mind, I felt a strong impression that he wanted me to use this ring as a reminder. My life has been on a calculated ascent ever since I began to dare to believe all that God says about me and all that he says I am. That’s how salvation begins for us all, when we decide (as a response to God’s awakening, not our own doing) to believe he is true and good. Yet, I knew that this thing was to be a reminder for me everyday to consciously decide to believe God on a consistent basis.

  • I believe Jesus is enough for today

I am fully persuaded that all that I need in life is in and flows from my precious Jesus. There is no real fulfillment outside of having a personal relationship with a God who brought me from death to life. There is no room for discontent in my life because Jesus is the source of all of my satisfaction. Does this mean that we don’t need money, friends or family? No! This simply means that we should understand all we need–all things good–comes from him. Therefore, he is my Superior Pleasure above all other things. As long as Jesus is on the throne, we shall never face a day that isn’t full of hope in him.

  • I believe God is for my good

Every good thing comes from God and God does not withhold good things from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11). Not only do I believe that God does good things, but that he wants good things for me more than I want them for myself! Consequently, I can rest and trust his timing, his placement, and even his delay because I know he will come through for me.

  • I believe I am loved and accepted

I am not a mistake. God decided (it was in his perfect, detailed plan!) to create a woman who looks like me, smiles like me, laughs like me, thinks like me, loves like me. I am a purposeful, hand-stitched creation that God yearned to see in the world so that I could bring him glory and impact people for his kingdom. I am accepted and loved by God. It doesn’t matter who else has beautiful hair, a nice smile, or even who can write better than me. This world has space and a need for my particular personality, my particular words, my particular influence. Be grateful for the person God made you to be because it doesn’t matter how many people you think look, work, learn, or perform better than you do… God has a sphere of people and lives that only you can touch. You are special. You are loved. You are important. You are needed. You make a difference.

Blinking back tears, I took the ring to the register and paid the cashier. I find myself staring at it often and remembering that I do believe God in all these areas of my life and more. It’s not always been easy, but it’s worthwhile to trust a God who cannot fail.

Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky. Psalm 85:10-11, ESV

I love how the people of God declare that love and faithfulness are friends and righteousness and peace are intimate. It’s a beautiful picture of the goodness of God and the wonderful life he offers us. When I read this passage, my heart swelled. This depiction of faithfulness flooding from the ground like a geyser and righteousness shining down from the heavens creates an image of the earth being an incubator of the goodness of God.

Photo Credit: Andreas Tille, Creative Commons

With such a beautiful, biblical description of God’s faithfulness erupting from the ground, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the infamous geyser in Yellowstone Park is named Old Faithful. Nature in all its magnificence only scratches at the surface of the awe-inspiring glory of God.  Everywhere our feet trod is covered in faithfulness; everywhere the sun beams light and heat radiates in righteousness. What a picturesque truth! The faithfulness of God is inescapable. It’s who he is and it’s all around us.

Keep Thy Heart

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23, KJV

I love the Word of God! I love that the words are God-breathed and that they have life. When I turn the pages, Life is speaking back to me, beckoning me to encounter its truths. I read sundry versions of the Bible, my favorites being the Amplified and English Standard Version translations. However, there are times when I must return to my roots and dig into my dependable King James Version.

I was reading some interesting tweets from my mentee,  Nathalie, about how she plans to guard her heart. I was inspired and thought that I should share my thoughts on what I think it means to guard your heart. Guarding our hearts is a concept and phrase that is traditionally overused yet misunderstood. I whipped out my handy-dandy Dictionary for a better understanding, and I discovered two important facets.

1. Keep Thy Heart

I find it intriguing that the KJV says to keep—not guard—your heart. Now, in order to keep something, you have to have first received it into your possession. Whatever is “kept” is something that was given to you. If we look in the verses before Proverbs 4:20-22, it reads:

My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.

We can see that there are things within our heart that should be kept, not just our emotional feelings alone. God wants us to keep His words hidden in our heart. Our hearts serve as the womb of the Word; just as an expectant mother would protect her stomach from external assault or carefully choose what food to consume, so must we be mindful of the Word we are carrying in our spiritual wombs.

2. Guard Your Emotions

Imagine you are a prison guard and you are responsible for the night watch to guard a detained prisoner in his cell. He is guilty of the most heinous crimes that could ever be committed. He has stolen, murdered, abused, cheated, raped, kidnapped, and robbed so many innocent people. The trail of broken people left in his past appears to be endless; he is greatly feared. You are the sole prison guard in charge of keeping this man detained, and ensuring he doesn’t attempt to escape under your nose. You know the world is safer while he is off the streets, so you don’t dare take your eyes off of him for a second. If he were to escape, the possibilities of evil are infinite.

That man represents the fickle emotions in our hearts—evil and deceiving. The prison guard is our spirit man. Our spirit should be diligent, as the Bible says, in holding our hearts (emotions) in custody because if the evil tendencies of the heart escapes, then there are no limits to the horrors that could occur. Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV) says,

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Guarding our hearts has a lot to do with guarding our emotions under a watchful eye. The same intensity and seriousness we would approach guarding a serial killer is the the same way we should keep our deceitful emotions away. If we allow our emotions to run rampant in our relationships, friendships, or businesses, we would wreak havoc that could cause mass destruction. Does this mean we should never allow our emotions to be displayed? Not so! God created our emotions.  However, we should be intentional about allowing the Word (keep thy heart) to wash and cleanse our emotions until our heart is transformed to look like Jesus.

My prayer is that we will receive the Word, keep the Word, and use it to combat our ungodly emotional tendencies. May our deepest desires please Him. May He wreck us and make our hearts brand new. May He transform us and give us hearts like His. May Holy Spirit control my emotions in every aspect. May our hearts your home, Jesus.

Good Thing Training: Lessons from Ruth Part I

The story of Ruth is a familiar tale about loyalty, honor, romance, and God’s provision. Most Christian women are probably more interested in Ruth’s husband, Boaz, than the heroine herself, but Ruth is a woman whose life we should all venture to study. Her story has been retold and revered for sundry years in countless books and sermons about womanhood and singleness. Ruth was mentioned while I was conversing with another sister in the faith about marriage. Since then I was inspired to study Ruth and discover lessons we can glean from her life as we continue to embark on this Good Thing Training.

 Class is in Session!

Setting the Stage

In the beginning of the first chapter, a devastating famine has struck Bethlehem.  In order to ensure his family’s survival, a man named Elimelech leads his wife, Naomi, and two sons to the land of Moab. Elimelech eventually died, leaving behind his wife and children. His sons, Mahlon and Kilion, took for themselves two countrywomen as wives, Ruth and Orpah. Ten years later, Mahlon and Kilion both died, making Ruth and Orpah childless widows. Naomi, grieving the deaths of her husband and sons, decides to return to Bethlehem after receiving word that God had replenished the land with food. Her daughters-in-law offer to accompany Naomi on her journey, but Naomi insists they stay behind where they can remarry. Naomi attempted to discourage the young women from joining her in Bethlehem, which leads me to our first lesson from Ruth.

Brittany on Why She Admires Ruth

“…her selflessness because she had the opportunity to leave after her husband died. She could’ve gone back to the land of her people, remarrying could have been her primary concern. She wasn’t about that.”
  • Ruth chose singleness

And they lifted up their voices and cried again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her. Ruth 1:14, LEB

Naomi was insistent upon the young women remaining in Moab because she knew that their chances of remarrying were more likely in the land of their fathers. At that time, women who were widows were often victims of abuse and neglect. It wasn’t unlikely for a widow to be considered insignificant or an unworthy cause in the community. It was honorable for a woman to be married and Naomi was aware of the life that widowhood would offer Orpah and Ruth. She knew that the covenant of marriage would cover and protect them.

Ruth was willing to forsake the opportunity for love and remarriage. This is a powerful truth because there was nothing glamorous about widowhood. Ruth didn’t have any children, she was probably still very young which would have made her an eligible choice for marriage. Yet her loyalty to Naomi compelled her to sojourn to Bethlehem, a foreign land where the possibility for remarriage was neither guaranteed nor promised.

There are often times in our lives as women when we would rather have love than anything else. We value romance and endearing sentiments that make us feel treasured and adored. It’s important to know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with desiring love, romance, and marriage. God is love, His heart exhales romance into our spirits, and He created marriage.
However, the profundity lies in Ruth’s heart toward singleness: she would rather practice faithfulness in the life of her dead husband’s mother than to indulge her own desire to be a wife. What a sacrifice! Consider how it must bless God’s heart when we willingly commit to follow Him even when there is no guarantee that He will grant us every desire of our heart. Ruth didn’t follow Naomi out of obligation, but out of love and loyalty. In the same manner, we should have that intense commitment for God. Our hearts should be settled on following after Jesus in such a way that every other desire pales in the light of His glory.

Brittany on Contentment in Singleness

 “Being content with one’s singleness is a process that takes work and intentionality.  It’s not something that one should expect to happen overnight, especially if just exiting a meaningful relationship. But even in a world obsessed with love and relationships,  it is completely attainable. For most people, it will require a complete paradigm shift as well as a complete surrender to Christ. The paradigm shift is needed because even in Christian circles, contentment in singleness is often thought of as a cover-up by someone who secretly hates singleness. [A paradigm shift requires] …a complete surrender to Christ because He is the one who changes us and gives us complete joy in Him and Him alone. When Christ becomes our Superior Pleasure, we find out that as long as we have a fulfilling, personal relationship with Him, contentment in singleness and in life in general, comes as a result.”
  • Ruth was willing to forsake lesser gods to follow Almighty God

And she [Naomi] said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” Ruth 1:15-16, ESV

It is important to remember that Ruth was a Moabite. Moab was the son conceived by Lot and one of Lot’s daughters (see Genesis 19:30-38). The Moabites and the children of Israel were not allies or friends. A commentary I read noted that it wasn’t an abomination for Israelites to marry Moabites, but the Moabites were restricted from the assembly of God (see Deuteronomy 23:3-6). These two groups were commonly in conflict with one another throughout Biblical history. The Moabites served pagan gods, one being Chemosh. In Ruth’s decision to follow after Naomi’s God she had to leave every other god in the dust. Ruth not only abandoned her family and her homeland, but every ounce of familiarity she had ever known. Ruth pointedly tells Naomi that she would adopt her God as her own, denying her allegiance to any other god or ideology. We should learn this lesson: When we decide to follow God, we must leave every other contrary idol, lifestyle, desire, and way of thinking behind. Ruth didn’t know the God of Naomi, but in faith she willingly followed Naomi to an unfamiliar place in hopes of encountering an all-powerful God. Let us be encouraged by Ruth’s example and let go of any old memories, relationships, or behavior that will not benefit us in the next season of our lives. It takes a desire for holiness to pursue God, but it takes great faith to leave lesser gods behind.

  • Ruth was unwavering

Naomi urged the girls to go back to Moab twice, after which Orpah decided to return. Ruth, on the other hand, remained at Naomi’s side. It takes a determined person to say no to someone they love and respect. Naomi was a mother figure to Ruth, yet Ruth was unrelenting in her decision to stay. Usually, if a respected mentor advises against something we have decided to do, we change our minds about our decision. Ruth was fully persuaded that she would join Naomi in Bethlehem and did not bat an eye underneath Naomi’s admonitions. Neither was Ruth shaken when Orpah turned back, and once again Naomi gave Ruth permission to leave, but Ruth held steady. She didn’t alter her position because her friend changed her mind.

Brittany on Naomi’s Insistence on Remarriage

“When people see qualities in you, they realize you would be a good fit for someone else. They want you to be a blessing for someone else. Naomi realized that [Ruth and Orpah] had more to give, [that] their time [for love] was not up.”

We should never base our willingness to obey on our friend’s approval or company. Following hard after God may mean that you have to leave some friends behind. When you both encounter an opportunity to be obedient, and your friend turns back, keep pressing! Don’t relent! Obedience is always worth the journey. Be faithful and obey the Lord’s call for you to go deeper in your relationship with Him. Ruth simply obeyed and followed God out of devotion to Naomi, but she had no idea that Boaz was on the other side of her obedience. 

  • Ruth’s obedience orchestrated opportunity

So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, returning from the countryside of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the harvest of barley. Ruth 1:22, LEB

Sometimes God beckons us to tread on unknown terrain in order to lead us to a place of unmerited favor. Naomi and Ruth arrived to Bethlehem in time to receive the harvest–the good of the land. Ruth’s obedience and willingness to follow God positioned her to walk into a season of reaping and harvesting. How could Ruth partake of the harvest without first sowing? She wasn’t a citizen of Bethlehem, and she wasn’t a child of Israel; the fruit of the harvest was not hers to possess. Yet, she arrived in time to receive the good of the land. Ruth was planting seeds on the journey along the way–seeds of obedience and faithfulness. Had Ruth turned back, she would have missed the harvest. Had she allowed Naomi to discourage her or Orpah to influence her, she would have missed the harvest. Naomi meant well, but it’s better to follow God’s direction rather than man’s suggestion. Society sometimes says that marriage is the only way to gain significance, and that it is better than being single. Naomi originally discouraged Ruth’s choice of intentional singleness, but Ruth knew that following God would be more beneficial than marrying a Moabite who serves pagan gods. When Ruth chooses to follow the authentic God, He leads her a fruitful place, a new home, and to Boaz. Ruth had no way of knowing that with each step away from Moab, she was aligning herself to the path that would lead her to her future husband… and the God who had captured her heart.

Stay tuned for Lessons from Ruth Part II as we delve into the second chapter of Ruth together.

Question: Which lesson from this post would you consider to be the most difficult? Why? 

Class Dismissed!

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Special thanks to Miss Brittany Boulware for her contributions to this blog post. Please visit her blog: The Beautiful Ashes, and follow her on Twitter: @Beautiful_Ashes. 

 

Read Lessons from Ruth II NOW!