My Kinsman Redeemer

In Beth Moore’s “Praying God’s Word” she has a chapter on feeling ‘unloved’.  Within that chapter are so many verses that assure God’s faithful love to us:  his everlasting, never ending love.  I read and pray these verses whenever I feel tempted to throw a pity party for myself.  Yet out of all the verses, there is one that Beth adapted and that I wrote out because it holds so much meaning for me.  Perhaps it will for you too. 

Before I write it here for you, I want to give a little background for it. Many of you know the story of Ruth — there’s a whole book about her in the Bible.  Ruth was a Moabite who married into an Israelite family.  Not long after she married her husband, he and his brother died, as well as his father.  This left Ruth, her sister-in-law Orpah, and her mother-in-law Naomi alone.  Naomi, bitter and unhappy, decided to return to her homeland, but bid her daughters-in-law to go back to their families.  Orpah did, but Ruth replied:

“Do not urge me to leave you or to turn away from you, for 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 will I be buried.  May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death separates me from you.”  (Ruth 1:16-17)

Naomi consented to Ruth’s determined devotion, and the two women travelled back to Israel –specifically, the town of Bethlehem.  There Ruth began to glean in the fields for grain.  One particular field belonged to Boaz, a wealthy man who lived in the area.  When he saw Ruth, he asked who she was, and finding that she was Naomi’s relation he made sure she received more grain than anyone else.  When Ruth brought the grain home to Naomi, Naomi asked, “Where did you glean today?  Where did you work?  Blessed be the man who took notice of you!” (Ruth 2:19).  Upon hearing that the man was Boaz, Naomi said:  “The Lord bless him!  He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.”  She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers.” (Ruth 2:20)

In that day, the closest male relative of a widow had the duty to marry her so she could be supported.  Boaz was one of those kinsman-redeemers.  As a kinsman, he had the first right to the bride, to redeem her from her suffering and shame.  Boaz, however, was doing more than his duty.  He loved Ruth. 

The rest of the story tells the beautiful romance that Boaz and Ruth had.  Next to Jesus, Boaz is my favorite character in the Bible.  He is truly the ‘knight in shining armor’ that we hear so much about!  Yet the character of Boaz is only a symbol of one so much greater, with so much more love.  One who is our Kinsman Redeemer.

Jesus Christ is our Kinsman in that he was man and God.  He was our biological equal, but our spiritual superior.  As Kinsman, he has the right to the Bride above all other suitors.  He has redeemed us from our suffering and shame as widows of sin, and taken us as his own.  He is our hero, our knight — our Boaz.  His love is everlasting, his redemption is complete, and his hope is in us as His bride.

I wrote down that quote from Beth Moore on a card, and have it on my bedside table to remind me of the privilege of having such a redeemer as Him.  Every morning that is what I wake to, and every night I see it when I fall asleep

Jesus Christ, my Kinsman Redeemer and Bridegroom… 

Your banner over me is love.

 

Advertisements

The Lonely Road

Did you know you aren’t complete unless you have a man on your arm?  It’s true.  The internet says so.  And so do the movies, and the books, and the television, and old Aunt Bertha.  You can’t be anybody unless you’ve got a guy to drag to every social event, preferably a different one every time.  I mean, gosh!  If you don’t, what’s wrong with you?  Are you afraid of guys?  That has to be it.  Listen, I will help you.  Let’s make this a little lower and this a little higher, and we’ll have you sporting a regular Clark Gable like a Rolex watch.  You’ll see — I’ll help you…

That’s about how it goes!  While most of that remains unsaid, I usually get s standard reaction to my admission of not ‘having a boyfriend yet’:  “What? What’s wrong with you? Er, I mean, what’s wrong with them?”  This isn’t a slam against well-meaning questioners.  They have right to ask.  But they always try to cover up their astonishment at the absurdity by blaming it on the guys around here.  “Hmph, well they don’t know good when they see it… er, what’s wrong with the fellas around here?  Are there any?  Hmph, probably the atmosphere or something, not conducive to matchmaking… so do you get out much?” 

Yes, it is pretty funny. That’s how you have to view it, because if you take those things seriously you will never be content.  The world around us, as I am sure you have realized, has made ‘love’ (which it isn’t) the highest goal.  If you don’t have a guy you just aren’t a whole person!  Single women are seen as constantly ‘in between’ relationships.  There is no neutral ground.  You’re either with a guy, breaking up with a guy, or looking for a guy. 

As we have discussed before, waiting doesn’t mean you’re doing nothing.  And it doesn’t mean you’re afraid of guys.  And it DOESN’T mean marriage is the utopia we are waiting for.  I am still trying to put into words exactly what I am doing now, because it is not waiting.  I waited in high school.  Now I am out.  I would have to say that right now, I am neither waiting for a relationship nor seeking one.  Yes, I hope for one.  But my life does not revolve around my relational status, and I am not going to define my life in terms of that hope. 

That being said, do I get lonely?  Sometimes.  Not lonely for friends, and not for family, because I have the best of both.  But there are definitely times when I wish there was someone else, someone who loved me in a different way.  That’s a real desire, a perfectly valid one — because if it weren’t, people would never get married.  They’d live with a dog for the rest of their lives. 

I am not alone in my loneliness, however.  I am not alone in the sense that there are thousands of other girls who are feeling the exact same way.  What do you do with these feelings?  When it seems like you have been hoping for years, and frustration or despair set in, where do you put them?  I’ll tell you this much: don’t invite them to tea.  They’re the kind of visitors that assume the guest bedroom was built for them, and they quickly commondeer it… and never leave.  It’s your job, as the hostess of your heart, to pitch them out the door!

If your heart (and mine) is in the right place, you will have the love of the most wonderful man who ever lived.  Too often I have thought in the past, “Of course I love Him… but I can’t see or feel Him.  He isn’t enough…”  But to you girls, I can now tell you that HE IS.  He is enough. 

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you may go.”  Josh. 1:9

“For the Lord your God is a merciful God.  He will not leave you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers that He swore to them.” Deut. 4:31

He is enough to dispel your loneliness, because He is always with you.  Because of that, we have no valid reason to be lonely.  Does that mean those feelings will no longer come?  Of course not.  But when they do come, know to “cast your cares upon the Lord, for he will sustain you”.  He is Almighty God, and He is yours to love.  So love Him!  His is a relationship that requires no waiting.  He is here now.  And you are His bride.

He Is Always With Me

Conferences are one of my favorite things in the world to attend.  The picture here was taken when I was at the Winsome Women conference on Mackinac Island this past spring.  It was my fourth time and my friend’s first.  As I was flipping through some of my sermon notes, I noticed I had the notes I had taken at the conference and thought I would share a few with you.

Perhaps you have heard of the writer and speaker Liz Curtis Higgs.  She wrote the “Bad Girls of the BIble” series, as well as a newer book called “Embrace Grace”.  Single until late in her thirties, she truly understands how to make the most of singleness and marriage.  It is her message I am going to share with you because it truly touched my heart, and I hope it touches yours.

He Is Always With Me                          May 15, 2008

“…”Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.” Jn. 8:4

Liz shared the story of this woman with us… “The woman caught in adultery was worthy of condemnation, but Jesus, the one who could have cast the first stone, chose to overlook and forgive her sin…”  Romans 5:8 says, “…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

There is a difference between Conviction and Condemnation:

Conviction — draws you near God;  Condemnation — pushes you away

For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  John 3:17

We are actually in a more amazing time now than 2000 years ago with Jesus, because each believer has the Holy Spirit residing inside her.  The Good News is:  God is always with you.  The Bad News is:  God is always with you! He is there in temptation, available for strength — and He will convict you when you fail.  Yet you have no reason to fail, for He is right beside you! No matter who you are, His is a “one size fits all” kind of love. 

What about singleness?  You are married to your Maker — which sets you free from a need to be completed by a man.  What does your Husband do?  He rules the universe!  We are loved and cherished by Him — He doesn’t push us to love Him, but He doesn’t back off either.  When you are tempted to self-pity, and Satan throws stones of doubt at you, remember:

A man has already died for you.

God does not condemn you, but He will convict you.  Just as He does not condemn you, so you should not condemn others.  You have no need to fear nor feel alone, because He is always with you.  He IS your strength and He will guide you through all your days.  Trust Him.

In Good Soil

The hill was steep.  Very steep.  Completely washed out by years of rain, it looked nearly impassable.  But that didn’t stop Dad from gunning his truck –with trailer in tow– up the nearly vertical slope.  We were all grasping for handles and footholds in the truck as it careened to the top, the trailer screeching and banging behind us.  Several times a summer it’s time to load the trailer up with hay for the horses, and yesterday was the first of the year.  It is actually one of my favorite jobs we have to do — the fields are yellow and green, the sky is a brilliant blue, and from the endless stretch of pasture you can see the bay glimmering in the sun miles away.  It can be hard work, but as we ride up the field on a stack of bales with the breeze in our faces and the sun on our backs, there is nothing more wonderful in the world.

After finishing the load, we drove a little ways up the road to some property my Grandpa owns, since he wanted to take a look at it.  The land is nothing but a stretch of waving, waist high timothy hay — golden and green.  As I lay in the grass looking up at the sky, with the wind whipping through, I could have spent the rest of my life there.  I never wanted to leave.  For really, no matter how fun the town is, and the bustle of a social life, my heart lies out in the fields and meadows where all is silent, and all is peace.

“A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.  Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched.  And since they had no root, they withered away.  Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.  Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.  He who has ears, let him hear.”  (Matt. 13:3-9)

The seeds God sows are all the same — they are the seeds of God’s Word.  It was not the seeds’ fault that they did not grow, but the soil in which they fell.  To blame the seed for it’s inability to bear fruit, when the soil was unhealthy and unprepared, would be a false accusation.  There are four kinds of soil illustrated here by Jesus:

First, the soil by the path.  This ground was beaten by many feet, and was untilled and unyielding.  It would not, and could not any longer, accept the seeds because it was hardened.  Because it did not allow the seeds to grow, they were snatched away by the birds — the Enemy.  When someone hears the word and continues in her way, without heeding it, the Enemy will destroy what was sown in her heart.  God may continue to call to her, but if the soil of her heart refuses to accept his planting, nothing will grow.

Second, the soil filled with rocks.  I know about rocks.  Our land is veritable rock farm.  We can grow rocks!  The problem with rocky land is that the plants must push their roots around the stones in order to be stable.  When the soil is very rocky, the plants cannot gain a deep root system, annd when the sun comes out, they have no reservoir to reach within the ground. They are shallow, and consequently, they die. 

Third, the soil shared with thorns.  If you read over the parable again, you will notice that when the good seed was sown, there were already thorns growing as well.  When the good seed took root, the thorns should have been removed.  For those who love the world too much to remove the evidences of it in their life, these “thorns” will choke out their trust in God.  They will never be fruitful.

Lastly, the good soil; this is the one who hears the word and understands it (Matt. 13:23).   This soil was prepared to accept the seed of God’s Word.  It had been fertilized, tilled, and tended.  It was receptive to the work of God, and because it was ready to be planted, the seeds were free to grow.  Those whose hearts are willing in this way will “bear fruit and yield, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, in another thirty.” 

Our hearts need to be that good soil always, not only when we first hear the gospel message.  The journey with God calls for a continual willingness to receive His word, His way and His teaching.  We may not always want to accept it, but we must keep in mind that the seed He is planting will grow into something He has envisioned for us — no matter how small the seed may seem. 

“…You may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Is. 61:3)

My Portion Forever

Has anything ever felt like a “wearisome task” to you?  There are plenty of things I could think of.  They range from actual tasks to character issues, to even the ever-present “wait” so many girls are in.  It can be very wearisome — trusting God.  Sometimes you can feel like you’ve waited for an answer long enough, or that God is holding out on you.  I felt like that in deciding on a college. Why didn’t God answer?  I had deadlines to meet!  But God doesn’t work with deadlines.

“But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” (Ps. 73:16-17)

In the end, everything worked out perfectly.  I continued to pray “in the sanctuary of God”, and within a day of the deadline, everything was made clear.  Decisions were finalized.  Plans were laid out.  All because we waited on the Lord.

“Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel and afterward you will receive me to glory.  Whom have I in heaven but you?  There is nothing on earth that I desire beside you.” (v. 23-25)

Uh-oh.  There is nothing on earth I desire beside you.  Is that true?  I have a hard time saying it.  I have no one in heaven but Him; but couldn’t I maybe have someone down here, too?  Perhaps in time.  But for now, He wants to be everything to me — for if He is not, my focus will be on myself and my own desires, and not on His will. 

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (v. 26)

What a promise.  Even if I fail, He is the strength of my heart, and my promised portion for all of my life.  A ‘portion’ is like a ration — a ration of food.  Food satisfies the hungry.

“Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” (Ps. 90:14)

“But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.” (v. 28)

It is indeed good for me to be near God.  When I am not, my flesh and heart DO fail.  But when I am near him, He is my refuge and my strength.

Nearer, my God to Thee; nearer to Thee; Even though it be a Cross that bringeth me.  Ever my song shall be “Nearer, my God to Thee!”; Nearer, my God, to Thee; Nearer, to Thee….

Psalm 40

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.”  Ps. 40:1

This is one verse that I want read on my wedding day.  It is a verse that not only holds a promise, but a fulfillment; not only holds hope for the future, but comfort for today.  Someday I will be able to say that I “waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry”… but I can say that even now.  I am waiting patiently right now — and right now, my God inclines to me.  He always has an open ear.  Sometimes “waiting” rings of twiddling thumbs and long lonely years ahead.  But it doesn’t have to be that way…

“He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.” (vs. 2)

I can definitely say that sometimes “waiting” sounds as appealing as a miry bog, and it feels like it too.  Dragging you down, holding you back — keeping you from what you long for so much.  But God doesn’t leave us there — he draws us up and out.  He sets our feet upon the Rock of Jesus Christ, and only then are our steps secure.  Why are they secure?  Because in Christ we are guided on our way.  On our own, we fall back into the bog.

“He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.” (vs.3)

Have you ever tried to force joy in trial?  I have.  I willed myself to be joyful.  I walked around the house saying, “Be joyful!  Be nice!  Look happy!”  You can imagine the effectiveness of such a solution.  No, David says — “He put a new song in my mouth”.  He put it there.  Only through Christ can we have the joy in trial — in waiting.  He puts it in us.  It is not a part of us that can be willed into existence.  It overflows through Him.

“Blessed is the woman who makes the Lord her trust, who does not go after the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!” (vs. 4)

I know what it is to be tempted to go after the proud; to follow those who are believing a lie.  But we must choose to trust God, and then we will be blessed.  Not only trust God; but make the Lord your trust.  He is the extent, the essence, the whole of our trust.  He is everything.

“I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” (vs. 8)

We want to obey Him when we love Him.  When His law is within our hearts it is in our core, it means everything to us.  We follow it because He is leading us and we have chosen the right way.  Those who love God’s Word will follow God’s Will, and it will be evident in their life.

“But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the Lord!”  As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me.  You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God.” (vs. 16-17)

May all who seek Him rejoice and be glad in Him.  I am poor and needy, but the God of the universe, Creator of all, Lord of Lords and King of Kings, takes thought for me.