ONE ANGEL,TWO SIMILAR MESSAGES, TWO OPPOSITE RESPONSES

P1080033The book of Luke opens with the angel Gabriel appearing to Zacharias, an elderly priest, and to a young girl, possibly in her early teens, named Mary. In both instances he tells of the coming of a baby, one unexpected, the other looked for through several centuries. Both recipients were astonished at the angel’s appearance. Both asked a question. But how different were the motives of these questions and how different the angel’s response.

Zacharias had been chosen by lot to offer incense in the temple. As he was doing this, Gabriel comes to him. He tells him that his wife, Elisabeth, is going to have a son in her old age. He gives details about this child. How does Zacharias respond? He is afraid.

His question: How will I know for certain? He did not believe. He was filled with doubt. He wanted proof. I suppose you could say he got his proof, but not in the way he expected. He became deaf and mute until John was born.

On the other hand, when the angel comes to Mary, she responds in faith. Her question: How will this be since I am a virgin? She only wanted instruction as to what to expect. She believed Gabriel. The angel answered her question and told her all the details of how this miracle would take place.

Gabriel makes a third appearance–to Joseph, engaged to Mary. His first response when he heard of Mary’s pregnancy was to secretly divorce her to save her the public shame. But after Gabriel comes to him in a dream, he follows the instructions given to him and takes Mary as his wife.

One would expect the elder to have more faith than the younger. A priest should not doubt God where youth may not have lived long enough to gain that strength of faith. But here we find just the opposite.

We have no idea how these three people felt about the messages divinely brought to them. I’m sure if an angel suddenly appeared before us we would be afraid. If the message was something impossible to happen in the natural, we might doubt. But if the message was as great as that to Mary about the birth of the Christ-child, I think we might feel very humble and wonder how we could possibly carry out such an undertaking. Joseph must have wondered about taking a pregnant woman supposedly carrying the coming Messiah and how he could possible have a part in the fulfillment of this prophecy.

How often does the Lord send His messengers to us at unexpected times? How do we respond? Do we doubt, or receive by faith? Do we want proof, or do we want instruction as to the how-to?

These people were ordinary people, not kings or noblemen or famous or particularly gifted. But they were chosen by God for a specific purpose. He supplied them with everything they needed to carry out His will. We need not fear even the greatest task given by the Lord because He knows what He is doing. He always equips where He calls. And He is with us always to help us along the way.

With another year ending and a new one just ahead, let’s choose to respond like Mary and believe, receive and carry out God’s will for us on a day-to-day basis so that when those big things come along unexpectedly we will be ready to say a resounding “Yes!” to the Lord. And we will hear His “Well done, good and faithful servant” when we have finished the final task.

I pray God’s blessing on you. May you have a prosperous and healthy 2019.

Thank you for stopping by and reading my post. I appreciate all of you. And please take a moment to leave a comment in the box below before leaving. If you are not already following my blog, I would appreciate it if you would click on the “Follow” button at the top of this page to receive e-mail notifications of new posts. Have a wonderful day. And a very Happy New Year! God bless.

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THE FIRE OF DESIRE

My heart was hot within me, While I was musing the fire burned…1

Sunset 020The flames leaped high into the darkness, illuminated the surrounding night with an eerie glow. Smoke filled the air. The neighbors stood around watching, waiting. Sirens screamed in the distance, then grew piercingly loud as the fire trucks screeched to a sudden halt in front of the house. By then the garage was almost consumed by the fire. A charred shell was all that remained the following morning. Water lay in huge puddles in the yard and on the cement pad that once supported walls and roof. The smell of burnt wood and chemicals hovered on the morning air. What only the day before had been a well-built and useful structure had, in a few moments, been completely destroyed. That’s the power of fire.

Wood is piled high. The match has been struck. The kindling that smoldered at the bottom of the heap ignites into blaze. Before long, huge flames are reaching for the sky. Seated in a circle around the fire are several campers, outdoor enthusiasts taking advantage of one final weekend of fair weather before winter sets in. The blaze gives off a welcome heat. Hotdogs sizzle on long skewers. The tantalizing scent of toasted marshmallows hangs on the air. This fire is a comforting presence on a chilly fall evening. This, too, is the power of fire.

Fire: a rapid, persistent chemical reaction that releases heat and light; especially, the exothermic P1090608combination of a combustible substance with oxygen.2

Desire: to wish or long for; want; crave; passion.3

Passion: any powerful emotion or appetite such as love, joy, hatred, anger, or greed.4

Desire is a fire, an emotional reaction that releases energies for good or evil.

What is your all-consuming passion? Is it a fire that consumes you, or is it, like the bonfire, a controlled blaze that will result in life, that will bring you the desires of your heart? Is it a combustion between a holy passion and the Spirit of God? Or is it an unholy alliance of the appetite of the soul and Satan’s offering of worldly ambitions and rewards?

“I would do anything to get that job!” “I want that car more than anything else in the world!” “I don’t care who I have to walk over to get to the top, I am determined to get there!” Declarations of this sort are daily voiced by people in all walks of life, especially in the area of finance, materialism and business. Yes, desire is a fire, a mighty force for destruction if misplaced, or a tremendous power for good when in line with the Word of God. If you want things, position or power above God, then they have become your god. Though you may eventually get what you want, you will have sacrificed a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ in the getting, and possibly an eternity which could have been heavenly. But if your desire is for God to move in your life and you are willing to sacrifice all else, you will receive the power of the Holy Spirit along with everything you need to walk in the way of life the Lord has purposed for you.

King David knew the fire of desire. He lusted after another man’s wife. After committing P1090708adultery with her and getting her pregnant, he tried to force her husband to lie with her so that it would appear that the child was his. But Uriah was an honorable man and refused to go to his wife when his fellow soldiers were in the middle of a battle. David was desperate. How could he cover up his sin? He threw on more logs, and the fire burned brighter. He sent orders, through the unsuspecting Uriah, to Joab, the leader of Israel’s troops, to have Uriah placed at the battle front, where the most intense fighting was taking place. Murder cannot be covered up. God is not blind, and He does not let sin go unpunished. David eventually took Bathsheba as his wife, but the Lord did not allow the child of their adultery to live.5 Sin always brings consequences.

But David had a repentant heart and returned to his passion for God with his whole heart. The fire of God burned once again in David’s life. “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.”6 His desire was focused and rightly placed once again. I can almost feel the depth of David’s cry to God. His desire was a fire that has burned in the hearts of God’s people throughout history right into the present. Have you been ignited?

Thought for the day: Check your fire power to make sure it is controlled by the Holy Spirit so you can burn brightly and productively for the Lord.

Prayer: Lord, I pray that we would check the fire in our hearts daily to make sure it is always kindled and always controlled. I pray for everyone reading this that they would know the warmth of Your fire burning deep within their hearts. I pray that this fire will never get out of control because of sin, but that it will warm the lives of all we come in contact with. I pray also that Your fire will burn up all the dross and purify our hearts day by day. May the glow of Your fire within us motivate us and draw others to the Christ within. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.

1 Psalm 39:3

2 The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language © 1969, 1970, 1971

3 Ibid

4 Ibid

5 See 2 Samuel 11 & 12

6Psalm 27:4 KJV

 

Welcome to my blog. Thank you for dropping by. I hope you have enjoyed your visit. While you are here, check out some of my other posts to see if anything might interest you for now or later. Please leave a comment in the box below. If you are following me, thank you. I appreciate that you take time to come to read what I have to share. If you are not following, please click the “Follow” button at the top so you will receive e-mails to notify you of my latest post. I hope I have brought some inspiration into your life through this post. I pray that you will experience the warming fire of God in your life today. May God richly bless you.

MY ANCESTOR, RUTH

The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David…Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David the king.1

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Ruth, a beautiful love story

Of course, I realize that Ruth holds no place in my ancestral bloodline! I have not a drop of Moabite blood in me! Nor am I a Jewess. I am of English decent, born in Canada and Caucasian through and through. But spiritually, I believe I can, without taking liberties, claim to be a descendant of this woman of destiny. If I am a child of the Lord—and I am—and Ruth, according to the genealogical record in Matthew, is part of the ancestry of Jesus, it seems to me that it is a foregone conclusion. Besides, Paul tells us in scripture that we Gentiles have been grafted into the vine, so we are definitely of the same spiritual race as the Jews.2 I am proud to be associated with this precious woman of centuries past. I aspire to be like her.

So, what was she like? I invite you to transport yourself back in time to ancient Moab. You are a young Moabite girl brought up to worship Chemosh, the sun god. Picture the rolling landscape; sheep pasturing beside barley and wheat fields. To the west is the Dead Sea, then known as the Salt Sea. The Arnon River marks the northernmost border of your homeland. There is a great wilderness to the east, and the land of Edom lies to the south. You will have been taught about your ancestor Lot and his family’s flight from Sodom, before God rained down fire and brimstone to destroy the city. Lot’s wife, either out of curiosity or desire to return, disobeyed God’s specific direction to go and not look back. Result? She was turned into a pillar of salt! A nasty way to lose your life, or for that matter, your wife. You will have learned how his daughters seduced their father in order to continue their bloodline. The son conceived by one of these girls was named Moab. It was from this son that the country of Moab inherited its name. You will have seen, or perhaps even known some of the children who were slaughtered to appease your god Chemosh. Child sacrifice was the way of the Moabite world.

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Drought and famine

With this in mind, you will understand a little of Ruth’s life before she encountered the Israelite family from Bethlehem. Elimelech, during a period of famine, transported his family–Naomi his wife, and his two sons, Mahlon and Chilion–to the land of Moab. These Israelites worshipped a different God, and, unlike Chemosh, their God did not require human sacrifice. In fact, He abhored it. Elimelech very possibly spoke out against it. This family intended to stay only until the famine was over, but they became comfortable in their new home, began to make friends, and settled down to stay. They were probably neighbours of Ruth’s family. Eventually, Elimelech died and left his family alone in this foreign land. What would Naomi do now? What would you do in her place?

She did the only thing she could think of. She arranged for her two sons to marry Moabite girls.

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Death comes to the family

She must have been fully aware that this was in direct opposition to the laws of her God. The chosen people of the Lord had been forbidden marriage to people of any foreign nation. Yet she pursued her course. For Chilion, she chose a girl named Orpah. Her name means ‘stubbornness’.3 Since Chilion’s name means ‘pining, destruction, failing’,4 I would venture a guess that it wasn’t a particularly good match. Can’t you imagine? The wife perhaps stubbornly stuck to her practice of worshipping what, to Naomi’s family, was an idol, a false god. She may even have insisted that she have her own way all the time. I can picture her as the one who ruled the household. On the other hand, Chilion yearned for his homeland, his beloved Bethlehem, perhaps to the exclusion of all else. He didn’t take the responsibility of overseeing his wife and home. He sat around dreaming, pining, for what could have been his had he shown enough incentive to get up and return to Bethlehem. His negative attitude gradually destroyed him, and he died.

Ruth was Naomi’s choice for Mahlon. This, too, was not the best of matches, although with Ruth’s disposition (her name means friend, companion, beauty5), she would have made the better wife. Mahlon, meaning sickness, great infirmity,6 was obviously not a strong man, and succumbed to some illness and also died. I imagine Ruth tenderly caring for her sick husband until the very end. She would have mourned him along with his mother. She must have been a very gentle, open-hearted girl. But now Naomi was left with no family to support her and her two daughters-in-law. She probably was unsure how to deal with them.

Abundance in Bethlehem

One day she heard through the grapevine that the famine was over in Israel and food was there in abundance. After over ten years of living in Moab, away from the presence of her God, Naomi decided to return home. It was the only sensible decision she could have made. When we take the wrong course in life, we must choose to return to the place where we left the path the Lord has mapped out for us. Repentance and redirection are the way back to the land of prosperity.

At first, she considered taking the two girls with her, and the three started out on the journey. But Naomi had second thoughts. She decided to send them packing back to their own families and their god. She may have felt they would be too much of a burden to her, or that they would, once away from their familiar surroundings, succumb to homesickness. She may have foreseen the same fate for them as happened to her sons. Ruth and Orpah both protested, but it was rather weak on Orpah’s part. It didn’t take much persuasion for Orpah to be convinced. She turned around and followed the road back home.

But Ruth was a different kind of girl. She wasn’t about to be put off by a few words from her mother-in-law. She had no intention of returning to her own people. She had attached herself to Naomi come what may. You have to admire such loyalty. What, above all, caused Orpah’s decision to leave her was the fact that Naomi was too old to have more children, and that, even if she should yet by some miraculous intervention, bear sons, it would be years before they would be of marriageable age. Orpah wanted a husband and children before she got too old. All Ruth wanted was to be allowed to follow Naomi wherever she went, to worship Naomi’s God, and to be buried in Israel with Naomi. Ruth passed the test. She had been fully converted, and she was determined that nothing would separate her from her mother-in-law or her new-found faith in Naomi’s God. Naomi relented, and the two of them travelled, on foot, the sixty dusty miles back to Bethlehem. They arrived at the beginning of the barley harvest.

If you follow the story in the Book of Ruth, you will glean in the fields with her. You will meet

P1070971

Love is beautiful

Boaz, a kinsman of Naomi. You will rejoice with Ruth as she, a perfect stranger in the land, a heathen in the eyes of the Israelites, found favour in the eyes of this righteous man. Ruth did the reverse of what Elimelech had done. He left his homeland to find sustenance in a foreign land and found only trouble and the curse of death. Ruth left the place of her birth to find new life and joy and redemption in her new home.

Ruth was a very industrious woman who wanted immediately to go out to work to help support Naomi. As we follow her relationship with her mother-in-law we find her to have a submissive spirit, willing to be guided by Naomi and, later, by Boaz. Ruth, in a genuine spirit of humility, accepted the help Boaz offered. She graciously received his provision both for herself and for her mother-in-law. She was fully aware that she was unlike his maid-servants and that she did not deserve such attention from this great man. Because Boaz himself was a man who gave generously yet humbly, it was easy for Ruth to welcome his praise and his gifts.

Though but a foreigner and a mere gleaner in the fields, Boaz raised Ruth up in the eyes of all his hired workers. Still, he did not elevate her position to that of reaper. He spoke highly of her because he had heard of the way she had conducted herself toward Naomi. He told the servants to draw water for her whenever she needed a drink. What comfort she must have found in his kind words and actions! She received all she needed from his hand. She ate and was satisfied. Boaz even commanded his maids to pull out some of the grain they were reaping in order that she would have an abundance to glean. She even had plenty left over to give Naomi to eat when she arrived home.

Boaz was a type of Jesus, our Provider and Protector. He was Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer.

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Meeting in the night

But Naomi was not satisfied that Ruth should be a gleaner for the rest of her life. She knew the power that Boaz held, and relied on his honesty, integrity and position to help in their time of need. Naomi taught Ruth the steps of preparation in order to present herself to Boaz. She needed redemption, and willingly followed all that Naomi told her to do. She washed herself, anointed herself with perfumed oil, put on her best clothes and went down to the threshing floor. This represents a place of testing and purification. Here the chaff is removed from the wheat. Ruth’s instructions were to keep out of sight until after Boaz had finished for the night and laid down to sleep.

What I like about Ruth is that she obeyed what must have seemed to some extent rather strange directions. Most of us would have questioned Naomi. A woman alone to go secretly to a place where she would be alone with a man? Not the thing usually done in those days, I suspect. Yet Boaz responded favourably to Ruth’s actions and petition. She humbled herself to ask him to buy her back. Not an easy thing for a woman to do, especially a foreigner. Again Boaz would not allow her to return to Naomi without provision, and he filled her cloak with grain. Most amazing of all, Boaz promised to do whatever Ruth asked of him! How like our Jesus! When we ask according to His will and with faith in our hearts, He has promised to do the ‘whatever’.7

What praise Boaz had for Ruth! He told her that his people knew that she was a ‘woman of excellence’. Ruth lived her life well before others. She has been a wonderful example to women down through the ages. The outcome of this whole experience was that Boaz married Ruth and she bore him a son who would, years later, become the grandfather of King David. What an honoured position she was elevated to when she yielded her life to this kinsman-redeemer! We, too, will be exalted in due time by our Kinsman-Redeemer, Jesus, if we will humble ourselves before Him.1

As you read the four short chapters of the Book of Ruth, you will notice that Ruth was a woman of few words. A wise woman indeed! When she spoke, her words were full of meaning and were very fitting at all times. Ruth was a listener. She listened to Naomi; she listened to Boaz. We would do well to pattern our lives after this woman of destiny if we desire to be men and women who live out the purposes of God. It takes a decision of the will. It will take time. You will need determination; you must put forth effort. It requires courage to follow it through. This life in Christ, our destiny, will not just happen. Listen for the instructions of the Lord. Receive His revelation. Obey His word. Be humble, be kind, be grateful. Speak His words. Be filled with His Spirit. Follow in His footsteps and you will become all you are meant to be. Allow Jesus, your Boaz, to redeem your life and fulfill your destiny.

Thought for the day: Always be willing to follow the Lord wherever He leads you, even to death.

Prayer: Jesus, I ask you to bless my friends who are reading this book. I pray that You will tenderize their hearts and mine, that You will awaken our spirits and that You will increase our faith in You. May our love for You grow daily until we are consumed by Your love. Make us all true people of destiny, willing and ready to answer Your call and to follow Your every instruction. Open the windows of heaven and pour out Your blessing upon us until we are filled to overflowing. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

1 Matthew 1:1,5,6

2 See Romans 11:17

3 The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary ninth printing 1968

4 Strong’s

5 Strong’s, The Bible Almanac (Thomas Nelson), and Scripture Proper Names and their Interpretation (circa 1910 John Ritchie, Publisher, Kilmarnock)

6 Ibid

7 John 15:7; 1 John 5: 14,15

1James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6

I apologize for the length of this story, but I didn’t want to break it up. I hope you found it worth your time to read. I really appreciate your stopping by. Thank you. Please leave a comment in the box below and let me know what your thought of the story.

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Have a wonderful day and week. God bless.