In the past weeks, I’ve been going over some of the key words in our covenant relationship with God. Perhaps one of the most important words we use is grace.
Most of us have learned and maybe we even remember
This is great explanation of grace and the first one I could readily remember. However, it is a bit churchy sounding for many people.
Then there is the wonderful explanation: Unmerited favor. I love this simple explanation that encapsulates this amazing concept in two words.
However, trying to explain grace seemed harder than I had imagined. They didn’t grasp the whole acrostic idea. And while unmerited favor seems simple enough, even the members who remember the two-word definition could not explain what it meant.
Therefore, we worked our way into another definition that they understood and fully appreciated. Grace is receiving a gift we don’t deserve.
Receiving a gift we don’t deserve is not as catchy at the acrostic or as short as “unmerited favor” but our members understand it and have grasped its meaning.
When the Biblical young woman, Ruth, married into a Jewish family she understood little about their ways, God or religion. This is my supposition; but I base the conjecture on facts. Moabites were shunned by the Israelis. Decades before, Moab wronged the wandering tribes who desired to travel through their land. This set up a national rivalry. Israel was a young nation and were probably not accustomed to travel, especially to Moab.
As a famine devastated the land of Israel, a Judean took his wife and two sons to live temporarily in Moab where there was food. In Moab, the small Jewish family of a mother, father and two sons grew to include two Moabite daughters-in-law. Ruth was one of them. At the end of ten years in Moab, the ranks of the family had diminished. All the men had died.
By this time, Ruth had come to understand the ways of Judaism. She was familiar with the customs and norms of her adopted family. They were attractive and persuasive.
It is understandable that Naomi, now a widow and having limited means, would want to go back home to her home town, Bethlehem. She had family there. They would take care of her.
The Judean famine which propelled her young family to Moab was over. Once again, there was food in Israel. Naomi made the logical decision to go back to her roots. The three widows set out on their journey.
Once in that process, it appears that Naomi had second thoughts about the daughters-in-law going with her. Perhaps out of politeness, Naomi urged and even argued with the two younger women to go back to their Moab homes and their mothers. One turned back. But Ruth made a history-altering decision. She opposed the idea of leaving Naomi against all reason. She would go with Naomi and share in her fate.
Ruth said, “I will go where you go. I will live where you live. Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God.”
The wonderfully attractive customs of Naomi and her God had drawn Ruth in such a magnetic way that she was willing to leave every thing, even her own security to follow Naomi. The key to Ruth’s decision was her resolution to follow Jehovah. “Your God will be my God.”
The Bible is not a book about religion. It is about God’s relationship with men and women–usually in the context of families. Too often we see the laws. We want to magnify the do’s and don’t’s when God wants relationship.
Moab was a rejected nation. God had told Israel to reject Moab. Yet, God orchestrated circumstances to include Ruth in Jesus’ genealogy. Ruth, a Moabite, was King David’s great-grandmother. Jesus was a direct descendent of David. The hated and rejected Moabite’s have a prominent position in the history of our Lord.
Within the disability community, there is a lot of rejection. Perhaps this is one reason why people who are mentally challenged are often eager to hear about the good news of God’s love for them. Their relationship with the Lord becomes a safe haven for them to grow and mature.
Our Father desires us to know that no matter what our customs or how limited our means and circumstances, He longs for a relationship with us. Customs and finances are fluid. God’s grace never changes. His desire for you to know Him is unchanging and everlasting.
Is there a time that you can remember that you were pressured beyond your ability to cope? There have been many for me.
As a child, my mother told me again and again that I was constantly burning the candle at both ends. For years, I had no idea what she meant. When I finally understood her, I was sure that I was getting ready to “burn out” at any moment because she had been giving me that dreaded warning for a decade.
It’s been many years since her stern predictions and I’m still burning. I’ve found that God is my source and strength, especially in times of stress.
We are preparing for Camp Agape which is May 23 to 26. There are many details for getting ready and for being responsible for 100 people and their safety. Yet, again and again, I find the Lord going before me and preparing my way. I’ve learned to rest in Him and trust that He will make a way. And He always does even though my eyesight gets foggy and dim through the smoke my candle burning generates.
Recently, I’ve heard a great deal about the things the Holy Spirit was doing in the 1960’s and 1970’s. It is interesting to me because those were days through which we lived. There were times that it seemed that the Lord was tangible enough to reach out and touch. Even though I was very young–bearly out of my teenage years–I had been a Christian long enough to realize that this kind of mysterious, glorious revelation would not last forever.
It is part of the curse that we live under. We leak. There are some things that we need to understand when we are faced with our leaky humanity. Here are a few that I’ve learned over the years
2. Neither has He removed His love and compassion.
3. Miracles don’t grow faith.
4. Day-to-day living grows faith.
5. Living out the Word of God when you feel nothing makes our faith strong and resilient.
6. Leaking isn’t a sin.
7. Leaking is simply a reality and part of our Adamic nature.
8. Leaking doesn’t mean that we love God less than we did when there was almost a tangible presence of the Holy Spirit.
9. Abundant faith and abundant faithfulness are different.
10. Adundant faith is a gift from God.
11. Abundant faithfulness is our gift to God.
A wonderful Christian Mentor–my mother–often quietly mused, “Will the Lord find a faithful people when He returns?” It seems like a simple question; but she repeated it so often that I came to understand that Mother was expressing the plaintive cry of God’s heart. Ministering within the mentally challenged community for many years has helped me to see the fruit of a faithful people. Most of my members will never write a book, sonnet or poem. About half of them cannot read. Some cannot talk. But they are faithful. I’ve had several members who did not miss a week in 20 years.
Mighty deeds and amazing miracles are wonderful. They attract crowds and bring great joy into our lives. But I’ve become more and more convinced that God is looking for a faithful people who will love Him no matter what the circumstances, delights, hardship, joy or trials.