Thursday, October 18, 2007


I recently read the book of Ruth and saw an aspect of the story that I had never paid much attention to before. I guess since the main character in the story is Ruth, I have always focused on her part in the story. But as I read it this time, there was something new that stuck out to me. One thing I love about reading the bible, is that no matter how many times I have read it before, God always has more to say to me when I read it again. The story begins with Naomi. Naomi has two sons who marry girls in Moab where they are living. After some time, Naomi's life encounters some tragic events. Not only does she lose her husband, but her two sons die as well. She is left alone with her two daughters-in-law Ruth and Orpah. Naomi decides that she is going to return to her homeland and urges her two daughters-in-law to return to their own homes because she doesn't figures they will be better off with their own families. Ruth, however, vows to Naomi that she will stay with her. She says (1:16-17), "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 I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me." Now in this exchange Ruth is showing an intense love and affection for Naomi. I think we can assume that Naomi was a loving mother-in-law who probably comforted Ruth when her husband died. I think that Naomi was truly looking out for Ruth's best interest, when she urged her to return to her family. I think that she valued Ruth more than she cared about her own happiness. So they returned to Bethlehem together. But it's there that Naomi tells her friends, (1:20)"Don't call me Naomi (which means pleasant), but call me Mara (which means bitter), because the Almighty has made my life very bitter." Now, she has many reasons to feel this way. She has lost her husband and two sons. Really, who could blame her. But as I read this story again, God showed me something. He had provided Ruth, whose undying devotion and loyalty was evident. Ruth could have left her and gone back to her family, but she chose to stay with Naomi and help her through this. Naomi was focusing on the wrong thing and it was causing her to be bitter. I can relate to Naomi. Not because I've experienced the same tragedy, but because I can easily take my eyes off of God's blessings and focus on what I don't have or things that I wish were different. Sometimes the very thing we're longing for is closer than we realize. At the end of the story, the women say to Naomi who is holding her new grandson, "your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth" (4:15). Sometimes we can't really see the blessing until it slaps us in the face. These ladies help Naomi to see how God used Ruth, the loyal daughter-in-law and friend, to bring more happiness to Naomi's life than she ever dreamed. This has got me thinking, what blessings am I taking for granted today?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


Being a pastor comes with a number of responsibilities. Because of my position, a lot of people come to me to help them figure things out. In a lot cases, it's energizing. There are many problems that have a solution. When I'm able to help someone think through the details of what they're trying to accomplish, it's fulfilling because I feel like I'm helping them become successful. A few years ago there was a commercial by BASF that said, "We don't make a lot of the products you use every day, we make the products you use everyday BETTER!" I could really relate to that statement because that's what I feel God has called me to do in the church. I love it when I can bring an idea or a new perspective to ministry that helps us to be more effective in our mission. That's when I feel I am accomplishing what God has asked me to do. But I've found that there are many problems that don't come with a simple solution. Especially when dealing with people's family issues, marriages, money problems, illnesses, etc. There have been a couple of times where I've been approached by a church member telling me about tough situations in a friend or family member's life and then asked, "So what can 'the church' do about it?" I know what they're asking. They want me to tell them, "No problem, I'll call the 'church hotline' and all of your needs will be taken care of." But many times there is no "hotline" set up to meet that particular need. Or a family may have financial problems that go far beyond what our church's benevolence budget can meet. Many times the person who is asking for help walks away disappointed, or frustrated that the church couldn't help them in their time of need. I'm not saying that help wasn't offered, but sometimes the help that is offered doesn't meet the level of expectation of the person, and is seen as no help at all. When that happens, nobody is more disappointed than me. I became a pastor to help people in their time of need. I truly believe that God is the answer, and that He can make provision in people's lives when they are struggling. Unfortunately, some of the people who ask the church for help don't have the proper perspective. They expect "the church" to solve all of their problems, when many times they are reaping the results of bad decisions that they have made in the past. When situations happen like this, it can make me feel like it's pointless even to try. Is what I'm doing making a difference at all? As I was praying about this situation, God reminded me of Galatians 6:9 which says, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Sometimes it would seem easier to give up, but I know that is not God's plan. I'm going to continue to ask Him for the wisdom to meet every challenge, and hopefully, even if I disappoint some people along the way, I won't be a disappointment to Him.