March 25, 2017

Today you should read: Judges 6:1-32

The book of Judges is one of decline—an exponential descent exposing humanity’s depravity. To understand any part of Judges, you need to understand the whole story. Basically, after Moses, Joshua leads the Israelites into the Promised Land. Because the inhabitants were supremely wicked, they were to be removed from the Land. Israel failed in this task and the cancer of idolatry began to grow amongst God’s holy people. To understand how the book of Judges works, watch this video that provides an excellent summary.

In today’s passage, Israel has yet again fallen into spiritual bankruptcy. They were oppressed by the Midianite people, so Israel was brought very low because of Midian, and the sons of Israel cried out to the Lord (6:6). God in his amazing grace and mercy sent a prophet to encourage the people, and an angel to raise up for them the next deliverer of Israel—Gideon.

If you watched the video, you’ll know that we’ve moved past the “pretty good” leaders of Israel and Gideon’s leadership can only be described as “okay.” This becomes evident in Gideon’s interaction with the Lord’s angel.

“The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior.” When Gideon heard these words, he probably looked around to find out who the “valiant warrior” was. This phrase, gibor hayel, is probably best rendered in the NKJV as “mighty man of valor.” This was high praise for a man hiding inside of a winepress to thresh wheat—normally done out in the open on a threshing floor. Whether this phrase is ironic, because he was hiding, or prophetic, because he would soon lead Israel to a great victory, we cannot say. What we can say is, a man of utmost faith, Gideon was not—“O my lord (this is not a reference to God, this is simply a term of respect), if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian” (6:13)

Despite his initial underwhelming faith, Gideon believed God and acted accordingly—fear turned to faith. In a bold act, even if it was done under the cover of darkness (6:27), Gideon tore down the Baal alter and raised one to Yahweh. Ideally, this “mighty man of valor” would stand up to the people and call them back to repentance. Instead, Gideon let his dad, Joash, defend him to the angry mob.

Regardless of his shortcomings, of which there were many, Gideon took God at his Word. Because of this, Gideon’s name appears in the “Hall of Faith” of Hebrews 11. Take comfort my friends, human perfection is not required to serve God faithfully. Instead, take God at his Word. You don’t have to be perfect, but in the same breath I need to be clear that God will not leave you in your imperfection. The book of Judges is a warning that we must heed; if we do not pursue the Lord, it will lead to severe consequences. Remember today, o valiant warriors, the Lord is not far off, he is with you; so, by faith, take him at his Word. Ask yourself, “What is the Lord asking me to do today?”

By: Tyler Short — Connections Associate

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March 24, 2017

Today you should read: Judges 5

Think of some of the greatest moments in your life. Maybe the moment is a promotion, or marriage, or something that your child accomplished, or a significant time in your faith. Whatever it may be get that moment(s) in your mind. Okay now what was your response to that time in your life? How did you go about recognizing it? Often times we either just internalize it and move forward, or we celebrate it. Understand that either choice is not necessarily a bad choice.

Now before thinking further into that moment, think back to what chapter 5 is covering. The whole point of this is to celebrate and praise God for the victory over the Canaanites. Not only that, they were reminiscing over the events that transpired.

Now back to your moment. What was your response? Did you internalize so that you could always remember every single detail? Did you have a great celebration to commemorate the accomplishment or milestone? Whatever your response was, what is important is that the praise and glory is not to us but to the Lord. It is very easy for us to keep those moments to ourselves and remember them and forget that it is because of God that we had that moment. It is easy for us to hold a celebration and neglect to affirm God as the reason for the celebration. We can easily become self-focused about the good things in our life and not praise the one who has given them to us.

By: Dakota Gragg — Student Ministry Associate

March 16, 2017

Today you should read: Ruth 4:16-22

The story of Ruth and Boaz is one of history’s greatest love stories.  A widow, destitute and helpless, falls in love with a landowner who happens to be the right part of the family.  He’s gracious and kind to her and in the beginning of chapter 4 it happens: they get married.

In verse 13 a blessed event occurs—she is pregnant and gives birth to a son, and not just any son—a son they named Obed that would be in the linage of Jesus!  We read this in verse 21-22:

Salmon was the father of Boaz.  Boaz was the father of Obed.  Obed was the father of Jesse.  

Jesse was the father of David – king David! And we go on to read:

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.  Luke 2:4-5

WOW!  This story IS significant!  Boaz was an interesting guy; godly and a man of character.  We see examples of this all throughout the book.  

In chapter 3 verse 11 – we see his Purity.    Boaz had every opportunity to take advantage of Ruth – she’s in a very vulnerable position.  No one would have know – he was a man of position – she was a foreigner – but Boaz’ character is seen.  He even goes to the extreme of protecting her reputation.

In chapter 3 verses 12-14 we see his Honesty.  Boaz was concerned with doing the right thing  – he was honest with Ruth and honest with his community.  He knew he might lose the woman he loved to another man – but he was compelled to be honest.  Honesty is window into the soul – Honesty reveals a desire to do the right thing,

In chapter 3 verse 15 he was Generous to Ruth giving her food and protecting her from the other men.   In chapter 4 verses 1-12 we see his Morality.  Doing the right thing whether people are watching or not.  And of course, throughout the entire book we see his Love.

Boaz was a kinsmen redeemer a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ and what He is to us.  You may or may not know, that Boaz had an interesting family history:

Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.  Matthew 1:5-6

Whose mother was Rahab… who was Rahab?  She was the prostitute that saved the spies when they were entering into the promised land.  When she was doing the right thing she had no idea…  

Little decisions matter!  Consistency – Faithfulness – Obeying God whether anyone is watching or not – little decisions often have big results.

  • What did God speak to you about today from this passage?
  • What “little changes” does God want to make in your life today?

By: Tim Parsons — Lead Pastor

March 15, 2017

Today you should read: Ruth 4:1-15

We are nearing the end of our time looking at the book of Ruth, and we are reaching the ending that we all hoped for. In this passage, Boaz redeems Ruth and marries her. Boaz had been speaking to another man about redeeming Ruth instead of himself. The other man decided not to redeem her since it would complicate the inheritance that he would be leaving to his children. Since he was the only other candidate, Boaz was in line to redeem her. At this act of redemption, the elders and witnesses celebrated and encouraged them. The Lord blessed Ruth and Boaz with a son.

Since the Bible is ultimately a book about God, we have to look at this example of God’s faithfulness for what it is—a beautiful picture of love and redemption that God shows us. This book would be misused to say that if you are a faithful and loving Christian that God will bless you with marriage and children. But what we can take away is the most important thing: that God has extended his loving kindness and redemption through Christ who died on the cross for our sin!

Thinking of your own relationship with God, are you looking more for what God can give you, or are you growing in your love for God and contentment in who He is and what He has already done for you in Christ?

By: Graham Withers — Pastoral Ministry Apprentice