September 24, 2011

Today you should read: Ruth 1:14-22

Contract: an agreement between two or more parties for the doing or not doing of something specified.

Today we continue the story of Naomi returning home to Bethlehem from the land of the Moabites. We read earlier in chapter one that Naomi’s husband and two sons have died. Now she is only left with her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth. We see a great deal of heartbreak between these three women as they had all suffered loss. However, there is something more than heartbreak found in Naomi. She is extremely bitter toward the Lord and has a lot of self-pity (pride) in her speech.

“She said to them, ‘Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?’” (Ruth 1:20-21).

Why does she say things like “I went away full, and the Lord brought me back empty”? Her retirement plan had been taken away. In her culture, there was no such thing as a 401K, social security, or welfare. Women had to rely on their husbands to take care of them. If something were to happen to their husband, their sons would take care of them. So Naomi felt that God had ruined her.

In other words, Naomi had a “contract relationship” with God. It stated: “If you bless me and take care of me, I will worship you. If you do not do these things, I will not worship you and I will let everyone know that my life is terrible because of you”. Naomi found her happiness in her family and God was the agent that upheld her dream. Many of us have “contract relationships” with God. We desire to have the Christianized American dream and if God allows trials to come into our lives we become angry with him. Let me clear something up: God does not make contracts. He only makes covenants through His grace.

Grace is God’s love extended to us through His son, Jesus. It has nothing to do with us and he owes us nothing. He has not promised us a good life; He has only promised us Himself. We are to find our hope and identity in Jesus and Jesus alone.

Posted by: Chad Wiles

September 23, 2011

Today you should read: Ruth 1:1-13

The book of Ruth is a fascinating story! If you haven’t read it before, you will really enjoy it. We’ll be reading it together over the end of this week and most of next.

The story takes place about 125 years before the birth of David. The author of the book, although not identified, is probably Samuel and was written years after it actually took place. This is determined by Jewish tradition.

The book is rich in examples of faith, patience, and kindness – it shows us the care that God takes for those who trust in Him. It’s a picture of our Kinsman Redeemer, Jesus, who bought us back from sin. It is also a significant historical book, helping us to understand the linage of Jesus.

It takes places in the days when judges ruled over Israel. It must have been toward the beginning of the judges’ time because Boaz, who married Ruth, was born of Rahab (she received the spies in Joshua’s time). The story begins with a severe famine in the land. This was one of the things God said He would do if the people did not obey Him (Leviticus 16:19-20). So, Elimelech, a man from Bethlehem (yes, the same place Jesus was born, which becomes significant in the last few verses of the book) and his wife, Naomi, left to live in Moab where they could find food. He was married and had two sons. After his death, his two sons married Moabite women – one of whose name was Ruth.

About ten years later, tragedy struck the family again and both of Naomi’s sons died. Not knowing what to do or how to survive, she decided to go back to her homeland of Judah because she heard that God had given them good crops again. She started out with her two daughters-in-law with her. But, along the way she decided to let them go in order for them to start their young lives over again. She told them goodbye, kissed them, and cried.

What a story! You’d better keep a box of Kleenex handy! What can we learn from it?

Certainly this story is a vivid picture of life: full of ups and downs, of times when we are at the top of our game, and times when we have hit rock bottom. Naomi sees both extremes in this story.

Where are you right now? Where have you just been? Where are you headed? Which extreme best describes you? Either way, Jesus is still Lord; He’s the Lord of our good times and our bad. There is no panic button beside the throne of grace. God knows about and allows everything to come into our lives. Nothing can come into the life of a Christ-follower without God’s permission.

This reminds me of a verse that I want you to meditate on today. Romans 8:28…you may already know it.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

God causes all things to work together for our good! Why?

“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.” (v. 29)

Tough times seem to be the best recipe for growth and correction. Remember today – whether things are good or bad – that God loves you and has a plan for your life. Look to Him – trust Him – obey Him!

Posted by: Tim Parsons

September 22, 2011

Today you should read: Romans 16

What a great book this has been to go through as a church! This last chapter is a fitting way for us to close. Paul starts by commending certain people and churches to the Christians in Rome. One thing he emphasizes is serving, or “working hard in the Lord.” It is a sweet and wonderful thing when the people of the church serve one another. Where are you serving? If you are not, then you aren’t using your gifts for the purposes God intended them. In fact, you are disobeying God and actually hurting the body of Christ. We are told in scripture that our gifts are to be used to encourage and to build up the church (1 Peter 4:10, Ephesians 2:10, 4:11-14). When one part of the body isn’t doing what it is supposed to, the other parts feel the strain. I encourage you to find a place to serve using the gifts God has given you.

Paul then teaches about protecting the body from those who want to cause division or cause people to stumble. Paul instructs us to keep away from them and to “stay innocent” of their evil ways. We need to keep watch over our church; Satan would love to plant a seed of bitterness, jealousy, or anger in our church and allow it to go unchecked and unresolved. We have to be constantly holding each other accountable and making sure that we are honestly confessing sin. It’s critical that we do not allow Satan to gain a foothold in CPC – it can cause major destruction and division among us.

We also have to keep watch over what is taught at CPC. This is the reason Tim always encourages us to go to our Bibles to see what it says for ourselves. It is important that we always be sure of what we believe, both personally and corporately, and why we believe it. Paul talks about the church in Berea (not KY) and how he taught them to diligently look into the scriptures to make sure everything he said was true.

What an amazing gift this book is to us from our God! His grace is amazing and His desire to know us and save us is overwhelming. I hope that going through this book has been a refreshing and growing time for you. Stay tuned for what’s next!

Posted by: Robbie Byrd

September 21, 2011

Today you should read: Romans 15:14-33

Have you ever read Romans and 1 & 2 Corinthians in one sitting? You might think Paul is schizophrenic. He praises and rejoices in one, and in the other, his frustration is clear as he poignantly derails his readers. Well, he’s not schizophrenic… he’s a pastor.

The believers at Corinth were disobedient, ornery, and foolish. Romans 15 tells us what the Roman believers are like:

I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness. You know these things so well you can teach each other all about them. Romans 15:14

Christians aren’t carbon-copies of each other; they aren’t one-size-fits-all. That’s why Paul addresses them differently. The Corinthians needed harsh rebuke and theological correction. The Romans needed encouragement and theological instruction. He loved them both and wanted what is best for them, but he needed to address their specific needs. Sounds like discipleship, doesn’t it? It is.

When it comes to the people you are currently discipling or mentoring, are you being sensitive to their needs and specific growth deterrents/stimulants? If not, you’ll find yourself frustrated and confused, wondering why things aren’t getting anywhere. Discipleship isn’t cookie-cutter; Paul makes that clear both in these letters and many of his others as well.

Back to this section. Paul praises the Romans for their goodness, for being trustworthy and honorable. He longs to be with them. These people seem to be his “model church members”, clearly for a reason. They were serving God and serving the church. They were on mission. They were all about the Kingdom.

When I read this, I am convicted about my own involvement in the body of Christ, specifically at CPC. Here are some questions I’ve asked myself, and I would encourage you to do the same:

( 1 ) How am I actively building up my CPC family?
( 2 ) Am I avoiding any harmful gossip in order to protect God’s church?
( 3 ) Am I serving my CPC family with my time, talent, and treasure?
( 4 ) Am I guarding my life from sin/destructive habits so as not to impede the work of God in my church?
( 5 ) Do I regularly invite others to be a part of my CPC worship/fellowship experience?
( 6 ) Am I pursuing God’s mission for CPC of evangelism & discipleship (Matthew 28:19-20)?
( 7 ) How often do I pray for my CPC family?
( 8 ) How often do I pray for my CPC staff & pastors?

I know that a lot more could be said about this chapter, but this was on my heart today as I read Romans 15. What insights did you glean from today’s reading? Which of these questions challenged you or caused you to think about your life, your church, and walk with God?

Posted by: Todd Thomas