Posts tagged security
RUTH: week 1

Once Upon a Time: Ruth 1:1-5

Like a riveting drama, the book of Ruth opens upon a scene of conflict and confusion. A family journeys away from their home and identity in search of an illusion of security. Troubled times in the land of their birth, prompt them to seek their fortunes elsewhere. Away from their extended family and far from their God, they sojourn, then they enter, and they remain with a people who worship the violent, irrational god called Chemosh.

Chaos ensues.

First, the father dies, leaving Naomi with her two sons to fend for herself. The sons marry and sink their roots deeper into the culture of Moab, a country whose practices are anathema to everything they were raised to believe. After a decade of adapting to their adopted land, both sons suddenly die, leaving three widows in their wake.

The scene is set in just a few short sentences. No grand display of emotion, no weeping and wailing, not even a haunting dirge playing in the background. Just the facts. But those facts are staggering, their implications posing impossible odds for Naomi. She scrambles to undo the irreversible harm done ten years previously, when, against all wisdom, her husband led their family away from their land, Israel, and away from their God, Yahweh.

In the weeks ahead, we’ll be delving deeper into the drama of our own lives. How do you handle adversity? What do you do when your heart aches for satisfaction? When emotional or relational famine leaves you high and dry?

The answer, of course, is to plant your heart firmly beside what Psalm 1 describes as “streams of water” the Word of God. There, we thrive and flourish no matter what the circumstances of our story dictate.





Ruth 1:1-5

Matthew 4:23-5:6

1 Peter 1:25-2:3

Hebrews 5:14-6:12

Isaiah 55


Are You Hungry?

Have you ever been on a diet? How about those liquid-only ones? The instructions sound so convincing: “Just drink these lovely drinks which will fill you up, imparting loads of energy without the dreaded calories of real food. You’ll be svelte and slim in no time.”

Give me a break!

Not that I haven’t tried it, mind you. It’s just that I haven’t succeeded. I do okay for a day. In fact, I feel rather proud of myself, energized and motivated to finally “do it this time.” But by day two I start fixating on food. The slightest whiff of toast in the morning makes me crave a luscious, crispy, jam-laden hunk of life-giving bread. You get the picture.

No, starvation diets don’t work because the hungrier you are, the more you start to earnestly long for food to fill your empty belly.

Hunger is real. And if left unattended, it can weaken you. Elimelech looked on in anguish as his family suffered the agonizing effects of genuine hunger. Naomi lost weight, not because she wanted to fit into tight jeans, but because she hadn’t enough to eat. His boys failed to thrive, whining for more when their bowls were empty. As he watched their cupboards empty and faced the prospect of weeks and months of subsistence living, Elimelech came to the conclusion that he must act now to satisfy his desperate need for food. He must solve the hunger problem.

Elimelech is not the only one. You and I try to solve our own hunger problem whether we know it or not. In fact, some of us get to the very end of our lives before we realize that the messes we have caused along the way were actually the consequences of an undernourished life.

Let me explain.

Way back in Deuteronomy, when God is laying out His instructions for His people in order that “it might be well with them and their sons forever” (Deuteronomy 5:29), He makes a curious claim about hunger:

“…He humbled you and let you be hungry,

and fed you with manna

which you did not know,

that He might make you understand that

man does not live by bread alone,

but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.”

(Deuteronomy 8:3)

Or, as the New Living Translation so poetically puts it:

“…He did it to teach you that people need more than bread for their life;

real life comes by feeding on every word of the LORD.”

God caused their hunger. He didn’t just allow it. It didn’t slip by Him without notice. He let them feel the full force of the pain of their own hunger for a purpose: in order to teach His chosen, beloved people that “real life comes by feeding on every word of the LORD”.

So I ask you - “Are you hungry?” Have you experienced real, starvation-induced heart hunger? And, have you yet discovered the satisfaction that comes from truly feasting on His every word?

Just as your body can become gaunt from not enough good food, so your soul will show symptoms when you are languishing. And just as I’ve experienced all sorts of self-induced hunger on an ever-elusive quest for leanness, I know all too well those signs of soul hunger. Do you have any of these symptoms?

In the area of relationships…

  • Are you a control freak? Do you wonder why others are getting in the way of what you want, why they don’t do what you want, or why they don’t understand what you want?
  • Are you growing contentious? Aggravated when “nobody can’t do nothin’ right!”
  • Is conflict making you feel that “everybody-is-against-me-nobody-loves-me-woe-is-me!”
  • Is competitiveness driving you to need to be better than everyone else?

In your hidden heart…

Are you disappointed that life and dreams and relationships haven’t brought the happiness you were so sure they would when you started out?

Are you depressed that there is no hope for improvement, no new dreams to inspire, nothing to get you up in the morning?

Are you sensing despair? (And don’t think for a minute that Christians never experience this!) King David asked himself this very question, “Why are you in despair, O my soul?”

And have you, like Elimelech tried to find solutions for your starvation symptoms? Have you tried to alleviate those hunger pangs by bingeing on what the Bible metaphorically calls the “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life?”

Have you found yourself buying a new outfit to make you feel better about yourself, clawing your way up the corporate ladder to prove yourself, striving to create the perfect home in order to paint a perfect picture of yourself? Maybe even flirting with men to bring attention to yourself?

And how far has it led?

How much debt has it caused you? How much alienation and exhaustion? What about shame?

All of these, and more, are simply signs that you are hungry. You are not getting enough food. Or you’re pigging out on the wrong kinds of food. You’ve been dieting too long, buying into the notion that “Devotions in One Minute a Day” will satisfy your soul. And it doesn’t. Just as food-less dieting doesn’t work, Word-less living leaves you and me weak and vulnerable.

So, this week, I prescribe real food. Go and gather that Manna, that Bread of Life which can be “ground and beat and boiled and made into cakes” (look it up in Numbers 11). Get up a little earlier, get your “cooking utensils” out the night before, and be ready for a feast…and an end to hunger.

From my heart,



The Famine

The story of Ruth happened during a time of severe and significant famine. We’re not talking an economic downturn here. It was a national meltdown. Think widespread poverty and complete panic. The Great Depression of BC 1200.

It is widely believed that this story transpired sometime before Gideon became judge over Israel, (though no one knows for certain). In Gideon’s time, a famine occurred which was more a political than an agricultural disaster. Crop conditions were excellent, the fields filled with the rich produce of the region. Everyone anticipated a good year. But just as harvest day dawned, a swarming army of nomadic raiders (the Bedouins from the desert region of Midian) invaded Israel, stealing the crops, the sheep, the oxen, and even their donkeys. A full years’ work devastated in one fell swoop.

These Bedouin nomads did not want to destroy the Israelites, nor did they attempt to take over their land. The camel-riding Midianites simply swooped in like locusts and emptied their cupboards, leaving the land and the people poor and destitute, with just enough supplies to survive to plant next year’s crop. And all of this went on for seven years!

No wonder Gideon, Elimelech, and quite possibly every man, woman, and child in Israel were desperately looking for relief.


LETTERS TO MY SON: confidence

She senses that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out at night.

Proverbs 31:18


Dearest son,

It is early as I write these words. The summer sun is just tinting a smattering of wispy clouds with the barest glimmer of translucent light. I sit outside watching the world awake.

Upstairs three of my grandchildren lie sprawled in that deepest of slumbers only happy children know. They are safe and they are loved and they know it.

When they wake up they’ll clamor for more of the fun that comes from having a Pops who is still a kid at heart. Maybe they’ll want “awful waffles” (Phil’s title for frozen waffles in a box) for breakfast. Or a sip of “Pop’s wa” (the sparkling water Phil drinks). And they’ll ask with confidence, knowing full well that these two grandparents pretty much never say “no”.

I think we used up that word on our four kids and now just don’t have the heart to ever say it again!

Jude and Mo and Sunday have absolute confidence in our love for them. They know beyond even the slightest doubt that we have their best interests at heart, that we want only good for them, that we will go to great lengths to make sure they have all they need and more.

They are safe here, fully able to rest and be who they are. Confident.

And that is what I want to talk to you about today, Matt.


Your dad and I have laid a foundation of safety and security for you. By God’s grace our home has been a place of refuge—far from perfect, but fully stable.

Unlike so many fathers, your dad has been faithful and present. He has fulfilled his role as Priest of the home, as Provider for his family, and as Protector of all of us. You have a rare gift in that, Matthew.

But now you are launching out on your own.  You have to carve your own way, make your own decisions, choose for yourself how you will live.

You will no longer have your Dad just a few feet away to warn you of danger, nor will I be there to soothe away the hurts that come from living in a world of sharp edges and bumpy roads.

But you will have Jesus. That One who is your real safety, who is always watching over you, who fully knows who you are and who you can be.

He knows how He wants to use you in His story of redemption for a world that needs more of those stories in real time.

My son, if you will live fully in the presence of this One, if you will place all your hope and confidence in Him, inviting Him into every aspect of your life, then and only then will you experience the confidence that comes to those who revere Him. “For the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.” Proverbs 3:26

A man or a woman who places their entire confidence in God is neither insecure nor dependent on others for approval. Such a man or woman has this underlying sense that “her gain is good” Proverbs 31:18. She does not have to prove herself or boast about her accomplishments. Such a man knows that he is on assignment from God, that he has work to do and if he does it well and faithfully he will hear just the sweetest echo of the words he longs for: “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” And that’s all the reward he craves.

Only a close and honest walk with God can give you that kind of confidence, Matthew. Not perfect grades, not stellar reviews, not pats on the back from important people.

You will never be as good nor as bad as some people will paint you to be.

But if you will learn to put your confidence, your sense of who you are as a man, in God—if you will look to Him for approval, knowing His grace covers you and carries you where you lack—then you will experience that same sense of safety and well-being my grandbabies are experiencing right now.

Perfect rest. Trust. Peace.

And Matthew, marry a woman who has found that same confidence in the only One who can give it fully. Do not marry a woman who looks to you for her sense of self or beauty or approval or worth. Do not marry a woman because she makes you feel better than you are. Marry someone and be someone who is safe simply because you have found real safety in Jesus’ startling love for you.

How will you spot that kind of woman?

Here are some  questions to ask yourself as you watch her life (and your own!):

  1. Is she the same person no matter who she’s with?
  2. Does she get her feelings hurt easily? Or do you get mad easily?
  3. Does she have a sense of purpose? Do you?
  4. Does that purpose help her/you make wise choices?
  5. Is she able to be a graceful woman in intimidating social situations?
  6. Is she able to follow with finesse or does she control and manipulate to get her way?
  7. Does she/do you need the limelight? Or can she/can you let others shine?
  8. Does she/do you need to be right all the time?
  9. Is she interested in other people? Does she ask questions about them, about you?
  10. Is she proud of you?

Last night on the way home from church, your dad showed me in full color what this confidence in the Lord looks like. He’d just finished preaching four times throughout the day. He was tired, poured all out. But instead of giving in to his need for quiet and rest and assurance that he’d done well, he became a human juke box. First Jude requested a song, then Moses. Sunday got to shaking her imaginary maracas as Phil launched into all their favorites.

This man who had spent his day preaching to thousands, gave his night to singing to a rapt audience of three.

Why? Because his confidence, his sense of who he is, has been fully formed by Jesus. Whether waxing eloquent about the true definition of joy found in Philippians or showing the true meaning of joy to three giggly grandchildren, your dad knows he is honored to serve His Savior.

That’s what this looks like, son. May you know such soul-lifting confidence in your Savior and may you find a wife who knows it too.

From my heart,