All You Need is Love

Ruth 3-4 and John 15

            “All you need is love.”  That song, written by John Lennon and sung by the Beatles in June 1967 (during the so-called “summer of love”)   was broadcast live and seen by over 400 million viewers in 25 countries at the time.  It was a kind of sappy, feel good, hippie anthem/anti-war protest song (this was during the height of the war in Viet Nam).

            The late 60’s was a time of radical change in America.  Young men were coming back from Viet Nam in body bags and people were burning their draft cards.  Desegregation was making strides through Dr. King’s call to non-violent protest and some progress was being made, until Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis in 1968 and peaceful protest turned to violent mobs.  As the 60’s gave way to the 70’s and 80’s many of the hippies grew up and became yuppies trading their free love,  pot and “make love, not war” peace signs for cocaine and dollar signs on Wall Street.

            Now we’re in 2021 and the BLM movement tells us that racism is still alive and well.  All that love that John Lennon said  was all we needed seems to be in short supply these days.

            Ruth is an interesting kind of love story that we need to study today.  It shows that true love makes sacrifices and takes risks for the benefit of others.  After Ruth’s husband dies and her father-in-law dies Ruth is encouraged to go back to her people and find another husband, but she loves her mother-in-law enough to sacrifice doing what is most convenient for her.  She goes to a foreign land where she lives a very marginal existence of grabbing the scraps of life.  She is a foreign woman without a husband living far from her family.  It was a perilous existence full of danger and risk, yet she does it out of love for Naomi.

            There are lots of interesting details to the story that no doubt get lost in 3000 years of cultural distance. Kinsmen redeemer is a foreign concept in our society.  In ancient Israel there were two things that mattered most- having an heir and having land that belongs to the family and stays in the family for generations.  When a man died without leaving behind a male child to continue the family name and inherit the land and care for the women in their old age it was up to the next available unmarried male relative to marry the widow and their child would actually be the heir of the son who died.  Many men didn’t like this set up and refused to participate in it.  It was a sacrificial act for a man to take on that responsibility for his dead relatives family and legacy.

            Boaz was a man of great character.  In many ways he could have taken advantage of Ruth’s helplessness and dependency and used her to his advantage.  He did not, instead, he looked out for her and her mother-in-law by making sure they received more than enough food.  He didn’t take advantage of her sexually, instead, he did what was right and at personal cost he took over the role of the kinsmen redeemer and made Ruth his wife and took care of Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi.  He acted in a very loving way toward Ruth and Naomi.  Ruth acted in a very loving way toward Naomi.  Naomi was protected and cared for.  Ruth was protected and cared for.  She and Boaz were blessed with a son.  That son, Obed was the grandfather to David who later became the King of Israel, and they were ancestors of Jesus.

            “All you need is Love.” There’s a lot of love in the story of Ruth. Love really is important, it’s foundational to everything.  But love must be rightly understood.  It’s more than what we typically think of as love – warm feelings, romantic notions and sappy songs are not what love is about.  Love is about commitment and sacrifice, it’s about doing what is hard in order to benefit the person you love.  Love is a willingness to take the less easy route.  Love is doing the right thing even when it would be easier and less complicated to do the wrong thing.

            Jesus takes up this theme of love in John 15.  He was about to go to the cross and suffer and die.  He is giving a message to his friends and disciples to sustain them through the difficult hours and days ahead.  The foundational message he gives them is love: “12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. “

            Jesus teaches about love and exhorts them to love and then he shows them what love looks like by sacrificing himself as an offering for the sins of the world, his friends the disciples, and for us as well.  This love that Jesus demonstrates is a reflection of God’s love for us that is shown in giving his son, Jesus that we might have eternal life (see John 3:16).

            “All you need is love?”  Yes, if we mean the kind of love modeled by Ruth and Boaz which ultimately led to Jesus.  “All you need is love?”  Yes, if we mean the kind of love modeled by Jesus who gave his life for our sins and by God who gave His only begotten son for our salvation.  Love is not just peace signs and romantic songs- it’s commitment and sacrifice and placing the needs of others ahead of our wants and desires.  Who and how can you and I love today?

-Jeff Fletcher

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Ruth 3-4 and John 15

Little Decisions, Lasting Consequences

Ruth 1-2 and John 14

  Have you ever looked back on an event or person in your life that, at first seemed very inconsequential at the time, but when you looked back you realized that that person or event profoundly impacted your life?  I have.

            When I was about 16 my brother-in-law, Dale, who was a pastor but also drove a charter bus part-time asked if I wanted to go with him on a trip to the city.  He was bringing a group of young people from across the country on a Youth Caravan into nearby Washington DC to tour the national landmarks.  He thought it might be fun for me to come along and spend some time with other young people from the Church of God.  So I said, “sure”.

            This Youth Caravan had been together and had travelled cross-country for several weeks bonding and were coming to the end of their trip.  I didn’t know any of them well and I was a bit shy so I sat up in the front of the bus near my brother-in-law, Dale, while they sat in the back and visited with each other.  Then, one of them left the safety of their group and came up and sat next to me and we had a friendly chat.  We ended up spending the day touring the Smithsonian museums and other famous DC landmarks.  Making a new friend was nice but also nice is that through that friend I was able to make several more friends among that group.  After the day spent sightseeing they gave a concert at our church and then they headed out for their next caravan stop and I went back to my normal life and didn’t think a whole lot more about it, other than grateful for making some new friends who lived around the country.  This was before social media, texting, snapchatting etc… so staying connected wasn’t easy, but we did write a few letters via snail mail over the next couple of  years.

            A couple of years later this friend’s brother became my new pastor at my church.  This friend came to visit him at our Church and we briefly reconnected.  The friend was getting ready to attend Bible College and I was going to a local university.  By the following summer I made the decision to also attend Bible College and during National Church Camp I reconnected with that friend.  By the end of that camp we decided to be more than just friends and just over a year later my friend Karen and I were engaged and then married.  37 years later we have 11 children, 12 grandchildren and have served in ministry side by side in 4 states and two countries. 

            All those initial little decisions- to accept my brother-in-law’s offer to ride on the bus, her decision to leave the group and come up and talk to me, her brother’s  decision to come and be the pastor at my Church, my decision to attend Summer Church Camp and Bible College- and almost 40 years later the impact those initial decisions had not only on our lives but our children, grand-children and future generations.  Who knows how many lives will ultimately be impacted by those first little choices.

            Ruth is that kind of story in the Bible.  It starts with some little choices that were made- An Israelite man and his wife and two children are living in a time when there’s a food shortage so they leave their country to go to a place to find food.  They are refugees looking for a place to live.  They make the choice to go to Moab- outside of Israel.  There the sons make choices to marry women from among the Moabites- who are not their people.  The man dies and both of his sons die.  This leaves his wife a widow living with no family in a foreign land with no one to provide for her.  She makes the decision to go back home to Israel to see if her family will help her- another small decision.  She tells her two young daughters-in-law who are also widows to go back to their families and find new husbands while they are still young.  One daughter-in-law goes back home, but the other, Ruth, refuses to leave her mother-in-law.  She is steadfastly loyal to her deceased husband’s mother and will not abandon her.  Ruth makes the choice to leave Moab with her mother-in-law and go to Israel and she herself becomes a stranger in a foreign land.

            While in Israel an extended member of Ruth’s husband’s family chooses to be kind to her and makes sure that they have enough food and other provisions.  Again, a simple decision to be kind by Boaz. 

Where do all of these little decisions lead?  Ultimately, they lead to Jesus.  As you will see in tomorrow’s reading- Boaz and Ruth eventually get married.  Ruth becomes the grandmother of a man named Jesse who was the father of David who later becomes King of Israel, and eventually one of their descendants was Jesus (when you look at Jesus’ family tree in Matthew 1 you will see Ruth’s name).

God takes little decisions that at the time we might not pay much attention to, and uses them to make amazing things happen that have lasting consequences.  God is always at work, even in ways that we don’t see at the time or fully understand.  God is at work in ways that we sometimes don’t realize until long after the fact.  Trust that God is at work in the day to day choices you make.  Should I go to church today or stay home?  Should I talk to this new person or should I stay in my comfort zone?

In today’s reading from John 14 Jesus affirms that we should not “let our hearts be troubled.”  Jesus says he’s going to prepare a place for us.  Jesus is working behind the scenes getting everything ready for the day when he will bring to earth his father’s Kingdom forever and ever.  We don’t always recognize the importance of  our choices or events as they are happening in real time,  but if we trust God to be a loving Father and Jesus Christ to be a faithful savior and king, we can trust that they are working every day, often behind the scenes in seemingly small ways, to bring about a future when everything will be as it should be. 

-Jeff Fletcher

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Ruth 1-2 and John 14

Be the Good in the Crazy

ruth 2 12

Ruth 1:1 “In the days when the judges ruled…”

If you’re reading along with this Bible plan and read yesterday’s blog, you might expect to read more about people “doing as he/she saw fit” as you read the introduction to Ruth.
Thankfully, this book of the Bible is nothing like Judges. We read about individuals who are faithful, loyal, hardworking and honorable.
If you’re paying attention to the news lately you’ll hear a mixture of very sad statistics right alongside stories of people doing good. And that’s one of the things that I appreciate about the book of Ruth: while all sorts of people are ignoring God’s Law, there are still righteous people, like Boaz, doing the right thing.
So while you are quarantined to your homes, what good and right thing can you do? It starts with how you treat and speak to those with whom you share a living space with. Do you find yourself with spare time on your hands these days? Instead of increasing your screen time, what good and right thing can you do for your neighbors (while maintaining your social distance, of course)? Maybe because your social calendar is empty, you actually have some spare change in your pocket. What good and right thing could you do for your church and/or community with that extra cash?
So while we are living in extraordinary times, you have the prime opportunity to do something special. Be faithful. Be loyal. Be hardworking. Be honorable. Be Christlike.
Bethany Ligon
Today’s Bible reading is the Book of Ruth (just 4 short chapters worth the read).  You can read or listen to it at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ruth+1-4&version=NIV
Tomorrow we begin the book of 1st Samuel (chapters 1-3) as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan .  Or, there is no time like today to start!  

Ruth: Faithfulness and Devotion Rewarded (Ruth)

Friday, October 7

ruth-pic

Shelby Upton

It is almost impossible for me to write this devotion on Ruth. There are so many valuable lessons and principles to glean from this 4 Chapter book and it is one of my favorite books of the Bible! For the sake of brevity I want to focus on Ruth’s example of faithfulness and devotion.

Ruth suffered losing her husband and had the chance to start over with a new family. Naomi even speaks of the faithful love that Ruth had shown to the family already. She chose however to stay with the faith of her family that she married into and help take care of Naomi and I believe God blessed her for that faithfulness.

Ruth went to work gleaning in the fields behind the harvesters behind in Boazs’ field and he took notice of her! To prove my point I think Boaz sums it up perfectly in Ruth 2:11-12 “Boaz answered her, “Everything you have done for your mother-in-law since your husband’s death has been fully reported to me: how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth, and how you came to a people you didn’t previously know. May the Lord reward you for what you have done, and may you receive a full reward from the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.”

 

Her future with Boaz and Naomi’s family was that reward for her faithfulness and devotion. 💗