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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Rural Michigan winter scene (photo by Howard Blichfeldt)
Winter scene in rural Michigan
(Photo by Howard Blichfeldt)

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"Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth" (Matthew 1:5). "But Ruth replied, 'Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God'" (Ruth 1:16).

Early this week there was a deadly plane crash in San Diego. Although the pilot was able to eject from the aircraft safely the spiraling jet hit a residential area exploding into flames. In a matter of minutes Dong Yun Yoon lost his wife, two baby daughters, and his mother-in-law; his most precious treasures on this earth.  In addition to his overwhelming loss the home where he had built a family with much love and laughter is now but a rubble of ashes.

Dong Yun Yoon and wifeHe is demonstrating remarkable faith in the midst of his personal devastation and has publicly stated that he doesn't blame the surviving pilot, realizing he did all he could.  He expressed eternal confidence, "I believe my wife and two babies and mother-in-law are in heaven with God and I know God is taking care of them."  Surrounded by his pastor, siblings, and church members his state of shock and perplexity is seen when he looked to them for direction, "Please tell me how to do it.  I don't know what to do."

How does one go about completing a life puzzle with essential pieces that are permanently gone? In the present day our brother Dong Yoon who made his home in San Diego can feel the exact sentiment of Job who made his home in the land of Uz some 4000 years ago.   One of the greatest expressions of faith is that which is expressed during times of great hurt and personal loss.

I consider Job's tremendous faith declaration; "I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end He will stand upon the earth" (Job 19:25). Today we have on our hearts those, like Dong Yun Yoon, who've had monumental loss. Some of our readers have been dealt a heavy blow to the midsection. The visible acute pain may be over but now you're dealing with the inner lingering turmoil; turmoil that occasionally has round table discussions with the lethal enemy of bitterness or its first cousin, indifference.

Today we look at the third woman mentioned in Matthew's genealogy of Christ which is Ruth (Matthew 1:5).  Apart from the book that bears her name this is the only mention of her in the entire Bible. The book of Ruth could have been a narrative of two women, Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi, who fought bitterness.  Instead it is a delightful account of the remnant of true faith and goodness.  It is a picture of loyalty so esteemed by millions who have read the account that wedding ceremonies, past and present, are often built upon the theme of loyalty as seen in the person of Ruth.

Ruth and NaomiRuth is a Moabitess belonging to a people who were ancient enemies of the Israelites. The story is set in the time of the judges characterized by a period of religious and moral decadence.  But the story of Ruth reflects a temporary time of peace between Israel and Moab, unlike the dark picture that otherwise accounts for the evil period of the judges.  She had married an Israelite who earlier had moved to Moab with his family during a time of famine in their homeland. How many of you know his name?

In time Ruth's husband died and she became a widow, along with both her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. What deep heartache these three women surely experienced. Naomi decided to return to her homeland of Israel after the famine lifted. Ruth, with great courage and loyalty, insisted on going with her and thus the classic statement of faith in our daily text.  "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God."

Over time things went well for Ruth.  She married an Israelite, Boaz, and bore a baby son who was a delight to her mother-in-law and a distant great-grandpa to Jesus.

Now Ruth had surely faced one of the greatest enemies of our spiritual progress.  We are specifically told that Naomi had fought with bitterness (Ruth 1:20, 21).  When we go through tough times we can grow bitter.  It can eat at our spiritual life like a deadly cancer as we torment ourselves with questions like "Why me?", "It's not fair", etc. 

But God takes our brokenness and builds a bridge of great compassion and comfort to those whose hearts are willing to trust Him.  Today, remember the story of Naomi, this distant great-grandma to our Savior. Determine to overcome any trace of bitterness you may be dealing with by God's grace.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily Prayer:  Father, it is in bitterness, revenge and self-pity that we become useless to others and toxic to ourselves. But through expressions of forgiveness and love we are granted inner strength and power beyond ourselves to move forward, and it is there that we find healing and restoration for our wounded souls.  May we not live in the past or turn to our own destructive vices but find deliverance and victory through the enduring work of the Holy Spirit that brings comfort, conviction, and cleansing.  We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.  Amen.

Some additional study notes on today's message:

Mahlon was Ruth's first husband (Ruth 4:10).  In fact I recently conducted a memorial service for a godly man named Mahlon.

As I ponder this account it occurs to me that technically Naomi was not the baby's grandmother (since Ruth was her daughter through marriage to her deceased son). However this didn't keep her from taking that newborn baby, placing him on her lap and caring for him (Ruth 4:16). In fact the bond was so great that the women living there said, "Naomi has a son" (v.17). In overcoming bitterness we often have to see God's hand in blessing us in ways other than the normal pattern.

Initially Naomi dealth with bitterness. "Don't call me Naomi," she told them. "Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me."

Here is the news story
with a video concerning the jet crash referenced in the first part of today's message.

Today I would like to share a photo we took yesterday in the course of our travels and ask readers if they can determine what it is.
Mystery photo 12/11/08
Here is the location and an arial photo on a google map.
Respond by email if you would like to venture a guess!
The answer will be provided in tomorrow's post.

Clipper Stadium skybox
Last night we attended another company Christmas dinner which was held in a skybox at Clipper Magazine Stadium, our local minor league baseball venue.  This was the first time we've ever been in a skybox!

Today's Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources
(Click on the link to open and play. In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

"All Is Well" 
Video   This is a beautiful song that speaks peace to my heart whenever I hear it no matter what I'm dealing with.  It was written in response to an endearing Christmas story titled "All Is Well" by Frank Peretti.

Looking for a very special Christmas gift for your parents?  
Here's an idea!  The best gift you can ever give your parents

Looking for a very special Christmas gift for your children?
Here's an idea!

Howard Blichfeldt

Today's beautiful photo of a rural scene in Michigan was taken by Howard J. Blichfeldt and is used with his permission. His website is here.

Resources for Christmas Celebrations

It is our desire to share resources that may be a blessing to families and churches during this Christmas season. We will continue to post these resources the next two weeks.

Christmas Memories  Here's a collection of Christmas memories sent in by daily encouragement readers several years ago, along with an opportunity to share your own story. 

"In Remembrance of Me" pdf  This is a passion-filled Scripture reading for two adults. Stephen and I have used this reading with great receptivity during  Christmas Eve services.  We suggest, if possible, a musical background as the message is read. It is also a great lead-in to a Communion service. It should be thoroughly practiced and read with great feeling.

"When Christ Was Born" pdf This is an adaptation to the tune of "How Great Thou Art". It's a great song to sing as a congregation since most are familiar with the tune and some churches have already exhausted the usual list of Christmas carols.

Responsive Christmas Scripture readings for church or family:
John 1:1-18  pdf
"O Come Let Us Adore Him"  

My First Christmas in heaven A poem Brooksyne shared three years ago in memory of my Mom. This is a blessed reminder for all who lost a loved one this year.

Here's a test for those who like tests!  
Christmas knowledge test

have also posted a short Christmas carol quiz here.

re you Christmas shopping online?
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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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