Tag Archives: Bethlehem

Finding Ruth…

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Why not read the book of Ruth as part of your personal meditations this year? Ruth

It speaks about the transition from “bitterness” to “blessedness” in Bethlehem. It looks beyond the times of barrenness towards a new “Kingdom” generation.

Let’s look at Naomi. Fleeing from famine and in a place of great loss, she can be a potent symbol of our present crisis. She might also be an allegory of the tired Western Church. Tragedy strikes and she finds herself under death, bereaved of sons and husband. How many sons have we lost through cruel, intolerant religious wars and how many more were cut down in the prime of life on the killing fields of Flanders during the 1st World War?

Countless others drift into spiritual death without a shot being fired, seduced by the perverted paradigms of living with neither a divine dream nor a sacrificial heart. In a nutshell Naomi has lost all hope of fecundity. She is hopelessly, tragically barren!

Was this her sad destiny?

Her original name means “tenderness”, “charming”, “pleasant”. Love, grace and joy – holy attributes of Christ’s Body the Church, called to fill a world with light and life, but tragically wounded, and old before her time. It seems that Naomi has changed her name!

“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. ”   Ruth 1: 20-21

Mara means bitter. It is sobering to think of Naomi journeying back to that sacred place to be bitter in Bethlehem.

Is there hope for her? Is there hope for my own weary heart? Can the Western Church know a new beginning? The answer for Naomi, and for us, came in two things.

Redemption in RuthA fresh revelation of Christ as Redeemer…….Redeem your dreams!

Naomi had a friend in Boaz and, as the old song puts it, we have a friend in Jesus.

 “That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers.”     Ruth 2: 20

Jesus our redeemer: the one who can heal history and hearts. May we know a fresh hunger and passion for His presence.

There was also a more strategic answer for Naomi which was the second requirement for healing.

She Found Ruth….And Ruth Clung to Her.youth_group

Ruth, from the foreign race of the Moabites, was the answer for Naomi. Ruth represents at least two things for us.

1) Youth:  

 We must be investing in, and praying for the next generation. I’m convinced that, even in the face of Satan’s destructive onslaught on the youth of nations, God so wants to bring a powerful missionary revival amongst a new generation of Joshuas. Just as the Jews may have been shocked by Ruth’s culture and background our religious and missionary structures will need to adapt to the adolescent energy and fun of young people. We need to find our Elishas.

emerging nations2) New Nations:  Emerging Mission Movements

 The strategic centre for missions has changed over the last few years from the West to what is collectively known as the “Global South”. Nations such as South Korea, Brazil, Nigeria, Ethiopia, China and Indonesia will be leading the way over the next few years.

As Naomi received Ruth we will find our future in creating discipleship environments for such as these. We will be learners as much as teachers, receivers as much as givers. Again, structures and personal comfort zones will need to change to stand alongside the colourful, potent, raw energy of God expressing himself in many cultures and skins.

sandleOne of the redeemers in the story had an eye on the material blessing of the land but he had no motivation for a relation with Ruth. He feared that this “foreign influence” might endanger his own property. This is often the fear of many of us today. Boaz however was more than willing to take on the covenant relation which came with the land. The first gave only his shoe whilst Boaz was willing to give his heart!

In the light of this, my own prayer is very much to find Ruth. Practically this may express itself in looking for more opportunities to mobilize and mentor emerging mission movements.

And there in Bethlehem, where Mary was to hold Jesus to her breast, old Naomi finds new life, nurses a son of promise in David’s line – “she took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him”, rediscovers her name and is “blessed in Bethlehem.” May you too be blessed in Bethlehem, may you be “better” rather than “bitter” and may the opportunity Ruth offers be accepted as a true gift to a waiting Church.

 “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter- in-law,(Ruth) who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons , has given him birth.”  Ruth 4 : 14-15

The goal of intimacy

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 “David longed for water and said, “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!”…” 1 Chronicles 11:17

 How does a pioneer work begin? What are the staff qualifications and what do the facilities look like?

1 Samuel 22: 1-2 gives us a hint of an answer. David is running from Saul and having to make a new start.  His first “mission’s base” is a hole in the ground – the cave of Adullam! A team of folks are drawn to him. At first glance they do not seem to be the most promising of people. Here we have the principle of “3D” pioneer teams. Do you have this vital “3D” qualification?

 “All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him and he became their leader.”

 Distress, debt and discontent also make you more desperate for God. God uses desperate people! The successful “happy clappy” folk never really change the world!

So team life may be a bit stressful with such a group of folks! You have a cave, people in debt, distressed, discontented…and something else. You have David’s holy anointing! You have God’s heart, vision and passion residing in the cave as well. This is a transforming anointing. It changes “3D” Christians into “mighty men and women”. You may have a cave of problems but you will make it through if you have the passion and purpose of the “Jesus” anointing with you.

1 Chronicles 11: 10-47 shows us how these desperate folks were transformed into mighty warriors. One of the keys to such transformation is intimacy with the king. Our intimacy with “King Jesus” will effect positive change in our lives.

Some of David’s key men were so intimate that they could hear his longings. The Philistine garrison had occupied Bethlehem making it enemy territory. So what was David’s longing? What indeed is the longing of Christ?

He is thirsty to drink water from the wells of occupied lands!

 It is a missionary longing, a longing to see the living water of life springing up in the occupied hearts of the nations. Jesus longs to drink living water from Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu hearts.

Like the three mighty men, our intimacy with Christ, if it is genuine, must lead us to heed his apostolic passion.

This “hearing” of longing goaded them into concrete action and adventure.

 “So the Three broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David.”

True intimacy leads to breakthrough!

Courage rises, apathy is cast out and pioneer, persistent “breakthrough” prayer rises from faith filled hearts!

People become “risk takers”, fear is cast out and bold action in enemy territory undertaken.

False intimacy lacks missionary passion. It leads to more and more sterile meetings in comfortable halls and hotels. We soak in the stench of our hedonistic comfort zone, never taking an inch of territory in the real world.The “bridal paradigm” becomes an impotent wedding – the hotel was nice, the beach pleasant, the food good….but no real action!

True intimacy leads to personal sacrifice and “risk”.

 “Because they risked their lives to bring it back…”

The Three mighty men undertook bold action in a dangerous place which could have cost them their lives. The longing of their King inspired their wild dream! They truly lived on the edge, enjoying the fellowship of the bold and the “sold out”.

True intimacy leads to “poured out” worship.

 “But he refused to drink it; instead he poured it out before the Lord.”

 All the glory of the missionary endeavor of the Church goes back to Christ. No prominent heroes only prostrate worshippers.

So the goal of intimacy is to overhear the longings of Jesus to “drink” from occupied lands. Intimacy will give us a missionary heart willing to take risks to satisfy our King.

He also longs to drink from the wells of your own heart which may be occupied by the enemy in sin and unbelief. Come close to Him and breakthrough into fresh anointing and grace. Allow Him to drink deeper in your own life.

 “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”    John 7:37-38

 May new streams of worship and love pour forth from you to satisfy the thirst of Jesus.

 So, I wish you a very happy “Bridal Paradigm”.

Enjoy your intimacy and take territory!