Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ruth 1-God cares for widows

Irena Sendler, a non-Jewish social worker, led the rescue of 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto, during the Holocaust in World War II.  Irena and her network assisted in hiding these children and then placing them into the homes of Polish families or concealing them in convents and orphanages. She made lists of the children's real names, put the lists in jars, and then buried them in a garden. Later she would dig up the jars and locate the children to tell them of their real identity. October 1943 Irena was arrested. During her time in prison she had her legs and feet fractured, unwilling to give information on the team she was sentenced to be shot. The Polish underground bribed a guard to release her, and she went into hiding.
 For many years Irena-white-haired, gentle and courageous - was living a modest existence in her Warsaw apartment. Her achievement went largely unnoticed for many years. Then the story was uncovered by four students who wrote a play Life in a Jar about the heroic actions of Irena Sendler. Winners in 2000 of a Kansas state history competition, their presentation, popularized by National Public Radio, C-SPAN and CBS, have brought Irena Sendler’s story to a wider public. This unsung heroine passed away on Monday May 12th, 2008. However her story is memorialized through a website, Hallmark movie and a book.
My usual resources were pretty harsh on Naomi. Elimelech and Naomi  condemned for running away during the famine to in a Moab, instead of waiting on the LORD. Naomi is accused of trying to hide the fact that her sons married Moabite women by trying to discourage her daughter-in laws from returning with her to Bethlehem. In her bitterness, they claim, she blaming God for everything. Since chapter one is the focus of the lecture I felt compelled to explore Naomi circumstances as a widow at that point in history.
Last week we listed all the women with angelic birth announcement and also the barren women in the bible.  Tonight I will focus on Naomi in Ruth 1.
God has a special place for women in His Kingdom. He is our hope.
Let us pray.  Lord tonight help us learn through this study of RUTH that true fulfillment can be found only in God. Although we may seek completion through family and position, we find it only through knowing the One who created us. Our hope is in Christ alone! Now Father, Guard the door of my mouth, and let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you. Oh LORD my strength and my redeemer. In Jesus name I pray. Amen
Ladies you may want to open your Bibles to the Chapter 1 of Ruth
Day five of our lesson compares the attitude of Naomi to that of Job in chapter 1. (The book of Job has 42 chapters. In chapter 1, his troubles were just beginning.) While Job is praised, Naomi is pictured as bitter. The biggest distinction in this comparison is Naomi is a female in a culture where a woman’s place in society is secured through marriage and motherhood. As a man, Job did not lose his land or his stature in the community, but Naomi did. Plus Naomi was a widow in a foreign country when her tragedy struck. Not a safe place to be with no male family. Naomi was far from Bethlehem and her God.
Psalm 68:5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.
Carolyn James informs us that the Hebrew word for widow almanah shows her low rank in the ancient patriarchal culture. Alem mean “unable to speak”, the widow or “the silent one,” had no voice, no legal rights and no recourse against injustice. This fact is verified by Jesus accusation that the religious leaders of his day of “devouring widows houses” in Mark 12 and Luke 20.
Another reference can be found in Proverbs 15:25 The LORD tears down the proud man’s house but he keeps the widow’s boundaries intact.
 Ruth 1:3 Now Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.
Naomi is indeed a bereaved woman finding herself widowed and ten years later no sons to provide for her.  In a pagan country, many dangers could threaten her. She may be bitter but Naomi does have the faith to return home to her people and her God.
Deuteronomy 10:18 assures us God “defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow,
Possibly she felt like a prodigal returning to Bethlehem after seeking refuge in Moab and living there, ten years long enough for Naomi’s sons to marry forbidden foreign women.  Add to the shame she returned accompanied by a “strange woman,” Ruth, her daughter-in-law.
Ruth 1:19-21 When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”  20 “Don’t call me Naomi” (which means pleasant or sweet) she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21 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.”
Most of us can sympathize with her sorrow, her deep despair, her sense of hopelessness. Yes and even bitterness. How many of us have had the devastation of losing a spouse? Widowed or divorced we share a similar sense of loss.
·       Loss of male companionship, protection, and emotional support of a spouse
·       Change in finances and possibly the loss of your own home
·       Change of  your status in the community
o   Half a couple, uncomfortable with being the odd number in the group
o   Single women may be seen as threat-I take special care to avoid even the appearance of evil when around married men.
o   The loss of your husband’s influence in the community or church
Friends and neighbors are watching your response to the tough times in your life. Don’t give up hope. Turn to your Heavenly Father who is there waiting with arms opened wide to receive you. He will be your kinsmen redeemer.
 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28
 A dear lady I know went through radiation several years ago. She never complained or reacted to her plight with bitterness. In fact, she was an encouragement to me when I was down. Through her multiple weeks of treatment, she witnessed to other patients, offering them hope and a smile. She continues to serve the LORD through her mercy and compassion to others.
God has a special place for women in His Kingdom. He is our hope.
 Proverbs 31:20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
Naomi's husband and two sons die in the first few verses of Ruth. Now Naomi and Ruth are the main characters in the story. Though Naomi returned home bitter, she didn’t stay bitter. We will see how she nurtures and encourages Ruth, and even orchestrates the relationship between Ruth and Boaz to provide a husband for Ruth and a kinsman redeemer to preserve the lineage of her husband, Elimelech.
There are 103 references to widows in the NIV bible. Deuteronomy provides specific laws for the protection of widows and orphans.  God’s prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zachariah, and Malachi warn against forsaking the plight of the widows and fatherless.
Jesus honored the widows mite in Luke 21: 3 “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; 4 for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.
Jesus shows compassion to a widow Luke 7 a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” …“Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
Biblical scholar Bonnie Bowman Thuston notes “When Jesus raises this man from the dead, he is in fact, giving life back to two persons in the community; the man and his mother.”
He has proven through his scriptures that women and widows have a have a prominent place in the Bible. Consider the widows who provided food and shelter to the prophets Elisha Kings 1 and Elijah in Kings 2.
God used women many times in the Old Testament to save Israel. We saw the role of Rahab by giving refuge to Joshua’s spies. Deborah was one of 15 judges, not a bad ratio. Judges 5:24  “Most blessed of women be Jael… for her bravery in the killing commander of the Canaanite army.
Our LORD not only cares for women but he cherishes us as his children.  From Genesis when God created Eve as a helper for Adam to Revelation where the church is called the Bride of Christ, God has blessed the union of men and women. God uses women in a unique way for the furtherance of His kingdom.
Remember at the foot of the cross, John 19:26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” Charging John with her care.
The women came to the cross when the other disciples hid. Women were also the first ones at the tomb.  Mark 16:9 He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, She received the honor of telling the disciples she had seen Jesus; He was alive!
Nothing that happens to us can disqualify us from God’s purpose for our lives. My divorce, devastating as it was at the time, equipped me as a school teacher to comfort and empathize with single mothers the difficulty of raising children alone over issues with discipline, homework, and lack of funds. Even now in my position as TD, God has proven my unmarried status affords me time I need for to serve Him fully.  
God has a very special place for women in His Kingdom, even me.
Whenever the Bible highlights a widow or barren women you can expect something extraordinary to occur. Ruth was brought into the kingdom through the influence and godly life of her mother-in-law. Even as she urges Orpah and Ruth to return to their mother’s home, Naomi is showing unselfishness and true love. Yet as Ruth clings to her, Naomi relents. Walking back to Bethlehem alone would have been a lonely and arduous journey. Ruth exemplifies a special love for her mother-in-law by leaving her home and family to care for Naomi in verses 16 & 17. 
16And Ruth said: "Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go, and where thou lodgest, I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. 17Where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried; the LORD do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me."
Ruth and Esther were honored to have books named after them. Ruth, faithful and devoted, even though she is of foreign birth will be in the lineage of the Messiah.  Esther was placed in the palace of a king to save her people from extinction.
In Acts 9: 32-39  Peter visit the saints in Lydda to find Tabitha (Dorcas) who was always doing good and helping the poor became sick and died, All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made. 40 Peter sent them out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning to the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up.
Ecclesiastes 4:10 If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man (or woman) who falls and has no one to help him up!
Titus 2:3-5 Paul instructs the older women to teach what is good. train the younger women to love their husbands and children,
1 Timothy 5:10 Give a list qualities of faithful widows  SHE is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.
We have a sainted widow in my church. One of my greatest opportunities is to study every week with my friend and mentor, Miss Nellie. This is one time during my busy week where I can sit and enjoy the pleasure of her wisdom and her seemingly endless knowledge of the history of Cramerton. After losing most of the vision in her eyes, she can no long read and has little interest in television. It is my joy to read and discuss our Sunday lesson with her. Sometime I just sit and listen and chuckle to her anecdotes. She explains historical terminology to me, like counterpane and hoe cake. Nellie told me her uncle would be working out in the field, he would carefully clean off the hoe he was using and cook hoecakes right there over an open fire. She will burst out laughing, reminiscing about some the mischief the neighborhood lads had done. She is dearly loved by her family, neighbors, and church family. Though she rarely makes into the church building, Miss Nellie is a prayer warrior and, with the assistance of her loving daughters, she has a card ministry. She loves to phone encouragement to those the homebound and sick.
God has a special place for women in His Kingdom. He is our hope.
I want to challenge you retired ladies to consider mentoring some younger women and younger woman to find some way to minister to the homebound and widows. There are many ways that God can use you.
Will you allow God to use you in His Kingdom?     
Let us prayer.
Lord thank you for the blessing of women who by sharing their lives with us double our joy and halve our sorrows. But let us know true fulfillment comes only through YOU.  In Christ our hearts find a home and hope and peace. Amen.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Samson Judges 13-16

Ladies it has been such a long time since I have had the privilege of teaching the lecture. I am so glad to be back. Did you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving? Praise the LORD.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12 that there are many gifts of the Spirit. Do you know your gift? If you don’t, why not ask a close friend? They are the ones that can see the manifestation of the Spirit in your life. God doesn’t give us all the same gift. My daughter was given a beautiful singing voice.  I used to stand beside my daughter in our choir and just pretend that beautiful voice, capable of hitting the highest note, was coming from my throat. But God in His marvelous wisdom knew I would be prideful and take credit for my performance. Teaching is one of my talents and I have to constantly remind myself that it is a gift from God, to direct positive remarks to give Him the glory, the One who gave me my teaching abilities. To give Him the honor and praise and adoration! He puts the hunger in me to dig deep and search the scriptures, and he also gives me the days and hours that I need to prepare.
What we do with our gifts is our gift to God! How are you using your gifts? One of my pet phrases is, “use it or lose it!” In the twilight of our lives we need to continue to feed our minds and souls, exercise our vocal chords and keep our fingers nimble. If you have the gift of music or poetry etc., please let us know. We enjoy hearing from our CBS members during Openings. Didn’t Felicia do a great job earlier! Ladies we need to use our gifts, sing his praises, and share how God has blessed us.

Tonight we will talk about Samson, the last of our judges in this book. We will take a few minutes to analyze how well he used his gifts.
The more I studied the more my opinion of Samson has diminished. There are more chapters in the book of Judges devoted to Samson than any other man. God is using the failings of Samson to teach us some important life lessons. Hopefully we will gain wisdom and insight realizing the importance of God’s direction in our Christian walk, when make decisions.
A.B. Simpson expressed it well when he wrote Samson was:  ‘A marvellous example of what God might have done with a thoroughly separated man,
and yet what self-indulgence and sin can do to hinder the glorious promise and the gracious purpose of God.’

 It's not how you start life, but how you finish that counts for God.

   PRAYER  Ladies if you want, open your bible to Judges 13.
While studying about Samson I chose three points for my lecture tonight from Warren Wiersbe’s book, Be Available.      

·        The Child with the Unbelievable Gift
·        The Champion with Undefeatable Power
·        The Man with the Unreliable Character

The Child with the Unbelievable Gift
Judges 13:1 Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, so that the Lord gave them into the hands of the Philistines forty years. This will be their longest captivity.
Ladies are you even surprised! This time God’s children did not even cry out for deliverance, but He decided it was time for another miracle.
WW  “When God wants to do something really great in His world, He doesn’t send an army, but an angel,” to deliver a gift for His special use to fulfill God’s own purpose.  In verse 2 we learn Manoah‘s wife was barren and had borne no children.

   vv. 3-7 The Angel of the LORD came to the woman and said” Behold, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son;” ( Angel ascended to heaven in a fire.)
Sound familiar doesn’t it. How wonderful to have an angelic birth announcement.
      Sarah - Isaac after 90~ Genesis 17:17
      Rachel - Joseph~ Genesis 30:27   (after Leah had 7 children)
      Hannah - Samuel~1 Samuel 1:20  Eli the priest
      Elizabeth-John the Baptist~ Luke 1 Zachariah and Elizabeth “well along in years”
      Shunammite woman  1 Kings 4  Elisha  “She has no son and her husband is old”
There are several instances in the bible of barren women giving birth in later years: Sarai, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth, and the Shunammite woman who cared for Elisha. Two of these, Sara and Elizabeth received a heavenly visitor as well. These sons were definitely “worth the wait.” We tend to develop great expectation for things we have long awaited.  Manoah and his wife were faithful, devoted Christians. Manoah urgently prayed for wisdom and knowledge to raise this special child.

Judges 13:7   Samson was dedicated to be “a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.”  There are only three mentions made in Scripture of those who were Nazirites for life, Samson Judg. 13:4-5, Samuel, 1 Sam. 1:11;and John the Baptist Luke 1:15. Some sources believe Jesus was a Nazirite.
A Nazirite was one who had taken a special vow before the Lord. The purpose of the vow was to provide a way in which a non-priestly person could dedicate his life to God. The Nazirite vow was voluntary and usually temporary, 30-100 days. But in Samson’s case it was ordained by God to last for his whole life. He was chosen by God before he was born and uniquely gifted for the work he was to do.
JV McGee says of Samson:  “Never was a man born with more glorious opportunities than this man.”

 Let me tells you about a boy who used his blessings as an opportunity to help others. A child prodigy nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize at age 12.
Gregory Smith born in PA in1990 could read by age two and had enrolled in university at 10. By16, Smith was studying for four doctorate degress. His “genius” is only one aspect of this story. Smith has used his media attention to advocate children’s rights around the world. He founded an organization that promotes peace and understanding among the world’s young people. Meeting with leaders of different countries and speaking in front of the UN, he has been nominated 4 times for a Nobel Peace Prize. His humanitarian efforts are benefiting orphans and young people around the world. Smith hopes to create safe havens, protected shelters for children living in war zones and is working to create an international symbol to mark these and provide protection during conflict.
Greg Smith realizes that he cannot accomplish much alone. “I try to reach out to other people and encourage them to take part. One drop doesn’t make an ocean, but with enough drops, you can begin to make a change.”Smith has said.  
Quite a different attitude from the one Samson chose.
It's not how you start in life, but how you finish that matters.
Gregory Smith not only started out well but has continued to excel in his 21 years.

The Champion with Undefeatable Power
The blessing of God rested on Samson from his birth. In Mahaneh Dan young Samson no doubt liked to watch the men get ready for battle. The Spirit of God began to stir in Samson in his teen years when a Jewish boy becomes a “son of the law” and demonstrates his special gifts. That the Spirit stirred him at this military staging area indicates that his life’s work would be the deliverance of his people from the hands of the hated Philistine.
We cannot deny that Samson was a powerful man, a mighty warrior of great strength, but always remember his strength was not his hair.

Supernaturally empowered by the Spirit of the LORD, let’s take a look at some of his extraordinary FEATS of STRENGTH
Judges 14:5-6  Ripped apart a young lion  Could this have been the LORD warning him to get out of the vineyard. 1 Peter 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
  • 14:19 Killed 30 men of Ashkelon for their garments                               
  • 15:4 Caught and tied 300 foxes tail to tail & put a torch on each pair           
  • 15:8 In vengeance, slaughter a great number of Philistines
  • 15:14 Easily broke 2 new cords that bound him
  • 15:15 Killed 1,000 men with the new jawbone of an ass 
  • 16:3 carried the gates of the city posts and all for several miles to                              Hebron 
  • 16:30 And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.
In all of these demonstrations of strength, Samson acted alone in the Spirit of the LORD.  It has been said “God plus 1 is a majority.”
 For 20 years Samson played the champion, but he failed to act as a leader. He never gathered an army or organized the people to fight the Philistines. The only time there was a united military effort was when the 3,000 men of Judah came to Samson to bind him and deliver him over to the enemy. Notice the phrase “the Philistines are rulers over us” Judges 15 v.11
The Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson: 4 times in the NIV, but we never heard him call out to the LORD for wisdom or authorization to act. Samson was more interested in serving himself than serving God. The only reason Samson fought against the Philistines, was when he felt personally wronged or out-smarted.  But fear not, God is still orchestrating the “downfall“  of the Philistines
One of the times Samson did cry out to the LORD is in Judges 15:18. He was weakened from battle and proclaimed he would die of thirst. God produced water from a rock and his strength was revived. Judges 15: 20And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.
Samson had a good start in life, but it’s how he finished that matters.
The Man with the Unreliable Character
Winston Churchill once described the actions of the Russian “It is a riddle wrapped up in a mystery inside an enigma.” Warren Weirsbe says this quote could be applied to Samson. He was unpredictable and undependable. James 1:8 “a double minded man is unstable in all his ways”
Judges 13:3-5 should have given us a clue (Samson) shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hands of the Philistines. JVMcGee   He was a beginner, not a finisher.
 Paul wrote to the Galatians in 5:7   “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?”
Numbers 6 for a more detailed information in the Nazirite vow.
Numbers 6 3 abstain from wine and beer.  not drink vinegar made from wine or from beer. not drink any grape juice or eat fresh grapes or raisins. 4 He is not to eat anything produced by the grapevine, from seeds to skin, during his vow.
Judges 14: 1 Samson went down to Timnath,(why we ask is he in the camp of the enemy) then he saw a Philistine woman.   Lust of the eyes
 V2.  get her for me to wife.  Selfish motive-lust of the flesh
V3  his father and his mother wisely try to dissuade Samson from choosing a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines. (Unclean)
Samson said, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well.
 Judges 17:6  but every man did that which was right in his own eyes
 His parents I am sure were disappointed at the wife their only son had chosen. But God is working even in this.
Samson again is strolling through the vineyards of Timnath   Judges 14:8 …he turned aside to see the honey in the carcass of the lion.  9And he took thereof in his hands, and went on eating, and came to his father and mother
Numbers 6:6 Nazirites must not go near a dead body.
The problem began when Samson turned aside. How often have we be tempted by turning aside from what is right and pure and godly! Ladies we must keep our eyes on the LORD.
Samson must think himself quite clever creating a riddle of his little moment of turning aside in the vineyard. It was not very respectful to make light of his sin. Samson compounded his sin by deceiving his parents.
Numbers 6: 5 no razor may be used on his head..
Samson still had his long hair, an outward symbol of a Nazirite; but his heart was not totally focused on God’s purpose for his life. Samson certainly was not bringing glory to God.
Bible stories for Children mention Samson and Delilah, but this week we learned Samson had several ungodly alliances. He had a recurrent weakness.
 Superman’s weakness was kryptonite.  Samson’s weakness was Philistine women.
Proverbs 6:27-28Can a man take fire in his bosom And his clothes not be burned?
                            Or can a man walk on hot coals And his feet not be scorched?

Judges 16:19 Delilah Having put him to sleep on her lap, called a man to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him. 20 But he did not know that the LORD had left him

Ladies this is the saddest thing of the entire story. Samson did not know that the LORD had left him.
How often do we try to do things in our own strength without God’s guidance or blessing. This is surely a lesson for Christian Living.
Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death (James 1:14-15).
 Judges 14:4  says The LORD, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; “ Samson’s last day turned out to be his BEST
There are some SIMILARITIES in lives of Samson and of Jesus Christ - births were foretold about an angel and were dedicated to God from the womb. Both men moved in the power of the Holy Spirit. They were rejected by their people and bound and tortured at the hands of their enemies.
  Many CONTRASTS between Samson’s life and  Jesus
·        Samson live  a life of sin;
·        Jesus life was sinless
·        Sampson at the time at his death prayed, Judges 16:28
I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes
·        Jesus prayed, “ Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”
·         In death Samson's arms were outstretched in wrath.
·        In death Jesus arms were outstretched in love
·         Sampson died.
·        Jesus Christ lives

Friends, many times as Christian we can be distracted by the bus-i-ness of the world and make bad choices in emotional circumstances. The secular world tries to convince us that what the Bible says is outdated or untrue.  A popular phrase in the 60’s  “If it feels good, do it” is still dictating the lives of people today. Sometimes we can’t do what we feel-because it contradicts God WORD and His will for our lives.

Isaiah 55:9 (KJV) 9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

It’s not how you begin, but how you finish that makes the difference.
May we be able to say as Paul:  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Tim. 4:7)
God is still looking for people He can use for His glory.  Will you choose to be available for his call?
If you have problems in your walk with the Lord, I invite you right now to confess to Him, receive His forgiveness and be made ready to be used by Him in His time. 
Any member of the Servants Team or your Core Leader would be happy to talk to you after the lecture.
Let us Pray