Tuesday, August 30, 2011

#214 A Chapter from "Lessons From Ruth: Discovering Your Destiny"

Chapter Ten

“Happenstance or Providence”

Cities and towns in Ruth’s day were usually set upon a hill. Bethlehem was no exception, and it is believed that at the foot of the hill leading out of Bethlehem, there lay a fertile valley in which the fields of the man Boaz lie.

We can probably say with good certainty that when Ruth crossed the border of Bethlehem and started down the hill, she had no idea where on earth she was going. As she walked along the way, there were no angelic visitations and no visions in the sky. There were no road signs at the bottom of the hill, and as far as we can surmise, no voices spoke to her.

Can’t you just feel the excitement of the four words that Samuel uses to describe what happens next? “As it turned out”. As it turned out, Ruth found herself in the field of Boaz. The King James translation says, “Her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging to Boaz.” That’s a fun sentence to say. From Ruth’s viewpoint, she just “happened” to end up in Boaz’s field. It was just happenstance. It was only a coincidence. I think not.

If Ruth had gone to another field, they may as well have called the shepherds and the Magi, and told them not to bother taking that trip to Bethlehem many years later. This was a set up. This was a divine set up!

Ruth was not in Boaz’s field by chance. God had provided this place. He directed Ruth to the appropriate Bethlehem field. Ruth was uncertain, but God was not. His providence over-ruled any uncertainty she may have had.

If the FBI had been there dusting for prints, the fingerprints of God would have been all over this one! The Holy Spirit had already written Matthew Chapter One, the genealogy of Christ, Ruth’s name was entered, and things had to go exactly according to plan.

Your times are in the hands of God today. Psalm 31: 15 says exactly that. “My times are in your hands.” Psalm 37: 23 says, “The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord.” And Proverbs 20: 24 says, “A man’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?” Ruth had no understanding that day of what God was up to as her sandaled feet hit the barley fields of Boaz. God has the ultimate, final say in our lives. His fingerprints are all over us.

“As it turned out?” I don’t think so. I’m sure that Ruth saw her present situation, being as poor as she was, forced to pick up scraps, as a set-back. But this was no set-back. This was a set-up! A divine set-up!

If we could start to look at our own situations and circumstances and say, “Yes, this really stinks, but I believe that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). The situation I’m in is NOT a set-back. It’s a set-up!”

You might say, “Well, Donna, God was setting things up for the birth of the Messiah. Who am I? What difference do my circumstances make in the grand scheme of things?” Can I tell you that you have no idea what God may want to do with your life? You have no clue what He may have in mind. Think about your situation today and say out loud, “It’s a set-up!” Go ahead. Say it again. “It’s a set-up!”

God can use that very situation to work out His mighty plan for your life. He can use it to change your family, your church, your workplace, and your entire destiny. You may be hot, dirty, and exhausted from picking up scraps day after day, toiling in the hot sun of your circumstances, but God can turn that around in a hot second.

Joseph knew this. Look at what he told his brothers; the very same brothers who threw him in a pit and left him for dead.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50: 20)

God is able to take every fiery dart the enemy throws at you and turn it to good. God can take even the evil deeds of others and turn them around for good. He’s setting you up!

We can believe that with all of our hearts, or we can murmur, grumble, and complain our way through our circumstances. That’s exactly what the nation of Israel did. It took them forty years to make an eleven day journey. We can wander aimlessly in the wilderness or we can get to our promised land, depending on the choice we make.

God is patient. He’s a gentleman. He will wait for you to stop murmuring, grumbling and complaining for as long as it takes. He will never force you to do anything. But you never know who, any minute, just around the corner, might be coming to the field where you are picking up the scraps! Your “just then” could be “right now!”

Verse 4 says, “Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem.” Was this another case of happenstance? Was it another happy accident? After what we’ve just learned, can you say, “NO WAY?” Nothing that happened here was an accident. This Boaz, the one who just happened to arrive from Bethlehem, was of the clan of Elimelech, Naomi’s dead husband, and we will soon see just how important that was. God hasn’t missed a trick! It’s all been a set-up!

Lessons from Ruth: Discovering Your Destiny
By Donna Schultz
Buy Now!


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

#213 "Grace Amid the Thorns"

photo from: margauxville.com

Thorns. Like pointed arrows. We touch. We hurt. We bleed.

Flaming arrows of the evil one. They hit their mark. We hurt. We bleed.

Thorns in the flesh. Sent to torment. Allowed for a reason.

Paul's thorn kept him from becoming conceited. What would I become without the thorns?

What will I become with them?

Three times and more, I ask for the taking away.

"My grace is sufficient for you," He says.

Is it really? The words flow off my lips.

"His grace is sufficient for me."

But is it? Really?

It is, because He says it is.

The better question is, "Do I really believe it is?"

When it hurts. When I bleed. When it hits the mark.

Is grace enough for me?

Grace. Unmerited favor from God. 

Good in the middle of bad. Light in the midst of dark.

Like those days when it rains but the sun is still shining.

Grace is the rose that grows from the thorn bush.

image from: haendi.files.wordpress.com

Three times He asked for the thorncup to be taken from Him. 

Abba's grace.

Sufficient for Him.

Sufficient for me.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

#212 "Platforms"

Do you blog? Do you have a Facebook page? Do you "tweet?" Are you on Google+, MySpace or Tumblr? Xanga or Vox? Whether we like it or not, and whether we agree with the concept or not, social media is a part of our everyday life. Most people engage themselves in at least one of these avenues of communication with other people several times a day. 

If you spend any time at all on any one of a host of social media sites, you have been given a platform. You are standing on a figurative soapbox sharing a little something with a lot of someones. 

Lest I be labeled self-righteous, let me be clear and confess that I blog, I "tweet", and I have a Facebook page. My intent is not to tell you that social media is wrong or to suck the fun right out of it. My intent is to make somebody aware of the fact that they have been given a platform to speak. The question is, speak about what?

When we sit down with our fingers poised above the keys of our PC or laptop, what do we choose to share? 

We all do it. We plug our books. We blog hop. We share our websites. We advance our political views. We post funny, amusing and laughable things. I do it. You do it as well, and there is nothing wrong with that. But every once in a while I believe that we need to use the social platforms God has given us to say something of worth and value. To share some kingdom stuff. To share some not so fun, serious stuff.

There is a great big world out there,
beyond our four walls and our own backyards.    

It is with this very intent that I will share with you today what God has been pressing on my heart.

"URGENT: The most severe drought in decades is threatening the lives of more than 11 million people — especially young children — in the Horn of Africa. Famine has been declared in parts of southern Somalia, and threatens to spread further if nothing is done to prevent it. Kenya and Ethiopia are also severely affected by the crisis, with millions in critical need of food and water."

"A child dies every 15 seconds from diseases caused by a lack of safe water and sanitation, that's 1.5 million children dying from preventable diseases such as diarrhea, cholera and typhoid every year."

"An estimated 27 million people are held in slavery worldwide, meaning there are more slaves in the world than were taken from Africa during 300 years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Each year, more than 1 million children are exploited in the global commercial sex trade. Between 18,000 and 20,000 victims are trafficked into the United States annually. Many who work with this issue believe this number is considerably higher. 100,000 to 300,000 children in America are at risk for sex trafficking each year."


The A21 Campaign

These are the particular issues that are near and dear to my heart. They are the ones that keep me awake at night. They are the very situations that I feel helpless to do anything about and the ones that make tears stain my cheeks. They are the ones that compel me to open my check book and write numbers.

I send. I pray. I hope.

Today I'm choosing to use my God-given platform to share some serious things. As one blogger put it, "I don't want to be a Debbie-Downer", but I must. God wants me to. How do I know?

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy." Proverbs 31: 8-9

"I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25: 40

We are all given platforms to speak. I have them. You have them. What will you do with the platform you've been given?

"What I ask of American Christianity is not to show us more creeds, but more of Christ; not more rites and ceremonies, but more religion glowing with love and replete with life,—religion which will be to all weaker races an uplifting power, and not a degrading influence. Jesus Christ has given us a platform of life and duty from which all oppression and selfishness is necessarily excluded. While politicians may stumble on the barren mountains of fretful controversy and ask in strange bewilderment, "What shall we do with the weaker races?" I hold that Jesus Christ answered that question nearly two thousand years since. "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do you even so to them."  Francis Ellen Watkins Harper

**All organization names are clickable links.

friday favorite things | finding joy

Beholding Glory

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

#211 "If I Perish, I Perish"

During my quiet time this morning, I was reminded of the day, almost six years ago, when I had my first confirmation from God that I would be called to a new avenue of ministry. At the time, I was heavily involved in doing Outreach Ministry on the east side of Detroit. Stirring on the inside of me was a divine discontent with what I was doing, but I fought it for a long, long time. Through a series of circumstances, some that weren't so swell, God finally had my attention. What I felt God was saying at the time seemed absurd. I thought I was making it up in my bleached blonde head. It wouldn't go away. It was there at all times. It was scary. I ignored.

God had to put me on the backside of a mountain, away from what I had given my time and gifting to for so long, in order to prepare me for what lie ahead. One day He spoke to me so loud and clear through the pages of Scripture that I needed to take off my shoes. I was standing on Holy Ground. It was scary. This time I could not ignore. 

I underlined. I circled. I wrote the date next to the word in my Bible. What God said to me from a burning bush changed the course of everything, and still drives me today. 

The road hasn't been easy. You have to crawl before you walk, and I've done my share of crawling,  trying to walk, falling, getting brushed off, and going again.  It's been an uphill climb. It's been scary. I've still struggled with the ignoring part. God always leads me back to the commission. To the "what He wants me to do." Little steps of faith have grown year after year into huge leaps. Has it been worth it? You betcha it has!

I want to do big things for God. Big things require prayer, sacrifice and faith that when you can't see an inch in front of you, you take a step anyway.

God has been opening doors for me lately that sometimes scare me to death. I know that it's God because I've done nothing to orchestrate them. They have required me to sacrifice some important things for a season. They have required me to fall on my knees and pray like never before. They have required me to step out in faith when I'm so sure there will be nothing under my feet and I will fall, fall, fall, until I come crashing down. 

Then He reminds me that Moses had to raise the staff in order to part the Red Sea.   

He reminds me that David had to release the stones from the sling in order to slay Goliath. 

He reminds me that Peter had to step out of the boat in order to walk on the water.

He reminds me that Esther had to go against all protocol of the Persian palace to get an audience with the king and save a nation.

The voice of Mordecai rings in my ears saying, "who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"

It can be scary. It can feel absurd. 

I will obey.
And if I perish, I perish.

Finding Joy

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

#210 "The Problem, The Prescription, The Promise"

The thirtieth chapter of the book of Isaiah begins in my Bible with the heading, "Woe to the Obstinate Nation."  Judah was being threatened by the Assyrian Empire and they sought an alliance with Egypt to ward off the threat. Rather than turning to God for protection, a strong faction wanted to seek help from Egypt, a country waning as a world power. Judah was forming plans for their survival, but they weren't God's plans. 

Sending envoys to Egypt required passing through dangerous terrain, ripe with wild animals. They took expensive gifts on the backs of donkeys and camels. Judah's people went to great lengths, hardship, and expense because of their desperation for help. They had rejected all of the counsel given to them from the Lord, through the prophet Isaiah. 

Could a chapter in the book of our lives be titled, "Woe to the Obstinate Christian?" 

The Problem     

We all have problems. Jesus promised that in this world we would have trouble, and that's a fact. You may not be in a season of sorrow, threatening circumstances, or dire situations right now, but we all go through them at one time or another. Some continue for years.

When we find ourselves surrounded by a powerful Assyrian army that threatens our well-being, and perhaps even our very survival, to whom do we turn?

Like those in Judah back in the day, we often plug our ears and refuse to listen to the word of the Lord. We reject godly counsel, all the while exerting enormous energy, and going to great lengths to devise our own plans.  

The silliest thing ever is that this people was seeking to make an alliance with the nation that used to be their taskmasters. God pulled out all the stops to lead them out of Egypt, and when they found themselves in trouble, they turned to the very nation who had held them in slavery and bondage for 400 years. 

How often do we go right back to the place of our former imprisonment when we need help?

There are all manner of "Egypts" that we can look to in our times of trouble, instead of looking up and seeking the help of the Lord. Out of a sense of panic, we sell ourselves into slavery once again to food, a bottle, a substance, a feeling, the arms of another person, be that flesh and blood real, or a fantasy on the internet. We trade the things of God for endless time on social media, to escape from having to think at all. We search for love, acceptance, perfectionism, achievement at all costs. We plot and we plan and we try and we attempt to figure our own way out. We set our feet on dangerous terrain, ripe with roaring lions, waiting in the shadows to devour us.

What is your "Egypt"? What is that place that God miraculously delivered you from, that you have that tendency to turn to each and every time you get in trouble? I can't name it for you, but you know. You know. 

That place... that "Egypt"...that's the problem.

The Prescription

What if instead of going to Egypt in search of your answers, you turned to God? What if you opened the pages of Scripture and searched for the way out, instead of tightening the shackles around your ankles once again? Here is what you would find.  

"This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength." (Isaiah 30: 15)

When you feel surrounded, with no way out, don't panic. Just as Egypt became a useless power, one that God called, "good for nothing" (Isaiah 30:7), your Egypt will do you no good. Instead, repent from looking anywhere, and to anything, instead of the living God, for your help in times of trouble.  



Be quiet.


Therein lies your salvation and your strength.

You can choose to "have none of it" (Isaiah 30: 15d), just like Judah did. A doctor can write a prescription for your physical ailment and put it in your hand, but it will do no healing good if you never take it to the pharmacy and get it filled. It will never help you if you don't take the medicine.

The Promise

Oh, I don't even have to do commentary on the promise. Scripture spells it out so plainly and wonderfully. Feast your eyes on your surety from God, if you will turn to Him, and leave Egypt in the dust, where it belongs.

"The Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion." (Isaiah 30: 18)

"How gracious He will be when you cry for help! As soon as He hears, He will answer you." (Isaiah 30: 19)

"Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity (are you eating that bread today?), and the water of affliction (drinking a big glass full?), your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." (Isaiah 30: 20-21)

What a promise! What a Savior! What an amazing God! The Holy One Himself will show you what to do!

You can choose to ignore the word of God like Judah did back in the day. Woe to you! "Woe" in the Hebrew sense is a passionate cry of grief or despair in the face of a present or coming danger.

You can sit around and cry "Woe is me" as the enemy laughs, tightening the grip on your chains. Or...

You can leave your "Egypt" in the past and receive the promise of the living God. 

Coming August 31, 2011