Nip It in the Bud

You might recognize the saying in the title. Barney Fife said it often. Honestly it’s a good saying. If you take care of something while it’s small, then it won’t be so bad later.

Got weeds in the garden? Pick them while they’re small and the roots are not strong and deep. If you let them grow, they get much harder to pull.

Got a little mess in the kitchen? Clean it up sooner rather than later so things don’t have time to set and harden, making it much harder to scrub off later.

Got a stain on your clothes or furniture? Treat it now so it doesn’t have time to set in and never come out.

Got a little bad habit that’s forming? Start stopping now and replace it with a better one. It’s much easier to get out of a shallow rut than a deep one you’ve been digging for a while.

Got a boulder you need to roll? Get it started and don’t stop until you get it where it needs to go. Keeping a boulder rolling is easier than getting it started, so don’t stop and go if you can help it.

Got a machine that you want to keep running smoothly? Keep it clean and oiled regularly. It’s a lot easier and better to keep a machine going through regular maintenance than it is to wait until it breaks down to fix it.

Want to keep good health or take steps towards better health? Take walks, eat good food, drink plenty of water. Doing even small things that are good for you can work wonders! If you put in some effort now, it’ll save you a lot of effort later. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

God a good habit you want to start? Just start. The sooner you get it going the better! The longer you do something, the easier it becomes to continue.

A Look at Ruth

The book of Ruth in the Bible is a fun read. I’ve read and heard it so many times though, that sometimes I forget how big of a deal those things are. Sometimes I miss details or just don’t think of them. There are a few things I had questions about, like the uncovering of Boaz’s feet. So after looking at it all again and looking online for customs of the day, here’s a summary.

We start with a man named Elimelech and his wife and two sons. They were from Bethlehemjudah. There was a famine in the land, so they moved away to live where there was food, choosing Moab. Moab and Israel were cousin peoples through Abraham and Lot, and like family they didn’t always get along. Sometimes Moab was Israel’s enemy. At this point in Ruth it seems they were on friendly terms with each other. While Elimelech’s family was there, his sons married women from Moab. This was a questionable choice considering Moab’s religious practices and the way God warned His people about marrying foreigners in Deuteronomy 7:3-4, but God worked it out anyway.

After 10 years, all the men in the family died, leaving three widows. Elimelech’s wife, Naomi, had heard that by now the famine was gone in her homeland and she planned to go back. Her daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, started travelling with her. Naomi told them to go back home to their own families, hoping God would bless them and give them new husbands. They cried, and at first the daughters-in-law said they’d go with Naomi, but she didn’t see the use in it and made her case, adding she was sure the hand of God was against her. They cried again and Orpah decided to go home, but Ruth was adamant that she stay with Naomi. Naomi pointed out that Orpah had gone back home to her people and her gods, so why shouldn’t Ruth? This was bad advice, since Naomi knew the true God and shouldn’t have been so casual about her daughters-in-law worshiping false ones. That makes me wonder if the two women worshiped those gods while married into a family that did not. I wonder if the Israelite family had accepted the Moabite religious practices. I wonder if Naomi was that sad and bitter after her husband’s and sons’ deaths that she wouldn’t care.

Regardless, Ruth made it a point to stay with Naomi, making a promise. She had absolutely no intention of leaving her mother-in-law. This is a part that I sometimes gloss over as if it isn’t a huge deal: Ruth left her home, her people, her religion, her complete way of life, to go live where she was a complete stranger and worship the true God!

Upon their arrival, the whole city recognized Naomi. That makes me wonder how renowned her family was before they left, and for what. Naomi told them not to call her by her name since it means “pleasant.” She was so grieved at the deaths in her family that she wanted to be called Mara, which means “bitter.” I don’t know if she meant it literally or not, since the writer of Ruth continues referring to her as Naomi, and we don’t see anyone else referring to her one way or the other. Maybe it’s because things became pleasant again later, but I don’t know.

Naomi and Ruth needed to eat, so Ruth went out to work towards that end, beginning work as a gleaner picking up leftovers in harvested grain fields. At this point Naomi has said the hand of God is against her, but we soon find out that Ruth has “happened” upon the fields of a kinsman redeemer, someone related to Elimelech who had the right to redeem the land of the deceased and marry Ruth, thus making things much better for her and Naomi. This kinsman’s name was Boaz. He noticed Ruth and asked one of his head servants about her. Here we find that Ruth was probably as renowned as Naomi at this point, as the servant told Boaz who she was and what she was doing. Boaz told Ruth that she should stay and glean in his fields, and take water breaks whenever she needed. Ruth humbly bowed on her face, wondering why Boaz would take note of her. He responded that he’d heard about all she’d done for Naomi, leaving her family and home to stay with her in a strange place. He continued that the God she’d come to trust would repay her for all she’d done. Ruth felt comforted by Boaz’s words, glad that he was being so kind even though she wasn’t like the others.

We read later on that Boaz showed more favor to Ruth, inviting her to a meal and telling harvesters to drop extra grain for her to glean. Whether he was in love with her or just being kind is unclear. Either way this kindness was helpful to both Ruth and Naomi. When Ruth got home with the grain she’d made into flour, she and Naomi talked about where she’d been and with who. If I read it right, it also seems Ruth had brought home some leftovers from the meal with Boaz (2:18). Naomi was very happy to hear whose field in which Ruth had worked, letting her know Boaz was a kinsman redeemer. She told Ruth to keep working in his fields, and later on told Ruth what to do regarding his kinsman status at the end of barley harvest.

The end of barley harvest was a time of celebration. Naomi told Ruth to wash and gussy up, but don’t let anyone see her. She was to go wait until Boaz was full and happy, then watch and see where he laid down to guard the harvested grain. Once he was lying down, within the customs of the culture and time Ruth was to go symbolically propose marriage, letting Boaz know he was a kinsman redeemer. Ruth told Naomi she would, and went to do so. When Boaz laid down to sleep, Ruth uncovered Boaz’s feet and laid down there waiting for him to wake up, presumably because of his cold feet. He woke at midnight, surprised to find a woman lying at his feet! He asked her who she was and she told him, adding he was a kinsman. She asked him to spread the edge of his garment over her, a symbolic gesture of protection and covenant, sort of like having someone take you under their wing. Boaz blessed Ruth for coming to him and not going after someone else. I wonder if he had been in love with her the whole time or if he was expressing admiration for the way she was going about things. At any rate, he tells Ruth he will do all that is required, but notes there is a nearer kinsman. He says he’ll talk to him, and if that kinsman wants to redeem then he can, but if not Boaz will happily do so.

Ruth stayed with Boaz for the rest of the night until just before dawn, probably to keep her safe so she didn’t go home alone in the middle of the night. Before it was light she was ready to leave, since it seems it might not have been appropriate for a woman to be there (3:14). Boaz gave her some grain to take back to Naomi. When Ruth told Naomi what had happened, Naomi told Ruth to just wait, since Boaz would take care of it right that day!

As soon as possible, Boaz went to the city gate to meet with the kinsman in front of ten city elders. After talking it over, the kinsman decided he couldn’t redeem the land and marry Ruth. Perhaps he was already married. Whatever the reason, they symbolically agreed that the right of redemption was changing hands by the kinsman handing over one of his shoes. Boaz accepted it in front of the witnesses, and the witnesses hoped Boaz would have a big family with Ruth.

Boaz married Ruth and they had a son named Obed. The women blessed God who had been with Naomi and hadn’t left her without a kinsman redeemer! They also praised Ruth, who loved Naomi, as being better to her than seven sons. We find later on that Boaz and Ruth are part of the lineage of David, and later on the lineage of Jesus!

I encourage you to take a deeper delve into Ruth, and any other Bible story. When you go study even just cultural practices, you’ll find a lot of interesting details!

A Few Things on Children

Children are an important gift from God, Psalm 127:3. Jesus Himself placed importance on children, Matthew 18:1-4 & 19:14.

Children are not empty boxes you need to fill, they are a gift with something already inside them from God. Your job as a parent is to find out what’s inside and teach them how to use it for God’s glory.

You should indoctrinate your children. If you don’t, someone else will. Indoctrination simply means the way you teach someone to live, what values they should have, and why they should be that way. Indoctrinating your children isn’t bad as long as you’re teaching them how to live in a way that pleases God and why they are to do so. See also Proverbs 22:6 and Ephesians 6:4. You will even be teaching your children when you don’t think you are, just by the way you live.

Whoever teaches your children also disciples them. Be aware of who your children are learning from and what they are learning.

Children are humans, too. A lot of people forget this and sometimes treat children like puppies that can’t possibly understand what the adults are doing. Sometimes people forget this because children are young and inexperienced, and also forget they are quickly and constantly learning. Children are quite smart and can understand a lot more than you think. Sometimes you just need to take time to explain, just like someone once explained to you. As you explain, you might even find flaws in what you’re explaining or doing and change it or yourself accordingly.

Children will learn from you even when you aren’t purposefully teaching. “Do as I say and not as I do” only works for so long. Children are intuitive; they see what you’re doing and will structure their behavior accordingly.

Children are like arrows, Psalm 127:4. Arrows are made to be shot forth towards a target. Not all arrows are meant to hit the same target. Sometimes your arrows will not be made the same way, and will need to be shot a little differently.

Remember you used to be a child. Remember that we Christians are presently God’s children, and God often uses the parent-child relationship to describe His relationship with us.

Children are important to God and so should be important to us.

God’s Love and Mothers

We Christians talk a lot about how a good father shows us what God’s love is like, but often we don’t talk about how good mothers show us God’s love in ways just as important.

Mothers take great pains and go to great lengths to protect their children, often putting their own needs and desires aside for the children. Mothers would sacrifice themselves to be sure their children live. They are always there to nurture, care for, and love them, no matter how old. They are sensitive to their children’s needs and see to them right away. They teach and show their children how life is lived, sometimes even without realizing it. They are near boundlessly patient, even and especially when teaching a child how to do things and how to behave. They display wonderful aspects of unconditional love. In fulfilling her beautiful, God-given role, a mother can point her children to God and show them part of what His love looks like.

God’s love takes great pains to protect us. He made the greatest sacrifice in Jesus to be sure we could have a chance at life. God is always there to nurture, care for, and love us, no matter how old. He is sensitive to our needs and sees to them right when we need them, even if we think He’s taking a while. He teaches and shows us how life is lived, through the Bible, through the example of Jesus, through the lives of others, and through situations in our own lives. He is boundlessly patient, letting us try again even when we don’t learn the first time – or first several times. His love is unconditional.

God put pieces of a picture of Himself in a mother’s relationship to her children, and they are wondrously beautiful pictures! Take a look at some good mothers and see what parallels you can find.

A small analogy: God Lets Us Help

Vessels for Honor and Dishonor

Earlier this week, I was listening while some friends talked about vessels for honor and vessels for dishonor from Romans 9:21.

In the verses around this one, Paul writes about how God is in control of the vessels. God is the potter who makes the vessels, so He can make them however He wants and for whatever He wants, then place them accordingly. In a house, some vessels are fancy, some are plain. Some are used for food, some are used for drink, some are chamber pots, some are garbage receptacles. Whether the vessel’s job is glamorous or gross, fancy or mundane, desirable or undesirable, the vessel is there for a purpose. Something needs doing, so there is a vessel for the job.

One of the friends brought up the fine china in his grandmother’s cabinet. Those plates were beautiful, one might say vessels of honor, but they were never used. This friend said that he’d rather be a vessel that’s used. He’d rather God use him for anything than just sit there on display doing nothing. I agree with him, and would also rather be a used vessel, even if it’s not a glamorous job.

Whatever purpose God has in mind for any given vessel, rest assured that it is fair and correct. God is not unjust and has a purpose for every vessel.

A Little Something on Death

I was thinking lately about my grandma’s death years ago. I miss her, but I’m not too sad because I know where she went and that I’ll get there later. I then thought of being a kid at our church’s Missions Conference when my parents would take separate cars. I and my siblings were young and needed to get to bed so we weren’t cranky the next morning, but sometimes things would go late into the evening and my mom or my dad needed to stay and get things prepared for the next day or help clean up. Usually Mom would take us kids home, and then Dad would get there later. That’s a little bit how death is for Christians. We take separate cars to Heaven. One of us is done for the day, and the other will catch up later once their work is done.

A little more:
A Christian View of Death
Immortality Clothes

A Few Points About the Resurrection

We can still talk about Easter even though it’s over. Jesus’ resurrection is always relevant. I found some notes I have on the resurrection and started thinking about a few things.

If God was not satisfied with the death and shed blood of Jesus, He would not have raised Jesus from the dead.

As I’ve heard someone say, If Jesus’ death is the payment for sin, the resurrection is the receipt.

If Christ is not risen, then everything Christians believe in means nothing (1 Corinthians 15:14-20).

Because Jesus has risen, we can have hope for our own resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20-22; Romans 8:11).

Different Temptations

It may surprise you to know that some people are not tempted by the things you are. It may surprise you to know that some people are tempted by things that you are not. Things that trip you up may have no bearing on someone else. Things that trip someone else up may have no bearing on you. Things that you may be weak against, another is strong against. Things you may be strong against, another is weak against.

Each human is different, and while we all have temptations and many of them in common, we all have some specific ones that may not affect others so much. Some people are tempted by feelings they shouldn’t have. Some people are tempted by substances. Some people are tempted by attention from others. Some people are tempted by thoughts they shouldn’t have. Some people are tempted by pride. Some people are tempted by a need in their life at the moment. Some people are tempted by the sins of others. The list goes on. But just because someone has a different temptation than you doesn’t mean that one of you is better at resisting the temptation, it just means you’re built differently from each other with different strengths and weaknesses. And just because you have a different temptation doesn’t mean God can’t help you with it.

God is in the business of conquering sin and temptation. Sometimes it’s easy to let the temptation go, other times it’s hard and takes a process over time, but God is still there to work with you. It’ll require effort from you because you still have a choice about it and God won’t force anything on or off you, but it will be more than worth it!

The next time you are tempted to look down on someone because their temptation struggle is different from yours, remember that you’re both susceptible to temptation, regardless of the type. The next time you are tempted to give in to your specific temptation, look to God the conqueror of it for help (Psalm 119:9-11; Matthew 6:13; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Galatians 5:16; James 4:7-8; 1 John 1:9).

A few related posts:
Tailor Made: Temptation and Grace
Different Needs and Boundaries
Remember When You Were There
Crippled and Straight

June Bug Life

My brother, youngest sister, and I were out in the car last night talking. We happened to see a June bug and someone brought up that while in the Bible humans are sometimes compared to sheep, other times we could also be compared to June bugs. It sounds a little silly, but sometimes we are like June bugs.

For those who don’t know, a June bug (sometimes called a May beetle) is a small, round, brown beetle that usually comes out in its highest numbers around the month of June, sometimes May. They’re not the brightest bugs, and certainly come across as clumsy. They quickly tire themselves out as they frantically seek light, suddenly falling out of flight or off a wall and onto their backs, unable to get back up. Even if by some miracle one did manage to get up or if you pick one up and set it upright, within seconds it will fall onto its back again, for no apparent reason. That’s where we got the human comparison. We fall into sin and are unable to help ourselves back up, and then even when we are upright once more, it doesn’t take us long to get right back where we were.

Fortunately we don’t have to live the short life of a June bug. We were made much differently. God has far better plans for us. Let’s participate in that plan instead of mindlessly chasing after things that put us on our backs.

Easter Monday

Now that Easter Sunday is over, a lot of people are going right back to their lives as if Jesus never resurrected. Even some Christians are doing it! We have a tendency to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection and get over it sometimes, feeling revived on Sunday but feeling dead once more on Monday.

Celebrating Jesus’ resurrection is something we do on Easter and every Sunday of course, but there’s no reason we can’t enjoy the resurrection on any other day. Jesus’ death and resurrection to pay for our sins and give us eternal life doesn’t just benefit us once when we get saved, and then once more when we die and go to Heaven; Jesus’ work on the cross and rising from the tomb means we have full access to God! We can have help, hope, peace, and joy right now in the midst of our lives, be the issues mundane and everyday or life-altering and scary.

We Christians don’t have to live like we’re dead, and we shouldn’t live that way. We have been made alive by Jesus! The resurrection of Jesus is not just for one or two points in life, it’s for every day! Shouldn’t that show up in our lives so we can share that life-altering experience with others?