A word or two to get you through the day.

A word or two to get you through the day.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Find Your Way Home

"I have not blogged in a while and in reading a few of my old sermons I have decided to convert them to blogs. So with that being said--I pray you enjoy this teaching from 2011 entitled, "Find Your Way Home.""

There is one thing we all have in common. Be it gentile or Jew. Black or white. Republican or democrat. It’s a desire to not lose it. Notice I did not say a desire to win—but a desire not to lose.

Just one look at the headlines of the day will confirm this. Be it the riots breaking out all over London because of police violence and a desire for people to be heard, or the rapid decline of the stock market on Monday and today, people are afraid that somehow they will lose it. Again the race is not to win. The race is not to have a better police agency that will set the standards around the globe. The desire is not to make more millionaires than ever via the stock market. The desire is simply not to lose.

But what if you, despite your best efforts, lost it all? Not if you unfortunately lost your dignity at the hands of an unjust cop. Not if you lost your savings due to a bad investment. But what if you lost everything you had. What would you do then?

Losing everything that you own is a fear that can paralyze us emotionally and it has no particular person. It affects everyone. It’s not partial to the poor. Not particularly fond on the middle class or even the wealthy. No matter who you are, no one wants to open their eyes one day only to discover that everything they have worked so hard for, everything they have sacrificed so much for has slipped through their fingers like sand through an hour glass.

The ironic aspect of losing everything is you then feel as if you are lost. You lose everything—and then you feel lost. As if you are in a maze and you seek direction in life. You seek a way out. Some people chose crime as a way out. Some people use and abuse relationships with family members as their way out and others fall into drugs because if they cannot get out of a situation—they decide to leave the situation mentally; if only for the moment.

A common theme we see when people are lost physically, spiritually, financially or even emotionally is they start to panic. Panic.

Panic is why the buildings were burning in London this week. Panic. Someone was beaten by a police officer and people who felt they could be next started to panic. They looked for answers and when they found none--panic sat in and they took the law in their own hands.

Panic is what happened in the massive sell off of stocks today when people saw the market lose over one trillion dollars in a day and they started to panic. Panic.

When we are about to lose something we value or love our innate primal response is to scramble like a man violently grasping for leaves of grass as he slowly sink in the quick sands of life. We scramble for something—anything to hold on to.

Another stage of being lost—after the panic—is being dazed. Dazed. Not knowing what to do. Dazed. People when they have been looking for a job for an extended period of time will walk around dazed and not really knowing where they belong anymore. They feel as if they have lost their identity. Especially if they’re used to making a certain amount of income. It’s hard to revert to looking for a job when all your life jobs have been looking for you. So you find yourself in a daze. And because it’s hard—you feel even more lost.  

In preparing for this teaching I had to wrestle with the text. I labored and fought with this text because I knew there was something there that was not being revealed. So I read the text. And I read it again and again and again and again and nothing. But it was at the moment when I stop reading it—and started to receive FROM it... that I could truly understand it.

You see--I had to distance myself from the words and ask myself a simple question. What’s the focus of Ruth? Why is this book even in the bible? And the answer became abundantly clear to me. It’s a book dedicated to all of us who are lost. Who feel alone? And it’s a book to remind us that life is nor will ever be a straight line toward your destiny void on any panic. But if you just hold on you will see signs and the signs will direct you from panic... to prosperity. They will guide you home. And what is home? Your home is the vision God has placed in your heart. Your home is your destiny. Your home is your raison d'ĂȘtre which is a French phrase which means, “your reason for being.”

In this book (Ruth) there are signs and when you read this amazing book one of the signs in the book are the words, “As I live says the Lord.” You will see these words written throughout the book and it’s a little sign, just like a street sign, a directional sign, that God is giving direction through the minefields of panic toward their destiny. 

So with that being said, what signs are God leaving in your life for you? Do you recognize the signs? It could be a person. A person that just happens to call when you are at a fork in the road and when you look back over your life that person was always there to call you and to bring certain things back to your remembrance.

It could be a number of significance that happens to be on a bus or a train or a color that stands out in your mind that God allows you to see just to remind you of his presences in your life ... and over your life. It could be a song possibly a bird that just happens to land outside your window or it could be a verse in the Bible but God will always lead his children through the minefields of panic toward their home with signs, just as he has lead Ruth and Naomi throughout this book.

Now let’s get started. Verse one of chapter four. Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat
down there; and behold, the close relative of whom Boaz had spoken came by. So Boaz said, “Come aside, friend,[a] sit down here.” So he came aside and sat down. 2 And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down. 3 Then he said to the close relative, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, sold the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. 4 And I thought to inform you, saying, ‘Buy it back in the presence of the inhabitants and the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you[b] will not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am next after you.’”

And he said, “I will redeem it.”

Okay what we are seeing here is basically a real estate transaction. It’s how business was conducted. Boaz who is in love with Ruth wants to do the right thing because legally he was not supposed to marry her. So he calls the elders around so things can be done publically and he gives this man—who is the person who should have the right to marry her the legal opportunity to do so.

And then something happens that he may not have expected. The man steps up to the plate and says cool. I’ll redeem the land. It’s right there at the end of the forth verse. The man says “I will redeem it.” Not “let me think about it.” Not “let me consult with the elders about it.” Not “give me a moment to pray on it.” He says, “I will do it!”

Now if you are reading this from Boaz point of view this is a setback. Definitely a setback. Why? Because if the man redeems the land Ruth will also become his wife and we know that Boaz is interested in Ruth. How do we know this? Because in the previous chapter he is shocked that she is even interested in being with him. So he does the right thing… and it’s a set back to him because the man who says he will redeem the land, is the one who should marry her. He is 100% in the right. He is entitled by the law given by Moses to be her husband and in marrying her he would have a legal interest in the land.

In verse four the man by all accounts is a good man; a man who is noteworthy and deserving. And he does the right thing—and steps up to the plate and says yes, I will redeem the land in accordance with the law.

Often in life we see the setbacks when we do the wrong thing or when the wrong thing is done to us. We see the setback clearly when we do the crime and we are then faced with doing the time. This we understand clearly. But what happens in life when you don't do the crime. When you do the right thing and you are still faced with doing the time?

When this happens in life is it a set back—or a divine set up? When you’ve paid your tithe and you get a foreclosure, could that be a divine set up? What about when you have been the best wife you can be and you are signing divorce papers. Could that somehow be a divine set up? What about when you have done everything you can do to raise your child the right way. Made sacrifices and they still get strung out on crack… how can that be a divine set up?

This past weekend I got a speeding ticket. I was driving up I-75 in a small southern Georgia county when I was the blue lights. When I saw them I looked down and I was unfortunately doing 89 in a 70 MPH zone. But I rationalized that I was speeding because I needed to get home so I could get ready for church the next day. So when I got the ticket my natural instinct was to get upset. After all, how many people you know who are happy after getting a speeding ticket? See I was upset because he was slowing me down and again I wanted to get home so I could get some rest before going to church the next day. I was upset because I was talking to one of my church leaders and we were talking about what we would do in church the next day. I was upset because after driving over 600 miles in two days I was only 50 miles from home… and I wanted to get home so I could get rest so I could go to church the next day. You follow me?

Yes I was upset. But what was happening was what I will call ill-timed righteousness. If you have never heard of that phrase before please take a moment to write it down. Ill-timed righteousness. It’s when a person is doing the righteous thing in our lives—but it does not line up with the timing we have for our lives. Ill-timed righteousness.

And this phrase made me think about the law of universality. In other words, what if there were no tickets? What if we were all able to drive as we wanted to? What if his slowing me down just for those five minutes saved me from a car accident?

But let’s go deeper.

What if instead of getting upset, I took the time to say something pleasant to him and allowed him to see the God within me? What if that officer dies for some reason in the line of duty and I had not taken the opportunity to share with him the goodness of a loving savior?
Or even allowing him to see the God in me by my disposition when he gave me the ticket. See we have to understand that most people will not read a Bible. Most people will not go to a bible study and for that reason we have to be the bible that they read. Again we have to be the walking talking bible that the world reads. Do you realize that the only bible some people will read is you? So if that is the case—what do they read when they read your life?

Sometimes righteous setbacks, or ill-timed righteous acts, are Godly set ups to something greater. That's a twitter moment that might have just gone over your head. Let me back that one up flip it and put it in reverse. I’ll shorten it. Sometimes righteous setbacks are Godly set ups to something amazing. Let’s continue.

So what does Boaz do when the right thing has been done, but the expected result has not been received? Boaz does not focus on being lost in the maze of getting to his destination. We don't see him perplexed or standing around in a daze. He refuses to give up on finding his way home. He has decided to focus on what it would take to make this woman his wife and in doing so he takes a page from Isaiah 50 which says I will set my face like flint.

Sometimes when we are children of God we have a tendency to take our eye off the ball and give up when we face obstacles. But the book of Ruth is about one obstacle after another—yet we see in the end they manage to get home. They manage to walk into their destiny. But sometimes we need a little help finding our way home.

So what happens next? Now I am going to change bibles on you because I want you to not just hear but I want you to see this passage come to life for you as if you were sitting in a movie theater and eating popcorn. I'm going to read this from the message bible and if you are new to Christ this is a great bible to use. I want you to actually picture this in your mind. It’s hot. As hot as it’s been in Texas the last few days. Now I imagine the men in the fields. I imagine someone possible roasting dinner in the distance and I’m sure the men could smell it in the air. Image a bar-b-que in the distance and this is where we began.

Verse 5 Then Boaz added, "You realize, don't you, that when you buy the field from Naomi, you also get Ruth the Moabite, the widow of our dead relative,--along with the redeemer “responsibility” to have children with her to carry on the family inheritance."

 6 Then the relative said, "Oh, snap—I can't do that—I'd jeopardize my own family's inheritance. Now I am paraphrasing. You know what player? Umm you go ahead and buy it—I’m good. You can have my rights— I can't do it."

Now let me give you a little back story.

In Ruth 1:4 we are lead to believe that Ruth might be barren. Why? In a culture where children were highly valued she’d been married ten years—and no children. Not one. Now this creates a huge problem. A woman—from a sinful place—who is widowed and she is very possibly barren? See all of a sudden the relative goes—“Oh snap… my bad. I can’t do it.” So what is he thinking? This is far too much drama for me to deal with. The bible shares a little insight into his thinking in the sixth verse. He says “See—if I marry this woman. This woman from a sinful place. This woman who is a widow and cannot possibly even have children—it would affect my inheritance. Again he is thinking it will effect… HIS inheritance.

Now I pondered this passage for a while before I could see the true beauty behind the words. See I asked myself why was it important to show this man raising his hand to do the right thing and then show him just as dramatically reneging on his promise. And doing it in front of the elders of the town? Why is this even in the bible? Why did God feel it necessary to whisper these words into the ear of the writer—who allowed them to come through his pen? Why?

I mean If we are to take II Timothy 3:16 to heart and believe that all scripture is divinely inspired by God—then why would God want us to know the intricate details of this business transaction some 3,000 years later?

I mean on the surface one might applauded his actions. If you can’t do it then don't do it. Yeah you have gone back on your word but sometimes it’s good to be a little selfish. We live in a society that actually praises selfishness. “I gotta get mine,” is a popular phrase. “Do you.” Another popular phrase.

Some might say it’s good to focus on self-preservation. In this country if you are at a political rally all you have to say are two words to get a standing ovation and they are, “America First.” But have you ever noticed that no one in the bible is ever rewarded because they put themselves first? Can you tell me one time in the bible that God ever blessed a selfish nation? A selfish people? A selfish man or woman because of their selfish acts? Be it Ananias and Safire and the lies they told or a fool named Nable. Be it pharaoh who could only see what he would lose or the ultimate selfish act of Judas; God never rewards a selfish person for a selfish act. So if it is never done in the bible—how can it be done in our everyday lives? God let me find my way home.

In fact I heard an amazing speech this weekend by the now NFL hall of famer Deion
Sanders. In his acceptance speech he said these immortal words, “if your dream is about you—then there is something wrong with your dream.” In other words this man in the book of Ruth raised his hand to do the right thing. But then the dream became about himself. About his inheritance. About self-preservation.

But then I pondered deeper on this passage. Could there be another reason God allowed these words to slide through the pen of the writer? Let me give you three more reasons God preserved this aspect of the story in his Holy writ. If you are taking notes please write this down.

Reason one.
Because God does not want you to live the rest of your life on the wrong side—of a messed up miracle. Now this first point came to me by one of my church leaders, Brother Jamin Powell and when he said those words, the wrong side… of a messed up miracle I was thinking—what in the world does that mean? God let me find my way home.

And then God revealed it to me. There are times when a miracle can be born out of a mess… A complete and utter mess. A disaster. But you only saw the mess and decided to take the path of least resistance. You took the safe route home and found yourself on the wrong side—of a messed up miracle.

See you prayed to God to own a business but you are working in a small going nowhere company. But then you’re asked to work overtime and you refuse to do so. But someone else in the company does it. And in doing so they learned the ins and outs of the business to the point where they start a business that's now bigger than the company you work for.

But get this. The education they received, not only did they not have to pay for it… did not have to pay for it—they were paid over time to receive the education in how to build a business in your area. An education they could have never received in a school. Now when you pass their store—you find yourself on the wrong side of a messed up miracle.

So often as the old saying goes we ask God for oak trees as we walk on acorns never realizing that we are actually walking on top of oak trees every single day. And when we are doing this we are finding ourselves on the wrong side of a messed up miracle.

Reason two.

Second reason why God placed these powerful words in the pen of the writer is to show us the importance of making Godly decisions. Godly decisions. This man makes a decision without consulting neither God nor man and what happens to him? This man is nameless. We don't know where he is from—or where he went. If he’s married; singled if he has children or not. The bible doesn't think enough of him to even mention his name. All we know is he has made a decision based on the desires of the flesh and ignoring the will of God.

Reason three.
Now the third reason is by far the most important reason God put these words in the pen of the author of this book. Because my friends this is not a story about Boaz and Ruth. The third reason is because this is a story about God and you. See when this kinsman, heard of all the conditions of what he initially thought was a bargain he walked away from it. He refused Ruth’s hand in marriage. Now what does this have to do with you and God? I’m glad you asked. Just like he refused to commit to Ruth, many people refuse to commit to Christ.

See it’s easy to talk about it. To say what you are going to do and what you plan on doing one day—but when it comes down to it… may people just see what they will lose in a relationship with Christ and refuse to see what all they can gain.

Isn't it amazing what God will do when it comes to loving you? See when it comes down to loving you he will arrest an issue of blood to put your mind at ease and open blind eyes just so you can see him. When it comes to loving you he will provide a buffet table to feed five thousand in the desert or snatch the will out of a stormy sea. When it comes to loving you God will tell the devil himself to let my people go and plant a rainbow in the sky just as a reminder of the connection you have. When it comes down to loving you… not your neighbor you, he will get off his thorn in heaven just to keep you company in a den filled with lions. That's what your God will do when it comes… to loving you.

But we raise our hands to accept this love only to walk away thinking about the responsibility that comes with it. About losing our inheritance.

A man by the name of Lord Kenneth Clark was born in 1903 and he died in 1983. In his life he achieved greatness as an author as a museum director and was considered to be the best known art historian of his generation. But he lived and died as a non-believer. Let me run that again. He died as a non-believer. Ironically in his life he has a divine encounter. This man admitted in his autobiography that while visiting a beautiful church he had what he believed, not what others told him but what he believed to be an overwhelming religious experience.  As he said in his book, "My whole being, was irradiated by a kind of heavenly joy far more intense than anything I had known before." Now this is not a man who grew up in church. A man who was in a tent revival and was responding to the emotionalism of praise and worship. No. This is a man who was by all accounts by himself and felt something many people go a lifetime and never feel. He felt the very presence of God descend upon him even though he had yet to give his life to Christ. But in his book he referred to this experience as the "gloom of grace." Isn't that interesting? The gloom of grace?

The reason he referred to it as the gloom of grace is because it created two gigantic problems for him.

First if he allowed himself to be influenced by the experience, he knew he would have to
change. He would have to explain to everyone he had told for years that there was no God that there in fact was a God and he felt the presence of this God. How would this make him look to his friends? Would he appear to be in some way unstable? What would his kids think? His kids who may have also been atheist? Would they think that he was getting older and just trying to find a peaceful way to leave the earth? Would they think he was actually losing his mind? Lord Kenneth Clark believed there was no God for years. So once you have firmly committed to being one way in life—how do you reverse fields and say actually no I believe in God?

Secondly with raising his hand and saying I am now a believer—there was a responsibility. Again a responsibility. He would have to change his life. When it came to Lord Kenneth Clark, he concluded that he was too deeply embedded in being a non-believer to ever change course. To accept the responsibility. Regrettibly even after feeling the actual presence of God upon his soul, he died in 1983 by all accounts without giving his heart to Christ. Why? Because he could not accept the responsibility. Why did the kinsman renege, because he could not accept the responsibility? This is not about Ruth and Boaz my dear friends… its clearly about God and you.

See the kinsman raised his hand because he knew it was the right thing to do. That is without question. But when he started to count the cost—he could only see what he was giving up and could not see what he was about to gain. All Lord Clark could see is what he was giving up. A little pride? But could not even begin to see what he was about to gain. An eternity feeling even better than he felt in that moment when the glory of God was upon him in that church and he felt irradiated.

So the man backs out of the deal. I just can’t do it he says when he looks at the pros and cons, just like Lord Kenneth Clark. And after carefully weighting the inheritance he could possibly see opposed to a life with Ruth he gave up what he did not deserve because of the fear of losing what he would eventually lose. He gives up what he did not deserve—because he was afraid he would lose something he was destined to lose any way. Again this is not a story about Boaz and Ruth but about God and you. Finding our way home.

If you skip down to verse 15, we see what happens after the real estate transaction has been completed. We see what happens after Boaz has made a public announcement that he has redeemed Ruth to be his bride. We see something very interesting. First thing we notice is the book is ending just the opposite of how it began. We are finding our way home. See It began with a woman losing her husband and her sons. It ends with a woman finding a husband and giving birth to a son. They are finding their way home. It begin with a family walking away from their destiny and ends with a family—a new family a reborn you might say family walking together toward their destiny. They are finding their way home. This book begins with a woman saying call me Mora because I am bitter after the women in the community had looked at her with shock and the book ends with the same women rejoicing with her because they now could see what the future had in store for her. My God it feels good to find your way home.

Now something that is vilely hidden is this. In Ruth 2:21 Naomi says aloud that God had brought her back empty. That God had brought her back empty. But not only is her life now full but the writer took the time to show us that not only was it full but the world can see that she is full. Now let’s go deeper.

This book is beautifully written. It’s picturesque and one might even say it’s almost like a Harlequin romance. But if you look at it from that point of view you miss everything God is trying to say to you in this book. All this time we have been taught that this book is a book on finding a wife or putting yourself in position to find a man. This book is simply written to show you how to find your way home. No matter how lost you are. No matter what bad decisions you make. You have a place called destiny within you and this book is trying to get you to that place. Finding your way home. 

See you can never find home focusing on your mistakes. Can never find home holding on to what man says. You can never find home depending on your own understanding and you will never find your way home asking your friends and neighbors for advice. Had a baby out of wedlock—great. Now find your way home. Got HIV I got you—now find your way home. Lost a job, homeless, smoking crack, working as a prostitute, caught up in homosexuality… wonderful… fantastic. Now just find your way home. God has allowed this book to be placed in the bible to let you know that no matter how messed up the roads in your life may be if you just keep your eyes and your hearts set on him you too can find your way home.

See to find your way home you will have to let go, and let God. Again let go and let God. Again let go… and let God. Again let go… and let God. And when you let go… you will allow his divine providence to lead you home. Finding your way home.

See every time a mistake was made in the book it was God and God alone that turned it around. Don't believe me? Let’s review the book. In the beginning of the book Naomi’s life explodes and she just happens to have two women in her life. One woman that walks away and one woman that clings onto her. This just happens to happen and it leads her to finding her way home. Now how do we know it was God? Ruth says point blank—your God will be my God. She is finding her way home.

Secondly Naomi gives up on finding her way home in the very first chapter. Let me say this again. She gives up hope in the very first chapter.

Can I share something with you? We have been sharing with you for about 45 minutes. But here is a sobering statistic that I regrettably have to share with you. Every 100 minutes a teenager in this country commits suicide. Every 100 minutes a young person with their life ahead of them looks back at what happened to them and ends their life. They have already decided that they will never find their way home and they decide to give up on the story… in the very first chapter of their lives.

Can I share something else with you? The vision, the dream the destiny that God drew up and placed strategically in your heart is in your heart for a reason. For you to pull it out. God will help you but it’s going to ultimately be up to you to read, to pray to meditate and to ask God for guidance as to how to pull that thing out. For this reason don’t you dare give up on your destiny... don't you dare give up on your dream. God has placed far too much in you for you to give up on you. For you to give up on the hope of finding your way home. Again God has placed far too much in you for you to give up on you. Get ready to tweet of face book this one because your God has placed far too much in you for you to ever think about giving up on you. Saints let’s find our way home.

Okay the third way God shows his hand. While Naomi is in the very act of giving up she is crying her eyes out in front of the very woman who she would follow into a place of destiny. Who are you crying around? Are they people who will push you toward or pull you away from the place you were born on this earth to be? Are they helping you or hurting you in your pursuit to find your way home.

Fourth. She just happens to meet a man named Boaz. A man who is well off. A man who owns a business. A man who just happens to be a leader of men. A man who just happens not to be married possibly in his early forties in a culture where men got married in their late teens. A man who just happens to love god. This amazing catch by most women’s standards just happens to be available . . .and he is also attracted to Ruth. Without even knowing her from a can of paint—he is ready to help her find her way home.

Fifth set back—Ruth just happens to be barren. How we know? The town’s people say may she be like Rachel and Leah. See the people in the town knew that God has to open her womb and the book says God gave her conception.

In closing this is not a story about Boaz and Ruth it’s all about how God fell in love with you and what he is willing to do for you—to help you find your way home.

So tonight we are going to end with an opportunity for you to find your way home. Is there a vision in your heart you have yet to live? Tonight you can find your way home. Do you desire to be closer to God, to have a clearer understanding of him? Tonight you can find your way home. Would you like the opportunity to raise your hand and unlike the nameless man in this passage, to accept Christ as your lord and savior? Yes tonight you can without a doubt find your way home. If you are not saved please repeat these words after me.

Dear God in heaven, I come to you in the name of Jesus. I acknowledge to you that I am a sinner, and I am sorry for my sins and the life that I have lived; I need your forgiveness. Right now I confess Jesus as the Lord of my soul. With my heart, I believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. This very moment I accept Jesus Christ as my own personal Savior and according to His Word, right now I am saved.

Thank you Jesus for dying for me and giving me eternal life. Thank you for giving me a life I can live free, both now and forever. Amen.

Remember today--this day, is the first day of the rest of your life.

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