My vote for #1 [human] Biblical total dream-guy heartthrob

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Closest picture I have to Ruth in the barley field. I call it “Baylee in the knapweed patch.”
THE STORY CONTINUES! AS PROMISED! When we last saw Ruth and Naomi, the two widows left Moab and went back to Naomi’s hometown of Bethlehem. Destitute, barren, with nothing in the world except each other, how will they survive?
Ruth Chapter 2
(American Standard Version)
Apologies for the Elizabethan English, but if I use a copyrighted version I could get my heinie sued.
1 And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband’s, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech, and his name was Boaz.
2 And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter.
3 And she went, and came and gleaned in the field after the reapers: and she happened to light on the portion of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.
4 And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, the LORD be with you. And they answered him, the LORD bless thee.
5 Then said Boaz unto his servant that was set over the reapers, Whose damsel is this?
6 And the servant that was set over the reapers answered and said, It is the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab:
7And she said, Let me glean, I pray you, and gather after the reapers among the sheaves. So she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, save that she tarried a little in the house.
8 Then said Boaz unto Ruth, Hearest thou not, my daughter? Go not to glean in another field, neither pass from hence, but abide here fast by my maidens.
9Let thine eyes be on the field that they do reap, and go thou after them: have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch thee? and when thou art athirst, go unto the vessels, and drink of that which the young men have drawn.
10 Then she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found favor in thy sight, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a foreigner?
11 And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been showed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother-in-law since the death of thy husband; and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people that thou knewest not heretofore.
12 The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to take refuge.
13 Then she said, Let me find favor in thy sight, my lord, for that thou hast comforted me, and for that thou hast spoken kindly unto thy handmaid, though I be not as one of thy handmaidens.
14 And at meal-time Boaz said unto her, Come hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar. And she sat beside the reapers, and they reached her parched grain, and she did eat, and was sufficed, and left thereof.
15 And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not.
16 And also pull out some for her from the bundles, and leave it, and let her glean, and rebuke her not.
17 So she gleaned in the field until even; and she beat out that which she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley.
18 And she took it up, and went into the city; and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned: and she brought forth and gave to her that which she had left after she was sufficed.
19 And her mother-in-law said unto her, Where hast thou gleaned to-day? and where hast thou wrought? blessed be he that did take knowledge of thee. And she showed her mother-in-law with whom she had wrought, and said, The man’s name with whom I wrought to-day is Boaz.
20 And Naomi said unto her daughter-in-law, Blessed be he of the LORD, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead. And Naomi said unto her, The man is nigh of kin unto us, one of our near kinsmen.
21 And Ruth the Moabitess said, Yea, he said unto me, Thou shalt keep fast by my young men, until they have ended all my harvest.
22 And Naomi said unto Ruth her daughter-in-law, It is good, my daughter, that thou go out with his maidens, and that they meet thee not in any other field.
23 So she kept fast by the maidens of Boaz, to glean unto the end of barley harvest and of wheat harvest; and she dwelt with her mother-in-law.
…Does Ruth make a success of gleaning?
…Are sparks flying between her and Boaz?
…Could Naomi have a scheme or two up her sleeve?
STAY TUNED FOR PART THREE AND FIND OUT!

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved . . . For, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  – Romans 10:9-13

“Born again?” What’s that?

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Ruth by Susan R. Hummel (an awesome artist and also my sister)

After mulling it over for days, it occurred to me this morning why I haven’t been able to get past John 3:3, “…no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” The reason is that this is the most important thing of all. Nothing is more important than being born again. No matter who you are or where you are from, it is the most important thing in your life. All the concerns of this world will pass away; each and every one of us will pass away. Where will we spend eternity? We can either spend it with God, worshipping and enjoying him and all he provides us, or we can spend it in Hell where we will live in eternal torment with only our worst memories and thoughts to keep us company. The choice is ours to make.

For me, looking at it from the point of view of an outsider, that raises the following questions:

  1. What does it mean to be born again?
  2. Why is Jesus the only way?
  3. How do I know Jesus is trustworthy?
  4. I’m a good person, why do I need a redeemer?
  5. How can Jesus save everybody who ever lived when he is just one person?
  6. How do I become born again?

It raises many more questions, too, but those are the basics. That is one of the exciting things about really studying the Bible; when you read one passage, so many other questions and things leap to mind. It’s why it takes me forever to get through a book, because I keep going back and searching out other passages and issues that come up while I’m reading. 

The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is telling just one story. And it is a love story. A love story about God and mankind, a broken relationship, and how it got fixed. If it were a novel and you were analyzing it for your literature class, you would see all the elements of good storytelling: Introduction, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Resolution. It’s an amazing feat, especially considering it is a collection of 66 smaller books written by dozens of authors in different languages and cultures over a 1,500-year time span.

So, anyway, to get to the point of what being born again means, a good place to start is the book of Ruth. Ruth is the eighth book of the Old Testament. It is a love story—not just a romance, but a love story on several levels. In many ways it is like the entire Bible in miniature. 

It is very short, just four chapters. I am going to reprint it here, one chapter a day, for the next four days. My text comes from the American Standard Version, which I am using because it is in the public domain. For full disclosure, I did change the original text’s “Jehovah” to “the LORD,” (which most modern English translations use) to avoid any confusion that this might refer to the Watchtower Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses), which it does not. I also changed two or three archaic words to their modern equivalents.

Take some time to ponder this lovely little story, and Enjoy! 

The Book of Ruth
Chapter 1

1 And it came to pass in the days when the judges judged, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem-judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.  2 And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem-judah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there. 3 And Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left, and her two sons.  4 And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelt there about ten years. 

5 And Mahlon and Chilion died both of them; and the woman was left without her two children and her husband. 6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the Lord had visited his people in giving them bread. 7 And she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah. 

8 And Naomi said unto her two daughters-in-law, Go, return each of you to her mother’s house: May the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me. 9 May the LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voice, and wept. 

10 And they said unto her, Nay, but we will return with thee unto thy people. 11 And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? have I yet sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? 12 Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should even have a husband to-night, and should also bear sons; 13 would ye therefore tarry till they were grown? would ye therefore stay from having husbands? nay, my daughters, for it grieves me much for your sakes, for the hand of the LORD is gone forth against me. 

14 And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. 15 And she said, Behold, thy sister-in-law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister-in-law. 16 And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, and 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; 17 where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if anything but death part thee and me. 18 And when she saw that she was steadfastly minded to go with her, she left off speaking unto her. 

19 So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and [the women] said, Is this Naomi? 20 And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara; for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty; why call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me? 22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, with her, who returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest.

…Chapter 2 coming tomorrow.

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved . . . For, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  – Romans 10:9-13

 

Don’t get this whole “born again” business? (John 3:1-21)

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Nicodemus came to talk to Jesus at night.

FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONE AND ONLY SON, THAT WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT PERISH BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE. – John 3:16

I always wondered if Jesus was really tired that night and just wanted to be in bed, but then Nicodemus showed up and so instead he had to stay up half the night trying to pound some serious theology into N’s thick skull, and then say the most famous verse in the Bible while he was at it.

I am way behind in my Bible studies and prayer time and feeling it. Over tired, run down, depressed, overwhelmed by all that’s happening in the world as well as my own little corner of it. My ability to cope is directly correspondent to how closely I am walking with God. I am nothing without my prayer time (my alone time with God), and without studying His Word. So back to it! Anyway I’ve read quite a ways past this chapter but keep coming back and re-reading it. “YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN.” Something is nagging at me. Something needs to be dragged out into the daylight and analyzed.

Nicodemus was a big shot. A Pharisee, and a member of the ruling council. He met with Jesus at nighttime. Why nighttime? Maybe just because the crowds would have gone home and he could have a peaceful chat. Maybe he was afraid of being seen by his peers. Maybe he was busy all day and the night was the only free time he had. We aren’t told, but I wonder.

It sounds like he’s just trying to lay the groundwork for the conversation he wants to have with Jesus when he says, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (v. 2). I wonder what he’s tiptoeing around. Trying to get Jesus to confess whether or not he is the Messiah? Maybe. If Nicodemus had ever read the book of Daniel (chapter 9) and done the math, he would have known that it was just about the time that the Messiah was supposed to show up. 

There’s a lot of room for pure speculation here. Maybe Jesus didn’t look the way Nicodemus thought the Messiah ought to look. Maybe Jesus’ Galilean country accent and working-class family was off-putting to someone raised in elite society. Maybe Nicodemus expected a bold warrior like David. Maybe he thought when the Messiah came there would be no question who he was. And this modest man from Galilee, walking around like a beggar with his ragtag band of misfit disciples, didn’t fit that picture at all. But the Bible doesn’t give us Nicodemus’ inner thoughts so we can only guess. 

But then Jesus takes the conversation in a whole different direction. He starts talking about our need to be born again. This blindsides Nicodemus, who doesn’t have a clue what Jesus is talking about.

In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” 

“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” 

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (v. 3-6)

There is a lot more in this passage that needs to be read, but for now I am thinking about what it means to be “born again.” As Christians we’ve heard it so many times we forget its powerful meaning. My NIV notes say that the Greek for that phrase can also mean “born from above.” There is so much in Jesus’ words and I can’t quite get my head around it. “You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the spirit.”

My little nephew, if he heard that, would cock his head to one side, curl his upper lip up just a bit and say “HUH?” I think most people in my own society would say that, and we are considered a “Christian” nation. For people in different cultures, especially those ones that actively discourage Christianity, it must be completely baffling. It is a topic of upmost importance and I don’t want to blow off the significance of this passage without digging more deeply into the whys and hows of being born again in Christ. My next few entries are going to do just that, starting at the beginning. 

…Apple, anyone?

STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT EXCITING CHAPTER! or, HOW DID THIS PLANET GET INTO THE BIG STINKING MESS THAT IT’S IN?

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved . . . For, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  – Romans 10:9-13

Jesus goes to a wedding!

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Old bridge on Clark Fork River, Montana

John 2: The Wedding at Cana

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him “They have no more wine.”

“Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from 20 to 30 gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.

John 2:1-11 (New International Version)

The King James Version of 2:4 reads: Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.  I think that’s kind of funny. If I ever dared call my mom “Woman,” she probably would have made me sorry I was ever born!

I like this passage because I like the little moment we get with Jesus and his family and friends. Just people, enjoying a happy occasion. Eating and drinking and singing and dancing and having fun. 

It raises a lot of questions, though. A few of mine are: Is it significant that Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine? If so, what are the implications? Is it significant that they point out specifically that his first miracle happened at Cana, in Galilee? Cana would have been a very tiny village, and Galilee was considered the sticks to most Israelites at that time, kind of like how someone from Mississippi might be considered a country bumpkin by someone from Manhattan today. I do know that humility marked Jesus’ time on earth. Humbly born, humble parents, humble job before his ministry. A country boy with a country accent. In most of the movies about Jesus he speaks with a marked British accent, or at least some theatrical mid-Atlantic hybrid. But it just wasn’t the case. Also, there must be some meaning behind the decision of the Lord of the Universe to perform his first miracle (as an incarnate man) at the wedding of some nameless people in a tiny town hardly anyone had ever heard of. And that the miracle was something that kept the party going — nothing healed, except maybe the reputation of the party host who hadn’t ordered enough wine.

There’s bound to be deeper meaning than this. I haven’t yet heard any good teachings on John. But they say Scripture illuminates Scripture, so I’m sure when I’m studying something again down the road that I’ll have an “Aha!” moment and then I’ll understand this passage on a deeper level. That’s one of the the great things about God and his word. You can get it on so many levels, and every time you study it you learn something new.

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One thing I have heard a lot of teaching about is the first-century Galilean wedding ceremony and how it foreshadows the Rapture of the church. I’ve heard it taught by several teachers I respect, like Don Stewart from www.educatingourworld.com. But I never hear them say HOW they know what weddings were like back then. I want to know what their sources are. But the bare-bones basics are this, if you haven’t heard it before:

A young couple enter into a marriage contract. It’s their engagement, but legally binding. Then the bride goes home to her parents, and the groom goes back to his father’s house. There he builds an addition onto his father’s house, a place where the young couple will live. It can take up to a year or so to get all the preparations ready. Meanwhile the bride is getting her trousseau and everything taken care of so she will be ready when her groom comes for her. When the addition to the house is done, then the father tells his son it is time to go get his bride. So the trumpet sounds and the groom marches to the bride’s house to snatch her away to her new home. It usually happens in the middle of the night, catching everyone by surprise but hopefully not unprepared. Then they ride off and the wedding festivities begin.

It’s a beautiful picture, and I hope and pray it’s true. This bride is ready. Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus.

By the way, if you are interested in some good Christian resources, I do recommend you check out Don Stewart’s ministry at http://www.educatingourworld.com. He has a number of books, ALL of which you can download for free! No strings attached. He deals with last days (eschatology), other Bible teaching, and Christian living.

Also, he is involved with an online television ministry called His Channel. They teach on different Christian topics, as well as contemporary news and issues, and some documentaries. You can view all that at https://hischannel.com.

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved . . . For, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  – Romans 10:9-13