A Redeemer from the Most Unlikely of Places

by Michael Freeman
If you haven’t read the book of Ruth in a while, I would encourage you to set this devotional aside for the 15 minutes it takes to read its four chapters and reacquaint yourself with this story. It will be time well spent.
The book of Ruth is set in the rebellious time of the Judges, where “everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Sound familiar? Ruth is a story of deep loss, deep love, deep humility, and deep faith.
At the end of Chapter Three, Ruth has already asked Boaz to be her redeemer…an honor she has every right to claim. Now, with this request made, she goes home to wait. Boaz has promised to return. She knows his character and trusts that he will do what he promises. Her fate is entirely in his hands.
We all have experience waiting…waiting to get a test grade back…waiting for a tax return…waiting until we are allowed to hunt the Easter eggs…waiting on the birth of a child…waiting for a loved one to take his last breath. In fact, hospitals and doctor’s offices have special rooms just for waiting. Waiting is a common part of life…but not all of us face waiting the same way. Some people are patient as they wait…others become agitated. Some people worry…others accept there is nothing they can do to change the outcome. Some prefer people around them to distract them from the waiting…others prefer to be left alone. No matter how we choose to spend our time waiting, waiting is inevitable.
In the story of Ruth, she also has a time of waiting to see what her fate will be. Will she get to marry Boaz or will a nearer relative take that honor from him? However, her waiting was not in vain. Through Ruth, God hints at the larger plan of redemption He has in store. God takes this gentile woman, weds her to the son of a Canaanite prostitute, and draws them into the family line of both King David and of Christ Himself (Matthew 1:5).
Through God’s provision for Ruth, He shows that He always intended redemption to extend beyond the borders of the Jewish people. What good news for those of us now grafted into His family.
During this season, as we wait for the Good News of Easter, we can reflect on the story of Ruth. Our Redeemer has gone to secure our future. He has promised to return.
We are Ruth… the church is Ruth, waiting for our redeemer to return to claim us as His own. Like the citizens of Bethlehem, this world too is watching us while we wait. How we act during this time of waiting says as much about our faith in our Redeemer and our belief about His trustworthiness as it does about our own character.
Our Redeemer can be trusted; His word is law. God has provided a way to redeem our lives and add them to His story. We too can point to a redeemer from the most unlikely of places…our testimony is how we wait for His return.
“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)


More Love & Grace

Mary Reigart 

It’s been a challenging year. Full of big decisions, uncharted waters, health concerns and family pain.

Wouldn’t it be easy if we all thought the same, loved more, had grace? I guess we wouldn’t need God as much.
I wonder on any given Sunday how many people in the sanctuary are in pain—silent, real, hard, scary, sad, gut-wrenching pain. Sometimes we might know a little from the prayer chain or our small group about some’s struggle, but I suspect most often we haven’t a clue.
If the Holy Spirit puts someone on your heart, check on that person, pray for that person, love that person, and don’t judge or pretend to understand.
I made a mistake this year (one? who am I kidding?!)—I allowed my issues to consume me and ignored someone going through something much worse. Jesus wants us to be there for each other.
And the fascinating thing is that often helping someone (even confidentially) can give the greatest blessing.
So, when in doubt, reach down deep, get out of yourself and call, send a note, drop by, invite someone for lunch or respect his or her “no” and pray. Just don’t ignore.
And please don’t forget our pastors and staff and their families—a little less judgement and a lot more love!!
Truly I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine you did for me. (Matthew 25:40)


Is He Worthy?

by Deb Trojak
Revelation is one of my favorite books of the Bible and every time I go through it, I learn so many new things about God and Who He is. My favorite chapter this time through is Chapter 5. John has been taken up to heaven and is dazzled by God on His throne and the worship that is happening continuously. And then he notices a sealed scroll in the right hand of the One sitting on the throne.
A search commences to find one who is worthy to open this scroll. And no one in heaven or on earth is found that can. At this point, John weeps.
Why? It’s just a piece of paper, right? Oh, but it is so much more. This is the title deed to the earth. If no one can take the scroll, open it, and redeem it, then the world continues as it is — in the clutches of sin. And so, John weeps.
But then! One of the elders approaches him and says,
’Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.’ Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne…He came and took the scroll from the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.(Revelation 5:5-7)
Around the time I began studying Chapter 5, Laura introduced the song “Is He Worthy?” to our congregation. I honestly cannot sing this song without crying because it is such a beautiful expression of this passage of Scripture.
“Is anyone worthy?
Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave.
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory
Is He worthy of this?
He is.”
(Lyrics: Andrew Peterson and Ben Shive)
Why is He worthy? Because He is God. Because He became flesh and dwelt among us. Because He lived a perfect life. Because He paid the price for our sins with His blood. And the best part is that He will someday return to redeem and restore what is rightfully His. May we be eagerly awaiting and preparing for that day.


He’s In The Play Doh

by Jeanette Kessler 
The Holy Spirit spoke to me. Now that may sound a little odd to many of you, and I even had to hear it from a person nearby, but it WAS God speaking to me. He was there to reassure me.
For many years, I have coordinated a group going to the Dominican Republic. Every year I go through the same thing in my mind…will we be prepared to give a lesson, will the donations that we take get there properly, will everybody remain well in their health while there, will we get along, will we be received, and will we have enough funds to do all that we want? And every year God reassures. He says to me, “I’ve got you. I’ve got the group. I’ve got this. Remember, you’re doing it for me. I’m with you on this.” But, every year, I still fret and worry.
I was standing at the grocery cart in the gym Sunday morning when people brought in donations for the Dominican. A huge box labeled Play-Doh was put in the cart. I stood there and I stared at it. But then I went on to what I was doing. Then I just needed to go over to the cart and open it up. What was in that big box? Was it really Play-Doh or was it packed with school supplies or socks or something else? Well, when I opened it, there were 36 full size containers of Play-Doh. I opened one of the containers to stick my finger in to see if it was soft and fresh. It was perfect! Perfect Play-Doh in large containers. You see, one of our activities in the Dominican will be for the youngest children at the Joe Hartman School to use Play-Doh to learn about how special they are to God. Our theme is Identity. They will take that Play-Doh and put their thumbprint in it to see that God has made each one of them different. Then they will take that Play-Doh and outline their name because they are special and their name is special to them but more to God.
It is close to our departure for the D.R. and I am really frugal when it comes to spending any last-minute money; I was trying to figure how I was going to get Play-Doh at a good price. Nobody knew I needed Play-Doh. I don’t even know if the team knew that this was one of the activities. But here it was, laid in front of me. I said to Don, who was standing next to me, “I have Play-Doh!” He looked at me a bit puzzled. And then I told him that nobody knew that I needed Play-Doh, NOBODY! And Don said, “Somebody does know. God knows that you needed that.“
So you see, God can speak to us in the weirdest and the most unexpected times. He spoke through Play-Doh. That’s not a coincidence. That’s God. The Holy Spirit spoke to me to tell me and to reassure me that not only do we have a good lesson to present to the children, but that He’s got us. Of course He has us covered!!
And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. (Matthew 8:26)
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
Dear Lord, watch over our team as we head to the Dominican Republic. Watch over us while we are there and open all of the hearts that we are ministering to, young and old. May they know that these are your thoughts and words that we are delivering. Thank you for choosing us to be your hands and feet. It is a privilege and honor to serve you. In your most precious and holy name, Amen.


Praying Continually?

by Barry Myers
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Scripture is full of passages about prayer. Paul writes in I Thessalonians “Be joyful and continually pray”.
As a young Christian, it was a challenge to read and meditate on God’s word. I didn’t pray that often, perhaps once a day. That was the depth of my faith. I didn’t understand how I could have a close relationship with God. I began attending a Bible study and I asked the leader this question, “How do I get more faith?”. Unfortunately, he never really answered the question. But the answer is quite simple, your faith grows as you study His Word.
Our faith is tied to the Word of God. As we study the Bible, we mature and through the Holy Spirit we develop a faith that brings about a closer relationship with God. Daily devotions become a necessity. We eventually get to a point where we innately know that God loves us. Our thoughts through the day become prayers; prayers for help, prayers of thanksgiving, prayers for forgiveness, for divine intervention, for direction, and for healing. Our thoughts are also praise and worship to our Father. We know that He is with us, even in the mundane routines of daily living. This mindfulness of God’s presence at all times leads to peace and joy in our hearts. It’s an ongoing conversation with our Creator. Joyce Meyer sums it up in one sentence, “Pray your way through the day.”
Is your daily walk an ongoing conversation with your heavenly Father? Are you pursuing the close relationship that your Father wants to have with you?
Father God, I am grateful that you are always with me and that you care about the details of my day. Thank you that your peace and joy are a constant in my life.


Laundry: The Confession

by Laura Courtney
Can I make a true, honest confession? I HATE laundry. Like hate-hate-hate-double hate-loath-entirely-hate laundry. Give me a sink full of dishes – two sinks full even – and I would rather do that then start a load of laundry. It just seems to be the chore that is always ongoing, takes all day long, and still never is actually finished. Did I mention I dislike laundry?
But, how blessed am I to have the ability to do laundry! To have clean, running water (indoors mind you) to wash my clothes. To have a new set of clothes to wear each and every day. To literally have baskets full of clothing each week that have helped keep my family safe, warm, dry and let’s be honest… one of us is always looking stinking adorable in her little outfits. I am BLESSED to have laundry!
This has been something that God has put in front of me through conversations with friends, blogs and posts on social media, and devotional readings. I have recently realized that I have to stop myself when I find myself thinking, “Ugh, I don’t want to do another load of laundry,” and remember that this is not a chore – it is a blessing.
Most of us are very fortunate to have a roof over our head, running water in our homes, gas in our cars, food in our refrigerators, and money in the bank. But there are those around the world, and even right here in our own community, that don’t have these simple every-day necessities. It can be easy for us to take for granted the things we deal with and enjoy every day. But let us not forget to give thanks for all of this.
I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. (Psalm 9:1)
I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High. (Psalm 7:17)
Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. (Psalm 103:2)
Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:20)
Lord, even in the seemingly mundane and uneventful areas of our lives, may we be grateful for what you have given to us. Let us not take these “small” things for granted, but let us instead give thanks. Help us to remember that all things are from you and to rejoice in your generosity.