Are You Living in the House of Bread or the House of Bitterness? (Ruth 1:1-22 )

Making good or bad decisions is a daily adventure in the ministry. Since we are in the ministry, certainly we will always make good and biblical decisions! Why do we make bad decisions when we have and know God’s Word? It must be that we would rather live by sight than by faith. It must be that we are tempted to live by feelings and circumstances rather than by faith. Elimelech and Naomi made a very bad and fatal decision by leaving God’s people in Bethlehem because of the adversity of a famine. Not only did they leave the “House of Bread,” but they intentionally went from God’s people into enemy territory to satisfy a physical need. Elimelech and his sons did not survive the bad decision that he and Naomi had made. It is interesting that the only one who survived this critical decision was Naomi. She and her husband left the house of bread full, and she later returned to Bethlehem empty, living in the house of bitterness.

Please be careful and prayerful when making decisions concerning adversity. Running from adversity is not normally a great decision. I am sure Elimelech and Naomi felt they were not being fed properly in the house of bread because of the famine. What biblical sense did it make to go into enemy territory for relief? Running from adversity is the evidence of unbelief that God can help you and lead you through that particular problem. Running from adversity is not a good decision! Running into enemy territory is not a good decision! Running from adversity can be a fatal decision! Elimelech and Naomi ran from their home with God’s people, and Naomi ran into a funeral home three times in the land of their enemy. Please be careful when making decisions because of adversity.

Please be careful about your relationships with others because of bad decisions and adversity. While in the land of the enemy, Naomi’s sons married two young ladies. Because of a bad decision by Elimelech and Naomi, two young ladies’ lives were changed by their decision. With all the men dead, Naomi made a good decision to go back home, but a bad decision by telling Ruth and Orpah not to go with her. She told them to return home to their families and gods. Do not isolate yourself from others because of bad decisions. Do not push them away from God and back to their false gods. Sadly, Orpah returned to her false gods. Decisions you make can have eternal consequences for others. Ruth loved Naomi unconditionally. Naomi, because of bitterness, shame, and maybe even pride, attempted to push Ruth away. Although unknown to Naomi at the time, God had given Ruth to her as a gift to help her through her adversity of grief and bitterness. Do not push people away! One may be the very person to help you overcome your difficulties.

Please be careful when bad decisions and consequences make you bitter. Bitterness changes your personality. When she returned home, people were not sure if she was Naomi. They said, “Is this Naomi?” Bitterness changes your identity. Naomi wanted to be called “Mara.” She claimed God ruined her life. Just as Naomi said, “I am Mara,” maybe you would identify with her in a similar way. I am Depressed. I am Failing. I am Fed Up. I am Quitting. I am Self-Serving. I am Burned Out. By the way, you know your new identity just as Naomi did. Bitterness changes your outlook on life. The soul running from God is always empty of the good graces of God. Notice, she left full even in the face of adversity and came back completely empty of God’s blessing. She said, “I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty.” Naomi’s bitterness blinded her to the fact that God was going to bless her even in spite of bad decisions. Ruth was used of God in a mighty way, and Naomi was blessed because of it. Ruth’s good decision to not leave Naomi was the means of God blessing Ruth. Her decision also restored His good graces to Naomi.

Are you making good or bad decisions? Are you contemplating a bad decision? Be careful to make decisions according to God’s Word, and you will make good decisions. Continue to make them according to circumstances or feelings, and you will constantly make wrong decisions. Make biblical decisions! If you have made wrong decisions in the past and are suffering the consequences, get back to God quickly. Let Him begin afresh to mold you into His will.

Lessons of Faith

(Matthew 17:14-17)

All of us need more faith! The disciples found themselves unable to perform their ministry effectively because of their lack of faith. Let’s be careful not to judge them too harshly, knowing our own lack of faith at times. Each of us should determine to exercise more faith in God as we labor for Him in the ministry He has placed us in. Sometimes, the Lord allows failures in our lives so we will examine our faith more closely. Faith will accomplish God’s work. Unbelief will not accomplish God’s work. Are you a person of faith or unbelief? Let’s examine what Jesus says about this matter.

Failure is an opportunity to examine your faith in the Lord. The disciples asked the Lord, “Why could we not cast him out?” There is nothing like a major failure in our Christian life to get our attention focused back on the Lord. The disciples had previously cast out demons, but now failed to do so. When miracles become common, they are no longer miracles and the power to perform miracles is gone.

Failures in the Christian life could be faith failures. Spurgeon declared, “This was a very proper question. When we make a failure, let us own that we have failed, take the blame of it to ourselves, and apply to our Lord for His gracious intervention. When we are beaten, let it be said of us, ‘Then came the disciples to Jesus.’ Let us make a private, personal matter of it: ‘They came to Jesus apart.’ Let us sit humbly at our Lord’s feet to receive rebuke or instruction as He sees fit.”

Faith is needed for future ministry. While his disciples were still reeling from their lack of spiritual power, Jesus foretold His death and resurrection. It is obvious that because of their unbelief they heard only the bad news. Far too often, we only see and hear the bad things that are going on and we worry about the future. The great news was “. . . and the third day He shall be raised again.” There is always some good news for the Christian’s future! Always listen for good news even in the midst of tragic information.

Faith is needed concerning the finances of God’s work. Faith accepts that in ministry there will be financial obligations. Jesus, the King of kings, explained to Peter that He does not have to pay the temple tax, just like the earthly kings do not have to pay taxes themselves, but collect them from strangers. In the next verse though, He told them to pay the tax so as not to offend the people. Always pay your bills! God will do the miraculous if you are doing your part to make sure your financial obligations are met. Remember, nothing is impossible if you have faith. Peter, believing the Lord, went fishing for their tax money! He had to go work for it, but God provided it, just as Jesus said He would! What great lessons in faith for the disciples and us!

But I Say Unto You

(Matthew 5:20-48)

The Pharisees were always concerned about the external! They made sure they were dressed in the finest of clothes to make themselves look good. They were always interested in exposing the sins of others to make themselves look good. They were always concerned about the toothpick in someone else’s eye instead of the telephone pole in their own. Likewise, they loved to use the Old Testament law to point out the sins they caught other people in, while ignoring the sins of their own hearts. Jesus instructed His disciples in what we call the Sermon on the Mount. He used the phrase “But I say unto you” seven times when He pointed out what the disciples had heard from the religious establishment of the day. It is more important to hear what Jesus says than any other person or group.

Jesus first said to His disciples they must be more genuine than the Pharisees to be His followers and to enter heaven. Jesus then said, “Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause. . .” is in danger of the same judgment as a murderer. Thou shalt not kill is not only a commandment, but can also be an attitude against someone. Murder is precipitated by anger. Jesus said to His disciples to control their attitude about others. Not only is the act of adultery a sin, but Jesus said to His disciples if you look at a woman and lust after her you have committed adultery in your heart. Jesus then dealt with the ungodly manner the Jewish men handled divorce, by treating a woman like a piece of property and putting her away for any petty reason. Jesus said to His disciples the only reason anyone should consider divorce was for sexual sin. The Pharisees and scribes had invented all sorts of oaths from major to minor situations. Jesus said to His disciples, “Swear not at all.” Everyone has heard, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” but Jesus said, “. . .whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” His disciples no doubt had heard  the saying, “love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” What Jesus has said is more important than anything we have heard anyone else say. Jesus was more concerned with the heart issues. The breaking of any commandment comes from a problem of disobedience in the heart whether it is anger, adultery, divorce, swearing, vengeance, or hatred. Jesus taught His disciples and us that the real problem is not what we see outwardly, but what is taking place in the heart.

As we minister to others, let’s remember what Jesus said to His disciples. The outward actions are all that religious hypocritical people see. If you really want to minister to people as you serve God, examine your own heart. Only then will you be truly aware of the needs in the hearts of others. Greatness in heaven is not determined by the outward appearance of obeying God’s commandments, but the inward heart attitude of genuine love for God and people.

—Tim Daniel