Jesus Dance

My favorite place in the whole world is in the grip of my husband’s arms, head against his chest, swaying to the sweet sound of notes harmonizing perfectly. Sometimes those notes are in our head, sometimes they blare from speakers surrounding us.

My favorite place to dance is in the empty silence of my apartment.

But my favorite single dance was in front of three hundred familiar faces on my wedding screen-shot-2017-02-13-at-2-22-08-pmreception dance floor.

Contradictory, huh?

I find it odd that I love both the solitude and togetherness when it comes to relationship, but I also know that it falls perfectly in line with God’s design.

Today, I want to use the book of Ruth to highlight the way we sway with our Jesus. Rather, the way he beckons us to the dance floor.

Quick recap: Ruth was the daughter-in-law of a man named Elimelech and a woman named Naomi. Yet after her husband, father-in-law, and brother-in-law died, she was left with only her mother and sister-in-law. Rather than going back to her original people group, she decided to accept the reality of widowhood and poverty to take care of her mother-in-law, Naomi. She decided to follow a God who was unfamiliar to her in the grand scheme of life. She chose to travel down a road of suffering and labor. All so she could faithfully care for a woman whom she loved.

So Ruth and Naomi moved to Bethlehem. Quickly and quietly, Ruth humbled herself and began gleaning in the fields–basically doing the last and less glamorous bit of work that she might be able to care for Naomi. The field in which she gleaned belonged to Boaz, a wealthy man who was related to her deceased husband. He noticed her. He noticed her hard work. He noticed her kindness. He noticed her humility. She caught his eye. And so our story continues.

Please please please take a pause from this broken, human writing and hop over to Ruth 3. Read the entirety of these perfect words breathed out by God. If you haven’t read the book recently, start at chapter 1 and read all the way through 3 to understand the sweet story in all its glory.

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[6] So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had commanded her. [7] And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the fullsizerender-28end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. [8] At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! [9] He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” [10] And he said, “May you be blessed by the LORD, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. [11] And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. [12] And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. [13] Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the LORD lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.”

(Ruth 3:6-13 ESV)

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Okay, my friends. I would be lying to you if I said this is an easy chapter to understand. It’s hard. It makes very little sense to people living in our current culture. I have spent the morning researching, so let’s clear some things up.

Kinsman Redeemer

Here is what the Bible dictionaries have told me:

  • A kinsman would have simply been a close relative to someone. This relative takes most of the responsibility after death. For example, a kinsman may raise up one of his sons to take the name and inheritance of the deceased, he would become the blood avenger if the deceased was murdered, and he would redeem (we will get to that word in a second) the estate of the deceased. Finally, the kinsman could marry the spouse of the deceased, and she would get to keep her part of the deceased’s property and wealth.
  • Now a redeemer is a word we are more familiar with. But let’s break it down even more. To redeem is to pay a price in order to release someone or something. It frees people from enemies, oppression, enslavement, and sin. It could mean redeeming property all the way to redeeming us from the throws of the evil we so deserve.

So. To put that all together, a kinsman redeemer is a close relative who would redeem a widow of a deceased family member. It would release her from the poverty which now entangled her and from the widowhood which haunted her.

The problem for Ruth was that the men who would have normally become her kinsman redeemer–her husband’s brothers–were no longer alive. Let me be clear. She was willing to do life without that promise.

Yet Naomi saw Boaz and thought otherwise. She looked at Ruth and said, go. Ask him. Ask him to take on this responsibility. Ask him to give you a romance. To take you under his wing as a wife. 

And so Ruth did. fullsizerender-27

And so begins the romance.

The romance that is a choice.

The romance that includes great reward.

The romance that requires blood and resources and willingness.

This would be a dance.

This would be a dance that would overtake Ruth’s life, tear down the walls of insecurity and poverty and abjection. It would defy odds and protect her loved ones and lead to greatness. It would be her reward. It would include both private bliss and public delight.

Does that not sound familiar?

My friends! My co-heirs! Jesus is our Kinsman Redeemer!

We were once children of God, but when we chose sin and death over life abundant, we could no longer be His. So Jesus. Jesus. Jesus, part of the God-head trinity left His throne and came! He came down to redeem us from the punishment price we have to pay. He came down to fulfill this law. To be the ultimate and perfect redeemer.

A Kinsman Redeemer requires blood relationship. He is the son of our God and yet completely human.

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5 ESV)

“For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. [17] Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:16-17 ESV)

A Kinsman Redeemer must hold the necessary resources. He was the only one who was not tied by sin and death, and he bought us! He was the only one with the necessary resources.

“for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20 ESV)

“knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, [19] but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Peter 1:18-19 ESV)

A Kinsman Redeemer must be willing to pay the price. He did it because He wanted to. He had the choice, and He chose to lay down His complete self that we might be redeemed from our own poverty of God. 

“just as the Father knows me and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep… No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:15, 18 ESV)

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” (1 John 3:16 ESV)

He says to us with His sweet redemption, Beloved, you are worth it to me.

He woos us with his ability, with his sacrifice, and with his deep desire to see us renewed.

He romances us toward Him.

He dances with us.

screen-shot-2017-02-13-at-2-37-41-pmSo in this great dance, in this dance that overtakes our lives, tears down the walls of our hearts, and defies the odds. In the greatest dance we will ever experience, let us take His hand. Let us be led by his sweet swaying. Let us love it in private, worshipping in our dorm rooms and dens, praying with our foreheads to the ground, and begging Him for his sweet rewards out loud. Let us also love it in public, singing his praises for the world to see, praying to Jesus that others might know Him, and displaying His great love for us in our own lives.

Let’s love this Jesus dance, my beloved sisters. Let’s love it more than anything else this world could possibly bring. Let’s boldly lie on His threshing floor and allow His blood to redeem us.

Living like Ruth in a Boaz Obsessed World

Do you have one of those sisters that just continually challenges you? Mine is Taylor Holcombe. We met as freshmen in college and immediately became the best of friends. We were both in relationships, which moved to singleness, which moved to boy craziness, screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-2-37-13-pmwhich moved into marriage for me, and continued singleness for her.

Over the last four years, I have watched the Lord work in her in such a way that makes me wonder if I might have the same kind of attitude if I were in her shoes. If I were watching my closest friends get married around me. If God was making me wait for Austin.

Last year, she began studying Ruth, and through that, God challenged me to study it too. So here we are, my friends.

This passage of scripture highlights exactly what she explained God taught her as she studied…

It reminds us that we are to live like Ruth when the world tells us we should be searching for Boaz. 

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And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field, and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter” She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest.”

(Ruth 2:2, 7 ESV)

*This post is loosely based on John Piper’s 1984 Sermon, Ruth: Under the Wings of God

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Ruth was under the assumption that she would never marry again. She chose to take care of her mother-in-law rather than look for someone to take care of her. She chose to humble herself and ask for lowly work rather than assume she deserved the highest position. She chose to work long and hard rather than do the bare minimum. She set her eyes on the path God called her to. Yes, God provided her with a man eventually, but not before he refined her into a woman after His own heart first.

We choose to care for those we already have.

Reminder: Ruth gave up her familiar life to care for Naomi last chapter. Now, she is choosing to take on a roll that she has likely never had to take on before: a physical laborer.

Her priority is that this woman that God has placed in her life would be cared for.

Christian girls. I know. I know the season of waiting for a Godly man to enter your life. We tend to feel that pressure younger than most because screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-2-41-26-pmwe are watching others find it young. You feel that every where you look, you get let down. You feel alone. You worry that it will be you who is called to singleness. You don’t tell anyone that its your struggle because you might look weak or ungrateful. Can I tell you the quickest way to rid yourself of this continual obsession with “your Boaz?” Immerse yourself in the people you have now.

Spend time learning to emulate the qualities you most love in your mom. Disciple a young believer. Ask an older woman to walk through scripture with you. Disciple a young believer. Care for orphans and widows. Disciple a young believer, disciple a young believer, disciple a young believer!

Even if you are in what you think is the relationship, use this beautifully valuable time to pour into yourself into women around you.

We choose to humble ourselves to God’s plan.

Now when Ruth does choose to take the initiative and care for Naomi in a very physical sense, she does not go around demanding to be given work. She does not become self-righteous in her choice to live a God-glorifying, people-serving single life. She doesn’t assume she will be given anything. To quote John Piper, “She does not presume the right even to glean. All she wants to do is gather up the leftovers after the reapers are done and she asks permission even to do that. She is like another foreign woman who came to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs,’ to which Jesus responded by extolling her faith.”

Let us not grow arrogant in the position God has placed us. Whether it is marriage, FullSizeRender 25.jpgsingleness, dating, our attitude has to be a head bowed, ‘please Lord’ kind of attitude. It is a recognition that He has the power, He deserves the power, and that power is for our good. 

We choose to work hard in the season we have been placed.

Verse 7 continues to suggest that she worked from the beginning to the end of the day without much rest.

Ladies, I fear that we are growing weary of work. I fear that our “Go to college to get an MRS degree” attitude is keeping us from glorifying a God who has so much in store for each of us. Trust me, I have to seriously watch myself when it comes to this. My inclination is to let my husband “lead” and by lead, I mean take the initiative. Oh how I am missing some of the greatest rewards when I do this. I am missing the joy of seeing others benefit from the labor He has called me to.

This labor is not necessarily physical work. It could be. It could also be tireless kingdom work. It could be work in the home. It could be volunteering to care for a widow in your area. It could be discipling a young woman. It is whatever He is calling us to that we are either too prideful or too scared to take part in.

Often in our waiting for whatever reward we think we will get, we grow increasingly weary of work. I talk on the phone with my Grandma every weekday morning (Hi Grandma!). This morning she said something that struck me. She was telling me that they have prayer meeting in their home every Monday. Sometime they have seven or eight people, and sometimes none come. Her wish is that the entire basement would be filled to the brim. “But we will keep going either way.”

We choose to recognize that a Boaz is still good–in God’s timing.

Boaz was Ruth’s reward. There is no getting around that. She was obedient, she was caring, she was humble, she was hard-working, and she was rewarded with someone who would be all that and more for her. As Piper puts it, “Boaz was a God-Saturated man.” His bloodline allowed Ruth to stay in her husband’s line. He had money to support her. He loved God. He was everything we fantasize about. But Ruth had to go through a lot before God gave her this man. She lost everything. She physically labored. She lived in the lowliest of states.

Screen Shot 2017-02-06 at 2.46.33 PM.pngBoaz was a good gift. He was the kind of Godly man we should strive to find in a husband. Yet when our eyes are set upon Boaz, we forget to live out the qualities God has called us to. Friends, those are the exact qualities that God used to draw Boaz toward Ruth. He noticed those things because her eyes were set upon a God and a lifestyle that she didn’t have to follow.

Here’s the best part. All these things are an exact reflection of Jesus. They are direct ways we can obediently be a woman after His heart.

We care for the lowly. Just as Jesus did. He made the widows, the sinners, and the crippled his first priority.

We humble ourself in the hard stuff. Just as Jesus did. He came down and lived a humble life of carpentry and teaching when He could have stayed on His heavenly throne.

We work hard in our calling. Just as Jesus did. He walked the earth in ministry for three years, being spat upon and scorned. He refrained from complaint when He was being beaten.

He did all this that we might have freedom in Him. 

So in our freedom, let us not set our eyes upon any standard the world sets upon us. Let us set our eyes upon a King who calls us into a life set apart by Him. Let us live like Ruth when the world–often the Christian world–tells us to search for Boaz. Boaz is awesome. I’ve got one of my own.

But let me tell ya, sis. Jesus is much better.

 

Where You Go, I’ll Go

In the midst of election and inauguration season, we hear the word freedom thrown around in conversation and social media daily. But what do we really mean by freedom? I got curious and decided to look it up. Two definitions popped on my screen:

  1. “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.”
  2. “absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government.”

The way we have been discussing freedom–the way we are inclined to perceive it–is typically the second. We consider freedom to be the lack of governing power over us. Yet today I will pose that by focusing solely on that freedom, we miss a greater, more fulfilling freedom. We miss the freedom captured by the first definition: the freedom to act without hindrance. We miss the freedom our God desires for us.

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But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.  Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”  And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.

(Ruth 1:16-18 ESV)

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If you would like some context, check out last week’s post, But God… An Introduction to Ruth’s Story

You see, Ruth was living in a time where women had very little physical freedom. She had two choices. She could go back to her native land and live under her birth family’s reign. With this decision, she could go back to her home, her familiar territory and basically start over. She could marry again and enter into a life where she is comfortable. 

Or…

She could follow Naomi. There is not much knowing what that would mean. You could pretty much guarantee that she would not marry again, however. You could pretty much guarantee it will be the harder path.

She decides to follow Naomi.

She chooses to put her hope in an unfamiliar God, but one who someone she loves dearly is clinging to in this time of sorrow. One who is in a covenant relationship with His people. Her ability to make this difficult decision, one that she knows little about, demonstrates three kinds of freedom that I find it hard to grasp: freedom in path, freedom in faith, and freedom in death.

Freedom in path…

“…where you go I will go…” Let us not forget that Ruth was Moabite–not Israelite. She was unfamiliar with the terrain on which she would not walk. She was unfamiliar with the land in which she would plant her life. And yet she was confident enough in God to walk down that path freely. 

If you are in a transitional phase, you may relate to Ruth. You are unaware of what exactly God has for you at the end of the path you are being called to go down. It is unfamiliar, rocky, and winding. Take heart, sweet sister. Whether it is a new home, a new relationship, a job, a calling, embrace this path as Ruth does. He promises us that although we do not know what the road may entail, our Father will be standing with open arms at the end of it.

Freedom in faith…

“…and your God my God…” This blows my mind, sisters. Ruth had seen the harshest side of God. She saw every man in her family die. She watched her sister leave to go back to a land where everything seemed better. Yet the freedom she saw in her mother-in-law and in God gave her the will to stay and serve a God who she did not know much about. She only knew one thing: no matter the hardship she faced, something made people go back to Him. He must be faithful. 

In the same way, He is faithful in our own lives though floods and fires may come. Though we may lose what we hold dearest, we are promised that “He works all things together for the good of those who love Him.” Let us today, this week, this life freely choose Jesus even when sorrow overflows.

Freedom in death…

“…where you die I will be buried…” People’s number one fear in every single study you will find is death. We are terrified of the process if not the means if not the ends. Ruth’s confidence in this decision demonstrates a conquering of that fear. She is willing to walk the path, to trust the God, to commit although death may creep at the door. After all, has she not already seen death take the men she loved most in the world?

I wonder if we have the same kind of hope that casts out fear. I wonder if we fall under the category of people who fear the end of life on this earth more than anything else. If that is the case, how can we be free at all? How can we live without hesitance? How can we say yes to our Father when He asks us to live in an uncomfortable region? A dangerous life? How can we say yes when we are so scared of a people coming into our land and “destroying our livelihood” that we lose our excitement to share the Gospel with other peoples?

Christian, I have a fear. I fear that we value our national freedom far more than we value our freedom in Christ.

Christian, I have a hope. My hope lies in the fact that Jesus has overcome that struggle already.

He has given us examples like Ruth and Naomi. These examples test us to the very core because here’s the thing: these women are not some kind of Biblical superhero. They are people with flaws and pains and questions just like us. They are people who have lost everything, and yet they have complete freedom in the God of Abraham. They know little of Him. They cannot read. They can only trust what they’ve been told by men. And how much more do they walk in freedom–freedom not hindered by anxiety or fear–than we do each day? How much more do they put one foot in front of the other although they do not know the end of the story. How much more can we follow in this example set before us. 

I love how John Piper puts it in a 1984 sermon:

“Finally, we learn that if you trust the sovereign goodness and mercy of God to pursue you all the days of your life, then you are free like Ruth.”

God may call us to move away from all we know. Can we find freedom in that?

God may call us into a relationship that scares us. Can we find freedom in that?

God may call us to share our faith in an uncomfortable situation. Can we find freedom in that?

Can we find freedom in walking away from the sin in which we feel encased?

Can we find freedom in persecution for the sake of fullsizerender-19Christ?

Can we find freedom in grief?

In sorrow?

In grief?

In the unknown?

When you believe in the sovereignty of God and that he loves to work mightily for those who trust him, it gives a freedom and joy that can’t be shaken by hard times. The book of Ruth gives us a glimpse into the hidden work of God during the worst of times. And so like all the other Scriptures, as Paul says (Romans 15:4, 13), Ruth was written that we might abound in hope.”John Piper

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But God… An Introduction to Ruth’s Story

I sat in the hospital waiting room clutching my ginger ale wondering if I was living a dream. My heart was simultaneously still and beating out of my chest.

“But God… Why her?”

I whispered, scared I might lose the first person in my life I loved with everything in me.

At twelve years old, I had very little idea what it was to lose something–to go through hardship that seemed impossible. But there we sat, learning that my Aunt had suffered a brain aneurysm. One that should have taken her life and might still. To a twelve year old, that kind of news will wreck your world. To an immature believer, it will make you question your Savior.

This was a turning point in my faith, and I would love to tell you that it turned in the right direction. Yet this day, the enemy whispered into my ears what he whispered to Eve in that first chunk of the earth’s existence. You know better than God. 

I spent years living in that lie, dwelling on its empty promise that somehow my own will would create a more fulfilling life for myself. I indulged. I indulged in my friends, in boys, in the fantasy of popularity, even in the recognition of being a “good Christian.” Yet my conversations with Jesus had grown silent, and my worship of myself was deafening.

FullSizeRender 17.jpgI said, “But God, why me?” when I should have said, “But God, You’re sufficient.”

Praise Jesus that He chased after me in my rebellion, knowing that my aunt’s aneurysm would not be the last hardship I would suffer. He pursued me, grasped to me, and began maturing me to His glory.

{Notice I said began. I am far, far from the kind of maturity He calls us to}

So now, having endured an even greater hardship this year, I can look to Him and trust that He is in control, though I often do it with reluctance.

My sisters, God has given us a perfect example of a woman who did just that plus some: Ruth.

If you don’t know the story of this amazing woman, buckle up! In such a short time she lost her entire family, with the exception of her mother-in-law. Her father-in-law died, her husband and his brother died, and her sister-in-law left. She could have chosen to leave and go back to her biological family, yet she chose to give her own life over care for her mother-in-law. And this is just the beginning.

Over the coming weeks, we will be diving into four of my favorite chapters in the Bible. Ruth is one of the only books written from the perspective of a woman, and it is rich. It is filled with constant reminders that…

  1. There will be hardships

  2. The Lord gives us strength beyond ourselves when we trust in His way

  3. He is faithful to provide

  4. That provision lasts generations.

Yes, Ruth is often known as a Biblical love story. Yet it is so much more than God’s Nicholas Sparks novel. It is a story of the perfect redemption He sent through His son, Jesus. It is a reflection of Him, written thousands of years before and through the eyes of His ancestor. It is the representation of a woman who does not rely on a human dude to bring her peace–something all of us need to recognize every once in a while–yet puts her trust in the Almighty whom she can neither hear nor see.

It is a story of two racial groups coming together, loving one another and living to the Glory of the God that bound them.

It is a story of the Church, who is to blindly follow in the direction we are called by God whether or not we know the end of the story.

It is a story of kindness we are to bestow upon one another.

It is a story of a promise God made to Abraham being fulfilled through someone who is outside of the covenant.

It is a story that reflects the way we are to look upon the days when it seems like God did us wrong. You see, this beautiful story begins in turmoil. And Yahweh–only Yahweh–turns it around. He uses the people He provided, but He is the ultimate hero.

My sweet friend, if you are going through a time of trial, join me. If you are going through a time of harvest, join me. If you are so mad at God that you can’t see straight, join me. If today is not hard, tomorrow will be. We are not promised ease and fullsizerender-18comfort, but adversity.

But God!

But God is sufficient!

But God is real!


But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7 ESV)

As we dig into my favorite Bible story, vow to do this with me: stop asking, “But God” and start proclaiming, “But God.”

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