Ta Ta For Now

It is with deep regrets that I announce that “The Twisting Trail” is being abandoned. It’s not that I don’t enjoy writing for it. I do. I have especially enjoyed the “Big Bible Questions” series. However, I must count the cost. Viewership is down – like zero for the past 4 days and one or two for the past week or so. Even the email responses are of the automated type. You know: “so-and-so thinks your latest post on The Twisting Trail was fantastic …” but readership shows no hits. This is much like telephone robo calls. They mean nothing. For these reasons, continuing does not seem like a wise use of my time.

Instead, I will concentrate on “Harley’s Health”. I suppose you could say I am abandoning the “Trail” for the hospital halls. As you likely know, I will be undergoing a stem cell transplant to defeat the Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia that has attacked me since 2006. I will be blogging about that experience as health permits.

Thank you for your support for “Twisting Trail” in the past and your continued (or new) support for “Harley’s Health” and my medical adventure.

Big Bible Questions: Who are you?

Question markHe said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth your maid. So spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative.”[1]

Ruth 3:9 (NASB95)

Imagine for a minute that you are camping. It can be Five-Star camping or tent camping. It makes no difference. You go to bed after a long strenuous day of hiking/shopping or whatever. You are tired so you fall asleep rather quickly. Sometime in the night, you awake. Something is at your feet. It is soft and solid all at the same time. You first think your puppy is on the bed. Then you remember you left it at home. You gently kick at it and hear a responding “Oomph.” You realize the something is a someone. What do you do. “Who are you?” comes to mind quickly followed by “What do you want?”

That is exactly the position in which Boaz found himself. Unknown to him, Ruth the Moabitess had joined him in his sleeping quarters! She answered his inquiry as she was instructed by Naomi, “I am Ruth your maid.” “Ah,” he replied. He knew Ruth was the honorable daughter-in-law of Naomi, wife of his dead relative. She was a good woman for he had heard how Ruth treated Naomi with respect and loyalty. He had blessed her in the fields. In all honesty, he was impressed with the woman at his feet.

Before he could ask, Ruth responded to the unasked question,  saying “Spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative.” How strange that seems to us. Yet, Boaz knew the customs of his people. Ruth was asking two things. First, she was asking for Boaz to redeem the lands Naomi owned but could not claim. The land could only be passed down to male heirs. But wait! There’s more! (I know; this is rather trite, but it’s true.) Since Ruth was childless, it was the responsibility of the closest heir to take the widow as his wife and produce a son in her first husband’s name in order to extend the family line. Ruth was proposing! “Marry me,” was the request.

Boaz processed the information he had, realized it wasn’t such a bad idea, and initiated the process necessary to complete the transaction. Unfortunately, there was a closer relation yet. He had first dibs. Long story short, the new guy wanted the land but not the woman. Deal off. Boaz now owned the land and had married Ruth. That’s how Ruth, a foreigner, came to be in the lineage of Jesus. Her great grandson was King David!

Though you are not lying at my feet, I ask you, “Who are you?”  You reply, “I am ….” Yes, you are. You are a human, a person. You are an offspring of Adam through Noah. You are a chosen child of God, whether you admit it or not. You have been or are being invited into the family of God. The Father wants you. He is searching for you. He loves you. He wants to bring you back from the cold cruel world and into His arms. If you are already there, you are a beloved child of God your past and your sins are forgiven. If you are not in His arms, He is calling you. “Who are you?” He asks. He wants you to respond, “I am your child. Hold me.” He will not give up until you are safe in His loving arms … or, without Him, you cease living. Don’t delay. Respond today. “Here am I, Lord. Save me!”

 

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Ru 3:9). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

Big Bible Questions: Why should you go with me?

But Naomi said, “Return, my daughters. Why should you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?[1]

Ruth 1:11 (NASB95)

 Of all the big questions in the Bible, this is one of the most poignant. Naomi had lost it all. She had lost her land when she and her husband had fled Judah to escape a famine. She had lost her husband. She had lost both sons in a foreign land. To her way of thinking, she had nothing to offer anyone.

In defeat, she had decided to return to her homeland and cast her fate upon the mercies of her distant relations. As was customary, her daughters-in-law began to follow her. Their task was to see to Naomi’s need. Suddenly, Naomi stopped. Turning to her daughters, she ordered them to return to their families, to the traditions of their own people, to the gods they had grown up with. One, Orpah, did just that. The other, Ruth, stubbornly refused to leave. After several failed attempts to sever ties, Naomi again asks why Ruth would follow. Ruth replies with her famous answer:

 “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back 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 I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.”[2]

Ruth had seen something in Naomi that impressed her. Don’t get the picture wrong. Both girls loved Naomi. They both wept bitterly at their mother-in-law’s order to return home. Both clung to her. Only one returned. Only one stubbornly refused to let distance separate them. What did Ruth see that Orpah did not? Why was that such a strong draw that she would refuse a rosy future for one of life-long widowhood?

While we can never be certain, we can surmise a few answers. If circumstantial evidence is good in court, we can certainly use it here.

Ruth saw a woman in Naomi who was dedicated to her husband. She left everything she knew to follow him into a foreign land. Ruth saw a strong woman. Naomi survived not only the death of her husband, but the loss of her two sons – her only family. Ruth saw strength there as well. I believe Ruth also saw where that strength came from – Naomi’s undying faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

It is not easy keeping the faith in such circumstances. Separated from her people, her spiritual structure, and surrounded by people who did not believe in the One True God, Naomi’s faith did not falter. When most of us would have been shaken to the core and at least seriously doubted God’s faithfulness to us, Naomi did not waver.

I believe Ruth also saw Naomi’s love: her love for her husband, her love for her sons, and her love for her daughter’s-in-law. This kind of love drew Ruth into its vortex and would not let her go. Ruth would have been bereft without it. It was a covering for her that, if removed, would have left her feeling lost and adrift.

It is all of this that initiated Ruth’s stubborn refusal to return to the home of her parents. She wanted what Naomi had. She knew it was not to be found in the home of her parents. It was to be found in the land of Naomi, in the land of Israel, in the hearts of Naomi’s people. Once that had been determined, there was no turning back for Ruth.

And so it should be with us. It is not so much what we say to people that matters. It is how we live our lives, how we live our faith that counts. The words we say about the Gospel can be transient. People hear them and may or may not remember them. It is the actions that accompany the words that make the desired impression.

I once had a Sunday school teacher whom I greatly admired, that is until I went to work for him one summer. It was then that I heard him swear like a sailor. I saw his deceptive practices. His faith was not as real as I thought. That reality dimmed his testimony. I doubt that his actions encouraged anyone outside our church family to follow Christ.

We must show people our faith. Action speaks louder than words ever will.

 

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Ru 1:11). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Ru 1:16–17). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

Life is an Adventure

This blog by Don Merritt fits “Twisting Trail” too well to pass up, so I’m sharing it here. Enjoy.

The Life Project

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Life with Jesus Christ is a journey, and that journey is quite an adventure.  It’s an adventure that travels down a long narrow road through beautiful lush countryside, past rivers and streams, flat plains, and sometimes even through hot, dry deserts.  We may find ourselves struggling up a long steep mountain slope, wondering if we’ll ever reach the top… When we finally get to the top of the mountain, the view from the top is so fantastic to behold that we might forget all about the climb.

As we go along, we might see something off to the side of the road; we might leave the road to go and check it out and we might even tarry there for quite a long time.  Then we look up and see that our travelling party is way far off in the distance, and we must get ourselves back on the path…

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Big Bible Questions: What is this you have done?

Now the angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land which I have sworn to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you, and as for you, you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed Me; what is this you have done?[1]

Judges 2:1,2 (NASB 95)

A covenant is the Old Testament term for a contract. We all know that if two people sign a contract, it is binding for the duration of the contract … or until one or the other breaks the contract. If a contract is broken, the offended person has the right to collect damages from the contract breaker. That is common knowledge known by almost everyone.

God initiated a contract, a covenant, with Israel when they were in Egypt. The Israelites agreed to the terms. The contract was further defined just before the people were to enter the Promised Land. God’s part was to bless the offspring of Israel and give them a land flowing with milk and honey. They would be a blessed people free from bondage, free to live as a people and as individuals as they wished. In return, all Israel had to do was drive the existing inhabitants out of the land and remove all evidence of their idolatry. Sounds simple enough.

The day came to invade the land and Jericho was taken. Instead of totally annihilating the city and its contents, one man kept a golden idol and hid it in his tent. The result was God’s withdrawal of His blessing on the next military campaign. The perpetrator was discovered and made an example to the remaining people. Did they learn the lesson? Hardly. When the wars were completed, many of the foreigners remained in the land. Not as converts, but as slaves. They were not rid of their gods, but allowed to keep them. By the time Joshua and his advisors died, not only were the foreigners still around, they were being taken as wives, and their gods adopted in place or in addition to the One True God. They had broken the contract.

So what did God say? Before you answer, remember God is a God of love and mercy. He does not want anyone to be lost to Him. Now, what did God say? He could have rid the people of the slaves/infidels and destroyed their gods of gold and silver and bronze. But He didn’t. He could have forced the people to do the job they had agreed to do. But He didn’t. Instead, He told Israel that those people and their gods would continue to live in the land and would become a thorn in their sides and a snare to them. The people wept and cried out for mercy. But they didn’t change their ways.

You may be wondering why a loving God would do such a thing. The answer lies in the overall plan of a loving Father. God was not just redeeming a people, though that was a step in the overall plan. No, God’s ultimate goal was the redemption of mankind. He had a greater view of man’s destiny. He was seeking to restore mankind to the condition of Adam BEFORE the forbidden fruit was sampled. God’s desire, God’s goal was to bring mankind back into perfect fellowship with Himself. To do that, He had to continue purifying His chosen instrument, Israel. While the people had a narrow vision of what God had promised, a land flowing with milk and honey, God had a much broader vision that lead to the Cross, to the Resurrection, to the salvation of all mankind through His Son, Jesus.

I believe history is repeating itself. The Church as a whole, not necessarily as individuals, is following the path of Israel. We are and have been adopting the gods of the godless. Nearly every Christian holiday has adopted pagan practices. Think about it. At the time of this writing, we just celebrated Easter, Resurrection Sunday. We did it with worship services at sunrise, at the normal hours, in the evening. We also did it with Easter egg hunts and the Easter bunny, both adopted from paganism. We could go on to Christmas and the Christmas tree, a pagan adaptation. Most of the other traditional Christian holidays are minor celebrations if celebrated at all and are infused with pagan influences.

“What are we to do?” you ask. We can only do as Joshua did. He said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Do I hear an amen?

 

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Jdg 2:1–2). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

Crossroads (Thoughts after the Tornado)

Harley's Health

If you live in the US, you are most likely aware of the devastating tornados that struck the central part of the country last night. Oklahoma was the first target of these storms resulting in several deaths. Arkansas was the second hit. The area destroyed is less than 50 miles from our home. The huge tornado that struck Mayflower and Vilonia was being chased by a trusted storm tracker who reported that he saw the beast begin to form just west of Hot Springs. Thankfully, it did not settle down here.

It saddens me to report that the storm killed a reported 16 persons in the affected area. Many are still missing and/or injured. Please pray for those who lost everything. I can’t imagine the emotions they must be feeling.

Strangely, this tornado struck Vilonia exactly 3 years and 2 days after another tornado destroyed the same community. Some of…

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