Whither thou goest, I will go

And Ruth said,
“Entreat me not to leave thee,
or 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:
Where thou diest, will I die,
and there will I be buried:
the Lord do so to me, and more also,
if ought but death part thee and me.”
Ruth 1:16 – 17 KJV


Christian mentorship is a deep relationship between an individual and God that is facilitated by someone else who already has such a deep relationship. Ruth’s plea to Naomi reminds us of that when Peter is faced with leaving Jesus after so many disciples have left the Lord, and he replies to Jesus: “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life (John 6:68 KJV).” Because of a disciple’s great love for and connection to God, when faced with departing their mentor, the disciple knows there is only one place for them.

The Moabitess Ruth stuck by Naomi and listened as the Jewish widow directed her in how to fit in with the society of the Jews. Ruth followed Naomi’s instruction in how to find provision, how to relate to others through humble service, and ultimately how to get closer to the one who would redeem her. For her part, Naomi’s instruction pointed away from herself and toward the Redeemer. Naomi facilitated the relationship between Ruth and Boaz, which inexorably led to the birth of David and eventually Jesus. Naomi brought the Gentile Ruth into the tribe of Judah to save her and to seek God’s grace.

As disciple makers, we are to always be directing people to Christ, not to ourselves. And so long as our mentor also points to Christ, as disciples we are to go where our mentor leads, to go where they go, live how they live, and if need be, to even die for Jesus. As Paul said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ (I Corinthians 11:1 NKJV).” Our people are no longer our families but other believers, our nation is no longer our homeland but wherever God takes us. And of course, our God is the Redeemer and Savior of the world, Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Good and Faithful Servant

“His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’”

Matthew 25:23

We are all called to faith, to believe in the only begotten Son of God who lived among us, died, and rose up on the third day. Yes, faith is the key to the kingdom. But as James reminds us, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (James 2:17).” The example that James gives (and Paul, too, in Romans 4) is that Abraham not only believed in God, but he moved in that faith, his every action built on that faith. James’ point is that while faith brings us to Christ, it is our actions that truly show our faith.

So what makes someone a “good and faithful servant”? Invariably in Jesus’ parables, the one who receives His blessing is the one who multiplies the kingdom. The tree that produces fruit, the field that produces grain, the servant who multiplies what is given into his care: these are all blessed. But the fruitless tree is made to wither, the grainless weeds in the field are burned, the timid servant given little. Yes, by all means, believe that Jesus is the Christ, but then ACT on it, DO something about it.

Yes, Jesus has given us His rest, but He has still asked up to take up His yoke—which, although it is easy and the burden is light, still shows that we are His servants (Matthew 11:28-30). It is His presence through the Spirit that makes our burden easy, so that we may serve Him and not serve the world.

And when we take up that yoke of servitude to the King of kings, that is the point where our faith intersects with our gifts from the Holy Spirit, for it is the Spirit who gives us the ability to work for the kingdom of God. Some will indeed be apostles, pastors, evangelists, etcetera (Ephesians 4:11-16), but others will be healers, discerners, exhorters, ministers (Romans 12:3-8)—and ALL will be working to edify (literally to “build up”) the church of God. Jesus told us we would do greater works than those He had done when we move in our faith (John 14:12). When we embrace our spiritual gifts, when we step out in our faith to do in the Spirit that which we could not do on our own, that is when we have shown ourselves to be the good and faithful servant who is then invited into the joy of our Lord.

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The measure you use

Matthew 7:2

“For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

How do you measure your day? Quite often, we remember the difficult things about our days, especially the people who rub us the wrong way. The angry customer, the careless driver, the poor service: these are how we measure our days. And when someone asks us to tell about our days, we complain about the people we’ve encountered. In fact, especially here in America, we turn what we perceive as other people’s failings into comedy, and we laugh at someone who didn’t measure up to our idea of common sense or intelligence.

But when was the last time you prayed for the person who was angry with you? When was the most recent time you simply yielded to someone in traffic because you understood that perhaps there was a reason for their haste? How often do you notice the smiles and the praise of others more than their discontent or misunderstanding? Do you measure your days by the good things, by the opportunities for prayer and camaraderie? Or do you measure your day by measuring others against yourself?

Paul reminded us that we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God, therefore, when we measure others against ourselves, we are using a far from perfect standard. Ought we not instead measure ourselves, and mark our days by noting those times we ourselves have fallen short? God’s grace is in the process of sanctifying us, of making us more Christ-like. His Spirit should be daily convicting us of our sins, so that at the end of the day we can remark our own failings rather than the failings of others.

I have found that the people I most like being around are the ones who poke fun at themselves rather than others, people who understand that we truly are all sinners struggling daily to leave the old person behind and trying to live as a new creation in Christ. Let us measure ourselves against ourselves, and judge our days not by others but by our own actions. When we do, we will still find humor and tragedy, but more importantly we will find we are becoming more like the One by whom we should truly measure our lives, Christ Jesus our Lord.

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A Long Way Off

Long Way Off thumb

Luke 15:20 ESV
“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”

It’s hard sometimes not to feel like we are a long way from God. We acknowledge that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but beyond that, we can often feel like we will never attain to holiness, that we will always be seeking God and never reach Him. Of course, the glorious conclusion of the parable of the Prodigal Son shows us that we don’t need to reach God because He will run to us and meet us halfway. That in itself is reassuring, and so we turn our eyes toward the Father, resting in the hope that He will greet us and treasure us. That’s a part of what we see in today’s verse Luke 15:20, but there is also something else.

Look at that phrase “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him…” Therein lies the most reassuring thing we could ever hope for. Think about what the parable doesn’t say. For example, it doesn’t say, “And the son arose on a Tuesday morning and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father just happened to be in the fields that day, and just happened to be looking down that long road to a far off land, and he saw him…” Nor does it say that the father just happened to notice the returning son while having his morning tea on the veranda. No, it simply says the father saw him while he was a long way off. That implies several things:

  1. The father was ALWAYS WATCHING. He didn’t just happen to be watching, he always had his eyes looking down that dusty road to that distant land.
  2. The father was ALWAYS EXPECTING his son to return. The father knew – or at the very least hoped – in his heart that the son would one day return.
  3. The father was ALWAYS READY for his son’s return. He knew exactly how he was going to treat his long-lost son – embrace and robe and ring and feast – and so there was no hesitation.

Our heavenly Father is always watching for us and over us. Yes, the father in the story watched the son who was still at home, but he was also watching out for the son who was a long way off. Our Father knows our hearts, and He knows how desperately we need Him, so He always expects us to return to Him when we stray or when we stumble. God doesn’t need us to perfect ourselves, but simply to turn to Him and start the return process, because through Christ, the Father has already prepared a place for us with Him. So let us never despair of coming close to God but know that He is always watching for us, always expecting us, and always ready to bless us with His abundant mercy and grace.

(Photo by Richard van Wijngaarden on Unsplash)

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“Go and do likewise”

Most people know the basics of the story about the “Good Samaritan.” In that passage from Luke 10:25-37, Jesus uses a parable to illustrate the love we are supposed to have for each other. While one cannot dispute that the behavior of the Samaritan man is what Jesus wants us to emulate—after all, He does say “Go and do likewise” (v.37)—it’s hard to miss the fact that Jesus brought up two other major characters: a priest and a Levite.

We know that Jesus wants to draw a contrast between how the Samaritan helped the man who had been attacked and how the priest and the Levite most certainly did not. But why did Jesus label them as a “priest” and a “Levite”? And why would they react the way they did?

According to Jewish law, if a priest came into contact with someone’s blood, he became unfit to serve God in the synagogue or temple until after he had made several offerings and waited out a period of avoiding anything else that may make him unclean. (Leviticus 15 and Numbers 19 will tell you the basics.) The priest saw the man from a distance and crossed to the other side of the road in order to try and maintain his purity to serve God.

The Levites served in and around the temple, so the Levite in the story would be bound by the same Jewish laws of purity, but this Levite actually “came and looked” (v.32). Nonetheless, in order to maintain his purity so he could serve God, he, too, crossed to the other side and passed on.

Neither the priest nor the Levite saw that this man’s troubles were an opportunity to serve God.

THEY IGNORED THE PROBLEM AND HOPED IT WOULD GO AWAY.

In today’s protests and environment after the murder of George Floyd, it is tempting to cross to the other side of the road, even to look at the events happening and then pass on by. But if we are not reaching out to help, we are no better than the priest and the Levite. When anyone dies unjustly, when anyone suffers injustice, when anyone faces discrimination and violence, it truly is a problem for us ALL. American society has had the bandage ripped off and now the festering wound of racism is exposed for all the world to see. Innocent men and women are literally being hurt and killed by some of the very ones who are supposed to protect and serve them, and that is a wound that MUST be healed through real change. We cannot suffer racism to continue anywhere.

So what will you do? Will you walk on by, or will you start to make the change among your friends and family and neighbors? Jesus didn’t tell the story of the Good Samaritan only to one man, He told it to us ALL, so that we could learn to truly love our neighbor as ourselves. Like Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”

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