Naomi said, “Look, your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Follow her. But Ruth said,
“Do not urge me to leave you or turn away from you. For where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God (Ruth 1:15-16).
Who doesn’t love convenience? From gadgets and appliances to schedules and travel, we all seek out whatever happens to be most convenient for us. Regrettably, however, we often apply the same desire for convenience to our spiritual lives. We’ll do whatever Christ asks us to do—as long as it doesn’t cause us any inconvenience! Consider the times when Jesus called individuals to follow him, and he got responses like “Lord, first let me go and bury my father” or “Lord, first let me go say goodbye to my family” (cf. Luke 9:57-62). Such individuals were perfectly willing to follow Jesus as long as they could do so on their terms.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with convenience, but we need to beware of how it can insidiously become an idol that encroaches on our commitment to follow Christ unreservedly. To prevent this danger from creeping into our discipleship and causing us to love comfort more than Christ, we are aided by studying the exemplary commitment revealed in Ruth.
1. Commitment is a choice.
After Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, had lost her husband and two sons, she decided the only course of action was to return to her home in Judah and absolve her two Moabite daughters-in-law of all obligations toward her. Naomi believed she couldn’t possibly ask them to leave behind their homeland, their families, their cultures, and their gods. Nevertheless, Ruth and her sister-in-law, Orpah, loved Naomi so much that they chose to remain with her no matter what inconveniences lay ahead (1:10).
2. Sometimes, it’s a lonely choice.
Naomi recognized the gravity of their choice and urged Ruth and Orpah to consider the fact that they would probably never marry again in Judah. While Orpah turned back, Ruth remained steadfast in her commitment to Naomi—even when she was the only one still standing (1:11-15).
3. It’s a choice tested by time.
Regardless of the inconvenience and the potential loneliness, Ruth wholeheartedly cast her lot with Naomi (1:16-17). The sincerity of such a commitment can only be revealed over time. It’s one thing to make a commitment under a certain set of circumstances. It another thing entirely to make a commitment regardless of circumstances (e.g. the traditional wedding vows, “For better for worse, for richer for poorer…”).
May Ruth’s commitment to Naomi reflect our prayer to Christ, especially when we become spiritually tired and disheartened. May the Spirit lead us to choose commitment over convenience.
Our annual Fall Festival is for people of all ages, and we always expect great attendance by children. This year we also had several youth and many adults join the fun. And, of course, we had lots of games, food, prizes and prize winners.
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Some of our prize winners:
Our annual Homecoming Celebration included special music by our guest instrumentalists, the Handbell Choir, the Chapel Choir, and our Minister of Music Ernie Rushing. Our Pastor Dane Hadley led the Children’s Message and Dr. John Allen, a former pastor of Tabernacle, provided the morning sermon. A luncheon followed, and we were pleased to reconnect with many former members and friends of our church. Many thanks to the Homecoming Committee for their planning and preparations for this happy occasion!
(Click on the pictures to see larger versions.)
Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two disciples who heard what John the Baptist said and who followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his own brother Simon and say to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). Then Andrew brought Simon to Jesus (John 1:40-42).
Following his encounter with Jesus, “the first thing” Andrew did was to invite his brother to meet Jesus. Having responded to the invitation of John the Baptist and having become convinced of Jesus’ Lordship, Andrew couldn’t help but extend a simple and sincere invitation to Simon Peter. As contemporary disciples of Jesus, it’s a pattern we recognize yet rarely replicate. When was the last time you invited someone to meet Jesus?
Think of a time when you tasted something indescribably delicious. Knowing your words could never possibly convey the totality of the exquisite flavor electrifying your palate, you couldn’t help but exclaim to whoever might be nearby, “You’ve got to try this!” How often do we feel the same urge to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16)? Far too often, even though we know what we’ve tasted is good, we overlook opportunities to extend an invitation. We worry about what people will think. We don’t want to be pushy. And we certainly would never want anyone to scornfully label us “religious.” Heaven forbid!
My prayer is that the Lord would stir a renewed passion for invitation in our fellowship. May we, like Andrew, feel the courage to never be ashamed of the gospel by seizing occasions to extend simple and sincere invitations to family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and even random acquaintances. May Tabernacle become known for cultivating a culture of invitation.
As we move into the fall and winter seasons, I want to highlight several possibilities for us to extend invitations. I hope you will join me in starting to prayerfully consider who we might invite.
• Fall Festival — October 21, 10:00 AM to 12:30 PM
• Thanksgiving Prayer Service — November 21, 6:30 PM
• Advent Worship Services — December 3, 10, 17, & 24, 11:00 AM
• Children’s Christmas Music — December 3, 5:30 PM
• Choir Christmas Cantata — December 17, 7:00 PM
• Christmas Eve Candlelight Service — December 24, 5:30 PM
See you Sunday,
Before We Move On…
Do not merely listen to the Word and deceive yourselves. Do what it says (James 1:22).
On Sunday, September 24, our journey through the book of Judges will conclude. Some of us will no doubt welcome the opportunity to move on and explore the more sunny parts of the canon. Yet James reminds us we’re not prepared to proceed away from any portion of Scripture until we’ve put what we’ve heard into practice. So, with that principle in mind, here are some overarching takeaways I hope we can glean from our study:
1. Setbacks will test both our loyalty and our obedience to God. The people of Israel were reeling after the death of Joshua, Moses’ successor. Instead of turning to God for leadership, Israel decided to quit their conquest, cozy up to their idolatrous neighbors, and put their covenant with God on the back burner. Moments of success did arise, but Israel repeatedly failed to acknowledge God’s role in bringing about those opportunities for repentance. Before we move on, we need to ask ourselves, are we merely fair-weather Christians? Will we remain loyal to God in both times of plenty and famine? Do we worship success or do we worship the Lord who gives success?
2. Lasting loyalty will depend upon our love for God above everything and everyone else. While Judges is filled with leaders who demonstrated profound faith and who accomplished amazing feats in God’s name, they were all deeply flawed in one way or another. Fundamentally, they all allowed some other priority to crowd out their love for God. Personal welfare, fame, sex, accomplishments, and pride all managed to interfere with their love for God. Before we move on, we need to ask ourselves, what other priorities (including important and worthwhile priorities) might be competing with our love for the Lord?
3. Despite our failures, God’s sovereign purposes will prevail. No individual—no matter how miserably they may have failed—could ultimately thwart God’s plan to save His people through Christ. Leaders in Israel were at their best when they relied on their availability before God, not their ability. They were successful in God’s eyes when they humbly submitted themselves to God’s will and to God’s authority. Before we move on, we need to ask ourselves, have we surrendered our lives entirely to Christ as Lord? Is there still some aspect of our lives—some agenda, some hope, some fear—that our pride is preventing us from handing over to Christ?
I pray these questions will prompt us all to do more than merely listen. May God’s Word continue to penetrate our hearts so that we might do what it says.
Now these things happened to them as examples, and they were written down as instruction for us, on whom the end of the ages has come (1 Corinthians 10:11).
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never met anyone who said Judges was their favorite book in the Bible. To some extent, this lack of affection results from the book’s gruesome violence, its attention to sordid details, and its seeming abundance of obscure historical figures. Judges is simply not the most uplifting book in the canon. On the contrary, it could compete with the book of Job as the most spiritually grueling book in the Bible!
Yet I would argue the greatest hindrance to appreciating Judges remains our lack of familiarity. Apart from hearing the occasional lesson on Gideon or Samson, even those of us who grew up attending Sunday School, have rarely, if ever, studied in-depth the exploits of characters like Othniel, Ehud, Abimelek, or Jephthah. Since many of the stories are not appropriate for children, they are understandably passed over. But even adults are tempted to ignore or overlook this pivotal book. The Revised Common Lectionary, for example, a resource used by many denominations to structure their worship and to determine their Bible readings, only contains one reference to the book (Judges 4).
While we still might not view Judges as our go-to book for spiritual encouragement, we neglect portions of God’s Word to our detriment. God gave us the Bible—all 66 books— “as instruction for us.” As Paul says elsewhere, “All Scripture is God-breathed and useful…” (2 Timothy 3:16a). Consequently, there are no accidental or tangential parts of the Bible, and there are no passages God has authorized us to overlook.
So how can we approach these parts of the Bible that are so unfamiliar and that so often disturb our modern sensibilities?
1) Remember Judges was a part of the only Bible Jesus ever read. Jesus learned from this book, and so can we.
2) Appreciate the variety of ways in which Scripture teaches. Sometimes we learn by reading what to do; other times we learn by reading what not to do.
3) Show humble reverence for God’s Word by being open to the Holy Spirit’s transforming influence in your heart. Let Scripture set the agenda and provide the answers.
4) Look for ways in which the passage is pointing to our need for salvation through Christ crucified and risen.
We don’t have to claim Judges as our favorite book. We do need to be willing to hear what God has to say to us through it. May we listen, and may Christ—to whom all Scripture points—continue to be exalted through our reading.
Children are very important to us at Tabernacle, and at this week’s Worship Service, our pastor offered prayer for our children who are beginning their school year. He also prayed for members who are involved with children’s work in the church and for the staff of the Tabernacle Learning Center, many of whom were visiting in the service. Later, the Children’s Message included encouragement for children as they go back to school – especially those who are going into 1st grade.
On August 25, the Chapel Choir enjoyed a dinner hosted by Ernie and Meghan Rushing with the assistance of Ernie’s parents. After a brief reception and welcome in the Choir Room, the Choir moved to the dining area for the dinner and then listened to the Christmas cantata that Ernie has selected for the upcoming holiday season. Lovely decorations, delicious food, inspiring (and challenging!) music, and delightful company – a wonderful evening.
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The city did not need to have the sun or the moon shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. And the nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it (Revelation 21:23-24).
I simply couldn’t resist. Despite my skepticism about all the solar eclipse hysteria, I had to see what there was to see. I wasn’t motivated enough to leave Raleigh, but I also couldn’t keep myself from walking outside the church to look through a pair of borrowed eclipse glasses. While I can’t say the event lived up to the hype (at least not here!), it was thought-provoking.
We rely on the sun in innumerable ways. Plants, for example, depend on the sun for photosynthesis, and we depend on the plants for oxygen. Without the sun, our planet would be an icy, lifeless rock, and we would simply not exist. Yet how often do we think about the sun’s indispensability on a daily basis? Even if for just a few moments, witnessing a solar eclipse offers us a rare opportunity to ponder the fleeting nature of the world as we know it.
Science and Scripture agree on the sun’s impermanence. According to the consensus of scientists, a time will come (possibly billions of years from now) when the sun will expand to the point where its heat makes the earth uninhabitable. Scripture, likewise, puts it this way, “The heavens will pass away with a roar, the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be exposed” (2 Peter 3:10b). The sun and all the physical benefits it currently brings to our planet will not last forever.
Consequently, God’s Word invites us to envision a Day when the sun’s light is supplanted by the light of God’s Son—the light of the world. In that Day, God’s glory will be on full display. There will be no doubt that the Lord is who has claimed to be in His Word, our Creator, our Savior, and our Sustainer. The light of God’s presence will lead us, and the universe will be as God intended it to be “in the beginning.”
We long for that Day to arrive, and we pray earnestly for the time when our Father’s will is done fully on earth as it is heaven. In the meantime, however, we do not wait in darkness. The lamp through which God’s glory shines—the Lamb of God—has come to take away the sins of the world. In His light we can see all we need to see, and we can taste life everlasting. This Son can never be eclipsed. This Son lives up to all the hype and more! Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.
They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42).
For many of us, food and church just go together. Meeting for church without ever gathering for a meal would be kind of like going to the movies without ever enjoying some popcorn on the side. Or maybe we could compare it to attending the NC State Fair without purchasing anything fried to eat. Or how about going to a pig pickin’ without filling up a plate with BBQ….I could go on and on! Somehow we just instinctively know food and church go together.
But what we might not fully appreciate is the spiritual significance of Christians eating together, especially when it’s paired with devotion to prayer. Authentic fellowship—that is, our efforts to work together for the building of God’s Kingdom—does not and cannot exist without intentionality and labor. Unless we work to strengthen the ties that bind, our natural drift will inevitably be away from each other. Consequently, starting with the earliest Christians, the Lord has provided common meals and prayer as means by which believers can renew and fortify their fellowship. Despite their simplicity, the Holy Spirit infuses our breaking of bread and our prayer with an unparalleled power.
Far too often we simply take eating for granted— “It’s just something we all have to do,” we might think. Yet the first disciples understood that eating together has a unique leveling effect because it reveals our common humanity. No one can live without sustenance, and so eating together serves to remind us all of the fragile and tenuous nature of human life. In other words, food shows us one of our most basic, inescapable needs.
The Spirit’s unifying power becomes most apparent, however, when we recognize and when we acknowledge the Presence of God in our midst through prayer. Breaking bread discloses our equal standing before God, but prayer knits us together as God’s redeemed people in Christ. It is vitally important, therefore, that we carve out times in the life of our church when we earnestly and purposefully gather to break bread and pray.
That is why we have scheduled a Covenant Gathering for Sunday, August 20, at 5:00 PM in the dining room. We hope to look back on the ways we have seen God at work in our fellowship, as well as prayerfully look ahead toward where God might be moving us in the days ahead. To keep this from being merely another social get together, I challenge us all to come hungry (physically and spiritually!), to come with a devoted mindset, and to come prepared to feel the power of authentic fellowship. May the Spirit make it so!