Ruth overview

This reading is the book of Ruth. We’ll do an overview of the whole book today, then take a little closer look at it the rest of the week.

I heard a great sermon on Ruth when I was in Singapore a few years ago. It was humorous when the preacher kept saying, “Ruth 3,” only it sounded like, “root tree.” That was one of my all-time favorite worship experiences. The facilities would not have looked out of place in the U.S. It was a fairly large church. It was 95% Asian, of course, so it was nice to be the minority for once. There was an intensity about the worship that is hard to describe. Many people stayed afterwards praying in their pews. Singapore has religious freedom, but I imagine that many of those worshiping came from countries where they had been persecuted.

Synopsis: Ruth’s husband and father-in-law die, and she elects to stay with her mother-in-law, Naomi. She eventually meets and marries Boaz, a distant relative. Boaz is attracted by Ruth’s purity and devotion. Ruth was very loyal to Naomi and sought after the one true God she saw in Naomi’s life. Throughout the book you’ll see how God does great things through the least likely people.

As you read it, try to think about which character(s) you are like. It may be a different character at different times.

Ruth trivia facts:

  • Along with Esther, one of the two books of the Bible named after a woman.
  • Ruth was from Moab, not Israel, yet God did amazing things in her life.
  • She was the great-grandmother of King David and an ancestor of Jesus.
  • Boaz was a descendant of Rahab, the former prostitute from Jericho.

Famous verse: Ruth 1:16 “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”

The next reading is Ruth 1-2.

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Death taxes are ghoulish

money2.jpgWhile the estate tax debate is typically framed as a soak-the-rich proposition, I find the whole concept to be immoral. If the government desperately needs those tax revenues it should find them somewhere else. It is simply wrong for the government to profit from the death of anyone, rich or poor.  If actions such as earned income or sales transactions generate taxes, so be it.  But dying should not be such a catalyst.

I like it better when governmental and business entities root for me to stay alive, such as in the case of life insurance. Note that I don’t expect to benefit if the estate tax is eliminated permanently; I just think it is wrong. 

Keep in mind that the rich folks who come out in favor of estate taxes may not be quite as noble as they appear. Some of them buy businesses on the cheap because families must sell them to pay estate taxes.

The “really rich,” whom the government wants to soak, typically find loopholes to avoid paying taxes. The “sort of rich” are the ones paying most of the taxes.

As George Harrison of the Beatles sang in Taxman, “And my advice for those who die . . . Declare the pennies on your eyes.” As a life-long fan of Beatles music, this is one of the few times I agreed with their politics.

James 5

This reading is James 5.

The opening passage should challenge almost anyone living in the U.S. Even if you don’t consider yourself “rich,” you are probably in the top 1-2% of the wealthiest people on the planet, and certainly in the top 1-2% of people who ever lived. Just glance back out how touch life was 100 years ago for most Americans. This isn’t to say that money is all bad. The thrust of the passage is about justice and fairness. While saving for retirement, emergencies and such is prudent, have we hoarded wealth, or shared it?

As an aside, note how Job is referred to in verse 11. I find it interesting that many people assume that Adam & Eve, Noah, Job, Jonah and other Old Testament figures were fictional, but when they are referred to by Jesus, James and others it is always in the context of them being real people.

Verse 16 commands us to confess our sins to each other and to pray for each other. Note that we don’t necessarily have to confess to a priest, but we are to confess to others in addition to God. There is something spiritually healing about it.

I thought the closing of James was interesting. No long good-byes, just an encouragement to point people to the truth:

My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

Thanks for reading along with the study of James!

The next reading is the book of Ruth. It is a short book – only 4 chapters. I recommend reading the whole book in one sitting, then going back through in a little more detail. I think I’ll break this into three lessons – an overview, chapters 1-2 and chapters 3-4. Ruth is a great love story with a lot of lessons for us all.

I’m not sure where we’ll go after Ruth, but I’m open to suggestions. My family started doing a weekly study a couple months ago and I have been following what we’ve been reading together.

National Council of (liberal) Churches

According to this article entitled Exploiting Fallen Soldiers, the National Council of Churches (NCC) has organized a campaign so that “This weekend, leftist churches are expected to ring their bells to note the 2,500th U.S. military death in Iraq.” As the article notes, this is basically a political exercise.

If they really care about unjust deaths, they should have these left-wing churches ring their bells for the 3,000+ humans killed each day via abortion – a procedure the NCC fully supports.

Veggie Boy

I’ve been making health shakes for 30 years and have now achieved the state of the art. Here is the used-to-be secret recipe for my un-patented Veggie Boy protein shake. (For you Cheers fans, you’ll remember this is the name of the health drink Woody was hypnotized into liking. “You can really taste the kale!”)

  • Milk (preferably whole milk, though not much chance of that unless I’m doing the shopping)
  • Carrots
  • Spinach
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Any other fruit we’ve got. I’m not picky.
  • Whey protein powder (The Vitamin Shoppe has good deals. GNC is more expensive)

You need a pretty powerful blender to chop up the carrots. I got a 2 HP Waring blender with a 64 oz. jar so I can make big batches to last a couple days.

The good news: It is really, really healthy. Vitamins, protein, fiber, low fat, etc. A couple glasses for breakfast and you can eat Snickers the rest of the day.

The bad news: It is green, or possibly brown, depending on how the ratio of the ingredients and the flavor of the whey powder. I’m used to it.

Don’t tell CPS, but when Daughter #1 was young I told her one Halloween that she could eat all the candy she wanted if she had a small glass of Veggie Boy first. I thought she actually liked it (it is rather sweet tasting), but I learned years later that she choked it down. I would have let her eat as much candy as she wanted anyway. Fortunately, she is the forgiving type.

P.S. I never understood the juicer concept. Seems like you are throwing out all the good stuff.

James 4

This reading is James 4.

This short chapter is chock-full of important teachings. Some of the verses are so short it is easy to gloss over them.

We fight and quarrel because of our wrong desires. Verse 3 helps explain why some prayers are not answered: We ask with the wrong motives.

“Friendship with the world is hatred towards God” speaks volumes. The Bible uses “world” in three senses – the planet, the people in the world (as in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world . . .”) and the system and practices of the world. This verse uses the last meaning. This is a strong call for us to be different from the world. How tragic that according to many surveys, the average “Christian” doesn’t give much more than non-Christians, the divorce rate isn’t much different, etc. We aren’t supposed to be “holier than thou” different, but authentically different.

“God oppose the proud but gives grace to the humble” (v. 6) is a quote from Proverbs 3:34 and is also quoted in 1 Peter 5:5. Every verse matters, of course, but if something is repeated three times perhaps we should heed it!

Verse 8 contains a great promise – “Come near to God and He will come near to you.” As Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Verse 10 promises that if we humble ourselves before the Lord, He will lift us up. Humility is often mentioned in the Bible, but it is nearly always in the context of humbling ourselves. It doesn’t say, “Be humble.” It is not our natural state, so it takes effort to be humble.

Verses 13-16 remind us that we should thank God for every day and every breath. We may live fifty more minutes or fifty more years – it is all up to Him.

We tend to think of sins as things we do that we shouldn’t have done (the sin of commission), but James closes this section by teaching that not doing the good we know we should do is also a sin (the sin of omission).

The next reading is James 5.

We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.