Bitterness

Ruth 1 5

Happy Tuesday and thanks for sticking with me this far!

I’m leading a Bible Study this summer on the book of Ruth using the study guide Ruth: Discovering Your Place in God’s Story by Eugene H. Peterson. One of the reoccurring themes that has come up during our discussions has been Naomi’s role in the story. If you are not familiar with her story, I encourage you to go ahead and pick up a Bible and read at least the first chapter of Ruth before finishing this post.

There are different ways one can read Naomi’s character. Some people within my group thought of her as sympathetic, down on her luck, trying to make the best of a bad situation. Others, like myself, view her as more selfish, bitter, and self-centered. Regardless as to how one chooses to read her, there is no denying the fact that in the first chapter, she is a complainer.

She complains:

“Don’t call me Naomi; call me Bitter. The Strong One has dealt me a bitter blow.  I left here full of life, and God has brought me back with nothing but the clothes on my     back. Why would you call me Naomi? God certainly doesn’t. The Strong One ruined       me.” Ruth 1:20 & 21 MSG.

Bad things happened to Naomi. She lost her husband and then both her sons. But there are lots of people in the Bible who had bad things happen to them, yet, they did not turn on God, nor were they led to believe God had turned on them. Take Joseph, Jacob’s son, for example. His whole story was one whole roller coaster ride of ups and downs, trials and triumphs, yet he never stopped trusting that God had a plan.

Naomi’s story presents us with a different sort of Biblical character. She believes God no longer cares for her. All the while, right in front of her, God has left her with her daughter-in-law, Ruth. Eventually, because of Ruth and the kindness of a man named Boaz, Naomi’s faith in God is once again restored. In the second chapter she declares: “God hasn’t quite walked out on us after all! He still loves us, in bad times as well as good!” (2:20 MSG).

Here are the two takeaway lessons from Naomi. One, Naomi is an example of how our bitterness can keep us from seeing God’s blessings – even when they are directly in front of us. God never forgot or abandoned Naomi. He had a plan. He gave her a loyal daughter-in-law and orchestrated events for her to meet Boaz. The second lesson we can learn is that even when we complain and are bitter, God doesn’t give up on us. Even when we are fickle and only trust God when things are going well, like Naomi appears to be doing, it doesn’t make us tarnished. God’s grace covers us, liked it covered Naomi.

-Emilee Ross

 

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Four Enemies of Unity

Philippians 2:12-30

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Yesterday we learned about Paul’s advice for moving towards unity—having an attitude of humility. Today, I’d like to discuss some attitudes and actions that can hinder unity. These four enemies of unity that I will mention are just some of the obstacles that get in the way of the Church achieving unity. 

Enemy 1: Pride

Pride is the opposite of humility. In humility, we put ourselves in the service of others; in pride, we use others to serve our own purpose. It is an easy trap to fall into; pride catches those who do well and convinces them that this gives them cause to boast in themselves. It inflates their ego—giving them a reason to look down on others and view their own ideals as the be-all-end-all. When even just one person in a church body is infected by pride, it can have terrible consequences for church unity. This why Paul cautioned against boasting in one’s self and works:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10, NIV)

Enemy 2: Gossip

There is no redeemable quality in gossip—it is a destroyer of friendships and communities. Gossip is broadcasting the shortcoming of others with no attempt to help them get better. It is a mechanism used to make the one gossiping feel better about themselves. Where gossip is present, unity cannot exist. The one being gossiped about is treated like an outsider and is pushed away from the community. Gossip is a unity killer.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29, NIV)

Enemy 3: Complaining/Grumbling 

When we complain or grumble about something we don’t like, this is typically a sign we are struggling with pride and not embracing humility. If something is actually wrong, grumbling under your breath about it is not the way to go. Never will a good solution be found when it is brought to the attention of leaders through complaining. If we feel something is not being done the way it should be, we should humbly voice our concern to those in leadership after much prayer and meditation. Complainers don’t promote unity—those who genuinely want what is best for the church need to find the right way to address changes. 

Enemy 4: Arguing 

By arguing, I don’t mean mere disagreement, but an incessant need to be proved right (which also comes from pride). When a person goes around trying to convince everyone that their own views on various issues are right and then get angry when they’re not agreed with, it is not beneficial. We must always be striving to find the truth, but we must never do so in a matter that is unloving. Our discussions should be edifying and result in a more unified body; not filled with bitterness and anger which causes strife.  

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.” (Philippians 2:14-28, NIV)

Each one of these enemies come about naturally from our human nature. We must fight against them just as we do with other sins. We must instead embrace humility, love, peace, and encouragement in order to promote unity and avoid these divisive enemies. 

If you struggle with any of these, start pushing them out of your life today. 

– Joel Fletcher

QUIT Complaining and START Praying! (Numbers 9-11)

Saturday, September 3

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By Rebecca Dauksas

Ok, we know that things are not going to go well when we read, Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, …

Why would they do that? The Israelites grumbled, argued and complained, but this never works out for them. Honestly, if we look at our own lives, are we guilty of this too?  Do we show God that we are thankful for our life and the provisions that He gives us?  If I may quote Madame Blueberry: “A thankful heart is a happy heart.”  But, the Israelites are not thankful, and they are not happy.  In Numbers 11, they complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.

So, surely they adopted a new way of doing things, a new way to react to the situations that arose. Nope.

“The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat!  We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” (verses 4-6)

Wow. Yep that slavery, that was the good life. Sure, they lived lives of servitude, but they had cucumbers.

Unfortunately, this complaining spread until Moses heard the people of every family wailing at the entrance to their tents. The LORD became angry and Moses was troubled. This is where I think we can learn from the way Moses responds.  He asked the LORD.  He is troubled because he is in a situation that is impossible for him to handle alone.  He just has an honest conversation with the LORD. We see him react in the same way that he did in chapter 9 when he is asked a question about the Passover feast.  He told the people to wait until he found out what the LORD commanded concerning them. I think that is how all of us should handle hardships.  We should talk with God about what ever is troubling us. If we are in a continual conversation with the LORD, we bring him our praises and requests continually too.

Moses told Him that he could not carry all those people by himself; the burden was too heavy. The LORD had a solution for him. The LORD would take some of the power of the Spirit that was on Moses and put it on seventy of Israel’s elders.  They shared the burden of the people so Moses did not have to carry it alone. As far as the request for meat, the quail arrived when the LORD said it would.  Even Moses did not know how God could do it, but again he talks with God about it. I wonder how things would have gone for the Israelites if they had humbly thanked God for their manna and asked for meat.  The LORD could even have thrown in cucumbers if He wanted to.  From today’s reading lets be encouraged to pray continually sharing our hardships and praises with God.