Ramble through Ruth – Part 2

Thanks again to Jonathan Durke for this guest blog: part 2 of a study guide alongside a series on the book of Ruth.

Read Ruth 2:1-13

Naomi and Ruth have now returned to Bethlehem and have arrived at the time of the barley harvest. However, the two ladies have returned empty. They are empty of a home, empty of relatives and particularly empty of food. They were poor widows.

Yet, emptiness is healthy and helpful when it is God who does the emptying. As we shall see later in the story, it is God’s providence that has caused Naomi and Ruth to be emptied because He is about to do something remarkable in their lives.

  • Reflect on a time when the Lord has emptied you or has permitted a seemingly bad situation but, on reflection, was His sovereign working in your life.

When the Lord is emptying you do not resist Him but embrace His activity in your life.

God does not empty us for no reason. He empties us so He can place something else within us. God is about to fill their lives with good things .

The barley harvest was a significant time for the Israelites. It was the time just of the Passover Festival – where Israel remembered their exodus from Egypt, when the Lord passed over their firstborn to kill the firstborn Egyptians and rescue them from slavery.

  • Can someone remember and explain the key command God gave them for that night so He would pass over them?
  • Discuss how is this event is an image of the Gospel?

As the Israelites were provided a redeemer for their children, a lamb, so Ruth now meets her redeemer in the form of Naomi’s relative Boaz. He was a relative of Elimelech, Naomi’s now dead husband.

Read Ruth 2:14-23

Ruth asked her elderly mother in law Naomi if she could go to the field to glean (pick up) the ears of grain, which was a right for those who were poor. Ruth begins to glean and just so happens to be working in Boaz’s field. Then Boaz appears, greets his reapers and comes across Ruth. He engages her in conversation.

As Boaz and Ruth talk we can begin seeing her trust in the Lord blossoming.

  • Which verse might indicate Ruth growing faith in God and why?

Perhaps Ruth being in the fields of a foreign land, with alien people and conversing with a stranger was a difficult place to be in. Yet, in spite of all the change going on in her life and the hard circumstances, it was the right place. The best and safest place to be is where God wants you to be.

  • Share a time that appeared difficult but on reflection you knew to be where God wanted you. Share why God may have wanted you there.

Aside from the core relationship in this narrative between Ruth and Boaz, let us look briefly again at the other key relationship in this story, Ruth and Naomi. These two had a remarkable friendship. They cared for each other. When leaving Moab, Naomi gave Ruth the opportunity to go back to her family and be protected and provided for. In Bethlehem, Ruth took the initiative to go out and work hard to provide for and protect Naomi. Ruth resolved to be dedicated in every way to Naomi all the days of her life. They had a culture of honour and respect towards each other.

  • How might this kind of honour, respect and dedication be reflected to each other in our church family today?
  • What would it be like for a single, foreign woman to go into the harvest field?

There is another relationship we can glean from the book of Ruth that may go unnoticed to our modern eyes. It is the relationship between the Church and the poor. The activity Ruth was engaged in as she gleaned from the fields was an activity instituted by God in the Law.  Land owners were instructed to not glean the entirety of their property but to leave the edges alone. This was so that the foreign, poor and destitute might be able to glean, eat and not die in their poverty.

In New Testament times the early Christians, though not all Jewish, were instructed to continue with this principle. (See Galatians 2 v 10)

  • How can you in your church continue to remember the poor?

The account of Ruth includes statements such, ‘as it turned out’ and ‘as it happened.’ This symbolizes the fact that nothing which occurred was manipulated by Ruth or part of a grand and intricate strategy. Instead, God guides her as she takes steps. The truth is we really know very little of what the Lord is doing all the time around us. While we are walking the path, the Lord is directing our footsteps and clearing the way. (See Proverbs 3 v 5 – 6)

  • Are there areas where you are just having to trust God? … that he is, or will, work things out?

Ruth was prepared to work hard while God was working on her behalf. It is the comforting and inspiring revelation that God is sovereign and we are responsible.

Returning to Ruth and Boaz’s interaction, it is here that we see what Boaz is really like, or rather who Boaz is really like…Jesus Christ. Boaz foreshadowed what Jesus would do for us. Let us briefly observe from Scripture how Boaz reflects Jesus.

V.5 – Boaz noticed Ruth straight away. Jesus notices us all the time.

V.14 – Boaz provides for Ruth. Jesus provides all we need.

V.15 – Boaz protects Ruth. Jesus protects us by His mercy.

Boaz shows Ruth grace. v 10 “Why have I found such favour in your eyes?” Jesus showed us “favour” or “grace” – the undeserved kindness of God!

As true a reflection as all this was, all pictures fall short of the reality of Christ. Nothing is better than the real thing!

Boaz was what was called a “kinsmen or guardian redeemer”. (For more details on this law – see Leviticus 25:23-55)

Conclusion

  • Care, protect and love each other as Ruth did for Naomi, Boaz did for Ruth and Christ has for you.
  • Show respect to those who are older and those who have come from another culture.
  • Remember the poor
  • Trust Jesus as your redeemer who has knows us, provides, protects and shows grace to us.
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Ramble through Ruth – Part 1

Thank you to Jonathan Durke for this guest blog: a study guide to go with a teaching series on the book of RUTH.

Read Ruth 1:1-22

Setting The Scene:

The Book of Ruth is set against the historical backdrop of the Judges. The period of the Judges was a time when men and women were raised up, one after another, to judge the nation of Israel because they had abandoned God for other idols.

Usually these same Judges would lead Israel into battle against the pagan nation that had invaded and enslaved them. They would be victorious and their land would enjoy a time of peace for many years. However, before long Israel would do what was evil in the sight of God, disobey Him, be judged, repent, do battle, win, enjoy peace and, sadly, repeat the cycle all over again!

  • Read Judges 2:16-19 for a concise summary of the times of the Judges.

It was a time when everybody did ‘whatever seemed right in their own eyes’ (Judges 21:25). There was no central authority, no king or prophet to lead; there was no unity, each tribe lived in their own land and did their own thing, and there was chaos.

  • Discuss what life would look like today in Britain and your own neighbourhood if everyone did whatever seemed right in their eyes.

Beware of drifting:

Read Ruth 1:1-5

 A famine occurred in Israel and a man called Elimelek uprooted his family and emigrated from Bethlehem in Judah, where they lived, to Moab, a Gentile country outside of Israel. He took Naomi his wife, Mahlon and Kilion, his two sons, with him.

In Hebrew, Bethlehem means “house of bread”. Ironically, the house of plenty is now empty and has forced this family to go elsewhere. Although they were beleivers in God, their children had Canaanite pagan names, Mahlon means “sickly” and Kilion means “Pining or wasting away”.

After Elimelek’s family settled in Moab, he sadly passed away. His two sons then married Moabite women, one name Orpah and the other Ruth. Marrying Gentile (non-Jewish) people was forbidden in the Old Testament Law because it threatened the covenant relationship between the Israelites and Yahweh.

It appears that this family started in faith, with a privileged heritage, but began to drift away. They left the land of promise, distanced themselves from God’s presence at the Tabernacle, and they entered into an unholy land with unholy relationships.

  • Reflect upon your own life, when and why did you drift away from the Lord?
  • When you’ve fell on hard times why can it be so easy to drift away from God?

 

How can we ensure we stay on track and do not drift away for our faithful Provider, the Lord? Let’s look…

Stick With What God Has Promised:

Elimelek had led his family out of the promised land. Israel was a country made up of 12 tribes who were the 12 sons of Jacob. Jacob was a Patriarch and founder of Israel, and he was the son of Isaac and Isaac was the son of Abraham, also founders of Israel. It was to these three men that God had made a promise. More than that, God has committed to a covenant with them and their descendents. God has sworn by Himself to make these patriarch‘s descendants numerous and for them to inherit a land He would give them.

God honoured His covenant promise and brought Israel together and to a land flowing with milk and honey. He helped them do this in spite of their slavery in Egypt and their wilderness wanderings which included hunger, thirst, wars, complaining and lots of unbelief.

Now, Elimelek has left his ancestoral inheritance. He has taken his family away from the presence and provision of God.

  • Should Elimelek have left Israel and wisely sought sustenance elsewhere or should he have stayed and trusted God to provide?
  • Discuss what you think a godly balance of practical wisdom and faithfulness to God looks like.

Sometimes, instead of sticking to what God has promised we can get stuck with what the World offers. Or, we can find ourselves stuck in our situations and only looking at our problems instead of seeing past them to the God who promises provision and deliverance.

When we get tunnel vision and only see obstacles, we can get frustrated, angry or fearful. When this happens we can easily make bad decisions. Elimelek made a bad decision to leave the Promised Land and allow his family to marry Gentiles.

However, what we can learn from Elimelek’s mistake is to trust God’s promises and trust His timings.

How can we ensure we stay on track and do not drift away? By trusting both God’s promises and timings inspite of our circumstances.

God Brings us to Decision Points:

Read Ruth 1:6-5

After Elimelek and his two sons pass away, Naomi hears that the Lord has provided food and so decides to leave Moab and return to Bethlehem.

Noami tells her daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, to return to their mother’s homes in Moab. Noami makes them both aware of the apparent lack they’ll experience if they follow her. They have no husbands, no work and Naomi can‘t provide for them. She wants to give them all the possibilities. Now the daughters-in-law have to make a decision.

  • When you’ve faced a big decision, how have you approached it?

Orpah ended up turning back, but Ruth refused and devoted herself to Naomi, her people and her God.

 In Hebrew, the name Ruth means commitment. Ruth stayed and obeyed. When God brings you to decision points, don’t turn from what He calls you to.

How can we ensure we stay on track and do not drift away? By devoting ourselves to God and obeying Him.

Set a Course of Commitment:

Read Ruth 1:16-22

Verse 16 is a remarkable response from Ruth to Naomi and drastically different to Orpah’s response of leaving. Ruth radically commits herself to Naomi, going where she goes, staying where she stays, engaging with who she engages with, believing what she believes, and even dying where she dies.

This demonstrates great commitment.

  • Be as honest as you can and reflect together on whether Ruth’s commitment to Naomi could be said of your commitment to Jesus.
  • If not, why not and discuss how you could grow in your devotion?

Be encouraged to set a course of commitment to Christ. Be devoted to Him and His Gospel. Resolve to faithfully connect with your local church, your brothers and sisters in the Faith and most of all with God. This last part can be helped with regular Bible reading, prayer, reflection, worship, listening to sermons, creativity, etc.

How can we ensure we stay on track and do not drift away? By committing ourselves to God and engaging with Him.

 Conclusion

 Beware of drifting from God, but,, if and when you do, remember:

  • Stick with what God Has promised by trusting His promises and timings.
  • When God brings you to decision points devote yourself to Him and obey Him.
  • Set a course of committment by engaging with Him.

 

 

 

 

 

Uganda and Rwanda, March 2018.

What a privilege it has been to live, and learn, with the people of Swe-Swe, near Keyenjojo, in western Uganda this last fortnight.

It’s an incredibly beautiful place and I thoroughly enjoyed sharing the teaching, and great friendship, with Emmanuel Rucyaba, who leads a large family of churches in Uganda and the surrounding nations.

After our time in the west we returned to enjoy the luxuries of loo seats, piped water and electricity for the weekend, with great friends in Kampala. Once a visitor in Gnamongo, now I genuinely feel part of the church family there.

We also took time to view the temporary church building that HOPE Worcester financed in Seeta, just outside Kampala,where the latest church plant has just started to meet.


Next we took an 8 hour coach journey through the night to Kigali, Rwanda, for a leaders training conference there. We arrived to news that the government had closed 1,000 churches demanding better car parks and soundproofing – European standards that are beyond some of the poorer congregations. Not to be seen as biased the government were also banning the use of loudspeakers from mosques!

(Rwanda has a very strong, centralised government, which has brought stability to the country, but which does not tolerate questioning!) – It was really great to be able to encourage the leaders during what is an uncertain time for some.


Rwanda is an absolutely beautiful country – “the land of a thousand hills” and I thoroughly enjoyed making stronger friendships and teaching there. An amusing highlight was learning to say thank you in a number of African languages and then teaching them to say thank you in Welsh!

Ten leaders from D.R. Congo had made the journey for the conference so it was great to make new friends and receive an invitation to go there in due course.

Sponsorship from HOPE and the Catalyst group of churches has made this training gathering possible along with an on-going leaders training course. Money well spent!

Finance permitting I hope to return to Uganda in December, for their National convention and we are planning an East African key leaders conference for 2019.

GRANARY STRIPPED BARE!

Thanks to a great team of volunteers the Granary is now stripped to it’s bare bones!

This has shown us both that we have a huge challenge before us,  and that it’s a beautiful building with great and exciting potential!

This June we had our first ever meeting on the top floor overlooking the city – yes, we did do a risk assessment, no it doesn’t have glass in the windows yet, and, yes it was breezy!

Our building team have obtained a license to put up scaffolding for one year from work commencing. We now have water connected, electricity, drains and a loo for builders – we even have an address, which was, strangely, a rather difficult thing to get!

The “tender package” is being put together by our architects and engineers – which has been a terribly slow process – When we have all the drawings and calculations we can then give it all to builders and ask for quotes for our first phase of building.

Thanks for all the interest shown so far and for your kind thoughts, prayers and suggestions.

If you would like to invest in this project private message me, or send to HOPE, P.O. Box 230, Worcester. WR5 3ZE.  U.K.

 

The story so far…

Three years ago we were searching for a building, pushing at closed doors believing one would open.
More than two years ago we found The Granary, a four storey Victorian warehouse building in the centre of our city. We made an offer just before Christmas.

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In Jan 2015 our offer was accepted, the start of a long and very complex legal process which ended in our purchase completing in August 2016.
In the last 2 years our smallish church has managed to buy the property outright and, additionally, given almost £250,000 towards it’s development…(not to mention ALSO paying engineers, architects, surveyors and solicitors)  Amazing generosity!

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Meanwhile, on site, we have been working hard: carefully stripping out all the accumulated heavy rubbish, getting test holes drilled and obtaining engineers reports on existing foundations, to see how deep the piles must go for the new glass extension.

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This month we have completed detailed drawings and submitted them to the council for planning… We are, obviously, hoping and praying for a favourable decision in the new year

Our aim in the next phase is to insulate and re-roof, supply services and complete the glass extension, with staircases and lift. (See previous Granary article for pictures).

If you are able to pray for us or encourage us in any way – thank you!

If you would also like to invest in this community project send to Hope Church, PO Box 230, Worcester. WR5 3ZE. U.K.

or email info@hope-church.org.uk

 

 

 

 

POSSIBILITIES!

We have just completed on our purchase of THE GRANARY!

Change of use permission has already been granted for HOPE to develop the building to serve the city of Worcester and beyond.

The city council are very supportive of our aims and have encouraged us to submit more ambitious detailed plans for an attractive frontage to the building… (see architects recent impression above). It has been a very long slog to get to this stage … but now we can move on to prepare and submit detailed drawings, and consider how we move forward…..

Imagine a building where all kinds of people are welcome! … Picture an exhibition foyer area with space for photographs and the work of artists, a characterful venue to listen to musicians, able to serve the vulnerable whilst, at the same time, businessmen can hold meetings about creating jobs and wealth for the city, health professionals might hold a conference… and, meanwhile, all the day to day activities of a church can continue.

The POSSIBILITIES go on for “HOPE – the church in The Granary”

Exciting? Yes! … Challenging? Definitely! … 

That’s why your support, encouragement and prayers are requested and are very much appreciated.

If you would like details of how you might invest in this project –

Email info@hope-church.org.uk with “The Granary” as subject.

Or,

Write to HOPE Church, PO Box 230, Worcester. WR5 3ZE
Watch this space for more details…. Thank you!

CONTRACTS SIGNED

granary artist impression 1

Last Friday we signed a contract for the purchase of The Granary, St Martin’s Quarter, Worcester. Yesterday we applied for change of use so we can adapt the building to serve the city – our offer is conditional upon getting that permission.

The link above is to a first artistic impression of additional stairs and lift shaft.

We are able to purchase the building and make a start on converting it. All your support, in whatever form it takes, is very welcome in the coming days… Please pray for us in this faith venture and if you would like details of how you might contribute email info@hope-church.org.uk

The Granary, St Martin's Quarter

Abel’s Bike

This Christmas we bought Abel a motorbike. He is a community worker and overseer who has spent very many hours walking through the countryside to visit outlaying communities.

Through Exporting HOPE we have been able to provide him with a motorbike, which will make his life and work so much more effective.

Thanks to all who contributed to the Christmas present!

It is great to be partnering with out friends in West Uganda, from whom we have learned so much!

KAMPALA, UGANDA. JAN 2016

In January I traveled with James Shepherd, from HOPE Church, Bedlington, and Paul Harrison, from Jubilee Church, Coventry, back to Kampala, Uganda.

HOPE Church, Worcester has been investing in friendships, in projects and training for many years now and the fruit of that could be seen in the warm welcome and wonderful openness with which we were received by all.

The group of churches we partner with, Life Ministries Christian Centre, has been so helped, in quality and numbers, as they have consistently trained leaders in theology,  leadership ministry and church life. It has been a joy to partner with them in that and we aim to continue!

This time we spent a week training leaders and teaching with a special focus on the book of Ephesians. We also had two Sundays in Uganda and so were able to go our separate ways and teach in different churches.

For me it was a good week of continued building and friendship. For James and Paul it was a first experience of Africa – one they can take back and share with our friends in U.K. churches. Our aim is to have been involved in training up 100 leaders by 2020. I am planning to be at the graduation of another 30, this coming December, at their national convention.