Do I care enough about the next generation—and ultimately God’s glory—to fight for them even when there’s nothing in it for me?
This is the question Hezekiah and Josiah’s stories have me asking myself.
Just as a little refresher: Hezekiah and Josiah were both kings of Judah. Hezekiah was crowned in 715 B.C.; Josiah began to reign seventy-five years later in 640 B.C. Overall, the Bible tells us they were both good kings (see 2 Kings 18:1–8 and 22:1–2).
But as I read through their stories recently, I stumbled across a troubling difference between these two men.
Hezekiah’s “Me-Only” Mentality
The story goes like this. One day, God sent the prophet Isaiah to King Hezekiah to tell him that the people of Judah would be taken captive to Babylon because of their sin and rebellion. God let Hezekiah know that even some of his own sons would be taken captive. And this was Hezekiah’s response:
Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?” (2 Kings 20:19, emphasis added).
Hezekiah was fine hearing this bad news, because it didn’t impact him personally. How often do I have the same reaction? I hear a story or encounter a need, and I shrug my shoulders. After all, I’m busy, and thankfully that situation doesn’t impact me. . . . Or does it? Is it my little life and kingdom I’m living for . . . or the advancement of God’s kingdom?
I relate far too well with Hezekiah’s standoffishness. But then I read of Josiah’s very different response.
Josiah’s “It Matters” Mentality
King Josiah’s challenge to me picks up when he was just twenty-six. He sent a few men to the temple of God on a specific mission. While there, these men stumbled across a copy of the Book of the Law. They came back and read the book to Josiah, and when he heard it, he tore his clothes and wept before God. He then sent men to inquire of the Lord what would happen, because Josiah knew the people of Judah hadn’t been obeying God’s law.
So these men went to Huldah the prophetess, and she told them that God would indeed bring disaster on these people, because they had forsaken God and made offerings to other false gods. “But,” she continued, “tell King Josiah this:”
“Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the LORD, when you heard how I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the LORD. Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place” (2 Kings 22:18–20, emphasis added).
What You and I Can Learn from Josiah
Like Hezekiah, Josiah heard of Judah’s soon demise and was also assured that this would happen after his death. But even though it wouldn’t impact him personally, Josiah instantly got to work.
He led the people in making a covenant with the Lord, that they would keep His commands with all their heart (v. 3).
He burned all the idols that were in the house of the Lord (v. 4).
He fired the priests that previous kings had hired to make offerings to false gods (v. 5).
He destroyed the houses of the male cult prostitutes who were in the house of the Lord (v. 7).
He wrecked “Topheth” where parents sacrificed their children to the false god, Molech (v. 10).
He commanded the people to start celebrating the Passover again (vv. 21–23).
And much more!
Even though captivity wouldn’t impact him personally, Josiah fought for the next generation. Since captivity was punishment for Judah’s sin, Josiah did everything in his power to help the people return to God.
Fighting for the Next Generation
Josiah’s story convicts me big time. Do I really care about the next generation, even when what happens to them won’t impact me personally? For starters, do I know the names of the children and teens in my local church? Am I aware of what is going on in their lives? If not, who can I deliberately reach out to this next Sunday?
Do I long for God’s glory to be seen in the next generation? Do I care that the next generation obeys God and doesn’t worship false gods? Is there someone I could begin to invest in and build a relationship with—even if it’s just to invite them to come with me when I run errands next?
How about you? Do you have the same heart attitude as Hezekiah . . . or as Josiah? What action can you begin to take today to get to work for the next generation?
This post is a bit different than what I usually share on PaulaWrites.com, but I hope it blesses and challenges you. This post was originally shared on ReviveOurHearts.com, where I’ve worked for the past eleven years. After our last national women’s conference, our team received this email from an attendee named Patsy.
Patsy isn’t the only one who saw the homeless and stopped. We heard from others who stopped and listened, stopped and prayed, stopped and gave—ministering God’s grace to those on the streets of Indianapolis. To each of you, thank you.
May we not be like the fat and sassy women of Amos 4:1 who oppress the poor and crush the needy. Instead, may we reach beyond our comfort zones into places of need with the hope and love of Christ.
Why Patsy Didn’t Want to Come
I attended your True Women Cry Out! Conference in Indianapolis this past September. Though I must admit, I wasn’t looking forward to going, because I had lost my mother this past summer and had spent enough time crying. I had committed to going with a dear friend from the Dominican Republic, though, so I couldn’t back out.
From the first speaker, Russell Moore, God was tugging on my heartstrings. Two things Dr. Moore said struck a chord within me. The first was:
The problem with the church is we look like everyone else.
And the second was when he was telling the story of Jesus healing the demon-possessed man. Dr. Moore said:
If you are going to be a follower of Christ, then you must be willing to go where Jesus went.
Why Patsy Left the Conference
At that point, after a little discussion with another friend and a prayer, I left your conference. You see, on the way to the conference I was struck by the multitude of homeless people on those downtown streets.
We passed a girl on one corner with a sign saying, “I just want a happy birthday.” We passed other men and women who had varying signs asking for food or money. As we were trying to figure out how to get to the conference, one homeless woman asked if we were trying to find the convention center, and when we said that we were, she gave us directions but asked nothing in return.
We were the church on the streets of Indianapolis, and we looked like everyone else. Many times we don’t help the homeless because we are afraid or we judge that what we are doing does not help them. I knew God was compelling me to GO.
A friend and I went back to find some of the women. We found the girl who gave us directions. Her name is Alisha. We talked with her, prayed with her, asked if she would come to the conference with us. We also asked her how we could help her. She asked us for a tent, as hers had been stolen from her. We told her we would get her a tent and would meet her at 8:30 a.m. at the same corner.
Why Patsy Returned
When we got back to the conference that night we asked if we could buy tickets for the conference but were told they were sold out. However, there was a board on which people posted phone numbers if they had unused tickets. A woman named Sarah gave us two tickets. We were still hoping to find the “birthday girl” on our way back to our hotel. (Sadly, we did not locate her.)
We got up early on Friday and bought two tents. We found Alisha exactly where she said she would be with another homeless lady, Rebecca, standing near. They both came to the conference that morning with us and heard Jennifer Smith speak. Talk about God’s timing. What a perfect message for these two young women to hear! We had lunch with them, prayed with them, and listened to their hearts. Alisha came back that night and spent hours in prayer with us.
Alisha is a caretaker for other homeless people. We saw her feed others food that was hers so they wouldn’t be hungry. Rebecca sleeps on the downtown streets under the lights and cameras because she is alone, and it is not safe for her to go to the tent city. We asked them why they don’t go to the shelters, and they said they did—only when they had to keep from freezing to death. They pick up bed bugs and lice there.
I am sure their stories can be told by countless people on the sidewalks in this country. That is why I am writing you. You called us to cry out in prayer for our own sins, for the lost, for our families, for our country, for our world. What if:
We cried out for each city that you had a conference in?
We stopped for a second of feeding our own spirits and feed the spirits of those hurting that we walked past?
In each city—you had ambassadors who were willing to go out on the streets and pass out blankets to the homeless and give out tickets that would have gone unused? I bet there were 100 tickets listed on that board that were paid for but unused.
You had people donate in advance to provide brown bag lunches for the homeless, and you passed them out over lunch break?
I know there may be a lot of details to doing these types of things. However, 7,000 women walked by hundreds of homeless. Did you know that Indianapolis has anywhere from 4,500—8,000 homeless people on the streets on any given night?
By the way, the conference ended up being just what I needed. Though I am still grieving my mother’s passing, what a great reminder in my life that we are called to be different.
Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with attending a conference for a couple days, and the challenge isn’t for you to leave the next conference you attend to care for the homeless. But it is a good reminder for everyday life.
As you and I encounter people—homeless or not—do we see them as an inconvenience and obstacle? Or as individuals made in the image of God, in need of being reconciled to Him through Christ (Matt. 9:36)?
Is there anything you can take away from Patsy’s challenge?
Hey, girls! Since it’s the day after Valentine’s Day and love is still in the air (or at least on our minds), I thought I’d share this interview with you from GospelMag.com. I hope my responses will help you as you think about someday possibly moving from singleness to marriage. Enjoy!
Q. Since you wrote Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl, you got married. Congratulations!
A. Thank you. God gives great gifts. I was starting to think I’d be single for the rest of my life; I’m still amazed I’m married . . . and to a wonderful man!
Q. What changed in your life when you met the man who would become your husband?
A. At first not a whole lot, other than that I spent a lot more time on Skype. As I look back over the past two-and-a-half-years since I’ve known him, though, I can see that I’ve changed a lot. Trevor has challenged and changed the way I think about a host of issues. He has pushed me (in good ways) in areas where I felt fearful and inept. He has been a tangible picture of God’s steadfast love for me, even when all that is ugly is stripped bare and out in the open.
Q. How did you meet him?
A. Seven months after publishing Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl: On Her Journey from Neediness to Freedom, I inadvertently started following a guy named Trevor Marsteller on Twitter. At the time, I was reaching out to bloggers asking for honest reviews of my book in exchange for a free copy. When I followed him on Twitter, I saw he had over 1,000 followers and had also done book reviews on his blog. I asked if he’d like to review Confessions, he said yes, and we kept talking from there. (You can read all the juicy details here.)
Q. Did things change right away, or has your relationship gradually become special?
A. I’m not the only one who has changed. Trevor has become more and more kind and affectionate since we first met. In fact, he puts me to shame with the way he loves me! I’d say our relationship has become more special over time, through tears, hard conversations, forgiveness, kindness, and love.
Q. Did God show you in one way or another that Trevor was the man you should marry?
A. I believe God communicates to us through His Word. In the Bible, He has made it clear that believers are not to marry unbelievers. But other than that one stipulation, He has given us freedom to make our choice based on wisdom.
God didn’t “speak” to me and tell me to marry Trevor. But as I got to know Trevor, as I asked others who knew him well questions, as I saw how he loved me and how I could just be myself around him without needing to impress him, it became obvious. This man loved God, loved me, and was pursuing me. It was a no-brainer.
Q. What would you say to girls who want to marry and don’t know on which basis to make their decision?
Stop looking for handwriting in the sky telling you that this guy is “the one.”
A. Stop looking for handwriting in the sky telling you that this guy is “the one.” Is he a believer? One who is serious in his pursuit of God? Is he pursuing you? Are you comfy with him? Do you communicate well? Do your family and friends think he’s great?
Make a wise decision based on the Word of God, wise counsel, and common sense. God has given you a ton of freedom. Choose wisely, and as you do, be blessed!
Q. We often tell people who aren’t yet married that they need to date, meet more people, and subscribe to dating websites. In this, we lead them to understand that they have to do more to make it happen. What do you think?
He is the One who gives us every good gift. Pursue Him. Serve Him. Trust Him.
A. I was given the same advice over the years, but I think it falls short. Ultimately, most of us underestimate God’s sovereignty. He is the One who gives us every good gift. Pursue Him. Serve Him. Trust Him. This area of life is not ultimately something you control; it is all under His wise, good, sovereign control.
Q. We often say to girls that they will find someone when they least expect it. What do you think?
A. I think it’s very unhelpful advice. People probably mean to be encouraging when they say it, but as a single I always felt this enormous pressure to somehow trick my emotions out of longing for marriage. It sounded like if I could succeed in that, then marriage would somehow just fall in my lap. But there’s no such prerequisite in God’s Word. He gives us undeserved gifts freely; we do not earn them.
Q. How did you find your smile (joy) back when you went through moments of discouragement regarding romance?
A. It took a long time, but as I got to know God’s character through His Word and by sitting under solid sermons Sunday after Sunday, I grew in my knowledge of God. And as my knowledge of God grew, so did my trust in Him and my enjoyment of Him.
Whenever I sign my books, I include Psalm 16:11: “In your presence is fullness of joy.” True joy is not found in our circumstances but in spending time enjoying God, which we can do anytime, anywhere.
I’d love to hear from you. Did you learn anything new through this interview? Anything you disagree with? As you think about marriage, are there any questions you want to add?
After taking the Boy-Crazy Quiz, girls often ask me, “Is boy-craziness really all that bad?”
Attraction Isn’t Wrong
What a great question! Let me start by stating that being attracted to a single guy isn’t wrong. After all, God made guys and girls. Genesis 1:27 says, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
There’s a world of difference between thinking a guy is cute and being obsessed.
And marriage, the most intimate relationship possible between a man and a woman, was His idea. Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
So “liking” someone of the opposite sex who isn’t yet married isn’t sinful in and of itself.
But there’s a world of difference between thinking a guy is cute and being obsessed.
Obsession Is a Problem
My obsession looked something like this. Time after time I would:
Spot a cute guy,
Daydream about him all day long, and
Do whatever it took to get him to notice me (even swallowing a live goldfish!).
When he didn’t fall for me, I’d get over him by hating him.
Then I’d transfer all my affections for him to the next cute guy and begin the cycle all over again.
When I was younger, I often joked about my boy-craziness with my friends. It didn’t seem harmful, just funny. But as the years passed, my crushes became more and more frequent . . . and more and more costly.
Your boy-craziness might look different than mine did, but the root sin is still the same. Faith wrote:
I have prided myself in not being boy-crazy . . . but most of my answers to the quiz were “yes”! I guess I am just one of those “on the inside” girls. But I have never acted on my feelings ever since seventh grade. I am pretty good at pretending I am not always thinking about guys.
Faith’s comment raises an important question. Is boy-craziness okay as long as you don’t act on it?
Well, in the first of the ten commandments, for starters:
“I am the LORD your God. . . . You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:1–3, emphasis added).
Only God is worthy of being first in our hearts.
A “little g” god, or an idol, is a cheap substitute for the “big G” God we were made by and for. An idol can be any good thing—food, sports, anime, horses, or fashion. But when we set it up as the ultimate thing in our lives, it becomes sin. Only God is worthy of being first in our hearts.
Once, when God’s people had turned away from Him to serve idols, He told Jeremiah the prophet to proclaim:
“My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13).
God is painting a vivid word picture here to communicate that His people have left Him, the Fountain of Living Waters. He is the best and only source of life available to them, but they have settled for “little g” gods that compare to stale-tasting water polluted with dirt and debris. Not only that, but their water source leaks. It’s broken and useless!
How about you? Do you know what your idols are? If not, ask yourself, When I’m feeling empty and needy, where do I run for satisfaction?
As for me, I’m convinced boy-craziness is a serious problem. Treason, actually. What about you? Do you see boy-craziness as idolatry, or do you see it as an innocent but bothersome issue almost every girl struggles with? Oh . . . and why?
Don’t think you’re boy-crazy? You just might be surprised.
Take the Boy-Crazy Quiz
Take the Boy-Crazy Quiz to find out where your focus is. Simply answer “yes” or “no” to these thirteen questions.
In a room full of people, do you always know where “he” is? (yes/no)
Are boys your number-one favorite topic of conversation with your friends? (yes/no)
Do you often dress to catch a guy’s attention? (yes/no)
Do you replace one crush with another almost as soon as you realize the first relationship is not going anywhere? (yes/no)
Have you asked a guy out? (yes/no)
Do you have your eye on more than one guy at a time? (yes/no)
Do you believe you’d finally be completely happy if you had a boyfriend? (yes/no)
Do you change your schedule or plans in order to bump into him? (yes/no)
Do you tend to have more guy friends than girlfriends? (yes/no)
When you’re relaxing with a good book, movie, or song, do you pick those that are filled with ooey-gooey romance? (yes/no)
If you journal or pray, are your pages or prayers filled with thoughts and requests about guys? (yes/no)
Are you always trying to figure out which guys like you? (yes/no)
Would you be willing to get a total makeover for a guy? Not the hair, make-up, and new-clothes kind, but the “I’ll change who I am at my core if that’s what it takes to get you” kind? (yes/no)
Where to Go from Here
If you answered “yes” to several or all of these questions, that says something important about your heart. It clues you in to what your heart loves. What your heart fears, even. Do your answers point to you being more crazy about your Creator God or about guys?
Speaking from experience, boy-craziness is a road that will ultimately lead to heartache and loss (Ps. 16:4). True joy and freedom, on the other hand, are found in God’s presence (Ps. 16:11).
We’re giving away three copies of Confessions today. To enter to win one, log on to the giveaway widget and then leave a comment below by Valentine’s Day, letting me know what you learned from taking this quiz.
In the meantime, let’s continue this conversation. Over the next couple of days, we’re going to explore two questions:
This means open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion . . . for all people.
This is so important to them, that the week of the event they disinvited a fellow feminist group that was also pro-life. Turns out this women’s march wasn’t as inclusive as was originally claimed. As a woman who values and desires to protect human life, I will not—I cannot—participate in a march for a woman’s right to murder her own child, created in the image of God (Ps. 139:13–14).
This woman’s march was also built around “LGBTQIA rights.” In their words:
We must have the power to control our bodies and be free from gender norms, expectations and stereotypes.
I would welcome a person who practices “LGBTQIA” behaviors into my home and life as a friend. But I cannot march for their right to be free from God’s beautiful design for their life as male or female (Gen. 1:27) any more than I can march for anyone’s right to rebel against the King in any area of life.
The Spirit of This March
In addition to disagreeing with these values around which the the march’s organizers were united, I also cannot express solidarity with the spirit in which many of these women sought to be heard.
For example, here’s a snippet from Madonna’s speech at the Washington, D.C., event:
Welcome to the revolution of love. To the rebellion. . . . It took us this darkness to wake us the f— up. . . . Yes, I’m angry. Yes, I am outraged. Yes, I have thought an awful lot of blowing up the White House, but I know that this won’t change anything.
Or Angela Davis, another speaker at the main event:
The next 1,459 days of the Trump administration will be 1,459 days of resistance: Resistance on the ground, resistance in the classrooms, resistance on the job, resistance in our art and in our music.
As a follower of Christ, I am called to march to a different beat. There is a better way.
There Is a Better Way
Regardless of your concerns about what the next four years might hold, here are three truths you can count on.
God will use our President to accomplish His purposes, even if things do go dreadfully. I love what I just read in Isaiah 10. In 722 BC, God used arrogant Assyria as a tool in His hand to judge His people, Israel, for their sin. Listen to how God speaks of this godless king and nation:
Woe to Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury! (v. 5).
After God had used Assyria to judge Israel, He turned His attention to punishing “the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes” (v. 12).
Consider God’s incredulous sarcasm as He speaks of this king:
“Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it, or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it? As if a rod should wield him who lifts it, or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood!” (v. 15).
God will use any and every leader to accomplish His purposes.
Our surest bet at changing our nation for good will not happen through marching, but in prayer. Remember what the angel told Daniel:
“Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me” (Dan. 10:12–13, emphasis added)
Did you catch that? His prayer was heard immediately, even though he didn’t see his prayer answered immediately. There were realities taking place that he couldn’t see.
Your prayers could unleash a war in the heavens today. Don’t assume the silence means you haven’t been heard. Keep persevering in prayer—your petition may be being fought over, and it is being used by God to fulfill His eternal purposes.
God calls us to influence those around us—not through hateful speech and actions but with gentleness and respect. As 1 Peter 3:13–17 says:
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
As the following verse points out, our behavior and spirit are patterned after our suffering Savior, who quietly and purposefully laid down His life to bring sinners near to God (1 Peter 3:18).
As followers of Christ, we live in two kingdoms simultaneously: the kingdom of man and the kingdom of God. May we reflect the King of kings in word, action, and spirit as we live as citizens of both kingdoms.
May we nurture peaceful hearts rather than fearful ones.
May we seek to understand first, rather than insisting that we be heard.
May we love instead of hate.
May we open our homes and dinner tables to people who are just like we once were, before we encountered God’s grace (1 Cor. 6:11).
May we pray without ceasing.
And may we point our neighbors and our culture to God’s life-giving ways, seeking their best.
I was moving fast when my friend texted me her grievances against another. Company was due to arrive within the hour, and everything seemed to be happening at once. Between combining the liquid mixture for the corn muffins and texting my hubby about what I needed him to pick up from the store, I texted some hard truth to my friend in response to her message.
Then, with messy hands, I forwarded my response to three people who were aware of the situation and who were praying for my friend. I wrote, “Just sent this to our friend. Please pray. Her heart is so hard.”
Only I accidentally included my friend in the group text. Ugh, ugh, double ugh.
Yes, I had been growing increasingly concerned for her, but after this incident, I realized it would have been best to share my concern with just her and God. Instead, I hurt her deeply. Where did I go wrong?
I was moving too fast. Proverbs 19:2 makes clear, “Whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.”
I assumed the role of savior, which only belongs to God. How much better to pray for my friend, “[I] do not know what to do, but [my] eyes are on you [God]” (2 Chron. 20:12).
I forwarded a text, which reeked of gossip. Paul warned of those who “learn to be . . . gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not” (1 Tim. 5:13).
I shared a prayer request about someone else without her permission to do so. As Proverbs 25:9 says, “Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another’s secret.”
Three Resolutions for Becoming a More Trustworthy Friend
As I asked God to change my heart and make me a more trustworthy friend, I set a few boundaries in place.
1. I resolved not to share prayer requests about anyone other than myself, unless I’ve explicitly asked their permission.
Proverbs 11:13 says, “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.”
Someone who reveals another’s secrets is a slanderer, according to the Bible. The King James calls such a person a “talebearer.” We probably don’t think of prayer requests as “bearing tales,” but if we dropped the “Please pray for so-and-so,” would it look any different than talebearing? Let’s not use prayer as a way to gossip through the back door.
2. I resolve not to forward other’s messages to me (or my responses) without permission.
It’s way too easy in our connected world to share other people’s struggles with others. It often feels necessary, as we believe in the power of prayer. The more people praying, the better, right?
But maybe that’s not the case. Maybe, just maybe, you and I are using prayer as a thin guise for gossip, fear, frustration, and support.
3. I resolve to wait to share hard truth with others until I can talk in person or on the phone.
This requires slowing down. It requires not freaking out in the moment and thinking that a problem’s resolution depends on you and you alone. It requires boldness to address a problem without the protective wall of electronic text between you. And it requires crying out in deep dependence to the one and only Savior, rather than trying to do His work for Him, as if He’s on vacation.
Six Questions to Ask to Prevent Subtle Gossip
What if we asked ourselves the following questions before sharing someone else’s business with others?
Has my friend given me permission to share this “prayer request” with others? Am I considering my friend before myself (Phil. 2:3)?
How much time has passed between the time I learned of this need and the time I’m sharing it with others? Am I sharing it impulsively?
If not a lot of time has passed, am I sharing this in a panic? Am I trusting in the Lord to act (Ps. 37:5), or am I trusting in myself to be the savior?
How seriously have I prayed about this issue myself before reaching out to others? Have I knelt in prayer? How long did I pray over it?
Do I believe that the earnest prayer of a single righteous person avails much (James 5:16)? Or do I think my prayers are not enough to move the heart of God?
Could I be embarrassed at some point that I sent this text or email? (If so, I probably shouldn’t send it.)
It Takes More Than Good Intentions
Oh, I know it’s easy to think our intentions are good. I thought that originally, too. But maybe we should distrust our intentions a bit more than we do. Even if our base intentions are good, we should always be on guard of having mixed motives. Love can often attach itself with the sinful desire to know other people’s stuff, to be “in the know,” or to feel puffed up that our lives aren’t so messy.
In my case, regardless of my original motives, I broke trust, and at that point, the only fitting response for me was one of repentance.
So that’s what I did. That evening after our company left, I called my friend and left a voicemail asking for forgiveness. I gave her space to call me when she was ready to talk. Eventually, she graciously forgave me, but because of the trust I damaged by sharing what was not mine to share, it will take time for her to be able to regard me as the fully faithful friend that I desire to be, with God’s help.
How about you? Will you strive to love faithfulness more than the pleasure of gossip? Will you join me in resolving to be oh-so-careful before we share about others?
Let us strive to be like the women recommended in 1 Timothy 3:11: “Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.”
After all, we serve and represent the most trustworthy, faithful Friend of all.
One of my all-time favorite promises for God’s people is found in Romans 8:28:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
I wonder if anyone has ever showed you how God faithfully kept this same promise to His people throughout Scripture, in history. There are so many stories I could point to, but we’ll just look at one today in the book of Ruth. (And no, I’m not ultimately talking about the love story between Ruth and Boaz—this book is about so much more than that!)
Rewind to the Beginning
Before we dive into the book of Ruth together, let me fill you in with what has been happening in the books leading up to Ruth, because the Bible is one, cohesive story.
God had formed a great nation (see Genesis through Numbers). Check.
He had brought His people into His place, the Promised Land, just as He had promised (see the book of Joshua). Check.
But God’s people weren’t living under His rule. In fact, since Moses’ death and then Caleb’s death at the end of the book of Joshua, there was no great leader to lead God’s people.
Repeat a Dark, Vicious Cycle
And things went south quick. When we open the book of Judges—the book just before Ruth—we see a vicious cycle that keeps repeating itself:
God’s people turn away from Him and sin.
This makes God angry, so He gives them over to their enemies.
Once they’re good and miserable, God’s people cry out to God for help.
God sends them a deliverer, or a judge. (These “judges” didn’t wear black robes and hold gavels like we think of today. Back then, a judge was a warrior, a deliverer, a military leader.)
Once God’s people have been saved, they once again turn away from Him, and the whole cycle is repeated.
All in all, God raises up twelve judges—eleven men and one woman—to deliver His people during this time. But even many of these judges are shady characters (think Samson.) I like the way Starr Meade puts it in her survey of the Bible:
In all the stories we see that the judges were not able to unite all of Israel, or lead the people in keeping the covenant, or even faithfully keep it themselves. So all the stories remind us that God’s people need a greater deliverer than any we see in this book of great deliverers.
Feel the Desperate Need for a King
Israel needed a king. See, a king was meant to help God’s people keep God’s law. In fact, God had promised kings to Abram when He made a covenant with him:
“I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you” (Gen. 17:6, emphasis added).
But there was no king on the horizon. The author of Judges gives us clues as to this problem in Judges 17:6, 18:1, and 19:1:
In those days there was no king in Israel.
The book ends highlighting this problem, just in case we missed it:
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes (21:25).
Note Many Sinful Decisions
Enter the book of Ruth. It’s set during the dark time of the judges:
In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi (1:1–2).
God had warned that if His people didn’t keep His covenant, He would send famine and drought. But rather than repenting of his sin and trusting God for provision, Elimelech took off for Moab—the home of Israel’s arch enemy.
Keep reading: We will see God providentially use Elimelech’s sin for good.
As if that’s not enough sin, Elimelech’s two sons decide to marry Moabite women, which was another big no-no because the Moabites did not worship the one true God. But in spite of their sin, we will see God providentially use it for good.
After Elimelech and his two sons die in the land of Moab, Naomi decides she’ll just go back to Israel to starve. Her Moabite daughter-in-law Ruth insists on going with her.
See How Ruth Is Not About the Marriage; It’s About the Kiddo!
Back in Israel, Ruth goes to work to provide for her mother-in-law. She gleans in Boaz’s field, who sacrifices his financial future to play the role of “kinsman redeemer,” just as God had commanded faithful Israelites to do.
After Boaz marries Ruth, they have a baby: little Obed. As soon as his birth is announced, we fast forward through his life to the day when he gives birth to a son, to “Jesse, the father of David” (4:17).
Did you catch that?!
Bernie Elliott, an elder at the local church I attend, points out, “This is like dynamite at the end of the book. God did it! God used famine, sinful decisions, and death. Through all that He still raised up what His people needed: God provided the king.”
Watch for the Sinless King
As we read on in 1 and 2 Samuel, we see that while David was a good king, he still sinned. We still need a better king—a sinless king. And this king is coming. God promises King David in 2 Samuel 7:12–13:
“When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever (emphasis added).”
While some of this promise was partially fulfilled through David’s son Solomon, we know that this promise was ultimately pointing to King Jesus, because after about 400 years passed, there was no more king in Israel . . . and there hasn’t been since.
Rejoice at the Sinless King Provided
But check out the first verse of the New Testament:
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham (emphasis added).
King Jesus was born . . . in order to die . . . for the sins of Elimelech and his sons and King David and all who would put their trust in Him. Nowhere do we see more clearly that no human evil can prevent God’s great purposes—He used the crucifixion of His Son to save a people for Himself.
If you have been saved by this King, God will do the same in your life, no matter what wrongs have been done by or to you. He will ensure that all the sinful, awful decisions and acts ultimately work together for good, accomplishing His grand designs. Of this you can be sure.
In 2003, a dream took root in Jennifer Smith’s heart. (Jennifer is a former inmate of eleven-and-a-half years and a current chaplain at McPherson Women’s Prison.) She envisioned a transition home where women released from prison could live for up to a year.
A Need Sparks a Dream
Rather than returning to a home of generational drug abuse and crime, women could live in this transition home with responsibility and accountability. They could learn how to live the Christian life on the “outside” of prison’s walls.
See, Jennifer knew well that the most common fear among inmates is that they will return to prison, because they don’t have accountability or a support system. (A female ex-felon has a 51 percent chance of re-offending and returning to prison.) Jennifer wanted to change that.
A Dream Gains Momentum
At the True Woman ’16 Conference, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth announced that Revive Our Hearts would give 10 percent of the conference offering to the Cornerstone Transition Home. This would help with the final $25,000 needed to get the home up and running.
What you might not have heard is the end result. Conference attendees gave almost $17,000 to this project. Then Revive Our Hearts leadership sent Cornerstone Transition Home a check for $25,000 to make up the difference.
A Dream Come True
On December 12, Jennifer’s dream became a reality. The Cornerstone Transition Home opened its doors to its first three women. Fourteen more acceptance letters have been issued to women awaiting parole plans, and over fifty applications are yet to be prayed over and responded to. They hope to fill all twenty-nine beds by summer, Lord willing.
Their prayer is to see a host of women build their lives on the solid rock—Jesus Christ, the Cornerstone—and then share Him with the world around them through their changed lives.