What Kind Of Leader/Linchpin Are You?

If you are a Christian you could replace the word "the boss" and "you" with "the Christian leader" (or the linchpin) from the list below. We may have done #1 and #6 quite well, but it is perhaps the other 5 points that needs much work, initiative, and grace. What do you think?

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A linchpin hierarchy

  1. Do exactly what the boss says.
  2. Ask the boss hard questions.
  3. Tell the boss what your best choice among the available options is. Insist.
  4. Have co-workers and bosses ask you hard questions.
  5. Invent a whole new way to do things, something that wasn't on the list.
  6. Push and encourage and lead your co-workers to do ever better work.
  7. Insist that they push and encourage you.
"Humility is a spirit of self-examination. It's a hermeneutic of suspicion toward yourself and charity toward people you disagree with." Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Theological Seminary

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Though a KING, He Wore not a Throne, but Carried a CROSS Unto Death

A new book, King’s Cross (Feb 2011) is adapted from sermons that Tim Keller, senior pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, has preached from the Gospel of Mark. The book is neatly organized into 2 parts, corresponding to the Gospel of Mark’s 2 symmetrical halves or acts:
  1. his identity as King over all things (Mark chap 1-8)
  2. his purpose in dying on the cross (Mark chap 9-16)
Hence the catchy title from its 2 parts (“The King” and “The Cross”), each part consisting of 9 chapters, with each chapter focusing on a particular theme by exploring a selective key part of the story told in Mark’s Gospel, explaining the background, illustrating the main point, and applying it for readers. So the book retains the essential elements of good preaching. (But a handful of well-known passages aren’t addressed in detail in the book.)

I hope to blog on each chapter as I read them. Here are a few random quotes from the book:

"In Jesus we find infinite majesty yet complete humility, perfect justice yet boundless grace, absolute sovereignty yet utter submission, all-sufficiency in himself yet entire trust and dependence on God." 155

"If (Jesus) were only a king on a throne, you’d submit to him just because you have to. But he’s a king who went to the cross for you. Therefore you can submit to him out of love and trust." 107

"The best way I can put it is that, before the change (of the Bible coming alive), I poured over the Bible, questioning and analyzing it. But after the change it was as if the Bible, or maybe Someone through the Bible, began poring over me, questioning and analyzing me." xv

"Though as a youth I had believed that the Bible was the Word of the Lord, I had not personally met the Lord of the Word." xvi

For reference, these are the verses in Mark’s Gospel explained by Keller in each chapter of King’s Cross:

Part 1: THE KING: The Identity of Jesus

1) The Dance (Mark 1:1-4, 9-11, 12-13): Creation (Gen 1:1-3) and redemption (beginning with Jesus' baptism - Mark 1:9-11) are both products of a Trinity.
2) The Call (Mark 1:14-15, 16-20, 21-22, 29-31): Gospel vs. advice. You can't have a relationship with Jesus unless he calls you. Jesus' authority (root word author) is not derived. Follow the thread (George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin).
3) The Healing (Mark 1:35-38, 2:1-5, 5-8, 8-12): After prayer Jesus decided to leave. He was more interested in the quality of the people's response than in the quantity of the crowd. Your sins are forgiven.
4) The Rest (Mark 2:23-28, 3:1-6): Lord of the Sabbath.
5) The Power (Mark 4:35-38, 39-41, 38-41)
6) The Waiting (Mark 5:21-22, 22-24, 24-26, 27-30, 30-33, 35-36, 37-40, 40-42)
7) The Stain (Mark 7:1-5, 14-16, 17-19, 20-23, 43-48)
8) The Approach (Mark 7:24-26, 26-27, 28-30, 31-37)
9) The Turn (Mark 8:27-30, 31-32, 34-9:1)

Part 2: THE CROSS: The Purpose of Jesus

10) The Mountain (Mark 9:2-8, 9-13, 14-18, 19-29)
11) The Trap (Mark 10:17-22, 23-25, 24-27, 28, 29-31, 32-33, 34)
12) The Ransom (Mark 8:31-32, 9:30-31, 10:32-34, 45, 35-36, 37-38, 38-45)
13) The Temple (Mark 11:1-10; Zech 9:9; Mark 11:11-12, 15-18, 12-14)
14) The Feast (Mark 14:12-16, 22-25, 23-25; Isa 53:6-7, 12; Luke 22:19; Mark 14:22)
15) The Cup (Mark 14:32-26)
16) The Sword (Luke 6:20-22, 24-26; Mark 14:43-46, 46-49, 48-52)
17) The End (Mark 14:53-59, 60-62, 62-65, 15:1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 20-24; Ps 22:7, 14, 16-18; Mark 15:25-33, 33-34; Isa 13:9-13; Amos 8:7-10; Mark 15:35-39)
18) The Beginning (Mark 15:37-43, 44-47, 16:1-3, 3-7; Luke 24:36-46; Ps 22:20-21. 24, 27-29, 31; John 11:25-26; 1 Thes 4:14; 1 Cor 15:13-19)

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How Often Should We Pray?

What Charles Spurgeon wrote about prayer is quite "practical" in Lectures To My Students:

A very important part of our lives consists in praying in the Holy Spirit. Abundant prayer must go with earnest preaching (and Bible study). We cannot always be on our knees of the body, but the soul should never leave the posture of devotion. The habit of prayer is good, but the spirit of prayer is better. Regular retirement is to be maintained, but continued communion with God is to be our aim. As a rule, we ought never to be many minutes without actually lifting up our hearts in prayer. Some of us could honestly say that we are seldom a quarter of an hour without speaking to God, and that not as a duty but as an instinct, a habit of the new nature for which we claim no more credit than a babe does for crying after its mother. How could we not do otherwise?

Wow! Spurgeon himself said that he was seldom more than 15 min without speaking to God. Praying to follow his example:
  • Do we pray every 15 min while watching a 2 hour movie, or a 30 min sitcom?
  • Do we pray every 15 min when we are intensely studying, doing our homework, or working during our 8 hour work day?
  • Do we pray every 15 min when chatting on social network sites?
  • Do we pray every 15 min (or more frequently) when we are furiously angry with someone?
  • Do we pray every 15 min when dating our spouses?
I am sure you can come up with a lot of other interesting scenarios for praying at least every 15 min.

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How Can We Not Take Revenge When Wronged?

(Please regard the picture with a sense of levity.)

We Christians know that we should:

  • love one another (John 13:34),
  • forgive one another (Matt 6:12)
  • be kind and compassionate to one another (Eph 4:32), and
  • not take revenge (Rom 12:19; Heb 10:30).
We are also encouraged to actively and pro-actively:
  • honor others above ourselves (Rom 12:10),
  • bear with one another (Eph 4:2),
  • serve one another (Gal 5:13),
  • carry each other's burdens (Gasl 6:2),
  • spur one another toward love (Heb 10:24), and
  • be gentle with others (Phil 4:5), etc.
The interesting thing about these verses is that we naturally and spontaneously apply these verses to others, rather than to ourselves. For instance, we might expect others to be ever gentle with us, rather than we ourselves practice the ever present graciousness and gentleness of Christ toward others.

Even in mild and mundane everyday circumstances of life we naturally default to self, rather than to God and to a meaningful heart-felt consideration of others. What then happens when we feel wronged, betrayed, lied to, gossiped about, disappointed or discouraged or unappreciated by others, unsupported or oppressed by others? How can we then practice the gentleness of Christ when we feel hurt and scratched and wounded by others?

I think that no one can just force themselves to be gentle with others, unless they have the spirit of gentleness within themselves. If one tries to be gentle with others when they are furiously upset in their hearts, their comical attempt at gentleness might be more traumatic and insulting than if they screamed at others like a mad man. Yet this can by no means ever justify anyone blowing up or lashing out at others.

How then can we not retaliate or react or take revenge when we feel wronged?

Here are some random reflections:

  • "If a sudden jar can cause me to speak an impatient, unloving word, then I know nothing of Calvary love. For a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted." (Amy Carmichael)
  • "For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of." (Matt 12:34; NIV 2010)
  • "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." (Matt 12:34; NIV 1984)
  • "...every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit... Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." (Matt 7:17-20)
No one can change his or her own heart. Only the beauty and the grace and the graciousness of Christ can transform our hard hearts to be melted and transformed from within.

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Do You Notice The Trinity When Reading Your Bible?

We Christians acknowledge that God is 3 Persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), yet 1 God. We acknowledge that the Trinity is mysterious. Perhaps we say something like, "No one can fully understand the Trinity," and leave it at that. Likely, we think or conclude that the Trinity has little "practical application" to our Christian life: "Studying the Trinity doesn't tell you to do anything." But since God created us in the image of the Trinity (Gen 1:27), surely we would benefit from learning what we can about our trinitarian God.

The Biblical Teaching of the Trinity Embodies 4 Essential Affirmations

  1. There is one and only one true and living God.
  2. This one God eternally exists in 3 persons--God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
  3. These 3 persons are completely equal in attributes, each with the same divine nature
  4. While each person is fully and completely God, the persons are not identical.
Some References to the Trinity in the Bible

Far from being comprehensive and exhaustive, here are some obvious and less obvious references to the Trinity in both the OT and the NT.

  1. The Trinity and Creation (Gen 1:1-2; John 1:1-3).
  2. The Trinity and the creation of man (Gen 1:26).
  3. God's calling of Isaiah (Isa 6:8).
  4. Isaiah's prophecy regarding the Messiah (Isa 48:16b; 61:1; 63:10).
  5. The baptism of Jesus (Matt 3:13-17; Mark 1:10,11).
  6. Jesus' great commission (Matt 28:19,20).
  7. Paul's trinitarian blessing (2 Cor 13:14). "May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all."
  8. The Trinity and the atonement (Heb 9:14). "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!"
Practical Application from the Trinity
  1. The Trinity and the Church (1 Cor 3:6-9; 9-15; 16-17).
  2. The Trinity and ministry (Missional, Doctrinal, Relational) (Unity and Diversity)
  3. The Trinity and inter-personal relationships and friendships (Order and Equality). "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work" (1 Cor 12:4-6). "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all" (Eph 4:4-6).
  4. The Trinity and marriage (Eph 5:21-33; 1 Cor 11:3).

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Reading, Discussing, Writing

"Reading makes a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man." Sir Francis Bacon (1561 - 1626)

Bacon adds that if a man writes little, he needs to be really smart, and if he reads little, he will need to "have much cunning to seem to know (that) which he does not."

Does "knowledge puffs up" mean that we should not increase in knowledge?

Paul says, "Knowledge puffs up while love builds up" (1 Cor 8:1). In context, this does not mean, suggest, or imply that a Christian should not increase in knowledge. This verse should definitely not be an excuse for not increasing in knowledge, which is surely needed if we are to be good stewards of God's world. On the contrary, increasing in knowledge should deeply humble us to realize at least 3 things:

  1. how little we know, and
  2. how limited we are, and
  3. how much more dependent on God we need to be.
Might increasing in knowledge help us teach Genesis differently or better?

For example, I thought I knew some parts of the Bible quite well, especially Genesis, since I have taught Genesis 100s of times for over a quarter of a century since 1981. But as I began to read books by godly God fearing Christian scholars and pastors over the last few years, these days I'm "trembling and scared" to teach Genesis, realizing how limited and perhaps rudimentary my limited knowledge is. If you care to be confused and confounded, see part 1 and part 2 of "The Difficulty of Genesis 1," written by Henoch Hong.

Recently, I wrote about the account of Abraham offering Isaac to God (Gen 22:1-19). I had always taught this by emphasizing the importance of a Christian offering his "Isaac" to God, just as Abraham did. But does this point to Jesus, as Jesus himself said it should? (John 5:39; Luke 24:20,27) Doesn't this make it all about Abraham, and all about you? Doesn't this make man the subject, rather than God? Doesn't this make it seem like salvation is up to man's work (I should offer my Isaac), rather than God's saving grace to me? Is there another way to teach Genesis 22 that perhaps points to Jesus, rather than to Abraham? See if you might consider teaching it this way?

Reading, Discussing, Writing

Now let's get back to the quote by Francis Bacon:

  1. Reading makes a full man.
  2. Conference makes a ready man.
  3. Writing makes an exact man.

Sadly, many today, including Christians, spend countless excessive hours reading comics, gossip magazines, sports, entertainment and celebrity news, romance novels, fiction, etc. Also, common daily activities are watching TV and movies, playing video games, cruising the internet, social media, etc. What then happens to our mind? Paul said, "For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace" (Rom 8:6). Here "the flesh" is our fallen sinful human nature, or our natural selves. When our mind is set on ourselves, we easily become angry, upset, worried, fearful, anxious, bitter, resentful, jealous, envious, etc.

When we read and watch things that do not edify our mind, we likely will think and feel and talk no differently than non-Christians. We should know that "we are what we think about all day long" (Ralph Waldo Emerson).

The psalmist knew the crucial importance of what we fill our thoughts with. He spoke of the righteous "whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night" (Ps 1:2). Surely, we need to read the Bible. We also need to read books. The apostle Paul wrote a quarter of the New Testament. But when he was imprisoned and about to be executed, he asked Timothy to bring "my scrolls, especially the parchments" (2 Tim 4:13), which were his books. My final quote from a former seminary professor at Trinity: "You are not what you think you are, but what you think, you are."

The more we read (not comics), the more God enables us to be a full man, not an empty man.

Conference (Discussion)

To refine what we read and think about, we need to conference, which is to discuss freely with others in order to be challenged, so that our own thoughts and ideas may be clarified and solidified. The more we conference and discuss with one another, the more God enables us to be ready to grab opportunities when they arise. The sheer brilliance of CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien arose not just from their extensive reading, but also from their frequent weekly discussions to push each of them to a degree of excellence that is out of this world. If we want to preach the gospel well we must also always be ready. We should always be "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" (1 Pet 3:15).


No one can write anything meaningful or beautiful if their thoughts are not clear and precise. Thus, writing makes an exact man.

Practical Application: Read, read, read (not comics) and love the Lord your God "with all your mind" (Matt 22:37, Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27).

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What Are 6 Evidences That You Are A Christian (Luke 23:39-43)

How would you know whether or not you are a Christian? How can you help others know if they are Christians?

Based on the account of the criminal hung next to Jesus, we find 6 evidences that he became a Christian at the last possible moment by the work of the Holy Spirit.

  1. He feared God. He said, "Don't you fear God?" (Luke 23:40) Fearing God is to honor God as God. Fearing God is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge (Prov 1:7, 9:10).
  2. He had a sense of his sin before God. For the first time in his life, he did not blame others and took personal responsibility. He said, "We are being punished justly for we are getting what our deeds deserve" (Luke 23:41).
  3. He saw God in sinless Jesus. He said, "...this man has done nothing wrong" (Luke 23:41). Death reveals what a man truly is, because he has no more reason to pretend. In his excruciating death, Jesus revealed his sinless perfection.
  4. He saw Jesus as his Substitute, as his vicarious sacrifice (2 Cor 5:21). Though Jesus did nothing wrong, he was punished by God (for my sins).
  5. He had (shameless) faith in Jesus. Though he committed horrible crimes deserving death, he believed in Jesus' power to save him, in spite of himself. He said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom" (Luke 23:42). He understood that salvation was entirely undeserved, that it was by grace alone, by faith alone, and not by any good works (Eph 2:8,9; Gal 2:16).
  6. He longed for paradise, the kingdom of God. According to his faith, Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43).

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Directives For A Young Servant of Christ (1 Timothy 4:11-16)

  1. Command and teach these things (1 Tim 4:11), perhaps the gospel and it's implications (1 Cor 15:1-2).
  2. Don't let paternalism or hierarchy discourage you (1 Tim 4:12).
  3. Your personal integrity before God is of utmost importance (1 Tim 4:12). Questions for self-evaluation:
    1. How does your speech affect others? (Prov 25:15; Ps 19:14; Eph 4:15, 5:19; Col 3:16; Matt 12:34, 15:18; Luke 6:45)
    2. How is your conduct? (Phil 1:27; Rom 12:18; Heb 12:14; 1 Thes 5:13)
    3. How are you loving God? Loving others? (Matt 22:37-40)
    4. How is your faith expressed? (Luke 8:25)
    5. How pure is your heart? (Matt 5:8; 1 Thes 2:13)
  4. Your devotion should be to the reading and teaching of the Bible (1 Tim 4:13).
  5. Live out your unique personal gifting from God (1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6), which may be leadership in Timothy's case.
  6. Practice, persevere, press on, show progress and persist (1 Tim 4:15-16); there are no short cuts in life, there are no short cuts for a Christian; there are no short cuts for salvation, even though it is only by grace alone (Eph 2:8,9).

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February 7, 2011 - Dressed in Gentleness


A verse that always discombobulates and flusters me is Philippians 4:5 - "Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near." I think that gentleness is not just an outward manner of self-control and external pleasantries, but an inner expression of who I truly am at my very inner core. Without Grace transforming my inner man, my external behavior is really nothing but pretense and hypocrisy and ABC: accusing, blaming and complaining, without deep self-evaluation and humility.

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

Dressed in Gentleness

Once in a while we meet a gentle person. Gentleness is a virtue hard to find in a society that admires toughness and roughness. We are encouraged to get things done and to get them done fast, even when people get hurt in the process. Success, accomplishment, and productivity count. But the cost is high. There is no place for gentleness in such a milieu.

Gentle is the one who does "not break the crushed reed, or snuff the faltering wick" (Matthew 12:20). Gentle is the one who is attentive to the strengths and weaknesses of the other and enjoys being together more than accomplishing something. A gentle person treads lightly, listens carefully, looks tenderly, and touches with reverence. A gentle person knows that true growth requires nurture, not force. Let's dress ourselves with gentleness. In our tough and often unbending world our gentleness can be a vivid reminder of the presence of God among us.

For the gospel of God's grace (Acts 20:24),
Ben (312) 363-8578

"There is no deeper pathos in the spiritual life of man than the cruelty of righteous people." Reinhold Niebuhr, An Interpretation of Christian Ethics

"Forgiving love is a possibility only for those who know that they are not good, who feel themselves in need of divine mercy...and know that the differences between the good man and the bad man are insignificant in (God's) sight." Niebuhr

"Forgiveness places us on a boundary between enmity and friendship, between exclusion and embrace. It tears down the wall of hostility that wrongdoing erects, but it doesn't take us into the territory of friendship. Often, that's all we can muster the strength to do, and all that offenders will allow us." Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace

"Humility is a spirit of self-examination. It's a hermeneutic of suspicion toward yourself and charity toward people you disagree with." Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Theological Seminary

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Understanding the ABC of Sin in order to Know Grace

To appreciate "the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24b), sin must be clearly understood as sin. Otherwise, grace is not grace. Browsing the classic, Basic Christianity by John Stott (1958), I read chapter 6: The Consequences of Sin. My hope is that we may understand and explain sin as utterly sinful (Rom 7:13). Stott states 3 consequences of sin (ABC):
  1. Alienation from God

  2. Bondage to Self

  3. Conflict with Others
Alienation. If one is a Christian, A is obvious. Because of our sin, we are cut off from God (Isa 59:2); we fall short of God's expectations of us in every aspect and area of our life (Rom 3:23). Despite our noblest and sincerest of efforts, we can't reach God. Yet there is a hunger in every man that none but God can fill. Augustine's words in Confessions rings true: "Thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless till they rest in thee." This situation is tragic beyond words. Man is missing the destiny for which God made him. He is helpless, hopeless, and worthless.

Bondage. Sin not only estranges, it enslaves (Rom 6:17). It alienates us from God, and brings us into captivity to ourselves. It is a deep-seated inward corruption and depravity that is total and complete (Jer 17:9; Gen 6:5). We are not sinners because we sin. Rather, we sin because we are sinners. A sinner is who we are. Nothing good we do can alleviate it; nothing bad we do can worsen it. What's the evidence that we are sinners? Jesus describes my heart "perfectly" when he said, "For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person" (Mark 7:21-23). Because of our bondage, we lack self-mastery, such as controlling our tongue (James 3:1-12); we have high ideals, but weak wills; we want to be good, but are self-centered; we live in the land of the free, but are in reality slaves. Rules of conduct don't work; we can't keep them. We need a Savior (Matt 1:21).

Conflict. I will dwell on this painful point, because conflicts among men have been the bane of our human existence from antiquity. Self-centeredness controls us. We find it hard to adjust to others. We tend to despise them or envy them, feel superior or inferior to them. We are full of self-pity or self-esteem, self-will or self-love.

Most quarrels are due to a misunderstanding, and the misunderstanding is due to our failure to appreciate the other man's point of view. We would rather talk, than listen, argue rather than submit. Many conflicts could be resolved if both sides first examined themselves critically and then examined the other side charitably, instead of which we are always charitable to ourselves and critical of others. We exaggerate our own virtue and the other man's vice. Hundreds of divorces could be prevented if people were humble enough to blame themselves more than their partner.

Why must we know sin in order to know grace? Unless we are sick, we won't seek a doctor (Mark 2:17). Unless we know our desperate need, we won't really seek a cure. We will never put our trust in Christ until we have first despaired of ourselves. Only when we have realized and faced up to the seriousness of our illness will we admit our urgent desperate need for a cure.

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Gospel Reflections from the Book of Ruth

Previous post: Do I feel the power of my God who is mighty to save? (Zeph 3:17)

Check out this chart of Ruth for a broad overview of the book of Ruth. An author interestingly wrote and titled the book of Ruth as "Loving God Enough To Break The Rules." In this interview, another author explains how one can preach the gospel from the book of Ruth.

I'll start with a few gospel reflections from Ruth, with the Intro, Outline, and Content below.

  • Noami experienced heart breaking loss, sorrow and bitterness which she interprets as God dealing with her for some sin (Ruth 1:13,20). But God encouraged her through Ruth's decision and confession to be with her unto death (Ruth 1:16,17). Thank God who does not treat us as our sins deserve (Psalm 103:10).

  • Ruth was an "outsider" who had no possibility to ever be included and counted as an "insider." She was a Moabitess, and therefore excluded from the people of God (Deut 23:3). She cannot be welcomed into Israel, the people of God. But through Naomi's help and Boaz's generosity and love, she became a part of the family of God. Boaz becomes her redeemer (Ruth 2:20).

  • The book began with bitterness for Noami and ended with blessing (Ruth 4:14,15).
Intro: Set in the period of the judges, the book of Ruth is the classic love story of the Bible. Unlike most books in the Bible, the story of Ruth is told from a woman's perspective, and it has a woman as the protagonist, and it gives attention to feminine values and feelings.

Ruth is a Moabite widow who married the Bethlehemite Boaz. She became an ancestor of King David (Ruth 4:17,22) and of the Messiah (Matt 1:1,5,6). This book highlights how God's people experience his sovereignty, wisdom, and covenant kindness. These often come disguised in hard circumstances and are mediated through the kindness of others.


  1. Introduction: Naomi Bereft of Family (Ruth 1:1-5)

  2. Scene 1: Naomi Returns to Bethlehem with Ruth (Ruth 1:6-22)

  3. Scene 2: Ruth Gleans in Boaz's Field (Ruth 2:1-23)

  4. Scene 3: Ruth, at the Threshing Floor, Asks Boaz to Marry Her (Ruth 3:1-18)

  5. Scene 4: Boaz Arranges Redemption at the Gate (Ruth 4:1-12)

  6. Conclusion: Naomi Blessed with a New Family (Ruth 4:13-27)

  7. Genealogy: Extended Blessing (Ruth 4:18-22)
Content: In the period of the judges, Elimelech, Naomi, and their sons leave Bethlehem because of a famine to sojourn in Moab. Naomi's husband, Elimelech, dies there. Mahlon and Chilion, the sons, marry Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah. Ten years later the sons die too, leaving no children. Naomi is bereft of family (Ruth 1:1-5). Learning that the famine in Israel is over, she decides to return to Bethlehem; Orpah stays behind, but Ruth accompanies Naomi (Ruth 1:6-22). At harvest time, Ruth goes to glean in a field that happens to belong to Elimelech's relative, Boaz (Ruth 2:1-23). Naomi knows he is an eligible kinsman-redeemer. Following Naomi's daring plan, in a midnight encounter at the threshing floor Ruth boldly asks him, as a redeemer, to marry her (Ruth 3:1-18). After a closer kinsman refuses to take Ruth, Boaz redeems all the property of the deceased and marries Ruth (Ruth 4:1-12). They have a son, Obed, who becomes the grandfather of King David (Ruth 4:13-22).

Ruth's words in the book (as compared with Naomi's or Boaz's) are surprisingly few; the story, however, hangs on them. Ruth expresses her lifelong commitment to Naomi, “May the Lord do so to me … if anything but death parts me from you” (Ruth 1:17), which takes her from Moab to Judah. She resolves to provide for Naomi (“Let me go … and glean,” Ruth 2:2), which brings her from Bethlehem to Boaz's field. She invites Boaz to “spread your wings over your servant” (Ruth 3:9), which leads her from childless widowhood to marriage and motherhood (Ruth 4:13).

Practical Application: See the hidden hand and the goodness of God even in the bitterness of life.

The Gospel in Ruth: Though we may be bitter like Noami or a helpless outsider like Ruth, God intervenes in our lives and redeems us only by his mercy and grace.

What's next? Ecclesiastes (the Preacher).

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God Preserves the Meek and Humble; God Removes the Arrogant (Zephaniah 3:8-20)

Previous post: Do I know God's heart that is broken to pieces because of the perishing? (Zeph 2:3; Luke 20:13)


God promises that a day of judgment will come. This is not a threat but a fact and a certainty, which all mankind should humbly consider. God will gather the nations, not for blessing (Isa 30:18), but for his coming judgment (Zeph 3:8). Though this arrogant and rebellious generation loathes and despises this, God states plainly, "I have decided to assemble the nations, to gather the kingdoms and to pour out my wrath on them—all my fierce anger. The whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger" (Zeph 3:8). But God's retributive acts are always redemptive, for God will save his remnant among the meek and humble (Zech 3:12,18-20). God intends that the nations turn to him (Zeph 3:9,10), including his own people (Zeph 3:11-13). This will cause rejoicing (Zeph 3:14-17), not least because God alone has accomplished salvation (Zeph 3:18-20). God is both God the Judge and God the Gracious


The promise of salvation can only be accomplished by God: "I will leave within you the meek and humble. The remnant of Israel will trust in the name of the LORD. They will do no wrong; they will tell no lies. A deceitful tongue will not be found in their mouths. They will eat and lie down and no one will make them afraid" (Zeph 3:12-13). Salvation, which is always undeserved, will always lead to rejoicing (Zeph 3:14-16). This is only possible because "The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing" (Zeph 3:17).

The only reasonable way to live: Wait, not for a better life now, but wait for the day of salvation, which will come for the remnant of God.

The promise of God: "I will leave within you the meek and humble" (Zech 3:12) and "I will remove from you your arrogant boasters" (Zech 3:11).

Who our God is: "The LORD your God is ... the Mighty Warrior who saves... take(s) great delight in you; ... rejoice(s) over you with singing" (Zeph 3:17).

To help remember an overview of this Minor Prophet Zephaniah, check out this chart again.

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Seek The Lord, All You Humble of the Land (Zephaniah 2:1-3:8)

Previous post: Does complacency weigh heavily upon your soul? (Zeph 1:12)

As Zeph 1:1-18 declares God's wrath on Judah, Zeph 2:1-15 makes known God's wrath on the nations. See the chart of the book of Zephaniah.

Repentance is Still Possible (Zeph 1:1-3)

While sin is a universal human problem, God still shows grace to those who repent. God calls his own people to "gather together" though they were a shameless (ESV), shameful (NIV) nation (Zeph 2:1), since their actions contradicted their profession of piety. This call to hear severe warnings (Isa 34:1; Jer 4:5; Joel 2:15,16;3:11) is not a threat but an act of divine mercy and grace because they are designed to elicit repentance before it is too late (Zeph 2:2). This is God's plea: "Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD’s anger" (Zeph 2:3). Though the nation is apostate there are a few who rely on God rather than on themselves. They are the "humble and lowly" (Zeph 3:12; Matt 5:3). They realize their desperate need to turn beyond themselves for help. God expresses his grace and sovereignty with the word "perhaps." God is like the landowner who loves his tenants after they had killed his prior servants, saying, "I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him" (Luke 20:13; Mark 12:6).

The Nations, Including Judah, Warned (Zeph 2:4-3:8)

As in Amos's prophecy (Amos 1:3-2:3), the judgment prophecy first focuses on Israel's neighbors and enemies--Philistines, Moab and Amnon, Assyria--(Zeph 2:4-7,8-11,12-15), whom Judah would have heartily joined in condemning. Only then do the people of Judah feel the focus turning on themselves (Zeph 3:1-7), being just as sinful before the same just God. God's people cannot think that they will emerge unscathed on the day of the Lord. If they sin (Zeph 3:1-4) and are shameless (Zeph 3:5), they are also held accountable, especially if they lack repentance (Zeph 3:6,7).

Practical Application: In my sin, I'm totally completely helpless. Lord, have mercy. Jesus is all I need, and Jesus is all I want.

God's broken heart: "Perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord's anger" (Zeph 2:3). "I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him" (Luke 20:13).

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Be Silent Before the Sovereign Lord (Zephaniah 1)

Previous post: Are you the one God looks on with favor? (Isa 66:2)

: “Zephaniah” means "the Lord/Yahwah hides" (Zeph 2:3), or protects. He was a contemporary of Jeremiah (Jer 21:1; 29:25) and others in the OT (Zech 6:10,14). This could indicate his parents' piety, as they trusted in God during the godless reign of Manasseh. The genealogy in 1:1 may indicate that Zephaniah was a descendant of Hezekiah, the pious ruler of Judah before two wicked kings, Amon and Manasseh (2 Kings 21:19–26; 2 Chron. 33:21–25), assumed the throne.

The prophecy takes place during the reign of Josiah (640–609 B.C.), a significant Judean king (2 Kings 21:26–23:20; 2 Chron. 33:25–35:27), who reestablished the worship of Yahweh. The northern kingdom of Israel had already been exiled, in 722 B.C.

Theme: The theme of Zephaniah, one preached more consistently by him than by any other prophet, is the day of the Lord (1:7, etc.), which is described by a catalogue of frightening terms, as bitter, as a day of wrath, distress, anguish, trouble, ruin, darkness, gloom, clouds, blackness, trumpet and battle cry, distress, consumed, sudden (Zeph 1:14-18). The "day of the Lord" also occurs in Isaiah (Isa. 13:6, 9), Jeremiah (Jer. 46:10), Ezekiel (Ezek. 13:5; 30:3), Joel (Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14), Amos 5:18–20, Obadiah (Obad. 15), Zephaniah (Zeph. 1:7, 14), and Malachi (Mal. 4:5). This approaching day shows 2 faces: judgment against those who sin against God, and blessing for those who follow him. God will show himself just in both punishment and praise. This was God's warning to Judah that the final days were near (Zeph 1:7), through the divine judgment at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, ca. 605-586 B.C. (Zeph 1:4-13).

Purpose: In spite of having seen the destruction and exile of her sister, Israel, a generation or two previously, Judah refuses to turn back as a nation to her covenant obligations toward God. The reign of pious Josiah provided an ideal opportunity to do so, and God, through Zephaniah, wants to clarify their decision, and that of all the other nations, along with the consequences of that decision. God is calling for Judah's punishment because she has already shown herself sinful. But if she should repent and abandon her evil, “perhaps” God will forgive (2:3).

The political situation at the time of Zephaniah: Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of Josiah, when Egypt, Judah, and Babylonia (with the help of the Medes) were regaining their autonomy and eroding the power of Assyria. Shortly after this time the Babylonians would replace the Assyrians as the dominant power in the Near East.

The Coming Judgment Against Judah (Zeph 1:2-6)

God first directs his attention against all living beings (2–3), then more specifically against his own people, Judah, represented by their capital, Jerusalem (4–6). God repeats these promises: "I will sweep away," "I will stretch out my hand," "I will destroy" (Zeph 1:2-4). Even after neighboring Israel was exiled to Assyria in 722 B.C., and after the reforms of Josiah, a righteous king, it seemed that God's judgment still could not be averted, because the officials (v. 8; 3:3–5) and the people (1:9–12) were persisting in evil.

The Day of the Lord is Near (Zeph 1:7-18)

The rest of the prophecy (Zeph. 1:7–3:20) concerns the day of the Lord,” which on the one hand holds judgment (1:7–3:8), and on the other, hope (3:9–20). The people are commanded to "be silent" (Zeph 1:7), a sign of respect or fear (Amos 6:10; 8:3). The "day of the Lord" is the coming day in which God will judge his enemies (cf. Joel 1:8–3:8) and bless his followers, God's believing remnant (Zeph. 3:9–20).

In Zeph 1:7-18, punishments are clearly spelled out against Jerusalem and its inhabitants (vv. 10–16) and against all humanity (vv. 17–18). On that day (Zeph 1:7,8,9,10), God will particularly judge the complacent (Zeph 1:12), for they think that because God has not yet judged their sin, they assume that he never will, not realizing that judgment can come any day (James 5:1-9; 2 Pet 3:3,4). Though they may not deny God's existence, they deny God's ongoing activity in either blessing or punishing. Nothing, not silver or gold (Zeph 1:18,11) or fortified cities (Zeph 1:16), and no one can save on that day.

Warning: "I will search...and punish those who are complacent" (Zeph 1:12).

About our God: As much as God is love, which He is, God is also the God of wrath and judgment, which are tragically horrifying beyond words to describe (Zeph 1:14-18). God is a gracious friend of sinners, but to the complacent he acts as if they were his enemy.

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