This is a 5-day Bible Study Journey through the Book of Philippians. May your life be enriched as you "walk" with the Apostle Paul.
I love to spend time in God’s love letter, the Bible. And one of my favorite ways to do that is by using a lectio divina approach. Lectio divina means divine or spiritual reading in Latin. It is a quiet, prayerful practice where we invite the Holy Spirit to open the ears of our hearts in order to hear God's still small voice speaking to us through His Word. It is not a discipline meant to master the Word or to acquire new information or knowledge, it is, as Henri Nouwen calls it, reading the Bible on your knees...where we allow the Word to descend from our minds into our hearts and become a personal word to us.
But, quieting ourselves and listening for God's whisper isn't an easy thing for us to do in our hurry-up, commotion-filled world. Yet, it is so vital to our spiritual well-being. So...I would like to issue an invitation to you today to carve out some time over the next several days to walk with me through the book of Ruth...lectio divina-style.
The first thing you are going to need, if you accept my invitation, is a quiet little corner to meet with God. It may be out on your back porch or on a comfy couch in your living room, but, quiet is the operative word here. Try to make that space as interruption-free as possible. It should be a set-apart place where you enter, as it were, the Holy of Holies to meet with your Savior.
Have a journal and pen with you. Throughout this experience you may feel compelled to stop and write something that touches, convicts, or challenges your heart. Or you might want to dialogue with God, writing out a prayer or words that you sense He may be speaking to you.
Once you enter this space, take a minute or two to quiet your spirit. Ask the Savior to silence the voices that may whisper to you from time to time to draw your attention away; and ask the Spirit to open the ears of your heart so that you may be attentive to His voice alone.
Open your Bible to the book of Ruth. (Her story lies about halfway between Genesis and the Psalms.) Slowly read through the first chapter. I like to read it out loud just to get the gist of it.
I pray that the Savior spoke sweetly into your life as you sat quietly with Him in the first chapter of the book of Ruth.
Before we rush on into the rest of this amazing story, however, I believe that we would be greatly blessed if we slowed down here and spent a little more time getting behind the eyes of Naomi and Ruth.
All of us at one time or another in life have passed through trying, pain-filled trials that have left us reeling. Perhaps some of you can relate quite personally to the human tragedy these two women are passing through in this book. As we walk alongside them, listening to their hearts, we give God an opportunity to touch us as well.
Before we get started, be sure that you are settled in a nice comfy spot where your heart can be most attentive to the Savior's voice. Give yourself a few moments to sit quietly. Ask the Spirit to sweep in and through you to clear away any stray thoughts that might distract you from meeting with God today.
Open your bibles to Ruth Chapter One. Slowly read through it with Naomi in mind. As you read, imagine her life as it was both in Israel and Moab. Ask the Lord to help you get behind this woman's eyes, to imagine what life felt like... looked like... to her. Allow the Holy Spirit's creativity to flow...
Calamity and loss seem to be the continued headlines in our newspapers. From tornado-ravaged towns, to devastating drought and fires, to earthquake and hurricane-flooded cities...many in this world of ours know what it's like to feel stripped down to nothing like Naomi in chapter one of Ruth.
When life collapsed in on Naomi, she felt sure that God had turned against her. Standing in the ashes of her life, she could not foresee any sign of hope in her future. All she knew now was that she felt stripped... her life empty, barren, filled only with bitterness. But, Naomi wasn't the only one to have experienced loss in this story. Her daughter-in-law, Ruth, had also seen bitter days.
Let's take some time this week to walk back through chapter one once more. Open your Bibles and read the chapter with Ruth in mind, using the Holy Spirit's creativity to step into her shoes and hear, see, and feel what might have been going on inside of her.
For those of you puttering along with me through the book of Ruth... we are now moving on to Chapter Two.
As in times past, before you get started, be sure you are nestled into a quiet little niche, free from distractions. Take a moment or two to close your eyes and allow the silence to settle your spirit.
When your heart is ready, open your Bible to Ruth, grab your journal and pen, and ask the Savior to give you "ears to hear" His voice today.
Take some time to read through chapter two in it's entirety. Our story opens with Ruth and Naomi settling into their new lives in Jerusalem. As you eavesdrop on their conversations and their comings and goings, take note of a verse or verses that stand out to you. Jot them in journal...
Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.
If there is one thing that stands out to me as I read through Ruth chapter 2, it is Ruth's loyalty, care and kindness to her mother-in-law. Even folks living throughout Bethlehem were talking about it, according to verse 11. People couldn't help but stand up and take notice of this foreign woman. Ruth had willingly left her homeland and family behind, in order to be a loving helpmate to Naomi, when she had absolutely no obligation to do so.
Let's take some time now to dig a little deeper into this remarkable woman's life. But, before we do, make sure that you take a few minutes to quiet yourself before the Savior. Allow the cares and concerns in your life to drop away. Let the stillness of this moment prepare your heart to meet with God.
Ask the Holy Spirit to still any voices that might be clamoring for your attention and to give you ears to hear what is on His heart for you today.
Open your Bibles back up to Ruth 2. And as in times past, read the passage slowly - keeping Ruth in mind.
Figuring prominently into Ruth and Naomi's story here in chapter two is a man named Boaz. Much like his future great-grandson, David, to come, Boaz had a heart after God's. Let's take some time now to sit quietly with him and get to know him better...
But, before we do, be sure that you prepare your own heart for the encounter. Life can be chaotic, with our calendars and our heads filled to overflowing. It is imperative, then, that we take a few minutes to clear away all that would distract us from hearing God's voice. So, as in the past, settle into a quiet little niche where you can take a few minutes to calm your spirit. You may want to close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
Remember that the Savior is waiting to meet with you today. Thank Him for being with you and invite Him to speak into you whatever is on His heart.
Open your Bible to Ruth chapter two and read the passage slowly and reflectively with Boaz in mind. Try to picture the scene as it unfolds.
As you open your Bibles to Ruth 3 today, you will discover Naomi’s hope for her daughter-in-law Ruth's future blossoming into a beautifully unique love story. But, before we get up close and personal with each character individually, let’s step back for a spell and take some time to sit quietly with the overall chapter itself.
Find a quiet corner where you can sit silently for a few minutes. I know this may seem redundant or insignificant after a time or two, but, we so often carry a heavy sack around with us of daily concerns that we don’t even realize how much it can interfere with hearing the Spirit’s still small voice. So, imagine yourself laying it down now at the feet of Jesus…
As you prepare to read chapter three of Ruth, whisper a prayer, asking the Savior to silence any stray thoughts and to give you an open heart to hear His voice alone.
Read chapter three through… just to get the gist of it.
If you're anything like me, you may be getting a bit antsy at this point to flip to the last chapter of Ruth and wrap up your time in this book... we have, after all, spent a good many days with Naomi, Ruth and Boaz. Yet, in my heart, I know that good things come to those who wait. So, if you are willing to spend a few more days puttering along with me, I believe God will reward the time we spend with Him and whisper truths into us that we simply would not want to miss. And who would want to walk away now, when a good love story is developing?! :o)
As is our pattern then, be sure that you are comfortably situated in a quiet little nook where you can be distraction-free. Close your eyes and take a few minutes to sit silently before God.
Ask the Savior to guard your thoughts; that you may be able to shut out all those voices that can so easily side-track, in order to hear only His still, small voice of love whispering what is on His heart for you today.
Open your Bible to Ruth chapter three and read through it slowly. Imagine yourself there in the scene. What do you see, hear, sense? Pull out your journal and try to describe the scene.
After an exhausting evening of winnowing barley, Boaz sat down to enjoy a hard-earned meal after all of his labor. Little could he have imagined that hiding in the shadows, the young Moabite woman, Ruth, was praying for the courage to lay herself at his feet to seek his forever protection.
Before we step onto the threshing floor to take in this scene in Ruth chapter three, however, it is important that you situate yourself in a spot that is quiet and most conducive for the Spirit to speak into your heart through our reading.
Take a few minutes to sit in silence. Allow yourself to rest in the presence of God. Ask Him to put a hedge of protection around your time together.
Open your Bible and read chapter three. Imagine the scene as it unfolds. Pull out your journal and describe what you envision it to have looked like, smelled like, etc.
Today we are finally moving into Ruth Chapter Four. It's been quite a journey for those of us making our way through this beautiful book. But, these days we've spent will be sweetly rewarded as we watch this final chapter unfold.
Before we pull the curtain back and begin reading this final act in Ruth, settle into a quiet spot where your heart can be most receptive to God's whisper.
Spend a few minutes sitting still in God's presence.
Ask the Holy Spirit to take captive any stray thoughts that might interfere with this precious time with God, and ask that the eyes of your heart be open to see what it is that He may want to show you.
Open your Bible to Ruth Chapter Four and read it through once to get the gist of it.
I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. Yet, this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassion's never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:19, 21-23
It has been quite a journey we've been on since we first opened the book of Ruth. We have walked through deepest grief and experienced the sweetest joys as we've followed the lives of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz. But, before we close this final chapter today, I believe we would we be greatly remiss if we did not take the time here to go back and re-read the book of Ruth in its entirety...as if reading a beloved novel. Now that we are well-acquainted with its characters...and the ending...we can step back and read the account from the sweeping view of Mount Perspective.
So, let's settle in this one last time into that quiet spot we have reserved as our meeting place with God. Take a few minutes to still yourself before Him.
Ask the Holy Spirit to guard this precious time you spend together, by filtering out any other voices that might keep you from hearing the Savior's voice today.
When you are ready, open your Bible to Ruth chapter one and read through the entire book from beginning to end; culminating with Matthew 1:1-6.