Currently I am serving as chair on a committee planning our state Baptist annual convention. One of our goals is not just to have a meeting or gathering but to remind people why we gather. So, our theme is “Gather 2 Scatter”. Gathering is important but so is scattering. One practical way we are emphasizing our efforts to “scatter” is through collection of food along with an offering for MD food pantries; actually 51% will go to international hunger projects and 49% will stay to serve MD hunger ministries.
Did you know? (http://www.worldhungerfund.com/Statistics.html)
World Hunger Statistics
– 1.02 billion people in the world do not have enough to eat. This means one sixth of humanity is undernourished. (FAO, 2009)
– Hunger and malnutrition are still the number one risks to health worldwide. (World Food Programme)
– Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes – that’s one child every 5 seconds. (Bread for the World)
– In 2008, nearly 3 million children died before they reached their fifth birthday due directly or indirectly to hunger and malnutrition. (Bread for the World)
– It is estimated that 684,000 child deaths worldwide could be prevented by increasing access to vitamin A and zinc. (World Food Programme, 2007)
Domestic Hunger Statistics
– 49 million Americans struggle with hunger, including 17 million children. That means 1 in 6 people do not get enough food to be healthy. (Feeding America)
– An estimated 35% of poor families in the U.S. are forced to choose between buying food and paying their rent or mortgage.
– Nearly half of all families headed by a single mother are food insecure.
– In our nation’s cities, 1 in every 4 people in a soup kitchen line is a child.
– The cost of a meal at a Southern Baptist hunger ministry averages 30 cents per meal. (NAMB Report – PDF, 2011)
As we turn to the pages of the Bible and read stories of hardship and upheaval, sometimes we are tempted to think biblical times are unlike today. But the truth is that famine is not foreign to 21st Century. In fact, we are becoming more like the 1st Century world than we care to admit.
Yet, I want us to travel back even farther to 3000 years ago to see the Bible’s relevance to today. In this book we will see a story of misfortune, misery and marvel. You will wonder how a family can lose so much yet find they could not have asked for anything greater. I believe you will worship God all the more because in the midst of national crisis, God has personal care for lonely and lowly widows; and that same care reaches out to you.
EXAMINE Ruth 1:1 Famine for the Family
The book of Ruth is a love story. It is romantic for the pursuit and passion in the involved relationships. It is also redemptive in seeing the movement from heartache to hope; only God can do that.
The setting opens during the days when the Judges ruled (1200-1000 BC). Turn back a couple pages in your Bible to Judges 21:25 “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
In other words, it was a time of national instability, social disintegration, extensive immorality, injustice and idolatry. The borders were overcome with war & bloodshed.
And the author states there was a famine – that seemed to last for 10 years.
Illus: Our grocery stores are stocked with rows of shelves with food. When they get low they are restocked. Just a couple years ago when MD experienced an El Dorecho those shelves were emptied and few if any neighbors had electric power. People are not prepared and panic during famine…
Through this study of “Redeeming Family” in Ruth we hope to help families grow in loving one another and in loving God. Life really is that simple – learning to love and care for the relationships you have and learning to love God that we thank Him for the good and trust Him in the not so good. The book of Ruth will help us do that through the following topics:
– How To Deal with Loss in Your Family (Ruth 1:1-5)
- Has close family and dear friends passed recently? Naomi loses her husband and two sons in less than ten years, left with no children or grandchildren to care for her.
- How should you feel and what should you do when you experience loss?
– Why Loyalty Matters for Your Family (Ruth 1:6-22)
- Have you been spurned or burned by family? One friend told me she felt like “damaged goods” because she had been married twice and left as a single mom. That phrase has stuck with me because no one should have to feel like that…
- God’s people can learn how His covenant love toward us can propel us to loyalty.
– The Power of Grace for Your Family (Ruth 2)
- Have you ever felt vulnerable and need a favor? God knows your needs and wants you to trust His provision.
– Risk, Romance and Redemption (Ruth 3)
- Families need all 3 of these!
– Overcoming Obstacles In Your Family (Ruth 4:1-12)
– God’s Faithfulness is Greater Than My Famine (Ruth 4:13-22)
Hopefully you can see the touch-points for how God may want to speak to you and your family.
This series will take us through October and that last weekend of October will be a mini-marriage retreat weekend. We will have special seminar sessions along with some fellowship opportunities as a church. Be praying and consider participating.
There are several applications for us to know today.
Famine is result of judgment.
- Judgment from poor decisions economically, socially, politically, ideologically. Also, famine is often a judgment from God for poor spiritual decisions (idolatry).
ð Those with eyes to see and ears to hear can see famine is coming…
Amos 8:11-12 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land – not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.”
Consider these actions and how God will bring judgment:
▪ Abortion: Vast amounts of people as well as science have essentially confirmed that life begins at conception and therefore abortion is murder. However, the womb is not seen as a child but a choice of convenience where 1 child is aborted every 26 seconds.
▪ Family: The traditional family is fractured & fragmented. By 2016 most children will be born out of wedlock. Divided and divorced families are the new norms.
▪ Co-habitation: It is common place for unmarried individuals to live together without commitment. This should not be as it mocks purity and holiness before God, it demeans the marriage covenant and devalues your future spouse. Even Beyonce’ says “you should have put a ring on it”.
▪ Marriage: There is a cultural rush to redefine marriage from one man & woman. Today it may be same gender but tomorrow it may be across the age spectrums (below age limits), numerical spectrum (more than one spouse), self-marriage and perhaps even alternate identities (beyond human).
▪ Indecency: The world is going farther away from the morals, values and commands of God. Today’s clothing leaves little to the imagination – even the clothing racks for elementary age girls is embarrassing. Billboards on highways are littered with females posed provocatively. Social media and various other media with tv, cable, movies, internet and cellphones are uncontrollably growing to be used for the multiplication of visual immorality.
▪ Our culture is corrupt and the family is in crisis. Apathy and antagonism abound in our culture when it comes to God’s design for family.
▪ The cultural crisis is merely a symptom of a deep spiritual crisis.
We do not know what God’s judgment looks like for these actions. We cannot predict or proclaim every catastrophic natural/weather event or terrorist attack is judgment from God. Yet, we do know that God uses every bad circumstance and evil act to bring about His good purposes.
Genesis 50:20 “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive”
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.”
So, when circumstances occur that appear like God’s judgment the best we can do is pray with eyes open and be awake to what God is doing in the world (cf. 1Thessalonians 5:5-8 “For you are all children of light… not of the night…So then let us not sleep as others do but keep awake and be sober…”).
Famine is a call to prepare:
- When famine occurs it does not come pre-announced or occur overnight. It typically is a steady stream of growth until the crisis.
- This is why you should carve out date nights and times to invest in your marriage & family.
- A man ofBethlehem (House of Bread) had to leave and travel to the pagan culture ofMoab in search for food. Like Elimilech, men you are called to protect and lead your family away from famine.
- You must establish boundaries
- In today’s sport culture, can you travel with your child across ball fields and still grow spiritually? It is possible but is it probable?
- Can you be a workaholic with 60+ hours and still maintain sanity & family life?
- Can you afford cable, internet, eating out at restaurants multiple nights a week, the latest entertainment of movies & games, etc. and still provide for the basic needs of your family?
- ——- These questions and more must be asked so you understand how to establish boundaries that will prepare you for famine.
- You must establish boundaries
- The journey of faith must be able to prepare for and endure famine
- Psalm 37:18-19 “The Lord knows the days of the blameless and their heritage will remain forever; they are not put to shame in evil times; in the days of famine they have abundance.”
- Romans 8:35 “What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine or nakedness, or danger or sword?”
Famine requires refuge
- LIFE IS NOT FAIR & WILL HAVE FAMINE.
- I say this not as a pessimist but as your pastor who wants you to have a realistic understanding of God and of your life.
- The greatest and only sure way to prepare for famine is to take refuge in the Lord as did Ruth
- Ruth 2:12 “The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”
- Psalm 57:1 “O God… my soul takes refuge in the shadow of your wings; I will take refuge till the storms of destruction pass by.”
- Psalm 61:3 “for you [God] have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.”
- Psalm 91:1 “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust”