VIDEO Seasoned Living: Bitter

But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.” Ruth 1:20

Some people avoid bitter flavors, but nutritionists tell us many bitter foods are excellent for our health. Bitter melon, for example, is a cucumber-shaped melon that tastes very bitter, but it’s packed with phytochemicals and antioxidants. Cranberries are tart and bitter, but they can reduce inflammation, blood sugar, blood pressure, stomach infection, and tooth decay. Apple cider vinegar is also an elixir for health.

We all have bitter moments in life, but God has a remarkable way of using them for our spiritual and emotional well-being. The opening scenes of the short Old Testament book of Ruth describe the grief and hardship that befell Naomi. She wanted to change her name to Mara, which means “bitter.” But throughout the book, God worked in providential ways for her and her daughter-in-law, Ruth. And by the end of the story, Naomi was one of the happiest grandmothers in the Bible. Her life was filled with the mature blessings of God.

Charles Spurgeon said, “God not only takes away the bitterness and gives sweetness in its place, but turn the bitterness into sweetness itself.”

As we pour out our bitterness, God pours in His peace. F. B. Meyer


Ruth 1-2 – Skip Heitzig

The Sweet Aroma of Christ

We are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 2 Corinthians 2:15

I knew a rancher who lived near Lometa, Texas. His two grandsons were my best friends. We would go into town with him and follow him around while he shopped and chatted with the folks he knew. He knew them all by name and he knew their stories. He’d stop here and there and ask about a sick child or a difficult marriage, and he’d offer a word of encouragement or two. He would share Scripture and pray if it seemed the right thing to do. I’ll never forget the man. He was something special. He didn’t force his faith on anyone, but he always seemed to leave it behind.

The elderly rancher had about him what Paul would call the sweet “aroma of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:15). God used him to “spread the aroma of the knowledge of [Christ]” (v. 14). He’s gone to be with God now, but his fragrance lingers on in Lometa.

C. S. Lewis wrote, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked with a mere mortal.” Put another way, every human contact has eternal consequences. Every day we have opportunities to make a difference in the lives of people around us through the quiet witness of a faithful and gentle life or through encouraging words to a weary soul. Never underestimate the effect a Christlike life can have on others.

By:  David H. Roper

Reflect & Pray

What do you think about the statement, “There are no neutral contacts”? What difference could it make in the way you view every contact and conversation throughout the day?

Fill me, Holy Spirit, with love, gentleness, and kindness toward others.

Read Compassion: Learning to Love Like Jesus.

The Godly Quality of Generosity

2 Corinthians 9:6-12

As a child, I lived with my mother in a single-room home. She made just enough money for food, clothing, and rent. Most Saturdays another boy came to the door and asked, “Do y’all have anything to eat?” I’d look in the icebox and see perhaps a piece of fruit, a few eggs, a little bacon, and not much else. But my mother always found some food for that boy.

Generosity is an attitude of sharing gladly whatever we might have, regardless of wealth. In today’s passage, we see liberality is an attribute of God (2 Cor. 9:8-10). And our Father wants His children to develop a generous spirit as well.

A charitable approach to our money and material goods begins by giving ourselves to God. When we accept that He owns everything, we can hold our small share with an open hand instead of calculating what little amount we might squeeze out for charity. Christians who give sacrificially trust the Lord to supply enough to cover both their gifts and their own needs.

Only through giving do we learn that God cannot be outgiven. So begin today to cultivate a generous spirit by trusting Him to provide the resources.

Our God Is Everywhere

“The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.” (Proverbs 15:3)

The God who created and made all things is not only omnipotent, He is omnipresent. “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him” (2 Chronicles 16:9).

David’s insightful Psalm 139 is certainly one of the most striking affirmations of God’s omnipresence. “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee” (Psalm 139:8-12).

God’s omnipresence, however, should not be understood in a pantheistic sense. Although He sees everyone and everything, that does not mean He is in everyone and everything. The creation did not create itself!

But since God is everywhere, He Himself cannot be seen anywhere. Jesus said concerning the Father, “Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape,” but He also said, “I am come in my Father’s name” (John 5:37, 43). “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9).

It is also a wonderful revelation that the Holy Spirit of God now indwells every Christian believer, so this is another way in which God is everywhere—that is, wherever there are true Christians, God is there. “Therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20). HMM

Cause For Praise-Psalm 113

The Lord is exalted above all the nations, His glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God—the One enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the garbage heap in order to seat them with nobles—with the nobles of His people. He gives the childless woman a household, [making her] the joyful mother of children. Hallelujah! (vv. 4-9).

In this descriptive praise psalm, two great themes will echo for eternity through the halls of heaven: God’s greatness (vv. 4-5) and his grace (vv. 6-9).

God is great. There is no lord like our Lord. He is unique, over all, above all. He sits enthroned on high (literally: “who makes high with respect to sitting”). In this context, study the magnificent lyric poetry of Isaiah 40:12-41:4. Our view of man tends to be overblown and our view of God to be disproportionately small. When our vision of God enlarges, our problems will shrink to size.

God is grace (unmerited favor). He manifests grace to us in three ways: First, from his exalted position in the heavens, he stoops to survey all of creation. The greatest act of divine stooping would come when God the Father “emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:6-7).

Second, God honors the poor and seats them with the nobility. Our position in the heavenly community will not depend on earthly status or recognition by our peers but on his grace.

Third, God settles the barren woman in her home “as a happy mother of children.” Sarah’s miraculous pregnancy was the joy of the ancient world (Gen. 18, 21). Hannah’s humiliation was transformed into jubilation (1 Sam. 2). These great ladies were the motifs preparing for the grand theme of Mary, the Jewish peasant girl, who bore the Messiah, This psalm links the song of Hannah (1 Sam. 2:1-10) with the Magnificat of Mary (Luke 1:46-55).

The psalm concludes with a final hallelujah—praise the Lord! God’s glory differs sharply from man’s glory. Who is like the Lord, our God? He is unique—equally at home above the heavens or at the side of the lowliest and loneliest creature.

Personal Prayer

I praise you, Lord, for stooping to lift me up, for seating me at your banquet table, and for settling me forever in your home in glory.

When God’s People Share

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us.—2 Corinthians 5:20

The aspects of experience and expression are extremely important in the Christian life: if experience gets low, then expression gets low; if expression gets low, then experience gets low.

We focus now on expression. If this side of the Christian life is not transformed from a bottled-up, non-contagious type of outflowing, then spiritual staleness is the inevitable result.

Two young men, both fairly new converts, had been listening to a sermon on evangelism. Afterwards, they approached their pastor and said: “We have never shared with anyone the experience we have had in Christ. How do we do it?” He suggested that they could go out, knock on a few doors, and just begin to share their experience of Christ. The next night, in fear and trembling, they knocked on the first door of the street that they had decided to evangelize and found it to be the home of a well-known lawyer. They were a little nonplussed when they discovered this and blurted out: “We have come to invite you to join our church.” The lawyer said: “A lot of people have asked me to join the church over the years. Haven’t you anything better than that to say to me?” They said: “Well, how about committing your life to Jesus Christ?”

The lawyer invited them in, and within an hour had surrendered to Christ. “Now, where are you going next,” he said, “because I want to go with you.” Before the end of the evening, the lawyer had the joy of witnessing another conversion like his own. Things happen when people share.

Prayer

O Father, help me to come to such a place in my Christian life that in every situation where You want someone to pass on a special word from You, You will hear me say, “Here am I, Lord—send me.” Amen.

Further Study

Ac 2; 5:20; 18:9; 22:15

What was the hallmark of the early church?

Witness to someone today.

The Love of a Broken Heart

Luke 19:41-44

If you have ever truly loved, you have known the pain of a broken heart. Just before leaving The Salvation Army’s Hospital in Zambia to come home to America, my heart was broken unexpectedly.

I was called to the hospital to certify the death of a newborn baby, whose perfectly formed body had been extracted from a pit latrine. The mother was a teenage student who had hidden her pregnancy with loose fitting clothing, knowing that if she had been found to be pregnant, she would have been expelled from the school.

She went into labor in the dead of night, gave birth unattended in the bush, and in an act of desperation, had thrown her child into a pit latrine. The helpless infant, so flawless and vulnerable, had lived its few hours pitifully crying, before succumbing. Many days passed before I could hear a newborn cry without imagining this little one’s pathetic cries alone and cold in the night. The image still haunts me.

My grief turned to anger against the one who had betrayed that most basic of trust relationships, a mother’s love. I wanted her to know something of the pain she had inflicted on her defenseless offspring, this precious little lamb. (I discovered later that her fellow students attempted to beat her and were restrained only with difficulty by the school staff.)

The young mother was brought to the hospital soon after her child died, and she became my patient as well. Her look of wretched hopelessness made me quickly realize that my anger, although appropriate, was misdirected. The power of Satan had driven her to this heinous deed, and the powers of darkness were the proper target of my anger.

Jesus knew the love of a broken heart: “As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it” (Luke 19:41). Does your heart break over the sinfulness of man? As world events unfold, with countless atrocities, what is your response? Do you grieve over a lost and dying world?

Just before the police came to take the young mother to jail, I prayed with her. I asked God to forgive her for what she had done, and in silence asked Him to forgive me for my response. I took comfort in knowing her precious little one was already safe in the arms of Jesus.

We need to be angry and outraged at sin. But from this moral indignation must spring an even greater love for the sinner and the appropriate response of compassion for the wounded ones. God help us to stay tender enough to know the love of a broken heart.

David E. Winters, M.D., The War Cry