By Jessica Wang
14 Oct. 2012 Sunday
|Sermon: Who Am I||video||audio||ppt
|Worship song: How Great Thou Art||video||audio||lyric|
|Worship song: Jesus Paid It All||video||audio||lyric|
|Worship song: Sun Above the Clouds||video||audio||lyric|
|Worship song: Worthy Is Our God||video||audio||lyric|
Worship song: How Great Thou Art
|Verse 1||O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works Thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
|Chorus||Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee;
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee;
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
|Verse 2 C||当我想到，神竟愿差他儿子
dang wo xiang dao, shen jing yuan chai ta er zi
jiang shi she ming, wo ji hu bu ling hui.
zhu zai shi jia, gan yuan bei wo de zhong dan,
liu xue she shen wei yao she mian wo zui.
|Chorus C||我灵歌唱，赞美救主我神， 你真伟大，何等伟大！
wo ling ge chang, zan mei jiu zhu wo shen, ni zhen wei da, he deng wei da!
wo ling ge chang, zan mei jiu zhu wo shen, ni zhen wei da, he deng wei da!
|Verse 3||When Christ shall come with shouts of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!
Worship song: Worthy is Our God
|Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.
|Verse 1||Poor and wicked, Rich and righteous
All you nations rise and sing
Weak and needy, Sick and thirsty
Sing to Jesus - King of Kings
|Chorus||All the oceans roar
All the mountains tremble
Lord, all of creation sings Your praise
Worthy is our God
Respected, feared, exalted
We will lift our hearts
to worship You - King of Kings
|Verse 2 CN||生命之水灌溉万物
sheng ming zhi shui guan gai wan wu
sheng ming zhi liang wo ke wang ni
zhu di da neng shi wo men fu fen
jiang hui yi zhi dao yong jiu
|Chorus CN||群海在喧啸 群山在震颤
qun hai zai xuan xiao qun shan zai zhen chan
shi shang wan wu dou lai song yang ni
zhu ying shou zun chong wan wu jing wei ni
gao ju huo re di xin ling jing bai ni
|Verse 2||Living Water, come and fill us
Bread of Life, we long for You
God Almighty is our portion
And He will forever be
|Witness(Original Songs & music by Jordan Wendt & Lily Wendt)||The story behind this song is simple. I was in a small group, and the brother leading the group asked if I would be interested in leading the singing. It had been a long time since I had led music, and I was not feeling very confident. I was walking home one day and I prayed a simple prayer "Lord, give me a song for this group". To my amazement, when I got home and picked up my guitar the chords and melody just came to me. I started writing the words that day too. Over the next week or so, I would write some more words in English and my wife, Lily, would help make some small changes. When all the words were written in English, Lily helped translate them to Chinese. Many of the lyrics are borrowed from scripture, especially Psalms and the Gospel of John. It has been a joy to share this song with others, and tell of God's power in helping me write it. God's Spirit can help us to do many creative things for His glory. I was amazed when I heard the story of the Chinese woman Xiao Min in rural Henan province who has written over 1,000 hymns (迦南诗歌). I encourage everyone to ask God in faith, that He would use them to do new and exciting things to glorify His name. He deserves all the glory, honor, and praise. --- By Jordan Wendt|
Scripture Reading: Ruth 1:6-22
6 When she heard in Moab that the LORD had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, Naomi and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. 7 With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.
8 Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the LORD show kindness to you, as you have shown to your dead and to me. 9 May the LORD grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”
Then she kissed them and they wept aloud 10 and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”
11 But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? 12 Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me— even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— 13 would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD’s hand has gone out against me!”
14 At this they wept again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-by, but Ruth clung to her.
15 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”
16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
19 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”
20 “Don’t call me Naomi, b” she told them. “Call me Mara, c because the Almighty d has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted e me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
22 So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.
Dear Lord, thank you so much for revealing yourself to us, and for reminding us how great you are. God, you are almighty. Even in darkness, still, you are there with us. Lord, today, we ask you, please speak to us, through the Scripture, through the account of Ruth, Naomi and Orpah. Lord, let’s be reminded that you are always with us, are always powerful, and you always love us. Lord, I want to lift up all the brothers and sisters here into your hands. Please touch our hearts and speak to us. Lord, I also want to lift up myself into your hands. Please be with me. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Dear brothers and sisters, last Sunday, we started a new sermon series on the book of Ruth. If you were here last Sunday, you would get to know the background of this book. In the first verse of this book, we know that the events of this book occurred during the time of Judges. This was a dark time of the Israeli history. The last verse of the book of Judges says,
“25 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” (Judges 21:25)
This is the description of the history of judges during that time – people would do whatever they saw right in their own eyes because there was no king, because they did not respect God in their hearts.
There was a famine in the land of Israel. This was likely a result of God’s discipline for Israel’s spiritual disobedience. A certain family moved from Bethlehem to Moab. Their names, the husband, Elimelek, wife Naomi, two sons, Mahlon and Kilion. The story shows us that the husband and the sons all died, with only three women left – Naomi, the mother, Ruth and Orpah, who married Naomi’s sons. From their lives, we can also learn some lessons for ourselves. So what happened?
I am going to share with you from these three women, their situations, their attitudes and their thoughts. And from these three women, we can learn what God speaks to us, and think about who I am. And this is why I chose this topic “Who Am I?” That’s why I chose this topic.
First, Naomi. When we read the Scripture, we get to know that Naomi’s situation is that Naomi’s husband died, and she was left with two sons, and the two sons married two Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. But ten years later, both of her two sons died as well, leaving Naomi and her daughters-in-law all widows. Naomi has no sons or husband, that is a great tragedy. In Chinese sayings, we have four great tragedies in people’s life: when people are young, they lose their father or mother; when people are in their middle age, they lose their spouse; when people are old, they lose their children (sons); and when things get worse. These in Chinese are “少年丧父或母；中年丧夫或妻；老年丧子；雪上加霜”。
From the account, we know that Naomi encountered two of these four tragedies: she lost her husband, which meant that she could not rely on him or anyone else. At that time, men handled most of the harvest work for farming. If a woman lost her husband, she had no hope of providing for herself. And also a woman who lost her husband was looked down by others. That is why Naomi as a foreigner was lonely and helpless. She had no comforter.
We can imagine how difficult it was for Naomi to raise up her sons, and both of her sons got married; but ten years later, both of her sons died. Naomi lost her sons when she was old. She had lost all her hope. This was Naomi’s situation: she was suffering; she was in darkness; she was in pain; and she was helpless and hopeless.
Dear brothers and sisters; the opening of this story is very painful. God has brought famine upon the land of Israel; He had allowed the women to lose their husbands. Where do we think the Almighty our God is when bad things happen?
Every Christian knows that in the Bible, especially in the Psalms, God is described as good, loving, righteous, merciful, all powerful, all present, all knowing, compassionate and holy. This is what we understand in our mind. But, sometimes, when we are going through pain, tragedy, sadness and disappointment, such as losing our loved ones, losing our financial security due to bankruptcy of business, or living with a family with the death of a child. These times are not easy for us to feel the presence of God, and these times are not easy for us to proclaim that “God, how great you are!” It is not like when we jus sang the song “How Great Thou Art”, and we felt God’s presence, and we all felt very happy and strong because God was with us and we could feel His presence. But, when we are going through pain and darkness, we can quickly question or blame Him, rather than thanking Him for carrying us through it all.
Many people think that, “If there was a God, then obviously, He did not care. If God was really good, loving, righteous and all powerful, how could He allow these things to happen?” Many people think in this way sometimes, even including myself.
Jessica’s Personal Testimony
I still remember how painful I was when my father died in his 40’s. I grew up in a Christian family, I had been going church, and I decided to devote myself to Him. My father was very strong, and he was very tall, and he was a godly man. He was never sick, but he died when he was 41 years old. At that time, I was eighteen, my younger brother is eleven years old. At that time, I could understand that God was always loving us, God was powerful. But I could not accept or persuade myself to believe in it. So I questioned God – I do not think He loves my family and myself; if He loved me, He would not have allowed this thing to happen. I do not think He is a powerful God; if He was, He could not allow this thing to happen. He could have healed my father, He could have saved him. If my father had lived, he would have been 57 years old now.
So that was the darkest time in my life. So I stopped talking to God; I stopped reading the Bible; I stopped going to church; I kept silent because God kept silent to me.
But now, even though I still could not understand why, I could let all the brothers and sisters know that if I could stand here, if I wanted to become a pastor to share the gospel, that means God restored my soul, God is powerful, God has his own will, God’s will in higher than ours, God’s plan is higher than ours, God is the almighty God, God is all powerful and all present, and God knows everything. Two years later, God healed me. I restarted my devout journey; and in 2002, I decided to go to a seminary.
Dear brothers and sisters, I could feel how painful you are when you go through darkness. I know your feelings and your questions, but still, I want to encourage you, our attitude should be to accept what happens in our lives, our attitude should be to return to Him, not to run away from Him, because He is all good even though sometimes we do not understand. If we have this kind of feelings (doubts), or question regarding God’s characteristics, it is because circumstances have taken the rightful place of God in our minds. Actually, circumstances are not in control of our lives, but God is. Sometimes, circumstances are painful for the moment. Even now, when I think of my father, I still could not control myself but crying. Still, I want to praise God, our Almighty God.
This is trust in Him. And we trust in Him not because of our circumstances. We trust in Him because God is God, and circumstances could not control our lives. But God who is the One who controls our lives. In Romans 8:28, we read:
“28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose.”
Let’s go back to the Scripture, what kind of situation Naomi saw, and what kind of attitude she displayed? Her attitude is to return by faith. From the first part of this book, we see that Naomi went with her husband and two sons to Moab from Bethlehem. And after more than ten years, she was left without husband or sons, she decided to return. To my surprise, Naomi did not blame or question God. Instead, she had faith in Him and returned to Him. There are at least two reasons for this.
First, Naomi realized that God kept working in His people; He had provided food for them after the famine. God was faithful. Scripture Ruth 1: 6 was like this, when she heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there.
Second, she accepted what almighty God had done in her life, even though it was bitter. She knew that God was in control. She couldn’t understand, but still she returned to God to find rest in Him. So dear brothers and sisters, I want to encourage you, God is almighty God, God is all powerful, God is all present. It does not mean you will never encounter any trial. And it does not mean everything will go well in your life. But even we will encounter suffering and trial, we must still trust in him. Even when it’s difficult, if we return to him, we want to find rest, we will get it.
So dear brothers and sisters, I want to encourage myself and all of you here, when we are sitting here, when we are singing the songs, we trust in him. But also, when we are facing difficulties and trials and darkness, I also want to encourage you to trust him, focusing our eyes on him. And also I want to encourage you that faith does bring the action. If we say “we trust in God”, if we say “we have faith in him”, our faith must bring action.
Naomi’s action was to set her daughters-in-law free and return home. Now she couldn’t rely on her husband or her sons any more, but also she was not prepared to rely on her daughters-in-law, she relied only on God.
Dear brothers and sisters, it is painful when we are facing the trials and tragedies, but I want to encourage all of us that we always have hope because of God. In the end, God has given Naomi love. So the result of trusting in God is the result of the Naomi.
Sometimes, we will find that it’s helpless when we trust in God, it’s foolish even when we are in darkness we still trust in God, but actually it’s wrong. When Naomi trusted in God, returned to him and found rest in him, God gave her love.
Ruth 4:13-15 is like that, “So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her, and the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son.” The women said to Naomi: “Praised be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel!” He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth. Actually God even helped them and their family when they even didn’t realize it, when they even didn’t know it.
Ruth 4:17 said that the women living there said, ‘Naomi has a son.’ And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. It turns out that Naomi became the great grandma of King David. Because she returned, because she relied on God, because she never give up and trust in him, in the end, God restored her life her soul and God rewarded her.
So let us come back to think about Ruth and Orpah. Ruth and Orpah had a choice, their situation is to go with Naomi or stay in their home country. Because Naomi knew that it would be a long trip with no guarantee. Therefore, she tried her best she could to get her widowed daughters-in-law to stay behind Moab.
She said that, go back to their families, or get remarried, or go back to their gods. In short, Naomi wanted Ruth and Orpah to remain where they could be comfortable, where they were familiar, where they were most likely to find acceptance and protection. Ruth decided to stay with Naomi, but Orpah decided to go back to her family and her god. So this is the situation and choice of Ruth and Orpah.
When facing the choice, Ruth’s attitude is to go by faith. In the Bible, Ruth 4:16 said that but Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.’
So dear brothers and sisters, why did Ruth display so strong devotion to her mother-in-law? The Bible did not tell us. But perhaps it was because she saw something different in her mother-in-law. With faith, her mother-in-law wanted to return to God, trust in God in spite of her facing trial. So dear brothers and sisters, it also is a good example for us. How can we display our attitude to others, to other non-believers, to our friends, are we different because we are Christian?
And also, Ruth faith brought her into action: First, she chose to go with Naomi even though she was free to stay behind. Because Naomi asked her “do not go with me, stay, go back to your country, go back to get remarried and go back to your God”. That means Ruth had freedom to stay in her own country, or she could go with Naomi. But Ruth chose to go with Naomi even though she was free to stay.
So dear brothers and sisters, sometimes we will pray that God, please just show me one way then I will know this is your will. In my life, I found that, sometimes God gives me two ways. And he gives me wisdom, and also he wants me choose his will with desire even I have freedom.
Second, she chose to go with Naomi even though Orpah didn’t. We know that, at the beginning, Orpah and Ruth both stayed with their mother-in –law, but on the way to Bethlehem, Orpha decided to go back, but Ruth also chose to stay with Naomi even no one followed her. It turns out in our daily life that, sometimes you will feel that being a Christian is lonely, because no one followed. But still, the faith will bring us into our action even when we are alone, even when no one follows us. Because we are Christian, we trust in God, we follow him.
Third, she chose to go with Naomi even though it meant taking risks. She became a risk-taker. Her risks may be like that she might not be accepted by the Israelites. Because Ruth is a Moabite, the Moab was often realized as an enemy. She might never get married again. That was not an easy way for her to get another husband among the Israelites. She would like to take responsibility as breadwinner. This is always difficult for women in those days.
But the result was Ruth had faith in God. Following Naomi, Ruth had a rich reward for her faith. She received God’s provision of her food. When we read the Bible, we will find that Ruth 1:22 that “So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.” Ruth was able to find a job to earn their daily food. God provides our needs, it doesn’t mean we don’t need to work. God provides everything we need, that it does not mean we don’t need to try our best.
Second, she had a romantic love story. When she took a risk, it was not an easy way for Ruth to find a husband in Israel, but the result was that she had a romantic love story in Israel. The first thing they feared was food, but at the beginning, when they came back and God provided food for them. So dear brothers and sisters, I will encourage you to read the book of Ruth when you have time, and you will find that that’s such a good thing that Ruth met Boaz, and Boaz is a truly rich, single godly man, in Chinese we may say钻石王老五。The import thing is this 钻石王老五become her husband.
Ruth 4:13 says, “So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife, Ruth is in the family tree of Jesus. Then he went to her, and the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son (named Obed)”. Obed was the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David. It turns out that her mother-in-law was the grandma of King David. And she was in Jesus family tree. God fulfill his will through this ordinary lady.
So dear brothers and sisters, we are not only rewarded by God by providing whatever we need, but also rewarded by God’s desire to us eternal life. So that’s why at the beginning, I said that, even I was in the suffering and painful, but in the end, God let me realize that he has a much higher plan for me, for my family.
But Orpah’s attitude is to stay behind for an easy comfortable way. Orpha has the same freedom as Ruth to stay or go. But in the end, she decided to go home. I think she loved her mother-in-law, because she was crying and kissing her mother-in-law. But in the end, her choice is to choose to stay and find an easy and comfortable way. Her choice was the way which was comfortable, her choice was the way which she was familiar, the way where she was most likely to find acceptance and protection.
I do not want to blame her, because sometimes I will be like Orpha. Every person today has to choose between our own will and God’s will. Every person today especially for the young adults who live in Beijing. We have such a burden, we have a busy schedule, we have to study hard, and work hard. We are facing choices every day. So sometimes we will do easily like Orpha did. We want to choose an easy way, comfortable way to solve our problem. But I would like myself and also all of us to know the result is that Orpha got nothing, Ruth chose the harder way, the way of faith, and what she got not only a good name forever, we remember Ruth better than Orpha, but also Salvation among God’s people and also good family. What Orpha did resulted in nothing. So let us summarize what we share today. Here is a table:
So dear brothers and sisters, we have talked a lot about Naomi, Ruth and Orpha. My purpose is not just discussing Bible, but to apply into our daily life. Let us ask ourselves a question: Who am I? Am I like Naomi? Am I in a trial, suffering, disappointed? Have I lost a loved one? Have I lost financial security? Is my business bankrupt? Is there a rift in my family? In that case, what is my attitude to God? Do I blame Him? Do I run away from Him? Or do I still have faith in Him, trust in Him and faithfully follow Him? Am I like Ruth and Orpha? Do I have freedom to choose either God’s will or my desire? Are there important choices in front of me? What is that? In that case, will I act like Orpha to choose the easy comfortable way? Will I choose my way rather than God’s? Or will I act like Ruth to choose God’s way? Will I choose God’s way, even if it seems more difficult? Will I choose God’s way even if it means taking risks? So dear brothers and sisters, I know it is not easy to live on this earth even after we become Christian. You may be in a trial, you may be on the crossroad and need to make decision. Let us take a little time with God quietly, pray to God, open our heart to him, and ask for grace to take his way, decide to take the action of faith.
Let us pray quietly now: Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you so much for when I run away from you, you never give up, you draw me back though your faith. God, thank you so much for wiping my tears when I was in darkness. Thank you so much for revealing yourself to me, you are our powerful God. You love me so deeply. How about now restoring people who are in darkness? How about wiping people’s tears for those who are crying? How about strengthening the one who is waiting upon you? Lord, thank you so much for you give me freedom, so I can choose either God’s way or my way. You never force me to love you, but you love me first and you accept me first. So dear Lord, please help us in our daily life, we are still facing choices. Help us be strong in you, strengthen us so that when we have choices, we can still choose God’s will and your desire. Lord, we know you are God of Naomi, Orpha, Ruth, you are God of us. When Orpha did not choose your way, she will get nothing. Please warn us through this. Let us know that you are righteous, you are holy God. Bring us to respect you and fear you and pray to you. I am sure how you get Naomi through her suffering, how you strength Ruth to make the right decision, you will get us through our suffering, you will strength us to make right decision.
I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!