Dancing In The Dungeon

9781462734993_COVER.inddOne reason for a blog is to disseminate information. Thus, I have published a book titled: “Dancing In The Dungeon: Suffering With Hopeful Joy For God’s Glory.” It can be found on Amazon and Barnes & Noble as of this date. The Kindle edition should be available soon (God willing).

I wrote DITD first for my children to have a resource one day when life kicks them in the teeth… then for all my brothers and sisters in Christ to experience the God of comfort by considering how God comforted me in my trials (2 Cor 1:3-4). DITD is filled with practical ways God comforted me. It is written as one who’s walked a somewhat difficult path and found God faithful. DITD isn’t a philosophical treatise nor a bunch of ivory tower Bible studies about suffering. Three men who endorsed DITD say it better than I can…

Dr. Rick Lance (Executive Director of Alabama Baptists)

The problem of suffering has always haunted Christians. If you are a follower of Christ, why do you suffer? The answer to that age old question is not easy, but it may be obvious. Because we are followers of Christ, we experience suffering.

Ron Ethridge has transformed his story of dealing with suffering into a book which is a helpful guide for all of us. Dancing In The Dungeon is a personal story. Ron is very transparent in telling about those moments when he suffered most in life. He does so knowing that our God can use suffering for His glory. That is the theme of this book.

Dancing In The Dungeon is not only personal in nature, but Biblical in content and practical in application. As a fellow-sufferer, you find comfort and hope in the pages of this book. You will be encouraged to worship, pray and serve our Lord, even in the midst of suffering.

I am grateful that Ron Ethridge has shared his story and the redemptive lessons which can be learned from it. Experiences of suffering can be and should be a laboratory of learning for Christ followers.

Dr. Timothy George (Founding Dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University)

Ron Ethridge is an ordained Baptist minister whose past service in the church follows a well-trodden trajectory. Brought up in the church, followed by undergraduate studies in a denominational setting, and then seminary at a fine theological school, Ron was ready to pursue a life of pastoral ministry in fulfillment of what he was sure was God’s calling on his life. Then, midstream, Ron found himself on the outside of the church looking in when he was asked to leave two of the churches he had been called to serve. Rather than precipitate a knock-down floor fight at the church business meeting, Ron decided to walk away.

Ron admits that he himself made mistakes along the way and that, in hindsight, he would do some things quite differently. This book is not about victimhood or retaliation. Rather, it is the anguished cry of a wounded shepherd, one who has come to understand that healing only happens in the broken places. Through Redemption Ministry, Ron Ethridge is now reaching out to all who are hurting with an emphasis on fellow ministers who find themselves the situation of conflict, and possibly termination, on that part of God’s flock they have been called to serve. Ron wants to come alongside his fellow struggling pastors and hurting Christians to offer encouragement and counsel.

Dr. Ray Pritchard (Keep Believing Ministries; Author of: An Anchor for the Soul, The Healing Power of Forgiveness)

We all go through hard times. As Ron Ethridge wisely reminds us, no one gets a free ride through life. That certainly includes pastors who serve in vocational ministry. If that’s the bad news, then the good news is that God uses those hard times for our good and his glory. Dancing in the Dungeon takes us to the ragged edge of life to show us that when we feel most forgotten, God is doing his best work in us. Of all the good things about this book, the best is that Ron brings us back again and again to the Bible so that we will discover what God has said about the hard times of life. Read it so that you will be equipped when your time comes to dance in the dungeon.

Here are a few chapter titles:

What God Can Do. Reflection: One Night From Hell

A Theology Of Encouragement. Reflection: Satan’s Achilles Heel…Forgiveness

Why Me, Why This, Why Now? Reflection: The Problem Of God And Evil

When God Is Silent. Reflection: Before All Hell Breaks Loose

Comfort When Betrayed. Reflection: Enemies As Emissaries of God’s Grace

Comfort In Personal Failure. Reflection: Mind Over Heart

When Sheep Attack Shepherds.

How To Fire A Minister.



Audio Messages 1



Luter me 4Below you will find some of my messages I pray will be of encouragement for you.  The title and text is followed by a link for you to click that will begin the audio.

NEW! Interview about Redemption Ministry on September 10, 2013. Redemption Ministry is an endeavor I have to encourage, help, and support hurting and wounded ministers. I also desire to help congregations that may need encouragement.

Now For Later, Colossians 3:1-4 (July 14, 2013)

Ruth… Coincidence or Providence? (June 2, 2013)

Of Waves And Caves (Hebrews 11. May 19, 2013)

Resting In Christ (Matthew 11:28-30)

If The Lord Wills (James 4:13-16)

Decisions That Honor God (Selected)

Calvinism And Southern Baptist (Selected/Various)

The Resurrection In 2012 (Resurrection Sunday {Easter})

Answering Critics Lovingly (2 Corinthians 1:12-22)

Don’t Lose Heart {Part 1} (2 Corinthians 4:1-6)

Don’t Lose Heart {Part 2} (2 Corinthians 4:1-6)

If You’re Not, You Won’t {Holiness} (2 Corinthians 7:1)

Feeling Sorry Isn’t Repentance (2 Corinthians 7:9-12)

Doing What Nobody Likes (2 Corinthians 10:1-6)

One Thing Matters (2 Corinthians 10:7-18)

Satan In The Church (2 Corinthians 11:7-15)

Suffering And Honor (2 Corinthians 11:16-33)

When God Uses Satan (2 Corinthians 12:1-10)

Proof Of God’s Love: Discipline (2 Corinthians 13:1-4)

The Most Important Test Of Your Life (2 Corinthians 13:5-10)

Ready, Aim, Rejoice! (2 Corinthians 13:11-14)

Audio Messages 2



Here are a few more messages to listen to if you so desire…

Daniel’s Provision In Christmas

God, Tornadoes, and Faith (After devistating tornadoes in Alabama 2011)

No Condemnation: Romans 8:1 Part 1 of 2

No Condemnation: Romans 8:1 Part 2 of 2

God Has A Purpose: Romans 8:28 Part 1 of 3

God Has A Purpose: Romans 8:28 Part 2 of 3

God Has A Purpose: Romans 8:28 Part 3 of 3

God Predestines Your Holiness: Romans 8:29

Faith For The Future: Sparrow Theology

Faith For The Future 2: Kingdom Growth

Faith For The Future 3: What Faith Looks Like

Faith For The Future 4: God’s Plans

Faith For The Future 5: Dry Bones

Defeating Despair


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Hebrews 4:15-16

I’m going to date myself… do you remember Hee Haw? One of their skits was a group of men who complained about how hard their life was & sang a little ditty. “Gloom, despair, & agony on me! (WOAH!) Deep dark depression excessive misery! (WOAH!) If it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all! (WOAH!) Gloom despair & agony on me….”

We snicker, but when life crushes in on us… especially for long periods of time… that IS how we feel isn’t it? I’ve been there & you probably have also. One of the things I love about our God is that He doesn’t hide the faith heroe’s struggles. I suggest even Jesus struggled with despair! Heb 4:15-16…

We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy & find grace to help in time of need.

I wanted to take you to the verse we’ll end with so you’ll know through the message we’re moving from despair to hope! But let’s go back & observe some examples of despair in Scripture, then what God has given us to defeat it. You turn to Psalm while I read two other passages (Chapter in a moment)

Jonah 3:10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, & he did not do it. 4 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, & he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the Lord & said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God & merciful, slow to anger & abounding in steadfast love, & relenting from disaster. 3 Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?”

Job 3:1 After this Job… cursed the day of his birth. 2 And Job said: 3 “Let the day perish on which I was born, & the night that said, ‘A man is conceived.’ 4 Let that day be darkness! May God above not seek it, nor light shine upon it. 17:13 If I hope for Sheol as my house, if I make my bed in darkness, 14 if I say to the pit, ‘You are my father,’ & to the worm, ‘My mother,’ or ‘My sister,’ 15 where then is my hope? Who will see my hope?

Ps 77:7 Will the Lord spurn forever, & never again be favorable? 8 Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? 9 Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?

1 Ki 19:2 Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me & more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” 3 Then he was afraid, & he arose & ran for his life … 4 (Going) a day’s journey into the wilderness & came & sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 5 And he lay down & slept under a broom tree.

Jonah was in the throes of despair when God forgave sin! Point: Sometimes in blessings… that aren’t what we want… we can fall into despair. Job was in despair after losing all but his life. Point: It can come upon us as a result of unforeseen tragedy. The Psalmist questioned if God had forgotten him. Point: Despair can cause us to question God Himself (These are NOT accusations, but questions). Elijah fell victim to despair because of opposition as a result of honoring God. Point: Just because you love Jesus doing His work doesn’t mean you are spared.

No one, including ministers, are exempt from the feelings of despair & despondency to the point of wanting to die. In fact, some believers think it a sign of weakness or spiritual immaturity if they feel like giving up. Those thoughts & emotions are normal for all of us as the Scriptures we’ve read show. But our goal today is not to spend time focusing on the despair of life, but the hope we’re given in Christ!

Paul wrote to Timothy the following (1 Tim 4:13), “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” When Scripture is read publicly… in worship… The Spirit enlivens it… making it sharper than any two edged sword (Heb 4:12). Then we read in Ro 15:4,

“Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that thru endurance & through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

I am going to read a passage, then give you the reference… so if God speaks to you, the last thing you’ll hear is Chapter & Verse to write it down.

Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. 8 “As for me, I would seek God, & to God would I commit my cause, 9 who does great things & unsearchable, marvelous things without number: 10 He gives rain on the earth & sends waters on the fields; 11 He sets on high those who are lowly, & those who mourn are lifted to safety. 12 He frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success. 13 He catches the wise in their own craftiness, & the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end. 14 They meet with darkness in the daytime & grope at noonday as in the night. 15 But He saves the needy from the sword of their mouth & from the hand of the mighty. Job 5:7-15

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail & the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold & there be no herd in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;  I will take joy in the God of my salvation. 19 God, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer’s; He makes me tread on my high places. Hab 3:17-19

A bruised reed He will not break, & a faintly burning wick He will not quench; He will faithfully bring forth justice. Is 42:3

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. 10 And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:9-10

For He will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; He will conceal me under the cover of His tent; He will lift me high upon a rock. 6 And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, & I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing & make melody to the Lord. Psalm 27:5-6

I sought the Lord, & He answered me & delivered me from all my fears. 5 Those who look to Him are radiant, & their faces shall never be ashamed. 6 This poor man cried, & the Lord heard him & saved him out of all his troubles. 7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, & delivers them. Psalm34:4-7

The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in His way; 24 though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand. Psalm 37:23-24

God is our refuge & strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar & foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Psalm 46:1-3

Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, & you shall glorify Me. Psalm 50:15

Cast your burden on the Lord, & He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved. Psalm 55:22

You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? 9 Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me. 10 In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, 11 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? Psalm 56:8-11

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation. 2 He only is my rock & my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. Psalm 62:1-2

You who have made me see many troubles & calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. 21 You will increase my greatness & comfort me again. Psalm 71:20-21

My flesh & my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart & my portion forever. Psalm 73:26

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him. 14 For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:13-14

The Lord upholds all who are falling & raises up all who are bowed down.  Psalm 145:14

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

When you pass thru the waters, I will be with you; & thru the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk thru fire you shall not be burned, & the flame shall not consume you. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Isaiah 43:2-3

As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you… Is 66:13 (“Father” in Ps 103:13-14)

Let us return to the Lord; for He has torn us, that He may heal us; He has struck us down, & He will bind us up. Hosea 6:1

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; He knows those who take refuge in Him. Nahum 1:7

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will (touch) the ground apart from your Father. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Mt 10:29-31

Come to me, all who labor & are heavy laden, & I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, & learn from me, for I am gentle & lowly in heart, & you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, & my burden is light.” Mt 11:28-30…

I conclude with my favorite…

Blessed be the God & Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies & God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort & salvation; & if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. 2 Cor 1:3-7

IN CONCLUSION… When you fear, are afraid, stressed, in trial & uncertainty… I implore you, no… I BEG YOU… go to God through His Word. Meditate long on the Scriptures. Ruminate on them deeply. Press them into your mind, heart, and soul. Pray them to Him. He will sustain you by The Spirit and His resurrection power!

Living Now For Heaven


Colossians 3:1-4

It is a joy to be with you & I am deeply appreciative to Ryan for allowing me this honor.

One word describes The Trinity, Christianity, Christians, & Church: LOVE. Love that is absolute… unconditional… tenacious… undefeatable… & constant. Take love out of Christianity & all you have is a religion of myth & morality. Keep love & you have ETERNAL GOD GLORIFYING TRUTH.

God’s love has been proven & you can see it right now (Point to the cross). THAT is proof of God’s love for YOU. Because God loved you, He took the person He loved most… His only Son… punished Him for YOUR sin. ** PAUSE ** Let’s try to get our arms around that…

The greatest offense to God is rejecting His Son’s love. Thus He will pour out ever increasing wrath on those who reject Jesus’ love. God’s anger is so great eternal punishment will NOT satisfy Him. Think! Eternity doesn’t satisfy God’s wrath for rejecting Christ’s dying love!

Sin cannot “just be forgiven” but MUST be punished. On the cross God poured out on Jesus His ETERNAL WRATH toward you. ETERNAL WRATH! Rejecting Jesus’ dying love is so serious that God’s ever increasing, holy, righteous indignation CANNOT be satisfied!

But God’s love satisfies His wrath![i] In some way beyond our comprehension, God’s eternal wrath was inflicted on Jesus to The Father’s satisfaction. What we should’ve suffered in eternity, God focused into three hours SO THAT all who believe are forgiven! Eternal wrath satisfied in three hours!

Now, take the eternal wrath of God you deserve… & add to it my sin. Not just ours, but this room. Not just this room… but every believer alive… & every person who ever has & ever will believe!

THAT is what Jesus endured on the cross in just three hoursbecause He loved The Father. Because His death was the Father’s will as an expression of His LOVE for all who would believe. Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that lay down his life for his friends.” (ALL His friends… at one time!)

Jesus proved His love for God & you by willingly going to & staying on the cross until GOD’S wrath was satisfied… until YOUR sin was paid for. If that’s not love … nothing is! Turn to Ro 8:31

What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died… more than that… was raised… & at the right hand of God, who is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, distress,  persecution, or famine, nakedness, danger, or sword? 37 In all these things we are more than conquerors thru Him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death… life… angels… rulers… things present… things to come… powers… 39 height… depth, nor anything else in all creation (Not even YOU!), will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The proof of God’s love is Jesus on the cross! NOT what happens to you or circumstances. If you wonder if God loves you, LOOK AT THE CROSS! There is your proof… praise God!

(Sing with me!) Praise God from whom all blessings flow…. Priase Him all creatures here below… (Doxology)

Because of Jesus’ love… “While we were… sinners, (He) died for us” (Ro 5:8). Eph 2:4…

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great LOVE with which He LOVED us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ… by grace you have been saved… 6 & raised us up with Him & seated us wtih Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Because of God’s love… He doesn’t stop at the cross! If all God did was forgive our sin, that’d be more than we deserve & we’d be eternally grateful. But there’s more! God’s love keeps going!!

We’re raised & seated wtih Christ! Paul writes this in the past tense. It’s so certain he writes about the future in the past tense! Every Christian will reign eternally with Christ… from His throne!

But that’s not all! For eternity… because of God’s love … He heaps riches we cannot fathom or understand! As eternity cannot satisfy God’s wrath, neither can it satisfy God’s limitless love!!

In heaven God makes everything better & better… newer & newer. Heaven is like buying your dream car… And the tank stays full of free gas. The new car smell gets sweeter. The tires get better. The glass & mirrors get clearer. The paint job brighter. Engine faster. Get the idea?

In heaven our bodies get stronger & more perfect. Our eyes get better & better as does our hearing. Joy, happiness, & contentment are ever increasing. Our r’ship to God more intimate. Everyone knows us & we know them… well! Moses & Paul will call… you on sight… by name!

Fear… anxiety… worry… death… pain… & tears are gone. Life’s struggles make sense & are understood. We see how everything here & now glorified God. Well, I tell you what… turn to Rev 21…

Then I saw a new heaven & a new earth… the first heaven &… earth had passed away… 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, & they will be His people, & God Himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, & death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

5 And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy & true.” 6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha & the Omega, the beginning & the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, & I will be his God & he will be My son.

Bury in your heart what makes heaven heaven.  God’s presence. Streets of gold… seeing loved ones… pearly gates & crowns of gold can’t compare to being forever with Jesus… GOD… & The Holy Spirit, in perfect love… FOREVER!!

Being WITH THE One who loves you perfectly, completely, absolutely, infinitely, & FOREVER is the definition of heaven!! Even so come Lord Jesus!

That is your eternity IF you know Christ… which has right now implications! Col 3:1…

If then you have been raised wtih Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, & your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Why is Vs 3-4 true? B/C GOD LOVES YOU!)

The way to be of earthly good is to be heavenly minded! Live now in the fact that God has & does love you knowing that if it is good for you, He’ll give it… if not, He won’t. Live now reflecting to others the love God has shown you & poured into your heart.

B/c you’ve been forgiven… forgive others. B/c you’ve been shown mercy… be merciful. B/c God loves you… love others. B/c God has been, is, & will be patient w/ you… be patient w/ others. B/c God is holy… His Son paid your sin… & the Spirit lives in you, glorify God in all things (1 Cor 10:31)!

THEN you will receive a great reward when you hear God say… “Well done good & faithful servant!”  That’s your pastor’s goal for you… to hear God say “WELL DONE!” (Pause)

How have you responded to God’s great love? Have you to this point in your life rejected Him? Know that has eternal consequences. Are you living now looking to heaven? That too will have eternal consequences. The question now is… how will YOU respond to God’s love?

[i] Isaiah 53:11

Of Waves And Caves (CrossPoint)


Hebrews 11:32-40

I really appreciate the honor Ryan has given me to be with you today. Now, I want to encourage you differently than the 8:15 & 9:30 services.

Some people have the Midas touch. Even their “bad” things aren’t really bad. Another group is on the opposite end of the spectrum. They can’t buy a break. Nothing seems to go right. Some people “ride the wave” of blessings & others “live in caves” of adversity.

We put ourselves in one category & know people in the other. I know a guy who lived the charmed life… in fear! Why? He always waited for the shoe to drop. He worried about the impending disaster that just hadn’t happened yet. He felt guilty for life being so good…

I know a lady dealt losing hands. Her husband was a verbally & physically abusive infidel. She walked her five children to church every Sun & Wed. Her son was murdered. Two daughters committed suicide. Another had serious mental problems. One week after the last daughter committed suicide, her grandson committed suicide. She is the most joyful person I know. I have permission to share her story.

What’s with that? One blessed, another isn’t, both C’ians! More to the point… what if YOU are “riding the wave” or “living in a cave?” Thus Hebrews 11…

Heb 11 is “The Hall of Faith.” Once I needed God’s help more than usual (Huh?). I was reading Scripture & at Heb 11 put it on autopilot. “Been here… read this before… I’ll keep reading anyway…”

11:4. Able’s sacrifice was accepted by God. 11:5. Enoch walked with God & didn’t die. 11:7. Noah built an ark. He trusted God. All were commended for their faith.

11:8-10, 17-19. Abraham left home not knowing where he was going. He offered Isaac as a sacrifice believing God could raise him from the dead. Commended for faith.

11:11-12. By faith Sarah received the power to conceive though old. Commended for faith.

11:20, By faith Isaac blessed Jacob & Esau. 11:21, By faith Jacob blessed Joseph’s sons. 11:22, By faith Joseph spoke of the Exodus to come hundreds of years later. All were commended.

11:23-31. Moses’ mom… Moses… the Children of Israel… & Rahab were commended for their faith. In 11:30 it was by faith the walls of Jericho fell.

ASIDE: 11:25-27 describes Moses’ faith… “(He chose)… to be mistreated with the people of God rather than enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.”

Don’t blow by that! He chose mistreatment?! Why?! 1) Pleasures of sin {The world} are fleeting. 2) Suffering for Christ is most valuable. 3) THE reward is God in heaven. Col 3:1

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Then 11:32-35-A is a rapid fire list of others in the hall of faith. Gideon, Barak, Samson, David, Samuel, & the prophets. They “rode the wave of God’s blessing & displays of His power. 11:33…

Who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection…

Then comes 11:36-B. The writer describes another group like Moses in 11:25, they CHOSE a different path. They could’ve been released… if they’d reject Christ. But chose death “to rise again to a better life.” They lived not for this world, but the next!

They were mocked… whipped… chained… imprisoned… stoned… sawed in two… killed by the sword. Wore animal’s skin… had NO earthly goods.. they suffered & were mistreated. They were homeless, sleeping wherever they could in the wilderness. (Pause)

Its about THIS group… those who suffered… it is written, “Of whom the world was not worthy.” Wow! What a honor to be so described! While an unbelieving world sees them as failures… God views them as successful & honors them. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

11:39. “ALL…” Those who rode the wave AND those who lived in caves are in God’s Hall of Faith! ALL those in this chapter pleased God b/c He doesn’t see as the world sees. “Man looks on the outward appearance, God looks on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). They ALL pleased God b/c the ONLY way to please Him is by faith (11:6). So we remember 1 Cor 4:5 where it is written…

Do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness & will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (NOTE THE LAST PHRASE! Re-read it)

A true evaluation of our worth cannot be done now. There’s too much we don’t & can’t know. Only in heaven… when God reveals EVERYTHING do we see as God sees & right evaluation be made.

When everything is revealed… we’ll know as God knows. Then the intentions of the heart of those who preach… teach… do missions… serve as deacons… make recommendations as committees… will be known. Until then… in heaven… we don’t know fully.

Go back to 11:13-16 where the writer gives us an important insight. 11:13…

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them & greeted them from afar, & having acknowledged that they were strangers & exiles on the earth. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God…

This passage orients our heart for life. People of faith don’t live for this world. Their energy, mind, & heart is on heaven… b/c that’s where God is. Streets & crowns of gold don’t matter. Their desire is The One who prepared & built it. God is their life, what happens now is just preparation.

Those who “ride the wave” & “live in caves” are equally rewarded for their faith. Those who lead 1 to Christ living a hard life is rewarded just as one who speaks to thousands who are saved.

We can’t evaluate God’s approval based on OUR view. 1 Cor 13:12… “Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

Are you riding the wave? Praise God! Do you have wonderful gifts, talents, & abilities? Praise God & work to improve them. HE has chosen to bless you!

Are you in a cave today? Praise God! Be faithful! Honor Him! Do the best you can w/ what you are given. 1 Tim 6:8… “If we have food & clothing, with that we will be content.” God is good. He knows where you are. There is a reward being laid up for you in heaven!

Whichever you are in… riding the wave or in a cave… do NOT despise others. God put you where you are for His glory! Be faithful to God regardless… praise & thank Him for you are saved!

God is sovereign & on His throne. His providence is good & loving toward you (Pr 3:5). He is working for His glory & your ultimate good (Ro 8:28). He is laying up a reward for you in heaven that is greater than you can imagine! I close with 2 Cor 4:17-18

For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Ruth: Coincidence Or Providence



Delivered on June 2, 2013. MP3 is linked below…

NOTE: The manuscript is significantly different from what was actually delivered. What I take into the pulpit in note form is to keep me on target and not “chasing rabbits.”

Do you ever wonder just HOW involved God is in the affairs of this world?  We say God is in control… how much control does God exert over the events in our lives?  Consider these…

Gen 20:6 God said to him in a dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, & so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her.

Ac 4:27-28 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.

God was THE active force in PREVENTING Abemilech from sinning.  AND God was THE active force in bringing about EVERYTHING associated with the crucifixion of Jesus!

Is God that active all the time… most of the time… or hardly ever?  Honestly there is no way this side of heaven we will ever know.  HOWEVER… can’t we all look back at the events of our own lives and see God at work?  Can’t we all see Him directing, preventing, causing, helping?  I can!

I am here today because I rode bicycles w/ Greg Garret in 1970… Coach Richards moved a 2nd string DT to QB… met Rhett at USM… Reggie Collier got a scholarship… Dave Simmons needed a summer counselor… knee surgery… Pam Britton ate lunch early… and phone call to Ryan in 1986.

Read with me a portion beginning in 1:1…

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. 2 The man’s name was Elimelech, his wife’s name Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.  3 Now Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.

This book recounts God moving history toward a manger.  He does it thru A Famine, A Family, A Funeral, A Fear, and A Field.  Each of these are links in a chain that brought salvation to all mankind.

The first link is A Famine.  One that took place in the Bethlehem of Israel.  Because of the famine Elimelech… which means “My God is King,” moved his family to another country… away from God.

Elimelech removed himself & lost his life & his family.  That is usually what happens when we move away from God… we lose those things which are precious and dear to us.

Had you asked Ruth about that famine, she probably would not have cared.  She probably would have said, “Glad it’s not here.”  It would have made no difference to her.

And that’s the way it is.  Events that seem insignificant… turn out to be God bringing us to faith in him.  A person here, an event there, an unusual or unexpected turn takes place in life… then years later we look back & see God moving in each event!

Moab was a land of spiritual darkness.  The Law excluded them from God for 10 generations (Deut 23:3).  This meant that Ruth literally had no hope of becoming a part of God’s family.

Ruth couldn’t be saved… her children couldn’t be saved… her grandchildren couldn’t be saved… & her great grand children couldn’t be saved.  She was hopelessly lost!  But God had a plan.

The next link in the chain that brought Ruth to the Lord was A Family.  Elimelech’s family was a family of believers… backsliders… but still believers.  Ruth married into a family of backsliders.

Ruth knew these people were different.  They talked of the God’s great works of deliverance & marveled at his power.  There were places she would go they would not go… things she would do that they would not do.

When she went to worship her demon gods… they would not go.  When she sacrificed to idols… this family would not approve.  When she continued working on the Sabbath… they rested instead.

You don’t live with someone for 10 years & not learn something of their faith.  Even a backslider in the worst condition still has a faith.  Though the light may be dim, it is still burning.  Even the prodigal son in the pig pen had a conscience.

The next link in the chain is A Funeral.  We are told in the text that Naomi’s husband died in Moab.  Then ten years later, her two sons also died.  Now you have three women… Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah… who are now widows.

At this point Ruth could have rebelled.  She could have questioned Naomi’s God.  “A God of love?  Is this how a God of love acts?  If He is loving, why did your husband die?  Why did my husband die?  Why did her husband die?  If this is your God of love then I will have nothing of him…”

That’s how people act who don’t have God’s perspective.  They say hard things about God.  Sometimes they turn away from Him.  But there came a day when Ruth praised God & blessed the hand that guided her through a troubled & barren time.

For Ruth to be in God’s family… she HAD to marry a kinsman redeemer.  To marry a kinsman redeemer she HAD to be a widow.  To be a widow… her husband HAD to die!

Those funerals didn’t happen by accident… they were planned in heaven!  They were necessary to continue the chain of events that would eventually result in Ruth coming to know the Lord God Jehovah of Israel.

When will WE learn to trust God?  When will WE realize that God is in control?  When will WE believe God when He says that “(He) causes all things work together for the GOOD?!”

It is black coal that become diamonds.  Sour lemons make lemonade.  The hottest fire produces the purest gold & the strongest steel.  The richest soil is in the valley.  Palm trees are only found in the desert.  And stars shine brightest at night.

God is too good to be unloving and too wise to make mistakes.  “Trust in THE LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge HIM and HE will make your pathways straight.”  (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Then next link for Ruth was A Fear.  Naomi decided to go back to her home.  She called the girls & told them God was visiting His people in Canaan.  That’s an OT way to say revival was happening.

She told Orpah & Ruth to go back to their people.  Find for themselves husbands & go on living their life.  It’s interesting the counsel Naomi gives in her backslidden state.  She attempts to turn her back on them & thus eliminate the only true hope either girl had of salvation.

Orpah agrees, departs, & return to Moab.  But Ruth was stubborn.  She begs to stay.  She fears losing the only hope she had ever heard of in her life.  She clings to Naomi cries in Ruth 1:16-17

“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.”

The last link in the chain was A Field.  Upon arrival in Bethlehem they took up residence in a little shanty.  Both being widows, they had no wealth.  Ruth must have said to Naomi, “You know, we are poor aren’t we?  Why don’t I go out and get a job?”

Naomi, “There’s no need for a job.  We have social security here.”  In a very real sense they did.  When a farmer was reaping his harvest, he was to leave whatever he didn’t get on the first pass.  People who were poor & willing to work could come behind them and have enough to eat.  He didn’t have to cut it, or bundle it, or do anything but leave it.

So Ruth went out to a field to glean what she could.  But which field should she go to?  Of all the fields surrounding Bethlehem, which would be best?  It is at this point, up in heaven, I can just see God give the angels a nudge and say, “Now ya’ll watch this!…”

And which field did she choose?  The field of Boaz.  And again the progression is amazing.  At first Ruth is in his field… then she is at his feet… then she is in his family!

After gleaning in the field, Boaz asks about Ruth.  He falls in love w/ her.  To show his love he gives her an ephah of wheat.  You look greatly enlightened!  Well an ephah is equal to… TEN OHMERS!

When the children of Israel were in the wilderness and God supplied them with manna from heaven, and ohmer was the amount of manna a big huge strapping man could handle in a day.  Boaz gave her Ten Times that much!

So Ruth takes it home and places it on the table.  Naomi is in wonder!  “Where did you get all this grain?”  Did Ruth’s old Moabite habits get the best of her?  “Well… I met a man today and HE gave it to me.”  Another set of bells went off.  You didn’t just go out and meet men in that day, it was arranged by the family!

Naomi then asked, “So you met a man?  What was he name?”  “His name is Boaz.”  At that Naomi exclaimed, “OH he is near of kin.  He is a kinsman redeemer!”  (Ruth 2:20)

You see… in order for Ruth to be included in God’s family… the requirements of the Law had to be met.  The kinsman redeemer had to be a person of wealth to meet the requirements.  And so it is no accident that when Boaz is first mentioned, he is described as such a man in Ruth 2:1.  Of great wealth.

Naomi instructs Ruth to go to him & ask to be in his family (Chapter 3).  This Boaz does… he fulfills the requirements of the Law… redeems Ruth and she thus becomes a part of the family of God!

Jesus did just that for us.  He emptied himself of his glory… became one of us… redeemed us… met the requirements of God’s Law… and thus made all who believe a part of the family of God.

But that isn’t the end of the story…  turn to Ruth 4:13-17…

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. 14 The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 15 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.”  16 Then Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him. 17 The women living there said, “Naomi has a son.” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

And who do we worship that was descended from David?  None other than Jesus Christ… OUR kinsman redeemer himself!

APPLICATION:  For every Christian here today… God is/has/will use you as a “Naomi” in other people’s life.  You can help lead them to Jesus as Naomi did w/ Ruth… OR you can turn people AWAY from Jesus as Naomi did w/ Orpah.  Every encounter is a witnessing opportunity!  What will you do?

Sitting here are people who God has been working in their lives.  An event here, a situation there, an unexpected encounter, a surprise turn in life.  God has been behind the scenes… moving, directing, prodding, turning… to bring you to salvation.  A loving Father using all these to include you in His family… making a way for you, who had no hope of salvation, to be redeemed by HIS son.

Do you not now see it?  Can you not now understand?  That all those events… some good, some perceived as bad, others not understood… were GOD moments.  And now you have to make a decision.  You will either respond as Orpah who turned away… or like Ruth who believed.

Would you turn away from the one who has been pursuing you with such fervency?  Come to Christ today that you may be redeemed from the pit of hell by Jesus… THE kinsman redeemer!

God’s Will In Struggles

This is a message I delivered on May 19, 2013. It is primarily for ministers who struggle, yet I attempted to make it applicable to all.  The manuscript (“Of Waves And Caves”) can be found HERE although I didn’t follow it in delivery (That happens ever so often). Click below to listen to the MP3…

Resting In Christ

 Matthew 11:28-30 (Sulfur Springs Baptist Church)

MP3 Audio:

Today we read one of the most encouraging passages in all of God’s Word. Again…

Come to Me, ALL who labor & are heavy laden, & I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you, & learn from Me, for I am gentle & lowly in heart, & you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy, & My burden is light. (Read it again… slower)

Since the fall of Adam life has been hard & difficult. Every life is laborious & heavily laden with burdens. We have emotional, physical, & spiritual struggles… don’t we. But then there’s Mt 11:28-30…

Was Jesus speaking the truth or was he just blowing smoke? Unless I’m reading it wrong, Jesus made a promise… & He does not lie! In hardships, struggles, & difficulties Jesus tells us what to do… COME TO HIM.

Not your pastor… a book… or friends… HIM! (Pause) The person who loved you so much He died in your place & wrote your name in His book before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8). Jesus is not ambiguous, HE proclaims HE is the one person who can help you in your difficulties.

Note the promise… “And I will give you REST… for your SOUL.” Not might… may… or even possibly… I WILL! He promises ultimate, total, complete REST to the deepest part of your being.

How many are offered Jesus’ rest? ALL! Does that mean you? YES! Now… if we are not at rest IN OUR SOUL, we have not taken Jesus at His word! We may be saved, but have not yet entered the rest HE promises. Like Israel, we’ve left Egypt (Delivered) but are wandering in the desert!

At least two Apostles wrote about this… Peter & Paul. 1 Pet 5:6…

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, & establish you.

Peter is the one who wept bitterly after denying Christ 3 times, but then was made by Jesus THE leader of the Church. He realized humility was the key… that he couldn’t find rest apart from Jesus Himself! So he writes, “Cast ALL your anxieties on HIM…”

Suggestion: Whatever your burden is… tell Jesus about it in prayer. Unburden your heart by verbally expressing what weighs you down. In its raw form, express your thoughts of fear & failure. Tell Him all the cares that concern you. Don’t hold anything back!! (Pause) And what will happen?

Listen: The one who called you WILL restore, confirm, strengthen, & establish you! Not might or possibly or may… WILL. You will be granted wholeness… peace… contentment… REST!

Then there is Paul. The one who was beaten, run out of town, stoned, PLUS MANY OTHER THINGS. Phil 4:6…

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer & supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all u’standing, will guard your hearts & your minds in Christ Jesus.

What are we NOT to be anxious about? (Anything) What does that include? (Everything). He writes to PRAY when we struggling. Whatever our anxiety is… take it to God! By prayer & worship (supplication & thanksgiving) the promise is effected IN us… AND WHAT IS THE PROMISE? “The peace of God… guards our hearts & minds” (Our emotions & thinking). Remember Heb 4:16?

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy & find grace to help in time of need.  (THIS is affirmation of Mt 11)

Back to Mt 11:29… “Take my yoke & learn from Me.” What is the “yoke” & what are we to “learn” from Jesus? It’s found in 11:29, “for I am gentle & lowly in heart.”

So what does it mean to be “gentle & lowly in heart?” I can tell you this much… it is something that doesn’t come natural. Our nature is to demand our rights… have things our way… & be the center of the universe. But that is not a Christian’s character.

Jesus was humble, not prideful. He was gracious & loving. Patient & forgiving. Full of mercy & compassion for all. When he was attacked, he loved. When lied about, he forgave. When people were hurting, he built them up… spoke truth in love… & forgave their sin. He didn’t seek His own good, but the good of others. Paul describes this perfectly in 1 Cor 13:4-8…

Love is patient & kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends…

Gal 5:22 The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Being “gentle & lowly in heart” is the result of the Spirit dwelling in us. It is a supernatural act of God that begins at conversion & continues throughout life. The things in these passages grow in us by God’s power. Here’s how Paul describes it in Phil 2:12-13…

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear & trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Christ-likeness… “be gentle & lowly in heart”).

“But preacher, if it is a work of God… what am I to do?!”  I will draw all this to a close with some simple suggestions. These are ways to “take His yoke upon us & learn from Jesus.” Mk 6:31 (NIV)…

Then, because so many people were coming & going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place & get some rest.NIV

Solitude is an important element of becoming more like Jesus. It is important to take time as often as you can to be ALONE with Jesus. The only way to learn from Jesus is to spend time wtih Him! Thru the Word meditate upon passages like I’ve suggested today… driving them deep into your heart.

Next… PRAY. Talk with God… often… regularly. Listen quietly as much as you talk. Heb 4:16…

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy & find grace to help in time of need.

I’ve found the less I pray, the heavier my burdens are! While I may not get the answer I want, I’m always strengthened and refreshed. Thus Phil 4:6-7 & 1 Pet 5:6-10 earlier.

Last… Believe Jesus! Listen to 2 Cor 12:9…

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, & calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

This means relying heavily on the providence, power, & sovereignty of God (Ro 8:28).

God gave His son for you. He loves you more than you’ll ever know. He has also given you the Kingdom! I’m convinced that when we take God at His Word & follow His call, we experience the joy that can only come from Him… regardless of our circumstances.