our journey home
Our 365 Daily Readings and Devotionals for 2018

March 17

Lights, Camera, Action!
by Pat Norman

RUTH 3: 1 – 18

I always saw Naomi as the mentor hero of this story, but now I see her as the strategist, who evolved from the bitter widow woman into a mother protector who says “My daughter, I must find a home for you, where you will be well provided for.” 3:1  I wondered at first what transformed her spirit, and then I remembered, if you change your mind, you can change your perspective. Something all of us need to do to from time to time to get out of the “woe with me” syndrome. Naomi clearly knew and understood the Hebrew tradition of guardian-redeemer and recognized it as the only real asset her family land offered. Both she and Ruth qualified as poor childless widows to be redeemed, and Boaz was the perfect candidate.

So now everybody goes into action. There is an after-harvest party. Naomi tells Ruth to get dolled up and go hang out. Boaz eats, drinks and finds a spot to crash. Ruth pretty much stalks him, waits for him to drift off and positions herself at his feet, as instructed, and waits. Boaz senses her presence…or gets nudged by the Spirit… and Ruth makes her play telling him “Spread the corner of your garment over me since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family” 3:9 Boom! That’s all she had to say for Boaz to bless her and promise to do all she asked if the other relative doesn’t redeem the land and her. In the morning, he sends her back home with goodies for Naomi, who is pleased with the outcome so far and tells Ruth to  “Wait … For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.” 3:18

I’m not sure if the practice of proposal by feet continues today, but can I get an “Amen” to waiting for redemption?


March 16

Provision and Protection
by Pat Norman

Imagine the scene of the older woman and young foreigner coming into the Bethlehem village as they are met by some town women who remembered Naomi. There was probably some tension and anxiety that made her say “Don’t call me Naomi, Call me Mara… because the LORD has brought me back bitter and empty“. But this was her hometown, and they needed shelter and food so they held their heads up and proceeded. They find the property deserted and run down but still Naomi’s family plot, so they get to work cleaning it up. At least that is how the movie version I saw depicts their arrival.  When you think about it though, how much different could it have been?

So now we get to the heart of the matter, Ruth, despite drawing attention to herself as a foreigner, because she is a Moabite who looks different, sets out to “earn a living” by gleaning, behind other women of the village. Divine providence sends her to harvest on land that belongs to Naomi’s kinsman, and it is from this encounter that the rest of the story builds.

After learning who Ruth is, in relation to Naomi, Boaz offers her steady work, food, drink and protection from those who might mistreat her from that day on. He blesses her for caring for her mother-in-law: “May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” 2:12

Isn’t what we are seeing God’s provision for the two widows?   Is this message meant to remind us that even when the bottom falls out of what we think is a full basket, faithfulness in the promises of God will return acknowledgment and reward? As the story continues Naomi begins to see a real opportunity for her daughter-in-law to benefit from this new arrangement with their guardian-redeemer and begins to instruct her. Is Ruth’s continued obedience too hard for us to grab hold as an example for our own lives?


March 15

by Pat Norman

Ruth 1:1-22

The death of a family member often results in changes and sometimes in relocation of a spouse and/or children. I know this firsthand because my own father’s unexpected battle with cancer…diagnosed in July and gone to be with the Lord in October…propelled me.  My parents divorced when I was young, and, as an only child, I was always very close to my Mom who raised me, so my commitment to caring for her was not a new consideration. I had already retired, purchased her a home in Florida and frequently visited but I was in New York a lot…like on September 11th..  The loss and uncertainties I was feeling convinced me that I should be in Florida full-time. I relocated!

This first chapter tells us that a family… father, mother and two sons… were forced to move from Bethlehem to Moab to survive a famine. Naomi is then widowed and left with her sons who had married Moab women to care for her, which was a good thing. Ten years or so later, the premature death of both sons creates a household of three widows. Not a good thing. Naomi felt bitter and said “The Lord has turned against me” (1:13). How often do we question the timing of loss in our lives…or view our outcomes as punishment from God?

Relocation, back to her Bethlehem homeland, was all Naomi considered for survival, especially since the famine had lifted. Made sense, right? But it did not make sense for the two young women to go with her, and she urged them to stay in Moab and perhaps remarry. Ruth choose not to stay and gave us the familiar verse… “Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God.” (1:16)

Ruth’s love, commitment, obedience and adopted faith in the God of Israel sets up the rest of the story. But now ask yourself, was her commitment beyond reason? How often do we look beyond current circumstances and journey on toward the promises of God?


March 14

God Uses Imperfect People
By Kevin Foy

If you have been following along in our reading each day, you’ve come to know Samson pretty well. Saying that Samson was a knucklehead would be an understatement. In the book The Samson Syndrome, Mark Atterberry writes, “Perhaps no one in the Bible did so little with so much.” Samson was a guy who frequently did not live up to his potential. “Samson repeatedly broke his Nazirite vow; he consorted with the Philistines time and time again, even though they were the ones oppressing Israel; his life was marked by anger and seeking revenge; and, he foolishly and naively trusted people who consistently betrayed him. In spite of his amazing strength and God’s unmistakable call on his life, Samson lived like a knucklehead.”

Personally, I relate to Samson. There have been times where I have behaved like a knucklehead. But like at the end of Samson’s story, God proves that not only does he not simply throw in the towel on us after our mess-ups that come time and again, he is willing to use us to accomplish great things in his name. The Philistines praised a false god for their victory, and then moments later God uses Samson one more time to crush the Philistines. God has made a history of using imperfect people to bring about his plans in an imperfect world.

It is my belief that since none of us gets it right all of the time, we have to have grace for those who fail in this crazy messed up world. Because we don’t know how God can use that person to do great things. And for us to stand in the way is saying we know better than the God who also forgave us in our mess-ups.


March 13

Samson’s Tragedy
by Stan Harwell

I want you to forget about the Hollywood or fairy-tale versions of this story (the strongest man, taken down by a woman) and let us glean the truth of what this story is telling us. Any person could act as either Delilah or Samson did. Hear; let me explain what I mean.

The strongest man that ever lived – yes, but the storied truth is that Samson was God’s weapon of mass destruction. He was sent, specifically, to confront the enemy (Judges 14:4). Deed after deed, his purpose, he could not escape. Samson took the huge Gaza gates away — leaving the city of Gaza without a defense (I don’t think they liked that very much). Because of his purpose, he loved the women from their camp and tore the enemies asunder because of it.  He went through the depths of the prison underworld. He became brutally blinded and vengeful but with the sanction of the Lord who had the real purpose, which was to redeem His people from the Philistines.

The story tells us the consequences of betrayal. They take us down a dark road of slavery, blindness, and doubt — bitterness, brooding and resentment. Samson was grinding grain in the prison long enough for his hair to grow back. Lots of time to grow the hate because they gouged out his eyes. It is his last prayer. He wanted revenge.

If we can get the wisdom of Samson’s story, I think it would be this:

Be aware of what your action may do to others and yourself. When God raises your status, take great care with whom you treat and trust. The information he gave Delilah, cost him everything.


Delilah’s Dilemma

Likewise, we all have the capacity to be like Delilah…to betray those around us. We must come to grips with that possibility. We have a choice.

Delilah was offered riches, not just a little but 1100 shekels of silver from each ruler of the Philistines. There were five rulers. That number would have put her in the wealthy category. Some say about $100,000. So, the temptation was too much for her to resist.  She went for the money. Who was Samson to her? A foreigner…an arrogant trespasser who liked her looks.

Betrayal is the worst of evil schemes. When betrayed, you no longer have solid ground under your feet. What you thought was true is false. You are dropped into a deep, dark pit and all the demons of imagination come after you, there in the pit, just like what happened to Samson.  This created resentment, which is fertilizer for all other evil thoughts.

How many of us would recognize a virtuous opportunity from an evil opportunity? Would you knowingly put someone else in such a pit by betrayal?   Before you answer “no”, please re-examine. If the leaders of your town came to you and asked you to entrap someone, would you believe the town elders or someone who is the stranger? Which way would be righteous? No one feels pity or empathy for Delilah, which is deserved. She manipulated the destruction of many people.

If we can get the wisdom of Delilah’s story, I think it would be this:

Endeavor to reduce suffering in this world, not to increase it. No matter your gender, don’t be like her (malevolent in her choice).


March 12

by Kevin Clark
Do you remember that spoiled rotten child? Were they behaving entitled, indulgent or if crossed inconsolable? Unfortunately, though they are seeking approval and love, their actions created a chaotic environment that achieved the opposite response.
Today’s reading in Judges 15:1-20 is the continuation of the saga of Samson’s poor decisions in Judges 14. As a result of hanging out in a pagan town, indulging pagan pleasures and desiring a forbidden marriage, he has created a crisis that is now impacting not only himself by those he was appointed to protect. He has allowed his spiritual weakness, a desire to be approved by others, to supplant God’s approval. As a result, he has destroyed the hope for love and acceptance he sought. Many people are dead, his future father-in-law and fiance’ have been burned alive, his people have united against him, and his reputation forever tarnished.
We pick on Samson, but are we much different? How often do we seek the approval of others when God’s approval is all we need? We think we are strong enough to venture into dangerous places and flirt with worldly temptations. We want to be accepted; we want to fit into the world around us. But, God has set His hero’s apart as “approved worker that need not be ashamed.” It is impossible to be a man-pleaser and a God-pleaser, so you must choose one.
Do you believe yet? You are God approved, appointed and loved.


March 11

By Alana Willey

His life is something out of an action movie.  An army of one, singlehandedly taking on the enemies of Israel with a strength so powerful it could only have been ordained by God.  Samson is remembered throughout history as a hero of the Bible.  But, can I be honest with you?  I’ve never been a fan of Samson.  He was all brawn and no brains.  He tricked his parents into eating unclean food.  He tricked his bride’s friends with an impossible riddle.  When the riddle is “solved,” he became so angry that he took revenge.  It practically served him right when he too was hoodwinked?

I have always wondered why when the Bible is full of men and women of character, integrity, and faithfulness how can a man like Samson be counted as a hero?  Could it be God’s reminder that we don’t have to be perfect to be part of his plan?  Despite our poor choices, arrogance, bad relationships, and temper tantrums, we can still be used for His Kingdom.  That’s humbling to think about. 

You may be flawed, you may not be perfect, and your parents were probably not visited by angels, but that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have an incredible plan for your life.  Ask God how he can use your strengths to become His hero.


March 10

Has Acceptance Become Apathy?

By Catie Seip

Judges 13:1-25

As Israel’s sin and disobedience continues to get worse, we may find ourselves wondering how they could so easily forget God’s covenant and the ways He has provided. However, considering the current moral climate in our country, we should be able to relate to Israel’s apathy towards their moral bondage.

God made a promise to Abraham to be carried out through the people of Israel that included land, many descendants, blessing and redemption. The Israelites were called to be set apart and live holy lives to reflect the holiness of God. They were not supposed to look like the world yet they continued to immerse themselves into an ungodly culture to the point where they began to actually resemble the idol worshipers of society.

Like Israel, Samson was set apart and given a calling and specific purpose to be used by God; even from birth. We see in this passage that Samson obviously has the foundation of godly parents and even though he has a strong start…spoiler alert…we will later see how he also loses sight of the calling.

In an age of tolerance and acceptance, let’s remember that as Christ followers, we, the church, are set apart. We are to live holy lives that are a reflection of Jesus. How does your life look different from mainstream society? Let’s learn from the Israelites here and strive to NOT be numb or apathetic to the things in our culture that we know grieves the heart of God.


March 9

This Is Us
by Andrew Seip

My wife and I recently started watching the hit NBC drama “This Is Us.”  You’ll laugh.  You’ll cry.  It will move you.  That’s what we were told. 

Wow, were they right!  In a media world reminiscent of a buffet of cheap, gratuitous snack food for every whim, this show provokes viewers to experience life’s more pressing challenges and meanings.  Our world so easily sucks us into the vortex of proposed visions of the good life, it’s no wonder we adopt some of the world’s idols. 

The Israelites did the same thing.  After God used Joshua to establish His people in Canaan, it wasn’t long before small bites of disobedience turned into an Israelite smorgasbord of idolatry, though they had plenty of warning (see Deuteronomy 8:10-20).  Didn’t God give us the same command? (Romans 12:2).  Still sin has its way of creeping into our lives until it affects tragic consequences (Judges 6:1-5). 

The story of Gideon and the Midianites picks up at this place in Israel’s history.  Israel’s sin led to their suffering.  Yet God heard their cries and used a man of imperfect faith to redeem His people—again.  Gideon’s faith may have been as small at times as his little army, but God is in the business of showing His strength through weakness.  Why bother working this way?  The same passage warning about wandering hearts and disobedience tells us the answer; so we are not tempted to believe our success is our own (Deuteronomy 8: 17-18; Judges 7:2). 

Weakness is not necessarily a virtue, per se, but for the heart tempted to exalt itself, admitting weakness is often an early step to exalting the One who is worthy.  As you read the story of Midian’s demise today, take the time to look for these themes.  Look for God reassuring small faith.  Look for God crushing idols.  Ask God for eyes to see Him working on behalf of His people in their weakness.  And like “This Is Us,” take time to let the Holy Spirit stir you.  He will move you.    



March 8

By Kristen Steele

Judges 6:1-40

I’m not sure how I keep ending up with some of my favorite Bible characters, but here we are again with one of my favorites. In Judges 6 we find Gideon, the least of the least tribe of Israel. At this time the people did what they thought was right in their own eyes, and having turned from God and forgotten all that was done for them in the past, they were in quite a mess- oppressed by the Midianites. 

The part that always catches my breath when I read Judges 6 is verse 12. The angel of the Lord met Gideon as he was hiding in a winepress, threshing wheat. Threshing wheat is not an easy thing to do in a winepress, I imagine chaff was flying about everywhere as Gideon hid in fear from his oppressors. But the angel of the Lord saw Gideon, not as he was, but as God knew him to be- as God created him to be. He greeted him saying “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Gideon was not a warrior of any kind- YET. But God knew he would be. Gideon even pointed this out in verse 15: “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest… and I am the least in my family.” And you know what the Lord said? “I will be with you.”.

Sometimes God calls us to things we don’t always feel prepared for. There has to be someone better, right? Someone more equipped? Maybe someone younger and abler, or someone wiser and stronger in their walk with God? Don’t doubt, dear friend, remember that God is the Beginning and the End, He can see not only who you are, but who you will be, who you were made to be. He’ll be with you, and if He called you to it, He will equip you with everything that you need to accomplish the task at hand, lean deep into His strength and carry on to victory.