Ruth is a strange and beautiful book--beautiful because of its characters’ virtues and faithfulness, but strange because of some of its literary features.


The number 10 is prominent in Ruth:

  • Naomi sojourns in Moab for 10 years.

  • Ruth delivers a total of 10 speeches (1.10, 16, 2.2, 10, 13, 19, 21, 3.5, 9, 17).

  • Boaz gathers 10 elders to serve as witnesses for him.

  • Chapter 4 ends with a ten-fold genealogy, strung together with 10 occurrences of the vb. הוליד = ‘beget’.

The prominence of the number 10 is significant.

The law of Moses--which, of course, is based around the 10 words/commandments--is central to what transpires in the book of Ruth.

Ruth’s is a story about the demands of Israel’s law and the community defined by it.

Meanwhile, the name ‘Boaz’ occurs 20 times (2 x 10) because Boaz is a man who *magnifies* the law.

The law simply requires landowners not to ‘over-harvest’ their fields (to allow ‘the poor’ and ‘the sojourner’ to glean in them: Lev. 19.9, 23.22).

But Boaz goes beyond what the law requires, and leaves entire sheaves of wheat in Ruth’s path.

The law simply requires Boaz to buy back Naomi’s (recently sold) land (Lev. 25.25-30), but Boaz requires not only the land, but Naomi and Ruth to be provided for (4.5), per the spirit of the law (cp. Deut. 25.5-6 w. Lev. 25.25-30).



Equally prominent in Ruth is the number 12:

  • The name ‘Ruth’ occurs 12 times.

  • The vb. ‘glean’ (לקט) occurs 12 times (always with Ruth as its subject).

  • The most common conjugation of לקט is לקטה = ‘she gleans’, which has a gematrial value of 144 (12 x 12).

  • The God of Israel is referred to 24 times (יהוה x 18, אלהים x 4, שדי x 2).

  • And the root גאל = ‘redeem’ occurs 24 times (גאל x 22, גְּאֻלָּה x 2).

Like that of the number 10, the prominence of the number 12 is significant.

Ruth is the story of a woman who comes to glean in Israel and is ultimately incorporated into Israel’s 12 tribes.

And, appropriately, the person who facilitates her incorporation is Boaz, Eli-Melech’s מוֹדָע--a word with a gematrial value of 10 x 12 = 120.



The text of Ruth is also full of wordplay and pleasant literary touches.

For instance: at the book’s outset, Naomi’s sons are said to ‘take’ (נשא) themselves wives (1.4), which is an unusual choice of verb. (לקח would be more common.)

But our author employs the verb נשא because he wants to tell a story with it:.

  • Ruth is ‘taken’ (נשא) in marriage by one of Naomi’s sons (1.4).

  • When Naomi decides to head back to Judah, Ruth ‘lifts’ (נשא) up her voice and weeps (1.9, 14) and pledges to stay by Naomi’s side.

  • Ruth eventually becomes a provider for Naomi as she ‘carries’ (נשא) an ephah (אֵיפָה) of barley back to her.

Note: When Ruth gets home, Naomi wants to know ‘where’ (אֵיפֹה) she got an אֵיפָה of barley from.

The verb עזב is employed to tell a similar story, and is a significant root since עזב is an anagram of בֹּעַז = ‘Boaz’.

  • Ruth chooses to ‘leave’ (עזב) her family rather than ‘leave’ (עזב) Naomi (1.6, 2.11).

  • In response, Boaz tells his men to ‘leave’ (עזב) sheaves of barley in Ruth’s path (2.15).

  • And the God of Israel does not ‘overlook’ (עזב) Ruth’s kindness to his people (2.20).



The Book of Ruth ends in chapter 4 with a long family tree that, at first glance, doesn’t make sense to the reader. Let’s dive deeper into what’s happening in the text.

Boaz is a man who not only has a history, but has a rather complicated and unsavory history (Genesis 38).

Ruth’s history is little better (and possibly worse). Ruth is a Moabite. As such, she is a descendant of Lot, and hence (like Boaz) the product of an incestuous relationship (Gen. 19).

Unsavory though they may be, our text deliberately highlights both of these details: 4.18-22 explicitly traces Boaz’s ancestry back to Perez, and 4.12 explicitly describes Perez as the son ‘whom Tamar bore to Judah’.

Meanwhile, Ruth is repeatedly referred to as ‘the Moabite’ (1.22, 2.2, 21, 4.5), which is quite unnecessary.

The encounter of Boaz and Ruth is not an encounter of two isolated individuals; it is the convergence of two long and complicated histories and lineages--the re-association of a rejected family tree within the line of promise.

It is also an incident which shares remarkable similarities with the incidents at the top of Boaz and Ruth’s respective family trees, namely the encounters between Judah and Tamar and between Lot and his older daughter.

Consider some of the parallels between Boaz and Ruth, Judah and Tamar, and Lot and his firstborn daughter:

  • In all three cases, people leave the land to which God has appointed them.

    • Judah leaves Egypt to return to Canaan (Gen. 38 is chronologically out of place)

    • Lot departs from Abraham to reside in Sodom and Gomorah

    • Naomi leaves Israel to sojourn in Moab.

  • In all three cases, two men on whom the family’s future is dependent die at a young age (without children).

    • Judah’s two sons (Er and Onan) are smitten by YHWH

    • Lot’s sons-in-law are swept away along with Sodom and Gomorrah

    • Naomi’s two sons die in Moab.

  • In all three cases, a crisis looms. A family line seems unable to continue, and an ancestral name is endangered.

    • Judah is reluctant to give his third son to Tamar in marriage since he sees Tamar as a ‘black-widow-like’ character and is fearful for his son’s life (Gen. 38.11)

    • Lot is scared to intermingle with the inhabitants of his new locale in Zoar (Gen. 19.29-30)

    • Naomi and Ruth have little to offer a potential husband in light of Naomi’s age and Ruth’s status as a Moabite, which clearly has a stigma attached to it (cp. 4.6).

  • In all three cases, a woman decides to take matters into her own hands in order to preserve her family line; put more specifically, a woman seeks to conceal her identity and approach the nearest ‘eligible’ male.

    • Tamar covers herself with a veil and waits for Judah to pass by

    • Lot’s daughters approach him under cover of darkness

    • Ruth follows the lead of Lot’s daughters.

  • In all three cases, the situation is referred to as the preservation of a ‘seed’ (זרע cp. Gen. 19.34, 38.8-9, Ruth 4.12), and is helped along by the consumption of wine.

    • Judah has been at a sheep-shearers’ festival, where an abundance of wine is likely to have been drunk

    • Lot has been plied with wine by his daughters

    • Boaz is merry with wine at the time when Ruth approached him.

As a result, none of the male procreators-to-be are aware of who has approached them.

  • In all three cases, the male involved is a member of an older generation.

    • Judah is Tamar’s father

    • Lot is (obviously) the father of his daughters

    • Boaz is considerably older than Ruth (2.5-6, 3.10-11).


Ruth is a story about major sins, but it is also a story about the significance of what may seem (in the grand scheme of things) to be minor details.

The failures of two great patriarchs--Judah and Lot--are not put right by means of some epic mission or military triumph, but by means of the faithfulness and sense of covenantal duty of three apparently insignificant individuals--Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz--, and, as a result, their names will be forever remembered in history, and for all the right reasons.

These three individuals could never have dreamt of the eternal consequences of their actions, but Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz allowed the line of Perez to take root in Bethlehem (1 Chr. 2) which would ultimately turn out to be the line from which both David and the Davidic Messiah would be born (Matt. 1).

In the dark days of the Judges, faithful men and women could still be found in Bethlehem (despite Judg. 17-21!), and such people allowed God’s line of promise to survive.

May we, therefore, take Ruth’s lessons to heart.

Plain old-fashioned faithfulness to our families, to our duties, and to the foreigners in our midst may not gain us too many applause here and now, but is of great value in the eyes of our Lord.

The Fierce Urgency of Now

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once famously said,

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today.

We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.

In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there "is" such a thing as being too late.

This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”


This is how I felt when I snapped this photo 14 years ago today.

I was the High School Pastor for a fast-growing church, leading a team of teenagers on a three week journey through Africa.

We were teamed up with 50 other professionals — mostly doctors and nurses — setting up free HIV Clinics and Medical Treatment Centers to serve the poorest of the poor.

The poverty, the desperation, the heartache… If you were born in America, you have NO IDEA what POVERTY IS until you go serve in a third-world country. Seriously, what we call “poverty” in America is not really poverty.


Amber and I were struck by the strikingly high numbers of orphans we encountered in Zambia.

HIV has wiped out nearly all the adults and a generation of young people are playing soccer in the dusty trash without help, direction, or supervision.

It was absolutely heartbreaking.

That’s why our students would not only pray over patients but would also share the Gospel through large event rallies with Zambian students.


I was standing behind our teens as they lead songs of worship and in the midst of the thundering echo (bad acoustics) and sticky heat, I snapped this photo.

Over one thousand Zambian children and orphans were laughing, having fun together, and discovering the life-changing message of Jesus Christ.

Seeing this photo come up on my TimeHop reminds me that the work is not finished.

God used our summers in Africa to give my wife and I a tremendous burden and passion for adopting orphans and reaching people far from God.

14 years later, we’ve adopted five times and planted 4 churches (one in Ohio, three in Michigan).

And my heartbeat remains the same: I want to reach the lost at any cost.


I’m not here to play games.

God hasn’t called me to a life of comfort and tiddly-winks.

As Dr. King said, “This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”

The advancement of the Gospel is always urgent.

The love of God compels us to move forward with compassionate service and bold proclamation.

There is a fierce urgency right now.

Life Church Bay City - Launch Day, 2019

Life Church Bay City - Launch Day, 2019

For you see, even though I proclaim the good news, I can’t take the credit for my labors, for I am compelled to fulfill my duty by completing this work.

It would be agony to me if I did not constantly preach the gospel! 

Now, even though I am free from obligations to others, joyfully make myself a servant to all in order to win as many converts as possible. 

I have adapted to the culture of every place I’ve gone so that I could more easily win people to Christ

I’ve done all this so that I would become God’s partner for the sake of the gospel.

(Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:16, 18, 19, 22, 23 in The Passion Translation)

One Way Missionaries

“The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become.” — Henry Martyn, missionary to India and Persia.


One Way Missionaries

There was an era of missionary zeal around the turn of the 19th century that bred a group who became known as One-Way Missionaries. When they departed for the mission field, they packed all of their belongings into a coffin and bought one-way tickets because they knew they’d never return home.

A.W. Milne was one of those missionaries. He felt called to a tribe of headhunters in the New Hebrides. All the other missionaries to this tribe had been martyred, but Milne didn’t shrink back into safe Christianity.

Milne did not fear for his life because he had already died to himself.

His coffin was packed.

A.W. Milne

A.W. Milne

He served in the New Hebrides for more than fifty years. The tribe buried him and wrote the following words on his tombstone:

“When he came there was no light. When he left there was no darkness.”

What an incredible inscription of someone’s life.

Imagine what the church would look like today if every single follower of Christ exhausted their lives to reach more people far from God.

How We Are Becoming One Church in Three Locations


I have a confession to make:

I’ve never led a church that started from scratch and grew this fast.

I wish I could say that I have all the answers.

I don’t.

My approach to leading the church I love is to:

  • stay close to Christ

  • listen to my wife

  • be a student of the Word

  • seek wisdom from movement leaders who love me and love my church.



By God’s grace, our 6-year-old church start-up has grown like weeds in fertilizer.

We want to Reach the Lost at Any Cost!

This Easter, we’re doing something so CRAZY, so AUDACIOUS, that is is DESTINED TO FAIL unless God intervenes.

At the ripe old age of 6 (we’re barely in Kindergarten!) we’re becoming ONE church in THREE locations across the Great Lakes Region of Michigan!

Would you pray for us this Easter season?

Pray that we would be wise in creating sustainable systems, training volunteers, getting the word out, and making Jesus famous, one life at a time!

How Churches Get Stuck (and How To Regain Momentum)



I recently taught our Staff Team and Interns at Life Church Michigan about How Churches (Denominations / Programs / Movements) Get Stuck.


  • When a LEADER gets better, the CHURCH gets better

  • When a CHURCH gets better, HEAVEN gets more crowded!

    PS - More insanely-practical resources are at

Happy 6th Birthday, Life Church Michigan

Six years ago TODAY my family risked EVERYTHING to launch a dream.

It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. (Romans 15:20)

It hasn’t always been easy. But it’s always been worth it.


6 years later we are in awe of our great God.

One church. 1,200 people. Three locations.

He is faithful.


3 Secrets of Comedy-Writers for Fearless Church Leaders


During a recent Fearless Leadership Coaching Livestream, I shared with church planters and movement leaders 3 secrets of Comedy-Writers that will apply to your next team meeting or message!

I believe in you.

You have what it takes to fearlessly lead your church toward growth.

To help you, here’s the archived livestream from my new YouTube channel plus my notes below — enjoy!

1) Stop Negative Self-Talk

  • Every comedian fights inner demons.

  • Leadership is lonely.  Look up!

    The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look (up!) at it and live.” (Numbers 21:8)

    "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up." (John 3:14)

  • Look up with Eyes of Faith -- God never curses His children.

2) Hustle

Comedians can't afford to sit back and wait to become discovered.

Get out there, shake trees, make phone calls... Make It Happen!

• 80% of sales requires 5 follow-ups

• Follow up with web leads (Facebook, email) in 5 minutes or less! Otherwise they are 9 x’s more likely to lose interest. 

• 63% of clients requesting info won’t buy in for 3 months. 

• 20% of people take 12 months before their first purchase.  

3) Process for Winning Over the People:

• LIKE You

• KNOW You


Remember: You serve your clients:

  • Jesus: Constantly getting interrupted

  • Create margin in your schedule for divine appointments!



EXCLUSIVE 35% OFF COUPON on all resources in celebration of the recent Exponential Church Planting Conference!

Just go to
and type in coupon code EXPONENTIAL at check-out

Daily Encouragement & Tips on Social Media:    @HighFiveJon

Daily Encouragement & Tips on Social Media: @HighFiveJon

The Church Growth Gap

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Healthy Things Grow

It is so easy to take for granted what the Lord is doing at the church I love.

When people visit a Life Church location, they assume this is the norm across America.

Sadly, it is not.


Startling Stats

Last week a fresh new study was released at the Exponential Conference via LifeWay Research:

  • 6 in 10 Protestant churches are plateaued or declining in attendance

  • 57% have less than 100 in worship attendance

  • 21% average around 50 people in weekly attendance

  • More than 50% saw fewer than 10 people become new Christians in the past 12 months

  • Only the top 10% of churches nationwide average 250+ in weekly attendance

  • In 2018, only 32% of churches helped start a new church or campus


The Church Growth Gap

This blows my mind.

The norm in America — the status quo of churches — is never scraping past 100 people.

The by-product of American seminaries is having 90% of churches never breaking 250 in attendance.

That’s NOT what I see in the Scriptures:

Peter preached to them and warned them with these words: “Be rescued from the wayward and perverse culture of this world!”

Those who believed the word that day numbered three thousand. They were all baptized and added to the church.

Every believer was faithfully devoted to following the teachings of the apostles. Their hearts were mutually linked to one another, sharing communion and coming together regularly for prayer.

A deep sense of holy awe swept over everyone, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.

All the believers were in fellowship as one body, and they shared with one another whatever they had.

Out of generosity they even sold their assets to distribute the proceeds to those who were in need among them.

Daily they met together in the temple courts and in one another’s homes to celebrate communion. They shared meals together with joyful hearts and tender humility.

They were continually filled with praises to God, enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord kept adding to their number daily those who were coming to life.
(Acts 2:40-47, TPT)


Making a Holy Shift

We are supposed to be a movement of changed lives, unleashed by the Carpenter-King.

The greatest message in the world brimming with hope, forgiveness, destiny and life is being smothered out.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Jesus promised He would build His church.

The potential of the gospel is always on the horizon.

I do not believe God has called church leaders to hold the fort but to storm the heights!

Jesus did not die on the cross so that we could become comfortable, engage in silly debates with other Christians, and hold our ground. We are called to fearlessly DOUBLE DOWN and TAKE SOME GROUND!


Are You Willing to Be Made Willing?

Jesus was not crucified on the cross so that I could go online and crucify others.

My platform exists to speak life, truth, and hope over people’s lives!

My words, my actions, my influence… all of it is HIS and I want to leverage all of it to help make Heaven crowded!

The good news is that it is NEVER TOO LATE TO BECOME who you MIGHT HAVE been!

While our Lifers continue to dream bigger dreams and attempt larger jumps of faith, I want to encourage and equip other church leaders and church planters.


You have what it takes.

I believe in you.

Join me for our next Fearless Leadership Coaching Livestream this Wednesday at 8:30am EST.

No ego’s.

No Comparison Games.

No Sales Gimmicks.

Just raw enthusiasm and insanely-practical leadership coaching for leaders and church planters.

Normally our coaching costs $179.

But I’m so fired up about these new sinking stats that we’re offering you FREE ACCESS this Wednesday.

That’s right, it’s on the house.

Sign up now and we’ll send you the private link:

Become a Fearless Leadership Insider

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This Wednesday, 8:30am EST

Join other church leaders and planters from across the country this Wednesday at 8:30am EST.

Become fearless and receive proven training from the best.

Together, let’s see what God can do through you!