Monday, September 26, 2016
Love keeps going to a deeper and deeper level in the book of Hosea. As if it wasn’t enough for Hosea to marry an unfaithful whore (Hosea 1). As if it wasn’t enough for Hosea to remain with her despite her whoring around (Hosea 1-2). As if it wasn’t enough for Hosea to pursue her even in her waywardness (Hosea 2). And now he is called to love her again when she not only has been whoring around, but also is “loved by another” (3:1). It is terrible enough to just be a prostitute for money, but now she appears to be in an actual relationship with a man. And yet, Hosea still loves her. God loves us in the same manner!
Gomer is so destitute and washed up in her sin that she is for sale for only 15 shekels of silver. Hosea’s wife is on the auction block. The normal price for a slave in that day was 30 pieces of silver. Her sin had taken its toil and she wasn’t worth much. Our sin does the same to us. “The wages of sin is death … what did you benefit from that which you are now ashamed of” (Rom. 6)?
With all of this background, Hosea/God pays the price to purchase his own wife. “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for His friends” (Jn. 15). Jesus bought us out of the slavery of sin with His blood! “For God hath redeemed us, not with perishable things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of the Lamb” (1 Peter 3).
And with this purchase, comes a needed conversation about where the relationship goes from here. Hosea tells Gomer that the days of whoring around are over (v. 3) and that it is time to dwell with him and put aside all other relationships. In other words, for this marriage to work, it requires exclusivity!! And God says the same to us. If we are going to have a healthy and growing relationship with God, we must repent of our sins and forsake our other “lovers.” Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
For more on the great sacrifice Jesus has made to purchase us out of slavery, and the 6 essential ingredients that go into a healthy relationship with God, listen to my sermon on Hosea 3 at http://www.livinghopeathens.org/category/sermons/
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
In Hosea 2:14-23 we have this amazing picture of the pursuing God. Gomer (representing Israel and us!) has gone astray from Hosea (representing God). She has gone after other lovers. She has turned her back on her husband.
In Hosea 2:1-13 we saw God bringing loving, but firm discipline upon Gomer. He is surrounding her with thorns and having her hit a wall. This was all designed to be a wake-up call to her. But there is no response yet.
So what does God do next? He would have every right to bring total judgment and be done with her. He could turn His back and say, “It is over.” But yet He doesn’t. Instead, He allures her! He comes after her and seeks to romance her back to Himself. Then He takes her into the wilderness and “speaks tenderly to her.” The original Hebrew here means, “speak to her heart.” And this is what God does with us. In the midst of our sin and rebellion, He wants to speak to our heart. He wants to go to the very root of why we are doing what we are doing.
Then the passage says three times, “I will betroth you to me”. God initiates restoring the marriage in the very midst of Gomer’s adultery. What amazing grace and love. At the very time we deserve judgment and condemnation, God comes after us to renew the marriage. And He does this by saying “I will betroth you to me forever.” Our marriage with God is eternal and cannot be broken. And it is all because of what Jesus did for us at the cross.
For more on this amazing love and union with God that occurs through Jesus, check out my sermon at http://www.livinghopeathens.org/gods-love-song/
Friday, September 16, 2016
This week (on Sept. 15) I was reading Proverbs 15. By the way, reading the numerical Proverb that corresponds with the day of the month is a great habit. Anyways, several passages spoke to me about the importance of walking in humility, teachability, and receptivity to the input (even reprove) of others.
“A fool despises … instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.” 15:5
“There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way; whoever hates reproof will die.” 15:10
“A scoffer does not like to be reproved; he will not go to the wise.” 15:12
“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed.” 15:22
Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.” 15:32
“The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” 15:33
These truths were put to the test in my life that very day. A fellow pastor confronted me about something I said. At first I was defensive and thought I had done nothing wrong. I know I am the only one who ever responds that way. Ha ha. Then I took time to get alone with God and pray about it. The Holy Spirit showed me I needed to repent. I had to repent not only before him, but also before a group of people. Not easy. But afterwards, I had a clear conscience. That is worth a lot!
Think about it: if we walk in absolute humility and constantly open to what God may need to point out to us, then there is nothing He cannot do in us and through us. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). Who would not want all the grace from God they could get? And who would want to miss God’s “good, acceptable and perfect will” (see Rom. 12:1-2) in their life?
Be bold to ask God to give you a humble heart. Be receptive to people speaking into your life. Be approachable so that when people come with a concern, you don’t get defensive. Take all things to the Lord in prayer. And repent of any and everything you are convicted of. And then walk in the forgiveness and power that Christ gives through His Holy Spirit. If you do this, you will spiritually succeed.
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Sin will promise one thing but deliver another. Sin is like a caramel covered rotten apple. Sin may yield certain pleasures for a season, but that season will soon run out.
God will allow us to hit a wall in our sin in order to show us that it is not the best for us. God loves us enough to discipline us (Hebrews 12).
This is the message of Hosea 2:1-13. Gomer has gone astray from Hosea just like we go astray from our husband God! As we go astray and pursue “other lovers”, God will have the fruit of that sin eventually taste bad. It is designed to be a “wake-up call” so as to have us get out of spiritual slumber and return to Him.
There is some really graphic language in this section of God’s Word. Israel had turned to false gods and forsaken the Lord their God, just as Gomer had forsaken Hosea and given birth to some children out of wedlock.
We are all “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” And yet, in God’s severe mercy, He will not allow us to leave easily. He will put a “hedge of thorns” (Hosea 2:6) around us and “build a wall against us” (Hosea 2:6) in order to lead us to repentance. And when we repent, He will welcome us back with open arms and we can be restored.
What is God doing in your life right now to draw you out of your sin and back to Him? What unpleasant things are taking place that are actually the hand of God to get your attention? Wake up! Look at where you are headed. Realize that living outside of God’s will is never good. Your pain is designed by God to get your attention – that you might go to the Divine Physician for help.
Monday, September 12, 2016
This week in my time with God, I ran across 3 verses in 3 consecutive chapters of 2 Corinthians that all speak of having joy in the midst of affliction.
“sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10)
“in all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy” (2 Cor. 7:4).
“for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy” (2 Cor. 8:2)
This really hit me. How radical is that? To be in some kind of affliction, trial, or hardship and yet have joy! That is supernatural. Indeed it is. God calls us to a supernatural and radical life.
So, how can we have joy in the midst of afflictions?
1. Joy is internal, whereas affliction is external. Certainly affliction can be internal, but much affliction comes from external circumstances. Here is my definition of biblical joy: Joy is an inward state of contentment and satisfaction in the Lord, regardless of what is happening in my life. And we all know this can only come about as a “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5).
2. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, who is more powerful than any affliction we could experience. “Greater is He that is in me than ….” (1 Jn. 4:4). All that has been talked about here is a supernatural work of God, and He does this through His indwelling Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that raised Jesus is alive within every Christ-follower (Eph. 1:13; Rom. 8:9-11).
3. Joy is based on a constant, and affliction is constantly changing. Affliction and difficult situations are constantly changing, but the joy we can have in the Lord is based on the stable and consistent presence of God.
4. Joy comes from the positive things that God accomplishes through our affliction. It is in hardships that we often get to know God better and become more like Christ. “Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces …..” (James 1; Romans 5). God uses affliction to deepen our character and our compassion for other hurting people.
5. Joy is based on what is eternal, but affliction is temporal. This is not to minimize the pain that some go through, but we must always keep the temporal and eternal in perspective. We serve the eternal God who has promised us His eternal presence and an eternal home with Him in heaven. No matter what happens, hardships are temporary. The worse that could happen is for us to actually loose our life or be martyred. And yet, that would be victory because we would then go to be with the Lord. “For I consider that this light and momentary affliction is not worth comparing to the eternal weight of glory being revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). It was the martyred missionary Jim Elliot who once said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
May you experience joy amidst affliction in the power of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God!