Hosea 1-7 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He will go to great lengths to prove His love for us

I’ve met some individuals in my life who have a capacity to love difficult people, so much so that it’s not easy for me to comprehend it.  A spouse or a child repeatedly betrays and offends them, yet these loving souls keep hoping and believing for a change.  The book of Hosea is about God’s unfathomable love for His people in the face of their betrayal and offense.

Hosea is a love story between God and His people illustrated through the life of Hosea.  Some think Hosea’s story is symbolic and others believe it to be history, but regardless, the story is compelling.  Imagine being asked by God to marry someone that He promised would be unfaithful to you to the point of having children with other lovers.  It would be difficult, to say the least, but then imagine this request, “Then the Lord said to me, “Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover. This will illustrate that the Lord still loves Israel, even though the people have turned to other gods and love to worship them.” (3:1) Hosea bought back his wife out of slavery to love her again.

Hosea’s story foretold Israel’s bondage to a foreign land because of their continual idolatry and sin, yet because of God’s great love for them, He one day would bring redemption to them.  Hosea and many prophets to come were sent by God to warn of impending doom if Israel did not repent – God calling, reaching, loving.

Many of us have individuals in our lives who are on this same fast track to doom because of their disregard for God.  Hosea’s story offers this important lesson for us – God loves their souls regardless of their indifference, their betrayal and their sin.  He will bring judgment one day if they don’t repent; but in the meantime, He will send any number of prophets or challenges to their lives to get their attention and bring about repentance – God calling, reaching, loving.

God may not ask us to continue fellowship with them, but our role is certainly to love their souls, pray for them and never give up on them as long as they are breathing.  If Hosea could do the hard things that God asked of him, we can do this! 

Moving Forward: Today I will continue to pray for those in my life who seem so very far from God, remembering that He knows exactly where they are and He loves them. 

Tomorrow @ John 7-9

Ezekiel 13-18 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is faithful to His everlasting covenant with us

Ohhh…some rough reading today. The Northern Kingdom had already fallen to Babylon, and now judgment was about to fall on the Southern Kingdom of Judah.  The prophets had given warnings to no avail, and most of the Israelites remained in their idolatry and sinful ways even in captivity.

At the end of Chapter 12 we read, “You’ve heard that proverb they quote in Israel: ‘Time passes, and prophecies come to nothing.’  Tell the people, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:  I will put an end to this proverb, and you will soon stop quoting it.’ Now give them this new proverb to replace the old one: ‘The time has come for every prophecy to be fulfilled.’”(12:22-23)  And then the judgments began.

Judgment prophecies were given through Ezekiel regarding: 1) false prophets of the day who whitewashed the truth so that the Israelites would feel only good about themselves, 2) mediums who used magic and charms to ensnare the people away from God, and 3) leaders who set up idols in their hearts to worship instead of worshipping the true and living God. (14)  The similarities today are remarkable.

The Babylonian captives believed that Jerusalem, the Holy City, would survive the siege, but God called Jerusalem and its people a useless vine. “The people of Jerusalem are like grapevines growing among the trees of the forest.  Since they are useless, I have thrown them on the fire to be burned.” (15:6)  Even more devastating was His charge that Jerusalem was His unfaithful wife, who, worse than a prostitute, had many lovers and didn’t even charge them because she so wanted to be with them.  Jerusalem was filled with altars and shrines to the gods of neighboring countries, and final judgment was coming to Jerusalem.

The riddle of Chapter 17 speaks of the besieged Jerusalem attempting to make an alliance with Egypt to fight against Babylon, but both were crushed by the mighty Babylonian army.  I’ve wondered if it was as perplexing to God as it was to me when I read of this alliance with Egypt, the very country that had enslaved the Israelites without mercy for so many centuries.  Why would they seek to go back to the very ones who had bound them? It was as if they would do anything to keep from trusting God.

Early in our ministry, we had an evangelist friend that God had miraculously delivered from drugs and given a powerful ministry, but over time he slipped back into the bondage of drugs once again.  I’ve never really understood how it happened, but I believe it had to do with pride in what he had accomplished, forgetting Who it was that had delivered him.  Likewise, Israel, so proud of the nation they had become, trusted only in their own plans, rejecting both God and the warnings of Isaiah and the prophets against this alliance with Egypt.  But then, wasn’t it pride that started the whole sin thing with Lucifer? Anytime we consider ourselves equal to God, we are headed for destruction as well.

Well, before we fall right through the floor in depression, let’s remember that Israel is alive and reasonably well on planet earth today.  “Now this is what the Sovereign Lord says:  I will give you what you deserve, for you have taken your solemn vows lightly by breaking your covenant.  Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were young, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.” (16:59-60)

God remembered His covenant with Abraham, and He would take the remnant that turned toward Him, the Daniels and Shadrachs, and build a nation.  The everlasting covenant, Christ Jesus, is available to Israel today; and when we pray, let’s pray they will accept Him and escape final destruction.  After all, hasn’t His Word asked us to pray for Israel? 

Moving Forward:  May I not take my solemn vows lightly to God’s everlasting covenant with me through Christ Jesus.  I reject even the slightest bit of pride in anything I may accomplish.  May it be He who sits on the throne of my heart today. 

Tomorrow @ Luke 15-16

1 Kings 14-18 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He wants us to do what He wants us to do

My 10-year-old granddaughter talks a mile a minute and has me wrapped pretty tightly around her little finger. This adorable little girl is intelligent beyond measure and carries enough charm to bring the world to her feet – all facts that are irrelevant to the point I am making but needing to be shared.  I’m sure you understand.

Our reading today reminded me of something she said when she was just two years old.  If you remember, two is the year of the terrible when our precious, cooing little bundle of joy discovers its own will.  When asked to do something by her mother, our ordinarily compliant little girl responded, “I don’t want to do that!  I want to do what I want to do.”  I had to turn my head away to hide my smile because her mother was doing a little reaping at the moment. But just as the commitment to training helped transform our daughter through her terrible twos into the beautiful Godly woman she is today, her instructions and disciplines are doing the same for her daughter.

Today’s reading is about a nation that did not want to do what God wanted them to do and wanted to do what they wanted to do.  God sent someone along who helped them understand who really was in charge so they would be without excuse when discipline for this attitude came to them.

The nation of Israel was now a divided Kingdom – the ten tribes of the northern Kingdom, ruled by rebel leader Jeroboam and the two tribes of the Southern Kingdom, Judah, ruled by Solomon’s son, Rehoboam.  Neither of the kings served God, and both led the people in worship of other gods.  What a sad state of affairs.

Idolatry is a self-serving form of religion that has the mentality, “If it feels good, do it!” The Israelites chose to leave the restrictions of the law and decided to worship gods that offered no restraint on their physical, social and personal passions.  They wanted the freedom to do as they pleased without fear of punishment, an attitude that sounds very…current.

After years of idol worship, Israel was now led by wicked King Ahab.  Like a good parent, God sent the hand of discipline through the prophet Elijah who declared to Ahab, “As surely as the Lord, the God of Israel lives—the God I serve—there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word!” (17:1)

1 Kings 18
“So, is it really you, you troublemaker of Israel?” (17) asked Ahab when Elijah returned for a visit after his prophecy of no rain.  Elijah replied, “I have made no trouble for Israel…You and your family are the troublemakers, for you have refused to obey the commands of the Lord and have worshiped the images of Baal instead.” (18) The showdown on Mount Carmel proved that Baal and Asherah were no match for the true and living God, and Ahab’s 850 pagan prophets were useless against Him.  Apparently, Ahab did not know Who he was dealing with, but Elijah knew His God, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel…Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones and the dust.  It even licked up all the water in the trench!” (36,38) I love it when God shows up BIG to defeat the false gods of this world.

These false gods promise freedom from restraint and appeal to our fleshly passions to do what we want to do, but they are no match for the fire of God.  The only requirement is that we submit to His discipline and call on His fire to come down and burn us up entirely with the Fire of Holiness.  He will show up BIG in our lives and bless us with His grace and wisdom to do what He wants us to do.  We will be the men and women of God that He desires us to be! 

Moving Forward: My heart cries, “Burn me up, Lord, with your Holiness that I may stand in your Holy place. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 72-74

1 Kings 10-13 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He grants wisdom for our lives as we follow Him

Sadly, we learn that the wisest man that ever lived wasn’t always all that wise. “Now King Solomon loved many foreign women…The Lord had clearly instructed the people of Israel, ‘You must not marry them, because they will turn your hearts to their gods.’  Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway.  He had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines.  And in fact, they did turn his heart away from the Lord.”(11:1-3)  Soon God allowed foreign kings to rise up against Solomon as well as his own people, shortening his reign and his life, ultimately splitting the kingdom.  What was the wisest man in the history of the world thinking?

In response to Solomon’s love for Him, God offered Solomon the moon, but Solomon asked for wisdom instead.  In and of itself, this was wise.  As a young, inexperienced king, he knew he could only survive with God’s help.  As time passed, Solomon’s kingdom was lavished with prosperity and notoriety, so much so that the Queen of Sheba traveled over 1,000 miles to visit him, and in those days that was quite the trip. (10:1-13)  With all this prosperity and unlimited wisdom, Solomon’s reign could have lasted much longer than 40 years, but he had disregarded the if clause in his granted wish.  God said He would give him wisdom and understanding as well as riches and fame for the rest of his life, “…if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.”(3:14)

Solomon lost God’s moral direction for his life, the thing that had guided his great wisdom, when he followed his own moral code and worshiped other gods with his many wives.  It seemed wise to Solomon to marry women from neighboring royal families, shoring up his strength in the region, protecting him from foreign invasions.  However, this seemingly altruistic wisdom was contrary to God’s instructions, “You must not marry [foreign women], because they will turn your hearts to their gods.  And in fact, they did turn his heart away from the Lord.”  I’ve often heard repeated the Chinese proverb, “Man is the head of the family, woman the neck that turns the head,” and for Solomon this proved true.

Solomon wrote in Proverbs 14:12 and again in 16:25, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (NIV)  He would know.  Written late in Solomon’s life, Ecclesiastes reveals the regrets and final conclusions of this one-time great king. Great lessons can be learned from Solomon’s life, the good, the bad and the ugly.  God loves and rewards us when we ask for His wisdom to guide our lives, and He loves it, even more, when we follow it. 

Moving Forward: I will follow the dictates of His wisdom today, not those things that just seem wise to me. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 69-71

Hosea 1-7 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He will go to great lengths to prove His love for us

I’ve met some individuals in my life who have a capacity to love difficult people, so much so that it’s not easy for me to comprehend it.  A spouse or a child repeatedly betrays and offends, yet these loving souls keep hoping and believing for a change.  The book of Hosea is about God’s unfathomable love for His people in the face of their betrayal and offense.

Hosea is a love story between God and His people illustrated through the life of Hosea.  Some believe Hosea’s story is symbolic and others believe it to be history, but regardless, the story is compelling.  Imagine being asked by God to marry someone that He promised would be unfaithful to you to the point of having children with other lovers.  It would be difficult to say the least, but then imagine this request, “Then the Lord said to me, “Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover. This will illustrate that the Lord still loves Israel, even though the people have turned to other gods and love to worship them.” (3:1) Hosea bought back his wife out of slavery to love her again.

Hosea’s story foretold Israel’s bondage to a foreign land because of their continual idolatry and sin, yet because of God’s great love for them, He one day would bring redemption to them.  Hosea and many prophets to come were sent by God to warn of impending doom if Israel did not repent – God calling, reaching, loving.

We all have those in our lives who are on this same fast track to doom because of their disregard for God.  Hosea’s story offers this important lesson for us – God loves their souls regardless of their disregard, their betrayal and their sin.  He will bring judgment one day if they don’t repent; but in the meantime, He will send any number of prophets or challenges to their lives to get their attention and bring them to repentance – God calling, reaching, loving.

God may not ask us to continue fellowship with them, but our role is certainly to love their souls, pray for them and never give up on them as long as they are breathing.  If Hosea could do the hard things that God asked of him, we can do this! 

Moving Forward: Today I will continue to pray for those in my life who seem so very far from God, remembering that He knows exactly where they are and He loves them. 

Tomorrow @ John 7-9

Ezekiel 13-18 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is faithful to His everlasting covenant with us

Ohhh…some rough reading today. The Northern Kingdom had already fallen to Babylon and now judgment was about to fall on Judah, the Southern Kingdom.  The prophets had given warnings to no avail, and most of the Israelites remained in their idolatry and sinful ways even in captivity.

At the end of Chapter 12 we read, “You’ve heard that proverb they quote in Israel: ‘Time passes, and prophecies come to nothing.’  Tell the people, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:  I will put an end to this proverb, and you will soon stop quoting it.’ Now give them this new proverb to replace the old one: ‘The time has come for every prophecy to be fulfilled.’”(12:22-23)  And then the judgments began.

Judgment prophecies were given through Ezekiel regarding: 1) false prophets of the day who whitewashed the truth so that the Israelites would feel only good about themselves, 2) mediums who used magic and charms to ensnare the people away from God, and 3) leaders who set up idols in their hearts to worship instead of worshipping the true and living God. (14)  The similarities today are remarkable.

The Babylonian captives believed that Jerusalem, the Holy City, would survive the siege, but God called Jerusalem and its people a useless vine, “The people of Jerusalem are like grapevines growing among the trees of the forest.  Since they are useless, I have thrown them on the fire to be burned.” (15:6)  Even more devastating was His charge that Jerusalem was His unfaithful wife, who, worse than a prostitute, had many lovers and didn’t even charge them because she so wanted to be with them.  Jerusalem was filled with altars and shrines to the gods of neighboring countries and final judgment was coming to Jerusalem.

The riddle of Chapter 17 speaks of the besieged Jerusalem attempting to make an alliance with Egypt to fight against Babylon, but both were crushed by the mighty Babylonian army.  I’ve wondered if it was as perplexing to God as it was to me when I read of this alliance with Egypt, the very country that had enslaved the Israelites without mercy for so many centuries.  Why would they seek to go back to the very ones who had bound them? It was as if they would do anything to keep from trusting God.

Early in our ministry we had an evangelist friend that God had miraculously delivered from drugs and given a powerful ministry, but over time he slipped back into the bondage of drugs once again.  I’ve never really understood how it happened, but I believe it had to do with pride in what he had accomplished, forgetting Who it was that had delivered him.  Likewise, Israel, so proud of the nation they had become, trusted only in their own plans, rejecting both God and the warnings of Isaiah and the prophets against this alliance with Egypt.  But then, wasn’t it pride that started the whole sin thing with Lucifer? Anytime we consider ourselves equal to God, we are headed for destruction as well.

Well, before we fall right through the floor in depression, let’s remember that Israel is alive and reasonably well on planet earth today.  “Now this is what the Sovereign Lord says:  I will give you what you deserve, for you have taken your solemn vows lightly by breaking your covenant.  Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were young, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.” (16:59-60)

God remembered His covenant with Abraham, and He would take the remnant that turned toward Him, the Daniels and Shadrachs, and build a nation.  The everlasting covenant, Christ Jesus, is available to Israel today; and when we pray, let’s pray they will accept Him and escape final destruction.  After all, hasn’t His Word asked us to pray for Israel? 

Moving Forward:  May I not take lightly my solemn vows to God’s everlasting covenant with me through Christ Jesus.  I reject even the slightest bit of pride in anything I may accomplish.  May it be He who sits on the throne of my heart today. 

Tomorrow @ Luke 15-16

1 Kings 14-18 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He wants us to do what He wants us to do

My 7 year-old granddaughter talks a mile a minute and has me wrapped pretty tightly around her little finger. This adorable little girl is intelligent beyond measure and carries enough charm to bring the world to her feet – all facts that are irrelevant to the point I am making but needing to be shared.  I’m sure you understand.

Our reading today reminded me of something she said when she was just two years old.  If you remember, two is the year of the terrible when our precious, cooing little bundle of joy discovers its own will.  When asked to do something by her mother, our normally compliant little girl responded, “I don’t want to do that!  I want to do what I want to do.”  I had to turn my head away to hide my smile because her mother was doing a little reaping at the moment. But just as the commitment to training helped transform our daughter through her terrible twos into the beautiful Godly woman she is today, her instructions and disciplines are doing the same for her daughter.

Today’s reading is about a nation that did not want to do what God wanted them to do and wanted to do what they wanted to do.  God sent someone along who helped them understand who really was in charge so they would be without excuse when discipline for this attitude came to them.

The nation of Israel was now a divided Kingdom – the ten tribes of the northern Kingdom, ruled by rebel leader Jeroboam and the two tribes of the southern Kingdom, Judah, ruled by Solomon’s son, Rehoboam.  Neither of the kings served God and both led the people in worship of other gods.  What a sad state of affairs.

Idolatry is a self-serving form of religion that has the mentality, “If it feels good, do it!” The Israelites chose to leave the restrictions of the law and chose to worship gods that offered no restraint on their physical, social and personal passions.  They wanted freedom to do as they pleased without fear of punishment, an attitude that sounds very…current.

After years of idol worship, Israel was now led by wicked King Ahab.  Like a good parent, God sent the hand of discipline through the prophet Elijah who declared to Ahab, “As surely as the Lord, the God of Israel lives—the God I serve—there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word!” (17:1)

1Kings 18
“So, is it really you, you troublemaker of Israel?” (17) asked Ahab when Elijah returned for a visit after his prophecy of no rain.  Elijah replied, “I have made no trouble for Israel…You and your family are the troublemakers, for you have refused to obey the commands of the Lord and have worshiped the images of Baal instead.” (18) The showdown on Mount Carmel proved that Baal and Asherah were no match for the true and living God, and Ahab’s 850 pagan prophets were useless against Him.  Apparently Ahab did not know Who he was dealing with, but Elijah knew His God, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel…Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones and the dust.  It even licked up all the water in the trench!” (36,38) I love it when God shows up BIG to defeat the false gods of this world.

These false gods promise freedom from restraint and appeal to our fleshly passions to do what we want to do, but they are no match for the fire of God.  The only requirement is that we submit to His discipline and call on His fire to come down and burn us up completely with the Fire of Holiness.  He will show up BIG in our lives and bless us with His grace and wisdom to do what He wants us to do.  We will be the men and women of God that He desires us to be! 

Moving Forward: My heart cries, “Burn me up, Lord, with your Holiness that I may stand in your Holy place. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 72-74