Hosea

“For she did not know that I gave her grain, new wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold– which they prepared for Baal.” (Hosea 2:8)

This portion of Scripture is talking about a harlot, a wife who is unfaithful. It is an analogy that represents God’s people, Israel, though. Even now, Christians are called the Bride of Christ. We belong to Him.

In chapters 2 and 3 of Hosea, the man’s wife only comes back to him when she can’t receive sustanainse from her lovers. It wasn’t clear to her that her husband was providing quite well for her, but rather she thought her lovers were. She used the bountiful gifts given to her by her husband to serve other men, foreign god’s, and her own self.

The analogy is pointing to God’s people serving other gods with what He has given them. Specifically, Baal was named here, but in our American culture, our gods could be success, busyness, or influence.

Because the woman did not recognize the gifts as from her husband and used them to serve the purposes of worshipping false gods, they were taken from her. (Hosea 2:9-11) All that she had received from her gods and her lovers will be taken from her. (Hosea 2:12-13) Then, when she has been brought low, her husband brings her out to the wilderness and comforts her, gives her gifts, and restores the love relationship. (Hosea 2:14-16)

I love this story! As God’s people, how often do we forget that everything we have is from Him and for Him?  Yet, in our forgetfulness and rebellion and focus on other things, God’s goal is to bring us back into a restored relationship with Him. That restoration involves spending time in the wilderness. Who really wants to go to a desolate place? But if it is a place where God comforts us and draws us back to Himself, maybe we shouldn’t be so scared of it.

Peace to You

It’s Christmas time once more! Despite the many almost car accidents that happen this time of year, it still holds a little more joy and peace. Honestly, that’s probably because I haven’t been consistent in preaching the Gospel to myself. This time of year, though, my mind is brought over and over to the wonder of God coming all the way from heaven to walk among us. It’s truly an amazing thing.

Believing in, and contemplating, that action gives me greater confidence that I can trust God. If Jesus went so far to fulfill promises from the Old Testament to restore relationship with us, than I can . Even when circumstances around me would make me question God’s goodness,  I can look at the Gospel feel confident of His love. There’s nothing like the Gospel to give, or restore, faith. And along with this faith comes peace.

Abraham was the man in the Old Testament who is accredited for having great faith.

“No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he promised.” – Romans 4:20-21

Faith gives peace because we are sure that God will provide, guide, and protect as we follow Him. The interesting thing is that Paul says that Abraham’s faith grew stronger as he gave glory to God. It makes a lot of sense that when we’re focusing on who God is and what He’s done that we would rest easier in His present and future sustaining grace.

In comparison to Abraham’s faith, I’ve noticed that the people in the Old Testament who did not have faith were afraid and made terrible decisions out of that fear. (1 Chronicles 19-20) So trusting is incredibly important if we want to make wise choices.

The is post has gone a little off the topic of the birth of Jesus… But can we really appreciate Jesus coming without a heart of faith?

“By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.” – 1 John 4:9

53. Dinner Out, Turned Gospel Lesson

We were sitting at the table looking at the bill. “Let’s leave ten dollars as tip,” my brother says. That’s multiple dollars more than 20% goes through my head as I give him a confused/ disapproving look. Wheels spin in my head and more reasons why it wouldn’t be “fair” to give that much. It took a little while for the food to come, our order was mixed up the first time around, the power went out, we even waited a while for the bill. I forced myself to step back. Why is it such a problem? I used to love being generous. So I say, “Okay” and throw down the ten dollar bill. As we paid our waitress directly because of the power outage, it was obvious that she expected a much smaller tip.

In the car, my brother continued to hash out the math to figure out how much each of us would pay and came to the realization that he had messed up the math on the tip. He obviously felt guilty and covered the difference. I felt guilty because wasn’t it careless to “throw out” money like that? I’m sure my parents would not approve. But it turned into a lesson on grace straight from God.

As human beings, we know what we ought to do but we don’t. My conscience lets me know every day just how often I don’t do what I ought. I am, we are, completely undeserving of even existing (or, to keep with the analogy, receiving a 15% tip as a waitress). But Jesus went to great lengths to extend abundant mercy, grace, and life (above and beyond the 20% mark). He didn’t decide to stay in heaven because we didn’t deserve His gift.

Usually when we say, “life is unfair” we are referring to the negative things that happen, but it applies to positive things as well. Especially growing up as a middle class American, I take for granted to many unfair blessings every minute. Among all the commonplace blessings, is the gospel I’ve heard many times over. But do we really understand the gospel if we mix it in with the commonplace? Do I really comprehend the gospel if I think in terms of fair when I sit in a restaurant contemplating tip (and then feel guilty later about leaving a larger than normal tip)?

When we realize what Jesus accomplished for us, the eternal life we’ve been given, it puts a new perspective on everything. It’s not a guilt perspective; there is so much grace when you are resting in Jesus. Rather, it’s going about life compelled to share with others because of what’s been given to us, because of the rest we have found.

On the subject of spiritual disciplines, JD Greear writes, “Even our failures in these areas remind us that God bases His acceptance of us on Christ’s keeping of the law, not on ours. That realization will drive us to stand even more in awe of the grace of God, which will produce even more spiritual fruit.

It is by grace through faith that we are saved, but that amazing salvation compels a response.

The experience at the restaurant made me think. It may not have been the smooth, relaxed dinner I expected, but the glimpse of the gospel was worth far more than a dinner of ease.

50. Love Is

Grace flows down on us in the same way that Niagara Falls would if we were standing right underneath them. At times, this truth seems far from true. My brokenness can feel so big. For that reason, I can easily make grace about me and fixing my problems. But I hold the hope of cure; even though I’m broken, I know the One who brings healing. Even more than that, I have forgiveness of sin and security in death.

That’s more than a lot of people have.

Christianity is not a self-help program. Lived out, it’s all about relationship and sharing this good news about Jesus.

Romans seeks to explain how incredibly amazing it is that Gentiles (anyone who isn’t a Jew by birth) have been invited into the family of God. Then it says,

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'” (Romans 10:14-15)

There are so many people who can accept the good news of Jesus, but they don’t know it’s an option. Or maybe they don’t understand how valuable an inheritance they’ve been offered.

We are to pour ourselves out for their faith. Both Jesus and Paul are great New Testament examples of this. “By this we know what love is: Jesus laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1 John 3:16)

This applies in many ways, including a very current situation:

13419222_1549277878714883_9142626998345681112_n

That is the most extreme circumstance, but we read about such occurrences in the NT just as we see it in the news today.

Why? Because of radical love- because of Jesus.

48. The Heart of the Father

Two quotes that I’ve heard countless times in church are, “Being a Jesus follower is hard” and “Doing what God asks of you will be a sacrifice.” I believe these statements are true. There is another part of the equation though.

Obedience will not always be preceded by emotion, but non-the-less it is the basis for many actions, including generosity and meaningful prayer. If emotion has no part, these things quickly become simply religious exercises. I think a lot of Christians disconnect from their emotions.

On one hand, compassion can overflow to the point of wanting to beg every person you meet to believe in Jesus. That would qualify us as crazy.

Another reason we can abandon emotions is because they can, and will, lead us wrong. If we shut them down, there’s no chance of them controlling our actions.

God wired us to feel emotion for a reason, though. If we numb ourselves to them, we take away part of what it means to be human. Even more than taking away from our humanness though, a lack of emotion subtracts from our relationships. Every relationship is effected when we don’t feel, including our relationship with God.

When God asks us to do something hard or to make a sacrifice, it’s for our ultimate happiness. Love is the motivation for the direction/ command. For us to see this in the moment, God has to open the eyes of our heart. This connects us not only to what God is doing and leading us to do, but also allows us to feel the heart of God.

So yes, being a Jesus follower is hard. But when the eyes of our heart are open we will feel God’s love and encouragement as we take each step.

43. Patience for the Generations

So often we get impatient waiting for a certain season to begin or a special milestone to be passed. Paul, and many other writers of the Bible looked forward with great expectation and longing, as well. What they looked forward to was a little different, though. We find the promise that brought such high anticipation in 2 Peter 3:9.

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

When Jesus comes back we will be saved, while right now we are waiting to be saved. It’s been a couple thousand years now that Christ followers have been waiting for Him to show up in the sky again, but as 2 Peter 3:9 says, this is not slowness in God’s opinion.

God is being patient. In my last post in this series, patience was listed as a characteristic of love. In this case, we see that through making us wait for this promise, God is demonstrating love. Surely it didn’t feel like love to the apostles who genuinely expected Jesus to come back in their lifetime. Maybe it doesn’t feel like love right now for you or me as we live in this fallen world. One day we will see what God’s patient love produced: many children of God from all nations!

In the meantime, complacency can infiltrate our thinking as we wait, though. I slip into thinking, “Jesus didn’t come back during the lives of all of the generations before me, so He won’t come back while I’m alive either. Maybe in the next generation.” That may be true. It may not. “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Matthew 24:36)

The reason Jesus hasn’t fulfilled the promise of salvation yet is because He doesn’t want to hand out judgement. He doesn’t wish that anyone should receive judgement but that every single person will reach the point of repenting. As ambassadors for Christ we should have the same heart.

40. Holiness and Relationship

In the beginning… Well, in the beginning of man’s existence, God walked in the Garden with Adam and Eve. God was right beside them! God was their best friend. Sin was chosen by Adam and Eve, though, and that ruined the relationship. Why? Because of a certain, very defining character trait of God’s.

In my last post, I mentioned how God is completely and purely any character trait that He holds. That is part of what makes up this one. God is holy which means He is pure, sinless, faultless. The first few chapters of the Bible, also the first months of earth, show a picture of how God’s holiness and what that means. My former youth pastor said once, “Most Christians would describe God as love and that is true, but the more encompassing definition is holy.”

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” – Genesis 3: 8-10

There’s an interesting dynamic found in this chapter between the relationship of love and God’s holiness. They knew what it sounded like for God to be walking in the garden. Usually, it would bring them joy but today they couldn’t jump into the brush fast enough. Guilt and inadequacy replaced pure excitement. Something had broken, and they knew it deep in their hearts. A wall had been built by a single decision.

Why? Because God is holy, that’s why. There can be no sin in Him and it pains Him to be in the presence of sin. Yet, God came to them in the garden. Instead of sending an angel to kick them out of the garden, He came to deliver the news Himself. We see that God is a relational God through this action.

Later, God would come down to dwell among His people but only in a set apart, holy place that the average person could not touch or enter. Even after long, tedious sin-cleansing practices, priests would sometimes die upon entering the holy inner-room of the temple.

The holiness of God was a very prominent character trait for much of the old testament. Revelation tells us that the angels cry out, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Rev. 4:8) So it is still a defining quality. In the new testament, though, we find a huge move toward relationship on God’s part. God, in the form of man (Jesus), came and walked among us again, lived a holy life, died a death for all the sin, and rose from the dead to bring life with Him. Now, if a person humbles himself and puts on the holiness of Jesus, the relationship can be restored.

God is holy; God is about relationship. There is still to come a time when we will see each one to an even greater extent than we have yet.