Steadfast Love…

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 12.46.03 PMPrintableScreen Shot 2014-12-18 at 12.46.08 PMThankfully no more tests or papers for you all for the next couple of weeks. I rejoice with you and love seeing you get a break! I want us to think for a moment today though, about tests. When you take a multiple choice test, if you mark the answer “C” and the correct answer is “A”, you get it wrong, don’t you? You don’t get credit for the answer and your grade is lowered because of it. There is only one right answer-and no in-between on multiple choice questions.

There is a right and wrong answer to our walk with God as well-and no “in-between”. The right answer is “steadfast love” and “knowledge of God”. As I read this Scripture this morning, I got to thinking about this. What exactly does “steadfast love” for God look like? Hosea starts to define it by saying it is the knowledge of God as opposed to burnt offerings. We don’t do burnt offerings, of course, in our day but I believe this could be any “religious” act we think gets us close to God. Maybe it is doing daily devotions. Maybe it is going to church faithfully. It could be making sure to say a blessing before eating. The tricky part to all of this, I think, is that these things are not wrong, and in fact, I do think they are important. Where we get it wrong is thinking that we can do “acts” and then we are “done” with our obligation to God. That they will suffice for a relationship with Him. The Israelites certainly thought along these lines-they performed their burnt offerings, and then lived their lives apart from God’s standard.

Since God chose to use the term “steadfast love” here AND this is the book of Hosea, a book with a marriage that is a disaster in terms of faithfulness, I can’t help but think of how steadfast love should look between a woman and a man. Would steadfast love be a boy sending “loving” texts to his girlfriend each morning, but flirting with all the other girls at school? Would it be a woman faithfully cooking her husband a meal every night (a “thing”) but keeping up a relationship with an old boyfriend on online where they make plans to meet sometime? No. That is not steadfast love. The heart is not in it.

It is the same with God. The deeds are valuable, but only if the heart is in it. The right answer to the “test” of our relationship with God is our heart. It is a heart’s desire to please Him daily, to call sin sin, confessing it and  repenting to make our relationship right with God again. It is the knowledge of God, truly knowing He is king, and serving Him as our Lord because of that knowledge. It is then that we have “chosen” the right answer for this test!

Steering in the right direction

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Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 10.12.14 AMThis weekend is our trip to NYC. There will be 4 cars in total driving up. We will caravan together. That is our destination and dad will steer the car in that direction as will all the other drivers.

This is the way steering works. When you steer a car a certain way, it goes in that direction. The steering wheel in comparison to many other car parts, may not be the biggest or most obvious, but it certainly plays an important role.

We often talk about steering our “life” in certain directions as well, don’t we? If we can “steer our life”, what part is the “steering wheel”? I believe to some degree, it is our “deeds”.  Our deeds, or actions,  as we repeat them or take new actions, head us in different directions. Hosea alludes to this today in the Word as seen above. He points out that Israel’s deeds were such that they did not “permit them to return to their God.” The things they were doing were steering them in the wrong direction… pretty much the opposite way they should have been going. They were committing sinful acts (deeds), and doing things that made it clear that they did not “know the Lord.”

We can do the same. Our daily deeds, though perhaps seemingly small, are always pointing us in one direction or the other: either towards or away from God. When those deeds are “sin”, and we commit them over and over, we harden ourselves to it and steer ourselves in a very wrong direction. As the Life Application Bible puts it: “Deliberately choosing to disobey God can sear the conscience; each sin makes the next one easier to commit.” Think about that- it is a very scary thought! One sin makes the next “easier” to commit. Is there any sin in our lives that we are committing and not dealing with? Is there an area we need to repent, ask God’s forgiveness and ask him to radically “change our direction?” Let’s do it now- and steer as far away from sinful practices as possible!

Do you know?

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Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 9.37.46 AMYou know how we give you $20 each month for lunch at school? How do you think dad and I would feel if you used that money to buy drugs, cigarettes or alcohol…every month…for years? We wouldn’t be too happy, to say the least, besides the fact that it would point out a much larger problem.

Such is the case in Hosea today, or at least it is very similar. Hosea was the prophet that God told to marry a prostitute-and that their married life would be a living illustration of what God’s people were doing to Him. Just as Hosea’s wife would sadly, time and time again, go spend time with other men, so did God’s people. God lavish them with love and blessings and they used those material blessings to serve other gods, Baal specifically.

What makes this crime worse in my eyes is the first phrase of today’s verse; “She [Israel & Gomer, Hosea’s wife] did not know that it was I…” Not only were the gifts horribly “misused”, but the giver was not acknowledged or even known. Basically, the God who had given them everything, they fully ignored or in today’s words, “dissed”. Imagine a loving husband giving his wife jewelry, gifts, clothing…and the wife getting all dressed up for a night out wearing all the gifts she had been given…to go out with another man. Seriously, it would be heartbreaking to watch.  And that is precisely how God felt.

He is still grieves when He sees us take the things He has given us and misuse them. Now, it is not so much gold or silver in our lives, but it may be our time, our athletic ability, our academic prowess, a material gift or even a talent. The best example I can think of is to compare how some incredible athletes truly strive to give God the glory, like Tim Tebow, as opposed to others, like Richard Sherman, who take full pride in “their” talent and gloat on the field. Neither would be able to walk without God deciding they could. We all too easily “forget” or in the words of Hosea, “do not know” who has given us every ability and thing we have.

Today, remember. Remember that the only reason you and I can walk, is because God has granted us that ability. The only reason I can help others with technology is because God me a knack for it. (This is SO obvious to me, since I never studied it.) The only reason you can score well on your test or be a strong leader, is because God gave you that talent. Yes, it does take work and willingness on our part, but if He hadn’t given it to us in the first place, no work or willingness, no matter how hard, would ever accomplish these things apart from Him! May we be using all the things God has given us to worship Him and to give him the glory for the gifts He has showered on us. May we NEVER “not know” exactly who gave us all that we have!

 

Turn back…while you can!

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PrintableScreen Shot 2014-12-09 at 10.36.23 AMSunday’s episode of Once Upon a Time was  titled “Shattered Sight”. It was about the town of Storybook under a new spell. The Ice Queen’s “magic” falls like shards of a mirror onto the town and the outcome was that everyone basically tears each other apart. All the mean evil things the townspeople are thinking, they say and do-including “Snow White” and “Prince Charming”-who certainly find no love lost between each other at this point!

What I watched Sunday and what I read this morning in the Scriptures were amazingly similar. It is almost as if the TV show was portraying Micah 7:2. All the “good” had “disappeared” from the land…and everyone was lying in “wait for blood”.  Of course, the Bible is not describing a TV show, but instead, Micah’s day. The Israelites were continuing in their sin, it was as obvious as could be, and Micah was warning of the judgment to come. God brought judgment to bring them back to Him. What does this mean for us?

We are forgiven of our sins through Christ, so that payment is already made-but as we all know, we still sin. When we enter into sin in our lives, God will do what it takes to get us back on track. When we are going through difficult times in our life, it can be a good time to examine the “why is this happening” question. I am by no means saying all trials are a result of sin, but at the same time, God can use the consequences of sin and difficulty to show us where we have strayed from Him and to bring us back.

God is a loving parent. He will not willingly let us “walk into danger”, so He will put up roadblocks to stop us. He did it back in Micah’s day, and still will do it today. Look for them. Recognize a roadblock or detour for what it is. When things are not “working out” how you and I expected (a relationship, a circumstance, a job) consider if it might perhaps be God showing you you are in sin, or helping prevent you from entering an area of sin. Take heed to His warning-the sooner we turn back, the better!

Peace on Earth… really?

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Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 2.22.39 PMThe sermon we heard yesterday was titled “Peace on Earth”. No doubt, this is what our world is searching for. Peace at the international level-between Israel and other nations. Peace at the national level-regarding rioting and repercussions from the Ferguson situation. Even down to the level of school, peace is needed at times in the lunchroom, right? We do not need to look far, do we?

Today, in Micah, as his prophetic writing zeros in on the coming Christ, he too, speaks of peace. Do you see in the Scripture section above how Jesus is described? It is not hard to see how he fulfilled this Scripture. He did feed his flock, the disciples, and on a grander scale, all people. He showed them in human form, the majesty and grandeur of God through miracles and rising from the dead. But what about the last two parts? What about the “live secure” and being “one of peace”. Is there really peace on earth right now? Are we 100% secure?

The answer is yes and no. Again, I was shown insight today into this Scripture and it coincides with something Dad is always reminding me. When Jesus came, IF the Jews had accepted him as their king, things were set for Jesus to go ahead and set up his kingdom right then. They did not. He knew they would not. And it was necessary for the salvation of the world for these things to happen. But, what HE did bring that first time was eternal security and inner peace. Because of Jesus, we can now be at peace WITH GOD. Because our sins are forgiven, we have spiritual peace. Not only that, we also are blessed with ETERNAL security. We are secure in our eternal life through Jesus death and payment for our sins. This is the peace and security we have already been granted through Christ.

There is coming time, though, when the world will truly be at peace AND life on earth will be secure. That is Jesus second coming. That is the hope we live for and know is coming. That is the reason to rejoice.

So, as you and I see signs around us celebrating Christmas and writing about “peace”-remember the type and timing. Right now, we have peace in our standing before a God who punishes sin, and we have eternal security. In the future we will ALSO have peaceful circumstances around us when Christ reigns and we will be able to live securely. Timing is everything, as is understanding the Word of God. In the meantime, we can do our best to be peaceful with those around us. Always seek peace, be peacemakers-and show others a taste of what is to come!

All or nothing!

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Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 11.20.56 AMYesterday Mrs. M. was interested in the Aero PJ’s that Miriam needed me to return. The PJ’s were 2 parts of a 3-part “deal” she got. It was a good deal, but she explained to me that if we just return 1 of the 3 piece set, we would only get 1¢. All 3 pieces had to be returned to get the full money back-it was an “all or nothing” deal, so to speak.

Today, in Micah, we can see the Israelites trying to work a deal too with God- they want parts of him, but not all the parts. In the descriptive verses above, we are told the Israelites are taking bribes for judgments, the priests are being paid to teach specific things and the prophets are being paid off as well. Not exactly following God’s standards. But, while they don’t follow that, they do, apparently still want the “protecting” side of God. The fact they say “Surely the Lord is with us! No harm shall come upon us” proves they think they can still have that part.

No deal. God is an all or nothing God. We can’t just choose “part”. Either we believe AND serve Him wholly or we don’t. They could not choose then what “parts” of God or His standards they wanted, and toss the rest, and neither can we. And don’t be fooled-this still happens today all the time, especially now at Christmas. People love the “warm, fuzzy” side of God, the “baby in a manger” picture at this time-but they usually have no interest in the God who also punishes for sin and judges. A “loving, grandfatherly God” who loves all is great, especially one that also protects us…but don’t mention sin, repentance, the need of a Savior or anything else. They will not be interested, because then it requires us to admit we have done wrong, to see that there is a punishment and realize that action of some sort needs to be taken. That action is seeking a Savior and forgiveness…and ultimately a transformed life.

The sad part is-this is the TRUE message of Christmas. This is the actual reason the idea of gifts ever came into a Christmas celebration-because Jesus is the gift! It is the fact that when we take ALL of God, we get the precious gift of the Savior with it. A Savior who took our punishment, and in exchange, offers us a transformed life here on earth and eternal life in heaven. We need to remember this when we find ourselves tempted to want only “part” of God- to want to “obey” this standard, but not another one. Part is not an option. He is an all or nothing deal-but most definitely worth it to take ALL!

Just pure foolish thinking!

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Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 11.54.13 AMEvery day I see silly videos posted on Facebook. Videos of people doing foolish or “stupid” things. Fortunately, in most, no one gets hurt and they are truly just funny.

I think if today’s verses were a “YouTube” video, I would probably put it in the same category as those above in the sense of being foolish. What he is saying is foolish. What he thinks could  occur is truly stupid. King Amaziah tells the prophet Amos to go away somewhere else and tell a different nation what God wants them to do, thinking this will eradicate his obligation to obey God. It is a ridiculous thought. Just because the messenger would leave, doesn’t mean the message no longer stands.

Do you know where I am going with this?  Does it ever cross our minds that as long as someone doesn’t “remind” us something is wrong, we can do it anyway? Like it will go unseen, or unnoticed? This could be Jordan and Miriam’s mindset once off to college, although I am sure it will not be. Dad and I are not there. We don’t know what you are doing, saying, or where you are going. For instance, Jordan can watch any movie he wants now, and it is his choice and decision. Dad and I are not going to say, “No, you can not watch that one.” It is fully his decision. We would never know-but that does NOT change the standards that God calls him to uphold. It doesn’t change whether his witness to others would be tarnished, should they see him going to a movie that mocks God or is full of filth. Taking away the messenger does not change the message anymore today than it did in Amaziah’s day. The message, God’s Word, always stands whether the messenger is there or not!

Lest we forget…

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Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 12.13.30 PMMiriam or Aaron, if Jordan tells you to do something, would you do it? Maybe, maybe not. What if dad is the one speaking to you? Chances are greater that you would do it. Let’s “up it” more-what if it were the police? The President?

As I go higher “up” by person, the chances of you doing what is asked and doing it right away increase, don’t they? As the authority level rises, so does (or should) our responses. But, what if the president was dressed like a homeless person standing at the Kmart intersection and asked you to do something? Would you and I respond then? I doubt it, because chances are, without recognizing him, we also would not recognize his authority, right? We don’t generally tend to feel an obligation to obey a stranger with no authority over us.

I believe we do the same thing with God…all too often. We “forget” or don’t recognize who He is, and the authority that comes with it. Today, as I was reading Amos chapter 4, the words were laid out in an interesting way on the page as you can see in the picture. Off to the side are the words “says the Lord”. Do you see them? Paragraph after paragraph. At first, I didn’t really see or read them, and apparently, the Israelites didn’t either. They forgot it was God giving them their instructions, they forgot exactly what His authority was, and sadly, time and time again their actions showed it! The final verse of this chapter, written above, is the point where God reminds them exactly who He is, since they had so clearly forgotten and “missed” it.

I am afraid we need the same reminder. We all hear God’s Word in school, at church, at home, on the radio, on podcasts…but it all too easily becomes a “suggestion”- like Dad suggesting to Aaron to practice his basketball. It is a good idea, but Aaron doesn’t “have” to do it. We can slip into viewing God’s definition of sin, and what our behavior should be as “good ideas” but not an obligation to obey. They are not. They are the Word of God from “the one who forms the mountains, creates the wind, …— the Lord, the God of hosts”. That is His name. That is His authority. And for this reason, these things are not “optional”. Lest we forget-there is no higher authority.

“A” leads to “B”…

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Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 9.57.57 AMAaron asked this morning if he still has to wear a uniform today. He does not, because they are allowing work clothes since the rake and run is today. It is good he asked. If he had worn jeans and they were supposed to be in uniform, he would get an SLD and be sent home to change. There is a clear rule, and if it is broken, the punishment is clearly spelled out in the school handbook.

God works the same way. He clearly spells out the rules. He clearly spells out what we are and are not to do. He clearly spells out what will happen if we choose disobedience-what the punishment and or natural consequences will be.

Today, in Amos, He is reminding the Israelites of this fact. The verse above is a portion of that reminder. The 6 verses that precede it show the link from action “A” to action “B”. For instance, vs. 4a says, “Does a lion roar in the forest, when it has no prey?” It is a rhetorical question-the answer is no. A lion does not. One thing leads to another, and God summarizes this by saying-I have told you what actions you are to take. There are no secrets. I sent people (prophets) to tell you what to do. The people did not do it, and were suffering the consequences of those choices.

Remember, though, this works both ways. When the Israelites DID obey, look what happened. They were given the promised land. A little boy named David was able to kill a giant named Goliath. Nehemiah trusted God and asking a king for permission to rebuild Jerusalem and the king granted the request and more-he gave him tons of money and supplies. It is the same today.

When daddy takes on his role as leader of this household, and I don’t argue with him, or try to usurp that role, we are a good team. When you do what we ask you to and you obey us even when you are not in our sight, we trust you and allow you more freedoms. We lend the cars to you and let you spend time with your friends.

The point is-there are no secrets. God has clearly laid out how the world He created works best, and what things will lead to problems. The better you know the “play” book, the better you will play in the “game of life” this side of heaven! Memorize it and play well!

Just a number…

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Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 8.46.26 AMMiriam is 1 of 24 students in her class. Aaron is 1 in a class of about 40. Jordan is 1 of maybe 4,000 sophomores at Liberty. While daddy and I know how special each of you are, you are not famous or on America’s Got Talent, or in the news or a sports phenom. Neither am I. I am a “boring, stay-at-home” mom-I am not a vice-president of a company, I am certainly no Rachel Ray or Martha Stewart, and their is no great talent I will be exhibiting anytime soon! You and I could just view ourselves as a number, just another “regular” person.

“Regular” is not bad. Just being a “number” among those in your class, is not a negative, because these are the people I see God uses. He uses the “weak” vessels, or perhaps those who are the most “unlikely” to do great things. I am sure you have heard this before, but today in Amos, I was reminded of this and wanted to remind you.

Look at Amos 1:1. Amos was “among the shepherds”-basically he was one of a group of the most common, ‘non-special’ type people of that day. He was just a “number”. Most of the prophets were. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was. Peter, the fisherman, with no great education was. And you and I are. God did amazing, great things with them and through them. He chose them above all the other “greats”. They did things for God that no one else could. They touched lives that nobody else ever did. They made a difference where no one else did. So can you. So can I.

Today, I want to remind you, that you may have a friendship, relationship or acquaintance that no one else will have. And God will use you in the lives of others, where no one else can be used. I talked a little about this to Miriam yesterday regarding Darien. Our neighborhood right now is part of our mission field. Darien may have been brought in to our family’s life so that God can use us in his life in some way that no one else can. Our job? Obey God. Let Him use us in the lives of others however He leads. He picked normal, “regular” Amos out of all the shepherds, and I have no doubt, He picks you and I out of any single other person in this world, to accomplish His purposes on this earth. Be open to how God wants to use you-look for it, then obey. All He needs is a willing heart-and He will do the rest.