Wednesday, April 1, 2020

...And Yet His Love Endures

The book of Hosea is an enigma when it comes to faithfulness.  After all, this book of the Bible begins with a story about a wife who is unfaithful and a husband who is longsuffering.  

Most of us without a counseling degree or maybe even with one would be telling this husband, Hosea, to kick that girl, Gomer, to the curb and move on because we would tell Hosea that he deserves to be loved, respected and have all his wife's attention, and he did give her plenty of chances to behavior.

In the book of Hosea, when we look at this story as a living parable, it is easier to see the truth God is driving home to our hearts.  When we grasp the truth of this book, it will give us more compassion for Gomer and give us a new thankfulness for the ever-enduring Hosea.

Parables have long been a means that both God the Father and Jesus, His Son have used to teach us.  The best description I've heard to describe a parable is this; words become a paintbrush to create a portrait of truth.  

The book of Hosea can be broken into two parts.  In chapters 1-3, we see Gomer’s unfaithfulness to her husband, Hosea.  And God continually telling him to return to his wife.  Then in chapters 4-14, the tables are turned and God shows us through the story of Hosea and Gomer; Israel’s unfaithfulness to God and God's willingness to accept back this nation that continually rejected the Father love.   

Looking closely at the brush strokes of this story, we will see the enduring love relationship between God and his wayward people.

Through all the beauty and raw truth of this Old Testament living parable, I landed on this verse in Hosea 6:6 to ponder this week. 

 “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, 
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”   

Here God is telling his people, Israel what he wants from them.  He wants them to desire Him and love Him more than anything this world has to offer.  He's not looking for self-sacrifice in the things we do, but He is calling for our hearts--our love.   

It's time to really love the One who chose us warts and all, just like Hosea chose Gomer and repeatedly took her back.  Jesus' enduring love for us is the same.  It's time to give God what He desires; our steadfast love.  

When we were unfaithful, undeserving, and behaving badly,  Jesus loved us and gave His life for us. 

Here's the message from the book of Hosea to us,  love Him because He desires our love more than anything else, and in the end, our actions will show our true love.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Favor of the Lord

I love it when I'm the favorite, but not so much when someone else is shown favor at my expense.  

In my life, I have known what it is like to be both the favorite and the invisible person in the room.  If it were up to me, being the favorite is my preferred choice of treatment.   

In large families, it can be nearly impossible to get floor time, you have to fight to be heard.  At times, this can cause people to talk over one another.  

I speak from experience here, so sorry to all those in my life that I’ve talked over because of my need to be heard.   

I remember the first time I heard this phrase prayed over someone at the altar; I pray that you will know The Favor of the Lord.  

I thought it was brilliant, and I wanted to pray that over everyone, and have it prayed over me.  The very thought of having the favor of the Lord was thrilling.  I wanted Jesus on my side at all times, and I wanted to receive the kind of special treatment only He could give.

I may sound a bit needy here, but come on, how special is it to be hand-picked by Jesus and then be shown His special favor.  

Daniel knew what this was like.  He was in captivity in Babylon, but even in his distress, God showed him special favor.

Daniel 1:9, says; Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel.

Jesus also knows a little something about favor.  In Luke 2:52 it says, And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Here is a definition of favor; to give unfairly preferential treatment to someone. 

In other words, it's favor we don't deserve, but we get it just the same.  This sounds a lot like grace—unmerited favor.

Daniel didn't deserve this favor.  He was a prisoner.  Yet, through God’s mercy, the officials showed him special favor.  

Why did the officials do this?  Because first and foremost Daniel had the favor of the Lord.

If you're like me, you probably want to know how you can get some of this undeserved favor.  

Here's how, when we come into a relationship with Jesus through salvation, He in return will bless, guide, and protect His children.  That doesn't mean our lives will be perfect without any form of suffering but knowing we are favored is to know that God is with us, and in control, no matter what we are facing.  

When you come to the full understanding that God is God, and He is still in control of our lives both in the good times and the bad then you'll better understand some of these familiar Bible stories.

  • God was still in control when Daniel was in the lion’s den.
  • God was still in control when Joseph was in prison and also when he was in the palace.  
  • God was still in control when Elisha was fleeing for his life and also when the raven fed him at the brook. 
  • God was still in control when David was tending the sheep in his father's fields and He was also in control when he slew the giant.
  • God was still in control when Mary, the mother of Jesus, was on her knees at the foot of the cross.  And He's still in control today!

It's time to stop second-guessing, and take hold of this truth; you are HIS favorite.

You have The Favor of The Lord.

Trust Him.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Sheep Whisper

A few years ago, in my preschool class at church, I had a wanderer.  
At three years old, she came into my class labeled because she had already wandered away on a Wednesday night when she was a toddler.  The church custodian found her by the dumpster on the far side of the parking lot.  
She had wandered a long way from the safety of the nursery.  The dumpster where she was found was only a few yards from a creek that runs along the back of the parking lot.  
I still shiver to think of it.  That incident put the fear of God in all the workers that Wednesday evening.  
So, when the little wanderer graduated into my class, I watched her well and for three years we were without incident.  
Then it happened.  
She wandered.  

There was an outside youth water activity that caused a crowd to gather in the hallway outside my classroom.  That hallway had a door that led outside where the youth were having their water event.  

With only a few minutes left before pick-up, I allowed my preschoolers to gathered at the window of the classroom to watch the fun. 
The little wanderer saw a family member outside and took it upon herself to join him, but she didn’t tell me.  When her mother came to pick her up a few minutes later, imagine my surprise when she was nowhere to be found. 

Her mother quickly located her and brought her back to me to apologize for leaving the classroom without permission.  

As her mother directed her towards me, I could see her brown eyes pooled with tears.  Her sweet little heart was broken that she had caused me worry.  She knew she had done wrong to leave, but the enticement to be a part of something outside the safety of the classroom pulled her away.  

I bent down and opened my arms to her.  She ran to me and we hugged.  I whispered in her ear my concern for her safety and reminded her of the classroom rules.  

She hugged me a bit tighter.  

I held her in my arms.

She promised not to leave the classroom again without permission, and I kissed her cheek.  

I know this story isn’t a perfect match to Ezekiel 34:15-16 (TLB), but there are some similarities to our wandering ways and The Sheep Whisper who called us all by name. 

"I myself will be the Shepherd of my sheep 
and cause them to lie down in peace,” 
the Lord God says. 
“I will seek my lost ones, those who strayed away 
and bring them safely home again. 
I will put splints and bandages upon their broken limbs 
and heal the sick... 

This verse is a sweet reminder to me that I was once a wander with a bad reputation.  Then I responded to the kind voice of The Sheep Whisper.  He found me, embraced me, brought me into safety and forgave my wandering ways.  

This is what He did for me and this is what he will do for whosoever will.

v He gathers His sheep.  
v His sheep know His voice.  
v His sheep obey His voice.  
v When His sheep stray, He brings them back into the safety of His fold.  
v His compassion is without measure.  
v When sheep are wounded He cares for them.  
v The sheep that follow Him will be well fed and blessed.

Jesus is The Sheep Whisper.  

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

A God Moment

Our first missionary photo from 1986.
The Sunday before we were to leave the United States and move to the Philippines to become missionaries, I sat in what would be our last church service in the USA for two years.  On my lap was my daughter, and my sons were sitting next to me in the church pew.  

The service had been a typical Sunday evening service that ended with a time of prayer at the altar.  The worship leader sang throughout the altar service.  

As this portion of the service was ending,  only a few people remained at the altar.  Then the worship leader began to sing one of my favorite songs; The Steadfast Love Of The Lord.  

I won’t lie to you, I had deep concerns about moving my family to a foreign country.  I didn’t know what to expect when we arrived with things like beggars, hungry children, masses of people, ridiculous amounts of traffic, military coups, would I know how to shop in the markets, would the heat be unbearable, I had to learn a new currency, new language, new school for my children, would we be effective for the Lord, what kind of house would we live in, etc. 

My mind raced at all the new things we were about to face.  I held my baby girl a bit tighter.  Would my children be safe, would we all be safe in another country?
Then it happened; God Moment.  

A God Moment is when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is using someone or something to speak directly to you.

The worship leader had sung my favorite song through a few times. 

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end.
They are new every morning, new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness O Lord,
Great is Your faithfulness.

About the third time through, he came to this phrase of the song: They are new every morning.

This one line he repeated over and over again.  And when I say over and over, I’m not kidding.  It was as if God told him, don’t stop until she gets it!

They are new every morning
They are new every morning
They are new every morning
They are new every morning
They are new every morning

And, I got it!  

About the fourth time he sang, They are new every morning, I was weeping as God in a supernatural way dropped into my heart the reminder that He is a God of unending love, mercy, and compassion and no matter what was ahead.  His love, mercy, and compassion was waiting for me new every morning.

I knew at that moment, He would not call me to go and then forget about me once I got on the plane.  

This is what Lamentations 3:21-24 tells us:

Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

This passage of scripture will always hold a special place in my heart.  It is a love note sent directly to me from my Heavenly Father, to give me both strength and courage to look up and find hope. 

No matter what difficult situation you may be facing today, God is still God and in Him, you will find love, mercy, and compassion.

They are new every morning
They are new every morning
They are new every morning
They are new every morning
They are new every morning

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Special Invitation

Over the years, I’ve received many special invitations to different events.

With each invitation, I’ve felt honored to be included.  

I've received invitations to weddings, baby showers, graduation open houses, birthday parties, and many other events.  

When I receive one of these invitations, the first thing I do is go to my calendar to be sure I'm available.  Then I jot down the special event on the calendar as a reminder to participate. 

I think I have a pretty good memory, but many times I've had to rely on my calendar to remember a special event.

In Jeremiah 33:3, God jotted down for all humanity a special invitation.  All we have to do is remember it's available to us.   
This is what Jeremiah 33:3 says,
‘Call to me and I will answer you
and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’

When we face difficulties, often calling on the Lord is the very last thing we remember to do.  In times of trouble, sickness, distress, danger, etc. who's your go-to person? 

One of my favorite things about receiving a special party invitation is the takeaway gift for all those who attended.   

It might be a slice of CAKE and who doesn't love cake!  Whatever the special event might be, usually, there's a little something for those who choose to participate.

And God's special invitation is no different.  His special parting gift to us is, "I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know."

We’re all invited.  

We’ve all received our special invitation.   

We only need to call on Him and He will answer.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Round and Round We Go

Recently, my daughter was telling me some discipline issues she was facing with one of her children.  As I listened, I had a nostalgic feeling.  

From generation to generation, all parents face the same things—and round and round we go.  

Parents endeavor to train their children to be valuable law-abiding members of society.   When we are in the trenches of child-rearing, sometimes we feel alone and desperate.  We love our children and only want what is best for them all the days of their lives.

Our parent, God the Father, also only wants what's best for His children.  

The present social climax we face today is similar to the round and round we go through in parenting.  In the Old Testament book of Isaiah, the people of the day faced something that has been going round and round for generations.  And yes, we are currently experiencing this same thing today.  

It’s an age-old problem.  People try to defend and make excuses for why they believe things that are against the teaching of God's Word.  

In Isaiah 5:20, these words were written centuries ago.  Yet, the warning is as real to us today as it was then.      

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, 
who put darkness for light and light for darkness, 
who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. 

God has given us His Word, the Bible, as our guide to help us stand strong even when the culture is pushing us to conform.  In the book of Isaiah, God’s Word gives warning to a nation that replaced good for evil. 

In Romans 12:2 we are reminded in the New Testament, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." 

These Old and New Testament warnings tell us, we cannot conform to this world.   Even if it means we stand alone. 

Here are a few things we can do to help us avoid calling good evil or evil good.
  • Daily commit to crucifying your own fleshly wants and desires and be sure your passions align with the Word.  
  • Daily make a decision to refrain from sin that will pollute you through the eyes, heart, mind, ears, etc.
  • God has set a standard—we must choose to live by His standard if we are to be called the Children of God.  
  • Break the spiritual chains that bind us through unforgiveness, selfishness, stubbornness, pride, etc. 

Call sin what it is and don’t make excuses 
or round and round we go!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A Love Story

Romantic Comedies are my favorite kind of movie.  There’s nothing as good as a love story.  When I tell my children about how their father and I met and fell in love or tell my grandchildren how their parents met and fell in love there’s always warm smiles and happy giggles.
That’s because everyone loves a good love story.

One of the first Bible verses that I remember putting to memory as a child was John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believed in him would not perish but have everlasting life.”  

This verse is the foundation of the greatest love story ever told. 

When it comes to love, there’s a difference between knowing about love and experiencing love. The same is true regarding knowing about God’s love and experiencing His love firsthand.  

The kind of love we see in John 3:16 is referring to God’s love which is eternal not a temporal love like we see in earthly relationships.  

Because we are earthlings, and we understand best earthly relationships, God in His wisdom included a beautiful book in the Bible to help us better grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. (Eph 3:18)

The main focus of this book of the Bible is the love of the bridegroom for the bride and the love of the bride for the bridegroom.  The Song of Solomon is a beautiful analogy of Christ and the Church (His Bride) passionately seeking to find one another.  

Song of Solomon 3:4 is often used in weddings as a reminder of the promise of love and commitment between husband and wife—for life.  

I have found the one, whom my soul loves, 
I held him and would not let go...

This verse is a beautiful reminder to us to stay true and hold on to our first love—Jesus.  Once we have found Him—don’t let go.

That’s my love story and yours too if you’ve ever made a commitment to Christ.  If you haven’t, now would be the time to pray this prayer. 

 Lord Jesus, I’m tired of the sin struggle in my life. My choices have not led me to good places or the right relationships. So today, I confess my need for You. Lord, I ask you to forgive me. I’m sorry for the things I’ve done that have been displeasing to you. Today, I’ve found the one my soul has been longing for in you Jesus, I want to cling to you and never let go.  Take control of my life.  In Jesus Name I pray.  Amen.  

And now your Love Story has begun.

...And Yet His Love Endures

The book of Hosea is an enigma when it comes to faithfulness.  After all, this book of the Bible begins with a story about a wife who ...