Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Hosea 1:10-11


Hosea 1:10-11

Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.” And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.


Does this contradict the idea where God just called Israel, "Not my people," and told them he is not their God?

I have to admit, I am not an Old Testament scholar, but also do not want to shy away from the Old Testament. But is is confusing. My best thinking at this point is this, Israel has left God. While God has called Israel His chosen people, not all Israel are Israel. By that I mean that not all who call themselves or a a part of the physical Israel and a part of the chosen Spiritual Israel. 

Israel had shunned God's mercy. God had favored them, and they drifted away from the source of their blessing and became enthralled with the gifts, forgetting about the giver. So God, in an act of mercy, withdrew his favor and mercy from them. Matthew Henry's Bible Commentary says this, "Mercy is remembered in the midst of wrath; the rejection, as it shall not be total, so it shall not be final. The same hand that wounded, is stretched forth to heal." I find that powerful. God is not interested in our prosperity, He wants our soul to be righteous. If we cannot handle that in prosperity, then to heal us spiritually, the only recourse is to remove the prosperity that we might see the mercy. 

We should note that in the end, God's mercy is restored. "And in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' it shall be said to them, 'Children of the living God.' And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head." (See Romans 9:25,26 and 1 Peter 2:10 also.) Some might take offense when God removes His mercy. But that is because they are only thinking of themselves, and not of God, His righteousness, or even their own righteousness. They are still focused on the gifts, and not the giver, who is the source of righteousness. But the gifts are not the answer. They do not offer absolution. They do not remove fear or anxiety or healing of any kind. They are just material items. Peace comes through trust. 

Even God's mercy is a gift. I don't know that I ever really truly thought about that. But is not a gift like a car, house, or cash. It is a gift like the air we breathe or the rain that waters the crops. So when God withholds that gift, even for a moment, it is then that we fully recognize the value of that gift.

Hosea 1:4-9


Hosea 1:4-9

And the Lord said to him, “Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.”
She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the Lord said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lord their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.”
When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. And the Lord said, “Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”


Imagine, with all of the political correctness going on today, that someone were to name their children such names. Think of the damage to their psyche. 

Jezreel means, "God will sow." Not bad as far as names go. But let's think about the meaning. We hear so much about Karma, and people defend it using the words, "A man reaps what he sows." And this is true, but not in the karma way that most want to use it. If you sow bad actions, expect bad results. That won't keep you from winning the lottery, but it will have consequences. Here, it states that God will sow. It is not man's actions that determine his fate, it is God's. And sow He will as He promises to put an end to the house of Israel.

The daughter's name is No Mercy. Interesting for a God of mercy to say that He will have no mercy on Israel, but will have mercy on Judah. But isn't that how mercy works? Isn't mercy up to the giver? The receiver can beg and plead, but cannot force mercy out of another. If he could, would it be mercy? We know that God is merciful, but being merciful does not mean mercy in every instance. That is what we want. But that is not how mercy works.

The third child, a son, is called Not My People. Maybe those are typical names for the children of prophets, but this seems harsh as well. All along, Israel was the chosen people. Now they have lost that status? Or perhaps is it just transferred to Judah alone? I must say, this is a powerful and confusing turn of events for the people of Israel.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Hosea 1:2,3


When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.


So basically, Hosea was TOLD to take a wife of unfaithfulness. Someone who maybe was a prostitute, or perhaps just a woman who Hosea know would not remain faithful. God immediately sets the reasoning, as this would be a parallel to what was going on in the rest of Israel. That is a tough thought, to wed to someone who was either already a prostitute, or even someone who was not but would not remain faithful, or both! 

God, however, is faithful. In spite of what Israel was doing, or what we do, God lives up to His promises. Not the promises we want to hear, but the ones that He actually makes. Israel was His chosen people. They did not deserve it. In fact, according to Scripture, God would have been justified in divorcing them, for they had been unfaithful. But God did not. He suffered through their unfaithfulness. I have a feeling that the picture we are about to see would make many an evangelical blush. How could God ask such a thing? But maybe what we need to really ask is, how could Israel do it? Or better yet, how could we?

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Why Hosea?


I have always been intrigued by the book of Hosea. The idea of God telling one of his prophets to marry a prostitute seems to really go against everything one would think about God. But perhaps that is part of the reason He did it. Things needed to be shaken up! I a world where someone like Paul would not be hired by most churches, God seems to constantly use such people to accomplish His purposes.

According to, "The Book of Hosea portrays the dangers of the observance of religious ceremony without genuine devotion and commitment to the Lord." (Here) I think that that is a constant danger for believers, and worthy of pursuit and understanding. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

2 Thess 3:14,15


2 Thess 3:14,15

If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.


I find this interesting on many levels. First, the initial thought is that this is almost a cultic approach to treat someone as an outcast if they do not follow the leader(s). However, on a deeper look, the purpose seems not to be control as much as it is to create awareness. Let him realize the error of his ways for his behavior. They are not to ostracize in a destructive manner, but rather as a warning, still viewing that person as a brother.

Do we take this to heart? Probably not as much as we should. It can be hard to know where to draw the line between matters of disagreement and matters that violate how a believer should behave. I think it takes a strong leader to know the difference.

Monday, September 21, 2020

2 Thess 3:13


As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.


Short, but powerful. Amen!

Sunday, September 20, 2020

2 Thess 2:9-12


The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.


Do you believe in Satan? In the Bible? I can't help but think of how the political situation in the U.S. right now mirrors this Scripture. Only both sides would look at the other and say that they are the blind ones. All except the ones who are in control, masterminding the situation. But they are not solely to blame, because the ones who are perishing failed to love the truth, and so be saved. 

God sent a strong delusion. That is a scary term. I feel like there are many strong delusions going on right now. So the question we need to ask ourselves is not what does the other side believe, but what am I buying in to? So much of politics is deception, the buying of votes with promises made with other peoples' money. And the politicians go on and live the good life, without a true care for their constituents. Complain how global warming is causing the fires in California, while munching on ice cream from one of two -$10,000 freezers. Flying all over the country while trying to prevent the ecological crisis. No one is exempt. 

The pleasure in unrighteousness is not reserved for the politicians. It is for the greedy constituents who vote for them because of what the politicians will do for them, regardless of what is best for the country. 

Is the end near?

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Here We Go Again...

 Am I wrong here, or is the evangelical church missing the mark?

Preface: I heard a sermon on this text before, at a church I attended before. I struggled with that message. I seemed to me that the speaker had read the text and then just looked for 3 moral messages that he could preach to the choir. Choose action over apathy, choose faith over fear, choose to give glory to God. All good things. Moral things tend to be good. But is that what God desires us to learn from this passage? Or is it about the Gospel message that follows. Fact is, in his sermon series, he skipped over the verses that come next, in which Peter proclaims Jesus as the healer of the beggar.

So the church I am attending (virtually) was also addressing this text. Ten minutes in, and I have heard the name of Jesus several times. That is a plus. Then he starts talking about Peter and John, and particularly the fact that they had no silver and gold. He talks about their empty pockets. This seems to be the thrust of his message from this point onward. 

Point one: Empty pockets allow us to TRUST God's PROVISION. (His emphasis) Again, a great moral point. Peter and John saw the value of empty pockets. Really? Were they really focused on what was in their pockets? Is the only way we can effectively give out of complete poverty? Yes, I believe that in order for us to best serve God, we need to realize that whatever we give Him is nothing compared to what he has provided us in grace and mercy. But that doesn't quite seem to be the point here. Or is it, and I am just missing it? That is an honest question. He goes on to talk about how in these trying times the church he works for was able to help another church out that had a desperate need. But somehow, even in these desperate times, I do not see this church as having empty pockets. They have a large building, beautiful, with elaborate services put on by multiple staff members. They own several of the properties around the church, which they have purchased over the years. While I do not know their financial status, their pockets do not seem to be filled with only lint. 

Point two: Empty pockets allow us to experience the JOY of WHOLENESS. (His emphasis) What he is "longing for is the day that we value empty pockets enough to trust God to make provision in our life and in our world..." He is passionate. He is emotional. He talks about how this might be the time we will look back to see that this moment might just be what God used to restore wholeness to the world. Is that how it is going to work? What about what the Bible says the end times, and all ofthe challenges that believers will face?  Isn't what is happening now more likely to lead us into these kinds of times? Didn't God send Jesus to restore wholeness to the world? Or is there going to be some kind of prosperity phase prior to that, and we are the ones who get to experience it. Why are we always looking for heaven on earth? Is that even a promise in the Bible? Is the suffering just there to lead us to some realm of prosperity? 

Point three: Empty pockets allow us to be amazed at the POWER of God at work in the WORLD. (His emphasis) God has the power if we will value our empty pockets. If??? So God is just waiting for us to empty our pockets? I am at a loss for what to say regarding this type of theology.

Well, at least he does not skip the next section of the book of Acts. I guess I will need to listen to that now.

PS: I did listen to it. It was not the regular speaker, so I will not post on it, although if I did...

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Mad Max - Part 2

One of the things that bothers me about Mad Max is the way that he uses Scripture. As I watched the video, I noticed that he uses a lot of Scripture, and a lot of different versions too. He go so far as to use The Message paraphrase when looking at Joshua 10. The message translates one of the verses to say that "God took orders from a human." Most of the versions say that God heeded or heard Joshua's request, but Lucado wants us to believe that Joshua was in charge? He also uses proof-texts that I do not believe are intended to support his views. He uses Isaiah 30:21, and calls it a "great promise." But when I look at it in context, it appears to be talking more about a great repentance. 

There is a lot of truth in what Max says, and just a little bit of leaven. But doesn't a little bit of leaven affect the whole batch? 

Tim Challies does a review of the 5 most ridiculous books ever to become Christian Best Sellers. In it, he criticizes at least one of them for taking a descriptive passage and making it a prescription on how we ought to pray. It would seem to me that Mad Max has done exactly that as well. As far as I can recall, there is only one prescriptive prayer in the Bible, and that is the Lord's Prayer. In that prayer, the message is that of approaching God with humility. We pray not for our wants, but our needs. We pray for forgiveness, but as we have forgiven others. We pray for God's will to be done, and not our own. Even if accomplishing our ends would glorify God. I believe this is how we approach God confidently, as stated in Hebrews, and it is not about approaching God boldly, seeking answers to our desires.

Jesus perhaps did pray boldly at times, like when He asked God that the cup of suffering pass from Him. We all know how that turned out. He also prayed boldly when He asked God to forgive those who were crucifying Him. Those are the only types of bold prayers that I think we ought to pray, and always with the thought that Jesus ended His request to have the cup of suffering taken from Him with, "nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will."

Monday, September 14, 2020

Mad Max - Part 1

 Yesterday in Sunday School we watched part 4 of Max Lucado's video series called "Glory Days." On this day we were watching part 4, called "Audacious Prayers."

Now I will be honest up front and say that I have not been impressed with what I have seen from the series. It reminds me a lot of the Joel Osteen types of messages. His mantra or chant at the front of each session bothers me as well, and reminds me a lot of what Mr. Osteen often does when he is preaching. But it seemed that yesterday reached new heights of audaciousness.

Mr. Lucado  was talking about  praying audacious prayers, and he was using the Book of Joshua  as his text. Specifically, Joshua 9 and 10 where Joshua is deceived by neighboring nation and later is called to help that same nation. He eventually gets into the place where Joshua prays to God for more time, and God causes the sun to stand still for a day.

Prior to getting into the meat of the message he speaks of Martin Luther, when apparently a co-worker of his became ill and Martin Luther prayed to God for his healing. According to Max, Martin attacked God using God's own weapons (Scripture). He also quoted Luther as saying,  “He must grant my prayer, if I was to henceforth put faith in his promises.” He also quoted Luther in another instance where he was praying for someone's recovery from illness, saying, “ for this I am praying, this is my will, and may my will be done, because I only seek to glorify the name of God.” 

Now I don't know how accurate these quotes are regarding what Luther said. I know that I would not want every word I have ever spoken to be written down. So I'm not addressing the fact that Luther may or may not have said these words, but what I am concerned about is Max's use of them. If  it is true that Luther said these words, do they present a means by which we should pray? Would it ever be okay to tell God that he must Grant a prayer request? And that if he didn't, we would no longer have faith in him? 

Lucado goes on to quote Hebrews 4:16. He read, "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, and stay there, and stay there, and stay there, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need." The bold part is added by Lucado, but for those not familiar with the passage, it might seem more like he is just emphasizing and restating what he believes is an important part of the message. The point I believe he wants to make is that we can go boldly before God. That seems a stretch to me from this passage. To me, being able to go with confidence has more to do with our not being afraid, and when we do we can experience God's love through the grace and mercy that God has for us.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

2 Thess 1:5-10


This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.


Suffering for the Kingdom of God, there are some words you don't hear in church very often. With the massive buildings (and mortgages that often accompany them), padded pews (well, now well spaced chairs or flashy video presentations), super awesome music, etc., where is the suffering? Not that I believe suffering is necessary, but how do we measure the genuine Christian from the passer by? Even the message preached is often free of suffering or even commitment. We don't have to suffer, just be willing should the occasion arise.

God will offer relief when Jesus comes, but who needs relief from this? Or is He just talking about the inconveniences of life, because we all have those (sarcasm intended here). And who will get God's vengeance? Those who do not know God and those who do not follow the gospel Remember Matthew 7:21-23? Scary stuff, if you happen to think about it. 

I am not advocating going out and seeking suffering. That would be adding to the gospel. But are we aware of what the gospel is? Do we know Jesus, or do we just want to be saved from the possibility of hell? You know, the idea where our faith is just fire insurance in case God is real?

Maybe you need a new insurance agent.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

1 Thess 5:1-11


Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.


Focus. It seems to be the key to success in a lot of situations. Athletes need to stay focused. As do all competitors. I recall playing chess in Junior High. Couldn't win a game. Then I played the sponsor of the club. I did not want to lose. I was focused, and achieved my goal. He could not believe it. That woke me up and suddenly I started playing much better. 

There is a lot out there to distract us. Satan knows this and uses it to accomplish his purposes. Sometimes those distractions are good times, to lull us into complacency. Other times there are trials, to draw our focus away. But we belong to the day. We have our sobriety. God has not destined us for (eternal) wrath, but salvation through Jesus. That is the gospel. Not by our strength, but by His might.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

1 Thess 5:16-22


Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.


Rejoice always. In order to rejoice always, that means in every circumstance. Like Paul and Silas when they sang praises to God while in prison. Don't stop praying. No, not the eyes closed, head bowed kind of prayer, but the constant communication and recognition that God is God, and is always in charge, and works for our ultimate good. Who knows, that kind of attitude could lead to rejoicing always. Give thanks in ALL circumstances. All. Every. Each. Remember, God is in charge. Don't quench the Spirit. Don't throw water on the Holy Ghost. Do not despise prophecies, but at the same time TEST EVERYTHING. Even what your preacher, my preacher, Joel Osteen (etc.) say. You are responsible for what you believe, not the people who speak through lying lips. Make sure you know God, and that the basis for that knowledge comes from what He has revealed about Himself through His word and not through someone's message or your opinion of how things ought to be. Hold fast to the good. Not what you want to be good, but that which is truth. Abstain from every form of evil. 'Nuff said.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

1 Thess 4:13-18


But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.


I want to start at the end, where Paul says, Therefore encourage one another with these words." What words in particular. Is it the idea that we should not grieve as others who have no hope?? Is it that the dead in Christ will rise first? Or is it the idea that we will meet the Lord, and so always be with Him? 

I believe that you answer will depend in part at least on your theology. What does it mean to be a Christian? Is it just someone who hopes to go to heaven? Does being a Christian mean that you have a better life on earth? Does it mean that we should not deal with grief?

To me, there is only one "best" answer. The answer that we will ALWAYS be with the Lord. Do I hope to be reunited with family and friends someday in heaven? Absolutely. But if that is my main thought, then what about Jesus? Shouldn't my main thought be to someday be with Him? Family and friends have let me down from time to time, but His love has never failed me, and never will. Not even when I have failed him. Yes, it would be neat to see mom and dad again, but shouldn't my first thought be to run into the arms of a Savior who has loved me without fail and has provided me with a way to get salvation? I'm sure that mom and dad won't mind.


Saturday, September 5, 2020

1 Thess 4:1-8


1 Thess 4:1-8

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.  For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.  For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;  that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor,  not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;  that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.  For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.  Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.


I heard a video on You Tube where someone was talking about all of the expectations that are set forth for Christians, and how faith alone is not mentioned in the Bible. Sounds a lot like the kind of stuff Paul was combating in Galatians, where the Judaizers were all clamoring for circumcision.

Yes, there are plenty of passages that talk about what true Christianity should look like. Like this passage. But these are descriptive passages, because it is important that we have a good look at what Christianity should be about. They are not prescriptive, telling us how to live in each and every situation. That would be law, and we are no longer under the law, but under grace.

Now there are some who abuse this too, saying that since we are under grace, we can do as we please. They are also wrong. They are the very reason for the need of passages such as this. 

Such teachings, in either case, go against the Holy Spirit. If you can't see that, maybe read and pray a bit more, or maybe just get your head out of da Nile. 

 Descriptive, not prescriptive