Tag Archives: daily walk

Hosea 6-14; Take Words With You

The book of Hosea is a picture of unfaithfulness and judgement. But it is also a picture of God’s grace and mercy. It is so beautiful.

I would encourage you to read Hosea and ask God to speak to you about your own walk with Him. What was true concerning a group of people known as Israel or Ephraim in Hosea’s day, carries with it spiritual truth for us in 2018. I read these chapters today and replaced any reference to “Israel” with my name. It became very personal, because what God said to the Jews through Hosea, He is saying to me. I love God’s Word!!

When I read verses like 5:4, I ask myself if there are things I am doing that do not permit me to draw near to God. Do I have a spirit of prostitution in my heart by harboring hatred or unforgiveness, by holding on to a “secret” sin and telling myself it’s no big deal? Are there times I am more concerned about my “self” than about God?

I hear God say He hates His wicked children. (9:15) HATES! Do I give God reason to hate me because of my own disobedience? That is a sobering thought. Hosea reminds me God rejects the unfaithful.

But then I also read verses like 6:6 and realize God wants only to love me, to show me mercy. Look at 10:12:

Sew for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love…

Doesn’t that encourage you to sew righteousness by putting on Jesus’ righteousness? Don’t you hunger for the fruit of God’s unfailing love? I do.

When I read 14:2 I had to stop a minute and think what it means to “take words with you” as you approach God. God is not asking for an animal sacrifice. He’s not asking me to go to church, give to the poor, or be a good neighbor. What He’s asking is that I come to Him purposefully, repentant, and say the words, “Forgive me,” and mean it.

Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to him: Forgive all (my) sins and receive (me) graciously, that (I) may offer the fruit of (my) lips. 

It goes on to say God wants me to realize nothing else can save me. Nothing and no one but God Himself.

What is the result of such a prayer, of a heart that is honest before my Holy God? Hosea tells me He will heal my waywardness and love me freely! (14:4) God will give me everything I need to be fruitful. (14:8)

Then listen to the way God inspired Hosea to end his book.

Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them. (14:9)

I want my walk with the Lord to be intentional, honest, and fruitful. When I go to Him, I want to go with the words He wants to hear. And I want to mean them from the bottom of my heart.

 

 

Jeremiah 26-29; God’s Got Plans

There are a lot of verses in the Bible that seem to indicate God wants His children to be healthy and wealthy, or at least receive the things they ask Him for. 29:11 is one of them.

So is John 14:14, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

And Matthew 21:22, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.

There are dozens more. You probably can come up with some off the top of your head, too. God promises to bless His people, to answer our prayers. And I believe Him.

But I look at the Bible as a whole and see many, many examples of God’s children not receiving what they ask for. Believers who are sick, tortured, poor. Paul said he prayed three times about something and God never granted him what he wanted.

So which is it? Is God true to His word, or not?

More than we ask or think!

We are short-sighted if we limit God’s promises to the material. Yes, God answers our prayers for physical healing, or financial relief. Sometimes He gives us the desires of our hearts. But not always.

If we limit God to answering only our material needs, we miss out on the greater thing. How does God prosper His children?

I am with you always… (Matthew 28:20)

Peace I give you… (John 14:27)

If you confess your sins… I will forgive… (I John 1:9)

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

Remain in me and I will remain in you… (John 15:4)

I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am… John 14:3)

There are more. God promises His presence, His strength, His joy, His righteousness, His help in our time of need. Someone told me once that I can believe all that because I’m not hurting, I’m not hungry, I’m not homeless, I’m not being persecuted. But I know there are hurting, hungry, homeless, and persecuted people who know the truth of these promises even better than I because of their circumstances.

The interesting thing to me about this is that, the closer I get to God, the more time I spend with Him in His Word and in prayer, the more I find His desires become mine. I think less about my physical comfort, and more about reaching the lost, or more about the needs of my neighbors. My prayers become more about others than about myself.

My friend, Toni, lived much of her life in great pain. She had a disease called HS from the time she was a child, and doctors were unable to do much to help her. But she never lost her joy in the Lord. She never lost her servant’s heart even on those days it was hard to move.

There is a youth convention in Atlanta held on New Years day each year, and Toni felt led to volunteer on New Years Day last year, 2017. She had such a burning desire, but common sense told her it was too much for her, as her pain had increased to an almost unbearable level. She talked to her husband. They prayed. And they went.

My friend was a greeter at that conference for hundreds of teenagers. Her job was to hold the door, and welcome the kids as they went into the worship services. She said she “fist-pumped” dozens and dozens of young people that day. In fact, she came home with bruised knuckles. But, she said, “I felt called to be a door holder.”

Four months later, she was diagnosed with colon cancer that had already spread. Her pain, that she thought was from her HS, was in fact from the cancer that was destroying her organs. But I will tell you, even with this devastating news, Toni believed in the plans God had for her, plans to prosper (her) and not to harm (her), plans to give (her) hope and a future.

God has plans. His plans include showering you with the forgiveness Jesus’ blood bought for you. He wants to fill you, build you up, be your joy and confidence. He wants to draw near to you, to walk with you, and finally, to bring you home to be with Him forever.

That’s where my friend lives today. She’s finally home.

Our road might be hard. Or we might enjoy the physical comforts of this world. But with Paul, let’s “learn to be content whatever the circumstances… whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need…” (Philippians 4:12-13)

And let’s trust God to bless us with Himself, to give us what we need when we need it and not a moment before. Let’s give Him our hearts, and let Him work out the rest as we obey Him.

Let’s trust God’s plans.

Isaiah 60-64; God Made Me Do It, Or Not

If you’ve ever been a school teacher, I imagine your grading system has come into question at least once. You’ve probably heard the accusation from a student or parent, (hopefully not from an administrator) “Why did you give so-and-so that grade?”

I started my career working with elementary students, but somewhere along the line I found myself in the Middle School. It was an adjustment, and I learned a lot from my fellow-teachers.

One man in particular, an 8th grade math teacher with the reputation of being a tough grader, said something in a mid-term parent/teacher conference that came to mind today as I read Isaiah 63. We were sitting in a circle getting ready to talk to the parents of a very intelligent boy, a straight A student from elementary school. But on this occasion, these parents were obviously angry.

We hadn’t even finished introducing ourselves when the dad pointed a finger at the math teacher and demanded, “Why did you give my son a C?” I’ll never forget the teacher’s reaction. He calmly opened his grade book and said, “I was feeling generous.”

The teacher then proceeded to show the parents their son’s missed assignments and low test scores. He also pulled out a piece of paper, a letter he had written to the parents two weeks earlier expressing his concern over their son’s lack of progress. There was a signature at the bottom of the letter. But the dad had to admit it was not his handwriting. (This was way before email, cellphones, and texting)

This example came to mind when I heard Isaiah say:

Why, O Lord, do you make us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so we do not revere you? (63:17) (emphasis mine)

I know some people can read this as an example to support their interpretation of God’s “sovereignty,” that He causes everything to happen. I’ve heard someone say that God planted a cancer cell inside them, or that God caused an accident on the highway to bring about His purpose. But is that what this verse supports?

If you read on you’ll hear Isaiah tell us he’s addressing a sin problem.

But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How can we be saved? All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags, we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins. (Is 64:5b-7)

I read Isaiah’s question in 63:17 like the question the dad asked of the math teacher in that conference. And I hear God say: If you don’t do your assignments and do poorly on your exams, this is what happens.

I know that God’s will is that we enjoy a relationship with Him based on the blood of Jesus, that we walk in His ways, that our hearts are tender and sensitive to His ways. I know God’s will is that we allow Him to work in and through us to reach others for the Savior.

And I know that if we allow sin to exist in our lives, there are consequences to pay. It’s not that God presses some “harden that heart” button.” This is a warning that sin causes hardened hearts. Sin causes us to wander from God’s way. That’s how He made us. That’s what He wants us to know through the words He inspired Isaiah to write.

Another thing I know is that God does not make any of us sin. Going our own way is a sin. A hardened heart is a sin. And God wants us to know that unless we confess our sin, unless we repent, we will end up out of His will, and committing the sin of a hardened heart. He is very clear that He will not bless that, so don’t expect Him to.

But there is good news. God does bless His people. Listen to what else Isaiah penned:

Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides You, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember Your ways. (Is 64:4-5a)

That’s God’s will. That’s what He wants to do in our lives. May we be people who wait for Him, who gladly do what is right, who remember His ways, and obey Him from tender, pliable hearts that seek only to please Him.

Then brace yourself as you see God act on your behalf, as He gives you the help you need, as He blesses you beyond your wildest imagination. He won’t make you love Him. He won’t make you obey Him. But He will bless You when you choose to. Count on it.

 

 

 

Isaiah 36-39; Counting The Days, or Days That Count?

Maybe it’s my age, but there are three people close to me who are battling cancer right now. One dear lady, after months of body-ravaging chemo, has decided to stop the treatment because it isn’t working. The doctors tell her there’s nothing more they can do, so she has gone into hospice care. Unless God intervenes (and that’s what I’m praying) she is at the end of her young life.

Another friend, who lost her mother to breast cancer just one year ago, has begun radiation therapy after surgery to remove a cancerous tumor on her own breast.

The other friend, is a man who beat cancer four years ago, but after a routine checkup was told cancer has attacked his other lung. He wonders if he has it in him to fight that battle yet again.

Hezekiah was facing death. He was sick, and it seemed nothing more could be done for him. But he prayed, and God spared his life, promising him fifteen more years on this earth. There are a lot of important lessons here, and I hope you’ll read these chapters and let God teach you what He wants you to know. Here’s what spoke to me:

God answers prayer.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Not all prayers are answered the way Hezekiah’s was. My friend, the mother of two teenagers, the wife of a man who loves her, a church secretary whose ministry touched so many lives, finds herself where Hezekiah was, “there’s nothing more we can do.”

But because God has not given her the same outcome as He gave Hezekiah, do we think her prayers are going unanswered? I love what Matthew Henry  says on page 880 of his Commentary in One Volume (Zondervan 1961):

“When we pray in our sickness, though God send not to us such an answer, as he here sent to Hezekiah, yet if by his Spirit he bids us be of good cheer, assures us that our sins are forgiven us, that his grace shall be sufficient for us, and that, whether we live or die, we shall be hiswe have no reason to say that we pray in vain. (emphasis mine)

My friend has something so much more important than physical health. If you knew her, you’d know that is true.

Interestingly enough, I was talking to my sister about this topic this morning even before I started studying these chapters in Isaiah. She said we (people) cling so hard to this life, when what’s ahead for believers is so much better than we can even imagine. We’ll get to heaven and say, “What was I thinking?”

Hezekiah did live fifteen more years, but the choices he made during those additional years had devastating consequences for the entire nation. He lived those additional years, but then he died anyway.

Now I’m not advocating we boycott physicians, nurses, hospitals, and medications. I do not believe we should adopt the mistaken philosophy that “God’s will be done” means I do nothing. God told those ministering to Hezekiah’s physical needs to put a poultice of figs over the boil and he’d recover. They did. And he did.

Oh, by the way. I think I know where the whole “God helps those who help themselves” thing started. Matthew Henry, whose insight into God’s Word I usually appreciate, said this about Hezekiah’s recovery: “help thyself and God will help thee.” (page 882 of Commentary in One Volume.)

Busted.

Seriously, Matt, do you have any idea the can of worms you opened up here? Some people actually believe those words are in the Bible. When the truth of the matter is, the Bible never says God helps those who help themselves. It clearly, repeatedly says God helps those who obey Him.

Read that part of chapter 38 again. God told them what to do, and they obeyed, THEN Hezekiah recovered.

So here’s what I get out of this today: my life is in God’s hands, and I’m ok with that. I want my days to be bathed in prayer, I want my mind steadfastly focused on God, I want to be sensitive to His leading, and I want to obey.

I’ll let Him count the days. I just want the days to count for eternity, for Jesus’ sake.

Isaiah 20-23; Polar Opposites

Scripture constantly reminds us that God’s ways are polar opposite of what the world thinks and does. There are so many examples in these chapters in Isaiah of this truth.

It seemed logical to the king to join forces with his neighbors against their mutual enemy. But those neighbors were idolators, unbelievers. The unequal yoking between God’s people and the ungodly neighbors resulted in more problems for Israel than just an invading army.

Shebna is an example of material wealth, political power, and pride that was lauded by the world. He had everything… except God. And his life of “self” ended badly for him. His riches and power, even those people who idolized him, could not stop God’s judgment on him.

Look at what Isaiah had to say about Tyre’s wealth, the intellect of its people, the glory of that city among nations. The city here is reduced to rubble because of their sin.

But Tyre gets a second chance. And so do we.

We’ve all sinned. None of us measure up to God’s standard. I love what Matthew Henry says:

“We must first give up ourselves to be the holiness to the Lord before what we do, or have, or get, can be so.” (p 859; Commentary in One Volume; Zondervan; 1961) (emphasis mine)

In other words, who we are before our Holy God is the catalyst for what we do, not the other way around. We must first give up our “selves,” recognize sin and accept the Savior Jesus as our own. Not a popular concept according to the world.

We can only become the holiness of God if we are wearing Jesus’ holiness, through the blood He shed on the cross. No amount of good works, sacrificial giving, compassion for the poor, even church-going can render us holy.

That’s not how the world looks at it. We hear them say (even from the pulpit of a royal wedding) that all we need is love. All we need is activism on behalf of the needy. All we need is ourselves, our determination to love one another. But is that God’s way?

Please don’t forget that Jesus went to the cross because of love. Jesus’ love dealt with your sin, not your love. The world would have us concentrate on love, and ignore sin because, of course we shouldn’t judge, right?

Dear one, your love is meaningless without the cross. Your love is a filthy rag in God’s sight unless you have first confessed your sin and accepted God’s grace.

Like I said, God’s ways are polar opposite of the ways of the world.

 

Isaiah 5-7; My Vineyard

Did you read these chapters and see what God has to say to you today about your walk with Him? I did. When I read chapters 5-7 I realized I am the vineyard Isaiah is talking about. As a Jesus follower, God established me on rich, fertile ground. He did all the work to clear that land when Jesus died on the cross.

What He offers me is pure, perfect, and prepared in advance for me to produce good fruit. (Ephesians 2:10) He gifted me with abilities to serve Him. He built a hedge of protection around me to guard my heart. He is the watchman who protects me from Satan’s arrows. He gave me everything I need to live a godly life. (2 Peter 1:3)

Then God turns over the vineyard to me, and waits for me to start producing good fruit. After all, He did all the hard work to get it ready for me so that I can go and make disciples, so that I can be a light to the world, so that I can share the Good News of Jesus with lost souls. The potential is endless!

But it didn’t take long for me to feel the sting of conviction today. Verse 2b: but it (me) yielded only bad fruit.

Then God asks, What more could I have done? The answer sadly is, Nothing.

Verses 4-7 are sobering when you consider yourself as the vineyard who isn’t producing fruit. God won’t stay where He’s not wanted.

I hope you read the “Woe to’s” in chapter 5 and let God speak to you about choices you make, attitudes you have, whether you tolerate sin in yourself and ignore it in others, whether or not you think you have all the answers apart from God.

When Isaiah came face to face with Jesus he cried, “Woe to me! I am ruined for I am a man of unclean lips…”

Now I don’t know what kinds of problems Isaiah had with what came out of his mouth, but this is what spoke to me this morning. Look at 8:6-7. When Isaiah confessed his sin of speech, God sent an angel to touch Isaiah’s lips! God met Isaiah at the point of his need. Isaiah confessed a sin. God forgave that sin.

Another thing I see is, that cleansing hurt. Most of the time, it takes a broken heart to repent, turning from sin is not always easy. Sometimes it really does hurt to admit you’ve sinned, to humble yourself, to accept grace. And sometimes separating yourself from that sin means giving up some things and people you really like. Ouch.

I think God wants us to know that as we read His Word, asking Him to speak to us about our walk with Him, He’ll point out sin. He’ll reveal things to us about our hearts’ condition before Him. He’ll talk to us about our vineyard.

Don’t forget this: If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness! (I John 1:9)

Every. Time.

So, read God Word and allow Him to put a finger on the problem. Confess. Repent. Allow Him to cleanse you. Then go back to the vineyard and get to work. Turn that precious property into something beautiful, and useful in God’s kingdom.

Isn’t God’s Word amazingly personal and relevant? I love it!

Song Of Solomon; Pursuing Love

Who doesn’t want to be loved? Unless there is mental illness or emotional baggage, I think all of us would admit a longing to be loved, passionately, exclusively, intentionally loved by another. The entertainment business thrives on the topic of love because they know love is the driving force behind nearly everything we do.

But I wonder, then, why there are so many divorces because one or both parties have “fallen out of love.” Friend, the Bible is pretty clear that true love is never out of our control. You don’t believe the lie that says “you can’t help who you love,” do you?

The Song of Songs is a beautiful picture of the passionate, exclusive, intentional love we all long for. In here you will see the man and woman seeking each other at various times. You know that sometimes your spouse needs you to take the initiative, don’t you? Sometimes you need to be the one to reach out, to plan something romantic or surprise them with something special. One person can’t always be the instigator of affection because true love is a two way street.

You will see in Solomon’s Song that neither of the lovers is willing to simply listen to what someone else has to say about their loved one. The watchman said one thing, the lover went and checked it out personally.

You will see examples of the couple taking time for each other, to study each other, to rest in each other while shutting away the rest of the world. You will see mistakes, and forgiveness, a love that thinks less of what it takes than what it gives.

Your marriage depends on the choices you make, not just the feelings you feel.

And so does your relationship with God. Everything in the Song of Solomon that applies to marriage applies to a healthy relationship with our Savior.

We know that He pursues us. Do we pursue Him, too? Do we spend time in His Word and in prayer? Do we long to know Him passionately, exclusively, intentionally the way He longs to know us?

Do we reach out to Him during the day? I remember watching my parents, the way Dad would reach out and touch Mom’s hand, or pat her leg. No words, just that gentle touch that said “I love you.” Do we, likewise, let God know during our day that we are loving Him, too?

All of us long to be passionately, exclusively, intentionally loved, AND WE ARE, if we know the Lord.

Let’s determine to nurture that love, and love God passionately, exclusively, and intentionally back.