Forgiveness

Hosea 3:4-5For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.

 

After the birth of a third child, Gomer left Hosea to pursue other lovers, a vivid and painful object lesson of the way Israel had treated the Lord. Hosea bought Gomer back from the slave market for fifteen pieces of silver, a very low price because she had cheapened herself by her sins. May we never forget that God has purchased us at the tremendous cost of the precious blood of His Son Jesus Christ!!

Israel today, though purchased by her Messiah, has not yet returned to the Lord.

Israel today is “without a king” because she rejected her King and therefore has no kingdom.

Israel is “without a prince” because there is no reigning dynasty in Israel. All the records were destroyed when the Romans captured Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Nobody can prove to which tribe he or she belongs!

Israel is “without a sacrifice” because they have no temple, or altar, or priesthood. They have no high priest. The only High Priest God will acknowledge is the interceding Son of God seated at His right hand in heaven!

But there is an “afterward!” Israel will not stay “without.” She will see her Messiah, repent of her sins, and say, “You are my God!” They will enter into that blessed relationship in which the Lord says, “You are My people!”

The key word is “return,” a word that is used twenty-two times in Hosea’s prophecy.

When Israel returns to the Lord, then the Lord will return to bless Israel.

This is Hosea’s message: “O Israel, return to the Lord thy God. Take with you words, and turn to the Lord: say unto him, ‘Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously’”(Ho14:1-2).

The people could return to God by asking Him to take away their sins. The same is true of us: We can pray Hosea’s prayer and know that our sins are forgiven because Jesus died for them on the cross.

Forgiveness begins when we see the destruction of sin and the futility of life without God. Then we must admit that we cannot save ourselves. Our only hope is in God.

God is love! He promises to forgive and restore all who repent and return to Him. He promises to bless all who trust Him.

This is truly the most beautiful and amazing love story ever told!!



Faith

Daniel 1:8But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

 

Daniel and thousands of his countrymen were deported to Babylon after Judah was conquered. Daniel found himself facing a ruling dictator and surrounded by idolatry.

But Daniel was not intimidated by powerful people or frightened by difficult circumstances. Daniel was determined to live for God.

When Daniel and his friends wanted to eat clean food, not food dedicated to idols, they did not stage a hunger strike or argue with those in charge. Daniel knew that any problems they created would reflect on the prince who was in charge of them and only get them all in trouble.

Daniel tactfully asked if they could be tested for ten days, knowing that the Lord would make the test successful. Daniel won the respect and confidence of the prince in charge.

Certainly Daniel did not agree with the theology or the lifestyle of the people in charge. But even if he could not respect the officers, Daniel respected their offices! He spoke respectfully to them and about them.

Too often believers take on a ‘holier than thou’ attitude. And we fail to show proper respect for those we disagree with. This attitude will always hurt the cause of Christ.

We would all do well to learn from Daniel’s example. We must know when to listen and how to speak with tact and courtesy. The best way to disarm an opponent is by treating him with dignity and respect.

Daniel maintained Godly character and conduct. And He became a respected leader. He kept himself pure. And he helped to transform both people and circumstances.

The principles that marked Daniel’s life become examples for us to follow. The same God who used Daniel is the same God who has called us. He is still on His throne! He will never leave us nor forsake us. He is able to make us ‘continue’ until we complete the tasks that He has assigned us to do.

Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it”(1Th5:24).



Our Lifestyle As A Christian

Zechariah 7:9-10Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother: And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.

 

What practical expressions of holiness! These are God’s requirements to express our new life in Jesus Christ.

1)         Be honest. To “execute true judgment” is simply to deal honestly with all people. The New Testament statement is given in Romans 12:17: “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.”

That is a practical requirement we can all live by! Be honest!!

2)         Be merciful. “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man”(Pr3:3-4).

Mercy and compassion involve actions and attitudes. A merciful person not only feels love. He also acts responsibly and faithfully. A compassionate person not only cares for others in his heart. He also helps them.

Thoughts and words are not enough! Our lives reveal whether we are truly merciful and compassionate.

People have tried all kinds of ways to please God. But God has made His wishes clear: God wants His people to be merciful and compassionate.

3)         Be benevolent. God has a special sympathy toward those in need. He exercises a special watch-care over widows and children.

The good thing God commands us to do is stated in Isaiah 1:17: “Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.”

Those who need help find special assistance in God. And they ought to also find it in the people of God!

4)         Be pure. Remember the words of James: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world”(Jm1:27).

To be “unspotted from the world” means to be unstained, to be uncontaminated. Be pure!

It literally means to be free from the smut of the present evil world. This is the lifestyle expected of a Christian!

All of this is possible if we will faithfully obey the principles given in God’s Word.



A Holy Church

Leviticus 11:45For I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.

 

God’s purpose for Israel was that the nation be “a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation”(Ex19:6).

Everything in the life of the Old Testament Israelite was either “holy” and thus set apart for God’s exclusive use, or “common.” And the “common” things were either “clean,” meaning that the people could use them, or they were “unclean” and forbidden to be used.

The Israelites had to be careful to avoid what was unclean. Otherwise, they would find themselves “cut off from the people” until they had gone through the proper ceremony to be made clean again. Because they were God’s chosen people, the Israelites had to learn to “put [a] difference between holy and unholy, and between clean and unclean”(Lv10:10).

God’s true churches today are supposed to be “a holy nation” in their present world, to “shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”(1Pt2:9). To “shew forth” means ‘to tell out, to advertise.’

Israel revealed to the pagan nations around her the glories and excellencies of Jehovah, the true and living God. Churches today have the same privilege and responsibility. When Israel started to live like the pagans, they robbed God of His glory. And the Lord had to chasten them!

When churches get the false idea that we must become like the world around us to reach the world, we have missed our calling and command from God!

Paul severely rebuked the church at Corinth for this practice. And then he gave them God’s command:

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty”(2Co6:17-18).

God desires absolute obedience in motives as well as in practice. Though we do not observe all of the worship practices of Israel, we are to have the same spirit of preparation and devotion.

On Sunday morning, January 24, 1861, Charles Hadden Spurgeon closed his sermon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle with these pointed words:

An unholy church! It is of no use to the world, and of no esteem among men. Oh, it is an abomination!…The worst evils which have ever come upon the world, have been brought upon her by an unholy church!”

Heed God’s call to purity!

But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy”(1Pt1:15-16).



Mercy, Grace, Faithfulness

Lamentations 3:22-23It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

 

The book of Lamentations is a dirge, a funeral song! This book contains Jeremiah’s last words after judgment had fallen on Judah and Jerusalem. The people of the land had been taken into captivity by Babylon.

God draws no satisfaction from the chastisement of His own people. But God is a holy, just God. He cannot and will not tolerate sin! Without repentance, judgment is inevitable.

And yet, in the heart of Lamentations, dealing mostly with the outcome of God’s judgment upon Jerusalem, we find that God is portrayed as a God of compassion and of mercy. God keeps loving. And God keeps offering mercy, withholding what we actually deserve!

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance”(2Pt3:9).

You see, Jeremiah knew that! Although God’s actions were devastating to Jerusalem, they were ultimately for the good of His people. God does what He does out of love! And mercy!!

God is a Judge yes! But He is also a ready Savior!!

But sadly, many will never heed, never respond to God’s grace and love. And as a result they will face His judgment.

Judgment, when it comes, will prove merciless, and far reaching.

But even in judgment we realize that God’s mercies have been and are new every morning. Every day is a new day, a new opportunity to do right, to walk with the Lord, and to serve Him.

Our God is true to His Word, absolutely faithful, and completely trustworthy.

Whatever happens to us for good or ill, God’s love is unchanging. We are loved with an everlasting love. And God’s mercies and compassion endure day by day by day.

Circumstances change. Feelings change. Good days go. And bad days come. But Jesus?! He is always the same!!

Always right. Always true. Always loving. Always Sovereign. Always eternal. No matter what!

Thank you Lord, for Your presence, Your compassion, Your mercy. “Great is Thy faithfulness!”



Are you living for the Lord?

Ecclesiastes 12:13Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

Solomon experimented with life and found that there was no lasting satisfaction in possessions, or pleasures, or power. Solomon had everything! Yet his life was empty. There is no need to repeat these experiments. We can all learn from Solomon and avoid the heartache and pain!

When we belong to God through personal, saving faith in Jesus Christ, life is a daily adventure that builds character and allows us to serve others to the glory of God. Instead of making decisions on the basis of the vain wisdom of this world, we have God’s wisdom available to us.

As far as wealth and pleasure are concerned, God gives us “richly all things to enjoy”(1Ti6:17). “The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it”(Pr10:22).

The wealth and pleasures of the world will never satisfy. The quest for power and position leads to emptiness. But in Jesus Christ we have all that we need for life and death, time and eternity!

So, the first message of Ecclesiastes is: turn from the futility of sin and the world, and put your faith in Jesus Christ!

But to believers, Solomon said, “Are you living for the Lord or for the things of the world?”

Remember, Solomon knew God and was greatly blessed by God. Yet he turned from the Lord and went his own way. No wonder Solomon became so pessimistic and skeptical as he looked at life. He did not have God’s perspective because he was not living for God’s purposes!

When we start living for the world instead of living in God’s will, we begin to look at life from the wrong perspective – “under the sun” and not through the Son!

Instead of seeking “those things which are above”(cl3:1), we start majoring on the things that are below – here and now. This wrong vision leads to adopting wrong values. We stop living for the eternal. And the result is disappointment and defeat. The only remedy is repentance and confession of sin.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just for forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”(1Jn1:9).

Ecclesiastes also offers a message for the faithful believer who wants to serve the Lord and have a fulfilled life in Jesus.

Solomon would say, “Problems exist in life. But look at life from God’s perspective. Man’s philosophies will fail you. Use your God-given wisdom. The most important thing is to obey God’s Word and enjoy all that He gives you. Remember, death is coming! So be prepared!”

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom”(Ps90:12).



Revival

Malachi 3:6For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

 

The word “Lord” here is the Hebrew word for Jehovah. Jehovah means that God is the eternal, self-existent, self-sufficient God who created and sustains it all. He never had a beginning and He will never have an ending!

God has always been. God always is. And God will always be.

God is unchanging! He is unchanging in His being. He is unchanging in His perfection. And He is unchanging in His purposes.

For just a moment try to imagine what it would be like if God could change. When something changes, it either changes for the better or for the worse.

If God could change for the better, then He is not the best. And how could God not always be the best?! He would not be God!

If God could change for the worse, then what kind of God would He be? Would He become just a little evil rather than wholly good? How could you trust a God who could change?

I am thankful that God’s love for you and me never changes. I am thankful that we have a perfect standard of right and wrong to tell us what sin is today and every day of our lives! And I am thankful that God’s plan of salvation never changes!

Have you ever experienced the great love of God? When you sin and fall short of what God wants you to be, when your life is a mess and you don’t have a friend to turn to, you can count on the love of God. God loves you in spite of your sin, hating the sin, but ever loving the sinner!

Have you ever accepted that love in salvation? Have you ever turned to God in repentance and faith? You can right now.

Maybe it is time for you to move past that first step of faith and follow the Lord in baptism or church membership. Maybe it is time to surrender to God’s call for service and obedience for Him.

Have you surrendered your life to the unchanging God?!  That is where real revival begins!



Making The Family Stronger

Ezra 7:10For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statues and judgments.

 

When we remember that Ezra was born in Babylon, we can better appreciate his achievement as a skilled student of the Scriptures. When it comes to our relationship to God’s Word, Ezra is a good example for us to follow. He was a man with a prepared heart, devoted to the study of the Scriptures.

But Ezra did more than study God’s Word. He also practiced it in his daily life. It is in the obeying of God’s Word that we experience the blessing, not in reading or hearing only.

But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed”(James 1:25).

Ezra not only studied and obeyed God’s Word. He also taught it to others. The priests and Levites were commanded by God to be teachers in Israel, because that was the only way the people could learn God’s truth. It was up to the priests and Levites to read and explain the Scriptures to the people.

So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading”(Nehemiah 8:8). What a model for all of us to follow!

Each generation needs to discover the precious treasure of God’s Word. But that cannot happen unless previous generations are faithful to study and to learn God’s Word, to guard it and obey it, and to teach it.

And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also”(2 Timothy 2:2).

The qualities that mark Ezra’s exceptional ability are paralleled in Jesus words: “Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old”(Matthew 13:52).

Ezra was a scribe who studied God’s Word, a disciple who obeyed and practiced God’s Word, and a householder who shared God’s Word with others. He is a good example for all of us to follow.

We must be students of God’s Word. Practice what we learn. Live it! Share and model the principles and truths of God’s Word before our families.

Parents, hear me!! Our kids ought to hear about God and Jesus and about salvation from us! To hear the gospel is an absolute necessity! If they are to come to know the Savior we love, they need to have us tell them about Him!

Tell them that God loves them. Tell them that He sent Jesus for them. Tell them that Jesus died for them, paying the penalty for their sins. Let them hear these vital, eternal truths from us!

As God’s child, we have the good hand of God upon us. Trust Him. Serve Him. Live for Him. And then model Jesus before others.