Sunday, 31 December 2017

Slow to anger

The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. – Nahum 1.3

Nahum writes to the people of Ninevah. About 100 years before Jonah had reluctantly preached to Ninevah and the city had turned to God. Now, just a century later they had returned to their sin. They did not carry on with the reforms that came about. Now the delayed judgement would come.

At the very beginning of Nahum’s message he addresses the issue.

The Lord is slow to anger, He is great in power, but He will judge sin. I can’t imagine a world when evil never got judged. While man’s justice is not always right, God’s is.

But as He showed to Ninevah He is slow to anger and slow to judge. It is not His will that any should perish for their sin. He wants everyone to be saved.

Ninevah though had ignored God for too long. Their short loved revival sputtered and died, but God gave them 100 years to get back on track and they just got worse and worse. Judgement was coming.

But God had been patient. He is slow to wrath. He doesn’t act on impulse. His love and His justice balance.

We live in a world where we ought to be thankful that God is slow to anger. A world rejects Him but He waits and gives the world every chance to turn to Him. But He is great in power, and sin must be dealt with. Today is indeed the day of salvation.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

I will arise

Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me. Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me. – Micah 7.7-8

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.  – 2 Corinthians 4.8-10

These are two nearly passages if scripture. One is Old Testament – one is New. One is a prophet is a land full of sin. One is a preacher discouraged by his ministry. Both are in despair and at the end of their ropes.

It is a place we all find ourselves at times. Sometimes life is the pits and we get knocked down by the blows of the enemy and our feet have ‘well nigh slipped.’

This passage plays a role in the battle in Pilgrim’s Progress between Christian and Apollyon.

‘Then Apollyon, espying his opportunity, began to gather up close to Christian, and wrestling with him, gave him a dreadful fall; and with that Christian’s sword flew out of his hand. Then said Apollyon, I am sure of thee now: and with that he had almost pressed him to death, so that Christian began to despair of life. But, as God would have it, while Apollyon was fetching his last blow, thereby to make a full end of this good man, Christian nimbly reached out his hand for his sword, and caught it, saying, Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise, Mic. 7:8; and with that gave him a deadly thrust, which made him give back, as one that had received his mortal wound. Christian perceiving that, made at him again, saying, Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us. Rom. 8:37. And with that Apollyon spread forth his dragon wings, and sped him away, that Christian saw him no more. James 4:7’

Christian was knocked down, ready to give up. Instead he used his last ounce of strength to reach out for his sword, the word of God, and with it fended off Apollyon.

Being knocked down doesn’t mean we have to quit. It means get up and get back in the fight. We are all going to fall, but falling is ‘full of grace’ to get back up and go again. 

Friday, 29 December 2017

I will wait

Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me. Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me. – Micah 7.7-8

If we took the time to read through Micah we would grasp the import of his words. The nation was in a mess. Just before these words we see a nation id chaos. 

Have a look at verse 2-3:

‘The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net. That they may do evil with both hands earnestly, the prince asks, and the judge asks for a reward; and the great man, he utters his mischievous desire: so they wrap it up.’

Here’s my parrowphrase. ‘There are no good men left. There is no one upright. They all are violent and everyone is hunting for everyone else. They do evil with all their might. The rulers and judges look for bribes. The leader utters his mischievous desires, and he gets it.’

I am not going to comment on the obvious applications for today because I want to focus on the positive.

Micah didn’t try to sort all that out. He decided to look heavenward.

I will look to the Lord
I will wait for the God of my salvation
My God will hear me

In these desperate days Micah knew better than to look to men for his help. He knew there was no answer there and that there was only one place to find peace.

So what do we do in days like these? We do our best by the grace of God to love Him and others. We stay busy about our task of sharing the gospel. Feed the hungry and help the poor and needy.

Then we look to Him, wait for Him, and trust that He is hearing. 

Thursday, 28 December 2017

What does God require?

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? – Micah 6.8

A lot of people make religion and terrible chore. We add dos and don’ts and rules and regulations and sacraments and all sorts of religious activities and think man has found a way to placate God. Do this and you are godly, don’t do that and you are godly.

The word of God has a whole different way of describing the godly behave. It is not bright lights and loud noises and flashy living. It is not being embroiled in every debate that the world rages about. It is not trying to solve every problem the world deals with. It is not to fix politics no matter the cost.

The things Micah talks about are not the be all and end all. It is a nice summary describing how God wants His people to live. Micah puts it well.

Do justly
Love mercy
Walk humbly with God

That all sounds so simple and so lovely and it makes a lovely t-shirt, but how do we do when it comes to living it? Think about when we go shopping or go to work or get into a difficult situation or we get angry or whatever. Do people see us as just and merciful and humble in those times?

It is all part of shining our light in this dark world. It is part of making a difference. It is part of pointing people to our just and merciful and humble Saviour.

It is all about Christlikeness. 

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

I knew You were going to do this!

And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil. – Jonah 4.2

Jonah is a conundrum to me. I don’t know what to make of him. The more times I read the book the more reasons I find not to like him. He runs from God, but to be honest I can understand that. Ninevah was a scary place. Then he has the whale thing and expresses some faith in God. After that I think I would make my way to Ninevah.

So he does the job. He peaches. The city turns to God.

Excitement – right? Amen and praise the Lord – correct?

Not so much.

‘I knew before I got on that boat that you were going to do this God.’ The problem is that he wasn’t excited – he was angry!! ‘I knew’ You’d do this, that’s why I ran for Spain.’ The next day Jonah spends the day moaning because the bad guys turned to God and escaped God’s wrath.

That’s bad – but that’s not my point here. My point is what Jonah knows about God.

God is gracious
God is merciful
God is slow to anger
God is of great kindness
God will relent of His wrath if people turn to him

It’s a shame that that made Jonah mad.

But we ought to take great comfort in this. The Ninevites were the least likely, in our eyes to see revival, but even to people ‘like that’ God is gracious and merciful and patient and kind and He will deliver anyone who turns to Him.

Oh, by the way, does it help make this story any more real when we realise that Ninevah was where the modern city of Mosul, Iraq is? Who would dream of Mosul turning to our God today? God hasn’t changed. He could do it today. And if He could do it in Mosul couldn’t He do it in the hearts of our friends and families and co-workers and neighbours? 

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

The man of peace

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth. And this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land: and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise against him seven shepherds, and eight principal men. Micah 5.2-5

The special passage of Micah ‘just happened’ to come up in my reading as we leave the Christmas season. It is an interesting passage, usually noted because of the prophecy of Bethlehem as Messiah’s birthplace. That’s an important evidence of the reliability of Scripture.

What really sticks out to me though is later in the passage where we read about Messiah and among things we read, ‘this man shall be the peace.’

This particular passage is messianic and it is also prophetic. The prophecy of world peace has not yet been fulfilled. That is a future event to be fulfilled at the coming of Christ.

But personal and inner peace is available for us today. Jesus said as much when He said ‘my peace I leave with you.’ He is that ‘man of peace’ not only for the world at large, but for you and me. It is that peace with God that comes at salvation and the peace of God that passes all understand that sustains us in our various troublesome days.

Emmanuel – God with us, and our Man of Peace. 

Monday, 25 December 2017

God with us

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. – Matthew 1.23

I wish I thought of the concept more often, but it always comes home at Christmas. This notion ought to consume me every day of the year. It is a notion that is far beyond my ken.

What is this notion?

Emmanuel – God with us.

GOD with us
God WITH us
God with US

Do you see that? Every single word stands out.

GOD Himself is with us! God who said ‘let there be light’ and parted the Red Sea and created all that is around is with us.

God is WITH us. He is not just nearby or close or accessible. He is well and truly with us as we face each day.

God is with US!! You and me. We know us. We all know that we are not worthy of Him being with us, but He is! He is there by our sides day after day after day.

One of Jesus’ last promises on earth was ‘lo, I am with you always.’ He is as with us today as He was with those who first heard the word Emmanuel. Of all the celebrations of today let’s make sure our focus is on Emmanuel. 

Sunday, 24 December 2017


All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. – John 1.3-5

Light is a glorious spectacle. There are plenty of pretty light displays at this time of year. Houses and streets and trees and everything else may be decorated. Light is cheering and pleasant. It pierces the darkness and even the slightest bit of light can change everything. Light makes all the difference in the world making our way through the darkness.

Of course I am going somewhere with this. Physical darkness is bad enough, but there is an much worse thing than physical darkness. Spiritual darkness is so bad because it is eternal and you can’t just flip a switch to get rid of it. It is pervasive and it is so dark that the world doesn’t even know what it stumbles over.

But the wonderful news is that God did something about that darkness. He sent Light into the world. Christmas is about the entry of that Light. The Light shone in the darkness, but the darkness didn’t get it because the world loved it darkness more than the Light.

Nevertheless that Light still shines for those who are looking for guidance in the darkness and for a hope for eternity. Those who come to the Light become reflections of the Light to the world around.

Are we Christians being the light of the world that we are called to be or are we just adding to the darkness by our failure to reflect the Light? We ought to shine as lights all year, but Christmas is a time when we can focus and aim to shine more in the year to come. 

Saturday, 23 December 2017

God relented

And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not. – Jonah 3.10

Ninevah was one of the most evil empires in history. I won’t go in to any more details here, but look into the way they treat conquered and captive peoples. It is no wonder that Jonah ran.

But now Jonah was there and he had preached the message of repentance. And, lo and behold, the Ninevites turned to God. Not only did they turn to God, but the turned from the evil deeds and their new works were obvious. Revival well and truly broke out in Ninevah.

When they turned from their evil way and gave up their sin God relented from the evil He had said would come to them. The older translation of ‘repent’ is hard for our modern ears to grasp, but it really only means to ‘turn from.’ God turned from the judgement He had pronounced and poured out His mercy instead.

God is not willing that any should perish, but that everyone would come to repentance. This wicked nation, fully deserving of God’s wrath, was spared because they turned to God.

There is no group today too bad for God to save. No one is too hard for God to reach. Jonah finally went, even with a sorry attitude, and preached God’s word. God’s word was more powerful than Jonah’s attitude and a whole city turned to Him. Not that I can condone the attitude, but we can be assured that if God could use Jonah He can surely use us. 

Friday, 22 December 2017

Salvation is of the Lord

When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD. – Jonah 2.7-9

Jonah’s disobedience resulted in one of the best know events in the Bible. Everybody knows the story of Jonah and the whale. At this point of the event Jonah has been thrown overboard after convincing the sailors that he was to blame for the violent storm they had encountered.

God had prepared an unusual rescue. There was a whale or a ‘great fish’ ready to swallow him alive. It did and Jonah found himself awake and aware of his situation. There isn’t much more of way to be ‘in the depth’ than to be in the depths in a whale’s belly.

It couldn’t get any worse, obviously, so he did what he should have done a long time before – he prayed. He remembered the Lord, who he never should have forgotten, and prayed. He knew he had forsaken God’s mercies.

But he also knew there was a way back. I am not a big fan of Jonah, but at least he knew that he had to have God as his answer. He knew that his only hope for deliverance was from the Lord. No one else could help, but God alone.

I don’t want to stretch things too much, but Jonah found himself where all men are without Christ. The only source of salvation for Jonah was the Lord, and the Lord is the source of salvation for the world today. There is no other name under heaven whereby men may be saved. 

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Jonah rose up to flee

Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.  – Jonah 1.2-3

Imagine, just imagine, if God came to you today and told you that He wanted to leave everything you had a go preach to the Muslims in Iraq. Imagine you were to go to North Korea. Imagine you were sent even to some Muslim population in your country.

I am sure that we would all like to say ‘Amen! Bless God! Let me go! Here am I Lord, send me!’

Well, think about it for a second. That sounds all spiritual and godly and stuff, but seriously, think about it. If you were in that situation and you knew that this mission trip could very well result in your death, could you jump on the next plane. I mean, really, these are the people that carried out 9/11 and have launched terror attacks. They cut off western Christians heads and put it on the internet. I am not sure I would be one of those jumping up and down and saying ‘me, Lord! Me, Lord!’

And that’s where we pick up the story. Jonah was a prophet who God told to ‘go up to Tarshish and tell them how wicked they are!’ These Ninevites were bad people, really, really, really bad people. They were a vicious warrior nation who, when they won a war would make the relatives of the dead leaders carry their rotting bodies around on their backs. They had ‘flesh hooks’ which they inserted in the backs of captives to make sure they would not escape. Their city was massive and all kinds of atrocities took place there.

I have to say it is no wonder to me that Jonah tried to catch the next ship to Spain!

What challenges me is that there are times when it takes nothing like a Ninevah to keep me from sharing my faith. All it takes is fear of rejection, or fear of being laughed at, or fear of not knowing what to say. I don’t have the excuse that Jonah had. May God keep me from Jonah-like fear in a situation is nothing like his. I don’t ever want to ‘flee to Tarshish’ because of perceived fear. 

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Streams of righteousness

But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream. – Amos 5.24

Amos, like most of the prophets, speaks of a holy and just God. Being holy and righteous and just means that sometimes God has to punish sin. But we can be assured that God’s justice is always right and, of course, His righteousness is always right.

There should be no greater joy that for God’s justice to roll down like a river and His righteousness as a mighty stream. We live in a world that is anything but just and anything but righteous. It can seem like a ‘dry and thirsty’ land. Like the woman at the well there are looking for refreshment.

But, like the merchant crying out on Isaiah 55, there is an offer – ‘everyone who is thirsty come and drink.’ God is offering rivers of justice and streams of righteousness to all who will accept His refreshment.  

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

I hate your feast days

I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. – Amos 5.21-23

Just in case we have missed it anywhere along the way we need to know that God hates false worship that is only a show and not the result of a change of heart. In Revelation we read about a church where God says ‘I wish you were either hot or cold, but you are lukewarm and it makes me sick!’

That is the way Israel was here. They were feasting their feasts and offering their offerings and singing their songs, but there was no heart behind it.

How sad it is when people go to church and just go through the motions. Dead, lifeless, meaningless singing is sad. I was in a church this summer that sang ‘Before the Throne of God.’ I can’t sing that song without tears, and yet the song was sung without any life or emotion. I certainly can’t judge hearts, but the feeling made me sad. How can we worship without any sign of fire or emotion? It can seem often that God’s people are just going the motions.

God wants our worship to be real. There needs to be a genuineness about our worship. Worship should stir us. I realise that we are not all the same emotionally, but there must be something there.

Another aspect of this, and probably the most important one, is that God hates worship which is not backed by our everyday lives. Today we call them ‘Sunday Christians’ who you would never know are believers outside of church. Their faith and their business don’t match up. Their faith and their politics don’t match up. Their faith and their words and actions don’t match up.

Everything about our lives should be all, everything, completely about glorifying God. All we do, whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do must glorify Him. Our faith must join us all week, not just for a few minutes on Sunday morning.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Woe to him

Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light. As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him. Shall not the day of the LORD be darkness, and not light? even very dark, and no brightness in it? – Amos 5.18-20

There are a lot of folks who are looking forward to the ‘day of the Lord.’ For those who truly know God and have put their trust in Him that is a good thing. We ought to look every day to the day of the Lord.

But not everyone who is looking for the day of the Lord is going to be happy when that day comes. For many who are trusting in their works or their goodness or their own self-righteousness the day of the Lord is only going to be a day of judgement on their sins.

The day of the Lord, when He appears in all His glory should be a great day of joy. It should not be like running from a lion only to run into a bear and be destroyed. It should not be a day of darkness, but a day of great light.

And it will be light and joy for all who have put their faith in Him. 

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Hate evil

Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the LORD, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken. Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph. – Amos 5.14-15

We live in a world of great evil. Of course God’s people have always lived in an evil world. When evil is that pervasive it can be hard to deal with. It is just everywhere and it seems that everyone is doing it. The easy thing to do is to just, maybe not give in, but to be accepting of just a little of the evil and not make too big a deal about it. After all, don’t we have to accept a little evil for the ultimate good? The end in reality can justify the means, right?

Except for the fact that God doesn’t see it that way. He simply says ‘hate the evil and love the good.’

God’s people in the Old Testament had no place dabbling with evil. Christians today have no business playing around with the evil. With our liberty in Christ and being free from the law a lot of folks think it is okay to mess around with the verge of evil as long as we don’t really get too involved.

But that is a wrong view of evil. God tells us how we should deal with evil and it is pretty simple – hate it, despise, have nothing to do with it, run from it. Christians have to live in an evil world, but we need to see it in all its evilness. We need to see its destructive power. We need to see it from God’s perspective.

God’s people must always stand opposed to evil. We can’t tolerate it just because those who practice it can help us achieve our goals or our ends. We should never tolerate evil in people in politics because they can help us achieve our political goals.

Hate evil – no matter what. 

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Seek the Lord and live

Seek the LORD, and ye shall live; lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and devour it, and there be none to quench it in Bethel. – Amos 5.6

Amos kept reminding the people that though they were in a mess, there was an answer and a way back. They didn’t have to stay where they are. God was ready to get them back to where they needed to be. The way back was simple – ‘seek the Lord and live.’

It is amazing that God makes Himself so available to those who have erred and turned away. It seems like the natural thing would be to run and hide from those who have rejected Him, but He says that He is there for anyone who will seek him.

Seek the Lord while He may be found, call on Him when He may be found. Those who seek me early will find me.

Why does God keep accepting those who seek Him? After rejection after rejections after rejection why does God not just say ‘enough?’

Because God is love. It is not His will that any should perish. Even when a world rejected Him and He knew most of the world would reject His son He sent Jesus to offer the gift of eternal life. The conditions? Only turn to Him and say ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ 

Friday, 15 December 2017

Prepare to meet your God

Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel. – Amos 4.12

We have all the seen cartoons of a long haired guy on a busy city street holding up a handwritten sign reading ‘prepare to meet thy God.’ It is almost always played for comedic effect and some other comment is made by a passer-by and it is intended to give us a chuckle.

I guess that is all meant in good fun, but I think that there is a problem with making light of the idea of being ready to meet God at any time. It helps give the notion that preparing for God is, in essence, a joke and only worthy of some strange street prophet who is slightly off balance.

The truth is though that ‘prepare to meet your God’ needs to be something on everyone’s minds. The day is coming when every single person will one day stand before God. Some will stand with great joy and some will stand in shame and judgement.  God told Israel to be ready to meet God. That same message is one all need to hear.

Every friend and every family member and every co-worker and every neighbour we know will one day meet Him. Those who have already met Him can look forward to that day with excitement. But there is no hope for those who are not ready.

We have the way to help them prepare to meet God. Are we faithfully trying to prepare them? 

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Whosoever surely meaneth me.

And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call. – Joel 2.32

Whosoever. That’s a mighty big word. Whoever means red and yellow and black and white. It means men and women and boys and girls. It means Jew and Arab and Christian and Muslim and Buddhist and Wiccan and whatever else we label ourselves. Whoever means straight and gay and anyone else in between. Whoever means whoever.

But the greatest thing about whoever is that it means me.

I can’t the old James McConnell out of my head. It says it just right:

I am happy today, and the sun shines bright,
The clouds have been rolled away;
For the Savior said, whosoever will
May come with Him to stay.

“Whosoever” surely meaneth me,
Surely meaneth me, oh, surely meaneth me;
“Whosoever” surely meaneth me,
“Whosoever” meaneth me.

All my hopes have been raised, oh, His Name be praised,
His glory has filled my soul;
I’ve been lifted up, and from sin set free,
His blood has made me whole.

Oh, what wonderful love, oh, what grace divine,
That Jesus should die for me;
I was lost in sin, for the world I pined,
But now I am set free.

God spoke here to Israel when He said ‘whoever.’ In Romans He says that whosever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. No one is outside the gamut of whosoever – best of all even I am not outside of whosoever. 

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

The Lord will do great things

Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the LORD will do great things. – Joel 2.21

Fear not. Are those words not applicable to us today? There are plenty of reasons for us to be afraid it seems. The news is just crazy. Every time I turn the news on I wonder ‘what’s next?’

I also have some things in the future that I don’t know how I am going to work them out. Sometimes these things can get into my head and I can’t shake them.

These are the kinds of things that we all can have to deal with at times. They are just part of life.

We can’t afford though to let these things stop us or discourage us or get us down. If we look at them we aren’t going to get anything done because we are so focused on what we can’t do that we can’t see what God can do.

I am not sure why we get caught in that trap. It’s not like God doesn’t promise us over and over and over and over again that He is mighty and He with us and He holds our hands and nothing in impossible with Him and that He can do things that we can’t even imagine. Many of us trust Him for eternity – so why can’t we trust Him for tomorrow? 

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Rend your heart

And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. – Joel 2.13

The Old Testament custom in times of great grief or remorse or repentance was to tear of your clothes and sit amongst the ashes. It was visibly a humbling and embarrassing and shameful act. The problem was that though it may have been genuine at one point eventually it became nothing more than a show. If you sinned just tear your clothes and go sit in a pile of ashes and everything would be sorted.

The truth is though that it takes make more than a show of religiousity. Something has to happen inside before the outside does any good. As a song puts it you ‘have to change your heart before you change your shirt. God says here that the way back is to rend your heart and turn to the Lord. He is ready for us to turn back because God is gracious and merciful. He is slow to anger. He is kind and it is His nature to turn from His wrath and pour out mercy.

But it all starts, not with religion, but with a change of heart. There must be a work inside or all the religion in the world is only a waste.

We Christians need to be sure that we are not just playing a religious game and putting on a churchy show. All of us need to make sure things are right in our hearts or all the giving and going to church and amening and praising the Lord and singing the songs means nothing. 

Monday, 11 December 2017

The more they had

As they were increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I change their glory into shame.  – Hosea 4.7

The more the nation increased the more they sinned. How sad are those words? And how said it is that those words are as true today as they ever were.

I think the clearest New Testament version of this truth is these words from the angel to the church at Laodicea.

And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

Wealth is a danger. It can be a blessing for those wise enough to use it properly, but the danger is the more we have the more we can be tempted to think that we might not really need God so much.

There is nothing at all wrong with stuff. That is unless your stuff helps you rely on you instead of God and that is what happens far too often. That’s easy for me to say because we have never had much stuff and time after time we have had to sit back and literally watch God meet our needs. It started the day after we got married, it continues on to today, and as far as I can tell it is going to continue on in the future. I’d love to have more stuff, but I have also been blessed by depending on God on a regular basis.

No matter who we are or have or don’t have we must remember He who gives us this day our daily bread. 

Sunday, 10 December 2017

No knowledge of God

Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. – Hosea 4.1

I am reading through Hosea again and realised I missed some key truths the first time, so please pardon me if it seems like I am backtracking, because, well, I am.

Israel was a mess. These were God’s people and yet we read that there was no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. God’s people had forgotten all about God and now no one knew about Him.

Immediately I think of the passage in 1 Corinthians where Paul writes ‘awake to righteousness and do not sin, for some don’t have any knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.’

We live in a world with no knowledge of God. All around us people are living their lives and dying and facing eternity never knowing the Creator of heaven and earth.

And, to some extent, that is to our shame. We are not sharing our faith as we should. We are not revealing a knowledge of God in our lives. We are not living our faith. We are not sharing His truth.

There is no knowledge of God – and it is our job to share it. 

Saturday, 9 December 2017

I will heal their backsliding

O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips. Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy. I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him. – Hosea 14.1-4

We have one more passage about the process and recovery from backsliding here. The first step of course is acknowledging our sin, getting back into the word of God, and turning to Him.

I remember my one serious backsliding time. It was the autumn of 1975 to the spring of 1976. I had been saved about 18 months when I went back to college in Pennsylvania and decided to hang out one night with a bunch of old friends. It started out innocently enough until they started passing around a bottle. I started drinking with them and it went downhill from there. I spent the next few months playing the hypocrite. I would party Friday and Saturday and find some way to get up and go to church on Sunday. I went many Sundays with a hangover and even did sign language interpretation with a headache.

All the while I knew what I was doing. I wasn’t reading my Bible, wasn’t praying, and was the epitome of a ‘Sunday Christian.’ I was coming back to my dorm one night and a friend said ‘Parrow, you better not ever preach that Jesus stuff to us again because now we know it’s not real to you.’


That hit home and it was enough of a wake-up that I knew I had to get back on track. It was hard at first because I knew what I had been doing for months. I was ashamed. But I knew I had to go back to Him.

I admitted my sin, that was easy enough because it was so obvious. I repented and asked God to forgive me. And He was waiting there for me and with my repentance and confession He healed my backsliding and took me back into His arms.

God did just what He says He will do with backsliders come back to Him. Thank God for His healing power. 

Friday, 8 December 2017

Turn back to God

Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually. – Hosea 12.6

So what is the solution to backsliding? What do you do when you find yourself trapped in your sin, ashamed of where you are, knowing you need to do something about it, and not knowing what to do?

The answer is really, really simple – turn back to God and then prove it by keeping God’s mercy and judgement and waiting on Him.

God is always looking for His wandering sheep to children to turn back to Him. The story of the prodigal son is a wonderful picture of a loving father and His erring son. The son cut off his contact with the father and wandered off in his own pursuits. Soon enough he got sick and tired of the emptiness of his now wasted life. He decided it was time to go home.

So what did he do? He turned back to his father. He went back home and when his father saw him the father ran out to meet him.

Those who feel trapped in backsliding need to remember that God is waiting – it is just a matter of turning back to his waiting arms. 

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Bent on backsliding

And my people are bent to backsliding from me: though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt him. - Hosea 11.7

Bent on backsliding. What a horrible place to be. Backsliding is a terrible place to be. Israel called God the ‘most High’ but no one would exalt Him. They claimed to belong to God, but they did not act like they were His.

Think about that for a second. The verse starts with the phrase ‘and my people’ so God is not talking about just anyone. He is talking about His own. God’s own people were slipping back into their old paths.

So that does happen. We still use the term today for believers who are not walking spirit filled lives. It is still possible for God’s people to walk after flesh and not walk after the spirit. It is possible to a child of God and still make sinful choices. I remember a time in my Christian life when I, to most people, would have seemed like I was bent on backsliding. I was calling God my God, but not exalting Him with my life.

What is amazing to see is God’s patience, who, like the prodigal son, seems bent on their backsliding. God is still there, as we are going to see in the next couple of days. 

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

With bands of love

When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images. I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them. I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them. – Hosea 11.1-4

We often think that we don’t see much of God as a God of love until the New Testament. It does seem like there is a lot of judgement and such in the Old Testament, but the God of love is there from the very beginning.

God tells us here that when He drew Israel to Him He drew them with gentle cords and with bands of love.

Of course it is love that motivates God, for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son as a solution to our terrible curse of sin. Sin has separated us all from God, God’s love has provided a way back to Him, but most of the world refuses to acknowledge His love even with His drawing and pleading.

God is still pleading for the world to turn to Him. He is not willing that any should perish, but that everyone turn to Him.

He drew Israel with love. He still draws with love today. Do we carry that message of love to others? 

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Raining righteusness

Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you. – Hosea 10.12

You reap what you sow. How often have we heard that? If you plant carrot seeds you are not going to get sweetcorn. If you plant strawberries you are not going to get watermelons. Indeed you reap what you sow.

At this time Israel was sowing sin and unrighteousness and injustice. And they were reaping God’s judgement. God loved His people, and He would not forsake them, but He was not going to bless their sin.

So he called on the people the break up their fallow ground and start sowing righteousness. God said that if they sowed righteousness he could pour out the fruit of His mercy.

God is a God of mercy. That mercy is waiting to be poured out abundantly but sometimes we are so focused on our own desires and living our own way that we never look to Him for mercy.

It is time for all of us to seek the Lord. He is time to stop sowing wickedness and selfishness and to start sowing seeds of righteousness so that we can walk in the rain of His mercy and righteousness and let it ‘soak us down to the bones’ and one songwriter puts it. 

Monday, 4 December 2017

But not by me

Israel hath cast off the thing that is good: the enemy shall pursue him. They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they may be cut off.  Hosea 8.3-4

Among the charges God lays out against Israel is that they have cast off that which is good. They have made silver and gold their idols.

And they have ‘set up kings, but not by me.’

That’s intriguing. We just read in Daniel not that long ago that ‘the Most High rules in the kingdom of men and He gives it to whom He will’ and now we read that Israel have ‘set up kings’ but not by God.

How do we reconcile that? How can the Most High give the rule to whoever He will and at the same time Israel set up kings that are not by him.

I think we get a hint back to the time of Samuel. He was the last of the judges, but the people were demanding a king. God warned them that a king would do terrible things but they dug in and demanded a king. Samuel was saddened, but God said – they have not rejected you – they have rejected me. God gave them what they asked for an they suffered the consequences.

So it looks like to me that God is in control. He does set up and bring down rulers, but sometimes He lets people get their way and then suffer to results of their choice. 

Sunday, 3 December 2017

I desired mercy

I have desired mercy

For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.  – Hosea 6.6

Religion has always been part of man’s existence. The problem with religion is that since religion is practiced by human beings it can quickly become anthrocentric. It is easy in religion to get our eyes off what is supposed to be the object of our worship and we look more at how we match up in our performance of religious rituals. Even devout Jews such as the Pharisees were told by Jesus that that had made the traditions of men more important than the worship of God.

That is where unfaithful Judah found themselves. They were faithfully keeping the sacrificial system. They were offering up their burnt offerings.

But they were totally missing the point. That isn’t what God wanted. God desired, as always, wanted a heart change and a difference in their lives that did not come about with sacrifices and offerings.

God said that what He really wanted was not sacrifices and offerings and religion. What He really desires is for His people to show mercy and for them to know Him better.

Sadly we can get caught in the same trap of religion if we are not careful. We can go to church every time the doors are open, get baptised, tithe, and everything else and still miss the boat if we don’t know God and show mercy to others.

Get to know God better. If we do we will learn to show others mercy. That is much better than all the religion we can muster. 

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Till they seek me

I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.  – Hosea 5.15

Israel had turned their back on God. They refused to hear Him. No matter how God pleaded they would not hear.

So God stopped pleading. But He did not stop waiting and hearing. All they had to do was to acknowledge their sin and seek Him.

This image reminds me of the prodigal’s father. When his son went out on his own wasting his father’s money and living a wanton life of sin and excess the father stood on the porch waiting for him to acknowledge his sin and come home.

Of course we know the rest of the story. The son repented and turned for home and the father ran out to meet him.

That is the kind of God Israel and Judah had and that is the kind of God we have today. We run, we backslide, we turn from God and still He waits for is to seek Him.

And we seek Him He is always waiting with open arms.