~ Click on this link for today's readings ~
Hosea 10:1-14:9 ~ Jude 1:1-25
Psalm 127:1-5 ~ Proverbs 29:15-17
Old Testament - Today we wrap up the book of Hosea. It's been a good read for me this year. Again, a good look at how the prophets of the Old Testament were warning Israel & Judah over and over again of their sins - sins that multiplied as we read in today's readings - and their was no repentance. Things just got worse. This did make me think today - if we continue to sin and sin and things get worse and worse in our lives and how we are adversely affecting other people's lives around us, is maybe the most compassionate thing for God to do - for us and others - to stop us from our path of destruction? I know this gets on some theological grounds that I probably can't cover... :) But, my thought here in today's readings is that God is a compassionate God. Yes, he's throwing out some tough stuff in what he's saying - and will be doing - but for the end goal of getting people from stopping their sinful ways and harming themselves and others. Today, we are fortunate, compared to the Old Testament days, that we have Jesus Christ as a mediator for our sins between us and God - and not just a mediator - but a Healer. Jesus can heal us from our sinful desires and ways. So, while I do see God as being compassionate in the Old Testament, I am so thankful for his great compassion of sending his son Jesus to the earth for us. Without a doubt, God is good.
Sorry, I really went off on a bit of a tangent there. Back to the readings. :) Hosea chapter 10 verse 12 I loved today - "`Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of my love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.'" Beautiful. Are we planting good seeds of righteousness in our lives? What would good seeds of righteousness be? Is it possible that faith in Jesus is a seed of righteousness that we could plant - and that would indeed harvest a crop of God's love in our lives? To plant these seeds of righteousness, we may need to plow up some hard grounds in our heart and we may need to seek God like never before. Do you think this plowing is worth it? Will you plow so that God may come into your life and shower righteousness upon you?
Chapter 11 verses 8 & 9 I think tie in well to my opening paragraph thoughts on God's compassion - ""Oh, how can I give you up, Israel? How can I let you go? How can I destroy you like Admah and Zeboiim? My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows. No, I will not punish you as much as my burning anger tells me to. I will not completely destroy Israel, for I am God and not a mere mortal. I am the Holy One living among you, and I will not come to destroy." I absolutely love these verses... Do you believe that God will not give up on you? Do you believe that God's heart overflows with compassion for you? Do you believe that God is the one and only Holy and Living God, who is indeed involved in every single moment of your life? Do you believe God is closer than the air you breathe? (props to the musician David Wilcox for this last question... I love that thought - God is closer than the air we breathe...)
Hosea 12 verse 6 has a phrase I love - "So now, come back to your God! Act on the principles of love and justice, and always live in confident dependence on your God." Always live in confident dependence on God. Wow. My prayer for each of us is that we would indeed always live in confident dependence on God....
The book of Hosea ends with a phenomenal verse - chapter 14 verse 9 - "Let those who are wise understand these things. Let those who are discerning listen carefully. The paths of the LORD are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them. But sinners stumble and fall along the way." Amen.
New Testament - Today we read the entire letter of Jude. This letter seems to carry forward some of the themes in John's letter's we've recently read about false teachers. This letter was written in about 65 A.D. From Jude & John, it seems like there were obviously some issues of false teachers back in the early church. People that twisted the truth of who Jesus was. I read a commentator today who said the twisted truths back then were basically this - 1. Jesus was not divine. He was just a man who was infused with the divinity of "the Christ" when he was Baptized in the Jordan, but that the divine nature left him before he died on the cross. (this would be a huge issue for theology... it ain't true folks...) and 2. Once you believe in Christ and your sins are forgiven, then you have a license to do whatever you want in life. You're home free. Feel free to be as immoral as you want. (again not true of course...). Early Gnosticism was a part of the problem with these lines of thinking. The early Gnostics basically believed that anything of matter/material/flesh was bad, and anything of the spirit was good. Hence, their belief that Jesus really couldn't have been a man and God at the same time - and that once they were saved/believed in Christ, then their sins were forgiven in the spiritual realm, so they could do whatever the heck they wanted....
All this to say - it is so easy for theology to get twisted around. It happened back in the early church as we see in Jude's letter today, and in John's previous letters. And it happens today. Something I heard recently that I liked and that I believe is so true. The Gospel is not complicated. It's simple. If you want the straightforward simple truth of the gospel, head for the Gospel of John in the New Testament and everything you basically need to know is there. That's it. We don't need to complicate things so much that we get ourselves caught up in ideas that basically create barriers to our relationship with God. God who loves us so much and wants to be in relationship with us... we have a good way of complicating this very simple love relationship! :)
Wow. I am going off on some big tangents here tonight... I hope there is some sort of coherency in all of this. Maybe somebody reading all this really needs to hear this. I hope so. Whoever is reading this, just know, God loves you so much and only wants to heal and free you from what is ailing you. Please don't give up on God- let him heal you...
Maybe verse 24 from the letter of Jude is a good way to get me off my rambling here... :) - "And now, all glory to God, who is able to keep you from stumbling, and who will bring you into his glorious presence innocent of sin and with great joy." Great joy indeed I believe can only be found through our relationship with God... There are other temporary happinesses we experience in life. But great joy... that's God.
Psalms - Psalm 127 verse 1 I think I heard for the first time verbally a couple of years ago at a Habitat for Humanity job site. I went with about 10 folks from my church to volunteer for a week with Habitat - on adobe houses, which was very cool! Anyhow, each morning we would do devotions and one of our team members read this verse to us, which was absolutely fitting for working on a Habitat house! "Unless the LORD builds a house, the work of the builders is useless. Unless the LORD protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good." Great stuff, and very applicable in our lives. Are there things we are building or creating that might be outside of God's will in our life? If so, should we be building these things? Will we take to prayer all that we build in our lives and seek God's guidance and blessing upon our work?
Speaking of work... :) I also love verse 2 in this Psalm - "It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones." Great verse to combat our workaholic tendencies, no? Do we overwork ourselves these days? What for? Is this pleasing to God? Are we taking a Sabbath day of rest once a week to simply be in relationship with God? To enjoy God's rest?
Proverbs 29 verses 15 &17 are great reminders on the benefit of discipline in our lives. Do you realize, or believe, that God may discipline you on occasion? Do you believe this holy discipline is ultimately good for you?
Okay - really long post tonight folks! Must have been those office cookies I ate tonight before heading home. Got me wired! :)
What verses or insights jumped out for you in today's readings? Please post up in the Comments section below!