~ 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 great read for me this year. It has been 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 there 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? 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.
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 verse! Are you planting good seeds of righteousness in your life? What would good seeds of righteousness be? Is it possible that faith in Jesus is a seed of righteousness that you should plant - and that would indeed harvest a crop of God's love in your life? To plant these seeds of righteousness, you may need to plow up some hard ground in your heart and you 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?
In Hosea chapter 11 verses 8 & 9 we read this about 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? (Thanks 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." This verse reminds me of the beauty of studying the Bible! The Bible gives us wisdom - and also we need wisdom to understand the Bible's teaching. But, the beauty is that the more we study the Bible, the more we gain wisdom, and the more that wisdom allows us to truly understand what we're reading in the Bible! It's a never-ending circle of elevation in our study of the Bible - we'll never fully "get it" all this side of heaven. But the more we study the Bible, the more I believe we'll be able to truly understand it and put it into practice. Do you believe this to be true? Have you found over time that studying the Bible becomes more and more interesting and you gain more and more insights and understandings? This verse above I think also has a warning if we don't surrender our lives to Jesus, dive into God's Word, and put it into practice in our lives. There is the very real risk of stumbling and falling along the way... Let us not stumble!
New Testament - Today we start and finish the book of Jude! Revelation begins tomorrow!
~ Jude ~
Author: Jude, a brother of Jesus
Date: A.D. 65-70
Content: It is not known to whom this letter was addressed, but the problem that Jude confronts is very clear. Jude is urging the believers to stand firm against some false teachers and the false doctrine that they bring. In a lengthy passage Jude gives examples of judgment in the past that God visited upon sin, as well as a devastating description of the evil lives of those false teachers. Jude closes with an exhortation to the Christians to stand fast in the power of God who will keep us from falling.
Theme: The danger of false doctrine and the need for constant vigilance by the church is the theme of this book. Jude admonishes us to examine what people say and the kind of lives that they live so that we may approve what is pleasing in the sight of God. We may call upon God to help in this with full assurance that he will hear and answer our prayer. (Above commentary is from Tyndale Publishers “The One Year Bible Companion” pp. 34-35) A great overview of Jude by Daniel Wallace is at this link.
The letter of Jude carries 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 commentary today which said the twisted truths back then were basically these: 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. They veered way off the path of Truth...
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! :)
Verse 24 is so wonderful at the end of Jude's letter today:- "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 on a Habitat for Humanity job site. Each morning the volunteers would take turns leading devotions before the day’s build. One morning a volunteer read Psalm 127 verse 1 to all of 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 I believe this verse is not only applicable to working on Habitat houses, but is very applicable in our own lives as well. Are there things we are building or creating in our life that might be outside of God's will for our life? Are we building these things on our own? 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? Is God building our life or are we attempting to build with our own power? Is God protecting our life or are we attempting to protect ourselves with our own power?
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 you overwork yourself these days? What for? Is this pleasing to God? Are you taking a Sabbath day of rest once a week to simply be in relationship with God? To enjoy God's rest? Bible.org's commentary on Psalm 127 titled "A Word for Workaholics" is at this link.
Proverbs - 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? Do you think godly discipline help get you on the right road - and off the wrong road...
Comments from you: What verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!