The Hope of Hosea

Have you ever read the book of Hosea?  If not, it’s a book in the Bible about a prophet.  Remember I said before that prophets were people who had words from God for other people?  Well, this prophet named Hosea had an unusual call on his life.  God told him to marry a prostitute, a woman who would be unfaithful, to symbolise the unfaithfulness that God’s people Israel had shown to Him – going away from Him and worshipping the so-called gods of the nations round about them.

 

Hosea marries Gomer, she goes back into prostitution, and he’s told to buy her back and love her the way God loves His people.  There’s a lot in Hosea about punishment – lots of references to how Israel has rebelled against God.  You’d expect that, wouldn’t you?  Maybe you’d expect the punishment to go right through the time she’s in prostitution, and for it all to be resolved in the last chapter, but do you know what struck me as I read?  This book has 14 chapters, and in every one, alongside the warnings, there’s either a message of hope, or an appeal for the Israelites to return to God.  Take chapter 9 as an example.  “They think that prophets are fools and that spiritual people are crazy.  They have sinned a lot, and they are very hostile.  Prophets are God’s watchmen over Ephraim” (Hosea 9:7-8 God’s Word Translation).  What’s God saying?  I send My prophets to watch over you.  Don’t think they’re foolish – listen to them!

 

God can’t bear to punish us.  When He disciplines, His love and compassion are never far behind.  If you’re a parent, are you like that with your children?

Indispensable

Are you reading The Unquenchable Worshipper with me?  I may not blog about every chapter, but there is something important in chapter 2.

 

Matt talks about a time when he had tendonitis and was unable to play guitar for 7 weeks, despite the busy schedule he had planned.  In all his unanswered questions, he learnt a valuable lesson.  Servants come and go; God could have used any worship-leader for the events on his calendar, but as a son, he was indispensable.  There would never be another Matt Redman.

 

Are you reading this and thinking the same applies to you?  Because if you believe in Jesus, God’s given you the right to become His child.  That means whatever you may be doing for Him, or will do in the future, you’re first of all a son.  God looks at you, and you’re indispensable.  No one can be your replacement.  Someone else may step into your role, but they’ll never be you, and God loves all His children.

I See Jesus

After a week with the kids, today is catch-up day.  I have groceries being delivered, washing to do, E-mails to send … so what do I do first?  See what book came through the post for me yesterday.

 

It’s Matt Redman’s The Unquenchable Worshipper.  What I like about people like Matt Redman and Darlene Czech is that they include Scripture in some of their songs.  If I sense someone’s a Bible-believing Christian and they write a book on worship, I want to read it.

 

I’ve only read the first chapter so far, but it’s really good.  In it he talks about how fire extinguishers work – by removing 3 things:  Heat, oxygen, and fuel.  I won’t go through all his points; I don’t want to spoil it for other readers, but he says the fuel for our worship-fire is the revelation of God.  There are different ways in which God reveals Himself to us, and His Word (the Bible) is one of them.  Psalm 89 was mentioned, so I got out my falling-apart book of Psalms and started to read.  I came to verse 17:  “By Your favour You exalt our Horn”.

 

Who is the Horn of our salvation – the One who saves us?  Jesus.  “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” – Philippians 2:8-10.  So, because of God’s favour He exalted Jesus?  Yes, it’s true.  If God hadn’t been pleased with us, and wanted us with Him forever, Jesus wouldn’t have died on that cross.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” – John 3:16.

 

Can you see Jesus in your Bible-reading today?

Danny

We’ve been having such fun at church this week.  It’s our holiday club, so we have 60 primary school-age children (20 from church and 40 others), their parents get them to us for 10 am and pick them up 2 hours later.  In the meantime there are songs, stories, quizzes, games etc.

 

Nearly halfway through the morning, we split into groups to do different activities, and I’m one of those helping with the 3 to 5-year-olds.  There aren’t many of us, which makes it easier to get to know them.  Yesterday, when a little boy was asked would he like to make a picture, he said:  “No thank you”.  He preferred to connect little pieces of plastic together to make a long pole, but I heard him count the pieces as he went.  He got to 27, and he was number-perfect!  I decided I really wanted to talk to him.  I got down on my knees and explained that my eyes didn’t work; I would have to use my fingers, but would he show me what he’d made.

 

We were onto a different story today, and the others were building houses, but he wanted to make a church.  When he’d finished, he came over to me, put it in my hand and said:  “Feel what I’ve made”.

 

“Wow!  Is that the tower on the top?”

 

“No, that’s just the bit that goes up and up and up.”

 

“Oh …  That looks an interesting church.  I think I’d like to go to that church.”

 

“You won’t fit in it!”

* * *

It would be very easy for me to say this little boy was my favourite.  Then I think of God – the One I follow, who doesn’t have favourites.  In the Bible, Paul tells us:  “There is no favouritism with Him” (Ephesians 6:9), and we’re encouraged to “Do nothing out of favouritism” (1 Timothy 5:21).

 

With this little boy, I was able to pick up on things he did, that maybe others wouldn’t have noticed.  I can’t do that for every single person – spend time focusing on them and getting to know and love them, but God can.  If you’re sitting working on a project, checking and double-checking the detail, even if no one’s there to praise you for it, God sees, and He rewards people according to what they’ve done.  If you make even a small effort to reach out to God, like that little boy putting his creation into my hand, you’ll make God smile.

 

Please know His eye is on you, and He loves you more than I can say.  Isn’t that worth celebrating?

Communion

Communion – that time when churches distribute bread and wine, to remember Jesus’ death.  Instead of trying to hold onto His life, He gave His body over to the soldiers, letting them beat Him and nail Him to a cross, and He allowed His blood to be poured out to make us acceptable to God.  You can read more about the reason for this here.

 

At the church I go to now, we don’t have a set pattern of things we say to remember this, but my parents have been churchgoers since I was a child.  At that church, one of the prayers before communion went something like:  “We do not presume to come to this Your table, merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness … for we are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under Your table”.

 

First of all, I didn’t understand what righteousness meant, but I sort of got the message that we shouldn’t come close to God trusting in ourselves; we were hardly even good enough to pick up the crumbs under His table.  I got the fact that I really wasn’t worth very much.  What I didn’t realise was that Jesus dying on the cross changed that.  I don’t know how many communion services I sat through, missing the whole point of it.

 

Righteousness is being right with God.  Because Jesus died in our place and He was right with God, when we believe in Him, God puts the Spirit of Jesus into us, so all the things we didn’t have on our own are now ours through Jesus – if we would only live that way!  We have a right standing with God.  God loves Jesus, and He loves us.  Isn’t it time we stopped only saying half the prayer?

 

Father, I wouldn’t be bold enough to come to You trusting in myself.  On my own I’m hardly good enough to pick up the crumbs under Your table, but Jesus has died for me, and trusting in Him I can be bold!  I can approach You – not as if I was a stranger, but as Your child.  I can ask for things, like I would ask my parents.  If I believe You’ve promised me something and it seems slow in coming, I can say:  “Father, You promised …”  Thank You that You want that kind of relationship with us.  Amen.

* * *

If you’re having communion tomorrow at church, will you take time to really think about Jesus’ death and what it means for you?

As One Being Pursued

Every morning, Monday to Friday, when I turn on my computer and go to my E-mails, usually the first one I look at is a devotional E-mail called Girl-friends In God.  You can sign up for it here.  The week is shared between 3 writers – Mary Southerland, Gwen Smith and Sharon Jaynes.  I personally love Sharon’s writing.  I want to read one of her books one day, because I’ve a feeling she has more to say than can be packed into a 5-minute E-mail.

 

Today Sharon wrote about when she met her husband and how, even though she was smitten from the start, she didn’t necessarily want him to know that because she wanted to be romanced by him.  She went on to talk about God’s love, pointing us to the book of Song of Solomon and asking (if our Bibles had headings) that we read the ‘Lover’ parts as God pursuing us.  I went to my Bible and started to do this, and some of the things God said about me – it seemed strange writing them about myself.  Almost too wonderful!  But here they are.  You can see what you think.

* * *

1:9-11:  I am like a horse, once running wild and without restraint but now with the Lord’s yoke steering me in the right direction.

1:15:  I am beautiful, with spiritual eyes.

1:17:  Jesus has His home in my heart.

 

2:2:  I’m like a precious flower on thorny ground.

2:14-15:  My spirit is hidden in God.  Jesus wants to see me and hear me speak.  Jesus wants to harness anything that would ruin my good relationship with Him.

 

4:  I am flawless.  Jesus wants me to come away from those who would tear me to pieces and who stubbornly refuse to change.  I have stolen Jesus’ heart; He calls me His sister and His bride.  He prefers my love to wine and my perfume to any man-made one.  He thinks what I say is sweet and I smell fresh and clean – a garden locked up, then a garden fountain of flowing water.

 

5:  He has found me!

 

6:4-9:  I’m beautiful, lovely, majestic.  Jesus is overwhelmed when I look at Him.  I’m perfect; unique; favoured; blessed.

6:11-12:  Jesus’ desire is for us.

 

7:1-9:  I am royal.  I stand as a victory God has won.

* * *

Have you taken books or chapters of the Bible and made them personal to you?

Philippines 08/2012

Status

Latest update from the Philippines:  About 800 Compassion-children currently affected by Typhoon Saola.  It’s too dangerous at the moment for them to collect more information, but Compassion’s office in Manila is closed, projects have been flooded and staff-members have also suffered.  Please pray God’s comfort for any who might be grieving, that He’ll protect those in danger, and for an end to the flooding.  Remember He does miracles.

The Jeweller’s Shop

In the last couple of weeks I’ve discovered Faithful Bloggers.  If you’re looking for Christians in the blogasphere, their directory would be a good place to go to find them, and they were the ones who prompted this post.  They asked:  “If you had to recommend only one book of the Bible for a person to read, which book would you recommend and why?”

 

Any guesses?

 

Well, despite having heard it said in the past:  “If you’re introducing people to the Bible, don’t tell them to start with …” I’m still going to recommend it:  The gospel of John.  At my primary school, the head-teacher would always read the first part of chapter 1 at our carol services; it was foreign to me.  So maybe start with chapter 2 and read the first one later?  🙂

 

To me John is a bit like a jeweller’s shop, full of all the gems of the Christian life.  You can read how Jesus spoke powerfully into the lives of those others had given up on:  The woman at the well, an outcast in her community; the woman caught in an extramarital affair, whom the religious leaders were ready to stone to death; the blind man, whose life before had consisted of begging by the roadside.

 

And it’s not just the things that happen on the surface.  We can go deeper than that and find some of the basic principles of Christianity:  This whole thing of being born again, burying the old and embracing the new; Jesus’ reassurance about the heavenly place He’s preparing for His people … and then my favourite – love for God and love for each other.  Jesus showed His love for God, making it clear He only did what He saw His Father doing, and Jesus showed His disciples the full measure of His love when He washed their feet before that last meal He ate with them.  Can you comprehend that?  The God who made the whole universe – without Him nothing was made that has been made, and He leaves the majesty of heaven for such a menial task?  No service was beneath Him, and He asks us to follow His example:  “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them”.  He said:  “The greatest love a person can show is to die for his friends”, and before sacrificing His own life, He told us:  “Love each other as I have loved you”.

 

Need I say more?  But I don’t think this has a right or wrong answer, so let me ask you the same question.  Which book of the Bible would you recommend and why?  If this inspires you to write a post of your own, please share the link in the comments.  I’d love to read it.

A Mum and a Spokeswoman

Compassion Bloggers have their new site up and running.  It’s for bloggers like me who write sometimes about Compassion, and for others who’ve had the amazing privilege of travelling to countries where Compassion works and blogging about their experiences.  If you decide to sign up, every so often, Compassion Bloggers will E-mail you with ideas for posts.  Their latest was:  “Why do you blog for Compassion?”

Well, firstly I want to see more children sponsored, but hopefully I don’t write in a give-us-your-money sort of way.  I just want to show you the need that’s there, and suggest how you can respond to it – not just the need for financial sponsorship, but I’ve also written about letter-writing because I believe children have a need too for love and for someone in their life who cares.  If you can’t afford to sponsor financially, you could still do the writing part; just ask Compassion about becoming a correspondent.  (Compassion UK don’t offer this option, but you could do it through Compassion International.)

And the other reason?  Because Compassion has made me a mum.  I have a friend I went to school with, whose Facebook page has loads of updates about her baby daughter.  I love reading them, and I’m so grateful that through this blog and Facebook, I can share about my children too.  I may not be a mum in the natural, but because of Compassion, I can be a spiritual mother and share my heart with the children I sponsor.  I was only telling someone yesterday:  “I don’t think I’d be very good at cleaning up sick, but I’m good at writing.”  🙂

So thanks to Compassion for the work they do.  I think there’s something in all of us that wants to pass what we’ve learnt on to the next generation.  How do you do that; are there children in your house?  In your street?  Your friends’ children?  Or have you thought about sponsoring a child?

“One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts” – Psalm 145:4.