Bitterness Divides/Forgiveness Unites

Beware of Bitterness

Obadiah: Do you recall the story about a feud between the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s who harbored grudges spanning several years? They were led by a rogue clan member who refused to forgive. Read Obadiah with this tale and the Jacob/Esau story in mind. Just like the Hatfield/McCoy feud, the descendants of Esau/ Edomite’s hearts were full of bitterness. Esau was bitter because his brother Jacob got the birthright and blessing–by trickery. He never forgave him, although when he met Jacob many years later, he “seemed” repentant.

God sent Obadiah to Israel to prophesy about Edom to show them that unforgiveness is a trap laid by Satan. The Edomites harbored a grudge of this event’s outcome from years and years ago. Like the Hatfield/McCoy’s, they rehearsed it repeatedly, probably embellishing the details to the next generation as to why they would not; should not, could not forgive their enemy. The reality is unforgiveness is a sin. Instead: “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap  burning coals on his head, And the LORD will reward you” [Prov 15:22]

Israel lies precariously close to this story because they refused to forgive their neighbor Judah. For us, it is a warning sign of what happens when we cling to hatred instead of forgiving.

Truth Principle: When we do not forgive, we are shackled in our past.

The Power of Prayer

Your prayers can move mountains

Amos 7 to 9 God asks the sheepherder and agriculturist Amos: Can two walk together unless they have agreed to do so? It is a rhetorical question, of course.  Later, as Amos walked the halls and fields of the northern kingdom, he “saw” or beheld God making locusts that would devour the crops, followed by fire to consume the fields. As Amos watched, his heart was broken. As we look about us, is our heart broken? Do we plead with God: Sovereign Lord, forgive Israel for they are too weak. God answered Amos: It will not happen. Never underestimate the power of a praying person. Know this truth: God hears the pleas of His children.

What does this mean to us today? It means you can be like Amos. God is listening to your petitions, and He will respond—sometimes He may even change his plan.

Never underestimate your praying power.

Just as Amos spoke to God on personal terms, so can we. Jesus said: I no longer call you servants; instead, I call you friends. A servant is told what to do and how but has no understanding of the why and does not question. In contrast, a friend converses and seeks to understand the motives and actions. Be like Abraham, Moses, and now Amos, who appealed to God for His mercy. God heard and relented of His decision. Never underestimate the power of prayer because the prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. [James 5:16]

Do you have that personal relationship with Him?

Are You Prepared?

Are you prepared to meet God?

Amos 4 to 6 When we go to court, we place our hand on the Bible and swear that we will tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help us, God. This is a solemn oath that we take, reminding us of the consequences of not telling the truth. As we do that, we are following the pattern of God, who confirms an oath by his own holy character.  What He says is true, and it will never be altered because He is the “way, the truth, and the life.”

Amos was given the task to remind them that God has plans for their future, yet they still did not come back to Him. Amos says: the day of the Lord will come swiftly as lightning; therefore, they should prepare to meet God. It is because of God’s great compassion that He reveals his plans to men. But, just as in Amos’ day, the world is busy about spending that which will decay on material possessions but not time hungering and thirsting for the Word of God. If God were to blow the trumpet, what would He find us doing?

Ecclesiastes reminds us: When you make a vow to God, do not delay in paying it. It is better not to vow than to vow and not pay it. You took an oath/vow that you believed in Jesus. Does your life reflect that oath/vow? Thus we should seek the Lord to live, once in this lifetime and then again in the hereafter.

Learn from a Sheepherder

Go and Tell

Amos 1-3 Some years ago I encountered a pastor after a morning service and wanted to speak to him about his sermon. I began, “Pastor..” but was rudely interrupted by this: I am Dr. Jones.” I left and never returned and perhaps you may feel that way too. You relate more to Amos the Sheepherder from Tekoa than someone who wears their Ph.D. on their sleeve.

Since Amos is just a sheepherder, why should we pay attention to him? God had a message for Israel and He has a message for us because He reveals the profound and hidden things whether we are a sheepherder or not. God used Amos to reveal a simple message of warning: For three things…no make that four is his repeated refrain.

So what are we to glean from Amos? It is this: Certainly, the Sovereign Lord does nothing without first revealing his plan which is: God is not willing that any should perish but all come to repentance. Perhaps you feel like Amos when that happens and you say to yourself let someone else tell them. But, God has chosen what the world thinks foolish to shame the wise, and God chose what the world thinks weak to shame the strong.

Jesus said: go and tell.

God’s Reminder

God is God

Joel 1-3  Of any prophet from the OT there is one that stands out as a beacon to see not only the past, but the present and the future in just three short chapters. Joel has been given a vision of something that so horrible that it is talked about for years to come. We can relate to that as we remember the events such as 9-11. People ask ‘where were you when the towers came down?’ Joel is speaking to the nation of Judah and warning them that they will experience their 9-11. In the midst of that Joel reminds them:

 “God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, relenting of evil.”  [Joel 2:13] Return to Him because He Is the Lord your God! He is the Lord and there is no other.

In 1915 Israel faced a locust plague just like the one Joel describes. Even this year, 2020, Africa has faced a similar plague. The question we must ask is not why it happens but what can we learn from it?  That is why Joel’s question and Jesus’ statement is vital to our understanding. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” [Matt 5:6]

Have you forgotten the message of Joel? God is speaking directly, personally, and urgently to you to call unto Him and seek His face.

God is ALIVE!

God is alive!

Hosea 11 to 14 God is the Same Today as He was Yesterday as He will be Tomorrow.

The world would have us think that God is archaic or worse He is dead. Hosea emphatically states: God is the Lord! He is God and not a man. Samuel the prophet said these same words: “The Preeminent One of Israel does not go back on his word or change his mind, for he is not a human being who changes his mind.” [1Sam 15:29] Stop and think about those you know who are fickle and say yes when they mean no or the reverse. God is faithful to always be who He is! He is the Lord who brought Israel out of Egypt, He spoke to the prophets, and He revealed Himself in visions as He did to Ezekiel. He spoke in parables through His Son Jesus whom He sent to die for our egregious sins.

Hosea reminds Israel that they must not acknowledge anyone or anything but He alone for there is no Savior besides Him! He will heal their waywardness and love them freely.

Hosea ends his writing by saying: Who is wise? Let him discern these things! Who is discerning? Let him understand them! For the ways of the Lord are right; the godly walk in them, but in them the rebellious stumble. It is as if we are reading Peter’s words: whoever believes in him will never be put to shame. [1Peter 2:6]

God is alive! Do you believe this?

God Judges Sin & The Heart

God is judge

Hosea 8 to 10 If you listen carefully, you will hear that the world says: “do not judge.”   Jesus used that verse to remind us of the standard of judgment and that the standards we apply to others God applies to us. Jesus is teaching that we are not God and we don’t know the motives behind a person’s heart. So what does that have to do with Hosea chapters 8 to 10? God is saying I am the ultimate judge, and I alone can judge the heart.

When God looked at the northern tribes, he saw sin and judged it. Outwardly the people were saying, “God, we acknowledge you!” But, God says, let’s look at the evidence. I found you and raised you only to see that your eyes drifted to man-made idols. This should not be!  What you have sown, you will also reap. I spelled out my law for you in great detail, but you regarded it as nothing. I sent you wise prophets, but you called them fools. My prophet was sent to you as a watchman to remind you of where you have fallen. Like the Ephesians, they had lost their first love. God reminds them to seek Him early while He may be found! Repent and return to the Lord

This is a wake-up call to us as well. Where have we taken our eyes off God and look to the world of its man-made idols and structures? Have we lost our first love?  

“Is Your Faithfulness True?”

Faithfulness: like a morning mist or like the noonday sun?

Hosea 5 to 7 Hosea reminds the Israelites that God sees their unfaithfulness just like the morning mist which disappears with the sun. He reminded them that instead of seeking God they sought Assyria.  Their sacrifices lay upon the altars but are not consumed because of their broken relationship.  God is calling them, and us, to delight in Him alone!  He delights in our faithfulness to Him that He might sanctify us. He is not interested in sacrifices. Instead He delights in our acknowledgment of Him.

The world is saying: God is archaic! God’s words do not bring hope!  Hebrews reminds us that because God is omniscient we should be careful not to “be carried away by all sorts of strange teachings.” Instead, cling to this truth: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” [Heb 13] because even if “Heaven and earth pass away, His words will never pass away.” [Mark 13]

Beloved, where have you fallen for the mantra of the idols of wood, stone, and that which perishes?  God is saying I delight in faithfulness, not simply sacrifice. God says “return to me, and I will return to you.” [Mal 3]

The Before and After Story…

Hosea 1-4 Hosea’s marriage to the prostitute Gomer is a real-life picture of how God feels about His people’s rejection of Him. He is an example of what an obedient child of the living God does— even when he does not understand—therefore, we must take note.

Hosea was to find a prostitute and marry her. So, he went to the dump and found Gomer gathering garbage; he redeemed her and married her lavishing upon her riches untold, just as God did for us.

Yet, even with all those precious gifts, Gomer, walked away from Hosea and returned to the dump where the   “pimp”/Satan found her and promised what he could not deliver. Gomer/Israel saw with her eyes but not her heart. She heard with her ears but failed to recall:  “I chose you out of many peoples and redeemed you for one reason: I loved you.

The Living God has a message for us in this story. Just as God promised restoration to Gomer and Israel, He promises restoration to us. God wants a people to be a sweet aroma of Christ to the lost and dying world.  As Hosea paid the price for her redemption,  Christ paid our redemption price willingly out of love. 

God has paid the price for your redemption because He wants you to know He loves you and has redeemed you with the blood of Christ.   Will you be like Gomer or Hosea?

God’s Promise

God promises our destiny

Daniel 10-12 Interestingly, God met both Daniel and Paul away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Both men had a group of friends with them, but only Daniel and Paul saw the vision. Both felt their strength fade away because of the power of the vision. Both listened to the voice, and both were given the wisdom to understand.

Paul needed to know Jesus, whom he had been persecuting. From that encounter, he would travel the world, telling all who would hear about Jesus. Daniel, on the other hand, had a robust relationship with God, but many questions. God came because Daniel did as James said: “if you lack wisdom, ask of God who gives to all men generously and without reproach.” [James 1:5] At the end of this encounter, Daniel was told the answer but then to seal it up for the time had not yet come for it to be revealed.

Yet, God had one more promise to Daniel. He would leave this earth and go to his rest just as the Hebrews author said. [Heb 4:9] Daniel may have had unanswered questions still, but the angelic figure gave this octogenarian a tremendous promise:

“But you should go your way until the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days, you will arise to receive what you have been allotted.” [Dan 12:13]

God offers that same promise to you if you have yielded your life to Him. The question is can you claim that same promise?