King Ahab

Today’s Reading: 1 Kings 16:29-17:7

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn says we are the average of the five people with whom we spend the most time.  He asserts that surrounding yourself with people that look like you want to look and/or act like you want to act, increases your propensity to become who you want to be.

Our text for today introduces us to King Ahab who, like the seven kings before him, did evil in the sight of the Lord.  In fact, verse 33 tells us King Ahab was the most evil of all the Israeli kings.

He did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than any of the other kings of Israel before him (1 Kings 16:33).

Do you know why King Ahab was so evil?  You guessed it, he spent all his time with the wrong people.  King Ahab married Jezebel, a pagan woman.  Not only did she lead King Ahab to worship idols instead of following the ways of the Lord, she also encouraged him to listen only to people who brought him good news and who encouraged him to do whatever he wanted.

God sent the prophet Elijah to advise King Ahab, much like he had sent prophets to counsel the kings before him.  (Remember King David’s friend and trusted advisor Nathan?)  The problem was that King Ahab didn’t want to spend any time with Elijah because Elijah only gave him bad news that he didn’t want to hear.  Ultimately, by refusing to listen to Elijah’s warnings and humble himself before God, King Ahab brought destruction on himself and all his descendants (1 Kings 21:29).

Bad news, or counsel that goes against what we want, is hard to accept.  Sometimes, however, it is just what we need to set our paths straight.  God encourages us to seek advice from wise counselors.  But how do you know if your advisors are wise and their guidance is good?  Wise counsel always aligns with the principles outlined in God’s word, the Bible.

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm (Proverbs 13:20).

A Dead Dog

1 Samuel 9

That is horrible imagery!  Nobody wants to envision a dead dog.  Ever!  But, it wasn’t always that way.  In fact, in the time of Mephibosheth, wild dogs were a nuisance.  They ran in packs terrorizing everyone.  So, seeing one lying on the side of the road dead, was less than a sad moment.  In other words, a dead dog was the lowest of the low.  So, why does Mephibosheth refer to himself as a dead dog in today’s reading?  Because he too, was the lowest, of the low.

Consider these four reasons that Mephibosheth considered himself a dead dog to David.

  1. Mephibosheth’s family tried to kill David.
  2. Mephibosheth is the rightful heir to the throne of Israel
  3. Mephibosheth is handicapped.

As I think about this situation, I have to wonder why David wants to help him.  I mean, it makes sense that David would want to tread him like a dead dog, right?  But, that did not happen.  Instead, David does the unthinkable.  He shows him kindness, restores the land that is rightfully his and brings him into his own house, like family.

Why would David do such a thing?  Mephibosheth’s question in verse 8 is an appropriate one.  He asks “why would you show such regard for a dead dog, such as I?” After all, he knew his worth.  But David’s plan was love, not revenge.

If you didn’t notice, this story is a familiar one.  It’s about a man that gave his life so we could live.  He did it despite our family history or our physical insufficiency.  Like David, Jesus did the unthinkable, taking our burden upon himself so that we might be restored and become who He created us to be.

Guilt

Guilt is hard to handle.  It can drag you down; it can control your thoughts and emotions.  Some people can hold onto guilt for weeks, months, years, to even a lifetime. Guilt from sin can bring fear, shame, and hurt.  If you are dealing with guilt from something from long ago or recently, ” STOP.”

In a world full of sin, God sent His son to give us all eternal freedom when we repent from them.  He sent Him to forgive us our sins and show His love for us.

Today’s reading is Leviticus 16:20-34.

Historically, this passage refers to today’s Day of Atonement or Yom Kipper.  The day of Atonement was a time for confession from rebellion and wickedness.  A time to deny self.  What happened on this day with the high priest once a year is now available to us today.  Every day through our Lord’s decision to send Jesus to save us from our sinful nature.

Whatever happened today, yesterday, or in the past. Take it to God. Repent.  Come with a sincere heart. Deny yourself from making excuses or downplaying the sin.  Cleanse yourself from this guilt.  For years I have held onto sin, I would find ways to avoid talking, thinking, or owning it.  I was ashamed, too proud, and would downplay the thoughts and actions I made.  I wish I could say that each day gets easier, that I’m sin-free.  You already know the answer.  Every day is a daily prayer to deny me and my desires.  A new day to repent and pray for obedience and complete surrender of my life for eternal life with Him.

Hebrews 10:19-22 A Call to Persevere in Faith

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

You are not alone.

Today’s Reading: Leviticus 16:1-19

 

Atonement. When you hear this word or think of this word: visions of isolation, despair, desolation comes to mind. These are the same images that we think of when someone loses a family member, especially a child. This loss can be emotionally loss, spiritually loss, mentally loss, or even physically loss. The myth of these losses is that you are alone and no one can understand you or the needs that you are going through. This is a very hard place and difficult place to comprehend and cope.

This past week, my family and I were blessed with a magical blessing. We have met the criteria with Ruby’s and Ollie’s health condition to be recipients of Make-a-wish. Ruby’s wish was to go to Disney world. Both of the children’s conditions are genetic and non terminal, but they had the chance to do something that was top of their list. As part of the this beautiful organization, there is another organization called “Give Kids the World.” This entire experience is so surreal. Both organizations are made to give hope to all kids no matter their abilities.

Give Kids the World, GKTW, provides unlimited meals and accommodations at no charge to the guest. They are staffed with employees and over 16,000 volunteers. They make the wishes and the week you spend there truly magical. Each week that the guests are there they have a theme for each day. Monday – Halloween, Tuesday-Taco Tuesday, Wednesday- surprise birthday for the imaginary bunny Mayor, Thursday- Christmas, Friday – Fairy Tale day. Each week gives the guest a time that might not come that year for the guest that has a terminal illness. The entire concept of GKTW came from a hotel owner.

The story goes, one day a child had a wish to come to Disney World. The parents called looking for a reservation, but the phone call was not able to go through. The parents could not find a room anywhere in Orlando. Unfortunately, the child passed away before their wish was granted due to no rooms available. The owner of the hotel made a promise that any child that needs a place to stay for a wish, there will be a place for that child. Due to the unfortunate loss of this child a new vision and mission was created that has helped over 170,000 families have their wishes granted. Nothing can take the place of a child, but their lives and legacy can have profound impacts.

In today’s reading we are presented with the loss of Aaron’s sons. These sons had played a very crucial role in the establishment of the Judaism priest duties. They were some of the original priests and keepers of the tabernacle. They are referenced at the beginning chapter of Leviticus. They knew God better than the majority of the people, they were the connection between God and the children of Israel as they assisted their father, Aaron. Unfortunately, they succumbed to their own insights and perished. But the loss of the sons was not the end of the people. God created a new connection to the people. He created a way of renewing the relationship between the people and God. This could have been seen as insignificant, but this is the beginning of how God showed us how to reconnect with us in the midst of our losses, failures and inadequacies.

The loss of anyone is always hard. The loss of children is unimaginable and unfathomable. But in the midst of this heartache, God still finds a way to connect us and create a space where we’re not alone. The diagnosis of an illness or disease seems to isolate us. The loss of a child isolates us from the very people that we still have and love. But when we allow God to work in us, and work with us He will show us that we are not alone. Aaron was not alone in his suffering or his renewal. The first family at Give Kids The World, GKTW, was not alone in their sufferings. We are not alone in our suffering, God has placed others in our lives to give us support in all that we do, all we have to do is listen and sometimes look up.

Be blessed

*The above photo is a collection of stars from the children that have visited the GKTW.  This is a tower that is part of the castle , there are over 170,000 stars here.  Each week there are more multiplied.  Ruby’s was added this week. www.gktw.org

Which Path?

Let those who are wise understand these things.  Let those with discernment listen carefully.  The paths of the Lord are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them.  But in those paths sinners stumble and fall.

Hosea 14:9

This last verse in Hosea chapter 14 sums up the entire book and presents us with a response. 

There are two paths for each of us to choose.  There is God’s way and then there is the way that Israel took. God has given each of us the freedom to choose which path we will take.  The question is, which way will we choose?

We have been reading about Israel and their choices to not follow God’s ways.  We have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.  The wise person will take heart and listen and obey God and choose to walk in His ways.

The foolish person will continue to stumble in their sinful ways.  They will disregard God’s commandments.  God will continue to seek and appeal to the sinner, but they will not listen or turn from their ways.  

We have the awesome opportunity to bring our sins to God and He will forgive them.  Then he will delight in us and we will delight in Him.

The Lord says, “Then I will heal you of your faithlessness;  my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be gone forever.  

Hosea 14:4

God, thank you for Your faithfulness to all, even when we go astray.  Thank you for your promises and forgiveness.  Thank You that even when we choose the wrong path, you are still there loving us and calling us back to You.  Thank You for saving us.  Amen

God’s promise for Israel is His promise also to us:

I will be to Israel like a refreshing dew from heaven.  Israel will blossom like the lily;  it will send roots deep into the soil like the cedars in Lebanon.  

Hosea 14:6

Judgement

Today’s reading is Hosea 13:1-16.

One of our constant prayers we share in our house is that we would turn to the Lord not only in times of trouble, but not lose sight & never stop rejoicing in Him even when things are good. This prayer takes inspiration from the repeated pattern of Israel’s behavior throughout the Old Testament, when things were tough and they needed deliverance, from their enemies or their hunger or other physical needs, they would pray and ask God for help. But when things were good and they were comfortable, they’d turn to idolatry, immorality, and the whole gamut of human sin. This pattern of behavior certainly continues today with many people, but reading and praying on Hosea 13 reminds me of the certain doom that awaits those who fall into this trap. I’ll let you read some of the verses from this passage yourself drawing analogies of God’s judgement on His people who have turned to sin, like verse 8 and 16. Warning: they’re brutal. Not something anyone would look forward to.

The truth that God’s wrath will be opened full force against the sinful is no hidden fact. Romans 1:18 says, “for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” And Isaiah 13:9, on the fall of Babylon: “Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it.” Hosea 13:1-2 describes the sad state of those exalted, once set aside for God, in their complacency turning away from His grace and accepting these things instead. It is a trap we must all recognize awaits when not alert of temptation as 1 Peter 5:8 warns us.

But the joy in this reminder is that as mighty as the wrath of God is, even greater is His love and mercy for us. Going back Wednesday to Hosea 11, this same God who pours out such incredible devastation against His enemies also so deeply loves us and holds compassion for us, offering joy and eternity instead of damnation. That’s where our faith comes from: not for fear from His boundless reprisal, but from amazement at His love even greater than that. And when the love of God is so great compared to the fleeting comfort of idols and trivialities we can build up for ourselves, how can we possibly refuse?

Paul quotes Hosea 13:14 in 1 Corinthians 15:55 when he says this: “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” While death and misery surely await those opposed to God’s will, He has given us a golden ticket available every day of our life. It is through Jesus and His blood poured out for us that we have any hope of being spared the well-deserved wrath of God, that the sacrifice of the Lamb of God would take away our sins. As Romans 5:9 put it: “since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” I pray today for the vigilance against the temptations of the world that turn us away from the grace and glory of God; not only to have this awareness when I am tempted when weak, but to remember His deliverance from those dark times when all is well. I thank God for deliverance from the sting of death through His son Jesus Christ, and no matter what earthly destructions try to distract us from that fact, for the wisdom and discernment to recognize & pursue His truth always.

It is Finished.

Today’s reading is Hosea 11:12-12:14.

These verses remind us again how God feels about our sin. God is everything good and right. Sin is the exact opposite of Him and His nature. Hosea 12:1 and Hosea 12:8 discuss chasing things that don’t have eternal value but only earthly value. Often times when we receive worldly wealth we think we are invincible and don’t acknowledge that these things came from God. We think we don’t need Him. We become our own God and it’s all about us. God continued to provide for Israel, but yet Israel continued to turn their back forgetting what He had done for them. I do the same daily, and we can get a sense in here how God feels about that.

As you read verses like Hosea 12:14, it is concerning to think about the wrath of God and suffering for our sins. In his final breaths when He died on the cross, Jesus said in John 19:30, “It is finished.” The fact that He took the sin and punishment that should have mine is something that is hard to comprehend. God still hates sin the same as He always has. There are outcomes from our sin we have to deal with on this Earth. However, Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Jesus took the punishment that should have been mine and yours for our sin. John 3:17 tells us that God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world. The Old Testament, this chapter, and this book of Hosea tell us about the wrath of God and how He feels about our sin so we know how abhorrent it is to Him . However, the New Testament does not talk about suffering the wrath of God for our missteps and mistakes. Why? Because there was a new covenant established by Jesus’ blood. Jesus took the wrath and the pain that should have been on you and me on our behalf. I am extremely grateful to God for what He did through His Son Jesus which He didn’t have to so that “It is finished.”

God is Love

The weather is finally giving us a glimpse of warmer days and sunny skies.  Every few days we seem to get a “tease” of what is coming.  As spring arrives it is time for some spring cleaning.  Yesterday, I began with tackling a bookshelf that had been cluttered to the max over the winter.  On one shelf I found a large family photo album.  The next hour was spent looking through every page and feeling the deep love that I have for my children.  It was hard to put it down and move on.  The memories lived on in me throughout the day.

The photos were of my children when they were small.  Oh what dreams and hopes I had for them.  At young ages, the sky was the limit and I as a young mom I dreamed they would have fabulous futures in front of them.  

As children mature, mistakes are made and we as parents are humbled.  Some mistakes can have catastrophic consequences.  But a parents’ love never fails for their child.  God had the same problem.  Today’s reading, Hosea 11:1-11, is a beautiful passage of God’s love for his children.  In this passage we read of all God has done for his children, Israel.  The more God called them, the more they turned from him.  

Hosea uses his writing to try and persuade the people of Israel to reform their ways, to return to God.  In Hosea 11, he uses the language of the love of a parent for her children.  

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.  Israel called to the Egyptians even as Israel was leaving them.  They kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols.  It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the hand, but they never knew that I healed them.

Hosea 11:1-3

God had been with Israel from the beginning.  Loving them, providing for them, healing them, and leading them.  He was faithfully leading them as their father, but they forgot what it meant to be His child.

We can easily imagine ourselves, and our children in Israel’s shoes.  We have so much in common with these people.  We do not live as we should live.  We forget what God has done for us.  We ignore the hand who heals us.  The amazing part of this story is the faithfulness of God even though we fall short over and over again. 

Oh, how can I give you up, Israel?  How can I let you go?  How can I destroy you like Admah or demolish you like Zeboiim?  My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows.

Hosea 11:8

While we are like the Israelites and continue to wander, we are not lost.  God will never lose us.  He will roar and we will return to Him.

For someday the people will follow me.  I, the Lord, will roar like a lion.  And when I roar, my people will return trembling from the west.

Hosea 11:10

We have a divine parent who exceeds all of our parental expectations.  God has a parental love that never gives up on us, His children, no matter how much we wander.

Fickle

/ˈfik(ə)l/
adjective
changing frequently, especially as regards one’s loyalties, interests, or affection.

Hosea 10:2 says  “The hearts of the people are fickle.”  What does that mean?  It means that we cannot figure out what we want.  In fact, when what we ask for, we decide that we want something else.  Has that ever happened to you?

The prophet Jeremiah comments on our fickleness as well.  He says, “The human heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9).  I know why he said this.  It’s because we often do things with full control and complete intentionality while we are fully aware of the consequences.

Guess what?  God knows this about us too.  No, he does not like it.  No, he will not tolerate it.  He does, however, love us.  He loves us enough to send his son so that even in our fickleness, we can have life.

 

Love and Punishment

My wife and I have reflected often about what we thought parenting would be like and what has been our real-life experience. I can honestly say be both really looked forward to being a mom and dad. You have foundations, lessons, and ideals that you want to teach your children, hoping the result will be well-adjusted, loving, and faithful adults.  You rely on your own experience, gain perspective in your own life, as well as watching, and learning from your parents. Then, you discover it’s likely the most difficult thing you will ever do.

Along come cell phones and social media, and you are now dealing with challenges that you are not prepared for. Add on the treacherous content on laptops and mobile devices, which include pornography, the glamorization of what life “should be like,” along with the pressure that kids feel to be included and popular.  Let’s not forget peer pressure which includes vaping, drinking, and sex. All that, and we are not out of the middle school years yet!

With all of that, it can be a challenge to develop a loving relationship with your children and discipline them at the same time. You are constantly counseling and advising them.  You are constantly monitoring their friends, where they go, and who they socialize with. Can you remember your parents telling you as a child, “I am only doing this because I love you…” followed by a punishment?  Wait, you love me, but I am (insert punishment here)?

The nature of humans is that we need to be disciplined.  Our nature is to sin.  Without the constant presence of the Holy Spirit in our heart, we stray from God.  We will worship worldly things more than God.  We will commit sin and stray from our commitment and faith to our God. The world will tempt us and we will struggle.

In the Old Testament, God spoke through His prophets. God was directly involved in administering punishment to the people of Israel because they worshiped idols, committed adultery, were spiritually corrupt, engaged in prostitution, and continually turned away from God. As their Father, God was continually trying to nurture and teach the Jews throughout the Bible about following His Word and worshipping Him, rather than earthly possessions.  He was not happy with the sins that pulled the Jews away from His commandments.

The Book of Hosea was written by the prophet Hosea, who prophesized the punishment God would bring upon Israel based on their transgressions.  Chapter 9, verse 7 exclaims “The days of punishment have come; The days of recompense have come. Israel knows!” In verse 9, “They are deeply corrupted, as in the days of Gibeah. He will remember their iniquity; He will punish their sins.”

God loves us even when we are committing the worst sins.  Even though God spoke openly about the consequences that would come to the Jewish people for their sins, and He still loved them.  As a Father, He was acting, sometimes what may seem extreme to us, to discipline His children and get them right with their faith and fellowship with Him.

Even though God disciplines us, He still loves us. Scripture in the Bible tells us that continually.

1 John 4:7-8: 7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

1 John 4:9-11 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Isaiah 54:10 Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Just like we love our children unconditionally, God loves us unconditionally as well, even when we are sinful.  In fact, mankind has continually defied God, our creator, and He sent His only Son to suffer and die to demonstrate His love for us. Yes, punishment is hard to accept, and even harder to administer, yet it is essential for us as humans to experience the good and bad to make the right choices in our life. Love and punishment go together.  We cannot fully understand love unless we understand that punishment and suffering is to bring us to appreciate and understand the “right path.”