Praise the Lord who changes things (Hosea 1-3)

May 27, 2020

And there I will give her her vineyards
    and make the Valley of Achor[j] a door of hope.
And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth,
    as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. Hosea 2:15

Are you in need of a change in your life?  This morning I read the post of a desperate mother who cried out to God for a change in her son’s physical condition.  Her cries led me to join her in praying to the God who changes things.   This morning the Lord also led me to pray for whoever needs God to change things.

In the days of the prophet Hosea, God was going to change things.  You ask, why did the people of God need a change?

  • Israel was committing spiritual adultery with the gods of the world, 1:2.
  • Israel was about to be taken into captivity, 1:4.

The prophet of God was called to illustrate Israel’s sin by taking to himself a wife who was a prostitute.  Hosea marries Gomer whose heart was still bent on prostitution.  She gave birth to three children who were given names to illustrate how Israel had walked away from God and how she was headed to judgment because God’s mercy had ended.  It was now time for judgment.

I cannot imagine Hosea’s world. Day after day living with a practicing prostitute.  His love for Gomer was real and her wondering heart did not change.  If you read the book of Hosea you know she leaves him and God says, go and get her.  In love he goes and gets her as an illustration of God’s love for Israel.

Brothers and sisters this twisted story illustrates two things:

  • The awfulness of sin.
  • The mercy of God.

I want you to know that God can turn awful moments into amazing miracles.  We see a reference to this in chapter 2:15 when God says:    

and make the Valley of Achor[j] a door of hope.

The Valley of Achor was known as the valley of trouble.  It was given this name in Joshua’s day.  This was the place where Achan (Joshua 7:24-26) was stoned along with his family for Achan’s sin.  R.C. Sproul comments:

“In the very place associated with sin and death, God says He will transform it into a door of hope,” Cited from Pg. 1240, Reformation Study Bible, 2005.

Brothers and sisters, sometime God has to take us through a tough place to turn our attention toward him.  At times God has to take those we love into deep valley’s before they will look to Him.

Today, you have two choices:

  1. You can allow this troubled waters to lead you to a valley of Hell called-bitterness, doubt, fear, discouragement, and hurt.
  2. You can take control of troubled waters by faith in seeing your valley become a place of hope.

I know my God changes things!!!

 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Know, I am praying for you!!!

The Second Chance (Jonah 3-4)

May 26, 2020

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, Jonah 3:1

No matter how many times I times I read Jonah 3:1, I always have the same emotional response.  My response is, thank you Jesus for second chances!!!

Yesterday we read about Jonah’s ups and downs of ministry.  I wrote, Jonah changes his mind but he does not change his heart.  Today we see this so clearly as Jonah goes to Nineveh to preach the message God tells him to preach.

Jonah knows he has been given a second change to fulfill God’s mission.  Notice how God works in Jonah’s second change:

  • God puts Jonah ashore in the very place where he needed to be, 2:10.
  • God placed the message Jonah was to preach on Jonah’s mind, 3:2-3.
  • God’s Word did the work it set out to do:
    • The people repented and began to mourn
    • The king repented and called for national repentance.
  • God extended mercy and grace to an undeserving people, 3:8-10.

In this moment some might focus on the preaching of Jonah and wrongly conclude, what a great prophet he was.  What we should see is this:  There is only one God who gives second chances.

In chapter 4 Jonah reveals the condition of his heart has not changed.  Now I do not want to be totally down on Jonah here.  Jonah does speak the truth about the character of God:

And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.  4:2

Dear friend, did you see it?  Our God is alone The God of Second Chances!!!  He is a mighty God (3:8) who judges all who reject Him and He is the merciful God (4:2) who receives all who repent.

Now, I want you to consider how costly second-chances really are.  In life, if you give a person a second change you are giving them the opportunity to hurt you again.  When God gives a person a second change, He has already hurt because Jesus had to die (John 3:16) so that person could have a second-change.

The one difference in this:  When God extends His mercy and grace, He transforms the person into a new creation (II Cor. 5:17).  Oh what a God we serve!!!

Out of the Belly of Hell (Jonah 1-2)

May 25, 2020

“I called out to the Lord, out of my distress,
    and he answered me;
out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
    and you heard my voice. Jonah 2:2

I trust you had a wonderful weekend and I trust you are enjoying Memorial Day (the day we in the USA pause and remember those who gave their lives for our freedom).

This day we begin a two day study of the book of Jonah.  On the first day we see his journey downward and on the second we will see the ups and downs of his journey.

Unlike the men and women who give their lives for others (we remember this memorial day) Jonah was a guy who did not want to give himself for others, outside of his Jewish family.  Jonah was a prophet of God who became a reluctant preacher.  God said to this prophet; Jonah, unless you go to the people of Nineveh they are going to go to Hell.  Jonah’s response was; let them go to Hell.

The prejudice in his heart led to his personal downward turn.  Over and over in chapter 1, Jonah is seen as going down.

  • He fled from God-the presence of His conviction.
  • He hide on board a ship heading away from God’s will for his life.
  • He slept while others were putting their lives on the line.
  • He was cast in the sea.  He would rather die than share the message of God with his nations enemies.
  • He was swallowed up by a fish.  Inside this fish he would get a taste of what it would be like to go down into the belly of Hell.

This tragic scene leads Jonah to change his mind:

But I with the voice of thanksgiving
    will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.
    Salvation belongs to the Lord!”

Yes, he does change his mind and he does preach, but he does not have a heart change!  Jonah is not a good model to follow.  However, there was another who would come and would spend time in the belly of Hell for others.  His name is Jesus

Matthew 12:40
For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the
Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
On this Memorial Day, I pray the following for you:
1.  God would show you all that Jesus did for you.
2. God would lead you, if you have not, to receive Him as Lord and Savior.
3. God would lead you to praise, honor, and obey Him by serving others in His name.

Looking in the wrong places (II Kings 4-6)

May 22, 2020

13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” II Kings 5:13

Recently I went into a local grocery store looking for one item.  The item I needed was recommended to me by a person who said, this works for me.  I went into the store and looked all over the store and could not find the item.  Eventually I left the store frustrated and without the item.  Soon after this frustrating encounter, I meet the person who recommended I go into the store and buy the one item.  This person asked, did you buy the product I recommended to you?  I responded, I could not find it anywhere in the store.

What the person said next sent chills down my back.  The person said, I know it was in the store!  You should have asked someone to help you find it.  In that moment the Lord taught me a valuable lesson concerning my life.  Here is the lesson:  Sometimes I allow pride to keep me from being blessed.

In II Kings 5 we read the story of Naaman who according to Scripture was a well-respected commander of the armies of Israel.  He was so well-respected that he was even loved by his servants.

But despite all of this, the Bible said, he was a leper.

I hope you will go back and read II Kings 5 to get the entire story.  The Bible says, Naaman heard about someone in Israel who could heal him of his leprosy.  Naaman secured permission from the King of Syria to go to find the person who could heal him.

Two things from the story of his healing jump out at me.

  1. Naaman looked in the wrong place for his healing.  He wrongly thought that the king had the power to heal him.  The king of Israel said, “Am I God.”  The king of Israel knew that healing only resided with God.
  2. Naaman almost missed his miracle because of his pride.  The Bible says, the man of God told him to go and dip in the Jordon River 7 times and he would be healed.

Brothers and sisters, this would demand a humbling for Naaman. The waters of the Jordon were filthy.  The waters of the Jordon were in Israel.  Syria was superior in Naaman’s mind.  He would not humble himself in this way.

But thank God for a servant who said: You are a leper and healing is before you (my translation).

In this miracle moment Naaman humbled himself and was healed.  Brothers and sisters, there is much truth here.  Let’s be honest, pride almost cost Naaman the miracle God offered him.

On this Friday, I ask you:  Do you need a miracle?  I know you do.  Follow this truth road-map to the healing we all need:

  • All people are born as spiritual lepers in need of spiritual healing, Eph. 2:1-3.
  • Not everyone looks in the correct place for healing, Luke 4:24-27.
  • Only those who come to Jesus are healed, Rom. 6:23.

May all who read this realize, their healing is in Jesus alone!!!  May all who read this humble themselves and receive His healing today.

A faithful and full life (II Kings 1-2)

May 21, 2020

14 Then he took the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and struck the water, saying, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” And when he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over. II Kings 2:14

I can honestly confess that I have come to the place in my life where I praise God for those moments when He reminds me of the bigger picture of life.  The fact is, I so need these moments because my life can get so loaded up with activity that weeks and months go by without me considering the bigger picture of life.

John Maxwell said, “please leave margins in your weekly schedule so you can enjoy the journey.”  I took his wisdom and applied it in terms of the bigger picture.  Please leave margins in your life so you can see the bigger picture.

This is one of the multitude of reasons we are called to be in God’s Word every day.  Some days God gives us imperatives as we systematically read His Word.  At other times He convicts us of sin.  Still there are times when we read of other’s lives and we pause as we see ourselves in the lives of those we are reading about.

Consider the story of Elijah and Elisha as examples.  Certainly I do not consider myself in the same category of faith as these men, but I do see principles similar in my life.  Let’s consider Elijah.  He certainly had a faithful and full life.  Here is his life in simple bullet points:

  • Elijah lived a life that was faithful.  He stood up to the king (I Kings 17) and he obeyed the true King (II Kings 1).
  • Elijah had some fearful moments in his life.  He ran from Ahab’s wife (I Kings 19).
  • Elijah lived a favored life.  Over and over God worked in and through his life.
  • Elijah lived a life for God all the way to the finish line.  We read about Elijah being taken to Heaven in a chariot of fire (II Kings 2).

So faithful and full was his life that on 29 occasions his ministry is referred to in the New Testament.

Question:  do you see any similarities in your life?  I am humbled to know that God is working in you and He is working in me.  However, you and I must remember we have not  yet reached the finish line.  There is still more work to be done.

Here is the key for us.  We must daily be in God’s Word allowing God to mold us, shape up, cleanse us, and direct us.  This way we will cross the finish line as one who was faithful to the end.

Notice what the Apostle Paul writes about the importance of God’s Word:

10 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers,[a] that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown[b] in the wilderness.

Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ[c] to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. I Corinthians 10:1-13

The Arrow found its mark (I Kings 20-22)

May 20, 2020

34 But a certain man drew his bow at random[d] and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate. Therefore he said to the driver of his chariot, “Turn around and carry me out of the battle, for I am wounded.”  I Kings 20:34

At the end of his life King Ahab meet with his death on the field of battle as a certain man shout his arrow toward the enemy.  He did not know the arrow would find its mark with King Ahab.  The Bible teaches us the following truth:  “it is once appointed unto man to die, and after the death comes the judgment.”  Heb. 9:27

The arrow of death will find its mark in my life and in your life at God’s chosen time.  It is of no use to worry about when or to worry about how.  Ours is the task of being ready to meet the Lord.

In this blog I want to focus on the arrow of God’s Word finding it’s mark in your heart!  I want to use King Ahab as our example.

The Bible teaches us that King Ahab was the most wicked king that had ever lived (21:25) up and until the time of the writing of I Kings.  In I Kings 21 God sent a familiar prophet (Elijah) with the arrow of judgment (21:21-23)

20 Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” He answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord. 21 Behold, I will bring disaster upon you. I will utterly burn you up, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. 22 And I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the anger to which you have provoked me, and because you have made Israel to sin. 23 And of Jezebel the Lord also said, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the walls of Jezreel.’ 24 Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the heavens shall eat.”

Brothers and sisters, this was the arrow of God’s Word.  If you continue to read you will see a miracle that takes place (21:29).  Yes, it happened, Ahab repented!!!  Mark it down in your mind and heart, God’s Word found it’s mark in Ahab’s heart, mind, and soul.

Because of his repentance, God extended mercy to this king (21:29).  Take a moment and let this sink in.  I can honestly admit, the first time I every read this story, I openly questioned God. I asked, God how could you give mercy to such a man?  God’s response to me was humbling:  Keith, others ask why I have given mercy to you!!!

Brothers and sisters, this is the power of God’s Word.  God’s Word will find it’s mark in people’s hearts if we get the word to them and in them.  Two truths come to mind:

  1. God’s Word leads us to repentance, Rom. 2:4-5; I Tim. 2:2-6.
  2. God’s Word will lead others to repentance, I Tim. 1:15-16.

I believe some of you who read this today have loved ones who you have been praying.  You are discouraged today because it seems they are no closer to the Lord.  Take heart, God’s Word will eventually find its mark!  James 1:21 “The implanted Word will save a soul.”  

Why can’t you make up your mind? (I Kings 18-19)

May 19, 2020

21 And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word. I Kings 18:21

Yesterday we looked together at Elijah’s ministry to a widow who was down to her last meal.  This widow was going to prepare the food for her and he son.  They would eat the meal and then they would sit down and wait to die.

However, God showed up through the prophet Elijah who said, trust me with what you have.  The Bible said she did and the miracle of God’s provision happened.  Today we move to the end of the three years of drought in Israel.  The suffering of the people must have been very difficult in those years.  The following must have happened:

  • The people were miserable in their day-to-day lives.
  • Joyful singing had ceased.
  • Children were no longer playing in the streets.
  • Worship of God had all but stopped.  Baal worship had come to be the norm.
  • The ruling authority (King Ahab) was placing all the blame on Elijah.

I wonder do you see any of these characteristics on our world today?  3 years had passed with no rain. The people of Israel lived their lives without any real commitment to any God.  But things were about to change.  Rain was coming from heaven.  The Bible says,  Elijah came out of hiding and tells Obadiah, I want to meet with the king.  The meeting was arranged.  As the meeting began, Ahab labeled Elijah as the one who was causing trouble in Israel (18: 17).  Elijah responded by placing the blame where it belonged.  Ahab had troubled his nation (18:18) by turning their hearts away from God.

At this point in the narrative, Elijah challenged Ahab to a duel between the Living God and the dead god called Baal.  The people of Israel gathered for the duel.  As they stood before Elijah he asked a question that needs to be asked in our day?

“How long will you halt between two opinions,” KJV. 

The people of Israel would not fully commit to either God.  Elijah was saying, be all in with Jehovah God or be all in with Baal.

I hope you read the story of what happened when the prophets of Baal attempted to awaken their dead God.  The Bible said, there was no response.

Then it was Elijah’s turn. The Bible records the prayer Elijah offered to God:

36 And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.

37 Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.

Elijah asked God to move on his behalf so that the people would make up their mind, that He (Jehovah) was the true and living God.  The Bible said, God moved.  The Bible said, The people made up their minds.

Today, I ask, what will it take to get our world and our families to make up their mind to come to Jesus?  I truly believe our answer begins with prayer and it finds its completion in the power of God.  So let’s get to work fighting the fires of the enemy with the firewall of prayer.

The Lord’s provision in our mess (I Kings 15-17; Proverbs 22)

May 18, 2020

13 And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son.  I Kings 17:13

Brothers and sisters, there is no possible way to put a positive spin on the condition of our world.  We are in a mess.  For most Americans, the TV and other types of media are being turned off because we are tired of hearing all the politicians argue about who is wrong and we are tired of media spinning the news to put forth their own personal agenda’s.

This very day, many of us wonder, what is really happening?

I suspect if I had been living in the days of the Kings of Israel I might have had the same question. In the chapters before us, it is a sad commentary on the leadership of God’s people.  Only one king, Asa (15:9-24) followed the Lord.  The others lead their nation from one mess to the next.  The most wicked of them all was King Ahab (16:3).

The Bible says, in the midst of the mess God send a prophet by the name of Elijah (I Kings 17).  We will see his story tomorrow.

I would like for us to consider for a moment Elijah’s encounter with a woman in whom we are never told her name.  She is simply identified as the Widow in Zarephath.  When Elijah meets her she is gathering the wood to start a fire so that she can take the last of her food and prepare one last meal for her son.  She knew this was her last meal.

The story is simply this, Elijah calls this woman to place her faith in God in the midst of her mess.  The question comes, Would she have faith to give away her last meal?

Oh I hope you pause here and read her store in I Kings 17.

By giving away what little she had, she ended up with more than she could have ever had on her own!!!

Read what Jesus said:  Luke 6:38

38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

The mess is real and we have to own it.  But at the same time, the mess can be our platform for miracles in our day.  I want to challenge you to have faith in sharing with others what God has given to you.  The early church did and look what happened:

32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. Acts 4:32-37

You are Killing Yourself (I Kings 11-14, Proverbs 21)

May 15, 2020

“One who wanders from the way of good sense will rest in the assembly of the dead,” Prov. 21:16

I can hardly believe what I just read in I Kings 11.  How could Solomon fall so far from where he started with God?  The Bible says, Many foreign women turned his heart away from God.

Question:  Who was to blame for his fall?  Should we place blame on the women or should we place blame on Solomon’s position?  Maybe we should place blame on God for putting too much before Solomon?

The Bible says, we must place the blame where it solely lies.  Solomon was spiritually killing himself  (11:9-13).

But Solomon was not the one one of his day to spiritually kill himself.  His son followed in his footsteps and even his adversary Jeruboam did the same. Each of these men reached the highest office in their country, but they spiritually destroyed their own lives and led their nation to do the same.

Brothers and sisters, let’s turn our attention to our own lives.  I must ask myself this question:  What am I doing in my spiritual life?  In I Kings 11:37-38 God gave Jeruboam a sure path of spiritual success:

37 And I will take you, and you shall reign over all that your soul desires, and you shall be king over Israel. 38 And if you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, I will be with you and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you. 

Here is what God placed before the king:

  1. Listen to my commandments (Word).
  2. Walk in obedience (God’s Ways).
  3. Live for the pleasure of the Lord (Do what is right in His eyes).

The prophet promised that God would build this king a sure house if he followed this path.  My prayer is that I would follow and that you would follow this path.

Certainly many of you are having difficult times.  But you do not have to spiritually wear down nor do you have to wonder away from God.  If you will daily listen, walk, and live for the pleasure of the Lord, you will be renewed each day (II Cor. 4:16-18)

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self[d] is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Hard Truth (Proverbs 19-20)

May 14, 2020

Blows that wound cleanse away evil;
    strokes make clean the innermost parts. Proverbs 20:30

Sometimes I would rather not know!  These were my weary words in prayer to God.  In that time of prayer I was extremely weary with many things.  These words came at the end of a day that I thought would never end.  With each new top of the hour it seemed as if things were piling on more and more.  I know you know exactly what I am writing about.

Brothers and sisters, this was not my first time to encounter such weariness.  This type of life is the common lot of all people living in this world (Job 14:1). The question was, what would I do with the hard truth that came to me at the end of  a weary day?

I have discovered over the years that there are no less than three responses I can give when I have a hard day with hard truth:

  • I can deny the truth.  Yes, I can act as if it really did not happen or I can just shake it off as life.  But what did Solomon write?

Listen to advice and accept instruction,
    that you may gain wisdom in the future.  Prov. 19:20

  • I can deflect the truth for a later time.  There are times when God says, I got this, let it go and I will deal with it in time.  Again we ask, what did Solomon write?

Desire[a] without knowledge is not good,
    and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way. Prov. 19:2

Good sense makes one slow to anger,
    and it is his glory to overlook an offense. Prov. 19:11

  • I can dive in and discover what God intends for me to learn.

What did Solomon write?

Plans are established by counsel;
    by wise guidance wage war. Prov. 20:18

At the end of that long day I chose to dive in and discover what God intended for me to learn.  Honestly it was hard, it hurt, but in the end it was extremely helpful.  I really do not know what you are going through, but I do know the options you have before you in your response.  I pray you choose either number two or number three.  Either or both will yield peaceable fruit.

Hebrews 12:3-11

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.