Hosea 1 contains God’s message to this prophet. It is a very tough message. Hosea served during the reign of Jeroboam son of Joash in Israel, and Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah in Judah. You may remember some of these names from our walk through earlier books of the Bible. God is not a happy camper as He speaks to Hosea. God instructs Hosea to take a wife and marry her. The Message version puts it pretty bluntly: “Find a whore and marry her. Make this whore the mother of your children. And here’s why: This whole country has become a whorehouse, unfaithful to me, GOD”. That is pretty straightforward – find a wife of ill repute – marry her and have kids. Hosea selects Gomer (how is that for a name?) and she gets pregnant and gives him a son. Hosea names him “Jezreel”. A second time she gets pregnant and has a daughter. This child is named “No-Mercy”. A third child is born and God instructs Hosea to name him “Nobody”. Three kids – three names with significance that all point to the fact that God is very upset with the people and bad things are ahead. Why does this happen? The people of Israel have turned away from God. They have failed to take care of their most important asset – their relationship with the Father. Scripture tells us that God says: “I…am a nobody to you”. There is going to be much to pay for that failure. God does make it clear toward the end of this chapter that “down the road the population of Israel is going to explode past counting, like sand on the ocean beaches”. For now, He is clear that the people of Judah are the only ones who will be blessed. But after this time of correction, as long as people get their act together, Israel will again be blessed. We need to learn from this. Turning our back on God has consequences. Some days it appears to me that the church in America treats God as a “nobody”. He is not the center of what happens. It is great to have Him on standby in case anything goes wrong, but for the most part we get along fine by ourselves. Is that how you live? Are you running on autopilot in your relationship with God? That is not good enough. God is not content to be a nobody in your life. He is only satisfied when He is the center and focus. That is what he deserves and requires. Don’t make Him a nobody. He is God!
Archive for February, 2008
Luke ends his story with the excitement of Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus has risen and has appeared to a couple of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. These guys immediately return to Jerusalem to tell the eleven what they had seen. Check out how they describe their connection with Jesus: “Didn’t we feel on fire as He conversed with us…as He opened up the Scriptures”? Jesus made the Word come alive. And these two men were impacted greatly by that interaction. How do the Scriptures impact you? Are you on fire when you read God’s Word? Does it grab you and come to life? It will, it you really put your heart into reading and learning from it. We have to engage with God’s Word – dig in and understand it. We need to be immersed in it and consumed by it. The guys get back to town and tell the eleven what has happened and whoof – there He is – Jesus is in their midst. He knaws on some cooked fish to show them He isn’t a ghost and then gives this explanation of what has happened. Pay close attention: “Everything I told you while I was with you comes to this: All the things written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms have to be fulfilled”. Jesus boils down His life to one sentence. It all came down to this – He came to fulfill God’s prophecy – to keep God’s promise – to mankind. That prophecy and promise was of a coming Savior who would be the sacrifice for the sin of all man and enable eternal life with the Father if people would only come into relationship with the Savior. There are literally hundreds of prophecies that Jesus’ life fulfilled. But it all came down to one thing – God was faithful to His Word and Jesus was the fulfillment of those promises and prophecies. He is the fulfillment for you and for me. There has never been another, nor will there ever be. He is God’s provision to deal with my sin and yours. So how will I respond to Jesus? He has become my Savior and Lord. He has been handed the keys to my heart. Now I am busy learning how to live the rest of my time on this earth, and Luke shows me how as he closes his book. “They were on their knees, worshiping him….they spend all their time in the Temple praising God”. My remaining days before I enter eternity with God the Father needs to be focused on serving and worshiping God. I need to be expressing my gratitude for the sacrifice God made through Jesus, and sharing that with everyone I am blessed to meet. It is not about me. It really has nothing to do with me. I am blessed because God loves me enough to provide a way to deal with my sin, but it is definitely not about me. So we all need to focus on sharing the love God has shown with everyone we meet so they can experience it too.
In the middle section of Luke 24 a couple of the disciples are walking on the road to Emmaus. As they were talking about the events of the last few days, “Jesus came up and walked along with them”. But they didn’t recognize Him, they didn’t have a clue. He joined in and shared the truth of why a Savior was required. He taught them the scriptures as He had been for the last few years. Isn’t this just like Jesus. He comes along side these two men and just joins them where they are. Do you realize that is how He ministers to you and me everyday as well? He is right there, by our side, ready to engage in life with us. Do you recognize Him? Do you even acknowledge He is part of your daily routine? Whether we do or not is not really the issue, because He is. He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. So that is not the question. The real key is that we need to open our eyes and ears and focus on the relationship He desires with us every day. Jesus continues to walk with these guys until they came to the edge of the village they were heading toward. He “acted as if He were going on” and they begged Him to stay with them that evening. They invited Him to be part of their lives. Jesus joins them for supper and He took the bread and broke it and blessed it and check what happens: “At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him”. When did these two figure it out? When they got intimate with Jesus – when they invited Him to be part of their life and took time to sit down and break bread together. How do you “break bread” with Jesus? Is it through a daily quiet time? Is it on your knees in prayer? Is it through a small group or worship somewhere? Jesus wants to be part of our lives. He will come along side us and does every day. We need to be willing to stop and take time for relationship. Did you catch when it happened – “at that moment”. The veil came off and their eyes were open when they took time to spend with the Savior. So many times I hear people say they feel alone or don’t feel close to God or Jesus. I love the old saying “ if you don’t fee close to God, guess who moved”. It is so true. God isn’t going anywhere. He is there every moment of every day. He never leaves. He will never forsake us. Scripture is clear about that. So it is up to us to take time, to make time, to have relationship. We have to stop and focus. We need to eat with the Savior. Are your eyes wide open?
Breaking news….the tomb is empty! Jesus has been crucifed and “at the crack of dawn…the women came to the tomb”. Do you ever wonder where the 11 were that morning? Why are these women the first ones on the scene? No answer to that question – but it makes me wonder if I would have been there to bless my Jesus with the “burial spices” that morning. The women come to the tomb and were amazed. “They found the entrance stone rolled back from the tomb”. That’s odd. This stone is rather massive and could not have been easily moved. In other accounts in scripture it had been under guard by Roman soldiers as well. But the women “walked in” and found the tomb empty. Jesus’ body is gone – nowhere to be found. Just then “out of nowhere…two men…light cascading over them…stood there”. Now wouldn’t that freak you out? You walk into a tomb and find the body gone but just then here are a couple angels that show up. How do you respond? These women “were awestruck and bowed down in worship”. I am pretty impressed with their response. Doesn’t talk of screams or fleeing – but worship and respect. But here comes the key to the sum total of the life of Jesus – pay attention – the men said “Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery? He is not here, but raised up”. If I had to sum up the story of Jesus it would be with this verse. He went to the cross to pay for my sins, but He conquered death and set me free. HE IS ALIVE. Jesus is alive. He was raised up and defeated the enemy just like He said He would. The women “left the tomb and broke the news”. Can you imagine the excitement they felt? They have just been told the greatest news in the history of the world. Now they are the messengers and they run back to tell the 11 and the others. The response? “The apostles didn’t believe a word of it”. Can you imagine the frustration? The guys who had spent the last three years with Jesus every day, learning at His feet, missed the biggest truth ever to be told to mankind. Jesus told them He would rise again. They just missed it, focused on their own agenda and motives. Peter was the one who first responded. He “jumped tohis feet and ran to the tomb”. I love Peter. He is a reactive guy who just goes for it all out. He “walked a way puzzled, shaking his head”. What will you do with Jesus? He is alive! He rose in victory over death and has given us the opportunity to spend eternity with the Father. But it requires a personal relationship – turning over Lordship of your life and accepting Him as Savior. That is the ONLY way to gain entrance to heaven. What will you do with Him?
Luke 23 ends with the crucifixion of Jesus. Simon , a man from Cyrene, was forced to carry the cross. Did you see the movie “The Passion of Christ”? It depicts this section of scripture in graphic detail. It was enough to make my heart heavy as they dramatized the suffering Jesus went through before and during the crucifixion. They taunted Him, gave Him sour wine, they threw dice for His clothes. There was a sign posted over His head about being “King of the Jews”. One of the other two who were crucified along side Him that day cursed Him too. So how did Jesus respond? Here is a lesson in the heart of God: “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing”. Jesus did not strike out or even attempt to get even. He was not trying to defend His name or the actions of His life. He went to the cross willingly, gave His life freely so we would have a Savior to deal with our sin problem. Jesus died to set me free (and you too if He is your Lord and Savior). He chose that end to life – He could have commanded the angels to set Him free. He had walked through angry mobs before and vanished. But His love was so deep, His desire to serve so strong, that He endured the cross and took on the weight of our sin to give us the opportunity for a right relationship with God and a future in eternity. That is true love. That is the heart of the Father. Joseph of Arimathea took the body after asking Pilate for it and put it into a new tomb. Joseph is a non conformist – he was “a member of the Jewish High Council, a man of good heart and character….who had not gone along with the plans and actions of the council”. He was unable to stop the crucifixion but had not participated either. Now he wants to make it right. Jesus went to the cross for you and me. What will you do with Jesus?
Luke 23 is the story of Jesus before the rulers of the day. He was brought up on charges and stands before Pilate accused of these things:
1. Undermining law and order
2. Forbidding taxes be paid
3. Setting Himself up as king
Of course all these are lies and Jesus is found not guilty in Pilate’s eyes. But the religious leaders were not willing to give up so they trumped up some more lies:
1. Disturbing the peace
2. Stirring up unrest
3. Dangerous man – endangering the peace
Of course Pilate could see this stuff was all just a plot to get rid of Jesus. He found out that Jesus was a Galilean and sends Him over to Herod like a hot potato. Herod gladly accepted the opportunity to see Jesus. He had heard much about Him and wanted to see Jesus perform a miracle. Of course Herod was disappointed when Jesus barely said a word and certainly did not humor him with a miracle. Herod got upset but could find no reason to condemn Jesus so he sends Him back to Pilate. It is the crowd that the religious leaders were able to get stirred up that caused Pilate to finally “cave and give them what they wanted” – the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus goes to the cross for a bunch of false charges without the conviction of any authority at all, just a screaming crowd that were following the lead of a few religious leaders who wanted to protect their turf and their traditions. Of course the real reason Jesus had to go to the cross really had nothing to do with this story – it was because of the holiness of God and the sin of my life and yours. There had to be a sacrifice to make a way for sinful man to be able to spend eternity with a Holy Father. But oh how unfair it all seems. Jesus paid with His life based on a bunch of lies. But in reality, He paid with His life because of my sin and yours. And I am so grateful He did. Without that sacrifice my future would be very unsure based on my ability to meet God’s standards. Actually it would be pretty sure but in a very bad way. Because Jesus was willing to take my sin and go to an unfair and undeserved death on the Cross, I have a bright eternity. Thank you Jesus for loving me that much!
Luke 22 ends with the betrayal of Jesus. He took the disciples with Him to the Mount of Olives and asked them to pray. Why? So “that you don’t give in to temptation”. Here is a key reason for prayer to be a spiritual habit in our lives – it helps us deal with temptation. So how did it go for the disciples? Scripture tells us they “were asleep”. Here we are in the final hours of Jesus life, and the disciples were unable to stay in the game. They could not stay awake. And as Peter is faced with the accusation about being a Christ follower – he does his famous “don’t know him” act and denies Jesus three times before the rooster crowed. Look at what Peter says in his denial:
1. I don’t even know him
2. I am not one of them
3. I don’t know what you’re talking about
Pretty much straight on – in your face – denial that he had ever had anything to do with Jesus. Yet this is the man that Jesus told us was the “Rock” – the foundation upon which the church would be built. Shows the reality of how temptation can get the best of us if we are not “prayed up” and connected to the source of power. We have to be plugged in to deal with the enemy. We will be put in situations like this where we have the opportunity to be a Christ follower and step up as a believer to share our faith boldly. Or we can fall to temptation, remain quiet, and basically deny that we know Jesus at all. I hope you will be bold and let the world know that Jesus is your Savior. We have the opportunity to let people know about the One solution there is to life’s problems and the eternity that is to come. But it only happens when we share our faith and life with others. That means being willing to stand firm and be prayed up. Are you on your knees before our God? Build the habit!
Luke 22 begins with the Passover meal just ahead of Jesus’ betrayal. Jesus sends Peter and John off to prepare a place to share the meal. He tells them to watch for a “man carrying a water jug” and to follow him home to ask the owner where they might share the meal. Seems pretty vague in terms of directions doesn’t it? But it was just as Jesus said and they arrange a place in a “spacious second-story room”. The 12 come together for the last time and Jesus makes the announcement that one of them would betray Him. There is some immediate questioning of each other about who would be the one who might betray Jesus, but it quickly turned to “bickering” about who “would end up the greatest”. What a shift. Jesus has just shared that one of the 12 would hand him over to the accusers and in a matter of minutes the discussion shifted to self amongst those who were closest to Him. What a powerful influence the focus on self is. These guys had just spent three years with the Master learning and ministering with Him. They had seen miracle after miracle. They had just shared the bread and the cup and been told that one of them would betray Him. And the focus almost immediately turns inward on who would be the greatest among them. Oh how sin can penetrate us so quickly when we focus on self. Of course this is truth time for Peter as Jesus tells him that he will deny him “three times” before the rooster crows. Peter denies it but we all know it turns out to be true. The disciples come back finally to the thought of protecting Jesus from those who would capture and kill Him, but he says “enough of that; no more sword talk”. Jesus knows it is the Father’s will for Him to die on the cross. And that night certainly had to verify the need for that sacrifice. His twelve guys were not focused on what mattered at all. They were totally focused on themselves. They were all about “ME” compared to you. Amazing how their last meal together deteriorated into a big discussion about who would be the greatest. Why do we default to that kind of thinking? Why do we allow self to get in the way all the time? Lord help us to keep the main thing the main thing.
The last section of Luke 21 is Jesus’ teaching about the end times. The description sounds like it will not be a pleasant time. “People dropping like flies, people dragged off to prisons…” Things will get tough for this world. But I love how the Message Bible describes what happens at the end: “And then–then!-they’ll see the Son of Man welcomed in grand style–a glorious welcome”! Jesus will come and things will change. The victory has already been won. There will be battles that will appear very bleak, but the war is over and we are on the right side of the ledger. So what do we do to be ready? Pay attention! We need to keep our eyes open and our heads up so we can see what is coming. Jesus is clear that there will be very visible signs of these end times. “Don’t brush this off” is the teaching He gives us. I really like His teaching about “Don’t let the sharp edge of your expectation get dulled by parties and drinking and shopping” – I certainly don’t want to lose my sharp edge because I was shopping. I am going to try that one on my wife…….Seriously – we do need to get ready. The real teaching comes in verse 36 where we are told to “pray constantly that you will have strength and wits”. We need to prepare. We need to get ready and be connected to the Source of Truth. We can be prepared but that only happens if we are paying attention and plugged in to the communication through prayer and reading the Word. Are you ready?
As we finish Luke 20 we see Jesus with the religious scholars. They are trying to trap him with a series of questions. Of course, Jesus not only does not fall for their trap, he uses it as a teaching moment along the way. The first question involved paying taxes. Do we owe taxes to the government? Jesus gives His classic response: “Then give Caesar what is his and give God what is his”. The second question involves the woman who ends up marrying seven brothers because they keep dying and the question was “in the resurrection whose wife will she be”? Does seem a bit of an issue doesn’t it. Jesus is pretty clear – they are focused on the wrong things. “Marriage is a major preoccupation…but not there”. The third question was posed by Jesus to a set of religious leaders that had tried to trap Him. He asked a question about how the Messiah could be David’s son. He uses this to show they could not nor would not answer and then to point out just how pathetic they really are. They were focused on their position, not the people they should be serving and caring for. They were all about themselves. We really need to pay attention to the lesson here. Success as a Christ follower is not about what we know nearly as much as how we live. The key is to make sure we are lining up with the commands that we have been given – that we are walking in the light as He is in the light. We need to quit worrying about our place of prominence and focus on how we live and serve. Our willingness to lead and serve like Jesus is the key to pleasing God and being a success in the our walk as a Christ follower. Are you focused on that?