Thursday, December 30, 2010

Broken to be Mended

I just love Hosea 6:1-3:

Come, let us return to the LORD.
    For He has torn us,
    and He will heal us;
    He has wounded us,
    and He will bind up our wounds.
    2 He will revive us after two days,
    and on the third day He will raise us up
    so we can live in His presence.
    3 Let us strive to know the LORD.
    His appearance is as sure as the dawn.
    He will come to us like the rain,
    like the spring showers that water the land.

 Doesn't verse 2 remind you of something or someone? It's Jesus Christ, of course. We sometimes think God doesn't like us so He allows bad things to happen to us. Or perhaps that we have caused them by our sin. Though God does allow us to suffer the consequences of our decisions, what I love about this verse is that it shows us that God laid upon Jesus all the hurt and breaking so that on the third day He could raise us along with Jesus!

The purpose was so that we could "live in His presence." Isn't that wonderful? He comes to us like rain in the midst of a drought in our lives. He refreshes and brings life. Shouldn't we "strive" to know Him?

Pastor Tom

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Your Life as an Object Lesson

I feel sorry for Hosea. A prophet who served during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah in Judah, Hosea's first words from God were "Go and marry a promiscuous wife and have children of promiscuity" (Hosea 1:2).

"What did I do to you, Lord, that you are so mad at me?" Hosea might have asked. But God had a purpose in mind. He said: "...for the whole land has been promiscuous by abandoning the Lord."

Hosea, you see, was to be an object lesson of God's displeasure with the fact that Israel and decided they wanted to play the whore with gods who are not really gods at all. Hosea even had children with names like "No Compassion" and "Not My People." I don't remember seeing those on the top ten lists of popular names, or did I just miss something?

Later on, God says "...and I will have compassion on No Compassion; I will say to Not My People: You are My people, and he will say: You are My God." (Hosea 2:23)

Hosea was willing to go along with this, to have his wife and kids and whole life used as a way to draw an obstinate people back to Yahweh. I wonder, does God ever choose to use your life as an object lesson? He might not require you to marry a prostitute, but He may lead you purposefully into suffering and take away from you something that is precious. It isn't to punish you (He punished Jesus on the cross for our evil) nor to play with you. He wants to move in your life so fully that when people look at your suffering they will be drawn to the Father.

This doesn't happen by you being perfect but by being open and broken to the Lord. Remember He said "my strength is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9). The relationship others have with God through your suffering makes it totally worth it every time!

Pastor Tom

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Shining Your Light

I've always been impressed with Daniel. More than anyone I can think of, Daniel went about representing Yahweh in all of his life. He was recognized as a statesman, leader, and prophet by both religious and secular members of his society. More than one king made him president over all of the land.

We all know of Daniel and the lion's den, of course, but Daniel set himself apart long before that event, and how he did it can be a lesson for us as we decide how to live life for Christ.

The episode I'm thinking of happens in chapter 1 when, as a young man, he found himself a captive to Babylon. There the king ordered all of the young men to eat a special diet that was not kosher. At this point Daniel had a choice. He could go on a hunger strike, he could throw a hissy fit in front of the guards or the king himself, or he could have engaged in a long philosophical debate on the matter that would go on eternally.

Instead, Daniel asked that they be given permission to eat their diet for ten days. Then he simply said "examine our appearance and the appearance of the young men who are eating the king's food, and deal with your servants based on what you see." (Daniel 1:13).

After the ten days, of course, Daniel looked better and the guards let them continue to eat their special diet.

My point is this: when faced with those who don't understand your faith in Jesus, instead of pushing it in their faces or engaging in endless debates over the merits of Jesus Christ, simply ask them to watch your life. I know that's a scary thought - perhaps there are parts of your life you are not sure you want them to observe - you should take that one up with the Lord!

We're not asking them to judge whether to accept Jesus based on how good we are, we are asking them to observe what a relationship with the Lord is like, and let that serve as a pointer to the Lord Himself.

Matthew 5:16: "In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven."

Pastor Tom

Thursday, December 02, 2010

A Writer's Rejection

As a writer, I know what rejection is like. You put your best work into crafting words that are compelling and you think others would like to read too. You send in your manuscript and instead of getting a thin business envelope with a contract in it, you get your self-addressed stamped envelope back containing your precious words and a nicely worded note that might as well have the words REJECTED stamped on it in big red letters.

Baruch must have felt similarly in Jeremiah chapter 36. He had dutifully taken down every word Jeremiah had spoken, writing it with ink on a scroll. Then he brought the manuscript before the rulers of Judah. After reading it, the officials told Baruch and Jeremiah to go hide (not a good sign for acceptance).

Later, as Jehudi read the scroll to king Jehoiakim it says "As soon as Jehudi would read three or four columns, Jehoiakim would  cut the scroll with a scribe's knife and throw the columns into the blazing fire until the entire scroll was consumed by the fire in the brazier." Ouch! Talk about a rejection letter!

So was Jeremiah and Baruch's efforts totally wasted? Not at all. The king had to listen to every word God was saying to him about his disobedience. He had to personally take God's words to him, cut them off and burn them - showing his personal rejection. The book became a witness against the king.

Maybe in your life you have been a witness to people and they have not turned to the Lord Jesus. You might think your efforts are wasted but not so. Sometimes the greatest witness is the one that is rejected because later that person will have no excuse, or perhaps will look back on their rejection and realize what they have done and turn.

By the way, Baruch just went back and they rewrote the whole thing. God is never without a voice, no matter what man does with it!

Pastor Tom

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Are You An Object Lesson?

Jonadab, son of Rechab must have been a pretty tough character. At some time in Israel's history he told his sons not to drink wine and to always live in tents. I wonder how many times the Rechabites talked amongst themselves saying "boy I feel like a good glass of wine" or "when it's rainy and cold, these tents sure are uncomfortable."

Through all of that, though, they stayed the course and didn't give into the temptation to go against Jonadab's wishes. How many times did they wonder "Why are we still doing this? Jonadab has been dead a long time!"

Then one day the prophet Jeremiah comes calling, asks them to come to the Temple and in front a bunch of people tells them to drink wine. They refused, rightly. Jeremiah didn't command them in the name of the Lord, so their ancestor's command took precedence.

Their refusal, as it turns out, was God's way of making a huge point to Israel. Jeremiah, now speaking for God, said "...they have obeyed their ancestor's command. But I have spoken to you time and time again, and you have not obeyed Me!" (Jeremiah 35:14)

The sons of Rechab, as it turns out, were a huge object lesson for God. All that time they wondered why they were obeying a dead ancestor's command, and God ended up using it as a way to discipline his people.

Do you wonder sometimes why you are going through difficulties? Is it a temptation to stop following God and escape the trouble? Don't. How do you know that people aren't watching you? How do you know that God is not using you as an object lesson or as a way to point people to Himself?

Keep loving and following God, even if it seems "uncomfortable" or even if you don't do the things you long for in obedience to the Lord's commands. God is watching and God is using!

Pastor Tom

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Going Through The Bad

In many ways Jeremiah had nothing but bad news to deliver to Judah. They had been in rebellion against the Lord and God had promised to discipline them for it by removing them from the land to Babylon. Other prophets tried to blunt the bad news and put a good "spin" on it. For his trouble, Jeremiah found himself put in jail.

Then, in the midst of all the bad news, there is this wonderful section in chapter 29 which says in part "I will attend to you and confirm My promise concerning you to restore you to this place. For I know the plans I have for you - this is the Lord's declaration - plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."

Many times we want to escape from difficulty, but the word to Judah was "lean into the discipline." That verse starts out "When 70 years in Babylon are complete."

For us, times of difficulty must happen, and to escape them means to thwart the good work God is doing through them. It was only through the pain of Babylon that Judah became free from rebellion against God. Don't try to escape but lean into what God is doing, for He has great plans for you too!

Pastor Tom

Monday, November 29, 2010

Dreams of Words?

There are so many voices out there that it is hard to discern the signal from the noise - what's true from what's spoken.

How are we supposed to know what to rely on? Today many religious "leaders" claim to have dreams and visions and see angels telling them things that contradict each other.

Funny how the Proverb is true: "there's nothing new under the sun." Even back in the time of Jeremiah the prophet this same thing occurred.

Jeremiah wrote: "Through their dreams that they tell one another, they make plans to cause my people to foget My name ... The prophet who has only a dream should recount the dream, but the one who has My word should speak My word truthfully, for what is straw compared to grain?"

The thing you can rely on - the only thing really - is God's Word: the Bible. Here's how you can tell if a dreamer or visionary is speaking "staw" or "grain." If it aligns with what God has said then it's okay. If not, throw it out!

Pastor Tom