It’s Time To Come Home

I already shared the bizarre but beautiful sermon illustration that Hosea lived out for the Israelites and for us. His wife had been unfaithful to him and had gotten herself so far in debt that she was a virtual slave. Hosea, in a clear picture of God’s amazing, unrelenting love, bought back his wife, paid off her debts, and completely restored her to himself. 

Sadly, the people of Israel—even after seeing this grace-filled living lesson—continue to push farther and farther away from God. This prompted God to announce the indictment against them… 

Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites, because the Lord has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed” (Hosea 4:1-2). 

It wasn’t the first time that someone preferred the things of the world to the things of God (like Adam and Eve), and it wasn’t the last time (like you and me). We mortals tend to be seduced by what we can see and hold right now, instead of trusting God for something far better. 

Jesus told a story about a son who enjoyed the full privilege and favor of his father, yet this son thought he could do better on his own. He asked his father for his share of the inheritance and left for a distant land, determined to live a life where he called all the shots. But with his money gone, he found himself in debt, starving, and working as a hired hand in a pigsty. 

It was then that Jesus said that young man came to his senses. He had nothing to bring to his father—no gift of restitution, no token of respect, nothing except his words. All he could say was, “Father, forgive me.” 

But that’s all that was needed. Hosea counseled the Israelites to do the same thing:

Return, Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to Him: “Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips” (Hosea 14:1-2). 

The wayward son had a rehearsed speech asking his father to simply hire him as a servant, as if he wasn’t worthy to be considered a son any longer. But the father—in words that reflect our Heavenly Father’s love—cut the son’s speech short. He let the son only say, “Forgive me,” but before the son could make the request to be a servant the father totally restored him. 

After Hosea calls the wayward people to return with their “forgive us,” he quotes God’s reply: “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for My anger has turned away from them” (14:4). 

How could this be? How could God’s full judgment not fall on His wayward people? How could it not fall on you and me?! Because it fell on Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21)! So when we come back to God with our words of forgiveness, He restores us and clothes us in the robe of Jesus (Galatians 3:27). 

Absolutely amazing! 

God longingly speaks to His wayward people, “It’s time to come home. I’m waiting for you with open arms. I am ready to restore you completely. Just come home.”

Join me next week as we continue to learn about the major lessons we can discover in the minor prophets. 

Sovereign Love

Jesus is on His passionate journey toward the Cross. Every step on this journey is a step of love. 

After Jesus finished His last supper with His disciples, they all went to one of their favorite places to pray—the Garden of Gethsemane. It was a place they all knew well. Including Judas, who had been looking for an opportunity to turn Jesus over to the religious authorities when He was out of the public eye. 

Jesus knew this time was coming (Matthew 10:33-34; John 13:1, 3; 18:4), and His knowing prompted His serving. So we can say that His foot-washing service was as much a reminder to Himself as it was to His followers. 

After they entered the garden to pray, events began to unfold at a fast pace, ultimately culminating in Jesus being crucified. 

But let us never forget that through all of this horrific, inhumane mistreatment and torture, Jesus remains the King of kings, the Son of God. In fact, very God Himself.

The Jewish religious leaders knew this too (John 8:54-59; 10:31-33). And without “knowing it” the soldiers that came to arrest Jesus knew it as well.

Just look at the absolute authority of the King of kings. Grown men—religious leaders and hardened soldiers—fall to their knees at just three words: “I am He.” 

Christ’s kingdom has overruling authority. It collects no taxes, it has no standing army, it requires no checks-and-balances because its Sovereign IS Truth and Love. This unequaled, unrivaled power was contained in Jesus—“You would have no authority over Me unless it was given you from above.” 

Which makes His submission to Pilate and others even more amazing! One word from Him could have crushed legions and toppled governments—yet for love’s sake, He submitted. Let that sink in—Sovereignty submitted.

What appeared to be the cruelty of man was the sovereignty of God. 

No one can take My life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what My Father has commanded. (John 10:18) 

“Christ’s death was not the death of a martyr, who sinks at last overwhelmed by enemies, but the death of a triumphant conqueror, who knows that even in dying He wins for Himself and His people a kingdom and a crown of glory.” —J.C. Ryle 

Christ has bought us out from under the doom of that impossible system by taking the curse for our wrongdoing upon Himself. For it is written in the Scripture, “Anyone who is hanged on a tree is cursed” (as Jesus was hung upon a wooden cross). (Galatians 3:13 TLB) 

Sovereign love submitted to the cruelty of man SO THAT you and I could be saved from the inescapable doom that will inevitably crash down on us. Jesus loved us so much that He allowed the Cross to happen to Him. 

The question now remains—what are you doing with this sovereign love? 

Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Have you received this gift He willingly, lovingly purchased for you on the Cross? 

If you have, let me ask you another question: Christian, are you living in a way that leads others to this sovereign love too (John 13:34-35)?

Anytime you see the Cross, remember what sovereign love did there for you. 

Keeping In Step

But He needed to go through Samaria (John 4:4). 

Jesus was never late, never early, never out of position, never scrambling to catch up. 

He kept in step with the Holy Spirit so that He was exactly where He needed to be when He needed to be there. Whether it was battling satan, helping a soon-to-be-embarrassed wedding party, talking with a lonely Samaritan woman, raising a widow’s dead son to life, or walking toward Jerusalem (see Luke 4:1, 7:11, 19:1; John 2:1, 4:4). 

Others have experienced this too. Like when Ruth “happened” to be in the right farmer’s field at the right time, or when Philip was on the right road at the right time (see Ruth 2:3; Acts 8:27).

A mark of a godly leader is one who keeps in step with the Holy Spirit. 

If we live by the Holy Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. If by the Holy Spirit we have our life in God, let us go forward walking in line, our conduct controlled by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25 AMP)

Holy Spirit, You know where I need to be today. Let me not grumble at what I may call “detours” or “delays,” but help me to submit to Your direction and Your timing. I want to keep in step with You. 

This is part 35 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

7 More Prayers From “Praying The Promises”

In his book Praying The Promises, Max Lucado shows us how simply we can turn passages of Scripture into intimate and powerful prayers. Here are a few more prayers (the references in brackets are passages that formed the prayer).

Lord, in the midst of my storms, I may doubt Your presence. I may wonder if You are there and if You care. Don’t let me lose hope or lose heart. Deepen my belief in You, even during the storms. Don’t allow doubt to take over. Help me release control of my circumstances and surrender them to You. Jesus is interceding on my behalf, and I am so comforted by this truth. [Luke 22:32; Hebrews 7:25; Matthew 14:23-24]

God, teach me how to live free from condemnation. Teach me how to trust and believe in this promise: in Christ, I am no longer a slave to sin. Free me from guilt and shame. [Romans 3:23-25; Romans 6:6-7; Romans 8:1] 

Lord, thank You for the promise of a temporary tomb. Your power has no limits. You have conquered death. You have promised to make all things new. You are the God of restoration and redemption and regeneration. You are the God of resurrection. In my day-to-day life it can be difficult for me to maintain an eternal perspective. Sometimes I may get bogged down in the worries of today and forget that the best is yet to come. Restore in me the joy of my salvation, God. Renew my mind and my heart so that I will have an eternal perspective of all the worries of my day. They are nothing compared to spending eternity with You. And because of Your promise of resurrection, I do not have to fear death. I will live in faith, knowing that in Jesus, death has been swallowed up in victory. Amen. [Matthew 28:5-6; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18] 

Guide me today, Holy Spirit. Show me where You want me to go, whom You want me to talk to, what decision You want me to make. Help me discern Your voice over my own and others’. Walk closely with me and whisper truth to me. Forgive me when I listen to my own desires and ignore what You are telling me. [John 16:13-15; Galatians 5:25] 

You know all of my needs before I can even ask for them. Sometimes it’s tempting for me to believe I can rely on myself for what I need. Instead of trusting You to provide, I think I can look out for myself. I fear not having enough. And when I do have enough, it never feels like it. But You have promised to meet my needs out of Your glorious riches. Remind me of Your kind and generous provision. Thank You for taking care of me and meeting all of my needs. [Psalm 34:10; Matthew 6:8; Matthew 10:29-31]

Help me to keep eternity in mind, making the most of my days and showing others Your renewing love. [2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 2 Peter 3:13] 

Dear God, You are my unshakable hope. Your promises are unbreakable. You never waiver. You are faithful to the end. My hope cannot be anchored to anything less than Your promises. … Forgive me for those times when I don’t put my hope in You. May I rest in Your promises once again. May any fear, anxiety, or confusion I feel subside in light of You as my anchor. [Isaiah 40:31; Romans 15:13] 

You can check out my review of Praying The Promises by clicking here. I also shared some other prayers here and some quotes from this book here. 

9 Prayers From “Praying The Promises”

In Praying The Promises, Max Lucado gives us valuable instruction on how to turn Scriptural promises into powerful prayers. Here are a few of those prayers (the biblical reference in brackets is the passage that helped form the prayer). 

Thank you for being a God who wants me to know You.… Your wisdom surpasses all wisdom on this earth. Your ways are so much higher than mine. I could study You and Your Word for the rest of my life and still only scratched the surface of the depths of who You are. You are at once knowable and unknowable.… Deepen my knowledge of You, God. [Psalm 19:1-2; Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 1:19-20]

Help me rely on Your promise of grace because I have been found righteous through Jesus. When trouble comes, use those troubles to increase my faith and draw me nearer to You. [Hebrews 7:25]

Father, sometimes I convince myself that I need to earn Your salvation. I feel like I should do more, be more, and achieve more. But You simply want my faith. Help me let go of my striving and this need to perform for You and for others. [Romans 4:5; Philippians 3:4-7] 

Guide me during the difficult times. Give me hope as I pray and wait. Remind me of Your power and authority so that I will trust Your ways, even when I can’t see where the path before me is going. [Genesis 50:20-21; Ephesians 1:11-12; Romans 5:3] 

Forgive me when I look for guidance outside of Your Word. When I ask friends what to do before I open my Bible. When I am resistant to reading Your Word because I want to guide myself rather than be guided by You. Renew my desire and passion for reading the Bible. … May I learn something new about You and Your character each time I read it. [Psalm 32:8; 2 Timothy 3:16-17] 

When a worry arises, remind me of Your presence so I will turn to You and not fear. [Psalm 23:1, 4]

Gracious Father, nobody is beyond Your redemption. Because of Your love and mercy, You provided a Redeemer for us in Christ, who graciously stopped us while we were on the path of sin, gave us refuge, and pointed us toward the road of redemption. [Galatians 4:4-5]

Forgive me when I try to fight my own battles. … If I try to fight for myself, I end up feeling exhausted and defeated by my own efforts. You have said You are fighting for me. Help me believe that truth even when I am so tempted to fight for myself. Go before me this week as I face temptation. Go before me as I face anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. Protect me in every spiritual battle. Fight for me and help me surrender each battle to You. [Exodus 14:14; Deuteronomy 1:30; Psalm 20:7-8]

As concerns and questions come up, remind me to turn each of them over to You in prayer. I lift up my family to You. I lift up my work to You. I lift up my to-do list to You. Cover each worry with Your peace. Prioritize my day so that it aligns with Your will and not mine. [1 John 5:14]

You can check out my review of Praying The Promises by clicking here, and you can read some other quotes from this book by clicking here.

10 Marriage Tips For Guys

Guys, here’s how to add heat to your marriage (regardless of its current temperature)—

  1. Let the Holy Spirit continue to develop His fruit in you—this is the only way to become a truly exceptional lover.
  2. Pray for your wife, and pray with your wife.
  3. Say “I love you” every day. 
  4. Learn her love language and speak it regularly. 
  5. Hold her hand. 
  6. Compliment her privately—not just for how she looks or what she does, but for who she is. 
  7. Praise her publicly in front of her friends, family, and coworkers.
  8. Find ways to assure her that she is your #1 priority. Every single day.
  9. Take her out on a date that you have planned. 
  10. Repeat steps 1-9.

“The most joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, trustworthy lovers are Spirit-empowered lovers.” —Craig T. Owens

Got any other ideas? Share them in the comments below so we can all benefit from them.

Thursdays With Oswald—The Powerful Witness Of Your Life

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

The Powerful Witness Of Your Life

     Jesus Christ came to do what no human being can do, He came to redeem man, to alter their disposition, to plant in them the Holy Spirit, to make them new creatures. Christianity is not the obliteration of the old, but the transfiguration of the old. Jesus Christ did not come to teach men to be holy: He came to make men holy. His teaching has no meaning for us unless we enter into His life by means of His death. The Cross is the great central point. Jesus Christ is not first a Teacher, He is first a Savior. … 

     To preach the Gospel is to proclaim that God saves from sin and regenerates into His Kingdom anyone and everyone who believes on the Lord Jesus. It means even more—it means to disciple all the nations not only on the authority of Jesus, but on the flesh and blood evidence of entire sanctification in the life of the missionary.

From So Send I You

The Apostle Paul noted, “Then it pleased God to reveal His Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles” (Galatians 1:15-16).

This is the exact same message Oswald Chambers has for Christians—If you have allowed Jesus to transform your life, that witness of Him in you is an undeniably powerful testimony! Yes, we need to preach what we believe, but this preaching needs to be backed up and amplified by living what we believe.

Christian, can you honestly say that your life is giving clear “flesh and blood evidence of entire sanctification”?

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