Reaping The Whirlwind

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The prophet Hosea’s story cuts to the heart. God asked him to marry the prostitute Gomer and endure the humiliation of being married to someone who gives themselves to any who are willing to pay. When his unfaithful wife chases her desires and disappears for a time, one might think Hosea is glad to be rid of her. If you think that, you misunderstand the depth of Hosea’s commitment to  God and Gomer. The heartbreaking scene of Hosea buying Gomer back is in the chapter of Hosea 3:

“So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver…Then I told her, ‘You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.'”

This is God’s great love for you … for me. We’d rather think of ourselves as better than Gomer, but in our hearts we know it’s not true. How many times we’ve run away from God, whether anyone else knew it or not. He loves, bestows grace, supplies inexhaustible hope and promise. All of this only to be met with us in our rejection of him, running away to give ourselves to the slop of the world. We think God would not want to have anything else to do with us.

“So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver…

But He’s there. Watching, heartbroken, but ready to redeem whenever we’re ready to come home. The Prodigal’s Father watched the far horizon. The message of God’s grace and redemption is too good to believe but it’s not too good to be true. Remember, though, that the Prodigal’s Father only ran to meet him as he came home in repentance. He never ran into the world to try to force him to come home. Hosea never ran after Gomer, begging her to come back.

If you refuse to belong to Him, He won’t force you. But be aware that in rejecting our Heavenly Father we are setting some things in motion. By the time we get to Hosea chapter eight Israel faces a strong warning….

Israel has rejected what is good; an enemy will pursue him. … They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. …. Israel is swallowed up; now she is among the nations like something no one wants.

What did Gomer set in motion when she set out away from Hosea? What did Israel set in motion as they rejected the God that loved her? What have you set in motion in rejecting God? The life away from God is filled with lies, subterfuge, facades of beauty.

We can sow the wind. Sometimes people talk about sowing wild oats – living reckless lives without considering God’s desires for our everyday life. It all sounds adventurous and worldly and exciting. God spoke through the prophet, “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.” Are we prepared for what is set in motion in our own lives by our rebellion and abandonment of God’s ways? How lonely is the world when it’s all said and done? When you’ve surrounded yourself with people who’s greatest value is to make themselves happy, who will be there when you’re no longer in the formula for their happiness?

‘now she is among the nations like something no one wants.’

But never give up, friend. When the world has used you up, look around. If you think that it’s over and no one cares, you’re wrong.

“So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver…”

 A Voice speaks up. A Father runs down the road to meet you. A Shepherd seeks to guide you home. It’s time to return.

Return, Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! I will heal their waywardness and love them freely … Who is wise? Let them realize these things. Who is discerning? Let them understand.  The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them. (Hosea 14)

If you’ve been sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind and you’re ready to come home to the Father, the door is open. Father gave you the freedom to explore and find out that He was telling you the truth. It’s time to walk in His ways once again. Aren’t you tired of the whirlwind?

“So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver…”

He awaits.

Thanks for reading, JD.

Storm Warning

We are forecast to have some pretty damaging winds and hail this afternoon/evening according to this graphic from KNOE8’s Facebook Page. Does that set you on edge a 12891051_1163521886991832_7769359563446250612_olittle bit or is it just me? Ever since the inception of The Weather Channel I think many people have become weather ‘experts’ in our own minds! Of course forecasters miss the mark often but they also hit the mark many times. The recent floods in our area have us all looking to the sky a bit because there’s so much damage to repair and so many still not in their homes. I don’t know what it was like in the old days when you did a weather forecast by looking up in the sky or reading the Old Farmer’s Almanac!

I admit to being a quick reactor to weather news. When I hear that there might be severe weather (like tonight) on a Wednesday (like tonight) I start thinking about our members traveling in that and my first thought is to cancel services so we do not endanger any of our people. I’m balanced out by a couple of elders who have a much greater resolve to meet no matter what (well almost – even they have their limits!). So we balance out pretty well.

Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians give us a hair-raising Storm Warning to keep in mind about the second coming of Jesus Christ!

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3

…This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you… ~2 Thessalonians 1:7-10

There are also encouragements in the Storm Warnings:

Therefore encourage one another with these words. ~1 Thessalonians 4:18

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you…~1 Thessalonians 5:4

For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…. ~1 Thessalonians 5:9-11

Just as severe storm warnings catch our attention and call us to action, Believers are operating in this world with an eye to the sky. The realization of that that storm warning means to us directs our steps and provokes us to stay true to the path of discipleship.

The storm warnings of Scripture ought to cause those who have yet to give their lives to Jesus to consider the risk of ignoring these ‘red flags’. Don’t be caught in the storm without protection!

At the ascencion of Jesus the disciples were looking up into the sky where Jesus had arisen and disappeared from view. Angels came and said to them:

“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” ~Acts 1:11

We’re wise to pay attention to the weather on a daily basis… we live in this eco system that sometimes produces violent collisions of fronts that result in damaging conditions. If we think that is important, we should be all the more concerned with the storm warnings of Scripture. They have far more crucial consequences … and they offer much more hope for believers.

Thanks for reading, JD. Below are some links to three free Andrew Murray books for your Kindle as well as some that aren’t free but at a good price! If you haven’t read Andrew Murray, just do it. Prices change without notice.

Waiting on God by Andrew Murray  Free

The School of Obedience by Andrew Murray Free

The Spirit of Christ by Andrew Murray  Free

The Battle Plan For Prayer by Stephen Kendrick, Alex Kendrick   7.99

The Signature of Jesus by Brennan Manning   1.99

Be a People Person by John Maxwell   2.99

Holy Bible NRSV   1.99

It’s a God Thing, Volume 2: When Miracles Happen to Everyday People .99

Baptism

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Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:21-22

I want to share some thoughts about baptism in some upcoming posts. I realize that each denomination has some differing perspectives about the purpose and method of baptism. I also realize that every denomination baptizes people. It is an important teaching of the Bible.

As I share these thoughts I am not looking for a debate on this Bible doctrine (teaching), but I do hope to offer some clarity, reminders, and encouragement on the subject. I hope you’ll check back in and think along with me about the Scriptures.

In the Scripture above I see that Jesus was baptized, and so I immediately am drawn to this subject as a disciple of Christ. I notice that the Holy Spirit was involved. And I read that the Heavenly Father was pleased with this. That is enough for me to be interested!

Looking forward to exploring this Bible teaching with you in the coming weeks. Thanks for reading!

HarvestTime-John

5 Quick Lessons From Cornelius

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In Acts 10-11 is the amazing story of the outreaching of the Gospel from the Jews to the Gentiles. Briefly, the Lord sent Jewish Peter to Gentile Cornelius’ house to teach him the Gospel. He and those he gathered to hear were open to hearing and received the Holy Spirit. They were all baptized. That’s not an amazing recounting but it is an amazing story! If you don’t know it, you should go read it! Here are five quick lessons from the story of Cornelius:

God is the only One who gets to choose who He will call. God told Jewish Peter to go down to Gentile Cornelius’ house … he didn’t want to do it. He was revolted by the idea to his own core because of his upbringing and the context of his training. God’s plan to call Cornelius was not negotiable based on Peter’s weakness. You do not get to choose who is good enough. The very one whose heart is open to Jesus might be the the one you decided wasn’t worthy.

God is the only One who sees the heart of the person you are judging. Peter couldn’t believe this assignment. Could he lower himself to go to the scummy pagan Gentile’s house and actually go inside? Peter judged Cornelius along with all Gentiles, God saw a good man who was searching for more. When you dismiss an entire class, type, race, or segment of people, you may very well be turning away a Cornelius. Are there devout people living by the light they have, seeking more light, but unable to stretch beyond their circumstances? God sees them.

God is the only One who should direct our paths. Peter had a decision to make. Who is his Lord? Once that decision is made then the decision to follow is made. When we let our own heritage, preferences, conclusions, and judgments determine if we are willing to reach out with the gospel message, we are listening to the wrong voice. Where is God calling you to bring good news today?

God is the only One who is truly aware of our defeats and our triumphs. Even as Peter enters Cornelius’ house he reminds them that this is highly unusual. In fact, I’m sure he knows he will have to defend these actions before those higher in authority than he. But after recognizing his initial failure to follow, Peter engaged the mission of God in an awesome way. Don’t let your trip-ups be the end of the story. God was aware of the good deeds of an unsaved Gentile military commander. He sees it all. He sees your heart as well.

God is the only One to whom we should pray. Both Peter and Cornelius enter this account in prayer.  Ultimately they both were able to bless one another because they were open to the Lord, spending time seeking Him in prayer. We should never say we can’t change or we can’t obey God … it won’t always be easy, but God gave them the strength to create a historic moment in Christian history.

“May the Lord teach us to love those who are different from us. May He give us the ability to see them through His eyes. May he forgive us for our false judgments and misconceptions and and break down any barrier of fear so that we will be able to share His love with those who have not experienced it.” – Kristin Reeg, Bible Expositor and Illuminator, Fall 2015

Thanks for reading, JD

The Power of a Biblical Story

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The Power of a Biblical Story by Dr. John Mark Hicks

Bible stories.

Many of us have heard them since we were children. 

Daniel and the Lion’s Den.

Noah’s Ark. 

Three Angels Visiting Abraham.

Moses and the Burning Bush.

David and Goliath.

And many more!

Bible stories are important.  They do more than tweak the emotions or offer a moralism, as important as those dimensions are. Their power arises from something (even Someone) much deeper than human morality or emotion.

What is the power of a biblical story?

The power of a biblical story is what it reveals about God. Even when a biblical story does not name God (as in the case of Esther), it is still about God. As such, God is the subject of every biblical story, and that story says something about God’s identity and character.

Biblical stories reveal God’s goodness as well as God’s holiness. We see God’s faithfulness, a divine commitment to the divine goal among God’s people. We see God’s transcendence but also God’s immanence; we see God’s holy otherness but also God’s deep involvement in the world.

Reading a biblical narrative, we ask:  what does this story tell us about who God is and what God is doing in the world?

The power of a biblical story is what it reveals about the human condition. We locate ourselves in the human condition; we find ourselves in the story. We see our own frailty, weakness, and unbelief in the story. We also see courage, strength, and faith in the story.

Biblical stories reveal both the depravity and the dignity of human beings. As we hear these stories, we recognize how evil human beings can behave but also the heights to which their faith draws them. We see both the absurdity of life with all its brokenness, woundedness, and death, but we also see the good gifts of relationships, community, and family within God’s good creation. Biblical stories tell both sides of the human story.

Reading a biblical narrative, we ask:  what does this story tell us about who we are, what we have become, and the heights to which God is calling us?

The power of a biblical story is how it invites us to participate in the theodrama. As we read the stories in the Bible, we are invited to see ourselves in the story. This is not simply a matter of locating ourselves there. Rather, we engage the story as part of the larger theodrama, the dramatic history of God at work within creation and human history. We are participants. This story is our story.

Biblical stories are not isolated moral plays; they are part of a larger narrative, a metanarrative. The stories themselves participate in God’s mission within the world. Each story is an expression of the larger story, and we are invited to participate in that larger story even as we see ourselves in any particular story.

Reading a biblical narrative, we ask:  how does this story invite us to participate in God’s larger metanarrative?

So, what do we do with that?

If we know who God is, and we know what our condition is, then we are enable to discern how a story summons us to play our role in God’s grand redemptive drama.

The God of the burning bush is both redeemer and holy. The holy God encounters Moses, and invites Moses to participate in God’s redemptive movement within the world. We see in Moses our own reticence, fear, and inadequacies, but we also see God’s enabling power and summons. God includes Moses in the redemptive drama such that Moses partners with God in liberating Israel from Egyptian bondage. What Moses becomes is rooted in what God does.

Who is God? The Holy Redeemer.

What is humanity? Weak and fearful, yes.  But also God affirms human dignity by inviting Moses to participate in the divine mission.

What is our summons? To participate in God’s redemptive agenda in the world, pursuing God’s mission in dependence on God’s power. We are still on the same mission as Moses, as the redemption of Israel is part of the grand narrative of God’s redemptive work for all peoples.

Biblical stories have something to tell.  They inform, moralize, and motivate.

But, more importantly, through them we also encounter Someone. We encounter the God who invites us into God’s own story, God’s theodrama.

At bottom, biblical stories are callings. God calls us.

09 - Hicks picJohn Mark Hicks is Professor of Theology at Lipscomb University in Nashville. He has taught theology since 1982, including nine years at Harding University Graduate School of Religion (1991-2000). He has been at Lipscomb since 2000. He has ministered with churches in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Alabama, and Tennessee. He has published nine books and thirteen journal articles as well as contributed to nineteen other books. He has spoken in thirty-eight states and nineteen countries.  His most recent book discusses baptism and the Lord’s Supper, “Enter the Water, Come to the Table”. You can keep up with John Mark’s excellent Bible studies published on his website HERE

Expressions of Assurance

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In the little book of 1 John can be found a multitude of expressions to impart to all those who are born of water and spirit the knowledge that they are saved, that is, given eternal life. Here are almost a dozen of them.

The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.

1 John 1:7 …If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

God is faithful and will cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9 … He who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Jesus’ sacrifice is powerful enough to cover our sins. He is sufficient.

1 John 2:2 …He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (See also 1 John 4:10)

Knowing Jesus leads us to an obedient life….which is part of an eternal life.

1 John 2:3, 25 Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. … those who do the will of God live forever.

We devote our lives to one who wears The Name.

1 John 2:12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven on account of his name.

God has promised eternal life to those who follow Him. 

1 John 2:25 And this is what he has promised us, eternal life.

Because of the promises of God we can be bold and unashamed when Jesus returns.

1 John 2:28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he is revealed we may have confidence and not be put to shame before him at his coming.

Because of Jesus the life we live is not from life to death, but from death to life.

1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another.

God sent Jesus so that we might live through Him.

1 John 4:9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.

Believing in and following Jesus Christ makes us conquerors because He is a Conqueror.

1 John 5:5 Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Apostle John wanted us to be assured that our salvation was in place.

1 John 5:13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.