Accountability, Advice, Bible, Condemnation, Darkness, Deceit, Deception, Destruction, Direction, Encouragement, Infidelity, Judgment, Lies, Obedience, Scripture

WHEN YOU REACH THE BOTTOM

HOSEA 4:18

“Their liquor is gone, they prostitute themselves continually; Their rulers dearly love shame.”

The church I serve has a homeless ministry in our city. I hear just about every week about an individual they are working with. Their stories are heartbreaking. Most of them are on the street due to a series of bad breaks or bad choices. Some of them, unfortunately, have made the choice to live on the street. They have fallen so low they cannot see themselves ever doing any better.

Hosea continues his words about those who have fallen away from God. He says, “their liquor is gone.” Their means to forget is now gone. They can’t numb themselves further. Hosea goes on to say, “they prostitute themselves continually.” Their self-respect is completely gone. Even their bodies mean nothing to them anymore. Finally, Hosea says they “love shame.” Wow! Now that’s low.

APPLICATION

Have you ever sunken that low? Have you ever felt there was no way out? I have had a couple of those moments in my life. My low points weren’t due to alcohol or prostitution, but my low was still low. I couldn’t see a way up. I was depressed. I felt alone. I thought my future was over.

But guess what? It wasn’t. I could not have imagined back then that I would be writing devotions and posting them so that literally thousands of individuals could read them annually. That blows my mind. God had a plan back then for me that I could not possibly understand. I just had to trust Him.

Are you feeling low today? Turn to Him. Let the Lord Jesus pick you up, dust you off and give you a new lease on life. He has never stopped believing in you. He has always had a plan for your life. Will you trust Him to show you? He will. And He will walk with you as you take those first steps.

Lord Jesus, I trust You. I want to live my life honoring and magnifying Your work in and through my life.

Standard
Accountability, Advice, Bible, Choices, Comfort, Commands, Direction, Disciplemaking, Judgment, Obedience, Punishment, Stubbornness

LIVESTOCK

HOSEA 4:16

“Since Israel is stubborn like a stubborn cow, will the LORD now pasture them like a lamb in a large field?”

My Grandma Carter raised cows. The funny thing was she didn’t like to eat beef. She spent hours tending to, feeding and watering her cattle, but didn’t enjoy the fruits of her labor. I remember going out in the pasture with her at times. She always carried a whip with her and did not hesitate to use it on the stubborn cows. As a little boy I thought that was cruel. Now I know it wasn’t. She was just trying to move them.

Hosea uses the imagery of cows and sheep here. The cows are stubborn, and the sheep are unprotected in a large field. The people who heard this message understood this. They understood how you handle stubborn cows. God was doing the same with Israel. They also knew you didn’t place sheep in large fields with no protection. Israel was heading toward exile (a large, unprotected field).

APPLICATION

Now, let me ask you a question. How stubborn are you? Are you “pulling against the yoke”? Do you know what that does? When you pull against the yoke rather than in it, you develop blisters and raw spots. The yoke is designed to not do that. If a cow gets raw spots on their skin from rubbing against the yoke, they will be in pain and not pull as effectively.

Stubbornness may seem like a good thing, but it’s not. It especially isn’t when you are being stubborn against God. The Lord gives us specific commands to follow. When we bow up and refuse to obey, we are going to suffer the consequences. We will develop those blisters that will bring pain.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like blisters. I don’t like the pain they bring. So, I have a choice. I choose to stay yoked to Jesus and follow His lead. When I do that, I will not develop those painful blisters. Following His lead will allow me to grow in my “pulling” status. I will get stronger and smarter as I follow Him.

Father, I thank You for discipline. When I am showing my stubborn streak, I ask You to correct it. I want to follow You.

Standard
Accountability, Bible, Choices, Condemnation, Direction, Forgetting, Hypocrisy, Infidelity, Judgment, Lawlessness, Obedience, Punishment, Scripture

NO DEVOTION

HOSEA 4:10

“They will eat, but not have enough; They will play the prostitute, but not increase, because they gave up devoting themselves to the LORD.”

I have been devoted to a lot of things in life. I was devoted to football when I was in high school. I loved the game. Truth be known, I loved to hit people. I did everything the coach asked of me. But as soon as high school ended that devotion ended. There was no future in it for me.

Israel gave up devoting themselves to the Lord and reaped the consequences. Their resources would not be enough. No matter how much they had, it would fall short. Hosea said they played the prostitute. They had sinned and deserted the Lord. God cannot bless that kind of behavior. Israel was judged for this.

APPLICATION

What happens to us when we stop devoting ourselves to Him? The same thing. God will cease blessing us. We may not “play the prostitute,” but sin is sin. Anything can lead us away from the Lord. What in your life is doing that? If it replaces the time you spend with the Lord, it is sin. If it becomes your first love, it is sin.

Devotion to anything besides the Lord will only lead you down the wrong road. Our Lord expects obedience, but He won’t make us obey. We have to choose to obey Him. We have to choose to devote ourselves to Him. And when we do, He is there to bless and lead us. He rewards our devotion.

Now, here me clearly. We devote ourselves to Him not for what we can get out of it. We devote ourselves to Him out of love for Him. His love draws us to this point of devotion if we will only yield to it. His love will never lead us to anything but devotion.

I have devoted myself to You, O Lord. My devotion is based on my love for Your love.

Standard
Accountability, Advice, Bible, Calling, Commands, Direction, Encouragement, Hearing, Listening, Obedience

EARS OPEN

HOSEA 4:1

“Listen to the word of the LORD, you sons of Israel, because the LORD has a case against the inhabitants of the land, for there is no faithfulness, nor loyalty, nor knowledge of God in the land.”

Guilty! That’s me! I am guilty! Too many times my wife will be talking to me, and I fake attention. I pretend to be listening but really my mind is a thousand miles away. This works beautifully until she wants an answer to a question she just asked. Then I am busted.

The word “listen” in today’s verse means to hear intelligently. In other words, it means to pay close attention. Hosea is telling Israel and us to listen closely. We need to tune in to hear God’s Word speaking to us. He was warning them about the inhabitants of the land. He wanted to make sure they understood they could not allow them to stay.

APPLICATION

Have you ever faked attention to God? Come on, be honest. God is telling you to do something and you nod your head yes but you really mean no or you’ll think about it. You aren’t really listening. Do you really think you can fake it with God? He knows your innermost thoughts.

Will you listen intelligently? Will you not only listen but will you obey? Will you do what He says? Listening without obeying is merely hearing. We need to do more than that. Do what He says. Trust His direction. If He is talking to you, it’s worth listening to.

The next time my wife starts talking to me I need to stop whatever I am doing and listen to her. I need to do the same when the Lord is talking. He won’t scream at me. He speaks in a quiet way through His Word and my prayers. I will listen.

I am listening, Lord. Talk to me. I want to do what You say.

Standard
Accountability, Bible, Brokenness, Choices, Destruction, Direction, Following, Judgment, Leading, Obedience, Punishment, Scripture, Surrender

LEADERLESS

HOSEA 3:4

“For the sons of Israel will live for many days without a king or leader, without sacrifice or memorial stone, and without ephod or household idols.”

I have had the displeasure of working in some places that were leaderless. In order to protect the “guilty” I won’t name those places. There is nothing more disconcerting than coming to work each day not knowing which direction you are headed. No one takes charge. No one leads. Everyone is just wandering aimlessly. It really is a helpless feeling.

Hosea shifts his thoughts back to Israel in today’s verse. Israel, as a result of its sin, would be without a king or leader. This prophecy, of course, came true. Israel and Judah were taken into exile. They had no king to lead them. They were left leaderless. They had lost sight of the fact that Jehovah was their only true king.

APPLICATION

Who is your leader? To whom do you look up to? If you place your trust in a man or woman, you will be disappointed. No one can lead you like the Lord. He is the only one that will never lead you falsely. He will always point you in the right direction. So, who are you following?

Perhaps you are a leader. Where are you leading those following you? Listen carefully. If you are leading, you are going to be held responsible. That’s right. You can’t claim you didn’t know. Leaders are held to a higher level of scrutiny. That means you must take your guidance from the Lord so you can lead biblically.

As a Pastor, I am held to a higher standard by my Lord. I am responsible for the flock He has given me to lead. I do not want to find out that I have been misled and have led poorly. I pray you don’t either. Will you join me in leading well? Will you join me in following Jesus? He is worthy to lead.

O Father, I do not want to be leaderless. I desire to follow You. I know You will always lead me correctly.

Standard
Abiding, Accountability, Affection, Bible, Cleansing, Confession, Confrontation, Direction, Disciplemaking, Encouragement, Forgiveness, Intimacy, Mercy, Protection, Punishment, Redemption, Repentance

QUARANTINED

HOSEA 3:3

“Then I said to her, ‘You shall live with me for many days. You shall not play the prostitute, nor shall you have another man; so I will also be toward you.’”

Don’t you just hate that word “quarantine”? Over this past year chances are you have been quarantined due to the covid-19 virus. If you haven’t, you must have been living on a desert island all by yourself. It has been just about impossible to avoid at least one quarantine period due to infection or exposure. Frankly, I am a little tired of it. How about you?

Hosea brought Gomer back but basically quarantined her. She would not be given access to him or any other man. He provided for her and treated her kindly, but she had to remain quarantined for a period of time. Her past behavior required it. She needed a cleansing period before reentering her husband’s home.

APPLICATION

Aren’t you grateful that God doesn’t require us to go through a cleansing period after we sin? We come to Him just as we are and confess our failures. He forgives us and casts our sins away. It says in Psalm 103:12 that He removes them as far as the east is from the west. We are washed whiter than snow.

With that said, we are not free to sin and just confess it. Sin does have consequences. Deliberate sin even more. Let me ask you to take a look at your sin life. My what? you say. Your sin life. Look at the patterns of sin in your life. Is sin accidental or planned? God may just put you in quarantine to get some of that sin out of you. He will not let you just sin willy nilly and think it’s nothing. He does expect obedience from His children.

Just like Hosea still cared for Gomer, God cares for us despite our sin. But it does break His heart when we sin against Him. He wants to love us and care for us. If we are insistent on living how we want, we restrict how much love He is able to show us. Sin is deplorable to God. Don’t ever forget that. Come to Him today and confess whatever is on your heart.

Lord, I know you love me despite my failures. Help me walk in victory today and only come to You for forgiveness when I have tripped up and fallen into sin.

Standard
Advocate, Battles, Bible, Comfort, Contentment, Direction, Encouragement, Inspirational, Peace, Protection, Scripture

PEACE ALL AROUND

HOSEA 2:18

“On that day I will also make a covenant for them with the animals of the field, the birds of the sky, and the crawling things of the ground. And I will eliminate the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and will let them lie down in safety.”

Have you ever been in a situation where everything is totally out of control? I mean, it is total chaos! You get one fire put out and another one springs up. You cannot get one moment of rest because of all the stuff you are having to deal with. Then…peace. The chaos ends. You can breathe. Isn’t that an awesome feeling?

The Lord is telling Israel that in today’s verse. Everything is going to calm down. Even the animals, birds and crawling things are going to cooperate. No more war. They can finally feel safe. Those must have been welcomed words from Hosea.

APPLICATION

Are you fighting a battle right now that seems impossible? Does it seem hopeless? Listen, brother and sister, there is hope. But you must come to Him. He can calm all the storms in your life. There aren’t any problems too big for Him. I’ve said it before, everything over our heads is under His feet. Never forget that.

Turn to Him now and say, “Lord, I give up. I can’t do this anymore. I need help. Will you help me through this storm I’m in?” What do you think He is going to say to that? He will come to you. Now, you may not like the way He works in that situation, but if you will trust Him, He will see you through.

Sometimes, peace comes only by navigating through a storm. Let Jesus do that for you. He knows where all the safe ports are. He wants to give you rest. I don’t know about you, but I want that in my life. I’ve had enough storms lately, lol. I am ready for some still waters.

Lord, I give you the helm. Guide me into the still waters of Your peace.

Standard
Abiding, Advocate, Affection, Bible, Comfort, Compassion, Direction, Encouragement, Following, Hope, Protection, Scripture, Trouble

DOOR OF HOPE

HOSEA 2:15

“Then I will give her her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope. And she will respond there as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she went up from the land of Egypt.”

From September 2019 through around April 2020, I went through a pretty grueling physical test. I have a rare blood disease called Amyloidosis. The treatment of this disease required me to go through my second stem cell transplant, this time with six months of chemotherapy beforehand. It was hard. I kept my hope in the fact that I had been down this path before in 2010 and knew the treatment could work.

The Israelites had seen God work in the past. They knew what God had done bringing them out of Egypt. They knew their hope was not a false hope. One scholar defines the Hebrew word for hope as “patient, enduring longing.” I kind of like that. I can relate. That’s exactly what I had last year – patient, enduring longing.

APPLICATION

What are you longing for right now? On what are you basing your hope? If you are hoping in anything by God, you are bound to be disappointed. There is no sure thing out there, except Him. Everything and everyone else will let you down. I don’t care how much someone may love you, they can’t give you the hope God can through His Son, Jesus Christ.

I love the expression we have today in the verse that says “the valley of Achor. This valley was on the border of Judah. Achor actually means trouble or disturbance. God brings us through our valleys of trouble into hope. But we have to pass through it first. We can’t forget that if He leads us into a valley of trouble, He will lead us out. We just have to stay with Him.

I just got this picture in my head of an old western where the good guys have to ride through a desert canyon that is probably being watched by the bad guys. There is only one way through. They know trouble is ahead, but they have to ride anyway. Listen, God sent us Jesus to see us through those times. Stay close to Him. He will lead you to the door of hope.

I am so thankful that I know my hope lies in You. There is no one else I would yield my trust to.

Standard
Advice, Beauty, Bible, Blasphemy, Direction, Encouragement, Following, Judgment, Obedience, Punishment, Scripture

NOSE RINGS

HOSEA 2:13

“‘I will punish her for the days of the Baals when she used to offer sacrifices to them and adorn herself with her nose ring and jewelry, and follow her lovers, so that she forgot Me,’ declares the LORD.”

I have never understood the fascination with nose rings. I would not want someone to drill another hole in my nose. I’ve seen nose rings with chains that attached to an earring. I’ve seen simple studs in a nose. I’ve even seen large hoops hanging from the center of the nose, actually covering their mouth. If that’s your thing, have at it. I just don’t get it.

Now, that I have offended half of you, lol.  Gomer was all about her nose rings and jewelry. But you need to understand something. She was doing that to make herself more presentable to her false gods. Israel was doing the same. They would dress up to worship the false gods that had infiltrated their land. It was all futility. God was going to show them that.

APPLICATION

What are you doing in the name of religion that is absolutely futile? We often dress up and put on airs to impress others in church. We pretend to be something we aren’t. We play the part well, don’t we? It used to be that people would dress to the nines with their suits or dresses. Now they see who can dress down the most. It seems jeans and sneakers have replaced the three-piece suit.

So, who are you trying to impress? It’s not about what you are wearing, is it? God could care less what we look like on the outside. It’s all about what is on the inside. You could have the most elaborate nose ring collection in the world, but it wouldn’t impress a holy God.

I want to ask you to examine how you come to worship. Do you come humbly, asking the Lord to teach you? Or are you coming to church to just hang with your friends and see what others are looking like? Will you step back and just take a look in the mirror before you leave your house for worship. Who are you dressing for?

Lord, I want to come before You in all humility. I also want to dress in a way that honors You.

Standard
Accountability, Advice, Bible, Choices, Destruction, Direction, Following, God's Will, Judgment, Obedience, Punishment, Scripture

MY WAGES

HOSEA 2:12

“And I will destroy her vines and fig trees, of which she said, ‘They are my wages for prostitution which my lovers have given me.’ And I will turn them into a forest, and the animals of the field will devour them.”

I remember getting my first job. I worked at a gas station in my hometown. I was only fourteen and was assigned to wash cars in an alley beside the gas station. I worked all day from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. and made $12.00. I did get a half hour break for lunch, but the rest of the time was spent in that alley washing cars. It was hard work, and I learned a lot.

Gomer’s wages were a little different. You couldn’t exactly call her earnings honest. She was selling herself to others to get these things. She was continuing her unfaithfulness. But remember what this was all about. God was using her as a symbol, a message about Israel’s unfaithfulness. They thought all their earnings were their possessions, no matter how they got them. However, God was about to destroy all they held dear because of their unfaithfulness.

APPLICATION

The same applies to us today. We get so busy making a living and building a career that we forget about true worship. We throw a pitiful offering toward the Lord from our labor and think that is what God requires. God could care less about our tithes and offerings if they are offered in this manner. God desires our hearts, first of all.

What are you working so hard for? Well, Carl, I have to save so much money. I have to put enough money back to retire. Oh really? Do you think the God of the universe doesn’t know your needs in the future? Do you believe He will provide exactly what you need if you are following Him? Of course, He will.

Earned wages mean nothing if they are not earned according to God’s principles and direction. Proverbs 13:11 says, “Dishonest money dwindles away.” Why don’t you ask the Lord today how He wants you to earn your wage? Ask Him what He wants you to do with that wage once you get it. It might just surprise you.

Father, all I have is Yours. I want to please You in all I do. I want my work to be seen as worship of You.

Standard