Altars, Bible, Choices, Confession, Disciplemaking, Double-minded, Eternity, God's Will, Idols, Obedience

I SWEAR

AMOS 8:14

As for those who swear by the guilt of Samaria, and say, ‘As your god lives, Dan,’ and, ‘As the way of Beersheba lives,’ they will fall and not rise again.’”

My mama didn’t allow any swearing in her house. If one of us said, “I swear,” she would wear us out. We weren’t allowed to say, “My God!” She had a high respect and awe of God and didn’t allow her children to say or do anything that went against that.

The Israelites were warned by Moses and Joshua not to swear by any other God besides Jehovah. This “guilt of Samaria” probably referred to the calf that was there and was worshipped by the people. “The way of Beersheba” more than likely referred to the avenue of their idols they had set up. God despised this and held them accountable for their idol worship.

APPLICATION

We still make vows and swear by God. When I married, I made vows to my wife before God. When I go to court and have to testify, I am asked to raise my hand and vow to tell the truth. Swearing to God isn’t bad. Swearing to another god is a different story. That still isn’t okay with God.

You are probably thinking I would never do that. I would never swear to another god. You may not do that consciously. But have you ever put something above God in priority? Have you chosen something of the world above something that has eternal value?

We swear in all kinds of ways. We can’t allow ourselves to get sidetracked or out of focus. Satan loves to get our eyes off what is eternal and onto the temporal. We can become so obsessed with worldly things that we totally forget what is important, what is righteous, what is pure. Take a step back today and evaluate what you put first in your life.

Lord, keep me on the straight and narrow. Help me to focus on the eternal things.

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Accountability, Accused, Bible, Cheates, Commands, Consequences, Deceit, Deception, Double-minded, Forgiveness, Greed, Holy Spirit, Lying, Repentance, Scripture

CHEATERS

AMOS 8:5

“saying, ‘When will the new moon be over, so that we may sell grain; and the Sabbath, so that we may open the wheat market, to make the ephah smaller and the shekel bigger, and to cheat with dishonest scales,’”

Everyone hates a cheater (well, most everyone). Don’t you hate it when you buy something only to find out it’s not as advertised? Just watch some late-night television to see some of those ads. A cheater only wants to line their pockets with ill gotten gain, with no regard to the person they have cheated.

Amos warns the Israelites of this practice in today’s verse. He describes them to the last detail. They kept the festivals and the Sabbath, but only in practice. Their hearts were far from God. Look what they did. They made their ephah a little smaller and their money the wrong weight. Even though they were warned about this in the Torah (Dy 25:13-15), they still did it.

APPLICATION

Why would you ever think about cheating someone? When I was young, my dad’s sister sold a house that my dad and uncle owned to their mother without his knowledge. She was getting house payments from her mother and stepfather for something she didn’t own. She cheated my dad, and it caused a rift between them for years. They did finally make up, but it took many years.

Now, my dad wasn’t a believer back then. He didn’t have the Holy Spirit to guide him toward reconciliation. I am not sure about my aunt. I never had the chance to ask her about her salvation. I pray she knew Jesus. My point is this – if we know the Lord, we won’t cheat others, and we will forgive those who cheat us.

Hmmm, that sounds very familiar. How about this verse? Matthew 6:12 “‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.’” That’s what Jesus taught us in the “Lord’s Prayer.” Have you done that today? Ask Him.

O Father, forgive me. I fall so short of Your commandments.”

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Advice, Bible, Bitterness, Choices, Cleansing, Commands, Double-minded, Encouragement, Following, Justice, Scripture

WORMWOOD

AMOS 5:7

For those who turn justice into wormwood, and throw righteousness to the earth.”

I have read about wormwood in the Bible for years but never really took the time to see what that means. I just figured anything called wormwood had to be bad. It is. Wormwood is a bitter herb that was used to get rid of intestinal worms. Now, that’s just plain gross.

Amos uses the imagery of wormwood (which any Israelite would have known) in this verse today. Amos says they have turned justice, which is a good thing, into wormwood, which is bitter and nasty. Israel had become accustomed to doing as they pleased, regardless of what the Lord had told them.

APPLICATION

We do the same thing. We can take something good and make it bad. Things that help us end up hurting us. Can you think of a few things like that? How about the internet? It has the potential to aid us in so many ways. But man has turned it into something evil through the prevalence of pornography. It has become wormwood in so many ways.

How about food? We Christians are such hypocrites about this. We overindulge and become obese and unhealthy. I am speaking from personal experience. I love to eat, but sometimes I eat just to eat, not for nourishment. Food can become wormwood if not eaten in moderation.

Wormwood is a nasty tasting herb that many of us eat all the time. Our attitudes are bitter. Our relationships become bitter. Even our spiritual life is bitter. And we accept that. May I encourage you today to examine your own life and see if you have any wormwood in it. If you do, get rid of it. Seek justice and righteousness. That’s where you will find the Lord.

Forgive my bitter attitude, Father. I want to always choose Your justice and Your righteousness.

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Accountability, Battles, Bible, Choices, Commands, Confrontation, Deception, Disciplemaking, Double-minded, Following, God's Will, Modeling, Obedience, Scripture, Testimony

DUDLEY DO-RIGHT

AMOS 3:10

“‘But they do not know how to do what is right,’ declares the LORD, ‘these who store up violence and devastation in their citadels.’”

According to Wikipedia “Dudley Do-Right is a dim-witted, but conscientious and cheerful Canadian Mountie who is always trying to catch his nemesis, Snidely Whiplash, and rescue damsel in distress Nell Fenwick, the daughter of his boss Inspector Fenwick, with whom Dudley is deeply infatuated.” I used to watch this cartoon character in the 1960’s. He did right, but it was almost always an accident.

The Lord declares to Israel that they do not know how to do right. Their lifestyles are filled with violence and devastation. How could you not know how to do right? Because they had deserted their Lord and filled their lives with fleshly pursuits. That’s how!

APPLICATION

Do you know how to do right? The better question is do you know right? In our world today, right can change from location to location. What is right in one culture may not be right in another. But God’s right is right wherever you are.

The best barometer for knowing what is right is to ask yourself if this will bring glory to God. If it will, you are pretty safe that it is right. That’s not to say that everything is wrong. But if you live your lives that way, you are sure to do what is right in God’s eyes.

I am thankful for the Word because I know it will always point me in the right direction. It will always show me the right thing to do. I have friends who seldom, if ever, read the Word. Yet they wonder why they have so many troubles. Friends, dig in. Dig deep and discover the “rights” of God’s Word.

Thank You Lord for showing me the right things to do and for leading me in the right direction.

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Accountability, Betrayal, Bible, Deception, Double-minded, Examples, Following, Lies, Modeling, Relationships, Scripture

BAD SCALES

HOSEA 12:7

“A merchant, in whose hands are fraudulent balances, loves to exploit.”

I may have mentioned this before in an earlier blog, but it fits perfect with this verse. When I was growing up in South Georgia, I worked at gas station that also sold feed and seed. We had a scale which was used to weigh out loose seed for people who just needed some for a small garden. Well, that scale had to be calibrated to maintain true weights. Our boss insisted on that. He didn’t want to cheat anyone by using a false scale.

Hosea uses that same illustration. He says anyone who uses false scales loves to exploit others. They can’t be trusted. They love taking advantage of others. Of course, God detests that. This verse is in direct contrast to the previous verse which spoke of maintaining mercy and justice. Israel was guilty of using those fraudulent balances.

APPLICATION

Are you a cheater? Do you rob others? What do I mean by that? I am not implying you are some kind of evil person. But we tip the scales in our favor when we can, don’t we? That’s even evident in relationships. Husbands try to get something from their wives by false motives. Wives do the same. Our motives matter. Our heart matters. Unless we are relating with pure motives towards each other, it is all fraudulent.

Aren’t you glad that is not required? When we balance our scales with truth and treat each other as Christ would, no one is cheated. I quote this often concerning my wife. “It is my privilege to show my love for Jesus by caring for my wife, to love her, to show her honor, to try to understand her and to give up my life and rights for her.” When I do that, my scales are balanced.

Jesus is the answer to false scales. Let Him do the measuring. Let Him do the weighing. He will always pour out the exact amount of mercy and grace we need in our lives to show to others. Isn’t that a pretty picture? We simply pour out His grace and mercy.

Oh Father, don’t let me be use false scales to hurt anyone. Help me to be always true.

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Accountability, Advice, Altars, Bible, Choices, Destruction, Double-minded, Faithfulness, Idols, Modeling, Obedience, Scripture, Sincerity

GOD THE DESTROYER

HOSEA 10:2

“Their heart is deceitful; now they must suffer for their guilt. The LORD will break down their altars and destroy their memorial stones.”

There is something about tearing something down. I can remember as a boy using my dad’s big sledgehammer. I used to ask my dad if I could swing it when he had to tear apart stuff. Man, when that big hammer hit the wood, it would just splinter that stuff. Tearing down stuff was fun.

But here in today’s verse, the Lord is tearing down some stuff, and He wasn’t having fun. He was angry at Israel’s sin, at the way they had built these altars to their false gods. He was determined to destroy any sign of their idolatry. And He didn’t need a sledgehammer.

APPLICATION

Are there things in your life that you need to tear down? We all have things that we have built up that get between us and God. They may just be small things, but anything between you and the Lord is an idol, a distraction. It must come down. It has to be removed. If you leave it there, it will affect your walk with Him.

Now, you don’t need a sledgehammer to do that. You just need to turn to the Lord. It seems when we prioritize Jesus in our lives, all those other things seem to disappear or take a back seat. The “altars” and “memorial stones” we have placed in our lives have to come down. There is only room for Jesus.

From time to time I have built up “altars” in my life. I have placed too much emphasis on things at the expense of worshipping the Lord. One by one the Lord showed me those “altars” had to come down. As I got rid of them, my love for the Lord grew stronger. Sole devotion to Jesus is what is required. My knee will bow to no one else.

Help me Lord to keep my altars torn down. I desire to worship only You.

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NO LIFE

HOSEA 9:11

“As for Ephraim, their glory will fly away like a bird— no birth, no pregnancy, and no conception!”

I have the privilege to be the father of two great kids. They are grown now, but I can still remember the moment my wife and I learned we were going to have a child. Each pregnancy was a joy (not counting my wife’s morning sickness). We couldn’t wait for the day of their birth. I was actually in the room both times. It was amazing!

For Ephraim, their glory was gone. They couldn’t experience the joy of the Lord because they had forsaken Him. Their actions against Jehovah had caused Him to withdraw His blessings. Just like barren wombs with no conception, no pregnancy and no birth, there was sorrow. No hope! No life! No future!

APPLICATION

What is your life centered on? If it’s not the Lord, then you too are in despair. I’m not in despair, Carl. My life is going just fine. Oh really? Any life not centered on Jesus is headed for disaster. Yes, I said disaster. We can pretend everything is fine. We may believe all is well, but it’s not.

God will not bless those who are not following Him. He just can’t. It would go against His whole person. If He blessed everyone for just doing their own thing, then His commandments and statutes would be meaningless. God demands holiness, but He gives us the means to live that way. As Peter says in 2 Peter 1:3, it’s His divine power that gives us everything we need to live that way. And when we do, He loves to bless us.

I try to live my life to honor Him. I don’t do it perfectly. I never will, but I certainly strive to do that. I want to experience the joy of the Lord. Don’t you want that same joy? I know you do. I pray today you can know Him fully, that you can be filled with so much joy that it just overflows.Thank You, Lord, for life. Thank You for giving me such joy. Help me spread it to others.

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Accountability, Bible, Choices, Deceit, Deception, Devil, Double-minded, Flesh, Following, Lies, Obedience, Rebuke, Satan, Scripture

BACKWARDS

HOSEA 7:3

With their wickedness they make the king happy, and the officials with their lies.”

Sometimes life just seems to be going in reverse. What’s right is wrong, and what’s wrong is right. Upside down is right side up and vice versa. The whole thing is just topsy turvy. Have you ever felt that way? Boy, I sure have. It seems the harder I try to straighten things up, the more confusing it becomes.

This verse in Hosea today sounds like that. The wickedness of the people made the king happy. Their lies made the officials happy. Doesn’t that sound wrong to you? You have to understand that the king and his officials were just as bad as the people. In fact, they encouraged the people in their sins. The more everyone sinned, the less guilt anyone felt. They were all doing the same thing.

APPLICATION

That is just like Satan! He wants to keep us so confused and disoriented that we don’t know the truth. He loves filling our minds with falsehoods. He gets joy watching us plunge deeper and deeper into sin. He will surround us with others who are doing the same thing to dull our senses to what we are doing.

Before you know it, you are so far down that rabbit hole you don’t how to get out. Stop right there. There is always a way out. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. There is no hole too deep that He can’t reach us. We can’t stray far enough away that He can’t find us. His reach is extensive. We just have to stop and turn toward Him.

Are you ready to do that? Have you done that? When we turn to Jesus, the world finally begins to make sense. We can see the schemes of the devil. We can recognize his attempts to trick us. He has been exposed by the light of God’s Word. We can live for Jesus without fear. Don’t you want that? I sure do.

Father, You are the only true north. I will set my path towards You. I want to walk secure, knowing You are with me.

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Advice, Anxiety, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Choices, Double-minded, Doubts, Encouragement, Following, God's Will, Mentoring, Parenting, Promises, Scripture, Trust, Truth

OF THE TRUTH

1 JOHN 3:19

“We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him”

Have you ever had doubts? I mean, really had doubts about something? You think you know what the truth is, but something just keeps bugging you. You can’t seem to put your finger on it. Doubt is a worrying thing, isn’t it? No one wants to feel unsure of themselves. At least, I don’t. I want to be assured that my actions and beliefs are grounded on something solid.

John is telling us here in this verse that we can be assured. How? By relying on the truths of God’s Word. Nothing else is certain. He says it “will assure our heart before Him.” What does that mean? The word “assure” means to be persuaded. But not just any persuasion. It means the Lord persuades the believer to be confident in His preferred-will. It involves obedience, but it is the result of God’s persuasion.

APPLICATION

Have you taught your kids to jump in the water to you? How did you do that? Did you stand way out in the pool or lake and tell them to just run and jump? Of course, not. You did it slowly. You stepped just away from them and had them jump into your arms. Then you backed away a little more, until they were literally diving out into your arms.

You had to persuade them to trust you. The Lord knows the same is true for us as we learn to trust Him. He wants us to teach our children these small truths of trust. As our children learn to trust the Lord in little things, they will begin to trust Him with bigger things. Of course, the biggest thing we trust Him with is our salvation. And if we can trust Him with that, why can’t we trust Him with the other stuff?

What are you holding back from God? What are you not trusting Him with? Let me ask you a question. Are you persuaded that you are in His will right now? Hmmm? The Lord doesn’t want you unstable or unsure in your ways. Lean on Him. Trust Him to guide you in all your days. He will!

Father, forgive me of my doubts. Reassure me today that You are guiding and protecting me. I will trust You! 

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Accountability, Bible, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Destruction, Double-minded, Evil, Hatred, Holy Spirit, Love, Mentoring, Modeling, Parenting, Relationships, Scripture, Self-control, Testimony

HATE = MURDER

1 JOHN 3:15

“Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”

Have you ever hated someone so much you wanted to kill them? I am sure you quickly say No! Not many of us would ever let that thought cross our mind. But have you thought of ways to “payback” someone for something they have done to you? Come on, be honest. It’s not a far stretch from one to the other, in the eyes of the world. Hate is hate and only leads to wrong choices.

John is not saying everyone who hates is actually going to kill someone. But he is saying that spirit of hate harbored in your heart comes from the source. There’s no room for hatred in the life of a believer. Did Jesus hate? Of course, not. And if we are to emulate our Master, we must lie down anything that is contrary to Him.

APPLICATION

Your children are going to come in one day from school or play and say, “I hate…” You had better jump on that one. You need to find out what is going on and why. We cannot have our children hating others. We know people say and do things that hurt their feelings, but hatred can be no response.

So, what do we teach them during these times. To love. That’s it. We teach them to pray for those who have harmed them. We teach them to try to figure out why they have done or said those things. Sin has a reason. We know that. As you lead them to pray for those individuals, pray for those who have harmed you as well.

Children watch us forgive. They learn forgiveness best by forgiving. It’s not easy, but it’s possible. When we remember that it is the Lord who forgives through us, it is a lot easier. Allow Him to just love them as only He can. Make sure they know it is because of His love for them that you forgive. They may reject that. That’s okay. Their acceptance is not your responsibility. Your forgiveness is.

I will harbor no hatred in my heart toward others. I will love as You do, Lord, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

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