Pastor Tom Fuller is the Senior Pastor of Calvary Chapel Newberg in Oregon. As I journey through the Bible (5 or so chapters at a time), I try to share insight into our relationship with God and the world in which we live.
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?
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!
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."
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!
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!
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!
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!
Boasting has become something of a favorite past time, especially for us Americans. We casually talk about that new car sitting in our driveway or our big new house, or the promotion we got or how many miles we ran over the weekend.
I'm not saying there is anything wrong with running or having a good job or getting a new car. But what happens is our deceptive brains use these things as a way to make us a little higher in the pecking order. We feel a little more superior to the other guy and this makes us feel better about ourselves. In the end it makes us feel more self-reliant. And it's a mistake.
I love what the prophet Jeremiah said about boasting, and it is a theme that runs throughout the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation.
This is what the Lord says:
The wise must not boast in his wisdom;
the mighty must not boast in his might;
the rich must not boast in his riches.
24 But the one who boasts should boast in this,
that he understands and knows Me—
that I am the Lord, showing faithful love,
justice, and righteousness on the earth,
for I delight in these things.
In short, showing off that you know the God of the universe through His Son Jesus Christ is really okay. In fact, God says He "delights" in such things. Boast that you are related to Him (not through any of your own efforts) and boast that you are getting to know Him and what His character is like.
Believe it or not, that in a nutshell is sharing the gospel and that's what we are all here for once we are related to God!
Isaiah 55:1 "Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters; and you without money, come, buy, and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost!
Wouldn't that be great if it was really true? Isaiah is talking, of course, not about physical food, but spiritual. In our default human condition we think we need to earn everything we get. Or we should get it because of some intrinsic value we possess.
Isaiah 55:2-3 Why do you spend money on what is not food, and your wages on what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and you will enjoy the choicest of foods. 3 Pay attention and come to Me; listen, so that you will live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, the promises assured to David.
So God says that if we come and listen to Him he will give us really great treats - a relationship that will last forever according to what God promised David, which was that one of his offspring would rule forever. That person is Jesus Christ.
Much later Jesus said:
John 6:35 "I am the bread of life," Jesus told them. "No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again."
Jesus is the fulfillment of what the prophet was saying. The bread of life from Jesus comes free to us, not because we deserve it or have earned it. It costs us nothing but it cost God everything.
The table is set, why don't you have a seat and listen to the words of Jesus, the Bread of Life?
Making a Fire - Worshipping an Idol
There's a great little verse in Isaiah 44:19
"No one reflects, no one has the perception or insight to say, "I burned half of it in the fire, I also baked bread on its coals, I roasted meat and ate. I will make something detestable with the rest of it, and I will bow down to a block of wood."
The prophet is talking about how someone grows a tree then uses some of it to warm himself and some of it to make an idol to worship. Now, you might think, what has that to do with us today? I don't know of anyone who makes wooden idols to worship - that's just silly!
Well ... an idol is anything that stands between you and God. You might not think you worship an idol but if you were to honestly rank the things in your life, what would come first? Money, position, physical prowess, relationships, physical pleasure?
And that's what I like about this verse. The truth is we don't have the cognition to realize that we worship something God gave us, instead of worshiping the One who created it in the first place.
The great news is that when we realize this, God promises "I have swept away your transgressions like a cloud." If we put God in first place, all the other things fall in line, including our awareness!
Why Protect Israel?
A lot of ink has been spilled about whether Israel has a rightful place in Palestine. I'm not going to address that (though I have opinions about it and support Israel's right to exist). But Israel's place has been controversial for thousands of years. When they came back to the Promised Land and wiped out most (though not all) of the inhabitants, people have reacted that they were simply giving in to their base nature which was warlike.
For much of that early campaign Israel could not fail, save for sin in the camp. But once there, God over and over again protected them from invaders.
One such incident I was just reading is in Isaiah 37 when Assyria came against Jerusalem. You should read the story for it is truly amazing how the Angel of the Lord slew 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night. But it again begs the question, why?
Judah was certainly not modeling godly behavior. They had fallen into idolatry and were really not serving God very well at all. So why spare them? Well, first of all, it was the land that God was saving, it was the people. And why save the people? For one reason, the Messiah.
Notice in Isaiah 37:35 "I will defend this city and rescue it, because of Me and because of My servant David."
God was entering into enemy territory to bring in the Savior. He needed a force to go first and create a birthplace for the Rescuer. That's why He defended His people and made a place for them to live. It wasn't that they were so great, it was that God had a great plan to save them and everyone else who would trust in the Messiah.
In the end, it really is all about Jesus.
How Powerful is Satan?
At this time of celebrating Halloween I think it's a good idea to consider the being behind the holiday.
Yes, I know that kids don't know any better and are merely dressing up in scary costumes to get candy and have a good time. But let's at least admit that it isn't the Lord Jesus Christ we celebrate, but all things dead and scary.
In light of that I thought it would be instructive for us to consider Lucifer, Satan, the Accuser of the Brethren.
Satan does have some power, but it is only power that God allows, and it is evil restrained. God will only allow him to do so much, and no more. Check out the beginning of Job to see this in action. That little bit of power, though, Satan has used to great effect, mostly in getting people to fear him.
Don't get me wrong. You do not want to go up against Satan by yourself. Even his minions are a force to reckon with. Check out Acts 19:14 and beyond to see this in action. It is only by your place in Jesus that you can stand against him. See Ephesians 6 to see this in action.
But I thought it would also be good to look at his motivations and his destiny. We find that buried in a prophecy about Babylon in Isaiah. Here it is:
12 Shining morning star,
how you have fallen from the heavens!
You destroyer of nations,
you have been cut down to the ground.
13 You said to yourself:
"I will ascend to the heavens;
I will set up my throne
above the stars of God.
I will sit on the mount of the gods' assembly,
in the remotest parts of the North.
14 I will ascend above the highest clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High."
15 But you will be brought down to Sheol
into the deepest regions of the Pit.
16 Those who see you will stare at you;
they will look closely at you:
"Is this the man who caused the earth to tremble,
who shook the kingdoms,
17 who turned the world into a wilderness,
who trampled its cities
and would not release the prisoners to return home?"
18 All the kings of the nations
lie in splendor, each in his own tomb.
19 But you are thrown out without a grave,
like a worthless branch,
covered by those slain with the sword
and dumped into a rocky pit like a trampled corpse.
It was pride that made Satan into the evil we know, and the sworn enemy of God and anything that is His. But in the end, he will be unmasked for what he really is, a weakling that will end up like a dried up branch.
On Halloween, let's remember who really wins!
God is Hiding
Sometimes I wonder why the Jewish people never accepted Yeshua (Jesus) as their Messiah. I know all the arguments, they were prideful, they didn't want to give up power, they wanted a political Messiah, they misunderstood the Old Testament prophecies, etc.
In fact, though, God has hidden Himself from the Jews in a way.
Isaiah 8:16 "Bind up the testimony. Seal up the instruction among my disciples. I will wait for the Lord who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob. I will wait for Him."
Trying to understand Yeshua from a Jewish mindset is not easy. In fact, Paul (also a Jew) realized that the reading of the Torah did not actually help the Jews understand Jesus.
2 Corinthians 3:14-16 But their minds were closed. For to this day, at the reading of the old covenant, the same veil remains; it is not lifted, because it is set aside only in Christ. 15 However, to this day, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their hearts, 16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.
I like what Isaiah wrote. He said "I will wait for the Lord." Anyone, Jew or Gentile, who really wants to know God will see God reveal Himself to them.
Jeremiah 29:12-14 "You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you."
So even if you don't understand how Jesus could be Messiah, I would encourage you to seek God and ask Him to help you understand. Wait for Him, He is waiting for you.
Just How Sick Are You?
As humans we like to believe the best in people. "Man is basically good at the core" I've heard a lot. We look to people like Ghandi and Mother Teresa as examples of what we should aspire to. "If left to himself, humans would tend towards the good." That's another thing I've heard many times.
According to the Scriptures, that's faulty logic. Man left to himself would tend towards Adolf Hitler, not Mother Teresa.
One example of the real truth about the human condition is found right at the beginning of the writings by the prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah 1:5b "The whole head is hurt and the while heart is sick. From the sole of the foot even to the head, no spot is uninjured - wounds, welts, and festering sores not cleansed, bandaged, or soothed with oil."
Why is this so, and why the disconnect between reality and our version of it? Evil came into the human soul in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve decided to believe the serpent instead of God and disobey Him.
Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that the heart of man is "deceitfully wicked". So while we think we tend towards evil, our souls fool us into thinking we are good inside. And anything that is not good like God cannot exist in His presence.
So what's the answer? Read on in Isaiah 1:18 "Come, let us discuss this," says the Lord. "Though your sins be as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they be as red as crimson, they will be like wool."
How does that happen? Only when our lives are "washed in the blood of the Lamb." (Revelation 7:14).
Jesus Christ is the Lamb - perfect, yet offered to take your death so He can give you His life. Read about Him in John 5 and 10.
There is sickness and there is cure. Will you realize just how sick you are and that there is a free cure that cost God everything?
Be Careful Little Ears
Ecclesiastes 7:21 "Don't pay attention to everything people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you; for you know that many times you yourself have cursed others."
As broken people it is inevitable that at some point we are going to say something that will hurt, or we will hear something that will hurt. While it is important to "be at peace with everyone" (Romans 12:18) we simply can't all be perfect this side of heaven.
So just realize that sometimes people will say stupid things that upon later reflection they wished they had not said. You do the same thing, right?
So give people the benefit of the doubt and some grace and patience. Perhaps there'll come a time when you can honestly share with them how their words hurt, rather than 1) lash out at the time or 2) pull away and not be friends with them anymore.