Follow Along

Get new posts by email:

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Exploring



This one is taken on a path that I've created out in front of our home. The kids like to play out there. I think Robin is picking wild strawberries.

Fun Fam



A collage of pictures of the kids by our friend Steph.

The Original Hot Orthodoxy

Review of The Treatise Concerning the Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards

Summary Of Contents

In his Treatise Concerning the Religious Affections, Jonathan Edwards attempts to show that "true religion" is "made of" the "Holy Affections." "True religion" is not a theological philosophy for Edwards but the personal salvation of the believer in Christ through the grace of God. "Made of" in The Religious Affections means that the "Holy Affections" are the fruit of grace, the "proof" that one is saved (being saved) by the power of God; this does not mean that the affections are efficacious for salvation, but only that they flow from a true salvation. Edwards defines the affections as the "vigorous and sensible exercises of the faculty of the soul to be pleased with or displeased, inclined towards or disinclined towards a particular thing." In other words, we all desire happiness in our deepest being, and every choice we make reflects our heart's desire to be ultimately happy. The affections are the overflow of our heart, that include our emotions and will and are experienced viscerally, the total person. They are not only rational but are not less than rational. They are not only choices of the will but are not less than volitional. They are not only feelings but are not less than experiential emotions.

Jonathan Edwards sets out to prove that affections which are holy (the vigorous and sensible inclinations towards God) are the proof of genuine gracious salvation. He accomplishes his goal in three main arguments. The first is a list of Scriptural evidences where the affections are mentioned, listed, commanded, and appealed to. While it may appear pedantic at first, his case is nearly won. The Scriptures make much use of the affections. The entire soul, the entire fearful and trembling person, is involved in the working out of our salvation.

Edwards' second line of attack is one of negation. He shows manifestations of religious affections that are not the subject of his thought. These "signs" of religious affection (what they are not) cause our view of what Edwards is talking about to sharpen and clarify as we see their outline. The proof of whether one is a "certain sign" is its Scriptural basis.

Similarly, Edwards third argument for his thesis is a fuller exposition of the Scriptural basis for individual manifestations of the religious affections which are genuine. In this section, Edwards fixes a picture into the reader's mind of the truly holy and saved person and shows that this person, according to Scripture, is fully given over to the Holy Affections.

Value of The Religious Affections

for biblical interpretation

Edwards has shown that the word of God has a particular effect upon the believer in his/her whole person. While we do exegesis and attempt to engage the text of Holy Scripture to find out the hermeneutical intention of the original author(s), we must, to be true to the original Author, attempt to engage the text for the affective intent of the text. What is this text attempting to do to my soul? What heart-strings is the word of God trying to pull? Will I cooperate with the Spirit's effort to change my entire being? Will I set my heart, my passions, my desires on what this text suggests? If I allow for this kind of thinking to pervade my study, my exegesis will become more Scriptural, more operational, more "dangerous."

for Christian living

Evangelical Christianity has been characterized as "the frozen chosen" and a dull, lifeless, boring existence (except for the more charismatic wing, who are often those that charge the whole with "cold orthodoxy."). We are seen as believing but not living a full existence. Liberalism and Catholicism register in people's minds as possessing social conscience and action; where the activity of Evangelicalism registers, if any way, as a cold-hearted political activism. This should not be and has not always been the case. Edwards would argue that our lives as Bible-believing Christians should be totally given over to a full experience of God. Our emotions, choices, speech, and lifestyle should change radically around the character of Christ revealed in His word. Our lives should be different and will witness the work of God in the world (nothing short of revival).

for Christian ministry

First, if our biblical interpretation should seek to uncover the affective hermeneutical intentions of the text to be studied, then our preaching should aim for the provocation of the affections in the hearts of our listeners. Impartation of knowledge will not be enough. Impartation of "to-do-list" applications will not be enough. No preaching will be enough without the affections being sought, stoked, and appealed to in explanation, illustration, and application. The whole person must be addressed by the word of God.

Second, too often we expect the word of God to address our listeners' lives from the pulpit, but when they have a problem with a "nonspiritual" aspect of their lives (depression, relationship failure, sickness, etc), we look to modern therapeutic theories to address their needs. We compartmentalize spirituality into a part of our life instead of seeing spirituality as the whole of our life. Edwards would argue that our affections (the whole of life) is addressed by the word of God, so modern therapeutic techniques can never replace the effective affective impact of the word of God to produce a healthy life.

[Originally written as a paper for a seminary class, September 30, 1997.]

Sunday, August 27, 2006

One to Wishlist

My contrarian friend Bill Kriner refuses to answer my book-tag, but he does offer some suggested reading:

For me, Memoirs and Remains of R.M.M’Cheyne by Andrew Bonar is the most influential book. It is a biography of an outstanding Scottish divine who died before his 30th birthday! Yet what he accomplished in God’s Name in his short life is stunning. The book contains a biography, memorials spoken of him at his death, letters written to his parishioners, sermons, sermon outlines, Songs of Zion he wrote and his Bible Reading Calendar. This is a Christian treasure trove. When I am struggling I often return to his letters for comfort and I use them as comfort for others. I look for sermons of his when I have a question on a passage of Scripture. And, the Bible Reading Calendar is used by millions, from public figures I know to spiritual children of mine.

I've used his Bible Reading Calendar, especially in connection with D.A. Carons's For the Love of God books, but I've not read any other M'Cheyne. Sounds like one to wishlist, doesn't it?

Matt's Messages - Learn the Glory of God

“Learn the Glory of God”
August 27, 2006
Back 2 School Sunday
Psalm 19

Today, on Back 2 School Sunday, I want to take us to a portion of Holy Scripture which tells us what is the most important thing to study.

What is the most important thing to go to school for.

What is the most important thing to learn in all the universe.

Psalm 19 would say, “Learn the Glory of God.”

God is the most important subject of interest in the whole universe.

His glory should be the first and foremost subject of our study and attention.

Learn the Glory of God.

Okay, students? Let’s read Psalm 19 and see what David says about learning the glory of God.

[scripture reading, prayer]

It’s Back 2 School Sunday, and our teacher, King David says, “Learn the Glory of God.”

If you miss every other lesson that your school has to offer, don’t miss this one: Learn
the Glory of God.

#1: IN HIS WORLD.

Learn the Glory of God In His World.

God has revealed His glory in the natural world.

Theologians call it “natural revelation,” and it’s available to everybody. In Psalm 19 it is located, especially, in the sky. V.1

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

The glory of God is marked all over the sky for anyone and everyone to see.

When we look at the sky, we are being given a lesson in the glory of God.

When was the last time you looked at the sky...and pondered the majesty of God?

That’s why it’s there. I heard a sermon once on Psalm 19 titled, “What the Sky is For.”

The sky exists to make you think about God.

I like to go to my in-laws’ home in western Canada–now that’s big sky country! Sometimes it’s a little unsettling because it makes me feel small and exposed, but the glorious sky seemingly without limit is just breathtaking. You can watch a storm come from miles away. It could be a hour away, but you can see it across the prairie.

Why is the sky there?

That’s a question you probably won’t get asked at school this week. But you should.
It’s more important than knowing what the sky is made of!

In my kids’ catechism, one of the first questions is “Why did God make the world?”
And the answer is “God made the world for His glory and to help us to know, trust, and love Him.”

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

And they don’t stop. Ever. V.2

“Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”

Verse 3 could be translated (NIV footnote), “They have no speech, there are no words; no sound is heard from them...”

Which means, that the sky doesn’t have sky writing on it that says in bold cloud print, “God is glorious!” The stars are not arranged in Hebrew letters to say, “Give praise to the LORD!”

But even so (v.4), “Their voice goes out into all the earth.”

Or it could be as the NIV translates it (and the KJV agrees), “There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.”

In other words, it doesn’t matter if you speak Portuguese or Hindi or Gaelic or Swahili–the heavens speak your language. That’s certainly the meaning of verse 4.

“Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”

You can’t escape this classroom!

You can ignore it. But you can’t escape it. It’s right there above you.

Learn the Glory of God in His World.

Then our Teacher, King David, pulls out the sun. The most glorious creation in our universe. The sun. Verse 4.

“In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.”

Wow. That’s quite a description of the sun!

Like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion. On his wedding day, I think.

He’s all decked out in his finest, and He’s bursting out and saying, “Hear I come, I’m going to get my bride!”

The sun is like a champion rejoicing to run his course. Like an Olympic athlete with a huge smile bursting on his face as he runs like he was meant to!

Every morning for all of time, the Sun has gotten up and gloriously run across the sky.

And everything feels that heat. Even in the coldest places on Earth, every spot feels, in some way, the touch of that sun as it runs its circuit.

Now, don’t miss the point.

The point is not the sun, is it?

The point is that that glorious sun is obedient!

The sun is a creation of God and obedient to Him!

V.4 again. “In the heavens He (God) has pitched a tent for the sun.”

The sun lives where God wants it to!

The fact that it runs its glorious course every single day is supposed to tell us how glorious God is.

“The heavens declare the glory of God.”

Can you see it?

Have you learned about the glory of God from the heavens, the sky, the sun?

And the rest of creation.

This is one of the best reasons to go to school. Because at its best, school helps us to better understand the creation.

At its best, school helps us to understand natural revelation.

And helps us to figure out our world.

Even when your school won’t tell you where the sky came from, where it’s going, or why it’s there, you can still learn a lot about the creation.

But you don’t have to go to school to learn from it.

You just have to look at the sky.

A lot of men who are hunters have told me that they experience God in deep ways when they are out in the woods.

I understand that. They are looking at “the work of His hands.”

And if you have eyes to see it, you can learn a lot about the glory of God from His world.

And, in fact, everyone will be held accountable for this lesson. Romans chapter 1 says, “[S]ince the creation of the world God's invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

It’s vitally important that we all learn the glory of God from His created world.

But that’s not enough. It’s enough to condemn if ignored, but it is not enough to save.

It’s not enough to try to learn about God in the woods. You have to come to His Word.

#2. IN HIS WORD.

Learn the Glory of God in His Word. V.7

“The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.”

All of a sudden, our Teacher, King David, changes the subject. Not from the glory of God, but from where we learn the glory of God. From the skies to the scriptures.

From the heavens to the Law (or the Torah, the Teaching).

“The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.
The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.
They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.
By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”

In these 5 verses, David uses a ton of words to describe the Word of God.

“Law, statutes, precepts, commands, fear (which is what the law calls for), ordinances.”

And where we might see the law as good but restricting, David saw the law as life-giving and full of blessing.

I love these adjectives to describe God’s word: “perfect, trustworthy, right, radiant, pure, sure, altogether righteous, precious, sweet.”

This describes a man who has a love affair with God’s word.

And he knows what that Word can do!

“Reviving the soul.” Do you need your soul revived?
“Making wise the simple.” That means the immature. The childlike who need to go to school. Making them wise.
“Giving joy to the heart.” Do you need joy in your heart?
“Giving light to the eyes.” Yes.

This is what the Word of God does when we encounter it.

The Word of God is life-giving and full of blessing.

What is your greatest possession and what is your favorite food?

David didn’t know anything greater than gold or sweeter than honey.

So that’s what he used to describe God’s word and its life giving effects.

The scriptures are more precious than my 401K. They are more precious than Fort Knox. They are more precious than Wall Street.

They are sweeter than Texas Sheetcake. They are tastier than Apple Pie!

Is that your feeling about the Bible?

Learn the Glory of God in His Word.

You must.

Or you miss out on everything.

It’s not enough to study natural revelation. You need to study what theologians call “Special Revelation” – God speaking through His Word.

And you need to fall in love with the Scriptures. V.11

“By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”

The Scriptures tell us about our need of a Savior.

They warn us of the wrath to come. If you don’t hear that warning, you will be lost.

They also tell us about the coming of the Savior and they call us to put our trust in Him. Have you heard that call?

Jesus Christ died on the Cross for sinners like you and me. And He calls sinners like you and me to put our trust in Him to receive eternal life and a new way of living now.

That’s the gospel. And we need that message.

The gospel isn’t present in natural revelation. It’s only present in special revelation.

That’s why these words are so precious and important!

“By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”

I want great reward for us here at Lanse Free Church.

This is why we put so much effort into Bible at LEFC.

- Family Bible Night starts in a week and a half.

- New Sunday School Classes start in just one week.

- Link Groups are starting to form.

- Next week, I’ll begin a new series on God’s design for the Christian Family–from the Scriptures.

What are you doing to get into the Word of God and have the Word of God get into you?

Are you in the Word every day?

“They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.
By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”

I want great reward for you.

This is more important than anything that they teach down at West Branch or P-O.

Learn the Glory of God in the pages of His Word.

And #3. IN YOUR HEART.

Learn the Glory of God in Your Heart.

Our Teacher on Back 2 School Sunday, King David was a student of God’s World and a student of God’s Word, and because of that, he knew he needed in his heart–grace. Verse 12.

“Who can discern his [own] errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

David wanted the glory of God to shine in his heart.

And he knew that that would take a work of God. Because our hearts are sinful and need cleansing.

He says, “Who can discern his errors?” In other words, “Who can infallibly know when he has done wrong.” Sometimes, we are so caught in our own sin that we can’t see it. So he says, “Forgive my hidden faults.” Give me grace.

And he says also, “Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.”

David knew his heart had a bent toward evil. And he asked for grace. Not just the grace to be forgiven, but the grace to have the power to say, “No” to sin. Preventative grace.

David wanted the glory of God–so clear in creation and so sweet in the scriptures–to shine in his heart.

And he knew that that would take grace. So he prayed for it.

This should be our regular prayer as well.

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Notice that all of this learning had a twofold goal.

The first and most important is to be pleasing to God. That God would be happy to look upon our hearts and to see His glory resident within them.

And the second is to pass it on. “May the words of my mouth...be pleasing.”

In other words all of this learning is not just for us. We learn to teach.

We look at the glory of God in the heavens, and we’re called to point it out to others.

And we behold the glory of God in the pages of the Bible, and we’re called to teach others what we see.

Don’t learn the glory of God and then keep it for yourself!

Internalize it. Ask God to cleanse your heart and make it a clean vessel for His glory and then teach it to others.

Is this your prayer?

“May the words of [our] mouth and the meditation of [our] heart[s] be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, [our] Rock and [our] Redeemer.”

For 114 years, God has been faithful to us as a Rock and a Redeemer.

May we “go to school on His glory” in the World and in the Word and in our Hearts so that the world may know How faithful and glorious He is.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Puritan Prayers in Popular Music

In our players at the Mitchell's right now is Valley of Vision, the new worship album from Sovereign Grace Music. They've created songs inspired by a book of puritan prayers. Deep thoughts about God in engaging sounds.

Good stuff! My favorite so far is I Come Running by Mark Altrogge based on The Valley of Vision prayer “Need of Jesus.” In sound, it reminds me of old U2 stuff. But I can't help but sing along with these lyrics:

Jesus, I am blind, be my light
Darkened in my mind, be my wisdom
Bend my stubborn will to Your own
Open up my ears to hear Your Spirit
Melt my conscience once again
Help me hate the slightest sin
And when Satan comes to tempt me

I come running to You, when I fear, when I’m tried
I come running to You, to Your blood, to Your side
And there my soul finds rest
There my soul finds rest in You


Shepherd of my soul, lead me on
To the pastures green in Your Scriptures
Make me to lie down by waters still
Fill me with Your peace in the tempest
I take my refuge in Your cross
By Your sacrifice I’m washed
And when Satan comes accusing

Once I was Your foe, a slave to sin
A stranger to Your love, a hopeless outcast
But You have brought me near, I’m bought with blood
Now I’m Your precious child, an heir with Jesus
You pour heaven into my soul
Your wondrous love, it overflows
And I marvel how You love me

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Book Tag

I've been "tagged" by Byron Harvey to answer these 10 questions about books:

1. One book that changed your life:

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. I can still remember finding in on my grandparent's coffee table, not knowing what it was, and picking it up to read. "Uh, Grandma, can I take this home with me?" I didn't put it down for days, and that, only when I had read it all the way through. It came at just the right moment in my teenage angst and breathed grace into my life so that I became a true follower of Christ. The warm tone, the clear-headed apologetics, the clarion ring of Christian truth--I've come back to it many times.

2. One book that you've read more than once:

All of the Lord Peter Wimsey mystery novels by Dorothy L. Sayers. Regular readers of my blog will know about our love for these.

3. One book you'd want on a desert island:

Robinson Crusoe?

Is this after the Bible? After the Bible, I'd probably want this really, really, really long book if I was going to be there for a while. But, not being very good at French, I'd probably settle for The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

4. One book that made you laugh:

How to Be Funny by Steve Allen. Don't read anything he writes on the Bible, but he's a hoot when it comes to comedy.

5. One book that made you cry:

The Law of Love by Tim Stafford, part of the River of Freedom Christian history triology, highly recommended.

6. One book you wish had been written:

Conformed: How to Become Fully and Irrevocably Christlike in One Short Month by the Apostles Paul and Peter

7. One book you wish had never been written:

The Qur'an

8. One book you're currently reading:

One book? Hah!

The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generations by Dan Kimball
Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin
Family Worship by Donald Whitney
Raising a Modern Day Knight by Robert Lewis

9. One book you've been meaning to read:

Getting Things DONE by David Allen. (Get it?)

10. Tag 5 others:

My bro, Dan Ledford, Josh Perry, Bill Kriner, and Dan Sullivan.

Idyllic Home

I am so blessed.

I was telling my wife last night before bed just how good I have it, especially the enjoyment of a healthy, happy family in a comfortable home. We are not perfect (far from it), but knowing the amount of suffering and sin in the world, we are truly blessed.

I said, "Sweetie, it may not be ideal, but it is idyllic."

"LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance" (Psalm 16:5-6).

Snickers Don't Really Satisify

My buddy Dan Ledford is doing a series on healthy eating and its relationship to our spiritual life.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Blogfast 2006

In an effort to work at not being controlled by anything (1 Cor. 6:12), I am undertaking a blogfast for about a month. I'll only be reading blogs of my friends and family (you probably know who you are) and blogs that relate to our EFCA Statement of Faith revision. All other blogs are off limits for the time being.

I did this last year, and the benefits to my soul, concentration, and family were significant. I did miss being "connected" to what was going on in the wider-blogosphere, but it certainly worked to fight against my "idol of information-control."

One of the strange corollaries of this kind of thing is that I'll have (a little) more time to write on my own blog. So, unless you are fasting from Hot Orthodoxy this month, expect a bit more regular content.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Understanding the Trinity

Here are two helpful links for understanding the biblical doctrine of the Trinity:

From Desiring God

The Shield of the Trinity (a very helpful diagram)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Book of Hosea

10 Messages on God's Holy Love and Astonishing Grace for His Covenant People:

1. The God of Hosea [Hosea 1:1-2:1]
2. God’s Wayward Wife [Hosea 2:2-23]
3. God’s Redeeming Love [Hosea 3:1-5]
4. Lack of Knowledge [Hosea 4:1-5:15]
5. Real Repentance [Hosea 6:1-7:16]
6. Reaping the Whirlwind [Hosea 8:1-14]
7. The Law of the Harvest [Hosea 9:1-10:15]
8. Holy Love [Hosea 11:1-11]
9. Against God [Hosea 11:12-13:16]
10. Return [Hosea 14:1-9]

Matt's Messages - Return

“Return”
August 20, 2006
Hosea 14:1-9

Has it seemed longer than 10 sermons that we have been together in the book of Hosea?

Hosea has been full of doom, gloom, judgment, and discipline.

The first 3 chapters told the story of Hosea’s unhappy family. God called the prophet to marry an adulterous wife and to have children that were known for her adultery. And He did that as a pictorial message of judgment to the kingdom of Israel because they had engaged in spiritual adultery–idolatry and been unfaithful to God.

And chapters 4 through 13 were, by and large, prophecies of the discipline and judgment that Israel was facing because of her unfaithfulness to the Lord.

But that’s not the full picture is it? We have also seen–laced in and out and all around and all through–the amazing grace of God. We’ve seen God’s holy love for His covenant people and His promises of gracious restoration. We’ll see that again today.

Hosea may seem, on the surface, like a bleak book.
But it is really a testimony to the amazing grace and holy love of God.

And it ends with a call for Israel to “Return.”

To repent. To turn away from her sin and return to God. Return.

You can easily see where the title for this message comes from. V.1

“Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God. Your sins have been your downfall!”

In many ways, this sums up the entire book, doesn’t it?

So much of Hosea has been a call to repentance.

You and I, though we don’t like to admit it, are a lot like Israel.

And we, too, need repentance. Point #1 of 3.

#1. WE NEED TO REPENT.

Remember, as we’ve said several times this Summer, repentance is not a one-time thing that you do just at the beginning of your Christian experience.

It’s a daily thing. It’s a 24/7 thing.

Martin Luther said that the Christian life is a “race of repentance.” And I think that that’s a very helpful metaphor for thinking about it. “A race of repentance.”

Because, like Israel, our sins will be our downfall, our stumbling block if we don’t turn from them.

We need to repent.

And in Hosea chapter 14, the prophet instructs Israel in how to actually do that. V.2

“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. Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount war-horses. We will never again say 'Our gods' to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion.’”

These two verses are kind of like a “manual” on repentance. And they needed it because they weren’t too familiar with the concept!

In our day and age, we are not very familiar with what true repentance is, either, so I think it would be helpful to slow down and notice a few things.

First, notice how repentance means personal interaction with God.

Hosea says, “Return, O Israel to the LORD your God.”

This is personal. It is interpersonal. You and God. It is relational.

Repentance is not a mechanical transaction with an impersonal divine force.

It is actually an interaction with a personal God. A transaction between personal beings, beings who are persons.

Israel was not going to get off with some impersonal, mechanical, sacrificial payment for her sins. Notice what Hosea tells Israel to take. V.2

“Take words with you and return to the LORD.”

Not, take a sacrifice. Not, take a payment. Not, go through some motions or ritual.

It has to be real. And it has to involve words. Why? Because we use words in interpersonal communication.

Yes, words can be fake, too, but this is saying that the words need to come from their hearts.

Hosea is saying to Israel, “You need to have a heart-to-heart with God.”

Personal interaction.

If you and I want to run the race of repentance, it will take real relationship with God.

Personal interaction.

Notice also, that repentance means personal admission of sin. V.2 again.

“Take words with you and return to the LORD. Say to him: ‘Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously...”’

Do you remember several weeks ago when we looked at Hosea chapter 6 and the idea of false repentance?

The problem with Israel’s repentance in chapter 6 was that they expected God’s restoration without any reference to their sin and the sinfulness of their sin.

Their motto was “Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall, all we’ve got to do is call, and He’ll be there” without personally owning their sin.

But Hosea, in this instruction on how Israel needed to repent, makes sure that they include their iniquity.

He says to take these exact words, “Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously.”

He knows that they are dependent on the mercy of God. If they don’t admit their sin and cry out for grace and forgiveness, it will be their downfall.

Personal admission.

This last week, I sinned against my daughter Robin. She told me that Drew was allowed to do something I didn’t think his mother would allow.

And instead of believing her and seeking the truth before making my judgment, I just decided that she was making it up or lying. And I condescendingly told her, “I doubt it.”

But then later, I asked my wife, and she said that she does allow Drew to do this thing and that Robin was right and telling me the truth.

What did I need to do?

I needed to own my sin. I needed personal admission.

And I need personal interaction. I needed to go to Robin and ask for her forgiveness.

And I’m very thankful that she immediately granted it. That was sweet of her.

The same thing is true of our relationship with God.

We need to personally admit our sins and ask for forgiveness and ask that He receive us graciously.

If you have never confessed your sins to God and asked for His forgiveness, I call you to do it today. For God to grant this forgiveness, it took the death of His Son Jesus on the Cross. That’s how much He loves you. And He invites you to turn from your sins in repentance and turn in faith to Him today.

But you have to admit your sin.

And even once we have professed faith in Christ, we still need to admit our sin. We still are in need of regular cleansing.

Not to establish a relationship with God or to keep a relationship with God, but to keep our fellowship with Him close.

The race of repentance includes personal admission of sin.

Notice also that repentance means personally turning away from sin.

Hosea instructs Israel to get specific about which sins she is admitting and to personally turn away from them. To renounce them. To swear them off. V.3

“Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount war-horses. We will never again say 'Our gods' to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion.”

Notice what this does. It makes their repentance specific.

David Powlison calls this kind of thing, “Intelligent Repentance.”

Knowing what you are turning from and putting words to it.

Israel was to admit that they had wrongfully put their faith in Assyria and their war horses.

And Israel was to admit that they had committed spiritual adultery. They had said, “Our gods” to what their own hands had made.

And they were not only to admit these sins, but turn from them.

The basic meaning of repentance is “turning.”

They were to renounce, resign, repudiate, foreswear, quit, turn away from bad alliances and idolatry.

Now, this is not works-salvation. Repentance is simply the other side of the coin of faith. To turn to God means to turn away from sin.

This wasn’t earning their salvation by stopping sinning. They couldn’t have done that anyway!

True repentance is a heart-turn away from sin, a true desire to “make a break” with sin.

Repentance is not merely confession. It is not only to personally admit sin, but to turn away from it.

So often, I think I’ve repented when I’ve merely confessed. I like to think that I’ve done something really good when I’ve said, “You’re right, I did that, and that’s bad.”
But repentance goes one step further, it says, “I want to do better. I want to change. I don’t want to sin in that way any longer.”

“Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount war-horses. We will never again say 'Our gods' to what our own hands have made...”

How are you doing at repentance?

Let me mention–for the very last time [in this sermon series!]–my carpenter ants.

They’re gone!

I was bound and determined to kill those buggers on Thursday night. Because I didn’t want to end this sermon series without reporting that I had actually done something about it. And I knew that this message was going to be on repentance, so I thought it would be perfect to spray on Thursday night.

So I told Heather that, and she said, “Oh, I think they’re gone. I haven’t seen one in several weeks and there aren’t any signs of them. No chewing sounds, no sawdust, nothing.”

They were gone!

And I didn’t have to do a thing about them. Hooray!

And that’s when I knew that my carpenter ants weren’t really like my heart-idols after all.

Because they do requiring killing. And if they seem like they’ve gone away without my personally turning away from them, I’m kidding myself.

We need to repent.

And if you and I want to run the race of repentance, we need to personally interact with God, personally admit our sin, and personally turn away from that sin and to God.

That’s the last big thing I want you to notice in Hosea’s instruction manual on repentance.

Repentance means personally trusting in the gracious character of God.
There is a turning from sin and a turning to God.

It’s both sides of that same coin.

Turning from sin and a turning to God Whom we know to be gracious. V.3 again.

“Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount war-horses. We will never again say 'Our gods' to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion.”

Israel was to know this about God. God was compassionate to the fatherless.

And because Israel knew that, Israel was to trust in Him.

The repentance isn’t complete until the repent-er has put their faith in the gracious character of God.

Do you see that?

Hosea has been painting the picture, all along, of a gracious God slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness. A forgiving God. A merciful God.

A holy God! But one that has a holy love for His covenant people.

Remember Hosea 11, two weeks ago, “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.”

And that’s the God whom Israel is to turn to and trust in!

Can you guess what Hebrew word is translated “compassion” at the end of verse 3?

It’s “Ruhammah.”

The opposite of what Gomer’s daughter was named.

Because that’s our God. He’s a God of second chances. He’s a God of forgiveness and mercy and grace and compassion on those who need it most–the fatherless.

And to run the race of repentance means that we put our trust in His compassion, His gracious character.

We personally come to him in personal interaction.
We personally admit our sin.
We personally turn from our sin.
And we personally trust in the gracious character of God.

That’s real repentance and we need it.

We need it for the first time.
And we need it again and again and again.

We need to repent.

And the most amazing thing is how God promises to respond to our repentance!

#2. GOD PROMISES TO RESTORE.

The fatherless do find compassion in Him. V.4

“I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow. His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon. Men will dwell again in his shade. He will flourish like the grain. He will blossom like a vine, and his fame will be like the wine from Lebanon.”

What a reversal! What a turnaround!

God promises to restore His repentant people.

There are a ton of illustrations here. Dew and lillies and cedars and roots and shoots and olive trees and shade trees and grain and wine.

And they are all pictures of a fully restored Israel–rich and luxuriant and healthy and vibrant again because of God’s grace.

And the key word that I love the most in this section is “will.”

“I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow. His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon. Men will dwell again in his shade. He will flourish like the grain. He will blossom like a vine, and his fame will be like the wine from Lebanon.”

God’s restoration will be efficacious. It will work. It will happen just as He promised.

Now, this didn’t happen before the discipline of the exile.

Hosea has made it clear that Israel was going to go through that discipline.

But it wouldn’t be total destruction.

And some day, Israel would repent and God would restore.

That probably was fulfilled in part with the return of Israel to the land in Nehemiah, Ezra, and Haggai.

But I can’t help thinking that the fullest fulfillment of this promise is found in the New Covenant when Israel’s Messiah came on the scene and Israel began (though they haven’t fully yet) to embrace their Messiah.

But the amazing thing to see today is simply that God promise to restore His repentant people.

There is forgiveness.
There is blessing.
There is rich fullness from God for people who don’t deserve it in the slightest but turn to Him.

Verse 4 again.

“I will heal their waywardness and love them freely...” That means that there is no reason for Him to love us except that He freely chooses it in and of Himself.

“For my anger has turned away from them.”

We know now that this kind of grace is only available to us through the death of Jesus Christ for sinners like you and me.

Because of Jesus, God has freely loved us and turned away His wrath.

God promises to restore.

Are you “on the fence?”

Is there some sin in your life–perhaps your whole life or perhaps only what seems like a small part–that needs repenting of today?

Maybe Satan has been trying to tell you that it won’t do any good. You don’t deserve forgiveness and you’ll just mess up again if you get it.

He’s right that you don’t deserve it, but He’s wrong that it isn’t worth it.

When God’s people repent, God delights to restore them!

The New Testament says it this way, “Draw near to God, and God will draw near to you” (James 4:8).

Don’t listen to Satan.

Listen to this description of restoration. V.8

“O Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols? [Come on! Return! Repent! Give them up!] I will answer [Israel] and care for him. I am like a green pine tree; your fruitfulness comes from me.”

God delights to restore His repentant people!

Because He gets the glory. Their fruitfulness is real and powerful and blessed and healthy...and comes from Him.

When God’s people repent, God delights to restore them!

And that’s what He offers to do for you and me if we would turn and return to Him.

He offers to be the source of our fruitfulness.

“Fruitfulness” is a play on words with Ephraim’s name. Joseph named his son Ephraim because God had given him fruitfulness in Egypt (Genesis 41:52).

God is offering to be the source of our fruitfulness even in Egypt!

Doesn’t that sound good?

Ironically, to some people it will not.

There are two kinds of people: the righteous and the rebellious.

The book of Hosea ends with one verse of wisdom that calls us to choose which one we will be. V.9

“Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.”

#3. THE WISE RETURN TO THE LORD.

The ways of the LORD are right. Hosea says that there is no debating that.

But not everyone recognizes it.

The rebellious, even if they think they are doing well, will stumble over God’s ways.

They’ll stumble and stay proud.

They’ll stumble against the race of repentance.

And it will be their downfall. [Same Hebrew word in verse 1 and in verse 11.]

Stumble or downfall.

But the righteous, those in whom God is at work, will walk in God’s ways.

They will run the race of repentance.

Personally come to Him in personal interaction.
Personally admitting their own sin.
Personally turning from that sin.
Personally trusting in the gracious character of God.

And being personally restored by God the Father of Jesus Christ!

And if we are restored, how should we respond to that? Look back up again at verse 2.

“Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips.”

Does that sound familiar?

It’s picked up again in Hebrews chapter 13, verse 15.

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that confess his name.”

If you and I are repentant and restored, we should be forever grateful.

But we have to choose.

Hosea ends with a choice, doesn’t it?

Are we going to walk or are we going to stumble?

Are we going to pridefully go to our downfall?

Or are we going to humble ourselves...and return?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Cook Forest Family



Our family went camping for the first time ever--just the 6 of us in Cook Forest Pennsylvania. What a joy!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Matt's Messages - Against God

“Against God”
August 13, 2006
Hosea 11:12-13:16

Before we get into Hosea, I want to take some time to say to you again how proud I am of you and thank you.

Like I said last month, I am so proud to be your pastor. This weekend has been West Branch Community Days, and just 1 month ago, we decided to throw our hat in the ring and try to build some bridges to our community at this new community festival.

We only had 4 weeks to plan and that right on the heels of a big Family Bible Week.

But many, many of you rolled up your sleeves and got to work on this outreach. I’m very proud of you.

Obviously, it was a learning experience. There were things that we never thought of in the planning and miscommunications about who was going to do what. It was the first one ever, and there were definitely bumps in the road.

I was very disappointed that almost nobody outside of our church was present at the Vespers on Friday night–we won’t do it like that again! But I was so proud of those of you who put it on. Set-up, take-down, transport, sound, ushers, music, singing, testimonies, prayer. You guys did it. And you did it with a cheerful heart.

One of you said to me afterwards, “Well, we just praised the Lord!” And that was right.

So, thank you. Thank you for serving the Savior and His church.

Thank you to those of you who worked (and are going to work this afternoon from 1 to 5) in our outreach booth. Sarah Myers was our MVS (Most Valuable Servant; she stayed all day yesterday). I think it was a success.

We gave away a ton of sno-cones and bags of popcorn and somewhere around 50 giveaway bags with New Testaments, JESUS Videos, 4 Spiritual Laws, and an invitation brochure to our church.

Have you seen these? Jeff Schiefer worked these up during his lunch hours for us. They have information about our Fall Programs and Services in them, as well as a little bit about the church and a picture of a beautiful woman with your shiny-headed pastor.

Please take some and give them or post them around town because they are time-sensitive. They talk about things that are going to begin first of September, so pass them out.

And what I’m most proud of is just the way that you served the community. Everybody showing up and loving on people in the crowd. Now, the crowd wasn’t as big as we had hoped for this year. But you guys were big. And I’m whatever the spiritual equivalent of proud is of you. Thank you.

We’re going to be in Hosea chapter 11, verse 12. Pew Bible Page #897.

Last week, we got a glimpse into the heart of God.

We saw that God has a holy love for His covenant people that issues into astonishing grace.

And I wish we could stay and linger there a little longer. But in chapters 12 and 13, God once more returns to judgment. God is amazingly gracious and will hold back the full extent of His wrath.

But Israel has not yet repented, and they must face God’s judgment.

Why?

Because Israel has been “Against God.”

And IF YOU ARE AGAINST GOD, GOD WILL BE AGAINST YOU.

Hosea 11, verse 12.

“Ephraim has surrounded me with lies, the house of Israel with deceit. And Judah is unruly against God, even against the faithful Holy One.”

Israel, even if they didn’t know it, had come against God. Even the Southern Kingdom of Judah (which was generally more godly) was characterized by rebellion “against the faithful Holy One.” Against God.

How had they become against God?

The first is that they were full of lies.

“Ephraim has surrounded me [God] with lies, the house of Israel with deceit.”

They didn’t have an honest bone in their bodies.

And when you lie, you are lying against God.

The second way that they had come against God was bad allegiances. Chapter 12, verse 1.

“Ephraim feeds on the wind; he pursues the east wind all day and multiplies lies and violence. He makes a treaty with Assyria and sends olive oil to Egypt.”

Remember a couple of weeks ago when it said that they had sown the wind and were going to reap the whirlwind? Here it says that the wind was their dinner. Not very nourishing.

And instead of trusting God, they trusted in their enemies [!] and tried to make placating alliances with them.

First with Assyria, the enemy to the North and East, and then with Egypt, the enemy to the South and West.
They were trusting the wrong people.

Have you ever done that?

When you put your trust in bad friendships you are doing it against God.

And if you are against God, God will be against you. Verse 2.

“The LORD has a charge to bring against Judah; he will punish Jacob according to his ways and repay him according to his deeds.”

Judah might think that they are getting away with something because they see Israel get pounded but are going to escape a pounding for the time being.

But God is not missing anything. And to the degree that Judah is against God, God will be against Judah.

This wrestling match with God has been going on for a long time. It is bound up in the names of the whole nation: Jacob and Israel. Verse 3.

“In the womb he grasped his brother's heel; as a man he struggled with God. He struggled with the angel and overcame him; he wept and begged for his favor. He found him at Bethel and talked with him there–the LORD God Almighty, the LORD is his name of renown!”

These verses are all about the Jacob we learned about back in Genesis.

What does Jacob mean? “Heel-grabber.” Another way of saying “Deceiver.” Jacob was always trying to out maneuver someone.

But one day, Jacob met somebody that he couldn’t out maneuver. And he got a new name for it–Israel–“One who wrestles with God.” He won that match, but he found himself weeping and begging for favor, receiving grace.

He found God at his return to Bethel and “talked with Him there–the LORD God Almighty, the LORD is his name of renown.”

I think that God, through Hosea, is saying that this nation needed to go through a transformation like Jacob had and receive God’s grace like Jacob had.

There was too much Jacob in Hosea’s day and not enough Israel.

Too much deceiving, lying, striving against men.

And not enough seeking, talking, wrestling with God, in a positive way.

If they were just going to be against God, then God would be against them.

But if they were going to turn and seek God...verse 6.

“But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.”

More like Israel than Jacob. We’ll come back to that.

There are more lies in verse 7.

“The merchant uses dishonest scales; he loves to defraud.”

And that makes him rich. And that makes Israel trust in his riches. Verse 8

“Ephraim boasts, ‘I am very rich; I have become wealthy. With all my wealth they will not find in me any iniquity or sin.’”

Really? Another way that Israel has been against God is to trust in their wealth.

Remember, this is an exciting time to be a part of the Northern Kingdom. It’s a booming economy. There is money everywhere.

Israel seemed to think that God was blessing them. But they were trusting in their money (have you ever done that? I have.), and when you trust in your money you are trusting against God.

He hates self-sufficiency. He wants to be our sufficiency.

It’s not wrong to have money. It’s wrong to love money and trust money.

Because when you trust in your money, you are trusting against God.

And God will be against you. V.9

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt; I will make you live in tents again, as in the days of your appointed feasts.”

Do you see how God is concerned with the fame of His name? Verse 5 said that the LORD is His name of renown. Here He says that He is one who brought them out of Egypt.

And for what? So that they could be against Him? So that they could trust in their own riches?

No. He is going to send them out into the desert again. They will have to live in tents like they do once a year at the Feast of Tabernacles. It’s time for another wilderness experience in exile.

They have been against Him. He is going to force them to go wandering again.

How were they against Him? They didn’t listen. V.10

“I spoke to the prophets, gave them many visions and told parables through them. [There were ample warnings. Were they heeded? V.11] Is Gilead wicked? [Is the Pope Catholic?] Its people are worthless! Do they sacrifice bulls in Gilgal? [Is the sky blue?] Their altars will be like piles of stones on a plowed field.”

They weren’t listening. They weren’t paying attention.

Have you ever done that? I have.

And when you aren’t listening to God, you are listening against God.

God’s been taking care of them. Verse 12.

“Jacob fled to the country of Aram; Israel served to get a wife, and to pay for her he tended sheep. [God’s been tending sheep, too.] The LORD used a prophet [Moses] to bring Israel up from Egypt, by a prophet he cared for him.”

And how did they return His care? They were against Him. V.14

“But Ephraim has bitterly provoked him to anger; his Lord will leave upon him the guilt of his bloodshed and will repay him for his contempt.”

If you are against God, God will be against you.

Obviously, here is another way that they had been against God: bloodshed, violence, hurting people.

When you hurt someone else, you are going against God.

Sometimes we get the idea that we can hurt someone else, and all we’ve done is hurt that person. But that’s not true. When you hurt someone else with your words, or with violence, you are also going against God. All sin is ultimately against God.

Of course, the ultimate way that Israel had gone against God was to go after other gods: idolatry. Chapter 13, verse 1.

“When Ephraim spoke, men trembled; he was exalted in Israel. But he became guilty of Baal worship and died [the wages of sin for this nation were idolatry]. Now they sin more and more; they make idols for themselves from their silver, cleverly fashioned images, all of them the work of craftsmen. It is said of these people, ‘They offer human sacrifice and kiss the calf-idols.’

When we worship anything that is not God, we are worshiping against God. V.3

“Therefore they will be like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears, like chaff swirling from a threshing floor, like smoke escaping through a window. [Those are dramatic word-pictures, aren’t they? Who wants to be mist, chaff or smoke?] ‘But I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt. You shall acknowledge no God but me, no Savior except me.”

As we have seen again and again and again this Summer, God is a jealous God who will not allow any rivals.

When we allow ourselves to worship anything that is not God, we are worshipping against God. And God will be against our idols.

I won’t mention my carpenter ants today.

But if I did, it would be to remind us of our heart-idols which we may want to ignore or not talk about, but God does not ignore and actively opposes.

God wants to be our God alone. “You shall acknowledge no God but me, no Savior except me.”

He wants to be our Savior. Our only Savior. Nothing else can save but Him.

And when He saved before? V.5

“I cared for you in the desert, in the land of burning heat. When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me.”

Another way that Israel was against God was pridefully forgetting Him.

Have you ever done that? I have.

When life is going well, we tend to forget God and get full of ourselves as if we did it!

When life is going well, we pridefully forget God.

And when you are forgetting God, when you are full of yourself, you are going against God. And God will be against you. V.7

“So I will come upon them like a lion, like a leopard I will lurk by the path. Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and rip them open. Like a lion I will devour them; a wild animal will tear them apart.”

“You are destroyed, O Israel, because you are against me, against your helper.”

I’ll say it again. If you are against God, God will be against you.

More pride. Verse 10.

“Where is your king, that he may save you? Where are your rulers in all your towns, of whom you said, 'Give me a king and princes'? So in my anger I gave you a king, and in my wrath I took him away. The guilt of Ephraim is stored up, his sins are kept on record.”

Nobody is getting away with anything.

“Pains as of a woman in childbirth come to him, but he is a child without wisdom; when the time arrives, he does not come to the opening of the womb.”

And then, these words: ‘I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?

And then these words: ‘I will have no compassion, even though he thrives among his brothers. An east wind from the LORD will come [Assyria], blowing in from the desert; his spring will fail and his well dry up. His storehouse will be plundered of all its treasures. The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open.’”

If you are against God, God will be against you.

Lying & deceit & fraud, bad friendship & allegiances, trusting in money, not listening to the Word of God, bloodshed & violence & hurting people, idolatry, and prideful forgetting of God.

If you are against God, God will be against you.

This is what Israel has brought upon themselves.

And, yet, there is verse 14.

Now some scholars believe that verse 14 should be full of questions like the New American Standard Version renders it: “Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? [Answer, No] Shall I redeem them from death? [No.] O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting?”

In that translation of the Hebrew, God is not showing mercy and is calling upon the powers of death and the grave to wipe out Israel.

And that makes a lot of sense in the context (look at verse 16!), so it could be what Hosea originally meant.

But Hosea 13:14 sounds familiar to you, doesn’t it?

It sounds like something that the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15.

Paul is writing about the Resurrection. The final resurrection when the believers are raised to new life in new bodies like Christ’s new body.

And He says, “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed–in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” [1 Corinthians 15:51-57]

That’s what Paul saw in Hosea 13:14!

He saw a taunt against death and the grave!

He saw a ransom from the power of the grave. A redemption from death.

He saw Christ and His grace and His resurrection power.

And He saw this: IF GOD IS FOR YOU, WHO CAN BE AGAINST YOU?

Yes, if you are ultimately against God, you have everything to be afraid of because God will be against you.

But if God is for you because of Jesus Christ, ultimately nobody, nobody can be against you!

Not even death and the grave–and those are your worst enemies.

If God is for you, who can be against you?

You might have a lot of things coming against you right now.

You might have trials, enemies, hardships, crises, and pain.

But if God is for you because you belong to Jesus Christ, ultimately (and that’s what counts) nothing can be against you.

Now, that’s only true if you belong to Jesus Christ by faith.

It is only those who belong to Him that know that nothing will stand against them.

If you are outside of Christ today or running from Him or don’t know, then I challenge you to come in.

Put your trust in Jesus Christ. If you have not or are not trusting Him and what He did on the Cross, then you are feeding on the wind, you are provoking Him to anger, you are going to be a morning mist, chaff on the threshing floor, smoke escaping through a window. You are against God, and He will be against you.

But you don’t have to be. God will be for you if you trust in what Jesus has done on your behalf.

God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. [2 Corinthians 5:21]

Lay down your weapons and surrender to His grace. Acknowledge Him as Savior. There is no Savior but Him.

And God will be for you.

And if God is for you, who can be against you? No one.

And what should we do with our lives?

We know that we shouldn’t be against God.

What should we do? Look back at chapter 12, verse 6.

“But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.”

Return, maintain, wait.

To return is to repent. It is to go back to your first love.

Israel need to return to the LORD.

We may need to repent of something and return to Jesus.

Don’t be afraid to repent. It hurts at first but it feels so good.

Maintain love and justice.

That’s the opposite of all the ways that Israel was going against God.

Instead of lies, truth.
Instead of bad friendships and bad allegiances, good ones that help you in your walk.
Instead of trusting in money, trusting in God.
Instead of not listening, listening to the Word of God.
Instead of bloodshed and violence and hurting people, it’s loving people and being concerned about people.
Instead of idolatry, it’s true worship.
Instead of prideful forgetting God, it’s remembering God and making him the center of your life.

Maintain love and justice.

Love for God and justice/compassion with others.

Like the prophet Micah said, “He has shown thee, O Man, what is good and what the Lord requires of thee. But to do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” [6:8]

And to wait upon Him. To look for Him. To seek Him. To do His will.

Return to God.
Maintain love and justice.
And wait for your God always.

Because if God is for you, who can be against you?

Friday, August 11, 2006

I Love You, Heather Joy

“A good wife is not found accidentally and without divine guidance. On the contrary, she is a gift of God and does not come, as the heathen imagine, in answer to our planning and judging…. The greatest treasure on earth is a dear wife.” - Martin Luther

[HT: MarriedLife Blog]

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Play It Again, Peter & Isaac



A couple of real hams at the piano.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Matt's Messages - Holy Love

“Holy Love”
August 6, 2006
Hosea 11:1-11

This is our 8th Sunday in the book of Hosea, and at times, it has probably seemed like a broken record: judgment, doom, gloom, discipline - judgment, doom, gloom, discipline, judgment, doom, gloom, discipline.

But that’s not the Big Picture of Hosea! We got the Big Picture in chapters 1 through 3 of Hosea, and there we learned that in spite of Israel’s wickedness–which needed judgment, doom, gloom, and discipline–in spite of that the LORD has a redeeming love for His people and will not be thwarted in loving them.

God has a holy love for His people.

And that’s the message again of Hosea chapter 11.

The first picture we get of God’s holy love in chapter 11 is the love of a Father. Father-Love. Look at verse 1.

“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.”

Up till now in Hosea, Israel has been pictured as an adulterous wife. Now, Israel is pictured as a beloved son. A son whom God loves. A son upon whom God has set His love and called out of Egypt–the Exodus.

What kind of a son did Israel turn out to be? Wayward. V.2

“But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images.”
So this is a rejected Father whose love is spurned by His son. V.3

“It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.”

There are two images here. In verse 3 it is the image of a Father tenderly teaching His son to walk. Holding out two fingers for him to grab on and gingerly take his first steps. Catching him under the arms so that he doesn’t fall.

But spurned. The Son doesn’t realize what the Father has been for him.

The second image (in v.4) is an agricultural image. The Father is now seen as a Farmer who loves his ox and cares gently for him, like a Father. Cords of human kindness and ties of love. So much like a Father that the Farmer treats his ox like a pet. Lifting the yoke from their neck and bending down to feed them.

Stooping to love them.

That’s Father-love. It’s tender and compassionate and gentle.

But it is also just and firm and disciplinarian when necessary, isn’t it?

When young Israel became an teenager (so to speak), he rebelled and became a stubborn young buck. V.5

“Will they not return to Egypt and will not Assyria rule over them because they refuse to repent? [God has no choice to but to bring this discipline. V.6] Swords will flash in their cities, will destroy the bars of their gates and put an end to their plans. My people are determined to turn from me. Even if they call to the Most High, he will by no means exalt them.”

God’s Father-Love is firm and just and disciplinarian. He knows in His wisdom that they must have the sword come to ravage their cities and put an end to their wicked plans. He knows that, and He will do it.

But, listen...

He will not give them all that they deserve!

This spurned Father, this rejected Father, will treat His wayward son with astonishing grace!

His holy love is amazingly gracious to His people.

Look at His heart in verse 8.

“How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man–the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath.”

This is, perhaps, the most amazing passage in the Book of Hosea.

We get a glimpse into the heart of God for His people.

You might get the idea from chapters 4 through 10 that God doesn’t care that much about His people–except that they have sinned and sinned and sinned against Him and must be disciplined for it.

But here we see the Big Picture again. God has a holy love for His people and it issues into astonishing grace.

Listen again to his four questions. Not one, two, or three, but four times:

“How can I give you up, Ephraim [a pet name for Israel]? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim?”

Do you hear what sounds like desperation in the heart of God?

That’s amazing!

Who were Admah and Zebooim? Anyone know?

They were cities of the plain that were the suburbs of Sodom and Gomorrah.

What happened to Admah and Zeboiim? Anyone know?

They were totally destroyed in Genesis 19. Totally decimated. Absolutely nothing left. Archaeologists haven’t been able to locate any traces of those two towns.

They were completely wiped out.

And that’s what Israel deserved! Isn’t it?!

But God has a holy love for His people and it issues into astonishing grace.

“How can I give you up, Ephraim [wipe you out]? How can I hand you over [to total destruction], Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim?”

Answer? He can’t. He won’t.

“My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.”

That’s what’s going on in God’s heart.

Now, this is anthropathetic language; meaning that it uses human expressions of a changed heart to somehow accurately get across what is happening in the eternal immutable heart of God.

In the heart of God is stoked a holy love for His people that causes Him to repay their adulterous treachery against Him with astonishing grace!

All of God’s compassion is aroused for His people.

Let me say that again.

In the heart of God is stoked a holy love for His people that causes Him to repay their adulterous treachery against Him with astonishing grace!

All of God’s compassion is aroused for His people.

“My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim.”

He will devastate Ephraim, but not finally, not ultimately, not like Admah and Zeboiim. If you have the King James Version, you can see that the word the NIV translates as “turn” could also be rendered “return.”

God will not come back after the exile and totally wipe out Ephraim.

There is a future for Israel. That’s the point of verses 10 and 11.

“I will not come in wrath. They [Israel] will follow the LORD; he will roar like a lion. When he roars, his children will come trembling from the west. They will come trembling like birds from Egypt, like doves from Assyria. I will settle them in their homes,’ declares the LORD.”

There is a future for Israel.

The LORD will roar like a lion and He will call His people home. And they will not resist His summons. They will repent, and they will return. He will see to it.

The will come in humility and reverent fear. They will come trembling, not like a silly dove, like we saw in chapter 7, but like a tremulous obedient dove, a homing pigeon answering the Lion of Judah’s roar.

There is a future for God’s people. He will settle them in their homes.

Is that what they deserved?

Is that what we deserve?

No. The good news of Hosea is that God gives us what we need (tenderly like a compassionate Father and firmly like a disciplining Father), but He also gives us what we don’t deserve. He gives us grace.

He doesn’t carry out the full extreme of His fierce anger even though we deserve it!

Instead, He gives us Holy Love.

How Deep the Father’s Love for Us
How Vast Beyond All Measure!


Why does He do all of this? Why doesn’t He give us what we deserve? V.9

“I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man–the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath.”

He does it because He is God.

And He is not man. He is not arbitrary or random. He is not moody and changeable.

All of the talk of His changing heart does not reveal a heart that is undecided and capricious.

His heart is actually holy. It is different, set-apart, unlike our hearts.

And it is full of holy love for His covenant people.

Normally, we think of God’s holiness as issuing into judgment and condemnation. We might expect to put holy together with wrath.

But here God says, “I am the Holy One among you. [Therefore] I will not come in wrath.” I will come in grace.

God’s holiness issues into grace for His people.

That’s amazing!

That is holy love.

And how is this possible?

You know the answer, and it is what we celebrate at this Table.

God has a holy love for His people, and it issues into astonishing grace made possible by the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Did verse 1 sound familiar to you?

“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.”

Did that sound familiar?

It’s quoted in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 2 about Jesus.

Remember, Jesus went down into Egypt, too, and God called Him up out of Egypt, as well.

Matthew recognized that Jesus was following the pattern of Israel. He was doing what Israel did.

Did He also fail in the wilderness and (v.2) go further away from God? Did Jesus sacrifice to the Baals and burned incense to images?

No, He did not.

Where Israel failed, Jesus succeeded. He was victorious.

But then, Jesus received the wrath of God.

Jesus was treated like Admah and Zeboiim.

The Father came in wrath.

Jesus took our place.

That’s how God can be gracious like this.

The Holy One of Israel is holy in both judgment and mercy.

He sacrificed His very own Son in our place.

All of the sins we had ever committed and ever will were placed upon His shoulders.

And He received the wrath we deserved.

That’s how costly is His holy love.

What should we do in response?

Well, first of all, we should RECEIVE HIS HOLY LOVE.

If you have not received His love by trusting in what He did on the Cross, then you are still in your sins and are going to Hell.

You don’t have to go to Hell.

I challenge you today to repent (to turn from your sinful way of life, no matter how good it looks or feels) and put your trust in Jesus Christ and what He did on the Cross for the forgiveness of your sins and the hope of heaven.

Receive His holy love. He offers it to you today.

And second, we should REJOICE IN HIS HOLY LOVE!

If you are in Christ, this is how God feels about you!

Do you believe that?

Do you know that?

I remember one time more than a decade ago that I felt this love in a deep way.

I was in my dorm room at Moody Bible Institute meditating on Scripture, and it struck me and I wrote it down that God was “Big, Real, and He Loves Me!”

Brothers and Sisters, “God is Big, Real, and He loves you.”

Rejoice in His Holy Love!

The third response to this, I think, is to RESIDE IN GOD’S HOLY LOVE.

The book of Jude says, “Keep yourself in God’s love.”

And I think that means both rejoicing in it and living in it and living a certain way because of it.

If we knew (really knew in our hearts!) that God loved us, how would we live?”

If we knew that God loved us with a holy love, how would we live? We’d live holy lives, wouldn’t we?

What needs to go in your life and mine?

If we reside in God’s holy love, we’re going to live out holiness and holy love ourselves.

What changes need to be made in your life and mine?

I still haven’t done anything about my carpenter ants. Have you done anything this Summer about your heart-idols?

Receive God’s holy love, rejoice in God’s holy love, reside in God’s holy love, and REMEMBER GOD’S HOLY LOVE.

That’s what this table does for us. It reminds us of what it cost God to love His people with this kind of astonishing grace.

Israel didn’t know about the Cross!

But we do.

So, we pause now to remember God’s holy love.

Holy God in Love Became
Perfect Man to Bear My Blame
On the Cross He Took My Sin
By His Death I Live Again


[The Gospel Song by Drew Jones & Bob Kauflin]

Friday, August 04, 2006

Synonyms

"A synonym is a word you use when you can't spell the word you first thought of."

--Burt Bacharach [HT: Hiraeth]