Let us return to the Lord

Thoughts on Hosea 6

““Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.”
‭‭Hosea‬ ‭6:1‬ ‭ESV

Thank you, Father. Your discipline is proof of your love. If you didn’t care, we would just fall deep in our sin. You are more than able to heal us. As we return back to you. That we might live for you.

“Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.””
‭‭Hosea‬ ‭6:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Our failure is because of lack of knowing, and the lack of persevering in knowing. Our love, “is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away” (v.4b). How easily distracted, how easily swayed and tempted. How lost we would be if not for your faithfulness.

“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
‭‭Hosea‬ ‭6:6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

How do we return back to God? It is through the repentance of our heart and mind that leads to action. Our whole being surrendered, again, then moment by moment.

What is true repentance

Thoughts on Hosea 5

What is true repentance?

“With their flocks and herds they shall go to seek the Lord, but they will not find him; he has withdrawn from them.”
‭‭Hosea‬ ‭5:6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The previous verses gives clues. “Their deeds do not permit them”, “The spirit of whoredom”, “The pride of Israel”..

There have been times when I try to return to the Lord, but I know in my heart that I was doing so half-heartedly. My actions do not show repentance. My heart is divided, distracted. I assume everything is alright.

Surely enough, I would fail in finding God. And the consequences of my sin – my not being under God’s good and perfect will – takes its toll on me and on the people I love.

“Blow the horn”, “Sound the alarm”, Hosea says. Trouble has come – as it comes to every man – and neither my strength, nor the strength of other people, nor the objects of my distraction, are able to save me.

“I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me.”
‭‭Hosea‬ ‭5:15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

When my son does something wrong, I find myself acting the same way. The truth is, in my heart I would pardon the wrong almost immediately after it was done. But, for his sake, I would need him to acknowledge the wrong, to humble himself and come to me.

This part almost always takes so much longer than it needs to be. Just as it is for me when I know I have wronged God.

Let go of your pride, humble yourself. And don’t let guilt and embarrassment hinder you from returning to God. He is ready to welcome you with open arms. Go to God agad.

What does the Lord require of you?

Thoughts on Deuteronomy 10

““At that time the Lord said to me, ‘Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and come up to me on the mountain and make an ark of wood.”
‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭10:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Moses cut the tablets of stone where God would write the 10 commandments. He did this twice. He also made an ark of wood. Why did Moses have to do this? God could have easily sent lightning to cut out stones, or commanded the wood to break, bend and form an ark. Moses didn’t have to lift a finger.

It’s amazing that, imperfect as we are, God allows us to be part of His work. He doesn’t have to – it certainly would be less complicated without us constantly messing things up. And yet, throughout the Bible and throughout history, God has used imperfect people to do incredible things.

How should we respond when we are given this opportunity?

There is the danger of developing a false sense of importance (spiritual pride – that’s not good). Sometimes we complain or make excuses (“It’s too hard! Why me? Why can’t he do it?”). Or worse, we disobey and go the other way (Not gonna lie, I was surprised too when I found myself doing this).

The best response is Joy. If we are to do our work (=jobs) cheerfully as if to God not man, how much more joyful should we be when the work actually is for God? We should joyfully make the best darn stone tablet we can.

““And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?”
‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭10:12-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

It’s not complicated, but it’s difficult to do, and to keep on doing. It’s for our good. Moses reminds us of God’s sovereignty over the heavens and the earth, of His great power. How He chose to love us. As Christians, we know that this love is great, as it came with a great price.

“You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.”
‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭10:20-21‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Joyfully make the best darn stone tablet we can.

  

Father and Son

Thoughts on Proverbs 4

I have been thinking about this for a while.

Proverbs 4 means a lot different to me rereading it now as a father.

  

Now that my son is 5, he’s able to understand slightly more complex concepts. Recently, he has discovered the question “Why?” and would ask it incessantly. 

It’s a great time for me as a dad because, finally, we are able to have good “father and son talks”. In all our recent interactions, these “teachable moments” are really the ones I enjoy most and hold dear.

It’s not that these moments are all happy and fun, no, most of the time we are “wrestling” with one another – wrestling with our emotions, words, and actions. But I love the little guy, stubborn as he may be at the beginning, we always end on a good note. And, I think and I hope, we become better people after.

If only I could guide him everyday, every moment. And if only he would trust me and obey me, even if it’s not what he wants. I only have a few years, I better make it count.

But the greatest lesson, is this:

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!””
‭‭Luke‬ ‭11:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Recently I feel that how I see my son now, could also be the same way my Heavenly Father probably sees me. My son is an awesome kid, but at times he’s stubborn, at times he’s illogical. He has his good days and bad days, shining moments and not so good moments. He has his struggles and worries that he sometimes tries to fix by himself – big things for him, but very simple things for me. And sometimes, he forgets who I am and what I can do.

But no matter what he does, I love him – yes, wholeheartedly and unconditionally. I will teach him as much as I can, and I will reprove him for his sake.

And what joy is it for me when he obeys! Because I know that it will go well with him if he develops good character as he grows up. And what joy is it for me when he trusts me, when he opens up to me, and when he asks me for help. It’s a joy to have him run to me, whatever the circumstance.

I wonder, these thoughts and feelings I have for my son.. could it be, God’s thoughts and feelings to me as well?

Like priest, like people

Thoughts on Hosea 4

God has given responsibility to spiritual leaders to lead people to Him. So if a spiritual leader leads people away from God, God’s contention will be not on the people but with the leader (v.4). Though, ultimately, each person is accountable for his own actions (v.9). i.e. Adam and Eve.

Are we ‘priests’ or ‘people’? I think we are both. Christians are a ‘royal priesthood’ through Jesus our High Priest (1 Peter 2). All of us to some extent are able to influence others – we are able to lead people closer to God (or, away from God). But we are also all under some authority, and as such we should encourage our leaders to stay faithful to God.

What’s the punishment for the sin of priest and people? An unsatisfied life. Emptiness, even with all the worldly pleasures. It will be a downward spiral that will eventually lead to ruin.

Jesus intercedes for us

Thoughts on Deuteronomy 9

After being obedient to the Lord for some time, we tend to assume that we ‘deserve’ some good things. Be it a big victory or a small victory, some blessings, etc. In fact, when God does give us these good things we have the tendency to think that it is because we are good.

No, no, we are a stubborn and rebellious people – we do not ‘deserve’ these things. All we need to do is look at the cross to see the extent of our sin, how we are completely helpless and unable to fulfill the righteousness that is required by the Holiness of God.

But God blesses us anyway.

Not because of who we are and what we’ve done. But because of who He is and what Jesus has done.

Moses interceding for the Israelites gives us a glimpse of how Jesus intercedes for us before God. The Israelites never understood the trouble they have brought upon themselves when they sinned, and when they sinned again, and again. Moses knew, because he knew the power of God, and he was very afraid.

We don’t know the trouble we could have been in, had not Jesus interceded for us. Jesus knew. “Trouble” would be a terrible understatement.

So, don’t think yourself to be good – we can never be righteous on our own – instead, remember grace. Remember God’s great love.

Surrender your fears

Thoughts on Deuteronomy 8

Took me a while to write my thoughts on this chapter. And a lot of rewrites. It’s a strange time for me..

God’s testing is a way to find out if (1) you mean what you say, and (2) if you would do as you say you would. These are the trials and temptations that Christ-followers will face. The proper response is to persevere in faith. To trust your Heavenly Father that He has your best interest at heart. 

Testing should not be confused with consequences of sin/disobedience. For a Christian this includes discipline and reproof. The response should be repentance, then praise and thanksgiving for love shown through amazing grace.

“testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.”

‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭8:2‬b ‭ESV‬‬

To be honest, this scares me – and recently too.

One, what if I fail? There’s too much at stake, and people I love are counting on me. Two, what if I do pass this test, does that mean that the next subsequent tests will be harder?

I know that God will never let me be tempted beyond my ability (1 Corinthians 10:13). But I couldn’t help entertain the thought that the way to prevent a great tragedy, is to keep my “ability” low. Maybe I don’t have to be “so spiritual”…

I’m sounding like the Israelites – Egypt is fine, it’s scary to go wander in the wilderness. Or, Manna is fine, I don’t want to have to deal with the giants. 

I understand them a bit now. It’s easier said than done to say you’ll trust and obey God for 40 years (the whole way), or to say you will fight battles against giants, against people stronger, more numerous than you. These are abstract concepts for many of us. 

Yes, I’ve had some fears and trials along the way. Yes, they did seem big at the time. Yes, I did learn to trust in God more through the experience. And yes, God has proven Himself faithful time and again and again. No, not once has he failed me.

But… recently I’ve been having this fear that the worse is yet to come.. 

It’s uncharacteristic of me to think this way. I’m usually very positive and optimistic, especially regarding trusting God. 

Maybe this is real faith. To trust in spite of the fear. Fear of the power of God, fear of the sovereignty of God. To trust that He is good. To trust that He loves me.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son”

The only way I can see moving forward from this – because these thoughts have paralyzed me – is to just surrender. I don’t know what’s going to happen – today, tomorrow, and for the remainder of my life as God has appointed it.

There’s simply no point in worrying. There is only living, day-by-day, by every word that comes from God.

Will there be difficult times? Yes, maybe, I don’t know. Regardless, I will no longer spend any time worrying.

“And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that come from the mouth of the Lord.”

‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭8:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Referenced by Jesus in Matthew 4:5

“Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you.”

‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭8:5

Referenced by Solomon in Proverbs 3:12

7 Do Nots

Thoughts on Proverbs 3:21-35

Today’s passage came at a good time because I really need some practical wisdom right now. 

Hmm. There seems to be a lot of “Do nots” in this passage.

1. Do not lose sight of these… (v.21): Referring to the previous passages. Got it. I’ll persevere in finding wisdom, to make an effort to not forget your teaching and letting my heart keep your commandments.

2. Do not be afraid… (v.25): In my previous post I mentioned that I would wake up with “sudden terrors”. I would experience small “terrors of ruin” throughout the day as well. How awesome it is that God didn’t just end with a command to not be afraid. It follows through with the reason why we don’t have to be afraid – “for the Lord will be your confidence.”

Posted this exactly a year ago. Still so true.

3. Do not withhold good… (v.27): Be a blessing to those who deserve it, with the resources God has given you – Time, Treasure, Talent. Don’t hoard it.

4. Do not say to your neighbor… (v.28): … and do not delay! Don’t procrastinate (ouch). Be prompt, especially with the leading of the Holy Spirit.

5. Do not plan evil… (v.29): Now why would I (or anyone) do that? People can be dark sometimes.. Do not abuse people’s trust.

6. Do not contend with a man… (v.30): for no reason. I guess people like to pick fights. That’s not wise. Maybe when people are stressed out, they (I?) end up venting stress by finding someone to blame and fight.

7. Do not envy a man of violence… (v.31): Yeah, because it sometimes feels like they get things done, you know? The ‘peaceful’ approach takes time, effort and heart. But, choose God’s wisdom.

These “do nots” follow the “vertical and horizontal” model of the 10 Commandments, as well as the Great Commandment. You can’t just focus on one and forget the other.

Shine your light

Thoughts on Titus 1

What does it mean to be “above reproach”?

  • faithful to his wife
  • faithful to his calling as spiritual leader of his family (as evident in the lives of his children)
  • not arrogant 
  • not quick tempered
  • not a drunkard
  • not violent
  • not greedy for gain
  • hospitable
  • lover of good
  • self-controlled
  • upright 
  • holy
  • disciplined
  • holds firm to God’s word (so that he may be..)
  • able to give instruction in sound doctrine (and..)
  • able to rebuke those who contradict it

For there are many who are not, and they are usually the ones who aspire and fight for positions of power.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” -Edmund Burke

Today you woke up in the middle of the night worrying about many things, in fact it’s been quite regular.. You’re overwhelmed, and wondered both “how?” and “what for?”

For things related to my relationship with God and the welfare of my family, those were easily answered – do whatever it takes and with fervent prayer.

But with things related to my public life, with work especially.. 

Eventually God assured me that 1) I am where He wants me to be, 2) Trust in Him and He will straighten my paths and renew my strength.

That answered the “how”. Then, I thank God that, through this passage in Titus 1 this morning, He confirmed that assurance. This is what it is for.

““You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:14-16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The Lord loves even though

Thoughts on Hosea 3

The Lord loves even though we turn to other ‘gods’. Even though we are unfaithful..

The Lord loves even though we love the things of this world. Even though we love the gifts more than the Giver. Lovers of pleasure and lovers of ourselves.

This love came with a price – the blood of Jesus for our redemption.

“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭5:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Don’t you doubt God’s love for you.