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Hosea 4-9

“Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds. In just a short time he will restore us, so that we may live in his presence. Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.” Hosea 6:1-3 NLT

When I first read these passages I thought that Israel was making a true change to return to the Lord. But, Israel wanted God to fix their problems, without turning from their wicked ways. Their repentance wasn’t genuine. They were more interested in the material benefits God could provide. Their hearts were not right before him and he knew it. When have I done the same thing?

I want to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6 NLT

I want to heal Israel, but it’s sins are too great. Samaria is filled with liars.” Hosea 7:1 NLT

God didn’t want their sacrifices or rituals, he wanted their hearts. What is the motive behind my worship?

What sorrow awaits those who have deserted me! Let them die, for they have rebelled against me. I wanted to redeem them, but they have told lies about me. They do not cry out with sincere hearts.” Hosea 7:13&14 NLT

Dear Father, Forgive me for when my heart is not right before you. Thank you for your patience with me. For not giving up on me. For your grace & mercy. Amen.

They look everywhere except to the Most High. They are as useless as a crooked bow.” Hosea 7:16 NLT

Amy(amyctanner)

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Daniel 2:31-4:27

Daniel 3:16-18,  16Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (ESV)

So here we have three young men who are more committed to God than their own lives.  They understand the gravity of their situation and they know God is able to deliver them from the fiery furnace.  Yet, He may not. He may use this experience as the time to take them home to heaven.  But for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego they know what they must do. Their duty is to follow and obey God no matter what the cost even if it means their lives. In the west we live in a little sliver of time where we can practice our Christian faith without the fear of physical harm.  Just last year 41 of our brothers and sisters (fathers, mothers, husbands and wives) in a South East Asian country were imprisoned with sentences of five years each for sharing their faith with others. In another country four years ago a Bible translator in another Asian country was shot 31 times. The government authorities ruled it an accident. Not only did these three men follow God no matter what, but people around the world today are giving their lives for the sake of the gospel.  As one person has stated, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

This is not something I like to think about. I have enough of a challenge following God with the pressures of relationships in every day life. What would I do if my life were at stake. I would hope to be as faithful as these three young men were.  That even if my life was given to advance the kingdom of God I would say, “Let it be known that if I am not delivered from this immediate situation, I am still following the God of the universe.” In fact, the pressures I face in standing for God now, may be the testing ground used for when my life is at stake. If I am willing to compromise now, how could I stand when my is life at stake?

Father God, strengthen my resolve to stand for you daily. I pray for my brothers and sisters around the world who are imprisoned right now for you, or are being tortured for you or are dying for you. The least I can do is stand where you have placed me and give an account for the relationship I have with you. May I follow the examples of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and Paul Carlson, Jim Elliott, Nate Saint, and Maximilian Kolbe! I pray these things in the strong name of Jesus, Amen.

Dave (dmbaldwin)

From the archives. Originally published September 15, 2009.

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Ezekiel 48; Daniel 1:1-2:30

This is what I know when I meet Daniel–he was physically fit, attractive, teachable and capable, educated, and qualified. He was going to be treated (somewhat) like a king–at least with a measure of respect and dignity–eating food and drinking wine from the king’s table. And he was going to be taught the language and literature of the Babylonians.

Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.

Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.

Daniel 1:3-8, NIV

And though he was enlisted to be part of the king’s service and immersed in the culture of the Babylonians, he drew a line he wouldn’t cross: he would not defile himself with the royal food and wine. I take special note of this.

I learn a lot about Daniel and his friends in these opening scriptures. And I see how God works in their lives.

17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

Daniel 1:17, NIV, emphasis mine

I also take special notice of what happens when Daniel is under extreme pressure. He’s on the cusp of execution because all the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers are unable to tell the king the content of his dream or its meaning.

14 When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact.

Daniel 2:14, NIV

Daniel speaks with wisdom and tact.

He also takes the issue to the Lord in prayer and expectation.

17 Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 18 He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven 20 and said:

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
    wisdom and power are his.
21 He changes times and seasons;
    he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to the discerning.
22 He reveals deep and hidden things;
    he knows what lies in darkness,
    and light dwells with him.
23 I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:
    You have given me wisdom and power,
you have made known to me what we asked of you,
    you have made known to us the dream of the king.”

Daniel 2:17-23, NIV

I think again on the quote, “Under pressure, you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training.” Finding himself a captive of sorts, enlisted, and facing great stresses, I see the level of Daniel’s training–a foundation of solid boundaries, discipline, faith, and humility.

Lord, these days I find myself leaning more and more into you. I’m thankful for a reading today that highlights your presence and provision. And I’m also grateful for a reminder of my own personal responsibility to stick to boundaries and maintain a focus.

Courtney (66books365)

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Ezekiel 44-47

‘When the people of the land come before the LORD at the appointed feasts, whoever enters by the north gate to worship is to go out the south gate; and whoever enters by the south gate is to go out the north gate. No one is to return through the gate by which he entered, but each is to go out the opposite gate. 10 The prince is to be among them, going in when they go in and going out when they go out.

13 ” ‘Every day you are to provide a year-old lamb without defect for a burnt offering to the LORD; morning by morning you shall provide it. 14 You are also to provide with it morning by morning a grain offering, consisting of a sixth of an ephah with a third of a hin of oil to moisten the flour. The presenting of this grain offering to the LORD is a lasting ordinance. 15 So the lamb and the grain offering and the oil shall be provided morning by morning for a regular burnt offering. Ezekiel 46:9-10, 13-15 (NIV)

Most of these 3 chapters are about Ezekiel being instructed on how to divide up the land for the 12 tribes of Israel, but I couldn’t help but be struck by these two simple verses and their symbolism. They have so much application if we look beyond their literal meaning.

The first set of verses just struck me in that this is something we should use today. No matter how we enter the house of the Lord (church) today, we should never come out the same as we went in. The Lord’s word and praising Him at church should change us, and we we should never leave the same way we came in. We should be changed. I really take the leaving by a different gate this way.

The second set of verses strike me in that every single day, we need to give God our very best, not our leftovers. Do we give God the unblemished lamb and our best grain? Or, do we give God just what we have left?  He gave us His best – Jesus Christ. How can we not give him our very best, whatever it is that he needs, every single day?

It is amazing to me how something can just jump off the page like this – even in an Old Testament verse like this one that has different original intentions. God can speak to us in so many different ways and have us apply a verse intended for another audience and purpose to our daily lives in the 21st century. He truly is amazing.

Lord God, please let me give you my best each and every day. Let every time that I approach you change me forever. Let me give you my very best, and not my leftovers. It is so easy to be distracted by this world and forget the sacrifice that your Son, Jesus, made for us. He atoned for all of our sins and shortcomings, and because of that, we need to give you our very best every single day. Let us never enter your house and not be changed either.

In the mighty name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

Jim (jtgavigan)

From the archives. Originally published September 14, 2009.

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Ezekiel 41-43

Ezekiel’s vision of the new temple was God’s language of love to the Jews who had been exiled from Israel and whose glorious temple had been destroyed. The first thirty-eight chapters of the Book of Ezekiel were filled with visions condemning Israel for their faithlessness. Ezekiel’s latter prophecies were intended to bring hope to the Israelites still in exile – hope in God’s promise that He will return in all His glory to His people, His temple, and His land. Ezekiel’s earlier visions brought meaning to the suffering, but God was not done with Israel. Hope blazed anew with God’s measuring out the beautiful restoration of His dwelling place among Israel. Yet the temple painstakingly described by Ezekiel was never built.

I read an article by Dr. Solomon B. Freehof who pointed out that the Book of Ezekiel initiated acceptance of national and individual responsibility (social ethics) with ritual ceremony (Temple worship). He said, “Because it was Ezekiel who pioneered the principle that ritual and righteousness need not compete for the soul of the true worshiper of God, and that priest and prophet can teach together, one may well say that he, more than any other [Old Testament prophets], was responsible for the fact that at every Jewish public worship service, on every Sabbath and holiday, a reading from the prophets always follows the reading from the Torah.” Dr. Solomon B. Freehof, Author at My Jewish Learning(opens in a new tab)myjewishlearning.com/author/dr-solomon-b-freehof/

Not being Jewish, I cannot speak to the impact the Book of Ezekiel has on modern Jews of faith. However, I get the tension between addressing the suffering with social responsibility and giving all one’s devotion to spiritual matters. Some say that Christianity is a private matter that needs not be discussed outside of the Sunday church service. Others proclaim social responsibility and denounce the ‘pie in the sky’ focus. The great leveler, however, is when tribulation and adversity rains down, and they will – on all of us.

Then we look to the heavens and ask, “Why, God?! Why me? Why now?” If no answer comes, we may lose our faith, lose our hope, and neglect to worship God. Our focus is on fairness (is this not what we expect in being socially responsible) and frustration when we do not get our fair share. Disappointment thwarts our worship and spiritual devotion. At those times, we may need an Ezekiel to remind us that God is good and that His hand that stretches out to correct is also the hand that pulls us back to Him and the hope of His blessings. And not because of who we are or what we have done.

Romans 5:1-5 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, we are always in Your hands. Our hope is in looking to You for rescue, restoration, and forgiveness. Through worship we understand Your faithfulness and Your mercy. For You alone are with us and for us. All for love. So, we sing Hallelujah.

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