Healing For The Backslidden 

Hosea 14:4
“I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from him.”

Backsliding refers to a condition where a person who was once closely following the Lord, is now far from Him. Israel was in a condition of perpetual backsliding. They would turn, wander, or be led away from the Lord on such a regular basis, that their experience with God was more like a roller coaster or a pendulum, than a walk with God. Hosea speaks of God healing their backsliding. This in no way implies that backsliding is a disease a person has no control over. Instead, Hosea is suggesting that God is able to fix, restore or heal the damage done to a person during their backslidden state.

When we are walking with Jesus, it is like being a branch that is connected to a healthy tree. We find a constant flow,  causing us to bear fruit in our lives, that is not natural to us. A person who has a propensity toward anger, finds they have self control, a person who is melancholy by nature, becomes filled with joy, and a person who tends to worry about everything, finds peace for whatever life throws at them. When we stop walking closely with Christ, this supply becomes restricted.  Soon, we are like a branch that is cut off from the vine. We begin to act and react to the circumstances of life without the power of God. It does not take long before those closest to us begin to suffer from our lack of abiding in Christ. In many cases, when this backsliding continues, we find that relationships are destroyed. Marriages, families and friendships have all been drastically impacted by the behaviors of a backslidden believer. Hosea promises, when we return to the Lord, our backsliding can be healed.

Life is filled with testimonies that support this truth. In our church, we have many families who were devastated by the behaviors of a backslidden believer, only to have those relationships restored when the person returned to the Lord. Whatever damage you have created by wandering away from Christ, be confident in the fact that God wants to restore you to Himself, and is able to heal that which has been broken.

Pastor Jim

 

Smoke 

Hosea 13:3
“Therefore they shall be like the morning cloud and like the early dew that passes away, like chaff blown off from a threshing floor and like smoke from a chimney.”

When we are young everything seems to take forever, but the older we get, the more we realize how brief life really is. It seems as though I finally get used to writing the calendar year, and suddenly it’s time to change the last a digit. There is nothing we can do to change the brevity of life, but there is much we can do to ensure that our life has a lasting impact on others.

The Bible declares the life of the wicked is like smoke from a chimney that rises and is gone. The righteous, on the other hand, leave a lasting impact on the world. We don’t have to invent the light bulb or discover a planet to leave an impact on the world. Instead, we must leave a righteous standard for others to follow.

A praying grandma, bible reading father, or faithful mom who serves alongside her children at their local church, will have a long lasting impact upon the generations to come. I cannot tell you how often I hear someone tell me their uncle, brother, grandpa or dad was a pastor, and it is usually in the context of them returning to the Lord, or desiring to serve Him more. I have a friend who spent years in the business world, only to one day decide to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a pastor. He now pastors a large church where many are being impacted for the kingdom of heaven.

Let’s live like our life matters, seeking to store up treasures in heaven and leaving a pattern for others to follow.

Pastor Jim

 

Sow What? 

“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy;
Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, till He comes and rains righteousness on you.” – Hosea 10:12

Hosea wrote of the spiritual condition of Israel, which at the time, was quite dark. Sin had led them away from the Lord and from the blessed life He had determined for them. Instead of experiencing the bounty God intended, they were on the brink of total ruin. Hosea writes to make clear their present state, as well as to provide the antidote. No matter how bad things may have become, Hosea provides the way back to the Lord.

“Sow for yourself righteousness and reap in mercy. . .”

Sowing is a farming term which refers to the planting of seeds. There are a few basic and unchanging principles that determine the law of sowing and reaping.

First, we will always reap what we sow. If you continue to sow sin or compromise in search of self-fulfilling pleasures, you will only reap heartache, and distance from the Lord. If however, you begin to sow righteousness, by applying the ways of God to your life, you will reap mercy. One translation reads “you will reap in love.”

Second, we reap after we sow. Farming is not a job for the impatient. A farmer knows great effort must be applied to the task, if they are ever going to receive a return on their labors. Too often, people will respond to exhortations like those Hosea gives, by claiming they already tried that. “I tried loving my wife, I tried reading my bible, I tried going to church, I tried… And it did not work”. I wonder, how long have you tried? Did you give as much time to sowing seeds of righteousness as you did to sowing to the desires of your flesh? If you will sow in righteousness, you will reap in mercy, but it will take time.

Finally, we reap much more than we sow. A small bag of seeds will produce bushels of produce. While sowing in righteousness may seem like a lot of work, the benefits far out weigh the cost. Taking the time to invest in your relationship with Christ will return both earthly and eternal rewards. When Peter spoke of all he had given up to follow Christ, Jesus replied,

Mark 10:29-30 “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time — houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions — and in the age to come, eternal life.”

Pastor Jim

 

Watch Your Step 

Hosea 8:11
“Because Ephraim has made many altars for sin,
They have become for him altars for sinning.”

Growing up, one of my favorite TV shows was Sherlock Holmes. As most of us know, he was a detective from London who used his keen skill of observation to solve crimes. Often, when he would uncover a clue, he would declare, “It’s elementary my dear Watson.” Which was an underhanded way of stating that what he discovered was obvious to anyone who would take the time to look. Hosea makes a statement that Holmes would find elementary, he declares that if a person builds an altar for sin, he will find it leads him into sin.

As obvious as this principle seems, we sometimes lose sight of its simplicity. Often, when we fall spiritually, we look around puzzled as to how that could have happened. If however, we took the time to look back, we would find our fall was inevitable, because of the steps we were taking. We must always remember, if we make a way to sin, we will end up sinning.

The secret to success is to remove the things which make sinning easy. We need to do those things that make sinning more difficult, and doing what is right easier. That is what the building blocks of Christian living provide. The Word, prayer, fellowship, worship, and service are designed to help us grow in Christ, and make sinning more difficult. We only have so much time, if that time is spent building ourselves up in Christ, we will in turn have less time to be drawn after the things that lead to sin.

Perhaps it would help to ask yourself, what things you can take out of your daily life that will make it more difficult to sin?

Pastor Jim

 

Silly Bird 

Hosea 7:11
“Ephraim also is like a silly dove, without sense— They call to Egypt, They go to Assyria.”

There are times in Scripture when God will resort to name calling, not as a way to be mean, but as a means of illustrating the behavior of His people. There is that famous passage in Matthew 16 where Jesus calls Peter, Satan. He does this because like the devil, Peter was attempting to stand between Jesus and the cross. Whenever a person obstructs the work of the cross, they are supporting the work of the devil. Here, God uses a different analogy. It may not be quite as striking as referring to a disciple as the devil, but it paints a very clear picture of how God viewed the nation of Israel. He saw them as a silly bird, without any sense. A parallel illustration could have been to compare them to a squirrel, who seems to run around without any real clue of what it is doing.

Israel’s folly was expressed in their unwillingness to trust in the Lord. Instead of resting on the promises of God, they looked for other things to trust in. They believed an alliance with Egypt would protect them from the threat of Assyria. They soon found that trusting in anything other than the Lord, would be like leaning upon a stalk of grass, in hopes of being supported. Israel is not alone in trusting in things that cannot support us. We are constantly faced with difficulties beyond ourselves and often choose to worry, instead of trusting in the promises of God. In essence, we are saying,  God cannot be trusted, but our own intellect and hard work will provide a way out of the mess we are in. Oh, silly bird, you are not smart enough, strong enough, or consistent enough to resolve the issues of life. In fact, all the worrying you do will never produce the results you desire. Jesus put it this way,

Matthew 6:27
“Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?”

Worrying about anything in life is like worrying about being too short. At the end of the day, all the worry in the world will not add an inch to your height. Now I realize that planning and preparation are necessary in life, but I also realize, that we are masters of masking worry behind other things. It is time to take our lives, offer them to God, and trust in His promises, as we seek to fulfill our calling.

Pastor Jim

 

Confusion

Hosea 4:6
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…”

The days of Hosea were very dark; the nation had wandered from the ways of God and idolatry was as common in Israel as it was in the pagan nations that surrounded it. Just about every hilltop was the site of an altar to one false god or another, and immorality was rampant throughout the land. While many factors led to their diseased spiritual condition, Hosea addresses the primary one. He says the people were so easily led astray because of their lack of knowledge of God and His Word. This was both the fault of the individual and of the leaders.

Way back in the wilderness, God set aside the tribe of Levi to assist the priests in ministering to the people. Along with helping in the sacrifices, and other worship ordinances around the Temple, they were spread throughout the land and given the responsibility to instruct the people in the ways of God. Sadly, in many cases, those who had been commissioned to teach the people, did very little to expound upon the Scriptures and instruct the people. Though thousands of years have passed, things are not so different today. Many Christian leaders have lost sight of the importance of teaching the Word of God to the people of God. Some have left the Bible for ritual, others have turned the sanctuary into a political platform, and still others seem to think the purpose of the pulpit is to entertain the people or to stir them to a frenzy. You might not be able to control what happens in the pulpit, but you can control what pulpit you place yourself under. Be sure you are attending a church where the Word of God is being taught.

The leaders were not the only ones who had failed to teach the Word. God designed the home as the primary place where children are instructed in the ways of God. Sadly, many families gave up that responsibility expecting others to care for the spiritual needs of their kids. We do not have to be a scholar to instruct our children from the Bible. All we need to do is spend time in the Word with our children, and search the scriptures for direction when we face a situation we do not know how to handle.

Much of what is wrong in life can be resolved by simply becoming familiar with what the Bible says, and putting it into practice in our daily lives.

Pastor Jim

 

Come Back 

Hosea 6:1
“Come, and let us return to the Lord; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up.”

The mercy of God is so great that He not only invites us to come to Him for salvation, but invites us to return to Him if we have wandered. After describing the spiritual condition of the nation, as though they had been involved in spiritual prostitution, God does not cast His people aside, but pleads with them to return and be restored. No matter how far you have wandered and what consequences you are facing, the Lord wants to restore your relationship with Him. He promises to heal what has been torn, and bind up whatever has been stricken.

With such a great promise, it would seem logical to read that the nation accepted the invitation, returned to the Lord, and was restored to its former glory. Sadly, that was not the case. Despite the mercy of God, and His continued pleas, the people continued to rebel against His word and ultimately suffered the consequences. While the mercy of God is new every morning, and we have an open door to return to Him, we must take advantage of it. We must get off the road that is leading us away from Christ, and put ourselves under the authority of His Word.

Will you return to Him today and allow Him to restore to you the joy of your salvation?

Pastor Jim