Looking into the Eyes of Love

In the Book of Micah, the prophet Micah warns the Israelites that they were about to be exiled because of their disobedience to God. Even though the Israelites deserved exile, their punishment wasn’t for punishment’s sake, but so they would recognize their deeds and turn their hearts back to God. Had their exile never happened, they may have been turned from God’s heart forever, which is by far the worse consequence. 

But He had a plan for their redemption in the midst of their exile (that they had brought upon themselves): a Savior King and full restoration. 

…out of you will come for me
    one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
    from ancient times.”

Micah 5:2

“I will gather the lame;

    I will assemble the exiles
    and those I have brought to grief.
 I will make the lame my remnant,
    those driven away a strong nation.
The Lord will rule over them in Mount Zion
    from that day and forever.
 As for you, watchtower of the flock,
    stronghold of Daughter Zion,
the former dominion will be restored to you;
    kingship will come to Daughter Jerusalem.”

Micah 4:6-8

Reading about the faithfulness of God to His people throughout the Old Testament has helped me acknowledge His own faithfulness to little old me. He’s been so faithful to me all of my years. I’ve made some terrible choices that has led to terrible circumstances, but even in those times, He never stopped hoping I would return to Him. He was literally *waiting* to bless me beyond belief, though He had every right to turn away from me. 

Who is a God like you,
    who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
    of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
    but delight to show mercy.

Micah 7:18

It took the Israelites rock bottom for them to recognize their desire and need for God, which is often the case for us today. But He’s literally waiting on each one of us to turn to Him for a better way, whether we are a proclaimed Christian or not. There’s always a better way in life. 

On that note, since everyone’s talking about New Years’ resolutions right about now, my New Year’s resolution is to look to God for those issues in life I try to fix myself that I just cannot fix myself. I’m resolute to stop worrying about it and instead place it at His feet, trusting that He will take care of it and bring me through it. It’s the first time I’m trying this, but I figure this way has to work or else God’s assurance that we don’t have to worry is a lie. Deep down, I know it’s not a lie, but it’s going to take a daily repentance from worrying and worshiping God instead to finally break free.

The last book our class studied before the Christmas break was Hosea. This book is truly incredible and beautiful. God’s heart literally bleeds over its pages. His love for us is so deep. He is so devoted to us. 

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.
To them I was like one who lifts
    a little child to the cheek,
    and I bent down to feed them.

Hosea 11:3,4

But the theme that stood out to me the most was the importance of knowing God. The knowledge of God liberates us and gives life and wisdom. Seeking truth from ungodly sources, or relying solely on our own understanding, leads to destruction and deception in our personal lives:

…my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.

Hosea 4:6

Foreigners sap his strength,
    but he does not realize it.
His hair is sprinkled with gray,
    but he does not notice.

Hosea 7:9

The problem is that people don’t realize they lack true understanding until they find true understanding in God. This is why speaking about the truth of God is so important. It doesn’t have to be unnatural and forced, that’s just kind of awkward. But taking the opportunity to talk about truth (with gentleness) without succumbing to the fear of causing offense is important. The battle truly isn’t against our fellow humans but against Satan himself who’s just out to deceive people into thinking his ways are better. Since the fall of 

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The YWAM LA base

mankind God has been set out to save humans from the enemy, from believing his lies. His heart has always been good, even in the Old Testament. 

How happy I am knowing that I’m guided by the Spirit of truth and no longer a seducing, deceitful spirit. It’s also a relief that I don’t have to fear that I’m going to believe the wrong things. God is constantly guiding me because He lives inside of me – He’s not going to let me believe in lies as long as I keep asking Him questions and keep my heart open to correction and understanding. 

This also ties into my New Year’s resolution to stop worrying and look to God. If freedom comes from accepting truth, from knowing God Himself, then I want to replace my thoughts of worry with thoughts of praise and acknowledgment of God’s love in my life. To develop a daily lifestyle of praise and worship instead of a lifestyle of worry, no matter how Satan tries to steal my joy, this is true freedom. Freedom from fear and freedom to rejoice is truly the greatest gift I could possibly ask for. 

Let us acknowledge the Lord;
    let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
    he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
    like the spring rains that water the earth.

Hosea 6:3

“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
    and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”

Hosea 6:6

And finally, I want to close out this year with a encouragement to those who have experienced loss, grief, and/or a lot of pain with the truth about God – He cares. Lay your hearts in open honesty before Him, no matter how tempting it is to turn away from Him out of anger or hurt or confusion or unbelief or fear, and experience the comfort and wonder of God in 2014. 

Trust in Him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts before Him.
God is our refuge.

Psalm 62:8

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God Never Gives Up On Us

Since I last wrote, we’ve studied 1&2 Kings, Job, Amos, Jonah and Joel! I feel so incredibly close to God and filled with His peace and presence as I study the word and walk out in obedience with whatever He’s saying. Recently He’s told me to lay down some things that are normal to my daily routine. For instance, He’s led me to fast one meal a day throughout the week to spend time in His presence listening to His voice and grow in my hunger for Him. I have found that to be essential in keeping sane in the midst of the crazy amount of work we have due each week. I definitely look more and more forward to my quiet times with Him every day!

So here’s a brief synopsis on each one of the books I’ve studied over the past three weeks. I’ll try my best to keep each one short.

1&2 Kings – After the epic reign and life of King David, very few kings after

We had a car for ONE evening and decided to go to town and view the marvelous Christmas lights.
We had a car for ONE evening and decided to go to town and view the marvelous Christmas lights.

him followed his example in fear of the Lord. But God was so patient and merciful. Although His people rebelled for centuries, He kept reaching out to them through the prophets to get them to turn back to their first love. In the end, their disobedience led to their exile.

How often do people today reject God even though deep down they know the truth, but continue in their ways that lead to destruction? I know that was me for so long, and by His grace I was able to trust God instead. He only wants the best for us!

Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the law that I commanded your ancestors and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.” They would not listen but were stubborn, as their ancestors had been, who did not believe in the Lord their God.

2 Kings 17:13,14

Job – Although he was a lover of God and God loved him, Job went through terrible affliction. His friends basically argued it was his own fault and it was because of his wickedness that God had done this to him. But this shows how limited our human perspective can be (and what bad counsel looks like!).

There are tons of different views on why suffering happens, but in this book, God never directly answered Job the “why.” While I don’t think that God intentionally afflicted Job to “teach him a lesson,” I don’t think the point of the book was to answer the “why suffering happens” question. Rather, God wanted to show how to respond to trials and negative circumstances. God Himself will give us exactly what we need in terms of comfort and counsel and wisdom into circumstances that seem to make no sense because He has the highest perspective. Human perspective and insight is limited, and at times hurtful and incorrect, especially in regards to tragedy. This has really taught me to not judge other people’s lives or world events because God alone is sovereign and in control. I can’t assume I know the reason “why” – I must rely on God’s understanding.

Amos – This was our first book of the prophets! We had to learn a new way to study the prophetic books but the concept is the same.

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One of the skills you learn as a missionary is improvisation. This is our Christmas tree in our trailer that we live in.

In this book, Amos denounces the Israelites for practicing social injustice and neglecting the poor. They only cared about their own wealth and comfort and nothing about God’s laws for the poor (listed out in Leviticus and Deuteronomy). As a result, they experienced the covenant curses He told them would surely happen if they neglected to follow His law.

Through studying Amos, God has begun to give me His heart for social justice. Even though people have taught me to care about the poor and lost, until discovering God’s heart for it in the Bible, I’ve never been as convicted (in a good, non-condemning way) as I am now! This really is something that God cares about A LOT, and I want to care about what God cares about!

Hate evil and love good,
and establish justice in the gate;
it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts,
will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

Amos 5:15

Jonah – This is an awesome book to study! I never realized how intimate Jonah’s relationship was with God. Though Jonah had a heart issue (he was unwilling to see Nineveh forgiven since they were hard to forgive), God never gave up trying to talk to Jonah about it. He was so merciful and patient. Even though Jonah ran away and became bitter, God kept pursuing Jonah, wanting to confront his feelings so that God could heal him and give him His perspective.

God knows that are our hearts aren’t always aligned with His – we can’t just hide them or pretend our desires are His desires when they aren’t. It’s best just to be honest with God. For instance, as the church, we “should” care about making God known. But maybe in truth, we don’t live that out because we actually don’t care.

Instead of pretending, I want to be honest with God, because God is so patient and loving, and unless I’m honest about my heart, God won’t have the opportunity to give me His perspective.

He prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Jonah 4:2-4

Joel – Although God’s people were prophesied against, in this particular prophetic book I saw that God was more concerned about making His grace known than He was about focusing on the people’s sins. He was saying, “Although you guys have experienced a lot of hardship because of your own disobedience, don’t worry, I have a plan that will enable you to obey me and never again go through what you have gone through.”

Isn’t that the grace of God? Even though God’s people “deserved” their destruction because of their bad choices, God was comforting them with promises! He would establish them and never reject them. He would send His spirit that would ensure their eternal deliverance. Yeah, they had made the mess they were in, and yeah, God definitely noticed their sin and was grieved over it. But in spite of all of that, He was determined to remain faithful to His promise to them as His chosen people. God remains faithful to His children even we aren’t faithful to Him:

I will repay you for the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent against you.

 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.

Then afterward
I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.

Joel 2:25-29

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The other bible students and I decorating our classroom for Christmas