Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Test of Prosperity

Hosea 10:1, “Israel was a spreading vine; he brought forth fruit for himself. As his fruit increased, he built more altars; as his land prospered, he adorned his sacred stones.”

As Israel prospered more and more, they turned further and further from God. They failed to see that God was the source of every good thing that had happened to them, and they seemed to look to themselves and false gods instead of the true God.

Have you ever considered prosperity to be a test? It is easy to see how a trial is a test of our faith or perseverance, but we often overlook the tests we experience when things are going well.

When our basketball team wins the league championship, we have a test of our pride. Will we give the glory to God? Will we honor our teammates and coach? Or will we promote ourselves and boast of our individual accomplishments?

When we get our first car, we have a test of responsibility. Will we be wise on the road? Will we honor God in the music we listen to and the conversation we have while in the car? Will we use the car to serve others or serve ourselves?

When we get into the college we have always dreamed of attending, we have a test of stewardship. Will we seek to develop our gifts and our mind to the glory of God or to the glory of ourselves? If we are going away to school, will we get quickly involved in a local church and Christian organizations on campus?

When things go well, we can get comfortable. When everything falls into place, we can assume we can take it easy. But instead of taking prosperity for granted, we need to see the opportunity God provides us in these times. Will we be grateful to him? Will we be others-focus? Will we use our prosperity to help others?

Let’s pray for prosperity for each of us, but let’s even more strongly pray that we will pass the test of prosperity when it comes.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Faithful Holy One

Hosea 11:12 refers to God as the “faithful Holy One.”

Do you know God’s faithfulness? Do you know it in your head as a truth? Have you experienced it in your life? Have you embraced it in your heart?

Scripture says that God uses suffering to produce in us perseverance, character, and hope (Romans 5:3-5), yet in the midst of suffering it can feel like God has forgotten us. Therefore we need to prepare now for the future trials we will encounter. We need to drill into our heads the reality of our faithful God who will never leave us nor forsake us (Joshua 1:5). Then when trials come we will be ruled by truth instead of our feelings. We will be comforted but the truth of God ever with us instead of overwhelmed by our current situation.

Ironically, when trials have passed we can look back and see God at work at every step along the way. Although we tend to not be faithful to him, he is always faithful to us. He uses these types of situations to humble us and to make us complete (James 1:4). He reminds us of our weakness and his strength. Ultimately he equips us for future situations we will encounter. He is a faithful God!

Hosea also refers to God as the “Holy One.” He is unique and separate and above all. He is sinless and pure. He delights in righteous, holy living, and he calls us to be holy because he is holy (Lev. 11:44-45). He can have nothing to do with sinners or sin, except punish sinners and pour out his wrath on them due to their sin.

The holiness of God should prompt us to fear him. He is so far above us we cannot fully understand it. And when we consider our natural sinful state, we should tremble at the wrath of God we deserve.

Yet our faithful God is faithful when we are not. Our holy God has provided a solution to our sinful state. In love, he sent his only Son to the earth to die in our place. Jesus became the perfect sacrifice on the cross. He bore the full wrath of God for us. When we place our faith in the finished work of Christ, God grants us the righteousness of Christ in the place of our sin. What an amazing exchange! Jesus takes our sin and we are given his righteousness!!!

So today, let’s remember that our God is the faithful Holy One.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

An Unwise Exchange

The book of Hosea details the unfaithfulness of the nation of Israel and describes the punishment of God. All the while, God’s faithfully loves the Israelites despite their rejection of the one true God.

Hosea 4:7 states, “The more the priests increased, the more they sinned against me; they exchanged their Glory for something disgraceful.”

This verse paints the picture of the Israelites, and I believe serves as a warning for us today.

Despite more spiritual leaders (priests), the Israelites sinned even more. They exchanged the glory of God and the worship of the one and only God for something else. They gave up the best and pursue disgrace. They gave up first class to travel by foot. They gave up true riches for poverty and shame.

Where do we exchange the glory of God for something far less? How does this passage apply to us today?

This week I saw the headline of an article that said Internet use can lead to self-destructive behavior. The article focused on one particular self-destructive behavior, but I see how it leads to many. Hours spent surfing can lead to a neglect of important relationships. Sitting in front of a computer for countless hours can result in poor physical health. The ever present temptation to view inappropriate images can lead down a slippery slope into more and more sin. Joining exclusive Internet groups (like MySpace) can lead to gossip and compromise. The Internet is one arena where we have the potential to either glorify God or exchange his glory for a disgraceful lie.

What are other areas? Here are a few: athletics, musical gifts, friends, money, music, friends, movies, cars, girl friends or boy friends, sleep, etc… Is there any area in your life that you have exchanged the glory of God for something less? Is there any aspect of your life where you pursue something or someone to the neglect of God?

If you are like me, you will easily identify multiple areas of compromise? Due to our natural sinful nature, we will worship ourselves, our possessions, or our friends when we should be worshiping God. The first step in change is to confess to God our sin and experience his wonderful forgiveness and power to change. Then talk about this with someone wiser and more godly than you – a parent, pastor, or godly friend. Explain your situation and ask for help.

Let’s commit today to hold fast to the glory of our God. Let’s strive to pursue him first and foremost. Let’s aim to never exchange his glory for something or someone else.