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Welcome to Grace United Church

We are currently learning of God's incredible love from the Old Testament book of Hosea and focusing on experiencing deeper relationship with the God who loves us.

Check us out on YouTube and Facebook then in-person at Smith Vocational School in Northampton.

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Spiritual Pathway
We promote a simple path as a strategy to grow in your faith and walk with Jesus Christ.
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GU Kids
GU Kids is fun, Sunday morning group to introduce children to the awesome basics about Jesus Christ and God's goodness to us.
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GU Youth
Our youth connect to discuss important life issues and to learn how God's grace in Christ makes a real difference.
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Worship
We gather each Sunday to hear from God through His Word, and to express our faith and hope and love in prayer and worship.
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Blog
Keep Yourself in God's Love

Jude 1 To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ:


Jude reminds us this is who we are to God, so who we really are.


Through faith in Jesus, You are "the called," you belong to God; you are "beloved in God," loved deeply in His heart. You are "kept," preserved by God's grace, destined for Jesus Christ.


And here's what God wants you to experience as a result of trusting this:


Jude 2 May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.


In order to experience these we must know who we are and walk by faith in God's love given to us in Christ.


Jude 3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. 4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.


The world’s thinking has shifted recently, but it always reflects the mindset of those who reject God, who don’t know His love, who resist the good news. Everything they teach and believe comes from that belief, that empty place, no matter how reasonable it sounds. 


Under the guise of wisdom and love, they give believers justification to sin, they set them against God without realizing it.


But they will be judged as "ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (v 4)"


Jude 17 But you, beloved, remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, 18 that they were saying to you, "In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts." 19 These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. 


So this is nothing new. Jesus dealt with this wherever He went. Paul, Peter, James, and John warned every church they wrote.


Today, some mock everything about God. They’re easy to see, easy to resist.


Be most careful of those who mock only certain truths about God, specific doctrines, or the few Bible passages that they do not like.


These are those who can subtly cause you to doubt and to act against God’s clear, loving, words of life.


“You believe that?"


"That was poetry, it’s not meant to take literally."


"That was written for back then, before people know what we know."


"This word doesn’t mean what it says; it’s been misinterpreted by all of the great theologians and linguistics for 2000 years until now."


They reinterpret the Bible—and therefore God—to say what they want Him to say.


Jude and the apostles warn us over and over again for a good reason: Do not trust those who mock God in any way, deny any clear, biblical teaching, or reject biblically defined, godly, morality. To do so is to stray from God's love. God's protection. God's Wisdom. God's expressed will for His beloved.


Jude 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously [hoping] for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. 


There is only one command in this passage—"Keep yourselves in God’s love."


That’s the sole command. The other verbs are participles. They help us to keep ourselves in the love of God.


How? By building yourselves up on your most holy faith, being in the Word, knowing what God says, knowing God, knowing truth, participating in Christian community, growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, keep yourselves in the love of God.


And knowing that you don’t just need just a little help doing this, you need spiritual wisdom and wonder working power, we do this by praying in the Holy Spirit, keep me open to the clear teaching of your word, and to desire your expressed will over my own, keep yourselves in the love of God.


False teachers do not try to get us to turn from God entirely, only on select issues. In rebellion, wanting what they want, they change God's Word to support their worldview.


Of course, they don't outright say God is wrong. They may or may not say scripture is wrong. They may, however, argue that the church for 2000 years is wrong. The apostle Paul was wrong. Those who've interpreted Paul the same way for two millennia are wrong.


Others go the opposite way, not license but law:


"Try harder."


"Get up earlier."


"Be more committed."


"Stop sinning."


"Preach the gospel to every person you meet in the first 30 sec.”


This too makes it hard to stay grounded in God’s love. I mean, when we're constantly told to shape up or else. It sounds like, "Shape up, give God a reason to love you."


But hear Jesus,


Martha. Martha. Put down the dishes. Let go of your bootstraps. And receive, rest in God’s healing, stress-relieving, life-changing, and fruit-bearing, love.


Others of us are tired and stressed or bored and we’ve strayed, and it’s hard to come back to God. It's hard for some of us to keep ourselves in God's love. We may not trust He still loves us. We’ve not picked up our Bible or prayed for like two years. We’ve been living on Netflix and Ice Cream, sleeping in tuning out. Which for two years now, doesn’t necessarily keep us in the love of God. 


But again, hear Jesus describe the Father’s love.


Lift your head! Look, here He is, running to meet you, to hug and restore you. The fattened calf is already on the grill! He’s throwing a party for you to drink the best wine and eat fatty meat and to revel in our Father's wonderful love.”


Other things too can keep us from trusting in the Father’s love.


When we sin we can doubt His acceptance. When we sin is like the best time to keep yourself in His love. Look to Jesus on the cross, for anyone who sees God suffer in their place sees God’s love and gains hope in suffering. 


Other times we may slip from trusting God’s love is when life hurts, or God doesn’t do what we asked, or He lets happen what we feared may happen. We get upset, blame God; we may doubt His love—and not stay in His love. 


Happy are those who trust God's love in everything they face, who see every command, every warning, and everything God allows in light of His love. Who do not get sucked into the world's narratives and proud, false teacher's lies.


And be there for each other. Help each other to remain in God's love.


Jude 22 And have mercy on some, who are doubting; 23 save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.


In verse 22, some in our church are susceptible to false teaching and the lifestyle it promotes. They’re doubting. If you know this, contend for their faith! Have mercy on them. Don’t give them a hard time; give them what they need: a community of grace, reminders of God’s faithful love.


Other believers, verse 23a, have already succumbed a bit, compromised. He says, Save them from further damage, discipline, loss of reward. Snatch them from the fire. Not hell, but God’s discipline, refiner’s fire, or the bema.


Verse 23b, some Christians trust new interpretations and teaching them. They are pretty influential. Be particularly careful of them. Don’t just be compassionate to persuade them back into God's love, but hate what’s happened to them, lest they snag you too.


In the world we live in, with the messages we hear, doubting, wandering, or wondering Christians require a fearless community of grace that loves the Lord and cares for each other’s spiritual care.

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Wait On The Lord

YHWH transcends the universe, for He was here before it. Everything that has been made, has been made by Him. When people talk about cavemen and evolutionary theory we sometimes forget this.


We measure time by revolutions around the sun. Yet God made the sun on the fourth day. So even though for our sake, He enters and exists in time and space, He is not limited by it. He is transcendent and holy. Separate. High above it all. 


From last week, when Isaiah saw the LORD in His temple, He was high and lifted up. Angels beamed "Holy Holy Holy." Isaiah felt small, sinful, unworthy. He was in the presence of the One who is immortal Spirit, yet we are mortal flesh. And yet, for our sake, God became flesh. And in Jesus, the Holy One who preexisted before this universe, bore our sin on the cross. “He was crucified under Pontius Pilate; He suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again.” And He imputes to the believer His righteous standing with God.


On every level, the Lord who is is amazing. Holy. Without equal.


Isaiah 40:25 “To whom then will you liken Me that I would be his equal?” says the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes on high and see WHO has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing.


God is set apart and holy as our Creator and by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power. He upholds His creation. So when we are in need, struggling—despite the world’s lies: God has no equal in love, in power, in wisdom, in action.


Isaiah 55:6 Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the LORD, and He will have compassion on him, [return] to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. 8 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.


The One we hope in is wonderfully not like us in that He is not bound to worldly solutions. He doesn’t view life through the same lenses: not everything is political nor is He influenced by media, or any baggage of unresolved hurts.


God is holy and exalted above us, yet intimate in love, and fully committed to us! No matter what. Never think that He doesn’t see what faces you,


Isaiah 40:27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, [when things go bad] “My way is hidden from the LORD, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”?


Never imagine for a moment that what you are dealing with escapes God’s notice. Not with your children, your health, your marriage, your loneliness. Don’t give up on God. Don’t give up hope in Him. And while you may be tired, ready to throw in the towel, it’s a real opportunity to turn to the Lord anew,


Isaiah 40:28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. [He never gives up. He never takes a nap on us. He’s always ready.] His understanding is inscrutable. 29 He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. 


So many people weary and tired right now. Weary of politics, lies, inflation, the recession. COVID wearied us. The first shutdown isolated us from community, church, worship; another shutdown wearies us.


Many weary of personal relationship struggles. Being the only one trying. Love that goes unreciprocated. Forgiving the same offense.


We may be weary of serving God or following Jesus. We may want to give up. Be tempted to turn from what God says to do. Be pampered. Eat, drink and be merry. I get it. Before COVID many of us did way too much.


But hear and know—the Everlasting God never wearies or tires! “He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.” 


We might take a year off from church or ministry and wait for our energy to return. We might be weary and we’re just waiting for retirement or vacation. We might wait for the other person to change, or for the apology that never comes. 


Isaiah 40:31 Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.


To wait on the Lord is to actively trust Him for His goodness to carry you through. I.e., “Those who actively trust in the Lord will gain new strength.” 


The Hebrew word for WAIT originally meant “to twist" or "to bind together,” like twisting two ropes together. It referred to getting stronger in the waiting. Not waiting alone. Not binding yourself to something else. But wait on the Lord. Bind yourself to Him in the waiting.


Those who “bind themselves together” with the LORD, praying, trusting Him, meditating on His Word, expecting God to deliver you in His way, His timing, will gain new strength. 


Abraham. Daniel. David. Apostle Paul. Jesus Himself. All actively waited on the Lord.


Queen Esther was faced with the possible destruction of her people. Rather than turn her back on what she trusted God wanted her to do and maybe lie to the king, manipulate him. Though time was of the essence, she fasted before the Lord for three days and heard from God. She then offered her king the perfect strategy. 


Isaiah 41:10 Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.


Whatever you are facing, deciding, or struggling through, bind yourself to God in faith and wait on Him. He will strengthen you for the task. Don’t go it alone. “Do not fear, do not anxiously look about,” God says, “I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”


Isaiah 43:3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…


He’s not just Israel’s Holy One, or Israel’s Savior. Today, Jesus is our Savior. The Head of His church. And not just ours! He is also the Savior of the world. 


He still seeks to save the lost. He still reconciles sinners to the Father. And He does so through believers who trust Him and receive of His grace and love Him. Not just apostles but us. And He does so through the preaching of His Word, the sharing of the good news, and through the work of His people.


You are His witnesses. 


Isaiah 43:10 “You are My witnesses,” declares the LORD, “And My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. [YHWH. The Holy One. The true and living God.] Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me. 11 I, even I, am the LORD, and there is no savior besides Me.”


After God revealed his holiness, Isaiah thought he was a dead man. But the Lord forgave him. The angel touched the coal of the altar to Isaiah’s lips and said, “Your sins have been forgiven.” Then, He asked who would speak to others on his behalf, “Whom then shall I send?” Isaiah said, “Send me.” 


And for any of us who have witnessed God's love in action, who've received of His mercy or have been set free by His grace. Any who’ve been encouraged by His word and found refuge in His promises, whose sins have been forgiven, or who've seen God change your heart. He says, “You are my witnesses.”


We believe we are forever saved and forgiven but we aren’t just saved to be forgiven. We are also given a great commission. Jesus’ ongoing mission. 


So even why we are here right now, even something as simple as going to church is not just about going to church.


Why do you go to church? Among other things,


We come to hear from God together, and to be formed together into a faithful people who submit to God. Really, it’s not about the music or comfy seating.


We come here to speak to God together, because we believe it's important to pray, and worship, and partake in the Lord’s table as the body of Christ. 


We come here to serve one another, in love, even in sacrifice. So we can help each other to know Him better, live a little freer, and love a little more. God has called us to love him with all our heart and mind and will and body and to love one another. And we haven't perfected that yet.


We also gather as His church so that Jesus can send us into the world each week a little more like Him. 


When we realize how hard life can be for us individually, then we look around and wow, it's a big world out there. It’s hard. And sin takes a heavy toll, even on those who deny it. So there are LOTS of hurting, weary, stressed humans who live without hope. And we believe God has put people in our lives that He wants to rescue, and people in our lives who are open, even called to Him. 


We gather to be prepared to share the good news that kicks the devil in the teeth and breaks the chains around those who wish to be set free.


Isaiah 43:10 “You are My witnesses,” declares the LORD, “And My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me. 11 I, even I, am the LORD, and there is no savior besides Me.”


We believe the church is the servant that God has chosen so that others too may know and believe in Jesus, that He is the Holy One who saves and there is no god but Him. He is the true God. And there is no savior besides Him


A weary and divided world doesn’t need more angry people, or self-righteous people, political people, or holier than thou people. It needs more loving witnesses to God’s grace and salvation in Jesus who are unashamed to tell others the good news of a holy God who gave His life for them.


Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 


Jesus gives eternal life to whoever trusts Him; this message saves all that believe. Jesus makes sinners right with God forever; this messages saves.


We believe the gospel is the power of God to save whoever believes. The gospel. Not church marketing. Not Facebook memes. Not arguing with people about political views. Not agreeing with the world on political views.


The gospel is the power to save whoever believes. 


John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

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The Beauty of God's Holiness

As we conclude our time in Hosea, God said He was “the Holy One in your midst.” Our Lord is not only holy, He is "The Holy One" who warrants everyone’s, from men to angel's worship, awe, and devotion.


Holy means completely set apart, distinct from all others. Sacred. Awesome. 


The antonym or the opposite of holy? It is not sinful but common. 


The LORD your God is not common. He is top shelf. Set above. Holy. Holy. Holy. He’s different from us. Unlike any other. And not like other gods.  


Jeremiah 10:6 There is none like You, O LORD; You are great, and great is Your name in might. 7 Who would not fear You, O King of the nations? Indeed it is Your due! For among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is none like You. 


Unlike the world’s gods and idols, He’s not made up.  


Jeremiah 10:10 But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure His indignation. 


When God compares Himself to false gods and idols, He points out He is the true God, the living God. So He can love. He can save. He can be known and trusted. Prayed to. Sang to. Loved and obeyed. And nothing can endure His judgment…


Jeremiah 10:11 Thus you shall say to them, “The gods that did not make the heavens and the earth will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.”


Bottom line and what He tells His people then and now over and over is…


Deuteronomy 11:16 Beware that your hearts are not deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve other gods and worship them.


Beware, don't let your hearts be deceived by the gods that America trusts and worships and devotes their lives to attain and serve. The things they hope will give them worth, prestige, happiness, and approval. Things that cannot save.


YHWH is the true God. Declaring things before they take place. Having spoken through creation, angels, prophets. And in these last days through Jesus Christ,


1 John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.


Jesus came to give us understanding of the True God in His love, His forgiveness, His wisdom and grace.


Jesus shows the beauty of God’s holiness in how different God is from us, and from the counterfeit gods and idols, ideologies, technologies that everyone else worships.  


When Christ suffered and died on the cross, He lived out Hosea’s prophecy. Violated by His own people. His love scorned. Those whom He loves and commits to constantly diddle around with false gods, idols and all.  


Yet in the midst of our great sin, we read God’s great confession,


Hosea 11:8 How can I give you up? How can I surrender you, O Israel? … My heart is turned over within Me, all My compassions are kindled. 9 I will not execute My fierce anger; I will not destroy Ephraim again. For I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.


And all of this is meant to bring us home to the Father’s heart.  


When we first turned to Jesus and trusted in Him, we turned from our idols to the true God. We found eternal life in the God who loves us and sent His Son to die for us. That’s what one church reported to Paul about another church,  


1 Thessalonians 1:9 For they themselves [reported to us] what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God…


So again, beware that your hearts are not deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve other gods and worship them. And if you do, repent. Return.


No, God won’t destroy us. But He may discipline us. He may let sin devastate us. But even then, especially then, it is vital to trust God’s greater purpose.


Throughout Hosea, God’s purpose is to have for Himself an awestruck people who genuinely know Him and love Him today. He wants us to find our worth in Him. Our significance and security and destiny with Him. We too easily look elsewhere for these.


Hosea is similar to the story of the prodigal son only richer. The son took his father’s dough and spent it on women and wild—wasteful living. Then, having run out of money, he returns home intent to work as a slave to his father.


Hosea’s wife is worse. Her trust in his love is so weak, she makes no attempt to return home. She sold herself to another man. Hosea has to go find her, and then buy her back.  


John 1:29 Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!


Isaiah 53:5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. 6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.


Here too we see the beauty of God’s holiness.


The plain truth is He is quick to forgive, and we are always in need of forgiveness, mercy, and grace. 


We’re the unfaithful wife in the story. The prodigal son. We seem to pursue love and belonging and adventure all apart from God.


We live it seems as if we are not loved or do not belong or have worth.


We forget if we are to feel loved enough, righteous enough, good enough, worth enough—these aren’t discovered apart from God… 


But the world sells this lie and we buy it. And the longer we go, the deeper we get buried, and hurt and lost. And the crazier in our thinking. Good becomes evil. Abuse becomes good. And we view those who love us and speak to us as those who hate us. Just as with Gomer and Hosea, if our relationship with God is going to last forever, it absolutely has to be on Him. Good news, it is! 


But that requires taking our thoughts captive to Christ. Counting the cost.


When God lets you leave Him to seek your happiness in forbidden loves, harmful substances, idols, addictions, going against God’s word, God’s will. These cannot save. These will spiral you down. But you trust these and won’t repent. He may say, “Have at it.” He may give you over to your lusts.


It feels like discipline, maybe even punishment. But this is keeping with God’s goal for you to know Him and love Him, to have a better-than-ever relationship with you.


Hosea 2:7 Then she will say, ‘I will go back to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now!’ 


See God’s love for you. Even His discipline is intended to bring you back. 


Hosea 5:15 … In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.


And let me underscore that it is not our sin that brings God’s discipline. It is your refusal to repent. Rejecting His invitation. His love. Refusing to return.


When He allows you to ignore Him and go your way without God. And later when your choice backfires and brings severe pain—maybe not immediately but it shall. Return. Repent. The arrogant cannot accept anything except for what they demand. But the humble see God’s lovingkindness and run to Him.  


Hosea 6:1 Come, let us return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. ||||| 2 He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day [our Lord will give us resurrection life], that we may live before Him. 3 So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. 


God’s love will risk angering or upsetting you. He is unafraid to discipline you. It hurts for a bit, but you will never find true fulfillment outside of His love. 


So forsake trusting your idols and return to the Holy One who is in your midst. 


What is an idol? You ask. An idol is anything that’s more important to you than God. It is anything that you trust or love more than God in the moment. So anything can be an idol, and pretty much everything has been an idol.


You might argue, “I don’t have any idols.”


But Ezekiel says men set up idols in our hearts. Meaning, we can take anything from an iPhone to Trader Joe’s, to money, fame, success, food, a woman’s body, our own body, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a preferred identity, an education, a successful career, our vacation, the ideal lover, the ideal spouse, the ideal marriage, the ideal home, our children, our grandchildren, our country, our political party, or a utopian view of the future, or of how the world ought to be and in our heart we can make these ultimate things. Idols.  


Idolatry is so natural to us that the first two of the Ten Commandments are given to protect us from this. Here’s the first commandment,


Exodus 20:2 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 You shall have no other gods before Me.


And even before you can ask, “What do you mean by other gods?” the Lord tells us in the very second commandment,


Exodus 20:4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth [That’s everything]. 5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God. 


But do you know what He’s saying here?


First, He says HE is the Holy One, and that He wants to be holy to you. But second, He says YOU are holy to God! 


Again, the opposite of holy is common. We are not common. Not like everyone else. For we are the bride of Christ. The church of Christ. Chosen by God. Loved by God. Servants of the living God. Born again children of God. 


So take this to heart. You are holy to Him. Top shelf to God.


You are in a meaningfully unique relationship that sets you apart to God and He to you. Forever. In Christ. Forever. Standing with Him in God’s grace and seated with Him in the heavenly places.


Don't try to make yourself holy, we don’t make ourselves holy. God makes us holy. You are known to God and loved in a way that makes you holy. 


This was the message of Hosea. If you've forgotten this. If you need to hear it from Him. Return to the Lord. See the beauty of His holiness—in Him and in you—and devote yourself to the Lord. Not as a religious duty but as God’s chosen and loved bride or son, eternally blessed beyond description. 

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To Repent Is To Return

God blessed His ancient people Israel, but not always trusting, not always responding, they kind of fell out of love, worshiped other gods, and did awful things. Over generations they didn’t know God, His love, or His ways. 


And that’s not a healthy place to be.  


So the Lord God raised up prophets to speak some sense into His people. And really to turn their hearts back to Him. 


Hosea was one of the prophets, but he was to do more than speak. God asked him to marry a loose, lustful woman who would be a promiscuous, unfaithful wife, who didn’t trust, and couldn’t receive her husband’s love. 


By marrying her, Hosea showed God’s perspective on His relationship with His people. We’ve seen God’s love. He felt bitterly betrayed, cut to the heart, violated by how easily and frequently His people had all these idols and other loves, and how we seek our worth and identity and happiness outside of our relationship with God and in everything, it seems, but God. 


We make idols out of money, fame, sex, sex appeal, even food. We can make an idol out of our job, our weekends, social media, sports, shows. Whatever we trust to give us a meaningful, happy, fulfilling life. We can make an idol out of politics, patriotism, equity, diversity, inclusion.


We turn to these to meet real needs for meaning, peace, significance, so we feel strongly about them—we won’t give them up—but they don’t deliver. They bring temporary relief yet they put a wedge between us and our Lord.  


Yet, Hosea shows God still loves you. However you respond to His love, He responds to your response.


Our Lord is heaven-bent on bringing you into a richer and more meaningful, better-than-ever relationship with Him.  


The final cycle of Hosea in chapters 12-14,


Hosea 12:2 The LORD also has a dispute with Judah, and will punish Jacob [Israel] according to his ways; He will repay Him according to his deeds… 6 Therefore, return to your God, observe kindness and justice, and wait for your God continually.


Israel and, similarly, the church, you and I, have a long history of sin and unfaithfulness. He says, “You’ve been unfaithful by trusting different idols for different aspects of your life.” Then He reminds us of His great love for us,


Hosea 13:4 Yet I have been the LORD your God since the land of Egypt [and He has faithfully been your God ever since YOU first trusted Jesus]; and you were not to know any god except Me, for there is no Savior besides Me.


COVID has shown that work cannot be the basis for a fulfilling life. While everyone is hopped up on politics, social activism, these will not bring the meaning you need. Entertainment. Watch that you don’t forget God and put your hope on what cannot satisfy. There’s no Savior besides the Lord.


Of course, the same One who in the OT said, “I am YHWH the Lord your God” is Jesus Christ in the NT. And there is no Savior besides Him.


Which is exactly what Peter the apostle wrote about Jesus,


Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.


While it is easy to trust our worth and well being to material things or causes that seem "bigger than the moment" and "on the right side of history,"


Hosea 13:5 [God says] I cared for you in the wilderness, in the land of drought. 6 As they had their pasture [ease, prosperity], they became satisfied [with these], and being satisfied [with material goods], their heart became proud [they didn’t need me]; therefore they forgot Me. 


This a common pattern. God blesses us. But we become satisfied with the blessings, and we can even idolize the blessings. And love them, trust them, serve them over God. In America, we have an abundance...


And you and I too frequently forget God. At least practically.


And it breaks His heart.


But God never stops loving you.  


And yes, like Israel, like Gomer, the Lord may discipline us for our sake—in love—to keep us from digging ourselves in too deep, or getting too hurt. (Wow, this is so important to trust, especially in the moment.) But He will not abandon you, nor divorce you, nor will He ever give up on you.  


Hosea 11:8 How can I give you up…? How can I surrender you, O Israel?… My heart is turned over within Me, all My compassions are kindled. 9 I will not execute My fierce anger; I will not destroy Ephraim. For I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.


Again this is something to recall and trust. He’s not like you. He’s not like people you know. He is God. He loves and forgives freely and perfectly.


This is what makes Him “holy.”


And He has never stopped loving you. And in the final chapter of Hosea, as He closes this chapter, the Lord our God keeps pleading with us,


Hosea 14:1 Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.


"Because of your iniquity." Not because God failed you. Not because life is too hard. No, we stray, you've strayed because you love your sins. But God loves you! He's telling us, “I’m stoked to have you back; I want us to be together.”


Return to the Lord your God who loves you so fiercely, so vulnerably.


If YOU realize, for whatever reason, that you’ve drifted away, and you know it you need the LORD—heed His invitation: “Return, to the Lord your God!


If you don't know how to return to God, Hosea instructs us what to do. And it’s not fix your life. Be more religious. Or get your shiplap straight.


But repent. 


Repentance is not feeling bad for being such a rotten Christian. It’s not remorse. It’s a change of mind. A change of trust.


To repent is to the God who loves you and gave His life for you and He’s stoked for you to return. But how?


Hosea 14:2 Take words with you and return to the LORD. [Turn your heart to Him and] Say to Him, "Take away all of our iniquity, and receive us graciously, that we may present to you the fruit of our lips. 


By faith in His grace, say to Him, “Take away all of our iniquity…


Which is what He wants to do.


I mean, you don’t have to plead your case or justify yourself.


But trust God and accept His forgiveness in Christ—Forgive us, Lord! Take away our sins. And trust Him that He forgives you… 


And say to Him, “LORD, we went our own way but restore us—receive us graciously,” undeservedly, according to Your grace not for any merit in us. 


Hosea 14:3 [Say to Him] Assyria will not save us, we will not ride on horses [I.e., we won't trust our stronger neighbors or the cavalry to save us]; nor will we say again, 'Our god,' to the work of our hands [For we repent. We change our mind. We change our trust. Whatever resources we’d looked to besides you, we no longer trust to provide what only God provides]; for in You [the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ—in YOU] the orphan finds mercy."


Orphans? Yes, that’s us when we reject God. That's how we practically live.


But God wants us to know that in Him the orphan finds mercy. The prodigal son is always welcomed home. The lost can be found if they want. The adulterous wife is loved despite her unfaithfulness.


Return to the Lord today.


And if you return? How would God respond to them and to us?


Hosea 14:4 I will heal their apostasy [turning away from Me], I will love them freely [despite all they’ve done!], for My anger has turned away from them.  


God’s anger was turned away on the cross when Jesus paid for the sins of the world. This is where our relationship with God is started, and restored. This is where forgiveness is found. This is where grace has been offered once for all.


At the cross, the unilateral love of God is given for the sins of the whole world. At the cross, we see God’s kindness that leads to repentance.  


Hosea ends his prophecy with a choice to be made,


Hosea 14:9 Whoever is wise, let him understand [what Hosea wrote]; whoever is discerning, let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right, and the righteous will walk in them, but transgressors will stumble in them.


Here we have a choice. You do.


Know and trust what Hosea reveals to us. And choose to walk in them. Return to the Lord, no longer trust the false gods you rely on, which stand in the place of God as if we’ve forgotten Him. His love. His power. His justice. His works.


Heed the call even now, choose to trust the Lord, and by His grace, however imperfectly, to walk in His ways, for they are right and wise and truly freeing.

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Destroyed for a Lack of Knowledge

In Hosea 1-3, we’ve seen the thoughts and emotions of the Lord God Almighty, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, as He loves a people who disregard Him, turn their back on His love, and cast their hope on counterfeit gods.


Yet for three chapters, the Lord has pursued Israel.


God pursues His people, not as an angry king tracking down a disloyal subject but as a loving husband set to win back His unfaithful wife. 


And if your faith and your heart is turning from God and trusting other things that cannot save, He pursues you with the same love.


For those who think of God as distant, transcendent, and unaffectionate, God speaks to our hearts and shares His hurts quite vulnerably with us.


His love affords us the terrible power to wound His heart as much as a prodigal son hurts his dad or an adulterous wife can wound her husband.


Such is God’s love.


We see God's love most wonderfully on the cross, where God endured man’s sinful hate literally while redeeming our sin with His great love.


In chapter 4, the scene shifts to a courtroom. The Lord, who is both prosecutor and judge, spends seven chapters recalling Israel’s sins and crimes. 


Hosea 4:1 Listen to the word of the LORD, O sons of Israel, for the LORD has a case against the inhabitants of the land [the holy land, the promised land], because there is no faithfulness or kindness or knowledge of God in the land… 


Then the Lord lists His people’s crimes, but He starts with the fact His people have no real relationship with Him. For there is no knowledge of God. His own people don’t know or trust His character, His deeds, His promises.


And it shows in their lives. Where knowledge of God fails, so does godliness, faithfulness, sacrifice, love. Without God, good is called evil, evil is called good. 


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


Our culture, our schools, mainstream media, social media, political theater all exalt man’s theories, opinions, and postulations, over the divine wisdom and eternal truth of God’s Word. And this has a damaging effect on us… 


If we lack knowledge, relationship with God, we still seek meaning, purpose, worth and identity through the idols and ideologies of the world.


Hosea 4:12 My people consult their wooden idol, and their diviner’s wand informs them; for a spirit of harlotry has led them astray, and they have played the harlot, departing from their God.


When people their time and energy consulting their idols, the spirit of harlotry causes them to depart from God. Hosea warned—you give lip service to the Lord but you have a different god for every aspect of your lives. 


Yet they stubbornly held to their gods and idols, and denied any wrongdoing. So God is going to act. He’s been warning them of Assyria’s invasion…


Hosea 5:9 Ephraim will become a desolation in the day of rebuke; among the tribes of Israel I declare what is sure. 10 The princes of Judah have become like those who move a boundary; on them I will pour out My wrath like water. 11 Ephraim is oppressed; crushed in judgment, because he was determined to follow man's command… 14 For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, [the God who loves them] will tear to pieces and go away, I will carry [them] away, and there will be none to deliver. 


God vows to pull away from Israel, crush them in judgment, tear them to pieces, and have them carried off to captivity. Praise God we’re not Israel. But we learn about God’s character here.


So, let me ask, why will God do all this? 


God will do this this to them because He loves them.


What’s God’s goal? It is not judgment or even justice. God’s goal is restoration, forgiveness and healing, relationship, influence, transformation…


Hosea 5:15 I will go away and return to My place until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face; in their affliction they will earnestly seek me.

  

In God's fierce love, He is unafraid to do the right thing, even if it hurts us for a bit. Even if it hurts Him. This is why He wants us to know Him and trust Him. So that we trust Him, walk with Him, and experience His love and power even when bad comes. Even when He allows sin to do what sin does. Even when He disciplines us.


Here is the response God’s discipline will bring about. Then they will say,


Hosea 6:1 “Come, let us return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. 2 He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day [He will give us resurrection life] that we may live before Him. 


This is why God wants us to know Him. Whatever you face, you can face it knowing He will heal you. He will comfort you. He will raise us up with Him.  


What does it say about God that He is willing to go through all this just so that you and I and the people He loves return to Him?


Here’s the application so far in Hosea 6:3:


Hosea 6:3 So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD...


Meanwhile, God wrestles with the evidence and the demand for justice:


Hosea 6:4 What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? [You’ve rejected every attempt He’s made to kindle your faithful love.] For your loyalty [your steadfast love] is like a morning cloud, and like the dew which goes away early. 5 Therefore I have hewn them in pieces by the prophets [the prophets cut them a new one]; I have slain them by the words of My mouth; and the judgments on you are like the light that goes forth. 6 For I delight in loyalty [lit., “I delight in your steadfast love”] rather than sacrifice [i.e., I delight in your love rather than your apologies], and in the knowledge of God [being known, trusted, loved] rather than burnt offerings.


Here again is the problem: there is no knowledge of God! My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge! You've rejected knowledge! Relationship.


But that's the question in 6:4, What shall God do with Judah and Israel for their sin? The prosecution has built the case for divorce for seven chapters, highlighting Israel’s sin and unfaithfulness. Yet the Judge is overcome with emotions, overcome with love. Listen to God's heart of love in verses 8-9:


Hosea 11:8 How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I surrender you, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? [Both of those cities were destroyed along with Sodom and Gomorrah!] My heart is turned over within Me. All My compassions are kindled. 9 [NO] I will not execute My fierce anger; I will not destroy Ephraim again…


All of the facts are in. His people are found guilty of adultery. "Crucify her!" 


But God blurts out, “I can’t! My heart is going all over the place. I am flooded with compassion for you. I can’t abandon you to My justice or to My fierce anger.” He’s angry. But He won't do it.


Why not? God, you have every right. You have the power; the law is on your side. It’s what any of us would do! Why wouldn’t you do this?


Hosea 11:9 I will not execute My fierce anger; I will not destroy Ephraim again. [But why not?!] For I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath. 


Why won’t God destroy them considering all the pain and heartache that their sin and unfaithfulness deserves? For I am God, not man. Because I’m not like you. I am holy. God will not destroy them, God will forgive them and us because He’s the Holy God in our midst!


This is why we need to KNOW God and grow in the grace and knowledge of of our Lord Jesus Christ. Knowing Him as He is will draw us to love Him. 


We may think of God’s holiness in negative terms. His holiness is what makes Him judgmental, angry, full of wrath—scary. Yet here, God’s holiness makes Him forgiving and full of grace and mercy. Better, it is God’s forgiveness, love and mercy that make Him so very holy.  


God is holy, meaning He is set apart from us because He chooses to forgive those who hurt Him. Our Lord is holy, so very different from us, in that He chooses to love those who hate Him.


When God demonstrates His grace toward sinners, He shows how holy He is.


And the holiness of God rather than repeal us, draws us to Him. The holiness of God's love utterly attracts the humble and needy to Him. This is why we need to know the Lord our God:  


Hosea 11:8 How can I surrender you? My heart is turned over within Me. All My compassions are kindled. 9 I will not execute My fierce anger; I will not destroy Ephraim because I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst; and I will not come in wrath. [He will come in love and mercy and power as Lord…]


Hosea 11:10 [And] They will walk after the LORD…


Then God makes this great declaration of hope and a promise. And it reminds me of the end of Lion King, when Simba climbed to the tip of Pride Rock and roared and all the animals roared back and bowed before him.


Hosea 11:10 … He will roar like a lion; indeed He will roar, and His sons will come trembling from the west. 11 [From all of the places they’ve been scattered!] They will come trembling like birds from Egypt; and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will settle them in their houses, declares the LORD.


When Christ returns Israel will turn to Him in love and submission! They’ll KNOW Him and follow Him. And, verse 11, “He will settle them in their houses…” He will establish them and welcome them into His kingdom. 

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The price of a lasting relationship

Part III in the Hosea Sermon Series


The OT prophet Hosea called God’s people to turn from their infatuation with the counterfeit gods and sinful identities and godless idols and beliefs of the people around them. He did not portray God as an angry ruler or an angry, by-the-book Judge, but as a spurned husband who loves his wife.


God literally had Hosea live out His pain. Hosea’s name means salvation. God picked out a girl for him; he fell in love with her; but she didn’t know how to be loved. Hosea married a gal who didn’t know how to be a wife. 


Her name was Gomer, let's call her Gomere. Gomer means to complete—but Gomer or Gomere did not complete Hosea. She just kept breaking his heart! Getting picked up by men who bought and gave her things but used and abused her, which reflected how Israel’s gods (our idols) use and abuse us.


By chapter three, the street walking wife of Hosea the prophet of God was living in sin with another man. But months later, her most recent lover was done with her...


News comes to Hosea that she’s “for sale” in one of the big cities nearby. Maybe the guy kicked her out and she’s destitute, so she’s putting herself up as a common slave. Or she married the guy and he’s selling her. Or maybe he lost her to another seller in a card game...


However it happened she’s got no money, no control, no hope. And Hosea may be wrestling with what to do?


Hosea 3:1 Then the LORD said to me, 


Sometimes we have these really hard—what should I do—conversations with ourselves. We know what we want to do. We don't want to be hurt again. We want to protect ourselves. We want the easiest path to happiness. And it’s not that we don’t consider what the Lord wants but we want what we want…


Just knowing the right thing to do is hard enough, yet doing it is even harder. If you know what God says to do but you don’t plan to do it, it’s just your flesh talking to you. Even if you think about God's Word, if you refuse to do it you are not "face-to-face" talking with God as Hosea. You are in your flesh considering it, but you are not listening to the Lord speak to your heart.


It's like light breaking through when God speaks and we hear Him with faith. God spoke! It wasn’t what anything like Hosea's friends said to do,


Hosea 3:1 Then the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress...

 

Go again, love her. This isn’t the first time she was stranded outside a guy’s house at 4:00 AM. This isn’t the first time he’s had to forgive her. “Go again, love her” find her and bring her home. Go again, love the wife you love, who breaks your heart, and humiliates you, by committing adultery.


But how could Hosea still love her? How could anyone still love their spouse after this? It’s in the next phrase in v1, "even as the LORD loves [us]."


Hosea 3:1 Go again, love even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods...”


In other words, love as Christ has loved you. So know His love, number 1.


Just as we set our desires over God, we chase after idols, beliefs we set over God—Gomer moved in with one of her lover's. But that relationship failed her. She for sale but nobody’s buying what she was selling. 


And she is in the proverbial wilderness. No money, no control, no hope. 

And last week, God said that’s where He’d meet us: “I will meet you in the wilderness and will speak kindly to your heart there… win back your love.”


So like God, Hosea searched the wilderness and found his wife. Looking worse for the wear. It’s one thing to read it, another thing to see her. A new low. Hosea may have thought about ending it now. But he loved her. 


And God encouraged him, “Go again, love her as the LORD loves you.”


God is never the voice that tells you, “Go ahead, get the divorce. I want you out of this crazy marriage. I’ve done all that I can! I can’t help you any more.”


God’s voice is, “Go again, love her just as the LORD loves YOU despite your sin and unfaithfulness.


God knows we are selfish, prone to wander, susceptible to temptation. Yet He loves you. He knows we are all too human! And we should extend that same reality, that same grace to each other. In our homes. Our church.


Unlike God, you are not the perfect husband and your wife is not the perfect wife. Like you, she’s human. She won’t always love you how you want to be loved. He won’t get you completely. He’ll let you down. She’ll do things that hurt. Too much of our frustration is from expecting them to love us just as we want, be everything we need, give us everything we need. But only God is capable of that. And He does.


When we get that it is easier to drop our expectations. Easier. Not easy. But it’s at least a possibility. And Christ is in us—so it’s doable. 


Christian husbands, we are commanded to love our wives as Christ loved the Church. Hosea is an outstanding example of that kind of love. More than anything it is marked by faithful forgiveness for every act. Forgiveness for not loving him. Forgiveness for being the only way she knows how to be.

 

So, like God, Hosea searched for her with a love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. When Hosea found her, 


Hosea 3:2 So I purchased her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver, and a homer and a half of barley. [Hosea only had half the cash, so he paid the rest with barley, which totaled 30 pieces of silver, the price for a common slave.]


Hosea is living out God’s love for us, and he has the opportunity to love her again. She is at her pathetic worst. Nobody wants her. And he was not wealthy. It’s a huge sacrifice to buy her back but such is God’s love for us,


1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 


Romans 5:6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly… 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 


Sometimes love doesn’t really begin until we are at our worst. This is when love is tested. This is when the glory and the transforming power of love, grace, shine brightest... against the darkness of sin. 


When Adam sinned is the when God first showed His grace. Because of our sin, Christ died. And in our daily failures, big sins, hurtful words, unloving actions, He reveals His grace. When we need God’s love most, He never fails.


Gomere never trusted, so she never experienced Hosea’s love until her sin otherwise destroyed her. Her marriage, her children. Her longing for love. 


While the glory of God’s love is grace, the glory of grace is forgiveness.


Hosea paid the price to get his wife back. That’s the price of forgiveness. Forgiveness is the cost of love, redemption, restoration. Without forgiveness there will be no redemption nor restoration. Without Christ’s payment, without Hosea’s redemptive sacrifice there is no redemption nor restoration. 


We learn from Jesus that forgiveness is paying for the other person’s offense. Because we all sin, this is the cost of maintaining the relationship and without forgiveness, the relationship dies. As does joy. Love. Hope.


After he pays, there is no price tag attached to His forgiveness. We don't owe Jesus for the rest of our lives. We're not indebted to Him forever. Hosea’s not like, “She owes me for the rest of her life!” Hosea wanted his wife’s love, just as God wants yours. May we know the price Jesus paid and know God’s love. 


Hosea paid for her. Then he drove home with her in the passenger seat. Silent? Weeping? Fearful? Hopeful? How will he treat me? What’ll he say?


Hosea 3:3 Then I said to her, “You shall live with me for many days. You shall not play the prostitute, nor shall you have another man; so I will also be toward you.” [More than saying He will be faithful to her, he’s saying he will not have sexual relations with her during this time either.] 


This is love. This is patient, compassionate, healing love. 


God wants to protect your vulnerability and earn your trust so that He can love you and our love and trust in Him grows. 


Hosea and his wife won’t have sexual relations for a while after she returns because Gomere knew men only as users. They used her body without loving her. She tried to believe in love but it never lasted. They all used me and then got sick of me. Hosea says, and God says, His love is different.


God cares deeply for you and for the choices you make. BUT No matter what mess you’ve gotten yourself into, you matter to God. “I lay my life down for you. I love you with an everlasting always giving love. I forgive your sins over and over: 70 x 7 for those who count, then I start all over again. There is never ever condemnation for those who are in Christ. If your sin doubles, God’s grace triples…


Let’s wrap up Hosea 3,


Hosea 3:1 Then the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes.” 2 So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a half of barley. 3 Then I said to her, “You shall stay with me for many days. You shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man; so I will also be toward you." 4 For the sons of Israel will live for many days without a king or leader, without sacrifice or memorial stone, and without ephod or household idols.


To this day, Israel remains without a king, a temple, priests or sacrifices. And she still doesn’t know the God who loves her. 


BUT God’s covenants are eternal: Romans 9 and 11! God’s plans for Israel remain. Although they are out of fellowship, they will trust Jesus one day. He will restore them. God’s promises to them will be realized in that day.


Hosea 3:5 Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king [who represents Jesus Christ, the Son of David]; and they will come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness in the last days.


“Afterward,” Hosea says, following the great tribulation, God will cause light to shine in the darkness, Jesus shall return and Israel will see Him in a new light. Even though she’ll come trembling before Him in fear and guilt, those who survive the tribulation will trust Him and find God’s goodness. 


And the Lord will be her husband. Her God. And they will enter His rest.


And the church? The bride of Christ. His purposes for us remain. His destiny for us remains. We will know and share in His love and His holiness and His goodness forever. We shall reign with Christ over the kingdom. Even over the angels. Establishing true justice and mercy and goodness. 


And right now we can trust His love and submit ourselves and honor Him.

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