Devotions for November 9-15, 2015
Monday, November 9, 2015
“When Israel was a child, I loved him” (Hosea 11:1a)
Little Katelynn Simmons is eight months old. She is the apple of her parent’s eye. They shelter her, feed her, clothe her and change her dirty diapers. They spend countless hours playing with her and several sleepless nights attempting to get her back to sleep. Though Katelynn is inquisitive and mischievous she can do no wrong—at least her parents and grandparents think so. The amazing fact is that Katelynn did absolutely nothing to deserve all the love and care that she receives. Those are items that her parents freely and willingly bestow upon her.
Hosea declares to the people of Israel that God loved them like a parent loves a child. Like Katelynn they too did nothing to earn that love, yet God loved them deeply. God provided for them and protected them, and like a parent God wished only the very best for them.
God loves us no less than God loved the Israelites. Like a loving parent God gives us our daily bread. There may be times that we feel that God has abandoned us or that we have committed some unpardonable sin for which God will never be able to forgive us. When such nighttime terrors frighten us God embraces us with God’s presence and whispers assurances of God’s love in our hearts. God will never forsake us. God is our loving parent for life.
God of love, thank you for your steadfast love in our lives. May we never forget your love and may we freely share it with others. Amen.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
“Out of Egypt I called my son” (Hosea 11:1b).
Parenting doesn’t stop once the child can feed herself or himself and is potty trained. Parenting continues—in fact it never ends. Parenting is walking with our children as they explore, discover, run, fall and experience life. Parents are present to dry tears and celebrate successes. Parents force bedrooms to be cleaned and curfews to be kept. Providing for the everyday necessities of life are part of the parent’s job description as is trying to protect our children from harm and keep them safe.
God called the Israelites out of Egypt. God journeyed with them and lead them through the wilderness. God provided for their needs giving them manna every morning and drawing water from rocks. When needed God protected them from their enemies and gave the Israelites success on the battlefield.
God still calls God’s people out of the old lives of slavery. God invites us to step out of our comfort zones and to trust that God will guide us, protect and provide for us and use us in a manner that honors God and touches the lives of people. Like a parent, God journeys through life with us whispering words of love and encouragement.
Ever present Lord, thank you for calling us away from our old lives of self-centeredness and fear. Encourage us as we step out in faith to follow you and pick us up when we fall. Amen.
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
“The more I called them, the more they went from me” (Hosea 11:2).
Carlos couldn’t resist the pull of the gangs. His mother had worked two jobs to make sure that Carlos had the food, clothing and shelter that he needed. She pushed him to get involved in sports and other activities, and she tried hard to keep Carlos off the street. All to no avail. Carlos joined a gang and was soon caught up in its illegal activities. In a fight with a rival gang, Carlos fired a gun and killed a seventeen year-old boy in the other gang. During his trial, Carlos’ mother was asked to comment on her son’s actions. She could only reply, “What can I say? He’s my son and I love him.”
An authority on raising children once stated, “When they are young children step on your toes. When they get older they step on your heart.” Most parents know the pain that comes when their children rebel. While seeking to discover who they are and to be themselves young people often hurt the people closest to them. It may not be intentional but it still hurts.
The relationship that we have with God is not different from the one our children have with us. We rebel against God’s authority and seek to assert our independence. When we do, we step on God’s heart. Like any good parent, though, God continues to love us. Nothing will ever change that because we are God’s children.
Oh Lord, forgive us when we rebel, refuse to follow the guidance of your Spirit and hurt you and others. May your steadfast love calm our rebellious hearts and draw us nearer to you. Amen.
Thursday, November 12, 2015
“Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk” (Hosea 11:3a).
Learning to walk is not a simple task. The child first must conquer the challenge of pulling himself or herself up on a table or chair. Then there are those weeks and months of shuffling around the table or chair getting used to moving one’s feet. Turning away from the table or chair and taking that first unsupported step is the next obstacle to be overcome. Falls are inevitable, but the child is helped up by adorning parents or other adults. The day finally comes when the child is beckoned by an adult to take the first few steps. Hesitant, unsure and wobbling the child gathers the strength and courage needed to obey the summons. The child takes two or three steps and falls into the protective arms of a parent. Through this entire educational process the child was watched over, supported, encouraged and picked up by his or her parents. When those first few steps were completed the parents joined the child in celebration.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we never stop learning to walk. The Holy Spirit is always moving in us, inviting us to take steps out of our comfort zone, to begin a journey along a new path or simply to wander through the wonders of creation. It sounds easy, but it is not. Learning to walk in faith is as daunting a task as taking the first steps is for a child—and it usually doesn’t get any easier. Through it all, though, the Lord is by our side watching, encouraging, supporting, picking us up when needed and celebrating with us when we take those steps of faith. Like Ephraim, God is the one who teaches us to walk.
Patient Lord, you challenge us to take new steps of faith. Give us the strength and courage to forge new relationships, discover new expressions of love and grace and walk with others along new paths. Amen.
Friday, November 13, 2015
“I took them up in my arms, but they did not know that I healed them” (Hosea 11:3b).
Trevor came down with a horrible case of the chicken pox. There wasn’t a square inch of his skin that wasn’t covered with blisters. The fever and body ache made him miserable and the itching nearly drove him crazy. Through all of this his mom and dad tag teamed his care. Alternating between work and home they gently put calamine lotion on the welts, changed the cool rag on his forehead, cooked his favorite food and read an endless amount of books to him. When Trevor slept his parents sat by his bedside watching him breathe and offering prayers for his healing.
Like chicken pox, trial and tribulations, rejection and failure, pain and suffering are parts of life. These miserable times may rob from us the joy of living, but they do not separate us from the Lord. Like a loving parent God stays by our bedside and cares for us. God takes our aching bodies and embraces us with God’s love. A cooling clothe of grace is placed on our fevered worries, fears and frantic activities. God’s Spirit feeds us God’s Word and nourishes us with faith, hope and courage. We can rest and heal knowing that God is caring for us. When our illness is finally ended, God rejoices with us as we celebrate the gift of renewed life.
Divine Healer, enable us to sense your presence when we struggle through the hard times of our lives. Grant us health and wholeness so that we may love you by serving our neighbor. Amen.
Saturday, November 14, 2015
“The sword rages in their cities, it consumes their oracle-priests, and devours because of their schemes” (Hosea 11:6).
Juan chose to hang around with some guys who lived on the wilder side of life. He joined them in some exploits that landed him in jail. It took Juan a long time after he was released from jail to put his life back together. Kito decided that he could drive home after a night of partying at a friend’s house. He wrapped his dad’s car around an oak tree and spent three-months in rehab. Kayla thought she could make a ton of money on a sure thing. The investment turned sour and she lost everything. It took years for Kayla to financially recover from her decision.
We all make poor choices and when we do we endure their natural consequences. We claim our independence and rebel against God’s lordship in our lives. When things get messed up we think that God is the cause—that God is punishing us. God isn’t, though.
God grieves when we rebel and shares our pain when we suffer. The one thing that God doesn’t do is wave a magic wand and make all things better. God walks with us with open arms waiting for us to confess, repent and run into God’s embrace. Gifting us with faith, hope, courage, comfort and peace, God gives us the ability to face the consequences of our choices. God never leaves us or abandons us. As the Psalmist says, “The steadfast love of the Lord endures forever” (Psalm 136:1ff).
Forgiving Lord, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed by what we have done and by what we have left undone. Grant us the ability to change and strengthen our desire to do only your will. Amen.
Sunday, November 15, 2015
“How can I give you up Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel” (Hosea 11:8)?
Disaster was drawing near. For decades the people of Israel and Judah had adhered to the religious rules and regulations of the temple. They never allowed their religion to affect their daily lives, though. They did not seek justice, mercy or peace and in fact supported the very opposite. Their worship and their lives did not please the Lord and they refused to repent when confronted by God’s prophets. Soon the nations of Assyria and Babylon would invade and conquer them. Many would die or be made slaves. The people would lose their land and the temple. It would look to them as if God had abandoned them.
Though the suffering of the people would be great, God never left them. God could not let them go because they were God’s children. As they grieved over their loss and staggered under the burden of their rebellion, God shared their tears and felt their pain.
Terrible things might happen to us that are not caused by our poor choices but are simply part of the broken world in which we live. Jobs may be lost, homes foreclosed, sickness incurable and relationships irreparable. Like the people of Israel and Judah we may convince ourselves that God has abandoned us and no longer loves us, but that is not the truth. God never lets us go. It is the assurance of this truth that enables us and even empowers us to face the future and overcome the obstacles.
Powerful God, give us a strong faith and a certain hope so that we are able to love you by loving and serving our neighbor even though we are facing difficult times. Amen.