Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The Jewel of holiness: Liberty

"Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty."
(2 Corinthians 3:17)

Here are Alan's notes from our series on another aspect of holiness, spiritual freedom or liberty.
The connection of holiness and liberty or freedom is part of our Salvation Army history. Brengle’s books on holiness were published by the Army as “The Liberty Library”
Pauls words above were written to a people who were falling into a trap of trying to live up to particular standards and meet the expectations of others in order to try and re-establish a right standing with God. It was paralyzing their Christian experience.

Holiness is simply about letting the Spirit of Jesus have His way in our lives. It is not about earning His approval but receiving power and grace from Him to follow Him.
There is great liberty in this.

Walkers on the Christian pathway are called to walk in liberty. Galatians Chap 3 verse 1 says, 'We are called to freedom', and verse 16 of the same chapter tells us to 'walk by the Spirit'.
Lloyd John Ogilvie writes that in his opinion the "truly free people he has met have been the people who have dealt with their past, experienced forgiveness, are not tied to compulsive patterns of behaviour for their own sake and are dependent on the opinions and criticisms of others to dictate their future."
There are however, many Christians who believe in Christ but are halted in their walk with Him because they are uptight. They are still distressed by mistakes made in the past, unsettled by the criticisms of others and as a result that make no progress.
We can deal with this by saying well nobody perfect, why try or we go the other way and say; "I'm going to try hard and I'm going to do my best, live a holy life without blemish."
The outcome is either licence or perfectionism and neither works. Before long both leave us feeling trapped by failure and the future holds little hope.
But this is not life by the Spirit. If we live like this we are living as if Good Friday, Easter Morning and Pentecost never happened.
We were recently at Commissioning and that always brings back memories of our early days starting out as green Lieutenants. One of our treasured pieces of equipment that we relied upon to help us in our ministry was Carol’s imperial typewriter. I have never learned to touch type but even my slow tapping of the keys was better than writing out sermons in longhand. After about 4 years or so we were able to afford to buy an electric typewriter and it was great but it took some getting used to. In fact we still kept that old Imperial typewriter and it took me a while to handle the new machine. It went so fast and it seemed to take over and I couldn’t control it. Your brain somehow seemed to be half a beat behind your fingers.
Then when we got a word processor, we then couldn’t bear to get rid of the old electric typewriter for ages and still used it for a while. But then technology because to move so fast and we got used to embracing change. Some Christians are like that, comfortable in the familiar routine of their good deeds and church going, feeling secure in a system of earning spiritual brownie points. They don’t know how to handle something new.
Paul had to remind the Galatians of this in Galatians Chap 3 verse 3 and the J. B. Phillips translation says; 'Surely you can't be so idiotic as to think that a man begins his spiritual life in the Spirit and then completes it by reverting to outward observances'.
We do not need to walk with the reins of self-improvement hampering us but we can be led along an unknown future pathway with the in-built power of the Spirit directing us, but we must trust him and let Him lead.
It has been said that there are many willing people, those who are willing to work and those who are willing to let them.
1 Corinthians Chap 3 and verse 9 which says; 'we are labourers together with God so we are called to work for Him'. However there is a great error that many Christians fall into and that is to let their work for God become God. The one concern of a worker in God's business is to concentrate on God. Anything else will lead to them becoming burdened by all they have to do and the stressful workers eventually become paralysed workers.
The work will take their time and energy and will instead of being a channel through which God's life is poured it is a road away from His presence. The further we are from God's presence the more we will feel the burden of the responsibility, and the frustration of our inability to achieve what we set out for.
The scandal going on with the News of the World in these days has highlighted an issue that can happen in big organisations. The defence of the bosses’ at the top has been that people lower down the pecking order, when acting both immorally and illegally were acting independently of their management and their knowledge.
The worker for God who loses personal connection with the one they are working for will soon either become puffed up with their own self-importance and then fall flat on their face, or they will become so burdened they will become resentful and complain.
Where there is a constant touch with God there is freedom. There are some kinds of work where the employer is never seen but where the worker is not only required to see and work with the boss but also to live in. Workers for God are of course the second kind. They are required to "live in". Live in the realm of the Spirit. Here there is no sole responsibility on you for the work, only the responsibility of co-operating with God. The initiatives, campaigns and workload will be His.
Although a person can worship on their own they can do it more naturally and effectively with other people in the body of other believers.
The writer to the Hebrews exhorted Christians not to stay away from the services but to help the whole group continually offer up to God the sacrifice of praise that is the tribute of lips, which acknowledge His name.
I am convinced too that we really need the liberty of the Spirit to touch our worship and make us freer. Everyone is different and will want to express worship differently. Some have more extrovert personalities than others do and we must never get to the point where someone is condemned because they prefer to worship in a more conservative or more liberal way than us.
What concerns me is if we long to be more expressive but because of shyness or fear of what others might think, we are inhibited. One of the things that marks a Spirit filled Church is freedom in prayer, testimony and joyful praise.
Worship is a matter of will, whilst fear, embarrassment and shyness are emotions. Psalm 29 says; 'Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness' it doesn't add when you feel like it or when no one can see you.
Many people are ruled by their minds and their emotions and sometimes the stress of that is such that it affects the physical. But God's plan is that man should be ruled by His Spirit that is his Godly part for the Spirit of man relies not on a man's own resources but on God.
It is our will, which chooses which, will rule our life and it is our will, which chooses which, will rule our worship. Our body may be tired; it doesn't feel like praise, our emotions are fearful, our minds distracted by many things but the Spirit says; 'God requires me to worship Him' whether I feel like it or not.

Set my spirit free that I might worship Thee,
Set my spirit free that I might praise Thy name.
Let all bondage go and let deliverance flow,
Set my spirit free to worship Thee.

The Spirit will give us freedom but we choose whether we want it. If we do we will no longer be paralysed but mobile and usable. It will transform our daily walk with God, our work for God and our worship of God. Let’s allow the Spirit touch the paralysed limbs of our spiritual experience and give us liberty.

God bless


Sunday, 17 July 2011

The Jewel of Holiness -Wholeness

There are three aspects of wholeness that I believe are helpful in our understanding of what it means to live a holy life.
1. All encompassing
Holiness is everything that God is. Holy is a word that you can put in front of every aspect of his nature. If we talk about his love, it is holy love, if we talk about his wisdom it is holy wisdom, if we talk about his power, it is holy power and so on. And when we see God’s love, his power, his kindness it is breathtakingly beautiful. This beautiful God said, “You shall be holy unto me for I the Lord am holy."

Jesus, as a human being, perfectly reflected God’s beautiful holiness. When we see him see the Father and we also see what a truly holy life looks life. Most of us have places in our homes where we hide rubbish or unsightly things. In our house they are called glory holes. Jesus lived a life without any “glory holes” Every thought, every deed, every word, everything about him could be said to be holy and his life is a beautiful life.
If we are to be holy as God is holy, then we will need to be like Jesus. True holiness will “beautify” every part of us. There must not be any aspect of our life where we say to God, I don’t want you to put the word holy before it.
So we are to be holy Salvationists but also holy wives and husbands, holy parents, holy neighbours, holy workers, holy friends, holy in our leisure, holy in our study, holy in our goals and aspirations. The theme of Roots 2010 was a good one it was “Wholly holy”
It is the plan of God to invade every area of your life with his beauty. This includes your spirit, your mind, intellect, will and your body.

2. Integration
Wholeness also speaks about something that is truly connected and integrated. If we only outwardly conform to holy living but inwardly we are in rebellion at some point we will fall apart. Some Christians try to live chameleon type lives. They try to merge in with the background they are in. So they are one kind of person at work and another at home or at church. But even if Christians are outwardly consistent but inwardly rebellions they will eventually find the stress of the conflict between the two, too much.
Paul talks about the work of Christ being one of reconciliation. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself." (2 Cor 5:17)
To reconcile- literally means to mend what is broken, to put back together again.
It is the work of Christ to pick up the brokenness of our lives and re-integrate us and bring us back to harmony.
3. Free from disease
The Bible likens the nature of sin as being a disease which all men have.
"Sin, like a venomous disease, Infects our vital blood; the only balm is sovereign grace, And the physician, God." - Isaac Watts
The idea that sin is like a disease is found both the Old and New Testaments.
Isaiah 53:4-6
Matthew 9:10-13

The bottom line is that people do not become sinners because they sin. They sin because they aresinners. Well sin is a deeply ingrained problem for mankind. Brengle describes it as “a big dark something in him that wants to get mad when things are against him, something that will not be patient, something that is touchy and sensitive; something that wants to grumble and find fault; something that is proud and shuns the shame of the Cross, something that sometimes suggests hard thoughts against God; something that is self-willed and ugly and sinful.”
The NT calls this big dark something many different things but it is so real that Paul calls it the “old man”
If this dark something is not dealt with, then it leads to death. We know that Christ has stepped in and he has by his shed blood stopped this sin being life threatening but many Christians are of the belief that we will never be really free of “the dark something” in us, this “old nature” this “sin disease” this side of heaven. It will remain in you and war against you till you die. They are not altogether gloomy because they believe that the new life within you from Christ will help to subdue it and repress it.
Some of you here have diabetes, which without insulin would kill you. Modern medicine means that you can live with the disease but it is still a part of you. You have to manage it. At the moment there is no “cure”
But if we apply that spiritually, to me that is less than satisfying. Surely the gospel can go further than offering us sin management. Can we not be cured?
The New Testament seems to offer that possibility.
Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life” and he add, “and have it to the full” (John 10:10)
“If any man is in Christ he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:20)
“You were taught with regard to your former way of life to put off your old self which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24)
1 John 3:9 “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning because he has been born of God.”
The criticism against this view is of course that the Salvation Army teaches that once a person has been sanctified then it is impossible for them to sin. Doesn’t the letter of John also say in chapter 1:8 “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
Let’s use an illustration. One of the tragic things we saw in Romania was babies with HIV. Many of them had been given blood transfusions of either infected blood or dirty needles and they were infected with HIV. There were then no effective ant-viral drugs and many of the babies we saw died with Aids.
All human beings are infected with a propensity to sin. Untreated and living in the world it is inevitable that they will be sinners. These days, the onset of Aids can be avoided by people with HIV if they have access to anti-viral drugs. It cannot yet be cured.
However for all people who are sinners, the blood of Jesus affects a total cure. Not only does it save them from death, it also rids them of the actual disease within them, if they apply it. They can be free, they can be whole again, they do not have to live with sin-disease any more.
However the virus of evil is still out there, sin is still in the world. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin but it does not provide us with an immunity to it. God does not take away our freedom to re-infect ourselves. He does not take away our free will.
It’s a bit like an HIV sufferer having been cleared of HIV choosing to engage in unprotected sex with strangers or taking drugs through a dirty needle.
The difference is now there is a choice. Hopefully I choose not to sin, before I couldn’t do anything else but sin.
We live in a sin contaminated world, we have an enemy who comes against us and tries to make sin attractive to us again. The difference is that if we have dealt with our “old nature” we are now fighting against an intruder from without; not an enemy within.
But we are not left alone in this. When we become Christians the Spirit of God comes to dwell in our hearts. God does not only take something out but places his life and power within. So when we are faced with temptation to let sin back in the Spirit of God within us resists that. The inclination within us now is towards goodness not evil.
There is a new gravitational pull in our lives. Sin used to pull us down, but now the Spirit pulls us up. This is why Paul encourages us in Ephesians 5:18 to be filled with the Spirit.

We believe that it is the privilege of all believers to be wholly sanctified that their whole spirit, soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."


God bless


Friday, 15 July 2011

The Jewel of holiness

One of the reasons holiness is so difficult to define is not so much that it is a difficult subject or a complicated one but because it is so multi-faceted. When you look at in in the light of the Holy Spirit it sparkles with an array of colours, each one beautiful in its own way. If you ask one person what is holiness, they might say, “It’s being like Jesus” Another might say, “It’s being empowered by the Spirit.” Another might say, “It’s being set apart for Jesus.” None of those definitions are wrong but they only present one aspect of the truth. If we only talk about holiness in terms of being empowered by the Spirit, we might miss an important truth about purity. If we only talk about being set apart for Jesus, we could think that holiness is only about what we do rather than the transformation that takes through the Holy Spirit to produce a fruitful Christ-like life.

Over the next few days I hope to post some thoughts on different facets of the jewel of holiness based on a recent series we did at Pill Corps. So here is the first,

The words "sanctify," "saint," "hallow," and "holy’ all come from the same reek root hagizo or hagiazo (ha-geed-zo) which are to do with separation. In the Bible sanctification has to do with separation from something and to something.
In our life with God this is seen in at least two ways. It is to do with the nature of relationship we have with God itself and it has to do with what we do with our lives as a result of that relationship.
When two people make their vows at a wedding, we say they enter into the “sanctity” of marriage. We say this because we believe that because God ordained marriage and anything that has God’s stamp of approval upon sets it on a higher level than what mere mortals think is a good idea. But there is a sense in which the couple also sanctify their relationship. One of the things they promise to do is to “forsake all others” There is a separation from all other romantic relationships.

At the same time we know that a marriage is not much of a marriage if all the arrangement is that two people agree not to fall in love with anyone else.

Marriage is more than separating ourselves from other people. Marriage vows go on to state that each party will honour, love and commit to one another in sickness and health, till death us do part.
In the same way, God calls us into a sanctified relationship with himself. He calls upon us to forsake all other gods and to worship only him. The other gods in our lives we know are not just traditional idols but anything to which we give love, above him.

One of the things that we need to establish in our lives is how exclusive our relationship is with God. Although it is possible to have a sanctified relationship with God from the moment of our salvation, many Christians only realise as they start to walk in their new relationship with God, how many idols there have been in their lives and that they need to consciously sever the ties they have with them.

For the new Christian it is their guilt and condemnation that at first occupy their attention and often only later do they see the need for further cleansing. The realisation of this dawns upon many people gradually. Others become aware of it in a moment of revelation by the deep conviction of the Spirit. However the revelation comes, decisive action needs to be taken. Often the biggest revelation that people have, is that the god they most need to remove from their relationship with God is called Self or the Ego.


The second challenge for the believer is that we are called to live a life of separation from the patterns of the world and to follow a pattern of life holiness which has Jesus Christ as the model
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Romans 12:1, 2).

One of the things that has marked out the life of the Duke of Edinburgh, for nearly 60 years is that he has dedicated his life to be of service to the Queen. In doing so he put his own as a naval officer aside and commited himself to being his wife’s consort. Some would see that as a sacrifice, others would tell you that such is his relationship with the queen that it is something he would do gladly and with joy. However judging by the Fiona Bruce interview for his 90th birthday on BBC1 he will not tell you which it is.
Sanctification is about being useful in the service of God. To onlookers this dedication might look like sacrifice as in order to service God , some other pursuits may need to be left behind.

However for the Christian the desire to serve a God whom they love passionately makes it feel like a privilege. Their only concern is whether or not they are fit for purpose.
The truth is that they are not. In the OT objects set aside for worship were said to be sanctified. There were special ceremonies, a process by which they were fit for use. There is a need for them not only to be willing but also for them to be enabled.
Our lack of righteousness is a barrier to a relationship with God. But we know that that is where Jesus offers us hope. His shed blood covers our sin so that when God looks upon us, he looks upon us as if we were clean.

We sing about this in the second verse of the popular song “Before the throne of God above”

Because the sinless Saviour died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the just is satisfied
To look on his and pardon me.”

But how can we really be of service to God has only provided a way for us to be declared righteous but not actually righteous? It would be like declaring someone competent for active service in the military when the reality is that they are unfit, or declaring a car has passed its MOT when its engine doesn’t work.

God has done more than provide a way for us to be declared righteous, when we are not but a way for us to be made righteous. Salvation is a work for us but it is also a work in us.

For true sanctification to be really a mark of a person then there is a need for an inward work of grace to stabalise a wayward heart, to cleanse a contaminated heart and to equip and unfit heart
Here is the promise. "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

he state of entire sanctification is a state of total devotion God. It is brought about by the baptism with the Holy Spirit, which cleanses the heart and fills it with the Holy Spirit who empowers the believer for life and service. Just as we are powerless to save ourselves we are powerless to be as pure and clean as we need to be. The transformation of the heart is the work of the Spirit. How do we obtain the power we need for this transformation? The answer is that our purity is received in the same way as our pardon. It is by grace, through faith.

The result of the act of sanctification is a holy heart. You may make mistakes and do the wrong thing occasionally, you may say the wrong thing at times -but your heart’s intent is only for good. It is pure. It is holy.

God bless


Tuesday, 12 July 2011

God's Messenger: Amos (Pill Corps 10th July)

Sunday Morning message outline (Alan Young)
It was a Golden Age, a prosperous time. The stock market was up, interest rates down and there was a housing boom. Enter Amos, with a message no-body wanted to hear. It was time to measure up. Amos 7:1-9

God would test the people of God to see if they were in line with his purposes What he discovered did not make comfortable reading.

God’s people were living in times not dissimilar to our own in the West. If God did the same thing among us today would the church today come out unscathed by the enquiry?

1. Spiritual Awareness
Officially religions prospered and worship was very polished but rather that being about connecting with God it was really about impressing other people whilst at the same time keeping God sweet. See Amos 4:5

Many celebration services today are planned to make the congregation happy rather than to please God. It is possible to focus on the presentation of the service more than on the presence of God.

Amos response was “Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria, you notable men of the foremost nation, to whom the people of Israel come!” (Amos 6:1)

The people of Israel at that time also had the mistake idea that background, pedigree and adherence to a religion gave then animmunity to God’s judgement and discipline. Amos challenges that kind of thinking.

2. Lifestyle
People also separated what happened at the religious ceremonies from everyday life.
Judah and Israel had taken on the shape of the culture instead of giving shape to the culture. Amos addresses the issue of greed, promiscuity, excessive drinking, gluttony, enticing young people break their pledges of abstinence, the silencing of criticism and all that is before Amos even starts on social justice and corruption issues. Whenever we take the shape of the culture, our true identity becomes lost. Righteousness is sacrificed, holiness becomes obsolete and passion is extinguished.

3. Social Conscience
Amos is most famous in Scripture for addressing; social conscience. All the time they were at worship at those great shrines, singing their songs they were planning their exploitation of others for their own ends. Amos 8:5
Amos rages against the unfairness he sees in this society.

“They buy and sell upstanding people. People for them are only things- ways of making money. They’d sell a poor man for a pair of shoes. They’d sell their own grandmother! They grind the penniless into the dirt; shove the luckless into the ditch.”
Listen to this you who walk all over the weak, you who treat poor people as less than nothing, Who say, “When’s my next pay check coming so I can go out and live it up?
How long till the week-end when I can f out and have a good time. Who give little and take much and never do an honest day’s work. You exploit the poor, using them and then, when they are use up, you discard them.” (Amos 8:4-6 Message translation)

Wesley Campbell and Steve Court list what they call the 7 Deadly Sins against humanity in the 21st Century.

It is estimated that about 800 million people live in the condition of chronic, persistant hunger and malnutrition. Every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger.

Children in chains
100-200 million children are forced to work worldwide, some as slaves and some to support their families.

Children on the streets
One third of the world population is under 15, about 100 million of them are believed to live at least part of the time on the streets. These are lives lived without parental love and guidance, without education and often in the context of sexual abuse.

The Sex Trade
Commercial sexual exploitation has not been defined as terrorism by UNICEF. Millions of children throughout the world are being bought and sold like chattel and used as sex slaves.

Aids and Plagues
Some 3 million children die each year from vaccine preventable diseases. No fewer than two thirds of todays 15 year old boys will die prematurely from Aids. The United Nations expects that 70 million people will die of Aids by 2022.

At the turn of the 20th century 90 percent of war casualties were male soldiers. At the turn of the 21st century 90 percent of war casualties are civilians, the majority of whom are women and children.

While wars killed millions, there are also totalitarian regimes that have kill more of their own citizens. Many of these deaths were based on religious belief. The World Christian Encyclopedia estimates that 45.5 million Christians were martyred in the 20th century.

Issues of social justice are often tagged on if we have time, or spare resources. Amos points out that if we are not willing to deal with social justice issues then our worship means nothing , our religious practice means nothing and our personal walk with God is going nowhere.

It is not enough to bemoan the state to things?
Amos calls for repentance Amos 5:4
Amos engaged in intercession Amos 7:1-3
Amos demands righteousness and justice Amos 5: 24

Cell Questions
In Amos’ day the people failed to connect with God through worship. Why do you think that was? What helps or hinders your connection with God through worship?
“Whenever we take the shape of the culture our true identity becomes lost.” In what ways should a Christian be different from the prevailing culture around them?
What is your reaction to some of the statistics mentioned in the list of 7 Deadly Sins?
What are some of the ways that we can practically participate in the Salvation Army’s calling to “serve suffering humanity?”

God bless


Wednesday, 6 July 2011

God's Messenger: Hosea

Pill Corps: Sunday 3rd July
Sermon Notes (Alan )
I read this about a married couple of whom it was said, “He took his wife for better and for worse and found out that she was far worse than he took her for!”
That could have been written
by the prophet Hosea except that he started married life knowing exactly what kind of woman his future wife was. He had been told by God,
“Go and take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord.” (Ch 1:2)

God often asked the prophets to do some difficult things and God’s instruction to Hosea was not just to marry this woman and it be a marriage in name only; he was to “love her as the Lord loves the Israelites.” (ch 3:1) Hosea was to let Gomer not only into his life but into his heart, knowing that she would probably let him down, hurt him and bring disgrace to his family name.

God wanted to show Hosea that when his people went astray they not only broke his divine laws they broke his heart. God knew when he entered into covenant with them, that He would be faithful but they would go after other gods, despite their promises. Nevertheless he still went ahead such was his love for them.

Our friend Gram Seed often tells of his first reaction to the message that God loved him. “Why would God want to know a scumbag like me?” Gram has never discovered why God loves him, only that He does. The knowledge that God loved him, even when he was stealing, fighting on the football terraces, locked up in a prison cell and sitting in drunken squalor on a bench in the shopping precinct, redeemed him and transformed him.
God has never loved us on the basis of whether we were good enough or deserving. It is Paul who says, “Whilst we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.”

1. Recognising the Problem
When Hosea considered his own marriage he realised that the basic problem was that Gomer was not really committed to it and Hosea saw that the people of God of his time had the same problem.
He used many pictures to describe them but we’ll look at two from the bakers shop.
a) A heated oven.
They were like a heated oven whose baker ceases to stir the fire, from the kneading of the dough until it is leavened. (ch7:4)
In the time when Hosea lived the oven in the baker’s house would be left to smoulder overnight, retaining some of the heat. In the warm atmosphere the dough would rise enough to be ready for baking. In the morning the oven would be brought back up to full temperature again ready for the days cooking. However if overnight the bread was forgotten the increased heat would cause the bread to burn and be destroyed.
This is how people are sometimes. On the surface things look normal, but underneath they are ready to flare up and destroy what they made. Gomer was like that.
She married Hosea and everything seemed OK but the longings for her old lifestyle flared up and ruined her marriage. Eventually what is in the heart comes out and declares itself.
It was the same with the people of Hosea’s day in their relationship with God.
On the surface they loved and served God, but underneath there was an underlying fire of selfishness that threaten to destroy.
Sin does not go away unless it is put completely out. Otherwise it smoulders and threatens to flare up again and God seems further away than ever.
The good news is that we have the means through Jesus to get rid of the deep underlying passion for selfishness that just will not go out on its own.
b) A half-baked cake.
In Hosea Chapter 7 verse 8 it says that Ephraim (which is part of Israel) is like a flat cake not turned over. The staple diet in the East then was thin flat scones or pancakes. They were baked by being laid on hot stones and then turned over just at the right time. If not done properly they could end up burnt black on one side and underdone and doughy on the other.
Perhaps this was how Gomer was with Hosea. She was uneven in her enthusiasm for marriage. She wanted the security but not the responsibility. It was how the people of Hosea’s day were with their religion. They took up a thing in a fervour of excitement and almost overdid the religious bit on the Sabbath until the joy was burned out of them and then for the rest of the week they underdid it. They failed to bring God into the picture at all.
There can be unevenness in our character when we don’t allow the Holy Spirit to do a thorough work in us and infuse our life with his warmth.

2. Redeeming the wreckage
The underlying half-baked enthusiasm meant a recipe for disaster for Gomer and Hosea’s marriage. When other men came along with their flattering attentions she yielded to them first with unfaithful liaisons and then with a life of open shame, eventually she ended up in the slave market.
In fact Hosea would have been within his rights to have Gomer stoned to death for the crime of adultery. Yet Hosea also felt God prompting him not to doubt in the face of well-meaning friends who say; “You’re well rid of her,” to go and do something absolutely amazing.
Read Hosea Chapter 3 verses 1 – 3
Gomer had got to the stage where she had sold herself into slavery in order to stay alive, but the only person who had any real claim on her was her husband.
He didn’t have to do it because she belonged to him anyway, but Hosea went and bought Gomer. He paid again for what was already his.
We wonder at the forbearance of Hosea – but Hosea wants to show that if that is how HE acted then how much more is the graciousness of God in the light of His people’s unfaithfulness.
And that is the story of our own redemption. God has a claim on us because He is our creator, yet He pays the price for our freedom, even though we are already His by right.
Through the light of the New Testament we see that God’s love is even greater than Hosea had imagined. For God was willing to buy us back from the slavery of sin, not with a few pence but with the life of His own Son.

3. Restoring the partnership
Hosea has Gomer back with him physically. She has been bought and paid for but Hosea knows she is not really his until she wants to be with his willingly. David Dalziel writes that; ‘Materially it was easy to buy Gomer back. A few coins, a couple of sacks of barley and she was like any other slave, but rebuilding the relationship was another matter entirely.’
Anyone who has dealt with a rebellious child, a betrayal of friendship or who like Hosea has known the pain of their partner being unfaithful - they will know something of his dilemma. However much we love them we cannot force the return of our love. The only power we have is to go on loving despite everything.
After getting her out of the slave market Hosea wisely leaves Gomer alone.
The Good News translation of Hosea 3:3 give us a clearer idea of Hosea’s attitude. “I told her that for a long time she would have to wait for me without committing adultery; and during this time I would wait for her.”
Hosea does not force himself on Gomer. His love is different than the cheap excuse for it found in the market place. What she has done, however she has behaved, her feelings still counted for something and Hosea respects them. Such love, such respect comes from God. It is the kind of attitude that God shows towards us.
When we reject Him, however much He longs for us, God does not force Himself on us. God has the power to make us do anything, but He will not force us to love Him.

4. Releasing the blessing
If she would return to her God then Israel would really benefit. If Israel would return to God. Hosea Chap 14 verse 5b GNB promises, “they will blossom like flowers; they will be firmly rooted like the trees of Lebanon. They will be alive with new growth and beautiful like olive-trees.”

This is not a promise just for the past but a promise God makes to all of us today. If we return to God He will make something of us. I for one want Him to do that for me because I make a pretty bad job of it on my own. But not only does our redemption release promise for self-improvement. Hosea gives us a picture of how God’s love releases blessing through us.

The one God loves will be a blessing to others. Hosea continues to describe this in terms of trees. He speaks of a tree’s scent and its shade. These are both things that do not benefit the tree itself. They are a benefit to others who are close to the tree. Both things make life for other people more pleasant.
If you have worked outside in the heat when there was no shade around, you know what I’m talking about. One result of God’s freely expressed love in your life is that you will be pleasant for other people to be around. I believe this is what is described as the beauty of holiness. When a person is in a right relationship with God and he is experiencing God’s love - that love overflows into other relationships.
I suppose this message is a very simple one. We might say it is primary school teaching. But perhaps it is not such a bad thing to re-state obvious and simple truths. We will never outgrow our need for God’s unconditional love or His grace. The more He makes of us, the more we realise that we are nothing without his grace.

God bless