Famine of Words

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Hear this! The days are coming— this is the declaration of the Lord God— when I will send a famine through the land: not a famine of bread or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. Amos 8:11

The definition of famine is: any extreme and general scarcity; extreme hunger for; starvation.

When Amos and Hosea speak of Israel’s corruption and God’s disgust I can’t help but imagine He feels the same about our country at this time. In so many ways we have turned our backs on Him, His ways and laws just as the Israelites had.  Amos 8:11 describes God sending a famine “of hearing from the Lord” and it stung my heart in a way that I had not anticipated. One of my greatest prayers is that God will continue to create a thirst for Him in my heart that can’t be quenched. Not hearing from Him is one of my greatest fears. How would I parent my children, keep my marriage together, live a life worthy of the Gospel, be His light in the world or trust in my forgiveness of sin if I couldn’t hear from Him? My communication with God is a connection I pray will never be broken.

Consider all that the Lord had done for His people throughout the Old Testament so far . . . . (you can read back through my blog for that one as I don’t have room for a long list here) only to have them turn their backs on Him. I know how I feel when I’ve served, entertained and loved on my children all day only for it to end in tears over one small thing that didn’t go their way. It’s as if all the other actions of love never existed. I’m hurt, feel disrespected, unappreciated and SUPER frustrated.

Woe to them, for they fled from Me; destruction to them, for they rebelled against Me! Though I want to redeem them, they speak lies against Me.  I trained and strengthened their arms, but they plot evil against Me. They turn, but not to what is above; they are like a faulty bow. . . Hosea 7:13, 15-16

God gives, gives and gives. HE forgives, forgives and forgives. He relents, relents and relents some more, but how long can He allow that to occur if we won’t wake up, open our eyes and turn back to Him, seek Him and search for Him? That’s why we need those times of silence, those days of silence and famine. At some point, a parent has to leave a child to their own devices until they reach rock bottom and there is no other place to look but up. Hopefully then, sin is recognized and our search for God and a desire for His presence will overcome once again.

I will depart and return to My place until they recognize their guilt and seek My face; they will search for Me in their distress. Hosea 5:15

Reminders from Amos

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Amos was an average shepherd who became one of the first prophets from 8th century B.C. I’ve read from the book of Amos here and there, but never studied it closely until now. It’s quite beautiful and a bit scary too. His book and speaking was one of warning, as he foretold of God’s judgement. However, being on this side of history, we have seen those judgements fulfilled. That said, it is a great reminder and brings on many strong feelings in my heart concerning the day the Lord returns to claim this place and His people.
In my opinion, one of the greatest things about reading scripture is that we discover who our God truly is. When we know Him, we can recognize Him around us and at work in our lives. People ask me all the time how I see God in my daily life. All I can say is that to see someone and recognize them you must know them first. Humbling me day after day for years, God has shown me how discipline and obedience is critical to following him wholeheartedly. Getting to know Him, His ways and His truths through scripture is half of the formula and prayer is the other. Amos shared some amazing passages that remind us who the God we serve really is.

Take a look at the first two:
He is here: the One who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals His thoughts to man, the One who makes the dawn out of darkness and strides on the heights of the earth. Yahweh, the God of Hosts, is His name. Amos 4:13
The One who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns darkness into dawn and darkens day into night, who summons the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the earth—Yahweh is His name. Amos 5:8
It’s exhilarating and scary (in a good way). Exhilarating because I can say this God is a friend of mine who adores me and died for me. Scary, because as I look at my life there are many days I forget the splendor and magnitude of the one I serve. I need these verses printed out and framed all over my house as a reminder of His sovereignty and mighty ways every moment of my days. Especially on the days my wits are frazzled and my heart is breaking over fear, sadness or trial – what better way to trust and live than to remember our God is so much greater than all we see, think and fear. As you read this last verse I pray you will sit for a minute or two and allow the depth and enormity of our God soak into your reality.

He builds His upper chambers in the heavens and lays the foundation of His vault on the earth. He summons the waters of the sea and pours them out on the face of the earth. Yahweh is His name. Amos 9:6

Appointed

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Ah, the book of Jonah. What a refreshing story to read with eyes that have been deep into Chronicles and Kings for weeks of history, wars and the legacies of kings. My first instinct was to just skim this story because I’ve read the book and sung the songs of Jonah’s journey about a zillion times. What more could I really get out of this story? As God would have it, and always does, something new. That’s the beauty of Bible’s story, it never stops teaching, guiding, rebuking and showing us ways to live closer to our Heavenly Father.
So far, through the Old Testament, we have seen God appoint angels to deliver visions, prophets to deliver messages and kings to lead countries. However, as I read Jonah with fresh eyes this year, I noticed the word “appointed” repeated over and over, but God wasn’t appointing “people” this time. In the book of Jonah we see God appoint the creatures and elements of His creation to lead and guide Jonah to Nineveh and teach him lessons of love. Let’s take a look.
After Jonah receives the word of the Lord to head to Nineveh and deliver His message of “you better straighten up or you will be destroyed”, Jonah hits the road to hide from the Lord, but who can hide from the Lord? “Now the LORD had appointed a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the fish three days and three nights.” (Jonah 1:17)

God appoints a huge fish. I love it! Anyone who claims we don’t serve a creative God hasn’t read this story. So, after Jonah and God have some alone time, in the belly of the huge fish, he gets vomited out to complete his task. I wonder if Jonah is regretting taking the hard way at this point in the story? I have been there. Trying to go my own way and ignore the path God has set before me never gets me to far and usually just adds some additional heartache and delays the inevitable.
But God wasn’t done appointing . . . in chapter 4 He appoints a plant, a worm and a scorching east wind to open the eyes of a pouting Jonah who was disappointed God forgave the people of Nineveh and relented from His plans of destroying them after they repented. These verses remind that our God is the Creator of all we see and don’t see. He is in every detail of everything that has happened, is happening and will happen. He is the same today as he was and always will be. Our hearts may waver, but His remains steady. His hand is on all of creation and His plan is perfect. I pray we will begin to see God at work in all that is around us each day. Our God cares for us more than we can ever imagine. So much so, He is in the movement of the tiniest creatures and can still hear each prayer you pray and count each tear that falls from your face.
Then the LORD God appointed a plant, and it grew up to provide shade over Jonah’s head to ease his discomfort. Jonah was greatly pleased with the plant. When dawn came the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, and it withered. As the sun was rising, God appointed a scorching east wind. The sun beat down so much on Jonah’s head that he almost fainted, and he wanted to die. He said, “It’s better for me to die than to live.” Then God asked Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” “Yes,” he replied. “It is right. I’m angry enough to die!” So the LORD said, “You cared about the plant, which you did not labor over and did not grow. It appeared in a night and perished in a night. Should I not care about the great city of Nineveh, which has more than 120,000 people who cannot distinguish between their right and their left, as well as many animals?” Jonah 4:6-11

Wholeheartedly

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Throughout the books of 2 Chronicles and 2 Kings we find chapter after chapter of the legacies of the Kings of Judah and Israel. It’s quite tedious to read and a bit confusing at times with all the names, wars and family trees, but one theme runs through all of their stories ~ They either “did what was right in the sight of the Lord” and were blessed and provided protection or “they did what was evil in the Lord’s sight” and found themselves subject to conspiracy, war and turmoil. And then came Amaziah . . .
Amaziah became king when he was 25 years old and reigned 29 years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jehoaddan; she was from Jerusalem. 2 He did what was right in the LORD’s sight but not wholeheartedly. 2 Chronicles 25:1-2
We are told that Amaziah did what was right, but not “wholeheartedly”. This word caught my eye and I was convicted in my heart as I read it. The definition of wholeheartedly is, “marked by unconditional commitment, unstinting devotion, or unreserved enthusiasm” (thefreedictionary.com). We find that Amaziah followed the ways of the Lord when he executed the two servants who had murdered his father (v.3), but did not have their children put to death “because—as it is written in the Law, in the book of Moses, where the LORD commanded—“Fathers must not die because of children, and children must not die because of fathers, but each one will die for his own sin.” (v.4)
However, when faced with an intimidating battle he quickly brought in the “gods of the Seirites and set them up as his gods. He worshiped them and burned incense to them.” (v.14) He knew the ways and laws of the Lord and had obviously tried to live by them and honor them at one point, but when the going got tough he turned to idols. He wasn’t serving with his whole heart!
So the LORD’s anger was against Amaziah, and He sent a prophet to him, who said, “Why have you sought a people’s gods that could not deliver their own people from your hand?” (v.15) Why did Amaziah turn from the Lord? I wonder if his faith started to falter when faced with death or the fear of losing his power? Did he feel like God wasn’t enough and thought he needed some back-up? Was he overcome with peer pressure from the idol worshippers that surrounded him? He was on the right track at some point and I wonder what happened or how his heart changed to make him stumble and not serve the Lord wholeheartedly.
Amaziah’s story resonates with me. I think of how often I have let pride, the illusion of control and a lack of faithfulness cause me to stumble and not serve God with my whole heart. Sure, I have good intentions, but then I let the doubt, fear, anger, resentment, pride or other idol have its way with me and my whole heart turns to just three-quarters or a half. I consider the anger that God had for Amaziah and how once he turned his back on the Lord and stopped following Him, “a conspiracy was formed against him in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish. However, men were sent after him to Lachish, and they put him to death there. (v. 27)
We will falter, fail and flee sometimes, but our God is always calling us back to Him. We don’t have to keep running. We need only turn our hearts back and place our eyes on Him to return under His wing of love, forgiveness and protection. Being a Christian doesn’t make us perfect, but it does make us forgiven and reconciled back to Christ. If you have turned from the ways of the Lord, as Amaziah did, it isn’t to late to turn back and serve God wholeheartedly once again. His greatest gift and desire for us is the redemption He alone can offer through the blood of His son Jesus. Will you accept that gift today?