January 2005

Couple provides ministry in Kiev : Monday, Jan. 31, 2005

January 31 2005 by

Couple provides ministry in Kiev : Monday, Jan. 31, 2005
Monday, Jan. 31, 2005

Couple provides ministry in Kiev

We have been to the Ukraine each summer for 2-5 weeks since 1996. We are 63 and 66 years old. We work in small farm villages giving out lots of Bibles, eyeglasses of all strengths, toys to the children, doing puppet shows and making gospel bracelets. We have seen many come to know Jesus as Savior. What a joy that is!

For the last two years we have worked with the Southern Baptist team in Kiev. Brad Adkins is the missionary team coordinator. He is a blessing to work with.

We see how Southern Baptist missionaries in the Ukraine are very good examples of being a follower of Jesus Christ. The folks there respect them

Two churches have been established that were only home churches in two villages. They were able to purchase old buildings and remodel them. One is a very nice size building now that cost $28,000.

A young man, Dima, has been in North Carolina since 2000. He graduated from Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute at the top of his class. He is soon to graduate from Campbell University after only two and a half years. He soon will start at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in August. Dima is 22 years old and plans to return home to Keiv and be a church planner, pastor and teacher at the seminary in Kiev.

For the last two years, God has blessed us so that through the Little Lamb Ministry we could buy shoes for two orphanages, 120 children in one and 223 in the other one.

Linda and Jerry Harmon

Mocksville, N.C.

1/31/2005 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

'Problem with this thought process' : Monday, Jan. 31, 2005

January 31 2005 by

'Problem with this thought process' : Monday, Jan. 31, 2005
Monday, Jan. 31, 2005

'Problem with this thought process'

People are upset because Anne Graham Lotz, a female, preached the convention sermon. If we hadn't called it a sermon everything would be okay. She preached one of the best sermons I have heard! Recently, I participated in a deacon ordination. Because one candidate had been divorced and remarried, he was being ordained, not as a deacon, but a "yokeman," even though he would function precisely as a deacon. A pastor once told me his church didn't have enough qualified men to be deacons, so they formed a church council of every man in the church!

My son-in-law feels called to the ministry, but has been faced with much discouragement. He applied to Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute and was rejected because he had been divorced twice before giving his life to God. He is a wonderful husband and father. He is serving God and preaching as he gets opportunity. If he had been an ex-murderer, ex-drug abuser, or even a reformed homosexual, he could have been accepted and encouraged to use his past as a testimony. Instead, he received a call from a young man telling him that God could not use him in the ministry and wouldn't have called him.

Does anyone else see a problem with this thought process? How can we claim that God won't use someone and thus discourage people from serving God? I don't know who God wants to use, so I need to support those who are willing to serve. I'll gladly take responsibility for my views, because I can't imagine standing before God and hearing Him say, "He had been divorced! Women can't preach! You shouldn't have encouraged them." Rather, I believe, He will say, "You did right by encouraging them. Look at those I saved because of their willingness."

Terry Brooks

Rutherfordton, N.C.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: While not commenting on this particular case, Fruitland officials have informed the Biblical Recorder that while the school wants to support family values, divorce is not an automatic rejection criterion for potential students, and that several current students have experienced divorce.)

1/31/2005 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

We need each other : Friday, Jan. 28, 2005

January 28 2005 by Tony W. Cartledge

We need each other : Friday, Jan. 28, 2005
Friday, Jan. 28, 2005

We need each other

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor

Baptists worldwide need each other. It's as simple as that. If we are to be faithful to Christ in ministering to the physical and spiritual needs of people in far-flung places, we need to work in cooperation with fellow believers around the world.

As the only remaining "superpower," Americans in general have a tendency to feel insulated and isolated from the world. While the events of Sept. 11, 2001 led many to realize that we need to think globally, our response has tended to be more unilateral than cooperative.

American Christians, Southern Baptists in particular, often take a similar approach. We think of ourselves as a great denomination responsible for saving the pagans of the world, and often fail to appreciate the contributions or depth of Christian faith to be found in other lands.

Our tendency is to think of ourselves as the chief movers and shakers of the missionary enterprise, expecting national bodies in other lands to simply follow our lead.

When smaller Baptist groups expect the same level of respect or balk at the direction we want to set, we take offense. The measure of that attitude was seen this past year when the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) officially cut ties with the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). SBC leaders resorted to the familiar but misleading charge that the BWA is charting a "liberal" course, but the issue was clearly one of control.

Now, according to recent comments by the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty chief Richard Land, he and other SBC leaders are planning a July meeting in Poland "to form a new alternative to the Baptist World Alliance." You can bet it's not coincidental that the meeting will be held during the same month as the BWA's centennial congress, to be held in Birmingham, England.

One of Jesus' clearest teachings is that His followers should focus on following Him in serving others, rather than seeking power over others. All three synoptic gospels are clear in teaching that the most faithful disciples are those who serve, rather than those who seek power (Matt. 20:26-27; Mark. 10:43-44; Luke. 22:26-27). In John's gospel, Jesus called us to follow His example in serving others (John 13:14-15). Paul emphasized the importance of being a servant (1 Cor. 9:19; 2 Cor. 4:5, 11:23; Gal. 5:13; Phil. 2:5-8).

Working equally with or in service to other Baptist bodies - especially those that Southern Baptist missionaries helped to get started - may be hard for some folks to swallow, but it is well in keeping with the teaching of Jesus.

One can see a good example of how this works in North Carolina Baptists' recent efforts to assist victims of the tsunami in Sri Lanka. We were not the first Baptists to respond - Hungarian Baptist Aid (HBA) was there just two days after the disaster.

HBA leaders are members of the Hungarian Baptist Union. They work in cooperation with Baptist World Aid (BWAid), a ministry arm of the Baptist World Alliance - which celebrates "BWA Day" on Feb. 6.

HBA is less than 10 years old and is not very large, but it has some distinct advantages that Americans don't have. For example, as part of a former Socialist republic, Hungarians are more likely to be accepted by other current or former Socialist countries. This allows them to serve as a ministry channel in some countries, such as North Korea, that would never accept Americans.

The truth is that America has developed a very poor reputation in many parts of the world. This often makes Americans unwelcome, even when they are offering aid. For example, when a powerful earthquake devastated the city of Bam, Iran on Dec. 26, 2003, Southern Baptists found no easy inroads to offer ministry - but the Hungarians were welcomed.

When N.C. Baptists sought to assist with relief and recovery efforts in Sri Lanka following the recent tsunami, we relied on HBA to help facilitate and direct the work. Ferenc Tisch, director of international operations for HBA, assisted with local connections and pointed a team from N.C. Baptist Men to areas in need of assistance. His organization provides regular shipments of water and assists with other needs.

More importantly, Tisch connected N.C. Baptists with a pastor representing the Swedish Baptist Union to serve as a local contact. Christopher Gammedehewa, a native Sri Lankan who now lives in Sweden, was dispatched by Swedish Baptists to offer ministry in their behalf. N.C. Baptists simply could not be doing what they are doing in southern Sri Lanka today if not for the assistance Gammedehewa is providing.

We can be proud in knowing that N.C. Baptist Men is setting a sterling example of cooperation in relief efforts following the tsunami. The initial teams were connected with BWAid. A medical team is working through auspices of the International Mission Board. A water purification team is assisting missionaries with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Supplies have been coordinated through the non-denominational group Samaritan's Purse.

N.C. Baptist volunteers are sharing God's love without prejudice to all in need, and without needless judgments of ministry partners.

That, in a microcosm, is an example of why Baptists need to think globally and act cooperatively. To offer needed ministry in Christ's name, N.C. Baptists have worked under the coordination of Hungarian Baptists, and in cooperation with Swedish Baptists. While in the country, they have lodged in a Sri Lankan Baptist sanctuary, and prepared meals for distribution in the courtyard of an Assemblies of God church.

The concept is not difficult: we need each other.

1/28/2005 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments

Hungry, hungry virus : Friday, Jan. 28, 2005

January 28 2005 by Tony W. Cartledge

Hungry, hungry virus : Friday, Jan. 28, 2005
Friday, Jan. 28, 2005

Hungry, hungry virus

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor

Many of you have played the game "Hungry Hungry Hippos." A handful of marbles are dropped in the middle of a playing board surrounded by four colorful plastic hippos. Players press a lever designed to extend his or her hippo's neck and open its mouth so it can gobble up any passing marbles. Played with a couple of three-year-olds, it can be loud and furious fun.

I've often thought of that game as my e-mail box has come under repeated attacks from hungry, hungry viruses. The most common culprit goes by the code name "Netsky," but I call it the "hippo virus" because it often gobbles up my entire Inbox.

The digital invader arrives with a different agenda, but my virus protection program heads that off by deleting the critter before it can launch itself into my hard drive.

Unfortunately, when the protection program deletes the virus, the rest of my Inbox often goes down the drain, too.

To protect against losing large gobs of e-mail, I've taken to moving the contents of my Inbox into a separate folder every day or two. As long as I remember that safeguard, I never lose more than a couple of day's worth of e-mail.

Unfortunately, the messages piled up in my Inbox during the 10 days I recently spent traveling to Sri Lanka. Shortly after I returned - and before I had a chance to work through the large backlog of e-mail - the "hippo virus" arrived and swallowed it all with a lip-smacking gulp.

So, if you happened to send me an e-mail between Jan. 6 and Jan. 14, don't hold your breath waiting for a reply: your e-mail is now bubbling in the hippo's belly.

Please resend the message, and I promise to respond.

If only we could teach the hippo to eat spam ...

1/28/2005 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments

Being church in a postmodern context : Friday, Jan. 28, 2005

January 28 2005 by Jim Royston

Being church in a postmodern context : Friday, Jan. 28, 2005
Friday, Jan. 28, 2005

Being church in a postmodern context

By Jim Royston
BSC Executive Director-Treasurer

Church leaders struggling to move their congregations forward work hard to understand demographic, growth and cultural trends. Inevitably, the term "postmodern" surfaces in discussions of how to reach the next generation for Christ.

Postmodernism is a worldview that says we no longer live in the "Christian" culture ushered in by the Protestant Reformation of 500 years ago - the modern era. Instead, our culture is "after" Christian, postmodern. Reaching that culture - our culture - demands an understanding of how this generation thinks.

During the annual retreat of our executive leaders at Hollifield Leadership Center recently, we joined a large group of pastors of "innovative," "emerging" and "postmodern" churches for a satellite seminar from Los Angeles hosted by researcher George Barna.

He defined postmodernism as more about relative truth, than about ultimate truth; more about your personal story than about an absolute morality. Postmoderns believe faith is good, but no single faith is right; marriage is but an option in relationships and divorce is just a passage from one set of relationships to another.

Then prominent postmodern pastor Erwin McManus, author of An Unstoppable Force, gave his own definition. Postmodernism, he said, is "the shift of authority from anything else - to me."

Then this young pastor of Mosaic Church gave some profound observations on the modern/postmodern dichotomy. These thoughts challenge each of us to become aware of how different is the thinking of this generation we are trying to reach.

Postmodern culture is a shift from "Where are we going?" to "Who are we becoming?" McManus said.

He said moderns want certainty of what is true. Postmoderns want clarity about what is important.

Effective leadership is about "getting inside your people." He said while the modern pastor "speaks to the people on behalf of God," the postmodern pastor "speaks to God on behalf of humanity."

Even to his surprise, he said young postmoderns are "less concerned about your knowing God's word, than that you know God." But the advantage, he said, is when the man they feel knows God points them to God's word, "the Bible has more credibility" to them.

Another McManus insight is that postmoderns are led to faith in the context of community, that effective evangelism first disciples nonbelievers. He welcomes non-believers to church events, even to serving on mission trips where they can find the joy in serving and see the witness of Christ in action.

"The church isn't here for you," he said. "You are the church here for the world. You will be healed in serving others."

It is more important to change the things people care about than to change what they believe, McManus said. People do not always care about what they believe, but they always believe in what they care about.

While moderns take comfort in church services that are consistently the same, postmoderns like surprises, innovations.

Postmoderns are generally young, but it is more a mindset than an age. Some mistakenly believe postmoderns think the church is irrelevant. McManus said, however, "It's not the church that's irrelevant. It's that we haven't been the church."

In every context, let us be the church.

1/28/2005 12:00:00 AM by Jim Royston | with 0 comments

BRH residents happy where they are : Friday, Jan. 28, 2005

January 28 2005 by Luther Osment

BRH residents happy where they are : Friday, Jan. 28, 2005
Friday, Jan. 28, 2005

BRH residents happy where they are

By Luther Osment
N.C. Baptist Retirement Homes
  • Mary Frances, 91 years old, 26-year resident.
  • Lena Stegall, 100 years old, 35-year resident.
  • Kate Osment, 100 years old, 8-year resident.
  • The years of care received by these three residents of the Western North Carolina Baptist Home in Asheville paint a portrait of Baptist Retirement Homes.

    As an U.S. Army nurse from 1942 to 1946 Mary Frances followed the American forces through North Africa, Sicily and France. She landed on the beach at Normandy and while serving in forward position field hospitals she gave care to American and German soldiers alike.

    Following the war, Mary returned to western North Carolina to practice and teach nursing. Her joy was "helping young women become successful nurses." In like manner she served her Lord as WMU director for the Haywood Baptist Association.

    In early years Lena Stegall cared for orphan children at Eliada Home in Asheville. Later she gave care to needy older adults as home manager at the Baptist Retirement Homes facility in Albemarle, now the Taylor House.

    In recent years Lena is often found sitting in a quiet corner, Bible in hand, eyes closed, lips moving. "My sight is failing," she said. "So I am hiding God's Word in my heart for that time when I will no longer be able to read."

    Until the progression of her dementia made sleep her primary activity, Kate Osment's old age greeting for almost everyone was, "Honey, I can't remember your name but I sure do love you." While she held leadership positions in her church through the years she is remembered most of all for her happy Christian spirit and the heart-felt "you are precious in my sight" sentiment she so joyfully shared.

    Mary Frances said, "I have never regretted my decision to come to the Baptist Home."

    As a resident's son I would say, "There is no where in this world I had rather my dear mother to be than right where she is."

    (EDITOR'S NOTE - Osment serves as the assistant to the president at Baptist Retirement Homes.)

    1/28/2005 12:00:00 AM by Luther Osment | with 0 comments

    Standing 'on what the Bible says' : Friday, Jan. 28, 2005

    January 28 2005 by

    Standing 'on what the Bible says' : Friday, Jan. 28, 2005
    Friday, Jan. 28, 2005

    Standing 'on what the Bible says'

    As a member of Parker's Chapel Baptist Church, I have a few comments I would like to express concerning our exiting from the Baptist State Convention (BSC). Some have commented that women have the right to preach just as well as men. We do not believe this is a biblical teaching. Did Jesus call a woman to be one of the 12? No, he did not. Do women have supporting roles to play in the ministry? Yes, indeed they do. However, women are not called to be preachers. As for the small amount of money we were able to send in support of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). If you consider how small a church we are, and the fact that we heavily support community missions here in our own back door, in retrospect, I believe SBC got more than they deserved. We did not ask other churches to support our position and it does not matter to us one iota what the rest of the churches in BSC think of us. We stood on what the Bible says and if we stand alone, so be it.

    This paper could simply have stated that Anne Graham Lotz was to be the keynote speaker at the Convention and nothing would have been thought, but you proclaimed your liberality in that we were having the first woman to preach a convention sermon. In one issue you comment on this being the lowest convention attendance since the 80's. Do you not wonder why? I think a lot more people feel the same way we do but are not willing to stand up because they would probably be ostracized if they did. We believe that if we do not stand on this issue, what next - the first homosexual preacher delivering the convention sermon?

    Jo Ann Parker

    Marion, N.C.

    (Editor's Note - A previous story in the Recorder reported that Parker's Chapel had pulled out of the BSC and the Blue Ridge Association. Ms. Parker informed the Recorder that the church has also pulled out of the SBC.)
    1/28/2005 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

    Tsunami - God's fault? : Friday, Jan. 28, 2005

    January 28 2005 by

    Tsunami - God's fault? : Friday, Jan. 28, 2005
    Friday, Jan. 28, 2005

    Tsunami - God's fault?

    With the recent tsunami, I find myself, as do many, facing hard questions almost everywhere I go. While making sense of such tragedy is difficult, the least we can do is address the issue in a way that is biblically and logically consistent. Trying to reconcile natural disasters with the idea of a sovereign and loving God, Tony Cartledge purported that God "created Eden as a perfect paradise on earth, but when Adam and Eve sinned, they were thrust into the world where life is hard and bad things can happen. Human sin did not change the earth..." (BR, Jan 22).

    The Bible, however, presents a much different world than the one to which Tony refers. Scripturally, there was no rain in the original creation because a mist gently watered the plush and perfect ground. (Gen. 2:5)

    The scriptures also tell us there were no carnivores in the original earth because "Every green herb was their 'meat' (Gen. 1:30). Such a stark contrast to the "harsh" world that Tony's cosmological slant assumes.

    Second, man's sin has indeed affected the earth. "Thorns and thistles" became a post-fall reality "because" of Adam's disobedience (Gen. 3:17,18) and the entire animal kingdom was cursed, with a greater "curse" imposed upon the serpent for his active role in the fall (Gen. 3:14).

    Let's not forget the deluge. Obviously the result of man's sin (Gen. 6), it reasonably accounts for our present world and its violent patterns including earthquakes, tsunamis and storms that are capable of unbelievable devastation.

    If God initially created a "harsh" world, then we have a greater theological problem than a mere tsunami presents. If God created the world as it is today, whom else can we blame? Should we believe God or modern "thinkers?" Wow! That is a tough one.

    Tony Watts

    Thomasville, N.C.

    1/28/2005 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

    Family Bible Study lesson for Feb. 13: How Much Does Sin Cost? : Friday, Jan. 28, 2005

    January 28 2005 by John Pond

    Family Bible Study lesson for Feb. 13: How Much Does Sin Cost? : Friday, Jan. 28, 2005
    Friday, Jan. 28, 2005

    Family Bible Study lesson for Feb. 13: How Much Does Sin Cost?

    By John Pond
    Focal Passage: Hosea 4:1-9; 5:13-15

    Sin? In a "Golden Age of Exoneration," as John Leo describes it, there is no concept of personal sin. Instead, negative behavior is a result of outside forces; someone else is to blame. Sin is denied and our culture sits back comforted and innocuous to its danger. Yet, sin is real. It is destructive, but curable.

    Does sin have a cost? One writer has said, "There is always an advertised price for sin. But that price is always lower than the actual price it carries." The apostle Paul states, "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). The term for "wages" means provision for one's living expenses. These wages are not paid in a lump sum but regularly and periodically. In light of this definition, sin becomes a contemptible paymaster whose dark shadow obscures life and foretells the greater darkness that is to come. "Sin pays its wages in full with no cut" (A.T. Robertson).

    The prophet Hosea faced a culture very much like our own. Having lost the true essence of religion, his society became obsessed with sexuality and a form of moral relativity. The word Hosea had for his people was one of judgment and God's stubborn love.

    The reality of sin

    Hosea 4:1-3

    Using legal language, Hosea spoke the "word of the Lord," arguing that God's people had violated the covenant made between them and their God. They had sinned against Him. Hosea stated that there was no faithfulness (truth), kindness (loyalty) or knowledge of God in the land. They had violated the steadfast relationship between God and each other. Furthermore, there was no longer any knowledge of God's law and purpose. God's people were strangers and foreigners to His covenant.

    On the other hand, they had violated all the ethical demands of God's law (the Ten Commandments). They swore (cursed one another in God's name), lied (gave false witness undermining the judicial system), stole (each other's personal life and liberty), committed adultery and casually committed premeditated murder.

    Thus sin covered the land with a darkness that blinded all its inhabitants. Even the land mourned.

    Sin's consequences

    Hosea 4:4-9

    Israel could only remain the chosen people of God so long as the people maintained their intimacy with Him. This intimacy was violated by their obstinate rebellion. Something had happened. With no knowledge of God nor truth or faithfulness, the Israelites had failed.

    God charged that one particular group had brought Israel to this perverted conclusion - the official priesthood.

    The priests were accused of two tragic acts of disobedience: they failed as teachers to instruct God's people in God's word and purposes; and they failed to condemn the plethora of apostate acts of God's people. Instead, they encouraged those acts and prospered from them. They transformed the nation's disgrace into their own personal profit.

    The tragedy lies in the fact that those who were given the greatest responsibility and privilege sold out to the promised delights of sin's deception and systematically misled a whole nation.

    Searching for healing

    Hosea 5:13-15

    The covenantal relationship had gone sour. God had become like a festering sore and canker (5:12 NEB) upon the people. The One who should have been their close companion became an irritant and deadly enemy to remind them of their apostasy. They knew there was a serious problem, but rejecting the only One who could help, they looked to Assyria.

    In response, Hosea said God would pounce on His people and shred them into insignificant pieces (a reference to the Assyrian and Babylonian exile). No one could rescue them or heal their wounds.

    Their sin doomed them to an existence void of God's presence and promised blessing, imprisoning them in a captivity of disgrace and delusion. But God's love is tough. He does not strike without healing. "I will depart until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face searching for Me," Hosea said. God's judgment proffers God's gracious hope and healing to those who diligently and in repentance seek Him with all their heart.

    1/28/2005 12:00:00 AM by John Pond | with 0 comments

    Family Bible Study lesson for Feb. 20: Does God Want Me Back? : Friday, Jan. 28, 2005

    January 28 2005 by John Pond

    Family Bible Study lesson for Feb. 20: Does God Want Me Back? : Friday, Jan. 28, 2005
    Friday, Jan. 28, 2005

    Family Bible Study lesson for Feb. 20: Does God Want Me Back?

    By John Pond
    Focal Passage: Hosea 11:1-11

    Several years ago, while teaching at the Baptist seminary in Florianopolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil, I preached on this text. During the service a young couple came into the meeting and listened to the message. Later we met with the couple and heard their story. They had drifted away from God and were living a life of desperation and failure. With a newborn on the way they decided to end their lives. Fortunately, while on their way to commit this tragic act they were drawn to the worship service. They heard that God loved them and felt their pains: "How can I give you up, Ephraim? ... My heart recoils within Me; My compassion grows warm and tender." They repented of their rebellion and gave their lives to Christ receiving His gracious forgiveness and a new beginning.

    The people of Israel were guilty! God had loved them passionately. Yet, they had spurned His love.

    Drifting away

    Hosea 11:2

    Speaking as if in a courtroom, God said: "I loved them ... I called them ... I taught them ... I embraced them ... I healed them ... I led them." But, God charged, "The more I called them, the more persistent they were in turning to false faiths and vain love!"

    How did it happen? With a compassionate love, God called them out of Egypt. Through Moses, He led the people out of Egypt, and through Joshua led them into the land He had promised Abraham. Sadly, the more He called and loved, the further they wandered from Him. Verse 2 states, "The more I called them, the more they went from Me."

    Israel refused the love and kindness of God and pursued the enslavement of false self-love. Karl Menninger wrote: "Sin has a willful, defiant or disloyal quality; someone is defied, offended or hurt. The willful disregard or sacrifice of the welfare of others for the welfare or satisfaction of the self is an essential quality of the concept of sin ... And sin is thus, at heart, a refusal of the love of others."

    Persistent love

    Hosea 11:3-4

    One senses in this text the broken heart of God as He recalls those days when He patiently nurtured His covenant people. "I was with them as those who lift a small child to their cheek, and I bent down to him to feed him" (verse 4b as translated by H.W. Wolff). He continued to love and cherish them, leading them with cords of compassion and bands of love. God's stubborn, tough love sought to heal their brokenness. Tragically, they would not acknowledge the Lord.

    Determined rebellion

    Hosea 11:5-7

    Constant refusal of divine love inevitably leads to disaster. Because of their rebellious and obstinate heart, God gave them up to the Assyrians. They would be defeated in battle and forced from their homes, driven out among the surrounding nations. Since they were bent on turning away from God, they would be "bent over or yoked" in captivity (verse 7b, Peter Craigie).

    Amazing grace

    Hosea 11:8-11

    Hosea was given the difficult task of announcing the holy judgment of God, becoming a messenger of salvation and compassion. In verses 8-11 we hear this language of compassion: "How can I give you up, O Ephraim! How can I hand you over, O Israel! ... My heart recoils within Me, My compassion grows warm and tender" (Claus Westermann's translation).

    For Hosea, embodying God's message of judgment set off within his heart God's divine turmoil and internal conflict. The old covenant dictated that God legally abandon His people to their deserved punishment, but His grace shouted, "How can I give you up!" "I will not execute My fierce anger ... for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst and I will not come in wrath."

    If God's nature is love, then ceasing to love would be a denial of who He is - He would cease to be God - "for I am God and not man!"

    Judgment is not spared or denied to God's people. They had defiantly rebelled against God's love. But, that persistent love finally led to salvation. Though they "shall come trembling like birds from Egypt and like doves from the land of Assyria: I will return them to their homes, says the Lord."

    1/28/2005 12:00:00 AM by John Pond | with 0 comments

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