A Prayer of Response to God’s Everlasting Love

God’s love for you is everlasting.  He shows His love in ways that span past, present, and future.  He depicts and describes this love for His people, Israel in Hosea 11.  He loves His people, believers in Christ, in these ways as well.  In my message on August 17 on God’s Everlasting Love, I talked about eight ways God shows His everlasting love, then ended with this prayerful response to these ways God loves us.  You may wish to use this to guide you as you respond to your loving God.

Father,

You love us with everlasting love.

When you call us, help us to answer.

When you teach us to walk, help us to take steps.

When you show us the sickness of our sin and offer to heal us with forgiveness, help us to admit our need and accept your healing.

When you gently draw us, help us willingly come close to you.

When you feed us with spiritual food, help us to receive it and grow.

When you chasten us, may we not stiffen ourselves against it, but be changed by it.

When we realize how you agonize over us, help us want to please you, not cause you more pain.

When we begin to grasp what you have promised us, may we live in confident expectation that you will complete what you have begun.

Lord, we want to know you.  You are love.  You loved us and gave Yourself for us.  You love us with everlasting love.  May we love you more and more. 

Amen.

How to Recognize an Idol

In last Sunday morning’s message we learned from Hosea 4 that idolatry hinders our pursuit of knowing God.  Just as the people of Israel in Hosea’s day became attached to idols (Hosea 4:17), so can we today.  Even Christians are warned about idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14; Colossians 3:5; 1 John 5:21).

Almost anything or anyone can be an idol.  What makes it an idol is what’s in your heart.  Idolatry is wanting and pursuing something other than God or more than God. An idol can be anything that hinders your relationship with God. 

You can have religious idols, such as a statue on a shelf in your house or the dashboard of your car.  Worshiping a dead saint or the virgin Mary is idolatry.

Idols can be material things or what those things represent in your life, such as a new car, an old car, a fast car, a smart phone, the latest technology in TV, golf clubs, a fishing rod, a lake house, Xbox, camping trailer, or knitting bag.

Your work can be an idol, as can the sport you like to play or watch, the health you want to preserve, or the level of fitness to which you aspire.

Your spouse, your marriage, or your friends can be idols.  A certain church culture that you prefer can be an idol.  You can idolize America, how it used to be or how you think it should be.  You can idolize your concept of what God should be like.  News, sports, Netflix, video games, smartphone apps, and social media can all distract you from your relationship with God. 

These things are not evil in themselves.  Neither was the golden calf that the people of Israel worshiped.  Calves are cute, and can even be tasty!  So how can something that is good, and not even a religious icon, become an idol?  How do you know if it is an idol?

Here is a list of questions that I gave in the message.  These are intended to help us evaluate if we are allowing something to become an idol in our lives. 

  • How often and how much do I look to this for guidance, comfort, pleasure, or fulfillment?
  • Do I give up time I should spend in the Word, prayer, and in worship and fellowship with God’s people in order to pursue this?
  • If this were taken away from me, how would I react?
  • Do I do something God forbids in order to have this? Would I sin in order to get, keep, or not lose this thing or person?
  • Do I neglect people or duties in order to have or do this?
  • What do I think would make me happy if I could have it? What can I not be happy without?  What are the “if onlys” in my life?
  • What do I desire, crave, or treasure that my mind goes to when not forced to think about something else?

Ultimately, if we ask God to show us idols in our lives, He will.  He wants our whole heart, and will make sure we know if there’s anything in competition with His rightful place in our lives.  When you identify an idol, do not despair.  Do not ignore it either.  God is showing it to you so that you can acknowledge it, turn from it, and return to pursuing knowing Him with your whole heart. 

Practical Ways to Pursue Knowing God

The theme of my summer Sunday morning messages at Calvary is Pursue Knowing God. Hosea the prophet called on the people of Israel to “pursue the knowledge of the Lord” (Hosea 6:3). The book of Hosea is the focus of our study. 

Last Sunday morning near the end of my message I shared some practical ways to pursue knowing God. I thought it would be helpful to provide them here. 

  • Accept what He has promised and provided through His Son, Jesus Christ. (John 17:2-3)
    Jesus gives eternal life to those who believe in Him, and eternal life is knowing God.
  • Intentionally (re)focus your heart on knowing God. (Philippians 3:10)
    The downward pull of our flesh and the busyness of life distract us from knowing God. We need to regularly choose to make knowing God the passionate pursuit of our lives. 
  • Pray specifically for a growing knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:10)
    Paul prayed for the Christians in Colossae to increase in their knowledge of God. This is a scriptural prayer, one that God will surely answer. Pray the words of this verse for yourself.
  • Read the Bible with purpose, looking for attributes and acts of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5)
    Good places to start doing this are the Psalms, the Gospels, and Genesis through Exodus.  Relate these to the circumstances of your life, thinking, “What do I know about my God?”  Journal these. Write them down – “God is ______” or “God is my ______”. Then pray them back to God. Write down how these encourage and help you in your daily life.
  • Anticipate knowing Him fully forever.  (1 Corinthians 13:12)
    Our understanding of God is so very limited. There are many hindrances. But don’t be discouraged. Look forward to seeing Him face to face.