Learning How to Live for God
A devotional by Chaplain Paul Anderson
O Israel, return to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity; Take words with you, and return to the Lord. Say to Him, “Take away all iniquity; receive us graciously, for we will offer the sacrifices of our lips.”
–Hosea 14:1-2 (NKJV)
When I was young, my parents would gather the family for evening worship.
We would sing songs of our choosing. My father would read a portion of scripture or an inspirational story from Guidepost. We would recite the memory verses from our children’s devotional books. After prayer, my mother would lead us in singing “An Evening Prayer”. The lyrics imply an internal review of a person’s day and asks God’s forgiveness if during the day they had wounded, misled someone or willfully sinned.
As I matured and read the Bible with a bit more maturity, I understood Hosea 14:1-2 with new vision. I also understood my mother’s favorite song a bit better. The prophet Hosea was exhorting the people of his era to recognize their spiritual waywardness, to confess their sins to God and to offer sincere sacrifices.
Hosea gave a formula for reconciliation that is still effective today. In our spiritual relationship with God and in our interpersonal relationships, this three-part formula still works.
Step one is to reorient ourselves from a position of opposition to a posture of humble recognition where our decisions and actions have created a misalignment. Consequently, we have missed the bullseye of our relational target, otherwise known as righteousness. We have drifted from the secure moorings of rectitude and want to return to a spiritually safe harbor.
When the prodigal son, referenced in Luke 15:11-31, comes to his senses, he composed what he would say when he saw his father. As he made his way home, he rehearsed the phrase “…Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.”
Step two is a rehearsed and sincere confession. That is what Hosea meant when he said, “take words with you”, in the verse I shared above. Confessions should be sincere, heartfelt, well-reasoned and well stated. But words are not enough. True confession must be followed by some token of lasting reconciliation.
Step three is to follow through. When Hosea uses the phrase “we will offer the sacrifices of our lips”, he is forcefully implying that confessions require sacrifices. In his culture and era, animal sacrifices were still common as object lessons of the price of sinfulness. Sin offerings inscribed upon the heart and mind of the offender how enormous were the effect and consequences of their actions. Saying “I am sorry and I will never do it again” was followed by an offering to God commensurate to the wealth of the offender. Sometimes, an offering to the person most affected was also required.
Now that Jesus Christ has died for our sins, been resurrected, and has ascended to the right hand of the Father in Heaven, animal sacrifices are no longer required. What is required is that we offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God by using the gifts, talents, opportunities, and influence that we have in His service.
As God has forgiven us, may we pay the vows of our lips with sincere service to God by being the generous and miraculous answers to the prayers that someone else is praying.
Let’s Pray: Dear God, at the end of our day when evening comes, help us to see our highpoints as well as the mistakes, missteps and misalignments with others and forgive us. When we rest, restore our spiritual balance and prepare us to be useful representatives of Your grace in the new day that will dawn. In the name of Jesus, I ask this prayer. Amen.
Song of Reflection: “The Lord’s Prayer” (song) by Tamela Mann. Listen to it here.
Chaplain Paul Anderson served for 20 years as a U.S. Navy Chaplain. Over 26 years of active duty, he was promoted through the ranks from Seaman Apprentice (E2) to his final rank as Commander (O5) in the Chaplain’s Corps.
Prior to his Naval career, Chaplain Anderson pastored in the Allegheny East and Potomac Conferences of Seventh-day Adventists. His undergraduate preparation for ministry was completed at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Md.
He has subsequently earned four graduate degrees: a Master of Divinity from Andrews University in Michigan, a Master of Education in Counseling and Personnel Services from the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland and a Masters of Sacred Theology in Religion and Culture from Boston University. His Doctor of Ministry degree was conferred by Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.
Chaplain Anderson also completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He also holds certifications in Suicide Awareness and Prevention, Civil Mediation, Alternative Workplace Dispute Resolution, Temperament Analysis, Marriage Enrichment, Workforce Diversity, and is a certified Life Coach.
You may connect with Chaplain Anderson via email at this address, email@example.com.