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Summary: If we love God, we will truly love the things we ought to love and we'll find some other way of expressing our appreciation for the material things we have.

The passage from Hosea 11:1-10 is a story of God mourning over his people. He loved Israel like a parent loves a child, but Israel spurned him. Even though he was rejected, God still loved Israel and could not renounce his chosen people. It is a metaphor for what Jesus did. Jesus was rejected by some of the people, but he still loved them even to the point of dying on the cross. Christ's death and resurrection are symbols of God's never-ending love for us.

God's lonely heart is also a metaphor for all broken relationships-divorce, estrangement, separation or death, for example. The loneliness really hurts when others are in trouble or on a collision course. We want to step in and help, but our efforts are sometimes rejected. When this frustrates us, we can sympathize with God's anguish over his people. We remember the time when we have rejected him. We remember the times when we have tried to run our own lives. Sometimes we edge him out of our lives until life's problems and pressures become so severe that we become homesick for God. We can feel God's heart beating and yearning for his people. When we repent, we begin our Christian life and unlock the secret to receiving daily strength and courage.

All of us want to be praised, including God. God wants us to praise him so much that he made it the turning point in our deepest, darkest problems and anxieties. When we praise God, we acknowledge that he can use even the most painful events in our lives. He takes us just the way we are. He doesn't care if we are rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, how intelligent we are or how powerful we are. He only cares that we will "let go and let God".

Even though God loves his people, he can't ignore their sins just like a parent can't ignore it when a child misbehaves. God's righteous nature demands that sin be punished. Because he loves his people and because he demands that sin be punished, he provided a substitute in Jesus. Jesus paid our sin debt on the cross so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. This fulfilled God's purpose and plan to reconcile his people to him. This also gives us hope and a future. God's love will always outweigh his punishment.

Each of us has two natures that are constantly at war with each other-a worldly nature and a spiritual nature. We have to choose which one we will feed. One will win and the other one will lose. We have a free will and we can decide which nature will win. We can decide if we will follow the flesh or the Spirit. Whether or not we live a Spirit-filled life will be determined by how often we say "yes" to the leading of the Spirit and "no" to the temptations of the flesh. If we do not deal properly with our old sinful nature, it will hinder our ability to live a Spirit-filled life. Worldliness will make us more miserable than non-believers.

We all long for things to fill the emptiness in our lives. Most of us try to fill that emptiness with material goods. Some even go so far as to fill this emptiness with drugs, alcohol or sex. These things will not fill the emptiness in our lives. In fact, they will only make things worse. We only have to look at the recent death of Canadian actor Corey Monteith to see the painful truth. He seemed to have it all: fame, a starring role in the hit TV Series "Glee" and a relationship with one of his co-stars. These signs of success hid a painful secret-an addiction to drugs. This addiction combined with alcohol to cause his death in a Vancouver hotel room a couple of weeks ago.

Jesus told the frustrated brother in Luke 12:13-21 that possessions and the work required to get them are not important. While we do have to work to provide food, clothing and shelter for ourselves, the only real possession we must strive for is a right relationship with God. As Christians, one of the most important things we can do is focus on what really matters-God. The problem is that very often we allow our daily lives to take our focus off of the ultimate prize. We become distracted and lose ground in our walk of faith, but if we keep our eyes on Jesus we will keep our heaven-focused perspective on life's challenges when they happen. In the words of a famous saying, we must not "sweat the small stuff".

When we become followers of Christ we have to follow certain rules or guidelines. These are not meant to put us into a religious straightjacket. They are designed to change our nature from a wicked human nature to a spotless spirit-filled nature. Paul tells us in Colossians 3:1-11 that we have to put off our old sinful nature with its reality, ravages, power to delude us and ability to draw us away from our new lives in Christ. Some people might think that this demand is old-fashioned, but we have modern sins such as sexual immorality, dirty-mindedness and envy. We have to cut these out of our lives just like a surgeon sometimes has to perform radical surgery to save a patient's life.

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