Monday, June 20, 2011, 09:10 AMJune 20, 2011
Posted by Kermit
Posted by Kermit
I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me, more than I want burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6
It’s been a long month of flood fighting, and VBS, and taking a break from this blog. I hope you are surviving (thriving) well, enjoying some parts of this unusual summer, and growing closer to our blessed Savior. For those of you who don’t know, or live far away from Bismarck ND, we are dealing with a record flood event that is ravaging our community and most others up and down the entire Missouri and Mississippi river systems. We have about 800 homes that have been directly affected by flood waters, and many families who have moved out. Most of the southern parts of our city, and a large number of neighborhoods along the river to the north are dealing with record flooding. It will change the landscape and ‘history’ of Bismarck and Mandan forever. There has been no loss of life, and shouldn’t be with this event. And as a good friend of mine reminded me: “Beyond that – it’s all just stuff!” I know it’s not my stuff, but she is right. Most of us have too much stuff and love our stuff too much – and events like this can help us think about our relationship with immaterial ‘things’ at a deeper level. I covet your prayers for those thousands affected all along the river system, and pledge to join you/them in fighting on. Now back to Hosea for a bit.
In this book of ongoing predictions and prophecies of the judgment forecast against wayward Israel; there appear (occasionally) small snippets of hope. Verse 6 is one of those – or at least was for me today. I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me, more than I want burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6. This speaks to me today of how God wants us to live in relationship with Him. I equate offering sacrifices, burnt and otherwise, to the “religious duties, rituals, and habits”, to which many of us have reduced this relationship we claim to have with God through Jesus. Too many of us have settled for a casual keeping of religious practices (making sacrifices and burning offerings) instead of living in a vital and passionate relationship with God that is marked by these two things: Knowing God and Showing Love.
It’s so easy for me to point my finger at the “Pharisees” among us today; the crazy TV preachers caught in some latest scandal, the silly media prophets selling DVD’s of their latest predictions, the wacko predictors of days and times the world will end, or God will judge, or some other such nonsense, and the lazy self-righteous “believer” who is living on some past experience of God or Jesus, who can’t get past that past, and clings to a dying image of what once was, instead of embracing change and welcoming new expressions of a vital faith, a compassionate life, a committed existence that is marked by Knowing God and Showing Love!
It just seems so simple to me to point out how stupid others are, and how dead they have allowed their “faith relationship” to become - - then, as usual, I’m brought to the full awareness that I have my own issues of “Phariseeism”. I’m still struggling against my own human failings that have plagued me for most of my adult/Christian life. I can run around and throw sandbags (showing love), and preach and pray about how others should (Know God) – but my relationship is still crippled by my own sin. I know I can never end my humanness – but I sure wish I could gain some more control over it!
Anyway, today I want to Know God, and Show Love. God help me.
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Wednesday, May 25, 2011, 10:22 AMMay 25, 2011
Posted by Kermit
Posted by Kermit
Hear the word of the Lord, O people of Israel! The Lord has brought charges against you, saying: “There is no faithfulness, no kindness, no knowledge of God in your land. You make vows and break them; you kill and steal and commit adultery. There is violence everywhere – one murder after another. That is why your land is in mourning, and everyone is wasting away. Even the wild birds of the sky, and the fish of the sea are disappearing. “Don’t point your finger at anyone else and try to pass blame! My complaint, you priests, is with you.” Hosea 4:1-4
Don’t worry, I’ll get to Hosea’s disgust and judgment on the priests, but let me first deal with the first part of verse 4: “Don’t point your finger at anyone else and try to pass blame! From this point on in the book of Hosea to the end, there is chapter after chapter of judgments from God against Israel. We may tire of these reminders – but we’ll plow through them the best we can.
We must begin though with this phrase: “Don’t point your finger at anyone else and try to pass blame! We live in a country that sounds so like verses 1-3…and especially verse 4! We are a nation of “victims” always blaming some else for all our problems. Right now in Bismarck we are facing a serious flood, and people want to blame the Corp of Engineers for mismanagement of the Garrison Dam. Right now in America we are dealing with a serious national deficient, significant unemployment, and massive governmental problems from failing social security, to out of control spending, to rising gas prices. And all we hear from our leaders is how the “other party” is to blame. In our churches across this country, people have grown lazy, apathetic and institutionally disconnected, and we’d like to blame the system, or the culture, or the media, or simply people’s lack of commitment. Just this week I read of a woman who is suing a retail store because as she was texting while driving she became distracted, and crashed into the front window of the store and got cuts and bruises. She is suing the store because the glass was too strong or too sharp or something…and she’ll probably win! We are a nation of “victims”…not unlike how Hosea and God must have felt about the condition of Israel at that time.
But notice how he begins to unravel these judgments from God: “Don’t point your finger at anyone else and try to pass blame! Before you attack the President or government or priests/pastors/psychotic prophets; notice how God and Hosea point out the three fingers pointing back at you/us/me as we try to lay blame elsewhere. We can’t blame the Corp when we love to fish and enjoy all kinds of water activities, and have been demanding more water, until now it comes is rushes because of unexpected rainfall, or an unusually late/slow spring thaw. We can’t blame the government when we demand more and more social services, good roads, police protection, helping agencies and resources, and luxurious retirements! We can’t blame the culture or society, or media for all our ills…for we are them! We must begin to lay the blame where it squarely belongs…on our own shoulders, hearts, minds, bodies, and lives!
We cannot live denying God, and blaming others, and expect someone else to solve our “problems”. We cannot live selfish, individualistic, puny lives, then, when some crisis comes, demand some government, or someone else to come and save us. We cannot ignore our own personal needs for salvation while we enjoy the fruits of prosperity, and then when times get tough, expect someone else to perpetuate our “without God” lifestyles! God may be calling us back to reality folks, and it is about high time!
We might lay all the natural disasters in the lap of Mother Nature or random acts of God. We might justify all sinful behavior as “my right”, but there will be a price to pay for such wantonness. We might blame anyone and everyone else…but ultimately we will stand alone before God, and then no excuses will suffice, no blame will be heard, no amount of self-indulgent justification will make a hill of beans difference – it will be me and God…and I don’t think God will be impressed with my vain attempts to impress him with my ability to fault someone else for all my failures, screw-ups, and sin. At that moment, I will fall on my face and thank God for grace and mercy.
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Tuesday, May 24, 2011, 11:36 AMMay 24, 2011
Posted by Kermit
Posted by Kermit
Then the Lord said to me, “Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover. This will illustrate that the Lord still loves Israel, even though the people have turned to other gods and love to worship them.” Hosea 3:1
I hope you are not tiring of this metaphor – but God seems to be driving this point deeper and deeper into the psyche of Israel – that their adulterous liaisons with false gods aplenty is like Gomer throwing herself at all these pseudo lovers come to pay for her services. I can’t help but think about how so many people in this land and time continue to throw themselves into so many different “things” to try and satisfy the deep desire within all of us to find meaning, purpose and fulfillment. We must find it in the only legitimate place – God’s Son, Jesus Christ. All other pursuits and lovers will let us down and disappoint us – only God’s love as experienced in Jesus Christ completely satisfies.
This morning I was struck by this verse with God’s command to Hosea - Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover. I have to think that Hosea might have found this a hard command. I imagine that even though he was certainly more spiritual than I, this would still be a hard pill to swallow. It makes me wonder – to what lengths am I willing to go to follow God? Are there things too hard for me to do that God asks and expects me to do? Is there some mystical ‘line in the sand’ over which I hesitate to cross? Is there some point where I say to God, “I’ll go this far…but no farther?” I hope not – but I’m afraid there often is! I’m afraid my faith and commitment is often more a matter of convenience than real conviction: I’m willing to do this – but not that. I’m willing to follow – but not suffer. I’m willing to preach and pray and work with nice people – but obstinate and hard-hearted folks…”no God – call someone else to work with them.” It may not be “go and love your wife again – but most of us have our own “lines in the sand” – don’t we?
All I’m asking today, precious Father, is that you equip me with all that will be necessary for me to be faithful. I know you have given all of us the Holy Spirit – but sometimes I need a more “visible” companion, or more “immediate” word. I know that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me – I have no problem with YOUR part of fulfilling this plan – but I have some significant reservations about my part! I’m willing to do most of what you ask – but there are some hard things that cause me pause! Help me today to be willing to be made willing to do everything you ask me to do! Amen
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Monday, May 23, 2011, 10:55 AMMay 23, 2011
Posted by Kermit
Posted by Kermit
Sorry for the long absence – had to spend a few days recuperating after this long winter/wet spring. I enjoyed a 10 day black bear hunt with some great friends in SW Oregon. Happy to be home, but loved my time away – we all need that! Now back to Hosea.
But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. Hosea 2:14-15
After the promises from God to wrestle all meaning and fulfillment from all Israel’s wanderings – God now moves to the positive promises for restoration. I was struck this morning of the power of the desert. How many significant events in the Bible happened or had their origins in some desert? I think most specifically of Jesus’ entrance into ministry birthed in the desert being tempted by Satan. I also think about my dad’s comment to me many years ago: “When you find yourself in God’s “woodshed” – stay till you are done – so you don’t have to return again so soon!”
I think there is a point here. We modern – might even say American Christians - are not very fond of the desert. When we sometimes find ourselves in the dry, distant, depressing places of life we might call ‘deserts’, our first reaction is to get out of them as quickly as possible – and I think, too often then miss the redeeming power and work God might want to bring to us through the desert experiences of our life. I love the part in verse 14 – “I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there.” God doesn’t always send us into the desert to punish or banish us – but sometimes (most times) to redeem and restore us. God leads us into the desert places to diminish the distractions and maximize the focus required to make changes in our lives.
The reference to the Valley of Trouble becoming a gateway of hope is also meaningful. This was a famous valley in Israel’s history. It was the place where after a major triumphant war victory – Achan, one of the warriors – kept and hid some of the forbidden booty gained in the ransacking of some city. God unveils his deceit and he is killed. I think there might be a lesson there too. The Valley of Trouble was named thus because Achan in his deceptive selfishness had brought this trouble and judgment upon not just himself; but the whole nation. I could explore these thoughts further, but another time. For today – take great courage that God is working His way in our world, and in our lives – even in the desert places – transforming our Valleys of Trouble into gateways of hope!
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Wednesday, May 11, 2011, 10:55 AMMay 11, 2011
Posted by Kermit
Posted by Kermit
For this reason I will fence her in with thorn bushes. I will block her path with a wall to make her lose her way. When she runs after her lovers, she won’t be able to catch them. She will search for them but not find them. Then she will think, ‘I might as well return to my husband, for I was better off with him than I am now.’ She doesn’t realize it was I who gave her everything she has – the grain, the new wine, the olive oil; I even gave her silver and gold. But she gave all my gifts to Baal . Hosea 2:6-8
Remember that Hosea is writing about God’s judgment of Israel, and is using his wife Gomer (a former prostitute) as the “metaphor” to illustrate how Israel has abandoned God, like Gomer living an illicit life.
So here in the first half of this second chapter Hosea is reminding Israel how far they have wandered away from God. After reciting numerous examples of unfaithfulness – he turns to this passage which talks about this “hedge” that will serve to bring Gomer (Israel) back to God. How God will ‘block her path’, and make all her pursuits void of any satisfaction. At the end of these vain searches, she’ll be left with the knowledge that she may as well return to her husband (God) and enjoy all the blessings He has already provided. I like this passage for a couple reasons.
I believe we are in this “hedged” state in America right now. I believe that God has/is allowing us to experience some hard and difficult things to bring us back to Himself. I’m not of the stripe to attribute every national or natural disaster as the direct and providential “will” of God – but neither am I of the opinion that God has simply spoken us into existence; then left us to fend for ourselves! I believe that God is, right now, using the economic downturn, the continuing war on terror, and the tumultuous political times…to draw and call us back to Himself! I am of the opinion that chasing so many different “American Dreams” has left us systemically unsatisfied – and I hope along with Hosea that we might come to realize that it wasn’t so bad with our original husband! It is God who has given us this great land. It is God who has allowed us to experience and enjoy the fruits of this great country. Yes, I know many forefathers and mothers worked and sacrificed to make this all possible – but God is the ultimate source for all the blessings we have enjoyed; and it’s high time we get back to our husband, and start living in faithfulness again!
So, today, don’t worry or stress about the market being down (or up) the government fighting about cutting social security or raising taxes, (either way – we’re out more of our money) or the latest Libyan advance or defeat. We have a God who loves us, and is directing the course of history (even when unbeknownst or unacknowledged by us) to fulfill His ultimate purpose – which contrary to what too many believe; is not our happiness – but our holiness!
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