Chapter-a-Day Hosea 6

English: Watch Movement Français : Mouvement d...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I want you to show love,
    not offer sacrifices.
I want you to know me
    more than I want burnt offerings.
Hosea 6:6 (NLT)

Intimacy has been a recurring topic in my life conversations of late. How interesting that it relates both to human relationships, namely marriage, but also to our relationship (or lack thereof) with God. Time and time again, God’s message makes a direct parallel between the two. Jesus used the metaphor of marriage to describe our relationship with Him on a continual basis.

Many struggle with intimacy in marriage. Having going through divorce after a 17 year marriage, I know that struggle. Instead of the deep experience of truly knowing and being known, two people spiritually, emotionally, and even physically hide themselves from one another. The relationship becomes contractual and platonic. Sex becomes a physical exercise (“Well, I guess we should”) rather than a spiritual and emotional experience of bodies and souls intertwining and finding oneness.

The same can be true of our relationship with God. Instead of the experience of truly knowing and being known, we spiritually and emotionally hide ourselves from God. The relationship becomes contractual and Lifeless. Relationship becomes rigid religious exercise rather than a spiritual and emotional experience of God and me in intertwining oneness.

I love the way God said it through Hosea the way a spouse would say it to his or her mate: I want your love – not your obligatory duty. I don’t want you to live with me as much as I want you to live within me.

Today, I’m continuing to pursue my relationship with God just as I pursue my relationship with Wendy. I want to relate to each in such a way that I experience it growing organically deeper and more fruitfully life-giving instead of going through rote daily ritual like a cog and a wheel in an inanimate machine.

Chapter-a-Day Hosea 5

 

“For as soon as trouble comes,
    they will earnestly search for me.”
Hosea 5:15b (NLT)

Amidst the stretch of my journey in which I served as a pastor, I performed a lot of weddings and a lot of funerals. In a few cases, the two very different rites of passage were performed close to one another on the calendar and it provided me with a very interesting contrast.

From my perspective, weddings have largely become events of mass distraction. They are huge affairs with seemingly endless amounts of time, energy and money invested in the most frivolous of details. Everyone is stressed out. Fathers are groaning under the fiscal weight of the event. Mothers are groaning under the pressure to make it perfect for themselves and their guests. Brides are under pressure to create and experience the ultimate Pinterest-perfect fairy tale. Grooms’ heads spin as they cluelessly follow orders and try to keep it all straight. Guests are distracted by the spectacle, the feast, and the dancing. Despite the token nods that God is given during the festivities, few if any pay much serious attention to spiritual things.

At a funeral, there is a dead body in the room. A living being people knew and loved and with whom they experienced relationship is gone. The body lays like a wax figure in an open casket. There is a somber weight to the event as every person is vividly reminded of his or her own ultimate, earthly fate. In comparison to a wedding, funerals are generally simple affairs that are arranged quickly. People just want to get through it and get it over with. Unless the deceased is royalty or celebrity, relatively little time and energy is spent planning the details of the event.

I struggle to recall to mind any wedding I performed in which I entered into any serious spiritual discussion with a member of the wedding party or their families. There’s too much hub-bub. People are too distracted. I can, however, bring to mind several funerals in which I had very meaningful conversations with individuals and families about life, death, family, regret, guilt, forgiveness, and eternity.

It’s natural and human, I suppose, to think that we don’t search for God until trouble comes. If the going is easy then we feel little need. I don’t want to live that way, however. I don’t want to wait for trouble to come. Along the way, I’ve determined to seek God each and every day, in good times and bad times, in weddings and in funerals, on the peaks as well as in the valleys (and a chapter-a-day :-)).

Chapter-a-Day Hosea 4

English: Image of a Thomas Saf-T-Liner HDX sch...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Don’t point your finger at someone else
    and try to pass the blame!”
Hosea 4:4a (NLT)

The other day I was in a meeting and those in attendance were asked if they had any prayer requests. I was expecting the normal litany of requests about illnesses and safety for those traveling, but one of the men in the group had an unusual request.

The previous week he’d been driving home and happened upon a school bus with kids and parents milling about. One of the parents standing along the curb began to trip and fall toward the street. Distracted in an effort to avoid hitting the tripping mother, the man realized he’d passed the bus with its stop sign out. Realizing he’d broken the law he promptly drove to the local police station and turned himself in. He reported what he’d done. The result, he was told, was a mandatory court date, a citation, and the possibility of serving jail time. While writing out the citation, the officer realized it was the man’s birthday. “Happy Birthday!” the cop said as he passed over the ticket. Hearing the words “jail time” had the man a little rattle and he asked that we pray for the judge’s leniency at his trial.

I couldn’t help but be impressed by the man’s honesty and willingness to take responsibility for what he’d done. I observe that most people today would quickly slink back home, do everything they could to avoid the rap, excuse their behavior and shift blame to someone or something else. I have come to believe that we live in a time when pointing the finger and shifting blame have been raised to new heights by both individuals, groups and our culture as a whole. How sad that we find it quirky and odd when an individual steps up to the plate and accepts responsibility for his or her own mistakes.

Today, I’m praying for honesty and personal integrity in my own heart and actions, along with those of God’s people.

Chapter-a-Day Hosea 3

Hoshea was the last king of the Israelite King...
Hoshea was the last king of the Israelite Kingdom of Israel and son of Elah. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This shows that Israel will go a long time without a king or prince, and without sacrifices, sacred pillars, priests, or even idols! But afterward the people will return and devote themselves to the Lord their God and to David’s descendant, their king. In the last days, they will tremble in awe of the Lord and of his goodness. Hosea 3:4-5 (NLT)

Hosea was a prophet and his book is part of the Hebrew books of prophecy. It is impossible to read them and not think about their message in the context of history, time, and events. This morning, these two verses caught my eye for their prophetic nature.

Israel will go a long time without a king or prince… Indeed, Hoshea was the last king of Israel and he finished his reign in 712 B.C. Even if we count Zedekiah who was the last king of the southern nation of Judah, we only make it to 586 B.C. So, we’re now at roughly 2500 years Israel has been without a king.

without sacrifices, sacred pillars, priests, or even idols!…  When Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans just 40 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, all of the Hebrews’ extensive genealogical records were destroyed along with the temple. Because God’s law specifically requires that the priestly and sacrificial systems be carried out by sons of Aaron and Levi, the sacking of Rome made it impossible for these systems to continue. It’s been nearly 2000 years.

But afterward the people will return…. Israel’s statehood in 1948 has resulted in millions returning to their native land.

and devote themselves to the Lord their God and to David’s descendant, their king…. What’s interesting about this is that the destruction of the genealogical records in 70 A.D.  make it nearly impossible to determine who is a direct descendant of King David. Yet Jesus’ family tree exists. The line through both his mother and his earthly father is recorded in the gospels and traced back to David.

In the last days, they will tremble in awe of the Lord and of his goodness. Today, I feel like I’m living out this prophecy as I ponder in wonder. I’m amazed at God’s story, His plan, and His prophets. I’m grateful to be living in such amazing times and witnessing so much from  a man walking on the moon to the ability of holding more information than all the ancient libraries combined in the palm of my hand. At the same time, I’m reminded that it is all part of a larger plan and story that God is telling through human history. It was foretold through the ancient prophets, has been working itself out and is yet coming to be.

My Life: A Photo Abecedarius

E is for Eyes.

I don’t know why, but I’ve always had a fascination with eyes. When I am struck by a stranger, it almost always their eyes that, well, “catch my eye.” Eyes have been a consistent motif in my artwork. I’ve heard it said that science has been able to replicate almost every human aspect in the form of robotics, but the eye  and it’s coordination with the brain and body has been virtually impossible to replicate in its complexity, sensitivity and rapid response.

I love that God created the eye to be the lamp of the soul. Eyes speak so much. They are so expressive. Eyes captivate.

Chapter-a-Day Hosea 2

Path off Coombs Road, Bakewell, Derbyshire
(Photo credit: eamoncurry123)

“But then I will win her back once again.
    I will lead her into the desert
    and speak tenderly to her there.”
Hosea 2:14 (NLT)

As one who has walked the faith journey for a good long while, I am repeatedly amazed at God’s patience, grace and long suffering with those of us who choose into relationship with Him. I can look back and see so many times that God could have, and perhaps should have, cut me loose and cast me aside. To be honest, there were many times that He gave me freedom to make foolish choices and harvest the consequences of my actions.

Nevertheless, God has always proven faithful. St. Paul wrote to his protege Timothy that even when we are faithless, God is faithful because God cannot disown who He is. Faithfulness is at the core of God’s being. Despite the fact that Israel acted like an unfaithful spouse and even though our own thoughts, motives, and actions show us to be no better, God waits for our return like the Prodigal’s father. When we come to our senses and return, God does not just grudgingly accept us, but woos us with kindness and tenderness. God goes the extra mile to win our hearts back again.

Today, I am humbly reminded of God’s faithfulness to this wandering wayfarer. His kindness leads me once more to repentance, and gratitude, and a renewed commitment to faithfully and lovingly follow.