Friday, October 12

Dearest church family,

Good morning to you all. Friday blessings!

The Psalm readings for today are:

Morning- Psalm51 & 148

Evening- Psalm 65 & 142

Our final Old Testament reading for this week is Hosea 9: 10-17. Hosea speaks of the seasons of Israel. He shares news of God’s coming rejection.

Ephraim is sick, their root is dried up, they will bear no fruit. Even though they give birth, I will put to death their much loved little ones.
Hosea 9: 16-17

Our reading today contains some of the harshest words found in the Bible. Are these Hosea’s words or God’s? Does that even matter?

I say it does matter, but the content seems more alarming to me. Rather than question God’s care for children, questioning our care for children stings a bit more. We would never kill our children, would we?

I challenge us to move beyond our immediate reaction to such disturbing thoughts a bit. We all do well to seriously consider the ways our unfaithfulness affects children. It had the potential of robbing them of their lives.

When we are hypocritical, our children see it. When we are unkind or even hateful, our children know it. They are keen observers of our imperfection.

These are all blessings as it turns out. Through living our faith realistically, God transforms our imperfection into empowering witness. Faithfulness is more infectious than infidelity.

Hosea makes no bones about it. The lives of future generations are affected by present infidelity. Would any faithful parent willingly harm a child? With God’s help, that answer is no.

Peace,
Jonathan


Thursday, October 11

Dearest church family, 

Good morning to you all. I hope you are doing well this Thursday morning. Thanks to everyone who helped make our visit with Nedson and Sebber such a wonderful evening! 

The Psalm readings for today are: 

Morning – Psalm 97 & 147: 12 – 20           Evening – Psalm 16 & 62 

Our Old Testament reading for today is Hosea 9: 1 – 9. Israel is faced with the consequences of its unfaithfulness. Divine judgment arrives in full force. 

What will you do on the day of appointed festival; on the day of the Lord’s festival?

Hosea 9: 5           CEB 

The story of Israel’s unfaithfulness has been painted in great detail. The idolatrous infidelity has been named. The time to pay the piper has arrived. 

Hosea tells the people it is too late to make amends. Destruction of all the Israelites hold dear is imminent. No sacrifice or offering can atone for the sin of Israel. 

Our reading today is a line for line account of the wrath of God poured out against those who sin. There can be no denying what Hosea is saying to the people. The freedom and possessions of Israel are about to be taken away by an angry God. 

In the middle of our reading today, we find an interesting question. Hosea asks the people how they will honor the festival day of the Lord in the midst of their punishment. The question seems a bit out of place since there is apparently no way to avoid the coming wrath of God. 

Translate the question Hosea asks in verse 5 to our time and place. How do we worship God in the midst of suffering? Do we come in the door pretending to be perfect and chastising God for being mean, or do we come in acknowledging our imperfection and unfaithfulness and seek to be forgiven and redeemed? 

Do we try to walk God’s path in order to avoid God’s wrath? Do we humbly beg for forgiveness and seek signs of God’s grace? How will we celebrate the festival of the Lord? 

Peace,

Jonathan

 

Wednesday, October 10

Dearest church family, 

Good morning to you. Wednesday blessings to all! 

The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary for today are: 

Morning – Psalm 89: 1 – 18 & 147: 1 – 11               Evening – Psalm 1 & 33 

Our Old Testament reading for today is Hosea 8: 1 – 14. After pointing out the foolishness of the people, Hosea turns to pointing out the idolatrous behavior of the people of God. God directs Hosea to address the human practice of bargaining with God. 

Israel has forgotten his maker, and built palaces; and Judah has multiplied walled cities; but I will send a fire upon his cities, and it will devour his fortresses.

Hosea 8: 14         CEB 

The first commandment given by God is, “Have no other gods before me.” This commandment sets the stage for all the rest. The Ten Commandments move past this first initial statement to a command against the creation of idols for worship and / or protection. 

The words of Hosea are abundantly clear. If a child of God chooses to place their trust and faith in anything other than God, God will destroy it with fire. That is what verse 14 of our reading today says, right? I don’t know about you, but I am not so sure that is the whole of the message. 

What God directs Hosea to share with the people is the fallacy of idolatry. The practice of idolatry involves worshipping and sacrificing before some graven image in order to receive favor and / or protection. The altars of small “g” gods exist in every  time and place. They are a manifestation of the human desire for self-preservation. 

God, through the words of Hosea, points out the fallacy of that practice. Whatever we do without seeking God’s direction first will fail. It really is as simple as that. Prosperity, safety, and power are all meaningless things apart from God.

Any time any child of God looks to anything other than God to define these things, the definitions achieved are subject to the fire of destruction. God is the only creator with the capacity to truly provide prosperity, safety, and power. All else is meaningless. 

Peace,

Jonathan 

p.s. 

Please remember our visit with Sebber Banda and Nedson Zulu today. They will be with us for COW this evening. Supper is at 5:30 for those who made a reservation. If you did not make a reservation, you are welcome to come a little before 6 to hear an update from this exciting missionary team. Please make plans to attend!



Tuesday, October 9

Dearest church family, 

Good morning to you. I hope you are doing well after a Monday holiday. 

Our readings for devotion this week will be the Old testament passages from the daily lectionary. We will be reading portions of Hosea. I will also include the daily Psalm readings for your reference as well. 

The Psalm readings for today are: 

Morning – Psalm 42 & 146            Evening – Psalm 102 & 133 

Our Old Testament reading for today is Hosea 7: 8 – 16. The middle portion of Hosea contains prophecy regarding the judgment being handed down to Israel and Judah. After outlining the infidelity of the people in their relationship with God, Hosea speaks of the judgment that is being worked out in their midst. Our reading today focuses on human foolishness. 

They don’t cry to me from the heart, but they sob upon their beds; they fight over grain and wine; they resist me.

Hosea 7: 14         CEB 

Hosea’s story is a hard one to handle. The entire prophecy relates to the infidelity present in the covenant relationship between God and humankind. God directs Hosea to act and speak in ways that bring that infidelity to light. God “uses” Hosea in ways that are hard to process. 

It is most helpful to focus on the nature of infidelity the whole story of Hosea speaks of. Violation of covenant relationship is the original sin of humanity. Sometimes we tend to forget that fact. It is painful to talk about and makes us uncomfortable. We much rather focus on God’s grace, and with good reason. 

One way to read Hosea is to interpret God as the angry parent; meeting out harsh punishments to right the wrongs of unruly children. Taking this approach leads us to see God as punitive, and our relationship with God as one where we had better behave our else. This approach to covenant relationship, as it turns out, actually breeds infidelity. 

Another way is to hear God offering insight into why shallow faith has no redemptive value. In verse 14 of our reading today, God directs Hosea to explain what human resistance to God looks like. People of faith often do not truly turn to God in their time of need. 

What this means for us is powerful. It reminds us that our refusal to set aside selfish ways results in continuation of strife. This is not a punishment from God. It is the result of our refusal to seek the redemptive power covenant relationship brings with it. 

We all do well to remember what it means to be in covenant relationship. Covenant relationships, with God first and with others second, are about much more than being obedient. They are about submitting ourselves to the redemptive power of the relationship. 

This requires honesty, humility, and vulnerability on our part. Today I encourage each of us to move beyond surface resistance to the sometimes painful realities of our humanity. Recognition of the redemptive power of God’s love comes when we see honesty, humility, and vulnerability as virtues. 

Peace,

Jonathan 

p.s. 

Remember that Sebber Banda and Nedson Zulu, missionaries with the Outreach Foundation in the Tete Province of Mozambique, will be with us tomorrow. They will be arriving between noon and 1, and there will be an informal lunch for them here at the church at 1pm. If you would like to attend that lunch, please let me know no later than 1pm today. They will be joining us for COW tomorrow, which begins with supper at 5:30 and a mission update from them at 6.