New Year, New Word – Present

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard-pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”

Philippians 1:21-24 ESV

Paul understood that there is a tension between staying and going. Between what you are doing and what you want to do. Between the now and the future. My tension is not as great as Paul’s, but I live in this tension of now and future. Maybe it’s my personality, my history, or something else but I live in an almost constant state of now and the future. On top of that, I am a pretty busy man. I have many demands placed on me and sometimes, oftentimes, get distracted. I am a dreamer too so that can be a problem.

Each year my family and I pick a word for the year. Last year I picked willing. I wanted to be willing to do hard things, willing to take chances, willing to have my plans changed (and they did), willing to hear new things, willing to be a better father, a better husband, a better friend, just willing and open.

This coming year should bring about some amazing changes. We are working on something with our organization and hope to announce our full plans very soon. Being willing opened a door we would have never sought out on our own. Being willing gave me eyes to see how I do not control the future and take time to be a better father, husband, and friend (I hope).

This year I want to be present. I will have more demands on me than before and I will be in new and exciting situations. Because of this, I want to be present. I want to be in the moments and not just going through the motions. When I spend time with the Lord, I want to really be present. When I am with my wife, I want to be real with her. When I am with my kids, I want to be with them fully. Whatever I am doing I want to be focused on that thing. This is going to be hard for me, but I want to do it.

Being present is hard for me. It will take work and determination, but I believe it is worth it and I will be better for it. I believe this is an area I need to grow in. The great thing is I have all year to work on it and unlike a resolution, I can fail multiple times and still be working on it. In fact, every time I fail, I get to see how I need to keep working at it. I get new opportunities to be present.

What about you? When 2020 ends and the year is just a memory what do you want to know you grew in? What word do you want to summarize your growth? Maybe it’s independence and you grew in finances and the knowledge that you are free from your past. Maybe it’s determined and you want to know you pressed harder than before and found new strength to accomplish things and saw God be a rock like never before. I don’t know but I am sure there is something. I believe there is some word that you can want to sum up your relationship with others and God. Some word you want to choose to define you and your year. That is what this is all about choosing how to grow, choosing how to move forward, choosing what defines you. Choose wisely but make a choice.

Just a thought,

Mike

 

Maintenant pour mes amis français. Chaque année ma famille et moi choisis un nouveau mot. L’année dernière j’ai choisi prêt ou volonté. Je voulais être prêt pour tout ce que Dieu voulait que je fasse. Je voulais être prêt à être un meilleur père mari et ami. C’était super. Cette année je choisir présent. Je voudrais être présent dans tout ce que je fais. C’est dur pour moi mais je pense que c’est bon. La vie est très très occupée mais j’ai besoin d’être présent. Si je ne le suis pas alors à quoi ça sert ?

Je vous mets au défi de choisir un seul mot. Un seul mot pour travailler cette année. Un mot qui vous rapprocher de Dieu, à grandir dans vos relations, à grandir en tant que personne.

Juste une pensée,

Mike

Hosea 4:1-9 – An Exegesis

Hosea 4:1-9 A Lack of True Faithfulness Leads to Immorality.

Historical Context

Hosea son of Berri was a prophet during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah kings of Judah and Jeroboam in Israel. The time frame for Hosea runs from around 722 BC. to the middle of the 7th century. In 2 Kings 15 one can get a glimpse into the time in which Hosea lived and prophesied. There are five kings of Israel listed in that chapter and while their reigns are limited their deeds are recorded.

Jeroboam was king of Israel for six months and he did evil in the sight of the LORD (2 Kings 15:8-9. He was assassinated by Shallum who only reigned for one month before he was assassinated (2 Kings 15:13-14). Manahem was the one who killed Shallum and not only is he recorded as doing evil in the sight of the LORD (2 Kings 15:18) but it records one of his evil deeds.[1] The people of Tiphsah would not open the gates to let him enter. His response was to sack the city and rip open all the pregnant women. He is also recorded as extorting money from Israel and being evil like those before him. He reigned for roughly ten years before his death. It makes sense that some of his wickedness is recorded because he lived longer than the previous two kings. This would also have been about the time just before Hosea began to prophesy. His son Pekahiah reigned for two years after him and did evil as well. Pekahiah was replaced by Pekah who killed him and did evil as well.

This is the backdrop of the land that Hosea prophesied in. The kings were evil and did horrific acts. The land was fraught with violence and evil. Those who were responsible for leading the nation had failed and this extended to the priest. Hosea did condemn the unjust actions of the people, but a large focus was on the priest and the “false religious practices” of his day.[2]

Content

The section of Hosea being examined is the beginning of a lawsuit oracle or a rîb. The case is laid out with the LORD as the accusing party against the children of Israel.[3] In short, they have broken the commands of God and in doing so He has a legal right to accuse them, reject them, and remove them from the land. The chapter begins with the word hear or shema which means not only to hear but hear, listen and obey. Israel was to hear, listen and obey God and to love Him faithfully according to Deuteronomy 6:4. Their failure to do so forces God to call them again to shema His words. The case begins in 4:1 where God states the people have no truth (‘emeth) and no steadfast love (hesed). These are the two things God has towards Israel and they do not have it towards Him. Moreover, ‘emeth and hesed are two things that are linked.

Emeth and hesed are two separate Hebrew words but they often exist in tandem. ‘Emeth is translated truth and hesed is translated a few different ways in the Bible but usually ends up in some form of faithfulness or steadfast love. This is a divine attribute that God expresses. He is by His very nature hesed. Baruch Levine says that hesed is “an action concept” meaning that one does hesed or preforms it on or towards another person.[4] However, while God has as part of His nature hesed He expects His people to also express hesed. Not only that but they are to express ‘emeth hesed which is true kindness. The accusation against Israel and the priests is that they are guilty of not expressing true kindness and from there the LORD explains how they have failed.

God uses the Ten Commandments as the legal code Israel and the priest have broken. Hosea lists six commands Israel has broken but if one separates the commandments between those that are sins against God and those that are sins against fellow humans it is clear that God is saying that Israel has sinned fully and completely. There is no knowledge of God in the land. Compare this to Exodus 20:2 where God says He is the one who brought them out of the land. The people have forgotten this and because of this, they commit sins. They swear or break oaths, compare to Exodus 20:7 where the people are commanded not to take the LORD’s name in vain which can include breaking oaths.[5] The people lie, compare to Exodus 20:16. They are murders and cause bloodshed, compare to Exodus 20:13. They steal, compare to Exodus 20:15. They commit adultery, compare to Exodus 20:14.

Because of all this the land itself mourns. Compare this to Lev 18:28 where God promises the people that if they go the way of the other nations the land itself will vomit them out. The guilt of the people will cause the land to disappear or be taken away (v3). While the people are guilty, the priests hold the lion’s share of the guilt because it was their responsibility to lead the people in God’s ways. If this is a legal case against the people, then the priest as the leaders are very guilty because they are the representatives of the people. They were to lead the people in God’s ways and instruct them in truth (‘emeth) and they have failed to do this creating the ignorance the people have. Because of this the priests are rejected.

In looking at the charge against the priest Gary Smith suggests that someone might have been trying to quiet Hosea as Amaziah did to Amos.[6] This would give reasoning for Hosea’s strong wording that seems to be more assertive than the text on its own gives a reason for. Without some sort of rebuttal to him, it is questionable as to why Hosea is saying no one should argue against him. Regardless, the picture is clear. God has a complaint against the priests, and He holds them responsible for the current situation in Israel.

In verse 5 Hosea declares that the prophets, as well as the mothers and children of the priest, shall suffer because of the priest’s sins. They have failed to instruct the people how to live in the ways of God. Their duty was to communicate the truth of the Torah and offer sacrifices on behalf of the people. Their failure to teach led to ignorance or lack of knowledge (v 6) and now their sacrifices are meaningless. Later in verse 8, God says the priest feed on the sins of the people or as Smith says they “encourage the people to exchange” God’s glory for idols.[7] They have not only sinned and failed to do their job creating an ignorance that causes calamity but they encourage it and in doing so they invite judgment on all of Israel.

The priest for their sins, failure to carry out their duties, and self-focus shall be punished. They have been more concerned with sacrifices which they enjoyed than with carrying out their duties and instructing people how to live holy before a holy God (Lev 20:26). They shall be repaid for their deeds (4:9) and punished. For their failure, the priest and the nation as a whole shall be judged and sent into exile.

Modern Application

At this point, a simple question arises: What does this have to do with the church today? It is a fair question when discussing judgment, the failure of religious leaders, and national sinning. One could say that the issues that arise in the American church or the world are divine judgment caused by sinful or ignorant leaders, but this may be a bit extreme because the church does not exist as a nation, as Israel did, but as a universal fellowship since her creation.

The church exists to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. She is commanded by Christ to make disciples of all people and part of this includes teaching people to observe or keep what Christ said and did and evangelizing them. Instead of looking at Hosea 4:1-6 as a national passage in today’s context it might be better to look at it as a warning for local congregations and local pastors.

One such area that could be examined is how does the church responds to issues like social justice? It is not a leap to go from priests failing, people being ignorant of God’s commands and people being judged by God because social justice issues are listed side by side in God’s accusations against Israel (see 4:2). The evils that the people commit are idolatry and injustice. The church exists as a body of believers and priests and because of this, the entire body of Christ is responsible for carrying out the commands to actively teach and engage in social justice issues.[8] No community of believers exists that are free from engaging in service. However, leaders are responsible for instructing their congregations in the ways of righteousness and moving them towards good works (Eph 4:11-12).

With that in mind and the strong emphasis from Hosea, one can also see that leaders are to lead their people into the fight for social justice and community care. A failure to lead people to action is to create inaction which leads to ignorance, apathy, and ultimately sinful behavior. All of God’s people are now part of the priesthood but there still exists in the church some who are called to pastor or shepherd God’s flock. Leaders must understand their calling and responsibility. Teaching the word or preaching on Sunday is only one part of the equation. There must also be an action. The priests of Hosea’s day only wanted to offer sacrifices and it could be argued that it was because they received a portion of the meat. God’s leaders are put into place to lead and this goes beyond Sunday sermons.

In 2 Thes 3:8 Paul talks about how he did not take anything without paying for it to set an example for the people. Some have taken this too far and suggested that pastors and leaders not be paid for their service but that contradicts the biblical teaching on providing for teachers (cf. 1 Tim 5:17-18). Leaders of the church are to be compensated for their service, but they are to work for it. This work is not simply instruction but an example. Leaders are called to imitate them as they imitate Christ (1 Cor 11:1).

For churches that have leaders who fail to provide proper instruction and examples, they may face issues. It may not be a national judgment, but they could have issues that affect congregational growth, suitability, and continued health of local churches. Leaders must rise to the challenge and lead in word and deed. They must be willing to do hard things in times of prosperity and in times when there is immoral public leadership. They must imitate Christ.

[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scripture is taken from the ESV.

[2] J. Gordon McConville, Exploring the Old Testament, A Guide to the Prophets, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press 2002, 137.

[3] Moon, J. N. (2018). Hosea. London, England: IVP Academic. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=2248771&site=ehost-live

[4] Levine, B. A. (2013). On the concept ḥesed in the Hebrew Bible. The Living Pulpit (Online)22(3). Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.elibrary.johnsonu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0001981654&site=ehost-live

[5] Enns, P. (2000). Exodus. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan Academic. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.elibrary.johnsonu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=1524691&site=ehost-live

[6] Smith, G. V. (2001). Hosea, Amos, Micah. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan Academic. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.elibrary.johnsonu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=1524740&site=ehost-live

[7] Ibid.

[8] Wieland, A. (2016). Social justice and the mission of the church. Journal of Latin American Theology11(1), 99–102. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.elibrary.johnsonu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLAn3961199&site=ehost-live

 

 

Psaume 23 Sainte-Cène

Ce Psaume 23 est une beau Psaume. Ce Psaume est une confession de David et c’est une prière de David. Mais, ce n’est pas juste une confession et une prière de David. Non. C’est en la Bible parce que c’est une confession et une prière pour nous.

Quand, je lis la Bible je m’attends à rencontrer le Seigneur. Je m’attends à ça parce que la Bible est la parole de Dieu. La Bible est vivante et active. La Bible est Dieu qui nous parle de Lui. Donc, je m’attends à rencontrer le Seigneur mais des fois ce n’est pas le cas. Quand cela arrive, je lis les Psaumes parce que les Psaumes sont les prières que Dieu nous donne. Ils sont un cadeau.

Ceci est une façon de lire les Psaumes. Si nous regardons Psaume 23 nous voyons les pronoms personnels je, mon, me, ma, mes. Ces mots nous disent que nous pouvons parler avec Dieu.

Donc, lorsque nous lisons, nous devrions lire lentement. Je veux vraiment que tu penses à Dieu. Lisez ces mots pour vous-même. Laissez ces mots être une prière à Dieu dans votre coeur.

Psaume 23:

Psaume de David. L’Éternel est mon berger : je ne manquerai de rien.

Il me fait reposer dans de verts pâturages, Il me dirige près des eaux paisibles.

Il restaure mon âme, Il me conduit dans les sentiers de la justice, A cause de son nom.

Quand je marche dans la vallée de l’ombre de la mort, Je ne crains aucun mal, car tu es avec moi : Ta houlette et ton bâton, voilà mon réconfort.

Tu dresses devant moi une table,  En face de mes adversaires ; Tu oins d’huile ma tête, Et ma coupe déborde.

Oui, le bonheur et la grâce m’accompagneront Tous les jours de ma vie, Et je reviendrai dans la maison de l’Éternel Pour la durée de mes jours.

Jesus Says Hard Things

John 6:53 ESV

“So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”

Jesus said many hard things to the crowds and the disciples. He challenged their ideas and their beliefs. He challenged their expectations. He challenged their worldview. He said things to them that were hard to understand and went against what they expected.

After Jesus said this to the disciples many left Him. They were confused and because of that, they chose to leave. Jesus asked Simon Peter if he also would leave. Peter says in verse 68, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Peter understood who Jesus was and he was able to have a deeper relationship with Him.

When we follow Jesus into the hard things, we get to know Him more. We get to trust Him more. We get to become more like Him.

Once, I felt like God was asking me to leave my job so I could focus on ministering to the youth. This was hard and it was difficult. How would it work? How would I pay bills? I did not understand. I thought it would be hard. But He is God and when He speaks, we listen. So, I left my job and I focused on being a youth minister for about a year. I was right, it was hard, but it was also good. It was good to follow the hard thing Jesus said. Jesus was inviting me into a deeper relationship with Him.

So yes, Jesus says hard things, but He is also God and He has the words of life. He is the only one who can give life to us. His body and flesh are real food that provides nourishment to us.

Take some time to pray today and as you pray lean into God. See if He would say something hard to you. If He does, then maybe He is inviting you into a deeper relationship with Him. Maybe He is inviting you into more. Maybe Jesus knows you will not run away but you will accept His hard teaching and go deeper. There is a wonderful and deep relationship on the other side of His hard teachings that can only be received by those that press into it.

Just a thought

Mike

 

A Lesson from Laundry

It might just be my perception as an American but I find the pace in France to be a little slower. A little more relaxed. A little more laid back. This is of course except for the drunk man on the bus last night being obnoxious to a young man. At first, and sometimes, this is a challenge. I am a go go, doer. Most things close at 7:30 or 8:30 at night and they don’t open again until after 8. I get up at 6 and am up until 11 or so. I need stimuli. I need movement. I need… to slow down. Right now we are without a washing machine at the house. We should be getting a new one next week because almost nothing in France happens on the same day. So I can either walk to the laundry mat or hand wash. I chose to handwash because I need to slow down. I need to match the pace of France and ease up off the throttle. I still have classes, chapel, language, family, and so on but I still need to breathe. I still need to rest.

I enjoy going slowly because I can talk to and listen to God in the mundane but when I am too busy I miss that. Brother Lawrence said, “There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God; those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it.” It is hard for me to make room for slowness and ease. It is hard for me to relax. But it is necessary. Today I will try and take it a little slower. I will try to move a little easier. I will try and remember what is important.

Just a thought,
Mike

God is on the move

I think encouragement is a big gift. When you are feeling frustrated, run-down, confused, or tired encouragement is like cool water for your soul. It comes in and brings life to what is withering and suddenly you are ready to continue. Encouragement can come in all sorts of forms too. Sometimes it is a phone call from a friend, a note from a co-worker, or maybe even a smile from a baby. Those are all good but encouragement from the Lord God of heaven and earth is by far the most encouraging thing we could ever get. When God encourages you, it sticks. Other types of encouragement help and boost us up for a time but encouragements from God get down deep and cling to your innermost parts.

Isaiah 42:10-16 is one place in Scripture that I think has incredible encouragement. This is because it is one of those sections of the Bible that talks about what God is going to do. There is a sense that God did this but there is still a part that is to come. Not only does it talk about what God is going to do in a grand worldwide way, but I think it teaches us a bit about who God is. Anytime we can read about who God is and understand His character better we are better off because we get to see Him in a deeper way.

In this section, God speaks through Isaiah and tells us that there will be a time when the people will rejoice and lift up their voice in a shout of praise. He says that every place will shout for joy and sing praises. The deserts, the coastlands, those in villages, and those on mountains will rejoice when God moves. Then as if that was not enough, and this is the kicker, He says that although it has taken a while, He will not keep Himself restrained. He will lead the blind and they will walk on flat ground.

In case you missed it all of this is encouraging because God is saying that He will do this and that sometimes the delay in life is because He has paused the movement. He is the one who is waiting for the time to be fulfilled. Habakkuk 2:3 talks about this as well and says that sometimes there is what feels like a delay, but we just have to wait because God is moving. I have said before that one of my favorite movie scenes is when Beaver says “Aslan is on the move.” In the movie, the children don’t know this is a huge deal, but it is because it means that things are about to change.

I am not going to say that God is going to change things in your life today or even tomorrow. I don’t know when it will happen, but I know this; Jesus is on the move. He is working behind the scenes to do things that will blow your mind you only need to wait for it. Keep the course and stay steady. Wait for the Lord to move and you will see great things. Romans 8:28 says that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purposes. We don’t get to know when it will happen, and we don’t get to know the outcome, but we do get to know that Jesus is moving and that He is working things out. That is the encouragement; Jesus is on the move. He is Lord and He is God and He will redeem everything in its time. Trust the process, stay the course, know that Christ is in control. Oh, it is going to be good.

Just a thought,

Mike

Casting Burdens or Chuck the Junk

I think it is almost mandatory that if we look at 1 Peter 5:6 then we have to look at 1 Peter 5:7 because it is the natural outcome of humbling yourself before God. Maybe outcome is not the right word though. Maybe it is not an outcome, maybe it is more of a logical next step. As a reminder 1 Peter 5:6 says that we should humble ourselves before God and then He will exalt us. This means that if we place ourselves before God then He will lift us up. The next part of that is we need to cast our cares upon Him. We have to take our burdens and give them to God.

The idea of casting our cares (anxieties) is a pretty simple one. At first, I thought it was like a faith thing. Something like sitting in a chair or plopping down on a couch. You know you just trust that the chair or the couch will sustain you with no effort on your part. Yeah that would have been pretty cool and there is an element to that but it so much more. The idea behind casting is more like throwing. It is not a laying down of your burdens before God in a symbolic act of submission that looks like something from a movie about a hero who needs a little help. No, it is more like throwing. It is not making an appointment with someone who can help you, so you present your concerns or problems in a way that hopefully gets help from them. No, it is more like throwing.

The idea is taking your burdens and anxieties and throwing them before God in a way that says I cannot carry this, and I need your help. It is taking what you have and chucking it before the King of the universe, the Most High God and not even caring. There is a freedom in the throwing because you are not worried that God will look at your stuff and cast you out for bringing it to Him. We can throw it on God because He cares for us and because He can handle it. God is not weighed down by our burdens or anxieties. He does not reach a point where He needs a break or already has too many things going on. He does not need a minute. He is ready to go at any moment and we just need to cast.

I think it is interesting that the other time this same word for casting is used is when the disciples put their coats on the donkey before Jesus rides into Jerusalem. When the disciples were putting their coats on the donkey they were not worried that the donkey would buckle under the pressure of the coats. They did not even think about it, they just put their coats on the donkey because they knew it could carry the load. No, clearly God is not a donkey, but I think we can get the picture. There is not a weight God cannot take. It is like when my kids come to me with a complaint. They are not worried I cannot handle their issues. They know that daddy has dealt with other things, so they come to me and just let it all out because they know I am able to help, and I care for them.

We have to come to God with the same abandon. We must come to Him knowing that He can handle it and that He cares. If we don’t then we will never actually cast our cares on Him. We will gently hand Him little things and hope He reacts well. We will be scared of how He will respond. We do this because of our wrong image of Him. That is on us, not Him. God says come to me in faith and throw those burdens down. This can also be a test for us. If I look at my life and see that I am not really casting my cares on God, then I get the opportunity to examine my trust in God and I get the chance to make a change. That is exciting because in that I get to not only cast my burdens on Him, but I get to grow in my relationship with Him.

Just a thought,

Mike