My Wedding Day

Today I have the honor of marrying my sweet wife Melissa.  This is a day I have waited for – sometimes impatiently – for many years.  I have longed to have a wife far longer and more deeply than anything, short of my desire to be in heaven with my Lord.  And now by God’s grace I will marry the wonderful woman that God has brought to me.

I am awestruck when I look at the imagery and symbolism of a wedding day in Scripture. Continue reading

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July in Review

So now that I’ve had a little bit of time to breathe and collect my thoughts about last month, I’d like to review what God has seen fit to let me do these last few weeks.

July started off with a bang – I had the immense honor and pleasure to officiate my very first wedding for some dear friends Corey and Alli Claunch down in Austin, Texas.  It was a beautiful wedding, and despite the fact that I dropped the rings (twice) I felt as though things went really smoothly for my first time out.  I got to see lots of old friends and loved celebrating with them in such a worshipful atmosphere. During that trip I also had the joy of introducing Melissa (my girlfriend of three months now) to Texas history and culture.  We visited the Texas state capitol building and I recounted a few stories and nuggets from Texas history, and we had a great time together. Continue reading

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I honestly don’t know how many articles, books, videos, sermons, talks, and coffee-in-hand discussions I’ve consumed that have something to do with the topic of singleness-in-preparation-for-marriage.  But I can definitely tell you it’s a lot.

I can also tell you that my personality lends itself to obsessing over things in my darker times – and therefore I have spent many hours thinking and praying and worrying and overanalyzing and self-deprecating on a myriad of topics associated with my singleness.  From the hopelessly arrogant “How come they can’t realize that I actually am Mr. Darcy’s personality type?” [INTJ, by the way] to the sinfully presumptive “I’ll just do my own thing and not look around at all until God just sticks her right in front of me.”  The only trouble with those two thoughts is that first, Mr. Darcy is a fictional character dreamed up by Jane Austen, and I am hardly worth ten thousand pounds a year.  Second, I am trusting for God to provide a wife, true… but I am also trusting that he provides me food, and I don’t just pine away on my couch waiting for him to plunk down a pot roast or some oreos and milk (… mmm, oreos).  I go out and hit up the drive-thru get some food from the store and cook it at home.  Anyway, I could go on and on, but that’s not the point here. Continue reading

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Accusation and Rebuke (Hosea Part 5)

Last week we walked through Hosea chapter 3: we saw that God pursues us in the midst of our sin and redeems us from it in a precious demonstration of his redemptive love.  Chapter 3 ends with a sweet promise of restoration and hope as we look forward to a coming King (Jesus) who will bring healing and unity to God’s people.  As we leave that brief glimpse of a bright future, God wrenches Israel’s heads back around to see their sin so that he can directly confront her leaders who have led her astray.  We’ll pick up the action in Chapter 4.

Accusation and Rebuke

God introduces the next section of Hosea by way of a ‘controversy’ that he has with the inhabitants of Israel (verses 1-3).  This does not bode well for those inhabitants.  And I don’t know if you know this or not, but God – who is all-knowing and all-sovereign and all-awesome doesn’t lose or give up ground to those he has controversies with in the Bible.  Ever.  Which is pretty cool, but also lends an utterly serious tone for where we’re going today.

The grounds of God’s contention with Israel is that there is no faithfulness, no honoring of the covenant, no love on Israel’s part.  Furthermore, there is no knowledge of God in the land, denoting that the leaders (parents and priests) have not commended the Lord to the next generations.   So the first thing that we can really dig into and run with Is that when there is a failure to lead spiritually, moral failure is close behind.  We can see this in families, churches, my own personal life, and a whole ton of other contexts.  Whenever those who lead abdicate their responsibilities, it’s only a matter of time before that one sin leads to whole host of others.  It’s what we see in the Garden of Eden (Adam not leading like he should), throughout Scripture with evil kings and priests, and we see it everywhere around us in daily life.

Who does God hold responsible for these sins?  Who does he call out to in the Garden of Eden?  Who does he say is the head of the household and the elders of the church?  Spiritual leaders, husbands, and elders, respectively.  God’s indictment is that Israel is full of inappropriate oaths, lies, murder, stealing, adultery, and many other generationally compounded sins.  He levels that indictment at the priests in this particular context – the spiritual leaders of Israel (verse 4).

Men, as the spiritual head of your household how are you leading your family? Single men, how are you preparing to lead your family? God tells us very plainly in the examples given and also in James 3:1 that we will be held to a higher standard, and that God expects us to lead well for his glory and the good of those under our leadership.  Let us act accordingly by the power of the Spirit under the authority of Christ.

So God announces a judgment for the spiritual leaders of Israel – he will punish those who have not led his people correctly.  To be clear, this isn’t God just being angry because of sin.  He is expressing the highest concern for his people, which isn’t reflected in the leaders’ lives.  Therefore God will bring the gravity of the situation to them by taking away what is most dear to them – their children (verse 6).  One very important aspect and reason for God’s judgment is the people’s (including the leaders) rejection of knowledge.  Rejection of knowledge in this context is a rejection of God because the people have no knowledge of God.  We must know our God!  And the primary means by which he has allowed us to know him (and the only authoritative one, I might add) is Scripture.  He has put himself in us, and we do live in community, and he has given us good minds with which we can worship him.  But the only authoritative self-revelation of God is his Word – the Bible.  So then, we as Christians must study, we must dig and learn and get to know our God more deeply so that we grow in him and reflect his glory in our lives.  This must not be seen as some legalistic pursuit for self-righteous purposes; quite the opposite, in fact.  Our pursuit of God’s self-revelation and self-expression in Christ and Scripture must be for the growth, for sanctification, for encouragement, for sharpening.  We study and we pursue that we may know him more deeply and be impacted by that relationship.

We know and learn about things that we love – think about what you know about your wife and/or girlfriend, your kids, your job whatever you’re passionate about… for me it’s history and theology and a bunch of other random stuff.  I study these things (to clarify I’m not talking about your wife or kids… I’m talking about history and theology and stuff), I enjoy knowing more about and keeping up with things that interest me.  So why do we who profess the name of Christ and claim his lordship over our life not take the time to know him more deeply in prayer and study of what he has spoken to us in Scripture?

Do you study the Word for the glory of God in your life?  Do you know Christ?  Are you conforming your life to Scripture, or are you bending Scripture to what you want it to be?

As a quick aside, I would also say that if you have absolutely no desire to study Scripture and know God more deeply, then your walk cannot be growing in a Scriptural way, and you will remain stagnant in your faith.

Getting back to Hosea, the accusation that God levels at the priests and his people is that they have forgotten the Law, which is the equivalent of forgetting God.  Now, even though we have the New Testament and Christ, we must be mindful not to repeat this sin and forget the Law that God has revealed himself in.  You see the Law expresses God’s character and holiness, and it is in the Law that God gives us our understanding of the need for Christ and the grace we receive in him.  Also, we have no biblical grounds to disregard or forget the Law – Christ fulfilled it; he in no way abolished it.

In verse 7 God declares that he will turn the priests’ glory (money, popularity, etc.) into shame by exposing the fleeting pleasures of their sin as ashes.  They’ve been feeding off the sin of the people (verse 8) – that is, literally getting fat from eating their portion of the sacrifices, fueling their greed and spiritually manipulating people for their own personal gain.  I wonder how this would read if God were to address the more modern examples of this idea: televangelists selling prayer shawls to ‘make people’s prayers more effective’ or even the pre-counter-reformation Catholic Church who profited from people’s sin by selling indulgences to free souls from purgatory and ‘absolve’ sins.

Or if I were to bring it closer to home for me (and many others), what about pastors of churches (the modern-day priests) who are caught up in scandals and moral failures?  Could we classify this as an example of those men having their own glory turned into shame?  Those men who thought they deserved the fleeting raptures of sin, or who considered themselves impenetrable bastions of God’s glory for the church – were they brought down because of that pride?

In the next part we’ll dig into the rest of the chapter and revisit the theme of God’s redemptive purposes in discipline.  So get excited!  Just kidding – tune in again soon, and let me know what you think and what questions you might have.

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Restoration and Hope (Hosea Part 4)

Restoration and Hope – Hosea Part 4

It has definitely been a while since I’ve posted anything in the Hosea series, so I’d like to return to that this morning.  So far we’ve seen God and – by way of allegory – Hosea take prostitute wives, care for them, love them, and pursue them in their sin in order to rescue and restore them.  We’ve also seen that the loving disciplining hand of the Lord toward his people (Israel) as they walk in sin is an extreme form of love that he uses to bring them back to himself.  His jealousy over his wife is a precious example of his perfect spiritual leadership, and his mercy in alluring his wife is an excellent picture of redemption and restoration.  But that wasn’t enough – Israel and Gomer both return to their idolatry and are neck-deep in it when God decides to act again, and decides to send Hosea to depict yet another aspect of God’s love as he pays the price for his bride.  Let’s pick up the story in Hosea chapter 3.

The Redemption Price

The first thing we see in verse 1 upon learning that Israel and Gomer have returned to their prostitution and adultery is that God’s love is pursuing – he commands Hosea to ‘go and love’ his prostitute wife.  So even in her sin, even in her junk God sees something of worth and value – he issues a command, but it is a command to love, a command that affects the heart and emotion.  And it is also an act of redemption.

So we see that Hosea obeys because of his great love for her – and he doesn’t do it begrudgingly or with resignation.  In verse 2 he goes and pays the redemption price for his bride because he loves her, she is his, and he wants to see her come out of the pitiful circumstances she’s put herself in.  Hosea redeems his wife – he buys her out of prostitution for fifteen shekels of silver and some barley, which isn’t very much cash, showing the sort of worthless state she has fallen into.

God also redeems his prostitute wife out of slavery in Egypt, and he paid a dear price to redeem the Church from its bondage to sin with Christ on the cross.  Where Hosea paid just a small amount to buy his wife back, God paid the ultimate price – he sent his son to die in a shameful way so that his people’s sins would be atoned for and so they would be redeemed and reconciled to him.

Men who are married, what might your wife be struggling with or running to that you need to help lead her out of?  To be sure, Jesus is our redeemer, but as her leader, pastor, and spiritual head it is your duty to shepherd and steward her to flourish under your leadership.

Women who are married, what might your husband be struggling with that you can help him walk through as a helpful, wise, crown to your husband?

What slavery has God redeemed you from?  What does the redemption price that God paid in Christ on the cross mean for your sin?

Covenant Restoration

The second main topic we see in verse 3 is that God restores the covenant between himself and his bride – he claims what is rightfully his.  This ‘you are mine’ language – how does it hit you?  Do you see this as an oppressive husband cutting into his wife’s freedom and fun?  Or perhaps do you see this as a great example of a husband loving his wife for her own good and removing her from her sin so that she doesn’t lead herself into destruction?  Israel, as God’s bride, is rightfully and solely God’s.  Gomer is solely and rightfully Hosea’s wife.  They are covenant brides, not flavors of the week.  When – like in this case – the going is very difficult (a wife is turning to prostitution and destroying her marriage), the faithful covenant husband fights for his marriage, fights for his wife, and fights for what is rightfully his.

Men and women – are you fighting for your marriage?  Do you see your spouse as your covenant bride or groom to whom you are devoted?

One thing I also noticed that is not in the text is that with God and Hosea there is no turning of the head, no sidelong glances at another who isn’t their wife.  They have only wholehearted devotion, love, and pursuit of their respective wives.  This is not a wooden response to an order, but rather a conviction based on a commitment or covenant to have their bride as a lily among thorns – the only one desirable for them.  From what we can see in this particular instance, we can see that this particular lily in question is not looking like a lily; she looks more like a prostitute.  She has found herself running back to the shameful activities, unsanitary surroundings, and wicked people from whom she was redeemed.  This lily, though, is seen as a precious lily in a couple of ways.  First, she is his standard of beauty, his devotion, the object of his faithful covenant love.  Second, to her husband, all other women are thorns – she is the only desirable one for him.  If you’re married or engaged, all other women aside from your fiancée or wife are thorns to you.  That doesn’t mean you can’t be cordial and talk with them, but I does mean that your wife is the recipient of your love and affection.  Period.  Not most of it, or some of it, but all of it.  We’re reminded that God’s love is the pattern for us – he does not command us to go where he has not already been.  When he says ‘so I will be to you’ he is renewing his covenant, demonstrating his faithful covenant love yet again, and ensuring his devotion to his bride.

How might you make all other things thorns and make the Lord your true devotion?

How might you make all other women or men thorns and make your husband or wife your devotion?

Undivided Attention

After saying that he will secure Israel and renew the covenant with her, God then declares in verse 4 that he will arrest her undivided attention for her good.  She will have no king, no princes, no household gods or priestly garments.  This is to prevent her from being distracted by anything other than her faithful covenant husband – all temptations will be silenced. There will be no ruler over her, save for her King.  There will be no temple activities and there will be no idolatry in her homes.  Essentially God is removing everything that Israel has struggled with or been led astray by – he will have her devotion because it is for her good and his glory.

So God purges his wife’s life of her idols.  This will most definitely cause much pain and turmoil, but as he said in verse 3, he will be with her throughout the process.  God does this same thing with us personally.  He whittles down our lives at certain times and chips away our sinful tendencies in order to show us how much we truly need him.  He demonstrates how we must be devoted to our loving King and Bridegroom; it is painful, but he is with us and he is for us.

Have you ever been exhausted by God and led into the spiritual desert?  Has he taken things away in your life that led you away from him? What were those things, and what was that time like?

Future Restoration

The third chapter rounds out with verse 5, a precious promise of future restoration – all Israel will seek the Lord and will have the hope and expectation of a King like David (Jesus).  Now, Hosea is written quite a while after David reigned and died.  Furthermore, this kind of a reference is also strange because it’s written to the northern kingdom (Israel) who revolted against the south.  The cool part about it is that it denotes God’s plan of redemption, healing, restoration, and reunification for the whole nation of Israel.  He will reconcile his people both to each other and to himself.  The first half of the verse states that Israel will return to seek the Lord – they will turn their affections to him because he has wooed them in this peculiar but perfect way.  The second half of the verse prophesies that Israel will come to fear – or ‘revere’ and know the awesome power of – the Lord and his goodness.

God’s realignment of Israel’s thinking mainly affects the way his people fear him.  They had grown entirely too comfortable with the fact that God loved them, and they had taken him for granted to the point that they led themselves astray and had completely rejected their faithful covenant King.  So the Lord loves his bride to the extent that he will give her what is best for her – himself.  This is why the prophecy of the King like David is so immensely important – we see that God will provide for his girl and he will bring lasting joy to her in Christ Jesus.  This is the love that we experience as those who claim the name of Christ, and this is the joy that we have in our God.  Not only do we have joy in him right now and hope in his goodness while we dwell on this earth, but one day we will see him and dwell in his presence forever.

I long for that day, and I look forward with eager anticipation for those who claim the name of Christ to join in worship of our true King.  Then will we truly be home at last.  But in the mean time there is much sin and tribulation, and God still has much to say to us about it.

More on that coming soon…

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