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Friday, October 29, 2010

Does God Exist 1

I had a communication today around this issue which made me think that this may be fertile ground for some reflections. My introduction to this will be a public confession: I have always struggled with faith.

Admitting such a thing is upsetting to some and consolation to others. I guess I hope only the latter group reads this! I think that my desire to be authentic is part of the problem. I want to make sure I am honest and so belief is something I self scrutinize. Also, as an educated person, I have been trained to probe and question everything. I try not to run away from difficult issues. In my job pain and crisis walk in the door on a regular basis. I have seen suffering first hand. So there is a theoretical and existential aspect to all this. I also don't want to be weak. I don't want to believe in God to cover over difficult challenges in my life. Finally, I am surrounded by unbelief. There are people who delight in challenging my faith. Their words find soft spots in my faith and weaken it.

Now, having said all this, I conclude with this. I do believe. I faced tragedy, pain and struggle in my own life and as a companion to others. I have analyzed and questioned and assessed the reasonable basis of faith. I can say that it is very reasonable to believe, even if I do not "feel" if sometimes. I have had experiences which make believing sensible. And most importantly, I have also investigated unbelief. If it is hard to believe in God, it is more difficult to be an atheist. Atheism has more holes in it then theism. So I can with integrity say the creed. I believe in Father God. I believe in Jesus. I believe in the Holy Spirit and the church. And I look forward to all things consumating in the Kingdom of God someday.... It makes me smile to write this! more next week

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Disney, Universal and The Kingdom of God

More vacation thoughts!
We were at Universal Studios three days, followed by a one day park-hopper experience at Disney. The Disney day really impressed me. We stayed at the All-Star resort Friday night which is their low end hotel.  As we walked through the process of getting a room, riding transportation and wandering around the campus I was struck by how well Disney operates. Room keys are personalized souvenirs. Admission tickets are colorful keep-sakes. Extensive information is presented in a pleasant format. The TV has numerous stations dedicated to commercials about parks and activities to keep you interested. Every employee we encountered was hospitable, friendly and upbeat. I was impressed. Apparently so are the Europeans because we heard many languages and most of the English was with a British accent!

In Luke 16:8 Jesus concludes a parable about a crafty employee with these words: (NAB) "The owner gave his devious employee credit for being enterprising! Why? Because the worldly take more initiative than the other-worldly when it comes to dealing with their own kind." If Jesus went to Disney He would be able to point out many things for His people. I do not think most church members are commited to evangelize or serve the way Disney is committed to its mission. We are not as focused on the other person as we need to be. Many times the life of faith is portrayed as a downer and a negative. Eternal life is better than any roller coaster, so why are we not as excited about our relationship with our Heavenly Father as kids are about Mickey and Minnie?
 No one goes to Disney to give them money. We give them money because of what they do for us (and our kids!). Learn from that. Look around at the well run entities you encounter in your life. Give them credit for what they do well. Learn from them and put it to work in your own life. What is more important than knowing, loving and serving God? Do it with the same excellence as Disney does vacations!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Today I have a funeral. She was dear to me. My best friend from high school is burying his mom tomorrow. I cannot be there. I was asked last night to visit a man dying of cancer this Thursday. I am a priest so I have a role to play in such challenging circumstances. At some level our faith is "you are going to a better place." The implication sometimes is "if you have real faith death is no big deal." Yet I find I often cry at funerals (which makes it tricky when you are preaching) and I am often sad.
Jesus wept before the tomb of Lazarus. There are different theories as to why. My guess is it just made Him sad. There is something sad about loss and pain. Yesterday I shared some of the sadness of being with friends whom I have not seen in many years. There is loss there. These are men with whom I shared a deep bond. We had a connection at a core level. Somehow a decade passed and we have done little more than e-mail or phone on occassion. It made me aware of what I had lost.
I believe this desire for life and friendship and companionship are placed in us by God. The big hole in each of us will be totally filled some day. Every tear will be wiped away. We will gather to worship together. Better days are coming. In the mean time we need to be brave and faithful

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Reflecting on Vacation

Vacation week was fun. We Marxes spent every day together as a family. Our normal schedule is not like that. Connecting as a family was a blessing. After four days of theme parks we spent two days visiting my old frineds. This past weekend I reconnected with five friends, four of whom I spent some time with in seminary. As we sat around laughing and remembering our own children wandered into the room. Eventually, they began to request their favorite stories. Obviously all of us had told stories at home!

I reflected on a couple of things. One was the importance of connections. Many of us, especially men, do not have life long friends. We find ourselves connected to people who have known us for the last few years. My buddies in Florida have been close friends in regular contact for over thirty years. That is a wonderful blessing. I think part of our identity is tied up in relationships with shared memory. The Lord Jesus made a point of telling the apostles to remember Him (in the holy meal we celebrate each Sunday). To re-member is to bring parts back together again. I think this weekend some of my broken parts were re-attached. It was happy and sad to be with the guys and their wives. Happy because I love them. Sad because there is so little chance to be together. I think this weekend was a foretaste of the kingdom. People who love God and love one another. Eating, talking, listening, laughing. God is good!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Pause that Refreshes

I will post again on October  26th.  It has been an amazing experience to share my reflections. Over 500 people have visited in less than three weeks. I pray that it has been a source of inspiration and enlightenment. I am open to suggestions on topics or questions, so e-mail me at if you have any.

Taking Sabbath is a command of God. We are required, if we love Him, to actually rest and recreate sometimes. It is easy to be so busy that we lose track of family and friends. I am going to spend time with both. My family is pretty amazing. So are my friends. I am sorry that I am not more aware and thankful. I wonder if I will ever learn to really contemplate and deeply realize how many blessings there are that I just take for granted. "Give us eyes to see, O Lord!" "Give us a heart of thanks!"

My "to do" list sometimes distracts me from seeing all the beauty and blessings. I think the culture just makes it tougher. But I plan to do some pondering and some thinking and some thanking the next week. I hope to rest up and be restored. I hope it is a good time for my family as well. I pray you find some Sabbath rest as well. The Lord bless and keep you!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Jonah III: On Parable

Yesterday I said Jonah may in fact be a parable. That worries some people. The word parable seems to imply "not true." I want to say a few things about that.
1. The story of Jonah may be straight history. Perhaps we are getting all facts. Even if we are, the story is short (read it in fifteen minutes!) and covers very little of all the actual events. So if it is facts, it is darn few facts about events stretching over many days.
2. The story may be based on historical events, but the writer has chosen to shape the story to make a point (which I wrote about yesterday). The author is emphasizing certain aspects for a reason. That is true of any story. We leave out details because we have to. We tell teh story to communicate our points.
3. The story may be a parable based on a historical event or person. Today many movies begin with the words "inspired by an actual event." When we see that we know that there is a mix of fiction and history. A parable has a point to make. Facts and Truth co-exist in a parable. When Jesus tells the parable of the man sowing seeds I believe He pointed to an actual farmer. I think as the farmer was throwing seeds Jesus used him as an example, told his parable, and led folks to understand how God works in the world. But seriously, folks, how many of us would be upset to know that Jesus just told the story with no reference to anyone? Who wants to engage in arguments about that?
I want to hear God, encounter God, love and serve my Father in heaven. The Bible is inspired and contains information about our relationship. Jesus points to Jonah and makes a connection to His impending resurrection. That is amazing!
I think the story of Jonah, be it parable, history or something inbetween, has a huge impact on how I understand God's saving will and my own vocation. It is a type (Example) of the resurrection. It is an exhortation to go into the world to the "least, last, lost"! So who has God sent you (and me) to preach repentance to today?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Jonah II

As I think back on discussions I have had about Jonah, I think almost every single one has focused on the whale and "did it happen?" Some folks do not believe the story, other folks believe it thoroughly. A few can get almost violent about it.

Reading the Bible is perilous for us because we live in an unbelieving age. Our social environment is literally toxic to faith. I have heard that an African bishop was glad to leave the USA because he said it was too hard to live here. Material benefits abound, but he felt that faith gets choked here. Since I went to seminary doubts and struggles have been a huge feature of my faith journey. I prayed for healing about this a few years ago and was annointed by a man in the healing ministry. Since then I do have more peace. Part of the peace has been found in asking the question, "What is the biblical author communicating?" As I said yesterday, Jonah is not about the whale. It is, I think, a parable about Israel's call. God made Abraham the focal point of  God's "Operation Rescue: Saving the World" (Gen 12:1-3 begins this). The Jews, Abraham's descendents, are Chosen People. Throughout the OT we read that all the nations will find God through them. In the NT Jesus also says the same thing. Matthew 5:13-20 (You are the Salt & Light of the world). It was years before it dawned on me that Jesus is talking to Jews here! The Jewish vocation (John 4:22 ...salvation is from the Jews) is to bring people to God, but sometimes the conflicts with Gentiles led in other directions. Being "Chosen" made some feel separate from the world. Think how many Christians talk today (I am saved, you are going to hell) and you get the idea. In Jonah, we have a proto-typical prophet (called by God) who does wrong. The 'evil' Assyrians are God's concern (Shock) The prophet wants to flee his vocation (an image of Israel failing in her vocation). The wonderful result (king and all the people repent) is the largest full scale conversion in the bible. Meanwhile, grumpy Jonah wishes he were dead because he is mad. A Jew reading this (probably during their exile in foreign lands) would be confronted with a challenge. Am I doing my vocation? Am I seeing God's love for these people? Am I proclaiming God's kingdom?
I think that today the question about the whale is Satan's way of keeping us from being addressed by the story. The real question is not "did it happen?" The real question for me and you is "will I make it happen?" Will I proclaim the kingdom? Will I see God's heartfelt desire to be in relationship with all of His creation? Will I be light to the world?  The word is alive. It is a calling. Arguing historical details is really a distraction. Is Jonah a true story? You bet it is, I live it every day! How about you?

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Today at Morning Prayer we read about Jonah. Jonah is someone with whom most of us can relate. On our life journey we frequently say (and think) "I wish God would tell me what to do!" We try to do the right thing but aren't always sure what it is. If only God would speak to us.....

Then suddenly He speaks. "Go at once to Nineveh..." and we bolt in the other direction as fast as we can go, muttering any number of excuses for our reluctance. "I am too old, I am too young. I am not a public speaker. I am not good with kids (or the elderly). I can't afford it. I don't have time." It is hard to keep up with all of the reasons because they flow so fast.

Jonah does not want to preach to Nineveh. Nineveh is in Assria and its occupants are enemies of ancient Jews. Yet the point of the story seems to be that God loves and cares for these foreign people (and also the many animals!). Jonah was sent to these people to call them to change their lives and turn back to God. Then Jonah was mad when they repented and God relented. Another point seems to be that sometimes we are tempted to hold our God back from other people because we do not want to believe His love is wide enough for them, too. The recognition that God calls all people and loves all people is one of the great surprises of the Bible. Perhaps equally surprising is God's judgment. Jonah preaches a word of hope, but also a word of doom. Without repentance the people will perish. Love and judgment go together. I admit I do not know how to balance the two sometimes. I know many prefer one or the other when talking about God. Read Jonah yourself, it is very short. Tell me what you think.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Exodus 4 Jesus and Moses

Reading and reflecting on the Bible has long been my preferred prayer practice. However, a few years ago, I also began to read the Bible in larger sections. To use the forest and trees analogy, there are times when we lose track of one in focusing on the other. I would offer, however, that as we become more familiar with the entire 'forest', it allows us to notice things about the 'trees' that otherwise we wouldn't.  A few years ago we studied the Book of Revelation. I was stunned to discover that the entire book consisted of endless allusions (and direct quotes) from the Old Testament. After one year of close study I came to the conclusion that I needed to learn the OT more thoroughly. As I shared yesterday I have spent the last two years doing just that. I think reading the entire OT a couple of times would be helpful for any one on a journey of faith. It is the bible of the NT and it is fundamental for understanding the NT. I share this example:

In Exodus 4 (I read from The Schoken Bible:Volume 1, Everett Fox. The notes are incredible and the translation gives you a real feel for the Hebrew) we read "Now YHWH said to Moshe [Moses] in Midyan: Go, return to Egypt, for all the men who sought (to take) your life have died." Knowing this story allows one insight into the story of Matthew 2:20 where Joseph is told by an angel in Egypt, "go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child's life are dead." This is one of many Jesus/Moses parallels found in Matthew. Familiarity with the stories allows us to make those connections. The more often you read the Bible, both as forest and as tree, the more quickly the connections will come to mind.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A New Look at the Old Testament

I am reading the book A New Look at the Old Testament  by Derek Leman. I discovered him at his website, which I recommend.

He is a Messianic Jew and I am enjoying his insights. Many of the things he says re-inforces my own beliefs. One of those ideas is that the OT is full of grace. In a bible study on Deuternomy some years ago that fact really hit me. As Derek says on page 70 "It is in the Torah that we see faith or trust in God as the crucial means of being in God's favor." (refering to Genesis 15:6, a favorite of Paul)

The word Torah means instruction. Too often we equate the OT with law and NT with love. There is lots of  love in the OT and many commands in the NT as well! Perhaps it's more helpful to see the laws as instruction to guide us in life. Many of the instructions are not helpful today. Much of it is not applicable to Gentile followers of Jesus. Even so, the summary of the Torah, our ten commandments, certainly serve as a foundation stone for much of our moral discourse. Love God with all you are and love your neighbor as yourself. That is the kingdom ethic of those who have faith in response to God's gracious offer of salvation. Believe it and live it!

Monday, October 11, 2010

On not going to church

Last week I met a nice couple down on their luck. They were struggling to make ends meet and needed help with gas money. Later in the conversation I learned that he needed tools so he could get a job and go to work at a local garage. After much prayer and discussion I decided that this was a hand up so we purchased hundreds of dollars of tools to help him on his way.

During the conversation I asked about his relationship with God. He inforned me that it was good but that he did not go to church. My guess is he is like many believers around the age of 30. They believe in God. They pray as needed. They try to be decent people. They do not go to church.

I know for a fact that the behavior of church going people drives many people out of the institution. I also know that people looking for a reason to quit can find plenty. Even so, there is one very practical concern which needs to be addressed. If no one goes to church where will people in a tight spot go for help? Why is it that the church is viewed as a place to get aid (and we are called daily for help with bills, mortgage and other needs) but not as a place to join? As our society rapidly de-churchifies we are creating a new situation with serious problems. Being right with God as an individual is not the Biblical model. We are called to be the people of God in community and faith and worship and service. Churches will be places to get help only as long as churches are communities that give help. We need more lovers and givers here. We have a steady supply of needers and receivers. For the sake of people like that nice young couple down on their luck I hope peole begin to commit in faith to God and His church.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Reading the Bible: Present to Future

There is a symbolic quality to every word. "Death" means the end of physical life, but it is symbolic of final judgment. It is also a referent to loss of identity or moving on from one way of living to another. In a previous post I wrote about the end of baseball season as an image of death.

The "historical" writings of the bible can be symbolically applied to events and situations in every age. They can also be projected into the future. These events reveal God's character. They give insight into how God interacts with human beings. They give us glimpses into what we can expect in the future. With some texts this process is fairly easy. With many others it requires creatvity and openness.

If God forgives Israel for its sins (and He does, over and over) then what does that tell us about our ultimate future? It is reasonable to say that we can have HOPE for mercy, we have a foundation to trust in God's desire to deliver His people from their sin. The Bible reveals to us that this is how God acts in our world.

By reading the Bible as pointed to past, present, and future, we provide ourselves a model to prayerfully read and understand God's word. The respect for the multi-layered meaning of Scripture allows us to read the Bible with an attitude of worship. It also opens us to the Holy Spirit at work in and through the text. I hope this has been useful for some of you on your own journey in faith.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Reading the Bible: Past to Present

The Bible frequently writes about events from long ago. In writing about these events the authors use language the same way that we do. Symbolism is sometimes obvious (Judah is a lion) and other times it may be more veiled (the number 7 or 12 or 40 or 1000). When reading a symbol literally one reads symbolically. It is the symbolic aspect of Scripture which allows us to engage the text as meaningful in our own time.

Application of a Biblical text always entails some degree of symbolism. How Jesus deals with a leper is not significant in Memphis Tn. We do not have lepers and we do not have the rules governing lepers. However, when 'lepers are unclean' is interpreted symbolically the healing texts are suddenly quite contemporary. When we say, "Who is a leper today?" any number of responses are offered. People with AIDS or cancer, streeet people, racial minorities, or the nerds in school can all be seen as lepers. In some settings a conservative Christian might feel like a leper while a Liberal would have the same experience in another setting. It is the ability to read symbolically and re-apply a text which makes it fresh and alive today. Asking questions and letting the text interrogate us, we find ways to hear God's voice at a deeper level in the text. This approach to the Bible is the oldest and most popular approach. As the cycles of history continue, in each age people are able to read the ancient word and make connections with their own time and place. Paul did it. The Gospels do it. We can do it as well.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Reading Bible: Time Reference of Reader

Understanding that our spiritual and moral lives must be in right order for us to actually hear and understand the biblical text, the next step in the process is our approach to Scripture. I preached on this last Sunday. It is an important concept to grasp. There is a past, present and future time reference in every Biblical text. God is the author but that is not the only reason for this mulitplicity. It is also the nature of written documents and the process of interpretation.

There are past events. The documentation of these events is called "History." But history covers a wide range of material. Facts are important but they are not all there is to the past. The Fundamentalist vs. Modernist/Liberal frequently centers on factual accuracy. I call this the "gossip" factor, that is wanting to know the details of someone else's story. (I do not use the word gossip here as a negative) In looking at a Bible story if our only concern is the facticity then we are going to have a pretty narrow reading. It also ignores that writing about past events is not simply an exercise in fact reporting. There is also a meaning component. The author's purpose results in any number of choices. What is not reported is just as significant as what is reported. events which stretch over days and involve hundreds, even thousands, of people can be summarized in a few sentences, but there is so much left out that it boggles the mind.

The Bible author used metaphor, poetry, allusion, symbolism and theology is writing. The author is trying to teach, comfort, exhort, educate and transform the reader. Often times they wrote in reaction to the prevailing stories of their neighbors. There were many Flood Stories, reading about Noah in that context is very helpful. Comparing what the bible says with what the neighbors of Israel said is very informativv. Knowing that the Romans declared "Caesar is Lord" helps deepen our understanding of the the NT proclamation "Jesus is Lord!" It reveals a political component we might never have considered otherwise. In reading the Bible to learn about the past, it is important to keep in mind the type of writing, the setting/context and to leave behind some of our modern assumptions about writing. That is hard work. Holy people do not mind working hard to hear our Lord's voice in the Scripture. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Reading the Bible

St. Athanasius, a bishop, teacher and hero of the faith in the early church (300's) provides a wonderful model for reading the Bible. In his book The Incarnation of the Word of God he states that the scriptures were written and inspired by God. In light of this there is more demanded of the reader than intellect. We quote the good bishop at length:

"But for the searching and right understanding of the Scriptures there is need of a good life and a pure soul, and for Christian virtue to guide the mind to grasp, as far as human nature can, the truth concerning the word of God.One cannot possibly understand the teaching of the saints unless one has a pure mind and is trying to imitate their life... Similarly, anyone who wishes to understand the mind of the sacred writers must first cleanse his own life and approach the saints by copying their deeds."

I think one reason why it is hard for most people to read and understand the Bible is because we are not truly holy. We see the Bible as accessible by effort of mind but neglect the pure heart needed to hear God. The spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, alms, and self denial are the foundation of Bible study. Too many, myself included, are busy with comfort and self-satisfaction to really encounter the word. Reading the scriptures is a total life enterprise. It takes a converted heart and mind. We need God's Holy Spirit to make that happen!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What is the Bible?

Christians call the Bible "The Word of God." We do this because we believe it is revelation. What is not always so clear is what we mean by this short phrase. We trust that God is speaking to us through this book. We believe that the authors of the book are inspired by the Holy Spirit. We know that the teaching of this book is the foundation for constructing our doctrines and dogmas. It is pretty easy to make generic statements about 'The Bible' and to engage in wonderful debates about 'the Bible.' The Liberal/Modernist vs. Fundamentalist battle for the Bible has certainly been a mainstay of my Christian experience.

However, in my years as a Bible teacher and a Bible reader/studier I have personally found that the claims and counter claims do not ring true. It seems that Modernists and Fundamentalists are making claims that are based on assumptions which I do not embrace. In other words, I think that they both are missing the point. In the days ahead I am going to investigate some of my thoughts and beliefs about the Bible and how to read it. This book (Bible means book in Greek) is actually a library. It contains a wide variety of writings covering a long period of time (creation to the end of the world). There were numerous authors. Authorship includes multiple editors in some cases. In some books (Genesis) God walks around and talks to people. In other books (Lamentations) God is silent. In the Bible it is not uncommon to find different details and varying explanations of the same story (resurrection of Jesus, Chronicles//Kings). In Letter and Spirit (available through the St. Paul Center For Biblical Theology, or go to on page 11 of the Introduction we read "Truth is symphonic, especially divine truth." I think that is a good starting place. God is much larger than our beliefs. God is eternal. Whatever we say about God (or His revelation) needs to be humble. The enterprise of Bible reading is a more complex process than we sometimes admit. The Bible is God's word. We should work hard to learn how to read it!

Saturday, October 2, 2010


I am a baseball fan. When I was a young boy about seven my dad was watching a game between the White Sox and the Yankees. I asked him, "Who do we want to win?" He said, "The White Sox." It was the equivalent of an arranged marriage. At that moment I pledged my heart. I have always been faithful.

If he had said the Yankees I would have regularly experienced success. They have been the best of all. Instead I was given to the White Sox, a team of historic failure. Historic failure without the affection and mythology attached to the Cubs.

October is the beginning of the post-season. Most of my life my season ended long before the last day of the season. That was true this year.  So October (except in 2005) has always been about someone else's success, some one else's joy. I learned as a prayerful little boy that you could bombard heaven with a hundred prayers a day and still your team could lose. Sometimes lose more often than they won. As a young boy I wrestled with the question, "Why pray if it doesn't work?" Later, as I grew in faith I came to understand that baseball was not near important enough to invest that type of spiritual energy. That led to another question, "What really does matter? What should I care about and focus on?"

I still enjoy the game. I still hope the Sox can win. I still spend some part of most days thinking about baseball. It has not been a waste either. Because through baseball I learned to pray sincerely and to re-evaluate what I pray for. That is part of the Joureny in Faith, at least my journey. And in 2005 they did win it all. For once in my life I saw the Sox called Champions.... And it was great to know that there were more important things to me.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Hosea 10:1-15

The Epsicopal church provides a format for daily prayer. In Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer there are psalms assigned to be read (prayerfully) and three additional readings from the bible. Today one of the readings is from Hosea. He is a prophet of Israel who lived around 750BC. He is best known for marrying a woman who turned to harlotry and then calling her back to be his wife. His own life served as an image of God's relationship with Israel. It is a tragic story of pain and love.

One of the most stunning features of the Bible is the amount of negative material it contains about Christians and Jews-the very source of the material. In the New Testament the apostles (the eye witnesses who tell the stories about Jesus) are frequently portrayed as dense and unfaithful. However, the Old Testament is even more radically honest. The prohets, for example, are relentless in pointing out the sins and foibles of the Jewish people. And, to their credit, the Jewish people recorded these words and saved them. In chapter 10 of Hosea, which I read this morning in my prayer time, Hosea says of Israel "Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit. The more his fruit increased the more altars he built..." The altars, unfortunately, were for other gods. Israel did not stay focused on worshipping the One God who had blessed her. Israel, says Hosea (speaking for GOD!) is producing fruit, but the fruits have led her astray. In a simple declaration, Hosea continues in verse 2 "Their heart is false; now they must bear their guilt." Judgment. A time of reckoning.

As different as America 2010 is from ancient Israel, it is easy to see the parallels. Abundance has not produced justice and peace or true worship in our land either. The warning of the prophet is relevant today. We are on a journey together and our choices today will impact what happens tomorrow. If we are false then we will bear the guilt. As I look at the fruits of my life I am distressed by how often the abundance produces greed. I want more. It also produces worry. I don't want to lose what I have. Thankfully, by God's mercy at other times I am greatful. I try to focus in prayer on praise and thanks. I seek to be God focused. The God revealed in the Old Testament. Today's reading, full of threat and judgment, ends with verse 12 and a word of hope. Hosea tells us that God says, "for it is time to seek the Lord, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you." This is also judgment. A declaration that those who seek God will be caught up in the refreshing rain of His "Justice-doing." He will raise up the lowly and cast down the mighty. Better days are coming for those who seek Him. This is our hope. Some critics would mock such hope and label it wishful thinking and a fantasy. Perhaps. But how then to make sense of those other verses, the message of challenge and threat with a demand for conversion? How is it that the word of God is as likely to produce guilt or fear as hope and joy?

To me there is something that rings true in this word. There is something authentic in the Jewish faith and by extension through Jesus in the Christian faith. The words produce as many questions as answers. That is why reading and praying on them every day is so vital. So today, it is time to seek the Lord!