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Let’s Seek Him, Hosea 6:3

“Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. 2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. 3 Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”
Hosea 6:1‑3 (NIV)

Let’s take a look at these words of Hosea’s prophecy. The section in particular is just verse 3 from Hosea 6:1-3.

It says, “Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”

In the Hebrew text, the word that is translated “let us acknowledge” is used very seldom in the Hebrew Old Testament. It harkens to an expression that Jesus said a number of times in the Gospels. He told us “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew7:8; see also Matthew 6:33, Luke 11:9-10, Luke 12:31, John 5:44).

As dependable as the sunrise is in the morning and the seasons changing year after year, is the Lord willingness to come to us and share the good knowledge of His love and care and glory that he has for his people. What the Lord is encouraging us to do, even from Old Testament times, is to seek him; search for him and the text adds the words “press on or pursue.”

These are words of great passion and give us an idea, not that the Lord is difficult to find or that He is hiding himself from us, but He wants us to passionately, with all our heart acknowledge His presence and good hope for us in Christ.

You see, this is the hope and acknowledgement that is hidden from the hearts and minds of unbelievers. It is however the strength, the song and the eternal hope of those that follow Jesus Christ, our precious Lord and Savior.

For it was Christ himself who said, “I am the door” (John 10:9). Since we have such an open door to enter God’s loving presence, should we not ask all the more for anything and everything (e.g. John 14:13-14)? And lastly, should we not all the more ask the Holy Spirit to remind us (Luke 11:13, Romans 8:14) of the access that we have to our Heavenly Father (Hebrews 4:16); not to mention, to remind us constantly of how much God wants to enrich our joy in Him! (Luke 12:32-34)

For further study related to this: Look up and meditate on how your everyday life can be an expression of Ephesians 3:14–21, finding your satisfaction in experiencing and sharing Jesus!

Go Boldly to God’s Throne

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:15‑16 (NIV)

Go boldly to God’s Throne. What a privilege Jesus has won for us. We have immediate access to God He gave Himself as a living sacrifice so we can draw near to the throne of God with bold confidence. He made it possible to for us to have a personal relation with our Heavenly Father! We are His dearly loved children because Christ has taken away that which separated us—our sin. We come as children through the open door. Our God is ready to lavish His mercy and grace upon us. Rather than focusing on our frailties and unworthiness, let us look to Jesus who is our High Priest that understands our weaknesses. He was tempted just as we are, but He chose not to sin. He was the Lamb of God without spot or blemish and in His present-day ministry He makes intercession for us. The Holy Spirit gives us understanding and assures us that Jesus Himself is our access into the presence of the Father Jesus is our confidence and we speak to our Father without reservation. In His presence, we can speak openly and be honest with ourselves and with Him without fear of judgement. There we accept His mercy to help us in times of distress, and accept His grace to overcome temptation.

Journeying through James, 2:18 – Keep the lights On

Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” James 2:18 (NLT)

When we lived in Sierra Leone, one of the things that was very different was living without electricity. The oddest thing was that the town we lived in had electrical lines; the infrastructure was there. We had fixtures and lights built into our house. Technically, we did have lights, even though they never shined. This helps me understand what James is talking about when he says, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”

It was rare in the town we lived in, but when the electricity came on, it empowered us to be able to do many good things. Picture your good deeds as lightbulbs shining. Jesus taught, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, NKJV).

My prayer is that God would graciously empower us to shine with the love of Christ. In other words, it’s great to have the lights, but it’s really obvious and a blessing when they are powered on.

Journeying through James, 2:15-17

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:15‑17 (NIV)

I am a fan of slapstick. I’ve watched the Three Stooges, and the picture that James describes reminds me of one of their slapstick routines. They’re in a sinking boat, and one decides to help by drilling a hole in the bottom of the boat to, “Let the water out.” In others words, if someone could really say, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” and think they’re showing compassion—their faith is sunk. The poor person would just stand there and think, “Really? Seriously?!”

James is talking about bare essentials here: food and clothing. Stuff that someone needs to stay alive. This verse is not really about charitable giving; the real issue is more serious. If someone really acted like this, it would reveal that they aren’t listening to God, or worse yet, don’t really know Him. The apostle John, for example, wrote: “Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God” (3 John 11, NLT).

What we can learn from this is an appreciation for the opportunities that God brings into our life to bless others. We can ask God to help us understand that everything we have is a gift from Him. He gives us the privilege of sharing.

Journey through James, 2:14

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? James 2:15 (NLT)

Let’s say that someone you know needs you to give him a ride. This person is having an emergency. You have a car, but, with a dead battery, it’s not taking anybody anywhere. Let’s say that your car was given to you, too. Some guy gave it you because he loves people, and he figured you’d use the car to bless others. The idea is that our faith in Christ has a purpose to it. It is living—because Jesus lives. It works. It is good for something. If faith from Jesus Christ comes into one’s life, but brings no tangible blessing to others, it differs fundamentally from the faith that Jesus and his apostles demonstrated.

Journeying through James – the Law of Liberty

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. 12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:8‑13 (NIV)

We are free to serve the Lord in ways that are consistent with how the Lord looks at people. James uses the expression “law of liberty” twice, in James 1:25 and 2:12. It’s a law that sets people free because it puts love first. The only example that we have of someone who did that perfectly is Jesus Christ.

Being patient and forgiving with someone gives the person the opportunity to see how God looks at them. That’s hard for people to grasp, but “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19, NLT). We often like to focus on the fact that God has forgiven us. That is truly wonderful and kind, but I think we have a harder time understanding that Christ’s blood paid for everyone else’s sins too! Showing mercy for Jesus’ sake changes lives—pass it on.

Journeying through James – Looking at the Heart

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? James 2:1‑5 (NIV)

It’s very difficult for us to see people differently than how they might obviously appear to us. We have well-known adages like, “Beauty is only skin deep,” to remind us of that. Discrimination is a human problem that needs the forgiveness of Christ and the power of God’s Holy Spirit to make us think differently. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2, NIV).

There are many reasons why someone is poor and even if it were their fault, who are we to judge. “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7, NIV). The challenge is to not let how we see people cloud how the the Lord see them. Serving others and loving people, as God does, can be very different than what people and your culture might say.

Journeying through James – Favoritism

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? James 2:1‑4 (NIV)

What is your sense of equality is based on? Some people say they’re not judgmental, and I think most people like to think of themselves as fair and impartial. I think James is saying that you should let God be the judge of that. In other words, everybody makes judgements, but not everybody makes them the way that God would. The best example to take is Jesus’ example. He didn’t come to judge anybody, but lived a life of love. He patiently preached the Gospel in the hope that everyone who heard would be saved.

If you know Jesus, you know that none of us measure up to Him. That is meant to free us to accept one another as sinners who need God’s love and forgiveness in Christ. If you value people, even yourself, by race, wealth, social standing, or educational level, you are judging by what the world values, not by what God values. On the inside, God looks at the heart and wants to transform the eyes of our hearts to see others as Jesus does.

Seeking the Kingdom

And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. 30 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. 31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. 32 So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom. Luke 12:29‑32 (NLT)

Does your life feel a bit off-balance? In these times of change, it’s easy to feel off kilter. The last seven months have been so unusual. One friend of Jill’s was at home at the beginning of the corona virus crisis. She was able find time to exercise and enjoy life at a different pace. Now that things are kind of back to normal, exercise time is gone, but there’s time to visit the donut shop on the way to work. Maybe your work hasn’t changed. Maybe you’re retired, but I’m sure you’ve felt the impact of COVID-19 personally.

To daily be aware that Christ has been with us and that he has been providing for us all along is a very helpful frame of mind. It provides a sense of equilibrium in a world that is constantly changing. Being thankful for his goodness and care speaks peace to our souls and bears good fruit in our lives. God will take care of things.

Jesus said, “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. 30 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. 31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. 32 So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.” Luke 12:29-32 (NLT)

Jesus gives us a command to seek because he wants people to learn to rely only on God. The word “seek” in the New Testament usually means to try to learn where something is, to look for, to try to find something. What God wants is for us to find is a deeper faith in Christ’s love and to share that with others. One good thing that can come from unstable times, like this corona crisis, is that we rely more on God than on ourselves. On the Lord, “we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.” 2 Co 1:10 (NIV)

We can pray for one another and ask for God’s help in time of need. What will happen is that God will hear our prayers through Christ, and this is more powerful than we know. As a result, people will give thanks to God because of his gracious love. And it’s not just by prayer, but we can also give thanks to God by filling a shoebox and sending it to a child through Operation Christmas Child. Some family in a completely different part of the world will thank God for your gift and have the opportunity to hear about Jesus. And your thanksgiving can abound even more. Hundreds of kids in two schools in Haiti will thank God every school day because you gave them a good meal to eat, a place to learn and the opportunity to hear about Jesus.

Seek the kingdom of God that thanksgiving would abound in your heart; and also that through your prayers and service to others, there would be much praise and thanks to God. He is with us and providing for us, and we can be thankful for his goodness and care.

Journeying through James – On Being Religious, James 1:26-27

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world James 1:26‑27 (NIV)

The word “religion” surprisingly occurs only 6 times in the New Testament. And every time it’s used, it’s associated with some outward form of ritual that people do to worship God. Paul informs us that religion can take the place of true worship. James is basically in agreement with this, but comes at it from a different angle. First consider the Apostle Paul’s concern about “religion:”

“You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, 21 ‘Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!’? 22 Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. 23 These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion (literally “religion” in the original Greek * ), pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires” (Colossians 2:19-23, NLT).

Paul’s explanation (inspired by the Holy Spirit) doesn’t need any commentary except to note that human beings like being religious. James, of course, would have been very familiar with the many rituals and rites that were in Judaism; however, James comes at this from the different perspective. It’s almost like he’s saying, “Alright, I’m not going to get into the weeds about the notion being religious;” true religion is about:

  • What comes out of your mouth. Jesus taught: “But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20 These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you” (Matthew 15:18-20, NLT).
  • Your conduct and actions. Jesus said, “For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward” (Mark 9:41, NKJV). And the Apostle John received great inspiration on this: “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. 19 Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God” (1 John 3:18-19, NLT).

So, how religious are you? Being “religious” isn’t a bad thing as long as your religion makes you more like Jesus in thought, word and deed!

In the original Greek manuscripts, the word is “ἐθελοθρησκία,” (pronounced: ethelothrēskia).
According Louw and Nida*, it means “a set of religious beliefs and practices resulting from one’s own desires and initiative—‘self-imposed religion, religion thought up by oneself.’ ἅτινά ἐστιν λόγον μὲν ἔχοντα σοφίας ἐν ἐθελοθρησκίᾳ ‘these (rules) appear to have an air of wisdom in the self-imposed religion’ Col 2:23.”

* Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 532). New York: United Bible Societies.