Avenues of Grace – Bible Reading

Hosea 4:6, 6:1-6

Word of the Day – Knowledge

        Imagine with me that you are in a public place. Perhaps a mall or a park or a restaurant. People are quickly walking by. And you see a man and a woman talking closely. The woman is standing facing the man. The man gets down on one knee. Suddenly, the people who were quickly walking past slow down. Then they stop and watch. He pulls out a box like this. You can see the smile on his face. His heart is beating quickly. He is nervous, but excited. He opens the box.  And you can see the glint of a ring. He looks into her eyes. And keeps smiling. Then, he softly asks, “Will you marry me?” The audience that had gathered cheers loudly. They can’t wait to hear her response. The woman looks into his eyes. She smiles. Then looks a little perplexed. And kindly replies, “What's your name?”

        Who would propose to a woman not knowing who she is? Who would say yes to a man proposing to you not knowing who you are? Who make a deep commitment to anyone without knowledge of who they were working with? And yet, and yet, (Pause) why do so many do this in the church? In Hosea 4:6, God speaks to his people through the prophet, Hosea. If he lived today, he’d be talking to us. He says, “My people are destroyed, for lack of warm fuzzies.” Wait. That's not what he says. He says, my people are destroyed for lack of worship attendance. No, that's not it either. So, what is it? Is it obedient? Is it community? God says, my People are destroyed for lack of knowledge.

        Lately, we've been talking about Avenues of Grace. Some people call these disciplines. Some people call them habits. Avenues of Grace is where we open ourselves to receive the grace of God. Some Avenues include prayer, thankfulness, confession, and solitude. This week, we are talking about knowledge. Talking about growing deeper in our understanding of and in our relationship with God.

        I have a friend who teaches at a school for pastors. This is called a seminary. And he shared a fascinating statistic with us. When you start at a school like this, you have to take an entrance exam. This is an exam to see how much you start the school knowing about the Bible. So, these are people that have attended church  probably for their entire life.  And now, they have followed  the path end to ministry.  My friend told me that year after year the entrance exams for the schools are in decline.  To put it simply.  They understand less about the word of God than ever before.  But let's take this one step further. In the day and age in which Hosea was written, this idea of knowledge is deeper than what it means today. To know is also to be in relationship. So, some of your translations will not say that my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. It will say that they are destroyed for a lack of acknowledging God. What this means is that to know God is to be in a relationship with God. And to be in a relationship with God is to know God. The more we know about God, the more we desire to be in a relationship with him. And the deeper our relationship with God, the more we desire to know about him.

        Richard Foster says, “Many Christians remain in bondage to fears and anxieties simply because they do not avail themselves of the discipline of study.” When we lack a deep understanding of who God is, what he has done for us, and the hope that he offers us, we are in bondage. God says that we are his children, but we feel like we are all alone. Some feel that no one truly loves them. But God says that he loved the world so much that he gave his one and only son for us. Later on in  Hosea 6,  the prophet  says the Lord will heal us. the Lord will bind us up. He will revive us. He will raise us up. We will live in his sight. Many today are in bondage simply because they do not know the precious truth of God's word. John 8:32 says, “ and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

        Hosea doesn't speak lightly about this. In chapter 6,  he says, “Come, and return to the Lord.” Later on, he says,”Let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord.” “I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”

        So how do we do this? How do we learn about God? People will commonly say that they open up the Bible and attempt to read it. But they find it difficult to understand. It was written many years ago. It was written in a place far from here. But just as God delivered his word to us, God has also provided us with tools and opportunities to learn from him. To learn in ways that are relevant for us today. To learn in ways that teach us how to follow him. How to live for him. How to bring God into every aspect of our life.

        So, one of the easiest ways for us to do it is simply the device that everyone of us under 60 or so has. In fact, let's grab our smartphones and hold them up. Got it? Last week, we were turning to the passage in our Bible. And as we were doing so, one person hold up his phone and pointed out that he was already there without having to worry about page numbers. Rick has already found an excellent resource. It's called the YouVersion Bible app. This provides you with many, many translations of the Bible. This allows you to pick one that makes sense to you. It also provides you with several different kinds of reading plans. I recently started a plan that helps you read through the Bible in a year. There's several different plans to do this with. They're also plans that have to do with topics. Some plans help you read through just the Old Testament or the New Testament. There are plans for reading through specific books of the Bible. There are specific portions of the Bible. Whatever you're interested in getting to know. It also allows you to copy passages. You can share passages from the Bible on Facebook or another social media.  You can highlight and comment on what you've been reading. So it's a great way  to regularly read from the Bible and interact with it.  Another excellent resource is called biblegateway.com. It also has lots of translations. It also has some resources to help you understand what you are reading. In fact as you read a verse, it gives you a list of the many resources that help you understand that verse. These add cultural background, other scripture passages, and insight. There’s an app for Bible Gateway as well.

        Next resource. Which is more of an encouragement. Back in January, we talked about the Holy Spirit. And in one of those sermons, we talked about the Holy Spirit being the spirit of Truth. Jesus taught us that he will lead us into all truth. When you come up to a confusing passage, you can pray and ask for the Holy Spirit to help you understand.

        So as we close today, I leave you with a simple question. What is your relationship with God worth to you? (Pause) At one point, Hosea calls out the leaders of Israel. The failure of the people to know God is partially due to their failure. So, here’s a question particularly aimed at the leaders among us. If everyone did what you did, where would our congregation be? Knowledge leads to relationship, and relationship leads to a deeper knowledge. Therefore, what will you dedicate to this relationship? Is God worth five minutes each morning? Is he worth half an hour once a week? Is he worth half an hour once a day? Only you can take this step and make this decision. What will you dedicate to growing in your knowledge of him this week?