Introduction to Hosea

Hosea is a love story, a tragic love story, set in the 8th century B.C.  Hosea was a prophet, the first of what we call the “minor prophets.”  They are not minor because they are inferior, like baseball players who play in the minor leagues because they are not good enough to play in the major leagues.

Hosea and Zechariah, which may appear longer than Daniel, because they have 14 chapters each, compared with Daniel’s 12, are really shorter than Daniel.  Hosea has 197 verses, and Zechariah has 211, whereas Daniel has 357.

There are 12 Minor Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, and they are called “The Twelve.”  These books were originally copied on one scroll, whereas the Major Prophets required a whole scroll for each book.  The 12 “Minor Prophets” in our English Old Testaments are exactly the same as “The Twelve,” the shorter prophets in the Hebrew Bible.

The Minor Prophets do not occur in chronological order.

All of the prophets call Israel back to the covenants.  God had promised in a covenant to Abraham that he would give Abraham land, descendants and a blessing.  That covenant is spelled out in more detail in the Palestinian covenant in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28-32, the Davidic covenant in 2 Samuel 7 and the new covenant in Ezekiel 26.

The Mosaic covenant then formed the stipulations for Israel living in the land and being blessed in it.  Thus, Hosea frequently refers back to the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, which formed the foundation of Israel’s relationship with God.

God had predicted, however, in Leviticus and Deuteronomy that Israel would fail to keep the covenant, would suffer many judgments from God, and would eventually be exiled.  But while in exile God would lead them to repentance and bring them back into the land.

Hosea was a prophet to Israel.  That might seem obvious, but what specifically does that mean?

At this time in the history of Israel, the nation was divided.  Under Solomon’s reign Israel was at its height in power and influence, but with his death the kingdom divided—with ten northern tribes following Jeroboam and two southern tribes following Solomon’s son Rehoboam.  That split occurred in 931 B. C.

Throughout the book of Hosea, the northern ten tribes are called Israel or Ephraim, the largest of those ten tribes.  The southern kingdom is called Judah.

After the establishment of two short-lived capitals at Shechem and Tirzah, King Omri established his capital at Samaria, where it would remain for the duration of the northern kingdom’s existence.

The kingdom of Israel was larger in size and controlled more significant trade routes than did Judah.  Territorial boundaries expanded and contracted over time as Israel and Judah engaged in conflict with one another and their neighbors.  Evidence from outside the Bible suggests that Israel was more powerful than Judah.

This was especially true under the reign of Jeroboam II for forty years from 793 to 753 B.C.  His reign, during a time of Assyrian weakness, made Israel strong and prosperous.  Of course, in their material prosperity they became spiritually weak.  The predominant religion of the northern kingdom at this time was the worship of Baal, a Canaanite god of fertility.

From Hosea 1:1 that Hosea’s ministry began during the reign of Jeroboam II, right at the end of it, in about 755 B.C., and lasted 30 years to 725 B.C.  Others believe his ministry lasted from 760 to 715 B.C., a period of 45 years.

In Hosea 1:4, Hosea prophesies that the Lord will punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed of Jezreel.  Jehu had taken the throne through assassination. Jeroboam II was Jehu’s great grandson.  Jeroboam II would be succeeded by his son Zechariah who would reign only six months before ending the line of Jehu.  Jeroboam II died in 743 B.C. and the fall of Samaria and the northern kingdom would happen only 21 years later in 722 B.C.

After Jeroboam II, a series of six very weak and wicked kings ruled in Israel, while Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah reigned in Judah.  None of the kings of Israel followed the Lord, while only Ahaz was a bad king in Judah.

Israel lived off of the stability and prosperity of Jeroboam II’s rule for a number of years, but good times don’t necessarily produce good people.  In fact, it is often just the opposite—good times produce very self-centered people.

Although they had been blessed by God, they turn to idols and treaties with other nations to help them in their times of trouble.  They “break faith” with God, like adulterous prostitutes.

Due to the current prosperity, however, Hosea’s warnings would fall upon deaf ears.

From the ESV Study Bible:

The latter days of the eighth century B.C. witnessed the rise of the neo-Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III (745–727).  He was followed by several capable kings who extended Assyrian dominance over the entire ancient Near East (eventually including Egypt) for more than a century.  Particularly relevant to Hosea were at least six incursions into Palestine and its neighbors by an unstoppable Assyrian army during the prophet’s lifetime.

This coincided with political upheaval and instability during the period of the six Israelite kings who reigned within a period of thirty years, filled with intrigue and violence.

Zechariah (753 B.C.) was murdered after only six months in power.  The usurper, Shallum, was assassinated one month later.  The next king, Menahem (752–742 B.C.) survived for a decade only by paying a burdensome tribute to Tiglath-pileser.  His son, Pekahiah (742–740 B.C.), was assassinated by an army officer, Pekah (740–732), after only two years’ reign.  Subsequently, Pekah was disposed of by Hoshea, whose rebellion against the Assyrians led to the end of the northern kingdom (732–722 B.C.).

Judah also became a vassal state in the Assyrian Empire during Hosea’s ministry (2 Kings 16:5-10).

The Assyrians conquered and captured Israel in 722 B.C., so Hosea’s ministry extended right up to that time.  For historical background read 2 Kings 15 and 17 for Israel’s kings, and 2 Kings 15-20 for Judah’s kings who reigned during Hosea’s years of prophetic ministry.

Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 B.C.E., whereas Judah, though severely damaged, narrowly escaped the dreadful onslaught of the Assyrian war machine.  But Judah’s escape from imperial domination would be brief. Jerusalem eventually fell to the Babylonian Empire and was destroyed in 586 B.C.  So the southern kingdom lasted another 150 years.

Contemporaries to Hosea would be Amos, at the beginning of his ministry, and Isaiah and Micah throughout most of his ministry.  But Isaiah and Micah were prophets to Judah.  It was up to Hosea to pick up the mantle from Amos and charge Israel with their sins while comforting them with God’s steadfast love.

Prophets and Kings of Judah and Israel

So Hosea wrote during a time of unparalleled prosperity in Israel, but also a time of spiritual decline.  It sounds like our country today, doesn’t it?

The ESV Study Bible describes the theme of Hosea as Israel’s unfaithfulness to a faithful God.  Adulterous Israel will be punished, but can return to Jehovah because of His steadfast love.

Hosea depicts Israel’s unfaithfulness with a number of images from family and nature.  Israel is like: a promiscuous wife, an indifferent mother, an illegitimate child, an ungrateful son, a stubborn heifer, a silly dove, a luxuriant vine, and grapes in the wilderness.  Yet Israel’s unfaithfulness and obstinacy are not enough to exhaust God’s redeeming love that outstrips the human capacity to comprehend.

Hosea’s major concern was Israel’s worship of Baal—a weather-god worshiped in Syria and Palestine, who had control over agriculture and fertility, rainfall and productivity.  Since Israel was an agricultural society, Baal worship was very important.

Baal was localized at different shrines identified by such names as Baal-peor (9:10) and Baal-gad (Josh. 11:17) and hence was sometimes referred to as the Baals (Judg. 2:11; 3:7; 8:33).  I will not attempt to give a full description of this false religion here, but one major aspect of Baalism touches on this prophet’s message: the religion’s appeal to human sexuality (cf. Isa. 57:3–10).  Other aspects—such as drunkenness, bestiality, human sacrifice, mutilations, and incest—may be discerned in the book, but Hosea understands the strength of Baalism’s appeal to the sex drive by way of ritual prostitution.

As with many religions in the ancient near East and the Mediterranean region, the pagan shrines promoted sexual immorality as an act of appeal to Baal to act accordingly—to grant fertility to women and rain for good crops.  This took place through cult prostitutes (Hosea 4:14).

Since Israel had a covenanted relationship with Yahweh, the God of Israel, they were not to fraternize with other gods.  A dominant theme of this book is that Israel is Yahweh’s bride.

Other Old Testament prophets speak of this bride and groom relationship between Israel and Yahweh, although Hosea was the first.

For example, Isaiah begins in chapter 1 decrying “A faithful city has become a whore” (1:21), but then end anticipates the time when Israel will be as a “bride” in whom the Lord “will take delight” (62:4-5).  She moves from harlotry to holiness, from whore to bride.

The controlling or “root metaphor” in Jeremiah 2:1-4:4 is the image of Israel as the unfaithful wife of Yahweh.  In 2:20 the prophet charged that Israel had shamelessly prostituted herself.  In 3:1-4:4, he called for the unfaithful wife to return to her husband.  The love that Israel had for Yahweh (2:2) early in her history had turned to love for foreign gods (vv. 25, 33) so that Israel was guilty of both “prostitution” (2:20; 3:1-3, 6, 8-9) and “adultery” (3:8-9).

The purpose of this image is to help us understand the  betrayal of Israel’s sin and why God was just in judging Israel.  It also relates to the message of hope, that Yahweh would stay committed to his people and one day restore her to himself.

Ezekiel 14:12-16:63 is the story of an unfaithful wife, taken by God when no one else wanted her, treated with great compassion and kindness, yet again turning to other gods.

This book of Hosea is designed to jolt the reader, to make them experience the betrayal and treachery God feels.  “It is as startling in its presentation of sin as it is surprising in its stubborn certainty of grace” (Duane Garrett, Hosea-Joel, p. 22)

From the ESV Study Bible:

Worship of Baal is not just a violation of the first of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:3), it is a betrayal of that intimate and endearing union that God made with his people.  Idolatry, therefore, is depicted as spiritual adultery, transgression against the marriage between the Lord and Israel (cf. Ex. 34:11–16Lev. 17:7; 20:4–6Deut. 31:16).  The prophet justifies the Lord’s coming judgments with a litany of offenses that amount to the radical ingratitude of a wayward wife.  But punishment is not ultimately what the Lord wants for his people; he desires that they leave their fornication and return to the One who first loved them and can indeed provide what is for their best.

Isn’t that a great message that we need to hear as well?  Even though we betray the Lord Jesus and commit treachery against Him, He still loves us!  He is radically and unalterably committed to us.  Even though He may discipline, He still loves us.

So this relationship between Yahweh and Israel was a special relationship.  God had chosen Israel to be his bride, his wife, out of all the nations.  It was an exalted status, one which Israel despised through their actions.

Hosea declared that the human marriage relationship symbolized the relationship that existed between Yahweh and His people.  Israel had become unfaithful to God.  God taught Hosea the seriousness of this unfaithfulness and how He felt about it through the prophet’s own marriage relationship.

Hosea experienced the tragedy and heartbreak of an unfaithful wife, not just an adulteress, which is bad enough, but an adulteress turned prostitute—which enabled him to enter into the fellowship of God’s sufferings over the behavior of His “wife,” Israel.

Hosea’s heart was broken, and he felt the most unutterable sorrow that a man can feel, when he feels his wife abandon him.  He learned how God felt, and he denounced kings, priests, and people out of that broken heart that mirrored the broken heart of God.  Hosea is the prophet of the broken heart and the broken home (John Phillips, Exploring the Old Testament Book by Book, p. 317).

Hosea, then, revealed the deepest nature of sin, namely: infidelity to the elective grace of God.  The worst thing in the realm of sin is apathy to the love of God.  The opposite of love is not hate but apathy.

Hosea also reaffirmed God’s promise to bless His people Israel eventually, in the distant future (cf. Deut. 30:1-10).

We will dive into the details of Hosea’s life and prophesies beginning next week, but for now let me just give you an overview of the book.

Hosea is divided into two major parts.  The first three chapters contain a living parable as Hosea is told to go and marry a wife of harlotry – a prostitute.  He has children by her and then she is unfaithful to the marriage.  This relationship illustrates the similar unfaithfulness of Israel in her relationship with the Lord.

The remainder of the book consists of a large circuit that begins and ends with a Covenant Lawsuit. Both at the outset and at the close of this section the Covenant is specifically mentioned (Hosea 6:1, 7 with Hosea 12:1).

The outstanding revelation concerning God that this book contributes is the loyal love of Yahweh for His own.  Thus, commentators have noted…

“In no prophet is the love of God more clearly demarcated and illustrated than in Hosea.”

“Nowhere in the whole range of God’s revelation do we find more beautiful words of love than in Hosea 2:14-166:1-411:1-48914:4-8.”

“Every page of the prophecy keeps declaring God’s love for Israel.”

There are five series of judgment and restoration throughout the book, and we will look at the first one next week.

Judgment Restoration
1:2-9 1:10—2:1
2:2-13 2:14—3:5
4:1—5:14 5:15—6:3
6:4—11:7 11:8-11
11:12—13:16 ch. 14

You can listen to Grace Still Amazes on KENA at 7:45 a.m. on Sundays and Saturday at 7 a.m., Sunday at 8 a.m., and starting Sunday January 6, 2018 will also air at 11:45am on Sundays on KAWX.  Often this posting will be longer and include more material than the radio broadcast, which is 15 minutes.

 

Haiti, December 2018

This past week Becky and I were at the Joy House in Gressier, 12 miles from Port au Prince, with a wonderful team of people among a wonderful group of people.

There were 11 of us in the group.

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In the front row are Candace and Andy Riner, Samuel Wisinger, Logan McCourtney, Barry Godwin and Shelby Godwin.  In the second row are Brad Ault, John Wisinger, Elizabeth Wisinger, myself and Becky Austin.  That’s Roland Mathe standing in the background.  He’s the Haitian leader of the JoyHouse.

We had a great team, working and laughing together.  Even when things were discombobulated on Tuesday morning, everyone showed great flexibility and faithfulness.

For example, Becky was supposed to teach the pastor’s wives on Thursday, because on Tuesday morning she was supposed to teach Beauty Boot Camp.  Well, the ladies showed up Tuesday morning, instead of Thursday.  She did a great job and taught two sessions of Beauty Boot Camp (on Ruth) in the afternoon.

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Logan had the opportunity to teach the pastors all this week.  He had a blast.

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So what did we do in Haiti this time?  After arriving on Friday, we spent Saturday unpacking and repacking items for different events.

In the early afternoon we accompanied the ladies of the Dorcas Ministry to visit people who had not been to church in awhile, either because of medical or financial or other problems.

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After returning bagged food to distribute rice, flour, beans and oil to people from the Great Commission Church.

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On Sunday morning I preached a message for the men of the Great Commission Church, “Act Like Men,” from 1 Corinthians 16:13-14.  I felt great freedom and several men indicated how helpful it was to them.

After church we distributed the food.  They would allow 8-12 people into the Joy House compound at a time to receive their food.

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That evening we began a series of “prayer meetings,” which involved each of us pastors preaching.  Logan preached Sunday night from Matthew 24, Barry on Monday night from 1 Thessalonians 4, John on Tuesday night from 1 Thessalonians 5 and Brad wrapped it up with an evangelistic message on Wednesday from Luke 7.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, 55 young ladies were taught manners, formal place settings, posture and lessons from the book of Ruth.  This is called the Beauty Boot Camp.  They do this with girls in Mena as well.

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This year we got the guys involved in a Boys Boot Camp.  We taught them how to be a gentleman from Boaz’ example, how to remain sexually pure from Genesis 2, Joseph’s example, and the tragedy of Amnon and Tamar.  Not a man stood up to protect her!

Barry even taught the guys how to shave and take a bath out of a helmet.

Brad knew going down that he would take a look at the water system there at the Joy House, but God opened up several opportunities for him to use his past training in hydrology and water systems.  Andy’s brother has been pestered Andy for years to bring a microscope to Haiti, even though Andy didn’t know how to use it.  Brad did.  He showed the Haitians what was in the water and helped them see the necessity of clean water.

Our last day we took Christmas presents to the orphans at Forieur de enfants du Jesus.  Here is a picture with some of them opening their gifts.

Orphans opening their Christmas gifts 2

Then we took them to the beach, where we swam, had cupcakes, games and a pinata.

Me in the water with Benet and Malora

We had a great trip.  Thanks to everyone who prayed for us, and supported our fund raising.  If you would like to give a gift that will go to food distribution, the water system, or resources for the pastors, just send a check to Barnabas Partnership, 2805 Midland Drive, Mena, Arkansas, 71953.

Your Pastor, Prayed For or Preyed Upon

Lamar Austin, November 8, 2018

How the mighty have fallen.  Over the past several years a number of big-name pastors have fallen and are no longer in ministry or have changed ministries.  All of us pastors are susceptible to moral improprieties, abusive power, lack of self-control, burnout and all the struggles which come from being set upon a pedestal.

Sometimes pastors quit the ministry because they have been chewed up and spit out by a congregation of people who were supposed to love, support and pray for him.

So pastors fail and congregations fail.  One of the best ways to keep either from happening is by praying for one another.

Several years ago Terry Tekyl wrote a book entitled Prayer For or Preyed Upon.  In it he asks the question, “Could the pastor be the least prayed for person in the
local church today?”

In Luke 22 Jesus tells Peter:

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you,that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Jesus begins by warning Peter that he is much more vulnerable to Satan than he knew.  Jesus clues us in to this as a rebuke of Peter by using his former name, “Simon, Simon.”

The word “behold” can mean “pay attention” or “watch out.”  The reason he needed to watch out is that Satan was on the prowl and wanted to “sift you like wheat.”  Sifting is part of the agricultural process that began with plowing of the land,  sowing/planting of the grain; reaping and threshing or trampling of the stalks of grain.

It is the threshing stage that is being referred to here.  After reaping the corn or wheat, stalks would be placed into threshing floors constructed in the fields.

Animals then drug threshing equipment over the stalks of corn or wheat in order to separate the grain from the husks/chaff.  The husks and grain would then winnowed by tossing into the air to allow the wind to blow away the husks/chaff.

The grain would then remain, but it would be mixed with  stones and lumps of soil which clung to the roots when it was reaped.   A sifter or sieve would be used to separate the grain from the stones. The grain would be tossed into the air during this process.

Sift like wheat

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwi1suOtwcbeAhUh54MKHSZRAbcQjRx6BAgBEAU&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DYOvaZe-yL_Q&psig=AOvVaw3GFXlYPPkyVMHoT6-rRnCs&ust=1541824871792163

What Jesus is saying is that Satan wanted to agitate and throw him around violently.

John Piper illustrates:

We can imagine a picture like this: Satan has a big sieve with jagged-edged wires forming a mesh with holes shaped like faithless men and women.  What he aims to do is throw people into this sieve and shake them around over these jagged edges until they are so torn and weak and desperate that they let go of their faith and fall through the sieve as faithless people, right into Satan’s company.  Faith cannot fall through the mesh.  It’s the wrong shape.  And so as long as the disciples hold to their faith, trusting the power and goodness of God for their hope, then they will not fall through the mesh into Satan’s hands. (The Sifting of Simon Peter, April 26, 1981)

We get a clue what Satan was attacking by looking at Jesus’ prayer “that your faith will not fail.”  What Satan wants to destroy is Peter’s faith.

However, the good news for Peter (and for us, Romans 8:34) is that Jesus was praying for him, actually had been praying for him.  And that made all the difference for Peter and will for us as well.

Peter did not realize how valuable he was to Jesus.  Jesus had been praying for him that his faith will not fail and that after he returned he would strengthen his brothers (would retain his leadership position).

And Jesus’ prayer was answered.  Peter did fail, but his faith did not.  Earlier that night we see Peter’s bravado and self-confidence on display when he would say in response to Jesus..

“Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33)

It’s almost as if Jesus was saying, “I don’t need your prayers.  I’m perfectly capable of standing with you to the end.”

Years later, when Peter would look back on God’s work in his life, he wrote in chapter 1 of his first epistle:

6 In this [ultimate salvation] you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

“The tested genuineness of your faith” is what Peter experienced that night.  His bravado and self-confidence were shot to pieces, much dross was eliminated, but what was left was “more precious than gold,” real faith, true faith.

What causes Peter’s faith to be refined instead of destroyed and what ultimately made his leadership stronger?  Undoubtedly the pray of Jesus Christ.

Your pastor (me included) seldom realizes how vulnerable he is to Satan or how valuable he is to Jesus.  Won’t you join Jesus in praying for your pastor?  His very life and leadership depend upon it.  Your pastor needs prayer partners.  Tell him you will be one.

I’m 60 Today. Yikes!

Lamar Austin, November 8, 2018

Most birthdays come and go without much fanfare.  Thank God!  But this year I was reminded time and time again that I would be turning 60 today.  That’s because my wonderful church, Grace Bible Church, threw a church-wide 60th birthday party for me on October 28 and it was amazing.

Every quarter our Fellowship Committee comes up with creative and entertaining events and activities which help us laugh with and love one another.  This Fall they chose to celebrate my birthday.

I thought for the sake of some who weren’t able to attend, I would share some pictures and videos to give you a taste of that night.

Around the room, were 11 x 17 photos of me from infancy to high school graduation.  People gathered around tables and were able to watch a slide show of other pictures throughout my life.

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A life-sized Lamar the Sequel was made for people to take pictures with, if they wanted to.  Wigs, hats and other paraphernalia were available to “dress up.”

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After we ate pie and chili, the Lamarettes got up and sang this song:

GBC Lamar song 2018

Then we had a video, A Day in the Life of Pastor Lamar, which was hilarious. You can also find this on YouTube.

The highlight of the evening, however, was the sharing time.  People stood up and said some nice things about me, but the one that meant the most was from my daughter Allison.

Thanks to everyone who attended, for the kindness and affection shown throughout the evening and the work that went into making this an fantastic birthday.

Psalm 133:1 (ESV)

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

The Book of Hosea

Hosea is one of my favorite books of the Old Testament.  Of course, so is Isaiah, Psalms, Genesis…

Hosea is a love story, a tragic love story between God and Israel.  God is the faithful and sacrificial lover, while Israel is the adulterer.  God uses Hosea, the author, to symbolize His faithful love, and Gomer, Hosea’s faithless wife, to illustrate Israel’s adultery.

Hosea had a difficult job (as most prophets did).  God told Hosea to marry Gomer and he hoped, like any husband, that they would be able to have a joyful, intimate marriage.  But his wife wouldn’t give up her profession (prostitution) and thus we have the tragic love story (so beautifully pictured in Francine River’s book Redeeming Love).

This narrative has application on two levels for us:  First, Jesus Christ is our bridegroom.  He has been nothing but a faithful and sacrificial lover towards us.  What about our love for Him?  Surely, like the Psalmist, we need to pray for an “undivided heart” (Psalm 86:11b).  Second, this story stresses for us, as married couples, our need to remain faithful and sacrificial in our love for one another.  This is what Paul calls us to in Ephesians 5:22-33.

Below is a video from The Bible Project, which will enable you to get the big picture overview of Hosea.  All their videos are excellent, as well as their curriculum.

Here is Chuck Swindoll’s book chart on the book of Hosea

Book Chart of Hosea, Swindoll

Hosea prophesied to the northern kingdom of Israel in the latter half of the eighth century B.C. (c. 753–722 B.C.), immediately before the fall of Israel to Assyria in 722 B.C.  This map is from the ESV Study Bible.

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Pastoral Appreciation

October is Pastor Appreciation Month.  Most pastors know that and I hope every congregation does as well.  It is important to honor those who work hard in the ministry.

This past month I as Senior Pastor and Jeff Neufeld as our worship pastor, were overwhelmed by the love and kindness and generosity shown to us through the loving people of Grace Bible Church in Mena, Arkansas.

It started out with a candy gram, presented to each of us by the youth group.  Here is a picture of Jeff with his candy gram.  Unfortunately, I gave my candy away to our Sunday night group before I took a picture.

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During the next couple of weeks, almost every day we received gift baskets with breads, s’mores, soup and chocolates (I’m especially fond of dark chocolate) to eat as well as gift certificates for restaurants here in Mena.

The next Sunday Souled Out, our children’s ministry, presented a video they had put together.  These wonderful children said some pretty cute and funny things, answering questions like, “What is our pastor’s name?” “How old is he?” “How tall is he?” “What is his wife’s name?”  and “What does he like to eat.”  You can see in the video below how they answered, and no, I’m not a polygamist!

[That video will be in tomorrow’s post.]

Plus, they gave us some cards.  Here are two of them..

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This past Sunday two men got up in front of the congregation and gave a tribute to each of us pastors.  While we were at church, some of the youth planted signs in our yard that said…

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Someone also waxed poetic and came up with this little ditty and put it in our newsletter:

Just think, my friends how blessed we are

To have two good men like Jeff and Lamar.

God gave them to us to shepherd our souls

Through music and teaching and setting of goals.

And you’ve gotta admit, folks, they each did a great job

Finding sweet precious wives [amen to that!] to help manage our mob.

In some previous years money was collected throughout the month and given to us in early November, and one year the children gave me this special card…

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There are many ways that you can say “thank you” and “we appreciate you” to your pastor.  One thing I realized this year, that all the love that was poured out upon us, was spearheaded by one person who did the lion’s share of planning and making sure things happened, my sister, Lauren Herod.  Probably someone in your church will have to take charge to cause this to happen.

For several years I have asked our church, “What kind of church do we want to be?” And the answer is, “An I love you church.”  My hope is that we’ve grown to the point where I can ask, “What kind of church are we?”  And the answer will be the same.  Hopefully we’ve moved beyond aspiration to action.  I believe this past month has proven that.  And I’ve heard stories that love is not only being shown to us pastors, but there is love being shown throughout the congregation.

As I said last Sunday, we are truly blessed to have a congregation that is unified and loves one another deeply from the heart.  Not every congregation is blessed so.  But my hope is that more and more gospel-preaching, life-giving churches will.