Gomer and Me

Sow righteousness for yourselves; reap the fruit of unfailing love (Hosea 10:12).

 The word of God is amazing! Every word, story, and message that God has chosen to be scripted by His inspired writers is there purposefully. One story which is historical, allegorical, and still relevant to us almost 3000 years later is the book of Hosea.

Hosea, a prophet of God was instructed to take a specific woman as his wife. Her name was Gomer and with a name like that, she was probably bullied in school and carried a lot of baggage. Gomer was a harlot prior to her marriage, and was unfaithful to Hosea throughout their marriage.

Gomer, in this account, represents the unfaithfulness of Israel to God, Himself, but she also represents us today. Her story involves immorality, infidelity, idolatry, repentance, forgiveness, and undying love.

The first of God’s commandments, You shall have no other gods before Me is one that I originally thought meant idols—Buddha statues or foreign gods like Zeus or Neptune. I had never considered that anything that takes a priority over my relationship with God is an idol. Like possessions, or entertainment, or even church, or serving, or friends, or work, or even our family. And although none of these are bad, in fact they are gifts from God, it’s when we stray from following God’s guidelines for money, for serving, for work, for relationships, and when we neglect our most important relationship, that we are guilty of idolatry.

Just as Hosea continually sought after Gomer, God longs for us to return to Him. He wants us to be restored, and He wants to demonstrate His faithfulness to us even amid our unfaithfulness.

There are many lessons here and throughout God’s word, and they’re all about God’s character—grieving when we desert Him, forgiving, restoring, and always faithfully proving to us His grace, mercy and undying love.

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Good and Perfect

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, Who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17).

 I don’t know where today’s entry is going to go. I had an idea and wanted to meditate on the first part of this verse, but when I looked it up to correctly quote it, the second part jumped off the page— the Father of the heavenly lights, Who does not change like shifting shadows.

Many people had an unstable parent whose behavior was so unpredictable that the same behavior would be praised one day and cruelly punished the next. They lived in a constant state of caution, apprehension and insecurity, never knowing what to expect. And many had (or are) a parent who tries to be consistent and follow biblical principles, but very often falls short.

But God IS consistent, consistently good. Consistent in kindness, mercy, grace, patience, justice…and love. We can be comfortable in knowing that what is pleasing to Him today won’t bring about a chastisement tomorrow. We can be assured in knowing that when He disciplines us, that it is 100% out of love to mold and teach, not to punish.

Well, I guess I never got to discuss those “good and perfect gifts.” Our focus shouldn’t be there anyway, but rather on the One who does not change like shifting shadows, the Good and Perfect Giver.

Training Up Children

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

The topic I’d like to talk about today, deals with a major difference in today’s world from what it was like one generation (really only about 15 years) ago. A challenge for today’s parents, about which they have no former parent model, is how to deal with technology.

Fortunately, the principles in God’s word spans years, generations, and centuries. We can look to scripture as a guide, including this one: Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise (Phil 4:8).

 My daughter and her husband set some technology guidelines for their children, but I’ll let her tell you about them:

This is a daily (sometimes hourly) battle as a parent. I no longer see the goal as “keep them away from technology at all costs – it will kill them/fry their brain/turn them into hermits who can’t talk to people!!!” I cannot change the world that they are growing up in, and I am learning to acknowledge that it is just a different world/childhood from mine. So my goal has been refined and it is now more like this: “Teach them to be RESPONSIBLE stewards of technology, with skills to use it for good.” 

A few examples: 

  1. Let them use my laptop for a school math program but only for X minutes, and then it’s outside time.
  2. Show them a fun picture of their cousin on Facebook, but explain how people can post bad things too. 
  3. Let them play a KindleFire game, but understand that the Chat feature is NOT allowed. (I’m extremely transparent and honest with them. We talk openly about false identities and how a chatter might seem like a friendly child, but could be someone who is trying to trick them into doing something very bad). And then it’s outside time.
  4. Show that pictures and videos are fun to look at from family! But if you see something that doesn’t feel right to you, tell mom and dad and we’ll talk about it – don’t be afraid! And then it’s outside time. 
  5. Show how technology can help us (GPS, weather, store hours, learning games, etc.).
  6. We always stress that the minute technology becomes more important than our family (or any other real human) you will see it in the trash.

Personally, I am proud of them for thinking this through and becoming proactive. It keeps them as parents  from doing what Colossians 3 warns  about–not provoking or discouraging the kids by giving them random “don’ts” with no explanation. It sets them on track for making disciples at home by giving a perspective of technology that may help to keep it from becoming an idol of the heart.

Scripture alerts us to be intentional in training up the child in the way he should go. This includes the inclinations he should lean toward, his behavior, and his character. And although we may not have an earthly parent who modeled how to deal with 21st century technology, we do have a Heavenly Father who promises — if any of you lacks wisdom; let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

Just As I Am

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8)

A character in a movie that I was watching made the statement, “The trouble I have with religion is the people.” I agree. Religion was invented by imperfect, and sometimes corrupt, people. I cringe whenever I am referred to as being religious. I would so much more love being identified as a woman of faith—faith in a loving God whose motive is a loving relationship with me.

Religion can be both rigid and fickle with dos and don’ts that change whenever a more palatable idea comes along. God’s character doesn’t change, but He’s far from rigid. He deals with each of us as individuals—where we are, where we need to grow in order to become the improved model, not of someone else, but of who we are—our own 2.0 version, moving closer to the image of His Son.

Even if we are unfaithful, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny who He is (2 Tim 2:13).

Certainly we can, and are encouraged, to gather together as believers to support each other, learn, and especially to worship the One who accepts us right where we are –Just as I am, You will receive; Will welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve.

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).

 I will never turn away anyone who comes to Me (John 6:37).

Exposing the Enemy

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

I recently watched a disturbing video based on a true story about a pastor who was definitely on fire and effective in sharing the gospel—a prime target for the enemy. At one point he began questioning God’s character which balances both love and justice. In his words, “We need to re-think God.”

As believers we have no problem accepting God’s love. His justice shouldn’t be a conflict either when we think of it coupled to another of His attributes—mercy. Can you imagine a caring teacher or a loving parent who always demonstrated love without justice? Or justice without love and mercy? In each case the result would be a nightmare. In extremes, the result would be a child or adult who would be an emotionally dysfunctional mess with no direction, and not feeling loved either.

Through His mercy, the penalty for our sin was paid for by ultimate love—God sent His beloved Son, Jesus Christ as our substitute. Compared to the eternal consequences, our part is easy. If we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead, we are saved. And living according to His plan (laws/guidelines) is a benefit to us as individuals and a favor to the human race.

False teachers are not new. They began at the beginning of the first century church. Paul warned that people will turn away from truth and gather around teachers who say “what their itching ears want to hear.”

Today, Hollywood effectively does this all the time.

The above scripture from Peter cautions us to be vigilant. It is so easy to fall into a set of beliefs that seem loving and accepting, but in fact are destructive. And nothing pleases the enemy more than confusing and bringing down believers.

The life of faith in the truths of scripture may step on our toes rather than tickle our ears, but the truths of the scripture bring guidance and stability; grace and mercy; wisdom and comfort…and eternal life.

God is Good

You are good, and what You do is good (Ps 119:68a).

There are quite a few verses throughout scripture that woven together, describe God’s goodness and what our response to His goodness should be. In Romans we are taught that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, and who have been called according to His purpose. We sometimes experience a disconnect when we think, in our eyes, ______ (insert your own tragedy or challenge here)            can’t possibly result in anything good.

A buzz phrase today is “to be intentional” and that is a fitting way to define God’s goodness. It is purposeful, never meaningless nor random. God’s purpose, to conform us to the likeness of His Son, is a much greater good than our comfort at the moment. Our definition of good is both temporal and temporary rather than spiritual and eternal.

This brings us to another challenging verse about God’s goodness, Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ______ (insert your own tragedy or challenge here too)     .  This verse certainly requires some prayer and study. But we can know–we can be absolutely sure–that God’s actions are motivated by love, and that the end result will be worth it, and good.

Going through tough times is tough. But God’s word gives us promise after promise of His faithfulness in walking us through trials, in giving us strength, in giving us endurance, in supplying everything we need.

His grace is more than enough.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow (pursue) me all the days of my life.

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful (Heb 10:23).

Once we make the decision to follow Jesus, every part of our life is affected. Oswald Chambers states, “The Holy Spirit cannot be accepted as a guest in merely one room of the house—He invades all of it.”

This is good news! Even if we spend three hours a day on our knees or reading scripture (I’d like to say that this is me, but I’m nowhere close), even if we did, that would only be a very small percent of the day. So many, many other things are happening. But if the Holy Spirit is present like He says He is, they are all “Spirit-ual” activities.

The challenge for me is to let Him lead…then for me to follow. And it does require time for prayer and scripture reading to hear His voice. If there is a dry spell where we are not given explicit direction, we can still chose to live righteously in our typical daily routine because He’s in that room, too.

If we are unfaithful, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny who He is (2 Tim 2: 13).

God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Corin 1:9). 

Thank you, Lord, for Your ever-presence. You’re here at times when I beg for direction and intervention; and You’re here when I arrogantly think that I can handle things. I am grateful for Your faithfulness especially during those times when I’m not.