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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Judge Not

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. With what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you (Matt7:1-2).

There are some scriptures that I don’t really like, not because they are not true or helpful, but because they are true and convict me of things that I don’t like to face or believe about myself.

Like verse 4 of the above passage asks, “How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?”  I have that same speck in my own eye, only it’s exponentially worse. Every fault that I find in another can be found deep within my own heart (ugh).

I’m not trying to make excuses, because I know this is an area about which I need to address, but isn’t this part of everyone’s sinful nature? Aren’t we always judging others as a typical, routine, commonplace activity?

I think the key to complying with this verse is to define judgement as criticism as in “Don’t criticize or we too will be criticized.” Personally, when I find that someone is being critical of something that I have said or done, often (not always) the situation or details have been misinterpreted or that person only knows part of the story. We really need to offer this same consideration (grace) to others and be aware of anything that causes us to think of ourselves in any way as superior to another.

Verse 2 is especially uncomfortable, but definitely worth repeating…  For we will be treated as we treat others, that is, the standard we use in judging is the standard by which we will be judged.

I pray for the eyes of the Father, for help in being gracious with others so that I too, will be shown grace.

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.

Paradise Lost …and Found

For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one Man the many will be made righteous (Romans 5:19).

The world in which Adam and Eve lived would have been perfect in every way—weather, temperature, lush fruits, incredible surroundings, nothing to diminish their enjoyment of knowing God in a most intimate way. And God had companionship directly with them. When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden.

Of course, we know that didn’t end well. When sin entered the world, our holy God could not be in the presence of sin.

All our sins from merely embellishing the truth to inflicting horrific torture can be traced back to our inheritance of this sinful nature. Left to our own devises unconstrained, we fall back into greed, envy, selfishness, pride, gluttony… All the sins we commit are a manifestation of this sinful nature.

But God had a redeeming plan from the start to restore His cherished fellowship with mankind for those who so choose. When Jesus suffered as our substitute He was sinless, but He assumed our sinful nature long enough to defeat it. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  

This is so well explained in the words of this song:

                  “I am covered over with the robe of righteousness that Jesus gives to me. 

                   When [God] looks at me He sees not what I use to be, but He sees Jesus.”

We can have fellowship with God now in the spirit, and can look forward to someday walking with Him in the cool evening breezes.

The Perfect Plan

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).

Nellie Bly, a gutsy 19th century journalist, became famous by exposing the neglect and brutality at the Women’s Lunatic Asylum. Her assignment required that she be admitted undercover feigning insanity. This assignment involved trust—trust that someone from the outside would arrange for her release.

I know that this is a very, very, very weak comparison, but I was thinking about Jesus. About how He left His position in glory, at the right hand of the Father, to come into the world and in all humility to assume His human role as the Son of Man. His mission wasn’t to expose, but to defeat the enemy and eternal death, and replace it with an opportunity for us to have fellowship with the Father and eternal life.

When Jesus came to earth as a man, His physical suffering and agony was real, and He also knew first-hand what being one with the Father was like. But the part that Jesus dreaded even more than the physical torture was that once He shouldered our sin, the Father, who can’t be in the presence of sin, had to turn away from Him. “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ’Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”

But Jesus’s release from the bowels of the earth was pre-arranged. Sin and death were defeated. Our part, to individually trust and believe in His death, burial and resurrection, seems so insignificant in comparison to the torture, agony and then the ultimate resurrection power necessary to conquer death.

Yet it was the perfect plan. And we can share in the victorious results.

The Father’s Love

Although I rarely repost, this selection really touched me and I’d like to share it again during this special season:

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). 

A short time ago, the message at our church impacted me so much that even though I may not do it justice in these few words, I would be remiss for not sharing and will prayerfully try.

Although God’s word never goes out and returns void, I chose a verse that even non-believers can quote. John 3:16 is so commonly used, the depths of its meaning has been lost.

How many of us as loving parents would choose to suffer pain, emotional hurt, or even death rather than see our child experience it? The anguish suffered by that parent is often more excruciating than the physical pain.

Our loving Father gave us His most precious, precious gift. His only be-loved Son was sent from a heavenly paradise to live on earth for the sole purpose of assuming our sins on His perfect humanity in order to pay the penalty for what we did. As a parent, the depths of His pain would have to be immeasurably greater than if the Father could do it Himself.

And then, because God cannot be in the presence of sin, the already grieving Father had to turn away from the Son. Many parents cannot even leave a child’s hospital bed to eat or sleep, but the Father, who is the very definition of love, had to for a time abandon the Son. He could not complete His purpose if “the cup passed” from Him.

Can there be any greater love than to give His Son–His dearly loved child?

The depths of this love story can only be matched by the joyous ending. Sin and eternal death are defeated. We are redeemed by the most costly price imaginable—the Father’s love.

Forgiveness–The Divine Miracle of Grace

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace (Eph 1:7).

After seeing the movie, I Can Only Imagine, and with Holy Week coming up, I began thinking again of the powerful concept of forgiveness. In the movie, the main character was asked to forgive, a very difficult task when the person inflicted a lifetime of physical, psychological, and emotional pain on him. How much harder is it to forgive someone who neither asks, nor even acknowledges that they maligned us? Yet that is what Jesus did and what we are called to do.

Whenever we bring Jesus into the equation, forgiveness reaches a totally different dimension. Because He was totally blameless, He had no need to seek forgiveness, and He could certainly justify refusing to forgive us. But the Father’s love for us, and His great desire to fellowship with us, moved God to send His Beloved Son. It was the only price by which He could forgive sin yet still remain a holy God.

Jesus’s sacrifice completely satisfied the atonement for sin, the price of forgiveness. We don’t need to add one thing to the equation but faith—not good works, a fine, works of penance, self-condemnation. Nothing that we could meagerly add could come close to the tragedy of the cross, the enormous cost of the agony at Calvary.

But by faith we are free and clear—forgiven—It is finished.