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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Lessons from an Eight Year Old

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth (3 John1:4).

 A few days ago our eight-year-old grandson, with wonder and excitement, relayed this story to us on the phone. He and his dad and little brother were mountain biking through some wooded trails. He was in the front, got far ahead of the other two and took a few wrong turns. He found himself lost and alone.

He told us that he immediately prayed…twice! This story has more than a happy ending. The next day, as they were reading a daily children’s devotional, the topic was… you guessed it—Fear Not! It described different fears such as being alone, rejection, and failure. And it talked of the assurance of God’s promise—“I will never leave you.”

We always have someone who loves us, accepts us, and helps us. God wants to be part of our here and now.

He was so excited about the timeliness of this lesson that he read the whole devotion to us with the excitement and passion that we have when we realize that a special passage from God’s word was written just for me, at the exact time I needed to hear it.

Don’t you love how God works!?

It warms my heart to know that this little guy knows that he can face his fears with God “who will never leave him.” And here is the verse from his devotional that we can all claim, which was written just for us, for the exact time we need it:

 I asked the Lord for help and He answered me. He saved me from all that I feared (Ps 34:4).

Energized, Refreshed and Revitalized

Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning (Lament 3:23).

 I really enjoy when I read or hear a maxim or saying that is applicable to my life. It is usually from scripture where the words seem to jump off the page and land in my heart. There are also very wise truisms that aren’t verbatim from scripture, but if they are really true and right, their source is always God’s word.

I recently read this one by Paul Arden—“The problem with hoarding is that you end up living off your reserves. Eventually, you’ll become stale. If you give away everything you have, you are left with nothing. This forces you to look, to be aware, to replenish . . . somehow the more you give away, the more comes back to you.” 

The first account that popped into my mind was the story of the Israelites who were told to eat as much manna as they wanted, but not to keep any. Those who horded it found that the next morning it was full of maggots and began to smell.

I sometimes ask myself why I keep some things that are no longer useful. Often the answer is nothing more than nostalgia. They were once cherished, but now cause us to look back instead of to the present or future. God’s word says that He has plans for us to give us a future and a hope.” Fortunately, this scripture does not have an age limit or an expiration date—ever.

Our old clutter (even the stuff in our heads) can weigh us down and make us feel less adequate or less effective now than the person we used to be! What a horrible trick of the enemy!

Scripture tell us that looking back while plowing messes up the furrows (Luke 9:62). We certainly can hold on to the lessons that we’ve learned in the past, but all the experiences of the past has prepared us for what God has planned for us today and in our future.

And if we believe and trust God’s word, we can look forward to a lot more future than past.

Energized, Refreshed and Revitalized

Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning (Lament 3:23).

 I really enjoy when I read or hear a maxim or saying that is applicable to my life. It is usually from scripture where the words seem to jump off the page and land in my heart. There are also very wise truisms that aren’t verbatim from scripture, but if they are really true and right, their source is always God’s word.

I recently read this one by Paul Arden—“The problem with hoarding is that you end up living off your reserves. Eventually, you’ll become stale. If you give away everything you have, you are left with nothing. This forces you to look, to be aware, to replenish . . . somehow the more you give away, the more comes back to you.” 

The first account that popped into my mind was the story of the Israelites who were told to eat as much manna as they wanted, but not to keep any. Those who horded it found that the next morning it was full of maggots and began to smell.

I sometimes ask myself why I keep some things that are no longer useful. Often the answer is nothing more than nostalgia. They were once cherished, but now cause us to look back instead of to the present or future. God’s word says that He has plans for us to give us a future and a hope.” Fortunately, this scripture does not have an age limit or an expiration date—ever.

Our old clutter (even the stuff in our heads) can weigh us down and make us feel less adequate or less effective now than the person we used to be! What a horrible trick of the enemy!

Scripture tell us that looking back while plowing messes up the furrows (Luke 9:62). We certainly can hold on to the lessons that we’ve learned in the past, but all the experiences of the past has prepared us for what God has planned for us today and in our future.

And if we believe and trust God’s word, we can look forward to a lot more future than past.

Why

Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ (Col 2:8).

While attending various universities and teaching at some, I have met some truly brilliant people. I have also encountered some while at the grocery store, at church, in books, or on TV. I have come to the conclusion that a brilliant mind can be a blessing or a curse.

I remember hearing about a philosophy professor whose final exam consisted of one question, “Why?”

Many of the world’s most amazing thinkers would answer that question with high-sounding nonsense.

Even people like DaVinci, Einstein or Hawking would all fall short if their only knowledge and resources came from the spiritual powers of the world. Human or worldly thinking at its best is still empty philosophies; the power is not only limited, but also deceitful.

God’s ways (keep in mind that He’s the creator) do not align with the ways of the world. If a person answered by saying, “to have, do, and try everything this world has to offer,” he would find himself responding like Solomon who actually did have, do and try everything—“It is all in vain, as senseless as chasing the wind.”

Answering our own “Why?” is so important because it serves as a filter for making choices. God’s word tells us that the only thing that will ultimately satisfy our souls is being in a relationship with Him—to know Him personally and intimately. Our “why” must begin with God.

I’d like to end with Ravi Zacharias’s “why” clearly extracted from scripture. “My longings, my hopes, my dreams, and my every effort have been to live for Him who rescued me, to study for Him who gave me this mind, to serve Him who fashioned my will, and to speak for Him who gave me a voice.”

 (1 John 4:9, 2 Tim 2:15, Josh 24:14, Acts1:8)

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.

Implementing God’s Word

Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation (2 Peter 1:20).

 I am presently working with a group of students who are frustrated with the standards (guidelines) with which they must comply. Often times it isn’t the guideline itself, but the way that it is implemented. Don’t we sometimes do the same things as believers? We take a verse, principle or even a commandment and interpret it to our liking. This is nothing new. Paul addressed the Colossians about this a few centuries ago.

Take the verse “Husbands love your wives” as an example—part B of a very volatile principle in today’s world. Love is defined in Corinthians, and we hear it at 99% of the weddings we attend. But to put it in 21st century terms: Love is patient and kind, not arrogant or rude, or selfish, or demanding its own way, not easily angered, doesn’t keep score (I like that one), always protects, never gives up, is always hopeful and is trusting. God’s definition is sooo much better than Hollywood’s version.

Time to look at part A of this verse, “Wives submit to your husbands.” I addressed this before so I’ll just make a few comments that go along with this title. Like my education example, through the years and across many cultures and religions, this has been interpreted in ways that are in opposition to the intent. This verse does not suggest spiritual inferiority; in fact, the one submitting is actually in control of choosing the course of action. Valuing others above ourselves requires confidence in order to willingly yield to another, in order to lift that person up, with only one motive—love.

As the above verse states, scripture did not come from man, but it is the inspired word from the Holy Spirit. Although the most trusted theologians can give us insight, they are still men. God speaks directly to all believers, not just teaching by human wisdom, but teaching by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.