Monthly Archives: February 2017

Don’t Be A Gomer

When you think about relationships specifically and life in general, the odds are definitely against us. We talked last week about marriage and the statistics are very discouraging at best. For example . . . When asked only three out of ten men in America make marriage a priority . . . Around 50% of all new marriages will end in divorce within about twenty years or so . . . 40% of people when surveyed said they didn’t believe marriage was important and didn’t believe that marriage even works anymore.

There has been such a poor example set by marriage even within the Church that people are skeptical of marriage and many won’t even consider marriage because they have already given up on it. Many people still want that relationship and that connection so people make the wrong choice to co-habitat and live together without being married. And statistics show that living together has a very negative effect on relationships as well. What they are saying is, “I want that connection and I desire that relationship but I don’t want the commitment of marriage.” The reason could be . . . I have never seen a healthy marriage modeled for me . . . I am afraid of the commitment.

But probably the most common reason is . . . I am scarred from my past relationship failures so I don’t want to risk it again. Whether it be a marriage relationship or a dating relationship there has been hurt from the past and we carry the scars of past failures. Usually the problem is we have never really embraced the reality that we are flawed, sinful people. In our hurt we hurt other people. It’s true that . . . Hurt people hurt people! We are hurt or we inflict hurt and we don’t deal with the past in order to move into the future. We keep bringing the hurt, pain, regrets, unresolved issues and non-forgiving spirit into our future relationships.

When it comes to marriage and relationships it is a fact you will most likely mess up. But when you mess up, you don’t give up! The key to success in any marriage or relationship is when you “mess up” you “fess up” and you “get up.” When you are scared and intimidated the real game changer in all of this is . . . The odds are against us but God is for us! When you see that the odds are over here and God is over here, given the choice, I will go with God every time. When our backs are against the wall and it seems like we are losing in our relationships we must remember . . . The odds are against us but God is for us!

If you don’t want to be a statistic and you want to beat the odds in your marriage and your relationships here is what you have to do. You have to deal with your past, to get into your present before you can ever move into your future. That happens through forgiveness. We have to forgive what has happened in the past, to get into the present to have hope of success in the future! We have to practice forgiveness and do what we have said for a long time that we cannot do . . . Forgive and forget!

How many of you have ever heard that or how many of you have ever said that in the past? I will forgive you but I just can’t forget! That’s one of those sayings that sounds good, but it just doesn’t work and simply can’t be true. Here’s why . . . if you are not willing to forget you really are not willing to forgive. I know we retain a lot of stuff although the older I get the more I do forget. But the truth is we do retain a lot of stuff and especially painful memories from our past.

What we have to realize that in order to really forgive we have to forget. Think of it like a scar from a previous injury or surgery. I have several scars on my body. When I look at those I can’t help but remember why and how I got those scars. I remember what happened and how it happened but it doesn’t hurt anymore. While I do remember the pain I have forgotten the effects of the pain. I remember the hurt as I always will but it doesn’t hurt anymore. I have moved on; I have healed my body and my mind of the pain. I have chosen to forgive, or as the song says, “Let it go” and forgot about it. In our relationships, while you will remember what happened and the pain that was there, you have to forget the effects of the pain.

God made us to be in relationship with others. Friendships, boyfriend/girlfriend dating relationships, marriage, etc. We are all made for relationships.  But the sad statistic is when surveyed 25% of people don’t feel connected to someone. They are living life alone which is not how we are made to live this life. It’s like velcro. Velcro is made in two different pieces that are made for each other so they can each fulfill their purpose. Velcro was never made to be alone; velcro was made to be used together. But when velcro is put together sometimes it is ripped apart and as long as it stays apart it is alone it’s not fulfilling it’s purpose. Life was never meant to be lived alone! We grow and find our purpose in relationships.

But in these relationships we have problems. I am convinced that number one reason we are having so many problems in our relationships today is a lack of forgiveness. We are not dealing with our past to get to the present so we are not experiencing success in our future! We keep bringing all the hurt, pain, mistakes and failures with us into all our relationships because we have not either asked for forgiveness or forgiven them much less forgotten about it.

I have two questions for you . . . Are you a Gomer? and Are you a Hosea? The reason I ask those questions is because there is a story in the Bible about the prophet Hosea and his wife Gomer. As we look at this story there are many ways that all of us are a “Gomer.” There are also ways that we can make the choice not to be a “Gomer.” But we all have to choose to be a “Hosea.” If you have your Bible turn with me to the book of Hosea. Close to the end of the Old Testament there is a section of books called the Minor Prophets. They were not minor because of their message but they were minor because of the length of their book.

If you happen not to have your Bible it will be on the screen so you can follow along. 2 When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” (Hosea 1:1-2).

God comes to his prophet Hosea and says, “Hosea, I want you to get married. Now I don’t want you to just marry any girl. I want you to marry a prostitute and I want you to have children with this prostitute.” And he puts in Hosea’s heart a genuine, affectionate, caring love for Gomer. This is not just him saying, “I hate this woman, but I’ll marry her because you’ve commanded me to.” God put it into Hosea’s heart to love her, pursue her, and be totally committed to Gomer even though she was a prostitute.

Despite his love, despite his romance, despite his care, despite him trying to help her flourish, Gomer repeatedly cheated on him. She willingly gave herself to other men, and at one point in the book actually becomes the property of another man. Hosea sells some of his possessions, and buys the woman who is already his wife and the mother of his children back from another man. That’s is humiliating and gut wrenching to say the least.

All of us in our sin nature are a “Gomer.” We have cheated on God. We have done sinful and unrighteous things to God that hurt Him. We have turned our backs on Him. We have run from Him to pursue other loves, desires and relationships. So in many ways we are all a “Gomer.” We cheat, we run, we turn our backs, we pursue other people and other things rather than God. But although in one way we are all a “Gomer” in another way we can all choose not to be a “Gomer.” We can choose to be faithful to God, to stay with God, to be loyal to God, to pursue only God, etc. Or we can choose to cheat, run, turn our backs on God and pursue other things and other people other than God. So make the choice . . . Don’t be a “Gomer.”

But the bigger question I want to ask today in this story is, “Are you a Hosea?” Because I believe the example of Hosea has a lot to teach us when it comes to our relationship to God and others. The first thing you see about Hosea is his willingness to trust and obey God. You saw in that first verse we looked at that God said, “Hosea, I want you to get married. But don’t just marry anybody. I want you to marry a prostitute.” Hosea doesn’t question though obviously this is not normally what somebody would recommend to someone wanting to get married. Hosea doesn’t hesitate but moves straight into action. 3 So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim (Hosea 1:3).

When God speaks and tells you to do something how do you respond? Do you question? Do you doubt? Do you hesitate? Or, do you without any hesitation just obey. Hosea says, “Okay. If that is what you want me to do, I will go and ask Gomer to marry me.” When you look at Hosea you see a person who in any and all situations loved God, served God and was obedient to God.

Later in the story we see another situation between Hosea and Gomer where he shows us in an even much bigger way how obedient, faithful and committed he was to God’s will for his life. Hosea has been faithful to Gomer as her husband. They have had children and somewhere in the story she has gone back to a lifestyle of prostitution. But then it gets even worse than that. At some point she has actually become the property of another man. God speaks to Hosea at this point and asks him to do something that seems so unfair, so unjust and extremely humiliating.

He tells Hosea to go and buy her back! And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” (Hosea 3:1). That must have been a heart wrenching process. You are looking for your wife who was a former prostitute who is now back into prostitution. Where do you go looking for her? How messy is that search? How painful is that pursuit? As you walk those streets in neighborhoods where you know you shouldn’t go.

But in these places is of all the people in the world, Hosea the man of God looking for of all people, his wife. Then what does he do? 2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. (Hosea 3:2). She is his wife and she is already his but he buys her back. Imagine the scene with me. Hosea finally finds her somewhere and in some condition being sold to the highest bidder. He walks up and says, “Excuse me, sir. But that’s my wife.” This man replies back, “I don’t care who you think she is. This is her price and if you want her this is what you will have to pay.”

And the most amazing thing happens . . . He pays for what is already his and buys her back! Can you imagine what that exchange was like when Hosea looked into the eyes of his wife. She most likely hung her head in embarrassment saying, “He’s found me. I’ve abandoned him and I’ve abandoned our three kids. But yet he insists on buying me.” These other men sought to buy her to use her. Hosea is buying her to heal her because he lover her! In that moment and all moments forward he is letting her know that he genuinely loves her and he sincerely forgives her for what she has done.

As you look at this, I want you to see something about forgiveness. I want you to see . . . The power and necessity of practicing forgiveness. Think about this with me . . . Did Hosea have to do this? (No) . . . Did Hosea need to do this? (Yes) . . . Did Gomer deserve this? (Absolutely Not) . . . Was this easy? (Absolutely Not) . . . Was it necessary? (Yes). And let me explain why I say it was necessary. I know God told Him to and that makes it something that is necessary. But even beyond that there is power in practicing forgiveness.

One of the reasons I believe we have so many problems in our relationships is the lack of forgiveness. We have never really forgiven people for what they have done to us or forgiven ourselves for what we have done to them. We keep bringing the baggage and bitterness of a non forgiving spirit into all our relationships. Whether it be marriage, dating, work, family or just friendship, all of our relationships are affected by our unwillingness to forgive and forget. We have never practiced relational forgiveness in the past to get into the present so we can experience relational success in the future. We wonder why our relationships are always a mess and we can’t find joy.

It’s because we keep repeating the same negative cycle over and over again because we have never really forgiven others or forgiven ourselves. The worst place this could ever happen is within the Body of Christ where people are “brothers and sisters in Christ” but don’t forgive or ask for forgiveness. People say, “Well, they don’t talk to me.” Ok, understood. But have you talked to them? You want to know how you can know you have truly forgiven somebody for what they have done or asked and been forgiven for what you have done? When you can see them and not “duck and hide” from them.

As hard as it is to admit to ourselves the Bible says Hosea is a picture of God and you and I are a picture of Gomer. Hosea humbles himself and buys back what is already his. Our story of redemption through the blood of Jesus is within this story. It starts in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God and chose their own pleasures over God. At that moment sin nature was birthed and passed down to all us. God sends Jesus to be the permanent fix to our sin problem.

Through His blood He pays for something that is already His and for something He didn’t do! 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:8-10).

The Bible says the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof and mankind is the unique possession of the creator God. And yet, two thousand years ago He paid a dear price for what He already possessed. He sent His Son who spilled His blood to purchase back what was already owned. Think about this . . . Did Jesus have to do this? (No) Did Jesus need to do this? (Yes) . . . Did you and I deserve this? (Absolutely Not) . . . Was this easy? (Absolutely Not) . . . Was it necessary? (Yes).

When you forgive others you are being obedient to God and modeling for everyone what Jesus did for you! When you choose to be a “Hosea” people see Jesus in you and you find the joy and peace that has been so successfully alluding you in your relationships. Did you see what Hosea’s forgiveness was supposed to look like? We read it a minute ago and let’s look at it again. And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” (Hosea 3:1).

Are you a Gomer? By your sin nature, yes you are. But in your daily life you can choose to not be a Gomer. What Gomer did was totally her choice and what you do is totally your choice! Are you a Hosea? Have you forgiven yourself for what you have done to others? Have you asked others to forgive you? Have you forgiven others for what they have done to you? Don’t be a Gomer! . . . Choose to be a Hosea!

The Wall

I have always heard that people who run marathons talk about “hitting the wall”. I have a picture of a person on staff when they “hit the wall” in a race. When I asked people who actually train and compete in marathons if “hitting the wall” is a real thing their immediate response is “Oh yes!” They say it usually happens around the 20-mile mark. They say there is hardly no way that you can not “hit the wall.” No matter how hard you train or how good of shape you are in, everybody who runs a marathon will “hit the wall.”

Researchers have looked at data from people who are what I would call “weekend warrior” and “world class” types of marathoners and it has been proven that all of them struggle with the last 10k or a marathon. But how you persevere through “the wall” is determined by how much effort you have put into your training, hydration, nutrition, etc. All of that is important when it comes to competing and finishing well. They say when you do “hit the wall” perseverance and determination is what gets you across the finish line.

The Christian life as we saw last week is often illustrated as a race. When looking back on his life and sharing with his young protege Timothy, Paul said, 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7). He also told the church in Corinth, (1 Corinthians 9:24). One of the biggest ways many of us feel the odds are against us comes when we think about living this life or as Paul refers to it as, “running this race”.

We face pressures, temptations, struggles, battles, etc. We have a daily fight with our sin nature and we begin to identify with what Paul said about himself, 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. . . . 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. (Romans 7:15,18-19).

In the Christian life most of us struggle more with the finish more than we do the start. Our constant struggle is with perseverance, determination and faithfulness. Our biggest question is, “When it feels like I am ‘hitting the wall’ how can I persevere and stay faithful in my Christian life?” You look around and it seems like the odds are really against you staying faithful in your commitment to Christ. With all the external temptations and pressures and the battle with your own sin nature you feel that the odds are definitely against you.

When we see that the odds are not for us what we can know for sure is God is definitely for us. If I look at the odds over here and they are not so good and God is over here, I will choose God over the odds any day, every day, any time and all the time. Because I know that even though the odds are not so good, God has a plan and He is for me. The real game changer that we have to remember in all of this is . . . The odds are definitely against us but God is definitely for us! Make the decision to choose God over the odds so you can defeat the odds.

Psalm 119 is on record as the longest chapter in the Bible with 176 verses. What you see when you get into Psalm 119 are these internal keys to success that equip you to finish strong and persevere and push through “the wall.” If you have your Bible with you, turn over to Psalm 119. If you don’t it will be on the screen so you can follow along. If you are going to persevere you have to . . . Be determined and discerning in your life.

105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. 106 I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules. 107 I am severely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to your word! 108  Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O Lord, and teach me your rules. 109 I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law. 110 The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts. 111 Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart. (Psalm 119:105-111).

There are several things the psalmist knows for sure . . . He knows there will be difficult times ahead. He knows there will be some places where he will have to go that will require some insight and direction. He knows that to make it through he will have to be determined to stick to what works and walk away from what doesn’t work. That is why he says from the beginning, 105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105). Somewhere along the way he realized that God’s Word is the only thing that works. God has proven Himself and to make it he will have to trust God and stay close to God as he lives this life and runs this race.

That is why you see such conviction from him about staying faithful to God and His Word. He uses some strong words to show how determined he really is. 106 I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules. (Psalm 1119:106). He has made it his conviction based on his personal experience and made it clear to the people around him that he is staying faithful to God’s rules and laws.

Life is put before us with choices of where are we going to go and what are we going to do. 109 I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law. 110 The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts. (Psalm 119:109-110). Anytime you “hold something in your hand” that means you have multiple options about what to say, what to do, where to go, etc. It’s like an option play in football. The quarterback has the ball and once he takes the snap, he has the option of running with it or pitching it to the running back who is supposed to be in position beside him. In that small amount of time what is going through their minds is, “Based on what I see coming at me, what is the best thing to do?”

What the psalmist says is, “I’ve got all these choices, but I DO NOT forget your law.” “There are these very alluring and tempting traps laid out there in front of me, but I DO NOT stray from your precepts.” You must always know what God’s Word says so you can remember what God’s Word says so you can always do what you are supposed to do!

If you are going to persevere you have to know that . . . Change is a heart issue before it can ever become a habit. Another way to put that is that for something to become a behavior it has to first become a belief. 112 I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end. (Psalm 119:112). The belief that drives the behavior has to change otherwise the change won’t stay.

If you incline something that means it wasn’t naturally in that position. If you incline your heart that means your heart was not naturally in that position. If something is inclined that means it was declined before you inclined it. The Latin root of the word incline is “inclinare”, and it means “to lean”. “Incline” means, “to bend the head or body forward; to bow; to lean, tend, or become drawn toward an opinion or course of conduct: to deviate from a line, direction, or course; specifically; to deviate from the vertical or horizontal.

Your heart is naturally declined and turned away from God. To “incline your heart” is a willful, determined act to orient it in another direction. 112 I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end. (Psalm 119:112). When you incline you are putting yourself in a different position than what you were previous in. He is telling God, “I have put my heart in a position to always obey You.”

When you incline you are telling the person you are inclining to, everybody around you and yourself that this is what you want more than anything in the world. “Inclining” towards something is a bold statement about your desires, beliefs and convictions. By your actions you are saying, “I know for sure this is what I need and this is what I have been looking for.” Inclining your heart is such a bold statement of faith and strong commitment it becomes obvious to you and everybody around you that you want change in your life. At the point where you say, “I want to incline”, you have finally realized you want your new life to be a habit and you know it is a heart issue that has to be settled first.

When change has become a habit then and only then are you able to see what naturally comes next. You are finally able to truly . . . Hate the bad and love the good. 113 I hate the double-minded, but I love your law. (Psalm 119:113). Paul referenced this same thought when he said in Romans, 9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. (Romans 12:9). The only way you can ever truly hate the bad and love the good is to “incline” or “lean in” towards God and let Him know He is all you want and you love only Him and you want to serve and please only Him! If you attempt to hate all the sin in your life and love God without truly inclining towards Him, you will fail every time.

I see people all the time that say, “Well, I was doing really good for the first few months and I just don’t know what happened.” . . . “I made a commitment at camp to live for Jesus but then I got to school and I don’t know what happened to me.” . . . “I made a decision to walk away from the drugs but I just can’t stay away from them.” . . . “I know I need to separate myself from the people that are a negative influence on me but I just keep hanging around them.” . . . Or, people trust Jesus as their Savior and get really involved for two or three months and they disappear.

You want to know why these scenarios and many others like them keep playing out in people’s lives every day? Because what they are doing never became a heart issue. They didn’t really make what they were doing a belief before they tried to change their behavior. If you focus on the outside before you really deal with the inside, you will not see any lasting change! The only way you can really hate something is to love something even more. The more you really love something, the more hate you will have for everything that draws you away that.

So the more love you have for God the more hate you will have for sinful habits, desires and pleasures that pull you away from God. I am convinced the only reason people do not break free from their habits or toxic relationships is because they have just had a “crush” on God or an “infatuation” with God and not a true love for God. The psalmist says he hates the double minded. “Double minded” means you are never fully into anything. You are always bouncing between many things and never really settling on what is the main thing. This is what he says he hates and the only way to hate this is to truly love something opposite of those things.

Don’t be so naive to think that temptations will never come even after you have made a bold declaration of love for God and hatred for what is not of God. Satan will attack and hurl temptations at you. So when they come you have to be ready for the attacks. So the Battle Plan to keep hating the bad and loving God is . . . Hide and hope. 114 You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word. (Psalm 119:114). Hiding is finding a refuge in God; a safe place to retreat to. Hope is not a “I hope this will work out” kind of hope. It is a hope that says, “I know this works and the only hope I have is in your word.”

This hiding place is not somewhere you run to find when you are under attack. You have a plan and you know where you are going. It is a predetermined, pre-planned place that is all a part of your strategy when you feel an attack on your heart and soul. You establish that hiding place, safe place, and refuge before trouble is ever a thought. You know when it happens this is where I am going because I know that is safe. You also know God will protect you as a “shield” at that time and in that place.

It’s like when you used to play “hide-n-seek” as a kid and you found the perfect hiding place where you never were found. When you found that place that gave you a sure win in the game, did you ever let anybody else know where it was? Not unless you were not a smart player because once you did that is where they would come to find you the very next time.

All of this gives you what it takes to persevere in your Christian life. When you feel like you have “hit the wall” and you can’t take another step you will “push through” and win. All of this give you everything you need to look your Enemy (Satan) in the eye and tell him you will not do what he is tempting you to do. It will give you the strength and the boldness to look at all your habits, negative attitudes, addictions and negative influences in the face and tell them you are finished with them and to leave you alone. 115 Depart from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commandments of my God. (Psalm 119:115). When you read that, don’t you feel the confidence in his pen and the boldness in his voice?

In 1980 a young man from Rwanda was forced by his tribe to either renounce Christ or face certain death. He refused to renounce Christ, and he was killed on the spot. The night before he had written the following commitment which was found in his room:

I’m a part of the fellowship of the unashamed. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I’m a disciple of His and I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed. My present makes sense. My future is secure. I’m done and finished with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, or first, or tops, or recognized, or praised, or rewarded. I live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by Holy Spirit power. My face is set. My gait is fast. My goal is heaven. My road may be narrow, my way rough, my companions few, but my guide is reliable and my mission is clear.

I will not be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice or hesitate in the presence of the adversary. I will not negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won’t give up, shut up, or let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and preached up for the cause of Christ.

I am a disciple of Jesus. I must give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until He comes. And when He does come for His own, He’ll have no problems recognizing me. My colors will be clear!