Sunday, July 1, 2018

You Are Loved

Dear Friend,

“You are loved with an everlasting love.” With those words, the late Elizabeth Elliott opened her daily “Gateway to Joy” radio broadcast. Those words make me feel warm and cozy. And they’re true. 

But perhaps you don’t feel that love. Perhaps you’re in a hard place. You feel you’ve disappointed God. Your family. And maybe even yourself. Well, I have news for you. You can never fall so low, fail so badly, that God will not pick you up, stand you on your feet and walk on beside you.

Let me tell you about Hosea and his wife Gomer. He is the guy told by God to marry a prostitute. Whether she was beautiful and he was in love with her or whether he was less than enthusiastic about the idea, we don’t know. But God told him to marry Gomer. And he did.

Bear with me here. In reality, this illustrated how God felt about the nation of Israel, a nation created by God but then prostituted itself by dabbling with idolatry. A nation that, instead of looking to God, looked to pagan nations for help when the going got rough.

But—and here’s the important part—this illustrates how God feels about you and me. We too have dabbled with idolatry. Oh, maybe not idols of stone or clay, but idols of power and prestige. Idols of beauty and the good life. We know what we want, and we run after it instead of after God.

At any rate, Hosea married Gomer and they had three children together. Then she left him and turned back to prostitution. Why would she do that? Hadn’t he given her a stable home and family? Hadn’t he provided most graciously for her? Yet the bright shiny things caught her eye, and off she went.

Now if you had been Hosea, you might have said good riddance. But not this man. Hosea heard God’s voice telling him to buy her back. Buy her back?!?! Somehow Gomer ended up on an auction block, but Hosea bought her for the price of a slave and once more brought her into his home.

Here again is a picture of how God tried to draw Israel under His wings and restore them to their former glory, but the nation refused his offer.

And here again, the story gets much more personal than an Old Testament character and the nation of Israel. It’s about you and me. It’s about God’s love for us. In spite of everything. In spite of anything.

God is love. But perhaps you’ve been tainted by life experiences. Perhaps you’ve made bad choices and you feel you don’t deserve better. Perhaps you’ve been called names and put down all of your life because of a physical imperfection or a challenge from birth, so you feel you’re a nobody and God doesn’t care about nobodies. I’m sure people put down Gomer too.

Perhaps you’ve done something so sinful that you feel God can never forgive. Perhaps . . . you fill in the blanks. What tempts you to turn to something else instead of to God? Or to run and hide from God?

Hosea showed his great love for Gomer by marrying her, buying her back and welcoming her back into his home and his heart. God does no less for us. Christ took the punishment we deserve for anything we might have done. He proved there is much more to life than what we see. By rising from the dead, He proved eternal life awaits. There we will find the perfection we’re looking for here.

Look in a mirror and insert your name into the first line of this post: “God loves ______ with an everlasting love.” Consider how God shows His love to you through daily blessings—sunshine and rain, birds and bees. Consider how this life is just the beginning. Heaven awaits where there will be no more tears, no more bad choices, no more name-calling.

Take a thoughtful read through Hosea. To dig deeper, buy the study guide: Hosea: Unfailing Love Changes Everything by Jennifer Rothschild. She calls us Gomer Girls and has a lot to say about all this.

Don’t play hide and seek with God. Don’t waste another minute wondering where God is. He’s waiting to bless your heart, to welcome you home.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV)

Have a safe and blessed 4th of July, celebrating not just our nation's independence but celebrating God's love for us.


Friends of the Heart Upcoming Events:

August 1, 11:30 a.m. – Millersburg Senior Center. “That Face in the Mirror: Who Do You See?”
August 14, 6 p.m. – Woodbury Church of the Brethren, Everett, "Tea with Mary, Martha and Their Psychologist."
August 24-26 – Camp Allegheny Women’s Retreat, “If Our Closets Could Talk.” 

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