A Story of Redemption

The story of Hosea and Gomer found in the Old Testament book of Hosea is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. The love portrayed in the text is heart-wrenching and convicting. Each time I read this story, my heart is gripped and I am called out in ways I never could have imagined.

For me, Hosea chapter 3 begins the most prophetic and convicting section of the entire book. A prophet of God (Hosea) has been called by God to take a prostitute as his wife (Gomer), then later on after they have married and have children, she goes back into her old lifestyle. Hosea goes looking for her in the area of town where a man of God would never be expected to go. He finds her and ends up paying the price for her. 


He pays to get his wife back. 


God had to do this same thing for us. He had to pay the price for something that already belonged to Him. The price for humanity cost God a whole lot more than the 15 pieces of silver and a half-homer of barley it cost Hosea. 

The price for the redemption of humanity was His Son, Jesus Christ.

When I used to read this story, I would tend to get in the mindset of placing myself in the shoes of Hosea. I thought I was the holy one, the righteous one, the one who is doing right in the eyes of the Lord. Because in my mind I was never going to be a position as awful as what she was doing. 

Yet in all reality, I am Gomer. 

I am the prostitute who has deserted her love, her family, her responsibilities and given herself back into the ways of the world. I am the one who is so undeserving of such a love. I am constantly wanting to go back into what I know and what is comfortable rather than stay where I have placed. I am not the seeker, I am the sought. 

God is the one who has to come seeking us out in the unmentionable places. We are the one who is full of shame at what we have done. We are the one who is so undeserving of such a deep, selfless love. Yet in the face of all that we have done, God still comes seeking us in whatever place we are in. He will take our shame and love us ever so gently and devotedly. We will never be worthy of anything He has done, or will ever do for us, yet He never stops seeking us out with unrelenting love and grace.

Start Losing Count

In Matthew 18:21–22 we find one of the most powerful lessons Jesus ever taught. This lesson was on forgiveness. He gave it because Peter approached Him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

We give Peter a bad rap, but you have to admit he is one brave, bold dude. I have a sneaky suspicion he had someone in mind that he had already forgiven six times. I mean, why else ask this? You don’t really ask about having to forgive someone unless you need to do it. He just might have been ready to go ahead and write that person off and was looking for some confirmation. Whether or not this was his actual thought process, he was in fact looking for a forgiveness formula.

To which Jesus responds, “No, not seven times. Seventy times seven.”

If you’re one of those that are not good at mental math, the answer to the equation is 490. This can be read to mean we are to forgive the same person 490 times each day. That is a lot of forgiving to do. In order to do this, you would have to commit one act of forgiveness about every three minutes, basically spending the whole day just forgiving someone!

But this statement is not just about the numbers. Jesus was giving us a new math formula, a new set of truths for walking in forgiveness. 

The first truth is this: Forgiveness is not about keeping score. It’s about losing count. If you were to truly try and count to 490 when forgiving someone, my bet is you would lose count pretty quick.

We are all going to get hurt in one way or another. 

Someone will let you down.  

Someone might lie to you. 

Someone might lie about you. 

Someone might gossip about your marriage. 

Someone might steal your money. 

Someone might steal your spouse. 

Someone may have abused you verbally, mentally, physically, spiritually, or emotionally. 

Someone may have harmed your child.

While getting hurt is a reality for this fallen world, getting and staying bitter is a reaction. Unforgiveness will only eat away at you like a poison. We must live a lifestyle of constant forgiveness. This is not about satisfying the requirements of a mathematical equation. 

We must forgive. All the time. Forgiving is not easy. Forgiving is not fun. But forgiving is necessary. 

How can we expect to be forgiven if we do not forgive?  

Spiritual Formation

Spiritual Formation is an important aspect of the Christian life. Each and every one of us is a spiritual creation, thus there is no way to escape spiritual formation, even if you are an unbeliever. However, if you are a believer, your relationship with Christ will hopefully grow more as time goes on from that initial acceptance and discovering who he is as your personal Savior and Lord. Growing in a relationship is the natural progression of any healthy, maturing relationship, this is especially true about your relationship with Christ. A key to spiritual formation is knowing you’re ready for it. Jumping full force in can possibly bring you further than closer. There is progression that happens and nothing will happen immediately overnight. You will not go to sleep one night having zero theological knowledge and waking 8 hours later with more insight than Spurgeon, C.S. Lewis, Luther, Augustine, Wesley, and Calvin (unless the Lord divinely anoints you with that gift). Having a foundational understanding of the Spiritual realm and the One who created it all is key to a successful spiritual journey. Your foundation must be firm before you build anything else. Your spiritual house is the most important structure you will build in this life. If your foundation falls apart everything else in life will follow suit. 

Spiritual Formation can take place throughout many different avenues of our life. It can be formal or informal study, corporate or private, intentional religious practice or ordinary everyday life. As each person is created uniquely, so then each person’s spiritual formation is also unique. Below you can find a brief list of examples of the previously mentioned ways to deeper your spiritual walk. These are not the only options available, but ones I have personally found to be helpful and ones discovered through study and learning. 

Formal: Higher Education (Bachelor, Master, Certificate), Training, Licensing, Certification, Ordination 

Informal: Personal Education (Self-Taught), Conferences, Retreats, Bible Study Groups, Mentoring 

Corporate: Worship, Fellowship, Volunteering (Community/Church), Small Groups, Mentoring (Mentee/Mentor)

Private: Study, Prayer, Worship, Giving, Solitude, Meditation, Journaling, Fasting, Communion (These are practices I find can correlate with the Religious Practices category, but these are done in private and maybe not necessarily shared with others, simply between you and God).

Religious Practice: Reading the Word, Journaling, Prayer, Meditation, Worship, Fasting, Service, Solitude, Giving, Communion

Everyday Life: Work, Family, Hobbies

My hope is that these examples give you ideas of how your personal spiritual formation plan and journey can develop. Your spiritual formation will be greatly served by including the spiritual disciplines into your daily life. Personally, I have taken the ideas given to me by spiritual leaders, peers, study, and experience to form my own. I am a firm believer in knowing yourself before you can know how to help yourself or others. This is where I think spiritual gifts, personality, love language, and strengths tests become beneficial. These services can give you such insight into yourself that you never knew you needed or wanted. They can provide clarity and a roadmap for how you function, which can greatly help you when figuring out your learning style and your spiritual development. 

As this new year begins, I challenge you to prayerfully look for ways to grow your spiritual life in 2020. Take an idea from the lists above, create your own, do whatever it takes to grow closer to the heart of God and what He has for you.

Grace for the Journey

When you have a popular Bible and song name, you grow up enduring all the jokes that come with it. I cannot begin to tell you the amount of times people have sung “Amazing Grace” to me… the reason it’s not at the top of my list of favorite songs to listen to.

Having the name Grace, took on a brand new meaning for me during my sophomore year of college. That year was one of the most physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually challenging years of my life. It felt as if my world and plans were imploding upon itself. I got to a place where I was so frustrated with people using me for their own agenda then dropping me when they got what they wanted – when I had served my purpose in their agenda. I was also getting frustrated with myself for continually giving people second, third, fourth, fifth, and twentieth chances. I wanted to see the best in them, yet I kept getting the same results.

One night I was in a place where I just broke and asked God why in the world I kept giving these people continual chances to use, abuse, and bulldoze over me, yet they never changed. His response shook me. He told me that my name is Grace for a reason. My name is not just a meaningless name. I was given my name for a purpose. I am to be a living example of what His grace is. My life is living example of what His grace is. I would not be here if not for His grace. His grace stayed with me even when I kept throwing it back in His face. His grace to me, and to every single one of us is far greater than any grace we could extend to one another.

At one time in our life, we were strangers to the grace of God. Now, thanks be to God, we belong to Him and His household (Ephesians 2:19). We tend to want our lives to be perfect – However, if our lives were sinless, we would not need God or His grace. We tend to want God to wipe out what pains us or use to lead us away from Him. Sometimes God leaves things in us as a reminder of how far we have come and how much we desperately need Him. Our scars serve as reminders of where He brought us from and how we could do nothing without His loving grace.

Jacob (Israel) was forever left with a limp after spending a night wrestling with the Lord (Genesis 3:22-32). From that day on, Jacob was left with a physical (his limp) and identity (changed name) reminder of who He was and where he came from.

Peter was left in awe of his unfaithfulness and disbelief in Christ after stumbling into the sea and disowning his relationship with Jesus.

Saul (Paul) was healed of his blindness, yet I am almost certain that experience stuck with him for the rest of his life and ministry.

Grace is something we cannot live without. Grace will also cost us more than we could ever want or imagine. One of my favorite descriptions of grace comes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

“…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ living and incarnate… Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for… such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it cost a Man His life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life… Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of His Son… and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us… Costly grace is Jesus Christ incarnate.”

Grace is a necessity of this life.

Grace must always go with us.

Grace must be our guide.

Grace comforts us when we feel inadequate for the task at hand.

Grace gently leads us along the journey.

Grace is so powerful because it is so costly.

Such grace which we have received, we must also readily be prepared to give out to others. Such grace must be sought again and again and again. We can never reach a place where we are no longer in need of grace. For sinners we were born, and sinners we will be until we are made whole in Him in eternity. We are in desperate need of grace. We could never earn grace, which is exactly why it is such a beautiful gift given to us which should never be taken for granted. 

For “God had to make a choice, a choice between your heart and the life of His Son”. That choice cost Him so much more than we could ever fathom or repay. The beauty of this is He never asks us to repay Him, He simply asks that we love and serve Him with our whole lives. 

*Quote by Mark Batterson from gods At War*

Graphic from Live Original

Christ is Born

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them”. Luke 2:8-20, ESV 

I have always loved the shepherds’ part of the story of Jesus’ birth. So many things can be taken from their experience. Their experience embodied what Christ came to earth for. 

The shepherds were the first to be told of the birth of Jesus. Angels from heaven came to announce His birth to them, specifically. 

They recognized what they were being told and who had told it to them.

They were humble men about their own business and doing their job. 

They had no expectations of grandeur. 

They were lowly in society. People did not tend to take notice of who they were. 

They spent their time out in the empty country away from others. 

They knew what it took to care for what was entrusted into their care and protection. Nothing could keep them from making sure their flock was healthy and safe. 

They were bold and fearless. 

They represented what Christ came to earth to be. 

They did not waste time after the announcement. They were immediately set into action. 

When they saw with their eyes and confirmed what they had heard, they made it known to everyone. They did not keep the good news to themselves.  

After they shared the good news, they returned. They didn’t forget about what they had seen and heard. 

Their presence and actions made an impact of Mary. 

They praised God for what happened. They knew the source of what they had experienced. 

We can do well to take notes from then lives of the shepherds. In this season of remembrance and celebration, let us strive to become more like the humble shepherds in the field on that beautiful night 2,000 years ago.