Hosea: relentless pursuit//Sarah//VCU

Over the last couple months I have realized something about my heart, well a few things actually, but the first allows the others to follow after. I believe lies about who God is…I believe things about His character and about how He works. In reality they are the polar opposite of truth. They aren’t statements I say aloud, consciously think of or dwell on but they are often reflected in my attitude, thoughts and behavior.

I think He’s not going to fully satisfy my heart.

I think He’s angry with me and He’s going to treat me with a spiteful attitude.

I think He’s going to give up and turn His back on me.

Ouch. To admit these make me cringe. To read them makes me tense up. To confess this way of thinking to the Lord Himself makes me want to run and hide. I hate that I believe these things. I hate that these lies have clouded my thinking. The Spirit of God inside me rises up and reminds my heart that these things are just that, lies. And I don’t think I am alone in believing them.

A few weeks ago I started studying the book of Hosea (**insert praise hands here**). It quickly showed me a mirror into my own life. (I am not sure if you are familiar with it but I highly recommend it, but forewarning: the book will change your life if you let it.) To give a bit of background, Hosea is one of the minor prophets of scripture–which is a fancy way of saying he was a man who spoke the truth about who God is and pointed people back to obedience to Him. The book starts off with God telling Hosea to take a wife of whoredom (a woman of promiscuity and waywardness) and have children with her. Sounds romantic, right? If you continue to read on, you may be able to see the parallel between Hosea and God and Gomer and the Israelites/you/myself. In Hosea 2, God makes this vow-like covenant to the Israelites.376a9a992b18d17353972e4fcf4261e3

“I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.”

{Hosea 2:19-20}

From chapter 3 until the end of the book, we read the story of Israel’s rebellion and idolatry and God’s response of wrath and love for them. It’s a dramatic cycle of sin, judgment and restoration, over and over and over. By chapter 6, I’m ready to yell–How dare they turn their back on God? Hellooooo?? Do they not see how much He loves them and cares for them? Why would they make idols of silver and gold when they could have a real relationship with their Maker? Why would they look anywhere else but to Him? And why doesn’t God throw up His hands and walk away?

The Israelites were God’s chosen people. He pursues them so clearly throughout the whole Old Testament. “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” {Hosea 6:6}  God wanted their hearts, all their hearts, not their sacrifices. Sin takes over the Israelites and they begin to be apathetic towards Him. My heart aches when I read, “For Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces.”  {Hosea 8:14} It aches because I see myself in their idolatry, their selfishness, their apathy, their immorality. How often do we forget our Maker?

Like the Israelites, I so often believe that God alone isn’t enough, without even realizing it. I dwell on the approval of others, affirmation from my new relationship, the feeling of accomplishment when I run enough miles or speak eloquently to my small group girls. Not that those things are bad, but when they become the source of my worth and validation, I rip Jesus off His throne and start making idols made of modern day silver and gold. When we put something above the Lord, our worship goes to something of lesser value. It leads us to sacrificing burnt offerings, such as daily Bible reading just to check it off or attending Cru so you’re not badgered by friends. We offer our works to God instead of our worship. As a result, when I recognize my sin, I fear His wrath. I fear that He will finally get tired of redeeming me. I am scared He won’t be willing to buy me back again and again. I wonder if and when He will finally give up and walk away. This adulterous heart of mine doesn’t deserve such a faithful God.

And yet,

that is not who He is. Even though I don’t deserve Him, He is still faithful. He remains good even when we aren’t. Look back at Hosea 2:19-20 with me. He betroths us in righteousness and justice,
steadfast love and mercy. He betroths us in His faithfulness, then we shall know the Lord. Because of His faithfulness and His righteousness, not my own, He is eager to take us back, despite our idol making and wayward hearts. When I grow in my knowledge of His true character, I see how false my beliefs are about Him. He is ‘merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love’. He ‘satisfies the desires of every living thing’ {Psalm 145}.  ‘His going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.’ {Hosea 6:3}.

Through the pages of Hosea I see my story, our story sister, of sin, judgement and restoration. As I read, I recognized their deep need for Jesus, and quickly
my deep need for Jesus. He lived the righteous and idol-less life that you and I can’t. He took the Father’s wrath so that we don’t have to. The sacrifice of His life was sufficient in that when God looks at us, He doesn’t respond in anger or hostility but abounds in love and mercy. Jesus’s death and resurrection makes God’s purchase of us final and complete. Jesus made the restoration and reconciliation fully possible. The only thing that changes is who sits on the throne of our hearts. Our hearts pursue idols of silver and gold, while our Maker pursues the devotion of our hearts. I’ve seen in my own life that it’s exhausting to be tossed to and fro and it’s disappointing to look other places other than Him.

This book has wrecked my heart, in the best way possible, and torn down the lies that I have subconsciously believed and idols I so often build. Jesus is so needed and so sufficient, my friend. He extends us grace when we run away and allow our hearts wander. He is the Ultimate Lover of our hearts and shows us He is because He has paid a high price for them.  In the words of Hosea, “So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.” {Hosea 12:6} Let us fix our eyes and hearts on Him. Let us tear down the idols that we build. Let us allow scripture to dissolve the lies we believe. Praise God for His relentless pursuit.

 

img_8350Hello sweet friends! I am one of the many Sarahs of this world. Next May I will graduate from VCU with my degree in psychology and minor in religious studies. I am thankful for Cru, running, Jesus, cookie dough and YOU! Thanks for letting me share a little bit of my heart with you and how I have learned that Jesus is always better.

All Creatures Great and Small/Clare/CNU

Every Christian has probably heard the question before: how do you KNOW God exists?

When I am asked this question, I feel a thousand reasons rush into my heart all at once. But above all, I see God in every creature He created. I see God when dogs wag their whole butt because their sheer joy cannot be contained in their tail alone. I see God in the serenity of a cat’s purr after a stressful day. I see God in the gentle curiosity of a horse nose-deep in my pocket looking for snacks. In the playful heart of a goat who treats every meal as if it’s his last. In the fascinating way crows remember faces. In the bond of elephants mourning for their dead. As a cell biologist, I see the way intricate, microscopic cells somehow come together perfectly to form these amazing creatures and I can only believe there is someone Greater involved. Truly, I could go on for hours. But I didn’t write this just to talk about animals (or did I…?).

God has placed a desire in my heart to care for these animals from a very young age. In Luke 12:6, He reminds us that He remembers and cares for every living thing, even the sparrows who are sold for meager cents. I feel such a responsibility to care for God’s creation and I delight in the challenges of being the voice for a creature who cannot speak. But for a while, I felt guilty that I wasn’t using my life to serve God traditionally, as a global missionary or a church leader. I so desperately wanted to please God, and I thought in order to do that to my full potential, I have to drop my secular passions and work in a church for the rest of my life.

However, through prayer and patience, God is teaching me how the passions of my heart were put there through Him and can be used for Him. People may never make it inside the walls of the church, but that doesn’t mean they will never see God so long as people like you believe your job has a greater purpose to serve Christ. Treat the workplace as your church. Love your co-workers unconditionally like Christ loves you (John 13:34). Be diligent in the work set before you – even in school, as you prepare for your career – without grumbles or complaints (Philippians 2:14). Understand that every seemingly insignificant task serves a greater purpose (Romans 8:28). Share your passions with others and let them see the light in you (Matthew 5:16).

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

Maybe your passion falls for people, the other creatures of this earth that we are called to care for. Maybe it’s the beauty of the plants that keep us alive. Maybe you perform – music, plays, dances – as a way to bring joy into the hearts of others. Maybe you seek to use numbers and algorithms to bring sense and security into an ever changing world. Maybe you’re teaching the next generation. No matter what, you are sharing your passion with the world, and that is something to be celebrated. I pray you remember each and every day that God created you with this passion for a reason and that you may find joy in the day to day tasks that make the dream possible. Let your work ethic in school and in the workplace reflect the gift God gave you, and watch His kingdom come alive.

“Let every man abide in the calling wherein he is called and his work will be as sacred as the work of ministry. It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it.” A.W. Tozer

 

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Hello! My name’s Clare and I am a senior at CNU studying Cell Biology with a focus in pre-veterinary medicine. I play cajon (“that box-drum thingy”) for the worship team and marvel daily at the power of music to bring us closer to God. I love to spend my free time running and lovin’ on the shelter dogs at the SPCA. My family and my pup Maggie hold a special place in my heart. I am engaged to the love of my life and eagerly anticipate the adventures God has in store for us.

Grieving, Gardens & Grandma//Lindsey//CNU

Ever since I can remember my family has planted a garden. Not just your small, two row garden in a planter of sorts…I’m talking “semi large, row after row of vegetable plants” type of garden. In the summer we usually grow tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, squash and this year we had sunflowers, which were so pretty. In the fall we’ve been known to grow pumpkins. My parents and I look forward to this time every year because of the anticipation of what’s to come, yummy tasting vegetables of course. My favorite part of having grown up with a garden is the “first pick.” Watching the seeds grow and turn into a plant is great but actually reaping the rewards from the hard work put into a garden is truly satisfying.

There’s one particular person that I think helped to instill this appreciation in my life and that is my grandma, who I call ‘Nanny.’ Nanny absolutely loved being outside. People who drove by her house knew to always look in the yard because she was either siting on the swing, helping mow the grass, or simply picking up sticks and pinecones. Similarly, she loved her garden and cherished the time spent tending to it. While she helped to give me an appreciation for nature and God’s creation, she also helped to paint a beautiful picture about what living a life for Christ meant. She taught me so much over the years and until recently, I thought of and reflected on this garden analogy. In a way, Nanny’s life, and ours too are like gardens. We are each individually thought of, created and delicately planted. We are made for a specific purpose and spend our lives living out that purposeful plan just as the seed is planted and grown to fulfill its job.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully make’ your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139: 13-14

Just like the seed is protected in the ground, we are too comforted and protected in the womb. Once we are born and begin to grow older, we experience more of the world, just as the young plant experiences the elements of earth. Throughout our journey on earth we have the opportunity to give praise and glory to our creator just as the seed can show off itself because of the work and care of the gardener. I tell you all of this because current season of life and how recent event have given me a new love and respect for our garden that we call life.

On September 15, my life as I knew it changed. I don’t mean to sound incredibly dramatic but at the time I truly felt as if it had. My family and I wdd62d371cd589e766b74bafd0356fd72ere forced to deal with the sudden death of Nanny and we were no way near prepared. My sweet, vibrant and independent Nanny became ill over a matter of days and would not recover, as the mysterious infection would take over her entire body. We were shocked and heartbroken. It’s been about a month and we are still shocked and heartbroken.

Once again, I am reminded of how our life is like a garden. The garden’s prime is harvest when the plants that are planted are ready to be picked and eaten. Nanny’s prime was up until the very end when she could no longer rely on her earthly body. She had given her life to the Lord at a young age and spent her time as a mom and grandma while tending to her own spiritual garden. As time goes on and we get older our body fades, just like after all of the vegetables in a garden have been picked, the plant itself begins to die and there is no use for the garden. The soil and nutrients are returned back to the ground where it began. In a way, our earthly body is the same way. After our time on Earth is over we will one day exchange this earthly body for a spiritual body. I am reminded of a verse in 1 Corinthians where we understand how as image bearers of God, we have been given the opportunity to exchange our broken body for a spiritual body.

“So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” 1 Corinthians 15: 42-44

“And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.” 1 Corinthians 15:49

It’s been a difficult to understand the events that have taken place over the past month. Dealing with the loss of someone so close to me has been extremely painful and at times unbearable. It’s taken a while for me to truly process all of it because it happened so suddenly. At times, I feel extremely sad and lonely, knowing that I am going through this without my parents and family in close proximity to me and when I go home I will not be able to see her. But, there is good news, my family and I were comforted during that long week in September and we have been comforted ever since. Yes, we all feel as though a huge piece of our family is missing. Adjusting to our new normal has been a difficult transition. In the midst of trial, I am reminded of this verse in Romans because it has truly helped me to rest in knowing that God’s plan is far greater than what I could ever imagine and I have to trust that he does all things for GOOD.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

God is constant and has been by my side and my family’s side the entire time. There is no timeline for grief or suffering. Some suffer their entire life. Some suffer temporarily. I do not have to look at the finish line to know when my grieving will end. I do know that God will be by my side the entire time as I run this marathon of my adjusting to my new normal. That is so comforting. Understanding that this life on Earth is temporary can be a shocking thing. But, understanding what our hope and faith is rooted in is even better. Yes, I miss Nanny every day but I am becoming more aware that she is happier, without pain and rejoicing with Jesus in heaven. My prayer is that you find peace and comfort with any grief or suffering you might be going through and that your rest in knowing of the great that is to come in our eternal reward.

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Hey y’all! My name is Lindsey Tate and I am a senior at Christopher Newport University! I’m a Psychology Major with a double Minor in Leadership Studies and Childhood Studies! I’ll be sticking around CNU for another year post undergrad to get my Master’s in the Art of Teaching, a graduate program offered through CNU. It’s been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember to be an elementary school teacher and CNU is helping make that a reality. I’m growing a lot this semester as I am currently in a season of grief after losing my grandma rather suddenly. I am learning my need for Jesus daily and continue to draw near to him through prayer. In my spare time I enjoy playing piano, scrolling through Pinterest and watching and re-watching episodes of Friends.