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.

Vulnerability. It’s Beautiful.//Rachel//ODU

 

The Lord’s timing is always the best. Before the time I spent in NYC this summer, I had come across references to John 3:30 multiple times. The book of John was the first book  I read right after I started walking with the Lord, I have seen the “HE>I” bumper stickers all around, and have even heard of people wanting to get “HE>I” as a tattoo. Yet, I never asked much about it and never had a desire to know what Bible verse it referred to. Each time I started to want to know more about John 3:30, I could tell that the Lord was telling me, “Not yet.” IMG_4115

A key thing I have struggled with in the past is being open and being vulnerable. However, this summer the Lord was able to use and grow me in the midst of my vulnerability. During my 6 weeks in NYC with Cru for summer missions we started to go through the book of John. One day I sat down and started reading and was determined to focus more on what the Scripture was saying and what the Lord was trying to teach me. That’s when I came across John 3:30: “He must become greater; I must become less.” As you are born again in your walk with the Lord, you start to become less of your old self and grow more in your new identity with Christ. This verse gave me comfort during my time in New York because I was constantly being placed out of my comfort zone.

I have never felt comfortable praying in front of people, singing in front of more than one person, or even just getting up and making a speech. Every single one of those things made me feel extremely uncomfortable and vulnerable. In society’s eyes, vulnerability is a way of becoming less of who you are. If you are vulnerable, then you can not be the strong and guarded individual that you have tried countless years to create. All the walls I have built were quickly torn down and the Lord met me where I was at. I started jumping at the chance to pray first or close the group in prayer; I was one of three who helped lead worship every week during our trainings, for a church service one Sunday morning, and for singing in the subway every week on our free day; finally, during our High School Week I had to give a training on how to prepare a personal testimony in front of everyone. All of that pushed me out of my comfort zone, it made me vulnerable. I started to become less of who I thought I was. While all of that was happening, God became glorified, he was becoming greater, and I was becoming more of who the Lord knows I am.

 

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Hello friends! I am currently going into my fourth year at ODU. I just recently switched my major from Biology to Criminal Justice while I was in NYC as I started to listen more to the Lord’s plan for me. I plan to graduate in two years after this big switch! A couple things I enjoy are being outdoors, rock climbing, playing guitar, and finding any little bit of free time to watch Netflix. Thank you for taking the time to read what the Lord has taught me this summer!

To Help You Sleep…//Brooke

One of my dear dear friends has a two year old boy named Connor.  [I still remember the day he was born like it was yesterday– how do days turn into years so quick??] Anyway, if you ask Connor, “What does Daddy say?” He will quickly repeat…”Nooo cwyyyyy. Coseee youurrr eyessss.”  You see Connor has a “problem” with going to bed quickly but for some reason when his daddy comes in to tell him, “No need to Cry, close your eyes” it helps Connor calm down and eventually drift off to sleep!Margaret Berg Art: He is Our Peace Pink Blooms:

I was thinking about this scenario this morning and I wondering what are all the things that Jesus has told us through the Scriptures to bring comfort and put us at rest? A
nd, boy do we all need comfort and rest these days more than ever it seems.  And I feel we are called to carry comfort and rest and prayer to those that are hurting and fearful about the days we are living in.

Here are a few things Jesus says that surround us with Peace:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:10-11
Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. John 14:6
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33
“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” Matthew 11:30
But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
Good Shepherd.  Truth Teller.  Life Giver.  The Overcomer. The Burden Bearer.  The Power Giver.  The Impossible Provider.
What a God we serve.  What a God that cares. What Peace we know.