Obedience through Surrender // Jocelyn

As I’ve read and published the previous entries this semester [which has been an exciting joy each week!], I’ve been blown away and inspired at these stories of how the Lord has worked and moved. I found myself wishing I had more women like you to look up to when I was in college. Stories of surrender. Stories of heartbreak. Stories of insufficiencies and hope in Christ’s sufficiency. I couldn’t help but notice a theme:

Surrender.

Ew, scary word, right? In our culture of individualism and success and “you’re weak? what’s wrong with you? you better fix that”, we hear the word surrender and we instantly become that emoji in the purple shirt who has her arms crossed over her face. You know which one I mean.

I’m strong. There’s nothing wrong. I can do it on my own. I’m in charge of my own life.

And yet what I’ve seen in each of these stories is a posture of surrender. Giving up and giving over to the One who does have ultimate authority and strength.

Why isn’t surrendering easier for us? I think the reasons could be endless, but maybe one of them is we feel like God needs something more from us. We think He wants us to be sure to check the boxes. Behave. Try harder.

In our ladies’ Bible study at ODU this semester, we looked at the life of David. He messed up. A lot. The Lord had asked similar things of him and Saul during their individual times as king. Saul seemingly obeyed at times, but he also tried to do all of this extra stuff that he thought would appease God, rather than simply obeying what He originally said [see 1 Samuel 15 for the story].

David, on the other hand, sought the Lord for clarity on His commands, and continued to press on and trust the Lord even when he had his own doubts or when there were social pressures to do otherwise [see 1 Samuel 23:1-14]. And yes, David did mess up. He lusted, committed adultery, murdered, lied, etc. — but he acknowledged his sin. He had a repentant heart. He surrendered to the truth that he had sinned against God alone:

Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You may be justified in Your words and blameless in Your judgment. // Psalm 51:4

God knows that we’ll mess up. He knows that we’ll doubt Him. He knows that we’ll be scared at times. That’s why He tells us to come to Him to receive rest for our souls [Matt. 11:28-30]. It’s why He wants us to humble ourselves by casting our fears & cares on Him, the One who can care for them all [1 Peter 5:6-7, Philippians 4:6-7].

So what does God want? David knew:

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise. For You will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it. You will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken spirit and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. // Psalm 51:15-17

In other words, God doesn’t want all of your good deeds in an effort to prove yourself. He wants you. He wants your heart. He wants your surrender.

We do think of surrender as weakness. As failure. It does involve giving up, but we find in Scripture that it is when we give up & surrender that we find rest. It’s counterintuitive, but isn’t that just like Scripture?! We have to renew our minds with these truths to fight against the things that we’re naturally bent toward in our flesh.

And it’s not too late to enter in to this kind of rest. That’s why the prophet Joel commanded the people regarding their repentance, “‘Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, return to Me with all your heart … and rend your hearts and not your garments.’ Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and He relents over disaster.”

Hebrews 3 & 4 give us this message repeatedly, too:
Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion” (3:8,15; 4:7)
“But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (3:13)
These words were given to the Hebrew people to prompt them to not be like their ancestors, who weren’t able to enter God’s promised rest because of their disobedience. The writer reminds them continually that Jesus is better.

It is by obeying that we enter God’s rest, and obeying involves surrender.

I would say this is what each of the ladies in this last series of posts came to the point of realizing, too.
How else is it that you’re able to trust in His sufficiency, give up your summer, give up your career plans, trust Him when He says no, enhance your prayer life, and have the assurance that He safe, sure, steady, and won’t leave you as you are, and therefore praise Him for all that He’s done?

We surrender our wills, our plans, our hearts, in exchange for His. We give up and give over.

How do we remind ourselves to continually surrender? How can we be enabled to do that?

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. // Hebrews 4:11-12

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the repeated prompt to enter God’s rest is followed by a statement about the power of His Word. Spending time with Him – immersing ourselves in His very words that He has given to us – is how we enter His rest. It’s how we’re led by Him “beside still waters” or “waters of rest” (Psalm 23:2). So I leave you with the same exhortation that Hebrews 3:13 talks about — Be obedient by surrendering to Him. Be honest about your sin, your emotions, and your need for Him. Give up and give over. Enter His rest and be nourished by Him.

Hi friends! ♡♡ I’m Jocelyn, and I run this blog alongside Brooke & Meg! I’m currently smack dab in my 4th year on staff with Cru, and I have the pleasure of working on the campuses of CNU + ODU.
I can be found obsessing over candles, fresh flowers, podcasts, and whatever current book I’m reading (which tends to be about 5 at a time – I’m trying to stop that). It brings me joy to create inviting spaces, and I love any excuse for a celebration.
Creating inviting spaces also includes spaces on social media, which means I loooove your interactions on our insta & this blog. I hope it continues to pursue a life of chasing Jesus!
@jocerenee

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!