Stubborn Love

Before you start reading here, flip to Jeremiah 32:26-44.

Don’t you just love how the Bible is a living document? Every time you read it, something new pops out. 66 books, 686 pages and it never gets old. I think that’s proof enough that our God exists!

With all the tragedies that are happening in the world lately, I’m feeling a pressure put on my heart to start memorizing verses. My gut is telling me, and I don’t think I’m the only one, that our time for free worship is coming to a close. Without being overly paranoid, I do believe that soon Christians will be limited in their public worship. And when that time comes, I want to say that I have God’s word embedded on my heart and mind. I want to know that I haven’t wasted my time expecting the world to stay all fine and dandy.

That being said, I flipped to a verse that I love this morning and decided to start memorizing it. Which, by the way, is so much easier than when I was a kid. I chose Jeremiah 32:39-42 to memorize.

“I will give them singleness of heart and mind, so that they will always fear me for their own good and for the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me so that they will never turn away from me. I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul. This is what the Lord says: as I have brought all this great calamity on this people, so I will give them all the prosperity {or: bring them back from captivity} I have promised them.”

I love this verse. I think it’s absolutely gorgeous! God has built it into our hearts and our minds to follow him. We naturally have an urge to find him and follow him. And not only that, he will NEVER stop doing good to us. He is excited to do goodness for us, he will give us prosperity and bring us back from captivity as he has promised us.

After I read this verse and thought “Wow, this is amazing! What other God can say that they stubbornly love their people like this and will provide for them this well?”, I glanced up to the top of the page and saw another verse I had highlighted.

“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything to hard for me?” vs. 26

And I decided to read from vs. 26 to the end of the chapter.

Jeremiah is coming to God, begging him to save the people of Israel and Judah from the Babylonians who are about to make a final attack on the city in order to completely destroy it. He’s also confused. God has just given him instructions to purchase a piece of land…What? But the city is about to be taken over! Look kid. Just do what I’ve said and trust me. I am the Lord, the God of ALL mankind. Is ANYTHING to hard for me?

I just love it when God talks back to people. He doesn’t mess around, he doesn’t sugar-coat things, he’s pretty sarcastic and it’s pretty hilarious. Humbling, but hilarious.

I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything to hard for me? Therefore, this is what the Lord says…” (emphasis by me…duh…when have you every seen underlining in the Bible).

“You know, the Lord? The God of all mankind? The God that has control of everything and nothing is impossible for Him? Yeah, this is what that Lord says.”

And then God goes on to point out how much the people of Israel and Judah have screwed up, how they’ve hypocritically turned their backs to him but still claimed to be Christians, how they’ve worshiped other gods IN his house, how they’ve provoked God into anger, how they’ve defiled his name, how they’ve refused to listen to him or respond to his discipline. Basically, God is so angered with them he wants to remove them from his sight.

But. God is the God of all mankind and nothing is to hard for him.

So instead of giving Israel and Judah what they deserve, he’ll give them singleness of heart and mind to follow him. Instead of allowing them to be destroyed, he’s going to make a promise to them that he will not stop loving them. Instead of allowing them to be defeated, he’s going to “rejoice” in doing good to them, he’s going to give them a home, prosperity and take them out of captivity.

Think of all the times you’ve been a hypocrite. What about that time you showed up hung-over for church? Or that time you lied? Or that time you denied what you knew God was trying to tell you? Or that time you created an idol out of money or work or relationships instead of spending time with God? (Oh wait, is that just me? Am I the only one? Insert winky face because I know we’re all in the same boat).

If God was in human form he would be standing in front of us telling us how much he loves us while he bled on the floor from the effort. And he would be rejoicing while he did it.

We have a God with stubborn love. We can do whatever we want and he will refuse to give up on us. And we know it. We have a God Radar build into us that is constantly reminding us that he’s wanting to spend time with us. And while we are out doing our dirty deeds, God pouring love into our lives and planning our escape from captivity…even as we defile his name.

And if you want your mind completely blown, think of how he’s asking us to have this same love for those around us.

So. Two things.

First, how about we start responding to this stubborn love? Lets have some stubborn love in return. Even when we don’t feel the emotions we want to feel towards God, lets actively, stubbornly, chase after him.

Second, lets try to have this type of love for those around us. This world is quickly becoming a world filled with obvious hate. Think of how God loves us even when people treat him so badly and lets make an effort to reflect that in our daily lives.

I’m going to read over these verses a few times. Maybe spend a few days thinking of how crazy God’s love is for me and really allowing myself to soak it in. And then spend a few days reading over it as though he’s asking me to love those around me with this type of stubborn love.

Spiritual Marriage

Marriage is just a piece of paper and some meaningful words in front of loved ones. Marriage is standing in front of a group of people, quoting antique vows, and praying you’ll make it through the rough patches. Marriage is a government institute.

It’s no wonder so many marriage, even in the Christian community, fail. We have completely forgotten (or have we ignored?) the spiritual aspect of the marriage covenant.

Have we forgotten that God is the inventor of marriage and therefore HE defines it, not our government or our communities?

Why bother getting married, when we can just live together and become Common-law without the expense of a wedding?

Marriage, in our society, has become nothing more than the wedding. We have lost the fact, not just the theory but the fact, that it is a spiritual binding of spouses to each other, committed to for life through covenant before the Creator of the Earth. Marriage isn’t just a piece of paper that makes taxes or bills or banking or child-bearing easier. Marriage is spiritual bondage.

When you commit to marriage, you are committing “until death do you part” to your initial spouse. When you attempt to break that commitment – because we as humans think we are powerful enough to break something in the spiritual realm – it causes pain, multiple marriage, divorces, restless spirits, destructive sin… A feeling of lack of control. That piece of your spirit that keeps telling you “It doesn’t make sense!” even when it doesn’t make sense that it doesn’t make sense.

We need to start bringing the ‘spirituality’ and the ‘covenant’ back into marriage. Those are two words I never heard related to marriage before I leapt into that relationship. They’re words that need to be explored and applied to marriage. They’re words that need to be taught to our kids. They’re words that need to be taken extremely seriously.

Why do you think we have so many unhappily married people around us? Why do you think that so many people are struggling? Because we have grown into largely viewing marriage as a relationship and nothing more. Just two people who spent lots of money, wore a suite and a dress, and had a great day with their friends.

As the ‘friends’ we have forgotten that the wedding is a solemn ceremony. We’re more focused on our outfits that day or the caterer or the white dress or the decorations. Or thinking of the happily every after we think we’re watching in front of us.

Yes, the wedding is beautiful, the emotions are wonderful, and we are so thrilled our friends have found each other. There’s nothing wrong with this, celebration is necessary! But before we start to think that this is what the day revolves around. Stop. Pray. Realize the seriousness of this commitment. Think of the reality of the God they are standing before.

Bring the spirituality back into the vows that are being said.

God Himself is listening. God Himself is hearing “until death do we part” and God Himself is holding the couple to that covenant.

Until death will my commitment to your marriage be. Until death will I, as your friend, fight for your marriage. Until death will I hold you to your spouse. Through sickness and health, for better or worse, I will encourage you in your covenant to your spouse. Until death.

If marriage is just a piece of paper. If marriage is just something our government defines. If marriage is just a beautiful wedding. It’s no wonder it’s so easy for all of us to give up on.

But if marriage is a covenant, the only way it can be broken is by death. If marriage is a spiritual binding, only God can decide when it’s broken. If marriage is more than just something we do here on our temporary earth, but is also a spiritual event, it is so much bigger than we have been taught.

Dead No More

Have you ever been running towards something, feeling like you’re chasing the dream you’re meant to have, but feeling dead inside? Something just isn’t right. Your heart tells you it’s what you need to do, what you need to have, but there’s a tiny bit inside you that is cringing and you’re not sure why. A few years ago I started running from my marriage. It seemed like the only option for me at the time, the only way out of the drowning feeling I was overcome with. I moved to a new city several hours away and started my own life, pursuing the things that I ‘knew’ would make me happy. By the time two years had passed, I had achieved everything I thought I wanted. But still…something…something was wrong. I felt dead inside. I felt like I wasn’t achieving anything, like my life didn’t have purpose, like I was an empty shell. I had what the world was telling me I needed but I wasn’t satisfied.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins… Ephesians 2:1

Through my sins, the multitude of them, I had died. My soul was shriveled and lifeless, even if my body seemed vibrant to those around me. The meaningful part of me, the true Katie, had passed away leaving a wandering and lost shadow of who I had been. God knew though. He was watching and waiting for when the time was right. When I was ready, he opened my eyes and made me see the mess I had left in my wake. Even though I had destroyed my life, he has helped me in the last two years to heal and grow and become a woman that is an even better version of what I was before. He has made me alive again, passionate, enthusiastic, full to the brim of purpose in him. Lately, there has been overwhelming temptation to go back to certain aspects of my previous life. It has been so hard to remember that, even though some of God’s promises have yet to be fulfilled, I am where I should be. Satan has been reminding me of the ‘fun’ I had before and that I am ‘missing out’ on it now. But if I truly believe in the Bible, I should truly believe that I was “dead in my transgressions”. When God took me back and opened my eyes, I felt a physical reaction. I could see clearer, I could hear clearer…it was as if I had stepped out of a fog. So why would I go back to being dead? Why would I purposely and intentionally deny the death I felt then and the life I feel now just for a temporary fix? Temptation does that, it pulls you into a lifestyle that seems fun and exciting or maybe even safe, only to actually kill you slowly and turn you into a hollow version of what you once were. Sometimes temptation makes sense. Sometimes Satan dresses like an angel, a rescuer, that seems like it will pull you out of the mess you’re in. Sometimes people you trust encourage you in the temptation. I believe that we know. Even when we say we haven’t heard from God, we know what he wants us to do. It might not be a huge, bellowing voice, it might just be an unsettled feeling in our spirit, but we know what God really wants from us. And going in another direction, is never worth it. We have to decide. What are you following? Who are you listening to? Who are you obeying? And I’ll be honest. At this point, I am grudgingly being obedient. The temptation seems much more fun and actual makes sense to most people around me. But the point of my life isn’t to make sense to the people around me. It’s to glorify God and to live a life worthy of my calling. By God’s strength, not my own, I refuse to be dead any longer. I refuse to believe the lies, I refuse to deny the full life that God has placed in front of me. So help me God, I will wait for his promises.

It Is Well

“Even so, it is well with my soul.”

Are you able to say this? When you’re in a rough patch, when God isn’t answering your prayers like you thought he would, when life isn’t going smoothly, when you feel like you’re just plowing through…Are you able to say, are you able to remember to say, “Even so, it is well with my soul”?

I’m at a point right now where the struggle seems uphill, in waist high in mud, with little to no relief in sight. I’m feeling like I’ve been called to do something that seems absolutely impossible, that God is holding me to, but my heart is weak. I feel like I’m pushing forward out of obedience, but that is all. Do you ever get like that?

I know this is a stage, a season that will pass and will flow into a place where I feel more heartfelt in what I’m asked to do. But it’s hard going through these places! It’s hard fully relying on God out of blind faith when everything around you is telling you to do something different.

It’s in these places, though, that we need to stubbornly say “Even so, it is well with my soul.” Even when I don’t feel like it, God’s will is well with my soul. Even when it doesn’t make any sense, God’s commands are well with my soul. Even though I can’t see it, God’s plan is well with my soul.

I truly believe that God will bless our obedience in times like these. He hasn’t asked us to take leaps of faith only when it makes sense, he’s just asked us to follow him. So when we do take that leap of faith when it doesn’t make sense, we are saying that we believe that God is real, and that he is all that matters.

By pushing through, past the emotions, past the limited view we have of our lives, and obeying God, we are opening the door for miracles. We are allowing God space to move where we otherwise would have filled the space with our nearsighted plans. We are acknowledging that God has ultimate control as well as acknowledging that we trust him to use that control.

We are proving that we believe the truth of the Bible.

So I am pushing forward. I know that this will pass, that God is working at destroying my mountain and one day I will see what the point of this strain was. And in the meantime I will stubbornly say “Even so, it is well with my soul”.

God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?

Numbers 23:19

Love God Without Conditions

What if we loved God as though he had already given us everything we wanted?

Sometimes, maybe most of the time, I think we are worshiping and praying because of what we want God to give us and not just because God is God. Do you think you do this? I’d ashamed to admit that I know I do this…

I pray, there are answers, and I praise God. I pray and hear nothing, and I start to pout. Does this sound familiar? I hope I’m not the only one.

God asks us to follow him, to pursue relationship with him, he says that once we do this he will give us the desires of our hearts but he doesn’t say that this should be the point of our pursuit. Actually, I think that we will be surprised at how our hearts desires change once we start chasing after God.

What would happen if we continually humbled ourselves, recognizing that we actually deserve nothing from him, and praised and worshiped him just because he is the Creator, the Beginning and the End, the God over every single thing. Let’s just take a moment to remember who it is we are praying to. Maybe that’s our issue.

Maybe we have gotten so caught up in what God can give us and what he promises us that we have forgotten who it actually is that we are praying to. We live in a world that continually preaches at us about what we deserve, what we are entitled to, how amazing we are. But really, we don’t deserve anything, we aren’t entitled to a thing and we’re really just pieces of dust that are here today and gone tomorrow.

There’s been times where I have been crying, mad and frustrated, and praying “God, I’m doing what you’ve asked me to do!! I don’t know what else I can do, why aren’t things going my way? Why isn’t this happening? Why aren’t you answering?”. That prayer, broken down, shows just how arrogant I really am. Who am I to tell God that I’m “doing all I can do”? Didn’t he sacrifice his Son for me? And I’m complaining about having to…wait for my passport for to long?? Or that my knee isn’t healing fast enough?? Or…or…or…Who am I to ask why things aren’t going my way? Hasn’t he promised to take care of me, to bring me through trials, to provide what I need? And why am I complaining that he isn’t answering me when he has already told me that he will, in his time?

Who am I to demand anything from God?

Who am I to question him?

He loves me, yes. He desires a relationship with me, yes. But all the rest is a bonus. What I need to do is chase after him, work on my relationship with him, worship him, praise him…and expect nothing in return. The point of my life is to glorify him with everything I have, in everything I do, and not to do it expecting a treat in return.

If God, the creator of the stars, the universe, the oceans and the trees, the creator of human anatomy and all it’s complexities, the God that controls the weather with just the sound of his voice…if that God loves me and wants to spend time with me, that should be good enough. Everything else should be viewed as a perk, not a requirement.

This way of thinking is a continual rebalancing. A lifetime work in progress. It’s impossible to think this way for long without slipping back into the attitude of entitlement, whether we mean to or not. We’re human, since the fall of man we have been wired to be selfish. But if we keep being intentional about bringing our thought patterns and prayer lives back to this way of thinking, I believe we will see an amazing change in our relationship with God.

And because of the change we will see in our relationship with God, we will also see changes in ourselves. We still start changing from the inside out. I believe that if we continually make an attempt to worship God selflessly, we will see God move even more mightily around us. I believe that we will feel him near and hear his voice and we will be able to watch him move. On top of this, when we make God himself a priority and not what he can do for us, I believe that people will be attracted to us and we will be able to, and desire to, share our relationship with him with those around us.

Are You Pretending?

Are you living for God or just pretending?

I look back on my life and realize that for the majority of it, I was keeping God at a distance. He was a part of my life. But just a part. He was there, but just on the sidelines. And, at the time, I saw nothing wrong with this. Why should I pray about what job God wanted me in? I would make the decision and, obviously, since God knows everything, it would be in his plan. He would have known ahead of time what decision I would make and, therefore, it was all just up to my choices. Right?

I was a Christian, I went to church, I prayed often, but it was more like I was talking to God and not talking with God. He was basically my Genie In A Bottle (link to Christina Aguilera’s music video…just kidding). He was a Being I called on when I needed help and when I didn’t need help, he was a very distant thing.

Not only did I not see anything wrong with this way of living out my Christian walk, I saw many things wrong with the opposite way of living out a Christian walk. I heard of people who asked God what he wanted them to do in the daily, no-brainer, decisions (what job to work at, who to date, where to go for lunch, IF they should go for lunch…) and I thought this was ridiculous. These people didn’t have their own brains, God created us with freewill for a reason, they were too weak, they were too dependent.

I actually don’t remember thinking that I should try it their way, I just remember my mindset: They’re stupid, I’m not, I’ll do it my way. Brutal.

My mom always told me I had to learn things the hard way. She was rolling her eyes when she said this, just like I’m shaking my head as I write this.

When I assess my Christian walk, I realize that I used to pretend to be a Christian. I was going through all the motions but there was no change of heart, barely anything different about me than a non-believer, and certainly no passion for the Lord. If someone had asked me “Do you love God?” I would have said “Yes, of course!” but inside me the words “But no one is actually in love with God” would repeat themselves.

The dictionary’s definition of ‘Christian’ is: “a person who has received Christian baptism or is a believer in Jesus Christ and his teachings.” Was I a believer of Jesus Christ’s teachings? I would have said I was.

In Mark 10:21 Jesus tells a rich man to go sell everything he has and then he will have riches in Heaven. He tells the man to do this, and then to come follow him. I was a believer and a follower of Jesus, but there’s no way I would have been willing to sell everything I had for him…

Matthew 16:25 says that whoever loses his life will gain it. There was no way, when push came to shove, that I would be willing to give up my…anything…for God. Give up your life? God isn’t really asking you to do that…

God will provide whatever you need, clothes, food…whatever it is, he will provide. But you need to get a job, make sure you’re earning good money, advance in that job, make sure it’s one you’re passionate about. And if you don’t do this, you’re lazy. God will help those who help themselves. Right? Um, no. Not what the Bible teaches, actually. Check it out in Matthew 6:26. (As a side note, I Googled “God will help those who help themselves” and…well…Go Google it, see where this saying stems from…).

If I was really, truly, living a Christian walk, loving God and believing his commands, why was I not living like I believed him? Why was I nodding my head to his teachings but yet my thoughts were whispering something different? Why weren’t my actions reflecting what I was telling the world (ok, not the world, but a select few, which in itself should have been a clue)?

I was pretending I believed what I had been taught since I was born, but really, I didn’t actually believe God would do what he said he would do.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28

No, actually, what I need is a good nap, not some “quality time” with a God I rarely hear from.

If only I had taken the time to just try what the Bible was telling me! If only I had taken that quality time with God instead of the nap. I would have realized that the rest God is talking about goes deeper than just resting my eyes. It satisfies and stills the very depth of my soul. The root of my foundation is quieted. My need is met, not just temporarily satisfied with a band-aid.

I don’t want to pretend anymore. If God says move, I will move. If he says speak, I will speak. I have learned, the hard way, that when God tells you something he will follow you until you are obedient. And it’s not just because he wants you to listen to him, it’s because he knows that when you do listen to him, it will quench that hunger you feel inside.

I don’t want to pretend anymore! I want to see God work! I want to see his power in my life! I know now that when God is telling you to do something, all you have to do is take that one step of obedience and he will allow everything else to fall into place. He will do all the work.

Do you want to pretend you’re living for God, or do you actually want to do it?

You can start by opening your Bible daily. It’s just one simple step. God will cause a hunger in you that isn’t based on emotions but based on necessity. You will learn to crave him as you press into him.

Do it, I dare you.

Slow It Down

I’ve been learning a lot in the past couple years about how to slow. down. God has brought me to a place and pace where I am fully dependent upon him.

I used to be a Charger. I would get an idea in my head and just do it. If I had to wait for something I was instantly frustrated and anxious. I was like this with buying things, with life plans and goals, with jobs and with my social life. I rushed forward in everything. Taking the time to consider if it was the best idea would nearly kill me. If I couldn’t do something immediately there was a knot in my stomach and my mind was constantly reminding me that I was missing out.

While I was running away from my marriage and from God, my life was rush rush rush.The schedule went a bit like this:

  • 6:00am Workout
  • 8:00am – 4:30pm First Job
  • 5:00pm – 10:00pm (or 11pm, 12am…1am…) Second Job
  • Social Life whenever I could squeeze it in
  • Boyfriend somewhere in there
  • Family on some Sundays

 This schedule was five days a week, if not six, and when I wasn’t working I was trying to maintain a social life, family life with my sister, brother in law and niece, and somehow fit a relationship in there. Mornings I wasn’t working I would still aim to go for a run or to the gym or to yoga…I couldn’t relax enough to even sleep in.

I rushed around, I conquered, I accomplished.

And still, I was restless. There was something that just wasn’t connecting the dots. Something was missing. It was frustrating! I was doing all I could do! I was doing everything I wanted to do!

Be still and know that I am God.

Psalm 46:10

If you are unable to be still, there is something wrong. I realize there is the scheduling and the attention that families need and just can’t be avoided, but if your schedule is to busy to fit in time with God, you are filling your schedule to full. If, when you do make time for God, your spirit is restless and anxious, you are to busy.

God gave me everything I thought I wanted. I traveled, I had a man that fit my criteria, I had a social life that was fun and constant, I had a cute little condo and jobs that I had only dreamt of before. But still…I wasn’t able to be still. I wasn’t satisfied, my insides were churning, I wasn’t content

And then God came and stole my heart. I turned to him and gave up everything I thought I wanted and it was exactly what I needed.

Now, life isn’t an anxious striving towards happiness. It’s a peaceful and constant surrendering towards a relationship with God. It’s simple, but not always easy. It’s reminding myself that even though the world pounds you on the head with messages of accomplishment, education, financial success, fitness and fashion and popularity…That simple is better. Resting and being peaceful with God is exactly what our spirits need.

God doesn’t want us to be busy, he doesn’t want us to be anxious. He wants us to be peaceful and restful in his presence. To develop a relationship with him. To spend time with him. It was only when I started to do this that the deepest part of my soul became still. That’s the only way I can describe it. The very root of me, my soul, was at home when I was in community with God. When I cut out all the unnecessary rush, I felt like I was where I was supposed to be.

If God speaks in a gentle whisper, how are we supposed to hear him when our lives are busy and full of noise?

Action Plan:

  • Start Small. When can you set aside five minutes to spend with God? Write it on your calendar, put a reminder in your phone. Take specific, intentional, time with God. Create a plan to make this time consistent.
  • What is one thing you can cut out of your schedule in order to slow your pace of life down?

 The world tells us that in order to be successful and feel whole, we need to stretch ourselves thin. But what our souls are aching for is a place where we can sit and give up our worries and be still.