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.

Isn’t it great that God doesn’t love us because we are lovely in his sight, but because we are sinners? I was just writing about this in my journal the other day. He didn’t go to the cross because we deserved His sacrifice, He went because we were completely undeserving and He wanted to give us complete grace. Phewf hey?

There are times where I’ve done some things completely terrible. Things that are totally against what I believe is right, things full of sin, things that fill me with shame. And I think “Oh God, I’m so sorry, I’ve messed up again”. He looks at me with warm eyes and says “My girl, I love you! Not because you’re good and perfect, but because you are human and you need me.”

All I need to do is repent and sit at his feet.

That’s it.

Satan tries to have his hay-day and remind me of my sin. He tries to fill me with regret and attack me with thoughts of shame. Thoughts of being undeserving. Thoughts of hopelessness. But just coming to God’s throne with a spirit of humbleness is all I need to do. He offers forgiveness without cost; gladly opening His arms for me.

I feel like I am constantly messing up. I try to live a good life. I try to be good, really good. You know? But I always seem to throw a stick in the spokes. I hate it, but I know it’s ok. It’s all in God’s plan, He knows my faults, He knows my story, and He’s working it out to be an amazing testimony.

It’s humbling, and I think that’s a great part about messing up. It keeps me on my knees, which is exactly where I need to be. I mess up so often, I don’t have time to be self-righteous (or maybe I’ve become self-righteous about not being self-righteous…haha). The moment I feel like I’m doing pretty good, self happens and knocks me down again.

I’m so grateful for His patience and for those strong arms that pick me up every time.

“It’s alright, My Girl, I’ve got you.”

I was reading Psalm 46:5 this morning: “God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at the break of day”. And I heard a voice remind me “No matter what mistakes happened last night, this verse is still for you. My word is still written for you”.

I don’t have to do anything but ask forgiveness and it’s there. I don’t have to do anything but accept the love He’s offering and it’s there. What a blessing…and that’s an understatement.

I’m sitting at my kitchen table. It’s covered with chalkboard paint and little doodles from my roommate and I. Flowers and a cute ceramic owl to one side of me and a steaming mug of frothy coffee to the other. I love my mug, it’s big and red and has a ‘K’ on it…Winners. That store is awesome. The window is open slightly, the wind blowing the curtain and my fluffy dog is begging to be pet at my feet.

I have a cute life. It’s adorable! Quiet, peaceful, busy when it needs to be. Family, friends, a good job. I’m so blessed!

I realized as I sat here yesterday, having my daily reading time, that I’ve been through a valley lately. In the last few months I’ve been fighting what I knew was a huge lie, that I was undeserving to be in God’s presence. I would sit down (or maybe not even sit down, but just think about) and try to have quality time with God and this overpowering feeling of guilt, displeasure…I’m not sure how to describe it…would overcome me and I couldn’t present myself to Him. I didn’t feel adequate to pray or to read the bible. A voice, a lie, was whispered into my ear that He wasn’t hearing me, that I was faking my relationship with Him. And, as I had my morning coffee yesterday, I realized that I hadn’t felt that, or heard those lies, one single bit in the last week. I don’t know what changed, but those thoughts, Satan’s lies, just disappeared. I had unknowingly climbed from the dark, dry valley and reached the summit. Thank God!

Isn’t interesting that sometimes you fight a spiritual battle knowingly – you pray, you cry, you claim verses over the situation – and sometimes, all you have the energy or brain-space for is a simple prayer and suddenly you realize its over.

I love the feeling of when the cloud lifts. You’ve been feeling a burden for a while, you can’t seem to shake it, but then one day you wake up feeling awake. Feeling like you can breathe. Feeling like a battle has been won. It’s so amazing knowing that God and His warriors are fighting for us when we aren’t even aware. I believe that we still need to be sensitive to what He is asking us to do, how He is asking us to take part in the battle, but there are times when all we can do is say His name and trust that He is taking care of the rest.

As I’m learning lately, there are wins and there are losses, but they’re all used in God’s plan for your life. To form you into the person He needs you to be.

I’ve failed, I’ve fallen, I’ve turned my back purposely. And even if those choices aren’t what God would want for me ideally, they’re still parts of my story He saw coming and will use for His Glory. There is a reason for everything and as long as we remind ourselves in the desert and valley, that He should be our focus and our destination, we will come out the other side with more experiences to help us, or even others, through the next stage that He has planned.

Love

Yesterday, as I worshiped in church, I closed my eyes and saw myself in front of God. There was complete love and pleasure in his expression as he looked down on me, “My girl, my beautiful one” he said, a warm smile across his face and his eyes twinkling. I was draped with something, something that covered my sins, my imperfections and my humanity and because of that covering, I was sinless and blameless in God’s eyes.

I needed that reminder. I’ve really been struggling with self-image lately. Unworthiness. I’ve felt undeserving of God’s love and attention and it’s been a struggle to remember that through everything, he adores me and thinks that I am beautiful.

The pastor hit on this as well; why is it so much easier for us to think of God loving others unconditionally, but when we look at God loving US like that, we question it?

The image of God looking at me with such gentleness and love started the tears. I have to admit, I love crying in front of God. It feels good and safe to be vulnerable in front of him like that. But why, when I think of his love for little old me, does it bring me to tears so easily? Why is it so shocking to remember that he is in love with me?

I know my thoughts, I know my actions, I know my disobedience, I feel the disappointment I am to others, I know where I fall short, I know my imperfections. We are our worst critic. That’s probably why. We look at others with rose colored glasses, for the most part. We don’t see what they don’t want to show us. So it’s easier to think that God would love the someone they choose to present to the world.

Close your eyes. Ask God to show you what he thinks of you. Imagine yourself standing in front of him and his eyes, so filled with love and joy as he looks at you, his beloved one. Allow yourself to meditate on his pleasure of you for a moment. Soak it in. Feel it. Enjoy it.

He has a plan. You can’t screw it up. He created you just the way you are and he loves every part of you.

Breathe.

…Breathe…

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