The Best of Love Stories

This is a hard week for my family.

Our days have been guided by an anxious awaiting of news we expect to be bad, and our nights have been filled with dreams of happier days.

My grandfather is fighting the end stages of leukemia.

O13886328_10207008060016855_1857415726770927699_nn the way to the hospital early this morning, I asked my grandmother how she and my grandfather came to be one. Although I have heard the story many times, it is always fun to be reminded of the days a sick family member was once full of life. It happened like so.

My Grandma was sitting on her front porch with one of her friends when a car pulled up. She recognized both boys sitting in the front seat, but quickly decided she had no interest in doing whatever they were about to ask.

“Come for a ride?” The driver asked, only to be followed by a quick rejection.

A few days later Grandma was at the laundromat when a familiar voice echoed, “How about that ride this time?”

She laughed, told him he could wait until she finished, and turned back to her laundry. Little did either of them know, they were entering the beginning of a lifetime.

Long story short, she went on the ride. He was on a leave from the Navy but knew that this was it for him, so he gave her his mother’s engagement ring right before leaving stateside. After only a few days of being apart, Grandma got a call. My Papa was tired of waiting, and wanted her to be his wife right then. He beckoned her to his station in Hawaii where they were married only a matter of weeks after meeting one another.

Fifty years later, we are watching the end of this love story ensue. Although there is so much sadness welling up in our hearts, watching my family–especially my grandmother–handle everything with so much grace and peace reminds me of the hope beyond this world. Hearing their love story allows me to recall the sweet love story our Savior wrote for us, the one that has no ending.

If you have been following me over the last three weeks, you have heard the metaphor. If you haven’t, here’s a quick recap: Hosea is an obedient prophet of God. Yet God uses him to make an example out of the Israelites and ultimately us. He asks Hosea to marry a woman who is he knows will be unfaithful and to continually beckon her back to him not out of force, but rather, earnest love.

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And the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days.

Hosea 3 ESV

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You see, the best part of this story is what comes right at the end of chapter three: God’s promise that the children of Israel will seek The Lord and return to His goodness. Friends, this sweet promise is just the beginning of its fulfillment in John 19:30. It is a precursor to the fact that although we may run, we may seek other pleasures, we may spit in the face of our Savior, He still sought us with all He had. He sent His greatest love to be sacrificed for His most disobedient children.

The greatest part of Hosea is not the story, it’s the promise.

In this moment, I am sitting next to a man in a hospital bed wrought with the pain this world promises. I am watching his body grow weak, I am reminded that he will never see on this earth again, and I am listening the doctor say that cancerous cells are taking over his blood–his earthly lifeline.

I am also sitting here praising The Lord that this blood is not his eternal lifeline. That is Jesus’s blood. His perfect, clean blood. His blood that was fully human yet fully God. His blood that was spilled for my Papa’s sin, my sin, and every one of His children’s sin. I am thankful that because of that blood, my Papa will not be sick much longer. He will see Jesus’s face in a matter of days.

I don’t know what heaven is like, but you better bet that in this moment, I am more thankful than ever that Jesus’s blood has covered my sweet Papa. Yes, this chapter is coming to a close, but the story doesn’t end here.

14089259_10207172336323660_6171360822907434503_n
I am so thankful for the time we were provided.

The love story our Jesus lived for us is far above any love story we experience on this earth.

That is what is giving my Grandma peace today.

It allows my sad tears to also be joyful and my heart to ache less.

Don’t get me wrong, I am sad. My heart aches. I cry often. But that is why I am so sure that we were made for a different world. We were made for a better love story. My Papa gets to experience that love story first-hand soon. I am so excited for him.

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“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” 

C.S. Lewis

It’s a Relentless Pursuit: Hosea 2

I will never forget my first big fight with Austin. It was while we were in the early stage of dating. The funny thing is that I have no idea what it was about, but I can guess that I was desperately needing to be right about something. I was driving my little yellow bug as he was passionately explaining his point of view from the passenger’s seat. As anyone who knows me well can assume, I had some kind of smart come back that drove him to his breaking point.

He opened the door and jumped out of the car as I was driving.Unknown-3.jpeg

In every sense I could see, he had given up. My desire to prove myself right had driven him
to literally jump out of a moving vehicle. If that’s not hopelessness, I don’t know what is.

As I consider these and all other displays of sinfulness within our relationship, I am so quickly reminded how even in my most offensive actions toward my God, His reaction is a loving plea to repent and draw closer to Him. That’s what makes my relationship with my God so much more special than even the most sacred relationship I will hold on this earth. Hosea’s story further reminds us of just that.

If you are joining us for the first time, click on the Bible Study tab, then on the Hosea button to read last week’s study of Hosea 1. If you’re all caught up, let’s delve into what I consider one of the most beautiful chapters in God’s word: Hosea 2.

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The LORD’s Mercy on Israel “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. “And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’

Hosea 2:14-16 ESV

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Quick Recap: Hosea is an obedient prophet of God. Yet God uses him to make an example out of the Israelites and ultimately us. He asks Hosea to marry a woman who is he knows will be unfaithful and to continually beckon her back to him not out of force, but rather, earnest love. We leave off when Gomer, Hosea’s wife, is once again fleeing the loving bounds of her marriage with Hosea. God reminds us that that is what we do to Him each day when we choose our own pleasures over the welcoming arms of our Heavenly Groom.

He tenderly calls us to Him

In verse 14, God reminds us, “Behold, I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.”

unknown-1Let’s recognize one thing before anything else: we are guilty of harlotry against our maker.

We may not be Israelites who built literal idols from gold, but we do build idols from our own desires. Since the blood of His son was spilled for our iniquities, He has given us one command, one way to know Him: accept His son’s sacrifice. Yet we so often try to create other ways of finding joy and salvation.

You better bet that if I was unfaithful to Austin or if he was unfaithful to me, our first inclination would not be to tenderly woo the other back. We would act out of anger, frustration, and distrust. We would question everything about our relationship and likely give up on it all together. Praise Jesus that He is not bound by human nature! He has every right to forget about us, but he chooses all the more to love us. More than that, He promises us an abundant life in Him just as this passage promises vineyards and hope. He chooses to whisper adoration even when we spit in His face. And He will not stop until His children hear Him.

He wants to be our love

Verse 16 seems to have a simplistic meaning, yet when explored in depth, it is so special. The word Baal has two meanings:

  1. A false god of Israel’s idolatry
  2. A husband, but in the sense of owner and lord

So when God proclaims, “you shall no longer call me ‘My Baal’”, we must recognize that He is giving us the opportunity to no longer be owned, but to be cherished.

So many consider our faith to be based on slavery to a constricting worldview. We are bound by our religion. Our rules. But friends, that is not our reality. If God wanted Hosea to capture his wife back into his household against her will, he would have commanded him to physically restrain her, to restrict her freedom. That is not His desire.

His desire is that by demonstrating love for her, she may love him in return. That is how he draws us. He reminds us that He is not our owner, but our lover. He has chosen to give himself for us. He entered a covenant relationship in which He knew we would not keep our end of the bargain.

It’s like a marriage. Austin does not force me into relationship with Him. He did not drag me down the aisle. He did not make me vow my allegiance to him forever. He simply loves me. In that, I have the freedom to love him return. I know that even on the days I screw up, he loves me because he chooses to–not because I am inherently worth it. That is the greatest freedom I have ever experienced.

God wants us to love Him warmly as our husband, not dutifully as our lord. However, when
Unknown-4.jpeg our love for Him turns into deep affection, we will desire to follow His commands.

Hosea’s wife needed to first understand that he wanted her. Only then could she truly find freedom as a wife. Did she fail? Over and over. Did he stop seeking her? Never.

As you can probably guess, my fight with Austin was not the end of our story. He showed up an hour later at my door step, explaining that he had walked from the other side of town to show his love for me. I am so thankful that my God did much more than drive from the other side of a small town. He stepped out of the bounds of his kingdom to pursue me as His own. My marriage does act as a metaphor for that love, but only the real thing will ever come close to satisfying my soul.

… Also Austin was lying; he drove. But that’s another story for another day 😉

 

 

 

It’s a Relentless Pursuit: Hosea 1

A few weeks ago, someone posed a terrifying question to me: What if Austin cheated on you?

First of all, what a conversation starter, right? But it really did make me consider how that might feel. You see, when we entered this covenant relationship, we swore to remain faithful. There is something about that promise in front of the people we love most in this world that just makes the thought of an affair sting more than I ever considered it might. The book of Hosea explores this reality–both in a worldly relationship and a relationship with God.

Hosea is one of those books that, if read out of context, it could seem a little weird and confusing. However, with the correct context, it is one of the most beautiful stories in the Word of God:

Author: Hosea was a prophet to Israel for around forty years by the time he wrote the words of this book.

Setting: Hosea lived in the last days of the Northern Kingdom. For years, Israel turned against God and placed their hope in earthly kings and pleasures. The chasing of their desires would eventually result in the falling of their kingdom.

Hosea 1

Who we really are

Screen Shot 2016-10-24 at 12.51.39 PM.pngThe book of Hosea begins with God’s command to Hosea to take a wife of harlotry, a prostitute. When God asks this of Hosea, He fully understands that this wife will not stay faithful to Hosea. Yet He commands it anyway. Sound familiar?

When God entered a covenant relationship with Abraham’s line, He knew they would not be faithful. His sovereign nature would not be deceived by the sinful nature of human beings. From Adam and Eve’s choice to go against The Lord’s commands to the entire earth’s disobedience in the time of Noah, even Abraham’s own distrust in God’s promise to grant him a son, God would not be surprised that His people turn their backs on Him. Yet he chose to enter that most sacred relationship with us regardless.

That is what He is exemplifying through Hosea. He demonstrates the beauty of His choice to pursue us no matter how unfaithful he knows we will be.

What we really deserve

He further tells us what we deserve through the names of Hosea’s children. Jezreel demonstrates that God will put an end to the Kingdom of Israel. Hosea’s daughter would be called “No Mercy,” because God would not show mercy on the Israelites. He also commands Hosea to call his son, “Not my People.”

He gave the people over to their desires. He allowed them their desire to reject Yahweh as their God. Their love was for kings who were tainted with the love of sin, pleasures that only last a moment, and relationships that were sure to disappoint.

The truth is that the names given to these children exemplify what we all deserve. No matter how often we show our face in church on Sunday morning, no matter how much scripture we can pull out at a given time, no matter the size of the Bible we carry in our bags, we reject our God daily. We spit in His face when our pride billows into our conversation. We reject His blood when we use works to somehow promote our own holiness. And we deserve every punishment those Israelites got. Our kingdoms deserve to be destroyed, our souls deserve no mercy, and we surely do not deserve to be called God’s people.

How God responds to us

Yet our Savior reminds us of his beautiful faithfulness. While their Kingdom was destroyed, He promptly states that He will redeem them. In the same place that they were told they could no longer be His people, he reveals that they will be called children of God. “God may replace pity with wrath for a season. He may disinherit some generations of Israel. But he will not give up Israel forever. He will, at some future time, overcome the alienation of ‘Not pitied’ and ‘Not my people,’ and great will be the day of Jezreel” John Piper explains in his sermon, Call me Husband, Not Baal.

The end of our story, the last word, is the promise that He will have his wife, no matter how hard she tries to flee from Him. Not as a slave or even something to be owned. But as a wife loved beyond measure. Friends, if we are in a covenant relationship with God, we are that bride. We reject our Seeker daily. That is the amazing thing about our God. He will allow us our desires. If and when we decide we want something else, He allows it. Yet His love overflows and He pursues us anyway. Praise God that that pursuit is stronger and faster than our ability to run.

If you are being pursued by God today, you know it. You may be thinking that you are too screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-12-51-18-pmfar gone, or that you aren’t good enough to be part of His kingdom. You may be viciously rejecting what your heart knows is true because you don’t feel worthy. You may not feel that you know how to begin. You may be in a covenant relationship with God, but pursuing something or someone else.

This story demonstrates the simplicity of the answer you are looking for.  He is beckoning you. Respond. That is it. You respond and he washes you. He purifies the messy life you may be ashamed of. He did it for me and so many others. He can do it for you too.

Over the next few weeks of going through Hosea, I am going to share bits of His pursuit of me. It is not a crazy story. There are very few twists and turns. Yet any story of pursuit from God is a miracle. Let’s explore the beauty of that miracle together by starting conversation with one another. Answer these questions in the comment section and read others. Our stories are all part of the one He is writing, and I can’t wait to hear yours.

  1. When and how did you first feel the Lord pursuing your heart?
  2. How does it make you feel to know that no matter how hard you try to run, He will continue to beckon you?