A Desperate God Part Deux

Last week, I wrote about God’s desperation to have a relationship with us on this blog and the Huffington Post.

As I read I Samuel for my Old Testament class, I’m seeing this recurring theme of God wanting to stay in relationship with us, even when we don’t want the relationship with Him. In I Samuel 9, the Israelites have a hissy fit about not having a king. Though they’ve been led by the spirit of God through the wilderness, through intercessors like Moses and judges like Deborah, the Israelites wanted to be like the nations around them and have a monarchy.

After all their pleading and begging, God finally gave it to them. Having a king, however, would come with a cost.

“‘…appoint for us, then, a king to govern us like other nations,” Israel cried. Samuel prayed to the Lord and the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them… you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.’” I Samuel 8:4-9 NSRV (paraphrased)

As we all know, Saul was appointed king over Israel and he got caught up in all kinds of mess, but what I’d like to point out is God’s heart toward the Israelites in I Samuel 9. Even though God didn’t want Israel to rule under a king, and even though He let them have their desires, He still took ownership of them. Speaking of Saul to Samuel, God says, “[Saul] shall save my people… he it is who shall rule over my people.” God still takes ownership of Israel even though they didn’t want Him. They still belonged to Him in spite of a natural ruler being in place. He still wanted to have them as His own in spite of that same love and commitment not being reciprocated.

Wow.

How this speaks to our own desires that may pull us away from God! Even while we fight to have what we think we should (and God forbid He lets us actually have it!) He’s still wanting us, desiring us, hoping that we’ll choose Him over this world and what the world says we should have.

This makes me want to break myself even further for Him — let loose of what I think should be and take hold of His heart and hand. Having those two things is what matters most.

So how can we shift our hearts towards God’s desires over our own?  I think it’s time we try to reciprocate His love back to Him. Though we’ll turn to dust before we could even give back one thousandth of His love for us, knowing that we are putting His desires before our own can only result in a life full of peace and contentment.

On the Chase,

Alisha L.

A Desperate God

Since entering Seminary, the scope and breadth of how I view and understand God has changed a bit. Well, a lot.

I sat in my room teary eyed and wholly upset at God after learning that He regretted making us in Genesis 6:6: “…and the LORD was sorry that He made humankind on the earth and it grieved Him to His heart.” (NSRV)

I knew He destroyed the earth because we (humankind) couldn’t get our lives right, but daaaaang. Regret? Sorrowful? We grieved You?

Sheesh.

Once I got over feeling some kind of way (honestly, that really hurt my feelings!), I began to see that nearly every encounter God had with man in the Old Testament was fueled by His insatiable desire to have a relationship with us. This anthropomorphic God (one with human-like characteristics, feelings, thoughts, interactions) was desperate to have us as His own, be thankful to Him for creating us, and, in whatever way possible, live our lives as He said we should.

He, like all “parents” do, had a plan for His kids. Our disobedience, however, brought about some of the most discussed, disparaging, and body-of-Christ splitting occurrences in the bible. We see a God who passes judgment on Hebrews and enemies alike for disobedience; God attempts to kill Moses for his disobedience (Exodus 4:18-31) despite God giving him the charge of delivering the Hebrews out of Egypt (clearly, obeying His ordinances was more important than some God-given assignment, eh?) We see God obliterate the Egyptians and their first-born sons for refusing to let His chosen people worship Yahweh as they wanted to — even going so far to intentionally hardening Pharoah’s heart to up the ante and make the punishments for disobedience grow and grow by the day. “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, so that I will gain the glory for myself over Pharaoh and all his army; and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD. And they did so.” (Exodus 14:4)

Grimy!

In the new dispensation of our faith, grace and mercy rules the coop. Jesus’ death and resurrection is the foundation of everything we believe, and in many ways, we have forgotten the vengeance and judgment of God.

Jesus makes us feel good. His sermons and parables of fish and salt and lights on a hill are so applicable and practical — it’s like a Publix commercial during the holidays: just makes you want to hug somebody, cook some food, and share it (and the gospel) with good people.

But we’ve forgotten the vengeance and judgment of God.

Jesus playing keep away with the children.

We’ve forgotten that He’s serious about us — and serious with those who come against us. He desperately wants us, and after millenniums of trying to get us to do right on our own, He sent Jesus to stand in the gap. When God looks at us, He sees us through the blood stained garments of Jesus. He doesn’t do what He should to us because Jesus keeps playing “keep away” with God!

Lest we have forgotten, God is no punk. He’s not here to play games on Sunday (or Saturday, if that’s your practice). He is cut throat, vengeful, angry, wrathful, and passes judgment at His discretion. Why? Because He’s holy and wants us to be holy as well. He wants to have a well-balanced relationship with us that brings pleasure to both parties. He’s not down for a one-sided venture to eternity; He wants us to walk with Him.

Now wait, does this mean we walk around in all white, sacrificing goats or living like the Old Testament law says? Absolutely not. However, there is something to be said about honoring Him  in the most sacred place of all: our hearts.

A friend mentioned that he was growing tired of so many preachers presenting no balance to the grace message, sending folks on their way with rose-tinted glasses that God is pleased with our mediocrity and that how we feel rules over God’s expectations. Forget yo’ feelings: God wants your heart!

In light of the monstrous storm battering the northeast, many have said that the storm is a “sign of judgment” from God. We need to “get right!”, they say.

I love what Stephen Prothero from CNN’s Religion Blog had to say about this “judgment”:

“As for me, I am less sure about what God wills for our storms (political or otherwise). In my view, any God worth worshiping isn’t going to be so predictable, or so capricious… When it comes to storms like Sandy, I just don’t believe in a God who drowns black babies in Haiti yet refuses to drown out the voices of cranky white men who claim so irreverently to speak in His name.”

God isn’t some faux wizard behind the smoke and mirrors of the “Great and Powerful Oz” using switch levers and buttons controlling this earth… at least I don’t think so. We can’t say one way or the other if the things that occur in the earth that bring destruction and death are “God’s doing.”

What we can say is that He’s still desperately seeking for our hearts to turn back to Him and will go at any lengths to get them back.

Yes, God passes judgment on us. Yes, He allows the enemy to come in and wreak havoc until we get our minds back on track. Sometimes we recover, sometimes we don’t. I am reminded as I go through this Seminary experience, though: It’s dangerous to teach grace without teaching judgment. Have you ever met a kid that was never punished for anything? They’re brats. And the absolute worst.

I’m at the place where I’m seeing and learning that God is really desperate for us. He’s revealed Himself to us in ways that we can’t fathom, given to us in ways we don’t deserve. Building relationship with Him is something He wants. His desperation for us exudes from every crevice of this earth.

Grace and judgment: what a dynamic duo.

On the “don’t-cast-your-judgment-on-me, I’m-working-on-my-relationship-with-you” Chase,

Alisha L.

The Right Moment

The number 30.

In our world, turning 30 years old holds so much weight. That number serves as the marker of success; we’ve been told all of our lives that there are certain things that should be in place before you turn 30. Owning a home, moving up in your career, getting married and having kids are just a few.

I, too, believed that I was supposed to reach this pinnacle of “success” by the time I turned 30. In reality, I’m nowhere close. I live at home with my mom, I’m technically unemployed, and I don’t even have a prospect for marriage , let alone have someone in the picture to take me on a date. I’m sky-high in student loan debt, and I’m becoming a college student all over again in just a couple of weeks.

My life looks nothing like I thought it would at 30.

But I am in the right moment.

You see,the number 30 is the number that denotes the perfection of divine order, the right moment, dedication. (source)

30 is the indicator that something is beginning when it should, taking its rightful place in the world, a new level of commitment to goals and aspirations.

Jesus was 30 years old when he entered His ministry. (Luke 3:23)

David was 30 years old when he became king of Israel (2 Samuel 5:4)

Joseph was 30 years old when he began ascending the ranks in Pharaoh’s house. (Genesis 41:46)

The years prior to age 30 served as moments where these individuals learned valuable lessons that propelled them into their divine moment. It was the years that came after age 30 that set them apart and created a long-lasting legacy in the earth.

Too much are we consumed with not having all that society says we should have by age 30. What I’ve come to realize is that the greatest opportunity for us to have all that we desire comes after the 30, not before.

I was talking to a friend yesterday about the pressures (socially or self-imposed) that we face as we turn 30. We both agreed that we want the money, homes, cars, career success, and happy love life, and more often than not, we want it sooner than we can really handle it.

The final conclusion was this: God wants us to have all of those aforementioned things, however, acquiring them takes a little longer than what we’d like. Why? Think of it this way: the longer a tree is planted in the ground, the longer its branches become and the deeper its roots grow. God’s process forces our roots to grow extremely deep before acquiring too much — this way, when the proverbial storms of life come, we aren’t toppled over by a little wind and rain. Society’s way of giving us the same desires doesn’t allow for our roots to grow very deeply. We’re like saplings in a hurricane, quickly snapped in two by the weight of our desires.

This revelation has taken the pressure off in many ways! You may look at your life and say, “I don’t have xyz yet… and it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen by age 30.” Trust me, it’s okay. This is just a time for your roots to grow deeper!

I’m looking forward to turning 30. I’m running towards it with arms outstretched because I know this is my right moment. I don’t find it coincidental that a week and a half after I turn 30 I’ll begin seminary at Emory University. I’m no Jesus, but turning 30 and entering ministry is quite a parallel. God is so funny.

Those who are reading this probably cover the entire spectrum: successful and happy before 30, still finding your way post 30, and many more. If things aren’t looking quite like you’d like them, it’s okay — let those roots grow deeper and branches expand a bit. You’re in the right moment. You’ll see.

On the Chase,

Alisha L.