August 17, 2020
By David VanEpps
I’d been invited to church dozens of times. However, I didn’t go. I didn’t need to go. I had a plan for my life, and I was executing that plan. It went well for a while, but eventually I hit that point where I was struggling, and my plan wasn’t working very well. I finally decided to give church a shot.
It must have been obvious that I wasn’t a regular, as a woman named Sue approached me, introduced herself, and welcomed me. She pointed me to the coffee and the auditorium doors. I felt welcomed but as I headed into the auditorium, I also felt like I didn’t belong. Church, I thought, is for perfect people. I felt lucky to have not been struck down by a lightning bolt directly from the hand of God, and I felt too damaged to deserve God’s love.
That day, I heard a message that I had heard hundreds of times before. The difference is that each time I’d heard the message previously, it reached my ears. This time it reached my heart.
The teaching was from the book of Hosea. The story is about a man named Hosea and his unfaithful wife named Gomer. The story talks about how Hosea pursues Gomer despite her life of prostitution, running away, and her ongoing indiscretions that would have sent any man running in the opposite direction. Not Hosea. God was working on his heart. He pursued Gomer. He forgave and loved her. No matter what she did, it wasn’t enough to cause Hosea to love her less or pursue her less.
The story of Hosea is a metaphor for how much God loves us. He pursues us and most of all loves us. No matter what we do, it isn’t enough to cause God to love us less or pursue us less.
A Relationship with Jesus
I didn’t know what a relationship with Jesus would look like. But if He loved me so much that He would forgive my past, present, and future sins, I was in. Because He loved me so much that He would pursue me after repeatedly running away, I wanted to follow Him. If Jesus loved me enough to not wait for me to clean up my life, but rather to meet me right then, right there, in my brokenness, then I was in.
We all have character flaws, and we’ve all done things we regret. Many of us think those things have separated us from God’s love. Romans 8:38-39 KJV says otherwise: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” No matter who you are or what you’ve done, nothing can separate you from the love of God.
Surrender and build that relationship with Jesus. Start with these four simple concepts:
Pray – you don’t need to have big words or formality, just a conversation with God. If you’re scared, just say “Hey God, it’s me. I’m scared and would love your help.” If you’re happy, say “Thank you God, I’m so grateful.” You can even just chat as if Jesus were sitting next to you having a conversation. Tell Him what’s on your mind and heart.
Read – spend time in the Bible. If this is new to you, it doesn’t have to be big, formal, or scary. Many popular Bible apps have reading plans you can follow. Whatever you do, please don’t try to read it cover-to-cover. If you use a hardcopy Bible, maybe start by reading the book of John or the book of Matthew. Those are great starting points that share the heart of Jesus. The book of James is a great place to seek advice for everyday life.
Apply – take your prayers and Bible readings and apply them to your daily life. When you come across a situation where you’re scared or don’t know what to do, apply God’s word. You can pray, recall scripture, or search the Bible for verses about the situation. In all aspects of life, bring God and His word into the picture.
Listen – open your ears to hear God’s voice. It will likely not be a big, booming, audible voice. However, you will often feel a nudge to do something, and when that nudge is aligned with God’s word, there’s a good chance it is coming from God. The hard part of listening is that it’s an active verb–you must take some time, be quiet, and allow God to speak to you.
God knows you. He knows your heart, character, and behavior. Despite this, He loves you more than you can ever imagine, and He wants more than anything to be in relationship with you. He’s willing to meet you where you are, in your brokenness, to begin this journey. It is a gift – will you receive it?