Obedience Problem = Love Problem

I have shared previously that I am working through Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God , authored by Henry Blackaby, Richard Blackaby, and Claude King. One concept I am pondering is the repeated assertion that…

If you have an obedience problem, you have a love problem.” ~ Experiencing God

The authors cite multiple Bible verses to support this statement, including the following:

If you love me, keep my commands.” ~ John 14:15

Throughout the Bible, obedience and love for God are intertwined. If you love God, you’ll do what He says to do. If you don’t do what God says to do, that’s evidence of a lack of love for Him. In our humanity, we try to make things more complex, but the Bible says it’s really that simple: If you love God, you’ll do what He says to do. If you don’t love God, you won’t. And that’s why the authors says that if you have a problem with obeying God, then you have an issue with loving God.

Like most people, I struggle with obedience. At the end of the day, I want to do what looks good to me. However, as I have been pondering with my series on the enormity of God, I have a limited perspective, so what I view as “good” or “bad” from my teeny tiny sliver of space and time might be very off-base from the perspective of everywhere and “everywhen.” Note that I have included no mention of love in my explanation for my desire to do things the way that look good to me.

To see the connection between obedience and love, I must believe that God’s Word is true – that my willingness to obey God reflects my love for Him while my refusal to obey Him reveals my lack of love. From my teeny tiny sliver in space and time, I don’t see that connection, but the Bible says it is true. However, I do see that doing what **I** want keeps me focused on myself rather than on God, which does point to a lack of love.

While I might not fully grasp the connection between love and obedience, I have found that it’s easier to obey God out of a motivation of love. For example, when I was in the early stages of forgiving my child abusers, I prayed, “I hate my abusers, but I love you more. Help me forgive them out of love for You.” When I focus on my love for God rather than on myself, I find it much easier to obey Him.

Cover of Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God. Courtesy Amazon.

God Knows More Than My Name

u_get_meA recurring theme in Contemporary Christian music is that God knows my name. Whenever I hear that lyric, I think, “Thank goodness that’s not all He knows!”

For people who feel disconnected from God, I’m guessing it’s reassuring to hear that God knows your name. However, I think about the many people whose names I know but who I don’t know a thing about other than what the tabloids tell me, much of which is likely untrue. And then the things that really matter about those people aren’t going to make it into the tabloids. Only their closest friends will know the information that really matters, and some of the most important information might not even be shared with them. So, yeah, I know their names, but I don’t know them.

Contrast this with the knowledge that God has of you:

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6-7

Even I don’t know how many hairs I have on my own head, but God does. That’s a level of caring that I don’t even have about myself!

Yes, I love that God knows my name, but I love even more that He understands the way I tick, which is something I don’t fully understand myself. Thanks to the child abuse, my brain developed differently from a “normal” brain, causing me to react differently than other people to particular stimuli. As I have healed from the child abuse, I have grown to understand some of my triggers (thanks to flashbacks), but others continue to perplex me. However, God is not perplexed. He knows exactly why I think and do what I think and do, and He loves me through it all.

I love that I have a God who knows me intimately … who knows where I have been, am now, and where I am going … who knows exactly what I need … who completely understands my peculiarities that I don’t understand about myself … and who loves me completely exactly as I am, even knowing me that intimately. Love like that is transforming and runs far deeper than simply knowing my name.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with her hands on her heart below the words, “U Get Me.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Servant Evangelism

I recently read the book, Servant Evangelism: Showing and Sharing Good News, and was pleasantly surprised. Let me start by making a confession – the word “evangelism” gives me the heebie jeebies. I envision people standing on street corners waving their Bibles around, asking me if I’m “saved,” and threatening me with the fires of hell if I am not. While I am sure that many of the people who do this mean well, it’s a real turnoff to me. My decision to surrender my life to Christ was a HUGE turning point that wasn’t going to happen because someone “threatened” me while I was walking down the street.

Servant evangelism is a very different form of evangelism. In a nutshell, it combines random acts of kindness with sharing God’s love. As an example, hold a free car wash and refuse to accept donations. When people ask why, say, “God has been so good to me that I want to pay it forward” … or something else that communicates that your love for God is your motivation for the random act of kindness. Another example is giving out free light bulbs with the message, “For more light, visit our church” affixed to the box.

I actually saw this in action when I was visiting the beach. I was walking for exercise past a church during worship service hours, and people were giving away free bottles of water with a verse about Jesus being the living water and the church’s name and address on a label on the bottle. There was no “sell” involved. They didn’t want money for the water bottles, and they did not try to make me feel guilty for exercising instead of being in church. If I had asked about God, I’m sure they would have been happy to share with me, but I simply said thank you and continued pushing my son in his stroller, and they did not attempt to detain me.

The beauty of this form of evangelism is that it meets people where they are. If God has already been softening someone’s heart, this provides a wonderful opportunity for that person to ask questions about your faith. However, if someone’s heart is not in a place to “hear the good news,” it simply plants a seed. Perhaps years later, when God starts drawing the person to Himself, s/he will remember receiving that free bottle of water and visit that church.

I know that the Great Commission applies to me, just as it does to all Christians, but I have always been leery about “Bible thumping” as a means to do it. I love the simplicity of the idea of servant evangelism, which meets people right where they are, shining God’s love into people’s lives without a “hard sell.”

[Graphic: Cover of the book, Servant Evangelism: Showing and Sharing Good News. Courtesy Amazon.]

God is “EveryWHEN”

whenI just completed a series on God being everywhere, which got me thinking about how God is also “everyWHEN” – that God is not limited by time. Those of you who were blessed with scientific brains might be thinking, “Duh!,” but I was not blessed with such a brain, so bear with me. I never took a Physics course. My science-challenged brain has a difficult time wrapping around the concept of God existing outside of the confines of time and space.

Rich Mullins wrote the following lyrics in his song, Nothing is Beyond You:

Time cannot contain You. You fill eternity.”

This helps me apply what I have been processing about God being everywhere to His transcendence of time. Just as God is “too big” to be contained by space, He is also “too big” to be contained by time. My linear mind has trouble grasping this concept. I’ll probably have to spend a lot of time meditating on this reality to even begin to get this. Just writing this paragraph is making my non-scientific brain cramp!

If I could truly grasp and believe that God exists outside of time, I would find it so much easier to trust Him with my future because He already sees it and is already there! He’s not just a good guesser or playing the odds that the suffering I am experiencing today is likely to produce a harvest in the future. He KNOWS this because He is already there looking at that harvest. My poor brain cannot process this!

This is one reason why God wants me living in the present. When I envision the future, it’s often without God’s presence, which is not possible because He is already there. I’ll worry that X, Y, or Z might happen and construct contingency plans for how I will deal with those issues if they arise, but my worry excludes the presence of God. I’ll never experience one second of my life without God, which makes worry a complete waste of time.

This is not a topic that I’ve been pondering yet – I’m still working on wrapping my mind around God being everywhere – so I don’t have much to say about it. At this point in my journey, I have more questions than answers, but I can see how I could much more easily rest in God’s provision by resting in the reality that God is “everyWHEN.”

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding a pocket watch under the word, “When?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

A Lesson in Humility

airplane_take_offContinued from here.

I continued my meditation on the enormity of God as I flew to visit a friend out of state. As I looked out the airplane’s window, I considered the reality that God fills all of this space! He fills the plane, the atmosphere as far up as I could see, all the way down to the earth thousands of feet below, and every house peppering the landscape below.

And that was only as far as I could see! In that moment, He was also surrounding the Alps in Switzerland, the tropical fish at the Great Barrier Reef, and the penguins in Antarctica. Our God is truly massive!

Then, I thought about myself in comparison. I was taking up this little sliver is space in the middle seat of one airplane, wedged between my son and a stranger. The God of the Universe is EVERYWHERE, and I’m in this teeny tiny space. So, why do I often act as if the world revolves around me?

When I consider the mammoth size of God (actually, He makes a mammoth look teeny tiny), how distorted is my world view when I behave as if the world is supposed to cater to my desires? How could I possibly have any expectation that the rest of the world should defer to my whims?

And then consider my arrogance in trying to bend God to my will. How dare I tell God that He should do X, Y, and Z when my perspective is so severely limited. He sees EVERYTHING while I cannot even see through the seat of the person sitting in front of me on an airplane. How ludicrous of me to presume to know better than God how my life should go.

In my humanity, my own comfort often fills the frame of my perspective: what I want, need, or desire. So, what I view as “good” or “bad” is based on this teeny tiny sliver of space that I inhabit. Only God sees the whole picture. Only He is in the position to know what is truly “good” or “bad” because He sees the needs of EVERYONE. And He is good, so He cares.

C.S. Lewis said,

True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

When I think about the enormity of our God – that He is, quite literally, EVERYWHERE, I am deeply humbled as I take my eyes off myself and place them onto my God, where they belong.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace waving through an airplane window above the words, “Ready for take off.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

No Longer a Victim

heartsContinued from here.

I cannot remember who said this (probably Joyce Meyer or Beth Moore): we live what we believe, not what we know. I knew that I had on the Armor of God, but I believed I was a victim. Thus, I behaved as a victim rather than a warrior, metaphorically cowering in my church’s parking lot like a wounded child rather than standing up and fighting, using the Armor of God.

My problem was believing that God is distant, with the Holy Spirit being my “walkie talkie” lifeline to Him. I saw the world as an unsafe place, with God always with me in more of a long distance way … like a Skype relationship rather than a face-to-face one. Through His book The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God, Williard has blown this lie to smithereens!

Willard points out that God is located everywhere, viewing the most beautiful places and hearing the most beautiful sounds of the world while also surrounding me. Because of this reality, I have complete access to unbounding love, joy, and peace at all times. This is the truth that Jesus knew, enabling Him to be joyful despite also being a man of suffering and pain.

To help me process this reality, I have been seeking to view the world through spiritual eyes, recognizing that no matter where my eyes look, the God who created the universe is there. Whether I look up to the cloud or stars, down into a valley, or as far as I can see over the ocean, He is there. This means there’s nowhere I can go without being surrounded by boundless love, joy, and peace. This makes this world a safe place, regardless of what my past experience has been.

This also means that the vast majority of this world is filled with God. There are only pockets of places that aren’t, which are inhabited by people who choose to reject God. They are the masters of their own space, and when they congregate, they create a bigger bubble of rebellion against God. However, compared to the enormity of the earth – the mountains, oceans, and everything in between, they are a small percentage of this world. Even when I am in their presence, the God who created the heavens and earth is both around me and in me, so I am never in an “unsafe” place. Where there is God, there is limitless love, joy, and peace for the asking.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace surrounded by hearts. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Living in a Safe World Because of the Presence of God

god_is_biggerContinued from here.

I have been sharing my journey of processing something I learned in Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God. Willard talks about the reality that God is located everywhere simultaneously, which has profound meaning when you truly consider the implications of this truth.

I ended my last blog entry by saying that the only part of this earth that isn’t filled with the presence of God is people – all those who remain separated from Him by their own choice. I said this has deep implications for someone like me, who was severely abused in childhood and grew up viewing this world as an unsafe place. Let me elaborate on what I mean by this.

The Bible tells us that Jesus was a man of suffering who was familiar with pain. I never think of Jesus in this way because he was so joyful. (See Luke 10:21 and Heb. 12:2.) How could Jesus be both a man of suffering & pain AND a man of joy?

Willard says that Jesus was joyful because he saw the world through spiritual eyes. He knew the world was a safe place because it was filled with God.

Being fearful of living in an unsafe world has been my state of being for my entire life. When the illusion of safety is stripped away from you as a young child through people doing things to your body and spirit that should never be done, you grow up believing that the world is an unsafe place. This shapes your personality, putting you always “on your guard” – always looking for ways to protect yourself through either fight or flight. In other words, you grow into an adult with a victim mentality.

But God does not want us living our lives through victim’s eyes. He has made us victorious through Jesus, and He wants us approaching life through the eyes of a victor, not a victim.

God gave me a powerful visual of this a few years ago. I was falling prey to my tendency toward viewing myself as a victim, and God gave me a picture of myself cowering like a small child in my church’s parking lot while wearing the Armor of God. I clearly had everything I needed to be victorious in a fight, but I was behaving like the helpless abused child I was rather than the Warrior of God that I am.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Photograph of a wooden plaque that says, “God is bigger.” Courtesy Grace Daniels.]