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What’s Love Got To Do With It

We recognize that the nature of God is love. He is guided by His affections and thoroughly resolved to pursue relationship with us. The relationship He desires is one of love, not of mutual need. The Scriptures indicate that God seeks us because He loves us, not because He needs us. John 3:16 does not say, “For God so needed the world, that He sent His only begotten Son.” Neither does it say, “For the world so needed God, that he sent His only Son.” Instead it says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” God’s motivation for interaction with mankind has always been love, not need. ~ Victoria Brooks

I think we bring some element of need (no matter how small or how much we try not to) to every relationship in which we’re emotionally invested. It’s our nature. The ability to be wholly loving without need is remarkable and lies solely within His realm. It’s His nature. God would only be a god, not the God, if His love was predicated on our need.

John 3:16 is probably the one Bible verse most folks are familiar with, if not from church, from road signs and banners and bumper stickers. While familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt (Aesop), it often breeds dispassion. Victoria’s right. The verse doesn’t say: For God so needed the world and it doesn’t even say: For the world so needed God (although that’s often how I think of it).

The message is simple. For God so loved the world… We seek God because we need Him. It’s our nature. Our love comes along after we’ve addressed our need. But God seeks us because He loves us. It’s His nature. In order to really appreciate and appropriate God’s grace and mercy, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I need Him but He doesn’t need me. He just flat-out loves me.

It began as a love story and it will still be a love story after the final page is turned.

Missing the Message

This is our reason for living. Here, on this side of the grave, in full view of Satan and his forces and of God and His angels, we are clothed in our eternal mandate. It is here and now, while the darkness grows stronger and faith is still necessary, that we must embrace our fundamental function: We were brought into being to engage God’s heart, not just to meet man’s need.  ~ Victoria Brooks

Designed to engage God’s heart, not just to meet man’s need. What a radical and terrifying concept. I’d always thought that was how I engaged God’s heart, by meeting people’s needs.

When I first read these words I was lost. I knew how to meet needs. I had no idea how to minister to the heart of One Who has no need.

It was as if I’d spent my life speed-reading through the Gospels where Jesus said: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.

And, instead, I’d been skipping right to the next verse. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Somehow, somewhere, I’d decided to love God by loving my neighbor instead of loving my neighbor because I loved God with all my heart and soul and mind.

I’d missed the Message. It is here and now, while the darkness grows stronger and faith is still necessary, that we must embrace our fundamental function: We were brought into being to engage God’s heart, not just to meet man’s need.

My Restless Heart

Without warning, I was trapped in the book of Ecclesiastes. All was vanity. I found myself absentmindedly repeating the words again an again: “There must be more. Surely we were born for something more. More than waking in order to work, working in order to eat, eating and sleeping or order to wake and work again. More than graduating to have a career, marrying to have children so they could eventually graduate, work, marry and have children of their own.

The cycle of survival wasn’t enough. I already knew Jesus as my Lord and Savior… what more could there be? I hadn’t merely inherited my faith in God. I had searched and struggled, scrapped and clawed my way to a living walk with Him. I still sensed there was more. ~ Victoria Brooks

More. Have you felt it, too? Have you longed for more, not only when things are going wrong, but when everything is very right?

In quiet moments of prayer and meditation, and in joyful moments of worship and fellowship and blessing; even then, I carried with me the sense that there was more.

More than waking in order to work, working in order to eat, eating and sleeping or order to wake and work again. More than graduating to have a career, marrying to have children so they could eventually graduate, work, marry and have children of their own.

Like Victoria, I’d grown up with and into my faith. It was real. I wasn’t looking for a moment or an experience or a feeling. I wasn’t actively looking at all. Still, I could feel a tentative tug at the hem of my heart. Was there more?

I kept coming back to the words of Augustine.

You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

My heart was restless. I realized that I’d confused contentment with complacency and my version of abiding was biding time until heaven.

Would it do? Yes. Was there more? Yes.

I began a journey that, by its nature, requires there be no ending this side of home. It was, and is, a journey of grace. Thank you for traveling with me.

WWJD

God does the healing work necessary in a peculiar way. He doesn’t just expose the wound, He moves into it – to live there. This is His pattern, Jesus gave the lepers, harlots, tax collectors, Samaritans, and Romans – in fact any of the social outcasts and hated enemies of His day – the one thing no one else would give them: Himself. He came to their homes, their parties, their weddings. He healed their children and drank their wine. What did he do with the untouchable people? He touched them. How did he behave with people whose touch the temple leaders said would defile Him – harlots, for instance? He welcomed their touch. Did He welcome them secretly? No. Openly, publicly.  ~Victoria Brooks

These days, we talk a lot about what Jesus would do. We wear the reminder on our bumper stickers and arms and message boards. WWJD. What Would Jesus do.

God only knows. I can tell you what we often do. We don’t touch, we bolt the door. There are places for those kind of people. The ones we, who so often claim to speak for the heart of God, deem untouchable. We send them away to get a cure and and a haircut and then, when they’re like us, then maybe they can join of us.

I can’t say What Jesus Would Do, but I can certainly see what He did. He touched the untouchables. He didn’t call them untouchable. He called them His children.

I think we should change our lettering to WDJD. What Did Jesus Do.  Jesus gave the lepers, harlots, tax collectors, Samaritans, and Romans – in fact any of the social outcasts and hated enemies of His day – the one thing no one else would give them: Himself. He came to their homes, their parties, their weddings. He healed their children and drank their wine…

Maybe it’s time to stop picketing, protesting, speculating and shunning and to time to start touching.

Time to Fry Some Fish

Jesus is not only unafraid of what ails us; He has every intention of healing it. He does this by entering the place of our greatest shame and making it His home. He fights us tooth and nail to get to the very thing we most want to hide – our anguished, silent aloneness, our terrible fear of the darkness within us. Then, once He arrives at the deepest part of our darkness and shame, He unpacks His bags and sets up His tent. He makes a fire and fries some fish. He feeds us and talks to us. In the place of our deepest wounding, He give us words. ~ Victoria Brooks

In the dark early morning hours, every day of the week you can watch reruns of Tales from the Darkside. It’s kind of a cheesy version of The Twilight Zone. The predictable element in each episode of each series was the plot twist at the end. You’re probably familiar with the musical intro from The Twilight Zone. Tales from the Darkside started out with pictures of lovely scenery, interrupted by the foreboding voice of the narrator:

Man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality. But… there is, unseen by most, an underworld, a place that is just as real, but not as brightly lit… a Darkside.

It’s a bit of old-fashioned horror. We’re  much more sophisticated than we were in 1959 and 1983 when these programs premiered. They don’t scare us anymore. We’ve all seen reality that’s much more frightening than fantasy.

While we may not be afraid of what’s on TV, there’s still a darkside that scares us. Long before the closing credits roll, He arrives at the deepest part of our darkness and shame, He unpacks His bags and sets up His tent.

And now comes the plot twist: no condemnation, no shame, no guilt. Instead, He feeds us and talks to us. In the place of our deepest wounding, He give us words.

I don’t know what’s on your menu, but here in my heart, it’s time to fry some fish.

Billboard Theology – John 3:16

We recognize that the nature of God is love. He is guided by His affections and thoroughly resolved to pursue relationship with us. The relationship He desires is one of love, not of mutual need. The Scriptures indicate that God seeks us because He loves us, not because He needs us. John 3:16 does not say, “For God so needed the world, that He sent His only begotten Son.” Neither does it say, ” For the world so needed God, that He sent His only Son.” Instead it says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, what whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

God’s motivation for interaction with mankind has always been love, not need. This statement may appear heretical; it can sound as if our need is unimportant and therefore gets passed over. Not at all. The very opposite is at work.  Love is stronger than need (indeed it is stronger than death). Love encompasses our need and not only meets it but also dismantles it. It is the most powerful force for freedom that exists, “for the greatest of these is love.”  ~Victoria Brooks

John 3:16.  It’s plastered on billboards and placards and church sign boards and bumper stickers.  I know the words so well that I forget to think about them. It’s an unconscious arrogance: I get that one, let’s move on to something meaty. But I have to wonder if I really do ‘get that one’?

Have you seen the movie What About Bob? Bill Murray stars as Bob, the neurotic, obsessive-compulsive patient of an egotistical psychiatrist (Richard Dryfus). One of the memorable moments in that movie was Bob’s insistent: Gimme. Gimme. Gimme. I Need. I Need. I Need.

Sounds a little like the way I approach God sometimes. Sounds a little like the way I approach others sometimes. Love encompasses our need and not only meets it but also dismantles it. Makes me think I may be overdue for some dismantling.

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