Friday, December 28, 2012

Love Stretches Out the Good Stuff

Do you remember, as a kid, trying to start Christmas early.  And stretching Christmas as far past December twenty fifth as you could get away with?  I know I did.  We’re kind of doing that, here, this year.  Last week, I treated myself to a copy of Bob Goff’s Love Does.  It’s a great book and I want to share my thoughts on it.  You may have noticed one of Bob’s quotes on our masthead.  And, for that reason, you’d be right if you thought I was prejudiced in favor of what Bob had to say.  But with good reason.

First, let’s talk about the author.  If you’ve ever met one of those people who constantly glow with an enthusiasm that can only come from God, that’s Bob Goff.  At least the written Bob Goff.  I suspect meeting him in person would be more of the same, only torqued up at least several more notches.  I first discovered Bob when someone I was following on Twitter retweeted a couple of his tweets.  My immediate thought was that this was a man who knows God.  And I was struck by the fact that Bob has a unique perspective on God and his relationship with God.  That perception hasn’t changed.

Love Does is one of those books that are hard to categorize.  It’s part doctrinal, part anecdotal, and part devotional.  There are 31 chapters, which makes it good for a one month reading plan.  There are a couple of chapters where it seems more like lessons learned in life than about what he learned about Jesus and his relationship with Him.  Most are clearly about growing closer to Jesus and learning to think like Him.  While those chapters don’t include Scripture verses or references, each of those have such recognizable examples that none of us should have a problem finding the Bible passages.

The book has an interesting style.  Each chapter has a two line synopsis, so you know what’s coming.  It’s in the format of “I used to….” and “but now I know….”.  The chapters always begin with personal anecdotes about an example in Bob’s life that illustrates the thing he learned.  Sometimes he tells about himself and, sometimes, he tells on himself.  But always with a humor that will keep you smiling or chuckling.  The style is perfect for what each chapter does.  The reader is disarmed by the relaxed humor and, before you realize it, Bob’s gotten you right between the eyes with some fresh insight and you’ve learned something new – effectively and painlessly.

In a sense, Bob Goff’s writing could be called folksy.  Not in the sense of being unpolished.  Rather, he speaks plainly and aims for his target, every chapter.  Sure, he likes to pop a few surprises in.  But the goal of each chapter is already in his sights from word one.  It’s intended to make you think and make you draw closer to God.  One of my favorite stories is his courtship of “Sweet Maria”.  Another is the sailboat race to Hawaii.  I’ll leave those for you to read.

There were some things in the book that I definitely disagree with.  The first is Bob saying he didn’t like the analogy of sin being equated to missing the mark.  It’s not an analogy.  It’s how the word was defined and used at the time the Bible was written.  Reading a few sentences further, it turns out that what really disturbs Bob Goff is the people who abuse that definition and truth to impose a guilt trip on people and who misrepresent God as always being angry, instead of wanting to guide everyone toward Himself and His love.  And, yes, we mess up all the time.  But it's the sin, not the sinner that upsets God.  The kind of people that turn Bob Goff off have obviously missed the point of Jesus coming to earth.  And they’ve missed how great a love God has for us to send His Son for us sinners.  Yes, all of us.

Bob Goff seems to have an undercurrent of aversion for normal Bible studies and, perhaps, church services.  He said he feels like a God stalker by seeking knowledge about God.  That’s a good thought, as far as it goes.  Because Bob is right.  Seeking knowledge about God is kind of like being a stalker.  You learn only what you want to learn.  And you and your knowledge become the focal point instead of the Person you’re trying to learn about.  But let’s look at that from a different angle.

If you’re interested in developing a relationship with someone who is important to you, don’t you find out as much as possible about that person and their likes and dislikes, so you make sure what you do pleases them?  That’s placing that person above our own interests.  If it’s me being interested in a young lady, I’m going to talk to anyone who can help me understand what pleases her and what she likes.  If I don’t know that she has brown hair and has an allergy to shellfish, I might look for a blonde and try to take her out for a lobster dinner.  Because I didn’t do my homework.

I go after God in the same way.  God doesn’t converse with me vocally.  That leaves me prayer and learning from the Word.  God gave us the Bible to get to know Him.  Unfortunately, the original languages (Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic) are not my native languages.  But it’s the original scriptures that are fully inspired, not translations that lack the precision and depth of the original languages.  Which is why studying the words and the context are equally as important as using verses to leverage action.  If studying a word in the original language shows me a new nuance about the depth of God’s love for me, then I’m not accumulating knowledge, I’m gaining new insight into who God is, how He thinks, and how much He loves me.

Having pointed out those things I disagree with, let me add that my disagreement isn’t with the fact that Bob’s thinking works for him.  But it can come across as being thought of as the only way.  Which is wrong.  And Bob says so, but not as strongly and clearly as he expresses his dislikes and misgivings.  That shouldn’t prevent anyone from reading the book.  

There are some really great insights into how God thinks and how much He loves us.  Bob Goff writes in a way that, when you finish a chapter, you just want to draw closer to God.  To reach out and touch Him because you’ve been touched by Him.  Thanks, Bob.  And thank you, Lord, for using Bob Goff so mightily to touch so many.  Including me.  The good stuff keeps being stretched out further and longer by seeing God through Bob Goff.

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