So, I was talking with God about “The Challenge” and all the joy experiments that we’ll be running together on this blog, and I felt Him impress something quite strongly on my spirit: people need to know who they’ll be meeting.
It’s maybe a little easy for me to take for granted that everybody else on the worldwide web is on the same page as I am when it comes to the goodness and the nature of God because God’s goodness and nature seems so obvious to me. But He started to remind me that not everybody sees Him that way. Not everybody lives with that as their reality. In fact, some people are downright scared of Him and don’t want Him to come near them.
I used to be.
I remember going to church growing up. There was this sign that someone on the church staff put up—probably halfway as joke. It stood near the entrance and said something to the effect of “Turn off your cellphones. Lightning may strike.” I remember hearing a heavy emphasis placed on God’s displeasure with any kind of sin or unrighteousness. It was understood—at least from my perspective—that if you sinned, God was disappointed in you. Angry with you, even. And He did punish. Look at the Israelites. Look at Sodom and Gomorrah. I was terrified to make mistakes. I was terrified lest some unknown sin go unconfessed. I lose track of how many times I prayed “the prayer of salvation” just to make sure I did it correctly and didn’t wind up in the hot place.
It wasn’t as if I never heard “God loves you.” That I heard a lot. But the meaning of “love” got a bit watered down under the weight of how disappointed I felt God was whenever I screwed up. And of course, it was inevitable that I would screw up. (After all, what do you expect from a sinner? Sinners sin. It’s their nature.) I felt more put up with. Tolerated. And actually . . . used. Kind of like:
“Here, I love you enough to get you out of hell and into heaven—after you die—if you believe in Jesus. Okay, now that you do, I’m going to put you to work. Go convert people. The more people you convert, the happier I’ll be with you. But if you miss just one opportunity, I’m going to sic my frowny face on you. Because they’re going to hell, and it’s your fault. Oh, and by the way, you’re still a sinner. Just ‘saved by grace’ now. I kinda expect you to fail.”
Yeah. Way to inspire me . . .
Then one day God told me He liked me.
I remember He had this kinda lady come up to me and say, “Hey, I felt like the Lord was saying He doesn’t just love you; He likes you.” It resonated with me. I knew—I just knew—that what she was saying was true. My ears came open, and I began to hear God speaking true love to me on a regular basis, telling me how much He delighted in me and was pleased with me. And He didn’t stop saying it when I messed up. It became clear to me that His love for me was on 24/7. And it also became clear to me that His love and delighting in me were not dependent on what I did and did not do.
So, WHO exactly am I inviting to show up on this blog?
Mr. I AM.
I am inviting the God who totally OWNS the title and the name SAVIOR. When He saves, it’s not based on human efforts—because it’s really “saving” someone if they have do it—it’s based on His being Him and actually manifesting the very meaning of the word. When He saves, He does it thoroughly and doesn’t go about calling saints “sinners” after the fact.
And He’s not saving us from some multiple personality manifestation of His who wants go all “HULK SMASH!” on everybody just because He likes to power-trip and appear the benevolent dictator when His kind, anemic, nice-guy version of Himself shows up. Typical “bad-cop, good-cop” routine.
No, that is NOT the guy I am inviting.
I am inviting the God who is already here because nothing can exist without Him. The God who’s everywhere. The God who’s madly in love with you. With me. With all of us. Crazy, head-over-heels madly in love. The God Who permanently interwove Himself with humanity in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. (He just overdoes Himself on our behalf. I love it!)
Yeah, I am inviting the Living God.
The One Who embodies true goodness.
The One Who technically doesn’t even need an invitation.
That’s Who you can expect.