I’d Like You More If You Were More Like Me

I’d Like You More If You Were More Like Me (Tyndale, 2017)

Pastor and author John Ortberg titles his latest book I’d Like You More If You Were More Like Me: Getting Real About Getting Close.  Although we crave intimacy, it remains a scary concept for a lot of people.  Therefore, intimacy cannot be coerced.  For God desires connection, not compliance.  Thus, the building blocks of intimacy consist of shared experiences that build meaningful connections.  This requires the essential elements of time and presence.  In other words, intimacy is a big feeling built on small moments.  Details matter.  And while the spiritual nature of God’s presence at first seems like a barrier to intimacy, God’s spiritual nature actually makes intimacy with Him deeper than with anyone else.

Vulnerability, Pastor Ortberg observes, drives us to attachment, to intimacy.  In moments of temptation, of aloneness, we make the choices that uniquely shape our character.  Yet, only God’s big enough and strong enough to assure us everything’s OK.  As John states, “Jesus offers to walk with you in the midst of your ordinary life today.”  Jesus continually invites us to connect – and never gives up.  However, our capacity for self-deception know no bounds.  This creates a serious problem with intimacy.  Thankfully, grace secures the foundation of Jesus’ call to more courageous self-awareness.  In addition, His great love for us gives evidence that we’re worthy of love and belonging.

This leads to Romans 12:15, a passage Pastor Ortberg calls “the golden rule of intimacy” – “Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.”  There’s a magic arithmetic in shared experience.  When we share joy, that joy increases.  In contrast, when we share pain, that pain decreases.  So, don’t put sadness in charge of your life.  Rather, take your sorrow to God.  Since Jesus exemplifies the ultimate combination of authority and vulnerability, He offers us ultimate intimacy.  Also, God created us to have great authority and great vulnerability.  It’s not a matter of having one at the expense of the other.  In this process of commitment, we experience a freedom that avoiders never know.

Finally, Pastor Ortberg defines the Deep Down Dark  as “the place where you know you can’t make it on your own.”  In the Deep Down Dark, groaning (complaining to God) in suffering builds intimacy.  On the other hand, grumbling (complaining about God) destroys it.  Furthermore, healing from shame – deeply embedded condemnation – only comes from finding an acceptance greater than our greatest rejection.  As Lewis Smedes writes, we need the “spiritual experience of grace.”  God’s grace readies us to make any statement or take any actions that prevents negativity from escalating out of control.  Intimacy, John asserts, needs “outimacy.”  It needs to overflow in love beyond itself.  This happens in a community that lives and breathes Jesus.

As a result, it’s not a case of  I’d like you more if you were more like me.  As Pastor Ortberg concludes:

“I wonder if he [Jesus] whispers it still.

Just stop.

Be still and know.

Whoever has ears, let them hear: Bring in the love!”

Getting close – love and grace catch us unawares

“No one becomes real without getting close, without being loved.  And love, like grace, sneaks up on us mostly when we’re unaware.”- John Ortberg

“This is real love — not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”- 1 John 4:10 (NLT)

“Once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”- Skin Horse to Velveteen Rabbit

John Ortberg concludes Chapter 14 (the final chapter) of I’d Like You More . . . as he notes that becoming real always comes with a cost.  Thus, becoming real means:

  • risking the fear of others rejecting you
  • losing freedom in order to make promises that allow for relationship
  • everlasting humiliation of the never-ending need for confession
  • letting go of the remote control- and of control in general
  • wrapping your heart around someone else’s well-being

In addition, Pastor Ortberg distinguishes between two types of love.  The first type of love seeks value in what you love.  Something that’s shiny, handsome, expensive, or useful.  However, the second type of love creates value in what you love.  John described that kind of love in 1 John 4:10.

Furthermore, Pastor Ortberg expands the connection between love and intimacy.  He writes:

“God created us to offer love to others because he wants no one to miss out on an intimate connection with him.  He loves the worst person in his world more than you love the best person in yours.  He loves everybody more than you love anybody.”

In conclusion, John stresses, Jesus didn’t become real when He became human.  Rather, Jesus brought a slice of reality to our “fake, phony, phantom world.”  By becoming real to us, Jesus modeled a real human life, making it possible for us to become real.

Today’s question: What Bible verses strengthen you in getting close to Jesus?  Please share.

Coming Monday, January 8th: the annotated bibliography of I’d Like You More If You Were More Like Me

Tomorrow’s blog: “God’s people – a waiting people”

Jesus doesn’t place efficiency above intimacy

“What we see in Jesus is a presence that doesn’t place efficiency above intimacy.  He was perfectly willing to accomplish his tasks more slowly if it meant being with his friends more deeply.”- John Ortberg

John Ortberg concludes Chapter 1 of I’d Like You More . . . as he takes a look at some of the experiences Jesus shared with His disciples.  Even when the weight of the world rested on Jesus’ shoulders, His friends always knew He had time for them.  Thus, today I highlight for of these shared experiences listed by John.

1.  They walked together.  Pastor Ortberg notes that taking walks was the most common thing Jesus did with His disciples.  In fact, John believes Jesus’ invitation to “‘Follow Me” may represent the most life-changing and greatest invitation to intimacy ever  spoken.  Thus, Jesus didn’t talk about obedience, belief, or service.  Those things would follow.  First of all, Jesus simply invited them to go for a walk.

Also, walking is simple, very low cost, and very high connection.  In addition, the New Testament often uses “walking with Jesus” to describe discipleship.

2.  They ate together.  For example, Jesus eagerly desired to share the Lord’s Supper with His disciples, even though He faced imminent death.  What an act of intimacy!

3.  They learned together.  Pastor Ortberg emphasizes that learning, stretching, and growing together blesses relationships.

4.  They did favors for each other. As John explains, kingdom work’s actually about love.  Because, he adds, “If we’re too hurried to love, we’re too hurried period.”

In conclusion, Pastor Ortberg lists three principles that apply whether we seek intimacy with God or with one another:

  • share experiences
  • carve out time
  • be present

So, John encourages, try it.  As a result, you may discover that an ordinary day turns out to become your most intimate day with God yet.

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you avoid placing efficiency above intimacy?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the annotated bibliography of Unseen by Sara Hagerty

Love others sacrificially and boldly

“Only the gospel gives us the security (of union with Christ) to risk reputation and hurt in order to love others sacrificially and boldly.”- Jared C. Wilson

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”- Romans 12:12

Jared Wilson continues Chapter 7 of The Imperfect Disciple with the first three of Nine Irrefutable Laws of Followship.  Furthermore, Pastor Wilson stresses that these laws really are God’s laws – and His promises.

1.  Be Ye Loving.  Left to our own devices, all of us center on our own fulfillment and happiness.  Hence, we’re unable to muster up the energy to love the way we ought to.  In fact, more often than not, we focus on people’s love for us rather than on our love for other people.  Therefore, Pastor Wilson adds:

“Only the gospel orients our love appropriately, because only the gospel reminds us that we are more sinful than we realize . . . and that we are more loved than we know . . .”

2.  Be Ye Joyful.  Although we think of joy as a feeling, Jared notes, the Bible defines joy as “both a command of the law and an implication of the gospel.”  As a result, Jared explains the source of our joy:

“God is not expecting us to muster up happiness in him from the void of some nebulous religions inclinations, from the black hole of our empty emotional reservoir.  He puts the joy inside of us that he demands from us.  What grace!”

3.  Be Ye Peaceful.  Jared notes that the world , set against our peace, wants us desperately afraid.  And the truth is, the author adds, there’s always something to fear.  Also, the more the things of God bore us, the more vulnerable we are to fear when difficulty comes.

However, over time, as we walk with Jesus, we start to see how much He loves us and more of the ways He works in the world.  Jared adds that “the impulse to rest in him becomes more immediate.  The heart’s ‘muscle memory’ toward the gospel gets stronger and quicker.”

Today’s question: What Scriptures empower you to love others sacrificially and boldly?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Impatience – confusion about control”

To neglect communion with God

“Some things may be neglected with but little loss to the spiritual life, but to neglect communion with God is to hurt ourselves where we cannot afford it.”- A. W. Tozer

“May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.  Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”- Ephesians 3:19 (NLT)

In John Eldredge’s foreword to Susie Larson’s book  Your Powerful Prayers, he compares giving up on prayer to a solder laying down his arms in the midst of a firefight.  Prayer, Mr. Eldredge adds, “is something you grow into, something you mature in and get better at over time.”  In addition, John adds that prayer’s far more like learning to drive than sneezing.

Thus, as Ms. Larson notes in her introduction, Jesus wants us to be comfortable with, as well as undone by His great love for us. As a result, God’s love and acceptance of us has everything to do with prayer.  Furthermore, Jesus invites us to:

  • know Him more intimately
  • walk with Him more profoundly
  • trust in His Word more confidently

Most importantly, Ms. Larson exhorts, as we get to know God’s love, our life spills with grace, insight, and power.  The author explains:

“If we want to be powerful in prayer, we must spend our lives learning to accept and embrace how fiercely God loves us.  We must continually stand in awe of the fact that Jesus defeated death and sin for us.  And then from there, live our whole lives in response to what Jesus has already accomplished for us.  This is what it means to stop striving and to know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).”

Today’s question: During your desert, land between time, what circumstances cause(d) you to neglect communion with God?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the new Short Meditation, ”

Tomorrow’s blog: “That place where joy and faith collide”

Love — the resetting of broken bones

“As long as we are on earth, the love that unites us will bring us suffering by our very contact with one another, because this love is the resetting of a Body of broken bones.”- John Ortberg

John Ortberg concludes Chapter 21 of The Me I Want to Be as he talks about the final three ways post-traumatic growth occurs.

2.  Adversity can deepen relationships.  Pastor Ortberg states suffering uniquely softens hearts and deepens friendships.  Also, people experiencing deep grief develop a deeper appreciation for other people.  They wake up to how much other people matter.  John explains the relationship of love and hope to grief.  He writes:

“Love is not simply something to be recovered from.  Hope does not mean returning to happiness as soon as possible.  God comes to us in our grief and shares it.  In that shared grief, we find love.”

When God comes to us in our grief and shares that grief, it starts to mingle ever so slightly with hope.

3.  Adversity can change your priorities about what really matters.  Suffering accentuates the folly of chasing after temporal gods.  As a result, the sufferer vows not to return to their previous way of life once things return to normal.  However, the key to accomplishing change involves an active response to the Spirit’s work.

4.  Adversity points us to the Hope beyond ourselves.  When circumstances look bleak, Pastor Ortberg notes, it’s likely we’ll wonder if anything’s going up.  Yes, John answers, the:

  • chance to trust God in difficult circumstances
  • prospect for modeling hope for a hope-needy world
  • possibility of cultivating a storm-proof faith, because Biblical truths remain unchanged

In conclusion, John notes, God remains in the redemption business.  Therefore, God “specializes in bringing something very, very good out of something very, very bad.”

today’s question: What broken bones has love reset for you?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Dangerously noncompliant in a broken world”

When we live in disconnectedness

“Not only do we suffer when we live in disconnectedness, but then other people whom God place around us get cheated out of the love God intended us to give them (emphasis author’s).”- John Ortberg

“Anyone who does not love remains in death.”- 1 John 3:14

John Ortberg concludes Chapter 16 of The Me I Want to Be as he stresses that God designed us to live in connectedness.  Therefore, to help us avoid slipping into disconnectedness, John takes a look at five gifts connectedness brings.

1.  The Gift of Delighting.  Love involves action more than it involves feeing.  Hence, servanthood marks the circle of connection.  In Galatians 5:13, the apostle Paul urges us to “serve on another humbly in love.”  Thus, we give life to the people we notice- and vice versa.  Also, in that process of self-forgetfulness, our own soul flourishes.

2.  The Gift of Commitment.  Too often, Pastor Ortberg notes, the people most in need of cheers get them the least.  Everyone needs the gift of commitment.  Encouragement requires work.  It doesn’t just happen.  But, connectedness reaps incredible rewards!

3.  The Gift of Love. As of today, name one person in your life who just needs you to look them in the eye and say: I love you.  The Holy Spirit constantly works in us to prompt such expressions of love.  Hence, every moment provides an opportunity to practice a gesture of love.

4.  The Gift of Joy.  Pastor Ortberg observes that, while we know love we joy, we often forget the power contained in joy.  Joy:

  • gives us strength to resist temptation
  • brings the ability to persevere
  • is the Velcro that makes relationships stick
  • gives us energy to love

5.  The Gift of Belonging.  Simply stated, belonging – God’s gift to us.

Today’s question: During your desert, land between time, what sufferings resulted from living in disconnectedness?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Step into openness – stop pretending”

Our capacity for connectedness

“Part of what it means to be made in God’s image is our capacity for connectedness, because god created human beings and then said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18, TLB).’ “- John Ortberg

In Chapter 16 (“Make Life-Giving Relationships a Top Priority”) of The Me I Want to Be, John Ortberg asserts that people nourish your soul.  More than anything else, God uses people to form, or shape, people.  Thus, no interactions between people occur outside of God’s presence.  The Holy Spirit yearns to work personally in every encounter.

Therefore, the word fellowship carriers a much deeper meaning than church basements, punch, and awkward small talk.  Pastor Ortberg defines fellowship as “the flow of rivers of living water between one person and another, and we cannot live without it.”

In fact, John notes, researchers name one specific factor that separates quite happy people from less happy people.  This factor consistently separates the two groups.  That factor, John states, “is the presence of rich, deep, joy-producing, life-changing, meaningful relationships.”  Also, the love of God and other people not only roots us, but also nourishes our souls.

In conclusion, Pastor Ortberg stresses, our capacity for connectedness finds its roots in God making us in His image.  Connectedness roots and establishes us in love (Ephesians 3:17).

Conversely, John notes, connectedness isn’t the same as knowing many people.  For we may have many contacts in many networks, but few, if any friends.

When love’s present in your life, that releases you to truly become yourself.  You-ier!

Today’s question: After your vocation loss, what connections help you persevere and maintain hope?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the new Short Meditation, “A vivid point of light from Scripture” (Crown’s 2,000th post)

Never worry alone – defeating toxic anxiety

“Never worry alone.  One of the most powerful ways to stop the spiral of worry is simply to disclose my worry to a friend.”- John Ortberg

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”- Romans 12:2

John Ortberg concludes Chapter 10 of The Me I Want to Be with two ways to grow out of timidity.

1.  Let love cast out fear.  Toxic anxiety causes us to recycle our negative, self-defeating, persistent thoughts.  Therefore, toxic anxiety prevents us from taking action.  In addition, it paralyzes us.  Hence, Pastor Ortberg suggests several ways to let God’s love cast our fear.  God’s love casts out fear in your body when you are:

  • alone with God
  • pray with a few people
  • read about the life of Jesus
  • sing a hymn or listen to music
  • blessed as the Holy Spirit uses other people to comfort you

John concludes that prayer = the single most fundamental spiritual discipline for putting off anxiety and putting on peace.

2.  Take direct action to face your fear.  Living in peace (a) not only involves our inner thoughts but also (b) flows from what we actually do.  In fact, the Holy Spirit helps us grow in peace as He leads us in circumstances we’re tempted to avoid in fear.  As a result, we need to step out in trust.  Simply hearing messages about God’s care provides insufficient impetus to move forward.

In conclusion, John summarizes why we must place ourselves in the flow of the Spirit:

“There is no way to get the peace of God from our head to the rest of our body besides trusting God enough to directly confront our greatest fear. . . . The Bible and prayer were not given to us as forms of anxiety avoidance.  In the long run, anytime we avoid doing the right thing out of fear, we die a little inside.”

Today’s question: How have you practiced John’s advice to never worry alone?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “A ‘stained-glass’ image of prayer”

The reason to read the Bible

“The reason to read the Bible is not to fulfill a spiritual duty or to gain more knowledge.  It is to jump into the river.”- John Ortberg

“Blessed is the one . . . whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night.”- Psalm 1:1-2

In Chapter 9 (“Feed Your Mind with Excellence”) of The Me I Want to Be, John Ortberg observes that whatever you feed your mind shapes it.  Most importantly, Satan attempts to infiltrate your mind when you’re not looking.  Furthermore, the Evil One tries to distract you from noticing what you’re putting into your mind.

Therefore, Scripture represents one of the greatest gifts God’s given the human race.  Yet, we often turn this gift into a burden.  For example, we question how much we should read the Bible each day.  According to Pastor Ortberg, there’s a much better question: What can you feed your mind with so that it can flourish?

Next, John looks at the phrase “meditates on his law day and night” from Psalm 1:2.  On the surface, those words might sound intimidating, unrealistic, or undesirable.  However, Pastor Ortberg tells us, an old saying states that if you can worry, you can meditate.  In addition, John defines meditating as “simply turning a thought over and over in your mind.”  Thus, you can’t help thinking about what you delight in.

In conclusion, Pastor Ortberg explains what it’s like to delight in the law of the Lord:

“It certainly is something deeper than being thrilled about a bunch of rules in the Bible.  It starts with a vision of being loved by God.  God is way out of my league . . . in the perfection league.  This wonderful God, this mysterious, all-powerful, all-holy God — he loves me!”

Therefore, John believes, the psalmist describes ways to carry thoughts of God’s love and protection into his inner flow.  This makes his whole life richer.

Today’s question: How would you describe your main reason to read the Bible?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the new Short Meditation, “We’ll never walk alone down the Red Sea road”