Transforming Our Love For God

If we're not careful, we love God transactionally, not relationally. Our love for God begins to resemble something that looks like a checklist. • As a teenager, I understood "love for God" as being about my church attendance and bible study and ability to pray regularly. My relationship to (not with) God was based on obedience and my ability to transact with God by making "payments" of obedience which he accepted. • In no other relationship do we limit ourselves to just a couple ways of relating. Our marriages would not last very long if we limited ourselves to a few minutes of conversation each day combined with a whole hour on a weekend. • When we feel guilty for not reading the bible as it sits on our shelf but we pick up a magazine; when we rush out of our house to attend worship out of fear of God but we'd rather be on the beach; when we find ourselves struggling with cultural or biblical morality and fearing that God is angry with us; when we think about things this way, we are thinking about God transactionally. It is a relating to God, not a relationship with God. What if loving God is more about giving back to him through praise and worship than about logging another weekly visit to the church building in obedience to him? What if loving God is more about desire for God? What if love for God is more about listening to him in scripture than in learning about him? What if love for God was more about creating space for God, being conformed to his image, and learning to listen to him than about doing things that were done to gain his favor? We need to refocus on building our relationship with God (and in some cases, rebuilding it from the ground up). We need to actively love God in an ongoing way. Relationships are hard, but Jesus teaches us that our highest goal in life is to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind (Luke 10:25-28). In other words, we need to relate to God with our entire being. This goes far beyond making small payments to God a couple times a day and then once a week on Sunday. It requires us to reorganize our lives around God, loving him and growing in our love for him. The best way to do so is through personal spiritual disciplines that teach us about God, let us listen to God, and allow us to give back to God. Spiritual practices are very useful for this, but not as a way to transact business with God (the checklist approach). We need to reform and reshape our understanding of spiritual practices away from transactionalism to relationalism. Spiritual practices create the space for God to teach us and lead us and for us to hear him, learn, and love him. Let's look at the traditional "big three" spiritual practices--bible reading, prayer, and worship--to see how we can be transformed by them when we use them to relate with God, not to God. In bible reading, you learn about God and how God desires you to be transformed. • Bible reading is often seen as a chore, boring, and difficult. • But if you read the bible with the right frame of mind, you will learn about God and how God desires for you to be transformed. It is not a magical approach, but a

© 2010 Jeremy Hoover / www.jeremyhoover.com / jeremy@jeremyhoover.com

discipline that takes time and a willingness to keep reading even when it seems you are not learning (you are). Start reading today...this afternoon or evening. Maybe you aren't reading enough? Instead of reading one chapter only, spend 30 minutes or an hour reading the bible. Read an entire book. Stop to think or write notes. Reread the same portion for several days. Do what you learn. If you like fiction, read one of the narrative books of the bible. If you like poetry, read Psalms or Lamentations. If you like nonfiction, read one of the letters. But start reading, and in your reading, pay attention for God.

In prayer, you listen for God's leading and receive guidance to be transformed. • Much miscommunication about prayer exists around us. People write books and teach about prayer as though it was a magic portal and if we just claim things or ask "with enough faith" we can manipulate God into doing what we want. • But in the bible, the primary understanding of prayer is that we listen for God's leading and receive guidance from him. Jesus taught us an example of both regularity in prayer (in solitude) and prayer at critical and important moments in life and ministry. Two examples are: Luke 5:16 and 6:12-13. • Start praying. Rather than running through a list all the time (which is important but is not the only method of prayer), simply listen in prayer. Be quiet. Pay attention to the important things that come to mind. Pray about your bible reading. In worship, you give glory back to God by praising him and by living the fruit of your transformation (corporate, public worship and sacrificial living). • Because of our heritage, worship may be the most misunderstood ways of being in relationship with God. We typically view worship very transactionally, even boiling it down to five (exactly and only five) essential requirements. To do this drastically reduces the purpose of worship to merely a checklist. Worship is where we give back to God from the fruit of our lives. • We give back in two ways: worship in praise and awe when we gather together; and worship in service when we submit our lives to God and allow him to change us into sacrificial servants (Romans 12:1-2). Both are important and vital and both will transform us. • Begin to worship God in all the ways he provides for us and be transformed. Together, the practice of these will help us love God and begin to transform us. • Loving God, not doing things, is what is most important here. We're transformed when we allow spiritual practices to open our minds, hearts, and lives to God and when we respond to him in relationship. • This will likely require a simplification of things and a reordering of your priorities. • This is the beginning of the journey. Next week we'll add another piece.

© 2010 Jeremy Hoover / www.jeremyhoover.com / jeremy@jeremyhoover.com