The Reckless Love of God?

Every now and again a song will come out that takes the Christian world by storm. The latest mega-hit is “Reckless Love.” It’s a good tune. The Bethel version sounds great. I just spent over 40 minutes watching Anthony Brown and a young adult choir doing a more gospel type version of the song and I’m not gonna lie, I felt the Spirit of God as they were singing it.

But I’m a lyrics guy. I’m also theologically minded. So when I hear something in a song that doesn’t quite sit right I tend to focus in on it; sometimes to my detriment. I’m sure everyone knows where I’m going with this. I’m not the first to point it out or discuss it. In fact, John Piper addressed it on his Ask Pastor John podcast a while back. It’s the word “reckless” in the song. Why is it there and how does it function?

I’ve heard various explanations, one being that God will do whatever it takes to get to his people. Okay, that sounds good, and I agree, but does that equate to recklessness? Let’s take the definition that comes up with a simple Google search:

reckless3

Now I want us to think about this for a second… Have you thought about it? Does the God we know, love, and worship fit the description of the adjective “reckless”? Does God act without thinking? Let’s look to a piece of Paul’s glorious run-on sentence in Ephesians:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Eph 1:3–10)

Look at the language Paul uses to describe God’s actions here. He says that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. Choosing requires intentionality. Doing it before the foundation of the world requires premeditation. Let’s continue… He says that we’ve been predestined to adoption as sons. Again, predestination requires premeditation and adoption requires intentionality. No one was ever adopted on accident or without thought. And he did this according to the purpose of his will. Folks, there was purpose in this! And it was according to his will! Paul speaks of wisdom and insight and a plan to unite all things in him in the fullness of time! This is the polar opposite of recklessness.

The crucifixion was not an act that was carried out with no thought to the consequences of the action. Likewise with the resurrection. God knew exactly what he was doing. He still does. His love is many things, but reckless is not one of them. There is a way that God can do whatever it takes to get to his people without it being reckless. For God to cast light on a shadow or climb a mountain or tear down a lie, as the song says, he does not need to do so recklessly. He’s God! Leaving the 99 sheep to rescue the 1 is not a reckless act. It’s very thoughtful. It’s very intentional.

We could go through Scripture from Old Testament to New and point out example after example of God’s divine plan in action. How he had things set up that seemed one way to us but in the grand scheme of things were really another way altogether (think about Joseph being sold into slavery, falsely accused of rape, and unjustly imprisoned only to be called upon by Pharaoh to interpret a dream and rise to a level of prominence that would allow him to save his family from a sure death that would have resulted from famine). The point is that of all of God’s attributes, recklessness is not one of them.

Now let me say this: I like the song. In fact, after hearing the version I heard this morning I’d go so far as to say that I like it a lot. I just don’t like that one adjective. I’d prefer to say “endless” or “precious” or “relentless” love of God. I think that they’re all theologically correct. Endless and precious wouldn’t change the cadence of the chorus at all and relentless would change it minimally. I think for the point that the song is making relentless makes more sense than reckless. God will stop at nothing to get the one sheep that goes astray. He’s relentless in his love for us; never letting up. But that jives with God’s thoughtful, intentional, well planned out initiative for saving his people.

B”H

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Not So Random Thought

I was just looking through one of my hard drives and found a folder of ebooks. iBooks allows you to upload the epub files so I added all that I had. One of the books was a MacArthur Study Bible. I went to 1 Corinthians 12-14 and perused some of the notes and it always amazes me how he seems to lose his exegetical marbles when anything remotely charismatic comes up. His comments are unconvincing to say the least. I just can’t wrap my head around how he can be such a faithful and consistent interpreter of the Scriptures elsewhere and then have this huge blindspot here. What happened to Johnny Mac to make him oppose the things of the Spirit so much? I guess only him and God know…

B”H

It Ain’t the Haircut

I don’t regularly talk about my job on the blog. I guess I don’t regularly talk about anything anymore, but I often have clients ask me what’s the hardest type of haircut to do. The answer is that it isn’t as simple as there just being a hard type of cut. There’s a lot that factors into the degree of difficulty for literally any type of haircut. We have to deal with varying head shapes; varying textures of hair; irregular growth patterns; scars; skin conditions; and a host of other things that you wouldn’t normally think of.

For example, I can do the same haircut on the same client two weeks in a row and have it be more difficult the second time around because he came in with bed head or hair product already in his hair. Or I can have two friends come in and both request the same style of haircut but one has Asian hair, which tends to be thick and pin straight (generally accompanied by a very pale scalp underneath) and the other have very fine thin blonde hair. The style is the same but the way I have to go about achieving the end result is different. And for the record, in such an instance there is no way possible that both cuts could look the same.

But aside from physical factors such as head shape, hair type, or the premature application of hair products, there’s a decidedly psychological aspect to the task that can complicate things. Sometimes we have to deal with people who border on obsessive compulsiveness with their high level of pickiness. They’ll notice the most microscopic detail and insist that it be fixed only to go on and notice something else that isn’t to their satisfaction. Sometimes someone will sit down and be incredibly vague in describing what they want (e.g., they’ll say, “just give me a regular cut,” not knowing that “regular” is relative). Certain people are simply jerks and you’d rather not deal with them in general. Others make things awkward by doing things like staring directly into your eyes while you’re trimming their facial hair.

The bottom line is that it ain’t the type of haircut in and of itself that’s difficult; it’s all the things that go into doing it that is.

B”H

Non-Coincidental

I started reading Scott and Kimberly Hahn’s conversion story Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism and in the opening chapter Scott tells a story in which he stopped by to see an old friend at random and caught his friend on the way out of the house. After a few hours of catching up Scott said that he noticed he had his jacket on and was leaving when he walked up to the house and asked him where he was going. His friend pulled out some rope from his jacket and said that he was on his way to hang himself. Scott’s visit had saved his friend’s life. What seemed like a random visit was divinely orchestrated.

This story is actually a familiar one. I manage a barbershop; my pastor owns it. A guy came in for a cut one day and as he sat in my pastor’s chair they got to talking and he basically said that doesn’t believe in religion and that he’s heard all the arguments for God and doesn’t find them convincing. He asked my pastor to make his case. His case basically went like this: “I know God.” The guy said something and my pastor’s response was, “I’m not telling you what I believe; I’m telling you that I know him.” He proceeded to give his testimony, which opened the door for him to minister to the guy concerning different things in his life.

When it was all said and done the gentleman paid and then asked to speak to my pastor outside. He broke down in tears and told him that this was actually the haircut was getting for his funeral. He was planning on killing himself. He’s now been a regular customer for nearly a year and he’s not talking about how he doesn’t buy into religion anymore. Again, what seemed like a random encounter was divinely orchestrated. He could have gotten his hair cut anywhere. He could have sat down with another barber that day. But God, who knows the end from the beginning, knew just where to put him and just what he needed to hear.

To God be the glory!

B”H

On Enduring Beliefs

God saved me nearly 16 years ago and in nearly 16 years of salvation my beliefs haven’t shifted a whole lot. Over the course of time I’ve been able to chip away some of the rough edges of certain things and a periphery doctrine or two may have changed but the core is the same. I’d attribute this to my formative years as a believer, which were spent reading the Scriptures for countless hours.

I didn’t come into the faith with all of my beliefs worked out. I came in knowing that I was guilty of sinning against God, that God provided the pardon for my guilt in Christ, and that I didn’t want to serve the devil any more. So as I read, and prayed, and fasted I came to believe what I understood the text to be saying. It didn’t happen over night. These beliefs weren’t the result of me parroting what my pastor said or jumping on the latest televangelist bandwagon. They were hard-earned beliefs.

Eventually I’d branch out and start to look at websites and books and I got interested in scholarship both ancient and modern. Some of that served to correct misunderstandings. Some of it caused a bit of confusion. Some of it was easily rejected because it was contrary to what was clear from Scripture. But that foundation laid for me in the Bible was always there.

Paul wrote to the Ephesians and spoke to them about moving onto maturity so that they’d no longer be tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine. I’m all for the spirit of semper reformanda but some folks take it a little too far and reform their beliefs and practices with the discovery of every new thinker. At a certain point we have to know what we believe and why we believe it. So when I hear people talk about how much their beliefs have changed over time I inevitably wonder how much time went into formulating those beliefs in the first place.

B”H

Answering Common Questions About My Library

Why do you have so many books?

There are a few ways to address this. First of all, I don’t. My library is rather small compared to some others so “so many” is relative. Secondly, I have as many as I do because I got them. It’s the same reason I have anything that I have. I got it so I have it. Make sense?

Have you read all of those books?

The typical response is some of all and all of some. This is nearly true as I generally tend to at least read the table of contents or glance at a bibliography but there are definitely some that I haven’t even cracked the cover on. There are some that I may never get around to.

You couldn’t possibly read all those books, could you?

With God all things are possible (Matt 19:26). Theoretically, I could read them all. It’s not an impossible task. There are dozens of short volumes in my library that could be read in a matter of hours. There are plenty of classics that I could get rapt up in and lose all sense of time so that no matter how long it took to read I’d do it in a single sitting. But all of these books aren’t meant to be read in their entirety. Some are reference works that will be referenced only as needed. Most importantly, however, is my attitude towards unread volumes, which is that they represent potential. It would be a sad thing if I had read all of the books I own.

How much money are all of those books worth?

I couldn’t even begin to tell you. Years ago I used to track what I spent on books. I did this for a few reasons. The first was budgetary. When I began to do that I was working at a job where I was an independent contractor. That meant that I received a 1099 and no taxes were taken out of my check. I was responsible for paying the IRS come tax time. I needed to know where all my money was going.

After that I wasn’t working but I was blogging all the time and receiving review copies of a lot of books so I didn’t have to pay for a good majority of what I was reading. I was also earning gift certificates to various bookseller websites through affiliate programs. I began to challenge myself to spend as little as possible out of pocket and while that was a fun exercise for a few years, I gave up on it as I became busy with other things.

Now I’ve been gainfully employed for a number of years and since all of my bills are taken care of I can buy all of the books I want when I want them without having to worry very much about what’s being spent. So I said all this to say that I don’t know the actual value of my library. To me it’s priceless, but I’d estimate its worth in the tens of thousands just based on retail prices.

Don’t you think you have enough books?

No. And I never will. There’s always more to learn.

Why do you have so many books on the same subjects?

I’ll answer this with a proverb: “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Prov 18:17). Reasonable minds differ. I like to weigh arguments and come to my own conclusions.

Why not just use a public library?

I don’t like to give books back. The thought actually makes me ill.

Why do you need so many books?

To be honest, I don’t. But that really depends on what we mean by “need” doesn’t it? Do books fit in on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Maybe on the self-actualization tier but that can be argued. I won’t die without them. At least not physically. But I have an addictive personality and hobbies or habits easily become compulsions for me so in a sense I do have a need to keep growing my library. But the fact is that I’d be just fine with a single Bible. My library started with a single Bible. Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD (Deut 8:3).

Why do you have so many Bibles?

Aside from the fact that I want them, they all have a purpose. First of all, there are a variety of translations. So having different translations is necessary if I want to compare translations. But why have multiples copies of any one translation? Some are to study, some are to read, some are to mark up, some are to preach from, and some are to just enjoy because I like how they look on my desk or a shelf. Also, I can’t bring myself to throw Bibles away. Unless I’ve given them away I have every Bible I’ve ever gotten.

And that’ll do it for the most common questions I get asked about my library.

B”H