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On Risking the Man Card and Surrendering to Love | Seminary Student Blogger

April 04, 2013

Tim Norton 

“Imagine God thinking about you. What do you assume God feels when you come to mind?”
—Dr. David Benner, Surrender to Love

How do you answer this question? Seriously though. As seminarians, most of us know of God’s love from a theological standpoint. It’s an objective truth to be believed (and rightly so). This question isn’t about that. It’s attacking the heart. Take a minute to pause and think. Now, give me your best, non-Sunday School, non-seminarian, non-intellectualized answer. What’s your gut feeling? What’s your emotional reaction to this question? What do you assume God feels when you come to mind?

As you might’ve guessed, I’m reading this book called Surrender to Love by David Benner. Now look, I realize that such a book title immediately puts my “man card” in question. Surrender to love. It sounds like a Nicholas Sparks novel. While it’s true that this book uses “gooey” words way more than I’d like, it’s also true that Dr. David Benner knows what he’s talking about—and what he’s talking about is directly aimed at people like me. You see, deep down I assume that God’s initial response to me is mostly disappointment. Sure he loves me, but man he does that in spite of his disappointment over my sin. His love barely peaks through the cracks of the blanket of my mess-ups. I am encouraged to accept God’s love and I think, “Well if I can just stop hurting God, stop disappointing him so much, I’ll be able to feel is love more. So, I better get my life together because I know this love of God thing is a big deal.”

Benner challenges his readers that God’s primary response is one of love. This perfect love is the only motivation that will result in lasting obedience. It is the only motivation that will invite surrender and devotion. It’s all too easy to be obedient by a subtle works—righteousness, wrapping it in spiritual language to continue the deception. For those of us in the latter camp, it’s very difficult to change our perception of the Lord. How do I trust perfect love? Better yet, how do I experience it? Because, really, we can intellectually know something all we want, but it won’t affect change until we experience it.

What if we were absolutely convinced of God’s love, not just theologically, not just experientially, but both? What if our identity was rooted on being the object of God’s ruthless affection? Yes, God’s justice and wrath and holiness cannot be neglected. But it is the just, holy YHWH that sends his son as the biggest gesture of love in all of human history. And none of us did a dang thing to earn it. Nothing. Period. I find it’s easier to accept that in reference to salvation and much harder to accept it in terms of living out that salvation. But it’s true. I still haven’t done anything to earn God’s love.

Benner’s suggestion? Meditate on God’s love as presented in the Scriptures. This isn’t earth-shattering news. And so I offer to you what I’ve been doing for the past several days. Read these Psalms, take special note of the imagery of God’s relation to us and then daydream about it. Let your mind turn it over and over. After all, the mind isn’t renewed in an instant. It takes dedicated time of meditation on the Word of God.

Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

Psalm 91

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.” 
Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

Tim Norton is a born-and-raised, small-town Southerner with the sweet tea addiction to prove it. He comes to Gordon-Conwell as a Kern Pastor-Scholar and plans to pursue pastoral ministry in the U.S. after graduation. Tim is a big personality with a strange affinity for the color orange. Currently, he attends GENESIS Church, an Acts 29 church plant in Woburn, MA.




Tags: Author: Tim Norton , biblically-grounded , student blogger , thoughtfully evangelical

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Psalm 23 was one of the first I memorized as a child. Although the one I remember used a lot of "Thou" instead of "You". Also, I remember it being "tho I walk through the valley of the shadow of death". Anyways, minor differences. Same meaning. Good one all the same.
Ways to Grow Eyelashes 5:54PM 06/10/13
thanks for sharing
Meditation 2:31AM 06/10/13
Psalm 23 is really excellent. Specially, I like following line: Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
Self Book Publishing 3:36AM 05/29/13
That perfect love for God really is enlightening and it sheds Gods grace upon each of us. We truly are loved by our God and the only way we have that knowledge brought to our consciousness is if we have the perfect love back at God. Great article Tim, keep the Faith, God loves you.
Melissa J. 5:55PM 04/06/13

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