Judah Smith believes Jesus shows us how to live life to the fullest. In this follow-up to his New York Times and USA Today bestseller Jesus Is ____, Judah completes the new sentence again and again, revealing how
· Life is to be loved and to love.
· Life is to trust God in every moment.
· Life is to be at peace with God and yourself.
· Life is to enjoy God.
Judah writes as a friend, welcoming new believers, lifelong followers of Jesus, and even the merely curious. He shows us the love of God that defies human logic and the life that God intends for us to have in the here and now. With excitement and humor, Judah looks at the stories in the Bible from his unique angle and shows how life is all about loving God and loving others.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.38(h) x 0.63(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Life Is _____.
God's Illogical Love Will Change Your Existence
By JUDAH SMITH
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2015 Judah Smith
All rights reserved.
Awhile back I was shopping, which is one of my God-given gifts, and I walked by a spa. Now I'm not going to lie to you—I like spas. Sometimes my wife, Chelsea, and I will go to a spa and just hang out; maybe we'll even get a chair massage together. Spas are one of my happy places.
I had never seen this spa before. It looked beautiful. It had bright colors, and it was attractive, and I thought, This is a really cool spa. I was inches from walking in to check it out when, to my utter shock and horror, I realized that the reason the chairs were so small and the beds were so little was that this was a spa for animals. It was a spa where you paid real, human money so your animals could be massaged. And by the way, the prices were exactly the same as they are for a human massage.
I'm pretty sure that if you do get your pets massaged, they are like, What is going on? This is weird. Why are they doing this to me?
I found that a little bit alarming, but I wrote it off. Maybe it was an anomaly. But then recently we were checking into a hotel, and they asked us, "Do you have any pets?"
And I thought, Well, yes, I have a three-year-old and a five-year-old and an eight-year-old ... Oh, they mean animals. My bad. "No, we don't have any pets. We don't do animals."
Now, you should know that I come from a long line of animal lovers. During the first sixteen years of my dad's life, his family owned twenty-four dogs in total. No exaggeration. At one point they had nine at once. So I come from a line of animal lovers, at least on my dad's side. Now my mom—not so much.
I admit I do like dogs, at least from a distance and as long as they don't touch me. I definitely don't like cats. I don't really think anybody likes cats. I'm not sure if dogs go to heaven, but I know for sure where cats go.
So the lady at the hotel asked, "Do you have any pets?"
We said, "No."
She said, "That's too bad."
I said, "I don't mind it actually."
"It's just that the experience here for your pets is almost equal to your own experience."
"Come again? I'm a human being. You know, with a soul."
"Well, we have special clothing for your pets. We have a special bed for your pets. We have special outings for your pets ..." And she kept going.
I thought, This is really getting crazy. These are animals. These are four-legged creatures. These are domesticated beasts that drool and shed. And people are taking them way too seriously.
And it gets crazier. I was driving down a Seattle freeway, a freeway intended for humans, when suddenly cars started slamming on their brakes and skidding to a stop. And I thought, Oh no! There's been an accident just ahead. It must be a bad one. I even started praying, because human lives were at stake here.
Eventually we got to the front of the chaos, and there was a car stopped in the carpool lane. And I was thinking, What is going on? And then we saw a little cocker spaniel running his heart out down the carpool lane. And a human being, evidently little Spot's owner, was out of his car and was running down the carpool lane behind his dog.
That's right. A dog and his human were cavorting down a freeway meant for people and their vehicles. All the vehicles were skidding and sliding to a stop lest little Spot meet a tragic end.
It gets worse. Other humans started joining the search and rescue. They got out of their cars and started running down the freeway after Spot. It was madness.
Now I'm going to tell you why Spot was running away. It was because he didn't want any more massages, he didn't want any more outings, he didn't want any more clothes. Spot is an animal, and Spot wanted to be free!
But his owner was running down the freeway like a madman, and I was thinking, This makes no sense. This is ridiculous. Humans are going to die for Spot. It's irrational. It makes absolutely no sense to me to put your life at risk for your pet.
I think it's awesome that you have pets. But if they happen to get loose and run down the freeway, can we all just agree it must be their time to go?
On a very small scale, the irrational, passionate, extravagant love people have for their pets illustrates God's love for humanity. God lavishes his love on us even when we don't return it—kind of like cats.
Next to God's love, of course, the illustration falls flat. A human chasing a dog with a death wish down a freeway is nothing compared to God's crazy love for humanity. We insist on running away from God, yet God insists on running toward us. It is inexplicable.
The major theme of the Bible is that God's love passionately pursues humankind. If all you ever heard from the Bible were a bunch of dos and don'ts, then that statement might surprise you. But no matter who we are, where we are, or what we think about God, he is madly in love with us. The Bible says he knows every detail about our lives. David, an amazing songwriter and poet, wrote an entire psalm about this (Psalm 139). God knows our thoughts, our actions, and even the number of hairs on our heads. He loves to follow our lives. He watches us when we sleep—which sounds creepy but is actually comforting if you stop and think about it. He is there when we awake in the morning, and he has good things planned for us during the day.
God has no ulterior motive in all of this. He isn't some sort of control freak, trying to manipulate us or bribe us or intimidate us into holiness. He genuinely loves us and wants the best for our lives. When the Bible talks about the dangers of sin, it is simply to help us avoid pitfalls and get the most out of our lives. It's not for God's sake—it's for ours.
If we would stop scampering down the freeway and take a look back, we'd see God in hot pursuit. Not to punish or berate us, but to rescue and embrace us. And maybe to take us back to the spa.
God values us for who we are—no conditions, no caveats, no fine print.
Sometimes we might think that God is just interested in our behavior, like a cosmic policeman watching and waiting for us to slip up. We might think he almost enjoys punishing people. After all, we've known a few authority figures who got a kick out of wielding their power, and maybe God is the same, only infinitely more so.
To make things worse, we know we have issues and weaknesses and dark corners that no one sees. Being loved by God can seem far out of reach. Sometimes we are afraid that if we get close to God, we will be exposed for who we really are.
We long to be loved and to love, but we feel unlovable. And our knowledge of our neediness makes us hide from God, the one who loves us the most. Because we think if he sees us for who we really are, he's just going to get angry. So we walk around with plastic smiles, but inside we're held together with duct tape and baling wire.
I don't mean to paint an overly bleak picture here—I'm sure many or even most of us experience genuine love from family and friends. But deep inside, I think we often want more. We want to know that we are important, that we are valuable, that we are loved.
God is the best source—dare I say the only source?—of the true love we are all looking for. Human love is wonderful and important and necessary, but it pales in comparison to the power of God's love to satisfy our souls and heal our hearts.
God loves us with never-ending love and unconditional passion. He longs to gather us in his arms—not to criticize or control or condemn, but simply to love us, to heal us, to restore us.
God's love chases us; and the sooner it catches us, the better.
Human beings are fascinated and consumed and enthralled by the idea of true love.
One of my generation's classic movies is The Princess Bride. Who doesn't remember the Rodents of Unusual Size, or Andre the Giant, or Inigo Montoya saying, "You killed my father. Prepare to die"?
Anyway, thanks to that movie, I can't say "true love" without hearing the whole wedding scene from The Princess Bride in my head. "Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us together today. Mawage, that bwessed awangement, that dweam within a dweam ... And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva ..."
Actually, true love is the theme of the whole movie. Remember the old woman who yells at Princess Buttercup for betraying Wesley? "Your true love lives. And you marry another!" Then she mocks the crowd: "Bow to her. Bow to the Queen of Slime, the Queen of Filth, the Queen of Putrescence. Boo! Boo! Rubbish. Filth. Slime. Muck. Boo! Boo! Boo!"
And of course, there was Miracle Max: "Sonny, true love is the greatest thing in the world—except for a nice MLT: mutton, lettuce, and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe."
I could go on, but I won't. Here's my point. True love is not only the theme of The Princess Bride, but it is arguably the theme of life itself. Can you think of anything more important? Just look at pop culture. Look at our movies, songs, and books. Look at what occupies our thoughts and conversations. Love is the theme of life.
It's no coincidence that as humans we are consumed with the idea of love; God is consumed with love. When it comes to God, love isn't just an action—it's a state of existence. God is love. It is one of the main characteristics that make him who he is. Not all love is God, and love is not the god we worship. But God is love personified.
God created us to love and be loved. This desire, this attraction, this magnetic pull toward love is hardwired into us.
We will never be satisfied in life without love. Friendship, flirting, romance, marriage, sex, family—our lives are defined and directed and designed around love.
God created human beings out of a desire for relationship. He created Adam and Eve because he wanted to love and be loved. That was his dream from the beginning, and nothing has changed. He is still a God who values love above everything.
So he created a garden called Eden. It was a utopia and a paradise where God and humanity could be together. Adam and Eve were perfect companions and teammates. They were meant to enjoy each other in this garden. They had fruit trees, they lived on waterfront property, they had plenty of pets, they were in love, they were naked—hello!—and there was no jealousy or shame or conflict. They were the centerpieces of God's creation.
Everything was going great until Adam and Eve did the one thing God told them not to do: eat from a certain tree in the garden. They were in the middle of the most amazing, awe-inspiring, pleasure-filled environment, and they went for the only thing that was off-limits.
Now, you might ask, "Why did God put the tree there in the first place? Why didn't he simply make it impossible to disobey him?"
Love by definition requires the ability to choose. If we can't choose to love or not to love, then we really can't say we love at all. God didn't want a planet full of robots hardwired to obey him. Love had to have free will—a choice.
The opposite of love is not hate; it is selfishness. Adam and Eve chose self over love. They chose self over God.
Selfishness is the essence of sin. Think about it: How much of the pain and suffering in the world is not caused by natural disasters or by accidents, but by humans willfully pursuing their own desires? If we could simply follow the golden rule, to treat others the way we would want to be treated, imagine what would happen to much of the evil in the world.
But let's face it: We don't often choose the golden rule, especially if it's going to cost us something. We admire the idea of love, but selfishness is so ingrained in us that it usually wins out. Even our pursuits of love tend to be selfish—then we wonder why love doesn't work out so well.
God granted Adam and Eve free will, and they chose sin. Paradise and perfection were compromised, and now there is a division and a chasm between man and God called sin. It is a chasm caused by man's own choice of self, but God didn't let that stop him.
God is just, and sin had to be dealt with. He couldn't sweep it under the rug. But first and foremost God is love, so he couldn't just wipe out humanity and start over, either. So he solved the problem of sin once and for all by sending his son, Jesus, to take the punishment for our sin. Jesus went to the cross to pay the penalty for every evil deed that the human race has ever committed. Justice was served, and humanity was rescued.
Think about the contrast between Adam's selfishness and Jesus' love. Adam chose self and sin, and through his selfishness, evil entered the world. Jesus chose love over self and, through his love, the power of sin and evil was destroyed.
The entire Bible is the story of God's love for humanity. It is not about sin, or about performance, or about religion; it is about a God who incessantly, obsessively, relentlessly loves his creation and went to great lengths to restore people to himself.
Here's how one verse—probably the most famous verse in the Bible—puts it: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." If you haven't watched a football game lately, that's John 3:16.
John 3:16 was written, logically enough, by a guy named John. John was one of Jesus' closest disciples. We'll talk about his unique relationship with Jesus later, but let me just say he is called the Apostle of Love for a reason. Of all the disciples, he was the one who seems to have best understood God's love.
Toward the end of his life, decades after Jesus' death and resurrection, John wrote a letter we now know as 1 John. In chapter 4, verse 10, he says, "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" (NLT).
This is real love. This is true love. Not that we loved God—we didn't, and even now we aren't always the best at loving him—but that God gave the best of himself to save the worst of us. We had done nothing to earn or deserve his love, but he extravagantly and unconditionally lavished his love on the whole world.
Marry a Prostitute
About 750 years before Jesus was born, there was an Israelite prophet named Hosea. In that culture, a prophet was someone who heard from God and then shared God's message with the people. Hosea had a lot to say about the nature of love, especially God's love.
One day, God comes to Hosea and tells him that instead of a message, he has an assignment for him. Hosea is going to be an object lesson, and his personal life is about to become very public. The story is found in the first chapter of the book named after Hosea.
God says, "Hosea, I've got a job for you. Are you ready?"
Hosea is like, "Sure, God! You and me working together --this is going to be fun."
"Marry a prostitute."
"I'm sorry, Lord; what was that? I could have sworn I heard you say ..."
"Marry a prostitute."
"Um, wow. That's what I thought you said. No offense, but that's not what I expected. That's not really a good move for a man of God. The tabloids and stuff, they're going to be all over that. Now my PR guy says that I should—"
"Hosea, you're going to marry a prostitute. And you're going to have kids."
So Hosea stops whining and marries a prostitute with the odd-sounding name of Gomer. Hosea and Gomer don't live happily ever after, unfortunately. Not even close.
I should mention that at the time, Israel's definition of love was very dysfunctional. If you read the book of Hosea, you'll see this reflected in Hosea's messages. The people of the day viewed love as a commodity that could be purchased. They also saw love as the pursuit of self-gratification. And finally, they spoke of loving inanimate objects.
This was how they defined love: you can buy it, it's about being satisfied personally, and it's about possessions and things.
Sounds a lot like our culture today.
God recognizes that he must demonstrate to them what love really is. So he tells Hosea, "Go marry a prostitute."
Hosea marries Gomer, and things go pretty well at first. They have one kid, then another, then another. They've been married awhile now. One day Hosea wakes up and she is gone. She's abandoned the family and returned to prostitution.
Hosea is now carrying the weight of being the spiritual leader of Israel as a single dad with three kids.
This brings us to Hosea, chapter 3. God says to Hosea, "Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery." He is referring to Gomer.
"What?" Hosea asks in disbelief.
"Go find Gomer. Go love this woman who is right now committing adultery. Go find your wife and love her."
And then God makes one of the most amazing statements ever. He tells Hosea to love Gomer "just like the love of the Lord" for his people. God is saying that his love is not like ours. Against all common sense, in contrast to our human ideas about justice and commitment, God's love never quits.
How heart wrenching is this process for Hosea? He has to go look for his wife, a former prostitute, who is now back in prostitution. Finding Gomer is not comfortable. It's not neat or tidy. He walks down streets and goes into buildings that good people avoid. A man of God should never be seen there; everyone knows that.
(Continues...) Excerpted from Life Is _____. by JUDAH SMITH. Copyright © 2015 Judah Smith. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Life Is to Be Loved and To Love 1
1 Love Chases 3
2 Illogical Love 19
3 Love Leads 27
4 Love Gives 39
Life is to Trust God in Every Moment 53
5 Yesterday, Today, and Forever 55
6 Pillow Talk 67
7 Trust Grace 79
8 A Passerby 91
Life Is to Se at Peace with God and Yourself 101
9 Many Things 103
10 God in a Manger 117
11 First Place 129
12 I Am Willing 145
Life Is to Enjoy God 159
13 Enjoying God 161
14 A Whole New World 177
15 True Satisfaction 191
16 You Complete Me 203
About the Author 217