A Dad and His Son

January 22 

The father and son in the photo are obviously delighted with each other and the photo perfectly captures the joy, wonder, and affection that God wants to share with his children.

“I’m a long way from that,” Glenn admitted after I had a chance to let the picture sink in, “but I know he is calling me to be just like that little boy.”

I know what he meant because I’d been down that road. Learning to be so at peace in the Father’s presence, so secure in his care, and so ready to enjoy the day with him, was a long journey for me.

“That’s me!” Glenn finally said. “The little boy there! I was two years old.” My head shot up in surprise. I had not even considered that this was a family photo. “My father died of a heart condition within two months of that picture. I have no memory of him, only this picture. Now I want to know my heavenly Father with the same simplicity and joy.”

No this isn’t the relationship God asks of us, but the one he had already been at work to produce in us. “We know love,” John wrote, “only because he loved us first.”

 

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
1 John 4:16 (NIV)

 

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This reflection is taken from my new book, Live Loved Free Full. I am running them here because we didn’t receive the book in time to ship them before the start of the year. Since all pre-orders have been shipped, we will only do this until this Friday, January 22. You’ll need to get your book to keep reading. You can order your hardback copy from us or here from Amazon or get the e-book from your favorite e-book distributors. The Kindle edition is here.

In the Eyes of a Son

January 21

“Everything God is calling me to right now seems wrapped up in this picture,” Glenn told me as he laid the black and white photograph of father and son on the table.

This was the first time I had been in Glenn and Elaine’s home. We sat down for breakfast a few hours earlier and hadn’t yet moved from the table. We were talking about the awesome relationship that God extends to each of us through his son.

The photo was carefully framed and matted, an obvious treasure. I could see why immediately—I was captured by the interplay of this father and son standing beside a sapling birch tree that had already lost its leaves for winter. The clothes they wore spoke of a previous generation.

The delight of a father looking down at his son and the obvious pride of a two-year-old looking back was captured perfectly by the photographer. The connection between this father and son was profound. As Glenn cradled it in his hands, he told me he is just beginning to see his relationship with God in the same way. So should we all.

But whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do
what he said, He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves.
John 1:10–12 (MSG)

 

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This reflection is taken from my new book, Live Loved Free Full. I am running them here because we didn’t receive the book in time to ship them before the start of the year. Since all pre-orders have been shipped, we will only do this until this Friday, January 22. You’ll need to get your book to keep reading. You can order your hardback copy from us or here from Amazon or get the e-book from your favorite e-book distributors. The Kindle edition is here.

Affection or Adoration?

January 20  

What do you think? Would I rather sit on the couch with my children while they tell me what an incredibly awesome father I am, repeating the same words again and again so I am sure to get the message; or would I rather take a walk with them, talking about their joys and fears?

The latter, of course. Far more than their praise, I’d rather have my children’s presence. I want to be with them in their laughter and to comfort them in their tears. Why would it be any different with God?

The fact is, you can praise someone you don’t love, holding him at a distance, feeling left out and alone. However, I don’t think you can love him and not also be completely overwhelmed by how worthy he is of your praise.

Just make sure your adoration never displaces affection. Give him all the adoration and praise he deserves. Just don’t be confused that to him your praise means more than your love.

 

You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
John 15:14–15 (NIV)

 

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This reflection is taken from my new book, Live Loved Free Full. I am running them here because we didn’t receive the book in time to ship them before the start of the year. Since all pre-orders have been shipped, we will only do this until this Friday, January 22. You’ll need to get your book to keep reading. You can order your hardback copy from us or here from Amazon or get the e-book from your favorite e-book distributors. The Kindle edition is here.

Do You Love Me?

January 19 

It makes more sense to me now, why Jesus asked Peter the question he did after the resurrection: “Do you love me?” He didn’t want to know if Peter adored him, feared him, or was ready to serve him in the face of any conceivable threat.

He just wanted to know he had Peter’s love. Having that, he knew everything else would fall into place. Lacking that, nothing else would matter.

If the cross accomplished its purpose, even this one—who had betrayed him so painfully—would find his way back into his love. After all, Peter never stopped loving him, but simply let his fears overwhelm him when the pressure was on.

His failure did not disprove his love. Jesus knew that. For the moment, Peter didn’t. But he would soon enough and then he would be free to live out the rest of his days with growing affection for his resurrected friend.

Don’t think your mistakes prove your lack of love. Find a love bigger than your failures and you’ll find a life that grows increasingly free from wanting to go your own way.

 

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:17–19 (NIV)

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This reflection is taken from my new book, Live Loved Free Full. I am running them here because we didn’t receive the book in time to ship them before the start of the year. Since all pre-orders have been shipped, we will only do this until this Friday, January 22. You’ll need to get your book to keep reading. You can order your hardback copy from us or here from Amazon or get the e-book from your favorite e-book distributors. The Kindle edition is here.  After many hassles with their IT department, you can finally order the hardback at Amazon.

We Are All Beautiful in His Eyes

January 18 

Though our flesh can be seduced by the adoration of others, our Father doesn’t share the same ego. I know many people who sacrifice the affection of their family for their success in the workplace, but God isn’t wired that way. I think he would treasure affection over adoration any day of the week. He is the God of love, remember?

Nyssa’s brokenness didn’t diminish her father’s affection. If anything, her brokenness made her more endearing. We have the tendency to diminish our worship when we are aware of our own failures and weaknesses.

Don’t great crowds of adoration always push the so-called “beautiful people” and the “power people” to the front while shunning those deemed “lesser” to the back? But in a father’s lap, there are no greater and lesser. Parents delight equally in their children and only see points of brokenness as cracks into which more love can be poured.

Can we dare to believe that our Father sees us the same way Jim sees his daughter Nyssa? I can assure you he loves you far more than that.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

 

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This reflection is taken from my new book, Live Loved Free Full. I am running them here because we didn’t receive the book in time to ship them before the start of the year. Since all pre-orders have been shipped, we will only do this until January 24. You’ll need to get your book to keep reading. You can order your hardback copy from us or get the e-book from your favorite e-book distributors. The Kindle edition is here.

He Has Chosen You

January 17

Nyssa was adopted into her family. Her parents first laid eyes on her when she was eleven days old and knew her entire condition before they threw wide the doors of their home and invited her in.

Jim told me he was initially reticent to adopt a child with so many special needs. But the moment he first laid eyes on Nyssa, all that changed. “As soon as I had her in my arms,” he said, “she looked up at me and sighed. My heart just melted, and I knew I had to say ‘Yes.’”

She was chosen in the same way Father has chosen you. He was fully aware of all the brokenness he would love you through.

Her father reminded me that she couldn’t even crawl into her own father’s lap that morning. If her father hadn’t scooped down and picked her up, she would never have been there. I’m certain our plight is similar. Who of us can really claim to crawl into God’s lap by our own power? He is our only source, and there would be no intimacy if he did not make it happen.

Perhaps the most we do is just lift our arms to him in surrender and desire. But our place on his lap is all his doing.

 

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed youso that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

John 15:16 (NIV)

 

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This reflection is taken from my new book, Live Loved Free Full. I am running them here because we didn’t receive the book in time to ship them before the start of the year. If you pre-ordered a copy it is already in the mail to you. We will do one more week here and after that you’ll need to get your book to keep reading. You can order your hardback copy from us or get the e-book from your favorite e-book distributors. The Kindle edition is here.

A Girl and Her Daddy!

January 16 

“Majesty, worship his Majesty . . .” The familiar words rolled off my lips as I sat among a group of believers from all over the western United States who had gathered to share their experiences in relational church. It was Sunday morning and we were just beginning with a chance to sing songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. I felt unsettled.

Sitting next to me that morning was a three-and-a-half-year-old girl, cradled in the arms of her father, Jim. Nyssa struggles against the complications of Freeman-Sheldon syndrome, a genetic muscle disorder that has caused severe scoliosis (curvature of the spine) and disfigured fingers. She is fed through a tube in her stomach and the disorder renders her unable to talk, walk, or play like other children. In fact, she can only lay cuddled in her father’s arms, cooing and slobbering. The connection between her and her father and the love and adoration that beamed from his face as he whispered to her and jiggled her in his arms was mesmerizing.

That’s what I want! The words sailed through my mind so quietly I almost missed them. I had to stop a minute and ask not only what I had heard, but where it had come from. Certainly, this wasn’t my thought. After a few moments of meditation, however, I recognized Father’s voice in it and suddenly it dawned on me why my heart had been so unsettled that morning.

We were exalting God, joining the great throng of angelic beings that surround the throne with praise and adoration to God. He was just wanting us to enjoy a moment in his lap, like that father and daughter; with an intimacy that no moment of adoration could rival.

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

John 1:12–13 (NIV)

 

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This reflection is taken from my new book, Live Loved Free Full. I am running them here because we didn’t receive the book in time to ship them before the start of the year. If you pre-ordered a copy it is already in the mail to you. We will do one more week here and after that you’ll need to get your book to keep reading. You can order your hardback copy from us or get the e-book from your favorite e-book distributors. The Kindle edition is here.

The Fatherless Epidemic

January 15

“I think my dad hates me,” she said through her sniffles, choking back the sob that hung in her throat. Then she detailed the fight they’d had the night before. Her dad was upset about the provocative way she often dressed, and she was certain he had no respect for her choices.

I walked her back through the conversation, a surrogate dad who suggested that her father’s fears were less about judging her than they were about trying to protect her from men with less than honorable intentions.

“So, you think my dad doesn’t hate me?” she asked at the end.

“Nicole, I have no idea. He’s your dad, but I would be surprised if he didn’t love you very much. However, can I ask how things are with your heavenly dad?”

Her twisted face told me my question had confused her. A moment passed. “Do you mean God?”

I nodded. “I grew up in church,” she said. “I hate him.”

I smiled as I looked at Nicole and whispered to her as if sharing the most incredible of secrets: “As wrong as you might be about your earthly dad, I can tell you you’re dead wrong about your heavenly One.”

Her eyes lit up. “What do you mean?”

“Nicole, you have a father who loves you more than anyone on this planet ever has or ever will.”

The hope that we all have a Father who knows us completely but loves us extravagantly is all but lost in our day. It might be time to uncover it again.

 

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

John 4:9 (NIV)

___________________

This reflection is taken from my new book, Live Loved Free Full. I am running them here because we didn’t receive the book in time to ship them before the start of the year. If you pre-ordered a copy it is already in the mail to you. We will do one more week here and after that you’ll need to get your book to keep reading. You can order your hardback copy from us or get the e-book from your favorite e-book distributors. The Kindle edition is here.

Where to Begin?

January 14 

What do you think? Do you want a relationship with God based on fear or the endearment of his own character and love?

If you don’t know how to do that, find someone who does and ask him or her if they will help you. Don’t look for someone to tell you exactly what to do, but who will instead help you see God’s fingerprints in your own journey and the realities his Spirit is offering to invite you farther down that path.

Let them share their journey with you, but don’t try to copy theirs. Instead, learn to listen in your heart as God shows you how he wants to make himself known to you. Then watch how he does that. Share your journey with them and let them help you lean into those things that seem genuine and recognize those things that smell of self-effort.

Try not to get discouraged when it doesn’t happen quickly or as easily as you might hope. Look for others who have a similar hunger. Please don’t give up, because learning to find your footing on a journey with him does take a while. This life is not like going to Disneyland; it is a real engagement with the Maker of heaven and earth.

Knowing him starts in small ways and over time grows to become the most valuable part of your life.

The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went awayand sold everything he had and bought it.
Matthew 13:45–46

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This reflection is taken from my new book, Live Loved Free Full. I am running them here because we didn’t receive the book in time to ship them before the start of the year. If you pre-ordered a copy it is already in the mail to you. We will do one more week here and after that you’ll need to get your book to keep reading. You can order your hardback copy from us or get the e-book from your favorite e-book distributors. The Kindle edition is here.

Seven Characteristics of the Deluded

No one wants to live inside of lies. All of us are doing the best we can with what we believe is true. But what if the light we think we have is actually darkness.  Jesus warned us that when you treat the darkness in you as if it is light, that darkness will overwhelm you. (Matthew 6:23)

I’ve lived most of my life deluded.  First, by the lies of sin that promised a fulfillment it couldn’t bring, then by false religious teaching that God needed me to perform well to earn his love and blessing. It’s only in the last twenty-five years that I’ve watched God slowly help me recognize the difference between what is true inside of him and what is not true inside myself. It has been an amazing journey and it’s still ongoing. I continue to wake up to the increasing light in my journey and continue to shed the lies that have sought to control me.

Over the last few years, I’ve watched many people I know sink into darkness, genuinely believing the lies of politicians, alleged dreams and visions of religious leaders who don’t know my Father’s heart, and Internet posts from Russian troll farms and QAnon. I am convinced that a great delusion has gone into the world to disempower God’s people. These are people I love, and to watch them manipulated by a clever deception that appeals to their fears and hopes makes my heart hurt.

I know how easy it is to misinterpret the times especially when we feel afraid and vulnerable. It isn’t easy to watch your culture move away from the moral underpinnings you prefer or to feel despised, ignored, and belittled by the national media or called “deplorables” by leftist politicians. It makes it easy to gravitate toward those who offer easy answers and not realize that the freedom we cherish cannot come at the expense of oppressing others we don’t like.

Of course, I know many think I’m the one who is deluded. All you have to do is look at the comments many made to my Facebook post in the aftermath of the insurrection at the Capitol last week, and how President Trump’s refusal to accept the results of the election have triggered the fears and anger of many people. I was accused of all sorts of things, told I was deceived, and even had my faith questioned. Don’t feel badly for me. People’s attempts to shame or manipulate me don’t have a place to land in me anymore. I am more concerned for the pain that causes them to lash out so carelessly.

I listen carefully, because I don’t consider myself above a few well-placed delusions myself. That’s why I’m in constant conversations with people locally and around the world about these things to check my thoughts as to whether they are flowing from Jesus’ heart or my own thoughts. And, if it turns out I’m wrong about any of this, I’ll get to admit it, to apologize, and change accordingly.

We all have to live by the light we have, but we also need to ensure that the light we think we have is light. There are extremist groups right and left that want to use the polarization in our culture to tear us apart, but I thought almost all of my evangelical friends would think an armed assault on the Capitol was a bridge too far.  Apparently, for many it wasn’t.  Neither is it enough to know that those who claimed God told them through dreams, prophecies, or a voice that President Trump would win a second term were prophesying their own hopes, not God’s.

I’m not writing this article for those of you who have yet to see through this delusion. Time will tell, you know. It always does. Lies never stand up to reality, but that may take awhile to sort out. I’m writing this for people who are questioning their own conclusions and wondering what God sees in all of this. How can we know when events unfold if we’re being lured into a delusion or finding a way into the truth?

This is why character is so important to me. When I gauge another person’s perspective, I take stock of the fruit of their life. I tend to distrust the voices of fearful, angry people, who mock and make accusations when people disagree with them. I look for those who demonstrate a passion for what’s true, humility in their own exploration of it, and generosity toward others with whom they disagree. They take the search for truth seriously, but hold it lightly realizing no one has a corner on it, especially them. They live confidently inside what they know, but are always open to new evidence that might change their perception of truth

Over a lifetime of wrestling with truth in my own heart and decades of helping others heal from involvement in religious cults, political manipulations, and toxic relationships, I have observed these seven characteristics in people who are unknowingly living under delusion:

First, they see their side as all good, and other side as all evil.

They don’t realize that humanity is a mix both of the honorable and dishonorable and that is reflected in each of us as well. I liked many of the policies President Trump put in place but at the same time I was dismayed at his arrogance and toxicity in working with others, even on his own staff. In my Facebook comment section last week, you’ll see people say that those in the Capitol were from Antifa, that their side wouldn’t do that. When those arrested all turned out to be Trump supporters, then the story shifted to that’s how frustrated the other side has made us. We’re all a mix. Some of our intentions are good and some are selfish and we’re not always the best ones to sort that out, but sort it out we must.

Second, someone expressing disagreement makes them visibly angry.

I think this is true because intuitively they know they are caught in something that isn’t quite true, so feeling threatened makes them angry. They lash out with false accusations and attempts to shame others as a way to bolster their confidence. If they were truly confident, however, they wouldn’t resort to such things. Disagreement never puts someone beyond the reach of love and kindness unless you’re insecure.

Third, they refuse to consider that they might be wrong.

Honest questions threaten the false comfort they have built for themselves. It’s like the young girl who falls in love with her dreamy boyfriend. She thinks he can do no wrong. And even after he hits her, or cheats on her, she will blame herself for ticking off the dreamy boyfriend, rather than reconsider whether her knight on a white horse may not be such a knight after all. If you’re growing, you are always wondering where you might be wrong and learning what you can to bring your life more in line with his.

Fourth, they eliminate conflicting inputs.

All cults isolate people from family and friends and other groups because they know the delusion is so fragile it won’t stand up to real life. They can’t be around people who question them and must get their version of “accurate” information from approved sources. This is why both right and left advocates have ended up in separate media silos. They can only read what affirms their bias. Truth is not that fragile. Growth-minded people question their conclusions every day as they pick up new information and grow inside the truth God is giving to them over a lifetime.

Fifth, they believe in the infallibility of their leader or their own thinking.

They embrace every word from their pastor, author, political leader, or guru not realizing that we are all flawed. No one speaks with absolute truth, even if they quote a Scripture or cite a dream as proof. If you give the aura of infallibility to anyone, you are only hiding from your own need of discernment.

Sixth, they cast aspersions on people’s faith or motives that won’t agree with them.

This is truly a defensive position. When they can no longer answer your questions, they will attack you or question your relationship with God. Assuming you know someone else’s motives is particularly heinous since no one can disprove their motives. They can’t keep the conversation about ideas because they are afraid their arguments will not hold up.

Seventh, they justify their bad behavior by pointing out how bad their opponents are.

No, President Trump has not been fairly treated by Democratic leadership but for the most part he has played into their hands as well.  I get this from a political standpoint, but for those of us who claim to be ambassadors of a different kingdom, we can’t take our cues from the worst examples among us. Just because I’m unfairly treated does not give me the right to do the same to others. Jesus called us to love in the face of attack, to lay down our lives for the good of the other, not to demand our own way.

If you want to know the truth about these things, you will. God’s Spirit is faithful to reveal it to those looking for it. The last word on all this has not yet been written. Something of God is afoot in all of this inviting the tenderhearted out of the delusions that have disfigured them. It may hurt a bit when that happens, but the fruit of living in God’s reality is worth whatever cost it takes to get there. I pray all of us will have eyes to see and ears to hear what he is saying in all of this.

The Most Engaging Invitation

January 13 

Far from being the kill-joy that religion makes God out to be, or the excuse for our injustices to others, God becomes a valued companion in this journey called life. When you know who this amazing God is, “Be holy as I am holy” is not the most onerous command in Scripture, but the most engaging invitation. When you know him, you will want to be like him.

And if you want to be like him, it’s great to know he has provided everything for that to happen. There’s no way I could do that on my own. All I have to do is learn to live in his love, and he’s the one who teaches us that, too.

Now, I know some of you reading this are frustrated that your relationship with God doesn’t feel like that. Despite your prayers, Bible reading, church attendance, and trying to be good, God still feels like a distant deity rarely involved in real circumstances of daily existence. I lived a long time there myself, so I understand. The five things I’ve described above are the fruit of a long trajectory in learning how to live in his love. It doesn’t happen overnight, with a snap of the fingers or an ecstatic Jesus encounter.

Learning how to lean into his reality and recognize his fingerprint around us is a lifelong quest, perhaps the greatest adventure our humanity offers. Our appetites can betray us, our intellect often deceives us, and the world so easily distracts us with its amusements and its fears. Cultivating the inner life to become increasingly sensitive to the ways Jesus makes himself known does take some focus and participation from us.

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which  has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:13-14

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This reflection is taken from my new book, Live Loved Free Full. I am running them here because we didn’t receive the book in time to ship them before the start of the year. If you pre-ordered a copy it is already in the mail to you. We will do one more week here and after that you’ll need to get your book to keep reading. You can order your hardback copy from us or get the e-book from your favorite e-book distributors. The Kindle edition is here.

Three More Reasons

January 12 

Let’s continue yesterday’s reading with three reasons that you might want to follow God that don’t include fear of the afterlife.

The third reason for me is because navigating successfully through a broken Creation is beyond my best resources and wisdom. Self-indulgence leads to the corruption and injustice that not only diminishes my life, but it also stains our world and harms others. How do you navigate circumstances you can’t control that seem unjust? How do sickness and tragedy make sense inside God’s love and his ultimate purpose to redeem the world back to himself?

Without his active input in my life, I only consider how things affect me, and that’s a painful way to live in this universe. He has a way of causing the sufferings of this world to fold into a larger plan of our transformation and his redemption. I wouldn’t want to live without it. He has given me insight to make decisions I wouldn’t otherwise have made, and though he often invites me down more difficult roads, they always bear better fruit over time.

Fourth, I am powerless to resist my destructive appetites and desires if he does not give me the wisdom to untangle them, the strength to refuse them, and the fullness to displace what they prey on in my twisted soul.

Without him, I’m adrift in a world of indulgence; with him, I can learn to say no to those things that add more pain in the world and yes to a path that leaves more grace in it.

Fifth, because I want to be part of something bigger than myself and my own existence. God not only created this planet but now moves it to its ultimate redemption. By showing us what it truly means to be loved and to love, I can become part of that unfolding purpose and encourage others on that path as well.

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles  the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Colossians 2:27

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This reflection is taken from my new book, Live Loved Free Full. I am running them here because we didn’t receive the book in time to ship them before the start of the year. If you pre-ordered a copy it is already in the mail to you. We will do one more week here and after that you’ll need to get your book to keep reading. You can order your hardback copy from us or get the e-book from your favorite e-book distributors. The Kindle edition is here.

Two Fearless Reasons to Follow God

January 11 

Some Christians tell me that people will not serve God unless we terrify them with the possibility of hell. I disagree. I can think of five great reasons anyone would want to follow God that have nothing to do with fear. Let’s look at two of them today and three more tomorrow.

First, because God is the most engaging presence in the universe. He is full of life, laughter, joy, and wisdom more precious than wealth. Far and away he is the best friend I have. Oh, I don’t always understand what he’s up to, but I know in time he’ll show me what I need to know.

I’d rather talk over things with Father, Jesus, and the Spirit more than anyone else in my life, and I love the conversations I have with others. If you haven’t experienced him this way, I’m sure I got a bit of an eye roll there, but honestly the things he adds to my life fill it with wonder and wisdom.

Second, because this world makes no sense without him. All that is real is not visible. I see his glory in the Creation and his hand in the seeming coincidences of life—meeting a person at just the right moment or having an insight drop into my heart from a conversation, a sentence in a book, or a song lyric.

Even failures or the betrayal of others turns out to have meaning in the larger scheme of things that he understands so well. A seemingly silly choice in one moment will open opportunities down the road I would never have foreseen.

I sensed his calling to me at a very young age. Inside his reality, I find the courage and resources that hold me through life’s most painful seasons.

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled
to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
Hebrews 10:22

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This reflection is taken from Wayne Jacobsen’s new book, Live Loved Free Full. Since the delivery of the print edition was delayed due to COVID issues in production, we are posting daily here until it can reach those who pre-ordered it for the first of the year.  You can get it on 3-book if you like at any of your e-book distributors. The Kindle edition is here.  You can order your hardback copy from us.

What If?

January 10 

I sat on a deck in the High Sierras surrounded by pine and cedar trees with a young man who did not grow up with any kind of spiritual influence in his life. He and his fiancée had asked me to marry them, so we were talking about what kind of involvement they wanted from God in their wedding and their marriage.

“I know nothing about him,” the young man answered.

I paused a moment thoughtfully, then pointed to the beauty of the forest all around us. “What if there is a God who made all of this, who loves you more than anyone else you’ve ever known, and he wants to walk with you as you explore your life in his Creation?”

He looked up at me and smiled, his eyes misted with tears. “I would love that.”

Who wouldn’t?

If you don’t know him that way, ask him to show you. Resist any expectation as to what that has to look like and watch what he does.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
I John 3:1

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This reflection is taken from Wayne Jacobsen’s new book, Live Loved Free Full. Since the delivery of the print edition was delayed due to COVID issues in production, we are posting daily here until it can reach those who pre-ordered it for the first of the year.  You can get it on 3-book if you like at any of your e-book distributors. The Kindle edition is here.  You can order your hardback copy from us.

God, the Rescuer

January 9 

Many people misunderstand the Old Testament—they conclude that God is the executioner in the redemption story. Stories like Noah’s Ark, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Canaan’s Conquest are enough to convince people that God is a terrifying presence out to destroy in anger the world he created.

Nothing could be further from the truth. There are times God intervenes in human history in ways that hold severe consequences for those who resist him, but if you look at the whole story, you’ll see he is always the rescuer. His judgment is like the surgeon’s scalpel—it sets things right in a broken world.

Sin is the destroyer, not God. Using our self-preferring nature and preying on our limited knowledge, it draws us into the darkness like captives. Because we go so willingly, we see God’s actions against the darkness as actions against us. But God wants to break through the bondage and draw us back into his light and his healing.

Salvation, according to Jesus, does not come to those who try to appease an angry deity with their offerings or sacrificial needs. Salvation is found inside an affectionate relationship with the Creator of all. It is less about fixing our circumstances than it is about rescuing us from the lies of darkness.

Unfortunately, too many people confuse God himself with the religion we’ve created in his name. That makes it difficult for them to connect with him. People in relative ease often keep God at a distance. They take in just enough Christianity to soothe their conscience and to satisfy their fears about the afterlife, but they don’t want too much of him because he might intrude on their pleasures.

Other people, caught in tragic circumstances or deep pain, call out to him, seeking relief by promising God they will do anything he wants. Neither of these will lead to a long and satisfying connection with him.

Do you need to be rescued? Ask him and let him do it however he decides is best.

“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.”
Psalm 91:14

 

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This reflection is taken from Wayne Jacobsen’s new book, Live Loved Free Full. Since the delivery of the print edition was delayed due to COVID issues in production, we are posting daily here until it is available.  The e-book is already out on Kindle if you prefer that version.  You can order your hardback copy here. SPECIAL NOTE:  Our books are in and will be on the way to you as soon as we can catch-up on our pre-orders.

Artwork above is taken from A Man Like No Other: The Illustrated Life of Jesus by Wayne Jacobsen, Brad Cummings, and Murry Whitman.

A More Compelling Reason

January 8 

So, back to our question of a couple of days ago: Would you want to follow God if there were no hell? Fear of hell was just about the only reason people got saved when I was young. No one wanted to jump through all those religious hoops unless the consequences of not doing were far worse.

Whatever hell turns out to be, it is the place where sin devours its prey. As tragic as that might be, the fear of it was never meant to be our motivation for following God. If we’re going to sustain a journey in him, we need a more compelling reason than fear. And our friends and family need to hear an invitation that inspires them to consider God’s reality better than this: “You’re a horrible person and God is going to torment you if you don’t repent.”

That’s what engages the Stockholm syndrome, rather than a real journey of love and affection. Besides, I’m not convinced fearing hell will be enough to save anyone. Oh, it might hold them in check for a few months at a time, but when the fear fades, as it always does, they will be back to their old self-destructive ways.

God’s love for you is the only source of salvation and the only motivation that will untwist all sin wrecks in this world and the one to come. Taste that, and you’ll follow him to the end of the world.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;  blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

Psalm 34:8

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This reflection is taken from Wayne Jacobsen’s new book, Live Loved Free Full. Since the delivery of the print edition was delayed due to COVID issues in production, we are posting daily here until it is available.  The e-book is already out on Kindle if you prefer that version.  If you haven’t pre-ordered your hardback copy yet, you can do so here. SPECIAL NOTE:  our books should be arriving today and we will get out as many as we can this weekend.

Artwork above is taken from A Man Like No Other: The Illustrated Life of Jesus by Wayne Jacobsen, Brad Cummings, and Murry Whitman.

Fear or Shame Won’t Help

January 7

In the early days of my journey, fear and shame were constant if unwelcome companions. I was constantly afraid I wasn’t doing enough for God to like me, and I was ashamed of my sinful desires. My shortcomings and failures were always before me since he commanded us to be as holy as he was.

However, that was not the relationship God had in mind for me, and it is not the relationship that would help know him or experience all he had for me.

Jesus didn’t seem to live with his Father that way, and he was perfect. He called his Father “our Father,” so that we could share in that relationship as well, and through it be transformed. So, instead of focusing his followers on their failures, he invited them to focus on his joy. He told them everything, “so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

No one I knew in my young days lived that way. To us, God was a demanding deity, and we lived every day under threats, obligations, and a constant demand for perfect performance. Jesus pointed us down a different road because those who live like that cannot experience his fullness, and they won’t effectively share his love in the world.

Fear and shame will not produce the work of God in us. Jesus showed us his Father was not a terrifying presence in the world, but the most endearing. Love is the coin of his realm, not fear and shame.

 

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus . . .
Romans 8:1

 

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This reflection is taken from Wayne Jacobsen’s new book, Live Loved Free Full. Since the delivery of the print edition was delayed due to COVID issues in production, we are posting daily here until it is available.  The e-book is already out on Kindle if you prefer that version.  If you haven’t pre-ordered your hardback copy yet, you can do so here.

 

Why Follow After God?

January 6 

“Would you follow God if there was no hell?”

Someone asked me that a few years ago, and my immediate reaction was, “Of course I would.”

If he had asked me that when I was younger, I doubt I would have answered with such certainty. Back then, my relationship with God was more confused. We would have said God was loving, but only for those who did everything he wanted. But whoever did that?

His holiness was his most terrifying feature, and the best reason I was given to follow him was my fear of the consequences if I didn’t. Threatened with eternity in flames was all the motivation I needed to do everything I thought required to stay in his good graces. More than anything, I wanted God to like me, protect me, and bless me.

Looking back now, I realize I was not in an endearing relationship with my Creator as a beloved son. I was caught in the Stockholm syndrome with God; like the victim of a kidnapping, I sought to ingratiate myself to the one I feared, confusing that with love.

For the past twenty-five years, however, I’ve come to rely on his love. It has made all the difference. God never wanted our indentured servitude but to share his life with his grateful children.

 

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!”

Romans 8:15 (NASRE)

 

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This reflection is taken from Wayne Jacobsen’s new book, Live Loved Free Full. Since the delivery of the print edition was delayed due to COVID issues in production, we are posting daily here until it is available.  The e-book is already out on Kindle if you prefer that version.  If you haven’t pre-ordered your hardback copy yet, you can do so here.

 

Who Is He Really?

January 5 

Scripture paints two seemingly contradictory portraits of God. As the holy God, he is shown to be unapproachable in his purity, willing to mete out unspeakable torment on his Son, and ready to consign the unrepentant to eternal agony in hell. He is also portrayed as a tender Father, so loving that the most wayward sinner could run to his side in absolute safety and find forgiveness and mercy.

If you cannot resolve these images into a coherent view of God, you will end up playing the he-loves-me-he-loves-me-not game. Like the schizophrenic child of an abusive father, you’ll never be certain which God you’ll meet on a given day—the one who wants to scoop you up in his arms with laughter, or the one who ignores or punishes you for reasons you don’t understand.

Here is why so few believers ever discover the depths of friendship God has offered to them. They see God’s holiness as a contradiction to his tenderness. Unable to reconcile the two, fear wins out, and intimacy with him is forfeit. Vacillating between loving him and fearing him will keep you from ever learning to trust him.

You cannot love what you fear, and you will not fear what you love.

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.

Romans 8:15 (NIV)

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This reflection is taken from Wayne Jacobsen’s new book, Live Loved Free Full. Since the delivery of the print edition was delayed due to COVID issues in production, we are posting daily here until it is available.  The e-book is already out on Kindle if you prefer that version.  If you haven’t pre-ordered your hardback copy yet, you can do so here.

 

A Father Like No Other

January 4 – A Father Like No Other

God’s desire for you since the first day of Creation was to invite you past your fear of him, so you can discover what it means to love him. He offers you an intimate friendship that will transform you as he becomes the all-consuming passion of your life.

He will be the voice that steers you through every situation, the peace that sets your heart at rest in trouble, and the power that holds you up in the storm. He wants to be closer than your dearest friend and more faithful than any human being.

I know it sounds too good to be true. How can mere humans enjoy such a friendship with the Almighty God who created all that we see with a word? Do I dare think that he would know and care about the details of my life? Isn’t it presumptuous to even imagine that this God would take delight in me, even though I still struggle with the failures of flesh?

It would be if it were your idea. It was his, however, long before you even considered it. He’s the one who offered to be your loving Father—loving you and caring for you in ways no earthly father ever could.

He knows you better than you know yourself; he loves you more than anyone ever has; he knows that when you relax into that reality, you will discover that all of your fears, including your fear of him, will be destroyed.

But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

1 John 4:18 (NIV)

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This reflection is taken from Wayne Jacobsen’s new book, Live Loved Free Full. Since the delivery of the print edition was delayed due to COVID issues in production, we are posting daily here until it is available.  The e-book is already out on Kindle if you prefer that version.  If you haven’t pre-ordered your hardback copy yet, you can do so here.

 

There’s No Fear in Love

January 3 – There’s No Fear in Love

Fear and love cannot exist side by side in the human heart. Though the Psalmist tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, it is only the beginning.

John discovered that perfect love casts out fear and that true wisdom is gained inside of your growing confidence in his affection. If you don’t love God, you would be well served to fear him. Once, however, you learn what it really means to love him, you will never need to fear him again.

As you grow secure in his love, you will come to know who God is. And knowing him, you will want to be like him. Discover that, and your calamities will never again drive you to question God’s concern for you or whether you’ve done enough to merit his affection.

Instead of fearing he has turned his back on you, you will be able to rest in his love in the moments you need him most.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear . . .

1 John 4:18 (NIV)

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This reflection is taken from Wayne Jacobsen’s new book, Live Loved Free Full. Since the delivery of the print edition was delayed due to COVID issues in production, we are posting daily here until it is available.  The e-book is already out on Kindle if you prefer that version.  If you haven’t pre-ordered your hardback copy yet, you can do so here.

Settle for No Substitutes

January 2 – Settle for No Substitutes

Isn’t the record of most of our lives littered with significant periods where we wandered away from his love, seeking other things to carry our spiritual life? 

Devoid of his presence, we are hounded by fear, guilt, and the delusion that we can earn that love by just trying harder. So easily, we find ourselves living with love-substitutes. We double our efforts to be responsible, committed, or disciplined. But these efforts don’t produce love; they can only flow out of it.

If the Lord’s love seems distant for you, let him draw you back to himself. Find a quiet place and wait in silence before him. He will rekindle your affection. Don’t try to go on without it. God never intended you to live even one day outside the wonder of his love. And don’t make the mistake of trying to earn it, either. 

You can’t earn points with someone who is no longer keeping score. Jesus already filled out your card with maximum points. You don’t have to earn what he has already freely given; you simply get to receive it.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

1 John 3:1 (NIV)

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This reflection is taken from Wayne Jacobsen’s new book, Live Loved Free Full. Since the delivery of the print edition was delayed due to COVID issues in production, we are posting daily here until it is available.  The e-book is already out on Kindle if you prefer that version.  If you haven’t pre-ordered your hardback copy yet, you can do so here.

 

 

First Love

Since the delivery of the print edition of my new devotional book, Live Loved Free Full was delayed due to COVID issues in production, I will be posting the daily readings here until it is available.  The e-book is already out on Kindle if you prefer that version. I’m sorry we couldn’t get you this book as it was promised to us.  If you haven’t pre-ordered your copy yet, you can do so here.

 

January 1 

God never intended you to move on from there.

You remember that first moment you knew God loved you? Do you recall the euphoria of knowing that the Almighty God who spoke worlds into existence took note of you too, and even genuinely cared about you and every event in your life?

If you are like most, that reality probably became clear to you in the midst of great pain or failure. His love captured your heart. Everything about the world around you paled in comparison to him. Every day was an adventure. Even through the most challenging circumstances, you knew you were safe in his care and that all your struggles were just part of a larger plan.

All he wants is for you to remain there or, if you’ve left it, to return there. That’s why Scripture calls it first love. We were never meant to leave that place but to live in its joy every day.

First love is not how much you loved him on that day—first love is how much he loved you then, and how much he still loves you today.

I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love.

John 15:9–10 (MSG)

What the World Needs Now

2020 was a disaster on so many levels, the greatest of which was a worldwide pandemic that we couldn’t even take on as a common enemy with a united front. Instead, we politicized it with everyone did what was right in their own eyes without regard for a greater common good.

So, half our population thinks the pandemic is overblown and carelessly spreads it to others by refusing to obey the CDC guidelines for limiting travel, masking, maintaining social distance, and avoiding indoor gatherings through this holiday season. I know the odds are in your favor that you probably won’t get it, and even if you do, you will recover quickly. Too often, however, the odds catch up with people who live carelessly, either for them or someone they love. The virus offered us the opportunity to lay down our lives for others, and so far, we seem to be failing that test.

And support measures by some governors who overreached their authority by unnecessarily closing all businesses of a certain type and not letting business owners find ways to continue their business with proper safety measures. If we’d all been able to respect social distancing recommendations, I wonder how many more businesses could have stayed open, but people wanted to party, gather in large groups, and hang out indoors. How can you trust a government that lies to us for three months that masks won’t protect you when they knew it wasn’t true?  And why does the federal government keep sending stimulus money even to those who have kept their jobs and maintained their incomes instead of targeting those who actually lost their income? It’s chaos out there, but you can still live in the genuine peace that makes no circumstantial sense.

Now, as we enter 2021, what does the world need most from you?

More than ever, our world needs an army of people who will live generously in a world dominated by the selfish and the arrogant. I know it’s hard when everyone else looks out for their own self-interest, and you feel you’ll get overrun by them. A couple of weeks ago, I talked with a friend about living free of the pain of our own self-centered thinking on a podcast. That conversation continues to flow into places in my heart that is setting me freer in his love. You can only afford to learn selflessness when you are confident Father’s love has got your back.

And by living generously, here’s some of what I think of…

  • Asking God to show you ways to care about the marginalized people around you. Spend a bit of each day putting yourself in their shoes and asking how you would want someone to respond to you.
  • Passing your stimulus check on to those in need if you have maintained your income through this pandemic. If you don’t know anyone, give it to a group providing food for those who don’t have it.
  • Sharing whatever you have with those around you—extra resources, a virtual shoulder to cry on if they need comfort, an unexpected phone call just to check on them, etc.
  • Putting on a mask when you’re around others, even if you think it isn’t necessary, just because it sets them at ease.
  • Not taking offense even to the selfish and toxic people around you who want to start an argument.  Just move to a safe distance and love them as best you can from there.
  • Taking the vaccine when it is offered to you, even if you’re afraid it may have side effects. Jesus took the cross for you, knowing the side-effects were torture and certain death. The vaccine is the only way to get to herd immunity without millions of others needlessly dying. (And please don’t send me your anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. I don’t buy the fact that thousands of medical professionals, the same ones I went to for heart surgery and others I know used for cancer, would be involved in a deception like this to wreak mayhem on the populace for no apparent reason.)
  • When you do something risky, like flying or getting caught in a large crowd, quarantine yourself for 14 days, especially from elderly and high-risk people.
  • Learning the joy of not taking offense even when people mistreat you. Keep loving as best you can.
  • Don’t try to fix people around you; it will only push them deeper into their delusion or brokenness.

You may have different ideas. Just remember living generously is not primarily following a checklist; it’s a different way of navigating the world. Every day ask yourself what generosity would lead you to do. Learn the joy of an others-focused life, and even if the world kills you for it, you will have lived a life worth living.

The best thing about living generously is that no one can make you do it. Our default setting seems to be doing whatever we think is best for us. Expanding our perspective to do what’s best for others around us is a major shift of thought. If you don’t choose it you’ll never discover its joy.

May you all have a really blessed New Year, but looking for ways to bless others with the gift of grace Father has given you,

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Live Loved Free Full

The e-book is out on Kindle, but release of my new devotional book has been delayed until mid-January due to some issues with the virus at the printing plant.  But starting on Friday, January 1, I’ll be posting the first devotionals online so you can read them if you want to start at the beginning. However, this book is not written in that kind of order, so you can start whenever you want throughout the year. If you haven’t pre-ordered your copy yet, you can do so here.

Don’t Miss This

Our last two podcasts of 2020 were two of the best of the year, focusing on how to become increasingly one with love. That conversation is still re-writing wonderful things in my own heart and changing how I live in the world. If these are the only podcasts you listen to this year at The God Journey, you will find them well worth your time.

A Head’s Up

Early this year, Wayne will release a new limited series podcast called My Friend Luis. In 10 immersive episodes, you will hear the story of Luis’ life growing up in an impoverished village in Mexico and the dramatic story of how God revealed his love to Luis on the worst night of his twenty-one-year-old life after he had been assaulted by police officers and then swept into a canal filled with sewage.

The story continues with how he has lived in the U.S. and how God brought him and Wayne together in a friendship that has changed the trajectory of both of their lives.  It is an incredible story of struggle, friendship, and overwhelming grace. Look for it around mid-January.

Let Your Soul Feel Its Worth

I posted this thought last year, and it came back to me repeatedly throughout the year as people would write and tell me how it had changed the trajectory of their lives. Through it, they recognized how unworthy they felt in their own failures and how distant from the very love that could transform them. As they began to talk to Jesus about this, he led them to a place where he could make himself known to them. Then they could begin to learn to relax into his reality. Sin, failure, or brokenness doesn’t make you less worthy of love, only more in need of it.

And, no, this is not the arrogant God-is-lucky-to-have-me sense of worth. It’s the humbling, contrite, joyful recognition that despite all that I’ve done and all that’s twisted in me, he delights in me as his child and loves me more deeply than any human ever has or ever will.

And the only way to know that is when he appears to you. I know a song lyric is not Scripture, but this one sums up so much of what Scripture seeks to say.  So, as my Christmas gift to so many of our friends around the world, I post it again.  May it bear even more fruit in 2021.

O Holy Night is my favorite Christmas song and my favorite line in it is this:  “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.”

Ever since Eden’s Fall, the hardest belief for many to sustain, especially in times of struggle and failure is that they are worthy of God’s love and affection. So often we are overwhelmed by failure and feel so alone in our struggles that it seems sometimes as if no one cares, and too often God most of all. But that’s the illusion that pushes our world into the darkness.

Till he appeared, and the soul felt its worth.

God is not ever inactive toward us—unrecognized perhaps, but never uninvolved and he is always working to beckon us out of the darkness and into the joy of his light. What Sara and I want those three precious children in the picture above to know more than anything else is that they are beloved children of a gracious Father. They are worthy of his love, no matter what struggle they go through, whatever mistake they make, and in spite of every whisper of darkness into their ears.

It’s what we want everyone to know. He appeared in our world because we were worthy of love and to prove it he would spend his own life to rescue us from all that darkness twists or destroys in us. He came to redeem us because we were worth it to him.

You!  You are worth everything to him. What I love about the lyric above is that we come to know that worth when he appears. That’s when it all makes sense, and that’s not just about his coming 2000 years ago, but how he wants to make himself known to you today. When you behold him then your soul knows its worth. We are deeply loved and deeply cherished simply for who we are.

If you need a reminder of that, steal away for some alone-time over the next couple of days. Find a quiet place and ask him to reveal himself to you. Wait in the quiet until his reality begins to bubble up in your soul. We used to sing an old chorus, “There is none like you. No one else can touch my heart like you do. I could search for all eternity long and find, there is none like you.” It is such a rich chorus to sing to God.

But if you could for just a moment, imagine God singing those words to you. Read (or sing) them again and this time put those words onto God’s lips toward you. That’s just as true. And when you come to know that, your soul too will feel its worth.

Then every night can be a holy night!

We are so blessed to have so many connections with so many people around the world. During this season, we are grateful for every life that God has given us to know, every person whose path we have crossed, and those who have let us walk beside them in their own spiritual journey.

Merry Christmas to all of you, and may the New Year bring you an abundance of him and a spirit of selflessness to serve the world in this time of extremity,

Wayne and Sara