Stranded in Pensacola (*Updated)

And yes, I realize there are worse places to be stranded.

One of the dangers of an RV trip is the number of things that can go wrong that can alter the best-laid plans. Unfortunately our big, lovely dog, Zoey, tore her ACL romping on the beach with our new puppy last weekend here in Pensacola. She has to have it surgically repaired and in testing her they also discovered a suspicious spot that may indicate bone cancer.

So, we are pausing our trip here an extra week in Pensacola to sort all this out as Zoey has surgery today on her ACL and a biopsy to see what we’re dealing with on her other leg. We feel so bad for her.

Next week, we will continue our trip to Anniston, AL and to Atlanta, GA one week later than we had planned. Unfortunately, this means we have to cancel our plans to go south after Atlanta to visit Jekyll Island, Savannah, GA and Columbia, SC.  I’m so sorry that we will not be able to see that part of the country and visit the people with whom we made arrangements in that area.

We are still planning on tagging back into our itinerary at Fort Mill, SC on Tuesday night May 7 and continuing as planned from there.  However, this all depends on how Zoey handles surgery, what kind of treatment we need if she has cancer, and how well she travels while she recovers, but we are hopeful to get back on track. And last week we added stops in Fort Mill, SC, Roanoke, VA, Charlottesville, VA, York, PA, and Louisville, KY, Lord willing.

None of this is easy. Our heart aches for our beloved dog and sad to miss some connections we had planned. In the old days, this would have derailed me, and I would have complained at God for days for not watching over us, or blaming myself for missing something. To be so far from home, doing what we felt Jesus asked us to do and having a freak accident involving our dog messes everything up.

But those feelings are no where to be found now. Over the last twenty-five years, I’ve learned that life is a struggle. Learn to appreciate the seasons of rest and joy when they come, but also embrace God’s working when your plans get wrecked and suffering intrudes on our otherwise peaceful life. Living in this world is hard and we can be so easily blindsided by the unexpected and left fuming with anxiety instead of leaning back into Jesus and how he can make use of any unexpected circumstance.

I suspect there’s more God wants to do while we’re here, or at least he knows how to make good use of it. As his love has taught me to live in the moment without having to control it. I see now what a great gift that is. When you realize you’re not in control of what happens to you, and don’t have to be, then you’re ready to embrace what God is doing.

Each day, look at the situations that confront you, consider the information you have, and make the best decision with him instead of begging him to make everything fit with your own plans and desires. If you don’t have enough information, wait until you do. We are often so impatient to erase uncertainty from our lives that we make decisions before their time. Yesterday, Sara and I could have spent all afternoon anxious over “what if” scenarios, and I can’t say we weren’t tempted to. But we didn’t have enough information yet and it would have been a waste of time.

As we talked to the vet this morning, there were no clear-cut options. But there was one course of action we felt best about and now we’ll entrust it all to God with the outcome for Zoey and our trip.

When I discovered that it wasn’t God’s purpose in this age to protect me  from discomfort and pain, everything shifted for me. Instead of blaming God through difficult times, I could look for what God was doing in those times. Is there something he wants to do to relieve it? Is there something he wanted to do to change my heart?

It reminds me of a dream Luis had in the days when Sara was gone and I wasn’t sure I’d ever see her again. He sat with me in some of my deepest pain. In a dream one night he asked Jesus if he would take my pain away. “I could,” Jesus responded, but to do that I’d have to take his love away.” I’m glad he didn’t. Those who love deeply will also hurt deeply; it’s the fullness of love. You can’t just claim the good side of it and not also embrace him in the painful bits as well.

Last week in the final gathering of the He Loves Me Book Club, we talked about learning to pray that God be glorified in whatever we deal with, rather than the “save me” prayers that come so easily. There’s nothing happening in us that his glory won’t shine through.

When you can follow God, knowing he has more options than you can contrive, you can be at rest when all around you is falling apart. And being at rest in him will allow you to see things anxiety just won’t let you see.

____________

UPDATE

Two hours after this posted, we got word from Zoey’s surgeon. She is out of surgery, which took 4 hours. She repaired her ACL and took a biopsy on the other leg. The doctor is all but certain that her right leg is NOT cancerous. She said it didn’t present that way and she is very hopeful.  We get her back on Friday and for that we are so grateful. She will be hurting on both legs for a while so it will be a tough recovery, but at least she’s made it this far.

Stranded in Pensacola (*Updated) Read More »

Chapter 4: Who Are You to Write This?

Note: This is the fourth in a series of letters written for the Bride of Christ who are alive at the end of the age. Once complete, I’ll combine them into a book. You can start with Chapter 1 here. If you are not already subscribed to this blog and want to make sure you don’t miss any, you can add your name here.

________________

I am asking as a friend, not an adversary. I love that you’re doing this, but I am really curious how you came around to writing this book? It seems a bit out of your norm. I’d love to hear how you decided to tackle this project and why you think you’re qualified to write a book to those who will be alive at the end of the age?

—Trevor, mathematics professor and father of four from Massachusetts

Hi Trevor,

It’s great to hear from you again after so long. The last time we talked we were driving through New Hampshire in the vivid fall color. I’ll never forget those amazing chocolate cupcakes we stumbled upon in that small village.

Thank you for raising this issue; it’s an important one to be sure, especially for people who have no idea who I am. And you’re not asking me anything I have not wrestled out with God before starting this task.

So, I chuckled at your word, ‘qualified.’ Who could possibly qualify for this, or really most anything Father asks of us? But perhaps, knowing I’m not, may be the best quality I have going for me. I claim no credibility beyond being a beloved son of a gracious Father and close friend of Jesus, with whom I’ve walked for over sixty years.

For those who want to know, I grew up on a grape vineyard in Central California, and Jesus was an engaging presence in my life from a young age. I had my faults and struggles like anyone else and doubted him often. It took me decades to sort out the difference between well-intentioned religious activities and what it means to follow Jesus. They are not the same thing. One will wear us out on the proverbial performance treadmill and the other is a life-long adventure of learning to tune to Jesus’s frequency, recognize his voice, and follow him fearlessly.

So, after pastoring for twenty years with two different congregations, I came to conclude that the religious overlay we had put on the Gospel was woefully inadequate to help people discover how to listen to God’s heart and cooperate with his unfolding purpose in them and in the world around them. I still embraced the core beliefs of the Christian faith—namely, that God Created the heavens and the earth, was incarnated in his begotten Son who preached the message of the kingdom, offered himself as an atoning sacrifice to reconnect us to God, and rose from the dead to be the firstborn of a new creation and the head of his Church—those who live as ambassadors of his love until he returns to earth to set things right. Until then we have his Spirit to guide us into the truth that sets us free and the Scriptures, which when rightly interpreted, show us the nature of God and how he works.

Over the past thirty years, I’ve met thousands of people all over the world who had come to similar conclusions through incredibly different paths and have learned to follow Jesus even when it led them beyond their comfort zone. The depth of sharing I have enjoyed with them has fulfilled the deepest hungers that were planted in my heart as a young man.

So, how did I come to write a book preparing the last generation for his coming? It started four years ago with a thought in my head that seemingly came out of nowhere. “Will you speak for me again?” I was taken aback by the thought. It seemed like God’s voice more than my thoughts, though I didn’t know what he was referring to. I took the ‘again’ to refer to my book He Loves Me, which I wrote out of the most profound shift in my spiritual trajectory that came through the most painful season of my life to that point. I still consider it the most valuable words I’ve put into the world.

I promised God a long time ago I would follow him wherever he asked me to go. He gets a global yes to everything, once I conclude he’s the one asking. I thought it would take some time to unfold, so I began working on a sequel to, So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore, picking up Jake’s journey ten years later. I was well into that project, when the gravity of unforeseen circumstances began to shift the trajectory of my life.

My first indication, though I was oblivious to its meaning at the time, was how my personal engagement with Jesus took a more sober tone. I didn’t know why then, but during times with him, I had a forbidding sense that a crisis was headed my way. I knew that when it did, I would have to follow the wisdom he would give me, rather than react in my own wisdom or anger. I needed to watch and pray, so that I would be prepared when the moment came, even though I had no idea what I was waiting for.

Over the months that followed, I began to recognize random events that made it seem as if our world was coming apart at the seams and read Scriptures that made me wonder if his coming was more imminent than I had supposed. Moreover, I went through a series of intense conflicts that challenged me to my core and Jesus gave me wisdom as to how to lean on him. It wasn’t any one of those things, but the accumulated weight of them all, that formed the idea of this book. Help people find a connection to Jesus that would sustain them through anything, even the end of this age. While this may be for a generation yet unborn, I don’t suspect that it is not.

So, does any of this make me the one to write the definitive book on preparing for the last days? Of course not, and this is not that book. I won’t be identifying potential antichrist candidates, figuring out the mark of the Beast, or arguing over amillennialism or whether Scripture points to pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-trib.

Instead, I am going to help encourage and equip those who may be in the last generation of Christ-followers who will face the joys and challenges in the days of his appearing, and none of those other things are of first importance in that endeavor. There is a way to live inside of him that will overcome any fear and teach you how to trust him regardless of what circumstances come. I’ve known Jesus to hold me in the deepest darkness and light a path for me to follow him through it more at rest in his love, more confident in the ways in which he works, and more transformed by his grace.

Deciding to actually write this, however, has been an intense struggle. I didn’t think I had the chops to do it, and I know my thoughts on this topic will offend people I love, who would prefer me to stick to my lane. But I am a man who listens to God as best I discern him. That has been the source of some of my most painful experiences and my greatest joys. I love him; I trust him and I am confident that he is bigger than my blind spots and weaknesses.

As I was still processing this project with God, I often wondered, “Why me? Haven’t you got someone better positioned to do this?” His response seemed to be, “Who? Give me a name.” Immediately names begin to come to mind of people I love, speakers and writers I respect. And yet with each one came a twitch in my Yuck Meter. This one is too embedded with a publisher who will distort the message to mass market it. That one is still building a brand or a community to find his identity or income. Others had yet to understand the nature of God’s love and might use these things to manipulate people’s fears or appeal to the flesh’s need of false validation.

So, I came up empty and ended up convinced that for whatever reason, he was asking this of me, not because I’m the best to do it but perhaps because I’m the least encumbered. Even still, I hope I’m not the only one to speak into this space but one of many voices, each fulfilling their part.

Over months, I became convinced that God had put this in my hands. Some of what convinced me provided a template for how I would go about it:

  1. I am going to focus on Jesus and how he works in us to transform our hearts. I’m not going to appeal to anyone’s fear or shame or demand they double-down on trying harder. I remember the days of “radical” discipleship, which was about our own efforts to read, meet, pray, study, and memorize in a flurry of activity that was more illusion that substance. Human power will not take you where the Spirit invites you. This is a work he does in willing hearts, not a plan even the most well-intentioned can implement.
  1. I’m going to help people discover how they can follow Jesus in these days. I’m not going to use the false need of belonging to build a community of last-day followers who are more committed or more special than others. Anything that sets you above others around you has to be suspect from its inception.
  1. I’m going to be free to speak my heart and not have to filter this message through the publishing trade who will shape the message with an eye toward sales and marketing. By the time something wonderful goes through that process it is often less about following Jesus than it is copying someone’s story, which will never yield the fruit we hope for.
  1. I’m not going to monetize the message for my own profit. Every app on my iPhone has gotten worse the more it has been restructured for financial gain. There’s nothing about God’s truth that won’t be twisted by the desire for a good financial return. I’m giving this book away from the very beginning by posting it here on my blog. The book form will most likely sell for a modest fee, but the content will always be free online.
  1. I am not beholden to a congregation or a constituency that I need to please to keep my job or income. I’m in my 70s with an amazing family and wonderful friends; if people want to attack me for what I write, I’ll be fine with that. I don’t need this material to build an audience or to make me popular. I only want to convey in simple and honest words what he has shown me.
  1. I am not writing this alone. I’m the repository of hundreds of thousands of conversations with people all over the world in varying expressions of Christianity who have learned to live in the love of Jesus and follow his voice. It’s the fruit of talking with people instead of speaking at them. I don’t take that lightly; it is a great treasure.Everything I share in these pages has been vetted with others I’ve walked with for a significant season and whose hearts I trust. They have full freedom to speak into my life where they feel like I’m missing it, and yet they would never ask me to follow their thoughts above my conviction of what God wants of me. As these chapters take shape, I will be drawing on those conversations and what I hear throughout the body of Christ by people who have learned to live in his love, rest in his work, and listen to Jesus with humility.
  1. I will write these things in the full light of day, not cloistered in my studio. Each chapter will appear on-line and bear the scrutiny of whoever reads them. Others can comment and where that helps clarify what I’m hoping to convey, I will rewrite the chapters to say it in the most accessible way.
  1. I know part of the gift God has given me is to express his thoughts in ways that help other people recognize what he’s already been saying to them. The greatest compliment I have ever received, and I have heard it often, is this: “You put words to ideas I already know in my heart and did not know how to express them.” My prayer is that this will do the same to help awaken the Bride to her destiny.
  1. My words will be gentle, an invitation to people who already want to see what’s true, not a debate for those I think will disagree. I will write with tender counsel and comfort, not authoritative screeds. Jesus is wooing his Bride into these days, not threatening her and thus I write for friends who are already experiencing the power of love, rather than adversaries who would prefer to debate for a more legalistic path.

I’m also convinced this is the audience Jesus wanted to share these things with. For a long time, I’ve recognized that many people who hang around Lifestream or The God Journey are some high-caliber followers of Jesus whose wisdom and love touch many others. I’m not alone in that conclusion. Whenever I introduce some of the people I know to others, I often hear back, “You have some of the most amazing friends.” I do, and for that I’m grateful. Perhaps many of you are positioned to understand what I’m writing and to help others hear his call as well.

Even so, starting this book has been a challenge. How do I find the tone and format to share these things that burn on my heart? I started it many times and had to discard what I wrote. None of it sounded the way I’d hoped.

On an early morning walk an image came to mind. What if one day a group of young people who were touched by some of my writings invited me to spend a weekend with them. Specifically, they asked, “Wayne, if we would happen to be the generation that’s alive when Jesus returns, what thoughts would you have to help us prepare for those days?”

Now, I could write that book, and those are the people I would long to write it for. This is what I would share with them as the most valuable lessons of my journey. Without a vibrant and active connection to him, the end of the world would not be survivable. You cannot navigate those times by the principles others have taught, only by a Presence who will walk with you.

I realize much of this content will be challenging, especially for people with more religious backgrounds. If it has no meaning to you, or proves hurtful, feel free to disregard those things. I’m not forcing this on you. In these pages, I want you to find that which draws your heart closer to God’s and helps you recognize his tender call to his bride and lets him prepare your heart for whatever might lie ahead.

Perhaps you, too, have a sneaking suspicion that the days of our world’s destruction are coming to an end and that Jesus stands at the threshold of human history to complete the redemption that he began with his birth in Bethlehem, then purchased at Calvary, ratified by his Resurrection from the dead, and will finally consummate when he stands on the Mount of Olives once again.

I can almost taste the moment. If it happens in my lifetime, I’ll be thrilled to be part of such days. And if not, I’ll be cheering from the other side those of you for whom the end of the days has come.

 

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You can access previous chapters here. or Continue to Chapter 5.

 

Chapter 4: Who Are You to Write This? Read More »

Better Explored than Explained

No, I’ve not become a rapper!  That photo was taken Saturday morning in a conversation where I was trying to shield myself from the sun. But, I can wear that look!

Yesterday, Sara and I left the Austin area to continue our journey to the east. We’ve added new stops in Pensacola, Atlanta, Jekyll Island, Charlotte over the next month on our way to Richmond and Baltimore. After that we’re considering a stop in York, PA before turning west to Lexington, Louisville, and then on to Denver.

We hold so many great memories from our time in Texas and the people that let us into their hearts. What an amazing time we live in, where Jesus is inviting so many to walk alongside him even if it means uprooting the legalistic performance they were taught! And while that will make some in your family fear for your journey and even attack you for it, it is worth letting his love win you out of the obligation and judgment that define so much of religion, so you can live tenderly and graciously in the world, especially with your detractors.

Now we can begin to orbit a different reality—unmoored from our religious sensibilities we can get to know him and watch how his glory liberates us from the bondages of darkness and invites us into the light where we can be wholehearted in our walk with him.

Here’s how I expressed that journey in the last chapter of He Loves Me:

OF COURSE, NOTHING IN THIS BOOK has any value if it is just an intellectual argument, or if it only spawns a theology of God’s love. It only has meaning if you can learn how to live loved—to awaken to each new day confident that the Father delights over you like a parent over his newborn child.

I could go on and on with other implications of what it means to live in God’s love, and how it revolutionizes everything about the way we think or live. But I think the picture is clear enough now and you’ll be able to recognize the pathway and follow it wherever your Father wants to take you. Believe me, this is a life far better lived than it is read or talked about.

I’ve spent twelve years (now thirty years) mining the width and breadth of the Father’s affection and my life in him grows deeper and richer as the months go by. I keep discovering just how incredible he is and how freely I can live when I’m confident of his affection for me. I’ve seen him change so many things in my life this way, and yet I feel as if I’m just beginning.

You will enjoy far more the process of discovering how he wants to live in you than to keep reading more on the subject.

The life of Jesus is far better explored than explained. You can read and talk about it until you’re exhausted and frustrated; the joy comes in waking up each morning with an eye to discovering how he will make himself known to you on this day and what it will reshape in your heart no matter what you go through.

We’ll be talking about all of this at our final gathering of the He Loves Me Book Club, which will meet this Saturday, April 20, at 1:00 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time.  We will be focusing on chapters 22 and 23. Chapter 22 focuses on the prayer God always answers and is a huge help for us to discern how he’s inviting us to follow him. The last chapter contains some simple guidance to learning to live loved.

Even if you have not been with us before, you’re welcome to join us for this last study.  If you want to join us in this Zoom conversation, you can get details and the link by liking the Facebook Group Page, or if you are not a member of Facebook, you can write me for a link to be sent each time we meet. For those who just want to watch, we stream them live now on my Lifestream Ministry Page, since a new glitch in Zoom is not allowing us to post them to my Facebook Author Page. I will, however, post it to the Author Page once the conversation has concluded. You will be able to view it there along with  all the previous discussions we’ve had about He Loves Me.

And if you want to see any of our conversations through He Loves Me, you can find them all here:

Better Explored than Explained Read More »

An Update from the Road

This weekend we finish up in Austin, TX before heading to a two-day stop in College Station, TX. Then, we are off to further points east, as we stay on I-10 through Louisiana and Mississippi before a ten-day stay in Alabama.

We’ll stop first along the beach near Pensacola, FL and then go upstate to Anniston for a weekend with some good friends, and an open gathering on Saturday, April 27. You can get details here or from my Travel Page.

Also, I want to let you know that Sara is my guest on this week’s podcast at The God Journey, as Kyle is still on hiatus due to some family needs. Sara talks about the tools she has gained over the last two years to help her unrelenting passion to find the truth about what happened to her, why she reacts to circumstances the way she does, and how God’s truth is transforming her to let her become all that Jesus created her to be.

I love this story so much. I’ve had a front row seat to miracle after miracle as Jesus’s light has found its way into the nooks and crannies of Sara’s heart and mind. And I’m incredibly proud of the courage Sara has demonstrated not to shy away from this process at all even though it has been deeply painful at times.

From the darkness into the light is what salvation really means. It’s not about heaven and hell; it’s about Jesus saving her from the cruelties of a dark and broken world.

An Update from the Road Read More »

Can You Hear Your Name?

Back in 2015, Anne, a friend of mine, sent me a poem about the Bride of Christ that had taken shape in her when reading Jeremiah. I shared it on an episode of The God Journey.

After listening to a recent podcast on prayers for the Bride and my first three chapters of my new book, It’s Time: Letters to the Bride of Christ at the End of the Age, she sent it to be again to see if I remembered. I hadn’t, but reading it again it really resonated with some of the things we’ve been seeing and sharing here.

When she sent it to me, this is what she wrote:  “How you talk about her just made me want to dance… she has been waking up and hearing her bridegroom and finding her first love again, throwing off the shackles. The days of the kings are over; they no long have sway over her.

“I have such a cry in my heart for the bride, for her to come out of the complacency we have been pressed into, I pray this adds to the sound of the call out. The world has changed beyond recognition in the last years since we talked and I feel so much that, like Esther,  the bride is called for such a time as this. He calling is wakening his bride because he is speaking to the world through her, and in these days, her voice is needed even more so.

In the meantime Hebrews 11:9-10 is my ongoing experience.  I live in a land of promise as a stranger, dwelling in these temporary residences with other heirs of the same promise (blind mostly to that promise), all the while looking for a city whose builder and maker is God. Those last words are a deep cry; I do feel so much a stranger, as if I speak a different language and struggle to connect with any of the words I hear elsewhere.  That is it was such a delight to hear your recording and your sense of God’s timing.

The bride!  Yes.  Its time!! I am so looking forward to hearing more of your words in this space and all that the Lord is leading you into.  Thanks you for speaking out now.

Here is her poem;

This is what the Lord says:
This, the Church,
She the bride, glorious without spot or wrinkle
Beautiful.
Born out of brokenness, out of grief,
bearing in her body the sufferings of her Beloved,
full of Joy and Hope and Glory

She has been quiet, unseen, her beauty hidden
behind steeples and bells
behind long winded words and hell fire with brimstone
behind false shepherds and false gospels
behind strange fire and witchcraft
behind well-intentioned but shackling care and control

It’s been a long time but NOW.
He is calling her forth;
He is saying her name.
You hear it, like a whisper on the wind.
It echoes in your dreams.
She is the this; She is what the Lord is saying.

In every moment he is sounding her name
until every rock and tree,
lamb and lion shake with the sound.
For this has been their groaning, for so long

And she is rising,
shaking off the dust and mothballs of her fear induced coma.
She is his Beloved and He is hers.
To her he makes known the unfathomable riches that are in Him.
Through her, he makes known the manifold wisdom of God
to all those who sought to keep her hidden, quiet and afraid.

Can you hear your name?
Beloved.
Hear. Your. Name.
For you are She.

Ann McGowan, 2015

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Note:  Sara and I have begun our journey east. We are parked in Wimberley, TX today, outside of Austin, preparing for the total eclipse.  This was supposed to be a cloudy day here, but the son just burned off the clouds and is shinning. Hopefully, it will stay that way until it overtakes the moon, about at 1:35 CDT.

And then we are heading to points east, so if you want to connect across the I-10 through Louisiana, Mississippi, or Alabama, let us know. From there we may curve through Atlanta on our way down to Jekyll Island and then head up through Columbia and Charlotte before heading into Virginia, either by way of Raleigh or Roanoke. That remains to be seen. Then we’ll be in Richmond, VA, Sykesville, MD, outside of Baltimore, before turning west toward home with some stops in Kentucky and Denver as well as points in between.

For us this trip is about encouraging the Bride, however we can, as well as enjoying the sights of this amazing country.

Can You Hear Your Name? Read More »

On Our Way

We took advantage of Easter Sunday to get a head start on our transcontinental trip.  We celebrated Jesus’ resurrection yesterday with our family and then struck out on a rainy Sunday morning ahead of the Easter traffic and are now on the outskirts of Phoenix.

This morning we are going to walk with some friends and our two dogs in Phoenix, and then head to Wilcox, AZ where we have a dinner planned. The pre-planned events giving direction and timing to this trip, Lord willing, include:

  • Austin, TX – April 5-15  (With some gatherings the weekend of April 13-15)
  • Loxley, AL – April 22-25
  • Anniston, AL – April 26-28
  • Richmond, VA – May 14-19
  • Sykesville, MD – May 20-23
  • Lexington, KY – May 31 – June 4
  • Denver, CO – June 14-20

There are obviously some gaps in there for Sara and I to take some quiet time, perhaps along the gulf coast or in South Georgia on the Atlantic. We are also connecting with a lot of people in smaller conversations between most of the stops listed above.

If you’re along that route somewhere, or want to join us at any of these gatherings, please let me know and we’ll see what we can do about connecting on our way by. We do morning walks with the dogs, lunch or dinner meetings, or even picnics hanging out by the fire at whatever RV Park in which we’re parked.

We’re so honored in this season of our lives to have more casual and thus deeper conversations with people on this incredible journey of living loved.

Our projected route continues to be:

 

 

On Our Way Read More »

Chapter 3: This Scares Me to Death 

Note: This is the third in a series of letters written for the bride of Christ who are alive at the end of the age. Once complete, I’ll combine them into a book. You can start with Chapter 1 here. If you are not already subscribed to this blog and want to make sure you don’t miss any, you can add your name here.

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Wayne, to be honest, your last two postings have given me quite a fright. I’ve always hated books and sermons about the end of the age, and I don’t ever read Revelation because it terrifies me. There seems to be so much devastation, wrath, and death. I find myself paralyzed to think that these days would possibly come in my lifetime.  

— Sharon, HR director, mother of three and grandmother of one

Hi Sharon, 

I’m so sorry my words have felt paralyzing to you. The last thing I want to do is provoke anyone’s fear, but I knew this book would do that. The end of the age is a terrifying prospect for many. Not only does it confront us with our own mortality but also the catastrophic circumstances that the Scriptures seem to say will surround his coming. 

It speaks of the Day of the Lord in ominous terms. Religious leaders have focused on those since the prophets began to write about it toward the end of the Old Testament. Today books, movies, and preachers who pound on that theme think they can terrify people into right living. Keep in mind, however, most religions trade in fear because it makes it easier to manipulate people. And there are few passages that can be twisted to ramp up people’s fears more than the pages in Revelation about the end of the age.

The end of the age will bring death and destruction, and a new set of challenges to face—an antichrist figure, the mark of the beast, and natural disasters that will take the lives of many. I understand why most would prefer not to think about it, especially if their life on planet earth is pleasant. My daughter has a small dog who doesn’t enjoy the exuberance of our new puppy, Mandy. And yet, Mandy is fascinated with Lola, so she’s always trying to get in her face. Lola’s approach to this is just to turn her head away, pretending Mandy doesn’t exist. If she can’t see her, she’s not there, or so she thinks. 

Of course she is wrong, and so are we if we think ignoring what challenges us won’t eventually catch up to us. The proverbial ostrich’s head-in-the-sand approach to fear won’t serve us well. Neither do we need to give in to fear when the Day of the Lord’s coming, which will be the second greatest day in human history, after his Resurrection. 

Fear never leads us to Father’s wisdom, especially at the end of the age. This is the culmination of every good desire we’ve ever had and what our hearts long for in the frustration of living in the broken Creation. Jesus didn’t tell us his plans to make us cower in the corner, but to prepare ourselves for whatever might come in the joyful anticipation that our salvation draws near. 

Even after all these centuries, I am convinced that Jesus will physically return to this planet as he foretold his followers. Will that be in my lifetime? I hope so. But at some future, yet unknown date, he will appear to complete his work of redemption, not only for his beloved, but for all of Creation.

Corrupt human governments will come to ruin, and Jesus will take his rightful throne as the highest authority over all. On that day the kingdoms of this world will become “the kingdom of our God and of His Christ.” Love and peace will flourish among humanity and the effects of the Fall on Creation will be reversed. Beauty will encompass our hearts as we engage him without the blinders of flesh or fears in the new heaven and new earth.

The only reason to fear is either because we’re afraid we haven’t done enough to be included in his family or because we don’t see that Jesus is strong enough to hold us through whatever difficulties come. That’s how preachers can even twist Jesus’s triumphant return into a terrifying moment of separation between those who are “ready” and those who are not. I remember one sermon that threatened, “If you have even one unconfessed sin between you and Jesus when he comes, you’ll be left behind.” Instead of being free to anticipate his coming with joy, we always had to be careful that we had done enough every day to be included in the Redeemed. There was no safety in his love for us, but only in our performance for him.  

I hear from people all the time who are afraid they might be tricked into taking the mark of the beast and be rejected by God. That’s as old as people getting a Social Security number or a chip on their credit card. And it’s as fresh as those who were afraid it was slipped into the COVID vaccine as a nanobot. To fear such things, you have to be convinced that God is wanting to exclude people from his life and has concocted this as a Gotcha Test. 

That would be like your dad telling you, if you consume alcohol, he will remove you from his will. Then, he sneaks some in the spaghetti sauce, so he can blame you for being disobedient. What kind of God is that? Not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. His desire is not to exclude people from redemption but to include all who will to come to him. Whatever the mark of the beast will be, it will obvious and include a pledge of loyalty to darkness.

If the fear of being left behind is the stick some use to keep people faithful, the carrot is the rapture. Those who pass the Gotcha Tests will be raptured out before any challenging times come. Honest Scriptural interpretation does not naturally lend itself to this point of view. It has been concocted by people living in prosperous Western culture. Many followers of Jesus throughout Christian history and even around the world today suffer life-threatening challenges and persecution as well as great need and deprivation. To think that we get an easy out would have been unthinkable to the early Christians who considered it an honor to bear Jesus’s image and mission even to the risking of their own lives.  

I realize none of this helps with your fears yet, Sharon, but bear with me, because the end of the age was never meant to catch those close to him unawares. Far from being a source of fear, his coming is a cause for anticipation and hope. The pain of those days is the surgery necessary to mend a broken hip or repair a clogged artery. We don’t focus on the process, but the healing.

So, how do you view his return? Many see the vengeful God coming to blast his enemies into oblivion. That’s not how I look at it. Jesus is coming to rescue his bride from all that wars against her and take her to himself. I realize that’s a difficult metaphor for most men. We may prefer the image of a warrior armed for battle to a bride decked out in a white gown. But in this picture, we are that bride; he is our champion, coming to rescue us and the world from darkness. If you can’t get comfortable with that reality, you’ll find yourself trying to do by human effort what only Jesus can do in his authority. 

The catastrophic events of the last day seem to come not because God needs to throw a tantrum. God may not be their primary cause; it’s simply where humanity ends up when they serve their flesh or the god of money. The tragedies that result will give even more people the opportunity to come to the end of themselves and turn to him. 

That may mean days of persecution, particularly for those who live in the truth instead of playing the world’s games. The enemy and the world will react like jealous girlfriends, taking out their anguish on the bride. The bride’s focus, however, is never on her former girlfriends; her focus is steadfastly fixed on her beloved. 

While the book of Revelation lays bare the catastrophic events that will come in the last days, it’s theme is the ultimate triumph of the Lamb and his reunion with his Bride. I’m pretty sure these events will play out very differently from the way our popular books imagine it. Much of Revelation is a mystery still unfolding, a metaphor that people take literally to their peril. 

What Revelation reveals most clearly are the extraordinary promises Jesus makes to the Bride—those who overcome with him. He preserves them in the face of destruction and holds them in his hands even through persecution. Even those who may die in the conflicts of those days will be surrounded and comforted by the presence of the Holy One. He will have complete victory over the powers of darkness and will be enthroned above all powers and the forces of evil will be utterly destroyed. This is not wrath for his children; it’s a rescue. 

Thus, the bride looks at the Day of the Lord quite differently. Even if it comes in chaos, it concludes in beauty and wonder. This is the day of her wedding as Jesus comes to redeem her out of this broken world. He will prepare her so that even in those days she can stand before him without spot or wrinkle. This is not a day to fear, but one to embrace with him. The bridegroom is coming to redeem his bride out of the chaos of this present, evil age. If that doesn’t excite you, you need a better grasp of who your Redeemer is. Any bride terrified of her wedding day is marrying the wrong man.  

Sharon, I will not silence your fears by answering all our questions about the end times but by helping you become so close to Jesus that those questions will no longer matter. Jesus didn’t tell us these things to scare us, but to let his love prepare us for the day of his redemption. That’s as critical for what you face in your life today as it will be at the end of the age. Any fear causes us to slip into self-protection mode, which makes it difficult to recognize how he is at work around us. This is where we make our worst decisions, often with our best intentions. 

Fear shows us where we need to attend to our relationship with him and be more attuned to his love. Whenever you find yourself afraid, take some time to sit in that fear with Jesus. Face it head-on; examine it with him. Ask him why you’re afraid. Let him respond with insight that will invite you closer. I often ask him, “What is it about your love that I don’t yet know, that if I knew it, I wouldn’t be afraid here?”’

John wrote to us, “Perfect love casts out fear,” and he did so not to make us feel guilty when we are afraid but to let us know that there is a place inside Father’s love for you where fear no longer exists. Only he can show you how to live there; and it’s a process involving many facets we’ll look at throughout this book. 

Begin with your smaller fears and ask him to show you how to bring them inside his love. Don’t focus on the fear but on the love and his extravagant care for you. Watching how he guides you through difficult circumstances will make you more aware of his presence. When he doesn’t alleviate your fear the way you want, you’ll have the opportunity to discover that God thinks very differently than you do. Watch how he works, and it will change the way you live in the world. Finding freedom from fear is not convincing ourselves logically that our fears are unfounded, or by hoping that God is greater than our fear (though he certainly is). Your fear will dissipate as he displaces it with his love.

Don’t think you have to be perfect to grow here; it’s a process. When I find myself afraid, I realize there’s a way to grow in him that will consume it. It may take weeks or even months, depending how deep the fear is, but he will teach you so much about yourself and him that you will notice it bearing fruit in many other areas of your life as well.  

So, while those may be painful times, it is only the process that will bring great joy for those on whom the end of the age has come. He is not just coming to finish redemption’s story; he will also hold the redeemed tightly through the whole process. It is the nature of the bride to focus the fullness of her heart on her betrothed who comes to claim her as his own and with her, introduces a new heaven and a new earth. No longer filled with pain and sorrow and sickness and disease and separation and loss and loneliness, it will flood our senses with joy, wonder, beauty, light, and life. And we get to share it with him and each other for all of time.

Over the last three years, I’ve endured the most challenging crises of my life, including the unmerited rejection of people I love dearly. I’ve never traversed such incredible darkness for so long, but in doing so I found a depth of trust in him beyond any unforeseen event or circumstance. That has left me changed in ways I never imagined. 

The reason I’m writing this book is to help those like you discover a similar place in their own hearts for Jesus to develop that trust in them. There is a way through your darkest fears and the chaos of declining civilization. This is what his love was always meant to shape in us, so that we no longer need to be tossed about by our fears, but live at rest in his love. 

Then we can join the chorus where the Spirit and the Bride speak as one voice, “Come!” 

_________________________

You can access previous chapters here. or Continue to Chapter 4.

 

 

Chapter 3: This Scares Me to Death  Read More »

Free of Shame and Full of Love

Due to the fact that Sara and I will be leaving soon, we’re doubling-up on our study of He Loves Me. This weekend we’ll be tackling two more chapters. Chapter 20 is about living free from shame in our relationship to the Father though Jesus’s work on the cross.  Chapter 21 is about swimming in the river of love, and how when we are loved well by God, we will love well in the world.

These two freedoms lie at the heart of living loved and will change how you naturally live in the world. Can you imagine living in this kind of freedom without forcing yourself?

You will soon find that your security in God’s love and your awareness of his unlimited patience with you will redefine the other relationships in your life.

Instead of demanding that others conform to what you think is right, you will find yourself letting others have their own journey. By no longer manipulating them to what you think is best you can allow them the same freedom God gives you. You will let them choose their own course based on nothing but the clarity of truth as they understand it and the willingness of their conscience. It is the task of the Holy Spirit to convict, not yours.

Instead of despising people who are broken by sin you will be touched by the depth of bondage that holds them captive. You will also see better how the Father responds to them and then know how you can as well. Sometimes that means you’ll stand back and let the consequences of sin take their course as the father did with his prodigal son. At other times it means you’ll jump into the mess with them and help them find God’s way out.

Instead of saying what you think people want to hear, you’ll look for ways to be gently honest with them. Human love seeks people’s comfort at the expense of truth. God’s love seeks people’s comfort in the midst of truth. He doesn’t avoid the difficult moment or hold his peace just to be nice. As you experience that in your own relationship with him you’ll find yourself unable to be disingenuous with people.

Finally, by looking to God as the resource for your needs you will find yourself not overloading your friendships with expectations that are easily disappointed. By vesting all of our hope in God’s ability to meet our needs we will not need to force our friends to do it. I know God will often use other believers to extend his gifts and graces to me, but now I also know I don’t get to choose the vessel he uses. In other words, I always look for how God is revealing himself to me through other believers, but I don’t trick myself into thinking it has to come from the specific person I want him to use.

Disappointed expectations destroy relationships because we look to others in ways God wants us to look to him. Such expectations set us up for enduring frustration. However, when we give up our expectations of people, we’ll find God uses some of the most unlikely people to lend us a hand. Our frustration will yield to gratefulness however, whenever, and through whomever God uses others to touch us or us to touch others.

We’ll be talking about all of this at our next gathering of the He Loves Me Book Club, which will meet this Saturday, March 23, at 11:00 am Pacific Daylight Time.  This is two hours earlier than previously announced because of a schedule conflict. I apologize for the inconvenience.

We will be focusing on chapters 20 and 21. This is our second-to-the last gathering but even if you have not joined us before, you’re welcome to join us tomorrow and process how you can live more freely in love as well.

If you want to join us in this Zoom conversation, you can get details and the link by liking the Facebook Group Page, or if you are not a member of Facebook, you can write me for a link to be sent each time we meet. For those who just want to watch, we stream them live now on my Lifestream Ministry Page, since a new glitch in Zoom is not allowing us to post them to my Facebook Author Page. I will, however, post it to the Author Page once the conversation has concluded. You will be able to view it there along with  all the previous discussions we’ve had about He Loves Me.

Free of Shame and Full of Love Read More »

Lifestream Going Mobile – Update

A lot of you have asked about our travel plans this spring, and it seems we have a little more clarity on where we might wander.  To be honest, these are “windblown trips”, without a lot of fore planning because of the spontaneous opportunities that seem to come up wherever we go. They are a mix of vacation for Sara and me, as well as time helping people process things we’ve spoken about on the podcast or written about in my blogs or books. It’s a great mix of wonderful conversations and time alone for us as a couple.

So, you get to pick our brains and hearts about learning to live in love, dealing with religious abuse and rejection, finding relational community, living in the river of love, finding your way through trauma, the call to the Bride, or anything else that will help you process your journey.

As I previously announced, we are headed to the Austin area to see the total eclipse, skies permitting at the beginning of April. We’re also hanging out with some fellow travelers there before turning more eastward toward Alabama and the Carolinas. We not sure of our routing here, other than to get to Anniston, AL.  As of now, we are planning on going all the way to the east coast. We have some invitations in Richmond, VA and near Baltimore, MD that will be the furthest reach of this trip before turning back west. We’re going to try to get to Lexington to respond to an invite, but how we get back to visit our son in Colorado from there is still up in the air.

Why do I share this?  In case you’re somewhere along this path and Father puts anything on your heart about a connection, or you want to come meet us somewhere if you’re not. If so, please get in touch.

Lifestream Going Mobile – Update Read More »

Chapter 2: Is This Really Where It Ends? 

NOTE: This is the second in a series of letters written for the bride of Christ who are alive at the end of the age. I don’t know how often they will appear, but once complete, I’ll combine them into a book. If you are not already subscribed to this blog and want to make sure you don’t miss any, you can add your name here. The quotes that begin each chapter are a compilation from the many letters and conversations I receive and are not from the specific person I’ve made up to hold those words. They are designed to express the heart’s cry of those who are yearning to be part of what God is doing in our day and open the door to the content of that chapter.

_________________

Do you really think we could be living in the last days and that Jesus still may come in your lifetime? I’ve heard all that talk for over fifty years, and I’ve got to say I’m a bit jaded at the thought and surprised to hear you joining those ranks.

—Lloyd, 77-year-old retired engineer in Texas

Lloyd,

Even Paul, the Apostle, was concerned that too many expectations of Jesus’s coming by his followers would lead to discouragement if he delayed longer than their hope could last.

Like you, I’ve lived through a lot of false predictions of the Lord’s coming. As a child, I heard there’s no way this planet could survive the anger, drugs, and open sexuality of the 1960s and that Jesus would certainly come by 1970. I hated that talk, because I would turn 17 in 1970 and I hoped for a taste of adulthood before the end of it all.

Hal Lindsay convinced many that The European Common Market would provide the seed of the one-world government as it resisted the power of Communism. Then, of course there was the 88 reasons Jesus would come in 1988, and when that failed, the same author told us he got it wrong, and he now had 89 reasons why he would come in 1989.

Many predicted Y2K at the turn of the century would lead into a worldwide depression out of which the end of the age would come. Various Rosh Hashanah dates in the 1990s and 2000s were identified as dates for his coming, usually tied to some astronomical event to affirm the date. I even had some friends quit jobs and forego their daily responsibilities convinced that his coming was a month or two away.

All those dates turned out to be dead wrong, well-intentioned though they may have been. What I learned from all of that is anyone who sets a date is a fool. They may be wealthy fools with so many buying their books and attending their seminars, but fools, nonetheless.

So, no, I don’t have any aspirations to join those ranks and I am not making any predictions about him coming in my lifetime or the next hundred years. I don’t know if the times we are living through now portend the end, I’m merely asking myself, what if they do? I don’t have a sign. I don’t have a word from Jesus. I’ve not got some new interpretation of Scripture that finally reveals the secret.

So, let me assure you up front that I’ll not be telling anyone to quit their jobs, sell their homes, stop paying taxes, give up their dreams, buy guns, move to a private island with me, or to neglect any of the regular activities your days require. We won’t need to preplan, but simply respond to him as circumstances might unfold.

When the Jewish leaders asked Jesus for a sign, he thought it remarkable that they could so easily predict the weather by the color of the sky at night but couldn’t read the signs of the times. He indicated that spiritual indicators were easier to read than the weather, and yet, Lloyd, our generation has been fooled by so many false predictions and timetables ostensibly given by God or encoded in the Scriptures.

Today, we have apps that track the weather down to the minute with surprising accuracy, and yet we seem less discerning about what Jesus is doing behind the curtain of our daily lives or in world events. And when we lose sight of the Head, we’re only left to extrapolate our interpretation of Scripture or events into conclusions that prove false.

However, it is growing more difficult for me to ignore that many of the indicators Jesus gave us are aligning in some interesting ways. I listened to a podcast called The End of the Earth, which unpacks from a purely scientific perspective the dozen or so existential threats that humanity will have to solve in the next 150 years to survive. Some of those threats come from forces outside our control, such as asteroid impacts, super volcano eruptions, stellar explosions, or the collapse of a vital ecosystem. There are man-made risks such as nuclear war or radiation from a dirty bomb, environmental damage, climate change, an engineered pandemic, or artificial intelligence. Any of these could render humanity extinct or wipe out huge numbers of people in the quantities the book of Revelation attaches to the end of the age.

To be certain, the odds of most of these risks are infinitesimally small and there is always the possibility that some technological advance may reverse or overcome some of them. More concerning, however, are the handful of these that could be unleashed by a singular rogue scientist or desperate despot. And, to overcome some of them would require a level of unselfishness across a broad swath of humanity that we’ve not seen in our history. And yet, so many people I know rarely think about how humanity has plundered the planet with so little care for future generations.

In addition, we are witnessing four significant international conflicts that are more fraught with peril than that which spawned our first two World Wars, and this time nuclear weapons are in play. Two of which are already full-scale wars with mass casualties and two others could easily escalate to that. Furthermore, the international cohesiveness needed to resolve such conflicts is currently at a low ebb.

Of course, if I had been alive in 1940, I might have been convinced that Adolf Hitler was the Antichrist and the armies of good and evil were lined up in battle. Who in history was more set on world domination and committed genocide on such a massive scale? He used people’s religious fervor and feeling inferior after the Great War to seduce a nation into his narcissism and the evils it perpetuated.

But I would have been wrong, so I am reluctant to draw any firm conclusions here, I simply have my eye on what may yet unfold. What if our democracy fails or the current animosity degenerates into civil war? What if China triggers a war over Taiwan or their claims to South Pacific shipping lanes? What if our system of law and order breaks down into the tribal alliances we toy with now or collapses with an onrush of refugees from failed states?

I also can’t ignore other troubling trends in the rise of autocratic governments, terrorist activities, gangs, and cartels as well as increasing mass delusions fed by misinformation campaigns. Leaders focus on amassing power any way they can without regard for morality and goodwill. Our societies are becoming ever-more polarized and hostile with a bent to force others into the “right” way of thinking. Journalism has given way to advocacy and click-seeking content such that there are no longer any resources that enough people trust to even begin to build a common ground.

Many of our societal systems have broken down or been corrupted by the wealthy so that people have little hope of justice. Honesty is at an all-time low since everyone spins to their own desire or profit. Mass shootings continue to proliferate, and world debt is reaching unsustainable highs.

I also find many descriptions of last-days behavior in the Scriptures, to be as current as the morning news, like this from 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV):

“There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”

Doesn’t that describe most of our social media, as well as our politicians, celebrities, and Wall Street bankers, as well as those who would be like them?

What’s intriguing to me is not any one of these things but all of them converging in our time. It is difficult to imagine a way out of all these challenges without the intervention of the One to whom all authority belongs. Is Jesus at the doorway to finalize his redemption of the Creation or are these only another set of birth pangs for a distant resolution? If these are not the beginning of those days, someday the beginning will look a lot like this.

Two thousand years ago, the early believers lived with an eye toward the day of redemption of all things, when the earth would be liberated from decay and God’s glory would make all things new. If that was true two thousand years ago, how much more today? That’s the joy growing in my heart, whether it happens in my lifetime or not.

Yet, with all the missed predictions and seemingly endless delays, I understand, Lloyd, how  hard it is not to give in to cynicism, especially when such talk has been filled with the immediacy of fear and threats of what would happen if we are an unworthy follower when he shows. These letters are for the bride, however. These are not days of gloom, but anticipation of joy. The groom just may be at the threshold and his coming is not a day of sorrow or anguish for his beloved; it’s a cause for celebration and unbridled joy. Like the Creation itself, we long for the day of the redemption of all things with expectancy and wonder.

What would it be like if Jesus’s coming comes in the next decade or two? The bride will emerge from all over the world, made ready by his love and dazzling the world with her beauty amid its chaos. That is hard to imagine if you’re thinking of Christianity as the religion it has become—broken and competing institutions trying to make people righteous with their rules and rituals. Instead, think of it as people from around the planet who are learning to live deeply in his love and are being transformed by that love to embrace others around them, both fellow-believers and those lost in the world.

I find world events curious enough to at least ask the question, “What if?” What are world events telling us? Is there a shift in the Spirit’s working to prepare hearts for that day? In the rhythm of the Spirit is there a fearless call for his bride to come closer? I’m holding those possibilities in my heart, but my expectancy is not on his second coming primarily, but how he wants to come now to share his life with me.

It’s time to lean into him more intentionally, listen to his heartbeat more carefully, and follow joyfully whatever he shows us. When I do that in light of his coming, I have greater clarity and make better decisions. I’ll not be writing here about geopolitical politics, identifying the antichrist, or decoding what the mark of the beast might be. These letters will be about who Jesus is for his bride and how we can live deeply in him so that we’re prepared for anything that may come.

I will write as if we are that generation, and if we’re not, perhaps some future generation will find these thoughts helpful. By publishing these letters, I want to put my voice alongside others who may be sensing similar things. My hope is that this spawns a wider conversation in the comment section or through emails that will allow us to look together at that which God is doing in our day and how these times may play into his purpose for the redemption of the whole Creation.

Blessed are they who don’t lose their hope in the Lord’s appearing because of the disappointed hopes of days past. And blessed are those who are not so distracted by what the future may hold that they miss his voice today. Realizing that the future of everything is in his hands, we can with delighted hearts invite him to continue to appear in us until the day he makes himself known to all.

As I’ll discuss in the next letter, this is not a time for fear. Even if the days of humanity’s indulgence are drawing to an end, Jesus will not let the world come to naught and he will not let you be devoured in the chaos. Challenging times will come at the end, but when we trust him, we will have all that we need. Our part is not figuring out the big picture, but responding each day to how he draws us to himself and that will prepare us for when the plan of redemption reaches its final page.

Then, the end will come with shouts of joy from all the beloved who have yearned for his coming.

 

–> Continue here to Chapter 3

Chapter 2: Is This Really Where It Ends?  Read More »