Sometimes It’s Right in Front of Us

I received an email last week from a friend in Israel. He mentioned how much he and his wife were learning to relax in Father’s love and care, but then added a hunger that had gone unfulfilled in their hearts:

During this time, the Lord taught us a lot and fed us with his love. We still have not found a group that we could call our home. We continue to pray for it. I have never felt such an acute need for simple communication and friendship.

I took note of his hope that some group would become home for them. I understand that hunger since we’ve all been schooled in the idea that we all need a fellowship we can call home, but it isn’t true.  So, I wrote back, “I don’t know that you need to be looking for a group to call your home. Let Father, Son, and Spirit be your home, and then you’ll be free to love others without needing anything in return. In time, some of those you love will love in return, and then you’ll find people who can enjoy the simple joy of friendship. Finding fellowship is a process to follow, not a group to find.”

Not everyone is ready to listen to something like that. Thankfully, he was, and it drew his heart to a work God had done before in them:

Thank you for writing me that my home is in the Father. Something inside me clicked and everything I have worried about lately finally came together as a puzzle in my head.

When my wife and I received an update in His love, our life became a daily adventure in Him. Every day, I got up and the first thought that arose in my head was “More.” I felt like a child who was circling behind the hands of the Father, and who is so happy and filled that he said again and again, “More!” In our life,     new people constantly appeared with whom we shared our path. We started spending more time with our children, having breakfast every Saturday, and spending time.

But at the same time, pressure was growing in the church we attended. We did not fit into the system and it spat us out. Unfortunately, then I did not understand many things that the Father revealed to us. I was not ready. We understood that Father called us to go out, but we were not ready to remain without a church in the way we’d known it. We were afraid for the children, afraid that they would not have friends. And besides, I thought that we needed to find a church with good, correct, deep, Christ-centered teaching.

In our new congregation, the meetings fell on Friday evening and immediately killed our dinner time and reading the Torah. It turned out that on Saturdays they had a youth ministry and we no longer had breakfasts with children. In addition, we were loaded with various ministries and endless conferences and seminars. And we are always in a hurry somewhere, but at the same time we had almost no close relations with anyone. More recently, we gathered with people at our home. We all had fun and joy, chatting, eating and studying the Bible together.

Because of my studies, we decided to stop the group for a while. I also stopped conducting classes in the children’s ministry. And now every Friday, I try to sit out the ministry. The only thing that inspired me is communication with my old friend.

After what you wrote to me, I realized that such a life we had before. We just let the Father fill every day and shared this love with others. But then we wanted to find or create a group and everything began to die. A thought came to me to stop coming to these church meetings. Just live filled with Him and loving those who are near. I will not make any quick decisions. I will ask the Father to show me if He really wants it.

He already had what he was looking for, but it didn’t count because it wasn’t the specific kind of group he was looking for. There are so many ways Father can connect us with his family. You can find that connection in a congregation if you’re not too worn out by the program, or you can find it elsewhere as you learn to live in his love.

Sometimes what we want is right in front of us; it’s just not in the package we were expecting.

______________________________

If you need help finding the church Jesus is building in the world, that’s why I wrote Finding Church. We often look for her in all the wrong places and get frustrated when we feel alone and isolated. She is all over the world, growing in his glory. She just doesn’t always look the way we think she should.

“My Worth As a Woman”

I couldn’t believe anyone would want to interrupt their vacation to drive all the way from San Francisco, just to have lunch with me. That’s a six-hour drive!

I had met this couple a year or so ago. Now, they were visiting California from the east coast and wanted to know if we could share a meal together. I try to do that whenever I can, but I don’t schedule those very far out because of the craziness of my travel schedule, and I can’t be obligated here locally if Father invites me into a situation elsewhere in the world. So, I tell people who ask, “Let’s just trust that if God wants us to be together, he will arrange it so a hole in my schedule will fit a hole in yours.”

It’s astonishing how often it works out as it did for them a few weeks ago. In the course of having lunch at my favorite local BBQ joint, they were sharing some of their story with me. The wife had been raised in an abusive, legalistic environment, made all the worse by a father who didn’t know how to love his daughter. They were schooled in some of Bill Gothard’s teaching, which I often refer to as Senior Pharisee School. I understood a bit of what she meant since I had a brush with a less-intrusive form of the same stuff that reduces the life of God to a set of rules and processes that have little room for grace and transformation.

In the middle of her story, she slipped in a sentence so gently that it almost got past me without realizing what she said.

“I discovered my worth as a woman hearing you talk about Sara.”

I don’t know that I have ever received a more meaningful compliment. I was deeply touched by her words and all the more because they were unforeseen.

It has never occurred to me to talk about Sara for that reason. I do it because our growth in relationship is one of the best parts of my story. I love what God has done in us over our forty-four years of marriage. Yes, we’ve had our more selfish and disconnected moments. We’ve fought through misunderstandings, bitter feelings, and differing perspectives to keep finding a way to “us.” That process hasn’t been easy or painless, but through it, we’ve both changed significantly and in doing so have come to love and appreciate each other more deeply. I talk about her because we decided years ago that the best way to help people was to live in the open and not create a false notion of who we are as people.

To think the Spirit had used my talk of Sara to breathe into this woman’s heart that she was every bit as precious to Father as anyone else, and as valuable in the world as reflections of his grace and mercy in the world—thrilled me beyond words and all the more beautiful because it was unintentional.

That’s what some call ‘collateral beauty.’ It’s the opposite of collateral damage. It’s when the Spirit does something, “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”  

And there, in Ephesians 3, Paul loses it and exults, “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.”

Amen.

Talk well of those you love; you never know who’s listening or what it’s doing in them.

More Uncharted Roads

First, a great quote:  In last week’s podcast, I read a quote taken from a June 2019 Atlantic article entitled, Abolish the Priesthood. An incisive read on its own merits that has application in the Evangelical church world as well, it contained this quote:

The first reference to the Jesus movement in a nonbiblical source comes from the Jewish Roman historian Flavius Josephus, writing around the same time that the Gospels were taking form. Josephus described the followers of Jesus simply as “those that loved him at the first and did not let go of their affection for him.”

What a wonderful identifier of God’s people in the world! I’ve been chewing on that sentence for the last couple of weeks.  It sums up well the aspiration of my heart and allows me to follow the nudges on my heart.

A few have asked why I’ve not posted much here of late. The short answer is I’ve got two books on final approach and am giving all my time to getting them ready for editing and publication. One is my collaboration on THE CITY, a novel written by a French housewife about how we learn to live in the Father’s kingdom. Sara and I have known the family for over seven years, and I have been working with Claire to brighten the story and add some of my insights to the English version. This has not been easy knowing it didn’t turn out so well the last time I tried to help someone. In the end, however, I really felt as if Jesus was asking me to do it again, even if it all goes wrong. Though I have better assurances and a better relationship this time, no one really knows how the future will play out. But this is a book I want in the world, and I think Jesus does too.

Early feedback from a few people who’ve read it for me has me astounded. Although I don’t expect anything close to the numbers we had with THE SHACK, I do believe this story is as transformative. This story touched in my heart, what THE SHACK touched in my mind. This story will help people discover how the love of God will transform the way they live in the world. I can’t wait for you to read it.

Kyle and Jess Rice from Torrington, WY

And to publish it, I am helping a young couple from Wyoming start a publishing company. Kyle and Jess Rice, whom I interview on today’s podcast, have been friends for several years. I love their passion for Jesus and their desire to help others live in the reality of Father’s affection, and they want to unfold that message in a way that resonates with people in their 20s and 30s. We’ve talked for years about collaborating together, and now we’re actually going to head down that road. They will publish THE CITY and THE LANGUAGE OF HEALING, which I’m also finishing up with two co-authors, Bob Prater and Arnita Taylor. That’s a joy too! We actually had some publishing companies seek us out on these titles, but in the end, I didn’t want to put them through the Christian publishing machine, and all that means. I’d rather give wings to them as Jesus leads us and release them into the world to travel as far as he desires. It’s a risk, it always is, but I’m excited to see what he might do.

On the local front, I’ve been asked by a team in our community to help process the twin tragedies we had here in Thousand Oaks, CA last November. On a Wednesday night, our city faced a mass murder at a local country & western hangout, and the next day we were confronted with two wildfires that did extensive damage to our community and surrounding ones. Several community leaders hope to bring this city together by letting people share their stories under the banner of “Finding Strength Together.” Over the last few years, I’ve had a growing desire to find a way into this community and serve it, beyond the relationships I already have. I’m thrilled to be invited into this collaboration and use my gifts to help others tell their stories as part of a process of healing.

So, that’s why I’ve not blogged much, why I’m horribly behind on my email, and why I won’t be traveling much this summer. I do have a lot of family obligations at home this June, but was planning on heading for Kenya the first two weeks of July. However, due to road construction in the areas I wanted to visit, we’re going to postpone that trip to a later date.  So, I have the time to help launch a publishing company and complete these two titles for a Fall 2019 release.

Two years ago, none of these projects were visible on my horizon, except Kenya of course. I love the way he brings new things into my life out of nowhere, and then nudges me into projects that enrapture my heart as well as enlighten my mind. They’ve also allowed me to get to know people better that greatly enrich my life.

So, times they are a’changin’ here. A fresh wind blows and draws me down uncharted roads. Come with me if you want; pray for us, if you will. This will at least prove interesting.

Kenya: Springs Garden Mineral Water

If you are following our continuing saga of helping people in a specific region of Kenya, you know that we had to drill a new well a few months ago or see a school closed down that was helping orphans and children living with drug-addicted parents in a place called Forkland. A flood last December polluted their former well with their sewage and was no longer usable. This school has been run by a woman after the tribal violence as the only hope to break the poverty and bondage of children in this area and make a generational shift in a place of great need.

The new well went 340 feet deep and hit an aquifer of pure mineral water that is under intense pressure. Not only is it enough water for the school and the surrounding community who also use that water, but health officials also recommended bottling it for sale since the water is of the highest quality anywhere in Kenya. This is an answer to prayer in so many ways. For every need we’ve sought to help in Kenya, we have also started an enterprise they can utilize, not only to hire people who need jobs but also to fund ongoing needs. The orphanage/school we started is supported by a petrol station we built. Other needs in the Kitale area are being funded by a grain distribution company we launched there. This bottling plant will help provide for Forkland school as well as outreaches into that community. The overflow will also be helpful in future needs in North Pokot.

July 2020 will complete our five-year project to make the tribes of North Pokot that we’ve been serving, sustainable without outside help. We have drilled wells, started irrigation projects, opened schools, helped with health care, and funded microloans to help create new businesses. By all indications, they should be able to use their creativity and industry to care for themselves beyond that.

This bottling plant is the next step in securing an income stream for Forkland School, help with the impoverishment of the surrounding community, and the overflow will be able to help new people groups in Pokot.  But for that, we need an additional $42,000 to start the enterprise. This includes empty bottles to get the enterprise going, as well as training for five months and a conduit for distribution. If you can help us fund this project in whole or in part, I would be incredibly grateful.

Also, this month, we need an additional $18,000 to feed a new tribe that came two months ago to try to find some resource. Their women and children were dying, and no other aid was available to them. They sought help from the tribes we are assisting in North Pokot. We gave them food two months ago, and they need two months more to get them to harvest time. So, in addition to the $10,000 we send every month, we need an additional $60,000 this month.

Your help is appreciated more than you know. All contributions are tax-deductible in the US. And, as always, every dollar you send goes to the need in Kenya. We do not (nor do they) take out any administrative or money transfer fees. Please see our Donation Page at Lifestream. You can either donate with a credit card there, or you can mail a check to Lifestream Ministries • 1560 Newbury Rd Ste 1  •  Newbury Park, CA 91320. Or if you prefer, we can take your donation over the phone at (805) 498-7774.

Living Lighter

Yesterday at lunch, a dear friend asked me what I had learned in the last ten years in my exploration of Father’s affection. I first started thinking of lessons or truths I had gained, but then my mind quickly went to how differently this journey allows me to live. I am less worried about achievements, more present with the people I’m with at any moment and have far less angst to convince people of anything. That allows me to live with a lighter hand, with the freedom to not be so worried about how I’m being perceived that I can’t respond more simply and freely to others around me.

Nowhere has that produced fruit I enjoy more than in my relationship with this woman. Today Sara and I celebrate forty-four years together—forty-four incredible years! For us, this is not an endurance project, staying together because we said we would. Every year of the last twenty has been better than the year before. We find ourselves today celebrating our love, our partnership in negotiating life together, and our presence with each other as we endure the challenges and pain of growing older together. This woman makes my heart beat faster when I see her, adds so much beauty and texture to my life and models a self-sacrificing love for our family that makes life so precious.

No, it has not all been puppy dogs and rainbows. Over those forty-four years, we’ve also had the days-long, painful, and frustrating conversations that have helped us learn to love more deeply. We’ve hurt the other by selfish actions and miscommunicated in ways that have challenged that love. We’ve acted selfishly and lived to regret it. We’ve disagreed over critical decisions to great frustration. But through it all, we’ve learned that a heartfelt apology can heal anything. We have found our way to solutions we could both embrace wholeheartedly.  We’ve endeavored to live in a way that the other is never our victim, but always our valued partner. We’ve made room for God’s work in the other, allowing them to change by changing along with them. We have been with each other in our worst moments and seen the darkest recesses of the other’s soul and become the other’s primary cheerleader for more freedom in the love of Jesus.

Truthfully, he’s the real hero in this marriage, giving us insight and courage to keep doing what love led us to do. We don’t see these forty-four years as an achievement of our discipline and commitment. That could have won us a life-long marriage, but it also could have been lifeless endurance. We see these years as a triumph of grace. Somehow, Jesus has held us in this relationship and taught us to love the other like the other needed to be loved. We’ve confronted the relationship-sabotaging weaknesses of our flesh and found his strength to embrace the healing. Neither of us is the same person that we were on the day we stood before family and friends and pledged our lives to the other, but I love the woman Sara is becoming even more, and I’m sure Sara loves the current me more, too.

I can’t imagine this relationship getting any better, but I know it will. No doubt, there’s still more freedom ahead for both of us, and our relationship is the first place we get to celebrate it. There is no one I’d rather be with than this woman, no one whose wisdom I regard more highly or whose presence sets my heart at rest more completely.

Those who think longevity can lead to boredom have not tasted a relationship like this. I feel bad for those whose marriages don’t endure the painful bits, where selfishness rules instead of where love serves. My heart breaks when I hear of abuse or neglect that has shredded a couple’s affection for each other. No one deserves to be victimized by another, especially the person closest to them. We were created to be loved and though we can only find that first in the Father himself, seeing it reflected in another human being who knows all your secrets and still adores and admires us, is a gift for the ages.

I am grateful for Sara and the courage she has shown to keep growing as a person and to always make room for me in her life. I’m grateful to God for holding us through the darkest storms and giving us his wisdom to resolve our conflicts and embrace the other more wholeheartedly. It’s the delightful fruit of learning to live inside of love, and I want that for everyone.

Don’t just endure life with your spouse; let Jesus keep teaching you how to love more freely, and thus more lightly. It will take you through some dark and challenging waters, but doing so is its own reward.

Do You Want to Be a John?

If you haven’t read So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore, you may not get the reference, nor the wonder of the comment. For those that haven’t, that story is about a frustrated staff pastor meeting someone he thinks might be John, Jesus’ disciple, still living in the 21st century.  Do you remember when Jesus told Peter that if John were to live until he came again and that it should not matter to Peter’s journey? Now, Jesus didn’t say he would live that long, but we thought that an excellent idea for a story. What if a first-century apostle were still living today? What would he think of what we’ve done to Jesus’ kingdom in the 2000 years since?  That story has been read well over half a million times in the 14 years it’s been out. This is a story we never thought would go beyond a website.  

Anyway, I was in Europe over the last couple of weeks, starting in Norway, then taking on a YWAM class on the east coast of Italy, before ending my trip with two stops in Switzerland. Except for my time in Switzerland, all the people I met on this trip were new to me. What a trip it was, too! I am blown away by the people I get to know in my travels. Wherever I go I meet some of the most compelling people who are sorting out what it means to live loved and responsive to Jesus rather than just working Christianity as a system of thought. I love that. I love the conversations I get into and the things we discover together. I never know where those conversations will lead and almost always see something new about this God I love in the process.

I also meet some of the most courageous people on the planet when I travel, those that have more passion for a relationship with God than they have experience at it. Despite incredible struggles and doubts, they continue to open their heart to recognize the connection God wants to have with them. Yes, they are frustrated that it seems to be beyond their reach, and yet they continue to ask, seek, and knock on the door. I know it isn’t easy. I know it can lead to years of frustration when the desire is not immediately fulfilled the way we hope.

For humanity to connect with the transcendent God is no small task. Everything broken about this world seeks to diminish his voice, obscure his reality, and make us feel all alone in the universe. Look at all Father has done, including the cross, to make that connection. So, it doesn’t surprise me when it isn’t easy or doesn’t happen quickly especially for those who have known significant trauma in their lives or been captive in legalistic systems as a substitute for knowing him. It isn’t easy for us to learn to give up trying to make happen by our own efforts what only he can do by his Spirit. And he will do it, even if it takes most of our lives. 

One man told me on this trip that he wondered if this kind of relationship is only available to specific people like the men and women of God in the Old Testament. “If that’s true,” I told him, “then traveling the world and telling others they can have it, too, would be the cruelest thing I could do.” He agreed. I don’t travel, though, because of my need for income, or to satiate my ego. I wouldn’t do what I do if it weren’t to help others experience the same reality in him that I do. If it isn’t real for all, even the “least” of them, by however we choose to measure it, then it isn’t real for me either. That’s what the new covenant was for, to help every person find that connection with the God who loves them more than anyone on this planet ever has or ever will.  

And that brings me to why I wrote this blog. I had a brief conversation in Switzerland that was repeated in an email when I got home:  “You may remember when I said that ten years ago I always wanted to have someone like John by my side to answer all my questions. Today, I want to be someone like John, encouraging and helping others to discover and live in the heavenly Father’s love.” I love that. In essence, that’s the simplicity of the Gospel. Find your reality in him, and then find a way to help others discover that reality as well. 

I remember when we were writing that book, that I yearned to be someone like John, too. We wrote way above our heads when we sculpted out that character and put the best things in his mouth that we’ve ever heard or thought. Even Sara would recognize how beyond me John was when I was writing for him. When she would get home, she would make the observation that I’d been working on that book again. When I asked how she knew, she would respond, “Because you’re always a better person when you’ve spent the afternoon with John.” It was our little joke, but she was right. Writing for John was aspirational. 

Who doesn’t want to be a voice that opens a door in the heart of those who are endeavoring to discover what is true about God? Who wouldn’t want to be the cheerleader rooting on those who are about to give up in the misery of a difficult life? Who wouldn’t want to be a friend who can help others recognize the fingerprints of God in their heart?  

Yes, in the early days we want a John who can help us recognize how Father makes himself known to us. As we grow, however, we can become that John for others. We need so many people who can help others learn to recognize God at work in them. We do that by asking God to give us away to those who want to know him, by looking for those who are struggling in their faith and befriending them, by walking with God, not just for the wisdom we need, but for the wisdom others might need as well. 

It’s a noble aspiration—to find God with increasing fullness and to help others find him too.  

Ending the Daisy-Petal Game

I will spend the next two weeks in Europe helping people explore living loved. I’ll be in Norway, Italy (Pescara), and Switzerland (first near Zurich and finishing up near Geneva). Before I go, I want to leave you with this little gift.

Before I go, I got an email the other day from someone who searched me out on Facebook, not even sure I was the author of He Loves Me. Her effort and her words deeply touched my heart. I am continually amazed at how this little book finds its way in the world even after almost 20 years since its first publication. She wrote:

I wanted to ask if you were the author of a book I read some years back—He Loves Me. If you are the author, may I take a moment to thank you deeply from my heart. As I turned the pages of that dear book, I could feel the love of God pour out into my broken heart. I read it slowly, as I never wanted it to end. It helped me believe that God really does love me, so much more than I could imagine!

I have bought so many copies through the years to bless other broken ones with it. God bless and keep you. Thank you again…I hope I have the right name but if not may Gods blessings be upon you as well!

Monday, I was on the phone to a good friend and he told me his wife was finally reading He Loves Me for the first time. He said she was just being blown away by it. She said the illustration of plucking daisy petals in the first chapter was so on point with the way she was brought up, always believing that her circumstances were the proof of how God felt about her each day.  I get it.  I had some of that, too.

On Tuesday as I was preparing this blog, someone posted this on an old post on my Facebook page:

Currently, I am listening to He Loves Me chapter 16 on audio. You might recall, I came out from the cult led by Herbert W. Armstrong. I have your paperback, underlined, well marked and highlighted, six years ago. Just downloaded it from Audible and now the “Ah hah” moments are all over the “pages” and I am seeing what I didn’t know was there. Having been indoctrinated with old covenant law, I could not get it. Now it is delivering me. I became so very burned out by my lack of awareness of my own freedom to choose what my own heart contained. So much pain in deception. Thank you, Sara and Wayne.

I’ve often said, this is the most significant book I’ll ever write because these are still the most important lessons I’ve learned on this journey. Many tell me they had a hard time picking it up for a long time, thinking they already knew about God’s love. When they finally read it, however, they are surprised by what was in those pages and how much it helped them find freedom in his love. There is a huge chasm between understanding the theology of God’s love and actually living loved in the broken Creation.

So, if you haven’t read the book yet or even if you haven’t read it for a while, here’s the first chapter for your reflection:

Chapter 1

Daisy-Petal Christianity

He Loves Me by Wayne JacobsenTHE LITTLE GIRL STANDS in the backyard chanting as she plucks petals one by one from the daisy and drops them to the ground. At game’s end, the last petal tells all; whether or not the person desired returns the affection.

Of course, no one takes it seriously, and if children don’t get the answer they desire they take another daisy and start again. It doesn’t take long even for children to realize that flowers weren’t designed to tell romantic fortunes. Why should they link their hearts’ desires to the fickleness of chance?

Why indeed! But it is a lesson far easier learned in romance than in more spiritual pursuits. For long after we’ve put away our daisies, many of us continue to play the game with God. This time we don’t pluck flower petals, but probe through our circumstances trying to figure out exactly how God feels about us.

I got a raise. He loves me!

I didn’t get the promotion I wanted and lost my job altogether. He loves me not!

Something in the Bible inspired me today. He loves me!

My child is seriously ill. He loves me not!

I gave money to someone in need. He loves me!

I let my anger get the best of me. He loves me not!

Something for which I prayed actually happened. He loves me!

I stretched the truth to get myself out of a tight spot.  He loves me not!

A friend called me unexpectedly to encourage me. He loves me!

My car needs a new transmission. He loves me not!

 

A PERILOUS TIGHTROPE

I have played that game most of my life, trying to sort out in any given moment how God might feel about me personally. I grew up learning that he is a God of love, and for the most part I believed it to be true.

In good times, nothing is easier to believe. In days when my family is healthy and our relationships a joy; when my ministry thrives and both income and opportunity increase; when we have plenty of time to enjoy our friends and are not burdened down with need, who wouldn’t be certain of God’s love?

But that certainty erodes when those times of bliss are interrupted with more troublesome events

A childhood condition that provided no end of embarrassment.

The day one of my friends in high school died of a brain tumor even as we prayed earnestly for his healing.

When I wasn’t selected for a job I wanted in college because someone had lied about me.

The night my house was robbed.

When I was severely burned in a kitchen accident.

When I watched my father-in-law and my brother both die with debilitating illnesses even though they sought God earnestly for healing.

When colleagues in ministry lied to me and spread false stories about me to win the support of others.

When I didn’t know from where my next paycheck would come.

When I saw my wife crushed by circumstances that I couldn’t get God to change, no matter how hard I tried.

When doors of opportunity that appeared certain to open would suddenly slam shut like a wind-blown door.

Then I wondered how God really felt about me. I couldn’t understand how a God who loved me would either allow such things into my life or wouldn’t fix them immediately so that I or people I loved wouldn’t have to endure such pain.

He loves me not! Or so I thought on those days. My disappointment at God could easily turn two directions. Often in my pain and frustration, when I felt like I had done enough to deserve better, I would rail at God like the Job of old, accusing him of either being unfair or unloving. In more honest moments, however, I was well aware of the temptations and failures that could exclude me from his care. I would come out of those times committed to trying harder to live the life I thought would merit his love.

I lived for thirty-four years as a believer on this perilous tightrope. Even when there was no crisis hanging over my head, I was always wary of the next one God might drop on me at any second if I couldn’t stay on his good side. In some ways I had become like the schizophrenic child of an abusive father, never certain what God I’d meet on any given day—the one who wanted to scoop me up in his arms with laughter, or the one who would ignore me or punish me for reasons I could never understand.

In the last twenty-five years I have discovered that my earlier methods of discerning God’s love were as flawed as pulling petals from a daisy. I haven’t been the same since.

 

CONVINCING EVIDENCE

What about you?

Have you ever felt tossed back and forth by circumstances occasionally certain, but mostly uncertain about how the Creator of the universe feels about you? Or perhaps you’ve never even known how much God loves you.

In a Bible study recently, I met a forty-year-old woman who was active in her fellowship but admitted to a small group of us that she had never been certain that God loved her. She seemed to want to tell me more, but finally only asked me to pray for her.

As I did, asking God to reveal just how much he loved her, an image came to mind. I saw a figure I knew to be Jesus walking through a meadow hand in hand with a little girl about five years old. Somehow I knew this woman was that little girl. I prayed that he would help her discover a childlikeness of spirit that would allow her to skip through the meadows with him.

When I finished praying I looked up at her eyes, brimming with tears.

“Did you say ‘meadow’?” she asked.

I nodded, thinking it odd she had focused on that word.

Immediately she began to cry. When she was able to speak, she said, “I wasn’t sure I wanted to tell you. When I was five years old I was molested in a meadow by an older boy. Whenever I think about God, I think about that horrible event and I wonder why, if he loved me so much, he didn’t stop that from happening.”

She’s not alone. Many people carry scars and disappointments that can appear to be convincing evidence that the God of love might not exist or, if he does, maintains a safe distance from them and leaves them to the whim of other people’s sins.

I don’t have a stock answer for moments like that, as if any could be effective in the midst of such pain. I told her that evidently God wanted her to know he had been there with her, and although he didn’t act in the only way she could understand true love to act, he loved her nonetheless. He wanted to walk her through that defiled meadow and redeem it in her life.

He wanted to give her a measure of joy in the face of the most traumatic event of her life and turn what had destroyed her ability to trust into a stepping stone toward grace. I know that can sound almost trite in the face of such incredible pain, but the process has begun for her. Eight months later I received an excited email from her telling me in 270-point type, “I get it!”

Does that mean she understands why it happened to her? Of course not. Nothing could explain that. But it does mean that God’s love was big enough to contain that horrible event and walk her out of it. It is my hope these words will encourage that process in you, as well.

 

PERCEPTION VERSUS REALITY

For truly God has never acted toward us in any way other than with a depth of love that defies human understanding. I know it may not look like that at times. When he seems to callously disregard our most noble prayers, our trust in him can be easily shattered and we wonder if he cares for us. We can even come up with a list of our own failures that can seemingly justify God’s indifference and beckon us into a dark whirlpool of self-loathing.

When we’re playing the he-loves-me-he-loves-me-not game, the evidence against God can appear overwhelming. For reasons we will probe throughout these pages, God does not often do the things we think his love would compel him to do for us. He often seems to stand by with indifference while we suffer. How often does he seem to disappoint our most noble expectations?

But perception is not necessarily reality. If we define God only in our limited interpretation of our own circumstances, we will never discover who he really is.

However, he has provided a far better way. Our daisy-petal approach to Christianity can be swallowed up by the undeniable proof of his love for us on the cross of Calvary. That’s the side of the cross that has all but been ignored in recent decades. We did not see what really happened there between the Father and his Son that opened the door to his love so vast and so certain that it cannot be challenged even by your darkest days.

Through that door we can really know who God is and embrace a relationship with him that the deepest part of our heart has hungered to experience. That is where we’ll begin, because it is only in the context of the relationship God desires with us that we can discover the full glory of his love.

He does love you more deeply than you’ve ever imagined; he has done so throughout your entire life. Once you embrace that truth, your troubles will never again drive you to question God’s affection for you or whether you’ve done enough to merit it. Instead of fearing he has turned his back on you, you will be able to trust his love at the moments you need him most. You will even see in the strangest ways how that love can flow out of you to touch a world starved for it.

Learning to trust him like that is not something any of us can resolve in an instant; it’s something we’ll grow to discover for the whole of our lives. God knows how difficult it is for us to accept his love, and he teaches us with more patience than we’ve ever known. Through every circumstance and in the most surprising ways, he makes his love known to us in ways we can understand.

So perhaps it’s time to toss your daisies aside and discover that it is not the fear of losing God’s love that will keep you on his path, but the simple joy of living in it every day.

On the day you discover that, you will truly begin to live!

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!

—1 John 3:1

 

If you’d like a copy of He Loves Me, you can order it from Lifestream. You’ll also find links there for the ebook and audio versions as well.

Letting God Win Us

The events that Christians from all over the world will celebrate this weekend were not only to redeem humanity but to prove God’s unrelenting love to win our hearts into a relationship with him. It’s a recurrent theme on this blog and on my podcast at The God Journey. I want to call your attention today to one of those,  podcast #671, called Letting Him Win You. I have had a number of people over the last month tell me that the last seven minutes of that podcast were transformative for them as Brad and I talked about God winning us into his love.

And that’s not just something he did 2,000 years ago, it’s what he is doing with you today. He is at work in and around you to win you into the reality that you are a beloved son or daughter of a gracious Father. How can you recognize that, and how can you embrace him?  That’s what these seven minutes are about.  You can listen to it below, or read an adaptation of those comments that follow.

We often draw the worst of our human conclusions from misinterpreted Scripture. We often hear that God has done everything for our salvation, and now it’s up to us to do the best we can. We already have the truth; we just have to work it.

However, unless God wins us into his love and wins us into his trust, we will not be able to follow him on this journey. Of course, we’re involved. If you’re not won to love and trust, you will plan and plot. You just will. Fear will do that and you’ll be anxious in unresolved situations.

To be won into trusting him, we have to be willing to be won. That’s what lies at the heart of repentance. It’s not groveling in shame, but rather abandoning our agenda and desires for what we want out of life. As long as you know how you want your life to come out and how you want any circumstance to be resolved, this road will be difficult. Instead, you’ll give God ultimatums: “If you don’t do what I want, I’m going to doubt you exist.” You’ll miss his heart for you because you’re not getting your own way.

That’s why repentance is so crucial. Don’t think of it as saying, “I’m so sorry. I’m such a horrible, lousy sinner, and I’ll never do it again” That’s not repentance. Repentance says, “I’m going to abandon my agenda and embrace yours.” I’m not going to trust my human conclusions about what God would do if he loved me. Those who do have a hard time believing they are loved.

But it’s not just releasing our agenda for the future; there is also an element of releasing our disappointed expectations from our past. Why didn’t you heal my child, or protect them when I asked? Why didn’t you save my marriage, or job, or some relationship we valued? Those are relationship killers. If I’m holding him to account as if he does not love me, how can I recognize his love when it comes? When Job comes to the end of his calamities, he realizes how much he misunderstood God’s work in all his sufferings. “Things too wonderful for me to understand.”

An ongoing heart of repentance provides the space that will allow him to win us into love and trust. Come to discover how much he loves you and your trust in him will grow alongside it. That’s why I encourage people all the time to pray this prayer: “Father if you love me in the way Wayne says you do, would you show that to me?” Pray that, not just for a day or week, but let it be the cry of your heart for a year or two. Keep it before him and watch how he makes himself known.

As he teaches you about his love, recognize where anxiety or fear crowds him out. I don’t mind at such moments inviting him into my struggle, “Father I’m not trusting you here. I want to. Help me.” I still have moments like those. I don’t have a complete trust in God that fits every circumstance that confronts me. But I know what to do when panic and anxiety try to set in. That’s where I get to lie down and say, “Okay God, what is it about you that I don’t know, and if I knew it, I would trust you here?”

If Eve could have prayed that in the garden, if she could have said, “God, I don’t trust you here. I want to grab this fruit and get there myself. What is it about your love I don’t know that would keep me safe here?”

If she knew how completely loved by God she was, the enemy’s voice would have had no weight. It isn’t even about how much she loved God but simply knowing how much he loved her. If she genuinely knew that, there would be no temptation. She would not have even wasted a second wondering if her God would withhold anything good from her.

So if you’re hungry to know God and embrace his way of living, maybe this is where you can begin. Let him win you into love and win you into trusting him. It isn’t easy to discover God’s love living in a broken world where so much of his will is thwarted by human greed and indulgence. He knows how huge it is to win us into that love and yet he’s up to the challenge. He really can bring us out of our pain, disappointment, and hurt and show us how loved we are even when we’re going to be disappointed and hurt again. But now we know we are not alone.

We weren’t alone the first time, either; we just thought we were.

Streams of Water in the Wilderness

My last blog offered my thanks for the incredible outpouring of support for people in Pokot. After I posted it, I got this new information from them. The map above will help you understand some of the details here. The drought and starvation are going on across the entire top of Kenya from Wajir to West Pokot. Our efforts are in the northern area of West Pokot, and the people we work with from Global Hope are based in Isiolo to the east.

This is from Michael Wafula, who is the President of IGEM (International Gospel Equipping Ministry), and the overseer of our efforts in Kenya. This is his report.

We were the only pioneers in this place when we started going to Pokot twenty-five years ago. Then, the people were nomadic as they had been for thousands of years, moving one place to another searching for food and green pasture with a lot of suffering due to disease and starvation.

Historically there is little water in this region, many using urine from cows, milk, and blood from animals for drinking. They depended on the River Suam, which is almost 5 days walk. People came with their cattle from different parts all over the region. On the way, some of the animals would die, and even when they reached the river, it often took three days to get their animals a drink due to congestion. Because of this hardship, the Moran (youths) would raid their neighbors in the Turkana, Karamojong, and Bariongo regions to steal their cattle. Security was nonexistent, and it was considered a danger zone. There was no communication, no roads or anything else so the government could not be involved. These people lived on their own life, believing in their god of the mountain.

We want to give God all Glory, Honor, and praise. He is a loving Father who covers the multitudes of our sin. When I compare the provision which God has provided for more than seven years of touching the lives of this people and transforming the villages and the community, I know this is the fulfillment of Isaiah 43:18-21 for them:

Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise.

Now, we are seeing the tremendous wonders of God in this place. Roads are being constructed, and pathways in the bush created. We are now able to interact with people who were not able to communicate with this. This is the mighty work of the Lord.

Due to the wells you helped us drill, water is available and the mastered seeds you helped us give out, are growing new crops. For the first time in their history, they are learning to do agriculture, to produce their own food. Though there might not be enough to feed everybody yet, no one is dying in those villages where we are currently working. No cattle will die for lack of water. The people no longer need to migrate.

I saw these people are reaching their Canaan, and the days are coming where food and water will not be the problem. This is a rescue, and it is but for a short moment. This is a horrible year all over the area. Millions of people are starving countrywide, even in Kitale where we live. It is planting season now, but nobody has planted because there is no rain. Those who planted last month have watched their crops wither. This lack of rain extends all over East and Central Africa to lack rain. It has never happened before, so pray with us. We don’t know what is taking place and what could happen tomorrow.

We thank God for our president and the government of Kenya who have tried their level best to donate relief and water to the affected people but remember the need here is overwhelming. More than were counties were affected. UN, Red Cross, churches, and individuals have been forced to be involved in helping the situation where they can. We have tried to ask those organizations for help, but their answer is for us to do what you can to help since they have nothing to spare.

Our work here is just a compassionate heart to the community. We didn’t know that other tribe would hear and come to interrupt what we have already planned. The reason I have stayed in the area is because of the pain we were feeling, and we just wanted to cook for them and share the gospel of Christ, helping them feel happy even if they are hungry.

Your help along with the team has saved the lives of many people.

This is what the money you’ve sent us has done for a forgotten people. I hope you sense God’s joy at your being part of this work of grace and salvation that he is doing. Over two million dollars to date have been spent on behalf of these people in Pokot, and other needs further south in the Kitale region to help with widows and orphans.

Obviously, we have not heard the last of this need, and the food we provided will only last for two months. We continue to send more every month than we receive in contributions. Your help is appreciated more than you know. All contributions are tax-deductible in the US. And, as always, every dollar you send goes to the need in Kenya. We do not (nor do they) take out any administrative or money transfer fees. Please see our Donation Page at Lifestream. You can either donate with a credit card there, or you can mail a check to Lifestream Ministries • 1560 Newbury Rd Ste 1  •  Newbury Park, CA 91320. Or if you prefer, we can take your donation over the phone at (805) 498-7774.

Thank You for Your Help

Last week I asked you to help my friends in Kenya. You responded. So many of you, in so many ways. Gifts large and small have all but covered their need. I am so grateful for your generosity that has overflowed in thanksgiving to God. The food has been purchased and distributed, and the people have returned to their homeland. While they were giving out the food, however, another tribe came in. They, too, had traveled far hoping to find some subsistence for their people. We were able to provide enough for them as well.

Unfortunately, that only covers the next couple of months. After that, we’ll have to see what else God does.  Please pray with us for this need and for God to show himself strong on their behalf. We are constantly encouraging them to put their hope in him, not us. For the next fifteen months, we will continue to send $10,000 per month to help the five original tribes reach sustainability with water, food, education, hygiene, and micro-finance small business start-ups. We seem to be on a good pace for that to happen.

Some ask if we get that much in donations every month.  We do not. God has asked us to do this so we trust God beyond the Kenyan donation through book sales, or extra from my travel. He has always proved sufficient.  Since January 2008, we have sent $2.023 million to the people of Kenya. Isn’t that crazy? About a third of that has come through one family from Texas, the rest from Lifestream and your generosity. That has rescued over 100,000 people from starvation, helped them shape a new economy, and opened their lives to the Gospel. It is an amazing story of need and generosity, what James called the essence of true faith.

If there ever was a time you wanted to genuinely help poor people, without anyone else siphoning off money for administrative fees or other costs, this is it. All contributions are tax-deductible in the US.  And as always, every dollar you send goes to the need in Kenya.  We do not (nor do they) take out any administrative or money transfer fees. Please see our Donation Page at Lifestream. You can either donate with a credit card there, or you can mail a check to Lifestream Ministries • 1560 Newbury Rd Ste 1  •  Newbury Park, CA 91320. Or if you prefer, we can take your donation over the phone at (805) 498-7774.

 

Kenya:  Amazing News and Tragic Need

I’m in SF at the moment, on my way home from a beautiful weekend in Morgantown, West Virginia, and Pittsburgh, PA, but I couldn’t wait to share with you an amazing joy among our friends in Kenya, and some new people in Pokot, hungry for food and for God. This is an emergency need, and if you could help us, we would be most grateful.

A few weeks ago, I wrote here about Forkland School, in a poor section of Bungoma, Kenya. It not only educates children who would have no other opportunity, but it also helps care for the impoverished community around it. We support that school at $1000 per month.

I asked you for help because their water system had been contaminated in a recent flood with their sewage system. The children were getting sick, and the health department closed the school. It also affected the nearby community who also use that well.  Because of your generosity, we were able to send them $30,000 to drill a new well. They just completed it and here’s what they wrote:

On behalf of Forkland community and school, God has brought a great transformation. People are now getting clean water, and this water has become a very big blessings to the entire region. People can walk in from a far distance and draw water. The Kenya Bureau of Standard has recommended that this water in future be used to produce mineral water, because the company drilled deep and found pure water at 340 feet deep.   The flow is very high and can produce 10,000 liters per hour. This is the great blessing. May our Father in heaven be glorified for this. We send our gratitude to those who stood with us in giving their resources to help this community and the school. Since the community started drinking clean water there is no more complaints of typhoid and other diseases. Our children are safe.

We rejoice, too. Everything we do in Kenya, we look to make self-sustaining instead of breeding further dependency. The people there are creative and energetic, wanting to be part of the solution to their own needs; they just lack the resources to do so. We haven’t known how the school could become self-sustaining since it is an outreach to that community. Now they are going to be able to bottle this water and sell it as some of the purest water in Kenya, sanctioned by the government and it will provide resources not only for Forkland School but also for other needs in the area.

As soon as that need was met, however, another need has emerged in North Pokot.  I’ll let them tell you about it.

Right now in Kenya, some of the region like Turkana, extreme North Pokot, and other area are suffering from drought and hunger, pray for us since many of the families are starving. Thank you for what you have send each month, but the problem we are seeing here has gotten worse. While we were there distributing food, a lot of people came from a far village. Every place, people were waiting for the food in bad condition.

We decided to serve those who are totally affected especially the old aged, but people came in multitude where we could not able to control and we had to leave brother Michael and the team there to calm the remaining people who did not get the food. The committee as requested if it is possible to get 350 bags of maize and 100 bags of beans to serve them for a while since they have to walk a long distance, and they speak in their language ” that God is full of mercy and compassion” to them. Some they have taken about three days and even a week just drinking water and boiling the roots to have something in their stomachs.

In this area, the World Food Programme and some NGOs have not yet reached them. They are just now heading to Baringo and Turkana. If possible, they can get food and return to their home to feed their children who are starving. The cost of food is ksh 1,812,500 Kenya shillings (about $18,000 U.S.) We are praying for God’s provision. The need here is too much and you have done a lot till we feel sorry to inform you.

Brother Michael is still in North Pokot and it seems the need there is overwhelming since yesterday he talked in the night that the villagers are in dilemma of what to do.  According to him and the committee, the situation is growing worse since the villagers told them that they can’t go without anything to feed their children.

It is maddening to me that the rest of the world, including the Kenyan government, are ignoring the needs of these people. But people are dying today because they do not have any food. This is a different group of people from those we’ve already been helping in North Pokot. For whatever reason, God has allowed this need to fall on us, and we cannot turn away.

The only place for these people to find food right now is from the generosity of people who listen to The God Journey and read these pages at Lifestream. Generosity is sometimes the only possibility to make up for inequity in a broken and self-centered world. I am asking those of you with any extra resource to help us, please. If you can and this need tugs at your heart, please help them. I have no idea yet if we’re going to initiate a new project here and support these villages further. I am hoping the UN or some other NGO will come along at some point. But as long as we have resources here, we are not going to let children or their parents die of hunger on the other side of the world.

If there ever was a time you wanted to genuinely help poor people, without anyone else siphoning off money for administrative fees or other costs, this is it. All contributions are tax-deductible in the US.  And as always, every dollar you send goes to the need in Kenya.  We do not (nor do they) take out any administrative or money transfer fees. Please see our Donation Page at Lifestream. You can either donate with a credit card there, or you can mail a check to Lifestream Ministries • 1560 Newbury Rd Ste 1  •  Newbury Park, CA 91320. Or if you prefer, we can take your donation over the phone at (805) 498-7774.

Thank you on behalf of the people of Pokot for your gifts and prayers on their behalf.

Placed in the Hearts of Others

Some thoughts while waiting at Newark Airport this morning:

This week, Sara and I have been in New York City with our oldest granddaughter. As she prepares to graduate eighth grade and start high school, we wanted to spend some time with her in a place she’s always longed to see. The three of us have had the best time exploring the city and taking her to Broadway since she loves drama and is quite good at it. Today we head separate directions—Sara goes home with our granddaughter, and I head to Pittsburgh and West Virginia for the weekend.

Last week, I posted on FB an acknowledgment of all the birthday greetings I received. In that post, I mentioned a bit about Sara as the one who really facilitates all I do in the world.  “I wouldn’t be the man I am without that girl. I couldn’t do what Father has asked me to do in the word without that girl. We wouldn’t be on this journey without her courage to follow the Lord’s leading beyond the edges of the maps religion gave us. No one pays a bigger price for what we do than she does. I love it when so many of you acknowledge that in my travels. You realize that Sara pays a huge price in all of this, too. And I think it touches her when I tell her that you’re aware.”

After that posted I received an email from someone across the U.S. They suggested someplace we might visit while in NY because she thought Sara would enjoy it.   Then she wrote this:

“I don’t know if she came to mind for any reason. Maybe you all will want to go there or maybe it is just evidence of how your love for Sara is contagious and you have placed her in our hearts, too. Hmmm… Is that what you are doing with Papa?”

That made me smile, on both counts. I love placing Sara in people’s hearts, though I’ve never thought of it in those terms.  But I do so intentionally. Sara and I are one, and to know me is to know Sara, at least I hope so. Even when she can’t travel with me, I want people to know her and feel connected to her as well. Watching her journey up close and personal has been one of the most incredible joys of my life, and I enjoy the insights Father has given her along the way.

Wanting to place her on people’s hearts is also a deliberate act. When I first started traveling I had overtures from some women that made me uncomfortable, and some that were overtly inappropriate. But I also noticed that when I talked about Sara, those overtures didn’t happen. Once people knew how devoted I am to the love of my life, no one dared crossed those boundaries.

But I also love the second part of her comment, “Is that what you are doing with Papa?” I hope so. I’ve never thought of that in those terms either, but I hope my life does that. I hope I speak endearingly enough of Father and live authentically enough with him that others begin to catch glimpses of him in their own lives as well. And I don’t mean in that religiously manipulative way that turns people off to any mention of God. I want them to be as endeared to him as I am.

This all reminds me of an exchange I had over fifteen years ago. I’d spent an evening with someone who had been an elder of a large fellowship before he left it and the faith when he became disillusioned by seeing the private lives of the church staff and the guest speakers who had visited. We had a fun dinner together where we laughed and shared stories from our lives. At the end of it, I got an email from him. The subject line was, “Not Impressed.”  My heart sank until I read his first paragraph.

He wrote, that for the first time in his life, he came away from dinner with an author/speaker type and was not impressed with him. “At the end of the evening, I came home hungry not to know Wayne better, but wanting to know Wayne’s Father.”

That’s one of my favorite emails ever. If our lives can do that, especially when we’re not trying to make it happen, how awesome would that be?

Far Better Explored Than Explained

When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.
(John 16:8)

Some things in life are better explored than explained such as an alpine trail lined with wildflowers, the Basilica Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the shoreline of Galilee, or even chocolate ice cream. Explanations just can’t do them justice.

The same is true of a relationship to God. It can be explained to death, literally. We quote Scriptures, memorize cute aphorisms, and read books trying to understand it. We have sought to understand him with our heads and missed the joy of discovering how God makes himself known, and how his purpose in the world is revealed each day. Many who can talk about God in eloquent terms have no idea how to live in him with grace and affection through the difficult challenges of living in a broken world. They have never explored it.

Perhaps the most significant proof of this, other than what I’ve observed with people, is drawn from the way Jesus lived. He walked this out very differently than we try to. For instance, he wasn’t preoccupied with a Sunday meeting or building an institution he called church. He was more interested in letting the reality of the kingdom flow through him in the encounters he had each day. It’s why he could spend an afternoon with a woman at a well, or on the hillsides above Galilee with a large crowd.

It’s incredible to me that we don’t seem to take much note of that. We act as if Jesus went to church every week to sing songs and listen to a lecture. He did no such thing, and, no, that’s not what going to the synagogue was like. He didn’t tell his disciples that’s what he wanted them to do every week. As far as we know, he never organized a single meeting, except for serving the Passover in the upper room, and even that didn’t take him long.

He seemed to wake up every day and navigate the circumstances and choices of his life with an eye to his Father’s unfolding purpose in the world. He shared the kingdom with others freely even as he sought to help the disciples learn to do it too. Even there, he didn’t hold an extensive array of classes teaching them all the intricacies of God’s attributes nor the mechanics of the kingdom of God. He didn’t offer them outlines of God’s characteristics or teach them a process for letting God’s power work through them. He didn’t offer them a curriculum, he let them watch it in his own life and explore that new reality in their own. He was offering them a different way to live—in a Father’s love, in power greater than their own efforts, in the growing simplicity of learning to trust his love.

He knew you couldn’t learn those things in a classroom or from a book. Real life has to be explored, and he encouraged them to do so—to ask questions, to struggle with their own fleshly ambitions, and to taste the power of his Spirit. At times, he even sent them to discover that they could pass the life of the kingdom on to others.

It is evident to me now that he wanted them to explore the kingdom, not analyze it. He knew they could only understand it by experiencing it, not by reducing it to a set of facts or propositions. The people I know who live most freely in the kingdom are those who are discovering it, not in seminars and classes, but in the circumstances of their own lives—a woman betrayed by her husband, a man who’s lost his job because of lies told about him, a mother whose son was convicted of murder, or a child tempted to betray his conscience for the approval of his friends. I am often asked if I have a discipleship curriculum I can recommend to others, or at least a resource to help them know the Lord better.

The curriculum for your journey is not in the Bible or some workbook based on the Bible. I know this gets me labeled as a heretic by some, but the curriculum for God’s work in you is in the Spirit himself. That’s why Jesus said that he would send the Comforter and he would guide us into all truth. He didn’t say he’d send us a book to follow, because you cannot follow a book. He didn’t entrust it to religious leaders. His Spirit alone can show us how to engage God in the reality you live every day.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m a Bible guy. All the wisdom we need is in God’s revelation of himself, but it is the Spirit that helps us make sense of his words as they fit into our experience. I know people well-learned in the Scriptures, who can argue theology with precision, but who have no life flowing in them. And, I know people who live by their feelings, thinking their every whim is the Spirit’s direction. They both flounder because in the end, we are still interpreting our own journey, instead of learning to listen and to rely on his indwelling Spirit.

Jesus didn’t tell us to live by our intellect or feelings alone, but by a growing sensitivity to the leading of his Spirit. And where does he make himself known? In the unfolding events of your life. Look no further than in the circumstances that already surround you and the internal thoughts you have in dealing with them. How can you love the people around you the way Father wants them loved? What is he showing you about the things that perplex you, cause you anxiety, or distract you from the life you truly want to live? I’ve come to conclude that the best way to learn how to live in the Father’s kingdom is by exploring it one day at a time.

How is he revealing himself to you today? What is he asking of you, if anything? Ask him to show you. Carve out time regularly that will take you away from the hustle and bustle of life to listen for him and look for him, letting his thoughts percolate to the top of your own. Seek him in prayer, not as a ritual to be rewarded, but learning to converse with One who loves you deeply and wants to show you the best way to navigate the circumstances in your life. This is where Scripture becomes incredibly valuable as you probe God’s thoughts with his words. Then, follow him as best you see him, learning by trial and error what is the voice of the Spirit and what are your own ambitions.

Taste and see that the Lord is good, that his ways are far better than ours. Come and learn that the impressions you so quickly reject, because they don’t make sense, are actually his nudging you into greater freedom. Discover just how loved you are. You can hear it explained until your mind is numb, but you can only discover it when you explore it, even entrusting your unresolved questions to him.

Embrace that, not only for yourself but in helping others with their journey as well. Rather than trying to explain it all to them, coach them on how to explore it with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Upcoming Travel

March 29-30 – Morgantown, WV
March 31 – Trafford, PA (Pittsburgh)
April 26-28 – Tjome, Norway (Tonsberg)
April 29-May 3 – Pescara, Italy
May 3-5 – Dinhard ,Switzerland (Zurich)
May 6-8 – Vallorbe, Switzerland

I am also planning on going to Kenya and Uganda this summer as well as in discussions about visits to Florida, southern Illinois, Atlanta again, among other places, You can keep checking my Travel Schedule, or if you’d like to be notified if I’m planning to visit your area, you can sign up on our email listand include your address <http://eepurl.com/bJ43Ar>.

 

In Case You Missed it…

Here are some of the podcasts and blogs that have generated the most interest over the last couple of months.

Podcasts at TheGodJourney.com:

Wayne’s blog at Lifestream.org

 

Let’s Stop Living by Our Labels

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Eureka, and someone read this portion of my book, Beyond Sundays, to me. They wanted to make some comments from it and ask me some questions. As they read it, I was reminded of how much I like this passage and how much it fits my heart.

Any title you wear be it pastor, best-selling author, or Done will do more to separate you from others than it will help you recognize the incredible family that Jesus is building. Claiming a label works against his prayer that his Father would make us one. The community of the new creation levels our humanity—from hierarchy and from our narcissistic notions of being in a better group than others. We are all sons and daughters of a gracious Father and that’s all the identity we need. (Matt. 23:5-12)

But once again, we risk being divided into “innies” and “outies” and falling into the false dichotomy our flesh so craves. Whether you go to “a church” or whether you don’t is a distinction without a difference. What matters is whether people are following Jesus and being transformed by his love. What I hope comes out of this study of the so-called “Dones” is those inside and those out recognize that the church is bigger than most of us would dare to believe and that his church takes expression wherever people engage each other with his love and purpose.

For those who claim that attendance at a local congregation is mandatory to be part of his church I hope they reconsider that false idea. Being part of his family is about following him not belonging to an institution. Over the last twenty years, I’ve found incredible followers of Jesus both inside them and outside. I hope this research draws all those into a conversation where “in” or “out” becomes less important than loving and affirming his kingdom however it takes shape in the world. But it will take a significant number of voices across the Christian landscape to fight for a better conversation than those we usually have.

I am convinced that people who truly know Jesus will want to reach across this divide, not exacerbate it. We don’t need identifying labels, especially ones that make us feel superior to others in the family. When Jesus becomes more important to us than finding identity in any particular tribe of it, then the conversations that most express his kingdom will grow in the world. Instead of demanding that others conform to our view of the church we will recognize her in the most surprising places as we find connection and fellowship with those who know the Jesus we know, even if they don’t follow the rituals we follow.

Then we won’t need labels to divide us. Brother, sister, and fellow saint will be more than enough identity for each of us and loving each other in a mutual celebration of Jesus himself will allow his church to flourish where we live.

Recently, I was in a conversation where every question or comment was about the church. People were looking for a model or at least validation for how they were doing ‘it.’ Something happened over the last couple of centuries that has made us more preoccupied with how we’re doing church than how we are following Jesus. I remember that trap well myself; it’s how religion has become more important than Jesus to so many of us. I paused to ask them how often Jesus used the word “church” (2 times) in the Gospels and contrasted it with how many times Jesus mentions his “kingdom” (121 times). Maybe if we were more preoccupied with his kingdom coming than we are about how we do church, we would see more of both.

Last week, I was in the Tulsa area with people who varied widely in their view of “church” and their participation in it. And you know what? It didn’t matter. What we shared in common—our belief in him, our desire to love in the world, and our desire to get to know each other—was more than enough. His church is a lovely family growing in the world—one that lives by love, not labels. If you want to be part of his kingdom, don’t look to the labels you wear or those others do, but for the fragrance of Father flowing from their lives.

Anyone who finds more identity in their institutional affiliation or lack of it, their doctrine or lack of it, their ritual or lack of it, proves by doing so that they have yet to find their identity and validation in Jesus and their relationship with him. Can you imagine what we would demonstrate to the world if we were lovers of Jesus and each other, first and only? Isn’t that what he asked of us in John 13:34-35? By that, he said, the whole world would come to know we are his followers.

Living Loved Is Real!

The email below is one of the best I’ve received because I know it comes out of real struggle and pain and into a reality that is available to all of us.

I started corresponding with Amy this summer, first over a crisis that happened at work, and then with trouble in her marriage. In her first email, she signed off  ‘Confused,’ in her second, ‘Heartbroken and Stunned.’ It has been an amazing eight months for her, but through it all, Jesus helped her discover the life that is life:

After telling me he no longer loves me, my husband left me in September of last year, and we are still separated. The last several months (8 months since he told me he no longer believes in God, 5 months since he left me) have been the most excruciatingly painful, yet spectacularly amazing, months I ever could have imagined. The freedom you talk and write about…it’s real.

I took your book He Loves Me! on a whim from the library at the church my husband and I were attending several years ago. I brought it home but never opened it…until June 24, 2018, when my world came crashing down around me. Since then, I have read it at least seven times and have sent 8 copies to friends and family members. Father is using that little book to change the lives of many, Wayne, and I’m so grateful to be one of the “many”.

There have been many moments since last June when I have wondered if “living loved” was a pipe dream. Now I know that it is not. I come from a family of Pharisees, albeit very well-intentioned ones, and the re-wiring of my understanding about God has been intensely difficult. I have experienced more heartache, more uncertainty, more insecurity, more fear…more confidence, more peace, more love, more safety, more hope…than I ever dreamed was possible. My husband claims unerringly that he is “done” with us and that there is no hope for our restoration. This from a man who treated me for sixteen years like every woman longs to be treated by her husband.

And yet, I am not destroyed by his certain distaste for me. While I can attest to the fact that emotions are extremely fickle creatures (and I certainly have run the gamut of them) I also can attest to the fact that the confidence, peace, and freedom that come from living in Father’s affection make it possible for me to rest in Him, in spite of my circumstances. I feel as if I’m living in a pocket of impenetrable grace.

I cannot thank you enough for sharing with the world, the God of love. My life and that of my Pharisaic family has been forever changed by this monumental truth—that God loves us and desires an actual relationship with us. I no longer am afraid of Him or regard Him as mean and spiteful, eager to destroy the very people He created. I no longer (even subconsciously) think I have to “earn” His affection or approval.

Ironically, since I stopped “trying” to produce fruit and started living in the certainty of His affection for me, I am shocked at the fruit HE is producing!!! WOW! Who’d have thought?!? I only wish that I could go back in time and know Him like this from the beginning. Perhaps then I would have known how to love my husband the way God wants him to be loved. Regardless, I am learning to surrender even that to His capable hands. He is completely trustworthy; of this I am certain.

God bless you, brother. I hope I meet you in person one day to thank you for showing me the way to the real Jesus.

I love that. He is real, especially in the darkest places. This life in Christ can help us overcome any wicked curveballs this world may throw at us and draw us into the fullness of his joy and hold us there.

To do that, however, we have to give up our agenda and expectations for the outcome we desire. When we pray for the result we want, It’s easy to grow disappointed when God doesn’t do it, or even begin to doubt that he loves us at all. That could have happened here. Amy could have spent the last five months begging God to bring her husband back and feeling unloved when he didn’t. I’m sure she asked, but when it didn’t happen, she discovered a love that was bigger than the outcome she wanted.

God won’t make her husband come back against his will; he isn’t like that. Isn’t it glorious that our peace and security don’t rest in the circumstance we want, but in the Father who loves us more than anyone on this planet ever has or ever will?

It’s Right in Front of You

I get so many emails from people trying to find a group of like-minded people or frustrated with the current political climate in which our country finds itself. These are troubled times indeed, but we are part of a kingdom that transcends everything in this age. Our God is working behind it all for his glory and to bring history to a glorious conclusion as the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Christ and of his Father.

It’s easy to forget sometimes that he is with us, too, working out his purpose in each of our lives. So quickly we get our eyes on people or our circumstances and forget that we are not alone in any of it. No, we don’t always get our way, but there is always a path to take that yields to the glory of his kingdom and how it takes shape in us.

This quote from a recent Time Magazine article spawned some of our discussion last week on The God Journey Podcast.

Unless you’re among the tiny group of people who exercise actual, substantial political authority, each of us can only have a large influence on a small number of people and a small influence on a large number of people. In other words, we have the potential to transform a life. We have minimal capacity to individually change American politics.

From Why Anger is a Wasted Emotion by David French

Man, I can raise my hand here. It may feel good to berate the idiocy of our national leaders, but to what end? How much time and emotional energy do we give to circumstances over which we have no control or influence? Social media provides yet another illusion that our voice on the big-ticket items of politics or religion can really make a difference, and then are frustrated when it doesn’t.  What I love about the quote above is that it asks us to be present in the places where we can make a difference, which is in the lives of people right in front of us every day.

Who do you know that brightens your heart when you spend time with them? Who do you know in need whose day you can brighten? What conversations can you have today that will move the needle in someone’s life? Who could you reach out and encourage today instead of reading the end of this blog?

That’s where our attention needs to be. I’m afraid the enemy has us wasting so much time venting on things that have no impact, instead of engaging the things right in front of us that do.

Somehow we’re always looking for the big moment “out there” somewhere instead of living with what Father has put right in front of us. Many keep trying to find the right group of people to fellowship with, or the best model for church life, instead of celebrating his presence in whomever we are with today. Jesus seemed to live every day with what was in front of him, and some of his most impactful moments rose out of spontaneous engagements that he didn’t pass by.

I’m finding my heart these days much more drawn to what I can impact and wasting far less time with words that merely flitter into the ether of cyberspace and are lost the moment after I push “post.” And I’m having a far richer time.

Jesus said the kingdom of God wasn’t “out there” somewhere; it’s already inside you. What you need from God today, he has already brought right to your doorstep. All you have to do today is respond to what God has already put inside you, and to what’s in front of you. That’s where you’ll find life abundant and fruitful.

You might well miss it if your eyes are set “out there” over the horizon, instead of “right here” where you are today.

Delightfully Overwhelmed

I’m off to Atlanta in the morning for a ten-day stay in Georgia and South Carolina.  As I do, I’ve been reminded this week about all the ways others help us do what we’ve been asked to do in the world.

Every year about this time we send out donation tax receipts to those in the U.S. who have helped us financially. While I don’t look at the giving records here, I get to write a letter of thanks to send with those receipts. It gives me a moment to pause and reflect on all those who helped us over the past year. I realize financial support is just one of those ways, but we don’t send out receipts for the others. There’s no way for me to know all the prayers that are offered on our behalf, all the stories and bits of wisdom that are shared with us, and all the ways some of you pass on a quote or a link to a book or podcast that has touched you, or that you might think will bless others.

Here’s what I wrote to those who are part of our financial giving this year. It’s as true of all the other ways people have helped Sara and me do what God has asked us to do in the world:

I am always amazed at how this works even after twenty-four years. I simply do what God asks me to do in the world, and he keeps providing for it through people like you. And for the last ten years, we’ve added the needs of over 100,000 people we’ve come to love in Kenya, and he just keeps providing.

Your generosity has touched many. An entire area of Kenya is being transformed, and people are coming to know the Lord. It also allows me to give my life away, whether it be through personal connections, website content, or traveling the world at my own expense to places where people can’t even afford to help with my plane ticket. I don’t have to charge for anything I do, and that makes the message so much more powerful. Your generosity causes an overflow of thanksgiving around the world at the way Father makes himself known.

I am excited about some new opportunities coming in the year ahead, with the writing projects I’m involved in, the people Father is putting on my heart to visit, and the surprises I cannot yet foresee. I am absolutely delighted at what Father allows me to do and the vantage point he’s given me to see his glory unfold.

Thanks to those who have written reviews on Amazon that encourage others to check out our books, and to those who have sent cards or emails full of love and support for us to stay true to God’s calling, especially when times are difficult.  All of this has a part in the word getting out in the world that there is a journey in Jesus available to every one of us that allows us to live deeply in his love and share it with others.  We are deliciously overwhelmed with gratefulness to you and thanksgiving to the Father for the way all this has unfolded.

Perhaps this email says it best, understanding that it is written as much to you as it is to me… 

Thank you for all the wisdom you’ve given to my wife and me in the last few months. The last part of our journey has been coming out of a very conservative, rule-driven, doctrine-based church system, into the freedom of the God journey. God prompted me to listen to Finding Church just as we were in the last throes of leaving the church, and was like all the lights came on! God has pretty much showed us everything you said, but it put words to what I was feeling, and totally settled the idea of Church being believers interacting in everyday life, not a group gathering regularly, or ‘belonging’ to any particular group.

I guess your book confirmed what God has already put in our hearts, and gave us the confidence, that we were already there!  This is it, we don’t have to keep looking for the right ‘thing’.  Since then God has progressively freed us totally from anyone’s control, and at the same time given us 3 separate beautiful Christian families to fellowship with, as we feel led. 

I was also prompted to listen to So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore and more recently, He Loves Me. These were very helpful, lots of fresh perspectives, lots of ‘yes!’ moments. My wife is now reading He Loves Me and slowly letting God unravel all the brokenness she has, and I can see a father – daughter relationship forming.

We still have a long way to go in our relationship with Father, and the lies take a long time to unravel, but we are now in a safe environment which is allowing Father to work.

I have no idea how they found out about me or some of my books, but it often happens because someone like you passed it on to someone like them and that keeps slinging freedom all over the place. I am deeply grateful that so many of you who help us in so many ways pass the word along.

 

The Power of a Good Question

A few years ago I was teaching 800 Kenyan pastors in a hornet-infested barn about the love of God. After sharing a bit of my story and laying the groundwork for living loved, I asked them what questions they might have about God’s love that we could tackle in the next view days.

Immediately the room went visibly tense. The atmosphere grew fearful and deathly quiet. It felt as if they had been threatened and all 800 glared at me with a panicked look on their face. I knew no one was going to ask a question. So, I pushed pause. I told them we were going to take a break and they could get to know the people around them. I then went to the person who had invited me and asked him what had just happened in there.

“They don’t believe you,” he said. Then he told me that the last American speaker that came through paused at one point to see if anyone had any questions. Someone dared to ask one and immediately the speaker chewed him out to silence any other potential questioners. “How dare you ask a question! I’ve explained everything to you need to know and if you don’t get it by now it’s because rebellion is in your heart.”

Ahh.  Now I understood.  As we gathered back together, I assured them that I really wanted them to ask questions, that we needed to learn together, in their time, not listen to me lecture. I promised not to get angry or defensive, but to create a safe place for us to explore God’s love together. Tentatively at first, they began to respond and their hungry questions took us to some amazing places I would not have thought to take them on my own.

Asking questions is a critical component of spiritual growth. If we can’t ask what we need to ask or struggle openly with the thoughts and questions that plague our minds, how will we ever come to know the reality of the life and love that God holds for us? In Scripture, God often asks questions to stir our thinking. In the Gospels, Jesus responded openly and warmly to the truth-seeking questions that were asked of him. Of course, some asked questions out of malice or seeking to trap him in some way, but Jesus was still patient with them. He didn’t always give them the answer they wanted, but neither did he demean them.

There is nothing more important to your own personal discipleship than having the freedom to ask the questions you need to ask. Too many of us wait for someone to tell us what we should know, instead of looking honestly at our circumstances and asking the questions that will help us discover God’s reality inside us. I met a man in New Zealand whose entire discipleship came about just by asking questions. The man who led him to Christ didn’t give him a set of lessons to teach him to follow God. He just told his newfound friend to ask whatever question he wanted and he would try to answer it as best he could, or that they would find the answer together. Brilliant! That man grew up in a deep and sincere faith. That’s a great way to teach someone, inside their own questions and their own experiences. That’s how his Spirit works in us.

I’m thinking about this because I had lunch with a couple in their sixties who had attended a two-year Bible school in Florida a few years back. On the opening day of class, they were told questions wouldn’t be allowed through their course of study. They would be told what they needed to know and they did not allow students to ask questions of their instructors. I was dumbfounded. How could any school, especially one based on the life of Jesus, not allow people to explore openly? As horrible as that might be for people in their 50s and 60s, it’s especially horrible for students in their teens and twenties who think they are going to teach that stuff to others.

Most of the meetings I’m in these days give a maximum amount of opportunity for people to ask questions, explore the frustrations of their own journey, and really learn what it means to know him and follow him. The kingdom of God can withstand any the honesty of our struggles and the questions we need to ask. It’s hard enough to get Christians to ask questions to begin with. Most of us have been taught there’s a right answer to everything and if you don’t know it already, it’s because you’re not paying attention. Some hesitate to ask something difficult, concerned that I’ll get angry with them. I’ve even offered some groups $100 if someone makes me angry or I get defensive. I want them to know that any meeting I’m in is a safe place to discover and grow. Most of the best questions I’ve been asked came from people who were reticent to ask it because they thought no one else would care about the answer. Almost always everyone does. Don’t we appreciate the person who’s willing to ask the question everyone else wants to ask, but are too afraid to do so?

If you can’t ask questions and struggle with what someone is trying to teach you about God, then you’re not in an environment where the kingdom unfolds. If someone gets angry when you question them, or dare to disagree with them, they are not leaders who can help you discover God’s reality. And if you’re afraid to ask God any question that’s in your heart, you have yet to discover just how loving and gracious he is and how much he wants to help you understand how to live in him.

Yes, there is a difference between asking God questions and questioning God’s character or wisdom. There’s a way to ask questions with humility that will open your heart to see in a fresh way what he wants to show you, and there’s a way to challenge him defiantly that will blind you to what he wants to show you. I’ve done both. He can handle our defiance with a love that understands our pain, but until it gives way to humble surrender, we will not hear his gentle response. How can you surrender when you are angry or disappointed with him?  Only one thing sets my heart at rest, to embrace his affection for me and to mistrust my conclusions about him outside that love. That can take some time, but it will open some amazing doors in your own spiritual journey.

Upcoming Travel and Kenya Update

It’s been such a joy to be home for the last three and a half months to catch up with family and to advance the work on three books I’m currently pushing down the road—a novel called The City, written by a mom in France that unpacks the kingdom of God in a lovely way, a book about interpersonal relationships called The Language of Healing, and a novel set in the Civil War era by the man who presided over our wedding ceremony almost 44 years ago, called (tentatively) Lucien’s Crossing. But my toe is healing and it seems Father has some other adventures awaiting me elsewhere in the world.

At the end of this month I’ll be in the Atlanta area for ten days, then at the end of February in Eureka, CA.  After that I’ll make a quick trip to Tulsa, OK the first weekend of March and then Morgantown, WV, and Pittsburgh, PA at the end of it.  I may be teaching a DTS in Italy in late April and perhaps go to Norway and elsewhere in Europe thereafter. I’m also hoping to get to hang out with some Jesus-loving biker-types in Southern Illinois, but haven’t found a date for that yet.  Later this year I plan on getting back to Kenya to check on things there as we wind down our projects there and hope we’ve given them the tools to move ahead with a growing trust in Father’s provision for them.

Speaking of Kenya, we heard from them the other day with a new emergency. Some of our friends there began a school in a part of Kitale that was settled by displaced people from the tribal violence following the disputed election in 2008. It is an area of extreme need, where many of the adults are hopeless about job prospects and addicted to alcohol. Since school is not compulsory in Kenya, nor is it free, our friends started a school in a church building to educate the children and give them a way out of the hopeless cycle around them. Supporting the school was first picked up by some friends in Virginia for a couple of years, and then it has been part of our monthly support of $10,000 to help with all the needs in Kenya, including our special outreach to Pokot.

Recently torrential flooding there caused the sewage of the school to mingle with their water supply, causing sickness among staff and students. It took them a while to figure out the cause and now the local government wants to shut down the school if they don’t get a new water supply. Drilling a well there will cost $32,000. They have temporarily been transporting drinking water to the school, but wondered if we might help. We advanced them the money in hopes that some of you would join us in keeping that school afloat. If you’d like to help us please.

The needs here are ongoing as is our support for them. If you’d like to join us, you can direct it through Lifestream as contributions are tax-deductible in the U.S. As always, every dollar you send goes to the need in Kenya. We do not (nor do they) take out any administrative or money transfer fees. If you would like to be part of this to support these brothers and sisters and see the gospel grow in this part of Africa, please see our Sharing With the World page at Lifestream. You can either donate with a credit card there, or you can mail a check to Lifestream Ministries • 1560 Newbury Rd Ste 1 • Newbury Park, CA 91320. Or if you prefer, we can take your donation over the phone at (805) 498-7774.

And for those following our saga in Kenya, they sent us a detailed year-end report. here are some excerpts from it:

Greetings in the name of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, Living Loved Care Centre staff and the children, and also from the  coaches, schools, dispensary staff and the entire villages in Pokot as well as the Forkland School.

We appreciate your help in the Kitale area:

  • Gas station, which continues to buy food and pay the staff at the Living Loved Care Centre.
  • Grain enterprise, which helps us maintain the center, and educate the children in nearby schools, as well as help those go to college and university.
  • Forkland School, thanks you for helping them repair the facility when it was destroyed by wind and rain, and now we have a challenge with clean water. You can pray and advice us what to do since we are about to open the school, although the children were there.
Utensil stand to keep kitchen supplies clean

We thank you for supporting us in Pokot now for 3 years 7 months, and it has remain with 1 years 7 months, so the village will be sustainable, probably in July 2020.  There we are seeing villages transformed, helping them know that, although they are in rural areas filled with hardship, God loves them and he has a great purpose in their lives. Our coaches have done great things by teaching the villagers how to meet their challenges. Every village, which we are currently working with, now has water and we are making progress in other areas as well:

Education: Many families now understand the importance of taking their children to school and to keep their compound clean compared to the first time.

Outhouses for each home in Pokot

Hygiene/Health: As I flash back 3 years back, there were so many cases of malaria, typhoid and cholera and helping them with medicine was very expensive. Now, we have constructed 450 latrines with dozen of utensils stands to help the villages clean and hence reduce of the diseases causing micro-organism. Right now almost each household have utensil stands made of available materials and we are praying that in 17 months each household will have at least one  latrine. This is so amazing, as the saying goes better to prevent than cure. Thank to all those who stood with this community for purchasing iron sheets, cement, nails, polythene, and provide tools to build them.

Children enjoying the new crops they are raising

Micro-financing: This program has helped over 400 families start a business to be able to feed their families and run their home affairs.

Agriculture: We nw have farms raising sweet potatoes, cassava, corn, and other vegetables to help feed all the people.

Food donation: Thank you for supporting the aged and the breast-feeding moms on a monthly basis. The monthly amount here has been reduced due to the agricultural projects, which have greatly boosted food security in each village.

In my trip there later this year, we are hoping to make the necessary arrangements that will bring an end to our regular support there over the next few years and ensure that there will be sustainability beyond our involvement. Our desire was not to create programs there dependent upon ongoing support from us here, but for them to have the tools to go forward and trust Father’s provision for the future. We’ve had some great instruction by others who have done this by helping tap the creativity and industriousness of the people there. This will not be easy, of course, and I appreciate your prayers for me and them as we move forward.

It has been a joy to watch these people respond so joyously and so diligently to the opportunities now before them. The reports we get of their responsiveness to Jesus as well as their hard work to better their condition, are incredible. Who would have thought that our little corner of the web could have touched so many people so far away. And it’s all been through relationships that God orchestrated, and not our attempts to try to find a project like this. It’s what love led us to do.

The people of Pokot

Betrayal Is Not the End of the Road

My good friend in Tulsa, Tom Mohn, says that betrayal is one of those amazing things God uses to shape his life in us. I know it doesn’t feel like it. It more likely feels like the end of the road when someone you love, and who you thought loved you, decides his own word is meaningless, and you are of less value to him than what he can gain by lying to you or lying about you. Most often it takes both.

I’ve gone through this with three different people in my life and it is the absolute worst. The first time cost me everything—my involvement with a congregation I’d helped to plant, my salary, my health insurance, my reputation in a community, and countless friendships I treasured—and this was all two weeks before Christmas in 1994. I wasn’t offered a dime of severance pay, just an avalanche of lies about my family.

I wish I’d known Tom back then and had seen more hope in what was going on, but those days were the darkest Sara and I have every experienced. We thought we were following Jesus in it all, but we weren’t sure. Maybe we were as independent and rebellious as others said we were. I remember telling God if we were, then shout it from the rooftops. Let everyone know including me, because I only wanted to follow him even if I was proved wrong.

I know Jesus said that such times are an amazing blessing in our lives, but to get there you really have to think with a deeper mindset than your own physical comfort.

You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.  (Matthew 5:10-12, The Message)

I know that sounds like crazy talk. It did when my dad read those words to me a few weeks into my betrayal. But, I began to let them sink into my heart and began to count myself blessed even when it didn’t feel like it. I found a way to rejoice in the fact that people had lied about me and thrown me out because I was seeking to follow him. And it became true that going through that betrayal opened some incredible doors that Sara and I have treasured for the last quarter century. The betrayal of our close friends drove us deeper into God and our freedom from a human-centered view of ‘church’ allowed us to begin to taste the Church that Jesus is building in the world.

So, now I do know that betrayal is not the end of the road. It hurts, most certainly. And unfortunately, it is a common theme in human history and the biblical record. Abel knew it, so did Joseph, David, Jeremiah, Paul, and many others including, of course, Jesus himself. No, that doesn’t justify the acts of the betrayer, but I prefer to leave them in Jesus’ hands, where they are best served. I don’t know what goes on inside someone that allows them to make those kinds of choices, nor the consequences they suffer for putting money, power, fame, sex, or the illusion of safety above love and friendship. I do know how living a lie warps you from the inside in some horrible ways and it makes my heart hurt for them.

A number of years ago I had someone else steal a significant amount of money from me by not honoring an agreement we had made together. Even reminding him of our agreement only provoked his anger. In the aftermath of that encounter Jesus told me to let it go and he would make up whatever I had lost. Fortunately, I did and he proved faithful in all he promised me, and more.  I am so grateful I followed him rather than demanding what was rightfully mine.

So, if you’ve been betrayed by someone, invite Jesus into that pain. He understands. He’s been through everything you’re going through and much more!  He is able to work beyond the failures of others and to continue to let grace have its unfolding work in our hearts. Betrayal may close some doors, but it also opens us to other opportunities we might have missed otherwise. Getting through betrayal with Jesus also changes something deep inside us so we are tuned more compassionately to the needs of others and the value of being a faithful friend.

This all comes up because I was interviewed a few weeks ago by Jon DeWall of Liminal Space. He does a podcast about life transition and wanted to hear my story of betrayal and how Sara and I managed to get through it alongside Jesus. It dropped last week and I wanted to let you know it was available if you wanted to listen to it.  You can find it on their website or these podcasts outlets:  iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn or Google Play.

Even if you don’t listen, when you find yourself being betrayed by someone close to you, just remember Jesus has a way to walk you through the pain and into wider pastures than you ever thought possible.

The Real Power of the Incarnation

[This is a copy of our December 2018 Email Blast. If you’re not on our list you can sign up here. And if you include your name and address you’ll also receive email notification if Wayne is traveling in your area.]

The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.

(Psalm 118:14)

What do you think the Psalmist meant when he wrote that? Did he mean the Lord was his get-out-of-hell-free card to secure his final destiny? No, he didn’t.

When a desperate, young mother is trapped by the abusiveness of her husband and the needs of her children, is a get-out-of-hell-free card the salvation she needs? Of course not. What she needs is a friend to come alongside her and show her the way through that situation to safety and life. Anyone who does that for her is her salvation.

“The Lord is my salvation,” is not just a statement of our eternal destiny; it is our hope in this broken age that he has a way through whatever life can throw at us and whatever sin seeks to destroy in us, and he can teach us how to follow him into that freedom.

Nothing has distracted Christians more from the true mission of Christ in the world than the misunderstanding that he only came to determine whether we go to heaven or hell. He didn’t. He came to rescue us from perishing in the bondage and deception of this evil age and show us the path to true life and freedom. In doing so, he also showed us how to give that same journey to others.

For us, that means that we are not alone in anything life hurls at us and that every resource of wisdom and power in our Father is available to us at any moment of the day. That’s the kingdom of God, and Jesus came into the world to invite us into that reality every day that we live.

How do we tap that resource? Is praying for an answer enough? Would that it was. I’m sure you know countless people, like I do, who have sought God desperately at moments of need and been hopelessly disappointed by his seeming inactivity on their behalf. I’m sure it’s happened for you, too. Where did we get the idea that we would just call out to God and he’d wave his magic wand to turn all our pumpkins into chariots?

Honestly, I’m sure I’d just use that power to get me into even more trouble because if I just use it even to satisfy my best intentions it would only destroy me. Jesus offered us something so much better than a fairy-godmother in the sky.

He offered us a different way to live, inside a relationship with him and his Father by the power of the Spirit that would open the door into the realm in which our Father dwells. By embracing him there we would begin to see everything differently and he would begin to change us from the inside, away from our self-focused bias to embrace the highest purpose God holds for his Creation. In that relationship, he would teach us how to walk in this age as lights of another kingdom. In other words, he didn’t offer us answers for our problems, but the opportunity to live inside a different reality that would save us from the destruction of this age and bring his wisdom and love to bear on others.

The kingdom of God is here! All the wisdom and power of God is at your disposal, as you come to know him and learn to follow him. That relationship will challenge everything you think you know to be true. It will unmask your deceptions, expose your selfish ambitions, and invite you down pathways you’d never consider without him. But with him, they will lead to unimaginable depths of discovery and freedom.

If just praying about our needs doesn’t make that happen, what will? We find his way by actually following him. There really is no substitute for that. That’s why Jesus came. We don’t celebrate the Incarnation by attending another Christmas pageant or putting another string of lights on the tree. We celebrate it by leaning into the reality he paid so much to give us. His Incarnation was the example of how Father wanted to walk alongside us. His death on the cross obliterated the sin and shame that made us too fearful and too intimidated to sit at his feet and learn his ways. His resurrection empowered us to share the same relationship with him that Jesus had.

Salvation is found in following him, in this life, and yes to life beyond as well. There’s nothing sadder to me than someone desperately wanting God’s help in their life, but just waiting for God to fix it. He’s inviting them to follow him, to recognize what’s really true about the circumstance they are in and respond not out of the flesh but in the reality of his kingdom. Isn’t it amazing that we find more comfort in trying to find an answer in the right book or seminar, when the Spirit of God dwells in us to guide us into truth and to empower us with the same power that raised Jesus from the dead?

He wants you to know him, to see into the reality of how God regards you and the situation you’re in, then you’ll know how to follow him.  That’s all the salvation you will ever need. He can take you through anything and change you in the process to be more like him and to think more like he thinks.

That’s what Paul meant when he wrote, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” (Col 3:1-2) Jesus opened a door for us to see and experience what is really true in the universe by knowing him. Unfortunately, we spend too much time focused on things below, on our own abilities or lack of them, and on our own wisdom, thinking it is his. Or we put too much stock in religious principles and rituals that have the appearance of spirituality, but don’t help us recognize the truth of what’s going on around us.

Ask him to let you see reality through his eyes. Spend time with him, so that you know what touches his heart and how he thinks in situations. Talk with others who are also learning to follow him and let them share what they see. Be aware that what he sees will almost always be very different from what you see. His path will most likely invite you out of your comfort zone and preferred outcomes to follow him. But remember he is your salvation and there’s no safer place to be than in him.

Yes, you’ll find yourself resisting the truth like I do the first time I see it. His ways are rarely the way I’d naturally think. As we embrace his growing revelation, however, we’ll see how following him is the only way forward. Celebrate this Christmas with a prolonged gaze into the reality of our Father’s kingdom. Draw near to him and ask him to make himself known to you and pause enough to recognize the nudging of passion or wisdom he puts on your heart. Follow him as best you see him each day and watch what will unfold in your life.

This is the great adventure. You don’t have to have all the answers or all the power, you only have to follow the one who does.

Wayne and Sara with their children and grandchildren on the beach… This is how Christmas looks in Southern California.

Wayne was a Guest on Liminal Space

I was a recent guest on the Liminal Spaces Podcast called Life through Transitions Podcast. I had a great time talking with host Jon DeWaal about how God can use something as painful as betrayal to open a wider door in his kingdom.

Do You Want to Help Us In Kenya?
If you have some year-end giving to do and unsure where to send it, would you please consider our brothers and sisters in Kenya?  You can read more about what’s going on there in my recent article, The Craziest Thing I’ve Been Asked to Do. If you’d like to help as we finish up there, you can do so on our Online Giving Page.

Travel Notes for 2019

I’m currently sorting through some of my travel schedule for 2019, which at this point will include Atlanta, Eureka, Italy, and Kenya, and might include West Virginia and Southern Illinois. We’re still working on some of the early parts of the year. I’ll be in Italy at a Discipleship Training School from April 29 – May 3.  I’ve got some time on either side of that week to be elsewhere in Europe while I’m out that way. If you’d like to host something when I’m in the area, please let me know.  You can keep up with my Travel Schedule here, and if you’d like to be notified if I’m planning to visit your area, you can sign up on our email list and include your address <http://eepurl.com/bJ43Ar>.

In Cased you Missed it…

Here are some of the podcasts and blogs that have generated a lot of interest over the last couple of months.

Podcasts at TheGodJourney.com:

Wayne’s blog at Lifestream.org

An Untapped Resource

I got to spend the weekend and then a three-hour drive with my dad this week. I realize I’m incredibly privileged to have a father like him. He was the epitome of character, integrity, graciousness, and willingness to follow God even at great risk to relationships he treasured.  I watched him be lied about by close friends and not defend himself, to be called names because he wouldn’t conform to what others wanted. This was not only my father according to the flesh, but also he is my father in the faith, setting the example of a man who would carve out time in his life to cultivate a closer relationship to Jesus, to listen to him, and to do whatever he put on his heart.

Spending time with my dad and talking over things we’re both thinking about and struggling with, is better than any book I can read, any conference I could attend, or any counselor I’d know. It is a rich, rich time that helps center my heart, shift my priorities, and adds nuggets of wisdom to my own journey.

After I dropped my dad off, I spent a few hours with another friend, Dave Coleman, who was my co-author on So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore. I enjoy time with Dave in the same way and with the same results. Between those two men in a single day, I gleaned over 170 years of experience of learning to know who Jesus is and and how to follow him. What an outstanding resource they both are! And, I know many more like them all over the world—men and women  in their 70s, 80s and 90s—who have been seasoned in walk with Jesus and picked up some amazing lessons along the way. Yet, they spend countless hours at home, alone. Few people come to visit, to ask questions, to not only offer them company but draw from their fountain of wisdom as well. And, I don’t just mean about spiritual things. These people know how to raise families, run businesses, cultivate healthy relationships, and put the welfare of others above their own.

In fact, after I left Dave’s, I met with some others who know him. They asked me how he was doing. It seemed so absurd to me. I live 250 miles away and they ask me how someone is doing who lives down the street from them. “He lives right here, you know?” I asked comically, though, I was also making a point. I know Dave would love to spend time with any of them, and they would all go away, enlightened and encouraged.

A few years ago I met with Jack Gray, a ninety-year-old in New Zealand, whose life and wisdom in Christ I’ve come to appreciate deeply. The man who drove me to that appointment joined in our conversation and after I came back home, he got a few more friends and went over to visit again and continues to, because of how helpful it has been to them. Jack told me those conversations have revitalized him and he looks forward to every one.

To its detriment, our culture has diminished the wisdom of age. Yes, I know many people grow old, bitter and more reclusive, but many others don’t. It’s as if we put their vast resources of wisdom and compassion on a shelf and ignore it, all the while trying to find the right book or speaker that might give us the wisdom we think we need. Don’t fall for it. There are brothers and sisters right around you that have what you seek and would love to help you discover a great life in Jesus. And you won’t just get platitudes or principles, but a living example and the honesty of their struggle.

If you know one of them, just invite them to lunch, or ask if you might visit. Get to know them and see what treasures spill out of their heart. If you don’t know what to talk about, here are some suggestions:

What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned on your journey?

What are you thinking about these days?

What’s the best advice you ever received about marriage (or business, or relationships, or discipleship)?

Tell me some ways God has made himself known to you?

What has been the hardest thing for you to entrust to God?

I promise you, you’ll make their day.  And yours too!

Thanksgiving in the Midst of Pain

No one should have to bury their twenty-one-year-old daughter. It’s just not right, especially when she was murdered in a senseless act by a broken man who somehow thought shooting up a local bar and grill would do something for his pain. Yesterday, Sara and I attended her funeral just to be with our community in the midst of its pain and to pray. We didn’t know Noel, or any of the other 11 victims of that mass shooting, but a good friend of ours was one of Noel’s best friends, and we wanted to support her and her family.

Our community has been through so much over the last two weeks. The shooting happened on a Wednesday night at 11:20 pm. The next day two wildfires broke out on either side of Thousand Oaks and by 3:00 am on Friday many residents were told to evacuate their homes in advance of the fire. Fortunately, only three people were killed in these fires, but over 1000 homes and businesses burned. In Northern California they are dealing with a fire that destroyed 6,000 buildings, killed almost a hundred, with a thousand more missing. Sara and I have personally escaped unscathed from these twin tragedies, but know many who have not.

And now, it’s Thanksgiving. This holiday always centers around the images of home and family, expressing gratefulness for the bounty of blessings they’ve enjoyed in the last year. But not everyone had a good year. Some had their houses burned or their child murdered.  Others have been through divorce, or cancer, or being laid off from their job. What if you have been abused by someone you love or abandoned by your family? Where do you find your Thanksgiving then?

Pain—and this world can deal it out in some horrible ways—can make us question the goodness and beauty of Creation and the One who made it. But Paul expressed a different point of view in his trials, which were many and vast, from shipwrecks to beatings, he wrote in II Corinthians 4:7-9:

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

No matter what circumstances brought to Paul, he knew of an inner refuge that could carry him through it and in the process seed the ground for greater joys to come. If we look for joy only in our circumstances, our sense of security will rise and fall with capricious tides of life. We’ll then see God as the one who must fix all our circumstances to make us happy, or be disappointed with him when he doesn’t. But if our pain can remind us to look deeper, to find a God who is bigger than the most atrocious things life can deal out to us, then we can find joy and thanksgiving no matter what goes on around us.

My heroes of the Old Testament include Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, three children of Israel living in the Babylonian exile. They were threatened with being burned alive if they wouldn’t bow down to a golden idol that King Nebuchadnezzar had built. They refused. They were given another chance to comply and refused again, uncertain how things would turn out:

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Their trust in God was not attached to the outcome of their circumstances. I know wonderful people whose homes were spared in the fires, and wonderful people whose homes were burned right across the street or next door to those who were spared. Our temporal blessings, even survival, is not proof of God’s favor or his judgment. These children of Israel could trust God whether or not he delivered them from their persecution and pain. There is always something more than what is right in front of us. Tuning into that reality gives us cause for thanksgiving no matter how bleak circumstances might appear.

So where do we find gratefulness in times of crisis? Here’s where I find it:

I am grateful that he is always with me, even if my feelings try to tell me otherwise.

I am grateful he has given me life, breath, and subsistence to get through this day.

I am thankful that I have a Father who loves me more than anyone on this planet ever has or ever will.

I am thankful there’s nothing I can do to make him love me one bit less or one bit more than he already does.

I am thankful that every breath I take is in his hands.

I am grateful that Jesus has a way to navigate me through anything life can throw at me, including when others treat me unfairly.

I am grateful that all my hopes and dreams don’t have to be satisfied on this side of eternity.

I am grateful that nothing in this world, or the actions of any person, can keep me from the life and freedom he has for me.

I am grateful that Jesus will get the last word on every one and everything in this world. He hasn’t yet, but he will.

I am grateful he is bigger than any injustice, calamity, lie, or failure.

I am grateful that there’s always a way for me to encourage and be helpful to others who are going through difficult times.

I am grateful for friendships that love through anything, and don’t assume the worst of motives in moments of pain.

And, I am grateful that beauty and joy will once again rise from the ashes of my calamities and lead me to peace.

So, whether you find yourself on this Thanksgiving in abundant circumstances or in painful ones, there are real reasons to be thankful.  And, finding our way to a place of thankfulness is often the first step to finding our way beyond the pain and into his reality of life and peace.

The Craziest Thing I’ve Been Asked to Do

And it may be the most significant thing I do in my lifetime. Our outreach to brothers and sisters in Kenya and through them to the tribal people of Pokot, is the strangest connection God has invited me into. This is nothing I sought out or tried to accomplish. God brought it into my life gently, but persistently, over time. He knew that somehow I could help him connect people with the great need on the other side of the world to people here with the resources to help out.

Over a hundred thousand tribal people there were dying of malnutrition and disease, without any aid from the United Nations, their own government, or nonprofit organizations. This is a remote region with no one to help. Their nomadic life had been destroyed by a prolonged drought that killed their cattle-driven economy. The Kenyans we already knew in Kitale were heartbroken when they discovered them and asked if we could share some resources through them. Let that sink in. A group of people we were already helping because of their poverty were wanting to reach out to others they who were even in more need. It’s just nuts. We are not a missionary organization, yet in recent years more than 80% of our budget has gone to help these dear people in Kitale and Pokot.

To my utter amazement and delight, people from my podcast at The God Journey and my blog here, responded with generosity and continue to do so over such a prolonged period of time. We’ve been helping in the Kitale area now for over ten years with an orphanage, primary school fees, college tuition, and medical needs. In addition, we started two enterprises—a petrol station and a grain distribution business—to help them employ people and use the profits so they wouldn’t grow dependent on us. That has worked out incredibly well.

Three years ago they discovered the people in Pokot, and over that time we’ve been able to help relieve their sufferings through food, water, medical assistance and education. Two and a half years ago we began a development plan to help them develop their own resources. We have coaches in the area teaching them how to provide for their own needs of food and water, and about hygiene, which has put an end to 90% of their medical needs. We’ve also helped them start their own businesses to generate income. We drilled six wells and over the past year built five agricultural projects around those wells so that in addition to having clean water for themselves, they can also use it to water their animals and to grow their own crops.

It wasn’t just money that helped us here; God also arranged for me to meet people at just the right time—two people who had doctorates in East African development three months after we found out about the people in Pokot, a man working in Thailand who introduced me to the people at Global Hope who were in a neighboring county already doing the work we needed to start doing, a family whom God led to put aside some money for a “great need” coming their way who has given nearly half of the money we have used, an education official from Uganda who could confirm the need in Pokot with government officials in Nairobi when he was skeptical of what we were being told, a lady from Australia to confirm the hearts of those who had contacted us from Kenya, and so many smaller connections that came just as they were needed.

Yes, I’ve had to make a lot of decisions in concert with others and at times this has taken far more energy and time than I felt I had to give, but mostly it seemed I’ve just watched God knit something together so much bigger than any of us could have accomplished. The way he arranged for people and support at just the right time has his fingerprints all over this. We have helped feed the hungry, including widows and orphans, rescued the sick and dying, and provided an opportunity for the Gospel to spread among a forgotten group of people.

Our plan is for the people of Pokot to be self-sustainable after five years and it looks like we’re on that track. Can you imagine? This happened because of people like you who heard about this need and responded with open hearts and have continued to do so over multiple years. I sit here amazed at what Father is doing to let love be practical in reaching out to a people who were dying of malnutrition and disease. All told, we have given over 1.5 million dollars to assist in all these efforts, and the people there have spent it shrewdly and accountably to maximize its reach to as many people as possible.

The pictures above show the tremendous success they’ve had in their first year of harvest. They work hard to grow the food and then share it among the others, especially the most needy. They are also now expanding the acreage of each of the agricultural projects to grow even more food. In addition, the generosity from so many of you has opened up a wide door for the Gospel as they have responded to the message of a Father’s love and learning to follow him.  Here’s a recent email I got thanking us for our efforts there:

The work in North Pokot has given us hope and this is what we are praying for. The people in these regions are seeing live miracle, this is so amazing. God has granted them what they prayed for some years back.

In this portions of land under irrigation it has been divided into different crops and some crops they use small water and it is drought resistance like cassava, sweet potatoes, millet and sorghum, and some maize, this will help exchange of crops time to time as the community will not depend for one crop, this is why as we continue expanding the land for more production, food donation would be reducing hence allow for development.

In every week the committee gives the food from the farm produce to the families according to the numbers. This has helped some of the families to something to eat at least every day.

Here is a picture of the people in Pokot giving thanks.  Your love has flowed over in Thanksgiving to God, not just from them, but from me as well. I am completely amazed at what God has accomplished to rescue these people and give them life.

The people of Pokot bowing down giving thanks for the crops they have harvested.

The needs here are ongoing as is our support for them. If you’d like to join us, you can direct it through Lifestream as contributions are tax-deductible in the U.S. As always, every dollar you send goes to the need in Kenya. We do not (nor do they) take out any administrative or money transfer fees. If you would like to be part of this to support these brothers and sisters and see the gospel grow in this part of Africa, please see our Sharing With the World page at Lifestream. You can either donate with a credit card there, or you can mail a check to Lifestream Ministries • 1560 Newbury Rd Ste 1 • Newbury Park, CA 91320. Or if you prefer, we can take your donation over the phone at (805) 498-7774.

When Tragedy Comes Home

I woke up this morning to my hometown being splattered all over the national news. Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, CA, which is less than two miles from my home, is now the scene of America’s latest mass shooting. Last week it was a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh, before that a seemingly endless list of schools, nightclubs, churches, concerts, and workplaces. All of them are so horrible and so senseless—lives cut short because of the anger, “cause” or brokenness of an individual human being who somehow thought carnage was the only way to address his pain.

I watch my city grieve today and my heart and prayers go out for all the victims—the family of the sheriff’s deputy who was shot, the 13 murdered and the 22 wounded, those traumatized from the event, even for the family of the shooter who are living their own worst nightmare. What started as a college night of celebration ended in untold pain that will last a lifetime for many.

What a world we live in—one broken life in a fit of rage, narcissism, or vengeance can do so much damage to the lives of others they don’t even know. And it just keeps happening week after week as we re-hash the same old debate over gun control and nothing will change. It will happen again, unfortunately. Somewhere.

I was reminded of this exchange in THE SHACK movie between Wisdom and Mack as he deals with his own tragedy of an abducted and murdered daughter:

WISDOM: This was not God’s doing.

MACK: He didn’t stop it.

WISDOM: He doesn’t stop a lot of things that cause him pain. What happened to Missy was the work of evil. And no one in your world is immune from it. You want the promise of a pain-free life… There isn’t one. As long as there is another will in this universe, free not to follow God, evil can find a way in.

MACK: There’s gotta be a better way.

WISDOM: And there is. But the better way involves trust.

And there Mack was confronted with a choice, to give into his fear, blame and anger, most of it directed at God, or to embrace the love of God that would absorb all his pain in a growing trust in Father’s goodness. Untangling the senselessness of evil won’t come out of our fear but in our engagement with a Father worth trusting, who is not the cause of pain in our culture, but the cure for it.

Evil has such amazing power, to hurt, harm and destroy. And how someone’s unaddressed personal pain can morph into acts of such incredible evil is so hard to understand.

But as horrible as that is, Love is more powerful still. Humanity does not only have the capacity to do great evil, but also the opportunity to put love and light in the world. That, too, happens every day, and even in the midst of tragedies just like this, as a sheriff’s deputy rushes in to confront the shooter, and as people pour their lives out to help those impacted by this tragedy.

My next blog was going to be about our ongoing work in Kenya, and how many lives have been saved by the generosity of strangers. Not only does free will allow evil to be in the world, that same free will every day brings incredible love, life, and healing into the world. At times like this, I want to not only pause and pray for the victims of this tragedy, but I also become even more determined to pour more love and light into the world. We don’t have enough it, not anywhere!

Good will overcome evil. Love will win over hate. Life can feed into the most broken places and bring joy and goodness again. God’s love is certainly more powerful than anything evil can do. Free will allows for that, too.

How can I be even more a conduit for that to the people I know and the situations I am in today?  And tomorrow? And for all the days of my sojourn here on this planet?