Sharing the Journey With An Elder Brother

We spent the weekend with John and Mary Beaumont, two native Kiwi’s who have traveled the world encouraging brothers and sisters to live deeply in the life of Christ and are now settling down back at home in their senior years. It has been an amazing time sharing lessons from the journey and celebrating the wonderful things that God has done in our lives. John saw through the illusion of religious systems a long time ago and has helped others learn to thrive in God’s life without the baggage of religion.

John recently put his life story in print in a book called, “A God-Filled Nobody.” He is nuts about all of us learning to live freely and fully in the life of Jesus. I’m bringing some copies home with me for New Zealand and we’ll make them available through Lifestream for $12.00 each. I know his story will be an inspiration to many of you. I’ll write more abut it and include some excerpts when I get home.

For now, let me summarize some of our discussions together. It was filled with rich conversation sometimes exploding in gut-busting laughter and at others in awe of God—his work and his wisdom. I appreciate so much the life and testimony of this older brother and sister and the warmth with which they shared his lives and home with us. Over the next few postings I’m going to share with you some insights I gleaned from our time together. Here’s the first:

Live each day to the fullest. There will never be a day when God will love you more. There will never be a day when more grace is available to you. Too many people waste time pining away for a future that never comes or envisioning a future revival instead of living deeply in God each day they are alive. Religion has to keep you hoping for a better day, but knowing God lets you live every day in the adventure of following him.

These are the kinds of conversations that I’ll get to chew on for some time to come. Today we leave Christchurch to head further south and inland to Fairlie. We’ll be living alongside the mountain range that was used for the Misty Mountains in the film trilogy “The Lord of the Rings.”

Follow Your Heart

At left you’ll see the Thursday evening sunset we witnessed on a beach west of Wellington. Since then we have journeyed south, first by Ferry across the Cook Straight through a giant pod of dolphins to the South Island. From there we drove by car across some amazing countryside and then along the coastline down to Christchurch. We will weekend here and then head inland to Faerlie for the remainder of our stay. Sara and I fly home on Thursday.

One of the constant themes of our fellowship throughout New Zealand has been the wonderful things that God has done as people simply followed their heart instead of listening to the detractors and naysayers. We heard a lengthy story by a woman whose father had abandoned her and her siblings to alcohol and a mother who had been so overwhelmed with her small children she turned them over to an orphanage and vanished. Decades of anger however yielded to the Lord’s working and she told of the way God had led her to reconciliation with her father when he was dying and with her mother when she was 70. Each time a specific direction in her heart and the willingness to follow it opened doors she had never imagined t

We also talked to another woman who had made some incredible decisions not to use some incredible material to advance her own name or websites. When I asked her why she hadn’t more clearly linked her name to it, she said that it just didn’t feel right.

We also met a group of people who had recently been pushed out of a fellowship they had helped to plant because they began to ask questions about tithing, leadership and covering that made their long-time colleagues reject them as rebellious and spread gossip about them over a wide array of past friendships. Even though they have been castigated for it they have followed their heart instead of giving in to the pressure and manipulation of others.

God does incredible things in folks who simply follow their hearts. Unfortunately our religious systems rather than teaching people how to follow what God puts on their heart, actually teach them not to. Those who lead them talk about the heart being desperately wicked and that they need confirmation from their leaders before stepping out. Unfortunately, however, what God often puts on our hearts will not fit easily into human systems, and those who lead them will rarely be able to affirm what God has asked them to do. By teaching people not to trust what Father puts on their heart, they rob them of the adventure that will help them know him better and lead them to some incredible experiences.

“Don’t you think God would show that to us if it were true?” I’ve heard of that question asked a lot when people sense God leading them in a direction their so-called leaders don’t like. It creates the false notion that people following their heart are arrogant people and lack humility. But God wants us to learn how to follow his leadings in our heart, even if others do not agree. It doesn’t mean we’re always right, but that we will learn in the following. Yes, I know people who constantly write God’s name on their own agenda, but that simply becomes known in time. The early apostles taught believers to ‘believe what they hear’ and not allow anyone else, even them, to undermine the leading of their conscience.

It’s a wonderful lesson for us all. Follow your heart and don’t worry about making mistakes, because God can use those as well. And remember, those who know Father will encourage you to listen to him, not discourage you in their attempts to get you to follow them.

From Auckland to Wellington

We’ve moved south over the past few days from Auckland into Wellington. (That’s Sara and I at left standing on an overlook above Wellington Harbor.) We traveled through the volcanic regions of the North Island stopping to see a few geysers and volcanoes as well as fitting with people who are living this marvelous journey of growing to know him.

At one house we stopped at some of the people were reminiscing about a mutual friend from New Zealand who had passed away not long ago. They talked about how he had served others practically as well as inspiring them spiritually. One lady commented, “To know Alan was to know God.”

Can you imagine anything greater that could be said of anyone? Jesus wants to take shape in us in such a way that when others get near us they get a glimpse into the very nature of God. That’s obviously a work he has to do in us, but it is one he loves to do.

We had an evening with 30 or so people in Palmerston North on Tuesday evening. What a joy to meet so many people, many of them in their senior years, willing to question the status quo in their desire to know the Living God. We shared all that God is doing the world over to invite people away from the bondage of institutionalism so that we can freely know and live in Christ. We were blessed and inspired by the folks we met there.

On Wednesday we arrived in Wellington and are staying at the home of Mike and Lynette who host. and We’ve had an amazing time fellowshipping with such like-hearted followers of Father and sharing the lessons he has taught us on this journey. We also got to tour all over Wellington. It is an incredible city, built on the hillsides overlooking a massive harbor. Today we catch a ferry to cross over to the South Island and will arrive in Christchurch by Friday evening.

Lessons on Body Life from Auckland, NZ

After an overnight twelve and a half hour flight Sara and landed in Auckland with great anticipation. Where God has asked us each to serve these days doesn’t allow us a lot of time to travel together, so it is always special when she gets to come too—not only for me but also for the folks that get to meet her too.

We arrived on Thursday and met up with David and Nina Rice from Ireland who are accompanying us on this trip. We did a bit of sightseeing around Auckland before retiring early to dispel our jet lag. On Friday we awoke to begin to get to know some of the folks Jesus brought us here to meet.

I never cease to be amazed at this incredible Body that Jesus has been building the world over. It is as true with folks who live down the street from us, as it is those half way around the world. When you get near people who know who are learning to live in Jesus, fellowship is instant as love blossoms even between those who have never met before. Suddenly there is not enough time to share what God has done and what he has shown us all in the journey.

Yesterday we sat by the sea with a couple who have journeyed over 80 years in this life. They served as medial missionaries in the former Congo leading up to the revolution of the early 60’s. They have lived in New Zealand for most of their lives since and have been on a marvelous journey to know Jesus outside the religious systems that mark our day.

When I asked Jack what he knew about Father that I didn’t know, he answered something like this: “I know how deeply he can still love an eighty year-old man who hasn’t got it all figured out yet.” I love that! None of us are ever going to get it all figured out here. He just invites us to know him with the same reality that he knows us. “I feel like I’m just beginning this journey,” he said.

Well, thank God! That’s the way I feel every day and it’s encouraging to know that I can maintain that freshness for a lifetime. We’re not going to figure it out in this lifetime, and he is not waiting for us to, He just wants us to keep drawing near to him and letting him shape and change us bit by bit.

As we sat on the shore with the water of Manukau Harbor outside of Auckland lapping at our feet, I was amazed that Father had brought together couples from three different continents to compare notes about him and the way he has led us. I was so encouraged by that all-to-brief time together. God is inviting people to himself the world over and teaching us how to live in him and share that life with each other and the world. The fellowship we shared together affirmed that God had tuned our hearts to himself and the unity we could share together was his gift to us.

Certainly his symphony plays on….

Learning to Listen to God

I got the following as a response to one of my blogs and thought I’d let you look over my shoulder as I answered her:

I too am in a transitional stage and it seems when I am quiet and still, I still can’t seem to hear God. Am I trying to hard? How do you not try so hard?

My response:

That’s the million dollar question isn’t it?  I wish I could give you a definitive answer, but without knowing you that would be impossible.
But God knows what you need to know. God knows how to slow you down and help you not try so hard. And he is able to do this.
Take a deep breath. Relax. Simply know that if you’re going to get how to hear him, he will have to do it. And rest in that, because he is really good at teaching people how to hear him. Tell him you want him to teach you. Ask him to help you recognize the soft whispers of his voice as they blow through your mind or as you hear them in the voices of other folks you know, even if they are unaware that God is using them to speak to you. Whenever you feel like trying harder, treat it suspiciously and step back a bit. Take another deep breath and just ask God to show you in his way and in his time.
He will teach you how to trust him to do that. I like where you’re heart is at, and I’m sure he does too.

It also reminds me of a question I was asked in Atlanta a couple of years ago. “Do you really think you’re good enough to hear God every day? What a question? The obvious and only answer is a resounding, “No!”; None of us ,p.are good enough for that.

But perhaps the question is, “Is God big enough to get through to me every day?” That gets a resounding yes. If I’ll listen and watch for him, he is fully able to get past whatever doubt, struggle, ignorance, or presupposition to help me understand him and the way he is dealing with me.

Dangerous Wonder Again

Here’s a bit more from Dangerous Wonder by Mike Yaconnelli (page 32):


It is time to find the place where dangerous wonder of faith can be discovered—a place landscaped by risky curiosity, wild abandon, daring playfulness, quiet listening, irresponsible passion, happy terror and naïve grace.
In a day when most of us are tired, worn-out, thirsty, and starving for life and joy and peace, maybe it is time to become a child again. Maybe it is time to quit college and take a year off to go to the mission filed, or give up a secure job and go back to school, or leave the corporation because the work is killing our souls, or give up the possessions that are possessing us.
Maybe it is time to live this dangerous wonder of faith, take our shoes off, roll up our sleeves, and have “such a romp as no one has ever seen.” Maybe it’s time to lay in the snow once again.”

Isn’t it amazing how many things in this life can lull us into spiritual slumber when God wants to run wild and free with us through whatever life hurls at us? Don’t fall for any of them. Take a run with him through the meadow today and find out what it really means to be alive!

A Day of Tears

I wept yesterday. I shed more tears than any day in recent memory. And, quite frankly, I was surprised by it.

Since I was in Kansas last week, I had little opportunity to follow the services and ceremonies for President Ronald Reagan. Sara taped them for me and I spent almost all day yesterday watching the celebration of his life and legacy and the mourning of his passing. I was surprised at the emotional reaction I had to all of it. I had wanted to watch it because of the historical uniqueness of a President’s passing, and the fact that his Presidential library is only a few miles from where I live.

Though I voted for President Reagan in both elections, and supported much of his agenda, I have not thought of him as one of our greatest presidents. As time marches on, however, he may prove to be the greatest in my lifetime, which alone says volumes about the times in which we live. No, my tears did not flow today because of a personal sense of loss at his passing. I wept for other reasons.

I am sure I wept a bit because my emotions were manipulated the pageantry, images, and music of these ceremonies. They are designed to do that, you know. Many of the songs of faith pulled at my heartstrings and          the simple power of military protocol and patriotism makes a powerful mix. But I also know it was far more than that.

I wept in memory of a President I respected and whose ideals of freedom and courage of his convictions inspired me personally and set a new tone in American history. I always admired his amazing gift of communication, his graciousness toward opponents and his quick-witted humor.

I wept in grief for his widow, Nancy. Their deep and abiding love had been first robbed by disease then severed by death. Her pain reminded me of so many other friends and family past and present waging war against horribly debilitating diseases in others they love deeply. It also made me appreciate Sara so much more and the gift that she is to me.

I wept for the mortality of the human soul and the suffering of a world in conflict, disease and death that has too-long embraced an order that is grossly out of synch with the passions of the One who created us all.

I wept in gratitude for significant people in my own life who have preceded me to the presence of the Father I love so much.

And perhaps most of all I wept in sorrow for the demeaned image of God presented before the world in the trappings of a lofty cathedral and in the presumption of dress and ceremony by the religious professionals who took part in the service. These things were designed to make the rich and powerful comfortable in religious moments, rather than bear the glory of God to the weak and wounded of the world. I thought those things made Christianity look weak, powerless and empty—a God whose veneer we invoke in our sorrow, not a Father whose love we can embrace every day.

And I wept in wonder at God’s graciousness to visit people in such places and behind such trappings. In spite of the over-done pageantry of religion his voice could be clearly heard in the simple words of those who expressed their own faith and that of President Reagan’s especially following his assassination attempt.

And I have awakened to this day with a deeper love and a firmer resolve to live deeply in Jesus, following him wherever he asks me to go, as long as he gives me breath in this body.


A Life Lived, Not A Theology Observed

I’m just finishing up a week of teaching for an HIV/AIDs Intervention School in Newton, KS for a group of students that have a passion to care for those infected with this virus. At the end of four weeks of training they will be off to South Africa to work with AIDs outreaches there. We have had a ball this week, for this is an interesting group of students, and pretty free spirits. I get to be with them for seventeen hours of teaching, and all week long living among them to help walk them out of religious approaches to God and sort out what it means to live related to him as our Father.

Weeks like this are always refreshing to me spiritually as well. How easy it is living in this age to find ourselves trapped in a religious veneer of Christianity and miss the heart of it. Religious thinking keeps us trapped in guilt and shame, harassed by obligations we can never fulfill, bored with empty rituals and in constant pursuit of some new truth that will finally make it alive.

All are fruitless endeavors that will leave us empty.

Jesus didn’t load up his followers with any of these things. In fact, he dismantled them at every turn. He simply demonstrated to them what a life lived in Father’s love looks like. It affected everything about the way he thought and acted and it was so engaging that the disciples were constantly amazed at how God worked through him.

Given the age we live in, we all need constant reminders that Christianity is not a creed to confess, ethics to obey or rituals to fulfill. Reducing our life in him to mere religion will ultimately bore us and we will simply reduce it to attending services or observing disciplines and miss the greatest joy of being his—walking with him every day through the circumstances we encounter and seeing him work in the people that cross our paths.

Christianity at its heart is a daily relationship with the Living God where we grow to know him as he really is and center our lives on his purpose and character working its way into our lives.

We will never learn to live in that reality by sitting through teaching, reading books or talking with others. While those can be helpful, if we are in fact learning to live in him, as substitutes for the lack of it they will always be woefully inadequate.

We have to remind ourselves and each other that Christianity is a life lived in Father’s reality. It is not at its root a theological system, though it does have a coherent theology. It is not primarily an ethical system, though it will teach us to live in God’s righteousness. It is not observing rituals or ethical mandates. We live the life of Christ as we learn to abide in him, like a branch in a vine. He yearns to teach you how to do that. All you have to do is ask him, lean into him every day and watch his glory sort out in the real experiences of your life.

That’s what I’m being reminded freshly this week. I thought you might like a reminder too.


Frontier Theology by Wes Seeliger

[This story has come up in two conversations lately so I figured it might be a blessing for those of you who have never seen it. Of course I wish he’d used a different term than clergyman, but what are you going to do?]

There are two views of life and two kinds of people. Some see life as a possession to be carefully guarded. They are SETTLERS. Others see life as a fantastic, wild, explosive gift. They are PIONEERS. The visible church is an outfit with an abundance of settlers and a few pioneers. The invisible church is the fellowship of pioneers. To no one’s surprise there are two kinds of theology. Settler theology and pioneer theology. Settler theology is an attempt to answer all the questions, define and housebreak some sort of “Supreme Being,” establish the status quo on Golden Tablets in cinemascope. Pioneer Theology is an attempt to talk about what it means to receive the strange gift of life and live! The pioneer sees theology as a wild adventure, complete with Indians, saloon girls, and the haunting call of what is yet to be.

The Wild West offers a stage for picturing these two types of theology. Settlers and Pioneers use the same words but that is where it stops. To see what I mean–read on.



IN SETTLER THEOLOGY–the church is the courthouse. It is the center of town life. The old stone structure dominates the town square. Its windows are small. This makes the thing easy to defend, but quite dark inside. Its doors are solid oak. No one lives there except pigeons and they, of course, are most unwelcome.

Within the thick, courthouse walls, records are kept, taxes collected, trials held for bad guys. The courthouse runs the town. It is the settler’s symbol of law, order, stability, and most important–security, The mayor’s office is on the top floor. His eagle eye scopes out the smallest details of town life.

IN PIONEER THEOLOGY–the church is the covered wagon. It is a house on wheels–always on the move. No place is its home. The covered wagon is where the pioneers eat, sleep, fight, love, and die. It bears the marks of life and movement–it creaks, is scarred with arrows, bandaged with bailing wire. The covered wagon is always where the action is. It moves in on the future and doesn’t bother to glorify its own ruts. The old wagon isn’t comfortable, but the pioneers could care less. There is a new world to explore.



IN SETTLER THEOLOGY–God is the mayor. The honorable Alpha O. Mega, chief executive of Settler City. He is a sight to behold–dressed like a dude from back East, lounging in an over-stuffed chair in his courthouse office. He keeps the blinds drawn. No one sees or knows him directly, but since there is order in the town who can deny he is there? The mayor is predictable and always on schedule.

The settlers fear the mayor but look to him to clear the payroll and keep things going. The mayor controls the courthouse which in turn runs the town. To maintain peace and quiet the mayor sends the sheriff to check on pioneers who ride into town.

IN PIONEER THEOLOGY–God is the trail boss. He is rough and rugged-full of life. The trail boss lives, eats, sleeps, fights with his men. Their well being is his concern. Without him the wagon wouldn’t move–the pioneers would become fat and lazy. Living as a free man would be impossible. The trail boss often gets down in the mud with the pioneers to help push the wagon which frequently gets stuck. He slugs the pioneers when they get soft and want to turn back. His fist is an expression of his concern.



IN SETTLER THEOLOGY–Jesus is the sheriff. He is the guy who is sent by the mayor to enforce the rules. He wears a white hat–drinks milk–outdraws the bad guys. He saves the settlers by offering security. The sheriff decides who is thrown in jail. There is a saying in town that goes like this–those who believe the mayor sent the sheriff and follow the rules won’t stay in Boot Hill when it comes their time.

IN PIONEER THEOLOGY–Jesus is the scout. He rides out ahead to find out which way the pioneers should go. He lives all the dangers of the trail. The scout suffers every hardship, is attacked by the Indians, feared by the settlers. Through his actions and words he shows the true spirit, intent, and concern of the trail boss. By looking at the scout, those on the trail learn what it really means to be a pioneer.



IN SETTLER THEOLOGY–the Holy Spirit is a saloon girl. Her job is to comfort the settlers. They come to her when they feel lonely or when life gets dull or dangerous. She tickles them under the chin and makes everything O.K. again. The saloon girl squeals to the sheriff when someone starts disturbing the peace. (Note to settlers: the whiskey served in Settler City Saloon is the non-spiritous kind.)

IN PIONEER THEOLOGY–the Holy Spirit is the buffalo hunter. He rides along with the wagon train and furnishes fresh, raw meat for the pioneers. The buffalo hunter is a strange character–sort of a wild man. The pioneers never can tell what he will do next. He scares the hell out of the settlers. Every Sunday morning, when the settlers have their little ice cream party in the courthouse, the buffalo hunter sneaks up to one of the courthouse windows with his big black gun and fires a tremendous blast. Men jump, women scream, dogs bark. Chuckling to himself, the buffalo hunter rides back to the wagon train.



IN SETTLER THEOLOGY–the Christian is the settler. He fears the open, unknown frontier. He stays in good with the mayor and keeps out of the sheriff’s way. He tends a small garden. “Safety First” is his motto. To him the courthouse is a symbol of security, peace, order, and happiness. He keeps his money in the bank. The banker is his best friend. He plays checkers in the restful shade of the oak trees lining the courthouse lawn. He never misses an ice cream party.

IN PIONEER THEOLOGY–the Christian is the pioneer. He is a man of risk and daring–hungry for adventure, new life, the challenge of being on the trail. He is tough, rides hard, knows how to use a gun when necessary. The pioneer feels sorry for the town folks and tries to tell them about the joy and fulfillment of a life following the trail. He dies with his boots on.



IN SETTLER THEOLOGY–the clergyman is the bank teller. Within his vaults are locked the values of the town. He is suspicious of strangers. And why not? Look what he has to protect! The bank teller is a highly respected man in town. He has a gun but keeps it hidden behind his desk. He feels he and the sheriff have a lot in common. After all, they both protect the bank.

IN PIONEER THEOLOGY–the clergyman is the cook. He doesn’t furnish the meat–he just dishes up what the buffalo hunter provides. This is how he supports the movement of the wagon. He never confuses his job with that of the trail boss, scout or buffalo hunter. He sees himself as just another pioneer who has learned to cook. The cook’s job is to help the pioneers pioneer.



IN SETTLER THEOLOGY–the bishop is the bank president. He rules the bank with an iron hand. He makes all the decisions, tells the tellers what to do, and upholds the image of the bank. The settlers must constantly be reassured of the safety of their values. The bank president watches the books like a hawk. Each day he examines all deposits and withdrawals. The bank president is responsible for receiving all new accounts. This is called “the laying on of hands.”

IN PIONEER THEOLOGY–the bishop is the dishwasher. He does the chores so the cook can do his job. He supports the cook in every way possible. Together the cook and dishwasher plan the meals and cook the food provided by the buffalo hunter. They work as an

Living Dangerously in God’s Wonder

Sara and I are rereading Dangerous Wonder by Mike Yaconelli each morning as our focus before she leaves for work. This morning we read one of my favorite passages in this one of my favorite books:


Predictability and faith cannot coexist. What characterized Jesus and His disciples was unpredictability. Jesus was always surprising the disciples by eating at the wrong houses (those of sinners), hanging around the wrong people (tax collectors, adulterers, prostitutes, lepers), and healing people on the wrong day (the Sabbath). There was no Day Timer™, no strategic plan, no mission statement; there was only the eager anticipation of the present moment. The Pharisees wanted Jesus to be the same as they were. His truth should be should be the same truth that they had spent centuries taming. But truth is unpredictable. When Jesus is present, everyone is uncomfortable yet mysteriously glad at the same time. People do not like surprises—even church people—and they don’t want to be uncomfortable. They want a nice, tame Jesus.
You know what? Tameness is not an option.
Take surprise out of faith and all that is left is dry and dead religion. Take away mystery from the gospel and all that is left is a frozen and petrified dogma. Lose your awe of God and you are left with an impotent deity. Abandon astonishment and you are left with meaningless piety. When religion is characterized by sameness, when faith is franchised, when the genuineness of our experience with God is evaluated by its similarities to others’ faith, then the uniqueness of God’s people is dead and the church is lost.


I love his sentiments even though I’d differ with his use of the term ‘church’. The church that Jesus knows prefers the danger of walking with the Living God to the routines of safe institutions any time. This church thrives in the wonder of the Living God, present among his people to accomplish his purpose even if that means he defies all of our preferences and expectations. May God have his way even if that thwarts our best-laid plans or ruffles up our comfort zone.


A Week at the Mall Part II

My dad, son and I have spent four days touring Washington DC and having a meaningful and hilarious time together. I’m traveling with some folks that have wonderful sense of humor. We have been all over downtown DC and to the monuments, museums and memorials. Today we visited the new Air and Space Annex near Dulles and toured Mount Vernon. We were at the World War II Memorial on Tuesday and I found it moving indeed. We even met Senator Bob Dole there after a brief press conference he did. My dad got to shake his hand and that was special for him.

Some critics have panned the memorial as not being as moving as more recent memorials such as the Vietnam War Memorial. But the memorial does not have meaning because of its architecture but because of the sacrifice it memorializes. In other words it is not the memorial that qualifies the sacrifice, but the sacrifice that qualifies the memorial. It’s the same with our life in God. Like refrigerator art from our young children, it is not the quality of art that determines the worth of the artist, but our love for the artist that qualifies their work of art.

Tomorrow we go back downtown for the dedication of the Memorial. There has been a lot of talk about a possible terrorist incident associated with this weekend. It is interesting that it has not dampened the spirit or interest of the proceedings here as far as the veterans are concerned. We seem them everywhere and there is an instant camaraderie among as they pass each other on the street. These are men and women who already stared death in the face in their youth and they are not about to let the threat of terrorist activity rob them of the freedom they already sacrificed to gain.

I obviously don’t know what will happen tomorrow, but I also think the media gives us a distorted since of proportion about these dangers because it sensationalizes their news story. I am greatly looking forward to spending this day with my dad and son, as a grateful nation acknowledges the sacrifice these men and women made to conquer an unspeakable evil that sought to overrun the world.

What they faced, endured and overcome has been an incredible heritage for the rest of us. Only a fourth of those who fought in the war are still alive today and 1000 of them are dying every day. A tribute for their sacrifice is long overdue. I’m blessed indeed that God allowed us to experience this week together.

Finding it All in Father

These verses are a feast aren’t they?


“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” 2 Peter 1:3-4

When we’re feeling a bit lost and confused, how often do we run to another brother or sister, browse the Internet or try to find a book that will give us the answer we seek. Here Peter points believers another direction. You have already been given everything you will ever need to live fully in him and participate in his nature.

It’s in Him and he is in you. As we grow to know him, we’ll also sort out the things that concern us most. Maybe why the answer is so hard to find is because we’re looking in all the wrong places. I think we’d all be less confused and more at peace if we sought him who holds all the answers.

Yes, he’ll often use others to affirm what he is doing in us. He loves connecting his family together. But that connection only flows from the Father of the family himself. Always go first to him. Steal away to your quiet place and drench yourself in his presence. Listen to him first for everything you need resides in him. Let his promises wash over you, because in them you’ll find his glory and goodness that will shape you exactly the way God made you to be.

I’m convinced that if we go there first we won’t be so confused by the multiplicity of voices we hear pointing us different direction. His knowing in us will be clear—”go that way!”


A Week At the Mall

On Monday I leave for a very special trip. My father, son and I are flying to Washington DC to tour the city and to attend the dedication of the World War II Memorial, , on the National Mall next Saturday. I have been looking forward to this for a long time, not only to have some special time with my dad and son, and to celebrate my father’s life and his sacrifice in that great conflict.

Fresh out of high school my father enlisted in the infantry to help liberate Europe from the death grip of a madman. He was wounded in a vineyard in northeast just before New Year’s Day, 1945. That experience changed my dad’s life and I have feasted on the fruits of it my entire life. A few years ago he told a story to my wife and daughter that explains so much of his life.

In the middle of that conflict, enduring the bitter elements and trauma of war my dad had a conversation with God. “If you get me out of this conflict alive, I will never complain about anything as long as I live.” It wasn’t so much a vow to barter his way out of trouble, as it was a statement of fact. Dad knew that he would never experience any worse circumstances in his life than he faced there.

Over the years I watched my dad (at right) lose two raisin harvests, his only source of income, to unseasonable rainstorms. I heard others mock and vilify him for leaving congregations that had spiraled into more self than Spirit. I’ve prayed alongside him for people captured in the deepest bondages and watched him care for my oldest brother as he battled Multiple Sclerosis, and even endured his passing. He has been married for more than 50 years and I have never once heard my dad complain about anything, which is remarkable since I grew up complaining about everything.

In times of crisis and challenge I have seen him lean into Jesus with a gentleness and confidence that has held him through his entire life. He has been my father not only of the flesh, but also of the spirit as his example has inspired me to seek the reality and freedom of life in Jesus and never to settle for anything less.

Over the course of the next week I’ll be celebrating him and the best of what America has offered the world. I’ll tour our national museums and historic sites. I’ll attend patriotic ceremonies where I know I’ll be touched by the incredible ideals that have marked the American experiment. While I don’t see American as a ‘Christian Nation’, I do think on balance she has been a force for good in the world and here best ideals of liberty and justice for all are derived from God’s heart. Though our performance on these issues has always been flawed, there have always been men and women calling us to our best. And I will continue to pray for our leaders and be grateful for the men and women who have sacrificed their lives around the world in the name of freedom.

That may come as a surprise to those of you who took offense to my column on the perceived arrogance of the current administration’s rhetoric and foreign policy. Some of you seemed only to prove my point the harder you tried to rebut it. Our expressions of superiority undermine our moral credibility. To talk about how we’re being perceived in the world by our friends is not a judgment against President Bush’s Christianity, but to pray it transforms him even more. It is perhaps asking too much, but I want anyone who claims Christ’s name to also bear his character to the world and think that will go a long ways to accomplish the things President Bush says he wants.

So this week will be filled with joy and celebration as three generations of Jacobsen’s tour DC and join 100s of thousands of people on the Mall next Saturday. I see no problem giving thanks to Jesus for the incredible things he has done in our nation, at the same time I pray for her weaknesses. I do no less for my own life…

Rejection from Others II

My last blog on rejection initiated an email contact with a sister half way around the world. She’s recently walked away from a religious institution because it seemed to her to be abusive.


My big fear is that perhaps they’re right. What if they’re right? What if I’m falling away from God? What if what they say is true – I’m unhappy in church because I’m the problem?

But I can’t fix myself. Don’t know how. Don’t even know where to start.

I mean, if my two best friends and my church leaders are all criticizing me the same way, are they right?

Does my passion scare them so much? Shouldn’t they be happier for me?

I just don’t get it, Wayne. All I want to do is to know God better. I want to break free from the prison I’ve found myself in. I want to question how things are done. Why must they come over and call me names? This journey made me love GOd more. It made me disillusioned with the church, which is good, since it was my crutch before.

Now all I have is Him. And I feel safer now.


Here’s how I responded:


I know what you’re going through at least a bit because I went through it myself 10 years ago. It is so hard when close friends suddenly regard you as an outsider. My heart goes out to you. I remember the questions of self-doubt very well. If the two brothers I had worked with closest in ministry now regarded me as unfit for the kingdom, what does that say about me?
I don’t think decisions like this are made, however, with trying to figure out who is right and who is wrong. When I stepped away from an abusive environment I wrestled with that also. But I think it is a false question. If I have to decide I’m more wise or closer to Jesus than someone else to step away, I’d never do it. What I found myself saying to God was, “I don’t know who is right or wrong here, but I have to follow my heart. If I am being selfish and independent, then let me be seen for that. If, however, I am following you, let that be known as well.” That gave me the freedom to follow my heart as he drew me closer to himself. I have never regretted it.
Time will let the truth be known and if you’re free to admit you’re wrong if that becomes true, then you don’t need to second-guess yourself every waking moment. I think we go on this journey by having the freedom to follow our heart, even if we might make a mistake. True friends will celebrate that with us. Those who just want to use us for their agendas, will be threatened by it. They’ll argue, “Who are you to disagree with us?” But that’s not how God works. That’s why you feel safer following him than pleasing others around you.
It can be lonely at times, though. It took me a couple of years to de-tox from religion—seeking the approval of others, feeling guilty for not doing what others demanded and finding my purpose in fulfilling institutional obligations. Through that whole time, however, God just kept making himself clearer and clearer to me. I think you’re already finding that to be true.
You’ll also find disillusionment to be a wonderful thing. It means we have illusions about God or about his body that God wants to ‘dis’ so that we could see him as he really is and his body as she really is in the world. In time you will know these are great days to have behind you, because the freedom they will produce in the long haul is truly amazing!


Dealing with Rejection from Others

   I had a great time in Washington State last weekend. I spent my entire time west of Puget Sound on the Olympic Peninsula, some of it in Port Orchard and some of it around Port Angeles. A few of us even took an afternoon hike on Saturday through the rain forest to the falls pictured at left. We gathered every night and often talked through the day with people on various stages of the journey—many of them wanting a greater reality in Jesus and a richer body life with others.


We talked about so many things, from helping people get focused on Jesus instead of various ‘church’ models to encouraging people to walk in his freedom rather than the expectations and demands of even well-meaning Christians around them who think our dependence is on an institution rather than on Christ. Some people really struggled with things we shared, others embraced them with open hearts knowing that we were only giving voice to things God was already teaching them. I love when that happens.

As I was reading in I Peter 4 this morning in The Message I came across some passages that speak to that directly. Unfortunately we normally only apply them to people in the world:


Of course, your old friends don’t understand why you don’t join in with the old gang anymore. But you don’t have to give an account to them. They’re the ones who will be called on the carpet—and before God himself.

Then further down that chapter:


If you’re abused because of Christ, count yourself fortunate. It’s the Spirit of God and his glory in you that brought you to the notice of others. If they are on you because you broke the law or disturbed the peace, that’s a different matter. But if it’s because you’re a Christian, don’t give it a second thought.


It’s easy to see these passages as only applicable to those caught up in the rebellious ways of the world, but Jesus also lived this out with people who were caught up in the demanding ways of religion. When the religionists of his day chided him for not fitting into their ways or respecting their authority, he was not swayed. He followed his Father’s voice rather than the jealous cries of his threatened countrymen. One of the hardest hurdles for any of us schooled in religion to get past is no longer to seek the approval of others. People caught up in religion use approval to manipulate people. If you conform to their ways they shower acceptance on you. But if you don’t they heap blame and accusations on you hoping to scare you back into the fold.


Peter wanted his readers to remember that it is God that we and our detractors give account to, not each other. If we are following him we will no longer be manipulated by those voices that seek to lure us back into religious obligation or reject our spirituality because it doesn’t conform to their expectations. I love Peter’s reminder in that as well. If you’re suffering the rejection of others because you’re following Christ, then consider yourself fortunate. If, however, you are rejected because you are arrogant, bitter or destructive, then that’s a different matter entirely. Don’t glory in the trouble caused by self, but that which is caused by your life in Jesus and that rejection will only become another tool in his hands to make you more like him.


I know how scary and painful it can be to risk friendships like that, but it is the only way to follow him and in the end you’ll also get to find out who your true friends really are. Real friends will support your passion for Jesus even if they don’t understand the way he’s leading you. To live in his fullness we have to follow him instead of playing to the crowd—whether that’s those caught up in the world, or those held captive by religion.

Arrogant America?

I don’t often comment on political events in this forum, but there’s something I’ve noticed in my recent travels that has disturbed me deeply. Admittedly my experiences overseas are limited, but I have noticed a significant shift in how America is perceived overseas, and this from believers among our closest allies. Where I used to hear warm appreciation for what America stood for and passionate support for our struggle against terrorism, I now hear the suspicion that we care only for ourselves and will walk over anyone to get what we want.

It’s almost embarrassing to travel as an American in the world these days. Our foreign policy in the last few years has conveyed an arrogance that alienates even our friends.
President Bush ran for office promising a new humility in American foreign policy. “Let us not dominate others with our power,” he said in 1999. “Let us have an American foreign policy that reflects American character — the modesty of true strength, the humility of real greatness. This will be the spirit of my administration.” During the October 200 debate he said the US was attemptiong too much abroad. “If we are an arrogant nation, they will resent us. If we’re a humble nation but strong, they’ll welcome us.”

The campaign rhetoric said he got that but his actions since have demonstrated that he does not. His policies only foster American self-interest without taking into consideration the needs and desires of other nations. Watch the language he uses to communicate with other countries. He talks down to them as a parent would scold a wayward child and in doing so only fosters resentment instead of cooperation.

When you can drop a cruise missile on a specific desk, through a specific window on a specific floor of a high-rise, you do not have to bluster your way around the world. There is no longer an evil empire to play good cop against and if we don’t walk wisely and humbly before the rest of the world we could easily become the common enemy as the last bully on the block.

Even though I receive countless emails from the latest Christian author or singer to come out the Oval Office professing how humble a man our president is, I no longer believe it. I used to chalk it up to his Texas bravado but am now convinced that our President cannot speak humbly before the world, because he really thinks our society superior, he believes our interests are the only ones that matter, and he despises those who don’t see things his way.

It appears now that President Bush’s commitment to war in Iraq was based on faulty intelligence. When we were being told to trust this administration because they knew more than they could tell us, it turns out they knew even less than they let on. Here’s where a bit of owning up would go a long way to dispel the notion of arrogance. But instead of admitting our mistake, he continues to defend it and even speaks about freeing Iraq with an evangelistic zeal, citing America’s divine mission to spread freedom throughout the world. It is scary if not also a bit oxymoronic to think of spreading freedom by military conquest. You cannot force people to embrace freedom and cannot give it to people who will not take it for themselves. The quest for freedom must rise from within a culture. When our founding fathers drafted the Declaration of Independence they put their very lives and fortunes on the line to gain what no one else could give them.

If countries in the Islamic world find freedom it’s because the progressive elements within in them will rise up and reject the tyranny of violence, brutality and control that keep them captive. They will speak out clearly and loudly even at great personal risk and only then will they know freedom from the terrorists and clerics that hold them captive. That said, we now have a great responsibility to support our troops in the most difficult of circumstances and do all we can to rebuild Iraq into a functioning society, if that is possible. We have to recognize that military power alone will never win this war if our rhetoric and policies only encourage others to take the place of those terrorists we kill or capture. For that we need the help of other nations around the world and to do that we’ll have to treat them as partners not as children.

If more Americans traveled abroad we might recognize our own arrogance better. Even as I write this I know many of my American friends will not appreciate what I’m writing (though I meet an increasing number who are uncomfortable with Bush’s language) and those overseas will. Americans are too often the loudest voices in the airports and talk to people of other nations as if we are experts on everything. We still measure temperature by Fahrenheit when everyone else uses Celsius and we are the only nation that hosts ‘World Championships’ without inviting the rest of the world to compete. We consume way too much of the world’s resources and only demonstrate greater greed for more. Even the entertainment we export glorifies our decadence in the name of profit. And sadly our culture treats the loss of American life as more tragic than the loss of any other.

In the minds of others these things are starting to outweigh our generosity that has helped suffering people the world over, our courage that has put our young men and women in harm’s way to rescue others from invasion and our creativity that has provided technology and resources for the world. If we don’t learn how to bend over backwards to play fairly alongside the other nations of the earth we cannot blame them if they join together against us as the mighty Goliath that needs to be knocked down a peg.

Humility is not weaknesses. The term is derived from the concept of controlled strength and pictures a warhorse at rest. Only the insecure and fearful have to boast and bluster. Those who are truly strong and confident can sit at ease until that strength is needed. They can act with resolve, but also compassion, earning people’s respect instead of their disdain. The war on terror will never be won by military might alone if we don’t also disarm the desperation and anger that feeds their army.

It is time for us to do some deep soul-searching in America sort out how we are being perceived in the world. If we cannot fund a more humble and gracious voice to the rest of the world we’ll find ourselves increasingly isolated. No matter what our military power can accomplish it will only succeed in further alienating our friends and inspiring further hatred in our enemies.

The One Who Knows Me Best, Loves Me Most

Over the last few weeks I’ve found an old chorus running around my head. Part of it says,

I am loved, you are loved,
I can risk loving you.
For the one who knows me best,
Loves me most.

That last line has really caught my attention of late. The one who loves me the most knows the most about me. He knows every doubt I have, every failure I’ve made, every temptation I struggle with and every side-tracked journey I’ve taken. And yet, he loves me to the core of my being. He doesn’t define me by my weaknesses, but by that which he created me to be when I live in the freedom of his love.

The world sure didn’t teach us that. It taught us that to be liked we had to pretend to be someone we weren’t. We had to fit into people’s expectations or risk their rejection, which is why we go away from so many conversations regretting things we didn’t say or do because of what others might have thought of us. We’ve been convinced that people will only like us because they don’t really know us.

If we really knew that the one who knows us best loves us most, we’d be free to be ourselves around others. As with our Father, true fellowship only begins where people are free to be authentic, not when they pretend to be something they think others want them to be. We can finally stop projecting an image and let others see into our weaknesses and struggles instead of trying to hide them. Of course with people there is always risk in that. Some may not like us, but those that are real friends will and we’d find our relationships deepening with them because we’re not having to pretend any more.

Our security in Father’s love opens the door for us to simply and honestly before others, and that will do more than you can ever imagine in helping you taste of the kind of friendships God wants us all to know.


BodyLife 2004 – The Shepherd’s Call

A new issue of our flagship publication, BodyLife, was posted on May 10, 2004. The lead article is entitled The Shepherd’s Call. Because this is a bit different, I’m creating this space on the blog for others to comment on the article. I’m not necessarily looking for a string of compliments here like, “Great article”. I’m looking for a place for people to interact with its content, whether positive or negative and I’ll join that conversation with my own thoughts when I can. Just hit the ‘feedback’ button to read other people’s comments or add your own.

Simple Church Revisited

I got the following question as a follow up to my recent post on simple church and thought you’d be interested in the conversation that followed:


I’m likely confused by your latest blog entry but want to understand. There is something there that resonates with me. Are you saying that formal netowrking of house churches/simple churches (whatever you want to call them), might not be a good thing because it’s kind of man made? Are you suggesting that simple churches are ok as long as Jesus is the focus and the leader? I just want to make sure I understand your points. My wife and I are leading a house church/simple church (and) half of the the folks in our little community come from different “networks” the other half don’t. We are on our own and don’t allign ourselves with any “network”, but do obviously have freinds that also do the house church thing.


My response:


’m not saying formal netowrking is a negative thing so much as I’m saying it is an unnecessary thing. Enjoy whatever relationships God gives you both in local and more regional environments. He has a great way of allowing his people to intersect. I find formal networking, while exciting in its initial stages, will eventually create machinery that will need to be baby sat and may even limit relationships to those ‘in the network’ when God wants to connect you with other folks. I find the more we define our relationships institutionally the more doors it closes not opens. But I know many people who I love and respect profoundly who are involved in forming networks of simple churches. If that’s what they feel called to do, fine! I just think it is a detour that will siphon time and energy away from the real kinds of work God does.
I am also concerned that by forming networks and linking with other networks nationally, we are creating the same system that we all left. Sure it is in a different format, but eventually people will end up thinking more about the model than they do of following Christ. That has happened in institutional church, cell church, house church, and organic church and I have no reason to think it won’t happen with this as well. I wonder how much of this formal networking comes from our need for approval, to give our group some kind of credibility with other folks (or ourselves) by joining something larger. That’s how I’ve mostly heard it talked about by those involved in building them. It also helps carve out a vocational ministry job for someone, but in it they will probably end up doing far more managing and facilitating than they will discipling. Why do we need that extra overhead, when God is so amazing (even though things like the Internet) to connect people as he desires and having no formal relationship among them except to love each other and keep following Jesus as he leads us on?
Wherever Jesus is the center and focus of life, his church will emerge quite freely. As I said in the article, I’m all for simple church, especially if it is not capitalized as a thing, but recognized as a reality God is doing with a variety of expressions.


He responded:


Thanks. This does bring some focus to me on what you wrote. I agree with most of what you are saying. I guess my one concern is how we help train and equip leaders and future simple church leaders without some kind of structure. I’m sure I am just not thinking outside the box enough. Obviously, God will provide.


Me again:


I think leaders are less-trained by a structure, as they emerge among folks because of what God is doing in them. In other words their growth wouldn’t necessitate any equipping different than anyone else. Their responsiveness to Jesus and their insight into his ways would make room enough for them to help others as it becomes a reality in their own lives. Having structures that recognize certain leaders, often only identifies the wrong ones—those who are good at managing or entertaining people, not those who know Father’s heart.

Whenever structures try to train leaders, it rarely separates those truly called from those who have ambition in ministry. What we usually train them in the Bible, but unfortunately more emphasis is given on how to teach it to others, than to live the reality of its message and example. We also train them how to structure church according to a specific model, which does more to limit God’s working among his people than it does to release it, unfortunately. I hope I’m not being too cynical here, but if there is training going on other than those two in structured settings, I’ve not heard of it, but would love to.

That said, I think too little equipping is done in simple church environments. Instead of helping people learn how to live deeply in Christ, know the story of Scripture and how Jesus builds his body, we gather people in a room and hope ‘church’ happens. In many cases the event will be controlled by those who are willing to speak up or those trying to build a ministry rather than those led by the Spirit. I see a great need for people to learn how to live the life and to help others do so as well.

If not, people will end up as bored and empty from simple church as they were in more systemic forms.


Back from Sacramento

I just returned yesterday from Sacramento after a five day trip to visit with believers in the area and encourage what God is doing in them. My son, Andrew, was able to go with me on this trip to check out a potential move to that area. What a weekend we had sharing God’s life together, meeting new friends and reconnecting with others who’ve been together before!

I spent most of my time in the Elk Grove area. A number of young couples and singles living in that area have found themselves spilling out of various religious institutions and are finding life together in various kinds of house church groupings. The fellowship they share together and the connections they maintain between groups has really encouraged them to live the journey. Many of these had been trained for vocational congregational leadership and been trained for it. Hungering for greater reality than they could find in the institutions they were a part of, they have risked so much to follow Jesus in more relational expressions of body life and other vocations.

On Sunday I spent some time with a large group from North Highlands which has been decentralizing their institution over the last five years and learning to live relationally in God and with each other. This was my fifth time among them and it is always fun to connect with such dear friends. I always look forward to reconnecting because I enjoy so much the journey they are on and the risks they’ve taken to follow the Lamb wherever he leads them.

We also had some others from the Bay Area and from the mountains above Sacramento come over to join us as well. Some of those people I’d corresponded with on the net and have talked to by phone but never met. (One of them is my blog guru who has taught me the joys of blogging. He and his wife are from South Africa and I had a great time getting to know them.) It is great to see God drawing people to himself in our day and the kind of hungers he has placed on their heart. For hours each day and often long into the night, we talked about how we shake free of religious thinking so that we can live freely in God’s life. I loved the hunger I saw for genuine relationship and the price they were willing to pay to find God’s life and freedom. It is so enriching to spend time with people who focused on growing in relationship with God and other believers and not trying to build an institution for themselves.

I want to thank each of them for opening their hearts so wide to my son and me and letting us peek in on their life for a few days. I have no doubt they are well in the master’s hands and that he is leading them spacious pastures and the cool, clean water of his refreshing.

Simple Church

Sometimes it is easy to miss the forest for the trees.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately with people that are really excited about ‘Simple Church.’ I’d be excited about it too if it weren’t capitalized. I’m all for simple church life. But ‘Simple Church’ is a way of doing church in homes with built-in organizational expectations and many come with networking machinery attached. This is the latest incarnation of relational church models that have unfolded in the past two decades—Cell, House, Organic, and now Simple. I’m concerned that once we get our eyes on models for replicating some form of what we call church, we get our eyes off of Jesus and miss what he would do to connect us with others both local and distant.

I got this note from a brother last week:

Hey Wayne: I stumbled over one of your articles (on the net) and the title was Why House Church Isn’t the Answer.  I just wanted to thank you!  For someone who is getting ready to start up a network of house/organic Churches in the Southeastern United States, this article was exactly what I needed to hear I sent it out to all my friends who are helping make this dream a reality! The form is not what is important, and that is a huge statement coming from a former denominational youth pastor.  I wanted to just say thanks for your article and encouragement.  I would love to have you send me anything you have that could help a group of guys who share your thoughts in this article and who are getting ready to start a network of simple churches. God is doing something awesome in the Body right now, and I am thrilled that I am getting to witness the turn in the way we think and act as a Church! We are beginning to “get it” and start being the church instead of doing church.

Here’s my response:

I’m not sure what further information you would be talking about. I assume you have read through my website — If not, I’d start with the relational church articles there under the BodyLife–>past articles. If you’ve done that I don’t know what else you might be looking for.  Most of my thoughts on this are not yet in print because I believe they are best discovered in person.  People in our day put too much dependence on writings and resources and miss the only way these truths can be discovered, out of a living journey with the Head of the church himself.In response to your letter, I would not only say that form is not what is important, but point out that the forms we choose often distract from what God does among his people.  And I’ve got to be honest with you, I think these simple-church networks will become part of the problem in time.  For people who are transitioning out of huge machines, they look like the ultimate in freedom.  But they are not even close, at least as I’ve seen them done.  I would encourage you to really re-think the need to start a network of simple churches.  What would it be like just to be the body and encourage others to do the same without putting a name on it that already draws people’s attention away from following Jesus to replicating some kind of model?  We can see what the early church looked like, but it doesn’t follow logically that if by replicating what they became we’ll experience the same life. They didn’t end up in homes as a model but as an expression of something that was going on internally.  Their life in Jesus produced expressions of church that were simple, powerful and real.  By copying their model we will not discover their life. We must copy what gave them life, then we’ll experience various expressions of church that will exceed anything we humans could build on our best day.  I am convinced that Jesus’ life in his people doesn’t flow out of church life.  Jesus’ life in his people flows into church life.

And don’t worry about being a blessing to help encourage and equip others in that life.  There is more need for that than laborers willing to go.  But once we contain it in a ‘network’ man creates, instead of relationships God gives, we’ll find ourselves once again climbing the ladder that is leaning on the wrong wall.  I’m not telling you it is wrong to build a network. Do whatever God has put in your heart.  But be open to the fact that our desire to put together a network may be an extrapolation of what God is saying to you, not his desire.  He doesn’t need organized networks in my view, when he is so good at connecting people relationally. While they can in the short term give people an impetus to embrace something different, they will not in the long run help people live the life that really is life.  That’s not a hypothetical in that statement, it is the result of past experiences that always proved less that what God wanted.

Real church life begins when we recognize that no human effort can build his church. That’s his job. He asked us to go and proclaim the gospel and make disciples—which is helping people get the journey of living in him—and the church of Jesus Christ will spring up all around us. I’m sure this is more than you bargained for, and unfortunately I know that most people need to go this ‘network’ direction as a way of seeing through all man’s systems to try to replicate church.  But if I can save you that detour, I think you’ll be grateful.

Surprisingly enough a few days later I got a call from this brother. His response was fabulous. He said that as they were forming this ‘network’ he kept feeling unsettled about how they were going about it. We talked for almost an hour about recognizing how God works rather than pushing him into our boxes. I loved his openness and honesty with me and willingness to take a fresh look at the direction they were headed to see if God might have something even more free and more fruitful.

One of the first crises people face who live institutional gatherings, is to replicate something that fulfills the same obligation. We think we need it to survive spiritually and it certainly makes us more acceptable to friends in institutions that think we’re backsliding if we’re not involved in something we can call a church. But when we grab for a model to give us security, we risk missing out once again on the reality of the Body of Christ as she exists in the world. When we impose human models on God’s working, we lose out on the unique expressions of body life that would arise from people who just learn to love believers around them and to look for ways to encourage them to live more deeply in Jesus. Once you’ve tasted of that you know it defies every model we would seek to impose on her, and only results in dividing up Christ’s body once again.

Interestingly enough, the next day I got an email from someone who lives in my city and who just returned from a Simple Church conference. He was looking for a home church in Oxnard. I told him that I hang out with a group of believers in the area who are learning to share life together and that he was welcome to join us. I warned him that he wouldn’t find us to be banner-waving ‘house’ church folks, though, but simply people learning to love Jesus and finding ways to love each other in the process. If something more formal than that emerged in the future, we were OK with that, but hadn’t felt led that way at the moment. But we are studying Galatians right now on Tuesday evenings and he was sure welcome to join us.

He didn’t. He was looking for a specific package we didn’t offer, and in doing so he missed the opportunity right in front of him.

A Young Reader’s Journey

I got this from a young visitor to my website last week. Don’t you just love how God draws people to himself and shows them the empty facades of religion?

Thank you for building such an uplifting and helpful website! I’m 21 years old, and have thus far left two religious communities, both of which were steeped in religious tradition and falsehood. I was raised in a movement that taught that this group consisted of the only heaven-bound people on the planet.  After the youth group discovered that I had visited places of other denominations at my own leisure, I suffered backbiting from the youth and the leaders. Then, I left there and became a member of a religion program founded by a denomination. Once again, I was the odd one out because I would not accept Hinduism, Islam, Shamanism, Buddhism, etc. as valid ways to God.  I left there, and when I tried to contact some people who were still in the program, I received no response. In spite of all I’ve observed and experienced, I’m thrilled to know that there are people who desire authentic Christian fellowship. I’m glad to know that people are willing to look through the facade of religion, do away with the false concept of church, and begin to actually be the family of God! Thanks for acting in godly discernment.

My response: What a joy to hear from you, and please forgive how long it has taken me to get back to you.  Sometimes my schedule is not my own.  Actually, my schedule is never my own.  But I do enjoy hearing from people on the journey especially young ones who refuse to settle for status quo religious life and are willing to move on in the journey seeking for the authentic Christian fellowship God has placed in their heart. Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to find, but Father knows where you are and who he wants to link you to so that you can live more freely in him and share that with others who have a similar hunger.  

I’ll pray God make those connections for you, in his time and in his way. But don’t ever lose your hunger for the purity and simplicity of being devoted to Christ.

Catching up

The last two weeks have really been a joy. It was great to get home and reconnect with family and finding out I’m going to be grandpa around Thanksgiving time next year. Sara and I also got to take a two-day trip up the California coast to visit some old friends. Aren’t old friends the best? Even though we’d not seen this couple for a long time, we had walked together through some pretty painful places and held on to God together. Relationships centered in Jesus never fade with time. You can get back together even after months or years and pick up the conversation as if no time had ever passed. That’s not true of all relationships, however. Those that remain unreconciled through past hurts or manipulation stay damaged just as long. I’ve still got some like that I pray God heals in time.

Then it was back to Oxnard where we had guests from Colorado, people I’ve only recently met. But what a joy to share new-found relationships as well. We were only together 24 hours but talked almost nonstop through that time. We talked a lot about what is coming to be known as ‘simple church’ and how easy it is for us to be captured by names and models, and miss out on living dependent upon Jesus.

Then over the weekend I was with a group of believers that live in the Las Vegas area. This was the third time I’d crossed paths with them in the last year. They are on a marvelous journey moving from institutional mindsets of the body of Christ, to learning to live freely as God’s people together. That transition is never easy. We’ve been schooled to think so religiously about ‘gatherings’ of the body, that they often seem forced and artificial. Learning how to let them be organic again and still be filled with the life of Jesus can be disorienting.

One of the things Jesus shared with us when we were together is never to think that the middle of a chapter is the end of the story. We tend to do that. So many people lose their bearings in times of transition and run back to the false security of what is familiar, instead of following on past their insecurities into a new spacious place of the Lord’s working. Times of transition can be painful and we often don’t see the fruit of it right away. If we can remember that we’re in a process and that God’s fruit will take time to mature, we will be able to relax more easily and see God’s work through to its end.

That’s probably a good lesson for all of us.

Follow up to “Living in Two Worlds”

[Originally posed on Lifestream site on April 9, 2004]

A few interesting circumstances fell together during my last day in Ireland that made God’s life a bit more real to me. I woke up on the on my 12th morning since I had left Sara and immediately found myself focused on my return home the following day and the joy of seeing her again and catching up. With eager anticipation I thought of her picking me up at the airport, driving home and spending an evening together after my long absence.

Later that day a brother pulled me aside to tell me how much he had appreciated the latest article in BodyLife, Living in Two Worlds, which concerns how we can live more freely in this present age by keeping our eyes on the reality of eternity.

As I got some time alone later, the juxtaposition of those two events really struck me. I thought about my anticipation of being with Sara the next day and how much more real that seemed to me than someday being face to face with the Father of all and the Son who redeemed us. It was a bit of a reality check. If we only knew what was waiting for us when we finally shed this mortal, corruptible natures and came into the full glory of our inheritance as God’s children, we would have no uncertainty about our mortality.

I know I don’t fully get that yet. If I did I would anticipate his appearing with even greater eagerness than I did my return to Sara. That doesn’t mean I have to be excited about the trip. I don’t relish eleven-hour airplane flights, nor, one would expect, the actual mechanism of dying. But for the joy set before me I endured the one to get home, and will one day endure the other so that I can be with him forever in the freedom and joy of his redemption.

And having such a hope does not make us worthless in the days we have here. In fact, it works just the opposite. My excitement at getting home to Sara made my last day all that much more fun. It allowed me to give myself fully to those we engaged that day knowing this was the last chance on this trip to participate in God’s life together. Isn’t that a great way to live each day—making the most of every opportunity, treasuring every joy while we wait in eager anticipation for the one our souls love most of all!

Home Again

If you want to read the Ireland journal in order,
scroll down to March 24, 2004 and read up the blog to this page.

Last night I arrived home from my 12 day stay in Ireland, exhausted but overjoyed at the people God allowed us to meet and the things we got to experience. Those who hosted us in their homes, or helped with our transportation in the area were a real blessing to Patrick and me.

Our last four days were spent with people around Dublin and down in County Wicklow. They are a network of believers that grew out of a Bible study in Dublin in the 70’s and 80’s during the days of the Charismatic Renewal. God dealt with their hearts many years ago about laying the structures down and walking in the freedom of being children who live dependent on Father and not on tradition or program. Their hunger for the living God was evident at every turn and we enjoyed so much combining our pieces of the journey and seeing God encourage each of us by his work in the others . As an added benefit we were also joined by some people from South African and from England who wanted to join in the fun. The International flavor was an added joy.

One thing that kept coming up over and over again is that some of them felt a bit stuck in the journey. Without structures to maintain an illusion of spiritual life, they have found it easy to get lost in the necessities of survivall (work, raising children, household responsibilities) and lose sight of the greater purpose God has invited them to share in his kingdom. It is something we all wrestle with. Hopefully God encouraged us all to continue walking freely and intentionally with him as he continues to shape us to be demonstrations of his life and character in the world.

It was four days of nearly non-stop talking and gatherings every night with different groups of believers. We talked through so many aspects of the journey and each night went in different directions as we shared together. We also got to enjoy a bit of sight-seeing and shopping in the area and time enjoying the families we stayed with. One evening we met just with those in their teens and early 20’s who had questions as to how they had survived the de-structuring of their parent’s body life and hungers they had which were unmet. Patrick and I shared with them their opportunity to have their own journey. To follow Jesus as he leads them, and while they can enjoy the heritage they have of being people far more focused on relationship with God rather than institutional mechanics and far more focused on family than peer-relationships; they, too, could listen to God together to see how he might provide some of the equipping they desire and more fellowship opportunities with each other. I loved how these young men and women were hungering for more reality in their walk with Christ. not some kind of plastic program to satisfy their temporal needs. And I don’t know that I’ve ever met a more talented group of kids in arts, sports and academics.

There are many lessons from this trip that I will continue to share over the next few days on this blog, but that is enough for now. The closer I got to home yesterday, the sicker I got with some kind of virus. I am pretty wiped out as I write this at 5:00 in the morning because I just coldn’t sleep any longer. I’m not sure what time zone my body is in a the moment, but it will settle down soon. Due to my computer malfunction I also have over 400 emails in my inbox that need to be answered, so please be patient if you’re one of those waiting for a response or an order to be filled. The jury is still out on the computer. I haven’t had time to try some things with it or have it looked at. I should later today.

Thanks for all your love, prayers and support during this journey. I now have about two weeks at home with a bit of holiday time scheduled in as Sara goes on spring break.