One Touched Life

I got this email from a friend of mine last week who lives in Virginia:  

My 92 year old aunt who lives in a nursing home in California.  Despite her age and being confined to a wheel chair much of the time, she has a very sharp mind.  She spends her days reading the Bible and other books.  In a note at Thanksgiving she commented that there were times she didn’t understand the Bible and what it was trying to say, and so the idea of sending a copy of “A Man Like No Other” to her for Christmas hatched.  Her faith and love of art, I hoped, would make it a great gift.
Today I got a note from her thanking me for the things my family sent.  I thought you’d enjoy her comment on your book:
 “I thank you—the beautiful book arrived before the 24th, what a surprise!  The illustrations were beautiful and the written word was very good.  I have read this beautiful treasure several times and it so touched my heart, it felt so real it brought tears, and I thank you for this lovely piece of work.  I love it, so much, and thank you.  Although I was lonely at Christmas, Jesus took me by his hand and we enjoyed a few words together.  His love touches me so and he is always there for me.”

One of the joys of putting some things out in the world is to hear stories about the way people are touched by God.  Every songwriter, artist, author knows what I’m talking about.  This brought a huge smile to my face when I read it, grateful that God makes himself known in moments like that.  

 

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Finding Your Connection With God

As much as I enjoy the process of getting the things God has put into my heart into book form, I am reminded over these past few months that my real passion is not writing books or traveling to speak to groups of people.  My truest passion, other than engaging God mysellf, is to help people actually connect with God in a meaingful way. That’s why I write and travel.  Watching someone open up to a new discovery about God and his character or purpose in them is a joy to watch.  I realize the best way to do that is through a personal conversation, and though I can’t have that with everyone who wants, that’s probably why I spend way too much time answering emails.  

know that email is a very limited way to try to help people sort through some of the questions and struggles of getting past our religious ways of thinking about God and embrace him as he made himself known in the Incarnation.  But sometimes it can help nudge people away from the religious thinking that is paralyzing their own growth and see a bit more clearly what God is doing in them and around them.  For a long time, though, I’ve wanted to add a resource to Lifestream that would really help encourage people to embrace the relationship that I’ve written about in so many books and blog postings.  So a year ago I set out to record some brief (5-7 minute) videos that people could listen to in two-week intervals and use the time in between to let God open up a new place in their heart in which he could reveal himself.  I realize this could never replace a one-on-one conversation with someone who already knows him, but I hoped it would provide some clues for people who don’t know anyone that will help them learn to be his disciple withoug loading them down with a lot of dos and don’ts.  I hope it will also give people some ideas who are wanting to help coach others into a rich and growing relationship with God throught he work of Jesus.  

My greatest hope with this series is that it would spawn a conversation about discipleship again that allows brothers and sisters who’ve been on this journey awhile, to help others who are just begininng.  I know discipleship gets a bad name when its about human effort or conformity to religious practices.  But finding our connection to God and being available in the world to help others find theirs lies at the heart of the new covenant.  In the end, I know that connection is God’s work to do, not ours.  We can encourage, we can be the voice that drops the important question or makes the simple observation that opens people’s hearts to a greater reality around them than they can see with their eyes or find their way into by their own efforts.  Knowing God is a work of the Spirit and helping others see into that reality has been the joy of my life.  So many of our discipleship tools have focused on man’s efforts to connect with God.  I want people turn that around and instead of thinking our efforts or disciplines would be the key to knowing him, they would learn to recognize how God is wanting to build a relationship with them.  This is a reality to relax into, not something that human achievement can earn.  

I posted the last one a couple of weeks ago and throughout the year I’ve been blessed by the number of people who taken the time to tell me how much these simple encouragements helped them find a better space in their hearts to engage God, listen to him, and recognize his fingerprints in their life.  These videos will remain up and free of charge to anyone who wants to go on this journey.  We are working now at putting them on DVD for those who want high-quality video for their own use or to share in small groups and you will find it in the Lifestream Store when it is ready.  

Here a list of the twenty-four videos we made to encourage people on a more relational journey. You can access them all on our Engage page at Lifestream.org.  

One:   Why Engage? 
Two:   Starting Fresh 
Three:  How Do You See Him? 
Four:   Surrender
Five:  With Him Not For Him
Six:  Becoming An Active Learner
Seven:  Relaxing Into A Reality
Eight:  Following Him Not An It
Nine:  Praying For Real
Ten:  The Freedom To Fail
Eleven:  Sharing Your Journey
Twelve:  When God Seems Distant
Thirteen:  A Quiet Place
Fourteen:  What About The Scriptures?
Fifteen: What About Sin? 
Sixteen  N.A.T.O. Living
Seventeen:  A Life Of Love
Eighteen:  One Step At A Time
Nineteen:  Living By The Spirit
Twenty:  Letting God Win Our Trust
Twenty-One:  The Only Thing That Counts
Twenty-Two: Tuning To God’s Frequency
Twenty-Three:  That Your Joy Might Be Full
Twenty-Four:  The Adventure Of A Lifetime

 

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A Five-Star Grace Book?

I’m amazed people track these things, but a friend of mine from New Zealand recently posted 11 books about living in Father’s love and grace that have more than 100 5-star ratings on Amazon.com.  He Loves Me was on that list.  (You can view the entire list here, which includes some of my favorites.)  I had no idea.  So I checked and found it has 135 5-star rankings from readers.  I never think to check on these kinds of things, but I just may have to go there some day when I can find the time and see what others are saying about it.  

But I’m blessed that so many of you shared your thoughts about this book with other readers on Amazon.  Thank you.  I am truly honored and grateful that you took the time to do so, especially since I have never even recommended that people do that for me.  That makes it all the more amazing that so many have.  (I even know one blog some years ago that begged people to put up negative reveiws to discourage people from reading it.  I guess he was the only one that took his advice, because there is only one 1-star review.) 

You have no idea, however, how much this helps other readers when they are browsing for books.  Not only does it give them a testimonial from another reader, but it is also part of what Amazon uses when it recommends books based on what people are searching for.  So if you’ve read a book that really touched you, take the time to post a comment, even a brief one, and give it a rating.  The authors you enjoy will really appreciate it.  

He Loves Me is now available in Spanish:    Versión para imprimir   •   Versión Kindle •  EPub Versión para Nook, iBook y otros

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Engage 24: The Adventure of a Lifetime

Engage #24: The Adventure Of A Lifetime

The final episode makes it clear that we haven’t arrived yet, but merely stand on the edge of the most amazing adventure available to us—how can we explore the vastness of God’s love and character not only in this age, but also for all eternity?

On this last day of the year, I get to post the final episode of the video series, Engage: Finding Your Connection With God. These brief 5-7 minute videos were designed to be listened to in two-week increments so that in the time between them people would have a chance to explore their own relationship with God and let God connect with them. The topic of this final one is one of the most exciting for me because when I lose the sense of wonder at how God might show up in my day and get lost in the mundane responsibilities and droning media of our age, my spiritual life stagnates. But when I am reminded that this amazing God wants to make himself known in my life today in the reality the circumstances I confront and the people I encounter, the possibilities are limitless and my heart begins to soar.

It was good to be reminded of all this as the year closes out and a new one begins. I can think of nothing better to share with you than this today. May you be caught up in the most amazing adventure life has to offer. May you find the grace to be more focused on what you do understand about him and his life and less preoccupied with what you don’t yet understand. The idea that even at our best we only stand ankle-deep in the vast mystery of God’s love and affection for us can set us at ease in the uncertainty and let our trust in him grow.

I am blessed to see the number of people who are working their way through this series and warmed by the emails I’ve received at how they’ve helped people relax into the reality of a relationship God has always been seeking with them. Living loved is not a matter of embracing a different set of principles about God.Living loved is the fruit of growing in the “knowing” of God, learning to sense his presence in our life and to cultivate an ongoing conversation with him about what’s going on in your life.

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Christmas Wonder

As Christmas rolls around, Sara and I look back over the past year with profound gratitude at all that the Lord has let us be a part of this year. The most precious of all is, of course, the people we’ve met and good friends who have walked alongside us. We have been enriched in so many ways by the love and care of people, as well as the opportunity to be with people at some of the the most difficult moments of their lives.  

As this journey has unfolded we find ourselves increasingly grateful for the simple joys of friends and family and the moments of deep conversation and uncontrollable laughter.  At the same time we are also aware that there is much pain in the world.  My inbox is filled with it every day as people face some of the most brutal circumstances life can dish out.  But even there I am blessed by the courage people demonstrate in simply putting one foot in front of the other each day and work their way through the circumstance as God’s glory unfolds in them.  Pained letters often turn into joy-filled ones in a few months time.  God works incredible good out of our most desperate moments.

That’s the story of the Incarnation that touches me the most.  God shows up in our worst moment, in our pain and despair, to let us know that we are loved and that he has a way for us to live beyond our humanistic ways of dealing with life.  As we embrace him in that hope our perspective changes about everything around us.  We see the world differently and live differently than what the world glorifies around us. 

I read this last week and it lifted my heart, so I thought I’d share it with you.  We often go looking for life in all the wrong places, and miss the very opportunities right in front of us to be where God is—loving the most marginalized among us.  

Again and again, what it amounts to is a clash between two opposing goals: One goal is to seek the person of high position, the great person, the spiritual person, the clever person, the fine person, the person who because of his natural talents represents a high peak, as it were, in the mountain range of humanity. The other goal is to seek the lowly people, the minorities, the disabled, the prisoners: the valleys of the lowly between the heights of the great. They are the degraded, the enslaved, the exploited, the weak and poor, the poorest of the poor.

The first goal aims to exalt the individual, by virtue of his natural gifts, to a state approaching the divine. In the end he is made a god. The other goal seeks the wonder and mystery of God becoming man, God seeking the lowest place among men.

Two completely opposite directions. One is the self-glorifying upward thrust. The other is the downward movement to become human. One is the way of self-love and self-exaltation. The other is the way of God’s love and love of one’s neighbor.

Eberhard Arnold in When the Time Was Fulfilled 

So whether this season finds you in a time of joy or in the midst of struggle, our hope and prayer is the same:  that you might gaze upon him who loves you more than anyone on this planet ever has or ever will and that you might know his wisdom and his strength holding you in the storm and leading you to life.  May your heart be filled with wonder at the awesome love of a Father who truly makes all things new. 

And on a personal note, I want to thank you for all you have meant to us this year in your words of encouragement, your prayers, and your support for our friends in Kenya and those living with AIDs in South Africa.  We are honored that we get to see so much love poured out into the world.

From our home to yours, Merry Christmas, and may find more of the Father’s fruitfulness and fulfillment in the year ahead!  

 

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Engage 23: That Your Joy May Be Full

Engage #23: That Your Joy Might Be Full

Everything God does in our lives is so that his joy might be in us and that our joy might be full.  He makes a way for us to be at home in him and he disciplines us so that we can find the fruitfulness and fulfillment of his life instead of being tyrannized by the twistedness of our flesh.

Engage is our unfolding video series designed to equip and encourage people to explore their own relationship with God.  We are adding a new video every two weeks until we’re done. Of course the most important part of this process is not the videos, but the time and focus you’ll give between them to learn the joy of letting God show you how he wants to build a relationship with you. Living loved is not a matter of embracing a different set of principles about God.

Living loved is the fruit of growing in the “knowing” of God, learning to sense his presence in our life and to cultivate an ongoing conversation with him about what’s going on in your life. As that unfolds, or if you have specific questions you’d like to ask, feel free to share using the comment section of this blog.

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¡Él me ama!

Este es el libro al cual he llamado frecuentemente, “el libro de mayor importancia que jamás vaya a escribir”. Ahora está disponible en Español. Este trabajo se ha logrado gracias al gran esfuerzo de personas de tres continentes. Estamos bien entusiasmados al añadir este recurso al menú de “Lifestream” y para celebrar su lanzamiento al mercado estamos ofreciendo las tres versiones a precio especial. El libro impreso a $8.00 y ambas descargas en formato digital a $5.00. Puede utilizar los enlaces en la parte de abajo o ir a nuestra tienda en “Lifestream” y buscar el menú de libros.

(I hope the translation above is accurate since I did it through Google Translate.   It should say this:  The book I have often called the most significant book I’ll ever write and it is now available in Spanish.  This has taken a lot of work by people on three different contintents to put this package together.  We are so excited to add this resource to the Lifestream menu and to celebrate it’s release we are offering all three versions at special prices.  The printed book for $8.00, and both e-book downloads for $5.00.  You can use the links below or go to the store page at Lifestream and look in the book menu.)

 

  Versión para imprimir

 
  (Printed version – $8.00 + Shipping)

 

 

 
  (Kindle version – $5.00 download)
 
 

 

 

  EPub Versión para Nook, iBook y otros

 
  (Epub version for Nook, iBook – $5.00 download)
 
 
If you have contacts in the Spanish speaking world that will help get the word out, we would greatly appreciate it you letting them know.  

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What God Needs To Shape Us

An email exchange yesterday brought to mind one of my favorite podcasts from The God Journey, about the critical things God seems to need to help shape our lives as vessels of his love and care.  These come from Tom Mohn, a dear friend of mine from Tulsa, OK.  I don’t think God has to orchestrate these things, they just seem to come out of this broken world and the passions of our own flesh.  But these are the life experiences that can help shape our hearts if we let Jesus bring his love to us in the midst of them.  

The first is the only good one of the bunch.  According to Tom we need a good, solid success that affirms to us that God is working in our lives and that we are learning to be fruitful in his kingdom.  Without that we seem to struggle to perform out of our own insecurities.  

The second is a massive dose of failure where we get caught up in something so totally wrong, or with the wrong attitude, or with an irresponsible arrogant judgment against someone that gets exposed.  There we’ll learn the power of his forgiveness and learn not to put any confidence in our own wisdom or flesh.  

The third is that we each need to be involved with a significant heresy—to believe something with all of our heart that turns out to be completely wrong.  When we find God’s love there we will never be tempted again to force any of our views down someone else’s throat.  We’ll be able to walk in truth without arrogance and treat others, especially those who disagree with us, with gentleness.  

Finally, according to Tom, we need an intimate betrayal, where someone so close to our heart turns on us in a way that causes hurt at a level we cannot put into words.  When God’s love touches us there we will come to know the fellowship of his sufferings, which will give us compassion for the broken and will never be tempted to betray anyone else for the rest of our lives.  

Obviously these are things we cannot fulfill on our own.  I’m not even suggesting you go out looking for a massive dose of failure, a powerful heresy to embrace, or even someone to betray you.  But if you’ve known failure, advocated some theological view you later found out to be wrong, or have been betrayed by someone you love deeply, realize that this is excellent ground for God to do some of his best work in you.  Those things don’t have to destroy you; they can draw you into a better space with God that will help you find real fruitfulness for the remainder of your journey.  

We seem to think God only uses the good things in our lives, when we made the right choice or laid down our lives at some critial juncture.  Tom takes a different perspective at the kind of things we need in our lives to help us come to a place of freedom and humility that let’s God’s life shine out of ours… 

____________________

If you want to hear the original podcast you can use the link here to the The Things God Uses.  It was only the fourth podcast we ever did and we were just finding our way, but the insights in this podcast have come up over and over again in my life and in my conversations with others.  Also Tom is coming out with a book about his journey that seems to make him the Forrest Gump of evangelicalism, crossing paths with Martin Luther King, Jr., Oral Robers, and Gene Edwards among others.  I’ve read it and it’s wonderful. I will let you know about it when it is published.  Until then you can check out his website here.  

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