Culture Watch

A Culture of Abuse

I listened to this yesterday and how wish everyone else would too. It isn’t easy to listen to, but this presentation by Sheila Wray Gregoire, an author and researcher on sexual abuse offers some critical information for us to understand the culture of abuse that permeates Christianity. According to her research, much of evangelical teaching on marriage and sexuality actually creates a climate of abuse not only within a marriage, but within the body of Christ as well.

According to her, the unspoken conclusion of many evangelical books about marriage encourage the idea that “men are entitled to women’s bodies; (they) cannot be expected to act honorably or even safely. So, when men do harm it’s because some woman, somewhere hasn’t done her job.”

I hope that turns your stomach as much as it did mine when I heard it yesterday morning. According to the podcast description, “Sheila and her team  analyzed many popular Christian books on sex. Many teach that men are incapable of not objectifying women. And instead of training men to control their urges, these books teach that women must save these men. If a husband struggles with porn, for example, it’s his wife’s job to give him more sex so he can go cold turkey. If a husband is abusive to his wife, it’s his wife’s job to pray the abuse away. And if you’re a single woman, it’s your job to dress in such a way that your body never “intoxicates” a man. With messages like these, is it any wonder that abuse victims often feel like it’s their fault if someone hurts them? Is it any wonder that pastors like John MacArthur can convince wives that it’s her duty to stay with a man who abuses her and their children?”

So, when you read that another Christian pastor, speaker or author has been exposed for abusing women, on their staff, in their congregation, among twenty-somethings attending there schools and seminars, or even children in their care, don’t be shocked. That’s the environment we’ve created by thinking men are too weak to resist temptation and that women are responsible to prevent them. Just this past week a popular pastor and author from the Dallas area was exposed for molesting a twelve-year old girl in her bedroom and that it continued for five years. He was in his twenties at the time, but the church eldership knew about it in 2005, and let him continue to lead the congregation until it became public last week. The list of popular leaders, authors, prophets, and speakers who have taught things about Jesus while being abusing women grows even longer. When will we care enough to end the view of women that allows this abuse to persist?

Until we break the environment that allows this abuse to hide in the shadows of religion, it will continue to disfigure the image of God in the world.  What is it about our perception of the Gospel that allows men and women to teach about it, without his presence actually penetrating their hearts? Why is it that so many “gifted leaders” feel entitled to take whatever they want from women for their own amusement? I’m also curious why do we not see the darkness in charismatically-gifted personalities until their sexual sins are exposed? Before those come to light their lack of transformation in Jesus almost always shows up in the arrogance, anger, excess and manipulation of others around them.

We’ve got to rid ourselves of the notion that these are just men committing “indiscretions.” These are men who take decades of wholeness from young women for their own pleasure. Their actions cause traumatic reactions that can last for decades. I see the effects of sexual trauma every day in Sara’s courageous battle to overcome what her relatives did to her at a very young age. Yes, God loves these perpetrators and wants to redeem them, but before we get there, let’s not minimize the damage they done. If they had experienced a real engagement with Jesus, they wouldn’t see women as prey and when they turn from their sin they would offer to do whatever they could, including pay for therapy all the therapy their victim might need to help mitigate the grave damage they have caused. The fact that we show more compassion for the abuser than we do the victim in these cases, is because we don’t understand the horrific damage sexual abuse causes.

Please listen to her podcast, and see how you can change the environment in which women are exploited among the family of God. Abuse is not just a problem of a few weak men; it is a systemic problem that permeates evangelical culture as much as it does in the world.

These things ought not to be, and talking openly about it is the first step to unraveling the false teachings that harm women.

A Culture of Abuse Read More »

We Are Following the Lamb

As Sara and I were walking our dogs through the neighborhood a couple of weeks ago, we noticed the license plate above on the front of an oversized pick-up truck.

We’ve lived in this neighborhood less than a year and it’s pretty clear where the angst-driven people live by their bumper stickers and yard signs. They glory in power, bluster in their anger at the world and seek to force change on their neighbors. I pray for them as we go by, knowing how tough it is to live with so much consternation and so little trust in the ways God works.

I don’t like a lot that’s going on in our world these days either. The overreach of government spending and power, imposing itself on every area of our lives is ghastly. But my hope for change does not lie in frustration or the political power it hopes to gain. I haven’t talked to the owner of this vehicle, so I don’t know what this sign meant to him, but I know there’s a meme out there among conservatives that we can’t be sheep anymore and just lay down and let the government, or the left, drive over us. We have to be lions, ready to avenge our grievances and force society to its knees. Sounds good, perhaps even Godly, but not if you’ve read the Book of Revelation.

Jesus does appear in the first chapter as the Lion of Judah, with fire in his eyes and a sword in his mouth. He’s worthy of that image. But every other time he appears in that book he comes as the Lamb of God. It’s the Lamb who was slain, who is worthy to take the scroll and open its seals. It’s the Lamb in the Center of the throne, the one the faithful follow at the end of days, and the Lamb is the groom for the Bride at the final marriage supper.

What do I take from that? God’s way to redeem the world is counterintuitive to human convention. We are seduced by power and seek to amass it to accomplish what we think God wants. But Jesus is not redeeming the world with has overarching power but by the tenderness of his affection. He doesn’t come as the roaring Lion, but the slain Lamb. The power of love is the opposite of the love of power. We plug into his reality not by seeking protecting our lives, but in laying down our lives and letting love win the day.

That’s why Jesus told his followers, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves.” He didn’t send us out to be lions at war, but incredibly wise sheep who see everything differently than the world does. I know how ridiculous that can seem to people who’ve never tasted the awesome power of laying down your life instead of forcing your way. But there is no better time than to learn how he works we will need it in days to come. This is where words like gentleness, generosity, kindness, humility, and tenderness define our path, which those who seek power mock and belittle.

Yes, it can be a painful road at times but it is also the only road to the victory God seeks. It is what he has asked of us—to follow the Lamb instead of pretending to be lions. 

We Are Following the Lamb Read More »

Holding God’s Pain

I was asked last week how I was praying about the current strife in the Middle East. That would have been far easier for me to answer a few decades ago when my world was conveniently divided into a home team and an away team.

God loves the home team and those who acknowledge him. I could pray with passion for God to alleviate their suffering. God hates the away team, and we can pray down his vengeance on them, which gave me false comfort in our anger and helplessness. At least, that’s what I was taught.

Of course, I was on the home team as a passionate, evangelical Christian. Those who believed in the God, I thought, shared that team with me. Those that didn’t were on the away team, and my, oh, my, was God angry at them. (Or was it only me?)

Directing the hateful passages in the Psalms against those I perceived to be God’s enemies was easy. You know, the ones—praying for the devastation of his enemy and their kin, even that their grandkids would be plagued with boils. As I grew up, the away team grew larger over time. Originally, heathens were on the list—atheists and the like. But with time, the team expanded to include communists, socialists, Catholics (for some reason), Muslims, Democrats, dictators, cultists, liberals, people who refused to work, even complacent Christians who didn’t work as hard as I did or those who didn’t believe the same things I did.

Dividing the world into a home team and an away team gave me an easy way to route my grief and fear in times of tragedy. Suffering was not indiscriminate but God’s punishment for not living their lives the way he wanted. It’s not so far a step from there to believe that the pain itself proves you’re God’s enemy. Then, what do you do when you thought you were on the home team and disaster still strikes? Your faith gets rocked!  

I no longer believe any of that. Love has been teaching me how misguided I was. God’s heart breaks for the whole of humanity, for those who know him and those who don’t. Today, he holds the same grief for the Palestinian mom mourning her child as he does for the Jewish mom grieving hers. 

I don’t write this to discount the horrible evil people bring into the world. The attack in Israel was particularly horrific and depraved. The nature of evil that incites people to torture or terrorize innocents is a scourge on our humanity, and the weapon dark forces wield to wreak havoc on the planet. 

As horrific as that is, I’ve been invited to a different kingdom where love defines our responses, not vengeance or righteous indignation. Just how did we think Jesus would tell us to love our enemies and think God gets to hate his?

No, I write this to answer how I’m praying into this crisis. Honestly, I’m still holding space with God, tasting his broken heart for the human-on-human violence that consumes our planet. I see his pain when Jesus wept at Lazarus’ tomb and when he offered “loud cries and tears” to his Father. He feels the suffering of this world at a depth we can’t begin to imagine. He doesn’t delight in it. He’s not its cause; he is its remedy.

And here, I’m not talking just about the attack on Israel but all the conflicts and disasters in the world. The world is hemorrhaging blood everywhere—in Ukraine and Syria, cartel battles in Mexico, tribal violence in Africa, and despicable dictatorships in South and Central America. Who knows what happens in Russian, Chinese, and North Korean prisons or even our own? There are murders, famines, earthquakes, floods, and fires around the globe destroying people, along with the torment of disease, abuse, sexual assault, and slavery.

How does God hold all this pain?

I’m just beginning to learn as I sit with him and gaze at the news through the eyes of God and wonder what agony he endures as the Father of this Creation. Nothing wounds a father more than to see his children seek to destroy each other. I’ll let my prayers rise from there, and right now, I’m still holding that space with him.

What does it mean to God for us to hold a small measure of his pain? Perhaps it gives him voices on earth who can reflect his heart as well as his truth. Maybe the “fellowship of suffering” comforts him in the same way it comforts us. I’m not sure, but I do know one thing: Jesus wanted some of his friends to hold his pain with him in Gethsemane on the night of his trial and the eve of his crucifixion. They couldn’t offer it that night, but we can today.

What does it do for him? I’m not quite sure, but it is cleansing to my soul. Over the past two years, it has changed my life, my viewpoint of others, and how to find the redemption story in the unfolding realities of our ever-darkening world. It saves me from giving into anger and vengeance and finding a place for love to thrive in my prayers and my heart.

As the earth moves relentlessly towards its inevitable conclusion in Christ, we can partner with him by holding his pain and praying to advance his purpose in current events. If I don’t see reality through his eyes, I’m only left to offer up fruitless requests for my own comfort or my agenda in the gathering darkness. I’m convinced God wants an army of praying people fixed on his purpose instead of their gain.

How do I hold pain with God? I sit (or walk) with him. I gaze at the circumstance that concerns me,  contemplating what he must feel. I wait until I have a sense of that. Sometimes, it takes days or weeks, and I repeatedly ask him to show me his heart in that space.

As I get a glimpse of his heart, I reflect on the emotion or insight growing in my heart. I reflect on his power and wisdom and that everything is in his hands. I remind myself that the God I’m holding space with is not alarmed or disturbed. And I also look beyond the pain to the refrain of his glory seeping through. He’s the Redeemer in this story and will have the last say on everything.

I don’t try to fix his pain or offer my ideas for a way out. I just hold my heart with his and see what comes.

How did I learn this? Two places. First, in letting him hold my pain without the angst of having him fix it the way I want. I gain wisdom and courage when I find his comfort and wisdom more significant than my desire to stop the pain. Second, in holding the pain of others by sitting with them in their agony, grief, or disappointed expectations as we look for God’s revelation of himself. I don’t try to fix them either with my wisdom or for my own comfort.

I’m not naive enough to think I hold the fullness of God’s agony. No doubt it would kill me. But to have just the slightest taste of what he might feel changes everything—my feelings, perspectives, and hopes.

Most of all, I have come to learn that God’s love doesn’t discriminate between the home team and the away team. He loves us all at the core of his being and will do whatever we allow him to do to heal our hearts and win us into his freedom. Many will reject that, of course, but he never stops knocking at their heart, holding them in with deep passion and sometimes agony.

And when I know my Father hurts, I want to be with him, seeing what he sees and feeling what he feels.

I would not have wanted to miss this part of the journey. All my other attempts at prayer seem so meaningless now.


For more on holding God’s pain, see our recent podcast on The Fellowship of Suffering.


Chapter 5 will be the focus of our next gathering of the He Loves Me Book Discussion, which will take place on Saturday, October 28, at 11 a.m. Pacific Time. You can find the link for this conversation on the Group Page on Facebook, or if you are not a member of Facebook, you can write me for a link. The conversations are held and recorded on Zoom.

We stream them live on my Facebook Author Page for those who don’t want to be in the Zoom discussion, and you’ll find our previous conversations there.


Holding God’s Pain Read More »

His Children Revealed

This weekend I spoke at a conference in Kenya.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to travel there to be with them personally, but they asked if I would send a video of any word I might to encourage the hundreds of pastors gathering in Kitale last weekend.

If you want to see the video, you can view it here.

Though I don’t refer to it in this video, the seeds for what I shared with the pastors in Kenya began two years ago as I stood in the burn scar of a wildfire that consumed more than 400,000 acres of alpine forest in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Scanning the hillsides for miles in the distance, I could not see one speck of greenery in the burgeoning light of spring. Overwhelmed by the devastation, something rose in my heart over the next few days. It was a drumbeat I could not ignore: “It’s time!”

As I pondered that thought over the next few days, I was drawn to the passage in Romans 8 about the Creation groaning in frustration for the sons and daughters of God to be revealed on the earth. I shared that in a short video I recorded from the burn scar a few days later.

How has that weathered the last two years? It has only grown in me with all the calamities in the world and what God has been shifting in my heart, even through the shock of last year. My prayers still reverberate with the desire for the sons and daughters to grow to know Father to be revealed in the world. I see that happening as many find healing and transformation inside his love. Unfortunately, I also see the love of many Christians growing cold as they react to those in the world they think victimize them. Growing increasingly angry and judgmental, they are unable to extend compassion to those who seem lost in the illusions of darkness.

It is time for the children of God to be revealed on the earth, letting God draw a clear distinction between those who only practice their religion for personal gain and those who are being drawn into a life of love shaped by God’s life. He is equipping a people for these days who are learning how to recognize God’s love and helping others to do the same. They are learning to recognize his leading and helping others do the same. And are also learning to love whomever God brings to them and help others to do the same. That’s what my heart was for those Kenyan men and women this weekend, and it’s where my heart beats these days in so many other areas.

They are not drawing attention to themselves or their beliefs on social media or trying to build a brand about love. They are living out his compassion, one person, one conversation, one engagement at a time, without having to work at it. Empathy is becoming so infused with their person; it’s just how they live.

That’s the revelation the world waits for—men and women, young and old, of all races and ethnicities, who embrace God’s compassion for their own hearts and reflect it with ease into the world.


On another note, Sara and I will be in Honolulu, HI, on Sunday, April 30, at the Bluewater Mission Church, 1114 Mona St., Honolulu, HI, 96821. We’ll begin at 2:20 pm, and if you’re in the area, you are welcome to join us. For most of our time in Hawaii, we will be on the island of Maui if anyone wants to connect with us there.

Also, the next gathering of the Jake Colsen Book Club is this Saturday, April 22, at 1:30 pm PDT. We will stream it live on my Facebook Author Page, but if you want to be part of the conversation, you can get a link to the Zoom Room by emailing Wayne and asking for it.

And our next Wrestling with Trauma conversation will meet next Sunday, April 23, at 10:30 am PDT.  Among other things, we’re going to explore what it means to let go of the hurtful things that have happened to us and the process God uses to help us find out how. Sara shared that in a recent podcast if you haven’t heard it. If you’d like to join us, please email me for the Zoom link. We’ll be limiting it to the first twelve who request a link.

His Children Revealed Read More »

What Does God Hold in His Heart?

As I hold the Ukrainian people in my heart these days, I find myself wondering what God must feel as he watches over his children in that part of the world. Last month, I received an email from a friend in Ukraine, and I have held its contents in my heart ever since. It has allowed me to see and feel what they are going through and to hold their pain differently than I would have a year ago.

Here’s the letter I received:

Today is the 290th day of the full-scale bloody unjust war of Russia against Ukraine. I am afraid to even write this because I believed that the Lord would not allow this horror to continue for so long. Unfortunately, it continues (How long, Oh Lord?)

Russia launched three massive missile attacks on our country. This is in addition to the daily shelling of certain regions of Ukraine. People died, and houses and electrical substations were destroyed. Millions of people in Ukraine suffer from the lack of light, heat, water, Internet, and telephone communication. Every day we are without light, heat, water, and communication for 12-17 hours. In other cities, people do not have light and heat for 15-20 hours a day. Authorities say the situation could worsen. Every day in Ukraine is a struggle for life, but this cannot be compared with the terrible conditions our military is in. Every day, the best sons of Ukraine die at the front. It is impossible to accept this. It is impossible to get used to it. We are constantly looking for words of comfort and support for the families of the victims. But in most cases, words cannot console. We just HUG THEM AND CRY WITH THEM.

We recently attended the funeral of two young soldiers. They were both only 21. They died in March, but their bodies could not be delivered until November. All this time, parents were waiting for an opportunity to bury their dead sons. It is hard to even imagine a funeral lasting 8 months. The day before yesterday, not far from the Belarusian border, a married couple died. The car skidded in the snow and blew up on a mine that was hidden on the side of the road. Now 8 children are left without dad and mom. After the children were told about the death of their parents, the boy asked if it was possible to call heaven.

Do we see God’s hand in these terrible days? Yes!!! He is with us in the dark and cold. He is with us when there is no water or telephone connection. He is our warmth and light. He is our water and connection. He is with our hero warriors. He is with Ukraine. Every day, every hour, every moment!!! Thank you for not leaving us alone with the beleaguered enemy. Thank you for your prayers, words of support, and financial help. You are God’s Angels for us, for Ukraine.”

Can you imagine living in all that heartache and pain day after day for almost a year? And all because one bully, Vladimir Putin, decided he was entitled to take a free country for himself, and the West refused to stand up to him because Ukraine was not part of NATO and they feared nuclear reprisal. Fear is always the currency of evil. And, please, my Russian friends, do not take these words as an attack on the Russian people. I’ve no doubt many of them decry this horrible war as well, as they, too, watch their children die for a cause they detest.

But what is God thinking when he surveys a world gone mad, where a few people given to evil can ruin the lives of so many others, whether it’s conquest as in Ukraine, sexual assault in a family, corrupt governments in Central and South America displacing their people, or a bully at school intimidating other students? What of the pain you hold even as you beg God to make it stop?

Many think God can and should stop all their suffering, and the fact that he does not either argues against his existence or his loving concern for humanity. I see it differently, like my brother who wrote the letter above. God is always in our suffering. I’m sure if he could stop all the suffering in the world immediately, he would. The joys of some people who experience abundance and bliss are certainly not, even in God’s eyes, worth the pain that others suffer in so many horrific ways.

Why doesn’t he, then? I wish I could answer that. I am convinced it is not his lack of will or power. I suspect it has something to do with the nature of God’s redemption for the whole of Creation and how that has to play out for reasons I cannot see. I do know this Father loves to his core as much for the people of Ukraine as for Sara and me. So, when I see Jesus weeping at Lazarus’s tomb, or “offering himself to God with loud cries and tears,” I know that God is not indifferent to young men and women dying in Ukraine, a hungry stomach in Kenya’s drought, or a sexually victimized young boy our girl weeping on their bed.

God grieves over the brokenness of humanity and the pain and suffering that results. I’ve no doubt he is doing all he can do to bring the Creation to full redemption and restore what he intended in the beginning. Yes, there is a strain of God’s presence that vibrates with joy and beauty, but there is also a refrain that holds the pain of his beloved children in sorrow and grief. Even though he can see what we cannot—a greater glory yet to come—he is able to hold the pain of everyone whose lives are impacted by the injustice and suffering of a world woefully out of sync with the Creator’s ways.

So, today I can sing and rejoice in all my Father’s goodness. And today, I can also hold the sorrow of those I love who bear the brunt of the world’s fallenness. And I suspect the latter will be more helpful than the former in teaching me how to live with a heart for his redemption and a compassion for my hurting brothers and sisters. As a friend of mine said recently, “Maybe he wants us to be one with the sufferings of the world and, in the same moment, be one with the victory of the Cross.” I have no idea what that means yet, but I’m learning.

Indeed, Jesus carries the heartache of the whole world, and we are invited to share in the “fellowship of his suffering” as well . . .

. . .  until his Glory comes in all its fullness.

What Does God Hold in His Heart? Read More »

You Can’t Murder Hate

Profound words from a man of great wisdom who lived that reality through greater hostility than I can imagine:

Through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can’t establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate through violence.

Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Come, let us live in the light as he is in the light and put darkness to flight.


You Can’t Murder Hate Read More »

A Difficult But Joyful Task

Sara and I are taking this week off for a trip to Colorado, including some time with our son. And, as soon as I get back, I’ll be headed into the Carolinas for a couple of weeks. On Saturday, April 2, I’m going to host a day-long conversation at a farm near Lake Wylie, SC for those who want to explore what it means to ride the wind of the Spirit above the most distressing circumstances in our life. You can get more details about that and my other stops here. Also, watch for upcoming trips to Austin, TX, into the upper midwest, and possibly into New England.

Before I go, however, let me leave you with this…

Bob Prater, Arnita Taylor, and I, coauthors of A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation, just completed another six-week workshop for a college trying to take a reasoned and compassionate approach to racism on campus. We help them explore the issues affecting their campus and what they can do to help remedy the legitimate concerns. I wish you could have heard the stories of a Palestinian mom who was delighted when her daughter had the white skin color of her American father, so she wouldn’t have to face the same judgments and insensitive comments she has faced. One young woman told of how her parents made her brother lay down on the car’s floorboard in certain situations because he took after the native American side of the family, while she didn’t have to because she looked white. Regretfully, skin tone influences how people are perceived.

I know some of you have not appreciated some of my postings on the racial divide. I hear from a few of you. Some have called me a Marxist (I’m clearly not), others a leftist (nope, not that either), or that I think most police are corrupt (again, not true) simply because I express a concern for the racial inequities that still exist in our culture. Two years ago, our society was primed to have a healing conversation about race after George Floyd’s murder. Unfortunately, our political realities made a constructive dialogue impossible for the broader culture. People only hardened into their previously held perspectives. Admittedly, it is a difficult discussion to have since extremist groups have so polarized it on both sides. I feel bad for those who only see this issue in terms of political power and not compassion for fellow humans whose skin tone adversely affects their ability to live freely and gain equal opportunity in our culture.

It doesn’t look like there’s a political answer here that will fly these days, but that doesn’t mean we as individuals can’t open our hearts a bit wider, engage in one-on-one conversations that can move the needle, and encourage conversations of healing among the people we influence.

Words like equity, fragility, and privilege can trigger strong reactions. But my heart is encouraged by those who look like me who are taking a longer look and discovering there is something to be explored beyond the agendas of those on the extremes. For those of us in the dominant culture, we can listen to those with darker skin tones and understand how that is treated in our broader culture. We can steward the advantages we have to ensure that others have the same opportunities that we have. I am far more excited about those of you who are engaging in this conversation than I am discouraged by those who resist it.

I want to share two emails with you I received about our book and the discussions around it. One is from a medical doctor and what he is learning:

I am very grateful for you and how you have influenced my spiritual journey. The God Journey podcasts, your books, and getting to experience Israel with you and a wonderful group of new friends. All of these have touched me in profound ways. The book on polarization you wrote with Arnita and Bob- ‘A Language of Healing..,” really challenged my thinking. Last year after George Floyd was killed, I decided to take a few minutes with my black patients during the end of their appointment and ask them how they were doing in light of what had happened. It was difficult to do given the schedule and how I can easily get behind. But it was worth it. I probably listened to about 25 or so patients and it was remarkable that nearly all of them had personal stories about their negative experiences with law enforcement or one of their family members. My goal was to listen and learn. I don’t think I would have even thought of doing this had it not been for reading your book. So thank you for being a part of this project.

If we can just begin to listen and care for those adversely impacted by the inequities in our culture, some incredible things can happen.

The other is an exchange I had with a woman in Wisconsin after hearing the last Zoom session I did with Bob Prater and Arnita Taylor a year or so ago. Arnita mentioned one of the questions she likes to ask people who want to discuss race with her is, “How are you stewarding your privilege?” Their response to the question gives her insight into the potential direction and value of an ongoing conversation.

Could help me to understand what it means to steward my white privilege?  I am looking at identifying the many ways I have white privilege which in itself eye opening. I am having difficulty understanding how I would steward those privileges. I feel as if I am getting into the weeds with this. Could you help me to understand?

Here is my response:  

“What a great question! Learning to steward our privilege is a learning experience. First, we’ve got to recognize we have one. Then, instead of feeling guilty, we steward it by helping marginalized groups have the same privilege we enjoy. How we do that depends on who we are and what influence we have. It may be as simple as an encouraging word or a cup of cold water or venturing the difficult communication with someone who is being racially dismissive.

“What it means for each of us has to be discovered, not explained. Ask Father about it. Ask him to show you as your life unfolds during the day. Build some relationships with marginalized people and ask them for ideas that they think would be helpful coming from you.

I love that you’re exploring this. You’ll learn lots.”

She responded:

I can do that. Ask him to show me and watch for things to unfold. I also really love what you said here, “Build some relationships with marginalized people and ask them for ideas that they think would be helpful coming from you.” Especially the part of asking someone for ideas that they think would be helpful coming from me. That really fits, because I don’t know. If I pretend to know I’ll really be in the weeds slopping around.  Asking someone for ideas that they think would be helpful speaks of adventure and discovery.

I wrote a long list of my white privilege. Some of them blew my mind. The more I wrote the more I uncovered. Sure, I’m not done with that list, but it’s a start. I’ve got to say I did cry through part of the process. Not sure if it’s guilt or sorrow. Whatever it is I’m going to trust it. I can feel him in this with me, so I’m going to trust the tears.

I love that she thought through how her whiter skin has opened doors for her that others might not have the same access because of their skin tone. Proximity, courage, compassion, and integrity on the part of people like us are so vital if we’re going to make a dent in the racial angst of our culture since our political leaders are too polarizing to do anything about it themselves.

A Difficult But Joyful Task Read More »

Russians and Ukrainians in Dark Days

I was in Russia in 2012 and in Ukraine in the summer of 2018. Since a few of my books have been translated into Russian, I have connections on both sides of the escalating tensions in that part of the world. Sadly, the greed and insecurities of our world leaders continue to force the everyday citizenry into wars they wouldn’t choose for themselves. That’s the price of human “kings,” according to Samuel, when Israel demanded one of their own. They will take your stuff, send your sons to war and take your daughters captive. It continues to happen in our sad, sad world.

This is the email sent me from someone who received it from a friend in Russia:

Thank you so much for Wayne Jacobsen’s book, He Loves Me. This book is one of my favorites. I was able to find one hard copy at one of the Christian online stores, read it myself, and was very inspired. I shared my copy of the paper book with another person. We are learning to live in the Love of the Father. We are earning to live sharing the organic nature of the Kingdom of God, but there’s still so much we are trying to learn. We want to have like-minded people, but so far it hasn’t worked out so well. It feels as if we are all alone against the great raging waves. But God is always with us!

And this was recently sent out from a family (pictured above) that I spent time with a few years ago in Ukraine as they face an uncertain future.

Our family has never been held hostage. But now it feels as if we have been captured by terrorists. Daily news of new meetings, talks, and attempts world leaders make to pull Ukraine out of the threat of imminent war, confirm that we are on the brink of an abyss. Even though Russia’s war against Ukraine has been going on for 8 years now. We know that many people do not want to hear about it. Some Christians argue that “this is all simply politics, and we must be above that and build the Kingdom of God.” So you can say until the war comes to your home. Then it becomes clear that behind our “spirituality” often hides indifference to other people’s grief and an uncontrollable desire to maintain comfort at any cost.

However, for our country, war is a bitter and painful reality. And for our family, this has been ou daily service for the last 8 years. Are we afraid? Of course. News dishearten. During a war, people are terrible, cruel, and ruthless. Will the war reach our homes? Will we hear explosions and see blood and death with our own eyes? Will we have the courage to go through this? Uncertainty scares…

Are we angry? Yes. Two World Wars passed throughout the territory of Ukraine. And for the third time, Putin’s Russia is ready to drown Ukraine in blood. We remember the days of the Soviet Union. Putin seeks to restore this terrible country, the times of Stalin and the KGB. Millions of people were persecuted, tortured, and went missing. Thousands of Christians were persecuted and gave their lives for Christ.

What encourages us?  Firstly, the Lord Himself! He is the only Guarantor of our salvation! We are grateful to all countries for any kind help, although we do not rely on the United States, NATO or Europe. We hear His voice through the Word, in our minds, from other Christians, which calms us and gives us hope. We cling to Him and trust Him as children.

Secondly, the prayers of millions of Christians around the world. You are an incredibly strong support for us. Thank you for your heartfelt words, your prayers and your tears. We feel as if we’re a part of God’s great army, which stands in prayer on the borders of Ukraine. We encourage others and help the families of fallen soldiers and the families of the military. Moreover, we are preparing to accept refugees into our home. Our relatives from Kharkiv and a pastor from Kyiv have already asked us to accept their wives and children when the hostilities begin. We ask the Lord to for wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit in this difficult time and about the salvation of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians and Russians who are in fear.

I love the grace and courage they are finding in this situation amidst the heartbeat of their deep concern. It is easy to see this conflict in terms of geopolitical realities and forget the price paid by individuals and families in both of these countries. My personal connections give me a deeper investment in events that go on half a world away, and perhaps it can inspire your prayers for them as well during these difficult days.

Brothers and sisters of Ukraine and Russia, our hearts are with you and our prayers hold you before the One who will get the last word on everything, even the chaos of our broken world. Often it is with groanings too deep for words, but please know you are not alone.

“Jesus, may your kingdom come; your will be done, here on earth as it is in heaven. Lord Jesus come now to the people of Russia and Ukraine. Let your glory rise in your people there and shine out of them with your glory against the darkness. Hold their hearts close to yours in your love, and let your love flow through them to those terrified around them. Give them the courage to navigate whatever circumstances befall them with your insight and your wisdom, deliver them from evil, and renew them in your goodness. Amen.”

Russians and Ukrainians in Dark Days Read More »

Living on the Edges

Sean Kennedy, an author, and friend from the UK, wrote me about my most recent podcast with Mary, a new believer finding her legs on a relational journey against the religious voices that want to draw her into the captivity of guilt and obligation. He wrote about living on the edges in a way I hadn’t heard before, and it made a lot of sense to me. With his permission, let me share it with you:

A couple of things Mary said reminded me that the only place we can truly walk in freedom is on the edge. Jesus was hugely relational and yet at the same time an edge person. He was always working relationally, but he did so outside the institutions or at least on the edge of them. He taught in the synagogue occasionally and ate with the teachers of the law. But mostly he taught outside the synagogue in the homes and villages and fields where the ordinary people lived and worked. He was critical of power, yet when invited he met and ate and talked with the powerful. He also hung out on the edge with the sick, the foreigner, the sinner and those society disapproved of. His position on the edge helped him see things as they really were. Wayne and Kyle you have become edge guys. You’ve done your time on the inside of the institution, to see that it is usually an unhealthy dysfunctional place to be.  What I think is incredible is that Mary is managing so early to stay on the edge and not get sucked in.

When we are sucked into the center of an institution there we are in many ways at our most blind. Only when we live and work on the edge can we see more clearly. By all means go to a congregation if Jesus leads you, but stay on the edge with one foot inside it and one on the outside. On the inside we risk getting infected by groupthink and all sorts of religious oughts, shoulds and musts and becoming slaves of the institution. Only on the edge can we have a wider perspective.

We can see more clearly what is going on both the inside (good and bad) and on the outside. Only on the edge can we also see God’s invitations coming from surprising and interesting new directions. Amazingly I think Mary is somehow realizing this and resisting the temptations of being an insider. It is so tempting when we are invited in to become a member of the institution – and especially when we have a particular talent the institution recognizes in us. It’s not necessarily wrong, and may be an important part of our journey so long as we realize it is only for a season. It can become dangerous when we settle down and make the institution our home. And when we do spend a season on the inside it is especially important we make friends both with those on the edge of it and those on the outside of it so they can help us see what is wrong about the inside. Only then can we become a positive force for change whether it be on the inside or outside.)

I love his thoughts here. The people I see thriving in their relationship with God in these tumultuous times are those who aren’t committed to a specific kind of groupthink but are learning to follow the voice of the Shepherd. No one or no group has it all right. That’s as true of spiritual truth as it is cultural engagement. If you can’t see the strengths and weaknesses of whatever group you consider yourself a part of, you probably don’t spend enough time with people who think differently. That’s also true if you never see validity in the concerns of those outside your group. None of us knows all we need to know; thus, seeing others who disagree with us as evil will only lead us astray. That’s how the world seeks to manipulate us, even that worldly spirit among followers of Christ.

The truth is we’re all a bit flawed, and Jesus is still taking shape in us. Humility will go a long way to help us discern truth from lies. If you are not seeing Jesus point out the illusions in your journey from time to time, it might be because you’re not listening. You seek comfort in people telling you what you want to hear, not what you need to know. Only by hearing the voice of our Shepherd can we know what’s real and what isn’t.

The people living most redemptively in the world live on the edges, as Sean described. Isn’t that why Jesus challenged his disciples to be in the world and not of it? One thing that will help you do that is to live on the edges of groups with whom you identify. Don’t get in the center where it’s easy to be blinded; keep others outside of it in your eye line. When you have compassion for them, too, you are in a better position to discern what is true. God’s way may not be the one that I think serves me best. We are citizens of a kingdom that transcends politics, ethnicity, theology, and personal preference.

This reminds me of a story about Joshua on his way to Jericho in Joshua 5. He came upon a mighty man with a drawn sword standing in his path. Startled, Joshua challenges him most likely with all the hubris of a man on a mission for God, “Are you for us or our enemies?” 

“Neither,” the man replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”  

It’s a silly question to ask God or his hosts if they are on our side in whatever battle we’ve engaged. It’s far more important for us to be on his. Even if we think our struggle is as clear-cut as the battle Joshua was about to engage in, we dare not think our side is always right, or we’ll end up mired in human thinking.

Jesus told his followers to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. That warning has never been more timely. There’s no way we can do that without an attentive ear to our Shepherd and a more expansive view of the world than what any media can feed us.

Living on the Edges Read More »

Meet Me in the Middle

A couple of weeks ago on The God Journey, Kyle and I briefly discussed Tyler Perry’s invitation on the most recent Academy Awards TV broadcast:

“I refuse to hate someone because they’re Mexican or because they are black or white. Or LGBTQ. I refuse to hate someone because they’re a police officer or because they’re Asian. I would hope we would refuse hate. And I want to take this humanitarian award and dedicate it to anyone who wants to stand in the middle. Because that’s where healing, where conversation, where change happens. It happens in the middle. Anyone who wants to meet me in the middle to refuse hate and blanket judgment, this one is for you, too,”

In response to our discussion, I got this email:  “I was just thinking earlier this week about how hard it is to be in the middle.  That is one of the main reasons I have had to quit Facebook. Maybe in a future podcast, you and Kyle can give some tips on how to survive being in the middle without getting ripped to shreds.  For now, I am quietly sitting on the sidelines licking my wounds.”

My heart goes out to this man. Political dialogue on social media these days is a blood sport where bullies rule the day and where thoughtful conversation is almost always hijacked by political agendas with an air of superiority.  I am convinced, however, that most people want to meet in the middle where character matters and mutual respect wins the day, which is why I helped with A Langauge of Healing for a Polarized Nation.

Maybe Kyle and I will come back to this someday, but to answer his request, here’s how I find a way to lean into the middle as freely as I can.

  • Realize everything in the media is skewed toward fear. It attracts eyeballs and advertisers who find fearful people an easy sell. I don’t let it in.  Things are never as dire as the media wants us to believe. Regardless of what is going on in the news and wherever fear tries to find its way in, I reflect on the fact that God is bigger than any agenda humanity tries to exert and that his purpose is unfolding in our world behind the scenes. I know that in the end, Jesus gets the last word on everyone and everything (I Peter 3:22 MSG)
  • I rarely take in more than 30 minutes of news and commentary per day, and that includes days with “breaking stories.” Glance and move on; don’t wallow in the fear or hysteria the media works to foment. If you don’t have resources that can give you a good overview in that amount of time, find better ones.  And even then, I only believe about 70% of what I hear. I try to distinguish between facts I’m being given and the interpretation of those facts to manipulate my behavior. I try to recognize their bias and adjust accordingly.
  • I intentionally go to websites and read articles that do not agree with my point of view. I always benefit from hearing what the other side is actually saying, and it keeps the algorithms from serving me up a soup of my own biases.
  • I limit my input from one-sided think tanks, commentators, advocacy groups, and overtly biased media. If you think your side has all the facts and worthy ideas, you are part of the problem. We all have convictions about what is right and wrong, but these sources all have one purpose—to manipulate you so they can advance their agenda by exaggerating their perspective. It’s not so hard to see once you are aware of it. Hold fast to your convictions, but don’t let them be used to give you cause to hate or to fear those who don’t share them.
  • I have good friends on the opposing sides of every issue to keep me honest. They are people who can talk about different points of view with respect and graciousness.
  • I converse with people I don’t know on my social media the same way you would talk to them in person. I treat them with dignity and respect until they prove themselves toxic and destructive. Then, I no longer engage them and either block or delete their comments.
  • This may be the most important one. Take in at least an hour of beauty and peace every day. Go for a walk. Sit in a garden. Celebrate a friendship with someone that refreshes your spirit.

I love this perspective that Eugene Peterson offers his Introduction to Nahum in The Message:

The stage of history is large. Larger-than-life figures appear on this stage from time to time, swaggering about, brandishing weapons and money, terrorizing and bullying. These figures are not, as they suppose themselves to be, at the center of the stage — not, in fact, anywhere near the center. But they make a lot of noise and are able to call attention to themselves. They often manage to get a significant number of people watching and even admiring: big nations, huge armies, important people. At any given moment a few superpower nations and their rulers dominate the daily news. Every century a few of these names are left carved on its park benches, marking rather futile, and in retrospect pitiable, attempts at immortality. The danger is that the noise of these pretenders to power will distract us from what is going on quietly at the center of the stage in the person and action of God. God’s characteristic way of working is in quietness and through prayer.

This is what makes my heart soar even in trouble times. What is God doing at the center of the stage?

If we stay grounded in that reality, we’ll learn to live generously in a world that needs it so badly.

Meet Me in the Middle Read More »