Encouragement

Do You Love Me?

January 19 

It makes more sense to me now, why Jesus asked Peter the question he did after the resurrection: “Do you love me?” He didn’t want to know if Peter adored him, feared him, or was ready to serve him in the face of any conceivable threat.

He just wanted to know he had Peter’s love. Having that, he knew everything else would fall into place. Lacking that, nothing else would matter.

If the cross accomplished its purpose, even this one—who had betrayed him so painfully—would find his way back into his love. After all, Peter never stopped loving him, but simply let his fears overwhelm him when the pressure was on.

His failure did not disprove his love. Jesus knew that. For the moment, Peter didn’t. But he would soon enough and then he would be free to live out the rest of his days with growing affection for his resurrected friend.

Don’t think your mistakes prove your lack of love. Find a love bigger than your failures and you’ll find a life that grows increasingly free from wanting to go your own way.

 

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:17–19 (NIV)

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This reflection is taken from my new book, Live Loved Free Full. I am running them here because we didn’t receive the book in time to ship them before the start of the year. Since all pre-orders have been shipped, we will only do this until this Friday, January 22. You’ll need to get your book to keep reading. You can order your hardback copy from us or here from Amazon or get the e-book from your favorite e-book distributors. The Kindle edition is here.  After many hassles with their IT department, you can finally order the hardback at Amazon.

We Are All Beautiful in His Eyes

January 18 

Though our flesh can be seduced by the adoration of others, our Father doesn’t share the same ego. I know many people who sacrifice the affection of their family for their success in the workplace, but God isn’t wired that way. I think he would treasure affection over adoration any day of the week. He is the God of love, remember?

Nyssa’s brokenness didn’t diminish her father’s affection. If anything, her brokenness made her more endearing. We have the tendency to diminish our worship when we are aware of our own failures and weaknesses.

Don’t great crowds of adoration always push the so-called “beautiful people” and the “power people” to the front while shunning those deemed “lesser” to the back? But in a father’s lap, there are no greater and lesser. Parents delight equally in their children and only see points of brokenness as cracks into which more love can be poured.

Can we dare to believe that our Father sees us the same way Jim sees his daughter Nyssa? I can assure you he loves you far more than that.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

 

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This reflection is taken from my new book, Live Loved Free Full. I am running them here because we didn’t receive the book in time to ship them before the start of the year. Since all pre-orders have been shipped, we will only do this until January 24. You’ll need to get your book to keep reading. You can order your hardback copy from us or get the e-book from your favorite e-book distributors. The Kindle edition is here.

He Has Chosen You

January 17

Nyssa was adopted into her family. Her parents first laid eyes on her when she was eleven days old and knew her entire condition before they threw wide the doors of their home and invited her in.

Jim told me he was initially reticent to adopt a child with so many special needs. But the moment he first laid eyes on Nyssa, all that changed. “As soon as I had her in my arms,” he said, “she looked up at me and sighed. My heart just melted, and I knew I had to say ‘Yes.’”

She was chosen in the same way Father has chosen you. He was fully aware of all the brokenness he would love you through.

Her father reminded me that she couldn’t even crawl into her own father’s lap that morning. If her father hadn’t scooped down and picked her up, she would never have been there. I’m certain our plight is similar. Who of us can really claim to crawl into God’s lap by our own power? He is our only source, and there would be no intimacy if he did not make it happen.

Perhaps the most we do is just lift our arms to him in surrender and desire. But our place on his lap is all his doing.

 

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed youso that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

John 15:16 (NIV)

 

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This reflection is taken from my new book, Live Loved Free Full. I am running them here because we didn’t receive the book in time to ship them before the start of the year. If you pre-ordered a copy it is already in the mail to you. We will do one more week here and after that you’ll need to get your book to keep reading. You can order your hardback copy from us or get the e-book from your favorite e-book distributors. The Kindle edition is here.

A Girl and Her Daddy!

January 16 

“Majesty, worship his Majesty . . .” The familiar words rolled off my lips as I sat among a group of believers from all over the western United States who had gathered to share their experiences in relational church. It was Sunday morning and we were just beginning with a chance to sing songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. I felt unsettled.

Sitting next to me that morning was a three-and-a-half-year-old girl, cradled in the arms of her father, Jim. Nyssa struggles against the complications of Freeman-Sheldon syndrome, a genetic muscle disorder that has caused severe scoliosis (curvature of the spine) and disfigured fingers. She is fed through a tube in her stomach and the disorder renders her unable to talk, walk, or play like other children. In fact, she can only lay cuddled in her father’s arms, cooing and slobbering. The connection between her and her father and the love and adoration that beamed from his face as he whispered to her and jiggled her in his arms was mesmerizing.

That’s what I want! The words sailed through my mind so quietly I almost missed them. I had to stop a minute and ask not only what I had heard, but where it had come from. Certainly, this wasn’t my thought. After a few moments of meditation, however, I recognized Father’s voice in it and suddenly it dawned on me why my heart had been so unsettled that morning.

We were exalting God, joining the great throng of angelic beings that surround the throne with praise and adoration to God. He was just wanting us to enjoy a moment in his lap, like that father and daughter; with an intimacy that no moment of adoration could rival.

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

John 1:12–13 (NIV)

 

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This reflection is taken from my new book, Live Loved Free Full. I am running them here because we didn’t receive the book in time to ship them before the start of the year. If you pre-ordered a copy it is already in the mail to you. We will do one more week here and after that you’ll need to get your book to keep reading. You can order your hardback copy from us or get the e-book from your favorite e-book distributors. The Kindle edition is here.

The Fatherless Epidemic

January 15

“I think my dad hates me,” she said through her sniffles, choking back the sob that hung in her throat. Then she detailed the fight they’d had the night before. Her dad was upset about the provocative way she often dressed, and she was certain he had no respect for her choices.

I walked her back through the conversation, a surrogate dad who suggested that her father’s fears were less about judging her than they were about trying to protect her from men with less than honorable intentions.

“So, you think my dad doesn’t hate me?” she asked at the end.

“Nicole, I have no idea. He’s your dad, but I would be surprised if he didn’t love you very much. However, can I ask how things are with your heavenly dad?”

Her twisted face told me my question had confused her. A moment passed. “Do you mean God?”

I nodded. “I grew up in church,” she said. “I hate him.”

I smiled as I looked at Nicole and whispered to her as if sharing the most incredible of secrets: “As wrong as you might be about your earthly dad, I can tell you you’re dead wrong about your heavenly One.”

Her eyes lit up. “What do you mean?”

“Nicole, you have a father who loves you more than anyone on this planet ever has or ever will.”

The hope that we all have a Father who knows us completely but loves us extravagantly is all but lost in our day. It might be time to uncover it again.

 

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

John 4:9 (NIV)

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This reflection is taken from my new book, Live Loved Free Full. I am running them here because we didn’t receive the book in time to ship them before the start of the year. If you pre-ordered a copy it is already in the mail to you. We will do one more week here and after that you’ll need to get your book to keep reading. You can order your hardback copy from us or get the e-book from your favorite e-book distributors. The Kindle edition is here.

Where to Begin?

January 14 

What do you think? Do you want a relationship with God based on fear or the endearment of his own character and love?

If you don’t know how to do that, find someone who does and ask him or her if they will help you. Don’t look for someone to tell you exactly what to do, but who will instead help you see God’s fingerprints in your own journey and the realities his Spirit is offering to invite you farther down that path.

Let them share their journey with you, but don’t try to copy theirs. Instead, learn to listen in your heart as God shows you how he wants to make himself known to you. Then watch how he does that. Share your journey with them and let them help you lean into those things that seem genuine and recognize those things that smell of self-effort.

Try not to get discouraged when it doesn’t happen quickly or as easily as you might hope. Look for others who have a similar hunger. Please don’t give up, because learning to find your footing on a journey with him does take a while. This life is not like going to Disneyland; it is a real engagement with the Maker of heaven and earth.

Knowing him starts in small ways and over time grows to become the most valuable part of your life.

The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went awayand sold everything he had and bought it.
Matthew 13:45–46

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This reflection is taken from my new book, Live Loved Free Full. I am running them here because we didn’t receive the book in time to ship them before the start of the year. If you pre-ordered a copy it is already in the mail to you. We will do one more week here and after that you’ll need to get your book to keep reading. You can order your hardback copy from us or get the e-book from your favorite e-book distributors. The Kindle edition is here.

The Most Engaging Invitation

January 13 

Far from being the kill-joy that religion makes God out to be, or the excuse for our injustices to others, God becomes a valued companion in this journey called life. When you know who this amazing God is, “Be holy as I am holy” is not the most onerous command in Scripture, but the most engaging invitation. When you know him, you will want to be like him.

And if you want to be like him, it’s great to know he has provided everything for that to happen. There’s no way I could do that on my own. All I have to do is learn to live in his love, and he’s the one who teaches us that, too.

Now, I know some of you reading this are frustrated that your relationship with God doesn’t feel like that. Despite your prayers, Bible reading, church attendance, and trying to be good, God still feels like a distant deity rarely involved in real circumstances of daily existence. I lived a long time there myself, so I understand. The five things I’ve described above are the fruit of a long trajectory in learning how to live in his love. It doesn’t happen overnight, with a snap of the fingers or an ecstatic Jesus encounter.

Learning how to lean into his reality and recognize his fingerprint around us is a lifelong quest, perhaps the greatest adventure our humanity offers. Our appetites can betray us, our intellect often deceives us, and the world so easily distracts us with its amusements and its fears. Cultivating the inner life to become increasingly sensitive to the ways Jesus makes himself known does take some focus and participation from us.

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which  has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:13-14

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This reflection is taken from my new book, Live Loved Free Full. I am running them here because we didn’t receive the book in time to ship them before the start of the year. If you pre-ordered a copy it is already in the mail to you. We will do one more week here and after that you’ll need to get your book to keep reading. You can order your hardback copy from us or get the e-book from your favorite e-book distributors. The Kindle edition is here.

Three More Reasons

January 12 

Let’s continue yesterday’s reading with three reasons that you might want to follow God that don’t include fear of the afterlife.

The third reason for me is because navigating successfully through a broken Creation is beyond my best resources and wisdom. Self-indulgence leads to the corruption and injustice that not only diminishes my life, but it also stains our world and harms others. How do you navigate circumstances you can’t control that seem unjust? How do sickness and tragedy make sense inside God’s love and his ultimate purpose to redeem the world back to himself?

Without his active input in my life, I only consider how things affect me, and that’s a painful way to live in this universe. He has a way of causing the sufferings of this world to fold into a larger plan of our transformation and his redemption. I wouldn’t want to live without it. He has given me insight to make decisions I wouldn’t otherwise have made, and though he often invites me down more difficult roads, they always bear better fruit over time.

Fourth, I am powerless to resist my destructive appetites and desires if he does not give me the wisdom to untangle them, the strength to refuse them, and the fullness to displace what they prey on in my twisted soul.

Without him, I’m adrift in a world of indulgence; with him, I can learn to say no to those things that add more pain in the world and yes to a path that leaves more grace in it.

Fifth, because I want to be part of something bigger than myself and my own existence. God not only created this planet but now moves it to its ultimate redemption. By showing us what it truly means to be loved and to love, I can become part of that unfolding purpose and encourage others on that path as well.

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles  the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Colossians 2:27

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This reflection is taken from my new book, Live Loved Free Full. I am running them here because we didn’t receive the book in time to ship them before the start of the year. If you pre-ordered a copy it is already in the mail to you. We will do one more week here and after that you’ll need to get your book to keep reading. You can order your hardback copy from us or get the e-book from your favorite e-book distributors. The Kindle edition is here.

Two Fearless Reasons to Follow God

January 11 

Some Christians tell me that people will not serve God unless we terrify them with the possibility of hell. I disagree. I can think of five great reasons anyone would want to follow God that have nothing to do with fear. Let’s look at two of them today and three more tomorrow.

First, because God is the most engaging presence in the universe. He is full of life, laughter, joy, and wisdom more precious than wealth. Far and away he is the best friend I have. Oh, I don’t always understand what he’s up to, but I know in time he’ll show me what I need to know.

I’d rather talk over things with Father, Jesus, and the Spirit more than anyone else in my life, and I love the conversations I have with others. If you haven’t experienced him this way, I’m sure I got a bit of an eye roll there, but honestly the things he adds to my life fill it with wonder and wisdom.

Second, because this world makes no sense without him. All that is real is not visible. I see his glory in the Creation and his hand in the seeming coincidences of life—meeting a person at just the right moment or having an insight drop into my heart from a conversation, a sentence in a book, or a song lyric.

Even failures or the betrayal of others turns out to have meaning in the larger scheme of things that he understands so well. A seemingly silly choice in one moment will open opportunities down the road I would never have foreseen.

I sensed his calling to me at a very young age. Inside his reality, I find the courage and resources that hold me through life’s most painful seasons.

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled
to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
Hebrews 10:22

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This reflection is taken from Wayne Jacobsen’s new book, Live Loved Free Full. Since the delivery of the print edition was delayed due to COVID issues in production, we are posting daily here until it can reach those who pre-ordered it for the first of the year.  You can get it on 3-book if you like at any of your e-book distributors. The Kindle edition is here.  You can order your hardback copy from us.

What If?

January 10 

I sat on a deck in the High Sierras surrounded by pine and cedar trees with a young man who did not grow up with any kind of spiritual influence in his life. He and his fiancée had asked me to marry them, so we were talking about what kind of involvement they wanted from God in their wedding and their marriage.

“I know nothing about him,” the young man answered.

I paused a moment thoughtfully, then pointed to the beauty of the forest all around us. “What if there is a God who made all of this, who loves you more than anyone else you’ve ever known, and he wants to walk with you as you explore your life in his Creation?”

He looked up at me and smiled, his eyes misted with tears. “I would love that.”

Who wouldn’t?

If you don’t know him that way, ask him to show you. Resist any expectation as to what that has to look like and watch what he does.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
I John 3:1

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This reflection is taken from Wayne Jacobsen’s new book, Live Loved Free Full. Since the delivery of the print edition was delayed due to COVID issues in production, we are posting daily here until it can reach those who pre-ordered it for the first of the year.  You can get it on 3-book if you like at any of your e-book distributors. The Kindle edition is here.  You can order your hardback copy from us.

God, the Rescuer

January 9 

Many people misunderstand the Old Testament—they conclude that God is the executioner in the redemption story. Stories like Noah’s Ark, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Canaan’s Conquest are enough to convince people that God is a terrifying presence out to destroy in anger the world he created.

Nothing could be further from the truth. There are times God intervenes in human history in ways that hold severe consequences for those who resist him, but if you look at the whole story, you’ll see he is always the rescuer. His judgment is like the surgeon’s scalpel—it sets things right in a broken world.

Sin is the destroyer, not God. Using our self-preferring nature and preying on our limited knowledge, it draws us into the darkness like captives. Because we go so willingly, we see God’s actions against the darkness as actions against us. But God wants to break through the bondage and draw us back into his light and his healing.

Salvation, according to Jesus, does not come to those who try to appease an angry deity with their offerings or sacrificial needs. Salvation is found inside an affectionate relationship with the Creator of all. It is less about fixing our circumstances than it is about rescuing us from the lies of darkness.

Unfortunately, too many people confuse God himself with the religion we’ve created in his name. That makes it difficult for them to connect with him. People in relative ease often keep God at a distance. They take in just enough Christianity to soothe their conscience and to satisfy their fears about the afterlife, but they don’t want too much of him because he might intrude on their pleasures.

Other people, caught in tragic circumstances or deep pain, call out to him, seeking relief by promising God they will do anything he wants. Neither of these will lead to a long and satisfying connection with him.

Do you need to be rescued? Ask him and let him do it however he decides is best.

“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.”
Psalm 91:14

 

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This reflection is taken from Wayne Jacobsen’s new book, Live Loved Free Full. Since the delivery of the print edition was delayed due to COVID issues in production, we are posting daily here until it is available.  The e-book is already out on Kindle if you prefer that version.  You can order your hardback copy here. SPECIAL NOTE:  Our books are in and will be on the way to you as soon as we can catch-up on our pre-orders.

Artwork above is taken from A Man Like No Other: The Illustrated Life of Jesus by Wayne Jacobsen, Brad Cummings, and Murry Whitman.

A More Compelling Reason

January 8 

So, back to our question of a couple of days ago: Would you want to follow God if there were no hell? Fear of hell was just about the only reason people got saved when I was young. No one wanted to jump through all those religious hoops unless the consequences of not doing were far worse.

Whatever hell turns out to be, it is the place where sin devours its prey. As tragic as that might be, the fear of it was never meant to be our motivation for following God. If we’re going to sustain a journey in him, we need a more compelling reason than fear. And our friends and family need to hear an invitation that inspires them to consider God’s reality better than this: “You’re a horrible person and God is going to torment you if you don’t repent.”

That’s what engages the Stockholm syndrome, rather than a real journey of love and affection. Besides, I’m not convinced fearing hell will be enough to save anyone. Oh, it might hold them in check for a few months at a time, but when the fear fades, as it always does, they will be back to their old self-destructive ways.

God’s love for you is the only source of salvation and the only motivation that will untwist all sin wrecks in this world and the one to come. Taste that, and you’ll follow him to the end of the world.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;  blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

Psalm 34:8

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This reflection is taken from Wayne Jacobsen’s new book, Live Loved Free Full. Since the delivery of the print edition was delayed due to COVID issues in production, we are posting daily here until it is available.  The e-book is already out on Kindle if you prefer that version.  If you haven’t pre-ordered your hardback copy yet, you can do so here. SPECIAL NOTE:  our books should be arriving today and we will get out as many as we can this weekend.

Artwork above is taken from A Man Like No Other: The Illustrated Life of Jesus by Wayne Jacobsen, Brad Cummings, and Murry Whitman.

Fear or Shame Won’t Help

January 7

In the early days of my journey, fear and shame were constant if unwelcome companions. I was constantly afraid I wasn’t doing enough for God to like me, and I was ashamed of my sinful desires. My shortcomings and failures were always before me since he commanded us to be as holy as he was.

However, that was not the relationship God had in mind for me, and it is not the relationship that would help know him or experience all he had for me.

Jesus didn’t seem to live with his Father that way, and he was perfect. He called his Father “our Father,” so that we could share in that relationship as well, and through it be transformed. So, instead of focusing his followers on their failures, he invited them to focus on his joy. He told them everything, “so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

No one I knew in my young days lived that way. To us, God was a demanding deity, and we lived every day under threats, obligations, and a constant demand for perfect performance. Jesus pointed us down a different road because those who live like that cannot experience his fullness, and they won’t effectively share his love in the world.

Fear and shame will not produce the work of God in us. Jesus showed us his Father was not a terrifying presence in the world, but the most endearing. Love is the coin of his realm, not fear and shame.

 

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus . . .
Romans 8:1

 

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This reflection is taken from Wayne Jacobsen’s new book, Live Loved Free Full. Since the delivery of the print edition was delayed due to COVID issues in production, we are posting daily here until it is available.  The e-book is already out on Kindle if you prefer that version.  If you haven’t pre-ordered your hardback copy yet, you can do so here.

 

Why Follow After God?

January 6 

“Would you follow God if there was no hell?”

Someone asked me that a few years ago, and my immediate reaction was, “Of course I would.”

If he had asked me that when I was younger, I doubt I would have answered with such certainty. Back then, my relationship with God was more confused. We would have said God was loving, but only for those who did everything he wanted. But whoever did that?

His holiness was his most terrifying feature, and the best reason I was given to follow him was my fear of the consequences if I didn’t. Threatened with eternity in flames was all the motivation I needed to do everything I thought required to stay in his good graces. More than anything, I wanted God to like me, protect me, and bless me.

Looking back now, I realize I was not in an endearing relationship with my Creator as a beloved son. I was caught in the Stockholm syndrome with God; like the victim of a kidnapping, I sought to ingratiate myself to the one I feared, confusing that with love.

For the past twenty-five years, however, I’ve come to rely on his love. It has made all the difference. God never wanted our indentured servitude but to share his life with his grateful children.

 

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!”

Romans 8:15 (NASRE)

 

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This reflection is taken from Wayne Jacobsen’s new book, Live Loved Free Full. Since the delivery of the print edition was delayed due to COVID issues in production, we are posting daily here until it is available.  The e-book is already out on Kindle if you prefer that version.  If you haven’t pre-ordered your hardback copy yet, you can do so here.

 

Who Is He Really?

January 5 

Scripture paints two seemingly contradictory portraits of God. As the holy God, he is shown to be unapproachable in his purity, willing to mete out unspeakable torment on his Son, and ready to consign the unrepentant to eternal agony in hell. He is also portrayed as a tender Father, so loving that the most wayward sinner could run to his side in absolute safety and find forgiveness and mercy.

If you cannot resolve these images into a coherent view of God, you will end up playing the he-loves-me-he-loves-me-not game. Like the schizophrenic child of an abusive father, you’ll never be certain which God you’ll meet on a given day—the one who wants to scoop you up in his arms with laughter, or the one who ignores or punishes you for reasons you don’t understand.

Here is why so few believers ever discover the depths of friendship God has offered to them. They see God’s holiness as a contradiction to his tenderness. Unable to reconcile the two, fear wins out, and intimacy with him is forfeit. Vacillating between loving him and fearing him will keep you from ever learning to trust him.

You cannot love what you fear, and you will not fear what you love.

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.

Romans 8:15 (NIV)

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This reflection is taken from Wayne Jacobsen’s new book, Live Loved Free Full. Since the delivery of the print edition was delayed due to COVID issues in production, we are posting daily here until it is available.  The e-book is already out on Kindle if you prefer that version.  If you haven’t pre-ordered your hardback copy yet, you can do so here.

 

A Father Like No Other

January 4 – A Father Like No Other

God’s desire for you since the first day of Creation was to invite you past your fear of him, so you can discover what it means to love him. He offers you an intimate friendship that will transform you as he becomes the all-consuming passion of your life.

He will be the voice that steers you through every situation, the peace that sets your heart at rest in trouble, and the power that holds you up in the storm. He wants to be closer than your dearest friend and more faithful than any human being.

I know it sounds too good to be true. How can mere humans enjoy such a friendship with the Almighty God who created all that we see with a word? Do I dare think that he would know and care about the details of my life? Isn’t it presumptuous to even imagine that this God would take delight in me, even though I still struggle with the failures of flesh?

It would be if it were your idea. It was his, however, long before you even considered it. He’s the one who offered to be your loving Father—loving you and caring for you in ways no earthly father ever could.

He knows you better than you know yourself; he loves you more than anyone ever has; he knows that when you relax into that reality, you will discover that all of your fears, including your fear of him, will be destroyed.

But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

1 John 4:18 (NIV)

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This reflection is taken from Wayne Jacobsen’s new book, Live Loved Free Full. Since the delivery of the print edition was delayed due to COVID issues in production, we are posting daily here until it is available.  The e-book is already out on Kindle if you prefer that version.  If you haven’t pre-ordered your hardback copy yet, you can do so here.

 

There’s No Fear in Love

January 3 – There’s No Fear in Love

Fear and love cannot exist side by side in the human heart. Though the Psalmist tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, it is only the beginning.

John discovered that perfect love casts out fear and that true wisdom is gained inside of your growing confidence in his affection. If you don’t love God, you would be well served to fear him. Once, however, you learn what it really means to love him, you will never need to fear him again.

As you grow secure in his love, you will come to know who God is. And knowing him, you will want to be like him. Discover that, and your calamities will never again drive you to question God’s concern for you or whether you’ve done enough to merit his affection.

Instead of fearing he has turned his back on you, you will be able to rest in his love in the moments you need him most.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear . . .

1 John 4:18 (NIV)

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This reflection is taken from Wayne Jacobsen’s new book, Live Loved Free Full. Since the delivery of the print edition was delayed due to COVID issues in production, we are posting daily here until it is available.  The e-book is already out on Kindle if you prefer that version.  If you haven’t pre-ordered your hardback copy yet, you can do so here.

Settle for No Substitutes

January 2 – Settle for No Substitutes

Isn’t the record of most of our lives littered with significant periods where we wandered away from his love, seeking other things to carry our spiritual life? 

Devoid of his presence, we are hounded by fear, guilt, and the delusion that we can earn that love by just trying harder. So easily, we find ourselves living with love-substitutes. We double our efforts to be responsible, committed, or disciplined. But these efforts don’t produce love; they can only flow out of it.

If the Lord’s love seems distant for you, let him draw you back to himself. Find a quiet place and wait in silence before him. He will rekindle your affection. Don’t try to go on without it. God never intended you to live even one day outside the wonder of his love. And don’t make the mistake of trying to earn it, either. 

You can’t earn points with someone who is no longer keeping score. Jesus already filled out your card with maximum points. You don’t have to earn what he has already freely given; you simply get to receive it.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

1 John 3:1 (NIV)

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This reflection is taken from Wayne Jacobsen’s new book, Live Loved Free Full. Since the delivery of the print edition was delayed due to COVID issues in production, we are posting daily here until it is available.  The e-book is already out on Kindle if you prefer that version.  If you haven’t pre-ordered your hardback copy yet, you can do so here.

 

 

First Love

Since the delivery of the print edition of my new devotional book, Live Loved Free Full was delayed due to COVID issues in production, I will be posting the daily readings here until it is available.  The e-book is already out on Kindle if you prefer that version. I’m sorry we couldn’t get you this book as it was promised to us.  If you haven’t pre-ordered your copy yet, you can do so here.

 

January 1 

God never intended you to move on from there.

You remember that first moment you knew God loved you? Do you recall the euphoria of knowing that the Almighty God who spoke worlds into existence took note of you too, and even genuinely cared about you and every event in your life?

If you are like most, that reality probably became clear to you in the midst of great pain or failure. His love captured your heart. Everything about the world around you paled in comparison to him. Every day was an adventure. Even through the most challenging circumstances, you knew you were safe in his care and that all your struggles were just part of a larger plan.

All he wants is for you to remain there or, if you’ve left it, to return there. That’s why Scripture calls it first love. We were never meant to leave that place but to live in its joy every day.

First love is not how much you loved him on that day—first love is how much he loved you then, and how much he still loves you today.

I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love.

John 15:9–10 (MSG)

Don’t Let Fear Determine Your Path

I got a text recently from someone about an exchange we had six years before.

You may never know what these words you said to me in 2014 have meant to me. There is so much pressure living in the “Bible belt” but I think I finally realize through this pandemic and having time to be away from it all that my relationship with Jesus can grow without that pressure. Fellowship can be sitting with a friend having coffee and challenging each other. I don’t have to sit in a group or be forced to be part of a small group I’m not comfortable around. Thank you so much for your books, podcasts, Breath of Fresh Air. You have provided a window of light to me and helped reveal truth.

Looking back, I found our original exchange to help me sort out exactly what she was talking about.

I am not even sure I know how to put into words the things going through my heart and mind right now. The Jake book has been a glimmer of light to me as well as soaking up all the podcasts from the God Journey and Lifestream. I don’t know what to say about my “church”. I still go but I’m tired of the pressure to serve, the pressure to join a life group, the pressure that if you don’t go on a foreign mission trip every year you aren’t doing what you should.

I chose this group originally because I felt there was authenticity, now it seems like it is all about entertainment, they had Jack Sparrow and Elsa and Anna wandering around there last week. Yet, when my life was tough and things were scary for a few months, no one cared. Our motto is ” changing the way you think about church” I used to think we were so different. Now, I feel that if Jesus were here sitting in our midst he would be sad. I don’t think this Is what He wanted or intended.

We don’t know where the money we give goes. We don’t know the church’s budget. A select group of elders makes all the decisions. They are the only ones who know what is in the bank. I don’t know anymore. My relationship with God is suffering. I’m disillusioned. Saddened. Disheartened. And really don’t know where to go from here anymore.

My response to her had been brief, so it was so good to hear how such simple words had changed the trajectory of her faith—

Follow your heart.  I suspect you already know how God is leading you but you are afraid to follow.  I appreciate the things that you’re seeing.  Pressure is not godly nor is fear.  I pray you’ll have the courage to follow what he has put in your heart and find yourself in more spacious places of his working.

That’s true of most people I meet. They seem to be confused, but when you listen behind their words, it’s evident that they already know how Jesus is leading them. They have just talked themselves out of it because of what other, perhaps even well-meaning Christians are pressuring them to do. They worry about how others will judge them than simply following the gentle nudge the Spirit has put in their heart.

God’s leading is not that difficult to know; it’s just challenging to trust that it’s him, especially when he’s leading you away from those things you were taught to rely on. Fear will never lead you to what’s best, and it will distort your perception of God and his whispers into your heart.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid of making a mistake, of facing the disapproval of people you love, or that God wouldn’t be there to help you beyond your own efforts?  That is often the path that will lead you to more light and freedom.

Relationships Make Us Rich

After spending a few days with a group of people in Florida, a newfound friend observed, “You’re a repository for thousands and thousands of conversations you’ve had all over the globe with all kinds of people who are discovering what it means to live the life of Jesus.”

I had never thought of it that way, but it does express what my life has been like. I’ve talked to some of the most amazing people on the planet caught up in their own Jesus journey. I have gleaned much from them as we have processed our journeys together to look into the mysteries of God.

So, for everyone I’ve ever had a conversation with, I’m grateful that you took the time to engage my life and add to my story. I hope I’ve added to yours as well.

These are the first paragraphs on the Acknowledgment page of my newest book, Live Loved Free Full, which is set to release in a couple of weeks.  As I worked through that book I could remember specific people with whom I was talking when the truths of that book became cemented in my heart. At its end, I wanted to express my gratitude for people all over the world who have enriched me with their insights, experiences, and even questions we wrestled with together.  My heart is a marvelous tapestry the Spirit has stitched together over thousands of conversations with people in all stages of the spiritual journey—from seasoned ones who have explored the realities of living loved for decades and from people just starting out from the trailhead.

Relationships make us rich. The reason I’m sharing that now is that I’ve never been more grateful for the people God has put in my life than I have over the last few weeks. Leading up to my writing A Fresh Wind Is Blowing, and for the week after, I’ve been in a constant stream of conversations with people all over the world, which have thrilled my heart, opened my eyes to things God had been preparing me to see, and put a fresh sense of his leading and his hope in my heart. All of that has been mining a deep vein of precious thoughts from the heart of God. Most of those conversations are still going on and I have no idea where they may lead yet, but I am grateful for the manifold wisdom of God he makes known through his Church.

His church really is the network of friends and friends of friends that he knits into our lives over the course of our journey. Some of those I talk to frequently, others come in and out of my life after great gaps of time, but the conversations are rich with the wisdom and life of his Spirit. This is a fluid way of seeing his Church because it isn’t a programmed reality we can identify, but the result of following those nudges to connect with people and then allowing them into our lives as our mutual affection grows. These are people who love you where you are on the journey. They don’t manipulate you to fulfill their expectations or try to convince you of anything they think is true. They share freely out of love and wait for the Spirit to make sense of things.

As these conversations persist, the insights added by others continue to snowball until the reality Jesus is inviting me into becomes clear. It’s a marvelous process, one Paul describes in Ephesians 1 when he says the Church is “the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” Each of us alone only gets to see a facet of who God is, but in our growing connection with his family, we get a wider grasp of his nature and purpose in our hearts and in circumstances around us. 

A few of those conversations I’ve been able to share over the 781 episodes of The God Journey.  Most, however, went unrecorded except in the recesses of my brain. Like a giant jig-saw puzzle, each of those interactions has blessed my life and spilled out in things I’ve said or written.  Tomorrow on The God Journey, I’m sharing a conversation that I had with an old friend from South Africa who has explored some elements of living in Father’s love that delights my heart. It is probably one of the most important podcasts I’ve ever released and I hope you can find time to listen to it even if you no longer regularly check in there.

You’ll hear how the maturing of his love in us will set you free from the suffering that resulted from our self-centered thinking and allow us to be a better reflection of him to people around us. I’ll warn you now, the road to that reality is not an easy nor a popular one. As we taste more deeply of his love it will challenge our affection for the world’s way of doing things and put us on a path less traveled. However, no one who has gone down that path, however, has ever lived to regret it. Whatever he changes in us he only replaces with something far better.

I hope I’ve spurred you on to celebrate the relationships Jesus has given you. Who has touched your life with words that encourage and enlighten you? Who has provided you a living example of what it means to live in growing trust in Father’s faithfulness?  If it’s been a while since you’ve talked to them, consider connecting with them again, even if it is just to express your gratitude for what they’ve added to your life.  Healthy relationships are some of the real treasures of this kingdom.

Give place to them. Enjoy them. Let love be at the heart of all you do.

One final note, we are still recruiting members for the Living Loved Free Full Launch Team. If you can help us, check it out and get an advance copy of the book.

 

 

 

A Fresh Wind is Blowing 

Do you know how in advance of a storm, the wind can pick up suddenly, change direction, and bring in a scent of rain? I have a growing sense that the same thing is happening with God’s Spirit. The wind of his Spirit has shifted. Have you felt it?

In the last couple of weeks, something has changed, and I feel the same sense of wonder and excitement the children did when the Beaver in Narnia told them, “Aslan is on the move.”  I don’t know what it means, but I know a fresh purpose of God is unfolding. And please, don’t think this has anything to do with the recent election; I’m speaking of a different realm.

Everything has shifted in my own heart over the past two weeks, a fresh unfolding of Father’s insights and a rising hope that something new is taking shape. I am also discovering that I’m not alone. I’ve talked to many others who have been seeded with a fresh stirring of the Spirit in their hearts as well. For some, that has come with fresh insight, for others, a growing hopefulness in their hearts even if they can’t quite put a finger on it. For all, it seems to be a fresh invitation to draw closer to God and listen with expectancy.

What you hear may be out of the norm for you. Some of the people I’ve talked to tell me that they wouldn’t dare share what God seems to be showing them with many of their Christian friends. “They would look at me like I’m crazy,” one told me.  I know. Believe me, I know. Yet, the things she was hearing were coming fresh from God’s heart.

Those who need the affirmation of their friends will have a tough time on this road. Truth rarely travels in crowds. That’s one of the reasons Jesus told us about the broad and the narrow road. He wanted his disciples to know that they dare not seek affirmation of what’s true in the popular beliefs of the day. They would miss him if they did. More people will respond to fear than faith and, in the process, become more rigid and less loving.

If you are sensing something different in your heart, pay attention. Give space to what God is stirring in your heart. Don’t cling to your old comforts or fear what change might come. This is his doing, and he is inviting you to tack on a fresh wind. If you’re not sensing that yet, please don’t let that shake you. He is doing something else in you at the moment. Just don’t be surprised when you do begin to see it.

I want to encourage those who are hearing something new but afraid to believe it because it isn’t conventional. While other Christians seemed to be preoccupied with matters political or demanding their “rights” during a time of upheaval just know that the flow of the Spirit is running deeper than you’ll find in such temporal things.  Don’t let fear guide you, and don’t cling to his past work as a comfort. He is no longer there.

One lady described it as an undercurrent, spreading throughout the world, like a crystal-clear, underground river flowing beneath the surface. Many will walk right over it and miss it, but those with roots deep enough to touch it will find their heart drawn more deeply toward Father’s heart and purpose. Don’t look with your physical eyes; for what’s really important is currently unseen.

Perhaps that’s what Father is doing in this pandemic. I am not convinced God caused it; a world out of synch with its Creator would do that quite easily. Nonetheless, as with all things, he is in it working together for his purpose and our good. The disruption of our lives could put us off balance enough to be open to this fresh wind of his Spirit. The physical distancing we have been asked to do from each other for the good of the whole may have also been an invitation to give more place to him.  (I talk a bit more about this with Gil Michel on today’s podcast at The God Journey, An Opportunity to Grow.)

Is your heart more alive to some insights you find yourself resisting, just because it’s different or because your friends might disagree? Be careful where others manipulate your fears or feed your anger. Find that space where hope, humility, and love warm your heart, even when circumstances are dire. That’s where you’ll sense his moving.

It’s not for me to tell you what it is, even if I could. I’m still sorting out what all of this means, to be honest. I see him stitching threads together that have hovered around my life for the past couple of years that all seemed disjointed until now.  I can’t say more now lest I disrupt what Father is doing and shape something in your heart before Father does. Don’t run to anyone else to tell you what it is either. Jesus is summoning his people to follow him alone.

Things are happening now that will change the course of events in this world, but that time is not yet. It is time for all of us to quiet our hearts and catch the wind of his spirit.

It won’t come by our works, but by learning to rest in his.

 


Note: We are still looking for members for the Living Loved Free Full Launch Team. If you can help us, check it out.

A Daily Guide to Living Loved, Free and Full

The world bombards us with its anxieties and distractions while religion often draws us onto the performance treadmill of doing our best for God. With all of that, how will we ever sustain a journey that leans into Father’s love and faces every circumstance in the growing confidence that we can know his ways and follow his lead?

Live Loved Free Full, is my newest book and will come hot off the presses at the end of this year. I never thought I’d do a devotional, but a number of years ago a college intern working at Lifestream culled some of the best insights I’d put into my past articles and blogs over the last twenty-five years of learning to live loved. She formatted them into 365 daily thoughts that could help people lean into more relational space each day with God and with his love for the people around them. This is a book people can revisit year after year to call their hearts back to his reality.

I had taken a cursory look at it years ago but was so busy with other projects I didn’t have time to go through it all. So, it has rested on my computer for the past few years. Recently, however, I got thinking about it after a conversation with my publisher at Blue Sheep Media. I sent them the rough copy, and they expressed a real passion to print it. Surprised at their enthusiasm, I started reading through it and got captured by it. Some of these, I don’t remember writing, but I found myself inspired by some of my own long-forgotten words.  How weird is that?

So, I have spent the last few months going through it and working in some of my more recent blogs to put together a book that can either be read as a daily devotional or even read straight through if someone prefers. Many of daily reflections feed off the ones before and continue in the ones following, so some themes carry through for a few days at a time. This book will be in a smaller hardback edition, a convenient companion size for your Bible or journal, if you keep one. My prayer is that it will be a daily reminder to lean into God’s perspective for you year after year.

Now, we’ve been busy getting it ready for a December 22 release date. Yes, I know that doesn’t give you a lot of time, especially for those of you who want to get it as a Christmas gift for someone you love. However, if you want to pre-order it, we’ll ship it out directly from the publisher as soon as they arrive.  If we cannot provide that by Christmas, we’ll have a downloadable card you print up at home and wrap to give to your family member or friend that let them know their gift will be arriving hot off the presses soon.

These daily insights are designed to draw your heart into God’s reality with a focus that will open a doorway so you can see your world through his eyes, including the wisdom he has to help navigate your day and the people in it.

This book will help you . . .

  • Gain confidence in how deeply loved by God you are.
  • Recognize how he nudges you with spiritual insight.
  • Lean into a growing trust in the way God is working in you.
  • Enjoy sharing his love with others in ways that will transform the world around you.
  • Rest from your own efforts and learn to cooperate with what he is doing.
  • Find the freedom to follow him, especially when it isn’t easy.

You can pre-order your copy today of Live Loved Free Full, right here and we’ll give you $2.00 off the cover price. I hope it gives you a thought every day that will help your mind and heart recognize how Father is making himself known to you and how you can think through your day with his perspective.

If you pre-order this book along with other products from Lifestream, they will all be sent when the new book is ready to be shipped. If you’d prefer the other books to be shipped sooner, please make a separate order.  Thank you. 

Hardback with dust jacket, 320 pages, $16.99

For International orders:  Since this is being published by Blue Sheep Media, an independent publisher, distributing options outside the U.S. are incredibly limited. We are happy to ship books to International destinations, but the cost is expensive. We don’t profit from shipping, but it is often way more than the cost of the book.  If you’d like us to ship one to another country,  please email Jess to get a quote for the number of books you want and where you want it shipped. Keep in mind the shipping cost is usually the same for one book as it is for two. We’ll let you know how much it will cost to fulfill that order, then you can decide whether to do it or not. We will have an e-book version that will be easier to distribute overseas.

Follow His Path Not the Crowd

Someone sent my own quote back to me from one my office sent out last month, with these words:  “Thank you so much for these ‘Breath of Fresh Air’ inspirational messages! The name is perfect, and the messages are greatly needed and much appreciated in these crazy, hectic, troubling times.”

Following Jesus and seeking the approval of the crowd are two divergent paths. Last week, it was a bit concerning to see how some people responded on my Facebook page to my blog about the upcoming election. More people took a purely partisan perspective than I would have hoped, even accusing me of various perspectives I don’t hold or trying to shame me back into the evangelical political fold.

If you haven’t noticed by now, I don’t write what I do to be gain more audience share. This website would be very different if I wrote for others’ approval or to build my audience. I don’t know why my heart beats with a different cadence than other people I love seem to hear, but I write because I think something needs to be said that I’m not reading elsewhere. I’m careful about that, too. When something is on my heart that I know will challenge others, I share it with those I know who listen to Father before writing. That still doesn’t mean I always get it right, but it does mean I’m willing to put some different thoughts out there and interact with those who want to give it some honest consideration.

People can disagree without being unloving. We dare not let the world carve up Christ-followers into political factions that the world uses to gain power and financial advantage. I find both sides of that divide to be inherently dishonest and manipulative. Why would we let them become a litmus test for another’s passion for Jesus? Jesus warned us that some would exclude us and lie about us to make us their enemy. He also challenged us never to let them become our enemy.  Love is still the only environment in which his light and life flow into the world.

We only grow where we perceive things that are different than we already think. When something challenges my point of view, I listen more closely to see if I detect the breath of the Spirit. Of course, not everything does, but I’ll miss those that do if I only listen to what I already know.

Don’t worry. No matter how this election turns out, God is bigger still. He has a plan unfolding on the earth, and as part of that, he is gathering his sheep not as a powerful political force but as those who reveal his glory in the world. Often in history, his people are more effective when they are powerless in the world’s ways and strong in his. We’ll never figure out what that is in advance, but he does have a path for you to follow, and trying to be popular won’t allow you to see it. You’ll then be left to do what you think is best, and that’s not a healthy road for any of us. In your interactions with others, always be authentic, but also be gracious and generous to people who see differently than you do.

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Note:  If you’re not receiving these thrice-weekly quotations, you can do so by signing up for A Breath of Fresh Air. You’ll also find a different set of quotes three other days of the week on my Instagram and Facebook author page.  You can subscribe to my Instagram feed here or find me there as wayneatlifestream, or “like” my Facebook Author page to receive them.

 

Did You Enjoy Your Breath of Fresh Air This Week?

Last week we began a new service here at Lifestream. We started a three-day-a-week email to encourage people to take a beat and reflect on some aspect of God’s work in them and the world around them.

A lady in Pennsylvania is selecting quotations from my various books, podcasts, blog posts, and articles I’ve written over the years that can encourage your journey today. Honestly, many of those quotes I don’t remember writing or saying and I’ve enjoyed having them in my inbox as well.

If you received the email pictured above in your email today, then you are all set to receive them. Please feel free to share them with others by email, blogs, or social media. You do not need our permission. We want them to be windblown as far across the world as Father desires.

We sent them to everyone for the first week with the option to add them to your account. However, if you didn’t click on the link to update your preferences to include A Breath of Fresh Air, you would not have received one today. Instead, you would have received a final notice to sign up for A Breath of Fresh Air, if you want. Click on the link and follow the instructions to update your preferences. Find the “A Breath of Fresh Air” box and click on it. That’s it!  You can, of course, change your preferences any time by clicking on the link at the very bottom of those emails.

I’m sorry for the extra hassle. We did it this way so we wouldn’t fill up the inbox of anyone who did not want them. If you’re on our Lifestream Update list and did NOT sign up for this new service, you received an email today with a link to help you update your preferences. I wish I could provide that link here, but you have to respond from that email.

If you didn’t receive any last week, then you’re not on our mailing list.  If you’d like to be, you can sign up here and check the box for A Breath of Fresh Air.  (Regretfully, this list of blog subscribers is not the same as our Lifestream Update list. I wish we could combine them, but they are managed in two different ways.)

If you want to subscribe to this blog, make sure you include your email address in the box at the upper right of any blog post at Lifestream.org.

And if you’re not sure what we’re talking about, here are the emails we sent out this past week: