Encouragement

When Serving Turns to Exploitation

I’m going to lift a quote from an email I wrote to my webmaster the other day about some changes being made for one of the platforms we use to get out information.

“It seems all these platforms start to serve a need people have, then end up exploiting people to fill a need they have.”

As soon as I typed it, I realized how ubiquitous that is to almost everything human, from business to bureaucracy, websites, and even religious institutions.

Almost all start to address a critical need. Facebook, at its beginning, provided a unique tool to keep family, friends, former classmates, and colleagues updated on each other’s personal lives. It was great to see pictures of grandkids, college roommates, and vistas from all over the world. Then, they monetized it, and instead of serving me the things I want to see and read, they twisted it with all kinds of algorithms, advertising, and hoops to jump through that don’t serve me well; they serve Facebook.

I’ve noticed that with websites as well. I’ll be reading something I’m interested in, and almost immediately, a pop-up window will obscure my reading and beg me to sign up for their newsletter or offer me a free “gift” if I give them my email address. We’ve been blessed not to do that at Lifestream or The God Journey because we haven’t needed to monetize it. We offer our content free and figure if people want to sign up for notifications or download a free audio or book, they can do it without harvesting their data for our purposes.

Monetizing the kingdom alters its nature and its message.

Hasn’t that happened in religious institutions? Many start with a genuine desire to serve people. Over time, however, the success of the program becomes more important than helping people with their needs. The mission shifts. It’s no longer what we can give to you; it is what we need from you for the ministry to survive. Instead of feeling served, you feel exploited, even if “for your own good,” as some say.

“That’s just sound business practice,” others might argue.

Precisely. That is my point. Mammon or kingdom. Only if you trust Father to provide for you can you give as freely to others as he has given to you.

The Gospel is a gift!  It’s always a gift. When it ceases to be a gift, it ceases to be the Gospel. Monetizing it changes its nature. I wrote an article about this years ago, mentioning the power of Alcoholics Anonymous. It has altered the lives of millions of people. Why does it stay so pure to its mission? Because it has remained free. It is a decentralized organization that continues to inspire those who’ve been helped to willingly help others without cost. There are no membership dues, no staff to pay, and no books to purchase. It’s people helping people—willingly, graciously, and freely.

I wonder what the life of Jesus would look like today if the Gospel had never been organized and monetized for the benefit of a few at the expense of the many.

 

 

What Is He Showing You?

My friend, Luis, shared with me a dream he had where he and Jesus were sitting on a park bench. Jesus asked him why Jonah did what he did. After Luis offered some of his thoughts, he finally turned the question back to Jesus. “Because he made it about himself.”

Those words have reverberated in my heart ever since, at just the right moments.  In the difficult circumstance in which I find myself now, it is so easy to crash into the weeds of my grief and sorrow that are so self-focused. I hear his thought cross my mind when I do, “Don’t make it about yourself.”

Those words are like an updraft I talked about in our last podcast, Transformation 1: Windblown. The chaos of a fallen creation and the self-centeredness of our flesh are the gravity that draws us into darkness. I can feel it now in my sorrow. There’s an agony and distress that holds space for God’s work in my life and in the life of those I love, and there’s self-focused anguish that drives me into despair and overwhelming pain.  “Don’t make it about yourself” have been words of life that lift me from the darkness of hopelessness and bear me upward into the realm of his Spirit.

And what’s even stranger. While I need those words about not making it about myself, I can see circumstances where Jesus would be speaking just the opposite to someone else. That would be especially true for those who hide their inner pain by serving everyone else around them.  Jesus might say to them, “Don’t focus on others just now; we need to focus on you.” He may be wanting them to learn self-compassion for him to heal wounds they’ve long neglected.

That’s why following principles, even Godly ones, is not the same as following Jesus. It’s easy to sort through many principles, find the one we like, and implement it hoping it will fix our pain. However, until we know what he’s doing in us and follow him, we become the victims of our own limited wisdom. As we recognize the nudges that draw us into his work rather than fall victim to our wisdom, we can soar above the weeds into the wind of his Spirit. (For more on that analogy, listen to the podcast linked  above.)

Throughout most of my life, I was told that if I followed Jesus, he would bless me. Of course, that’s true, but most of us assumed or were taught that his blessing would fix all of our challenging circumstances, meet our needs, and answer our unselfish prayers. It doesn’t take long to figure out he doesn’t work that way, and that mistake can lead us to doubt his character or question our performance.—two terrible outcomes for the journey he invites us down.

Following Jesus does not save us from the chaos of a broken creation. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us that the sun and rain come upon the just and the unjust. He also told us not to consider those who died in the tower’s collapse at Siloam were any more deserving of death than those who escaped. God’s goodness and the world’s chaos fall on those who follow him and those who don’t. His blessing allows us to navigate the chaos that would allow his glory to be more fully formed in us and make us more compassionate for hurting people.

Live by the Spirit, and you can soar with him through the most brutal events life can hurl you. Fight for your way, and you’ll crash into the weeds, angry and disillusioned.

I was with a friend recently going through a stressful time with challenges and uncertainties in his circumstances. As I often do, I asked them what Jesus was showing him?

As most respond, he told me he was praying the answer would show up and trying to apply some Scriptural lessons he had learned.

“But what is Jesus revealing to you about this particular circumstance and how he wants you to go through it?” I asked again.

“I haven’t heard anything from him,” he answered awkwardly.

It’s a conversation I have too frequently. At the heart of the Gospel is this reality: God is coming to find you and invite you into a relationship with him to reveal his glory to you and then through you. That’s the trajectory of a transforming life. Somehow, we’ve traded the incredible adventure of following his ever-present direction for desperate prayers that often go unanswered or cling to our own best wisdom as we apply the Scriptures we think will work for us. On our best day, those won’t be enough.

We need insight from him that shows us a way through the chaos to the life he has for us. It reminds me of something someone said on a podcast with me about dealing with darkness. When the night begins to surround us, it’s easy to chase after the light hoping to catch it.  Think of trying to do that with a sunset. You can pursue the sun westward all you want, but you’ll never catch it. The fastest way through the darkness is to turn east and run toward the rising sun you can’t see yet. Jesus is the only one that can show you how to do that.

So, when the world’s chaos crashes against you with all its fury, don’t think “escape at all costs.” Instead, look to the One who wants to deliver you from its clutches and shape the trajectory of your life through it to his greater glory.

Find that thought he’s giving you that draws you out of the chaos and follow it to the rising sun in the eastern sky.

Kenya, and the Beauty of Silence

I almost want to apologize for the picture at the top of this blog. I know these pictures are used gratuitously to make people feel guilty and give to overseas mission outreaches. I’ve never done that, and that’s not why I use it here. This is one of the orphans we are helping at the Forkland School, one of 300 abandoned there by parents who could no longer care for them due to alcoholism and the deepening drought. It’s a heart-breaker for sure, and I wanted you to hold in your heart a bit of that pain with me. Whether you are able to express generosity here through some excess finances or prayer, both are needed.

We were able to send some money along to help them at this time, though they will need more. The need is ongoing, and they are requesting another well in Bungoma that will help that community get through this drought. but there is joy and gratefulness because of those who were able to help them. You can watch this video of Michael celebrating with the children. (43 seconds)

And I thought I’d leave you with this quote I had in my inbox the other day that I find significant.

The tongue is our most powerful weapon of manipulation. A frantic stream of words flows from us because we are in a constant process of adjusting our public image. We fear so deeply what we think other people see in us that we talk in order to straighten out their understanding. If I have done some wrong thing (or even some right thing that I think you may misunderstand) and discover that you know about it, I will be very tempted to help you understand my action.

Silence is one of the deepest disciplines of the spirit simply because it puts the stopper on all self-justification. One of the fruits of silence is the freedom to let God be our justifier. We don’t need to straighten others out.

Source: Richard J. Foster, Seeking the Kingdom

We waste so much time making sure someone doesn’t say anything bad about us. It wastes so much time trying to correct the manipulation and lies of others. These are far better left in Jesus’ hands and we get on with just living as authentic a life as we can and don’t worry about those who seek to be destructive. As Dallas Willard said toward the end of his life, “I am learning the discipline of not always having to have the last word.” It’s a great freedom. Let Jesus have the last word and invite him to shape this in your heart; he’s the only one who can.

Finally, if you want to help the children in Kenya, we are still collecting money to send their way. As always, every dollar you send us gets to the people in Kenya, and all contributions are tax-deductible in the US. We do not take out any administrative or money transfer fees. Please see our Donation Page at Lifestream. Just designate “Kenya” in the “Note” of your donation, or email us and let us know your gift is for Kenya. You can also Venmo contributions to @LifestreamMinistries or mail a check to Lifestream Ministries • 1560 Newbury Rd Ste 1  •  Newbury Park, CA 91320. Or, if you prefer, we can take your donation over the phone at (805) 498-7774.

Not Everyone Has to Understand You

In interacting with some people about my last post on All Heaven Applauds, I realized I had left out something that’s incredibly important that will help you deal with people who lie about you to discredit you.  I’ve added it to the original post, but I also wanted to call attention to it here as well for those who already read the original post.

After learning to forgive, this may be the toughest one. Just remember, these are not things you can do on your own, but as we take our pain and grief to Father, he can teach us how to genuinely walk in these realties. It will take time to find real freedom here, just continue to give him access to your heart and your feelings as his love overwhelms the pain and leads you to the joy he has for you in spite of it.

Fifth, find comfort in being misunderstood. If you want to walk this journey, you can’t correct everyone’s lies. This is hard because religion taught us we are validated by other people’s perceptions of us. That’s a lie too! You don’t have to try to convince people of what’s true. Doing so will drive you nuts. People who traffic in falsehoods are not interested in understanding you or accurately representing your motives. They enjoy their attempts to diminish you and you’ll only give them more ammunition to twist into false accusations. Find your peace in the fact that God knows the truth and that he will eventually get the last word on every lie.  The misunderstandings of others are part of their journey. There may be a time to confront, but God will show you when and how, even though the outcomes will rarely be what you hope.

When you have the freedom to embrace the love of people who truly care about you, you’ll worry less about the judgments of those who do not.

The Call of the Bride

“Listen! My beloved!
Behold, he is coming,
Climbing on the mountains,
Leaping on the hills!”
Song of Songs 2:8 

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!”
Revelation 22:17

Lift up your heads, O gates,
And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
That the King of glory may come in!
Psalm. 24:7 

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!”
Revelation 22:17

Let the sea roar and all it contains,
The world and those who dwell in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands;
Let the mountains sing together for joy
Before the LORD;

For he is coming to judge the earth;
He will judge the world with righteousness,
And the peoples with equity. (Psalm 98:7-9)

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!” (Rev. 22:17)

“And his winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Luke 3:17)

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!” (Rev. 22:17)

Jesus said, “Look, I am coming soon! ” (Revelation 22:12)

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!” (Revelation 22:17)

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me. (Revelation 3:20)

And the Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.”

And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; and the one who wishes to take the water of life without cost. (Revelation. 22:17)  

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!”
Revelation 22:17

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” 

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20)

“You Won’t Find Me Here”

I love how God works to invite us into his reality, even over the course of years of frustration and pain. I get emails like this because something I wrote or said plays into it, but I am more excited about how Father finds us and draws us into his life, even if it takes years.

I’m 57 years old writing from Australia. Two years ago my wife bumped into an old friend with whom I had shared many hours of conversation about our disillusionment and eventual exit out of the institutional church. Many years had gone by since last seeing this friend and she invited him over. We talked at length and he left me a copy of your book So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore. I had long stopped reading any Christian material for reasons which will become clearer later, My faith was intact, but events of the past had left me disillusioned, suspicious, and very cynical. I also observed that it was a fictional story and I felt indifferent about it at best.

Soon after, on a Sunday night in August 2019, I went to bed and started to read. I was intrigued, the conversations were not what I was expecting. I was being drawn in as familiar insights and conclusions I had come to myself out of deep frustration years ago were being plainly identified and openly discussed. We had been involved in some Pentecostal churches including a split, starting a new one with fellow survivors and I had also started theological college training. Life was meant to come together here with a sense of purpose and meaning, In reality, it led to total disappointment, Something in all of this felt wrong, God was missing! The contrived efforts to hide or ignore this were hard to watch. It felt hollow and empty, and I grew increasingly disillusioned with all of it.

I dreaded Sundays and it took me days to recover. I questioned how do people keep doing this and not ask “is this it?” And here I am training to be a part of this! I had been craving a deeper relationship with God, but by the mid-nineties, I was so depressed and mentally drained I left my theological degree 2/3rd’s through. Further adding to the confusion was this thought about my church, so loud and persistent it was almost audible. It was simply “you won’t find me here”. I found this both puzzling and disturbing as I had neither the confidence nor the courage to understand this because I thought it had to be wrong. If this was God then I can’t do it anymore, I had to move on for the sake of my family and sanity. Feeling an outcast and shattered that this was where the journey ended, I shoved my faith in the basement of my mind and walked away, I was done

Fast Forward to 2019, and a family crisis that involved false accusations against me just as I began to read your book. In a matter of seconds, I had gone from looking at spiritual issues I had tucked away for years, to a sudden explosion of conflict, and the realization that my life might be over. Everything unraveled; I went into shock physically shaking, my mind dissolved into chaos. I felt utter despair.

Then, other thoughts came. You know what’s going on here. Look at what you were reading. This is no coincidence; it’s a counter move, an attack. It felt evil, but I so did not want to go there, no way! Next, I became suddenly aware of this intense feeling of the presence of God physically around me. I knew it was him, I recognized it immediately, it was unmistakable and that seriously pissed me off too! like it just added to the torment.

The next day the accusation was withdrawn, but my mind had exploded and I was numb. I hated the idea of making this a spiritual issue, all that familiar cringe-worthy religious terminology made me want to reach for a bucket, I had been there 25 years ago and that road led to pain and disappointment. God’s Spirit though was undeniably and tangibly on me now. Why? And what’s so important about that book?

I returned to the book and read on. What unfolded through the pages had taken so many things I had known and suspected to be true, and it all clicked perfectly into place. I just kept repeating over and over “I knew this!” God had been telling me all those years ago as I recalled the words “you won’t find me here”.

Your book opened and validated something birthed in my spirit 25 years ago that God had begun, but my mind had no self-belief or confidence that I could possibly be hearing God correctly. Institutionally and culturally conditioned from my earliest years the frustration and disappointment of not finding intimacy with God were inevitable. They won’t give intimacy because they can’t! It was such a relief to know I had heard right! Unfortunately, it took me 25 years to find out.

So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore opened up the possibility that God can be known outside of the narrow religious framework I had known since a child. I realized I had always found it hard to trust God, particularly as “Father”. Due to my disfigured image of him, I really didn’t believe he could love me. The doorway into living loved and actually relaxing in the Father’s affection where trust is built on the truth of his character healed a deep emptiness I’d always carried. Realizing God is love, that it flows from him and is not contingent upon my or anyone’s approval lifted a huge weight off me.

Then it got even better. because it’s his love that drives transformation not the straight jacket of religious conformity. I found by resting in His presence I knew He was no longer a distant abstract concept – this was a game-changer.

That presence of the Spirit I felt that night has never left. It’s still tangibly here now as I write. While the last 2 1/2 years have been amazing, they have also been painfully challenging since I needed lots of healing. I spend a lot of time just sitting in His presence soaking Him up, sometimes saying very little, words often get in the way. I had always been an analytical thinker, but this was different. It was like the background landscape of my mind was being redrawn and colored in differently, making some old familiar thoughts look stupid. It’s generated a whole new stream of dialogue as the truth of love, trust, acceptance and no separation took hold. This felt relational, someone who was there even in the pain, not an abstract concept or distant angry deity.

I wanted to tell you that I’m so appreciative of what God does through you Wayne, it’s like you help people find the connection point that eludes them, then step back out of the way and let God do His thing. The significance of this cannot be underestimated, the airwaves, the internet, are awash with all kinds of truth peddlers, many using similar relational language, but much of it appears to be a cosmetic makeover of a well-run system underneath. I know attending a gathering is not the issue, but many people have been blinded by the veil of religion oblivious to the God who is right in front of them. It takes a lot of honest courage to break the persuasive bonds of religion, particularly when it’s subtle and appears logically true with historical tradition and numbers on their side.

Even 25 years ago I wondered how many believers on life support would survive if the machine were turned off. It is why your books, Lifestream and The God Journey continue to be such an important resource. Finding the beginning of the trail and starting down the path often lacks any outside assurance or validation, with so few cheerleaders. Thanks again Wayne, I read He Loves Me, Finding Church, and Beyond Sundays, All incredibly helpful, but also critical in reaching those like myself who just needed to find the connection or even the permission to believe the voice of dissatisfaction, just maybe the Father drawing them to himself.

The God Journey podcast, past, and present, has been such an encouragement, I have loved the conversations you’ve had with Kyle over the last year, particularly the subterranean move that’s going around the world giving an increasing sense that God is up to something quite different and possibly unprecedented. This is not just thanks from us but also an encouragement that what you do continues to make a significant real difference around the world.

Two and a half years down the trail the connection is real and just keeps growing regardless of circumstances.

I thought his story might encourage many of you, too.  Yes, there is lots of pain behind his story—years of frustration and disillusionment.

Of course, I don’t think my book did all of that. In stories like this, I’m convinced that something I wrote or said only serves to tap a deep well that has already been bubbling up unseen for some, and it isn’t going to be denied. Any number of other books or conversations could have been the catalyst for Father to satisfy that hunger. It’s significant, too, that the offer of a book also coincided with a crisis, which opened the door to some fresh thinking.  That is often true for many people. Sometimes we get stuck in comfortable, though fruitless, patterns, and only when life deals us a severe blow are we disoriented enough to look over where Jesus has been all along.

Then, the glory comes. In the midst of pain and crisis—Presence! If this man’s life is like mine, I doubt that’s the first time Father has made himself known. It’s just that our heart and head weren’t in a space to be able to recognize him and respond, especially if we’ve been shackled by the lies of religious performance.  But now, a different journey unfolds where we can walk with him through the things that concern us and find what we’ve always been seeking.

I hate that it took twenty-five years for this man, but it may be a reminder to us to not give up on our hunger because we’ve been disappointed in the short run. Can you hold your hunger to know him long enough for him to do the work to fulfill it?  For most of us, it won’t take twenty-five years, especially if we stay on the hunt—always watching to see where Father’s fingerprints are making his presence known. But even when it takes that long, the fruit of it is no less sweet as you can read above. We may think that’s a lot of wasted time, but I suspect that Father was working all along to prepare a heart ready to know him.

Even in a paralyzing crisis, he could recognize the challenge of darkness to distract him yet again from the work of Jesus. But this time, it didn’t succeed. He saw the threat alongside a new door that was opening and chose the door instead. I love that!

God wants us all to find him in his fullness. If what you’re doing isn’t working, consider that you may not be looking yet where he actually is.  Keep your heart open.  He’ll win this in you, too!

Watch What God Will Do

One of the reasons I post stuff like my It’s Time video or the blog on Joyfully Sober is to listen to what else the Spirit of God is whispering in people’s hearts around the world.

Paul indicated that the best any one of us sees is like looking through a dimmed mirror (I Corinthians 13:12-13. We get glimpses of his work and heart, seeing in part but never the complete picture. The Church, on the other hand, “is the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:23) When we add our glimpses alongside those of others, we’ll have a fuller picture of his work in us.

Of course, by “the Church,” Paul wasn’t talking about our institutions, denominations, or even religious leaders, but those children who are in touch with his heart and who follow the voice of the Shepherd. I love listening alongside the many others I’m related to worldwide.

After posting my latest blog, I received three emails within two days with a similar theme—recognizing his work and embracing it rather than getting him to bless ours.

From Darlene:

Looking forward to all that Abba has in store for us this day…year and as I was feeling a bit overwhelmed one day through all that is happening, I asked, “How do we move forward, what is it we’re to do, how do we live in this time?” I heard Him say, “stay calm, and carry on, and stand back and see the salvation of the Lord”.

From Sylvia:

Your blog post, Joyfully Sober, resonated so deeply with me. We first met over a decade ago in Alaska. Since then, my husband and I have lived in Denmark for 5 years, and now in Colorado. We bought a home where shortly after a wildfire roared through, devastating over one-third of our neighborhood. It surrounded our house, coming within only a few feet of destroying it, but our home was preserved. Daily, as I meet with the Lord, I look out charred trees on the mountainside, wondering what new life might be growing under the blackened earth. What are those seeds… and how are they like the kingdom God is revealing in his sons and daughters?

So, today I’ve read and re-read your message. It has stirred up a new sense of joy within me, seeing that this is the work of glory that God is revealing across the Body of Christ. The “whatever-it-takes” prayers. I also admit that since this pandemic began, I’ve felt a sense of disturbed exasperation with church leaders who just want things to “return to normal”… as soon as possible. Can’t they see in this the wonderful cleansing, subterranean work of the Spirit?!

“Be patient, Sylvia, hold space for the coming of the Lord, for he is indeed coming.”

And you are right to say there’s no hurry. The wilderness experience creates within us a new, slower sense of time. A quietness and indifference. A spacious place where we’ve made room to be able to receive God’s seeds.

I want to give you a warning before sharing this last one. Do not try this at home. Robin is the man who wrote me the original question I posted in my previous blog. As God was leading Robin through this process he describes, this was not Robin presuming to do something outlandish by his reasoning. It is the opposite of that, and it turned out disastrous when others tried to follow his insight without the same leading. Here’s the story he told me:

We live and farm in South Australia on 400mm (15 inches) of rainfall; our summers are dry and hot. We grow one crop per year—cereals, canola, and pulses.

About eight years ago, soon after we stepped out of the institutional church, Father clearly told me while I was harvesting canola to plant all our canola stubble to sorghum. Sorghum is never grown in our area; it is a crop of high rainfall areas.

Obediently we sowed on one paddock, though not all we were supposed to. Our farm advisor thought we were crazy, but he let us buy the seed with convincing. We only received a small amount of rainfall that summer, yet the sorghum flourished (see picture above). Cars, farm advisors, and photographers regularly stopped and walked out into our field.

After several months, it was getting close to harvest, and we were impatient because we wanted to prepare the ground before the opening rains to plant wheat. When we thought it was ready to harvest, we took the combine to the paddock, where we heard Father say, “No, it’s not time.” Thinking I knew better, I reaped about a ton anyway. In Australia, our grain moisture has to be 12% or under but this measured 25%. So, we bagged it and left the combine. The next day, the grain was filled with worms and was useless, even to feed the cattle.

We left it for a week and tried again, only to hear Father say, “No, it’s not time.” The grain measured 20%. A couple of days later, I jumped in the combine to harvest when I got a phone call from a brother. He felt Father telling him to ring me and say, “No, it’s not time.”

By this time, we were getting anxious because winter rains were forecast, and it was getting close to the time to sow wheat. To hurry up the process, we sprayed the sorghum with a chemical to hurry the drying process. After a week, we tried again, again Fathers spoke, “No, it’s not time.” By this time, the moisture had gone to 30%, the highest it had ever read.

The very next day, Father spoke again, “It’s time.” It would have been impossible for the moisture to come down in that time, but when we measured it, it was under 12%. We harvested the paddock on the last acre, the opening rains started, and it has been wet from then on.

So that’s my story. I think Father is showing me that there is a great harvest coming, but he alone will do it. It will not be as before; it will be done through intimacy with Him in obedience, faith, and trust.

The time of us doing it with our own agendas needs to be over. It doesn’t produce the Father’s harvest and is often counterproductive. Perhaps this will be the harvest of the last times, where our certainty is Jesus. He alone will build His church. He has and is preparing her for the days to come

By the way, many farmers in our area and beyond tried planting sorghum in the following years, they all failed.

Hence you can see my interest when you heard “It is time.”

I love that story on so many levels—God speaking, the risk in following, the amazement of others, the attempts to take control in his own strength, and in the end, God having his way. I even like that it didn’t work when others tried the same thing in their own strength. And for what purpose was all this? Would God go to such lengths to help someone learn that listening to God is the way to live? I think so, and he does it so playfully, too.

The hardest thing for us to do in our painful circumstances is to “stand by and see the salvation of God.” We are too busy trying to fix things on our own or getting God to fix them our way. Instead, he wants us to listen, see his way forward, and trust him in the unfolding.

And trusting is not just waiting or presuming; trusting is believing what we’ve heard from him.

Joyfully Sober

(Note: This is a copy of newsletter I sent out quarterly-ish out to my email list. If you you’re not on it and want to be you can sign up here.) 

First, I want to express my gratefulness for the rain that has fallen on Southern California this month. We’ve been in a severe drought and have had almost eight inches of rain in December, half of that yesterday. Our average rainfall is about thirteen inches per year. So, this has been a bit much for some locales, but we’ve needed this water desperately, and it’s a joy to sit here and type, watching the rain continue to fall. It is spectacular!

Now, let me share a question I received a few weeks ago. Today seems like a good day to answer it. This was from Robin:

A few months ago, you received “It has started.”

Have you seen or heard any more from Father about this? I know my Spirit is waiting for a move from Father, don’t know what it is or what it will look like, knowing Him it will be something that is not what we thought. Have seen Him prepare and place the same thing in people’s hearts all around the world, they are sitting under rocks, unseen.

Some are growing impatient and moving on or going with their own agendas thinking that’s it. So I am curious to hear what you are hearing.

I’m sure he is referring to a video from last April, from a recent burn scar in the Sierras with my grandkids. That devastation I witnessed stirred in my heart over the next couple of days. As I held those emotions before God one day, I sensed him saying, “It’s time.” Immediately my mind filled with the words of Romans 8. Paul writes about the Creation and its eager expectation for God to be revealed through the glory of his children so that it could be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into its own freedom and glory.

Yes, Robin, I have heard and seen so much more that excites my heart. It has begun, and like a tiny seed planted in a dark void, it will continue to grow in ways that won’t draw attention to itself. I see it in my times with Father, and I hear it reverberate in almost every conversation I have. There’s a hunger rising and with it a freshening wind of spiritual insight. God has prepared many people over many decades for this season. I also see it growing in the hearts of young people, even though they may not know it’s Jesus at work in them yet. I recently talked about this on a podcast a The God Journey. If you missed it, you can hear it here.

It may only be a stirring in our hearts at this point, like yeast spreading through the bread dough. It will not look like the revivals of the past because it will not be in the hands of any one person or spring up in any location. You won’t read about it in the Christian media or see it in flashy Sunday gatherings. His work is hidden now, as it has to be so that would-be leaders won’t try to take possession of it or attempt to market or manage it for their own gain. You won’t find by looking to someone else to show you the way but by looking inward at the seed of his glory growing in you. Lean into that reality and ask him to show you how. Hold that space before him for weeks, months if need be. There’s no hurry here, just the sweet invitation to come closer and connect with his heartbeat that is growing inside you.

So, yes, it is time! God’s glory is growing in the earth so that people can know who he really is by the way we demonstrate his reality to others. As 2022 begins, I find my heart is growing joyfully sober. There’s a seriousness growing in my heart, and I find myself praying a lot of whatever-it-takes prayers. You know the ones—”Whatever it takes, God, I want to know you as you are and be transformed into your image.”  In recent years, God’s name has been disfigured, not so much by his enemies by those who claim to be his followers while only seeking glory, power, or comfort. Their selfishness, anger, fear, and greed have made people turn away, disgusted by their perception of God. It is time for God to show himself once again as the most endearing presence in the universe, and that, through lives, transformed to reflect that glory in their daily interactions.

That’s how Jesus encouraged us to face troubled times by being sober and vigilant, but don’t read fear or anguish into that. Those awaiting the bridegroom do so with joy and anticipation. Joyfully sober. We are on the precipice of something fresh God is seeding into the world. If this isn’t the end of the age, this is one of those seasons that foretell it. There is trouble afoot; great anger and hatred rule humanity, and severe days of reckoning may well be at hand. But against that void, the light of God’s character will shine even brighter as he reflects himself in you. Even in the most painful circumstances and moments of great stress, Jesus’ reality will put a song in your heart and wisdom to our course.

That’s the conversation I want to be in over this next season. I want to find ways to encourage that process and equip hungry hearts to live more securely in his love, more at rest in his work, and more at play with his wisdom. I have no idea of what’s to come, just a growing desire to wake up in him each morning and see what he allows to unfold in my heart. Yesterday morning, I outlined what may be my next book in a couple of hours. It’s a guide to help people understand how Jesus works in us so that we can ride the wind of the Spirit in the truth of what God speaks to us.

So, blessed New Year, everyone! This is a good time to lean into your heart and see how Jesus is making himself known to you and how he wants to take shape in you. None of that will come by human effort, but as you simply make space in your heart for what he reveals to you and believe him as he transforms you with his glory. He will show you what it means for you to become one with the love he wants to reveal to you and pour through you to refresh the hearts of others.

Jesus told us that such days call us to be sober and vigilant, but that isn’t with fear and anxiety. Sober, yes, but joyfully so! God is on the move. The wind has freshened; the fog is lifting, new adventures await.

A Distant Fire

I got this email a couple of weeks ago from Jack, a good friend in South Carolina. He describes so well what religious obligation can do to destroy the great adventure of engaging the transcendent God of the universe and learning to follow him through the brokenness of this age.

Life in him is full of wonder, mystery, and adventure rather than simply settling into a stagnant routine that no longer quickens the hart.

Kyle Rice and I discuss this email on today’s episode of The God Journey – Recovering Mystery. I knew some of you would like to have it in print as well:

As much I have tried to live inside the Christian faith with the rule of scripture and abundance of obligation, I have touched upon a most unsettling truth. I wonder if I lost something early on in my childhood that stopped me from seeing the mystery in things? Perhaps it was in the growing up that plowed over my sense of mystery. Perhaps it was the becoming a man, that part of being sure of oneself, left off no room for wonder. Maybe it has been the rush to be right.

I don’t know why I lost my sense of wonder. Of great mystery of and in life and in things in particular but, like the dull and faded paint job on an old, old house, there was something once beautiful and today, it has faded. There seems to be a way to control oneself in the course of “normal Christian life” and to that end, tame the Lion of Judah. Maybe it has been covered up in the preaching and teaching of principles and keys of the Christian life. All those good but still left off in the mystery I am realizing that every principle and keys seems shallow, ill fitting, clumsy and useless. I wonder if those that have the most to lose in this “wonder” are those who have paid the most into the formulaic principles of Christianity; those whose needs and egos to control were fashioned in the halls of established religion. Mostly, and most assuredly the doctrines of being Right. Establishment, Creeds, Observation of days and events, Doctrines, rituals, sanctimony and sanctuary and so many more building blocks to dull the heart and blind the soul to the wonder found in the mystery of Christ. We can’t have mystery in the normal Christian faith.

Perhaps they believe in no more mystery and wonder beyond the Incarnation. If we never encounter the mystery of the fellowship with Jesus. We will put other things in that space. Religious things, principles, obligations, appeasements and the likes. Mostly because those who are so called teachers do not know or have not known the expression of life found in a real, living relationship with Jesus- the mystery of falling in love with him. After all the time, I am finding little else but empty cans of beans and burnt marshmallows. Today, I do smell smoke but, from a distant fire. The fire of the Creator of the universe who fashioned us for life and for the love of it gave us the only remedy for it—Jesus Christ.

The wonder and mystery of this for me, is the beginning of all things new. My hearts desire is to know him in the way and ways he wants to reveal himself to me. No formula. No keys. No principles. Just Him. I have the Spirit of Christ in me. Surely this is enough. Finally, I have started to see this—the Mystery that has been kept secret from before the foundation of the world…..what a treasure this is!

Treasure indeed!  When the possibility of what Jesus might show you today or where he might lead you no longer sparks wonder and awe in your heart, it’s time to pause and ask him to help you recapture the mystery of Christ in you the Hope of Glory. (Colossians 1:27)

When Spiritual Panic Creeps In

‘Tis the season to be panicked….”

OK, not really, but that’s how it feels for many people. Meeting all the expectations for a meaningful holiday season, navigating the toxic people in your family, or marking the passing of another year without the changes you had hoped to see in your life, can draw our minds into some pretty dark space.

I get that email often. “I am overwhelmed by all life is hurling at me. My prayers don’t work and I’m wondering if God even cares about me. I don’t know how to fix it. Help!” You can hear it even through their email—the breathlessness of their exhaustion and the fear that they will not make it much longer. Spiritual panic is being overwhelmed by challenging circumstances and not being certain that God is there to help you.

Finding peace during turmoil is not about praying the right prayers or trying to figure it all out in your head. The harder you try, the more panicked you’ll become.  At times like that, I find it helpful to remind myself to do what Jesus asked of Nicodemus in John 3. He told him he needed to be born again, and he wasn’t talking about walking down the Roman Road and punching his get-out-of-hell-free card. He meant Nicodemus needed to discard all the religious conclusions he’d made about God and himself and let the Spirit take the opportunity to carry him into a new way of living.

We can’t do this on our own. We’re like that little child in the picture above. When his hand slides under ours all we need to do is take hold. That’s what we offer—a willing heart for the Spirit’s work to unfold in us. The simple prayer is, “Will you lead me into the Father’s life?” And that’s not a once-in-a-lifetime prayer to secure our salvation but a daily prayer that helps us be open to his work instead of trying to fix things on our own.

That’s it.

Then, let him teach you how to rest in his care for you. He will accomplish this in his time and his way. You can’t fix what’s wrong with your life; you can only relax into the reality that he can. I know that’s hard to do in human terms, but he will help you learn to settle into his love. You don’t have to “have faith” in the specific outcomes you want. All you have to do is remember that you are not alone, the God of the universe deeply loves you, and that he wants to hold you in his love and guide you through the situations that confront you. He is your way through the challenges you face.

So, when life seems to get away from you, slow down. Take a deep breath. Stop looking way down the road with your worries and fears. Ask yourself if you have enough for today. Jesus told us that grace is given in daily doses, which is why worrying about our imagined futures is so debilitating. Today, he is with us. When we put ourselves into the future we’re afraid of, we are alone there. The human mind can’t imagine what form grace might take in our worst fears.

When you feel lost and shattered, remember you are not lost to him. He knows where you are and is already inviting you into a freer space. Stay inside this day and follow whatever nudge he seems to place on your heart. You don’t have to figure it all out. You don’t have to contrive a strategy. Just follow as you see the way and, where you don’t, simply occupy a space of love and goodness toward others until his direction appears.

In his incredibly insightful booklet, David Morsey in On Being Led by the Spirit, wrote this:

Trust the Lord to work out His purposes with our life, in spite of your fluctuating feelings and human inadequacy, to make the right decisions. Put your whole life in his hands and ask Him to work out His will in spite of you. That is your ultimate safeguard.

I know how scary that prospect can be because everyone else encourages us to put our trust in them and their resources.  Most of them will invite us to trust in some principle or program. Even if it’s a spiritual program, that doesn’t mean it will connect you with his Spirit.

God wants you to be secure in his love and at rest in his work. Learn the joy of that, and no circumstance or set of circumstances will ever threaten you again. And, if you need help, you might ask God if there’s someone around you who can encourage you in these things, even if you haven’t met them yet. Look for someone who is at peace themselves and not building anything they want to hook you into.

Please don’t focus on the uncertainty of what you don’t know; focus instead on the certainty of who he is. Let him bring the light to you as you’re learning to follow. The reason that can seem so difficult is that it’s far simpler than we dare to believe. Learning his ways is not a road map to memorize but an inner reality to follow. It is far better explored than explained, so we can take it one day at a time.  He has all the resources you need to find the simplicity of living as his beloved child.

Because that’s exactly who you are.

___________

One final note… Kyle and Wayne process their time last weekend with a group of twenty- and thirty-year-olds in the mountains of Colorado on today’s edition of The God Journey. In the process, they talk about what they all learned about holding space inside the Father’s work, a wonderful lesson for all of us.

He Reveals; We Respond

I was a guest on a podcast yesterday recorded by two South Africans, one still in his home country, and the other recently moved to Holland.  What a delighful conversation. They asked me questions about my journey that pulled things out of me in ways I had never shared before. I saw some of my past journey in new ways, which both surprised and blessed me. I ‘ll let you know when it is posted online.

One bit of the conversation we stumbled into was how I help people find the trailhead when they’ve grown exhausted or disillusioned with the religious performance treadmill so embedded in our institutional approach to the religion we call Christianity. I was taught that God’s blessing was the reward for our diligent effort to believe the doctrines and abide by the rituals and ethics that Scripture teaches us.  I found myself responding this way:

For a long time, what I taught was human effort. We know more truth than we live, so we always feel the compulsion to try harder. But what the new covenant says at it its heart is that this is a transformation fed by his revelation not by our performance. It begins with God revealing; it doesn’t begin with us seeking.  That’s true as much when we come in the door as it is in how I live my life today. This is not Wayne seeking from God what Wayne wants but asking God each day, “What do you want to reveal to me, and who do you want me to love today?

Everything about life in Jesus is summed up in this—he reveals and we respond, not we achieve and he rewards.

To cease striving in our own self-effort we have to believe that God loves us enough to guide our journey into his glory. That’s the challenge. We fear nothing will happen if we are not putting in our best effort. Until we stopy, however, we won’t let God have the lead in this dance. Remember, no one comes to Jesus unless the Father draws him, and that desire. you have to know him is that drawing.

The journey doesn’t begin as we try to implement someone’s well-meaning discipleship program; it begins with him showing us something about himself that will help us navigate the day that spreads out before us. Following him is where life begins. Each day, we are on a treasure hunt for his glory as he is revealing it on that day, not trying to convince a reluctant God who would rather withhold his glory until we earn it.

If that’s not real to you, simply ask him to show you. He wants this for you more than you want it for yourself.

___________

For your thoughts and prayers:  Thursday, I’m off to Colorado to join some twenty and thirty somethings in the mountains above Colorado Springs. His Spirit is stirring in a younger generation to be agents of his glory in this broken world. I’m looking forward, along with Kyle, to see what God shows us about that work and how some of us in my age-bracket can come alongside that work and encourage them as God reveals himself. I’m sure we’ll have more to share afterwards.

 

The Changes His Love Brings

I receive some of the most amazing emails in my inbox, detailing people’s stories and how intersecting some of my books or podcasts has helped affirm what the Spirit had already been speaking into their hearts.  I don’t always get to meet those who write them, though. On my most recent trip, I got to visit with Celia Layman right near where I took that picture above. She wrote me a couple of years ago about the transformation in her life that began with someone telling her about He Loves Me.

The trajectory her life has taken, and how it has helped her navigate these difficult days encouraged me and I think she might inspire you as well.

I can still picture the bench near an indoor climbing wall in Charlottesville, Virginia where I was sitting with a friend when she shared with me about a book she was reading. She began to tell me how learning to “live loved” had changed the way in which she lived each day. My interest was immediately piqued and got my own copy of He Loves Me!

Your writing has helped me to find my own voice as I have processed my own journey out of religious obligation and outward performance to learning how to live under the cover of His wings. Reading So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore a few years ago gave me a clear understanding of why I was so restless in my church. Not long after, God led our family to a new faith community that is “far more centered on relationship than religion” and where “those who act as leaders are true servants” (p.185). I read Beyond Sundays this past summer along with several other books by other authors. Your book deepened my understanding that the church “cannot be contained or managed in any human organization” (p. 21).

I have also been listening much more regularly to The God Journey podcasts and I really enjoy your Lifestream blog posts. Sometimes it really does seem like your perspective on politics, church, and Scripture and the overlap of these three is the only public voice with which I can wholeheartedly identify.

I also began to be mindful of the people whom God has placed in my life who are cynical at best when it comes to their concept of American “Christianity”. I began to want to see my “in-group” through their eyes. So, this past summer when I heard about the soon-to-be-released A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation, I could not wait to get my copy. It has helped me to develop a clearer understanding of why the world often has a negative perception of Christians. And gave me the concepts and words I needed to be able to express why it is so important that we seek to have a growth mindset.

I believe that our trust cannot be placed in an earthly leader or agenda. Any leader will fall terribly short of promises made, policies proposed, and slogans pitched. When we let our hope rest in these, we will be gravely disappointed. Even beyond that, when we look towards earthly leaders for Light, our vision dims. Then we can no longer see our responsibility to walk with justice, mercy, and humility while abiding in peace, resting in strength, and sharing love… as we change the world… one life at a time, especially in a time as uncertain as this.

This book prepared me on two levels. One, to have space for an even deeper compassion for those who have suffered mistreatment and inequality. It prepared me to hear their desperate cries for help and not look away or justify. Two, it prepared me to have patient and calm discussions with white people who do not yet see the depth of the racial issues we face, as well as to listen with compassion to my friends of color who need a safe place to be seen and heard. Thank you for all you have done to address these issues head-on from a place of both grace and truth.

Yet throughout this time, I sensed that God had been preparing me for this challenge and that some pruning that took place during the quarantine period had freed me emotionally and relationally in ways that I can now see as I look back on the summer. Even with meeting new people with facial coverings and working under heightened stress, I sensed an undergirding strength and a new space in which to engage brand new people beyond the surface level and I found myself ready to listen and pick up on cues that the conversation would take a spiritual turn.

In one conversation, a co-worker casually said that her family were not “church people”. I told her that I was not a “church person” either and that we had found a loosely structured faith community that is authentic and that we were done with traditional church. That got her attention and she shared about her husband growing up as a Baptist preacher’s son and the negative impact that his growing up years had on him. She listened as I told her about how I’ve discovered a relationship with God that is totally separate from religion. I shared about your books (mainly He Loves Me and So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore). She was very open. From then on, our conversations always cut right through superficial talk as time allowed.

The Embracing His Glory episodes have been a balm for my spirit this summer. #6 deeply resonated with me and I have listened to it at least 4 times… the parts about being able to hold temporal things at bay and being a bridge from the seen world to the unseen world encouraged and challenged me!

Your work allowed me to keep up with the social and political issues of these times without being overtaken by the clamor of a media-driven culture. Your perspective helps me guard against the pull to get caught up in a swirl of spins and emotional rhetoric. It reminds me of the danger of getting caught in an undertow that wants to pull me down and keep me entangled in darkness beneath the surface. I don’t want to live down there where I can’t breathe. Thank you for helping me to be able to be present for those I care most about!

Your work has helped me to be intentional about living above the fray and to not give too much of my time and attention away to issues I am powerless to change. I do have a vision of how I can positively impact my tiny corner of the world during these difficult times.

I anticipate the day when you will be able to travel and share in person… maybe here in Virginia one day!

I love stories of transformation and am greatly encouraged that some of the resources at Lifestream.org and TheGodJourney.com were part of helping her see what Father wanted her to see.  And who would have thought two years later her anticipation would come true as we sat down one afternoon together in the Shenandoah Valley to celebrate what God has done in both our lives.

I love the family that Jesus is knitting together around the whole world and how Jesus is taking shape in his people.

Finding My Peace in Him

“God wants to wean us from depending on earthly circumstances for peace.”

I read that statement yesterday in a little book I found on my desk the other day. I don’t even remember who sent it to me or when. It is called On Being Led by the Spirit written by David Morsey.  This simple booklet contains a lot of profound counsel on shifting our attention away from the distractions of this world to help us discern better the voice of the Spirit. The one I quote above got me musing on many things yesterday as I was preparing to fly to Virginia today and then hop over to Maryland the following weekend.  (If you want to catch up with me there, you can see my Travel Page for details.)

So often, we pray for peaceful circumstances or for a peaceful feeling to fill us from nowhere and are disappointed when those prayers aren’t answered.  What God has in mind is drawing us so close to him that he holds our hearts at rest no matter what we’re facing. We are never alone and never without a way through the worst that life can throw at us. And, when he becomes our peace, no circumstance can steal it.

That got me thinking about some other things throughout the day yesterday:

  • If I look for peace in my circumstances, I will not have his peace when bad times come.
  • If I look for him to provide the circumstantial outcomes I desire, I will fall victim to any deception that comforts me rather than seeing what better options he has in mind.
  • If I look for his wisdom in what I already know, how can I grow to know him better?  
  • If I look for validation from what others think of me, I am owned by anyone willing to lie about me. 
  • If I am concerned with appearances, I won’t be able to see what’s true.
  • If I only love people I deem worthy of it, I won’t love the people who need it most.
All this reminded me of a quote I read from Henri J. M Nouwen recently:

There is no such thing as the right place, the right job, the right calling or ministry. I can be happy or unhappy in all situations. I am sure of it, because I have been. I have felt distraught and joyful in situations of abundance as well as poverty, in situations of popularity and anonymity, in situations of success and failure. The difference was never based on the situation itself, but always on my state of mind and heart. When I knew I was walking with God, I always felt happy and at peace. When I was entangled in my own complaints and emotional needs, I always felt restless and divided.

The abundant life is not having all we want in this age, but in having him regardless of what this age throws at us—the peace that is incomprehensible given the challenges I might be in, the joy that runs deeper than my preferences, and the courage that comes from a greater source than our own strength. And what a great field of learning this gives me. When I don’t have peace, I can ask him to teach me how to find my refuge in him. When my best wisdom fails me, I can ask him to show me his. When I’m fearful or angry, I can learn how to lean into his goodness and know that I’m safe no matter what might come.  

Can you imagine what a people like that would offer the world?

 

I Don’t Believe You

Four times in a brief conversation, he looked me in the eye and angrily stated, “I don’t believe you.”

This came from a close friend, one with whom I’ve walked for many years. He was asking me some direct questions, and I was answering them honestly. However, he wasn’t getting the answers he wanted, and instead of letting that shift his assumptions, he chose to double down on his false accusations. At one point, he even said, “God has told me not to trust anything you say.” There it was, the God card, used to trump the relationship. A friendship can’t exist where words are not trusted.

Admittedly, this man had been engaged in gossip about me by others who intended to destroy our relationship and get their own way with him. I knew it had been going on, but I did not want to join that game to fight it.  I hoped our years of relationship would have counted for something. They haven’t yet, but still, I wasn’t going to repeatedly answer ridiculous allegations for someone who no longer cared what was true.

It’s incredible how people can express love and respect for you in one breath and call you a liar with their next.  I believe in you; I just don’t believe you. 

I’ve been down this road before; so has Jesus.  I know this will be hard to hear for some, but the essence of the Gospel is not that we believe in him. That’s easy to do. Many profess Jesus to be their Lord and Savior, who will not believe him when he seeks to reveal his truth to them. Professing belief in Christ will not lead you to his fullness. We only get there by believing him when he shows us what’s true, especially when it’s something we don’t want to be true.

That’s what is going on with Peter in the story Matthew tells (Matthew 16). Jesus asked him who people said that he was and then asked Peter what he thought.  His resounding affirmation of who Christ was, “the Son of the Living God,” is one of his greatest moments, and Jesus is thrilled with his answer. He tells Peter that he is a rock, and on that rock, he would build his church.  Peter believes in him. When Jesus went on, however, to say he was headed to Jerusalem to be delivered over to the leaders of the city where he would suffer at their hands and die, Peter would have none of it. He discounts the very words of the one he just proclaimed to be God’s Son.

Of course, Peter couldn’t see the necessity of his friend’s death in Jerusalem and wanted to prevent it. In Peter’s response, however, Jesus hears the voice of Satan and rebukes him. “You are only looking out for your own interests, not God’s.”  It is one thing to believe in Jesus and quite another to believe him when his interests run counter to ours.

I have often caught myself arguing with thoughts in my head that I had to admit later were God’s leading. When he invites us into his reality, it will challenge our own comfort and the false conclusions others have sown in our hearts. This is the crux of faith, not a doctrinal stand about the nature of Christ, but learning to believe him when he nudges us into his reality is the essence of discipleship. What good is it to believe in him if we don’t believe him when he speaks?

He wants to show you what’s real and not real about the circumstances you swim in, the lies you’ve been convinced of, and the selfish motives you are serving to your own hurt. Following him at moments like that is what will lead you into the joy and power of his kingdom.  If we choose not to see or believe him when his reality conflicts with our own preferences, we aren’t following him. We’re just following our inclinations and signing his name to it.

It’s time for a new generation of men and women not just to profess a belief in him but actually to learn to follow even in the most challenging thing he might ask of us. Those who help transform the world know his love enough to recognize his voice and trust his intentions toward them enough to follow him even when we prefer not to. People who pray at his leading even when it is counter to their interests, and follow him even when it’s not their preference, become agents of his glory in a broken world. Discovering what he wants you to know, no matter how uncomfortable, is the way to live. Everything else is just a smokescreen, even our most passionate confessions.

The most significant transformations in my life have often come after the most painful obediences where I was being nudged to act in ways my flesh resisted. In time, however, when I could enjoy the fruit of my following, I was so grateful I’d taken the road he invited me down. When I expressed my gratitude to him for all that followed, I’ve heard him say things like, “I simply showed you what was true, and you dared to believe me.”

That daring to believe him rarely comes easily, but I have never regretted it. This is what believing him means.

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.
But these are written that you may believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in his name.

John 20:30-31

_______________________________

Many of my previous blogs and articles like this have been compiled into a 365-day devotional to encourage your heart into the greater realities of living loved and recognizing his ways. You can order your copy of  Live Loved Free Full here.

Why Are You So Afraid?

Most days, I get an email from someone reading Live Loved Free Full, telling me how much the reflection of that day was perfectly tailored to a specific circumstance in their life, or it was just the encouragement they needed for that day. The other day someone said it was their favorite from all the books I’ve written. To be honest, Sara and I are reading it too, and appreciate the space it draws us into with Jesus. Here’s a reflection that touched us back from September 11, and is particularly appropriate for the trying times we live in:

Looking to him instead of focusing on our circumstances alone is a constant challenge but it is the way to Life. We are never alone, never without his care to walk with us through those things that seek to overwhelm us. With eyes on him, he will not only comfort us but also give us the wisdom and courage we need to negotiate what’s before us and see his glory unfold in it.

I’m deeply touched by the email I get from this book and appreciate those of you who take the time to write and let me know.  If you don’t have your copy yet, now may be the time to order your copy of Live Loved Free Full.

And while you’re at it, this beautiful book makes an excellent Christmas present for someone you love who might be able to use the same daily encouragement. They may end up thanking you all year long.

Order your copies here.  

What Do You See?

I got an email a few days ago with this picture in it and this comment:  “It is difficult to understand how anyone would consider its life as less than a butterfly.”

I smiled when I read that. Several years ago, I would have seen this as less than a butterfly, especially if it were eating the plants in our backyard. I would have regarded it as a pest, having no idea it was a Monarch butterfly in the making.  I probably would have killed it so it wouldn’t destroy Sara’s plants. I know better now because of this woman. I met her many years ago in upstate Wisconsin on a trip there. She raised butterflies and brought some over so we could watch them crawl out of their chrysalis. I had never seen that before, and it was wondrous.

Since then, Sara and I have had a butterfly garden of our own where we’ve watched many caterpillars like this one feed off our plants until they crawl off to form a chrysalis and, after a few days, emerge as the butterfly you see below. When I see one of these devouring our milkweed plants, I see a butterfly in process. It makes my heart as happy to see one of these yellow, black, and white striped caterpillars knowing that a new butterfly is in the world.

I love what she said about seeing the butterfly in the caterpillar. What if we did that for ourselves? What if we saw the incorruptible and immortal being that God is bringing into existence? We can look beyond the limitations and foibles of the day to realize what we already are in him. His transformation may not yet be evident on the outside, but the DNA is already there. A caterpillar is a butterfly in process. The people I know who live with the most contentment on this journey have grown comfortable with the process of Jesus’ transformation. He continually takes people who are twisted up in the appetites of this world and the lies of religious performance and untangles them so that they can become all that he created them to be. We yearn to emerge in all the beauty God has put in us, and when we see ourselves fall short of that glory, we can grow easily frustrated with ourselves or God. What if we already saw the butterfly in the caterpillar?

Instead of wishing to be a butterfly, we might enjoy being a caterpillar and doing what caterpillars do as his process of growing us and shaping us. That’s fun for him too. He doesn’t just enjoy you when you’re a full-fledged butterfly but delights in the butterfly already inside you. We are not going to be sons and daughters of God someday; we already are! That would help us with others, too. How much more carefully would we treat others around us if we didn’t see how far short they fell of butterfly beauty today and embraced with them the process they are in of being transformed into his glory?

My friend concluded a subsequent email this way:  “It is a lovely process, isn’t it? I grin from ear to ear as I grow in recognition of how I get to participate in the unfolding. He is so awesome despite very challenging times when I am being stretched to the limit emotionally.”

Selah!

Trust him to see you through the process. Learn to enjoy every bit of it because I suspect he does. And maybe in some sense, all of our life here is caterpillar time and only at the Resurrection of all things will we become in form what we’ve always been in his heart.

Only the Hungry

Living Loved – Fall 2021

Note: this is a copy of my infrequent newsletter, sent out Wednesday.

When I returned from Australia a couple of decades ago, having heard a powerful narrative about what happened between a Father and a Son on a cross that secured our freedom to embrace a loving Father, I still wasn’t sure if it was true. I hadn’t heard this story before even though I’d been in supposedly Bible-believing environments all my life.  But I came back to explore that story with God, the Scriptures, and significant people in my life to see if those things were so.

I’ll never forget one of those conversations. As I shared what I was learning with a close friend, he just kept nodding and saying “Yes, yes.” None of what I said was new to him. When I was done, he looked at me, “Wayne, this is marvelous. I have believed these things for a long time and know they are true.”

I was shocked! How? “Why haven’t you ever talked to me about this?” I asked him.

“I tried many times,” he said, “but you just wouldn’t listen.”  I had no reason to doubt him, but as I have thought through the many times we were together, I can’t recall one time where the atonement or cross had even come up. Any such talk had sailed right over my head and I had missed it. I guess I was so distracted by other things that I wasn’t available to hear then what would so profoundly shape my life years later.

Jesus knew that, too. He told a parable about a man who hosted a great banquet, telling his servant to go invite his friends to come. What he got back were excuses of people too busy to come. They all had great excuses, but they would still miss the banquet. Saddened, he told his servant to go to the highways and byways and invite anyone—the poor, the sick, the lame—so that the feast would be full.  Then, Jesus made a painful conclusion, those who are too busy with life will miss out on the wonder of his kingdom. Ouch!  I’m grateful Jesus is patient enough to invite us again and again and I’m glad I was finally in a place to hear it.

Sara and I notice that, too.  When God puts someone on our hearts to get with someone, we usually invite them to dinner. At first, they are usually very excited, but they have so many commitments and distractions that they are never free to come. For some, I know they are missing out on a gift God wants to give them but they are too driven by circumstance to see it. And busyness isn’t the only way to miss his entreaties, as with my story above, my heart was not available when the truth comes knocking. When I talk to people I often make a comment or pose a question that will open a door to something I sense God wants them to know. Often, people completely miss the invitation. Even when I circle back, their minds are so distracted, or their course so certain, they aren’t available to hear it.

Back in the day when I was a pastor, I spent ninety percent of my energy trying to motivate the complacent. How could I engage them with God’s life, our programs, his truth? People were too busy and too distracted. It was exhausting and often disappointing because people thought they already had what they needed and weren’t hungry enough to let God teach them how to really follow him. In contrast, over the past twenty-five years, I’ve spent the vast majority of my time with people who are hungry for something more real in their life, and it has been a joy. You can’t force-feed someone the life of Jesus. You can offer it, but if they don’t rise to the invitation, you’ll discover that your time is better invested in those who are already hungry. Jesus knew that. He said he wasn’t seeking ninety-nine percent who didn’t know they were sick, but for the one percent who were looking for help.

Spiritual hunger is a great gift; complacency a killjoy. When I’m trying to help someone see a better path, and they are too mired in their illusions to recognize the opportunity, it makes my heart hurt. I know they are looking for answers, but unfortunately, it’s in all the wrong places. It’s like sitting down to dinner with a friend, knowing there’s a $100,000 check for him under the placemat. You can’t tell him it’s there though, you can only try to get him to look. You make all kinds of suggestions and hints, even suggesting he flip over his placemat, but he waves me off as if the idea is nonsense or too much trouble to move all that’s sitting on top of it.

It’s because he doesn’t know and he’s not hungry enough for what might be out there to realize the opportunity before him.  I think I know a bit of how that feels to God. You can point people down a different path that will bring the wisdom and fullness they are seeking, but it isn’t down the road they want to go down. Or, they start down it and are soon distracted by “the worries of this life of the deceitfulness of riches” to stay the course.

He constantly circles back, however, to nudge us toward the life that really is life. Hunger, especially for spiritual reality, will help you be in a place to recognize those moments. Without it, you won’t grow. Cultivating a hunger for the presence and wisdom of Jesus is going to be especially critical in these coming days of shifting tides, both with the delusion leading people astray and with a fresh breath of the Spirit to cause the light of God’s glory to rise inside the darkness.

How do we maintain a hungry heart? Here are a few ideas that help me.

  • First of all, keep learning the joy of living loved. Resting in his love makes you most available to the light Jesus wants to give you.
  • Maintain a growth-mindedness. At your best, you’re only seeing a small slice of all that is true or even what’s going on in your circumstances. You can live confidently in what you think he’s shown you, but continue through life like you’re on a treasure hunt looking for the next insight or leading the Spirit has for you. The best God gives us on any day is enough light to take the next step. Don’t fall for the false comfort of thinking you have it all figured out or you’ll end up forcing your way rather than seeing his.
  • Be flexible to the opportunities God puts in front of you to learn something new or love someone new. We can fill our schedules so full, there’s no room for the spontaneous to find it’s way in and God is often in the spontaneous opportunities we walk past every day.
  • Stay real about your brokenness. The world and religious environments force us to act better than we know we are. When we lose sight of our weaknesses, we’ll bluff our way through life instead of open ourselves to truth that transforms.
  • Don’t make pronouncements about the future, “I will never talk to that person again.” Or, “I’m never going back to that church.” All you really know is where God wants to guide you today, you have no idea how the future unfolds or what circumstances might change.
  • Maintain flexibility. If the thing you are seeking God about doesn’t happen, ask him what you might be missing. Look beyond your expectations and preferences.
  • Embrace discomfort. It is the environment of those who are learning. Don’t ignore his nudge just because it might lead to awkward moments and vulnerable places.

One of the best things you can do is to spend time with others who are hungry. That’s one of the wonderful fruits I experience by spending time with hungry people, not only are they open to what God is doing, but also their hunger nurtures my own. Here are some ways to recognize hungry people:

  • They don’t find their answers in an agenda, program, or schedule, but by learning sensitivity to the voice of the Spirit. 
  • They don’t throw pat answers at you that will depend on your performance. 
  • They won’t interrupt you when you talk, and their response will show you that you’ve really be heard.
  • They hold the truth lightly, knowing they haven’t reached a destination, but are still discovering fresh realities to further sharpen their view of God’s heart.
  • They are real, as honest about their struggles and weakness as they are their joys and insights.

There’s no better time to let the light of the glory of God provoke your tastebuds and stir your heart to draw near.

 


Quickies from Lifestream

 

A Redemption Story You Have to Hear
If you haven’t yet treated yourself to my new limited-series podcast, called My Friend Luis, listen to the first 30 minutes and you’ll know if this is for you or not. This is an amazing story that keeps unfolding in ways you wouldn’t expect.

Personal Enrichment and Christmas Ideas
I hear almost every day from someone reading Live Loved Free Full and finding it had the right encouragement for the challenges they are confronting. I’m so grateful this book is in the world and that it is helping people have a thought every day that invites them into the security of Father’s affection, rather than toiling in the distractions of the world or the performance treadmill of religion. If you don’t have your copy you can order it from us. It has an inspiring thought for every day.  And while you’re at it, pick up a copy of A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation. It is tough to give this book traction in a world so captive to animosity and division, but if just a few people on the planet would shift the way they think and live, they would see some amazing fruit in their relationships. All of these would make great Christmas gifts, too, for people you love.  And don’t forget my friend Tessa’s story, Out of the Shadows. This would make a great gift for the young woman in your life sorting out her identity in the world.

On the Road Again
I am getting to travel some again as I navigate through the ups and downs of the pandemic. This week, I’m off to Michigan with future trips planned to Alaska, Virginia, Florida, and Tennessee. I don’t know how much longer I will be traveling with such frequency so I’m looking to make the most of every opportunity to help others discover the joy of living loved. God has also given me a new framework to help people sort out their own spiritual journey to find the fullness of life God wants to give them even in the brokenness of the world we live in.  I’m excited about the opportunities Father is giving me to share it face-to-face with people. If you’d like to be notified when I’m coming to your area you can sign up on our email list and include your address.

Guesting on Other Podcasts

Appearing on someone else’s podcast always gives me a chance to reflect on the longer trajectory of my journey. If you’re interested I recently did a two-parter on The Daron Earlewine Podcast (Part 1 is Seeing What God Sees, and Part 2 is Learning to Speak a Language of Healing), and I also did the This is Not Church Podcast.

You Won’t Want you to Miss…
The Beauty of Selflessness (podcast)
Sweeter Outcomes (podcast)
Navigating Toxic Relationships (blog)


This newsletter is sent out periodically on an irregular schedule whenever I want to share something with a wider audience and update people on what’s going on around Lifestream. If you’d like to receive it in your inbox, you can sign up here.  You can also check A Breath of Fresh Air if you want to receive a brief encouragement from some of my writings three times weekly.  Also, include your address if you want to get travel notifications if my travels twithin 200 miles of where you live.

Finding the Fulfilling Path

Tomorrow morning, I fly out for a weekend in Wichita and Kansas City to spend time with people in various stages of their journeys. It has been a long time since I’ve had this kind of weekend, and even though we’re in the midst of a fresh surge in COVID, we’re going to be careful not to become a spreader event.

I’m not only excited to be with the people Father has in mind for me, but I’m going to be sharing with others something that has been percolating in my heart for almost a year. I’ve not shared it yet with any group of people, because I want to see how it lives first.

In my working with people, however, I find people of faith whose spiritual journey is often marked with frustration and futility. Try as they might, they can’t seem to find that flow into the fruitfulness and fulfillment that Jesus promised us. They constantly bounce from one circumstance to the next, or one convention to the next, hoping to find a key to unlock their relationship with God. I meet others, however, who have found the “unforced rhythms of grace” that allow them to navigate the greatest challenges with confidence and rest in God’s activity that continues to bear fruit for them.

What is the difference? Some would suggest circumstance, but that isn’t true. I know a lot of empty people whose circumstances are not at all challenging, and others quite fulfilled in heart even while struggling with great pain or loss.  No, it isn’t circumstantial. I’ve come to see the difference between those who believe in Jesus as a doctrine they cling to, and those who simply believe what Jesus shows them each day as they navigate the twists and turns of life.  Life in him was always meant to be a relationship where it is less about believing the right doctrine, and more about believing the next thing Jesus whispers into their hearts.  That’s where life is, in actually following him.  

It seems to me, the most fulfilled people I know have come to rest in how deeply loved they are, enough to draw them into knowing him more fully. As they know him more fully, their trust in him grows. Where trust grows, they recognize more quickly the insight Jesus gives them and are more willing to follow him even when it seems risky or it doesn’t seem to make sense.  Where they recognize his nudging and trust his work and wisdom more than their own, they follow those insights and that’s where they find joy and fruitfulness

This is an amazing process, how embracing his love leads to a greater desire to know him, which in turn encourages us to trust him, which makes us more sensitive to his ways and more willing to follow. By living in the world the way God sees it and not the way our natural mind tends to, we will find all his promises are true.  I know this process well from both sides. For the first forty-two years of my journey, I was mostly frustrated that the things God seemed to promise in Scripture were rarely true in my experience. For the last twenty-eight years, it has been finding how living loved actually transforms me from inside so that I can discover God’s goodness even in the midst of a very broken world. This has helped me put new language to the work that has been going on in my heart and so many others I see finding the freedom to follow the Living Christ.

I’m going to be sharing about this process this weekend, and in most places, I go in months ahead. It’s not a new teaching, but a framework to help people recognize how living loved transforms us from the inside out. I hope to help people learn how to cooperate with his process rather than unknowingly resist it.  Yes, it will eventually find its way to a recording, or to unpacking at The God Journey. As with most things, however, I want to explore sharing it with some groups first to see what communicates well and what gets in the way of people finding their way into a transformational journey.

Part of this sharing involves a flow chart to help people recognize where they have the choice to lean into the work God is doing or to resort to their own comfort or wisdom and miss his leading.  I am looking for someone who does digital animation to help me put this chart into a video as I explain it.  I’m hoping I have someone out there who has such gifts so that we could do this together. I’m thinking like the simple and powerful drawings in the Bible Project, that you can see here.  Who knows, I may even see if those folks would help with this.

In any case, Jesus promised us an abundance of life and fullness of joy. If that’s something you’re still seeking to discover in your own journey, don’t give up. It is a process and most of our religious teaching to that end doesn’t serve any of us well.  This is a living relationship that Jesus is always inviting you into.  He wants nothing more than for you to come along and know what it is to be at rest in his love no matter what circumstances encompass you.  Only he can do something like that.

Start with What Is

Yes, that’s me above still on vacation, now with just our three grandkids.  They do keep us hopping and playing, which is good for the soul. Every time I get the chance to ski, I dread jumping into the cold water, wondering if I still have what it takes to get up on the skis, drop one, and get my back foot into the slalom ski without crashing into the water.

None of it comes easy these days, but there is a moment when my back foot settles into the single ski, and everything seems is as it should be in the universe. I peel out across the wake, slicing through the glassy water, exhilarated to be alive in the Creation.  I love that moment when it all comes together, and everything else fades away. God made us for joy, to fully embrace those moments when we feel most alive, whether that’s at the end of a ski rope, admiring the flowers growing in your garden, tucking a grandkid into bed, or wiggling your toes in the warm sand of a beach.

Don’t miss the joys of life, especially when you go through your darker days. God made the world for us to enjoy, and even though it has been marred by human brokenness, there is always joy to be had and a kingdom unfolding around you. I thought of all that this morning on my morning walk with Zoey through the woods, and here’s where I found God directing my thoughts:

As much as God wants us to embrace joy, his kingdom is not a fairy tale. It emerges not from our wish list but the devastating ruins of a broken Creation.

Who doesn’t face horrible circumstances and destructive ambitions in day-to-day life? We forget that because most serve their own image of being above the ravages of life, and thus, we think we’re the only ones who are confronted with horrific circumstances or dark temptations. And yet, we are all in the midst of them at some point, or soon will be again. Life has many painful seasons.

It is also true that everyone one of us has dreams we wish God would fulfill. What if I had enough money not to worry about paying the bills? Or, how easy would life be if my child wasn’t battling cancer? Or, I would love to work with people that weren’t so given to gossip and tearing each other apart?

Many of our prayers arise out of our desires for life as we wish it were. And, because most of our wish-list is truly not in our best interest, nor is it grounded in the ways Father works to reveal his glory, we are endlessly frustrated that he won’t give us the things we pray for most ardently. That’s where accusations against God’s existence or his love begin, or where doubt takes root, wondering if it is my fault for not having enough faith or if he is punishing me for something I’ve done wrong.

Don’t look to your fantasies and ask him to serve them if you want to see Father at work in you. Instead, hold the reality of your circumstances up to God’s gaze and see how he reveals himself in their midst.  You are not the victim of any circumstances, no matter how much you may have been wronged. You are a citizen of a higher kingdom that can transform any circumstance into a place where God can reveal his glory. Ponder your challenges with him over days and weeks if need be, even inviting two or three other sensitive Jesus-followers into your story and see what he reveals.

Ask him to show you how he sees your circumstance and what path he is cutting for you to get through it and, in the process, make you a freer person and a better lover of the world. If there’s a miracle to be had that changes the circumstance, you’ll find it there. If not, you’ll find grace sufficient not only to endure but also to move on in joy.

When you start with what is, you can find your way into what God wants it to be. His kingdom is not the fulfillment of our fantasies or the path that brings us the most ease. Often his path will challenge us to the core, but where a willing heart locks on to the will of God, anything can happen, and great joy can come even in the most painful stretches of our journeys.

 


As a side note, no, I’m not posting as many blogs these days. That’s partly because of the nature of my life and at the moment and some other roads God has invited me down, and partly because I’ve provided my best encouragements over the last twenty years into a new devotional called Live Loved Free Full. I’m hoping its brief daily thoughts can help you focus your heart on the things that matter most inside Father’s love.

If you want to stay up with what is occurring in my life and heart these days, check out The God Journey’s most recent episodes. I’ve never been more excited about what God is doing in our world, even as circumstances grow darker around us. God is raising up people from all over the world, grounded in his love and willing to follow however he leads them.

If you stopped listening to The God Journey because you got the gist of the things Brad and I talked about over the years, I understand.  We never intended people to listen forever.  But Brad has gone on to other things God asked of him, and Kyle Rice of Wyoming has become a regular co-host. His perspective as a mid-thirties husband and father and his experience and training in youth and mental health have provided some fresh fodder for us to explore.

Here are some of the recent ones I don’t think you’ll want to miss:

 

 

Navigating Toxic Relationships

Have you ever been in an exchange with an angry friend or relative who kept twisting everything you said until you begin to wonder if you are out of your mind? And I don’t mean over a conversation or two, but over years berating you with angry accusations that don’t make any sense or seem wildly out of proportion. And the more you try to reach out to understand what they are saying, the more convoluted their stories become.

There’s a term for it—gaslighting. According to Wikipedia, gaslighting is “a tactic in which a person or entity, to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality… It is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed.” It is a form of abuse, even though it isn’t always done intentionally. It can result from jealousy or unresolved trauma in someone’s past that seeks to control others as a coping mechanism for their fears and insecurity. They can be quite persuasive, especially when drawing others into their story to validate their anger. Their gossip is a dark cancerous mass that can metastasize through a family, workplace, or even congregation and destroy longstanding relationships.

Here’s how one friend recently described such a person he had to deal with:

They take absolutely no ownership for the harm and chaos they create. They are always the victim with the emotional maturity of a five-year old. Repentance is for everyone else who wronged them; they never need it.  And forgiveness is out of the question since they perceive every wrong as fresh every day.

Imagined wrongs are the landscape of their souls. They collect grievances like a miser stacking a hoard of coins which they polish and caress every day. They have a Groundhog Day existence, but unlike Bill Murray in the movie, they do not grow or gain insight. They fester and fling anger and rage with considerable skill.

It is a miserable way to live. They can only be helped when their desire for a better life outweighs their sense of victimhood. That is rare because they only seek out people who will justify their sense of injury.

Honestly, my heart goes out to people like that, even when I’m the victim and especially when they can’t see it in themselves. Blaming others, even falsely, medicates their fear and anger—the source of which they may no longer even remember. Many are destructive by default, not by choice, and delude themselves into thinking they have all the facts. Unfortunately, since most others are reticent to challenge their delusions for fear they might become the next target, the emotionally broken person often ends taking control of a group and leave destroyed relationships in their wake.

How do you know if someone around you has turned toxic? Anyone can be misinformed, jump to the wrong conclusions, or need to work out an offense with some honest and tender conversation. Good relationships are hard work. Who hasn’t had a misunderstanding or made a mistake that needed to be talked out so the relationship could heal? Toxicity, however, is measured over a long period of time with unfair expectations or unrelenting accusations and no desire to seek a solution.

Toxic people are always on the attack or act offended. Their complaints, however, are often petty and ignore the possibility that some of them may be simple misunderstandings or a lack of sensitivity on the other’s part. They have no interest in listening to another point of view. They’ve already made up their mind and prefer to be offended rather than resolve their conflict. They think they know you better than you know yourself, and if you disagree with them, they won’t believe you.  Eventually, they will make up stories to justify their unsatisfied anger as their contempt grows. When confronted with the truth, they get angrier, make more often-contradictory accusations, and cut you off entirely until they launch their next assault. They won’t seek out a gracious environment to discover what’s true. Apologies fall on deaf ears, and they never offer any of their own.

If you’re currently in the crosshairs of someone else’s rage, I’m so sorry.  The enemy loves dividing relationships. In these polarized political times, toxic relationships seem to be spreading along with the virus. I get emails every week from those suffering torturous behaviors from parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, and even brothers and sisters in the faith. One man wrote me last week, “I find myself often identifying with a fictitious character that is Bathsheeba’s older brother and Uriah’s closest friend who has been invited to celebrate the wedding of my sister and King David.  How?” (For those that don’t remember, Bathsheeba was the woman David had an affair with, and Uriah was her husband he had killed in battle when his wife got pregnant.)  That is a mess!

I’ve been going through some of this for a while with some people I deeply love, and it’s painful. But I’ve been here before, and here’s some of what I’ve learned that may help you navigate these waters:

First, invite God into this journey with you. You cannot stand up to relentless assault alone, and he has unlimited ways for you to negotiate their hostility and keep it from destroying your heart. Jesus can let you know how to engage in redemptive ways when possible and when to withdraw when it’s not. Believe whatever insights he gives you, and have a close brother or sister along to help you see the difference between the wisdom of his Spirit and your own fleshy reactions.

Second, recognize toxic people for who they are, and don’t take on their anger in reaction. I know that’s easier said than done, but bitterness will only destroy you. Pray for them, realizing they are broken people who don’t have the tools to deal with disappointments or disagreements in conventional ways. Jealousy often drives their need to punish you, so give up trying to fix them until their hearts soften. It will help to see them as victims of their own pain and repeatedly pray, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.”  They truly don’t. Love, especially when you’re unfairly treated, is where the kingdom unfurls her glory. But learn what his love looks like; it rarely means becoming a doormat for your abuser.

Third, don’t drink their toxic brew.  Even though none of us are perfect, and most people will look for ways they might have been insensitive, miscommunicated, or contributed to someone else’s pain, toxic people are not doing the same. They don’t want reconciliation, only capitulation. They can only accuse, never reflect. Avoid angry, accusing voices, not only for yourself but also when they are doing it about others. Remember who the accuser is, and when he uses their voice, don’t let his blows land in your heart. Even accusations built on half-truths are still lies at the end of the day, as Adam and Eve found out in a Garden. While Jesus invited us to be peace-makers, he also warned of the hostility his followers would garner, especially from the self-righteous.

Fourth, avoid the desire to argue with them or to justify yourself in their eyes. They will only twist your words into another set of accusations anyway. They are not listening because they don’t care about the relationship, only their need to feel validated. Your desire for their approval and your concern about what others think of you are the levers they will use to attempt to control you. When you care what other people think of you, you are owned by anyone willing to lie about you. When you are secure enough in God’s view of you, none of it will work. Even if all the world believes something false about you, it still doesn’t define you. Jesus gets the last word on everything. It may not come until the end of the age, but you still don’t have to defend yourself. Learn the joy of not having to have the last word or trying to prove you’re right. It’s a marvelous freedom!

Fifth, give toxic people a wide berth. You don’t have to be with people who yell at you with rage, especially when you know what they are saying is untrue. You don’t have to hang out in the orbit of people who gossip about others.  That may even mean taking a break from close family who get caught in destructive patterns of relationship. Just because you are related to them doesn’t mean you have to give them repeated access to your heart. Sometimes you honor people by letting them live without you in the consequences of their false reality. Let them know you love them and will be overjoyed when more grace-filled days appear.

Sixth, love them however you can, and sometimes you have to do it from a distance, just as the father does in the parable of the prodigal. Chasing people trapped in lies will only prolong their pain because they’ll only get more defensive. Sometimes you have to love someone enough to let them go until they are ready for a change in their own heart. Jesus made room for the fact that you can extend your peace to someone, and they can reject it. (Matthew 10) He told his followers when that happens, they are free to move on and invest their hearts where grace, peace, and truth reign.

Seventh, keep your heart tender for reconciliation. I know this isn’t easy, and I am not talking about ‘forgive and forget.’ Real reconciliation involves a reckoning for the past in an environment of honesty, humility, mutual forgiveness, and tenderness. When toxic people have a change of heart, it will be obvious. Waiting for that moment with an open heart is not something we can do on our own; it is a work of his Spirit. So, ask him to show you.

Of course, this is made more complicated if the toxic person is a parent you still live with or even your spouse. If you have a toxic parent, talk to another trusted adult about your struggle and let them help you see how to deal with it. Young people shouldn’t have to grow up in that kind of fear or abuse. If it’s your spouse, you have to make clear that their behavior is a threat to the future of your relationship and seek out the help of a counselor or more experienced couple.  

One of the resources that has helped shape my heart in dealing with these kinds of people is M. Scott Peck’s book, People of the Lie, which was also the title of a book he published in 1983. The book makes a case for how evil distorts humanity and suggests ways to help people be liberated from it. While I don’t agree his remedy is the only way to deal with it, he identifies a certain kind of person who can never seem to have an open, honest discussion to resolve differences. Instead, they have to control every conversation no matter how much they have to diminish others. I’ve met half a dozen of these over my lifetime, and his insights have helped me recognize their behaviors and learn how to respond to their attempts to take control.  

Dr. Peck came to recognize the dilemma by working with deeply dysfunctional families where chaos reigns. So often, the people he was seeing seemed normal, though under a lot of stress. After some investigating, he often found one person—a parent or sibling—who was the common denominator for all the pain. Interestingly enough, they would refuse to come to counseling, or if they did, they were certain they were not a part of the problem. These were often religious people, who could present themselves outwardly as gracious and caring, but who controlled everyone else in their orbit by punishing those who didn’t do what they wanted. Everyone else was wrong; they were always right.

He called them ‘people of the lie’ because they thrive in dishonesty and making up stories to fit the narrative they want to be true to justify their actions. When their lies are confronted, they respond in anger to keep others from daring to be the focus of the wrath. These are not people making mistakes in moments of weakness, but a consistent and oppressive way they navigate life to the destruction of others.

Dr. Peck credits some of that to evil motives that intend to get their own way no matter who they have to destroy. Those people do exist. I’ve met a few of them. But in my life, these people have been less motivated by a desire to destroy as they are by deep insecurity and fear that demands they control every outcome to survive their day. Most of the time, I don’t think they even know how much they lie to others because they are so dishonest with themselves. They can’t bear to be wrong about anything, “Because in their hearts they consider themselves above reproach, they must lash out at anyone who does reproach them. They sacrifice others to preserve their self-image of perfection.”

They have little regard for the feelings of others and rarely allow for the possibility of misunderstanding what someone else said or meant. The more you try to reason with them, the more you are caught up in their “lies and twisted motives and distorted communication.” They will exhaust you with their need to be right. “They attack others instead of facing their own failures.” They continually act hurt, and yet their stories make little sense.  If anyone dares to confront their dishonesty, they will scorch the battlefield to protect their own image. They are dismissive of any apology that does not capitulate completely to their conclusions. You can’t reconcile with such people because there’s no room for honesty, tenderness, and vulnerability that lets the truth be revealed.

If you know someone like this, give up the need to earn their love. Until something fundamentally changes inside them, they are incapable of a real, honest relationship. You have to take some distance from their control, especially if they are in your family. Keep interactions calm and cordial when you’re together, but refuse to be swept up in their need to gossip about others to make themselves feel better. If they are gossiping to you now, they will soon be gossiping about you to someone else. Excuse yourself by simply saying, “I’m sorry, this is not a conversation I want to be in. Can we talk about something else?”

And, if in reading this, you realize that you may be one of those leaking toxicity into the world, these words from Charles K. Robinson may open a doorway for you to find a Father whose capable of setting you free:

I know you. I have created you. I have loved you from your mother’s womb. You have fled—as you know—from my love, but I love you nevertheless and not-the-less however far you flee. It is I who sustains your very power of fleeing, And I will never finally let you go.

I accept you as you are. You are forgiven. I know all your sufferings. I have always known them! Far beyond your understanding, when you suffer, I suffer. I also know all the little tricks by which you try to hide the ugliness you have made of your life from yourself and others. But you are beautiful. You are beautiful more deeply within than you can see.

You are beautiful because you yourself, in the unique person that only you are, reflect already something of the beauty of my holiness in a way which shall never end. You are beautiful also because I, and I alone see the beauty you shall become. Through the transforming power of my love which is made perfect in weakness you shall become perfectly beautiful. You shall become perfectly beautiful in a uniquely irreplaceable way, which neither you nor I will work on alone, for we shall work it out together.”

All Jesus asked us to do was receive his love and share it with others. Everything else plays into our enemy’s hand.

He is Always There

I sat with a man recently who has walked with God for over fifty years. I’ve seen him go through amazing adventures with God, help countless others find faith in the storms of life, and stay true to him in times of great suffering.

But a medical emergency threatened all of that. He looked at me with pain-filled eyes, “God has completely forsaken me. He no longer speaks to me. Nothing he said has come true.” How could this man, of all the men I’ve known, fall into such despair and hopelessness?  Because he felt he had a promise from God that such a tragedy would never befall him. When it did, he had no place to center his heart.

Expectations.

Nothing will devour our trust in God faster than expecting him to do what we want him to do or even what we think love would require him to do when we hurt.

And yet, the Scriptures are full of encouragement that God works through all kinds of suffering. He hasn’t promised to fix all our pain or make life convenient. That’s the danger of reading the Bible like a promise box, pulling out our preferred passages, and expecting God to do what we want.

What happens when he doesn’t do what we expect? He’s not our fairy godmother, you know, turning our rats into horses, our rags into princess dresses, or our pumpkins into chariots. This world can turn cruel in an instant, and our faith in God does not mean we are immune from the consequences of living in a broken world.  Many saints have been shipwrecked on disappointed expectations about how God should work instead of tuning in to how he is.

As Jesus demonstrated on the cross, it is human to be so overwhelmed by despair and disappointment that we feel abandoned by God. He thought God had forsaken him, too, but he hadn’t. God was still there holding him when Jesus could no longer see it.  At such moments it is easy to default to the belief that God isn’t there, or if he is, he doesn’t care about me. Then, we can turn on ourselves, thinking we’ve not done enough or aren’t loveable enough for God to intervene on our behalf.

None of those options are helpful roads to go down. He didn’t promise to prevent trouble from coming to our door; he promised that we’d never be alone in it and that he would make a way through it for his higher purpose.

When overwhelming pain finds me on this journey, I no longer default to questioning his love. I used to all the time. I’d rail at God for not being faithful to his promises or his love.  Doing so wore me out and never brought me closer to recognizing him with me. He still was, though, and I could look back years later and see how. Now when trouble hits, I stake my confidence on the fact that his love is the only constant in the universe. I may not be able to see how he loves me at the moment, but I choose to set my heart on the reality that he does.

I’ve seen people go through the darkest of circumstances and stay faithful to God’s love in it. Yes, they had questions. Yes, they struggled to hold on to that hope, but I’ve never seen that hope disappointed. God is always with us, even in the dark. It may take years to see, as we look back on how God worked through our trials. This is why our trust in his character has to be stronger than our confidence in the assumptions we make about him abandoning us.

Paul even talked about his own “despairing of life” in some horrible circumstance (2 Corinthians 1), but he knew God would comfort him in it, and the overflow of that would be to comfort others in dire need as well. Perhaps that is what’s most valuable about fellowship—being able to encourage the broken heart, to keep leaning into the reality of his love.

For those of you listening to the new add-on episodes to My Friend Luis, Terror in the Mountains is a case in point. That night, overwhelmed by his dad’s heart attack, exhausted by trying to help him, alone in the dark, and besieged by coyotes, he screamed desperate prayers to a God he wasn’t sure even existed. He wanted God to heal his father, to save him from the coyotes, and to eliminate the fear taking over his mind. God was working in other ways for greater purposes.

Even though God speaks to his heart throughout the night and keeps him from killing himself to end the pain, Luis couldn’t see that until years later. He felt completely abandoned on the worst night of his life. Why didn’t God intervene in a more obvious way? I’m sure I’m not qualified to answer that question. I do know this; Luis looks back now and knows with certainty that God saved his life that night and provided what he needed to triumph over the most unimaginable tragedy. That is now bringing hope to thousands all over the world.

Every week, I talk to people giving up on God’s love because their pain is unbearable or because God doesn’t deliver them from it the way they think he should. They expect him to take away the suffering and forgot to find him inside of it. He promised us a “fellowship of his suffering” as palpable as the “joy of his resurrection.” (Philippians 3) Even Jesus dealt with overwhelming pain inside this broken Creation.

I suspect that’s what we’re all looking for, a connection with him when we are in excruciating pain or circumstances we don’t understand. That’s where trust matters most. It’s hardest to learn that when the pressure is on, so it’s something we might want to contemplate in more relaxed seasons of life.

Cultivate what it means to lean into his love there, then a flood of great waters will not shake you. You’ll be able to find him in your pain and help others to as well.

Because he is always there, at work for our good, even when we can’t see him.

The Rising Tide…

For the past six months, a dozen of us from around the world have met on Zoom every couple of weeks to seek to listen to God’s heart about the turmoil in the world and to agree with him in prayer for what he wants to do in the world. This bi-weekly touchstone has shaped my journey in some incredible ways this spring and summer. It was here that I first began to discover how to gaze with God into the needs around my life instead of just holding them in my hands gazing at him. It was here that we were reminded of the power of love, rest, and play in being sensitive to the unfolding work of God. And it was here that we heard a fresh call of God going out to people in their 20s and 30s in the night to invite them to know him, even though many of them don’t know what it is yet.

Last time, we sensed a strong going out from God’s heart to support those following his ways. That has been the focus of my prayers over the last few days, and it has drawn me back to a favorite passage from the Old Testament.

For the eyes of the LORD roam throughout the earth so that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.

Most people know 2 Chronicles 7:14 well about repenting and praying so God can heal the land, but this one from 2 Chronicles 16:9 doesn’t get as much play. For some reason, we prefer Scriptures that pressure us to do more instead of recognizing what our Father is already doing in the earth. The last few years have been difficult for those seeking to follow the voice of the Shepherd, instead of getting lost in the clamor of the world, the demands of religious performance, or chasing political answers to relational problems.

Following Jesus isn’t easy when your family judges you, when good friends can’t understand why you’re not doing what they want you to, or when religious leaders try to talk you back under their authority. Sometimes you can feel isolated as if no one sees the things you see or feels the things you feel. It’s easy to be afraid and second-guess what he might be asking of you. I get those emails every day. And yet, I know that thousands of people around the planet are deeply engaged with a community inside the godhead that is stirring some inexplicable passions in their hearts. I get those emails, too. I’ve never been more hopeful that the tide is turning and God arising.

For those who are hearing the voice of the Shepherd, drawing them to live and love in ways that others around them can’t see, please know you are not alone. He sees you. The eyes of the Lord search through the earth for those who are willing to follow the Lamb wherever he goes, especially in these difficult days. Blessed are you who see and follow, who are willing to risk your own comfort to let God’s light be known in the world. All of heaven supports your quest, and I am convinced you will see more of that in more practical ways in days to come. Watch what this Father will do to confirm his word in you, to connect you with others who share your passion, and to encourage your heart in tough times.

The way that verse from 2 Chronicles 16 is written shows that this wasn’t a one-time act of God but the nature of his character throughout history. He is always seeking those who surrender their lives to his purpose to strongly support them in their struggles to live in that reality. Don’t get lost on the word “completely” here. I’ve heard this verse used to condemn people for not doing enough and to manipulate them to work harder for God. Many think that if God doesn’t strongly support them, it proves they are not “completely” his. Don’t get lost there. “Completely his” does not refer to perfection. We all have moments of weaknesses and where we fall short even of our own hopes. David was a man after God’s heart, even though he failed miserably in his lust for Bathsheba. Peter was surely willing to die for Jesus that night even though his fears got the better of him watching what they were doing to Jesus.

“Completely” doesn’t mean “perfect”; it means “fully.” Your heart can be “fully his” even though you still struggle in living out the reality of that. “Fully” is expressed in prayers like this: “Jesus, I want to follow you wherever you go. I want to know you in the core of my being, no matter what it takes.  I want all my life to be lost in you and for you to take shape in me.”  That’s it.  Look deeply in your heart; you know if your heart belongs to him. If it does, take hope. You are not alone. God is with you and will strongly support you in the challenges you face. Be encouraged; the tide is turning.

And if your heart does not belong to him?  Well, that can change in an instant. Find some time to be alone with him and surrender your heart to him. It’s a simple choice and one that will significantly alter the trajectory of your life for the better.

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A few other items:

A new episode of My Friend Luis airs today. It’s the “rest of the story,” as newscaster Paul Harvey used to say. Originally designed to be a 12-episode podcast, a key part of this story emerged only after we had finished the story we meant to tell. But this part cannot be left out and will air in three episodes over the next three weeks. Shockingly, Raphael returns in 2021 to put some incredible finishing touches on the story.

It looks like it’s time to travel again, as God wills. Planning is in the process for trips to Kansas, Michigan, Virginia, and Florida. If you have something on your heart in those places, let me know. If you’ve got some people somewhere else you’d like me to visit, also get in touch. And if you’d like to be notified when I’m coming to your area, you can sign up on our Travel Notifications email list and include your address <http://eepurl.com/bJ43Ar>.

Also, Kyle Rice, my current co-host at The God Journey, and I have been talking about planning a retreat this winter for twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings, who want to connect with each other and explore what it means to be part of a new generation of people living untainted by religion and at rest in Father’s unfolding purpose. We’ve started a Facebook page to help us plan that. If you’re in your 20s or 30s and are interested, you can connect with us here.  If you’re not in that age group, please don’t feel left out.  There can be other opportunities as well.

It’s Time!

The last few months have been a strange time for me. As I was working on the new My Friend Luis podcast, I kept getting insight from the Spirit, signaling there was something ahead he wanted me to be ready for. These insights came in nudges from within, dreams and visions from other people, and specific Scripture passages that would leap off the page into my heart when I was reading. While these inklings were encouraging, they were far from specific. However, the inspiration within and the growth curve it has sent me on is nothing like I’ve experienced before.  I’ve shared some of that on my podcast, especially some insights about prayer that are reshaping my life in so many ways. It started with the Embracing His Glory insights and has continued on about praying with a different perspective and with others that feels like a jig-saw puzzle fitting together.

Last week Sara and I were in the Sierra Mountains with my 95-year-old Dad to celebrate Easter. Earlier that week, my daughter and grandkids came up for a few days, and we took a walk through the burn scar of the Creek wildfire. Over the next few days, I had this nagging thought in my heart that there was something God wanted me to see there, that I had missed. I talk more about that in a video on my Facebook page that I posted yesterday. It was recorded on Good Friday as I re-visited that area to share with you what I felt God was speaking to my heart.  If you missed that video, you could view it here.

I talk more about this experience in the podcast that will air this Friday morning at The God Journey, called “Settled in His Spirit.”  Kyle and I talk about it in the first 12 minutes or so. Simply, as I contemplated what I had seen in the aftermath of the wildfire, my heart was drawn to Romans 8:18-21:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

As I was thinking of this passage on my walk in the woods with my dog, Zoey, I was surprisingly surrounded by a rising sense of Presence.  Then, I heard two words in my mind: “It’s time.”  I knew instantly that the voice was referring to this passage. It is time for the children of God to be revealed. My body literally quaked. I’m not sure what all this means, but I am confident something is stirring. Every person I’ve shared this moment with sense has either already had something similar on the heart or felt affirmation when they heard it.

I’m not offering this as some kind of prophecy. I don’t know that it has any end-of-the-world overtones to it. But I do sense the undercurrent of those who have been learning to live at rest in his love over the past few years will soon become more evident than the religious voices that so easily disfigure the face of God to the world around us. Now, I’m not looking for that to change in the media or Christianity Today to do a story on it because I don’t think this is about new books, markets, and viral internet posts, but simply a stitching together of people loving selflessly those who cross their paths. God will make himself more evident to others, and we’ll see that over the next few months and years.

I honestly know nothing more than that, but my heart has an expectancy about God’s work in our world that it hasn’t had in a while.  I feel no angst to make anything happen or think some book or project from me will turn some tide here. As things begin to unfold, the usual suspects will try to market it for their own gain or try to systematize it to put it under their control. I can tell you now, avoid such people and such activities.

This is a work of the Spirit that will have the breath of Father in it. It won’t be in our control, though we can yield to his flow when we sense it. What is most important now is to keep learning what it means for you to be at rest in his love and to learn how he wants to play with you in the Father’s working. This rises out of that reality, not the somber, terrifying tones of human effort.  All he asks of us is to present a willing heart, to keep our eye on him, and to be ready when he nudges us into the next opportunity.  That will involve some prayer and watching, but the fun kind, not the laborious kind.

And for those who are touched by what I share in the video, or you have questions about it, Kyle and I will be hosting a God Journey After-Show this coming Sunday at 10:00 am Pacific Daylight Time. If you want to join us, email me for a Zoom link to that session. We’ll let in as many as we think we can manage, but it will also stream live on The God Journey Facebook Page for those who want to watch.

Please hear my heart here. I sense something stirring and am just putting it out there to see if others have similar insights. If God is in this, let’s see what he unfolds over the next few months and years.

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As a side note, during our time at Shaver Lake, a local radio station played an interview recorded with my dad a few weeks before about his experiences in World War II. You can find it here, along with photos from that era. 

 

 

What About Ananias and Sapphira?

The trajectory of Scripture takes humanity from seeing the Creator of heaven and earth as an angry, demanding deity to encountering him as a loving Father who seeks to rescue his children from the ravages of sin and shame. Knowing that will help you work through those moments in Scripture that have often been preached as if God is vindictive.

I get this question a lot from people who read He Loves Me, or even Live Loved Free Full. The latest came a couple of weeks ago:

Wayne, how do you handle people who say God is still angry and to be feared in the  New Testament. What about the story of Ananias and Sapphira facing swift judgment in the New Testament in the time of the New Commandment? (Acts 5:1-10)

My response:  

To answer your question, I think we make too much of an angry “Old Testament” God.  The overwhelming theme of the Old Testament is that God is gracious and “slow to anger,” “his lovingkindness is better than life” and “his love endures forever.”  That’s the message. When God is depicted as angry and vengeful by the OT writers, I suspect they were projecting their shame on God’s activity and interpret it as anger.

How do I know that?  Because Jesus was the exact representation of God’s nature, and he didn’t come among us as an angry, offended deity.  He came to love, to forgive, to heal, and to set free. That’s not to say he didn’t have those moments when he is also correcting some injustice, but we still tend to put more anger to his sternness than was likely there.

Even when Korah’s rebellion (Numbers 16) is crushed, many see that as an angry God who lost control, rather than the surgical removal of a rebellious influence in the camp that would lead Israel astray if left unchecked.  Through Christ, I tend to see God that way now, not as an angry deity striking out against those who displease him, but a surgeon having to take extraordinary measures to keep the story of redemption alive in a fallen world.

And to the specific New Testament story you ask about, I don’t detect anger at Ananias and Sapphira in that account. For those who don’t know the story, this husband and wife claimed they sold some property and were giving all of the proceeds to help others. The truth, however, was that they kept some for themselves and when they presented their offering to Peter he told them that in doing so they had lied to the Holy Spirit, not just their brothers and sisters.  They were trying to buy spiritual status with money. God’s resolution for that was to end their lives and bring them home. I don’t think that mistake meant they lost their salvation or that he was punishing them, but simply that their influence among the early church would be more detrimental than helpful. This is a unique situation, of course, that we don’t see repeated. So it wasn’t just a matter of being deceptive, or so many more people would be dying today. Something else was going on that isn’t fully explained in the text. Of course, fear spread after that, but fear may not have been the response God wanted. We cannot be perfected in fear, but only in love. (I John 4:20)

In Jesus’s day, the Pharisees thought God far angrier and punitive than they found in Christ, which is why they rejected him as the Son of God. Those who see God as vengeful work hard to keep him at bay but never discover the transforming power of his love that sets us free to walk righteously without fear. Scripture takes us on that journey, from the Creation of the world until it is all summed up at the end of this age. In that story, we discover that God is not the angry deity that needs to be appeased by our good behavior. In many ways, that’s the story I grew up with, and I now believe it was a bit off the mark.  Shame-based people saw him that way in the Old Testament, but God sets that to the right in the New so that we no longer have to be afraid of him but can rest in his love. He has always been the gracious Father inviting his wayward children home to his love and care even when we couldn’t see it.

I know when I write like this people ask, “What about those who use the idea of a loving God to live wayward and indulgent lives?”  To them, love is only a concept, not a reality. Those who know him will want to be like him. If there’s no desire to be like him, I doubt they have ever experienced his love.  Real love will change us far more than any fear of him ever could.

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Some notes of interest:

  • If you want help exploring this redemption story in the Scriptures, I have lots of resources to help people engage the Scriptures through the revelation of Jesus. It helps us understand the story in the way it was intended for us.
  • My new book Live Loved Free Full can help your mind bathe in these realities every day. The emails I get from people reading it warm my heart. It seems to be doing what I hoped it would do in the world.
  • And, if you haven’t started listening to My Friend Luis, give it a try. It is a great story of redemption in the most desperate of circumstances.

A Dad and His Son

January 22 

The father and son in the photo are obviously delighted with each other and the photo perfectly captures the joy, wonder, and affection that God wants to share with his children.

“I’m a long way from that,” Glenn admitted after I had a chance to let the picture sink in, “but I know he is calling me to be just like that little boy.”

I know what he meant because I’d been down that road. Learning to be so at peace in the Father’s presence, so secure in his care, and so ready to enjoy the day with him, was a long journey for me.

“That’s me!” Glenn finally said. “The little boy there! I was two years old.” My head shot up in surprise. I had not even considered that this was a family photo. “My father died of a heart condition within two months of that picture. I have no memory of him, only this picture. Now I want to know my heavenly Father with the same simplicity and joy.”

No this isn’t the relationship God asks of us, but the one he had already been at work to produce in us. “We know love,” John wrote, “only because he loved us first.”

 

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
1 John 4:16 (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. 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.