Encouragement

Two Fearless Reasons to Follow God

January 11 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What If?

January 10 

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

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

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

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

Who wouldn’t?

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

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

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

God, the Rescuer

January 9 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

A More Compelling Reason

January 8 

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 34:8

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

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

Fear or Shame Won’t Help

January 7

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Why Follow After God?

January 6 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Romans 8:15 (NASRE)

 

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

 

Who Is He Really?

January 5 

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

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

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

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

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

Romans 8:15 (NIV)

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

 

A Father Like No Other

January 4 – A Father Like No Other

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 John 4:18 (NIV)

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

 

There’s No Fear in Love

January 3 – There’s No Fear in Love

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

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

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

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

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

1 John 4:18 (NIV)

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

Settle for No Substitutes

January 2 – Settle for No Substitutes

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

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

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

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

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

1 John 3:1 (NIV)

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

 

 

First Love

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

 

January 1 

God never intended you to move on from there.

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

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

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

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

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

John 15:9–10 (MSG)

Don’t Let Fear Determine Your Path

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Relationships Make Us Rich

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

A Fresh Wind is Blowing 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

A Daily Guide to Living Loved, Free and Full

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

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

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

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

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

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

This book will help you . . .

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

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

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

Hardback with dust jacket, 320 pages, $16.99

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

Follow His Path Not the Crowd

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

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

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

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

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

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

___________

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

 

Did You Enjoy Your Breath of Fresh Air This Week?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Breath of Fresh Air

From the smokey haze of California, a breath of fresh air sounds pretty awesome.  To draw a deep, clean breath can clear the mind, and exhaling can refocus our spirit.

“I can’t breathe,” has become a too-often used refrain this year whether it’s black men under the knee of a racist police officer, a patient gasping for air with the COVID-19 pandemic, or the horrible fires and resulting smoke we’ve had recently on our West Coast. There is nothing more powerless than the feeling that you can’t get a breath and are suffocating in the overwhelming circumstances of life.  I’ve had bouts of asthma, been in smoke-filled rooms,  and had the wind knocked out of me several times.  There’s nothing like being able to take a deep breath when you haven’t been able to for a while.

When people write to me, that’s how they often refer to something they have read or heard me say. Others, from warmer climates, will refer to it as a cup of cold water.  I love hearing how something I’ve put out there has invited someone into a more refreshing place spiritually and allows them to catch their breath again inside their own relationship with Jesus.  So, we’re making some changes here at Lifestream to help people have access to that kind of information.

First, we’re going to send out email encouragements three times a week from the resources here and at the God Journey, just like the one above. We’re calling them A Breath of Fresh Air.  They won’t always be as artistic, but on Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday mornings, you will find one in your inbox if you want.  They’ll be brief, just a chance to pause a beat and be encouraged in your journey. I’m going to send them to everyone on our Lifestream Update list for the first week, so people can decide if they would like to get them. If that’s too much email for you, do nothing. They will stop after next Thursday. If you want it, however, you will need to add it to your email preferences at MailChimp.  There will be a link in those three emails to make it easy for you to do that.

If you aren’t already subscribed to Lifestream updates, sign up here.  That is a different list than those who subscribe to my blog and are receiving this email.  How do you know if you’re on the other list too?  If you get one this Sunday, use the link above to sign up.

Embracing His Glory - Audio SeriesSecond, we have put the Embracing His Glory recordings from the God Journey on its own Lifestream page. Like Transitions and The Jesus Lens, this will be a major tool to help people explore their own journey. Specifically, Embracing His Glory gives people language and perspective to recognize how Jesus shapes his glory in us.  We’ve released them on the podcast for the past 14 weeks, but are now including them here. It describes in better terms than I’ve had before how learning to live in the Father’s affection has been transforming me and allowing me to live more deeply in his reality.  This has been my journey for the past 26 years—letting Jesus poke holes in my illusions and finding the confidence in his love to walk away from them and to embrace what’s really true—about him, ourselves, the circumstances we’re in, and with people around us.  So many people who have heard them have written to tell me how much they have been a blessing to them.

Finally, we’re adding a whole new section to the Lifestream website. I was talking to a friend recently about Lifestream and, knowing she is a branding expert, I asked her if there were any glaring weaknesses to this site that we could improve on. She had read and listened to almost everything at Lifestream and told me how deeply it had impacted her.  “Your site is a gold mine, with so much free stuff to access.”  But she added that it was difficult to access.  “I’m probably one of only about twelve people on the planet that would take the time to drill down through everything you have there.”

So, she asked me to consider arranging that material into five key questions that I’m asked a lot and point people to the best resources that would help them answer those questions.  I will share more about this feature in the future, but if you go to Lifestream.org, you’ll notice the new banner at the top of the page, helping people find the resources here that most interests them.

Here are the five new Lifestreams that people can use to help them mine the content on this website.  Under each heading, you’ll find the articles, books, podcasts, and recordings that we think will most help people answer those questions in their own journey.

Each of these pages will offer you a host of resources to help you and Jesus sort through these questions in ways that can enhance your journey. You can quickly get some things to think about or dive deeper into an extensive study that could change the trajectory of your life. There are months and months of resources here that can help you find the fullness of his life and freedom.  That’s my hope and prayer for all of it.

Check it out.  Let me know if it is helpful to you.

Perfectly in Process

Remember that song I wrote about a few weeks ago, that uplifting melody playing softly in the background of the chaos going on around us? I hope you’re still listening, leaning into its rhythm, and letting its lyrics soften your soul? The more I give place to that song in my heart, the more easily the lies and illusions that prey on my anxiety or fears dissolve into nothingness.

One of those lies I hear people often struggle with is, “I should be further along by now.”

The enemy has so many ways to accuse us, and he is most despicable when he uses our best hungers against us. Of course, we all want to be further along than we are. Don’t you wish that your motives were pure, that you always know how to respond in any situation, that your thoughts and actions were always laced with grace, and that you knew the answers to all the questions banging around your head? I know I do.

But none of that is more critical than being settled in his love and letting it have its work in you. Notice how that one little lie will immediately draw you out of that love and focus on your failures and struggles. To fall for it is to submit yourself to the law again and to feel the crushing defeat of your inability to perform to whosever expectations you hold for yourself.

His song invites us into the moment to celebrate the process of transformation he is working in each of us. Jesus had no expectations that you would be flawless today. You’re not. I’m not. Flawless is still out beyond the horizon somewhere, but that doesn’t mean you’re not perfectly in process. He already sees you as his beloved son or daughter, knowing who you are in him and what you will yet become in his love. He knows the weaknesses that still entangle you, the lies you can’t yet see through, and the choices that still draw you into the darkness. He loves you nonetheless. He looks at this day as another opportunity to walk with you into a bit more of the light of his freedom and glory.

This was always going to be a process because he delights in reshaping your heart and renewing your mind. That process unfolds best when we celebrate it, rather than give in to the frustration of battles not yet won, hopes not yet fulfilled, or brokenness not yet mended. He is already healing. He is already opening the eyes of your heart, and he is pouring his strength into you.

So your words, thoughts, and actions will not be perfect today. You’ll be weak at times, and have those awkward moments where you hunger for wisdom you don’t yet have and for justice you can’t see. But you can see him, and yourself perfectly in his process of winning you into his love and teaching you how to ride its currents through the circumstances you’re in.

“But can’t I mess up this process?” some ask. Of course. We all can and have. But Jesus is bigger than our mistakes, our delays, and even our stubbornness. If he isn’t stronger than those things, what hope have we? He understands our fits and starts, and each day is willing to begin afresh, drawing us ever more into his glory. As the saying goes, “The best time to plant an oak tree was twenty-five years ago; the next best time is to plant one today.”

Regardless of where you’ve gotten lost in days gone by, today you can quiet your heart, tune into his glorious melody, and let your life fall into its rhythms. 

Rather than berating yourself for not being further along, rejoice in how far you’ve come. Instead of being frustrated with your weakness, put your hope in his strength at work in you. Instead of regretting where you’ve missed him, be grateful for what he has shown you and what he has transformed in you. 

Relax in the process, and you’ll find yourself making better progress. 

Finding a Refuge in Love

I don’t think anyone has sent me flowers before.

But yesterday, I got an email from a friend in Oregon with a picture of two bouquets of roses.  Mark Warner is a former pastor and former alcoholic who knows the dark side well. His email was titled:  Why I Take Flowers to Two 95 Years Olds at the Retirement Center.

The words that followed were some of the most profound I’ve ever read in such a short reflection:

I do not do these things to fill up something lacking inside my psyche, to be nice, or to respond to the popular saying “WWJD.” I give and serve so I am not consumed by the hatred I see swirling around me and risk becoming what I see in others. 

We are in a dark time and hatred runs rampant. The image of God placed inside me will be destroyed if I give in to the darkness. Over the years, many have hated me, many times people have tried to derail my career and, at times, my life. To save my own soul I cannot give in to the hatred, to the evil.

Serving and giving is the way for me to life. Jesus said we are to love our enemies, not for a misplaced sense of revenge or to prove our own moral superiority, but so that we are not consumed by the same spirit that possesses them. For that I need His miraculous help. Then, I am able to say with Tiny Tim in Charles Dicken’s The Christmas Carol, “…may God bless us everyone.”

Love wins my friends. Every time. Especially in me.

I’ve never seen a time when fear and anger have so dominated a nation, where people strike back tit-for-tat and feel justified in attacking people they consider “the other.” This piece set my heart at rest in his love in a delightful way. We don’t have to join the fight in our world and demean others, but can yield to a grander call from a more powerful kingdom inviting us live to a different rhythm so that we will not be consumed by the evil that seeks to destroy us all.

Live loved… and then love… freely. (John 13:34-35)

Love freely and extravagantly, to people who don’t deserve it, and in places you’re not obligated to do so.

The world will change. Jesus said it would.

The Song Beneath the Virus

Can you hear it? It’s the Song of the Ages, still playing beneath the virus and all that’s changed in our world. It is fresh from your Father’s heart, inviting you into his reality.

It’s not the loudest song in the wind. Fears of the virus and daily body counts will ring louder. The rancor of social hatred will drown it out, and it can easily be swallowed up by the discordant strains of fear and anger that dominate these troubled times.

But beneath it all, his song still plays, as certain as the rising sun, more triumphant than the most exquisite symphony.

You won’t be able to focus on it arguing about masks, or fretting over the next election. You won’t hear it speculating about conspiracies or putting your hope in yet-to-be-fulfilled prophecies about a coming revival. You won’t find it groping for certainty in your imagined future.

You have no idea what is to come, and neither do all those voices. The honest ones will tell you that. Your certainty now has to be in Jesus and him alone. All others are mere illusions. They may comfort for the moment, but when they fail you, how deep will that pain be? Circumstances, both favorable and unfavorable, will come and go. The only refuge is to abandon yourself to the amazing love of a gracious Father and seeing his divine purpose unfolding around you. He will never let you down.

Come away, my beloved!

There! Did you hear it?

Maybe it was just a few notes, but even a bit of it will begin to breathe hope into your exhausted heart. You’ll recognize it as the soothing melody inviting you beside his quiet waters where peace and tranquility will wash over your fear and grief. Linger there, leaning lean away from anxious thoughts and angry voices, both internal and external.

His song carries a different rhythm. He is enough. You are deeply loved. All of Creation is still in his hands.

There’s no fear or frustration in his song. Its soft and lilting tones draw you more deeply to his heart, where fear no longer thrives. It allows you to embrace a reality far more consequential than anything we see with your eyes or hear with our ears. It calms your heart with the confidence that God is big enough for this, too.

None of this has caught Jesus by surprise. He has not abandoned you to your own devices. His deliverance does not await some future day. Jesus reassured us that his Father is always working. That includes in you… today. He has a way through this for you, even if someone you love gets the virus. Even if your business does not survive. Even if, our culture comes crashing down around you. Even if this is your time to join him in a kingdom that knows no end. Even if all this goes away in the next few months. 

He has plans you haven’t begun to consider.

Come away, my beloved. 

His melody is an invitation, not a compulsion. You’ll find it more clearly in that quiet place in your soul where Jesus makes himself known. It may take a while to tune your ears again to his melody and hold it in your heart. It’s worth the time. You’ll know you’ve found it when your heart takes a deep breath and begins to find its rest in the unforced rhythms of his grace.

You can’t see that, you say? Well, you don’t have to. You only need to see him.  Take his hand and follow his lead the best you sense him today. Wake up tomorrow and find that song again.

Everything else in this world will seek to knock you off this melody, drawing you back into its clamor. You don’t have to go. You can keep coming back to the quiet waters and bathe yourself there. That’s where you’ll have the wisdom to live through each day’s challenges without fear of your imagined future. You’ll know how to respond prudently to the virus’ presence in our world, and find compassion for others around you.

When you’re at peace in turmoil, his song will flow through you, too, amplifying it in your corner of the world. Then others will find it easier to hear and perhaps find their way to his peace as well.

The Rudeness of Religion

I heard this from a friend the other day and loved what it unveiled about his heart.

“I am only beginning to realize how rude my faith made me.”

I love that. As people grow more tender in his love, they begin to recognize how adherence to religion doesn’t transform us. Instead, it just reroutes our selfishness into other expressions.

Now, he and I both know that real faith doesn’t make anyone rude. False faith does, however, because it makes us feel morally superior to anyone who doesn’t work as hard at their religion as we do. It divides the world into a home team and an away team, and that almost gives us permission to treat harshly those who don’t believe or do the things we think they should.

Paul warned the Corinthians about this very thing, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”  (I Corinthians 8:1)

That’s what I love about the people I know who are being transformed by a love that rewires them from the inside. They are less rude and more forbearing, less arrogant and more humble, slower to take offense and more open to reconciliation, and they are less self-focused and more generous with others, especially the away team.

____________________

Here are some other things going on this week that might interest you:

This Sunday, July 19, I will host another God Journey After-Show at 10:00 am PDT. This is an open conversation about our life in Jesus and some of the recent themes we’ve been exploring on the Lifestream blog and on The God Journey. If you’d like to join us in the Zoom room, you can email Wayne for a link. We’ll let in as many as we can, and the rest can stream it live on the God Journey Facebook Page.

Last Tuesday, I was part of an incredible Zoom conversation about our proclivity to tribalism and how God wants to take us beyond it, especially as it applies to the racial unrest in our culture.  It was one of a continuing series of Language of Healing Live conversations as the authors help people sort out some of the themes of our new book, A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation.

If you haven’t yet discovered my new series over at The God Journey called Embracing His Glory, I’d encourage you to check it out. I’ve done six twenty-minute reflections about how God transforms us in his love to let his glory be revealed in the world around us. I love how the Gospel of John has illuminated so much of the work God has been doing in my heart over the past twenty-five years learning to live in the Father’s love.  You can use the links below to listen in.

 

The Prayer of Faith

It is one of the great conversations I enjoy with people when I travel. What is faith, and how does it influence our prayers? Since I haven’t been traveling during this coronavirus, I thought I would respond to this email online.  First, here is the email: 

I have been pondering some of the things you have shared about prayer, and at times, it seems that your position does not make a very big space for believing in God’s doing the miraculous. You have shared that you have seen the supernatural and that those things are up to Him. I get that. But, there are so many places in Scripture that seem to intimate that we can expect answers to our prayers.

For example, James wrote, “the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” Jesus Himself said, “greater works shall you do.” He seemed to be speaking of the miraculous. “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” John 14: 12-14.

How can a believer read the very words of Jesus and not expect to see at least a modicum of supernatural power in their lives? Maybe not rising to the level of feeding multitudes or raising a four-day dead “Lazarus” from the dead. But, I cannot help but believe that Jesus was encouraging those that believe to expect answers to their prayers, even if it means something supernatural occurring to provide that answer. Obviously, we are not God, and we are to trust Him with the outcomes, as we have discussed. Certainly, there are volumes of prayers that do not get answered in the way that we hope, with no visible evidence of the supernatural or miraculous. If trusting Him with outcomes is all we have, the question remains, “What did Jesus mean when He said that we would do greater works, and ask Him anything in His name and He would do it?”

The nuances in this discussion could fill a book or three. That’s why this is better in a conversation, where it can be specifically applied to a given prayer or circumstance. But let me try to answer with a series of bullet points that summarize how I understand these things at this stage of my journey, and let them become fodder for further dialogue.

  • God does outrageous miracles, and everything in this creation can be bent to his will, by his power, and for his glory.
  • Prayer is the delightful partnership between God and his people that can execute his purpose and glory in the earth through supernatural power. Thus, it is not us getting God to do what we think is best, but us cooperating with God as he does his work. His wisdom is way beyond ours, and he takes all things into account as he works his glory into the world. Our comfort or ease is never his priority.
  • That’s why prayer is mostly communion with him as he shapes our hearts, rather than a list of requests we want him to give us.
  • Every Scripture that talks about answered prayer, including the ones you quote, are in the context of the conditional clauses of if “we remain in him…,” or “If his words remain in us…,” or “praying in his name.” Answered prayer is not a fulfillment of our will, but the fruit of abiding deeply in him and sharing a passion for his unfolding purpose.
  • I don’t think I can do anything to make God give me what I think is best. Faith is neither convincing myself that what I want God wants, nor is it a tool to force God’s hand. Faith is the relational trust that allows me to walk through anything, knowing he will hold my heart, and give me the strength and wisdom I need. Eighty-four percent of the time, when someone did something by faith in Hebrews 11, their lives got more challenging or more uncomfortable. Their trust didn’t always help them get out of trouble but gave them the confidence to go through it.
  • I don’t think it is fair nor fruitful for us to read through Scriptures and cherry-pick the outcomes we want in a specific situation, and try to employ our “faith” to get them. What’s most important in a situation is not what makes me happy, but what Father is doing here. How is his glory unfolding?
  • Praying in faith means I engage God trusting that he is good and loving and that he knows the best of all possible outcomes for everyone involved. Faith is not something we generate internally but is the fruit of a growing relationship with him.
  • A prayer of faith will never seek to enlist God’s power to violate someone else’s will. He doesn’t do it, even for himself.
  • Praying in faith doesn’t rise out of desperation or fear, because it begins knowing that God can be trusted with everything. That doesn’t mean we can’t talk to God out of our desperation or fear, but that we wouldn’t want to assume the thing I think I need is really the thing I need.
  • So, I will always pray for healing when asked, or when it is on my heart. I make requests of him and see what he does. He often surprises me. At other times, I have a sense of the outcome God desires and can pray with great persistence and perseverance until the answer unfolds. But I can also be wrong, and I can see that in the outcome itself. Unless God shows me, that we were thwarted in some way by darkness, and thus learn a lesson from it, I’ll see the outcome as either what Father had in mind, or what he is willing to use now for his glory. I don’t retreat into a guilt-induced introspection of what I might have done wrong, or if there was some block in my “faith” that failed God.
  • I believe about 30% of the miracle stories I read in books or see on TV. I’ve been behind the scenes enough to know that TV is an illusion, and many so-called miracles are contrived or made up to “inspire” the audience. If the average person embellishes something God does to make it seem more spectacular than it was in the moment, how much more for those who are trying to grow their ministry. The danger is that it causes people to set their expectations at ridiculous levels and have to fight the frustration that God doesn’t do similar things for them.
  • I have always held a hunger in my heart to see God’s power in more prolific ways than we see today. I think part of that has to do with how focused we are on our comfort and convenience and how little we hold God’s priorities in our hearts. I also realize miracles are miracles because they are not typical; they are the exceptional moments of God unveiling himself. I enjoy them when I’m around them, though I never demand them as if they are my choice.
  • Living that way, I have seen some of those outrageous things happen and been thrilled when they do. I have also fought through the darkest tragedies and found amazing transformation in my heart as I did, without the supernatural intervention I had prayed for.

The prayer of faith is not what we’ve learned in performance-based religion. It isn’t a matter of earning God’s favor by our performance or trying to ingratiate ourselves to God to get his favor. It is the fruit of the growing awareness of God with me, working his glory into my corner of the world. He can work his triumph through apparent failures and has a plan that far exceeds mine. I love engaging him in the conversation that lets me see into that as far as my relationship today will allow me.

When I see him do something amazing in response to my prayer, I’m blown away with joy. When my greatest hopes go unfulfilled, I rest in the fact that his perspective far outweighs mine, and what might be glorious for his purpose will most often not be the thing I would first prefer. But looking back years later on so many “disappointed prayers” in my life, I can see that his purpose and plan for me exceeded anything I could see. Paul alerted us to that. When he moves differently than I want, I can trust that he is doing something exceedingly and abundantly beyond anything I could ask or even imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)

Anyway, that’s how I’m rolling with him these days.

A Peek At My Email

I don’t post these emails because I like reading about myself on my blog. I’ve already read them and expressed my gratefulness to those who took the time to write me and to the Father for the way some of these things find their way into the world to encourage his people. I post these so that others who are struggling with similar things might find their way to the same resources that may be helpful to them.

From Germany: I read the book The Call of the Wild Geese in German. (Elsewhere in the world it is, So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore). I am very grateful to you for this book, which is hotly debated in Germany. Everyone makes their own decisions. It was an adventure for me and I got involved in trusting God to say: “Father, do you?” This trust that God, my heavenly Father, provides and cares for me every day. I have experienced much of what was described in your book in different church structures. I am 69 years old and have been traveling with Jesus for 20 years. This book has brought me out of my depression and pain, towards the light, towards His (God’s) love. Thank you very much.

From Latvia: I am reading your book He Loves Me. I have a big problem. With my mind I understand that God is Love, that He loves me so much that He gave me His Son Jesus. But I feel like He is distant, cold, passive, One who doesn’t want me in His presence. In my deepest part I am afraid to fall into His hands because I can’t live up to His standarts. Can you help me, please?! Is God really that nice as you describe Him? I want to know Him clearly.

My response to her:

Actually, he is way better than I can possibly describe him. Shame keeps us from him, making us feel unworthy of his presence. Religion feeds our shame as well, but Jesus took our shame away at the cross. Fall into his hands and find out just how gracious he is and how knowing him will transform you in ways you never imagined.  It’s a journey. It takes some time to get comfortable in his reality, but it is a journey well worth taking.

From Pennsylvania: “I came back to Lifestream and stumbled onto The Jesus Lens. Thank you for following the vision to record this. I am reading scripture in a whole new way and journaling more “a-ha” moments than I can recall. I’ve shared this with friends in hopes that it opens the door to future Holy Spirit guided conversations.”

From a friend I recently visited in Oklahoma and who attended a workshop Arnita and I did for A Language of Healing in a Polarized Nation:

I did something today that was out of my range just a bit but I felt like you guys encouraged us to do.  Which is I spoke to a total stranger  today who is not in my “in-group”.  I have been beyond upset over the recent shooting in Georgia of Ahmaud Arbery.  I’ve been sick at my stomach over this killing.  So I signed up to #IRunWith Maud today at our park, and when I was done there was an African American woman in the parking lot waiting for someone. I just went up to her, keeping our social distance, and I said hello and I just needed to say I am so sorry for the shooting of this young man in Georgia.  She just opened right up and although I couldn’t control my emotions, she didn’t seem to think I was weird or anything.  We had a sweet little conversation and her husband came back from his run and he was very warm and gracious just like his wife.  It was a simple moment but I just had to tell you both because you encouraged us to do this when you were here in February and I wanted to encourage you in what you are doing. You are having an impact and it’s not a small thing.  One person to another person, depolarization will happen.

I love that so much. One person, one conversation at a time, the world can become a more generous place. Most people want to find their way into a different way of communicating and caring about each other across our differences. And, if you happen across one of those occasional people who love the polarization, just excuse yourself and move on.

For those of you who are interested, next Tuesday (May 19) at 2:00 pm PDT,  I’ll be discussing the racial divide that has formed over the Artery killing in Georgia with my co-authors Arnita Taylor and Bob Prater on Language of Healing Live! We are doing a series of these conversations moderated by people who have a stake in the issues that divide us and will lead a dialog with the authors and a panel in the Zoom Room. Next week’s Live! will be hosted by Gil Michel of South Bend, IN.  We will stream live on The Language of Healing Discussion Facebook Group, and on my Facebook Author Page if you want to join us. And yes, the recording will be available afterwards as well.

I am praying that all of you are finding a way to lean into Jesus through these very strange times to set your heart at rest in his care for you, and to show you a way through it that will allow his glory to unfold.

It’s Rarely the Words…

During a trip on the East coast in 2016, I was asked to meet with a couple whose twenty-something daughter had been recently killed in a car crash. A friend of a friend asked if I could give them some time, so I met them for lunch during a free moment in my schedule. I never know what to say to people who are experiencing such loss, and though I felt like God was in the time we had, I was left to wonder just how helpful it was to them. This weekend, four years later, I received this email:

You may not remember me, but I will never forget you. I knew one day I needed to email you and thank you for taking the time to share some love with my husband and me. We were connected through a friend of a friend and met you at a restaurant on a rainy day. Our daughter had been killed in a catastrophic car accident about six months prior, and I was clinging with all I had to Jesus, my only hope. I can’t say I remember what you said that day, but it’s like the saying, “You may not remember what someone said, but you can remember how they made you feel.” You made us feel loved. You shared God’s love, and especially meaningful to me, showed my husband that men can talk about feelings and God’s love in a real way.

Much has happened since that day. Of particular note, about a month after our meeting, a woman in my Bible study suggested we study He Loves Me. You had told me it was your favorite book you ever wrote. I loved the book and bought several copies to share with friends and family. God has been so real, so good, and so over-the-top caring that he has literally blown me away!!!!! There is no doubt I would never be the person I am today without him, and I am grateful beyond words. Now I have occasionally been asked to speak to other bereaved parents. While challenging, I am willing because I want them to know God is there; he is the key and their way through the valley.

I am a little embarrassed I have not written in so long. For a while, my old laptop lost email, the only place I had your address. Since then, I have never had quite the words. I was moved today and decided there never are just the right words, just write. All I really want to say is thank you. Thank you for being “Jesus with skin on.” You are part of a raw but beautiful story. God is creating a beautiful tapestry, and I am grateful beyond words for him and his love and grateful for your threads in it.

I was deeply touched by her email this weekend, but it was more than an encouragement to me; I also hope it is an encouragement to some of you.

  • Maybe you’re in a tragedy and barely holding on to your faith. God is bigger than your pain and can triumph over any adversity.
  • Maybe you have a friend going through a painful time, and you shy away because you don’t know what to say to them. Call anyway! Words are not what matter most. 
  • Maybe you don’t know how to talk about your hurt and grief with honesty and authenticity (Yes, I’m talking to you, men.)—hang out with someone who does.
  • Maybe you are groping to find where —keep looking for all the ways he is pouring his love into your heart. 
  • Maybe you have been a thread in someone else’s tapestry, and they never got back to you. Jesus knows; let him tell you what it meant to him. 
  • Maybe someone was a thread in your tapestry, and you never got around to thanking them. Four years, or a decade or two, isn’t too late. 

You will never regret pouring a bit of his love into the world. Every drop of it pushes back against the anger and judgment that tries to rule the day.