Living Loved

Learning a Life of Love

Why is it easier for us to believe that God doesn’t love us than to rest in the reality that he does?

And why are we more easily dragged into the obligation of religious performance than we are drawn into a growing trust in God’s love?

Both have much to do with the nature of darkness and how the enemy loves to lure us away from the intimacy God extends to us. We’ve all fallen for his traps, so you don’t need to be embarrassed when you are. In those times, remind yourself that you are his beloved and you don’t have the power to change yourself or resist sin without him, and then come and learn what it means to live loved by Jesus and his Father.

Last Sunday, we began our discussion of He Loves Me in the He Loves Me Book Club. You can watch our conversation about the first chapter here if you missed it. You can join the Facebook Group here if you want to stay in touch with future gatherings.

I wrote that book almost twenty-five years ago, and yet the things in there are the ones dearest to my heart. Here are some of the quotes that touched me in re-reading the Introduction and the first chapter:

What the Father showed us in the gift of his Son is that he was unwilling to settle for the indentured servitude of fearful slaves. He preferred instead the intimate affection of sons and daughters.

I hope you, too, come to the end of these pages convinced that he loves you with a deep and unrelenting affection.

For long after we’ve put away our daisies many of us continue to play the game with God. This time we don’t pluck flower petals, but probe through our circumstances trying to figure out exactly how God feels about us.

(With my religious background) I had become like the schizophrenic child of an abusive father, never certain what God I’d meet on any given day—the one who wanted to scoop me up in his arms with laughter, or the one who would ignore me or punish me for reasons I could never understand.

Many people carry scars and disappointments that can appear to be convincing evidence that the God of love might not exist or, if he does, maintains a safe distance from them and leaves them to the whim of other people’s sins.

When he seems to callously disregard our most noble prayers, our trust in him can be easily shattered and we wonder if he cares for us. We can even come up with a list of our own failures that can seemingly justify God’s indifference and beckon us into a dark whirlpool of self-loathing.

He does love you more deeply than you’ve ever imagined; he has done so throughout your entire life. Once you embrace that truth, your troubles will never again drive you to question God’s affection for you or whether you’ve done enough to merit it. Instead of fearing he has turned his back on you, you will be able to trust his love at the moments you need him most.

I would not have survived the events of the last two years without having learned how to live inside the affection of the Father. The most challenging circumstances I could imagine didn’t cause me to question his love. Instead, they only deepened my appreciation for his love as he skillfully guided me through them with his wisdom and courage. It wasn’t easy, and there were days I grieved deeply. Ultimately, however, I discovered that my pain doesn’t discount God’s love; it just gives me another environment to explore its vastness.

The first thing I want a new believer to know is how to recognize God’s love as he reveals it to them. Instead, we too often pour on the expectations for what a “good Christian” does or doesn’t do, and they become embedded in human effort without ever knowing how loved they are. How much would it have changed in the world if knowing Christ meant growing to trust his love, not trying to perform to earn his favor?

Many have found reading or re-reading He Loves Me or its companion devotional, Live Loved, Free, Full, to be incredibly helpful in building a life inside his love. I began this study to invite a new generation of people into the conversation of living loved.

Also, ten years ago, I recorded twenty-four short coaching videos to help people explore how God is connecting with them. We called it Engage. No, this is not a discipleship program. We called it an anti-discipleship strategy—this is not how you build a relationship with God; this is how to recognize him building one with you. They are 8-12 minutes in length, each containing a nugget of insight to help you explore how Jesus is revealing himself to you. You can listen to the first one here.

No matter what resource you find helpful, learning to live loved is what Jesus wants to teach you. Books and recordings can encourage us, but only he, by the power of his Spirit, can reveal his Father’s love to us at the core of our being. For his love is not primarily a principle to believe in; it is a reality in which he wants us to swim through the most difficult challenges we face.

Discover how to recognize his love and lean into it each day, and nothing will be able to win over you ever again.


Important Change for Blog Subscribers

If you have been subscribing to this blog via WordPress, we will soon be discontinuing that subscription base because of continuing problems with it. We are hoping to import your subscription into our Lifestream database so you can continue to be notified of new postings. However, if you don’t hear from us in a while, it may be because something glitched in that process.  To be sure, you can now sign up for subscriptions to this blog here. Include your address on this form if you want to get travel updates when Wayne is in the area.

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Waves of Joy

It has been a while since I have had the chance to post some of my thoughts. The last month of settling into our new home has brought a host of challenges, decisions, and work. I’ve managed to keep up with The God Journey podcasts because I greatly enjoy those conversations. We just posted Episode 900 today about Vengeance, Mercy, and Justice. I never tire of what we learn as we explore the journey of Living Loved. The rest of the time, I’ve been handling a bit of correspondence and conversations as well as unpacking, discarding, and preparing a place for Sara and me in this next season of our lives. It is all going so incredibly well, though taking up far more time than I would have hoped. More on that next week, if time allows.

Catching up on some emails today, I ran into this one, which asks some questions that might interest others. This is from a friend in Hawaii:

I do have a few questions about your book, He Loves Me. In chapter 22, you write: “If you’ve ever known that glory, either just sitting in his presence communing with him or having just seen him use you to reveal himself to someone else, you know what I’m talking about. At such moments it seems time itself stands still. Waves of joy sweep across us, and it is so incredible that you feel if you were made just for that one moment, your life would have had a wealth of meaning. ‘I was made for this.’ And you were.”

How important is it for the daughter or son of Abba to experience what you call “waves of joy”…given that is a huge part of our design in Him? 

I never try to focus on a single “experience” as something essential or even something to seek. Walking with him manifests his glory in our lives in various ways, and how we sense them depends a lot on our personality. I don’t even know how each interprets “waves of joy,” and it may be very different from what those words mean to me. “Waves of joy” is the feeling I get when I’m at rest and enjoying his work in me, and it comes without me trying to manufacture it.

It is distracting for any of us to try to pursue an experience. Even the focus on doing so can quickly become a distraction. That sentence was for those who have experienced it, not to discourage people who haven’t. Instead of getting people focused on any specific manifestation, I try to help them recognize Father’s presence in the experiences they are already having. Surely he is making himself known to all of us in whatever way suits us best, though much of his work goes unrecognized by those distracted by the shiny things in the world or the darker corners of their hearts. I want to help people recognize him, however he is making himself known, not getting them focused on hoping he works in a specific way.

How is it that we settle for not living with as much joy as Papa, Jesus, and the Spirit are longing for in our lives? Your last chapter, “Living Loved,” is great and speaks to this, but I was wondering if you have any other insights.

There are lots of reasons for this. Lots of worldly distractions. Lots of unresolved pain that makes us try to self-medicate. Lots of disappointed expectations that God didn’t meet, even like the “experiences” above. However, I think it is also because we haven’t learned how to engage Father, Son, and Spirit as they make themselves known. It’s been easier to force people into religious performance, but those who have tried it grow discouraged because it doesn’t work.

Learning to live inside Father’s joy is to give up control of life as we want it to be and find God in the chaos of real life and how he is making himself known. Following him is the ultimate loss of control, and religious performance is the ultimate attempt to control God. A lot of people get discouraged and sadly give up.

Giving up the notion that we can control the relationship we have with God is a critical step in all of our journeys. He is the initiator; we are the responders. That’s because he knows best about everything, especially how to engage each of us and invite us to be at home with him.


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I Wrote This for You

Last week in the high Sierras I recorded a short video on why I wrote Live Loved Free Full. You can view it here:


We’ve had a tough roll-out on this book, with production delays and then internal problems at Amazon that showed our book wasn’t available even though they had copies.  Fortunately, all that has worked out now and this little book is finding its way into the world. I’ve been touched by so many who have written me to tell me how much they appreciate these daily thoughts, and many sending their favorite quotes from the book. Some of you are even in July already, unable to stop after just one bite.  I love that.

If you’re enjoying the book, I’d appreciate it if you would help us get the word out to others.  Some take screenshots of a favorite paragraph or page and send it to someone they think it might encourage. Quote a paragraph or recommend it on Facebook, Instagram, TicTok to Twitter. You can share the video above on your social feed or with your friends. The link is:

Many of you have written reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.  That’s incredibly helpful and I appreciate your gracious words there.

I hope you get a chance to view the video, and if that was too short for you, we also have a longer version (7 minutes) here:

My prayer is the this will help you settle your heart each day in Father has in mind for you, rather than letting the world’s demands or your own anxieties define the day. Learning to live loved, free, and full is a lifetime adventure and I hope this provides some helpful encouragement along the way.

If you don’t have your copy yet, you can order Live Loved Free Full here.  E-book versions are also available at your favorite distributor

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You Won’t Want to Miss This

I don’t expect my closest friends to listen to all 781 of the podcasts I’ve recorded, or even most of them. I don’t expect them to listen week after week, and I find it awkward when someone apologizes to me for not keeping up with the podcasts. Most people over our fifteen-year run listen for a few months or years to find the trailhead of their own God Journey and then move on to other things. I’m fine with that. I do this podcast because I enjoy the conversations I stumble into, not as an obligation for people to keep up with but bless people in whatever season they find themselves.

That said, however, I don’t want anyone to miss the most recent one. It’s called Becoming One with Love and shares the journey of a good friend of mine from South Africa, Stephan Vosloo. If you’ve been on a journey of living loved for a while, you especially will want to hear from a brother who has discovered some really remarkable things about the joy of others-centered living and learning to love himself in his own brokenness and others in theirs. No, he hasn’t arrived and he will be the first to say he has a long way to go but this is a breath-taking view from his vantage point on the trail.

We couldn’t if it all into one podcast, so this Friday morning another piece of that conversation will air on The God Journey.  You won’t want to miss that either.

Though the podcasts are always listed in the upper left of the page, I rarely refer to a podcast in the blog here. To do so says I think something significant is going on here. I came away from my conversation with Stephan refreshed, encouraged, and challenged in some specific areas of my own journey. It’s like God opened a door to a new field of his love I’d yet discovered.  Judging by the email I’ve received and the conversations I’ve had since airing the first part of our conversation, I know I’m not alone.

I’m not going to say much else, other than you will most likely thank me if you can take the time to listen to it.

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Lifestream #1: How can I live every day in Father’s love?

Religion seeks to control us by manipulating our shame and our fear of God. The work Jesus, however, invited us into a relationship of intimacy and growing trust just like a child in the safety of her father’s arms.  Our transformation flows out of love and endearment not fear and obligation.

It took me forty-two years before I discovered this trajectory on my journey.  Up until then, I thought myself a radical follower of Jesus, trying my hardest to be a committed disciple. I only found out later that was mostly an illusion to satisfy my need for significance, rather than a response to his amazing love and work on my behalf. It began with hearing a different view of the cross than that God was punishing Jesus to satisfy his need for justice.Jesus didn’t die to satisfy the Father; he died to satisfy what was broken in us. He took our place in the surgery that cut sin and shame out of the human race. When that sunk home, everything changed for me—most importantly, my view of the Father.

That’s where my path diverged from the religious performance I’d been raised in, to a growing friendship with Jesus that has changed everything. That’s why I talk about “living loved”, because as you are learning how to embrace his love, you’ll live differently in the world. Living loved does not result from wrapping our heads around a new set of principles, but by experiencing his love in a growing relationship with the Father.  This is the only place transformation happens. You’ll find yourself living more fully in him as a result of learning to rest in his love than you ever did out of fear or obligation.

These resources can help you discover how he is revealing his love to you and how you might respond to him on a new journey that will change the course of your life—

Wayne’s Books

Key Articles at Lifestream

Wayne’s Podcasts

Wayne’s Audio/Video

  • Transitions – more than nine hours of free audio about how our view of the cross can move from religious thinking to relational living
  • Engage – 5-7 minutes coaching videos to help you explore your own friendship with Jesus
  • If you want to understand Wayne’s personal story better, listen to the two-part video series Wayne’s Journey to Living LovedPart 1  and Part 2 

For a Deeper Dive

Nothing is more important than that each of us to discover the reality of living loved. The following course of study can help you provide an environment in which God can make his love known to you. Take the next six months to a year to move slowly through these elements in this order, all the while looking for how God is making himself known to you and inviting you into an affection-based relationship with him.  (Include links below)

  • Read He Loves Me.
  • Listen to Transitions, especially if you come from a religious performance background and discover how to transition from an appeasement-based journey to an affection based one.
  • Watch Engage videos as you discover how to connect with the work God is doing in you.
  • Watch The Jesus Lens, a nine-hour video series to sort through the wonder of Scripture and how it can be a daily cairn to help you on your journey.
  • Listen to Embracing His Glory to see how his work of transformation can unfold in you.


More Lifestream Features

Lifestream 1 - How Can I Live Every Day in Father's Love?
Lifestream 2 - Where Will I Find the Church Jesus is Building?
Lifestream 3 - How Can My Freedom to Trust Jesus Grow?
Lifestream 4 - How Do You Find Such Encouragement in the Bible?
Lifestream 5 - How Can I Live More Generously in a Broken World?

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Living Loved Is Real!

The email below is one of the best I’ve received because I know it comes out of real struggle and pain and into a reality that is available to all of us.

I started corresponding with Amy this summer, first over a crisis that happened at work, and then with trouble in her marriage. In her first email, she signed off  ‘Confused,’ in her second, ‘Heartbroken and Stunned.’ It has been an amazing eight months for her, but through it all, Jesus helped her discover the life that is life:

After telling me he no longer loves me, my husband left me in September of last year, and we are still separated. The last several months (8 months since he told me he no longer believes in God, 5 months since he left me) have been the most excruciatingly painful, yet spectacularly amazing, months I ever could have imagined. The freedom you talk and write about…it’s real.

I took your book He Loves Me! on a whim from the library at the church my husband and I were attending several years ago. I brought it home but never opened it…until June 24, 2018, when my world came crashing down around me. Since then, I have read it at least seven times and have sent 8 copies to friends and family members. Father is using that little book to change the lives of many, Wayne, and I’m so grateful to be one of the “many”.

There have been many moments since last June when I have wondered if “living loved” was a pipe dream. Now I know that it is not. I come from a family of Pharisees, albeit very well-intentioned ones, and the re-wiring of my understanding about God has been intensely difficult. I have experienced more heartache, more uncertainty, more insecurity, more fear…more confidence, more peace, more love, more safety, more hope…than I ever dreamed was possible. My husband claims unerringly that he is “done” with us and that there is no hope for our restoration. This from a man who treated me for sixteen years like every woman longs to be treated by her husband.

And yet, I am not destroyed by his certain distaste for me. While I can attest to the fact that emotions are extremely fickle creatures (and I certainly have run the gamut of them) I also can attest to the fact that the confidence, peace, and freedom that come from living in Father’s affection make it possible for me to rest in Him, in spite of my circumstances. I feel as if I’m living in a pocket of impenetrable grace.

I cannot thank you enough for sharing with the world, the God of love. My life and that of my Pharisaic family has been forever changed by this monumental truth—that God loves us and desires an actual relationship with us. I no longer am afraid of Him or regard Him as mean and spiteful, eager to destroy the very people He created. I no longer (even subconsciously) think I have to “earn” His affection or approval.

Ironically, since I stopped “trying” to produce fruit and started living in the certainty of His affection for me, I am shocked at the fruit HE is producing!!! WOW! Who’d have thought?!? I only wish that I could go back in time and know Him like this from the beginning. Perhaps then I would have known how to love my husband the way God wants him to be loved. Regardless, I am learning to surrender even that to His capable hands. He is completely trustworthy; of this I am certain.

God bless you, brother. I hope I meet you in person one day to thank you for showing me the way to the real Jesus.

I love that. He is real, especially in the darkest places. This life in Christ can help us overcome any wicked curveballs this world may throw at us and draw us into the fullness of his joy and hold us there.

To do that, however, we have to give up our agenda and expectations for the outcome we desire. When we pray for the result we want, It’s easy to grow disappointed when God doesn’t do it, or even begin to doubt that he loves us at all. That could have happened here. Amy could have spent the last five months begging God to bring her husband back and feeling unloved when he didn’t. I’m sure she asked, but when it didn’t happen, she discovered a love that was bigger than the outcome she wanted.

God won’t make her husband come back against his will; he isn’t like that. Isn’t it glorious that our peace and security don’t rest in the circumstance we want, but in the Father who loves us more than anyone on this planet ever has or ever will?

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His Incarnation Changed Everything

The story has become so commonplace it’s easy to miss the wonder of it all. The transcendent God, who created everything, took on our humanity to live inside his own creation. (The painting of Joseph and Jesus at left is from A Man Like No Other.)

Nine months in a young woman’s womb, years in her care, growing alongside his siblings and then to discover that he came from a different realm. He took on the most thrilling, the most mundane, and the most painful aspect of the human experience and he did so as one who could live in God’s love and share it freely in the world. What’s more he allowed himself to be tortured and killed by those who could not appreciate who he was, all for the purpose of rescuing lost humanity and inviting us back inside a relationship with his Father.

If we understood that God actually lived here as Jesus of Nazareth, it would swallow up so many of our false views of God.  Jesus was his exact representative. He wasn’t a junior partner or the better side of God.  He mirrored exactly what his Father was like and that reality changes everything.

  • If you see God as an offended deity out to destroy a world he hates, then you have yet to grasp the meaning of the Incarnation. Jesus wasn’t angry, not at the misunderstandings of his disciples, the unbelief of Mary and Martha, the emptiness of a woman at a well, the sin of an adulteress, nor the corruption of Zaccheus. He didn’t lash out at those who were lost in sin. He only challenged the religious leaders to reconsider the conclusions they had made about God and how they were holding people captive with their rules and regulations.
  • If you think God can’t bear to look on sin, then you have yet to grasp the reality of the Incarnation. He lived in the midst of it and befriended those who were caught in it. He wasn’t repelled by sin; he was compelled with love to find us in all the places we got lost and offered us a hand to lead us back to the fullness of his love.
  • If you believe God is offended or disappointed in you because of your failures, then you’ve yet to grasp the power of the Incarnation.  He didn’t come to judge you for being broken, but to rescue you from that which seeks your destruction.
  • If you believe that there are places or times that are more sacred than others, you have yet to grasp the wonder of the Incarnation. Jesus came to show us all of life is sacred, washing someone’s feet as much as reading the Scriptures, learning carpentry as much as preaching a sermon; praying in a closet or on the hills above Galilee even more than the temple itself.
  • If you give into the feeling that you are all alone in your pain, you have yet to grasp the permanence of his Incarnation. He wasn’t just with us those thirty-three years, but was resurrected so that we could live in him today. He is still with us and every breath we take, we take in him.

He wanted to be where we live, not demand our audience at some sacred building or meeting. He came to ennoble all that we experience in life because he is there with us to show us how to truly live. This season we celebrate God with us!  He shattered the divide between heaven and earth from heaven’s side so that we could no our worth to him. 

The loving Father comes alongside you in your pain, your doubts, your sins, andy our joys inviting you to a better journey where learning to live in his love reverses all that evil has tried to do to destroy you. That is the meaning of his Incarnation and why we celebrate the amazing work of God to come and make himself known in our world.

Immanuel!  God with us! And not just two thousand years ago, but every day since. He is still with you on this day wherever you are and loving you with all that he has. That reality changes everything.

(This painting also taken from A Man Like No Other)

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The Dones, Free Books, and the Future of Lifestream

The last issue of Living Loved, has just been posted at We published this newsletter for over twenty years, first as a mail-out publication and then as a web-based magazine. Technology, however, has continued to move forward and now what we used to do in Living Loved we now do on my blog and my podcast at I post articles there, talk about the latest news at Lifestream, and read or post letters from folks who have been touched by various things we do here. It had been three years since our last newsletter, so we thought it time to bring it to an end. However, I will continue to write articles and post them in the archives though they will show up in my blog first.

In this issue you’ll find my mini-book, on the Phenomenon of the Dones, or at least part 1 of it. This is drawn from a number of blog articles I did over the past year combined in one place. I’ve still got a number of articles I will add to this and it will eventually be a free e-book for people to download and read.  Also in our the Lifestream News section you can find out about how to get free books, how the movies are coming along, how to get Wayne to visit your area, and lots of other details about Lifestream.

Our good-bye is bittersweet.  Some of my best articles I wrote for this publication over the years including Why House Church Isn’t the Answer, Signposts on the Journey, The Deepest Freedom,The Nut Test, Friends and Friends of Friends, the series on The Relatinal Church and many more.  You can still find all of them in the archives, either chronologically or by topic.


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The Narrow Road

Living Loved • Winter 2013        Current Issue

I had just spent the weekend in a country home talking with a group of people about living in the Father’s love. Afterwards two of them drove me to the airport nearly two hours away. The questions continued until we were close to the airport. Finally, a twenty-one year-old medical student in the back seat made one of the most insightful observations I’ve ever heard, “You know what I’m beginning to think, Wayne? Maybe the reason this journey seems so difficult is because it is far easier than we dare to believe!”

Read it again. Having written about finding a real relationship with God for 25 years, I get lots of email from frustrated people. Though they’ve read my books and listened to most of my audio they still feel as if they have little or no connection with God. Many feel forsaken, others wonder if he even exists.

The reason this journey seems so difficult is because it is far easier than we dare to believe!

I know it isn’t easy for people to find their way into a loving relationship with the Father. Everything we’ve learned and believed before runs counter to the dynamics of recognizing and resting in his love. However, it isn’t difficult because God makes it complicated, or because it takes a certain skill set or sensitivity, but because we look in the wrong places for how his life takes root in us.

But Jesus knows that too, and is still up to the challenge of engaging us in a fruitful relationship with his Father.
Uncomfortable Scriptures

In this article I want to look at several Scriptures that make some people nervous, because they seem judgmental and threatening. Most have only heard them in the context of religious performance and thus dismiss them as inconsistent with his love, but in doing so they toss aside some of the most helpful insight Jesus gave people to embrace this journey.

For instance, Jesus warned us that the road into his life is a narrow road. Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it (Matt. 7:13-14).

I know this has been preached to fill people with fear, but what if Jesus didn’t say this to push people harder on the religious treadmill? In fact, I don’t think his words are about eternal destiny at all, but rather an encouragement to a different way of living in this age. Salvation for Jesus was not giving out a get-out-of-hell-free card, but opening a door for us into a relationship with his Father.

Only the religious would twist them either to take pride in thinking they practice the right doctrine or ritual, and delight in the fact that those who don’t will get what they deserve. Jesus didn’t want to provoke exclusivity or fear with his words, but rather to equip hungry hearts to know how to know him. Following the broad way of self-interest will devour us, but there is a narrower path that will lead us to life.

I used to think that people were transformed by hearing the truth of Scripture and then applying those principles to life. Except that it never worked. People can listen to thousands of sermons and read hundreds of books and still feel like they don’t get it. No wonder Jesus didn’t preach sermons with application points at the end, but walked with people, answering their questions and stimulating their better hopes. In the face of those realities, he pointed down the road his Father would have them go, where they could know him and live freely in his life.

God writes his will in our hearts and minds, not in sermons and books. Until we learn to follow him in the simplest choices of daily life we’ll continue to miss out. I’ve had many people tell me, I’ve been pursuing God for years, and I am no closer to him now than when I started. My heart breaks for them. I’m sure they are genuine, but I also know they are missing him somehow. It could be that they keep following a broad way and miss his invitations to a narrower road.

That’s why Jesus contrasted the broad road with the narrow one. His way is not obvious to our natural inclinations. It may not look as satisfying at the outset, but that’s because true joy and freedom don’t lie in the things we think we want, or what the crowd tells us we want, but by embracing what God knows is best for us. That’s why he also warned us, Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it (Matt. 16:25). He knew the way of destruction puts up an attractive facade that appeals to our selfish desires and the illusion of an easier way.

Every day we make dozens of choices about how we live our lives and how we treat people around us. In these moments we’ll be confronted with a number of options. Many will be obvious and fit into our self-satisfying cultural and religious norms. But those roads won’t lead us to life in him.

The doorway to his life runs through narrow doorways, not grand ones. In our daily choices we have the opportunity to merge off of the broader way and find a more gracious home on a narrower path. I know that isn’t glamorous, and some would prefer a spectacular revival service or rigorous discipleship school. But the life of Jesus is about learning to listen to his impulses in the next choice before you.
The Broader Roads

So at moments of choice, what determines the path you take?

Sometimes it’s as simple as following the flesh’s desire, either to maximize our happiness, or to minimize our pain in whatever circumstance we are in. Simply doing what’s easiest, what makes us feel good, what soothes our ego, or what is in our financial or personal self-interest, will work to our destruction. We can easily lose ourselves just going along with the distractions of this age, be they too much entertainment, political arguments, or the mundane chores of life.

At other times it can be far subtler, the still lingering coping mechanism that helped us survive childhood trauma, but now leads us to harmful routes. Religious obligation provides a compelling voice in most situations, especially since we’re doing what we have to do, not what we want to do. But it is all the more dangerous because it appears to be righteous even as it draws us into the appearance of self-denial. Even trying to build a ministry or an income stream from it, instead of simply making God’s gifts available will drive us to choices that will prove more hurtful than helpful.

Almost all of these pathways were sculpted in our youth or in our religious training and they come so automatically to us, we may not even be conscious how much they shape us. But, when God begins to invite us into his life, he does so in the simplest places. It often has far more to do with how we treat the next person before us with love and forgiveness, or doing something he’s given us to do.

Making space for him and his thoughts and following them is the only way off the broader road. We find the narrow road when we find rest in his love for us and then recognize his leading as he offers us a different way to see what’s going on around us. We often don’t even see a new trailhead until he nudges us towards it.

At first, everything in us wants to resist his nudge. No, it can’t be that way. I could get hurt. I could make a mistake. What if it goes wrong? But if he’s the one inviting us, we are safer doing what he asks than anything we do to save ourselves. We are not asked to indulge our preferences or live in resistance to them. We are simply called to follow him, in the simplest of choices as best we recognize his invitations. As we do, his life will unfold in us with ever-increasing reality.
How Do You Know?

God speaks to all of us. You don’t have to be a spiritual giant or a gifted seer. You only have to have a heart that wants to follow him and he will teach you how he speaks to you and invites you into life.

Many think they’ve never heard him, but that may only be because they have not yet learned to recognize how he speaks to them. I’ve no doubt he’s speaking, but they may be looking for a voice instead of a nudge or wanting him to say something different than what he is saying. Listening to him is not living by feelings, but by recognizing those impulses he brings to your mind and following them. Initially they will encourage you to rest in his love and to be more gracious to people near you. In time, he will show you more of his wisdom to guide your life.

You will only learn by practice. Yes, you will do some things you thought God was leading you to do, only to find out by the fruit of it that it was more your thought than his. That’s part of the process. How else will you learn? But you’ll also get some things right and the joy of that will help tune our heart to his. In the process, you’ll be drawn closer to him and come to recognize your more selfish aspirations, and the misplaced trust you have in your own wisdom or abilities.

I know there are many examples of those who claim God told them to do the most bizarre things that are hurtful and destructive to themselves and others. You can usually tell if someone’s listening to Jesus by how open and relaxed they are. If they are closed and defensive when someone questions them, be careful. I walked away from an encounter recently with one such person and commented to a friend, “That’s the kind of person that gives listening to God a bad name.”

One thing I know about people who listen to God, they don’t act destructively and they aren’t arrogant about what they think they hear. Learning to listen to God is a humbling process. You’re never one hundred percent sure of what he’s asking. You just have an impulse in your heart you can’t explain. It grows over time, but he is never forceful or manipulative, and that is also true of people learning to listen to him. They can be firm, but not defensive and are always willing to sacrifice for others, instead of asking others to sacrifice for them.
Choices Matter

God does love you, but that love only transforms you to the degree that you can trust his love enough to follow him on to the narrow road. His love doesn’t mean that everything will work out the way we want, nor that we won’t be the victims of other people’s hurtful and destructive choices.

But he wants to be with us in those moments to help us navigate our experience in a broken world and be transformed through it. He invites us to participate with him, which is why love and obedience go hand in hand in the Scriptures. As you grow to trust his love you will want to obey him, and it’s in following him that you get to live in the fruit of his love.

Jesus repeatedly made clear that our actions matter. Scripture often invokes the reality of sowing and reaping to express this truth. How we live either leads us more into his life, or draws us away from it, whether we’ll contribute to his redemption in the world, or be part of its destruction. That’s what Jesus meant when he affirmed those who followed, Well done! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness! (Matt. 25: 21)

Many find verses like this disconcerting, especially when Jesus warns the faithless that even what they have would be taken away. It sounds like those who have, get more and those that don’t have, are left out. But Jesus was not talking the language of reward and retribution here; he was talking about the unseen consequences of our choices. If we follow a bit, the road will get clearer. If we follow our own way instead, we’ll lose sight of him.

That doesn’t mean you have to be perfect for God to work in you, or that you can’t reverse the trend any day you want to. He is always ready to lead you one simple step at a time and never asks for what you cannot give. Following in small things today will open more doors tomorrow. If we’re indulgent and dishonest in little things, we will be indulgent and dishonest in larger things. If we can learn to follow him in simple ways of loving others and being true to our word even when it hurts, his work in us will grow in ways we’d never conceive.

This is not about earning his life by our obedience, but participating with him as he transforms us. Everything I get to experience of God today began with simple choices years ago. They set off a chain of unforeseen consequences that opened doors to where I live now. The simple nudge to go to public schools with our children and volunteer to help began a series of opportunities that eventually led to twenty years of consulting public schools on religious liberty conflicts. Listening to Jesus say, “I have more to teach you if you walk away,” when my former co-pastor wanted to force me out of the fellowship we helped build together, opened a trailhead into personal transformation I adore and opportunities for growing and sharing I would not have found without him.

At the outset, all these choices looked more difficult than other options I had in mind. I’m glad he won me into following him and the choice to do so now is far easier. I don’t even trust my own desires anymore because following him, even though painful at times, has always yielded better fruit.
It’s A Process

If you view the life of Jesus as a performance treadmill, what I’m writing will only create anxiety and pressure for you to work harder. That will lead you to despair and hopelessness, which is the opposite of what Jesus intended. Learning to merge off of the broad way and onto the narrow road is a process that he wants to work in you, not a requirement he’s made for you. It’s simply a matter of learning to lean into him a bit more each day and leaning away from what draws you down the broader road. You can’t do this alone.

And this does not mean you have to carefully listen to Jesus at every moment and try to figure out what he wants so you won’t miss out. Doing that will leave you frustrated and exhausted. We find his way much more simply than that. In fact, the anxiety of having to hear him will make it more difficult to do so. Instead go through your day with a growing awareness that he is with you. Whenever you have it, follow that inner sense that seems to encourage you one direction or checks you from going another. When you come up against choices of significance, ask him what he has in mind. Let him show you in his time. You don’t have to hear something every day or in every circumstance. Relax in him as he connects your heart with his.

Learning to live out of your spirit, rather than your intellect or emotions alone, will take some time. Ask him to show you the next step ahead and relax in a growing trust that he will. The Spirit makes his direction clear in a variety of ways–it might be that stray thought in your mind, affirmed by something that you read or hear, perhaps even a lyric of a song in the background that resonates with your heart. Don’t look for a “voice” per se, but a growing awareness of his thoughts in your mind. Of course, familiarity with his words in Scripture and conversations with others on a similar journey will also bring clarity to what he’s showing you.

As I go about my life, I become aware of options that are better than my own, especially in helping someone near me, or drawing me into a quieter space with him. At first, I don’t always like where these nudges would lead me, which is why Jesus saw this journey as a narrower road and why most people miss it. Our flesh so easily dismisses what it doesn’t want to consider. And, no, you don’t have to always get it right. No one does.

As you make a few choices down the narrow road, you will find yourself becoming more relaxed and able to live in the moment instead of trying to manipulate your circumstances. The questions you’ll find yourself asking might be these: What does he want to show me about himself today? What might love lead me to do in this situation? How does loving others, even at the expense of my self-interest perpetuate the kingdom? How does my forgiveness or service to someone else today, make the world a better place?

But even when you miss him and find yourself on a path of your own making, he is there, too, still nudging you toward a better road. Don’t be hard on yourself, just keep coming back to him over and over. You are loved, even in your brokenness. Today is the day God cares about. As they say, the best time to plant an oak tree was twenty years ago, but the second best time to plant it is today.

As you learn to live more on the narrow road, you’ll have a better idea just how destructive the broad way was, to yourself and others. Rather than be embarrassed by it, embrace that new reality. One of the most redemptive things we do on the narrow road is to go back to people we’ve wronged, seek their forgiveness and offer restitution where we can. Such moments bring great healing and clarity to all involved. Yes, it may not be easy, but that’s exactly the point of the narrow road–most fruitful things aren’t fun at the outset, but yield great joy later on.

Learning to follow him in the reality of daily life will have far-reaching consequences that will open up possibilities you would never see coming. That’s why Jesus warned Nicodemus that if he couldn’t believe him about earthly things, he’d never grasp what Jesus wanted to show him about heavenly things.
True Discipleship

The room was filled with a church planting team that gathered weekly in a coffee shop. But every year they don’t meet during the last month of summer to give everyone a break. They had just completed that month and told me that it is always their best month of community and growth. More fellowship, outreach, and interaction took place in that one month than the other eleven. They wanted to know how they could capture the spirit of that month in their meetings.

“Why try?” I asked. “If that’s your best month, maybe what you’re looking for is down that road?” I could tell the thought had never crossed their minds. They were having trouble grasping it now. How could they be “a church” without their meeting?

But the choice was so clearly before them and what they’d learn down that road would transform them in ways the status quo never would. That’s why Jesus encouraged us to look past how everyone else is doing things, and find out what he is asking of us.

Perhaps the most effective form of discipleship is not teaching a curriculum, but simply being alongside others when they are at a fork in the road and being a cheerleader for the road less traveled. We don’t have to manipulate or pressure them, but simply through a question or observation give them an opportunity to make a choice that matters. And if they make it, lend them our support and encouragement. That’s how people find their way onto a journey that will be full of his life.

The only reason why his way may seem difficult is because we’re so busy following the crowd that we miss his invitation to a narrower road. But once we learn to believe him, it becomes far easier than most think possible.
And though you’ll find yourself on a road most others can’t understand, it will change the way you think, live, and how you treat others. You’ll find yourself on a transformative journey that you will never regret.


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The Narrow Road Read More »

Betrayal, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation

By Wayne Jacobsen

Living Loved • Spring 2012

The world does not need one more example of people who claim to be Christ-followers while they blow up close friendships for whatever personal gain they may seek. We have too many already.

Unfortunately, Christians have a far greater reputation for self-serving than they do for self-sacrifice. Church history is littered with successions of church splits, doctrinal distinctions that allow one group to look down their noses at another, gossip, and dishonest business practices.

What a sad heritage indeed when the only thing Jesus asked of us is that we would love each other in the same way he loved us so that the whole world would know who he is! We failed that mission miserably. We failed it early. And we continue to fail it often.

Paul and Barnabus couldn’t even find a way to go on a second journey together to spread the gospel in the world. They ended up in a “violent disagreement” over John Mark that shattered their friendship and unfortunately set a tone that has endured for 2000 years. There are even numerous examples in history of both sides in a war praying to the same God to help them slaughter their enemies.

If you wonder why authentic, caring community with other Christfollowers remains so elusive, it’s because Christianity, as a religious system, merely offers humanity another tool to serve their own ambitions. Many, especially so-called leaders, have never learned to live with the same selfsacrificing love that allowed Jesus to engage others beyond his own personal needs. They view people around them either as those they can exploit if they are cooperative, or must subvert if they dare challenge or question.

We will love well in the world only when we learn that the essence of love is in laying down our lives for others, not using them for our own needs. We will never understand that freedom until we know how loved we are by God.

Valuing Relationships

I’ve met a lot of people who want to be famous writers, artists, or musicians, others who want to change the world through media, political action, or power encounters. But I don’t recall ever meeting anyone whose life ambition was to be a good lover of people. And yet, that’s how Jesus seemed to live his life. He didn’t start any projects, rush around to planning meetings, or plot world-altering strategies. He simply loved the people his Father put before him and the kingdom of God made its way into the world.

Maybe that’s why he told the disciples that if they would love like he did the whole world would get to see who he is. It’s the one thing Christians haven’t done for 2000 years. It’s amazing how easily Christians discard personal relationships in the pursuit of other things they consider more critical. Whether it is doctrinal purity, political power, personal acclaim, or behavioral conformity, anything we put above loving the people God puts before us will only make us more a part of the world system that offer human sacrifices to the god of our self-expedience.

Why do we do it? Because we have no idea how deeply loved we are. One can even teach the so-called “love message” and yet still throw someone under the bus at the first sign of trouble. If you’re willing to do that to someone else to save yourself, you don’t know Jesus well. Learning to live loved is the fruit of a growing relationship with him. It seems to take significant time, and most of our theological studies and religious efforts are not helpful in that process. I was a passionate practitioner of a religion called Christianity for over forty years before I had an inkling of how much the Father loved me. I was so busy trying to accomplish something great for him that people were often a means to my ambition, not the object of my affection.

As I grow in my understanding of his love for me it changes the way I see others around me, including complete strangers. I’ve come to appreciate that the greatest gifts we are given in this life are the people we know and the friendships that grow out of those relationships. Ask any person on the verge of death and they will swear it is so. Everything else is secondary.

Unfortunately, not everyone shares the same passion for relationship, and if you’re going to love deeply in this world you will also get hurt often. You will be taken advantage of. You will be mistreated and often used. Our world is relationally challenged, which is why there are so many Scriptures that help us deal with relational breakdowns.

If you want to love like he loves, you will have to learn how to negotiate the painful realities of broken relationships and even find joy even in the process. Living loved by him and loving others freely around you is the greatest adventure you will ever know.

Handling Betrayal

We learned at a very young age that the same people who might praise us one day, can easily reject us the next. I wonder how many people who shouted, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” as Jesus rode into Jerusalem, also shouted, “Crucify him,” only five days later.

Jesus knew that for many love would often take second-place to self-interest. I’m not talking here about momentary failures or misunderstandings that can temporarily derail a friendship. We all see things differently, and can disappoint each other without knowing it. But people of honor will work through those moments to find a mutually satisfying resolution with love and respect. Betrayal rises out of consistent patterns of exploitive, deceptive, or destructive behaviors.

For the past ten years I’ve begged every friend I’ve done business with, to resolve whatever difficulties might arise inside the friendship. I promised if they were unhappy, I’d make sure they walked away with a smile before I did. People easily agree to the concept, but at the first sign of conflict some will betray the friendship and seek whatever means they can to force their will. And almost all of them claim God’s leading even when it involves outright lying and gossip. When I’ve asked them to submit their concerns to other believers of their choosing, they refuse. That’s when you know they are not concerned with a fair solution, but only one that serves them.

Feeling used by another human being is one of the most painful realities of living in a broken world. I’ve been surprised by it on more than one occasion and am left wondering why people can’t put affection and truth ahead of duplicity and greed.

Perhaps it simply asks more of people than they have to give. In his book, His Excellency George Washington, Joseph J. Ellis tells us that our nation’s founders rejected the idea of a pure democracy knowing it would ultimately fail. “During the war Washington had learned, the hard way, that depending on a virtuous citizenry was futile, for it asked more than human nature was capable of delivering.” And what was that? “Making voluntary sacrifice the operative principle of republican government had proved to be a romantic delusion. Both individual citizens and sovereign states required coercion to behave responsibly.”

Without Christ that is certainly true. Often with Christ it is still true. I’ve spent a lot of time of late with people who have been through incredible acts of betrayal, whether it is an unfaithful spouse, abusive pastors, or even dishonest business associates. There’s nothing worse than finding out that a close friend has decided they have more to gain by betraying you than by remaining faithful.

Rather than be overrun with pain, however, Jesus told us to consider ourselves blessed when we’re lied about or excluded. And if we don’t appreciate it, we will only treat others the way they treat us and perpetuate the cycle of pain. No, that isn’t easy, but it is nonetheless the truth.

One thing that helps me is not to take it personally. No one deserves to be betrayed by someone who postures themselves as a close friend. Betrayal at its heart is not about you, it’s about weakness in the other person’s soul. Hurting people, hurt people. That’s as true a statement as I know. Betrayal is an assault against love itself and only shows how lost the betrayer is in his own pain.

Of course, none of us can endure betrayal on our own. We have to land squarely on the lap of a loving Father, pouring out our hurts and disappointments, knowing he is able to care for us even beyond the unfaithfulness of others. As we find healing and rest in his love, which may take weeks or months, then it will become clear how he wants us to respond.

Sometimes he wants you to stay in the relationship and love them past it. At other times he will want you to distance yourself from destructive people, especially those who violate your boundaries. Loving others doesn’t mean you have to let them walk all over you. He will show you how to lay down your life in trust that he will resolve things in far better ways than you can.

Finding Forgiveness

“Unforgiveness is like drinking rat poison while waiting for the rat to die,” is a common, but wise expression.

Our unforgiveness does not impact those who have hurt us. It doesn’t even protect us from further hurt. It merely leaves power in the hands of those who cause damage in the world. Forgiveness is the healing salve in broken relationships. It does not excuse someone else’s behavior; it merely frees their victim from the ongoing pain of their actions and the desire to pay them back. By doing so it opens the opportunity for us to find healing beyond the pain, and the freedom to move on with God’s further work in our lives.

But forgiveness is not just a choice of our will; it is a process. It begins by bringing our hurt and pain to Father so that his love can heal us from what others have done to damage us. This may take a few weeks or even years, depending on how deep the betrayal, but don’t stop short until his freedom comes to reign in your heart. Somewhere along the way, as he untangles the pain and leads us out of it into greener pastures, you’ll find yourself able to release the other person from your judgment and entrust them to God.

You’ll know forgiveness has had its work in you when you no longer feel the angst in your stomach when you think of the one who hurt you. You’ll find God’s love more powerful than the most destructive intentions of others. In the end, we learn to forgive as we understand how much we need God’s forgiveness ourselves. When I have a difficult time forgiving someone else over a long season, it has helped me to ask Jesus what it is about his forgiveness that I don’t yet know for myself. The more I understand his forgiveness for me the easier it becomes to give it away to others.

What I love about forgiveness is that it is a unilateral process. It doesn’t depend on the other person owning their failure or asking me for it. My forgiveness of others is transacted with God alone. I free them to God. And, as much as God allows, I take my liberty from their continuing influence on my life. Forgiving can allow an amiable relationship, but it will be a distant one. You can keep the peace with them by not bringing up the past, but the friendship will not heal.

Nothing in forgiveness heals the relationship, nor does it give respect back to those who were hurtful. Many have been taught that true forgiveness erases the past and lets us start over. It does not. While I remove my judgment from them, their actions may still expose their true nature. While I can continue to love them, it is love with eyes wide open, aware of the deep inner torment that they live with and their willingness to thrust it upon others in an instant.

A Heart for Reconciliation

Forgiveness alone, however, does not fulfill the Father’s greatest desire. Broken relationships in his family break our Father’s heart. It results from sin twisting us and our competing for things he has not given. Redemption always holds out hope for reconciliation– even with those people who have wronged us most. God’s ability to restore friendship between estranged children of his, is one of the greatest fruits of his work in humanity.

In the past four months I’ve had the blessing of being part of two reconciliations of important friendships that were cut off in days of pain and betrayal. Both separations lasted over 15 years and have now been healed. I wish it hadn’t taken so long, but this isn’t a process we control. What absolute delight it was to work through the pain, misunderstandings, and confusion that caused the separation, and celebrate the grace of God that triumphs in all of us, even beyond our own brokenness and failures!

While forgiveness is a unilateral process, reconciliation is a bilateral process where the relationship is healed. This can only happen when both parties are ready to sit down and honestly explore each other’s story with a spirit of compassion and humility. It cannot be forced and can only happen when all parties truly value the relationship over any other agenda. Reconciliation embraces a love greater than our need to be vindicated.

This, too, is a work of Father we respond to, and not our responsibility to make happen. Until each heart is prepared to truly listen to the other’s story, laying aside own assumptions and judgments, admitting mistakes, caring about each other’s pain, and mitigating any way we can the damage we caused. That’s what allows friendship to be renewed.

Do I Trust Them Again?

Does reconciliation restore trust? I’m asked that question almost every time I discuss it. Of course not!

Reconciliation does not require us to trust again. That’s a different process. While it will allow us to love them again, reconciliation does not restore trust. The sad truth is that while it takes years to build trust it only takes a minute to destroy it. Once destroyed by abuse or betrayal, trust has to grow again even after the friendship is renewed. You can forgive a spouse who abuses you, and even find reconciliation as he owns his failure, but reconciliation doesn’t change people. If we simply trust someone who has not yet changed, we only set ourselves up to be exploited again.

Reconciliation doesn’t make you stupid or gullible. Cheap promises are not a substitute for transformation. Trust, once violated, can only be won back by the demonstration over significant time that God has dealt with their inner darkness, and they have come to value the relationship above their own self-interest.

You don’t trust a stranger, and you don’t re-trust someone who has betrayed you even after you’ve been reconciled. We are never told to trust someone beyond our assurance that they will lay down their life for us. Trust is the fruit of an ever-deepening relationship of mutual love and respect. One of the greatest joys in human relationship is to engage relationships of love and growing trust that endure the test of years of shifting circumstances. It is a journey worth cultivating, and one worth protecting. Why anyone would trade that joy for any temporal gain is beyond me. They are giving up more than they know.

The Sweet Smell of Death

I recently spent some time in New Zealand with a friend of mine named John Beaumont, he challenged me to look at a Scripture differently than I’d ever interpreted it before. He told me that a passage in Second Corinthians that has been misinterpreted for centuries. This is where Paul writes that we are a fragrance to those being saved, and to those that are perishing. “To the one we’re a smell of death; to the other the fragrance of life.” (2:16)

John explained that most people think that we are a smell of death to the world and fragrance of life to the church, but the construction of the verse won’t support that conclusion. We are actually a smell of death to those being saved, and a fragrance of life to the world. How can that be? My confused look caused John to go on.

“The smell of death for the believer, is one where someone has been crucified with Christ and their ‘life is now hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3),” John concluded. Is there any greater fragrance than someone whose wounds, ambitions, preferences, and agendas have been swallowed up by God and who now lives in the simple power of loving and caring for others? The aroma of a life that no longer needs to find its own identity, force its own will, or prove itself, offers a garden of rich possibilities in their daily interactions.

Those who are loved well by Father, will love well in the world. To be a lover of people is the one thing every one of us can do each day that will do more to change the world than any personal achievement we aspire to. Loving those whom God puts before–our spouse, children, co-workers, neighbors, and even strangers–is where real joy is found and where the kingdom work is really done.

Each time you offer a greeting, show an interest, serve a need, offer a listening ear or a shoulder to weep on, or any other way you simply care for another human being, you become a reflection of his glory. And every day you treat people with compassion, dignity, and respect, refusing to put your interests above theirs, forgiving freely and seeking healing, the life of Jesus shines a bit brighter in a broken world.
Nothing else you can do today will matter more.

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Living Loved is published periodically by Lifestream Ministries and is sent free of charge to anyone who requests it. For those with email we recommend our web-based version so that we can hold down costs and get it to you much more quickly. This is especially important for international subscribers.

© Copyright 2013 Lifestream Ministries

Permission is hereby granted to anyone wishing to make copies for free distribution.

Articles in Chronological Order | Articles by Content

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