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Busting Up Your Bias – Going Live Today at 2 pm

How do our perceptions of people groups who may be of a different color, different faith, or different sexuality affect how we relate to them? Many people can’t recognize their own biases, especially those that lead to injustice and unfairness for others. Recognizing we all have biases and learning how to manage them is an important facet to being a voice for healing in our culture.

We’re exploring how we can do that today on Language of Healing Live at 2:00 pm PDT.  I’ll be joined by my coauthors of A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation, Bob Prater and Arnita Taylor. Evan Taylor, Arnita’s oldest son, will guide our discussion today and others will join us in the Zoom room for a compelling conversation about compassion in a divided world. This conversation is drawn from Chapter 10.  This content couldn’t be more appropriate for the environment we find ourselves in today.

Language of Healing Live is a continuing series of bi-weekly video conversations to help people learn to live more generously in this divided world. You can view previous ones here.  We will be streaming live at the Language of Healing Discussion Group on Facebook, and I will attempt to post that feed on my Wayne Jacobsen Page on Facebook as well.

Join us there live, or watch the video after, which I’ll post here when we’ve finished.

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Also, Part 13 of Embracing His Glory dropped today over at The God Journey. This is a continuing series about learning to live loved and transformed by the work of Christ. If you haven’t been in on it, start at the beginning. It will make more sense. There is only one more episode coming in this series.

Pardon Me, Your Tribe is Showing

I will be doing a live Zoom session today at 2:00 pm PDT with my coauthors of A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation, Bob Prater and Arnita Taylor. Today’s conversation will focus on themes from Chapter 3 about the pluses and minuses of tribalism and how it affects our life.  It is so easy to think only inside of our own tribe and be oblivious to the experiences of others outside of it.

This is a continuing series of bi-weekly video conversations to help people learn to live more generously in this divided world. You can view previous ones here.   We will be streaming live at the Language of Healing Discussion Group on FaceBook, and I will attempt to post that feed on my Wayne Jacobsen Page there as well.

Join us there live, or watch the video after, which I’ll post here when we’ve finished.

Also, Part 6 of Embracing His Glory dropped today over at The God Journey. This is a continuing series about learning to live loved and transformed by the work of Christ. If you haven’t been in on it, start at the beginning. It will make more sense.

The Jesus Story #5 – The Story that Leads Us to Jesus

After talking through the life of Jesus, and how the early followers discovered what it means to let the Risen Christ live in them, we start looking back at the Bible story that leads to Jesus’ coming. This is a long story of God seeking to win people to himself as they continue to get lost in their own ambitions and would turn away from him. This video looks at the theme of that story and God seeks to win a people into his love, and the geography in which he placed them so that their only safety would be in learning to trust him.

The Jesus Story is an adaption of The Jesus Lens for my grandchildren (ages 9-15) and anyone else that cares to look over my shoulder.  I want to give them an appreciation for the Bible, that has been the most valuable book I know to help me learn to live inside the Father through the work of Jesus.   There will be thirteen episodes in this season as we cover the whole story of Scripture, which is really a story about Jesus.

You can join us live if you like on the Facebook Group we created for this little venture or follow each new video as they appear on The Jesus Story Page here on Lifestream.

(If you don’t see the video above, please click here.)

Print Out Ancient Middle Eastern Map Before Watching the Video

The Jesus Story #4 – Learning to Live in Jesus

After Jesus’s resurrection, his new followers had to learn how to live in this new kingdom with Jesus on the inside instead of the outside. A number of those wrote letters to help explain it to others and those have been saved for us in the part of the New Testament between Acts and Revelation. These letters are a treasure map to help you learn how to move from obligation to rules  and rituals into a growing relationship with how Jesus wants to reveal himself to you and through you.

The Jesus Story is an adaption of The Jesus Lens for my grandchildren (ages 9-15) and anyone else that cares to look over my shoulder.  I want to give them an appreciation for the Bible, that has been the most valuable book I know to help me learn to live inside the Father through the work of Jesus.   There will be thirteen episodes in this season as we cover the whole story of Scripture, which is really a story about Jesus.

You can join us live if you like on the Facebook Group we created for this little venture or follow each new video as they appear on The Jesus Story Page here on Lifestream.

(If you don’t see the video above, please click here.)

Leaning into His Love

For those of you in and around central Michigan, I’m headed there at the end of the month if the planes are still flying. But what I really wanted to share was this:
A close friend from across the country wrote me a note last week. His adult son had been a bit down lately. In a phone call the dad had encouraged him, “to resist the unhealthy urge to isolate and prayerfully focus on Jesus (who is) with him in the present. Pay attention to his love, how he is loving you today and the things and people he is putting on your heart today.”
 
The next day when he returned to his apartment after work, he saw a package on his doorstep. When he opened it he found a cheap, used copy of He Loves Me. And when he picked it up he found a sticky note pictured above on the inside back cover. It read:
“Ask God every day to reveal the depth of your love for me, and teach me to trust you more.”
Not only is that great counsel, but it’s also pretty cool how God put his fingerprints on that for this young man.
Remember, the awareness of Father’s love is not something we can achieve; it’s a reality we relax into. He can show you too. Just ask him, “Father, how are you making your love known to me today?”
And if you don’t have access to a cheap, used copy, you can get a fresh one here.

Facilitating the Conversations That Matter

A week or so ago, I wrote a blog about The Power of a Conversation. I would say that the vast majority of us have been more impacted by a meaningful conversation than listening to a lecture. I know many people see lectures as more fit for teaching, but honestly I do more effective teaching in conversations these days than I can ever fit into a presentation.

Tomorrow, I’m off for a two-week a swing through Oklahoma, featuring a wide set of conversations, some about the depth of living loved, and others about how to love well in the world.  With my latest book out, I now have a set of three books covering the best of what it means to live in the Father’s love—growing in it personally (He Loves Me), finding mutual relationships to stimulate our spiritual growth and to serve others (Finding Church), and how to live with a generous heart in a broken world (A Language of Healing for a Polarized World, which recently became available in audio.)

I received a lot of email about my post regarding conversations. This was one of my favorite because the writer asks a question many of us struggle with:

We’ve been out of the institutional church now since reading Finding Church roughly two years ago and love following the Father this way. We’ve seen such great fruit in our family’s life, as well as with teens (I’m a high school teacher), as we have them over on Fridays for an informal small group/Bible study.

We’ve also occasionally invited others (adults and families) over to our house to simply gather and we have enjoyed it.  Yet, we find it so hard not to rely on a “worship time” or a “Teaching Time.”  What I wish we could experience are the gatherings that I’ve heard you speak of: people coming together when you’re in town at a house or somewhere, but you don’t do a ‘teaching’ and yet all sorts of Spirit-inspired conversations go on amongst the people there.

We find that when we have others over, people don’t typically discuss spiritual or life issues with each other without being encouraged to do so.  Things just stay in the “how are you doing?” and “what’s going with you guys these days?” subjects.  Admittedly, even writing it makes me feel a little silly: how can I expect people to have meaningful, God-journey-related conversations without facilitating them?  But once I start facilitating, somehow it feels like I am manufacturing an event, which I have done all my life.  I suppose what inspired me about your stories of gatherings is that the Spirit seemed to simply move without some teacher-person managing it all.

Do you have any insights for me of where my wife and I might be able to see/do things differently in this?

Here’s how I answered him, if you’re having similar struggles.

I love your hunger and your honesty here.  These are great questions. I love them. But, honestly, they are not easy to answer. You already know there’s a way to do it that is life-giving and invites people in to a quality conversation, and there’s an artificial way of doing it that either intimidates people or causes them to check out.  The difference between those two is affected both by the person wanting to facilitate it and the people he’s hoping will join that conversation.  You don’t really know until you try and then it’s obvious that the offer falls flat, or it didn’t.

I struggled for a long time with this, especially when I was a pastor. When Sara and I would go out with people, we could talk sports, weather, kids, and everyone would be quite animated, but when Jesus stuff came up (if it did) the conversation got awkward and stilted.  It seemed that conversation was reserved for “church” meetings or home groups, not the fodder of normal conversation.  Still, I think this is worth working through.

The first thing I’d suggest you think about is that people have to be on a Jesus journey to have a lively conversation about it. It can’t be just a religious journey that is compartmentalized into a few hours a week. The more they have a sense of their own trajectory or growing edge, and are exploring their life and circumstances with an eye to what God is doing in them or through them, the easier this will all be to fall into the course of regular conversation. People who have a sense of God in their daily life, are seeking to hear his voice and grow in his ways, are very easy to talk to. Those whose lives are immersed in circumstances without a thought as to God’s part with them, will struggle in this conversation. I don’t look for this kind of robust conversation with people like that. I look for ways to share something from my own life that might encourage them or get them thinking, but hopefully not in a manipulative way or one that expects them to respond in a certain way.

The best conversations start spontaneously out of people sharing a meal together. It’s usually triggered when someone dares to get real and shares something from their own journey that’s meaningful and perhaps even vulnerable. It may be a request for help or prayer, or just something that’s really been weighing on them. It can also happen when someone shares an insight they had, or read something that really made them think. Then other people tag on to it and the conversation begins to go down some deeper paths. I love that best. But notice, even then, someone had the wherewithal to have something on their heart and take the risk to share it. I don’t mind being that person if it doesn’t come from someone else.

This is pretty easy when I travel, because people come ready for that kind of a conversation. They’ve read things I’ve written or heard me say things on podcasts they want to discuss or with questions they have about it. That happens whether I’m in a group or one-on-one.

Finding your way into it with more spontaneous encounters takes some doing and some sensitivity to other people in the room.  What are they ready for?  What do the relationships allow?  That’s why it may be a bit easier to facilitate a recurring group to discuss a book or do a Bible study together.  But even in those gatherings, it’s usually the vulnerable sharing that opens the door to something deeper.  And even in our past home groups, we got to the place where the conversation around the table was deeper and more relational than the study we started later. That’s when we stopped doing the study and let the better conversations around the table continue.

Let me encourage you to talk to Jesus about this, not for a plan to implement every time, but for something that might be on your heart for the next conversation you’re in.  It may be a question to ask, or a vulnerable thing you’re going through, or something you read that inspired you. At our last Christmas dinner I had a wild thought just as we were sitting down to dinner. I made a bit of a game of it, but I said no one could leave the table until they shared an experience from the past year that made them a better person. This was my kids and grandkids, so everybody was ready to jump in. I doubt I could do that at any dinner group.  But it opened up the best sharing time we’ve ever had around the table, which also included young children. Later, everyone told me after how much they appreciated it.  I did it on a whim, hoping to have a better dialog around our table. You can bet I’ll be thinking that way again next time we get together with something entirely different. I want it to be a blessing to them, not something that feels forced.

That’s why it’s important that people have some relationship first. I think people who want to intentionally share some of their journey together in a regular way, really spend the first few weeks becoming friends, if they aren’t already. Many start having meetings that tend down a religious road of sharing knowledge, rather than a relational one sharing questions and struggles. If they don’t know each other well, then the first thing is to really let people share something from their lives that isn’t too spiritual, but helps others appreciate who they are as a person.  Some may go deeper there, but it isn’t necessary to force that.  As they get closer, they will be more involved in each other’s lives and questions will flow more readily. And I think it helps if people don’t meet EVERY week. That seems to be our default, but it may be too often. When people feel obligated to attend, or not enough life has passed for there to be fresh insights and struggles, they can grow stale quickly.  Some of the best relationships I have don’t try to cross paths every week or two. Some go months between connection, but when we do, there’s no end of things to talk about.

I hope that helps. There’s no magic formula here, just people who desire rich conversations, and are sensitive to when they become forced or artificial.

I Love How This Book Encourages So Many

One of the great joys I have every day is opening my email. Yes, there is lots of pain in there as people are struggling with the brokenness of the world and how much religious obligation has twisted their view of God and themselves. But there’s also lots of joy in it as people have been encouraged to take the road less traveled, away from the dictates of a religion to a vibrant connection with God and a growing trust in his love for the Father.

I’ve gotten two recently from those who have been especially touched by what we affectionately call The Jake Book—So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore. I realize between the lines here are also some of those great seasons of pain and frustration trying to fit their spiritual passion into a religious box that is far too small to contain it. But when people let me know that the gravity of life and freedom in Jesus has become more powerful than the pull of obligation, it makes my heart happy.  Here are two examples:

I cannot identify one particular thing that led me down the path of this journey that my wife and I are currently on with Jesus, but I do wish to acknowledge that a book that you wrote, So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore? played a significant part in turning my life around. I was looking through a bunch of discounted books at a local bookstore a number of years ago and the title caught my eye. I have not been the same since I read it, mostly because it served as an encouragement to explore my questions about Church congregations and ministry as one serving as a clergy person, specifically as a chaplain for a Church-based retirement community and now as a hospice chaplain for a secular organization. I was a pastor for 15 years before entering the chaplaincy and did not find the pastorate to be something that encouraged my relationship with Christ. I found that I had to look beyond the “organized church” to find that.

I am thankful for your encouragement on this journey which has not been particularly easy, but has made my 60’s the best part of my life so far. I have been recovering from surgery this week and enjoyed listening to The Jesus Lens which has encouraged me to return to Scripture in a new way. I wish you well on your trip to Richmond this week.

And I sure agree with him that the 60s have been the best part of my life so far. That’s what Paul had in mind when he wrote, “from glory to ever-increasing glory…” he’s transforming us. There are lots of struggles in this journey, even in your 60s, but the freedom within and the growing connection to Jesus makes each decade better than the last.

And then, there’s  this one:

After 5 years in the church, I began to be worn out by the sermons of submission to the pastor, which makes them dependent on the pastor and not on God. They carry out activities, which not only have nothing to do with the Lord’s work but keeps them away from true communion with Him.

When I read your book, it was like a breath of fresh air. I realized that I was not crazy, and that freed me from doubts I had. Your book not only shed light on some of the shortcomings of the institution in which I have been for five years now but it also allows me to understand some of the mistakes I make in my quest for fellowship with Father. For example, John says to Jake: “Until you find out how to trust God for every detail of your life, you will constantly seek to control others for the things you think you need.”

This book is like a double-edged knife for me. It reveals the imperfections of the institution and of the men, but it also allows me to see the slags in me and to ask the Lord Jesus to show me what to do. God knows why He allowed your book to come into my hands. I am very grateful for that. It’s a blessing for me.

I am 70 years old and I arrived at Christianity in 1988, 31 years ago. It is true that all things have become new. The character of John impresses me, which child of God would not be like him? He reminds me of what our Lord said to Nicodemus in John 3: 8: “The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the noise, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with every man who is born of the Spirit.”

What a superb lesson of faith in God, who creates in us the will and the doing, also creates the circumstances and the situations; and He will put the words useful in our mouth for the one to whom he sends us. For me, I will wish to be a John whom God sends where He wants. I’d also like to have a John who would appear in my life when God knows I need him.

Your book is good for me and I thank God for allowing this.

And I love what he wrote about not just seeing the abuses of others that have reflected poorly in human institutions, but those things in us that contributed to it all.  In the end, his church is not an institution to be managed, but a growing family in the earth to be enjoyed.

 

 

 

Resurgence in Kenya

I am so amazed by the number of people who hold the Kenyans in their hearts. I am often asked for updates and am sure I probably don’t provide enough.  Last time I wrote toward the end of December, the people of Pokot had been through some devastating floods, destroying the villages, their crops, and their storehouses of food.  You responded with money enough to help feed them and restore the damage to their farms.

I’ve received some updates this week from our friends caring for their neighbors in Pokot.  The storm was devastating, but they have begun to rebuild. You can see the devastation of their homes on the left. On the right below you can see the crops beginning to grow again as they have rebuilt the irrigation systems, thanks to your generosity.

Storm damage on the huts in Pokot

Here’s what they wrote:

 

We would like to thank you so much, actually the help was a great rescue to the community. And since the plumber and his team who are fixing and replacing the destroyed pipes and other things, they will continue till next week. The damage was so big. But we thank God for your quick intervention. The environmental department has contacted us so that they can teach the community how they can protect from the destruction in future. This includes making terraces around the farm and planting trees to prevent soil erosion and avoid future damage.

The crops begin to grow again

The committees, through our coaches, called us to thank you and the team for the support of the irrigation program. This program has had a great impact on their food security in that region. The irrigation has been fixed and is now working but the community is out of food. Even those working on farm don’t have the energy to do that job.

We have estimated that to sustain these three village with food will take536 bags of maize, 90 bags of beans, and Transportation, which will cost $23,600.

 

I am sorry to come back to you so soon for this need, but it seems we are the only ones in the world that stand between them and starvation. I thought the money we sent in December would be enough, but they hadn’t planned on the three additional months.  If you would like to help with this need you follow the links below, and if you know others who might be touched by this need, please pass this information along. You have always responded so generously and I am grateful.

As always, every dollar you send us gets to Kenya, and all contributions are tax-deductible in the US. We do not take out any administrative or money transfer fees. Please see our Donation Page at Lifestream. You can either donate with a credit card there, or you can mail a check to Lifestream Ministries • 1560 Newbury Rd Ste 1  •  Newbury Park, CA 91320. Or if you prefer, we can take your donation over the phone at (805) 498-7774.

Thank you for your concern and your prayers. And, if you are in a place to help, please give generous

The Focused Life

Over the past few weeks I have been recording the audio version of In Season: Embracing the Father’s Process for Fruitfulness, and then this weekend it was time to prune the four grapevines I have in my back yard. And it just so happens that I’ve been undergoing a bit of pruning in my spiritual life as well.  So, I have been freshly reminded of how much I love those stories from the vineyard, and how much I appreciate the Father’s engagement in helping us find our fulfillment in him so that his fruitfulness can take hold in a transformed heart.

Except for some snowy scenes at Christmas time, winter seems to be the most unpopular season. Spiritually, however, I’ve come to appreciate it deeply. At no other time does the farmer have so much influence on his vine’s fruitfulness. In the slowing cold of winter, the Master can cut off all the extraneous branches to focus our lives on the few things he wants us to do well, rather than being driven by the demands of our circumstances.

Having read these passages recently, I wanted to share them again with you from In Season:

The slowed days of winter fly in the face of our frenetic pace of life. This is the gardener leading his vineyards to rest in the same way the shepherd takes his sheep to green pastures and quiet waters. There they lie down to rest. The waters that nurse them are quiet, not raging. If we learned this well enough, perhaps the expression “to be busy for God” would be an oxymoron. It is the world that invites us to busyness. Take it from one who used to find most of his identity in a crammed schedule, proving by activity his worth to God. It is a fool’s trap that has made busyness a coveted merit badge in the kingdom of God.

God doesn’t want our busyness; he wants our trust. Having our trust, he knows we will respond to him and his ways as life unfolds before us.

When we are drawn away from our busyness then we’re free to submit to God’s reshaping of how we live our days, more focused on him and less manipulated by the illusions around us:

Pruning is God’s invitation to lay down those things that no longer need to take up our time and energy and move on to new things that will inspire us and help others. Through it, God resets our focus so that we can concentrate on what he wants us to do. Better to do one thing fruitfully than a lot of things that only turn out to be empty foliage.

I know people like that. In fact, I’ve been like that myself. Externally I looked productive, busily rushing from one meeting to another or jumping from one project to the next. Leaves everywhere! How intoxicating busyness can be. But I couldn’t find the fruit. My spiritual life was so diluted by my myriad of activities that none of them were bearing anything more than paltry, unripened fruit.

Busyness is not the goal of a conscientious believer; fruitfulness is. Not every request that comes my way is God’s will for me to accept. Good opportunities are not necessarily godly ones. Expectations pushed on us by others are not the directions Jesus invites us to follow.

Paul wrote to Titus that, “The grace of God teaches us to say no.” That means we can say no to the worldly passions that destroy us and no to the opportunities that overwhelm us.

Notice that it’s not fear that teaches us to say no, but grace. Because we can trust God and know that he will lead us into the fullness of joy, we are free to say no even to the things that we desire, whether good or bad.

Jesus said no to the enemy’s temptations, knowing that God’s way was better. He didn’t rush to Lazarus’ side when he first heard he was sick. He stayed two days longer to finish what he was doing before he joined the friends he deeply loved. Given Paul’s explanations in his epistles, he didn’t rush to churches that desired him to come either. He followed God’s agenda instead.

Recognizing that we are branches on his vine will free us to focus on the few things that God has really called us to do. That’s the only way to be fruitful. Draw near to God and let him show you what his plans are. His grace will teach you to say no to those that aren’t.

We hope to have the audio out in a month or so.  We’ll let you know here…

One Conversation at a Time

Our hope for A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation is that it would change the way people interact with those around them.  I love the stories where that is happening. Here are two I got just last week that really touched me:

Our publisher sent me this story after going into a Barnes and Noble in Colorado:

Out of curiosity, I attempted to find a copy of A Language of Healing. I was unable to locate it so I asked a customer service rep to see if they had it. She informed me that unfortunately they were sold out but that they could try and ship a copy to me in time for Christmas. I thanked her but declined, informing her that I was associated with the publishing company for A Language of Healing.

She got very excited and told me that her 14-year-old son loved the book. He is very passionate about politics and has been asking some very challenging questions about some of the current issues in today’s political atmosphere. The Barnes and Noble employee went on to say that there were a lot of books that B&N sells that she does not see the point in even carrying.  She wanted me to express her deepest thanks in taking the risk to write a book worthy of the world’s attention and told me she has intentionally sold several copies after reading it for herself with her son. 

Then, I got a series of texts from a good friend who lives in Mississippi:

Earlier in the day, he had met a Methodist pastor living in the area. After a brief conversation, my friend invited the pastor to go to dinner some evening with their wives and further the conversation. They exchanged cell numbers, but a bit later when my friend texted the pastor to firm up dinner arrangements he got back this text:

“Thank you for your gracious offer but our political views and views on faith are pretty much on opposite ends of the spectrum.  My wife will be running as a Democrat in the state legislature.  We appreciate the invitation and are glad you love this community like we do but we would rather not enter into a situation that would make either or both of us uncomfortable.”

My friend responded:  “I got your text.  Perhaps we could start with a coffee at Starbucks for just you and me? I’m sorry if I did anything to create the idea that friendship depends on agreement. In fact, I’d say just the opposite. Attached is a book called “A Language of Healing…” which I recently endorsed at the request of the authors.  You will see that conversations don’t make me uncomfortable at all. I understand however if you or your wife are not up for that. By the way, I’m not even a Republican anymore so being with Democrats is definitely no problem. Happy New Year”

With the text, he sent photos of the front and back cover of the book, and his endorsement inside it.

Shortly after, he got the following text:  “I am pleasantly surprised.  You did not do anything to make me think that friendships depend on agreement.  All I had to go on was info I found on Google about your past political views and so thought we might not enjoy each other’s company.  I have ordered the book and will give it a read.  After I have finished it you and I can get together for coffee.  Thanks for your gracious response.

To which my friend responded:  “Sure. Google and Facebook are from some hellish demon, or at least that’s my opinion based on experience. It’s too easy nowadays to dislike someone from a distance. I am quite confident we can smile about any differences. Thanks.

He agreed to meet for coffee!

In such small moments the culture begins to turn.

Who can you build a bridge with in 2020?

With Gratefulness from Kenya

Your response over the last ten days has been overwhelming. You have no idea how many lives you saved and how many families in North Pokot that you have blessed.  So many of you came alongside these dear people who were ravaged by floods in the north of Kenya that we were able to send over $45,000 to help with immediate food and bedding supplies last week.  Thank you so much for responding so quickly and with such overwhelming generosity. Sara and I have been overwhelmed with joy at your response.

This morning, I heard back from our friends from Kitale who took the supplies your funds bought and delivered them in North Pokot. They were able to take food into North Pokot over the past weekend to bring relief to the people there and sent pictures of what your generous contributions were able to accomplish.

Hi Brother Wayne,

Greetings in the most powerful name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we thank you and all the team who stood with us for the emergency which by the flood, we have just returned this evening after a long journey. We did get stuck on the road, but God is faithful we managed to reach safety. Glory to the Lord!

Otherwise, the community appreciated so much for the support and thank God for the provision of food, blankets, mattresses, and other essential things.

The truck they hired to take food and supplies to North Pokot.
Rejoicing for the food supplies to sustain them.
Distributing mattresses and bedding to replace what the floods swept away.
A woman is able to cook for her family.

It looks like the rains have subsided and they are now preparing to rebuild their lives. I will get back to you when we know better what it will cost to rebuild the agricultural projects and the storehouses for their food. We will also be expanding the warehouse at the Forkland School water project since the demand is outrunning their facility we built there last spring.

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

Thank you for your concern and your prayers. Rejoice with us! God has provided out of your generosity.

 

When You Don’t Get the Miracle You Want, Part 13

Many of you followed the saga of Alan and Lynn (not their real names) the summer that began as In the Shadow of Death and finished as When You Don’t Get the Miracle You Want. It’s a prolonged email exchange with a man whose wife was dying of metastasized breast cancer despite their faith and belief that she would live. She died a few weeks into that exchange, and our correspondence continued into the grief of her loss and the challenge to his faith when he thought his belief would secure her healing. You can read all 12 posts from the beginning starting here if you’d missed it.

I have continued to stay in touch with Alan over the intervening months, and thought I’d add on this one exchange from last week:

From Alan:  

Today is 6 months to the day that Lynn died. It has been another difficult day. I am having a tough time remembering her in her beauty and love and kindness, the images of her in the hospice bed dying before my eyes are crowding out the good. Wayne, why did Jesus say “I will” to the leper and “I will not” to Lynn and me when we said we believe He can heal her if He will. We had zero doubt about His ability. I am so broken trying to make sense of my Father saying “no.” I suppose there are no answers now, and even in eternity he may choose to not reveal why. It is our place to just try to trust that He is good even though we don’t understand. I’m trying.

Wayne’s Response: 

I didn’t know what day it was but knew this would be a brutal day when it arrived.  A day that was so filled with celebration now becomes a marker for pain. That’s what grief is meant to walk us through—to recapture those memories with joy instead of being devastated by them. It does take time. I know we’re perhaps a long way from that kind of thing, but your self-talk now will take you one of two directions—either deeper into disillusionment and despair, or through the darkness of grief and into a light that shines more brightly on the relationship you shared for thirty years.

You know I don’t agree with you about the “I will not.”  Do you think the God you know would have listened to your and Lynn’s prayer and for some capricious reason decided, no, not this time?  Really? What kind of Father would that be? Her healing was never going to be about you believing enough or saying the right prayers. God’s work in the world is not to give all the good stuff to those who trust him, and all the bad stuff, like cancer, to people who don’t. You asked God to heal your wife. I would too, in the same situation.  His answer wasn’t, “I will not,” but it rather might have been…

My beloved son, Alan, there are considerations here you don’t even fathom and couldn’t if I tried to explain them to you, or else I would. It’s not that I didn’t want to, but that I could not, not because I lacked the power or desire to do so, but because of other factors in play that you don’t know about. I am so sorry. I knew you would take that out on me for a time, and I was willing to risk it because I know that at the end of the day your faith would win out. I am good, and Lynn knows that better than anyone living on earth right now. What I did or didn’t do was not about whether or not I loved you or her, but simply that this was the best of all possible solutions for all else that I’m doing on the earth.

I would never ask you to understand that, given your horrible loss and your limited perspective, but I do hope you’ll find a way to trust me in this and look beyond it to see what good I will yet do in you and through you.  Lynn is safely at rest in me, and she yearns for the day when you will join us, but there is so much more I want to share with you right where you are.  Stay the course. Find your way back to love and trust simply in the strength of my character, not in your ability to understand it.  You are mine, Alan. Your time is not yet. There is more day to live until the dawn in which all of this will make more sense.

Alan Response:

Wow! Thank you!. That is the most amazing response ever! You must have been attached to the portal of Heaven because that came from the Father, no doubt! Thank you for being patient and willing to be used by God in my life as opposed to being impatient and preferring to ignore me or tell me to stop bothering you. I love you and thank God for you. I hope that 2020 will afford an opportunity for me to tell you that face-to-face.

Too often, we come to conclusions about God from our limited perspective that are wildly untrue and wars against our intimate life in the Father’s love. If we could only see what he sees, we would understand, and until then, we have to trust what we know of him—that he is a loving, gracious Father, who is not wanting to add to our pain but wants to walk us through it into greater freedom beyond.

You might say we judge God through the knothole of our own pain. We’ve all done it, but it never leads us to what’s true.

Farewell Kevin… And Thank You

The world is a bit poorer today, at the same time more of what I treasure has found his way into eternity.

I found out this morning that my good friend from Australia, Kevin Smith, passed away peacefully on Sunday morning. I knew he had not been well and had endured great suffering and pain over the last few months. Those closest to him are relieved that his suffering is finally over and that he has begun the greatest adventure for which he was created—eternity with the Father he loved so much. My heart and prayers go out to his wife Val, his three kids and their spouses, and all the grandkids.

Over the past 24 years, I got to have so many long, deep, healing conversations with Kevin—in my home, in his, in Ireland, Singapore even on Skype calls. I got to introduce him to so many of my friends around the world. I first met him and Val in the summer of 1995 when asked to teach at a Servant School he’d helped organize in the bush outside of Melbourne, Australia. He and his then-21-year-old daughter picked Sara and me up at the airport to drive us out to Camp Weekaway. The conversation I heard between that father and daughter let me know we were in for a special time. It was our first time in Australia and we were deeply hurting at the time having just been betrayed by a close friend and forced out of a group of people we dearly loved. Those few days were life-changing. It’s where we began to see the cross in a different light, that I wrote about in He Loves Me, and talked at length about in Transitions, and where we got to experience the reality of a community of brothers and sisters that we had been trying so hard to produce, without success, by our own efforts at home.

Those ten days in Australia changed the course of our lives in so many ways. I have always been grateful that God allowed our lives to intersect then and continue to over the years that followed.  He was a treasure in so many ways—his smile, deep laugh, his wisdom, generosity, and graciousness communicated the Father’s nature to me better than anything else ever has. When people ask me what books have most shaped my life and theology, my answer is that it was never books. What has most shaped my life and thoughts on this journey are the people God brought across my path at just the right time and who invested so much in my heart and life. And I don’t mean I got to hear them speak; I got to spend time with these people in their homes, on long walks, in deep conversations and in frivolous moments of joking and laughter. They allowed me to see God in real life and Kevin was one of those. He never took himself too seriously or never tried to impress me with his spiritual depth. He just lived an authentic life and made room for others to walk alongside him.

Kevin Smith having a yarn in Ireland

The sheer gravity of his character and passion for God permanently altered the trajectory of my life. When I spent a few days with Kevin my trust in Father grew in ways that surprised me. He simply lived at rest in the Father’s care through times of great abundance and in times of great need or pain. He was willing to follow God’s leading even at great personal risk financially and otherwise. So much of how I live in the world today, I can trace back to my friendship with Kevin and what he showed me about what life in God looks like.

Even how I travel now is the fruit of our relationship. I know that what people need to see to catch this life for themselves is not a speaker on a stage talking about the love of God, but an example in their homes and over meals of our common humanity and the amazing Father that can make sense of our lives. I know that frivolous moments of laughter or making buttermilk biscuits are every bit as significant as the deep conversations. That’s what Kevin showed me and I still treasure every moment we’ve had together.

As I have reflected this morning on my gratefulness to God for allowing Kevin in my life, I was reminded of some of the things he said to me, that I still share with others:

  • He was the first person I ever heard use the word “Father” without the article in front of it. It captured me because I never call my father ‘The dad’. Father became such an endearing term to me.
  • After asking me how many of our policies in the church I’d been a part of were based on our fears of people falling through the cracks, of the wrong people getting in leadership, or of people not seriously following Jesus and I answered about ninety percent, “So, you know well the church that fear can build, but you’ve yet to discover the church that grows from trusting him.”
  • “We loved The Naked Church when we read it, but we also realized that what you don’t know yet is that Jesus didn’t leave us with a system to implement, but with his Spirit to follow.”
  • When asked by someone if he believed in the infallibility of the Bible, he hesitated briefly then answered,  “I believe in the infallibility of the God of the Bible.”
  • When I was complaining about one of our politicians, “Well, we know he lies, but we don’t know that he’s a liar.”
  • In a classroom in Singapore discussing Jesus’ prayer for the unity of his followers. “Is unity really our calling?  Who was Jesus asking to produce this unity, us or his Father?”
  • When asked about his children not growing up in Sunday school. “I think they may give our children just enough of God’s things to inoculate them against the reality of knowing him.”
  • “Let’s make a pact to use the term church only the way God uses it, not for humanity’s faltering institutions, but for the living, breathing family that thrives in the earth.”

I’m sure there are so many more that will come to mind over the days to come. I am so grateful that Father allowed us to have a friendship over the years.

Kevin Smith in Australia

Fortunately, you can still spend some time with Kevin if you’d like. Over the years I did five podcasts with Kevin and was always touched by the power and simplicity of his words as well as his life.  You can listen to them here. Take a weekend sometime and listen to all five of them back-to-back. It will enrich your journey in ways you can’t imagine.

Most of all, I will miss knowing you’re in this world, Kevin. I realize you are face-to-face with Father now and how I wish we could have one more Skype call so that I could know what you know now. But that will await another day. Thank you, Kevin, for being you! For sharing your life so freely with so many of us and enriching this world with the fragrance of Father.

Farewell, my friend.  Enjoy what’s next!

Do You Want to Help Launch My Latest Book?

They made me do it and laughed at me as they watched me squirm in anguish. All my protests only brought more laughter.

I have more social media than I can keep track of now, but the strategy for launching my newest book with co-authors Arnita Taylor and Bob Prater, A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation, is to add Instagram to my list of things to bug me all day long.  OK, that’s mostly humor.  Well, maybe half… or maybe not. Anyway if you want to join me on Instagram and follow the new book release, you can follow me at WayneatLifestream.

But I’m so excited to finally share this book with you. It will release November 19 and we’re planning some events in Dallas, TX to mark the release and to possibly do some training in helping cultivate conversations that tend toward healing. That will be the weekend of November 15-17. I’ll have more information out soon, but if you’d like to join us in Dallas from elsewhere in the world, you might want to put it on the calendar.  All of the authors will be there.

Also, I’m looking for people to join a launch team we’re assembling for this book. The book releases November 19, 2019, and I need help spreading the word. Want to know more?

Ideal launch team members…

  • …love to read.
  • …enjoy using Facebook.
  • …like to tell others about the books they are reading.
  • …are willing to share about new books on social media.
  • …are willing to write a review of the book on Goodreads and Amazon.
  • …are interested in changing the dialogue from the rhetoric of polarizing animosity that is destroying the social fabric of our nation to a language of healing, where honest differences don’t have to destroy friendships?

If this sounds like you, I would love to have you on the team! All launch team members will have access to a digital advance copy of the book in the official The Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation Launch Team Facebook group.

If you’d like to join the team, please follow these two easy steps:

  1. Fill out this Google form: https://forms.gle/1PEJrx9dYV34GerC8
  2. Click this link https://www.facebook.com/groups/2448614108754741/ to join the launch team Facebook group!

That’s it! I’ll see you in the group!

When You Don’t Get the Miracle You Want, Part 12

This is the last posting of our continuing story of Alan and Lynn that began as In the Shadow of Death. Despite their best theological certainty that God would heal her, Lynn passed away from metastasized breast cancer. Alan is left to deal not only with his grief, but also with his view of a God he was certain would heal her.

You can read from the beginning starting here.

From Alan, July 31, 2019 (96 days after first email):

This has been a series of awful days as far as the devastation of grief is concerned. The reality of Lynn being dead is so horrific. I am quickly losing hope and lacking any reason to have it. God is silent. I am all alone in this world. People respond, “Oh, Alan, you’re not alone.” But I realized the other day that I do not know anyone in Lynn’s and my peer group that has ever lost a spouse. Many of them have lost a parent or friend but no spouses. I’m glad for them. I would not wish this on anyone. But at the end of the day, no one knows what to say.

Hope is non-existent.

I have been listening to some of your messages online trying to convince myself that God is not punishing me. Then my mind goes to all the ways I was unfaithful to the precious gifts God gave me. I never committed adultery with another woman, but in my position as a part-time disc jockey at a big country music station, I had myriad opportunities to flirt with women who called in to my show and flirted with me. I have done and thought and fantasized things that said, “Father God, I do not appreciate this precious woman.” Things that I looked at online were a disgrace to my wife.

So, here I am. Harvest time for Alan. Wife dead. God knows all of these things, and I feel that I am reaping corruption that comes from sowing to the flesh.

Your message is “living loved.” How can he “interact with me as His beloved,” and sit by in silence as my wife dies? Knowing He could have healed her in this realm with a breath or a word or a thought and yet when I poured my heart out in prayer, when Lynn poured hers out in prayer, He essentially said, “No.” How is that love at any level? Are we as believers – as his children – only to expect that he’ll be there to help us pick up the pieces when life crashes, but not to intervene to keep things from shattering?

Why did the apostles say to pray? We have a God, a Father. Isn’t there some benefit associated with that that unbelievers do not have? God let Lynn die. He took her. Yes, she is blessed beyond measure and likely not even aware of my pain. But he could have healed her here; he didn’t. I’m left in an avalanche of empty, lonely searing pain. I try to pray for others who are going through battles with cancer, and I wonder what is the use?

The other day I was listening to a teaching and how God delivered Israel from Egypt after 400 years of bondage. 400 years! What about those who lived and died and essentially had their cries for freedom ignored during all those years? At the end of the day, God is sovereign and will do what He wants when He wants, and we are best served by living with no expectation of answered prayer. We can only hope that we don’t end up too broken. My mistake was having too much hope and faith.

Paul went through tribulation. The apostles died horrific deaths. Where is the hope, the evidence in this life that having a Heavenly Father is even real? When does my mourning turn to joy? When will He give me gladness for sorrow? Lynn loved God and trusted Him, and I am confident even in her pain and death, she never had these cynicisms that I have. Her heart was never tainted with what she didn’t understand nor with the questions that I had. She often told me in frustration to trust God when I would be at a crossroads. But, it seems that we are just to shut up and try to be obedient and never get our hopes up even though we are supposed to have faith to please Him.

Wishing I could tell her “Happy Birthday” again in this life,

My response

I know, Alan, and my heart breaks for you this morning.

The first year of grief is always the most painful—first birthday, first anniversary, first holidays, first vacation, all the things you do the first time without her will feel hollow and horrible. Grief comes in waves. That’s why you’ll have good days, where you think you might be getting beyond it, and then WHAM! A special day, a memory, a place you both thought special, or a random rush of pain will cross your path, and the grief rushes back in. Take hope in this, the painful days will, in time, grow less intense and less often, and the better days of celebrating the love you shared will grow more frequent, sweeter, and more prolonged.

The only way through this is through it. Great wisdom, eh? As much as you might want to run from it, embrace it. One person said when the darkness overwhelms you don’t chase the sunset because you’ll never catch it. The fastest way to the light is to head toward the sunrise, away from the setting sun and the light will yet appear again, sooner if you head east than if you chase it hopelessly to the west.

How I wish you could just grieve on the days that seem so dark and invite your loving Father into that grief! Instead, what you believe about God takes you to a different place. Instead of having God as a comforting presence inside your pain, you beat yourself up for every bad thing you’ve ever done or mistakes you’ve ever made. Do you really think God would kill your wife to punish you for something you did wrong? Do you really think God would say, “You looked at another woman years ago, so I gave your wife cancer?”

Is that how you interpret sowing and reaping, that reaping is God giving you a penalty for some weakness or failure? Can you appreciate that when your mind goes into that dark hole, it will seem as if God is silent, even when he is not? His beckoning to you with great compassion is drowned out by the way you view him.

I can assure you the God who loves you was not silent through any of this. Unheard, maybe, because some things you’ve believed about him made it difficult to sense what he was saying to you, especially in the crisis you were in. In the flood of great waters, we can lose sight of who he is because we are so focused on our disappointment or feeling betrayed. I’ve tried to reflect some of what he has been speaking to you in my words through these many emails, and you have recognized that at times. He has been there with you. My words have just been imperfect reflections of the deeper love and wisdom in his heart for you. That’s why I struggle so against religious thinking that puts God on the other side of our pain, as the cause of it whether it be through punishment or “allowing it” through a lack of concern. I reject both of those.

You were not the cause of Lynn’s cancer; this is not punishment from him. Jesus took all of that for us. If he’s still punishing you for your mistakes or imperfections, then Christ died in vain. Sowing and reaping are not about punishment for past actions, but the simple consequences we face for the choices we make. Sow generosity, reap generosity. Sow indulgence, reap emptiness and pain.

I pray you can come to see God as the one who loves you more than anyone on this planet ever has or ever will. I want you to see Jesus as the loving Shepherd teaching us to live in the increasing freedom of the Father’s reality and growing us out of the places we got stuck and twisted. None of our failures surprise him, and none of them cut us off from his love. All of us can go back in our lives and pick out every mistake, bad thought, sinful action, or indulgence and think any of them exclude us from his love and care, but it still isn’t true. He’s the only one that can shape the trajectory of our lives and draw us out of the darkness and into the light. We won’t hear him do that if he’s condemning us for the darkness.

He celebrates our progress toward the light, not holding our past mistakes against us. How could we grow if he did? Ask him to help you let go of the past, not the good parts, but the mistakes and failures. You are his child—today! He is the rescuer in your story. No, that rescue did not include Lynn’s healing in this world to our great disappointment, but she has it now in another. And now he wants to rescue you through the grief and reveal himself to you in ways you’ve never imagined.

Don’t stay in the past, focused on your failures. Wake up every morning in the fresh mercy of a loving Father. Follow him each day in the simple things he nudges your heart towards. He will lead you beyond the grief to all that he still has planned for you in your days on this earth. Let who he really is sink in past your disillusionment with him. You are being dis-illusioned. You had illusions about God that were never going to serve you well. He wants you to know him as he really is, and that is far better than either of us could conceive.

So, lean into love, Alan. It will be there for you every day. He’s closer than we know. Ask him to open the eyes of your heart to what is true of him, and for the God of all comfort to hold you in those moments you despair of life, just like Paul did (2 Corinthians 1).

I’m praying, too, Alan. I think you’re making significant progress, but I know that may be tough to see from where you sit, especially today.

———————————————————–

This is the last blog I’m going to do in this series. Alan and I have continued to be in touch, and I see signs of new life springing up in him as he continues to move forward. What’s more important is that he does, too. Here are a couple of snippets he sent me toward the end of August.

… I had a cool moment yesterday as I was going through some of her CDs and found the original one where I first heard you. You were in Wisconsin talking about living loved, and it is terrific. I’m listening to it multiple times, which seems to be a habit I’ve developed of late – listening to teachings that minister to me over and over.

… I am in a weird place. I am still grieving hard for my sweet bride. But I feel like God is putting me back together. A friend spoke to me and said that they felt like God was showing them that I am like a big tree that has had the bark blown off, and that has been nearly obliterated. But there is still a deep root. And that root is springing forth new life, and the tree will grow again. I don’t know, but I am thankful more and more for Lynn and her strong, steadfast faith.

If there’s a significant development here that extends the story, I will add it in a future blog. But I think Alan is finding his footing again and it will just take time for the grief of Lynn’s passing to be overwhelmed by the new creation that will continue to spring up in Alan’s journey. I want to thank “Alan” for giving me permission to share his emails, and thus his vulnerability and pain, with all of us. There were some raw moments in there that were real, and I know they resonated with many of you as you sort out God’s goodness in the face of him not doing what you thought love, or your theological convictions, would compel him to do. Our best intentions and misguided expectations can so easily block out our ability to sense his presence and see his fingerprints unfold in our days.

Every week my inbox is full of people facing horrible tragedies, and it is also filled with lots of stories of people who have been through those tragedies and come out on the other side more alive in Christ than ever and more transformed to embrace who God really is. Finding our security in his love, especially when the foundations of our lives are shaken, is quite a process. Pain has a way of dulling our spiritual senses, but God’s Spirit is even better at helping us embrace reality and find that God is bigger than our disappointments in him.

Dave Coleman, my co-author on So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore, often tells me that he thinks 90% of Christians live with an undercurrent of anger towards God for not answering their prayers. Many have lost children, spouses, marriages, businesses, or friends in sickness, accidents, betrayal, or just unforeseen circumstances that sidetrack our joys or hopes.

The only absolute reality is that we are deeply loved by the God who made us and he wants to be inside the most brutal moments of our lives with us, helping us resolve our pain and draw closer to him. To do that, it will help if we lean on him at such times and not push him away by our false judgments about him or his motives toward us. He can handle our honesty, our disappointments, and our fears and walk us out to a place of freedom. That’s not a given, however. Brutal times can make us defensive, bitter, and isolated, or they can open our hearts to compassion, humility, and transformation.

I don’t believe God causes sickness and disease or withholds healing to make us better people, to punish us for our past mistakes, or to teach us much-needed lessons. He doesn’t have to. This broken Creation causes pain enough for all of us in various seasons. How we navigate them inside his care is way more important than trying to figure out why they happen, or why he doesn’t fix them the way we want.

I have been overwhelmed with email, blog comments, and FB postings that many of you have shared as this story has touched something in your own journey. I do think we’d be better off if we talked openly about these things—prayer, healing, death, disappointments. And our own mortality. Growth comes in such exchanges.

On this side of the Resurrection, we are all mortal. Until Jesus comes again, you and everyone you know will die. That’s how we get from this realm into the next. Death is so excruciating for those it leaves behind because of the vacuum it creates when their love and presence departs.

We forget, however, that for those who die in Christ, it is just the beginning of the greatest adventure ever into the unrestrained depths of God’s love!

Ending the Daisy-Petal Game

I will spend the next two weeks in Europe helping people explore living loved. I’ll be in Norway, Italy (Pescara), and Switzerland (first near Zurich and finishing up near Geneva). Before I go, I want to leave you with this little gift.

Before I go, I got an email the other day from someone who searched me out on Facebook, not even sure I was the author of He Loves Me. Her effort and her words deeply touched my heart. I am continually amazed at how this little book finds its way in the world even after almost 20 years since its first publication. She wrote:

I wanted to ask if you were the author of a book I read some years back—He Loves Me. If you are the author, may I take a moment to thank you deeply from my heart. As I turned the pages of that dear book, I could feel the love of God pour out into my broken heart. I read it slowly, as I never wanted it to end. It helped me believe that God really does love me, so much more than I could imagine!

I have bought so many copies through the years to bless other broken ones with it. God bless and keep you. Thank you again…I hope I have the right name but if not may Gods blessings be upon you as well!

Monday, I was on the phone to a good friend and he told me his wife was finally reading He Loves Me for the first time. He said she was just being blown away by it. She said the illustration of plucking daisy petals in the first chapter was so on point with the way she was brought up, always believing that her circumstances were the proof of how God felt about her each day.  I get it.  I had some of that, too.

On Tuesday as I was preparing this blog, someone posted this on an old post on my Facebook page:

Currently, I am listening to He Loves Me chapter 16 on audio. You might recall, I came out from the cult led by Herbert W. Armstrong. I have your paperback, underlined, well marked and highlighted, six years ago. Just downloaded it from Audible and now the “Ah hah” moments are all over the “pages” and I am seeing what I didn’t know was there. Having been indoctrinated with old covenant law, I could not get it. Now it is delivering me. I became so very burned out by my lack of awareness of my own freedom to choose what my own heart contained. So much pain in deception. Thank you, Sara and Wayne.

I’ve often said, this is the most significant book I’ll ever write because these are still the most important lessons I’ve learned on this journey. Many tell me they had a hard time picking it up for a long time, thinking they already knew about God’s love. When they finally read it, however, they are surprised by what was in those pages and how much it helped them find freedom in his love. There is a huge chasm between understanding the theology of God’s love and actually living loved in the broken Creation.

So, if you haven’t read the book yet or even if you haven’t read it for a while, here’s the first chapter for your reflection:

Chapter 1

Daisy-Petal Christianity

He Loves Me by Wayne JacobsenTHE LITTLE GIRL STANDS in the backyard chanting as she plucks petals one by one from the daisy and drops them to the ground. At game’s end, the last petal tells all; whether or not the person desired returns the affection.

Of course, no one takes it seriously, and if children don’t get the answer they desire they take another daisy and start again. It doesn’t take long even for children to realize that flowers weren’t designed to tell romantic fortunes. Why should they link their hearts’ desires to the fickleness of chance?

Why indeed! But it is a lesson far easier learned in romance than in more spiritual pursuits. 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.

I got a raise. He loves me!

I didn’t get the promotion I wanted and lost my job altogether. He loves me not!

Something in the Bible inspired me today. He loves me!

My child is seriously ill. He loves me not!

I gave money to someone in need. He loves me!

I let my anger get the best of me. He loves me not!

Something for which I prayed actually happened. He loves me!

I stretched the truth to get myself out of a tight spot.  He loves me not!

A friend called me unexpectedly to encourage me. He loves me!

My car needs a new transmission. He loves me not!

 

A PERILOUS TIGHTROPE

I have played that game most of my life, trying to sort out in any given moment how God might feel about me personally. I grew up learning that he is a God of love, and for the most part I believed it to be true.

In good times, nothing is easier to believe. In days when my family is healthy and our relationships a joy; when my ministry thrives and both income and opportunity increase; when we have plenty of time to enjoy our friends and are not burdened down with need, who wouldn’t be certain of God’s love?

But that certainty erodes when those times of bliss are interrupted with more troublesome events

A childhood condition that provided no end of embarrassment.

The day one of my friends in high school died of a brain tumor even as we prayed earnestly for his healing.

When I wasn’t selected for a job I wanted in college because someone had lied about me.

The night my house was robbed.

When I was severely burned in a kitchen accident.

When I watched my father-in-law and my brother both die with debilitating illnesses even though they sought God earnestly for healing.

When colleagues in ministry lied to me and spread false stories about me to win the support of others.

When I didn’t know from where my next paycheck would come.

When I saw my wife crushed by circumstances that I couldn’t get God to change, no matter how hard I tried.

When doors of opportunity that appeared certain to open would suddenly slam shut like a wind-blown door.

Then I wondered how God really felt about me. I couldn’t understand how a God who loved me would either allow such things into my life or wouldn’t fix them immediately so that I or people I loved wouldn’t have to endure such pain.

He loves me not! Or so I thought on those days. My disappointment at God could easily turn two directions. Often in my pain and frustration, when I felt like I had done enough to deserve better, I would rail at God like the Job of old, accusing him of either being unfair or unloving. In more honest moments, however, I was well aware of the temptations and failures that could exclude me from his care. I would come out of those times committed to trying harder to live the life I thought would merit his love.

I lived for thirty-four years as a believer on this perilous tightrope. Even when there was no crisis hanging over my head, I was always wary of the next one God might drop on me at any second if I couldn’t stay on his good side. In some ways 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.

In the last twenty-five years I have discovered that my earlier methods of discerning God’s love were as flawed as pulling petals from a daisy. I haven’t been the same since.

 

CONVINCING EVIDENCE

What about you?

Have you ever felt tossed back and forth by circumstances occasionally certain, but mostly uncertain about how the Creator of the universe feels about you? Or perhaps you’ve never even known how much God loves you.

In a Bible study recently, I met a forty-year-old woman who was active in her fellowship but admitted to a small group of us that she had never been certain that God loved her. She seemed to want to tell me more, but finally only asked me to pray for her.

As I did, asking God to reveal just how much he loved her, an image came to mind. I saw a figure I knew to be Jesus walking through a meadow hand in hand with a little girl about five years old. Somehow I knew this woman was that little girl. I prayed that he would help her discover a childlikeness of spirit that would allow her to skip through the meadows with him.

When I finished praying I looked up at her eyes, brimming with tears.

“Did you say ‘meadow’?” she asked.

I nodded, thinking it odd she had focused on that word.

Immediately she began to cry. When she was able to speak, she said, “I wasn’t sure I wanted to tell you. When I was five years old I was molested in a meadow by an older boy. Whenever I think about God, I think about that horrible event and I wonder why, if he loved me so much, he didn’t stop that from happening.”

She’s not alone. 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.

I don’t have a stock answer for moments like that, as if any could be effective in the midst of such pain. I told her that evidently God wanted her to know he had been there with her, and although he didn’t act in the only way she could understand true love to act, he loved her nonetheless. He wanted to walk her through that defiled meadow and redeem it in her life.

He wanted to give her a measure of joy in the face of the most traumatic event of her life and turn what had destroyed her ability to trust into a stepping stone toward grace. I know that can sound almost trite in the face of such incredible pain, but the process has begun for her. Eight months later I received an excited email from her telling me in 270-point type, “I get it!”

Does that mean she understands why it happened to her? Of course not. Nothing could explain that. But it does mean that God’s love was big enough to contain that horrible event and walk her out of it. It is my hope these words will encourage that process in you, as well.

 

PERCEPTION VERSUS REALITY

For truly God has never acted toward us in any way other than with a depth of love that defies human understanding. I know it may not look like that at times. 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.

When we’re playing the he-loves-me-he-loves-me-not game, the evidence against God can appear overwhelming. For reasons we will probe throughout these pages, God does not often do the things we think his love would compel him to do for us. He often seems to stand by with indifference while we suffer. How often does he seem to disappoint our most noble expectations?

But perception is not necessarily reality. If we define God only in our limited interpretation of our own circumstances, we will never discover who he really is.

However, he has provided a far better way. Our daisy-petal approach to Christianity can be swallowed up by the undeniable proof of his love for us on the cross of Calvary. That’s the side of the cross that has all but been ignored in recent decades. We did not see what really happened there between the Father and his Son that opened the door to his love so vast and so certain that it cannot be challenged even by your darkest days.

Through that door we can really know who God is and embrace a relationship with him that the deepest part of our heart has hungered to experience. That is where we’ll begin, because it is only in the context of the relationship God desires with us that we can discover the full glory of his love.

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. You will even see in the strangest ways how that love can flow out of you to touch a world starved for it.

Learning to trust him like that is not something any of us can resolve in an instant; it’s something we’ll grow to discover for the whole of our lives. God knows how difficult it is for us to accept his love, and he teaches us with more patience than we’ve ever known. Through every circumstance and in the most surprising ways, he makes his love known to us in ways we can understand.

So perhaps it’s time to toss your daisies aside and discover that it is not the fear of losing God’s love that will keep you on his path, but the simple joy of living in it every day.

On the day you discover that, you will truly begin to live!

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!

—1 John 3:1

 

If you’d like a copy of He Loves Me, you can order it from Lifestream. You’ll also find links there for the ebook and audio versions as well.

Letting God Win Us

The events that Christians from all over the world will celebrate this weekend were not only to redeem humanity but to prove God’s unrelenting love to win our hearts into a relationship with him. It’s a recurrent theme on this blog and on my podcast at The God Journey. I want to call your attention today to one of those,  podcast #671, called Letting Him Win You. I have had a number of people over the last month tell me that the last seven minutes of that podcast were transformative for them as Brad and I talked about God winning us into his love.

And that’s not just something he did 2,000 years ago, it’s what he is doing with you today. He is at work in and around you to win you into the reality that you are a beloved son or daughter of a gracious Father. How can you recognize that, and how can you embrace him?  That’s what these seven minutes are about.  You can listen to it below, or read an adaptation of those comments that follow.

We often draw the worst of our human conclusions from misinterpreted Scripture. We often hear that God has done everything for our salvation, and now it’s up to us to do the best we can. We already have the truth; we just have to work it.

However, unless God wins us into his love and wins us into his trust, we will not be able to follow him on this journey. Of course, we’re involved. If you’re not won to love and trust, you will plan and plot. You just will. Fear will do that and you’ll be anxious in unresolved situations.

To be won into trusting him, we have to be willing to be won. That’s what lies at the heart of repentance. It’s not groveling in shame, but rather abandoning our agenda and desires for what we want out of life. As long as you know how you want your life to come out and how you want any circumstance to be resolved, this road will be difficult. Instead, you’ll give God ultimatums: “If you don’t do what I want, I’m going to doubt you exist.” You’ll miss his heart for you because you’re not getting your own way.

That’s why repentance is so crucial. Don’t think of it as saying, “I’m so sorry. I’m such a horrible, lousy sinner, and I’ll never do it again” That’s not repentance. Repentance says, “I’m going to abandon my agenda and embrace yours.” I’m not going to trust my human conclusions about what God would do if he loved me. Those who do have a hard time believing they are loved.

But it’s not just releasing our agenda for the future; there is also an element of releasing our disappointed expectations from our past. Why didn’t you heal my child, or protect them when I asked? Why didn’t you save my marriage, or job, or some relationship we valued? Those are relationship killers. If I’m holding him to account as if he does not love me, how can I recognize his love when it comes? When Job comes to the end of his calamities, he realizes how much he misunderstood God’s work in all his sufferings. “Things too wonderful for me to understand.”

An ongoing heart of repentance provides the space that will allow him to win us into love and trust. Come to discover how much he loves you and your trust in him will grow alongside it. That’s why I encourage people all the time to pray this prayer: “Father if you love me in the way Wayne says you do, would you show that to me?” Pray that, not just for a day or week, but let it be the cry of your heart for a year or two. Keep it before him and watch how he makes himself known.

As he teaches you about his love, recognize where anxiety or fear crowds him out. I don’t mind at such moments inviting him into my struggle, “Father I’m not trusting you here. I want to. Help me.” I still have moments like those. I don’t have a complete trust in God that fits every circumstance that confronts me. But I know what to do when panic and anxiety try to set in. That’s where I get to lie down and say, “Okay God, what is it about you that I don’t know, and if I knew it, I would trust you here?”

If Eve could have prayed that in the garden, if she could have said, “God, I don’t trust you here. I want to grab this fruit and get there myself. What is it about your love I don’t know that would keep me safe here?”

If she knew how completely loved by God she was, the enemy’s voice would have had no weight. It isn’t even about how much she loved God but simply knowing how much he loved her. If she genuinely knew that, there would be no temptation. She would not have even wasted a second wondering if her God would withhold anything good from her.

So if you’re hungry to know God and embrace his way of living, maybe this is where you can begin. Let him win you into love and win you into trusting him. It isn’t easy to discover God’s love living in a broken world where so much of his will is thwarted by human greed and indulgence. He knows how huge it is to win us into that love and yet he’s up to the challenge. He really can bring us out of our pain, disappointment, and hurt and show us how loved we are even when we’re going to be disappointed and hurt again. But now we know we are not alone.

We weren’t alone the first time, either; we just thought we were.

A Man Who Touched Many Lives

I just found out that Eugene Peterson, author of The Message, and numerous other books passed into eternity today. I was touched by many of his books, but even more by his example as a man deeply committed to the truths of God, while remaining a generous and compassionate man in the world.

I had an opportunity to spend some time with Eugene back in the 1980s, and I can truthfully say this: I’ve never met a more genuine man who lived everything he wrote about. I also got to spend some more time with him at his home in Montana after The Shack was published, grateful that his very generous words about that book helped it find credibility with those who weren’t sure what to think of the story. When he wanted some copies of that book, I offered to send him a case for free in appreciation for his endorsement. He refused, wanting to pay for them, telling me he always wanted to support the people he believed in.

I love so many things about The Message and how he expressed in today’s language the power and truths of the Scriptures. It’s a translation I often quote and his expression of “learning the unforced rhythms of grace” is about as good as language gets. One of the funniest stories I ever read was his opening illustration in his study on Jonah, Under the Unpredictable Plant.  As funny as that story was, it ended with this disheartening caveat: “The people who ordained me and took responsibility for my work were interested in financial reports, attendance graphs, program planning. But they were not interested in me.”

My favorite story about him came from a friend who invited him to come and teach at his denomination’s annual convention:

Eugene asked him how many people they were expecting. My friend responded, “Around five thousand.”

Eugene hesitated, finally concluding this wasn’t an invitation he thought he could accept.

My friend was a bit incensed that Eugene didn’t consider that a significant enough audience and let that frustration spill out in a question.  “Just how many people does it take to get Eugene Peterson to speak?”

“I’m sorry,” Eugene answered, “you misunderstand me. I have discovered I’m most effective in a group of twenty-five people or less. If you can get a group of that size together, I’d love to come.”

My friend was shocked and couldn’t understand his answer. I do. The most effective learning environment for everyone is in a group that size.

I am so grateful for this man’s life, his wisdom, and most of all the depth of his character. He will be missed here, no doubt, but he now has presence in the fullness of Christ for all eternity. Well done, Eugene. You’ve enriched the world by your presence here.

And I’d love to know what he knows now.

The Beginning of My Pharisectomy

Today, Sara and I leave on a ten-day vacation with our kids and grandchildren. We’ve been looking forward to this for a long time and having a break from our normal lives. However, that does mean our offices will be closed until Monday, July 2. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, but we’re a two-horse operation here and both horses will be gone! However, we will have someone handling book and audio orders for us during that time. If you can hold everything else until we return that will be a gift to us. We tend to come back from such things with inboxes way too full.  So, if you can hold your emails until we return, we would be grateful.

As we go, let me share an email with you I received recently. I love hearing how people who have been schooled in religious performance come alive in the reality of the Father’s love. Pharisectomy is a fun word I first heard a number of years ago in Alaska, from a then seventy-two year-old woman.  What a great way to express having your inner Pharisee cut out so you can discover in every deepening ways just how loved you are.  Unfortunately this is not an easy or quick operation. I’ve been on mine for 24 years now, and find there are still traces of that inner Pharisee running around in there that crop up at the strangest moments. I’m glad to recognize them, though and asking him to keep peeling back the layers that sets me ever-more free to live more freely in the world as his child.

Here’s the letter:

Because I grew up as a missionary kid, I knew all the verses that God is love, but I never believed it for myself.  Although I have the best loving and caring parents they were missionaries, growing up in boarding schools I lived unloved as a child. I tried to win God’s favor and the favor of people for my whole life.

I married a pastor from a conservative denomination, and I got worn out and frustrated by all the “dead works” in the name of for God, Then I read He Loves Me! That was my biggest gift at the age of 50. For the first time I GOT IT!!!!   I am a much loved child!!!!!!!

I have since read that book ten times, as it started my “Pharisectomy”.  Every time I read it, it reveals a new Truth and expose new layers of misconceptions. Your book reveals so much Truth – it sets me free from my prison of performance and wrong perceptions. But so many wrong  perceptions was set in cement in my head over 50 years – it takes time to be “unset” out of hard cement, then be replaced by Truth, and then to live it practically. Fortunately the Holy Spirit is there to do it.

I received In Season the day before the April holiday. What a revelation to me! I have always believed that you bear fruit throughout every year.  I never understood the four seasons that lead to fruitfulness. I also thought the Great Commission was more important than the Great Commandment. I was experiencing a harsh, hot summer at my work place, but then you helped me to embrace my summer and stop praying “Rescue me,” but rather: “Let your name be glorified. Into your hands I commit my spirit.”

My biggest struggle was and still is to trust God, due to misconceptions and bad experiences growing up poor and now struggling although we are “working for the Lord.” Your book Beyond Sundays exposed so many lies I believed about ministry and church and missions. It helped me ignore the guilt and shame that haunted me and to let me enjoy my winter. And let God prune me.

Thank you for the revelations that set me free at an age of 50. I was a full blown Pharisee and my pharisectomy has not been easy, but its wonderful and the best thing that could ever happen to me. God used you mightily in my life. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Letting go of the guilt and shame that makes you feel unworthy of Father’s love is a valuable lesson for all of us. The spiral of unworthiness is debilitating, and every circumstance will seem to prove the deception. Knowing you have always been worthy of a Father’s love, not because of your performance, but because you are his child, will continue to set you free in ways you can’t imagine.  Ask him. Believe him. He’s really good at this stuff!

___________________________________

And if you missed my TEDx talk on “Differences Do Not Make Us Enemies,” you can view it here.

Is He Really That Good?

How do we know for sure whether God is loving and gracious, or cold and distant?

I understand that you had some input on the story-line of the book the Shack. I have read the book and watched the movie. Do you think that is who God really is? It just seems too good to be true on so many levels. I know some people struggle with the Old Testament God versus the gracious Jesus. However, for me even Jesus seems a little cold and distant in ways when I read about Him in the gospels. Nothing really like the Jesus in the Shack. I’m not sure how to change my mind about the religious beliefs I’ve had for so many years. I still have a hard time believing that God is that good.

I love The Shack, and, yes I did help in the collaboration that produced the book and movie.  Is that who he really is?  That’s the best the three of us—Paul Young, Brad Cummings, and myself—could come up with, but I’m sure it falls way short of expressing all that he is. I keep discovering in my growing relationship with him that he is more loving, more gracious, more patient, and more powerful than I can conceive.

If you haven’t already, I’d encourage you to read He Loves Me. I published that book almost a decade before I got involved with The Shack, and it is a great way to explore the theology behind our collaboration. You’ll find some phrases pulled directly from that book became part of Mack’s story as well. I don’t know where you’re getting “cold and distant” in the Gospels, but when I see him with Peter and John, the woman at the well, Zaccheus, Mary of Magdala, Nicodemus and others, I’m touched by his tenderness and patience as he invites them into the transformed life of following him.

At the same time, please be assured that knowing who he is doesn’t come from making conclusions out of reading books or even the Gospels. I value the Scriptures, but they alone can’t teach us who he is.  Look how many different conclusions various traditions come up with about God from reading the same book?  Some see him as a demanding deity, always disappointed in the failures of humanity. Others see him as an amorphous blob, uninvolved in humanity’s story. I see him as a gracious Father, rescuing his children from brokenness and transforming us over time to take on his glory.

How do we know for sure who he is? He is his own person and he has presence in the universe. He wants to show you and in fact has been doing so since before you were born. Unfortunately we find it too easy to block him out in pursuit of our own ambitions or trying to manage our own pain. But whoever turns back toward him, he will begin to make himself known again. Ask him to show you. It is this revelation of Christ that gives us confidence in his nature, and sets us free. The Scriptures show us how we can open our hearts to him, but they invite us to follow him.  As we do, we can then check back what we’re learning to make sure we are still inside what Scripture revealed of his purpose and nature.

Jesus wants to show himself to you. But don’t expect a blinding light from the closet. Let him soak into your consciousness as you simply look for his fingerprints in your life. What is he saying to you in your worst moments? In your best? What is his demeanor toward you even when you fail? What is he nudging you toward or warning you to back away from? These are all knowable, though it takes some time to let that relationship develop. God knows how hard it is to see that through the religious lens you’ve been given. And he’ll be patient to show you. This is a big deal, letting the God of the universe soak into our consciousness where we grow increasingly aware of God-With-Us!

So, to answer your question, the Jesus I know is way better than the one we wrote about in The Shack, and at the same time he is marvelously consistent with what I read in the Gospels as well.

Ask him. Watch every day for the little ways he seeps into your consciousness. Be patient. He’s really good at this.

Off to Virginia, North Carolina, and Maine (Eventually)!

After an awesome month at home, I’ll be headed out this week to Virginia and North Carolina.  I so enjoy the people I get to meet when I travel and realize how precious it is to get to spend so much time with people on this incredible journey of learning to live loved, and learning to let Jesus take shape in them as they engage the world.

This past Saturday afternoon, I was in one of those conversations in my home with a group of people who had previously not met each other.  What a joy it is to plumb the depths of so many topics and issues that help us live as Jesus’ disciples in the earth!  These are teaching sessions in the best sense, not people listening to lectures, but taking part in a conversation that is as illuminating as it is encouraging, where people can speak freely about the questions and struggles of their own journey without feeling judged.  It was a rich and rewarding afternoon to be sure.

This coming weekend I will be in Norfolk, VA, and Richmond, VA.  After that I’m going to find my way down to Raleigh to hang out with some people I barely got to meet last time I was there. They wanted to know if I’d come back for more conversations.  I’m excited about that.  If you are in that area and want to join us, please see my Travel Page for all the contact details. Since most of our meetings are in homes, I don’t publish those addresses online. Also it helps for the homeowners to know how many people are coming. In Raleigh, our open time for others is Saturday afternoon and evening.

After that, I’ll be taking a vacation with my whole family. Sara and I are really looking forward to ten days with our kids and grandkids.  After that, I’ll turn up in Winthrop, ME in mid-July, where I’ve been asked to anchor a retreat of campers at a Christian campground there.  It’s open to anyone who wants to come for the weekend of July 13-15. I’ll be sharing on Friday night, Saturday morning and evening, and Sunday morning as well as hanging around for conversation all through the day.  You can get more information on the campground here. Come join us if you’re nearby. I can remain in New England a bit longer, so if anything is in your heart that direction, please get in touch with me as soon as possible.

After that, I’m till not certain where the wind will blow. I am considering opportunities in Kelowna, BC and Calgary, AB.  Hey, I like hanging with Canadians, too!

I enjoy traveling the way I do. I don’t plan long in advance, nor do I have to fit in a bunch of conferences where I speak at people for an hour or so. I get to be with people as the Spirit seems to arrange things and so often find myself just at the right time with people who need what he’s given me to share.  I am always amazed at how he times those things and let’s us know how to fit into his plans. Honestly, it’s freaky sometimes.

And for those of you who want to be notified if I’m planning a trip to your area, you can always sign up for Travel Updates on our email list by including your name and address. That way you’ll get an email if something is coming together near where you live.

Heading Back to Europe

Sara’s recovery is still going well, and she looks to be pretty functional in another couple of weeks. I’ve been holding off confirming a trip to Europe this fall until we knew that she was recovered. For those in France and Belgium interested in hanging out with others on this journey, I want to let you know that it looks like things have come together for me to be there in late October.

The plan now is to arrive in the south of France around October 23 and then make my way north through Angers and up into Belgium November 2-4. We will post details on my Travel Page as soon as we confirm everything, but wanted to give you a heads up in case you want to take advantage of this trip into Europe.

As always if you’d like to be notified when I’m coming to your area you can sign up on our email list and include your address . That goes for everyone, not just those in Belgium or France.

What Else Could He Mean?

My friend Jim sent me this comic the other day asking if I’d seen it. I’ve enjoyed a number of comics by “the naked pastor”, but had not seen this one. I think he’s right of course.  He Loves Me is a great place to begin. Not sure he meant the book exactly, but why else would he put it in quotes!  If God’s recommending the book, you might want to take a look.

If I had only written one book it my lifetime, I would have wanted it to have been He Loves Me! Of course most people think they already know God loves them, but few people actually live like it. This is about learning to live in the reality of his affection. If we do that it will change everything.   There is nothing more important for us to understand about God and us than that we are deeply loved children of a gracious Father.  It is in knowing that love and living in it that all the life of God unfolds in us. When we’re trying to earn that love by whatever religious gymnastics we’ve been taught, our life in Christ becomes a fruitless drudgery.

And if you want to see one of my favorite emails about He Loves Me, click here. It was from a bookstore owner in July of 2006.

In the last few weeks I’ve also received some wonderful email from people that have been touched by that book.

Ed: The most powerful, life changing book I have ever read. It sticks with you and forces you to chew on it for days until you have go back and read it again. Several times it literally dropped me to my knees in tears because of the sheer beauty of God’s love for us so masterfully described by Wayne.

Harvey : This is my favorite book yet to date by anyone—not because of the elegance of words, but because of the simplicity in which it lays out the foundations of a love based relationship with God. That is already at work in each and every one of our lives, whether we are aware of Him or not, even and maybe especially to the most broken of us.

Dennis: This book was the beginning of a total transformation for me. No longer do I feel bound by rules, having to conform to please God because I failed over and over.

Jan: I have picked up your book He Loves Me and read it again and finding myself truly grateful and freshly overwhelmed by the gracious amazing love of God. I love your surrender and thank you for sharing it. I came from a family where it was taught “love was a useless emotion,” so you can imagine the outcome. I am the only one out of a family of eight that has stepped into the “gap” and broke a lot of family abuse for my four children and now twelve grandchildren. Miraculous as this has been I find myself still wanting the caress of the Fathers love and feeling the daunting of laying down effort and striving and bathing in Papa’s rest. I am thinking of doing a gathering around your book He Loves Me because it hits the need in all of us for significance and the deep need to be connected and most assuredly loved. I cannot think of any other book that hits the “need” for humanity so exactly. The true mind and heart of God is so clearly revealed.

Anonymous:  I read He Loves Me in the very beginning of all this but I don’t think I received a whole lot of it since my mind was so locked up in crazy teachings. I just finished it for the second time and am now going through it again for the third time. I am continually blown away by what’s in there. I am understanding it so much better.

You can order He Loves Me at Lifestream.org.

FINDING CHURCH Discussion Continues

Our book discussion on Finding Church has reached Chapter 17: Unity Without Conformity. This is one of my favorite chapters, because most people cannot imagine a unity of the church that does not come from manipulating political and institutional structures to get people to do what is right. But conformity will never produce the wholehearted unity that Jesus prayed for his Father to give us. That kind of unity only comes out of transformed hearts and lives where the glory of God has come to in habits a human vessel, and that vessel connects with others so that the temple rises across the whole planet showing the principalities and powers that God is able to take selfish humans and knit them into a powerful demonstration of his splendor.

Excerpt from Chapter 17:

The power of the church lies in the unity they find together—men and women loving and working together wholeheartedly because they have found their life and joy in him instead of their own preferences and ideas. How could any conformity-based system produce this unity when people are following the expectations of others rather than living out of an ever-expanding heart?   Without that, real unity cannot exist. (p. 154)

Jesus didn’t pray for conformity, but a unity that can only arise out of lives transformed by his glory. The answer to this prayer fulfills God’s passion in the earth and by it the world will know that the Father loves us as much as he loves his Jesus. When people out of diverse backgrounds come to complete unity of heart, purpose, and focus, God is unveiled in a way nothing else can accomplish. (p. 155)

You can find the discussion board here and see the list of topics we’ve covered. You can start at Chapter 1 and work your way through, or just join us in Chapter 17.