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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.

He Loves You… He Really Does!

A few weeks ago a woman from Australia wrote me this note:

I would just like to tell you about your book He Loves Me.  The  truth is that book blew me off the planet!!!!

These are the reasons: When I was a child my parents and all other family were nonreligious and nonChristians. I am not against them, but I knew nothing of God. As I was walking down the road to primary school about the age of nine, I looked behind my shoulder and saw something. In my mind I went, “What? Why would the God of the universe be with ME?” But I was very shy and quiet and never spoke of it to anyone. Then when I turned ten  I started to think “I am going to Sunday school at the local church” So I did for a couple of years but would often go out the back door and go home as often the speaker would say, “Come on children , give your heart to God.”  I was so shy I kept leaving! One Sunday morning I woke up and thought “I’m not going again.” Then a voice jumped into my brain,” Off you go.”  So I accepted that from God.  At that point I was twelve and the main thing I loved was music. So I went to church and one song totally affected me, ” I am so glad that our Father in Heaven tells of his love in the book he has given”  then the chorus came up, “Jesus loves me, Jesus loves me  JESUS LOVES EVEN ME!!!!!!!!! Those 4 words changed my life and has affected me forever (I am getting old).

When I went to a different church some years later I felt too dominated. Though I never left Jesus I was very unhappy.   Then my husband bought two books, and I looked at your book He loves Me I thought, “Oh I don’t need to read this as I know he loves me..  But then out of the blue a voice jumped into my brain again, “Keep reading!” So I did and it blew me off the planet!!!!    Your book took me back to the past when Jesus loved even ME!!

My husband is a minister and has spread your book around and preached your words from it.   Your book is so fabulous and I have shared it with many people  and many of them have changed from church to Jesus. We’ve now read it 8 times.  I hope you don’t mind me doing this.

Of course I don’t mind. I can’t tell you how many people have seen the title of the book and thought, “Well of course, everyone knows that.” It is some years later before they actually read it and discover that this isn’t just about the fact that God loves you, but actually how we can live each day in the love of a gracious Father. The content of that book changed my life over 22 years ago and I’m still learning how to live in that reality every day. The conversations that feed my heart the most center around how others are learning to live there as well.

So I tell you want I’m going to do, for those on this list who don’t have a copy of this book or want one to pass along.  For a limited time we’re going to make it available for $9.00 per copy.  I think it and Finding Church make the perfect combination to help you find your way into living in his affection and sharing it with others, regardless of the circumstances you may encounter. Shipping is extra, and yes we know that shipping to International destinations is prohibitively expensive. If you want to order up to four of our books, however, we can ship all four for the same price we can ship one.

He Loves Me is also available in Spanish for $8.00 and in audio as read by me, either in CDs, or by digital downloads from iTunes or Audibles.

Explaining Jesus’ Death to a Five-Year Old

I just got this email this morning from a friend:

Hey, my 5 year old has been asking, “Why did Jesus have to die for us?” It may just be too early for her to wrap her mind around this, but do you know of any resources or a way I might explain this to a kindergartner? In fact, why don’t you just come over and lay it all out for her:) Is there anything on Lifestream that I can read/watch that might make it easier for me to parse it out to her. She seems to really want to understand this. Which I think is very cool

I think it’s pretty cool too.  It’s like Missy asking why the princess had to die in the Multnomah Falls story.  Great question for a young lady.

So I wrote him back that though I couldn’t come over today, the best thing I know is how Brad and I wrote about it in A Man Like No Other: The Illustrated Life of Jesus, a book where we put words to the art of our friend Murry Whiteman capturing the life of Jesus.  I sent him a few pages that I extracted from the book.

And then I thought maybe others would appreciate those pages as well.  So, here is a brief excerpt of the book A Man Like No Other.  There’s five pages here, so either download it or scroll through it to get the whole story.

ManLikeNoOtherExcerpt

Unfortunately many don’t know about this book, because it has never made it into a distribution channel for a wider market. But it is a full-color coffee table sized book that is one of the most compelling examinations of the life of Jesus after stripping away all the religious falderal we have given to the Gospels over the past 2ooo years.  It is not a children’s book, though we find children are drawn into the paintings and are then able to grasp the heart of the story we tell. We’ve heard of stories of professionals putting it in waiting rooms and it being the most read book in the place, and a great conversation starter.

This is a book that will change how you read the Gospels and will help get you acquainted not only with the Jesus of Scripture, but the Living Jesus as he wants to reveal himself to you.  If you’d like a copy, you can find out more and order it through our store.

It’s the Process Not the Product that God is Focused On

The must frustrated Christians I know are those who compare themselves to perfection every day.  Whether it’s the perfect circumstances they seek or the perfect behavior they feel God demands, they constantly fall short of their own expectations and either get angry with themselves for not doing enough, or with God for not making their life the way they think it should be. I lived in that land of futility for many years.

The most contented Christians I know are those that recognize God is good and gracious, that life in a broken world is often filled with failure and pain, and that each day is part of a larger process drawing them ever-closer to the orbit of the Father’s love and glory.  Their goal is not perfection on any day, but to find ways to embrace a loving Father in the midst of their hopes and disappointments, their joys and their challenges, and struggles and their successes.

In short, they are not focused on the product they think they should be, but on the process that draws them ever onward in their desire to know him and bear his glory in the world. These thoughts were triggered by a quote that a friend sent me a couple of days ago from a former priest who lived in Germany over five hundred years ago.

“This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health, but healing, not being but becoming… We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.”

Martin Luther

I love that.

Relax!

Enjoy the process of God at work in you, to will and to do of his good pleasure, rather than frustrate that you are not yet the product you wish to be. It’s the journey with him, rather than the destination that’s important.  Rest in knowing that God has a way to walk you through what you’re facing today and in the process shape you to be more freely his. Pain doesn’t confirm his absence. Unanswered questions doesn’t mean he is silent. And unresolved circumstances are not proof of his inactivity.

He is at work in you and around you and though you may not see the outward evidence you want so desperately to see today, his glory is being worked in you. You’ll see it more clearly down the road, but it won’t help much to fret about it today.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Wayne Appears Saturday on Up For Debate

First thing first. If you’ve not heard yet, I had a slight problem around here that forced me to postpone the trip I had planned to the East Coast over the next ten days.  I woke up early Wednesday morning with excruciating stomach pains, and thought I’d had food poisoning from dinner out the night before for my birthday. The pain only worsened, however and by 5:30 am Sara and I were headed to the emergency room.  It took two days to diagnose the problem as a gallbladder attack and that it needed to be removed. This morning at 7:30 we did the deed, only four months after my heart surgery. How crazy is that????? Well,it had to be done. All went well and I just got home a few minutes ago, very grateful for God’s provision and his love expressed through many of you during this ordeal. Now, I got two weeks of recovery.

However, I was already scheduled to appear on Moody Radio’s “Up For Debate” show with July Roys tomorrow (Saturday) at 11:00 am Central Daylight Time and according to everyone I’ll be fine to do the show by phone from home. Of course that will depend on how much meds I’m on then.

They are having a panel discussion about “The Shack” and whether or not people should take the theology to heart. The host seems to have enjoyed the movie, though she thought it flawed. You can read her blog about it here.  One other guest loved the movie and the other two did not.  Should be fun.  You can listen in live here at 12:00 n Eastern Time, 9:00 Pacific Time. Those in other time zones can figure it out from there.

I was on this show a couple of years ago about my new Book “Finding Church” on “Is Attendance Is Mandatory?”

For those of you reading this after the fact, you can listen to it here.

Not Scaring Others Off

 

I know nothing of this author or his book, but I woke up to this in my inbox this morning.

This is what I wish the Bible-thumpers would understand, and I wish I’d known it before I got into my 50s. If we could understand what he says here we will find ourselves in conversations that matter with people. If we don’t, we’ll forever wonder why people run from us…

Parker J. Palmer in The Courage to Teach:

If we want to support each other’s inner lives, we must remember a simple truth: the human soul does not want to be fixed, it wants simply to be seen and heard. If we want to see and hear a person’s soul, there is another truth we must remember: the soul is like a wild animal – tough, resilient, and yet shy. When we go crashing through the woods shouting for it to come out so we can help it, the soul will stay in hiding. But if we are willing to sit quietly and wait for a while, the soul may show itself.

A Special Showing of The Shack

Brad Cummings and I will be hosting a special opening-weekend private showing of The Shack in Thousand Oaks, California on March 4, 4:00 p.m at the Muvico Theater in Thousand Oaks, California.  After the movie we will have a brief question and answer session for those who’d like to stay on. Brad and I were co-authors of the original book and Brad was a producer on the movie and was heavily involved in bringing this book to screen.

And, because so many people are coming from out of town, we’re also going to host an After-Party from 7:00 – 9:30 to expand that conversation. Space is limited.  Even if you expressed your desire for to attend via email or by Facebook, you will need to go and order tickets here to have a spot.

For those coming from out of the area and are staying over night we are also considering having an open house at our home on Sunday morning into the afternoon.  We will give out more details about that when people arrive here.

Here are the details:

The God Journey Shack Showing

With Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings – There will be a brief time after the film for question and answer and insights with the co-authors and producer of the film

4:00 pm, Saturday March 4
Music – Thousand Oaks
The Oaks Mall – 166 W. Hillcrest Dr
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360

$8.00 per ticket, all general admission. Please bring confirmation with you.
 
 

After- Party

For those who would like to join Wayne and Brad for finger-foods and more conversation  about the movie.

7:00 – 9:30 pm 
Monte Vista Presbyterian Church
3797 W. Lynn Rd
Newbury Park, CA  91320

$8.00 per person
Space is limited for both he movie and the after party, so purchase your tickets as soon as you can

Shack Trailer Released Today

It’s been a long time coming.  I’ve been watching over Brad’s shoulder for some time as this entire movie project has unfolded. It has been a long and arduous task and it is so rewarding to see the first fruits of that work come in the form of pictures (above) and today, finally, the first official trailer for The Shack movie was released.

View the trailer here!

You can see other pictures and keep up with all the action at the official website or Facebook Page.

The movie releases worldwide on March 3. For those in the Southern California area, we are planning on having a special showing in Thousand Oaks, California for anyone who would like to see the movie with Brad and I. We’re going to rent the theater and have opportunity for some conversation after the movie for those who want. It will either be on February 25 if we can get permission for an advance showing, or on March 4. We’re planning on a Saturday afternoon showing around 4:00 though we still have to arrange details. When we’ll do we will provide a way for you to sign up if interested so we know how large a theater to rent. We’ll keep you posted.

For now, enjoy the preview!

We’re Taking a Break, to Fix One!

I hoped this week to be leaving for the upper Midwest. Instead I’m headed for heart surgery this week barring some kind of incredible healing.  Time, however, is running out for that. Unfortunately my heart is broken.  I’ve was born with a defective valve in my heart and it has taken me about as far in this life as it could. Doctors are telling me that now is the time to replace it. Tomorrow morning I will have an angiogram at 8:00 am and then surgery decisions will be made from there. I could have open-heart surgery as early as Thursday.

I’ll admit that this doesn’t thrill me. I have an aversion to pain and all things medical. I’ve made it through 63 years of life without so much as an overnight stay in a hospital, broken bone, or even stitches. I’ve been very fortunate medically and have always been grateful for my good health. Now, however,r we are entering a different season for Sara and me. So for the next few weeks (months?) I’m going to take the time to deal with this and walk my family through it. I’m not going to be doing a lot of medical updates or details. We’ll let you know what we can when we can, mostly through my Author Page on Facebook. If you want those updates “like” that page and use the menu under “liked” to check “See First”.  That way you won’t miss those updates.

I know many of you will be praying for us and it is deeply appreciated. We don’t lack for friends and family that care deeply. I will get more of that than I deserve, but I do want to share it. So if you want to pray me through this would you do me a favor? Find someone around you who may not have as many connections as we do, but also has a deep need in prayer, and pray for them every time you pray for me.  That would be awesome!

And please give us some space here.  I won’t be answering emails and I pray they don’t build up to something unmanageable. Of course visits, calls and well-wishes from close friends will be welcome as I begin to mend!  I’m sure I’ll get pretty bored staring at the ceiling all day.  But I’m not going to be doing much writing or updating websites. We have a couple more podcasts to air, one of them recorded just before my surgery.

We talk about this on the last podcast, but I also want to share it here. A few days go, Dave Coleman, a good friend and co-author of The Jake Book wrote me a note about my impending surgery. It brought such encouragement to my heart at so many levels.  I’m not sure I’m going to “Relish it!”, but I am going to relish God in this experience and see how he makes himself known to me.

I know it will probably sound strange, but these times are a real opportunity to meet Father in ways not possible in everyday living.  It will teach you among other things, the meaning of “vulnerability” and to understand how we serve a God who made himself vulnerable on our behalf so that He can identify with our need as we understand his heart as well.

At times like this, we tend to feel that He is throwing us under the bus, but in reality, it is an opportunity to take part in the growth process in which He continues to make “all things new.”  He doesn’t always protect us from these kinds of situations, but inhabits them to draw us closer to Him.  In religion we think we are being punished, but we know differently. By allowing us to embrace even the brokenness of the human experience we can know him better and others can see and understand the power of a restored relationship that was lost in the garden.

On the fourth night after my surgery, I knew I was going to die due to a medical mistake which caused severe convulsions, and I was afraid my 20 inch incision would open…. desperation thinking took over and I said, “It is up to You.”  I don’t remember if I actually heard the words, but somewhere in my mind, I heard “thank you,” and slept quietly through the night.  Relish this experience.  Do what you can by insisting on the best surgeon, hospital, staff, etc.  You plant, and He will give the increase.  Peace and encouragement, comfort and joy to you and family…

Psalm 62

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken…. Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge… One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: “Power belongs to you, God, and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”.

Psalm 91:1-2

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Gotta love that!

 

 

Thinking the Worst of God

I had a great time in Knoxville over the weekend.  I met so many wonderful people with great stories.  I love the synergy of people being in the room on a similar journey and the insights it begins to open up around the room and long after.  One of those who was with us returned home to North Carolina and was listening to The Jesus Lens on Monday and came up with this observation. I love it. Why have we been taught to read Scripture as if God is the meanest presence in the universe, instead of the One who is Love Itself? This is Ed from Asheville:

I’m sitting here at my desk catching up on some work after everyone has left the office and listening to the Jesus Lens again.  There’s still so much in this series that I’m trying to absorb.  Its just such a different perspective from my past experience!

Anyhow,  I have a question (as usual).  In the first dialog session a comment is made about reading scripture and the fear of just choosing to read it the way that makes yourself feel good.  I thought about this a while and I have to wonder.

I understand the woman’s concern about just interpreting scripture in a way that makes us feel good and “creating God in our image” as you put it.  However, when I look at how the majority of believers (especially here in the south) look at God and scripture isn’t it really the other way around? Don’t we actually interpret scripture in the worst possible way instead?  There seems to be this idea in the evangelical arena that the most fearful and nightmarish interpretation of scripture is the “safe” one and therefore the “best” one.  It seems to me that our sinful religious tendencies pull us toward whatever interpretation of scripture will affirm us in our fear and shame and it also seems to me that that is contrary to everything Father is trying to walk us out of.    Isn’t using an ultra conservative interpretation of scripture to twist Father’s presentation of himself in the Son into a religious caricature at least as egregious an error as a liberal interpretation that makes God out to be “too nice”?

Maybe the reality is that Father’s grace is so generous and free and his nature so kind and gentle that both ideas offend our religious sensibilities and we run “back to Egypt” so to speak in our interpretation of scripture. From a fleshly perspective we seem to  prefer the terrifying law giver view of God because that gives us a perceived measure of control (do good get good, do bad get bad) whereas grace and mercy properly understood leave us in the wonderful but terrifying position of being completely out of control.  I think the danger of interpreting scripture in a way that makes us comfortable is certainly there but doesn’t it pale in comparison to the danger of interpreting scripture in a way that makes our being with Father uncomfortable?  

All I can say is Yes! Yes! Yes!

As Father wins us into his love and we see him as he really is, you’ll read all of Scripture differently, as if it came from a Father who loves you not a god who desires to condemn and destroy you.

If you haven’t watched or listened to The Jesus Lens, it’s a free resource from Lifestream if you want to stream it, or you can purchase the DVD here.  Here’s what others have said about this series:

THE JESUS LENS material is excellent. Fresh, relevant and anointed.
– David, retired teacher in Ashford, Ireland

I love everything about it, especially what it says about the Bible being a love letter. This has breathed new life into my Bible reading!
– Julie, mother of three in California

These sessions opened up a fresh way of looking at the Scriptures as God’s unfolding love story through the lens of His son, Jesus.
– Barry, retired military in Virginia

I feel like I’ve been handed a missing piece of my heart. (The Bible has often been just another source of shame. Now I can see how God is restoring it to its proper and useful place in my life.)
– Susan, former slave of shame

THE JESUS LENS is an incredible look at the Scriptures. Having read the Bible all of my life, this teaching has endeared me in a whole new way to the amazing story of my loving.
– Dawn, a member of the studio audience

Our Progress in Pokot – One Year Out

A year ago we offered to see if we could find a million dollars over five years to help the people of Pokot build some infrastructure and seed some businesses that will help them build an economy out of the drought-riddled villages.  We received half of that almost immediately from a single source, and we rejoice that the money continues to come in and the progress that has been made in the villages. Next week our coaches there will receive additional training through Global Hope Network International in Kenya to fine-tune our approach to helping these incredible people. Through it all the Gospel continues to spread in that region as well. Above are pictured some Pokot warriors who came out of the bush to find out what was going on. They listened with great interest as they told their story of their rescue and shared the Gospel with them as well.

Last month Sara and I watched Poverty, Inc. on the recommendation of a friend. (Brad and I also discuss this movie on the current podcast. It’s an eye-opting movie that everyone ought to see about the poverty industry and how worldwide it is structured to benefit the first world far more than the people who actually need help. It shows how our governments and agri-business use compassionate motives to unload our products overseas while destroying the local economy of those we claim to help. It is well worth your time to see it if you care about charity and poverty in the third world.  I am grateful that God provided just the right people over the last two years to help us understand that just giving aid will not benefit people in the long-run, but instead we must work with them to help them find creative, low-tech solutions to their needs and involve them and their creativity in solving the problems they face. We are still learning, but excited at the opportunity we have to affect this corner of the world.

The story that has unfolded here has been amazing, both in the generosity of people to give and to pray for the people in Pokot and our contacts in Kenya. None of this would have happened without you.

Recently we received this report and pictures from them reporting the slow but steady progress of helping a people find their own solutions:

Thank you very much for your support. It has really help us to purchase materials and construct 15 toilets , so far we have cmpleted about 65 toilets. Our coaching team are continuing coaching people the importance of having toilets and they are doing good job, since many hold are working hard to have one. The toilets has really help to curb down the diseases that are caused by lack of hygiene. That is great.  The villagers have embrace this vision and every household are trying to do their best to do their part.

latrine

New latrine contracted by the villagers.

On soft loans, they are doing well as new businesses are starting up. This one is very successful as she is now she is able to get food and pay for medication for her children. Our team always goes around to see how they are going and support their work.

store2

store

Loans have helped these two ladies set up their own store.

Also our volunteering team of nures and doctors , sensitizing the villagers the importance of using safe clean water for drinking and the importance of disposing the waste product to the pit. This also has curb down disease which are caused by micro-organism from dirty environment.

medication-camping

Nurse prescribing the medicine for the villagers.  The number of sick people is reducing, not like the first time. Thank you for the great suppor

So this month the committee together with the villagers and volunteers who went round for treatment has also confirmed that this month they need also to go round for medication and also to construct other latrines which is about 16 in number.

Next month we are expecting our brothers from Isiolo to visit us for one week and add coaching on our team of 9 people including Michael and me.

Yours,

Thomas and Michael

We are excited about the progress our coaches there have made over the last year. These are all indigenous Kenyans, helping other Kenyans build a culture in a forgotten corner of an impoverished land.  To date there is little government assistance or other NGO presence in this area. They are not only helping in practical ways, but sharing about the love of Jesus for them as well.

If you want the backstory on our work in this part of Kenya, you can read this blog that gives a short view of God’s work in linking us up with their need, and people there who are ready to help meet it. If you have extra to pass along for the people of West Pokot you can direct it through Lifestream as contributions are tax-deductible in the US.  As always, every dollar you send goes to the need in Kenya.  We do not (nor do they) take out any administrative or money transfer fees.  If you would like to be part of this to support these brothers and sisters and see the gospel grow in this part of Africa, please see our Sharing With the World 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.

Up Next: Maryland, Virginia and Alberta

My next two trips will take me to the east coast of the US in mid-May and then to Alberta, Canada in early June.  Each of these invitations ha piqued my interest and provide times for others to come and join in if you’d like.  For those who would like to join me in Maryland, Virginia, or Alberta, the links below will take you to the dates and contact details. I not only enjoy the opportunity to help people explore their journey in Christ a bit more, but I love to see these people meet others in the area who are also asking some of the same questions they are.

May 13-22:  Check here for Maryland and Virginia dates near Fredrick, Richmond, and Charlottesville.

June 3-13:  Check here for Calgary, Red Deer, Innisfail, and Edmonton.

And looking really far out, I’ll be taking another tour to Israel in early February 2017.  You can get details here if you’d like to join us.

You can also get all the details on our Travel Page.  And if you’d like to be notified by email when I’m planning a trip to your area you can sign up on our email list and include your address.

Recommended Summer Reading

Earlier in the week I recommended two books about the tragic loss of a child and how God works triumph out of great tragedy. Today I want to recommend four other books for other books that deserve some consideration for your summer reading list:

Judge Z – Irretrievably Brokendrz by Tim Philpot
(Paperback, 260 pages, self-published)

Who would have imagined that one of the best marriage books would be a humorous and poignant novel about a judge in family court wondering what marriage means in the 21st century?  As it turns out there may not be a better backdrop for this tale than the issues and struggles of those dealing with failed families.  Tim Philpot does a masterful job of combining a fascinating story with some deep thinking about what marriage means under today’s law and in God’s eyes.  He dares to ask what”irretrievably broken” means and whether we take divorce taken too casually when people fight over child custody rather than fight to save their marriage?

There is lots of food for thought here, as well as a delightful peek into the twists and turns of family court from the judge’s perspective. Seeing the devastation of broken marriages in his courtroom every day, Judge Z begins to wonder if there isn’t a better way to help families stay intact and get them on a more healthy footing. Wouldn’t it be in the best interest of society to see if a failed marriage can be rebuilt before we terminate it and ask the kids to pay the price? I enjoyed every page of this book, even when it lapsed into preachers and lawyers discussing various facets of marriage.  You can’t come away from this book not valuing marriage more highly and wanting to find ways to love your spouse more deeply.

And Tim should know.  He’s not only a good friend of mine, but a family court judge himself in Lexington, Ky. I’ve sat in his courtroom watching him sort out what is best for broken marriages, at-risk kids and I’ve been with him in local restaurants as he takes extra time to invest in the broken lives of some of the people who frequent his courtroom.

 

poetThe Poet’s Treasure by Stephanie Bennett
(Paperback, 258 pages, Wild Flower Press)

This the final installment in Stephanie Bennett’s Within the Walls Triology. I’ve blogged about the previous two installments as Emilya struggles to find true community in a future technological world.  As a tech genius and the key developer of virtual vacations she is part of a mass government conspiracy to keep people content in a virtual world and rob them of the wonder and risk of community. Having tasted of real community in the second novel, Emilya tries to re-engage the virtual one and finds it incredibly complicated and even dangerous for her and her family. The lessons in this book about technology and the power of the state and how they can undermine the community most people desire are fascinating and thought-provoking.

I’ve been intrigued by this tale from the beginning and watched it unfold through Stephanie’s hand. Stephanie and her husband, Earl are good friends of mine and I not only admire her writing, but appreciate their spiritual journeys as well. They walk with honesty, passion and integrity. If you haven’t read the first two installments, you will want to catch up with the story there before reading this one.  You can read my review of the first book in the series here, and the second one here.  You can also find out more about Stephanie on her publisher’s author’s page.

Here’s what I wrote for the jacket of her book:

The Poet’s Treasure is a compelling read about the inner turmoil we all face between the community our hearts crave and the technology that too often undermines it, especially when it seeks to control us rather than serve us. Stephanie Bennett offers up a satisfying end to her Within the Walls trilogy, an incisive story sorts through the most difficult issues of our age.”

 

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The Atonement of God
 by JD Myers
(Paperback, 204 pages, Redeeming Press)

What really happened on the cross? Much of Christianity has postured God as an angry, bloodthirsty deity needing to satisfy his justice by crushing the most innocent human who had ever lived.  But what if it wasn’t that? What if Father and Son were working together to destroy sin in the human race, so that we could make peace with God and each other in this broken world?

Understanding the cross as a cure for sin, rather than a punishment of it lies at the core of everything I believe and have experienced about God’s love.  I cover it in He Loves Me and in greater detail in Transitions, free recordings available here.  For those who want to take a deeper and more theological look at a nonviolent view of the atonement, J. D. Myers has written an interesting book to unpack various views of atonement and discuss what a curative view of the cross might look like.

While I wouldn’t support all of the theological interpretations outlined this book, I am in broad agreement with its overarching theme and appreciate the scholarship J.D., has brought to the subject at hand. This is a book worthy of your time, your thought, and your prayers as you seek to understand he atonement in a way that puts God’s love front and center and invites us into a reconciled relationship with him.

Excerpt:

Yes there were disastrous consequences of sin, but those consequences were not a punishment, nor did they come form the supposed anger of God, for God was not angry. This is why nearly every time the angel of the Lord appears to humans in Scripture, the first words out of his mouth are, “Do not be afraid.”  Because of sin, we believe God is angry at us for our sin, but Scripture consistently reveals that God is not angry. The great lie of sin is that God is angry at us because of our sin and that when we sin, we cannot be with God, but must hide from Him.”

Visit Jeremy’s website, RedeemingGod.com

 

p2pPanic to Peace:  Living Free from the Grip of Fear by Dr. Neil McLamb
(Paperback, 158 pages, self-published)

Only those who struggle with fear and anxiety know the anguish.  McLamb draws form his own battle wth fear and anxiety beginning with his first episode in an eighth grade speaking event to the ensuing panic attacks, which began taking over his life.  Only when he began to view himself through the eyes of his Heavenly Father, did he find a path to recovery.

By telling his story, he hopes to encourage others to find their freedom from the grip of fear and anxiety. Instead of blaming God or feeling guilt he helps people find freedom by knowing how deeply loved they are by God and finding their joy in his unfolding purpose in their lives even in the midst of whatever challenges they face.

I love books that ring with authenticity. This one does.  Here’s my recommendation from the back cover of his book:

Even in the face of your darkest fears, love is greater still. That’s Neil McLamb’s story as he shares in brutally honest terms his long slide into paralyzing fear and how he is finding his way out in the affectionate embrace of a Father who loves us all. Panic to Peace will be of great encouragement and help to those who also battle the lies that drive fear and grasp for the truths that can lead them to freedom.

Visit Neil’s website here.

 You can find out more about these books by clicking on the book title links.

Sharing the Gospel In the Heart of Legalism

On Friday morning I was a guest on Vince Coakley’s radio show out of Greenville, SC.  It’s a political talk show mostly, but they often have a faith focus on Friday.  If you didn’t get a chance to hear the show, they posted a podcast of it here.  We talk about thinking outside the box in a growing relationship and how that often contrasts with our religious sensibilities.

Long time visitors to this site won’t find much new there, but if you’re new to Lifestream, you’ll find a good summary there of the passion I take into the world.  Since Greenville is in the heart of legalistic Christianity, not everyone was happy, to say the least!

 

Live Radio Tomorrow!

As many of you know I’m in North Carolina hanging out with lots of people exploring this amazing life of Christ and how we can live more deeply in his love and grace. I’ve had so many great conversations already and so many more to come in the last four days here.

On Friday at 11:05 Eastern time (8:05 Pacific Time), I’m going to join a good friend of mine, Vince Coakley on his daily radio show.  Vince is a talk show host on 106.3 in Greenville and covers political events and current affairs. He was the Republican Nominee for the House of Representatives last election for one of the districts here.  We have been friends over the last eight years and I appreciate his heart and passion, though we don’t always agree politically.  He is a wise and generous-hearted man.

You can find out more about the show here, and if you want to listen in it streams life using the button at the top right of that page.  I’m not sure what we’re going to talk about but it might include the current controversy in North Carolina about bathroom use by transgendered people.  That could be fun…

For the Next Couple of Weeks…

For the next couple of weeks I’ll be overseas. I’ll touch down in Dublin on Thursday and connect with some dear friends there. Then, I’ll begin a quick swing through the UK, stopping in Northern Ireland  •  Dumfries, Scotland  •  Coventry, England  •  Newport, Wales, and finish up in London.  It’s quite a quick loop before heading home again.  If you’re in the area we still have some room in most of the venues.   Get all the details here. We’ll be talking about the themes hat matter most to be—living in the Father’s affection, exploring relational expressions of community, and finding our freedom in his work in our lives. If you think about me during those days, please pray for me and for Father’s work among the people I’ll be with.  It will be much appreciated.

If you’re looking for more of a thought-provoking blog, I posted a new one over at FindingChurch.com.