God’s Unfolding Process

Religion is about conformity and provides an unattainable standard we are supposed to meet each day, and if we fail we are to grovel before God at how far short we fell, ask God to forgive us and try harder the next. It is a system that cannot work.

I love how the New Testament presents the life of Jesus as a process. God’s work unfolds in us as we learn to respond to him each day. You cannot follow him by meeting a list of expectations and obligations. You can only only follow him by… (wait for it!), following him! He wants to show all of us how to know him, listen to him, follow his nudges and watch the process of his glory unfold in us. Yesterday, I read Paul celebrating that process in the Thessalonian people.

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4

Notice he doesn’t point out where they fall short, but where trust in God and love for others is growing in them. That’s a very different view that measuring their failures, or telling them what they need to do better. He saw their faith increasing even the midst of persecution and suffering. He also saw their love for others growing. Was it perfect? Probably not, but that is precisely not the point. God is not looking for perfection today. He is simply looking for hearts willing to know him. As you grow to know him you’ll find your trust in him growing and your capacity to love people around you as well. That’s how you gauge whether or not you’re in his process, or simply trying to perform on your own.

I love living in the process of his working, rather than the rigid expectations of religion. And I’d rather live my life in his unfolding purpose, rather than the strategies I can figure out on my own. I seem to be in one of those unfolding processes as I write this. I will soon be on my way to Russia to spend a week in St. Petersburg and then make a stop in Holland on the way home. At the top you can see a copy of the Russian version of HE LOVES ME, which is due to be released in a print version about the time when I arrive. The cover design is a detail from Rembrandt’s painting, “The Return of the Prodigal”, the original of which is in a museum in St. Petersburg. I’ll get to see the original soon, as well as take in some of the other sights of the city. And more importantly, I’ll get to know some Russian people who are learning to live in the reality of his love.

This is the second of my books that have been printed for the Russian people. At right you can see the other, SO YOU DON’T WANT TO GO TO CHURCH ANYMORE, which was done some years ago. These are both in Russian because some Russians who knew English wanted them available to their people. Voluntarily they painstakingly translated the books out of love. One was a housewife who had not translated anything before. She gave countless hours to make a version available that we have had on as a PDF download on our International Page for years. Others have added to it, tweaked the translations and have now gotten two of them into print. Amazing.

But there’s more. While I am excited about this trip for a number of reasons, one that is critically important to me is the place this country held in my older brother’s heart for decades. In the late 60s my brother went to the university to double-majored in Russian and Biblical Studies. His hope was that one day the iron curtain would fall and he would have the opportunity to share God’s love with the Russian people. He prayed for that opportunity for over thirty years. However, by the time the iron curtain fell, my brother was battling multiple sclerosis, complications of which eventually took his life just a few days shy of his 49th birthday. I don’t know how God sorts out all of that, but I’ve no doubt my brother’s passion will have some fulfillment in eternity. And we have no idea how much his prayers shaped God’s work in that country. So in part, I am going for him as a celebration of his life and passion, and some day I hope to tell him all about it.

At the time my brother talked about going to Russia, I never imagined that I’d visit countries around the world, helping people sort out what it means to live loved and free in the life of Jesus. I grew up on a vineyard in Central California and never thought of leaving the state, much less the country. And I would never have conceived of having the kinds of conversations I get to have with people that help them begin to see how God is making himself known to them. My whole life has been a process and I’ve long ago given up any need to know what’s ahead. It is more than enough for me to simply follow the Lamb wherever he wants me to go.

Tomorrow it is Russia!

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12 Comments
  1. Ron Wiley April 24, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    Wayne,

    Have a great trip! And please give my greetings to Michael and Susan… I wish I could be there with you and them, and all of their Russian friends!

    Ron

  2. Ron Wiley April 25, 2012 at 12:26 am

    Wayne,

    Have a great trip! And please give my greetings to Michael and Susan… I wish I could be there with you and them, and all of their Russian friends!

    Ron

  3. Me April 25, 2012 at 7:08 am

    Yes, I agree. At the same time, we are called to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ and to speak the truth to one another in love. Through the Holy Spirit, we encourage one another to rise – also by the power of the Holy Spirit – to God’s standard of holiness, which is perfect. Even if we are not perfect, our goal is to continually grow and yield to the Spirit within us, so that as much of God’s perfection as possible can shine through us to the glory of God. We are called to do these things while offering one another a lot of grace and love. If someone corrects us out of a critical spirit, we can still ask God to search our hearts and be willing to yield to His work in us, cultivating a love for the truth, even if we are only able to receive the grace is supposed to accompany that truth from God alone. If someone speaks the truth to us out of a heart filled with love and grace, we can trust that God wants what is best for us, those around us, and Himself, and that he speaks through others on our behalf with this in mind. If we allow no room in our lives to receive and respond to truth that comes through our fellow believers, that is a problem. God bless you Wayne. You have been one of the most influential people in my life. I hate religion too, and I am on your side. Enjoy your trip to Russia!

  4. Dan Mayhew April 25, 2012 at 7:45 am

    Godspeed, Wayne.

  5. Me April 25, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Yes, I agree. At the same time, we are called to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ and to speak the truth to one another in love. Through the Holy Spirit, we encourage one another to rise – also by the power of the Holy Spirit – to God’s standard of holiness, which is perfect. Even if we are not perfect, our goal is to continually grow and yield to the Spirit within us, so that as much of God’s perfection as possible can shine through us to the glory of God. We are called to do these things while offering one another a lot of grace and love. If someone corrects us out of a critical spirit, we can still ask God to search our hearts and be willing to yield to His work in us, cultivating a love for the truth, even if we are only able to receive the grace is supposed to accompany that truth from God alone. If someone speaks the truth to us out of a heart filled with love and grace, we can trust that God wants what is best for us, those around us, and Himself, and that he speaks through others on our behalf with this in mind. If we allow no room in our lives to receive and respond to truth that comes through our fellow believers, that is a problem. God bless you Wayne. You have been one of the most influential people in my life. I hate religion too, and I am on your side. Enjoy your trip to Russia!

  6. Dan Mayhew April 25, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Godspeed, Wayne.

  7. Penny Dugan April 25, 2012 at 11:32 am

    Wayne have a marvelous trip, you are fulfilling the answer to your brothers prayers. God is so FAITHFUL!

    I came back from S.A. two weeks early, my father in law was sick, but around Easter the Lord told me he would pass near the anniversary of TED’s death the 19th of April it was 19 years since he died of AIDS. I hopped a plane home, got to kc in time to go to his bedside and be with him as he passed into heaven. You this is part of why I do what I do I feel nobody should die alone. So there we were my daughter, myself and my niece and then the next morning able to help my mother in law with arrangements. back to kc for kelli’s youngests birthday and to pick up Ben from S.C, then back for memorial on Sunday and then back to KC on Monday and home to Wichita on Tuesday. Today ( a week since boarding the airplane home) God definately made a way and ordered my footsteps. So faithful, I even knew when my outreach came back to S.A. so I booked a round trip, now hoping they can move my return trip to October and….I made it!

    You have a wonderful time, it is so cool to see your books in other languages…. and Love and living Loved is so desparately what the world needs now.

    Blessings,
    Penny

  8. Penny Dugan April 25, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    Wayne have a marvelous trip, you are fulfilling the answer to your brothers prayers. God is so FAITHFUL!

    I came back from S.A. two weeks early, my father in law was sick, but around Easter the Lord told me he would pass near the anniversary of TED’s death the 19th of April it was 19 years since he died of AIDS. I hopped a plane home, got to kc in time to go to his bedside and be with him as he passed into heaven. You this is part of why I do what I do I feel nobody should die alone. So there we were my daughter, myself and my niece and then the next morning able to help my mother in law with arrangements. back to kc for kelli’s youngests birthday and to pick up Ben from S.C, then back for memorial on Sunday and then back to KC on Monday and home to Wichita on Tuesday. Today ( a week since boarding the airplane home) God definately made a way and ordered my footsteps. So faithful, I even knew when my outreach came back to S.A. so I booked a round trip, now hoping they can move my return trip to October and….I made it!

    You have a wonderful time, it is so cool to see your books in other languages…. and Love and living Loved is so desparately what the world needs now.

    Blessings,
    Penny

  9. Liz April 26, 2012 at 1:52 am

    “God’s work unfolds in us as we learn to respond to him each day. You cannot follow him by meeting a list of expectations and obligations. You can only only follow him by… (wait for it!), following him! He wants to show all of us how to know him, listen to him, follow his nudges and watch the process of his glory unfold in us.”

    That’s it in a nutshell.

    Have a wonderful time in Russia,Wayne.

  10. Liz April 26, 2012 at 4:52 am

    “God’s work unfolds in us as we learn to respond to him each day. You cannot follow him by meeting a list of expectations and obligations. You can only only follow him by… (wait for it!), following him! He wants to show all of us how to know him, listen to him, follow his nudges and watch the process of his glory unfold in us.”

    That’s it in a nutshell.

    Have a wonderful time in Russia,Wayne.

  11. Mike April 27, 2012 at 5:51 am

    Love the cover of “He Loves Me” Russian version. I imagine seeing that painting in person will be something special.

    Thanks for sharing about your brother and what it personally means to you. That is really really good stuff. I’m looking forward to hearing more.

  12. Mike April 27, 2012 at 8:51 am

    Love the cover of “He Loves Me” Russian version. I imagine seeing that painting in person will be something special.

    Thanks for sharing about your brother and what it personally means to you. That is really really good stuff. I’m looking forward to hearing more.

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