Intimacy with God

Misunderstanding the Atonement

Today, Sara and I head off for some gatherings in San Diego this weekend. We are looking forward to what Father has there.  Let me leave you with this as we go:

One of the greatest misunderstandings people have of Scripture is that God needed a sacrifice to love us. Jesus came in his humanity to offer the sacrifice God wanted from us that we could never give. While that expresses some Old Testament thoughts about sacrifices it misses the larger through-line of Scripture. God was shifting humanity’s view of sacrifice. All of the false gods that humans created were angry, vindictive deities, needing to be appeased by sacrifice—gifts and offerings at first, but for many, eventual human sacrifice.

The message God gave to Abraham when he tried to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice was that God didn’t want or need our sacrifice. He would be the sacrifice we need to re-engage him as our trusted friend. Jesus didn’t die to satisfy something broken in God (e.g. his need for justice), but Jesus died to satisfy something broken in humanity (our shame in sin and our fear of him.)  This is how I wrote about it in He Loves Me.

At Mt. Moriah God foreshadowed to Abraham what he would literally accomplish some three thousand years later on another hill not far away, Golgotha. It would not be the act of appeasement to an angry God by any sacrifice we could give, but an act of a loving God to sacrifice himself for those who were held captive in sin.

Far from being a blood-thirsty sovereign demanding sacrifice to satiate his need for vengeance, the Living God spends himself to bring back the banished son or daughter. He did not need a sacrifice to love us, for he already did.

We needed a sacrifice for our shame so that we would be free to love him again. At the cross, God provided the undeniable proof of just how much he loves us. For those who understand that, it opens the door for us to do what Adam and Eve could not do that fateful day in the Garden—totally entrust our lives to the Living God.

If we misunderstand the atonement, we will spend our lives trying to keep God appeased by earning his favor with our effort. When we understand what Jesus accomplished on the cross, we will be safe with God even in our most broken moments and be able to explore what it means to live in his love. That’s how important it is that we see Jesus’ death for what it was.  It was to rescue and redeem us from the power of darkness and invite us into the warmth and tenderness of his life and love.

This is what the third section of He Loves Me is all about—the undeniable proof that we are loved by God and invited into a relationship with him of growing friendship.  It’s also the theme of Transition, a set of recordings designed to help people move from an appeasement-based view of God and the cross, to an affection-based one that will allow you to connect with the redemption Jesus wanted for you.

If you want to talk more about this, we will be doing so in our next meeting of The He Loves Me Book Club, which will convene on Saturday, February 3 at 1:00 pm Pacific Standard Time.  We will focus on Chapters 12 and 13. If you want to join us in this Zoom conversation, you can get details and the link by liking the Facebook Group Page, or if you are not a member of Facebook, you can write me for a link to be sent each time we meet. For those who just want to watch, we stream them live on my Facebook Author Page and leave the recording up after the conversation for others to hear. (You can find past ones by scrolling down on that page.)

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When That Love Touches You…

“Peter, do you love me?”

Why would Jesus care about being loved by Peter? He is Almighty God enthroned in the presence of thousands of adoring angels. He can command obedience simply because he is the greatest power in the universe. Why would he be seeking Peter’s love?

We seem to be far more comfortable when our deities command fear. Almost every idol or false god man has ever created seeks the submission of his or her subjects by sheer terror. But love? What false god ever wanted to be loved? Feared? Yes! Obeyed? Yes. But never loved.

After his work on the cross was finished, however, Jesus comes looking for love, and he seeks it from the one who had just failed him most. Could this be what he most wanted the cross to produce in his followers? Was his death designed to reach past their fears of God and begin a new relationship based on the intimacy of love instead? What else could it be?

Love lies at the very core of God’s nature. In fact, when John sums up the substance of God he does so in a very simple statement: “God is love.” We may not be able to explain in concrete terms all that God is and how Father, Son, and Spirit relate together in such unity, but we do know that they exist in a perfect state of love.

When that love touches you, you will discover there is nothing more powerful in the entire universe. It is more powerful than your failures, your sins, your disappointments, your dreams, and even your fears. God knows that when you tap the depths of his love, your life will forever be changed. Nothing can prevail over it, and nothing else will lead you to taste of his kind of holiness.

Adapted from He Loves Me, Chapter Ten, The Greatest Force in the Universe.

Those paragraphs still cause my heart to soar. That the God of the universe would put so much value on love is nothing humanity could contrive. This is a gift, pure and simple, the very essence of his nature. In the thirty years I’ve enjoyed learning to swim in that love instead of trying to earn it, this still overwhelms my heart with wonder.

We will be studying that chapter and the next one this Saturday, January 6, in the next gathering of the He Loves Me Book Club. We’ll begin at 1:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. You can find the link for this conversation on the Facebook Group Page, or if you are not a member of Facebook, you can write me for a link. These conversations are held and recorded on Zoom. We stream them live on my Facebook Author Page for those who don’t want to be in the Zoom discussion, and you’ll find our previous conversations there.

This week, we will discuss Chapter 10, The Greatest Force In the Universe, and Chapter 11, He Loved You Enough to Let You Go. Both cover the concepts that shifted the paradigm of my heart from the old religious views of God that destroyed my faith in him rather than encouraged it.

You are welcome to join us even if you haven’t before. We’re just exploring themes to help us walk more freely in God’s goodness and love.

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May Your Heart Be At Rest

There is nothing like a heart at rest in the Father’s love beneath the soothing glow of his goodness, especially when everything in your life tells you not to rest.

It’s easy to do when your circumstances are pleasant and joyful. Many of you will celebrate the next few days with family and friends who enjoy a depth of love and an abundance of life that makes your heart happy. That is to be relished with joy and gratitude.

However, I’m mostly thinking today of the many more of you for whom life is hard. This glorious rest of God is for you, too. In fact, the worse your circumstances are, the more you need to find your way inside a love so rich that no circumstance can touch it.

For those in grief at the passing of a loved one or a broken relationship you’ve been unable to mend, I pray you will know the reality of Emmanual—God-with-you! May his friendship and love swallow up with joy that lack of any other you don’t have today.

For those facing a scary medical diagnosis, an unforeseen bill you can’t pay, or potential layoffs at your work, I pray that God will win you into a trust in him greater than all your uncertainties. He has a way of walking with you through the greatest of needs, caring for you along the way, and leading you to freedom.

Some may find these words while crouched in a war zone or paralyzed by flood or famine. May you know that Jesus has not lost track of you. He has his eyes on you, understands the unfairness you suffer, and has a tender place in his heart for you to rest.

And for those who have toxic family members who make it difficult or even impossible to celebrate Christmas with a family you love, may you know the joy of belonging to him and being included in a family far larger than you can see. May God hold you close to his heart and overwhelm every sense of loneliness with the richness of his presence.

And for those battling deep despair and darkness, this season often hits hardest as others enjoy the day, oblivious to your pain. God not only knows of your discomfort, he also holds it deeply in his heart. Your tears are his tears; your anguish is his anguish. And though there doesn’t appear to be a way through this for you, he is inviting you to crawl up in his lap and take your rest there. His way to healing will become more apparent from that spot.

So how do you find that rest if it seems a million miles away? Find a quiet space and submit yourself to his goodness. Tell him your doubts and fears, asking him to make himself known to you. Don’t be afraid of your tears; let them wash away the lies of darkness. Stay in that quiet place until his fountain within your heart begins to flow like a spring. It will start very slowly, just a trickle, perhaps. But stay with him. What thoughts is he giving you there? What comfort do you sense from outside yourself?

Linger there and come back often. Don’t keep on running from your pain or from him by staying busy or filling your mind with empty entertainment. Jesus will be faithful to you. He will watch over you with his love. He will give you light for the path ahead. You are not alone; you never have been.

And this is not just for this season but for every day ahead. “Strive to enter that rest” is how the writer of Hebrews termed it. What does that mean? It doesn’t mean more Bible reading or logging more prayer hours. It means to cease from those labors and everything else you use to try to save yourself. Our work is to stop working and find comfort and safety in him.

It’s there for you. Please don’t give in to any lie that says it isn’t. He is sufficient in you; all you need to do is turn your eyes to him and watch what he can do for you.

Sara and I pray that you’ll find your rest in him, regardless of your challenges. He is good. He is loving. He is kind toward you.

May your heart be at rest in him this season, if only because you are becoming increasingly settled in his love, knowing that nothing is too big for him and his arms are strong enough to hold you close to his heart.

And he will be there waiting for you every day of your life.

Sara and I want to leave you with a personal greeting for a Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year. We don’t take lightly those of you who grant us access to your hearts and stories throughout the year. We are grateful that you find some of these resources encouraging for your own journey, and we are always enriched to hear how he is working with you.  We are looking forward to how he will invite us to follow him in the year ahead and how we share his goodness in the world.

With love to you all…

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The Reality We Relax Into

From the day we brought Mandy, a six-week-old golden retriever puppy, into our home, she has been enthralled with our seven-year-old lab/retriever mix named Zoey. First, Mandy overwhelmed Zoey, trying to relate to her as she had with her mom and the litter of puppies in her previous home. She had no idea how to relate to Zoey, and to be honest, Zoey wasn’t very enthusiastic about this new intruder in our home.

But in four weeks, all that has changed. They are becoming best friends, learning to play, and giving each other the space that will allow this relationship to work. It has been so much fun to watch it happen and so fulfilling to watch them engage each other now and for Zoey to let her sleep in her paws.

I know they are just two dogs, but there is a process for us as well, as we learn to live inside God’s love, especially if your previous home was based on religious performance.

I say it often: learning to live loved is not a matter of human achievement; it is the reality we relax into. That’s what Mandy is learning with Zoey. 

And, yes, I understand this is far easier said than done. This is the great transition—from religious performance that seeks God’s blessing to a relational connection where we experience his love and guidance through all life throws at us. 

The transition can be brutal. The arc of Scripture contains that exact transition from obeying the law to resting in the Father’s love. It took thousands of years for God to put that into words we’d understand and put in place the mechanism that would allow it to happen. Even then, the early Christians struggled to stay in God’s love as they kept sliding back into the old ways by observing laws and rituals that were never meant to lead them to life. 

So, when your performance-based Scripture reading leaves you empty, when your prayers seem futile, when you can’t seem to sense his love, no matter how hard you try, don’t redouble your efforts. This process will take you to the end of yourself, which is what it intends to do. At times, you’ll feel alone, as if you’re missing something everyone else gets. But it isn’t so. Don’t give into the despair that will try to tell you God is not really there, or if he is, you’re not good enough to merit his attention. 

He has always had his eye on you. The hunger you feel to know him is the hunger he has inspired in you. Don’t give up; just keep marinating in your heart’s hunger, losing the expectations of what you think God’s work will look like and wait until his nudges and fingerprints begin to come into focus.

I wish I could save you from this process, but I can’t. If your faith and prayer life have been built on doctrines and ideas, switching to a more relational engagement is never easy. To find a new way into his love, the old ways have to die. This is the hard part, watching them die and resisting the urge to save yourself by rushing back into those comforting, though lifeless forms. They will disappoint you yet again and you’ll find yourself still at this point where your religious ambitions and expectations need to surrender to the God who is so much bigger than any of us can conceive. 

As those things die, Jesus will show you a different way he is relating to you. This is the most frustrating time in that process, seeing through the old, but not quite grasping the new. It’s like a computer program you’ve always used, and suddenly rebuilt it and changed everything. None of the old ways work; you must learn what will work now. Learning to live a life of love is entirely different than the games of religious performance.

What I hope you don’t do is give up the hunger to know him. Give up the past process—yes! Give up the expectations you have of how God might make himself known—yes again! But don’t give up on him. He has this for you. It’s why it hurts so badly—because he has created in you a heart that will be satisfied with nothing less than him. You’ve asked for that. He’s all on the way to fulfilling that desire.

In reading Romans recently, I took note of these two passages. One about why Israel missed the revelation of God, and one that lets us know why a small minority find it:  

And Israel, who seemed so interested in reading and talking about what God was doing, missed it. How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their “God projects” that they didn’t notice God right in front of them.  —Romans 8:31-32 (MSG)

I have been there. So enmeshed in my “God projects” that I walked right by his nudges and invitations. Yes, it was at the end of myself, frustrated by the fact that my religious journey to that point had only allowed me glimpses of goodness but not the relationship my heart desired. How do we find that. Here’s what Paul goes on to say about those who find their way into his goodness: 

They’re holding on, not because of what they think they’re going to get out of it, but because they’re convinced of God’s grace and purpose in choosing them.  —Romans 11:6 (MSG)

Even our relationship with him cannot be found seeing our own fulfillment, though it will fulfill us in ways we never dreamed. This journey is about finding your way into the reality of who God is and how he wants to make himself known to you. Remember, God’s love is a reality we relax into. Expectations, frustrations, and demands will only make it more difficult for us. God loves you, knows where you are, and is building that connection with you, especially in those frustrating moments when you feel abandoned and alone.

The only way you can miss it is to give up or try to force your way in. Hang in there. As the old dies, you’ll find that path that will lead you into the relationship you desire. And you will find yourself at rest in the Father’s arms, just like Mandy is in Zoey’s.

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You No Longer Need to Fear God

In the earliest days of my faith, my view of God was stoked by fear. He was a stern and demanding judge, offended by humanity’s failures, and only the death of Jesus made it tolerable for him to be with us. Fear was also a primary tool my parents used to motivate our behavior. I don’t blame them for that; they didn’t know better. Their religion was steeped in it, so it became their best tool to motivate a disobedient child. Like the threat of hell, they had to find punishments more terrifying than the pleasure we found in doing things our way.

I regret using more of that on my children than I would today. Discovering how tender and loving Father is over the last three decades has changed so much more in my life than fear ever could. While fear is a powerful tool to change behavior in the short term, it does not endear people to the one threatening them. The invitation to know God is not the fear of the consequences of not doing so, but because his nature is so endearing and his desires for us so engaging. That’s why his “perfect love casts out all fear… because the one who fears cannot be perfected in love.” (I John 4)

Learning that changed the entire trajectory of my spiritual journey. No longer tormented by my fear of him, I could find a relationship with him of love, rest, and play that transformed my heart in ways fear never could. Even under the law, fear was only a temporary tool until Christ would come and turn the world upside down with a love that would transform us:

Jesus knew that fear, like a crutch for someone with a broken leg, is only a temporary fix. Though it can be a heady motivation in the short-term, it is absolutely worthless for the long haul. As such it doesn’t really change us; it only controls us as long as our fear can be stoked. That’s why sermons on God’s judgment are so common in Christianity. They confront us with our fears of God and seek to provoke us to live the way we know we should. The repentance that follows and the resolve to rededicate ourselves to Christ’s purpose makes us feel clean again.

Such experience actually helps us live better for a while—but only for a while. Eventually the passion of such moments fades and the old self encroaches its way back into our lives. We end up caught in the same patterns from which we had repented. Soon the cycle repeats itself.

Fear cannot lead us to life-long transformation, but only a momentary reformation of behavior. Instead of inviting us to enter into relationship with the Living God, it pushes us away with feelings of inadequacy and repetitious failure.

Jesus had a far better way. He wanted to break the bondage of fear itself—even our fear of God. He knew of a force far more powerful—one that would not fade with the passing of time and would invite us into the depths of relationship with God. He would settle for nothing else. Why should we?

Excerpted from chapter nine of He Loves Me

If you’re having trouble finding freedom from fear in your relationship with God, join us for the next meeting of the He Loves Me Book Club that will take place next Saturday, December  9, at 1:00 p.m. Pacific Time. You can find the link for this conversation on the Facebook Group Page, or if you are not a member of Facebook, you can write me for a link. These conversations are held and recorded on Zoom. We stream them live on my Facebook Author Page for those who don’t want to be in the Zoom discussion, and you’ll find our previous conversations there.

This week, we will discuss chapters eight and nine about finding our way into the mercy of God and no longer needing fear to help us find freedom. In fact, he offers freedom from our fear of him so that we can come to rest in the love of a gracious Father. That’s where everything good begins to reshape our life story.

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And don’t forget, from now until the end of the year, we are offering a 15% discount on any order you place from Lifestream before the end of the year. Just enter “Lifestream2023” in the coupon window at check-out.

Consider giving some of these books to your friends and family for Christmas. A Man Like No Other, The Shack, He Loves Me, Live Loved, Free Full, and Authentic Relationships will bless almost anyone thinking about Jesus’s life. So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore, Beyond Sundays, and Finding Church will encourage people disillusioned by organized religion and seeking alternatives. In Season will enable believers to cultivate a deeper place for Jesus to engage their hearts.

You can find all the books Wayne has contributed to here. And if you order in bulk, you can find even deeper discounts.

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Where Trust Grows

Sara and I have left Little Rock and headed into South Texas, with stops in Waco, Austin, Wimberley, and Bulvedere (San Antonio) over the next 12 days. Details are on the travel page. We are having a wonderful time seeing what adventures and conversations God has for us each day. We’ve been talking a lot about the growth curve to trust. It is definitely easier to recognize God’s hand and trust his provision when you are at rest inside than when you are tossed about by anxiety.

But far from a choice we make, our trust is the growing response to the love Jesus reveals to us. You can’t try to trust more; you can only learn how he wants you to relax into his love. Then, you’ll be free to trust when you realize you were never in control of your life or the circumstances coming at you.

Trust. It is so easy to talk about, but so hard to put into practice. Nothing is more theologically certain than that God is faithful and trustworthy. But learning how to live in that trust through the twists and turns of our lives is the most difficult challenge we face.

It took God almost Abraham’s entire life to teach Abraham the joy of trusting him. But he did it. Even when he was asked to give up his only son and heir, he trusted God’s plan and God’s nature enough to set about the task. This, from the one who had risked his wife’s virtue by lying to Pharaoh that she was not his wife. This, from the one who had impregnated his wife’s maidservant when it didn’t appear God would give Sarah the child he promised.

To accomplish that, God did some extraordinary things for Abraham. Rest assured, God knows how difficult it is for you to trust him. He is not threatened by that nor angry with you.

He simply wants you to keep your eye on him and learn.

He knows that only by trusting him can you participate in a relationship with him and enjoy the fullness of life in his household. He also knows that you’ll trust him only to the degree that you are certain of his love for you.

I used to believe that trust was a choice, but it isn’t. We can only pretend to trust. God wants to win us into trust by winning us into his love. When you know he is all-powerful and wise beyond anything you can imagine on your best day and that he sees you, knows you, and loves you more than anyone on this planet ever has, you will grow to trust him as you watch how he cares for you. No, it won’t be by meeting your perceived needs but by leading you into his truth and light that will set to right what life in a broken world has done.
The excerpt above is from Chapter Four of He Loves Me, which will be the focus of our next gathering of the He Loves Me Book Discussion, which will be held this Sunday, October 8, at 11:00 a.m. PDT. We’ll be finishing up Chapter 3 and moving on through Chapter 4. We are discovering together how to live loved by the Father and to allow that love to increase our trust in his reality and desires for us.
You can find the link for this conversation on the Group Page on Facebook, or if you are not a member of Facebook, you can write me for a link. These discussions are held live, recorded, and posted on Zoom. If you can’t join us, catch the conversation on the Wayne Jacobsen Author Page on Facebook.
You can see replays of our previous gatherings here:  

 

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The Conversations that Matter

Years ago, I heard a mission statement someone had crafted: “I want to have conversations that matter with people who care.”

When I heard it, I knew instantly that this was the part of my life I treasured most. Above any recreational pursuit, athletic competition, or entertainment option, what I enjoy most is having a conversation that makes a difference in my life or someone else’s because we care about finding our way into Jesus’s fullness. Of course, that is most meaningful when it happens with Sara, my children or grandchildren, other family, and close friends.

But Jesus has also allowed us to have thousands of conversations like this with people worldwide. Many of those have become close friends with repeated opportunities to grow our friendship. That’s why I enjoy doing the podcast and interacting with those who listen, helping them further the conversation with their friends and family. Rich conversations are the treasures that transmit the kingdom.

I read something the other day that helped me see some ingredients that help conversations matter. A psychologist writing about emotionally abusive people said they are incapable of engaging in “mutually respectful relationships that require consideration, empathy, compassion, and kindness.” I find that so incredibly sad because the relationships that allow God’s grace to unfold require those exact things—mutual respect (especially where people don’t see things the same way) as well as consideration, empathy, compassion, and kindness. Those attributes open the kind of dialogue that sets us at ease even in our struggles, helps unravel pain, and allows his truth access to our hearts.

I’ve always got my eye out for conversations that open doors in people’s hearts. I find them everywhere—in our neighborhood, with a worker at our home, phone calls, and gatherings. I pursue them with people God connects me with and intentionally take to time to let relationships grow.

Sara and I will leave California on our second RV trip in two weeks. We’ll go first to Denver to visit our son and then head east, though not so nearly as far as last time. Our itinerary is still flexible, though we are headed to some planned events near Little Rock, Arkansas, and Austin, TX. There’s plenty of room to add other conversations around that as we travel.

We’re doing it pretty much like last time—going where the Spirit seems to lead and staying as long as we need to. Here’s a rough framework, however, of what that could look like:

  • Denver, CO – September 7-13
  • Wichita, KS – September 15-17
  • Kansas City – September 18-20
  • Belleville, IL – September 21-24
  • Little Rock, AR – September 29 – October 1
  • Austin, TX – October 6-8
  • San Antonio, TX – October 11-14

Then, we head home, possibly back up to I-40 through Dallas or Lubbock. We’re not sure yet. But we will go through Albuquerque and Flagstaff on the way home.

So, if you’re along this route and have some people who would like to connect with us, please contact me through email. Then, let’s trust that if God wants us to be together on this trip, he will arrange our schedules accordingly. What will we talk about? Whatever you want to. We no longer set the agenda but wait to see what will most help their journey. Themes from my books and podcasts almost always come up, but that’s a wide range of subject matter:

  • Living loved
  • Dealing with trauma
  • God’s view of sin
  • Finding community
  • The Jesus Lens (a freeing and meaningful engagement with Scripture)
  • Recognizing the Spirit’s nudges
  • Growing trust, and
  • Compassionate and humble engagement with the world

Sometimes, we’ll cover a bunch of those in the same conversation.

And we meet almost anywhere—in homes, parks, restaurants, or by the campfire next to our RV.

Please don’t hesitate to email me if something is on your heart. We may not be able to work everything in, but we will see how the Spirit leads. As a fun aside for this trip, we plan to visit some of the Presidential Libraries along our route. Let us know if you want to join us for one of those. And, yes, we will have plenty of alone time for God’s work to continue unfolding in our journey.

After finishing the Jake Colsen Fan Club, several people asked if we could do one through He Loves Me. Now would be an excellent time to begin, so beginning next Sunday, August 27, we’re going to initiate the He Loves Me Book Club for those who want to go through a chapter-by-chapter focus on the themes in that book. It’s always tricky with an audience as spread out around the world as this one to find a time that will work for everyone. We are going to start at 1:30 pm PDT and work from there. I know it is late in Europe and early in Asia and Australia, but if we have enough interest from both, we may have two different sessions, so one will be in the evening in Europe and late morning in the East.

We will coordinate this book club through a Facebook Group that you are welcome to join. We will continue the discussion there as well as post the Zoom links. If you’re not part of Facebook and want me to send you the link, please email me here.

As I said, there is nothing more compelling than conversations that matter with people who care. Here are some ways to connect with us, but I hope you’re finding meaningful conversations in your own relationships.

 

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Responsible to Obey, or Free to Love?

In an email exchange with a friend, he made this observation:

“If there are no other species out there (in the universe) unless created by Father, we are responsible to obey him. That’s our responsibility. He will bring the end of the age in his time.”

Reading it, I felt a ping in my yuck meter.

“…Responsible to obey him.” There was a time when I’d have felt comfortable with those words, but no longer. He was a good enough friend to push back playfully:

I agree on all points, though I’d substitute “a love to embrace” for “a responsibility to obey. Love will always lead us to obedience but obedience does not always lead us to love. That’s how I see the new covenant.   

He simply wrote back, “Full agreement here.”

So how do you see your relationship with God today? Do you consider it your responsibility to obey him or your joy to embrace his love?

The Old Testament seems to confront us with the need to obey God because we are afraid of him. That’s our responsibility, or so we thought. However, laced throughout the Old Testament is also the language of lovingkindness and mercy. And the writer of Hebrews tells us they couldn’t enter God’s rest, not because of their disobedience, but because of their unbelief. They didn’t trust his love and goodness, and not believing in him, they continued to look to false gods and foreign powers to comfort them.

Jesus underscored the power of his Father’s love when he was here. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” You could read that under the eyes of the Old Testament to mean that keeping commands proves that we love him. But the whole mission of Jesus proves otherwise. He meant, “If you discover the depth of my love, you will find yourself following me to the ends of the earth.”

That’s what I’ve discovered to be true. Those who seek to follow Jesus focused on fear and obedience are not always pleasant people to be around. They are often frustrated and angry, just like the Pharisees were. Thinking their relationship with God is secured by their performance, they are exhausted by their efforts and frustrated at the lack of results. Moreover, they push their frustration onto others by judging their misdeeds and trespassing on their lives by telling others what they should do.

Thinking our responsibility is to obey him draws us right back under the law, and it will kill us. According to the writer of Hebrews, that’s why Israel couldn’t enter God’s rest—not because of a lack of obedience but because of their unbelief. They didn’t believe he was wholly good and that he loved them even in their darkness. If they had, he would have filled up in their hearts what sin seeks to fill.

Jesus has offered us a better way. Come live in his love, grow to trust him, and you’ll find yourself following him with great joy and freedom.

And that’s the obedience that matters.

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If you need some help exploring this shift in thinking, Wayne wrote He Loves Me: Learning to Live in the Father’s Affection to do just that.

 

 

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Waves of Joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Powerful Word in Times of Trouble

“There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

Dave Coleman was one of those friends for me. He was a man of immense wisdom, rock-solid integrity, and deep love. I don’t know why he took a liking to me, but he’s one of those friends where the conversations always go deep, and the affection builds over a lifetime. He helped me discover how to live the life behind He Loves Me and was my co-author for So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore.

More importantly, he was there when I was betrayed by my co-pastor, giving me comfort and counsel that steered my heart into a better reality than I might have seen otherwise. He was there through the lawsuit over The Shack and encouraged me to find my home in the truth and not worry about the lies being told of me. And two summers ago, he held my heart through the rejection of a lifelong companion that came out of nowhere.

A few weeks after we talked, he sent me this prayer and admonishment. This was August 2021, still eight months before Sara’s trauma exploded. I wish he’d been there for that, too, but he passed away in November of that year.

May the Father, who is rich in mercy, speak kindly to your heart and comfort you with the thought that the only way out of this is to lay it at the foot of the cross…. with the prayer, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Do not allow your accusers to stifle in any way your message of God’s love. Just allow this experience to increase your urgency and your compassion and, above all, to deepen your dependency on His grace.

Those words have been taped to my computer since receiving them. There is so much in those words that have held my heart, even through the painful days of last spring, as if Dave were comforting me from the grave. Why am I sharing them today? Over the last few days, I’ve found myself sending them to almost a dozen people who needed to hear those exact words in their context. I figured others might need to hear a similar word for their heart. It is as true for you as it continues to be for me.

It’s a beautiful thing for the Father, who is rich in mercy, to speak kindly to your heart and to comfort you at the foot of the cross where the only way to liberate yourself is the prayer of forgiveness in recognition that most people doing hurtful things have no idea what’s motivating their behaviors. And when the Accuser, even in the other voices he uses, tries to erode your confidence in Jesus’s work in you, it’s time to lean in more with more urgency and depend on his grace.

 

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Good news! The renovations on our home are nearing completion. This has taken a bit longer than we thought it would starting out, but this is Sara’s dream. To see it come together now as a place for us to live a life we love and to share our lives with others brings a profound sense of joy. Sorry, no pictures yet. We will in time, but much still needs to be cleaned up and completed.

So, we’ll be moving and settling in over the next couple of weeks. Don’t look for much new stuff here for a bit, though we hope to keep the podcast going on Friday, which is the best way to follow my life these days. All that God has been teaching us and doing in our hearts have found their way into my conversations with Kyle. I can’t begin to tell you how rich these last two years have been. They have had more trouble than we thought we could bear but also a profound grace and Presence that has held us safe and opened our hearts and minds to some unique insights that have touched us deeply.

Our journey over the past 16 months will come full circle next week. We’ve been through an exodus from trauma and a home we loved, took a sojourn through the wilderness of Sara’s trauma, and the healing that came out of it in our RV last fall and our apartment this winter and spring. We will soon move onto a new land of God’s promise—an oasis for our hearts and all who Jesus sends us in this season. We have no idea what any of that means, but we could not be more excited.

 

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