Intimacy with God

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.


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.



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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Finding Our Connection with God

“They led me into a relationship with God that I’ve only dreamt about.”

I can’t tell you how much those words mean to me. That’s the reason for all the writing and podcasts I have done over the years, so that someone else can find their way into an intimate connection with God that changes the trajectory of their lives. I love reading those words; they make my heart soar. That’s the hunger God has put deep inside us and what religion so often fails to let us experience.

I also get emails from those who say they cannot sense his presence or recognize his love for them even though they have sought it over many years. I hurt with them as much as I rejoice with those who do find that connection. I don’t think God is at fault here, nor that the person seeking is unworthy in some way of him. I have come to conclude that it is not as easy a connection to make as many have been led to believe. Indeed, God is doing everything from his end. But so much from our end makes it difficult—misplaced expectations, unresolved trauma, delusions of darkness, not having someone who can help, and trying to find him through self-effort and discipline.

However, I have seen God overcome all these things for people who had almost given up hope. It takes a lot to relax enough on the inside to affirm what Father is already doing to make that connection with us. No matter how desperately we try, we can’t be disciplined enough or knowledgeable enough to earn our way into it. This relationship is a reality we relax into, a gift that Father gives as we make ourselves available to him. Keep letting your heart lay before him, and be patient as he makes these connections. And don’t be afraid to get help from those you know who are finding their life in him.

The email I quoted above came from a young woman I first met before she was in high school as I shared some time with her family in New England. You have no idea what it meant to me that she would write and touch on so many things that I also want to share with you. I received it after Sara and I returned from Hawaii to celebrate our upcoming anniversary and all God has done this last year. We had a beautiful time together and even spent a day in Honolulu with a congregation that has been studying He Loves Me. What a day with the people there! I love those conversations so much, and having Sara in them, sharing from her journey, makes them all that much sweeter.

And the time Sara and I had alone together was so precious, and I would say even sacred, for reasons I share on the podcast this Friday.

But let me share this email with you as we discover what helped her make that connection. Also, I want to respond to it with some information I think others will enjoy as well. So much of what she wrote to me touches on the critical things in my life these days and some things I would love to update many of my readers.

First, I want to thank you both for sharing your story over this past year. I know sharing it has changed the lives of many in such an incredibly positive way. 

Sara’s courage to share her story and its impact on our marriage has borne incredible fruit worldwide. Her vulnerability opened a wide door for others to deal with long-buried trauma in their own lives. We are continually amazed and blessed by the emails we receive and the conversations we have with people taking a serious look at the brokenness in their lives and seeing where Jesus might be in it for them. And if her story encourages you to lean more closely into Jesus to heal some unresolved trauma, that’s awesome. Be patient with the process. It is scary. It may take a while, but the rewards of freedom are worth every bit of it. 

I’ve been listening to your podcast along with the My Friend Luis podcast since 2021 and it’s led me into a relationship with God that I’ve only dreamt about. So thank you for that! 

If you’ve not listened to the My Friend Luis podcast or stayed up with our Redeeming Love story at The God Journey, you might want to go back and catch those. They helped her make that connection, and hearing stories of how God has connected with others can help us recognize him in our own story if we don’t try to get him to do it the same way with us as he did for them. They are two powerful stories of God intervening in dark places in very different ways to unfold his glory and bring his freedom. We all have a story like this going on in our own hearts, and I love that these were catalysts for this young woman to find the relationship she dreamed about.

I realize I have updated you on Luis for some time. I will write more in an upcoming post, but you can rest assured that Jesus continues to engage him over some of the residues of his past and draw him into greater freedom. He continues to work with young men and women, helping rescue them from trouble and offering them a life lived in Jesus’s love. His application for amnesty and legal status in the U.S. is still pending. This is a laborious process. Your prayers and support for his work with at-risk youth are deeply appreciated.

Like Sara, I have a playlist of songs on my phone from over the years where I felt a connection with a lyric or lyrics. I was recently questioning whether those lyrics that were speaking to me were actually God or just in my head. The next day, I was listening to your podcast, and Sara shared the lyrics that have recently connected with her. I guess I got my answer. 

I’m glad you did. I love the creative ways God speaks to us—through song, Scripture, conversations, nature, and inner thoughts. Song lyrics can powerfully mirror the insights he wants us to see. Sara has a twelve-year song list that reflects God’s thoughts to her through this season of her journey. It’s spectacular, and each is an excellent reminder of his truth as it continues to win her heart over the illusions of trauma. For those still seeking this connection, discover how God is making himself known to you and explore him there. He may be using unconventional ways to open your heart to his reality.

About a month ago, I had a dream that God opened a window for me to look through and I saw a beautiful landscape with golden colors and trees. Next to the window there was writing that described it as The Garden of Eden and God said, “It’s time.”  Since then, I have felt God’s presence significantly more than I ever have in my life. From sitting with this for a while, I think it may also relate to the it’s time that you heard in regards to God’s children being revealed. 

Her words were such an encouragement to me, and I hope to you. We will revisit these words, as I did in a recent blog. Nothing is more critical now than people learning to embrace an affection-based relationship with God that transforms them so that they reveal his glory in the world without trying. For too long, the wrong people who promote themselves and their brand have twisted God’s image to build their own following. Making people dependent on them or their message, they have supplanted Jesus’ influence in the lives of his followers. Kevin Smith of Australia told me years ago that in these days, Jesus is taking his church back to himself, inviting his followers to know him and follow him instead of those who claim to be his surrogates.

Now more than ever, it is time to lean in close, forsake our misplaced confidence in self-effort, and learn how to ride the wind of his Spirit, letting his life and light unfold in us and reflect from us to a world so hungry for something real.

Some other items of interest:

I just found out you can order the Kindle version of So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore for $1.99 today only at eBook Daily.

The Israel tour Sara and I are sponsoring next winter is full and has a significant waitlist. I’m sorry if you wanted to go and didn’t get in on this trip. I’m excited about those who are going.

However, the final gathering of the Jake Colsen Book Club will be held Sunday, May 21, at 1:30 pm PDT. We will cover the final chapter of the book, as well as open up to any questions or discoveries from anywhere in the book. Anyone is welcome to join us, even if it’s your first time. We will also stream it live on my Facebook Author Page, but if you want to be part of the conversation, you can get a link to the Zoom Room by emailing Wayne and asking for it. You can view our last discussion on chapter 12 here.

There have been many requests for a book discussion through He Loves Me when this concludes. I am excited to do that and will probably start sometime in June. Stay tuned for more details.

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His Children Revealed

This weekend I spoke at a conference in Kenya.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to travel there to be with them personally, but they asked if I would send a video of any word I might to encourage the hundreds of pastors gathering in Kitale last weekend.

If you want to see the video, you can view it here.

Though I don’t refer to it in this video, the seeds for what I shared with the pastors in Kenya began two years ago as I stood in the burn scar of a wildfire that consumed more than 400,000 acres of alpine forest in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Scanning the hillsides for miles in the distance, I could not see one speck of greenery in the burgeoning light of spring. Overwhelmed by the devastation, something rose in my heart over the next few days. It was a drumbeat I could not ignore: “It’s time!”

As I pondered that thought over the next few days, I was drawn to the passage in Romans 8 about the Creation groaning in frustration for the sons and daughters of God to be revealed on the earth. I shared that in a short video I recorded from the burn scar a few days later.

How has that weathered the last two years? It has only grown in me with all the calamities in the world and what God has been shifting in my heart, even through the shock of last year. My prayers still reverberate with the desire for the sons and daughters to grow to know Father to be revealed in the world. I see that happening as many find healing and transformation inside his love. Unfortunately, I also see the love of many Christians growing cold as they react to those in the world they think victimize them. Growing increasingly angry and judgmental, they are unable to extend compassion to those who seem lost in the illusions of darkness.

It is time for the children of God to be revealed on the earth, letting God draw a clear distinction between those who only practice their religion for personal gain and those who are being drawn into a life of love shaped by God’s life. He is equipping a people for these days who are learning how to recognize God’s love and helping others to do the same. They are learning to recognize his leading and helping others do the same. And are also learning to love whomever God brings to them and help others to do the same. That’s what my heart was for those Kenyan men and women this weekend, and it’s where my heart beats these days in so many other areas.

They are not drawing attention to themselves or their beliefs on social media or trying to build a brand about love. They are living out his compassion, one person, one conversation, one engagement at a time, without having to work at it. Empathy is becoming so infused with their person; it’s just how they live.

That’s the revelation the world waits for—men and women, young and old, of all races and ethnicities, who embrace God’s compassion for their own hearts and reflect it with ease into the world.


On another note, Sara and I will be in Honolulu, HI, on Sunday, April 30, at the Bluewater Mission Church, 1114 Mona St., Honolulu, HI, 96821. We’ll begin at 2:20 pm, and if you’re in the area, you are welcome to join us. For most of our time in Hawaii, we will be on the island of Maui if anyone wants to connect with us there.

Also, the next gathering of the Jake Colsen Book Club is this Saturday, April 22, at 1:30 pm PDT. We will stream it live on my Facebook Author Page, but if you want to be part of the conversation, you can get a link to the Zoom Room by emailing Wayne and asking for it.

And our next Wrestling with Trauma conversation will meet next Sunday, April 23, at 10:30 am PDT.  Among other things, we’re going to explore what it means to let go of the hurtful things that have happened to us and the process God uses to help us find out how. Sara shared that in a recent podcast if you haven’t heard it. If you’d like to join us, please email me for the Zoom link. We’ll be limiting it to the first twelve who request a link.

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Snapshots of Father’s Love

Snapshots of Father’s Love

By Wayne Jacobsen

BodyLife • July 2000

A Girl and Her Daddy!

jim_and_nyssa_0“Majesty, worship his Majesty…” The familiar words rolled off my lips as I sat among a group of believers from all over the western U.S. who had gathered to share their experiences in relational church. It was Sunday morning and we were just beginning with a chance to sing songs of praise and thanksgiving for God.

We had sung a number of choruses that had drawn their theme from the songs of the angels and elders around the throne in Revelation–glory, honor and power!

As much as I know that our loving Father is worthy of all that and far more, something wasn’t sitting right in my heart. Sitting next to me that morning was a 3 1/2 year-old girl, cradled in the arms of her father, Jim. Nyssa (pronounced Nih-suh) struggles against the complications of Freeman Sheldon Syndrome, a genetic muscle disorder that has caused severe scoliosis (curvature of the spine) and disfigured fingers. She is fed through a tube to her stomach and the disorder renders her unable to talk, walk or play like other children. In fact she can only lay cuddled in her father’s arms, cooing and slobbering. But if you could have seen the connection between her and her father and the love and adoration that beamed from his face as he whispered to her and jiggled her in his arms.

“That’s what I want!” The words sailed through my mind so quietly I almost missed them. I had to stop a minute and ask not only what I had heard, but where it had come from. Certainly this wasn’t my thought. After a few moments of mediation, however, I recognized Father’s voice in it and suddenly it dawned on me why my heart had been so unsettled that morning.

We were exalting God, joining the great throng of angelic beings that surround the throne with praise and adoration to God. He was wanting us just to enjoy a moment in his lap just like that father and his daughter; with an intimacy that no moment of adoration could rival.

Now, please don’t miss my point here and think that God or I have a problem with adoring him for his greatness. I know I don’t, and fairly sure he’s fine with it too! But could it be that he wants something more? That it might even be possible for us to hide in a throng of people exclaiming praises about God and miss what it is to really touch him

As I thought about that for a moment, I had to ask myself what I would prefer most. Would I rather have my children sit on the couch and tell me what an incredibly awesome father I am, repeating the same words over and over again so I was sure to get the message; or, would I rather take a walk with them, sharing their joys, concerns and presence?

As the father of a 19 and 21 year old, that question isn’t even a tough call. Far more than their adoration, I’d rather have my children’s affection. Could we dare to believe that God wants the same from us? Of course we can give him both; in fact, one could argue that adoration almost naturally flowed from affection. However, I do think we can adore from a distance without even giving him our affection.

The contrast of a large group exalting the awesome God, and a little child cradled in her father’s arms has captured me since. Though our flesh can be seduced by the adoration of others, our Father doesn’t share the same ego. I know many people who sacrifice the affection of their family for their success in the workplace, but God isn’t wired that way. I think he would treasure affection over adoration any day of the week. He is the God of love, remember!

What touched me most about this exchange between a dad and daughter was that the daughter’s brokenness didn’t diminish the father’s affection. If anything her brokenness made her more endearing. We have the tendency to diminish our worship when we are aware of our own failures and weaknesses. Don’t great crowds of adoration always push the so-called ‘beautiful people’ and the ‘power people’ to the front while shunning to the back those who they deem ‘lesser’? But in a father’s lap there are no greater and lesser. Parents delight equally in their children and only see points of brokenness as vessels into which more love can be poured.

It might interest you to know that Nyssa was adopted into her family. Her parents first laid eyes on her when she was eleven days old and knew her entire condition before they threw wide the doors of their home and invited her in.

Jim told me he was initially reticent to adopt a child with so many special needs. But the moment he first laid eyes on Nyssa, all that changed. “As soon as I had her in my arms,” he said, “she looked up at me and sighed. My heart just melted and I knew I had to say ‘Yes’.”

She was chosen in the same way Father has chosen you, fully aware of all the brokenness he would love you through.

Second, her father reminded me that she couldn’t even crawl into her own father’s lap that morning. If her father hadn’t scooped down and picked her up, she would never have been there. I’m not so certain our plight is similar. Who of us can really claim to crawl into God’s lap by our own power? He is our only source, and there would be no intimacy if he did not make it happen. Perhaps the most we do is just lift our arms to him in surrender and desire. But our place on his lap is all his doing.

It makes more sense to me now, why Jesus asked Peter the question he did after the resurrection. “Do you love me?” He didn’t want to know if Peter adored him, feared him or was ready to serve him in the face of any threat. He just wanted Peter’s love. Having that, he knew everything else would fall into place. Lacking that, nothing else would matter.

Could we dare to believe that our Father sees us the same way as Jim sees Nyssa? His simple delight in us makes all the difference in the world.

“That’s what I want most!”

Well, it’s no wonder. Ever since that morning, I can’t be in a time of praise without remembering Nyssa and her father, and being reminded of what my heavenly Father wants most from me.

Note: Special thanks to Jim and Jayne Bennett for letting me share a piece of their story. They wrote, “Wayne, ever since your sharing that vision at the conference and these truths have hit me, I’ve started calling Nyssa my “window to God!” She is so precious. I’m an emotional wreck, and yet so happy, safe in His arms!”

A Dad and His Son

Photo © Copyright 2000 by Glenn Myers. Used with Permission“Everything God is calling me to right now seems wrapped up in this picture,” Glenn told me as he laid the picture on the table.

This is the first time I had been in Glenn and Elaine’s home. We had sat down for breakfast a few hours earlier and hadn’t yet moved from the table. We were talking about the awesome relationship that God extends to each of us through his son.

The photo was carefully framed and matted, an obvious treasure. I could see why immediately as I was captured by the interplay of this father and son standing beside a young birch tree that had already lost its leaves for winter. The stark contrast of the black and white photography and the clothes they wore spoke of a previous generation.

The obvious connection between father and son is profound, and as we discussed it, I thought I could understand why Glenn had seen such a powerful picture in this of the relationship God wanted with him.

FatherLook closely at the father. He seems to admire his son with great affection, while at the same time he is completely at peace. With his arm casually resting on his hip he also doesn’t seem to have a care in the world. For that moment he
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is simply focused on his boy and fully enjoying the moment fully without rushing onto anything else.

And the gaze back from the son is equally powerful, reflecting many of the same attributes of his father. The admiration in his face is obvious, as is his total pleasure to be hanging out with his dad. He, too, seems peaceful, his hands

resting comfortably in his pockets, seemingly ready to do whatever his father wants. He’s not tugging him along, or fighting for his affection.

The two are in obvious delight with each other and the photo captures so perfectly the joy, wonder, and affection that God wants to share with his children.

“I’m a long ways from that,” Glenn admitted after I had a chance to let the picture sink in, “but I know he is calling me to be just like that little boy.”

I know what he meant, and I felt a long ways from it too–to be so at peace in the Father’s presence, so secure in his care and so ready to enjoy the day with him. It wasn’t long until we both recognized that this wasn’t a relationship God was asking of us, but the relationship he was already at work producing in us by his power and grace. A boy at two can only reflect what he sees in his father. We know love, John says, only because he loved us first.

Son“That’s me!” Glenn finally told me, “the little boy there! I was two years old!”

My head shot up surprised. I had not even considered that this was a family photo.

“My father died within two months of that picture of a heart condition. I have no memory of him, only this picture. Now I want to know my heavenly Father with the same simplicity and joy.”

Me too! Isn’t that the point of everything God has done in creation and redemption? Take a good look at the photo again. What an incredible image that invites all of us to know the Living God like he so earnestly desires to be known with such security, wonder and affection. It would be my greatest desire to start every day like that–looking up at Father to see what he’s up to that day and not to anxious about anything when he’s there!

Note: Thanks to Glenn and Elaine Myers for letting me share something so personal of their life and journey. These photos are copyrighted and used with their permission.

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The Hen and Her Chicks

chicken_and_chick_0By Wayne Jacobsen

BodyLife • November 1999

The forest fire had been brought under control, and the group of firefighters were working back through the devastation making sure all the hot spots had been extinguished. As they marched across the blackened landscape between the wisps of smoke still rising from the smoldering remains, a large lump on the trail caught a firefighter’s eye.

As he got closer he noticed it was the charred remains of a large bird, that had burned nearly half way through. Since birds can so easily fly away from the approaching flames, the firefighter wondered what must have been wrong with this bird that it could not escape. Had it been sick or injured?

Arriving at the carcass, he decided to kick it off the trail with his boot. As soon as he did, however, he was startled half to death by a flurry of activity around his feet. Four little birds flailed in the dust and ash then scurried away down the hillside.

The bulk of the mother’s body had covered them from the searing flames. Though the heat was enough to consume her, it allowed her babies to find safety underneath. In the face of the rising flames, she had stayed with her young. She was their only hope for safety, and willing to risk her own life she gathered them under her body and covered them with herself. Even when the pain reached its most unbearable moment, when she could easily have flown away to start another family on another day, she made herself stay through the raging flames.

Her dead carcass and her fleeing chicks told the story well enough—she gave the ultimate sacrifice to save her young. It also illustrates an even greater story—this one almost incomprehensible. In this story it is the Creator of heaven and earth who does exactly the same thing to rescue his wayward children from their own destruction.

The Worst Curse

Jesus was surrounded by his most hostile audience. No one gave him more trouble than the elders and Pharisees in Jerusalem. Their only priority seemed to be protecting their position in society, and trying to deal with this miracle-working teacher with a mix of disdain one moment and feigned support when they were afraid of the people. To say they were the most disingenuous people he dealt with would be an understatement. They were always covering up their real motives and actions to act a holiness they did not know.

In his final words to the city of Jerusalem, only days before his death, he exposes them for what they really are—hypocrites who turned the work of the loving God into a religion they manipulated for their own gain and sense of self-importance. Eight times he pronounced a curse on them, “Woe to you scribes, Pharisees and hypocrites.” Five more times he calls them blind guides, or blind Pharisees.

He exposed them for keeping people from the reality of the kingdom; for making converts they only lured into greater bondage; for skewed priorities; for pretending to be righteous on the outside when evil raged within, for glorifying the prophets of the past and rejecting the prophets of their day.

The last charge was serious indeed. “You brood of vipers,” Jesus called them, “how do you think you will escape the sentence of hell?” In the days ahead God would send his messengers again to them, but they would torture and kill them. Jesus warned them that because of their deeds upon them would “come the guilt of all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth.”

What a curse! He made them responsible for the murder of every righteous person since the day Cain slew his own brother Abel. He could already see the consequences bearing down on them like a firestorm of wrath, seeking to consume them in their sin.

Don’t these words seem so completely out of character for Jesus? His message of love and forgiveness had captured the land, inviting to himself some of the most sinful people of his day. Yet these religious leaders he condemned in the cruelest of terms. Had he utterly rejected them?

That’s what it appears on the surface, but look closer. Rather than taking delight in their coming devastation, he offered to risk his life to take part in their rescue. In words both poetic and poignant he makes them an incredible offer.

Under His Wings

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”

They had rejected God and the messengers he had sent. They had earned the harshest of sentences for their actions and yet Jesus still wanted to draw them to himself and bear the destruction for them. Their city would be conquered and their children devastated by the consequences of living to their own selfishness instead of trusting in the Living God.

Jesus invoked the same image the firefighter had seen in the woods. He presented himself as a hen trying to gather chicks to herself. That only happens when danger presses in upon them. A hen doesn’t nurse her children or cuddle them to sleep. But when a predator comes near or the coop catches on fire she will try to gather them under her wings. Pulling them beneath her she will cover them with her body, risking her own life for their safety.

Jesus could see the firestorm their own sin had produced approaching Jerusalem. It would devour them utterly. Even though many in that crowd would cry for his crucifixion only a few days later, he still wanted them. Like the hen, he offered them a safe place under his wings, willing to endure the fire to the point of death to rescue whoever wanted to come.

When it would have been so easy for him to abandon them to the fate we deserved, he was going to stay and meet the approaching fire in its full fury. What must it take for a bird to stay over her babies as the fire draws ever-closer, then begins to sear her neck and back? What must it have taken for the God himself to endure the fury of the wrath our sins deserved and stay through it to the end so that those under his wing might be saved.

“But you were not willing.” The story’s end was tragic for those who stood around Jesus that day. Unwilling to come to him they would have to endure the fire themselves to its tragic end. I doubt there are words that break Father’s heart more than these. After all I’ve done to deliver you from the ravages of sin, you were unwilling.

Not all chicks run to their mothers in time of danger. Some, either paralyzed in panic, or trying to find a way to save themselves, get devoured. She cannot run around gathering them individually. They have to come to her. That’s all the young chicks had done in the forest fire to be safe. They didn’t have to earn it; all they had to do was run under the mother’s wing and let her cover them.

Those who did were rescued; those who didn’t we’re devoured. It didn’t matter if they thought they had a better idea. It didn’t matter if they thought they could outrun it on their own. All that mattered was their willingness to trust the call of their mother. Most of Jerusalem on that day did not. They would face the terrible judgment on their own terms.

But the story doesn’t have to end that way for you. If you want, you can give up all the ways you try to save yourself and come running to him. He will pull you up close, under his wing and take for you, what you could never endure.

Unlimited Patience

Look how closely our choice in Christ parallels Adam and Eve’s choice in the Garden. If they had trusted their Creator’s love for them, they would not have had to resort to their own means to become like God. Once they doubted his love for them, they could only fall back on their best wisdom, which proved woefully inadequate.

The elders in Jerusalem faced the same choice. Would they trust their own religious ways to save themselves, or would they trust God’s work in Jesus? Remember these were not self-indulgent men fulfilling their passions by outwardly sinful acts. No, the deception for them was much like it was for Adam and Eve. These were men trying to be Godly, or so they thought. They observed cumbersome rituals and traditions thinking that would make them like God. They spurned the pleasures of the world in an effort to earn his approval. But being good, wasn’t good enough.

They were still engaged in an attempt to save themselves, and they would end up in the same mess as Adam and Eve. No matter how righteous they could be on the outside, it would bring them no closer to God. They were still trusting themselves, instead of him.

Jesus unmasked that most clearly in when he invited one from their own midst to himself . Paul, formerly called Saul, had grown up training to be a Pharisee. Everything about his life conformed to their code; such that Paul could later say about himself at that time that no one was his equal in zeal for God and as to legalistic righteousness he was faultless. With such impressive credentials, you would think him well-placed for God’s working.

Rubbish! That’s what Paul called that way of thinking. It was boasting in the flesh, he said, and that flesh had not saved him. It had only driven his sin ever deeper underground. Though he appeared to be one of the most righteous men in his day, in reality he was full of sin. Elsewhere he called himself the worst of sinners, because his religious exterior had only been a cover-up for the sin that destroyed him from within. He calls himself a “blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man.”

Don’t mistake his assessment here as the mere humility of a gracious man. Paul is trying to convince all who would listen that self-righteousness is no righteousness at all. Driven by his desire to be one of the spiritual elite of his day, he had only found himself in greater sin. When Jesus found him, he was in fact killing God’s people thinking he was doing God’s work.

Why did Jesus save Paul? In Paul’s words, “I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” (I Tim. 1:1)

I’ve sat with people convinced they were far too evil for God to want them. I’ve often referred to this passage, asking them if they had done worse than Paul had done and haven’t ever had someone tell me they had. God saved Paul, so the most broken, devastated and sinful person would feel free to come running under his wing.. All they have to do is be willing to come to him.

A Real Covering

When God put Adam and Eve out of the Garden, he even looked in mercy at their cover-up. Taking the undergarments they had fashioned from the fig leaf collection, he made them clothing of animal skins. It was not only an act of mercy, but also prophetic demonstration. The blood shed to cover them that day, testified to a future day when Jesus’ death would provide the covering we really need.

Shame craves for a covering. We’ve already seen how it can reveal itself in blaming others, even God, for our own choices and weaknesses. Now we see how it can use religion to the same end. We live in a world where everybody covers up to protect themselves. That’s why relationships in religious environments can turn so painful when people have to tear others down to make themselves look better.

We push to achieve beyond our peers so we can feel superior to them. We blame others so we don’t have to face our own weaknesses. We gossip about the failures of others so we can feel better about ourselves. We even look for religious institutions to affirm us so that we can ignore the doubts that assail us.

It seems we are all on the relentless pursuit to hide our own inadequacies and seek our own security. In doing so, we are like little chickens running around the burning coop throwing leaves over our heads hoping they will be enough.

But they won’t be. There is only one covering that will save us from ourselves; and it is Jesus himself. He endured the firestorm for us so that those who crawl under his wing can dwell in safety. He is the only covering that at once delivers us from our shame and frees us from the bondage of sin.

Cover yourself in him. Learn to live under his wing today and every day for the rest of your life. How do you do that? By learning to trust him completely in every situation that comes upon you.

Of course that is far easier said than done. When difficulties press in around us, we are most likely to doubt God’s motives towards us. Could that be the voice of the serpent still whispering in our ears? “If God’s not going to give you what you think you need, maybe you should go get it yourself.”

Trusting our own wisdom so easy we find ourselves doing it before we ever realize it. Ask him to help you learn how to trust him for everything in your life. And when you realize you are scurrying about in our own efforts to save yourself, that would be a great time, to stop what you’re doing and look for his awesome outstretched wings.

When you see them dive underneath No place in the world is safer for you!

More information on how the cross of Jesus Christ can radically alter your relationship to the living God can be found in the tape series, The Power of the Cross in Daily Life.

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Rekindling Passion

By Wayne Jacobsen

BodyLife • January 1999

Can you remember the last time you awoke in the middle of the night, not to anxiety or fear, but to Jesus’ invitation to spend some time with him? Or when last God’s presence was so real neither of you needed to say anything and the minutes raced by as if time itself no longer had significance? How about the last time being obedient to God landed you in hot water because someone misunderstood or because, “that’s not the way we do things around here”?

There is nothing like the days when our passion to know God burns white-hot. No matter what life may throw at us, God shows himself bigger still making himself known in the most unexpected places. Living like that makes every day an adventure in Father’s life and his work in you becomes far more real than the circumstances that try to pull you down.

During such times you search his Word, not because you should, but because you can’t wait to see what God might have hidden there for you to discover that day. You get with other believers and find yourselves sharing the deepest secrets and struggles of your heart and end up praying together just to see what God might want to add to the discussion. When he puts someone on your heart you don’t hesitate to contact them and find the timing was perfect, for both of you!

If you’ve experienced such times, you also know how easily they fade away. It happens so subtly that weeks, months or even years can go by before we realize we are just going through the motions of something that once had so much more life. Without ever making a conscious decision to do so we end up trading the dynamic relationship with the living God for religious activity that never satisfies our deepest hungers.

But it doesn’t have to. Living in passionate love for Father is what he’s offered us every day.

Where Are the Radicals?

Whenever God renews people in relationship with him, almost always a conflict results between them and those who control the religious institutions of the day. I saw it happen in the early days of the Charismatic renewal and the Jesus People revival. But it has also happened consistently throughout church history. Virtually every denomination that exists today began as a reaction to the loss of passion in the institutions of their day. Even when Jesus himself challenged people to think differently about God, he was spurned by the very people who thought they were serving his Father.

This cycle repeats itself because institutional needs and spiritual passions operate on two different planes.

Institutions champion safety, conformity and tradition. As such they can provide wonderful experiences and even helpful instruction about the living God. In the process, however, they can easily negate the risk, vulnerability and spontaneity that allow us the depth of relationship Jesus wants with each of us.

In the 70’s and 80’s, I knew so many people who hungered to see Jesus do something new in his church, so that corporate life would encourage people to know the living God, not supplant that hunger with order and routine. We risked the comfort of our institutions to seek ways to help people experience passionate relationship with the living God. Where are these people now? Amazingly they ended up back where they began, only now in institutions they control.

Alan Richardson, in Who Builds the Church? expresses the same dismay that I have often felt.

The pioneers, those men who in the late 60’s had found no satisfaction in an institutional church, had gone full-circle. Ironically, many today stand in the pulpits of new “sanctuaries”, bigger and better than they left 20 or so years ago. Yes, those same men who sought to be on a cutting edge that threatened to unsettle the security of the institution of those days, have now themselves settled for the security of structured, comfortable and well-ordered ‘church’.

Please don’t misunderstand that statement as a sweeping condemnation of the groups we call churches. I don’t think that’s Alan’s intention or mine. The point here is not how we do church, but whether or not we are living in a daily, passionate love for God or whether we’re ensnared in religious busyness that doesn’t satisfy the passion with which we began.

Passion and comfort offer us two different journeys. Those who wonder why their passion has been lost, rarely consider that their need for safety, predictability and control has taken them down a different path. Recently I spoke with one pastor who admitted that he had been through his more radical days. Now he was managing a large congregation. “I know this isn’t the best. I know it isn’t taking me where I most wanted to go, but I’ve decided just to make the best of it.”

I hurt for people like him who don’t realize that Godly passion wasn’t meant to start us down the road, but also to walk with us all the way to its end.

Passions Lost

So where does our passion go? Jesus told the parable of the sower (Matthew 13) to answer that question. He points out there what the early church also discovered to be true many people get a taste for God but don’t see it through to its fullness. Four things rob people of their passion and leave them adrift in lifeless religion:

  • A lack of understanding. Some experience God’s love briefly, but never understand how to live in that love. Instead of letting God live through them, they try to do things for him. That approach will allow the seeds of God’s life to be snatched away by our own religious fervor. We cannot embrace God’s life and passion by our own efforts. They will leave us empty.
  • Trouble or persecution. Others find joy in God as long as times are good. Whenever difficult times come, they withdraw in fear that God will not be big enough to get them through it and change them in the process. In every circumstance we will always have two options either to entrust ourselves to God or to save ourselves from the discomfort he would use to teach us to depend on him. Those who chose comfort over the cross will find dry times ahead.
  • The worries of life. They wear on us, don’t they? Our jobs, family responsibilities, relationships, fears and uncertainties can take up the whole of our life if we let them. Whenever we slip into survival mode just getting through another week the demands of this life will choke our our passion just like weeds. Instead of sitting at his feet in trust that he’ll take care of us, we will scheme to make things work out our way. Passion dies when we live to necessity and we’ll always wonder where it went.
  • The deceitfulness of wealth. “If I just had more money…,” is at the root of wealth’s deceit. You don’t have to be rich to fall under it’s spell. It is just as powerful for those who don’t have enough, and think their lives would be fuller if they did. Jesus warned us that whenever we mix God and mammon, God’s best for us is swallowed up by our need to survive. We’ll do what our financial wisdom tells us is best and miss out on God’s fullness.

C.S. Lewis said it best in The Screwtape Letters: “Prosperity knits a man to the world. He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it,’ while really it is finding its place in him. His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance build up in him a sense of really being at home in earth, which is just what we (demons) want.”

Do you see any of these things disarming your passion? Join the club. These are the battles every believer fights, and those we cannot win. If you recognize yourself in these words, please don’t try to change things on your own. Run to the only one who can restore your passion.

Passions Restored

If you’ve ever tried to restore your passion, you know there are lots of places to try: participate in the right church, read a good book, absorb a new tape series, attend a conference or retreat, or even follow someone else who has it. But you also know none of these will work. Yes, they might let you soar for a short time, but they cannot take you far.

I’ve only found one place to rekindle my spiritual passion at the feet of Jesus. Take a long walk, or sit down in an undisturbed place and pour out your heart to him. Tell him that the passion you desire to be the center of your life has faded away and that you want his help in uncovering it again.

Pray the scariest prayer of all: “God, whatever it takes, I want to know you with all my heart and live in an open, passionate relationship with you.”

What? You’re not feeling anything yet?

Good. Passion is not a feeling. It is not something he will just do at some given point. He wants to unwire you from ways you think about yourself and him that disarms his work in you. This will take some time, so don’t despair in the process.

Just keep going to him; day after day, week after week, if need be. Sit in his presence. Tell him what you’re really thinking. Learn how to see him again and how to recognize his heartbeat. Stop trying to get him to do what you want and trust that he knows well enough what needs to happen in your life and willingly surrender to whatever he wants to do.

Then, as if you heart were coals in the fireplace, his breath will fan you into flames again. Slowly your passion will begin to rise. You’ll begin to see him in the smallest things. You’ll see things about your life that you never thought could be there both your failures and his gifts. With either, you’ll know you are safe enough to explore them in his presence and see what he has in mind for you.

Treasure each revelation of his with thanksgiving. Notice the conversations he leads you to, the people he puts on your heart to pray for or to contact. When he stirs your heart to do something, do it. When he challenges you to be still and do nothing, then do that.

And keep coming to him. Breathe a prayer in the shower. Talk to him while you’re driving or walking down the hallway at work. Let him show you how to live in him every day not just for a brief time but every day for the rest of your life.

Going the Distance

Life in God is not a sprint. It’s a long-distance run. Passion is what you need to get to the end of it.

I am encouraged to know that the same struggles I have staying passionate also infected the early church. The book of Hebrews was written to a group of believers who had been more passionate in their early days than they were when he wrote them.

He reminded them how they had faced persecution with joy, even when their property was taken and they were arrested. They didn’t shrink back in fear, but stood boldly, knowing that their inheritance was not in this life, but in God himself.

But time had taken its toll. They were older now, but also far less passionate. The author sends them back to the only place they could find that boldness and confidence again to risk life with God. Like children who needed to learn how to swim again, they needed encouragement to let go of the deck and trust their teacher to keep them afloat.

So he reminded them with a great roll call of faith men and women who had braved the harshest of circumstances because their vision of a more enduring city burned deep within them. That passion allowed them to go through anything and only grow in their love for God and by doing so only further demonstrate that they were not at home in the world at all.

Then he called them to the highest place: “Fix your eyes on Jesus…” Get them off of your comfort in this age. Get them off of what other people are doing or what they think of you. Get them off of yourself and your own failures. Behold the living God!

He both began the work in you and will perfect it concerning you. Read the story of his life again and again, seeing how he endured such hostility because of a greater joy before him. Watch him love the Father more than anything this life offered him and how it drew him ever-closer to his Father. See him enthroned at God’s right hand, already victorious, and know that nothing about God’s will concerning you need ever be in doubt again.

Today a fresh call has gone out from the Father’s heart. He seeks a generation of men and women who will allow him to enflame their hearts with his love so that he can demonstrate his glory in the earth.

Do you hear him calling you? Listen to him. Put down this article and just wait in his presence. What do you hear him saying to you?

If you’ve never known such spiritual passion in your every-day life, now is the time to turn your heart toward him and ask him for it.

If you’re one of those who’ve tasted it before, come drink again. You, who were pioneers in earlier days of renewal, don’t think he’s shelved you now. God has a place for you alongside younger men and women who hunger to see what you have already seen.

Allow Jesus to fan you into flame againblowing off the ashes that have covered up your passion and letting his Spirit re-ignite the depth of your love for him. Let him lead you through disappointed expectations, personal failures and places where other believers hurt or rejected you.

This is a time for people to arise who are passionate in their love for God. The finest hour of his work does not have to lie behind you. He has greater plans ahead.

Come with me, will you and let’s run after him with joy all the way to heaven’s gate.


“Let me just tell you what Jesus is all about. It’s about unconditional love and being willing to be crucified. And if you don’t like the game, join another religion.” — Tony Campolo Quoted in On Being Magazine

Sidebar #1: Church or Jesus?

A friend recently told me about a conversation he was having with another believer whom he had just met. They had spent an hour sharing about Jesus and the impact he was having on their lives. Toward the end of the conversation the other one asked my friend what church he went to.

My friend paused a moment, certain his new acquaintance wouldn’t understand the nonstructured environment with which he now gathered with other believers. He finally said, “We’ve spent the last hour talking about the one who unifies all thing in himself. Do we really want to switch now and talk about the one thing that has caused the most division among his followers how we gather for church?”

I don’t think so!

Sidebar #2: Tribulation for Breakfast?

The church has been through many a plague, famine, fire and sword in the last 2,000 years. The church of the Lord Jesus Christ is no “cry baby.” She is the toughest lady in the universe, and eats tribulation for breakfast. She does not fear. She is feared!

What kind of Christian teaching depicted this lady as afraid of anything? This woman, the Bride of Christ, the daughter of God, is afraid of nothing!

What kind of God have you? That is the wrong question. What kind of church have you?This lady, named Ekklesia, is the scourge of Satan, the terror of demons. This lady- and never forget this-this is the gal who kicks down the gates of hell.

This lady shines in adversity! This woman, the fiancee of Jesus Christ, is made for trouble. She uses famine, pestilence, war, recessions and depressions to show forth her triumphant Lord… and to bring glory to His name. She had done so before, she will do so in this (coming) depression. This is her hour!

— From Economic Doomsday By Gene Edwards

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Getting on Father’s Page

By Wayne Jacobsen

BodyLife • September 1998

He was used to people clearing their schedule for him. After all, he was a writer for Time Magazine, and who wouldn’t be flattered enough by his request for an interview that they wouldn’t drop everything to meet with him?

One day he found someone who wouldn’t, and told the story on himself. He had been trying to arrange an interview with Mother Theresa for some time but could not get her to make an appointment with him. She said she had too many important things to do and didn’t know when she could stop for an interview. He persisted. Finally she offered him a solution. If he wanted to come to India he could follow her around for a few days and she would answer questions when she had the time. So he boarded a plane for Calcutta and did exactly that. In the article he wrote from that experience, he said that watching her in action was far more valuable to his story than getting his questions answered.

He was trying to get her on his page, and her simple genuineness ended up inviting him onto hers. Don’t you think that’s what Father might be up to with you?

When we first learned to walk with him, we were overawed by this powerful God who said he loves us completely. We found out he wanted to answer our prayers, so we brought our desires to him. But all the while we were centered on our own needs and our own wants. We were trying to get God on our page.

He is marvelously patient through such times, especially with young believers. Some things he even answered just to let you know how much he cared for you. But it doesn’t take honest believers very long to realize that God answers far less prayers in the affirmative than they hoped he would. Even things we think would obviously be his will, don’t seem to move him at all.

But the true lessons of spirituality begin when we come to understand that it is not for us to get God on our page, but to let his love lure us onto his. Instead of trying to get him to go where we want to go, he’s invited us to come where he already is.

What Is God Up To?

As I travel around the world one of the most-asked questions I get is what I think about the future. Some well-known Christian leaders are predicting an incredible revival ahead; others a time of judgment and scarcity. People are curious if I have any special insight into such things.

I always deflect such questions. If I’ve learned anything from 2000 years of Christian history it is that people who try to figure out what God is doing and set dates and times are always wrong. Why? Because people who are preoccupied with such things are looking in the wrong place. God does not measure his work on the earth today primarily in such macro terms. We always want to understand the big picture, knowing God holds the unfolding story of history in his hands.

But how God works that out is on a micro level revealing his will and his glory to every individual who has their eye on him. What he’s doing today has less to do with governments and more to do with changing you to be more like him, so that you can truly be free and so that he can reveal himself more clearly to people around you.

Isn’t that what Jesus demonstrated? He brought a kingdom that he did not implement through Jerusalem’s religious leaders or Rome’s political ones. He offered it to farmers and tax-collectors, rebels and fishermen, harlots and homemakers. “The kingdom has come near you.” As they learned to get on God’s page instead of trying to get God on theirs, the kingdom that came to them and functioned through them upset almost all of the known world of their day.

When our prayers center around our own ambitions and needs, asking God to bless our plans and help us get what we want, we can know that we’re missing the heart of his kingdom. As we grow to know him better our prayers become less, “God, do this; God, bless that; God, fix this;” and instead become, “God, open my eyes to see what you’re doing; God, fulfill the desires of your heart in me; God, help me love others the way you are today.”

“My Father Is Always Working”

I love to ask people what they see Father doing in their life. There’s nothing more exciting than knowing on any given day what God is doing in you and how he is using your circumstances to teach you more about him and make his life available through you to others. Unfortunately, most people answer with a shrug of the shoulders or a quiet “I don’t know.”

Some will even wonder aloud whether he is doing anything at all. I’ve been there. I’ve called out to God earnestly only to watch my words bounce alone in the silence. Does he even know what I’m going through? Is he even there?

I’ve learned better. In John 5:17 Jesus said, “My Father is always at work, to this very day and I, too, am working.” They are always working, not only in the whole of the world, but specifically in your life and mine as well. When I’m not seeing that, it’s because I’m looking in the wrong places.

When Jesus spoke those words, it was after he had just healed a lame man on the Sabbath. The Pharisees were angry because they thought he had violated God’s law. This can’t be God, or so they thought. I wonder how often we do that. When God invites us outside the lines of our habits and customs, even those things that mark his past revelation to us, do we recognize him? The Pharisees would say God was doing nothing that day. Jesus knew better. So did the lame man. So can we.

The Father is always working. If I don’t see him moving in my life, it’s not because he isn’t, it’s because I’m not seeing him. Jesus lived his whole life with his eyes on his Father, never doing anything on his own. He invited us to live exactly the same way. There is never a moment when God doesn’t want you to be aware of him and his work in you and around you.

We won’t know everything we would like to know, but he wants to show us enough so that we can cooperate with his purpose in us as it unfolds in the circumstances and opportunities that surround us every moment on the job or in school, at home or during recreation, in trouble and in joy. He wants us to live the same way his Son did, looking for God’s work every day and hanging out where he is.

That doesn’t just happen. To get on God’s page we have to make a choice to move from where we are to be just where he is in every circumstance of our lives. Certainly that is easier said than done, but this is the essence of what it means to live in God. Every day we can behold him, engage what he has engaged in our lives, and leave alone that which he is not touching.

Trust Is Not Passive

Whenever I talk about trust with people, invariably the frustrated question emerges, “So I’m just supposed to sit around and DO nothing?” I find it interesting that we associate trust with inactivity. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Trust is not staring at the walls hoping God will do something. Of course, for those of us who have learned to trust our own efforts far more than God’s, learning to trust him often means we have to stop the fruitless activity that we engage on our own behalf. It does mean we wait until God begins to make things clear. But I’ve never found such waiting to be passive. In fact, waiting on God will be one of the most difficult things you will ever learn to do.

But trust does not end in waiting. Notice the words Paul uses in Scripture for his participation in the gospel. He talks about labor and striving with all diligence. That doesn’t sound passive to me. But neither is it the frenetic activity of one who fears God will not be there for him, working on his behalf.

Trusting Jesus means that I am so confident in his love for me and his work in me that I can completely abandon my own agenda and embrace his especially when I think he is leading me where I don’t prefer to go. Trust is seeing what God is doing and being with him all day, every day just like our reporter with Mother Theresa.

But too many of us are so busy trying to get God to bless what we’re doing and to help us get our needs met that we miss out on this greatest portion of being God’s children. We no longer have to fight for our own way. We no longer have to wonder whether he is at work in us. He is always at work. He’s always got something going on. He wants to show us what that is so we can be intentional in our cooperation with him.

You Know the Way

The disciples must have thought Jesus had lost it. He was telling them not to be afraid, that he was leaving them, but that he would come again to them. Then, almost as a throw off he tells them, “You know the way where I am going.”

Thomas jumps in, “We don’t even know where you are going, how can we know the way?” Thomas was right, you know. The disciples had no idea what Jesus was up to. He talked about his Father’s house, about leaving them to go to his Father, and they didn’t know what he meant at all.

But you’ve got to love Jesus’ answer, “I am the way.”

If you are with the guide, you don’t have to know the route. They had no idea the plans Jesus had for them, but they did know him and that would be enough. He himself was the way. Knowing him and hanging out with him was all they had to do. That alone would take them into the fullness of God’s life.

The same is true for us. You may not yet have learned to recognize God’s voice and work in your life every day. But you do know Jesus. Make the intentional choice to hang out with him every day. Ask him to remake you so you can recognize his working in your daily life and not have to grope about confused when things don’t turn out the way you expect.

He’s the way. Follow him and everything that needs to work out in your life will. He will help you to see his Father. He will teach you to trust. He will lure you to jump off your own page and onto his.

And there is nothing better than to be where he is!

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By Every Word

By Wayne Jacobsen

BodyLife • July 1998

Isn’t it amazing what people will do in God’s name and never think twice about it?

I stood in a beautiful cathedral in Albi, a small city in the south of France. Underneath its entrance was a dungeon. It was the focal point for a crusade launched against a group of French Christians who resisted the corruption of the papacy in the 12th century.

The cathedral was built to intimidate those believers with the might, power and resources of the church. The message couldn’t have been clearer if it had been scripted in neon above the hillsides. “No one resists the power of the institutional church and survives.”

And none of them did. In 50 years every one of those families who had dared to separate themselves from Rome was imprisoned and killed if they did not repent and rejoin the institution. And, true to Jesus’ words, those who did the killing and torturing were certain they were doing God a favor.

Fortunately our religious institutions today don’t have the same power to imprison and kill, but it still amazes me how Christians can treat each other with gossip, accusation, lies and manipulation when they feel that the occasion demands it.

It is so easy to claim God’s endorsement for our own ideasxand be so totally wrong! How often I have watched my best-intentioned efforts have unforeseen consequences that were painful for me and others.

What can save us from such misguided labors? I know only of one thing, and it is clearly seen in the first temptation Jesus faced in the wilderness.

What Sin Is This?

The temptation to make lunch out of rocks has always been an enigma to me. Jesus was at the end of his fast. He was hungry. Changing stones into bread would have been easy for him to do and no one would have been hurt by it. There was nothing wrong with having bread. In fact the request for it is included in the model prayer he taught his disciples. “Give us today our daily bread.”

In and of itself it would not have been sin in any way that we know. It was not forbidden in any of the laws of the Old Covenant. It was not even that different from the first miracle he would perform a few days later at a wedding reception by changing water into wine?

Of course, the fact that the enemy was offering the option to him might have been a give away, though I doubt he was perched on a rock in red tights with his spiked tail curved around his feet. Perhaps his temptation was just like some of oursxa good idea to help meet a genuine need.

But Jesus was not fooled. He didn’t even try to find a way to make this idea fly. He turned it back instantly and the words he used show us what was really at stake: “It is written, man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”

Now the problem comes into sharp focus. Making bread out of stones was not in Father’s heart for him to do. This was not God’s idea and Jesus knew that the only way to live is by following the voice of his Father, initiating nothing out of his own desires or even need. This was a life lived in trust, and that trust only had expression where it responded to God’s voice alone.

The Sin of Assumption

Jesus refused to use whatever power God gave him simply to satisfy his own desires. What a lesson. The sin here was far less obvious than tempting God by throwing himself off of Temple Mount, or falling on his face to worship Satan. No, this was only sin because it had not been borne in the heart of God. It didn’t matter how easily he could justify the act with his own rationalizations. He was going to live by every word that came from God, and this one had not come from there.

How do people who think they love God end up destroying people around them? Because they assume they know what Father would do and act accordingly. The sin of assumption is probably the most deceptive of all sins, because it allows us to act in God’s name, thinking we are doing his will when in fact we do things that harm his work in us and others at the same time.

But the only way for us to overcome such temptation is to live the same way Jesus did. That is, we stop doing anything just because it sounds good, meets our need, is Biblically justifiable or because someone is pressuring us to do it. Instead, the only question we need to ask is whether or not God has spoken this to us.

It is easy to quote Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” and never realize that we violate that verse every time we act in our best interpretation of what Scripture says. For even then we are still relying on our understanding not on the voice of the Lord.

Rome justified burning at the stake the so-called heretics of the Middle Ages by their misunderstanding of John 15. Jesus said there that his Father gathers up unfruitful branches and burns them. In actions Rome has long since repudiated, the Inquisitors thought it their obligation to act in God’s stead by torturing and killing those that would not conform to their practice and teaching.

Of course that’s an extreme example, but we do the same thing whenever we assume what God is doing in our lives instead of waiting for him to speak clearly to us. Whenever we trust our best perspective on things we lean on our own understand and miss the exceedingly more abundant ways that God wants to work in us.

An Ever-Present Voice

Perhaps the greatest joy of intimacy with God is how present God wants to be in our every-day lives. He has not asked us to live the Christian life without him. Christianity was never meant to be a list of principles to which we conform our behavior; it is living reconciled to God in active communion with him every day.

Many believers, however, miss this incredible facet of our relationship with him. Thinking God has given us guiding principles to live by, we grow accustomed to living days or weeks without ever listening to hear what Father has on his heart for us. We make decisions by listing pros and cons, instead of sitting down for any extended period to ask that he make his desires known to us.

Without growing in our ability to recognize what God speaks to us, we can’t live to the freedom and joy God wants for us.

Without an ear that listens to God’s voice what we call trust is nothing more than presumption; what we call obedience, nothing more than legalism. David knew that. I love his agonizing prayer in the first verse of Psalm 28: “To you I call, O LORD my Rock; do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if you remain silent, I will be like those who have gone down to the pit.” In other words, “I can’t live without you, God. My own wisdom isn’t enough. My own resources aren’t enough.”

That’s the joy of living in God. We need him. We want his active engagement in every phase of our lives. We know that without it we are left to our own devices which bring certain failure and pain. No, that doesn’t mean we have to ask him permission to brush our teeth or to read the paper, but it means we never get comfortable in life without asking him to reveal himself and his will to me in the situations I face.

Help Me Do That!

I realize that nothing can be more frustrating than trying to hear God’s voice, especially if you feel like he never talks to you, even when you listen diligently. I know that many of us have been convinced that we’re not good enough, mature enough, or wise to hear God’s voice and instead must trust others to tell us what God’s mind is.

Don’t read these words and take on the burden of having to be good enough to hear from God. I’m not passing out burdens here. God wants you to live the same way Jesus didxby every word that comes from his mouth.

To do that, he will have to teach you how to hear his voice. It’s not the same for all of us. I can’t give you three pointers that will work like sticking a decoder over your Taco Bell game piece.

I can tell you that he wants you to know his voice more than you want to know it. I can encourage you to ask him to help you discover how he is doing that with you. For thousands of years he has been making his voice known to men and women who want to hear it. He is really good at doing so.

For us, it simply means that we take an extra moment before rushing headlong into our next, best idea and pause for some time with Father. “What do you want, Lord? What will bring the most glory to you and fulfill your heart in these things?” Then stop and just listen. Do it when you’re in the car, waiting in line at the store or doing yard work.

If you don’t sense his direction, don’t move ahead. It is better to wait until you know than rush off assuming you know best. He’ll show you by a conviction in your heart, something you read in Scripture, a comment from a friend or even stranger, by the way circumstances sort out, or by a combination of those.

Learning to live by every word that comes from God was never meant to be a test of spirituality or a merit badge for maturity it’s just the way Father wanted his kids to live. If you realize you’re accommodating yourself to living without that, maybe now is a good time to remind yourself how involved he wants to be with you.

Seek his face. Talk to him throughout your day and listen and watch for God to make himself and his will known to you. Nothing delights him more.

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