Wayne Jacobsen

Oh, The Places You’ll Go…

It’s weird setting out on a trip, unsure of where you’ll go, how long you’ll stay, and when you’ll return. This is our third such excursion across the U.S. Each day begins with an early morning walk with our dogs. I take one early for about two miles, and Sara joins me for the next three. Some of that got interrupted when our big dog tore her ACL, but she’s back at it for the second part of the walk now.

This is my favorite time of day: getting up for sunrise (and sometimes well before it) and watching the earth come alive, first as the sky brightens with rich colors and then as the light spreads across the landscape.

I welcome Jesus into my day, reflecting on the day past and the new one coming. My best thoughts often come when I’m relaxing with him and holding some question or concern in his presence. A lot of what fills my blogs, podcasts, and chapters of my new book come from these early morning walks. I also daydream a bit and listen to podcasts about Jesus, news, culture, or even golf.

Here are some of the scenes we enjoyed on this trip:

West Texas

Perdido Bay

York, SC

Roanoke, VA

Charlottesville, VA

Richmond, VA

Sykesville, MD

York, PA

Lexington, KY

Louisville, KY

Downtown Independence, MO

Denver, CO (Washington, Park)

Green River, UT

 

Not all our morning walks are this lovely; we often walk around our RV park to get our miles in. Tomorrow, we will arrive home and walk again under Mt Boney, which presides over our Newbury Park, CA neighborhood.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Last Leg of a Beautiful Trip

As Sara and I turn toward home, our hearts are filled with joy from this time together, and the countless conversations we’ve had with people from all over the U.S. We even had people fly in or drive great distances to be with us for some of our gatherings. There were also many spontaneous opportunities to connect with people that I hope were as enriching to them as they were for us.

For those keeping track of our dog Zoey, she is in the seventh week of her recovery from ACL surgery in Florida. She continues to progress wonderfully and now walks two miles daily with us. The only challenge has been keeping our puppy away as she aches to play with her best friend.  We are grateful for how all of this turned out.

We are in the Denver area this week to spend time with our son and make some personal connections with those who want to meet with us. We have traveled almost 6,000 miles in the RV since we left our home in California on April 1. We will be headed back home on Monday and are ready to see what next chapter God will write with Sara and me. Thanks for all of your love, prayers, encouragement, and support.

One of my favorite conversations was with fifty or so people in a state-run rehab facility in Maryland who were transitioning back into society from serving prison terms. All had read or watched THE SHACK, and some had read HE LOVES ME. They were ready to talk the moment I sat down. I was impressed with the incredible hunger in the room and the thoughts they invited me to wrestle through with them.

Many shared how they had a jaded view of God based on things that had happened to them and on things they’d heard about God from other Christians. But THE SHACK’S portrayal of God had them considering new possibilities. The questions were passionate and kind, and I left there deeply touched by the opportunity to be with them. Many wanted to know a God who would love them in their failures and make a home in them so they could find their life in him. I pray that God is revealing himself and his love to them.

Also, during this trip, we raised over $70,000 from people on my blogs and podcast to help people in Kenya regain their water supply after devastating floods had wiped it out. We restored the wells in time to save the corn crop that was already growing. For those who gave to help them, I hope you hear their gratefulness resound in your heart. You saved some lives that no one else in Kenya seems to be able to help these tribes in North Pokot.  Thank you so much.

One of our team in Kenya sent this note and the following video:

Hi brother Wayne, our team arrived here Wednesday last week and we have been working tirelessly day and night to make sure the community has received all the items. People here in Kenya volunteered two trucks to carry the donations. We have served over 600 households with food and supplies. This is the great work and it has given us the new experience again to interact, to share the word and to impress there life.

The irrigation program has been restored and protected for future emergency.  The maize plantations were withering and we thank all the supporters for making the irrigation system running. We are grateful for their  great support and ask God to bless them abundantly.

If you cannot see video in your email, you can view it on the blog.

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Holding on to Love

Sara and I are making a big turn up the east coast this week and begin our journey westward on Monday, with stops in Lexington and Louisville this weekend. From there, it looks like we’re going to go through St. Louis and Kansas City to visit our son in Denver.  If you’re along that way and want to connect with us, please get in touch.

For those concerned about our dog Zoey, she had her four-week, post surgery check-up for her ACL, and it is healing well.  We still have not gotten biopsy results back. Crazy!

Here are two videos you might enjoy:

Here are some thoughts from a conversation last night, many of you might find helpful:

“Lose track of his love and you’ll get lost in the darkness; hold on to his love and he will light you a path through it. ”

And, water returns to the tribes in North Pokot:

Thanks to all who have helped us with the need in Kenya. We’re getting close to the total that will help meet their needs for water and relief in this time of crisis. You can read my blog about the current need.

And it is not too late if you still want to help us. We still need about $10,000, if you have some extra. Again, every dime you give goes straight to Kenya; we take nothing out for administrative or financial fees.

God has been so good to us on this journey, with so many conversations and journeys to share, whether it’s people coming to a meeting or a chance encounter getting a haircut, we’re having a lot of fun coming alongside others and helping them see how Jesus might be leading them, What a delight to wander across the U.S. and see what doors Father opens, and what cinnamon rolls we can find!

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A Day of Rich Celebration

We woke up today in Richmond, VA after a beautiful two days in Charlottesville, VA, with long-time friends, the kind of people you just enjoy hanging out with.

We also woke up today celebrating forty-nine years as a married couple, and we will be having lunch today with the man who officiated at that ceremony. He has remained a close friend ever since and we’re excited to get some time with him and his wife today.

Yes, it’s hard to believe we have had this long together, and to think it almost ended in tragedy two years ago. We are grateful for every year we’ve had together, knowing just how much of that is a gift of God, not an achievement of ours.

People have been incredibly supportive through our trauma story, have celebrated with us our coming back together, and have cheered us on as we build a totally new life together. Every time I look at Sara I am giddy with delight that this turned out the way it did and in awe of her courage to take on the darkness and find Jesus inside of it. We had a less than one percent chance of surviving the trauma in our marriage and somehow Jesus navigated us into that space.

Everyone’s story is different and the way Jesus wants to work in us is unique to our story and our person. If your takeaway from our story of the last two years is what awesome people Wayne and Sara are, then you have missed the point. We simply followed him as best we could. The plot line of our story is not how good we are but how great God is that he could redeem us from so great a tragedy and lead us through it to a renewed relationship of deep love and affection.

Truly, he saved us!  And he wants to do the same for everyone reading this. The outcomes may be different, but the grace he has to lead us through the storm and into the safety of his heart is available to everyone.

On an unrelated note, we have received about $60,000 thus far for the $79,000 need our friends are facing in Kenya. They are about to lose everything—their water, crops, and life itself. You can read my blog about the current need. I am so grateful for the way so many of you have responded and so quickly to this need. Your generosity overwhelms us with joy and gratitude on this day as well.

And it is not too late if you still want to help us.

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Sara’s Story of Hope and Healing

Sara and I are in Charlotte, NC. The first day we got here, Vince Coakley asked me to be on his radio show. He hosts a Transformation Tuesday segment, and wanted us to share our story. Unfortunately, Sara had a conflicting appointment, so I went to the studio alone. We had a great conversation. (It begins at 31:40.)

That evening, Sara and I had been asked to share with The Barn Brothers, a group that normally meets in a barn south of Charlotte. The barn is currently being refurbished, however, so they met in a furniture store. (see picture above). I’ve shared in a lot of different venues, but this was a first for me.

Normally, it’s a men’s meeting but for this night they opened it up so anyone could come. They wanted us to share our story there, too.  Sara and I talked about The Deepest Love in the Darkest Place, the title of a new book we are working on. We hope our story encourages people to embrace God in their pain, not try to run from it or get it fixed first.  In the utter darkness of our experience two years ago, Sara and I discovered a deep place in Father’s love that held us through the storm and launched us on a trajectory of healing. Sara was amazing! It was the best I’ve ever heard her share, so clear, so deliberate, so full of hope for others. I admire her so much for the way she tells her story and how much she cares for the people she’s talking to. And people hung on her every word. Tears flowed, stories found their way to the surface of deep trauma and people were grateful for Sara telling this story.

If it wasn’t for Sara’s insistence, we wouldn’t be sharing any of this. I would have hidden this all away in my heart, except that she wanted to give hope to others in the same way others had encouraged her. Yes, it was recorded, and you can watch and listen here. This story goes way beyond Sara and me; it is also about God’s redemption in the world and how his heart breaks for us when we feel lost in the darkness. He’s not there to judge our faults, but to hold our hearts and point the way forward.

After telling our story last night, we focused on three encouragements for those who came:

  1. Risk the darkness. When something dark emerges in your life, whether it be trauma, a false belief being uncovered, or an entangling sin, don’t run from it or push it aside. Invite God into the darkness. You will find him a comforting presence and a guide to move forward.
  2. When darkness pushes you into fear, anxiety, or despair, ask Jesus how to move you back to a comforted place in his care. You cannot make positive changes outside the window of tolerance when you feel panicky or terrified. Instead, lean into his heart where you can be comforted first and then see what he wants to do from there.
  3. Be a soothing, safe presence for others who find themselves struggling with darkness. They don’t need our shame or condemnation; they have that in mega-doses. What they need is a caring heart and a listening ear.

Here are some texts sent to us this morning:

  • “What an amazing evening last night! Your redemption story is by far the most remarkable one I have ever seen.”
  • I believe lives were changed and encouraged. Sooo much courage from you both. What an example of true love, how to love someone unconditionally. My heart was challenged in a good way.”
  • “This is the most significant and impactful message of the Team Jacobsen mission, built on the foundation of the messages from prior decades.”
  • “Last night was deep, powerful and I think, like Sara’s amazing grace chains breaking, a lot of other chains broke last night too. Let’s keep taking ground…”

I love how Jesus walked us through the trauma and the darkness that surrounded it, rescued our relationship, and now we are able to encourage others when trauma comes knocking in their lives. I have learned more about God and how he works with broken humanity in the last two years than my previous sixty plus.

We finished last night with Isaiah 61, the declaration of the New Covenant—God’s desire to have us understand better how Jesus heals the broken-hearted, sets the oppressed free, opens blind eyes to his truth, and proclaims the year of God’s favor. No wonder that was the first text Jesus preached, according to Luke 4.

To Jesus and his Father, our salvation wasn’t primarily about the after-life, but about being saved today from all the places darkness seeks to own us. That’s the Gospel.

And for those concerned about Zoey, she is now two weeks out from her surgery. We took her to the vet today to have her stitches removed from her two surgeries, and all looks well. She is thrilled to have the cone-head off and to be able to begin to walk a little bit outside. She’s been such a good sport, but we’re excited to get her out of her caged quarters and join the family again. Mandy, the seven-month-old pup, was able to sleep next to her again, which delights her little heart.

So, all is well. We’re having some wonderful personal connections here as well. We have a few more days here in Charlotte before heading north to Roanoke, Charlottesville, Richmond, Baltimore, and Lancaster County, PA.  The journey continues…

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Chapter 5: The Tender Call

Note: This is the fifth in a series of letters written for the Bride of Christ who are alive at the end of the age. Once complete, I’ll combine them into a book. You can start with Chapter 1 here. If you are not already subscribed to this blog and want to make sure you don’t miss any, you can add your name here.

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I’m not sure I know what you mean by the bride. Are you referring to Israel, as some suggest, or to the church, and if so which church? I want to be part of her, whoever and wherever she is, but I’ll admit that my spiritual hunger has been almost nonexistent lately.  How can I make sure I’m included?

— Miguel, 34-year-old pharmaceutical representative in Alabama

Miguel,

I love your questions and I love that your heart yearns to be part of what God is doing to make her ready. 

Jesus is calling her, a drawing across time and space to every human heart, awakening whatever passion there might be for Jesus and his presence with them. You sense it first in the heart even if you can’t recognize the source or know what exactly you’re feeling. Soon, new passions become more important to you than the dead ones that have preoccupied your attention without leading you to life. The bride is stirring, even out of great darkness and disillusionment—and she is everywhere! 

Don’t worry about being left out, Miguel, it is not in God’s nature to do so for anyone who desires him. I taste that passion in your note to me. 

So, who is this bride? There are differences of opinion on that question. In the Old Testament, Israel is often referred to as God’s bride, rescued out of great anguish and darkness and then invited into his light and joy. Restoring her to health and beauty, God takes her as his wife, the delight of his heart. 

The metaphor of romance and marriage are often used to express not only the depth and closeness of the relationship God wanted with Israel, but also the festive joy and celebration that such a union would evoke. Sadly, as powerful and inviting as that might sound, Israel was never able to sustain that relationship for any significant length of time. Thus, she repeatedly fell back into the slavery of her own fears and appetites and became the adulteress woman, and God the forsaken husband. 

The lure of promiscuous sex and the promised security of the false gods of the civilizations that surrounded them, tripped them up again and again. Instead of enjoying God they found these images overlapping as twisted expressions of sex were incorporated into their idol worship. She proved faithless to the one who was completely faithful to her, even though he always invited her to return to him where all would be forgiven. 

In the New Testament two things shift inside this metaphor. First, the bride now includes the followers of Jesus in his Church where distinctions between Jew and Greek, and male and female no longer have meaning. Secondly, Jesus is specifically identified as the bridegroom, and all human history culminates in a marriage celebration between Jesus and his bride as all things are made new. 

I see the bride as all of God’s people across time who embrace him as the lover of their souls and follow him with delight and joy. And notice that there’s only one bride, not many. In this metaphor, we are not brides individually; we are the bride collectively. It’s not just individual redemption he is after, but as the Spirit transforms us, he is also knitting together the hearts and minds of diverse people from every group on the planet. They will come to act as one, not because they are loyal to the same leadership structure but because they manifest his glory in the world and to the  powers beyond it. (Ephesians 3:10-11)

One of the joys of responding to his call is to recognize that same Spirit in others whose paths you cross. You’ll find an instant camaraderie with them, not because you believe all the same things, but because you recognize the nature of Jesus in them. They are easy people to be around, with an infectious spirit—graciously authentic, even in weakness, and tender with love and kindness.  

So, where is that bride? She is scattered to the four corners of the earth. When I pray for his bride, I do not imagine a specific person or group of people. I don’t think of her as the religious institutions we call churches either, but as something far less defined by human convention. She is a living, breathing, entity that is being shaped even as you read this. 

I’m not sure who comprises this bride, but Paul told us that the foundation of God’s work in the earth is that “The Lord knows those who are his.” (2 Timothy 2:19) I don’t even begin to try to figure out who they are. If he knows, I don’t have to and all our human attempts to define those who are in with God and those who are out are woefully misguided and horribly inaccurate. I find his people in all sorts of places. 

Of course, I see her most easily among those who have allowed the Father’s love to shape their lives over multiple decades and through painful circumstances. In every generation, you will find people who have discovered such a depth of love inside of God that they have learned to follow him, often in conflict with their own self-interest, and it will often cost them dearly—reputation, position, money, friends, and family.  

The bride does not flourish in environments of manipulation and conformity and thus, she will follow him outside of the conventional paths others demand. Thus, they are often rejected and lied about by those who find their unwavering loyalty to Jesus threatening to their attempts to control them. Though they are viewed with suspicion, their pain only invites them deeper into the love that heals all wounds. 

Instead of becoming defensive or bitter, they are marked by tenderness and humility and a deep wisdom that easily admits that they haven’t figured everything out. They will point the way to him without taking his place by telling people what they should do. Since they find their joy in him, they are unconcerned about legacies or building a following, and are mostly unknown, often tucked away in hidden places where their strength and wisdom can be an encouragement to others in the last days.  

If you want to be part of his bride, you are on a similar trajectory even if you don’t know it yet, or it has barely begun. The call to the bride is a tender, repeated invitation to draw near to the One who loves you and offers you his light and courage. No matter how many fits and starts you’ve had in that journey, his heart is always open to you. 

To the uninformed, it may be a fascination with the transcendent. They have sensed his presence though they don’t know its source or may have misidentified it. Their heart is touched in ways they can’t explain but they taste his love and insights that will draw them, if they don’t get sidetracked by the wiles of darkness. 

To those who have been crushed by the powers of darkness through extreme suffering or pain, it is often a deep but certain drawing into the warmth of his light and the safety of his love. My heart goes out to those of you who have been traumatized by abuse or abandonment or suffered through great loss or sickness that may have sapped your will to live. 

The damage done to your soul may make it difficult to see him and thus, you may feel abandoned by Jesus. But he is right there with you; he always has been. You are his beloved even if everything in you argues to the contrary. Your pain is not his doing, and he has a path for healing and restoration that will overcome the darkness set on destroying you. When you find him in the midst of your pain, you’ll not only find your pathway to freedom, you’ll also be a gift to others who’ve endured similar pain. 

For the religiously disillusioned, his call is an invitation back to first love—not how much you loved God but how free you felt inside his love at the beginning. Do you remember those early days before religious performance spoiled it? That’s not a blanket condemnation of those engaged in religious expressions, it’s simply a recognition that the routines of such systems often distract from him. If you find a meaningful engagement with Jesus in the rituals of your congregation, be grateful; many others have not. They continue the course in drudgery, hoping there is some salvation in the effort. Don’t blame Jesus or yourself for its failures, return to his love. Jesus is wanting to hold you again in his arms, caress you with his tenderness, and to show you that conformity to religious principles is not the path to the intimacy you seek.  

To the religiously abused, whose hunger for Jesus was hijacked and exploited by insecure leader-types who saw your beauty and your gifts and wanted to use you to build their own kingdom, it’s a drawing of your spiritual eyes back to him. Even though your abusers claimed to do it in his name, they were not acting on his behalf. You became a cog in their vision, rather than a disciple ready to recognize and follow the voice of the Shepherd. You were so hungry for him, but it all came to such disappointment. 

You were born in freedom but raised in captivity under the lie that God wanted to use your works. No wonder things felt dead and lifeless. You came to believe things about him that were not worthy of him. He agonized over every lie you were told and now wants to rekindle your hunger and sate it with his genuine presence. He wants to love you into a way of living that will lead to his increasing glory finding a home in you. He is ready to fulfill those longings that ignited your heart as he teaches you how to walk in his love and listen to his voice. 

To the wayward bride who lost track of the Jesus you once pursued when your passion was overrun by the worries of this life or the pursuit of wealth, his call is a drawing back to simpler times. You got so busy with work, responsibilities, and family activities, that he would have shared with you had you not forgotten him. The pleasure of the world’s amusements and the illusion of freedom quickly faded and now you keep busy to mask a growing sense of emptiness. Did I miss something back there? 

Yes, you did, but though you may have lost sight of him, he has not lost sight of you. He has never done anything to harm or hurt you and is that voice in the back of your head inviting you to turn back to him. He knows that you will never be satisfied with anything less than a gracious relationship with the God who made you. He waits eagerly for your desire to pick up the friendship again. 

Who can be part of this amazing bride? Anybody who wants to. Jesus is not exclusive or looking for a special kind of person. We are all special to him, all you have to do is hear respond to his tender call.  

Take a pause now and then and listen for him. You will find Jesus in the quiet moments; busyness and feeling of guilt will be your greatest enemies. You will not hear his call in the angry, shaming, try-harder voices of false preachers or prophets. His call is not harsh or condemning; it is a soft and tender entreaty to come home. He makes no threats or ultimatums. He is not angry or disappointed in you. He knows how easily we all get distracted and that the only path home is a soft and secure invitation into the safest place in the universe—his kind and caring heart for you.

Even in the depths of Israel’s rejection of him, he reminded Isaiah how to speak to his people: 

Comfort, comfort
my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem . . . (Isaiah 40:1-2)

Let me suggest some of what it might sound like today: 

My beloved Bride, there is none like you. You are my delight, and I long for the day we can reconnect and you can know my heart as well as I know yours. Nothing you have done is a bridge too far; we can find our way back from this. It doesn’t matter to me how you got lost, or what mistakes you made, I don’t need your shame and I don’t want your guilt; I only want you. 

When you’re ready to come home, I’ll be waiting right here. Don’t try to fix yourself up first; I will restore your beauty and your innocence. Let our love for each other write a new chapter on your heart—one filled with love and kindness. I don’t want to use you or control you; I simply want to share all my goodness and glory with you and show you how to live in the fullness of my joy. 

His voice will be the one that comforts you in your fears, forgives your mistakes, and sets you at rest in the deepest chambers of your heart. Learn to listen to that tender voice and home in on it, like a plane following the landing lights to the runway. 

Even amid worries, regrets, and fears, lean toward his kindness. You will not long follow what you fear, and fear will never draw you to his love. 

Come away, my beloved.

Do you hear him? Like the lover to his beloved in Song of Songs?

As we’ll see in chapters ahead, that invitation both draws you away from those things that spoil his love and blind your eyes to his reality and it will draw you to a way of living that lets his love write the next chapter of your life. 

No longer victims of darkness; we can spend the rest of our days dancing with him in the fields of his delight.   

_________________________

You can access previous chapters here. or Continue to Chapter 6.

 

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Chapter 4: Who Are You to Write This?

Note: This is the fourth in a series of letters written for the Bride of Christ who are alive at the end of the age. Once complete, I’ll combine them into a book. You can start with Chapter 1 here. If you are not already subscribed to this blog and want to make sure you don’t miss any, you can add your name here.

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I am asking as a friend, not an adversary. I love that you’re doing this, but I am really curious how you came around to writing this book? It seems a bit out of your norm. I’d love to hear how you decided to tackle this project and why you think you’re qualified to write a book to those who will be alive at the end of the age?

—Trevor, mathematics professor and father of four from Massachusetts

Hi Trevor,

It’s great to hear from you again after so long. The last time we talked we were driving through New Hampshire in the vivid fall color. I’ll never forget those amazing chocolate cupcakes we stumbled upon in that small village.

Thank you for raising this issue; it’s an important one to be sure, especially for people who have no idea who I am. And you’re not asking me anything I have not wrestled out with God before starting this task.

So, I chuckled at your word, ‘qualified.’ Who could possibly qualify for this, or really most anything Father asks of us? But perhaps, knowing I’m not, may be the best quality I have going for me. I claim no credibility beyond being a beloved son of a gracious Father and close friend of Jesus, with whom I’ve walked for over sixty years.

For those who want to know, I grew up on a grape vineyard in Central California, and Jesus was an engaging presence in my life from a young age. I had my faults and struggles like anyone else and doubted him often. It took me decades to sort out the difference between well-intentioned religious activities and what it means to follow Jesus. They are not the same thing. One will wear us out on the proverbial performance treadmill and the other is a life-long adventure of learning to tune to Jesus’s frequency, recognize his voice, and follow him fearlessly.

So, after pastoring for twenty years with two different congregations, I came to conclude that the religious overlay we had put on the Gospel was woefully inadequate to help people discover how to listen to God’s heart and cooperate with his unfolding purpose in them and in the world around them. I still embraced the core beliefs of the Christian faith—namely, that God Created the heavens and the earth, was incarnated in his begotten Son who preached the message of the kingdom, offered himself as an atoning sacrifice to reconnect us to God, and rose from the dead to be the firstborn of a new creation and the head of his Church—those who live as ambassadors of his love until he returns to earth to set things right. Until then we have his Spirit to guide us into the truth that sets us free and the Scriptures, which when rightly interpreted, show us the nature of God and how he works.

Over the past thirty years, I’ve met thousands of people all over the world who had come to similar conclusions through incredibly different paths and have learned to follow Jesus even when it led them beyond their comfort zone. The depth of sharing I have enjoyed with them has fulfilled the deepest hungers that were planted in my heart as a young man.

So, how did I come to write a book preparing the last generation for his coming? It started four years ago with a thought in my head that seemingly came out of nowhere. “Will you speak for me again?” I was taken aback by the thought. It seemed like God’s voice more than my thoughts, though I didn’t know what he was referring to. I took the ‘again’ to refer to my book He Loves Me, which I wrote out of the most profound shift in my spiritual trajectory that came through the most painful season of my life to that point. I still consider it the most valuable words I’ve put into the world.

I promised God a long time ago I would follow him wherever he asked me to go. He gets a global yes to everything, once I conclude he’s the one asking. I thought it would take some time to unfold, so I began working on a sequel to, So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore, picking up Jake’s journey ten years later. I was well into that project, when the gravity of unforeseen circumstances began to shift the trajectory of my life.

My first indication, though I was oblivious to its meaning at the time, was how my personal engagement with Jesus took a more sober tone. I didn’t know why then, but during times with him, I had a forbidding sense that a crisis was headed my way. I knew that when it did, I would have to follow the wisdom he would give me, rather than react in my own wisdom or anger. I needed to watch and pray, so that I would be prepared when the moment came, even though I had no idea what I was waiting for.

Over the months that followed, I began to recognize random events that made it seem as if our world was coming apart at the seams and read Scriptures that made me wonder if his coming was more imminent than I had supposed. Moreover, I went through a series of intense conflicts that challenged me to my core and Jesus gave me wisdom as to how to lean on him. It wasn’t any one of those things, but the accumulated weight of them all, that formed the idea of this book. Help people find a connection to Jesus that would sustain them through anything, even the end of this age. While this may be for a generation yet unborn, I don’t suspect that it is not.

So, does any of this make me the one to write the definitive book on preparing for the last days? Of course not, and this is not that book. I won’t be identifying potential antichrist candidates, figuring out the mark of the Beast, or arguing over amillennialism or whether Scripture points to pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-trib.

Instead, I am going to help encourage and equip those who may be in the last generation of Christ-followers who will face the joys and challenges in the days of his appearing, and none of those other things are of first importance in that endeavor. There is a way to live inside of him that will overcome any fear and teach you how to trust him regardless of what circumstances come. I’ve known Jesus to hold me in the deepest darkness and light a path for me to follow him through it more at rest in his love, more confident in the ways in which he works, and more transformed by his grace.

Deciding to actually write this, however, has been an intense struggle. I didn’t think I had the chops to do it, and I know my thoughts on this topic will offend people I love, who would prefer me to stick to my lane. But I am a man who listens to God as best I discern him. That has been the source of some of my most painful experiences and my greatest joys. I love him; I trust him and I am confident that he is bigger than my blind spots and weaknesses.

As I was still processing this project with God, I often wondered, “Why me? Haven’t you got someone better positioned to do this?” His response seemed to be, “Who? Give me a name.” Immediately names begin to come to mind of people I love, speakers and writers I respect. And yet with each one came a twitch in my Yuck Meter. This one is too embedded with a publisher who will distort the message to mass market it. That one is still building a brand or a community to find his identity or income. Others had yet to understand the nature of God’s love and might use these things to manipulate people’s fears or appeal to the flesh’s need of false validation.

So, I came up empty and ended up convinced that for whatever reason, he was asking this of me, not because I’m the best to do it but perhaps because I’m the least encumbered. Even still, I hope I’m not the only one to speak into this space but one of many voices, each fulfilling their part.

Over months, I became convinced that God had put this in my hands. Some of what convinced me provided a template for how I would go about it:

  1. I am going to focus on Jesus and how he works in us to transform our hearts. I’m not going to appeal to anyone’s fear or shame or demand they double-down on trying harder. I remember the days of “radical” discipleship, which was about our own efforts to read, meet, pray, study, and memorize in a flurry of activity that was more illusion that substance. Human power will not take you where the Spirit invites you. This is a work he does in willing hearts, not a plan even the most well-intentioned can implement.
  1. I’m going to help people discover how they can follow Jesus in these days. I’m not going to use the false need of belonging to build a community of last-day followers who are more committed or more special than others. Anything that sets you above others around you has to be suspect from its inception.
  1. I’m going to be free to speak my heart and not have to filter this message through the publishing trade who will shape the message with an eye toward sales and marketing. By the time something wonderful goes through that process it is often less about following Jesus than it is copying someone’s story, which will never yield the fruit we hope for.
  1. I’m not going to monetize the message for my own profit. Every app on my iPhone has gotten worse the more it has been restructured for financial gain. There’s nothing about God’s truth that won’t be twisted by the desire for a good financial return. I’m giving this book away from the very beginning by posting it here on my blog. The book form will most likely sell for a modest fee, but the content will always be free online.
  1. I am not beholden to a congregation or a constituency that I need to please to keep my job or income. I’m in my 70s with an amazing family and wonderful friends; if people want to attack me for what I write, I’ll be fine with that. I don’t need this material to build an audience or to make me popular. I only want to convey in simple and honest words what he has shown me.
  1. I am not writing this alone. I’m the repository of hundreds of thousands of conversations with people all over the world in varying expressions of Christianity who have learned to live in the love of Jesus and follow his voice. It’s the fruit of talking with people instead of speaking at them. I don’t take that lightly; it is a great treasure.Everything I share in these pages has been vetted with others I’ve walked with for a significant season and whose hearts I trust. They have full freedom to speak into my life where they feel like I’m missing it, and yet they would never ask me to follow their thoughts above my conviction of what God wants of me. As these chapters take shape, I will be drawing on those conversations and what I hear throughout the body of Christ by people who have learned to live in his love, rest in his work, and listen to Jesus with humility.
  1. I will write these things in the full light of day, not cloistered in my studio. Each chapter will appear on-line and bear the scrutiny of whoever reads them. Others can comment and where that helps clarify what I’m hoping to convey, I will rewrite the chapters to say it in the most accessible way.
  1. I know part of the gift God has given me is to express his thoughts in ways that help other people recognize what he’s already been saying to them. The greatest compliment I have ever received, and I have heard it often, is this: “You put words to ideas I already know in my heart and did not know how to express them.” My prayer is that this will do the same to help awaken the Bride to her destiny.
  1. My words will be gentle, an invitation to people who already want to see what’s true, not a debate for those I think will disagree. I will write with tender counsel and comfort, not authoritative screeds. Jesus is wooing his Bride into these days, not threatening her and thus I write for friends who are already experiencing the power of love, rather than adversaries who would prefer to debate for a more legalistic path.

I’m also convinced this is the audience Jesus wanted to share these things with. For a long time, I’ve recognized that many people who hang around Lifestream or The God Journey are some high-caliber followers of Jesus whose wisdom and love touch many others. I’m not alone in that conclusion. Whenever I introduce some of the people I know to others, I often hear back, “You have some of the most amazing friends.” I do, and for that I’m grateful. Perhaps many of you are positioned to understand what I’m writing and to help others hear his call as well.

Even so, starting this book has been a challenge. How do I find the tone and format to share these things that burn on my heart? I started it many times and had to discard what I wrote. None of it sounded the way I’d hoped.

On an early morning walk an image came to mind. What if one day a group of young people who were touched by some of my writings invited me to spend a weekend with them. Specifically, they asked, “Wayne, if we would happen to be the generation that’s alive when Jesus returns, what thoughts would you have to help us prepare for those days?”

Now, I could write that book, and those are the people I would long to write it for. This is what I would share with them as the most valuable lessons of my journey. Without a vibrant and active connection to him, the end of the world would not be survivable. You cannot navigate those times by the principles others have taught, only by a Presence who will walk with you.

I realize much of this content will be challenging, especially for people with more religious backgrounds. If it has no meaning to you, or proves hurtful, feel free to disregard those things. I’m not forcing this on you. In these pages, I want you to find that which draws your heart closer to God’s and helps you recognize his tender call to his bride and lets him prepare your heart for whatever might lie ahead.

Perhaps you, too, have a sneaking suspicion that the days of our world’s destruction are coming to an end and that Jesus stands at the threshold of human history to complete the redemption that he began with his birth in Bethlehem, then purchased at Calvary, ratified by his Resurrection from the dead, and will finally consummate when he stands on the Mount of Olives once again.

I can almost taste the moment. If it happens in my lifetime, I’ll be thrilled to be part of such days. And if not, I’ll be cheering from the other side those of you for whom the end of the days has come.

 

_________________________

You can access previous chapters here. or Continue to Chapter 5.

 

Chapter 4: Who Are You to Write This? Read More »

An Update from the Road

This weekend we finish up in Austin, TX before heading to a two-day stop in College Station, TX. Then, we are off to further points east, as we stay on I-10 through Louisiana and Mississippi before a ten-day stay in Alabama.

We’ll stop first along the beach near Pensacola, FL and then go upstate to Anniston for a weekend with some good friends, and an open gathering on Saturday, April 27. You can get details here or from my Travel Page.

Also, I want to let you know that Sara is my guest on this week’s podcast at The God Journey, as Kyle is still on hiatus due to some family needs. Sara talks about the tools she has gained over the last two years to help her unrelenting passion to find the truth about what happened to her, why she reacts to circumstances the way she does, and how God’s truth is transforming her to let her become all that Jesus created her to be.

I love this story so much. I’ve had a front row seat to miracle after miracle as Jesus’s light has found its way into the nooks and crannies of Sara’s heart and mind. And I’m incredibly proud of the courage Sara has demonstrated not to shy away from this process at all even though it has been deeply painful at times.

From the darkness into the light is what salvation really means. It’s not about heaven and hell; it’s about Jesus saving her from the cruelties of a dark and broken world.

An Update from the Road Read More »

Can You Hear Your Name?

Back in 2015, Anne, a friend of mine, sent me a poem about the Bride of Christ that had taken shape in her when reading Jeremiah. I shared it on an episode of The God Journey.

After listening to a recent podcast on prayers for the Bride and my first three chapters of my new book, It’s Time: Letters to the Bride of Christ at the End of the Age, she sent it to be again to see if I remembered. I hadn’t, but reading it again it really resonated with some of the things we’ve been seeing and sharing here.

When she sent it to me, this is what she wrote:  “How you talk about her just made me want to dance… she has been waking up and hearing her bridegroom and finding her first love again, throwing off the shackles. The days of the kings are over; they no long have sway over her.

“I have such a cry in my heart for the bride, for her to come out of the complacency we have been pressed into, I pray this adds to the sound of the call out. The world has changed beyond recognition in the last years since we talked and I feel so much that, like Esther,  the bride is called for such a time as this. He calling is wakening his bride because he is speaking to the world through her, and in these days, her voice is needed even more so.

In the meantime Hebrews 11:9-10 is my ongoing experience.  I live in a land of promise as a stranger, dwelling in these temporary residences with other heirs of the same promise (blind mostly to that promise), all the while looking for a city whose builder and maker is God. Those last words are a deep cry; I do feel so much a stranger, as if I speak a different language and struggle to connect with any of the words I hear elsewhere.  That is it was such a delight to hear your recording and your sense of God’s timing.

The bride!  Yes.  Its time!! I am so looking forward to hearing more of your words in this space and all that the Lord is leading you into.  Thanks you for speaking out now.

Here is her poem;

This is what the Lord says:
This, the Church,
She the bride, glorious without spot or wrinkle
Beautiful.
Born out of brokenness, out of grief,
bearing in her body the sufferings of her Beloved,
full of Joy and Hope and Glory

She has been quiet, unseen, her beauty hidden
behind steeples and bells
behind long winded words and hell fire with brimstone
behind false shepherds and false gospels
behind strange fire and witchcraft
behind well-intentioned but shackling care and control

It’s been a long time but NOW.
He is calling her forth;
He is saying her name.
You hear it, like a whisper on the wind.
It echoes in your dreams.
She is the this; She is what the Lord is saying.

In every moment he is sounding her name
until every rock and tree,
lamb and lion shake with the sound.
For this has been their groaning, for so long

And she is rising,
shaking off the dust and mothballs of her fear induced coma.
She is his Beloved and He is hers.
To her he makes known the unfathomable riches that are in Him.
Through her, he makes known the manifold wisdom of God
to all those who sought to keep her hidden, quiet and afraid.

Can you hear your name?
Beloved.
Hear. Your. Name.
For you are She.

Ann McGowan, 2015

_____________________

Note:  Sara and I have begun our journey east. We are parked in Wimberley, TX today, outside of Austin, preparing for the total eclipse.  This was supposed to be a cloudy day here, but the son just burned off the clouds and is shinning. Hopefully, it will stay that way until it overtakes the moon, about at 1:35 CDT.

And then we are heading to points east, so if you want to connect across the I-10 through Louisiana, Mississippi, or Alabama, let us know. From there we may curve through Atlanta on our way down to Jekyll Island and then head up through Columbia and Charlotte before heading into Virginia, either by way of Raleigh or Roanoke. That remains to be seen. Then we’ll be in Richmond, VA, Sykesville, MD, outside of Baltimore, before turning west toward home with some stops in Kentucky and Denver as well as points in between.

For us this trip is about encouraging the Bride, however we can, as well as enjoying the sights of this amazing country.

Can You Hear Your Name? Read More »

Chapter 3: This Scares Me to Death 

Note: This is the third in a series of letters written for the bride of Christ who are alive at the end of the age. Once complete, I’ll combine them into a book. You can start with Chapter 1 here. If you are not already subscribed to this blog and want to make sure you don’t miss any, you can add your name here.

_________________

Wayne, to be honest, your last two postings have given me quite a fright. I’ve always hated books and sermons about the end of the age, and I don’t ever read Revelation because it terrifies me. There seems to be so much devastation, wrath, and death. I find myself paralyzed to think that these days would possibly come in my lifetime.  

— Sharon, HR director, mother of three and grandmother of one

Hi Sharon, 

I’m so sorry my words have felt paralyzing to you. The last thing I want to do is provoke anyone’s fear, but I knew this book would do that. The end of the age is a terrifying prospect for many. Not only does it confront us with our own mortality but also the catastrophic circumstances that the Scriptures seem to say will surround his coming. 

It speaks of the Day of the Lord in ominous terms. Religious leaders have focused on those since the prophets began to write about it toward the end of the Old Testament. Today books, movies, and preachers who pound on that theme think they can terrify people into right living. Keep in mind, however, most religions trade in fear because it makes it easier to manipulate people. And there are few passages that can be twisted to ramp up people’s fears more than the pages in Revelation about the end of the age.

The end of the age will bring death and destruction, and a new set of challenges to face—an antichrist figure, the mark of the beast, and natural disasters that will take the lives of many. I understand why most would prefer not to think about it, especially if their life on planet earth is pleasant. My daughter has a small dog who doesn’t enjoy the exuberance of our new puppy, Mandy. And yet, Mandy is fascinated with Lola, so she’s always trying to get in her face. Lola’s approach to this is just to turn her head away, pretending Mandy doesn’t exist. If she can’t see her, she’s not there, or so she thinks. 

Of course she is wrong, and so are we if we think ignoring what challenges us won’t eventually catch up to us. The proverbial ostrich’s head-in-the-sand approach to fear won’t serve us well. Neither do we need to give in to fear when the Day of the Lord’s coming, which will be the second greatest day in human history, after his Resurrection. 

Fear never leads us to Father’s wisdom, especially at the end of the age. This is the culmination of every good desire we’ve ever had and what our hearts long for in the frustration of living in the broken Creation. Jesus didn’t tell us his plans to make us cower in the corner, but to prepare ourselves for whatever might come in the joyful anticipation that our salvation draws near. 

Even after all these centuries, I am convinced that Jesus will physically return to this planet as he foretold his followers. Will that be in my lifetime? I hope so. But at some future, yet unknown date, he will appear to complete his work of redemption, not only for his beloved, but for all of Creation.

Corrupt human governments will come to ruin, and Jesus will take his rightful throne as the highest authority over all. On that day the kingdoms of this world will become “the kingdom of our God and of His Christ.” Love and peace will flourish among humanity and the effects of the Fall on Creation will be reversed. Beauty will encompass our hearts as we engage him without the blinders of flesh or fears in the new heaven and new earth.

The only reason to fear is either because we’re afraid we haven’t done enough to be included in his family or because we don’t see that Jesus is strong enough to hold us through whatever difficulties come. That’s how preachers can even twist Jesus’s triumphant return into a terrifying moment of separation between those who are “ready” and those who are not. I remember one sermon that threatened, “If you have even one unconfessed sin between you and Jesus when he comes, you’ll be left behind.” Instead of being free to anticipate his coming with joy, we always had to be careful that we had done enough every day to be included in the Redeemed. There was no safety in his love for us, but only in our performance for him.  

I hear from people all the time who are afraid they might be tricked into taking the mark of the beast and be rejected by God. That’s as old as people getting a Social Security number or a chip on their credit card. And it’s as fresh as those who were afraid it was slipped into the COVID vaccine as a nanobot. To fear such things, you have to be convinced that God is wanting to exclude people from his life and has concocted this as a Gotcha Test. 

That would be like your dad telling you, if you consume alcohol, he will remove you from his will. Then, he sneaks some in the spaghetti sauce, so he can blame you for being disobedient. What kind of God is that? Not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. His desire is not to exclude people from redemption but to include all who will to come to him. Whatever the mark of the beast will be, it will obvious and include a pledge of loyalty to darkness.

If the fear of being left behind is the stick some use to keep people faithful, the carrot is the rapture. Those who pass the Gotcha Tests will be raptured out before any challenging times come. Honest Scriptural interpretation does not naturally lend itself to this point of view. It has been concocted by people living in prosperous Western culture. Many followers of Jesus throughout Christian history and even around the world today suffer life-threatening challenges and persecution as well as great need and deprivation. To think that we get an easy out would have been unthinkable to the early Christians who considered it an honor to bear Jesus’s image and mission even to the risking of their own lives.  

I realize none of this helps with your fears yet, Sharon, but bear with me, because the end of the age was never meant to catch those close to him unawares. Far from being a source of fear, his coming is a cause for anticipation and hope. The pain of those days is the surgery necessary to mend a broken hip or repair a clogged artery. We don’t focus on the process, but the healing.

So, how do you view his return? Many see the vengeful God coming to blast his enemies into oblivion. That’s not how I look at it. Jesus is coming to rescue his bride from all that wars against her and take her to himself. I realize that’s a difficult metaphor for most men. We may prefer the image of a warrior armed for battle to a bride decked out in a white gown. But in this picture, we are that bride; he is our champion, coming to rescue us and the world from darkness. If you can’t get comfortable with that reality, you’ll find yourself trying to do by human effort what only Jesus can do in his authority. 

The catastrophic events of the last day seem to come not because God needs to throw a tantrum. God may not be their primary cause; it’s simply where humanity ends up when they serve their flesh or the god of money. The tragedies that result will give even more people the opportunity to come to the end of themselves and turn to him. 

That may mean days of persecution, particularly for those who live in the truth instead of playing the world’s games. The enemy and the world will react like jealous girlfriends, taking out their anguish on the bride. The bride’s focus, however, is never on her former girlfriends; her focus is steadfastly fixed on her beloved. 

While the book of Revelation lays bare the catastrophic events that will come in the last days, it’s theme is the ultimate triumph of the Lamb and his reunion with his Bride. I’m pretty sure these events will play out very differently from the way our popular books imagine it. Much of Revelation is a mystery still unfolding, a metaphor that people take literally to their peril. 

What Revelation reveals most clearly are the extraordinary promises Jesus makes to the Bride—those who overcome with him. He preserves them in the face of destruction and holds them in his hands even through persecution. Even those who may die in the conflicts of those days will be surrounded and comforted by the presence of the Holy One. He will have complete victory over the powers of darkness and will be enthroned above all powers and the forces of evil will be utterly destroyed. This is not wrath for his children; it’s a rescue. 

Thus, the bride looks at the Day of the Lord quite differently. Even if it comes in chaos, it concludes in beauty and wonder. This is the day of her wedding as Jesus comes to redeem her out of this broken world. He will prepare her so that even in those days she can stand before him without spot or wrinkle. This is not a day to fear, but one to embrace with him. The bridegroom is coming to redeem his bride out of the chaos of this present, evil age. If that doesn’t excite you, you need a better grasp of who your Redeemer is. Any bride terrified of her wedding day is marrying the wrong man.  

Sharon, I will not silence your fears by answering all our questions about the end times but by helping you become so close to Jesus that those questions will no longer matter. Jesus didn’t tell us these things to scare us, but to let his love prepare us for the day of his redemption. That’s as critical for what you face in your life today as it will be at the end of the age. Any fear causes us to slip into self-protection mode, which makes it difficult to recognize how he is at work around us. This is where we make our worst decisions, often with our best intentions. 

Fear shows us where we need to attend to our relationship with him and be more attuned to his love. Whenever you find yourself afraid, take some time to sit in that fear with Jesus. Face it head-on; examine it with him. Ask him why you’re afraid. Let him respond with insight that will invite you closer. I often ask him, “What is it about your love that I don’t yet know, that if I knew it, I wouldn’t be afraid here?”’

John wrote to us, “Perfect love casts out fear,” and he did so not to make us feel guilty when we are afraid but to let us know that there is a place inside Father’s love for you where fear no longer exists. Only he can show you how to live there; and it’s a process involving many facets we’ll look at throughout this book. 

Begin with your smaller fears and ask him to show you how to bring them inside his love. Don’t focus on the fear but on the love and his extravagant care for you. Watching how he guides you through difficult circumstances will make you more aware of his presence. When he doesn’t alleviate your fear the way you want, you’ll have the opportunity to discover that God thinks very differently than you do. Watch how he works, and it will change the way you live in the world. Finding freedom from fear is not convincing ourselves logically that our fears are unfounded, or by hoping that God is greater than our fear (though he certainly is). Your fear will dissipate as he displaces it with his love.

Don’t think you have to be perfect to grow here; it’s a process. When I find myself afraid, I realize there’s a way to grow in him that will consume it. It may take weeks or even months, depending how deep the fear is, but he will teach you so much about yourself and him that you will notice it bearing fruit in many other areas of your life as well.  

So, while those may be painful times, it is only the process that will bring great joy for those on whom the end of the age has come. He is not just coming to finish redemption’s story; he will also hold the redeemed tightly through the whole process. It is the nature of the bride to focus the fullness of her heart on her betrothed who comes to claim her as his own and with her, introduces a new heaven and a new earth. No longer filled with pain and sorrow and sickness and disease and separation and loss and loneliness, it will flood our senses with joy, wonder, beauty, light, and life. And we get to share it with him and each other for all of time.

Over the last three years, I’ve endured the most challenging crises of my life, including the unmerited rejection of people I love dearly. I’ve never traversed such incredible darkness for so long, but in doing so I found a depth of trust in him beyond any unforeseen event or circumstance. That has left me changed in ways I never imagined. 

The reason I’m writing this book is to help those like you discover a similar place in their own hearts for Jesus to develop that trust in them. There is a way through your darkest fears and the chaos of declining civilization. This is what his love was always meant to shape in us, so that we no longer need to be tossed about by our fears, but live at rest in his love. 

Then we can join the chorus where the Spirit and the Bride speak as one voice, “Come!” 

_________________________

You can access previous chapters here. or Continue to Chapter 4.

 

 

Chapter 3: This Scares Me to Death  Read More »