Helping others to find the fullness and freedom of life in Jesus as reflected in the life, writings, recordings, and travel of Wayne Jacobsen. He believe a greater awareness of God’s unfolding work in you, and we want nothing more than his purpose to be worked out in us, no matter where that leads us.
I owe you an apology. For the past few months, I’ve been talking about a book I was working on with a friend from France. I told you we were hopeful for a September release, and now that isn’t going to happen. It is now quite unlikely at this point that you will ever get to see the manuscript I was working on with her. For reasons I still don’t understand, her family has pulled out of the collaboration and cut off communication with me.humble,
I told you a few weeks ago that I was on a familiar road collaborating on a new book, though I hoped this one had a better outcome. Well, it didn’t. Unfortunately, that uncharted road quickly became a road with which I’m all too familiar. It’s hard to talk about these things and protect people I love, but I’m already getting a lot of questions I want to try and answer.
One week after I finished working on the manuscript, the author wrote me to say how incredibly grateful she was, especially thanking me for the last line, which I gave her from another novel I was writing. It fit so perfect in her story. She compared me to a diamond maker who brought the brilliance of a story she created. After I sent the approved manuscript to the editor, however, I got a disturbing email. It contained suspicions about my ulterior motives. Her tone had shifted dramtically as she told me in subsequent emails that she wanted control of everything in France and would not follow through on any of her assurances over the past eight months.
Collaboration is always a risk, and all the more so here because of the geographical distance and the language barriers. When I was hesitant, she repeatedly assured me that God was in this and that she would honor our work together. I thought the beauty in her story was worth the risk. I have a seven-year friendship with her and her family, a deep love for them, and eight incredible months working on this book with her. I am confused but not devastated.
Of the dozens of collaborations I’ve worked on, only two have gone off-track and ended valued friendships. Interestingly enough, however, they have all followed the same pattern. Other voices get involved who wants to profit from the collaboration. They start by making accusations about my motives, then assert whatever control they can to take over the project. Finally, no matter how much they have said in the past, they now have a fresh word from God telling them not to continue. Of course, there is no way to discuss anything after that, which is why people pull that trump card. The reason it rings so hollow with me is that people who hear from God are more grace-filled and apologetic, especially when it’s a complete change of their prior assurances. Finally, they cut off any further communication and raise the drawbridge on the friendship by telling me not to contact them directly,
So, I’m there again and I don’t have the foggiest idea why. This is an abrupt end to what had been a delightful season in my life. I only wanted to help a friend get her wonderful story more widely read in the world, and gave her the best I had to help that happen. However, she has now decided to revert to her original story and discard all I had done to help re-write it and get it published here in the States. It makes me sad to know there’s a beautiful manuscript in the world that you may ever see. I still feel God was in this process, and that somehow fear and darkness have cut in to send it sideways.
People are already asking me why I do this when it can turn so hurtful in the end? I’m crazy, I guess. I believe in the power of collaboration. Everything is better when multiple people bring their various insights to give a more rounded picture of God. Scripture teaches that God gives gifts so that through the whole of the body, “the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.” I think the enemy freaks out where brothers and sisters collaborate in love and sacrifice. I don’t think God intended for any of us to go it alone. I know what The Shack would have been like if Brad and I hadn’t put sixteen months into the re-telling of that story, and I know you would never have heard of it if we hadn’t.
My friends are also asking why I don’t get people under contract at the start to guarantee they will follow through, before spending so much of my time and money on a project. The answer is simple. I don’t know how to collaborate without shared tenderness, honesty, and faithfulness. I thought we had that here until we didn’t. I have no idea at the beginning how any collaboration will turn out and what will be fair for everyone. I just figure if people keep walking together in agreement, we will get to see what Father has in mind. The results can be fantastic.
The other reason I don’t make contracts at the start is that they don’t work either. I have signed agreements with people and companies who violate them every day. The only way to enforce a contract is to be willing to sue dishonest people. I’m not that guy. I learned a long time ago if someone doesn’t respect their word, they won’t honor their signature either unless threatened to do so.
Will I stop collaborating? No. I’m pretty sure it’s in Father’s heart. I try to be careful to do it where it is a blessing, not when people end up despising me. I don’t enjoy being used, or having my word tied to someone else’s capriciousness. What I don’t know is how people will change in the process, especially when I’ve finished what I said I would do.
For now, I’ve switched tracks. Before this newest book came into my life, I was already working with those two delightful people pictured above on a book tentatively titled The Language of Healing: Creating Safe Environments to Talk about Race, Politics, Sexuality, and Religion. With me in that photo is Arnita Taylor, a mom to two sons, a former staff pastor, a leadership coach, and an encourager I met last year in Dallas, Texas. The other guy is Bob Prater, a father of three, also a former pastor, long-time friend, podcaster, and an encourager to marginalized people in Bakersfield, California. I can tell you my life has been deeply and permanently changed for the better by these people and the process of collaborating with them.
We’ve been working on this book for almost 18 months. We had all the pieces in place, but it wasn’t reading as smoothly as any of us hoped. Both of them were able to come to my home this past weekend, and in long, exhausting, laughter-filled days, we went through every word of the manuscript and made it read so much better. We are all thrilled with how it has turned out and hope to release it early in November this year.
Here are three paragraphs from the Introduction to whet your appetite:
This is a book for those who are tired of being spun by politicians and media and having their personal relationships destroyed by differences over religion, race, sexuality and politics. It’s for those who want to find ways to communicate and cooperate beyond our most deeply-rooted differences, realizing that in the shared spaces of our society we have more to gain through mutual understanding than the politics of polarization.
The hope is that everyone who reads this will gain a little more awareness about themselves. You don’t have to agree with everything here, but if you are can at least acknowledge the validity of varying perspectives and communicate about them more generously, you can help repair the rip in our societal fabric. Just maybe something you read will encourage you to more harmony and peace with your family, colleagues, and friends. Even better, you may learn something here that will give you the insight to solve a problem or repair a broken relationship.
We all win if you take one of the chapter topics to explore more deeply. We all win if your level of understanding increases even slightly. We all win if you take this book into a book club and have your own conversation about differences in our culture. We all win when these chapters are used as discussion starters in college classrooms or used in high school civics. We all win if you learn to listen better to people who see the world differently than you do.
No, we haven’t signed any contracts yet. Given our time this weekend and the depth of love we have for each other, I’d be surprised if this one goes sideways. I know, I’ve been surprised before!
So, we’ll see what happens. I guess you’re in this with me, too.
I received an email last week from a friend in Israel. He mentioned how much he and his wife were learning to relax in Father’s love and care, but then added a hunger that had gone unfulfilled in their hearts:
During this time, the Lord taught us a lot and fed us with his love. We still have not found a group that we could call our home. We continue to pray for it. I have never felt such an acute need for simple communication and friendship.
I took note of his hope that some group would become home for them. I understand that hunger since we’ve all been schooled in the idea that we all need a fellowship we can call home, but it isn’t true. So, I wrote back, “I don’t know that you need to be looking for a group to call your home. Let Father, Son, and Spirit be your home, and then you’ll be free to love others without needing anything in return. In time, some of those you love will love in return, and then you’ll find people who can enjoy the simple joy of friendship. Finding fellowship is a process to follow, not a group to find.”
Not everyone is ready to listen to something like that. Thankfully, he was, and it drew his heart to a work God had done before in them:
Thank you for writing me that my home is in the Father. Something inside me clicked and everything I have worried about lately finally came together as a puzzle in my head.
When my wife and I received an update in His love, our life became a daily adventure in Him. Every day, I got up and the first thought that arose in my head was “More.” I felt like a child who was circling behind the hands of the Father, and who is so happy and filled that he said again and again, “More!” In our life, new people constantly appeared with whom we shared our path. We started spending more time with our children, having breakfast every Saturday, and spending time.
But at the same time, pressure was growing in the church we attended. We did not fit into the system and it spat us out. Unfortunately, then I did not understand many things that the Father revealed to us. I was not ready. We understood that Father called us to go out, but we were not ready to remain without a church in the way we’d known it. We were afraid for the children, afraid that they would not have friends. And besides, I thought that we needed to find a church with good, correct, deep, Christ-centered teaching.
In our new congregation, the meetings fell on Friday evening and immediately killed our dinner time and reading the Torah. It turned out that on Saturdays they had a youth ministry and we no longer had breakfasts with children. In addition, we were loaded with various ministries and endless conferences and seminars. And we are always in a hurry somewhere, but at the same time we had almost no close relations with anyone. More recently, we gathered with people at our home. We all had fun and joy, chatting, eating and studying the Bible together.
Because of my studies, we decided to stop the group for a while. I also stopped conducting classes in the children’s ministry. And now every Friday, I try to sit out the ministry. The only thing that inspired me is communication with my old friend.
After what you wrote to me, I realized that such a life we had before. We just let the Father fill every day and shared this love with others. But then we wanted to find or create a group and everything began to die. A thought came to me to stop coming to these church meetings. Just live filled with Him and loving those who are near. I will not make any quick decisions. I will ask the Father to show me if He really wants it.
He already had what he was looking for, but it didn’t count because it wasn’t the specific kind of group he was looking for. There are so many ways Father can connect us with his family. You can find that connection in a congregation if you’re not too worn out by the program, or you can find it elsewhere as you learn to live in his love.
Sometimes what we want is right in front of us; it’s just not in the package we were expecting.
If you need help finding the church Jesus is building in the world, that’s why I wrote Finding Church. We often look for her in all the wrong places and get frustrated when we feel alone and isolated. She is all over the world, growing in his glory. She just doesn’t always look the way we think she should.
I couldn’t believe anyone would want to interrupt their vacation to drive all the way from San Francisco, just to have lunch with me. That’s a six-hour drive!
I had met this couple a year or so ago. Now, they were visiting California from the east coast and wanted to know if we could share a meal together. I try to do that whenever I can, but I don’t schedule those very far out because of the craziness of my travel schedule, and I can’t be obligated here to a locally if Father invites me into a situation elsewhere in the world. So, I tell people who ask, “Let’s just trust that if God wants us to be together, a hole in my schedule that will, will fit a hole in yours.”
It’s astonishing how often it works out as it did for them a few weeks ago. In the course of having lunch at my favorite local BBQ joint, they were sharing some of their story with me. The wife had been raised in an abusive, legalistic environment, made all the worse by a father who didn’t know how to love his daughter. They were schooled in some of Bill Gothard’s teaching, which I often refer to as Senior Pharisee School. I understood a bit of what she meant since I had a brush with a less-intrusive form of the same stuff that reduces the life of God to a set of rules and processes that have little room for grace and transformation.
In the middle of her story, she slipped in a sentence so gently that it almost got past me without realizing what she said.
“I discovered my worth as a woman hearing you talk about Sara.”
I don’t know that I have ever received a more meaningful complement. I was deeply touched by her words and all the more because they were unforeseen.
It has never occurred to me to talk about Sara for that reason. I do it because our growth in relationship is one of the best parts of my story. I love what God has done in us over our forty-four years of marriage. Yes, we’ve had our more selfish and disconnected moments. We’ve fought through misunderstandings, bitter feelings, and differing perspectives to keep finding a way to “us.” That process hasn’t been easy or painless, but through it, we’ve both changed significantly and in doing so have come to love and appreciate each other more deeply. I talk about her because we decided years ago that the best way to help people was to live in the open and not create a false notion of who we are as people.
To think the Spirit had used my talk of Sara to breathe into this woman’s heart that she was every bit as precious to Father as anyone else, and as valuable in the world as reflections of his grace and mercy in the world—thrilled me beyond words and all the more beautiful because it was unintentional.
That’s what some call ‘collateral beauty.’ It’s the opposite of collateral damage. It’s when the Spirit does something, “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”
And there, in Ephesians 3, Paul loses it and exalts, “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.”
Talk well of those you love; you never know who’s listening or what it’s doing in them.
First, a great quote: In last week’s podcast, I read a quote taken from a June 2019 Atlantic article entitled, Abolish the Priesthood. An incisive read on its own merits that has application in the Evangelical church world as well, it contained this quote:
The first reference to the Jesus movement in a nonbiblical source comes from the Jewish Roman historian Flavius Josephus, writing around the same time that the Gospels were taking form. Josephus described the followers of Jesus simply as “those that loved him at the first and did not let go of their affection for him.”
What a wonderful identifier of God’s people in the world! I’ve been chewing on that sentence for the last couple of weeks. It sums up well the aspiration of my heart and allows me to follow the nudges on my heart.
A few have asked why I’ve not posted much here of late. The short answer is I’ve got two books on final approach and am giving all my time to getting them ready for editing and publication. One is my collaboration on THE CITY, a novel written by a French housewife about how we learn to live in the Father’s kingdom. Sara and I have known the family for over seven years, and she asked if I would rewrite the English version and add my insights to it. I resisted, knowing it hadn’t turned out so well the last time I tried to help someone. In the end, however, I really felt as if Jesus was asking me to do it again, even if it all goes wrong. Though I have better assurances and a better relationship this time, no one really knows how the future will play out. But this is a book I want in the world, and I think Jesus does too.
Early feedback from a few people who’ve read it for me has me astounded. Although I don’t expect anything close to the numbers we had with THE SHACK, I do believe this story is as transformative. This story touched in my heart, what THE SHACK touched in my mind. This story will help people discover how the love of God will transform the way they live in the world. I can’t wait for you to read it.
Kyle and Jess Rice from Torrington, WY
And to publish it, I am helping a young couple from Wyoming start a publishing company. Kyle and Jess Rice, whom I interview on today’s podcast, have been friends for several years. I love their passion for Jesus and their desire to help others live in the reality of Father’s affection, and they want to unfold that message in a way that resonates with people in their 20s and 30s. We’ve talked for years about collaborating together, and now we’re actually going to head down that road. They will publish THE CITY and THE LANGUAGE OF HEALING, which I’m also finishing up with two co-authors, Bob Prater and Arnita Taylor. That’s a joy too! We actually had some publishing companies seek us out on these titles, but in the end, I didn’t want to put them through the Christian publishing machine, and all that means. I’d rather give wings to them as Jesus leads us and release them into the world to travel as far as he desires. It’s a risk, it always is, but I’m excited to see what he might do.
On the local front, I’ve been asked by a team in our community to help process the twin tragedies we had here in Thousand Oaks, CA last November. On a Wednesday night, our city faced a mass murder at a local country & western hangout, and the next day we were confronted with two wildfires that did extensive damage to our community and surrounding ones. Several community leaders hope to bring this city together by letting people share their stories under the banner of “Finding Strength Together.” Over the last few years, I’ve had a growing desire to find a way into this community and serve it, beyond the relationships I already have. I’m thrilled to be invited into this collaboration and use my gifts to help others tell their stories as part of a process of healing.
So, that’s why I’ve not blogged much, why I’m horribly behind on my email, and why I won’t be traveling much this summer. I do have a lot of family obligations at home this June, but was planning on heading for Kenya the first two weeks of July. However, due to road construction in the areas I wanted to visit, we’re going to postpone that trip to a later date. So, I have the time to help launch a publishing company and complete these two titles for a Fall 2019 release.
Two years ago, none of these projects were visible on my horizon, except Kenya of course. I love the way he brings new things into my life out of nowhere, and then nudges me into projects that enrapture my heart as well as enlighten my mind. They’ve also allowed me to get to know people better that greatly enrich my life.
So, times they are a’changin’ here. A fresh wind blows and draws me down uncharted roads. Come with me if you want; pray for us, if you will. This will at least prove interesting.
If you are following our continuing saga of helping people in a specific region of Kenya, you know that we had to drill a new well a few months ago or see a school closed down that was helping orphans and children living with drug-addicted parents in a place called Forkland. A flood last December polluted their former well with their sewage and was no longer usable. This school has been run by a woman after the tribal violence as the only hope to break the poverty and bondage of children in this area and make a generational shift in a place of great need.
The new well went 340 feet deep and hit an aquifer of pure mineral water that is under intense pressure. Not only is it enough water for the school and the surrounding community who also use that water, but health officials also recommended bottling it for sale since the water is of the highest quality anywhere in Kenya. This is an answer to prayer in so many ways. For every need we’ve sought to help in Kenya, we have also started an enterprise they can utilize, not only to hire people who need jobs but also to fund ongoing needs. The orphanage/school we started is supported by a petrol station we built. Other needs in the Kitale area are being funded by a grain distribution company we launched there. This bottling plant will help provide for Forkland school as well as outreaches into that community. The overflow will also be helpful in future needs in North Pokot.
July 2020 will complete our five-year project to make the tribes of North Pokot that we’ve been serving, sustainable without outside help. We have drilled wells, started irrigation projects, opened schools, helped with health care, and funded microloans to help create new businesses. By all indications, they should be able to use their creativity and industry to care for themselves beyond that.
This bottling plant is the next step in securing an income stream for Forkland School, help with the impoverishment of the surrounding community, and the overflow will be able to help new people groups in Pokot. But for that, we need an additional $42,000 to start the enterprise. This includes empty bottles to get the enterprise going, as well as training for five months and a conduit for distribution. If you can help us fund this project in whole or in part, I would be incredibly grateful.
Also, this month, we need an additional $18,000 to feed a new tribe that came two months ago to try to find some resource. Their women and children were dying, and no other aid was available to them. They sought help from the tribes we are assisting in North Pokot. We gave them food two months ago, and they need two months more to get them to harvest time. So, in addition to the $10,000 we send every month, we need an additional $60,000 this month.
Your help is appreciated more than you know. All contributions are tax-deductible in the US. And, as always, every dollar you send goes to the need in Kenya. We do not (nor do they) take out any administrative or money transfer fees. Please see our Donation Page at Lifestream. You can either donate with a credit card there, or you can mail a check to Lifestream Ministries • 1560 Newbury Rd Ste 1 • Newbury Park, CA 91320. Or if you prefer, we can take your donation over the phone at (805) 498-7774.
Yesterday at lunch, a dear friend asked me what I had learned in the last ten years in my exploration of Father’s affection. I first started thinking of lessons or truths I had gained, but then my mind quickly went to how differently this journey allows me to live. I am less worried about achievements, more present with the people I’m with at any moment and have far less angst to convince people of anything. That allows me to live with a lighter hand, with the freedom to not be so worried about how I’m being perceived that I can’t respond more simply and freely to others around me.
Nowhere has that produced fruit I enjoy more than in my relationship with this woman. Today Sara and I celebrate forty-four years together—forty-four incredible years! For us, this is not an endurance project, staying together because we said we would. Every year of the last twenty has been better than the year before. We find ourselves today celebrating our love, our partnership in negotiating life together, and our presence with each other as endure the challenges and pain of growing older together. This woman makes my heart beat faster when I see her, adds so much beauty and texture to my life and models a self-sacrificing love for our family that makes life so precious.
No, it has not all be puppy dogs and rainbows. Over those forty-four years, we’ve also had the days-long, painful, and frustrating conversations that have helped us learn to love more deeply. We’ve hurt the other by selfish actions and miscommunicated in ways that have challenged that love. We’ve acted selfishly and lived to regret it. We’ve disagreed over critical decisions to great frustration. But through it all, we’ve learned that a heartfelt apology can heal anything. We have found our way to solutions we could both embrace wholeheartedly. We’ve endeavored to live in a way that the other is never our victim, but always our valued partner. We’ve made room for God’s work in the other, allowing them to change by changing along with them. We have been with each other in our worst moments and seen the darkest recesses of the other’s soul and become the other’s primary cheerleader for more freedom in the love of Jesus.
Truthfully, he’s the real hero in this marriage, giving us insight and courage to keep doing what love led us to do. We don’t see these forty-four years as an achievement of our discipline and commitment. That could have won us a life-long marriage, but it also could have been lifeless endurance. We see these years as a triumph of grace. Somehow, Jesus has held us in this relationship and taught us to love the other like the other needed to be loved. We’ve confronted the relationship-sabotaging weaknesses of our flesh and found his strength to embrace the healing. Neither of us is the same person that we were on the day we stood before family and friends and pledged our lives to the other, but I love the woman Sara is becoming even more, and I’m sure Sara loves this me more, too.
I can’t imagine this relationship getting any better, but I know it will. No doubt, there’s still more freedom ahead for both of us, and our relationship is the first place we get to celebrate it. There is no one I’d rather be with than this woman, no one whose wisdom I regard more highly or whose presence sets my heart at rest more completely.
Those who think longevity can lead to boredom has not tasted a relationship like this. I feel bad for those whose marriages don’t endure the painful bits, where selfishness rules instead of where love serves. My heart breaks when I hear of abuse or neglect that has shredded a couples affection for each other. No one deserves to be victimized by another, especially the person closes to them. We were created to be loved and though we can only find that first in the Father himself, seeing it reflected in another human being who knows all your secrets and still adores and admires us, is a gift for the ages.
I am grateful for Sara and the courage she has shown to keep growing as a person and to always make room for me in her life. I’m grateful to God for holding us through the darkest storms and giving us his wisdom to resolve our conflicts and embrace the other more wholeheartedly. It’s the delightful fruit of learning to live inside of love, and I want that for everyone.
Don’t just endure life with your spouse; let Jesus keep teaching you how to love more freely, and thus more lightly. It will take you through some dark and challenging waters, but doing so is its own reward.
If you haven’t read So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore, you may not get the reference, nor the wonder of the comment. For those that haven’t that story is about a frustrated staff pastor meeting someone he thinks might be John, Jesus’ disciple, still living in the 21st century. Do you remember when Jesus told Peter that if John were to live until he came again and that it should not matter to Peter’s journey? Now, Jesus didn’t say he would live that long, but we thought that an excellent idea for a story. What if a first-century apostle was still living today? What would he think of what we’ve done to Jesus’ kingdom in the 2000 years since? That story has been read well over half a million times in the 14 years it’s been out. This is a story we never thought would go beyond a web site.
Anyway, I was in Europe over the last couple of weeks, starting in Norway, then taking on a YWAM class on the east coast of Italy, before ending my trip with two stops in Switzerland. Except for my time in Switzerland, all the people I met on this trip were new to me. What a trip it was, too! I am blown away by the people I get to know in my travels. Wherever I go I meet some of the most compelling people who are sorting out what it means to live loved and responsive to Jesus rather than just working Christianity as a system of thought. I love that. I love the conversations I get into and the things we discover together. I never know where those conversations will lead and almost always see something new about this God I love in the process.
I also meet some of the most courageous people on the planet when I travel, those that have more passion for a relationship with God than they have experience at it. Despite incredible struggles and doubts, they continue to open their heart to recognize the connection God wants to have with them. Yes, they are frustrated that it seems to be beyond their reach, and yet they continue to ask, seek, and knock on the door. I know it isn’t easy. I know it can lead to years of frustration when the desire is not immediately fulfilled the way we hope.
For humanity to connect with the transcendent God is no small task. Everything broken about this world seeks to diminish his voice, obscure his reality, and make us feel all alone in the universe. Look at all Father has done, including the cross, to make that connection. So, it doesn’t surprise me when it isn’t easy or doesn’t happen quickly especially for those who have known significant trauma in their lives or been captive in legalistic systems as a substitute for knowing him. It isn’t easy for us to learn to give up trying to make happen by our own efforts, what only he can do by his Spirit. And he will do it, even if it takes most of our lives.
One man told me on this trip that he wondered if this kind of relationship is only available to specific people like the men and women of God in the Old Testament. “If that’s true,” I told him, “then traveling the world and telling others they can have it, too, would be the cruelest thing I could do.” He agreed. I don’t travel, though, because of my need for income, or to satiate my ego. I wouldn’t do what I do if it weren’t to help others experience the same reality in him that I do. If it isn’t real for all, even the “least” of them, by however we choose to measure it, then it isn’t real for me either. That’s what the new covenant was for, to help every person find that connection with the God who loves them more than anyone on this planet ever has or ever will.
And that brings me to why I wrote this blog. I had a brief conversation in Switzerland, that was repeated in an email when I got home: “You may remember when I said that ten years ago I always wanted to have someone like John by my side to answer all my questions. Today, I want to be someone like John, encouraging and helping others to discover and live in the heavenly Father’s love.” I love that. In essence, that’s the simplicity of the Gospel. Find your reality in him, and then find a way to help others discover that reality as well.
I remember when we were writing that book, that I yearned to be someone like John, too. We wrote way above our heads when we sculpted out that character and put the best things in his mouth that we’ve ever heard or thought. Even Sara would recognize how beyond me John was when I was writing for him. When she would get home, she would make the observation that I’d been working on that book again. When I asked how she knew, she would respond, “Because you’re always a better person when you’ve spent the afternoon with John.” It was our little joke, but she was right. Writing for John was aspirational.
Who doesn’t want to be a voice that opens a door in the heart for those who are endeavoring to discover what is true about God? Who wouldn’t want to be the cheerleader rooting on those who are about to give up in the misery of a difficult life? Who wouldn’t want to be a friend who can help others recognize the fingerprints of God in their heart? I hope many of us.
Yes, in the early days we want a John who can help us recognize how Father makes himself known to us. As we grow, however, we can become that John for others. We need so many people who can help others learn to recognize God at work in them. We do that by asking God to give us away to those who want to know him, by looking for those who are struggling in their faith and befriending them, by walking with God, not just for the wisdom we need, but for the wisdom others might need as well.
It’s a noble aspiration—to find God with increasing fullness and to help others find him too.
I will spend the next two weeks in Europe helping people explore living loved. I’ll be in Norway, Italy (Pescara), and Switzerland (first near Zurich and finishing up near Geneva). Before I go, I want to leave you with this little gift.
Before I go, I got an email the other day from someone who searched me out on Facebook, not even sure I was the author of He Loves Me. Her effort and her words deeply touched my heart. I am continually amazed at how this little book finds its way in the world even after almost 20 years since its first publication. She wrote:
I wanted to ask if you were the author of a book I read some years back—He Loves Me. If you are the author may I take a moment to thank you deeply from my heart. As I turned the pages of that dear book I could feel the love of God pour out into my broken heart. I read it slowly, as I never wanted it to end. It helped me believe that God really does love me, so much more than I could imagine!
I have bought so many copies through the years to bless other broken ones with it. God bless and keep you. Thank you again…I hope I have the right name but if not may Gods blessings be upon you as well!
Monday, I was on the phone to a good friend and he told me his wife was finally reading He Loves Me for the first time. He said she was just being blown away by it. She said the illustration of plucking daisy petals in the first chapter was so on point with the way she was brought up, always believing that her circumstances were the proof of how God felt about her each day. I get it. I had some of that, too.
On Tuesday as I was preparing this blog, someone posted this on an old post on my Facebook page:
Currently, I am listening to He Loves Me chapter 16 on audio. You might recall, I came out from the cult led by Herbert W. Armstrong. I have your paperback, underlined, well marked and highlighted, six years ago. Just downloaded it from Audible and now the “Ah hah” moments are all over the “pages” and I am seeing what I didn’t know was there. Having been indoctrinated with old covenant law, I could not get it. Now it is delivering me. I became so very burned out by my lack of awareness of my own freedom to choose what my own heart contained. So much pain in deception. Thank you, Sara and Wayne.
I’ve often said, this is the most significant book I’ll ever write because these are still the most important lessons I’ve learned on this journey. Many tell me they had a hard time picking it up for a long time, thinking they already knew about God’s love. When they finally read it, however, they are surprised by what was in those pages and how much it helped them find freedom in his love. There is a huge chasm between understanding the theology of God’s love and actually living loved in the broken Creation.
So, if you haven’t read the book yet or even if you haven’t read it for a while, here’s the first chapter for your reflection:
Chapter 1Daisy-Petal Christianity
THE LITTLE GIRL STANDS in the backyard chanting as she plucks petals one by one from the daisy and drops them to the ground. At game’s end, the last petal tells all; whether or not the person desired returns the affection.
Of course, no one takes it seriously, and if children don’t get the answer they desire they take another daisy and start again. It doesn’t take long even for children to realize that flowers weren’t designed to tell romantic fortunes. Why should they link their hearts’ desires to the fickleness of chance?
Why indeed! But it is a lesson far easier learned in romance than in more spiritual pursuits. For long after we’ve put away our daisies, many of us continue to play the game with God. This time we don’t pluck flower petals, but probe through our circumstances trying to figure out exactly how God feels about us.
I got a raise. He loves me!
I didn’t get the promotion I wanted and lost my job altogether. He loves me not!
Something in the Bible inspired me today. He loves me!
My child is seriously ill. He loves me not!
I gave money to someone in need. He loves me!
I let my anger get the best of me. He loves me not!
Something for which I prayed actually happened. He loves me!
I stretched the truth to get myself out of a tight spot. He loves me not!
A friend called me unexpectedly to encourage me. He loves me!
My car needs a new transmission. He loves me not!
A PERILOUS TIGHTROPE
I have played that game most of my life, trying to sort out in any given moment how God might feel about me personally. I grew up learning that he is a God of love, and for the most part I believed it to be true.
In good times, nothing is easier to believe. In days when my family is healthy and our relationships a joy; when my ministry thrive and both income and opportunity increases; when we have plenty of time to enjoy our friends and are not burdened down with need, who wouldn’t be certain of God’s love?
But that certainty erodes when those times of bliss are interrupted with more troublesome events
A childhood condition that provided no end of embarrassment.
The day one of my friends in high school died of a brain tumor even as we prayed earnestly for his healing.
When I wasn’t selected for a job I wanted in college because someone had lied about me.
The night my house was robbed.
When I was severely burned in a kitchen accident.
When I watched my father-in-law and my brother both die with debilitating illnesses even though they sought God earnestly for healing.
When colleagues in ministry lied to me and spread false stories about me to win the support of others.
When I didn’t know from where my next paycheck would come.
When I saw my wife crushed by circumstances that I couldn’t get God to change, no matter how hard I tried.
When doors of opportunity that appeared certain to open would suddenly slam shut like a wind-blown door.
Then I wondered how God really felt about me. I couldn’t understand how a God who loved me would either allow such things into my life or wouldn’t fix them immediately so that I or people I loved wouldn’t have to endure such pain.
He loves me not! Or so I thought on those days. My disappointment at God could easily turn two directions. Often in my pain and frustration, when I felt like I had done enough to deserve better, I would rail at God like the Job of old, accusing him of either being unfair or unloving. In more honest moments, however, I was well aware of the temptations and failures that could exclude me from his care. I would come out of those times committed to trying harder to live the life I thought would merit his love.
I lived for thirty four years as a believer on this perilous tightrope. Even when there was no crisis hanging over my head, I was always wary of the next one God might drop on me at any second if I couldn’t stay on his good side. In some ways I had become like the schizophrenic child of an abusive father, never certain what God I’d meet on any given day—the one who wanted to scoop me up in his arms with laughter, or the one who would ignore me or punish me for reasons I could never understand.
In the last twenty-five years I have discovered that my earlier methods of discerning God’s love were as flawed as pulling petals from a daisy. I haven’t been the same since.
What about you?
Have you ever felt tossed back and forth by circumstances occasionally certain, but mostly uncertain about how the Creator of the universe feels about you? Or perhaps you’ve never even known how much God loves you.
In a Bible study recently, I met a forty-year-old woman who was active in her fellowship but admitted to a small group of us that she had never been certain that God loved her. She seemed to want to tell me more, but finally only asked me to pray for her.
As I did, asking God to reveal just how much he loved her, an image came to mind. I saw a figure I knew to be Jesus walking through a meadow hand in hand with a little girl about five years old. Somehow I knew this woman was that little girl. I prayed that he would help her discover a childlikeness of spirit that would allow her to skip through the meadows with him.
When I finished praying I looked up at her eyes, brimming with tears.
“Did you say ‘meadow’?” she asked.
I nodded, thinking it odd she had focused on that word.
Immediately she began to cry. As she was able to speak, she said, “I wasn’t sure I wanted to tell you. When I was five years old I was molested in a meadow by an older boy. Whenever I think about God, I think about that horrible event and I wonder why, if he loved me so much, he didn’t stop that from happening.”
She’s not alone. Many people carry scars and disappointments that can appear to be convincing evidence that the God of love might not exist or, if he does, maintains a safe distance from them and leaves them to the whim of other people’s sins.
I don’t have a stock answer for moments like that, as if any could be effective in the midst of such pain. I told her that evidently God wanted her to know he had been there with her, and although he didn’t act in the only way she could understand true love to act, he loved her nonetheless. He wanted to walk her through that defiled meadow and redeem it in her life.
He wanted to give her a measure of joy in the face of the most traumatic event of her life and turn what had destroyed her ability to trust into a stepping stone toward grace. I know that can sound almost trite in the face of such incredible pain, but the process has begun for her. Eight months later I received an excited email from her telling me in 270 point type, “I get it!”
Does that mean she understands why it happened to her? Of course not. Nothing could explain that. But it does mean that God’s love was big enough to contain that horrible event and walk her out of it. It is my hope these words will encourage that process in you, as well.
PERCEPTION VERSUS REALITY
For truly God has never acted toward us in any way other than with a depth of love that defies human understanding. I know it may not look like that at times. When he seems to callously disregard our most noble prayers, our trust in him can be easily shattered and we wonder if he cares for us. We can even come up with a list of our own failures that can seemingly justify God’s indifference and beckon us into a dark whirlpool of self-loathing.
When we’re playing the he-loves-me-he-loves-me-not game, the evidence against God can appear overwhelming. For reasons we will probe throughout these pages, God does not often do the things we think his love would compel him to do for us. He often seems to stand by with indifference while we suffer. How often does he seem to disappoint our most noble expectations?
But perception is not necessarily reality. If we define God only in our limited interpretation of our own circumstances, we will never discover who he really is.
However, he has provided a far better way. Our daisy-petal approach to Christianity can be swallowed up by the undeniable proof of his love for us on the cross of Calvary. That’s the side of the cross that has all but been ignored in recent decades. We did not see what really happened there between the Father and his Son that opened the door to his love so vast and so certain that it cannot be challenged even by your darkest days.
Through that door we can really know who God is and embrace a relationship with him that the deepest part of our heart has hungered to experience. That is where we’ll begin, because it is only in the context of the relationship God desires with us that we can discover the full glory of his love.
He does love you more deeply than you’ve ever imagined; he has done so throughout your entire life. Once you embrace that truth, your troubles will never again drive you to question God’s affection for you or whether you’ve done enough to merit it. Instead of fearing he has turned his back on you, you will be able to trust his love at the moments you need him most. You will even see in the strangest ways how that love can flow out of you to touch a world starved for it.
Learning to trust him like that is not something any of us can resolve in an instant; it’s something we’ll grow to discover for the whole of our lives. God knows how difficult it is for us to accept his love, and he teaches us with more patience than we’ve ever known. Through every circumstance and in the most surprising ways, he makes his love known to us in ways we can understand.
So perhaps it’s time to toss your daisies aside and discover that it is not the fear of losing God’s love that will keep you on his path, but the simple joy of living in it every day.
On the day you discover that, you will truly begin to live!
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
The events that Christians from all over the world will celebrate this weekend were not only to redeem humanity but to prove God’s unrelenting love to win our hearts into a relationship with him. It’s a recurrent theme on this blog and on my podcast at The God Journey. I want to call your attention today to one of those, podcast #671, called Letting Him Win You. I have had a number of people over the last month tell me that the last seven minutes of that podcast were transformative for them as Brad and I talked about God winning us into his love.
And that’s not just something he did 2,000 years ago, it’s what he is doing with you today. He is at work in and around you to win you into the reality that you are a beloved son or daughter of a gracious Father. How can you recognize that, and how can you embrace him? That’s what these seven minutes are about. You can listen to it below, or read an adaptation of those comments that follow.
We often draw the worst of our human conclusions from misinterpreted Scripture. We often hear that God has done everything for our salvation, and now it’s up to us to do the best we can. We already have the truth; we just have to work it.
However, unless God wins us into his love and wins us into his trust, we will not be able to follow him on this journey. Of course, we’re involved. If you’re not won to love and trust, you will plan and plot. You just will. Fear will do that and you’ll be anxious in unresolved situations.
To be won into trusting him, we have to be willing to be won. That’s what lies at the heart of repentance. It’s not groveling in shame, but rather abandoning our agenda and desires for what we want out of life. As long as you know how you want your life to come out and how you want any circumstance to be resolved, this road will be difficult. Instead, you’ll give God ultimatums: “If you don’t do what I want, I’m going to doubt you exist.” You’ll miss his heart for you because you’re not getting your own way.
That’s what repentance is so crucial. Don’t think of it as saying, “I’m so sorry. I’m such a horrible, lousy sinner. and I’ll never do it again” That’s not repentance. Repentance says, “I’m going to abandon my agenda and embrace yours.” I’m not going to trust my human conclusions about what God would do if he loved me. Those who do have a hard time believing they are loved.
But it’s not just releasing our agenda for the future there is also an element of releasing our disappointed expectations from our past. Why didn’t heal my child, or protect them when I asked? Why didn’t you save my marriage, or job, or some relationship we valued? Those are relationship killers. If I’m holding him to account as if he does not love me, how can I recognize his love when it comes? When Job comes to the end of his calamities, he realizes how much he misunderstood God’s work in all his sufferings. “Things too wonderful for me to understand.”
An ongoing heart of repentance provides the space that will allow him to win us into love and trust. Come to discover how much he loves you and your trust in him will grow alongside it. That’s why I encourage people all the time to pray this prayer: “Father if you love me in the way Wayne says you do, would you show that to me?” Pray that, not just for a day or week, but let it be the cry of your heart for a year or two. Keep it before him and watch how he makes himself known.
As he teaches you about his love, recognize where anxiety or fear crowds him out. I don’t mind at such moments inviting him into my struggle, “Father I’m not trusting you here. I want to. Help me.” I still have moments like those. I don’t have a complete trust in God that fits every circumstance that confronts me. But I know what to do panic and anxiety try to set in. That’s where I get to lay down and say, “Okay God, what is it about you that I don’t know that if I knew it, I trust you here?”
If Eve could have prayed that in the garden, if she could have said, “God, I don’t trust you here. I want to grab this fruit and get there myself. What is it about your love that I don’t know that would keep me safe here?”
If she knew how completely loved by God she was, the enemy’s voice would have had no weight. It isn’t even about how much she loved God but simply knowing how much he loved her. If she genuinely knew that there would be no temptation. She would not have even wasting a second wondering if her God would withhold anything good from her.
So if you’re hungry to know God and embrace his way of living, maybe this is where you can begin. Let him win you into love and win you into trusting him. It isn’t easy to discover God’s love living in a broken world where so much of his will is thwarted by human greed and indulgence. He knows how huge it is to win us into that love and yet he’s up to the challenge. He really can bring us out of our pain, disappointment, and hurt and show us how loved we are even when we’re going to be disappointed and hurt again. But now we know we are not alone.
We weren’t alone the first time, either; we just thought we were.
My last blog offered my thanks for the incredible outpouring of support for people in Pokot. After I posted it, I got this new information from them. The map above will help you understand some of the details here. The drought and starvation are going on across the entire top of Kenya from Wajir to West Pokot. Our efforts are in the northern area of West Pokot, and the people we work with from Global Hope are based in Isiolo to the east.
This is from Michael Wafula, who is the President of IGEM (International Gospel Equipping Ministry), and the overseer of our efforts in Kenya. This is his report.
We were the only pioneers in this place when we started going to Pokot twenty-five years ago. Then, the people were nomadic as they had been for thousands of years, moving one place to another searching for food and green pasture with a lot of suffering due to disease and starvation.
Historically there is little water in this region, many using urine from cows, milk, and blood from animals for drinking. They depended on the River Suam, which is almost 5 days walk. People came with their cattle from different parts all over the region. On the way, some of the animals would die, and even when they reached the river, it often took three days to get their animals a drink due to congestion. Because of this hardship, the Moran (youths) would raid their neighbors in the Turkana, Karamojong, and Bariongo regions to steal their cattle. Security was nonexistent, and it was considered a danger zone. There was no communication, no roads or anything else so the government could not be involved. These people lived on their own life, believing in their god of the mountain.
We want to give God all Glory, Honor, and praise. He is a loving Father who covers the multitudes of our sin. When I compare the provision which God has provided for more than seven years of touching the lives of this people and transforming the villages and the community, I know this is the fulfillment of Isaiah 43:18-21 for them:
Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise.
Now, we are seeing the tremendous wonders of God in this place. Roads are being constructed, and pathways in the bush created. We are now able to interact with people who were not able to communicate with this. This is the mighty work of the Lord.
Due to the wells you helped us drill, water is available and the mastered seeds you helped us give out, are growing new crops. For the first time in their history, they are learning to do agriculture, to produce their own food. Though there might not be enough to feed everybody yet, no one is dying in those villages where we are currently working. No cattle will die for lack of water. The people no longer need to migrate.
I saw these people are reaching their Canaan, and the days are coming where food and water will not be the problem. This is a rescue, and it is but for a short moment. This is a horrible year all over the area. Millions of people are starving countrywide, even in Kitale where we live. It is planting season now, but nobody has planted because there is no rain. Those who planted last month have watched their crops wither. This lack of rain extends all over East and Central Africa to lack rain. It has never happened before, so pray with us. We don’t know what is taking place and what could happen tomorrow.
We thank God for our president and the government of Kenya who have tried their level best to donate relief and water to the affected people but remember the need here is overwhelming. More than were counties were affected. UN, Red Cross, churches, and individuals have been forced to be involved in helping the situation where they can. We have tried to ask those organizations for help, but their answer is for us to do what you can to help since they have nothing to spare.
Our work here is just a compassionate heart to the community. We didn’t know that other tribe would hear and come to interrupt what we have already planned. The reason I have stayed in the area is because of the pain we were feeling, and we just wanted to cook for them and share the gospel of Christ, helping them feel happy even if they are hungry.
Your help along with the team has saved the lives of many people.
This is what the money you’ve sent us, has done for a forgotten people. I hope you sense God’s joy at your being part of this work of grace and salvation that he is doing. Over two million dollars to date have been spent on behalf of these people in Pokot, and other needs further south in the Kitale region to help with widows and orhans.
Obviously, we have not heard the last of this need, and the food we provided will only last for two months. We continue to send more every month than we receive in contributions. Your help is appreciated more than you know. All contributions are tax-deductible in the US. And, as always, every dollar you send goes to the need in Kenya. We do not (nor do they) take out any administrative or money transfer fees. Please see our Donation Page at Lifestream. You can either donate with a credit card there, or you can mail a check to Lifestream Ministries • 1560 Newbury Rd Ste 1 • Newbury Park, CA 91320. Or if you prefer, we can take your donation over the phone at (805) 498-7774.