A Conversation with Wayne Jacobsen about Living Loved and the nature community in the new creation
The Hot List
1560-1 Newbury Rd #313
Newbury Park, CA 91320
Phone: (805) 498-7774
Fax: (805) 499-5975
For those of you concerned about the process for getting my new book out, Finding Church is at the printers now and we working on getting e-books made and available. We are ramping up for our October 15 release date at it looks like everything is coming together to make that a reliable date. Having lived inside this book for the past twenty years, and writing it over the past twelve months, I'm very excited to get this out and am hopeful it will inspire a conversation among a vast spectrum of people who want to see the church of Jesus' new creation as a relational reality, rather than an institution we are meant to build and maintain on his behalf.
I am enjoying the feedback I'm getting on this book from those who have had a chance for an advance reading. It assures me that the points I hoped to make are being made, and that people are finding a different way to view and participate in the church Jesus is building. Believe it or not, the first review for Finding Church came out yesterday. Yes, it is a bit early, but for those interested the book is now available for pre-order at Lifestream and at Amazon. I'll post links to e-books when they become available. All that will release on October 15.
We are also developing a new website at FindingChurch.com, that we hope to open next week with an advance peak at the first five chapters in a PDF download. I'll announce that here when we do. All this is taking a lot of time, which is why I'm not posting too many blogs yet. But don't worry, I have a backlog of things I want to share with you in my blog.
Here are some other things people are saying about Finding Church:
There is no slow bleed; the mass exodus from local congregations is a stubborn fact. So why is Wayne Jacobsen so hopeful? Because dispersion and isolation need not be the endgame. Jacobsen is finding church—the fully functioning family of Christ that transcends institutions—networking everywhere. I would especially invite Jesus-loving ex-churchgoers to borrow his eyes so they might share his hope.
BRAD JERSAK, Ph.D., author of Can You Hear Me?
Finding Church is a riveting and challenging read that prompts its readers to seriously reconsider the definition of church. With courage and compassion, Jacobsen states what millions of Christians intuitively know but can’t admit, while sharing his passion for a church that every believer craves.
DEREK WILDER, author of Freedom
Life Transforming Group, Andersonville, IN
For that endless stream of people I meet who love God but either cannot bring themselves to re-enter the institutional church world or who are feeling great pain from abuses they cannot understand at the hands of leaders who subverted what we call church, Wayne Jacobsen’s book will be a great encouragement. Without overlaying a new structure, he reminds us that living for and with God is far simpler than we ever imagined and that God still knows our address. Rare is the invitation to relax in God’s love and love others, and it is enough.
GAYLE ERWIN, author of The Jesus Style
Cathedral City, CA
In Finding Church, my friend Wayne Jacobsen offers Christ’s way to a home for those who have searched for it congregation to congregation all their lives. The answers he offers come long after he has learned to live it and they are as free and freeing as the Gospel itself!
JOHN LYNCH, co-author of Bo’s Café and The Cure
I'm in Lake Tahoe at the moment at a missions school for young people interested in discipleship and mission. We've had a good time talking about the difference between what is real in Christ and what is an illusion of religion. We seemed to jump into the deep end of the pool on the first day about leadership, why so many have been hurt by it in the past, and what it really means to facilitate expressions of community rather than manage institutions that serve our own vision and help destroy people in the process. That wasn't my choice, it was theirs! It seems so much of what we are religiously encouraged to do, even to seek supernatural manifestations can so easily be a distraction to simply learning how to live in the love of the Father and let him lead them into his fullness his way. We seem to think we can control our life in him by our passion, commitment, or hard work. I remember it well in my own life. It's perhaps the worst thing religion does to us, giving us the illusion that we can "get" from God, instead of learning to respond to what God is giving to us. I have so enjoyed God bringing me into the peace of the latter, and honestly I see far more genuine miracles flowing from that than a lot of the self-generated hocus pocus of my fervent trying-to-earn it younger days! Far more!
I know it's been awhile since I've posted here encouraging thoughts for the journey. Honestly I think I'll get back to that after the book stuff settles down. We are busy proofing all the final bits of the cover and inside pages and getting it to the printer on time. We are also developing a website at findingchurch.com (No, there is nothing there yet) to help further the conversation and help people find connections. Sara has also been overrun with pre-orders for the book, which have been huge. It has already been picked up by a publisher in Germany and they have begun translation, as have others for a French version. I'm a bit surprised by that, but am so grateful people want to take a look at how Jesus is building his church and how it differs from the way humanity tries to build one for him, and ends up getting sidetracked into conformity-based dynamics that undermine their attempts to build real community. It's the classic case of subverting your goal by the very tactics you employ.
Almost always when I finish a book, I'm so worn out by the process I don't even want to think about writing another one. I thought that would be true this time, but it isn't. Almost as soon as I finished this book, a novel, whose story I've been contemplating for years has surfaced front and center in my mind. I'm so excited to start on it, which I find incredibly strange. I won't torture you with the scope, theme, or title of it yet, but it looks like the writing will continue for a while.
And finally, it looks like I'll be returning to the road again this fall. It has seemed to please the Spirit to schedule a number of trips over the next few months. If you live near any of these and want to join in, you can get details on my Travel Page. Here's the schedule as it is clarifying now:
- Bakersfield, CA - September 20
- Lexington, KY - October 3-7
- Millersburg, OH - October 8-12
- Houston, TX - October 31- November 3
- San Antonio, TX - November 3-6
- Corpus Christi, TX - November 7-9
- Newbury Park, CA - November 22: Sara and I will be hosting a gathering in our home for people in the Greater Southern California area who want to connect with us and others.
- I'm also scheduled to be in Barcelona, Spain, June 27-28 and the south of France from June 29 - July 8, though details are not certain yet.
For those who would like to be notified when I’m coming to your area you can sign up for Travel Notifications on my website.
Finding Church is now headed for production. I have lived inside this book for more than a year. Every waking moment it is not far from my conciousness and so many conversations over the last year played into its development. Today I'm finally handing off the manuscript to the production folks, after all the editing and massaging I can do. It's always a weird feeling. I have no idea at this point what to change, but as these things go when I read it in a few months I'll think, "Wow, I wish I'd said this a bit differently." Or, "I wish I'd included that." But books are always a snapshot in time and hopefully they become part of a larger conversation where we all continue to grow in our appreciation for and our participation in the church Jesus is building in the earth.
And thanks to so many of you, hundreds literally, who contributed your thoughts about the cover art. I know it was risky in that people might get married to one cover or another, but I wanted some input because I was unsettled about it. I realize all who contributed were at a giant disadvantage not having a clue what's in the manuscript. The geese cover I have had since last November and I loved it. It was a safe cover, but also a bit stereotypical. In the end, however, I don't think it expressed well what's inside the book. Though I've use the geese analogy often, it doesn't play into this book at all. This is about looking at the church in an entirely different way—not as an institution that man can contrive, but as a reality inside the new creation Jesus launched at his resurrection and into which he invites us all.
It makes itself known in the conversations, connections, and collaborations he gives us with others who are also embracing a different way to live in that new creation. Rather than having to manage our competing appetites of the flesh, we get to see what relationships become when Jesus is at the center of them and we are learning to live in his affection with grace and generosity instead of fighting for our own preferences. It creates the potential for a new community, but one no one can regulate. It is demonstrated in the relationships that grow out of our freedom in him and that makes for some interesting possibilities.
In the end, this is the cover design I landed on. I realize not every one will like it, especially if you had another preference, but it is art and it is subjective. More than you know your comments in Facebook postings and email helped shape my journey here. I was less concerned what cover people were voting for as to what they were saying about them. What I love about this cover is the mystery of seeing seemingly divergent threads be spun together by an unseen breath. I love the colors that speak of a rich diversity that is beginning to be spun into a common unity. The cover, however, is just a curiosity, not a piece of art people have to hang on their walls. I think what will draw people to this book is the title and tag line. As one many told me after reading the first chapter, "Anyone who has ever sat through a Sunday morning service has had that same reaction. There must be something more than this?"
I trust God to take this book as far as he wants it to go, whether it is to comfort a few dozen people, or find its way into a larger conversation about how we experience the life of his church and why our institutional arrangements can never sustain or maintain a reality that transends them.
Our publication date for the completed book is October 15 and will retail for $11.99. We are now taking pre-orders for the printed version of this book and you can do so here. The books will ship on or before October 15. About that time we will also be releasing the book in e-book formats as well that will retail for $7.99. An audio book will come later this fall when we can get it done. Also around October 15 we'll be making books available in quantity discounts for those that want to order by the case. Please let us have some time to sort that all out.
I'll be reading Chapter Two on tomorrow's podcast since so many of you have asked. Here's what some people are saying about this book:
This might just be the holy fire needed to inspire a generation of believers worn out by the unfulfilled potential of the Church—the kindling needed for the family of God in the 21st century.
From the Foreword by Stephanie Bennett, Ph.D.
I am amazed at the magnificence of God's timing that would allow Sara and I to spend a month with my father after the passing of my mom. It not only allowed us to help him with all the details of her passing, planning her celebration, and dealing with the endless paperwork, but also allowed some amazing fellowship with him as his life gets rearranged. Today we have to head for home and it will not be easy. We have enjoyed this season and God's timing. (For those that wanted to see the video commemorating my mom's life that I referred to in my last blog, you can view it here.)
It actualliy seemed like months ago when we arrived. I had two weeks to finish Finding Church when I arrived amidst everything else going on and was able to get it ready to send to the copy editor. When I get home I'll be working to finalize the cover and finish all the copy so we can get it to the printer. I've sent it to a number of people to get their reviews of it and am excited about the feedback I've been getting. As we get closer to publication, I will also be sending out copies to those who would like to do reviews on their blogs or an interview on their podcasts about the book. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks we'll be able to open up pre-orders for the book. We are hoping for books by September 20, but will probably aim for an October 15 release date.
I've been glad to have that out of my head for a couple of weeks of celebrating my mom with family and friends that came in from every season of my parents' lives. I also have a lot of connections in this area having lived in the Central Valley of California for 47 years, so that means we get to catch-up with old friends, help encourage people on this amazing journey of learning to live in his love and love others in the same way. We even had an all-day Saturday gathering in Clovis to explore that life and many other personal encounters.
All and all this has been an amazing month. I'm not sure I got all the rest in that I hoped for, or all the books read that I wanted to, but I have a sense that we did what pleased Jesus. It will be good to get back home and get back to a more consistent routine, which will include trips this fall to Lake Tahoe, Bakersfield, CA, Lexington, KY, northeast Ohio, and south Texas. I look forward to those engagements and whatever else God chooses to unfold. Blessings to you all!
Thank you for all the comments, emails, and cards expressing your love and concern for our family in this season. It is all much appreciated. Many want to know how we are doing, so I thought I’d let you know. Surprisingly we are doing well. There’s plenty of sorrow, certainly, but in it there is a deep peace knowing this was her time and that here life was a full and fruitful one, and yes, full of challenges and pain as well. She was a great part of this family and is missed greatly. My mom lived a long and fruitful life and her legacy is her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. She always put family first and cared for us all as deeply as one can care.
Mom died almost three weeks ago now and the reality is setting in more and more, especially with our grandchildren who are sorting through the reality of death. Her celebration service is this weekend, over three weeks since her passing and that has not been easy to wait so long but we had to leave time for friends and relatives to get here. We’ve also been helping dad with all the paperwork and arrangements that have to be done. The last six months was an incredible journey for both of them that drew them more deeply to a dependence on Father than they’d ever known. Those days were so sweet, even in the conditions they endured that he is at rest. His prayer a few years ago when he almost died following surgery that he would outlive her so that he could help her through whatever challenges she faced. It’s not easy to watch him go on alone now, but he is most certain that God is having his way in all these things.
Though Mom helped Dad on the vineyard, she was the consummate homemaker with a safe and nurturing environment for her children. She loved us and our families well and would do anything to help us along in our adult years as well. With an open heart and an open home she also found time to be a “mom” to hundreds of other young men and women who have written me with gracious words of the influence my mom had on their lives in the counsel and prayers she shared with them.
Saying good-bye in this age is not easy, but it is joyously without regrets. A few years ago God laid it Sara and my hearts to spend more time with them in these declining years and we’ve done that with them and will continue to with Dad. Everything that needed to be said got said and letting her go into the Age to Come was incredibly graced with God’s presence, direction, and transformation for both Mom and Dad. We will celebrate her life this weekend with lots of people from all across their path. Yes, it will be sad, but grief is not something I fear when God is in it. The tears only express the love and it is as much a part of life as the laughter of better times. My brother has just completed a video celebrating her life and our family. I’ll post a link to it next week for those who can’t make the service and would like to see it. (Link to video here.) For our Central Valley friends, here is her obituary if you missed it on my Facebook page last week:
Joanne “Jo” C. Jacobsen, beloved wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother quietly passed away on Friday, July 25 in Auberry, CA with her husband at her side.
Born on April 9, 1930, in Selma California, Jo graduated from Selma High School in 1947 and was married shortly thereafter to Eugene Jacobsen. They enjoyed sixty-six years together that included rearing their four sons and working the grape vineyard where they lived south of Selma. A passionate follower of Jesus, she was active in the church congregations she attended and with community activities such as cub scouts and PTA.
She is survived by three of her sons and their wives, Bruce and Susan Jacobsen of Fresno, CA, Wayne and Sara Jacobsen of Newbury Park, CA and Clay and Cindy Jacobsen of Camarillo, CA. Her eldest son, Rod, passed away in 1999 and is survived by his widow, Kathy Jacobsen of Hayden, ID. Her surviving sister, Ranella Kindlund, lives in Kingston , GA.
She delighted in her children, and their families with nine grandchildren and eleven great grandchildren. She worked with her husband on the vineyard and hosted numerous parties and gatherings on the ranch. She enjoyed hand-crafting and quilting and her countless cookies, pies, and cakes were greatly appreciated by friends and family. Her wedding cakes graced many a young couples wedding in the area.
In 1993 they sold the vineyard and retired to Shaver Lake, CA, where they relished their later years with family, close friends and active involvement in the Church of Shaver Lake where Jo played piano for the worship team.
Services will be held on August 16 at 1:30 pm at the Chapel at Shaver Lake, CA. (41340 Tollhouse Rd) Please dress casually. Remembrances can be sent to the Benevolence Fund for the Church at Shaver Lake (PO Box 601, Shaver Lake, CA 93664), which will be used to purchase equipment for the Wish-I-Ah Care Center were Jo spent the last five months of her life.
Late yesterday afternoon I sent Finding Church to my editor. I have been inside this manuscript since last August and it is always a funny feeling to send it off. Now I can’t touch it for the next two weeks and it couldn't have come at a better time. Afterwards Sara and I began our two-week vacation by going out on the lake with my daughter Julie and her three kids to watch a beautiful sunset develop in the west and the super moon rise in the east. What a special, quiet, and awe-inspiring time.
So I woke up this morning without that book in my head for the first time in a year. I began it up here a year ago and it has been quite a journey getting all my thoughts down about Jesus' church in one place. I know there's still some tweaking ahead, but we are on the home stretch to finally get it out to others. I hope it will spawn a great discussion about what the church really is and how people engage her with freedom and joy.
We have not yet made a final decision on the cover, but have appreciated all the help so many of you gave us. I probably received over 400 comments and emails with opinions that were all over the map. It’s amazing how passionate people can be for their favorite idea and how anguished they can be over ones they didn't like. It was a real study in diversity and how personal preferences are not a matter of right or wrong. And you were all at a disadvantage because you hadn't read the book yet to even know what's inside. We weren’t taking a poll anyway, just trying to get some feedback to help guide our thinking. We got that and more. In the end it will come down to what my artist and I both think best represents the content of this book. We’re getting close now and hopefully will announce the cover in the next week or so. It may be one of those three, or another idea we've been exploring of late. We never thought we could make everyone happy, and after all it’s only a book cover anyway, not an art piece for the Louvre.
Sara and I are with my father and we’re going to take a couple of weeks off to enjoy our kids, grandkids, and lots of friends and relatives that will be gathering next weekend for my mom’s celebration. I’m looking forward to seeing lots of people that have shared life with this family for generations.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone dig a toilet in the hot sun for his friend.”
No, that’s not how the Scripture reads, but it is true enough! This is way above washing dirty feet, that’s for sure. And way above helping a friend move. The outpouring of love from the Kenyans in Katale for the Keyans in West Pokot has astounded me. Yes, many of you have provided the means for them to do it, but they have gone and done the hard work of digging foundations, pouring cement, building the walls, and now finishing the school and the dispensary. If you’ve missed the earlier part of this story, you can catch up here.
The work is almost done. Three wells are up and running and the school and dispensary are almost complete. The work continues as does the need. I received this report from Michael yesterday:
Dear brother Wayne, greetings in the most powerful name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, thank you very much for your support. This project has changed the image of this region, and people now can understand about God.
The greatest support is about water, hospital and the school. These were the three major needs for this wonderful people. I have spent a long time there with the engineer and some volunteers who remain to see that every dollar goes to the right materials. Every project is in the process of being completed soon.
I cannot even explain the great love beyond the boundary and the great investment which you have invested towards our people, may God receive all Glory, the honor and praise. It is true we are overwhelmed by the need here. We cannot take you as a source of solving our problems, but keenly through the conviction of the Holy Spirit may give us the help we need. In this region many people have more affected with hunger, which I cannot even tell and sometimes we meet people they look like skeleton. Your greatest help among all, is to help them to get water and we have heard, the songs from their tradition language praising for God for heaven who has make all of these for them to get water, their family and animals. It was a great gift to save the life of thousands across this region.
This is amazing grace; the people in this community were happy and rejoicing. Every evening you can hear young men making a circle jumping and dancing praising God who has answered their prayers for all this generation. Old women and men in the community were sitting under the big tree talking about the miracle that God has done.
Recently I was visited by four representatives of the community who walked very long distance during our first visit outreach. You remember that you contributed additional food for this community. They came with a request to have a well drilled for them, which their community can share. They live a very long distance from the other wells. I feel strongly in my heart that God one day will hear their cry and provide for them.
I know the need of wells is so great and we cannot satisfied every community, but we can give what the Lord has given us, for some whom God may lead. The extra money you sent for the well company to repair their damaged truck has melted their hearts and they promised us that if we needed to add another well they would do it for only $29,000 no matter if it needs to be deeper than the expected. They will do it for God’s glory.
About outpatient services, we need now to start the process of getting licenses, so that we may be given assurance of start up the dispensary soon. I think we send it to you the amount; we have book some appointment with the health department at the end of this week. After that, then we will evaluate the doctor and two nurses.
Here are a few pictures from the completion of the dispensary:
Digging the latrine for the dispensary
The dispensary nears completion
The flooring is poured inside and out and the electrical has been installed. Inspectors arrive this week to work out licensing and supply.
So, what’s next? We are praying with them about God’s provision for another well at $29,000.00. This group of people are too far away to utilize the three previous wells.
From the beginning God has convicted me that while we can help as he leads he did not want the people in Kenya to become dependent on the West, but to look to God as their provider. That’s why we’ve not only tried to help, but we’re also trying to find ways to create enterprises whose profit can meet the ongoing costs of the orphanage, dispensary and schools. This has not been easy, but it is important that they have the opportunity
The petrol station we built last year was part of that. Unfortunately its profits only cover about two thirds of the orphanage and education of the children.
So I have asked them to look for another enterprise to make up the difference. They may have landed on something now that would not only provide the balance for the orphanage but also the dispensary and schools in North Pokot. They want to set up a distributorship for grain, buying it during the harvest, and dispensing it in the months that follow. Their projection is that for a $14,000 investment they will be able to set up this business, employ locals to run it and make enough money each month to handle the ongoing needs both in their region and in North Pokot. At the same time they will be able to help make food available in the communities where they live. We are still sorting through the numbers on this venture to see if they add up, but this might be the answer to a lot of prayer.
If God has put it on your heart to help with these needs, you can direct it through Lifestream. Contributions are tax-deductible in the US. 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. If you would like to be part of this to support these brothers and sisters and see the gospel grow in this part of Africa, please see our Sharing With the World page. 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.
In the home stretch now to finishing my new book. At the moment we're playing with the cover. We've been using the one in the thumbnail at left as we've been going through this process, but now some other ideas have emerged. The problem is I like them all! Good problem to have I guess. But I wanted to get some input from others on this. We are looking for a cover that expresses the heart of the book, but at the same time catches someone's eye. It needs to be provocative and intriguing to draw people into an amazing story of how his church is finding expression in the world.
To help, here are some excerpts that get to the heart of the book's message:
Now I know that this new creation could never be contained in a human organization. She may exist alongside it, but she transcends it in the same way Jesus transcends the old creation.
The church Jesus builds is a family living in the growing reality of his affection. That’s why Jesus said he would build his church because we are not capable of doing so and our attempts have always distorted her image and hurt others in the process in spite of whatever good they have done. Jesus established his church by inaugurating a new creation of men and women who would live beyond the human conventions of society. It can only be expressed in the interaction of lives he is transforming.
His church does not arise from the old creation and thus will defy all our attempts to contain it or manage it. His church is a reality we recognize as our relationship with him grows. Our task was never to build it, but only to give ourselves to the new creation and watch as his church takes shape around us as he links our lives with others. We don’t have to name it or try to control it, but simply cooperate with her as long as she takes expression around us. When it served its purpose we can let go of that expression to see what he will do next. The relationships endure, not necessarily the task or the program that gave it shape.
There is more in the Gospels to commend this view of church than anything that points us to the religious systems we have created instead. Jesus was quite clear about the nature of his church, we just missed it because we never considered that he told us everything he wanted us to know about the church.
So which cover below most appeals to you and why? Comment here or on Facebook if you'd like. I know opinions will vary, and I can't promise we'll select your first choice, but the interchange will be extremely helpful to me. Thanks to all who contribute.
All three covers were designed by Dave Aldrich at Aldrich Design
I've got some new pictures to share with you from our friends in Kenya and some news to pass on. The wells in North Pokot have been completed and are fully functional. The schoolrooms and pharmacy superstructure is complete and they have begun finish work inside. The people there are so grateful to the volunteers from IGEM and to those who have contributed money toward their need. Over the last few months your generosity has placed almost a quarter of a million dollars and countless hours of volunteer work into their impoverished tribal lands of 120,000 people. If you missed the story of how all that happened you can read it here.
The needs, of course, continue to finish the rooms, equip them, and help support the staff who will help with education and medical needs. There is some talk now about expanding the dispensary into a small field hospital to treat those who have no place else to go. We are currently working that through channels to see if that is a possibility. I know we cannot meet every need in Kenya so I'm trying to remain sensitive as to what God has asked of me and what I have to say no too. Coming from a wealthy country those lines are not easy to find. My heart goes out to people who have so little when we enjoy so much in this country. My prayer every day is that God will give us wisdom in all of this and that their depence will grow on him not on Lifestream or The God Journey. This isn't easy!
Also, Im wrote previously about a pharmicist from Australia who has taken a personal interest in this project. Her name is Rashida Cottrell and not only is their family sharing in the need there, but she is also going to be competing in a Tough Mudder run as an incentive for others to give as well. This is a great story of passion and support. You can get more details here or you can Rashida her for more information. If you'd like to support her efforts and you're from Australia you can do so and get a donation receipt. If you're in the US and want to support her you can give to Lifestream in her name and we'll forward the funds on to Kenya and let her know that you helped her.
I find myself both overwhelmed with gratitude at the generosity of so many of you and by the ongoing need in that corner of the world. Who knew that God could open a door for my connections on the web for just such a time as this for people who are in such great need. Your prayers are most welcome for the people in IGEM and those in North Pokot. If you can and want to help financially you can direct it through Lifestream as contributions are tax-deductible in the US. 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. If you would like to be part of this to support these brothers and sisters and see the gospel grow in this part of Africa, please see our Sharing With the World 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.
Here are the new pictures:
The work on the dispensary continues
With grateful hearts the people of North Pokot say good bye to the well drillers.
The water flows freely in North Pokot
The volunteers who built the schoolrooms and dispensary arrive back in Kitale
For a farmer there is nothing like the firstfruits of summer. In a vineyard, that’s when the grapes are turning ripe enough to enjoy. I was out in my four-vine vineyard this morning and looked among the leaves and the picture below is what I found! The first bunches are turning ripe and what a sweet treat it is to bite into the first grapes of summer and know that all the pruning, weeding, and nurturing have accomplished their work.
It’s a good thing a vine is bright enough not to judge its fruitfulness in winter, or even spring. It could throw quite a pity party when its branches don’t even have any leaves, or the bunches of grapes are small and hard. Fruitfulness is a process, not only for a grapevine, but for us. I wrote the book In Season: The Father’s Process of Fruitfulness to encourage people to get their eyes off of the results and embrace the process by which God invites us into himself and reshapes our lives so that the sweetness of his light and power can be shared with the world. We so easily grow impatient, don’t we? We judge ourselves by the fruit we think we should have by now and miss enjoying him while he’s shaping that fruit through the pruning of winter and the nurturing of spring.
For those who want to embrace that process in your own life, have made In Season our Featured Book of the Month, and reduced the cost to $9.99 plus shipping for as many books as you want to order this month. You can find it here.
You can also find quantity discount pricing for In Season and other Lifestream titles if you want to use one of them for a study this summer or fall.
Here is the chapter this morning's walk in the garden reminded me of. It's one of my favorites, demonstrating that our growth in his kingdom will make us softer and sweeter, and that's what will make us fruitful in our relationships with others.
Softer and Sweeter
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest
for your souls.
In the last few weeks before harvest the grapes ripen rapidly. Two dramatic changes take place in these final weeks to make them the succulent grapes the farmer desires.
By early August the grapes have grown almost to full size. But if you pick one and bite into it then, you’ll be greatly disappointed. The grapes are still hard, and tart enough to pucker your lips. It is during these final weeks before harvest that the grapes fill up with sugar, making them soft and sweet.
The leaves are in full production at this time, pumping the grape bunches full of sugar. Almost daily you can taste the changing sweetness as the sugar content soars. This influx of sugar also softens the pulp inside the grape. As you bite through the firm outer skin, you’ll find the pulp has softened inside so it almost explodes in your mouth.
When the grapes turn soft and sweet, harvest is at hand. Today with special instruments farmers can measure the sugar content and know exactly when the grapes are fully ripe. Farmers of old, however, trusted their eyes and taste buds to tell them the same thing. Softer and sweeter. The same things that signal the maturity of a grape also signal the maturity of a believer. As God brings his promises to completion in our lives, one of the signs that he is about finished is the softness and sweetness that floods our demeanor.
Earlier, in the midst of promise and warfare, we might find ourselves a bit harder, full of arrogance, fighting and striving in our own efforts to accomplish God’s work. But the perseverance of summer shows the weakness of our own efforts.
By learning to trust God’s doing more than our own we become softened with humility and gentleness and sweetened with lovingkindness. All of the fruits of the spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—are expressions of a life that has been through the fire and come through with greater trust in the Father’s affection and his work in the world.
However, these are not the attributes most desired or generated by the world system. If you want to make it in this world, you have to be tough. Don’t show any sign of weakness (meaning kindness or goodness) because someone is waiting to take advantage of you the moment you do. Those are the rules. Everyone who succeeds learns them early and follows them adamantly.
Everyone, that is, except Jesus. In every conflict he faced, through every lie directed against him by those who sought to destroy him, he only demonstrated these incredible fruits of the Spirit. His authority scared many people, even though he held no political power or ever enforced his will on anyone. He went about doing good, but this only threatened those who would not allow God access to their lives. “We’ve never seen anyone like this!” the people gasped as they looked for ways to kill him. Softness is not weakness; in God’s kingdom it is the greatest measure of strength.
All too often I’ve seen people loaded with knowledge and zeal but still captives of the world’s system. They are harsh and their words are judgmental. In their wake are a lot of offended people—not by the gospel—but by the way they’ve been treated. They want to be somebody. But as long as they want to be somebody their ministry will be polluted. Even in places where God has genuinely called them they are defensive and easily threatened, and they compensate for that with aggression and manipulation. Where they don’t succeed, they are frustrated and bitter at those they perceive as impeding on their ministries.
Those who have lived deeply in Jesus reflect the same humility and gentleness that Jesus did. They no longer advance their own agenda, angry when they don’t get what they think God has for them. They are not pushovers because they will resolutely stand in the truth, and they do so with a grace for others. They don’t threaten to leave and go somewhere else “where their gifts will be appreciated.” They easily express the compassion and care of Father to those around them. With simple love and concern they are able to help people engage God. They know that God opens doors and shuts them, and when he does, no man stands in his way. They are content with their part and have no need to diminish others to make the light shine brighter on them.
Living in that reality shows us that the harvest is at hand. If we don’t live in that place, our misplaced passion can easily crush the very people we’re called to touch with his life. The end product of summer, for those who traverse it with perseverance and growing trust, is a gentle and humble spirit. There is no more accurate sign of maturity than those who treat others, all others, with kindness and gentleness. When that settles on your heart, you know that summer has come to an end.
Let the harvest begin!