A Gathering for Greater New England about Living Loved in the Church Jesus is Building.
3:00 pm on Saturday with pizza lunch and continuing into the evening.
Then 11:00 Sunday with lunch and continuing on in the afternoon
A Gathering for Greater New England about Living Loved in the Church Jesus is Building.
3:00 pm on Saturday with pizza lunch and continuing into the evening.
Then 11:00 Sunday with lunch and continuing on in the afternoon
I've been invited to be a resouce for the "Future of the Church Summit" in Loveland, CO and will be helping with a panel discussion as well as meeting informally with participants.
There's also time to connect with others in the region who might want to. Email Wayne directly for that option.
1560-1 Newbury Rd #313
Newbury Park, CA 91320
Phone: (805) 498-7774
Fax: (805) 499-5975
There is no such thing as the right place, the right job, the right calling or ministry. I can be happy or unhappy in all situations. I am sure of it, because I have been. I have felt distraught and joyful in situations of abundance as well as poverty, in situations of popularity and anonymity, in situations of success and failure. The difference was never based on the situation itself, but always on my state of mind and heart. When I knew I was walking with God, I always felt happy and at peace. When I was entangled in my own complaints and emotional needs, I always felt restless and divided.
Henri J. M. Nouwen in Seeking Peace
I really appreciate this quote from Henri Nouwen. Our culture seduces us to an unending and unfulfillable quest to make every circumstance just the way we want it, and to great frustration when we cannot do it. Life is unpredictable and circumstances can bring incredible challenges out of no where and then we feel so unloved by God. You will never get your circumstances exactly how you want them, but you can set your eyes on him no matter what you're going through. Most of my infected with laughter moments have come in the midst of great challenge or risk.
Being at rest in God's love and in our place on the journey has nothing to do with our circumstances, only our engagement with him. Don't seek the outcome you desire, but God's unfolding grace regardless of circumstance and you won't be disappointed.
This is a compelling story. I received it in an email last week as someone wanted me to know how much some of my things had touched them. But it is so much more than that. This is the honest struggle of someone who has grown up in a legalistic tradition, finding their way into what it means to live in his love. And it's still in process even after six years. I love that. So many people want easy fixes and quick answers, but this journey really unfolds by simply following the nudges in her heart even if she didn't understand them or they seemed scandalous, like buying a potentially heretical book from WalMart. It keeps unfolding by sorting through yet unanswered questions or not being sidetraced even by a cancer diagnosis.
With her permission, I share it with you. I love hearing how people are finding their way into the light and into Father's freedom. I love her honesty, the reality of her struggle, and the freedom not to get to answers more quickly than Jesus gives them. I hope it encourages you wherever you are on your journey.
It’s been 6 years since I first read So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore followed by He Loves Me! a year later, and The Shack a few years after that. Even before I read the first book, God had been stirring in my heart. In the year previous to reading So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore, I was startled to realize that I didn’t really know what Jesus taught. I had been a Christian since I was 11, but the church I was a part of spoke so little of the life Jesus lived and held out to us. I didn’t know the kind of life He wanted me to live. I didn’t know the truth He taught. I didn’t know him, period.
That realization began an in depth study of the Gospels, and what I read startled and scared me. My first reading and study of the Gospels showed me how far away I was, how far away the church group I was a part of was from the life He portrayed. Coming from a fear-based religion, that realization only terrified me as I keenly realized that I did not measure up! Everything was so far away and so twisted: pride, power-hungry leaders, top-heavy organization, fear, and rules. I dimly saw that my life needed a radical change, regardless of what happened around me, but I had no idea where to start. The journey to change started with a prayer: “God, I don’t know what You are calling me to, but something in my life and the religion around me is radically wrong. I don’t know what this will require of me, but I want to know You at any cost.” I prayed that prayer with fear and trembling because I knew that such a prayer, prayed with sincerity and faith, will be answered. And I knew enough of God’s ways and my humanness to know that the journey could be long and convoluted. But I was exhausted with the life I had known until then.
Soon after, I stopped by the bookshelves at my local Walmart, as I did occasionally, to peruse the Christian/religious titles on display. The book So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore was there. Out of curiosity, I picked it up. Two hours later, after having skimmed 3/4 of it while standing in the aisle leaning on my shopping cart, I put the book back on the shelf and walked away. The book was shocking, but mentally had me saying, “Yes! YES! These are the questions I’ve been asking and the things I’ve been struggling with!” However, according to the teaching I’d received in church, the book was practically heresy! Did I dare? Was it even Biblical? I did the rest of my shopping, returned to the shelf, put the book in my cart, and then put it back on the shelf, and left. For the next few weeks I chewed on the startling thoughts I had gleaned. Finally, one day I returned to that Walmart and picked up the book, determined to read it through and discover for myself whether this was truth or heresy. So I continued my study of the Gospels, simultaneously reading So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore. I read, and I underlined, and I highlighted, and I made notes and I compared the book with the truth before me in the Scriptures.
I remember the moment my life changed. One morning, while reading and praying over chapter 3, I read this sentence: “There’s not one thing you can do to make Him love you any more today; and there’s not one thing you can do to make him love you any less, either. He just loves you.” I sat there, absolutely stunned, as all the lightbulbs came on and flashed neon. He loves me! HE LOVES ME! He loves me like that. No wonder I was so frustrated! No wonder I lived in such fear! No wonder I was terrified at all the commands I thought I was missing! No wonder my struggle with addictions got nowhere! I was trying to earn His love when I already had it! Not a single thing I could do would change His love one iota!
That was when it all changed for me. Oh, it wasn’t instantaneous! Far from it! But it was the start of my journey into the Father’s love, an amazing journey that will never end until I reach glory. There’s been so much stumbling, and learning, and growing, and changing. Since then, the journey has been largely unexpected and startling and painful and glorious all at the same time.
I’m still a part of the “church” organization I was 6 years ago when it all began. I’ve been deeply saddened, often dissatisfied, often frustrated, but so far, I’m still here, largely because I have not felt that nudge from Father saying, “I have another place for you to be.” I often think to what you said in So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore. “If he were asking you to leave today, I think you’d know that. If he hasn’t made it clear to you, then wait.” So I’ve kept waiting, meanwhile seeking to live the life He wants me to live where I am.
However, the longer I am on this journey, the more my “yuck meter” goes off lately. How do I stay in a broken organization when it takes 4 days to recover from the dose of fear and and commandments preached every Sunday? How do I stay when all around I see Christians living in fear and my heart breaks? How do I stay when what I hear on a Sunday morning is so far away from the full life the Father gives us? How do I stay when the real connections occur over Chinese eaten at a local restaurant and not in the stilted atmosphere of the Sunday service? I attend Sunday services as little as possible, attending just enough to escape reprimand for my lack of attendance, but even the little I attend is difficult, and I draw a breath of relief when I’m home again. My inner life is so disconnected from the part of the body of Christ I’ve identified with that it’s harder and harder to stay. Living with a “yuck meter” that is way off the charts is an uncomfortable place to be. I’ve been asking Father about how he wants me to live in his family. The hard part is to not look for “the” answer but to follow his pull on my heart.
One of the “convoluted” ways that God has led me over the past 6 years has been my cancer diagnosis for the last 3 1/2 years. My cancer has relapsed multiple times. I’m doing chemo for the 3rd time, radiation and a stem cell transplant already behind me. Cancer, one of the diseases that strikes fear into most people, has been an amazing journey into the Father’s affection, an amazing gift, even on the hard days. My cancer has been a unique way for me to speak of the journey Father has led me on. I was startled to learn how few of the Christians around me live with the deep assurance I have of the Father’s love for me. I was startled how many are actually afraid to die because they were scared they didn’t measure up and therefore think they aren’t worthy of heaven. I was saddened that they didn’t see death as simply a “going Home” as I do because the blood of Jesus has brought us home to Father. I was surprised how many were amazed at my honesty about the struggle of living God’s full life in the hard things of cancer and pain and the unknowns, and then I realized how little the “church” organization speaks honestly about life and the daily learning and struggle and joy of it all. Instead, we all are to present these facades that we are “good Christians” and the deep pain and struggles and questions and fears never get spoken of. It does make me laugh a little because many of the views I hold about “church” are seen as nearly heretical if I speak about them, but those same people who think it is heresy envy the relationship with Father I live in every day.
Have I stumbled? Have I sometimes lost sight of the glory of it all when it all just gets too much? Has my faith sometimes limped? Have I cried? Have I honestly “had it out” with Father during the hard times? Have I been afraid? Am I still very broken and in need of so much more change and healing? Yes, to all of those. But that’s not what matters. What matters is that I am His child and nothing can change that. What matters is that He is never done with me and what lies before can only be better yet than anything He has led me to. What matters is that when I stumble, He is carrying me and I never lose His presence, even when I’m too human or too exhausted to feel it. What matters is that this life isn’t dependent on me and how well I do it, but on Him and His life in me. What matters is that, life or death, I am secure.
All this to simply say thank you! Thank you for allowing the Father to use you and your writing as a catalyst for change in my life. Thank you for providing some of the signposts along the way. Thank you for the honest conversations in the books and blogs I’ve read and the podcasts I’ve listened to.
May Father continue to lead you, Ellen, as you awaken into the reality of the new creation as it keeps stirring in you. And I pray that as well for everyone touched by these words and seeking to follow the nudgings of the Spirit as he works in you.
If you'd like, you can reach Ellen here.
Nothing breaks my heart more than meeting someone who invested years of their life in religious service and for some reason never discovered how real God is and how deeply he loves them.
The latest research by Josh Packard, author of Church Refugees, shows there are thirty-five million Americans who have left their religious institution and abandoned their belief in God at the same time. I’m fine with them leaving. Religious institutions can often impede our spiritual growth rather than encourage it. Nearly thirty-one million other Americans have left their religious institution and continued to explore what it means to know God and share his life in the world.
But for those who left not knowing a God worth loving, my heart goes out to you. That means despite all the all the meetings you attended, prayers you offered, and good deeds you have done, you never came face to face with the most endearing Presence in the universe. You never recognized his voice wooing you, or recognized his hand at work in your life.
I understand why you would miss that. Insecure religious leaders who try to rule with an iron fist or simply don’t know him themselves, and legalistic religious traditions that substitute rules and rituals for helping connect people to the transcendent God, can be barriers to the very faith people want to explore. Some say you can’t have God without religion; it’s a package deal. If you want to be one of his you have to jump through someone’s hoops to prove your sincerity.
But those who say so are usually trying to build or sustain an institution for their own purposes. It isn’t true. While some congregations can be very helpful in helping people discover God’s reality, many others are a deterrent. Jesus didn’t start an institution, or a religion, for that matter. He came to reveal to us what it would be like to live in his Father’s reality—how his love would change us and how our loving others in the world would let his kingdom unfold around us.
That’s why the Apostle Paul didn’t try to win people with “wise and persuasive words”, because he didn’t want peoples faith to “rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” If your spiritual passion was only based on following someone else’s teachings it wasn’t meant to last anyway. It was always going to fail you.
So I’m looking for those of you that it failed. Everything I've done for the past twenty years have sought to help people not become one of these thirty-five million people. Religion will fail us, but God never will. If I could sit down to lunch with any of these thirty-five million people, this is what I would want you to know:
All that Jesus said was true. There is a place for you to be at home in God, and for God to be at home in you.
If you don’t know a God of love and affection, you might enjoy Wayne’s book, He Loves Me. If you want to consider other options for engaging the church Jesus is building in the world, you might find his Finding Church helpful.
Religious obligation makes our world narrower. The harder we work to keep God on our side, the more demanding and judmental we become of others. We resent those who seem to have more fun that we do and judge those who don't work as hard as we do. It makes us angry, bitter, and frustrated with ourselves and others. Freedom in Christ, however, makes our world more expansive, alive, and filled withi joy.
I've never ead Eberhard Arnold, but I've seen a lot of quotes from him lately that really resonate with me. This one does. Unfortunately I don't know what the antecedent is to his conclusion. I have no idea what he would say about Jesus that makes our live broader, boundless, and more abundant. But every conclusion he makes below I see in the lives of those who are learning to live as God's beloved children in the earth. Knowing God as a gracious Father and sharing that graciousness with others, not only transforms us into his image, but leaves us more full of joy and graciousness to others at the same time. This is a process, undoubtedly and takes some time, but this describes so well the people I know in the world who are learning to live in the reality of Father's affection:
Our life will become not narrower, but broader; not more limited, but more boundless; not more regulated, but more abundant; not more pedantic, but more bounteous; not more sober, but more enthusiastic; not more faint-hearted, but more daring; not more empty and human, but more filled by God; not sadder, but happier; not more incapable, but more creative. All this is Jesus and his spirit of freedom and peace. He is coming to us. Let us go into his future radiant with joy!
-- Eberhard Arnold in A Joyful Pilgrimage
I love this journey and how it shapes our lives to express more of his reality to people around us when we're not even trying.
Last week I taped the 500th episode of The God Journey with my former co-host, Brad Cummings joining me again. It will air this Friday morning. (We actually taped the 501st one as well, since we couldn’t stop talking!)
When we began over ten years ago, I would never have guessed our little radio show on the Internet would have survived this long or would have touched the people it has touched. On Facebook last week I asked those who wanted to celebrate this journey with us, to either post or send me thoughts about what this podcast has meant to them and their journey. I’ve been overwhelmed by the responses.
I’ll share many of those below, but before I do, I want to share what this podcast has meant to me. Through this podcast my friendship with Brad grew and it provided an environment for my own discovery and growth as we talked about things neither of us had contemplated before. It also put me in touch with thousands of people all over the world who are on some incredible journeys, with a passion and depth in God’s life that has enriched my own relationship with him. It’s still a bit weird meeting new people who know everything about me and my family. I forget just how much of our personal lives have found their way onto that podcast, and how much that has encouraged others.
I’m amazed at all the people who listen, many from the very beginning and even more in awe that some people today still go back through the archive and have listened to all of them over the past year. We will talk more about this on the podcast this week, but no one is more amazed than I am at where this little podcast has gone and the lives it has encouraged and connected. I continue to meet people around the world who first connected on the forum, blog, or Facebook page of this podcast and ended up in close, personal friendships. I am grateful for the ways you engage each other, how you’ve shared the podcasts and books with your friends. This was the audience that launched The Shack, when no one else even had the book. Who knew at the time it would sell over 24 million copies worldwide and now being turned into a movie?
I am so grateful to all who wrote and share their thoughts. We probably have been encouraged way more than we’ve encouraged others. If you’d like to add your thoughts you can do so in the comment section below.
Now here is what some of you said about The God Journey podcast.
Claudia: Changed. My. Life.
Traci: Having a couple of guys talk about freedom, life, and grace in a way that stirs the depths of your heart and soul - how do I put it into words? The beginning of understanding "he loves me and he is especially fond of me." It was life changing.
Rick: Thanks guys, your Podcasts really helped me leave a restricted mess called religion.
David: They are a breath of fresh air in a world of stale ideas.
From Chris: Thank you so much for sharing the awesome truths about our Father's intense love and affection for us!! I have been digesting and meditating on these truths the last few years and God has brought so much freedom and joy to my life. I spent the first 20 years of my Christian life nearly killing myself trying to gain God's acceptance and approval through my performance. However, I am so thankful that for the last three years He has lead me to Bible teachers like you guys that teach the truth of our God. These truths have been like refreshing water and a healing ointment to my soul.
From Greg in NY: Thanks for doing so many. They are an encouragement to me, and so many more. Since we first learned of your writings back in ... maybe 2002? When you were writing "the Jake book" chapter by chapter online.... you (both) have been an encouragement to me to continue to listen to, follow, and want to really know Father, who loves me more than I can truly understand. And I've found equal encouragement in listening to your words and conversations, which echo those that God has been whispering in my own heard and mind. My first thought when I read your post was to share our new song, This Journey, because it celebrates what this journey has meant to us.
Jarred: I'm not your target audience by any means, as I'm 20 years old and have virtually no church background. Just wanted you to know that I really enjoy your podcast. I particularly enjoy your discussions about relationships, and your ideas seem to coincide with the ones I've built over the past two years. To keep the story short, I moved out of my parents place and moved in with my best friend’s family. I already had a very close relationship with my friend, but what caught me off guard was how out of nowhere I began to build a relationship with his father (who also listens to this podcast). We just started talking, and somehow it grew into an authentic, loving relationship with no authority; just conversation. I've been thinking about this more lately, but I really feel that genuine relationships with God at the center bloom naturally. Forcing it, especially in the way religious organizations seem to, leads to an insincere relationship where barriers, such as authority or conformity, prevent individuals from connecting. How can someone be the treasure they were created to be? I'm sure this is something you've already explored.
Karine: I've been listening for a number of years and the podcasts have been such a support though many difficult times can't thank the lord enough for you both and the commitment to doing this.
Kim: Oh my goodness...the podcasts were my lifeline, as far as having someone who understood, for months after leaving the institutional world we'd been part of for 32 years! I knew God had led us out, and you, Wayne, He loves Me, and the podcasts really helped confirm and affirm the journey we knew it was time for us to begin. He Loves Me, changed my life, actually! Note to Brad Cummings: Your laughter!!! Oh my, how I miss the sound of it!! Hope you are doing lots of it these days! Enjoy you both and the encouragement you've been. Can't wait to hear number 500...Live loved!!
Shari: I'm just so grateful for your podcasts over the years. It really does help to hear another voice echo what Father puts on my heart about fellowship and church. It's easy to fall back into wanting the social life created within an institution but that comes with so much restriction and falseness. I love to live free in Fathers love and your podcasts remind me to stay the course. Friends are fewer but they are truer.
Scott: A friend recommended So You Don't Want to go to Church Anymore? And that led to the podcast which led to The Misunderstood God book which led to being the heretic that a lot of my Christian friends think I am now. Thanks a lot! No really, I'm not kidding. I really enjoyed the podcast when it was you and Brad, but I think I'm getting more out of it now
Chris: This podcast has meant so much to me. "An ever expanding conversation" is a good way to describe it. I'm so thankful to God for bringing voices like yours into my life and freeing me from religious thinking at such an early part of my walk. Thanks for the conversations!
Terri: I quit my job at the local church back in '05, hoping there was a better way, but feeling as if I'd ruined everything. You guys convinced me otherwise. At your encouragement, I spent the next two years in the Gospels getting to know Jesus, and oh my word! The last 10 years have been nothing short of spectacular. Thanks for being there and inviting us into love with Dad.
Dawnna: I can echo many of the comments about The God Journey being a lifeline. I didn't have a clue the depths of my hunger in wanting to know the love of Father and the church Jesus is building until I started listening to the podcasts. You set my heart on fire. And it all started with your opening lines "living outside the box of religious performance and inside the Father's affection". That's all it took to launch me on my journey. Thank you for being the vehicle in which God called me to open my eyes to see Him more intimately. I will always be eternally grateful.
Ashley: The podcast, in addition to the website resources, has been an amazing support in my journey to getting to know my Father for who he really is. So grateful for the perspective shifts you and your guests provide in my thinking about how to live this out every day.
Doug: Wayne and Brad, this may be after you tape, but the podcast has certainly been used in my journey to freedom from the shoulds and into the freedom of living adventurously expectant in the love of Papa.
Hayley: I LOVE your podcasts! Happy 500th taping!
Jerrine: So grateful for your podcasts and encouragement to live loved.
Pat: Your podcast has been an encouragement and a sane voice of the faith.
Bob: I found the God Journey just as the Pharisees' showed their true selves where I attended and was an usher, worship team singer, and men’s group breakfast cook. Since I left, not one man from there has called me for golf, beers, hanging out. But Wayne and Brad showed me a new path, a new journey if you will. Now when I am asked if I go to church, I say "I am on a God Journey". And the conversation begins.
Randy: I have really enjoyed The God Journey. Thanks to Wayne and Brad for taking the time to show us Jesus all these years.
Timothy: I just want to thank you both SO MUCH for having taken the time for these podcasts over the years. They have helped me immensely in my walk and relationship, through some VERY difficult times. In addition they have been a big help in connecting with the body worldwide in a very real way.
Kedish: This podcast has encouraged me a lot and is helping me also to be in the Journey of learning to know our Father's heart (to rest in His love) away from religion and the system in the world. I really enjoyed it God bless you brothers.
John: What I have learned? I have learned that God loves me not for what I could be, might be , or when I get my crap together or performance of likeability or spelling in an email..... He Love Me in all my mess and doubt and pain and brokenness. He Loves Me one hundred percent NOW. Just as I AM .... My question is not to you, but to my Papa.. "How Deep Is Your Love?”
Ken: I believe I have been following Wayne for twenty years now. Just when I was about to go full tilt house church out of frustration with the typical congregation model Wayne's word of caution helped me avoid another cul-de-sac , and am now gratefully disillusioned .. the ping-pong that Wayne and Brad provided weekly was extremely helpful to know others were on similar journeys and the grace at which you both allowed another season of life to not derail your friendship was priceless. Glad you get to record a 500th podcast together.. Looking forward to the laughter and the serious .. you both do that so well.
Liz: I've really enjoyed hearing what I believe the Lord has been speaking to me for the last thirty yrs, confirmed in so many lives in so many different places around the world. It's always encouraging to hear of others experiences and perspectives. I love the fact that we are all works in progress and Father is not in the cloning business. It's all about our love relationship with Him, which in turn enables us to truly relate to each other in love. Jesus is indeed building His church and there is not an ounce of religious ambition, obligation or conformity anywhere to be seen—just real people, free to be honest about where we're at, encouraging and being encouraged as we learn to live in the Father's love and view life and each other from this perspective.
Charlie: You guys have brought such a fresh blend of personality and life to a subject I had only previously known as cold and uninviting. Both of your work is very much appreciated, we all need more people like you guys! I feel like in my time listening along, that I have gone from walking to running and have grown immensely. The training wheels are off and the rush of riding absolutely free is beyond description! Thank you for your courage and determination to stay true to the course, and for offering such a life-giving resource for free. You have shown us all truly what life with God all about and that this life is worth living!!
Kevin: I remember listening to you guys some years ago. I was at the gym and your were discussing if penal substitution was good or bad-now I didn't know what that was but thought it was something quite different if you get my drift!
Tracy: Hearing your perspectives (even when they differ) has been life changing for me! Thank you for providing a safe place to ask big questions, and know in a deeper way just how much God loves me.
Heather: The podcast really helped me sort through all the emotions of leaving the institution. It was comforting and encouraging to hear that others had similar incidents and feelings.
If you'd like to add your thoughts, you may do so in the comment section below...
As I was preparing for my trip to Indiana, two men I didn't know asked if I could come early to do some taping with them. They are working on a documentary about people moving beyond the congregational model to celebrate God's work in them. They asked if they could interview me to use it in this documentary. They wanted to do an interview with me from which they would take some clips to inclue in the documentary. I told them I had long been praying for the opportunity to be interviewed in a video by someone who didn't know me and was curious about my life and journey. I hoped for a wide-ranging interview that would ask the difficult questions about my journey, my motives, and my passion to be part of God's work in the world. They decided both objectives could be served by doing that kind of interview and then pulling the clips out of it that would make the most sense in their documentary.
The setting they wanted was a campfire conversation. We waited for the sun to set, lit the fire, and talked for an hour and fifteen minutes as the moon rose in the easter sky. A fabulous setting
We should be able to post that in a couple of weeks. Jeff Heer was the host and asked great questions. Dan Madison handled the technical aspects along with his friend Chris. This is exactly the kind of casual conversation I was hoping for and as I watched the rough-cut yesterday, I can't believe some of the things I said—a good sign that Someone was at work beyond me. I can't wait to share it with you. Until then here's an excerpt I particularly liked:
"Scripture is clear about our human inability to manage others without giving ourselves to abuse or opulence. It even happened for God. Israel wanted a king and he gave them two of the best men he had and both were seduced by the power of being the king. I’ve seen so many good brothers and sisters, people I love, who really have a heart for God but get into the environment where they’ve got to tell other people what to do to make this work. Managing people’s spirituality is a drug that we have an inability to resist and I don’t think I’m above it. I’ve gotten out of environments where I need to manage people spiritually and into environments where I equip people relationally, because that’s not seducing. It doesn’t destroy me and make me think I’m better than I ought and get to tell others what to do.
"I want to live in this love and help others people do that. That’s what we get wrong. We don’t learn to live loved first and see what church emerges, we start with people who don’t know they are loved, obligate them to things and then wonder why that doesn’t take on the dynamic we hoped for. What we learned is, it’s not by our human effort that God want to do these things. He just wants us to be his child in the earth and as we love him and let him love us he will take us on a journey and some amazing things will happen. And he will build his church, which is what he always promised to do."
If you can't wait, hear are two other opportunities. Last week I did an interview with Mike and Susan for the Chief Sinner podcast. We talked about the disconnect between accountability and community and the absurd idea that one will produce the other. They are polar opposities. You can either have accountability or community, but not both. An accountability setting will never produce true community where people are loving, open, authentic, and honest, the very environment in which the transformation of Jesus takes hold in people's hearts.
Earlier today I did an interview on getting back into the Scriptures as a relational treasure not an obligation on Cliff Ravenscraft's, Encouraging Others in Christ Podcast.
That's a lot of media for me in a few days, but I appreciated how real and personal all of these conversations were.
I don't often use this space for political commentary, but a new election cycle is in full swing and though my hope for a better world is not invested in politics, I care deeply about governance in our society and the decline of quality in political leadership over the last fifty years. I am convinced that the great political battle of our time is not Republican versus Democrat, or liberal versus conservative, but the people versus a government industry that is ripe with corruption and who use every election to exploit the legitimate passions of the electorate to enhance the personal ambitions of the one percent. This industry is made up of a diabolical, symbiotic relationship between politicians, Wall Street bankers, media personalities, and lobbyists pursuing their own selfish ambitions for wealth and power.
And I’m not saying that there aren’t good, conscientious people working for the government who want what’s best for the country, I’m just saying their voices are drowned out by the human quest for money and power by those at the top. While many of them may have begun with a passion for the common good, it is almost impossible for humanity to fly so close to the power and money that collects in Washington without abandoning their principles to benefit themselves as every one else around them is doing.
I am not suggesting this is well-organized conspiracy of elites, but the simple fruit of hundreds of thousands of people doing what most people do every day, maximize their opportunities to make money and gain power for their own comfort and security. It’s called capitalism, doing what you can to better your own life. But when a certain class of government elites profit off the vast resources and power of the government, it is crony capitalism, a system contrived by the rich and powerful that undermines equal opportunity for everyone else. They spend the people’s money to buy votes and grant special favors to their friends while their own personal power and wealth grows.
Republican, Democratic, and Independent leadership are all in on the joke. They can posture for the cameras and feign great disagreement over core principles, but when the lights go off they all shake hands, make deals, and laugh at how easily the American people are duped by their game. That’s why no matter who is in power, the federal deficit grows along with the size of government itself. They delight in stalemate because they really don’t want to solve the problems that they use to divide the electorate. It’s those who go into government service with little equity come out remarkably wealthy and well-connected. They are well-paid actors creating a government of the wealthy, by the wealthy, for the wealthy. When will the electorate decide that enough is enough!
These politicians are not public servants, but parasites on the American dream, who quickly turn into lobbyists or pundits when their terms are up to leverage their power into even more wealth. Media personalities are not purveyors of truth, but players in a game that twist facts into their own power-building narrative. All are beholden to Wall Street bankers who take turns rotating into government jobs to write their own regulations and purchase the political influence they need.
If you don’t believe me, read the eye-opening books by Mark Leibovich that unmasks the illusion Washington culture tries so hard to keep secret: This Town and Citizens of the Green Room. Ask yourself why the wealthiest counties in the United States surround Washington, DC, when they produce nothing except an endless set of laws and regulations while lining their own pockets and why our government officials are more concerned about lavish parties than providing health care for our veterans. And if they can't get such a noble mission right, why do we think they will succeed at lessor tasks.
If we’re serious about fixing it, it's time we voted out the career politicians and elect a new class of citizen politicians, those who want to put the common good above partisan politics. They will spurn special interest money as tainted attempts to purchase influence. They will demand accountability from government workers instead of guarding their job security when they are corrupt or incompetent. They will not be career politicians, but men and women who have been successful in the private sector and who want to go to Washington not because they need the money or power, but because they want to broker solutions that will take government back for the people. And, they will go back to their homes and careers once their service has ended.
No, this is not in support of Donald Trump’s candidacy. While he does talk in refreshingly honest ways about political corruption and boasts about the politicians he has bought, he is part of the problem and has benefited for a long time from the corruption he now mocks. We need people with greater depth, graciousness and far less vitriol and ego.
Is it too much to hope that the ship of state can be turned from such dark waters? I don’t think so. If the we as citizens demanded more of our elected representatives they would have to respond. But it will take a lot of us caring enough to speak out, reject the status quo, and look for a different breed of politician.
At the very least we have to start laughing whenever our current politicians and bureaucrats refer to themselves "public servants", because they only ones they are serving are themselves.
I had the following exchange earlier today and know that a lot of people wrestle with assurance and how we get it, especialy of our connection to God and our safety in his heart. Since this young man asked me what I thought I responded. Religion really wires us to appeasing God by our good works and if you're groping to know you belong to him that's the last place you want to look. Here's what he sent me:
I was speaking with a co-worker the other day about our assurance in God. Since I have been away from weekly gatherings, I have become more in tune with what the Father is doing. I seem to hear him speak so much clearer these days. As we were having our conversation, he began to talk about having assurance we are God's children. I told him that there are days I feel like there is only one set of footprints in the sand. I don't always feel like I am close to the Father but I believe by faith he is still there. He compared it to the prodigal son by saying that while the son was away from the Father he didn't have the assurance. It was only when he came back into the Father's house that he had that assurance. He went on to say that we need that assurance in our lives and we get that assurance by following God's law and obeying his commandments. I couldn't really object to what he was saying but I felt like he was speaking from a performance based way of life. I was wondering if you could elaborate on this if you have the time.
My response: I like most of what you wrote, except the last bit. Not sure you heard God clearly there or didn't insert your own religious training into what he was wanting to show you. Remember, we all see in part. None of us hear God perfectly, which is why we have Scriptures and others to bounce things off of like this.
The prodigal did not have a connection with is father. He had cut it off. He didn't gain it by obeying the law, but by coming home to the father's house. Assurance does not come from law or obedience to it. Romans is really clear on that, as is Galatians. Assurance comes from knowing how loved we are by God. It’s in his character and his promise, not in our performance. So you and him might need to rethink that.
I don’t know if you’re thinking John 15 in that, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love.” If so, rethink that verse a bit. His command was to love each other, not keep the law. And he’s not saying we are loved by the keeping, but rather where we follow his ways we’ll derive the benefit of his love. He loves us anyway, but when we’re off doing our own thing we miss the benefit of that love. The prodigal is no less loved in his sin, but he doesn’t get the benefit of that love. I would think the assurance of his Father’s love would bring him home, not make him earn it. When he comes home he gets to live in the reality of that love because he’s not running from it…
Assurance is grounded in his character, and knowing we are loved is the basis of the transformation he does in us so that we can learn to live in his ways. And we know we belong to him by the presence of his Spirit in us. He is the firstfruits and the pledge that God is at work in us to will and to do of his good pleasure, even when we give into temptation or struggle to follow him.
On a hike the other day in the Sierras, I thought I'd see just how dry California really is. So, taking a page from Moses' book I spoke to the rock. I could split it in two easy enough, but as you can see in the picture above, I wasn't able to ge the water flowing. Man, that's dry!
Seriously though, we've had four years with less than half of normal snow and rainfall and our state government has not built any new water retention projects in the last 50 years despite a constantly growing population. The combination of this weather cycle and government shortsightedness means we are in a state of crisis with many resevoirs bone dry or nearly so. Our underground aquifers have been pumped to depths never before seen.
To help, we are under severe water restrictions. Yes, we have enough to drink and to take shorter-than-average showers. Many continue to water lawns, though the price of water above the allotment can get expensive very quickly. But the immediate threat is from our tinder-dry fields and forests, which can explode into raging wildfires in an instant and have in many places. Fortunately none are burning near us at the moment.
But there is lots of talk of a strong El Nino forming in the eastern Pacific, which could mean a wetter-than-normal winter. Some are calling it a Godzilla, with the potentional to bring torrential rains, which might cause mudslides as it did in 1996. Who knows? We need about three winters like that to replenish California's water supply, but at what cost?
It's a strange time to live in California when earthquakes seem to be the least of our troubles!
I read two magazines last week. My father had a Charisma Magazine laying around and I had not seen one in almost 20 years since I gave up reading it because I felt I needed to take a shower when I did. It was filled with self-promotion, boasting, and exalting men and women instead of Christ. It expressed everything that had gone wrong with the Charismatic Renewal and at the time appealed to all the wrong motivations inside me. And that has always been sad to me, because the reality of the Spirit working in each of our lives is the most important component to this journey of knowing and loving him. But so quickly those who built empires out of it turned toward personal greed, judgments against others who didn't have "the anointing", and distorting the image of God by their demeanor and focus on performance.
So it was interesting to read it again and though I was still turned off by misplaced priorities of this publication, but it didn't stir up any of the old motivations I struggles so hard to resist. And I found the last article by Lee Grady, which talked about how the life of the Spirit had been quenched by those who used the Renewal for their own ambitions. Strange. The magazine had just exalted the very people who had done the things Grady said destroyed God's purpose in the Renewal. Of course, he doesn't see it that way, nor do the editors of Charisma, which makes it all the more sadder.
Then I read National Geographic this month, which has a wonderful piece about Pope Francis. I realize the aquarium he swims in is an oppressive religious institution that is given to indulgence and gratification, like every human institution. I even think the title he carries is an affront to the message Jesus taught and the life that he lived. That said, I love his approach to the position he has been thrust upon him. He lives simply, loves the touch with common people, and is challenging his institution back to a heart for the marginalized people in our culture. I do admire that. It's an article worth reading and I came away appreciating the challenge he faces to stay true to his heart in the midst of such delusions about power, and the pomp and circumstance of his office.
I had a friend recently meet with Pope Francis who said he had a heart for all of God's children to be united under the name of Jesus, not the Catholic church, but who Jesus is and what he came to do in the world. That's an awesome statement.
And then yesterday morning this quote from him crossed my desk. I love it.
For me, the sign that there is no brotherliness is gossip.…There may be various points of view and differences (this is normal and it is Christian), but these differences must be brought out by having the courage to speak directly to others.…And when this is not possible, because at times it cannot be done, tell another person who can act as an intermediary. But you cannot speak against another person, because gossip is the terrorism…of religious communities.
Source: Vatican Information Service, March 23, 2015
"Gossip is the terrorism of community." I love that. I have often said that the surest evidence of community is open and authentic lives. The surest evidence that it does not exist is gossip. Gossip only prevalis where people pretend to be better than they are, but when people are already open and authentic about their strengths and weaknesses it holds no power.
I've been part of many wonderful connections that have been destroyed as soon as whisper campaigns began by those who had more to gain by destroying community than enjoying it's beauty. It is painful to see God make such wonderful connections and then have them squandered wittingly or unwittlingly by the insidious power of gossip. Those who do not have the integrity to talk directly to those with whom they have differences and who will instead talk them down behind their back, unleashes great destruction on the body of Christ and the culture of the world we live in.
As much as it lies within you avoid every opportunity for gossip, sharing the concerns you have only with the person you have them about. The family of God and indeed the world would be a better place if we didn't tear each other down behind their back.