Archive for September, 2016

A Whole Lot More Than We Realize

Posted on: September 23rd, 2016 by Wayne Jacobsen No Comments

I got this email this morning from and friend of mine in England and I love it. This exactly how Jesus knits his family together. And wouldn’t that be the best way for him to do it? He doesn’t need facilities or long-term planning. He can at any moment bring two or three of his flock together and anything can happen that lightens a load, encourages someone’s journey, or just blesses them in a wonderful way even if they never cross paths in this life again.

Here’s the story in Robin’s own words:

I’m so thrilled and excited at what I’m learning about community that I had to share it with somebody, and as you understand some of these things, well, here it is:

Because the institution has taught us to see things in tangible ways that can be seen and measured and controlled, I think many times we encounter God but don’t realise it. Real fellowship and community is the work of the Holy Spirit. He causes two or more people to interact and edify one another in ways that affect us for eternity.

For instance, my wife and I were in New York earlier this year. We went shopping, which I hate but cooperated with graciously, but as we left the mall I noticed a large guitar shop (actually, I noticed it on the way in) and I my turn for a bit of recreation: a chance to play on a really expensive guitar which I could never afford to own. Well I played a bit of blues and noticed a black guy next to me joining in with me. When we finished we got talking and it turns out he was originally British but had lived in the States since the seventies. So we discussed everything British from a sixties/seventies school boys perspective. The TV shows we watched, soccer, music, we remembered it all.

After about 20 mins, another black guy around our age came over and joined in the conversation. He too, was a Brit who’d lived in the States since the seventies, and had originally also lived in North London, just a couple of miles away from where the first guy had lived. We were all amazed. We all continued to chat about England in the old times, and about the changes that had occurred and how things had turned out.

After what might have been an hour, I came to say goodbye to these guys who I strangely felt I knew in a deep way. It turns out that both of those guys are believers and there is no doubt in my mind that the Lord orchestrated our meeting. He had gathered us together and He had been in the midst. Even though we’d not opened in prayer, sung a hymn or even mentioned God (not until we left at least). We had had had communion in the Holy Spirit that impacted me to such an extent that I can’t talk about it (or write) without shedding a tear.

Then I ask the question: how often has the Lord brought me in contact with other believers whilst travelling; at the bus stop, on a train, or in a shop. And as we’ve chatted He has ‘ministered’ to me and through me, as we mutually encouraged one another?

That leads another question: is it possible that knowing that the other person is a Christian can actually hinder real fellowship? Sometimes as soon as people find out your a Christian they go weird on you; the defensive or religious.

All that makes me think I’ve possibly been having more community than I realize. And that the biggest hindrance to real fellowship could well be me. Ouch!

In the past month or two I’ve come across a bunch of Christians who live within five minutes walk who struggle with attending church and who see things very much as I do. They are fairly new believers but their faith is refreshing in many ways. They are always in each others houses, sharing stuff and looking out for one another.

I often miss my wife and long to be with her in China. I miss China. I miss my friends there. Many times I have asked, what am I doing here?

I think the question should be: What are You doing here, Lord?

And the answer to that is: a whole lot more than we realise!

Sometimes It’s Right Under Your Nose

Posted on: September 20th, 2016 by Wayne Jacobsen 2 Comments

I realize her experience does not speak for all congregations, but it does speak for many. Performance and guilt so easily replace love and grace, even if they still talk about love and grace. This is from an email I got a few weeks ago:

I also would like to thank you for sharing your journey as your podcasts and books, especially Finding Church, have been such a relief for me. I have a somewhat amusing story to share about how Father led me to you. I had been unable to attend ‘church’ for a few years for health reasons and discovered that I grew closer to Father than ever before during that time away. When I recovered I spent years struggling with the “yuk” factor as I searched endlessly for a local church congregation.

It seemed every time I went to church it was as if a big wedge was driven between me and Father. I’d find myself automatically back in “performance mode” and hyper focused on all of my behaviors (not surprising as I have found in my personal adventures that most well-meaning sermons while mentioning the word “grace” go right into a lecture on sin, doing the devil’s dirty work for him, and missing the forest for the trees when it comes to the Cross). It felt like I had just spent years digging out of a grave to freedom only to have dirt shoveled back over me each time I entered a church building. (but) I still assumed God must want all of His children in a local church and spent years searching for a congregation and praying and waiting for God to choose the ‘right church’ for me and my family (all the while struggling with guilt, pressure and judgment from church goers).

Long story short, I finally was getting so weary and burned out and confused in this ‘church search’ that I felt at the end of my rope with the subject and let Father know it. I told Him wherever He told me to go I would go, even if I felt sick to my stomach the entire time…that the choice was entirely up to Him and I needed His answer fast. Well, it was then that He led me to realize that He hadn’t been ignoring my question the whole time but answering it. I started to realize that I had never been “out” of His church, and I was where He wanted me to be the entire time I was searching. I was so busy assuming what Father must want that I was blinded to any other possibility.

Soon He led me to your books and podcasts as further confirmation, and I was so relieved to find out I wasn’t all alone and that so many others had gone before me and experienced so many of the same challenges. I praise Him that I have FINALLLY ‘found church’, bringing me the peace I was so desperate to find, and for people like you who openly share their journey.

Chapter 8: Won Into Love

Posted on: September 19th, 2016 by Wayne Jacobsen No Comments

As our FINDING CHURCH discussion continues, we’re turning to Chapter 8: Won Into Love. As best I could when I wrote it, this chapter is designed to get people to think through their own journey of living in the Father’s affection. We can’t even begin to share it until we first experience it from him. Loved people love well. If we don’t know we’re loved then we end up treating people out of our own needs, insecurities, jealousies, and fears, which makes our relationships manipulative.

Learning to live in his affection is a personal journey and I believe the essence of discipleship. If we want to experience the church of the new creation, we have to live in it ourselves and help other people discover it too.

You can join the discussion of Chapter 8: Won Into Love. Our first question is here: “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” That’s how Jesus presented the Gospel in the world. The relationship with God they thought was reserved for a future place, had invaded the world and was with them now. The kingdom is where God’s will intrudes into the brokenness of this world. If we used those words today, however, people would look at us crazy. Those words don’t have meaning in our culture. The last sentence of the first paragraph of chapter 8 is how I find myself often sharing the Gospel. “The God of the universe loves you more than anyone on this planet ever has or ever will.” Everything begins there. How he accomplished that on the cross and how he wins us out of brokenness is secondary to the hope that we are not damaged goods at that our Creator has come to rescue us with his love. I hope this simple phrase does what Jesus’ statement did, open people’s eyes to the hope that a greater redemption is near. We are not just victims of our past or the broken world. Does that express the Gospel for you? If not, how do you find yourself talking about it with other people? How do you see God sharing his life through you with others?

Excerpt from Chapter 8:

This is his to win, not ours to find. I have been winning my granddaughter into my love for nine years now. I didn’t expect her to figure it out on her own or to trust me because I told her so. I convince her by how I treat her. It may be God’s greatest joy to win people into his affection, no less for you than a woman at a well, a greedy tax collector in a tree, or a terrified fisherman who had betrayed him. Love reaches out to the beloved and seeks to win them into a relationship. That’s what courtship is about and hopefully marriage, too. Every day presents more opportunity to win a heart, even if it takes a lifetime.

You can find the discussion board here and see the list of topics we’ve covered. You can start at Chapter 1 and work your way through, or just join us in Chapter 8.

Discussion Moves on to Chapter 7

Posted on: September 1st, 2016 by Wayne Jacobsen 1 Comment

While most people look for a new “church” structure to emerge that will guarantee a better community, it will not work. Management systems are from the old creation and not one has ever been devised that cannot be exploited by selfish people for their own gain. If we’re going to experience the life of the new community we have to think different people who live in his love, not different structures that will protect us. And rather than looking for that in others, the challenged is to let Jesus create that in us first.

You can join the discussion of Chapter 7: A New Kind of Person here. The first question we’re wrestling with is this one: “This is one of my favorite chapters because it begins to move the discussion from our congregational systems and how we change them, to what kind of person do I need to be to find my way into the church Jesus is building. It never has been a place to go, his church is the reality of relationships people share in the new creation. Instead of looking for a way to manage competing interests for control, personal gain, or approval from others, the new creation invites us into a lifestyle of sharing and caring about others. Only by a growing trust in Father’s love for us will we find ourselves able to engage others in a way that is more focused on them and what they need, rather than on us and what we need. I would love to hear how you see a growing trust in God’s love setting you free to treat others differently? How is that being shaped in you?”

You can find the discussion board here and see the list of topics we’ve covered. You can start at Chapter 1 and work your way through, or just join us in Chapter 7.

Excerpts:

Can you imagine the kind of community that would be unleashed on the world if the people in it were more preoccupied with the realities of Jesus’ kingdom—faith, hope, and love—than they were with their own provision, significance, and power? It would be amazing but it is not something human effort can produce. Our response to the appetites of the flesh and our passion for his kingdom are more visceral. Healing does not come by knowing better and trying harder.

Those growing in a relationship with Jesus, however, don’t share the same angst. They realize the structures of this world cannot accomplish the work of the kingdom and that Jesus’ reality supersedes the things that are valued in this age. Trusting God for their resource, they don’t have to manipulate people for money. Resting in God’s acceptance of their lives, they don’t look for their validation by what others think or say. And, knowing that Jesus gets the last word on everything, they see no need to claim power over others.