Rest Unleashed – Narrative 1 of 3

raven-yenser-2013-bw-blue-300x246Based on DavidW’s advice in his recent article, I decided to “blog my books” here. So I’ll present three articles for each of my two books over the next several weeks. Each article will mainly be a direct quote of some pages in the books. The theme of narrative 1 in my book Rest Unleashed: The Raven Narratives is forgiveness. Thus my journey begins with considering forgiveness. Enjoy.


My parents have supported me far more than necessary. My mother and step-father, Linda and Joseph A. Yenser, along with my grandparents, Louie and Simone, and my wife’s parents, Tibor and Sandra, and all my family especially my two brothers Darrin and Donny have been a bedrock of goodness and an ocean of love for me. I was both grateful and excited to receive the raven artwork from my stepfather, Joseph A. Yenser.

My friend John H. Armstrong, who spoke the six words that inspired this book, “I will not bind your conscience.”, has been a model of love and unity to me. My friend Ben Toh, a pastor in the Chicago West Loop area, has been a great sounding board, and a friend who is not afraid to disagree with me. Ben is truly a raven among ravens.

My friends in University Bible Fellowship (UBF), the community who exerted undue religious influence on my life and thus ironically shaped the narratives in this book, have hope to be redeemed into a healthy community when the stories of former members are narrated, processed and acted upon with love, grace and truth.

My friend Chris Z, who I once considered my enemy, has become my friend and has been a continual reality check for my thinking, as have all my encounters with former members of UBF.

My friend and author Andrew Martin was instrumental in shaping this book because of his book, “The Year the World Ended”. His journey parallels mine and he has become a good friend in the midst of much turmoil.

Our four children, Ruth, Anna, Noah and John have made my life rich, exciting and far more happy than I could ever have experienced myself. My life is filled with joy because of them.

My wife of 20 years, Mary, deserves much credit for this book, for it is she who is a writer, who has an English Literature PhD and who understands what I intend to say. Her endless love for me has made anything I do possible. Thank you and I love you.

Father, Forgive Them

The story of Jacob and Esau is a grand narrative of blessing, deception, hatred and division. And a narrative that occupies a large part of biblical text, not only in quantity of chapters but in importance of teaching. Apostle Paul’s symphonic text called Romans weaves the story of Jacob and Esau into a masterpiece. In my studies of Genesis, always the perspective of Jacob was presented. The thought occurred to me, however, to take a look at the perspective of Esau. Why would I do that? Esau is the patriarch of God’s enemies. Esau is an ungodly man. God hates Esau. All this is true, I admit. But Jesus said, “consider the ravens” in Luke 12:24. Look at the ravens. Who is more of a raven than Esau, the patriarch of God’s enemies and the Edomites, the community of God’s enemies? Is there something to be learned from Esau beyond “hate your enemy”?

What if God forgives his enemies?

Will God do this? Will God answer Jesus’ cross-originated prayer to forgive his enemies, God’s enemies? Could there be forgiveness beyond the judgment of God? How might the enemies of God find the forgiveness of God? As I searched the bible feverishly and prayed for answers to such questions, I didn’t find all the answers. But I did find someone who wrestled with these kinds of questions. And he wrestled with these questions in light of the Jacob and Esau narrative. His name was Paul the Apostle. In Romans chapter 9, he wrestles with such questions: What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath–prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory– even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? (Romans 9:22-24)

Who is this coming from Edom?

If the way for human beings to see Christ-likeness is forgiveness of enemies, how would we see any Christ-likeness in the God of Abraham if we don’t observe God forgiving the enemies of God? Could it be that the angry, sadistic-like God of the Old Testament “repented” on the cross? Might it be possible that people of faith are not to follow the God who kills enemies but the God who loves enemies?

I believe Isaiah saw just such a vision recorded in Isaiah 63:1-6.

Could we not see Isaiah’s vision with eyes of the cross? Now that we have the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we surely can see a glimpse of the world through Jesus’ eyes. Might we now see the love of God and the cosmic redemption story in Isaiah’s vision? In light of the cross, I see “their blood” as becoming the “blood of the lamb” and “anger” being transformed into “love and forgiveness”. Just as swords will be one day beaten into plowshares (Micah 4:3), might the wrath of God be changed into the love of God? Might we be changed from identifying and killing our enemies into forgiving and loving our enemies without condition on the basis of the cross of Jesus alone? Who is this coming from Edom, from Bozrah, with his garments stained crimson? Who is this, robed in splendor, striding forward in the greatness of his strength? It is Jesus.


  1. Joe Schafer

    Brian, thanks for doing this. Forgiveness and reconciliation are difficult topics and, to be frank, a lot of what I have seen written about them is not very helpful. I appreciate the way that you ask lots of questions without immediately jumping to certain “correct” answers. In my experience, people who jump to answers (especially pastors) do so because they have wrestled with the issues only superficially or not at all.

    Here’s a decent article on forgiveness that I ran across today. Simple, not earth shattering, but maybe it will help. A quote from the article:

    “But the Scriptures are full of God’s admonitions to confess our sins, to him and to one another, and to “remember.” We can’t turn and heal from sin unless we acknowledge what actually happened. We can’t move toward the right without acknowledging the wrong. In the OT, God details the Israelites sins with shocking, graphic detail.

    When we choose to cut out whole parts of our memories and lives, we’re going to lose a whole chunk of who we are, and we’re going to lose out on reclaiming those dark rooms. And, we know as well that erasure of pain and trauma from our memories often signals mental illness rather than health.”

    Those words about mental illness are harsh but true. There is no way for UBF members to become healthy and whole without openly acknowledging and talking about the trauma that they have experienced. There is no way for the community to begin to heal until the things that lie buried are brought to the surface. Until they do this — and yes, this is harsh, but I believe it is accurate — until longtime UBF members acknowledge what actually happened to them, their meetings and conferences will continue to resemble gatherings of the psychologically ill more than gatherings of the redeemed.

    One year ago, when I posted this article and this followup article, some UBF members contacted me privately to tell me that I had done something wrong by airing UBF’s dirty laundry. They said I had misapplied the instructions of Jesus in Matthew 18, and so on. But I believed that I was doing the right thing, and I still believe that it was right to do so.

  2. Thanks Joe. That article invokes so much emotion that I have no words, other than yes much of that is exactly the journey I’m on.

    Often I can only find expression in song. When I think of forgiving and reconciling with ubf leaders, I often return to Kelly Clarkson, Because of you and stronger.

    Katy Perry has spoken the words of my soul as well, as in part of me.

    Pink has also been a big part of my journey, as in try.

  3. Joe Schafer

    An interesting fact for readers of UBFriends.

    One year ago, we had accumulated about 8,000 comments on this website.

    Today we will exceed 20,000.

    • Joe Schafer

      Despite the dissatisfaction with this website that has been expressed lately (for example, in DavidW’s recent article), UBFriends is meeting some real needs of real people. This website isn’t going away anytime soon.

    • Joe, our dashboard is showing 13,904 actual human comments right now. So we may hit 14,000 today :) Perhaps the 20,000 number is counting spam.

      Still your point is valid. I was told nobody wants to read or discuss what I have to say several times back in 2012.

      If we are so bad and nobody wants to listen to us, why are the top cities from main ubf centers? And why is South Korea always in our top 10 list of countries in the readership stats?

    • Joe Schafer

      Brian, I was going by the numbers in the automatically generated URL’s. Yes, those numbers do include the spam comments.

      Excluding all the spam, the cumulative number of comments on this website has essentially *doubled* over the last year. I don’t know what has happened to the number of readers, but I think it’s safe to say that has significantly increased as well.

    • Well Joe, that’s because we repented and started doing Daily Bread and prayed 10,000 times prayers for double ministry. Oh wait, sorry bad flashback…

      Seriously though, the number of human readers is somewhat difficult to get exact numbers on. We can tell how many non-spam computing devices have connected to to view a page, and how long the readers stayed, and where they are from.

      I’ll take a look at Google Analytics later today to see what the stats show from 1 year ago to now.

      No matter how we look at the numbers one reality is clear: People are talking about ubfriends, talking with ubfriends and talking to ubfriends.

  4. And for me, my purpose remains exactly the same as in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 and for many decades to come, Lord willing:

    “My purpose here is varied. But my purpose in writing articles here have never been to get anyone to agree with me. Nor is my purpose to convince anyone to leave or stay in UBF ministry. My purpose is to spark conversation about topics that have traditionally been taboo in UBF circles and to be a resource for any former member or outside party who has questions about UBF. Primarily however, my purpose is for myself– to document my story of recovery from UBF without losing my faith.”

  5. “When we choose to cut out whole parts of our memories and lives, we’re going to lose a whole chunk of who we are…” – See more at:

    I will be accused of making a broad sweeping generalization, but for 50 years UBF has chosen to only express “positive, encouraging works of God” (which are often exaggerated and inaccurate accounts of what happened), and never speaking of “negative, discouraging mistakes and sins.” This is triumphalistic and quite unrelatable to the reality of life.

    We say we must build people up. I agree. But no one is truly built up by ignoring and refusing to listen to parts of the past that we do not like. This creates an unsafe place (the church) where people must behave and follow protocol.

    This creates what Jean Vanier calls a pseudo-community:

    • Joe Schafer

      Ben, those remarks by Vanier are spot-on.

      The main reason why I am no longer able to attend conferences and staff events is the continued, stubborn refusal by leaders to get real and address the serious problems that we have raised, problems that have been around for decades and have never been acknowledged. This continued refusal year after year to acknowledge what we are saying has made it impossible to remain in fellowship with them. Their mantra has been, “These things should be discussed only in private, not on a public website” is a complete load of crap, because they have NEVER been willing to actually discuss these things, even in private staff meetings. At the last senior staff meeting that I attended more than a year ago, several of us (Ben, Sharon, and one or two others) brought these things up, and with few exceptions, everyone else in the room remained silent. They humored us and let us talk for an hour or two and them moved on to planning the next conference. I can no longer live in a such a strange pseudocommunity.

  6. Hey everyone. I decided to blog my second book on my personal theology blog, Goodness Found – Narrative 1.

    I will be sharing quotes from all 3 narratives as I continue to work out my personal theology. That blog is open to discussion as well.