are you a channel or a reservoir? Last ManSchool tomorrow

we will cover pages 192-208 of Walking with God.  John will be talking (on the video) about Seeking Guidance via continually asking “Lord, what do You want me to do?” and keeping after this conversational intimacy with God.  But it won’t be easy…

Our culture is buried in busyness and we find ourselves having no time for God, no time for prayer, no time to shepherd our heart.

We can either live our lives as channels or reservoirs.  A channel takes in water but can’t store it and the water just flows through and leaves the channel once again empty. (Sounds kind of like your typical day doesn’t it?) — or — we can live life as a reservoir which stores up water and then, once full, shares its bounty via the overflow.  THAT’s what we want to be. We want to be a reservoir.  Deep, full, rested, healthy and ready to overflow blessings on others.

We need to pursue life, joy, rest and restoration with the Father and through Him.  So we need to start asking, “Lord, what is it that you want me to take up?” and that can be a ministry that you’ve wanted to get plugged into but haven’t had the time, a hobby, a vocation, writing, etc.

And we also need to ask, “Lord, what is it that you want me to let go of?”  Back to the busyness – volunteer boards, PTA, church committee (yes, even that!) — “Have I over-committed myself to where I drown in busyness and I can’t walk with You?”

This is our last week.  It’s been a great study.  Y’all be sure to thank David Lloyd tomorrow morning for getting up early to make our coffee.  He does this willingly with the heart of a true servant and is a great role model for us.

LiveUP!

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“What do I do with this?” part II

“I’ve got to get this promotion…”
“If only I could…”
“If only she would…”
“Why can’t my child get out of this funk?”
“Why has my marriage grown so cold and distant?”

What do you do with this?  What do we do with desire?  Is it wrong or selfish or sinful to desire?  When we live with these unmet desires for a long time, they begin to take on a life of their own.  They begin to possess us.  We start to obsess over them.  We talk about them, strategize over them, take pills to fix them, engage counselors to work us through them…and they persist.

We exhaust ourselves trying to fix them, conquer them, make them go away.  And they persist.

We all have crosses to bear.  Why is that?  Why won’t God “bless me” and just take away this one stubborn, nagging thing that sticks in my side like a needle?  Is God holding out me?  What have I done wrong to miss this blessing?

Can you relate to this?

At dinner the other night, a brother essentially said to me, “You know I get all this John Eldredge, Men’s Fraternity, ManSchool stuff.  I get the “father-wound thing” and all that but I am never taught what I am to do with it.”  In other words, it persists.

So as we said in last night’s post, there are two usual paths we take with these desires – one, we dive into desire head-first.  Go “all in” and give ourselves over to the desire and things don’t go so well.  This is where addiction comes in.  The second choice is we just simply kill desire.  Kill it.  Stuff down any inkling of desire when we first feel it.  “Been burned once, not going there again.”  And we harden our hearts.  We harden our exterior.  We don’t allow anything in and we become a numb, Christian zombie walking about feeling nothing, able to give nothing.

These are the two extremes.  There is a middle and this is what we are to do with all of these things we’ve been talking about.  This is why the John Eldredge/ManSchool/Men’s Fraternity stuff doesn’t work for us…

What we need to do to make it work is simply —– invite God into this.

Invite Him into your most poignant struggle.  Stop obsessing over it.  Give it up to Him.  You see, if you do this on your own, here’s what you’ll do (back to the sex example) – there is no frequency so you begin talking about it with her.  You buy books.  You read everything you can get on the topic.  You go back some more to her with this “new knowledge you have” and the frequency falls off even more.  You talk to Keith about it.  You talk to your small group about it.  You start getting angry.  The frustration grows.  Nothing you are doing is working and, in fact, the more you think about it, the worse it gets.

And I believe God is lovingly saying, “Ummm…no kidding.  That didn’t work out too well for you?  Really?”. 

You see God gives us this freedom.  He gives us the freedom to choose the path we take and when we tell him, “Thanks God, give me the wheel, I’ve got this”, God will back off and let us drive off into the sunset of our own making.

Man takes this issue – be it sex in our marriage or money or saving my business or restoring a broken relationship with our Dad or our own child – and wrests control of it from God and goes down all these paths (books, blogs, talking to others, counseling, etc.) trying desperately to fix it.

And all along the way, God is there and He is waiting.  He awaits the return of the prodigal son.  He waits for the fool to come to his senses and see the wreck he has let his life become.  “You shall have no other gods before me…”

It is pretty darn clear.  No other gods before.  You… shall… have… no other gods before me.  So as I re-read this very familiar passage, I was struck by the finality of it.  I believe He is telling His Chosen that He will thwart their efforts to have other gods.  Yes, it is a commandment – no other gods – but I think it is deeper than that.  I think God is telling us…

1) you are going to turn from Me

2) you will chase other gods/idols

3) I will NOT let you have them

4) Something out there that you are trying to possess will become a cross you must bear

In other words, for all of us, we will not get all of our desires.  We will face short-falls and set backs.  God blesses us.  We have hard times.  We have hard times.  God blesses us.  Hard times.  Hard times.  Hard times.  Hard times.  Hard times.  God blesses us.  He blesses us again.  Hard times.  Hard times…

We desperately want God to take those hard times away and we just want the blessings.  When we’ve taken control of the wheel, invited God out of the car and driven off into our sunsets living our lives as we think we deserve to live, how can we expect God to bless that?

No, I think God allows each of us to have these crosses to bear for a reason.  He radically desires intimate relationship with you.  That’s it.  That’s the solution to why “all this John Eldredge stuff” doesn’t actually work.  That’s why your sex-life isn’t as fulfilling as you think you deserve.  That’s why God hasn’t blessed your business in the way you think you should be being blessed.  You haven’t invited God into these areas of your life.  Books…counseling…blogs…chasing deals…trying to hit homeruns…more counseling…more talking to your pastor/friends…

(Aside – I am not saying good Christian counseling is not helpful – it many cases, it is extremely effective.  Deep struggles, addictions, etc. need professional help and I endorse that but even in these, we must invite Jesus into these struggles)

We chase after all these “solutions” to get what we want but we never invite God into it.  You see, I cannot “fix” my wife anymore than she can fix me.  I cannot make our sex life ideal.  That may be something that always remains weak and sub-par.  I cannot “fix” my money problems.  If I make $80,000 a year and need to make $200,000 to have the life we need, I just can’t magically fix that.

What I can do is invite God into these areas.

I can give up control of this cross I carry and hand it to Him.  What He desires is intimacy with you.  An “Abba Father” type relationship.  “You matter God.  Sex doesn’t.  Money doesn’t.  Power doesn’t.  Respect doesn’t.  A healed relationship with my Dad doesn’t.  You matter Jesus.  I want you Lord Jesus.  I trust You.  You know what is best for me.  I invite you into this struggle I am having.  I am through trying to solve it myself.  I’m tired of reading about it, talking about, worrying about it.  I trust you Lord Jesus.  You take the wheel.  I need you to lead me.  I desire a daily walk with you.  I want conversational intimacy with you in all things but especially with ______.  When the thoughts come to mind Lord, I am going to be asking you what to do with them.  I release ________ to you.  It’s yours.  I cannot fix it.  I can’t solve it.  I cannot heal it.  Come Lord Jesus, come.  Show me your plan, your path, your direction for my life.  I need you right here, right now.”

That’s it men.  Stop trying to fix life.  Invite Jesus into your most intimate struggles.  Give it over to Him and I believe when you do, you will begin to see a radical shift in your thinking about this “must have” thing that’s out there.

LiveUP!

“What do I do with this?” part 1

That deep, unmet longing you have.  That desire.   What do you do with it?

It may be a job you’ve always dreamed of – or – a wife – or – just someone to truly love you – or – financial freedom – or – a great relationship with our Dad.  We all have “something”.  There is this “something” out there that just seems to be out of reach.  No matter how hard we try, it remains illusive.

why is this?  Is God holding out on us?

dangerous thinking.

For many men — just to be totally open with you — it is sex.  The desire for a deep, fulfilling sex-life with our wives.  For her to want this as much as we do.  And, by the way, the desire ultimately isn’t about the sex.  No, the desire is for intimacy.  There is that word again…desire.

But what if that is illusive?  What if she just doesn’t have the desire?  She’s too tired, frustrated with the kids or just isn’t interested.  This persists for quite some time.  You talk about it.  She says she’ll pay more attention.  But nothing changes and the frequency falls off even more.

What on earth is a man to do with this?

What typically happens is one of two things but before those emerge, hostility grows.  Resentment.  Bitterness.  Isolation.  Heartache.  And the more we focus on it, the larger the issue becomes.  We start to focus on “it” – be it money or sex or position or that job or that car – and we begin to believe “My life would be complete if only I could have _____”

Have you ever felt this way?  Is there something right now, this very second that comes to mind that is this “it” for you?  The thing that steals your attention.  The thing you seem to obsess over?  The thing that no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to shake it?

We all have a cross to bear.

So what do we typically do with this cross?  One of two things.  One, we dive head-first into it.  We give ourselves over to the desire.  We pursue the desire with reckless abandon and it leads to addiction and damage.  Follow me on the sex thing – so it isn’t happening.  We talk about it.  I buy books on the subject.  I read blogs.  I start to focus on it.  The more I dig, the more apparent it is that she isn’t going to come around.  The more I dig, the more I crave it.  The more I crave it, the less it happens.  It feeds on itself.  This desire becomes a monster that grabs all my attention.  I begin to shift from wanting this or desiring this to believing “I have to have it”.  And very easily, we turn to porn or another woman…“If I can’t get intimacy with my wife, I’ll get it on my own.”  And then the real problems set in.

It reminds us of Adam & Eve – there was this one thing they couldn’t get that they came to believe they “had” to have and so they took matters into their own hands.  We know what happened.

So option one is, we dive into it.  Option two is, we deny desire.  We shut it off.  At the first hint of a desire for something, we slap it down as “self” taking control and we do everything we can to kill desire…“To be truly Christ-like, I must kill all desire”.  Ummm…no, that isn’t the idea.  If we follow this path, we’ll harden our heart.  If I decide in my marriage to kill all my desire for sex, I will shut down all intimacy completely.  We’ll become roommates instead of husband/wife.  Any twinge of desire I feel for her and I’ll slap my own hand away and say, “No, desire is wrong and selfish, I shouldn’t have these feelings” and so I will harden my exterior and put up walls lest I be tempted to desire for her.  What kind of marriage would that path produce? I shudder to think.

Change the topic on this to dreaming and success.  If I dive into it no matter the cost, I will lose myself in the pursuit.  Success will become my only reason for living.  The world will suck all of me away as I chase success.  I might get it but what else will I lose in the addiction to success?  Conversely, if I shut down my dreams and my drive…what becomes of me?  If I live my life killing off all my dreams, creativity and all my desires for success…what then?  What kind of person results from that?  Is that really why God put this desire in me so that I can kill it off?  Did he create me with this desire and creativity and ability to innovate just so I could kill it off?

No, listen, desire is good.  I believe God gave us these desires for a reason.  My physical desire for my wife is good.  It is good!  God gave me a sex drive for a reason.  He gave Eve to Adam for a reason.  Intimacy, a help-mate, a companion, someone to tend to the garden alongside him.  What is this a picture of?  This intimate relationship model that is marriage?  It is a picture of the kind of relationship God wants with you.  He radically desires (there is that word again) intimacy with you.

So the answer isn’t in diving head-first into desire and making desire your “God”.  Nor is the answer to kill off desire as some evil sin.  The answer is in the middle.  Stay tuned for the next post.

LiveUP!

ManSchool – Wednesday

We will resume ManSchool on Wednesday at 6:30am. Please read pages 162-188 in Walking with God. We are going to be talking about “unmet longings”.

That is a deeper subject than you might first realize. We are all “victims” to our long-held, unmet desires. As men, it is one of the principle reasons so many of us struggle with temptation, pornography, feeling like a failure as a man, etc. There is something deep underneath the surface of these desires. A root cause. We’ll wade into this on Wednesday.

I have a lot more I want to post – deeper things, weighty subjects, things to challenge you, perhaps rattle you. We need to wake up and get moving. I know I need to. It is coming. Brace yourself!

LiveUP!