Vine to branch (part 2)

In this second post, let me wrap this one up with some closing thoughts.  First of all, the invitation is there sitting right in front of you.  It’s yours for the taking.  Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence is not an art but a habit.”  This drawing upon the Zoe, drawing upon the Vine, drawing upon the Living Waters is your primary task.  It will take you being intentional.  You will have to block the time and make this your ultimate priority as if, “I cannot think about starting my day without this.” 

You’re going to have to be intentional – there are things you will need to cease doing and some things you will need to make a priority.  What should I cease doing?  Just ask yourself what drains the life out of you?  What are the things that just seem to lay waste to your soul?

Busyness – a brilliant plan of the enemy.  We live insanely busy lives running trying to make it all work.  It makes us an easy target for an affair, an addiction, depression, discouragement, loss of heart, checked-out, angry at God = an easy target.  We have to unplug from the madness of the world.  Remember the graveyards are full of men who were at one time, “indispensable” people.  Committees, boards, the community, the “duties” will all continue to function if you part ways with them.  If they don’t bring you life, if you dread them, if they suck the life from you, get out of them.  Stop!  Stop the madness!  Stop trying to please the world and instead draw upon the life of God.

Worry – it simply chokes the life out of us.

Fear – just like worry.  Ask Jesus about both of these – “Lord, help me deal with these.  What do I fear?  Why do I worry?  What’s beneath the surface, what wound am I dealing with here?”  Get these weeds out of your life.  They choke off life.

Technology – we live in an absolutely toxic environment for humans.  Scientists are determining that long-term exposure to computer screens, iPads, cell phone screens really damages the brain.  Over-exposure to the internet is now a clinical condition.  Just think how you feel after a day sitting on the sofa watching TV or after a few hours of playing a video game.  You feel terrible.  It doesn’t restore or refresh.  It makes you lethargic, numb, flat, listless.  Personally, I am growing to really dislike TV.  It’s just noise.  It’s an invasion of my home.  It feels chaotic.  I think that’s a reflection of the pounding I take during the day and I just have no energy to fight the TV.

Relief or Restoration – all of this we’ve covered, the madness, the treadmill of life, the cellphones, the tyranny of the urgent – when we come home from this world, most men just seek some relief.  We drink a few beers, eat a bag of chips before dinner, pound cookies after dinner, plop in front of the TV for a few hours, spend an hour on Facebook, turn to our wife for sex – or – men turn to porn.  What drives this?  Relief.  We just want some relief.  We want an escape but these escapes do not restore us.  In fact, they only drive us further in the hole.  No, we need restoration.  Restoration.  We need the healing of Living Waters.

So, what does that look like?  The things we need to start doing…

Seek stillness and silence every day – yesterday, I woke up, I never turned a TV on.  I was in silence as I shaved and got dressed.  I grabbed some cereal and retreated to listen to Kari Jobe’s song “Here” and I read Proverbs.  Never turned on CNBC.  Didn’t touch my phone.  Didn’t try to “jump-start” the day to get ahead of curve.  I was still.  I was silent.  That’s just a start.  Not near enough.  I drew upon a “trickle” of life.  I needed more.  Much more, but it was a start.  I have to be intentional.  That night, I came home, spent time with my wife and when she wanted to watch some TV, I got alone and silent and decompressed from the day and soaked in.  It made a real difference.

Spend more time with the real than the artificial – this one is huge and it is why the GPB quote and Mark’s comment were so important, they drove to this same point.  Mark got alone with God outside and just let God speak to his heart and pour out some great things on him.  God gives us these incredible senses and He gives us the incredible natural world and the two fit together beautifully.  There is nothing like a red tail hawk against a crystal clear blue winter sky.  Sunsets.  Sunrises.  Thunderstorms.  Freshly cut grass.  A new flowerbed and dirt beneath your fingernails.  Time on a tractor cutting a field.  The gobble of a bowed up turkey.  The majestic rack of a dominant buck tearing up a sapling, marking his turf.  Nothing like the Colorado mountains or a long walk on the beach.  God gave us all those things and they restore the soul.  Compare 2 hours at the mall or playing Halo to a walk in the woods.  There is no comparison in what each of these do to your soul.  Touch real things – tree bark, dirt, grasses, animal fur, a lake, a seashell, a smooth rock vs. touching plastic or polyester.  Life is creation.

Beauty – the soul responds to beauty.  Your brain responds chemically.  Art, music, mountains and wide open landscapes repair you.  Listen to great classical music.  Build you a worship song playlist – peaceful, restorative songs that speak to your soul (as I’ve been typing this I’ve been listening to Michael W. Smith Breathe, Kari Jobe, Kristian Stanfill, etc.).  Take up photography.  Find the beauty in nature and capture it.  If you ever really look at a stand of pine trees, they are beautiful.  Rocky creeks – take some pictures and take your shoes off and let the water run over your feet.  Soak in beauty.  Feel it.  Appreciate it.  Let the Master Artist speak to you through His work.  How does that sound compared to two hours of American Idol or an hour of Bill O’Reilly?  Which one will restore your soul?  Which one will draw upon the life of God to restore you?

Conclusion – the Christian life was never meant to be easy.  You were never promised an easy, pain-free life.  If you want “this” we’ve been talking about, you’re going to have to work for it.  You’re going to have to be intentional to push back time – push it back away from you, create a vacuum to allow the Living Waters to come in and restore you and to push back the enemy and the tyranny of the urgent.  Ronnie Brooks did this last week for 6 hours walking a railroad track.  He intentionally got alone with God.  You need to breathe.  You’re a tree and you need a stream to feed your roots.  You’re a branch desperately in need of grafting back into the vine.  But you – and only you – have to make this the priority in your life.  “He who loses his life for Me, will find it.” 

This is the invitation to life being offered to us.  The “perfect home, perfect wife, perfect family, perfect career” never get us there.  Abandonment to the Life of God is the only thing that works.

So, what’s your plan?  What is your process going to be to draw upon the Life of God?

Next week – we’re going to stay in this and dig deeper.  Please give me your comments on what this has meant to you, how God has spoken to you in this.  We’ll share those next week.  If you weren’t able to be with us today, please join us next week.  It was amazing today and will be amazing next week.


Vine to branch (part 1)

This will be a really long, 2-part post but it is packed with incredibly important revelations for us all.  For those of the 45 men there this morning, I want a comment from you below – what did God show you this morning?  What moved you?  How was it powerful for you?

Simple question – which one of these two pictures best describes your life right now?


I saw this video from John Eldredge last Thursday and was so struck by it, I watched it two nights in a row.   This is about an hour long but well worth the investment of your time…

Saturday night on GPB, Georgia Outdoors was featuring the North Georgia mountains and had this quote, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to figure out that going to the mountains is going home – that wilderness is a necessity.”    (you will see why this was significant in a moment) 

Sunday, Mark Sivak made a comment on one of the blog posts that read, “I have been thinking more about living intentionally, and “investing” my time rather than “spending” it, living outward rather than inward, and I reflected on the desires of my heart. It was a good thing to do. Some of them are generic, some more specific to God’s calling and giftings. Now, I couldn’t have done this during the busy of the day, but I was outside enjoying the quiet and beauty of creation and enjoying the breeze. I allowed myself to be still not thinking of anything being more important than being with the most important One. These things came bubbling up, I scratched them down without editing, without critically thinking about them, or attempting to apply my logic – these came from my heart, and God put them there…”   (you can read the rest of  his powerful revelation the comment section of the Feb 20 post)

And when I read Mark’s comment, I knew.  I knew we had to cover this material this morning before we launched into Wide Awake.  We can dream big.  We can pursue, create, imagine, achieve, live outward, reach new pinnacles.  All of these things are possible but if we don’t get “this” we saw this morning, we will not be able to truly live Wide Awake.  Here are the slides  wide awake before we begin

John 10:10 “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly”.  We love that verse.  It’s a foundational verse for LiveUP.  And we tend to think abundant life is a great job, beautiful family, rich faith, material blessings… But this isn’t what comes first.  What comes first is the power to live.  The fruits are things like love, joy, kindness, creativity, friendship, etc.  Yes!  But the primary offer is the Greek word Zoe.  Zoe is the life Jesus had within Himself – that indestructible, phenomenal life!

Jesus wants to give you this life.  This Zoe.  He wants to give it to you, feed you with it daily like a vine feeds a branch.  Salvation is “life”  Life in order that you may live.  The invitation is for you to join your life into God’s.

Drawing your life from God is your first task.  It takes priority over your wife, your kids, your job and even your devotionals.  Your priority each morning is to draw upon this life.  Drawing upon this stream of living water is what enables you to tackle all that you have in front of you each day.  It is was enables you to dream big, to create, to imagine, to start new ministries.  It is the only thing that enables you to LiveOutward.

And so, the question is this – “What are you doing daily to draw upon the life of God, the Zoe?” 

Does your day start with silence and solitude?  Do you go outside to watch the sun rise and soak in the life of God?  Do you find a quiet place in your home before the family awakes to spend 15-20-30 minutes drawing upon life?   Or…  do you sleep as late as you can, roll out of bed, grab your phone and start reading emails and texts from bosses, customers, family, all the people who need something of you?  Do you turn the TV on first thing?  Shower, shave, dress quickly, scarf down some breakfast and fly to the car to get the kids to school or to get to that meeting, reading texts as you drive, making the first calls of the day and listening to noise on your radio?

Do you feel like you run on a freaking treadmill 12 hours a day, 5 or 6 days a week?  It’s called the “Tyranny of the Urgent” and it is killing us.  Killing us.  Killing you.  It’s groundhog day over and over.  Rinse and repeat and nowhere in there is there time for drawing upon the life of God.  All you’re trying to do is get through the day, trying to “do right” and get ahead of the avalanche bearing down on you.

So which one are you?  The lush fruit bearing much fruit or the dead branch laying out in the pasture?

Again I ask you, “What are you doing to draw upon the life of God, the Zoe?”

I’ll leave you hanging…part 2 coming in a few minutes…

ManSchool this Wednesday

If you have not been coming to ManSchool, it is not too late to join us.  We have 35-40 men coming and we’ve yet to really jump into Wide Awake.  If God is nudging you to come, PLEASE don’t ignore this nudge.  Follow His lead.  You can come this week for the first time and you won’t have missed a thing.

We were going to jump into Chapter one of the book this week but I am led to deviate.  I have received a clear message – a strong nudge – that we need to take a first step to prepare for Wide Awake because I am convinced if we are not doing what we’re going to discuss on Wednesday, Wide Awake will not happen.  In fact, I am convinced if we fail to do this, our walk will not be effective at all and we’ll be susceptible to falling and failing.  We live in a world at war and if we miss this step, we’re fighting a losing battle.

It’s that crucial.

And I’ll tell you, I am not doing this yet either.  So I don’t come this week with a “holier than thou, I’ve got this figured out” message – no – I come confessing, I am falling short in this regard.

But I will tell you that just in the past 4-5 days when God has laid this on my heart, I know it is true, I know it is powerful and I WANT IT.  It makes so much sense and it just works and I’ve not been taking the offer right in front of me.  But I pray I will start and remain.

Many things led me to this nudge and the nudge was confirmed three different ways and sealed with a comment Mark Sivak made this morning on an earlier blog post – he tasted exactly what we’re going to be talking about.

Please make every effort to attend.  This one is a crucial step, a crucial building block in what it is God is calling us to as a community of men seeking to LiveUP/LiveOUTWARD.

Carver – times & details for THIS Saturday

The Carver Banquet is this coming up Saturday, March 1 at 5pm – I expect players to start arriving at 4:30pm

Here are the finalized notes, times and details for each role in blue…

SET UP team (Friday night) – Richard Illges (boss), Justin Krieg, Robin Carr, Ryan Walker, Ed Curran, Daniel Harris, Kerry Williams, Jeff Hampton, Bret Crumpton, Jim Shaddox           

We need to gather at the Church at 6pm on Friday night.  We have to set up all the tables, move out the extra chairs, the alters and set up the stage.  We have to set each place with plates, silverware, glasses and napkins.  Pizza will be served.  This should take no more than 2 hours.

KITCHEN team –  Jerome Harrell (boss), Brandon Jones, William Hall, Andrew Cowart, Ronnie Brooks

You need to be at the church at 1pm to help Jerome.  This will involve bringing in all the food, preparing the salads, putting the desserts on plates and other tasks Jerome needs you to do. 

GRILL teamCoy Nichols (boss), Jimmy Bone, Ryan Walker, Frank Brown, Augusto Marto 

You need to be at the Church at 1pm to help Coy as he fires up the grills.  Note, I will check this time and confirm later this week.

GREETER teamPatrick Grant (boss), Rob Deloach, James Warren, Robin Carr, Bill Angles, Bill Gaddy, Allen Allnoch, Bryan Donaldson, Phil Staten, Ernest Edwards

We need you at the Church at 3pm.  Ideally, we’d like you to wear gray/dark pants with a white dress shirt (or light colored if you don’t have white).


SERVER teamPhil Staten (boss), James Warren, Oscar Morzan, Michael Wood, David Shemwell, Lonny Arrington, David Burnell, Robert Nobles, Allen Allnoch, Sid Sayler, James Warren, Bill Angles, Bill Gaddy, Richard Illges

We need you at the Church at 3pm ideally dressed in gray/dark pants with a white shirt (or light colored if you don’t have white).

CLEAN UP teamGarrett Dumler (boss), Michael Wood, Bill Angles, Kenneth Lamee, Ryan Walker, William Hall, Ben Lamb, Ben’s son, Sonny Howell, Sid Sayler, Bret Crumpton, Jim Shaddox, Richard Slade, Richard Illges plus anyone server that wants to stick around   

You need to be at the Church no later than 6:30pm.  I expect the banquet to be over around 7pm and we need to hit the ground running to clean up.

We have SO much to do but this is going to be a blessing.  THANK each of you for helping and joining in as we

LiveUP! / LIVEOutward

Wide Awake

This morning, we kicked off our study of Wide Awake.  If you were unable to attend, we just covered the intro.  Next week, we’ll start the first chapter on “Dreaming”.  Read pages 3-19.  Here are the slides from this morning…wide awake 1

We showed this commercial today…

It’s a call to authentic manhood, to the power of owning a knife, to the power of facing trouble rather than running from it.  It is a call to live “OUTWARD” not consume “inward” like so many of us have the tendency to do.

This entire process of living “Wide Awake” is going to be about finding the hero inside you and living outward.  We gave out our first LiveUP Hero award this morning to Ronnie Brooks.  Ronnie is 67 and got up Saturday morning and filled a backpack.  He packed 6 bottles of water, two sandwiches, his knife (!), a roll of toilet paper and some snacks.  He went to Golden Acres Baptist and climbed up on the railroad track running by the church and set out for Salem.  Ronnie walked that track for 6 hours and covered almost 18 miles.  It was a “bucket list” item for him and he did it!  6 hours alone with God, the deer, the hawks, one big train and clear blue cool morning sky.   This summer he and his son are going to kayak down the Chattahoochee.  I asked him “how far?“.  And he said, “I don’t know…far as we go, we’re going to camp out along the way and fight some gators!”  So Ronnie got our “Hero” award for dreaming big and conquering a challenge.

There is a hero inside each of you just waiting to be awakened.  The world needs you at your best.  If you choose to live a diminished life, it’s not only you who loses, but the world loses and humanity loses.  We’re not talking about heroic actions that draw attention and notoriety to you – no, we’re talking living a life of significance, a life of what you do for others.

Then we talked about Carver as just one example.  What we do down there is great but are we just barely touching these young men and moving on?  Is there more to do?  Do they suffer with fatherlessness and a lack of hope?  For many of them, are they convinced that the path of their life is almost set at winding up either in jail or in an early death?  Have they bought the lie that they are of no real value and there is no real hope for a better life?  The other day I was at lunch at Jimmy Johns and a young worker there walked up with a big smile and said, “Hey, I used to play for Carver, it is good to see you again.”  As he started to walk off, I called him back and asked him for an update.  He said he’d gone to West Georgia, things didn’t work out and now he is working trying to “get back on track“.  And it struck me, “We’re not done with Carver at those weekly meals“.  There is so much more we can do.  This young man still needs a coach, needs a nudge, needs some guidance.  I’m going to Jimmy Johns once a week to establish more of a relationship with him.

These young men have incredible value.  They are beautiful people.  They are created in the image of God and the culture is beating the fool out of them.  And we know it.  We know it and it is right here in our backyard.  What are we going to do about it?  Just whom do we expect to fix this?  The government?  Heck, the government probably “is” the problem.  How can we see the need and just sit by and let it fester?

This is living OUTWARD.  It is living beyond self.  It is working and striving and sweating and crying and if we can change just one young man’s life, every ounce of energy was worth it.  So I leave you with this interview with Coach Pete Carroll.  It is so powerful.  I strongly encourage you to watch this.  I saw this when it originally aired and it is the single reason why I got involved with Carver.  Here is a man that lived OUTWARD, found the hero inside and made an incredible impact in the lives of young men in the projects of LA…

the question for you…

So…what is it for you?  What is it that God is calling you to?  You see, it is just so easy to drown in the busyness of this life.  To drown in our past mistakes, hurts, hang-ups and habits.  To drown in the pressures we all face – with our wives, our children, our budget, future expenses, current debt, the pressures of work, the demands of the yard, the taxes, the sick parents, the… the… the…

But as we drown in the busyness, we turn inwardly focused and this “God-stuff”, this radical call of McManus, this stuff we talk about week after week at ManSchool seems go to the “yeah, whatever” file, the back burner.  There simply isn’t time.

Inwardly focused is dangerous.  It is self-focused and self-consuming.  The more inward we focus, the more inward we turn.  McManus’ call is spot-on.  There is, indeed, a hero inside you awaiting to be awakened.  That hero is called to go out, not in.  To live outward.  To live wide awake.

This is what we’re going to be discussing starting next week.  We will start with just the introduction to the book Wide Awake.  If you don’t have a book, get one but you don’t have to have it.  If you want me to order you one, just comment below.  Just come.  Join us.  Let God speak to your soul to become a part of this UPrising of men.  Something powerful is happening.  Each of our last two sessions have been faced with some opposition, some chaos.  It was 35 degrees this morning in a driving rain storm and I dropped the box of books, face down, in a huge puddle of water.  The internet didn’t work.  We are opposed.  And I very much believe we are opposed because we are onto something.  Dream big because something big is about to happen in this community of men.

For those of you that haven’t yet come, we welcome you next week with open arms.  The invitation is wide open.  We would love to have you.  But you have to come in order to experience it…

the barbarian way

Notes from the video this morning…   and a question for you at the bottom…

Matthew 11 – Jesus’ call – “blessed is the one who does not fall away because of Me.”  The Barbarian sees Jesus different than the civilized.  The Civilized buy the theological lie that the safest place to be is in the center of God’s will — or —  God always comes through for us”.

Safe?   Is anything about Jesus safe?

John was a Barbarian – he knew it wasn’t safe.  He knew he’d be beheaded.  Is that safe?  Paul in 2 Corinthians 11 – in prison, flogged, 40 lashes, stoned, shipwrecked three times, in constant danger

Safe?  Where did we get that idea?

We got civilized and taught people that God’s optimal desire for you is to live an insulated life, in a bubble where you risk nothing, sacrifice nothing, lose nothing and worry about nothing.

Jesus died to free us from the fear of death.  He came to liberate us so we’d die up front and then live.  He wants to take us to places where only dead men can go.

Many are embittered with God and confused because God doesn’t come through the way we think He should.  We invite people to step into the comfort, safety and security of Jesus and then we tell them He will bless them and bless them and bless them and take care of our self-centered, egotistic, materialistic self.

We need to go back to “It’s not about you”, Jesus is worth dying for, throw ourselves at His feet and – if – we live a life of hardship and suffering it is worth it because a life with Jesus is more fulfilling and powerful than a life full of the world’s stuff without Jesus.

We can’t choose how we die but we can choose how we live.  Are you willing to lose everything on His behalf?  Are you willing to live a life worth living?

The Disciples of Christ looked different – John wore animal skins on his back and ate locusts and today he’d be considered a manic or … a maniac.  So why are we “good citizens” avoiding sin instead of radically living an extraordinary life?  We’ve had experiences with God that are primal and uncomfortable.  Some have heard God audibly speaking to them.  That’s crazy!  We are not normal!  We are changed by God’s presence.  Live in that!  Stop trying to be “normal”, civilized.

The Kingdom of God has been forcibly advancing (some translations read “violently advancing”) and forceful men take hold of it.  We are at war.  There is an unseen Kingdom battle and people’s lives will be forever changed.

We are warriors of light.  Mystery, uncertainty and even evil lay on the other side of the light but we know the light we bring is the only hope this world will know.   The Church is to be an unstoppable force.

We’ve been telling believers to just back in the window where it is safe when God is saying, “This is a jump you need to take” – it can seem maddening, insane and makes no rational sense to the world but it is God calling, not the World.  God wakes you up, tells you that you can change history of eternity for all sorts of people.  Stop worrying what other people think – you’re called.

The Creator is in communion with you, whispering “I’ve created you to do something extraordinary that is beyond everything you are” but you’ve got to find the Barbarian Way out of civilization.

Notes from the book…

Over the past 2,000 years, Christianity has moved from a tribe of renegades to a religion of conformists.  Those who choose to follow Jesus become participants in an insurrection.  To claim we believe is not enough.  The call of Jesus is one that demands action.  The invitation of Jesus is a revolutionary call to fight for the heart of humanity.

The Barbarian call is not fair or equitable.  When you hear the call, when you follow the call, you must recognize that it is a life-or-death proposition.  When you understand what Jesus means when He says that you must follow Him, you finally realize that this is not a cattle call.  He is not calling you to the same life that everyone else will live.  He’s not even calling you to the same path that every follower of Christ will walk.  Your life is unique before God, and your path is yours and yours alone.

On the other hand, Christianity as a civilized religion claims to have a group plan negotiated with God.  Everybody gets the same package.  And of course, the package is always the premium plan – get rich, get comfortable, get secure, get safe, get well when you get God.  The result and proof of faith are that you get to live a life without risk, which is ironic when you realize that for the early church, faith was a risky business.

God steers us in the direction of His kingdom, His purpose, His passions.  His desire is not to conform us, but to transform us.  Not to make us compliant, but to make us creative.  His intent is never to domesticate us, but to liberate us.

If you are a follower of Christ and you have allowed yourself to be domesticated, you have lost the power of who you are and who God intends for you to be.  You were not created to be normal.  God’s desire for you is not compliance and conformity.  You have been baptized by Spirit and fire.  Asleep within you is a barbarian, a savage to all who love the prim and proper.  You must go to the primal place and enter the presence of the Most High God, for there you will be changed by His presence.  Let Him unleash the untamed faith within you.

Barbarians never exist simply to survive.  Barbarians never just get through the day.  Barbarians wake to live life fully awake.

To be filled with the Spirit of God is to be filled with dreams and visions that are too compelling to ignore.

Live or die, succeed or fail, barbarians must pursue and attempt such dreams and visions.  The barbarian spirit dreams great dreams and finds the courage to live them.

the question for you this morning…

so…what is it for you?  what is it that God is calling you to?  You see, it is just so easy to drown in the busyness of this life.  To drown in our past mistakes, hurts, hang-ups and habits.  To drown in the pressures we all face – with our wives, our children, our budget, future expenses, current debt, the pressures of work, the demands of the yard, taxes, sick parents, the… the… the…

but as we drown in the busyness, we turn inwardly focused and this “God-stuff”, this radical call of McManus, this stuff we talk about week after week at ManSchool seems go to the “yeah, whatever” file, the back burner.  There simply isn’t time.

inwardly focused is dangerous.  it is self-focused and self-consuming.  the more inward we focus, the more inward we turn.  McManus’ call is spot-on.  there is, indeed, a hero inside you awaiting to be awakened.  that hero is called to go out, not in.  To live outward.  To live Wide Awake.

this is what we’re going to be discussing starting next week.  We will start with just the introduction to the book Wide Awake.  if you don’t have a book, get one but you don’t have to have it.  if you want me to order you one, just comment below.  just come.  join us.  let God speak to your soul to become a part of this UPrising of men.  something powerful is happening.  each of our last two sessions have been faced with some opposition, some chaos.  it was 35 degrees this morning in a driving rain storm and I dropped the books in a huge puddle of water.  the internet didn’t work.  we are opposed.  and I very much believe we are opposed because we are onto something.  dream big because something big is about to happen in this community of men.

for those of you that haven’t yet come, we welcome you next week with open arms.  the invitation is wide open.  we’d love to have you.  but you have to come…