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.

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One thought on “Vine to branch (part 2)

  1. I was pondering how God would have me invest my time during lent, specifically what to fast from and for how long. I don’t fast often, and usually find reasons or excuses for why I can’t fast at a particular time. This time I realize that I need to. For us to Live outward through a life of honor and nobility is impossible to do apart from being connected to the vine. I don’t think its a coincidence that we are talking about our number one purpose, being connected to God, during the start of lent. As we’ve discussed getting away from the busyness and world to be connected to the vine, have we considered fasting as a means to do so? One of McManus’ questions in the first chapter – what’s your deepest longing, that burning desire in you?…what if we sought The Lord in that way during our fast? Maybe God is calling us to it?

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