cutting the cord with technology

perhaps by coincidence – or perhaps not – John Eldredge’s blog had a great piece about removing ourselves from the addiction of technology.  Take a minute and read this …

I feel I need to begin this article with some sort of confession, like in a recovery meeting.

“Hi. My name’s John.” [The small group responds, “Hi John.”] “And I’m a user.” [Group leader says, “This is a safe place, John. Tell us your story.”]  Shifting a little uneasily in my chair, I continue: “Well…I need it first thing in the morning.  Every morning.  I need it right before I go to bed.  I have to get a fix even when I’m out to dinner with my wife.  Or on vacation.  I feel agitated and uncertain when I can’t find it. When it looks like I’m about to run out, I get panicky and look for some place to plug in, if you know what I mean.”  [Group responds, “We understand.”]

Last month I was basically in paradise.  My wife and I had slipped away from Colorado’s January snowstorms to the North Shore of Kauai. It is, without question, the most gorgeous of the Hawaiian Islands, maybe one of the most beautiful places on earth.  Volcanic cliffs covered with lush tropical forest spill right down to the water’s edge.  Hibiscus blossoms fall onto the peaceful rivers that wind their way through the jungle.  This isn’t your tourist Hawaii.  Apart from Princeville, the North Shore is way laid back, and after you cross a couple one-lane bridges, you feel you really could be on the edge of Eden.

Anini Beach is one of our favorite spots—far from the crowds, east of the Princeville scene, along a quiet neighborhood street that still has rural pasture and horses, if you can believe it.  There is a reef about a hundred yards out which creates a massive protected lagoon where you can swim, snorkel, spearfish, SUP, hang out with the sea turtles.  It is an utterly peaceful and enchanting place, made even more magical this year by huge winter surf which created 25-foot waves thundering out on the reef.

Sitting on the quiet beach there, with no one to our right or left for more than 200 yards of pristine white sand, it was so luscious I kind of expected Adam and Eve to go strolling by.  Now—you’d think this would be enough to delight and enchant any soul, but as I took a stroll myself, I passed a guy sitting under a banyan tree… watching videos on his iPhone.

Wow.   You can’t unplug from your technology even in a place like Kauai?

Now, to be fair, I bet this is what happened: He had his phone with him—because everybody always has their phone with them—and somebody texted him a funny YouTube video, and he couldn’t resist the urge, and that was that.  He was glued to a little artificial screen watching some stupid cat sit on a toilet when all around him was beauty beyond description, the very beauty his soul needed.

And I saw myself in him.

Because I, too, had brought my phone with me to Anini, and I, too, responded when the little “chirp” alerted me to an incoming text. (We always have our excuses; every addict does. I was “keeping myself available to my children.”)  The thing is, I’ve seen this all over the world. Fly fishing along a stunning stretch of water in Patagonia, and some dude has a rod in his right hand—line and fly out on the water—and in his left his cell glued to his ear, chatting away. I’ve seen people checking their email at the National Gallery of Art in London.  And of course there are the users who can’t even turn it off at the movies.  I’ve climbed a ridge to check my phone while hunting; I’ve kept it on the table out to dinner with my wife, “just in case.”

Neo was never so totally and completely plugged into and hopelessly dependent on the Matrix.  But our umbilical cord is a lightning cable.

You know what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about our attachment to our smartphones—an attachment that goes way, way beyond “necessary tool” or “helpful device.”  Do you have the courage to read on?

Knowing that denial is one of the stages of addiction, let me ask a couple questions: When your little Chime, Glass, or Swoosh alerts you to an incoming text, do you easily ignore it and go on with the conversation you are having, or reading what you are reading, or enjoying the back seat view as you drive through the desert?  I’m serious—when that thing vibrates in your pocket, do you regularly ignore it?  Or do you automatically reach to see?  Can you shut your phone off when you get home in the evening and not turn it on again until morning? When you first get up in the morning, do you allow yourself a leisurely coffee and bagel before you look at your phone?  Or is your phone the very first thing you look at every morning?

Yeah—me too.  And I hate cell phones.  Which only shows how powerful the attachment is.

What blows my mind is how totally normal this has become.  I’ve got a friend who decided to break with his addiction; he now turns his phone off over the weekend. I text him, and he doesn’t reply until Sunday night or Monday morning.  And what’s fascinating to watch is my irritation. Like, C’mon, dude—you know the protocol. Everybody agrees to be totally available, anywhere, anytime, 24-7. It’s what we do.  What does it say that you look like some sort of nut job when you turn your phone off?!

The early Desert Fathers fled civilization for their monastic outposts because they knew the “world” was corrupting their souls—in an age when everyone walked to work, there was no artificial light to extend the daytime late into the night, there was no internet, Wi-Fi, TV, Facebook, Youtube, no technology whatsoever.  No smartphones.

What have we become accustomed to?  What have we become dependent on?  And what is it doing to our souls?

What does the constant barrage of the trivial, the urgent, the mediocre, the traumatic, the heartbreaking, the buffoonery do to us when it comes in an unending stream—unfiltered, unexplained, unproven, unexpected, and most of it unworthy—yet we pay attention on demand?

The brother of Jesus was trying to offer some very simple guidelines to a true life with God when, among other things, he said, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).  That unpolluted part—that’s what worries me, when 81 percent of smartphone users keep their phone on at all times, even in bed (I’ll bet the number is much higher for Millennials, probably around 98 percent), and when we check our phones somewhere between 46 and 150 times a day.

The idea of forming a spiritual life is to create space in your day for God—to intentionally put yourself in a space that allows you to draw upon and experience the healing power of the life of God filling you.  Over the ages, serious followers of Jesus have used stillness and quiet, worship, fasting, prayer, beautiful places, and a number of “exercises” to purposefully drink deeply of the presence of God. A nd to untangle their souls from the world.  No one will care for your soul if you don’t.

So here are a couple steps I am taking:

I’m turning my phone off around 8:00 p.m.  I’m choosing not to turn it back on first thing in the morning—not till I’ve had some time to pray.  I’m putting it on silent mode during dinner and ignoring the buzz if it does vibrate. (Get this—it just buzzed while I was finishing this article, and my eyes started to glance over.  Good God.)  Last Saturday night Stasi and I went out on a date, and we left our phones at home.  When it chirps or vibrates I’m not instantly responding like Pavlov’s dog; I’m deliberately making it wait until I am ready.  In these small ways I am making my phone a tool again, something that serves me, instead of the other way around.

Gang—it’s time to cut the lightning umbilical cord.


Brad Hicks video from this morning

Brad did a great job this morning sharing his testimony of what God is doing in/through him.  The power of a man’s testimony is amazing – it is good and Holy to tell your story.  Broken, wounded, not-yet-fully complete, 1/2 the man I want to be … whatever … your story of what God is doing in your life has power to it.  Brad demonstrated that today.

Ephesians 4:8 “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.  This is why it says: “When he ascended on high he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men” – and it goes on and talks about some would be apostles, pastors, evangelists, teachers, etc.

You’ve been given gifts – each one of you – and Christ gave them to you for a purpose — so that, you would bring the Kingdom.  Brad is bringing the Kingdom in his world.  Men around him are seeing God’s transformation in Brad and responding to it.  He’s being obedient to follow God’s call.  He’s living Excurvatus Ex Se – a life lived outward (and I might add … Upward) 


Best of Manschool – Branch to Vine (2) – how to draw your life from God…daily

scenes of life  Attached << are some slides that I wanted to show this morning of “scenes of life” – they are pictures I’ve taken through the years from times where I got outside and was restored by God.  Here are the notes from this morning…

Navy seals undergo brutal training.  It is actually quite kind.  It prepares them for the reality.  It gets them ready for the question, “Would I go to war with this man?”  There is something about seeing Seals in action that stirs us as men – the same that Gladiator, Braveheart, etc. stir us – powerful, swift, silent and effective, someone to be reckoned with, oh to be that man.  And yet, very few men give any thought what it entails to get there.  Christianity is the same way – we are clearly in a world at spiritual war and few of us have a clear plan for how we are going to draw upon the life of God – the Zoe.

There are things we need to cease doing and start doing.  Cease the things that drain you of the life of God…

Busyness – a brilliant plan of the enemy.  We live insanely busy lives running trying to make it all work.  The whole world runs like rats and it wears you down.  It makes you 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.  The duties and expectations of the world 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 trying to please the world and instead draw upon the life of God.

Worry – it simply chokes the life out of us.  Fear consumes. Proverbs 12:25 says, “Be careful or your hearts will be weighed down with the anxieties of life.” 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.  TV is an invasion of my home.  It feels chaotic to me.  It stirs me up, churns my soul.  I think that’s a reflection of the pounding I take during the day and I just have no energy to fight the TV.  John Piper once said, “One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.”  Ouch.

If you want life, you’re going to have disentangle from some of this stuff.

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.  None of these things bring us life.  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 to get that restoration

Seek stillness and silence every day – Jesus “went off to lonely places” i.e. “alone”.  Alone, quiet, still.  My morning habit … I never turn a TV on.  I am in silence as I shave and get dressed.  Silence from “man”.  Instead, I am listening to praise music or spiritual podcasts.  I never turn on CNBC or Fox News.  I don’t try to “jump-start” the day to get ahead of curve.  That’s just a start.  Not near enough.  I draw upon a “trickle” of life.  I need more.  Much more, but it is a start.  I have to be intentional.  Many nights when I come home, I am often outside watching the sunset on my driveway.  Just still and silent.  I breathe.  I soak God in. Create silence and stillness and invite God in.  Branch to vine.  Receive His life.  Choose restoration.  At the end of the day – let it go.  Let go of the people.  Let go of the demands and the madness.  Let it go.  Give it over to God.  Practice this daily.

Community/Tribe – Joe Morrow pointed this out in our small group – Community/Tribe is crucial to this.  Man should not attempt to do life alone.  We need a band of brothers in/around us who we trust, who know our story and who are willing to fight for us.

Regular source of truth – Journal.  Daily.  Jot down what God is doing.  Where God is moving.  What you’re hearing the Father say.  Document it.  Start developing lists of your favorite verses.  Start documenting the truths God says about you.  That you are a beloved son. That He adores you. That you’re a son with the full inheritance. That as the prodigal that wandered off, once you turn back home, you see Him there sitting on the porch looking for your return.  Get these down and spend time in them.  In the years to come, these journals will be incredibly valuable to you.

Spend more time with the real than the artificial – Get alone with God outside and just let God speak to your heart and pour out some great things on you.  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 garden and dirt beneath your fingernails.  There is nothing like the Colorado mountains or a long walk on the beach.  God gave us all those things and they restore the soul.  Compare two 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 hand in a creek, 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.  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 The Walking Dead 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?

Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an art but a habit.”

You are what you repeatedly do.  We reap what we sow.  This is so hard to do.  It’s so easy to fall back into Bill O’Reilly every night.  So easy to forget all these things we’ve listed here.  This is a world at war against your heart and it is so easy to lose by attritionAttrition?  See if this sounds familiar … “The action or process of gradually reducing the strength or effectiveness of someone through sustained attack or pressure.”   Bingo.

Is that you?  Has your strength and stamina to fight this war been gradually worn down.  Has your effectiveness?

It is because you are under a sustained attack.  It is attrition.  So back to the Navy Seals – all of us are drawn to “that man” – to be that man, swift, silent, effective, a force to be reckoned with – and yet few of us give any thought to what it takes on the front end to get there.

George McDonald said, “All of the growth the Christian is the more and more life he is receiving.”  Your growth – all the growth (or lack of growth/fruit) of your branchwill reflect the life you are receiving.  If you are this dried up branch waiting for the fire, it is because you’ve cut yourself off from the vine.  The man you see that is lush and vibrant and bearing much fruit, that is a man that has made this a priority in his life.

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.  You need to breathe.  You’re a tree and you need a stream of living water 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.

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


Do you want to get to know Bart Hansen?

Bart will be with us in person on Wednesday morning.  I encourage you to join us.   Attached is a great talk with Morgan Snyder interviewing Bart inside Bart’s workshop at his ranch in Colorado.  If you have about 45 minutes, watch this video.  It’ll help you get to know Bart’s story and will make Wednesday more meaningful for you.

Please pray that the Lord will move and bring men into our midst that need to hear Bart’s message.

comments from you…

Here are some recent comments from you on “The Vine…”

Yancy Helton – Thank you so much for getting this out so quickly . . . have shared the highlights with others this morning . . . now they can get it all!!

Joe Morrow – Hi brothers…..sorry I missed the entire message and group time.  What I did catch stirred in me immensely all day yesterday and I struggled most of the night with it as well.  Like almost every aspect of my life, including my Christian walk, I find that I am inconsistent in relying on God and God alone for the “life” which He so freely offers.  I run hot and cold and while cold it definitely degrades the quality of my existence and of those that rely on me to be plugged in, branch receiving, fruit producer that I was intended to be through Him.  Pray that I might really make strides in this area by simply letting God…….

Robin Carr – As I see the sunset picture and view the videos and countless mental videos of glorious places I have been privileged to see, I am reminded of the creation story in Genesis and its direct parallel to John 1.  God made light, and He made us – His sons – with eyes that can see all this that He made, and marvel at His greatness, and we rejoice in the ability He gave us to enjoy it all.  How lavish He is with us. I feel indescribably special and cared for!   Then in John, the Maker of light, is the Light, and has come to us – in person – to shine into our eyes in person and into our hearts.  Remember, there were 400 years in Egypt before the redemption at Passover, and there were 400 years from the Prophets to the Living Light of redemption coming to us.  The Father – our Father – does not forget us in our present distress; He always comes through!

And then, back from a post in April on “the wound” – we have a few people outside our community that have found our blog and follow it.  This comment came from a woman who follows us … Thank you so very much for this.  After being saved for almost twenty years, I developed such anger that I started fighting with my family and have been running away from the situation and at the same time disregarding God’s command of honoring my parents.  Thank you because I do realize that I didn’t deal with my past hurts but was a posing woman in a wounded girl.   I am now going to invite my savior to heal those wounds and receive my freedom.  To God be the glory.

I thought all of these were encouraging and are worth sending out to you,




Best of Manschool – Branch to Vine (1)

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


For me, many, many days … I am that branch on the right.  Worn out, dried out, lifeless and just waiting to be tossed on a fire.  Green?  Lush?  Plentiful?  Bearing much fruit?  Not so much I’m embarrassed to say.  Why is that?  Perhaps it is because I’m attempting to do this life on my own strength instead of pulling from the Vine which can sustain me.  Read on…

We don’t draw our life from our wife, our children or one another.  Read that again – my wife isn’t supposed to infuse me with life.  I don’t get the life I need to go to battle every day from her.  Jesus is the bread of life.  George Herbert said, “All of the growth of the Christian is a reflection of the life he is getting from God.”  Sleep, breath, eating, drinking, etc. are all daily, practical reminders of our need to draw upon the life of God for our existence.  Why else would God have us sleep if it weren’t a daily reminder of our need for something beyond self?  George McDonald said, “In our troubles, let us remember our one lack is … life and the life-making presence of God.”  Remember that.  When the troubles come – and they will – when the chaos starts, will we look to the debris and the immediate “fix it”?  Or will we realize what it is we are truly missing is the life of God?

Point 1 – we are designed to live by and draw upon the life of God

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 us.  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.

Point 2 – In the last days, it’s going to be hard on the saints

It’s going to be brutal.  It already is.  Brutal.  2 Timothy 3 lays out what the last days will look like, People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”  It sounds a lot like today.  In Daniel 7:25 it says, “The enemy will wear down the saints”.

When things get this way, you can feel the hatred of the enemy – there is a darkness, heaviness on your heart, on your being.  Hatred, malice and rage are being released on the faithful.  Is the enemy really unleashing new kinds of attack on us or is this just life?  Explain ISIS.  Where did that all of sudden just come from?  The evil and spread of ISIS is clearly demonic and it is a brand new assault on us.

This world, it is going to be hard on us.  We need the life of God now more than ever.  Do not, do not, do not attempt this on your own.  You live in a highly toxic spiritual environment.  It will produce a malaise over your spirit much like a poisonous gas.  It makes it hard to draw upon the life of God.  You’ve got to fight for this.  Your heart was made for Eden and you live very far from Eden.

Point 3 – Drawing upon the Life of God is your first task

Drawing your life from God is your first task every day.  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 what enables you to dream big, to create, to imagine, to start new ministries.  It is the only thing that enables you to LiveOutward.

“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 ground hog 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.  What is the effect of all that?  A lush, fruit-bearing branch — or — a dried out, cut off branch waiting to get burned up?

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?”  Remember from last week, you ARE a son of God.  You ARE an heir.  The Father delights in your return to His front porch.  All He has is yours.  What are you doing to get fed by the Father daily?

NEXT WEEK > Bart Hanson will be with us in person.  The following week, we will get into the practical applications for how we can draw upon the Life of God daily.  Until then, LiveUP!

Bart Hansen from Ransomed Heart

Bart Hansen with Ransomed Heart – I am very pleased to tell you that Bart Hanson from Colorado with John Eldredge’s Ransomed Heart Ministries will be with us, in person, on Wednesday February 17th at 6am for Manschool.  Bart speaks at the Wild at Heart retreats and is a key member of their ministry.  Bart is very familiar with what we are doing at Manschool and he just wants to join us to affirm what we’re doing and to share with us what is on his heart.  I really want to encourage as many of our men to be there to take advantage of this incredible opportunity.  We have 55-60 men coming to Manschool and I want more men than that to hear from Bart.  If you are not presently attending Manschool but would like to hear Bart, please respond below so I can get an idea of how many will be coming.  Please mark your calendar and make every effort to attend on the 17th.  It should be a great morning and we are humbled that he wants to invest in us with this time.


Best of Manschool – Sonship

(most of this material is from John Eldredge’s new book, “Moving Mountains”)

JB Philips said, “Your God is too small

FIX YOUR EYES “Therefore, since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”  Heb 12:1-2

As I fight my way through the battles of this world, my eyes aren’t normally fixed on Jesus.  I tend to focus on crisis before me.  Not Jesus.  The crisis has a way of capturing your attention.  Jesus frequently was seen “looking up to heaven” or “looking up to the Father” as he processed through decisions.  He turned his gaze from all the evidence to the Father to draw upon God’s resources and His Father’s love.  We must look from the debris of life to God.  If we focus on the debris, it will take us out.

GOD – Look at this picture…  (notice it is in the shape of a heart)

sunset 2016

It reminds me of everything that I know to be true of God – he is the creator of everything I love.  Waterfalls, mountains, wild places, rivers, forests, pastures, sunshine, the night sky, sunsets, beauty, goodness and truth.  Just start there – think of all the things you love in this world.  And then remind yourself that the God you are praying to is the One who made it all.  It helps me to hold and touch and feel something in the natural world – a leaf, a stone, placing your palm on the top of a flowing stream – and to remind myself, “God did this, he is immensely powerful, creative, generous and intimate.” 

“With my great power and outstretched arm I made the earth and its people and the animals that are on it.”  Jeremiah 27:5

WATCH this video…

And think about the sun.  Seasonal mood disorder is real and a week of grey, drab, rainy cold days can truly depress you.  And then, oh that feeling when the sun pops out for the first time.  There are times when I will just walk out of my office and walk around my building just to find a place to look up, close my eyes and bask in the winter sun.  It heals me.  It restores me.  It greens up pastures and lush grass lawns.  Pine trees explode in bright green against a sun drenched blue sky.  The sun can warm you in just a few minutes after a dive into a cold pool or lake.  Remember who made the sun.  It is a celestial nuclear device with a surface temperature of 5,500 degrees Celsius.  More than 1 million earths could fit inside the sun.  Unconceivable amounts of energy is generated at its core as hydrogen converts to helium by nuclear fusion.  One solar flare releases more energy than ten million volcanoes.  There are 100 billion suns in our galaxy and there are more than 100 billion galaxies.

BUT MY WORLD IS FALLING APART – The problems I’m having at work.  The issues in my marriage.  The fear over my health or my future.  All these things we bring to the Creator of all of this world and universe.  My problems…they seem quite manageable for such a creator as this.  As crazy as your problems are – you should not, must not, please do not evaluate the loving kindness of God toward you by the swirling tornado of events – especially by whether or not he seems to answering your prayer at hand.  Your heart cannot take such abuse; you will find yourself swirling around like Dorothy in a Kansas cyclone, debris flying all about.  It will leave you exhausted, uncertain, fearful and desolate within a few months.

Let me say it in reverse – are you exhausted, uncertain and fearful?  Then perhaps then have been evaluating whether or not God loves you by the events of your life.

PRAYER – if the One I am praying to made those sunsets, the waterfalls, the star-filled desert night sky, the snow-capped mountains, the radiant sun … ALL of that, if He created ALL of that … FOR ME, for my enjoyment, my pleasure, my use, my life.  The One I am praying to is THE One who gave His life … for me.

IF I could believe that, IF I could believe THAT was the person I was speaking to in my heart as I prayed, I KNOW it would make a world of difference.  I would be so confident; I would expect good things, I would feel triumphant right from the start.  This is why we are urged to fix our eyes on Jesus – especially when we pray.

DAD – A man John counseled years ago said his father was a very successful man.  He left for work early before the boy awoke and returned just in time for dinner.  After dinner, the Dad would disappear into his study, close the doors and work well into the night. The boy, longing for his father’s attention and affection, would sit in the hallway outside his Dad’s study, writing him notes and pushing them under the door.  “I always hoped that one time, just once, he would pass a note back under the door to me.  But he never did.”

It’s a heartbreaking story but it is a metaphor for how many of us conceive of our relationship with God – a busy man we hate to bother, whose affection we long for, passing our prayers under his door, hoping for just a word in return.

SONSHIP“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father” Rom 8:15   Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba Father”.  So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.”  Gal 4:4-7

The reality of these words simply has not penetrated our souls.  We still act and pray like orphans or slaves.  Do you come to God as a son/heir … or as an orphan?  A slave feels reluctant to pray; they feel they have no right to ask, and so their prayers are modest and respectful.  They spend more time asking for forgiveness than they do praying for abundance.  They view the relationship with reverence or even fear – not with the tenderness of love.  Of being loved.

Orphans are reluctant to pray.  They feel desperate.  Their prayers feel like begging more than anything else.  Orphans feel a great chasm between themselves and the One to whom they speak. Abundance is a foreign concept – a poverty mentality permeates their life.  They ask for scraps.  They expect scraps.

PRODIGAL – John’s sons come home for Christmas and they feast.  The food in the house is there for their taking.  They pillage and don’t have to ask permission.  Dad takes them out to eat – the bill is always on him.  They order whatever they want.  They are his sons – they get to live under their father’s blessing; they get to drink from the abundance of his house.  They grab the gear they need, the jacket they need to borrow, the best boots, fly rod or sunglasses.  “You are my son – everything I have is yours.  Plunder as you will.”  This is how true sons get to live; this is how a father feels towards his sons.  The prodigal comes home and his father is there on the porch looking for him.  Do you come to prayer knowing that God was already expecting you?  Looking for you?  Waiting on you?

The Father loves you like He loves Jesus.  You are not an orphan.  You are not merely a servant of God.  You are a son.  You are an heir.  That comes with privileges.

“I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  Until now, you have not asked for anything in my name.  Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be compete… I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf.  No, the Father himself loves you.”  John 16:23-27

Do you expect the lavish when you pray to God? Do you expect abundance?

It’s there for the taking.  This is sonship.  I’m not the little kid passing the notes under the door just hoping He will acknowledge me.  I’m His son.  His heir.  All He has is for me.  The sunbursts, the waterfalls, the sunsets, the stars, the mountains, the streams, the wildflowers, the trout, the deer, the harvest, the bounty … the abundance

It is all there for us.  It’s a radical shift in what many of think about prayer and relating to the Father.  To think He isn’t distant and disappointed in me.  To think He’s sitting on the porch just waiting on my return.  To think ALL He has is for me.  To think He loves me that much.  I’m his heir.  I’m his son.  I’m his partner.