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 attrition. Attrition? 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 branch – will 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?