Guardrails

A guardrail is a system to keep vehicles from straying into dangerous or off limit areas.  We’re glad they’re there if we need them but for the most part, we don’t pay attention to them.  For the most part, they are not actually located in the most dangerous part of the road.  The point is – to keep you away from the actual point of danger.  You’ll do less damage if you hit the guardrail than you would if you hit what was on the other side of the guardrail.

The truth is, your greatest regrets relationally, financially, morally and ethically could have been avoided if you had had some guardrails present in your life.

Our definition – A guardrail is a personal standard of behavior that becomes a matter of conscience.  “A matter of conscience” meaning, that I am so committed to my principles that if I violate them, it bothers my conscience.  I feel guilty.  It is my personal standard of behavior that informs my behavior.  This is a personal decision you need to make.  Where is the line?

Ephesians 5 is addressing the question of “How do I live in a culture that doesn’t reward faithfulness?  That doesn’t reward integrity?”

5:15-16 “Be very careful, then, how you live (walk).  Not as unwise (careless) but as wise making the most of every opportunity.”

It’s saying “Make the most of your time.  Redeem your time.  Being very intentional with your time.  Because the days are evil.”  In other words, if you’re not careful, there will be a price to pay.  Because you live in a dangerous time, you’ve got to be careful with how you walk.

5:17 “Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is”.  What Paul is saying is “I want you to face up to, to accept, to embrace what you know in your heart is God’s will for your life.  Stop deceiving yourself.” 

All of us have the tendency to play it as close to the edge as possible.  We dance on the edge of chaos.  “How close to sin can I get without it being sin?  Where is the line?”  Quit flirting with disaster.  Quit messing around.  You’re playing with fire.  He gives an example using drunkenness to make his point but it applies to lust, to greed, to material things…

5:18 “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery”.  Debauchery = extreme indulgence that leads to a loss of control.  Loss of control is the key.  Drunkenness is a guardrail.  It is what is on the other side of drunkenness that Paul is warning you about.

Lust, greed, alcohol, anger, food, money, material possessions – anything that leads to a loss of control, anything that baits you into things you don’t need to be involved in … that’s where the danger is.  That you’d get yourself so torqued up that you lose sight.  That you get so obsessed with that new car that you’ll buy it being willing to jeopardize your kid’s college savings.  That’s a loss of control.  And it will cost you.

appetites

Anything that baits you to the point of you losing control, your heavenly Father is against.  Because on the other side of that … is disaster.  Any area of your life where you tend to hand control over to someone/something else is where you will need a guardrail.

Paul is saying, “Don’t get drunk.  It’s foolish.  Be careful because the days in which you live are evil.  Drunk leads to a loss of control.  Loss of control is a sin.  It leads to disaster.”

“Instead, be filled with the Spirit”.  God wants to be the primary influence in your life.  The Holy Spirit indwells the believer.  He will prompt you, nudge you, guide you, direct you.  The Spirit doesn’t yell.  He doesn’t scream.  He usually clears his throat.  It is a still, small voice in your conscience.  We know.  We know.  We know what’s the right thing.  Quit fooling around.  Pay attention.  Be careful.

This talk might have nudged you.  Maybe there is an arena where you’re getting closer and closer and you get so full of lust, you lose self-control.  What would it look like if you backed up to a safe distance and put a guardrail in place that maybe no one else would understand but it might just save your marriage?

No one has ever regretted establishing a guardrail but plenty of people regret not having had one in their lives.  Guardrails are wisdom.  You know where your boundaries should be and you know the cost if you cross them.  “What’s the wise thing to do?” Guard yourself.  Guard your heart.  Guard your eyes.  Don’t take foolish risks.  Be wise!

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I am locked tight on God face to face…

As she so beautifully sings…

“Don’t look to the right or the left, keep your eyes on Me.  You will not be shaken, You will not be moved.  When the storm rages, I won’t be afraid, because I am locked tight on You face to face.  Your voice I will follow, Your eyes I will see.  I’ll come a little closer.  Come close to me because You are my anchor in the wind and the waves.  You are my steadfast and I won’t be afraid cause even in the darkest night, I will honor Your name.  If my heart and flesh fail me,  You are my strength…”

Warfare

Today was intense.  Rather than pasting in my notes, I’m just going to speak to you from my heart.  First, I apologize for bringing politics into this discussion.  The point I made could have been made without ever mentioning the word politics.  Lesson learned.  I will speak from my heart on this (so you don’t have to agree with this, it is my perspective) — I have seen  a radical change in our culture over the past 10 years.  We seem to embrace Islam and do whatever we can to welcome it under the veil of “freedom of religion” while at the same time, it seems Christianity is under assault.  Apparently, freedom of religion doesn’t apply to Christianity.  This should not surprise us.  Jesus warned us that we’d be despised because He was despised.  We have welcomed and embraced the homosexual agenda, legalized gay marriage, encouraged elementary schools to welcome and make comfortable children who now self-indentify as transsexuals.   Political correctness has consumed America.  If we offend anyone with our beliefs, we are bigots.  Michael Yousef, the Atlanta pastor who is a native Egyptian, has said that Islam’s strategy to “invade” America would be to play upon American’s repulsion of being called intolerant.  That Americans will do whatever is necessary to avoid being called intolerant.  He said this about 15 years ago long before “political correctness” became the buzzword.  By playing on our fear of being considered intolerant, Islam knew it could capitalize on this to gain favor in America.  It is working.  What is going on?  Why does it feel like this fog of deception is swallowing up America?  Exactly.  The enemy is a liar and his operating strategy is distortion.  He twists and lies and these clouds of deception come upon us.  It is warfare.  We are seeing all of this play out in front of us.  To my point this morning, I can see (again, it’s my opinion) that we could be the verge of the next 10 years being about a war on manhood in America.  That men are the “the problem”.  This can be the police, the CEO’s, big corporations, Wall Street, the insurance companies, etc. that we could be seeing the start of the next phase of the war and the root of it is coming after manhood.  That through the police or Wall Street or CEO’s, that men have ruined this country and must now take a back seat.  I may be wrong.  All I wanted to say this morning — in the context of talking about spiritual warfare in a room full of men — is that we just need to be braced for it.  Be on alert.  It would seem to make sense that this could be where the enemy tries to take this battle.  We simply should not be surprised to see another wave of the attack and a further breaking down of what we hold dear.

And so, we’re back to warfare.  1 Peter 5:8-9 says, “Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”   James 4:7-8 says, Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God an he will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  Verse 11 says, Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up”.    (bold/underline my emphasis)

Remember back the Louie Giglio talk.  Warfare is coming at you.  The enemies are all around you.  Don’t be surprised because the attack is coming.  Satan doesn’t eat, he doesn’t sleep, he doesn’t chill out at the beach or the TV.  All he does is attack.  24/7 he exists to take you out.  He doesn’t play fair.  He reads your mail.  He knows how to play you.  So the enemies are going to be and are, all around you.  He’s just trying to land a seat at your table.  He just wants to pull up a chair and engage in conversation with you.  (Please watch that talk if you haven’t already – from October 5th on the blog)  The question for you is, who have you been listening to?  Is it the enemy?  And if so, why?  Perhaps you’ve engaged in a conversation with him and started to form some agreements around the lies he’s been telling you.

What role must we play?  To the scripture above, I have underlined/bolded the key words for us.  It is not a passive affair.  You have a role to play in defending yourself from the attack that is coming 24/7.  First, you need to control “self”.  That is the “me” thing.  It is lust, sex, greed, envy, jealousy, impulsiveness, anger, etc.  If we give into these things, we’ve given the enemy a seat at the table.  If we go to lust, to pornography, etc. we are just inviting him in.  It’s like riding in an armored limo going through a hostile crowd and rolling the windows down.  By rolling the windows down, we’re giving him an opening to exploit.  And he will.  Second, we must be alert.  It is coming.  It may not come directly at you but instead it will come at your wife or your kids.  You must be on alert at all times and not drop your guard.  And then it says we must resist and stand firm.  The temptation is coming.  She will call out to you, “It won’t hurt to look” or “no one will ever know”.  You must resist and stand firm.  NO!  I will NOT be that man.  I will not be that man that falls for this and gives up my honor and integrity”.  Next, it says we have to “come near to God”.  We have to be in the Word.  We have to pray.  We have to seek him.  We have to care for our souls and feed upon the nourishment only God can give us.  Next, we must purify and wash our hands of the sin.  That is a real battle but it is putting guardrails up that you will not cross.  It is setting standards of operating behavior you will not vary from.  That may be no R-rated movies for you.  It may be nothing with sex scenes in it.  It may mean giving your iPad away so the temptation is gone.  It may mean confession to your band of brothers of a weakness in your armor your need to fortify.  The truth shall set you free.  Lastly, we need to humble ourselves.  Humble.  Humility.  A desperate need for a power far greater than you possess.  It is a death of hubris or “I’ve got it all figured out”.  Humility is a beautiful thing in a warrior and we’ll talk more about it later this fall.

You have a role to play.  The Lord has “prepared a table for you in the presence of your enemies”.  They are all around us.  Revelation 12 says that Satan was thrown out of heaven and down to earth where he wages war against woman and all her offspring.  God doesn’t pull us out of the fire.  The power of your testimony is what God will use to bring others to Christ.  That you can walk through this minefield and keep your honor and integrity, die to self, live in humility and have a radical dependence on God, that will testify to the doubtful that this God we serve is real and powerful and transformational.  That God can take the tragedy of your messy life and turn it into a Triumph is a testimony.  But as Richard Peters reminded us today, testimony starts with “test”.

More to say but that’ll come in another post.

Living outside of “self”

lake-sunset

Jesus’ sentences stand like quivering swords of flame because He did not come to bring peace but revolution.

The Gospel is a cutting-edge, rolling thunder, convulsive earthquake in the world of the human spirit.

In entering human spirit, God has shattered all previous conceptions of who God is.

The life He has planned for you is much like the life He lived.

He was not poor so that you may be rich.

He was not mocked so that you may be honored.

He was not laughed at so that you could be praised.

You are not to fill up what is wanting in the suffering of Christ.

It is a call to live outward.  It’s a reminder that we must die to “self” and live our lives outward in service to others.  It is a reminder that there is an eternal life.  There is a kingdom to come and in that kingdom, you will have a role to play just as you do in this life.

All you have to offer in this life is your soul.  It is the one gift you were put on this earth to offer others.  It isn’t about gathering all you can.  It is a call to give all of yourself away.

The Quest for Authentic Manhood…

lion

The quest to LiveUP in Authentic Manhood  – a life lived outward – is a passionate pursuit of a different kind of greatness.  Though its path runs counter to selfish ambition, it is no less ambitious. 

It inspires the rare man who longs to live a heroic life that honors God. 

It calls a man to a new kind of courage.

It demands so much of us. 

Integrity not only harnesses our passions, it focuses our intentions.  There are some paths, some options and some directions we simply will not choose no matter the cost to us of standing firm in this Quest.

 

You’re going into battle today. Will you listen to the Father?

Here are the slides from this morning … who-are-you-listening-to

Here is the short video of the man talking about his new baby girl hearing his voice …

John 10:10 – “The thief comes only to steal, kill and to destroy.  I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance.”  Verse 11 – “I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

If you’re hearing, “You’re not going to make it” or “You’re not good enough” … you’re not hearing that from God.  The good shepherd isn’t saying those things to you.

What is the provision? (He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies)   What is the “table”?  It is Him.  His word.  His will.

And so you sit with him at the table … in the presence of your enemies … and you say, “Thank you Jesus that you’re with me in the midst of this fire, this fight, this pressure, this darkness, this trial, this garbage dump … in the midst of this, you have prepared a table for me.”

When you go into the fire, it should be “Father, what is your will for me?  What is your desire?”  Not – “get me out of the fire” but rather, “What do you want me to do?”  Maybe your enemies are indeed surrounding you but you know what?  God’s angel armies are surrounding them.

God is saying, “I want all of you to watch me sustain and strengthen and lead my son through this valley.  Watch me sustain, strengthen and provide, protect and guide my child.  I want you to watch.  You thought you were going to take him out but I want you to watch me lead him through.”

Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20) – when surrounded by enemies on all sides, he first turned to God to hear what God had to say and then they sang over their enemies, “Give thanks to the LORD, his faithful love endures forever.”

Our nature and instinct is to say, “Lord, get me out of this…”  But He is saying, “No, get me in the furnace with you and then watch me sustain you, guide you and restore you.  Let me protect you, provide for you and make you into everything I wanted you to be not in the absence of a fight, not in the absence of pressure, not in the absence of difficulty – but – right smack in the middle of the valley of the shadow of death, watch me deliver you.”

2 Chronicles 20:15 — “Do not be afraid.  Do not lose hope because of this huge army.  The battle is not yours.  It is God’s.”

Your battle is with an enemy who is constantly bombarding your thought life with deception that makes you think what is fake is real; that makes you think what is bad for you is actually good for you.

So … who are you listening to?  Your enemies are all around you.  The Lord is seated at the table He has prepared for you in the midst of your enemies.  Who are you listening to?

If the thoughts coming into your mind produce the following, they are from the Holy Spirit

If the thoughts coming into your mind are producing the following, they are from your enemy.

Love

Sexual immorality

Joy

Impurity

Peace

Idolatry

Patience

Hatred

Kindness

Discord

Goodness

Jealousy

Faithfulness

Selfish Ambition

Gentleness

Fits of Rage

Self-Control

Drunkenness
 

Factions

 

Envy

Galatians 5:22-23 – The fruit of the spirit.  These things on the left, they produce calm in your life.  The things the Father will speak to you will be goodness, gentleness, patience, love, etc.

Galatians 5:19-21 – The works of the flesh.  These things on the right, they produce chaos in your life.  You battle two enemies – your flesh/sin nature and Satan.  Satan knows where you are weakest (your flesh) and he comes at you in these areas.  If you find yourself full of envy, rage, sexual temptation, jealousy, etc. and if the voices are whispering at you in these areas, you’ve given the enemy a seat at your table.

“He has shown you, oh man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you?  To live justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.”   Micah 6:8

It is your story. Who are you listening to?

Think about this.  Craig McConnell spent 40 years of his life struggling with the notion that he had nothing to offer, nothing to say.  He felt he’d never make a difference or could say anything that would encourage anyone.  Wow.  That’s a powerful condemnation over his life.  He was listening to the wrong voice.  Once he went to the Father and truly opened up his heart to what the God of the universe had to say about him, his story changed.  His identity changed.  He was no longer the seagull.  And just look at the next 30 years of his life.  Look at the impact he had.  Look at the thousands of lives he changed and the tens of thousands of men he “fathered” in his ministry.

This is from Louie Giglio speaking at revival week of Elevation Church.  Fast forward to about 17 minutes into this for the content of what we saw today at Manschool…

You have a good Shepherd.  The scripture says He makes me, restores me, leads me, comforts me, protects me, anoints me and then it says “surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life”.  He is goodness.  He is love.  He follows me and leads me.  And at the end, I move into the house of the Lord forever.  It’s a very good deal.

“He prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies”.  So catch that, the enemy is all around (the battle is raging against you) and God prepares a table for you in the midst of your enemy.

I’m surrounded by my enemies.  In spite of that, Jesus comes and says, “I’ve prepared a table for you with two chairs. One for me and one for you.”  Why is that good news?  Because you are living in the middle of a battle between good and evil.  The enemies are real and it is tough.  Regardless, in that chaos and turmoil, a table has been prepared for you.

1 Peter 5 says “Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”  He’s always around.  He’s looking for a crack or a crevice.  Some opening he can find to get to you.  It can be your character, a real life experience, a door you open (like pornography), it can be an opinion of a friend.  It can be a justification or rationalization for an affair.  He’s always prowling, looking for a crack he can get in to wreak a little havoc in your life.  “Just give me an opening.  Give me a seat and let me talk to you…”

It’s not really about you – it’s about your Father.  He despises God and will come after God’s children as payback.  As a parent, I know when my daughters are hurt or make a poor decision – yes, they are hurt but it hurts me more.  Because I see all the potential and all the promise and all that I’ve prayed for in their life.  Same is true with Satan – he’s after God and he’s coming after us to try to hurt God.

It’s one thing for Satan to be prowling around but if you don’t watch it, he’ll just pull up a chair at your table and start a conversation. Lashing out at someone.  Getting even.  Striking back.  Taking something that doesn’t belong to you.  “You deserve this”.  “She won’t make you happy and you should be happy”.  Greed.  Envy.  Strife.  Bitterness.  Unforgiveness.

You and me, we just let a killer sit down at our table.  

How do you know if he’s at your table?  Generally speaking, he comes at you 3 ways…

“You’re never going to make it through this.”  If you have ever heard, “You’re not going to make it, this will never change, don’t get your hopes up, you’re not going to survive it”, if you hear that, you’ve given the devil a seat at your table.

“You aren’t good enough. Never been good enough.  You’re not strong enough or smart enough.  You are not worthy.  You’re insignificant”.  If you’ve heard today, “You’re not good enough”, the enemy is sitting at your table.

“Everyone is against you”.  If you’re hearing, “No one at school likes you” or “Everyone is out to get you” or “Coach is out to get you” … then the enemy is sitting at your table.

You battle this by sitting down at your table with your Shepherd and thanking Him for giving you all that you need mentally, spiritually and physically in the middle of this fight going on all around you.  And you say to your enemy, “You don’t have a seat at my table.  You are a liar.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

The only way you can lose your peace is to let the Devil sit down at your table, eat your food and to start talking to you.  The Lord prepared the table and you get to decide who sits at your table.  Your choice.

I’ve got my enemies.  But, I’ve got my Shepherd and He’s a good Shepherd.  John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”   Verse 11 – “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep.”

That is why if you’re hearing, “You’re not good enough. You ain’t gonna make it” – that’s not coming from the Shepherd.  And … even if everyone is truly against you, look who is sitting at your table with you.

Whose voice are you listening to?