He is in the storms that will come

Here is the devotional from New Morning Mercies > Scan0009

“The men found themselves in an impossible, exhausting, frustrating and potentially dangerous situation.” 

So many of our men have been in – or – are presently now – in just such a circumstance.  Storms come in life and many of us are in them right now.  And as this text says, these storms are beyond our strength and ability.

Why would Jesus ever want His disciples to be in this kind of situation?  Why would Jesus ever want you to go through the storm you are presently going through?  Have you ever asked, “WHY?”.  I have.

As we’ve discussed many times, nowhere in scripture are we promised that our life would be constantly blessed, without challenge, without pain or without challenge.

Nowhere in scripture are we promised a pain free, perfect life.  We are promised storms will come – we live in a fallen and broken world and we are promised that He will never leave nor forsake us.

In this story, we see that Jesus could have “fixed” this easily – from the shore, He could have just called out for the seas to calm to help his friends.  But … He didn’t.  He walked out into the storm to meet His friends there in the midst of it.  He wasn’t after the storm, He was after the men.  The storms will come in your life, Jesus will come after you in them.

Why did Jesus send them into the storm?  Why does He send you into your storm?  Said another way, why didn’t He stop the storm that came upon you?  Why didn’t He stop the affair, the cancer, the attack, the pregnancy, the failure?  He saw it coming – He is God after all – why didn’t He stop it?

Because, sometimes we need the storm to be able to see the glory.  Sometimes, you need to be knocked off your high horse to wake you up enough to just how far off base you’ve gotten.  Sometimes you need a crash to realize that your life has become all about the pursuit of your kingdom.  Sometimes you need a good healthy face full of DIRT so God can knock off the rough edges that have formed around your faith and so that you can experience His glory through the redemption.

Jesus walked out onto the water to be with His friends during their fear-laced, “there is no way we’re gonna make out of this” moment.  He was right there with them.  He is right there with you in yours.

Don’t ask Him “why?”

Ask Him “what?  what is it Lord you’re trying to break in me, show me, sanctify in me, purify out of me?  what is it Lord that I have made an idol?  what is it that has my supreme affection/attention/devotion that should be Yours?”

read the attached text.  John Piper’s full sermon is below.  We started today at 49:55 minutes in…

who is this Jesus?

hang on, I’m gonna challenge you with this one …

Who is this Jesus that you love?  Stop.  Pause.  Listen.  Let that soak over you.  Do you … really … love … Jesus?  Why?  Is it hard for you to think about “loving” Jesus?  Why is that?  Is He the Sunday School Jesus you grew up reading about.  The man in a white robe, carrying a lamb, gentle, meek & mild. Is that the Jesus you think of?  Or… is He the rule keeper, always disappointed in you, always thinking you’re not enough?  Or… is He very, very distant, far off, removed from you and your emotions?  Who is the Jesus a man like me loves?

Deeper question still —–> why do you love Jesus?  I mean seriously.  What has Jesus done for you?  Do you even know or even remember?

I struggle with this.  I have forgotten the passion of my initial conversion.  I’ve forgotten about the radical transformation that occurred in my heart when I accepted Jesus.

And, it is way more than “accepting Jesus”.  That’s a transaction, a “one and done”.  That’s a ticket.  A secret formula.  A secret code to insure my eternity.  That’s 400 kids “accepting Jesus” at a summer youth retreat.  Then what?  Sadly, many of us today “accepted” Jesus many moons ago and we’ve drifted into the suburban lifestyle of comfort and convenience and justifying our life saying, “Oh Jesus would want me to be happy”.

Jesus didn’t say, “accept me as your Lord and Savior”.  His call was never seeing how many people He could get to come down front to make a profession of faith.  Jesus said, LIVE like me.  FOLLOW me.”

And here is the rub, are you living like Jesus?  Is He about the process of sanctifying you?  Are you vastly different today than you were five years ago?  Are you radically more aware of your brokenness and desperation for Him?  Do you live days thinking “there is no way I could do any of this without the sustaining fuel of my Lord.”  Is He your fuel?

Which kingdom are you serving today?  Yours or His?

Have you surrendered?

Hands turned upward saying “thy will be done”?

stay near the Fire…

slides from this morning … manschool 2019 5

Two key themes have been our focus this year – first, the question of “which kingdom will I serve?” and second, this theme of “dirt” … when you get knocked off your high horse of self reliance which we’re learning is a side effect of how you answer the first question.  We can’t see it at the time.  We drift.  We don’t read the Word.  We don’t immerse in it.  We rely on self.  We rely on being a man that can conquer mountains and handle any challenge we face.  It’s gradual.  Doesn’t happen overnight – thus why I say it is a “drift”.

If my reliance, my daily bread, my sustaining is coming from God – truly – then I won’t turn to those false gods of self, success, money, sex, porn, greed, power, reputation.  If you are aligned with God, being fed by Him, sustained by Him, you will push those things away – you won’t need money, success, power or reputation.  They are fleeting.  Only God is permanent.  You don’t “need” sex.  You certainly don’t need to escape into porn.  You have come to believe a lie.  You believe those things are your right and you’ve justified your sex drive as an excuse for _________.  But the Liar we face is crafty, skilled and persistent.  He’s trying to lead you away from the Fire.  He loves “self-reliance”.  He loves the “Type-A, driven, powerful man”.  Yes, yes, yes, he will lead you right down that path of being “all that” and of being the kind of man women turn to for strength.  Dangerous.  Slippery slope.  Tragedy awaits in the hook of the Liar.

As we read this morning…

Camp out in God’s Word – not the world.  Literally pitch your tent in God’s Word.  Camp.  Build a fire.  Pitch your tent near the fire.  Don’t wander off.

There is danger in the woods (world).  You can leave the camp – move from the fire and you can survive.  Wandering down a dark path.  Danger lurks.  Its dark and cold.  You turn back to the fire.  What do you do when you find you way back to that fire – to the warmth and the safety?  You worship! 

(Eugene Peterson A Long Obedience in the Same Direction)

But we are a stubborn bunch.  We want to travel north and yet all the roads are cut to the east.  Do we take the well worn path?  No.  We complain of the roads going in a direction we don’t want to travel.  Pushing forward “our way”, we find nothing but obstacles, walls and rivers and as we repeatedly fail trying to make it on our own path apart from God.  We pursue “our right” to happiness but we refuse to take that well-traveled road that leads there.

It’s like God himself is having this conversation with His angels …

They are trying to get to Mount Zion but ignore all the signposts and compass readings and stubbornly avoid the trails as they bushwhack their way through wilderness.  “Do you not see that they necessarily must meet with thwartings, crossings, disappointments, and failure?”  They go mile after mile, watching for their destination but never sighting it.

“And then they accuse religion of interfering with what they consider their innocent pleasures and wishes.” 

But religion is an inconvenience only to those who are traveling against the grain of creation, at cross-purposes with the way that leads to redemption.

John Henry Newman

As we rely upon self, we are traveling against the grain of creation.  We bushwhack our way through wilderness in stubborn refusal to submit.  And it’s as if God is saying, “Don’t you see?  Don’t you see why I must thwart them?  Why they must meet with some tough crossings, disappointments and failures?”  In other words, while God may not “cause” these “dirt” moments, He also doesn’t prevent them.  Some of them are choices and consequences of our own making and sometimes, the only way to learn in life is to suffer the consequences of our disobedience.  Other times, seemingly innocent people suffer.  We are so tempted to ask, “How could a good God let ______ happen?”  We live in a fallen, broken world populated with deeply broken people.  Accidents happen.  Evil happens.  Cancer happens.  None of us are promised an easy, pain-free life.

If I am serving “my” kingdom, I can make NO sense of cancer.  No sense of losing my job.  No sense of a rebellious child.  But, if I am serving HIS Kingdom, I can.  “His will be done”God may never answer the “why” this happened.  But He is in the “what”.  What now LORD?  What is it You are doing in this?  What is it I need to be taught?  What is the self-reliance that got me into this?  He will answer those given enough time and enough surrender on your part.

And do you see why?  You’re taking those questions to the Father.  “What is it Father?  Show me.”  It is surrender.  It is letting go of “my way”, letting go of “my kingdom”, letting go of “I am man enough to win at a life on my own”It’s DIRT.  You’re down in the dirt and you’re surrendering to the Father and asking “what?” and it’s beautiful.

Men, listen to me.  I cannot possibly know what all you’re going through but I do know some of it.  One of our fellow tribe members lost his job an hour after manschool this morning.  Health issues.  Marriages are on the brink.  Children gone off range.  We’ve lost family members.  Our business is sinking.  We got laid off.  She left for another man.  Porn addiction has been uncovered.  I don’t know what storm you’re going through but I do know this, God may not have caused it but I can assure you, He is in it.  He will not abandon you – even if in your self-reliance, you turned your back on Him.  He wants you to come home.  He wants you to be sustained day by day by His Word.

He wants you to stay by the fire.

Be a man in God’s Word this week …Read 2 Corinthians 4 this week a few times.  Read Lamentations 3 this week … a few times!  “Hope through God’s Mercy”.  Pay special attention to 3:22-29.  Dirt is all over Lamentations 3.

why did this happen?

The slides from today – manschool 2019 4

When you get knocked off your high horse and find yourself face down in the dirt, the natural question is “Why?  Why God did this happen?”.  If we dig enough into our lives, I think some of the reason of “why” can become evident.  Some answers, in this life, may never be explained.  We live in a fallen, broken world.  We are all in the process of dying, all being “destroyed”.  Stuff happens.  Folks die.  Accidents happen all the time.  Cancer appears.  Young folks have brain ruptures.  The world has gone mad and we can make no sense of it — unless — we have an eternal focus.

I want to encourage you — this week, today — to dive into 2 Corinthians 4.  It’s not long … just 18 verses.  You have the time.  Or do you?  Which kingdom will you serve?  Do you have the time to read this sacred text?  Do you have the time to seek the hidden treasure that is God’s Word?

Dig into it these 18 verses.  Word by word.  Underline the key texts.  Write in the margins of your Bible.  Dig, ponder, question, talk to God as you read it, “What is it LORD you are trying to show me in this text?”  Pay attention to the words “therefore” or “because” or “so”.  Those words lead to something.  They point you to the Way.

Back to the eternal focus.  Paul is pointing us to the secret of not losing heart in the face of all the crushing defeat we face in this broken world.  The secret (more in this in the coming weeks) is having an eternal focus.  I can make NO sense of some of the tragedies I hear about (and have lived myself) from so many.  None.  But what I can make sense of is God and that He is good and that I can trust Him – even when this life makes no sense.

I claim I want to believe my eternal destination is secure – that I have a “Deposit Guaranty”.  But in practice (not what I say), I live with compulsion and with anxiety and  with a drivenness. I get so focused on the opportunities and responsibilities and needs and desires I have.  I say one thing, I live another.  I have lost sight of what is to come.  I don’t have an eternal focus, I have a “here” focus, “me” focus.  And if I live with a here & me focus, I will quickly find myself back up on my high horse, God will be back up on the shelf and my ability to make it through each day will come only from my own internal stamina and drive.  It’ll all be up to me to secure my destination, to achieve all this world has for “me” and one of two things will happen, I will get sucked into the darkness that comes from a “me-centered” lifestyle — or — with mercy and grace, God will, once again, knock me off my horse into the dirt.

dirt

So, why would I say dirt is a beautiful thing?  Because without a face down plant into the humility of dirt, I’d be heading down a path of destruction.  I’ve never met a man whose life is all about him who also doesn’t have a train wreck of destruction in his wake.  He may be “all that” but he’s a tyrant to his wife and he drives his kids to perfection.  He craves the attention and is fed by his own glory.

“Lord, knock me off my high horse and never let me get back up up there”.

Yes I am worn out, exhausted, depleted, beaten to a pulp, can’t catch a breath or catch a break.  Yes, my hope fades, my encouragement wanes and my bucket leaks.  Thank God!  These are hopeful because they point me back to God.  Trying to make this life on your own, on your own strength will exhaust you.  It can’t be done.  I must be renewed day by day and that renewal can only come from the LORD.

Click on the slides.  Take the “test” in there when we invert those questions (starting about 1/2 way through the deck).  Ask yourself, in truth, where you are in this.  If you find yourself hopeless and spiritually empty, follow the train of thought in those slides and see where it takes you.

… and read 2 Corinthians 4 !!!

day by day…

I cannot sustain this pace.  I can’t take another shot.  Beaten.  Bruised.  Worn down.  Worn out.  I used to be able to snap back and my attitude was always the glass was half full.  Today, it seems it is always half empty.  I give up.  Everyone else seems to be just fine.

Ever been there?

Matthew 6:34 – “Each day has enough trouble of its own…”   Amen to that.  Like the olive, I am pressed on all sides.  Squeezed.  Crushed.  And tomorrow, I get to do it all over again.

Ever been there?

Don’t be anxious for tomorrow because tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  The troubles for today are sufficient enough.  No need to worry about what might come tomorrow.

Lamentations 3:23 – “The mercies of the LORD are new every morning”.

Just as the troubles come with each day, thankfully, so do God’s mercies.  They are small and almost indiscernible at times, but they are there.  When you taste them, savor them.  Feed upon them.  Soak them up.  Rejoice in them.  It can be a hug from your wife.  The smile of a little child in a restaurant.  An amazing sunrise or sunset.  The warmth of an 80 degree February day with birds singing.  The greening up of grass or the early blooming of the Bradford pear trees.  His mercies can be a compliment from a friend, co-worker or customer.  It can be a friendly smile from the nurse checking on your Dad.  So many mercies.  They provide for us.  They sustain us.  There are times when I am almost completely out of gas and just one of these mercies gets me through the day.

Ever been there?

Yes, you are beaten and bruised on all sides – “the harsh winds of the East” (yesterday’s post) but you also have new mercies coming your way each day – “the refreshing winds of the West”.  For the olive tree (you) to produce fruit and ultimately, the valuable oil that lights the way for others, you’ve got to take the harsh with the refreshing.

The mercies are there to renew me.  To restore me.  To fuel me.  Daily.  Day by day.  One day at a time.  Why not a “one and done”?  I need to be renewed daily.  I need what only the Father can provide.  He gets the glory.  I truly can’t do it on my own.  I need Him.  I need these mercies.  As John Piper says in here, “If I (God) didn’t do it this way, you’d get uppity.  You’d think you have it made and you’d think it started coming from you.  The fact that you run out of gas every day, puts you in the station!  He has a reason He sanctifies us slowly, a reason we need to fill up daily lest we forget from where the gas comes from!”

If I forget from where it comes from, I’m going to quickly find myself back up on the high horse of my own self-reliance and I’m heading for a crash.

 

I am worn out…

Everywhere I go, I am hearing the same thing – we are all exhausted.  Beaten up.  Out of breath.  Not enough time in the day.  That’s the “tyranny of the urgent” and this malaise that has fallen upon our society.  America makes up 5% of the world’s population and we consume 80% of the world’s opiates.  Legal pot.  Booze.  Porn.  Anti-depressants.  We are medicating the pain.  We are the richest and most prosperous nation in the history of mankind and we are also the most medicated society ever.

That’s one issue.  Just be aware of it.  As you’re drawn to medicate, ask yourself the deeper question of “why?”  What is it you’re after?  Why is this same pattern emerging as you think you’re doing good and something happens and you slip and run back to the medication of the day?  What is underneath that?

But the bigger theme I want to address is what is it we are to do when life smacks us down?  Pregnant daughter.  Son has gone off range.  Wife has walked out.  Business has failed or you think you’re exposed to the next round of layoffs.  You lose a child.  You get cancer.

Take these two issues together and I can assure you, life is going to smack you down.  You cannot navigate this life on your own.  Good luck trying.  Being a “type-A, driven, accomplished man” will not sustain you when you daughter shows up pregnant or when your wife has brain cancer.  It will only sustain you so long and you’ll quickly run out of that fuel.

These things will happen in your life.  If you’ve never faced one of these, good.  Congratulations.  Tape your ankles because your day is coming.  It comes for all of us.  What then?  These storms will come.  When you are driven and self-reliant, you will proudly strut on your high horse.  Life will knock your ass off that horse eventually.

It is in this moment that God works.  A self-reliant man doesn’t need God.  He’s got it figured out.  He has “gears” he can draw upon to make it through any situation until …

This picture of olive oil has a purpose in this message…

olive oil

Olive trees, to produce fruit, must have both the harsh winds of the East and the refreshing winds of the West.  They need hard times and good times to produce fruit.  Like an olive off the tree, you and I must be salted and soaked in water if we are to be ride of our hardness and bitterness.  We must be salted in the Truth and soaked in the Living Water.

What is most valuable in an olive is when it is pressed beyond recognition, crushed to destruction and yet, the oil that comes from the crushing is where the value comes from.  The oil can be turned to light.

Yes, you may be in a very tough, trying place right now.  But there is a purpose in it.  Which Kingdom will you serve?  Your kingdom of self-reliance?  Or His Kingdom?

“God, I cannot understand “why” this is happening, but I trust You. I trust that You will provide for me through this and I totally trust that You ARE good.  I am your beloved son and no matter how this gets better or if it never gets better, I am safe in Your arms”