we will all be tested…

Here are the slides from this morning > Clear eyes 7 – we will all be tested

“Give all of us here the strength to remember that life is so very fragile.  We are all vulnerable and we will all, at some point in our lives, fall.  We will all fall.  We must carry this in our hearts that what we have is special.  That it can be taken from us and that when it is taken from us, we will be tested.  We will be tested to our very souls.  We will all be tested.”   Friday Night Lights

We will all be tested.  In facing death and in the challenges of living in this broken world.  There is no doubt, we will all face major tests.

We began this fall with this statement –

The opportunities before us are enormous.  There is vast territory to be claimed for the Kingdom.  Everywhere you go today, every person you come into contact with, there is a chance to minister to them and to expose them to Jesus.

But many of us come into this room broken and battered by life.  We’ve chased after our own little gods and we’re now paying the price.  The good news is – there is redemption.  The good news is – there is restoration.  That man you once dreamed to be he is still there.  He can be recovered.  The real you, the true you, the one the Father dreamed into existence – he’s still in there … he’s just waiting to be awakened.

We also said a few weeks ago –

Sometimes a single phone call can change the entire trajectory of your life.  Oftentimes, that call is a crisis.  The storms are going to come.  One day, a phone call is coming for you.  One day, news is going to rock your world.

This is quite disruptive.  But … it is also holy.  If I deny these things and keep blowing my balloon up, I am trying to preserve my life, my ideal, my story.  And … I will end up being very disappointed.  But if I can embrace the reality of death and realize, this isn’t my life anyway – it is a gift, it is a purpose beyond self, it is a step along the way into the Kingdom – then I can truly live.  Maximus said it well – “what we do in life, echoes in eternity”

When we are tested, it will very helpful to remember these promises from the LORD…

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold onto you with my righteous hand. Isaiah 41:1-2

Now this is what the LORD says – the One who created you, Jacob, you, Israel – “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine.  I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you.  You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you.”  Isaiah 43:1-2

Notice – the emphasis is on “when” … not “if”.

So, OK, why am I tested?  Lysa TerKeurst shared this explanation that I believe is spot on…

“God doesn’t want you or me to suffer.  But He will allow it in doses to increase our trust.  Our pain and suffering isn’t to hurt us.  It’s to save us.  To save us from a life where we are self-reliant, self-satisfied, self-absorbed and set up for the greatest pain of all … separation from God. 

Think about why we will yank a child back from running across a street.  The initial jerk might cause the child some pain and confusion.  But that tiny bit of suffering is for the greater good of saving the child from the worse suffering of getting hit by a car.  The situation with my colon caused me lots of pain and confusion. But it was for the greater good of saving me from a colon rupture and a possible death. 

To trust God is to trust His timing.  To trust God is to trust His way.  God loves me too much to answer my prayers at any other time than the right time and in any other way other than the right way.

Most of all, He knows if I saw the full road ahead, I would stop about halfway through and never choose to continue with His plan.  I would think the cost is too high, the path too scary, the way too daunting, and the enemy too frightening.  No human is strong enough to withstand seeing too much of God’s plan in advance.  It must be revealed daily.  And we must be led to it and through it slowly.

The enemy would love for me to get caught up in the temptations of this world.  He would love for me to give in to the devastating pull of my constant cravings for physical pleasure.  The insatiable longing for all that I see.  The pride that comes with achieving and owning more and more.”

Do you have “clear eyes” about this?  We will all be tested.

amazon Jesus…

“If only I had _______________ I would be content.”  What goes in the blank?  We spend our lives chasing these blanks trying to fill them up believing they will bring contentment.  Think about the nicest car you ever bought.  Where is that car now?  If you still have it, does it meet all your needs?  Are you a better man because you drive that car?  Or… has it now grown stale and you’re thinking, “Maybe it is time to trade up”?  Sadly, this line of thinking/rationalizing has ended many a man’s marriage.

Blow all you want, that balloon isn’t going to do it for you (see previous “balloons” post) because of this …

popping balloon

Whatever “it” is, it will eventually go away.

Here’s what happens: it’s not just that you have a dream, but that your heart gets captured by your dream.  It becomes your definition of “life”.   You no longer hold your dreams with open arms.

open arms

What was once a desire has morphed into a demand, and it won’t be long before you view that demand as a need.  This thing you once wished that you had becomes your nonnegotiable, the thing that you are unwilling to live without.  Soon you’re unhappy, not because life has been hard or God has been unfaithful, but because this thing that is effectively and functionally now ruling your heart lies beyond your grasp.  You are dependent and discouraged.  You envy people who seem to have captured their dreams.  You wonder why you’ve been singled out.  You wonder why God has forgotten you.  Is it OK to dream?  Yes, but when your dream becomes a ruling thing, it wreaks havoc on your spiritual life.

So, back to our balloons.  We build these things up.  We orchestrate and, in many cases, manipulate life to make it go our way.  We want all the breaks.  We want all the chips to fall in the right places at the right time.  We want our children to be successful.  We want them starting at first base and batting fourth.  We want them as the quarterback or the homecoming queen.  We want our facebook/Instagram image of our life and family to be perfect.  We want people to envy us.  We want people to notice us.  We seek fame and recognition.  We dream of building our businesses to their maximum potential and then selling them out at the precise right time for the maximum payoff.

We want all these balloons blown to their max capacity to shine like a colorful rainbow of an abundant life.  But we must have clear eyes about this.

Pay attention to what happens to your relationship with God as your dreams gobble up more of the turf of your heart.  God is no longer the thing that motivates you and gives you courage and hope.  God is no longer your source of sturdy joy.  The glory of God is no longer the thing that you’re living for.  Awe of God is no longer the reason you do everything you do(New Morning Mercies)

Sadly, God has been reduced to a delivery system; your Savior has become Amazon Jesus.  If He delivers, you’ll worship and serve Him, but if He fails to deliver, you’ll question His goodness and love, you’ll have little motivation to offer your life to Him.

Amazon Jesus … the man who wanted more and more and more and filled his arms up with stuff.

arms full

No matter what we accomplish or how much we’re able to enjoy or how much we’re able to acquire, still we feel like we’re striving after the wind.  We never really gain anything.

So, keep going if you wish.  Keep chasing these things and seeing how many boxes amazon can deliver to you.  But pay attention to this “clear eyes” comment from from Alan Redpath a British evangelist …

“Crushed and brought back to our senses realizing God is going to have His way.  One by one, God took them from me, all the things I valued most until I was empty handed.  Every glittering toy was lost, and I walked earth’s highways grieving in my rags and poverty until I heard His voice inviting, “Lift those empty hands to me.”  And so, I turned my hands toward heaven, and He filled them with a store of His own transcendent riches til they could contain no more.  And at last, I comprehended in my stupid mind that God could not pour His riches into hands that were already full.  When God wants to accomplish an impossible task, He takes an impossible man and crushes him.”

There is an impossible task out there God wants you to accomplish for the Kingdom.  But you can’t do it if your arms are slammed full of the idols you’ve been chasing.  God will eventually have His way.  Perhaps it is time for me to lay my agenda down, time to empty my arms and clear my slate so the LORD can work through me.  Otherwise it might take a storm and a lot of pain if I keep on running after “life” other than in Him.

balloons…

here are the slides from this week > clear eyes 6 – balloons

A 30-year mentor of mine told me before we left for our anniversary trip, “Remember the secret to marriage – try to out serve each other”.  That stuck with me all throughout the trip.  To put my needs aside and to serve her.  To serve without condition or payback.  To do so lovingly and happily.  Those thoughts convicted me.  Am I doing this?  Am I living for her … or me?

2 Cor 5:15 – “and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.”

Paul is reminding us that the DNA of sin is selfishness.  Sin causes us to ignore God’s existence and His rightful claim on every area of my life.  Because God is not in His rightful place in my living – that is, in the center of it all (see the slides).  I then insert myself in that place.  My life becomes all about me.  The borders of my concern go little further than my concerns for me.  I reduce my focus down to the small spaces of my wants, my needs, and my feelings.  I make it all about me.  The desires of my heart are gobbled up by my ease, my comfort, my pleasure and my success.  I want what I want and when I get what I want, I am happy.  At least for a little while.

You can keep going and keep chasing “life” in this world.  More adventure, more comfort, more stuff, bigger TVs, nicer cars, more fulfillment, more satisfaction.  You chase all you want but you’re never going to be satisfied.  You never get “there”.  You can have all the sex you ever imagined, and it’ll never be enough.  You can have all the money you ever thought you’d need, and you’d quickly find out, you want more.  It is always the quest for more, more, more.

The reflective question for us as we’re chasing all these things is this – “Where is your treasure?  What is it that you value the most?”

You need to realize that whatever your “It” is in your life, if you achieve it, you will eventually lose it.  We all will.

We chase life.  We chase false gods.  We look to things that are dying to provide us life.  We blow up “balloons” of money, sex, status, reputation, attention, of being noticed, of being considered weighty, of being revered as brilliant in our profession.  Anything that will seemingly fill our life and make us feel complete.  We chase “It” believing “It” will provide life.  It won’t.  These balloons are blown up to make our life appear abundant and full and meaningful.

balloons

The harsh reality is this – these balloons we blow up will never last.  They, like us, will eventually die.  No one ever achieves completion in these things.  Sex will, eventually, fade away.  Power is eventually taken away – no human ever rules forever.  Your reputation will pass.  Entertainment is fleeting – times are great and parties are fun but eventually, we go back to work and reality.  Your appearance?  Your cross fit body?  Well, you know what is coming for that.  If anything, you spend your time now trying to reverse the effects of aging.

How much money is truly “enough”?  How much reputation will it take for you to be satisfied?  Sex is great but why is it that it always leaves you wanting more?  Does the act itself ever finally satiate your desire?  Can you ever get enough respect?  There are always going to be some people who don’t think you’re so great. 

Is any of it ever enough?

 

Eventually, this is what is coming for these balloons…

popping balloon

Perhaps I have your attention now.  Clear eyes on this.  It is all going away.  Where are you placing your hope?  What is the fuel for your life?  Is it the things of this world or is it the King of kings?

We’ve all got a choice today.  Will I live today with open arms or will I continue to clutch on to the things of this world (see the next post on “amazon Jesus”) ?

And hey, I get it.  I’m talking about death and in your face a bit with some of this.  You just want me to lighten up.  This is probably why preachers don’t preach about death very often.  It isn’t popular.  This is in my face too and this scripture below puts a razor focus on it.  Don’t take it from me.  Hear the Word of the LORD…

“If serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourself whom you will serve.”  Joshua 24:15

Because … face it … you are either serving the LORD or you are serving these balloons, filling them up with more and more vapor trusting that they will bring you life.  They won’t.

we need to wake up to the reality…

I need to realize that I am going to lose everything I love in this world.  I’m not taking any of this with me.  Believe me, I love this life – love my work, the building and creating we can enjoy and I love the outdoors and the memories created chasing deer.  But none of it goes with me.

You can keep going and keep chasing “life” in this world.  More adventure, more comfort, more stuff, bigger TVs, nicer cars, more fulfillment, more satisfaction.  Chase all you want, you’re never going to be satisfied.  You never get “there”.  You can have all the sex you ever imagined and it’ll never be enough.  You can have all the money you ever thought you’d need and you’d quickly find out, you want more.  It is always the quest for more, more, more.

For me, personally, this season has been a wake up call of realizing that death is coming and I’m convicted by just how much I am in love with the things of this world.  It is why we are talking about all this this fall at Manschool.  Last week rattled some folks.  Next week, there will be more rattling.  God is shaking us (me).  He’s trying to wake us up. Where is your treasure?  What is it that you value most?  Is it God or is it stuff?  Is it that you be noticed, admired or appreciated?  Is it your reputation?  Or that you will be thought of as brilliant in your profession?  What is it that you are after?

You need to realize that whatever “it” is in your life, if you achieve it, you will lose it.

A radical awareness that all of us are in the process of dying is actually quite healthy spiritually.  Once I realize, once I come to truly know that I am going to lose everything, only then can I turn towards placing all my hope in my inheritance in the Kingdom.

But if I keep hanging onto the “hope” of what I can hold onto here, I will never look to Heaven.  I will keep chasing the false illusion that “enough” can be obtained here.  Even if I accomplish all my wildest dreams and accumulate every toy I ever dreamed of, death is going to steal it all away.  Once I get that and embrace that, then I can turn my eyes towards the LORD and His Kingdom to come.

Jud Bergman was a great athlete growing up.  He was smart, athletic and attractive with many gifts and abilities.  His wife was a beautiful, brilliant writer.  They were devout in their faith.  The LORD blessed them with many things. Jud founded and created the investment technology firm Envestnet.  He was quite successful.  His first wife died of brain cancer and eventually, he remarried.  Another beautiful, charmed lady.  They had “it all” and seven children between them.

We need to wake up to the reality of what is coming for all of us.  

 

jud bergman

watch this video.  Fast forward to 26:44 minutes in.

https://menlo.church/series/the-way#/modal/message/5559/mlo

you never know when

There was so much content this morning, I will break this into parts.  Here are the slides from this morning > Clear eyes 5 – you never know

We will never know “when” it will happen but there is absolute clarity about “If” it will happen.  It will, for every one of us.  We will all die.  I am now 55 years old and there is no doubt that I am certainly past middle-aged.  The rest of my life will be shorter than the life I have lived.

Time is running out for me and it is running out for you.  Clear eyes about this, men, the end is coming.  The call or question or quest for all of us is this = how will we live out the rest of our days?  Will it be for my kingdom or God’s?

Our days are short.  None of us are promised tomorrow.  I don’t want to be the kind of man of puts off having a prayer life or puts off reading the Bible figuring I have a lot of time later in life for that because, you know, I’m just so busy at work building my kingdom.  I don’t want to be the kind of man who waits for that day because that day might not ever get here for me.

Sometimes, Christians are the worst at denying death.  The Journal of American Medical Association reports that people of faith (95% of whom were Christians) were 3x more likely to choose aggressive medical treatment at the end of their lives … even though, they knew that they were dying and that the treatments were unlikely to prolong their lives.

Why is that?  Why is it that we believers are doing whatever we can to postpone death?

Do we really believe what is on the other side of death?  What is we are trying to preserve?  Life?  It can’t be preserved.  This world?  Really?  We want to preserve our time here because we can’t trust or don’t understand what Heaven will be like?  More on that when we get to the full hearts part of this.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not earthy things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”  Colossians 3:1-3

Your life is worth living precisely because it is not your life at all.  Your life – at least in the mortal frame – has a beginning and an end.  But your life – your real life – is hidden with or entrusted with Christ.  That then gives you the freedom to lose your life in sacrifice to others, in obedience to God, in order to save it.

Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us.  We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed.  We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”  2 Corinthians 4:7-10

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.”  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Why are we talking about this?  What is our goal? 

  • Getting to the place where we are absolutely grounded in the Word and in Truth. 
  • Passionate about our love for Christ. 
  • Devout in our service to others, pouring ourselves out without demand for a return or a payback. 
  • Where I don’t fear death. 

It is living Excurvatus Ex Se – outward, for others.  That man has true freedom.  That man experiences authentic manhood. 

That man can LiveUP with clear eyes and full heart.  That man can’t lose.

I think the point of this message is this – you need to realize and accept that you are going to lose everything you love in this world.  Only then can you place all your hope in an inheritance kept in heaven for you.  If I keep hanging on the “hope” of what I can hold onto here, I will never look to Heaven.  Even if life plays out precisely the way you imagine for yourself in your wildest dreams, death will steal away everything you have and destroy everything you accomplish.

I spend my time thinking about things that will ultimately, go away.  It is time to shift my focus to the promise of my inheritance in the Kingdom.  To the eternal.  To what will last.  By avoiding the truth about death, we’re avoiding the truth about Jesus.  Jesus didn’t promise us so many of the things we want most out of life.  He promised us victory over death.

why you need Tribe

here are the slides from this morning > Clear eyes 4 – suffer strong

here is the video – we played from 3:30 – 24:00 >

What are you building your house upon?  It really matters because the storms are coming.  It’s not if they are coming but when.  They are coming.  So, it really matters what you’ve found your house and life upon.  If you found it upon the sand, it will collapse under the storm.  If it is built upon the rock, it will withstand the storm.

Don’t wait to invest your life in what matters.

Then later in the video, Jay who was raised a preacher’s kid, said this – “I ran into the ER and there was my church.  They’d come ahead of me to make manifest this invisible God.  They made God visible to me when the bottom was falling out of my life.  Sitting there in that ER for 16 hours, I experienced true “church” for the first time.   This is what the church gets to give each other – when life smacks you in the face, we get to show up in a way of our presence and our tears.  They showed up in a way that said, “You’re not alone in this pain.  We don’t know what will happen but you’re not going to go through it alone.”

We need Clear Eyes on this – don’t kid yourself.  The storm is coming for you.  You will need Tribe.  It is unwise for you to attempt to do this life as a lone wolf.  Clear eyes.

 

John Ortberg summed this up so well a few weeks ago … 

Sometimes, a single phone call can change the entire trajectory of your life.  Oftentimes, that call is a crisis.  Storms are going to come.  One day, a phone call will come for you.  It will come for all of us.  One day, news will rock your world.  When the call comes, it will find you in one of two conditions – either mostly in isolation, mostly disconnected from other people, largely on your own emotionally and relationally not sure if there is anyone that you can reach out to. 

Or … it will find you living in community, surrounded by people who know you and love you.  You will eat together, laugh together, cry together and pray, play and struggle together.  You’ve done life together.  And when that storm comes, they will hold you up and strengthen you and support you and keep you together as if by an invisible force, because it is.

The key to this – the time to build community and friendship and connection and spiritual bonds is now.  Because, if you wait for the phone call, it will be too late.  When the storm comes, when everything falls apart, people who live isolated lives feel too awkward to ask for help.  They don’t have the energy at that point to do the work to build community.  They actually will become more and more isolated.  The time to build community is before the call comes.

Maybe you’re not in a crisis.  Maybe you’re feeling pretty self-sufficient right now and that life is going well for you, but I’ll make you two promises.  One, the phone call will come for you.  The day will come when you realize, you need community.  Two, even if you don’t think you need anybody, somebody needs you.  Someone needs your prayer, your touch, your encouragement and your perspective.