Funeral Service for RJ Cummings

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The service for Carver’s RJ Cummings will be held this Saturday at 11am at Christ Community.  RJ graduated last year and played linebacker for Carver as well as basketball.  He was heading to Iowa to play football this fall but tragically, he was struck down by a bullet last Friday night.

The Carver family is in mourning.  We’ve been with the team this week, speaking to the team as a group and talking a good bit with Coach Arnold.

If you would like to support the Carver team and RJ’s family, please try to attend the service on Saturday.

Our work at Carver is never done.  We’ve only scratched the surface.  There is so much more we can be doing to impact these kids for Christ.  RJ’s death, while tragic, is also an opening for God to move upon the lives of this team.  In the human sense, his loss is a waste of a life but no tragedy is ever wasted with God.  He always moves.  He is sovereign.  He IS good.

Let’s support them on Saturday.

stories of breakthrough

Pastor Keith is writing a book that will encompass his series from this year on Wholeness and wanted to get some input / examples from you as to how the healing / wholeness series might have impacted your walk.  It could be a story about Unforgiveness or Generational Sin anything from the series that seemed to be a defining moment for you where God used it to reshape your walk moving forward…

A few men have already volunteered stories of how God used that series to impact key areas of their lives and see how they are forever changed as a result.

The story can be in one or two paragraphs…just a summary…a before and after glimpse…where you were and then were you ended up thanks to the lesson or scripture or nudge from the Holy Spirit, etc…

If you have something you’d like to share with Keith, email him at keith@ccclive.org

 

Remembering Lonny Arrington

draw upon the Vine…

Just as the law of gravity is always in operation, so is the “law of sin” – that your fleshly nature wants to respond to.  This is why no matter how hard you try to “purify” your life, you remain tempted by that pretty woman or the mighty dollar or approval from others.  You hate that about yourself.  Yes!  I do too.  Paul did too.

The good news is, you can access a higher law.  Remember Narnia when the witch killed Aslan and he came back to life saying “She doesn’t know about the higher magic”.  We have access to that higher law, higher power, higher “magic”.  It’s called the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus”.  And it overpowers the law of sin and death.

When you are indwelt with the Holy Spirit and relying upon His power rather than your own, which means being sensitive to His leading and obeying His commands, you’re no longer controlled by the “law of sin and death”. 

It’s no longer about trying harder or doing more “spiritual calisthenics” or memorizing more scripture.  It’s no longer about trying to purge out all lust inside you or purifying yourself with no more TV, no more social media, no more fun, no more temptation.  No, it’s ALL about leaning harder on God’s Spirit who lives within you and drawing from HIS strength and power to live victoriously.

A man who wanders off to try to do this life on his own power to try to purify and overcome all temptation is a man who has cut himself off from the Vine and is withering in the field like a dying branch.  It just won’t work.  DRAW upon the Vine.  Seek HIS power for your life.  It’s there.  And He brings great victory to us when we step down off our throne and let Him up on His.

The Summer Challenge of Community…

Today we concluded our Spring series of Manschool with the last segment of the movie “A Story Worth Living”.  You can buy a copy of the movie here … https://store.ransomedheart.com/collections/video/products/a-story-worth-living?variant=22869610118

It is bitter sweet to end our sessions and break but we do so by design.  One, it is for rest and refreshment but more importantly, it is to challenge you to fight for community. Manschool makes it easy in that we meet each week but now that we’re taking a break for the summer, if you want community, you’re going to have to fight for it.  We’ll be posting more about this but many of our small groups are already making plans to continue to meet over the summer.  This is a challenge – will you pursue community? Will you find 2-3 men and push into each other’s stories, going deep into each other’s lives?  Tell your story – all the gory details – and then let the next man tell his.  Don’t hold back.  Don’t hide.  Get it all out on the table and let other men speak into your story.  If you do this, you will see some amazing things happen.

The only question is … will you do it?  Will you?

Here are the notes from today…

Darkness tries to assault us.  “Can we do this?”  “Can we get off this mountain?”  The feeling is, “No.  We can’t do this.  We won’t make it through this”.  That sustained assault against your story is real.  Fear is the thief of joy.

The turning point in every good story is the rescue.

This is the hope of the larger story – that your story can turn out differently.  In this age, the belief is that all of life is an accident and when it ends, it’ll be an accident that takes it out.  You don’t want your life to be an accident.

Whatever our story has been, whatever darkness we have known, we’re all looking for redemption.  To get to that place where the old shame has no power – that it is no longer a prison but rather we see it as the doorway for your heart to be revived.

Because there is this larger story at work, there is hope, there is healing and there is redemption.

God can rescue your story.  “I am no longer fishing alone” — “My brother’s words spoken against me, they no longer have any power over me”.

When living in the larger story, you live in a sense of anticipation.  “How will this story end?”  A really good celebration remembers the losses and the hardships but it also savors the victory.  As story is only as good as its ending.

We are made for restoration and every good ending has something of evil being addressed and vanquished and something of those being divided being brought back together again.  (think Gladiator)

This complexity of justice and mercy and goodness really is the core of the sweet desire every one of us has when all things are put well and good again.

At the restoration of all things, there will be nothing in between us, no misunderstandings, no envy.  We will know and we will be known.  And it will be good.  Everything we’ve lost will be returned.  There will be no goodbyes.  You’ll never lose anything or anyone ever again.  There is no heartache, no opposition, no hatred.  Nothing evil or confusing or negative will ever come at you.  All that will come towards you will be good.

This life here is partial at best.  Good things always come to an end.  Though the age has become cynical, deep in our hearts, we all long for the happily ever after.

Are you living with a sense of anticipation?

What are you looking forward to?

How do you want your story to end?

And then this final challenge from AW Tozer that goes right at this Summer Challenge – what kind of soil as a man will you be?

There are two kinds of ground: Fallow ground and ground that has been broken up by the plow.

The fallow ground is smug, contented, protected from the shock of the plow and the agitation of the harrow. Safe and undisturbed, it sprawls lazily in the sunshine, the picture of sleepy contentment. But it is paying a terrible price for its tranquility: Never does it see the miracle of growth … nor see the wonders of bursting seed. … Fruit it can never know because it is afraid of the plow and the harrow.

In direct opposite to this, the cultivated field has yielded itself to the adventure of living. The protecting fence has opened to admit the plow. Peace has been shattered by the shouting farmer and the rattle of machinery. The field has felt the travail of change; it has been upset, turned over, bruised and broken, but … the seed shoots up its miracle of life. All over the field the hand of God is at work in the … ever renewed service of creation. … Nature’s wonders follow the plow.

There are two kinds of lives also: The fallow and the plowed. . . .

The man of fallow life is contented with himself and the fruit he once bore. He does not want to be disturbed. … The spirit of adventure is dead within him. … To be has taken the place of to become. He has fenced himself in, and by the same act, he has fenced out God and the miracle.

The plowed life has, in repentance, thrown open the protecting fences and sent the plow of confession into the soul. … Such a life has put away defense, and has forsaken the safety of death to the peril of life. Discontent, yearning, contrition, courageous obedience to the will of God: these have bruised and broken the soil till it is ready again for the seed. … Fruit follows the plow … as God “rains down righteousness.”

The story of your life (pt 2)

To start with, there is that picture we saw this morning of the bike down on its side in the driving rain storm and the man trying to lift that 600 pound beast by himself.  To no avail.  In frustration, he lifts his arms like he’s about to start beating the motorcycle. That feels a lot like our daily lives.  We live in a world at war and life just doesn’t go so well for us.  Others breeze through life but I find myself in the ditch, unable to lift the bike, hearing the condemnation of “you’re weak” or “a real man could do this”.  And then.  And then … there is that next frame of the film where two brothers are there helping him quickly lift the bike and get him back on track.

That … is Tribe.  That … is how it is supposed to be.  Other men knowing your story, seeing your deep worth and helping you stand up against the setbacks and the, “why can’t I seem to get past this” of life to call you UP to all God intends for you to be.

When everything in the world makes no sense, there is beauty.  It speaks to a larger story.

Chesterton said, “With every step of our lives, we enter into the middle of some story we will probably misunderstand”.  The key to the riddle of our lives is often back in our own story but if you never unpack this stuff, it pins your heart down.  A man trying to figure his life out on his own is for one, living a very small story and two, has no chance to understand what is really happening.

My father died when I was 12.

My Dad was an alcoholic, abusive man who always told me I was worthless.

I screwed up and blew my chance at college.

I’m addicted to pornography and it cost me my marriage.

And after these things, there is the, “and ever since then”.   Ever since then, my life has been one experience of pain after another.  Of course.  Of course.  There is this moment of great pain, heartache or shame in your life and if you can go back into that pain and unpack it and understand it, it will explain so much of the rest of your story.  THAT is what we’re after.

Love is a big part of what makes story worth living.  The search for love is at the center of everyone’s story.  It might look like a search for success or praise or validation or affirmation – it’s still the search for love.  Or, it can look like defensiveness, isolation, “I don’t need anything or anyone” – it’s still love, you’re just pushing against it.

We were meant to be honored and respected and we were meant to be delighted in.  Where you experience honor and delight, you will feel loved.  But so often, when delight comes, it is often based on what we’ve done and whether we’ve performed well enough.  Honor often causes us to hide that which we know is not really lovely inside of us.

So, we’re in a bind.  We want love, we’re afraid, we don’t want to risk but we’re meant for delight and honor.  So often, we choose the safe road rather than what we’re made for.  The biggest risk we ever take is the risk to love and to be loved because it is the deepest desire.  It’s at the core of our being – we live in a love story set in a world at war.  Love is the core and the war is always against love.

Here is our dilemma – if the world was only filled with love and beauty, we wouldn’t find it so hard to believe a good and kind hand was behind all of it.  But then there is suffering, loss and heartache.  Pain comes slamming into our lives and this is where we get really confused about what kind of story we’re living in.  A significant loss or pain in your life can really mess up your understanding of story if you don’t have something to help you interpret it.

Pain and fear in our lives causes us to stay in small stories, safe stories that give us just a taste of what we were meant for.

Whatever interpretation of your story there is, it must reconcile beauty and suffering, love and loss.  The real question isn’t “why is there so much suffering in this world?”, it is “Why is there so much beauty?”  If life is an accident and mostly cruel, how do you explain beauty?

All the movies we love are the same story – an epic battle of good and evil that must be fought, small characters that rise up and play a valiant role and then at the end, some epic restoration occurs and the King returns … that is the Gospel.  There is a larger story and we have a place in it.

Stories, movies, myths, legends – they are all telling us something true about the universe.  There is meaning, you are a part of something great and good.  We have a heroic rescue through His life, death and resurrection.  We are rescued and now called up into a great story.  Yes, there is a battle of good and evil – just watch the news!  Yes, you’re needed – small characters in an epic story.  We get to live in the grandest story of them all.

We’re all looking for what we’re meant for.  That longing for the epic is a big part of why adventure has become so popular but adventure isn’t enough to be a life story.  You know you’re in a small story when you’re the main character and that’s the risk of making adventure your story.  Adventure can turn on you at any moment.

The story of your life …

Everyone is looking for a story worth living.  The human heart is made for an epic story.

When you give up looking for that story, you give up living.  It’s all about story.  It doesn’t always go as planned but that’s true to life.

Adventure is chasing a dream.  Adventure is taking on something you’ve never done before.

Most good stories start like this – ordinary people getting swept up into something extraordinary.  Story isn’t something you so much write – story is something that finds you.

The number one thing most people do to cover their shame is to turn to their own self-contempt or contempt toward others.  Contempt becomes a shield, a cover for your life.  That pressure to perform yet on the other side, “I’m going to make sure nobody else sees”.  I hate whatever shows that weakness in me and so I’m going to work really hard to hide it.  Hatred, contempt, violence against ourselves pushes us to perform, to succeed, then when we don’t, that kind of violence – “I’m such a shit” – emerges.

There’s always a story. 

Every life is a long, complicated story.  Over the story of your life, your heart has learned many things – some good, a whole lot that is not so good.

Whatever story it is, I can guarantee you there is beauty.  Beauty – in and of itself – speaks to there being a larger story.  If life is a random event, created by the big bang, then how do you explain beauty and all it encompasses?  How do you explain what beauty does to you?