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?

 

He prepares a table before me…

Here is the Louie Giglio talk we watched (again!) this morning.  I started the tape at about 17 minutes.  I encourage you to watch this again.  I strongly encourage you to watch this with you wife.  Put the kids to bed, turn off the TV and invest in the spirituality of your marriage and in so doing, build a deeper level of intimacy with her.

The talk is so good, I can hardly put words to it.

In the context of his talk, I encourage you to go and read this blog post…

A Letter To Satan Concerning My Daughter’s Seizures.

Morgan Cheek writes powerfully on this blog of the journey God has taken her and her husband on as they raise twin girls with severe genetic issues.  (Her husband Hugh is from Columbus).  This is a journey they cannot escape.  There is no “prosperity Gospel” to deliver them from this.  Great pain accompanies their journey.  But God.  But God is present with them.  He walks with them and prepares a table before them in the presence of their enemies.  The situation may never turn around.  God never promises us a pain free life in this fallen world.  It does not make our God … not good.  He is good.  He is present.  They are surrounded by all sorts of enemies but God is present and He has prepared a table for them and He is enough.  He is all and He is enough.  Read the blog post and see how Morgan battles the enemy by calling out his lies and reading back to him scripture and Truth he cannot deny and will flee from.  In so doing all this, Morgan is not giving the enemy a seat at her table.  She’s locked tight her eyes on the Creator of these precious girls and the comfort and provision of God is all she needs.

Lastly, tying in with all of this … what is it that God wants from you?  What does he want?  I’ve talked to you about my “high horse”.   Here’s our buddy Vlad on his “high horse” but you know what, it’s us.  We’ve got life figured out.  We’re in control.  We always have the answers or we pose acting as if we do.

And if you’re ever so lucky, God will come along occasionally and knock you off that horse.  Here is how it starts …

and how it ends …

and Praise God!  Now you’re humbled and you are in a place where you can look at your life in a fresh way and now you’re able to listen.  So here is how life looks …

These nice little boxes tucked up on the shelves.  Each of those boxes are the things we “control” – career, 401(k), home, wife, kids, sex life, our time, our money, our stuff.  As life goes along, we manage these things, take control of them, pretty them up, make them appear as if all is perfectly in order.  Perhaps family is the best of these – pretty wife, two perfect kids, right schools, right attitudes, “everything just seems to work out for them”.  Life’s good.  “I’ve got this under control and life figured out”.

BOOM.  High horse time.

My daughter turns up pregnant.  God prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies and if I will just sit at the table with Him and lock tight on Him, He has me.  But no, I turn away.  I turn to my shelves.  I take these things and take control of them and get busy getting the shelves of my life in perfect order so all the world will look and see “wow, he has it figured out”.  The enemy will strike here.  He won’t play fair.  He’ll even use scripture to trick us.  “You’re just being a good steward of the talents God’s giving you.”  You see, even in that, he’s tricking us to turn from God and think “I can do this on my own”.  The liar tells you that “you don’t need God,  you’ve got this”.  

So, enough time goes by and I’m lulled to sleep and my pretty little life, all tucked nice and neatly up on those shelves gets blown up when my daughter turned up pregnant.  Not only was she pregnant, she moved in with the boy and a way of life far removed from the home she grew up in. What then?  What of the pretty little family all nice and neat?  Five weeks later, her older sister told us she was pregnant too.  Double Boom.  Face plant off the high horse into the mud.  The perfect little family was now being rocked.  The facade was broken.

I will say that through all of this, we’ve been humbled.  On December 1, we thought “there is no way we’re ever going to make it through this.”  45 days later with both of them pregnant, now we really knew, “there is no way we can do this”.  But God.  God has turned this mess into a miracle.  What seemed insurmountable four months ago has passed.  God got us through it.  We walked those days in a way we’d never walked before with God.  Will our “perfect” little life ever be “perfect” again?  No.  But you know what, now that I look back, I don’t want that kind of perfect.  I want the God perfect.  I want to give it ALL to Him – “Lord do with all this whatever You will”.  I never again want to walk another day up on a high horse thinking I’ve got it all figured out.  I want to walk my days the way we did in the worst of that storm when each day was radically dependent on God showing up.

So my question to you is simple – What does God want from you? 

God wants it all – your time, your money, your sex life, your kids, wife, job, retirement “plan” – the whole thing.  We want to keep control of most of this up on our shelves – we turn our back on God and his table and turn to our shelves saying “No God, I’ve got these things under control, I just need you over here in this other area”.  Nope.  Oh no.  God wants it all.  The more stuff you keep away from God up on your shelves as you fine tune, shine, polish and present as perfect … the more idols you’re worshiping and the less you’re locked tight on Him.

Morgan Cheek has no choice.  She cannot “do” being a Mama to those two little girls alone.  She’s desperate for a Savior and she’s seated at the table He has prepared for her and those girls in the midst of her enemies.  The road ahead looks daunting and it is but in the swirling vortex of the enemies that surround her, there is a table and The Good King prepared it and sits there with her.

Push into this.  What does this say to you?  Where are you in this.  

Let me hear from you.

 

 

Walking in Wholeness – conclusion

Derrick gave us a great recap of the Wholeness series this morning.  The slides are here Manschool – Wholeness – summary

The question for you as we’ve processed through this journey is “Have you received significant insight or experienced a measure of breakthrough?”  And if so … “Have you taken action as a result?”  We want you processing these questions.  Ask Father.  Carry on a conversation and say, “Show me Lord what it is you wanted me to see here”.  Ask your fellow brothers – those Tribe men you’re close with – because the thing about Community (or Tribe as we like to say) is that only community can truly see your blind spots.  Close community has a way of seeing things you just can’t see because you’re standing too close to the situation.  This quote sums it up so well …

Be kind, for everyone you know is facing a great battle.

A true community is something you will have to fight for.  You’ll have to fight to get one, and you’ll have to fight to keep it afloat.  But you fight for it like you bail out a life raft during a storm at sea. You want this thing to work.  You need this thing to work.  You can’t ditch it and jump back on the cruise ship.

This is the church; this is all you have.  Without it, you’ll go down… Suddenly all those “one another’s” in Scripture make sense.  Love one another.  Bear one another’s burdens.  Forgive one another.  Acts of kindness become deeply meaningful because we know we are at war.  Knowing full well that we are all facing battles of our own, we give one another the benefit of the doubt.

Leigh isn’t intentionally being distant from me – she’s probably under an assault.  That’s why you must know each other’s stories, know how to “read” one another.  A word of encouragement can heal a wound; a choice to forgive can destroy a stronghold.  You never knew your simple acts were so weighty.  It’s what we’ve come to call “lifestyle warfare.”

We check in regularly with one another, not out of paranoia (“Do you still like me?”), but in order to watch over each other’s hearts.  “How are you doing?”  But be careful about what you are looking for from community.  For if you bring your every need to it, it will collapse.  Community is no substitute for God.

John Eldredge, Waking the Dead

None of what we’re doing in Manschool is meant to convey to you an easy formula to life.  There is no guarantee in this life of anything.  Look at the life of Job.  We don’t push a “prosperity Gospel” on you – a series of formulas or practices that if dutifully followed, “abundant life” is promised.  This is a broken world with broken people.  This movement towards Wholeness is a process of sanctification – steps along the path of life leading towards eternity.  A spiritual, emotional “high” is great but it doesn’t get you “there”.  Neither does 60 minutes of quiet time a day, scripture memorization or a “purification” of your life purging out any/all possible temptations.  None of that guarantees you anything.  But God…

But God.  God promises you Him.  He is enough.  A million dollars isn’t.  The perfect house isn’t. Perfect children aren’t.  God is.

That said, it is a process of sanctification and yes, very much indeed, being in the Word, spending time quietly seeking the Father, giving, serving, living outwardly … yes, yes, yes … do those things. Do more of them.  As you should exercise your body, exercise your faith.  Turn these things into the stuff of life…

There is nothing more dangerous than a repeated experiencing of a fine emotion with no attempt to put it into action.  It is a fact that every time a man feels a noble impulse without taking action, he becomes less likely ever to take action.  An emotion is not something in which to [savor or delight in]; it is something which at the cost of…discipline and of sacrifice, must be turned into the stuff of life.

William Barclay

FINAL QUESTION – What are you going to let define you and your life?  Your past mistakes? Failures? Wounds or words spoken over you by broken people?  Lies of the enemy?  Or … what the Father says about you, believes about you, desires for you?  We all have that choice. Too many of us have lived 30, 40, 50 years listening to the wrong voice and it has defined our life. Today, right now, that can change.  Today, you can let go of the lies of the past – yes, it may have happened and yes, you may have done it and yes, there are consequences of our actions – butit does not have to define you.  Christ took all that for you on the Cross.  If you will trust Him, it is gone.  Finished.  It is “as far away from you as the East is from the West”.

Are you ready for more?  Are you ready to release this and get on with the life your Father has for you?