Storms and Olives and “You matter”…

I shared with you what this past summer was like for my family.  I watched my sweet wife waste away – losing 20% of her body weight, ravaged by a severe flare up of the Crohns disease she has battled for nearly 30 years.  In her weakest state, a blood infection or any other significant body blow and she might not have survived.

Four trips to the hospital.  Three full weeks in there.  Body blow after body blow.  Carrying the weight of what was happening to her, what might happen, the “what if this is it?” thoughts and then on top of that, immense stress in my work and crushing load of work.

And then, my visit in the middle, the worst of the storm to Chick Fil A where it appeared I was invisible.  “My pleasure” didn’t fall on me that evening.  Employee after employee walked past me as if I was invisible.  What on earth is going on?  “Lord, do I even matter?  Do you not see what all is going on?”

And in the middle of that, I read this …

Olive Trees    Lysa Terkeurst

In the garden, Jesus was surrounded by olive trees.  We live in deeply disappointing and distressing times.  We need an uncommon fellowship with God – where we stand in the midst of being utterly disappointed and we still say, “I will trust you God.  Not my will, but thy will.”

Olive trees – to produce fruit, they must have the harsh winds of the east and the refreshing winds of the west.  They need hard times and good times to produce fruit.  We are the same.  Our purpose must go through a process because the heart is naturally hard and bitter.

Like an olive off the tree – which must be salted and soaked in water – if we are to be rid of our hardness and bitterness, we must be salted in the truth and soaked in the living water.  We must have that uncommon fellowship with God or we will not be rid of the hardness and bitterness in us.

What is most valuable in an olive is when it is pressed beyond recognition, crushed almost to destruction and yet, the oil is where the value is.  It can be turned to light.  The hard pressing of life will produce an oil that can be turned into light to show the way to so many.

The word helped because it reminded me, God is with me in the middle of this storm.  He has a purpose in this FAR beyond me and my limited comprehension.  My particular storm is three years running now and I know beyond any doubt, God has a clear purpose in it.  There are many things He wants to knock off of me.  He is shaking me, breaking off the former idols, humbling me, molding me, loving me.  Too many years of my “high horse” of “I’ve got this, I’m good”.  Face plant in the mud.  “Now son, let ME shape you.  Let ME direct you.  My path is far better than you can ever imagine or dream.”

And then … almost smack dab in the middle of the worst of this summer, came this video from Catalyst of Brooke Ligertwood.  Please, please, please stay with me.  Read this.  Soak in it.  Like the olive – be salted and soaked in the water.  Listen to this man’s story …

I came to Catalyst this year with no expectations of anything for myself.  I was kind of on autopilot.  I am a 51-year old attorney with my own practice.  I teach/preach at my church every 3-4 weeks.  I love my wife and kids and take college kids on mission trips twice a year.  And yet … yet … I have found myself wondering and dissatisfied.  What I am doing in the Kingdom now looks vastly different than the “dream” of what I thought I would be doing.

All of that as background for what happened last Thursday night.  Tyler was on stage talking about us experiencing freedom that night.  I huddled my guys together and was laying hands on them and praying for them to experience freedom there in that place.

As I was praying for them, I felt a hand on my back from a person in the row behind me. I turned around and the guy pulled me in toward him and said, “I have a word for you.”

I found myself cynical, prideful and unwilling to receive a word for me or even hear it for that matter.  I wasn’t paying the greatest attention to what he said but I hugged him and thanked him.  Here is what I recall he said…

“The LORD sees you!  You are a warrior in the Kingdom.  Your impact will be for generations upon generations to come.”  And then he said, “Rise up” or “God will cause you to Rise up”.

After he finished I turned to resume worship.  Brooke Ligertwood began to read from Judges about Gideon.  Now here is where it gets really clear and fuzzy as the same time.  She said from stage…

“I have a word tonight but specifically for the man in the sixth row in the orange shirt” … and she was looking right at me.

Understand, I was the only orange or even brightly colored shirt in a sea of grey and flannel and black.  I was taken aback because in all my years of coming to Catalyst, I’ve never seen a personal word given from the stage.  I began to look behind me to find out who she was talking to and the kid behind me hit me on the shoulder with a huge grin on his face saying, “Bro!  Turn back around.  She’s talking to you!  This word is for you!”

And then she said something like, “God sees you; you are impacting generations” and then she said, “The LORD is going to cause you to Rise up”.

The rest of the night was a tear-filled haze as I was so blown away that the God of the universe took time to speak audibly to little me through his beautiful church in that big arena.

https://catalystleader.com/watch/brooke-ligertwood-at-catalyst-atlanta#.W-wliRkEWKs.mailto

He finishes with this and men, I believe this word is also for you.  How I know that?  Because this very blog post has been next to impossible to process.  System issues, cutting and pasting text won’t work, formatting is messed up … the enemy does not want you to read this next part but I strongly believe this is a word for YOU from your Father …

Here is my takeaway from what God was saying to me that night, in spite of me and my pride and resistance, the Creator Lord singled me out to say …

I love you and I see you!

What you are doing matters!

I know you have felt alone!

I know you have felt abandoned!  (or invisible at Chick Fil A?)

I know you have wondered if you have significance in the Kingdom!

I know you have wondered if you should shut it all down and pack it away for a better retirement!

Do not become weary doing good!

Son, keep fighting the good fight!  Keep going!

I am not looking for super saints, I want children who keep getting up and refuse to quit!

I am with pleased with you!

What you are doing is a legacy you may never see but is seen by ME!

You keep walking in surrender and I’ll take care of the “rising up” and be sure, I’ll be the One who does it!

 

 

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When the storms come…

There will two posts from today – first, the notes from the discussion.  The second post will relate to the story/video from Catalyst.    REMINDER – NO manschool next week (day before Thanksgiving) we will see you the following Wednesday.

here are the slides from today > Which Kingdom 10 – storms

Here is the “Tribe Tune” – Who YOU say I am … when the storms come and you are beat up and not certain of how it will turn out, LISTEN to this song.  “You ARE for me, not against me.  I am who YOU say I am!”

Rock bottom will teach you lessons that mountain tops never will.

Vegetation doesn’t flourish on mountain tops.  The lush growth is in the valleys.  When you’re in a difficult place, realize that the LORD either placed you there or allowed you to be there for reasons perhaps known now only to Himself.  Rest assured of this, whatever God has planned for you is way bigger than your comfort zone.

Last week, Derrick said – something to the effect of – “Detours come to break our pride and humble us, so we can be worth His glory”.

Not sure I heard that right, but I sat and pondered it.  “Worth His glory”?

The LORD has a glory – of that, there can be no doubt.  His glory will go where it will go.  Will it land on me?  Not if I’m full of pride.  Not if I lack humility.  Not if I forget from Whom all blessings flow.

Full of pride.  No humility.  Equals > “I’m in control.  Success is mine.  I made it.  I’m beautiful.  I’m talented.  I made “this”.  The self-made man.

Is that man worth God’s glory?

His glory will move and rest upon those in whom He finds favor.  That man that made it all on his own … the glory of God won’t come.  Glory might.  Success might.  Fame might.  But it won’t the glory of God.  It’ll be the glory of this world.

God’s glory won’t come and rest upon that man because he seemingly doesn’t need God.

Which Kingdom will I serve?

CS Lewis

“I’m not sure God wants us to be happy.  I think He wants us to love and to be loved.  But we are like children, thinking our toys will make us happy and that the whole world is our nursery.  Something must drive us out of that nursery and into the lives of others and that something is suffering.”

Suffering?  Why does suffering drive us out of the nursery?

Because suffering reminds us that the “things” of this world – the toys in the nursery – can never satisfy us.  The suffering still comes no matter how many toys we have.  What then?

Craig Groeschel

“If we’re going to become stronger in our faith, more committed to God, more in love with Jesus, then our beliefs will be tested.  They must be tested.  Henry Blackaby explains, “Will God ever ask you to do something you are not able to do?  The answer is yes.  All the time!” 

People will tell you that God won’t give you more than you can bear.  While they probably mean well, that’s simply not true.  The Bible does say that God won’t let you be tempted beyond what you can handle (1 Cor 10:13).  But He often gives you more than you can handle, so you can learn to depend wholly on Him.

Your times in the valley may not be pleasant, but it’s in the valleys of life that you grow closer to God and stronger in your faith.

Mountain tops can trick us.  When everything is golden, it is easy to forget God.

God knocked me off my horse 3 years ago.  He’s kept me off it the whole time.  There have been no mountain tops in those 3 years.  He is shaking, humbling, molding, breaking me.  He has a purpose in this far beyond what I can comprehend.

At one point this summer, I had a former business partner pass away at 50 from pancreatic cancer, my firm was being examined by our regulator, my wife spent 3+ weeks in the hospital in 4 visits, she lost 20% of her body weight and there was a day or two in there where I wasn’t sure she would survive.  My dad was also in the hospital and we had to negotiate and plan my daughter’s wedding.

Craig Groeschel

Often when we want God to do something, the solution wouldn’t require much of Him – a quick nod, a spoken word, an answered prayer – in the grand scheme of things, just a small miracle.  If only He would allow me to be rewarded for all my hard work!  Or just heal my sick child!  Or help my loved one overcome depression!  Or break my sexual addiction!  Or bring my prodigal child back home!  Or at least let me win the lottery!

As we grow to trust God, we must recognize what I consider to be some of the fundamentals of growing in the Christian faith: awe, respect, reverence, appreciation for God being God, acceptance of our limitations as human beings.

We can’t know everything or see into other people’s hearts.  And we sure can’t see ahead to how it all will unfold.  But God can.

Like a master story teller, He is crafting an epic in which He allows each of us to play a significant role.  There are no minor characters or bit players in God’s story.  We are all important.

He’ll never abandon us and he’s working everything for our good.

So, when we are suffering, ranting and raving about all the unfairness of life, we would do well to remember that there is so much more going on than we can see or understand from our limited perspective.  We’re only seeing a tiny sliver or a much bigger story, perhaps only one sentence or one paragraph on just a single page.

In the middle my storm this summer, I had zero certainty of how it would all unfold.  I didn’t know if my wife would survive.

But I can say with great confidence, God sustained me through that.  It could not have been done on my own.  And remember this from earlier … “I’m in control.  Success is mine.  I made it.  I’m beautiful.  I’m talented.  I made “this”.   This summer, there was NONE of that.

Utter — complete — dependence —- on Him.  And in that posture … God’s glory can come and rest upon you.

(part 2 in a moment…)

 

Live! Live! Live!

We know what others think of us – but – we don’t know what God thinks.

Charles Spurgeon – “I will never have it that God created any man, especially any Christian man, to be a blank and a nothing.  He made you for an end.  Find out what that end is.  Find your niche and fill it.  Do something in this great battle for God and for the Truth”.

You have a place that cannot be filled by any other man and you can be, in this life, much of who God designed you to be.  He gives us hints along the way of who He wants us to be.

In Good Will Hunting, he is telling Will, “It’s not your fault” and Will keeps saying, “Yeah, I know”But did he?  Really?  Truly?

We know so much truth as Christians.  Christ died for me as a sinner.  This is true.  But oh, when those words leap off the pages and go into your heart and you have this encounter with a truth that captures your heart and for the first time, you know it in your heart … words cannot describe.

Do you know who you are?  The beloved of God?

Has that captured you?

Seriously – DO YOU … KNOW THAT?

Gladiator – deep within him, he is a leader.  God created him to be a general of armies.  He knows who he is.

It is like the residents of Heaven are peering over the wall of the castle watching us here battle and struggle and the whole host of Heaven is cheering us on, rooting for us, “Live!  Live!  Live!”

He has a strength and confidence – “Hey, you can call me whatever you want – seagull, stupid, idiot – whatever the message, whatever name you give me.  You can put me in the crappiest of circumstances … but I know who I am.”

We forget that, or we never had it, or we lost it.  We see so many signs that say, “You cannot” or “You shouldn’t” or “Not you – maybe them – but not you”.  The wounds, they have a way of extending through the years and so how do you become that man?

Take all that you read about your identity in Christ and all the truth of what God has done for you and you just pound on the door … “LORD, take this and just embed this in my being and remove everything contra and counter that just shouts the truth down and assaults me.”

This is a daily battle.  Don’t lose sight of this.

We’re in the matrix.  We are heavenly designed beings living in a swamp of sin.  Evil runs rampant.  We are under assault … daily. 

It is not what we were designed for.

Heaven peers over the wall watching us.  They know.  They’ve been here, and they’ve gone home.  They know what you’re fighting because they fought it too.  Knowing what they know now … they know the secret.

They’re telling you to “LIVE”. 

They’re telling you to be the best lab you can possibly be.

St. Thomas Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is man fully alive”.  I get that now better than I ever have. 

Do you see it?

The man “fully alive” is a great lab running free on the beach.  He doesn’t care about the signs.  He just wants to run.  He’s not worried about dying.  Not worried about impressing people or how big his bank account is.  He is unshackled.  Wide open.  On fire.  Alive.  Unapologetic for the Gospel.  Unafraid to risk.  Unconcerned with keeping score (he leaves that up to God).

He KNOWS who God designed him to be and he’s living it.

HOW ABOUT YOU?

signs…

here are the slides from this morning > Which Kingdom 8 – agreements

My questions for you to ponder are in orange below…

Craig McConnell shared the story of seeing a young lab on the beach running, reckless, without abandon, chasing birds down the beach, wanting to play.  Whatever God intended a lab to be, he was it, he was living, he was free.  The signs say, “No dogs on the beach”.  The great thing about a lab is they can’t read the signs.  His romp on the beach was criminal, innocent, pure – he was being exactly who God intended him to be – no restraints.

He was being “exactly who God intended him to be… no restraints, free, living, playing”.  Do you see that?  Can you?  WAKE UP!  Are you being the “lab” God designed you to be?  Are you alive?  Playful?  Living with abundance?  Unconcerned what others think, ignorant of the signs that tell you the things you “can’t” do?

There are a lot of signs around us – “You can’t do this”, “You’ll never be that”, “Who… you?”  The wounds you have suffered and the messages they bring and then the vows you make are the signs – “You can’t do that.  You can’t be that.”

The wounds become the script for your life and become your identity.

What has been spoken over you in your life?  What did your father or brother or mother or coach or boss tell you about you?  What have you been told you can never become?  Likewise, what negatives have been spoken over you as in “You will always be a screw-up or failure or …”?

Craig’s stepfather called him a seagull.  Saying, “all you’re good for is sitting, squawking and shitting”.  As a result, over time, I had become a seagull.  Nothing to offer, nothing to say, absolutely nothing to give.  I’d preach/teach and always say to myself afterwards, “ugghh, that sucked”.  Shame and contempt would come that I’m never going to be a man that makes a difference or says anything that changes or encourages another person.”   That was my script.

To some degree, you’ve been told who you are through the wounds – father, mother, coach, brother, boss, wife – the signs are there. You’ve been told what you can or cannot be.  That’s clear.

Like Craig, what are the phrases that constantly come up in your mind to describe yourself?  As in … “I’ll never be a _________” – or – “I will always fail” – or – “No one will ever come through for me” – or – “I don’t matter”.

But what most of us don’t know is what God thinks about us.  We’ve been told what others think and its dominated and even governed our lives but what does God think about you?

Ephesians – before the creation of the world, God had you in mind.

Psalm 139 – You created my inmost being. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. My frame was not hidden from you when I was woven together.

God tells us that He uniquely created and crafted each one of us. Each with our own different blend of talents, personalities, bends, talents, interests. God had something in mind when He created you in some unique and personal way.

Revelation 2:19 – “For those who overcome there will be a day where we’ll be given a white stone with a new name on it – known only to us and God”

A name that describes who God intended you to be. Descriptive and true.  Capturing the very essence and core of who you are as a person.  He had something in mind when He created you.

GK Chesterton – “all of us suffer from the same dilemma, we’ve forgotten who we are”.

It seems easy to remember and what seems to be the most governing thing in our lives is what others have said we are.  Most of us have forgotten who God says we are.  What He’s made us.  Who He’s called us to be.

Do you remember who you are?  Or have you forgotten?  Have you ever known who you are?  Have you ever asked Him?

notes from today

What a blessing it was to have Keith Cowart share his message with us.  It was an important word for us to hear and it continues to drive at this same theme we’ve been pursing all fall of “Which Kingdom Will I Serve?”

We all come from broken homes and dysfunctional family structures and now, perhaps, the family we are responsible for is, itself, dysfunctional.  The cure comes in knowing our stories, understanding the patterns of behavior we choose, and understanding what is beneath the pain.  Do we have a “herd mentality” or a “blame displacement mentality” or do we always seek the “quick fix”?

There is a reason underneath these paths.  We’ll be talking more about this in coming weeks.

Here are Keith’s notes from this morning… Man School Failure of Nerve

agreements

here are the slides from this morning > Which Kingdom 7 – transparency and agreements

As we’ve discussed all fall, life can be pretty hard on us – we had broken parents who hurt us deeply or siblings that left lasting impacts on us, broken marriages, failures in business, addictions, etc.  We turn to money or things or porn or booze to medicate our pain.  We’ve discussed that in great detail.

But something else happens out of all of this – we form agreements with the lies.  The enemy shows up in your battle and tries to convince you that your failures are you.  “You’ll always be a ____”.  

Eventually, after enough convincing, we agree with the enemy and form an agreement with his lies.  “You know, I will always be a ______”.

Relationships which had been good, break for some reason and we say, “Yep, you see, there it is.  I cannot sustain meaningful relationships”.  Or perhaps we were betrayed by a parent or a coach or an old girlfriend way back when and when a current relationship breaks, you tell yourself, “You see, I can’t ever trust anyone”.

I can’t attach the clip from this morning because it is from a paid subscription at Ransomed Heart but in that clip, we saw those four guys unpacking how agreements formed in their lives and how they still surface today.  What you also saw is how they have learned to identify them and break them down before they take root as “truth”.  In part, they do that because those were four guys who knew each others stories inside/out and were willing to probe and listen and do the heavy lifting of fighting for one another.

What is coming this fall at manschool is the plead, the push, the encouragement for you to form your own tribe like we saw displayed this morning – that group of 2-3 other men you can go deep into life with.  Your own “Fight Club”.  More on that later but it rings true to a core belief of our LiveUP Tribe … that if a man tries to do this life alone, he’s going to get taken out.  I don’t believe you can do it alone.  Form a group and fight for one another.  The rewards of this are immense.

here is a transcript of the key things they said …

Morgan – I have a very poor filter of what battles to take on and what to pass up.  I’m very scared to ask God, “Is this battle for me?”  It feels noble to just take it on.  It takes far more courage to ask God and be willing to say “no” to others.

You see a need you can meet, and your good heart can get you in trouble.  That lure is strong to help meet the needs of others, but it can come at a great cost.  What is it in me that is unwilling to take the question to God and to be unwilling to not come through for someone?

I have to break a pretty deep agreement of “I am loved if I achieve” – striving gives me some false life, false validation that feels something like the Kingdom of God – but – it doesn’t last, it doesn’t work, and it doesn’t bring the fruit.

Craig – Do I orchestrate this, or do I let God?  I have a battle to trust God.  It goes to an agreement.  The old wound shows up of being a seagull and this agreement forms of, “I don’t have anything to say, anything of worth, anything to add” – that God gives me lots of stuff but the way I view it that it is all just wasted on me.  The talents are wasted on me.

Bart – temptation.  Enemy comes in this agreement of, “that’s what you are.  You have nothing to offer.  You are totally disqualified.”

Warfare, yes.  But there is repentance in there I need to offer up.  I must make a choice.  I committed a sin and I need to repent.

Morgan on his brother’s illness – numbness, anger, discouragement, hope, profound sense of sadness – you lose the ability to BS in that kind of environment.

The healing we wanted didn’t come and yet, God has been bringing so many miracles through this situation – not the miracle we asked for, but the miracles we needed of restoration of relationship, of authenticity, more of the Kingdom coming from a network of people.

In the suffering, it is God, or it is understanding – but you don’t get both.  Something deep in my heart is choosing God.  While I profoundly sad and angry, I feel like I am staying true “I am choosing God. I choose to walk in integrity and strength and receive the miracles He is bringing”.

I must break the agreement of “I have to come through”.  How I’ve walked this situation is vastly different of how I walked my wife’s illness three years ago.  Back then, I was the hero, Superman.  “I must come through.  I am her husband, her counselor, her psychiatrist, her girlfriend, her father” … and I suck at all of those things other than being a marginal husband.  And I decided to let go and I literally collapsed on the ground and God began to father me – that began the fathering process – and in that, I took the superman cape off and I burned it in the spiritual realm and said, “I am done with that story, I’m going to just be her husband and trust God to come through in all these other roles for her”.  It took courage to say, “I’m not going to be her savior”.

Now, with my brother, I offer in strength, offer in being present.  Then, I release them, I bless them, and I bring the Cross of Christ between myself and their battles and I let it go.  It’s the same suffering but a very different experience for me in not carrying it.

Do you see it?  Do you see how the old wounds, the old lies weave their way into each of these men’s stories?  Do you see how the agreements resurface?  But more importantly, do you see how adept they’ve become at identifying the agreements and deconstructing them?  For some of you, this is brand new material, a brand new concept.  Welcome to a deeper layer of the battle you face!  This example this morning hopefully gave you a picture of what agreements are like and how you can combat them.  Again, you’re far better to do this with a close-knit band of brothers helping!

the chain of our past

Here are the slides from last week > Which Kingdom 6 – the chain of your past

Here is the video of Louie Giglio speaking on the chains of our past >

The whole talk is good but we showed a clip starting at 37:38 minutes in until the end at 49 minutes.  So, it’s 12 minutes long and I encourage you to watch it again.

Why do we pose?  Why do we put on this facade that we have life all figured out?  I think, because deep down, many of us don’t like ourselves very much.  We’re not good enough, smart enough, strong enough, man enough, successful enough, powerful enough, we don’t have enough money … we’re simply not “enough”.  And then, there are the mistakes of the past – the affair, the broken marriage, the addictions, the failures and the enemy seizes upon all of this with lies and we’ve believe the Liar.  And… we make agreements with those lies.  From all of that, we simply don’t like ourselves anymore.  That’s a huge chain of that past that Jesus came to set you free from.

The way to move away from the chain of your past is to use our past as fuel to defeat the enemy’s works in our life and in the lives of others.

God takes what the enemy uses against us and He turns it around and uses it against Satan.  God takes what the enemy uses and turns it around – but – He will only do that if you will let him.

I believe you can only be truly free of your past if you will use it and not hide it.  The enemy hates transparency and authenticity.  He loves for you to pretend, pose and fake.  Bring your pain/failure into the light.  Expose it to other people.  Don’t hide it.  Bring that box of shame up out of your basement where you’ve hidden it all these years.  Don’t give the enemy a foothold to beat you down with the things you hide.

There is a lot in your past that God wants to use and in using it, you’re actually going to experience freedom from it.  Because you’ll now be on top of it instead of it being on top of you.

Instead of judging me and condemning me for the past, He is calling me into the future.

I don’t like my past, but I am going to take it and use it to bring freedom to someone else who is in the same hell that I was in.  Being open about your past gives you a platform and a purpose.  God can take your mess and turn it into a miracle but you can’t hide the mess.  You’ve got to own it, share it and help others be free from it.  Will you?