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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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?

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?

in the presence of my enemies…

HE prepares a table before me …

In facing down these Goliaths in our lives that taunt us – the addictions, lust, greed, porn, drugs, booze, our need for approval, the need for control, our fear, anger, rejection – we must realize the enemy is prowling around like a lion seeking someone to devour.  These Goliaths are open doors for the enemy to enter in to wreak havoc in our lives.

When we start hearing – “You’re never going to make it” – or – “You aren’t good enough” – or – “Everybody is against you” – then we know those voices aren’t from the Good Shepherd. That’s the voice of your enemy whispering lies to you.  And when you start engaging him, having conversations with him, believing these lies,  making agreements with the lies … then you have given the enemy a seat at your table.

Oh, your enemies are indeed all around you.  But God has prepared a table for you in the midst of your enemies.  His provision is all you need but you have to invite God to take a seat at your table and you cannot allow the enemy to have a seat.

in fact, it is time we make a bold declaration to our enemy – “You don’t have a seat at my table any longer”.  It’s time to kick him to the curb and to stop believing the lies and to start listening to the Truth of the Father.

Anger must fall (1)

Aren’t you tired of being mad all the time?  It’s such a weary way to live.  Aren’t you tired of holding onto that grudge you’ve held so long?

Your anger may be valid – you may indeed have been wronged, abandoned or abused.  Or, the anger may be wrongly placed – you may think someone set out to hurt you but, in fact, it was a misunderstanding or you heard something repeated about you that was never said in the first place.  Or, your anger may suppressed anger – this is the anger you’ve never dealt with.  You never had the conversation to resolve it.   You never got it out into the open.  Instead, you stuffed it and it has smoldered in your heart.

Unresolved anger burns slowly until it erupts.  It wreaks havoc on the person who carries it all those years and when it finally comes out, it can do great damage to all those on the receiving end of it.

God’s Word warns us about carrying anger …

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.  Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” James 1:19-21

Perhaps you’re holding on, so you can avenge the wrong.  Imagine how powerful it would be to release the mission of righting every wrong.  What if you instead trusted God, let Him handle all the details and you believed in forgiveness and extended forgiveness?  When that happens, we are free.

Your flesh fights this…

“They really did me wrong”

“They really did abandon me”

“They threw it in my face”

Yes, that may be true but in order to deal with our anger, we must turn to face our own sin.  We go to the Cross.  The Cross is where you take this unresolved anger that is burning your up.  At the Cross, we must face our own imperfection.  When you’re locked into your anger, your flesh will refuse to see your own weakness and instead turns your attention to another’s weakness.

At the Cross, we are confronted with an ugly and beautiful truth at the same time.  At the Cross, I see how God resolved His righteous anger towards me.  First of all, He was angry with me.  Forget the other person who hurt me, I have no righteousness of my own to present…

“They really did me wrong” yeah, but long ago and many times, I wronged God.

“They really did abandon me” yeah, but I abandoned God and turned to other idols.

“They threw it in my face” yeah, but I frequently threw it in God’s face.

That truth is ugly.  But it is also beautiful.  Even though I spit in His face, turned to other idols and constantly rebelled against Him, God still pursued me and pursued me all the way to the death of His Son upon the Cross.

Ponder this.  Who are you angry with?  Your Father?  Mother?  Your older brother who belittled you?  A coach who humiliated you?  A boss who lied to you?  An ex-wife or ex-girlfriend who betrayed you?  What grudge are you holding onto?

Aren’t you tired of carrying this?

 

Fear and hiding… why we pose…

here are the slides from this morning > Fear and hiding

Fear generally stems from three areas in our lives –

1) we were raised in a fearful environment by fearful parents … always worried about what could go wrong.  That spirit of fear was planted in us and we find ourselves today as worried about life as our parents were.  And… we find that this fear paralyzes us into a corner of seeking safety above any risk.  The “fear of fear itself” is debilitating.

2) control – we were probably raised in a controlling environment by controlling parents and their obsessive desire to control every outcome has taken root in us and as a kid growing up in that environment, we did our own thing to rebel from the control and find our freedom.  Oftentimes, that led to heartache of our own doing.  Or maybe, it has nothing to do with our parents.  Maybe, it is personal choices we made that brought on a lot of pain and somewhere along the way, we made an agreement to never be exposed again and so to accomplish that, we set out to radically control every possible outcome in our lives.  Whenever we sense there is something out of our control, fear rushes in.  Anxiety comes.  Anger follows.  We must have our way.

3) concealment – hiding.  We hide.  We’ve sinned, we’ve messed up and rather than confess it and release it, we hide it.  Bury it.  Pretend it didn’t happen.  Brush it off.  Pose.  Put on the mask that we don’t struggle, we have it all figured out, we don’t fear, we aren’t vulnerable, we didn’t make that mistake, it didn’t happen.  And then… it happens again.  The temptation rushes back to try it again.  The lies follow of no one will know”, “all your buddies are looking at porn”, or “you’ve got this under control, a few drinks every night won’t hurt”.  Rather than admit we’re weak, tempted or might have a problem, we stuff it down, rinse and repeat.  The cycle continues.  We bury ourselves further into the lies of “I’ve got this under control, no one needs to know about this” and then, the enemy pounds you with condemnation.  The big fear is “What if I am exposed?  What if everyone found out who the real me is?”  THAT giant must fall.

The enemy thrives in the darkness.  He never wants you to confess.  Giving into fear is expressing faith in the enemy.  Speaking of your weaknesses, your failures, your mistakes, owning them, coming clean, dropping the mask of the poser who has it all figured out … THAT is faith in the Lord.  As believers in Christ, why do we hide?  What do we have to hide?  What do we have to fear?  If we believe and profess our faith in Christ and believe in the power of the Cross and the healing of the resurrection … why would we ever again need to hide?

You may suffer from all three of the above.  You may have posed all your life.  You may have bought the lie that it is too late for you to change.  I’m telling  you that right now, right this very moment as you read this, your life can turn completely around this very second.  Right now… the giant of fear can fall in your life.  The poser can die.  It is never too late to be authentic.  In fact, it is in defiance of tyranny that you can stand right where you are, close your eyes, throw your hands up and confess your sins and lay them at the foot of the Cross.  Today … you can leave all that behind and in so doing, experience a sweet freedom you thought you’d never again experience.  You cannot slay the giant of fear on your own.  Some of this roots back to how you were raised as a kid and the patterns are baked into your life for 40,50 or 60 years.  But … Jesus.  Jesus can slay that giant right now, this very minute.  You can begin the process of letting go of your past and how you were raised and you can let go of the fear that consumes you and runs you life and you can let the Lord Jesus run your life from today forward.  You can let go of trying to control every future outcome and live today, for today trusting God with just today.  Will you surrender?  Will you give it all up today and drop the old self, the old patterns, the old failures and lay it all at the Cross?