PASS OVER

This whole thing is completely surreal.  It’s like a movie playing out right before our eyes.  I’ll write more on that soon but for now, I want to call our Tribe to a prayer.

The Ten Commandments was on the other night.  I am always struck watching those plagues fall down on Egypt.  Can you imagine what that was like to live through?  Plague after plague fell down upon Egypt as Pharaoh tightened his grip, hardened his heart and refused to back down to Moses and God.

As you know the story, God sent the angel of death down to claim the first born son of Egypt.  Israel was instructed to sacrifice a lamb and spread his blood over their door ways so the angel would pass over their homes.  A foreshadowing of Jesus.

So, here we find ourselves this week – this Passover, this Easter week – with our government declaring it will be the week of greatest pain for Americans as we work towards an eventual death toll of 100,000-200,000 Americans.

 

What if?

What if a mighty work of God is about to happen these next two weeks across America? What if all the believers in America stood together, united in one common declaration that we will not accept this fate.  That God Almighty will move in a mighty way and PASS OVER America at this juncture.  That when this is all said and done, the scientists and experts will be at a complete loss to explain why the numbers came in FAR BELOW their estimates of 100-200,000 deaths.

And, that through this, an awakening can begin in America.  God is shaking our nation. He’s using this virus to get our attention.  For many non-believers, this may be one of their last remaining chances to turn away from their idols and to turn towards God as their one and only hope.

There will come a day when something like this starts and there will be no second chances.  Jesus will be returning.

So, let’s pray.  Let us PROCLAIM … this will not stand.  This will not happen in America.  A miracle is coming.  A salvation.  A restoration.  A PASS OVER.  Easter.  Resurrection.  Hope!

what do I want?

The world as we know it has been disrupted.  Some things may never be the same – certainly for those that will lose loved ones and jobs and businesses as a result of this virus.  We are now isolated and locked down for another 30 days.  Schools are closed. Moms are struggling with a new paradigm of kids at home, working from home and dealing with the fear of the unknown.

We suddenly worry about our business.  We worry about our 401k’s and retirement plans.  We worry about our mortgage and our security.  We worry about our children and our grandchildren and their futures.

So, the question is “what is it that you want now?”  

Some of us just want life to go back to normal.  We crave normalcy, kids back at school, church back in session, business back to normal, fear to be removed, uncertainty taken away, etc.  We just want it to go away.

Others of us want our wealth back.  We want our retirement plans restored to their all-time highs of six weeks ago.  We don’t want to worry about money like we’re doing now.  We just want all our money back.

Others of us crave comfort – we just want our nice, Southern, comfortable life back.  You know – where we don’t worry about all this things and we are just kind of blissfully ignorant.  Sure, we know there are a lot of problems in this life and this world but they kind of seem “out there” or “over there” or “not me”.  Now this thing has landed in our lap and we have no comfort and we want our comfort back.

All of us have a few things right now that we’re craving – things we just wish we could get back.  Things, that if we could get them back, we’d be happy.

Idols.

God is shaking America and He is waking us up to just how much we value these idols of normalcy, comfort, security and wealth.

When these creature comforts are taken away from us, we realize just how in bondage we are to them for our happiness.  We cling to things not so much because we necessarily “love” them but rather, we are terrified of losing them.

Writer Gerald May said this – “Regardless of how a compulsion appears externally, underneath it is always robbing us of our freedom.  We act not because we have chosen to, but because we have to.  We cling to things, people, beliefs, and behaviors not because we love them, but because we are terrified of losing them.  The classic spiritual term for this compulsive condition is attachment… Each of us has countless attachments.  We are attached to our daily routines, our environments, our relationships, and of course our possessions.  We are also attached to our religious beliefs and to our images of ourselves, others, and God…  In a spiritual sense, the objects of our attachments and addictions become idols.  We give them our time, energy, and attention whether we want to or not, even – and often especially – when we are struggling to rid ourselves of them.  We want to be free, compassionate, and happy, but in the face of our attachments we are clinging, grasping, and fearfully self-absorbed.  This is the root of our trouble.”

We will say more on this in coming posts.  We will end it with this again = what is it that you want right now?  Ask yourself that.  Get alone and sit.  Listen.  Sit on your porch in the evening or early morning.  Sit on your driveway as the sun sets.  Leave your phone inside.  Just sit and commune with God.  Ask God.  Ask Him what it is that you’re craving and very importantly, why.

Some of the idols we most crave have been/are being taken away from us.  What are you left with?  Who are you on the other side of losing those things you thought defined you?

God is shaking us for a reason.  What is it that you want?

 

how we navigate this…

I miss our Tribe.  We now see the deep value of manschool when it is taken away from us.  God is shaking this world.  We knew a storm was coming and wow.  Just wow.  We need to realize, this could just be the tip.  If we think this is rough, we cannot fathom was real hardship is like.  We can’t imagine a total collapse of the global economy.  We can’t imagine no food in the stores vs. the current “crisis” of limited chicken and toilet paper.

God is breaking the strongholds over America.  We worship sports – there is no more sports.  We idolize athletes.  Where are they now?  We love rock and roll and country music and there are no more concerts.  Hollywood dictates so much of American culture and the movie theatres are closed.  We love money and put our worth in the value of our retirement plans – they are down 30-40% in a month.

The things we love, the things we idolize, the things we put our faith and trust and self-worth in are being taken away from us.

God is shaking this nation to its core.  Make NO mistake, God is moving through this virus.  He takes messes and makes them miracles all the time.  He’s done it before and He’ll do it again.

Max Lucado said this morning – “God is going to use this mess for something good.  He always does.  Don’t be foolish or naive but don’t despair either.  Defy despair.  Keep it out of the house.”

I love that … DEFY DESPAIR.  For me, personally, that was powerful medicine.  I’m not giving into this fear.  Hope is critical at times like these.  I’m watching a story on the Battle of Britain right now – Churchill told them, “we shall never give up”.  Hope.

How you handle this will be determined by what you input into your mind + how you process what you’re dealing with.  Those two things will determine the output you get.  It starts with what you input.  For goodness sakes … turn the news off!  I had to walk out of the room tonight and go into another room and close the doors so I didn’t have to listen to the nightly press update by the President.  It’s just too much.  It does my soul no good.  I and I alone control what I take into my mind and soul.  Men, guard your hearts.

Two quick tips and then we’re done…  

Max Lucado said this short thing helps him navigate life’s difficult situations …

C – celebrate God’s goodness – remind yourself of everything good God is and has done.

A – Ask God for help – stop and ask Him … a lot.

L – leave your concerns with God – “Jesus, I give everyone and everything to You.”

M – meditate on good things – every single day through this storm, write down a few good things that happened to you that day.

Last thing from John Mark Comer today …

Starting tonight or tomorrow, start writing your “rule of life”.  Your personal game plan.  here is a quick template …

  1. Start tomorrow and each day in quiet before you ever look at a screen or turn on any noise.  Start before the family gets up.  Quiet.  15 minutes.  Something.  Time with God.  Read Joshua.  Read the Proverb for the day.  Or just sit and listen.  Breathe.  Talk to God.
  2. Have a gratitude ritual – similar to above, write down a few things every day you are grateful for.  Focus on those.
  3. Exercise – deal with the wave of anxiety crushing down on you through your body – sweat it out.  Walk, run, lift weights, exert energy.
  4. A focal practice – meaning find something that requires great focus on your part – do a puzzle, play a challenging mind game, woodwork, garden, build something.  Disconnect from the 24/7 news on the virus and pour your mind and hands into something that will focus your entire being.
  5. Relational touch points – it is hard to do in a time of social distancing but build relationships.  Call someone and check on them.  Drop by and stand in the driveway and talk (ten feet apart)!
  6. Limit news – limit what you watch to 1-2x a day of getting brief updates.  Do NOT sit in front of the TV watching the scrolling news coverage.
  7. Limit all screen time – if you are working from home, you have downtime.  Don’t fill that up with time on your phone or Netflix.

God has said “STOP” to America.  Too many of us work too hard and have no margin.  Now, all of a sudden, we have time.  How will you spend it?  Will these next few weeks establish new patterns in your life and your family?  Will you develop a rule for life?  Will you change the way your run your days from now on?  Will you read the Word more than ever and find a hunger for it that lasts for the rest of your life once things return to normal?

We will get though this.  We want to come out on the other side of this better than we went into it.  God has allow this for a reason.  He has much work He wants to do in you and me in this time.  Pay attention.  God is moving.

what are we to do with this?

Reminder – manschool has been cancelled for the foreseeable future due to the virus.  

I talked to Bart Hanson today at Ransomed Heart.  He’s been going across the country visiting with supporters and his report was encouraging .  The folks he’s talking to are calm and at peace.  They know God is in control of this and that none of this is a surprise to the LORD.  Bart reiterated what I’ve been feeling all week – that this virus is a fabulous time to spread the Gospel.  Many of the people you know are hanging on by a thread swamped with worry.  Fear is running rampant.  Fear is a foul spirit and it is doing a ton of damage but in that damage, there is a wide-open door for God to move.

Brothers, you possess a peace that surpasses all understanding.  You possess an inner strength, forged in fire, that your faith has given you.  That is a precious commodity these days.  Those around you need your strength.  Your co-workers who are freaked out about their 401k or worried about their job or fearful of the virus need the calm and strength that you can give.  That strength is from God and they will see it.  They will ask you about it and you will have an incredible opportunity to explain to them why it is you are not fearful.  A recent study asked Americans “Being realistic what are the things you think can control in life?”  After studying the responses, it was determined that we actually can control only about 15% of those things we “think” we control.  It is times like this that we realize just how little “control” we have over anything in this life.

But we don’t have to worry over the things we can’t control.  We know where our peace rests.  We know the assurance of Jesus.  We know the price He paid our freedom.

Rejoice!  Smile.  Reflect the light of God’s glory in this dark world spinning out of control. We have hope, eternal hope and it is glorious.

With clear eyes and a full heart, we cannot lose.

manschool suspended

Out of an abundance of caution, for the foreseeable future, we are suspending the manschool gatherings on Wednesday mornings due to the virus.  Christ Community is shutting down all services and gatherings for the next few weeks.   The church will livestream its services this Sunday.

Not every man that comes to manschool reads these posts so if you have a buddy coming, please let him know.

I’ll be back shortly with some thoughts on how we as men of God should move in this moment.  This is the time to rise UP and display the confidence and surety we have in Jesus.  I’m not fearful, I’m confident.  God is moving and epic things are happening.  Many people around you are fearful.  You can point them to the one true source of peace.  Jesus Christ.

will you slow down?

here are the slides from this morning >  clear eyes 20 – the way of Jesus 2

Richard Foster said this – “In contemporary society our adversary majors in three things: noise, hurry and crowds.  If he can keep us engaged in “muchness” and “manyness”, he will rest satisfied.  Hurry is not of the Devil; it is the Devil.”

Hurry kills relationships.  Love takes time – hurry doesn’t have the time.  Hurry kills joy, gratitude and appreciation.  People in a rush don’t have time to enter the goodness of the moment.  Hurry kills wisdom.

Wisdom is born in the quiet, the slow.  Wisdom has its own pace.  It makes you wait for it – to wait for the inner voice to come to the surface of your stormy mind but not until waters of thought settle and calm.  Hurry kills all that we hold dear: spirituality, health, marriage, family, thoughtful work, creativity, generosity … you name what it is that you value… hurry kills it.

Hurry is a sociopathic predator running loose in our society.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” Galatians 5:22  

None of these are possible when I am in a hurry.

Jesus frequently removed Himself from the world.  He spent time along in prayer and solitude.  Unless I spend extended periods of time along with God in prayer, solitude, quiet and sabbath, the speed of the world will distort my understanding of GodCan you see that?  If I run at the pace of the world all the time, do you see how easy it is to expect God to run alongside me at that same pace?  So that He can meet my needs on the go, when I need them?

However, if I slow my pace down, if I slow my life down and slow my soul down and if I get silent and still, I am opening up an avenue when I can actually hear God.  I cannot hear him when I’m running 100 mph.  I cannot hear Him when everything thing depends on my performance, my coming through, things to work out just as I need them to when I need them to, etc.

John Mark Comer said this – “We are embodied creatures.  Whole people.  Our minds are the portals to our whole persons, so how we think has all sorts of ramifications for how we experience life with God.  But the mind is not the only portal.  This is why, for example, so many Westerners don’t fast anymore.  What was once a core practice for the way of Jesus has fallen by the wayside.  We can’t fathom a practice that comes at life change through our stomachs.  We are so used to books and podcasts and teachings at church that we often forget: We’re not just a brain on legs.  We’re whole people.  Holistic, integrated, complex and full of a dizzying amount of energy.  So, our apprenticeship to Jesus must be a whole-person endeavor.  Mind and body. 

 And if we can slow down both – the pace at which we think and the pace at which we move our bodies through the world – maybe we can slow down our souls to a pace which they can “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

We live in an age of fast transportation, fast computers, fast internet, fast food, fast videos, fast social media scrolling – and they’re all only getting even faster.  Believe it or not – whether we realize it or not – this is shaping our assumptions about life.  We expect to be able to do everything at faster speeds and greater volume.

As we begin to apprentice under Jesus to learn His way of life, the question for you we must ask is this … What is this hurry, all that distraction, addiction, and pace of life doing to your soul?

Hurry is the great enemy of the spiritual life.

We have a problem…time.  And the solution is not more time.  The solution is to slow down and simplify our life around the essentials of our apprenticeship to Jesus

your soul is a stream of living water…

“Your soul is like a stream of living water, which gives strength, direction, and harmony to every other area of your life.  When that stream is as it should be, you are constantly refreshed and exuberant in all you do, because your soul itself is then rooted in the vastness of God and his kingdom, including nature; and all else within us is enlivened and directed by that stream.  In that healthy place, you are in harmony with God, reality, and harmony with the rest of humanity and nature at large.”  Dallas Willard.

John Ortberg

“There is a big difference between being busy and being hurried.  Busy in an outward condition, a condition of the body.  It occurs when we have many things to do.  Busyness is inevitable in our culture.  There are limits to how much busyness we can tolerate so we are wise to find ways to slow down whenever we can.

Being hurried is an inner condition, a condition of the soul.  It means to be so preoccupied with myself and my life that I am unable to be fully present with God, with myself and with other people.  That I am unable to even occupy the present moment.

Have you ever felt that way? – that you are unable to even occupy the moment you’re in?

I cannot live in the Kingdom of God with a hurried soul.  I cannot rest in God with a hurried soul.  Jesus was often busy, but never hurried.   I believe Jesus knew the power of a rested soul.  He slowed His followers down so that their souls would not become fatigued.  We seem to spend most of our time trying to draw crowds and please crowds; Jesus seemed to spend much of his time trying to get away from them.

A rested soul is the easy yoke.

Our souls exist to integrate our lives so that we can live in harmony with God and the world.  They become sick when we are divided and conflicted.  I should be content with my job, but I become jealous of someone in the next cubicle because he got the assignment I wanted.  I obsess about making more money but to convince myself I’m not a greedy person, I tell myself that I am really just trying to provide more security for my family.  I become so wrapped up in myself that my choices and values and desires and beliefs are at odds with each other.  They are also at odds with other people and with God.

morning glory

Then I go into nature.   I stand on a beach before the ocean.  My mind is filled with admiration for the sights and sounds of the waves.  Other distracting thoughts melt away.  By slowing down and observing the beauty of my surroundings, I tend not to worry about tomorrow or regret yesterday.  I am less enslaved by other people’s opinions of me.  My soul gets healed.

Of course, my soul was not made to stand in front of the ocean forever.  But I can bring some of that wholeness with me into my divided world.  The psalmist says our job is not to heal our souls but to make space for them so the healing can come.  “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters.  He restores my soul.”

Where are your green pastures?  What are your still waters?  I am not an expert on sheep, but I have a friend who raises them.

sheep

Sheep basically do nothing.  They eat…they lie down…they sleep.  They are totally dependent on their shepherd.  They do not plan their next meal.  They do not make a list of what they have to do tomorrow.  Eat.  Lie down.  Sleep.

Of course, none of us can actually spend all our lives doing nothing.  But I think the psalmist uses the metaphor of sheep to make a point.  How good are you at doing nothing?  How long can you sit in a chair in your backyard doing nothing?  Not watering the lawn.  Not mentally planning the next day.  Not worrying about your taxes.  Just sitting and doing nothing.  The picture of a lamb enjoying whatever his master puts in front of him shows us what we need to “refresh our souls”.

lawn

Ortberg ends with this – “Whether an entire day, or periods of time set aside every day, your soul needs rest.  Not a change of scenery or a spiritual retreat – those are fine and may contribute to rest.  But to remain healthy, our souls need solitude with no agenda, no distractions, no noise.  If someone asks you what you did in your “time apart”, the correct response should be “nothing”.  Doing nothing works wonders for the soul.”

So let’s talk about Jesus’ offer in Matthew 11 – some of this is a repeat from a few weeks ago but stay with me.

Jesus said – “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you.  Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”  Matthew 11:28

And from the Message paraphrase…

 “Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

A yoke.  Is this this thing you connect to oxen, mules or horses to plow fields or pull a heavy load.  But it also something else.  Jesus was referred to as Rabbi 60 times in the four Gospels.  Rabbi = teacher.  Like all rabbi’s in those days, Jesus had a “yoke” which was a rabbi’s way of reading the Torah as well as a set of teachings on how to be human or his “way of life”.

What Jesus is offering in this beautiful message is His way of life.  That if you are tired and worn out and burned out on religion, come and adopt His way of living.  That’s His yoke.

Like with animals – a yoke is a way to shoulder a load – to shoulder the load of navigating the complexities of life.  All rabbis had a yoke.  Jesus’ yoke was easy.  His offer was merciful –  essentially what He was saying was, “what I’m offering you is beautiful and peaceful and transformative and restorative and kind and loving and if you adopt it, you will live freely and lightly.”

Dallas Willard – “In this truth lies the secret of the easy yoke; the secret involves living as Jesus lived in the entirety of his life – adopting His overall lifestyle.  Our mistake is to think that following Jesus consists in loving our enemies, going the second mile, turning the other cheek, suffering patiently and hopefully all the while living the rest of our lives just as everyone else around us does is a strategy bound to fail.”

In other words –

If I want to experience the life of Jesus, I must adopt the lifestyle of Jesus.

John Mark Comer said, “It’s not that we have anything against God, depth and spirit, we would like these.  It is just that we are habitually too preoccupied to have any of these show up on our radar.  We are more busy than we are bad.  We are more distracted than we are non-spiritual.  We’re more interested in the movie theatre, the sports stadium and the shopping mall and the fantasy life they produce in us than we are in church.  Pathological busyness, distraction and restlessness are major blocks today within our spiritual lives.”

He continues – “There was a time when life was much, much slower.  There were no cars to drive, planes to catch, all-night study marathons to caffeinate our way through, no constant streams of alerts on our phones, no bottomless holes of entertainment options in our queues.  It is easy to just assume this pace of life we live in 2020 is normal.  It is not.”