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.”

What kind of man … ?

Fork in the road

Here is the question for you today… “How big are you willing to dream?  How big a life will you live?”  If you have not read last week’s blog post (Wild at Heart – Adventure 2), please do so.  Last week, we discussed the Holy Spirit as the “Wild Goose”.  He cannot be tamed and we never know where He is going. Is He safe?  No, but He is good.

We said that life without the Spirit is boring and domesticated.  Jesus didn’t die to make us safe and comfortable – He died to make us dangerous to our enemy in the battle for a lost world.  And yet, too many of us are living lives of mediocrity buried by all the responsibilities we have. Where is your passion?  Where is that excitement you once had when you were an emboldened new believer unafraid to share your faith?

Why are so many men – even in our own church – seemingly checked out?  They tell me they “hear great things about Manschool” and then say “but”.  Which is always, “but I can’t come”.  Why is that?  Really?  “I have to carpool my kids”.  OK, ask your wife if she’d rather you be at Manschool one day a week instead of taking the kids on Wednesday.  I bet she’d delight in you being at Manschool.  The men that are coming are regularly telling us, “My wife loves that I am willing to get up early to be here.  She loves that I’m in Manschool.”

It’s a choice.  What path are you going to take?

Clearly, it’s easier to sleep in.  No question.  It doesn’t risk much to stay at home.  Manschool is risky.  It is an investment of your time, energy and faith.  We’re going to push you.  Men will challenge you.  We go deep and go into areas you typically don’t hear discussed in church – frank, honest, candid discussions among our Tribe as we seek to grow closer to God.

But I digress…

The question we discussed this morning revolved around just how big our lives were going to be.  All men stand at a fork in the road and Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it”.  One path is an intimate walk with God.  It is Sonship.  It is accepting that God is my Father and that He chose me before creation and that He delights in me.  It is a radical choice, a radical walk.  It is the Wild Goose and it cannot be managed.  You certainly will not be able to control it.  If the Wild Goose leads you to give up your career and your home and enter the mission field or the ministry … is any part of that “safe”?

Think of Mark 10:29 – “I tell you the truth, Jesus replied, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age and in the age to come, eternal life.  But many who are first, will be last, the last first.”

This path requires huge faith.  It is a life where we cannot control the outcome.  It is a life where your vision and your dreams are so big that God has to show up in order for it to work.  It is giving up caring what others think and embracing a radical walk with God.  All of us were created for “more”.  Way more.  But our wounds, our fear, our shame, our self-doubt they hold us back and they cause us to settle for a lesser life.

The second path is the life we can control.  It is a life where a man says, “I am only going to reach so far but I will be able to control it.  My kingdom may be small but the taxes will be paid, the checkbook always balanced, the yard – even though it is tiny – it is immaculate.  I’m not going to take risks with deep friendships, instead I’ll pretty much be an island to myself.  My kids, they’ll know me but I won’t be willing to risk much with them.  My dream for them will be that they keep the law, make the grades, get a good job and stay the heck out of trouble and in so doing, my wife’s facebook posts will always show off a nice, tidy, family who has it all together.  As for missions and ministries and all that stuff, that’s really for those guys who can’t make it in the workplace.  I’ll pay my dues, rise the corporate ladder, keep my nose clean and retire with a big 401k and a whole lot of comfort.”  

This path prizes comfort above all else.  It savors control.  It’s a small path and a very small life.  But you will dumb it down, shrink it and manage it to get it to a size you can control and once you know “life is all up to me and what I can accomplish and manage within these narrow borders” then … you will see no need for God.  Nothing in your life will depend on God because you can do it all yourself. There is no Sonship here – no need for it.  You and God, you’re kind of partners and since you’ve got it under control, He leaves you alone to do your thing.

This is a WAKE UP call men.  It is time to stand on the walls and shout and wake up the men around us.  What kind of man do you want to be?

I believe a shaking is coming.  I believe Christ Community is already being shaken.  I certainly believe America is shaking.  Birth pains are all around us.  We stand perilously close to losing our nation.  Racial tensions are everywhere and our city is divided.  Many in Columbus have no hope.  There is so much more we can do, so many more lives we can impact for the Kingdom.  It is “somebody else’s problem” until it erupts in our own backyard.  Aslan is clearly on the move.  He is looking for warriors to join him.  My question to you is simply, “How big are you willing to dream?  How big a life will you live?”

Are you going to choose the safe path of control, predictability and comfort?  Or will you choose the Wild Goose and embrace Sonship with the Father?

Kingdom Man #6 – your role in the Kingdom

Every man has a role to play in the Kingdom.  The Church is the local manifestation of the Kingdom of God established by Jesus to prevent the gates of hell from advancing.  It is a battle.  Men play — or it must be said “should play” —- a huge role in the Church and therefore, the battle.

However, men have checked out of the Church and left it to the women.  The Church, therefore, is not in alignment with God and if the Church isn’t aligned with God, God will not move through the Church.  Take Christ Community out of this and just look at the mainline denominations ordaining women as pastors, elders, bishops and CEO’s of the Church and now they are changing their views on homosexuality (The Presbyterian Church PCUSA has just changed its stance on homosexuality along with cutting ties with Israel) and ordaining gays and performing gay weddings…fully embracing the gay lifestyle.

The Church at large is out of alignment with God and therefore, the Church isn’t relevant in the battle.  Oh God is moving and God will triumph, He just isn’t moving through the Church proper.

Satan wants to keep men disconnected from the Church.  If he can disconnect the men — which has happened — he’ll knock the Church out of alignment.  God, on the other hand, has called men to lead the Church.  Period.  He calls us as leaders because men are responsible.

You are responsible for the Church, you are responsible for your wife, responsible for your kids, responsible for your home and YOU are responsible to be the spiritual leader in your home.  Period.  No excuses.  When God came looking for Adam, He was looking for Adam.  He was asking Adam, “What happened?  I left you in charge.  I left you responsible.”    Adam – “but this women Eve…you gave to me…she…”     God – “Oh no Adam, it isn’t her fault, I put you in charge.  If Eve strayed, it’s on you.  You are responsible.”

The responsibility men has been given to us.  Don’t default it away to your wife.  Lead.  Lead your homes.  Lead this Church.  StepUP.

The proof of your walk is the impact you make and it starts at home.  It is the impact you make on your wife and your kids and their walk with God that truly is the mark of a man after God’s own heart.

One last thing and we repeat this over and over and over as a foundational part of LiveUP and that is “Don’t do life alone.”  Man is not meant to be a lone ranger.  A lone wolf sounds cool and tough and it sounds manly.  “I’m just a lone wolf out there doing business and being a man.  I don’t do men’s groups or opening up.”   That man…is going to get taken out.  It’s only a matter of time.  That man is kidding himself.  A lone wolf isn’t cool and he is no threat to you if you stumble across him in the woods.  A pack of wolves is another story.  They have no fear.  But a lone wolf has been kicked out of the pack by the alpha and in reality, he’s just a scavenger and is as afraid of you as you are of him.

Don’t be a lone wolf.  Don’t check out of this.  You need tribe.  You desperately need tribe.  Don’t kid yourself.  Engage in community.  Engage in your small groups on Wednesday morning.  Be real.  Open up and trust these other men to draw out of you the source of life and to defeat the shame and condemnation we all feel.

Next week – we are going to go right after shame.  We’re going to tackle it hard.  Please join us.

Summary of the past 3 years – this captures it

This is the final summary of the past three years.  I believe this quote summarizes and perfectly captures what it is we’re trying to do at ManSchool.  This captures community.  It captures “Tribe”.  It is man battling for man, calling him UP to a higher standard, pushing him towards the Father.

We all have our battles.  We’re all beaten down, afraid, unsure and disengaged.  But many of us have awakened.  The Lord has ignited something – a newness, a freshness of radically seeking after Him.  In so doing, we’re finding Life, glorious Life.

Is there still pain, heartache and setbacks?  Of course.  But there is life.  Sweet life.

And we’re engaging in community of men in a way we’ve never done before.  We are experiencing “tribe” and the Lord is blessing it…

Many men live shallow lives but deep beneath their surfaces lie grand purposes buried. Every man struggles with sort of a self-dummying down.  Day to day lives are the pursuit of the insignificant.

These men are haunted by a desire to search out and find grand purposes.

Those purposes are not absent in you – they are just buried.

Proverbs 20:5 “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters but a man of understanding draws them out.”

The proverb reminds us of two actions that must take place…

First, every redeemed man must come to understand that he possesses a glory that has been buried, recognizing that he has allowed silt to settle into the deep channels of his soul, turning the depths into shallows.

He needs a settled belief that he is not to remain shallow.

Second, he needs other men. Understanding men who persevere with unfailing love to draw out the hidden glory from the depths of a murky soul.

Men of understanding are rare; few are willing to engage in the tedious and dirty job of dredging.  It is worth it.  Deep treasures of the soul lie buried under the silt in deep waters. 

This is why we do what we do. This community, this tribe is available to you.                                  

But you must act.

Summary of the past 3 years – Community

in part II of our summary of the past three years, here is a brief summary of the consistent themes that have been coming through on the importance of community/tribe…

Community – the tribe of men

Man was built for community, built for “tribe”. He can’t do this alone.

If you keep your struggles silent, in the dark, Satan is going to thrash you. Bring them to community, into the light and their power over you breaks.

Imagine you are surrounded by a small company of men who know you well. They understand we are at war.  They know the purpose of God is to bring men fully alive.  They are living in the four streams – walking with God, intimate counsel, deep restoration and spiritual warfare.  They fight for you and you for them.  You could have a fellowship of the heart.  It is there and it’s rich and powerful.

Community pulls each other up. It listens.  It doesn’t say, “Oh, I’ve got that too” and then take over the conversation.  It listens

Community elevates. It doesn’t allow me to wallow.  It doesn’t accept mediocrity.  It calls me UP to live my most heroic life.  If I’m doing life alone, I miss all this.

True community is something you’ll have to fight for. You’ll have to invest time and energy to get it.  You’ll have to fight to keep it.  Without it, you’ll go back into captivity.  This is why small group fellowships thrive overseas.  They need each other.  They have no other options but community.