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.

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!



The call to the outward life

You can watch this talk from Erwin McManus on iTunes.  Go to iTunes.  In the search box type “Mosaic”.  Scroll down to the podcasts and pick “Mosaic Erwin McManus”.  This talk is from September 13th “A Voice in the Wilderness”.  You can download the video or the audio.  I suggest you save this so you’ll have permanent access to it.  Here are the notes from today…

Read Mark 1:1-8 and John 1:1-12 and 19-28 in preparation for this.  Pick the Word up.  Engage with it.

We find ourselves thinking, “If God exists, He should make himself readily available to us.”   We think God is silent but we just keep losing Him in the noise that haunts our brains.

John is sent as a voice from the wilderness. “I am a voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord – just as the prophet Isaiah said.”

When John appears, there had been 400 years of silence between God and humanity.  Zechariah, his father, was a priest and had been selected to go into the Holy of Holies … his one chance at performing that ceremony.  In there, he is approached by Gabriel telling him that his wife was going to have a son named John.  Zechariah questions this – “how is this possible, my wife is old?” and he is struck silent because he did not believe.

If we are going to have a voice in wilderness, we have to commit to shatter the silence.  It is not that God isn’t speaking, He speaks through His people and they’ve lost their capacity to speak to the world.

John came as a witness to the light.  His job was to make sure the people recognized the light.  Our job is not only to shatter the silence but to dispel the darkness.

The light of God isn’t condemning – though people think it is.  When we stand in the light, we see things that had been hidden.  We blame God because He caught us naked.  We think the light made us naked.  It didn’t.  We were already naked just hidden in the dark.  The light exposed your already hidden condition.

When you step into the light, you realize it was never about revealing your brokenness but bringing your healing.  Wouldn’t it be a beautiful thing if people looked at you and me and they saw us pointing to a light that freed us from a life of guilt and shame?  Freed us from judgment and condemnation so they could trust the light because they trust us?

That’s why McManus calls his community Mosaic because they openly acknowledge they are broken and fragmented people – irregular, sometimes perceived as worthless pieces – brought together by the Masterful artist to create something beautiful when His light shines through them.

When the light and life of God dwells in us, we become a work of art and a guiding light to those who are desperate to find hope.

John came to point to the light, not the darkness.  A barbarian in the wilderness came and spoke to the people, not some pious priest from a temple.  John – in all of his dirt, grit, animal skin, eating locust and honey – could speak to the people and say “repent” and they’d listen.  The “perfect” priest from the temple could have no such effect on people as a man who’d come from the desert, where the evil spirits lived.  He’d seen battle and grit and darkness and he pointed to the light.

People don’t need you talking about God in the comfort and convenience of your safe lives.  They need to know if we can step into the darkness and come out stronger than when we went in.

It is the power of your testimony.  It is the power of “real”.  It is “authentic manhood”.

The human spirit seems drawn to domestication and away from the mystery of a life filled with adventure and risk.  Jesus didn’t save you “from the world”.  He saved you “for the world”.  The church isn’t supposed to be a hiding place to protect us from the rest of humanity.  If you believe, you do not need a safe haven.

Isaiah 40 predicts Jesus – “A voice of one crying out: Prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness; make a straight highway for our God in the desert.  Every valley will be lifted up, and every mountain and hill will be leveled; the uneven ground will become smooth, and the rough places, plain.  And the glory of the LORD will appear, and all humanity will see it together, for the LORD has spoken.  A voice was saying “Cry out!” … the grass withers and the flowers will fade but the word of our God endures forever … God is the creator of the whole earth.  He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to his understanding. He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless.  Youths may faint and grow weary, and young men will stumble and fall, but those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and now grow tired; they will walk and not grow faint.”

God is saying to you – “I know you’re weary.  I know you’re tired.  I know you’ve stumbled and have fallen.  I know you are broken and that you have weaknesses but I will pour strength into you in times of weakness, pour hope into you in times of despair.  I will pour life into you when you are nothing but death warmed over.  I don’t get tired.  I will put my strength in you and you will soar like wings of eagles.”

As believers, we know this to be true.  We are to be salt and light.  We are a mosaic of broken and fallen men but we have been restored by the Father and as His light shines through us, other men want this.

God did not save you for a cushy life.  He saved you to be a warrior in His battle – to rescue the hearts of others by the power of your testimony of what God has done in your life.

There is no greater call OUTWARD for us.  There is no greater cure for “incurvatus” living than to pour your life out for others to point them to the LIGHT.

You’re going into battle today. Will you listen to the Father?

Here are the slides from this morning … who-are-you-listening-to

Here is the short video of the man talking about his new baby girl hearing his voice …

John 10:10 – “The thief comes only to steal, kill and to destroy.  I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance.”  Verse 11 – “I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

If you’re hearing, “You’re not going to make it” or “You’re not good enough” … you’re not hearing that from God.  The good shepherd isn’t saying those things to you.

What is the provision? (He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies)   What is the “table”?  It is Him.  His word.  His will.

And so you sit with him at the table … in the presence of your enemies … and you say, “Thank you Jesus that you’re with me in the midst of this fire, this fight, this pressure, this darkness, this trial, this garbage dump … in the midst of this, you have prepared a table for me.”

When you go into the fire, it should be “Father, what is your will for me?  What is your desire?”  Not – “get me out of the fire” but rather, “What do you want me to do?”  Maybe your enemies are indeed surrounding you but you know what?  God’s angel armies are surrounding them.

God is saying, “I want all of you to watch me sustain and strengthen and lead my son through this valley.  Watch me sustain, strengthen and provide, protect and guide my child.  I want you to watch.  You thought you were going to take him out but I want you to watch me lead him through.”

Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20) – when surrounded by enemies on all sides, he first turned to God to hear what God had to say and then they sang over their enemies, “Give thanks to the LORD, his faithful love endures forever.”

Our nature and instinct is to say, “Lord, get me out of this…”  But He is saying, “No, get me in the furnace with you and then watch me sustain you, guide you and restore you.  Let me protect you, provide for you and make you into everything I wanted you to be not in the absence of a fight, not in the absence of pressure, not in the absence of difficulty – but – right smack in the middle of the valley of the shadow of death, watch me deliver you.”

2 Chronicles 20:15 — “Do not be afraid.  Do not lose hope because of this huge army.  The battle is not yours.  It is God’s.”

Your battle is with an enemy who is constantly bombarding your thought life with deception that makes you think what is fake is real; that makes you think what is bad for you is actually good for you.

So … who are you listening to?  Your enemies are all around you.  The Lord is seated at the table He has prepared for you in the midst of your enemies.  Who are you listening to?

If the thoughts coming into your mind produce the following, they are from the Holy Spirit

If the thoughts coming into your mind are producing the following, they are from your enemy.


Sexual immorality












Selfish Ambition


Fits of Rage






Galatians 5:22-23 – The fruit of the spirit.  These things on the left, they produce calm in your life.  The things the Father will speak to you will be goodness, gentleness, patience, love, etc.

Galatians 5:19-21 – The works of the flesh.  These things on the right, they produce chaos in your life.  You battle two enemies – your flesh/sin nature and Satan.  Satan knows where you are weakest (your flesh) and he comes at you in these areas.  If you find yourself full of envy, rage, sexual temptation, jealousy, etc. and if the voices are whispering at you in these areas, you’ve given the enemy a seat at your table.

“He has shown you, oh man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you?  To live justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.”   Micah 6:8

Coach Hugh Freeze – what will you do with your platform?

As a part of our 4-week Summer Series for manschool, yesterday we saw a great talk from Coach Hugh Freeze of Ole Miss.  I had the chance to hear this talk in person when he came to the Columbus FCA banquet and it was amazing.  I encourage you to invest 30 minutes of your time.  That’s right “Invest”.  Take the time to soak this in.

Our theme for the summer is emphasizing “Excurvatus Ex Se” – or a life lived outward.  We’ve spent a lot of time on wounds, our hang ups, unpacking some of the silted over channels of our souls to discover why life isn’t working and what Truth God wants to reveal to us.  All that’s good and worthy … however … what are we to do with it?  What is our call?  Is it to remain in introspection and discovery or is it to take those lessons and put them out into the ministry field.  Instead of living inward, we start living outward.

I believe it is time to shift the focus of our work towards the “outward”.

What’s your call?  What are you going to do with this life you have.  Time is short (we’ll hear from Andy Stanley next week on this) and God has a divine purpose for your life waaaaay beyond the wounds of our past.  It’s time to quit looking out of that narrow rear-view mirror of our past to the wide open road of our future.  There is a world out there desperately lost and desperately in need of our Savior.

This is a great talk and I hope you will listen to it.  Essentially he reminds us that each of us has a platform.  His is that of a football coach but as he says, whether you’re a coach, CEO, school teacher or the lady who brings warm chocolate chips weekly to the Ole Miss team, we all have that “thing” that is our platform to minister.

Kingdom Man 4 – fearing God

You are called to God.  Called to something different than the rest of this world, called to something different than your co-workers.  You are called up to a higher standard.  You are a Kingdom Man – a man of God.  God is the head of Christ, Christ is the head of Man and Man is the head of Woman.  Alignment.  When things are in alignment, things can prosper.  If you get out of alignment, trouble rears its ugly head.  If you lose your proper alignment, you lose your sacred covering, you get out from under God and there are consequences of this.

Fear God.  What does that mean?  Do you fear God?

I love sunsets.  They speak to me.  I love the quiet and watching the Master Artist paint His evening sky especially in the fall.  Last night’s was a beauty…


This is part of “fearing” God.  Fearing (respecting/appreciating) the majesty of His creation.  Fearing is also what you think it is – respecting the power and wrath of God.  As surely as He creates this, He can take it apart any moment.  There, in fearing, comes the proper reverence for Him and that truly, none of this is about me.  I am but a faint whisper on a second of history.  To fear God means to take God seriously – not casually, not lowering His standard but knowing His Word and rising up to His standard.  When we lower His standard, we cheapen God and yet we still want His full blessings.  God’s not going to honor that.  God’s on the perimeter of your city, circling you but He’s not going to engage you if you take Him out of the formula and live your life as it suits you.  If we decide to take God seriously we can begin to see His purpose and the blessings He has for us as we submit to His Word and His will.

Fearing God is alignment.  We fear Him with our feet as we actually walk the talk.  It all starts with being a man of “alignment” – trusting God, walking in faith, turning away from any flirtation or temptation, living with integrity — integrated with the Great One — and giving Him your Trust with all your decisions and relationships.

“It’s not about me God anymore.  I give it all to You.”


Kingdom Man #3 – taking a step of faith

“God decides what we will do based on the decisions we make.”

Think about that statement.  Moses accepted the call God gave him and this was evidenced by Moses’ first step toward action.  He accepted the call in his heart, heard God’s command but it was only until Moses took that first step that the power of God came to him.  Had Moses heard God’s call but remained in the place of “I have too much shame, too many weaknesses”, nothing would have happened.  Moses had to take a step of faith.  God responds to our motion.

Imagine Abraham – called to sacrifice his son.  Imagine that.  But he obeyed, he took the step and when God saw his faithfulness, God put things in motion.

Just like Keith’s call yesterday of obedience to the call of giving.  God’s not going to honor your giving … until … you actually give and give with a cheerful heart.  Faith requires action on our part.

So what is it that God is calling you to?

God’s not going to give you your “all” until He’s sure you can handle it.  He called Moses but it was only until Moses acted that things started to roll.  And remember, many times, God takes a mess (or what we consider a mess) and makes it a miracle.  So stop believing you’re “done” and washed-up.  You may have made a mess of things but God’s not done with you.  You and your mistakes are oh so “nothing” in the power of the Lord Most High.

And think of Joshua.  Moses was dead.  The leader, the man that parted the Red Sea and stood down Pharaoh was gone and leadership was thrust upon Joshua.  He had to leave his yesterday behind.  Yesterday, he was the #2 man.  He had to look forward into the future.  Joshua had to trust God that his future was indeed going to be a LOT bigger than where he’d been.  Satan tries to tie us into our yesterday, our failures, our shame but God is looking forward.  Past sins and past mistakes are exactly that … past.  It’s time to move forward men.  It’s time to engage.

What is it in your “yesterday” that you need to … right now … leave behind?  What is that thing that is weighing your down, defeating you? 

It’s time to let it go and step forward >> in faith.

Kingdom Man #2 “LORD God” or just “God”?

here are some summary points from last week…

  • The one opposing you only wants one thing – your utter defeat.
  • Man was given the responsibility of protection and provision for his “garden”.
  • Satan showed up and whereas Genesis 1-3 referred to God as “LORD God”, Satan shows up to Eve and starts talking about “God”  (we’ll address that below)
  • You were not created to just be male; you were created to be a great man – conquer, ruling, greatness, substance, significance.  We associate with greatness.  Think about it.  It’s why we love Gladiator and Braveheart but closer to home, think about your loyalty to your college football team.  Say you love Alabama.  Odds are, you greatly respect and admire Nick Saban.  You puff your chest at knowing “he’s our guy, he’s perhaps the best coach of any sport in the nation“.  If you love Georgia, there is something deep inside that probably also loves Mark Richt.  You’re proud that your coach is deeply ethical, a man of deep integrity and strong faith.  If you love Auburn like I do, you kind of hang you hat on the offensive genius of Gus Malzhan.  You look at him and admire his genius.  Why is that?  Why is it that we have this strong inner drive towards greatness and towards affiliation with greatness?  It’s because God installed that desire in you as a man.
  • When God chose a man in the bible, He always called that man to do something way more than he thought he could do.  Moses was the “meekest man ever to live” and yet God called him up into facing down Pharaoh.
  • What God is calling you UP into isn’t “world greatness” but rather “Servant greatness” – He is calling you UP into a role of great service, sacrifice and self-less leadership.  The biggest man is the one who has gone low before the Lord.  “Here I am LORD.  Place me where you need me“.
  • As a man, you get to name things.  You get to name your wife!  You get to declare what ought to be.  You get to cast a vision – for your family, for your wife, for your children, for your business.  You get to name it.  (goes back to God empowering Adam to name all the animals)

And so, the question is, how small are you thinking?  Are you remaining stuck in the “work sucks, life’s hard” mode?  Or, are you thinking great, dreaming big?  God has so much more for you than wallowing in your problems, wallowing in your financial issues, wallowing in past mistakes, wallowing in self-loathing.  No, God has called you UP into something much grander.  As a man and as the spiritual leader of your home, it is incumbent upon you to declare “NOT in my house” and step out of the pity and UP into the vision you cast for your family.

The root of the problem is that we want our independence from God.  We want to do our own thing.  This is crucialplease get this – in Genesis the Word speaks of the “LORD God” creating.  Go back and read through it.  Look at how many times you see “LORD God”.  And then when Satan shows up, he immediately addresses Eve talking about “God”.  What Satan is doing is in essence saying to Eve, “You can have God.  He’s real.  But let’s not let him tell you what to do.  You need to do your own thing, find your inner self, seek what makes you feel good about you“.  And ever since then…chaos.  When we remove LORD from God, we are telling God, “I’ve got it God, you stay back there in background and only when I hit the rocks will I call upon you.”  What God is asking is that you let God be LORD God in your life.  Let Him be LORD over your family, LORD over your business, LORD over your marriage, LORD over your children.

Dig deep into this.  Ask yourself if God is just God to you or is He “LORD God”?  Let Him be LORD.  Give him the keys.  Let Him drive and see where He takes you.