Storms and Olives and “You matter”…

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

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

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

And in the middle of that, I read this …

Olive Trees    Lysa Terkeurst

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love you and I see you!

What you are doing matters!

I know you have felt alone!

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

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

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

Do not become weary doing good!

Son, keep fighting the good fight!  Keep going!

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

I am with pleased with you!

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

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

 

 

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When the storms come…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is that man worth God’s glory?

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

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

Which Kingdom will I serve?

CS Lewis

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

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

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

Craig Groeschel

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

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

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

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

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

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

Craig Groeschel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(part 2 in a moment…)

 

What a great Friday night!

We had about 80 men and women at the dinner Friday night.  The food was great as was the music.  The Spirit was present and I think our women got a great idea of what Manschool is all about.

Here are the slides … M&W january 2018

And here is the video of John Eldredge’s talk on the Hope of the coming Kingdom… 

And the two short videos …

This fallen world can really beat you up.  We battle enemies on multiple fronts and your heart is under constant assault.  Social media doesn’t help.  In fact, more and more studies are coming out about the devastating impact of social media on self-worth, the fear of missing out and depression.

Indeed, it is easy to lose heart.  In fact, I believe you will lose heart … unless … you radically place your hope upon the Cross and the restoration of all things through Jesus.  You’re not going to find peace in “stuff”.  New cars, new clothes, new TV’s, expensive vacations and fine wines will not restore you.  They are symptoms of a wounded heart looking for home.  As you chase these things, you are trying to medicate a deeper pain.  For some people, they never get out of this cycle as their life becomes one new toy after another, only digging the hole in their soul deeper and deeper.

Perhaps as you read this, God is nudging you.  It’s time for brokenness.  It’s time to give up the chase of that elusive peace you think you’re going to find in this fallen world and, instead, turn to the Cross.  Only Jesus can heal you pain and my friend, your pain is very, very real.  You do not live in Eden any more.  You’ve made some mistakes in your life and other, fallen, broken people have sinned against you inflicting deep hurt against your heart.  These are real and consequential and your actions to deal with them, has led to even more pain.  It’s a vicious cycle which is precisely what the enemy wants for your life.

The most radical thing you can do right now is give up that old, dead-end life and surrender to your brokenness.  Go to the pain.  Feel it.  Experience it.  Share it with people you trust.  Let the tears come.  And then, invite Jesus into the pain.  Ask Him what He is wanting to say to you.  Ask Him what He thinks of you as a son or daughter.  Commit to giving up all those old “lovers”.  They didn’t work anyway.  Today is the day that you can turn a new, glorious page and do a 180 degree turn.  You’ve been walking (or running) away from Jesus a long time but if you will stop, surrender and invite Him into your soul as your Savior and if you will truly “give up the keys” of your life, as you turn around even though you may have been running for 40+ years, He will be right there behind you ready to embrace you.

Watch these videos.  Let the great and only True hope – the Hope of the Coming Kingdom – wash over your soul.  Glory to God!

PS – here is the Jimmy Evans talk on Exposing the Roaring Lion…

and here is the Todd White talk…

The Glory of God (part 2)

Here are the slides from today > The Glory of God

At some point in your life, God appeared in your story – “and the Glory of God shone all around them and they were terrified” When God appears, your story changes.  He is beyond all comprehension.

Sometimes this happens quite innocently – you’re 12 years old, off at a church youth camp and God moves on your soul and you accept Jesus as your Savior.  For others of us, this moment comes when at the depth of our depravity and sin, we reach a level of brokenness that can only be saved by a miracle … and God … shows up.  Others of us have pursued our flesh, chased our pleasures, sought after money and possessions to medicate our broken souls and a friend introduces us to perhaps a better way … and we meet Jesus for the first time.

Whatever the case, when God truly comes into your life, whenever God moves upon your soul – your life will never be the same.  And you will know by the fruit it bears.  You will know it when that man walks away from his selfish desires of “me first” and changes seemingly overnight.  You know it when the drug dealer becomes a missionary.  You know it when a woman stands to testify and she can barely get the words out of her mouth about how radically transformed her life is because of Jesus.  HE is who we worship.  HE is why we praise.  HE is why we stand and sing and dance and why we move towards others in love as brothers.  HE is why we give up worldly pleasures to chase after more of God.  To God be ALL the Glory!

The missionary Jim Elliott famously said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” Let that soak in.

And so this morning, We challenged the current status quo and asked some tough questions.  Why are you saved?  Is it for prosperity?  Is it so you can be comfortable?  So you can lead a blessed and prosperous life?  So you can keep your faith to yourself because you’re really not comfortable intruding into others lives with a discussion of spirituality?

Why are you saved?

What purpose did God have in mind when He rescued you?  What is your calling?  What is your divine purpose?  You possess the most valuable treasure in the universe – a God who loved you so much that He GAVE Jesus … for you.  He did so … for a reason.  You have a role to play in HIStory.  What is it?

The problem with the “why are you saved?” question is that for many of us, we’ve fallen into the trap of living out an inverted theology.  Instead of “Glory to God in the highest” as our first and foremost, we’re living out “my” story.  It’s me.  Mine.  My glory.  My accomplishments.  The success of my kids.  The success of my career.  My pleasure.  My consumption.  My gratification.  My trips.  My luxuries.  My comfort.

To that end, I ask you, “If your sin is not gluttonous and ravenous, then what is it?”  I mean really.  Let’s just say it like it is.  Indeed, my sin is both full of a gluttonous, and ravenous hunger that cannot be quenched.  There isn’t enough sex, isn’t enough gratification, isn’t enough pleasure or money or applause, approval, devotion, attention to fill the hole in my soul.

And you know this too by its fruit – a man cannot sin in isolation.  His ravenous appetite for “more” always brings collateral damage to others.

The inverted theology explains so much.  It explains all the Goliath’s in our life and why they are so powerful.  It explains why we leave our church because the music is too loud or not reverent enough.  We leave because the kids program isn’t exactly how we think it needs to be or because the pastor won’t take the political side we need him to take.  We are there in church as a consumer.  Inverted theology fully explains the prosperity “gospel” because, after all, it is all about “me” and God wanting to bless me.  Inverted theology explains why we’ve watered down the Gospel, won’t take controversial stands and why we’ve embraced a “politically correct” stance.  We’re making it all about us instead of being all about God and what HE is doing.

I fear we’ve lost sight of that radical God and the earth-shattering transformations He has brought about in our lives.  When you know that God, you will chase after Him with all your might.  You will worship and sign and dance and you’ll not care what others may think about you.  You’ll “get” what Jim Elliott was talking about.  The things of this earth won’t satisfy and you know it.  You’ll want more of God and less of the world.  God saved you for a reason, for a divine purpose.  We live in a toxic “me-first” world and we have an enemy just waiting for the chance to trip us up and lure us into a self-absorbed lifestyle.  He lulls us into a spiritual complacency and a “nice, comfortable” Christianity and as Louie said last week, the enemy is fine with that as long as you invert.  If you make the story about you and your wonderful life, he is fine with you adding, “Oh, and I worship a great God”. 

What the enemy fears is you waking up to what is going on and re-inverting the story to put God rightfully back up on top of the story.  Now it is HIStory and I have a supporting role to play.  I will go anywhere, do anything He calls me to.  Will I have worldly success and all the creature comforts?  Surely not but I am giving up things I cannot keep anyway for treasure I can never lose.  A man told me today about a young girl hoping to go to North Korea as a missionary… North Korea!  He said, “that’s pretty risky” and she said, “Oh I never envisioned entering heaven with all my arms and legs anyway”.  Wow.

What are you going to do with all this … ?

 

The Glory of God – pt 1

Here is Louie’s talk from today …

A few of you asked for the link.  One said he wanted to show his kids.  Others of you said, “I need to sit down with my wife and watch this”.  Yes!  Amen!  Do it.

Guys, if you will allow the Spirit to move and let this message in this video “percolate” in your soul, it will powerfully work in your life.  This truly is a radical message.  It explains so much.

We have an inverted theology.  I’m on top.  This is “my” story.  God’s there to support me.  When I need Him, I call on Him and everything goes right, He comes through.  This “inversion” fully and completely explains the so-called prosperity gospel – that God wants to prosper you financially.  That He wants to you have a lavish lifestyle.  That He wants to give you your every desire and dream.  My issue with those who preach this “gospel” is that they make it appear to be an almost secret formula.  My question all along, and I didn’t grasp it fully until I saw this message today, is “What if I do everything these guys are saying and God doesn’t come through for me?  What if I fail?  What if I don’t get that promotion?  What if God doesn’t magically gift me $5,000 from a long lost aunt right before my house goes into foreclosure?”  Exactly.  That is exactly why this “gospel” is NOT “The” Gospel.

It is because it is inverted.

It’s all about me.  My goals.  My dreams.  My desires.  My retirement at 50 and my consumption of every luxury my heart desires.  It’s all about how my kids turn out.  Me, me, me … it’s all about me.

Louie wakes us up to just how far off the mark we are in our theology.  And, as he painfully points out, Satan is totally fine with us embracing the Christmas story, totally fine with us being in church every Sunday and he’s totally fine with us proclaiming, “God is so good to me”as long as … we invert and keep ourselves on top and God there as simply a support system for “me-ism”

I have this picture in mind of my life …

My life is this old cabin on the river.  I spend my life restoring this cabin.  Fixing it up.  Enhancing it.  Putting every comfort in it I can to make my life as nice as I can.  And God?  He is down there underneath – the pilings driven into the cold ground supporting me.  When my “cabin” leans a little bit over there, I need God to come in and shore up that side with some cross beams.  Once it is level again, I’m good and will get on with my plans for my life in my cabin.  But you see it don’t you?  God is underneath.  He’s there just for support but all the world really needs to see is the beautifully restored, desirable, ideal life I have as this perfect cabin above the river.  It’s all about … me.

My life is inverted …

My goals, my dreams, my comfort, my accomplishments


God there as a supporting character in my story

And this explains why it is so easy for life to go off the rails.  It explains the Goliaths in our lives – why fear is so powerful, why rejection takes us out and why the pursuit of comfort can be so destructive.  Frankly, I think it also explains the core problem of pornography and lust.  It explains our love of money.  It explains so much.  The theology is inverted and wrong and there is a much better way forward.

more to come …