Anger must fall (1)

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

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

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

God’s Word warns us about carrying anger …

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

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

Your flesh fights this…

“They really did me wrong”

“They really did abandon me”

“They threw it in my face”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aren’t you tired of carrying this?

 

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the lullaby of comfort …

Today, we wrapped up our discussion on comfort with some challenging thoughts.  Here are the slides from today … Comfort must fall (last)

Before I dive into summary comments, Eddie Curran stopped me this morning and told me that those in the Middle East who observe America say that “Comfort is Satan’s lullaby” for Americans.  This far better describes what we are dealing with in this giant.  American’s crave comfort.  I crave comfort.  My whole life seems to be about my comfort.  And as I look back over my past 30 years, I am convicted by just how “blanketed” I’ve been by my lust for comfort.  Life has a way of doing that to you which is precisely what our enemy is trying to lure us into through this giant.

This is hard stuff.  Convicting.  Every single day, in almost every way, comfort comes at you pleading for your embrace.  It can be nice cars, luxury vacations, a fully funded retirement … or … it can be far more subtle, far more diabolical.  Far deeper in the recesses of our hearts.  We live our lives with all sorts of rationalizations and justifications for our “secure” life.

I remind you of what Brennan Manning said in his book, The Furious Longing of God

Jesus Christ has irreparably changed the world.  When preached purely, His Word exalts, frightens, shocks, and forces us to reassess our whole life.  The gospel breaks our train of thought, shatters our comfort, and cracks open our capsule truths.  The flashing spirit of Jesus Christ breaks new paths everywhere.  His sentences stand like quivering swords of flame because He did not come to bring peace, but a revolution.  The gospel is not a children’s fairy tale, but rather a cutting-edge, rolling-thunder, convulsive earthquake in the world of the human spirit.

It is jarring indeed to learn that what through in His passion and death is meant for us too: that the invitation He extends is “Don’t weep for Me! Join Me!”  The life He has planned for Christians is a life much like He lived.  He was not poor that we might be rich.  He was not mocked that we might be honored.  He was not laughed at so that we could be lauded.

And in that regard, I read a letter from Carrie Strickland at TruthSpring/Highland Community Church.  I encourage you to read this.  Carrie and Rob Strickland followed God’s call and moved into the North Highland neighborhood 11 years ago.  They have poured their life out into that community and raised their small children on a street where gun fire is the norm.  The fruit of their labor isn’t instantaneous.  It is a long, slow process of living out God’s call in a very tough place with very broken people.  I loved Carrie’s candor about her frustration in the labor and how God asked her, “Whose story is this Carrie; Mine or yours?”  Here is the letter >  Scan0109

Jesus is calling us out of comfort.  He didn’t suffer that we might be blanketed in luxury.  He poured out and calls us to the same.  Examine your heart.  Check yourself every single time you reach for your wallet.  What is it you are attempting to buy here with this purchase?  Is it the “thing” or is it something deeper?  Is it comfort?  

Perhaps it is time to turn your life upside down so you can WAKE UP and realize that time is fleeting and God has called you to SO MUCH MORE than this comfortable life you’ve craved.

Comfort & Brokenness – Hugh Freeze

Today, we heard from Coach Hugh Freeze (former Head Coach at Ole Miss) as he shared his story of his fall and the grace he has experienced in his brokenness.  Like a lot of us, Coach Freeze went to comfort and complacency.  He had “it all” and took a lot of things for granted.  Worldly comforts provided him no true reward but he let his guard down with devastating consequences.  Through God’s grace, he is being restored and he took this opportunity to stand up in front of the family of faith and ask for forgiveness.

Even more powerful is the follow on later in the video from his wife, Jill Freeze, about how this season has impacted her and her walk with Christ.  When this was revealed to her, she immediately went to her pain, her offended self and quickly, God steered her to “Jill, do you want to stay in the pain or go to the healing” and she made a shift.  And, the more she went to God, the more it became about her sin, not Hugh’s.  God had things He wanted to deal with in her through this pain which is usually the way it is in these broken times – God is usually up to something far more vast than we could have every imagined.

Coach Freeze says in here –

What I found in 2017, when my world fell apart, is that the faith I stand on in Jesus Christ as my Savior is a solid rock, a solid foundation.  His love never changes.

There will come a point in life when you’ll need something bigger than self.

Integrity is not about “doing what is right”.  It is when something is not done right, then owning it.  It is being accountable for it.  It is seeing it for what it truly is – my failure, my sin, my pride, my shortcomings.  That integrity leads to confession and brokenness.

As you go along, and things go well, some false pride comes in, false security.  Comfort.  The lie I bought into was, “I can white-knuckle my way through it” and “I can be isolated”.  It’s a lie.  Don’t do it alone.  That will take you down a road you don’t want to go.  Confess it.  Own it.  Be willing to be broken.

and later he says –

The Devil wants you to stay where you are in defeat and as a “failure”.  But failures are not final.  You can move forward by the grace of God.   You can have the mental toughness to get up every day and surrender again.

I cannot change what other people think or say about me.  But, I can make up my mind.  My mind is set.  My eyes are clear.  My heart is full.  My feet are pointed forward and I look forward with thanksgiving for what God has given me.

You can finish well.  You may have stumbled or failed but you can get up and finish.

Pride wants to keep you from that broken spot.  Isolation from community does that too.  It’s a sign of pride to say, “I can’t talk about that”.  A lot of us were raised in churches where it was never really OK to say, “I’ve got a problem with this and I need some help.” And then guilt and shame set in and the only true way to freedom from that is brokenness.  

I’ve struggled with why this private matter between Jill and I, that I thought I was dealing with in the right way, had to go out into the public eye.  And the answer was so I could experience true brokenness and then use it for the Glory of God.

Brokenness is agreeing with God daily that anything that is outside the boundaries of me following Him, breaks His heart.  That brokenness leads you to obedience.

Amen!  Some of you reading this need to come clean.  There are things in your heart you are hiding.  There is a judgmental spirit, an offended self, resentments you’re carrying, unforgiveness that is eating you up or secrets you never want exposed.  Those are breeding grounds for destruction via the enemy.  He thrives in these dark places.  It’s time to come clean and confess.  For some of you, it may be you need to sit down with your spouse and open up.  Maybe you’re not ready for that step and so, it may be you need your closest friends to hear what you’re struggling with.  Certainly, it needs to go to the Father.  Stop and confess.  Open your heart and be willing to be totally broken.  Give it to the Father.  Leave it at the foot of the Cross where all mercy, grace and forgiveness were laid out for you.

Incredible freedom lies on the other side of brokenness.

Here is the actual video from our session this morning …

and here is the version from Liberty University.  Fast forward to about 15 minutes in through the end of his talk and Jill Freeze starts talking at 41:50 in…

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…

Comfort must fall (pt 2)

Here are the slides from this morning … Comfort must fall

Like fear, the giant of comfort is sneaky – especially in the American church.  It is so easy to slip into the luxury of comfort, the safety of “home”, the deception that your ministry field is contained to just the four walls of your family.  There is so much more you are called to do.  Jesus came to this world with a gigantic mission and He left us to fulfill that mission.  The need in this community is a desperate one.  The kids your kids hang out with … need the Gospel.  Their parents do.  The other dads you hunt with or stand with at the ball field … need the Gospel.  Your neighbors do, your co-workers.

Louie Giglio reminded us last week … “The giant of comfort is all about getting us to settle for the easy road and slowly slipping into the mentality of “I want my life to be a stress-free, pain-free, difficulty-free life while I celebrate a Savior who had a life exactly the opposite of that.”

Truth is, too many of us have settled into the pursuit of our comfort as the operating system for our lives.

Our faith thrives best in times of discomfort.  Shakings come along in life and it is usually in those times of great shaking, great uncertainty, that God does His greatest work in our lives.  You must fight the temptation to seek comfort.  It truly is a daily denial of self.  It is turning away from “Me-ism” and looking outward … daily.  It’s a fight because our flesh and our enemy war against this desire.  The last thing the enemy wants is for you to live beyond self, outward for others.  But this is precisely how Jesus lived His life.

McManus said today – Love always builds for others. It looks beyond our convenience. You don’t give money so church can be more comfortable for you, more convenient for you, easier for youIf you’ve already experienced the life-changing presence of Jesus, it doesn’t need to get any easier for you.  If you have been set free by the power and love of Jesus, you’ve been set free for a reason, to do a great work to advance God’s kingdom.”

Jesus came to build for others.  He did not come for convenience, a cushy retirement and every luxury He could accumulate.  John Piper once said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like this – find the treasure, feel the joy, forsake the stuff.”  Amen.

Blessings to all of you this Christmas season.  Live outside self.  Minimize “me”.  Pour out into others.  Forgive quickly.  Love always.  Fight the good fight.  LiveUP!

Comfort … must fall

Why didn’t Saul fight?  He had the tools.  He was a warrior.

We sit in comfortable churches celebrating a Savior who lived a very uncomfortable life.  I want to make sure in my life that I don’t miss God’s purpose and plan in life and the payoff in eternity, because the giant of comfort has got a hold of me.

The giant of comfort is a sneaky giant.  It is possible we will miss out on God’s purpose because we chose the easy route.  “My crops are amazing.  Look at my barns.  So, we’re going to eat and drink and be merry because I’ve got plenty”And Jesus cut him short by saying … “You fool”  — (You do not want Jesus calling you a fool) —  “This very day, your number is up and you’re going to give a full account of your life to God”.

Jesus came with a purpose and a mission.  He did not come to choose the easiest path, to have a balanced life, and to retire in luxury.  He came to fulfill a mission and when He left, He gave me a mission.  “While you are on earth, do what I did.”

This giant is about settling for the easy road and slowly slipping into the mentality of, “I want my life to be a stress-free, pain-free, difficulty-free life while I celebrate a Savior who had a life exactly the opposite of that.”  Whoa.

They endured 40 days of taunting – but they were comfortable.  They had their tents, their fires and meals were being delivered to them.  But, they did not fight.  David comes along and accomplishes the mission in about 40 minutes.

Do not let comfort be the thing that keeps you from God’s purpose in your life.

All through scripture, we are taught that our faith actually thrives best in discomfort.  In scripture, think of the person who chose the easy route, who lived in ease, whose life was described by comfort, who never took a chance and suffered a loss … and plays a significant role in the story of God from beginning to end.  Who is that character?  No one.

None of the heroes and legends of faith had an easy road.  Faith thrives in discomfort.

Jesus – in the place of greatest discomfort – bought us all the benefit we have in our relationship with God.

Who has the most urgency in their faith?  The secret church in China or all of us in our American worship centers?  Who has the urgency in their prayer life?  Who has the urgency in reading the Word to know God more closely?  Whose very life depends upon their faith?

Faith flourishes in hostile territory because faith at its heart is counter-culture.  We are counter-cultural people in a broken world heading to an eternal destination.  We have a different view of life beyond just what we can get in the here and now.  Jesus calls us to this mentality, this lifestyle.

In times of no job, no purpose, unsettled and frustrated – it is soil such as this that you’d think your faith would die but, it is the very best soil for God to move in.

Out of the fog of discomfort, the Gospel pops up.  We look back and see “Wow, that was amazing.  There was so much discomfort, but God did so much.”  We don’t choose discomfort and that’s why God usually chooses it for us.  We need assistance in cutting the rope, so we can drift out into the current where God wants to move.

How do you defeat the giant of comfort?  You partner with Jesus.  “Jesus, I want to be wherever you are, do what you are doing and mission where you want to minister.”  It’s not the easy way but rather the Jesus way – it is the path of true significance.

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 … ?