it is part of your story…

The constant theme all winter as we’ve talked about the storms of life is that they become an integral part of our story.  We can’t see the reason why these things happen in the middle of the storms but later, after time passes, we can see how God was moving and what He has done with these storms to 1) shape us and 2) reach others for Him through them.

Yes, God will use your storm to reach others.  I’ll get to that at the end.

First, Erwin McManus said three things in the story of his prostate cancer …

If you’re not honest with yourself, you cannot be honest with anyone else.  When we close ourselves off from our inner pain and struggles, we inevitably close ourselves off to everyone in our lives as well.

I’m convinced that many people have lost their faith in God because they have confused source with process.  Yes, God is the source of all peace, and that source is available to all of us freely.  The process, though, requires struggle and resilience and does not come without a cost.

I stepped into my pain.  I walked through my pain.  You see, one thing I was certain of was that on the other side of my pain, there awaited my freedom.  So many of us experience pain as the boundary of our limitations.  When we experience pain, that’s when we choose to stop.   The way of peace is not without pain.  The way of peace comes only by walking through the pain.

We started this season off with the story of Katherine Wolf – the young mom who had a massive brain stem stroke six months after the birth of her first child.

She said – “I kept wondering if God had made a mistake.  Should I have died?  God clearly said to me more than once, Katherine, you are not a mistake.  I DON’T MAKE MISTAKES.  I know better than you.  I’m God, you’re not.  Remember that you were fearfully and wonderfully made in your mother’s womb, and that is when the AVM formed in your brain.  There is a purpose in all of this.  Just wait.  You’ll see.  There is no replacing you!  James could never have a Mom like you.  Think about what this will mean for his life.  Mommy’s stroke will always be a part of his story.  That is a gift to him.  It will inform his life.  Trust me.  I am working EVERYTHING out for your good.

Don’t doubt the truth just because you’re in the darkness now.  What’s true in the light is true in the dark.  I know you can’t fight this.  That doesn’t matter.  All you must do is be still and let Me fight for you.  I will complete the good work I began when I gave you new life.

My nature is to redeem and restore and strengthen.  This terrible season will come to an end.  You will suffer for a little while and then I will carry you out of this.  You will see my goodness in the land of the living.  Lean into this hope.  Most people will never go through this kind of hell on earth.   I have chosen you.  Live a life worthy of this special calling you have received.”

Think about that – little James’ Mom’s brain stem stroke will be an integral part of his life story.  Imagine how that little boy will be shaped by this.  Imagine what he can do with this story to reach others with the Gospel.  And remember this last word God gave her, “you will suffer for a little while” …

These light momentary afflictions are producing for you an eternal weight of glory

Remember – there is a purpose in everything we go through.  There is outcome on the other side.  We all have a role to play.  Life is not fair.  Some of us are born with gifts others don’t possess.  Some of us are born with disabilities that others will never have.  Life will take its turns against me in ways that you may never have to endure.

It is not for me to question “Why?”.  It is for me to ask, “What now LORD?”  Not why but what.

And then there is the song, “I Raise a Hallelujah”.  It’s become the anthem, the battle cry of Manschool this winter/spring.  It’s our song.  It so fits exactly with everything we’ve been working through.  Here is the back story to that song …

At the end of this video, Jaxon’ mom said, “This is part of our story now.  It’s part of Jaxon’s story – that the world will know that miracles happen.”

 

McManus, Katherine Wolf, Jaxon … the storm is now a part of my story.

 

The Pastor at Bethel said this, “This Gospel is not haphazard.  It’s not a guessing game.  It’s the absolute nature of God revealed in His goodness and kindness.  What is necessary is that His people rise to the occasion to face the impossibilities of life with the confidence of God’s character, His nature and His power.  There is no other option.  We are called to this.  It is our responsibility.  It is our privilege.”

The Pastor said this so very well — “it is necessary that His people rise to the occasion to face the impossibilities of life”.  Read that = we have a choice to make.  Will I shrink back into defeat or will I choose to step UP into the battle?  And then, “with the confidence of God’s character, His nature and His power”.  The storms will come.  We must first decide how or if we’ll even fight and second, we will choose not to blame God or think He has abandoned us rather, we will shift the narrative into believing Who He says He is!

Last point … this story of Jaxon is a miracle.  They don’t all turn out that way.  Whether Jaxon made it or not, a song was born out of this horrific storm.  A song that is being sung all over the world today.  A song that has had millions of downloads.  A song that has become the battle cry for so many.  A song that has come at just the right moment for so many – right before the marriage ended, right before she walked out, right before a life was taken, right before a decision was reached to give up.  People have heard this song and done an about face and said, “No, I will fight.  I will praise YOU in the middle of this storm” and the enemy has fled.

all from the suffering of an innocent child.  PRAISE GOD.

Shattered – into the Potter’s hands

When you get knocked off your high horse and smack down face-first into the DIRT, does your life feel like this?

grog

Lysa Terkhuerst had colon surgery that almost killed her.  Shortly thereafter she learned of her husband’s affair.  Then she was diagnosed with breast cancer. All within two years.  I will assure you, her life was shattered to pieces.

She says, “He sometimes will allow more and more and more.  Grief upon grief.  Hurt upon hurt.  Heartbreak upon heartbreak.  Addiction upon addiction.  Diagnosis upon diagnosis.  Disappointment upon disappointment.  The world is filled with people who are dealt more than they can handle.

God doesn’t expect us to handle this.  He wants us to hand this over to Him.  He doesn’t want us to rally more of our own strength.  He wants us to rely solely on His strength.

If we keep walking around thinking that God won’t give us more than we can handle, we set ourselves up to be suspicious of God.

When the questions came of “Why me? Why this? Why now? Why me?”, I seriously contemplated running away to Montana to hide from my life.  But the cancer would follow me.  The hurt would follow me.  Even my wrestling with whether or not I could trust God would follow me.

I couldn’t escape my realities.  I had to face them.  I had to walk through them.  Maybe if I changed my thinking, I could trust God in the midst of them.

Had things not blown up with my husband last summer, I never would have put life on pause to get a mammogram.  I would have put it off. But because I had a mammogram at the exact time I did, the doctors caught a cancer that needed to be caught.  And because they caught it, I have every fighting chance to beat this cancer.”

We’ve talked in here about DIRT or dust as Lysa likes to say – that God uses the dirt/dust to reshape us to accomplish His purpose in our life.

She says this, “When we place our dust into God’s hands and He mixes it with His living water, the clay that is formed can then be made into anything.  Wise potters not only know how to form beautiful things from clay, but they also know how important it is to add some of the dust from previously broken pieces of pottery to the new clay.  This type of dust is called “grog”.

To get this grog, the broken pieces must be shattered to dust just right.  If the dust is shattered too finely, then it wouldn’t add any structure to the new clay.  It isn’t shattered enough the grog will be too coarse and make the potter’s hands bleed.

But when shattered just right, the grog dust added to the new clay will enable the potter to form the clay into a larger and stronger vessel than ever before.  And it can go through fires much hotter as well.  Plus, when glazed, these pieces end up having a much more beautiful, artistic look to them than they would have otherwise.”

Think about this – we go through these storms. Sometimes we are shattered into fragments.  Sometimes, God has to let us be ground down into dust.  God can take those pieces and reshape us, reform us.  Now, we are stronger than before.  Now, we are able to withstand even hotter fires.  Now, we can withstand even stronger storms.

She continued, “A broken shard of pottery can lie on the ground and be nothing more than a constant reminder of brokenness.  It can also be used to continue to scrape us and hurt us even more when kept in our hands.

Or, when placed in the Master’s hands, the Master Potter can be entrusted to take those shards of pottery, shatter them just right, and then use it in the remolding of me to make me stronger and even more beautiful.

When I understood this, I saw that in all my circumstances God was keeping me moldable while adding even more strength and beauty in the process.”

So, where are you right now?  Are you shattered?  Is life crushing you?  Have you made such a mess of your life that there is no way you can put the pieces back together again?  Pray this…

Take this Lord and shatter it just right, so I can be made stronger, more beautiful, and able to withstand fires as never before.  I believe that You see things I cannot see.  And You have eventual good in mind.  Hands turned up saying, “Thy will be done.  Your Kingdom, not mine.”

And here is a song for you…

it is well. look for the mercies today…

Let this song wash over you.  Storms will come, mountains of impossibility will rise up in front of you … even still, it is well with my soul.

I can make no sense of the recent tornado that ravaged our region.  I can make no sense of this picture of a 23-year old girl and her 18-month old child (Way too close to home – we have a 23-year old daughter with an 18-month old child whose house was hit by the storm) looking at this girl’s destroyed home knowing she just lost her husband…

How can we make sense of it?  We want to shout, “Meaningless!”  Those seemingly meaningless events are going to happen to you.  Even though they will come, it is well with my soul.  Say that to yourself.  PREACH it over you and your home.  Remind yourself that while each day has enough trouble of its own, HIS mercies are new every morning.

They are.  Truly.   But, you’ve got to look for them.  Craziness is coming at you today.  This world is frenzied in its pace.  Faster isn’t fast enough.  You’ve got to move even faster than you are just to keep up.  The world’s goal and the enemies is to convince you that you MUST keep up or you’ll be left behind.

It’s a lie.

Your soul is not meant to run at the pace you’re running.  It’s insanity.  So, you’ve got a choice to make.  Will you step off the crazy train and reorient your soul to the Father?  Perhaps your only chance today will be in your car for 7-8 minutes between meetings or on the way to the soccer field or on your drive home to stop, rest, disconnect from the madness and connect to the Vine that feeds your branch.

IT IS WELL.  Play that song today.  Let it wash over you.  Be healed.  Be restored.

Challenge – starting today, if you have a journal, put a page in there entitled, “Today’s mercies” and write down when a mercy comes your way.  If you don’t have a journal, pull out notepad and use that!  Mercies?  It can be a compliment, the laughter of a child, the sunset tonight, a break in a tense situation, a turn in the environment at work or home, the chance to pickup limbs at a neighbors house.  Find the mercies God gives you.  WRITE THEM DOWN.

Next week, I’ll ask you to share the mercies the Father poured out on you in the midst of your storm.

A triumphal warrior’s call

Subversive for the Savior
Devotional by John Piper      (my comments in orange)

When Jesus met the man filled with demons at Gadara, the demons cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29)

Demons learned a mystery here. They knew they were doomed. They knew the Son of God would be the Victor. But they didn’t know until it happened that Christ was coming before the time of final defeat.

Christ is not going to wait until the atom bomb drops to end the war. He has begun to lead a subversive force into the territory of Satan. He has trained a “life-squad” (that’s us boys) to perform daring rescue operations. Christ has plotted many tactical victories before the time of the final strategic victory.

The resulting wartime mentality is this: Since Satan’s doom is sure, and he knows it, we can always remind him of it when he tempts us to follow him. (Remember … “Lake of fire, Lake of fire”.  When assaulted, remind the foul one of his final destination!)  We can laugh and say, “You’re out of your mind. Who wants to join forces with a loser?!”

The church is the liberated enemy of “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). We are the guerrillas and the gadflies. We are the insurgency in the rebel kingdom of “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2).  (Big AMEN to that!)

It is not safe. But it is thrilling. Many lives are lost. Satan’s forces are ever on the lookout for our subversive activity. Christ has guaranteed resurrection for all who fight to the death. But he has not guaranteed comfort, or acceptance from the world, or prosperity in enemy territory.

Many have gladly given their lives behind the lines running errands for the Commander. I can think of no better way to live — or die!

The Warrior

One of my favorite movies and books of all time is The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe by CS Lewis.  Aslan is the Christ figure in the story and is this magnificent, powerful, exceedingly kind, fiercely terrifying yet always loving figure in the story.  When Aslan is on the move, the kingdom shakes with anticipation.  And so it is today.

Yes, this world is terrible.  Yes, we face a long laundry list of things to worry about.  Yes, our nation has turned away from God.  There is much to fear about our future.  However…we know how this story ends.  We know the warrior God is coming and He will make all things right.  So men, take heart!  Rise up.  Don’t shrink back.  Be a man of God.  Be bold and fierce and strong yet tender, loving and compassionate.  Be true.  Stand tall.  Fight for your family.  Fight for your wife.  Fight for your kids.  Don’t give up.  Don’t lose heart.

There is a storm coming…

i am the storm

who told you that you were naked?

This morning … wow, it just blew me away.  I’ve seen this 4 times now and each time, I am taken deeper into it.  This is so vital to this journey we are on.  I wanted to get you this link so you can have access to the podcast.

Please invest the 45 minutes or so to watch this.  Let me suggest that you watch it a second time with your wife.  Let God speak into your soul…

go to http://www.mosaic.org — click on podcast/streaming, video podcast and then click on the 3/9/14 episode “The Artisan Soul, who told you you were naked”

Men, this is such a critical part of our journey.  Much like the talk on the Vine, we need to pay attention to the voices we are listening to and in reality, if we aren’t connected to the Vine, we’re going to be listening to the wrong voices.  All of us have those voices – voices of fathers who told us we are half-ass and we’d never amount to anything, voices of older brothers who knocked us down to keep us in our place, voices of past loves who broke our heart and then turned to another man, voices of a coach who told us we probably didn’t need to be on the team, voices of bosses who told us we simply didn’t have what it took to make it in business.  We’ve all got them and they do untold damage to our souls.

And so, we wander around beaten, broken, ashamed and half the man we were meant to be.  And if God could pull you aside right now, He’d simply ask, “who told you that you were naked, who have you been listening to?”

You are a masterpiece, dreamed up by God long before you were ever born.  He created you to create, He imagined you so you can image, He dreamed of you so you can then in turn dream.  So many of us no longer believe this.  But you should – it’s still there buried under the silt and damage of years of lies from the father of all lies, buried under the voices of broken, wounded people.

The prayer for you right now is this – “Lord, make me a masterpiece.  I will be a work of art and an artist at work.  I will dream great dreams and imagine a future that does not yet exist.  I will refuse to let reality limit what God can do in me.”

I won’t ramble (though I could).  I simply want you to watch this video and soak it in and then, if you will, share a comment below as to what God spoke into your soul while you were listening to this.

dig deep.  dream big.  shine.

 

Dreaming (2)

The world needs you to live your most heroic life.  Just look around you.  This planet is reeling and running towards disaster.  We need you to step UP.

McManus said, “We have unimaginable freedom, opportunity, wealth, resources and are probably the most leveraged culture in human history for success and yet we have runaway depression, an epidemic of suicide and an overly medicated culture.  Is it possible that we have consumed and consumed and consumed and taken all that we can for ourselves rather than to create and create and create for the good of others?”

This is a huge statement.  It is what we’ve been talking about as we LiveUP we strive to LiveOUTWARD rather than consume inward.  It is a radical thought.  When you’ve been hurt or let down or disappointed, it is so easy to turn this inward on you and “consume”.  As we think of how this makes me feel or how this hurts me or how angry it makes me, things start to spiral out of control.  The more we make it about “me”, the deeper into the muck we sink.  Thus, perhaps is a key reason, we have become a depressed society.

But turn it the other way, what if when your children hurt you and disappoint you or when the burden of this thing you must do to help a friend weighs on you — what if — what if instead of turning it inward, you LivedOUTWARD?  What if instead of focusing on self, you instead focused on the child and what she needs.  Yes, she disappointed you or made you mad but she needs you.  She needs you to love her.  Yes, the burden of meeting the need of a friend which takes away your night or your weekend can strain you but what if instead, you simply focused on what it is your friend truly needs rather than how this “puts you out”.

We have consumed, consumed and consumed and taken all we can and it leaves us empty with an even deeper void than before we started.  These things make it hard to dream.

We’re talking about dreaming and the call to your most heroic self.  We hear a lot the phrase, “If you can dream it, you can do it” and that’s simply not true.  There are things I cannot do no matter how much I dream about them.  But the converse is an undeniable truth – “If you don’t dream it, you’re not going to do it.”  We need to dream.  You need to dream.  There is something out there just waiting for you to dream it up.  Imagine.  Create.  Be able to see a world that does not exist and imagine a future yet to be created and see yourself as the person you have yet to become.

Your imagination is supposed to unleash you so can begin to pursue that life.  To dream a dream that so compels you that it demands to become your life.

What is that for you?

Or, do you find all of this seemingly impossible?  Do you sit and think, “Man, I’ve got so much junk in my life and I am just so barely hanging on that all this dreaming stuff is sort of like, ‘yeah, whatever'”

Then let me remind you of Jeremiah and his words of each of us being “A dream in the mind of God before you took your first breath.”  You, my friend, are a work of art…a Masterpiece.  You have gifts, talents, skills and abilities breathed into you by the Mighty Lord as He dreamed you up into existence.

Who are you going to believe?  The enemy who whispers in your ear, “It’s too late, you’ve got too much baggage” or, the Master of the Universe who dreamed you up as a work of art and gave His son as a ransom on your behalf?

You need to dream.  You need to sit back and let God speak into your soul.  He can dream far bigger than you ever imagined.  You need to be still, attach to the Vine and let Him feed your soul and then see what dreams He has for you.

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