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…

stay near the Fire…

slides from this morning … manschool 2019 5

Two key themes have been our focus this year – first, the question of “which kingdom will I serve?” and second, this theme of “dirt” … when you get knocked off your high horse of self reliance which we’re learning is a side effect of how you answer the first question.  We can’t see it at the time.  We drift.  We don’t read the Word.  We don’t immerse in it.  We rely on self.  We rely on being a man that can conquer mountains and handle any challenge we face.  It’s gradual.  Doesn’t happen overnight – thus why I say it is a “drift”.

If my reliance, my daily bread, my sustaining is coming from God – truly – then I won’t turn to those false gods of self, success, money, sex, porn, greed, power, reputation.  If you are aligned with God, being fed by Him, sustained by Him, you will push those things away – you won’t need money, success, power or reputation.  They are fleeting.  Only God is permanent.  You don’t “need” sex.  You certainly don’t need to escape into porn.  You have come to believe a lie.  You believe those things are your right and you’ve justified your sex drive as an excuse for _________.  But the Liar we face is crafty, skilled and persistent.  He’s trying to lead you away from the Fire.  He loves “self-reliance”.  He loves the “Type-A, driven, powerful man”.  Yes, yes, yes, he will lead you right down that path of being “all that” and of being the kind of man women turn to for strength.  Dangerous.  Slippery slope.  Tragedy awaits in the hook of the Liar.

As we read this morning…

Camp out in God’s Word – not the world.  Literally pitch your tent in God’s Word.  Camp.  Build a fire.  Pitch your tent near the fire.  Don’t wander off.

There is danger in the woods (world).  You can leave the camp – move from the fire and you can survive.  Wandering down a dark path.  Danger lurks.  Its dark and cold.  You turn back to the fire.  What do you do when you find you way back to that fire – to the warmth and the safety?  You worship! 

(Eugene Peterson A Long Obedience in the Same Direction)

But we are a stubborn bunch.  We want to travel north and yet all the roads are cut to the east.  Do we take the well worn path?  No.  We complain of the roads going in a direction we don’t want to travel.  Pushing forward “our way”, we find nothing but obstacles, walls and rivers and as we repeatedly fail trying to make it on our own path apart from God.  We pursue “our right” to happiness but we refuse to take that well-traveled road that leads there.

It’s like God himself is having this conversation with His angels …

They are trying to get to Mount Zion but ignore all the signposts and compass readings and stubbornly avoid the trails as they bushwhack their way through wilderness.  “Do you not see that they necessarily must meet with thwartings, crossings, disappointments, and failure?”  They go mile after mile, watching for their destination but never sighting it.

“And then they accuse religion of interfering with what they consider their innocent pleasures and wishes.” 

But religion is an inconvenience only to those who are traveling against the grain of creation, at cross-purposes with the way that leads to redemption.

John Henry Newman

As we rely upon self, we are traveling against the grain of creation.  We bushwhack our way through wilderness in stubborn refusal to submit.  And it’s as if God is saying, “Don’t you see?  Don’t you see why I must thwart them?  Why they must meet with some tough crossings, disappointments and failures?”  In other words, while God may not “cause” these “dirt” moments, He also doesn’t prevent them.  Some of them are choices and consequences of our own making and sometimes, the only way to learn in life is to suffer the consequences of our disobedience.  Other times, seemingly innocent people suffer.  We are so tempted to ask, “How could a good God let ______ happen?”  We live in a fallen, broken world populated with deeply broken people.  Accidents happen.  Evil happens.  Cancer happens.  None of us are promised an easy, pain-free life.

If I am serving “my” kingdom, I can make NO sense of cancer.  No sense of losing my job.  No sense of a rebellious child.  But, if I am serving HIS Kingdom, I can.  “His will be done”God may never answer the “why” this happened.  But He is in the “what”.  What now LORD?  What is it You are doing in this?  What is it I need to be taught?  What is the self-reliance that got me into this?  He will answer those given enough time and enough surrender on your part.

And do you see why?  You’re taking those questions to the Father.  “What is it Father?  Show me.”  It is surrender.  It is letting go of “my way”, letting go of “my kingdom”, letting go of “I am man enough to win at a life on my own”It’s DIRT.  You’re down in the dirt and you’re surrendering to the Father and asking “what?” and it’s beautiful.

Men, listen to me.  I cannot possibly know what all you’re going through but I do know some of it.  One of our fellow tribe members lost his job an hour after manschool this morning.  Health issues.  Marriages are on the brink.  Children gone off range.  We’ve lost family members.  Our business is sinking.  We got laid off.  She left for another man.  Porn addiction has been uncovered.  I don’t know what storm you’re going through but I do know this, God may not have caused it but I can assure you, He is in it.  He will not abandon you – even if in your self-reliance, you turned your back on Him.  He wants you to come home.  He wants you to be sustained day by day by His Word.

He wants you to stay by the fire.

Be a man in God’s Word this week …Read 2 Corinthians 4 this week a few times.  Read Lamentations 3 this week … a few times!  “Hope through God’s Mercy”.  Pay special attention to 3:22-29.  Dirt is all over Lamentations 3.

why did this happen?

The slides from today – manschool 2019 4

When you get knocked off your high horse and find yourself face down in the dirt, the natural question is “Why?  Why God did this happen?”.  If we dig enough into our lives, I think some of the reason of “why” can become evident.  Some answers, in this life, may never be explained.  We live in a fallen, broken world.  We are all in the process of dying, all being “destroyed”.  Stuff happens.  Folks die.  Accidents happen all the time.  Cancer appears.  Young folks have brain ruptures.  The world has gone mad and we can make no sense of it — unless — we have an eternal focus.

I want to encourage you — this week, today — to dive into 2 Corinthians 4.  It’s not long … just 18 verses.  You have the time.  Or do you?  Which kingdom will you serve?  Do you have the time to read this sacred text?  Do you have the time to seek the hidden treasure that is God’s Word?

Dig into it these 18 verses.  Word by word.  Underline the key texts.  Write in the margins of your Bible.  Dig, ponder, question, talk to God as you read it, “What is it LORD you are trying to show me in this text?”  Pay attention to the words “therefore” or “because” or “so”.  Those words lead to something.  They point you to the Way.

Back to the eternal focus.  Paul is pointing us to the secret of not losing heart in the face of all the crushing defeat we face in this broken world.  The secret (more in this in the coming weeks) is having an eternal focus.  I can make NO sense of some of the tragedies I hear about (and have lived myself) from so many.  None.  But what I can make sense of is God and that He is good and that I can trust Him – even when this life makes no sense.

I claim I want to believe my eternal destination is secure – that I have a “Deposit Guaranty”.  But in practice (not what I say), I live with compulsion and with anxiety and  with a drivenness. I get so focused on the opportunities and responsibilities and needs and desires I have.  I say one thing, I live another.  I have lost sight of what is to come.  I don’t have an eternal focus, I have a “here” focus, “me” focus.  And if I live with a here & me focus, I will quickly find myself back up on my high horse, God will be back up on the shelf and my ability to make it through each day will come only from my own internal stamina and drive.  It’ll all be up to me to secure my destination, to achieve all this world has for “me” and one of two things will happen, I will get sucked into the darkness that comes from a “me-centered” lifestyle — or — with mercy and grace, God will, once again, knock me off my horse into the dirt.

dirt

So, why would I say dirt is a beautiful thing?  Because without a face down plant into the humility of dirt, I’d be heading down a path of destruction.  I’ve never met a man whose life is all about him who also doesn’t have a train wreck of destruction in his wake.  He may be “all that” but he’s a tyrant to his wife and he drives his kids to perfection.  He craves the attention and is fed by his own glory.

“Lord, knock me off my high horse and never let me get back up up there”.

Yes I am worn out, exhausted, depleted, beaten to a pulp, can’t catch a breath or catch a break.  Yes, my hope fades, my encouragement wanes and my bucket leaks.  Thank God!  These are hopeful because they point me back to God.  Trying to make this life on your own, on your own strength will exhaust you.  It can’t be done.  I must be renewed day by day and that renewal can only come from the LORD.

Click on the slides.  Take the “test” in there when we invert those questions (starting about 1/2 way through the deck).  Ask yourself, in truth, where you are in this.  If you find yourself hopeless and spiritually empty, follow the train of thought in those slides and see where it takes you.

… and read 2 Corinthians 4 !!!

day by day…

I cannot sustain this pace.  I can’t take another shot.  Beaten.  Bruised.  Worn down.  Worn out.  I used to be able to snap back and my attitude was always the glass was half full.  Today, it seems it is always half empty.  I give up.  Everyone else seems to be just fine.

Ever been there?

Matthew 6:34 – “Each day has enough trouble of its own…”   Amen to that.  Like the olive, I am pressed on all sides.  Squeezed.  Crushed.  And tomorrow, I get to do it all over again.

Ever been there?

Don’t be anxious for tomorrow because tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  The troubles for today are sufficient enough.  No need to worry about what might come tomorrow.

Lamentations 3:23 – “The mercies of the LORD are new every morning”.

Just as the troubles come with each day, thankfully, so do God’s mercies.  They are small and almost indiscernible at times, but they are there.  When you taste them, savor them.  Feed upon them.  Soak them up.  Rejoice in them.  It can be a hug from your wife.  The smile of a little child in a restaurant.  An amazing sunrise or sunset.  The warmth of an 80 degree February day with birds singing.  The greening up of grass or the early blooming of the Bradford pear trees.  His mercies can be a compliment from a friend, co-worker or customer.  It can be a friendly smile from the nurse checking on your Dad.  So many mercies.  They provide for us.  They sustain us.  There are times when I am almost completely out of gas and just one of these mercies gets me through the day.

Ever been there?

Yes, you are beaten and bruised on all sides – “the harsh winds of the East” (yesterday’s post) but you also have new mercies coming your way each day – “the refreshing winds of the West”.  For the olive tree (you) to produce fruit and ultimately, the valuable oil that lights the way for others, you’ve got to take the harsh with the refreshing.

The mercies are there to renew me.  To restore me.  To fuel me.  Daily.  Day by day.  One day at a time.  Why not a “one and done”?  I need to be renewed daily.  I need what only the Father can provide.  He gets the glory.  I truly can’t do it on my own.  I need Him.  I need these mercies.  As John Piper says in here, “If I (God) didn’t do it this way, you’d get uppity.  You’d think you have it made and you’d think it started coming from you.  The fact that you run out of gas every day, puts you in the station!  He has a reason He sanctifies us slowly, a reason we need to fill up daily lest we forget from where the gas comes from!”

If I forget from where it comes from, I’m going to quickly find myself back up on the high horse of my own self-reliance and I’m heading for a crash.

 

I am worn out…

Everywhere I go, I am hearing the same thing – we are all exhausted.  Beaten up.  Out of breath.  Not enough time in the day.  That’s the “tyranny of the urgent” and this malaise that has fallen upon our society.  America makes up 5% of the world’s population and we consume 80% of the world’s opiates.  Legal pot.  Booze.  Porn.  Anti-depressants.  We are medicating the pain.  We are the richest and most prosperous nation in the history of mankind and we are also the most medicated society ever.

That’s one issue.  Just be aware of it.  As you’re drawn to medicate, ask yourself the deeper question of “why?”  What is it you’re after?  Why is this same pattern emerging as you think you’re doing good and something happens and you slip and run back to the medication of the day?  What is underneath that?

But the bigger theme I want to address is what is it we are to do when life smacks us down?  Pregnant daughter.  Son has gone off range.  Wife has walked out.  Business has failed or you think you’re exposed to the next round of layoffs.  You lose a child.  You get cancer.

Take these two issues together and I can assure you, life is going to smack you down.  You cannot navigate this life on your own.  Good luck trying.  Being a “type-A, driven, accomplished man” will not sustain you when you daughter shows up pregnant or when your wife has brain cancer.  It will only sustain you so long and you’ll quickly run out of that fuel.

These things will happen in your life.  If you’ve never faced one of these, good.  Congratulations.  Tape your ankles because your day is coming.  It comes for all of us.  What then?  These storms will come.  When you are driven and self-reliant, you will proudly strut on your high horse.  Life will knock your ass off that horse eventually.

It is in this moment that God works.  A self-reliant man doesn’t need God.  He’s got it figured out.  He has “gears” he can draw upon to make it through any situation until …

This picture of olive oil has a purpose in this message…

olive oil

Olive trees, to produce fruit, must have both the harsh winds of the East and the refreshing winds of the West.  They need hard times and good times to produce fruit.  Like an olive off the tree, you and I must be salted and soaked in water if we are to be ride of our hardness and bitterness.  We must be salted in the Truth and soaked in the Living Water.

What is most valuable in an olive is when it is pressed beyond recognition, crushed to destruction and yet, the oil that comes from the crushing is where the value comes from.  The oil can be turned to light.

Yes, you may be in a very tough, trying place right now.  But there is a purpose in it.  Which Kingdom will you serve?  Your kingdom of self-reliance?  Or His Kingdom?

“God, I cannot understand “why” this is happening, but I trust You. I trust that You will provide for me through this and I totally trust that You ARE good.  I am your beloved son and no matter how this gets better or if it never gets better, I am safe in Your arms”

bold…

here are the slides from today –> Which Kingdom 2

What we experienced this morning was an obedient, bold act by a man struggling through a very difficult time.  That wasn’t easy.  I know it was very hard for him to walk into that room knowing what was about to happen.  But … he did it.

He was willing to sacrifice himself on the hope that we were listening.  It was a warning to all of us.  WAKE UP.  This stuff is real and it is dangerous and it carries consequences WAY beyond the moment.  Perhaps there was just one man sitting there this morning wondering if his marriage was going to make it, wondering if that woman at work was worth pursuing a bit more, wondering if the grass would indeed be greener on the other side.  We pray that this man heard the testimony this morning and it woke him up.

If that happened, this man’s sacrifice was completely worth his pain.

This is the power of a testimony.  I hope you heard in his story, not only the pursuit of evil against him but way more importantly, how God is pursuing him.  Through his father’s words in a dream to his friend who hand delivered him to Manschool to your support in the safety of that room, this man is being pursued by the Father.

So are you.

The two questions for all of us is “whose voice are you listening to?” and “which kingdom are you going to serve?”  If your pursuit today is all about you, your pleasures, your needs, your right to be happy then you will curve inward and consume like a locust and the enemy has you.  And you will be in a prison of your own making.

On the other hand, if you see that life isn’t all about you, that there is a Kingdom of Glory we serve, a divine calling we all have as believers that has zero to do with self and is all about giving us away in the service of others, then you will curve outward and live excurvatus.  And you will experience freedom you could have never imagined and the abundant life Jesus proclaimed.

which kingdom are you going to serve?

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…