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?

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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…

He prepares a table before me…

Here is the Louie Giglio talk we watched (again!) this morning.  I started the tape at about 17 minutes.  I encourage you to watch this again.  I strongly encourage you to watch this with you wife.  Put the kids to bed, turn off the TV and invest in the spirituality of your marriage and in so doing, build a deeper level of intimacy with her.

The talk is so good, I can hardly put words to it.

In the context of his talk, I encourage you to go and read this blog post…

A Letter To Satan Concerning My Daughter’s Seizures.

Morgan Cheek writes powerfully on this blog of the journey God has taken her and her husband on as they raise twin girls with severe genetic issues.  (Her husband Hugh is from Columbus).  This is a journey they cannot escape.  There is no “prosperity Gospel” to deliver them from this.  Great pain accompanies their journey.  But God.  But God is present with them.  He walks with them and prepares a table before them in the presence of their enemies.  The situation may never turn around.  God never promises us a pain free life in this fallen world.  It does not make our God … not good.  He is good.  He is present.  They are surrounded by all sorts of enemies but God is present and He has prepared a table for them and He is enough.  He is all and He is enough.  Read the blog post and see how Morgan battles the enemy by calling out his lies and reading back to him scripture and Truth he cannot deny and will flee from.  In so doing all this, Morgan is not giving the enemy a seat at her table.  She’s locked tight her eyes on the Creator of these precious girls and the comfort and provision of God is all she needs.

Lastly, tying in with all of this … what is it that God wants from you?  What does he want?  I’ve talked to you about my “high horse”.   Here’s our buddy Vlad on his “high horse” but you know what, it’s us.  We’ve got life figured out.  We’re in control.  We always have the answers or we pose acting as if we do.

And if you’re ever so lucky, God will come along occasionally and knock you off that horse.  Here is how it starts …

and how it ends …

and Praise God!  Now you’re humbled and you are in a place where you can look at your life in a fresh way and now you’re able to listen.  So here is how life looks …

These nice little boxes tucked up on the shelves.  Each of those boxes are the things we “control” – career, 401(k), home, wife, kids, sex life, our time, our money, our stuff.  As life goes along, we manage these things, take control of them, pretty them up, make them appear as if all is perfectly in order.  Perhaps family is the best of these – pretty wife, two perfect kids, right schools, right attitudes, “everything just seems to work out for them”.  Life’s good.  “I’ve got this under control and life figured out”.

BOOM.  High horse time.

My daughter turns up pregnant.  God prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies and if I will just sit at the table with Him and lock tight on Him, He has me.  But no, I turn away.  I turn to my shelves.  I take these things and take control of them and get busy getting the shelves of my life in perfect order so all the world will look and see “wow, he has it figured out”.  The enemy will strike here.  He won’t play fair.  He’ll even use scripture to trick us.  “You’re just being a good steward of the talents God’s giving you.”  You see, even in that, he’s tricking us to turn from God and think “I can do this on my own”.  The liar tells you that “you don’t need God,  you’ve got this”.  

So, enough time goes by and I’m lulled to sleep and my pretty little life, all tucked nice and neatly up on those shelves gets blown up when my daughter turned up pregnant.  Not only was she pregnant, she moved in with the boy and a way of life far removed from the home she grew up in. What then?  What of the pretty little family all nice and neat?  Five weeks later, her older sister told us she was pregnant too.  Double Boom.  Face plant off the high horse into the mud.  The perfect little family was now being rocked.  The facade was broken.

I will say that through all of this, we’ve been humbled.  On December 1, we thought “there is no way we’re ever going to make it through this.”  45 days later with both of them pregnant, now we really knew, “there is no way we can do this”.  But God.  God has turned this mess into a miracle.  What seemed insurmountable four months ago has passed.  God got us through it.  We walked those days in a way we’d never walked before with God.  Will our “perfect” little life ever be “perfect” again?  No.  But you know what, now that I look back, I don’t want that kind of perfect.  I want the God perfect.  I want to give it ALL to Him – “Lord do with all this whatever You will”.  I never again want to walk another day up on a high horse thinking I’ve got it all figured out.  I want to walk my days the way we did in the worst of that storm when each day was radically dependent on God showing up.

So my question to you is simple – What does God want from you? 

God wants it all – your time, your money, your sex life, your kids, wife, job, retirement “plan” – the whole thing.  We want to keep control of most of this up on our shelves – we turn our back on God and his table and turn to our shelves saying “No God, I’ve got these things under control, I just need you over here in this other area”.  Nope.  Oh no.  God wants it all.  The more stuff you keep away from God up on your shelves as you fine tune, shine, polish and present as perfect … the more idols you’re worshiping and the less you’re locked tight on Him.

Morgan Cheek has no choice.  She cannot “do” being a Mama to those two little girls alone.  She’s desperate for a Savior and she’s seated at the table He has prepared for her and those girls in the midst of her enemies.  The road ahead looks daunting and it is but in the swirling vortex of the enemies that surround her, there is a table and The Good King prepared it and sits there with her.

Push into this.  What does this say to you?  Where are you in this.  

Let me hear from you.

 

 

Dealing with the effects of suffering

Suffering – we hate it, but it is an inescapable part of this gift of life.  True, some suffer more deeply than others, but we will ALL experience suffering in some form or another…

Natural disasters.  Place, time, circumstances of one’s birth; where we live.  Economic difficulties.  Accidents.  Sickness, disease.  Death.

Suffering is a given for all who live in this world, even we who follow Jesus.   In fact, we may at times face even greater suffering BECAUSE of our faith.

Yes, God allows suffering in His world BUT . . . God never desires suffering to bring brokenness.  He is always present and always at work to redeem the impact of suffering in our lives.  Notice, first you suffer, then you’re broken and then… redemption!

Satan’s strategy is to get us stuck in one of two deceptive distortions:

I become consumed with myself.  I am not good.  I am not loved.  I don’t matter.  I become consumed with my fear, my pain, my shame, my grief.  I turn inward and isolate myself – from God and others.  Something is wrong with ME.

I become consumed with God as my adversary.  God is not good.  He is not loving.  He is not able.  He is absent.  He is not fair.  There is a progression in this from questions to accusations to judgment of Him. Something is wrong with GOD.

Job, a righteous man who loves God, goes through incredible suffering (at the hand of Satan).  He truly loses everyone, everything, even his own health.  Interestingly, God told Satan, “You can’t take his life”.  That’s a powerful truth in our lives – he may take all my stuff but he can never take my soul!  Insights from Job on dealing with suffering:

1. We live in a world at war.  Evil is real!  We have an enemy who is bent on destroying all that is good.

2. Both the righteous and the wicked will suffer.

3. There will be times we don’t understand why we are suffering.  God never actually explains to Job why he is suffering.

4. Theological answers don’t always help.  It’s a person’s heart that is largely under assault; not their head.  People just need others to be present, listening, caring.  They want to know they are not alone.

5. There is a bigger story than our suffering. God is always at work.  His timing may be very different from our expectations, but He is engaged.  Redemption is      His glory.  He sees where things are going; we only see where they are.

This is so encouraging for your soul…

So we’re not giving up.  How could we!  Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.  These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us.  There’s far more here than meets the eye.  The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow.  But the things we can’t see now will last forever.    2 Corinthians 4: 16-18 MSG

6. Peace and healing come in our suffering when we “SEE” God like Job did  (42:1-5)

Lastly, the transformation of Job looked like this …

He moved from pride to humility.

From entitlement to “I deserve nothing”.

He went from talking about God to listening to Him.

From questioning God to trusting Him.

From accusing God to worshiping Him.

“me” has to die (part 2)

The root of all sin is “me”.  It is self.  It is your flesh.  It is the “immediate”.  It explains why we have all this credit card debt.  “I want it, I get it, I figure out how to pay for it later”.  I justify.  I rationalize.  “I need this”.  “I deserve this”.  “Why can he have a 70 inch HDTV but I can’t?”  “Everyone else does this, why can’t I?”

Go back and re-read that first paragraph and look at all the I’s.   Me, me, me, it’s all about me.  That’s a pathway to death.  Living for “me” is sin and it’ll take you places you never wanted to go and extract a cost from you that you never wanted to pay.

Me-first explains why we don’t tithe.  Tithing is a radical statement of faith that my money will not own me.  By giving it away (giving first), I am standing in defiance of “me first” and my flesh.  I’m radically surrendering Lordship of my money over to God.  It is surrender.

Surrender is the very opposite of sin/me/flesh.  Surrender is Lordship.  It is acknowledging I am not master of my life and in fact, if left unchecked, my flesh will consume my life and all those around me that I love.  Surrender is acknowledging that if left to my own devices, I’d consume like locusts.  Surrender is admitting you’re weak.  It’s a beautiful thing.   In my weakness, God is strong.  

Some guys can drink and escape the risks.  Others of us have no business drinking.  It’s too wide an open door.  There is too much risk.  Maybe alcoholism runs in your family and you’ve bought the lie that you’re immune to the risks.  No one is immune to risk.  We have an enemy who does not fight fair and is the master of all lies and if you don’t think you’ll ever get hooked, you’re buying a lie. Some guys don’t really struggle with pornography.  But others of us know it is a vast weak spot and if tempted, we will take the bait.  In truth, no man is immune to it.  If you’ve ever looked at it, you struggle with it.  If you’ve ever looked at it, there is a temptation to go back.  That’s what Satan does.  His hooks cut deep and have big barbs on them.  Getting them out of your flesh is hard.

Sexual temptation, pornography, sending Facebook friend requests to pretty neighbors, flirting, wondering/wandering is “me”.  Taking a few drinks every night to numb the pain and escape.  Toys. Overspending.  Overeating.  Carrying around rage, envy, hatred, comparison, jealousy.  These are all about me and my needs and finding stimulation elsewhere from God.

Satan will use any and all to take you down.  “Be on alert, your enemy, the Devil, prowls around like a hungry lion looking for someone to devour.”  Flirt with that pretty sales rep who calls on you and think you’ve above it?  Don’t kid yourself.  He knows your weaknesses and he’s just looking for an open door.  “Please Bubba, please give me an open door, just take a second look, send her a text, send her a friend request, agree to go to lunch with her.  It won’t hurt anyone.”  He’s prowling around and you may be his lunch.

Go back and look at the post from October 5, 2016.  Watch the Louie Giglio talk again.  Remember that talk.  Don’t forget it.  God prepares a table for you in the midst of your enemies.  (don’t kid yourself, God himself is telling you that your enemies surround you)  The table is there.  There is all this chaos swirling around — it’s just you and God.  He wants you focused on Him.  His provision is there.  Just keep your eyes on Him.  Those temptations will come and it is when you turn in your chair from facing God and start engaging in those conversations in the chaos is when you get in trouble.  “Self” is going to want to turn to those temptations.  “Me” is going to get bored with God and turn to the shiny lures.

“Me” … has to die.  Battling sin is first acknowledging it and second, repenting it.  I must first own it without any rationalizing or justifying.  There is no justifying sin.  Then, I must turn from it.  Repent = turn from.  180 degree U-turn.  Flee from it.  Run.  Quit drinking.  Be willing to go get help if you need it.  Own it.  Close your Facebook account.  Put the filters on your laptop and give your wife full access to it and your phone.  Never, ever go to lunch or dinner with another woman.  Purge any and all avenues that are potentially open doors.

Will it be fun?  No.  Is it needed?  Absolutely.  If you want God to restore, you’re going to have to take some bold steps.  He will meet you there.  All this mess in your life?  God can turn a mess into a miracle.  You just have to be willing to kill “me”.  Listen to this song and especially John Piper’s words in the middle of it.  God’s slaying of “me” is serving a purpose.  He’s not asking anything of you that His Son hasn’t overcome.  God is calling us to slay self so He can work His Divine purpose in and through our lives.  Remember in your weakness, He is strong…

Manschool starts back Jan 25th

The Tribe will come back together on Wednesday January 25th at 6am.

This season of Manschool will be quite a bit different than the past.  It’s going deeper.  To get the most out of this, you’re going to need to commit.  Rather than “sitting”, you’re going to need to be “all in”.

It is time to step it UP a notch.  The men of Christ Community need to stepUP into the “more” we talk so frequently about.  God is stirring and moving in our church.  The Prayer Week this past week was A M A Z I N G.  It wasn’t prayer … it was revival.  Frankly, I hope this is how we do Prayer week from now on.  If you were there, you were richly fed and I think you felt the Father’s presence.

I only went to the last two of the four sessions.  It was an “investment” to commit to go and man, what a return on investment I got.  I wish I had done all four.

I say that as an analogy to what you can expect in Manschool this Spring.  To receive, you’re going to have to invest.  We’ll be more in the Word than previous sessions.  There will be more teaching and less videos.  The small groups are going to be even more important and the group leaders will shoulder more of the responsibility.  You will need be prepared to dig deep, bring your Bible and a notebook.  If you will do the work, you’ll see the reward.

I am excited but I am also in awe of what is to come.  I am humbled.  My word for 2017 is “Dirt”.  Touched on this some in last few Manschool’s but boy, God has really been after me on this since we last gathered.  Dirt.  You ride along on the high horse of who you are.  The education you have, the job, the home, the friends, the family … the man.  And the longer you ride that horse, the more you forget about God.  The more you lose sight of gratitude and the harder it is to grasp Grace.  And then, if you’re lucky, God comes along and knocks you off that high horse.  Pardon my French but He knocks your ass off the horse.  Face down in the dirt.  Lip bleeding , eyes crusted with tears and dirt, you start to lift your head up out of the dirt.  And Jesus is there extending a hand, “Get up son, we’ve got some things to talk about.”  And in that process, your world is realigned.  You see just how far off the mark you’ve been.  You see the posing.  You see how you value things more than you value Him.  You see how a few nights at worship is FAR more satisfying than “I’m tired and just want to come home from work and veg out”.  When we have these Saul to Paul moments, God is reshaping us and turning us away from the path of our choosing and placing us on the path He needs us to serve on.  It isn’t fun.  No fun.  But after this thing happens, you start to understand gratitude a bit better and you are reintroduced to Grace.  None of us deserve anything we have.  It all belongs to God.  Your money, your job, your church, your children, your future.  It’s all His.  And when we start to think it’s all about us, we’re in deep trouble.

God is stirring.  He is moving.  These next two years at Christ Community are going to be amazing.  An Awakening has been started and it’s going to be terrifying, thrilling, life-altering and community-changing.

the question for you is – are you willing to do the hard work?  will you invest?  will you go wherever He sends you or give up all that you think you must have to follow Him?

Humility & Grace and a final challenge for you…

Humility is the primary virtue God looks for when He chooses someone to advance His kingdom.

Philippians 2:3-10 —  “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.  Everyone should look out not only for their own interests, but also for the interests of others.  Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for his own advantage.  Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men.  And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death – even to death on a cross.”

Humility is ultimately expressed by choosing the posture of a servant.  The servant’s ultimate act of humility is they make their life a sacrifice for the good of others.  Jesus teaches us that a leader should serve his people.  But more than that, He teaches us a view of God that radically transforms our thinking.  Up until this moment in history, the gods were gods of power, might, fury and wisdom.  Jesus revealed that God is the purest form of humility.  Servant wasn’t new to God.  Humility was the path of God.

Matthew 11:29 — “Take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.”   The heart of God is gentle and humble.  God is a servant.  This is the quality of God we desire the least.  Servanthood is not an elevated status.  We think it is beneath God and we hope it is beneath us.

So, if this is who God is, it makes sense who He will choose and that is, the person who chooses the heart of God, he who chooses to be humble of spiritJames 4 – “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”  Humility is the attribute at the core God is looking for when He is choosing people.  Moses was chosen by God not because he was the most skilled but … Numbers 12:3 – “Moses was more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.”

God will not reject you if you’re too messed up.  You may be a mess but God does amazing things through messy people.  Broken?  God takes broken people and does amazing things through them.  Lifetime of failure?  God will not oppose you because you’re a failure, broken, not educated enough, not talented enough but God will shelve you… if you’re too proud.  God rejects the arrogant, not the sinful.

We want to be great and Jesus has a process for that  —  it is to be the servant of all.  That’s OK.  I’m happy to be a servant for now so that I can get to be great.  “if you want to be first, you must be last.”  Yes!  I’ll be last … so I can be first.  But that isn’t what Jesus means.  We’re all OK with this as long as it looks like a Jesus J-curve.  That is, I’m willing to be a servant and go down … for a while … as long as the curve turns and I eventually get to be great.

                                                                                Eventually

jcurve

  “least…last…servant”

But Jesus thinks greatness is servanthood.  Humility is the final destination.  Choosing to be last, is first.  The seat that chooses humility, servanthood and sacrifice is the seat of most honor.  The most extraordinary thing Jesus taught us about humility is that God is humble and because we’re created in His image and likeness, our souls thrive in humility.

It is only the humble that God entrusts with His power and glory.

The “incurvatus” man – that man that is curved in upon himself, focused on his needs, his desires, his agenda, his pain, his circumstances – that man is arrogant, self-centered, self-advancing.  The Excurvatus man – that man that is living outward for others, emptying himself so others can advance – at his core, when you meet a man like that, you will know his humility.  The brash, arrogant, self-promoting man seems to be the man that gets ahead in this life.  Yet, it is the humble man, the man that chooses the seat of least honor, that gives his money and talents away so others can advance, it is that man who gets “ahead” in the Kingdom to come.  It is that man who lives out and understands grace.  He understands all power is bestowed and from dirt he came and to the dirt he will return.  He knows God’s favor upon him is of no doing of his own.  He didn’t earn it.  It was given to him, freely by a God that humbled Himself even to death upon the Cross.

In the movie Les Miserables, we see such a picture.  A picture of grace.  Jean Val Jean is a criminal. He toils away for 19 years in a rock quarry of his sin.  He’s in the darkness.  He’s encouraged to knock upon a certain door and the Bishop answers the door and invites him in.  He is fed and given a bed for the night but Jean turns back to his sin despite God’s pursuit of him.  He steals the silver and leaves the light and enters back into darkness.  Later he is arrested and brought back to the Bishop (God).  He is redeemed.  Set free.  The treasure freely given to him.  Ransomed from a life of fear and hatred.

And so men, as we end The Best of Manschool, here is the call to you.  What will you do? What will you be?  The bag of silver has been thrust back into your chest.  Given to you. Unearned.  Unmerited favor just handed to you.  Before, you were a criminal.  We all were. We toiled away in our sin and God opened the door and let us in and blessed us with a bag of silver (salvation).  Now, I must ask you … what are you going to do with it?  Will your life from this day forward be all about you and your advancement … or … will you take up the heart of a servant and willingly, freely, happily give up all the treasure of this temporary world so you can go forth and advance the Kingdom of God?  

Will you?