the stream is your soul…

The Psalmist wrote that blessed people are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in season, and whose leaves do not wither; they prosper in all they do.  Your soul is like an inner stream of water that gives strength, direction, and harmony to every other area of life.

From Soul Keeping by John Ortberg…

I, and no one else, am responsible for the condition of my soul.

In my early 50’s I was given a sabbatical: seven weeks with nothing to do.  The elders at our church invited me to take it.  Actually, they insisted that I take it.  I needed it because I was becoming increasingly frustrated and impatient and preoccupied.

Are you frustrated, impatient and preoccupied?

I felt as if I had too much to do and not enough time or ability to do it.  I was obsessed with external things that needed to be done around me.  I was operating on the unseen assumption that my inner world would be filled with life, peace, and joy once my external world was perfect.  That’s a great recipe for a healthy soul, as long as you life in a perfect world.  You don’t.

During my sabbatical, it was easy to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry from my life”, as my friend and mentor Dallas Willard had so wisely counseled.  I found myself thinking that I’m a better person when I’m on sabbatical than I am when I’m working for God at a church, and I knew I was just plain wrong.  I began to form a new goal: I want to be as relaxed as I am on vacation while being as productive as I am at work.

There was only one place to learn about that so I drove back to Box Canyon to spend a day with Dallas.  I told him I felt frustrated because the people at the church I served were not changing more.  I asked him was I needed to do to help our church experience greater levels of spiritual growth.

Long pause … You must arrange your days so that you are experiencing deep contentment, joy and confidence in your everyday life with God.”

Huh?

“No”, I corrected him, “I wasn’t asking about me.  I was asking about other people.  I was wondering what I need to make the church do.  I was thinking about a book everyone should read, a program everyone should go through, or a prayer system everyone should commit to.”

(do you feel it in his words?  do you feel the rush, the urgency, the “get something done”, the tyranny-of-the-urgent, the frustration?  He’s moving at 100 mph while his soul is moving at 5 mph)

“Yes, brother John”, he said with great patience and care.  “I know you were thinking of those things.  But that’s not what they need most.  The main thing you will give your congregation – just like the main thing you will give to God – is the person you become.  If you soul is unhealthy, you can’t help anybody.  You don’t send a doctor with pneumonia to care for patients with immune disorders.  You, and no body else, are responsible for the well-being of your soul.”

“I’m trying,” I said.  “I learned long ago about the importance of having a quiet time when I read the Bible and do daily devotionals; I do my best to start each day that way.”

“I didn’t say anything about having a quiet time,” he gently corrected again.  “People in churches – including pastors – have been crushed with guilt over their failure at having regular quiet time or daily devotions.  And then, even when they do, they find it does not actually lead to a healthy soul.  Your problem is not the first 15 minutes of the day.  It’s the next 23 hours and 45 minutes of the day.  You must arrange your days so that you are experiencing total contentment, joy and confidence in your everyday life with God.”

“But how can I have total contentment, joy and confidence?  My work isn’t going nearly  well enough.  Lots of people are not happy with me.  I am inadequate as a pastor, husband and father.  Every week I carry the burden of delivering a sermon and knowing I’ll have to feel the pain if it doesn’t go well.”

There it is again – do you hear his turmoil, his inner drive to perform, perhaps his need for validation?  He isn’t integrated.  His internal world is not functioning like an integrated system.  He’s fractured.  And much like a jet engine, when the parts fracture under stress, the engine eventually disintegrates.  He is dis-integrated.  I am too.

“I didn’t say you should experience total contentment, joy and confidence in the remarkable adequacy of your competence or the amazingly successful circumstances of your life.  It’s total contentment, joy and confidence in your everyday experience of GodThis alone is what makes a soul healthy.  This is not your wife’s job.  It’s not your elder’s job.  It’s not your children’s job.  It’s not your friend’s job.”

The stream is your soul.  And you are the keeper.  How is your soul?

Quick creek stream bank

Clear river water. Quick creek stream bank

Fight club – A man after God’s own heart

Here is the video.  We started at about 24 minutes in…

A man after God’s own heart.

It’s OK to be a man and still have a heart.  You can be tough on the outside and tough mentally and tough about the things you set your mind to and to still be sensitive to the things going on around you and shed a tear every now and then.

David was a musician, brave, warrior, gifted speaker, Lord was with him, rancher, leader, bold, crack shot, poet, good looks, dancer but we also know he was easily distracted by temptation.  He was tempted to decisions that would be massively detrimental to his life.

You can be a man’s man and have your life summed up as a “man after God’s own heart”.

You can be a skilled fighter, but you must know when to fight and when not to fight.

Fighting is a man’s DNA.  Fighting brothers.  Wrestling Dad.  Football.  Fighting to win business.  It’s our nature to fight but we’ve got to know when to fight or else we can risk gaining the whole world and forfeiting our soul.

When the conflict arises, do I deflect, or do I say, “I’m sorry”?

It’s hard for us.  We’re sinful, proud, stubborn, arrogant fighters.  So, it’s hard to say, “I’m sorry” because that phrase brings with it a freight train of other things i.e.  “I’m not right about everything”, “I’m not right about this thing” or because I reacted this way to this, it shows there is something deep inside that just isn’t wired right.

We must know when and where to fight.  We will fight – no question – but to have it said about us, “he was a man after God’s own heart”, we’re going to have to know “when” to fight.

Some of us are still fighting with our Dads.  We fight against him daily even if he’s not around or no longer living.  You’re fighting that “thing” stuck between you and him.

Some of us are still fighting against a wrong in our past – a decision made, an unfair situation, something that wrongly went against us.

We’re fighting against what we can’t resolve, or we fight for things that ultimately won’t satisfy us.  We fight for success and fame.  They don’t satisfy.  Money doesn’t.  Winning the deal, having your name on the building, being first, being best, being most powerful … they don’t satisfy a heart that was made for God.

How can we be men who can have it said about us that we were men after God’s own heart?

How can we know when to fight and what to fight for?

It happens when we move out of isolation and insulation and we move into relationship with other men for the purpose of achieving the ultimate win which is being a man after God’s own heart.

Isolation is a chief skill of men – we’ve perfected it.  Insulation = nobody is getting to me.

I can’t do this alone or at least, I know I’m not getting the amazing outcome I sought doing it in isolation and insulated from others, so I need help to do this.

Fight Club = contending for what matters most.  It’s not what we’re fighting against but rather what we are fighting for.

Paul said (2 Timothy 4:7), “I’ve fought the good fight”.  I’ve contended for the right things in the right way and I’ve gained them.  I didn’t just fight fights, I fought the good fight.  I’ve finished the race, kept the faith.

The question we seek to dodge with our isolation and insulation is “How are you doing?”.  That deep, at the core, no-BS question – cut through the pose, the “I’m great” answer and peel back the layers and expose the real answer … how are you really doing?

Fight Club intends to fight for 4 key areas

  1. My walk with God – am I fighting for my walk as much as I fight for my career, my workouts, my hunting, my yard?
  2. My heart and my character
  3. My family – fight for my wife, not with her.  Fight for my kids.  My dad.  Will I stand up and be the spiritual leader of my home?  Yes or no?
  4. My brothers – will I get into what he is fighting against and get up in his face over it?

I’m going to fight for the disadvantaged and for those who cannot fight for themselves. I’m not going to live a self-focused life, a self-serving life, stacking up what I need, isolating and insulating myself from what I don’t want to feel.  I’m not going to do all these things chasing after a false prize I think will satisfy my life.

The enemy wants you to fail in all 4 of these areas.  So, you need a fight club around you that knows the real you, the honest you, not the church-answer you.  You need men around you where it is safe for you to say, “You know, I am not doing well”.

You have a heart.  Peel back the layers of isolation and insulation until you can get to where you know you’re a son of God.  Feelings, hurts, anguish, loss, anger, etc. are all stuffed down deep – we’ve got to peel those back to get to the covered-over heart, so you can know God at a heart to heart level.

Fighters that we are, real men and all that, we cannot approach God on a strength to strength basis.  It’s only on the heart-to-heart level where we can be fathered by God.

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…

Live, Live, Live…

In the context of Louie Giglio’s talk about “In the presence of my enemies, the Lord has prepared a table for me” and Andy Stanley’s “Guardrails” and then in the context of sex and temptation, please watch this very familiar film clip …

All the residents of heaven peering over the wall of the castle watching us here battle and struggle and the whole host of heaven, the cloud of witnesses are just cheering us on, just rooting for us, the coliseum just shouting “Live, Live, Live”.  They were rooting for his death moments ago.  There is some strength, some confidence that comes to us and we say – “You can call me whatever you want – stupid, idiot, seagull, failure – whatever that name was, whatever that message you were given.  You can put me in the crappiest circumstances but I KNOW who I am.” 

Men, if we forget that, or we’ve never heard it, or we lose it or we see so many signs that say “You can’t” or “You shouldn’t” or “Not you, maybe someone else, but not you”.  The wounds we have can just extend through the years and in face of those, how do you become that man?  You ask God.  You take all that you know and have read about your identity in Christ and all the truth about what God has done for you and you pound on the door and say, “Lord, take this and just embed it in my being.  Remove everything contra and counter that just shouts the truth down and assaults me.”

Maximus knew who he was.  He wasn’t afraid to face his enemy.  He stood in the face of tyranny and temptation and was a man who said, “No.  Not me.  I won’t give in.  There is a better way and I’m willing to die for what I believe in.”

It is same with you and me.  Temptation will come.  I must have my boundaries.  I must know who I am.  I must know what lines I will not cross.  Remember back to Louie – the enemy is always around.  He doesn’t sleep.  He doesn’t eat.  He’s awake 24/7 prowling around.  He reads your mail.  He knows where you are weak and he’ll try to exploit your weaknesses.

He’s looking for a crack.  A crevice.  A small opening.  Anything to try to get to you.  It can be a weakness in your character.  It can be a life experience – abuse, a dad who abandoned you, a failure of yours in business or a past relationship.

Or … it can be a door you open.  Get that.  You open it.  By opening the door, you invite it in.  An affair.  Porn.  You’re inviting a world of destruction upon you by peering into this.  PORN – by clicking on that link, you are literally inviting evil into your life.  Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.  You’re inviting the destructive in to live among the Holy.

This is why Paul urges us with the command, “Flee from sexual immorality”.  Flee.  Run.  It couldn’t be clearer.  You honor God with your bodies – which are temples of the Holy Spirit.  The litmus test for us is “Is what I am about to do dishonoring God?”  If it dishonors God and his commands, flee.

We are calling one another UP to a higher standard.

So back to the image Craig shared with us,

When you’re contemplating flirting with that woman at work…

When you’re tempted to cruise her facebook page to peer at her pictures…

When you think about driving by her home…

When you’re tempted to surf some porn to try to find some relief …

When you’re contemplating compromising your beliefs …

Remember the whole host of heaven is peering over the wall looking down shouting the encouragement to you of “LIVE.  LIVE.  LIVE”.

 the-very-best-me

Guardrails

A guardrail is a system to keep vehicles from straying into dangerous or off limit areas.  We’re glad they’re there if we need them but for the most part, we don’t pay attention to them.  For the most part, they are not actually located in the most dangerous part of the road.  The point is – to keep you away from the actual point of danger.  You’ll do less damage if you hit the guardrail than you would if you hit what was on the other side of the guardrail.

The truth is, your greatest regrets relationally, financially, morally and ethically could have been avoided if you had had some guardrails present in your life.

Our definition – A guardrail is a personal standard of behavior that becomes a matter of conscience.  “A matter of conscience” meaning, that I am so committed to my principles that if I violate them, it bothers my conscience.  I feel guilty.  It is my personal standard of behavior that informs my behavior.  This is a personal decision you need to make.  Where is the line?

Ephesians 5 is addressing the question of “How do I live in a culture that doesn’t reward faithfulness?  That doesn’t reward integrity?”

5:15-16 “Be very careful, then, how you live (walk).  Not as unwise (careless) but as wise making the most of every opportunity.”

It’s saying “Make the most of your time.  Redeem your time.  Being very intentional with your time.  Because the days are evil.”  In other words, if you’re not careful, there will be a price to pay.  Because you live in a dangerous time, you’ve got to be careful with how you walk.

5:17 “Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is”.  What Paul is saying is “I want you to face up to, to accept, to embrace what you know in your heart is God’s will for your life.  Stop deceiving yourself.” 

All of us have the tendency to play it as close to the edge as possible.  We dance on the edge of chaos.  “How close to sin can I get without it being sin?  Where is the line?”  Quit flirting with disaster.  Quit messing around.  You’re playing with fire.  He gives an example using drunkenness to make his point but it applies to lust, to greed, to material things…

5:18 “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery”.  Debauchery = extreme indulgence that leads to a loss of control.  Loss of control is the key.  Drunkenness is a guardrail.  It is what is on the other side of drunkenness that Paul is warning you about.

Lust, greed, alcohol, anger, food, money, material possessions – anything that leads to a loss of control, anything that baits you into things you don’t need to be involved in … that’s where the danger is.  That you’d get yourself so torqued up that you lose sight.  That you get so obsessed with that new car that you’ll buy it being willing to jeopardize your kid’s college savings.  That’s a loss of control.  And it will cost you.

appetites

Anything that baits you to the point of you losing control, your heavenly Father is against.  Because on the other side of that … is disaster.  Any area of your life where you tend to hand control over to someone/something else is where you will need a guardrail.

Paul is saying, “Don’t get drunk.  It’s foolish.  Be careful because the days in which you live are evil.  Drunk leads to a loss of control.  Loss of control is a sin.  It leads to disaster.”

“Instead, be filled with the Spirit”.  God wants to be the primary influence in your life.  The Holy Spirit indwells the believer.  He will prompt you, nudge you, guide you, direct you.  The Spirit doesn’t yell.  He doesn’t scream.  He usually clears his throat.  It is a still, small voice in your conscience.  We know.  We know.  We know what’s the right thing.  Quit fooling around.  Pay attention.  Be careful.

This talk might have nudged you.  Maybe there is an arena where you’re getting closer and closer and you get so full of lust, you lose self-control.  What would it look like if you backed up to a safe distance and put a guardrail in place that maybe no one else would understand but it might just save your marriage?

No one has ever regretted establishing a guardrail but plenty of people regret not having had one in their lives.  Guardrails are wisdom.  You know where your boundaries should be and you know the cost if you cross them.  “What’s the wise thing to do?” Guard yourself.  Guard your heart.  Guard your eyes.  Don’t take foolish risks.  Be wise!

Warfare

Today was intense.  Rather than pasting in my notes, I’m just going to speak to you from my heart.  First, I apologize for bringing politics into this discussion.  The point I made could have been made without ever mentioning the word politics.  Lesson learned.  I will speak from my heart on this (so you don’t have to agree with this, it is my perspective) — I have seen  a radical change in our culture over the past 10 years.  We seem to embrace Islam and do whatever we can to welcome it under the veil of “freedom of religion” while at the same time, it seems Christianity is under assault.  Apparently, freedom of religion doesn’t apply to Christianity.  This should not surprise us.  Jesus warned us that we’d be despised because He was despised.  We have welcomed and embraced the homosexual agenda, legalized gay marriage, encouraged elementary schools to welcome and make comfortable children who now self-indentify as transsexuals.   Political correctness has consumed America.  If we offend anyone with our beliefs, we are bigots.  Michael Yousef, the Atlanta pastor who is a native Egyptian, has said that Islam’s strategy to “invade” America would be to play upon American’s repulsion of being called intolerant.  That Americans will do whatever is necessary to avoid being called intolerant.  He said this about 15 years ago long before “political correctness” became the buzzword.  By playing on our fear of being considered intolerant, Islam knew it could capitalize on this to gain favor in America.  It is working.  What is going on?  Why does it feel like this fog of deception is swallowing up America?  Exactly.  The enemy is a liar and his operating strategy is distortion.  He twists and lies and these clouds of deception come upon us.  It is warfare.  We are seeing all of this play out in front of us.  To my point this morning, I can see (again, it’s my opinion) that we could be the verge of the next 10 years being about a war on manhood in America.  That men are the “the problem”.  This can be the police, the CEO’s, big corporations, Wall Street, the insurance companies, etc. that we could be seeing the start of the next phase of the war and the root of it is coming after manhood.  That through the police or Wall Street or CEO’s, that men have ruined this country and must now take a back seat.  I may be wrong.  All I wanted to say this morning — in the context of talking about spiritual warfare in a room full of men — is that we just need to be braced for it.  Be on alert.  It would seem to make sense that this could be where the enemy tries to take this battle.  We simply should not be surprised to see another wave of the attack and a further breaking down of what we hold dear.

And so, we’re back to warfare.  1 Peter 5:8-9 says, “Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”   James 4:7-8 says, Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God an he will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  Verse 11 says, Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up”.    (bold/underline my emphasis)

Remember back the Louie Giglio talk.  Warfare is coming at you.  The enemies are all around you.  Don’t be surprised because the attack is coming.  Satan doesn’t eat, he doesn’t sleep, he doesn’t chill out at the beach or the TV.  All he does is attack.  24/7 he exists to take you out.  He doesn’t play fair.  He reads your mail.  He knows how to play you.  So the enemies are going to be and are, all around you.  He’s just trying to land a seat at your table.  He just wants to pull up a chair and engage in conversation with you.  (Please watch that talk if you haven’t already – from October 5th on the blog)  The question for you is, who have you been listening to?  Is it the enemy?  And if so, why?  Perhaps you’ve engaged in a conversation with him and started to form some agreements around the lies he’s been telling you.

What role must we play?  To the scripture above, I have underlined/bolded the key words for us.  It is not a passive affair.  You have a role to play in defending yourself from the attack that is coming 24/7.  First, you need to control “self”.  That is the “me” thing.  It is lust, sex, greed, envy, jealousy, impulsiveness, anger, etc.  If we give into these things, we’ve given the enemy a seat at the table.  If we go to lust, to pornography, etc. we are just inviting him in.  It’s like riding in an armored limo going through a hostile crowd and rolling the windows down.  By rolling the windows down, we’re giving him an opening to exploit.  And he will.  Second, we must be alert.  It is coming.  It may not come directly at you but instead it will come at your wife or your kids.  You must be on alert at all times and not drop your guard.  And then it says we must resist and stand firm.  The temptation is coming.  She will call out to you, “It won’t hurt to look” or “no one will ever know”.  You must resist and stand firm.  NO!  I will NOT be that man.  I will not be that man that falls for this and gives up my honor and integrity”.  Next, it says we have to “come near to God”.  We have to be in the Word.  We have to pray.  We have to seek him.  We have to care for our souls and feed upon the nourishment only God can give us.  Next, we must purify and wash our hands of the sin.  That is a real battle but it is putting guardrails up that you will not cross.  It is setting standards of operating behavior you will not vary from.  That may be no R-rated movies for you.  It may be nothing with sex scenes in it.  It may mean giving your iPad away so the temptation is gone.  It may mean confession to your band of brothers of a weakness in your armor your need to fortify.  The truth shall set you free.  Lastly, we need to humble ourselves.  Humble.  Humility.  A desperate need for a power far greater than you possess.  It is a death of hubris or “I’ve got it all figured out”.  Humility is a beautiful thing in a warrior and we’ll talk more about it later this fall.

You have a role to play.  The Lord has “prepared a table for you in the presence of your enemies”.  They are all around us.  Revelation 12 says that Satan was thrown out of heaven and down to earth where he wages war against woman and all her offspring.  God doesn’t pull us out of the fire.  The power of your testimony is what God will use to bring others to Christ.  That you can walk through this minefield and keep your honor and integrity, die to self, live in humility and have a radical dependence on God, that will testify to the doubtful that this God we serve is real and powerful and transformational.  That God can take the tragedy of your messy life and turn it into a Triumph is a testimony.  But as Richard Peters reminded us today, testimony starts with “test”.

More to say but that’ll come in another post.

The Quest for Authentic Manhood…

lion

The quest to LiveUP in Authentic Manhood  – a life lived outward – is a passionate pursuit of a different kind of greatness.  Though its path runs counter to selfish ambition, it is no less ambitious. 

It inspires the rare man who longs to live a heroic life that honors God. 

It calls a man to a new kind of courage.

It demands so much of us. 

Integrity not only harnesses our passions, it focuses our intentions.  There are some paths, some options and some directions we simply will not choose no matter the cost to us of standing firm in this Quest.