your soul is a stream of living water…

“Your soul is like a stream of living water, which gives strength, direction, and harmony to every other area of your life.  When that stream is as it should be, you are constantly refreshed and exuberant in all you do, because your soul itself is then rooted in the vastness of God and his kingdom, including nature; and all else within us is enlivened and directed by that stream.  In that healthy place, you are in harmony with God, reality, and harmony with the rest of humanity and nature at large.”  Dallas Willard.

John Ortberg

“There is a big difference between being busy and being hurried.  Busy in an outward condition, a condition of the body.  It occurs when we have many things to do.  Busyness is inevitable in our culture.  There are limits to how much busyness we can tolerate so we are wise to find ways to slow down whenever we can.

Being hurried is an inner condition, a condition of the soul.  It means to be so preoccupied with myself and my life that I am unable to be fully present with God, with myself and with other people.  That I am unable to even occupy the present moment.

Have you ever felt that way? – that you are unable to even occupy the moment you’re in?

I cannot live in the Kingdom of God with a hurried soul.  I cannot rest in God with a hurried soul.  Jesus was often busy, but never hurried.   I believe Jesus knew the power of a rested soul.  He slowed His followers down so that their souls would not become fatigued.  We seem to spend most of our time trying to draw crowds and please crowds; Jesus seemed to spend much of his time trying to get away from them.

A rested soul is the easy yoke.

Our souls exist to integrate our lives so that we can live in harmony with God and the world.  They become sick when we are divided and conflicted.  I should be content with my job, but I become jealous of someone in the next cubicle because he got the assignment I wanted.  I obsess about making more money but to convince myself I’m not a greedy person, I tell myself that I am really just trying to provide more security for my family.  I become so wrapped up in myself that my choices and values and desires and beliefs are at odds with each other.  They are also at odds with other people and with God.

morning glory

Then I go into nature.   I stand on a beach before the ocean.  My mind is filled with admiration for the sights and sounds of the waves.  Other distracting thoughts melt away.  By slowing down and observing the beauty of my surroundings, I tend not to worry about tomorrow or regret yesterday.  I am less enslaved by other people’s opinions of me.  My soul gets healed.

Of course, my soul was not made to stand in front of the ocean forever.  But I can bring some of that wholeness with me into my divided world.  The psalmist says our job is not to heal our souls but to make space for them so the healing can come.  “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters.  He restores my soul.”

Where are your green pastures?  What are your still waters?  I am not an expert on sheep, but I have a friend who raises them.

sheep

Sheep basically do nothing.  They eat…they lie down…they sleep.  They are totally dependent on their shepherd.  They do not plan their next meal.  They do not make a list of what they have to do tomorrow.  Eat.  Lie down.  Sleep.

Of course, none of us can actually spend all our lives doing nothing.  But I think the psalmist uses the metaphor of sheep to make a point.  How good are you at doing nothing?  How long can you sit in a chair in your backyard doing nothing?  Not watering the lawn.  Not mentally planning the next day.  Not worrying about your taxes.  Just sitting and doing nothing.  The picture of a lamb enjoying whatever his master puts in front of him shows us what we need to “refresh our souls”.

lawn

Ortberg ends with this – “Whether an entire day, or periods of time set aside every day, your soul needs rest.  Not a change of scenery or a spiritual retreat – those are fine and may contribute to rest.  But to remain healthy, our souls need solitude with no agenda, no distractions, no noise.  If someone asks you what you did in your “time apart”, the correct response should be “nothing”.  Doing nothing works wonders for the soul.”

So let’s talk about Jesus’ offer in Matthew 11 – some of this is a repeat from a few weeks ago but stay with me.

Jesus said – “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you.  Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”  Matthew 11:28

And from the Message paraphrase…

 “Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

A yoke.  Is this this thing you connect to oxen, mules or horses to plow fields or pull a heavy load.  But it also something else.  Jesus was referred to as Rabbi 60 times in the four Gospels.  Rabbi = teacher.  Like all rabbi’s in those days, Jesus had a “yoke” which was a rabbi’s way of reading the Torah as well as a set of teachings on how to be human or his “way of life”.

What Jesus is offering in this beautiful message is His way of life.  That if you are tired and worn out and burned out on religion, come and adopt His way of living.  That’s His yoke.

Like with animals – a yoke is a way to shoulder a load – to shoulder the load of navigating the complexities of life.  All rabbis had a yoke.  Jesus’ yoke was easy.  His offer was merciful –  essentially what He was saying was, “what I’m offering you is beautiful and peaceful and transformative and restorative and kind and loving and if you adopt it, you will live freely and lightly.”

Dallas Willard – “In this truth lies the secret of the easy yoke; the secret involves living as Jesus lived in the entirety of his life – adopting His overall lifestyle.  Our mistake is to think that following Jesus consists in loving our enemies, going the second mile, turning the other cheek, suffering patiently and hopefully all the while living the rest of our lives just as everyone else around us does is a strategy bound to fail.”

In other words –

If I want to experience the life of Jesus, I must adopt the lifestyle of Jesus.

John Mark Comer said, “It’s not that we have anything against God, depth and spirit, we would like these.  It is just that we are habitually too preoccupied to have any of these show up on our radar.  We are more busy than we are bad.  We are more distracted than we are non-spiritual.  We’re more interested in the movie theatre, the sports stadium and the shopping mall and the fantasy life they produce in us than we are in church.  Pathological busyness, distraction and restlessness are major blocks today within our spiritual lives.”

He continues – “There was a time when life was much, much slower.  There were no cars to drive, planes to catch, all-night study marathons to caffeinate our way through, no constant streams of alerts on our phones, no bottomless holes of entertainment options in our queues.  It is easy to just assume this pace of life we live in 2020 is normal.  It is not.”

the ancient path…

here are the slides from this morning > clear eyes 12 – sabbath pt 2

23rd Psalm – The Message

God, my shepherd!   I don’t need a thing.

You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from.

True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction.

Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side.

Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure.

You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies.

You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing.

Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life.

I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.

We must learn a way to find and sustain whole-heartedness in a world gone mad.

To navigate this hour requires a soul that is saturated with God.  His love.  His wisdom.  His life.  His beauty.

Busyness is taking most of us out.  There just isn’t enough time.  John Ortberg said – “I cannot live in the Kingdom of God with a hurried soul.”  It can’t be done.  To be saturated with God, to be filled with His goodness, to not get fried by the mad pace of this world, you have a choice to make.  No one is going to do this for you – if you want this, you’re going to have to fight for it and it starts with …

EliminateHurry-032

Your soul is a vessel designed to be filled with God and to overflow with Him.  A reservoir filled up and it spills over and from which will flow rivers of life.  Saturated with God.  Clear eyes on this, don’t kid yourself — this world is designed to dry out your soul.

The goal, this quest we’re after, this treasure hunt we’re on –  is finding a way to live freely and lightly as an operating reality.  The goal is whole-hearted and flourishing souls.  Do you want that?  It is possible.

Our goal as a Tribe is finding a way to live freely and lightly as an operating reality with whole-hearted and flourishing souls.  We are on a treasure hunt, looking for the path to this reality.

“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Jeremiah 6:16

This verse is absolutely crystal clear.  The ancient path is there.  It is possible to live freely and lightly.  We have to ask where it is.  We must be intentional – it’s not just going to come to us.  We must hunt it down and find it.  It is there!  Once we find it … we must, with intention, choose to walk the path.  If we do it, we will find rest for our souls.

If we want to experience the life of Jesus, we have to adopt the lifestyle of Jesus, the way of Jesus.  We have to find that ancient path and take it.  Ancient, not trendy.  Ancient, not the facebook way.  Ancient, not what is culturally understood or popular.

In the past few weeks, we have discussed technology and the time it consumes of our lives.  Get this – the average iPhone user touches his iPhone 2,617 times a day.  If you’re awake 18 hours of the day (that’s too much!), you’re touching your phone 145 times an hour or 2.5x a minute.  all day.  every day.  Millennials touch their phone almost 5,500 times a day.  Too much.  WAY too much.

Over the past few weeks, we have discussed…

  1.   Radically cutting our consumption of technology.
  2.   Getting off completely and finally all social media.
  3.   Utilizing the One-Minute Pause app.
  4.   Practicing the art of benevolent detachment.
  5.   Getting outside, connecting with the real and the tangible and feeling God’s  creation on a regular basis.
  6.   Next week, we’ll talk about Sabbath

If you want to live freely and lightly, saturated with God, these are just a few of the practices you need to adopt as your new way of doing life.  Prayer.  Fasting.  Immersive reading of the Word.  There is so much more.

“Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets”.  If your system, your process is producing anger, mild depression, high levels of stress, chronic emotional burnout, little or no sense of the presence of God, an inability to focus your mind on the things that make for life … then the odds are very good that something about your system of doing life is way off kilter.

If you want to radically reboot your operating system for life – the 6-7 things above are a great starting point and this truth is the bottom line…

arrange your days

It is up to you.

hurry (takes a death)

EliminateHurry-032

Dallas Willard said, “Hurry is the great enemy of souls in our day.  You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

Let that one sink in.

John Ortberg expands on this thought by saying, “Being busy is mostly a condition of our outer world; it is having many things to do.  Being hurried is a problem of the soul.  It’s being preoccupied with myself and what myself has to do that I am no longer able to be fully present with God and fully present with you.  There is no way a soul can thrive when it is hurried.”

No way.

Get that.  There is no way your soul can thrive when it is hurried.  Remember the record players and how some records were supposed to be played at 33 RPM and others at 45 RPM and still others geared to be played at 78 RPM?  Remember when you were a kid and you’d take a 33 RPM and switch the player to 78 RPM?  Remember what it sounded like?

Your soul is geared to run at about 4 RPM or 8 RPM or maybe 16 RPM.  This world you’re living in is constantly running at 78 or faster.  And you life disintegrates over this.  Your world has separated from your soul and if you’re lucky, your soul is quietly speaking to you.  It’s asking you to slow down.

It is only in the slowing down that your soul can connect with the Father, connect with the vine that nourishes and sustains you.  A disconnected soul is soon to be a withered branch tossed upon a fire.

Your soul is all you’re going to take with you into eternity.  You sure won’t take your body or your possessions or your checkbook.  Your reputation and your achievements will wither in the hot sun after you’re gone.  But your soul is what matters and you are the steward of your soul.  The world will not take care of your soul.  Only you can do that.

The starting point is being ruthless about eliminating hurry from your life.  Hurry suffocates the soul.  Your soul wants to breathe.  Your soul longs for connection with the Father.  Nourishment for your soul (your soil) will come from disconnecting from the Matrix and resting in the Father’s provision.

But to do this, it will take a “death”.  Much of where we’re heading will be around this thought of “it takes a death”.  The foundation of the Gospel is centered on a death.  To eliminate hurry from your life, some things are going to have to “die”.  You will have to surrender your agenda, your kingdom, your pace, your drivenness to achieve … surrender that, let it “die”(DIRT) … so that you can shift to, “Thy will be done”. 

Then you can stop the train, pause, rest and let your soul play at the speed it was intended to run.

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.

Walking in Wholeness – conclusion

Derrick gave us a great recap of the Wholeness series this morning.  The slides are here Manschool – Wholeness – summary

The question for you as we’ve processed through this journey is “Have you received significant insight or experienced a measure of breakthrough?”  And if so … “Have you taken action as a result?”  We want you processing these questions.  Ask Father.  Carry on a conversation and say, “Show me Lord what it is you wanted me to see here”.  Ask your fellow brothers – those Tribe men you’re close with – because the thing about Community (or Tribe as we like to say) is that only community can truly see your blind spots.  Close community has a way of seeing things you just can’t see because you’re standing too close to the situation.  This quote sums it up so well …

Be kind, for everyone you know is facing a great battle.

A true community is something you will have to fight for.  You’ll have to fight to get one, and you’ll have to fight to keep it afloat.  But you fight for it like you bail out a life raft during a storm at sea. You want this thing to work.  You need this thing to work.  You can’t ditch it and jump back on the cruise ship.

This is the church; this is all you have.  Without it, you’ll go down… Suddenly all those “one another’s” in Scripture make sense.  Love one another.  Bear one another’s burdens.  Forgive one another.  Acts of kindness become deeply meaningful because we know we are at war.  Knowing full well that we are all facing battles of our own, we give one another the benefit of the doubt.

Leigh isn’t intentionally being distant from me – she’s probably under an assault.  That’s why you must know each other’s stories, know how to “read” one another.  A word of encouragement can heal a wound; a choice to forgive can destroy a stronghold.  You never knew your simple acts were so weighty.  It’s what we’ve come to call “lifestyle warfare.”

We check in regularly with one another, not out of paranoia (“Do you still like me?”), but in order to watch over each other’s hearts.  “How are you doing?”  But be careful about what you are looking for from community.  For if you bring your every need to it, it will collapse.  Community is no substitute for God.

John Eldredge, Waking the Dead

None of what we’re doing in Manschool is meant to convey to you an easy formula to life.  There is no guarantee in this life of anything.  Look at the life of Job.  We don’t push a “prosperity Gospel” on you – a series of formulas or practices that if dutifully followed, “abundant life” is promised.  This is a broken world with broken people.  This movement towards Wholeness is a process of sanctification – steps along the path of life leading towards eternity.  A spiritual, emotional “high” is great but it doesn’t get you “there”.  Neither does 60 minutes of quiet time a day, scripture memorization or a “purification” of your life purging out any/all possible temptations.  None of that guarantees you anything.  But God…

But God.  God promises you Him.  He is enough.  A million dollars isn’t.  The perfect house isn’t. Perfect children aren’t.  God is.

That said, it is a process of sanctification and yes, very much indeed, being in the Word, spending time quietly seeking the Father, giving, serving, living outwardly … yes, yes, yes … do those things. Do more of them.  As you should exercise your body, exercise your faith.  Turn these things into the stuff of life…

There is nothing more dangerous than a repeated experiencing of a fine emotion with no attempt to put it into action.  It is a fact that every time a man feels a noble impulse without taking action, he becomes less likely ever to take action.  An emotion is not something in which to [savor or delight in]; it is something which at the cost of…discipline and of sacrifice, must be turned into the stuff of life.

William Barclay

FINAL QUESTION – What are you going to let define you and your life?  Your past mistakes? Failures? Wounds or words spoken over you by broken people?  Lies of the enemy?  Or … what the Father says about you, believes about you, desires for you?  We all have that choice. Too many of us have lived 30, 40, 50 years listening to the wrong voice and it has defined our life. Today, right now, that can change.  Today, you can let go of the lies of the past – yes, it may have happened and yes, you may have done it and yes, there are consequences of our actions – butit does not have to define you.  Christ took all that for you on the Cross.  If you will trust Him, it is gone.  Finished.  It is “as far away from you as the East is from the West”.

Are you ready for more?  Are you ready to release this and get on with the life your Father has for you?

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?

Relief or Restoration – which one will you go to?

First, here is the song we sang with those amazing scenes…

It is so easy to forget this is a world at war.  There is a massive collision of kingdoms underway.  If we struggle keeping our passion for God or can’t seem to love people well, it is the effect of this sustained attrition against us.  Because of this war, your soul takes a lot of damage.

The soul is a crucial part of your being.  It has enormous capacity for love, passion, beauty, wonder, curiosity, etc.  In war, actual damage can be done to your soul.  Proverbs 12:18 “Reckless words pierce like a sword.”  Psalm 31:17 “You have known the troubles of my soul.”  Psalm 6:3 “My soul is in deep anguish.”  It is a war of attrition – the enemy is wearing you down, wearing you down.   Your inner reserves wither away.

The glorious news is that God restores the soul.  Psalm 23.  Without the restoration, the attrition of the war will wither you soul away so it becomes so insubstantial it cannot handle the picture of Heaven – that is the glorious, the substantial, the growing.  Mark 8:37 asks, “Is anything worth more than your soul?”  Is it?  If your answer is “no”, then you’d better take the restoration of your soul more seriously.

Restoration and relief are not the same thing.  Most of us go to relief.  We’re beat up, spent, withering away and we go to relief.  A few beers, ice cream, cruising the internet, a few hours of TV – anything to comfort us.  Relief does not bring about restoration for the soul.  It doesn’t heal it, restore it or make it stronger for the next time.  We go to comfort and it just doesn’t work.  It’s so momentary.  Or… we just check out and go numb (a form of relief).

While this is going on, again and again and again, we’re getting worn down and vulnerable.  The more you turn to relief, the more vulnerable you get.  And the more dangerous stuff starts to look like relief – heroin, your secretary, pornography – and a guy just gets taken out.  Wearing you down, wearing you down and you’re handling that by checking out, vegging, eating, drinking, masturbating.   Worn down = vulnerable.

How God restores.  Psalm 23 – “He makes me lie down in green pastures and rest beside peaceful streams”.  It is a process.  He “makes” me.  Stillness and beauty are two of the many things God uses to restore your soul.

Think of the volume of information and noise that you process daily vs. what your Grandfather had to process.  You’re going to have to be forced into stillness to achieve it.  Your soul literally needs to do nothing on a regular basis.  When you get some stillness and peace, soak it in.  Guard against the oncoming “I need to do ___” list rushing into your mind.  Stop.  Focus on “do nothing”.  Rest in stillness and the sunshine, the breeze, the blue sky.  It is Sabbath.

Beauty – green pastures, still waters – there is nothing like beauty to restore the soul. Where do you drink in Beauty?  The human soul has enormous thirst for beauty.  The reason a lot of men get taken out by sex is because they are not regularly taking in beauty.

Two Questions…

How often do you practice stillness?

Where do you drink in beauty?

Ask for it.  Ask God to restore your soul.  Put yourself in an available position and ask.  Repeat it.  Ask again.  “Lord, restore my soul”.  Consume scripture – not “Bible study” – no, just read the Psalms, read Ephesians, just let the Scripture wash over your soul.

Abstain from some things.  What you withdraw your soul from is important.  1 Peter 2:11 “Friends … abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.”  Whatever it is that you use for comfort, before you go to it, pause, ask “Jesus, comfort me.  I need comfort”.  Turn your attention towards Christ and invite Him to bring you comfort.

When you’re very aware that your soul has been assaulted or when you find yourself looking for relief … realize your soul is hurting and you’re turning to false gods for comfort.  So much of the addictions of men is not about money, sex, alcohol, etc., it is about relief. Remember, relief does not restore.  God restores.

The man to man, in your face question is — What are you going to do each day, each week to allow God to restore your soul?  Because here’s the thing, the “it” is out there.  “It” will wear you down.  Not “might” wear you down, no, it “will” wear you down.  It’s coming against your soul.  You will wither under its constant oppression.  So the attack is coming and you’ve got a choice to make – are you going to go to relief or radically pursue restoration?  As they say in this next clip, If you never get away to think about your life and sort things out, life will swallow you up.  You need someplace you can go” … 

Voices – who are you listening to?

In a continuation of last week’s talk on “Who told you that you were naked?”, we pushed deeper into this territory.  This Spring, we have followed a progression …

  1. Sonship – that I am a full heir, that I am God’s son made in His image, divinely, uniquely created.
  2. Zoe – drawing upon the life of God – that we need to daily make it a priority to draw upon the life of God (the Zoe) like a branch needs the vine, like a tree needs the stream of living water, we too need to be fed by God…daily.
  3. Distractions – we talked about the things that distract us from the Life of God – busyness, technology, etc.
  4. Your Heart – we talked about the importance of your heart – that we need to guard our hearts as the wellspring of life.

Sonship…the Life of God…Your Heart – it is the path to life and it is opposed.

And last week, we introduced the opposition – Satan’s attempt to tear us down in whispering, “You are less.  You cannot.”  We talked about the power of these voices from our past and the agreements we’ve made with those.  Today, we pushed deeper into this.  The Ledger article about Ruby Thrush, the art teacher at Britt David.  She was shy, compliant child who was humiliated and shamed by a teacher for her inability to read in front of the class, “The only reason you are being passed on to the next grade is because no one wants to deal with you anymore”.  It took her out and she struggled to survive in its aftermath.  But she found her inner voice.  She got her legs back under her and now thrives as an art teacher inspiring her kids to dream big.  Her class motto is “If you make a mistake, make it great.”  From a shy, ridiculed little girl, she now teaches children to create a personal masterpiece that proclaims their importance, their identity and their talent – and she doesn’t care if they color outside the lines or “do it all wrong”.  There is no “all wrong” in her class – the kids are taught they are masterpieces themselves and she draws out of them their ability to create.  Beautiful.

Derrick shared a powerful testimony about the voices in his head that have tried to cast shame on him and Yancy shared his life and what God is showing him.  Neither of these men are “house-less” – no, indeed, both are quite at home right where they are.

Lastly, I shared a bit of podcast from Morgan Snyder at Ransomed Heart on finding out what God has to say about you.  Abraham, David and Joseph were all told by God what they would become.  They chose to believe.  That’s my question for you right now >> will you be one of those men who “choose to believe” what God says about you?  How do you do this?  Very few men go to God on a regular basis and say, “Jesus what do you think of me?”  Functionally, day to day, very few of us live like Jesus loves us.

Start doing this – go to God daily and ask, “God what do you think of me?  Jesus, show me how much you love me.”  Write down what you get.  It can come from a word, a new name, a picture, a sunset, a kind word from a friend, a worship song, Scripture you read … let God speak to you.  Whose voice are you listening too?  Let God speak.  Journal it.  Write it down.  Document it.  It will be powerful for you in the weeks to come.

If you’ve asked God who are you and if you believe it, there will come an immense freedom because you don’t have to impress people or be the center of attention.  You can simply be authentic and follow Jesus in whatever situation you are in.  Because you know.  You know who God says you are.  And when you know that, those other voices lose their significance over your life.  “The truth shall set you free”.   Here is a link to podcast.  It is 20 minutes long and I think it will help you a great deal tie all this together …

http://www.becomegoodsoil.com/017-dismantling-the-fig-leaf-part-two-of-two-podcast/

The Vine (part 3)

“I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer.  He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes.  And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more.  You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.

Live in me.  Make your home in me just as I do in you.  In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.

I am the Vine, you are the branches.  When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant.  Separated, you can’t produce a thing.  Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire.  But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon.  This is how my Father shows who he is – when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.

I’ve told you these things for a purpose – that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature.”  (in other words, Jesus is saying “I have this life, this Zoe that I want to infuse into you – this is the ‘abundant life’ I speak of in John 10:10”)      John 15 The Message

So again, the question for you this morning is this – What are you going to do (daily) to draw up the Life of God?

John Eldredge offers up this summary …

“So, what will you do, what is your plan, to draw your life more deeply from God?  It’s not just going to happen; you will have to make room for it.  May I suggest…

A)  Create relational space.  I confess – I used to think couples who had a standing date night each week were a little weird.  It just seemed unromantic to me, like scheduling sex.  I see now I was wrong.  If you don’t make relational space, relationship doesn’t just happen.  The same holds true for God.  You have to create relational space in your week for God.  You can’t Tivo Jesus.  Make room in your day.

B)  Disentangle (goes with A) – Friends of mine were describing their family schedule, how it is dominated by youth sports; they eat dinner in the car.  It is utter madness.  You cannot run at the pace of the World and hope to have God.  You just can’t.  The World has gone mad; peoples lives have no margin for their soul, let alone for God.  You will have to make tough decisions.  What goes in 2014?  (ask Him!)

C)  Detox (goes with B) – the poison of the World is not merely a matter of pace; it includes the media we allow into our lives.  Over the past year a number of friends have recommended books or movies to us, and when we went to check them out, we were shocked at what Christians allow into their lives.  Vampires and zombies do not prepare your heart to receive the Life of Jesus; watching someone else have sex does not fill you with the Life of God.  The desert fathers left civilization because they felt it was assaulting their souls…and they had no TV, cell phones or internet!  My God – you live in a toxic culture.  Shut every valve you can.

D)  Pray for union; pray for oneness – This is what we are after – not a feeling, not a cool encounter.  We cannot hope to live without the Life of God flowing in and through us.  There is no other way.  So Jesus prayed for us; he asked his Father that we would be one with him just as they are one with each other (John 17:20-23).  This is the secret of his life, it must become the secret of ours.”

Men, we desperately need more of God.  We have to be intentional about this.  We have to push away the chaos and make time.  We need to crave the sound of silence.  Our souls desperately need restoration.

We debated some of this today – how much time can we devote to politics, watching news channels, are we being called to be “John the Baptists” – out there wild, anti-social, loners, isolated – or is there balance to this?  Can we do some of both?

I’m not going to ramble on this but we do tend to rationalize our way out of this.  We say “I’ve got to have my cell phone on me at all times in case work needs me”.  Or we say, “It’s OK to engage in all this political debate as long as I don’t get sucked in”.  Or we think, “This movie with the sex scenes isn’t…”

And already, we’re losing the point of this entire series – THE point is this, “What are you doing to draw upon the Life of God…daily?”  ALL of this rationalizing, justifying, etc. is taking away from the key question.  The question isn’t that we can’t engage in any of the stuff of this world.  The question is “where are you” in all this?  Are you a vibrant, lush branch producing much fruit and growing deep roots to draw upon the Life of God?  Or, are you feeling like a tired, worn-out, frazzled dead branch laying in the pasture waiting to be thrown upon the fire?

I think for most of us it is the latter.  The utter madness of the world is beating the crap out of us and we’re buying the lie that we “have” to stay connected into it.  The world is on a one-way path to destruction and yet we feel this pull of having to stay connected to it.  We’re willing to graft ourselves into that vine (which is poison ivy) and we’re reluctant to detach from it to graft ourselves into the True Vine.  It’s sort of like saying you’ll let your teenage daughter have sex and smoke pot because if she doesn’t she won’t be accepted into the world and after all, that’s what all the kids these days are doing.  THAT is utter madness.  Our need to stay connected to this world on the path to destruction is madness.  The cost of which is that for many of us men, we find ourselves slammed into oblivion nearly every day and we slink home to just seek some relief.  That’s the evidence of a life out-of-balance.

We need to revolutionize our thinking on this.  What comes first – what MUST come first – is that we are intentional to make time with God our first priority…daily.  If we are not drawing upon the Living Waters, if we are not attached to the Zoe – the Life of God, it is only a matter of time before we find ourselves wasting away as a dead branch in a field far removed from Life.

Let us all seek to draw upon the True Vine.  LiveUP!

Vine to branch (part 2)

In this second post, let me wrap this one up with some closing thoughts.  First of all, the invitation is there sitting right in front of you.  It’s yours for the taking.  Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence is not an art but a habit.”  This drawing upon the Zoe, drawing upon the Vine, drawing upon the Living Waters is your primary task.  It will take you being intentional.  You will have to block the time and make this your ultimate priority as if, “I cannot think about starting my day without this.” 

You’re going to have to be intentional – there are things you will need to cease doing and some things you will need to make a priority.  What should I cease doing?  Just ask yourself what drains the life out of you?  What are the things that just seem to lay waste to your soul?

Busyness – a brilliant plan of the enemy.  We live insanely busy lives running trying to make it all work.  It makes us an easy target for an affair, an addiction, depression, discouragement, loss of heart, checked-out, angry at God = an easy target.  We have to unplug from the madness of the world.  Remember the graveyards are full of men who were at one time, “indispensable” people.  Committees, boards, the community, the “duties” will all continue to function if you part ways with them.  If they don’t bring you life, if you dread them, if they suck the life from you, get out of them.  Stop!  Stop the madness!  Stop trying to please the world and instead draw upon the life of God.

Worry – it simply chokes the life out of us.

Fear – just like worry.  Ask Jesus about both of these – “Lord, help me deal with these.  What do I fear?  Why do I worry?  What’s beneath the surface, what wound am I dealing with here?”  Get these weeds out of your life.  They choke off life.

Technology – we live in an absolutely toxic environment for humans.  Scientists are determining that long-term exposure to computer screens, iPads, cell phone screens really damages the brain.  Over-exposure to the internet is now a clinical condition.  Just think how you feel after a day sitting on the sofa watching TV or after a few hours of playing a video game.  You feel terrible.  It doesn’t restore or refresh.  It makes you lethargic, numb, flat, listless.  Personally, I am growing to really dislike TV.  It’s just noise.  It’s an invasion of my home.  It feels chaotic.  I think that’s a reflection of the pounding I take during the day and I just have no energy to fight the TV.

Relief or Restoration – all of this we’ve covered, the madness, the treadmill of life, the cellphones, the tyranny of the urgent – when we come home from this world, most men just seek some relief.  We drink a few beers, eat a bag of chips before dinner, pound cookies after dinner, plop in front of the TV for a few hours, spend an hour on Facebook, turn to our wife for sex – or – men turn to porn.  What drives this?  Relief.  We just want some relief.  We want an escape but these escapes do not restore us.  In fact, they only drive us further in the hole.  No, we need restoration.  Restoration.  We need the healing of Living Waters.

So, what does that look like?  The things we need to start doing…

Seek stillness and silence every day – yesterday, I woke up, I never turned a TV on.  I was in silence as I shaved and got dressed.  I grabbed some cereal and retreated to listen to Kari Jobe’s song “Here” and I read Proverbs.  Never turned on CNBC.  Didn’t touch my phone.  Didn’t try to “jump-start” the day to get ahead of curve.  I was still.  I was silent.  That’s just a start.  Not near enough.  I drew upon a “trickle” of life.  I needed more.  Much more, but it was a start.  I have to be intentional.  That night, I came home, spent time with my wife and when she wanted to watch some TV, I got alone and silent and decompressed from the day and soaked in.  It made a real difference.

Spend more time with the real than the artificial – this one is huge and it is why the GPB quote and Mark’s comment were so important, they drove to this same point.  Mark got alone with God outside and just let God speak to his heart and pour out some great things on him.  God gives us these incredible senses and He gives us the incredible natural world and the two fit together beautifully.  There is nothing like a red tail hawk against a crystal clear blue winter sky.  Sunsets.  Sunrises.  Thunderstorms.  Freshly cut grass.  A new flowerbed and dirt beneath your fingernails.  Time on a tractor cutting a field.  The gobble of a bowed up turkey.  The majestic rack of a dominant buck tearing up a sapling, marking his turf.  Nothing like the Colorado mountains or a long walk on the beach.  God gave us all those things and they restore the soul.  Compare 2 hours at the mall or playing Halo to a walk in the woods.  There is no comparison in what each of these do to your soul.  Touch real things – tree bark, dirt, grasses, animal fur, a lake, a seashell, a smooth rock vs. touching plastic or polyester.  Life is creation.

Beauty – the soul responds to beauty.  Your brain responds chemically.  Art, music, mountains and wide open landscapes repair you.  Listen to great classical music.  Build you a worship song playlist – peaceful, restorative songs that speak to your soul (as I’ve been typing this I’ve been listening to Michael W. Smith Breathe, Kari Jobe, Kristian Stanfill, etc.).  Take up photography.  Find the beauty in nature and capture it.  If you ever really look at a stand of pine trees, they are beautiful.  Rocky creeks – take some pictures and take your shoes off and let the water run over your feet.  Soak in beauty.  Feel it.  Appreciate it.  Let the Master Artist speak to you through His work.  How does that sound compared to two hours of American Idol or an hour of Bill O’Reilly?  Which one will restore your soul?  Which one will draw upon the life of God to restore you?

Conclusion – the Christian life was never meant to be easy.  You were never promised an easy, pain-free life.  If you want “this” we’ve been talking about, you’re going to have to work for it.  You’re going to have to be intentional to push back time – push it back away from you, create a vacuum to allow the Living Waters to come in and restore you and to push back the enemy and the tyranny of the urgent.  Ronnie Brooks did this last week for 6 hours walking a railroad track.  He intentionally got alone with God.  You need to breathe.  You’re a tree and you need a stream to feed your roots.  You’re a branch desperately in need of grafting back into the vine.  But you – and only you – have to make this the priority in your life.  “He who loses his life for Me, will find it.” 

This is the invitation to life being offered to us.  The “perfect home, perfect wife, perfect family, perfect career” never get us there.  Abandonment to the Life of God is the only thing that works.

So, what’s your plan?  What is your process going to be to draw upon the Life of God?

Next week – we’re going to stay in this and dig deeper.  Please give me your comments on what this has meant to you, how God has spoken to you in this.  We’ll share those next week.  If you weren’t able to be with us today, please join us next week.  It was amazing today and will be amazing next week.

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