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?

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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.

LiveUP Logo FINAL

Vine to branch (part 1)

This will be a really long, 2-part post but it is packed with incredibly important revelations for us all.  For those of the 45 men there this morning, I want a comment from you below – what did God show you this morning?  What moved you?  How was it powerful for you?

Simple question – which one of these two pictures best describes your life right now?

2009_05_10_vine-1iStockDeadBranch_000001762962XSmall%5B1%5D

I saw this video from John Eldredge last Thursday and was so struck by it, I watched it two nights in a row.   This is about an hour long but well worth the investment of your time… http://new.livestream.com/rhevents/matofeb14

Saturday night on GPB, Georgia Outdoors was featuring the North Georgia mountains and had this quote, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to figure out that going to the mountains is going home – that wilderness is a necessity.”    (you will see why this was significant in a moment) 

Sunday, Mark Sivak made a comment on one of the blog posts that read, “I have been thinking more about living intentionally, and “investing” my time rather than “spending” it, living outward rather than inward, and I reflected on the desires of my heart. It was a good thing to do. Some of them are generic, some more specific to God’s calling and giftings. Now, I couldn’t have done this during the busy of the day, but I was outside enjoying the quiet and beauty of creation and enjoying the breeze. I allowed myself to be still not thinking of anything being more important than being with the most important One. These things came bubbling up, I scratched them down without editing, without critically thinking about them, or attempting to apply my logic – these came from my heart, and God put them there…”   (you can read the rest of  his powerful revelation the comment section of the Feb 20 post)

And when I read Mark’s comment, I knew.  I knew we had to cover this material this morning before we launched into Wide Awake.  We can dream big.  We can pursue, create, imagine, achieve, live outward, reach new pinnacles.  All of these things are possible but if we don’t get “this” we saw this morning, we will not be able to truly live Wide Awake.  Here are the slides  wide awake before we begin

John 10:10 “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly”.  We love that verse.  It’s a foundational verse for LiveUP.  And we tend to think abundant life is a great job, beautiful family, rich faith, material blessings… But this isn’t what comes first.  What comes first is the power to live.  The fruits are things like love, joy, kindness, creativity, friendship, etc.  Yes!  But the primary offer is the Greek word Zoe.  Zoe is the life Jesus had within Himself – that indestructible, phenomenal life!

Jesus wants to give you this life.  This Zoe.  He wants to give it to you, feed you with it daily like a vine feeds a branch.  Salvation is “life”  Life in order that you may live.  The invitation is for you to join your life into God’s.

Drawing your life from God is your first task.  It takes priority over your wife, your kids, your job and even your devotionals.  Your priority each morning is to draw upon this life.  Drawing upon this stream of living water is what enables you to tackle all that you have in front of you each day.  It is was enables you to dream big, to create, to imagine, to start new ministries.  It is the only thing that enables you to LiveOutward.

And so, the question is this – “What are you doing daily to draw upon the life of God, the Zoe?” 

Does your day start with silence and solitude?  Do you go outside to watch the sun rise and soak in the life of God?  Do you find a quiet place in your home before the family awakes to spend 15-20-30 minutes drawing upon life?   Or…  do you sleep as late as you can, roll out of bed, grab your phone and start reading emails and texts from bosses, customers, family, all the people who need something of you?  Do you turn the TV on first thing?  Shower, shave, dress quickly, scarf down some breakfast and fly to the car to get the kids to school or to get to that meeting, reading texts as you drive, making the first calls of the day and listening to noise on your radio?

Do you feel like you run on a freaking treadmill 12 hours a day, 5 or 6 days a week?  It’s called the “Tyranny of the Urgent” and it is killing us.  Killing us.  Killing you.  It’s groundhog day over and over.  Rinse and repeat and nowhere in there is there time for drawing upon the life of God.  All you’re trying to do is get through the day, trying to “do right” and get ahead of the avalanche bearing down on you.

So which one are you?  The lush fruit bearing much fruit or the dead branch laying out in the pasture?

Again I ask you, “What are you doing to draw upon the life of God, the Zoe?”

I’ll leave you hanging…part 2 coming in a few minutes…