What is the story of your life?

“There are turning points that change the trajectory of your life…”

That can be the negative turning points where either through the mistakes of our own choosing or the actions of others, our lives take a turn down a dark alley way and the damage is done.  Or, through our thoughts and actions and decisions, we invite our enemy to sit at our table and engage in conversation with us.  That looks like “You can’t trust anyone”.  Or, “She’ll never change, you’d better move on”.  Or, “A little pornography never hurt anyone”.  Or, “You deserve to be happy and your wife doesn’t understand you and this woman looks exciting…”  Or from a wounding in our past, he whispers, “You know, you’ll always be that screw up and failure your Dad said you’d be”.

If you’re hearing stuff like that, you’ve given the enemy a seat at your table.  (more on that in weeks to come)

Craig McConnell had such a life.  He never knew his father – he was killed in the Korean War when Craig was an infant – but Craig’s story is that of a fatherless boy who would go on to become a father to tens of thousands.  His boyhood ended at age 8 when his Mom and step Dad sat him down to tell him his father was killed in combat.  That was it.  Never a picture, never another word.  He was never told how he shared his Dad’s sense of humor or his love of the outdoors.  And so began a long internal war.  His step-father repeatedly told him that he was a seagull and that “all he was good for was sitting, squawking and shiting”.  It took root in Craig.  He spent 30 years struggling in shame.

After exploring the 60’s drug culture, Jesus met Craig at a Christian concert in 1972.  He became a college pastor and he loved backpacking, wild beauty and going after the heart of things.  He never fit in the traditional church.

At 36, he discovered his true identity and that he’d come from a long line of noble men who gave their lives for the Gospel.  He discovered that his grandparents were missionaries and that his great grandfather was the first protestant missionary to Central America.  Eventually he went to Costa Rica and discovered 50,000+ people crammed in a soccer stadium celebrating the life of the Patron Saint of Central America … his great grandfather.

And so, Craig took back his family name, McConnell.  He let go of “seagull”.  He reclaimed his noble legacy.  All of Craig’s life, it felt like he was fighting a great battle.  He fought the religious falsehood of the church and he paid for it.  He fought to find his true identity.  He fought internal battles with shame and diminishment.  It’s part of what made him so beautiful.  He kept fighting.

John asked him to become a part of the Sacred Romance tour and as Craig stood before thousands of people rescuing their hearts, he came alive like Lazarus walking out of the tomb.  He said it felt like déjà vu of his great grandfather and father.  At Ransomed Heart, he stepped into his glory.  The retreats and boot camps, conferences, films and podcasts, he mentored men all over the world.  He fathered people through those podcasts.

Craig lived his life desiring that his life would make a difference in the lives of many and he struggled to find that avenue to do so.  But in his 50’s, God opened up the door and unleashed the true Craig McConnell.  Through all his work, Craig touched more than 1 million people.  At the last few boot camps, men would stand in line just to give him a hug.  A woman he’d never met sent him a Father’s Day card this year because she said in his work he had fathered her.

Remember, this was once a fatherless little boy who struggled with shame.

Craig battled a lot of doubt about his ability to impact a lot of people but only when the stories are told in the coming Kingdom will be really know just how vast his impact was.

And so my question for you is “What is the story of your life?”  Where is the shame.  What are the mistakes that you cannot seem to shake?  Are you diminished?  Why?  What has the enemy been telling you?  And perhaps most importantly, are you going to continue to listen the great liar or are you ready to start listening to the Creator of the Universe?  What does the Father have to say about you and your story?  THIS is where we’re going this fall at Manschool.  Please join us in the adventure.  Let’s see what God can do.

 

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Best of Manschool – Branch to Vine (1)

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

2009_05_10_vine-1iStockDeadBranch_000001762962XSmall%5B1%5D

For me, many, many days … I am that branch on the right.  Worn out, dried out, lifeless and just waiting to be tossed on a fire.  Green?  Lush?  Plentiful?  Bearing much fruit?  Not so much I’m embarrassed to say.  Why is that?  Perhaps it is because I’m attempting to do this life on my own strength instead of pulling from the Vine which can sustain me.  Read on…

We don’t draw our life from our wife, our children or one another.  Read that again – my wife isn’t supposed to infuse me with life.  I don’t get the life I need to go to battle every day from her.  Jesus is the bread of life.  George Herbert said, “All of the growth of the Christian is a reflection of the life he is getting from God.”  Sleep, breath, eating, drinking, etc. are all daily, practical reminders of our need to draw upon the life of God for our existence.  Why else would God have us sleep if it weren’t a daily reminder of our need for something beyond self?  George McDonald said, “In our troubles, let us remember our one lack is … life and the life-making presence of God.”  Remember that.  When the troubles come – and they will – when the chaos starts, will we look to the debris and the immediate “fix it”?  Or will we realize what it is we are truly missing is the life of God?

Point 1 – we are designed to live by and draw upon the life of God

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 us.  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.

Point 2 – In the last days, it’s going to be hard on the saints

It’s going to be brutal.  It already is.  Brutal.  2 Timothy 3 lays out what the last days will look like, People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”  It sounds a lot like today.  In Daniel 7:25 it says, “The enemy will wear down the saints”.

When things get this way, you can feel the hatred of the enemy – there is a darkness, heaviness on your heart, on your being.  Hatred, malice and rage are being released on the faithful.  Is the enemy really unleashing new kinds of attack on us or is this just life?  Explain ISIS.  Where did that all of sudden just come from?  The evil and spread of ISIS is clearly demonic and it is a brand new assault on us.

This world, it is going to be hard on us.  We need the life of God now more than ever.  Do not, do not, do not attempt this on your own.  You live in a highly toxic spiritual environment.  It will produce a malaise over your spirit much like a poisonous gas.  It makes it hard to draw upon the life of God.  You’ve got to fight for this.  Your heart was made for Eden and you live very far from Eden.

Point 3 – Drawing upon the Life of God is your first task

Drawing your life from God is your first task every day.  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 what enables you to dream big, to create, to imagine, to start new ministries.  It is the only thing that enables you to LiveOutward.

“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 ground hog 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.  What is the effect of all that?  A lush, fruit-bearing branch — or — a dried out, cut off branch waiting to get burned up?

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?”  Remember from last week, you ARE a son of God.  You ARE an heir.  The Father delights in your return to His front porch.  All He has is yours.  What are you doing to get fed by the Father daily?

NEXT WEEK > Bart Hanson will be with us in person.  The following week, we will get into the practical applications for how we can draw upon the Life of God daily.  Until then, LiveUP!

Best of Manschool – Sonship

(most of this material is from John Eldredge’s new book, “Moving Mountains”)

JB Philips said, “Your God is too small

FIX YOUR EYES “Therefore, since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”  Heb 12:1-2

As I fight my way through the battles of this world, my eyes aren’t normally fixed on Jesus.  I tend to focus on crisis before me.  Not Jesus.  The crisis has a way of capturing your attention.  Jesus frequently was seen “looking up to heaven” or “looking up to the Father” as he processed through decisions.  He turned his gaze from all the evidence to the Father to draw upon God’s resources and His Father’s love.  We must look from the debris of life to God.  If we focus on the debris, it will take us out.

GOD – Look at this picture…  (notice it is in the shape of a heart)

sunset 2016

It reminds me of everything that I know to be true of God – he is the creator of everything I love.  Waterfalls, mountains, wild places, rivers, forests, pastures, sunshine, the night sky, sunsets, beauty, goodness and truth.  Just start there – think of all the things you love in this world.  And then remind yourself that the God you are praying to is the One who made it all.  It helps me to hold and touch and feel something in the natural world – a leaf, a stone, placing your palm on the top of a flowing stream – and to remind myself, “God did this, he is immensely powerful, creative, generous and intimate.” 

“With my great power and outstretched arm I made the earth and its people and the animals that are on it.”  Jeremiah 27:5

WATCH this video…

And think about the sun.  Seasonal mood disorder is real and a week of grey, drab, rainy cold days can truly depress you.  And then, oh that feeling when the sun pops out for the first time.  There are times when I will just walk out of my office and walk around my building just to find a place to look up, close my eyes and bask in the winter sun.  It heals me.  It restores me.  It greens up pastures and lush grass lawns.  Pine trees explode in bright green against a sun drenched blue sky.  The sun can warm you in just a few minutes after a dive into a cold pool or lake.  Remember who made the sun.  It is a celestial nuclear device with a surface temperature of 5,500 degrees Celsius.  More than 1 million earths could fit inside the sun.  Unconceivable amounts of energy is generated at its core as hydrogen converts to helium by nuclear fusion.  One solar flare releases more energy than ten million volcanoes.  There are 100 billion suns in our galaxy and there are more than 100 billion galaxies.

BUT MY WORLD IS FALLING APART – The problems I’m having at work.  The issues in my marriage.  The fear over my health or my future.  All these things we bring to the Creator of all of this world and universe.  My problems…they seem quite manageable for such a creator as this.  As crazy as your problems are – you should not, must not, please do not evaluate the loving kindness of God toward you by the swirling tornado of events – especially by whether or not he seems to answering your prayer at hand.  Your heart cannot take such abuse; you will find yourself swirling around like Dorothy in a Kansas cyclone, debris flying all about.  It will leave you exhausted, uncertain, fearful and desolate within a few months.

Let me say it in reverse – are you exhausted, uncertain and fearful?  Then perhaps then have been evaluating whether or not God loves you by the events of your life.

PRAYER – if the One I am praying to made those sunsets, the waterfalls, the star-filled desert night sky, the snow-capped mountains, the radiant sun … ALL of that, if He created ALL of that … FOR ME, for my enjoyment, my pleasure, my use, my life.  The One I am praying to is THE One who gave His life … for me.

IF I could believe that, IF I could believe THAT was the person I was speaking to in my heart as I prayed, I KNOW it would make a world of difference.  I would be so confident; I would expect good things, I would feel triumphant right from the start.  This is why we are urged to fix our eyes on Jesus – especially when we pray.

DAD – A man John counseled years ago said his father was a very successful man.  He left for work early before the boy awoke and returned just in time for dinner.  After dinner, the Dad would disappear into his study, close the doors and work well into the night. The boy, longing for his father’s attention and affection, would sit in the hallway outside his Dad’s study, writing him notes and pushing them under the door.  “I always hoped that one time, just once, he would pass a note back under the door to me.  But he never did.”

It’s a heartbreaking story but it is a metaphor for how many of us conceive of our relationship with God – a busy man we hate to bother, whose affection we long for, passing our prayers under his door, hoping for just a word in return.

SONSHIP“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father” Rom 8:15   Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba Father”.  So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.”  Gal 4:4-7

The reality of these words simply has not penetrated our souls.  We still act and pray like orphans or slaves.  Do you come to God as a son/heir … or as an orphan?  A slave feels reluctant to pray; they feel they have no right to ask, and so their prayers are modest and respectful.  They spend more time asking for forgiveness than they do praying for abundance.  They view the relationship with reverence or even fear – not with the tenderness of love.  Of being loved.

Orphans are reluctant to pray.  They feel desperate.  Their prayers feel like begging more than anything else.  Orphans feel a great chasm between themselves and the One to whom they speak. Abundance is a foreign concept – a poverty mentality permeates their life.  They ask for scraps.  They expect scraps.

PRODIGAL – John’s sons come home for Christmas and they feast.  The food in the house is there for their taking.  They pillage and don’t have to ask permission.  Dad takes them out to eat – the bill is always on him.  They order whatever they want.  They are his sons – they get to live under their father’s blessing; they get to drink from the abundance of his house.  They grab the gear they need, the jacket they need to borrow, the best boots, fly rod or sunglasses.  “You are my son – everything I have is yours.  Plunder as you will.”  This is how true sons get to live; this is how a father feels towards his sons.  The prodigal comes home and his father is there on the porch looking for him.  Do you come to prayer knowing that God was already expecting you?  Looking for you?  Waiting on you?

The Father loves you like He loves Jesus.  You are not an orphan.  You are not merely a servant of God.  You are a son.  You are an heir.  That comes with privileges.

“I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  Until now, you have not asked for anything in my name.  Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be compete… I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf.  No, the Father himself loves you.”  John 16:23-27

Do you expect the lavish when you pray to God? Do you expect abundance?

It’s there for the taking.  This is sonship.  I’m not the little kid passing the notes under the door just hoping He will acknowledge me.  I’m His son.  His heir.  All He has is for me.  The sunbursts, the waterfalls, the sunsets, the stars, the mountains, the streams, the wildflowers, the trout, the deer, the harvest, the bounty … the abundance

It is all there for us.  It’s a radical shift in what many of think about prayer and relating to the Father.  To think He isn’t distant and disappointed in me.  To think He’s sitting on the porch just waiting on my return.  To think ALL He has is for me.  To think He loves me that much.  I’m his heir.  I’m his son.  I’m his partner.