The Summer Challenge of Community…

Today we concluded our Spring series of Manschool with the last segment of the movie “A Story Worth Living”.  You can buy a copy of the movie here … https://store.ransomedheart.com/collections/video/products/a-story-worth-living?variant=22869610118

It is bitter sweet to end our sessions and break but we do so by design.  One, it is for rest and refreshment but more importantly, it is to challenge you to fight for community. Manschool makes it easy in that we meet each week but now that we’re taking a break for the summer, if you want community, you’re going to have to fight for it.  We’ll be posting more about this but many of our small groups are already making plans to continue to meet over the summer.  This is a challenge – will you pursue community? Will you find 2-3 men and push into each other’s stories, going deep into each other’s lives?  Tell your story – all the gory details – and then let the next man tell his.  Don’t hold back.  Don’t hide.  Get it all out on the table and let other men speak into your story.  If you do this, you will see some amazing things happen.

The only question is … will you do it?  Will you?

Here are the notes from today…

Darkness tries to assault us.  “Can we do this?”  “Can we get off this mountain?”  The feeling is, “No.  We can’t do this.  We won’t make it through this”.  That sustained assault against your story is real.  Fear is the thief of joy.

The turning point in every good story is the rescue.

This is the hope of the larger story – that your story can turn out differently.  In this age, the belief is that all of life is an accident and when it ends, it’ll be an accident that takes it out.  You don’t want your life to be an accident.

Whatever our story has been, whatever darkness we have known, we’re all looking for redemption.  To get to that place where the old shame has no power – that it is no longer a prison but rather we see it as the doorway for your heart to be revived.

Because there is this larger story at work, there is hope, there is healing and there is redemption.

God can rescue your story.  “I am no longer fishing alone” — “My brother’s words spoken against me, they no longer have any power over me”.

When living in the larger story, you live in a sense of anticipation.  “How will this story end?”  A really good celebration remembers the losses and the hardships but it also savors the victory.  As story is only as good as its ending.

We are made for restoration and every good ending has something of evil being addressed and vanquished and something of those being divided being brought back together again.  (think Gladiator)

This complexity of justice and mercy and goodness really is the core of the sweet desire every one of us has when all things are put well and good again.

At the restoration of all things, there will be nothing in between us, no misunderstandings, no envy.  We will know and we will be known.  And it will be good.  Everything we’ve lost will be returned.  There will be no goodbyes.  You’ll never lose anything or anyone ever again.  There is no heartache, no opposition, no hatred.  Nothing evil or confusing or negative will ever come at you.  All that will come towards you will be good.

This life here is partial at best.  Good things always come to an end.  Though the age has become cynical, deep in our hearts, we all long for the happily ever after.

Are you living with a sense of anticipation?

What are you looking forward to?

How do you want your story to end?

And then this final challenge from AW Tozer that goes right at this Summer Challenge – what kind of soil as a man will you be?

There are two kinds of ground: Fallow ground and ground that has been broken up by the plow.

The fallow ground is smug, contented, protected from the shock of the plow and the agitation of the harrow. Safe and undisturbed, it sprawls lazily in the sunshine, the picture of sleepy contentment. But it is paying a terrible price for its tranquility: Never does it see the miracle of growth … nor see the wonders of bursting seed. … Fruit it can never know because it is afraid of the plow and the harrow.

In direct opposite to this, the cultivated field has yielded itself to the adventure of living. The protecting fence has opened to admit the plow. Peace has been shattered by the shouting farmer and the rattle of machinery. The field has felt the travail of change; it has been upset, turned over, bruised and broken, but … the seed shoots up its miracle of life. All over the field the hand of God is at work in the … ever renewed service of creation. … Nature’s wonders follow the plow.

There are two kinds of lives also: The fallow and the plowed. . . .

The man of fallow life is contented with himself and the fruit he once bore. He does not want to be disturbed. … The spirit of adventure is dead within him. … To be has taken the place of to become. He has fenced himself in, and by the same act, he has fenced out God and the miracle.

The plowed life has, in repentance, thrown open the protecting fences and sent the plow of confession into the soul. … Such a life has put away defense, and has forsaken the safety of death to the peril of life. Discontent, yearning, contrition, courageous obedience to the will of God: these have bruised and broken the soil till it is ready again for the seed. … Fruit follows the plow … as God “rains down righteousness.”

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The story of your life …

Everyone is looking for a story worth living.  The human heart is made for an epic story.

When you give up looking for that story, you give up living.  It’s all about story.  It doesn’t always go as planned but that’s true to life.

Adventure is chasing a dream.  Adventure is taking on something you’ve never done before.

Most good stories start like this – ordinary people getting swept up into something extraordinary.  Story isn’t something you so much write – story is something that finds you.

The number one thing most people do to cover their shame is to turn to their own self-contempt or contempt toward others.  Contempt becomes a shield, a cover for your life.  That pressure to perform yet on the other side, “I’m going to make sure nobody else sees”.  I hate whatever shows that weakness in me and so I’m going to work really hard to hide it.  Hatred, contempt, violence against ourselves pushes us to perform, to succeed, then when we don’t, that kind of violence – “I’m such a shit” – emerges.

There’s always a story. 

Every life is a long, complicated story.  Over the story of your life, your heart has learned many things – some good, a whole lot that is not so good.

Whatever story it is, I can guarantee you there is beauty.  Beauty – in and of itself – speaks to there being a larger story.  If life is a random event, created by the big bang, then how do you explain beauty and all it encompasses?  How do you explain what beauty does to you?

 

How can I possibly forgive?

How many times should I forgive?  Seven?  Jesus replied “Seventy times seven”.  Forgiveness is a continual thing.  It’s not about keeping count, it is a way of living in the grace of God.

Parable of the ungrateful servant –  Matthew 18:23-25.  Man owed 10,000 talents.  That was 10x the GDP of the region.  An unpayable debt.  “Be patient with me” he pleaded to the master “And I will repay”.  The debt was completely forgiven and he was let go.  Immediately he went out and found a man that owed him a day’s wage.  He grabbed the man and choked him demanding full repayment.  “Be patient with me”.  He refused and had him thrown in jail.  The master heard about this and asked him, “Shouldn’t you have mercy on him just as I have had on you?”

David and Bathsheba –  2 Samuel 12.  He took Bathsheba and ordered, in effect, the murder of her husband.  His heart was so hardened, he couldn’t see his own sin.  God raised up Nathan to confront him.  Nathan tells David the story of two men – one of them rich with a large number of sheep and cattle.  The other had just one small ewe lamb.  It lived and grew up with his children, drank from his cup and slept in his arms.  It was a like a daughter to him.  The rich man had a guest coming for dinner and couldn’t bring himself to kill one of his own sheep and he took the poor man’s lamb for the meal.  David heard this story and was infuriated saying “this man deserves to die”.  Nathan saying essentially, “David, you are this man in the story.  You have everything and anything you could want but it wasn’t enough.  You took Bathsheba – all that Uriah had – and you had Uriah killed.”

How many of us live our lives like that ungrateful servant? 

How many of us are like David?  God has given us so much and yet we just take more.

How many of us need a Nathan?

Let’s go back and read Galatians 5 but this time from the Message …

It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community.  I could go on.   (please don’t!)

This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know.  If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.

But what happens when we live God’s way?  He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity.  We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people.  We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

The first part is more than a man who fears God should be able to hear.  I personally was convicted hearing that list in this paraphrase.  Whoa.  All of us are guilty.  All fall short.

Most of us have also been the victim of this.  We’ve suffered loneliness at the hands of others.  Cutthroat competition might have cost us our job.  A parent with a brutal temper might have harmed us as children.  We’ve come from divided homes, fractured lives.  We’ve lived with family members with uncontrolled addictions.  For many of us these things have come down on us from above – a coach, a parent, a boss, a spouse.  For some of us, a perhaps an even deeper pain, it’s come from below us, from our own children.

It costs us.  It grieves us.  It brings great, great pain.  Either from our own doing or things done to us, we’ve all picked up some scars along the way.  More on that in a minute.

How do you forgive?  How possibly can you forgive?

First, realize that I’m the ungrateful servant when I have received the Father’s grace and blessings but I refuse to forgive those who have sinned against me. I owed a debt that could not be paid and He sent Jesus to the Cross.  Jesus forgave me of an unpayable debt.

Second, know that there is a consequence of unforgiveness – There is a vital connection between receiving God’s grace and forgiving others.  If I’m unwilling to forgive, it says something about my ability to receive God’s grace.  Refusing to forgive = a life of collecting debts.  We refuse to live free.  We run around collecting debts thinking it will fill the void in our life.

When I refuse to forgive, I am the one who suffers the consequences of unforgiveness.

The most powerful person in your life is the person you refuse to forgive.  They may be dead but they still control you, your thoughts and your emotions.  When you think of them, you’re bound up in unforgiveness, bitterness or hatred.  This person is controlling you.

Want a humorous look at this?  —> 

That person you refuse to forgive?  They live right there, rent free, in between your eyes and Satan is having a field day with you.  Much of my brokenness is from the sins of others against me.  If I am unwilling to forgive, it’s going to cost me greatly.  I will be tormented by the thoughts and pain of what was done to me.  Healing/Wholeness starts with forgiveness.  It is a means of living grace.

Let me give you one more powerful way you can forgive.  You can share your story

“When we share the scars of our story, our wounds transform into weapons of light”.

more on that in another post…

It is your story. Who are you listening to?

Think about this.  Craig McConnell spent 40 years of his life struggling with the notion that he had nothing to offer, nothing to say.  He felt he’d never make a difference or could say anything that would encourage anyone.  Wow.  That’s a powerful condemnation over his life.  He was listening to the wrong voice.  Once he went to the Father and truly opened up his heart to what the God of the universe had to say about him, his story changed.  His identity changed.  He was no longer the seagull.  And just look at the next 30 years of his life.  Look at the impact he had.  Look at the thousands of lives he changed and the tens of thousands of men he “fathered” in his ministry.

This is from Louie Giglio speaking at revival week of Elevation Church.  Fast forward to about 17 minutes into this for the content of what we saw today at Manschool…

You have a good Shepherd.  The scripture says He makes me, restores me, leads me, comforts me, protects me, anoints me and then it says “surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life”.  He is goodness.  He is love.  He follows me and leads me.  And at the end, I move into the house of the Lord forever.  It’s a very good deal.

“He prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies”.  So catch that, the enemy is all around (the battle is raging against you) and God prepares a table for you in the midst of your enemy.

I’m surrounded by my enemies.  In spite of that, Jesus comes and says, “I’ve prepared a table for you with two chairs. One for me and one for you.”  Why is that good news?  Because you are living in the middle of a battle between good and evil.  The enemies are real and it is tough.  Regardless, in that chaos and turmoil, a table has been prepared for you.

1 Peter 5 says “Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”  He’s always around.  He’s looking for a crack or a crevice.  Some opening he can find to get to you.  It can be your character, a real life experience, a door you open (like pornography), it can be an opinion of a friend.  It can be a justification or rationalization for an affair.  He’s always prowling, looking for a crack he can get in to wreak a little havoc in your life.  “Just give me an opening.  Give me a seat and let me talk to you…”

It’s not really about you – it’s about your Father.  He despises God and will come after God’s children as payback.  As a parent, I know when my daughters are hurt or make a poor decision – yes, they are hurt but it hurts me more.  Because I see all the potential and all the promise and all that I’ve prayed for in their life.  Same is true with Satan – he’s after God and he’s coming after us to try to hurt God.

It’s one thing for Satan to be prowling around but if you don’t watch it, he’ll just pull up a chair at your table and start a conversation. Lashing out at someone.  Getting even.  Striking back.  Taking something that doesn’t belong to you.  “You deserve this”.  “She won’t make you happy and you should be happy”.  Greed.  Envy.  Strife.  Bitterness.  Unforgiveness.

You and me, we just let a killer sit down at our table.  

How do you know if he’s at your table?  Generally speaking, he comes at you 3 ways…

“You’re never going to make it through this.”  If you have ever heard, “You’re not going to make it, this will never change, don’t get your hopes up, you’re not going to survive it”, if you hear that, you’ve given the devil a seat at your table.

“You aren’t good enough. Never been good enough.  You’re not strong enough or smart enough.  You are not worthy.  You’re insignificant”.  If you’ve heard today, “You’re not good enough”, the enemy is sitting at your table.

“Everyone is against you”.  If you’re hearing, “No one at school likes you” or “Everyone is out to get you” or “Coach is out to get you” … then the enemy is sitting at your table.

You battle this by sitting down at your table with your Shepherd and thanking Him for giving you all that you need mentally, spiritually and physically in the middle of this fight going on all around you.  And you say to your enemy, “You don’t have a seat at my table.  You are a liar.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

The only way you can lose your peace is to let the Devil sit down at your table, eat your food and to start talking to you.  The Lord prepared the table and you get to decide who sits at your table.  Your choice.

I’ve got my enemies.  But, I’ve got my Shepherd and He’s a good Shepherd.  John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”   Verse 11 – “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep.”

That is why if you’re hearing, “You’re not good enough. You ain’t gonna make it” – that’s not coming from the Shepherd.  And … even if everyone is truly against you, look who is sitting at your table with you.

Whose voice are you listening to?

last session of the spring – “Story” …

Today, we wrapped up Manschool for the Spring.  It was a great day.  Ken Himes blessed us with coins we can take with us daily to remind us to put on the full armor of God.  Wow!  Thanks Ken.  Dave Jeffers and his team shared the plans for the fall men’s retreat.  They’ve done a great job and have found a great location.  Richard Peters shared what their small group will be doing during the 3-4 weeks before “Manschool lite” starts our summer series – their group will continue to meet and allow men to share their life story with their small group.  By sharing our story, we truly get to know one another.

We announced the launch of m&wman&woman – pursing God together – the extension ministry from Manschool where we’ll be intentional about having at least quarterly gatherings with childcare for our tribe and our women.  We’ll show videos like the “Who told you that you were naked?” and “Rethinking God – God isn’t disappointed in you (shame)” and we’ll break to let the ladies unpack it and talk through what the videos meant to them while we men do the same thing and then we’ll come back together and discuss it together.  We’ll encourage you to grab a few other couples and meet for dinner beforehand as yet another way to build our community.

notes from today…

A few of us went last week to Newnan to see the release of Eldredge’s new film, A Story Worth Living.  It was amazing and this notion of “story” has really stuck with me.  Interestingly, of note, so far, “story” is the #1 question you want answered according to the early results from our poll (see the previous post on the blog).  Story ties in with so much of what we’ve done this Spring.

“What are you so mad at son?”  It’s a good question.  “What are you afraid of?”  “Why won’t you let people get close to you?”  “Why all this discouragement?”   Why are you hiding?  There’s always a story.  Behind every man, there is a back story – the things that shaped you.  Behind every posing man, there is a wounded boy.

Many of us struggle with addictions – addicted to sex, pornography, addicted to needing other’s approval of us, addicted to needing to be seen as successful or having it all figured out.  The need for control.  Addicted to money or power or reputation.  Other medications – drugs, booze, toys like cars, guns, TV’s – striving to find that one thing that will make me feel better.  In all of this, we must ask, “What is it you’re trying to medicate here?”

There is a root in us – a story or a history that explains it.

“He FOULED me!” – someone did a great injustice to me, offended me, being ignored, overlooked, passed by … you take a lot of wounds in this life.  Pay attention to what Jesus is surfacing here.  We need to pay attention to the wounds and we need to learn how to invite Jesus into those wounded and painful places to seek His healing and restoration.

We make agreements with our pain.  Things are done to you or spoken over you.  Many times, it is multiple assaults against the same soft spot – a common theme against you.  The wounds carry a message and over time, we make agreements.  Agreements meaning we accept them as truth.  “I am not worth loving”.  “I will always be a failure”.  “I will always be alone.”  “I am a seagull.”  “My father was right, I am ______”.  “Life will never be the same”.  When you find yourself saying these things over yourself, you’ve made an agreement with a wound.  There is a pain that came into your life and you’ve agreed with it and odds are, it has played a huge role in your life.  If you believe you don’t have a voice, that your opinion doesn’t matter and that no one cares, eventually you’ll go silent.  You’ve let those other voices come in and silence you.  That’s a wound and an agreement and you need to invite Jesus into that pain.

All of this goes to storyYour life is a story.

Your heart is made for an epic story.  When you give up looking for your story, you give up living.  For many of us, our wounds have told us there is no story for us and so we’ve stopped seeking it.  You have a story – each and every one of you – that is worth living.  Maybe there has been a lot of misery in your life and you no longer believe you have anything to offer.  It’s not so.  God is in the business of turning misery into ministry.

You have a story worth living.  What will you do to find yours?  How do you want the story of your life to end?  Not all the mistakes and junk of the past but rather from this day forward how do you want your story to end?