true surrender…

here are the slides from this morning > Clear eyes 8 – when we’re tested

We will all be tested.  We will all fall.  As we’ve established this fall, that day is coming for each one of us.  God’s Word is crystal clear on this …

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.   James 1:2-4

Blessed is the man who endures trials, because when he passes the test, he will receive the crown of life that He has promised to those who love Him.   James 1:12

No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God.”  For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone.  But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires.  Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.  James 1:13

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.  1 Corinthians 10:13

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:6-7

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.  1 Peter 4:12-13

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.   Romans 5:3-4

WE WILL ALL BE TESTED.

Lysa TerKeurst speaks to the “why” behind these tests …

“God doesn’t want you or me to suffer.  But He will allow it in doses to increase our trust.  Our pain and suffering isn’t to hurt us.  It’s to save us.  To save us from a life where we are self-reliant, self-satisfied, self-absorbed and set up for the greatest pain of all … separation from God.  The enemy would love for me to get caught up in the temptations of this world.  He would love for me to give in to the devastating pull of my constant cravings for physical pleasure.  The insatiable longing for all that I see.  The pride that comes with achieving and owning more and more.”

I don’t know about you but I KNOW I can very quickly become self-reliant, self-satisfied and self-absorbed.  Give me enough good times, enough success, enough smooth sailing and real quickly, it’s going to be all about me.  And, if I am lucky, God is going to allow me to get knocked off that high horse so He can teach me a lesson.  “Consider it pure joy … when you experience trials”.  “Blessed is the man that endures trials…”

Read this story.  It is such a powerful example of the point I’m trying to make …

In 2012, Kristen Ley started Thimblepress, a design, print, and gift shop in Jackson, Mississippi.  By 2015, the company expanded to more than 1,500 retailers across the globe.  “To the world, Thimblepress was a success.  To customers we were a success.  To anyone working with us, we were a success – but I never said, “How are you Kristen?  Are you giving yourself time to breathe?  Are you giving yourself time to get back to God?”

In October, Kristen spoke at a women’s retreat.  One of the Scriptures she read was Jesus telling His disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).  She has had to learn that the hard way.

“Anything can be made an idol in our life. … I believe the devil knew exactly how to pull me from God.  I’ve always been super determined and strong-willed, strong-headed,” she said.

When Thimblepress started picking up steam between 2013 and 2015, “things were coming at me so fast.  Dramatic things, amazing things.  And I was like, ‘There’s no doubt this is the Lord. ….’ And I think a lot of it was.  But I think some of it was also the devil,” she said.  “I was still in prayer.  I was still in the Word.  But it was kind of like really a struggle.”

By 2016, Thimblepress was in 1,500 retail stores and Kristen was working on her fifth collaboration with Hallmark.  Her product was featured in Oprah’s magazine.  In November 2015, Kristen got an email from Target.  She thought it was spam.  By April 2017, Thimblepress was in every Target store in the country.

“I thought, ‘This is God — He is keeping me busy.’

“It’s hard for me to say no… So I was saying yes to almost every opportunity, (and) slowly my soul began to deteriorate,” she said.

“I stopped being in the Word.  I stopped praying.  I stopped going to church.

“I used to run six miles a day.  I stopped taking care of myself. … It became about, who can I be in this world?  How can I stand out in this world?  Because that’s how God’s using me. That’s how He’s going to show His love, through my accomplishments.”

(Do you see it? – self-reliant, self-satisfied, self-absorbed)  After Thimblepress launched in Target stores, “I was so busy that I didn’t even take time to really celebrate it. I was like, ‘What’s next?’”  She traded in her old hobbies – running and attending church – for more time to focus on her growing business, “If I wasn’t achieving something every week, getting X number of sales or announcing new collaborations, then I felt like a failure.”

The gap between more and enough never closes.

For several months, God tried to get Kristen’s attention in small ways. Then in May 2017, He allowed her world to crumble around her so loudly — in her work and in her life — that there was no denying God was doing something.  He was fighting for her soul.  But it felt like He was against her.

“I was in Carmel California when I got a phone call telling me we had been hacked and someone swindled thousands of dollars from my company.”  She scrambled to find a way to get cash to pay her vendors.  From Carmel, there wasn’t much she could do.  “God said, “I’m about to bring the hammer down on your life, and you’re not going to be able to do anything about it.”  She said, “I believe He put me in Carmel because had I been back in Jackson, I could have jumped into work to fix it.  In Carmel, there wasn’t much I could do.  I think God had been trying to get my attention for a long time, and out there, I was forced to pause and listen.”

“He broke my bones.  And I was so angry.  It took me a long time to admit that.”

After several months of praying frustrated prayers and yelling at God from the roof of her apartment, she finally surrendered her will for His in October 2017.  As much as she could at the time, anyway.

“It was a progressive development of true surrender.”

She started giving herself small goals for her relationship with God.  She committed to reading a daily devotional, reading whatever Scripture it referenced and praying. She wrote her prayers in longhand, as a journal.  “I started waking up early and spending two hours meditating, praying and writing down my prayers.  They were like 17 pages long, front and back.  I just started pouring everything out and getting back to why I started the business in the first place.”

She started realizing that God had been trying to get her attention for a year and a half.  Instead of yelling at God, she was now yelling at Satan — the one who had stolen so much of her time, energy and heart — in her apartment: “Get out of my home. Get out of this space.  Get out of my life. You are NOT WELCOME.  Remove yourself.”

God clearly laid out a plan for Kristen to radically shrink her business, eliminate her 20 person staff, close her store and concentrate on the core of her business.  Letting all those people go was painful but she followed God’s lead.  The process made her realize: Yes, you can grow a company very quickly, but how much will you lose in the process?“  I gained 80 pounds in 8 years.  I was mentally and physically unhealthy.  And I’m so thankful for that time, because it’s what brought me back to life and brought me back to God.”

Kristen knows that if God hadn’t turned her around, “scenario B” would’ve played out.  “I believe we are all built searching for something, which is God. … So eventually, because I was no longer in relationship with Him, I was going to start searching.  What would that have looked like?”

“Would it have looked like materialism?  ‘I’ve got to have all the things.’  Would it have looked like sexual immorality?” she said.  “Yeah, it could’ve.  And it could’ve even looked so bad as my mouth (becoming) a mouth for the (devil).  And Lord was like, ‘You’ve got a big mouth, and I’m not about to let you use it for him.’”

As God has used Kristen’s natural desire to teach and encourage others, she no longer sees Thimblepress as her one purpose.  At His direction, she is shrinking the company “down to the best of the best,” she said.  What’s more, she’s using Thimblepress more intentionally to bring Jesus to the next generation of women.

“I have partnerships coming out in January that I never could have imagined.  Half of the stuff coming out in January is faith-based.  (I used to say,) ‘But I want to make cool products.’  But they can be cool, and faith-based, and people don’t realize it until it hits them.  It can be seamless.  This year I came out with a hat that said ‘influencer’ on it.  But it had, like, a double meaning – as in, not a social media influencer.  I’m an influencer for Christ.”

So what’s her next dream?  “My dream right now is to float and just let God work.”

Ahhh, there is so much gold in this story!  We chase whatever balloon we think we need to find a fulfilling life only to later learn, painfully, that the gap between more and enough never closes.

Kristen lost herself in her career, her dream.  Eventually that dream became a monster that was devouring her.  She put God on the back burner to chase her dream.  Gloriously, He brought her back.  He never quit pursuing her and she began the “progressive development of true surrender”.  I love it.

This is it for each one of us.  What balloon are you blowing up that you think will define your life, make you who you are, meet the one deep need you have?  STOP.  Give it up.  Surrender.  Let God take you where He wants to take you.  Float and just let God work.

stay near the Fire…

slides from this morning … manschool 2019 5

Two key themes have been our focus this year – first, the question of “which kingdom will I serve?” and second, this theme of “dirt” … when you get knocked off your high horse of self reliance which we’re learning is a side effect of how you answer the first question.  We can’t see it at the time.  We drift.  We don’t read the Word.  We don’t immerse in it.  We rely on self.  We rely on being a man that can conquer mountains and handle any challenge we face.  It’s gradual.  Doesn’t happen overnight – thus why I say it is a “drift”.

If my reliance, my daily bread, my sustaining is coming from God – truly – then I won’t turn to those false gods of self, success, money, sex, porn, greed, power, reputation.  If you are aligned with God, being fed by Him, sustained by Him, you will push those things away – you won’t need money, success, power or reputation.  They are fleeting.  Only God is permanent.  You don’t “need” sex.  You certainly don’t need to escape into porn.  You have come to believe a lie.  You believe those things are your right and you’ve justified your sex drive as an excuse for _________.  But the Liar we face is crafty, skilled and persistent.  He’s trying to lead you away from the Fire.  He loves “self-reliance”.  He loves the “Type-A, driven, powerful man”.  Yes, yes, yes, he will lead you right down that path of being “all that” and of being the kind of man women turn to for strength.  Dangerous.  Slippery slope.  Tragedy awaits in the hook of the Liar.

As we read this morning…

Camp out in God’s Word – not the world.  Literally pitch your tent in God’s Word.  Camp.  Build a fire.  Pitch your tent near the fire.  Don’t wander off.

There is danger in the woods (world).  You can leave the camp – move from the fire and you can survive.  Wandering down a dark path.  Danger lurks.  Its dark and cold.  You turn back to the fire.  What do you do when you find you way back to that fire – to the warmth and the safety?  You worship! 

(Eugene Peterson A Long Obedience in the Same Direction)

But we are a stubborn bunch.  We want to travel north and yet all the roads are cut to the east.  Do we take the well worn path?  No.  We complain of the roads going in a direction we don’t want to travel.  Pushing forward “our way”, we find nothing but obstacles, walls and rivers and as we repeatedly fail trying to make it on our own path apart from God.  We pursue “our right” to happiness but we refuse to take that well-traveled road that leads there.

It’s like God himself is having this conversation with His angels …

They are trying to get to Mount Zion but ignore all the signposts and compass readings and stubbornly avoid the trails as they bushwhack their way through wilderness.  “Do you not see that they necessarily must meet with thwartings, crossings, disappointments, and failure?”  They go mile after mile, watching for their destination but never sighting it.

“And then they accuse religion of interfering with what they consider their innocent pleasures and wishes.” 

But religion is an inconvenience only to those who are traveling against the grain of creation, at cross-purposes with the way that leads to redemption.

John Henry Newman

As we rely upon self, we are traveling against the grain of creation.  We bushwhack our way through wilderness in stubborn refusal to submit.  And it’s as if God is saying, “Don’t you see?  Don’t you see why I must thwart them?  Why they must meet with some tough crossings, disappointments and failures?”  In other words, while God may not “cause” these “dirt” moments, He also doesn’t prevent them.  Some of them are choices and consequences of our own making and sometimes, the only way to learn in life is to suffer the consequences of our disobedience.  Other times, seemingly innocent people suffer.  We are so tempted to ask, “How could a good God let ______ happen?”  We live in a fallen, broken world populated with deeply broken people.  Accidents happen.  Evil happens.  Cancer happens.  None of us are promised an easy, pain-free life.

If I am serving “my” kingdom, I can make NO sense of cancer.  No sense of losing my job.  No sense of a rebellious child.  But, if I am serving HIS Kingdom, I can.  “His will be done”God may never answer the “why” this happened.  But He is in the “what”.  What now LORD?  What is it You are doing in this?  What is it I need to be taught?  What is the self-reliance that got me into this?  He will answer those given enough time and enough surrender on your part.

And do you see why?  You’re taking those questions to the Father.  “What is it Father?  Show me.”  It is surrender.  It is letting go of “my way”, letting go of “my kingdom”, letting go of “I am man enough to win at a life on my own”It’s DIRT.  You’re down in the dirt and you’re surrendering to the Father and asking “what?” and it’s beautiful.

Men, listen to me.  I cannot possibly know what all you’re going through but I do know some of it.  One of our fellow tribe members lost his job an hour after manschool this morning.  Health issues.  Marriages are on the brink.  Children gone off range.  We’ve lost family members.  Our business is sinking.  We got laid off.  She left for another man.  Porn addiction has been uncovered.  I don’t know what storm you’re going through but I do know this, God may not have caused it but I can assure you, He is in it.  He will not abandon you – even if in your self-reliance, you turned your back on Him.  He wants you to come home.  He wants you to be sustained day by day by His Word.

He wants you to stay by the fire.

Be a man in God’s Word this week …Read 2 Corinthians 4 this week a few times.  Read Lamentations 3 this week … a few times!  “Hope through God’s Mercy”.  Pay special attention to 3:22-29.  Dirt is all over Lamentations 3.

why did this happen?

The slides from today – manschool 2019 4

When you get knocked off your high horse and find yourself face down in the dirt, the natural question is “Why?  Why God did this happen?”.  If we dig enough into our lives, I think some of the reason of “why” can become evident.  Some answers, in this life, may never be explained.  We live in a fallen, broken world.  We are all in the process of dying, all being “destroyed”.  Stuff happens.  Folks die.  Accidents happen all the time.  Cancer appears.  Young folks have brain ruptures.  The world has gone mad and we can make no sense of it — unless — we have an eternal focus.

I want to encourage you — this week, today — to dive into 2 Corinthians 4.  It’s not long … just 18 verses.  You have the time.  Or do you?  Which kingdom will you serve?  Do you have the time to read this sacred text?  Do you have the time to seek the hidden treasure that is God’s Word?

Dig into it these 18 verses.  Word by word.  Underline the key texts.  Write in the margins of your Bible.  Dig, ponder, question, talk to God as you read it, “What is it LORD you are trying to show me in this text?”  Pay attention to the words “therefore” or “because” or “so”.  Those words lead to something.  They point you to the Way.

Back to the eternal focus.  Paul is pointing us to the secret of not losing heart in the face of all the crushing defeat we face in this broken world.  The secret (more in this in the coming weeks) is having an eternal focus.  I can make NO sense of some of the tragedies I hear about (and have lived myself) from so many.  None.  But what I can make sense of is God and that He is good and that I can trust Him – even when this life makes no sense.

I claim I want to believe my eternal destination is secure – that I have a “Deposit Guaranty”.  But in practice (not what I say), I live with compulsion and with anxiety and  with a drivenness. I get so focused on the opportunities and responsibilities and needs and desires I have.  I say one thing, I live another.  I have lost sight of what is to come.  I don’t have an eternal focus, I have a “here” focus, “me” focus.  And if I live with a here & me focus, I will quickly find myself back up on my high horse, God will be back up on the shelf and my ability to make it through each day will come only from my own internal stamina and drive.  It’ll all be up to me to secure my destination, to achieve all this world has for “me” and one of two things will happen, I will get sucked into the darkness that comes from a “me-centered” lifestyle — or — with mercy and grace, God will, once again, knock me off my horse into the dirt.

dirt

So, why would I say dirt is a beautiful thing?  Because without a face down plant into the humility of dirt, I’d be heading down a path of destruction.  I’ve never met a man whose life is all about him who also doesn’t have a train wreck of destruction in his wake.  He may be “all that” but he’s a tyrant to his wife and he drives his kids to perfection.  He craves the attention and is fed by his own glory.

“Lord, knock me off my high horse and never let me get back up up there”.

Yes I am worn out, exhausted, depleted, beaten to a pulp, can’t catch a breath or catch a break.  Yes, my hope fades, my encouragement wanes and my bucket leaks.  Thank God!  These are hopeful because they point me back to God.  Trying to make this life on your own, on your own strength will exhaust you.  It can’t be done.  I must be renewed day by day and that renewal can only come from the LORD.

Click on the slides.  Take the “test” in there when we invert those questions (starting about 1/2 way through the deck).  Ask yourself, in truth, where you are in this.  If you find yourself hopeless and spiritually empty, follow the train of thought in those slides and see where it takes you.

… and read 2 Corinthians 4 !!!

I am worn out…

Everywhere I go, I am hearing the same thing – we are all exhausted.  Beaten up.  Out of breath.  Not enough time in the day.  That’s the “tyranny of the urgent” and this malaise that has fallen upon our society.  America makes up 5% of the world’s population and we consume 80% of the world’s opiates.  Legal pot.  Booze.  Porn.  Anti-depressants.  We are medicating the pain.  We are the richest and most prosperous nation in the history of mankind and we are also the most medicated society ever.

That’s one issue.  Just be aware of it.  As you’re drawn to medicate, ask yourself the deeper question of “why?”  What is it you’re after?  Why is this same pattern emerging as you think you’re doing good and something happens and you slip and run back to the medication of the day?  What is underneath that?

But the bigger theme I want to address is what is it we are to do when life smacks us down?  Pregnant daughter.  Son has gone off range.  Wife has walked out.  Business has failed or you think you’re exposed to the next round of layoffs.  You lose a child.  You get cancer.

Take these two issues together and I can assure you, life is going to smack you down.  You cannot navigate this life on your own.  Good luck trying.  Being a “type-A, driven, accomplished man” will not sustain you when you daughter shows up pregnant or when your wife has brain cancer.  It will only sustain you so long and you’ll quickly run out of that fuel.

These things will happen in your life.  If you’ve never faced one of these, good.  Congratulations.  Tape your ankles because your day is coming.  It comes for all of us.  What then?  These storms will come.  When you are driven and self-reliant, you will proudly strut on your high horse.  Life will knock your ass off that horse eventually.

It is in this moment that God works.  A self-reliant man doesn’t need God.  He’s got it figured out.  He has “gears” he can draw upon to make it through any situation until …

This picture of olive oil has a purpose in this message…

olive oil

Olive trees, to produce fruit, must have both the harsh winds of the East and the refreshing winds of the West.  They need hard times and good times to produce fruit.  Like an olive off the tree, you and I must be salted and soaked in water if we are to be ride of our hardness and bitterness.  We must be salted in the Truth and soaked in the Living Water.

What is most valuable in an olive is when it is pressed beyond recognition, crushed to destruction and yet, the oil that comes from the crushing is where the value comes from.  The oil can be turned to light.

Yes, you may be in a very tough, trying place right now.  But there is a purpose in it.  Which Kingdom will you serve?  Your kingdom of self-reliance?  Or His Kingdom?

“God, I cannot understand “why” this is happening, but I trust You. I trust that You will provide for me through this and I totally trust that You ARE good.  I am your beloved son and no matter how this gets better or if it never gets better, I am safe in Your arms”

When the storms come…

There will two posts from today – first, the notes from the discussion.  The second post will relate to the story/video from Catalyst.    REMINDER – NO manschool next week (day before Thanksgiving) we will see you the following Wednesday.

here are the slides from today > Which Kingdom 10 – storms

Here is the “Tribe Tune” – Who YOU say I am … when the storms come and you are beat up and not certain of how it will turn out, LISTEN to this song.  “You ARE for me, not against me.  I am who YOU say I am!”

Rock bottom will teach you lessons that mountain tops never will.

Vegetation doesn’t flourish on mountain tops.  The lush growth is in the valleys.  When you’re in a difficult place, realize that the LORD either placed you there or allowed you to be there for reasons perhaps known now only to Himself.  Rest assured of this, whatever God has planned for you is way bigger than your comfort zone.

Last week, Derrick said – something to the effect of – “Detours come to break our pride and humble us, so we can be worth His glory”.

Not sure I heard that right, but I sat and pondered it.  “Worth His glory”?

The LORD has a glory – of that, there can be no doubt.  His glory will go where it will go.  Will it land on me?  Not if I’m full of pride.  Not if I lack humility.  Not if I forget from Whom all blessings flow.

Full of pride.  No humility.  Equals > “I’m in control.  Success is mine.  I made it.  I’m beautiful.  I’m talented.  I made “this”.  The self-made man.

Is that man worth God’s glory?

His glory will move and rest upon those in whom He finds favor.  That man that made it all on his own … the glory of God won’t come.  Glory might.  Success might.  Fame might.  But it won’t the glory of God.  It’ll be the glory of this world.

God’s glory won’t come and rest upon that man because he seemingly doesn’t need God.

Which Kingdom will I serve?

CS Lewis

“I’m not sure God wants us to be happy.  I think He wants us to love and to be loved.  But we are like children, thinking our toys will make us happy and that the whole world is our nursery.  Something must drive us out of that nursery and into the lives of others and that something is suffering.”

Suffering?  Why does suffering drive us out of the nursery?

Because suffering reminds us that the “things” of this world – the toys in the nursery – can never satisfy us.  The suffering still comes no matter how many toys we have.  What then?

Craig Groeschel

“If we’re going to become stronger in our faith, more committed to God, more in love with Jesus, then our beliefs will be tested.  They must be tested.  Henry Blackaby explains, “Will God ever ask you to do something you are not able to do?  The answer is yes.  All the time!” 

People will tell you that God won’t give you more than you can bear.  While they probably mean well, that’s simply not true.  The Bible does say that God won’t let you be tempted beyond what you can handle (1 Cor 10:13).  But He often gives you more than you can handle, so you can learn to depend wholly on Him.

Your times in the valley may not be pleasant, but it’s in the valleys of life that you grow closer to God and stronger in your faith.

Mountain tops can trick us.  When everything is golden, it is easy to forget God.

God knocked me off my horse 3 years ago.  He’s kept me off it the whole time.  There have been no mountain tops in those 3 years.  He is shaking, humbling, molding, breaking me.  He has a purpose in this far beyond what I can comprehend.

At one point this summer, I had a former business partner pass away at 50 from pancreatic cancer, my firm was being examined by our regulator, my wife spent 3+ weeks in the hospital in 4 visits, she lost 20% of her body weight and there was a day or two in there where I wasn’t sure she would survive.  My dad was also in the hospital and we had to negotiate and plan my daughter’s wedding.

Craig Groeschel

Often when we want God to do something, the solution wouldn’t require much of Him – a quick nod, a spoken word, an answered prayer – in the grand scheme of things, just a small miracle.  If only He would allow me to be rewarded for all my hard work!  Or just heal my sick child!  Or help my loved one overcome depression!  Or break my sexual addiction!  Or bring my prodigal child back home!  Or at least let me win the lottery!

As we grow to trust God, we must recognize what I consider to be some of the fundamentals of growing in the Christian faith: awe, respect, reverence, appreciation for God being God, acceptance of our limitations as human beings.

We can’t know everything or see into other people’s hearts.  And we sure can’t see ahead to how it all will unfold.  But God can.

Like a master story teller, He is crafting an epic in which He allows each of us to play a significant role.  There are no minor characters or bit players in God’s story.  We are all important.

He’ll never abandon us and he’s working everything for our good.

So, when we are suffering, ranting and raving about all the unfairness of life, we would do well to remember that there is so much more going on than we can see or understand from our limited perspective.  We’re only seeing a tiny sliver or a much bigger story, perhaps only one sentence or one paragraph on just a single page.

In the middle my storm this summer, I had zero certainty of how it would all unfold.  I didn’t know if my wife would survive.

But I can say with great confidence, God sustained me through that.  It could not have been done on my own.  And remember this from earlier … “I’m in control.  Success is mine.  I made it.  I’m beautiful.  I’m talented.  I made “this”.   This summer, there was NONE of that.

Utter — complete — dependence —- on Him.  And in that posture … God’s glory can come and rest upon you.

(part 2 in a moment…)

 

To be candid …

Here are the slides from today > Goliath 15 – Addiction (3)

Do I truly love the Lord?  I mean … trulylove Him?  And how, exactly can one demonstrate his love for Jesus and the Father?

In this on-going discussion on our addictions, I think the above question is the one we need to be focusing on.  And, my friends, that question drives right at this one > “where am I giving the enemy an opening?”

Romans 8:5 gives us a glimpse of this battle – “Those who live according to their flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh…” and as we’ve discussed with all these addictions, they begin to take on a life of their own.  I shift from being a partial consumer of these things to waking each day just looking for my next fix of self-satisfaction.  “What is going to entertain me today?”  Maybe it is pornography or taking a drink.  But maybe it’s setting out each day to find affirmation, attention, a place where I can be “right”, a place where I can be in control.  Maybe it is a new car or TV or a great hunting trip or the next luxury vacation.  Maybe it is moving towards my wife just to get my physical needs met.  Or maybe it’s just a really great meal.  Whatever the case, we can become very self-focused in our approach to life and the danger is, these addictions start small and quickly grow into all-consuming animals that destroy life.

addictions7.PNG

From the devotional New Morning Glories“If you love the gifts and not the Giver, your heart will never be satisfied, but if you love the Giver, your heart will be content and you will be able to enjoy His gifts while keeping them in their proper place.  Every human’s life is a quest to find something to love and a quest to be loved.  That means you’re always surrendering the affections of your heart to something.  Whatever commands the love of your heart also shapes the direction of your life.”

Love the Lord first and above all else … the direction of your life goes one way…

Or – Love self and always be on the lookout for the next thing that entertains or satiates your desires (life pretty much is about me and what I need) … and the direction of your life will go in a vastly different direction.

He continues… “The desire for good possessions is not wrong, but it must not rule your heart.  The hunger for comfort and ease is not ungodly in itself, but it must not rule your heart.  (remember the rich young ruler when he was asked to give up his money.  what ruled his heart?  God or his money?)  The desire for the love of another person is not wrong, but it must not rule your heart.  A desire for a good thing becomes a bad thing when that desire becomes a ruling thing.”

And this is the point … what is the Lord of your life?  Is it The Lord?  Or is it self?  How much of your life have you given to the Lord?  Maybe you accepted Jesus as your Savior but have you given Him your life?  All of it?  Does He have access to any part of your life?  The money, the reputation, the perfectionism, the indulgence in things, your sex life?

Man, I know this is tough and I may be sounding preachy but brothers, I am shouting this to myself as I write it.  Believe me!  I’ve been knocked off my high horse yet again.  

But here’s the thing I want you to hear.  Unlike the preachers of old who shouted down sinners, I want you to focus on the “more”.  Man, I have stumbled in these areas big time.  I’ve seen new things revealed to me and yes, if I focus on my failure, it can be a shaming thing but what I continuing to hear Father say to me is, Son, these things are limiting you.  I can only take you as far as you will let Me.  If you’re going to wall off parts of your life as being none of My business, then there are limits in what you will accomplish in the Kingdom.  There is so much more I have for you.” 

Men, everything needs to be on the table.  Like that song we play by Hillsong in manschool, “I surrender” … “here I am, down on my knees again, surrendering all.”

I think the Father is saying this to us…

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And I’ll leave this post today with this last picture.  Fire purifies.  It restores and makes the ground fertile for new growth but it isn’t a pleasant process.  We have some things growing in our forest that have gone crazy and taken control of parts of our lives if not all of it.  It’s time for a purifying fire.  We’ve got to be willing to be vulnerable and open the parts of our lives to God that are limiting us…

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More to come…

What are you willing to give up? (Addiction must fall 2)

The core of all this goes to that question, “Where am I weak?”  Keep pushing into this one question with the Father.  Ask Him repeatedly to show you.

Jesus is in the process of sanctifying us as believers – freeing us from sinful habits and forming us in Christlike affections and virtues.  To sanctify something is to “set it apart for the use intended by its designer”.

How beautiful is that?  Perhaps a better word than “Sanctify” is “Restore”.  Jesus is in the process of restoring you, resurrecting you.

But to be resurrected, some things have to go die and go into the tomb.  The “new you” that walks out, free of those addictions will be able to enjoy new freedoms, take new territories and experience the “MORE” God has to offer.

Presently, there are some “limiters” in your life.  Those habits that keep tripping you up.  You make progress, vow to “never again” and you stumble.  It feels like one step forward, three steps back.  The enemy mocks you in this – Goliath taunts you that “you’ll never be anything more than this addiction”.  Those things limit your growth.  They limit your testimony.

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God has “MORE” for us.  These habits, addictions, lusts, the entertainment we watch … He wants “MORE”.  I must remind myself over and over … the things I tolerate, He won’t tolerateThe things I watch in entertainment, He doesn’t watchThe things I let creep into my life, He won’t let creep into His life.

Let me smack you in the face a bit (because it smacked me hard in my face!) …

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What are you living for?  That’s well defined by what it is you’re unwilling to give up.  The rich young ruler came to Jesus and asked,“What must I  do?” and Jesus went right at him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven.  Then come, follow me.”  Jesus knew that one thing this man was holding onto for dear life.  In essence Jesus is asking him and us – “What are you living for, Me or the money?”  He wants to kill some of these weaknesses us and purify them with fire.  Think of dead limbs down in your backyard.  Jesus wants to clean up the dead material and toss it in the fire.

It’s the same with these addictions.  He is in the process of restoration in us, but we’ve got to be willing participants.

So, what is it men?  What is it in your life that needs to go?  Is it the porn?  Do you need to cut the cable on TV?  Is it booze?  You may not be addicted but what is it bringing you?  Does it bring life?  Is Jesus in that?  Does He want “MORE” from you than a nightly glass of booze? 

Is it your incessant need for approval from others?  Is it an obsession with lust/sex?  Success/money?  The need to be in control or the one always talking or the one who is always right?  What is it that needs to be tossed in the fire?  Is anything fair game?  He gave it ALL for you.  What are you willing to give up for Him?

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So much more to come…