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…

addictions8.PNG

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…

addictions9.PNG

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.

addictions

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!) …

addictions2

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?

fire

So much more to come…

Where I’m weak – how anger grows into a Goliath

Here is the video of Erwin McManus talking about fractals and anger.  Fast forward to 1:01:00 and run it through 1:11:50…

Some of these weaknesses we have, the Goliaths in our life … they are keeping us from the life that is truly life.  It is time for these giants to go down … for good.

We all want to be united with Christ in a resurrection but none of us wants to be united with Him in a crucifixion.  We spend our lives trying to avoid death not realizing we’re swimming in death.

A fractal is a replicating pattern that changes its scale as it replicates.  Sin is that replicating pattern that destroys your future, destroys your hope, destroys your relationships and destroys your soul.  You have self-replicating patterns in your lifethese giants we’ve been talking about.

Maybe there is a point where you stop picking sin and it just picks you.  It becomes a self-replicating pattern that you don’t own but rather, it owns you.  Oftentimes, everyone around us sees it – “why do you keep going back to the same self-destructive pattern?”  It’s no longer a choice.  You’ve lost the power to choose.  The pattern has become you – it eats away at your soul.

Anger is like this.  It starts small.  Left unchecked, it takes on a life of its own.  You rage at your wife.  The little things with your kids, ignites a storm of anger in you.  You’re that dad at the little league baseball game getting escorted out of the park.  Sooner or later, you wake up and notice your kid punching the wall in his rage and you’re left wondering, “Where did that come from?”

Sometimes it’s not even fractals we choose.  It’s a sin passed onto you by someone that came before you.  It’s a pattern given to you by your father or grandfather or your culture.  You didn’t even choose it rather it was placed in your soul.  You’ve become a racist or you’re hostile, unforgiving and bitter.  You became negative or cynical and it was passed onto you.  Some of you are the sons of alcoholics who were sons of alcoholics and that fractal was passed onto you.  Some of you, your brokenness was passed onto you and you’re a slave.  Jesus came to break the patterns of these self-destructive patterns that keep replicating in our lives.

Maybe it starts with an offense.  Someone offended you, wronged you.  Then you chose not to forgive.  You allowed it to simmer and it became bitterness that began to eat away at your soul.  Then the bitterness became anger and you wanted to harm someone.  Anger became true hatred and you wished death for them.  Anger becomes hostility, which becomes violence, which becomes murder which then becomes war and then, genocide.  We all pay attention at the genocide and war and murder levels.  But none of us want to discuss the lower levels … the anger, the bitterness, the unforgiveness and the original offense … because … those are us.  They are me.  They are personal.  The big headline grabbing war/genocide, yes, those are problems we can agree must be dealt with but …

What if we stepped back for a moment and realized that the entire human dilemma – the murder, war, genocide – is just a fractal of my soul replicated to a grand scale?

more to come…