“me” has to die (part 2)

The root of all sin is “me”.  It is self.  It is your flesh.  It is the “immediate”.  It explains why we have all this credit card debt.  “I want it, I get it, I figure out how to pay for it later”.  I justify.  I rationalize.  “I need this”.  “I deserve this”.  “Why can he have a 70 inch HDTV but I can’t?”  “Everyone else does this, why can’t I?”

Go back and re-read that first paragraph and look at all the I’s.   Me, me, me, it’s all about me.  That’s a pathway to death.  Living for “me” is sin and it’ll take you places you never wanted to go and extract a cost from you that you never wanted to pay.

Me-first explains why we don’t tithe.  Tithing is a radical statement of faith that my money will not own me.  By giving it away (giving first), I am standing in defiance of “me first” and my flesh.  I’m radically surrendering Lordship of my money over to God.  It is surrender.

Surrender is the very opposite of sin/me/flesh.  Surrender is Lordship.  It is acknowledging I am not master of my life and in fact, if left unchecked, my flesh will consume my life and all those around me that I love.  Surrender is acknowledging that if left to my own devices, I’d consume like locusts.  Surrender is admitting you’re weak.  It’s a beautiful thing.   In my weakness, God is strong.  

Some guys can drink and escape the risks.  Others of us have no business drinking.  It’s too wide an open door.  There is too much risk.  Maybe alcoholism runs in your family and you’ve bought the lie that you’re immune to the risks.  No one is immune to risk.  We have an enemy who does not fight fair and is the master of all lies and if you don’t think you’ll ever get hooked, you’re buying a lie. Some guys don’t really struggle with pornography.  But others of us know it is a vast weak spot and if tempted, we will take the bait.  In truth, no man is immune to it.  If you’ve ever looked at it, you struggle with it.  If you’ve ever looked at it, there is a temptation to go back.  That’s what Satan does.  His hooks cut deep and have big barbs on them.  Getting them out of your flesh is hard.

Sexual temptation, pornography, sending Facebook friend requests to pretty neighbors, flirting, wondering/wandering is “me”.  Taking a few drinks every night to numb the pain and escape.  Toys. Overspending.  Overeating.  Carrying around rage, envy, hatred, comparison, jealousy.  These are all about me and my needs and finding stimulation elsewhere from God.

Satan will use any and all to take you down.  “Be on alert, your enemy, the Devil, prowls around like a hungry lion looking for someone to devour.”  Flirt with that pretty sales rep who calls on you and think you’ve above it?  Don’t kid yourself.  He knows your weaknesses and he’s just looking for an open door.  “Please Bubba, please give me an open door, just take a second look, send her a text, send her a friend request, agree to go to lunch with her.  It won’t hurt anyone.”  He’s prowling around and you may be his lunch.

Go back and look at the post from October 5, 2016.  Watch the Louie Giglio talk again.  Remember that talk.  Don’t forget it.  God prepares a table for you in the midst of your enemies.  (don’t kid yourself, God himself is telling you that your enemies surround you)  The table is there.  There is all this chaos swirling around — it’s just you and God.  He wants you focused on Him.  His provision is there.  Just keep your eyes on Him.  Those temptations will come and it is when you turn in your chair from facing God and start engaging in those conversations in the chaos is when you get in trouble.  “Self” is going to want to turn to those temptations.  “Me” is going to get bored with God and turn to the shiny lures.

“Me” … has to die.  Battling sin is first acknowledging it and second, repenting it.  I must first own it without any rationalizing or justifying.  There is no justifying sin.  Then, I must turn from it.  Repent = turn from.  180 degree U-turn.  Flee from it.  Run.  Quit drinking.  Be willing to go get help if you need it.  Own it.  Close your Facebook account.  Put the filters on your laptop and give your wife full access to it and your phone.  Never, ever go to lunch or dinner with another woman.  Purge any and all avenues that are potentially open doors.

Will it be fun?  No.  Is it needed?  Absolutely.  If you want God to restore, you’re going to have to take some bold steps.  He will meet you there.  All this mess in your life?  God can turn a mess into a miracle.  You just have to be willing to kill “me”.  Listen to this song and especially John Piper’s words in the middle of it.  God’s slaying of “me” is serving a purpose.  He’s not asking anything of you that His Son hasn’t overcome.  God is calling us to slay self so He can work His Divine purpose in and through our lives.  Remember in your weakness, He is strong…

You’re saved. Why don’t you believe it?

Actions speak louder than words.  Many of us say we are saved (and we are) but we live like we’re not.  We live under a blanket of condemnation and shame.  It comes from the enemy, the words and opinions of others and it comes from our own mistakes.  Watch the testimony from Big Daddy Weave about how he was living out his faith …

His entire life, he’d stamped the word “failure” over himself.  He opened a door to the enemy to come in and hold that over him.  Mike made an “agreement” that we talk so much about in Manschool.  He listened to the wrong voice.  He lost 84 pounds in a year but didn’t hit his goal of 90 pounds and so, immediately, shame and “failure” set in upon him.  The weight piled back on.

And then, one day at his lowest point, he asked God, “Why can’t I love myself?”  The Holy Spirit came upon his heart and said, “Mike, you need to let me tell you what I think about you for once.”  And God loved him there in that moment.  That encounter was the inspiration for the song “Redeemed”.

Derrick reminded us this morning that our brokenness is not the end of our story.  God desires to heal us and make us whole.  It is a process of sanctification.  The offer of restoration is freely given to all who believe and profess Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  Psalm 32 (see the earlier post) reminds us that He “took away the guilt/shame of our sin”.

Salvation is the path to wholeness.  You ARE saved.  Live like it!  Humble yourself to the magnitude of the GRACE extended to you upon the Cross!  Because He so loved you … He gave it all.

Wholeness comes.  Rejoice!  It starts with the immediate.  The moment you surrendered and invited Jesus into your heart, the process of wholeness started in your life.  But, you were not whole in that moment.  Keith reminded us that the minute you say “I do”, you are a husband.  But… you have no clue what truly being a husband is all about.  That comes over your lifetime. The same is true with wholeness.  It starts with salvation.  In that moment, God sees us as whole through Jesus but He also starts the process of making us whole.  So, it is immediate and then it comes over time.  We don’t get fully there in this life.  In eternity, the construction will be complete and we’ll be fully restored, fully whole.

Ask Him.  Ask Father what He thinks about you.  Take the question of who you are to the ONE who created you.  He thinks you’re amazing.  It’s time to start believing Him.

How much time do you have for the Father? (great song included)

As we discussed this week, there are all kinds of reasons to keep the Father at arms length in our attempt to “do life” all by ourselves.  One of the core tenants of LiveUP is that if a man attempts to do this life alone, he is going to be taken out.  Don’t even think about going it alone.  You NEED tribe.  You NEED community.  You NEED a handful of men around you to fight for you.

And, most importantly, you NEED the Father.  He waits.  He just wants you to pull up chair on the porch and start a conversation with Him.

I am reminded of the great John Piper quote that I’ll leave with you as food for thought…

“Facebook and Twitter (and I’ll add the ESPN app) exist if only to prove that prayerlessness was not due to a lack of time.”

Ouch.  Where are you spending your time?

You’ve got the time.  He’s got the ears.  Take it to Him.

Lastly, check out this song.  If you’re truthful and you open your heart and drop your defenses, it’ll be hard to hear these words and not have the tears flow.  It fits perfectly with what we discussed this week at Manschool…

Relief or Restoration – which one will you go to?

First, here is the song we sang with those amazing scenes…

It is so easy to forget this is a world at war.  There is a massive collision of kingdoms underway.  If we struggle keeping our passion for God or can’t seem to love people well, it is the effect of this sustained attrition against us.  Because of this war, your soul takes a lot of damage.

The soul is a crucial part of your being.  It has enormous capacity for love, passion, beauty, wonder, curiosity, etc.  In war, actual damage can be done to your soul.  Proverbs 12:18 “Reckless words pierce like a sword.”  Psalm 31:17 “You have known the troubles of my soul.”  Psalm 6:3 “My soul is in deep anguish.”  It is a war of attrition – the enemy is wearing you down, wearing you down.   Your inner reserves wither away.

The glorious news is that God restores the soul.  Psalm 23.  Without the restoration, the attrition of the war will wither you soul away so it becomes so insubstantial it cannot handle the picture of Heaven – that is the glorious, the substantial, the growing.  Mark 8:37 asks, “Is anything worth more than your soul?”  Is it?  If your answer is “no”, then you’d better take the restoration of your soul more seriously.

Restoration and relief are not the same thing.  Most of us go to relief.  We’re beat up, spent, withering away and we go to relief.  A few beers, ice cream, cruising the internet, a few hours of TV – anything to comfort us.  Relief does not bring about restoration for the soul.  It doesn’t heal it, restore it or make it stronger for the next time.  We go to comfort and it just doesn’t work.  It’s so momentary.  Or… we just check out and go numb (a form of relief).

While this is going on, again and again and again, we’re getting worn down and vulnerable.  The more you turn to relief, the more vulnerable you get.  And the more dangerous stuff starts to look like relief – heroin, your secretary, pornography – and a guy just gets taken out.  Wearing you down, wearing you down and you’re handling that by checking out, vegging, eating, drinking, masturbating.   Worn down = vulnerable.

How God restores.  Psalm 23 – “He makes me lie down in green pastures and rest beside peaceful streams”.  It is a process.  He “makes” me.  Stillness and beauty are two of the many things God uses to restore your soul.

Think of the volume of information and noise that you process daily vs. what your Grandfather had to process.  You’re going to have to be forced into stillness to achieve it.  Your soul literally needs to do nothing on a regular basis.  When you get some stillness and peace, soak it in.  Guard against the oncoming “I need to do ___” list rushing into your mind.  Stop.  Focus on “do nothing”.  Rest in stillness and the sunshine, the breeze, the blue sky.  It is Sabbath.

Beauty – green pastures, still waters – there is nothing like beauty to restore the soul. Where do you drink in Beauty?  The human soul has enormous thirst for beauty.  The reason a lot of men get taken out by sex is because they are not regularly taking in beauty.

Two Questions…

How often do you practice stillness?

Where do you drink in beauty?

Ask for it.  Ask God to restore your soul.  Put yourself in an available position and ask.  Repeat it.  Ask again.  “Lord, restore my soul”.  Consume scripture – not “Bible study” – no, just read the Psalms, read Ephesians, just let the Scripture wash over your soul.

Abstain from some things.  What you withdraw your soul from is important.  1 Peter 2:11 “Friends … abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.”  Whatever it is that you use for comfort, before you go to it, pause, ask “Jesus, comfort me.  I need comfort”.  Turn your attention towards Christ and invite Him to bring you comfort.

When you’re very aware that your soul has been assaulted or when you find yourself looking for relief … realize your soul is hurting and you’re turning to false gods for comfort.  So much of the addictions of men is not about money, sex, alcohol, etc., it is about relief. Remember, relief does not restore.  God restores.

The man to man, in your face question is — What are you going to do each day, each week to allow God to restore your soul?  Because here’s the thing, the “it” is out there.  “It” will wear you down.  Not “might” wear you down, no, it “will” wear you down.  It’s coming against your soul.  You will wither under its constant oppression.  So the attack is coming and you’ve got a choice to make – are you going to go to relief or radically pursue restoration?  As they say in this next clip, If you never get away to think about your life and sort things out, life will swallow you up.  You need someplace you can go” … 

I am locked tight on God face to face…

As she so beautifully sings…

“Don’t look to the right or the left, keep your eyes on Me.  You will not be shaken, You will not be moved.  When the storm rages, I won’t be afraid, because I am locked tight on You face to face.  Your voice I will follow, Your eyes I will see.  I’ll come a little closer.  Come close to me because You are my anchor in the wind and the waves.  You are my steadfast and I won’t be afraid cause even in the darkest night, I will honor Your name.  If my heart and flesh fail me,  You are my strength…”

As far as the east is from the west … Shame

Shame is one of the greatest obstacles we face in our quest to draw upon the Life of God and to enjoy authentic relationship with Christ.  We all carry shame and it is devastating because in carrying it, we are nurturing it.  We aren’t letting it go, aren’t giving it over to God and we are listening to voices that convince us we cannot be accepted by God because of this thing we have in our past that we carry around and maintain.  Remember the lyrics from that song, “I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the ways He loves us…”

Many of us formed our view of God as small children.  Those that came to know God as adults have a radically different view of God.  Neuroscientists confirm that If we can just alter our view of God – even by as little as 10% – it can transform our life.

“God just wants to punish me. He keeps track of all my mistakes.  He is spiteful” – these are usually shaped by authority figures in our life – my Dad, Catholic school teachers, Baptist preachers, teaching of “I’m just a sinner saved by grace”.

The people who taught you “God is judgmental” were judgmental themselves.  We all judge.  God wasn’t keeping track of your mistakes, they were.  God wasn’t judging you for everything you did wrong, they were.  God wasn’t watching everything you did just looking for how you screwed up, they were.  They were communicating to you who God was and we need to change that.

Psalm 103:8-12 “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and full of faithful love.  He will not always accuse us or be angry forever.  He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve or repaid us according to our offenses.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His faithful love toward those who fear Him.  As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

It doesn’t matter how far you’ve drifted from God, He still considers you His baby.  You can’t run away from God’s love.

“God is disappointed in me” might have come from an authority figure – but – it might have come from you.  We carry shame.  We maintain and nurture it.  What you feed grows, what you starve dies.  If you keep resurfacing the shame in your life – in effect nurturing it – it will continue to grow.  I’m harder on myself than anyone else.  We beat ourselves up.  Self-loathing and self-hatred are one of the most common reasons people reject the grace of God.

I’ve done stupid things in my life, things I’d give anything to erase from my past but … I’ve never done anything that was as damaging to my soul as the shame I’ve carried for it.

I have this crazy voice in my life that just keeps fighting for attention and space saying, “You are not enough.  Not enough for them, not enough for her, your life is not enough.”  This is the voice of shame. “You’re not enough because of your mistakes, because of who you were, because of what you did and where you’ve gone, you’re not enough because of what you don’t have or because of what they do have.”

Shame is a heavy burden I project on God because I am disappointed in me and God must be too.  We all carry something we wish we could erase.  How could God want me if I have this thing in my life?  I wish I could go back and get a do-over.  “God just give me a chance to go back in time and do that thing over again so I can avoid that huge mistake.”

And God would say, What mistake?  What are you talking about?  I took those mistakes and cast them as far as the east is from the west remembering them no more.  You can go back in time if you want but they aren’t there.  They’re gone.  You are free.  These aren’t part of your past and they aren’t a part of your future.” 

Jesus must be so confused because I keep bringing up things He forgot.  “Why did I die on that cross if you were going to keep dragging it around with you?”

It is time to live in the grace of God and who He says you are and not in the disappointment of who you think you could have been or what you could have done.  Jim Finley – “Every time we stumble and fall and every time we rise again, God can barely stand the bliss of it.”   Because our mistakes are the material of God’s grace.  It’s His favorite thing to do.  It’s His favorite thing when I say, “God, I’ve really screwed up” and He says, “Give it to me, this is my favorite thing”.  My darkness is the material for His grace and light to shine through.  If you are carrying shame and are hard on yourself, you’re going to be hard on others.  Shame and judgment will carry over to others vs. embracing grace.

It’s a radical shift to extend grace to others and suspend judgment.  Question – “Do I breathe judgment or grace on those closest in my life?”  Try suspending judgment for just one week that those around me will not know disappointment, shame or judgment and instead, they will know I love them and look at them the way God does.  I don’t need to withhold my love and hope they change.  I don’t need to ransom my approval and hope they act differently.  All I need to do is breathe grace on them.

I’m done with shame.  Done with my mistakes and my past and I will not be defined by it.  I will allow God to do what God came to do when Jesus said, “Give me all of it”.

Grace was this dangerous thing Jesus introduced to the world.  He doesn’t want you perfect.  Perfect was left on the cross.  He just wants you close and is calling out, pleading … “Stop using your mess-ups and mistakes as an excuse to stay alone and far away from me.  I just want you close”

So this is it men, it is time.  It is time to let it go.  If you have confessed it, repented of it and would give anything to erase it from your past, then it is time.  It is gone.  It is as far away from you as the east is from the west and God has no record of it — so — why do you still carry it?  Freedom, sweet freedom is on the other side of letting it go.

Shannon Etheridge’s story – she’d lived with the shame of her past sexual promiscuity and was beaten down into believing God could do nothing with her.  She felt the nudging to tell her story but feared, “God what will they think of me?” and God told her, “It doesn’t matter.  The only thing that matters is what they think of Me.  How will they know what my long arm of mercy and love can do in a person’s life if you won’t tell them about the depth of the pit from which I rescued you?”  And so, she told her story.  Repeatedly.  And it spread all over the country and became a ministry to women dealing with the sexual junk in their past and the condemnation and shame they feel and as she says, He took my misery and made it a ministry.”  Amen to that.

The same is offered to you.  Bring it out of the darkness where it is eating you alive.  Expose it to the Light.  Share it with a brother in our tribe you can trust or your small group of men.  Get it out of the dark and start taking the steps to let it go so you can step into freedom where God takes a mess and makes it a miracle!

And to celebrate the freedom of this release, the freedom of feeling like we have to be perfect to earn God’s favor, we ended today with a rocking celebration of the Cross…