Your love never fails

After Manschool this morning, this song came on my playlist.  The words were timely…

Nothing can separate.  Even if I ran away.  Your love never fails

I know I still make mistakes.  But You have new mercies for me everyday.  Your love never fails

You stay the same through the ages.  Your love never changes.  There maybe pain in the night but joy comes in the morning

And when the oceans rage, I don’t have to be afraid because I know that You love me.  Your love never fails

The wind is strong and the water’s deep but I’m not alone here in these open seas cause Your love never fails

The chasm is far too wide.  I never thought I’d reach the other side.  But Your love never fails.  You make, all things, work together for my good.

What are you doing – daily – to draw upon the Vine and stay connected to the Father?  Men, as we’ve discussed about fear and now rejection, there are opposing forces fighting us each and every day.  There is pain in the night.  I will make mistakes.  Oceans will rage, the wind is strong and the waters are deep.  But His love never fails me.

To combat this onslaught, we worship.  To combat this, we pray.  To combat this, we get in the Word.  

You cannot hear songs like this one enough.  Play it.  Repeat.  Repeat it again.  Your time in your car is valuable time.  Make it a time of restoration.  Fortify.  Draw upon the Vine.  Hear the words and let them heal you.  Be reminded that you’re God’s beloved son in whom He is well pleased.

 

 

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Fear and your Promised Land

Why worship matters …

I’ve seen you move, come move the mountains and I believe, I’ll see you do it again.  You made a way, where there was no way and I believe, I’ll see you do it again.  Walking around these walls I thought by now they’d fall but you have never failed me yet.  Waiting for change to come, knowing the battle’s won, for you have never failed me yet.  Your promise still stands.  Great is your faithfulness.  I’m still in your hands.  This is my confidence, You’ve never failed me yet.  I know the night won’t last.  Your word will come to pass.  My heart will sing your praise again.  Jesus you’re still enough.

It matters.   So much.

The attack of the enemy will come.  We do not live in Eden.  There are giants in the land taunting us but we have to see beyond the giant.  We must cast our eyes upon the Victor.  We know the war is over – we know the the Winner.  Faith trumps fear – “yes, giant you are big and you taunt and yes, you can knock me down (if I let you) … BUT … I see beyond you and you’re already dead, you just don’t know it yet.  I do.  I’m looking past you to Jesus and He’s WAY bigger than you or anything you can throw at me.”

We win by faith.  We win by our worship.  We win by believing in our Promised Land. 

Fear is a giant – one of the most common giants that must fall.  Fear can taunt us and harm us.  Fear can get a foothold in our lives and begin to dominate us.  Fear can demoralize us and ultimately diminish God’s glory in our lives – i.e. the way we reflect God’s glory.  The way we show the world who God is and our ability to walk out our testimony – that’s what is lessened.

It doesn’t always look like fear.  Are you anxious, nervous, worried, stressed or feeling dread?  Are you tense or having stomach problems?  Is sleep very hard for you?  There’s a good chance fear is at work.  Fear chews away at our lives and erodes our sense of confidence and well-being.  It robs us of sleep and rest.  Fear blinds us and steals our praise.

Fear seeks to obscure our view of God and crush our confidence.  It will yell insults to try to convince us that we’re going to live with this giant the rest of our lives.

The opposite of fear is not being bold and courageous.  The opposite of fear is faith.  Faith beings by us saying, “I have confidence in God that He is bigger than this giant.”

Americans are the most medicated culture in the history of mankind.  We take prescriptions by the millions for worry, stress, anxiety, despair and terror – all cousins of fear.  Some get medication from their doctor and some from a bottle.  But the end goal is always the same.  We want to take the edge off.  We want to decompress.  We just want to forget about the things that are troubling us for a while.  We want to not be afraid.  The answer for fear is seldom as simple as saying, “fear, go away in Jesus’ name.”  Fear is symptom of a deeper cause.

Goliath was a champion.  He had a record, a history and that’s significant because a lot of us have a history with our giants.  These giants didn’t just show up this morning.  You’ve been battling some of these for years, decades.  Ever heard these voices?

Remember when you went to that retreat and promised how your life was going to change?  Guess what, it didn’t.

Remember that time you thought you were going to be all big and bold and you lit a candle by your bed and said, “the light of God is with me?”  Too bad sucker, I still won out on that day.

Remember that time you went to church and they had that message on life change, and you thought you felt something different that day?  Nope, nothing changed.  Won’t then.  Won’t now

That’s the voice of your Goliath.

He harassed them for 40 days and 40 nights.  He came out every morning and every night.  He started the day taunting, and he ended the day taunting.  He started the day demoralizing and diminishing, and he ended the day demoralizing and diminishing.  Giants are relentless.  They don’t take days off.

So, we must battle.  It isn’t one quick prayer and this is behind me.  No, he’s far too crafty for that.  He will come back.  This is daily.  It is drawing upon the Vine.  It is worship.  It is soaking in God’s Word.  It is daily conversation with Father.  It is preparing before you go into toxic environments, girding with prayer and inviting God in ahead of you.  It is a process.  Day by day.

God paid it all – for you – you are incredibly valuable.  You have a Promised Land – the area God created you for where you can thrive and cast glory to God.  The enemy is trying to dominate your thoughts, mind, will and emotions to keep you from seeing your creative value and seeing the price Heaven paid for you.  Bad fear is chronic and debilitating – that is not from God.  It’s a controlling spirit by the devil to keep us off our promised land.  Once I understand that isn’t me, but a separate identity, I can begin to take authority over it.

By believing this and pursuing our Promised Land, we keep our eyes on God and what He believes about us and there is no room for the roaring lion.  When he roars, we roar back!

“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” …