Humility & Grace and a final challenge for you…

Humility is the primary virtue God looks for when He chooses someone to advance His kingdom.

Philippians 2:3-10 —  “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.  Everyone should look out not only for their own interests, but also for the interests of others.  Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for his own advantage.  Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men.  And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death – even to death on a cross.”

Humility is ultimately expressed by choosing the posture of a servant.  The servant’s ultimate act of humility is they make their life a sacrifice for the good of others.  Jesus teaches us that a leader should serve his people.  But more than that, He teaches us a view of God that radically transforms our thinking.  Up until this moment in history, the gods were gods of power, might, fury and wisdom.  Jesus revealed that God is the purest form of humility.  Servant wasn’t new to God.  Humility was the path of God.

Matthew 11:29 — “Take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.”   The heart of God is gentle and humble.  God is a servant.  This is the quality of God we desire the least.  Servanthood is not an elevated status.  We think it is beneath God and we hope it is beneath us.

So, if this is who God is, it makes sense who He will choose and that is, the person who chooses the heart of God, he who chooses to be humble of spiritJames 4 – “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”  Humility is the attribute at the core God is looking for when He is choosing people.  Moses was chosen by God not because he was the most skilled but … Numbers 12:3 – “Moses was more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.”

God will not reject you if you’re too messed up.  You may be a mess but God does amazing things through messy people.  Broken?  God takes broken people and does amazing things through them.  Lifetime of failure?  God will not oppose you because you’re a failure, broken, not educated enough, not talented enough but God will shelve you… if you’re too proud.  God rejects the arrogant, not the sinful.

We want to be great and Jesus has a process for that  —  it is to be the servant of all.  That’s OK.  I’m happy to be a servant for now so that I can get to be great.  “if you want to be first, you must be last.”  Yes!  I’ll be last … so I can be first.  But that isn’t what Jesus means.  We’re all OK with this as long as it looks like a Jesus J-curve.  That is, I’m willing to be a servant and go down … for a while … as long as the curve turns and I eventually get to be great.

                                                                                Eventually

jcurve

  “least…last…servant”

But Jesus thinks greatness is servanthood.  Humility is the final destination.  Choosing to be last, is first.  The seat that chooses humility, servanthood and sacrifice is the seat of most honor.  The most extraordinary thing Jesus taught us about humility is that God is humble and because we’re created in His image and likeness, our souls thrive in humility.

It is only the humble that God entrusts with His power and glory.

The “incurvatus” man – that man that is curved in upon himself, focused on his needs, his desires, his agenda, his pain, his circumstances – that man is arrogant, self-centered, self-advancing.  The Excurvatus man – that man that is living outward for others, emptying himself so others can advance – at his core, when you meet a man like that, you will know his humility.  The brash, arrogant, self-promoting man seems to be the man that gets ahead in this life.  Yet, it is the humble man, the man that chooses the seat of least honor, that gives his money and talents away so others can advance, it is that man who gets “ahead” in the Kingdom to come.  It is that man who lives out and understands grace.  He understands all power is bestowed and from dirt he came and to the dirt he will return.  He knows God’s favor upon him is of no doing of his own.  He didn’t earn it.  It was given to him, freely by a God that humbled Himself even to death upon the Cross.

In the movie Les Miserables, we see such a picture.  A picture of grace.  Jean Val Jean is a criminal. He toils away for 19 years in a rock quarry of his sin.  He’s in the darkness.  He’s encouraged to knock upon a certain door and the Bishop answers the door and invites him in.  He is fed and given a bed for the night but Jean turns back to his sin despite God’s pursuit of him.  He steals the silver and leaves the light and enters back into darkness.  Later he is arrested and brought back to the Bishop (God).  He is redeemed.  Set free.  The treasure freely given to him.  Ransomed from a life of fear and hatred.

And so men, as we end The Best of Manschool, here is the call to you.  What will you do? What will you be?  The bag of silver has been thrust back into your chest.  Given to you. Unearned.  Unmerited favor just handed to you.  Before, you were a criminal.  We all were. We toiled away in our sin and God opened the door and let us in and blessed us with a bag of silver (salvation).  Now, I must ask you … what are you going to do with it?  Will your life from this day forward be all about you and your advancement … or … will you take up the heart of a servant and willingly, freely, happily give up all the treasure of this temporary world so you can go forth and advance the Kingdom of God?  

Will you?

Best of Manschool wraps up this Wednesday

This Wednesday, we will finish this year-long journey together through the “Best of” what God has brought to our Tribe.  It’s been a great year.  Rich material.  Significant breakthroughs for some and hopefully revitalized hearts for the call God has on each of our lives.

There is more.  So much more.  But is opposed and you’ve got to fight for it.  It’s oh so easy to just slip back into the mundane and drift away.  Don’t!  Fight!  Fight for the more.

Final session – this Wednesday at 6am.  Come and join us.

i-am-the-storm

The call to the outward life

You can watch this talk from Erwin McManus on iTunes.  Go to iTunes.  In the search box type “Mosaic”.  Scroll down to the podcasts and pick “Mosaic Erwin McManus”.  This talk is from September 13th “A Voice in the Wilderness”.  You can download the video or the audio.  I suggest you save this so you’ll have permanent access to it.  Here are the notes from today…

Read Mark 1:1-8 and John 1:1-12 and 19-28 in preparation for this.  Pick the Word up.  Engage with it.

We find ourselves thinking, “If God exists, He should make himself readily available to us.”   We think God is silent but we just keep losing Him in the noise that haunts our brains.

John is sent as a voice from the wilderness. “I am a voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord – just as the prophet Isaiah said.”

When John appears, there had been 400 years of silence between God and humanity.  Zechariah, his father, was a priest and had been selected to go into the Holy of Holies … his one chance at performing that ceremony.  In there, he is approached by Gabriel telling him that his wife was going to have a son named John.  Zechariah questions this – “how is this possible, my wife is old?” and he is struck silent because he did not believe.

If we are going to have a voice in wilderness, we have to commit to shatter the silence.  It is not that God isn’t speaking, He speaks through His people and they’ve lost their capacity to speak to the world.

John came as a witness to the light.  His job was to make sure the people recognized the light.  Our job is not only to shatter the silence but to dispel the darkness.

The light of God isn’t condemning – though people think it is.  When we stand in the light, we see things that had been hidden.  We blame God because He caught us naked.  We think the light made us naked.  It didn’t.  We were already naked just hidden in the dark.  The light exposed your already hidden condition.

When you step into the light, you realize it was never about revealing your brokenness but bringing your healing.  Wouldn’t it be a beautiful thing if people looked at you and me and they saw us pointing to a light that freed us from a life of guilt and shame?  Freed us from judgment and condemnation so they could trust the light because they trust us?

That’s why McManus calls his community Mosaic because they openly acknowledge they are broken and fragmented people – irregular, sometimes perceived as worthless pieces – brought together by the Masterful artist to create something beautiful when His light shines through them.

When the light and life of God dwells in us, we become a work of art and a guiding light to those who are desperate to find hope.

John came to point to the light, not the darkness.  A barbarian in the wilderness came and spoke to the people, not some pious priest from a temple.  John – in all of his dirt, grit, animal skin, eating locust and honey – could speak to the people and say “repent” and they’d listen.  The “perfect” priest from the temple could have no such effect on people as a man who’d come from the desert, where the evil spirits lived.  He’d seen battle and grit and darkness and he pointed to the light.

People don’t need you talking about God in the comfort and convenience of your safe lives.  They need to know if we can step into the darkness and come out stronger than when we went in.

It is the power of your testimony.  It is the power of “real”.  It is “authentic manhood”.

The human spirit seems drawn to domestication and away from the mystery of a life filled with adventure and risk.  Jesus didn’t save you “from the world”.  He saved you “for the world”.  The church isn’t supposed to be a hiding place to protect us from the rest of humanity.  If you believe, you do not need a safe haven.

Isaiah 40 predicts Jesus – “A voice of one crying out: Prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness; make a straight highway for our God in the desert.  Every valley will be lifted up, and every mountain and hill will be leveled; the uneven ground will become smooth, and the rough places, plain.  And the glory of the LORD will appear, and all humanity will see it together, for the LORD has spoken.  A voice was saying “Cry out!” … the grass withers and the flowers will fade but the word of our God endures forever … God is the creator of the whole earth.  He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to his understanding. He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless.  Youths may faint and grow weary, and young men will stumble and fall, but those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and now grow tired; they will walk and not grow faint.”

God is saying to you – “I know you’re weary.  I know you’re tired.  I know you’ve stumbled and have fallen.  I know you are broken and that you have weaknesses but I will pour strength into you in times of weakness, pour hope into you in times of despair.  I will pour life into you when you are nothing but death warmed over.  I don’t get tired.  I will put my strength in you and you will soar like wings of eagles.”

As believers, we know this to be true.  We are to be salt and light.  We are a mosaic of broken and fallen men but we have been restored by the Father and as His light shines through us, other men want this.

God did not save you for a cushy life.  He saved you to be a warrior in His battle – to rescue the hearts of others by the power of your testimony of what God has done in your life.

There is no greater call OUTWARD for us.  There is no greater cure for “incurvatus” living than to pour your life out for others to point them to the LIGHT.

The new LiveUP logo

Harrison Mills stepped UP.  He took the step of saying, “I have gifts and skills that I can use to make a real contribution to this Tribe” and he boldly tackled the redesign of our logo.

I love this on so many levels.  He has sat and listened and taken in what has been shared.  He’s grabbed the vision.  God is clearly moving on his heart and he took the risk of saying, “Hey, maybe I can improve some things and make a contribution”.  Amen and Amen.  Bold.  Creative.  Willing to risk.  Dreamed.  In so doing, he was LivingUP.

If you want to see it … here ya go

liveup-logoredesign-presentation-1

We’ll be redesigning the website to incorporate all of this.

Breaking out of inward living – Excurvatus Ex Se

There are many ways to break out of the cycle of inward living.  The more you “medicate”, the more inwardly you will turn thus requiring even more medication and a deeper turn inward upon self.

Medicate?  Scrolling through Instagram or Facebook.  Just cruising around the internet.  A few glasses of wine.  That need to just go buy something so you’ll feel better about yourself.  Indulging on Chipotle.  Chocolate.  Ice cream.  Shutting off from people, plugging in your ipod, opening up your laptop – listening and watching what will make you feel good.  Pornography.  Pure and simply, porn is simply medication.  Shopping for women.  A new car.  There 100s more forms of medication.  1000s.

The root of all of these is “self”.  It is sin.  You are hurting and your flesh cries out for comfort and after all, “you deserve it”.  So you dive in.  And as we discussed Wednesday, as that cycle feeds on itself, the man underneath curves inward upon himself.  He becomes domesticated.  Indoors.  Behind a screen.  Weak.  Physically weak.  Nothing strenuous.  Nothing to push him.  Just give me the meds.  Remember what Hugh Freeze said – life is going to beat you up and you’re going to want to run to the training room.  They have hot tubs and ice packs in there.  They’ll rub you down and tape you up and make you warm and you’re not going to want to get back out on that cold, rainy football field.  But you have to get back into the game.

Sadly for Americans, we’ve turned inwardly in our wealth and privilege and are consuming medication at the fastest pace in history.  It only serves to dig our holes deeper.  We’ve embraced this in the church.  We’ve adopted a Country Club Christianity where we come to church to get our needs met, to hear the kind of music we want to hear, to have our kids perfectly attended by volunteers (“someone else does that”) … we come to church to be served.  We don’t like the style of music so we walk in when the sermon starts.  Or we even leave the church because we miss those traditional Baptist hymns.  We run in, consume what is there, take communion and walk out the door before its over without having to engage in community.  We leave the church because our 10-year old isn’t happy with how kids church is going.  We’re letting our children make the family decision of where we will worship because their comfort and happiness is paramount.

It is the self-obsessed tendency we all have.  The “me, me, me” of life being there to meet all my needs.  The more we curve in on ourselves, the less prepared and equipped we’ll be for when the inevitable hard times come and isn’t that what we’re teaching our kids?  When life doesn’t go exactly “our way”, we won’t have mechanisms in place to deal with it.  As a result, we’ll make poor, me-centered decisions.

Incurvatus is our sin nature.  It must be fought.  You must be aware of it.

Because, it comes on subtly.  It takes root.  We lose our bearings.  We lose our worship of the Father.  We lose the passion of our early faith.  We settle.  We crave comfort.  In the radical transformation of your life when Jesus knocked you off your horse and said, “I’ve chosen you. Follow me” … in that … how have we now gotten to a place where our personal comfort is paramount?

What part of Jesus is “safe”?

He loves us, adores us, died for us and all He asked was “Do you love me?  Do you love me?  Then follow me.”  “Follow me” doesn’t mean a life that is safe nor one that is inwardly curved upon itself craving comfort.

Do you see what’s happening?  We are consuming and consuming and consuming and in so doing, we’re turning in on ourselves.  Listen to this challenge from Erwin McManus …

“If you are a follower of Christ and you have allowed yourself to be domesticated, you have lost the power of who you are and who God intends you to be.  You were not created to be normal.  God’s desire for you is not compliance and conformity.  You have been baptized by spirit and fire.”

“Asleep within you is a barbarian, a savage to all who love the prim and proper.  You must go to the primal place and enter the presence of the Most High God, for there you will be changed. Let Him unleash the untamed faith within you.”

“The original call of Jesus was so simple, so clean, so clear: “Follow me”.  He wants us to surrender our lives to Him and follow Him into the unknown.  If it means a life of suffering, hardship and disappointment, it will be worth it because following Jesus is more powerful and more fulfilling than gaining everything of the world without Him.”

“To claim we believe is simply not enough.  The call of Jesus is one that demands actions.  Jesus began his ministry with a simple invitation, “Come, follow me”.  His closing words to His disciples could be summarized in one word, “GO”.  The invitation of Jesus is a revolutionary call to fight for the heart of humanity.”

YOUR CALL IS ONE OUTSIDE OF SELF.  IF YOU ARE A BELIEVER, THEN AT SOME POINT IN YOUR LIFE, CHRIST CAME ALONG AND KNOCKED YOU OFF YOUR HORSE.  LAYING THERE, BROKEN, FACE DOWN IN THE DUST OF THE DESTRUCTION OF YOUR SIN, YOU WERE AWAKENED BY CHRIST.  “NOW GET UP” HE SHOUTS.  “WAKE UP!”  “I HAVE A DIVINE PURPOSE FOR YOU AND YOUR LIFE.  IT IS WAY BEYOND SELF.  IT’S WAY BEYOND COMFORT.  IT IS RADICAL.  FOLLOW ME”. 

Lastly, from Teddy Roosevelt.  Weak as a child and sickly, his father told him, “You’re smart but your body is weak.  A weak body will take a smart mind only so far”.  Teddy started weight training and exercising.  It served him well throughout life.  Later in life, he lost his wife and mother in one 24 hour period.  Crushed and despondent, he knew he had to zero back in and get healing in his life.  He gave his young daughter to his sister for her to care and he headed West…

Why did he go?  Why such a dramatic move?  The answer seems to be that Roosevelt needed to restore and rebuild and he knew only one way to do it: return to the strenuous and the difficult.  Perhaps those hours of lifting weights and balancing on horizontal bars had surfaced forces of soul he needed to summon once again.  Perhaps a return to the arduous physical life was the only way he knew to quell the turmoil of his heart.  Obviously, he needed space, wilderness, difficult tasks, and looming danger.  He knew this was the key to healing.  He had experienced this truth in his life before.

After arriving in the Dakotas, Roosevelt did not spend three years in a comfortable chair by the fire with a brandy in one hand and a book in the other.  Instead, he became the western hero of his dreams.  He herded cattle and broke bucking horses.  He stood down grizzlies and fought off desperados.  On one occasion, he tracked down thieves for three days across 300 miles in subzero temperatures.  Once he took the criminals captive, he then traveled another six days and 150 miles to surrender them to authorities.  And the wilderness healed him.  He tamed the wilderness around him by way of taming the wilderness of his own soul.  He grieved and got through it.  He lived in the moment, in the physical, and in intimate connection with nature.  It forced him from living entirely in his thoughts to living a rooted, earthy life in which thoughts come only after work is done.

All men need what Roosevelt found – a strenuous physical life, the possibility of harm, challenges to face, enemies to oppose, land to conquer.  Our lives push us away from this.  We work in cubicles or comfortable vehicles.  Technology serves us and keeps us from exertion.  We live in opulent blandness – overfed, over-tended, over-entertained, and overly preoccupied with ourselves.  But men need aggressive, physical lives.  They need contest and conquest, strain and struggle.  Otherwise, we lose ourselves to softness and effeminacy.  It is not much of a surprise that a New Testament world that is translated effeminate from the original Greek actually means “soft through luxury”.  It is a warning. 

Roosevelt reminds us we are not disembodied spirits.  We are souls sealed into bodies.  We need to work the machinery, be alive in both body and soul.  It will awaken the masculinity in us.  It will help us untangle our inner knots.  It will remind us we are men.   (from the book Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men)

 

curving inward upon your self

The quest is a life lived outward … for others.  Not living with the “consumption assumption” – whereby you assume if it is there, it is all there for you to consume.  But to first learn to live outward, we must understand the opposite.  That is, the Incurvatus In Se – man turned in on himself.

This is from author Heather Choate Davis …

Augustine coined the phrase in the 5th century. Martin Luther resuscitated it a thousand years later. It is the best definition of sin I’ve ever heard.  Look around.  Never in the history of the world have the words Man Turned in on Himself been more apt.  And never have we been more in denial about what that means, and the cost of it.  The word sin— once recognized in all cultures and faiths as a given in the human condition— is hardly used outside of churches anymore.  Even there it is often glossed over in favor of more appealing terms like grace and hope and love.  Sin sounds archaic to our post-modern ears, which are protected by ear buds playing only what we want to hear, and laptops broadcasting only what we want to read or think about, 24 hours a day.  But if we think by taking the word sin out of circulation, we have rendered it obsolete—some dusty old religious label for prigs and preachers—we’re kidding ourselves.  The apostle John said it better: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)

Nothing clears a room faster than the word sin.

Sin. Sin. Sin. Sin. Sin.  That’s all you Christians talk about and we’re sick of it.  We don’t need it.  We don’t want it.  And we don’t believe in it anyway.  So says the culture in 21st-century America.

But denying sin’s existence doesn’t make it go away.  And without the recognition of sin, the gift of grace means nothing.

So where do we start?  Incurvatus in se.  Man turned in on himself.  Sin as the slippery slope of “me, me, me”.  As the roiling sea we each contribute to and are then forced to swim in—us in our hoodies with our ear buds in, blocking out any and all input that does not delight or serve us, perpetually curving in on a world of our own creation.

That America is a monument to individualism is not news, but increasingly we can see the cracks: isolation, depression, apathy, anxiety, narcissism, addiction.  Where once there was purpose, confidence, belonging, and hope, now there is more of a gnawing void.  Now we trade in the town square for laptops behind which we disappear, hide, seeking to dwell unchallenged in worlds of our own design, ideology, ambitions, pleasures, secrets, shame, terror.  We are masters of our own free will, but still we cry out in the dark each night, “who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)

Man Turned in On Himself gives shape to this brokenness.  Just picture a body curved in on itself—in the fetal position, say.  The shape of the curve protects and defends the thing it is turned in on, guarding it and the right to have it to oneself in the secret shadow of the curve.  It also creates a barrier between the heart’s desire and the things it wants to keep at bay: judgment, change, help, love, God. When man is turned in on his own desires, the world—despite his best efforts to the contrary— becomes smaller and darker.  Without access to any power greater than himself—and with the sudden realization that he is, in fact, only human—he becomes trapped in the “hamster wheel” of his own thoughts and enslaved by his own feelings and desires.

Is it hard to imagine, then, that this perpetual incurvatus state would lead us to create—and be subject to living in—a nation where, over the past 30 years, anxiety disorders have increased by 1200%?  According to the World Health Organization, America is, by a wide margin, the most anxious country on earth.  If you don’t personally struggle with anxiety, it is a statistical certainty that someone in your inner circle does.  And nearly half of those who suffer from anxiety will, according to Andrew Solomon, develop major depression within five years.

Enter the smart phone and gaming and Facebook and Tinder and Snapchat and a few thousand new apps a week, all to help us cope with our anxiety or our quest for control, and all drawing us every further in on ourselves (just a few more minutes) and away from the needs of the real (and often demanding) others in our midst.

This is the just one of the faces of sin lived out in the 21st-century.  And we don’t need a preacher or a Bible or a church to see it.  Because we already know.  It was, in fact, written on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33) and our clenched spirits testify to it everyday: the more we turn in on ourselves to increase our sense of control or avoid our myriad sufferings, the more we become a slave to that seeking and avoiding.

"Bound Figure" by Brian Main

It is in light of this “slavery” that Jesus promises “we will know the truth and the truth will set us free” (John 8:32).  That he speaks into the still, small place in our hearts, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).  And that He watches over us even as we reject Him, even as we turn inward again and again and again, issuing the same invitation he’s made to every man, woman, and child who came before us, and will make to all who come after we’re gone. “Turn back to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12). “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45: 22).

What will you do with your platform?

If you are a believer in Christ and have been saved and freed from the bondage of your sin, then God has a purpose for your life.  He saved you for a specific reason, a specific purpose.  That purpose is outside of “self”.  Self is the old sin nature we all possess and even as a believer, there is a constant battle against the flesh.  But we’ve been offered the keys to escape the bondage of self.  That is … a life outside of self.  A life lived outward.

You have a platform.  We all do.  God has given you this platform.  He expects you to do something with it.  Like the parable of the talents, the men were given 1, 2 and 5 talents.  Each of us have been given our “talents” or our platform.  Those men that got 1, 2 or 5, before they were given this, they had zero.  Nothing.  The talents were given to them and the Master expected them to do something with them.

The same is true for you.  Whatever your platform – no matter how large or how small it, no matter if it impacts 3 people or 300 or 30,000 – God expects you to maximize your impact on those in your platform.  You need to understand what your “it” is in life.  “It” is to be the “salt of the earth and the light of the world” Matthew 5:13-14.  Your “it” is real simple – it is to impact and influence others for the glory of God through the platform He has given you.

Coaching is not Hugh Freeze’s purpose, it’s just his platform.

Obstacles to your platform

  1. Looking at everyone else’s platform. It distracts you from being intentional and influential with the platform God has given you.
  2. Opposition will come. Fear can distract us from living out our platform.  Your platform comes with opportunity.  Fear can take that away from you.  What warriors do is charge into the fear, not shy away from it.  David “ran quickly to the battle”.
  3. God’s timing is not always ours. His answer sometimes is “no”.  But I’d rather live with Him – even if the answer is no – knowing He has my back, than I would live in this world without Him.

We have to have a game plan to accomplish our “it”…

  1. We must be more intentional about being in relationship with God. lifejournal.cc and the Divine Mentor (a daily walk through the Bible) is how Coach Freeze does it.  Every day, the program takes you into God’s word and God has used it in amazing ways to give him the exact verse he needs that day to answer tough questions he brings to God.  He prays on the way to work and gives God his list of “Things I need you to guide me on today Lord” and then he goes into Divine Mentor and seeks God’s answers.  God will speak if you are intentional about seeking Him.  We will get it wrong without Him.
  2. Have an attitude about you – it is the way you think about yourself, it is what you believe about yourself and who you are in Christ. Attitude is the way we talk about ourselves and the platform we’ve been given.  Something should be different about us if we’re going to impact others in our platform.
  3. We must stay in the game – when life beats you up (and it will), you’re going to be tempted to retreat to the training room to get relief. When it gets rough, we’re going to want to stay in the training room soaking in a hot tub and not go back out on the field.

The thing about us Christians is that we win in the end.  We’ll get through these trials and setbacks by God’s grace and through His mercy and we know, we win in the end.  1 Cor 15:57 “your work for the Lord is not in vain”.  Stay in the game.  The right kind of man has the ability to finish.  It doesn’t mean you won’t stump your toe or get beaten up or even have a train wreck along the way … but …  you have the ability to finish.  Get back in the game and finish.

Be in the game.  Be salt and light with the platform God’s given you.  God gave you this platform – whether it reaches 3 or 300 or 3,000 – it is your platform and He’s got you there for a reason.

He wants you to stay in the game for His glory.  Watch this video.  There are priceless treasures in here…

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” … 

Live, Live, Live…

In the context of Louie Giglio’s talk about “In the presence of my enemies, the Lord has prepared a table for me” and Andy Stanley’s “Guardrails” and then in the context of sex and temptation, please watch this very familiar film clip …

All the residents of heaven peering over the wall of the castle watching us here battle and struggle and the whole host of heaven, the cloud of witnesses are just cheering us on, just rooting for us, the coliseum just shouting “Live, Live, Live”.  They were rooting for his death moments ago.  There is some strength, some confidence that comes to us and we say – “You can call me whatever you want – stupid, idiot, seagull, failure – whatever that name was, whatever that message you were given.  You can put me in the crappiest circumstances but I KNOW who I am.” 

Men, if we forget that, or we’ve never heard it, or we lose it or we see so many signs that say “You can’t” or “You shouldn’t” or “Not you, maybe someone else, but not you”.  The wounds we have can just extend through the years and in face of those, how do you become that man?  You ask God.  You take all that you know and have read about your identity in Christ and all the truth about what God has done for you and you pound on the door and say, “Lord, take this and just embed it in my being.  Remove everything contra and counter that just shouts the truth down and assaults me.”

Maximus knew who he was.  He wasn’t afraid to face his enemy.  He stood in the face of tyranny and temptation and was a man who said, “No.  Not me.  I won’t give in.  There is a better way and I’m willing to die for what I believe in.”

It is same with you and me.  Temptation will come.  I must have my boundaries.  I must know who I am.  I must know what lines I will not cross.  Remember back to Louie – the enemy is always around.  He doesn’t sleep.  He doesn’t eat.  He’s awake 24/7 prowling around.  He reads your mail.  He knows where you are weak and he’ll try to exploit your weaknesses.

He’s looking for a crack.  A crevice.  A small opening.  Anything to try to get to you.  It can be a weakness in your character.  It can be a life experience – abuse, a dad who abandoned you, a failure of yours in business or a past relationship.

Or … it can be a door you open.  Get that.  You open it.  By opening the door, you invite it in.  An affair.  Porn.  You’re inviting a world of destruction upon you by peering into this.  PORN – by clicking on that link, you are literally inviting evil into your life.  Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.  You’re inviting the destructive in to live among the Holy.

This is why Paul urges us with the command, “Flee from sexual immorality”.  Flee.  Run.  It couldn’t be clearer.  You honor God with your bodies – which are temples of the Holy Spirit.  The litmus test for us is “Is what I am about to do dishonoring God?”  If it dishonors God and his commands, flee.

We are calling one another UP to a higher standard.

So back to the image Craig shared with us,

When you’re contemplating flirting with that woman at work…

When you’re tempted to cruise her facebook page to peer at her pictures…

When you think about driving by her home…

When you’re tempted to surf some porn to try to find some relief …

When you’re contemplating compromising your beliefs …

Remember the whole host of heaven is peering over the wall looking down shouting the encouragement to you of “LIVE.  LIVE.  LIVE”.

 the-very-best-me