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).