the giving tree …

slides from today > Goliath 2

The giants we face – fear, rejection, comfort, anger, addiction, self – all are designed to knock us into an “inward life”.  That wrapped up in our fear or our desire for comfort, we are curving in upon ourselves.  It’s exactly what the enemy wants you to do.

It’s a small life.  It may be safe to be wrapped up in seeking your comfort in the safety of your four walls – but it is a very small life.  There is an old saying, “A ship in the harbor is safe but that isn’t what ships are built for” … your life has a grander purpose than “self”.  As a believer in Christ, the call upon your life is very much a call outward.

We are going to spend this fall going after the giants in our lives.  Jesus has already slayed all the giants.  The work is done.  It is finished.  That said, we don’t live in Eden.  We live in a swamp and the enemy is still trying to take you down and one of his worst tricks is to hammer you with fear, rejection, addiction, etc. to try to defeat you and drive you into hiding.  You are made for more.

First point – It starts with what you’re worth.  From Todd White’s talk at Gateway Church …

Accepted into the beloved means you can never be rejected by man.  The enemy is trying to dominate your thoughts, your thinking, your mind, will and emotions to keep you from seeing your creative value and seeing the price that heaven paid for you.  The Cross isn’t just the revelation of your sin, it is the revealing of your value.  That song “I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon the Cross.”  No.  I need to know the cost because that price determines my value.

If God paid it all for me, then I am valuable.  If I see my value, I will never look in the mirror and say “worthless” again.  No, I am worth the blood of Jesus.

Jesus didn’t pay the price for me to then go hide in four walls.  He paid a price for me be a warrior and conduit to destroy hell.

You need to be reminded of your worth.  Think of your wife – think of how she looks at herself in the mirror every day or what scrolling through social media does to her heart.  She hears the whispers of “worthless” daily.  You battle this in your fight for her heart.  She isn’t worthless … she is priceless.  God paid it all for her.  The same is true for you.  God doesn’t see you as worthless, He sees you as HIS beloved son.  It’s going to be very hard to do all you can do for the Kingdom if you’re walking around constantly repeating the lies of the enemy that you have no value.  You do.

Erwin McManus reminds us from his new book, The Last Arrow

We can become so afraid of death that we never live, so afraid of failure that we never risk, so afraid of pain that we never discover how strong we really are. Too many of us believe the lies we have been told; that we’re not good enough, we’re not strong enough, we’re not talented enough… that we’re just not enough. But one of the facets of God that makes him extraordinary is his ability to do the impossible through ordinary, everyday, common people.

You cannot follow Jesus into your future if you’re holding onto your past.

From there, we flow to the second point – it’s time to lead

We frequently hear men can’t have authentic, real, deep relationships with other men.  We hear that women do community better than men.  Men will often say, “My wife knows Scripture, I don’t” and “She prays, I don’t”.   Men, those giants MUST fall.  It is time to lead.  Those statements are lies from the enemy.  I’m going to tell you that as good as women are at community, frankly, I think men can actually do it better than women.  We can actually go deeper, be more frank/candid and we can warrior for our brothers in ways women can’t.  We need to stop believing true “Tribe” can’t be done.  I’m telling you from personal experience, real, deep, authentic Tribe is doable and it is rich and it can change your life.

Maybe you don’t read the Bible or journal Scriptures.  Maybe you don’t really pray.  Maybe she has been to every Beth Moore Bible study ever held (!) … but … that doesn’t mean you can’t do this.  You can.  Today should be the day you turn this the other day.  Today is the day you pick up your Bible and start.  Today is the day you can go home and tell your wife that you’d like to pray for her and your kids.  Don’t hesitate.  This isn’t about perfection, it is about progress …

William Lawrence wrote, “On the plains of hesitation bleach the bones of countless millions who, at the dawn of victory, sat down to wait, and waiting … died!”

Don’t hesitate.  Do it.  Spiritual growth is about progress, not perfection.   Take the step.   Make progress.

Understand this, Satan will try to discourage you and defeat you by making you feel overwhelmed by the problem. You may not be able to overcome your addiction or anxiety or fear for the rest of your life, but with God’s help you can win the battle todayYou CAN lead your family today!

And to the third point – not what God can do [for] you but rather [through] you

“If you’re not where you want to be, why do you keep choosing to stay where you are? If you know there is a future waiting for you, why do you choose to stay in the past? It is time to move past what God will do for you and to what God will do through you.”          Erwin McManus – The Last Arrow

Which leads us to The Giving Tree.  Will you live incurvatus, curved in upon self?  Or will you live Excurvatus … that is a “life lived outward” for others?  Jesus didn’t die for you to be safe and comfortable.  He died that you might “die”.  Consider this from Brennan Manning’s The Furious Longing of God …

Jesus Christ has irreparably changed the world. When preached purely, His Word exalts, frightens, shocks, and forces us to reassess our whole life. The gospel breaks our train of thought, shatters our comfortable piety, and cracks open our capsule truths. The flashing spirit of Jesus Christ breaks new paths everywhere. His sentences stand like quivering swords of flame because He did not come to bring peace, but a revolution. The gospel is not a children’s fairy tale, but rather a cutting-edge, rolling-thunder, convulsive earthquake in the world of the human spirit.

By entering human history, God has demolished all previous conceptions of who God is and what man is supposed to be. We are, suddenly, presented with a God who suffers crucifixion. This is not the God of the philosophers who speak with cool detachment about a Supreme Being. A Supreme Being would never allow spit on His face.

It is jarring indeed to learn that what through in His passion and death is meant for us too: that the invitation He extends is “Don’t weep for Me! Join Me!” The life He has planned for Christians is a life much like He lived. He was not poor that we might be rich. He was not mocked that we might be honored. He was not laughed at so that we could be lauded.

Once or twice in a lifetime, you hear a story that leaves an indelible mark on your heart and mind. Such is this story I first heard in 1967. It is Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree.

“Once there was a tree… and she loved a little boy.” And so begins the story of a tree being happy because she is able to make the boy happy. At first the boy desires nothing but to climb on her branches, eat her apples, and lie in her shade.

But as the boy grows, so do his desires. But because of the tree’s love, she gives her apples for him to sell for money to have real fun; her branches that he might build a house for a wife and family; and her trunk so he could build a boat and sail away from the boredom of life.

And then one day, the prodigal returns to the tree that loves him. By now, she has given him everything; all that remains of her is an old stump. The boy, now an old man, needs only a quiet place to sit and rest. And the Giving Tree gives once more.”

Ever since hearing that story many years ago, I’ve loved Silverstein’s parable. It reminds me of Jesus, of whom Paul wrote in Philippians, “He emptied Himself”. He cried from his heart, nails in His hands, and poured out His blood that we might believe His love for us. Significantly, Jesus chose the giving tree, His cross, as the demonstrative sign of His absolutely furious love for us.

How is it then that we’ve come to imagine that Christianity consists primarily in what do for God? How has this come to be the good news of Jesus? Is the Kingdom that He proclaimed to be nothing more than a community of men and women who go to church on Sunday, take an annual spiritual retreat, read their Bibles every now and then, vigorously oppose abortion, don’t watch x-rated movies, never use vulgar language, smile a lot, hold doors open for people and get along with everybody?

Is that why Jesus went through the bleak and bloody horror of Calvary? Is that why He emerged in shattering glory from the tomb? Is that why He poured out His Holy Spirit on the church? To make nicer men and women with better morals?

The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creations. Not to make better people with better morals, but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friends, is what it means to be a Christian. Our religion never begins with what we do for God. It always starts with what God has done for us, the great and wondrous things that God dreamed of and achieved for us in Jesus Christ.

And lastly and most importantly, this reminder about our Savior as the role model for our lives …

“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 upon a cross.”

2 Philippians 2:5-8

MORE ON ALL OF THIS NEXT WEEK as we’re going to unpack this in greater detail.  Please do all you can to go hard after this material this week.  Read it.  Pray it.  Have many conversations with Father about it.  Some amazing things are about to happen.  Men in our midst are right on the verge of a breakthrough.  Come Lord Jesus, come.

 

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He prepares a table before me…

Here is the Louie Giglio talk we watched (again!) this morning.  I started the tape at about 17 minutes.  I encourage you to watch this again.  I strongly encourage you to watch this with you wife.  Put the kids to bed, turn off the TV and invest in the spirituality of your marriage and in so doing, build a deeper level of intimacy with her.

The talk is so good, I can hardly put words to it.

In the context of his talk, I encourage you to go and read this blog post…

A Letter To Satan Concerning My Daughter’s Seizures.

Morgan Cheek writes powerfully on this blog of the journey God has taken her and her husband on as they raise twin girls with severe genetic issues.  (Her husband Hugh is from Columbus).  This is a journey they cannot escape.  There is no “prosperity Gospel” to deliver them from this.  Great pain accompanies their journey.  But God.  But God is present with them.  He walks with them and prepares a table before them in the presence of their enemies.  The situation may never turn around.  God never promises us a pain free life in this fallen world.  It does not make our God … not good.  He is good.  He is present.  They are surrounded by all sorts of enemies but God is present and He has prepared a table for them and He is enough.  He is all and He is enough.  Read the blog post and see how Morgan battles the enemy by calling out his lies and reading back to him scripture and Truth he cannot deny and will flee from.  In so doing all this, Morgan is not giving the enemy a seat at her table.  She’s locked tight her eyes on the Creator of these precious girls and the comfort and provision of God is all she needs.

Lastly, tying in with all of this … what is it that God wants from you?  What does he want?  I’ve talked to you about my “high horse”.   Here’s our buddy Vlad on his “high horse” but you know what, it’s us.  We’ve got life figured out.  We’re in control.  We always have the answers or we pose acting as if we do.

And if you’re ever so lucky, God will come along occasionally and knock you off that horse.  Here is how it starts …

and how it ends …

and Praise God!  Now you’re humbled and you are in a place where you can look at your life in a fresh way and now you’re able to listen.  So here is how life looks …

These nice little boxes tucked up on the shelves.  Each of those boxes are the things we “control” – career, 401(k), home, wife, kids, sex life, our time, our money, our stuff.  As life goes along, we manage these things, take control of them, pretty them up, make them appear as if all is perfectly in order.  Perhaps family is the best of these – pretty wife, two perfect kids, right schools, right attitudes, “everything just seems to work out for them”.  Life’s good.  “I’ve got this under control and life figured out”.

BOOM.  High horse time.

My daughter turns up pregnant.  God prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies and if I will just sit at the table with Him and lock tight on Him, He has me.  But no, I turn away.  I turn to my shelves.  I take these things and take control of them and get busy getting the shelves of my life in perfect order so all the world will look and see “wow, he has it figured out”.  The enemy will strike here.  He won’t play fair.  He’ll even use scripture to trick us.  “You’re just being a good steward of the talents God’s giving you.”  You see, even in that, he’s tricking us to turn from God and think “I can do this on my own”.  The liar tells you that “you don’t need God,  you’ve got this”.  

So, enough time goes by and I’m lulled to sleep and my pretty little life, all tucked nice and neatly up on those shelves gets blown up when my daughter turned up pregnant.  Not only was she pregnant, she moved in with the boy and a way of life far removed from the home she grew up in. What then?  What of the pretty little family all nice and neat?  Five weeks later, her older sister told us she was pregnant too.  Double Boom.  Face plant off the high horse into the mud.  The perfect little family was now being rocked.  The facade was broken.

I will say that through all of this, we’ve been humbled.  On December 1, we thought “there is no way we’re ever going to make it through this.”  45 days later with both of them pregnant, now we really knew, “there is no way we can do this”.  But God.  God has turned this mess into a miracle.  What seemed insurmountable four months ago has passed.  God got us through it.  We walked those days in a way we’d never walked before with God.  Will our “perfect” little life ever be “perfect” again?  No.  But you know what, now that I look back, I don’t want that kind of perfect.  I want the God perfect.  I want to give it ALL to Him – “Lord do with all this whatever You will”.  I never again want to walk another day up on a high horse thinking I’ve got it all figured out.  I want to walk my days the way we did in the worst of that storm when each day was radically dependent on God showing up.

So my question to you is simple – What does God want from you? 

God wants it all – your time, your money, your sex life, your kids, wife, job, retirement “plan” – the whole thing.  We want to keep control of most of this up on our shelves – we turn our back on God and his table and turn to our shelves saying “No God, I’ve got these things under control, I just need you over here in this other area”.  Nope.  Oh no.  God wants it all.  The more stuff you keep away from God up on your shelves as you fine tune, shine, polish and present as perfect … the more idols you’re worshiping and the less you’re locked tight on Him.

Morgan Cheek has no choice.  She cannot “do” being a Mama to those two little girls alone.  She’s desperate for a Savior and she’s seated at the table He has prepared for her and those girls in the midst of her enemies.  The road ahead looks daunting and it is but in the swirling vortex of the enemies that surround her, there is a table and The Good King prepared it and sits there with her.

Push into this.  What does this say to you?  Where are you in this.  

Let me hear from you.

 

 

Generational sin

Our own flesh, the sins of others against us and an enemy who seeks to steal, kill and destroy are all coming against us to try to keep us from becoming whole.  But remember…

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”  Galatians 5:1

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”  1 Peter 5:8-9

Satan has been defeated.  Death has no sting.  We know where he will end up – in the lake of fire.  We have been set free over the power of sin.  But we must recognize the war still wages.  He will use any crack or crevice to come into your life and establish a stronghold.  “Just give me an opening.  Open the door.  Let me in”.

If I’m living whole, there aren’t any cracks he can exploit.

If I dance with danger, if I flirt with temptation, he’s coming.

Generational sin.  Family affairs.  Sins of our parents, grandparents and even great grandparents that affect us today.  Derrick gave us a good list…

Alcoholism.  Drug abuse.  Verbal/physical abuse.  Rage.  Being frozen in fear.  Bitterness.  Unforgiveness.  Embracing poverty.  Victimization.  Racism.  Sexual immorality.  A family history of infidelity.  Pornography/sexual addiction.

Some of these are so ingrained in our family that we have taken on the stance of “this is just the way I am.”  “Just the way I am” is NOT have God intends for us to live our lives.  Where is the freedom in this?  Where is the restoration?  Where is the victory of the Cross?

“You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”  Exodus 20:5-6

Punishing.  Focusing on that one word can tend to lead us to think, “It’s just who I am – God’s doing this to me”.  Other translations use the word “visiting” which is the better translation.

Visiting.  Like making a call on someone.

When someone visits you, you have the freedom to either let them in the door or ask them to leave.  Too many times, we invite them in.  We invite these things into our home/lives and are ignorant of the whole thing.  And the enemy just slides in.

Generational sin is not about blaming Dad that, “I’m this way because he was”.  It goes deeper than that.  Importantly, you are not automatically bound to live under the sins of your fathers.

“The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.”  Ezekiel 18:20

You have a choice.  You don’t have to live under the patterns of your family.  You’re not bound to it.  Nor does it excuse anything.  We all must account for our own lives, our choices, our mistakes.

You don’t have to live this out.  You can break the pattern.  You don’t have to take this down to your children’s generation.  You have a chance to break these patterns.  How?

Recognize the pattern – irrational behavior that crops up.  Areas where you are just stuck.  Repeating events that come up for no real reason.  Identify that something is at work.  The “Ah-ha” moment.

Renounce any generational curse that you believe is over your family – renounce them by name.  Break the power of that sin in Jesus’ name.

Ask forgiveness for and judgment you have against members of your family – we stand in judgment over them for the wrongs and in so doing, we have not forgiven them.

Lastly, ask God to break the patterns“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”  Galatians 3:13

It is for freedom that Christ set you free.  Will you live that way?

You’re going into battle today. Will you listen to the Father?

Here are the slides from this morning … who-are-you-listening-to

Here is the short video of the man talking about his new baby girl hearing his voice …

John 10:10 – “The thief comes only to steal, kill and to destroy.  I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance.”  Verse 11 – “I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

If you’re hearing, “You’re not going to make it” or “You’re not good enough” … you’re not hearing that from God.  The good shepherd isn’t saying those things to you.

What is the provision? (He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies)   What is the “table”?  It is Him.  His word.  His will.

And so you sit with him at the table … in the presence of your enemies … and you say, “Thank you Jesus that you’re with me in the midst of this fire, this fight, this pressure, this darkness, this trial, this garbage dump … in the midst of this, you have prepared a table for me.”

When you go into the fire, it should be “Father, what is your will for me?  What is your desire?”  Not – “get me out of the fire” but rather, “What do you want me to do?”  Maybe your enemies are indeed surrounding you but you know what?  God’s angel armies are surrounding them.

God is saying, “I want all of you to watch me sustain and strengthen and lead my son through this valley.  Watch me sustain, strengthen and provide, protect and guide my child.  I want you to watch.  You thought you were going to take him out but I want you to watch me lead him through.”

Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20) – when surrounded by enemies on all sides, he first turned to God to hear what God had to say and then they sang over their enemies, “Give thanks to the LORD, his faithful love endures forever.”

Our nature and instinct is to say, “Lord, get me out of this…”  But He is saying, “No, get me in the furnace with you and then watch me sustain you, guide you and restore you.  Let me protect you, provide for you and make you into everything I wanted you to be not in the absence of a fight, not in the absence of pressure, not in the absence of difficulty – but – right smack in the middle of the valley of the shadow of death, watch me deliver you.”

2 Chronicles 20:15 — “Do not be afraid.  Do not lose hope because of this huge army.  The battle is not yours.  It is God’s.”

Your battle is with an enemy who is constantly bombarding your thought life with deception that makes you think what is fake is real; that makes you think what is bad for you is actually good for you.

So … who are you listening to?  Your enemies are all around you.  The Lord is seated at the table He has prepared for you in the midst of your enemies.  Who are you listening to?

If the thoughts coming into your mind produce the following, they are from the Holy Spirit

If the thoughts coming into your mind are producing the following, they are from your enemy.

Love

Sexual immorality

Joy

Impurity

Peace

Idolatry

Patience

Hatred

Kindness

Discord

Goodness

Jealousy

Faithfulness

Selfish Ambition

Gentleness

Fits of Rage

Self-Control

Drunkenness
 

Factions

 

Envy

Galatians 5:22-23 – The fruit of the spirit.  These things on the left, they produce calm in your life.  The things the Father will speak to you will be goodness, gentleness, patience, love, etc.

Galatians 5:19-21 – The works of the flesh.  These things on the right, they produce chaos in your life.  You battle two enemies – your flesh/sin nature and Satan.  Satan knows where you are weakest (your flesh) and he comes at you in these areas.  If you find yourself full of envy, rage, sexual temptation, jealousy, etc. and if the voices are whispering at you in these areas, you’ve given the enemy a seat at your table.

“He has shown you, oh man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you?  To live justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.”   Micah 6:8

It is your story. Who are you listening to?

Think about this.  Craig McConnell spent 40 years of his life struggling with the notion that he had nothing to offer, nothing to say.  He felt he’d never make a difference or could say anything that would encourage anyone.  Wow.  That’s a powerful condemnation over his life.  He was listening to the wrong voice.  Once he went to the Father and truly opened up his heart to what the God of the universe had to say about him, his story changed.  His identity changed.  He was no longer the seagull.  And just look at the next 30 years of his life.  Look at the impact he had.  Look at the thousands of lives he changed and the tens of thousands of men he “fathered” in his ministry.

This is from Louie Giglio speaking at revival week of Elevation Church.  Fast forward to about 17 minutes into this for the content of what we saw today at Manschool…

You have a good Shepherd.  The scripture says He makes me, restores me, leads me, comforts me, protects me, anoints me and then it says “surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life”.  He is goodness.  He is love.  He follows me and leads me.  And at the end, I move into the house of the Lord forever.  It’s a very good deal.

“He prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies”.  So catch that, the enemy is all around (the battle is raging against you) and God prepares a table for you in the midst of your enemy.

I’m surrounded by my enemies.  In spite of that, Jesus comes and says, “I’ve prepared a table for you with two chairs. One for me and one for you.”  Why is that good news?  Because you are living in the middle of a battle between good and evil.  The enemies are real and it is tough.  Regardless, in that chaos and turmoil, a table has been prepared for you.

1 Peter 5 says “Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”  He’s always around.  He’s looking for a crack or a crevice.  Some opening he can find to get to you.  It can be your character, a real life experience, a door you open (like pornography), it can be an opinion of a friend.  It can be a justification or rationalization for an affair.  He’s always prowling, looking for a crack he can get in to wreak a little havoc in your life.  “Just give me an opening.  Give me a seat and let me talk to you…”

It’s not really about you – it’s about your Father.  He despises God and will come after God’s children as payback.  As a parent, I know when my daughters are hurt or make a poor decision – yes, they are hurt but it hurts me more.  Because I see all the potential and all the promise and all that I’ve prayed for in their life.  Same is true with Satan – he’s after God and he’s coming after us to try to hurt God.

It’s one thing for Satan to be prowling around but if you don’t watch it, he’ll just pull up a chair at your table and start a conversation. Lashing out at someone.  Getting even.  Striking back.  Taking something that doesn’t belong to you.  “You deserve this”.  “She won’t make you happy and you should be happy”.  Greed.  Envy.  Strife.  Bitterness.  Unforgiveness.

You and me, we just let a killer sit down at our table.  

How do you know if he’s at your table?  Generally speaking, he comes at you 3 ways…

“You’re never going to make it through this.”  If you have ever heard, “You’re not going to make it, this will never change, don’t get your hopes up, you’re not going to survive it”, if you hear that, you’ve given the devil a seat at your table.

“You aren’t good enough. Never been good enough.  You’re not strong enough or smart enough.  You are not worthy.  You’re insignificant”.  If you’ve heard today, “You’re not good enough”, the enemy is sitting at your table.

“Everyone is against you”.  If you’re hearing, “No one at school likes you” or “Everyone is out to get you” or “Coach is out to get you” … then the enemy is sitting at your table.

You battle this by sitting down at your table with your Shepherd and thanking Him for giving you all that you need mentally, spiritually and physically in the middle of this fight going on all around you.  And you say to your enemy, “You don’t have a seat at my table.  You are a liar.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

The only way you can lose your peace is to let the Devil sit down at your table, eat your food and to start talking to you.  The Lord prepared the table and you get to decide who sits at your table.  Your choice.

I’ve got my enemies.  But, I’ve got my Shepherd and He’s a good Shepherd.  John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”   Verse 11 – “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep.”

That is why if you’re hearing, “You’re not good enough. You ain’t gonna make it” – that’s not coming from the Shepherd.  And … even if everyone is truly against you, look who is sitting at your table with you.

Whose voice are you listening to?

What does God have to say about you?

lab

Jesus comes at times and surfaces things and says, “I want to deal with that”.  He does so because He has a mission.  He seeks to liberate that which we’ve buried in our shame, guilt, fear and woundedness.

Craig was sitting overlooking the beach having his quiet time and a young lab pup runs up to him.  Excited and eager … “hey you wanna go play?  You wanna chase me?  I’ll chase you!  Come on, let’s play”.  Craig shoed the dog away so he could go back to the Lord.  A little while later, he sees the lab down on the water’s edge chasing birds, running, playing … just being a lab.  The lab shows up at the beach and he just wants to be all that God made him to be.  Living.  Free.  No boundaries.  He can’t read the signs that say “no dogs on the beach”.  He has no restraints.  He’s being exactly who God wants him to be.  And after shoeing him away, he found himself saying “I want to be a lab”.  Don’t we all?

There are a lot of signs around us asking “Who are you?” or telling us  “You can’t be that”.  The wounds I’ve suffered, the messages they bring and the vows I make are the signs in our life – the signs that say “You can’t be all that…”

The vows sort of become a script for my life, my identity.  “I’m a seagull”.  I became that.  I had nothing to offer, nothing to say, only taking up space.  The wounds took deep root.  Shame and contempt.  “I’ll never be a man that makes a difference or says anything that changes or encourages anyone”.  Whoa.

Think about this.  Craig spent 40 years of his life struggling with the notion that he had nothing to offer, nothing to say.  He felt he’d never make a difference or could say anything that would encourage anyone.  Wow.  That’s a powerful condemnation over his life.  He was listening to the wrong voice.  Once he went to the Father and truly opened up his heart to what the God of the universe had to say about him, his story changed.  His identity changed.  He was no longer the seagull.  And just look at the next 30 years of his life.  Look at the impact he had.  Look at the thousands of lives he changed and the tens of thousands of men he “fathered” in his ministry. 

What’s your script?  Oh, you’ve been told who you are and what you can and cannot be.  That much is clear.  What most of us don’t know is what God thinks of us… 

Ephesians 1 – He had me individually in mind before the foundation of the earth with plans to adopt me and celebrate by lavish gift giving.  Uniquely crafted and created.

Psalm 139 – knitted together, fearfully and wonderfully made.  He had something in mind when He created me.  It is much like a coach or a CEO pulling you aside after tons of hard work, pushing yourself, not sure anyone is noticing and he says “I see what you’re doing and I just want you to know I have big plans for you”.  Imagine that.  Imagine what that would stir in your soul.  Now imagine the 1000x impact of God saying that you!

Revelation 2:17 – for those who overcome, I will give him a white stone with a new name written on it known only to the one who receives it and to God.  A descriptive name of who He intended me to be.  We have that!  All of us.  A True name.  A unique name.  A God name.

Chesterton – “All of us suffer from the same dilemma, we’ve forgotten who we are.”

Have you forgotten who you are?  What seems quite easy to remember and what seems to govern our lives is what others think we are.  We know what our brother said about us and to us.  We know the words Mom spoke over us or Dad labeled us with.  We can recite them from memory.  We can even remember where/when it happened.  And yet, most of us have forgotten who God called us to be.

Spurgeon – “I will never have it that God created any man, especially any Christian man, to be a blank nothing.  He made you for an end.  Find out what that end is.  Find your niche and fill it.  Do something in this great battle for God and for truth.”

God gives us hints of this throughout our Christian life.  Wouldn’t you like to know?  Once you know all of this is true and once all this becomes real that you are a son, adopted and loved, once that captures you…wow.

Gladiator – God created him to be a leader and a general.  Did Maximus forget who he was?  It is a picture of all the residents of Heaven peering in over the castle wall watching us battle and fight – the whole host of Heaven cheering for us, “LIVE, LIVE, LIVE!”

Do you want to know who you are?  Ask God.  Take all you read about who God says you are, pound on the door and all out “LORD, imbed this in me, in my being.  Remove everything contra and counter that shouts down truth”.  If you really heard what God has to say about you and your life, you’d be embarrassed to share it or you’d think you were making it up because what God dreams about you is far greater than you could imagine.  It’s the thing you most want to be but can’t imagine being.

If God was to say to you, “I want you to be ___________”

Would you believe it?  Would you jump into it?

What is the story of your life?

“There are turning points that change the trajectory of your life…”

That can be the negative turning points where either through the mistakes of our own choosing or the actions of others, our lives take a turn down a dark alley way and the damage is done.  Or, through our thoughts and actions and decisions, we invite our enemy to sit at our table and engage in conversation with us.  That looks like “You can’t trust anyone”.  Or, “She’ll never change, you’d better move on”.  Or, “A little pornography never hurt anyone”.  Or, “You deserve to be happy and your wife doesn’t understand you and this woman looks exciting…”  Or from a wounding in our past, he whispers, “You know, you’ll always be that screw up and failure your Dad said you’d be”.

If you’re hearing stuff like that, you’ve given the enemy a seat at your table.  (more on that in weeks to come)

Craig McConnell had such a life.  He never knew his father – he was killed in the Korean War when Craig was an infant – but Craig’s story is that of a fatherless boy who would go on to become a father to tens of thousands.  His boyhood ended at age 8 when his Mom and step Dad sat him down to tell him his father was killed in combat.  That was it.  Never a picture, never another word.  He was never told how he shared his Dad’s sense of humor or his love of the outdoors.  And so began a long internal war.  His step-father repeatedly told him that he was a seagull and that “all he was good for was sitting, squawking and shiting”.  It took root in Craig.  He spent 30 years struggling in shame.

After exploring the 60’s drug culture, Jesus met Craig at a Christian concert in 1972.  He became a college pastor and he loved backpacking, wild beauty and going after the heart of things.  He never fit in the traditional church.

At 36, he discovered his true identity and that he’d come from a long line of noble men who gave their lives for the Gospel.  He discovered that his grandparents were missionaries and that his great grandfather was the first protestant missionary to Central America.  Eventually he went to Costa Rica and discovered 50,000+ people crammed in a soccer stadium celebrating the life of the Patron Saint of Central America … his great grandfather.

And so, Craig took back his family name, McConnell.  He let go of “seagull”.  He reclaimed his noble legacy.  All of Craig’s life, it felt like he was fighting a great battle.  He fought the religious falsehood of the church and he paid for it.  He fought to find his true identity.  He fought internal battles with shame and diminishment.  It’s part of what made him so beautiful.  He kept fighting.

John asked him to become a part of the Sacred Romance tour and as Craig stood before thousands of people rescuing their hearts, he came alive like Lazarus walking out of the tomb.  He said it felt like déjà vu of his great grandfather and father.  At Ransomed Heart, he stepped into his glory.  The retreats and boot camps, conferences, films and podcasts, he mentored men all over the world.  He fathered people through those podcasts.

Craig lived his life desiring that his life would make a difference in the lives of many and he struggled to find that avenue to do so.  But in his 50’s, God opened up the door and unleashed the true Craig McConnell.  Through all his work, Craig touched more than 1 million people.  At the last few boot camps, men would stand in line just to give him a hug.  A woman he’d never met sent him a Father’s Day card this year because she said in his work he had fathered her.

Remember, this was once a fatherless little boy who struggled with shame.

Craig battled a lot of doubt about his ability to impact a lot of people but only when the stories are told in the coming Kingdom will be really know just how vast his impact was.

And so my question for you is “What is the story of your life?”  Where is the shame.  What are the mistakes that you cannot seem to shake?  Are you diminished?  Why?  What has the enemy been telling you?  And perhaps most importantly, are you going to continue to listen the great liar or are you ready to start listening to the Creator of the Universe?  What does the Father have to say about you and your story?  THIS is where we’re going this fall at Manschool.  Please join us in the adventure.  Let’s see what God can do.