amazon Jesus…

“If only I had _______________ I would be content.”  What goes in the blank?  We spend our lives chasing these blanks trying to fill them up believing they will bring contentment.  Think about the nicest car you ever bought.  Where is that car now?  If you still have it, does it meet all your needs?  Are you a better man because you drive that car?  Or… has it now grown stale and you’re thinking, “Maybe it is time to trade up”?  Sadly, this line of thinking/rationalizing has ended many a man’s marriage.

Blow all you want, that balloon isn’t going to do it for you (see previous “balloons” post) because of this …

popping balloon

Whatever “it” is, it will eventually go away.

Here’s what happens: it’s not just that you have a dream, but that your heart gets captured by your dream.  It becomes your definition of “life”.   You no longer hold your dreams with open arms.

open arms

What was once a desire has morphed into a demand, and it won’t be long before you view that demand as a need.  This thing you once wished that you had becomes your nonnegotiable, the thing that you are unwilling to live without.  Soon you’re unhappy, not because life has been hard or God has been unfaithful, but because this thing that is effectively and functionally now ruling your heart lies beyond your grasp.  You are dependent and discouraged.  You envy people who seem to have captured their dreams.  You wonder why you’ve been singled out.  You wonder why God has forgotten you.  Is it OK to dream?  Yes, but when your dream becomes a ruling thing, it wreaks havoc on your spiritual life.

So, back to our balloons.  We build these things up.  We orchestrate and, in many cases, manipulate life to make it go our way.  We want all the breaks.  We want all the chips to fall in the right places at the right time.  We want our children to be successful.  We want them starting at first base and batting fourth.  We want them as the quarterback or the homecoming queen.  We want our facebook/Instagram image of our life and family to be perfect.  We want people to envy us.  We want people to notice us.  We seek fame and recognition.  We dream of building our businesses to their maximum potential and then selling them out at the precise right time for the maximum payoff.

We want all these balloons blown to their max capacity to shine like a colorful rainbow of an abundant life.  But we must have clear eyes about this.

Pay attention to what happens to your relationship with God as your dreams gobble up more of the turf of your heart.  God is no longer the thing that motivates you and gives you courage and hope.  God is no longer your source of sturdy joy.  The glory of God is no longer the thing that you’re living for.  Awe of God is no longer the reason you do everything you do(New Morning Mercies)

Sadly, God has been reduced to a delivery system; your Savior has become Amazon Jesus.  If He delivers, you’ll worship and serve Him, but if He fails to deliver, you’ll question His goodness and love, you’ll have little motivation to offer your life to Him.

Amazon Jesus … the man who wanted more and more and more and filled his arms up with stuff.

arms full

No matter what we accomplish or how much we’re able to enjoy or how much we’re able to acquire, still we feel like we’re striving after the wind.  We never really gain anything.

So, keep going if you wish.  Keep chasing these things and seeing how many boxes amazon can deliver to you.  But pay attention to this “clear eyes” comment from from Alan Redpath a British evangelist …

“Crushed and brought back to our senses realizing God is going to have His way.  One by one, God took them from me, all the things I valued most until I was empty handed.  Every glittering toy was lost, and I walked earth’s highways grieving in my rags and poverty until I heard His voice inviting, “Lift those empty hands to me.”  And so, I turned my hands toward heaven, and He filled them with a store of His own transcendent riches til they could contain no more.  And at last, I comprehended in my stupid mind that God could not pour His riches into hands that were already full.  When God wants to accomplish an impossible task, He takes an impossible man and crushes him.”

There is an impossible task out there God wants you to accomplish for the Kingdom.  But you can’t do it if your arms are slammed full of the idols you’ve been chasing.  God will eventually have His way.  Perhaps it is time for me to lay my agenda down, time to empty my arms and clear my slate so the LORD can work through me.  Otherwise it might take a storm and a lot of pain if I keep on running after “life” other than in Him.

you never know when

There was so much content this morning, I will break this into parts.  Here are the slides from this morning > Clear eyes 5 – you never know

We will never know “when” it will happen but there is absolute clarity about “If” it will happen.  It will, for every one of us.  We will all die.  I am now 55 years old and there is no doubt that I am certainly past middle-aged.  The rest of my life will be shorter than the life I have lived.

Time is running out for me and it is running out for you.  Clear eyes about this, men, the end is coming.  The call or question or quest for all of us is this = how will we live out the rest of our days?  Will it be for my kingdom or God’s?

Our days are short.  None of us are promised tomorrow.  I don’t want to be the kind of man of puts off having a prayer life or puts off reading the Bible figuring I have a lot of time later in life for that because, you know, I’m just so busy at work building my kingdom.  I don’t want to be the kind of man who waits for that day because that day might not ever get here for me.

Sometimes, Christians are the worst at denying death.  The Journal of American Medical Association reports that people of faith (95% of whom were Christians) were 3x more likely to choose aggressive medical treatment at the end of their lives … even though, they knew that they were dying and that the treatments were unlikely to prolong their lives.

Why is that?  Why is it that we believers are doing whatever we can to postpone death?

Do we really believe what is on the other side of death?  What is we are trying to preserve?  Life?  It can’t be preserved.  This world?  Really?  We want to preserve our time here because we can’t trust or don’t understand what Heaven will be like?  More on that when we get to the full hearts part of this.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not earthy things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”  Colossians 3:1-3

Your life is worth living precisely because it is not your life at all.  Your life – at least in the mortal frame – has a beginning and an end.  But your life – your real life – is hidden with or entrusted with Christ.  That then gives you the freedom to lose your life in sacrifice to others, in obedience to God, in order to save it.

Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us.  We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed.  We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”  2 Corinthians 4:7-10

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.”  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Why are we talking about this?  What is our goal? 

  • Getting to the place where we are absolutely grounded in the Word and in Truth. 
  • Passionate about our love for Christ. 
  • Devout in our service to others, pouring ourselves out without demand for a return or a payback. 
  • Where I don’t fear death. 

It is living Excurvatus Ex Se – outward, for others.  That man has true freedom.  That man experiences authentic manhood. 

That man can LiveUP with clear eyes and full heart.  That man can’t lose.

I think the point of this message is this – you need to realize and accept that you are going to lose everything you love in this world.  Only then can you place all your hope in an inheritance kept in heaven for you.  If I keep hanging on the “hope” of what I can hold onto here, I will never look to Heaven.  Even if life plays out precisely the way you imagine for yourself in your wildest dreams, death will steal away everything you have and destroy everything you accomplish.

I spend my time thinking about things that will ultimately, go away.  It is time to shift my focus to the promise of my inheritance in the Kingdom.  To the eternal.  To what will last.  By avoiding the truth about death, we’re avoiding the truth about Jesus.  Jesus didn’t promise us so many of the things we want most out of life.  He promised us victory over death.

Clear eyes, full hearts. Can’t lose. Manschool starts 9/18

Manschool resumes in two weeks – Wednesday September 18th at 6am.  We’ll be done by 7am and small groups go for 30 minutes afterwards.

Clear eyes, full hearts.  Can’t lose.  

This will be the theme of Manschool for this “school year”.  A man of clear eyes – seeing what is going on in and around him.  A man with clear eyes to see the errors of his ways and instead, learning to lean upon the Father for his daily bread, daily guidance.  A man with clarity of vision – to see that he is being called UP into a life of service beyond self, outward living rather than curving in upon himself.  A man with clear eyes to see these are dark days we’re living in – warfare rages all around him and coming to the place that he can clearly see he cannot navigate this world alone.

Clear eyes.

Full hearts – once we develop clarity of vision, clarity of the situation at hand, we can move forward into a life of a “full heart”.  We will explore and dig into learning what it means to be a man “in love” with Jesus.  A man “sold out” on the Gospel.  A man that knows he will take nothing with him at the end of this life and instead will pour out his life into the lives of others in love.

Full hearts.

A man with clear eyes and full heart … cannot lose.  This will be our quest this year.  It’s time to prepare.  It’s time to reach out and find other men that need to be a part of our Tribe.  There are men at your work, men in our church, neighbors, hunting buddies, etc. that are out there doing life alone.  They need our Tribe.  They need to hear this message.  But it won’t happen unless you pursue them.  They aren’t just going to come.  You need to ask them.  If Manschool means a lot to you, then you can speak with confidence to them about how valuable this Tribe is.

Can’t wait.  It’s gonna be great.

 

will you care for your soul?

John Eldredge at BGS Intensive…

“There are very few “normal” days.  When I first open my eyes, if God gives me that, I can cry out, “Father.  Father.  Father”.    Dallas Willard.

The warfare today is astounding.  Satan has unleashed two things on the earth in recent years – death and hatred.  There is a spirit of death everywhere.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed but good people, young people, healthy people are dying all over the place.  Drug deaths.  Suicides.  Murder/suicide.  Random execution of law enforcement.  Church shootings.  Death everywhere.

Hatred – it’s everywhere.  Political hatred is at a new all-time high.  Rage everywhere.  Social media is infected with it.  Seemingly good people are suddenly at odds with one another with a burning hatred over differences of opinion.  It’s everywhere you look.

The stories you will hear at this camp will stagger you.  This is a dark, dark world and the war is raging.

(John didn’t say this – another man at camp shared it) … this quote of, “How much blood must the sword spill of your daughters before you will wake up and realize just how intense this war is?”

We must not kid ourselves about the intensity of the war that rages against us and our families.  Denial is not a good strategy.

If it brings life, they will gravitate to it.

If I don’t like the effect something is having on me, I’ll just walk out of the room.  My family knows this.  My sons do it.  When the conversation turns petty or negative or combative, we’ll just get up and walk out of the room.

Look for the things that bring you life – being outside, riding your bike, standing in the sun soaking up vitamin D.  Grab it.  In the chaotic, even 20 minutes away is a reset.

Your soul matters … immensely.  It is worth caring for and we are living at a completely insane pace.

Two things…

First – You should have a secret life that is fuel.  A flight back to the real.  Take a rock and a stick.  Hold them.  Feel it.  Loving the real, hating the fake.

Nationwide survey in 2001 – can’t imagine what this data is like today – but back in 2001, Americans spent 93% of their lives indoors.  We have no idea how damaging that is to the soul.  Artificial world.  Artificial light.  Artificial sound.  Artificial climate.

Embrace the practices that bring you back to the “real”.

Second – practice the fine art of engaging “Benevolent Detachment”. 

“Jesus, I give everyone and everything to you.  Release them.  All of them to you.  I pray the Cross of Christ between me and them.  Between their junk and me.  Allow it no place in my life.  Bless them.  Bless them Lord.  I release them to you.”

This is your mother in law.  Yes.  Your boss.  Your co-worker.  Your biggest client.  Your parents.

You have no idea how much you’re carrying out of a “good heart”.  Release all of them to Jesus.

Practices

Augustine said, “We must empty ourselves of all that is full so that we can be filled with everything that is empty.”

10am and 2pm every day, take a monastic minute.  A one-minute pause.  60 seconds.  Twice a day to give everyone and everything to Jesus.  Release all of it.

Care for your soul is first.  It’s primary.  It’s the first thing to go, the first thing you must get back.  CS Lewis said, “It all rushes at you like a pack of wild animals.”  Your first priority is to restore.

Allow the grace of transitions.  Don’t force your soul through traumatic situations, multiple gear changes.  Pause.  Breathe.  Do nothing.  Then go to the next thing.

Beauty is everywhere.  It heals.  It nourishes.  Take in daily beauty.  It is a reminder that everything is going to be OK.  Frost.  Sun through a window.  The sound of rain.  The key is to take it in, “I receive this beauty into my soul and allow it to nourish me.”

What are you doing with the assault on your attention?  It is ruthless.  Transformation takes place when we can look to God and receive God’s beauty.  It is a full-on fight for your attention.  Watching trauma on TV brings trauma into your soul.

The whole goal is union with God.  Union of being.  Life of God flowing into us.

___________ sucks life from me.                      Part with it.

___________ brings me life.                               Spend your time there.

Some things can be rescued.  Some can’t.

Some people can be rescued.  Some can’t

Discern the two.  Be tactical where you go and what you do.

Going from shallow soil to good soil, there are no short cuts.  But remember, “Those with good soil reap a return of 30x, 60x, 100x what was planted.”

How will you care for your soul this summer?

Manschool wrapped up for this “school year” today.  What a great year we’ve had.  We closed today with about 50 men present.  A strong finish to a blessed year of ministry.

Here are the slides from today which are a recap of all the territory we covered this spring >>>>   manschool 2019 Spring Final

I just got Ransomed Heart’s newsletter for May.  It is spot on what we’ve been talking about of late.  Here it is for your blessing …

ransomed heart

Dear Friends,

I hope I’m not too late.

This is my annual “sabbath” letter, more commonly remembered as my “What are you going to do for your soul this summer?” letter.

I’m guessing you’re making plans for the next several months, even if they are plans that you can’t make plans this year. And I’d like to step in as an advocate for your soul—which probably needs some advocating, if you’re like most adults. The pace of life, the constant demands, the drone of media coming our way make any kind of soul kindness hard to come by. Our lives are so full we lost track of our souls long ago.

Thus, my letter.

You have a soul. It is a lovely gift from God. Your soul is what enables you to enjoy your life. When you find yourself laughing at something in a carefree way, that’s your soul feeling happy. When you are moved deeply by someone else’s story, that’s your soul too. When beauty makes you worship, when stillness allows you to exhale deeply, that’s your soul doing well. Your soul is an extraordinary gift from God. And it needs some care.

As Jesus said, “What does a man have if he gets all the world and loses his own soul? What can a man give to buy back his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). You can lose your soul long before you die, by the way. It’s lost quite easily in the mad rush of life, the unrelenting pressure, hurry, worry, fear and lack of any real space to simply be human. 

So—what will you do this summer to be kind to your soul? Where is your sabbath this summer?

To clarify, family “visits” do not count as sabbath or soul care. I understand the need for family visits; they play an important role in our relational networks. But they are not sabbath, not even vacation, for the simple reason that they require from us. Often they require a great deal. When we enter into the gravitational field of family visits, we encounter all the dynamics of family ecosystems—everyone’s brokenness, their demands, their disappointments, and their warfare. It’s just the way it is in a broken world. I’m not disparaging family visits; I’m simply trying to point out that they do not qualify for sabbath in any form or fashion.

Notice—what’s the condition of your soul when you return from a week with the inlaws? Don’t you typically say to yourself, “I need a vacation?” And if you could choose between the obligatory family visit or two weeks in Tahiti, which does your heart leap at? Well…there ya go.

Banzai weekends also do not count for sabbath, vacation, or soul care. Rushing out the door to get to some destination where you go-go-go all weekend can be loads of fun, but again—notice the condition you’re in Monday morning when you return to work. You’re exhausted; you need caffeine to even keep going. 

You shall know them by their fruits.

Allow me a personal story. Last summer Jesus invited me to take a road trip with him. No agenda, no deadlines, no one to take care of, or come through for. I brought my fishing gear because I thought I would spend my days fly fishing and my evenings in leisurely time with God. As my soul began to enter rest, I realized that the adrenaline rush so central to fishing was not what I needed. My soul needed care, which meant it needed quiet. Ease. A very slow pace. I ended up hardly fishing at all, which at first was a disappointment, but by day three was a rescue. 

This is very simple really—sabbath makes you feel rested. It makes you feel renewed. It restores your soul, to quote the famous Psalm. 

Sabbath reconnects you to the God you love, and allows you time to linger with him unhurried. It also reconnects you with your own soul, allows you to feel, to think about stuff you normally don’t get to think about. By its nature, sabbath is not an adrenaline experience.

So—as you make your summer plans, when is your sabbath?

It doesn’t have to be that gorgeous cottage in Hawaii, or villa in Tuscany (which is good news). Sabbath is so much more available, attainable. It can be a choice to simply set aside evenings every week this summer, where all you do is sit on the porch and enjoy the sunset, let the breeze caress your face, do absolutely nothing at all. A friend has a hammock on her porch; she said to her husband, “I’m going to lie in the hammock and do nothing; I get to be human again.”

Sabbath can be long walks in your neighborhood, the park, or “open spaces” common now to most urban areas. (Notice I didn’t say a run or mountain bike ride, because sabbath has a nonchalant nature to it. It’s slow, kind, easy, simple. Sabbath walks let you notice flowers, birds, a stream—all the things we normally rush by.)

Nothing in this mad world is going to encourage you to plan, and protect sabbath. It’s something you’ll have to choose, and fight for. But it’s utterly worth it, I promise.

So—before you set this letter down and go on with the ten other things currently demanding your attention, stay with the question for sixty seconds—What will you do for sabbath this summer? Block it out on your calendar.

Offered in love,
 

John

the real you …

here are the slides from this morning … manschool 2019 15

iceberg

Believe it or not, this iceberg is you.  10% of you is visible above the surface.  It is what you’ll let us see.  The other 90%?  It’s hidden and you’ve developed an elaborate system to keep it that way.  That’s your pose.  It’s the image you’ve created that you want us to see but the real you is below the surface.  That’s where God wants to go.

The pose works for only so long.  Throw a good storm into your life and the pose is quickly exposed.  Your wife is very good about tweaking you just enough to peel it back and expose the false self.  A true, good friend can do the same thing.

Lately, we’ve been talking about Soul Care and I believe one of the kindest things you can do for your soul is to face and expose your pose and to reject the false self you’ve created and live out of.

I will tell you that it was hard to give this talk this morning.  The deeper we got into it, the more I sensed the audience checking out.  In the last five minutes, 6-7 men had their phones out and were checking email.  That tells me something.  Brushing up against the pose is just enough to turn some men away … “it’s too much to think about” or “this isn’t for me” or “I don’t have time for this” is usually the reaction.

Plus, there is the “swamp thing” going on.  We’re so deeply into swamp of our lives that pulling out to address something like our pose seems too invasive.  We’re barely making it as we trudge our way through the swamp and so, to open the hood and do some heavy lifting seems like it might drown us.

It won’t.  It just might save you.  This is where God wants to work.  He doesn’t want to deal with your pose – it’s fake after all.  He wants the real and He wants to pursue the real you underneath your mask.  Brene Brown summed it up nicely …

“Our “masks” and “armor” are perfect metaphors for how we protect ourselves from the discomfort of vulnerability.  Masks make us feel safer even when they become suffocating.  Armor makes us feel stronger even when we grow weary from dragging all that extra weight around.  The irony is that when we’re standing across from someone who is hidden or shielded by masks and armor (The Poser), we feel frustrated and disconnected.  That’s the paradox here: Vulnerability is the last thing I want you to see in me, but it is the first thing I look for in you.” 

Craig McConnell said this about posing …

As long as the counterfeit, the posing works, we’ll never desire and pursue the authentic and real thing.  So, you know what God does for our redemption?  He disrupts our lives.  God either allows or orchestrates things to happen to expose us for us to see that we are living far less of a life as a man that we can be.

Exposure isn’t to shame us.  Exposure is to heal us and to drive us to something more.  It is to become true, more authentic, more real to be the man God desires us to be.

Life’s working good … why change? 

But then … God will disrupt things.  Shake us.  Rattle us.  Get us to realize, “My God, what have I become?  Am I just another shark in a suit?”

God takes us through these difficult, disruptive moments/events where we realize that this life, the way I’m living, who and what I am is not what I want.  It’s at that moment we get the invitation – there is another way, there is more.

Take some time to be alone with God to ask some pretty tough questions about yourself… 

How do you see yourself as a man?

What words would you use to describe yourself?  Would you use words like “courageous, strong, loving, passionate, genuine?”

What words would those who know you use to describe you?

Do you have the courage to ask those in your life what they think of you as a man?

What do you fear they would say?

What would you hate to hear?

What might be true of you from the eyes of others?

You can tell what kind of man you’ve got simply by nothing the impact he has on you.  When you’re in the presence of a man, does he bore you?  Does he scare you with whole doctrinal trip?  Does he make you want to scream because he’s just so very nice?

What do you think your impact is on others?

What’s the affect of your life on others?

What do you fear it might be?

We need to turn and say, “God I want the real thing”.  So, where is it that you’re faking?  Where is the counterfeit?  Identify that and then ask God to turn it, remove it.

What would that look like? 

Find a quiet place and go to God. 

What am I?  Who am I?  What am I like?

 

WHAT TO DO WITH THIS ?

Dan Troller asked me this morning how he should best push into this question of posing.  Great question.  Take these questions Craig asked one by one.  Get alone with your journal.  Ask the Father these questions and be candid in what you hear, what you’re sensing and feeling.  Write it down.  How do you see yourself as a man?  What would others say about you?  What do you fear they’d say?  Good, weighty questions.  Take them, wrestle with them.  Do the heavy lifting of being authentic with the questions.

Then, get with 2-3-4 men you trust (at least two) and be willing to share your revelations.  Let them hear your story, hear your answers to these questions and let them speak into what they see and hear about you.

Do you want the freedom on the other side of this?  Really? 

Then do the hard work of excavating beneath the surface.    

excavation