the stream is your soul…

The Psalmist wrote that blessed people are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in season, and whose leaves do not wither; they prosper in all they do.  Your soul is like an inner stream of water that gives strength, direction, and harmony to every other area of life.

From Soul Keeping by John Ortberg…

I, and no one else, am responsible for the condition of my soul.

In my early 50’s I was given a sabbatical: seven weeks with nothing to do.  The elders at our church invited me to take it.  Actually, they insisted that I take it.  I needed it because I was becoming increasingly frustrated and impatient and preoccupied.

Are you frustrated, impatient and preoccupied?

I felt as if I had too much to do and not enough time or ability to do it.  I was obsessed with external things that needed to be done around me.  I was operating on the unseen assumption that my inner world would be filled with life, peace, and joy once my external world was perfect.  That’s a great recipe for a healthy soul, as long as you life in a perfect world.  You don’t.

During my sabbatical, it was easy to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry from my life”, as my friend and mentor Dallas Willard had so wisely counseled.  I found myself thinking that I’m a better person when I’m on sabbatical than I am when I’m working for God at a church, and I knew I was just plain wrong.  I began to form a new goal: I want to be as relaxed as I am on vacation while being as productive as I am at work.

There was only one place to learn about that so I drove back to Box Canyon to spend a day with Dallas.  I told him I felt frustrated because the people at the church I served were not changing more.  I asked him was I needed to do to help our church experience greater levels of spiritual growth.

Long pause … You must arrange your days so that you are experiencing deep contentment, joy and confidence in your everyday life with God.”

Huh?

“No”, I corrected him, “I wasn’t asking about me.  I was asking about other people.  I was wondering what I need to make the church do.  I was thinking about a book everyone should read, a program everyone should go through, or a prayer system everyone should commit to.”

(do you feel it in his words?  do you feel the rush, the urgency, the “get something done”, the tyranny-of-the-urgent, the frustration?  He’s moving at 100 mph while his soul is moving at 5 mph)

“Yes, brother John”, he said with great patience and care.  “I know you were thinking of those things.  But that’s not what they need most.  The main thing you will give your congregation – just like the main thing you will give to God – is the person you become.  If you soul is unhealthy, you can’t help anybody.  You don’t send a doctor with pneumonia to care for patients with immune disorders.  You, and no body else, are responsible for the well-being of your soul.”

“I’m trying,” I said.  “I learned long ago about the importance of having a quiet time when I read the Bible and do daily devotionals; I do my best to start each day that way.”

“I didn’t say anything about having a quiet time,” he gently corrected again.  “People in churches – including pastors – have been crushed with guilt over their failure at having regular quiet time or daily devotions.  And then, even when they do, they find it does not actually lead to a healthy soul.  Your problem is not the first 15 minutes of the day.  It’s the next 23 hours and 45 minutes of the day.  You must arrange your days so that you are experiencing total contentment, joy and confidence in your everyday life with God.”

“But how can I have total contentment, joy and confidence?  My work isn’t going nearly  well enough.  Lots of people are not happy with me.  I am inadequate as a pastor, husband and father.  Every week I carry the burden of delivering a sermon and knowing I’ll have to feel the pain if it doesn’t go well.”

There it is again – do you hear his turmoil, his inner drive to perform, perhaps his need for validation?  He isn’t integrated.  His internal world is not functioning like an integrated system.  He’s fractured.  And much like a jet engine, when the parts fracture under stress, the engine eventually disintegrates.  He is dis-integrated.  I am too.

“I didn’t say you should experience total contentment, joy and confidence in the remarkable adequacy of your competence or the amazingly successful circumstances of your life.  It’s total contentment, joy and confidence in your everyday experience of GodThis alone is what makes a soul healthy.  This is not your wife’s job.  It’s not your elder’s job.  It’s not your children’s job.  It’s not your friend’s job.”

The stream is your soul.  And you are the keeper.  How is your soul?

Quick creek stream bank

Clear river water. Quick creek stream bank

What a man after God’s own heart looks like…

Franciscan Benediction


May God bless me with discomfort

At easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships

So that I may live from deep within my heart.


May God bless me with anger

At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of God’s creations

So that I may work for justice, freedom and peace.


May God bless me with tears

To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war

So that I may reach out my hands to comfort them and to turn their pain to joy.


And may God bless me with just enough foolishness

To believe that I can make a difference in the world

So that I can do what others claim can’t be done

To bring justices and kindness to all our children and to all our neighbors who are poor.


 

notes from today

What a blessing it was to have Keith Cowart share his message with us.  It was an important word for us to hear and it continues to drive at this same theme we’ve been pursing all fall of “Which Kingdom Will I Serve?”

We all come from broken homes and dysfunctional family structures and now, perhaps, the family we are responsible for is, itself, dysfunctional.  The cure comes in knowing our stories, understanding the patterns of behavior we choose, and understanding what is beneath the pain.  Do we have a “herd mentality” or a “blame displacement mentality” or do we always seek the “quick fix”?

There is a reason underneath these paths.  We’ll be talking more about this in coming weeks.

Here are Keith’s notes from this morning… Man School Failure of Nerve

Walking in Wholeness – conclusion

Derrick gave us a great recap of the Wholeness series this morning.  The slides are here Manschool – Wholeness – summary

The question for you as we’ve processed through this journey is “Have you received significant insight or experienced a measure of breakthrough?”  And if so … “Have you taken action as a result?”  We want you processing these questions.  Ask Father.  Carry on a conversation and say, “Show me Lord what it is you wanted me to see here”.  Ask your fellow brothers – those Tribe men you’re close with – because the thing about Community (or Tribe as we like to say) is that only community can truly see your blind spots.  Close community has a way of seeing things you just can’t see because you’re standing too close to the situation.  This quote sums it up so well …

Be kind, for everyone you know is facing a great battle.

A true community is something you will have to fight for.  You’ll have to fight to get one, and you’ll have to fight to keep it afloat.  But you fight for it like you bail out a life raft during a storm at sea. You want this thing to work.  You need this thing to work.  You can’t ditch it and jump back on the cruise ship.

This is the church; this is all you have.  Without it, you’ll go down… Suddenly all those “one another’s” in Scripture make sense.  Love one another.  Bear one another’s burdens.  Forgive one another.  Acts of kindness become deeply meaningful because we know we are at war.  Knowing full well that we are all facing battles of our own, we give one another the benefit of the doubt.

Leigh isn’t intentionally being distant from me – she’s probably under an assault.  That’s why you must know each other’s stories, know how to “read” one another.  A word of encouragement can heal a wound; a choice to forgive can destroy a stronghold.  You never knew your simple acts were so weighty.  It’s what we’ve come to call “lifestyle warfare.”

We check in regularly with one another, not out of paranoia (“Do you still like me?”), but in order to watch over each other’s hearts.  “How are you doing?”  But be careful about what you are looking for from community.  For if you bring your every need to it, it will collapse.  Community is no substitute for God.

John Eldredge, Waking the Dead

None of what we’re doing in Manschool is meant to convey to you an easy formula to life.  There is no guarantee in this life of anything.  Look at the life of Job.  We don’t push a “prosperity Gospel” on you – a series of formulas or practices that if dutifully followed, “abundant life” is promised.  This is a broken world with broken people.  This movement towards Wholeness is a process of sanctification – steps along the path of life leading towards eternity.  A spiritual, emotional “high” is great but it doesn’t get you “there”.  Neither does 60 minutes of quiet time a day, scripture memorization or a “purification” of your life purging out any/all possible temptations.  None of that guarantees you anything.  But God…

But God.  God promises you Him.  He is enough.  A million dollars isn’t.  The perfect house isn’t. Perfect children aren’t.  God is.

That said, it is a process of sanctification and yes, very much indeed, being in the Word, spending time quietly seeking the Father, giving, serving, living outwardly … yes, yes, yes … do those things. Do more of them.  As you should exercise your body, exercise your faith.  Turn these things into the stuff of life…

There is nothing more dangerous than a repeated experiencing of a fine emotion with no attempt to put it into action.  It is a fact that every time a man feels a noble impulse without taking action, he becomes less likely ever to take action.  An emotion is not something in which to [savor or delight in]; it is something which at the cost of…discipline and of sacrifice, must be turned into the stuff of life.

William Barclay

FINAL QUESTION – What are you going to let define you and your life?  Your past mistakes? Failures? Wounds or words spoken over you by broken people?  Lies of the enemy?  Or … what the Father says about you, believes about you, desires for you?  We all have that choice. Too many of us have lived 30, 40, 50 years listening to the wrong voice and it has defined our life. Today, right now, that can change.  Today, you can let go of the lies of the past – yes, it may have happened and yes, you may have done it and yes, there are consequences of our actions – butit does not have to define you.  Christ took all that for you on the Cross.  If you will trust Him, it is gone.  Finished.  It is “as far away from you as the East is from the West”.

Are you ready for more?  Are you ready to release this and get on with the life your Father has for you?

Dealing with agreements

If we come to accept the lies and distortions of our enemy or the world, we often take the next enslaving step of making agreements …thus giving him a stronghold in our lives.  Satan wants to control our thoughts and actions and bring as much destruction as he can.  Agreements are his chief tactic.

There are some military themes to this statement.  Of course!  We are indeed talking about the tools of warfare.  If we make an agreement with the Liar, we become enslaved to it.  And we cede to him the high ground via the stronghold he has over our lives due to our agreeing with his lies.  In warfare, you never want the enemy to have the high ground.  In spiritual warfare, it is our agreements with lies that give the enemy this unfair advantage.  We open the door to this by engaging with him and listening to his lies rather than listening to Father.

Words have power …

The one who guards his mouth protects his life; the one who opens his lips invites his own ruin.  Proverbs 13:3

Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Proverbs 18: 21

The one who guards his mouth and tongue keeps himself out of trouble.  Proverbs 21: 23

I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.  Matthew 12: 36-37

The one who guards his mouth protects his life; the one who opens his lips invites his own ruin.  Proverbs 13:3

You know these things.  The Word warns us about our tongue.  Our words can either align us with God or with Satan…

Do two people walk hand in hand if they aren’t going to the same place?  Amos 3: 3 (The Message)

The constant message that keeps coming through to us throughout this series and throughout what we’ve been doing at Manschool for years is this … Who are you listening to?  Who told you that you were naked?  Why do you keep bringing up these past sins to Father?  Why the shame?  He’s forgiven you.  It’s gone.  It’s as far as the east is from the west.  It’s done.  Finished.

And yet, the Liar continues to whisper.  If you engage, if you give him a seat at your table, he’s going to take you right back into the shame and the sin and the “I’m such a failure”.  And, we’ll start making those agreements.

So, how do we break these agreements?

  • Ask god to reveal them
  • Identify lies behind them
  • Confess and ask forgiveness
  • Receive his forgiveness
  • Embrace truth (renounce and declare truth)
  • Ask god to free from the power of agreements.

And we engage in listening prayer with Father.  We invite him into our lives, into our story.  “What’s there Father?”  “What accusations have I agreed with and buried?”  “Unearth it Lord.”  “Show me”.

PRAYER TO BREAK AGREEMENTS

This an exercise in prayer to break those agreements we’ve made with the enemy.  You’re asking God to reveal these agreements to you.  When He reveals them…break them.  They will come to you in prayer sometimes in hearing sentences in your heard like “you’re such a ____ idiot”.  It may be a feeling and God will remind you of a persistent feeling of shame, guilt or fear.  Sometimes, you’ll actually remember a scene and play it out again in your mind.  It may be a scene of a father wound, something an older brother did to you or against you, a wound from your Mom or a grandparent, teacher, coach, boss or old girlfriend.  You’ll have that scene rush back to you in vivid detail.  Other ways agreements will be revealed – what are the phrases you constantly say to yourself?  You know, your own self-talk, things that you thought were just you speaking.  “You’re a failure”.  “You’ll never match up”.  “You are a disappointment”.  “You can never do anything right”, etc.

Lord, I come under the refuge of Jesus Christ.  I am safe in the shelter of God.  I take my refuge in your Cross, your resurrection and in your ascension. 

I simply ask you, Spirit of Truth, reveal to me, show me the agreements I have been making.

Strip away the fog.  I bring the work of my Lord Jesus Christ, the power of His Cross, His shed blood, the power of His resurrection, the power of His authority and His throne against all numbness, dullness, malaise, all forms of fog, all veils that are surrounding my spirit, soul, body or mind.  I cut off this numbness.

Jesus, you say I have the mind of Jesus Christ.  I unite my mind to your mind, my heart to your heart, my will to your will.  Again Holy Spirit, show me.  What are the agreements I have been making with my enemy?  What lies have I believed?

(silent…listen…be still)

show me Lord Jesus, show me.  Expose those things.  Come.  Shine your light here…

(silent…listen…be still)

As you start to get clarity … break them in Jesus’ name.

Lord, show me the agreements I’ve made – even just today or this week.  Show me the agreements I’ve made about you Father.

Show me what has hounded me all my life.  What is it Father?  What has hounded me all my life?

(silent…listen…be still)

I break this agreement, these agreements in the authority of Jesus Christ.  I renounce it.  I renounce all the ways I’ve given the enemy a place in my life.  I renounce it.  Jesus come into these places.  Bring Truth.  Bring Life.

If this is connected to a wound, Jesus come into this wound and heal.  I renounce fear, self-hatred, confusion and disqualification.  I renounce every agreement I’ve made as a man that I can’t do this, that is “too much”.  I renounce every agreement I’ve made that I’ll never trust anyone again.  I renounce every agreement I’ve made against You Father – that You don’t come through, that I can’t trust You, that You don’t really love me.

I renounce every agreement I’ve made with fear, agreements I’ve made with safety and control.  Forgive me of that.  I renounce every agreement I’ve made with my enemy both known and unknown, both seen and unseen in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ.  I break these agreements.  I submit to God.  Spirit of Truth search this out, show me.  I send all this to my Lord Jesus Christ.

In your name, AMEN.

The damage of deception

Here are the slides from this morning > damage of deception

Satan wants to step into an incidence of sin and get you caught/stuck so he can do as much damage as he can.  The heart of everything he does is deception.  When you fail or someone sins against you, Satan will attempt to attach a message to that hurt to keep you bound in it a long time.  Once we latch onto it, a stronghold is in place.

Where does it start?

“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie … furthermore since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind.”    Romans 1:25,28.

“Why is my language not clear to you?  Because you are unable to hear what I say, you belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of liars.”  John 8:43-44

How do we turn it around?  

“Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2) and Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free”.  (John 8:32)

The enemy is going to lie to you.  He’s lying to you right this very moment.  You have to know the Truth to combat the lies.  The Word is your greatest weapon in this war.

Deception was at the heart of the very first sin.  The serpent said to her “Did God really say you must not eat from any tree?” 

  1. Wages an attack on the mind. Brings confusion.
  2. Then once, confusion was in place, Satan flatly denies truth “You will surely not die…” he distorts.
  3. Substitutes his lie for God’s truth“you will become like God”

If you and I question God’s character i.e. “maybe God isn’t all that concerned about me” –> it leaves us vulnerable to questioning His word and if that’s the case –> Satan can easily insert his lies.  YOU have opened the door.

It begins in the battlefield of the mind and then he’ll go after your heart and finally, your soul.

There are four main categories of lies…

  1. About God. He isn’t good, He cannot be pleased.  A distant and uncaring being.  It leads you to a path of “why try?”  And yet, Psalm 139 tells us that God knew us in our mother’s womb and He knit us together – each of us uniquely crafted.
  1. Myself. “God can’t or won’t forgive my sin” – Guilt.  Satan wants to trap you there.  “I’m worthless” – created from lies spoken over us by people.  We bite and he piles on.  If I was just _____ I’d be OK”.  Satan tries to lock you onto that ____ as your idol i.e. that which will give you a sense of security and meaning and will make your life work.  It’s a lie.  You can get back all that money you lost or get that house or get that woman … it is still not going to fill your soul.  I can never really change” – we get stuck here and Satan wants you believing that this is how you’re always going to be – that there is no way out.
  1. Others.  “I can’t trust anyone” – his lies have a measure of truth – there is no human you can trust absolutely.  “All women are ___” – if you’re hurt, Satan wants to attach a message to the pain – an absolute you can declare.  “If my wife would only…” again, making an idol of that one quality you wish she had.  “If I say no, they won’t like me” – people pleasing to gain approval.  “If I tell anyone, I will be ruined” – Satan’s trick of isolating you to do life alone and bake in your own shame without others to call you out of it.  The truth is, you’re only as sick as your secrets.
  1. About the Christian life. “I don’t need anyone else but God” – no, you’re made for relationship/community.  “I know what God’s word says but my situation is unique” – usually occurs when you want to go against God’s word.  “If I could just ____, I’d feel more spiritual” – the trap of performance i.e. praying, memorizing scripture, mission trips.  It’s a lie that you can perform your way into God’s favor.

 How do we deal with this?

  1. Take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ“What is this message I’m hearing Father? Where did it come from?  What is its purpose?”
  2. Renounce the lie I’ve believed and claim the truth of God’s Word – To know truth, I need to know God’s Word. Fill your mind with it.  It is the greatest weapon you have yet most of us rarely study the Word.  We live in a media world – messages come at us constantly telling us what we should believe.  Know God’s Word so you can combat it.
  3. Draw on the power of community – you cannot do this by yourself. Community can show you your blind spots and help you see reality i.e. “that’s a lie, here is the truth”.  Community encourages you to hang on.

Dan Allender on agreements…

Agreements and vows, saying, “This is how I will live given the harm I have suffered”, have been implanted in the heart.  That is where evil, in many ways, puts its energy and effort to keep bringing spiritual harm.

It’s not as simple as saying, “That was my sin to make this agreement/vow” and repent of it and then freedom will come.  That does not address the contempt that’s there or the shame.  It’s actually increasing it.

Someone prays for you to break this bondage and you so want this in your heart – the freedom – but what you also have is a litany of all of these things in your life … “If you only knew these places in my heart” – “If you only knew these things I have done” – “How could I ever really be forgiven?”

What happens when your heart has been annihilated is that these agreements come of “I’m such a fool” – “How could I have been so stupid?” – “There must be something wrong with me”  – “I must be really dark” – “ I must have actually wanted that”.

Then from that come the vows“I will never be that foolish again” – “No one will ever have that kind of access to my heart” – “I will never trust people” – “I will always look for the worst”.

We need to get to the “words beneath the water”.

In a River Runs Through It, Norman Mclean says, “Long ago, rain fell on mud and it became rock.  But even before that, beneath the rocks are God’s words.  They came first.  Listen”.

If we can get to the words beneath the water, then there’s such power because we find such compassion, we see more clearly and then we can say, “I don’t want evil to have this kind of access to my heart any more”.  I see.  I can see more clearly now.  I can see God more clearly now.

If the stories of your life – of loss, abandonment, abuse, insult, injury are not entered into, you can be assured evil will enter them with haunting accusations.  It has and it will continue to do so.

I can know “I am a child of God, loved by God, preserved, protected, redeemed” and you can tell yourself that a billion times and the weed just grows back stronger and stronger.  And you’re left wondering “Why is my prayer not working as it seems to do for so many other people?”

It is because you didn’t back to the story – the genesis of all this – and go back to the pain and invite God into it.  (end)

And let me interject here – I could have had immense pain as a boy from my family or father or brother or bullies at school and I could have walled that up.  “Yep that pain is there but that’s in the past” and it’s like I have placed this divider in my life.  There is all that which happened “years ago” and then there is life beyond that divider.  And my life can be this series of mistakes, setbacks, broken relationships, heartache and disappointment and I can pray those away but the pattern continues to reappear.  Why?  Because of two things.  First, evil. Evil knows where you are most vulnerable and he’s coming right at that spot – that place as a little boy where you were so deeply wounded.  And the weeds keep coming back for a second reason – because I have this divider there.  This line in the sand, if you will, where the things in my past “back then” are not entered into, not talked about.  “They’re in the past and they don’t matter.”  Oh yes they do, my friend.  They matter.  So read back up to where Allender says, “If the stories of your life – of loss, abandonment, abuse, insult, injury are not entered into, you can be assured evil will enter them with haunting accusations.”

If you’re not willing to “go there” and invite Father into the pain of the past, He cannot heal it and bring you freedom and you’re allowing the murderer/thief/liar to continue in destruction. Freedom is there for the taking – the invitation of restoration – “Anyone … in Christ … is a new creation; old things have passed away … all things have become new”.  2 Cor 5:17

When God speaks a word over your life, as far as He’s concerned it has already been accomplished; it is finished.  Now it’s your job to believe it, speak it, and walk in the reality of it each day.  You have a choice.  Who are you going to listen to?  The Father sits at the table He has prepared for you in the midst of your enemies.  Will you lock tight on Him or turn your attention to the voices whispering destruction in your ear?