Live Life Well Mike Fairburn September 6, 2009
I gotta tell you how cool it is to be up here speaking today. The first time Pastor Joe put a microphone in my hand years ago we were dedicating our girls. I handed it right back to him…you talk, you’re better at it.
But the opportunity to speak at Life Center our family’s home church for 17 years is a huge honor. The fact that I am even up here indicates some things have changed over the years.
It has been said timing is everything…well this Thursday is our anniversary.
Four years ago on that date we did church together for the first time in this building. I had the great privilege of in a very small way being involved in seeing the dream of this facility become real.
I was part of our church council during that period. Sometimes I would come home after a meeting and go wow…this is really big this is huge…what do I have to offer.
I wondered what our church would be like once we moved…would it be big and impersonal. Would people come…would Joe start wearing a suit?
Well on September 11th 2005…many questions were answered. I saw people connecting and hanging out in the commons…we had a space to linger to become family and community something we didn’t have in the old building. Because of that in a way we actually became a smaller church.
Ya people came and more do all the time… even though we are bigger Life Center is still about people loving God and each other that is what the local church is supposed to be about.
And Joe, no suit, not even a sport coat…way to go buddy… and aren’t you glad…shorts and flip flops…life’s good here.
But it was the next morning I will never forget…I was here at 6am to meet some guys that were part of our men’s ministry team.
I wandered in the sanctuary before our meeting got started… just to check it out…think of all that had happened the day before.
It was dark and quiet…just me but I realized I was not alone…I walked up on this stage…dark and silent…on one of the music stands I found a sheet with a song on it.
I started to sing the song
… A song we had sung together the day before as a church.
I began to worship and as I sung by myself in this huge brand new building I realized I was in the presence of the living God the mighty one, God who made heaven and earth…and me and you. He was here…God was still in the building.
I remember being overcome by the presence of God…crying singing…probably blowing snot bubbles…but what a moment. Now the bible says that God does not inhabit buildings made by human hands…but that morning He was still here…He was lingering.
Maybe he was waiting for me that morning; a guy he had loved in spite of all my foolishness and mistakes…the sins that nearly killed me…the guy he had rescued and would rescue again.
And maybe He was here because this was his plan…not just another building…but what was going to take place here in the days, weeks and years to come… a place where people could Gather and meet His Son Jesus.
A place where He would fill and grow his precious little ones…us…some like me obviously lost…and others not as obvious but just as lost. I don’t know why God’s presence was so strong that morning.
What I do know…was God’s great and awesome presence was here.
His love completely filled that moment. I hope I never forget it.
It was one of the best moments of my life…only a month later I would face one of the worst… but we will talk about that in a little while.
At City Church we have been going through a series called the Red Letter Days. Most bibles print the words of Jesus in Red. The term Red Letter Day in modern times has come to mean…it’s your lucky day…things are looking up.
The cop gives you a warning instead of the ticket.
You are not just keeping your job you are getting a promotion and a raise. Don’t you hate when you get the promotion without the raise. All the responsibility no extra cash.
The Cougars beat USC…hey I said it was a lucky day.
We got it all…your prognosis is excellent.
A red letter day is when you should buy a lotto ticket…a real red letter day is when you win and didn’t even buy a ticket.
That is actually what Jesus did for us…he paid the price we didn’t.
If you have your bible with you turn to the Gospel of John Chapter 1 verse 1…John is the fourth book of the New Testament…
When Jesus spoke it wasn’t just a lucky day. Those words printed in red are not mere words from an excellent teacher. The bible says in the Gospel of John:
1 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.2 He existed in the beginning with God.3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. John 1:1-5 (NLT)
Now this passage by itself could be a huge theological study. There is a ton of stuff here…and while I have respect for those scholars in our midst…hey I am a landscaper by trade… and Jesus had great success communicating with regular folks…it was religious elites who gave Him most of His problems on earth. So today we are going to keep it simple.
This passage tells us:
Jesus is the living, breathing, loving, creating, and all powerful word of God. What Jesus said and did is completely connected to who He is God’s son.
He is the promise…made and kept.
His light is more powerful than the darkness that tries to engulf our world and us.
So when Jesus speaks and we respond it really is our Red Letter Day.
One Red Letter Day Jesus told those who were with Him:
63 The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
John 6:63 (NLT)
I used to think eternal life is something far off…something we experience after we die.
But when Jesus says: The Spirit alone gives eternal life.
I have come to believe that Jesus is talking about now and later.
John Eldredge makes that point in his book Waking the Dead. “Eternal life starts now.”
Real life, forever life is being lived now. Jesus does not promise 2 lives. This one and then another one later.
When Jesus promises us: And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
Jesus words have the power to give us life…when we respond…because the power of God’s Spirit is behind everything Jesus tells us, everything He promises us and everything He commands us. Yes Jesus does give commands.
But none of these are about religious dos and don’ts.
Rules for the sake of rules are stupid aren’t they?
You remember but why? Because I told you so…we hated to hear it when we were kid’s but darned if some us me included have said to our own kid’s.
You probably have heard the story about the woman who whenever she cooked a roast cut away both ends of the roast before she put it in the pan.
She had learned it from her mom. One day a great aunt came over and saw her do this. She asked why do you do that. Well I learned it from mom and she learned it from grandma…the old woman laughed…my sister did that because her pan was too small.
There are variations on this story but we get the idea.
Rules for the sake of rules lead too… we have always done it like this around here and if it was good enough for those miserable people that came before us then it is good enough to keep us miserable.
That’s why Jesus says: Human effort accomplishes nothing…
That is a little discouraging and I thought we were doing so well. Human effort creates some amazing things…Safeco field…motor cycles…remote controls and recliners…amazing…and there is the pyramids and Sistine chapel I guess there ok
Our capacity to create is incredible…but we have never created a path to God. Religion is often toxic…a dope fiend knows there stuck but when we get caught up in a self righteous, judgmental, religious life we have no idea we’re stuck.
Everybody around us does unless they are stuck where we are.
Jesus struggled with people who were really trying to be good enough…one of the ways these poor folks made themselves feel better about their miserable existence was to point fingers at everybody and I do mean everybody that did not add up in their opinion.
But that is not the kind of life Jesus came to give…at all.
1. To Live Life Well (start with Jesus).
John 1:1-5 John 6:63 John 10:10 John 14:2-3
Turn in your bible to John chapter 10:10…same book just a few pages ahead.
On this red letter day…Jesus tells us the secret of what’s really going on.
He tells us how the universe works…what we are up against…and where we can find life at its best no matter what.
10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
John 10:10 (NLT)
At City Church we have paraphrased John 10:10, Live Life Well.
Part of it is I have an awful time memorizing scripture…but even my 3 remaining brain cells can remember these three words…LIVE LIFE WELL!
Jesus says I have come to bring life.
But what kind of life?
A rich, full, abundant, meaningful, fun, connected, God and people filled life. Relationships and purpose are the normal byproducts of this life Jesus brings.
By the way this means good relationships and meaningful purpose, for some of us that might be a switch. When I began to follow Jesus 20 years ago I would not know a good relationship if it walked up and hugged me, or bit me…that was more my speed. Looking back I was given some opportunities to live and love unselfishly…screwed those up. How could she love me? Well I’ll fix that.
And while we have an enemy here on earth…the thief…the devil…Jesus says:
My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
That’s here and now.
Jesus also promised:
2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.
John 14:2-3 (NLT)
Forever is from this moment forward…when our bodies die, if we have a relationship with Jesus as our Lord and Savior we will go to be with Jesus forever.
But the here and now…this is where life’s heavy lifting takes place. One of the reasons Lisa and I planted City Church is because we know what it is like to be stuck.
And we have watched many good willed people live stuck. They went to church, even read their bible and prayed, helped here or there with some ministry or other but they were stuck. God has taken Lisa and me on a journey that could have gone a few ways…but where he led us was simply to His Son.
We came to realize Jesus is enough…He loves us…you may have heard that so many times the reality of it has lost its power.
But Mike you don’t know what I just did…the thoughts that go through my mind. I keep running into the same wall over and over. Oh I am fine but my husband, my wife, my ex my kids my job
That is the other side of the same coin.
When we live as though God’s love is conditional on our behavior or our peace and well being depend on the behavior of another human being or circumstances to get just right…
Man if we wait for that all to come together the thief wins…we will be waiting forever.
2. To live life well (don’t let anything come between us and Jesus).
2 Sam 7:18-20 Matt 11:28-30 Phil 4:11-13
I am sure you are much smarter than I was. When I was just beginning to follow Jesus again 20 years ago…I kind of thought stuff would come together for me…ah…well a little quicker.
Truth is I am a 20 year overnight sensation…and sensation is overstating it.
But to be honest I am often stunned when I take the time to look back on where this thing started for me and how kind God has been despite my failings.
A man who started as a Shepherd and became a King expressed God’s love and favor in his life like this:
18 Then King David went in and sat before the LORD and prayed,
“Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?19 And now, Sovereign LORD, in addition to everything else, you speak of giving your servant a lasting dynasty! Do you deal with everyone this way, O Sovereign LORD? 20 “What more can I say to you? You know what your servant is really like, Sovereign LORD
2 Sam 7:18-20 (NLT)
The power of this moment is not about kings or dynasties…David has just been given very disappointing news…a dream has died…God has just said no…but despite the circumstance of disappointment David is overcome by the love and goodness of God, the mighty one…who as vast as he is, is able to come along side us…to love us as our Papa.
David knows God loved him when he was a Sheppard just as much as he does as a king.
That love is not based on performance…David has issues…he lies he sleeps with another guys wife and commits murder, this guy is far from perfect but David knows the love of God is not based on conditions because:
“What more can I say to you? You know what your servant is really like, Sovereign LORD
And God knows what we are like too.
Do you ever feel your performance is not enough to merit God’s love and acceptance…when I was stuck I landed there pretty often…didn’t just land there…I stayed there…stuck.
How many of you know shame and guilt are lousy motivators…they may get us to do some things for awhile…but as a counselor friend reminded me once we are human beings Mike; not human doings.
The thief wants to Destroy our relationship with God and guilt and shame are 2 of the tools he uses.
But God tells us come to Him no matter what.
David asks: Do you deal with everyone this way…
Well the good news is yes God does if we let Him.
On another Red Letter Day:
28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Matt 11:28-30 (NLT)
Jesus tells us trade the heavy weight of the sin and circumstance of our lives for His yoke.
A yoke is like a collar harness thing that is put around the neck of farm animal so it can pull a cart or a plow.
Paraphrase take my hitch and trailer that 10 footer over there and I will Jesus says pull those six freight trains you keep trying to drag around. I love you I’ll do that for you but first you have to let go of your burden…give it to Me.
Crazy thing is we keep trying to hang on to our stuff…as though God can’t handle it. We hang on to stuff run after stuff…cause gosh if we let it go we might not… we might not what?
Once I was going on about some turmoil and my efforts to juggle all the cats and chainsaws and my friend asked…Mike how’s that working for you?
For about a 10th of a second I was mad…at him and then I began to laugh… my head off it was absurd it wasn’t working…at all. Can’t even remember what it was, that is how important our stuff really is.
When we turn it over to Jesus we can begin to experience something very rare in our culture…gratitude and contentment.
A guy who let go of all of it and took hold of Jesus…all of Him came to this conclusion:
…for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
Phil 4:11-13 (NLT)
That man’s name was Paul…his life following Christ was not easy but oh my was it worth it.
You can feel the love God had placed in Paul’s heart, Love that replaced a hate filled small minded religious life he was once stuck in.
3. Live life well (in the light of Jesus).
In October of 2005 life looked good. I was part of some exciting ministries at Life Center, our company had made some great changes as we had recovered from a stressful 2004 and Lisa and I were enrolled in the Spokane Ministry Institute. I had asked Lisa to attend with me, first cause our best work we do together and second she has way better study habits then I do.
We were preparing for full time ministry. I really did not want to go into Pasturing but I definitely had felt God telling me go…so I figured hey I’ll do the school thing…maybe dad will change His mind.
Life was changing for us our youngest was the only child at home, even though a lot was happening it was promising but for me the wheels had already started to come off.
When I had rededicated my life to Jesus in February of 1989 it was real clear I had to do something about my drug and alcohol addiction. I was in church 3 times a week, read my bible daily and hung out with guys that mentored me. God made it clear I had to deal with addiction. I began attending a Christ centered 12 step group. I worked steps and made learning how to live sober a high priority.
Early in recovery a friend told me, his sponsor said it’s time to work on your real addiction.
A sponsor is like a mentor in the program…they listen, encourage, challenge and mostly call us on our nonsense.
His real addiction?
What’s that I asked? Sex he responded.
I am pretty sure that was the first time I realized that was my real addiction too. I lost 2 marriages because of infidelity…numerous times.
But in 1989 what did people do about sexual addiction, it just wasn’t talked about.
As a new Christian I remember literally running out of situations with women…when I read the bible said flee youthful lusts I took that seriously.
When Lisa and I began to date…I did not hold her hand let alone kiss her for months. One night a thought, I believe the thief the devil put there…hey there are 3 guys younger than you interested in her if you don’t kiss her she is going to think you’re weird. So I kissed her…within 6 weeks we were intimate.
I almost ruined our relationship…but God in His infinite mercy…restored us…I slept on a friend’s Couch for many months…Lisa and my little daughter Sara stayed in my house until we were married.
I have been faithful physically to Lisa since the day we met…but off and on pornography… was an issue. 4, 6 even 8 months would go by but it eventually would come up.
I always told Lisa…being a trained counselor she knew the dynamics of addiction…this was not about her being desirable…in most cases the compulsion to act out has nothing to do with our spouses lacking something it is the addict that lacks something. But over time it caused her great pain.
I cannot tell you how hard I tried.
I would stay away from porn for months even that effort takes a toll on relationships with God and others.
That was the status quo…I knew God loved him my life was light years better than it was before and yet I was stuck…could not get past this one thing.
Friends had told me about the web…how they got stuck in it…so I stayed away from computers for years.
When I finally had to have a computer I was under the impression I had filters fire walls and machine guns and hand grenades to keep me safe.
But in August of 2005 I found this was not true. For 3 months an incredible battle was going on but I was losing. Finally one night in October I told Lisa I was coming home from the gym. I lied I had been looking at porn.
I have lied to Lisa 2 times in our marriage both times about porn. As hung up and waited at the red light. Two thoughts came 1. You just lied and 2. This is where your life is going…you could just leave. The light changed and so did I. it dawned on me what I had just thought.
As I drove I began to yell as loud as I could; I am not a slave to this, I am not a liar, I belong to the Living God who loves me. I have been bought with a price. I yelled at the devil I do not belong to you and I will not listen to you. I yelled a lot more, matter of fact in about 7 blocks I almost lost my voice.
I realized I needed to take immediate action or I would be back here again. It started with telling Lisa everything…I have never been more afraid… as I broke down she held me as I sobbed. In that moment I experienced through her God’s love acceptance and forgiveness. I turned my computer over till we could make it porn proof.
I began attending the Tuesday night life center freedom group for men, a 12 step recovery group for sex addicts. I listened to what people who had sober time told me, and did what they said. I told Pastor Joe…since I was ministering at life center I owed him…if he told me to step down that was ok…he was kind but set clear boundaries, check in with me periodically and yes if you go back ministry is done.
You may be dealing with pornography or infidelity; I want you to know there is help. Recovery and healing takes place in community…going it alone does not work. Tuesday at 7pm in room 200-a the men’s freedom group meets. If you are a woman who has been affected by sexual addiction of someone close to you; Life Line meets Tuesday at 7pm in the parent’s room next to the info center.
This October 15th Lord willing I will have 4 years sober. I am not cured…by the grace of God I am recovering…I work at it every day.
I am telling you this story today because church needs to be about healing and honesty. How are we going to get well if we feel we have to pretend everything is ok. Do that with your doctor and it could cost you’re life. The devil the thief the murderer and destroyer lives in the secret places of our life.
If we allow something to stay hidden in the dark we are stuck.
One Red Letter Day Jesus said:
12 … “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”
John 8:12 (NLT)
To live life well, it starts with Jesus…making a relationship with Him our first priority…before anything.
Time every day praying…talking and listening to God…reading the bible every day and journaling will make a huge difference over time…living proof here.
To live life well don’t let guilt, shame or circumstances get between you and Jesus…he already knows what’s going on come to Him with whatever it is.
And finally to live life well let Jesus shine His light on our secret places…it will hurt but it will heal. Healing and growth take time. A mushroom grows over night in the dark but a Great Oak grows in the light over years. Which would you rather be an oak or a mushroom?
Today just like that morning almost 4 years ago God is here…I want to ask everyone to close your eyes…let’s have a moment with Jesus…
Meet or reacquaint with Jesus….
Ask God to help get unstuck…