I’m in Denial. Won’t You Join Me?

Can’t Always Get What You Want
     Sometimes, I get confused about the difference between my “desired outcomes” and my “rights”. Let’s see if you might relate.

     I have a constitutional “right” to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But, I know that something I get happy over is the approval of others and the respect of my peers. So, I pursue it. Sometimes I get it. Other times, I’m left hanging and my brain jumps from A (desired outcomes) to B (rights) leaving me disappointed at least and angry at worst. Can you relate?

     Maybe your desired outcome is different – promotion/raise, the next car “up”, an apology from someone who really did you wrong, your teenager or subordinate at work following your advice and making smart choices, privacy, peace and quiet, death to crabgrass, a little recognition for the extra effort you put in on that last project… around the house? Ever experience that confusion… disappointment… even anger?
     Ultimately, disappointments can become food for the internal battles within that James refers to below:

1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel... (James 4:1-2, ESV)”

     This week, a lot of the one on one discipleship conversations I’m having with the men I’m walking have been centered around this very issue. For many men, coming up short on recognition once or twice at work, (or worse, at home) = no big deal. But, over time, it can clutter the mental stage with a low level hum that distracts us from what we’re really trying to focus on. I like to call it “ambient spiritual noise”.

    How loud is your stage?

    Two thousand years ago, there was a disciple who learned a remedy to this. His  mouth was shaped like a sandal so he didn’t look out of place every time he put his foot in it. Guy named “Peter”. Ever walk in his mouth… I mean, shoes?

Quick Backstory:

Coffee mug for Simon Peter

     Peter goes from hero to zero pretty quickly according to Mark, chapter 8. In one line, Jesus calls Peter “the Rock”, then a few moments later “Satan” and “a stumbling block”. Ouch. Jesus publicly commends Peter for correctly identifying Him as the Messiah. Jesus then goes on to tell everyone He’s about to be tortured, killed, and resurrected. Not the story Peter was expecting. Peter kind of snaps. He pulls Jesus aside and rebukes him. (Gusty, Peter. You want some mustard on that shoe before you eat it?)

     Jesus follows up with an address to the whole crowd, facing Peter with the dilemma that every one of us who desires to follow Jesus must deal with:

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Mark 8:34b)”

     Jesus essentially tells them/us all. “To follow me, you must walk in denial of your desires and possessions.” Denial… To know who Jesus is, is head knowledge. To follow Him, will require sacrifice: what two things must we deny ourselves? 

  1. Everything and 
  2. Anything

Can You Expand on That?
     Sure, thanks for asking… Philippians says Jesus “emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant… [and became] obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (2.7-8)” Think about that: Jesus, most powerful being on the planet, could have called down at least 60,000 angels to save Him from brutally violent death, denied Himself his right to life… liberty… and the pursuit of any form of happiness. Jesus models living “in denial”.

     Are you willing to deny yourself everything and follow Jesus? I’m not. Not in my own strength. But, as always, there’s Good News and there’s great news. Good news: Jesus died for that sin. Great news: He sent the Holy Spirit to empower us to deny ourselves daily and take up our cross to follow Him. The act of “followship” is not one we are left to do in our own strength. When we fail, we’re already forgiven. God loves us so much He even sent a Helper to pick us up when we fall.

The “Take Away”:
     Here’s your homework: write down your top ten goals and dreams – the house, the promotion(s), the boat, the acceptance and respect of your peers, the approval of your wife, kids, boss, or even your parents and draw a big line through them. Even better, find one of those insurance adjuster stamps that says “Denied” and stamp it on every one. Pray that the Holy Spirit will strengthen you to live in “denial” with me… with Peter… with Jesus, who humbled Himself on the cross and became obedient to death….

Side Benefit
     Expectations bind us to the desired outcome we’re seeking. When we expect and don’t get, a debt/debtor we risk falling into a debt/debtor relationship with what we expected. When we mentally and emotionally let go of expectations, anything we receive is counted as a blessing. Note: this doesn’t mean lowering or not having expectations. We are to strive for excellence, and to do so requires standards that may not always be met. However, there is a big difference between having expectations and being had by our expectations.

     By “living in denial” (denying ourselves through surrender to Christ and quickly reconciling unmet expectations), we create massive opportunities for blessing and free ourselves from dependence on human justice. Surrender to Christ means surrender of everything, allowing free reign for the justice of God, who sees all things and will reward all men for what they have done and what they have denied themselves.

in Christ,


Going Deeper:
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. (Prov. 13.12)”

Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. (Matthew 17.27-29)”

For reflection:
“How aware are you of your subtle attempts at controlling outcomes?”

“As life becomes more ‘complicated’, how aware are you of your attachment to your outcomes, expectations, commitments, and possessions?”

Does This Qualify as a Testimonial?

     Every week, I sit eyeball to eyeball with guys and talk about what God is showing them in the word, where He’s moving them in their walk, and how they’re struggling or how I can pray for them (or both). Hopefully, the influence of one man and one God in his life makes an impact to the world around him.

     Recently, a guy told me that he called his wife to let her know he was praying for her. She unknowingly gave me the coolest complement in her response when she asked him, “Are you meeting with Aarron right now or something?”.
     “No, I’m just at work.”

     Honored. Humbled. Invigorated and encouraged.

Question for Men:
     What man (or, men) are so intentionally in your face and your life that their influence is clearly marked for the positive in your marriage, your conversation, and your witness in the marketplace?

Discipleship Update – Putting Clutter to Death

 “Highly productive, well rested, God focused, and ready for anything.
     Describe you? Last year, God began stirring in me a desire to break from a number of bad habits… or perhaps a lifestyle. Through a few secular books, he opened my eyes to productivity principles that had been “hiding in plain view” right there in the scriptures. After compiling weeks of study, hours of notes, months of application and “tweaking” and publishing several blog posts, I was invited to speak to two groups of men over the course of about 4 months: Men Step Up – Gwinnett, and ONE TH1NG in Alpharetta, GA.

Eliciting feedback from the men at the tables of ONE TH1NG

     The results are still to be calculated, having directly reached 90-100 men from 15 different churches, dozens of businesses, and an untold national impact through our blog and FB pages. Many of the men were struck between the eyes when it comes to the concepts of clutter, workflow management, organization, and the stewardship of ideas: “most of us have never been taught how God sees it.” Clutter and disorganization all come from one source: a divided heart. And, only a heart fully surrendered to one Master can keep from being caught up in the rat race.

“You can’t worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can’t serve both God and [stuff]. (Mt. 6:24 MSG)”
     Conversations among the many men pinned this down: our schedules are the most clutter friendly arenas in life and regardless of the type of clutter we battle, the losers are most often and severely our families. 
     God’s word does not return void and did not for any of these men. Today, I’m still receiving occasional texts from guys to tell me that they’ve just eliminated hundreds (on guy, thousands) of emails from their inbox and have begun to experience what David Allen calls the freedom of “Captain and Commander” mode. This information may soon be available in eBook format and as a half day workshop for men in the marketplace. Inbox me or keep your eyes on our pages for details and updates.

Other Updates:

  • While our Facebook page now has over 150 “Likes”, the blog now has over 12,000 views, and our YouTube channel now has over 200 subscribers and more than 4,300 video views!
  • Aarron was recently asked to join Echo Ministries’ Board of Elders and will be serving a term as an elder for ministry leader, Greg Ford.
  • Aarron is currently rehearsing “That Day” in preparation for soon to be announced performances in the metro-Atlanta area. Stay tuned to Facebook and the blog for updates.

5 Ways to Help the Hopeless

     Do you know someone who’s always hopeless or pessimistic? They’ve tried and failed. They tried again with a better plan or better people and the people, the plan, or both fell through. “Maybe, it’s just me.” they think. They look at the sky and see a half a cloud, so it must be about to pour, right? You plead with them – “It’s (insert your city or town). If you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes and it’ll change.”

     “Wrong.” they say, listing all of the valid exceptions: “Lima, Peru –  it never rains; Seattle, WA – always raining; and San Diego – always sunny and 72.” 

     You beg and reason with them until you’re blue in the face. You may even begin to question yourself in light of all the evidence they present. Maybe, you’ve even walked away from them for a season. 

     “You have a negative view of the past, of the present, and of the future. You feel that nothing is going to get better—that it’s terrible now and it’s going to stay this way the rest of your life,” says Dr. Archibald Hart.

     “My life has always been rainy… There’s no hope. I’m a Seattle and all of my friends are San Diegos.” Hoplessness, shame, and pessimism are lies that affirm this: “the past = the future”. If that were true, why bother? But, we can bother. We are called to bother. Jesus died to dump hopelessness, shame, and pessimism in the lake of fire.

     David asks God the tough questions throughout the Psalms about why the wicked prosper and prods at God “how long will you let… [this injustice continue]” Jeremiah models it, too, in 20.18:

 “Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?”

The great news for your friend who is hopeless, burdened by shame, and weighed down by pessimism: Elijah, Moses, Job, Jonah, Jeremiah – great men of God all despaired for their lives. Yet, all saw miracles of God before their own eyes (or once they were out of the belly of the fish and could see something… Ah, you get the point.)

  1. Silence is Golden: So, how do you handle your “mostly cloudy” friends?Know when words just won’t do. When Job lost everything… and then lost it all again… and again… His three friends started out on the right foot:

    Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. 2.13″

    Sometimes, words are necessary. Other times, words are the worst thing to bring to the table. This is more art than science – advice from the Holy Spirit is more often than not the only true barometer.

  2. Let Them Grieve without Giving Your Advice – when dealing with someone who’s stuck in the past, or even a present crisis, leaving your Home Depot/DIY apron in the truck is the rule of the day. As I grow wiser, I’m learning when my bride is hurting or just plain worn down by life that one of the most valuable questions I can ask is this:

    “Are you telling me this because you’re seeking a solution or because you just need to vent?” 

    Men, this has kept my marriage on the rails more often than not – but it is wisdom for all kinds of relationships. Don’t let your talent at fixing things derail your ability to pastor a friend or confidant.

  3. Encourage Sincerely – When you’ve received permission to offer your opinion or advice, pray that God gives you the words to say and that you stay away from the Hallmark aisle of your brain. Nobody – I mean nobody – likes canned speeches and trite verses.
  4. Don’t Minimize the Past – “It’s really not that big a deal.” is incredibly an minimizing and impersonal way of saying “Your suffering is nothing.” Yes, we all need to weight our present suffering against the suffering of Christ on our behalf, but God is a personal God, not a God of facts. Take into account that everyone’s personal struggles are just that: personal. Minimizing their personal affects feels like you’re minimizing them.
  5. Point to Jesus – The most important bridge to build is from past or present pain to future hopes and dreams and only the death, resurrection and ransom of Christ offers us proof and assurance that the past does not equal the future. Fluffy, flowery Jesus talk doesn’t really help – see #3 – but, a real expression that we’re all stuck for now in this broken world, redeemed, and soon to be delivered is the only truth that can build that bridge.
    You’re not their Messiah – a lot of times, we get hung up trying to solve their problem, rather than carrying the burden for a time. Keeping this in perspective is a crucial guardrail in staying out of the muck while pulling them out. Great lifeguards know you can’t save everyone, merely offer a steady hand to those who will accept it.

     In a Genesis 3 world, we will all have trouble. But, Christ assures us in light of this He has overcome the world and will deliver us from our light and momentary troubles. Ultimately, we will one day meet Him at the Bema seat (2 Cor. 5.10) and be rewarded for the things we did in His power and crowns for the pains we suffered in the meantime.

Great rewards await… all who overcome.

in Christ,