Several years ago, I read a book by pastor Erwin McManus, Artisan Soul, that resonated deep within me. Since then, I’ve read several other books by him, and am inspired by his words, as well as his love for Jesus and adventure.
On Sunday, I had the awesome opportunity to worship in his church in Hollywood, CA. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I arrived super early and found there is actually parking on site (yay!). I sat in my car listening to a sermon that my friend back home in PA was streaming live on Facebook while observing the many volunteers preparing the building and surrounding for the service. Quite literally about 50 or so people were scurrying about, sweeping, preparing literature tables, coffee stands, and gathering for a pre-service prayer.
Around 9:30, I ventured toward the building and was greeted by about 10 different people, all super friendly. I am truly an introvert (though I know that surprises some people) and planned to just fade into the woodwork unnoticed, but a bubbly woman came running up and introduced herself as “Mamma D”. She asked if I was there alone, and when I replied, “yes”, she said, “not anymore! You’re with me today!” I honestly thought, “oh no! What have I gotten into??” I hung out with her until the doors opened and when we went inside, she said to the ushers, whom she apparently knew, “this is my new friend, and we’re going to the front row”. Lol. Goodness. Turns out Mamma B was from Shippensburg, Pa, and been here three years, serving as the head of hospitality team. No surprise. She told me that the “kids” refer to her as Mamma B because she’s like their mom away from home. She said, “99% of them have come to LA to follow a dream, and 98% of them will face rejection. My job is to help them pick up the pieces”. Awww.
Everyone was talking about Erwin’s new book, and some had “Book club” pins on, including my new friend. They were excited that he was going to talk about his new book today. I was a little disappointed. I’ve read some of his books and found them both inspiring and scriptural but was afraid I was in for a morning that was about Erwin and not about Jesus. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The worship was good although the songs were new to me. The keyboard was a Nord, which is becoming a new favorite of mine. The room held several hundred people and most seemed to be in their twenties from all walks of life. I wondered if Pastor McManus would actually be there in person or simply projected, but during worship, I looked over and saw him worshiping with his wife, in my same row on the other side of the room.
When he got up to speak, he thanked the worship team for giving to God and bowed in prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to fill us. He did mention the book, but with a humble spirit. The books title, The Way of the Warrior made me think it was about battle, literal battle. But as he began, I realized it is about spiritual battle, depression and anxiety and the battle within our souls. He talked about living in LA, “the epicenter of human creativity but the epicenter of human brokenness”. He mentioned, as an aside, to be careful what “informs” you because it WILL form you, and talked about the importance of knowing scripture.
His scripture for the morning was 1 Kings 19, although he summarized chapter 18 to set the context. Elijah, one of the Lord’s prophets, interacted with Jezebel and Ahab, who worshipped Baal. Elijah challenged them to see whose God was more powerful but taking two bulls and preparing them to be cooked but not set fire to them but ask their respective gods to bring fire. Baal did not but God brought fire from heaven, and everyone was amazed. Then Elijah killed the prophets of Baal. My notes from the talk are below the scripture.
1 Kings 19:1-13 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.7 The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. The Lord Appears to Elijah And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Elijah had an incredibly victorious moment in his life, as depicted in 1 Kings 18, where Elijah called on God to bring fire from Heaven and He did; immediately following that victory, at the beginning of Chapter 19, Jezebel sends Elijah a message saying she’s going to kill him, and he runs away scared.
Pastor McManus pauses here to remind us that with social media, etc, we see the highlights of people’s lives, and sometimes compare ourselves to them. Sometimes when we see lowlights of someone else, it makes us feel better about ourselves. He cautioned us against comparing our lives with either highlights or lowlights of other people. God sending fire from Heaven for Elijah was a highlight of his life. Surely this should have given Elijah confidence, yet we see him run from Jezebel.
He also reminded us that no matter how much success we’ve had, we are not immune to anxiety and depression. “Anxiety and fear is not connected to reality. I’ve seen some of you face real problems with strength but sometimes fear happens in regards to things that aren’t real. Beneath them, Fear is just faith projecting the most negative future”
A few verses later, Elijah asks God to take his life, and says, “interestingly, this isn’t the only suicidal thought in the Bible–Jonah had similar thoughts.” He stopped to point out the irony that, while Elijah doesn’t want Jezebel to kill him, he is ok with God killing him. Lol.
‘”Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep’. Sometimes when we’re depressed, we sleep more. Sometimes when anxious, we cannot sleep.
Need to run TO your life. Don’t run from the one you need to running to.
If you have faith and you’re affected by depression, it doesn’t make you weak but human.
Sometime when we feel alone, we you make ourselves alone, retreating from those who love us. Some of our destructive behavior is manifesting in reality.
If you don’t allow God to heal you, you will always need more.
Are you carrying baggage ? (who isn’t?)
God is more creative than you. He always has more ways out than you can imagine.
What do you do when you’re depressed? Sleep? Eat?
We’re much harder on ourselves and on each other than God is on us.
We need to fight the fight for inner peace.
War is raging within us. The war that will end all wars is the war of the human heart. When your spirit is unhealthy you body is unhealthy. Your spirit needs to be healed.
5: He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again
“Don’t let em tell you you need to stay away from carbs”. Lol – Pastor McManus
7 The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God
“There’s a journey ahead that you cannot avoid. Some will say they’re broken and can’t serve. But when you’re broken you need to serve. He’s always going to send you on a journey that’s too much for you so you need Him. It doesn’t get easier. You get stronger.”
Incidentally, sometimes we won’t allow broken people to serve. Leadership is about people. You may not be ready to lead but you are always ready to serve.” (how true is that??)
“The feelings of emptiness is not proof of the absence of God. God is waiting the entire time not to reprimand. He’s here to start a new beginning with you.”
Take care of yourself. Be with friends. Eat and drink There’s more of you than you know.
9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. The Lord Appears to Elijah And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
This is the same question that God asked Adam in the garden.. What are you doing here? Why are you choosing to stay there?
Some of you are hiding in a cave called the job you hate. Or the life you hate. It’s time to let the haters hate and move on.
10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
The lord is about to pass by.
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
God wasn’t in the earthquake or the wind or fire. He was in the gentle whisper.
Elijah’s greatest battle? Not the fire, not the battle with jezebel. But facing his Creator asking him what is he doing here. The biggest battle you’ll feel is the one for your soul.
We think peace will happen if we just aren’t violent. We will only have world peace when we have I. We peace. The war needs to be won in our souls.
Fight for peace. Surrender your inner world to the one who can bring peace to your souls, Jesus Christ. He closed the service in prayer, and invited all who wanted to proclaim Jesus as their Lord and Savior to do so.
I am looking forward to reading his book. Though the title doesn’t resonate with me, I know a good many people who are broken – who have and are battling depression and/or anxiety. I, myself, have battled, which is one of the reasons I wrote the book, Masquerade. I will summarize the Way of the Warrior for you when I finish.
In the meantime, be blessed, my friends.