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Last year, Pastor Erwin McManus wrote this book called The Last Arrow. After hearing him speak at Hillsong Phoenix about the book during a worship event, I read the book and was really blow away by the content of it. We decided to do a five week study on it in our Young Professionals group this month. Below are my notes from the lead-in sermons for the book that Erwin did at Mosaic church and a five-day devotional plan from Bible.com. Also included are some of the promotional material we created for the our upcoming series. Each week I’ll post my notes from each chapter.

THE LAST ARROW – ERWIN MCMANUS 

(MY SERMON NOTES)

“The Journey of the Last Arrow begins when you raise the bar”

“We cannot grab hold of the future of we keep holding onto the past”

“The Last Arrow moves you past what God will do for you to what God will do through you”

What Did You Expect? (Pre-sermon) (9/17/17) 

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

Philippians 1:20-26

What is the journey we need to go on to become more?

Our dreams will disappoint us and we pull back so we won’t go through that again.

– Many of us tried hope and love and it didn’t work. It left us empty.

– Many of us have wounds from failure.

You are limiting the opportunities for the life God created you to live if you are not moving forward with expectation and hope.

– Paul expects to need courage because he knew his future was going to have hardship. Raise your expectations to what you expect. Too many of us have more expectations of life than of ourselves.

Those of us that expect life just to happen will naturally gravitate toward the lowest point of existence possible. You will move toward mediocrity. You need to make choices for life to happen.

Why trust Jesus if life is going to be hard? Because life is hard and full of challenges.

– You shouldn’t just expect great dreams but also that great pain will come with your life. Expect to need courage.

If you angry with God that your life is hard, ask yourself what did you expect?

– God sees pain as a temporary condition in your life.

We have more science on how to live longer, what we really need more of is how to live well.

To live is Christ, to die is gain. Paul is torn on what to choose – life or life.

People that are afraid to die are afraid because they have never lived. Expect to live.

God has another life for us on the other side of pain and suffering.

God placed you on this earth for intention and purpose.

– You can still have joy and happiness while living with intention. Happiness comes from a life that matters.

Too many of us live our lives conformed to the expectations of others. Break free.

At some point you have to stop saying “God, what about me?” and say to God “use me for the sake of others”.

Live life to your last breath saying, “I have no regrets. I gave it all”.

I’m Not Finished Yet (Pre-Sermon) (9/24/17)

Now the people of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.’ “Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified,but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the Lord, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly. (Hebron used to be called Kiriath Arba after Arba, who was the greatest man among the Anakites.) Then the land had rest from war.

Joshua 4:6-15

Everything God started inside of you, he wants to finish through you. Many of us have deep regrets because of things left unfinished by us.

We say things like “if God wanted it to happed, it would have happened”, when in reality we quit.

Caleb never quit and finished well. Joshua blessed Caleb by giving him the land that was promised to him – a land that still had giants in it (v. 13). He blessed him by giving him another battle to step into. Caleb knew he wasn’t finished yet. God’s blessing doesn’t mean he gives us peace and rest.

We’re not finished yet.

They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.” Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”

Numbers 13:26-33

The Israelites were satisfied with just quitting and existing. God wants people that are willing to say, “I’m not finished yet”. Too many people show up to church and are satisfied with just sitting in the chairs.

What matters enough for you that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks or says about you for you to take a stand in life? The Last Arrow isn’t about self-fulfillment. It’s about self-sacrifice for the needs and benefits of others. What matters more to you than your life?

Many of us love to step into opportunities that we think will give us a better future. Opportunities are big in the beginning and in the end, but skinny in the middle and that’s when most of us bail out (the part that requires discipline and perseverance).

Believe that your suffering and determination and your wounds are needed by God to accomplish his will. Imagine if Jesus didn’t go to the cross after his suffering in the garden? Jesus decided he wasn’t finished until it was finished (his final words on the cross).

God wants to use people that are willing to say, “I’m not finished yet”. You can retire from your job, but you can’t retire from your intention. If you are still breathing, you are not finished.

Let’s redefine what it means to get older. When you are young, you are stronger. But when you get old, you get wiser. You know how to believe, pray and sacrifice.

You don’t need to be younger, you just need to be alive. If you want to live a life without regret, then start now. Because if you don’t learn how to sacrifice when you are younger, you won’t do it when you are older. So stop talking about what your past was like and start talking about what your future is going to be.

 

 

Below is a 5-Day reading plan for the The Last Arrow from Bible.com

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Day 1 of 5 • This day’s reading

Devotional

DON’T STOP UNTIL YOU ARE FINISHED

The concept of The Last Arrow came to me when I was reflecting on a story from the life of the prophet Elisha in the Hebrew Scriptures. In this story, Jehoash is the king of Israel in the midst of a massive war, and he seeks the wisdom and counsel of Elisha in how to win against the armies of Judah.

Elisha tells Jehoash to ‘get a bow and some arrows’ and then to ‘take the bow in [his] hands.’ After commanding Jehoash to shoot one of the arrows out of the east-facing window, he declares that Jehoash will have victory in battle. But then Elisha asks him to take the remaining arrows and ‘strike the ground.’

Jehoash strikes the ground three times before he stops and, quite unexpectedly, Elisha grows angry with him. ‘You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times.’ And that is where the story ends.

Jehoash began with the promise of a complete victory and afterward found himself the recipient of much less. And it all centers around one decision: he struck the ground three times and then stopped. To put it another way, he quit. For Elisha, Jehoash striking the arrow was connected to his ability to receive the full measure of God’s intention for him, and when he quit the victory was lost.

It makes me wonder how many times in my own life I thought I failed, but actually the only thing that happened was that I quit. When you come to the end of your life, will you be able to say, “I gave everything I had,” or will you have a hollow feeling inside of your soul that you quit too soon, that you expected too little, that you did not strike the last arrow? Make the commitment to not stop before you are finished, because you are truly stopping before God is finished.

Are there areas in your life where you too easily give up? Can you identify patterns in your past where you thought you failed when you actually quit? What makes you want to be a person who lives their life fully alive and dies with their quiver empty?

Day 2 of 5 • This day’s reading

Devotional

SET YOUR PAST ON FIRE

In 1977 my family’s home erupted in an electrical fire that consumed everything inside. While my mother lamented the loss of my brother’s trophies and promised him they could be fixed, I remember that my brother seemed strangely unmoved. The insight he left me with that day was that if those trophies are the highlights of our life, then our lives were not worth living, going forward. Why waste time and effort to reclaim the past when it would be much better for us to focus on creating the future?

There are things and even people that you will have to leave behind if you are going to keep moving forward – anyone and anything that would keep you trapped in the past and would rob from you the future God has for you. Jesus clearly imparted to all of His disciples: You cannot follow me into the future if you are holding on to your past.

Your past will be your future until you have the courage to create a new one. Take every memory that continues to wound you, take all of the pain, all of the regret, take all of the bitterness and disappointment, take all the moments of betrayal and every failure out of your heart and put them in the fire.

Keep in mind that this is not an invitation for destructive behavior; don’t burn relational bridges or operate under a scorched-earth strategy. Try to make sure you do the right thing in the right way; appreciate the past, but live in the present and for the future. The journey into our best future always passes through the furnace. The fire both forges us to who we must become and frees us to live the life for which we were created.

What has a negative hold on your life that you need to leave in your past to create your future? Identify three strongholds over your decisions, behaviors, and relationships that you need to ‘burn’ to move forward into the life Jesus is calling you to live.

Day 3 of 5 • This day’s reading

Devotional

ACT LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT

When Jesus’ disciples went to the tomb to look for his body, the angel who met them asked, “Why do you look for the living amongst the dead?” In general, we seem so confused about life and death and even more so about the ambivalent state of being that might best be described as existence.

Not long ago my wife Kim and I were in Beirut. We were preparing to go into Bekaá minutes from the border where ISIS was at war with the people of Lebanon. As we were about to jump in our cars we were asked to fill out a form. The forms’ heading read ‘Proof of Life.’ This was the first time in my life I was asked to prove I was alive. This caused me to reflect and ask myself, “What are the proofs of my life?” Is it the car I drive? My last name? My social security number? Could it be that those descriptors are not proof of life but simply proof of existence?

Most of us are not choosing between life and death; we are choosing between existence and death. We actually never choose to live. We are paralyzed by our fear of death and all its relatives such as failure, disappointment, and heartbreak and that fear leads us to trade life for existence.

Of this I am certain: whatever God has for you, whatever promises God longs to fulfill in your life, whatever riches may await you, you will only find them when you choose life over existence.

Regardless of your status or socio-economic background you must stop waiting for someone to make your life count. You must act. You need to act like your life depends on it. Whatever choices you make in life, no matter how much you accomplish, one thing is certain – all of our lives will end. The question still remains: will you choose to live or will you lie there until death takes you?

What are your proofs of life? What are those things in your life that make you come alive? In what ways have you settled for existing instead of living?

Day 4 of 5 • This day’s reading

Devotional

KNOW WHAT YOU WANT

There is a story in the life of Jesus that has always struck me as odd. Jesus was leaving Jericho and a large crowd began to follow him. In the midst of the commotion two blind men were sitting by the road. “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” they cried out. The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet but they raised their voices even louder. “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. The men responded, “Lord, we want our sight.”

Usually when we read a story like this we are primarily struck by the outcome – it’s no small thing that at the end of that story Jesus gave the two blind men their sight. So the question Jesus asked often goes over looked.

When Jesus asks them “What do you want me to do for you?” he wasn’t asking because he didn’t know, but because he needed them to declare what they wanted God to do on their behalf.

The Psalms tell us that we are to delight ourselves in the Lord and he will give us the desires of our heart. This means we need to know our hearts, we need to know our desires, and we must allow those desires to be informed and then formed by our love and worship of God.

If you don’t know what you want, then God trying to give you what he wants is a wasted effort. You have to want what God wants in order to receive what God wants to give you. There are times in life when it is not within the scope of God’s intention for our life to give us certain things we ask for. But wouldn’t you rather err by asking for too much than too little?

What do you want from God? Is that a question you typically ask yourself? Is there anything you want that you’re afraid to ask for?

Day 5 of 5 • This day’s reading

Devotional

BE READY WHEN YOU GET THERE

At age 29 I had been the pastor of a tiny congregation in South Dallas, TX for six years. A huge faith-based event took place in Reunion Arena every year and I typically volunteered there as, essentially, an usher. Right before the event was scheduled to start, the executive director of the conference came to me and told me the main speaker couldn’t make it and that I would take his place. It took a lot of convincing from him to make me believe he wanted me to step onstage in front of 20,000 people in less than an hour.

That night I gave every ounce of passion within me, but it wasn’t because I was in front of thousands. It was the same intensity I gave every week to the 20 or 200 people who walked through the doors of my church. Afterward, the director told me that he had seen me preach in Spanish at my church without my knowledge – he didn’t know what I was saying, but he knew what was happening in the room and trusted me with a large moment because of that small one.

Remember that Jesus laid out this principle for us: it is the person who is faithful in the small things who will be entrusted with bigger things. So many of us are trying to get “there,” wherever “there” might be. But when we get there, we’re not ready for it. The great tragedy would be to live your life waiting for that moment to come instead of living your life preparing for when that moment comes.

What I have seen over a lifetime is that, from our perception, we wonder why God hasn’t given us the opportunities we long for, and from His perception, He wonders why we chose to be unprepared for the opportunities He placed right in front of us. You cannot know every challenge you will face, but you can know who you are when you face that challenge!

Are there areas in your life where you feel God has called you to prepare yourself for something larger? How has God rewarded your stewardship of small things with the trust of larger ones?

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I only know a few people in this Experiencing God small group (I would hardly call 25 people small..) that I am in. But tonight I shared my testimony with them so they could get to know me. A lot of them go to Cornerstone and to meet someone who had Pastor Linn as a youth Pastor and then to also meet someone who was a part of the beginning days of the church was interesting to them. They of course had lots of questions for me. For me, it was a time of reflection of my roller coaster life. Not that it has been bad, but I can see where God has always been present and how he has always been calling me back to him all throughout my life.

This week’s study has been focused on joining God where he is working and to be a servant for him. For me, I have always interpreted that as a service project or an event, etc. I have had so many opportunities that have come my way lately that I could easily jump on board with. I have been very careful about not keeping myself too busy or ignore where I am at in life. So I just commit to pray about each opportunity and to make sure it is part of Gods plan. Other than be father to my kids, God keeps telling me to be still. He doesn’t mean to just sit and do nothing, but to really take the time and build my relationship with him. I know it is because he is molding me for something bigger and better in my life. I have experienced things the past six years that only I can attribute to God, but I truly feel he has something even bigger than my puny brain can ever come up with. My relationship with the Lord is so rich right now, I can’t ever imagine walking away from it.

God has taught me so much about his sovereignty and the power of prayer. I always find myself in situations where I want to control my environment. But I am in a place right now that I know praying is more than enough for God to do his work and I don’t have to anything more. It takes the power out of my hands and teaches me to trust God. Last year, I left my last church looking for community to apply the gospel to my life. At that church, my life was mainly about me and my accomplishments (not to say there wasn’t good things.. but this was my idolatry issue there). There are a lot of people who like to pat themselves on the back there and I got caught up with that. I have learned the importance of community at my current church and I now have that and it has become a big part of my life. But now God is teaching me another part of the gospel – the cosmic part of it. This is the part where we look at all creation and trust God is in charge and that he is at work. This is huge because we all want to do things our way because our faith and trust in God is weak. This is where in my Experiencing God study that I feel God is wanting me to look at and join with him.

At church today they nominated Mark Durban to be a deacon. You know, Mark has stuck to me like glue these past few months. I have had many great mentors (I can’t tell you how important having older wiser people in your life is for growth. You will never get that from younger people or people your age), but Mark seeks me out each week to see how I am doing. My last counselor was great and he helped me with a lot of things. But what I have learned is counseling is a process that process needs to keep going, even when things are great. Mark has been counseling me each week for the past few months with the material from CCEF. This stuff is so rich with the gospel and is truly material for life long change. I have taken some courses myself, but to have is applied has been amazing. I’m not going to lie to you, I fought God long and hard my first month of counseling. Our tendency is to finger-point, blame everyone for our problems and simply to avoid them all together (I hate it when I fall into this trap). It is such an exhausting way to live and one will simply carry those burdens their whole life and look to quick fixes to get by. True change doesn’t even begin until you have a desire to change first and that you are willing only to look at yourself and your own heart issues and not anyone elses. We spent a lot of time re-visiting my childhood and I did not like seeing myself as that scared little boy in the corner watching my parents fight and my father abusing me. Or being picked on in school or going through divorce. But after a few weeks, I finally gave in and repented my crap to God and I have experienced so much freedom since. I quit blaming all these people and circumstances for who I am today and remembered who I was in Christ. Just learning about the gospel and my need for a Savior has so enriched my life. I have never had this much peace in my heart and I feel the changes going on in me will be life long changes. I am so thankful for Mark, my church, my MC and the scores of support from friends for their commitment to me and the changes God is doing.

So today the plan is to be still and allow God to mold me. I’m growing, learning and I love my life! I am so thankful I am choosing to go through the fire and trusting God as I face my problems and not side-step or hide from them. God has something huge in store and I want to be ready for it. And the glory part of it comes with how he used this broken guy who loves Jesus for his purposes.

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Tonight I watched the movie “Courageous“. Sometimes these faith-based films can be a little cheesy, but they carry a powerful message. “Fireproof” and “Soul Surfer” were great movies too. I have had several men tell me I should see this movie. It’s about four law enforcement officers going through some tough trials in their family. They end up putting their faith in God and he works through all them despite their shortcomings. It really hit me hard as a man because I carry the responsibility to be the leader of my family. I have failed in so many ways over the years in this. I’m thankful to God that he continues to stick with me and work in me to grow stronger in this area.

I have been praying a lot lately to be a better example to my family. I pray every morning for an opportunity to be a better man and husband to my wife. But for now, I can be an example to my kids. Both of my kids have really got involved with their discipleship groups. I am blessed that they both have good Godly men leading their groups. Cornerstone is doing this church-wide study of Experiencing God. I started this study awhile back and never finished it. A small group contacted me and asked me to join them in their study and I have decided to do so knowing my kids will be doing the study in their own group. I have been praying for an opportunity to step up and lead my own kids in devotions. So we are going to spend each week discussing what we are learning in our groups together. I loved sitting down with Ty tonight and helping him look up verses in his Bible for his homework. I have spent so much time trying to find the courage to be a Godly example to my kids and now he had blessed me with that. God is working in my family – He is so amazing!

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Today I helped moved a friend and her husband to a new home with a group of people from Cornerstone for Second Saturday. It was great to get out and be a light in the community and to fellowship with some wonderful people. Just hearing Debbie’s story of how God brought her and husband back together after years of both of them struggling to be single parents on their own was encouraging. And now God has blessed them both with a new home to do life together in. I also enjoyed hearing the many stories of the group around me and how God is working all over the place in people’s lives. We had this amazing prayer session afterwards in which we prayed for people and blessed the new home. I love how a simple day of serving turns into a day in which we saw God glorified in people’s stories.

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Answer

These are examples of stories in the Bible of responses to God when He calls on us

Numbers 13:30-14:23

I love this passage of scripture. But at the same time it can be scary. God is asking a question – How big am I? The people of Israel were afraid to cross into the land God promised to them because there would be huge trials ahead. Even though God delivered them from Egypt, they still doubted Him.

Everything great for God costs deeply

God asked the question to Moses “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?” (Numbers 14:10-12). How do we respond to the question if God is big enough? We answer this by what we do or don’t do. People (and churches) who blink lose the glory. The Israelites that had doubt did not cross into the promised land because they didn’t have faith that God would deliver them. But in the book of Joshua, the generation that followed had great faith and God used them in amazing ways.

Esther 4:12-14

When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

God invites us to join his work – it’s an invitation. God draws, reveals and convicts. It is key to realize why He is positioning us. Just know that comfort is never a part of His agenda. Esther had to make a choice. She was placed in a unique situation and had to have an answer to God’s calling. Her answer brought glory because doing nothing isn’t an option.

God has a purpose for you to fulfill

Genesis 22:1-2

God wants to know – If I ask … would you? Will you give me all of you?

God asks this question of Abraham because he was prideful (Genesis 12), manipulative (Genesis 16) and selfish. He tests our faith. He wants to know where our hearts reside. In this moment, Abraham had to give an answer to God’s calling by trusting Him.

Some questions have to be asked because giving the answer changes me

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Power of 10

Program from Phoenix Civic Plaza

This is where my story starts. On September 16, my wife and I separated after 9 years of marriage. Earlier this week I stayed with my uncle to give her space. He is a Godly man and has been like an older brother to me. I’m so torn. My world has been turned upside down and I hurt for my two boys for the brokenness they will have to endure. This past week while laying on an air mattress in my uncle’s spare bedroom, I cried out to God. I will admit that for some time I have doubted that He even exists. I asked Him to reveal Himself to me and to help me through this difficult time. I want to be a man of honor and integrity as I endure these trials. I want God to lead my path. This week I surrendered my life to Christ and vowed to live my life for Him. The only thing I asked for in return is for Him to provide good solid people to do this new faith journey with.

I have been attending Cornerstone Christian Fellowship for the past ten years and many at the church have rallied around me to help walk me through this difficult time. Today was their ten year anniversary and they celebrated downtown at the Phoenix Civic Plaza. Pastor Linn Winters was my youth pastor growing up and I have been a part of this church since its initial inception. Now is a time I need my church family more than ever. I took the boys to this event to be a part of this milestone. It was pretty hard for me to be there without my wife. Little did I know, God was answering my prayer by providing this community for me to do life with and working out His plans for my future in the process.

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My Uncle Joel doing a skit onstage

Power of Ten2

Brian Wurzell leads the congregation in worship

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Pastor Linn and the original members that started the church ten years ago

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