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Levi Lusko - Beard Oil & Mountain Dew


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Welcome to the finale of the Happy Trails series. We began in the great state of Wyoming. We moved our way through Montana. We had ventured in Oregon, and we finally have come to the state of Utah. I want to say hello to everybody at every single Fresh Life location, those of you joining on television, on church online. We're really glad to have you. It's such a privilege. I'm currently standing at the edge of this amazing expanse in Dead Horse Point State Park, just outside of the city of Moab, surrounded by famous parks like Arches and Canyonlands, this is truly a gem of the state of Utah and one of the more beautiful places I've ever seen, ever anywhere in the world. And we've come here to take to the trails while we're also going on a journey together ascending in our hearts using the Psalm of Ascents as our guide.

If you're just joining us now, we've been studying out of this section of the Scriptures called the Psalm of Ascents. Basically, it's a bunch of songs that God's people used to sing when they were making their way on the trails headed to feasts, headed to worship, and they would use these to elevate their hearts, even as they were gaining in elevation above sea level, making their way to worship the God who created the heavens and the earth. We're going to be in Psalm 133 today. So if you have your own copy of the Bible, you can make your way there. And if you don't have one, no problem at all. We're going to be putting the verses up on the screen for you. The title of my message today is "Beard Oil and Mountain Dew". And while you take a little bit of time to write that down at the top your notes. Wouldn't leave that there.

So Psalm 133, here's what we find, and I promise you that it'll make sense by the end of this message. It says in verse 1, "A song of ascents. Of David". Oh, and by the way, that's significant because David only wrote four of the Psalms of Ascents. His son, Solomon, wrote one, and the other 10 we don't know who wrote them. but verse 1, David writes, "behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion. For there the Lord commanded the blessing, life forevermore". The key to this psalm, the big word to this psalm, the big idea here in this song is the word "unity", many coming together to form and to act and to lead as one, and that's the idea. We're going to be discovering the power of unity. All throughout Scripture you really find that unity is so important to God. All throughout the Scriptures we're told and exhorted and reminded and urged to fight for unity.

And the way the Bible talks about it makes it clear that it's not something that's easy and it's not something that happens on its own. It's something that takes intentional effort. I picked out a few different examples of what I'm talking about. Colossians 3:14 says, "Most of all, let love guide your life, for then the whole church will stay together in perfect harmony". What he's saying is you have to fight to keep love at the center of everything that's going to make the church make many in the church. In our church, it's many locations spread out across four different states, 12 different cities. It takes love for many to act as one in perfect harmony. Then in Ephesians 4:3, Paul tells us, "I want you to endeavor", look at it on the screen, "to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace". Endeavoring is a verb. It's a word that means like striving or trying or working really hard.

I want you to endeavor to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. What is this telling us? This is telling us that the default is chaos. The default is everyone does their own thing. The default, everyone marches to the beat of their own drum. But it takes work, and we today are going to learn and really believe that God's going to do a deep work in our hearts, that we're going to see the result of love and peace having their perfect work, keeping us in perfect harmony united together. This was something so important to Jesus. In fact, just before Jesus died on the cross, He prayed one last prayer. It's John 17, and you're like, what was on His heart in that final period of His life before He died? The answer is unity. In fact, he prayed this way. "Father, I pray that they may be one, as we are one". He said, the way that me and you, God, are one, though we're multiple, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, but we're one, one God. The way we're united as one, I pray that the church will be united as one, which is tragically all too often not what you find.

You find in a local church so many different ideas, and we should go this way, and factions, and if I don't like it, I'll leave and I'll go start my own church. And I'll find a pastor who will do what I like. And I'll go over here. And tragically, most people, when they think of the church, they think of that disorganization. They think of that disunity, that squabbling and fighting. I think that the Christians should do this and shouldn't do that and it should be this way. And so often, unity is not what you think of when you think of the church, though was Jesus', you could say, His dying request of His followers. I like how Pastor Rick Warren put it. He said, quote, and listen, every single person, every one of at Fresh Life, he's talking to us. "It is your job to protect the unity of your church. Unity in the church is so important that the New Testament gives more attention to it than to either heaven or hell. God deeply desires that we experience oneness and harmony with each other. Unity is the soul of fellowship. Destroy it and you rip out the heart of Jesus' body. You rip the heart out of Christ's body".

Now that seems strong. That seems shocking. But guess what? This is something God takes so seriously that, when in the book of Proverbs He made a list of all the things He hates. He said, here's some stuff I hate. And He included in the list the person who sows discord in a family. He hates the behavior of someone who tries to disrupt a family from doing that thing the family's doing. By the way, that He lists alongside murder and telling lies. So that tells you just how important our unity is to God and it should be that important to us as well. Our big idea we're going to focus on is that, where there is unity there is strength, but where there is division, there is weakness.

Now, this of course is important within the church, this unity, but it's not just important in the church. Unity is important anywhere. There's more than one person involved in anything. Of course, that means we need unity between us and God in our relationship with Him. We need unity within a marriage. Unity is important, essential, within a family. Any team, any company, any unit, anything where there's more than one person moving towards a cause, moving towards fulfilling something, unity is essential. And that's why the devil, quite frankly, attacks unity so vigorously. He knows what you need to know. If he can divide, he can conquer. And that's why he'll try and get in between a husband and wife. The moment you say I do, his desire is to get you to say I don't. His goal is to get little factions into a group, to get little gossipy quarrely, oh, the coach doesn't know what he's doing. I should get played more. Why don't I get started?

Everyone looking out for themselves kind of thing on a team. He'll try and get you all polarized in a little group of people who are similar to you in race or similar to you in some way where you're talking bad about other people or how others believe. If you're a Democrat, it's against the Republicans. If you're Republican, it's against the Democrats. The enemy always tries to get us to divide. And so that's why we have to fight so aggressively for our unity. And that's fantastic. The question, of course, becomes, how? What are the building blocks of unity? I think that's important for us to face up to and to ask before we start to really unpack Psalm 133 and talk about the blessings of unity because that's what this psalm is all about. It's about the blessings of unity. What is the Mountain Dew and what is the beard oil? We're going to get there, but it's no good talking about how awesome unity is going to be in your life if we don't first look at the price tag.

There's going to be some sticker shock. When we actually face up to what it takes to get to unity on an ongoing basis, I think it's maybe even more important that we talk about how before we talk about what, what's going to be released in our lives. Because the truth is, we all to some degree can relate to Jay Leno, who once famously said, I would do anything to have a perfect body, anything except for diet and exercise. And of course, there's some humor in that, meaning we all want a perfect body, but what does it actually take to get one? That's where some of us balk. And unity is a wonderful thing to talk about. Oh, we should unite and we should be more united. And that's fantastic, but what does it actually take?

I've jotted down three things that are building blocks to unity, and the first is humility. It takes humility to get to unity. Why? Because for multiple people from multiple different backgrounds and points of view and perspectives, for people who have different experiences, have grown up in different cultures, speak different languages. For people to come together and unite, there has to be a humbling because we are all choosing to set ourselves aside, to lay our egos and our pride at the door, to be a part of something bigger, to be a part of something that's better and bigger than any one of us individually because we then corporately get to be something powerful.

So it takes humility. And of course pride lifts yourself up above and says, I see it this way. I'm different. I should get this treatment. And humility says, I'm a part of something bigger than myself. And humility recognizes the power that each of us bring to the table in a team and in a family and in a company and a church. Because unity doesn't mean uniformity. We're all different. We're all given different personalities by God, different spiritual gifts by God. We're all unique, and we're all coming together, not to lay aside our uniqueness, but to use our uniqueness as we accept the uniqueness of others in the pursuit of something that's bigger than we are. So it requires humility to swallow the desire to want everybody else to be like you. In a marriage, it's the easiest thing to resent the uniqueness of your spouse and to see their weaknesses as something they shouldn't be weak at because those happen to be your strengths.

That is so easy to do and to expect and assume and almost treat them badly because they're not like you. But they aren't. And you coming together doesn't mean you're going to be good at what you're bad at or they're going to be bad at what they're good at. It means you're both choosing to utilize your strengths and leverage your strengths humbly to serve each other and to serve the cause that you're a part of. So it takes humility. What does humility look like? Humility looks like understanding. There's no such thing as a small part. And whatever part I play in the team effort, whatever part I play in the company is not a small part because every part is a necessary part.

Someone once said, who was a famous director, in a movie there's no such thing as a small part. There's only small actors and small actresses, who would see a part with very little dialogue or only one or two scenes as being beneath them or less them. And so they wouldn't put their whole heart into that scene. The truth is there are no small parts in the church. In this world full of broken people that God wants to reach, full of creative things he wants you to create, there's no small part. And whatever gift you've been given, whether it's behind the scene or an up front, a flashy or more low key, every single part is important. And it takes humility to recognize that and to say there's nothing inferior, there's nothing beneath me, anything that's needed to be done is something I'm gladly willing to do.

That kind of unity and power, that takes humility. Unity also expresses humility through asking lots of questions, through listening more than you're speaking, through wanting to know where people are coming from. The second building block is trust. Within the family, within the team, within the church, there needs to be a sense of trust, that we trust each other. And only where that trust exists can there be the kind of vulnerability that's needed to achieve the results that are intended from that company, from that team, or from that church or family. It takes trust. It takes trust that would allow you to not have a suspicious culture, where there's always this sense that someone is out to get me or someone is vying for my spot or looking to build their turf or their little silo as opposed to the whole.

Stephen Covey, the leadership guru, he wrote a book called The Speed of Trust, and actually showed that organizations go further and faster where there's high amounts of trust. And you can test the trust in an organization based on how quickly and readily someone is willing to speak the words, I made a mistake. You see, in a culture where there's low trust, we all want to try to hide our mistakes. I didn't do this and so I'm not going to tell anybody about it because certainly they're out to get me and I'd get in trouble if I said this. But in a culture where there's trust and people are able to be vulnerable and everyone knows that we're going to make mistakes and that's fostered, someone is quick to say, I need help. I don't understand this or I'm not doing well or I'm not healthy personally. Where there's high trust, everyone in the organization, everyone in the team wants to rush in as a family would and help that.

And so there's not this guard up, defenses up, "fake it till you make it" kind of phoniness to the culture. There's a trust that's deep that allows there to be that authentic sense of, I can be me, I can be who God made me to be. And we love each other. We trust each other. Here's how I'm doing. Here's what I need help with. Here's my fears. And where there's that kind of trust, there can be true levels of unity. That also means that there needs to be the third ingredient, and the third ingredient, the third building block is tenacity. And tenacity is really determination. Tenacity speaks of grit or grip, that everybody is fired up and moving towards that cause. There's not an indifference. There's not a casualness to it. It's not like I'm here till something better comes along.

I mean, think about the marriage vows. Marriage vows: till death do us part, for better or for worse. Those words are meant to invoke a sense of tenacity, and one must remind themselves of the kind of vows they made and the kind of commitment that they're in this for, I think, to see results in any endeavor. The company, the startup, the entrepreneur, the small business owner that's just kind of, oh, well, you know, we'll see what happens. That's not the one that's going to move and shake. It's that blood, sweat, and tears. It's the tread on the bottom of your shoes that really are going to grip into the ground. It's that tenacity that says, I'm in this thing. Nothing great has ever been done by someone with a lukewarm heart. It takes that kind of tenacity. So then we have humility. We have the sense of trust. But then there's also this sense of tenacity. And that hold each other accountable. Yes, there's the love and the trust and the humility, but true tenacity, expressed through humble words of encouragement to those around you, who are not approaching it or engaging it with the desire that it really merits to see the vision come to life. There really needs to be that tenacity.

I like how Jim Collins put it. He talked about level 5 leaders. And one of the traits he said of level 5 leaders is that they are people with a mixture of this profound humility with furious resolve. That's a level 5 leader: profound humility but also furious resolve. That is someone who's leading with trust, someone who is leading with a spirit of humility, and there's also some serious tenacity. So that's the price we must pay if we're willing to say, hey, we want to be united. We want there to be something that we're moving towards together. There must be humility. There must be trust, and there must be tenacity.

So what will we experience where we're walking in unity? Three things: first of all, write this down. Life becomes enjoyable. Life becomes enjoyable. If you look at the text, we looked at verse 1. It says, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is". And really in the Hebrew language, I'm told that it means like extremely good and extraordinarily pleasant. There's just something about a life where there's not friction. There's just something about when people are at peace. There's something you just experience when around you the people that you're working with, the people that you're living with, the person that you're married to, when you're not fighting or when you've worked through a fight. And maybe that's better language because I think it's an unrealistic picture and quite frankly an unhealthy one to think and expect there's not going to be fighting, that there's not going to be difficult conversations. But where there is high unity, where there's high tenacity, high levels of humility, there's going to be plenty of opportunities for there to be that kind of difficulty and disagreement. And the point is, where there's unity, we care more about the relationship being right than us being right.

So we're committed to using empathy, to being emotionally intelligent, to being vulnerable, to using our words, to try and see life through each other's eyes, and to work hard to make sure that we're trying to listen to not just our inner voice but to the inner voice of each other. I think that's important because when someone says something that hurts your feelings, your inner voice is quick to pick up on it. Why did they say that? Why did they do that? Why didn't they invite me? Why did they blah blah, blah, blah, blah? You hear your inner voice. But really true unity comes when you're working hard to listen to your wife's inner voice, listening to your coworker's inner voice, to your boss's inner voice, to anyone around you on your team or you work with, where you're trying to see from their perspective. And so you're not just talking at each other, but you're talking to each other. So you're working through those things. And what does it lead to? It leads to a high level of enjoyability where you are just like, this is good and this is pleasant.

We're working through our conflicts. We're using our words. We're not walking around hurt but with a fake veneer of everything's good because we don't trust each other enough to actually tell them that they hurt your feelings or that they offended you or they made you sad. But with a high level of trust, you're being vulnerable. Hey, and here's a huge one. We're being quick to admit when we're wrong, quick to say, hey, that was not cool that I did that. I shouldn't have said it. I'm sorry. Will you please forgive me? Without qualification, without the dreaded word "but" that negates everything that you said. Like, I'm so sorry I did this, but you shouldn't have blah, blah. No, you don't mean it. You used the word but. Really what you really mean begins once you've used that conjunction.

So when we're engaging at that level, life becomes truly enjoyable. That's what I've experienced in my relationship with Jennie. We have had so many disagreements and so many fights, there's been so many hurt feelings. But where we've truly committed to empathizing, where we've truly come together and prayed through and talked through and worked through and said, I'm sorry, I should not have said that, and where there's been that kind of trust and vulnerability and humility, that kind of profound humility, what it leads to is moments where there is just such an enjoyable quality of life. And I think that's what God wants to unleash on your life. He wants you, in your relationships, your team, in church and small group, to feel that sense of this is good, this is pleasant. We're paying the price of working through these things. And now on the back end, we really get to enjoy the sweetness of unity. That was what we once experienced with God in the Garden of Eden before sin entered and we began to be selfish.

The second thing we're going to see unleashed in our lives where there is unity is our teamwork is going to become even more capable. Our teams, our unit, our soccer team, whatever it is, we're going to become even more capable. Why is that? Well, look at the verse again. Verse 2, it says, "This unity is like precious oil that runs down the head, down the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments". And you're like, OK, could you please explain this because I'm new to church? Now you're really creeping me out with all this talk of oily beards and wet garments. It doesn't make any sense. You have to remember, back in that day, anointing oil always spoke of new opportunity and appointment to service. Specifically, Aaron was the high priest. And so you had this picture of someone who was ready to serve in this role as priest, but first they had to be anointed. Kings and priests always were anointed. And so this oil that was crushed from olives spoke of enabling quality, of being called to a new quality of service, a new degree of service, a new opportunity that was going to open up to you.

And that's what's going to happen. You're going to watch unity unleash power in your team, in the effort of people coming together to fulfill a cause. That's what this picture of the Holy Spirit is speaking about. You have to understand something about the Holy Spirit. He's allergic to division. He hates it. And he doesn't like the discord. He doesn't like the strife. So where that's prevailing, He's not going to bless it with that new opportunity, with that new ability, with that supernatural enablement. But where He sees people coming together, well, all through the Bible you just see those who are united become more powerful, where there's unity there's strength, where there's division there's weakness. Tower of Babel in the book of Genesis, they came together, united to build a tower. And God said, if we don't scatter their languages up and mix their languages up, nothing they do will be too difficult for them. Book of Nehemiah, they came together to build a wall. It was tried before. For years it couldn't be done. They did it in 50 some odd days. Why? They were united as one man, the Bible says, and that's also why there was such a great spiritual revival, too.

Book of Acts, same thing. They came together in one accord. And the Holy Spirit powered their efforts, blessed their unity, as they all lifted up the name of Jesus. And what happened? They basically planted churches all over the Roman Empire and were described as these who have turned the world upside down have come here, too. Where there's a group of people chasing a common cause with that trust, with that humility, with that tenacity, all of a sudden they're experiencing whole new levels of capability. A united team can actually perform as though there were twice as many of them as there actually are. It's a synergy thing. It's Leviticus 26, "Five of you shall chase a hundred, but a hundred of you shall put 10,000 to flight". It's this promise of new capabilities being locked, new opportunities being opened up.

Where you come together, God just blesses it in a unique way. It's like the oil that rained down the head of David that charged him to go fight Goliath. It's really just this amazing thing that happens where you come together as one and then you fight as though you're more than you really are. So it's enjoyable. You become more capable. The third thing you need to write down is that it becomes sustainable. You see where everything is casual, there's low levels of trust, you're not really, really, really truly tenaciously pursuing the vision, people come, people go, here for a little bit till something better comes along, use that team as a stepping stool. It's not sustainable. It's not all in. It's not fanatic and passionate and going the long haul. But where there's real true levels of unity, there becomes this sense that there's a staying power to it. It really causes you to put down roots and for there to be permanence in your commitment that can weather good and bad seasons alike.

Now, hold on, you're saying, Levi, where is this in the text? I need to see this in the Bible. Hey, thank you for asking. It says in verse 3, "This unity is like the dew of Hermon that descends upon the mountains of Zion". Wow, that's awesome, Mountain Dew in the Bible. Here's what you need to know. These giant mountains that were, some of them as much as 10,000 feet above sea level, they would have dew, of course, in the morning, in the early morning hours. But the arid desert community that lived where this dew would show up, they depended on it. It was critical. The area where I'm at only gets 10 inches of rainfall per year. It is very lacking in water. And in such an area, any water that comes is precious and any water that comes is critical to the survival and to the sustainability.

What this is saying is the unity that's there is going to release this sense of sustainability, is going to cause there to be dew falling each day where otherwise people would fall up, their enthusiasm would diminish. And they were passionate about it for a while. Man, I love Fresh Life. I love what God's doing. And where are they in six months? Where are they in a year? Where are they in five years? Where are they the moment it gets difficult, the moment it's not so fun, the moment you're not really just seeing great results? But the sense of I'm getting dew every day, even though it's difficult, God's continuing to feed my resolve, that is an effort that's sustainable.

Ecclesiastes 4 says this on the subject of unity, speaking about how much better we are together: "Two people are better than one. They can help each other out in everything they do. Suppose someone falls down". And I really hope that does not happen. But if it does, "his friend can help him up. But suppose the man doesn't have anyone to help him up. One person could be overpowered, but two people can stand up for themselves. And a rope made out of three cords isn't easily broken". The author, Solomon, is saying there's such a strength that comes from more and more things being united together in a purpose. I mean, you think about one little stick and how easy it is to break it. But you add a second stick in, you add a third stick in, it just gets stronger and stronger and stronger. And that's what he means when he says a threefold cord is not easily broken.

And I think that's where we really need to land this plane on unity because it's that third fold of the chord, it's that third stick added together that's really where we look to God. In a marriage, it's not just the two trying really hard. I'm going to try and be humble. I'm going to try and be tenacious. I'm going to try and exercise trust because we really want that blessed, enjoyable, sustainable, capable relationship. No, it's a third fold. It's that third cord. It's that third stick. And that's where we look to God. It's having Jesus at the center of the marriage that gives that strength, that gives that quality of unity. You're uniting together around that third stick. And that's that power that we need from on high, and that's why the Holy Spirit is really at the center of this. If you look back at verse 3 one more time, we see God's hand on this unity. It says, "there", where, that place of unity, "the Lord commanded blessing". And what blessing is it? Life forevermore.

You see, God commands blessing where there is unity around Jesus, where there's unity around a cause. And that's what we really can believe for, that we're going to experience God's blessing on our teams, on our families, on our marriages. We're going to see God's blessing on our church as we unite around the name of Jesus. And as that happens, we'll be able to do what we could never do on our own, and we very much will tangibly sense God with us in everything we do. I want to close with an illustration from music in two different ways. I don't know if you've ever seen a barbershop quartet, probably movies and TV, where you have these four guys singing different harmonies and melodies and just kind of coming together with their outfits and hats and the whole thing.

I've heard that, when you're in a barbershop quartet that is really good and the voices are really coming together and harmonizing and just it's perfection, that the four people in that quartet have the sensation that they describe as the fifth man. That is to say that, when these four voices are blended together, it's almost as though they each can hear coming out of their harmony, coming out of their song a fifth voice, they say almost a supernatural experience, this voice coming out of their unity. And that's a power to think about. As we unite, we're going to just sense God's blessing on the unity, giving us the strength and the propulsion of power to move forward. For us in our context as a church, that means that we're going to believe, as we fight to be a church, where everything we do is so that those who are stranded in sin would find life and liberty in Christ.

And then we're spread out in these four states, all walking our own trails, all living in our neighborhoods, all working our jobs, trying to bring God glory and love people and love our spouses and our kids and our families imperfectly as we do. But as we unite together and live for something bigger than ourselves, that we're going to sense almost that fifth voice. There's going to be the voice of God almost harmonizing with us, and it's going to be this supernatural, beautiful thing that we sense His blessing. We sense His beauty as real as these canyons that ring out behind me and the beauty of Dead Horse Point in Utah. What a crazy name, by the way. But I just really believe that for all of us.

The last analogy that I want to use is something that just really encouraged me recently because unity is difficult. Personalities are difficult. Getting along in a family, getting along at church, there's going to be conflict. It's part of the process. It's part of the experience. But the reason it's worth it to fight for, the reason that we should all, as we close this message, begin to even ask ourselves, where is there a lack of unity in my heart? Questions to ponder. Am I a humble leader? Am I building am I my leading in such a way that engenders trust? Do I call people to account but not admit my own mistakes? Is it a place on my soccer team or my workplace where people can raise their hand up say, I made a mistake? And the result is everyone rushing in to help and not, oh, how could you how, dare you. But we're believing. There's going to be tons of little failures on the way to success.

So these are the questions we need to be asking ourselves. Where do we need to repent? Where in a moment, as we sing or if you're watching church online, when you get still before God some time today or this week, where is there a need for repentance in my heart, for realignment? Where I have been sowing discord or where have I been dividing energy away from a common vision? These are the questions that we ask that will get us to wholeness. I was reading a book written by the band U2, and this is their autobiography. And the drummer for U2 is Larry Mullen Jr. And he of course drums for, arguably, the most famous rock band in the world. And in the book, he talked about the difficulties of all the different personality. I want to close with this excerpt as we begin to close this. He said, "we are four very, very different people with diverse personalities. All of us have various needs, both professionally and privately. We are one, but we are definitely not the same. If there is something special about U2, it has nothing to do with us as individuals. It's what happens when we get together on stage or in the studio. It's very hard to describe and even harder to explain. However, it's the only reason we are still doing this".

Now listen to this last line. "When we play music together, something happens". That's the power of beard oil and Mountain Dew. This band, think about all the opportunities they had to clash and to go their separate ways and do their own separate things. But they've stayed together. And I believe it's that spirit of unity that will mark our efforts with God's power as we do all He's called us to do. May that kind of unity fill our spirits, fill our sails, and mark our futures. When we play music together, Fresh Life, something happens.
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