yet even more on integrity…

Last night at Carver, Coach Jeremy Williams from Greenville High came to speak to the team.  He is late in his battle with ALS and is on a ventilator and speaks through a computer using his eyes to control the phrases.  He gave an amazing talk.  Life’s dealt him a very bad set of cards – a son with a debilitating disease, his ALS and his wife now has breast cancer.  However, Jeremy Williams never quits.  He loves the Lord with all his heart, mind and soul and until he takes his last breath, he will share the Gospel.  He isn’t bitter.  He isn’t angry.  He could have quit a long time ago.  His life expectancy when first diagnosed was “4-5 years”.  He’s now 7-8 years into this battle and “kicking Satan’s butt” as he said last night.  A lot of these kids have plenty of “excuses” to become a statistic.  Jeremy is living proof that you don’t have to give in.  You can keep fighting.  You can be a man of integrity.

Before the meal, I asked Coach Kegler if I could come speak to the team.  In part to prepare them for what they were about to experience but to also share with them about integrity, about rising above the challenges of life.

I’d read an article on Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and shared it with the Carver team (removing all references to Clemson or his name).  Dabo Swinney’s dad was a drunk.  He left the family.  They lost their home.  His brothers were getting in bad trouble.  Money was scarce.  They moved three times and finally settled in his grandmother’s  government-subsidized apartment – a space smaller than his current office – to finish his senior year in high school.  He was humiliated but decided right then to develop a relentless spirit of self-determination.  He wasn’t going to rely on excuses or wallow in pity and become a statistic.  He was going to rise above.  Integrity.

He walked onto Alabama’s team at 6 feet, 170 pounds and played on a national championship team.  His mother was so broke that she moved into his college apartment and commuted back to Birmingham for her $8/hour job.  He wasn’t ashamed and didn’t try to hide his Mother’s presence – instead he invited friends and teammates over when she’d cook chicken and dumplings or chili.  This was his fate, his family and he wasn’t hiding it.  Integrity.

He benched his best player for the first two games of the season for an off-season drug arrest and he had to miss the opener vs. Auburn.  Most coaches wouldn’t have done that but he doesn’t suffer fools and isn’t sympathetic to a talented player who throws away his life and uses life’s obstacles as an excuse for a bad decision.  Swinney was willing to take the heat for benching his best player to make a point to his entire team.  Integrity.

He says life is all about the decisions we make.  It isn’t the cards we are dealt – our parents, our home, family problems, alcoholism, what color we are, etc.  A man of integrity rises above that and controls his attitude, his work-ethic, his drive and his commitment.  An individual’s course is not necessarily determined by the failure of others, even our own parents.  Too many kids (and men) buy the lie.  We buy the lie the devil is trying to sell us.

He is calling his men UP to a higher standard, to be men of integrity.  Satan HATES integrity.  Nothing grinds his gears more than a man of integrity.  This is our call – we are called to be men of integrity and to call other men around us UP into a higher standard.  If I am stumbling, call me to account.  If I am too proud, pull me aside.  If I am looking where I should not look, challenge me.  That’s a higher standard.  Call me UP to integrity and I’ll do the same for you.  That is LiveUP!

I close with 3 pictures from last night – the one with the kids laying hands on Coach Williams is the sweetest…

jeremy 1jeremy 2jeremy 3

more on integrity …

Oscar Morzan sent this to me and I thought it was perfectly “integrated” with our talk on Wednesday morning…

“As I was going over my little studies, I came across the topic on False Confidence, and the causes of trusting in False Confidence, and it names, riches, worldly success, men, oneself, and ignoring God’s providence.

I paused on the word “oneself” and the false confidence of Peter and I looked at the commentary from Matthew Henry’s Concise, and surely enough, his last sentence prompted me to share it with you.

Matthew 26:31- 35
Vs. 31- 35.  Improper self- confidence, like that of Peter, is the first step to a fall.  There is a proneness in all of us to be over- confident.  But those fall soonest and foulest, who are the most confident in themselves.  Those are least safe, who think themselves most secure.  Satan is active to lead such astray; they are most off their guard: God leaves them to themselves, to humble them.”

We must remember that integrity comes out of humility.  From dirt we came, to dirt we will return.  Lord, never let me forget the dirt!  As we move out of humility and “graduate” into integrity, we must remember from where we came.  You see what Matthew Henry is pointing out is that all men face the danger of pride.  Over-confidence will take you out.

Once things start going great, you’re hitting on all cylinders, the big promotion comes and your stature grows – be careful, someone is about to drop a house on you.

Those that who think themselves the most secure are the least safe.  We are low hanging fruit for Satan’s attacks.

Oscar shares a great thought with us – an ever present reminder that man is never safe in a mode of “I am a self-made man” – problem is, that phrase starts with “I”.  Keep me humble Lord.  Keep me humble.  Let my confidence only rest in You.


UPrising 5 – integrity

This morning we took the first step out of humility and moved into integrity.  Here are the slides…

uprising 5 integrity

Integrity is not the most compelling human characteristic.  It’s hard to sign up for integrity.  In fact, we all experienced at an early age that we don’t need integrity to succeed.  Do you remember the kid in 3rd grade who cheated on tests and always got away with it?  He never got caught – was dumb as a brick and got the “A” while you struggled to make a “C”.  He laughed and moved on only to repeat this all the way the through.  No one ever caught him and if they did, he’d get a slap on the wrist and go right back to the cheating.  We have examples all around us of men lacking integrity who seem to have it “all” – Tiger Woods, the former Governor of South Carolina Marc Sanford, Bill Clinton with Monica Lewinsky, etc.

The fact is there are people who always seem to get everything, always get ahead and always get away with it.  For some people – usually it seems the ones without integrity – life is a breeze.  Is it me or can you relate?  Integrity seems to hold us back.  If we make the choice to be men of integrity, we’ll probably be out of the running for that promotion.  The three other guys vying for that job will kiss up to the boss, they’ll go to the bars/strip clubs to entertain the big customer, they’ll stab one another in the back to make themselves appear to be the obvious choice for the big job.  And there you sit a man of integrity, refusing to sell out to get ahead.

But the truth is, without integrity we will find we don’t even possess the will or the resolve to overcome the pressures of life.  We no longer know where the “line” is and we begin to lose ourselves.  The truth is, no one gets away with it forever.

Integrity comes from the word “integer” which means indivisible, whole and complete.  A man of integrity is in alignment with God.  His life is integrated – he is the same man at home, at work, at play, at night.

David is our Maximus, our Braveheart.  He was terribly flawed and made huge mistakes.  Integrity is not about being faultless but rather false-less.  David had integrity and then gave away his integrity because having risen to the pinnacle, he forgot how he got there.  Eventually, his true integrity re-emerged and became realigned with God.

David was a sheep-keeper.  He earned his resume doing his not-so-noble job while no one was watching.  The mark of integrity is what a man does when no one is watching.  A man who sacrifices and gives and never thinks “I wonder if folks will know what all I’ve done.”  He just does the right thing.

David became king because he was a man of integrity, he did his job and he stepped up to face Goliath without fear because he knew his training had prepared him for this moment – this time when everyone would be watching.

Are you pulled by this notion that your life should count?  Are you longing to do something significant?  Are you longing to be chosen?  Chosen by God? 

God looks at your heart – not your beauty, strength, skills or charm – it is your heart He knows.  He knows the men of integrity and calls them UP.

Because we are given free will, man has the ability to become disintegrated from God’s design.  And so man begins to hide his true self, his core.  He layers false fronts or facades around his true self.  He poses.  He thinks he needs to be tough like a cowboy or a “real man” and so he starts dressing that way, acting that way, putting up a false self in order to impress others.  These layers accumulate and build and we do whatever we can to be real and expose our true self, our true fears.

Religion, by the way, drives all your energy to your outer facade, your most external shell.  In religion, we put on the ultimate face and we hide our core and that’s why religion will leave you empty and eventually fill you with guilt and shame.  But Jesus came to change us from the inside out.  He came to liberate us from the prisons of our own making – to break the poses, break the facades and expose our true self.  In total brokenness and humility we come to Jesus and from that place, he begins to rebuild us from the inside out by teaching us humility and integrity and then moving us into courage to live the life He designed for you.

So where are you?  Are you posing?  Are you tired of the facade, tired of not being an integrated man – the same person at work, home, play and at church?  Are you ready to go?  To be called UP to something far bigger than yourself?  Are you willing to let go of the rat race and trust God that He will honor your decision to be a man of integrity?

The time is now.  There is a grand adventure waiting on the other side of this decision for you.  Will you LiveUP?

Humility (part 2) UPrising 4

We finished our discussion on humility this week.  God has a humble heart and He chooses the humble to carry out His plans.

Have you ever felt inadequate?  Unworthy?  Have you ever been overwhelmed with fear?  I have.

We talked about Moses and his journey.  When God called Moses, all Moses could see was his inadequacy.  When God called Moses close, he was all too aware of his unworthiness.  When God commanded him to go and accomplish great things, Moses was overwhelmed with fear and wondered how even God could accomplish so much through him.  Many years before this, Moses made a huge mistake and ran.  For 40 years he lived in total obscurity, hiding, under the radar, hoping no one would find him.  Moses was being humbled.  God was getting him ready.  But like so many men (the analogy of white water rafting, going under, nearly drowning and dragging up on shore vowing never to take risk again), Moses let his failure define him and he hoped to live his life out in hiding.  Then someone lit a bush on fire.

He was described as “A very humble man, more humble than any other man on the face of the earth.”  Numbers 12:3  God values humility perhaps above any characteristic – that humility is the most reflective of the essence and character of God Himself.  Certainly Moses had other great qualities – he was a leader, he was a good communicator, etc.  It is interesting that God is not impressed with talent nearly as much as He is with character and as we’ve learned, character comes out of humility.

It is also interesting that of all the crimes against humanity Pharaoh was responsible for, God went after his humility.  His simple question to Pharaoh was, “How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me?”  Exodus 10:3

You see, God will restore broken people.  He will restore you if you fail.  He will not oppose you or put you aside or reject you.  But God will shelve you if you are too proud.  He doesn’t reject the sinful, He rejects the arrogant.  This is why it brings Him so much pain when we reject Him when He so humbled Himself to reach us.

Jesus came to teach us that God is humble.  We are created in His image and our souls thrive in humility.  To be more like God, we need to choose the path of servanthood.  It is only the humble that God entrusts with His power and glory.

Jesus J Curve – we grasp the idea of servanthood and we are OK with that – I am willing to be a servant for a short while as long as I know it ends in me being a king.  So we’ll give things up and serve others and diminish ourselves and fall low on the curve for a time with the hope that we rise up to a glory on the other side.  But here’s the thing, Jesus thinks servanthood is the ideal, the pinnacle.  In John 13, right before He went to the cross, at the pinnacle of His power, knowing He possessed all of God’s power and authority, Jesus got up and washed His disciples feet.  He got in the dirt and humbled Himself even to the cross.  We come from the dirt and to the dirt we return.

The goal is to live this life as God designed us to live it – a life of courage.  We’ve learned courage comes out of integrity – where we make decisions based on our character instead of the opportunity – and integrity is born out of humility.  So we start with humility, with understanding this concept of “Rising downward” and next week we move into integrity.  Read Chapter 4 “Turned Inside Out”.

Live UP!

uprising 4

Humility (part 1) UPrising #3

Today, we dove into humility.  Wow.  This has been truly transformational for me.  Tonight I sat down with my wife and we talked about it in the context of our marriage.  It is a radical shift in our thinking that McManus discussed today.  It can lead to a revolution of the soul, an uprising of men.

Ryan Walker sent me an email today articulating his struggle with this concept vs. the last sessions of ManSchool where we’ve talked about LivingUP, being a warrior, etc. and now this…this concept of humility.  Is that a doormat?   How do the two reconcile?

I likened it to a Special Forces master.  Those guys are the best of the best.  They know their stuff.  They know their gear.  They know how to use it with lethal precision.  They can pack their stuff in the dark and travel light enough to “go” but strong enough to kill.  They go where no man goes.  They do things no men are called to do.  When you think of them, you get this image of a square jaw and a physique of a fortress.  Like any true soldier, they are among the most admired men.  And yet you also get the image of quiet strength.  The don’t brag or boast.  To be convinced, “I’m all that” and to walk with a cocky strut defies the call they have as men and would probably get them killed.  They are humbled by their awesome responsibility and they prefer to fly under cover with no attention on them.

And so, the two concepts for us – that of LiveUP, the glory of God is man “fully alive”, a warrior coincides perfectly with this concept of humility.  That to LiveUP we must first bow down.  Or as McManus entitled this chapter, “Rising Downward.”

Here are some summary comments…

To live the life God created you to live requires courage.  Courage happens in the context of integrity.  Integrity = living an integrated life where we move beyond making decisions driven by our circumstances or the opportunity and instead making those decisions based on our character.

Integrity comes out of humility.  Therefore, to live the life God created you to live, you have to first be humble.  Humility is not generally one of the world’s most admired qualities.  After all, it is the confident that succeed right?  Proud, confident and arrogant always seem to have victory over the humble.

Have you ever wanted to be chosen by God?  The person trusted with a big dream?  A big responsibility?  Humility is the defining characteristic God looks for in choosing people to advance His cause (i.e. Moses).  In Philippians 2:1, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility, value others above yourself not looking to your own interests but the interest of others.”

Humility expressed in choosing the posture of a servant.  The servant’s ultimate act of humility is when they make their life a sacrifice for others.  Humility then becomes our highest virtue.

Jesus changed the picture of what leadership looked like.  He integrated the meshing of leadership and servanthood.  He also changed our view of God.

He left divinity to become human, his majesty to become a servant and for many of us, we think this is the first time God experienced this.  We think of God as exalted, as almost this divine narcissist that needs to be adored and glorified – that all of creation is there to meet His needs.  That this is the driving narrative of creation.  If it is – that we were to glorify Him – then He did a really lousy job because we fall so short!

But…if the driving narrative of God’s creation is love, then it all starts to make wonderful sense.

We think of God as this creature of power, fury, wisdom, all knowing, all powerful – and He is all those things – but He is also the purest form of humility.

Becoming a servant wasn’t new for God when Jesus came down.  No, He is the god of humility.  His path is servanthood.  Matthew 11:29 Jesus said, “I am gentle and humble of heart”.  This is the heart of God.  Which is why He is worthy of ALL of our worship and praise…because He is a servant!

It seems strange and demeaning to say God is a servant.  It recoils us because it is the aspect of God we desire least.  We genuinely don’t see servanthood as an elevated status.  We see this as “beneath” God because truthfully, we hope against hope that it is beneath us.  “Come to me for I am gentle and humble of heart.”  This is who God is!

If God is a god of humility and servanthood and we see that materialized in the life of Jesus, then it makes sense if you ask the question, “Who does God choose?”  “What kind of person does God entrust?”  The person with the humble heart.

This is radical, radical stuff and it isn’t what most of the church is teaching.  But it is transformational.  It will begin a revolution of the soul.  It will stir an UPrising.  Imagine, just imagine, if we all operated out of this place.  Imagine if I loved my wife with the heart of a servant.  Imagine how that would radically transform our intimacy away from me getting what I want to get and, instead, giving her what she needs – unconditional love.  Imagine how this can transform a company.  Imagine how it can transform a community or a ministry or a mission work.

This chapter was so packed full of powerful stuff that we doing chapter 3 next week as well.  Two weeks on humility!  Join us next week if you can.  I’m telling you from the feedback we got and the group discussions, this is powerful.  Here are the slides

uprising 3

go and LiveUP

UPrising #2

Sorry it has taken me a while to post these slides.  There are just a few in this section.  Last week we talked about LiveUP and listened to McManus talk about the UPrising and his analogy of white water rafting.  He didn’t really pay attention what the guide was saying and just jumped in the raft.  About an hour later, he faced the wrath of the river and came to the sudden realization that paying attention was probably a good idea.  It was too late and the river took him under.  His vest – which he refused to tighten as instructed  – went up over his head.  He nearly drowned but eventually got to shore, beaten and bruised and worn out from fighting the river.

Is that how you feel life treats you sometimes?  Beaten and bruised and washed up on shore?  Many men are still there, on the shore, vowing never to get back into life out of fear of what life can do to them.  So many of us ignored the instructions from the Father and just dove right into life.  Downstream in the rapids we realize that we should have been paying attention to His instructions and now we just fight for survival or even worse, we’re just washed up on shore vowing to never get back in.

So many men are simply checked out.  They sit in our midst.  They pay their taxes.  They fulfill their duties.  They have no passion.  They hope to live a life flying under the radar.  A deep, abiding adventure in Christ escapes them.  They are missing it.  There is so much more intended for us.

It is time to shake it off and get back in the River men.  God will not punish you for your mistakes.  We all make mistakes some of them really bad.  But our God is a god of new beginnings and restoration.  He wants you fully restored.  The Glory of God is man fully alive – not man washed up on shore, safe but nowhere near the adventure.

Listen, these next two weeks at ManSchool are going to be huge.  We dive into humility and this Chapter 3 of Uprising is absolutely amazing.

Please join us on Wednesday morning at 6am

uprising 2