Live, Live, Live…

In the context of Louie Giglio’s talk about “In the presence of my enemies, the Lord has prepared a table for me” and Andy Stanley’s “Guardrails” and then in the context of sex and temptation, please watch this very familiar film clip …

All the residents of heaven peering over the wall of the castle watching us here battle and struggle and the whole host of heaven, the cloud of witnesses are just cheering us on, just rooting for us, the coliseum just shouting “Live, Live, Live”.  They were rooting for his death moments ago.  There is some strength, some confidence that comes to us and we say – “You can call me whatever you want – stupid, idiot, seagull, failure – whatever that name was, whatever that message you were given.  You can put me in the crappiest circumstances but I KNOW who I am.” 

Men, if we forget that, or we’ve never heard it, or we lose it or we see so many signs that say “You can’t” or “You shouldn’t” or “Not you, maybe someone else, but not you”.  The wounds we have can just extend through the years and in face of those, how do you become that man?  You ask God.  You take all that you know and have read about your identity in Christ and all the truth about what God has done for you and you pound on the door and say, “Lord, take this and just embed it in my being.  Remove everything contra and counter that just shouts the truth down and assaults me.”

Maximus knew who he was.  He wasn’t afraid to face his enemy.  He stood in the face of tyranny and temptation and was a man who said, “No.  Not me.  I won’t give in.  There is a better way and I’m willing to die for what I believe in.”

It is same with you and me.  Temptation will come.  I must have my boundaries.  I must know who I am.  I must know what lines I will not cross.  Remember back to Louie – the enemy is always around.  He doesn’t sleep.  He doesn’t eat.  He’s awake 24/7 prowling around.  He reads your mail.  He knows where you are weak and he’ll try to exploit your weaknesses.

He’s looking for a crack.  A crevice.  A small opening.  Anything to try to get to you.  It can be a weakness in your character.  It can be a life experience – abuse, a dad who abandoned you, a failure of yours in business or a past relationship.

Or … it can be a door you open.  Get that.  You open it.  By opening the door, you invite it in.  An affair.  Porn.  You’re inviting a world of destruction upon you by peering into this.  PORN – by clicking on that link, you are literally inviting evil into your life.  Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.  You’re inviting the destructive in to live among the Holy.

This is why Paul urges us with the command, “Flee from sexual immorality”.  Flee.  Run.  It couldn’t be clearer.  You honor God with your bodies – which are temples of the Holy Spirit.  The litmus test for us is “Is what I am about to do dishonoring God?”  If it dishonors God and his commands, flee.

We are calling one another UP to a higher standard.

So back to the image Craig shared with us,

When you’re contemplating flirting with that woman at work…

When you’re tempted to cruise her facebook page to peer at her pictures…

When you think about driving by her home…

When you’re tempted to surf some porn to try to find some relief …

When you’re contemplating compromising your beliefs …

Remember the whole host of heaven is peering over the wall looking down shouting the encouragement to you of “LIVE.  LIVE.  LIVE”.

 the-very-best-me

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Guardrails

A guardrail is a system to keep vehicles from straying into dangerous or off limit areas.  We’re glad they’re there if we need them but for the most part, we don’t pay attention to them.  For the most part, they are not actually located in the most dangerous part of the road.  The point is – to keep you away from the actual point of danger.  You’ll do less damage if you hit the guardrail than you would if you hit what was on the other side of the guardrail.

The truth is, your greatest regrets relationally, financially, morally and ethically could have been avoided if you had had some guardrails present in your life.

Our definition – A guardrail is a personal standard of behavior that becomes a matter of conscience.  “A matter of conscience” meaning, that I am so committed to my principles that if I violate them, it bothers my conscience.  I feel guilty.  It is my personal standard of behavior that informs my behavior.  This is a personal decision you need to make.  Where is the line?

Ephesians 5 is addressing the question of “How do I live in a culture that doesn’t reward faithfulness?  That doesn’t reward integrity?”

5:15-16 “Be very careful, then, how you live (walk).  Not as unwise (careless) but as wise making the most of every opportunity.”

It’s saying “Make the most of your time.  Redeem your time.  Being very intentional with your time.  Because the days are evil.”  In other words, if you’re not careful, there will be a price to pay.  Because you live in a dangerous time, you’ve got to be careful with how you walk.

5:17 “Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is”.  What Paul is saying is “I want you to face up to, to accept, to embrace what you know in your heart is God’s will for your life.  Stop deceiving yourself.” 

All of us have the tendency to play it as close to the edge as possible.  We dance on the edge of chaos.  “How close to sin can I get without it being sin?  Where is the line?”  Quit flirting with disaster.  Quit messing around.  You’re playing with fire.  He gives an example using drunkenness to make his point but it applies to lust, to greed, to material things…

5:18 “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery”.  Debauchery = extreme indulgence that leads to a loss of control.  Loss of control is the key.  Drunkenness is a guardrail.  It is what is on the other side of drunkenness that Paul is warning you about.

Lust, greed, alcohol, anger, food, money, material possessions – anything that leads to a loss of control, anything that baits you into things you don’t need to be involved in … that’s where the danger is.  That you’d get yourself so torqued up that you lose sight.  That you get so obsessed with that new car that you’ll buy it being willing to jeopardize your kid’s college savings.  That’s a loss of control.  And it will cost you.

appetites

Anything that baits you to the point of you losing control, your heavenly Father is against.  Because on the other side of that … is disaster.  Any area of your life where you tend to hand control over to someone/something else is where you will need a guardrail.

Paul is saying, “Don’t get drunk.  It’s foolish.  Be careful because the days in which you live are evil.  Drunk leads to a loss of control.  Loss of control is a sin.  It leads to disaster.”

“Instead, be filled with the Spirit”.  God wants to be the primary influence in your life.  The Holy Spirit indwells the believer.  He will prompt you, nudge you, guide you, direct you.  The Spirit doesn’t yell.  He doesn’t scream.  He usually clears his throat.  It is a still, small voice in your conscience.  We know.  We know.  We know what’s the right thing.  Quit fooling around.  Pay attention.  Be careful.

This talk might have nudged you.  Maybe there is an arena where you’re getting closer and closer and you get so full of lust, you lose self-control.  What would it look like if you backed up to a safe distance and put a guardrail in place that maybe no one else would understand but it might just save your marriage?

No one has ever regretted establishing a guardrail but plenty of people regret not having had one in their lives.  Guardrails are wisdom.  You know where your boundaries should be and you know the cost if you cross them.  “What’s the wise thing to do?” Guard yourself.  Guard your heart.  Guard your eyes.  Don’t take foolish risks.  Be wise!

Warfare

Today was intense.  Rather than pasting in my notes, I’m just going to speak to you from my heart.  First, I apologize for bringing politics into this discussion.  The point I made could have been made without ever mentioning the word politics.  Lesson learned.  I will speak from my heart on this (so you don’t have to agree with this, it is my perspective) — I have seen  a radical change in our culture over the past 10 years.  We seem to embrace Islam and do whatever we can to welcome it under the veil of “freedom of religion” while at the same time, it seems Christianity is under assault.  Apparently, freedom of religion doesn’t apply to Christianity.  This should not surprise us.  Jesus warned us that we’d be despised because He was despised.  We have welcomed and embraced the homosexual agenda, legalized gay marriage, encouraged elementary schools to welcome and make comfortable children who now self-indentify as transsexuals.   Political correctness has consumed America.  If we offend anyone with our beliefs, we are bigots.  Michael Yousef, the Atlanta pastor who is a native Egyptian, has said that Islam’s strategy to “invade” America would be to play upon American’s repulsion of being called intolerant.  That Americans will do whatever is necessary to avoid being called intolerant.  He said this about 15 years ago long before “political correctness” became the buzzword.  By playing on our fear of being considered intolerant, Islam knew it could capitalize on this to gain favor in America.  It is working.  What is going on?  Why does it feel like this fog of deception is swallowing up America?  Exactly.  The enemy is a liar and his operating strategy is distortion.  He twists and lies and these clouds of deception come upon us.  It is warfare.  We are seeing all of this play out in front of us.  To my point this morning, I can see (again, it’s my opinion) that we could be the verge of the next 10 years being about a war on manhood in America.  That men are the “the problem”.  This can be the police, the CEO’s, big corporations, Wall Street, the insurance companies, etc. that we could be seeing the start of the next phase of the war and the root of it is coming after manhood.  That through the police or Wall Street or CEO’s, that men have ruined this country and must now take a back seat.  I may be wrong.  All I wanted to say this morning — in the context of talking about spiritual warfare in a room full of men — is that we just need to be braced for it.  Be on alert.  It would seem to make sense that this could be where the enemy tries to take this battle.  We simply should not be surprised to see another wave of the attack and a further breaking down of what we hold dear.

And so, we’re back to warfare.  1 Peter 5:8-9 says, “Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”   James 4:7-8 says, Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God an he will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  Verse 11 says, Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up”.    (bold/underline my emphasis)

Remember back the Louie Giglio talk.  Warfare is coming at you.  The enemies are all around you.  Don’t be surprised because the attack is coming.  Satan doesn’t eat, he doesn’t sleep, he doesn’t chill out at the beach or the TV.  All he does is attack.  24/7 he exists to take you out.  He doesn’t play fair.  He reads your mail.  He knows how to play you.  So the enemies are going to be and are, all around you.  He’s just trying to land a seat at your table.  He just wants to pull up a chair and engage in conversation with you.  (Please watch that talk if you haven’t already – from October 5th on the blog)  The question for you is, who have you been listening to?  Is it the enemy?  And if so, why?  Perhaps you’ve engaged in a conversation with him and started to form some agreements around the lies he’s been telling you.

What role must we play?  To the scripture above, I have underlined/bolded the key words for us.  It is not a passive affair.  You have a role to play in defending yourself from the attack that is coming 24/7.  First, you need to control “self”.  That is the “me” thing.  It is lust, sex, greed, envy, jealousy, impulsiveness, anger, etc.  If we give into these things, we’ve given the enemy a seat at the table.  If we go to lust, to pornography, etc. we are just inviting him in.  It’s like riding in an armored limo going through a hostile crowd and rolling the windows down.  By rolling the windows down, we’re giving him an opening to exploit.  And he will.  Second, we must be alert.  It is coming.  It may not come directly at you but instead it will come at your wife or your kids.  You must be on alert at all times and not drop your guard.  And then it says we must resist and stand firm.  The temptation is coming.  She will call out to you, “It won’t hurt to look” or “no one will ever know”.  You must resist and stand firm.  NO!  I will NOT be that man.  I will not be that man that falls for this and gives up my honor and integrity”.  Next, it says we have to “come near to God”.  We have to be in the Word.  We have to pray.  We have to seek him.  We have to care for our souls and feed upon the nourishment only God can give us.  Next, we must purify and wash our hands of the sin.  That is a real battle but it is putting guardrails up that you will not cross.  It is setting standards of operating behavior you will not vary from.  That may be no R-rated movies for you.  It may be nothing with sex scenes in it.  It may mean giving your iPad away so the temptation is gone.  It may mean confession to your band of brothers of a weakness in your armor your need to fortify.  The truth shall set you free.  Lastly, we need to humble ourselves.  Humble.  Humility.  A desperate need for a power far greater than you possess.  It is a death of hubris or “I’ve got it all figured out”.  Humility is a beautiful thing in a warrior and we’ll talk more about it later this fall.

You have a role to play.  The Lord has “prepared a table for you in the presence of your enemies”.  They are all around us.  Revelation 12 says that Satan was thrown out of heaven and down to earth where he wages war against woman and all her offspring.  God doesn’t pull us out of the fire.  The power of your testimony is what God will use to bring others to Christ.  That you can walk through this minefield and keep your honor and integrity, die to self, live in humility and have a radical dependence on God, that will testify to the doubtful that this God we serve is real and powerful and transformational.  That God can take the tragedy of your messy life and turn it into a Triumph is a testimony.  But as Richard Peters reminded us today, testimony starts with “test”.

More to say but that’ll come in another post.

The Quest for Authentic Manhood…

lion

The quest to LiveUP in Authentic Manhood  – a life lived outward – is a passionate pursuit of a different kind of greatness.  Though its path runs counter to selfish ambition, it is no less ambitious. 

It inspires the rare man who longs to live a heroic life that honors God. 

It calls a man to a new kind of courage.

It demands so much of us. 

Integrity not only harnesses our passions, it focuses our intentions.  There are some paths, some options and some directions we simply will not choose no matter the cost to us of standing firm in this Quest.

 

Sex. The front line of the war for your soul…

Here we go, diving into the deep waters with an entry that might really irritate you but as “watchmen on the wall”, we need to go after this…

Right up front, all of us struggle with this.  Testosterone is a hugely powerful hormone.  The younger the man reading this, the more intense the battle.  Add to that a sex-drenched culture and the devastating effects of free pornography all over your smartphone, the TV and the internet and we just all need to admit, “this is a problem”.  It is everywhere.  To try to battle this with accountability or denial or by cutting off any possible temptation (no TV, no internet, not looking at any other woman as you go about your day) isn’t going to work.  You cannot “purify” your way past this.

There is something much deeper at work here.  To battle it, we have to dig deep into the soil and find the root.  What’s behind this?  Beneath it?  What is the “why?” behind all of it.

Let’s start with Proverbs 3: 5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight”.

The main aim of this verse is for us to walk in a straight path.  As we were saying in yesterday’s post, at this stage of life, the others around you – your wife, your children, your co-workers, your friends, your parents … all the people that are counting on youneed you to live your life well right now.  We need you to walk in a straight path.  The church is under assault in America.  Expect more of this.  Our church has been under some attack as well.

We have a country club/consumption culture in America fueled by iPhones, Amazon, Instagram, Facebook, etc. giving us easy access to anything we want to see or do.  Our culture is soft.  Our kids are the “me generation”.  They’ve embraced relativism.  Things that should shock them and scare them … don’t.  We have transgender bathrooms at Target now.  If we offend anyone, we are outcast.  Listen to me, ALL of this is symptomatic of the all-out assault Satan has unleashed on the world.  It is a “me, me, me” world and it has invaded the church.  Think about it, if you were Satan wouldn’t you want to fuel an attitude of “Me.  It’s all about me”?  Think about Lucifer.  Why did the revolt happen in Heaven?  He was in love with himself.  He wanted to make it all about him.  God kicked him from Heaven and sent him to the earth and that “me spirit” has been unleashed on earth in a devastating way recently by the enemy.

We have a church culture that is creeping into this country club like atmosphere of “the church is here to provide for me, entertain me, give to me” and as a result, we’re having a hard time finding people willing to step up and serve.  We don’t have time to serve.  We’re too busy.  We come into church desperately needing to be refilled.  But we have little to give.  If we all embrace this attitude and don’t wake up and realize that isn’t how the church is supposed to operate, eventually the church will collapse for lack of any workers to “toil in the fields”.  And don’t you see, that is precisely Satan’s intent – permeate the culture with a “me” attitude and then sit back and watch it collapse upon itself – the culture and the church.  And you’re asking right now, “what does this have to do with sex?”  Stay with me…

We need you to live your life well right now.  The church faces a great challenge and it needs all of us to be at our best.  There is an enormous battle underway against the church and our culture right now.  Just watch an hour of Fox News at night and it is jaw dropping the nonsense that happens daily in America.  As warriors with Christ, we all have a role to play.   The “church” cannot survive if we remain in a childish “me” place.  It is time for the men of the church (at large) to manUP and put away childish things.  There are FAR greater battles underway,  FAR more at stake than how much sex you are getting weekly from your wife.  Ok, here we go…

The “why?” of this question is way deeper than any accountability group holding you accountable of “did you look at pornography this week?”  That isn’t going to come close to dealing with the issue.  THE issue is idolatry.  We have idolized sex.  Sex is our god…

“If I get sex two times a week from my wife, then I’m good”.  

“My wife won’t have sex with me.  I need a wife that will regularly love me and send me out daily affirming me as a man.  Imagine what mountains I could conquer if my wife did all she was supposed to do to affirm me as a man.”

“My wife hasn’t had sex with me in three weeks, I have needs that have to be met”

Please hear me, I am NOT condemning you as you read this.  All of these…I’ve said to myself more times than I can possibly count.  THIS is what we are dealing with.  This is the magnitude of this issue.  Sex has become our god.  If we get it, we’re all good.  As we said a few weeks ago in this post — https://manliveup.wordpress.com/2016/07/27/fathered-by-god-the-lover/  — we have fallen into the trap of “take, take, take” – that Eve is there for us to take from rather than being given to us to provide for.  We have come to look at our wives for what we can get from them.  That we can get our validation from her.  That she can make us a man.

That’s a dead-end street and I’ll tell you why.  If a married, Christian man falls into this trap of the quotes above, he is a sitting duck for pornography.  That set up, those demands we place on our women, they cannot be met.  There is never “enough sex”.  It cannot be satiated.  The more you feed your desire for sex, the more insatiable the appetite.  The more you think about sex and obsess over it, the more your hunger for it will grow.  Remember one of our foundational truths – “What you feed grows, what you starve dies”.   The trap the enemy has set for us is to feed us these lies of what we “could be” if we were getting enough sex.  It’s no different than “what my life could be like if I had more money.”  There is never enough money.  It’s a lie.  It’s a trap.  And we’ve fallen into it.  So we drink from this and take it in and she cannot meet those demands and we’re all torqued up with no place to go, and so… we turn to porn.  Some turn to other women thinking the grass surely must be greener on the other side.  It isn’t.

The “why” of this is deep.  It is the alter we have built to sex.  It is the belief that sex can fulfill every deep longing I have and equip me for the life I need to lead.  If I go without it, I feel as though I have no oxygen and I quickly find myself wandering into all sorts of trouble.  We have embraced the “me culture” and made sex “all about me”.  That’s a very small life.  That’s no way to love a woman.  It objectifies her, cheapens her and tears the fabric of her heart.  The message we send to our wives either outwardly with our spoken words — or — even more painfully in a silent, non-spoken rebuke of her is devastating to her heart and she’ll shut down.

If we come to our wife with requests (demands?) for weekly sex or 2-3x a week sex or if we go silent and turn to porn and masturbation we are almost childlike in our begging for our needs to be met.  We don’t have mastery over our body.  We are bringing no strength to our wives.  Our flesh is in control and desire burns.  Unfortunately, our weakness here carries consequences for the one who most depends and needs us to come through … our wives.

Let me wrap it up and try to tie it all together and drive home the point – Proverbs is driving us to “walking in the straight path”.  I don’t want you to… Keith doesn’t want you to… your Mama doesn’t want you to… God doesn’t want you to … veer off the path into disobedience or into a wasted life or into anything that would dishonor Him.  And men, I’ve got to say it and I hate writing this but getting drunk on sex, cruising into porn, getting yourself all torqued up and then masturbating is wasting your life.  Literally you are wasting your seed of life washing it down the sink.  It is childish and needy.  All because we worship at the alter of “I’ve gotta have a lot of sex”.

We need you to live your best life.  I need to live my best life.  A worthy life.  A life that is an inspiration to others.  As the great and now late, Craig McConnell said, “Do you live free?  Are you the man that has a strength and an intentionality and a movement to his life, towards God, towards others?  A man who rescues others, who lives well and loves well?”  That’s the man we need you to be.

We do that by trusting God with all our heart.  No, a sexless marriage isn’t what God intended but I trust Him.  I value Him more than I do sex.  Sex goes away at some point anyway.  God never does.  We trust in Him.  We bank on the promises of God, step by step of each day.  We draw upon the vine.  We trust in a good, Holy, loving, all providing God.  We don’t rely on our own understanding i.e. we don’t take matters into our own hands (literally).  “God I can’t understand why I am single now … but I trust you.  I’m not going out to find sex as a way to fill the ache in my soul.  My soul aches for You.”  We do not rely upon self.  If we trust in our own understanding it means we are being self-reliant = it’s up to me to make it happen.  So if I’m not getting sex, I’ll manufacture it.  Lastly, Proverbs encourages us to in all ways acknowledge Him.  That is to know Him.  To connect the branch to the Vine.  To draw upon his Zoe daily https://manliveup.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/best-of-manschool-branch-to-vine-1/.  To draw Him into everything, “Lord the sex thing is killing me, I give it over to You.  I trust You.  I need You.  Sustain me”.  Draw Him in to every situation, all day, every day.

And men, we need you to live your best life now because the church is under assault and our culture is burning around us.  Marriages are breaking up, kids are turning to porn, drugs, homosexuality … anything to find happiness.  Racial tensions are exploding.  People are being gunned down on our streets.  We are in a world at war and the church needs warriors who’ve mastered self by giving over self to God.  We need men who are living well, living with integrity, living strong, fighting for their wives instead of constantly demanding from them.  We need men of integrity who say “Enough.  No more” and repent of the worship of sex and when blessed with a time of intimacy with their wives they will stop and consecrate the time in prayer giving the intimacy over to God as a worship offering.  God created sex as a glorious gift to the married couple and we’ve perverted it.  Now, we take it back.  As we enter into it, stop and consecrate the event, consecrate the time, give God the glory and in so doing you take it as a gift and will trust in God for the next time He grants the gift.  By consecrating the time, you are giving the power of sex over to God, “Lord, we give this to you.  Thank you for this wonderful gift.  Thank you for my beautiful wife.  Help me love her well every day.  We give this act to you and we will enjoy it and then release it.  “It” has no power over us.  We repent of our worship of it or for how we’ve rejected it or denied it.  Let us enjoy this and then get about the business of serving you together as a couple.  Thank you Lord Jesus for this precious gift that is my wife.”

The point of this post was to drive us to straight path, the life well-lived, LivingUP to all our God has created us to be.  Wake up. Don’t waste your life…

What did this stir in you?  Did it make you mad?  Why?  How much time daily do you give to the thought of sex?  How important is it to you?  Can you ever get enough of it?  And then … how do all those questions relate to your relationship with God?  How important is He?  Can you ever get enough of Him?

lots of food for deep, deep thought…

Fathered by God – The King

The truth is, all of us want to be king.  We all dream about money and success and power and prestige.  We all dream of getting to that place where we will be served.  But the truth is … a good king isn’t about being served.  He’s all about serving others…

The goal of this journey of manhood is when we come to this stage, the King.  It is a time of ruling and authority that starts in our 40’s and 50’s.  It is when God begins to entrust a man with a sense of influence and power.  It can come through wealth, a certain job, command of a unit, Senior Pastor — where we obtain a position of influence.  You’ve come the point where you have a place to rule where you can bless others.

You’re meant to rule – designed for that role in its proper time.  David knew God had made him King for the sake of his people.  It is a time of great testing i.e. “What is it like for those under his care?”

The danger arises when he gets some success and then makes it all about him.  We’ve all been under bad kings – men who made it all about them and it sucked the life out of the people reporting to him.

The question is when can you entrust a man with power and the answer is – only when he’s gone through his initiation.  Without a proper initiation and time in the saddle, a man isn’t prepared for the burden of leadership.  If he was never a cowboy then when he gets success and money, he’ll spend it on a never ending series of adventures or toys.  If he was never the warrior, as a king he’ll start fights that aren’t needed to prove himself or he will lead his people into passivity.  If he was never a lover, then when he reaches power, he’ll go and get the trophy wife.

A middle age crisis = a man who is supposed to be a king but is acting like a boy.

The heart of the king is undeveloped when as a boy, he is never entrusted with power.  His heart is wounded often by other kinds when he was a young man in need of a good king to shepherd him but he got a bad king and there was a wounding and a betrayal.  Out of that wounding, he is reluctant to ever lead.  It is also wounded when he is never called out and up to his potential by older men who say, “We see this leader in you and we want you to take this on.”

As a king, you need an unbroken dependence on God realizing there are unfathered places in you where you’re not as strong as you need to be.  Moses, David and Jesus all inquired of God before they moved.  There was a humility to be guided and shepherded and fathered by God in their role as leaders.

When you’re around a bad king, you see the selfishness and the falsehood and it makes you say, “I don’t want any of it”.

As a young man, God wants to build your character before you set off to build a kingdom.  If you take on too much, too young you will stumble and it can make you say, “I don’t have what it takes” and we want to avoid that.  The desire for wealth and significance and validation = a young king looking in wrong places.

The biggest battle we have as kings is integrity.  Our character will always be tested.  Those that are under you and around you are looking to you saying, “right here, in this moment, I need you to live well”.  They are saying (pleading), “Be a good king.  We need you”.  Others will depend on you.  Come through.  Live UP to all that you’ve come to be.  Humility and patience will be needed along with integrity and character.

As you go through all these stages and hit your 40’s and 50’s and you start to make a little money, the temptation is “Hey, it’s my time, I want to enjoy myself” and that will be right at the precise moment when so many other people will need you to come through for them.  At the time we’re wanting to make it about us, it’ll be all about others.  It is … excurvatus ex se.

The battle is selflessness and not making it about me but rather in serving others.

The truth is, all of us want to be king.  We all dream about money and success and power and prestige.  We all dream of getting to that place where we will be served.  But the truth is … a good king isn’t about being served.  He’s all about serving others.

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…

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