Today @ The Gathering: Isn’t It About Time You Moved On to Bigger, Better, Bolder Things?

Today @ The Gathering we continued our summer series, 12 Steps Up. We’ve been talking about how messy people mature over time.

Today we talked about Step #7, Grow Up.  Growing up means I get out of the shallow end of the pool and begin to launch out into deeper things; into bigger, better, bolder things.  Instead of worrying about the small things that used to upset me and sidetrack me, I am now able to endure the stress and the strains of adulthood.

As we celebrate the 4th of July today, remember that millions of people have sacrificed their lives so that we might be free.

Freedom isn’t cheap.  It costs.  And it’s aimed at something; particularly at the freedom from fear.  We don’t have to fear the government. We don’t have to fear being persecuted by our faith.  That freedom is also our responsibility to dream big dreams and to dare things that are beyond us in our childhood; to grow up and to begin to give our attention to big, serious adult things; things that change the world.

Whatever you do, don’t believe the lie that says one life can’t change the world. Don’t tell Abraham Lincoln that.  Don’t tell Martin Luther King, Jr. that.  Don’t tell others who have taken their gifts, talents, and opportunities and leveraged them for the benefit of others.

Today @ The Gathering: How to Get ready to Change for Good and Not Just Repeat Old Failures

Today @ The Gathering we continued our summer series “12 Steps Up: How Messy People Mature” with Step #6, talking about Gearing Up.  Gearing up for what?  Gearing up to truly change, not just repeat old failures and past religious hang-ups.

To truly change we have to believe that God has our best at heart.  Think about it.  When the Scriptures tell us that God predestined us,  He thought about us.  He foreknew us. He saw us long before we were born.  He knew what would happen to us.  He knew the failures, the stupid things we would get involved with.  And yet He still decided to say “Yes.”  For all the reasons he could have said “No” he said, “Yes.” So what is His plan?  It’s easy.  The Scriptures tell us that we be conformed to the image of His son.  What did Jesus look like?  Loving, gracious, happy, energetic, creative, sacrificial: all the things that make life worth living.

But to get them, we have to be changed.  The Scriptures say, “conformed.”  And you know that anything that requires being squeezed into another shape is going to be a little painful.  So today we talked about what God wants to take away, and what He wants to add. The most important things are the things He wants to add.  But we have to be ready; ready to let God take away and add to.  That takes courage.  Most of all it takes conversion.

Today we told you how to let God give you a converted heart.

Today @ The Gathering: You Need a Better Class of Dude; Who You Hang Around is What You’ll Become

Today @ The Gathering we continued our series, “12 Steps Up: How Messy People Mature.” We talked about the importance of relationships.  You were made and created for relationships. And yet our own woundedness has a way of getting in the way of bringing people in really close.

Today we talked about the fact that people who make life meaningful are also often the kind of people that make it messy.  So how do you find a better class of friend; someone who will come close and stay on the journey with you to not just healing, but figuring out just how good life can be?

We talked about what happens when a person does life alone.  They wind up as a victim: complaining, skape-goating, side-stepping, and asking other people to pity them.  And that’s not who you are.  God created you a winner, not a victim.  Winners are people who accept the responsibility for their own lives and behaviors and ask for accountability of other good people to live the life of their dreams.

Today we talked about those characteristics of the people you need to look for: the people who can shut up after you’ve told them a secret, the people who can stand up and show up; the people who can speak up and say “no” to you, the people who help lift you and spur you on to greatness, the people who can challenge you to do more than you think you can do.

Right now, stop, and list the five people in your inner circle who meet the qualities that I talked about today.  If you don’t have them, get on the search today.  And if you can’t find them after you’ve searched for them, here’s the secret: be these things to someone else and you’ll attract the right kind of person.

Today @ The Gathering: Why You Constantly Do Dumb Stuff When You Know Better

Today @ The Gathering we talked about Step #4 in the 12 Steps Up series: Lighten Up.  We talked about why we often carry around burdens that weigh us down, rob us of our joy, leave us feeling lethargic with no energy, and thinking that it’s just a physical problem not realizing it has a spiritual origin.

Today we talked about how to let go of things in your past; things inside that drive you, that often cause you to act in ways that are against your own self-interest.  Contrary to popular opinion, it is not the burden of an average day that robs you of your joy.  It’s carrying and dragging yesterday’s hurts and resentments along with tomorrow’s dreads and fears that crushes our souls.

In this talk today, we dealt with the things that drive us: things like unfulfilled promises, unfinished business, unrealized potential, uncelebrated service, unresolved anger, and unaccepted acceptance.  If you or someone you know is longing to look below the surface to understand how to clear away the clutter and the stuff that drag us down and keep us down, this talk is for you.

Today @ The Gathering: Why Believing and Belonging is Not Enough

Today @ The Gathering we continued our series “12 Steps Up: How Messy People Mature” with Step 3: Line Up.

Here is the problem most people have with religion and spiritual things. They believe it’s just about believing certain things: “I believe certain things about God, certain truth statements about Jesus, certain confessions and admissions about my life and the lives of others.”  And they think that’s enough.  Believing is not enough. It has never been enough.  It will only make you miserable.  Believing stuff you don’t live out in the real world is just another weight.

So today we talked about lining our lives up – alignment.  We know what alignment’s about.  Get in a car where the wheels are out of alignment and the car will shake you to death, wear out the tires, and ruin the experience.  It will also ultimately destroy the whole vehicle.  Just one tire out of alignment is all it takes.  Misalignment over time equals misery.

So this morning we talked about how to bring your life into alignment.  We’ve talked about Wake Up, we’ve talked about Look Up, and today we talked about Line Up.

Today @ The Gathering: Step Two – Look Up: How to Give God the One and Only Thing He Wants

What does God want from you?  If you listen to a lot of religious talk, you’ll get an endless list of: your house, your car, your life, your money, your kids – everything.  And often times you’ll leave confused thinking, “Why did God give me all these things if he only wants them back?” The truth is, God only wants one thing, and one thing alone.  And that is your trust.

So today we talked about how to Look Up.  Not look up to the stars or the sky, or look up to some small-g god, but look up to the God Who created you and redeemed you.

That leads us to the question: “What do you believe in?” We talked about the four choices that you have: I believe in me, I believe in nothing, I believe in everything, I’m a truth-seeker.

This is an important issue, for no one is a Christian because they’re a Christian.  At least, they shouldn’t claim to be. The truth is, Jesus Christ was very clear about his truth claims, that He and The Father are One, He is God incarnate; that He is our one and only God, Lord, and Savior.  We need to embrace Him that way, or not at all.

We gave the options you have when it comes to Christ; you have to choose one and then live with it.

Then we talked about the three demands God makes on your life before a genuine connection is made.  We talked about what they were and how to make them work for you.

Today @ The Gathering: Wake Up

Today we began a brand new series entitled “12 Steps Up.” We’ll be talking about how messy people mature over time. We’re using the 12 Steps of AA in making application in our everyday lives; not just how we defeat the demons of our addictions, but how we actually grow up and mature as people.

The first step of course is Wake Up. How many people have you seen and said to yourself, “That person is sleepwalking through life”?

Today we talked about the ways in which we try to get other people to wake up. We shout at them, we “should” them, shame them, and often we shun them but it doesn’t seem to work.

We also looked at how people can hide their addictive lifestyles for so long. We talked about the different ways we all choose a different drug of choice. Not all the things we use to medicate our pain are socially unacceptable. Some things we’re even rewarded for like using work to get approval.

We talked about how to truly wake up and live using the letters ESPN. We talked about exposure, surrender, promise, and getting a new name. Anyone can be set free from their addictions no matter what it is or how long it’s been hanging around. But the first step is to wake up and confess that you are powerless over your addictions, you are powerless to be set free from the things holding you back, and that you need God’s power.

God opposes the proud, but gives mercy to the humble, the Scriptures say. The question is, “When was the last time you humbled yourself before God and used your adversity – whether it’s a flood, cancer, loss of a job, a divorce, or the estrangement from a child – as a wake-up call, to not just see life differently, but to be different?”

Today @ The Gathering: How to Start Something

Well now that we’re working hard to recover from the flood here in Nashville, I can’t think of a better time to talk about not just how to start over, but how to start something new, fresh, bold, and exciting.

Often times in church we talk about theoretical things.  Hardly do we ever talk about the application or the “how-to’s.”   So the past several weeks in the HOW series, we’ve talked about How to Make Peace With God, How to Hear From God, How to Manage Stress, and today we talked about How to Start Something.

I was raised in a blue-collar home where my parents worked for other people.  We had a “work for the man” mentality.  And yet as I’ve grown and gotten older, I’ve realized that every person truly does work for themselves. You are your own corporation. You may show up and punch a clock and get paid so much, but the truth is when you stand before God you’re going to be responsible for the work that you’ve done; not the corporation, not the company, not “the man.”

Often we think to start something you have to have cash, connections, and control.  Those are the three big ones, aren’t they?  With those, you can do anything. The truth of the matter is those three commodities come and go, ebb and flow throughout all of life.

Yeah, cash can buy you a lot of stuff, but it can’t buy you success. Connections can help get you to the right places but they can’t convince the right people to be part of your venture.  And control is really great when you’re up.  You can treat people any way you want to.  But the truth is, what comes up always goes down.  And when you lose control, then what do you do?

If you really want to start something – a business, an idea, a movement – to not just make money (although you can do that) but to change the world, to leave a legacy, and make a difference, all you need is four things.  You need a core, you need a calling, you need a cause, and you need a conduit.

Today we talked about how each one of these comes out of the other.  Without a solid core, you won’t be able to survive the changes that are inevitably going to come.  Without a sense of calling, you’ll bring no identity or uniqueness to what you do.  Without a sense of cause, you’ll give up and quit.  And without a conduit or a platform, no one will ever know who you are, or what you offer.

Today @ The Gathering: How to Manage Stress

What better subject to talk about the week after the devastating floods here in Nashville than the subject of stress?  It’s not how to avoid stress that’s the concern.  You can avoid stress by being dead.  Every living thing is under stress of some kind.  Stress all by itself is not a bad thing; it’s stress that is out of control.

We get stressed in three ways.  We get over-loaded, over-extended, over time.  One of these three isn’t bad.  We’ve all been over-extended.  There are certainly times that demand that we work harder.  Overloaded: we’ve all carried heavier loads at times than others.  It’s the over time: doing it every day.  That’s what we’re in danger of here in Nashville; of being overloaded, over-extended, over time, trying to hurry up and recover and act like this never happened.  The truth is, we now live in a different world, and we need to embrace it and make it a better world.

Stress is not only bad when it goes unmanaged, it’s really terrible because of what it does to us.  It makes us sloppy, stupid, and short-sighted. Put all three of those things together in one person and you’ve got a prescription for disaster.

So today we talked about how to manage stress.  We do it daily, weekly, monthly, and annually. The goal in life is not to go as fast as we can, as hard as we can until we break; then get fixed and go do it all over again.  The goal is to live well every single day, over time to grow the kind of life that enables us to go through the floods of life (and there will be more) with strength, dignity, hope, and joy.

Bottom line is, Ladies and Gentlemen, as much as we don’t want to hear it here in Nashville, it will rain again.  And for you, if it’s not rain, it’ll be a mother-in-law, a loss of a job, discovery of cancer, or some other stressor.

You need to manage your stress and turn it to your favor, or you can let it manage you, and rob you of everything life has to offer.

Today @ The Gathering: How to Make Sense of Your Dollars

Where in the world do you go to learn about what money is and how it works?  Sometimes it’s very difficult to find sane resources of advice.

Oftentimes our parents don’t know any more about how to manage money than we do.  My parents didn’t teach me because I don’t think they really knew.  They got up and worked every day and hoped that things would just simply work out at the end.

The truth is, money is a God thing.  It’s not just a business thing, a mundane thing, a profane thing that we use and live outside the providence of God.

Today we talked about the five truths of money.  Money is amoral, neutral, active, dumb, and a revealer of what’s at the core of our heart.

We talked about the deceptions that come from money: If you think money will make you better, or make you happier, and that money can make you independent or invincible.

We ended our talk with the three ways in which money becomes a powerful asset.  And we also talked about what real wealth is.

Your net worth does not determine your self-worth, but your self-worth will ultimately, with wisdom, determine your net worth. The question before the house is this: Will you live and work a lifetime and at the end of it have nothing to show but debt and unpaid bills?  Are you living right now in your relationship with things, that you’ll be able to leave a legacy; a legacy of generosity, a legacy of blessing and helping others?  It’s your choice, but you’ve got to know how money works.

Today @ The Gathering: How to Make Plans

How often do we try to live our lives without making plans?  And yet think about how much of our lives demands planning: money, family, time; time to take care of our bodies, our minds, and our souls.

You know all of this requires a plan.  Today we talked about the importance of planning; the practical aspects and perspectives that come from the Scriptures about planning.

We talked about these perspectives:

  1. Act or be acted upon.
  2. Life lavishly rewards the diligent, but severely punishes the lazy.
  3. You’ve got to figure out what matters most, focus on that, and let everything else float on by.
  • Everyone ends up somewhere, but few people end up somewhere on purpose.
  • When your love wounds diminish the one you love, you are an enabler.

These are the ideas we talked about as we talked about the importance of making a plan.  If you find yourself today in a place you don’t like, the best way to get to where you want to be is make a plan.  We talked about how to do it, what the steps are, and the questions to ask. Check out the talk here on the podcast.

Today @ The Gathering: How To Hear From God

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is, “How do you hear from God?” “How do you know what God wants you to do?”  “How do you make the right decisions and how do you get the guidance?”  “Is there a formula?”

Into that space of great desire to know the will of God and do it, steps a lot of weirdness.  Maybe you’ve experienced it:  people who’ve told you what God told them to tell you to do, or how to live, or how to spend your money.  I’ve found over the years that people who brag the most and scream the loudest about what God told them simply have an agenda they’re trying to move forward.  It certainly isn’t always true, but I think you have to be careful who you listen to when they tell you what God said you should do.

So today we talked about 8 ways in which you hear from God. The truth is, God is a talker.  He has revealed himself openly and clearly, not only in the creation we see above us but the people and the sophistication of the world around us.  So how do you hear from God? We talked about the eight practical ways.  These are important if you take seriously living well the life you were created to live.

If you’re looking for direction and guidance, if you’re looking for a new job or a new career; if you’re deciding on who to marry, where to live, and how to invest your future, this would be a great talk to listen to: eight practical, real world, everyday ways in which God speaks.

Here is the problem for most people who want to hear the voice of God: they want to hear it now, instantly, and in great detail.  And if that’s what you’re looking for, you need to keep looking.  God speaks to those who want to live well over time and into eternity. The question is, do you qualify?

Today @ The Gathering: How To Make Peace With God

Today at The Gathering we began a brand new series entitled, “HOW.” This is my effort to just make the gospel and life with God as plain and simple as I know how.

Here is what I am afraid of: that a lot of us celebrate Easter and Christian holidays year after year after year and lose their meaning or never find it in the first place.  So in this series we are going to be talking about practical “how-to’s:” how to put feet on your faith, and how to close the gap between belief and behavior.

Since today is Easter I thought it would be a good day to start with “How to Make Peace With God.” I don’t think any of us should assume that all of us know how that is done.

We made the distinction between peace with God, and peace of God.  And that, is that the peace of God is not possible without peace with God; that there is such a thing as those who are right with God, and those who are not.  And you need to know, for your own sake, where you stand.

If we’re going to make peace with God, we also need to understand that the peace, joy, generosity, and redemption that we all celebrate so often is not owed, and cannot be earned.

We talked about the five steps along the path to peace.  It’s always dangerous to make conversion a formula, but at some point you have to simply help me understand how to do something that I desperately want to do.  So today’s talk was about guilt, consequences, getting in the way, confirming that you have right standing, and then who you are.

This was an important talk today, and I was overwhelmed by the number of people who came up and said it was exactly what they needed to hear.

Also this Tuesday, our Gathering 4 Guys will launch.  It’s not too late to sign up on The Gathering web site.

Also we’re seeing more and more interest being generated in our “Making Marriage Fun Again” live event on April 30th.  If you know someone who is looking for some help and encouragement about how to build an amazing marriage, not just a mediocre one, then this might be the event.  This would be a great getaway weekend for anyone living in or around the Nashville area; not just to attend the live event but stay over in Nashville and spend some downtime, and even come worship with us at The Gathering.

Today @ The Gathering: I Will Serve a Noble Cause (or wander aimlessly through life, bored, broken, beat-up and bitter)

You have two choices in life, it seems to me: one, be a taker, the other, be a giver.

The takers are easy to spot.  We’ve seen them, been abused by them; some of us are even married to them: people who just seem to wander aimlessly through life, taking what they need without regard to why they need it, or without the feeling to give anything back.

In this series, we’ve been talking about living beyond the level of mediocrity.  It’s at this point that mediocrity becomes easy to spot and well-defined.  The person who is a taker, self-centered, selfish, and makes life all about them will always live somewhere in the mediocre middle. They never awaken to the fact that life is a gift, that our Creator created us in His image so like Him, we could make something of our lives.

Anyone who understands a life well-lived, understands that generosity is at the core.  People who are generous succeed.  As I’ve said many times, life severely punishes the lazy but lavishly rewards the diligent.  The diligent are those who get up and pour into life, who give of their time, talents and treasures to make something of themselves; to connect to other people who are making something of themselves.  The only question that the giver has is, “What is my noble cause?”

A noble cause can be defined this way:  A noble cause is anything whose motivation is love and whose ultimate mission is freedom.

Two things I’ve found to be true in my life and the lives of others are: love is the power that truly sets you free and, once you’re set free by love, life begins to expand and open up limitless possibilities on how you too can love others for the purpose of setting them free. Free from what, you might ask?  Well certainly political freedom is important.  Financial freedom seems to be essential.  But I am talking about a freedom at the core of our soul where we’re set free from fear, doubt, and the dread that life has no meaning.

This morning we talked about the importance of the four loves.  These four loves are so important, I think you need to download the podcast, and listen to the mp3 here online to really understand what it means to express the four loves.  Remember what we talked about: the love of self for self’s sake, the love of God for self’s sake, the love of God for God’s sake, and the love of self for God’s sake.

We also talked about the three freedoms, and there have to be three.  Just like a milk stool needs three legs to stand up, freedom needs three important understandings to truly be freedom.

  1. There is the freedom from.  Freedom from fear, bondage, the overwhelming feeling that my life doesn’t matter, that my life is aimless, that my existence is random, that there is no such thing as good or evil, right or wrong, or a future toward which I can aspire.
  2. The freedom under.  Jesus said his primary mission was to come and set us free.  But once He sets us free, that freedom is protected by living a life under His authority and lordship.  When you go out in the rain, you put up your umbrella, and it’s under the umbrella where you stay dry and safe from the elements.  A freedom from must also be a freedom under.  A freedom from fear is only possible when you live with the freedom under the authority of Jesus Christ.  You love Him, obey Him, and serve Him with all your heart and soul.
  3. The freedom to.  The freedom to be all God had in mind when He created you to live up to your destiny and design, to make something of your life, your relationships, your gifts, and your talents.

We ended with the Renegade mantra: Live free, have fun, change the world. This is what all of us crave and what we blossom under when we live it out every day.

Make sure you join us next week for Easter as we begin a brand new series called HOW: Learning how to close the gap between belief and behavior. During this series we’ll give you practical steps on how to put feet on your faith.  Also be sure to sign up for our Gathering 4 Guys beginning April 6th.  I announced today where we’ll be meeting.  And also check out our “Making Marriage Fun Again” web site and register for this live event on April 30th, just a little over a month away.

Today @ The Gathering: I Will Live Courageously (Why it’s always right to do right)

Sometimes we think we are the only ones who live in a world where we constantly face fear, frustration, and futility.  But nothing could be further from the truth.

There is no way to grow out of the need to respond to the challenges of life, to compromise, do wrong, or demean ourselves.  It’s a challenge, a temptation every day; a challenge that requires courage – everyday courage – the courage that you must have to be who you were created to be.

To illustrate this kind of everyday courage, we looked at the life of Joshua today; that great leader in training, a guy who for forty years stood in the shadow of the greatest leader ever known.  And yet the day came; the phone call that he had dreaded: Moses was dead.  You are now the president, the CEO, the leader.  All of a sudden the leader’s job looked more daunting and terrifying than it had the day before.

Isn’t it true about life?  It’s easy to look at people, to criticize and bring commentary on the way they live their lives and make decisions.  But when it’s you or me in the cross hairs of leadership it’s a whole other story.  Today we talked about courage in three ways.

  1. Sometimes you need the courage it takes to line up. By that I mean to actually get up and get into the game.  It’s easy to criticize the football team or the basketball team or those who are doing their best when you are a spectator.  But it’s when you become not just a participant but the one who leads the action, who’s responsible for the outcome, that life becomes a whole different thing. You were created to suit up, show up, and do the next right thing.  Why has God gone to all the trouble it’s taken to create you, to give you birth and sustain your life if He didn’t have something very important and strategic for you to do?  Question:  Are you lining up?  Are you on the playing field, suited up, ready to go?
  2. Courage requires that we look up. If you look within or around or behind, you’ll be dismayed.  But if you look up, you’ll be inspired.  God is with us.  The Scriptures tell us He will never leave us or forsake us.  As He promised to be with Moses, so He promised to be with Joshua, so He promises to be with each one of us if we open our hearts and invite Him in.
  3. At all times courage means that we listen up. We need to listen to what God says is right and wrong.  We often think we need to hear the voice of God when in truth we’ve already heard it.  We have Ten Commandments, many promises, and even warnings; things to stay away from, things that God hates, and things that God loves.  And the truth is, if we obey Him, if we listen to His word, and we line up our lives behind His truth, and look up to Him for divine help and strength, the Scriptures promise that our life will be a success.

If you feel like a failure, if you feel like your life isn’t going anywhere, if you feel like God is a million miles away, maybe you need to line up, look up, and listen up.  Just these three simple decisions could save your life forever.