Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Up And To The Right

Tonight I sat around a table with 3 men who want to change the world. They do not have impressive degrees in theology or a vast library of books on churchology. They do not need either of those things. They have something far more important and far more rare.


We polished off burritos and nacho's and soft drinks but barely noticed. I've been "doing church" in a leadership capacity since I was 19 years old. That's 37 years, sports fans. And I don't know that I've ever worked with men like these before. If you cut them they'll bleed leadership. If you allow them to they'll pepper you with questions about God and the church and they'll give you their exhilarating thoughts on how to live life while loving their families and serving their God. If you listen closely you will catch their enthusiasm. You cannot help it. They are the kind of men you have prayed for and dreamed of for so many years. They will laugh with you as you tell of your mistakes and you know that they'll remember and bring it up again when you least expect it. But you don't mind. They do it because they love you and they let you be real. You don't feel compelled to fake anything around them. You don't have to act like a car salesman moonlighting at the nearest God dealership. There are areas of leadership where I positively stink. Yeah, I know. It's hard to believe but it's true. There are things I should accomplish in a more timely manner. Things I should pay closer attention to. And they know that because, like I said, they are born leaders and they know an "oops" when they see it. But they seem to understand that the reason I often let those areas slide is not laziness or incompetence. It's because I love people and I want to be in their homes or in their hospital rooms or sharing a meal with them in a restaurant. And that means that sitting at a desk drives me positively crazy. And so some of those "important" things just remain on my back burner because I'm having too much fun with the people that are on my front burner. The people of my church. The people that are not "of my church" but will be soon because God just tossed them through the door and they found out that they can get loved there and they can find community there and they can develop a real walk with God there. And we sit and talk about what might be ... what could be ... and how maybe, just maybe, if we are smart and listen to the whispers of the Holy Spirit and do all of the things that God tells us to do ... just maybe they actually will be.

"Up and to the right." That's where we are going. Get your graph paper out and put a dot on today. We know where we are. And we know where God is calling us. He's calling us to go "up and to the right." We are called to live life large, to love even larger, and to follow Jesus the largest of all. We are called to lay down the silly agenda's of this world and take up the holy calling of being princes and priests. I want to do it with men like these. Men who speak kindly of their wives and who get sparkles in their eyes when they talk of their children. Men who hold their eyes on yours when a pretty girl walks by because they are focused on what matters ... not the frilly, anemic, lust-filled lies of life. They are focused on going "up and to the right."

The trail we walk around here these days is getting more interesting by the day. The hill is steeper and the distance longer. The view causes our hearts to beat more quickly because it begins to remind us of the home that has been prepared for us that we have never seen. But we know we'll get there. We know the way. The way is up. Up and to the right.

Monday, August 22, 2011

30 for 30

Tonight's topic, little chillen, is prayer. And God. And praying to God. And praying to God and hearing HIm answer. I believe in praying specific prayers. None of that "Dear Lord bless everybody on the planet and don't let any one get sick or die. Please let the good guys always win and the bad guys get what's coming to them." That just won't do. I'm more in the camp of those who pray like this ... "God. Excuse me please, sir. I have some things that need your attention. My lawn mower will not start and snakes are closing in on my house from the creek at an alarming rate. I'm not sure if there is water in the gas or the spark plug is bad or what, but YOU know. So would you please fix it. And if you choose not to fix it by the 77th pull on the rope I'll assume you are not in the lawn mower repair business today and I'll make other arrangements. Not a problem, God. But please grant me one thing. STOP THE SNAKES!!!!!"

See the difference? It's profound.

Now I am a pastor I have plenty to pray about. Seldom does a day go by without somebody asking me to pray about something for or with them. I do my best to always say "yes." The only time I say "no" is when it's obviously not something God is going to be interested in doing. I will not pray that you win the lottery. I will not pray that your crack dealer stops faking you out and selling you talcum powder. I will not pray that the Cardinals win the World Series. Obviously those things are outside of God's will. (Ok, the last one was a joke and the Cardinals are proving themselves quite capable of shooting themselves in the foot so let's just let it go.)

I do like to pray for my church. Well, actually it's God's church but He loaned it to me and you know what I mean. I pray all sorts of things for Towerview. I pray that God would use us as His hands and feet. I pray that He would be gracious to us and teach us to follow more closely to His path. I pray that more people might come into His Kingdom through our church and, therefore, that our church would grow numerically. I pray those things and many more daily for Towerview Baptist Church. And I know God hears each of those prayers. Sometimes He seems to say "yes" and sometimes He seems to say "no" but I always pray anyway.

And then sometimes He shouts.

Yesterday one of our deacons came to me before our morning worship service and told me that since my wife and I arrived at Towerview 29 new families have joined. That made me happy. Now I'm not stupid enough to think that they came and joined because of me. Seriously. I know better. Nobody (except for my wife) knows me better than I do and I most certainly would not join a church just because I am the pastor of it. That last sentence sounds odd. But I think you know what I mean. I'm just really honestly NOT a big deal. As a matter-of-fact, I'm not sure that I would join a church that would have me as pastor. (Which is similar to what I tell Debbie when I remind her that I almost didn't marry her because I would not marry a girl that would stoop so low as to marry me.) Anyhow, I'm on my second career. My first lasted for 32 years. I'd say that's long enough to call something a career, wouldn't you? My first career was as a youth pastor. I was passionate about it. I loved (almost) every minute of it! And now I"m in my second career. I fully intend to spend 32 years being a senior pastor. I've only got 4 years in so there is a ways to go. I have to pastor until I'm 86 so get use to me Towerview.

But I digress.

Anyway my deacon friend Bob told me that 29 families had joined since Debbie and I came on February 1, 2009. That was 30 months ago. And you know what happened yesterday morning AFTER he told me that? :) Do you? A family joined our church.

How cool is that?

God has given us 30 new families in 30 months. I-JUST-LOVE-THAT! He is loving and blessing us! He's going bonkers over His kids at The Tower! And He clearly has confirmed for me that I am precisely where I am suppose to be. Not that I was doubting it. I wasn't. But now I am even more certain than I was before. We've gone 30 for 30 at The Tower, Viewers!

I mean ... how good is God anyway?!