Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Positive Side Of People

I was "taken to the woodshed" recently by a friend I've come to know in the past couple years.

I watched this guy—a very successful businessman—communicate and connect with rank strangers from every walk of life, and asked him about it later that evening. My question exactly was, "The way you communicate and talk with people, is this just your own personality, or is this a learned trait...something you've trained yourself to do?"

His reply was immediate and forthright: "I believe people are inherently nice."

He went on to explain that, he supposed it was a characteristic he had inherited from his father, who taught him (by example) that most people have a story to tell, and are just waiting to be asked about it. He brought tears to my eyes when he told me, "I've seen some ugly babies...I mean, honestly, not every baby is beautiful; but they are to their mother, and they are to God. So it's easy for me to look at a baby—no matter how ugly it might seem to be—and tell that mother, 'Ma'am, that is a beautiful child!' And to see her face light up, to see the smile that one simple statement can create, to me, there's just no feeling like it."

This man is neither a preacher, nor a politician; he's a true Christian who has chosen to see the good in everyone.

I wonder how my life would change if I chose to see people this way, as well? Has my opinion of humanity become jaded or cynical because of personal disappointments or supposed abuse? Or am I open to seeing the positive in people?

As preachers and pastors, it's easy for us to see the bad in humanity. Let's face it: few people call us for counseling or words of wisdom when their world is at its best. It's when they're dragging bottom, when their world is falling apart, or they've created some monumental problem, that they come asking for your time. Because of this, it would be easy to start seeing the world through cynical eyes, with a calloused mind that only saw the bad in people.

After watching this friend of mine, however, I have determined that, like he stated, people are inherently nice. Everyone has a story to tell, and is usually just waiting for someone to ask them about it, whether it's about their children, their job, their hobby, or anything else.

My goal is to quit talking about myself, and start discovering what other people have going on in life.

Who knows? I might actually learn something.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Keep Sweeping!

I was bored this morning.

I'll admit, that's what started the whole thing; boredom causes a man to tackle those menial chores that seem like they don't really need to be done. Chores like sweeping the garage out, or cleaning the driveway.

However, as I watched my wife drive off to work again this morning, I took a look at the driveway, littered with grass trimmings and mulched-up leaves from my lawn-mowing yesterday morning, and decided it needed to be swept clean. I don't have a leaf-blower (which would have made the task much simpler, I'm sure), so I did things the old-fashioned way: I grabbed a broom and started sweeping.

As soon as I started on the driveway, however, I looked over my shoulder and spotted some stray leaves that had blown into the garage; this led me even further into the crevices, nooks and crannies of a packed-up garage, where I discovered that leaves, grass-clippings, and other debris had mingled with cobwebs and dust to form a generally dirty picture of my garage floor.

I started on the the farthest corner.

I swept around a water softener, underneath bicycles, between boxes; anywhere I could fit the bristles of that small broom, I swept out trash and leaves. I managed to gather it all out into an open area of the garage floor, then I got the commercial-sized push broom and started nudging it out onto the driveway.

You would think that, doing the sort of manual labor I was doing, I would have welcomed the slight breeze that came along every few seconds. However, instead of refreshing me with its touch, the breeze only served to make my job more difficult; it continually brushed the leaves back into the garage, and I would have to backtrack and sweep again. 

This struggle to rid my garage of the unwelcome litter continued out onto the driveway, and all the way down the drive, until I finally managed to sweep it out into the street. Once I got it into the street, I took the extra step of sweeping it in a large, scattered motion in the direction the breeze was blowing, so as to allow the wind to take it even further from my driveway, and my garage door.

As I swept, I felt a kindred spirit with the man of God who continually finds himself sweeping the church of unwanted, unwelcome spirits that try to litter, clutter, and dirty up the house and the work of God. It's an ongoing struggle, and no doubt there are times when you feel like you're sweeping “against the wind”.

Perhaps there are times when you struggle with preaching a particular message, or a particular topic, because you “just preached about that”, and you don't want to seem like you're harping. Maybe you're even ready to throw your hands in the air and accept some things or some concepts you've pushed against throughout your ministry, only now it seems futile, fruitless to continue the struggle; they've been there this long, you think, so what makes me think I can do anything to change it?

Man of God, keep sweeping.

Keep cleaning out the spiritual litter that continually breezes into your congregation; keep preaching against homosexuality, fornication, lust, pornography, filthiness of the flesh AND spirit.

Keep telling your youth group that it's NOT okay to go park and grope and do whatever their hormones are telling them is cool to do.

Keep teaching your elders there's still work for them to do, that their prayers are precious, strong, and needed in this immoral society.

Keep telling your Sunday School staff how important their ministry is, how the children of this generation need a godly influence in their young lives more than ever before.

Keep preaching repentance.

Keep preaching that water baptism by immersion, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, is necessary, not optional, for the remission of sins.

Keep preaching that people receive the infilling of the Holy Spirit with the initial sign of speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gives them utterance.

Keep preaching separating onesself from sin, and separating onesself unto Christ.

Keep telling your congregation that we haven't yet “arrived” and that there are higher heights, deeper depths, broader visions, a greater harvest.

The winds will blow—and not necessarily just a gentle breeze, as I dealt with this morning—and there will be times when it seems like the iniquity is coming in faster than you can sweep it out. Keep sweeping, cleaning, preaching, teaching, and reaching.

Eventually, you'll look back over your shoulder and realize that your labor was not in vain. You will walk to your pulpit, look across your congregation, and realize those Wednesday night Bible studies, designed to create a deeper walk with God, or those Sunday night messages that at times seemed so scathing and harsh, were not in vain. For you didn't teach them, nor preach them, with a personal vendetta in mind, but as the watchman on the wall, you sounded the alarm against the intrusion and invasion of iniquity.

As the doorkeeper of the house of God, you swept until your hands were blistered, until your back ached from the labor; you swept against the winds of society, of tradition, of immorality, against the winds of Hell that blew hot and furious back in your face.

Yet you continued to sweep.

I have a clean garage, and an almost-white driveway this morning, but that's only because I was bored and had nothing better to do.

You have a Calling, a mission, an unction from God Himself.

My job could have gone unnoticed and undone.

Your job cannot.