This is week ONE of a 7 post series. Come back every Monday starting Sept 12, 2011
REBOUND – Our Position – His Disposition

In basketball, rebounding is an art. It’s not glamorous but imperative to win games. Basketball bad boy and former Chicago Bulls Dennis Rodman was a little different. Ok, that brother was real different! But very few could REBOUND like that rebel. Michael Jordan was amazing but I’m convinced they wouldn’t have won SIX championships without the anonymous rebounding of Rodman. Crowds saw MJ’s public prowess but most missed Rodman’s private performance. Some spectators saw him as CRAZY but regarding rebounds Rodman was COMMITTED.

In high school, one of my basketball coaches took us outside in the hallway during practice and taped a line across the wall 9 feet high near the Coke machine. As the wrestlers were running in their garbage bags we were jumping feeling like trash! Cheerleaders walking by thinking “What are those boys doing?” Then like clock-work our coach would take out his stop watch and for what seemed like eternity we (entire team) would jump non-stop touching the tape and bounce like a pogo stick. Everyone desired to shoot hoops in the gym but we were deduced to dancing in the hallway. This “excercise” accomplished a couple things.

For starters, it built TRUST. That’s right we had to “trust” our coach that he wasn’t giving us the run around and that it had a future purpose down the road because at that very moment it made no sense. Second, it taught us endurance. In the moment, we felt the pain but didn’t SEE the payoff! READ THAT AGAIN. We just knew we felt ridiculous jumping vertically but in a couple nights come GAME TIME the coach in his wisdom knew we needed perseverance to run horizontally, diagonally and vertically on the hardwood. Jumping was also a great way to build muscles in our calves and since most “white men can’t jump” it hurt then but was a great help later. Outside of trust the greatest application for this training was to be in better POSITION for the ellusive rebound.

FACT: Rebounds are deadly in relationships but mandatory in basketball. Height helps but it’s not the factor for success in grabbing a rebound. It is based more on HEART than height! Yes, most love to hit the “J” or zing a no look pass or do a cross over that could make opponents ankles snap and audiences roar but not everyone was programmed to be ready for the rebound. Believe it or not, there was a time that if the ball was coming off the rim in my mind I wasn’t going to let anyone get between me and that ball. Footwork is crucial in most sports and getting in POSITION to rebound was no different. I loved to get between the rim and defender because I knew when the ball bounced off the glass – like a man with a mission I was going to grab it if it were the last thing I did on earth!

Almost nothing on Earth in my youth was as thrilling to jump up and grab that leather ball in mid air and smash it with my other hand hoping (and expecting) the ball to burst because I slapped all the air out of it. My coached loved it, the crowd liked it and opponents loathed the echo that would bounce all over the capacity crowd. Rebounds (although to most not glamarous) always put you in a position to WIN!

One attribute that has served me well personally and professionally (outside of God’s grace) is I continually EXPECT GOD TO DO GREAT THINGS. The Bible says: “As a man thinketh – so is he.” I really believe “Show me your Faith and I will show you your FUTURE.” However, another key for me and this is HELPFUL HINT #1 is getting in a POSITION to watch God work. Jesus was constantly approached by people in need. Yes, I’m talking down and out! Repeatedly, He told them “Your faith has made you whole.” One of my favorites was when He said in Luke 17:14-18: “As they went – they were healed.” The moment we leave the couch and walk into the unknown is the same moment that Jesus not only smiles but God does the super-natural. We need to give our temporal situation to the eternal Solution. When Salvation invades your situation than BOOM = there is your solution!

In 8th grade, Fri Sept 13, 1985 (26 years ago this week) my godmother and I won a trip to spend the weekend with Sylvester Stallone in Los Angeles, CA. The back story before it made FRONT PAGE news in my hometown is that two weeks before the trip we got a letter from Los Angeles (after the adulation of winning this once in a life time opportunity) that Sly Stallone was now not guaranteed to meet the winners. In the words of Arnold from “Diff’rent Strokes” – “What you talking about Willis?!” My heart sank like a kid who some bully just stole his ice cream cone. What can you do? I had two options – Throw a fit or Trust God by faith.

Now with Sly not guaranteed to attend we had a dilemma. We could still take the trip and pay taxes on a prize despite the fact we longed to meet him. Honestly, I wasn’t in it for a FREE flight to LAX or to tour Hollywood or Universal Studios. Not to stay at Beverly Hills (we did TWO NIGHTS) or gaze for other celebrities. I wanted to go just to meet Rocky & Rambo himself. Most would have probably thought “it wasn’t meant to be” stay home, save money and pout but God gave me great faith and I allowed God to move me into position to SEE what would happen despite walking by blind faith. I don’t know what you would have done but we went and flew 6,000 miles round-trip. The rest is history. I met the Hollywood icon not once, twice but THREE times in 26 years!

In 1993, as a student at the community college I was invited to a preachers conference in NC eight hours away. Not to preach but to attend and I just knew I had to be around it. To soak it up and glean from these Gospel generals. I had $69 to my name and no hotel room lined up to lay my head for four nights. I was going to sleep in the car but just knew God said “go” and I was gone. Yes, I had more faith than dollars but knew God was leading me. Keep in mind – when Moses crossed the Red Sea – God did His part only after Moses did his. The Bible notes when his sandals slapped the Sea did God part the water. We got to leave our comfort to enjoy His Provision. Praise the Lord – God provided when we got there for FOUR complimentary nights (at a four star hotel), two of my three meals per day were covered and en route to the conference I saw an elderly man sitting alone in the hotel lobby. Despite driving 8 hours and the event already started and I’m late God spoke to me to invite him to the church. Here I am a first time vistor inviting him to attend as my guest! He agreed!!

Immediately, I throw this saintly senior in my car and we drive to the event and when I pulled into the church parking lot folks surrounded my car like a drive thru at Chick-fil-A. Yes, I’m talking PACKED! People began to put their Bibles in his hands pleading for him to autograph their Bibles. The irony is I just watched “SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE” but feeling “CLUELESS IN CHARLOTTE!” I have no idea who this guy is that I just drove! Even the Secret Service knows who they are driving! My friend, Tim Heddings and I walk into the church and when the ushers and congregation saw him the hallway parted like the Red Sea. The irony is I still have NO CLUE who I was chaperoning to church. Over 2,400 people were packed on a Monday night in Walkertown, NC and when the leaders of the conference saw us (actually him) coming I noticed not a seat was vacant and the church already started. Ushers ran towards us and escorted him to the very front row with me in tow! The choir had just finished singing, the moderator gets up and introduced the speaker of the evening. The MC while introducing him noted that he baptized over 63,000 people to Jesus and was basically the Billy Graham of that particular denomination. They introduce him, the crowd goes nuts and a warm standing ovation flooded the auditorium. The man next to me (whom God orchestrated for me to drive that night) unbeknownst was the keynote speaker!! Dr Lee Roberson, an evangelist and giant in Gospel circles and took that platform and preached the stars down from Heaven.

As long as I live I will forever recall that night and what God showed me. He sees the end when we are stuck in transition. When we grow dumb to doubt we walk in faith trusting our Coach. God blessed that night. Yes, because He was willing to do it all along but friends, I had to get in POSITION. I would have missed it all if I were not obedient. When we step out – God shows UP.

Just last week, I had the privilege to preach at Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, GA for my friend, Dr Emir Caner. You can see that video here What an honor to preach and Dr Fred Luter is preaching there this week for SPIRITUAL EMPHASIS WEEK and Dr Paige Patterson and David Ring are preaching next month there.

Many of you know that one of my dreams for 29 years now is to meet Dr Billy Graham. While preaching at a summer camp this year, I got a text in July from a friend inviting me to possibly have that opportunity to meet my earthly hero. In that initial text I was told I had a 50/50 chance to meet Dr Billy Graham on Sept 1, 2011. The catch is I was already scheduled to preaach that morning in GA and provided a two hour flight from Maryland to Atlanta to preach at chapel for Dr. Caner. I didn’t dare want to cause trouble and ask them to pay for me to also fly to Charlotte. But I knew I had to be in “position” to possibly meet Dr Graham that night. Without question, I would WALK from Maryland to Montreat, NC just to meet Billy Graham, shake his hand and say “thank you.”

What would you do? WHAT WOULD JESUS DO? Well, I declined the flight and drove 1,600 miles (alone) in 2.5 days and preached Wed night and Thurs morning. The theme song to SMOKEY & THE BANDIT came on in my mind and since I had a long way to go and short time to get there I became a Holy Roller! 🙂 Before I go any further I need to highlight my wife and parents who stepped in to help as I rolled out. Ministry is a TEAM effort. On Wed Aug 31, 2011 I drove 800 miles. Departed Maryland at 5:30AM and stopped once at the Promised Land (Cracker-Barell) and drove non stop to Calhoun, GA. Arrived at that church 6:30 PM and preached my heart out at Tabernacle of Praise Church and God saved one soul but 95% of the entire church came forward for rededication. GOD SHOWED UP! I then drove another 123 miles after church ended and arrived at the campus at 1:05AM. Was in bed by 2AM. Alarm went off at 7AM and despite driving nearly a thousand miles the day before (932 miles) I preached to the entire college at chapel first thing that morning. What a blessing and after a wonderful lunch at the President’s Mansion on campus with Dr Caner in Cleveland, GA I darted towards North Carolina to hopefully connect with Dr Billy Graham.

DRUM ROLL………..well I didn’t get to meet Billy Graham that night but had the high honor to finally meet his son and now President of BGEA and Samaritans Purse, Franklin Graham. He is the father to my friend, Will Graham and what a gift that family is to the body of Christ. A special shout out to my friend Brad who helped opened the door. We need more Dream Builders and not door closers. Personally, the four words WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN scare me to death. I can go to bed after hearing “no” but not “what if?” So I elected to forsake a two hour flight and drove over 24 hours in two days to meet Franklin Graham. Was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY! It has been said: “Who you respect is who you attract.” Like Zacchaeus we need to dare to DO great things for God. We need to BRANCH OUT for God and go out on a limb for the Lord.

Salvation is FREE but discipleship is COSTLY. Folks who desire your “platform” are not neccessarily willing to get in position. This is why it is so easy to be a critic. If we invested ourselves as a HELPER of Heaven we would have less HATERS on Earth because it is so easy to HURT others with words when Christ compels us unto good works. THAT WILL PREACH! Looking back all those years playing basketball honesty I didn’t get every rebound but by God’s grace I got more than I deserved and it’s much easier when I was in position. God blesses those who put themselves in a position to be blessed. Rebounds wins games but positioning ourselves to His assignments builds the Kingdom, watch God show up and show off and a front row seat to see dreams come true. More importantly, our proximity (position) enables deeper intimacy with Him. Race car drivers live for POLE POSITION. You may not start out first but you can still finish faithful. The key is – get in POSITION! When we are in position than we can truly see His Disposition. Turn your eyes upon Jesus – look full at His wonderful face. And the things of this earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. In the words of that country classic: “WALK ON FAITH – Trust in Love. Keep on putting one foot down in front of the other.” Truly, without faith it is impossible to please God. Tis, so sweet to trust in Jesus. I love that Vestal Goodman classic: “I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.” 🙂