Monday, May 26, 2008

May 26, 2008 - Ignoring The Coach's Call!

All right team, this week’s devo is going to smack some folks upside the head. The week has brought forth a lot of reminders concerning this devotion and I just felt it needs to be said. (Of course my wife telling me I should write on this subject was a pretty good hint.)

Again this week I heard NBA players attributing their success to the fans in their home arenas. It has been very difficult for teams to win on the road in the playoffs.

Recently I even drew reference to this as a parallel to the body of Christ being supportive and encouraging. Yet in the “game of life” I am seeing far too often that Christians are perfectly content to just be “fans.”

Over and over Christians will make promises to pray for others, commit money to efforts, and will make sure they are at “practice” (church) on Sundays – at least somewhat regularly. The problem is that it is time to get off our butts and get in the game!

This past week I had personal reminders of this problem. Our ministry planned a rummage sale at the new gym facility we are going to use. My wife spent 35 hours in the gym sorting and pricing goods. (She put on over 2000 stickers and still didn’t get everything priced.) Then we spent all day Saturday with the help of one friend, her daughter and daughter’s friend, and our family. Many people donated items (as evidenced by the number of price stickers) and I know it was a holiday weekend, but come on!

This was just one day in our lives but it is a common occurrence. That is why the rule of thumb is that at best 20% of the people will do 80% of the work. I am often told of people’s intentions and then how things just came up to keep them from following through. Can I tell you lovingly that we are all busy? We are called to sacrifice in our lives.

The other reminder I had of this was in our passage for Sunday’s message – James 2:14-26. This passage is written to believers as a rebuke to those that are not active in good works. We know works do not save us when it comes to our eternal destiny. But as you will see if you study this passage closely, they do save us from something. A great way to make sure you are looking at this in context is to ask a simple question: “save from what?” It is clear here that the threat is God’s judgment on believers! Yes the Scriptures promise chastening to unfaithful believers. If you look at the context James is telling the unfaithful that they are doing no better in reaching the world than demons do.

Basically we have God calling our numbers for service and we often just sit there on the bench and ignore the call. NO MORE EXCUSES – GET BUSY!

James 2:18 “…I will show you my faith by my works.”

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

May 19, 2008 - They Don't Play Fair

This past Sunday I had the privilege of sitting under the teaching of one of my former pastors. He is a great communicator of God’s truths. My wife mentioned that she always gets something new from him, even if it seems like a small detail. Sunday was no exception. He took a passage from the book of Joshua and hit us between the eyes with a reminder about our responsibility as God’s children.

The basic jest of the story goes like this. The Israelites had soundly defeated Ai – or more precisely they had destroyed them. Word got around to the surrounding kingdoms and fear began to set in. As the kings looked at their options, the people of Gibeon decided to trick Israel in order to gain safety. Posing as foreigners from a far away land, when in fact they only lived around 24 miles away, they convinced Joshua and the leaders of Israel to make the treaty with them (even though God had warned Israel not to enter into a treaty with the neighbors.)

Once it was found out that the Gibeonites had deceived the people of Israel, the leaders were left with a couple of choices. One, they could break the treaty and destroy Gibeon. Two, they could uphold their promise of the treaty.

As the men of Israel approached the towns where the Gibeonites were from, they did not attack. But wait a minute, the Gibeonites lied to them. They deceived them. The treaty was not valid because the other guys didn’t play fair. Yet the Scriptures are clear as to why the Israelites did not attack.

Joshua 9:18 - But the children of Israel did not attack them, because the rulers of the congregation had sworn to them by the LORD God of Israel

You see the leaders understood a simple principle as God’s children. We are not responsible for how others “play the game.” We are only responsible for our own “play.”

They remind me of John Wooden’s philosophy concerning his teams. He said that they didn’t do a lot of scouting and worrying about the other team. They keyed on being the best UCLA team they could be.

Yet today we look for every loophole we can to get out of contracts and other agreements. Whether it be a business deal or a marriage, we tend to place our decisions on how the other person(s) is “playing.”

Can I simply be the voice of encouragement, or rebuke if need be? Stop looking at everyone else and key on your commitments and oaths you have made before the Lord!

As I performed a wedding ceremony this past Saturday I used the following words that were part of a ceremony in my minister’s manual: “Covenant Love.” I reminded the couple that their vows were not made with conditions. There was no “I promise to..if…”

How is your business life? How are you doing with your marriage vows? Are you a man or woman of your word?

I’m sure some want to write me back and say, “But Todd, you don’t know the situation I am in.” Can I lovingly say this? I care about you and your feelings and your comfort level in life. Yet in some ways I don’t care. I don’t care what others are doing, you’re responsibility is before the Lord to be a man or woman of your word!

Monday, May 12, 2008

May 12, 2008 - Winning On The Road

The 2nd round of the NBA playoffs is quite predictable so far. Up to this point only the “home” team has won a game. No one seems to be able to handle playing “on the road.”
The reasoning you keep hearing players mention is the fact that they have the “home” crowd cheering for them and it is pumping them up.

For guys making millions of dollars to play a game that seems a bit strange to me. I understand that it is nice to have the support of the people around you; but when it comes down to it that shouldn’t be an excuse for poor “road” performance. These guys are established players and should be able to face the adversities of the opponent’s arena.

Yet this is indicative of the modern church as a whole. We love to “play at home.” We get together for our church services and big conferences. We hear the roar of the crowds. We get excited and sing loud. We may even jump up and down. We say the right things and boldly proclaim the name of Christ.

But when we go “on the road” we shut down. We may still avoid doing bad things but we are not aggressive and bold with our faith like we are in front of the “home crowd.” We may even blend in so much that people are not sure which “team” we are on.

It is time for us to “win on the road”! We don’t have to bring others into our “arena” to make a difference. Listen, I am all for good music and exciting programs; but they are far too often a substitute for reaching out and winning in the “opponent’s arena.”

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
(Matthew 5)

Monday, May 5, 2008

May 5, 2008 - Getting Up In His Grill

As a coach it is sometimes necessary to “get up in a player’s grill.” (For those not familiar with that phrase it simply means getting in his face.) Although most coaches do this too often it is nevertheless needed at times to get a point across.

Getting in someone’s grill can be to motivate or pump-up a player. Or it could be because the player needs a stern rebuke. Either way it shows that the coach is passionate about something and expects the player to be as well. Yet in today’s “politically correct” environment it is almost taboo to administer any type of stern correction. Yet some things are worthy of our passion and worth fighting for!

I remember as a young coach coming off of the floor at half-time. The headmaster of the school where I was coaching was sitting across from our bench. As I passed him on the way to the locker room he stopped me and said he could hear me in the huddle from his seat. I was a bit concerned at first until he said, “I like that in a coach!”

Other times the response to my intensity has not been quite as well received.

Yet Biblically we are also commanded to be in people’s grills at times. The church has it backwards though. Our reputation is one of getting in the unsaved world’s faces and ignoring each other – the typical “don’t judge me” mentality. But Scripturally we are called to love those in the world and share the “good news” with them. And we are called to be accountable to one another.

Sometimes the “in your face” approach is to motivate from a positive perspective.

24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10)

Other times it involves correction!

12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.” (1 Corinthians 5)

When someone on our “team” (a believer) is in sin, we have the right to get in his grill!

One of my favorite “in someone’s grill” moments took place between Paul and Peter. Peter was being “politically correct” with his Jewish brethren and distorting the Gospel message. (This is something definitely worth fighting for.)

11 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; (Galatians 2) [Read the whole story there for a great lesson in the clarity of the Gospel!]

Paul decided to let Peter hear about it. The wording in English does not fully do this justice. Basically it could say, “I got up in Peter’s grill!”