Sunday, August 24, 2008

August 25, 2008 - Penetrate the Zone

As I watched the USA men’s basketball team in the gold medal game I noticed some great life lessons. I was thrilled that we ended up back on the podium getting “gold.” I also thought the team from Spain showed incredible heart throughout the game. It truly was a fun game to watch, in spite of being up until 4:30AM with church that morning.

The lesson I want to discuss this week involves some of the philosophy during the game. Late in the game Spain chose to go to a zone defense against the USA. The reason is that the American team is so athletic it is hard to guard them man-to-man; and the American teams of late haven’t exactly been known for their shooting ability.

This defensive strategy paid some great dividends and actually helped Spain close the gap on the scoreboard and put a scare in the US. As I was watching it unfold I told my son to look at the openings in the seams of the zone. I mentioned that normally LeBron James gets in those gaps and penetrates the zone. (Yet LeBron was on the bench at the time.) Shortly after I told my son this, Doug Collins said the same thing from his broadcaster’s seat. It was glaringly evident that the American team was settling for passing the ball around the perimeter and was not getting good scoring opportunities.

Well you probably know by now that LeBron came back in and the American’s righted the ship. The open three pointers they were able to get came as a result of penetrating the zone and then dishing out.

Ok, so now that I have been talking coaching strategy concerning the hardwood, let me shift gears a bit and discuss strategy in the life of the church. We spend way too much time “passing around the perimeter”! We tend to stay comfortably outside the walls of the “defense” and will hope to get off a “clean shot” every once in a while. Those can appear to be “desperate shots.” We need to “penetrate the defense of the opponent”

Let me be very clear. We spend way too much time trying to look good and be appealing in our church buildings and far too little time following Christ’s commands to “GO!” granted we are “not of this world” but we are reminded that we are “in the world”!

The religious people were angry with Christ because He mingled with the commoners, the sinners. He went where the people were that needed Him! The Apostles all lived by commands to go and be among the people. Study the life of Christ and the Apostles – and be reminded of the active Christianity of the Bible.

We need to stop “playing” passively! We need to penetrate into the heart of our opponent’s “zone!”

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

August 18, 2008 - Working Hard for the Gold

This past week I spent time with my dad who went through a total knee replacement. He has had multiple knee surgeries but this one was obviously the big daddy of them all. The morning after the surgery things were going great for Dad. He was able to take a decent walk around the hospital floor and met his discharge goals during the first session. That resulted in him getting to go home a day early. Upon arrival at home his knee began to stiffen significantly and the exercises became much more difficult (impossible in his mind.)

Yesterday I was able to take him to his physical therapy appointment and watch the therapist work him through the pain, and the reminder, of the hard work that was ahead to reach his goal.

I was also able during the week at my dad’s to take in a lot of the Olympics. There the big story was Michael Phelps winning his 7th and 8th gold medals of these Olympic Games. I love to listen to the post-race interviews.

After winning the 7th gold and tying Mark Spitz for the most ever in 1 Olympic year, Phelps was interviewed along with Spitz (via satellite) about the accomplishment. Both men were very gracious and talked complimentary of the other. Spitz talked of the competitive greatness it takes to be a great champion.

After winning his record-breaking 8th Gold, Phelps had the screen all to himself in the interview. He had just accomplished what many thought was impossible. He talked of the dream he had of being a champion that was started at an early age. He talked of the joy of receiving the gold medals. Yet he seemed to emphasize more the hard work of the journey.

As believer I think it is important for us to have a vision – a goal. As churches I think the same is true. We often make great plans. Yet I hope we remember that no matter how grand the plan, there is a journey of hard work and dedication that is needed.

What are your dreams and goals? Have you set forth on a disciplined course of hard work to achieve them? Nehemiah had a vision of rebuilding the walls, yet had to actually go there and put forth a lot of hard work. Look at the command in 2 Timothy chapter 2:

15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Note the emphasis on being “diligent” and the subject is a “worker.” It is time for us to get out of our comfortable pews of our churches and work for the Lord. It is not easy but it is the only way to reach our goals.

I love the old quote that says that the one that works the hardest will be the last to surrender!

Monday, August 11, 2008

August 11, 2008 - No Way met No quit

Did you happen to watch the Men’s 4x100 Freestyle Swimming Relay on Sunday night? It was the stuff that dreams are made of! It was what the Olympics are all about - full of drama and national pride.

The French team had made bold predictions that they would “smash” the Americans in this event. (Which also would have smashed the hopes of Michael Phelps to win 8 “golds” at this Olympics.) The French prediction was obviously well publicized so each American viewer had some national pride at stake.

The Americans started very strong only to see the French take control midway through the race. As the final leg started, the French had a comfortable lead with their strongest swimmer at anchor. And the reason they were so bold with their predictions is that they are amazing swimmers.

Halfway through the final leg the American swimmer (Jason Lezak) was still well behind. In interviews he admitted a brief moment of feeling defeat. Yet then he thought about why he was there. "I changed," he said. "I thought, 'That's ridiculous. I'm at the Olympic Games, I'm here for the United States of America. I don't care how bad it hurts, I'm going after it.’”

One reporter worded it this way – “No way met no quit.” (Pat Forde /

The rest is history as the American team edged out the brash talking by 8 one-hundreths of a second. I must admit that I was screaming, arms raised, pounding the arms of my chair – you get the picture. (Of course my wife and son were also celebrating.)

I am writing this and most of you probably saw this happen – or at least have already read or heard about it. Yet the event came at a time where I have been focusing a lot on “excellence” in our Christian lives. I have studied and preached about it recently.

Biblically I see excellence as the ability to not have our attitudes dictated by circumstances. It is a rising above circumstances with a life that is characterized by the fruit of the Spirit. It is a life that will at times be “behind in the race” yet will realize the “race” is not over. (In fact we even no the outcome of the “race” for believers. We win!)

I want a life that is characterized by the phrase that Pat Ford wrote. I want a life where “no way” meets “no quit.”

58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15)

Study Paul’s letter to the Philippians where he describes his approach to life.

12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3)

Monday, August 4, 2008

August 4, 2008 - How Long is the Longest Drive?

This week's devo is submitted by guest coach Dan Luedke - He is a dear friend of our ministry and has some great insight...

How Long is the Longest Drive?

I heard a (supposedly true) story about a guy that bet a Million Dollars he could hit a golf ball a Mile. Now that’s 1,760 Yards! Tiger Woods hits them right around 300 Yards...a Mile is over 5 Times the distance that Tiger hits a golf ball. Since someone took him up on the bet, the man proceeded to head North. You see, he wanted to tee off across the vast expanse of a frozen lake. He did some warm-up stretches, took some warm-up swings, and unloaded on the tiny ball. It was a solid hit and ball flew through the air. It finally landed on the hard, slick ice. It bounced and rolled and bounced and rolled and bounced and rolled and bounced and rolled and bounced and rolled and bounced and rolled...BUT, it finally stopped. It went a fixed distance.

In Psalm 103:12, God tells us, “...As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.” At first glance, most people read this and say something like, “Well yeah God forgives us, but it’s a fixed amount.” I don’t see this verse that way at all. It’s what I call a “nugget” in scripture. This one’s a treasure.

You see, if God would have said, “As far as the NORTH is from the SOUTH, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.” It would not be as meaningful. Think about it. If you could drive from the North Pole heading due South, you would eventually get to the South Pole. At that point, you would start heading North again – although it’s a long way, the distance the North is from the South is a “fixed distance”.

Now consider how God worded His scripture... “As far as the EAST is from the WEST, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.” If you were in California (the WEST) and started driving EAST, you could just keep driving and driving and driving and driving and driving and driving and driving and you would still be heading EAST, but you would never “get there”. That’s how far He has removed our transgressions (our sins) from us -- FOREVER!

Hebrews 10:14 says, “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified.” If God didn’t remove our transgressions, we wouldn’t be made perfect!

Our God is AMAZING!