Monday, November 24, 2008

November 24, 2008 - Play A Great Game!

Over the weekend one of my former players was in a tourney in Puerto Rico. He led his team in scouring in 2 of the 3 games. He didn’t have any turnovers in the 3 games while logging a lot of minutes. He played strong “D” throughout. All in all I would have to say he had a pretty good weekend.

Yet once the coaches go through the game film I am sure they will find some missed assignments and other problems. That is what happens in the film sessions. The coaches actually set out to look for what you did wrong. Yeah I know we can put a positive spin on it and say they are also looking for what is right, yet that is not the big reason for the viewing. The coaches want to see where they can improve.

Can you imagine how great you would have to play for the coaches to look at 3 games and not find any fault in your game?

I was reading in the book of Daniel and reminded about how flawlessly he was “playing the game.” This young man was getting recognition from the king for his “excellent spirit.” (Daniel 6:30) The king was planning to put him in charge over the kingdom.

The other leaders were very jealous of this and set out to find fault in Daniel. They began looking at the “game film” of his life and could find no fault. The Scriptures declare that Daniel was faithful and had committed no “turnovers” in their presence. What an awesome testimony!

What if people were looking at the “game film” of your life? What would they find? I’m not talking about your past; I am talking about the present. Would fault be found in you? Are you faithful? Coach John Wooden loved to ask’ “If you were on trial for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

Let me encourage you to “play a great game”!

We know the story of Daniel in the lions’ den. The governors and satraps devised a wicked plan to try to force Daniel into worshipping the king – knowing Daniel would not forsake the law of God and do so. Daniel was caught in the trap. The thing I love is that the king even recognized the truth. He knew that God would deliver Daniel.

16 So the king gave the command, and they brought Daniel and cast him into the den of lions. But the king spoke, saying to Daniel, “Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you.” (Daniel 6)

Monday, November 17, 2008

November 17, 2008 - It's Late In The Game

Last week I wrote about running a smooth offense; one in which we effectively take our “shots” at sharing the Gospel. That is the “offense” God left for us in the “game of life.”

When running an offense I often would remind my team that a game is 4 quarters. Early in the game I would try to get them to play in rhythm and relaxed. If we got down a bit I would remind them there was time. As a coach the job entailed “clock-management.”

Yet what would happen when we were down and time was running out? The tendency was to play frantic and get away from our offense. As the coach I would have to constantly remind the players that our “hurry-up” offense still relied on taking good shots.

Lately there has been much preaching and teaching on end times. The “clock” is running out on life as we know it. Yet there are 2 major difficulties with “playing” at the end of this “game.”

One is that as believers we know we are on the “winning team” and thus do not always “play” with urgency. We tend to just coast through. We have gotten away from our “offense.”

The second difficulty is that we can’t see the clock. We are not exactly sure of when time will run out. And if you have ever played sports you know it is difficult to play when you can’t see the time.

My question to you is this: do you care that people will spend an eternity separated from God? I don’t know when Christ will return, nor when an individual’s “clock” will run out. Therefore I need to be in a “hurry-up offense” and taking every “open shot” I can get!

1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. (1 Thessalonians 5)

The Coach (God) has given us the “game plan” and the “offensive set” that He intends for us to “run” all the way through the end of our “game.” What are you going to do with it? Better yet – do something with it! I don’t want to hear cheap talk of plans. As a coach I want to see action!

28 “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ 29 He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?”
They said to Him, “The first.” (Matthew 21)

Following the example of our “Star Player”:

35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. 36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9)

34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! (John 4)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Novemebr 10, 2008 - Smooth Offense

With the start up of basketball season I must admit that I am feeling a bit empty inside with not coaching this year. I find myself very curious how my former team is doing, checking on former players that have moved on to the college ranks or other high schools, etc. I think about coaches trying to get their philosophies across to teams. I watch games and see how frustrating it is to see players get it for a few minutes and then seemingly just fall apart.

I was watching the University of Memphis’ exhibition game last week and Coach Cal looked distraught at times. He has such a talented team yet at times they just were not getting it. I have mentioned before that their offensive philosophy is one that is difficult for players to learn. They play what is called a “dribble drive” offense. Basically is not a set of plays to memorize but instead a style of how to play the game.

Within any philosophy – whether it be the dribble drive or set plays - the idea is to get good shots. I am a coach that has always allowed players to have freedom shooting the ball. What I have always tried to do is teach them to find shots within their range and capability.

In our “game” of life God instructs us to set up for “good shots” as well. As the church we should always strive to speak with wisdom and grace; by doing so we set up “open shots” for the Gospel.

5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Colossians 4)

Some practical helps I have learned over the years in this area include:

1. Never witness to a stranger! That does not mean to avoid street witnessing and the such. What it means is to break down walls with a smile, a friendly opening, etc.
2. Don’t argue – (even when using an argument)! Say what? I have often taught on the subject of apologetics. (That is not the art of apologizing.) Apologetics are simply defense arguments, or proofs, of the reality of God, the authenticity of the Scriptures, etc. The purpose of using these is to get “open shots’ – not to win a debate.
3. Memorize Scripture! God’s Word is living and able to do more than our words ever will.
4. Take simple shots! We don’t need to add to the Gospel. In practices I have players work on high percentage shots. In sharing the Gospel I want the same. The Gospel itself is the “power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16); therefore I don’t need to add to it. 1 Corinthians 15: 3-4 give Paul’s take on this matter:
3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,

Let’s get our offense flowing smoothly and reach some people for Christ!

Monday, November 3, 2008

November 3, 2008 - Preparation and Scouting

I recently read about the assistant coaches for a major university basketball program and what their “jobs” are. There is a huge emphasis on scouting opponents and knowing their tendencies. I can remember speaking to a friend that was playing division 1 ball and he told me that the coaches had it figured to the percentage points how often a player would go left vs right, to the hole vs pulling up for the jumper, etc. These coaches (and ultimately the players) spend a lot of time look at things from the opponent’s view point.

I often mention John Wooden in my devotions, partly because of his great testimony and partly because of his great success as a coach. As I was thinking through this idea of scouting I was reminded of something the coach said that surprised me.

“I seldom mention the other team. I believe it takes away from the concentration on ourselves in the preparation. I did less scouting than any other coach I’ve ever heard about. I wanted our team to concentrate on what we could do – namely, try to execute our style of play to the best of our abilities.” (From the book: Wooden; p. 120)

I have been very concerned with how little time our “team” called Christianity spends studying our “playbook” and what our “style of play” should be. We spend much more time with our noses in the opponents’ game plan. Some times it is to point out what they are doing wrong (because that is easier than focusing on ourselves.) Some times it is simply being entertained by them (and we wonder why we emulate them in our actions – duh! – we spend more time in their “playbook” – tv, internet, movies, music, etc.)

Yesterday my pastor mentioned three letters – NES. He said that we spend way too much time on things with No Eternal Significance.

Where is your time spent? Becoming the best you can be at “our game” or focusing on the opponent? I am with Coach Wooden on this one. Oh and also with the Apostle Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.