Monday, December 28, 2009

December 28, 2009 - Be the "ONE"!

Here we are approaching another New Year. It is time for people to start making their New Year’s resolutions. (Notice I said they will “make” them. That is the easy part. It is implementing them that is the problem.)

What are resolutions? They are simply parts of one’s “game plan” for the year.

Imagine with me that we are in the locker room before a game. I give the game plan for the night that includes assignments – (i.e. who is starting, who is guarding who, what offense we are running, etc.)

Now it is game time and 2 of my starters stay on the bench when it is time to go out for the jump ball. They say to let someone else do it. Of the guys that start the game one gets a minute into play and looks at the bench to ask for a sub – he says he is already tired. Another goes a few minutes and then motions for a sub. Only one of the scheduled starters is in it for the long haul.

You might be thinking that scenario sounds crazy. Players want playing time not bench time. And you are right. Players want to be on the floor because they have made commitments and poured their sweat (and sometimes blood) into practices to prepare. They don’t want to be spectators. One of my favorite quotes says that “the harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.” (Vince Lombardi)

Yet it is not just the hard work that has been put in. There is also a game clock that creates a sense of urgency. Players know that time on the floor is limited. They realize that time on the bench is something they can’t get back.

As we embark on the new year and are faced with the questions of setting our game plans, I ask you to consider a few things:

What are you truly committed to? (Your health, your family, your church, the Lord)?
Do you realize that “time is ticking away, tick-tick-ticking away”? (Yes I stole that line from DC Talk)
It is a common belief that around 20% of the people do 80% of the work of the church. Like the game scenario – only 1 in 5 is ready and willing to get the job done. Are you the “one”?

The Scriptures are full of “resolutions” we should make concerning our lives. Some are personal resolutions on conduct. Many are commands to be reaching others with the truth of the Gospel.

I am no expert on end times, yet it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the world is going down the drain. I believe it is clear enough that we should “play with a sense of urgency.”

I will often give instructions to my kids. It can be something very simple that I need them to do. They know to say, “Yes Sir.” Yet they don’t always get straight to it. They tend to meander that way, or even go back to what they were already doing. When I question them about it I typically get a response like, “Well I was going to do it Dad after I…”

I am often heard saying, “I meant today!”

I am not sure what your resolutions will be but I do believe God is seated in Heaven screaming at us, “I meant today!”

Be committed to the things of the Lord; with a sense of urgency!

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” 16 But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. (James 4)

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)

This year: Be the “ONE”!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry CHRISTmas from Team Burden

Faith and Gracie wish you a Merry CHRISTmas! (Aren't they cute?)
Left to Right: Christa, Elisha, Caleb, Faith, Clay (Kids are in Lisa's Papa Guy's hats)

Season's Greetings from south Florida. (Yes we are braving the winter cold in West Palm Beach at Lisa's parents' house.)

Just wanted to tell each of you how much we love and appreciate you; and ask for a CHRISTmas present from you. Would you pray for InBounds Ministries' outreach in 2010?

We had a wonderful time of ministry in 2009 and look forward to all the Lord has for us next year. What an awesome privilege to share the message of the "Savior, who is Christ the Lord!" How incredible to tell people of the "joy" that is available to them. Wouldn't it be great to have more people understand that "peace" is available to them? Won't you pray that more will "go to Bethlehem and see this thing which has come to pass"? [see Luke 2 for the full story]

As for Team Burden: the kids are growing up way too fast! Yet it is an exciting time. We are faced with the new challenges of having a kid in high school and also trying to juggle schedules as they each get involved in different activities. Clay is now 14; Caleb is 12; Elisha is 10; Christa is 8; and Faith is 4. Lisa is still young and I am getting old.

Along with all the excitement this past year, it also included times of sorrow. Both of Lisa's grandfathers went home to be with the Lord in 2009. What a great privilege I had to minister at the funerals of two great men of God. They both left a legacy I hope our kids grasped. When I asked Lisa what she wanted to say in this CHRISTmas letter she simply responded, "Make memories now because they may be the last ones you have." The death of these two men brought great sadness along with great celebration. Thank God for the hope found in Christ!
Thank all of you who played a part in what we are doing and who we are!
Merry CHRISTmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

December 21, 2009 - The Prophet

This week’s devotion is one that I will make very personal. Being a basketball junkie, a coach, and a sports missionary; it just makes sense that I look at my own kids and wonder if they will be athletes. Not that it would change at all my love for them, yet it is great when things are shared in common.

This season two of my boys are playing hoops – one at the high school level and one at the middle school level. The travel is quite a challenge to get between games but it is well worth it. It is great to watch my kids competing. The oldest is much like me – a basketball junkie. Since he was big enough to speak anything round has been “ball.” The younger of the two has not ever shown a love for the game but has the basic motor skills to do well. (Now that he has played a few games this year and tasted a bit of success the “love for the game” seems to be changing.)

What I want for CHRISTmas is for my kids to “play well.” No I am not talking about hoops. I am talking about in a life of serving the Lord. Of course I love for them to taste success in basketball also – yet that in and of itself carries no eternal significance.

In sports it is very common to give players nicknames. My oldest son’s nickname is “the Prophet.” We came up with that for a couple reasons.

The first is that a prophet is known for seeing the future. On the court we want him to see what is coming and be one step ahead of the competition – have court awareness. In life I believe the Scriptures call for us to be aware of our surroundings. (Ephesians 5:15 tells us to “walk circumspectly.”)

The second is based in the New Testament usage of the word. There it predominantly refers to one that is proclaiming the truth and giving direction. On the court it is important to be a leader. Yet my prayer is that this be true of my son on and off the court. Ultimately I remind him that he is called to proclaim Christ (and that success on the court can increase that platform.)

My son is “the Prophet” not “The Prophet!” This CHRISTmas season is a great time to remember “The Prophet” John the Baptist.

Luke 1 tells us the story of John’s parents being up in age and God miraculously allowing for his mom to get pregnant. It tells of his special appointment by God. Verse 15 tells us that John will be “great in the sight of the Lord”; and verse 16 tells us he “will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.” What an awesome game plan for John’s life.

Later in the chapter we see that the people were wondering “what kind of child this would be.” (See vs. 66)

John’s dad does some prophesying of his own in verses 67 through 80. He talks of the coming Messiah, Jesus! He proclaims what the angel is soon to tell the shepherds that Jesus will be the Savior. And then in verse 76-79 he tells his baby boy the game plan.

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Luke 1:80 then goes on to tell that the “child grew and became strong in spirit…” And probably my favorite verse concerning The Prophet can be found in John chapter 3, verse 30. John himself says this: “He (Christ) must increase but I must decrease.”

John’s dad had a CHRISTmas wish for his son just before the birth of Christ. My wish this CHRISTmas is for not only my kids, but also each of you reading this devotion. I pray that we will “play well” and “prepare the way of the Lord.”

Monday, December 14, 2009

December 14, 2009 - Play Number 1

In all of the games I have coached over the years, I only felt responsible for the play of 1 team – the team I was coaching. I never tried to call the other teams’ offensive plays or defensive sets. Nor did I expect the other teams to run our plays. The simple fact is that the other teams were going to play the way their coaches expected.

That seems like a “duh” point I am making; yet it is one we need to hear. Because now is the time for me to get up on my soap box. I will make it quick, simple, and to the point.

I very much hope the world will have Happy Holidays! And I do not expect them to tell me Merry Christmas! (Now I have ticked some of you off haven’t I?)

It is my job (as a member of God’s team) to tell others about the Merry CHRISTmas. I do not expect the “other team” to understand or “run our plays.” And honestly I think we begin to sound a bit immature and foolish to demand this of them.

Can you imagine if the other team’s point guard called play number 1; their team runs a play; and then I start complaining about the fact that that is not how we run play number 1? I would look rather foolish as a coach.

Wouldn’t it be great if this holiday season the world saw the joy that was promised at the birth of our Savior evidenced in our lives?

Luke 2: 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Happy Holidays (and Merry CHRISTmas)!

Monday, December 7, 2009

December 7, 2009 - Insider Information

I recently watched an interview of former NBA referee Tim Donaghy. He is famous for admitting to using insider information to place bets on NBA games. Along with the betting scandal he shed light on many things that seem to manipulate the outcomes of games at that level.

Society finds it abhorrent that this guy used this insider info for his own selfish gain. (I find it strange that people even noticed considering how selfish we are as a nation. Yet this did tread on sacred sports ground.) I am not surprised by this at all – it is the nature of man to be tempted for personal gain.

Wrong? Yes!

Should he have been punished? Yes!

Surprised? No!

What I find abhorrent is that another group has “insider information” and fails to use it. That is we as Christians. We know the final outcome of the “game.” We know what it takes to be on the “winning team.” We have benefitted from someone taking time to share that “insider information” with us. And yet we far too often sit on this news.

As you hear the CHRISTmas story this year, be reminded that the angels gave “insider info” concerning the child:

It was information for all people. (Luke 2:10)

He was born to be a Savior! (Luke 2:11)

He was born to bring peace between God and man. (Luke 2:14)

And then we are told that the shepherds made it a point to share this “insider information” with others. (Luke 2:17)

Will you share with someone this CHRISTmas? Honestly I find it abhorrent that we don’t!

[Side note: please take time to read the next blog entry down concerning our Finish Strong Challenge.]

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Finish Strong Challenge

Who’s up for a challenge?

As 2009 draws to a close I can’t help but marvel at God’s goodness. He has granted us the privilege to be His ambassadors throughout the year. The year included:

· Outreach clinics/camps conducted by Coach Torzewski and Coach Burden
· Multiple speaking engagements for Coach Burden
· An awesome 10-day road trip with 10 players – training them on and off the court! This trip included a great service project as well.
· Trips to the foreign field (Dominican Republic, London)
· Continued internet outreach via our weekly devotions (closing in on 8 years)
· Over 100 people accepted Christ as Substitute at InBounds events

It has truly been an awesome year and we are eagerly anticipating 2010. There are already many things on the agenda and many more pending. Yet as with any outreach it requires funding to meet the needs.

This is where you come in. I have devised a relatively simple and painless way in which you could help us out. It will help us finish strong in the 2009 “game.”

I need you to simply find 10 people to give $10 to our cause. (If you give $10 you only have 9 more to find.)

This “Finish Strong” challenge will help us enter 2010 ready to serve. We simply need each team member to do his or her part.

If you are accepting the challenge please do me a favor and shoot me an email to let me know. It is always encouraging to know people are on our side. That way I can also send you some helpful pointers and info for sharing the need. Thank you in advance for at least praying about being a part.

[On a side note: I have challenged our board and coaching staff to find 10 people to give $100. Please pray for them as they help us meet these needs.]

Monday, November 30, 2009

November 30, 2009 - Short Memory

With my son playing high school ball now we get in a lot of philosophical discussions about the game. He is a talented young player and has experienced a bit of success. The night before his first varsity game he was in a scrimmage. He couldn’t throw it in the ocean that night. He was quite frustrated and downcast.

Going into the first game is when we had one of our “discussions.” I reminded him that “shooters shoot” and need to have a very short memory. I mentioned guys like Stephen Curry that played a Davidson. Stephen is a kid that could miss 15 straight shots and still not blink an eye at taking the game winner. That is because he chose to not remember the previous shots. The only instruction I gave him concerned being in rhythm and getting his feet set before receiving the pass.

Clay went into that game ready and totally oblivious to the failure of the night before. As a result he had a great shooting night. He listened, learned, and moved on.

The great coach Dean Smith said it this way: “What to do with a mistake: recognize it, admit it, learn from it, forget it.”

Isn’t that kind of what the Scriptures call for us to do? Obviously we all make mistakes in life. (These are called sin.) We teach that Christ paid for sin. We teach that we are forgiven. Yet we tend to still live in guilt and defeat.

It is time to listen, learn, and move on. It is time be victorious in our Christian lives.

Psalm 103: 11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; 12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

Monday, November 23, 2009

November 23, 2009 - Value Every Possession

As a coach I always try to teach my players to play smart. This involves making the easy pass; not dribbling into traffic; taking good shots; playing together as a team; etc. This involves making sure the players are fundamentally sound and know the game plan. It means making sure they value every possession and protect the ball.

This is vital because the defense is trying to set traps and force you out of what you want to do. The opponent will switch defenses; run junk defenses; run full-court presses; run half-court presses; even study you to know your weaknesses. The goal of the opponent is to take you out of your comfort zone; to take you out of your game plan.

Do you realize we have an enemy in life that is trying to do the same thing? The goal of the enemy is to distract us; to get us off course; to get us to “dribble into traps” and to “take bad shots.”

A very simple reminder this week: we need to regularly be studying God’s “game plan” and applying it on the “court” of life.

Proverbs 22: 5 In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares, but he who guards his soul stays far from them.

Life is a gift – value each day (“every possession”) by honoring the Lord! Play smart!

Monday, November 16, 2009

November 16, 2009 - Difficult Games

Tonight my son will play in the most difficult game of his short career in high school athletics. Sure it is only his second game of varsity ball, but the transition from game 1 to game 2 is huge.

Last week they opened with a team that was not very strong. My son was able to pour in a lot of points in a short amount of time by knocking down a lot of open looks. Tonight those looks will be much harder to come by. The team they are facing will be much bigger, stronger, and faster than our team. Some of the players will be 3 or 4 years older than my son.

So what is the proper way to approach this game? I have seen some making reference to David vs. Goliath – in hopes of the mighty upset. Some just laugh and say, “It will be over with soon.”

I say, “Son, you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you!” (See Philippians 4:13)

I am not telling my son that God is going to give him victory on the scoreboard; in fact they may get the poo beat out of them. What I am telling him is that the victory will be found in maximum effort to the glory of God. My prayer this morning with him was that the people in the gym will see a noticeable difference in his testimony.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all learn that circumstances are not what determine our joy? Wouldn’t it be great if we could all focus on Christ whatever the circumstances?

It is in Christ where we find all we need for joy and contentment!

Monday, November 9, 2009

November 9, 2009 - Whistles

This past Saturday I had the privilege of sharing with a group of coaches in Indiana. We spent a few hours together looking at coaching basketball and honoring the Lord! We went often to God’s Playbook to be encouraged and some times rebuked.

During the time I was reminded of a phone conversation I had with one of my dearest friends in the world. He was telling me of a game where the officials were not doing a good job and he had made sure he let them know it (to the point that he lost it a bit.) His call was one that had an element of confession and probably an element of hoping I would say, “Yeah those officials were horrible!” That would somewhat justify his outburst. (I know this because of the times I have had sideline outburst and hoped someone would tell me how bad they thought the officials were.)

What I shared with my friend that day, and with the coaches this past Saturday, was that we need to make sure we are remembering what our roles are. I asked him who was coaching his kids while he was coaching the referees.

A short time after that conversation with my friend he had to coach another game. He made a concentrated effort to coach his kids and not the referees. He later called me and shared how much more he got accomplished when he stayed on task – and how much better he felt about it. (I was very proud of him – and hoping I could then follow my own advice.)

Really it is all in perspective. First we must understand our roles in life and strive to live up to that. Second we must learn that when the “whistle blows” indicating an infraction in life, that is a perfect time for teaching and correction. We need to take advantage of those times, not look for excuses or someone to blame.

We live in a world where people cannot stand to be corrected. (Yet isn’t that what the officials are doing in a game when they blow their whistles?)

Proverbs 10:17 He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.

When coaching there are little eyes watching you and learning how to handle correction. In life realize that we all have a testimony – what is yours saying?

Monday, November 2, 2009

November 2, 2009 - Recommendations

Being a coach and teacher affords me the opportunity to try to mold and prepare players and students. This molding and preparing is for their next steps in life – whether it be college athletics or academics.

As a result I am often asked to make recommendations to coaches or schools. This past week alone I have received numerous requests along both lines. These requests have run the scope of basketball to graduate school admissions. I have filled out requests and have also denied requests.

The issue in this lies in the fact that I have to then truly consider the person making the request and whether or not I can give a good word for this person. This involves many variables: such as how long ago I was around this person; have I observed this person in the situation to which I am being asked to give account for: and the call to be honest in life which could mean I don’t think the person is ready for the particular position. Imagine what college coaches would think if I sent them players not ready to play?

Basically I have to remember that by giving a reference I am also putting my own reputation on the line. I need to feel positive that integrity is observed.

The apostle Paul often gave reference to those he was sending forth. He would also at times give a bad report on some. We see Paul being very honest and strong in his appeals. In fact when he sent Onesimus back to Philemon he went as far as saying, “welcome him as you would welcome me.” (Vs. 17)

Paul simply called things the way he sees them. (He would have made a great coach!)

So how does this pertain to you? First of all I think it is a call to each of us to be honest and straight forward. Secondly it is a call to each of us to pursue excellence in the things we do.

If you want a recommendation then make sure you are worthy of it! Work hard in all you do. Make sure others see desire and work ethic in you – whether it be the athletic arena, the classroom, or even your job place when pursuing that promotion.

Monday, October 26, 2009

October 26, 2009 - Teammates

When you think of a good teammate what comes to mind? If you were choosing a workout partner what type of person would you look for? In both cases I would think you want a person that is committed to the same goals as you. I would think you would want a person that encourages you as an athlete.

If you were starting a workout regiment and you chose a lazy partner I would have to assume you were not very serious about your plans. If you chose teammates that just want to mess around on the court I would assume you are not serious about your game.

It is true that a person is known by the company he keeps.

What type of people do you have around you in your Christian walk? Have you surrounded yourself with encouragers? Have you surrounded yourself with those that are committed to God’s game plan?

If you are surrounded by friends that are not serious about the Lord then I would have to assume that you are not serious. You may be thinking “Wait a minute there Coach, you don’t know me.” Or maybe you are thinking, “But I want to make a difference in their lives.” Are you making a difference?

The Scriptures make it very clear:

Proverbs 12:26 says, “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray.”

1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Evil company corrupts good habits.”

Obviously we should try to reach out to people. Yet the Scriptures are clear that we should choose those we are going to call teammates or partners very wisely.

Monday, October 19, 2009

October 19, 2009 - Choose Right

As a coach one of the main things you try to teach players is to make good choices on the floor. In fact there are many talented/skilled players that never amount to great players simply due to lack of decision making ability.

There are a couple of things that lead to good decision making ability. The first is simply getting a lot of playing time. A player can never get a feel for the game if he isn’t in games.

The second thing is coaching that doesn’t just talk about the positives but also points out and corrects the negatives. Yes I said there has to be some negative. I know that is not popular in today’s “lets not even keep score” culture. Yet correction is needed for growth.

That leads us to the lack of maturity in the church. We live in a “don’t judge me” and “I have liberty” culture. Yet the Scriptures over and over warn about this.

Much of our problem lies in the fact that we are not actively involved in “the game.” Too many Christians are not serving God in their daily lives. And by serving Him I mean more than just trying to live clean. I mean actually striving to make a difference through evangelism and service. There is simply not enough “playing time” to develop maturity.

There is also a big absence of correction from both our pulpits and also in our personal relationships within the church. In 2 Timothy we are warned of a time when the church will “turn away” from truth. Throughout that letter we see the commands to “correct” those in opposition. It goes as far as to tell us to “turn away” from some people. (I think that shows an element of judging lifestyles.)

I know this is will not be a popular devotion. Yet we are told this in Proverbs 27:6

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”

Proverbs 20 says the following in verse 11:

“Even a child is known by his deeds, Whether what he does is pure and right.”

Verse 12 goes on to say:

“The hearing ear and the seeing eye, The LORD has made them both.”

The Lord has given us eyes and ears to learn for our own lives; and to help “coach” our brothers and sisters. The goal is to be mature – making good choices.

Choose Right!

Monday, October 12, 2009

October 12, 2009 - Mascots

Because I direct a sports ministry I have often thought about what our mascot would be if we had a traveling team. When we are on the road for mission trips I simply call the participants “Ambassadors”, taken from 2 Corinthians 5:20. That term is one I can use to teach each player about his role in the body of Christ. It means something. It is a term with some power.

That got me thinking about some of the lame mascots that are out there in the sporting world. Just looking at the college ranks we see teams called:

Gophers – harmless little animals

Buckeyes – nuts from a tree

Orange – a fruit

Sooners – a wagon

And even Banana Slugs (See University of California Santa Cruz)

There is simply no power in and of those names (even though 4 of the 5 schools represented have strong athletics.)

Other names I thought of for an InBounds Ministries team:

Iguanas – reptiles never stop growing

Lions or Eagles – obviously some Biblical references that can be found

Yet one that probably would not stand well on its own is the Lambs. That just doesn’t sound very strong does it? Yet the Scriptures tell us to be gentle and kind. They tell us to be meek and even harmless. But these things should be balanced with strength. In fact the word meek literally means “strength under control.”

One of the great titles I have ever heard for the Christian team: Roaring Lambs.

The late Bob Briner wrote about the idea that we should be infiltrating our culture in a gentle, yet loud fashion. We should be humble while still bold. We should be difference makers. We should be culture changers.

I often tell youth that I want them to learn to be thermostats, not thermometers!

How about you? Are you a good ambassador? Are you an iguana that is continually growing? Are you a roaring lamb that is shaping the culture around you?

2 Corinthians 10: 3For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

Monday, October 5, 2009

October 5, 2009 - Fullbacks

I was watching a football game last night and the commentators were discussing what a good job the running back was doing. The back had been benched the week before and had obviously got the message. He truly was having (and had) a great game.

The funny thing was that on one of his touchdowns we got to see it in slow motion from the perspective of being in the backfield. This is not to take anything away from the young man that scored, but the fact is the front line and the fullback created a hole for him that you could have driven a Mack truck through. They prepared the way for the running back. And even though the announcers mentioned the blocking, those guys that did the blocking remained faceless and nameless for the most part. They simply did their jobs without an issue of “ego.”

Biblically I think that John the Baptist was a great “fullback or lineman.” His job was very basic: prepare a “hole” for the Savior to “run” through.

John 1: 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

John understood it was not about him. Even when those around wanted to shine light on John he quickly reflected it to Christ.

John 1: 26 John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. 27 It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.”

This past weekend I was privileged to share messages at a retreat about “The Character of a Christ-centered Man.” It was a great time at we looked in the Scriptures for qualities that should be true of us. One of the things we discussed is the fact that “character’ (unlike reputation) is something that is true of you even when no one is looking.

Therefore in my mind (and teaching) I went a bit farther to this idea of “reputation.” So I asked the question “What does a Christ-centered man look like?” This is a “reputation” question – what do other see?

My conclusion: The Christ-centered man is invisible. Guys like John the Baptist made it a point for people to see Jesus.

John 1: 29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

And later John said this: John 3: 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.

In your life – who is the center of attention? You or Jesus?

Be a great “fullback” and prepare the way for the Lord in people’s lives.

Monday, September 28, 2009

September 28, 2009 - Your toughest Competition

How hard are you training? It has been said that your toughest competition in life is anyone that is willing to work harder than you. Far too many players want to coast through; just get by on natural, innate abilities – with minimal commitment.

And I am talking about players in the game of life – God’s team. You may wonder what in the world I am talking about. Let me make it very simple and very clear.

The Scriptures talk heavily about our “training.” They tell us to study, to discipline ourselves, to sacrifice, to be ready, etc. The fact is that we live in a world that is against Christianity. And they are looking for ways to tear us down – to defeat us. They are often working harder than us to do so.

While I was in London this past summer I met some Muslims that knew the Scriptures better than most Christians. They had been studying to attack our beliefs. Throughout the media there is an attack on Christian teaching / philosophy. And the list goes on and on.

I am working on some training programs for basketball players that are striving to go to the next level. The workouts will be intense. They are intended to get the most out of the individual. [“I make my practices real hard because if a player is a quitter, I want him to quit in practice, not in a game.” Bear Bryant/Alabama]

Yet it still boils down to whether or not the player has it in his heart – if he is motivated. The question becomes “how important is this to you?”

In your Christian life I wonder how important it is to you to truly serve the Lord. It involves commitment to studying the Word and being transformed to think and live like Christ. The simple truth is that your beliefs will be “attacked” in life. Are you ready?

Psalm 119: 30 I have chosen the way of truth;
Your judgments I have laid before me.
31 I cling to Your testimonies;
O LORD, do not put me to shame!
32 I will run the course of Your commandments,
For You shall enlarge my heart.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

September 21, 2009 - Run Hard and Finish Strong!

Why is it so important to be in great shape to compete in athletics? Obviously you want to be able to finish strong in the game. Yet it is not just about finishing strong physically; it is also about the mental part of the game. Many think the first thing to go on an athlete is his legs. That is not entirely true. When the body starts to fatigue, the brain is the first thing that starts acting up. That is why there are so many dumb plays toward the end of games.

Last week I talked about my wife’s grandfather that passed away at the ripe old age of 100. He truly left an incredible legacy in his wake. The biggest part of that legacy involved his commitment to studying the Scriptures (or spiritually staying in shape.)

[Psalm 119: 15 I will meditate on Your precepts, And contemplate Your ways. 16 I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.]

As he wore down physically it appeared that he followed the formula I mentioned earlier. When people would visit during the days he often appeared disoriented – his mind was going. Yet it turns out that this man was in such incredible “shape” that in the middle of the nights he was waking up and sharing his faith with the staff at the home (even during his final week on earth!)

We live in a church society that is unfortunately not in great “shape.” In general the church tends to fit the description in 2 Timothy 4 of those that wanted their ears tickled. Yet we have an example in Lisa’s grandfather that follows the admonition found in 2 Timothy 4.

2 Timothy 4:5-8 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (NIV)

I think this is the perfect description of Guy Hopkins and also challenge to us. What are you leaving in your wake? What will your legacy be?

Run hard and finish strong!

Monday, September 14, 2009

September 14, 2009 - The Hall of Faith

This past Friday night another class went into the basketball Hall of Fame. This class happened to include Michael Jordan. His entrance somewhat overshadowed the other inductees. There is truly an “air” about him.

Michael talked openly about the things that spurred him on – the things that motivated him. He was so open about it that it offended some. Yet the common underlying factor was Michael himself. Everything he said that motivated him was when he felt he had something to prove. This self-centered approach definitely brought out the competitor in Michael and allowed him to rise to the top of the game of basketball.

This week I want to highlight someone else that I think entered the Hall this past week – not the basketball Hall of Fame, but instead the Hall of Faith. (Of course I could write about David Robinson as an example for both.)

Last Tuesday my wife’s grandfather went home to be with the Lord. He was 100 yrs old and absolutely loved the Lord. As my wife looked through one of his Bibles she found notes on every page. He was a consistent prayer warrior. He was witnessing to people even in the last week of his life. We heard stories of this 100 yr old man getting up each night to talk to the nursing staff at his assisted living home.

As I sat on the podium as part of the pastoral team that officiated his funeral, I was amazed at the respect and admiration everyone had for this man; and I was reminded of his words to me and my son just over a year ago. As he had prayed with my son and me, he began to cry. He didn’t understand why people would seek him out for prayer and advice because all he ever wanted was “to bring glory to Christ.” That is precisely why I told him we valued his prayers and advice.

John 3: 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.

My wife loved and cherished her grandfather very much. She shared at the funeral a piece that she had written the day her grandpa died. I thought I would share it with you as his induction speech into the Hall of Faith.

September 8, 2009 – Papa’s Homecoming

“On September 8, 2009 I had the privilege of watching my grandfather go home to be with Jesus. What a precious gift from God - a gift that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

On the early afternoon of September 7 our family received a call from Hospice telling us that my grandfather was “leaving” and that we needed to get to his retirement home soon. When we arrived we were able to tell him we love him; and although he could hardly open his eyes he made sure to let us know he knew we were there.

Around eight that evening we noticed my grandfather no longer labored to breathe; he slept with such ease and peace on his face. His color was beautiful. We marveled at the fact that he was breathing better than he had in years. He was in a coma at that point (a God-induced coma).

We sat for hours beside his bed as staff members came in to check on him, each with her own story. All were sharing another piece of the legacy he had left behind.

One-by-one stories were told of his kindness, his wit, and most of all his love for the Lord. What a testimony: he shared the love of God and the assurance of salvation with so many!

When Papa Guy breathed his last breath I was standing over him looking into his face. It amazed me how quickly his life went out of him – I literally watched it. It was as if he went from my grandfather to a shell all within that last breath. All of the sudden there was no need to kiss again or to say good-bye – because he was gone! His spirit had left the room; and there was peace; and there was praise for God’s awesome amazing grace!

Papa Guy entered Heaven at 5 minutes before 6:00 AM on my birthday. What a gift from God! What an amazing opportunity to have watched my grandfather leave this nasty old earth to spend all of eternity in glory. AMEN!

Later that morning my Aunt Linda looked at me and said, “You know he’s too busy up there to even start to look back at us.” For the rest of the day I giggled at the thought of him in Heaven – betting he is continuing his journey of knowing the Lord deeper – sitting at the feet of the Almighty just taking Him in.

I love you Papa Guy. Thank you for your life’s example, your prayers, and your love!!!

Your granddaughter,


Monday, September 7, 2009

September 7, 2009 - Easy Labor

As I sit here on Labor Day the obvious thought for this week’s devotion is to discuss our labor in the Lord – reminding that it is not in vain. (See 1 Corinthians 15:58) I think of the need to encourage us to be busy about the Lord’s work. Just the mere word “labor” brings up images of sweat and hard work.

Yet I also think of a phrase I have often heard: “If you love what you are doing you won’t work another day in your life.” In other words “hard labor” becomes “easy labor.”

I remember in my playing days how much I loved to be on the basketball court for games – and also for practices. Yes I even loved the hard work of practice because I loved the game. I can remember many nights when I simply needed time to think or wanted to relax – I would go down to Washington Middle School and practice at one of the outside goals. There was a light on the corner of the bldg that gave out just enough to see the ball going through the net-less rim. Even though I would work hard some of those nights, it never felt like “labor.”

When I think about “labor in the Lord” I can’t help but question why it is often so laborsome. The answer is that our hearts and minds are not always in the right place. I think the Lord would often interrogate us as he did Peter when He continued to ask him, “Peter, do you love Me?” And then the Lord gave the natural result of that love would be to labor – to “feed My sheep.” (See John 21:15-17)

As I attended a retreat this past week we pulled out an old praise song taken from Psalm 42. It is called “As the Deer.” What a beautiful picture of how we should be longing for God. If our hearts would be found longing – we would love the labor of serving.

1 As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. (Psalm 42)

Monday, August 31, 2009

August 31, 2009 - Freelance

If I tell a team that they are at liberty to run a freelance offense what do I mean?

Am I telling them they do not have to follow the rules of the game? Am I telling them they can be selfish and not consider their teammates? Am I telling them they can forget things they have been taught about the game? “No” is the answer!

In fact it is just the opposite. I want my players to remember everything they have been taught and enjoy the freedom to use that teaching. This is when I trust the team to understand the way the game is supposed to be played; I expect the game/teamwork to come naturally.

In the Christian life we have been given the freedom of a “freelance” way of living; one that is based upon grace, not law. Yet I encounter many that use this “liberty” as an excuse for “dumb play.” It is true that we are “free” in Christ. Yet I believe that it is a freedom to serve Him, not ourselves. I believe it is a liberty to live the way God intended based upon our understanding of His “Playbook.”

(Galatians 5)

1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage…13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Monday, August 24, 2009

August 24, 2009 - Miserable Pros

I daily read or hear about pro athletes that simply are miserable people. Of course I hear the same about entertainers, politicians, etc.) The simple fact is that having all the money and power still does not satisfy. Having all the toys does not bring lasting joy.

Today I saw a story about a 20-yr-old young man that I have met and coached against. He is a very engaging young man with insane physical abilities. He is handsome and built like a tank. He also happens to now be filthy rich and wildly popular. His name is Michael Beasley. He was the number 2 pick in the NBA draft last year and has finished his rookie season.

Today’s news is that he is in a rehab facility dealing with depression. There is some speculation that there are drug issues. I am not sure what the reasons are, I just see that a young man is miserable in spite of having all the earthly goods.

Our Christian lives are designed to teach us to not live for or be controlled by material things and circumstances. The Bible tells us that true joy is not found in earthly gain. The Bible tells us that there is hope, security, and joy in the midst of all this chaos.

One of my favorite passages dealing with this, (and one I’d love to share with Michael), is found in John 14. It involves a direct promise from the lips of Christ. I hope this comforts you today and brings you true joy.

27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Monday, August 17, 2009

August 17, 2009 - Intensity

Are you old enough to remember ABC’s Wide World of Sports? I love the catch-phrase: “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” It takes into account the human drama and intensity of athletics.

The word intense is often used in the idea of sports and life. I went online to the Encarta Dictionary and found the following definition:

Definition of Intense (from the Encarta Online Dictionary):

1. extreme: great, strong, or extreme in a way that can be felt

2. effortful or active: involving great effort or much activity

3. concentrated: narrowly focused or concentrated

4. passionate: feeling or showing strong and deeply felt emotions in a serious way

5. thrilling: extremely exciting or pleasing ( informal )

Sports give us that rush of adrenaline. They bring up a fire in our bellies. They excite us.

Can you say that about your Christian life? Is it “intense”? Does it give you a rush?

I think it should. Yet for most even their Christianity is a spectator-based event that cheers when we hear good things. I think we are meant to all be “in the game.”

I think of guys like Jeremiah who wanted to give in and couldn’t. (See Jeremiah 20:7-9) He was being mocked and threatened. He was ready to quit. But an intense passion was inside of him and he couldn’t quit.

I think of the fact that we have an adversary that is intense like a lion and we are called to be focused and resist him. (See 1 Peter 5:8-9)

I think of the call to train hard and give great effort. (See 1 Corinthians 9:24-27) [Note: not to earn salvation which is a gift; but to earn the prize, which is a reward for service?]

And the list could go on and on. Just like the intro to Wide World of Sports; just like the definition; Christianity should be intense and passionate. It involves risks and rewards. Your life should be thrilling!

Monday, August 10, 2009

August 10, 2009 - Game Plan

In basketball there are some basic principles in which plays are designed. Plays are designed to create opportunities by avoiding defenders (obstacles.) This is accomplished by seeing openings or lanes that are already present or creating openings via movement and screens. All are intended to make scoring easier.

(Coaches know what offense to call based upon seeing what defense is being played against them. The coach must know what he/she is doing!)

How silly would it be for a player to be given instruction and ignore it. What if the player is in the game and hasn’t learned the plays. When the coach calls for something the player will be lost (and ultimately on the bench.)

Yet isn’t that what we do with our Playbook (the Bible)?

God (the Coach that does fully know what He is doing) has given His players instructions. These “plays” are written in order to help us avoid the opponent (the enemy.) They are designed to make life run more smoothly. They are truly a “game plan” for life.

Are you regularly spending time in the Word? Are you memorizing it? Are you applying it?

To ignore it is as silly as walking forward while pointing the flashlight behind you. The Bible is said to be a “lamp” for your feet so you will avoid obstacles in life. It is also said to be a “light” for your path. Therefore it shows the open lanes for you.

Read the Word!

Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.

Monday, August 3, 2009

August 3, 2009 - I'd like to thank...

I love to hear athletes being interviewed, especially when they understand how things truly work. By that I mean they understand that it is a team effort that leads to success. I think of the football quarterback or running back that has had a great game. They almost always need to thank their front line for the protection or holes their blocking created. I think of the basketball player that scores a bunch of points as a result of his teammates getting him the ball, setting screens, etc. Even in sports for individuals there are coaches to thank, training partners, parents, those that get the field or facility ready, those that run the events, etc.

It is nice to hear the athlete that is getting the praise and the publicity give thanks and credit to those around him.

I have just returned home from a long summer’s worth of outreach. (In fact I literally walked in the door just 1 hour ago.) As I drove down the interstate tonight I couldn’t help but think about all the folks that I have had the privilege to work with this summer: those that set up the events; those that prepared the facilities; those that fed us; those that housed us; those that encouraged us; those that gave financially so we could go; etc.

I plan to spend some time tomorrow sending thank you notes to as many as I can think of and have access to. We have seen a plentiful harvest this summer as a result of their hard work and dedication. I simply want them to know that I noticed.

The Apostle Paul made sure he gave thanks for workers in every one of his letters. I encourage you today to send some thank you notes or make some thank you calls. Follow the Biblical example and mandate to be thankful and to encourage.

Philippians 1:3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,

Monday, July 27, 2009

July 27, 2009 - In The News

Every player wants the coach to notice him. I can picture those kids sitting the bench and trying to lean just right for to catch the coach’s eye. Or the kid that makes sure he sits right next to the coach on the bench and talks non-stop to be noticed. Every once in a while there is even the player that point-blank asks the coach to put him in. (I even talk to players at times to explain how they should conduct themselves on the bench to be noticed. If they are messing around or sitting slumped back appearing uninterested, the coach is probably not putting them in.)

The simple fact is that we all want to be noticed. We all want to catch someone’s eye. I often preach about the fact that God (the Coach) is on our side. He has taken notice of us – He is on our side. Yet there is a bit of a twist to how this should play out in the Christian’s life.

From the worldly perspective we want noticed to bring glory to ourselves. (A player wants to find his name in the newspaper.) From the Biblical approach the goal of our lives should be to bring glory to God.

Even throughout Christ’s earthly ministry He chose to bring glory to the Father. Think about it – He could have performed a miracle for everyone He saw, yet He even used that power sparingly, so as to make it about the Father and not just about the miracles.

We, as God’s team, are ambassadors for Him. (See 2 Corinthians 5) Our primary objective is that God’s name and grace be lifted up! Make sure He is getting “the press.”

Psalm 67
1 God be merciful to us and bless us, And cause His face to shine upon us, Selah 2 That Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations. 3 Let the peoples praise You, O God; Let all the peoples praise You.4 Oh, let the nations be glad and sing for joy! For You shall judge the people righteously, And govern the nations on earth. Selah 5 Let the peoples praise You, O God; Let all the peoples praise You. 6 Then the earth shall yield her increase; God, our own God, shall bless us. 7 God shall bless us, And all the ends of the earth shall fear Him.

Monday, July 20, 2009

July 20, 2009 - God is on your side!

It is the off-season for the NBA and the trades are in full swing. Basically each team is sizing up the opposition and trying to figure out how they will rise to prominence. In other words each team wants to know how to beat the Lakers in the West and the Magic in the East.

You see this with the Cavaliers getting Shaq, thinking he is the missing ingredient for a championship. (They needed someone that could counter Dwight Howard.)

Dwayne Wade has publicly wooed Lamar Odom to “come back home” to play for Miami. The Celtics are adding pieces to their puzzle. And it goes on and on.

It boils down to teams trying to gain an edge on or match-up with the competition. Don’t we feel overwhelmed sometimes in life? Often things appear to be more than we can bear. Life simply gets hard at times!

Can I simply give you a quick reminder this week? If you are a child of God, you don’t need to trade for anything else. God is on your side! No matter what life has for you – God is bigger. No matter what life has for you – God is better! No matter what life has for you – God is sufficient to meet your needs.

A couple of references for you:

2 Corinthians 12:9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Psalm 3
1 LORD, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. 2 Many are they who say of me, “There is no help for him in God.” Selah 3 But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head. 4 I cried to the LORD with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah 5 I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustained me. 6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people Who have set themselves against me all around. 7 Arise, O LORD; Save me, O my God! For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone; You have broken the teeth of the ungodly. 8 Salvation belongs to the LORD. Your blessing is upon Your people. Selah

Romans 8: 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Monday, July 13, 2009

July 13, 2009 - So what do you think of ...?

So what do you think of Josh Powell as a player? What about Didier Ilunga-Mbenga or Sun Yue? What about Jason Thompson? Cartier Martin? Roko Ukic? Mike Wilks? And my list could go on and on. These guys are some of the greatest basketball players in the world yet you may not have recognized any of the names on the list. All play in the NBA, and the first 3 are members of the championship Lakers.

These guys all have to be great to be lacing them up in “The League.” Yet sitting at the end of the bench does not bring much notoriety. And although I am sure they don’t mind getting their paychecks, I also know it has to gnaw at them to be sitting while the action is going on.

Many in the church are simply being benchwarmers – and I don’t mean while sitting in a pew – I mean in life. The fact is most are content to simply go through their lives not caring if anyone notices what “team” they are on. The church body has often bought into the philosophy that says “who cares what people think.”

Scripturally we should care what people think. Our testimonies are of great importance and not just from the standpoint of what we don’t do. Sure it is important to not be getting drunk, cheating, lying, etc. Those types of things kill one’s testimony. Yet it is just as important to be of good reputation concerning the positives. People should see a hope in us. People should hear us proclaim God’s goodness. People need to see us “playing in the game.”

There is a new Matthew West song I love that simply says, “I don’t wanna go through the motions; I don’t wanna go one more day; without Your all-consuming passion inside of me; I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking ‘What if I had given everything?’ instead of going through the motions.”

It is time to get busy Christian! People need to know who you are and ultimately who He is!

1 Peter 3: 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;

1 Timothy 3:7 Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

I love the old question that is asked: if you were on trial for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you?

Monday, July 6, 2009

July 6, 2009 - Stud or Dud

We have gone through the NBA draft and now it will be time to see how these picks pan out. Their respective teams have held news conferences to introduce them to the masses and made comments concerning what each of these young men will do for their clubs. With some of them, (such as the foreign-born players mentioned in last week’s devotion), all we have to go on is the hype. Others have made names for themselves in the college game, yet that is an entirely different thing than the NBA. Beyond the draft some players have simply switched teams raising hopes (i.e. Shaq as the savior of Cleveland to bring them a longed for title.)

The fact is that the games will have to be played, the box scores reviewed, and a determination made as to whether the players lived up to their hype. Some will go down as heroes (studs), while some are considered to be a bust (duds).

This is on my mind because I am in the midst of an outreach in London that is truly focused around the identity of Jesus Christ. Yet this is not a new thing. In Scripture even the trial of Christ was based upon His identity. Afterwards we see often the message for people to change their minds about this Jesus whom they crucified. They are told He is the Messiah and they should believe on Him to be saved. He was/is the Messiah!

The way to judge this is by looking at the “game.” The “pre-game hype” included around 300 prophecies of the upcoming Messiah and Christ fulfilled them all. (Even the Islamic crowd I am dealing with in London believes Christ “played a perfect game.)

The Jews that had Him crucified were not looking at the “box score” of fulfilled prophecy and a sinless life – they wanted an earthly king as their Messiah. They were looking at things from a political standpoint and not a spiritual one.

The people of today unfortunately will look at Him as a prophet or teacher, but miss that He is the Messiah – the deliverer. He is the only one that can bring us the “championship” of eternal life – via His shed blood on the cross for our sins, and His resurrection from the grave that overcame death an gives us new life!

10 let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. 11 This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ 12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4)

Christ lives up to the hype! I challenge you to present the person of Christ to the world. He is our hope. He is our future. He is the Messiah!