Monday, March 30, 2009

March 30, 2009 - Don't Be Like Carmelo

For many years I have been involved in the Gospel ministry. During that time I have made it a point to be clear and true to the grace of God. I have taught heavily the truth that salvation is “by grace through faith – and that not of yourselves.” (See Ephesians 2:8-9) I have taught regularly that salvation is about what God has committed to us and not what we commit to Him. Don’t get me wrong, I fully believe we should be committed to Him – yet that does not earn us His favor – it should be a result of having His favor! As I mentioned in last week’s devotion: “grace is the greatest motivating factor in the world for serving God!”

Over these years there have been occasions where I (and many others) have been accused of preaching “easy believism.” It has been said that I cheapen grace. Yet I think asking someone to pay for his salvation is what cheapens grace – as if Christ’s payment was not enough. And when it boils down to it I don’t think that “believing in Christ” as one’s Substitute is necessarily that easy.

A great example came a couple of weeks ago in an NBA game. The Denver Nuggets were playing and the coach sent a sub into the game for Carmelo Anthony. Carmelo felt he was playing well and turned the sub away. In doing so he drew a suspension from his team.

Carmelo is like any other player; it takes some humility to go to the bench and realize you need a replacement. Yet the coach’s job is to determine that.

The Heavenly Coach has told us we need a replacement and sent that Sub into the game for us. All religions are trying to earn the Coach’s favor by how they “play the game.” The Gospel message is one that requires the humility of the “player” to realize he is not good enough and can never be – left to himself.

As a minister of the Gospel I am striving to bring people to the point of realizing they don’t measure up and need Christ’s finished work! I have to deliver a piece of humble pie. Unfortunately many will let pride stop them from accepting the Substitute.

If you are relying on your ability to earn the Coach’s favor I urge you to not be like Carmelo – “come out of the game” – accept the Sub!

For those of you that have accepted Christ: be true to the Gospel of “by grace through faith” that calls people to surrender self. It is all about JESUS and what He has done for us!

Monday, March 23, 2009

March 23, 2009 - Thankful for the Sub!

We are in the midst of March Madness and folks are pulling for their teams, cheering for underdogs, witnessing some amazing play (and some not-so-amazing play.) It is a time where some players become heroes and some become goats.

On Thursday I was watching the Memphis Tigers play. After all the media concerning if they deserved a number 1 or a number 2 seed in the tourney, they came out and played a very poor game. 15th-seeded Cal State came out aggressive and took it straight at the Tigers, nearly pulling off a huge upset.

This game was of interest to me because I had the privilege of coaching one of the Memphis players – Doneal Mack. Every game he plays I am anxious to see how he will do. This particular game – on the big stage of March Madness – Doneal stunk it up. he not only didn’t shoot well (0-7), he also appeared tentative on passes and wasn’t up to his usual defensive prowess. I over and over stated that he looked like he was asleep out there. (And he wasn’t the only Tiger that appeared that way.)

Fortunately for Memphis a player off the bench was hot. Sophomore Robert Sallie scored 35 points, including 10-15 shooting from behind the arc.

[Side note: Doneal rebounded well and scored 17 points Saturday in Memphis’ win over Maryland – including 5-7 behind the arc!]

The thing that jumped out at me was a remark Doneal made after the bad game. He talked about how bad he had played followed by “thank God for Rob Sallie!” It is great when in spite of our failures there is a sub that picks us up.

Are you thankful for the Sub that “picked you up”? Oh I know that you will answer yes, but I mean really thankful! I know we rejoice when we hear the truth of the Gospel but does it affect how we live our lives? The Apostle Paul said that this truth transformed how he lived.

20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” (Galatians 2)

Christ loves you! Christ gave Himself for you! His grace is the greatest motivating factor in the world for serving God!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Spring '09 Newsletter

Hello Sports Fans

We are ready to embark again on a great time of year. No, I am not speaking of March Madness in college basketball (although that ranks way up there on my list!) I am referring to the fact that with spring time comes an increase in our ministry activity.

As I am writing this I am prepping for a quick trip to St Louis for a Blacktop Bible Club, with a quick stop in Indiana for some meetings. Following that trip we are gearing up for our Spring Break ’09 ROCK’em Road Trip.

This trip will originate in North Carolina and take players to the Sunshine State (at least we hope it is sunny while there.) While in Florida we will conduct 2 Blacktop Bible Clubs, do a service project (painting a widow’s house), run a church youth group, have a lot of basketball and life discipleship classes, and throw in a bit of fun! Our theme for this trip is “No Benchwarmers!”

I will follow this trip up a few weeks later with a jaunt down to the Dominican Republic for a few days to help with medical clinics, do sports outreach, etc. And this is all sprinkled with speaking engagements in between.

On top of this the summer is filling up with opportunities here in NC and for Matt in the Midwest. Please pray for our outreach as we are committed to all of this being platforms most importantly for the sharing of the Gospel!

19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
(2 Corinthians 5)

With all of that said I need to shift gears a bit here. As great of a calling as this is - the gas stations, restaurants, campgrounds, insurance companies, tire shops, etc. do not give us those things for free. (In fact I will spend over $600 tomorrow morning for new commercial grade tires needed for our 12-passenger van.) Nor does the mortgage company, utilities company, etc. give me a break on our bills.

I serve as a full-time missionary to direct InBounds Ministries. (And the Lord has blessed me with a couple of volunteer coaches and wives that are willing to give hours.) One of the hardest aspects to this is having to make pleas for support to the ministry. Yet every so often the bank account calls for these pleas.

As stated this is our busy time approaching. Would you consider helping stimulate our ministry? (I am pretty sure we are not getting any of the billions that the gov’t is giving out.) And the fact is that I am not asking for billions, or millions, or even thousands of dollars from anyone.

When my teams get behind in games I remind the players that we can only come back one bucket at a time. Certain players on our team are capable of that being a 3-point bucket. Others are better off sticking to the 2-point attempts. Some are great if they can get to the line for a 1-point free-throw. And yet some simply are not “scorers” but asked to assist the scorers. As a coach I hope for consistency more than the “big play.”

The same is true as we look at ministry support. Some times people hear these pleas, look at the big need, and don’t realize that need is met one shot at a time. The best scenario is a missionary finding consistent teammates. Between our newsletter and our Facebook group we have hundreds of teammates. If we averaged $10 (1-pointer), $20 (2-pointer), or $30 (3-pointer) per “player” per month we could cover our basic budgetary needs. (Please understand I realize that not everyone can be a “scorer” and truly value the “assists” of prayer, spreading the word, etc.)

Yet for most of us I am talking about a dollar or less per day in order to help insure the Gospel is going forth through this ministry.

Would you please pray about how you can help the “team” and then act upon those prayers?

there is a "support" page on the InBounds Ministries website for those that need information

Monday, March 16, 2009

March 16, 2009 - CPR for Success

Do you want to be a success? By successful I mean reaching one’s potential in an endeavor.

In coaching basketball I am trying to help players get the most out of their genetic abilities. The fact is that some will be able to jump higher, run faster, be taller, be thicker, etc. Therefore the object is to strive to be one’s best – to reach one’s potential.

There are many factors that go into this. I have narrowed it down into three categories that create a lifeline for success. These categories are based upon agricultural principles.

The first is “Cultivation.” Cultivating means preparing, working on, tilling the land, etc. It is designed to promote or improve growth. In basketball/life terms this would be “Conditioning” – physically, mentally, and spiritually. One must be in the best shape possible in order to reach his potential.

The second is “Planting.” After the field is prepared there is a specific seed that is laid down. It is not a random thing but instead a purposeful plan. In basketball/life this involves “Practice” that is skill specific.

The third is “Reaping.” The effort put forth in the first two steps leads to a time of “Reward” when one can partake of the fruit. Note that reaping is not necessarily easy but is nevertheless rewarding because fo the sense of accomplishment. One has reached his desired goals.

This is obviously a very broad synopsis. Yet the principles are of great value.

Cultivating (Conditioning) + Planting (Practice) + Reaping (Reward) = Success!

Most think that success is in the reaping. Sometimes you can stumble upon victory. Success is as Coach John Wooden often pointed out. It is found in the journey and joy of knowing one has reached his potential.

Believer, are you conditioning regularly - prayer time, Bible study/memorization, fellowship?

Are you practicing? Are there skill specific things you are working on that will help you in the game of life (i.e. studying how to share the Gospel, apologetics, specific Bible studies, etc,) I’m not talking about just casual reading but intense purposeful planned practice!

Are you reaping the benefits in real life? Are you finding that these skills come forth in the midst of the battle? Are you readily sharing the Gospel? Are you able to defend the faith?

Are you successful? If not you need C.P.R.!

1You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. 3Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer. 5Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules. 6The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 7Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this. (2 Timothy)

Monday, March 9, 2009

March 9, 2009 - Game Ready

Tonight I will start up another men’s hoops fellowship. As I lead these fellowships I always want to have a purpose! If it is just about shooting hoops then go to the rec. center or the park. I think we spend way too much time just going through the motions of life. I have decided for this outreach to use a book I have been reading called Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success (which I mentioned in last week’s devo.)

My goal is to key on what it takes to be good “ambassadors” for Jesus Christ. We use the “ambassador” title often in our ministry. In fact I plan to label this group “The Ambassador Club.” I have written on other occasions about the idea of an ambassador, yet feel led to expound on it even more.

In many sports programs there are dress codes and behavior codes – with the reminder that players represent the organization at all times. This is even true in the NBA where there is a very specific “business casual” dress code. Some may wonder what the point is of having such regulations.

I can tell you from personal experience as a player and coach that there are certain things you do that put you in a mindset of being ready to play – of being serious. That is where the rubber meets the road in my mind – what is it that gets you “game ready”? It also involves letting others see that you are ready!

In life I think this involves the character issues that one carries into the game more than the physical clothing. That is why I plan to work through this book with the men (and also with some young men going on a trip with us in April.) I think it is important to develop integrity, honesty, poise, team spirit, etc.

Yet, the starting point for us as believers is with a reminder – a realization – of what Christ has done for us! We are new creatures in Christ! And He left us with the job of being “ambassadors.”

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

(2 Corinthians 5)

Believer, you are an ambassador! Remember though that being an ambassador is not just about how you “look”; but it is also about being a mouthpiece. Make sure you are “game ready”!

Monday, March 2, 2009

March 2, 2009 - An Extension of the Coach

As I look at the landscape of the church today I feel we have fallen victim to the world’s philosophies. Even as a church we are what I call a “Burger King and Microwave” society. We want everything our way and we want it now. And unfortunately that mentality often times overshadows wanting things God’s way and in His time.

The letter to the Colossians emphasizes not falling into these traps. The world’s philosophies will sneak up and take you captive. And if we don’t heed the warnings we will end up “lukewarm” in our walks. Just ask the Laodiceans. They heard the warnings in Colossians. (See Colossians 2:1 and 4:16) Then read the end of Revelation chapter 3 to see what happened. They developed “I-problems.” They became inward focused, sitting fat and sassy – unconcerned with reaching others.

So how do we avoid this? The answer is by being great “players.” The great players in basketball are those that see the floor well – they are fully aware of what is going on around them – they are not taken by surprise. They play the game “circumspectly” (See Ephesians 5:15; 1 Peter 5:8) – they see things others don’t see. They are skilled and understand their team’s playbook – which shows the intentions of the coach. Often you hear that a player like this is an extension of his coach.

As believers we need to be an extension of our Coach! We need to be fully equipped through Scripture study and memorization. That way we think like the Coach. (See Psalm 119 for the importance of God’s Word.) And we need to be aware of the things going on around us. We can not stick our heads in the sand. This is vital!

I have witnessed many athletic, talented, skilled players in my years on the basketball court. They were physically equipped to be great players. They studied hard and knew the plays. Yet they were not aware of the whole floor, becoming average ordinary players.

I recently read a passage in the devotional book Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success – (which I highly recommend.) The co-author of the book – Jay Carty – gave an account reminding us about Gideon’s army. Gideon began by choosing 32,000 for his army. By the time God finished having him whittle that number down there were only 300 warriors – to face an army "as numerous as locusts.” (Judges 7:12)

The final determination of who would go to battle – the men that kept their heads up when getting water – the men that stayed alert to possible enemy attack – the men who would not be taken by surprise! Read Judges 7 for this account.