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)