Monday, December 27, 2010

December 27, 2010 - The End Goal (Happy New Year)

As we approach another New Year’s Eve, the thoughts of resolutions jump out in my mind. With each year that passes and each devotion that I write, I find myself going back to the same old ideas that seem so easy to write, yet so difficult to live.

As I write this week I am awaiting the arrival of 11 high school players today and 10 more on Saturday. We are beginning another ROCK’em Road Trip. This time involves teams playing games and working with their coaches and chaperons.

One of the chaperons is also a personal trainer. She will only be with us through Sunday because simply put, next week is her biggest business week of the year. Think about it; people are going to pay her to cause them pain. These folks will be willing for a week or two or three to endure stiff muscles and aching joints; all because they have their eyes on an end goal that requires this. You know the mantra: “No pain, no gain!” (Yet many will waver in their efforts as the end goal loses its importance to them.)

This week I want to simply remind us to look forward to the next year with a little different slant. Yes, I know it is customary to desire health and prosperity for the new year; but what about desiring trials? I know that sounds weird but if you want to grow this year then you must endure the fire.

James 1: 2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

Did you get that? If you want to be “perfect and complete, lacking nothing” then you must face trials.

Let’s quickly examine a couple of things that I find here (and the preacher I listened to yesterday that stirred my thinking. Thanks David!)

When it says to “count it” or to “consider it” the words literally mean to look forward to the end result – what is your goal? I mentioned earlier that folks will give up on their workouts when the goal loses its importance. So what is the proper goal to look forward to in our Christian lives?

If we listen to the typical mantra for health and prosperity it all revolves around the physical comforts of life. And these verses that make promises of perfection and lacking nothing could be twisted to say such. Yet that is not at all what it is talking about because if it were then the very Apostles themselves missed the promises. Their lives were by no means comfortable and easy.

The end goal of the Christian life should be holiness, Godly character, peace, and contentment. The end goal should revolve around the very promises of the heavenly host that reminded us at Christ’s birth that we could have joy and peace.

For the next year I have to tell you that I hope you have trials – I hope you grow! As I bring in the new year with 21 high school basketball players I hope to have patience – yet that comes from trials (which I am sure they will provide for me!)

Monday, December 20, 2010

December 20, 2010 - The X Factor

Often times when listening to commentators discuss an upcoming game they will discuss each teams strengths and weaknesses, compare the star players against each other, and then discuss who will be the “X-factor.”

The “X-factor” refers to that unknown person that will step up to make a difference. It can refer to that unknown element of the person’s game that rises to the occasion. What the commentators are saying is that we need to watch the game to determine who this will be. (Or in math terms we have to go through the problem to solve for the unknown variable – X.)

This week I want to quickly remind you about some things we see in the game of life. As we look back over history we see that one man split time in half (BC and AD.) This one man is who H.G. Wells called “easily the most dominant figure in all history.” We see that this one man fulfilled prophecies of the “Messiah” – the one that would be the “Savior” in this game of life. We see that this man is JESUS, Immanuel – God with us!

This week why don’t we try to honor Him by doing a couple of things. Let’s live our lives with the joy and peace God intended – the joy and peace that was promised would come through the Christ-child. (Luke 2)

If someone says, “Happy Holidays” to you then smile and thank them for the nice greeting. Then explain that your holidays are not only happy but also joyous and peaceful. (Instead of complaining that it is our right to hear the words Merry Christmas! How about actually following the example of Christ and laying down our rights. It is our job to take Christ to the world, not to demand they bring Him to us!)

When we see the “X-mas” signs remember a couple of things. First the “X” represented Christ in the shorthand of Greek and was originally used very respectfully. Second, even if the world is trying to remove Christ from Christmas, why would we expect anything different?

This Christmas I am diagramming a play for you. As you go out on the “floor” of life look for opportunities to “solve for X.” Look for opportunities to share with folks that you know who the “X-factor” is in the game of life. Just as Paul took the opportunity to explain the “X-factor” to the men of Athens in Acts 17 when he introduced them to the unknown variable, the unknown God!

Merry X-mas! Now go solve for “X”!

Monday, December 13, 2010

December 13, 2010 - First to the Floor

How often do we take a look at adversity as a friend? I have written often of the “no pain, no gain” mentality but nevertheless it is true. Growth and strength come from putting a load on the muscles, or on the psyche.

But have you ever stopped to think about how often we are encouraged by other’s adversity? When we see people giving their all in spite of the pain, it urges us on. When we see others persevere and push forward, we are more willing to push on.

I recently was writing down some of the maxims I coach by. One is a simple reminder that the battle is often won not by the first to get to the rim but instead by the first willing to get to the floor.

Last Thursday night I watched my son’s team play a far superior team in size and athleticism. The high school team they were facing had a front line of 6’7”, 6’8”, and 6’9”. I think there were only two of their players shorter than my son that is around 6’2”.

The biggest kid on my son’s team is 6’3” or 6’4”. He is the reason I am writing this devotion this week. In spite of being undersized, he fought a valiant fight. The team was down by 18 points at the half. But after half-time, when men of lesser character would have folded, my son’s team came out scrapping. During the 3rd quarter they had enough shots fall to feel like they had a shot and had pulled back to within around 10 points. In the 4th quarter they got hot; they got pumped; they pushed on. And eventually they took the lead by as much as 6 points. Although they ended up dropping the decision (81-77) they were “winners” that night.

I know I mentioned the “big” kid on our team. His name is Austin. During that second half surge he had two plays that I believe spurred our team on. Austin is not a great scorer. He is not a great ball handler. But as a soccer goalie he has learned to give of his body. The two plays I mentioned involved Austin full-out diving for the ball; I’m talking body parallel to the floor diving. On the second one his landing area was actually in the wooden bleachers that hammered Austin’s thighs. I watched as his teammates were not only amazed by his effort but also energized and spurred on by his effort. Austin’s actions had said to his team, “This game matters. You, as my teammates matter. I’ll do what it takes to win the battle.”

In our spiritual lives I consistently am amazed by those that can go through incredibly difficult times and still honor the Lord. I think of the great missionaries we read about that were willing to lose their lives for the cause of Christ and how those stories spur us on. I think of the Apostle Paul who endured such incredible struggles once he became a Christian yet had the following conclusion:

Philippians 1: 12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Do you see what happened? The Brethren became more confident; they were encouraged and spurred on; they understood that yes Paul had some discomfort and struggle but it was all worth it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

December 6, 2010 - When is it time to quit?

As a coach and a dad I often am faced with situations where players want to quit. As a general rule I believe that if you start something and commit to it, then you should finish it out.

Yet there have been times with players that they came to me and had legitimate reasons for wanting to quit. Maybe it was an academic reason or simply a conflict in time with something that was truly a higher priority. (One time it was as simple as a player tht wasn't respecting his momma so his dad and I agreed that he would have a leave of absence for an attitude adjustment.)

I came to a new point with one of my sons this past week. I told him that I fully understood if he wanted to quit his team.

I had watched part of his practice one day and was so proud of him. He worked his butt off! He is not near being the fastest guy on his team, yet I saw him finish first or second in each of the runs. He is not the most skilled player on his team but he competed hard. The day following that practice he anxiously went to his game (also knowing that his grandpa was in town from Inidiana.)

As we got to the game we waited for him to be put into the game. Once in the other team had gone to full court pressure and had a small guy that was simply too fast for my son. The smaller guy stole the ball a few times in a short amount of time and my son's coach immediately pulled him out. And there my son sat until the final 30 seconds of the game. I watched as his spirit was crushed. (Yeah, yeah I know there are many kids that go through this, but not all have a dad that is a coach or an older brother that is a gifted player.)

The reason I told him I understood if he wanted to quit was because to me it was more important to let my son know that his identity was not tied to a basketball game. I wanted him to know that his self-esteem should not be built by a game. I wanted him to know that I loved him the same if he were on the floor or on the bench - or not playing at all.

What he did surprised me and thrilled me. He went to the next practice. Today he played the next game. He chose to persevere and honor commitment even though I gave him an "out."

To me I was even more thrilled because I had just preached a sermon about the Apostle Paul when he was imprisoned in Philippi. When his chains were loosed and the prison doors were opened, he chose to stay for the good of others; he chose to honor God over "freedom." Maybe he understood that freedom was not truly found in circumstances. He ignored the "loosed chains and open doors" I offered him.

I believe my son showed great character. I believe he is growing. I believe he handled more maturely than I would have. (It was such an amazing show of character that I had to wonder if I was more the one that was ready to quit so I didn't endure the pain.) Ultimately a few splinters from the bench are not a reason to retreat from a commitment!

Acts 16:
22 Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. 23 And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” 29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Honor! Commitment! Perseverance! Great ways to show a solid testimony!

Monday, November 29, 2010

November 29, 2010 - What are you hungry for?

What are you hungry for?

This past week we had Thanksgiving dinner. That morning I found myself craving certain foods that I knew were headed my way. When it came time to eat I didn’t have to be told twice to get to the dinner table! When it came time to eat, I ate and then ate some more. I think it could be called “feasting.”

Hunger is a tremendous motivator. It is a driving force in life. Yet hunger and craving are two different things. The simple fact is that I could have stepped away from the dinner table very easily on Thanksgiving Day. The truth is that I avoided some of my cravings. Cravings are nice when they are fulfilled but not a big deal when they are not.

So why am I drawing this comparison? What does it have to do with athletics? What does it have to do with our Christian walks?

There is a great quote from Bobby Knight that states: “Everyone has the will to win, but few have the will to prepare to win.” Using the terms we are discussing: Everyone craves winning, but not everyone is driven to win.

Hunger creates a discomfort that results in a willingness to work hard. A hungry person will eat just about anything. A hungry person is driven to get food! A hungry person is desperate to eat.

I believe the thing that sets apart great players is not athletic ability or skill set, but instead it is hunger. When you hear the greats discussed, (MJ, Magic, Bird, Kobe, etc.), you here people talk about their insatiable hunger to win. Often you hear people question a guy like LeBron because they wonder if he is truly “hungry” or is he just incredibly gifted – yet satisfied? The greats are desperate to win.

So again I ask, “What are you hungry for?” If you crave being a college athlete, that is great. But are you hungry to be a college athlete? It will be evidenced in your work ethic. And the same principle will hold true for anything you desire to accomplish in life.

What about your spiritual life? I think most of us as Christians crave knowing Christ in a deeper way. We all want to be closer to the Lord. Yet I don’t know that we all have a passionate hunger to know Him. The Apostle Paul is the shining example of what it means to hunger for Christ.

In Philippians he goes as far as saying that even his “chains” are “in Christ.” Everything he faces in life he views as an opportunity to magnify and know Christ more. Read Philippians 3. Paul tells us that the religious life he lived did not satisfy him. He counts all things as loss for the excellence of knowing Christ. He “presses on” in this quest. He “feasts” on God’s truth. He is desperate to know Him more.

Are you desperate to know God in a deeper way? Are you hungry for Him?

Proverbs 16: 26 The person who labors, labors for himself, For his hungry mouth drives him on. (NKJV)

Proverbs 16: 26 Appetite is an incentive to work; hunger makes you work all the harder. (The Message)

Monday, November 22, 2010

November 22, 2010 - Thankful (Even When Losing)

In this week leading into Thanksgiving I have to ask you, is your life is characterized by thankfulness? By joy? By rejoicing? By that I am not asking you to sit back and think about all the great things you have in life, I am asking you are you simply thankful for the life and opportunities God has given you to glorify and serve Him?

I have been preaching a series the last couple of weeks centered on the Apostle Paul’s secrets to success. This guy had an incredibly difficult life after becoming a Christian. (See 2 Corinthians 11:24ff) Yet from a prison cell he penned a letter about what our focus should be in life. Basically he boiled it down to a couple simple goals: 1. Magnify Christ. 2. Serve others. He went as far as looking at his physical circumstances and bragging about how they were creating opportunities to further the Gospel.

Philippians 1:12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ;

Maybe you have some problems as you are reading today; are your “chains in Christ”? Are you looking for ways to further the Gospel through them? Are you excited about the character that God wants to build in you by allowing these problems?

I know that we have heard these things before; yet what a great time of year to be reminded about being thankful! What a great time of year to be reminded to stop complaining and grumbling! (See Philippians 2:14)

But wait a minute; I haven’t brought the sports part of this into play yet. Well it is definitely on my mind. I spent the weekend at a basketball tournament that involved Christian schools. I again listened to the crowd around me and had much concern. Many fans and coaches behaved like the rest of the world does – complaining and grumbling, sometimes screaming and whining, when things don’t go the way they think they should have. (Not to mention that even that is usually through very biased eyes that are not near as impartial as the refs.) I kept going back to the philosophy I developed as a coach and athletic director: “at the end of the game would you feel comfortable witnessing to the referee if given a chance?”

Maybe you think I am going too far with this. One leader in a ministry told me I am na├»ve to be in my 40’s and not expect people to voice their opinions at games. My question is what makes games different than real life. Would you approve of an employee going into work and screaming at the janitor, “Can’t you see? You missed a spot over there? We need a real janitor?” Would you feel comfortable if you walked into a fast food joint and heard someone screaming at the girl at the register, “You idiot can’t you count?”

You see we wouldn’t ever openly admit that it is ok to belittle and berate people in everyday life. (Although I think if some are honest we would have to admit we are better at the American / Burger King mantra of “have it your way” than we are of the Biblical mantra of considering others as more important than self!)

If you are a Christian reading this would you agree that we are called to be different in our approach to life?

I read an article today about a college football coach. It was a story on one of the major news wires that called out this coach for his whining and screaming and blaming officials, etc. Basically the article came down to saying the coach did not understand proper decorum.

Most of us would be offended by the apparent actions and attitudes of this coach. Yet have you ever sat in the stands of a game at a church league or Christian school event. It doesn’t sound any different. There is nothing peculiar about it.

When life hits us with a crisis is there something peculiar about us? Or is the following quote about the college coach more descriptive: “…coach raged. He yelled at officials. He yelled at his own players. He gritted his teeth while…”

It is easy to be thankful during the good times. It is easy to seem joyful when things are going our way. It is easy to seem at peace when we are “ahead on life’s scoreboard.” But what about in those times like Paul was enduring…….?

Monday, November 15, 2010

November 15, 2010 - Slow Down

I was recently talking with Jason Otter. Jason is a well respected basketball clinician, especially with his work in his Point Guard Elite Camps. He told me that one of the key things he works on in these camps is teaching the guards to slow down!

I know that sounds strange I the world of athletics where speed is so highly touted. Yet a great player is one that sees the floor, reads the defense, and makes the game as easy as possible.

Just this past week I spoke with the assistant coach on my son’s team and he said the same thing. He talked about trying to get our guards to slow down and play under control. Again, this is a call to see the floor, read the defense, and make the game as easy as possible.

In our everyday lives I fear we run into the same problems. With our hectic daily schedules and often an honest desire to do great things for the Lord, we tend to commit way to many “turnovers.” God has called us to see the floor, read the defense, and make the game of life as easy as possible…

Ephesians 5: 15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Psalm 27 puts it this way:

14 Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!

A great player has clear direction. John Wooden would say, “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” Another way I have heard this truth: “So hurry up and wait upon the Lord!” (Old Petra song called “More Power To Ya”)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

SPECIAL POST (Upcoming ROCK'em Road Trip)

Statesville Christian School Lions
Winterim ROCK’em Road Trip

Dear Friend in Christ,

I am writing to let you know about a great opportunity our school’s basketball program has this winter to give out the Gospel, serve the community, and train (both in basketball and the Word.) The Statesville Christian School varsity basketball teams are taking a 2-week trip to southern Florida in conjunction with the outreach of InBounds Ministries.

InBounds Ministries regularly takes players on ROCK’em Road Trips to various places in the country. These trips are designed with evangelism, discipleship, service, and training in mind. In essence these trips are short-term missions combined with a travelling basketball camp. This particular trip (December 27, 2010 – January 7, 2011) will also include varsity competition against schools in Florida. (Girls’ team is travelling January 1-8, 2011.)

Scheduled for this trip will be: the boys team playing in the Jupiter Christian Holiday Tourney and against Summit Christian (at Palm Beach Atlantic University before a men’s game); the girls playing against Coral Springs Christian Academy; multiple teaching workshops; practices; service projects; tract distribution; and of course some fun at the beach and at Lion Country Safari. The theme for this trip is: LIONS’ PRIDE!

First we need your prayers. This trip will definitely take players out of their comfort zones. We are hoping to get many prayer-partners and are asking you to be one!

Secondly we need financial support. The basic budget for this trip will be $500 per participant. As a program we are trying to cover these costs via donations. If you feel the Lord’s call to be a part of this project in this way it would be much appreciated.

To give financially to this project, make a check out to InBounds Ministries. On the memo line simply put “SCS Road Trip.” Thank you for your prayers and your consideration of financial partnership.

Give ‘em the ROCK!
The Coaches and Players of Statesville Christian School
The Coaches of InBounds Ministries

You can find out more about InBounds Ministries at
• You can find out more about Statesville Christian School at

Monday, November 8, 2010

November 8, 2010 - Commit, De-commit, Re-commit

This time of year involves many high school players making commitments to colleges. Recently one of my favorite players of all time, Tyler Lewis, committed to North Carolina State. (Way to go Lil’ T!) I loved talking with T as he was in the process of making this choice. Although he had met many coaches and heard many offers, he finally decided he wanted to stay fairly close to home and that he trusts Coach Lowe and Coach Towe at NC State.

Also in last week’s news was a talented point guard named Myck Kabongo. Myck had verbally committed to the University of Texas, then de-committed, and then re-committed shortly there after. Many in the media and on the message boards have jumped on this kid, yet what a hard decision when you have so many things being said to you. Who do you trust? Who is worthy of your commitment? Is the commitment what is truly best for you in the long run?

I just know from dealing with these highly recruited kids, the decision is very difficult and at times very confusing. Yet isn’t that true in all of life? A college choice is a big decision for any kid going to school. Picking a major can be a difficult choice that sometimes involves a “de-commitment.” What about when as an adult a job offer comes along? Is the one you are dating the one you want to spend your life committed to? Etc. Etc.

When it all boils down to it choices are difficult and usually uncertainties. Yet there is area of commitment where you will never go wrong. Once you have trusted in Christ as Savior (accepted God’s commitment to you), it is only reasonable that you would commit your ways to Him. After all you can always trust God!

So first let me remind you that the Scriptures are full of promises and commitments to us from a never-failing God. Because of that…

Commit your ways to God! Live your life according to His Word!

Proverbs 16: 2 All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD. 3 Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.

Psalm 37: 4 Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: 6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.

So it is really very basic – when making decisions in your life, make sure you are delighting in the Lord, and then you can trust the desires in your heart. If He is your primary focus, He will direct you!

(By the way: Go Wolfpack!)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

November 1, 2010 - Get Bored or Get Better!

I am preparing to leave with my 2nd oldest son for his “man-trip.” On the trip he will be required to handle the budget, map the routes, etc. he is also the one that gets to choose the activities, where we eat, times we leave, etc. I am responsible for the Biblical life lessons that pertain to becoming a man of God! It is time for him to step up to the big leagues!

His choice of activity is to go to the Hiddenite Gems Emerald Hollow Mine and to try to strike the mother-load! As he looked at costs he had to allow for the rental fee for some digging tools. It would make no sense to go in the mine and just use our hands to scratch the surface. In order to find the good stuff we need to dig!

The same principle holds true when I am running clinics or practices. We go through multiple drills that are very repetitive and I always have some that are just going through the motions – just scratching the surface. I urge them to dig deep – to push themselves. I tell them it is their choices on whether they will “get bored or get better!” Things do get boring when we are just scratching the surface!

How about your personal Bible study and your prayer life? Most people I know struggle with these areas. I think it is because we tend to just go through the motions and scratch the surface. We don’t allow for the time or energy it takes to get to know God more. We need to remember that the Scripture calls itself a treasure, therefore we need to dig!

Proverbs 2:1-5 Good friend, take to heart what I'm telling you; collect my counsels and guard them with your life. Tune your ears to the world of Wisdom; set your heart on a life of Understanding. That's right—if you make Insight your priority, and won't take no for an answer, Searching for it like a prospector panning for gold, like an adventurer on a treasure hunt, Believe me, before you know it Fear-of-God will be yours; you'll have come upon the Knowledge of God.(The Message)

When it comes to your spiritual life it is your choice: Get bored or get better!

Monday, October 25, 2010

October 25, 2010 - Practice Makes Permanent

Vince Lombardi said, “Leaders aren't born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that's the price we'll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.”

Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

Bobby Knight said, “Everyone has the will to win but few have the will to prepare to win.”

There is an old phrase that says, “Life is what you make it.”

So what are your goals? Your dreams? Your desires?

What are you doing about it?

The athletes I deal with often talk of dreams of playing in college or maybe even the pros. I ask them the same question, “What are you doing about it?” I have them evaluate their days and determine what their priorities truly are. In the grand scheme of things they have very few hours to work with. They have to sleep, go to school, eat, etc. Then they are left with choosing what to do during those few hours. I remind them that video games, Facebook, and television do not help them achieve their goals. I remind them that practice is what is needed!

Do your goals include the pursuit of holiness? Is godliness something you long for? Do you want to honor the Lord in your life? If so, then what are you “practicing”?

Matthew 7: 24"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. (NIV)

Notice that a wise mans puts Christ’s Words into “practice.” This is an intentional desire to look for and live out the Word. It is a daily commitment to practicing doing right things.

Philippians 4:9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. (NIV)

I tell players that practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent! Therefore you have to practice correctly. Godliness doesn’t just happen. It is a result of putting the Word into action in your life. How can you intentionally practice or do good today? How about serving someone in the name of Christ!

Monday, October 18, 2010

October 18, 2010 - Cowboys Beat The Cowboys!

Yesterday as I lay on my couch watching some football the commentators began discussing the game that had just finished. They made the following remark, “The Cowboys beat the Cowboys.” My wife was walking through the room and was puzzled by the remark. When I put the remark in context it made complete sense; they beat themselves through bad choices and penalties. The Cowboys were very sloppy and loose with the game and it cost them! (In basketball when I am coaching I teach about this by reminding the players to “value every possession.”)

In football penalties are a killer. When on offense they stall your forward progress. On defense they allow the other team to advance. Penalties lead to the old phrase of “1 step forward and 2 steps back.” They are the result of a lack of mental and physical discipline.

When a player gets tired, the first thing to go is his mind; that is why so many dumb things happen in the 4th quarter of any sport. Sometimes players come into games unprepared mentally. Sometimes players simply do not care. All these things lead to bad choices that hurt the team.

I believe most of our shortcomings as believers result from being undisciplined. We are not completely focused on God’s game plan. We have not allowed the Scriptures to transform our minds. We have ignored the warnings in the book of Colossians that tell us to guard our minds and avoid the world’s philosophies.

Our lives really do break down to good and bad choices; ones that keep us moving forward or ones that set us back.

Proverbs 1

1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
2 for attaining wisdom and discipline;
for understanding words of insight;
3 for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life,
doing what is right and just and fair;
4 for giving prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the young-
5 let the wise listen and add to their learning,
and let the discerning get guidance-
6 for understanding proverbs and parables,
the sayings and riddles of the wise.
7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

Don’t beat yourself in the game of life; make right, disciplined choices.

Monday, October 11, 2010

October 11, 2010 - Philly Phanatic

Well we are almost through the first round of the Major League Baseball playoffs and there has been some amazing pitching going on by the Philadelphia Phillies. Their hurlers are in an amazing zone – a fanatical focus! And whenever I think of the Phillies I always think of the Phillie Phanatic! He is one of the most recognizable mascots in all of sports.

Obviously I am emphasizing the word fanatic. I think of the fans that are so sold out to their teams, even if their teams are in a losing season. Sometimes they are so devoted that they can’t even objectively watch the games. They are the fans with painted faces and team gear. They have team bumper stickers on their cars and flags flying from their car windows. They are the fans that leave no doubt where their allegiances lie.

The definition of fanatic includes the idea of extreme enthusiasm or belief.

Are you a fanatic? I am not asking about a sports team right now. I am asking if you are fanatical about Jesus?

Yesterday I heard a great message about the fanatical Apostle Paul. This guy was singularly focused on Christ. He talked about Him all the time – including when he was in prison. He left no doubt about his allegiance to Christ.

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

The pastor pointed out yesterday the following words: “but one thing I do.” Do you see the singular focus there?

Our allegiances are too spread out. We live in a society with not much time for Jesus. Oh we may show up for scheduled church services but does your devotion to Him lead you to talking about him throughout your days? Is it evident to others whose team you are on?

Years ago the group DC Talk used the following terms to describe a Jesus fanatic: Jesus Freak! They made the following statement in the song: “I don’t really care if they label me a Jesus Freak, there ain’t no denying the truth!”

Monday, October 4, 2010

October 4, 2010 - SQUARE UP!

As I conducted a clinic yesterday afternoon I kept being reminded of a constant theme: staying on course! I told the kids that I wanted them to listen with both their eyes and ears because that would help them concentrate. (I had also given an invitation as I was preaching yesterday morning that asked people to bow heads and close eyes; all for the same purpose of avoiding distractions.) I regularly remind players to find playing partners that have their same goals; that are headed in the same direction. As I taught a short session on shooting I told them how they needed to lock in on their target and keep their feet, hips, and shoulders square to the target. I told them how to train their eyes to stay focused on the rim (the target.)

Isn’t all of life about staying the course? We need to remember the simple truths of the Proverbs that encourage us to be singularly focused and stay the course. (And the parts that warn us of the alternative choices that lead to destruction.)

Our lives need to be characterized by us “squaring up” to our target of righteousness. From our eyes to our feet we need to stay on course. Here is the admonition found in Proverbs 4 (The Message):

20-22 Dear friend, listen well to my words; tune your ears to my voice.
Keep my message in plain view at all times. Concentrate! Learn it by heart! Those who discover these words live, really live; body and soul, they're bursting with health.

23-27 Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that's where life starts. Don't talk out of both sides of your mouth; avoid careless banter, white lies, and gossip. Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions. Watch your step, and the road will stretch out smooth before you. Look neither right nor left; leave evil in the dust.


Monday, September 27, 2010

September 27, 2010 - Another Level

I had the privilege this past weekend of hosting the most insanely intense basketball clinician I have ever witnessed. This guy was an incredible teacher and motivator. He was able to teach not only things that will help the players in basketball but also incredible life skills. (His name is Jason Otter. I highly recommend booking his organization for basketball camps. See

A few of the things he emphasized really jumped out at me. They reminded me that all of the truths that make one successful in life can ultimately be traced back to God’s Word. Let me give you 3 quick examples:

1. As a player Jason emphasized having balance and a solid core. He spent a lot of time working on how to physically not be moved. I believe that is the same message that Paul spiritually gave the Corinthians when he told them to be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord…” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

2. As a player Jason emphasized the importance of “living low.” He was emphasizing how much more acceleration one gets and how much more ground gets covered by doing this. The Scriptures give the same command of “living low.” Paul tells the Philippians in chapter 2 to “in lowliness of mind” to consider others as “more important than self”; he reminds us that our example is Christ Himself.

3. Jason also emphasized efficiency of movement. He very clearly broke down the physical movements required to maximize one’s speed and ground coverage. This to is a great spiritual principle. Paul tells the Ephesians to “redeem the time because the days are evil.” In the same chapter it compares not walking in wisdom with being drunk and tells us that being unwise is “dissipation” or in other words “wasted movement” in life.

Jason’s dedication to his craft reminded me how important our “spiritual training” is in life. Jason’s desire for these basketball players is to take them to another level. My desire through the sharing of God’s Word with you is the same: help you take it to another level!

Monday, September 20, 2010

September 20, 2010 - RETRO

“Been there; done that!” There is something to be said for those with experience. Like the old saying goes, “experience is the best teacher.”

We live in a world that is always looking for new cutting edge ideas and approaches to things. Often times I hear things called “old-fashioned” just because it is the way it was done by our parents or grandparents.

I admit I am “retro” as a coach. I believe in the fundamentals of the game. I believe in hard work and selfless passion. I believe in (as John Wooden would say) the name on the front of the jersey being more important than the name on the back. I admit that I think the “old days” gave us a better picture of teamwork and commitment. (Although the retro game shorts that were worn I can do without - not the picture I like to remember.)

I remember coaches being so frustrated if a player dribbled between his legs or behind his back. There would often be a scream that we were there to play basketball, not dance! I understand that philosophy and yet I teach dribbling between the legs and behind the back; but as part of the fundamentals to get the job done – not to dance!

In other words new things are fine as long as they don’t distort the principles of old. I think styles are fine as long as they don’t replace substance. We do not need to throw out the past but should learn from it. The past is our foundational or fundamental principles to live by.

The Bible is not old-fashioned! It is absolutely relevant for today! I am all for contemporary things yet often find an absence of good “old-fashioned” truth.

I am reminded of the song the group 4Him did many years ago. It said “we need to get back to the basics of life…”

Does God’s Word play an important part in your day? Are you allowing it to transform your mind?

Psalm 119:31 gives you a simple thought on the importance of God’s Word: I cling to Your testimonies; O LORD, do not put me to shame!

I am “retro” in that I go back to the basics of God’s Word!

Monday, September 13, 2010

September 13, 2010 - Strong Enough To Lose

For those of you that are athletes I have some questions: Are you a player that often questions calls from the ref? Do you second-guess your coach? When on the playground do you end up in a lot of disputes over calls?

What about off the court (for athletes, former athletes, non-athletes)? Is your life characterized by arguments to get your way? Maybe this takes place on the job, at school, or at home - you find yourself in altercations.

Why do you end up in disputes? Maybe you feel you have to stand up for your rights (no self-respecting American would get walked on.) Maybe you justify by saying you simply want the truth to be known – you want justice! Maybe you just can’t help pointing out that you are right and somebody else blew it.

When it all comes down to it there is one singular cause to arguing – PRIDE! Even when you are right, pride can rear its ugly head in demanding that others see it. And most of the time the argument is just a smoke screen to cover that you were wrong – you messed up!

We each need to determine if we are more concerned with our American approach of “Don’t tread on me!” or in the Christian response of willfully considering others as more important than self. Will we demand our rights or will we walk an extra mile when 1 mile is demanded of us. Will we get what we deserve or give the shirts off of our backs? (See Philippians 2 and Matthew 5)

Are you strong enough to humble yourself? Are you strong enough to let others get the spotlight? Are you strong enough to be seen as weak? Are you strong enough to lose the argument? What Christ called us to is not the norm!

Proverbs 13:10 By pride comes nothing but strife, But with the well-advised is wisdom.

Proverbs 13:10 Arrogant know-it-alls stir up discord, but wise men and women listen to each other's counsel. (The Message)

Monday, September 6, 2010

September 6, 2010 - Visualization - Perspiration = Frustration

Happy Labor Day - what a great time to be reminded about the value of hard work! Over and over I am reminded that anything worth having is worth working for. I am reminded that dreams and visions are fulfilled by blood, sweat, and tears.

Last night my son was watching some basketball videos on YouTube and came up stairs telling me about one where the coach encouraged his players to sit with a ball in hand every night before going to sleep; then close their eyes and mentally think through their free throw routine, envisioning 10 straight swishes. This is called visualization.

Although I see some merit with that, I also know that visualization without perspiration leads to frustration. Dreaming (visualization) doesn’t fill a hungry belly. Proverbs 16:26 says it this way: “Appetite is an incentive to work; hunger makes you work all the harder.” (The Message)

Liberty and freedom are direct results of hard work and sacrifice. Our salvation is the result of Christ’s sacrifice. Anything that we strive to accomplish in life is a result of our hard work and sacrifice.

Hard work always pays off; mere talk puts no bread on the table. (Proverbs 14:23)

“Without labor nothing prospers.”
- Sophocles

“The only liberty an inferior man really cherishes is the liberty to quit work, stretch out in the sun, and scratch himself.” ~H.L. Mencken

What are you hungry for? What do you dream about? It is time to put in some hard work!

Monday, August 30, 2010

August 30, 2010 - Are you ready Keep?

I am so proud of my boy Daniel DeGraff! He is a young man that played basketball for me a few years ago, but his main sport is soccer. He is now a freshman at High Point Univ. and a keeper (goalie) on their soccer team.

I am proud of him for a couple of reasons; first and foremost because of his character. Last year as a senior at Statesville Christian School I watched Daniel not only excel in sports and academics but also in mentoring younger guys in our school (including my son who was a freshman.)

Secondly I am proud of his athletic accomplishments. Being a goalie at a division 1 institution is a huge task – especially as just a 6’ tall guy. The thing that is so impressive is that as a freshman he has dressed as the number 2 keeper – which has been a result of an incredible amount of hard work and dedication.

There are other guys vying for that position – one of which Daniel has admitted is neck and neck with him on ability and athleticism. Yet Daniel’s response when asked about this young man is, “He makes me better. He pushes me.” In other words “iron is sharpening iron.” (See Proverbs 27:17 for this truth)

I think about the beginning of soccer games when the ref yells out, “Are you ready Keep?” I know Daniel is ready because of effort, dedication, and a like-minded training partner that pushes him to excellence.

How about you? Are you surrounded by others that spur you on to excellence in life? I am talking about in pursuing your dreams and most importantly in pursuing the Lord.

We all need those like-minded training partners to sharpen us!

Monday, August 23, 2010

August 23, 2010 - A Player's Heart

What is required of players? - Being on time to practice; giving maximum effort; listening to the coaches; etc. Every coach has a list of expectations for players.

In the Christian world we have far too often keyed on the very specific rules that God has set forth (or in some cases we have set forth) as our guidelines or expectations. Yet that is far too simplistic of an approach.

As a coach I look for attitudes as much as aptitudes. I want players that give maximum effort with maximum respect and dedication. I try to measure the heart.

I think that is what Jesus was saying when He summed up the Law with “loving God and loving others.” That is basically what is stated in Micah 6:8. The verse states point blank what “the Lord requires” of us:

Act justly! (Be fair in your dealings with others. Do what is right.)
Love mercy! (Be forgiving and kind to others.)
Walk humbly with your God! (Realize who you are before the Almighty, Holy God!)

God measures the heart based upon our love for Him and others.

21 Would not God search this out?
For He knows the secrets of the heart. (Psalm 44)

Monday, August 16, 2010

August 16, 2010 - Planning

As the new school year has started my son has been discussing his plans with me. I talked to him about everything from his typical basketball shot charts to the importance of his grade point average. He has set his plan to be a better student and also to work out harder than ever to prepare for basketball season.I think it is great that he is starting to understand the importance of planning and goal setting.

Are you a goal setter? In order to be successful there must be measurable results. Yet ultimately I believe there is an even more important ingredient: why you are setting the goals. Is it all about you or are your plans to honor and glorify God? Do you realize that as believers our goals here on earth should ultimately be Kingdom focused?

The Apostle Paul said, "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21)

Paul also said this in Philippians 3:7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

I think these are strong verses that go to the heart of the motive of our plans.
Proverbs 16 says the following:

3 Commit to the LORD whatever you do,
and your plans will succeed.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

August 9, 2010 - Eyes and Ears

As I was conducting basketball clinics this past week I was reminded of the importance of training the eyes. As I teach shooting skills I spend a lot of time explaining to the kids how to position their bodies. We discuss the feet, knees, behinds, shoulders, arms, and even the eyes.

As I was telling one little girl to get her feet pointed toward the goal, she began trying to watch her feet while she was shooting. Therefore here eyes were not on the rim – the target. A shooter has to train his or her eyes just like the rest of the body is trained.

I also was reminded of the importance of the eyes in listening skills (while in a clinic for 1st through 5th graders.) I thought of my good friend, Coach Rick Lewis. Rick always reminds his players to listen with not only their ears but also their eyes – to stay focused and not be distracted by other things.

In this hustle-and-bustle world we live in we are easily distracted. I encourage you to set some priorities in your life and get focused on them. I encourage you to get your “eyes” off of things that are wasting your time. Train your eyes!

The most important place is to train your eyes to God’s Word – His way of doing things. The Scriptures tell us in Ephesians to “redeem the time.” I love the simple way it is put in Psalm 119 verse 37:

Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, And revive me in Your way.

In other words make sure your eyes and ears are tuned into what God has for you!

Monday, August 2, 2010

August 2, 2010 - Good Coaches and Bad Coaches

This past Sunday I heard a message from Genesis 22 where Abraham is willing and prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac. The application points showed that Abraham’s obedience to God was immediate and un-questioning. Abraham fully trusted God. God had made a promise that Isaac was the heir of promise and Abraham knew God would provide.

It reminded me of a discussion I had with my son recently. We were discussing his teen-age tendency to respond to directives he does not like with the flippant response of “Whatever.”

I used as examples how he responds to his mother and me; how he responds to his coaches; how he will eventually responds to bosses, etc. I told him that I would not choose him as a team captain if I were his coach because I see his body language and “whatever” responses. I used as an example the fact that over the years I have had many circumstances where I disagreed with my bosses, yet remained silent and simply did my job.

He then said, “But what if the leader is wrong?” He said, “Why didn’t you speak up to your boss? You are a man and he is a man. You have a right to share your thoughts.”

I told him he is a much better American than Christian. I explained that submission is a Christian quality we often struggle with. Last week’s devotion talked about us acting differently than the world. Listen to what 1 Peter chapter 2 tells us about this very issue:

18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. 19 For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. 21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22 “ Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

It doesn’t get any clearer than this. We are responsible to be submissive – to the good coaches and bad coaches in life! Even to our earthly leaders our responses should be immediate and un-questioning! (Obviously as long as we are not being instructed to sin.)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

July 26, 2010 - We Cannot Remain Silent

Tonight I went to pick up my son at a local park near where we are staying. He has been going up there in the evenings to run in some basketball games. Tonight I got out of the van to watch some 1-on-1 action taking place with the few guys that were left.

Honestly the action was not overly exciting. They all seemed to be a bit lethargic concerning strength and stamina, but quite energetic with the mouth; except for the smallest guy up there who quietly won each game I watched him play.

The thing that stood out to me was how mouthy a couple of the guys were. Even as I walked up they continued their vulgarities and their weak attempts at sounding tough. I have been around mouthy players all of my life. I have been around playgrounds and heard all the words that they can come up with. Yet most of the time when an older adult came up the teens would show a bit of restraint and respect.

I know this is not coming across as much of a devotional to this point; and more of a rant against society. Please don’t misunderstand me. I do not expect the world to talk like I expect Christians to talk. I am just making the point that the Judeo-Christian ethic of our country is almost non-existent now. (This should allow for us as Christians to stand out even more – even a more stark contrast to the world!)

As I spoke with one of the young men courtside I was asking him where he, and the others, attended school. When I asked about the loudest and most vulgar mouth of the bunch I was informed that he had just graduated from a local Christian high school.

Obviously this gives me great fuel for devotions with my own kids. I hope you will take the following things to heart.

1 Peter 2: 9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

Please note: We are not seen as different just because we don’t talk or act like the world; we are seen as different because we talk and act differently than the world!!!!!!!!!

It is not enough to simply stay silent; we are called to “proclaim the praises” of God!

We cannot remain silent! It is time to get loud and proud about our Savior!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

July 19, 2010 - Winning is a habit!

One of the things a coach is responsible for is to help his team learn how to win. To some that seems like a ridiculous statement – “doesn’t that just come with scoring more points?” Technically speaking - yes. But there are other aspects to this, especially when facing strong competition. What I mean by this is a team must be taught the difference between “playing to win” vs. “playing not to lose.”

This happens when facing a strong opponent, maybe one that others expect to beat your team. When your team gets ahead they start tightening up and “playing not to lose” (afraid of making mistakes.) They seem shocked to be ahead in the game as though they had not truly expected to be there. This is where the coaching comes in to get them over that hump to where they not only expect to be winning, but are shocked when they are behind.

How does this happen? Obviously that is why so many hours are spent practicing and honing individual skills. Hours are spent teaching teamwork. A coach’s job is preparation physically and mentally. He has to let the players know that he is right there with them – guiding them – earning their trust. Then it comes down to a simple formula: success breeds success! The players have to battle through the uncertainties of the game and find themselves on the winning side. Or as the great Vince Lombardi said: “Winning is a habit!”

How free do you think players would be if the coach told them they couldn’t lose? If they truly believed that no matter how bleak the game looked or how huge their opponent is, they have the winning formula? What great confidence!

Do you realize that life is much like a game? Sometimes the opponents (struggles) seem too large or great. Yet other times seem to go very easy. Our goal as believers is to understand that our victory is found in the same place in either circumstance – the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul understood it as he faced a very topsy-turvy life. He endured beatings, shipwrecks, hunger, etc. He also had times of prosperity where the churches took great care of him. Through it all he found contentment and victory in Christ! (See Philippians 4:13)

King David understood it as he wrote the famous 23rd Psalm. He found his comfort in the “green pastures and quiet waters” or in “the valley of the shadow of death.” He knew it was God’s presence that was his victory. (Heard a great message on this passage this morning by the interim pastor at my in-laws’ church. He is a professor at Palm Beach Atlantic University and did a great job pointing out the ever-present, pursuing God of David!)

Read through Psalm 23 and see how David found victory! He ends the psalm with the assurance that he will win in the end – he will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever!”

For the believer – winning should be a habit – after all it is a guarantee!

Monday, July 12, 2010

July 12, 2010 - Who is the star of the team?

When coaching basketball the goal is to keep the players focus on the game plan and good of the team. Yet it is a sport that makes it easy for players to focus on personal achievement and acknowledgement.

John Wooden would not allow the names of the players to be put on the back of their jerseys so he could remind them that the only name that mattered was on the front of the jersey. Although he had some of the most gifted players on the planet, he emphasized that UCLA was the “star.”

We have been studying the book of Acts at church and it amazes me how focused the early church was. Christ was always the “star” of the “team.” No matter what was going on they came back to proclaiming Christ!

In chapter 4 we see that the Holy Spirit’s power was so great that the house was shaken. Yet in response the believers didn’t shout about the shaking, they shouted about the Word of God.

Acts 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

My good friend Roy Mason has been leading this journey through Acts and made a great observation. Before Saul was named Paul he always received “second billing”; every time he is mentioned it is “Barnabas and Saul.” Yet after Paul was prepared for ministry the tone changes and it is “Paul and Barnabas.” May not seem like a big deal to most but it says a lot about Barnabas as a team player. He did not care who the “star” was.

Dr Mason gives a very simple philosophy for us as a church/team. “It is amazing how much can be accomplished if we don’t care who gets the credit!

Remember that the “name on the front of your jersey”: is that of CHRISTian. You should be concerned with Christ and His Word getting the glory!

Monday, July 5, 2010

July 5, 2010 - Pursuit

Tonight I will begin another week of basketball camps here in NC. The past 2 weeks have been labeled “Basic Training”; this week we are entering “Advanced Individual Training.” This camp will go beyond the typical hoops training and devotionals we do and actually encourage each player to think through some individual goals’ both on and off the court. We will adhere to our goal of creating total players: body, mind, & Spirit.

The goal is to get them to understand a great maxim from Coach John Wooden to “make each day your masterpiece.” This involves being very intentional with one’s day. It involves an active pursuit of one’s goals.

We are going to work hard! John Wooden also said that “goals achieved with little effort are seldom worthwhile or lasting.

I will direct the players tonight to do the same thing I am directing each of you to do in this devotional; prioritize your life! Where does family, friends, sports, job/school, entertainment, etc. fit into your schedule? Where does God fit into all of this? (How is your Bible study, prayer life, etc.?) [God should both supersede and also affect all the other areas of priority.]

15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth…
22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2)

Notice the individual responsibility; the intentionality; the pursuit! This looks like a great “game plan” for life!

Monday, June 28, 2010

June 28, 2010 - STAND

Last week I started this summer’s round of basketball camps here in North Carolina. I started with the younger kids, and even at the young ages I notice a common characteristic in people – pride! I am not talking about the pride that is evidenced by a cocky outward demeanor; but instead that is evidenced by a fear of failure and that someone may be watching.

As I introduce new disciplines in the game or ask the players to use their “weak-hand” to attempt a drill, I immediately see the wheels start turning in their minds and the fear that they will mess up. In response often I see the “paralysis of analysis” take place: the mind goes through all the possible outcomes and as a result the body stays paralyzed doing nothing.

I often quote John Wooden on this subject. He regularly talked about the fact that the “doer makes mistakes.” He talked of the fact that if you are unwilling to mess up you will never taste success.

This morning I read another great quote on this subject of how we view failure. It was given by Fedor Emelianenko, a mixed martial arts fighter from Russia. Fedor has been considered by many to be the greatest fighter in the history of MMA. He has gone 10 years (28 straight fights) without being defeated. This is so amazing because in this particular sport it simply takes one small mistake to be in a bad position and allow your opponent to strike.

Saturday night this happened to Fedor. He was dominating his fight but then made just enough of a mistake to allow his opponent to put a submission hold on him. It was a huge upset in MMA and one would think that it would be a huge blow to Fedor. Yet his response was worthy of note: “The one who doesn’t fall never stands up,”

I run into many Christians that do not attempt great things for God because they feel unworthy or fear failure. Through their analyzing of self-worth and abilities, they forget a simple fact that God is the one that empowers us. I love the old quote that says, “The only ability God is concerned with in us is our ‘avail”-ability.

Yesterday our worship pastor at our church gave a great reminder from Isaiah (6:1-8) about this very thing. When we see the awesome, almighty God we are humbled and recognize our weakness and imperfection. Yet then we also see his cleansing power and hear His request of “Whom shall I send?”

Our continual response should be “Here am I! Send me.”

But what if you mess up? 1 John 1:9 tells us of God’s continual forgiveness that is available to us!

Ephesians 6:14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summer Update and Prayer Needs

Hello Sports Fans,

As we have now officially entered into our summer swing of ministry, I wanted to give everyone an update on our schedule and things to pray about. We started the summer with a swing through multiple states. I was able to officiate a wedding for a former student down in Florida; we were able to stop and see Lisa’s sister and her family in Alabama; we made a stop in Indiana for a quick meeting with our ministry’s treasurer; and finally the family was able to camp in Virginia as my oldest son participated in a basketball camp at Liberty University. All of this was done in 1 week!

Now we are back in North Carolina for a few weeks. I started the first of 3 week-long basketball camps on Monday night. That will carry us through the first week of July. My oldest son Clay will leave on July 3 for his 2-week mission trip to London. Following his return we will head to southern Florida for a bit of family time and also for Lisa and me to have a brief ministry retreat for planning and praying; I will also have some preaching engagements down there. As August hits then Clay and I will fly to St. Louis, MO for some hoops clinics and multiple speaking engagements. Then back to NC to prep for the upcoming school year.

It is a busy schedule but also an exciting schedule as we will have many opportunities to share the Good News that God sent a Substitute into the “game of life!”

[The only change to our original plans is that our scheduled trip to the West Indies has been postponed. Simply put there was not enough fundraising accomplished to fund this trip.]

Beyond the summer we are working on numerous camp/clinic plans and scheduling our next ROCK’em Road Trips. (One is already in the works for the varsity basketball teams from Statesville Christian School over their Christmas break.) There are also many overseas opportunities that have been presented to us for prayer and consideration; including a request to return to the Czech Republic for basketball camps.

One major change involves our treasurer position in the ministry. After serving in that role since our ministry’s inception, Jeff Johnson has stepped down. He is still a part of our board of directors but simply does not have the time to keep serving in this capacity. (I hope you read his letter that I posted online.) Therefore all of the financial record keeping and banking will now go through an account here in North Carolina with Lisa Burden serving as the treasurer. (The new mailing address for contributions is found on the website – – under the support tab. Contributions can also be made there via PayPal.)

As we look at immediate prayer needs I ask you to take the time to lift up the following:

1. Our account balance is very low. I take a very modest salary from the ministry in order to try to insure that we have enough to actually do the work of ministry. Please pray that the needed funds will come in for our ministry to continue going forward. I guarantee it is money wisely invested! We are seeing souls saved and believers encouraged!

2. Pray for Lisa as she steps into this new treasurer role.

3. Pray for Clay as he heads overseas to do outreach.

4. Pray for travelling mercies throughout our summer schedule.

5. Pray for Matt and Rebekah in Indianapolis as InBounds Ministries has numerous things going on there through their efforts.

Monday, June 21, 2010

June 21, 2010 - Life is hard! Pray harder!

This past weekend my son was able to participate in a basketball camp at Liberty University. When I picked him up after the camp he was worn out (and very sore.) The coaching staff and players at LU had really put the boys through it!

As he told me about the weekend I was impressed by the “welcome” that the staff/team gave to the boys. Coach Layer explained to them that he wanted them to see what Division 1 basketball was really like. He then sent his players onto the court for a demonstration of how physical and intense things are. They followed that with a weekend of having the campers put forth the same type of effort. My son told me he understood why players wear the padded compression gear. He said he was hurting and bruised in ways he had never experienced before.

What I appreciate about that approach is that things were not sugar-coated and glamorized. That level of play is not about bright lights and press clippings – it is about hard work and dedication. It was a true picture of the blood, sweat, and tears required.

It reminded of a great quote that “he who works the hardest is the last to surrender.”

This is especially important when relating to life. The Christian bookstores are filled with empty, glamorous promises that life will all of the sudden be peachy for believers. Yet Jesus makes a promise of a “Helper” (Comforter) for us when He leaves earth. Doesn’t that indicate that we are in uncomfortable situations? God calls Himself a “shelter” and a “refuge.” Doesn’t that indicate life will have storms? Paul talked of peace and joy in spite of circumstances. And the list could go on and on…

16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— (John 14)

9 The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed,
A refuge in times of trouble. (Psalm 9)

9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4)

Life is hard! Pray harder!

Monday, June 14, 2010

June 14, 2010 - Short Fuse Equals Bad News

Recently as I watched an NBA finals game I saw two of the Boston Celtics get technical fouls simply because they didn’t like calls. I’m not sure what planet they have been playing on to not realize that human referees will miss some calls. You would think they would realize that the loss of points due to technicals could cost them the game and possibly the championship.

Then earlier today I was reading of a player at the World Cup going into the game as a striker. It was a 0-0 game and he was very aggressive and getting some good looks on goal. But he had to be a bonehead and get 2 yellow cards within 15 minutes and thus get kicked out of the game - leaving his team a player short. As a result his team ended up losing the game.

Very simply put the sports world gives a great picture of life. If someone cannot control his or her emotions then he or she will end up screwing things up! This is not just my thoughts; they also happen to be God’s thoughts.

Proverbs 14:29 He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, but he who is impulsive exalts folly.

What is the answer to being short-tempered? How about walking in the Spirit? The result (fruit) of that includes patience, self-control, etc. (See Galatians 5:22)

Monday, June 7, 2010

June 7, 2010 - Legacy

A few days ago I was watching a report on Kobe Bryant’s film study. He was sharing how he watches many of the past greats in order to learn from them (and admittedly “steal” their moves.) Kobe was giving great honor to the likes of Oscar Robertson, Julius Erving, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan. It was a great tribute to these former players.

I can imagine how special those guys must have felt while watching that interview; to know they had a part in developing a player that many consider to be the best in the game today – to have left behind a legacy of great play.

Yet as impressive as that was, it paled in comparison to the legacy that is being talked about in the news the last couple of days – the legacy of John Wooden. Here is a guy that engineered the greatest college basketball dynasty ever (10 championships in 12 years) yet that is just a side note in the articles being written about Coach Wooden since his death a few days ago at the age of 99.

Over and over those that were touched by Coach Wooden have talked about how much he taught them about life. Each report mentions John Wooden the teacher. His players talk about what an honor it was to be his student. I even noticed the second generation affects of the coach. As Bill Walton (former UCLA player) paid homage to the coach in a pre-game ceremony, the cameras moved to Luke Walton (Bill’s son and a Los Angles Laker) as he wiped away tears. Throughout Luke’s life his dad would write down maxims from Coach Wooden and include them with his son’s lunches.

Coach Wooden often talked of the importance of character and responsibility. He talked of the importance of education and drinking from a good book, especially the Bible.

In all of his greatness as a basketball coach, he never made over $35,000 a year from the game of basketball. He even worked a second job as he started at UCLA just to get by. He used the game as a platform for teaching much more important things. (That is precisely why I am a Sports-Missionary.)

What about you? What type of legacy are you building? Are you leaving a wake behind you that makes a difference in other’s lives?

Proverbs 22
1 A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
Loving favor rather than silver and gold.

Monday, May 31, 2010

May 31, 2010 - Team-Centered

Often in sports you hear of players or teams “playing tight.” Maybe they are nervous and crumbling under pressure. Maybe the player feels he is always on a short leash with his coach. Maybe they are simply afraid of failure, so they tense up and in turn fail. These players do not appear to be having any fun when they are playing – they are slaves to the game; they have no freedom – no liberty.

I am thankful for the liberty we have in our country. I was able yesterday to preach on this subject without fear. We were able to worship God openly without retribution. I am thankful for those that believe so strongly in the “unalienable right” of liberty that they have sacrificed their own “unalienable right” to life to preserve it.

I am also thankful for the liberty I have in Christ. He was willing to sacrifice His life to offer me the free gift of eternal life. In doing so He also purchased my freedom!

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.

Therefore I can “play the game of life” with joy; not afraid of failure; not afraid of the Coach; no longer a slave.

I encourage each of you to rejoice in your liberty. Yet I also remind you of the danger of abusing liberty. There is a very clear warning in Galatians 5 verse 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. Isn’t that a great reminder of teamwork?

The third “unalienable right” that our country boasts of is the right to the “pursuit of happiness.” This seems innocent enough. And based upon the oppression the founding fathers had endured is a reasonable statement. Yet this is why liberty has some dangers; our pursuit of personal happiness, if unchecked, can lead to a me-centered instead of team-centered attitude. And that goes against both our country’s constitution and the Scriptures which call for us to “serve one another.”

Let me challenge you today to use your liberty to reach out to others. Use your liberty to choose to do right. Remember that “selfish ambition” is a work of the flesh. (See Galatians 5:20)

Christian, you are free to love God and love others!

Monday, May 24, 2010

May 24, 2010 - We're In This Together

Often times I hear coaches talking about communication on the floor or in the field. The simple truth is that players need to learn to communicate with one another if they are going to function as a team.

Yet most communication I hear from players is the complaining after something has gone wrong, whether it is pointing fingers at teammates and referees. There is very little team communication going on in sports today.

It is seldom I hear a player warn his teammate that a pick is coming. It is seldom that I hear a player cry out to teammate for help when he is beaten by his man. It is seldom I hear a player tell his teammates, “That was my bad, thanks for picking me up.”

Successful teams realize they are in it together! They all need each other in order to function properly. Each man needs help at times, yet each man is expected to carry his own load of responsibility. And all of it centers around communicating those things to one another.

In the church, our team needs to learn to communicate. We need to recognize that we are in this game of life together. We will at times mess up and need help. We will at times see opportunity to pick up the slack for a teammate. We are each expected to humbly carry our load of responsibility. We need to remain focused on the goal!

Galatians 6 reminds us that we will have teammates that screw up; our response to help that teammate through the problem. It goes on to remind us to not be proud and haughty, thinking we are above such problems, but instead to take personal inventory to make sure we are following through with our responsibilities. Then later we are reminded through it all that ultimately what matters is that Christ is preached and we glory in Him alone!

Read Galatians chapter 6 for a great reminder of teamwork. Make sure to note the goal found in verse 14: “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

Monday, May 17, 2010

May 17, 2010 - Problem or Purpose?

I am thinking back to a game a few years ago where the players were getting pretty heated during the 1st half. Our team was ahead on the scoreboard but neither team was doing well when it came to attitudes. One particular young man on the opposing team was really struggling; he looked as if he would explode at any moment.

At half-time we headed down the tunnel to our locker rooms and I happened to be next to the young man from the opposing team. I could hear him huffing and snorting – this kid was fuming. I simply reached over and patted him on the back side and said this, “Young man, you are not going to help your team like this. Get it together so you can be your best.”

One of our student managers overheard this and was quite confused. The question was then posed to me, “Whose side are you on?” That student was simply confused at why I would encourage the “enemy.”

My response was very simple. In the locker room and in the huddle I will devise everything I can to help our team win on the scoreboard; yet the opponent is not the enemy. That other team was made up of young men that I cared about as people. It was not just about basketball; I wanted to plant into that kid’s life. (And honestly I prefer to beat people when they are at their best.)

I was reminded of this story by a church billboard I saw this weekend and then I was able to see that former student manager as well. The billboard said this: “People are not our problem; they are our purpose.” What a great reminder. Let’s go a step further and see how Jesus worded this sentiment:

Matthew 5: 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Monday, May 10, 2010

May 10, 2010 - When In Doubt, Fill Out

When I am coaching players I give them a basic rule of thumb for those times they are simply at a loss on the court: “when in doubt, fill out.” Basically this means if you are not sure what you ought to be doing or where you ought to be going then don’t go clogging up the middle and messing everything up.

This is rule is predicated by teaching them how to balance the floor – or in other words what positions they should “fill out” to. This way the team can maintain balance and the player can get his bearings.

In life we often go through times that we simply don’t know what to do next. Maybe there are “open doors” you have to choose between; maybe there is an “open door” yet no peace in going through; maybe you simply don’t see an “open door.”

Last week we talked about leadership needing to seek wise counsel. Decisions you need to make in life are a result of you being the “leader” of your life and if you want to honor God you need to follow His directions – seek counsel.

The first place that counsel is found is in His Word and in prayer. Any decisions you have to make should line up with Scripture. Secondly you need to talk with godly advisors! (Note that I said godly advisors. Just because someone is your friend, doesn’t make him a source of wisdom.)

The simple principle is that before we dive into doing something we need to seek God’s guidance – get our bearings.

Proverbs gives us this simple principle for the simple-minded: Chapter 9: 4 “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”

This is the cry from “Wisdom” that is made to us. I think we should study the Proverbs and see exactly where she can be found!

Maybe it is time to get out of the “clogged up middle” of our lives and “fill out” to God’s Word and His people to find clarity and direction.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

2010 Summer Camp Opportunities (NC)

Basic Training I
June 21-25, 2010 [6:00-8:00 PM]
Ages: 8-12 yrs old

Basic Training II
June 28-July 2, 2010 [6:00-8:00 PM]
Ages: 12-18 yrs old

July 5-9, 2010 [6:00-9:00 PM]
Ages: 12-18 yrs old

*Camp Costs are suggested donations to help support the outreach of InBounds Ministries.
We do not want costs to stop any player from getting the opportunity to participate.

Basic Training Camps: Designed for basketball players to learn/refresh the fundamentals of the game [plus daily devotion time]
Intensity level = Moderate

Advanced Individual Training Camp: Intermediate & Advanced basketball players in order to make each player STRONGER
(Physically, Mentally, and Spiritually) [plus daily devotion time]
Intensity level = Very High

For more information -or- to register for a camp contact Coach Burden at:

“Get schooled now…so you won’t be schooled later!”

Monday, May 3, 2010

May 3, 2010 - Iron Man

What makes a good player great? What is it that starts to separate the masses that play a game into those few that excel at a game? (Nearly 600,000 boys played varsity high school basketball this year; only around 4,000 played Division 1 college ball; less than 400 in the NBA.)

The easy thought is to simply chalk it up to genetics and athleticism; the biggest and best athletes rise to the top. There is some truth to that idea; every person does have a genetic pre-disposition for size and athleticism. Yet it doesn’t take long to find great athletes on playgrounds that never made it past high school ball. Yes genetics play some part: I can’t teach a kid to be taller (but I can teach him to play bigger); I can’t teach a kid to run faster than his genetics allow (but I can teach him to think quicker.) The opposite is also true; it doesn’t take long to find the physically smaller, physically slower player that is excelling at the highest levels.

So what does set players apart? One key area in my mind is “discipline”! The great players are generally the most disciplined players. When we here the word “discipline” we often think of punishment. Yet that is not the main idea of the word. Punishment can be used to help instill discipline but they are not synonyms.

To be disciplined simply means that someone is committed to a task; unwavering in his approach; faithful to get the job done. I love the John Wooden phrase that says, “Discipline yourself, so others won’t have to.”

At the highest level of basketball I think of Kobe and Lebron, obviously great athletes (with incredible genetics); yet considered to be 2 of the hardest working guys in the NBA. I think of rookie Wes Matthews of the Utah Jazz. Wes was undrafted out of college yet is now starting for the Jazz at shooting guard and performing very well. In an interview with Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, he commented on Matthew’s work ethic as the key!

Another word that comes from this idea of discipline is the word “disciple.” You could call the aforementioned players disciples of basketball. The question for us carries over to our Christian walks. Are we truly disciples of Christ? Are we committed to not only serving Him but also the training it takes to be a great servant? Are we faithful to be in the Word having our minds transformed? Are we committed to be on the “court of life” and making a difference (or just content to go into our closed “practice sessions” called church)? Are we running the race as those that want to win? (See 1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

Let me encourage you to find a “training partner”: not just for your physical workouts, but also for your spiritual accountability. It is always easier to stay committed when we have someone to lean on; someone to push us; someone to encourage us; someone to rebuke us….

Proverbs 27: 17 As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.

(I guess this fits well with the upcoming release of Iron Man 2 this week.)

Monday, April 26, 2010

April 26, 2010 - Assistant Coaches

Have you ever noticed in basketball games that when a timeout is called you often see the head coach first meeting with his assistants? Coaches have learned that it is good to get different perspectives. Obviously the final decisions still lie with the head coach, but he is wise if he surrounds himself with good eyes and ears.

I think about my first years coaching in North Carolina. I was fortunate to have assistant coaches that knew more about the game than I do. What a great benefit to be able to get sound advice (or even just turn a huddle over to them.) [Thanks Rick and Mark!]

I would not have been very wise to ignore them every time they had a different opinion than I do. Still there were times I made decisions that were not what they would have done. The great thing was that we understood our roles, did not feel threatened, and were able to work together for the good of the team.

I am regularly faced with questions / situations where these principles come into play. I see leaders that only want “yes-men” around them. I see leaders that are unwilling to make firm decisions. I see leaders that are threatened by any negative response. I see dictators. I see lame ducks. I see leaders in Christian circles that are unbiblical in their leadership.

There is safety / accountability in numbers. Yet these numbers can not be just figure-heads but must truly be sharpening tools. (This is true for any of us, whether in leadership roles or not. See Proverbs 27:17)

Here is a great verse for the Biblical leadership model:

Proverbs 15:22 Without counsel, plans go awry,
But in the multitude of counselors they are established.

We all need solid “assistant coaches” in our lives!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Spring 2010 Newsletter

Hello Sports Fans

This newsletter finds us trying to rest up a bit from our spring break ROCK’em Road Trip and planning for another very busy summer. The Lord has given us the great privilege of being able to minister in many venues as of late and we have been able to see His Gospel message going forth in all its power and glory!

We just returned from 9 days in Florida. “We” refers to me, Coach Hank Dahl, and 15 boys ages 12-18. We had a very full schedule that included: painting a house; working on the rock garden landscaping at a home; leading an Easter morning service; leading 2 youth rallies; leading a Christian school chapel; sharing testimonies at a youth detention center; playing/training in hoops; and even taking in an Orlando Magic / New York Knicks game. The kids were challenged throughout the trip with thoughts from Tony Dungy’s book Uncommon and the theme of our trip: It’s Time To Man Up!

We were able to see over 20 people make professions of faith during the trip (including 9 from a public high school team we scrimmaged.) I also had the thrill of my oldest son, Clay, sharing his testimony at the detention center! It was a great trip for ministry.

I have also had many opportunities as of late to fill pulpits and share God’s Word. I love getting to share His truths and challenge the church to step our game!

As the summer approaches I am finalizing my schedule for camps, mission trips, etc. There are already many weeks of camps planned both in our local area and also in other states. (These will be posted this week.)

Plus: Coach Torzewski has a full slate of Midwest events scheduled (including clinics in Indianapolis and a return to Cornerstone Festival.)

I also will be joining a dear friend from Bible college in the West Indies to survey the area for church plants. (This trip will include Lisa, Lord willing. She has been asked to be a part of the vision team as well. Therefore pray as we seek to raise the support needed for her travel. And selfishly I am pretty pumped about the idea of spending a week in the Caribbean with my wife!)

My son Clay is also getting an incredible opportunity to take a journey I took last summer to London. He will be serving with a group called London Bridges in an outreach to Arabic speaking Muslims on the streets of London. Please pray for him as he prepares for this challenge.

All of this planning is taking place as I finish out my year back in the classroom teaching Bible to middle school students. I have spent 3 days a week in this position and in spite of fatigue I have enjoyed trying to help these kids increase in their knowledge of God’s Word and His love for them. (I have also utilized this time at the school to have “open gyms” in the mornings before school for the ball players.)

This update could carry a lot more details of the amazing things God is doing in our ministry. I am hoping you see from this brief description that we are still moving forward on this “spiritual fast break.”

I do ask that you pray for the following things:

1. Finances to continue to come in for the cost of running the ministry (including my salary.) The Lord has blessed greatly in that we have been able to cover the bills but the reality is that our regular monthly giving is probably only at 40% of my salary – let alone the overall operating budget of InBounds Ministries. Yet somehow God has continued to do His thing!

2. Coach Torzewski and his wife Rebekah: they have a lot of things to juggle with jobs, kids, and InBounds events.

3. Jordan Myers: he is a college student/athlete at Southern Illinois University. He is getting ready to go to China on a basketball mission outreach. We have seeded a bit of money from the ministry into his trip and consider it a part of our overall outreach. Jordan is a quality young man; a good basketball player; and loves the Lord Jesus Christ!

4. Clay Burden: for his trip with London Bridges this summer

5. Lisa Burden: for the extra dollars to come in to sponsor her trip with me this summer. This will be the first time she has been able to go to the foreign field with me.

6. A new computer for the office: with our youngest kiddo heading to kindergarten this year, Lisa is going to be freed up to help me in the InBounds office as well as the classroom at the school. In essence we will be sharing 2 jobs. As of June we will be transferring all of the bookkeeping responsibilities for InBounds Ministries here to our North Carolina office. Therefore we need something other than my little netbook to use.
[This request is coupled with a huge thank you to Jeff Johnson. Jeff is one of our board members and has handled all of the financial area for us since we went full time with InBounds. Yet the job is now getting to be a lot more demanding and pulls into time at Jeff’s actual job. He has done a tremendous job for very little pay ($0) and very little recognition.]

7. Wisdom: opportunities continue to abound for us. My prayer is for clear guidance from the Holy Spirit on when to say “yes” and when to say “no.”

8. Rest: I need it!