Monday, January 31, 2011

January 31, 2011 - Don't Flirt With The Enemy!

Have you ever been blamed for something you didn’t do? Have you ever had someone misinterpret what you said or what you did? Have you ever had someone take something you said or did out of context?

My son got a taste of that last Friday night. He was playing against a young man that he has known for a few years and they got going into a little bit of a battle – mano a mano.

The friend, (a 6’8” man-child that is heading to Clemson next year), had just put down a pretty nasty dunk on my son. It was one of those made for the movies dunks where the kid looked at my son as my son jumped aimlessly in the air.

As they went down the floor my son squared up well behind the 3-point line and the big guy jumped out on him to lock down on defense. As the other kid dropped his hand down my son drained a long 3 on him. It was truly fun to watch and the boys were having fun.

At that point my son went a bit stupid and blew a kiss at his friend, as if to say “got ya back.” They both thought it was funny; one of the refs didn’t as she whistled him for a technical foul for taunting. Then to top it off the ref overheard my son say, “this is bull” to one of his buddies and an assistant coach. The ref heard that one and t’d him up again, resulting in an ejection from the game (and a 1 game suspension.) (I have to admit it is the first ejection I have ever seen where the people in the crowd did not even know there was an issue and the player being ejected was not even agitated.)

So what was the problem? The ref thought there was taunting going on and that is against the rules. She was trying to make sure a problem did not arise.

As we discussed this afterwards with a former collegiate coach he explained to my son that even though they were having fun, scouts only know he was ejected and assume he has character issues. That one night could have “X-ed” his name off a recruiting list.

What an opportunity to teach my son the lessons of Colossians 1:22 where we are told that to be mature is to be “above reproach.” And in 1 Thessalonians 5:22 we are told to abstain from even the appearance of evil.

The moral of this story: don’t blow kisses to your opponents. Wait,that is not it. Maybe we could word it, “Don’t flirt with the enemy!”

Monday, January 24, 2011

January 24, 2011 - Wait Till Next Year

As I drove to work this morning I heard a Chicago Bears fan discussing the football game from yesterday. This game for the Bears determined if they would go to the Super Bowl; and they lost. The Bears’ fan admitted that as he grew up in Chicago that the common phrase was “Wait till next year!”

Chicago loves its sports teams. The fans from there are always optimistic that “next year” will be the year! That is the beauty of sports, there is a next season.

Unfortunately I believe that too many Christians live their lives saying “Wait till next year.” We have an optimistic view of what we will do for the Lord in the future; yet we let “Today” pass in vain. Why is that?

I think there are a couple glaring reasons that I have seen during my years of ministry.

1. In working with youth I see that kids think it is what they will do when they are adults. They plan to serve God when they are older not recognizing their opportunities today.
2. With both youth and adults we have compartmentalized our Christian lives to where serving is part of specific, short-term mission trips. In other words we view service as planned periods of time; we simply schedule God into our lives.

In response to the first issue: God has throughout history used young people to do great things. Jeremiah 1:6But I said, "Hold it, Master God! Look at me. I don't know anything. I'm only a boy!" 7-8God told me, "Don't say, 'I'm only a boy.' I'll tell you where to go and you'll go there. I'll tell you what to say and you'll say it. Don't be afraid of a soul. I'll be right there, looking after you." God's Decree. (The Message)

As for the second issue: I recently was discussing the philosophy of mission trips. I came to the conclusion that yes, we have a target or goal of what we want to do and who we want to serve; yet the biggest thing I recognized is that the trips simply help us teach and encourage what should be taking place on a daily level in our lives. I determined that going on a mission trip does not make one a missionary; instead one goes on a mission trip because he realizes he is a missionary. Our missionary journey began at the point of salvation! “Mission trips” simply remind us that in life we have to be flexible with schedules and open to what God has laid before us.

We should not look at our Christian lives based solely on future events (i.e. “Wait till next year.) Instead we should be ready and serving “in season and out of season.” (See 2 Timothy 4:2)

God should not be relegated to our being a part of our calendars, an addition to our lives; instead He should be our lives! We should look at every day, every moment, as an opportunity to serve and glorify Him!

Psalm 95:6-8 (New King James Version)

6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
7 For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture,
And the sheep of His hand.

Today, if you will hear His voice:
8 “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion,
As in the day of trial in the wilderness,

Monday, January 17, 2011

January 17, 2011 - Huddles of the Heart

Last week I ended the devotion with the comment that I hope your resolutions for this year include representing Christ well. That is a noble cause but also one that requires some effort. It is not as simple as just saying that we want to be different, we have to be transformed! (Remember we are on a whole new team with a new way to play when we trust Christ.)

I often bring up the fact that the Scriptures call us to a renewing of the mind. Look at Romans 12:1-2 and Psalm 119 – over and over we are told to be in the Word. Transformation involves different thinking. It involves being strengthened in the inner man (Ephesians 3) by understanding the incredible expanse of God’s love.

In this relationship it is not enough to just study the Scriptures to know the facts, you must be studying to get to know and see God’s heart. It is not just about what “plays” He has diagrammed for you but about trusting Him.

Also needed is time for you to talk to Him. Prayer is a huge part of our relationship. I am not just talking about the planned time of prayer down on our knees, but also the fact that we can through the day be in relational conversation with our God!

In sports there are scheduled practices to hear from and learn from the coach; yet there are unscheduled timeouts that are needed in the games for instruction, rest, etc.

In your life, if you want to be successful in your resolution to represent Christ well, you need to have some “timeouts” during your days for some “huddles of the heart.” Periodically just stop and read or quote some verses to hear from God. Periodically stop and acknowledge God’s goodness and your need. It can simply be 30 to 60 seconds of your time.

Friday, January 14, 2011

ROCK'em Road Trip Recap (Statesville Christian School Lions)

We are home! Our family has been gone for 3 weeks on a ministry trip that included a couple of days of basketball clinics in Lafayette, IN, followed by 2 weeks of outreach in southern Florida. (The fun was packing for all 7 of us for 3 weeks in 2 drastically different climates.)

The time in Indiana was great. We were able to make some new friends, see some old friends, teach some basketball skills, and hopefully encourage these players to honor the Lord in all they do. (And on top of that our younger kids got some great Grandma and Grandpa time.)

This was followed by our journey to Florida. Upon arrival we were able to spend a couple days with Lisa’s parents (the younger kids a couple of weeks), and then began the ROCK’em Road Trip portion of the schedule.

On December 27 the boys’ varsity basketball team joined us in Jupiter, Fl and stayed through January 7. On their trip they were able to play 4 games (3 in the Jupiter Christian Holiday Tourney and 1 on the floor of Palm Beach Atlantic University.) The girls’ team joined us from January 1 through the 8th. The girls played a game in Coral Springs, FL.

The teams enjoyed not only playing basketball but also the following:
• The Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge – a trip to the Everglades
• Lion Country Safari – drive-through nature preserve
• Loggerhead Marine Center – sea turtle hospital
• Palm Beach Atlantic University Tour
• Watching Palm Beach Atlantic basketball games / practices
• Beach Clean-up at Ocean Reef Park in Riviera Beach, Fl and also at Juno Beach
• Service projects for church and individuals
• Daily devotions with Hank Dahl of Reign Ministries
• And a study called Lions’ PRIDE (an overview of John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success)

This trip allowed for many opportunities for leaders to teach serious life lessons and to model the life of a missionary; for students to get to be an example and a voice for the Lord; for the Gospel to be proclaimed via the spoken Word and through tracts that were distributed; etc.

There was a big push to have a team concept yet to maintain an “I am second”, others-focused approach to daily living.

The trip allowed for leaders to take a close look at the definition of a “missions” trip. Is it going to another place to do a renovation project? Is it the distribution of tracts? Is it a medical clinic? Is it a basketball clinic? Is it sharing one’s testimony at the mall? This list could keep going and the answer to all of these can be yes.

The goal of this trip was to teach the concept that one’s missionary journey begins at the point of salvation – with the great comMISSION that Christ mandated to believers. We wanted the students and adults to see that a “mission trip” is simply a continuation of this journey and that we can and should be witnesses in all we do.

We encouraged players to be a witness on the basketball floor; on the beach; in the malls; etc.

As a result we saw players stepping out of their comfort zones to talk to others; we saw people respond to the invitation to accept Jesus Christ as their Substitute (Savior); we saw players learning and growing! (And when we saw to the contrary, we jumped on the teachable moments!)

On this trip I can truly say that I saw lives being changed. I saw the maturing process taking place. I even saw the Lord confirming to me that He has a purpose and a plan!

This trip truly fulfilled the mission of InBounds Ministries to:
1. Give ‘em the ROCK! – Evangelism took place!
2. Get schooled now…so you won’t be schooled later! – Discipleship took place!

Praise God for the opportunity to be used on His team!

Thank you to all that helped make this possible via your prayers and contributions!

Coach Burden

Monday, January 10, 2011

January 10, 2011 - Fired Coaches

At this time of year it is very common to hear of coaches being hired or fired in college and NFL football; plus at the NBA level in basketball. When it boils down to it the coaches have to be winning or else they get cut (even if they had other years of success.)

One great assumption that is made by fans is that the players are doing what the coaches have designed. For a coach it is as important, or maybe even more important, to have players that are good listeners as opposed to just being talented.

Yes, players have a responsibility to represent their coaches well.

The same is true in our Christian lives. I quoted Gandhi in a previous devotion where he said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” In other words we are doing a poor job of representing Christ.

Yet most of the world will not be as objective as Gandhi in their thinking about Christ. They will judge Christ/God based upon what they see in us, and/or how the media portrays us. They will write God/Christianity off when they see us behaving poorly.

That is why the Apostle Paul reminded us in Colossians 1 of the responsibility we have as “players.” The following is from the Message translation:

21-23 You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God's side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. You don't walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted. There is no other Message—just this one. Every creature under heaven gets this same Message. I, Paul, am a messenger of this Message.

This passage gives the goal of maturity in believers as they recognize the preeminence of Christ and His message.

I hope your resolution for 2011 is to represent Christ well. That involves listening to the coach and executing what He has designed!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

January 3, 2011 - Don't settle for less than the best!

As I am in the midst of another ROCK’em Road Trip with our ministry I get to see so many areas in each of our lives that need attention. Being 2½ weeks into this I am starting to get tired and need to make sure I am staying alert and aware of things going on around me. I need to make sure I am still seeking God’s best for these players and not just going through the motions and settling for less than best.

It is just like in a game. What happens to teams toward the end of games? Often you see players making mental mistakes – because they are fatigued! We see players stop executing and trying to hit the “big shot.” Why? Because execution involves alertness, discipline, thinking, etc. It is much easier when tired to settle for less than best.

I watched a couple of games yesterday and saw this very thing happening. One game involved a team that was winning big yet would at times flatten out and stop executing. That team still won the game on the scoreboard because of their superiority over the opponent; yet they did not play to the fullest of their abilities and were not necessarily successful just because they had the higher score. (In fairness to the young men they had played a lot of games over the last week and were physically tired.)

The second game involved a team that was winning for the majority of the game but as time wore on they wore down, not physically but mentally. They simply stopped executing and in turn lost the game.

In life we will have times of fatigue, discouragement, boredom, etc. All of these things can be very dangerous if we are not in great spiritual condition. All of these things can lead to a settling for less than best. It can be in one’s work, school, dating relationships, goals, etc. every aspect of our lives should come under the instruction of God’s Word, which gives us the best!

1 Thessalonians 5 gives us a great admonition about “execution” of God’s “game plan.” We are commanded to not settle for less than the best! Read the following verse from the Message translation: But friends, you're not in the dark, so how could you be taken off guard by any of this? You're sons of Light, daughters of Day. We live under wide open skies and know where we stand. So let's not sleepwalk through life like those others. Let's keep our eyes open and be smart. People sleep at night and get drunk at night. But not us! Since we're creatures of Day, let's act like it. Walk out into the daylight sober, dressed up in faith, love, and the hope of salvation. (Verses 4-8)

Did you get that? Think clearly! Be alert! Play the way God intended you to play!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Florida Fun

On our ROCK'em Road Trip to Florida - Have had 11 high school guys since last Monday - 10 high school girls joined us today - it is going to be another great week! - the picture is of Clay Burden in a game at Jupiter Christian School in a tourney (Special effects courtesy of Elisha Burden)