Monday, April 25, 2011

April 25, 2011 - Rise To The Challenge!

If it is true that suffering and trials produces character and strength then my son Clay should turn out to be quite a man! He has faced a lot this school year, but this past weekend topped it all off.

Clay loves basketball and has been blessed as of late to be playing for the Carolina Surge, a traveling showcase team. This team is scheduled to play in NCAA certified tourneys in front of many college scouts.

They were playing in their third tourney of the year this past weekend at Clemson University. (The team did great, winning the 16U division. Way to go Surge!) Yet Clay’s highlight reel consisted of around 1 minute of play ending with his knee giving out on him on a fast break and him rolling to the floor in agony.

This morning we went to see the orthopedic surgeon to hear the news that Clay’s anterior cruciate ligament is torn. This means he will have surgery; will miss the rest of his AAU season; will miss the beginning of his junior season; etc. It is an expected 8 month recovery.

Rehab is going to be very difficult. It will at times be frustrating. It will be slow. Yet the end goal of being back on the floor to play ball will spur him on! (I have had 4 knee surgeries. After the first 2 I worked very hard toward my recovery because I was looking forward to playing again. After the last 2 I didn’t work very hard, at times even cheating on my sets, because I had no goal of competitive ball.) I am sure Clay will circle a time on his calendar to be ready to suit up again.

You see when we are truly excited about something it motivates us. Clay will faithfully put forth effort. He will rise to the challenge.

Yesterday we celebrated the resurrection of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ! What a glorious day of the year it is. Not just because of how amazing it is but also because of what it means to us. I spent time preaching from 1 Corinthians 15 about the relevance of the resurrection. It is our hope. It is our assurance. It is our victory.

In that passage the Apostle Paul defends the resurrection via eye witnesses and changed lives; he logically lays out the importance of the resurrection; and he turns into a cheerleader that reminds us of victory! Then comes the important word “therefore.”

Because of the truth of the resurrection we should be motivated and encouraged to rise to the challenge to minister here on earth!

1 Corinthians 15: 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Jesus rose again!!!!!!! We will be resurrected! Therefore rise to the challenge!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

April 18, 2011 - God Hears

This past Sunday we celebrated Palm Sunday. We reminisced about the people waving the palm branches as Christ rode into town. We thought about their welcome to the “King.” Yet the same folks were quite possibly in the crowd that yelled for Christ to be crucified.

How could opinions change so rapidly? Simply put Christ did not meet the expectations they had for a political, physical Savior from Rome and its tyranny.

We often see this attitude in the sports world as a new player is labeled the savior of a team or franchise. And when expectations are not met we see the masses turn on them – we question them – we assume we all misjudged them since it didn’t turn out as we envisioned.

As believers we some times get caught up in wrong expectations of Jesus as well. We know that the entrance into Jerusalem was in order to be a spiritual Savior and not at that time for His earthly kingdom. Yet we still have these expectations, and sometimes presentations from preachers, that we are saved in order to make our physical lives become a “rose garden.” My fear is that we have waved our “palm leaves” for the wrong reasons.

The reality of life for us as believers, as was true even for the Apostles, is that it (life) will still be hard. We will not always have it easy. Yet we do always have the opportunity for peace in the midst of the storm. We do have our hope, our assurance, of eternal life as guaranteed through the resurrection. (Study 1 Corinthians 15 in honor of Easter.)

Lately life has had me in a “full-court-press.” It has been crazy and I have felt quite overwhelmed at times. And like most “presses” are intended to do it has at times taken me out of rhythm – out of the game plan (as evidenced by me writing this devotion days late for the web blog…)

The easy, fleshly thing to do is ask, “Why me, God?” Yet the reality is that these times should not discourage me but instead encourage me more to run to His arms. I trusted in a Savior that is there for me, (and will one day even make physical surroundings perfect.)

Are you facing some pressure? Is life a bit overwhelming? Run to His arms!

Psalm 69
1 Save me, O God!
For the waters have come up to my neck.
2 I sink in deep mire,
Where there is no standing;
I have come into deep waters,
Where the floods overflow me.
3 I am weary with my crying;
My throat is dry;
My eyes fail while I wait for my God.
13 But as for me, my prayer is to You,
O LORD, in the acceptable time;
O God, in the multitude of Your mercy,
Hear me in the truth of Your salvation.

30 I will praise the name of God with a song,
And will magnify Him with thanksgiving.

Read the full passage of Psalm 69. When life is in the “full-court-press” mode remember a simple truth: God hears.

Monday, April 11, 2011

April 11, 2011 - Confidence

Confidence! That is a huge attribute in athletics.

“Show me a guy who’s afraid to look bad, and I'll show you a guy you can beat every time.” -Lou Brock

"Never let the fear of striking out get in your way." -George Herman "Babe" Ruth

"Experience tells you what to do; confidence allows you to do it." -Stan Smith

“Self-trust is the essence of heroism.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” -Elbert Hubbard

“I’ve never been afraid to fail.” –Michael Jordan

Why all of this talk of “confidence” and “not being afraid to fail”? As always it stems from things I see in the sports world that mirror needs in our spiritual lives.

One story involved 21-yr-old Rory MceIlroy who was leading The Masters golf tournament going into the final day only to shoot the worst round of the day and finish way back in the pack. Obviously he did not fare to well under the pressure. And in golf one must forget his last shot and move on…much like a 3-point shooter in basketball must have a short memory.

I am sure that Rory McIlroy is very confident in his golf swing. Yet I am curious if fear of failure got the best of him - the old problem of playing “not to lose” instead of “playing to win.” There is a big difference there. There is a big difference between (knowing I can hit that shot or make that play) and (fully expecting to hit that shot or make that play.) A truly confident athlete is surprised or even shocked to miss.

When playing not to lose a player tends to come up out of his stance just a bit and lose a little edge. A player starts to think about consequences of missing. A player tightens up and/or pulls up and becomes passive.

I truly believe that one of the reasons for our passivity in the church is our lack of confidence. I know we teach and share about the forgiveness and completeness found in Christ. I know we talk and share about the access we have to the Father. I know we talk and share about the faithfulness of God to forgive and cleanse even on a daily basis.

But we live as though we are still incomplete, unforgiven, and unworthy to truly approach God except through very generic prayer.

It is time to get more aggressive in our Christian lives! It is time to leave the passivity of our lives behind. It is time to go confidently and boldly before the throne of Grace!

Study Hebrews 10:19-25 this week. Then go out and make a difference for our team!

Monday, April 4, 2011

April 4, 2011 - Commitment demands one’s best effort!

As I prepared to preach this past weekend I was still overwhelmed with the theme of “commitment” that I wrote about in last week’s devotion (Captive to a Commitment.) It is great to come to a point of being committed but then how do you stay there?

You have to have not only the desire; you have to have a “game plan.”

Also over the past weekend we hosted Jason Otter (the basketball clinician I wrote about last week.) I mentioned the personal workout agenda that my son has from him. At 6:30am Saturday morning we opened up the gym and when Jason walked in he looked at my son and said, “Clay, I have a 12 yr old that has logged in more than you this week. What’s the problem?” Jason was simply holding Clay accountable to his commitment.

In fairness to Clay - there is not always a gym available, nor is the weather always cooperative; sometimes there are homework commitments that have to be met; sometimes practices for the AAU team; muscle strains; etc. Yet commitment demands sacrifice and some careful planning to get things in. (both Jason and Clay showed their commitment level over the weekend as they spent around 16 hours on the hardwood, working hard!) Commitment demands one’s best effort!

Leading up to following through with one’s commitment the person must have a couple things be true about him.

1. Be Coachable: the player must be willing to listen and learn. He must set his “eyes” on the goal that is laid out by the trainer.
2. Be Conditioned: every great athlete has to work hard and be smart. He must get proper nutrition, proper rest, proper practice time, etc.

These things are what lead to true commitment. For the spiritual application I encourage you this week to study Colossians chapter 3 and look for the pictures of being coachable and conditioned that lead to verses 17 and 23 which command total commitment! (If you have the Message version read it also - or go to and pull it up – it has a great rendering of the passage.)

I love the wording in verse 25: Being a follower of Jesus doesn't cover up bad work.