Monday, July 25, 2011

July 25, 2011 - Follow the Leader!

As I type this morning I am sitting in Indiana, getting ready to drive the rest of the way to St Louis, MO. I will spend the week conducting some basketball clinics and then sharing the Word during a youth retreat. It is going to be a great and fun time yet one also that is physically demanding. When we do clinics we do not just tell campers what to do; we also show them what to do. When I am talking about a proper basketball stance I tell them, “I want you bent down straight up!” it means nothing to them until I (or one of my boys) gets our knees bent, butt down, back straight, and head up.

• When I talk the campers about footwork it requires not only telling them how to step and slide but actually showing them by getting bent down straight up and staying low as I step and slide across the floor.
• When I talk to them about ball handling it requires that I show them how to stay bent down straight up to stay agile and explosive.
• When I talk shooting I get bent down straight up and thus create power from my legs and hips…
• I think you are getting the picture of the proper posture for how to play the game.

And after I have shown the players how to do these things, I expect them to imitate it or basically “follow the leader.”

Likewise there is a proper posture for living the Christian life. John 1:14 tells us that when Christ (the Word) took on flesh and came to live with us that we “beheld his glory.” This word beheld, according to Merrill Tenney in his expository on the book of John, has as its root meaning that of the theatre. In other words it is Christ showing us for us how this thing called life is done. His life gives us a full view of how God lives; thus how we should live. Through the Scriptures, especially the Gospels, we can be the audience that takes it all in.

In John we see Christ as:

• an evangelist – as He lovingly shares grace and truth with Nicodemus
• a human rights advocate – as He lovingly reach out to the outcast Samaritan woman
• a servant – as He lovingly washes the disciples dirty feet
• and ultimately a sacrificial Savior – as He lovingly went to the cross in our place

We read His words like in John 12:47 where he says “..I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.”

We see a picture of the God-man that lived His life bent down straight up. He consistently was bent down before the Father with the attitude of obedience and doing the Father’s will. He was consistently bent down before others in servanthood (thus being the example mentioned in Philippians 2 where we are told to consider others as more important than ourselves.) He was consistently straight up with eyes focused on the Father and the completion of His commissioned task to be the Savior. (That makes the words “it is finished” oh so sweet!) He was consistently straight up with eyes looking up to and making others around Him feel important as He served them. If you read the book of John remembering that this is the God-man, the Christ, that is lovingly reaching out in this way it will blow you away.

As the audience that gets to “behold” this, it leads us to Christ’s challenge at the end of the book. In chapter 21 we read the epilogue of this incredible journey. Christ has been crucified as the perfect lamb to pay for our sin. Christ has risen again as the victorious Savior that offers us new life through faith in Him. Now in chapter 21 He is meeting with his disciples and fellowshipping with them and has the famous encounter with Peter where He asks Peter 3 times if he loves Christ.

Then Christ gives Peter, the other disciples, and ultimately us some very basic directions, “Follow Me.” Christ was not saying to them to try to go up in the clouds with Him. He was saying in essence:

“Ok Boys, you have been the audience that beheld my glory for these years. You have seen how I acted, how I lived, how I served, how I loved. You have heard me offer grace and truth – salvation through belief. I have not only provided salvation but also given a demonstration of how to live. So follow Me! Act like Me! Live like Me! Serve like Me! Love like Me!”

Simple conclusion this week to the devo: do you love Christ? If so then you need to have a life that is bent down straight up. You need to observe how Christ lived and imitate that. You (and I) need to “follow the leader.”

Monday, July 18, 2011

July 18, 2011 - Ironman

This past week I decided to start some dieting and working out. Simply put I am way out of shape and feel like crud often! My dilemma is always right in front of me, literally. Men tend to carry their extra weight in the belly, which in turns creates an enormous amount of pressure on the knees due to weight displacement. (I have been told by a medical professional that every pound extra in the belly creates 4 pounds of pressure on the knees.) All of this has created a difficult task for me in working out due to already having bad knees.

Therefore I decided I needed to do an initial weight loss push before I could truly pour into any working out. So I went for 3 days with only fruit and vegetable juices and then worked in a little bit of solids over the next few days (i.e. salads, a piece of chicken, etc.) although there was some discomfort, especially day 2 and 3, I was able to get a jump start on my plans to shed unwanted pounds and get back in shape. And the beauty of it has been that most of the pounds I dropped seemed to have been from the belly!

Yet now the hard part begins. With a commitment to eat right and workout, I am now faced with knowing that there will be quite a bit of discomfort heading my way. My knees are going to swell; my back is going to hurt; my stomach is going to growl; etc.

I can’t help but think of the great Hebrews 12 passage that tells us that we should “lay aside every weight”, or as the Message puts it, “Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat...”

Yet let’s face it. We all know this to be true. We all make these types of commitments, often to see them go by the wayside. We all need accountability, encouragement, a kick in the behind, etc.

My initial “kick” came yesterday. I had returned home from church and had a couple hours to work with on getting some things done at the house before going on to our next destination. So I turned on the TV for some background noise and there it was – the Ironman Competition from Hawaii. This is an amazing athletic endurance event. Ironman events consist of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a 26.2 mile marathon run. As I watched the frontrunners push their bodies to amazing limits it was mind-boggling. (The new video capabilities can zoom in and isolate muscle groups in super slow motion. You could see the incredible amount of stress their bodies could withstand.) And then to see the top athletes crossing the finish line and the joy that accompanied their victories was great - yet not necessarily all that motivating to me. It is easy to watch that sort of thing and think things like: “They probably haven’t been through 4 knee surgeries.”; “Their bodies are built for endurance work.”; etc.

Then the reality started setting in as the show switched to not the frontrunners but instead those that were overcoming major obstacles. There was the guy that had fought prostate cancer over the last couple of years; the lady that did the marathon portion in a walking boot, having just got off crutches two weeks prior due to a stress fracture; the 66-yr-old lady; the 80-yr-old man that uses these competitions as his personal health-check; the guy that had a bad wreck in the biking portion but still forced himself to walk the marathon portion; the convict/ex-drug addict that just a couple years ago was in the pen; etc. All of these folks didn’t just compete - they finished the event in the allotted time. And the most amazing thing was watching the winners of the event meeting the final contestants and congratulating them as they finished. The crowd was cheering as loudly for those at the end as they did for those at the beginning. It was a beautiful (and yes I admit tear-jerking) event.

All of that to remind us this week that life is not a competition with others. It is about faithful perseverance and endurance for the Lord. It is about continual growth – finishing the race that is set before us. The Scriptures are full of reminders of these truths:

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. (Patience is often translated steadfastness or endurance)

Romans 5: 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Colossians 1: 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy;

James 5: 11 Indeed we count them blessed who endure…

It is time for me, for us, to be part of the spiritual Ironman circuit! (and to take care of physical business as well…)

Monday, July 11, 2011

July 11, 2011 - Industriousness

As coaches, we obviously always want success for our teams/players. We plan practices and workout sessions to help them; we talk with them about goals and how to obtain them; we cheer them on; we challenge them; we rebuke them; we cool them down; we fire them up; etc.

Simply put, coaches have a responsibility to hold players accountable to their personal goals and also the team goals. We have the responsibility of showing them that “success is peace of mind that is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” (John Wooden)

I highly recommend John Wooden’s writings, especially his book that he co-authored with Jay Carty – Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success. It lays out many building blocks in one’s life to focus on that are based upon Biblical principles.

To be honest this is on my mind for two reasons.

• The book is laying on my desk
• My oldest son turns 16 today and coaching is much like parenting…

I find it a huge task to “coach” my kids. Therefore in honor of Clay’s birthday I share point number one from the pyramid:

• In other words – hard work! “There is no substitute for work. Worthwhile results come from hard work and careful planning.” (Wooden)
• “Most people have a tendency to look for shortcuts or at least for the easiest way to complete any given task.” (Wooden)
• “The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.” (God; Proverbs 21:5)

To those reading this and especially my son,

Take heed to the truths that are found here. We could also find many places in the Proverbs that discuss the importance of finding wisdom!

Monday, July 4, 2011

July 4, 2011 - An Elbow For An Elbow

As I hosted a few boys this past week for a hoops/discipleship camp, I was reminded of some of the reasons I felt so strongly about using sports as a ministry platform. Over and over again I had “teachable moments” based upon their actions and reactions to our drills and competitions. On one particular day of the camp I was reminded of my life in sports – more specifically my attitude in sports when growing up.

We live in a society where we are taught “don’t get mad, get even.” And that carries over often to the playing arena. I remember often having encounters where I lived by the motto “an eye for an eye; an elbow for an elbow!” And usually in my mind that meant a much stronger elbow to prove my point. (At times it was so severe, even after I was supposed to be maturing, that I had to write about it in confession in these devotions.)

As I gave instruction this week to players that were over-aggressive on the defensive end, I heard responses like, “Well, that is how he is playing…” I then had to remind the players that we do not base our play on others but instead on what is right and true.

(Some of you reading this are probably still at the “elbow for an elbow” point of the devotion and saying, “Amen!”)

This week’s theme for the camp was: “In Your Face!” As a coach I have to at times say things that are uncomfortable for the players and this devotion is no exception. We are called to be a peculiar people – different from the way the world lives. And on this day that we celebrate our freedom as a nation, let me remind you of our freedom as believers to serve and honor Christ.
Simply put we can go to the Scriptures and know exactly the answer to the question of What Would Jesus Do?

First in Matthew 5:38-42 He totally refutes the “eye for an eye” mentality. He tells us to do the exact opposite. He basically shows us that our responsibility has nothing to do with the person on the other side but everything to do with what is right and true. He even goes as far as to saying dogmatically to give to those who ask you. He never tells us to first determine if they are acting right or even going to do right with what we give them.

We need to stop being “get even” people and start being peculiar “giving and serving” people. We have spent far too long living the “elbow for an elbow” approach! We have spent far too long living with the “looking out for number 1” mentality! We have spent far too long justifying our lack of giving by judging what the recipient will do with it.

[A simple example is when we see a homeless person asking for money. We automatically go into our justification mode for not helping. “He is probably going to buy booze or cigarettes.” “She is just going to support her drug habit.” “Why doesn’t he spend this time looking for a job.”]
What if I said that is an unbiblical approach? (Feel free to comment back on the blog if you think so.) I believe Jesus Himself sets an amazing and convicting example with His life’s actions….

As He met with the disciples at the Last Supper, the Scriptures share with us that a few things are happening:

• The disciples are arguing over who is the greatest.
• Jesus rises from the dinner table and serves them by washing their feet.
• Merrill C Tenney wrote about the disciples, “They were willing to fight for a throne but not for a towel.” What a great picture of their lack of servanthood.
• And at this point Jesus knows His betrayer is present and who He is!

Don’t miss this! I have read this passage many, many times and this jumped out at me yesterday. Jesus knew Judas had wrong motives. Jesus knew Judas was getting ready to betray him. Yet in full knowledge of this, Jesus still washed Judas’ feet!

Thank God for our freedom!
• Our freedom to serve others; to give to others
• Our freedom to not worry about getting even (there is a perfect referee in Heaven to take care of that)
• Our freedom to not have to figure out other peoples motives or live our lives based upon other people’s actions

Let’s simply live by what is right and true. Let’s play the game the right way!!!!!

(Side note: I watched a great documentary on the Harlem Rens; a pro basketball squad from the early 1900’s when basketball was still totally segregated. I found it very interesting and exciting to hear how these young men handled themselves amidst great adversity. Over and over it was mentioned how they showed dignity and class when threatened, stabbed with hair pins, having cigars put out on their bodies, being turned away from hotels because they were black, etc. Yet they simply went about their business as ambassadors of the game of basketball – breaking down walls of prejudice and injustice. These guys were peculiar. Oh to be that motivated as ambassadors for Christ!)