Monday, August 29, 2011

August 29, 2011 - Stand Strong and Stand Out!

Often times we hear of the home court advantage a team has. We think of the thrill of playing in front of our fans. We love that the crowd is behind us – on our side. It is encouraging to feel accepted. There is also a feeling of safety to be on one’s own turf…

Yet when I think back to my playing days I find that the place that comes to mind for me is not the home court but instead a gym where I can remember cheers when I messed up and jeers when I did well. To me it was really cool to have the crowd “against” me. It meant that I stood out as a player.

This is on my mind due to the fact that 4 of our kids have returned to public school. It is not that the Christian school kids were perfect but it was definitely a different atmosphere. In just 2 days at the public school both of my middle school boys have had items stolen; both have mentioned the incredibly vulgar discussions they hear in the hallways; there has even been a bit of bullying…

The initial thought is that they need to be back on their home court. Yet as I dig into Scripture I am reminded of Christ words that we are not of the world but we are in the world. I am reminded of His charge to be salt and light in the world. We are charged to make a difference. (See Matthew 5 and John 17)

I asked the kids last night during family devotions some simple questions. We were sitting in a brightly lit room and I asked what difference it would make if I lit a candle? Would that light stand out? What if we turned out all the lights and then I lit the candle? Then would the candle stand out?

I am very thankful that the Lord allowed my kids the time at the Christian school. It was a great addition to our training in the Word, while being a fantastic education. If I had the money they would probably still be there. Yet I am also thankful for the opportunity for my kids to be “lights” in their present schools. My prayer is that they stand strong and stand out. If there are jeers from the crowd count that as a badge of honor!

Church, my prayer is the same for you. I am thankful for the time we can be on the home court and be encouraged by other believers. Yet the season has to include “away games” if we want to be the salt and light that Jesus called us to be.

Church, stand strong and stand out!

Monday, August 22, 2011

August 22, 2011 - That's my boy!

One of the most incredible feelings one can have is to watch his kids playing sports. It is amazing how focused we become upon every move they make on the court/field. It is heartbreaking when things don’t go right for them. It is exhilarating when things go well. (And sometimes we catch ourselves living vicariously through them…)

But let’s face it, we love to see our kids succeed. I thought about this Friday night. We were not at a basketball game but instead at a concert. Clay (my oldest) and I were treated to a Hillsong United concert; a concert of extreme praise and worship, with thousands in attendance singing, shouting, and raising their hands.

As I found myself simply overwhelmed with the beautiful outpouring of praise to our God, I began simply looking around the arena. There were hands up everywhere, yet my eyes continued to be drawn back to one place – my own son. How incredible to see him praising God! How incredible to know he was willing to show that!

Don’t get me wrong I was moved by the thousands of teens I saw praising; but one caught my eye! He didn’t need a number on his jersey for me to know who he was. I found myself praying for him during the concert – that he would “play well” in the “game of life.” I found myself wanting to cheer him on as we lifted up our voices to the Savior.

First this week: are you cheering your kids on spiritually? Is their spiritual walk as important to you as their game performances?

Secondly, I couldn’t help thinking about the fact that I am a child of God. Just as I could pick out my son’s hands in the midst of the crowd, He also is intimately and intricately involved in my life! He hurts when I hurt; He is excited when I do well; God is my biggest fan!!!!!!!

I think of Matthew chapter 6 where we are told not to worry because God is on our side. I think of Romans 8 that tells us that we have been adopted by God and that nothing can separate us from the love of God. I think of Psalm 68 that tells us that He is a father to the fatherless.

One of my favorite verses: Zephaniah 3:17 The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.

How incredible to know that God Almighty is notices us – not just when we do wrong but more importantly when we do right! To know He is present in the stands cheering, “That’s my boy!”

Monday, August 15, 2011

August 15, 2011 - You are in the game!

Over the past I have heard many people, myself included, make reference to Christians that are “on the bench” and need to “get in the game.” Obviously I understand the analogy; I have used it and written about it. Yet as I was preaching this weekend something hit me – it is not a good analogy.

To say that someone is “on the bench” is stating that that person cannot accomplish anything. A person on the bench is powerless to affect the game… A person on the bench can simply use the excuse, “I need to rest” or “I am not any good” or “I screwed up when I was in there”….

The simple truth of the matter is you are “in the game”! The “game” is life. You are dressed out and on the court. You have opportunities to affect the game. You even have a coach that has diagrammed plays for you (See Ephesians 2:10).

Unfortunately there are far too many Christians that believe “playing the game” is just about avoiding turnovers (mistakes) and fouls (sin). Therefore their Christian lives consist of standing still on the court. Their stat lines are reading zeroes across the board. (Granted a zero in the turnover column can be a great stat, unless it is a result of lack of aggressive play.)

The Scriptures that got my mind spinning on this are 1 Corinthians 15:58 and 1 Thessalonians 4:10.

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.

1 Thessalonians 4: 9 But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; 10 and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more;

Many Christians are good at being “steadfast and immovable” – yet we ignore the exhortation to be “always abounding” and “to increase more and more.” There is a directive to be active!

In the words of John Wooded: “Move, move, move…”

I think of yelling at players to not let the paint dry under their feet in the lane. I think of asking players if they are wearing cement shoes because they don’t seem to be able to move.

In order to play the game successfully players must be actively moving on court/field. And ultimately it has to result in good ball movement (spreading the Gospel)!!!!!!!!

You are in the game! It is time to get moving!

Monday, August 8, 2011

August 8, 2011 - A Blessed Man

I love playing hoops! I love coaching hoops! I love preaching and teaching!

To those of you that know me you are now thinking, “Duh!” Yet stick with me. I am a blessed man to get to do things I love.

As a kid we often hear adults say things like, “If you put your mind to it you can be anything you want to be.” Well I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble but this isn’t true!

As a trainer I often deal with unrealistic expectations. In sports there is a genetic ceiling on how fast someone can be or how high he can jump. No matter how hard he trains if the genetics don’t match the guy next to him he simply will not be faster or jump higher.

I am not saying this to ruin dreams; in fact far from it. I often tell players that the goal is to look in the mirror at the end of the day and simply know you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming. (John Wooden’s definition of success) I warn them of the pain of regret that comes from not giving one’s all to pursue dreams.

Sometimes I get players that are almost assured of a lot of playing time if they go to a lower division college but instead choose the harder route that may mean bench time; yet they want to know they gave it a shot. Sometimes an athletic career is derailed by an injury. Etc.

Now to why this is on my mind…

A few days ago a 5th grader looked at me and said, “ Coach Todd, if you could do anything you wanted to do what would it be?” What a great opportunity to share with this kid!

I responded by saying, “Bobby, I would play hoops with guys like you and tell them about Jesus. This is what I chose to do.”

You see, it doesn’t matter how hard I train this 45 year old body, I am not going to play in the NBA. No, I cannot be anything I want to be; but I can be everything God wants me to be.

God wants me to:
• Love Him and to Love others as myself (See Luke 10:27)
• Pursue what is good not only for myself but also for everyone else (See 1 Thessalonians 5:15)
• Be salt and light in this world (See Matthew 5:13-14)
• And obviously the list could go on…

The point is that we should be pursuing God and pursuing people more than we are pursuing riches! Life is short make it count! Be all God wants you to be!

Monday, August 1, 2011

August 1, 2011 - The Missing Piece

Often times during the off-season we hear talk of teams trying to fill in the “missing piece” that will make them a contender. Every team analyzes the players they have and tries to determine what will give them not only the complete physical package needed but also team chemistry.

The same is true with the body of Christ. All believers are gifted and should be filling their roles on the “team.” Yet also there needs to be team chemistry. That is where my thoughts are today. If we do not take the time to make sure our attitudes are right then we will not properly fill our roles.

The thoughts actually started while I was on the road this past week. We drove by many church signs and I saw many clever marquee statements. But the thing that jumped out at me was the name of one church: “The Missing Peace.”

What a clever name and what a true problem that many have. I truly believe that one of the greatest problems in the church is a lack of peace in believers. When Christ was preparing to leave the earth He made many promises of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. We have numerous places that we see the promises of the Holy Spirit indwelling us and sealing us as believers. Yet still there are many very uptight people that tear down team chemistry. Have you ever noticed there is a lot of bickering going on in churches? Makes it kind of hard to follow through with that “they’ll know you by your love for one another” stuff that Christ talked about doesn’t it?

So if the Holy Spirit is the Comforter; and if He indwells in us; then why are we so uptight?
Two reasons for the lack for team chemistry:

• First is that we are “grieving the Spirit” by allowing sin in our lives. Think about it. The Holy Spirit is with us everywhere we go; He sees everything we watch; He hears everything we listen to… Do you really think God is amused or entertained by the things you watch, read, talk about, and listen to? Read Ephesians chapter 4 today! [Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.]
• Second is that we “quench the Spirit” by not following through with the things He is prompting us to do. And no I am not just talking about plugging in to more church programs. I am talking about those daily opportunities to reach out to friends, co-workers, other students, neighbors, etc. 1 Thessalonians 5 tells us to “pursue what is good” not only for ourselves but also for others and follows that up with the following command: [5:19 Do not quench the Spirit.]

Simply put, the Spirit cannot fulfill His role of comforting us if we are constantly grieving Him or quenching His work. When He feels uneasy, we feel uneasy.

Just maybe our lack of peace is just a politically correct way of saying we are under conviction… You and I will not be the missing pieces that help the team if we are missing peace!