Monday, September 26, 2011

September 26, 2011 - Basketball Begins When Basketball Ends...

This past week I was able to sit under some great teaching at the annual Youth Evangelism Association convention. As I listened and took notes, one presenter greatly caught my attention. His name is George Kell. He is the executive director of the Harrisburg Christian Performing Arts Center in Harrisburg, PA. (You should Google them and check out the amazing work that is going on there!)

George caught my attention with the following statement: “Basketball begins when basketball ends.” (He also stated that acting does the same thing.) Yes, I know it is a Monday and I am asking you to think philosophically – but it is a worthy journey.

George went on to explain that practices (rehearsals) are the time to think about what you are doing; to get the technical side of things down. But when the ball or curtain goes up it should be so natural that you no longer have to think through it but instead just play…

When I think about the greatest players I have ever watched or coached, they all had one thing in common – the game seemed almost effortless – just a natural extension of who they are.

So how does a great athlete/actor get to that point? The playbook/script has to become second nature. The movements have to become part of who he/she is. He/she has to come to a place of a new identity founded in the position/character.

(George used sports along with the arts in his teaching because he recognizes that those two venues make up the “2 Great Universal Languages.”)

George likened basketball unto doing improve on stage. He mentioned that “the stage is only a scary place if you know that you are you.”

So what does all of this have to do with a weekly devotion? Glad you asked!
Have you ever heard the phrase that “all the world is a stage”? With that idea in mind I also remind you that it can be a very scary place. Yet only if you know you are you…

The Bible has called us as believers to have a role on this stage that honors the Lord. As a church we emphasize this through calling people to a life that avoids some things and also adds some things (the “thou shalts and thou shalt nots.) In other words we design the “plays” and ask our “players” to follow the plan.

Unfortunately this approach is often very lacking. It reminds me of watching youth teams learning plays; each player running to a predetermined place on the floor at a predetermined time; and very few of the players having any idea of why they are going there.

I could go on and on about this but I will try to get to the point.
If we, as believers – players on God’s team, want to play out our role on earth in a way that brings honor to the Lord, we need to stop just going through the motions. We need to study the “playbook” intently and in doing so we need to study our Savior intently. We need to see not only how He lived but also why He did it. We need to seek to not just conform to His life but to be transformed by His Word and life (Romans 12:1-2). We need to step out onto the world’s stage unafraid – because it is not us but Christ living through us. We need to have the “thou shalts and thou shalt nots” be a natural flow of who we are.

Christian living begins when living ends.

Galatians 2: 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”

Monday, September 19, 2011

September 19, 2011 - Teammate Affiliations

The news lately in college sports is centering on teams changing conferences – or – conference realignment. Basically many schools are trying to improve their standing by finding the fit that will give them the best options for recognition in the polls, more potential for revenue, better recruiting capabilities, etc. It must be a very difficult thing to navigate all the scenarios that are taking place.

Some are very excited as they see the strength of the changing super conferences; others are discouraged as they see the strength of these conferences hurting the outlook for others. Yet bottom line is that each is looking to determine what makes them stronger. Not sure I always agree with how they get there but I do understand the general premise that schools have a responsibility to work to do what is best for their university and program.

What or who are your “affiliations?” Are you making sure that you are being strengthened? Do the people around you build you up or tear you down? The sports news this week, coupled with a testimony I heard last night by a friend that is a state-champ basketball coach, continue to take me back to the devotion I wrote 2 weeks ago about how important “TEAM” is!

In that devotion I reminded us of the Scriptures warning that “bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Based upon what the Lord has continued to bring in front of me I felt led to go a step further…

13 Now in return for the same (I speak as to children), you also be open.
14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever
(2 Corinthians 6)

Again this is not telling us not to associate with those that think differently than us (if that were the case how could we follow out the great commission to reach them?) This is simply a great reminder to be very careful who you are “yoked” with. WHAT IN THE WORLD DOES YOKED MEAN?
While I was in the Dominican Republic a few months ago I actually got to see this word picture in action. There was a farmer in the field with his oxen yoked together plowing the field. There was a definite plan and direction for the team of oxen to go – the yoke kept them going in the same direction in which the farmer was leading them.

So what is a modern “yoke”? Who are your best friends? Who are you dating? Who is your business partner? Make choices based upon who is the best teammate…

Great teammates have the same goals and listen to the same coach. Are those close to you making you stronger? Are you making them stronger? If you are going to stick your neck in a “yoke” with someone make sure you are both listening/letting God lead. When “yoked” even if one of you wants to stray the other will keep you on course.

This week is not about conference affiliations but instead friendship or teammate affiliations!

Monday, September 12, 2011

September 12, 2011 - My Stupid Son

Back a few months ago, before my son Clay had his knee injury, he was playing for an AAU travel team called the Carolina Surge. It was a great honor for Clay to be a part of that team as it put him in position to play a lot of highly-scouted tournaments. It also gave him the opportunity to be coached by some great guys that truly care about him. (Thanks Larry, Jeff, Harry) During the tryout for the team Clay was very aggressive and showed the things the coaches were looking for. He played very strong. I remember the joy he had when he found out that he was a member of the Surge. Clay’s injury came during their third tournament I believe; and to be honest it came at a time when Clay’s playing time was dwindling a bit. It wasn’t dwindling because he was not talented. It wasn’t dwindling because he had a bad attitude. It was dwindling because he was being stupid! I know, I know…that doesn’t sound politically correct; but truth is truth. The question is why I would go as far as saying my own son was being stupid? And why would I bring it up now after he has been out of commission for the last 5 months? First the answer to the second question: I think he is far enough along now to not have this be adding insult to injury. Instead I think now it can be a great learning experience for him, and for us. Now to the first question: why call him stupid? I will start by saying that it has nothing to do with his knowledge of the game. He has a very strong basketball I.Q. Years ago I wrote about Clay in one of the weekly devotions when he had played a game against a very athletic team, ran the point, and had no turnovers. Yet that particular game he simply tried to stay out of trouble by doing a lot of East-West movement on the court instead of attacking North-South. Basically I called out Clay (and ultimately believers in Christ) to stop being passive and do what we are called on to do! In the case of Clay’s time with the Surge, he had made the team by being a threat offensively. He caught the coaches’ eyes by being aggressive. Yet in the tourneys leading up to his injury he had resigned himself to being a facilitator for his teammates and not being aggressive. It is great to facilitate for others, but one also has to fill his role. So why do I call that stupid? Clay’s coaches were regularly telling him to be more aggressive. They were telling him to create more; to penetrate more; to shoot more… Again his attitude was pretty good toward the coaches, but he simply was not doing what they were asking of him. To know what a coach wants and to ignore it is stupid. To willfully not obtain he coach’s favor is stupid. (On a positive note – I think his time being laid up with the injury has a bit of a fire of aggression burning inside of him… - I am looking forward to seeing him back out on the court.) Now on to the spiritual application… Why are we so stupid? We know what God has asked/commanded of us, yet we willfully ignore it. Did you know that God calls that stupid? Proverbs 12:1 Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid. The literal phrase from Hebrew indicates a word picture of “stupid as a cow.” It goes on in the next verse to mention that “a good man obtains favor from the Lord” – just as a good player finds favor from his coach. You see playing time is showing a coach’s favor. Therefore dwindling playing time generally means a loss of favor. God wants you “in the game”! He wants to use you. Yet we need to study and apply His Word to our lives, and stop being stupid!

Monday, September 5, 2011

September 4, 2011 - Go TEAM!

Last week I wrote about the idea of playing on the road. I talked about loving to stand out in the crowd – in the “enemy’s” territory. I talked about the challenge my kids are having with changing from the Christian school they attended to the public school. (I talked about the stolen items, vulgar language, and simply different atmosphere they are in. Add to that the drug bust that went down a few days ago…)

In review I talked about the importance for us as a church to be willing to make a difference in the world. I concluded the devotion as follows:
“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!”

Since the writing of last week’s devotion, I have had many things run through my mind. I have been reminded of my job as a parent to help encourage and pray for my kids. Not only was there the drug bust at the middle school, my 1st grader hit some rough days of missing momma and missing Bible class. But the one line that hit me hardest was from my 8th grader who simply stated it would be nice to at least have one friend to go through this with.

Then it hit me. One of the reasons I loved going into the opponent’s gym was because I knew my teammates had my back and still do! (Thanks, Mark, JJ, etc.) There is a confidence when you know you are part of a team.
So this week I want to first ask you to pray for my kids that they will find “teammates” that have their backs at school. I pray the same for you – whether it be at school or at work. Yet I also remind you that those that you count as your “inner circle” of friends should have the same goals as you. It has to be someone that has your back and will build you up in Christ – not tear you down.

1 Corinthians 15: 33 Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”

Christianity is meant to be a “team sport.”

Ecclesiastes 4: 9 Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
But how can one be warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

We are supposed to have one another’s backs.

Hebrews 10: 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Did you get that? Our faithfulness is directly linked with our team concept of working together.