Monday, December 26, 2011

December 26, 2011 - Believe the Hype! Share the Hype!

The past few weeks have been filled with the hype of the coming day… And now it has come and gone. Today we are left with the question of “Was it all it was cracked up to be?”

Yes the NBA schedule tipped off yesterday with 5 games; and to be honest it was for the most part some ugly basketball. Obviously the teams have had little time to work together in the shortened pre-season so we were left with seeing great athletes make periodic spectacular plays in the middle of many plays full of miscommunication and chaos. It was alley-oops and air-balls throughout the day. (Yet honestly I see the same sloppy play early in every NBA season, even when the pre-season is not shortened.)

Basically what we see is that seldom does the product live up to its hype.

Isn’t life that way? We get excited and hyped up for so many things only to be reminded that we live in a fallen world where things break, people disappoint, and dreams don’t always come true.

No, this is not going to be a negative devotion – quite the contrary. There was some other hype going on for the last few weeks concerning yesterday… Oh yeah, it was CHRISTmas Day!

This was an event that had centuries of hype from the prophets and angels as well. Think of the promises made to all men about the birth of Jesus. He would be a Savior. He would bring peace. He would be Immanuel (God with us.) He would be Wonderul, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

And what we find is that the hype was real. Jesus lived (lives) up to all of it. From the time He was a boy He has continued to fulfill the promises.

When He was a boy His parents found Him in the temple with the scholars…

Luke 2: 46 Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.

From that time on He went on to be the greatest humanitarian, greatest advocate, greatest liberator, greatest teacher, etc. that the world has ever seen. While doing this He played a perfect game of life and qualified to earn ultimate victory through laying His life down as a sacrifice (substitute) for us and then rising from the dead!
Opening day of the NBA didn’t quite live up to the hype; but Jesus fully lived up to His… I know, He has changed my life!

Believe the hype!
Share the hype!

Luke 2: 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

Monday, December 19, 2011

December 19, 2011 - Recruiting Hotbed

Merry CHRISTmas from Team Burden
When I moved to the Charlotte area a few years ago I was blown away by the athleticism and size of players in high school basketball. I began coaching in a conference that produces multiple D1 signees each year. (This is so impressive because less than 1% of varsity high school boys players go on to D1 scholarships.) Coming from Indiana (long considered the basketball state) I could not help but notice the major differences in play but also the fact that people here were as crazy about hoops as we were in Indiana. Needless to say this area is a hotbed for recruiting from college coaches.
As a recruiter you want to spend your time in areas that have an abundance of talent. That may be certain cities (like LA that produces the most players that eventually make it to the NBA) or making sure you hit the AAU circuit in the NCAA open periods because you know the best talent will be assembled there.

A couple thousand years ago in a small town called Bethlehem there were fields that were set aside for sheep that would be used in the temple sacrifices in Jerusalem. These sheep had to be spotless, without blemish. Therefore they were heavily watched/guarded flocks. This was the “hotbed” for sacrifices.

One particular night the shepherds that were watching the sheep were approached by an angel of God and told of THE sacrificial Lamb of God that was born in their little town; (He would live a life without blemish; and eventually die on the “altar” for our sins.) What an awesome announcement that was made that glorious night!

Yet another incredible point is that the messenger of God that night not only told of a Savior for all people but also did some “recruiting” as he invited these lowly shepherds to personally meet the Savior; and then the multitude of heavenly hosts joined in with a promise to receive peace and good will from God.

Have you met the Savior this CHRISTmas? …If not I urge to put your faith in Him as your sacrificial Lamb. If you have I urge you to spend this week inviting others to meet this Savior that was born (and died) for them! Be like the shepherds and tell the glorious news that you have received.

Merry CHRISTmas to all! (Read Luke 2:8-20 this week)

Monday, December 12, 2011

December 12, 2011 - Coach Embarrassed By Players

If you have watched the sports news closely this weekend you probably saw the ugly fight that took place at the end of the Xavier/Cincinnati game. The players had been at odds throughout the game; in fact the refs had to separate them at halftime. Yet with the clock winding down and the game long decided on the scoreboard the boys’ emotions got the best of them. There were shoves, punches, and even stomping on people; there have been multiple suspensions and some believe that a couple of the players shouldn’t play again; I have even heard some say that criminal charges should be levied. In the wake of all of this mess it led the coach of Cincinnati to say he is “embarrassed” by the conduct of his players.

Yet the response from the players fits an all too common thought process in our culture. They simply thought they had to stand up for their rights; they thought they had to show they were strong and not going to be bullied or be disrespected; they weren’t going to be weak. One of the players involved said, “Where we come from…” as though his behavior was expected.

In a nutshell, the players allowed themselves to be distracted by their individual rights and image instead of sticking to the team’s game plan.

I could spend a lot of time just writing my thoughts about this incident and its social ramifications based upon how the media builds it up. Yet I will stick with the purpose of the weekly devotions and write as a “coach” that looks for opportunities to show parallels between the sports world and our Christian lives.

I will stick with the theme of the last couple of weeks of devotions that have keyed on the game plan for us to “solve for X in X-mas.” I have tried to be clever and encourage us to use the “X-mas” phrase to share the Gospel…ye this week I will get straight to the point.

As a coach I am often embarrassed by our “team’s” behavior during the holidays. We spend way too much time arguing and complaining about our rights and being disrespected. I hear far too often that we are not going to be “doormats”; all while hearing messages about peace, turning the other cheek, Christ remaining silent to His accusers, etc.

Please do not get me wrong. We have been given an opportunity (for those of us that are in America) to have a voice through the voting process. Yet the game plan for us is not to be one of political activism or screaming about our rights. The game plan is the Great Commission to preach the Gospel. The game plan is to lay down individual rights in order to focus on sharing the hope, joy, and peace of Christ with others.

When someone wishes you “Happy Holidays or Merry X-mas” this CHRISTmas thank them for the kind greeting and respond creatively. After all they have wished you happiness and merriment. Those aren’t bad things.

Maybe respond by saying, “Thank you and I hope your holidays are not only happy but also full of hope, joy, and peace. Could I tell you how to find those things?” Or maybe say, “Thank you. Could I ask what the ‘X’ stands for in your mind? What are you truly hoping for during the holidays? To me the ‘X’ represents my hope, my joy, and my peace – could I share that with you?”

As a “coach” my desire is to see us stick with the game plan and not be distracted by all this other stuff. I would hope that we would respond like the shepherds did. After they met the Savior they responded not by demanding more respect as individuals - (remember shepherds were considered the lowest class of people) – but instead by becoming the first evangelists after the birth of Christ.

According to Luke 2:17 the shepherds “made known the saying which was told to them concerning this Child.” What was told to them? In the preceding verses there is the good tidings of Christ the Savior and the promise of peace on earth and good will toward men!

If we will be faithful with the “good tidings” that were told to us we will see results like the shepherds did. Check out the response to the good news they were sharing…

Luke 2: 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

Let’s stick to the game plan!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

December 5, 2011 - Get the ball to your Scorer!

Years ago, while I was still on the sidelines as a high school coach, I had a lot of fans (mostly parents) that did not like my philosophy with the team. I had one player that had spent numerous hours in the gym, taken thousands of reps on his jump shot, and simply put was our best scoring option. (My philosophy is that shooters shoot!)
With that said I found myself often in the huddle diagramming plays to get the ball in this young man’s hands. In light of last week’s devotion on X’s and O’s, he became the “X” that was our primary scorer. Now remember I had some that did not like my philosophy. They felt their child should get the same opportunities to score. Pride said that they wanted their son to be the “X-man.”
The problem is that those players did not meet the standard set for that “X.” They did not possess the same skill set to accomplish the job. Therefore our game plan often centered on that player getting the ball.
Last week we talked about the fact that Jesus is the answer to the “X” question. If we want a truly Merry X-mas then Christ needs to be in the place of the “X.” If we truly want hope and joy and peace then Christ needs to be in the place of the “X.”
Evan as a Christian, I find it easy during the hustle and bustle of the holidays to focus on the wrong things. Between the extended travels, the crazy schedules, the purchasing of gifts, the expectation of receiving gifts, etc. it is easy to get away from the game plan.
This X-mas I want to make sure I am looking to get the ball to Christ! I want to focus on Him. It is the only way to successfully break life’s full court press. (None of us, nor any material things, can meet the standard set for “X.”)
I choose to focus on God and His goodness! Listen to how Mary put it…
Luke 1:46-49 (The Message) And Mary said, I'm bursting with God-news; I'm dancing the song of my Savior God. God took one good look at me, and look what happened— I'm the most fortunate woman on earth! What God has done for me will never be forgotten, the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.