Monday, December 31, 2012

December 31, 2012 - Smaller, Weaker, and Slower

OK Athletes, it is New Year’s Eve and the typical time for resolutions… What will you focus on for the coming year? Are you going to get bigger, stronger, and faster? I hope you do. Yet I hope so much more…

I also hope that you are going to get smaller, weaker, and slower!

Smaller: I pray you will follow the Biblical mandate to have Jesus increase and you decrease. (John 3:30) I pray you will humble yourself in the sight of the Lord. (James 4:10)

Weaker: I pray that you realize it is not your strength that brings about results but instead relying on the Lord. (Zechariah 4:6; 2 Corinthiams 12:10)

Slower: I pray you will be slower to speak and slower to anger; instead being patient and kind with others this year. (James 1:19) I pray that you will slower to think about yourself and quicker to consider others’ needs. (Philippians 2:3)

Although there are benefits in your personal resolutions for improvement, I am calling us out to focus on others this coming year. As members of God’s team we need to be resolved to living according to the Playbook!

Stay clear of silly stories that get dressed up as religion. Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. You can count on this. Take it to heart.
(1 Timothy 4:7-9 – The Message)

Monday, December 24, 2012

December 24, 2012 - Amazing!

As I sit here on the eve of CHRISTmas I can’t help but be honest about how messed up and commercialized the holiday has become. I know some are reading this and saying “Preach it, Coach!” Yet I am confessing to my own “mess” in how I approach it…

Don’t get me wrong, I love when I get to write about it, preach about it, sing about it, etc. Yet when it all boils down I find myself getting more excited about seeing the kids open presents, or in full honesty, watching the Thunder-Heat game tomorrow… (I even looked up prices for tickets since in am near Miami right now – and considered squandering money that came in to me for CHRISTmas… - then was snapped back to reality when I saw the prices for the game.)

The fact is that if there is an amazing play during that game I will be quick to tell people about it. If LeBron or D-Wade or KD go off and show their amazing skills I will be quick to discuss how amazing they are. (I couldn’t wait to post pictures of my own son dunking a silly basketball today…)

Following the birth of Christ the shepherds were introduced to Him and immediately went to tell people the message that was told to them; then we see later in Luke chapter 2 that after meeting Christ the prophetess Anna told everyone that sought redemption about Him…

Very simple and to the point today; I know we are all busy… Do you think Christ is amazing? Amazing
enough to tell people about Him? Let’s give the gift of Christ to people this year!!!!!!!

If you are reading this and have not personally met Christ, I have good news for you – God is offering
you the greatest gift ever this CHRISTmas – Jesus as your personal Savior!!!! Look 2 tells about His birth;
John 3:16 tells ultimately why He was born – to be a gift to you! Jesus died on a cross to pay for your sin;
He rose again three days later to offer you eternal life. It is a gift! You read it there in John 3:16! How do
you get a gift? You receive it! Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved!

Monday, December 17, 2012

December 17, 2012 - Openings and Opportunities

You gotta love those moments in sports when the unexpected hero emerges…

Whether it is the back-up quarterback that throws a winning touchdown, a pinch hitter that hits a home run, or the kid off the bench that hits the winning shot… we all love the storyline when a player seizes his opportunity.

This past weekend I watched as a player from Butler University hit a game winner in overtime over the #1 ranked Indiana Hoosiers. It was a great game to watch with many swings in momentum and big name players rising to the occasion. Indiana’s star player Cody Zeller was not having a great game but established his presence late, getting to the line, and recording 18 points. Butler’s star guard, Rotnei Clark, was held in check in the first half but ended up with 19 points including many deep threes that helped swing momentum back to Butler. Indiana’s Victor Oladipo also chipped in 18 points with some incredibly athletic moves and I thought played tremendous defense on Butler’s Clark… In other words the players that were expected to play well all had their moments to shine.

But in overtime, with the score tied late, Butler’s guard Alex Barlow found himself with an opening and an opportunity to be the hero... and he cashed in. Barlow hit a floater in the lane to give Butler the upset victory. ESPN called him the “unlikeliest player on the floor” to make the “biggest shot of the game.”

The beauty of the storyline is that Barlow is a walk-on that turned down scholarship offers in baseball so he could learn to be a basketball coach through Coach Stevens. Now he is the BMOC (big man on campus) and his life is changed forever.

This idea of being unlikely applies as well to the first “evangelists” that came on the scene following the birth of Christ – the Savior. God chose to have His messenger announce the birth, not in the royal courts or among the religious folks, but instead to the shepherds (low-class outcasts in society.) And once they met the Savior they immediately went and told others what they had been told…

They did not stop to ask if they deserved to be spokespeople for God. They didn’t stop to find a more worthy person to spread the good news. These unlikely representatives found themselves with an opportunity and an opening to make take the big shot and they did… The result: the people that heard this message from them “marveled” at it…  and the shepherds lives were changed forever. (See Luke 2:8-20)

How about you? If you had heard the message and met the Savior, you should be looking for openings and seizing opportunities to repeat the message (this CHRISTmas and throughout the year.)

The message: Luke 2: 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

It truly is good tidings (news) and God has chosen you (and me) to be His messengers…

Monday, December 10, 2012

December 10, 2012 - Giving 110%

This week left me with thoughts concerning effort – how much one gives…

Often we hear athletes/coaches say they want to give/see 110%. It seems to be an impossible goal since one cannot give more than he has…

Coach John Wooden said it this way, “You can only give what you have and you only have 100%. No one is an overachiever. We are all underachievers to a different extent. I prefer to judge individuals on how close they come to 100%, knowing that no one can ever achieve perfection…”

Although I fully understand what Coach Wooden was saying and have the utmost respect for him, I think this time he is being a bit too literal. The fact is as an athlete one almost always feels he is giving his best, yet there seems to be a hidden gear that is brought out when the motivation changes – something the athlete didn’t even know was there…

I saw this a couple weeks ago while watching a college practice. One of the athletes was really struggling physically. The team was running lines and had a set time limit allotted to finish the course. This young man wasn’t coming close. He was cramping, spitting up in the trash can, and judging by the grimace on his face giving all he had at the moment. Then something changed. His teammates came along beside him and encouraged him; they ran with him and lo and behold the kid found another gear…

(I think that extra 10% that was found could be summed up in one word – SACRIFICE – giving beyond the norm…)

The argument would be that he simply wasn’t giving it all initially. Again I don’t want to get into the literal argument – but figuratively there is a thing called motivation that gives us an extra gear!

The past couple weeks we have begun a series at church dealing with giving “outside the box” for CHRISTmas. Basically the pastor has been reminding us that the central component to thanksgiving or gratitude is GRACE. He has pointed out the motivational verse in 2 Corinthians 9:15 that says, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”

God’s gift of GRACE should motivate us to give of ourselves beyond what we thought possible – 110%...

The idea of giving “outside of the box” this CHRISTmas has challenged us to give gifts that go beyond the consumer mentality that normally controls us. Instead of seeking what we can get this CHRISTmas we should seek what we could/should give. This challenge is not only a financial challenge but also a challenge this week to give of ourselves in service to others.

You may be thinking, “Yeah, I know Coach, but I don’t have any more time or finances to give. I am busy. I am broke. I have already budgeted my time/finances to the max…”

I think you have an extra gear! I think God’s grace is enough motivation to get you to give 110%! I know it is possible… the pastor pointed out just such a thing that is found in the Scriptures…

2 Corinthians 8:1-5
My friends, we want you to know that the churches in Macedonia have shown others how kind God is. Although they were going through hard times and were very poor, they were glad to give generously. They gave as much as they could afford and even more, simply because they wanted to. They even asked and begged us to let them have the joy of giving their money for God’s people. And they did more than we had hoped. They gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us, just as God wanted them to do. (CEV)

This CHRISTmas is a great time to show your gratitude to God by giving to others…

My daughter Christa just raised over $450 to buy a fish pond, fishing kit, goat, and 9 chickens as gifts through World Vision. Others in our church have followed suit by giving similar type gifts. I can think of many very worthy ministries that are helping people. I’m sure you can think of people that are in need… Let’s step it up!

Monday, December 3, 2012

December 3, 2012 - I Wanted The Ball!

As we get older it is funny how much better of players our memories make us than what we really were… legends in our own minds… reminiscing about the glory days… I confess I get caught up in it. I think way back to my playing days and I become “unstoppable.” Yet I am sure we could find a few folks that tell it otherwise…

But there is one thing I do know was true about me as a player: I wanted the basketball and would risk life or limb to get it! I treasured the basketball! I prided myself on securing it and getting it to the rim… And what a rush when I would successfully finish the play!

The reason it came to mind this week is a result of watching a lot of college and high school hoops this past week. I get so frustrated when I see guys just going through the motions. As a former player/coach I can handle seeing mistakes made but don’t understand lack of effort…

This past week also had the record breaking Power Ball drawing. How do you think people were treating their tickets while awaiting those numbers to be drawn? What about the couple of folks that did win, how do you think they handled their tickets while waiting to turn them in? My guess is they treasured them! They prided themselves on securing the tickets and getting them where they needed to go!

As I was reading this morning in Proverbs 3 I was reminded of the admonition to find wisdom, gain understanding, and retain her. This same passage compares wisdom and understanding to silver, fine gold, and rubies – in other words it is treasure. (See verses 13-18)

Do you see the challenge for us this week? It is time for us to treasure God’s Wisdom! It is time for us to apply it to our lives! And by the way, what a rush when we are successful!

The promised results in Proverbs 3: Happiness, Peace, Length of days, Safety, Confidence, etc.

Monday, November 26, 2012

November 26, 2012 - Tis the Season

Here we are facing another high school basketball season. For years I eagerly anticipated games where I would get to pace up and down the sidelines and see if my boys had learned anything from me… Now that I am no longer pacing the sidelines as a coach, my anticipation is transferred to the beginning of my son Clay’s season (and wondering if he learned anything from me…) Wednesday night will be his first game of the year, after only having a few minutes of action last year due to the knee surgeries. I know he is anxiously awaiting the game/season also.  

As I type this I have a schedule in front of me that tells me the dates and locations of his games. I know when he is facing highly rated opponents (even facing one kid named Clay Byrd) … when he is facing small teams… when he is facing big teams… and will even find out at times when scouts may be there.

Anticipation is a great thing when it comes to fruition. I remember last year as I awaited getting to see Clay play again following his first surgery. It was great to see the joy on his face as he laced up the shoes and went “into battle.” Yet I also clearly remember the hurt as the surgery failed and he (and I) realized that the anticipated games were not going to happen.

A couple thousand years ago the world was in chaos (much like today) but the Jewish people had a hope… they had over 300 very direct prophecies about a coming Messiah. These prophecies pointed to the place, the time, the family line, etc. of this Deliverer.  (Yet unfortunately many didn’t pay attention to the plan for how He would deliver them.)

Those that ended up missing the hope of the Messiah were those that had expectations of a political deliverer instead of a spiritual deliverer. Jesus did not come to overthrow Rome; He came to overthrow Satan and provide a way for us to be back in relationship with God.

Today many are still missing the hope that is found in this Deliverer. They are people that want a physical deliverer that will stop all the bad in the world and give them good things… They want a “Santa Claus” deliverer; not understanding they need a spiritual deliverer.  (The stopping of the bad will take place eventually – another thing to anticipate…)

As we approach CHRISTmas this year can I remind you of the hope/anticipation we have in Jesus? When He fulfilled those prophecies He was doing it for all of us – offering an opportunity for reconciliation to God; offering eternal life full of joy and peace.

As we go through the next few weeks I encourage you to tell the true message of CHRISTmas very chance you get. Make sure that people know there is “good tidings of great joy…to all people.” Make it a point to announce that born that day “in the city of David” was “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Announce to them that there is a hope “on earth” of “peace, goodwill toward men.” Like the shepherds, let’s make “widely known” this hope-message. People will be amazed by it! (Read Luke 2:8-14)

Simply put, Christ fulfilled all the prophecies about the coming Messiah. He fully delivers on the promises!!!!!

Tis the season…

Monday, November 19, 2012

November 19, 2012 - Acknowledge Your Teammates

Last week I tried to encourage each of us to choose our “teammates” wisely.  This week with Thanksgiving just a few days away I want to ask if you are thankful for your teammates. If so do you show it?

The Scriptures are clear about the benefits of the “teammate” being there to help you when you fall. They are clear about the benefits and strength of having multiple guys that have the same goals and encourage you.  Just check out Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Maybe this week you need to send some “thank you’s” to those that have your back.

John Wooden used to remind his players to point at, wink at, something to acknowledge a teammate that had made a good pass to them… He said he would inevitably be asked, “But Coach, what if he’s not looking?” To which Wooden would simply reply, “He will be.”

People need to know they are appreciated. Don’t miss a chance this week to do so…

Monday, November 12, 2012

November 12, 2012 - Choosing Teammates

Every week we run open gym outreaches here in our local area. It involves players coming in to play hoops and also to hear a devotion from God’s Playbook. As players filter in it is already obvious that they are sizing up who they are going to get to run with (especially since the winning team owns the court…) Basically it is very simple, you need a strong team so you get more time on the court.

So what type of teammates should one look for at the open gyms? The typical thought is to put together a team of the best athletes, best shooters, etc. Yet there is another thing to think about.  If you get on a team of ball hogs, your night is not going to be very much fun.

Life is the same way. It will be full of you having to choose teammates (i.e. friends, a spouse, business partners, etc.) And the Bible is clear that you need to choose wisely. You need to choose those that are going the same direction as you in striving to honor the Lord. You need to choose those that want to “share the ball” not just be “ball hogs.”

Simply put this week: “The righteous should choose his friends carefully. For the way of the wicked leads them astray.” Proverbs 12:26

This week think about your teammates. Make sure you have people around you that are building you up, not tearing you down.

Monday, November 5, 2012

November 5, 2012 - In The Right Place At The Right Time

Recently I received an email from Jim Crews (Hoops Coach at St Louis University); he was sending some encouragement and some wisdom for my son Clay to be patient in the recruiting process. There was some great advice imparted in that email but I am going to key on one line:

Opportunities come when one is doing the right thing-not always the opportunities we desire, but good opportunities.” (Jim Crews)

I have often taught “to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do!” Yet the motivation to follow this advice comes from the results – “good opportunities.” Simply put – doing the right thing puts you in the right place!

(It is kind of like the old adage that “winners create their own luck.” In other words winners find themselves in the right place on the court or field for good things to happen.)

Sounds a bit like Bible teaching doesn’t it? - Romans 8:28 ensuring that “things will work together for good for those that love the Lord.” That is a promise from God that if we love Him good will happen.

So how do we “love Him”? The Bible also answers that question: John 15 tells us clearly that our “love” is directly linked to our obedience to God; and then to our love for others…

My thoughts come down to this: when we are told to “walk by faith” it is a simple picture of walking in trust that if we do what the Scriptures lead and teach, we will have good results. They may not happen as quickly as we want or exactly how we envisioned, yet that is the essence of faith – trusting God knows best.

Simply put, this week make it a point to be at the right places, doing the right things, trusting God!

(Just a thought: you can’t trust God if you don’t read His Word and learn what it is you are to trust in…)

Monday, October 29, 2012

October 29, 2012 - The Finish Line

I don’t often remember my dreams but last night was an exception… I was spending my second night in a tent, as we had held a youth retreat and then carried over to a night for a family retreat. On night one I did not sleep well; mostly because I allowed one of my kids to put my stuff into my tent while I was checking people in; then after taking care of everything was the last to go into my tent. When I arrived I found a Jr. size sleeping bag and no pillow. (What I found that night is that a hi-top shoe can prop your head up for the night but doesn’t do much for the neck…) Night two was much better as I entered the family tent and found multiple pillows and even a camping mattress! I knew sleep was on the way…

What I found was a night of strange dreams. The most strange was that I dreamed I was running a marathon. You may think that sounds normal for a sports dude; but not for this sports dude. Even in my days of feeling athletic I hated running unless I had a basketball or soccer ball to dribble along the way. Yet I must confess that in my dreams I had a pretty strong gait, good lungs, and looked to finish the marathon…

That is where the dream turned painful. Somehow I missed the finish line and found myself in the van with Lisa and the kids. Realizing something was wrong my dream took me back to the finish line where I saw other runners crossing the line and recording official times. Even in my dream I felt the sting and disappointment of having been disqualified; of having worked so hard for something only to find at the end that I missed it…

Well my despair over the marathon is over. I realized it was just a dream and better yet it is not like I lost a basketball game in my dream. But it did get me thinking this morning as I built the campfire…

I thought about a message that I heard yesterday from our Connections Pastor at church. He was discussing the truth that Heaven is for believers. He was sharing the claim that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life;” that no one crosses that finish line except “by Him.” He shared that by its very nature “truth” is exclusive and narrow.

The simple truth is that all religion (man trying to earn God’s favor) is an effort to write one’s own truth. All religion is man attempting to map out how to get the finish line which is Heaven. All religion (no matter how sincere) leaves man running with uncertainty if they are really on the right path – or- feeling certain they are on the right path only to find they will experience the pain and disappointment of missing the finish line.

The beautiful truth is that Christianity (man receiving the free gift of God’s favor as found through the substitutionary death and resurrection of Jesus and being returned to relationship with God) allows man to run the race with certainty and confidence. This truth allows for man to avoid any chance of disappointment of not crossing the finish line.

Let me wrap it up this way: When I, by faith, accepted what Christ has accomplished for me (His death to pay for sin / His resurrection to give me eternal life) I at that point received eternal life and was checked into Heaven across the finish line. I went in with the righteousness of Christ, not my own! That is why what I received is called eternal instead of called probation! Ephesians 2 says I am already seated in Heavenly places, a citizen of the household of God… 2 Corinthians 5:21 says I was made the righteous of God in Him… 1 John 5:13 says I can know I have eternal life…

The natural line of thinking is to ask “why keep running then?” Glad you asked! The love of Christ compels me! (See 2 Corinthians 5:14)  The grace of God propels me! (See Ephesians 2:8-10) I am so thrilled that I know where I finish…

Monday, October 22, 2012

October 22, 2012 - FREEZE

My mind has been taken back tonight to times as a coach when my team was getting it handed to them and I as a coach was at a loss… Nothing worse on the sidelines than to know your team needs direction and you don’t have a clue. (For me this probably happened too often; that is why I tried to surround myself with great basketball minds to get advice from. Yes, I admit that at times I intentionally chose assistant coaches that knew more than me.. Thanks, Rick.) As a coach you are trying to figure out a strategy, devise a plan, turn the tables, etc…

Life, like games, can at times get to the point where you simply don’t know what to do. The “scoreboard” seems to be heading in the wrong direction and you simply don’t know how to fix it. There are times you feel like you are in a “no-win-situation.”

I must confess as I write this devotion in the second person I probably should be writing in first person. Life is hard and I spend far too much time trying to “diagram plays” to fix things – which also means in full confession that I need to admit that this often brings anxiety/worries (and yes that is sin…Philippians 4:6)

The logical thought here is to turn to an assistant coach to help make a plan. Yet I even though there are numerous pieces of wisdom in Scripture to seek wise counsel, there is a more direct command when there is a feeling of hopelessness or looming defeat: FREEZE!

Psalm 46 talks of the confidence we should have in the God who is a “refuge” and “strength”; the God who is “our help”; the God who wins battles…

And what does He say for Himself? In verse 10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God!”

The literal in Hebrew says, “Cease striving, and know that I am God!”

There just comes a time when we need to FREEZE – (when I need to FREEZE) – and stop trying to fix everything. Let’s pray for each other to learn to let go and let God…

Monday, October 15, 2012

October 15, 2012 - Player Becomes Coach

We are all extensions of who taught/coached us when we were younger. I think about how I teach the fastbreak or how I explain defensive concepts or what plays I feel comfortable diagramming and it all goes back to my old coaches – I am an extension of them… Of course I try to learn new things along the way and expand my knowledge and effectiveness but I cannot escape those guys’ influence.

I think that is the picture we see in Scripture of discipleship. We see guys spending time and mentoring others; then later we see then others rising to position of teacher…

I was reminded of this truth during a conversation I had with a dear friend Friday (Jonathan Morrow.) He is younger than I am and has been a major part of our ministry over the past year or two. He has regularly been involved an even started running some of our weekly local outreach; he has travelled on one of our ROCK’em Road Trips to minister with us;  and now Jon is serving in South Africa for 5 weeks (and has even done some impromptu basketball clinics with guys on the road.)

Not only am I proud of what this Jon is doing, I was also humbled by our conversation. I am presently sitting in North Carolina and trying to plan the upcoming schedule. To be honest I am feeling trapped in as we look at the costs of travel, family needs, etc. Yet here is Jon with opportunities to reach out half way around the world…

Jon (the pupil) quickly gave the old teacher/coach a reminder of truths found in Scripture. He told me that he felt like Timothy and that I was Paul. He said that he saw me in my chains (figuratively speaking) yet still getting the chance to minister to and through him…

I am so thankful for Jon and his partnership in the Gospel and InBounds Ministries commitment to “Give ‘em the ROCK!”

My challenge this week for each of us is to think about those that have poured into us and if possible send them a thank you. Secondly I ask are you pouring into anyone? Has the student become the teacher? The player become the coach?

1 Timothy 1:18 says “I’m passing this work on to you, my son Timothy…” (The Message)

2 Timothy 1:13 says “So keep at your work… as I set it out for you.” (The Message)

Coach Jon, I love you and am proud of you – “Give ‘em the ROCK!”

Monday, October 8, 2012

October 8, 2012 - Stay in the Now

Last week I took the easy route on preparation by tapping into the message I had preached the day before; the good thing for me this week is that I only tapped into half that message – there is more I want to share…

As a refresher I remind you that we discussed motivation; making sure we “Have A Big Enough  Why” to play (live) for – concluding that as believers we should allow honoring God to be our “Big Why.”

The second point of that “Game Time” message involved how to practically be successful on the court, field, (life), etc. This point was taken from the Competitive Advantage Sports Psychology website as well…  The principle is to “Stay in the Now.”

If you want to play your very best under pressure you must train yourself to keep your focus of concentration in the "NOW" of the performance. Mental "time traveling" always gets athletes into hot water, causing choking and performance slumps. Discipline yourself to leave the past in the past. Also, stay out of the future during the performance. Don't let yourself get ahead of yourself. Take your performances one game at a time, one play at a time, one shot at a time. The "now" is where you have access to all your skills and great training. If you want to win and have a great performance you can only do that in the "NOW." Whenever you find yourself mentally leaving the "now" quickly and gently bring yourself back.”

Did you catch that? I love the phrase “Mental Time Travelling.” This is a problem that we all have to deal with. We are so tied to the past and at times paralyzed by looking to a seemingly unwinnable future…

Yet this principle simply states that we need to focus on / deal with today / what we have to do right now… I am not sure what is in your past; I am not sure what you are facing in your life; yet I encourage you to take a look at today and what you can do “NOW.” God’s grace releases the chains of the past and gives you all the strength you need for today… it (His grace) is sufficient in time of need! (See 2 Corinthians 12:9)

Christ taught this principle way before the sports psychologists got ahold of the idea. In His model Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 He states “Give us this day our daily bread.” Notice He doesn’t mention tomorrow’s bread… and if you look further in that chapter you will find a strong challenge to “Stay in the Now!”

Is God your “Big Why”? If you want to honor Him today then let go of yesterday, don’t worry about tomorrow, and make a choice right “NOW” to honor Him in what you are doing.

Monday, October 1, 2012

October 1, 2012 - The Big Why

What is your motivation for playing?

I had the privilege yesterday of preaching at our home church here in NC during our “Game time” series. As I was preparing for the message I started looking at the idea of motivation and came across a great quote on the Competitive Advantage Sports Psychology site:

“Athletes who are most successful start to train with a dream in mind. They have a specific, long-term goal that is personally meaningful to them... Their big why drives them to get up early, train hard and push through setbacks, obstacles and failure… Before each practice you want to ask yourself, How is what I'm going to do today going to help me get closer to my big why?”

Did you get that? Your “Big Why” is what will carry you through even the rough times.

Preparing for this message, on top of recent studying I have been doing for dealing with motivating different personality types, reminded me again that athletics are simply a picture of life.

So what is your motivation for living?

Instead of typing a complete sermon on this I am going to get straight to the point… As Christians our “Big Why” should be to honor God’s name and do His will. If these two things are the driving, motivating force of our day we will stay on track.

Christ stated this in His model prayer to us in Matthew 6:9-10. You remember the motivation don’t you? When we pray our stated goal to God should be “hallowed be Thy name… Thy will be done!

Let me alter one of the questions found in the earlier quote:

Before each practice (day) you want to ask yourself, How is what I'm going to do today going to help me get closer to my big why (closer to honoring God and doing His will)?”

God should be your “Big Why”!

Monday, September 24, 2012

September 24, 2012 - Handling Adversity

Are you going through a rough time right now? Are you facing some trials?

If so, please know that God has got your back so you can trust Him! Know that God is not taken by surprise and will work things for your good – it is a promise He made in Romans 8:28!

Yet if you are struggling to accept that promise, the problem is not God – it is you. You see faith is something that has to have an object; and if you have not spent time in the Word during the calm times, you can’t expect to be “game-ready” during the stormy times. Without a solid knowledge of God’s Word, you will not know what promises to claim or what attributes of God to trust in…

It is just like in sports; games are not won on game day, they are won in the preparation. A coach’s job is to have his players ready to face the opposition – this requires time together.

I remember reading a quote from a championship boxer that said he didn’t win the belt in the ring but on the roads during training…

My challenge to you this week is to make sure you are daily in preparation to face the trials of life; it is more difficult to find answers in the midst of adversity than in the quiet times (practice.)

(From The Message)

Psalm 119: 57-64 Because you have satisfied me, God, I promise
    to do everything you say.
I beg you from the bottom of my heart: smile,
    be gracious to me just as you promised.
When I took a long, careful look at your ways,
    I got my feet back on the trail you blazed.
I was up at once, didn’t drag my feet,
    was quick to follow your orders.
The wicked hemmed me in—there was no way out—
    but not for a minute did I forget your plan for me.
I get up in the middle of the night to thank you;
    your decisions are so right, so true—I can’t wait till morning!
I’m a friend and companion of all who fear you,
    of those committed to living by your rules.
Your love, God, fills the earth!
    Train me to live by your counsel.

Monday, September 17, 2012

September 17, 2012 - Old School

As I start out writing this week my intent is to be short and to the point; we’ll see how that unfolds as I write…

I often refer to the things as being “Old School.” When I coaches I had my “Old School Rules” for offense and defense. Basically I believe at the end of the day a winning team has to be solid on good old fashion fundamentals…

So this week I want to go back to the most basic fundamental there is: Jesus Saves!  Yes I believe God is still in the saving business! Yes I believe there is power in the proclamation of the Gospel!

The past couple nights we have hosted basketball outreach have resulted in many professions of faith in the finished work of Christ! Tonight was so good that a player asked me point blank what I thought about Christianity and religion. (Nothing like having an opportunity laid in your lap.)

How about going “old school” this week and sharing the message that Jesus saves? He is the Savior! He is the Substitute that God sent into the game of life…

If nothing else be encouraged that God is still at work…

2 Corinthians 5:21!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, September 10, 2012

September 10, 2012 - Wide Receivers

I often hear coaches being asked about their strategies or particular plays they called; inevitably they respond by talking about what coach taught it to them… I know while I was still on the sidelines much of what I did was a result of my childhood coaches.

That doesn’t have a whole lot to do with this week’s devotion; it is more of a reason for a confession I will make. Often as I sit in church services I hear a point or a verse that triggers ideas for the weekly writing… this past Sunday was no different, so in fairness and full disclosure I must give props to Pastor Joel at our home church (Watermark.)

Joel is presently in a series called “Game Time.” (Keeps a sports missionary’s attention…) He was speaking concerning the old cliché that there is “no I in TEAM.” As he shared examples I was reminded of recently sharing with a high school football team about how much I love the unselfish picture of a football team.  All players know their positions. Linemen don’t complain about not getting a pass thrown to them; defensive players don’t complain about not getting to carry the ball or make the pass; etc.

Yet the selfishness of sports is all over basketball when a scorer is called a “ball hog”, in spite of the fact that he may be the best and most qualified shooter… I loved something Joel pointed out. In football the guys that are most often “selfish” and despised are wide receivers. He was right in stating that they are often the troublemakers of the team.

But I jotted down a note to self: “a wide receiver’s job is to receive; to them it is not better to give than receive; to them they are entitled to get the ball.” (Please note that I am not condoning them being jerks but the bottom line is that they are paid to want the ball.)

I have often mentioned it over the years of these devotions and in my teaching/preaching ministry that we are often more like the wide receivers as American Christians; or to be really blunt I have stated we are better at being American than Christian. I have attributed our demise to places like Burger King that tell us to have it our way. Let’s face it we are in a very selfish culture.

We feel entitled in our relationships; we feel entitled in our jobs; we feel entitled in our churches to always have it our way. Apart from me going into a long sermon let’s simply get straight to the Scriptures… As we go there this only matters if you are willing to look into the mirror and be honest about yourself…

James 3:16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.

Saw this quote on Facebook last week: "Motivational question: Am I approaching today's interactions as a producer? Or a consumer?" - Steven Furtick

Basically are you a giver or a taker? You have a choice today to serve others or expect to be served… will you honor God today?

Monday, September 3, 2012

September 3, 2012 - Work Hard! Work Smart! Work Right!

In all labor there is profit… (Proverbs 14:23)

I often use this verse and thought it appropriate again on this Labor Day…

We all know the message and have heard something similar all of our lives; but today I want to add to it with another phrase: Work Smart, Work Right!

The old idea that practice makes perfect is not a complete truth… practice makes permanent… perfect practice makes perfect. In other words labor is only profitable if it is done the right way!

So when it comes to life we need to make sure that everything we do lines up with God’s way of doing things. Often times things may feel or seem right but if they are contrary to the way God said to do things then they are wrong.

God’s Word is relevant for all of life. God’s Word gives all the direction we need for life. God’s Word allows us to live as wise and not as fools.

Just felt the need this week to go back to my old faithful Proverbs 14 passage… But not to stop at the hard work message but to go on to verse 24 which draws a sharp contrast and reminder between wisdom and foolishness.

I love the way it is worded in The Message:

Proverbs 14:24 The wise accumulate wisdom; fools get stupider by the day.

This week work hard, work smart, work right… Make God’s Word a priority!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Summer BoxScore 2012

Josh and kids in Honduras
Jon and kids in St Louis

Todd and kids in Mooresville

Champions and Ambassadors in Georgia
Recap of Summer

The summer brought amazing opportunities for our ministry. I know each of you somewhat keep up with my travels via messages and/or Facebook so I will give a basic rundown… I began the busy season in May as I travelled to Indiana to officiate a wedding; then back to NC; then on to MI to speak at a couple events (this was a 3 night trip – 2 of which were all-night drives); back to NC and then things really ramped up…

In June I travelled to Florida, and then on to Honduras. The time in Honduras was incredible for relationship building and sharing the Gospel. Our first night in the village I gave the Gospel following the showing of Facing the Giants (with Spanish voice overs from actors that were much better than the originals…) This was a great experience as we were in a field and I was illuminated by a guy holding a flashlight. In those circumstances of darkness, the light of the Gospel broke through brightly as people responded to God’s grace. (Later I would find out that there was a group of guys planning to disrupt what we were doing and other men from the village stopped them without incident.) The week included playing a lot of soccer, teaching some hoops skills, and putting up a plywood backboard with a basketball rim so they could play hoops in the village. Others on the trip were busy hosting medial and optometry clinics. The highlight in my mind was watching one of the boys as we drove off the last day. He was sitting on the side of the road engrossed in the Substitute tract that we printed off in Spanish!

The return from Honduras met with one night of sleep in Florida before driving back to NC to reload the van with equipment and then on to Grace Farm in Dewy Rose, GA. The time at camp was great… hot but great! Many youth responded to the Gospel during the week! It was a week of outhouses, games, teaching, etc. I had the privilege of running the activities and speaking in a couple of sessions. The highlight of this camp was watching the transforming power of God’s Word at work. One young man came in with arms crossed and a “bless me if you can” attitude. I watched as over the course of 4 meetings he went from arms crossed - to arms at side - to clapping with songs – to raising hands during worship – to raising his hand indicating he had trusted Christ. This literally happened in 4 steps over 4 meetings…

Following Georgia I returned home to try to rest up for our next trip and to make sure things on our local outreaches were running smoothly. Thankfully we were seeing great response to our hoops outreach; more about that in a little bit…

The next trip was our ROCK’em Road Trip to St Louis MO and Evansville, IN. We didn’t take as big of a group as I had planned, nor was it the age group I had envisioned. Other than my 3 boys the other 3 guys were all out of school ranging from 19-31 yrs old. But as always God knew what He was doing in putting this trip together. It was an incredible time of ministry both to those we went to work with and within our own group. The intentional discipleship model of these trips proved to work beautifully. The guys with me were not only encouraged, but also challenged – and they responded. Saw growth on the trip that has been sustained. The 31 yr old of the trip just told me yesterday that the trip changed his life; that he was in the Word more than he has ever been. The guy is fired up! This trip took us to the suburbs and the ghetto. We conducted Blacktop Clubs in the highest crime neighborhood of St Louis and the highlight: saw people trust Christ; heard of them attending church the following Sunday morning; fed many from the neighborhood; even got to break up a fight and pray with one of the combatants…

Upon the return from St Louis we found huge numbers showing up at our Thursday night hoops outreach at a local recreation center. To cap off the crazy travel schedule and to encourage me in my extreme fatigue, God went to work and we saw 7 guys respond to the Gospel while sitting at center court of that rec center gymnasium – 2 the next week…

This part of the schedule was followed up by a weekend ROCK’em Road Trip to Grace Farm in Dewy Rose GA… The retreat at Grace Farm went fantastic - had 15 young men to challenge and they responded well. One thing is for sure - it continued to validate our ministry - every time I reflect on the platform we have been given it blows me away!

And now one of our local coaches has been given an opportunity to travel to South Africa for 5 weeks and in his words, “I am gonna take InBounds with me.” (He has already been in contact with a man there that is utilizing soccer…)

Ministry has been incredible. Many, many, many decisions for Christ this summer! Many, many, many opportunities to show His love and truth! And the it ain’t over yet… the fall season / school year has begun!

Pray for InBounds! Pray for Jonathon a he heads to Africa!

Monday, August 27, 2012

August 27, 2012 - Today is the day...

I had the privilege of spending the weekend with 15 young men at Grace Farm; we spent time doing a little bit of service work, playing some games, and digging into God’s Playbook (the Word.) In all we had 6 huddles in the Playbook – I taught 5 of them based upon lessons from the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer found in 2 Timothy 2:1-7; the other huddle was while sitting around the campfire as Freddie Coile shared his testimony and a challenge for the young men to share their faith with others as they head back to school.

The young men that went are all athletically-minded; in other words they understood as I challenged them to rise to the top. They understood as I challenged them to pursue excellence. They understood when I challenged them to raise the bar and not accept being average…

“Every time you stay up late; every time you sleep in; every time you miss a workout; every time you don’t give 100%... you make it that much easier for me to beat you.” (Unknown)

Simply put a life of excellence demands commitment; it demands time. The trip was hopefully an encouragement to the young men in their athletic pursuits, but more importantly in their spiritual pursuits.

Basically every believer I talk with says that he wants to live of life of spiritual excellence. All of them seem to indicate a desire to please the Lord. Yet most are struggling…

What if the previous quote were put into spiritual perspective: “Every time you stay up late (making the next day that much harder); every time you sleep in (and skip your morning quiet time); every time you miss a workout (when Bible study, church, youth group is not important); every time you don’t give 100% (and pursue your own agenda instead of God’s)… you make it that much easier for me to beat you (to trip you up, to steal victory and joy from your life.)” [Satan]

So what is the answer? Today live a life of excellence!!!!!!! The challenge is always based in “today” because tomorrow never comes…

Proverbs 27:1 Do not boast about tomorrow, for you don’t know what a day may bring forth.

Today is the day…

Monday, August 20, 2012

August 20, 2012 - It's the Blame Game!

Proverbs 19: The foolishness of a man twists his way,
And his heart frets against the Lord.

I daily read through the Proverbs chapter of the day… (i.e. today Proverbs 20.) Therefore I spend a lot of my writing time for these devotions quoting the Proverbs. Yet every once in a while I find myself looking at a verse I have read many times and asking myself, “What in the world does that mean?” It is so easy just to breeze past things.

The answer to it is most often found by reading context and/or reading other versions that maybe use different terms to get the point across. I really enjoy the blatant, in-your-face honesty of The Message paraphrase.

In it the previous verse reads as follows: People ruin their lives by their own stupidity, so why does God always get blamed?

In other words – often times our problems are of our own making (not always but often.) And what do we do, we look to blame either God or others.

In the sports world it is the classic “blame the coach or the ref when the players are doing poorly – say the other team is cheeting – etc.” (Just watch the news for the firings that will be taking place with Major League Baseball managers because their pitchers are throwing poorly or their other guys aren’t  getting the stick on the ball…)

I am so tired of this blame-everyone-else world! When will we start taking personal responsibility? When will we stop making foolish choices and instead pay attention to what God has to say?

In Psalm 119 it talks in every verse about the importance of God’s Word in our lives. As I shared with our group of guys at the recreation center this past week I pointed out this chapter to them to encourage them to seek God for direction. As I planned my time with them I pulled up the chapter on my IPhone and found the following simple truth in The Message:

Psalm 119: 9 How can a young person live a clean life? 
By carefully reading the map of your Word.

Seek God and stop the Blame Game!

Monday, August 13, 2012

August 13, 2012 - Dedication

After watching the Olympics I continue to marvel at the dedication and perseverance of these athletes - to think about all they go through during their years of training and all of the sacrifices they have made.  I think about some of the foreign athletes that spend their entire lives in training, often being selected for a sport by kindergarten or even as early as birth. I think of the American athletes that start their heavy training by their teen years – often times requiring them to move to be near their trainers.

One popular example of that this Olympics is Gabby Douglas. It was well-chronicled how she left her home/family in Virginia in order to train in Iowa. To many that is way too extreme. Yet the fact is that excellence requires sacrifice.  Gabby openly talked about the hard times and sacrifices; yet she had a goal that required that level of dedication (or dare I use the “C-word” – commitment.)

She made this remark about those times: “Hard days are the best because that’s when champions are made.” (Gabby Douglas)

Then yesterday as I sat listening to our pastor he talked about the faithfulness of God – that we can trust in His promises. As a result our response has to be that “I am committed to God even when I may not feel like it.” In other words during the “hard days” mentioned in the previous quote…

Hebrews 10: 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Basically I am challenging us this week to pursue God and His plan with all our hearts, souls, and minds. We can totally trust Him. We need to not shy away from the idea of commitment. Or as my dear friend Carl Batteiger posted on Facebook recently: we need to be “Olympic Christian.”

As Carl took note of the training level of the Olympic athletes he concluded the following (and I will conclude this devotion with his words):

“The thought then came, WHY can't and shouldn't I have this level of commitment and passion for my Lord and Savior. Why shouldnt I be an Olympic Christian, a committed radical follower of Jesus Christ. How different would our community and the world look if all of the followers in the body of Christ had that level of commitment towards our Lord and Savior. I know it starts with me though, right here, right now to love God enough to give Him everything, no pointing fingers, just me...

Just a thought.” (Carl Batteiger)

Monday, August 6, 2012

August 6, 2012 - No DOPE-ing!

As I take in the Olympic news (and all the other sports news) I continue to be amazed at how many athletes simply make dumb choices. I am especially amazed because these top-tier athletes have obviously demonstrated incredible discipline in training yet can mess up over the silliest of things. Be it illegal substances, disapproved social networking, or simply being in the wrong crowd, these athletes fail to take their discipline to all areas of life. (I think any of these silly choices should be called “DOPE-ing”!)

Yet isn’t that true in every walk of life. Success tends to lend itself to “letdowns” where the mental focus wanes. Maybe this is a result of simply relaxing too much. Maybe it is a result of being successful making one feel bulletproof. Yet it only takes one bad decision to ruin a lot of good in one’s life.

The Bible is very clear that we have an enemy roaming around and that we need to walk circumspectly or aware of what is around us. In essence we need to understand that every moment matters.

One simple thing that can be done is to avoid putting ourselves in situations that are questionable. I often counsel with believers (especially young ones) that want to either exploit their idea of what “liberty” is; or they openly admit to hanging out in places or with people where wrong is going on and boldly state, “Yeah, but I’m not gonna do any of that.”

Well God has a different take on that. He says that being around the bad will influence you, not the other way around. You don’t believe me check this out: 1 Corinthians 15: 33 Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” 34 Awake to righteousness, and do not sin;…

And the Proverbs give us great warnings/advice:

Proverbs 4: 14 Do not enter the path of the wicked,
And do not walk in the way of evil.
15 Avoid it, do not travel on it;
Turn away from it and pass on.

Here is a cool paraphrase from the Message of Proverbs 4

10-15 Dear friend, take my advice; 
   it will add years to your life.
I'm writing out clear directions to Wisdom Way, 
   I'm drawing a map to Righteous Road.
I don't want you ending up in blind alleys, 
   or wasting time making wrong turns.
Hold tight to good advice; don't relax your grip. 
   Guard it well—your life is at stake!
Don't take Wicked Bypass; 
   don't so much as set foot on that road.
Stay clear of it; give it a wide berth. 
   Make a detour and be on your way. 

In other words – Run from the potential of wrong! We are to take a totally different path than others. We should seek righteousness! No DOPE-ing!

Monday, July 30, 2012

July 30, 2012 - Pros vs Joes

Ok I am admitting from the start this week that I will be on a little bit of a rant… I will write about things I have written about before (and will again I am sure.) I am writing about things that were present in my message yesterday as I shared with a church about the concept of missions.
The church was winding down a series entitled “Go” in reference to the call to missions. And as I typically do, I had to step in and rock the boat a little bit. My conclusion while preparing for my message was one that I come back to over and over: the title should be “Going” in order to be Biblical.

In a nutshell I reminded the church that all believers are “called” to share the Gospel (Mt. 28:18-20 / Mk. 16:15) and that all believers are “Ambassadors” for Christ. I simply stated that we have made excuses for far too long for not sharing the Gospel as we are “going” through our lives.

The church is partially to blame. Leadership began at some point in our history telling their congregations that their job was to invite people to church instead of leading people to Christ. Maybe it was because they thought the pressures of life were so great that the Gospel needed professionals to help face the adversary. (Or maybe it just helped fill pews with more butts…)

Basically we viewed evangelism like the powers-that-be viewed the Olympics back in 1992 when they decided that we needed to use professionals in order to be able to win at basketball.

The Olympic powers had the right idea. Basketball is based upon the players’ abilities and athleticism, and quite frankly the world was catching up in hoops in both categories to the point that it was difficult for our college players to compete. In today’s hoops world many of the international squads boast multiple NBA players. (And I personally still love to watch our pros put a whipping on the other countries’ teams.)

Yet the error of church leadership is in ever thinking that evangelism is based upon the abilities or strengths of the “players.” The power of evangelism is found solely in the message of the Gospel itself. (See Romans 1:16)

Church Team, it is time to fulfill our duty to be missionaries in this world. As a believer your mission trip began at the point you trusted Christ as Savior. It is time to stop letting the “pros” take our place. It is time for action! Even the “average Joe” is called and will be used by God. (Remember that Christ’s Dream Team of Apostles were not anything special – just average Joes.)

1 Thessalonians 2: 4 But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.

Share John 3:16!

Share Romans 3:23, 5:8, and 6:23!

Share Ephesians 2:8-9!

There is power in those verses!!!!!!!!

Monday, July 23, 2012

July 23, 2012 - And1!

The past 10 days we spent on the road on one of our ROCK’em Road Trips. These trips are great for training/discipling young men both on and off the court. Therefore we spend a lot of time discussing the hard work and effort it takes to be successful in games; and the effort it takes to be successful in life…

Clay - And1!

Our theme verse this past week was Proverbs 14:23. In essence it says that talk is cheap and that action is what we want to see. The title of our trip was: “The Show-Me Trip” (we travelled to Missouri.)

During one of the last days I had asked the guys to clean up our living space (we had camped out all week inside the youth bldg. at our host church.) As I went through to inspect I still saw some things that were not taken care of. When I mentioned it in front of one of the players he responded by saying “I took care of my stuff; that wasn’t mine.”

Another area we had been emphasizing was the idea of being a TEAM. In fact last week I wrote about that. I quickly reminded the player that we were in this thing together and sometimes have to pick up the slack where another has faltered.

A strong team does have every member taking care of his own business; yet also seeing where he can help out the team. I quickly told my assistant coach that we needed to talk to the guys in the van about this and we called it our And1 ministry. (We take care of ourselves and look for a place to help.)

Why the And1 idea? Simply put And1 was started based off of the streetball culture where basically they determined you gotta put up or shut up! (Sounds like Proverbs 14:23) In fact their logo, The Player, is based off the idea that if you talk you better be able to back it up.

The church has spent far too much time talking a big game. We discuss how we should be servants. We discuss how Christ humbled Himself and is an example to us. We show up at “practice” (church) and then fail to take it to the streets and back it up.

It is time to get a little “Spiritual Swagger” and not just talk the talk but also walk the walk! It is time that we look out not only for our own interests but also the interests of others. (Check Philippians 2)

When I was still lacing up the sneakers to play I loved playing a power game. I loved to absorb some contact, make the shot, and declare “And1!”

Now I want to live my life and be willing to absorb some contact (hardships) and still declare “And1!” I want to make it a point to daily look for someone else to serve! I want to finish strong!