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!