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”!