Monday, March 25, 2013

March 25, 2013 - Learning To Take The Hits

Last week the devotion was very straight forward in making a guarantee to us as believers… yet usually when we hear talk of guarantees we think about the promise to win or conquer an opponent. This one was different, it was actually a guarantee that we will face difficult times, (or as I put it last week, we will take hits when we go into the paint…”)

Last week’s moral was very similar to a message one of our star players received a few years ago when playing a particularly strong, large team. Our player was extremely athletic and used to somewhat having his way with opponents due to his size, speed, and leaping ability; yet this game was different, the other team was just as athletic and even bigger. (This is a problem many high school stars face when entering the college game; they are no longer able to just overwhelm opponents athletically.) Anyway, our player drove the lane early in the game and threw down a tremendous dunk. Dunks are great motivators due to the excitement factor; yet when playing a strong opponent it can also motivate them to say, “You are not going to get away with that again.” In the huddle our player was warned that the next time he goes down the lane like that he would probably get planted on his back side… and sure enough the next time he went in the paint he was rudely greeted by the opponent and failed to get anywhere close to the rim…

Last week I touched on the idea that we need to “finish strong.” Yet that is easier said than done.

In hoops this involves preparation physically and mentally. Players have to hit the weight room in the off-season; they have to add body mass to go from the typical high school frame to that of the college game; they have to go as far as practicing taking hits… (Yes, I admit I love those drills as a coach when I get to take out the blocking pads and over and over pop the players.)

Fans often expect coaches to magically fix their teams problems during games. Yet the reality is that in a huddle a coach cannot truly prepare his players. The young man I mentioned before was warned so he wasn’t surprised by the contact he encountered; but he wasn’t prepared. I heard former coach Dino Guadio say it this way, “Telling isn’t teaching.” Teaching involves time and preparation. It involves showing the players what to expect. (That is why we get out the blocking pads… did I mention I love using those?)

Spiritually the same philosophy holds true. “Telling is not teaching.” I am all for teaching. I love to preach! I love to teach! But I have learned my best “teaching” takes place “on the court” not “in the huddle.”

I have been asked in the past what discipleship programs I think are best. The ones that ask that question want me to tell them what book study to do. (Well first of all I can start with the Bible being the only book that is the living Word and can transform us – so start with Scripture memorization.) Yet Biblical discipleship is not relegated to a classroom or small group in a home one hour a week…

Jesus’ example was to tell the disciples “go with Me; and when I am gone do what I did.” It involved time and commitment. It involved being “on the court” to learn how to take the hits. It involved the blood, sweat, and tears of a committed “player.” It was not just telling, it was showing!

All of this to challenge each of you: if you think your growth is going to come by just sitting in the “huddle” of a small group or Sunday service you are sadly mistaken. We need the direction of those times. But we also need to be in action “on the court.”

Are you actively serving anywhere? Are you stepping out of your comfort zone so you can learn to “take the hits”? Do you have a mentor/coach/discipler that you are following into action?

Jesus took the disciples on His journey; Barnabas took Paul; Barnabas then took John Mark; Paul then became the coach and took Silas and Timothy… etc.

In Acts 16 we read that Paul “wanted” Timothy to “go on with him.” Discipleship involves time and commitment in order to teach “players how to take the hits in the lane.”

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Monday, March 18, 2013

March 18, 2013 - Don't Be A Perimeter Pansy!

Way back in my playing days there was one part of my game that I took particular pleasure in… I loved to draw the contact and still finish strong at the rim; I loved the old fashioned 3-point play (of course most of my playing days didn't include a 3-point line.) I loved the battle that took place in the paint!

There was just something about knowing I could take a hit and still finish. I am sure with the passing of the years I may have clouded memories (legend-in-my-own-mind syndrome) but I do know that I experienced some decent success when playing against bigger opponents. I am not a big guy in basketball terms; so I loved it when I got the better of the “giants.”

I must admit that this is on my mind due to irritation. I cannot stand to watch weak play. It just seems to be a lost art to take the contact and finish strong. I typically am not the fan that screams at the TV when I think the refs have blown a call; yet I often find myself blurting out “Finish strong!”

The reality of the game is that when you go into the lane you know you are going to get hit. A player has to be prepared for that and still focus on reaching the goal. And this is not just geared at the “bigs”; I think that the best guards are those that can penetrate the lane and still get the job done – those that are not just “perimeter pansies.”

And since we are talking the reality of the game let’s move on to the reality of life: for those Christians that choose to engage in the battle – to get into the lane where the action is – there will be contact; you are going to take some hits. You will have to determine if you are going to focus on the hits or on the goal. You will have to determine if you are going to take a woe-is-me attitude or “fix your eyes on Jesus.” (Hebrews 12:2) You will have to choose if you are going to be a “warrior in the paint” or a “perimeter pansy.”

I am screaming at my computer screen now: “Finish strong!”

The Apostle Paul took a lot of hits in his Christian life. (See 2 Corinthians 11 for an auto-biography of Paul’s struggles.) Yet when the game was almost done he wrote some things in his second letter to Timothy that are of great importance; he looked back at his “playing days” and said the following:

·         2:1 he tells Timothy to “be strong”
·         2:3 he tells Timothy to “endure hardship”
·         3:1 he tells Timothy “perilous times will come”
·         3:12 he states that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution”
·         4:5 he tells Timothy “be watchful in all things, endure afflictions…”

Sounds like Paul knew something about the “game of life”; it involves a lot of “contact in the lane.” He is in essence telling Timothy “draw the contact and still finish strong at the rim!”

And when Paul looked back at his own life he could confidently state: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (4:7)

Are you a spiritual warrior or a spiritual pansy? It is time to “Finish strong!”

Next week: I plan to talk about how to prepare to “take the hits in the paint”…

Monday, March 11, 2013

March 11, 2013 - Preparing for Success

The last couple of weeks have involved devotions that involved the warning of enemy attack and the challenge to rise up in the spiritual battle. Yet to have confidence when facing a challenge one must feel prepared…

John Wooden talked about the idea of being prepared in his Pyramid of Success. He said this in his book: “one of my favorite maxims is ‘Failing to prepare is preparation for failure.’ Poise and confidence come with proper preparation. When we are as prepared as we know how to be, and we know that we have the tools to handle most of the unknowns that might come our way, we can go into an event, a job, a meeting, a show or any other venue (i.e. spiritual battle) with total confidence.” (italics mine)

So how does the “player” on God’s “team” prepare for the “game” of life? I am very thankful for Christian education and all the resources we have at our disposal via the internet. There are so many ways to get an education… Yet sometimes I fear that we ignore the basic “game plan” that God gave us in the Scriptures…

Way back in Deuteronomy 6 parents (the first line of Christian education) were commanded to emphasize God’s Word to their children; in Psalm 119 we see the command to hide God’s Word in our hearts, to take heed of His Word, to meditate on His Word, to contemplate His Word, to… well I think you get the picture; Jesus fought off temptation by quoting God’s Word; Romans tells us God’s Word is transforming; Hebrews tells us that God’s Word is living…

Again I am thankful for Christian education yet the fundamental way in which we prepare for spiritual battle is found in digging into (and memorizing the “plays”) in God’s Word!

Are you confident? Are you prepared? I can guarantee that if you fail to prepare you will fail…

Monday, March 4, 2013

March 4, 2013 - I Live For Moments Like This

Last week I talked about the fact that we will be engaged in battle with the enemy; and that our level of making a difference can directly correlate with the enemy’s level of attack. I used a quote from Rev Richard Baxter; it said in part: “He (the enemy) bears the greatest malice against the man who is engaged in working the greatest damage against him.”

I ended last week with the statement that I wanted Satan to notice me and step up his attack. Why in the world would anyone want to go to battle?

I was reading this morning on about the Lakers/Hawks game from last night. In it Kobe Bryant had a nasty throw down on Josh Smith. Kobe looked like he was 10 years younger. The Lakers ended up winning a tight game by one point. From all I read it sounded like an intense battle…

Kobe was quoted as saying, “It’s just a challenge. I wouldn’t even categorize it as fun. The fun comes in the challenge, and we’re up for it.”

Josh Smith stated: “He’s an assassin. He wants that moment…I love taking a challenge like that and try to step up and try to make it tough for him…I live for moments like this.”

Please understand I am not likening spiritual warfare to a basketball game. It is much more intense with much more at stake! Our enemy is truly an “assassin”; roaming about like a lion, seeking to steal, kill, and destroy. (See 1 Peter 5:8 and John 10:10) But the mentality of a competitor, (someone willing to face a challenge), needs to be evident in our lives!

I love a challenge! I love to do battle! As Josh Smith stated, “I live for moments like this.” But please remember that this is not about winning a game; but literally the souls of men are at stake! Christ said the “fields are white unto harvest”! (John 4:35)

It is time to rise up and take the challenge!

There is an old song that was put out by the Gaither Vocal Band; the title of the song: A Few Good Men. It reminds us that God is looking for those that will engage in the battle. It has the following line that I will end with:

“Enlistment lines are open and He wants you to come in – He just needs a few good men.”