Monday, April 29, 2013

April 29, 2013 - I'm Not Gonna Get Cut!

The news today is that the NY Jets have released Tim Tebow. They drafted another QB and have a log jam at that position; and let’s face it, they never intended to give him a shot to begin with…

When it all boils down the life of a professional athlete is based upon performance/abilities. The coaches and management make the call based upon their trust that you can get the job done. Therefore it the powers that be do not have confidence you can get the job done they will cut you.

Let it be known that I am a Tebow-fan; I think he is a “gamer” (an athlete that rises to the occasion and finds a way to win.) I loved having “gamers” on my teams when I was coaching; yet I also understand that there is an evaluation process that has to come into play (especially when dealing with millions of dollars.) So I understand the decision to cut Tim (even if I don’t agree with it.)

But what the story reminded me of is the security and confidence I have in Christ. I am sure God won’t “cut me” from the team because I am not on the team based upon my performance or abilities. I am on God’s team because of Christ’s performance and abilities. 2 Corinthians 5:21 explains that Jesus took my sin and I received His righteousness!

Aren’t you glad God does not judge based upon our performance? You know that we all fall short!

And if you are basing being on God’s team on your ability to perform well, we need to talk… You (nor I) will ever play the game to perfection, and Heaven is a perfect place with a holy God! Yet He loves you and sent His son as your Substitute (Savior) if you will receive Him…

Simply put: I am not good enough! You are not good enough! But praise the Lord that Jesus is good enough! He is enough to guarantee my place on the team! He is enough to guarantee your place on the team! He loves me in spite of me! He loves you in spite of you!

As a result I love Him and want to honor Him by telling others the Good News! As a result I love Him and want to honor Him with the choices I make in life! (Yet I still often times fall short and have His perfection to rely on…)

Monday, April 22, 2013

April 22, 2013 - Dominoes Trash Talk

A few weeks ago I wrote about fishing; and being that this a sports-devotion blog, it took seeing the competitive juices rise up in my son in trying to catch more and bigger fish than his siblings… This past week brings another new “competitive sport” to the weekly blog: Dominoes…

I think the most I had ever done with Dominoes is line them up to tip them over; I confess I have never played the game nor do I fully understand how it is played. Yet two of our team that was in the Dominican Republic faced off with two of the Dominicans for some games and it became quite entertaining.

The noise level coming from their game caught my attention and I went over to check it out. What I found was the Dominicans bragging about how badly they were beating the Americans. But understand the Dominicans spoke no English and of the two Americans only one spoke limited Spanish. The bragging was understandable though as they kept telling me “cinco…uno” – they were ahead 5 to 1. And the posture and looks on the Dominicans’ faces showed they were feeling really good! I loved it – cocky Dominoes players!

On the way to the airport Friday one of the Americans told our translator to tell Pastor Felix (one of the Dominican players) that he was going to practice at home and when he gets back to the DR beat him in Dominoes; to which Pastor Felix responded, “That is like aspiring to get to Heaven on a bicycle!” Are you kidding me? Now we even have Dominoes trash talk! (The van erupted in laughter.)

His funny statement reminded me of the message I had heard Ron Bishop give only a couple nights before at a baseball coaches’ clinic being held in the DR. As Ron addressed those 250 coaches from around the country he told them that this idea of getting to Heaven really comes down to a couple things: Winners vs Losers…

We were at a baseball village, a setting that handles life much like religions do; there are daily evaluations of talent that determine one’s worthiness to make the team. (In fact the day I was there had a Dominican trying out for the Giants organization and asking for a $20mil signing bonus…) These coaches understand trying to earn a coach’s favor; just like religions sincerely try to earn God’s favor…

Yet Ron clearly explained that Christianity is different; that according to God we are all losers and must accept that in order to accept the Winner, Jesus Christ! He clearly shared that at the end of the game of life what matters is being on the winning team!

There will be no trash talk in Heaven about how we got there since none of us earned it. Therefore my prayer this week is that each of us spend our time instead bragging about Jesus! My prayer is that the truth of Ephesians 2:8-9 will spur us on to being Ephesians 2:10 people! (Look them up!!!!!)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

April 15, 2013 - Stop Looking At The Scoreboard!

As I have sat at my desk this afternoon frantically trying to get my taxes done before Monday (which is not only tax day but also a day I fly out of the country) I caught myself watching the “scoreboard” at the top of the page… I found it to be much like a game, full of ups and downs.  (And I also remembered that I need to type the weekly devotion since I will be flying out before dawn on Monday…)

The page in the program I am using has a place at the top that tells what is owed to you – or by you. And with the order at which one puts in the data, it can be very scary before getting to the allowances/deductions… (and it definitely didn’t help when I had placed a number in the wrong place and it showed my income as double what it is supposed to be…)

In a game it is easy to watch the scoreboard and let it dictate one’s attitude. Those on the losing end can get worried; those on the winning side can get flat… Yet the reality is that “it ain’t over till the fat lady sings.” The job of a player/coach is to stay in the moment; taking care of each possession. Even if things look bleak, you can only go at it one play at a time.

Life creates the same challenge for us. When we constantly look at our present circumstances as if they are the “final result” it is easy to get disheartened or complacent; when the reality is that God is just calling for us to be faithful in the moment.

My good friend loaned me an Andy Stanley DVD where Andy asked how different life would be if we truly believed God is with us… Lived as though God were going through the negative with us… lived as though God were going through the good times with us… After all isn’t maturity simply learning to fully trust God?

Andy’s glaring example of this type of maturity was Joseph. When going through all that Joseph endured he pointed out a verse that would seem out of place for the immature reader; but it is a perfect reminder to us of how we can and should live our daily lives.

During times of being sold into slavery; accused of rape; thrown into prison; being forgotten/betrayed by a “friend”…

During times of being loved by his father; shown favor from Potiphar; shown favor from Pharoah…

And the Scriptures record over and over that “the Lord was with Joseph” through the good and the bad. And that is how Joseph lived his life… with the knowledge that the Lord was with him!

Believer, I don’t know what you are going through but I do know this: the Lord is with you! You can stop looking at the scoreboard and instead look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith! (Hebrews 12:2)

Monday, April 8, 2013

April 8, 2013 - A Sure Winner

Tonight is the night… the national championship game for the NCAA. Louisville and Michigan are both exciting teams to watch; I love both teams’ guard play; I love Louisville’s intensity on the defensive end; I love Michigan’s efficiency on the offensive end; it truly looks to be a great game.  (I did two brackets on ESPN and had Louisville in the championship game in one of the brackets; had Michigan in the championship game in the other bracket.)

Predicting the outcome of games is difficult; but isn’t that the beauty of March Madness? There are Cinderella stories due to unexpected victories; underdogs having that special night to upset the favorite; or maybe a favorite team just stinking it up on a particular night…

I consider myself to have a pretty good grasp of the game of basketball. I had one bracket where I am only in the 45% range on accuracy; I did a second bracket based upon other scenarios I saw and I am in the 90% range on that one. (ESPN Tournament Challenge)

Tonight one of the teams is going to hoist a championship trophy and the other will go home broken hearted; after all isn’t second place just the first loser? I don’t mean to sound harsh or sound like the guys that thinks winning is all that matters; but the simple truth of competition is that the goal is winning… and no matter how good you are there is no certainty in that outcome.

Can you imagine what it was like for the disciples immediately following that first Easter? They had been following a guy they thought was a sure winner, yet He seemed to have gone down in defeat to death…  therefore the scene is set for them to go into hiding, fearing their own defeat… John 20:9 records that the disciples still did not fully understand the resurrection…

They were in the same boat as all the religions in the world; they were left with uncertainty about their future –would they win or lose when the game is finally over? Are they good enough to hoist the championship trophy? [Yet we know the answer to that simple question; no the disciples were not good enough to win in the end; no religions don’t make one good enough o win in the end; none of us are good enough.. we all have sinned… we all need a Substitute (Savior.)]

So let’s get back to the scene according to John 20… here are the disciples hiding in a locked room (vs. 19); and then we read that Jesus “came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’” In other words, “Hey boys, the game is over! We win!” And instead of hoisting a trophy for them to see He showed them His scars! (vs. 20) [I heard a pastor yesterday state that it appears that Christ will be the only one in Heaven with scars…]

Thank God for those scars! They are our hope! They are our assurance! They are our victory! Yes church, we are the champions! [I know many of you are breaking out in song in your minds right now.]

Those scars and the resurrection insure that we are able to have confidence no matter how the “game” appears to be playing out… they insure that we can follow through with God’s game plan…

That leads us to the rest of the story from that locked room in John 20… as the disciples were rejoicing in the presence of the risen victorious Jesus He again told them “Peace be with you!” [Don’t be afraid; you don’t have to hide in here!]

Not only did Jesus grant them peace but he went on to say, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (vs. 21) [There is a job for you to do.]

I am not sure of the outcome of tonight’s championship game; but I am sure that the only way we win in the game of life is through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection! We need to be sharing this truth with a world in desperate need of Christ’s peace… Christ is a sure winner!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

March MADness is winding down...

Yes we are winding down our March MADness campaign as the tourney winds down... On Monday night a team will be crowned champion and my prayer is that our Miraculous March MADness will have set us up to focus on ministry - we are daily being presented with opportunities to share the Gospel and teach the Word...

One of my dear friends directs a missionary outreach that vows to go where others won't go to share the Gospel - this lands him overseas in remote jungle villages that the majority would rather pretend don't exist... - thank God he is willing to go to these places with the glorious Gospel!!!

With our ministry we get to go overseas at times (I head out in just over a week to the DR and we even plan to join my friend on more trips) yet God has given us a directive toward people right in our midst that are largely ignored - they don't fit the typical church profile and to be totally honest are often ignored like the jungle villages

When we share with these folks, we don't take up an offering or have a cover charge to get in the gym - during the intense Bible studies we go through we don't pass the plate - most of the time when we travel to a community we don't ask them to pay for our gas and lodging - why? simply because they are not in position to do so and sharing the Gospel is not based upon economics but instead our love for the Lord resulting in love for these people...

Bottom line is that we are regularly seeing people saved! We are regularly teaching the Word! We are striving to plug them into local churches! Yet we continue to struggle greatly to meet our budget requirements: that include the need to do more printing of our devotional books and tracts we use in outreach

This is why I have pushed during March MADness for finances - no one likes to focus on begging - yet finances are a necessity to conducting ministry and again the goal is to only have to "beg" during March MADness so we can focus on the work before us... I truly am not just begging for me - in fact I have regularly picked up extra jobs and Lisa is doing the same so we can stay afloat - yet we also have another missionary that has also felt the call of the Lord to InBounds; my son is striving to raise support for 9 months he will spend in the DR in missions; and most importantly we have people that are largely ignored that need to hear the Gospel!

MADness = Making A Difference - which we are doing!
I beg you to help us - it is an investment worth making! Will you Make A Difference with us?

I am sitting in Florida at my in-laws home writing this - our miracle(s) may be in the stack of mail that will be awaiting me at home - or maybe it is still with you and needing to be sent ("you miss 100% of the shots you don't take") 

Monday, April 1, 2013

April 1, 2013 - Gone Fishing!

Lately my oldest son has taken up the hobby of fishing during his knee rehab… He has spent quite a bit of time sitting along the banks of lakes, and we even went out on the ocean to try and land the big catch. To this point he has not had a lot of success beyond a few nibbles on the bait; and as a result a bit of frustration – to which I keep reminding him that fishing involves patience and often disappointment.

Today he was able to go out in the everglades and wet his line (along with taking the boat through the canals and seeing a bunch of gators.) it was a cool day but also one in which the fishing turned to sport instead of just hobby. All of the sudden, my son found himself hoping to “out-fish” his siblings that were along for the journey. When they arrived home and I started hearing the “fish stories” it became almost humorous. My 11 yr. old daughter caught the biggest fish; my second son down caught the most fish; and even my 7 yr. old daughter caught more than my oldest son…

He expressed his frustration in that he was attempting to throw his line to the right places and really think like a fisherman but his little sister still caught more by just throwing out her line wherever she could.

There are a few lessons that came to mind when thinking about fishing… especially following this Easter weekend and the focus on the Gospel; after all didn’t Jesus tell us he would “make us fishers of men.” (Mt 4 / Mk 1)

Lesson one is that the fish are not always biting.

Lesson two is that even though I do see great benefit in being informed on best locations, best bait, best weather conditions, etc.; it is still most important to just faithfully throw out the line.

Lesson three is that bait is important; but bait without a hook won’t catch you any fish…

Following Christ’s death and resurrection and before He ascended to heaven He left us orders to preach the Gospel (to fish for men.) I know it can be frustrating when they don’t seem to be “biting” but we need to remain faithful in “throwing out the line.”

And yes I do see great benefit in going to the right places, putting appealing bait on the line, understanding the climate, etc.; yet most important is making sure the “hook” of the Gospel is in the water…

The apostle Paul was great at “baiting” the hook… to the Jew he presented things in a way Jews would understand; to the Greek he presented things in the way that would appeal to the Greeks; I even believe he would have gone in to recreation  centers and played hoops to help reach ballers… (See 1 Cor 9:19-23)

Yet make no mistake about it! His first priority was the “hook” of the Gospel! (See 1 Cor 1:3-4) He understood that persuasive, appealing words were not the answer but that the Gospel (the message of the death and resurrection of our Savior in our stead) is God’s power unto salvation! (See Rom 1:16)

Lesson number 4 I will admit is a bit sarcastic. I have considered telling my son to try “Church-Fishing.” That is where you bait the hook as appealing as possible and just lay it up on the bank and call for the fish to come get it…

If you are gonna fish you gotta go where the fish are!!!!!!!!