Monday, December 30, 2013

December 30, 2013 - Great Handles (A New Year's Resolution)

When scouting a player there are certain things that you look for; one being how his “handles” are… You gotta know that he can take care of the basketball. That involves the motor skills that are developed through repetition of drills and lead to the phrase “he’s got the ball on a string.” But it involves a lot more than that!

I have seen a lot of players that are good practice/drill players that are not dependable in the game. The motor skills are present but the vision and perspective of game flow is absent. When the pressure comes these are players that, in spite of their skill sets, end up in bad positions on the court, unable to effectively make plays.

But when there is great vision and perspective it is a beautiful thing to watch… I will always remember taking some players to watch a game a few years ago where one of the teams had an obvious advantage in size and athleticism. The players that were with me were going on and on at how badly the bigger/faster team was going to beat the smaller/slower team. The topic most in discussion was at the point guard position. I had told the guys with me to pay attention to point guard on the team they thought would lose. Each of the guys with me talked of how they could shut down that point guard with no problem and how he was going to get destroyed that night. As the game unfolded they watched a beautiful masterpiece of a guy with great handles! The point guard not only had great motor skills but had an uncanny vision and perspective of the game. The bigger/faster guards from the other team simply could not apply pressure because the point guard could see the big picture; could foresee what they were trying to do; and knew where he needed to go to avoid the traps- great handles! He orchestrated a beautiful win for his team; much to the surprise of the guys I took along for the show… (Love watching you play Tyler Lewis!)

All of that to get to this week’s point of looking back over 2013 and forward to 2014. How has the year been? What are you looking forward to? You see I believe, and heard a confirming message yesterday at church, that your “handles” are greatly determined by your perspective of the game. Let me explain (along with my own confessions…)

I often teach this principle when talking about the Apostle Paul. He is a guy that simply had developed great “handles” in life. He faced major obstacles and trials yet spoke and wrote of joy and rejoicing. Simply put he faced things that should have created incredible pressure and would have caused most men to crumble; yet he was able to not only handle the pressure but to find victory! I love the book of Philippians where Paul shows us that we can have victory even when circumstances seem to the contrary. He writes from prison and reminds us of a great truth: God and life are not synonyms! Life is full of both the good and the bad (a roller coaster) but God is constant and sufficient to meet our needs! In fact Paul is so clear about it that he states he knows what it is like to be poor or rich, hungry or full, to abound or suffer… and yet still he is content. His vision is focused on Christ! His perspective of the “game” is that God will strengthen him and he can stay calm and content. He sees beyond the circumstances to the assurances that God wins! I love teaching from Philippians! I love to teach the promise that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us! I encourage you to read Philippians as your theme text for 2014…

Now on to the confessions… it is easy to stand behind a pulpit or sit in front of my computer and teach these things. It is like the player that is great at drills and skills but finds being in the game is a whole different thing! As I look back over 2013 I have seen times of incredible excitement and incredible discouragement. We have made a huge move for our family; our kids have faced many ups and downs; our finances have been very uncertain; etc… And to be honest I have often allowed circumstances to dictate my attitude instead of allowing my perspective (the things I know and teach) to carry me through my circumstances. My “handles” have not been very good this year.

How about your 2013? What about your 2014? For me I plan to start each day with a different attitude/perspective. I choose to pursue a life of rejoicing instead of complaining. I choose to practice what I preach. I choose to be thankful instead of frustrated. I choose to focus on the constant, consistent God over an ever-changing, inconsistent life.

John Wooden said it this way, “Make each day your masterpiece!”

The Psalmist says it this way,
“This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Ps 118:24)

Thank you to Pastor David from South Palm Community Church for the reminder to have an attitude-adjustment each morning… now how about you?

2014 New Year’s Resolution: Start each day with Psalm 118:24! It will give you (and me) great “handles” in the “game” of life!

Monday, December 23, 2013

December 23, 2013 - Change the Momentum of the Game

During any game it is usually easy to see where the momentum lies… what the flow of the game is like. As I talked with a friend last night he was telling me about a 6th grade girls game last weekend where the halftime score was 20-2. The game ended with a score of 26-25; the team that was so far behind still lost but made it into an exciting nail-biter game… My friend told me that the second half run was fueled by a full-court press that led to a few early baskets that led to a shift in momentum. The coach of the winning team found himself at the end of the game with no time-outs because he had burnt them all trying to stop the flow (and it almost cost his team - as my understanding is that the team that lost by one point had numerous shots at the goal in the last 40 seconds but just couldn’t hit the shot…)

As a “coach” on the spiritual sidelines of life I am concerned about the flow of the game right now. I need to call, “timeout”, and remind you of a few things…

 First being last week’s devotion that dealt with us giving up our rights and focusing on the real job that we have as believers – sharing the good news of great joy to all people that there is a Savior! I talked about what a great story it is that the God of the universe stepped off of His throne and into our world to touch our lives! Our job is to share that message!

At the end of the devotion last week I added in a graphic that I have used in past years when speaking of CHRISTmas. The picture reminds us to “Solve for X”; in other words to share what the X stands for instead of spending so much time demanding our rights to write the word the way we want… Our job is not to demand our political rights but to, as Christ showed us, willing give up some rights in order to focus on sharing joy, hope, and peace this CHRISTmas!

And now the coach has to step in… I am very fearful as I look at the “flow of the game” that our opponent has found another noisy distraction to the Gospel this CHRISTmas. Believers that should be busy about the Great Commission are instead focusing on the rights of Duck Dynasty… I am sure we have all heard, read, and maybe even posted about the rights of Phil Robertson to share his beliefs about sin. Most that read my blog are in agreement with Phil that the Bible is God’s Word and thus we stand by it. Yet to claim he lost his first amendment rights is first of all incorrect; and secondly should not be what we are making the most noise about a few days before we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

I know some of you are thinking now that I am wrong; some may even be calling me a liberal. Believe me, I am a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching, Biblical-values man! So I must use the Bible as my “coaching”/ministering guide. And Jesus did not call us to make noise about our rights; but instead to make much about Him!

Phil was allowed to speak his beliefs; He was not arrested – showing he had the right to say those things. And even though I disagree with A&E’s stance on the matter, I do believe they have the right to put what they want on their network; and unless they are professing believers in Christ, I don’t expect them to agree with my value system.

I am now seeing the “game” focusing on the wrong things; we have diverted from our game plan to share the Gospel and instead started on a game plan of demanding our rights. “Momentum” is on the opponent’s side right now.

When you leave the “timeout” of this devotion be focused on the game plan – focus on sharing the good news – declaring that our Savior has been born; declaring that our Savior died to pay the penalty for sin; declaring that our Savior rose again to give us new life! The angel of the Lord focused on introducing the shepherds to Jesus; the shepherds, after meeting Jesus, focused on sharing that same message… (See Luke 2:10-17)

I’d love to see more on Facebook this week about Jesus than about Phil Robertson (and I think Phil would rather see that too.) We have got to “change the momentum of the game!”

Monday, December 16, 2013

December 16, 2013 - The Throne of Fame (Reaching out to us little people)

One of the things I love is to see the feel-good stories done about athletes; the ones where the athlete goes out of his or her way to make a fan feel special or to visit a sick kid or… you get the picture. Recently saw an ESPN spot on the quarterback from the University of Alabama and his special bond with a little girl that has cancer; saw a photo of an NBA player over in the stands greeting a kid that has down syndrome; loved to read about the way Tim Tebow made games special for fans; etc.

The reason this pulls at our heartstrings is because these are people that are placed on a pedestal; one where thousands of adoring fans chant their names and line up by the tunnels hoping to at least get the touch of a high five or something…  So if we are honest, when we see these stories it appears as though there is a great humbling of this great sports-god in taking time out of his schedule to reach out and touch us little-people…

I know that is a very drastic way of putting it. I am a sports nut but have to admit that our priorities in our culture are quite askew! (I confess it even in my life. When my son played for Michael Jordan’s brother, we felt like we were amongst the basketball royal family. When MJ’s mom spoke to the guys I found myself listening to her like she was this super mom because her son was a super basketball player.) So my point is that in it feels good when these people (that we have admittedly elevated to an improper lofty status) steps off the throne of fame and into our world.

All of that to remind you what CHRISTmas is really about…

 It is about the God of the universe stepping down into our world to touch us little people! In fact the first folks introduced to the baby Jesus were the lowly shepherds (a people on the lowest end of the social ladder.) God humbled Himself taking on the form of a man and being born, (not as the conquering, all-powerful, impressive Being that He is), but as a baby… wrapped in swaddling cloths (restrained)… in order to touch humanity!

This God whom we adore (I’m a huge fan!) showed that He adores us! The angel told the shepherds (and us) that they had good news of great Joy; that Jesus is the Savior – our Hope; that all men can have peace with God! (Luke 2:10-14) And the Scriptures go on to remind us that Jesus humbled Himself even to the point of death on the cross! (Philippians 2:8) Don’t you see? God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us! (Romans 5:8) He adores us!

Our job this CHRISTmas is in the midst of the tiring hustle and bustle of the holidays to rest in that joy, hope, and peace! And like those shepherds did, to share that joy, hope, and peace with others! (See Luke 2:17-18)

The message of Jesus’s birth is the ultimate feel-good story of God stepping off His pedestal to offer joy, hope, and peace to all people!

Monday, December 9, 2013

December 9, 2013 - Letting The Assistant Coach Run The Huddle...

I often scan the sports news for ideas that will spur the devotion for the week; other times it just comes to me as I am going through my daily grind. Some Mondays role around and I just feel like there is a block there… And then the Lord sends an answer…

In my coaching days I was blessed to have some great assistant coaches. Being an assistant isn’t always easy, especially if you disagree with the head coach’s decision or philosophy. Yet great assistants know how to get their point across and also how to show faithfulness and loyalty. It is even a greater blessing when the assistant has the same goals and values for the team as the head coach. This type of assistant is a guy the head coach has no problem letting run the huddle…

All of that intro because to this day I still love to daily read the thoughts and encouragements of an assistant coach I had many years ago. Coach Rick Lewis, of Phenom Hoop Report, daily posts thoughts and encouragements for players and their families… today being no exception. Therefore I am letting him “run the huddle…”

Coach Rick writes…
“3 things you can never get back in life : 
Make sure you make all 3 count the first time”

These are great truths for us to remember this week as we “play the game of life.”

Look up these passages that support the truths Coach Lewis shared…

Words: Psalm 19:14; James 3:2-10
Time: James 3:13-17
Opportunity: Ephesians 5:15-17

Thanks Coach, for daily investing in people’s lives!

Monday, December 2, 2013

December 2, 2013 - A Little Locker Room Leadership...

Has God put something on your heart? Has He given you a passion to Make A Difference? Last week I encouraged us to all let the Word of God transform us into a people ready to Make A Difference… and it would have been easy to think I was simply talking about the giving program we are starting with InBounds; yet it is so much more than that. Giving is absolutely important, (coming from the guy that directs a ministry totally dependent upon the giving of God’s people), but doing is important as well. We need to be active in the “game”! I have said it often throughout the years of these devotions: God doesn’t want benchwarmers!

But let’s be realistic here. Finances, time, potential persecution or ridicule, etc. all lead to fear of activity. Yet don’t let fear stop you!!!!!!!

Today I am going to try to give a little “locker room leadership.” Within the safety of our little internet huddle I want to encourage you to be all that God intends for you to be; to do all that God intends for you to do; to go where God intends for you to go…

I’ll confess to fears and stress as we continue down our faith-road in ministry. I’ll admit that sometimes I consider quitting. I realize that the road we are on is not the road of the American Dream…

Yet the reality is that we are in the game and seeing lives changed! We are pressing forward and facing the enemy! To some this may sound like I am bragging about this; but believe me I am not! I am admitting to my weakness; yet also wanting to give an answer as to why we go on…

As I was reading Nehemiah this morning I was reminded that even Nehemiah was afraid (in fact chapter 2 verse 2 said he became “dreadfully afraid”), yet he followed through with the game plan. He had heard of his people’s fate and a passion was birthed in him to Go MAD (Make A Difference.) He took it to the Lord and asked for the Lord’s blessing on his endeavor… and then he got busy.

As I read further in the account I saw that Nehemiah faced many obstacles (finances, resources, the enemy, etc.) How about you? Are you facing any struggles today? Is life full of stressors for you like they are for me? Is the enemy trying to slow you down or keep you down from acting upon the passion God has given you? It is time to rise up! Nehemiah records that the people got to a point where they “had a mind to work” (4:6), in spite of the looming dangers and obstacles.  The enemy was pressing in on every side, determined to stop their progress. Nehemiah and his people prayed and then Nehemiah delivers a message to his people that would ring well in any locker room (or battlefield for that matter):

4:14And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.”

Nehemiah admitted his fears yet kept moving forward – stayed active in “the game” – facing the obstacles and adversaries.  He led by example, not based upon his strength but on that of the Lord. He rallied his “team” (people.) He had all the attributes of a great locker room leader!

I long to be like Nehemiah and stay the course! I want to move forward by the strength of the Lord! So I write to you this day to “remember the Lord, great and awesome”, and Go MAD!