Monday, January 27, 2014

January 27, 2013 - The Thrill of Victory (But What About The Agony of Defeat?)

Lately I am spending a lot of time around youth sports; my youngest is playing for her 3rd grade team and I am trying to establish our ministry in a new location… And as usual I find myself in many of the same discussions I have been in throughout the years on philosophies of youth athletics. There seems to be a constant tension between competition and complacency… between the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat…

Basically I find that often as the church we find ourselves buying into worldly ideas from both sides of the spectrum.  You see in the world there are some that compete with a win-at-any-cost attitude and then others that want everyone to be happy and get a trophy (and never experience the agony of defeat.) We need to be careful of either extreme…

Now I know that believers will, for the most part, agree that the win-at-any-cost attitude is not God-honoring… yet go to any church league or Christian school league and you will be reminded of how askew our priorities are; go to any youth rec league and I bet you will have trouble distinguishing who the parents are that are professing Christians. I believe Christian athletes should be the hardest working, toughest competitors in sports… doing all (word or deed) to the glory of God (Col. 3:17). The purpose of a game involves attempting to outscore one’s opponent and win. There is nothing wrong with competing; yet when competition causes one’s attitude as a player or fan to be non-Christ-like then that one is in sin.

The other extreme is that of complacency and trying to make sure that competition is removed so everyone can feel happy. The problem is that is not real life! Life is full of setbacks and heartaches and part of our job as parents, coaches, teachers, and ministers is trying to teach how to handle those setbacks in a God-honoring way. (I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble but even when you don’t keep score, the kids still know who is talented / gifted in the competition and who is not. They even realize which team probably scored the most even without a scoreboard…) When the “everyone’s a winner / everyone gets a trophy” philosophy pops up, I want to throw up – it is simply not true in sports or in life…

I just read a great blog article about this concept that is so prevalent in our culture. The blogger, Matt Walsh, determines the two outcomes of this philosophy. (See - - for a good read.)

First is the self-aware person that is embarrassed by undeserved/unwarranted accolades (what he calls “pity trophies.”)

Second is the one that is not self-aware and is fooled by these accolades and buys into the hype. Walsh’s description of them is very accurate and evident in this world of entitlement: “They will look at those trophies and gold stars, unearned and undeserved, and begin to develop an inflated image of themselves. What is born from this is not confidence, but narcissism and arrogance. These are the kids in possession of the much-heralded “self-esteem.” Indeed, they hold themselves in high esteem. Why? Because they are themselves. They are spectacular, beautiful, athletic, and brilliant, all by their very nature. Whatever they do is the best thing anyone has ever done, simply because it was done by them. Whoever comes in contact with them ought to be grateful for the privilege. Success and happiness is what they are due, and the entire universe is in their debt. They are the people who expect the Lord to descend from heaven and hand them a game ball and a participation trophy every day.” He goes on to say, “Shielded from failure, insulated from criticism, covered in emotional bubble wrap, our kids are venturing out into the world with little discipline and even less humility.”
I am sure I will not win any father of the year awards but this past Saturday following my 3rd grade daughter’s game I drew some uncomfortable laughter from those around me. When she approached me I put my arm around her and said, “You played awful today.” (Are you feeling uneasy about now?) But then I went on to say, “But isn’t it great to know that my love for you is not based upon how well you play basketball?” She played poorly and that created teachable moments – not opportunities to flatter her (lie to her.) Proverbs 26:28 says that “a flattering mouth works ruin.”

The Christian message itself is based upon our inadequacies and shortcomings. It is based upon our failure. It is based upon us losing self-esteem and realizing we fall short (Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:1). It is based upon two incredible words found in Ephesians 2:4: “But God…” He loved us not based upon our performance but in spite of our poor performance.

Sports provide us a great teaching platform about God and about life…

Monday, January 20, 2014

January 20, 2014 - Late Game Strategy

Yesterday I had the opportunity to share about InBounds Ministries during the “Missions Moment” at our church. I planned to show a promo video and then share some upcoming opportunities for volunteers – but God called an audible and changed my plans at the line of scrimmage… Now I will share what He laid on my heart with you…

Being that it is playoff time in the NFL I was thinking about late game strategy…
·         What do you do in the 4th quarter when you have the lead? Run the ball; chew up clock; the clock is your friend!
·         What do you do in the 4th quarter when you are losing? Pass the ball; try to get out of bounds to stop the clock (every second counts); the clock is your enemy!
·         What about when you are tied? Do you go hard for the win?

I thought specifically about the playoffs last year when the Broncos had the ball on their own 20 with 31 seconds on the clock; they also had 2 time outs; and happened to have one of the most prolific passers in NFL history. The game was tied. That was enough time to at least get into field goal range… But instead the coach instructed Peyton Manning to take a knee and run the clock out; he decided they would take their chances in overtime… and the lost to the Ravens.

Late game strategy is not just about football. I believe God has called us during this time to play for the win… not to take a knee. There is no overtime in this thing called life. When the time clock reads 00:00 it is game over!

Jesus reminds us in Luke 10:2 that “laborers are few” and we should pray for “the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

Yet He also tells us in John 4:35 that the “fields … are already white for harvest.” In other words the clock is running down, it’s late in the game, and we need to score!

It is time to value every second and stay aggressive on offense! Our offense: sharing the Gospel! “It is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes!” (Romans 1:16)

Monday, January 13, 2014

January 13, 2014 - "In Christ" = "In The Game"!

Yesterday I heard a sermon that reminded us of the mandate for us to be “salt” and “light” in this world. It was a great simple reminder that we are to be influencers… affecting the outcome of the game! We are called to live out our new identities in Christ in a way that will Make A Difference in this world for the good…

Yet many Christians simply want to ride the pines and watch the game, or get on the floor and just stand around. Most fail to recognize their spheres of influence. The reality is that we are each influencers – either to the good or to the bad. We each have a circle of influence that has a ripple effect to broader circles. And riding the pines or standing around are influencing actions that affect the team to the negative. (The pastor brought to remembrance George Bailey in “It’s A Wonderful Life” and his desire to have never been born. In the movie he gets a glimpse of what things would be like without him around and sees the influence he has had...)

“In Christ” = “In the game”! You have a responsibility to influence for the positive. You have a responsibility to bring glory to the Father!

1 Peter 2:12 tells us that we should be active on offense! (Letting our good works bring glory to God)
1 Peter 3:15 tells us that we should always be ready on defense! (To give an answer for the hope in you)
2 Timothy 3:17 tells us that we all have what it takes to be difference makers! (Since the Word of God will equip us to do so)

InBounds Ministries is Making A Difference
MAD Hoops Baby!
Get in the game today! (Or more accurately realize you are in the game and stop standing around!)

Make A Difference today! (Don’t be the kid sitting in the outfield grass picking flowers instead of doing his job for the team!)

You have a sphere of influence… what are you doing with it?

Monday, January 6, 2014

January 6, 2014 - Are you caught in a wake or creating a wake?

Happy New Year everyone, hope this week’s devotion finds you doing well. It is the start of a week and the start of a new year so it is typical to discuss how you start the game…

As a coach I would often remind players that it is important to come out of the gate strong and not allow the opponent to get us in too big of a hole; especially when in their gym… The home crowd can give an emotional boost that helps the home team get their engine churning and dictate the flow of the game; and if we do not chart our own course (game plan) - create our own flow/momentum - we will simply be in the opponent’s wake – behind!!!!

If you have made resolutions or plans for the week/year then it is important to start strong! The enemy does not want us to succeed and the fact is that we are in his “gym.” But the reality is that it is easier to just go with the flow than to dictate the flow… It is important to chart our course (game plan) and stick with it, not allowing the enemy or circumstances to dictate the flow of the game!

Proverbs 6:6-11 reminds us of the importance of preparation and staying with the plan. It tells us to observe the ant that stays busy at work throughout all the seasons of life so that even in winter it can eat…

Ephesians 5:15-16 tells us that every minute on the clock matters and we should be using them wisely.

1 Peter 5:8 likens our enemy unto a “roaring lion” that is bent on our destruction.

So what is your game plan? Did you start 2014 strong? Are you taking advantage of the time you have been given to get bigger, stronger, and faster (physically, mentally, and spiritually)?

Are you caught in the current of what life is dealing you or have you charted your own course?

Are you just going with the flow or are you creating flow?

Are you caught in a wake – or creating a wake?