Sunday, March 30, 2014

March 31, 2014 - Play Loose!

It’s tourney time and so fun to watch all of the dynamics of play. Today as we tuned in for part of one of the Elite Eight games my friend commented about how “tight” one of the teams seemed to be as the game headed down the stretch. Throughout the tourney I have heard commentators talk about teams that seem really loose verses those that are playing “tight.” I often have watched players that struggled because they knew that their coaches had them “playing on a short leash” and would jerk them out of the game for any little thing they did. (In fact I spoke with one former player recently and we talked about how hard it is to play when the coach doesn’t trust you or believe in you… and how it drains the joy out of playing.)

Believer, let me remind you that you are “FREE” in Christ. You can serve God knowing that He is on your side! I truly believe that the Apostle Paul’s lifestyle did not change dramatically from when he was Saul (other than the persecuting Christians thing…) What I mean is that Paul continued living a clean wholesome life but found that his motivation was no longer that of religion (man trying to earn God’s favor), but instead his motivation was God’s amazing grace that leads to relationship (celebrating that we have found God’s favor through Christ!) There can be, and should be, joy in serving Christ!

I love the way that Paul tells it in Galatians chapter 2 (with the help of Pastor Peterson’s paraphrase in the Message):

19-21 What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.
Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.

Play loose! Play with joy! God is on your side!

Monday, March 24, 2014

March 24, 2014 - The Heart of a Father / Coach

What does God want for you? What does He want from you?

The Scriptures describe God as a Father that wants what is best for His kids. I often refer to Him as though He is the perfect Coach and always tells us in the “huddle” the path to victory.

Last week at our missions conference the preacher said this about God”
·         God wants what is best for you!
·         God knows what is best for you!
·         God has the ability to do what is best for you!

You can tell a lot about a dad or a coach by what they want from their kids/players. Often it is assumed that I would want all of my kids to be athletes. Yes, I do enjoy watching my kids play; but I also enjoy watching the sing; watching them draw; watching them do well in school; etc. Simply put, I love seeing them doing things they love to do… I find myself watching former players that are playing at the collegiate level now and rejoicing in their success and being heartbroken in their disappointments…

Yet if you asked me what is the one thing that I would want from any of my kids/players it would be that they be witnesses of Christ as Acts 1:8 calls believers to be… I have been blessed to see each of my 5 kids in action sharing the love of Christ with others; whether it be on a playground around home or a field overseas. (I even get to serve side by side with my son Caleb next week in the Dominican Republic – it will be his first venture overseas in following God’s plan…) I have been blessed to have former players travel with me both stateside and overseas to share the Gospel.

God has chosen for us (believers) to be missionaries! (And I am not saying that everyone should be a vocational missionary; but all are to be witnesses.)

And if we need to know the heart of the Father we need look no further than His own Son. That preacher last week said this about the missionary heart of God: “God had only one Son and He made Him a missionary!”

Luke 19:10 “…for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

God the father knows what is best for you… God the Coach has sent you into the game with a job to do!

Monday, March 17, 2014

March 17, 2014 - Impact Players

This past week we were blessed to be part of a missions conference called a GIC (Global Impact Celebration.) We heard from missionaries from all around the world about the incredible things God is doing in their midst (and was able to share some from the amazing InBounds Ministries story He has put us in.) And each story seemed to revolve around some key “impact players.”

When I say “impact player” what comes to your mind? Being that it is March Madness time the typical thought is about the big time scorers and/or the highlight-reel guys. And let’s be honest, when we talk about impact on the crowd a soaring slam dunk or a deep three gets everyone going. And those things do have a huge effect on emotions and can help swing momentum. Yet there are often times “impact players” that go under the radar. These are not the players that necessarily wind up on ESPN Top 10; but instead those that alter the game in ways that the typical fan does not see. This might be the point guard that controls tempo to the point that the other team never gets into their rhythm; it may be the player that quietly shuts down passing lanes so the other team can’t get in their best scoring position; it may be the player that boxes out the opposing team’s best rebounder which allows one of his teammates to grab more boards… I think you get the point. There is much that takes place in a game that as a coach I would consider “impact” that reading the box score may not reflect or that the commentator may not mention…

Well when I mention “impact players” as far as missions are concerned the natural thought is that I am speaking of the missionaries. Although I agree that the missionaries are “impact players,” that is not what caught my attention this week… It seemed that there were always “players” mentioned that were behind the scenes instead of on the frontline… the prayer warriors and suppliers… those that enable missions to take place.

One story that stood out was of a Christian school teacher that decided to pray for her brother and for an unreached people group he was working with; she then began mobilizing other prayer warriors and churches for this people group; and eventually we see the fruit of multiple churches serving that people group… That gal was an “impact player.”

I also thought of the little girls that gave our missions pastor their birthday money and a jar of pennies to help in Haiti… they are “impact players.”

The reality for those that want to Go MAD (Make A Difference): missions begins on our knees at a church altar or on our bedroom floor or right where you are reading this… and extends to the ends of the earth (and covers everything in between.) We are all called to and equipped to be “impact players”! Missions is a surrendered heart attitude that says, “I want to be used right where I am at and anywhere You want me to go God! I’ll pray! I’ll give! I’ll work!”

Are you walking in the good works God has prepared for you? (Eph 2:10)
Are you being “Salt and Light” in your workplace, school, home, neighborhood? (Mt 5:13-16)

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat." Teddy Roosevelt

Monday, March 10, 2014

March 10, 2014 - Spot Your Landing

As I prepared today for our weekly devotion at the gymnastics center I was again reminded of some incredible truths in how we make it through daily life… because if we are not careful we will definitely get knocked off balance!

The lessons we have been sharing have come from the balance beam. And the final one of that series dealt with making sure we “spot our landing.” Obviously the most basic truth here revolves around the assurance of our salvation in Christ and “landing” in Heaven…

(A reminder here that all religions sincerely are trying to figure this out – but sincerity never trumps truth! The final “landing” is not based upon what we can do for God but instead upon what He has done for us! Faith in the finished work of Christ creates the great exchange where Christ paid for / took my sin and I received His righteousness to my account [see 2 Corinthians 5:21.] I received citizenship in Heaven when I believed on Christ for salvation [see Ephesians 2:4-6]!)

The lesson his week though keys on “Spotting the Landing”… keep it in our focus… It is not just having the knowledge of our final “landing” but keep it is an active part of the “routine on the balance beam of life”…

Christ did that… He endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him (see Hebrews 12:2.) In other words He was able to endure because He was looking beyond.

The Apostle Paul did that… He boldly proclaimed that “to live is Christ” but “to die is gain (See Philippians 1:21.) In other words life can bring whatever it wants to bring and he is ok – well not just ok – he is joyful and rejoicing. He was “spotting his landing.”

In his letter of joy to the Philippians he stated that some keep their eyes focused on temporal earthly things – on filling their bellies – their own desires… (3:19.) Yet then encourages us to remember who we are and where we are going (or to “spot our landing”.) He states in verse 20: “For our citizenship is in Heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Monday, March 3, 2014

March 3, 2014 - Don't Over-Coach

I began writing this week and was laboring over the topic. I had multiple paragraphs written and felt I was just starting to get to the point. And although I felt it was a good point and a needed truth I still felt no peace – as though I were forcing the issue. I have a strong desire for these weekly devotions to help disciple believers (and myself) in our walks to maturity. I strive to never take the internet opportunity for granted. And like being on the sidelines, one has to avoid over-coaching. Sometimes we just need to hear / be reminded of the basics…

Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking at an Upwards awards ceremony in a neighboring town. I knew with that group I would be hammering home the truth of the Substitute God sent into the game of life; and also the truth of the Playbook being our guide to living out God’s intended purposes in our lives. Yet as I sat in my seat, awaiting my turn on the mic, the staff showed a Gospel video that was produced by Upwards.

In the video some players find the coach’s playbook and look inside. In it they find “plays.” I think they went as follows…

·         Play 1: God loves
·         Play 2: God gave
·         Play 3: Whoever believes
·         Play 4: Has eternal life

At the end of the video the players ask the coach why he has those in his playbook and he gives a very simple response: when reminded of these truths it encourages him in his walk…

Or in the words of my good friend Freddie Coile: “Grace si the greatest motivating factor there is for serving God!”

So let me ask you today… are you joyfully and faithfully serving God? Maybe you just need to get a good reminder of amazing grace… how sweet the sound!

Galatians 2:21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.

Ephesians 2:4-5 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even while we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together in Christ (by grace you have been saved)

Just let that marinate in your brain for a while…