Monday, December 28, 2015

December 28, 2015 - Do What Is Right, Right Now!

Here we are winding down another year and as always a new year brings thoughts of new beginnings and resolutions… it’s a “new game”; it brings hopes that who we are at the end of 2016 will be better than how are ending 2015.

So in light of the “new game” that is upon us I thought I would give a bit of a pre-game pep talk to get us ready. You see a coach always knows there are things to learn from and improve on. I love watching the reporters when they interview coaches after a big win; they always make a remark about how the coach is never satisfied, and they are right. We need to learn to be content but always should be striving to move forward.

There is a fine line between forgetting the last game and learning from it. We definitely don’t want to dwell in the past but instead use it to be better in the future. So a coach evaluates and shares with the team many different aspects:

·         What we did right / how we can improve on it / will it work with the next opponent we face
·         What we did wrong / how we can avoid it / will we face similar pressure from the next opponent
·         Was the last game a complete effort

But the problem with preparing for a future opponent is that we don’t know the variables:

·         Will they run the same offense / defense they normally do
·         What players may be injured for them / or for us
      ·         How will the refs call the game

As a coach I have found that, although I like seeing us ahead on a scoreboard, I try not to coach to the scoreboard. What I mean by that is that I don’t determine our success by the scoreboard. Yes we pursue the win (which is the point of playing a game that keeps score); but we realize that the quality of the opponent can make the scoreboard an unreliable gauge.
So how does this coaching mumbo-jumbo relate to a devotion for the upcoming year?

First a simple truth… don’t make all your resolutions be about the scoreboard! If all you are concerned with is health, wealth, and happiness I warn you that there are many variables that you cannot control. (i.e. Injury, illness, market crashes, boneheaded decisions by others, etc.) I am not saying we shouldn’t strive for greater things, just that we should keep it in proper perspective.

For example, at the beginning of 2015 I found myself in horrible physical shape. It didn’t help that I was in FL (as I am now) visiting family and every time I went to the beach people were trying to rescue me by push me back out to sea… I decide that I needed to diet and get my weight under control! For half of “the game” I played “slow down” offense at meal time; the results were amazing as I was losing a ton of weight. Around “half-time” the pace of the game started to change as we hit the road for our summer ministry tour. The great things was that I could “speed up” even at meal time because I found myself able to run a little more and even amp up my time on the court a little bit. But then the unexpected happened and by the end of the “3rd quarter” found myself injured and unable to run / play; and unfortunately I failed to “slow down the offense” at the table as I had done early in “the game” and the result was truly an “offensive game.” I lost over 50 lbs. during the first 3 quarters of 2015, only to re-locate 20 of them in this last quarter… Therefore gotta tweak the “game plan” for 2016.

John Wooden realized as a coach that he couldn’t always account for the opponent so he typically didn’t even scout them. He decided that being the best they could be at what they do was enough; and that if another team happened to be better on the scoreboard one night, so be it! In fact he didn’t define success by things at the end of the season like wins, losses, or even championships; he defined it by the daily pursuit of being one’s best.

Here are a couple of maxims I use in training:
·         When I look in the mirror at the end of the day what do I see - a tired but proud and victorious look that is a result of hard work and accomplishment - or the tired defeated look of a quitter?
·         When I lie down at night what do I feel - the physical pain that is a result of hard work and accomplishment or the emotional pain of a quitter? (The first one goes away very quickly; the latter leads to a lifetime of regret!)

In 2016 I hope that you win each day! Do that by being prepared for whatever the “opponent” throws at you… how do you do that? Commit to daily resolutions not yearly resolutions:

·         Daily time in the Word!
·         Daily time in prayer!
·         Daily time in serving others (physically and spiritually)

In fact, why wait until 2016? That would be wasting a few days… start today! You only have today to Go MAD (Make A Difference)!

James 4:13-17 (The Message) is very to the point on simply doing what is right in the now…

“And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, ‘Today – at the latest tomorrow – we’re off to such and such a city for the year. We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money.’ You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say, ‘If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.’ As it is, you are full of your grandiose selves. All such vaunting self-importance is evil. In fact, if you know the right thing to do and don’t do it, that, for you, is evil.”

Win the day! Make today a success! (And you will find at the end of the year you will have done great things!) Do what is right, right now!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

December 21, 2015 - Substitution Patterns

As a coach of a 5/6 grade basketball team I am finding one of my greatest challenges is my substitution pattern. I am trying to make sure all the girls get good playing time while also leaving the right mix in to help the inexperienced girls truly learn the game by being put in the position to succeed…

God looked at the game of life and determined the perfect time to send in the Sub… this past week I wrote a devotion for our staff at the school and decided I would share it with you since it truly shows a perfect Substitution pattern! I hope you can learn something this week and are encouraged by God’s perfect timing…

Merry CHRISTmas to you! ...
I love teaching and sharing at this time of year because of the incredible truths found in the CHRISTmas story.

* The promises of "a Savior" and of "peace and goodwill toward men" that are found in Luke 2 with the message to the angels...

* The song of Mary found in Luke 1 that shares how Mary felt to know that the God of the universe took notice of her (vs 48)...

* The genealogies of Christ... (wait a minute, genealogies are incredible truths?)

Stick with me for just a minute... First, think about the Gospel. It is the promise that in spite of our "blood curse" from sin, God still planned and provided a way for us to be adopted into His family. Through the substitutionary death of Christ we, when we place our faith in His finished work on the cross and through His resurrection, are then seen with His righteousness and thus adopted into God's family as one of His own! (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Now the what does the genealogy of Christ have to do with that? Glad you asked...

I the book of Luke we see that through Mary's line Christ can be traced back to King David through David's eldest son Nathan; and David had received a promise in 2 Samuel 7:12-13 that his throne would not only be established but would endure forever. So Christ is a direct descendant of David but the problem is that the throne-line did not go through Nathan but had been granted through Solomon...

Matthew shows us the genealogy of Christ through Joseph and it too runs back to King David, but this time through Solomon! That would seem to seal the deal for Christ's rightful place on the throne of Israel... but there is a glitch. Matthew 1:11 mentions a king named Jecoiachin, in some places referred to as simply Coniah, and some spellings referred to as Jeconiah. In Jeremiah 22:30 we see that this king was evil and had a curse on his blood line that they would not prosper or see the throne... yet after his death we see that God makes a promise to Jehoiachin's grandson Zerubbabel (governor in Judah) that there is still hope and a plan... (See Haggai 2:21-23)

The name Jehoiachin literally means that "God will establish!" In spite of the evil of Jehoiachin and the blood curse of separation from the throne, God still was at work and provided a solution. Jesus was born in the line of the throne yet ADOPTED by Joseph and thus not carrying the blood curse of Jehoiachin!

Jesus is the only man that has ever lived that could rightfully claim the throne as His genealogy places Him in the right family tree... His virgin birth qualifies Him as the sinless Savior and the rightful King!

How cool is that? God will (has) established our needs through ADOPTION into His family!!! (And how cool it is to see the intricacies of the Scriptures!)

Monday, December 14, 2015

December 14, 2015 - The Star of the Show

Have you ever heard about an up and coming player and couldn’t wait to see him or her in action, only to get to the gym or turn on the tv and be totally unimpressed?

I remember back to a time when I was coaching a family duo that was lighting up the scoreboards and the newspaper articles. One of the brothers was a 10th grader and the other a 7th grader and both (since we were at a private school where it was possible) were tearing up the varsity high school scene and a local news crew out of charlotte came to do a human interest type piece on the boys. As they arrived the reporter set up with us in our weight room and interviewed the boys and me about the season up to that point… and then it came game time.

This is where it is now a bit funny (but wasn’t that night.) Both boys stunk it up that night, so much so that the next day as I spoke with the reporter on the phone he claimed they “lost the tape.” Let’s just say the reporter was very underwhelmed… (Sorry to tell on you Colby and Tyler… but I will make sure we account for the fact that Colby was all-state that year in 2A schools and Tyler went on to be a McDonalds All-American a few years later... so I bet that reporter wishes he could “find” that tape to make something out of it.)

All of that to say that when we get our hopes up high it is easy to be let down; and when we are let down hang in there because the truth has a way of rising to the surface…

One of the reasons many religious folks scoff at Jesus, and why many of the Jewish people rejected Him as Messiah was because He didn’t meet their expectations in the present and they fail to allow for what was the truth that would rise to the surface…

A couple thousand years ago God humbly took on flesh in the form of a baby born to poor folks from a small town and laid in a feeding trough… the first audience to this “King” consisted of animals followed by some low class shepherds… It was a “silent night” with no crowd noise. (Every year I go back to one of my favorite Christmas songs we used to sing on our tours, “Isn’t It Amazing How He Came?” with the words that “there were no fanfares played or jubilant displays.”) He lived an unassuming yet sinless life only to find a place to die on the Cross of Calvary… but wait for it… wait for it… wait for it… “up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o’er His foes!” (Love that old song too!)

We know the story that in spite of the humble beginnings of Christ there was a spotlight in the form of a star that lit the way for those that are wise enough to seek Him… and here is the awesome thing: I’ve read the end of the book and it reveals who is the real Star of the show… Revelation 22

16 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”
17 And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

Merry CHRISTmas to you from InBounds Ministries and Team Burden!

Monday, December 7, 2015

December 7, 2015 - Solid Fundamentals

It is almost funny how clearly at times the Lord confirms what I should be writing about…let me go back to where this week’s thoughts began.

Tonight as I finished coaching two 5th/6th grade games I was on the bus back home and analyzing the games. Our boys’ team had a rough go of it and it seemed to be entirely due to the need to learn the fundamentals better. They worked incredibly hard but clearly need to work on the basics of ball handling, passing, catching, shooting, boxing out… I know that sounds like I am being harsh to point out all of the fundamentals, but when the pressure comes (which the other team brought) the “fundamentals are the anchor that will hold in the storm!” (Quoting myself from our Total Player Academy clinics)

Bottom line: We all want to do well! We all want to succeed! We all want to rise above!
Truth in the bottom line: We will all face a tremendous amount of pressure in our pursuit of excellence!

 So how do we handle the pressure? We need to master the fundamentals! We need to be equipped to the point that the fundamentals are natural to us… that we are anchored to them or rooted in them.

Spiritually speaking I want to remind you that the world is full of pressure! Are you rooted and grounded in the fundamentals? Are you actively studying the Word? (I’ll even throw in a plug for the importance of intentional fundamental training to the point of considering a year or more at a Bible college… that may sound extreme to some but the reality is that this life is full of serious pressures.)

Now to why I started the devotion the way I did… As I arrived home and sat down at my computer I saw a post on a social network from one of dear friends that simply had Scripture on it. The verses were Colossians 2:6-7: As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.

How do you handle pressure? If you struggle may I suggest you need to get back to the fundamentals a bit more? Did you see it in the verses? Rootedestablishedas you have been taught… solid in the Word!

Are you adequately trained? Let’s make sure we are ready to face the pressure…

Monday, November 30, 2015

November 30, 2015 - Controlled Freedom

Tomorrow I will coach a game with a team of 5th and 6th grade girls… some of which have never played basketball before. One tendency of youth basketball coaches is to teach set plays that dictate where each player moves and when they move there…

Me on the other hand… I prefer players to have some freedom to make decisions (and in turn have some joy in their play.) To some that sounds crazy; how could I allow admittedly inexperienced / ignorant players the freedom to make their own decisions?

I do give a basic plan for what we will run on offense. There is a preset pattern we work off of but I constantly tell the players that I trust them and want them looking for opportunities to “dive” to the basket to score. I am more concerned with them learning that the goal is getting open to score, not following the choreography perfectly. This is how players learn to get a “feel for the game” and are not just robots. When everything is tightly choreographed it is more like robots are on the floor. I’ve seen some players that will run to a spot to set a pick and there is not even a defender there to set the pick on.

The patterns we run are designed to help the players be in a position for success. The design is in place to help players avoid being in the wrong place. So it is in essence a controlled freedom…

It is true that in Christ we are free. It is true that we are no longer under law but under grace. Yet it is also true that even though all things are lawful, not all things are profitable. (See 1 Corinthians 10:23) Are the things you are doing helping you find openings to “score” with the proclamation of the Gospel? Are they helping you “score” in living out the “game plan” of Scripture? Or are there things you are doing that are simply for your own interests and not based upon loving God and loving others?

We need to be careful to not allow freedom to get us away from the “game plan.” In the book I am currently reading (Facing Goliath by JP Jones) there is a challenging/thinking story…

In a nutshell it shares about a glass manufacturer that is looking to hire a delivery driver that would be responsible for getting the product across the mountain, via a winding one lane road, to the neighboring town for sales. He asks the two drivers he interviewed “How close to the edge of the cliff do you think you could drive without falling off?”

The first guy answered that he is an excellent driver and could drive within 6 inches of the edge, at speed, without falling off. The second guy said that he too was a good driver and he could drive close to the edge; but that if responsible for delivery he would drive close to the mountain not the edge.

The second guy was hired…

God has given you some freedom. Are you careful with the “cargo” you have been entrusted with? Are you avoid the needless chances of “falling off the edge of the cliff”?

God has called us to “controlled freedom” that cares about carrying the Gospel and the truth of the Word to others… be careful that things you choose to do are not risking delivery…

1 Thessalonians 2:4 “But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the Gospel…”

Monday, November 23, 2015

November 23, 2015 - In Basketball Size Matters!

In the game of basketball size matters… and that is why college coaches and commentators all love to discuss the height and length of players (or adversely the lack thereof…) It was very glaring as I watched my favorite player yesterday. Tyler Lewis does not have the physical presence to impress opponents, commentators, or fans… yet is a starting division 1 point guard. All reports on him at some point mention his lack of size and an assumption that he cannot play defense.
In yesterday’s game against Miami he was facing a very long and athletic team with an opposing guard that got hot. Every time the opponent hit a shot over Tyler the commentators mentioned that Tyler is simply too small to guard him; yet every time the kid hit a shot over other players the commentators praised what a great scorer and big game player the kid is…

(Funny insert, as I type this I am watching a game and the commentators are talking about how much length the team has that just got a steal…)

So back to Tyler’s situation… According to the commentators when the Miami player scored on Tyler it was because Tyler is too small; when the same player scored on other players it was because of how good the player is???? Tyler ended up being taken out (and honestly wasn’t having a great offensive game) but I thought he was staying in good defensive position; the other kid just hit shots. And yes, at Tyler’s size there will be times that bigger players can just shoot over him even when he is in good position. Size does make a difference.

What was really funny to me was one time that the Miami kid drove in for a lay-up the commentator made the remark that “Lewis needs help; he can’t hold this kid.” You may wonder why that is funny to me? Well, Tyler was on the bench at the time and still got blamed for it… 

I’m not worried about Tyler! He has “faced giants” all of his life and he will respond like a champ!

But it is a great physical picture of a truth we all face… there are giants in the land! We all face “giants” that are trying to destroy us in our spiritual game of life. The enemy puts things before us to try to intimidate us or even take us out…

I’m reading a book called Facing Goliath by JP Jones. The tag on the title is “How A Man Overcomes His Giants To Follow Christ.” Obviously the text he is basing his book off of it the story of David vs Goliath. He points out some very important things…

1.       The Israelites were “dismayed and terrified”! (1 Samuel 17:11)

2.       When Goliath started toward David that David “ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him!” (vs 48)

Jones gets into some specific “Goliaths” that men face in life. They are things such as fear, pride, doubt, etc. So far it is a really good read. And this week’s devo is not to deal with a specific “Goliath” but to encourage you that you can face it!

Yes the “Goliath” is big… bigger than you or me. Our response can  be like the Israelites where we shrink in fear or like David’s where we overcome. One of my favorite stories in the book is Jones recounting a conversation with his daughter. She had watched a scary movie and was scared to go to bed for fear of nightmares. Jones had her read the story of David and Goliath and then started asking her some questions…

Ashton: They were afraid to fight.

JP: Do you know why?

Ashton: Goliath looked too big.

JP: Were the Israelites looking at God, or were they looking at Goliath?

Ashton: They were looking at Goliath.

JP: What about David? Who did he look at?

Ashton: He looked at God.
I’m not sure what you are facing as you read this. It may be big and size does matter; but I know that God is bigger!!!


Monday, November 16, 2015

November 16, 2015 - Learning the Offense

Last week I began a new journey in my coaching life as I took on both a boys and a girls 5th and 6th grade team. The first week wasn’t a big stretch as we ran it more like the clinics I typically direct all over the world; yet in those clinics I teach fundamental skills and very little time is spent developing an understanding of actually playing the game. Today I actually started trying to teach a team offense…

From an experienced basketball player’s/coach’s perspective it is not a stretch. We are running a 5-out motion where we simply screen away (if the pass goes to the wing screen across; if it goes to the top screen down.) For some you are thinking, “that’s really basic.” Others are thinking, “what in the world are you talking about?” And honestly those were the responses from my kiddos… Everything from let’s speed this up to let’s slow this down… It is having an awareness of where one is at and where one is going…

Bottom line is that as a coach I have a vision of what we can do and how we can do it; yet that takes time and commitment to learning… to the point of this becoming natural.

Just reminded me of the extreme need we have to be in the Word on a regular basis allowing it to transform us to where the supernatural becomes our natural…

God’s Word calls itself a  “lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path”… In other words it shows us clearly where we are at and gives us clarity on where we are going.  It is not just about the future but also the now. It is helping see the trail but also helps see if we are already “stepping in it” and if so get out of it and clean our shoes…

God cares about where you are at and where you are going… He is on your side… get in His “Playbook” and learn the “offense.”


Monday, November 9, 2015

November 9, 2015 - Team Chemistry

On Sunday nights we (InBounds) have been hosting a gathering called The Arena; our motto is Today We LIVE! (We Love Intentionally Value Everyone) Bottom line with this group of people is that we want to real/authentic as we grow together. We understand that this includes the exciting times as well as the down times… we choose to live life together.

Simply put we want to be a team! We want to “gel together” and find team “chemistry.” We want to pursue a common goal; we want to encourage and build each other up; if I stumble I want to know they are there to “pick me up.”

I hope you each have found a “missional group” to do life with! I stated the bottom line for The Arena… now let’s bring it back to the Playbook..

1 Peter 3:8-9 To sum it up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit, not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. (NASV)

Monday, November 2, 2015

November 2, 2015 - Showing Off Your Strength

We are in the 15th year of me writing these weekly devotions and there has only been a time or two that I have utilized someone else's writing... this week will be one of those times...

In life we come across teammates that are like-minded; in this case a dear friend from my home church that loves sports, understands grace, loves living out the Great Commission via the Great Commandment, and can tie the Playbook (Bible) in using sports themes... Enjoy this daily devotion from the Proverbs as written by Quinton "Q" Williams of LifePoint Church in Albertville Alabama (you can catch more of Q's ponderings on his blog:

November 2

“He grants a treasure of good sense to the godly.  He is their shield, protecting those who walk with integrity." Proverbs 2:7
Man I love shields. Sometimes I walk around and pretend I have a shield on my arm and sword in the other hand. When you study the Spartans, their greatest weapon was their shield.  It is the quintessential defensive tool but it can also be used as an offensive weapon. I mean look at Captain America. Shield mastery.
The shield Solomon is talking about is wisdom and the way to ensure you are protected with wisdom is integrity. In old farmer talk, “No one believes what you say unless you act like you say.” We can spout all the wisdom we like, but if we aren’t walking in integrity we are just kidding ourselves.  
I remember walking into the college weight room for the first time. I couldn’t wait to work out with the other guys and try to show off my strength.  I wanted to impress all my new teammates. As I walked in the first thing I saw was a sign hanging above the mirrors that said, “your level of greatness is determined by your level of integrity.” Our coaches went on to explain that if we were going to be great players it would happen in the weight room while no one else was watching. It would happen on the field when the crowds were gone. It would happen in our beds looking over play books.  
C.S. Lewis said, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”
Don’t try to carry the shield of wisdom without integrity. It won’t work. Live each day doing the right thing, even when it’s the hard thing. When we do this, wisdom falls on us and we don’t even know it. The wisest men in my life are not the richest or most “successful.” They are the men who’ve treated people right day in and day out while the crowds were gone.
Much love,

Monday, October 26, 2015

October 26, 2015 - God's All In!

The past week has had a recurring theme in my head/heart concerning the heart of God. To be honest the thought was born out of counseling as I searched for words of comfort for someone that was facing a tragedy…

What it has done is caused me (with my twisted sports mind) to draw reference to some things from my athletic past. As I go back to my playing days I tried thinking about specific games and what my mind went to was specific relationships. If asked about my favorite coach I think of Lanny DeWitt during my sophomore year; yet I can’t really recall many games. What I do recall was how much he loved us. I remember clearly his laughter when we were laughing. I remember him grimacing as he ran lines with us in the parking lot of our school. There were a lot of them but he was “all in” with us…

As a coach I think of the amazing times when we accomplished great things or got big wins; yet I can’t necessarily envision the actual games but can envision the celebrations. I even go back to our NACA national championship and remember very little from the actual game play… but clearly remember Adam Raye throwing his arms around me in a hug…

As a dad I think of the days when my oldest son Clay was playing. Even when trying to reminisce about his playing days I don’t envision a lot of the games but as clearly as things that happened today I can picture his joy when there were great accomplishments and his suffering and pain during injuries... I can still taste the tears, his and mine!

Basically I just remember more the relational times when it was clear the coach (dad) was all in!

Now back to the counseling session. I felt compelled to tell the one I was trying to comfort that not only was it ok to cry but that God was crying too! We have a clear example of how Jesus (God in the flesh) responded when He was with sad people. In John 11 He encounters Mary and Martha who had lost their brother Lazarus. Jesus knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead yet the Scriptures still record that “Jesus wept!” (vs 35) [We also have Scriptures that share that God rejoices over us… see Zeph 3:17]

Isn’t that incredible? God is “all in” with us in our daily lives. I know we are aware He was “all in” for our salvation… but remember He cares about what you are going through today!

If you get a chance look up the song “When I Cry” by the Gaither Vocal Band. It is a beautiful reminder that “When I cry, You (God) cry! When I hurt You hurt… cause nothing breaks Your heart, or tears You apart, like when I cry!”

Monday, October 19, 2015

October 19, 2015 - Play Loose

The weekend’s sports news brought the sad reminder of how out of order our priorities are in this country… a punter from Michigan blew it on a final play and turned the ball over giving the victory to rival Michigan State. These types of things happen often to athletes and we seem to always hear the same junk afterwards… hate-mail (which at least took a few days back in my day; but now is instant on social networks); threats of violence toward the kid that messed up… even murder; etc... In essence a kid or pro-adult can have his or her life ruined over a muffed play in sports.

Yet I guess this should not be a surprise. Picture yourself driving into just about any small town, USA… there will be a welcome to sign and probably another sign that mentions whatever sport their high school teams happen to have success in over the past hundred years; you know the signs, “Home of the 1962 State High School Softball Champions.”

Funny that we never see signs talking about the “home of the best ACT or SAT scores” or “home of an all-state violinist” or… I think you get the picture. Would you agree that sports tend to dominate our culture?

That is why another story from the weekend greatly encouraged me. A kicker on Georgia’s team had missed a field goal and then was put right back into a position to kick a field goal to win the game. Coach Richt was seen talking to the young man before the kick and the young man responded by hitting the game winner… When Coach was asked what he said I am sure the reporter was expecting some great “coach-speak” on strategy or philosophy; what the reporter got was a simple response. Coach said that he told the kid he loved him and that it wasn’t based upon whether or not the kick would be successful.

What a contrast… the punter in Michigan is receiving threats; the kicker in Georgia was told he is loved and it is not based upon performance.
That is the difference of religion vs relationship. It is the picture of making sure where our identity is found. It is the difference on whether or not we “play the game” and we are uptight or we “play” with joy. It is the difference in feeling like a slave vs feeling free.

Christ not only died to grant us forgiveness, He also rose again to give us life; and in the process His righteousness is imparted to us at the point of our faith in His finished work.

I often preach (and have often written over the years in these devotions) about the beauty of the letter to the Ephesians and how Paul (under the inspiration of the Spirit) reminds us of our identity in Christ before he ever writes about our performance.

I challenge you (even if you have heard me preach this or read our devotions about this) to go through Ephesians 1 and focus on all the times Christ is referred to based upon what He has done for us. I then encourage you to celebrate my two favorite words in the Scripture found in Ephesians 2:4… “But God”!

These words are repeated in Romans 5. We are reminded in verse 6 that “we were helpless” when Christ died for us… and then in verse 8 we again see “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Do you see it? His love was not dependent upon us; it was shown while we were screwing up!

Can I just encourage you this week that even if you have messed up, God loves you and it is not based upon your performance. That doesn’t mean that He doesn’t want you to be victorious in your choices; He just wants you to know that His love for you is not dependent upon them… I know, He told me so in His Word!

What we will find is that is a lot easier to “make the kick” when we “play loose and free.”

Monday, October 12, 2015

October 12, 2015 - Great Adventure

Well it is almost here… basketball season is knocking on the door! I love the excitement of a new season and seeing how my favorite players/teams will perform. I love to watch a new team learn and grow together. There is such an excitement when everyone’s record is 0-0 and each team believes it is poised to win…

This year I not only look forward to watching others but I am going to pace the sidelines again! Yet this time there will be no college scouts in the stands or news reporters to talk with… I am going to coach 5th and 6th graders (including my daughter Faith.) And even that brings excitement as I think about molding and forming these players in their personal skills and their team unity… It is a new and fresh start.

Along with that we are initiating new things within InBounds Ministries. I am excited about a new Sunday night “missional community” we are beginning called The Arena. It will be an opportunity to see God work in new ways in our lives. We are also continually looking at other new outreach opportunities.

I am excited about the new campus pastor position I have at Statesville Christian School. There I am introducing new ideas and new opportunities for the students and the staff.

Why am I so excited about NEW things? Newness brings with it the expectation of victory. The “0-0 record” allows for great plans of what the Lord may do in and through us. I love the idea of being a trailblazer for ministry because I love to be a part of how the Lord is working; and He is into doing “new things”!

Isaiah 43: 16 Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea
And a path through the mighty waters,
17 Who brings forth the chariot and horse,
The army and the power
(They shall lie down together, they shall not rise;
They are extinguished, they are quenched like a wick):
18 “Do not remember the former things,
Nor consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.

Does that passage excite you? The Lord is at work doing new things and ready to take you down roads and rivers you didn’t know existed… He is a mighty God that invites us into His adventure!

Today begins a new season in your life… get on board with what God is doing… Today we LIVE (Love Intentionally Value Everyone)!!! It truly is a great adventure!

Monday, October 5, 2015

October 5, 2015 - was hard to get me to come back in the house...

What drives you to play the game? (Or for us old geezers, what drove us to play the game? And in some cases to limp out there and try to continue playing the game?)
I know for me that the sweetest times I spent on the court were often in my backyard avoiding the drop off on the side of the concrete… or avoiding the raised cracked concrete… or hopping the fence to retrieve a ball that bounced over… at times playing in the rain… at times shoveling snow that tried to interrupt my hooping plans. The court was only around the width of a free throw lane; the concrete was rough; but in my backyard I fell in love with the game. On that court I became all my basketball heroes and played for my favorite teams. Because of that love adversity didn’t matter; the negatives I mentioned just morphed into part of the game. And when the ball went up in my backyard, that court and each game was every bit as important to me as the thousands of times I’ve laced up my shoes in nice gymnasiums. It was not hard to get me to go out to the court to play; but it was very hard to get me to come back in the house. When you love something you logically want to be around it… want to spend time with it… want to know more about it… don’t allow adversity to stop you… etc. For me my basketball is love-driven (or one could even say it is part of the spirit of who I am and thus spirit-driven.)
This came to my mind as I was studying for a message last night about the early church. One of the sites ( I came across when researching stated the following:
“…we don’t actually see that the EC had a real clear idea what they were doing or that they were “church planting.” Their devotion to the Word, fellowship, communion, and prayer were not sophisticated, sociologically engineered church planting methods. No, the EC was… a “SPIRIT driven church”!!!”
The early church simply was overwhelmed with what they realized Christ had done for them. Their world was rocked by not only a crucified, but also a risen again Savior. In fact in the text of Acts 2 in verse 32 it reminds them that they were witnesses of this risen Savior… imagine physically being a witness of that miracle…
The logical result was wanting to spend time learning more and growing together. The text goes on to tell us in verse 42 that they were “continually devoting” themselves… in other words they were devoted daily to this thing we have called church. They daily spent time at this… much like I did with my backyard basketball court. I would say they were love-driven with their love for the Lord and we can’t miss in the context the absolute clear picture that they were Spirit-driven.
I love the reality that one’s personal growth and for the effectiveness of our churches, there needs to be a natural response to the reality of who Jesus is and what He has done and continues to do in our lives. The reality of the crucified and risen again Savior should be rocking our worlds!

Monday, September 28, 2015

September 28, 2016 - The Method to Our MADness!

Every once in a while I pull the weekly devotion from things I had already written for other venues; as a coach you sometimes pull from the old playbook... This is one of those weeks; as I am thinking about time tonight in the gymnasium with a new group of our MAD Hoops outreach. You see even for them I plan a weekly devotion and with this being a new venue for our outreach I thought I would explain to them our rules... doesn't sound very devotional does it? But the reality is that we have set up this outreach to teach life skills via a basketball setting;and not just any old skills but ones that truly help us honor the Lord! So here is "The Method of Our MADness!"

Welcome to MAD Hoops! We are so glad you are here! We have some rules of play that help us keep things flowing smoothly... designed to help Make A Difference on the court and are good life lessons off the court… The method to our MADness!

·        Player that commits the foul calls the foul… players are encouraged to own up to the things they have done wrong! Defense call it if you hack someone! Offense call it if you charge or clear out illegally!
-           James 5:16 Confess your trespasses to one another…

·        Player that has been fouled should play through the contact… do your job without expecting to be bailed out by a call!
-          Philippians 2:14 Do all things without complaining and disputing

·        Player is not a coach… there is no need to point out when someone else makes a dumb play (that player already realizes it)… but it goes a long way to admit when you make a bad pass or dumb play!

-          Matthew 7:3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?

·        Player is not a referee… there is no need for you to point out someone else’s travel, double dribble, etc… but own up to your mistakes…

-          Proverbs 28:13 He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.

·        Player is expected to play under control… not just physically but also emotionally; it is expected that players try to control their tongues by avoiding the use of profane language… There is a zero-tolerance policy for the use of God’s name is vain!

-          Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

·        Player that commits an intentional foul (physically or verbally) will be asked to leave the gym… staff will determine this and then escort the player out, pray with player, and invite the player to return to the next MAD Hoops session.

-          Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.
Player’s Prayer: Lord, as I lace them up today I pray that you will be honored through my attitude and actions. I pray that others will see a difference in me. I commit that no one will work harder than I do, because you deserve my best in all I do. I commit that I will respect others – teammates, coaches, opponents. Lord, help me Go MAD (Make A Difference) on and off the court! In Jesus’ name I play and pray, Amen!

Monday, September 21, 2015

September 21, 2015 - Daily effort adds up to great achievement!

I have written in the past about my friend Brian Creel. He is one of the world’s strongest men (proven by his results in the World’s Strongest Man competitions.) He is truly a massive dude that at one point was even named the country’s strongest collegiate football player. He shared that he has never cut out a workout… He is an impressive dude!
I have also written in the past about my spiritual hero, Dr Mark Cambron. Just walking in a room with that guy made one aware of closely this man walked with God. He once answered a college student that he had read through the Scriptures 400-500 times… He was an impressive dude!
Both of these guys had supreme work ethics. They didn’t allow circumstances to keep them from doing what they had committed to do. Both obviously turned bad days into productive days. Neither one seemed to be guys that were seeking glory or fame, they just stayed the course…  
That is what great athletes do… that is what those that walk close with the Lord do… they take care of their part and trust the results will follow.
Proverbs 21:31 tells us to “prepare the horse for battle.” In other words we have a responsibility to put in some work. But then it tells us to trust that the “victory belongs to the Lord.”
I’ll be honest; this topic is on my mind again because I simply want to hit the bed… I have already worked for 13 hours today and on top of that I am sick (and the Dayquil is wearing off. Thank God it is almost time for the NyQuil!) Yet I have responsibilities that need to be taken care of in spite of the circumstances. And then, yes, I will get some rest…
Greatness is attained through a daily commitment to be the best one can be that day…
Daily effort adds up to great achievement!

Monday, September 14, 2015

September 14, 2015 - Great Players Think Moves Ahead

A great player has awareness of where he is at and also awareness of where he is going! I have witnessed many very good players that have great moves but don’t necessarily read the game a few moves down the court… (like great billiards players that set up for future shots.)

I have often written about my favorite point guard (Tyler Lewis of the Butler Bulldogs.) I’ve seen other players with equal or sometimes better skill sets in the moment, but never seen anyone better at seeing the “future” of the game…  not only where he is planning to go but also where his teammates are going… and even more impressively he sees where the defense is planning to go.

In our Christian lives I believe we are told to not only make right decisions in the moment, but also to look at how they affect the future.

Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.”

So how do we do that?

Psalm 119:105 “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

Do you see it? A lamp is used to illuminate the situation you are currently in and a light for a path indicates seeing the future of where you will be walking. We are to not only make decisions that are for the moment but also consider how they affect the future. (Thinking of Ephesians 5:15 that tells us to “walk circumspectly, not as fools but wise.”)

Allow God’s Word to be your rudder… let It direct you!

Monday, September 7, 2015

September 7, 2015 - When You See An Opening... Hit It!

Happy Labor Day… I love celebrating those that have shown the work ethic to get the job done!

One of my biggest pet peeves as a coach (or fan or teammate…) is to watch a player that is more concerned with showing off than he is in simply getting the job done.  When a team has put forth time and effort to prepare for a game the singular focus of the players should be accomplishing the objective.

I’m picturing the basketball player that dances around on the wing showing his ball handling skills and misses the open lane to the basket… when the bottom line is that a player should use the fewest dribbles needed to get to the basket… anything more is wasted time. It is great to have skills to use when they are needed to create an opening, but when there is an opening hit it!

Simply put I love players that keep their heads in the game and do work!

As a member of God’s team I hate thinking about all the opportunities we waste to share the Gospel or meet the needs of others. We are way too lax in our approach to “the game.” I think a few things contribute to this:

1.       I think we often think that our Christian duty is more centered on what we avoid (what we don’t do) more than focusing on what we should be doing… it is like players focusing on not losing more than on aggressively trying to win… (See 1 Corinthians 15:58… we should be “always abounding in the work…”)

2.       I think we often get caught up trying to show off how much we know and forget to show that we care… Many believers are more than willing to debate politics, theological stances, ethics, etc., but ignore the opportunities to show love or even simply share the Gospel message… (1 Corinthians 15:3-4 says that to Paul the delivery of the Gospel was of “first importance”…)

3.       I think we often try to fool others and even fool ourselves by using our “spirituality” as an excuse… we see a need or an opportunity and hide behind the need to go pray about it instead of simply meeting it. It is like the basketball player that sees an opening and instead of getting to the basket looks over to ask his coach if he wants him to score… Bottom line here is that we need to start doing what we were trained to do: love (serve) people and look to share the Gospel! (See James 4:17)

It is time for us to start “playing to win!” We need to stop wasting time and start actively doing what God has called us to do! I love the way this idea is worded in the Message…

Ephesians 5:11 “Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork…” Then later in verse 17 it reminds us to “make sure you understand what the Master wants.” It is implied that we need to know so we will be ready to go into action when an opening arises.