Sunday, May 31, 2015

June 1, 2015 - Are you a go-to player?


I have written about it in the past, yet it comes to mind again this weekend (and of course after over 700 of these weekly devotions I don’t write about much that is new to the blog…)
 I was walking through the house yesterday on my way to do some work and the TV caught my ear and then my eyes; there was a weekend news/entertainment show on (know idea what the name of it was) and the anchor was mentioning their “fans of the week” from Facebook. The “fans” names were called out and their pictures posted; and the anchor then said, “if you want to hear your name read on the air simply like our Facebook page.” First of all that is pretty lame criterion for being called a “fan.” But the reason it jumped out at me is that it plays to the basic human desire to hear our name called, to be recognized, to feel noticed…

I thought of my oldest son telling me last week of a pastor he met that later remembered his name; and how that impressed him. I then talked to him about the fact that people love to be recognized…

I was reminded of it this morning by the message at church where one of our pastors was discussing where we go to find significance. He pointed out the parable in Luke 14 where the people at the banquet were vying to get the best seat to be recognized as important…

I thought of how special it always felt to hear my name introduced in a starting line-up; but then realizing that I don’t remember the beginning of many games )but the end of many games stand out in my mind.) But then I remember often going back to the pride of hearing/seeing my name and eagerly grabbing the newspaper the next day to see my name in the article and in the boxscore… I wanted to be seen as great.

I counsel players all the time about how it is more important who the coach relies on to close out a game than who he chooses to start a game. You see the reality is that we want to start because we want the recognition of others. Often times we search the papers afterwards because we want to be recognized. Yet, while the game is underway the coach knows who he can count on to finish strong; who is committed to the cause; committed to the team; can be relied on to give his all; etc. Between those self-seeking moments of glory the coach knows who are truly his “go-to” players!

When we get our names called it boosts our pride, gives us a sense of importance. We all to be seen as great… but what is great? How does God see greatness? I think much like a coach does. God wants those that can be counted on to be in the game and committed to the cause! He wants those that will humble themselves and consider the game plan and teammates!

Are you a “go-to” player? Can you be counted on to fulfill the Great Commission? Can you be counted on to live out the Great Commandment? Can you be counted on to follow the Great Game Plan and do these things locally, nationally, and internationally?

The “game” is going on! It is not time to be seeking recognition or desiring to hear our names called. Your importance and significance is from the Lord not from others. Let’s focus on Him and His game plan – His applause; instead of the applause of the crowds!

Luke 14:11 “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (That is how Jesus summed it up…)

Are you a “go-to” player?

 

 

Monday, May 25, 2015

May 25, 2015 - Benchwarmers Don't Make Mistakes

As I sit here today and reflect a moment on Memorial Day and the sacrifices of lives that have been made by so many to ensure my freedoms, I am thankful and driven to not take that for granted. So I will start with a simple but heartfelt, “Thank you!”

With the thoughts of those that were willing to give their lives I couldn’t help but think about all the Scriptural mandates that we too should be “sacrificial” in our approach to life. Throughout “The Playbook” we are told to die to self and live for Him. We are reminded of the ultimate sacrifice in that He gave His life for us; so out of gratitude we should in turn give our lives for Him. And the reality is that if I preach those thoughts I would receive a lot of “Amens” and professing believers will almost always claim that is true in their lives.

But I want to challenge each of you (and myself) to truly examine our lives and see if that is true of us…

I will focus on one part of one verse that jumped off the page to me today: Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.”

If that verse is true in our lives then there should be some very specific evidence… we should be living and looking like Christ. Did you see the progression of death to self (crucified) on to trusting Christ to use you?

We often think that death to self is characterized just by the things we avoid. In other words the idea that if I “don’t drink, smoke, cuss, or chew (or go with girls who do)” then I am accomplishing the goals. That is like a player bragging to me, “Hey Coach, I didn’t turn the ball over or miss any shots today!” Sounds good without the context that the said player never got off the bench…

We are to die to self so He can LIVE in and through us! When I think about the life of Christ I don’t marvel at the things He didn’t do (even though being without sin was a pretty huge deal that qualified Him to be my Savior); instead I reflect on how He treated others; how He served others; how He loved others (especially the unlovable); how He interacted with the down and out; how He met needs; etc.

If Christ is living in us then we should be living/acting like Him! I’m not asking you if you have any turnovers or missed shots… I’m asking you if you are even in the game trying to Make A Difference in the lives of others? Are you willing to sacrifice your selfish desires to meet the needs of others?

Monday, May 18, 2015

May 18, 2015 - Talk It Up!

Recently at an event where I was speaking I was explaining the rules of an icebreaker basketball competition… one of the instructions was to “get your own rebound.” That seems very basic to most but one little girl at the event promptly asked, “What’s a rebound?”

Clear communication is a key to success. Coaches often remind their players to talk on the court so they will function well as a unit. I can still picture being on the court and calling out to a teammate that there was a pick coming, or yelling to switch on defense… I can picture turning to my teammates in a baseball game to make sure we all knew how many outs there were… We were always encouraged to “talk it up.”

The Great Commission calls each of us that are believers to be communicators… to “talk it up.” We need to make sure that what we are communicating is accurate and clear!

When sharing the message of Christ as the Substitute make sure that you are not speaking in “Christianeze.” That is the language/jargon of the church that often is misunderstood and leads to confusion. As I was recently reading a book by Pat Williams (of course about John Wooden) he brought up author and. television correspondent Polly LaBarre. Williams states that “LaBarre correctly labeled technically confusing speech ‘jargon monoxide,’ a deadly verbal poison that asphyxiates communication.” (Found in the book Coach Wooden’s Greatest Secret by Pat Williams)

I have sat under many teachers/preachers that simply left me scratching my head wondering what I just heard. Messages are often muddied up by unnecessary terminology; sometimes they even have contradictory points due to the communicator being driven by emotion instead of accuracy; and sometimes communicators simply remain silent on the things that truly matter.

Let me encourage you when dealing with the Gospel to be absolutely committed to clarity and accuracy. Talking about being justified, sanctified, glorified… deep fried or homogenized… it all can be “jargon monoxide” to the unbeliever… “asphyxiating communication” and leaving the unsaved lost. Avoid confusing clich├ęs and avoid adding unnecessary things that muddy the message.

I think Jesus made the Gospel message quite clear in John 3:14-18. Do me a favor and read those verses… go ahead get out your Playbook or pull it up on your phone…

Vs 15 “whoever ______________ in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Vs 16 “whoever ______________ in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Vs 18 “He who ______________ is not condemned; but he who does not ______________ is condemned already, because he has not ______________ in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

I like clear and simple communication. I don’t think Jesus could have been any clearer. There are many valid things to teach and share with someone but when it comes to the Gospel we need to get to the point and avoid potential confusion in the hearer. I’ve got a great idea… again back to The Playbook…

Acts 16 records a conversation between a jailer and a couple men of God (Paul and Silas.) Point blank the man asks what he needs to do to be saved (vs 30); to which they reply, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…” (vs 31.)

Note the jailer wants to know what he can do to earn Gods favor and the response is to trust (believe on) the One that paid the way!

Team, we need to communicate! We need to “talk it up” or I guess clearly put… “Talk Him up!” Let’s tell others what Jesus has done for us!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

May 11. 2015 - One Bucket At A Time

Do you ever feel like you’re “20 points down on the scoreboard” of life… maybe even 30 or 40? Do you ever feel like you’re getting “blown out” in life?

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time…

How do you come back in a game? One bucket at a time…

Today, and many days as of late, I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed with all that I need to get done. I sit here tonight working late on this devotion after a very busy day of travel and busy work. I get overwhelmed because I look at things that need done over the next few months instead of looking at the “next play” today.

In reality I got a lot accomplished today but it would have been easy to get paralyzed (instead I just found myself getting grumpy – which is not good either.) The truth is that I can (and you can) be overwhelmed by the wrong things when we “play to the scoreboard” instead of focusing on the “next play.”

Matthew 6:34 is very clear that we should “not worry about tomorrow…” Remember tomorrow’s stuff will be there to take care of tomorrow…

Philippians 4:6 tells us to “not be anxious…” and 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to “cast our anxiety on Him…

And in that verse in 1 Peter it tells us we can do this because “He cares for you” and for me…

What should overwhelm us is that the God of the universe cares for us… that He is interested and involved in our lives… that He all-powerful, all-knowing, and yet full of grace!

My wife will often mention a song I wrote a couple years ago; it is usually when she has been feeling overwhelmed with life and she says the song brings her conviction that her focus is wrong. And of course since our lives run together then it is usually that I am feeling overwhelmed about the wrong things and then I get convicted…

Jesus, worthy is your name…
Jesus, greatly to be praised…
And all that I can say…
Is I’m overwhelmed!

Remember today to focus on getting “one bucket at a time!”

Monday, May 4, 2015

May 4, 2015 - Preparing for Game Time


Failure to prepare is preparing to fail…


I spend most weeks trying to encourage a MAD lifestyle that is “in the game” making a difference. As believers we commissioned, commanded, encouraged, entrusted, equipped, etc. to love, serve, share, teach, etc. God’s Playbook (the Bible) is not designed for passivity… therefore I will remind you to Go MAD right out of the gate this week…

 

Yet I have been reminded through my reading selections and also through many things going on in our lives that we need to remember the importance of preparation for this active “in the game” approach.

 

Every player looks forward to the beginning of a season and the opportunity to run out of the tunnel, hear the cheers of the crowd (and even the jeers of the opposing crowd), and face off with the opponents. (They even have little smoke tunnels available for Upwards basketball introductions.) The fact is that it is exciting once it is “Game Time!”

 

Yet as I was reading (yet another book) about John Wooden it struck me again how he talked about his greater joy being practice time. He loved the opportunity to teach the game and life to his players and used games only as a gauge of what to work on next. Coach Wooden was incredibly detailed in his practice plans and preparation of his teams. His practices were so high paced and intense that his players often say the games seemed to be a slow-down from practice…

 

As I reflected on that I thought about how much I enjoyed the teaching time in practices when I was still coaching. I absolutely loved seeing guys get better! I loved that the applause and encouragement (and correction) was from coaches and teammates that were bonding together for a common cause. And now looking at my time in ministry I realize the same is true…

 

Don’t get me wrong, I love being in the game on the front lines of ministry. I love sharing the Gospel! I love serving and loving on folks in the name of Christ! I love going out as commissioned from the Lord Himself! Yet I find a different spring in my step when I get to teach how to share the Gospel… or equip and prepare others for going “in the game.” I love seeing others going deeper in their walk, learning more about the Playbook, and implementing “game plans” to Go MAD! In hoops we call it practice… in the Playbook it is discipleship; (which is a major part of what we do at InBounds Ministries!)

 

I still love sharing our discipleship motto: “Get schooled now… so you won’t get schooled later!”

 

The Playbook commands us to:

  • Not forsake the assembling of ourselves together – so we can encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24-25)
  • Study to show ourselves approved (2 Timothy 2:15)
  • Meet together to pray, fellowship, break bread, and study the Playbook (Acts 2:42)
  • And I could go on and on…
     
    Time together for church, life groups, Bible studies, fellowships, etc. is essential for “Preparing for Game Time!” Without these things we are preparing to fail!
     
    Are you a part of a church? …a life group? …a “team” fellowship? (You should be!)
     
    Maybe you want to go from an average “player” to a great “player”? You could even invest some of your time in good books, a Bible college course or two or maybe even a degree… In other words put in the “practice time” to be fully ready to make a difference in “the game.”
     
    Proverbs 4:7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.
     
    Proverbs 4:26 Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established.
     
    We need time together with the “team” apart from the bright lights and cheering or jeering crowds. Together we prepare and then together we go into battle!