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!