Tuesday, December 27, 2016

December 26, 2016 - Change of Game Plan

As I have had so much extra time these past few months to watch football, it has continued to blow my mind how many guys are getting hurt. Every game these warriors suit up knowing there is going to be some pain… and great chance of seasons ending. It causes coaches to have to determine if they are going to sit certain players out for the remaining games to preserve them for the playoffs… and so on.

I guess it is doubly fresh on my mind due to watching a game tonight and then realizing I was watching Monday Night Football, oblivious to the day of the week; then as I prepared to go to bed I realized I had “fumbled” the ball… on the final “play” of year 15 of Monday devotions… so we will pretend we are on mountain time.

To be honest, holding myself upright is a chore at the moment… the fatigue I am experiencing is like nothing I can describe. It is making study and prep very difficult; and to be honest I would prefer to read praise… so a change of plan this week
Please respond via the emails, Facebook options, etc, with a special memory from 15 yrs online… or a special memory from over 20 years of outreach in camps, clinics, missions, services, etc

Monday, December 19, 2016

December 19, 2016 - Thank Your Teammates

Today has seemed to have a consistent theme of being thankful for those around you…

As I was watching an interview this morning I listened to former-NFL great Eric Dickerson reminding Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys) to show his appreciation to his offensive line. Dickerson reminisced about buying watches, boots, etc. for his guys… (When I hear these types of reminders I always think about Coach Wooden’s rule that you point back to the guy that gave you a pass to score; one player asked, “What if he is not looking?” To which Wooden replied, “He will be.”)
A little later I read a Facebook post from my dear friend Bruce Johnson reminiscing and showing thanks to men that have influenced (‘mentored”) his life in major ways. Relatives, pastors, coaches, teachers… that invested in him! It made me start thinking through my “list.”

Of course the daily reminders as I have this health battle of those that have been showering my family with prayer and love… making sure that every need we have is being met, and then some.

We need to be a grateful / thankful people… and we need to let others know it! As I was in my daily Proverbs time the theme continued…

The normal reminders of all our parents have imparted unto us along with an extra special reminder:

Proverbs 18:22 A man who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.
Proverbs 19:14 Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.

I’m reminded of these verses as I see my wife here at the hospital every day with me; massaging my aching body, comforting when I’m down, etc. In fact she has spent most of the nights sleeping here on a horrible hospital couch… yet still has taken time to take care of the kids and coordinate everything.

(And as I write this week I notice that Coach Jon just posted on Facebook about how cool this marriage thing is..)

So my encouragement to you this week is to find some people to thank! I have many but I must start with it going to my beautiful, kind, giving, sharing, incredible wife.
Thanks Lis, “come what may I’m gonna love you; come what may I’m gonna need you; come what may I’m gonna want you by my side… come what may I’ll always see heaven in your eyes!”

Monday, December 12, 2016

December 12, 2016 - Rise Up Strong (Stepping in where needed...)

I'm not entirely sure what the ideal introduction to a blog is, or I if there's a specific structure or organization I'm supposed to follow when writing a devotion...But one thing I do know is that in Galatians 6:2 we are instructed to carry one another's burdens, and tonight, my father, Mr. Burden, is in need of such a burden to be lifted. So I, Elisha Burden, will be doing tonight’s devotion. This week has become increasingly difficult as my dad has continued stagnant in his recovery. Often times at this point in the race, it's easy to become frustrated and overwhelmed by our circumstances. But as I'm sure my dad would tell you, this part of the race is the most important. Throughout my life, my dad has constantly encouraged me to “FINISH STRONG” in my every pursuit. These words reflect so clearly what Christ did for us when he paid the ultimate sacrifice for us on the cross. Peter informs us in 1st Peter 2:21 that “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” Did Peter really just say that what my dad is going through is something we're called to do? In the midst of tribulation, it's so easy for anger and resentment to boil against God, but yes, in the preceding verse Peter writes “For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God” Knowing this might give our minds the ability to rise above the suffering which we’re experiencing at the moment. It's undeniable to acknowledge my dad's ability to go MAD like never before in the height of his discomfort. Even through the difficulty, we are witnessing God’s capabilities like never before. I encourage you to seek out this same epiphany of God’s utilization. Suffer for God, because sometimes, in terms of spiritual effectiveness, we are strongest when we are weakest.

Monday, December 5, 2016

December 5, 2016 - Delay of Game

due to unexpected admittance into the hospital with no computer I am left to attempt to live out the "game plan" on dealing with difficulties...
PRAISE! even though I honestly don't feel like it... It is hard right now... Feel like I need to be in concussion protocol...


I will praise you for i am fearfully and wonderfully made...


Monday, November 28, 2016

November 28, 2016 - Going to the Floor

Lately, due to my health, I am finding I need to get back to what was the original idea of these weekly devotions… way back in late 2001 as we prepared to launch the weekly devotions the first Monday of 2002, we envisioned some “quick hitters” or “fast breaks” that were more like commercials for the readers’ lives… Tonight I was set up well to do that.

As I watched the first half of the Kentucky-Arizona State basketball game the commentator, Dan Dakich, pointed out a truth I always tried to get across to my players… teams have to play with a hunger or desire that surpass their opponents.

The game was an obvious mismatch on paper but I expected Arizona State to put up a fight because their coach, Bobby Hurley, was a scrappy player that always found a way to compete; yet it was clear that has not yet become the culture of his team…

Time after time on loose balls UK players were seeing diving to the floor and playing “hungry.” One play had the UK player on the floor and an ASU player just bending over at the waist reaching for the ball; which led Dakich to proclaim that UK “has more talent and works harder.” That is a dangerous combination… and a sad commentary about ASU. It’s not their fault that UK is bigger, stronger, and faster; but there is no excuse for lack of effort! Every player has the choice of “going to the floor” for the ball… EFFORT is a choice! It was ASU’s only chance to try to compete, and they weren’t.

Proverbs 28:19 He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough!

Are you willing to dive to the floor to pursue your dreams? Are you willing to do the extra stuff to reach others in your outreach to others?

Monday, November 21, 2016

November 21, 2016 - Dumb and Dumber

Earlier today I was watching a college basketball game and the commentator (Bill Walton) made the following remark about how a team handled coming out of a timeout: “They obviously didn’t listen to their coach in the huddle.” (…Or something close to that.)

But he had a great point in that it is always assumed that what players do on the court or field is a direct reflection of what they have been taught. That is as ludicrous as assuming that everything our kids do we have taught them… Yet the reality is that generally when players do dumb things, fans say the coach is dumb. (Makes me think of my favorite assistant coach, who often reads these devos, he was “Dumb” and I was “Dumber.”)

The same is often true of God… people make their assumptions about Him based upon what they see in His “players.” In other words, if people you are close to think poorly about God then maybe you are not representing Him well…

2 Corinthians 5:20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ,….

What a high responsibility! Think about your life and how it compares to the life of Christ. You, and I, are called to represent or be like Him. Do you love like He loves? Do you serve like He serves? Are you humble like He is humble?

Ambassadors, it’s time to REPRESENT!

Monday, November 14, 2016

November 14, 2016 - Win the Down!

This coming Friday night I have been asked to share with the Statesville Christian Lions in their locker room before their football game. May not sound like a big deal but it is not just any game… it is the state championship game and our boys are just in their 2nd year as a program. It is obviously an exciting time and I am pumped to get to challenge and encourage them… (pray I am physically able to be there as my cancer treatments are kicking my butt.)

I love big trophies but the state championship is not what I hope to talk to them about… a trophy is a prize at the end of a journey… it is found at the top of the staircase and if you focus too much on the top you will inevitably miss a step and tumble to the bottom…

I want to encourage them to focus coming of the locker room on the game not the prize. I want them to not think about scoreboards in the 4th quarter but instead on execution in the first quarter. I want them to be their best by striving to win each down… Win the Down!

Our tomorrows depend on what we do today! We need do what is right… in the now! What should you do now to help you achieve your future goals? Or more importantly, what should you do now to fulfill what the Lord is asking of you?

James 4:17 Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

Monday, November 7, 2016

November 7, 2016 - Trophies From God

Here we are at the dawn of a new hoops season and players are being asked to push themselves in preparation. In fact, the first few weeks of a season are often gruesome in regards to how hard players will push themselves physically… well at least some players… the ones that are champions in the making!
Future champions are willing to pay the price today for the trophies they envision tomorrow!
In our Christian walk God uses Heaven and rewards as motivational tools. We are told to remember where our citizenship lies… that to die is gain… that we can receive crowns… that we should eagerly wait for the Savior… etc.
In other words, our destination should be motivation for our dedication!
Philip Yancey (in his book Vanishing Grace) stated that “having the proper destination in mind should transform life here and now.” He goes on to quote CS Lewis: “If you read history you will find out that the Christians who did the most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next.” Lewis is also quoted as saying, “Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in.’ Aim at earth and you get neither.”
We see that those who are Going MAD (Making A Difference) are those that are:
1.       Thankful for the gift of salvation that purchased entrance into the Kingdom
2.       Thankful for the opportunity through faithfulness to receive “trophies”
To be a difference-maker you need to live today in light of eternity!

Monday, October 31, 2016

October 31, 2016 - Getting Hit While Still In The Backfield

As I sat in my recliner watching some football yesterday I was amazed at the speed and aggressiveness of the Denver Broncos defense. I’ve watched them numerous times before and always was impressed but for some reason yesterday I found myself feeling almost sorry for Philip Rivers, the opposing quarterback of the San Diego Chargers, and I’m not even a Chargers (or Rivers) fan…

It seemed like every time the ball was snapped Rivers was getting hit! I watched as he grimaced each time he rose back to his feet. I watched as there was one stretch where he threw some bad interceptions and honestly looked like a defeated man, in spite of there still being a lot of time on the clock.

I’ll pick back up on the game in a minute but let me draw some parallels. We all face struggles in life and often times feel as though we are getting hit in the “backfield” before we can even get rolling. This past week was one of those for me… With my first dosage of chemotherapy and my first 5 dosages of radiation I had one of the most difficult weeks of my life. I found myself going between my bed and my chair, struggling to get to my feet without grimacing (or more accurately whining), feeling like a defeated man… and honestly much of the week it seemed to be all I could focus on.

Now back to the game… I mentioned I am not necessarily a Philip Rivers fan but I sure gained a lot of respect for him as he kept getting up and, even after being intercepted for the third time in the game, got into a nice groove completing some passes and even leading a 98-yard TD drive. This was not a case of Denver letting up on the pressure; in fact, they still seemed to have their guys in the backfield on every snap and Rivers still took a lot of hard hits! But what I noticed and respected so much was that Rivers all the sudden took on a laser-like focus on his receivers and seemed to ignore the pending doom upon himself.

What I noticed in my rough week is that my pain was not as dominating whenever I had to focus on doing something for someone else. The game and my situation reminded me of a passage I mention often in these weekly devotions, Philippians 2. I love this letter from Paul, who is in prison as he writes, as he gives us instructions on how to handle life, even when we are getting “hit in the backfield.”

Philippians 2:3-4 remind us to “…esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

Paul doesn’t tell us to not take care of the problems we are in but he does tell us to “look” out of the pocket we are in to others. The word for “look” in the Greek actually has the idea of fixing our attention elsewhere… much like Rivers had to do at the quarterback position.

Not sure what you are going through but try focusing on helping others and it will make your pain more bearable. We have received thousands of prayers in my sickness and are very thankful (as I am nowhere close to “out of the backfield.” Yet I would count it an honor if you sent us your prayer requests for me to focus on when these times are difficult.

Monday, October 24, 2016

October 24, 2016 - The Love of the Game

As a 4-5 yr old boy I had already fallen in love with the game of basketball… I don’t remember a lot from that age other than a fight with my next door neighbor and playing hoops on our driveway on Boeke Rd in Evansville, IN. I’m sure I could probably come up with some other memories but those stand out…

How did I fall in love with basketball at such a young age? It was difficult for a little guy to shoot at that 10’ goal and I certainly didn’t know all of the rules. But I do have some memories of my older brother and his friends playing, and of my dad taking hook shots, and my mom shooting free throws. (And I fell in love with other sports as well as a result of the influence of others that loved them…)

I don’t remember my dad giving me a rule book to study (I couldn’t even read at that time.) And I don’t remember anyone trying to force me to do everything just right (wasn’t big enough or strong enough to do everything right… and still mess up.) On that driveway I just played; the fundamentals and the rules came through a process. In fact if my dad would have started with rules and fundamentals I’m not sure I would have fallen in love with the game; the rules and fundamentals just helped me play more successfully.

So when it comes to evangelism and discipleship I want us to grasp some truths…

Evangelism: We need to stop trying to introduce people to Christianity; and instead focus on introducing them to Christ! It is way too common to hear supposed Gospel messages focus on the process of how a believer should play the game instead of focusing on the gift of the Person of Christ. The Gospel is about Christ committing to us, not us committing to Him! He did the work! We accept the gift! As my pastor stated yesterday: “By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone!” When Christ washed the disciples’ feet (John 13) He took the role of a servant/slave; when Peter tried to deny the washing Christ told him that he (we) must allow Christ to serve him (us) for salvation… not us serve Him for salvation! Salvation is about us allowing Christ to be our slave…

Discipleship: This is the process that makes the game better; makes us more successful. This is what we need once we are on the team! This is where our commitment comes in; not for salvation but because of salvation. This is where we, as believers, are encouraged to serve. Remember that salvation is “By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone…” Discipleship adds… “for good works!” (Check out Ephesians 2:8-10 for the full picture.)

God showed His love for me by sending Christ to serve me… I fell in love with the person and provision of Christ, not in the process of serving Him. The process came as a result of gratitude.

Bottom line: In evangelism drop the “ianity” and simply introduce people to the person and work of Christ! That is “good news” to one in need! That is amazing news to one that would feel unworthy… the God of the universe came to be our servant!

Monday, October 17, 2016

October 17, 2016 - Football and John 3:16

Friday our school got to host a Dare to Dream rally with former football great Tim Worley (the "38 Special" of the Georgia Bulldogs/NFL.) Tim did a great job challenging our students concerning choices and consequences. He did a great job encouraging them to dream, to lead, and to be willing to take a stand even when others laugh or scoff at the dreams. One of the slides on the screen stated: "If you want to be an orchestra leader you have to be willing to turn your back on the crowd!" (or something close to that...)
As a coach I loved the players that would do what is right... take the lead... Even if I wasn't in the gym.
As a minister I love the "players" that are willing to share and take a stand for Christ even if there is potential ridicule or potential lack of acceptance... even if it means turning one's back on the crowd.
Tomorrow is "character day" at our school for "spirit week." I shared with my daughter Faith an old 80's song from Steve Taylor; it has a character named "Bannerman" that is the guy waiting to hold up the "John 3:16" sign at the football games. He has strategically put himself behind the goal post so the camera will zoom in on him every time a kick goes through the uprights. Taylor muses that he can't help but hope for a high score... So Faith is dressing up as "Bannerman"...
How ready are we to share John 3:16? Remember, as the song says, we "ain't gonna change the world, but (we) know who can!"

Monday, October 10, 2016

October 10, 2016 - Great Teammates!

Recently I have had the song “Man in the Mirror” in my face multiple times; and honestly it is just a great song that reminds us to take an honest look at who we are and what we are doing… Sounds a lot like James chapter 1 doesn’t it? (See James 1:22-27)

This passage is a great reminder that we ought to evaluate our service before the Lord. Each of us is commanded to not just be talkers but instead to be doers… those that Go MAD (Make A Difference) in the world around us. Yet there is also a reminder in Scripture to not think too highly of ourselves…

Romans 12:3 tells us “not to think more highly” of ourselves than we should. Throughout the Scriptures we are warned about the problem of pride…

As I stood on a small rooftop basketball court Saturday I found myself looking at the rim and contemplating jumping up to hang on the rim… which I definitely can’t do anymore. Yet I find myself questioning it even as I write this… my pride is telling me I should be able to do it.

With the battle I am in right now I find myself frustrated when I am tired… or frustrated when I realize I have forgotten to take care of things… or frustrated when I simply have to face the truth that there are going to be times I need to come out of the game because I simply cannot do what I used to do!

So even though the devotion seemed to start about evaluating self, I am asking you this week to evaluate the team you have around you. I am blessed with teammates that want to help pick up my slack. I am blessed with teammates that are going above and beyond their normal roles on the team to cover my tail.

In Exodus 17 we find that as long as Moses holds up his rod the Israelites are winning the battle they are in; when he lets it down the Amalekites start winning. (Vs 11) But eventually Moses grows weary and struggles holding up his hands. So in comes Aaron and Hur to give Moses a rock to sit on and to support his arms so he didn’t let the staff down. (Vs 12) And then Israel goes on to win the battle.

Moses had teammates that offered him rest and support, which led to victory. Please make sure you are choosing your teammates wisely. Find and Aaron and a Hur. Be a part of a vibrant church body and small group. Be on mission with the team. And by all means accept rest and support when you need…

Monday, October 3, 2016

October 3, 2016 - Put Me In Coach, I'm Ready To Play

Not a long devotion tonight; to be honest I am simply tired and have had a long day of meetings and counseling sessions. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining… I’m just tired. Why I am not complaining is simple… it is what I signed up for!
Ministry (being on mission) is tiring. It involves an investment of ourselves in others. It at times calls for our treasure (finances); at times for our talents (service); and at times simply our time to be there and validate to others that they matter… to us and to God!
Last night I preached a message where I quoted from the great philosopher John Fogerty who sang “Put me in coach, I’m ready to play.1 Chronicles 29:1 states that God had chosen Solomon for a task to build the house of God. His father David stated in verse 3: Moreover, because I have set my affection on the house of my God, I have given to the house of my God, over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house…
Do you know that if you have believed on Christ to be saved then you became God’s masterpiece with specific opportunities He has prepared for you to serve (See Ephesians 2:8-10.) The question is if your affection is on the house of your God where you are willing to Go MAD (Make A Difference)? It is time consuming and tiring. Yet it is so much better than a life of indifference… lacking passion and purpose!
Fogerty went on to say in his song that he “spent some time with the Mudville Nine watchin’ it from the bench…” He is writing as a player that realizes he wants to be in the game…
Put me in, Coach, I'm ready to play, today
Look at me, I gotta be Center field
Got a beat-up glove, a homemade bat, and brand-new pair of shoes
You know I think it's time to give this game a ride
Just to hit the ball and touch 'em all, a moment in the sun
It's gone and you can tell that one goodbye!
Are you in the game? Are you committed to the task God has given you? Are you willing to get off the bench and take your cuts?
Isaiah 6:8 And I also heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?”
Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

Monday, September 26, 2016

September 26, 2016 - Playing Like A Little Kid

As I sat and watched all I could stomach of the presidential debate tonight I had another one of my sports-devotion-writer moments where my mind goes back to the sports world…

What I was much more impressed with tonight was seeing the tribute to the Florida Marlins pitcher (Jose Fernandez) that passed away in a boating accident yesterday. As his teammates all donned jerseys with his name and number it was clear it would be an emotional evening; yet when Dee Gordon took a pitch in Jose’s honor and then proceeded to go yard on the 3rd pitch with his first homerun of the season it was epic. To see that young man circle the bases and enter the dugout with tears filling his eyes was an awesome picture of being part of a team!

That followed me watching yesterday as social media was flooded with responses of his peers around the league paying their respects; and my favorite was a video of Marlins manager Don Mattingly as he fought tears while describing Fernandez… Mattingly talked about how much Jose Fernandez loved the game of baseball. He talked about how Jose was like a little kid in his excitement for the game. In the midst of a professional sports world where athletes are so often criticized, it is great to hear of one that was playing for the love of the game. Add in Fernandez’s story of how he escaped Cuba to become a US citizen and we see a beautiful picture of how a fee man plays, appreciates his teammates, and enjoys the game!

All of that (and believe me I could go on and on with the parallels) to simply say that when I “leave the game” I hope to be remembered like Jose Fernandez as a guy that played free; had the respect of those on “my team” and around the “league”; and simply loved the game.

The Scriptures are full of reminders that we should be known by our love for one another. Just watching the Marlins highlights today I wish I were on their team…

The Scriptures even remind us that when those not on our team see how we “play the game” they should glorify God in Heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

Let’s LIVE with a genuine love for God and others… like little kids playing the game!

LIVE (Love Intentionally Value Everyone)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

September 19, 2016 - It's The Max I Could Do

Simple truth tonight about us as athletes, students, employees, etc. (And of course true of us in our walks with Christ)… When it all comes down to it, how good we are at things is directly linked to how committed we are to it.

When running camps I often have competitions that require the “losers” to do push-ups. Then I will whisper in the ear of somebody on the winning team that the “losers” are getting stronger while the “winners” are standing their gloating… And it doesn’t take long for the winners to start dropping and doing “want-to” push-ups, as opposed to “have-to” push-ups. I always loved the players that wanted to max out their potential…

Bottom line is that most of us are programmed to ask what is the minimum requirement for us to accomplish… we want to get by with as little as possible. But champions are those that give as much as possible toward their goals.

I won’t belabor the point… instead getting straight to the application as believers. I believe we spend far too much of our time focusing on what is our minimum requirements before the Lord (how much to give, how long to read, how often to attend church, etc.); and we are not focusing on what the Lord has for us each moment of each day in reaching others!

This popped in my mind again as a result of listening to my pastor in Alabama preaching on the importance of being a good neighbor… (I encourage each of you to go to discoverlifepoint.com to watch the messages in this series.) He brought up when Christ was being asked about the greatest commandments and He gave the classic “Love the Lord your God… and love your neighbor…” response; to which the question came “who is my neighbor?”

In other words, “Ok Coach, tell me exactly what is the minimum requirement.” It is almost as if the questioner wanted Jesus to tell him exactly how far one has to go to be reaching “neighbors.” And Jesus responded with the story of the “good Samaritan”… the one who saw someone else in need and showed mercy. So a “neighbor” in Jesus’ definition was anyone we come across that we can minister to!

I encourage you this week to intentionally look for opportunities to show mercy. Help meet people’s needs, even though it cost you time and maybe even money. (Read the story in Luke 10:25-37 and see that the Samaritan sacrificed to meet the need.)

Let’s stop thinking in terms of our minimum requirements but instead in being used to the max by the Lord! We should not live by “it’s the least I could do” but instead “it’s the max I could do!”

The motto of our missional group (The Arena) is “Today we L.I.V.E.!)
We strive to Love Intentionally and Value Everyone…

Monday, September 12, 2016

September 12, 2016 - Team Atmosphere

The last couple of weeks I have been talking about “talking.” I believe great teams always have teammates that communicate… that watch each other’s back… that let each other know they are in it together no matter the obstacles that will be faced…
In the same vein of thought tonight I can’t help but think about another crucial element of talking… encouragement! This is due to some of the classes I have taught over the past week where I had my students write “Barnabas Letters” of encouragement to friends, faculty, family, etc. I loved watching them get excited about actually doing what God told us to do as the body of Christ…
Hebrews 10:24 “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works…”
Or how it appears in the Message: “Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out…”
There’s an intentionality to encouragement! My mind immediately went to the baseball field after a swing and a miss when a coach or teammate would yell out, “That’s alright Big Boy, it only takes one!” Or maybe after a strikeout… “Get him next time, Slugger!” Those types of words created a team-atmosphere where when I would mess up I was quick to tell the next guy to “pick me up.” When I had success I loved to hear, “That a boy!”
Stay after it! We are in this together! I’ve got your back! To be honest there is even more reason for this to be fresh on my mind… With my current health situation I have been so blessed with all the encouragement I have been receiving literally from all over the world. (I’m on a big team!) I even was the recipient of some of the “Barnabas Letters” I assigned. As a result I will share another great verse from Proverbs 12. This is a chapter ripe with reminders about the power of our words…
Proverbs 12:25 “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, But a good word makes it glad.”
I have every reason for anxiety but honestly keep getting told how amazing it is that I am handling things well… it is not amazing, it is God’s promise! I have received so many “good words” all I can be is glad! It is not me, it is amazing friends, colleagues, former players, etc.
So here is what I want you to do after you read this devotion… Make a plan to be an “Intentional Encourager!” (And follow through with it!) Today you can change someone’s outlook! Today you can be a blessing! Today you pick someone up! (And while you are at it I will take some more of those prayers as I enter the “fight phase” of recovery.)

Monday, September 5, 2016

September 5, 2016 - I'm With You All The Way

Last week I encouraged us to make sure we are part of a team… a team that talks… a team that has each other’s back… And I repeat what I wrote last week that I am so thankful for the “teammates” God has blessed me with; ones that “play alongside me”; ones that help keep me accountable… So I start this week reminding each of us to be intentional in reaching out to others. You will be amazed at how much “ministry” involves simply being there for someone.

This week, thanks again to the series my pastor Matt Brooks is teaching, I will stay in the same vein of thought. Matt took things deeper in talking about those special “teammates” that are not only there for the normal ups and downs of the “game” but also are willing to go alongside when things seem impossible.

(Writing this tonight is a result of a text I received a few minutes before from a friend that stated: “With you all the way bro” – that line will make more sense as we see the awesome scripture that Pastor Matt shared yesterday.)

In 1st Samuel 13 we see that Saul, Jonathan his son, and their army were facing impossible odds; they didn’t even have true weapons to fight the Philistines with (only Saul and Jonathan even having swords.) Basically there was no human reason to engage in battle but in chapter 14 we see that Jonathan feels led by the Lord to go on the offensive against these “impossible” odds, reminding us that with God all things are possible…

Basically Jonathan tells his armor-bearer that they are going to go into the enemy’s camp and trust the Lord to bring them victory… I could write a lot about the battle but you can read how cool of a victory it is (and even go to discoverlifepoint.com and watch yesterday’s sermon if you want.)

I’ll simply highlight the verse that Matt pointed out when it comes to truly living as “teammates”, living in community. After Jonathan has shared his plan, verse 7 records the response: (The Message) His armor bearer said, “Go ahead. Do what you think best. I’m with you all the way.”

Do you have anyone willing to go to battle with you? Are you the type of “teammate” that will go to battle with a friend? Are you willing to go beyond the norm?

Monday, August 29, 2016

August 29, 2016 - Be Careful Of The Steal From Behind

A verse I have often alluded to in these weekly devotions is found in Ephesians 5 verse 15: See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise.

This has often been used to talk about us being aware of our surroundings like great point guards in the game of life… seeing the traps and obstacles that lie ahead. Yet most of the time that I see a point guard get stripped it is because someone snuck in from behind…

As a coach, when that happens, I am screaming at the ball handler’s teammates for not communicating. I expect teammates to warn about an attack coming from the rear…

Heard a great message yesterday from our pastor in Alabama (we watch live on the internet) as he talked about “blind spots” and how we all have them. He likened unto driving a car and realizing that even with the mirrors there are some things we just can’t see… and how nice it is when he has a passenger that can take a look at the blind spots for him…

Well obviously this devo is asking if you have “teammates” that are helping watch your back… Is there someone in your life willing to point out things you can’t see? (Be it a sneak attack from the enemy or a habit or character trait in your life that is not conducive to your path.)

Pastor Matt took us to Galatians 6 which states in verses 1 and 2: 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. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Do you see it? The “law of Christ” demands that we need one another! Maybe that is a long term friend or your life group from church… wherever it is, we are not intended to be lone rangers.

I am so thankful for our “missional group” here in NC (The Arena) as I have dear friends that are headed in the same direction as me… and have my back! I am blessed with dear friends developed throughout years of ministry that have my back! I am blessed with some friends from my youth that still have my back! I am a blessed man!

Be careful to make sure you are aware of things in your blind spots

Monday, August 22, 2016

August 22, 2016 - Shout for Victory

Have you ever been in a position where you didn’t understand what the coach (or your boss, or teacher, or parents) told you to do? I can think of numerous occasions I was in that position either as the player or as the coach. Yet it is more fresh in my mind as a coach or trainer when players look at me funny trying to figure out why in the world I have them doing what they are doing…

This happens often when I am conducting clinics and I begin with the plan for how the InBounds Total Player Academy teaches hoops. We have a set way in which we build the house of fundamentals to help each kid have some success. I typically make it a point to remind the kids at the clinics that I have been playing the game for 45+ years and know a bit more than them; I will often even share some of my successes as a player and coach. I don’t do this to brag but because I want them to realize they can trust me even if they don’t understand why I am doing something. If they are not sold out to the idea that they can trust me, they will not follow through with all I ask of them…

The same is true in our walk with God. If we do not realize that He is on our side and that we can trust Him, we are going to question whatever we don’t understand. Today in a classroom I reminded my students that “in the beginning God created…” (Genesis 1:1) He was not created in the beginning… He did the creating… He is beyond time and we can trust He knows what is best.

I thought about the sons of Israel as they were at the Battle of Jericho. (Found in Joshua chapter 6): this has to be one of the craziest things in the history of battles. The people of Jericho are shut up within their city walls and the Israelites are told to march around the city for 7 days and then to “shout” and the walls will fall down. Do you think they were questioning anything about their marching orders from Joshua (and ultimately from God)? Yet we know that they followed the instructions and gained victory as the walls fell down…

What “walls” are you facing? Are you trusting God at His Word? (Of course that demands time in the Word.) I love not only the follow-through of the sons of Israel but also the confidence in which they did it…

20 So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.

Shouted with a great shout”: I love this wording in the Hebrew… the first “shouted” [ruwa’] being the word for (a shout of triumph) and the second “shout” [t@ruw’ah] with this word meaning a (battle-cry shouted with joy)! They didn’t just make noise at the walls of Jericho; they joyfully trusted God for victory!

Shout your praises and your trust in the Lord today! There is truly victory in Jesus! Trust Him! Trust His Word!

Monday, August 15, 2016

August 15, 2016 - He's Got This!

I loved the scene in the movie Hoosiers where the team from the little small town goes into Hinkle Fieldhouse for the first time to get ready for the state championship game; the guys literally stood in awe and wonder (and a bit of fear) as they looked around… (I can remember playing there my freshman year of high school and drinking in that same awe and wonder of Indiana hoops in that building; it was awesome being on that floor. And now a young man I used to coach is calling that his home court… Go Bulldogs!)

In the movie it was the team from Hickory (but truly was a team from the little town of Milan) and that fieldhouse was huge in their eyes. I’m sure they felt like those stands looked like mountains… not to mention how the difference in depth perception changes how even the baskets look. And then on top of that, they were the tiny school facing the large powerhouse school from Indianapolis (in real life Muncie Central) in the championship.

They were afraid and obviously wondering how they could climb the mountains in front of them when the coach does something ingenious; he pulls out a tape measure and checks the length of the free throw line… 15 ft. just like in Hickory’s gym…. the height of the basket 10 ft. just like in Hickory’s gym… and they began to be comforted by what the coach had shown them. Before they walk out of the gym one of the boys yells out, “Hickory”, and listens for the echo coming back from those “mountains” of bleachers.

This week I am reading a book (A Bend in the Road) by Dr. David Jeremiah dealing with when he was facing a bend in the road or a mountain to climb. He shared in one of the chapters about Psalm 121 which is a song of ascent that was believed to be a song the Israelites used as they got ready for their journey to the holy city. It was a journey that was long and hard, involving going through and over some mountains…

Early in the journey they would look ahead at the difficulty of the mountains and the potential dangers and be a bit in awe and fear. This song of ascent (Psalm 121) begins with “I will lift my eyes to the hills-“ We know there is some trepidation because of the question that follows: “From whence comes my help?

I don’t know what you are facing as you read this devotion… I do know what I am facing with the cancer and the Psalmist reminds us that “My help comes from the Lord…” We are reminded of why we can trust Him in this Psalm. We are even reminded that we can rest easy tonight knowing that the Lord “shall neither sleep nor slumber.

No matter what lies ahead of us remember He’s got this!

Monday, August 8, 2016

August 8, 2016 - Play Hard to the Zeroes!

A couple of weeks ago I posted about standing strong in the midst of adversity; as the days have passed since there has been a lot of waiting and praying in the midst of the adversity we are currently facing. (And we are still awaiting some answers.)

Toward the end of that devotion I shared Proverbs 24:10 - If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.

I wrote about having success and also some failures. Over the years I have gone into some games that it was pretty clear we had no chance on the scoreboard. I know to some people that sounds like a losers statement; well if that is the case I will confess I at times have accepted being a loser on the scoreboard… BUT I HAVE NEVER ACCEPTED BEING A LOSER IN EFFORT!

I have told many teams that the goal is to make sure the opponent has to earn their victory. Even when “facing the giants” to make sure we didn’t roll over and give up. My demand was that we “play hard to the zeroes!” (When the time clock reads :00)

(In the words of country music philosopher Jason Aldean: “They’re sure gonna know we were here!”)

I was that way as a player as well. In high school we didn’t have a great team. We were not big nor overly athletic. We had one team in our conference (Temple Christian out of Princeton IN) that simply spanked us each time we played them. They had more size and talent than us and they ran a great press! But as a player I wanted to make sure I made some noise! My junior year they beat us really bad at our place in spite of me having some great success in the game. (37 pts / 19 boards) When we faced them in their gym it was awesome as the crowd booed when I made a shot or cheered when I missed… It was great to know that in spite of lopsided scoreboards, the opposition respected me!

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are well known for their willingness to face adversity. In Daniel chapter 3 we read of them standing strong against adversity. We know the story… they refused to bow and worship the gold image of King Nebuchadnezzar and as a result were thrown into the fiery furnace. They didn’t burn up and instead were seen walking around with a 4th man that appeared to be the Son of God…

They faced an adversary they could not defeat apart from the miraculous hand of God and stood firm in their faith… but wait just a minute. I do not think their faith was rooted in the outcome of the circumstances but instead in just simply letting God be God…

The King is furious with the boys and reminds them of what they are about to face, asking who the God is that will deliver them… Verse 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.

Sounds like they are fully convinced of physical deliverance but I believe they were convinced of deliverance that was not based upon the circumstances…
18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

Would they not have been delivered from the king even if they had burned? The Apostle Paul had the same view when he said, “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)
All of that to say, “Let’s play hard to the zeroes!” Don’t pay so much attention to the scoreboard (circumstances), but pay more attention to going MAD (Making A Difference) while we have the chance!

Monday, August 1, 2016

August 1, 2016 - Coach vs Cancer: Playing by Faith

When I am in coaching mode I have a couple key objectives: first, is to properly prepare my team for competition; second is to do it in such a way that when it is game time they have faith in what I tell them. Basically I want my team to “play by faith.”

This past week I announced that I have been diagnosed with cancer and since that time have heard many remarks about “walking by faith” and needing to “trust in God’s promises.” Just to make it clear that is fully my goal in all of this; I want to be a man of faith! Yet what does that really mean?

Back to the coaching analogy… remember that first as a coach I realize the need to “prepare my team for competition.” I know they are getting ready to face obstacles and trials and I need to make sure they have the skill set, endurance, and understanding of the game to meet those challenges. Then when it is game time and I give them instructions, they are equipped to follow through. Even if the game starts going poorly, I want them to come to huddles and trust the instruction I give them… I want them to rely on their training throughout the game. And sometimes, when facing a lesser opponent, I even have to pull them back to their training to keep bad habits from developing… In a nut shell, faith in me as a coach is rooted in what I have trained and prepared them to do beforehand; not just in if they like me.

So what does faith in God look like in these types of situations? One view is that I simply need to trust God to heal me and not rely on anything else; another that God has given man the knowledge of medicine and that route is appropriate. And, again to make sure I am clear, I believe that God can and may totally heal my cancer with His spoken Word; I could show up at my PET scan and show totally clear. (And there are thousands of prayers that have been lifted asking for such… I know because I have lifted many of them.) Yet we also see within Scripture that at times God allows His children to face the trials and promises to be their “hiding place” in the midst. (See Psalm 119:114) We see physical difficulties in guys like Paul with bad eyes (which may be his “thorn in the flesh” that he prayed to be removed and God didn’t. We see Timothy with a stomach problem and treating it medicinally with wine. Yet of course we see other times of complete and instantaneous healings…

Bottom line: If I want to walk by faith I must trust not only the power of God but also the process of God. Many of God’s promises are predicated on His principles, the process…

I’ll use my cancer as an example. I do not know what the root cause of the cancer is, yet we know it is a result of living in a fallen world that has problems. But we do know that certain things can be triggers of getting cancer. The only things that seem to be logical triggers in my life are diet and stress… each of which the “Coach” has warned to keep watch over…

1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us that our bodies are the “temple of the Holy Spirit…”
Romans 12:1 tells us, “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

Therefore if I am trusting God, walking by faith, I will take care of the temple… which is reasonable to do. Yet I have stayed overweight and eating poorly. Thus, the adverse is that in that area of life I have been walking not by faith, but instead in disobedience.

So one response for me to walk by faith in this situation is to be obedient to the Word, the training that preceded this part of the “game” that I am in. That is me trusting the Coach! As a result, I have dramatically changed and improved my diet in the hope of healing, but more so in the conviction of what it means to walk by faith.
At the point of writing this I do not know the extent or even exact locations of the cancer that is in me; but I am sure of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit that is in me and I want to honor Him!

So here it is again… the bottom line: If I want to walk by faith I must trust not only the power of God but also the process of God. Many of God’s promises are predicated on His principles, the process…

Study the Word and live accordingly!
And in studying you will see at times that God chooses to show up through the living out of His process and other times in an instantaneous and miraculous way.

We do appreciate all the prayers that have come our family’s way!

Monday, July 25, 2016

July 25, 2016 - How To Know What You're Made Of...

I was sharing with my kids this week about the year I was coaching after our school had won the national championship. It was a great year… unless you were judging by the scoreboard. The year of the national championship we had some really good tight high scoring games… and some high scoring games where we blew the other teams out. The year following, we had some really good tight games… and some high scoring games where the other teams blew us out…

The difference was that the championship team had a lot of seniors that went on to play college ball and a lot of size (which is one thing you can’t teach.) The year where we were on the short-end of the scoreboard at times, we had a couple guys that went on to college ball (one was still in middle school and one just a sophomore) and we had virtually no size when it comes to hoops. (I think our tallest guy was only 6’1” or 6’2”.)

Some of our fans actually came to me and stated that we should play a softer schedule so we don’t get beat so bad. I asked my kids this week when I was sharing this story if they thought I should have lightened up the schedule. You may be wondering why I said “it was a great year”?

My motto as a coach and player was that I/our teams couldn’t truly know what we were made of unless we faced the biggest challenges. I didn’t take pride in beating easy opponents. I loved the times that year the young guys competed hard against bigger opponents. I loved it when we would stay with a vastly superior team for a game, or a half, or even a quarter. I can’t remember the score of any game that year; yet I can remember plays where our guys rose up against adversity.

I was telling my kids about those years as I was leading up to talking to them about some adversity heading our way as a family… The reality is that at times this thing called life is hard! Some Bible teachers even try to present the Christian life as a way for everything in life to be rosy… this simply isn’t true. In fact, if that were true why would God say this about Himself:

·         Psalm 62:8 Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a REFUGE for us. Selah (means pause and think about it…)

·         Psalm 32:7 You are my HIDING PLACE; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah (The Hebrew word for “preserve” means to “watch over”… do you get that? God is watching over us in the midst of the trouble!)

·         Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you: Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

I could go on and on with just verses about running to God in our times of troubles, but I think you get the picture. Charles Stanley said, “Often times God demonstrates His faithfulness in adversity by providing for us what we need to survive. He does not change our painful circumstances. He sustains us through them.”

Psalm 50:15 Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.

Life is hard and I plan to face it head on. I told my kids that it is not that big of a deal when we walk by faith in the easy times… not that big of a deal when we praise His name in the good times… that is easy to do. But in the hard times will we stand (and by stand I mean “trust” Him)?

Proverbs 24:10 If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.

I am currently facing some serious adversity. (I’ll share more about this in the coming days.) I am willing to face the giants! I want to be faithful in the “day of trouble”! And in the meantime this is what I am going to do: I will praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are your works, and that my soul knows very well. Psalm 139:14

Monday, July 18, 2016

July 18, 2016 - Direct Correlation of Injury and Fatigue

Last week I wrote about and celebrated the fundamentals of Tim Duncan as he retired from 19 yrs. in the NBA… Very few last that long in “The League” with an average of just 4.8 years NBA-life. Part of the secret to longevity is the fact that Tim based his game on fundamentals, which will serve a player even with the athleticism is fading. (Coach Burden: “Fundamentals are the anchor that will hold in the storm.”) But I believe there is another reason that Tim had such a successful and long tenure… proper rest!

NBA commissioner Adam Silver was quoted as saying, “the number one correlation between play and injuries is fatigue.” In an ESPN article I was reading it noted that Duncan was not in the top 25 of minutes played since the 2002-2003 season; and that “the Spurs monitored his playing time obsessively, even incurring $250,000 fines if it meant giving their franchise player the rest he needed.” (Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN Staff Writer)

I am coming off of a couple weeks of Sabbatical, and a summer that has not been as ministry-heavy as in the past on travel. To be honest there have been some of those days that I have felt very antsy, like I needed to “get back on the court” and be busy. Yet I know that longevity requires being wise with “minutes played.” I know that rest will help me avoid the “injuries” of poor decision making and burnout.
In just a few weeks I will turn 50, will begin my 30th year of ministry, and have begun my 10th year full-time with InBounds Ministries… and Lord-willing there is a lot more to come. (We just hope the “fans” [supporters] understand the times we have to “sit out a game.”)

Make sure you are taking time to rest with a weekly sabbatical and also some planned breaks from “the game.”

Hebrews 4:9-10 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.

Mark 2:27 And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”

Psalm 127:2 …For so He gives His beloved sleep.
                       …Don’t you know He enjoys giving rest to those He loves? (The Message)

This week’s devotion has a twofold purpose: 1. To encourage each of you to rest… 2. To ease the false-guilt I feel when I take a break…