Monday, March 28, 2016

March 28, 2016 - Success Breeds Success (The ease of recruiting for a winner...)

Ok I am on the road again and feeling the wear and tear… I am definitely getting old and don’t travel like I used to! But I am enjoying the fact that this leg of my journey is at a home with cable TV so I can take in a lot of hoops action… I love March Madness! (And fortunately so does my dad, whose home I have stayed at the last few days before getting back on the road – and in the air – tomorrow.)

I love seeing the powerhouse “Goliath” programs that have such a commitment to excellence and also the “David” teams that don’t seem to belong yet find a way to win. The men’s and women’s tourneys have it all…

As we watched the UCONN women win again tonight my dad made a remark about how recruiting gets so much easier when you are successful. Let’s face it, a young girl that loves hoops has to dream of how cool it would be to play for a program like that! The reality is that success breeds success… players want to be a part of a winning program!

And of course my mind immediately went to the spiritual parallels of the discussion… and it dawned on me how motivated we should be on the recruiting trail, especially at this time of year! Let me explain…

It’s Easter time! We celebrate a risen Savior! I love how my pastor in Alabama puts it... he reminds us that if a guy predicts he is going to die, how he is going to die, that he will rise again, and then does it… follow that guy!

Don’t you get it? We say we know we are on the winning team! Our Savior overcame death! He lives! His resurrection rocked the apostles’ world… and should daily rock our world! His resurrection should change the way we view each day where we live victoriously! A lost and dying world should see that we are winners!

God chose us to be His ambassadors to “recruit” others to our “program.” Recruiting is much easier when you represent a winner!

Luke 24:2-3 But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

Luke 24:6 “He is not here, but is risen!”…


Monday, March 21, 2016

March 21, 2016 - 12 Down 33 Seconds To Go... Impossible?

Wow! What a comeback Texas A&M made against Northern Iowa yesterday; they were down 12 points with 33 seconds left to go in the game and came back to tie it and eventually win the game in double overtime. It was one of the greatest comebacks in tourney history…

What I loved is how they came back; they stayed true to who they are, utilizing great pressure defense and going hard to the hole. Typically a team will try to “lengthen” the game by fouling and sending the opponent to the free throw line… and then jacking up a bunch of threes. Yet Coach Kennedy and his Aggies decided to trust in who they are and what they do well! What was interesting was that afterwards the A&M players said they “were just going to fight to the end.” I loved that when it “seemed impossible” - (quote from an Aggie player) – they didn’t panic but simply trusted and believed in what the coach told them!

Today as I sat with some of my colleagues the discussion veered toward how drastically and how quickly our culture is changing, and not for the better. There is a concentrated push away from standing on any absolute truths… almost to the point that a person that believes in absolutes is looked upon as less-evolved. Is it time to panic? Or is it time to step up our game?

This “passion week” where we celebrate the journey of Christ to the cross and resurrection we can see how He handled pressure and how He told His disciples to handle the pressure…

Christ Himself simply trusted in the certainty of His destination. In John 13 we see that Christ is fully aware that “His hour had come” (13:1) relied on looking toward future victory… “He had come from God and was going to God.” (13:3) This assurance allowed Him to focus on others and the job at hand…

As for the apostles, they started to get a bit bent out of shape as they realized Jesus was not going to be with them much longer and where Jesus was going they couldn’t follow (13:33); they had found out a trader was amongst them (13:21); had been warned of personal denial of Christ (13:38); etc. So you can see things looked bleak… even impossible.

So Jesus tells them how to handle an “impossible” situation… they didn’t need to panic but trust in the outcome!

John 14:1-4 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”

Believer, do not be troubled… we have the Truth and in the end we win!!!

Monday, March 14, 2016

March 14, 2016 - Called to Peace; Not Called for Technicals!

I have spent the last few years in the sports world trying to use the competition platform (a microcosm of life) to teach principles of living that honor the Lord. For the one on God’s team (the believer in the finished work of Christ) I have written many times that my philosophy is “players play, coaches coach, refs ref, fans cheer!”

That philosophy has led to things such as my “No Palms” rule where I wouldn’t allow my players to turn their palms up to a ref to question a call. (It’s called being submissive to authority.) I’ve been accused at times of not being vocal enough toward the referees yet never thought my job is being the ref supervisor… I have at times reminded fans in our cheering section that they are supposed to be cheering… I have tried to live out the philosophy I preach.

Yet reality is that things are always easier to say than to do… especially when things get more intense or when fatigue sets in. It is a small switch between excitement and disappointment.

I often watch intense games and see players and/or coaches that simply cannot control themselves and end up hurting their team. One of the craziest I’ve seen was with a team that was actually ahead with a commanding lead and all the momentum going their way. The opponent had a guy drive to the hole and the ref called a foul on one of the “bigs” for the team that was ahead and he went nuts. With his teammates trying to shut him up he ended up drawing two technicals; resulting in being thrown out and the other team ending up with 6 free throws and a complete momentum change. It wasn’t quite enough for the opponent to come back and win but it sure made the game interesting as a blowout became a close game. There are consequences to how we react to adversity… this one guy literally went from excitement and elation to going berserk and an early exit to the locker room. He hurt himself and his team!

This all has been all too real to me lately as the intensity of “the game” of life has been amped up for me. I have had great moments as well as some incredibly low moments. I have faced a lot of nights of interrupted sleep and a lot of fatigue. In other words there are many times I have felt the “momentum” is on the opponent’s side… and my response needs to be not based upon feelings, fatigue, or frustrations but instead on the “game plan.”

It is easy to catch myself being more easily irritated at home, in the classroom, when shopping around rude people, when things break down, etc. And then…

I am reminded that “when the hour had come” (stress at its highest – momentum with the enemy) Christ still served… even washing His betrayer’s feet! (John 13 is such an awesome picture of the heart of God.) I know I have written recently, and done many devotionals about that passage, but I was reminded about it again today when in a different passage.

When the book of Colossians describes what the “new man” should look like it is abundantly clear that God desires that we be conformed to the image of Christ. Check out the description given in Colossians 3:12-15

                “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts to which you were called in one body; and be thankful.”

It is so clear… we are striving to not be known as irritated, demanding, grumpy, frustrated, etc.!

Instead of being called for technicals we are called to peace!

Monday, March 7, 2016

March 7, 2016 - Playing As A Team! (It's God's Will!)

As a coach the goal is to get one’s team to execute; to take a group of players and mold them into a unit (which indicates becoming one!) So in other words the coach is trying to get the team to push toward the same goal with the idea that the goal trumps personal ambition. This means the coach has to set the vision… he must make it clear; and then the player’s responsibility is to understand his role.

In ministry I run into the questions all the time wanting to know what The Coach wants… it’s just worded more like “What is God’s will for my life?” But to be honest that is usually a player that is asking about the schedule more than about practice…

What I mean by that is that we are usually searching for answers of where we should go, what we should do for a vocation, if we should go into a full-time ministry, etc. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t pray about those sorts of things but I do think we can tend to be too focused on our personal outcome and not focused enough on The Coach’s vision for a team that functions as a unit…

We need to make sure we are paying attention to the clear revealed will of God!

For the believer in the finished work of Christ (which gets one on the team) the Playbook (Holy Bible) has some very clear direction on being team-oriented first! In both 1 Peter 5 and Ephesians 5 we see the admonition to be careful in the midst of this crazy world (with Peter mentioning the “roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” [vs 8] and Paul warning us to “walk circumspectly” [vs 15].)

Each passage emphasizes a “game plan” that acknowledges “the game” is difficult and tells us what “The Coach” wants us to do as an individual and for the good of the “team.”

As an individual we are commanded to pray (“casting our cares on Him”), give thanks, and be humble… ye the plan for teamwork and becoming a unit is found in both passages when we are commanded to “submit one to another or to be subject to one another.” (1 Peter 5:5 and Ephesians 5:21)

I know that word is taboo in today’s culture but it is really a cool team concept… the Greek word is Hupotasso (the pronunciation is hoop-ot-as’-so / you see it is a basketball [hoop] term.) According to it is used in military as a term to be a subordinate but in an informal way it means “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.

Isn’t that an incredible team-term? We are part of a group that should be thinking as a unit, working together toward the same goals, and truly covering each other’s back! God wants us to “play” together in this life!