Tuesday, May 31, 2016

May 30, 2016 - Consistent

I’m sitting at 34,999 feet; going 516 miles per hour against a 19mph head wind; it’s negative 55 degrees outside the cabin; have traveled on this leg of the journey 441 miles… wait 444… wait 448 (you get the picture); and just over 1000 miles to go until touchdown…

I love seeing the flight data on the screen… it is nice to see where we have been, where we are going, and how we are getting there.

All of that does have a point (beyond just that it is cool information); we have stats in the sports world that bear witness to how a player performs and stand contrary to opinion. Proof in point, as I was perusing Facebook last week I saw LeBron haters calling him LeBum in the status. This is a very common occurrence, that I must admit is often brought on by LeBron’s tendency to be overdramatic… yet the reality is that this is a guy that is considered one of the best ever by his peers (even though the average internet commentator believes he or she carry more weight.) This is a guy that has stats that are off the charts… and a guy that is now getting ready to visit his 6th straight NBA Finals. I know, I know the haters are going to say, “but he doesn’t finish it off like MJ did.” Well I’m not writing to debate LeBron vs MJ; I happen to think both are awesome… but I will say that in LeBron’s defense, he has still done it with key teammates out or not at 100%... he has been consistent.

Now back on point… the fact that his peers notice his greatness, the stats bear witness to his greatness (couldn’t resist the “witness” reference)), etc. I’m not saying you have to like him (guys like Tim Duncan should be in the mix of this discussion as well, and he is truly likeable), but I’m saying the stats don’t lie!

The same is true for us in our faithfulness before the Lord. First of all let me make clear I am talking here about our work (which means not that which saves us! But instead what we do out of gratitude for our salvation… since Jesus did all the work for that!)

As believers we are called to serve the Lord and “each one’s work will become clear; for the day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which has been built on it endures, he will receive a reward.” (1 Corinthians 3:13-14)

In other words the rewards are for those that endure, not necessarily for those that win a season championship… In fact if one were looking at Paul (the human author of the verses mentioned), one would have to assume he wasn’t doing very well because he was struggling to get “wins.” In chapter 4, verses 10-13 he states that he and the apostles are “fools… weak… hungry… thirsty… poorly clothed… beaten… homeless… reviled… persecuted… defamed… the filth of the world…”, yet he said they “endure.”

4:2 says, “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” There is something to be said for consistently putting up “great numbers” in spite of how “the game” is going…

In the words of an old Steve Greene song, “may those who come behind us find us faithful.”

Monday, May 23, 2016

May 23, 2016 - Don't Let Up, Step Up!

One thing that is great about the NBA playoffs is watching teams ride the tide of success. Yet often you see teams get complacent in the midst of one of these runs. What I mean by that is in a series a team may play a couple great games only to come out flat or complacent the next game… Or maybe it happens as quickly as during one game where the 1st half a team looks great and then come out of the locker room for the 3rd quarter stagnant. Yet the reality is that this usually doesn’t happen in a close-out game or even in the 4th quarter of a game… but in an earlier game in the series or an earlier quarter; I believe because the team is not really focused on the end…

Last night as I was teaching at our missional group (The Arena) I was complimentary and also cautious… thrilled at how incredible our group is at following our motto: [Today We LIVE! (Love Intentionally Value Everyone)] Our group is the most real, loving, caring family I have ever witnessed! We celebrate together and cry together… We are better together and broken together… It is an incredible picture of what the church is supposed to be!

So why the caution? The simple answer is because the caution is Biblical! (And my job is to teach and equip through the Bible.)
The Thessalonians were a faithful and productive church body; Paul commended them greatly in his letters to them. 1 Thessalonians 1:3 Paul tells them he is “remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father.” In verse 8 he goes on to say, “For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.”
Do you see it? They are riding the tide of success and doing great. Paul says, “For what thanks can we render to God for you, for all the joy with which we rejoice for your sake before our God.” Yet he knows, and I can prove it by the text, that they are in danger of getting complacent or stagnant. He realizes that they could easily lose sight of the end of the game… and he uses that realization to encourage them to stay focused.

3:10 “night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith.”

4:1 “Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God.”


5:2 “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord comes as a thief in the night.”


Most that read this blog each week are probably doing a pretty good job things… but as a coach I urge you to, in the words of Coach John Wooden, “Move, move, move!” Let’s not let up but instead step up!

(Your humorous side note this week: One of my bloopers and blunders happened last night as I was teaching on this subject and folks asked what version I was reading from… they said it was way different than theirs; I barreled on through it as the verses I read still fit the idea I was trying to convey. Then as I started looking through the text again and prepping for the devo I realized I had read from 2 Thessalonians by mistake… so if you are from The Arena I am sorry for the confusion…)

Monday, May 16, 2016

May 16, 2016 - No One Is Too Big To Play Small!

I love watching players that just have “it”! By “it” I mean the natural feel of the game where they see things that others don’t see and make plays others would never dream about. In the basketball world this is usually something point guards (the little guys) are known for; although you occasionally have “bigs” like Larry Bird or a Lebron James that have “it.” They are “game changers.”

These types of players are more than willing to make the easy pass that spreads the floor, or to “thread the needle” with an amazing pass that carves up the defense. If you have ever played alongside a player like this you realize you better always be ready because they will hit you with passes (literally hit you with them if you are not ready) at times when you yourself do not even realize you are open… These players see the floor, know/see their teammates’ tendencies, and can even read the opponent.

In our Christian lives we are commanded to learn to “see the floor.” Ephesians 5:15 tells us, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise…

Hebrews 10:24 reminds us to “see our teammates”: “And let us CONSIDER one another in order to stir up good works…” (Consider has the idea of intentionally looking for our teammates!)

We are told to “read the opponent” in 1 Peter 5:8: “Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up…” (The Message)

Bottom line is that those that have the “it” factor are alert and aware… and intentional “game changers”!

Secondary bottom line: No one is too big to play small! No matter what your position is in life or ministry, the greats have learned to consider those around them! Matthew 20:26 “Whoever wants to be great must become a servant.” (The Message)

Monday, May 9, 2016

May 9, 2016 - No Second Chances!

This time of year in the NBA teams are just hoping stay healthy, especially when it comes to their stars. Last year in the playoffs the Cleveland Cavaliers were playing without 2 of their top 3 players and fell short in the Finals. (To put it in perspective, this year with the 3 playing they are +28 in the player ratings when they play together – in other words very dominant!) This year the winningest team in NBA history (the Golden State Warriors) looks good but very vulnerable with their star player sidelined due to a knee sprain. And the list could go on showing how important it is to be at full strength in order to win.

For teams like the Cavaliers, they view this year as a second chance to show what they can do at full strength. Last year they came close so they want redemption… and if they fall short they will look at roster changes that help them try to climb the mountain again.

All religion works under the same mentality… let’s all just keep trying to get it right and hope to be good enough at the end… even many under the name of Christianity present God in this way. It is very popular to call God a “God of Second Chances.” In fact you may have called Him that… I know there were times in my past that in trying to describe God’s amazing grace I would say things like, “God is not only a God of second chances, but also third, fourth, and fifth chances.” That cliché sounds good and works well in a spiritual pep rally but it simply is false teaching!

God is not a God of second chances! A second chance implies that you get a new start to try again… a new season to see if you can win… a reset on trying to get it right.

Christ did not die to give us a second chance but instead to be our only chance! When we trust in His finished work we do not start over to try to win, but instead are on the winning team… our citizenship placed in Heaven at that moment.

Check out these verses in Ephesians that give us the truth, instead of the cliché…

Ephesians 1: 13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

Ephesians 2: But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

Ephesians 2: 19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

I laugh often when I hear athletes guarantee victory because there are so many variables that come into play (i.e. injuries); yet let me tell you this based upon those Scriptures…

In Christ victory is guaranteed! Why because it is not about us starting over with another chance but instead trusting in the work that is already finished!

Monday, May 2, 2016

May 2, 2016 - Who Is The Star Of Your Show?

This year’s NBA playoffs have been full of drama and intrigue with injuries to stars, questions of who is just a star vs who is a superstar, stars that are taking different roles to let others shine, and as usual a certain team from the Lone Star State showing what it looks like for a team to shine as a unit…

Notice the theme here is about “stars.” In reality everyone on an NBA roster has been a star at some level and only a few get to hold that title at the most elite level; therefore many have to humble themselves…

I’m tired this week so I’ll get right to the point: We (believers) are called to stop trying to be the star and instead willingly humble ourselves! It is not about us but instead about Jesus, as evidenced through our promoting others to “star status” in our lives… with the glory going to Jesus as “The Star”! We are called to put the Spotlight on Him in everything we are doing...

When people want to know why we care about them… it’s Jesus!
When people want to know why we are serving them… it’s Jesus!
When people want to know why strive to live a life of holiness… it’s Jesus!

Are you serving because you want to be loved or because you want Jesus to be loved? (Do you want to be the star or is Jesus the star?)

John the Baptist said it: “He must increase, I must decrease!” (John 3:30)
Paul the Apostle said: “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.” (Philippians 3:7)

But let me take it one step farther… concerning your Gospel presentation to others… are you concentrating on making man the star by talking about what we can do for God or is Jesus the star of the Gospel which focuses on what He has done for us? Evaluate the phrases and clichés you use and see who the focal point is. The true Gospel is about The One that humbled Himself, and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:8) The true Gospel rests on us believing in what Christ has done for us not what we can do for Him! For I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes from the law, then Christ died in vain.” (Galatians 2:21)

(Side note: if your presentation of the Gospel makes man the star, man will always be left confused and doubting when he realizes he can’t carry the load… Jesus carried the load all the way to Calvary!)

Let’s chant His name!
He is The Star of the show!