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.”