This week's devo won't take long... I have been incredibly busy as of late but did get an opportunity between speaking engagements this weekend to watch a little bit of college hoops. I was enjoying it for the most part but must admit that I did get a bit frustrated at times...
My frustrations came during one of the D1 college games I was watching... as one of the teams was showing a lot of movement; guys were making hard cuts to the basket leading to some good open looks. But as personnel changed on the court some things broke down. Some of the guys that were suiting up for a high level D1 program simply weren't in the flow of the game...
Players were still making some hard cuts to the basket but all of the sudden the passes weren't there to lead to easy scores. The problem was that the guards that were handling the ball were simply tardy... they were late in their decision making. You could see that they saw their teammates cutting but simply lacked the rhythm of the game... they were willing but lacked the initiative to act as they saw the play developing.
During this CHRISTmas season, I believe we have a lot of folks that are out of rhythm... they will see needs and contemplate meeting them, only to miss the opportunity by waiting until it's too late. There will be many opportunities as we wind down this year and beyond. Will you be tardy and miss the chance to get an "assist"? Or will you follow the commands of Scripture and "make the pass" when you see the need?
Proverbs 21:26 ...But the righteous gives and does not spare.
Merry CHRISTmas! Take the initiative to be a giver this year... as you see the play developing.
Monday, December 11, 2017
Monday, December 4, 2017
Who is the most valuable player on a team? Is it the leader in scoring? Rebounding? Steals? Assists? Or what about the player that sets the most screens? Dives for the most loose balls?
Today in practice for my middle school girls team we were playing a good old-fashioned game of “Backyard 21”; a game where tall players have an advantage… a game where fast players can find some openings… a game where intensity is a must. I got into the game in order to show ways to create space to get through traps… or to carve out some room to get off one’s shot… etc.
One of our youngest girls, (that also happens to be one of our shortest players… that also is not near being our fastest player), decided she was going to show me that even though she was lacking some of the attributes to win the game of “21” she was not lacking intensity!
That girl started learning to really box out for rebounds. Remember I said I had got into the game, and she decided it was me that she would keep off the boards… and that she did. No, she didn’t get rebounds, but neither did I.
I loved being able to point out that it was not about her filling up the stat sheet with rebounds, but instead the fact that as an opponent I didn’t, and in a game setting her teammates would have a better shot at getting the boards.
The lesson for today is that being the most valuable is based upon the moment and the job at hand! It is about doing the right thing because it is the right thing! It is not about spotlights or awards or even being noticed. (And not doing the right thing when we know it is right is sin! James 4:17)
Bill Hybels wrote in his book Who You Are When No One Is Looking: We all do our best when others are watching. But what about when no one is looking? That's where character comes in, giving us consistency when it's just between God and us. Courage, discipline, vision, endurance, compassion, self-sacrifice, the qualities covered in this Bible study guide provide a foundation for character. With this foundation and God's guidance, we can maintain character even when we face temptations and troubles.
Today: Win each moment by winning each decision… decide to do right! Box out, even if you are not the one that will get the rebound!
Monday, November 27, 2017
Today I had a little powwow with my middle school girls’ basketball team. A couple of weeks ago we had our first regular season game and we have quite a few inexperienced gals… and we were playing on less than 2 weeks of practice; basically, I’m saying we played but I knew going in we weren’t necessarily ready.
The game plan going into that game was simply to go through the things we were learning in practices and not be dictated by the other team, or even the scoreboard of the game. Therefore, in that game I evaluated and observed in order to prepare for the season ahead. (We don’t play again until Dec 15.) There was a method and plan going in… even down to our exact substitution patterns for the game.
Today we returned to practice from our Thanksgiving break and I started implementing some more things that will form our identity as a team. I am specifically building a defense that fits our strengths… our offense will start to build on our strengths… etc.
The powwow was at the end of the practice and I simply told the girls to “trust the process!” Those are words coaches use often when building a program… it requires those involved to exercise patience… to stick with the plan… I told the girls that in spite of losing on the scoreboard a couple of weeks ago, I could see that we are going to be a really good team! (I even started painting a picture in their minds of who I envisioned them being on the defensive end… telling them that opposing teams will go to bed at night and start screaming when they close their eyes thinking our girls were coming at them!)
I have a plan!
To give credit where credit is due, tonight’s devotion was first spurred in my mind by a gentleman I heard speaking to some of our juniors and seniors at the school this morning. He was from Liberty University’s aviation program… I don’t remember his first name but can’t forget his last… it is Wing.
Mr. Wing shared some incredible truths about his time on the mission field, and shared a simple reminder from the Scriptures. He told the students that he was thankful for something he couldn’t see yet… he told them he trusts the plan and process of God… he told them that he was “confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will complete it unto the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
All of this build up for a reminder of a very basic truth: God is alive and well! God is at work! God’s plan is not dependent upon the “scoreboard” of life! God’s plan will prevail and we need to trust the process!
Monday, November 20, 2017
When I was a younger player (teen years) I was definitely more of a scorer than a passer… (old friends are screaming, “Amen!”, right now.) I’ll be honest, I prided myself on being able to get the ball in the hole; yet I also knew the game well enough to know that I was the size of a point guard…
…and a point guard is normally known for his passing abilities, not his scoring. That takes me to a tryout I had at a college in FL. During the scrimmage I made it a point to distribute the ball and show I could play the point; following the scrimmage the coach explained that he thought I was a good player but that he was looking for more of a scorer than a playmaker. My heart was crushed… I wanted to have him call my friends, so they could explain that I normally was not that generous with the ball.
That brings me to this week’s point… yesterday our pastor was preaching about how to “be rich”; note: not how to get rich but instead how to be rich. In comparison to most of the world, we each have an abundance of riches and the Scripture gives instruction and warning to those that are “rich.”
1 Timothy 6:17 Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty,… 18 Let them do good works, ready to give, willing to share,
The reason I shared the story of my tryout is this; just because I spent one scrimmage trying to be a passing playmaker, it didn’t mean that is what I was… I was simply a scorer that passed. Pastor Matt brought the point out yesterday that if your answer to if you are generous is, “Yeah, one time I…”, then you are not a generous person, you are simply a normally selfish person that gave. (Italics are my words, Matt was more tactful than that.)
We are called to not just give, but to be generous!
Here is an excerpt from one of the daily student devotions I write for our school:
2 Corinthians 9: 11 …while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.
God has given liberally to us! We are blessed to have food, shelter, clothing, heat/air, clean water, transportation, etc. I know that even here at the school we are very diverse economically; (I don’t have a big house and a boat… but I am super thankful I have friends that do.) But in the global scheme of things, we are all filthy rich and not quite so diverse…
Notice that the verse in 2 Corinthians says we are “enriched… for all liberality.”
Now hear it from The Message paraphrase: He gives you something you can then give away,
Application: What does a thankful man look like? He looks like a generous man!
Check out how Psalm 112:9a describes a good man (which is quoted in 2 Corinthians 9):
He has dispersed abroad, he has given to the poor…
Here is that thought in The Message:
He throws caution to the winds, giving to the needy in reckless abandon.
The last part of 2 Corinthians 9:11 states that when we are liberal in giving it “causes thanksgiving in us to God.” To me that means we actually experience thanksgiving, not just celebrate it!
Happy Thanksgiving stems from Happy Giving!
Monday, November 13, 2017
Have you ever felt like quitting? When the game is not going right, our default mode is to take your ball and go home…
Life tends to bring us to points of decision… where we must determine if we are going to stay the course or if we are going to pack it in… if we are going to stick with the game plan or give up.
If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. (Proverbs 24:10)
The past couple of weeks I have been reminding students at our school that we are called to rejoice and be thankful in all things. In fact, today I showed them in 1 Thessalonians 5 where it is the will of God that we do that… (it is great to show seniors in high school that they can know God’s will clearly!)
I came across an incredible passage today… it is Psalm 137. The Psalmist is writing from captivity in Babylon. The writer admits that their joy had left them… admits that they no longer had a “song.” (Check out verse 2 where he states, “We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst of it.” They stopped playing their music.)
In verse 4 the question becomes, “How?” He asks, “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?”
How do we rejoice? How do we show thanksgiving if the world seems to be falling apart around us?
Verses 5 and 6 give a warning and an answer… if “we forget… Jerusalem (the good)” we could lose our skill and our ability to praise. (A use it or lose it scenario.)
If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! If I do not remember you, let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth – if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy. (Proverbs 137:5-6)
So the positive answer is to remember the good… or in the words of the great old hymn… to “count your blessings, name them one by one, count your blessings see what God has done..”
Don’t quit… don’t take your ball and go home… persevere by remembering the good!
Monday, November 6, 2017
It has been another long day where I felt like had the “pedal to the metal” throughout… so many things to accomplish and so little time to do them; and just got home a short time ago from a night out with our worship team at a revival service. It was a great night of worship and I definitely needed to stop and focus on “how great is our God!”
I thought back to when I was young and how I would handle stressful days and nights… it was not always by focusing on God, but most often by finding a hoop to shoot around on. I remember many nights after midnight shooting on the outdoor courts at Washington School… well technically not the courts but the one goal that had just enough light coming from the security light on the corner of the cafeteria. I remember the one goal with light that was behind Harrison High School. I just had an out in my mind when I went on the court to shoot around. I loved basketball!
Even when I wasn’t stressed, I spent many afternoons and evenings on courts outside or in… being in Indiana we had the obvious places like a YMCA or renting the court at the YWCA… or renting the little gyms that many of the Catholic churches had… etc. I loved basketball!
When you love something, you want to spend time with it… you think about it all the time… you make it a priority… IT CONSUMES YOU… it becomes your life!
As I was preaching yesterday I was talking about the idea of worship. We looked at Jesus’ description in John 4 where He stated that true worship is in “spirit and truth.” I then went to Colossians 3:23… a very common verse I use and shared that truly worshipping involves more than a praise service on Sunday morning… that verse tells us that “whatever” we do… (“whatever” is a huge word; it encompasses everything in life)… we should do it “heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.”
It’s the word “heartily” that really caught my attention, In the Greek it carries an idea of: breath… the vital force that animates the body and shows itself in breathing; the seat of feelings… Do you see that? This has the idea of something that CONSUMES YOU!
Believer, does the thought of God consume you? Is He truly your life or just part of it? I made the following statement while I was preaching: “Don’t schedule God into your life; instead schedule your life into God!”
Everything we do should be to bring Him glory! (By the way, I still love basketball, it just doesn’t consume me anymore.)
Monday, October 30, 2017
I am thinking this week’s devo will be short… (of course I start out writing sometimes with that thought and it seems to stretch...) But just a very basic thought for us to remember…
Before I get to the point I will share how it relates in my wide world of sports I live in. If I rewind the clock about 10 years I find myself on the sidelines coaching varsity high school basketball; and I had a sweet little run of getting to coach for and against some great talent. Yet the Lord opened doors for our ministry to start utilizing basketball as a platform for outreach and I found myself doing camps, clinics, Blacktop Clubs, etc.; I literally went from coaching some great college-bound athletes to our first clinic at a church which had as young as 5 yr olds on the court…
And now I start another season on the sidelines coaching middle school girls, I am reminded of what a joy it is to coach at any level… but the extra satisfaction that comes from teaching and developing young talent. At this level there is a wide span of athletic ability, motor skills, and game IQ. And the satisfaction comes not from what happens on the scoreboard but more in what happens in development. I love watching as kids “get it” in their individual and team understanding.
This came to mind as I was going through some notes I had taken when listening to Dr David Jeremiah teach. He was talking about what “Salvation” entails. He brought out the fact that there is positional, practical, and permanent salvation: or the fact that we are saved unto eternal life at the point of faith; then daily living out that salvation via the growth in our lives; and ultimately saved in being made in the likeness of Christ…
We are currently, if believers, in the practical stage; this being where God is working/developing us in life. I love the promise of Philippians 1: 6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;
I am so thankful that I am secure in Christ! I will be with Him one day! But until that day comes, I long to be developed as a “player!” I just told my basketball team that they should each have a goal of never leaving a practice without being better… and what if they just improved 1% each day? They could be 100% better in just 100 practices… What if we decided to “get better” each day spiritually? What if we could continually “get it” just a bit more?
John Wooden said it this way: “Make each day your masterpiece.”
Here is a cool way in which Dr. Jeremiah shared this truth: “God finds us messy, muddy, and singing out of tune… Let God be the choir director.”
Monday, October 23, 2017
Last week I began a series of devotions for our staff/students at Statesville Christian School about PRIDE… Our mascot is the Lions and I was hoping to get the point across that we need to be in unity by taking PRIDE… a Personal Responsibility In Daily Environment.
Yet the word pride can obviously be a dangerous thing as well… when one is seeking self-gain or the spotlight on himself, he can easily lose sight of “team” and ruin unity!
Last week JR Smith of the Cleveland Cavaliers admitted that he was best suited for playing on the 2nd unit of the Cavs… that the 2nd unit allowed him to more fully use his skill set to help the team. But he was angry that he wasn’t in the starting line-up… In other words, he seems more concerned with hearing his name in the introductions and looking up to see his face on the jumbotron than in doing what is best for his team.
In sport it is very common to strive to be a standout… yet I often write about how sport is simply a microcosm of life; and the truth is that even “the American dream” is a pursuit of getting noticed… but I don’t think the American dream is the Biblical dream.
Here is how I finished the school devotion… I think it is appropriate for all of us:
For the believer I think it goes even deeper… the pursuit of excellence to put the spotlight on God is a good thing; the pursuit of excellence to put the spotlight on oneself is a bad thing…
I have spent the last few days challenging each of you to step up and BE THE CHANGE in our culture… to be a DIFFERENCE-MAKER… Yet with a challenge there is also a caution… BE CAREFUL WHY YOU DO WHAT YOU DO! If you are doing things for the wrong reasons, you will easily get frustrated and angry when the spotlight doesn’t shine on what you are doing.
Matthew 23 Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat… 5 But all their works they do to be seen by men. 6 They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues... 11 But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Here’s the way Eugene Peterson put it in The Message paraphrase:
Matthew 23 11-12 “Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.
Matthew 6 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly
From the Message: Matthew 6 “Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding. 2-4 “When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure—‘play actors’ I call them—treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.
BE HUMBLE TODAY!
Monday, October 16, 2017
I must admit that one of my biggest pet peeves is a slow-poke! Whether it be as a coach, as a dad, as a teacher… whatever… in all areas where I carry some authority, I get pushed over the edge with slow responses. In fact, as a dad I have often told my kids, (and I think I have written about in these weekly devotions), that “delayed obedience is disobedience!”
This came to mind for a couple of reasons… first it is close to hoops season and I again will coach a middle school girls team. One thing that I demand as a coach is that the players “get after it!” One major key to winning basketball is winning loose balls, which means being the first to get there. So it seems as though the fastest wins; true, and not true… the fastest thinkers (seeing the need and jumping on it), not the fastest of feet win! Races in basketball are short bursts… and if a player is the first one moving she has a really good chance of winning the race!
The other reason I was thinking about it, steps out of my sports world into one of the other hats I wear, as director of a worship team. This group will be on stage this coming weekend at a church in Virginia and we are using the weekend as a training time. One of the main areas I will be addressing is the idea of “Move with a Purpose!” I will talk about how they move on stage and what that tells the audience; i.e. if they get off their stools lazily, (it will cause the audience to not believe they are serious about what they are singing.)
All of that to encourage us, (and picture me encouraging in my coach voice), to move with a purpose when we see a need. Good intentions are fine and dandy but mean nothing until our “feet” are moving. Last week I mentioned the idea of “beautiful feet” being those that “bring good news” (Is 5:7)… and the easy thing to key on is the good news portion of that verse. But a different word jumps out in this week’s challenge… it is not enough to just know the good news… it is not enough to be willing to share the good news (good intentions)… but one must “BRING” the good news…
BEAUTIFUL FEET ARE MOVING FEET!
I love these verses in Acts 1…
10 And while they looked steadfastly toward Heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into Heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into Heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into Heaven.”
This weekend I will work with a worship team that will be singing praises about our God! We will “steadfastly” look to Heaven; yet I want to be that voice in the ear that reminds them, and you, to not spend so much time looking up that you forget part of worship is stepping out!
A typical phrase used in the sports arena when someone is talking about his intentions... "BRING IT!" Let's see if we can "BRING IT" this week...
BEAUTIFUL FEET ARE MOVING FEET… THAT BRING THE GOOD NEWS!
Monday, October 9, 2017
After a game we can look at a box score to get an idea of how players did in statistical categories, yet it doesn’t always tell the whole story about players that made differences in non-statistical ways. These are the players that set the screens to free up a scorer; the players that boxed out so their teammates could get a rebound; the linemen that opened up the holes for the star running backs or created a wall to protect the star quarterback; etc. I think you get the picture… there is a lot involved in the team being successful.
One of the ways we do get to through game film… (which I have admitted in past devotions that I hated… my pride didn’t like that fact that the film often showed I wasn’t as good as I thought.) But if one would watch it to re-trace his steps, he could see if he was in the right places at the right times…
In life, we don’t have the benefit of game film… but what if we could retrace our steps? What if we could see our footprints left behind? Where would these “footprints” show we have been… both literally in the places we visited, and figuratively of the places we went to in our minds?
I’ve recently been working on ideas with our ministry’s Lose the Shoes outreach. In this ministry we typically key on the act of giving shoes for those in need; our logo shows footprints where the back foot is the tread of a shoe and the front print is of a bare foot… a progression… a change…
As I contemplated the logo this weekend I thought about the idea of footprints and looked at the following: In Exodus 3:5 God tells Moses to go barefoot… pointing out the privilege and honor Moses had of being on holy ground. Moses lost his shoes in reverence of God! We also see in Scripture that feet are beautiful when they carry good news (see Isaiah 5:7.)
Because of what Christ has done, we have constant access to holy ground… the throne of grace. I believe maturity is when we live our daily lives in recognition of being in the presence of God.
In a nutshell, I want to ask each of you to examine what your “footprints” show about your day…. And here is the hope I wrote down this weekend:
Footprints: The prints left behind can give vital evidence… They show where you have been and give an indication of where you are going… when others look at the evidence of your footprints I hope they will say, “As he walked into the presence of God, God directed his path to those in need!”
I’m reminded of a song from years ago by Steve Green. He sang, “may the footprints that we leave, lead them to believe…”
Lose the shoes! Walk/live in God’s presence! Meet the needs of others!
Monday, October 2, 2017
I remind us all to start this week that our salvation is entirely based upon us believing in the commitment Christ made unto us... He was all-in to purchase our salvation! The Gospel is only good news when if highlights the work of Christ being the gift for and to us! By grace we are saved through faith… not of works… (Ephesians 2:8-9.)
Yet once we are saved by grace we are exhorted to work… to walk in good works… to be always abounding… etc. This sounds like a spiritual-athlete!
In 1 Timothy 4, Paul urges Timothy to “get in the gym!” No, not literally, but he does exhort him to take consideration of his spiritual fitness…
In verses 7 he tells Timothy to “reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise… toward godliness.” He goes on to talk about the temporal profit of working out physically vs. the long-standing profit of exercising spiritually.
The Greek word for “exercise” is “Gumnazo” which is a root for gymnasium (told you he was telling Timothy to “get in the gym!”)
Basically, I am trying to remind us of the importance of being faithful and focused on spiritual growth! I love the way these few verse are stated in the paraphrase The Message:
Beginning in verse 7: “Stay clear of silly stories that get dressed up as religion. Exercise daily in God – no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever.”
There are no short-cuts to getting in shape! It is a daily commitment… discipline… later in the chapter The Message says it this way: “This is why we’ve thrown ourselves into this venture so totally.” (vs 15)
Do you get it?
Salvation = Christ all-in for us!
Discipleship = Us all-in for Christ!
Monday, September 25, 2017
As a coach, it is really easy to get in the habit of being negative… the job demands giving direction and correction… and when it comes game time, most of one’s time in huddles is pointing out the wrong. And to be honest, it is really easy when I am preaching to go into “correction mode.”
Recently I was hanging out with my dear friend and he was telling about advice he was given early on in his ministry; he said that his pastor reminded him that the people in the church had been working all week, were often tired, and that they DIDN’T NEED TO BE BEAT UP ON!
Now for some of you reading this you are already going into that mode of thinking today’s culture is soft and that preaching is weak and that it is ok to do a little beating up… Don’t get me wrong, I taught today that the purpose of Scripture includes correction and that conviction is a good thing, in fact I said it is a necessity for growth!
But there also needs to be some balance of allowing the Scriptures to perform another part of its purpose and comfort…
I can remember going into one of our basketball practices years ago and telling my team that we were playing wiffle ball that day… or another day I brought in a boom box and had the boys dance to lighten things up (and honestly to try to get them a little bit of rhythm to their game… Bottom line: I wanted them to relax… to not feel uptight… to find the joy of the game.
With all of that said, I have struggled even looking at ESPN.com the last couple of days as the news is so depressing; I feel beat up just reading through the headlines. And I find myself, as a coach / minister, tempted to pull out the correction-gun (and really feel I could unload the ammo on each side of the issues taking place!)
But realize tonight that I need to relax, and probably most of you readers do. We need to be comforted. We need to get out our “dancing shoes” and find some joy… This week focus on God’s goodness to us and avoid trying to correct everything. Read some Psalms of praise… commit to listening to some positive praise music… get uplifted!
I’m getting pumped as I get to preach in an elementary chapel tomorrow morning; going to celebrate what a “good, good Father” we have and that we are “loved by” Him!
Monday, September 18, 2017
Today’s world of travel ball has created a new mentality for players; they realize that it matters who they surround themselves with for teammates… The basic idea of travel ball involves putting together the strongest team possible. Players no longer just play for their local club team (or even their local high school) but instead will travel to be a part of the most stacked team they can…
I do see a great lesson in this mentality (although not sure I agree with it for sports.) Yesterday at a church service the pastor was speaking on relationships and talking about the 12/3/1 principle. He talked about how Jesus intentionally surrounded Himself with 12 guys; had 3 that were more of His inner circle; and 1 of them was His best friend…
It was not that Jesus avoided the crowds or ministering to others, but that He showed us that we should choose good teammates! And, at times, get away from the negative ones…
The pastor gave a good example of this: Matthew 9:24b states, “And they ridiculed Him.” In other words, the crowd was full of naysayers, of “haters.” Do you every find yourself surrounded by negativity? There will be “haters” that don’t get your vision… or are jealous of your success… or simply are angry at life. These are people that tear you down instead of building you up.
Good “teammates” are those that encourage and build up… those that are headed in the same direction and get your vision in life. I regularly try to encourage us to be intentional in our outreach… to Go MAD (Make A Difference)! Yet in the midst of it, we need to make sure that we have a good team around us…
When it came time to get the job done, Matthew records that Jesus got busy “when the crowd was put outside…” (Matthew 9:25a)
Make sure you are on a solid team! Choose your close friends wisely! (And maybe use some wisdom and realize that some need to be “put outside.”
Monday, September 11, 2017
Yesterday I preached at a church in Lanexa, VA. It was my first time at this church and therefore the folks there did not know me at all. I gave my typical introductions about my family, InBounds Ministries, Statesville Christian School, etc. Yet the main thing I shared in the intro was about me…
I was talking about the importance of perspective… how some would see me as kind and caring… while others would maybe see me as very straight forward (abrasive.) How I had to remember that not everyone took to my bluntness (or the looks I call my “Coach-Face”.)
I explained that as a coach, my players needed to know that they could trust that I was on their side… wanted them to win… and then they would be willing to listen even when I was “barking” at them a little bit… (even those times when I felt like going “Bobby Knight” and throwing a chair across the floor…) In fact, some became not only willing, but desired to follow whatever I said… This is how I would describe a player like that: He will run through a brick wall for me!
Then there were some players that simply never took to my coaching style as they felt they knew more than me – or – that I wasn’t on their side.
I’ve written about this many times, and I remind us all again this week, that God is on our side! He is for us not against us! A right perspective of who He is will lead us to a willingness and desire to honor Him. I shared the following statement with the church yesterday:
“When we see God for who He is in relation to who we are, we cannot help but love Him because He first loved us… and if we love Him we will obey Him… obeying Him means serving Him…. serving Him is done through serving others… therefore how well we love God is evidenced in how well we love others!”
Yet along with our perspective of who He is, it is important to evaluate ourselves… Do you love Him? Are you obedient to His Word? Are you serving Him by serving others? Are you willing to “run through a brick wall” for Him?
If not, I think it comes down to your pride and/or a lack of truly understanding who God is…
Proverbs 10:8 The wise in heart will receive commands, but a prating fool will fall.
Monday, September 4, 2017
I’m gonna quote my dear friend Jason Otter (basketball trainer extraordinaire), “I can’t stand quitters!” Jason then follows up with the statement that he has never quit anything in his life, and I believe him. He is a man that has obtained excellence and reached maximum potential in what he has set his mind to. (I would highly encourage basketball players to check into training with Otter Basketball.)
Basically I am seeing our culture continue to settle for less, while wanting to look like they are more… I have written about it many times… this is the culture that will buy jeans with holes already in them in and call it fashion; when it is really just trying to look like hard workers without the work!
This mentality is running rampant through all of our culture, including the church. There is a lot of stage lights, fog machines, and excitement that has the appearance of success… yet not necessarily a lot of depth and commitment underneath. We have many that love to ride the wave until things get rough… and then we see people quit.
What I mean by that is that commitment seems to be lacking when it comes to the basic truths of Scripture and how we, as believers in Christ, should live. We have a lot of dunk shows but little emphasis on fundamentals.
Where is our passion for truth? Where is our passion for honoring God in all we do?
How do I define passion? It is not just by asking do you love God… but instead are you fully “in”? When the lights go down and the fog settles, are you committed to God’s ways being your ways? People that are passionate are people that can’t quit! Their passion won’t let them…
Solid, mature believers are those that won’t quit on their churches…
Solid, mature believers are those that won’t quit on their spouses…
Solid, mature believers are those that won’t quit on their ethics in business, etc…
Circumstances should not dictate one’s actions… God’s truth… God’s way… should rule supreme! Passion is evidenced in obedience!
I love the way The Message paraphrase states this in Psalm 119:4 You, God, prescribed the right way to live; now you expect us to live it.
Evaluate your life not based upon circumstances but instead in light of God’s Word and its directions on how we should be living! Are you passionate (Can’t quit)? Are you obedient (Won’t waver from the truth)?
NOTE: Your passion for and obedience to Christ is not what saves you! It was His passion for us and His obedience to the Father that saved us… He was all in… couldn’t quit… in His journey to the cross! Thank goodness my salvation is a gift I received by faith in the finished work of Christ!
Philippians 2:8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
Monday, August 28, 2017
Doing a short devo this week as I have been as busy as I've ever been in my life... And as tired; and aa a result didn't even bring my computer home from my office... Forgetting it's Monday. (And thus typing on my phone.)
So simply, do you want to be great at what you do? At anything you do? I have the formula...
Obviously I spend much time in the athletic world and it is common to find athletes that claim they want to be great. I also deal with the academic world... The work world... The social world... Etc.
Everything literally comes down to the same question... Why do you pursue excellence? What is your motivation? If it is motivated by a comparison to others then once you find you are better than those around you, you will let up; or once you discover those around you are better you will give up.
I submit that the proper way for us to "train" is with our eye on pursuing excellence, which is about me being my best, not centered on being the best. It is not about comparing to others but instead a daily motivation of my betterment...
Why? Because as a believer our whole lives, word and deed, are supposed to be directed at Excellence. Notice I capitalized Excellence that time around... Because I'm talking about being directed toward God deserving our best!
I don't want a good spiritual life and a good athletic life; instead a good spiritual life demands that if I pursue athletics as an act of worship unto God... Pursue academics or work or my social life or... I think you get the picture... Everything word or deed unto God! (Read Colossians 2:17, 23)
The motivation to honor God... to give Him my best... to pursue Him, the Excellent one, is a motivation that never runs out.
How much different would our lives be if everything ran through the filter of honoring God in how we do it.. In working as unto Him? It would drastically change the way we "train."
Today's Training Tip: Pursue Excellence in order to obtain excellence!
Monday, August 21, 2017
Last week I mentioned people with “alligator mouths”; this week the news will be full of stories about two guys with two of the biggest mouths around… They both are so loud and brash that the fight they are scheduled to have is more villain vs. villain than good vs. bad.
If you pay attention to the sports world at all you know I am talking about the upcoming fight between Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. and Conor “The Notorious” McGregor. McGregor, the brash Irishman, is fighting in his first professional boxing match (although he has fought professionally in MMA very successfully. Mayweather is 49-0-0 in his illustrious boxing career but does have some age on him… but this guy hasn’t even had many close fights because he is so good. Most boxing experts give McGregor almost zero chance of winning; I even heard one state that he didn’t think he would land one clean shot on Mayweather. The thinking is that McGregor’s only shot is that his power and awkward style may allow him to land that one lucky shot that will bring “Money” down…
So what about Mayweather, why do people want to see him go down so badly that they will pay ridiculous prices for what appears will be a very lopsided boxing contest? The reason is that in spite of how brash McGregor is, Mayweather’s career has been built on being the villain. This guy wasn’t even a main draw for much of his career; nut until he fought a “good guy” in Oscar De La Hoya back in 2007. Since then it has been about money and fame. In fact, in one fight he knocked a guy out when the guy was apologizing to him with his hands down… it was truly a despicable display of sportsmanship, but within the rules since the round was live. (But when talking ethically it was cheating!) Mayweather has truly built his fortune on having a bad name…
Proverbs 22:1 has something to say about names: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold.”
Proverbs 21:6 states: “Getting treasures by a lying tongue (unethically) is the fleeting fantasy of those who seek death.” Or check out the way that The Message states it: “Make it to the top by lying and cheating; get paid with smoke and promotion----to death!”
Bottom line is that Mayweather has made, and continues to make, an enormous amount of money in the boxing/entertainment world; yet what will all of that mean when he can no longer go in the ring and is seeking peace and contentment?
What about you? When people hear your name, is it a “good” one? What would your nickname be? Is your life characterized by selfishness or by integrity? (The prioritizing or pursuit of riches in one’s life is a sure sign of selfishness.)
Make a good name your priority! Maybe a nickname like “The Giver” or “The Servant” would be a good one…
Monday, August 14, 2017
Tonight, I was at a rehearsal for a new worship team we have called ROAR (Rely On And Rejoice.) As I shared a devotion with them we discussed the idea of being heard… (our school mascot is the Lions and a lion’s roar can be heard up to 5 miles away.) And I got to sharing about the idea of what bragging should sound like as a believer…
In the sports world I spend so much time in, it is common to hear players roar about themselves; and to be honest I probably did my share when I thought I was good… And I am not offended by someone that is proud of the work he has put in; I just want the guy talking to be able to back it up. (In reality, often the talkers have alligator mouths but mosquito butts… they can’t back up the bragging.)
Anyway, back to what I shared tonight with ROAR: It is not wrong for a believer to be a bit braggadocios. Some of you may be already checking out on me, saying that is pride. Yes, it is pride and not all pride is wrong. What matters is what you are proud of, or more importantly who you are bragging about.
Our lives should be characterized by praising our great God! He is worthy of our praise! He is worth bragging about! My victories are a result of His goodness working in and through me!
To quote the philosopher Katy Perry, “You’re gonna hear me roar!”
And God always lives up to the hype!
I love reading the Psalms as God gets bragged about!
I love reading Paul’s words to the Galatians: “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (6:14)
What if we bragged as much (or more) about God as we do ourselves? Or our favorite players? Or our favorite musicians? Actors? Etc…
“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable.” (Psalm 145:3)
“Men shall speak of the might of your awesome acts, and I will declare Your greatness.” (Psalm 145:6)
Monday, August 7, 2017
Saturday my daughter Faith was playing in an AAU basketball tourney and their team was on a fast break… she looked ahead and made a pass to her teammate running the lane. The pass made it through and it looked great; it was a high risk play that brought a lot of cheers. Right after that they found themselves in a very similar situation and this time Faith went for the same exact pass; yet this time the defense was ready and stole it. This was a case where the old phrase (“went to the well once too often”) comes into play… it is a situation where the passer got greedy for more.
I’m sure in Faith’s mind she thought it went well the first time, so why not try again. I’m sure she enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment, so why not try again. And to be honest, my view when I was coaching was to encourage “going for it until they stop it.” Sounds a lot like Nike saying, “Just do it!”
In life we tend to get “greedy” as well. Obviously we have greed when it comes to material things; my pastor refers to things where one should be enough and we say we just want “one… more.” Yet this spirit of greed is also a problem in leading us down paths of sin…
Think about how sin takes control. We make a decision to just give something a try, even though we know it is wrong. Then if we don’t see the immediate negative consequence we “go to the well again.” And eventually, we find we went to the well once too often as sin wreaks its havoc in our lives. I love the old phrase “sin will take you farther than you planned go, keep you longer than you planned to stay, and cost you more than you planned to spend.”
“Just once” quickly turns to “just one more time” when we allow sin to have a foot in the door of our lives. Sin makes us greedy for more. Early on the enemy whispers, “Just do it!” in our ears and we are lured in…
This week’s devo is a long way around to encouraging, or better yet, pleading that you “do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn away from it and pass on… Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil.” (Provers 4:14-15, 26-27)
Monday, July 31, 2017
There is much talk in the sports world right now about “trades.” With the deadline for Major League Baseball trades, and also the talk that Kyrie Erving wants traded from the Cleveland Cavaliers, it is dominating the news… Bottom line is that every article is gauging the value of trades / which team got the better deal / are the pieces on each side of the trade worth it; case in point: the top headline when I just pulled up ESPN.com is “Trade deadline winners and losers…”
And when it comes to the trade demand from Kyrie the news is not just about finding a good swap on value but also why he wants to be traded from a team that has gone to 3 straight NBA Finals…
All of it brings me to a very basic weekly devotion to just remind us of the greatest, yet worst value, trade in history…
2 Corinthians 5:21 says “For He (God the Father) made Him (Christ) knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
How awesome!!! We receive the righteousness of Christ to our account, allowing us eternal life with a place on God’s team… He gets our sin and its death penalty… The Great Trade!!!
Yet when we look at it from a value standpoint The Greatest Of All Time took the fall for the worst of all time, as He died for the sin of the world… The Worst Trade (but thank God, full of mercy and grace!)
Simply put, from a value standpoint it was not a fair trade; yet that is how much God wanted us on the team… how much He loves each of us… and “demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We were not worth the trade… “But God…” (READ Ephesians 2:4-9)
This is time to celebrate our trade that we accepted by faith! And if you have not believed on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved, can I give you an honest appraisal?
Basically, the word is that Kyrie wants traded from Cleveland because he doesn’t like being second-fiddle to LeBron James; he believes it would be better to play somewhere that he is the centerpiece of the team. One article (TheUndefeated.com; Stephen A. Smith) even says “Kyrie got tired of being ‘son’ to LeBron.” This sounds a lot like a player’s pride taking priority over being on a championship team…
According to God’s Playbook there is only one championship team in the end, and it is Team Jesus. None of us are good enough to be on the team, but that “trade” was made that allows us to be. A person that rejects the trade typically does so because he has a false sense that he doesn’t need a Substitute/Savior, and will make it on his own laurels… this is choosing religion (man’s attempt to earn God’s favor…) this is a false pride that ends in “falling short.” (See Romans 3:23) And of course some will simply try to convince themselves there is no God, therefore no need for the “trade,” and thus no true meaning to life as we all simply live and die; again, just pride as we believe we are the apex of it all…
Please consider the incredible, loving, sacrificial “trade” the Father made… for you! He loves you and wants you on the Team… for eternity!
Monday, July 24, 2017
This past week I read an autobiography by Tamika Catchings. That gal is not only a great basketball player, but also has had an incredibly interesting life. The book shares a lot about her victories, but also about her struggles/defeats… and how they have strengthened her.
One story that stood out to me took place her first practice of her freshman year at the University of Tennessee; she was playing for legendary coach Pat Summitt. Tamika talks about a defensive drill in which she started out doing it her “usual way.” Coach Summitt blew here whistle and let her know how defense was played at UT; and apparently this happened a few times in the course of the drill… each time with Coach getting a bit more perturbed; at one point yelling, “Catch! How many times do I have t tell you?”
One telling paragraph says this… “I was getting frustrated. What I was doing was giving me a good chance of stealing the ball. I was being aggressive on defense, doing what I knew to be successful for years in high school. Pat was forcing me to do it another way I thought was not going to be nearly successful.”
Eventually Catchings mouthed off to Coach Summitt and realized she had crossed the line. Coach even asked her if she was going to be coachable? Summitt said, “You need to stop being stubborn and start thinking about the team.”
(Quotes taken from “Catch A Star” by Tamika Catchings; pages 104-106)
So why am I sharing so much of this story? Because the cool ending is that Tamika Catchings has been a 5-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year and attributes it to what she learned from Coach Summitt; and there is an incredible life lesson here…
As a coach, a teacher, a pastor, and a dad I spend a lot of time sharing advice, and at times giving direction. What I have found is that the greatest danger to a team, a church, or a family is found in how we respond to leadership, ultimately how we respond to God’s Word.
Judges 17:6 says, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
I have often written about my favorite two words in Scripture (“But God…”) and the hope they bring…. Now for my least favorite two words to hear in life (especially from my kids), “But I…” Those two words destroy the chemistry of the team! Those two words remove the authority of the coach! Those two words are the most selfish, destructive words on the planet!
My fear today is that even in the church we are living as if we have no king. It is time to take inventory of our lives to see if we are allowing for the absolute authority of Scripture… this will then spill over to submission to earthly authority… resulting in us being coachable… resulting in us not always looking out for our own desires but looking to others (see Philippians 2:3.)
Simply put: if we let the King be King, our lives will experience great team-chemistry!
Monday, July 17, 2017
Sometimes when watching a game, a player may not be what he seems… In other words, a player that seems to be very ordinary may in fact be the most talented and gifted player on the court. The reason for this is that the best players understand they are much better off to get the job done as efficiently as possible… thus not putting on a skills exhibition every time they get the ball. Great players stick to the goal… thus no need for 10 dribbles when one will suffice in getting to the basket!
As a player and as a coach I had a motto when playing defense against a “show-off” trying to impress everyone with his skills… the motto: “Let him dance!” There is not a need to try to steal the ball from a guy that is going nowhere… wait for him to actually make a move toward the basket…
We spend way too much time in useless arguments (and social media postings.) We don’t have to answer or post a response to everything that comes before us. We need to limit what we engage in and use less words. We will find this helps us stick to the goal (the mission) and that are words will be more powerful and taken more seriously. (Makes me think of another great motto: Don’t shoot rabbits with an elephant gun!)
This is the mark of a “great player” or a wise person...
Proverbs 17:27 He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.
In The Message (paraphrase): The one who knows much says little; an understanding person remains calm.
Translation: Stop getting so jacked up by everything you hear or read… stick to the goal!
Monday, July 10, 2017
Circumstances… the things that cause us to question… especially question leadership that got us into or allowed us into said circumstances…
I regularly tried to remind my guys that our goals were long-term… that we were more concerned with developing work ethic and character than winning a game. Don’t get me wrong, I love winning games but that is merely circumstances and is short-term; (the scoreboard turns off after every game.)
Years ago, I served as not only a HS coach but also as an athletic director. The year before I had been an associate coach for a team with immense talent and size. We had played against some major competition that often included multiple future D1 players on the floor at any given time. (In fact we were suiting up multiple players that would go D1.) Yet the year that I was the AD we didn’t have that talent or size on our squad… we had gone from 5 guys over 6’4” to no one over 6’2”… from 6 seniors that went on to play college ball to no upperclassmen that would make that transition… I think you see the change, as did our parents/fans.
Yet as the AD I had to still make a decision on who I would schedule as our opponents and what level of tournaments we would play in… we obviously were not equipped to compete at the same level as the team from the previous year. Yet I chose to maintain a very strong schedule (and we were in a conference that was stacked with size and talent.) I planned to play some teams that I knew were going to give us an old-fashioned beat-down. I allowed for us to remain in a conference that I knew would give us some old-fashioned beat-downs. (And to my guys’ credit, they competed at times at levels that surprised us all.)
The reason I bring it up is because I remember one particular conversation with a parent. She approached me and explained to me that she though I needed to start lightning the schedule so we didn’t lose as badly… (and there were some really lopsided scoreboards that year.) To our parents/fans the idea of success centered around a bunch of electronic lights that would turn on an off in the blink of an eye… the scoreboard. Yet to me the scoreboard is such a false indicator of success, as it does not record improvement, effort, opponents’ abilities, etc. It only records current circumstances. I responded to that parent by reminding her that the year before I remember her cheering us on as we beat some other teams badly… and I even asked her why it was ok for other peoples’ kids to get beaten badly but not ours???
I regularly tried to remind my guys that our goals were long-term… that we were more concerned with developing work ethic and character than winning a game. Don’t get me wrong, I love winning games but that is merely circumstances and is short-term; (the scoreboard turns off after every game.)
In life we often find ourselves in the midst of difficult circumstances and tend to ask why God would plan or allow for such circumstances. We are consumed by looking for the cause (the why) behind our circumstances. (And a side note: sometimes we are in bad circumstances because we “played poorly” and didn’t do what the “Coach” said.) Yet we can’t deny that in Scripture we see God planning for or allowing for life’s schedule to seem to be stacked against us.
Can I encourage you this week that no matter what circumstances you are facing to trust that God has a long-term vision for you? He knows the plans He has for your future… (see Jeremiah 29:11.) He has promised that trials will strengthen you… (see James 1:2-5.)
That passage in James mentions the idea of being perfected (vs 4), which is another way of saying that you are maturing. Here is how I believe a mature believer responds to difficult circumstances:
1. He doesn’t have to ask “why” or find a “cause” because he fully trusts in God’s promises for the long-term…
2. He drops the “ca” off of “cause” and focuses on the “use”… in other words instead of asking why me, he asks how can I be used in this? It is a focus of how God can use us in the midst of trials to reach/help others!
What I love is that God will (and plans to) use us, even when we have “played poorly” to get ourselves in bad circumstances… why, “for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
Just as I hoped my players would not only trust my coaching, I hoped they would trust my scheduling. When they realized the schedule was hard, not because of the scoreboard but because of their long-term good, we even had fun when getting our butts kicked…
Trust God’s plan!