Monday, July 16, 2018

July 16, 2018 - Coach, I'm Ready!

I always love to check out players that are on the bench during a game; and as a coach I always told my players that they needed to stay alert when on the bench. In other words, know what is going on in the game, so if their number is called they are ready to immediately get into the flow of the game… they will know what we are running and what the opponent is doing…

Every once in a while, you get the players that simply are not in tune… no clue what is going on. And then you get the opposite at times and get the player that makes sure he/she is always filling the closest possible seat they can get to the coach; the body language is screaming “put me in coach, I’m ready to play!”

I love players that want to play! Yesterday at church I was reminded of this with the message our pastor brought (Thanks, Matt!) In Luke chapter 12 Jesus is teaching and says that the servant that is watching for the master and stays ready is blessed! I love the way it is stated in the ESV in verse 35, “Stay dressed for action…”; and then in verse 37 when He says, “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes…

In other words, Jesus is reminding us to stay busy (faithful) as though He is returning at any moment! And to take that a bit farther, I believe it is reminding us to be ready whenever He calls our number in the game of life… not to put off the opportunities we have to reach/serve others!!!

Monday, July 9, 2018

July 9, 2018 - Benefits of a Coach That Played

Here we are in the middle of summer and there is still a lot of talk about NBA basketball… with which player is going where. Yet there were also many coaching positions filled in May and June that will greatly affect how teams play… in fact I think there were 8 new head coaches added.

So, what makes a great coach? What all seem to agree on is that communication and motivation are the keys… But for some they prefer to have a coach that was a former player; or as one NBA veteran put it, coaches that understand the grind of an 82-game season… “have been in the trenches… They know the game a little bit more because they have been in your shoes.” (Marreese Speights, Orlando Magic)

 It is comforting to know that the one you are following has been where you are and understands the struggles. The Scriptures remind us that we have such a leader in Christ; For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15) This verse followed the charge for us to “hold fast” and reminded us that our Savior has “gone through the grind… been through the trenches.”

That in turn, gives us the confidence to come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find help in time of need. (verse 16)

Although I know there are some coaches that are successful that have not played, I agree with Mo Speights in that I prefer the comfort of knowing my Leader fully understands what I am going through!

The thoughts today were spurred by a book Lisa is reading. She told me about a chapter that made the following observation… when watching a great movie, one gets caught up in the characters, not the author of the story; we connect to the hero and find ourselves emotionally connected to the outcome. So why bring this up in the devotion? The book went on to remind us that sometimes we tend to just think of God as the author and forget He is all the principal character… the hero of the story! He not only entered the story physically through Christ, He also remains active in it. We can go to Him in our story! We can boldly approach Him! When we talk to Him, He hears us….

Spend time with The Coach today… and every day; His office door is always open because He understands and cares about what we are going through!

(Lisa is reading the book The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge)

Monday, July 2, 2018

July 2, 2018 - Excited To Join A New Team!

Well obviously, the big new this week in sports involves LeBron James deciding to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers… and everyone seems to have an opinion about it. Each time LeBron has made a choice of where to play the critics have come out of the woodworks… and of course his fans have been ecstatic.

Here is a post I saw today from one of my dear friends on Instagram, “To sacrifice, work, dream so hard that you become one of the best of your industry… good enough to write your own ticket and work where you want? Big time to me. I’d be proud if he was my kid. Congrats Mr. James. Continue to inspire young and old. I’ll definitely watch more Laker games with my notebook ready.” (Terry Primm… college basketball coach)

Staying on the positive side, Lakers fans are super excited… and the Lakers gained a lot of fans that love LeBron! It is a Laker party! In today’s professional sports world, players are rewarded with opportunities to make some choices on where they play and who they play with… LeBron decide he wanted to be a part of the Laker legacy. (I know the LeBron-haters are screaming that their heroes of old never had to get different teammates… all I’ll say… remember those guys already had incredible talent around them or didn’t win until they did -and- it’s simply a different world due to travel ball, etc.)

I am simply today wondering what it must be like in Heaven each time someone comes to know the Lord. In Luke 15 Jesus was hearing from His distractors… and said this, “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents…” (vs 7) In other words, there is a party in heaven when someone joins the team!

We have a picture in the parable Jesus was sharing of a shepherd finding a lost sheep… It reminds me of a couple things:

1.       The shepherd pursued the lost… How does God pursue the lost? That is done through His people sharing the Gospel… (Romans 1:16 = the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation / Romans 10:14 = how can sinners hear without a preacher?) – therefore as believers we need to be faithful to witness / evangelize!!!

2.       The idea of the sinner “repenting” is the simple truth of the Scriptures… (Romans 10:14 = how can the believe in Him of whom they have not heard?) – the word repent means to “change one’s mind” –a sinner has to change his mind about who Jesus is and what He has done through the death and resurrection in order to believe in Him – we need to be sharing this truth!

I want to cause a party in Heaven! And I wonder if we get as excited as we should about seeing people get saved? That should be way more exciting than hearing what team LeBron is going to play for!

Monday, June 25, 2018

June 25, 2018 - Team-First Mentality

I am currently sitting in our little trailer down in Daytona Beach, FL; we are here because I had the honor and privilege to speak at the Bold Grace Summit at Beach House Church. It was a great weekend and now we are enjoying a couple extra days of the beach…

One of the things we were reminded of during the summit was that we are each gifted uniquely for the purpose of making the “team” better…

Ephesians 4:16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Each believer is a “joint” that should play a part in the body (on the team)! In hoops I wouldn’t put together a team of only big guys… but want to make sure I have ball handlers, outside shooters, guys that can defend the wings, etc. In volleyball I wouldn’t only have setters… in football I don’t want only linemen… you get the picture,

As we studied Ephesians at the conference, there was an emphasis in Ephesians of the body, Jew and Gentile becoming one new man… one new team!

Ephesians 2:14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation.

We had great teaching this weekend (thank you Grant Hawley, Keith Pesce, and Charlie West) reminding us of the importance of the team. Let me remind each of us that we have an individual responsibility to give our best to the team!

John Wooden didn’t allow players’ names on the backs of their jerseys; he believed the name that mattered was who they were playing for, which was written across their uniform chests.

We spend too much time reading/studying the Scriptures based upon what it means to us as individuals, when much of the Scripture gives instruction on how we can best serve the team.

Grant Hawley (Bold Grace Ministries) did a great job of reminding us that each “joint” should play its part in the body; and then he cross-referenced to Colossians 3:14 which states, “But above all these things put on love, it is the bond of perfection.”

The word for “bond” literally means “ligament.” So, we are the joints and love is what holds it all together. We hear many messages about being “all in” for Christ; yet His Word says that we do that by being “all in” for the body… the team!

Being in Florida right now I am seeing a lot of Salt Life clothing, stickers, etc. I think we need to remember that we are called to “Body Life” – a team-first mentality.

Monday, June 18, 2018

June 18, 2018 - Mascots

Over the years I have wrestled (well maybe that is a strong word – more like contemplated) with naming an official mascot for InBounds Ministries. The logical choices have been the typical “Lions” or “Eagles” or even something like the “Crusaders.” The idea being that one wants to evoke the idea of power, speed, overcoming, taking flight, etc… I have even gone as far as thinking of something crazy like the “Iguanas” since, like the theory on reptiles, we should grow until we die… BUT, none of the mascots ever fully stuck in my mind; yet, we are a sports-based ministry so the thoughts continue…

Some odd mascots I have heard over the years:

Wichita State Shockers… due to some of their athletes “shocking” (harvesting) wheat in the summers…

The Utah Jazz??? Jazz in Utah??? This is due to the team moving from New Orleans and no one changing the name…

How about my hometown Evansville Purple Aces? Apparently derived in the 1920’s when an opposing coach against the Evansville College Pioneers stated in a loss that they had not 4, but 5, Aces up their sleeves…

I could go on with names… it is a fun internet search, but I need to get to the point… although I will say that one jumped out at me in my search due to me very recent trip to an Indian reservation… Being in the incredible culture, I remembered the importance in names…

Scottsdale Community College has Artie the Fighting Artichoke; an absurd mascot voted on by the student body in protest to the college using funds intended for Indians to instead lure athletes. This makes me want to get a t-shirt from there…

But no, the mascot I am now sold on for InBounds is not the Artichokes… but instead one that gives a picture of strength in the midst of adversity. Throughout Scripture we are reminded that life will be full of “storms” and that we can face them with confidence and joy… yes, even joy!

The typical approach we have toward trials is to avoid them… to run from them. But the Scriptures give a different slant… check out how James says it in chapter 1 (from the Message paraphrase): 2-4 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

When study animals we see different ways in which they react to storms. For instance, a cow will sense a storm coming and try to outrun it; yet they are not super-fast and inevitably end up spending longer in the storm than they needed to…

But, (and hear comes the mascot explanation) the BUFFALO will turn toward the storm and walk through it; thus getting to the other side more quickly and in better shape than the cow… This is taken from the “Better Life Coaching Blog”:

Wilma Mankiller, the first ever female chief of the Cherokee nation and owner of one of the best surnames in history once said,

Cows run away from the storm while the buffalo charges toward it – and gets through it quicker.  Whenever I’m confronted with a tough challenge, I do not prolong the torment, I become the buffalo.

While out west, I was absolutely mesmerized by the incredible stories of this amazing creature (and hearing through the thoughts of an Indian man.) I’m not sure what you have going on in life right now… but I can say that, like the buffalo, you are equipped to make it through the storm… because God is on your side and is going through it with you! Don’t fear, Jesus is in the boat!

Monday, June 11, 2018

June 11, 2018 - Players' Nicknames (What would yours be?)

It’s Sunday night, (technically Monday in the eastern time zone… but I am in a hotel in WY), and I have had my mind going during much of my time on the road today about this week’s devo… writing tonight in case I am too tired tomorrow night at the next hotel stop on the journey home…

I spent the last few days on the Ft Belknap Indian Reservation in Montana; what an incredible people with an incredible culture! It is one part of the culture that caught my attention for this week; I’ll get to that in just a moment…

What do you think of in the basketball world when you hear Magic? His Airness? The King? The Pistol? The Glove? The Poet? The Eraser? The Round Mound of Rebound? The Wizard of Westwood? and the list could go on and on…

These are nickname of players, and even one of a coach, that are very descriptive of their styles of play/coaching. (Can you name who each nickname belongs to?

Magic is of course Magic Johnson; known for his incredible creativity and passing.
His Airness is most certainly Michael Jordan… you can even picture him seemingly suspended in the air as he soars for a dunk.
The King, LeBron James, known for ruling the court since he was a teen.
The Pistol Pete Maravich and his shoot-from-the-hip style of play.
The Glove is Gary Payton, who played defense so tightly that he seemed to fit his opponent like a glove.
The Poet Alex English, who was beautiful to watch as he moved with such fluidity and grace.
The Eraser Marvin Webster who swatted away shot after shot.
The Round Mound of Rebound Charles Barkley barreling down the court like a train or eating up space in the lane.
The Wizard of Westwood John Wooden, the mastermind of the UCLA dynasty.

What about Dr. Bird and Elfman? (Me pretending to be a mix of Dr J and Larry Bird; and Mark Mays, who in spite of short stature could absolutely fly…)

I’m sure you can think of many others from not only basketball but also other sports… William “The Refrigerator” Perry… Mark “The Bird” Fidrych… Smokin Joe Frazier…

I love nicknames and the Indian culture reminded of the beauty of descriptive names. I was given a copy today of a new English translation of the Bible that is written with the goal of reaching the Indian (Native American) people of our land… written in a way that gives cultural relevance to the reading. I have loved reading through some passages, especially in seeing the names…

Peter = Stands On The Rock
Isaiah = Creator Will Help Us
John the Baptist = He Shows Goodwill 
JESUS = Creator Sets Free!

I love these descriptors and it caused me to wonder what people would say of me? What would they say of you? How would people describe us if giving us an Indian name?

I know we would want to be thought of in a positive way for our Christianity but fear that most of how that would be expressed about church-folk is names like:

Do Not Like ___(fill in the blank)____
Do Not Do ___(fill in the blank)____

CREATOR SETS FREE (JESUS) is very explicit in how we can and should be known:

John 13:34-35 “I am giving you a new road to walk,” he said. “In the same way I have loved you, you are to love each other. This kind of love will be the sign for all people that you are walking the road with Me.” (First Nation Version)

Oh, may we play the game of life in such a way that we could each be called “Loves Like Jesus!”

Next week I plan to share my new affinity for Buffalo… (in fact going to propose to our staff that the Buffalo become our mascot.)

Sunday, June 3, 2018

June 4, 2018 - Resilient (Bouncing back from a bad game or bad play)

The NBA finals are underway and full of drama… game 1 had numerous questionable calls, a great performance from Lebron, and a couple of players that absolutely choked…

The first was George Hill at the free throw line with a chance to put his team ahead; as the camera zoomed in on his face I told my son that he was tight (scared) and he proceeded to short-arm his free throw. The second was JR Smith who got an unexpected offensive rebound of that miss and instead of going back up with it for the winning bucket, dribbled out totally unaware of the score. That dude has been ridiculed like crazy on the internet for that blunder…

I thought of a Bible story where a guy was guilty of a boneheaded play and totally unaware… it was King David and he was reminded by Nathan of his transgression. 2 Samuel 12 gives the story; and in verse 1 we see that the Lord sent Nathan to make David aware… I picture Nathan giving a look like Lebron gave JR Smith when David acted ignorant to his sin… telling David very clearly, “You are that man!” (vs 7)

Instead of going through the whole story, I want to jump to this week’s point… what we know of David is that yes, his sin brought some loss in that game of his life, yet he admitted his wrong before the Lord and he was able to still be considered a man after God’s heart. (see Acts 13:22) 2 Samuel 12:13 states the “Lord has put away” David’s sin.

After JR Smith’s gaffe, Lebron stated that he wasn’t worried about JR because he is “resilient” and would keep on going… King David made some terrible decisions but was resilient… he kept on going!

All of that to remind us that we all have made bad choices, yet those choices do not have to dictate our future… we can come back and have a “good game!” Like David, we need to be honest before the Lord and trust in Him!

One of my favorite songs right now is by Mercy Me, called Grace Got You. I love one of the lines where it says:

Laugh, 'til your whole side's hurting
Smile like you just got away with something
Why? 'Cause you just got away with something
Ever since, ever since grace got you

We are all sinners that need to celebrate God’s grace in our lives and allow that to motivate us to pursue knowing and loving Him even more! Even if you have made some boneheaded plays, be resilient and push on!

Monday, May 28, 2018

May 28, 2018 - Get The Bat Off Your Shoulder!

Contemplative Memorial Day! Seems a bit strange to wish a Happy day when we are commemorating those that have lost their lives to purchase our freedom… on any of the Armed Forces days we celebrate and recognize those that serve… realizing that “all gave some…”; yet today is the day to remember that “some gave all!”

I’m gonna try to quickly share from a message I preached yesterday as we dissected the word “serve.”

The root of the word goes back to the idea of being a slave. It denotes one that places others as more important than self… and in the case of our fallen heroes, to place an ideal as more important than self.

Without going through the entire message, I brought out the fact that in the church we tend to gauge our service by our smartphone calendars… or by paycheck percentages. We typically view our “service” as being whatever is formally announced in the bulletin and our giving by if we met our 10% goal. We feel good about our programs and faithfulness to the offering plate… yet when we are faced in our daily lives with people in need we tend to take an “I gave at the office” mentality. We live in a culture where we typically view church as something we go to instead of something we go do…

I believe the Scriptures call us to more than the typical… believe they call believers to an “all-in” mentality. Here are some of the Scriptures I used to remind us of what/who we are called to be:

Matthew 20:26Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Deuteronomy 15: 10 You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand. 11 For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’

I almost hate to use my typical sports references as they pale in comparison to the memory of our fallen heroes. But in the sports world, I believe it always important to get the bat off one’s shoulder. I remember as a little kid being taught to make sure I was swinging at anything close… to never strike out looking! I want us to be taking our swings… here are a few quotes:

“Well done is better than well said!” Ben Franklin

“But denunciatory rhetoric is so much easier and cheaper than good works and proves a popular temptation. Yet is it far better to light the candle than to curse the darkness.William Lonsdale Watkinson 1907

“When I am gone let it be said, ‘He died in church service, not in a church service!’” Todd ‘Coach B’ Burden

Let’s get the bat off our shoulders and Go MAD (Make A Difference)!!!

Monday, May 21, 2018

May 21, 2018 - Piggy-Backing

This past weekend had the spectacle of the latest royal wedding… a “scandalous affair” in which a young lady that did not measure up to the standard for British royalty… not by birth or by choices she has made in life… a young lady many consider to be unworthy. Yet, nonetheless she is now royalty!

It reminded me of situations in sports where we discuss the greats based upon how many rings they have; yet forget how erroneous that argument is when we consider how many have rings that wouldn’t rank on our “greats list…” If number of rings is the test then Robert Horry (with 7) is better than MJ (with 6.) If rings determine greatness, then Jack Haley (95/96 Bulls with 1) is better than Charles Barkley (with none.) [Jack Haley played in 1 game of that 72-win season…]

What I am simply saying is that sometimes in sports players piggy-back their way to championships… and sometimes in life there are rags-to-riches stories; and sometimes that can seem “scandalous.”

Yesterday I got to share at a couple different churches along with our worship team from Statesville Christian School. We did a couple songs that set the stage for my message… one is called Beautiful Scandalous Night and the other Scandal of Grace.

We typically hear messages on the scandal of an innocent Man being crucified… and that in and of itself should move us to “walk worthy” as Paul encourages us to do in Ephesians 4:1. Yet I believe there is another scandalous part of the Gospel that should motivate us as well… the scandal of who Christ chose to be His bride…

Ephesians 2:1-3 reminds us that mankind is “dead in trespasses and sins, ….by nature children of wrath.” But Paul goes on to celebrate that “by God’s grace through our faith we are saved… and no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:8, 19)

The scandal is that Christ extends a proposal to a people of non-royal blood that have made wrong choices to be His bride by believing in Him! That is scandalous!

People can say whatever they want, but Meghan Markle is now royalty… Jack Haley is an NBA champion… and I (and you if you have believed on Christ to be saved) am royalty… I am a King’s kid! I am totally “piggy-backing” on Christ!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

May 14, 2018 - Serve the Team

Planning on this week’s devo being short and sweet… (of course I said that I was going to make a message quick this morning in the pulpit… and that didn’t happen); but I have to get up at 3:45am to get ready to leave for a school trip. The text that jumped out at me from this morning’s message is what truly is very short and to the point… but I will get to that in a moment. 

As a coach I have always loved the players that were willing to do the things that don’t always show up in the box score or the news… the players that simply do their jobs to serve the team! They may not be in the limelight, but they are faithful; even though at times may be taken for granted…

With celebrating Mothers’ Day, I was thinking of the faithfulness of moms… how they day in and day out serve the family; even though they may at times be taken for granted…

My point in the message was that the servant-hearts of moms is because they are created in the image of God… and God is a servant… to the point of taking on flesh to serve us to the point of death on a cross…

Ephesians 5:1 tells us to be “imitators of God” and in verse 2 it describes what that looks like, “And walk in love, as Christ has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling aroma.

Our faithfulness should be in the act of serving others as Christ did! Far too often we view Christian faithfulness as being steadfast in avoiding bad things… but I believe it is about being steadfast to serve…

I love the picture of a mom we get in Mark 1… it is Simon’s mother-in-law, and she is said to be sick with a fever and unable to get up; verse 31 records that Jesus healed her “and she served them.

That is all that is said about her… she served! No fanfare, no spotlight… simply did the right thing because it was the right thing to do for the team!

Be a team player this week… look to be intentional in service!

Monday, May 7, 2018

May 7, 2018 - You Can't Be Anything You Want To Be; But You Can Do What He Has Called You To Do!

I have been teaching/preaching a lot lately… one of the key themes, (that fits well with our worship team that has been very busy), has been the challenge to not sit unchanged when we encounter the living God! A phrase I have used time and again is “rise up or fall down, but don’t just sit there!”

I have been sharing from Exodus 3 where Moses encountered God at the burning bush… God had a specific plan (commissioning) for Moses to “go” and tell Pharaoh to set the Israelites free…

Most that read this weekly devotion claim to have encountered the living God… and if so, have also been given a specific plan (commissioning) to “go” and “preach the gospel…” (Mark 16:15)  and “make disciples” (Matthew 28:18-20.)

Moses, in spite of the directive from God, still was initially unwilling to go… he felt inadequate to carry out the plan… he felt he was not a good enough speaker.

Many of us struggle at times with feeling inadequate to fulfill our calling… we do not feel good enough, prepared enough, or worthy enough…

What God tells Moses is classic… He doesn’t build Moses’ self-esteem and tell him that he is a great speaker… He doesn’t give Moses a motivational speech that he can be anything he sets his mind to… (in fact, He doesn’t really address Moses’ view of himself at all… almost as though God was saying, without saying, “yeah, you’re right… you are not a great speaker.”)

Our culture is so bent on motivational-speech; we tell kids they can be anything they set their minds to. But the truth is that there are some things we are simply not good at… just because you say you are gonna be a great athlete, doesn’t mean you genetically have any athleticism. Don’t get me wrong here, I believe our goal should be getting the most out of what we’ve got; yet some people simply have got more.

Sometimes upon hearing that we are all called to go, the result can be to start comparing yourself to others and think you need to be a great speaker or a great singer or a great writer… and like in Moses’ case, you may be right… you may not be good at those things, but God has still commissioned you!

So where does one’s confidence come from to “go”? God made Moses a promise and He has made you, and me, a promise.

Exodus 3:12 “…I will certainly be with you…”

Matthew 28:20 “…I am with you always…”

Our confidence is not in self, but in Him! Now go… there is no excuse… the God of the universe is on your side and going with you!

Monday, April 30, 2018

April 30, 2018 - Beyond Obligations

I had the privilege of attending and speaking at the Global Impact Celebration at Wills Valley Community Church (AL) this past weekend… it was a great time of fellowship with many missionaries… and a great time of challenge to each of us in attendance…

One of my main points was very basic… (I stole it from the blog of my dear friend Roy Mason of Global Evangelism)… we need to move Beyond Obligation to Opportunity!

I will explain it via a way it plays out when I run clinics. When we have shooting competition, there is a standing rule that losers do push-ups… yet any kids that have trained with me before know that I will remind the winners that the losers are getting stronger… and that leads to winners doing “want-to” push-ups… they are not an obligation but instead an opportunity.

I had someone tell me recently tell me that a passionate player was one that went to all the practices; I responded that was not at how I would describe a passionate player… in fact that is expected of every player that is on the team… each is obligated to it! The passionate player arrives early, stays late, sneaks into gyms, finds outdoor courts, etc.… that player can turn his driveway into a coliseum! That player looks for opportunities….

IN the church we are big on teaching about obligation… we will even put percentages on it. Yet, I believe the mature believer lives life looking for opportunities to serve God through serving others… and is not keeping a ledger…

I brought up in my message the 2000 hit from Tim McGraw “Just To See You Smile.” In the song it talks of a guy that is so taken by the girl that he would do anything just to see her smile…

     Just to see you smile

     I’d do anything, that you wanted me to

     When all is said and done

     I’d never count the cost, it’s worth all that’s lost

     Just to see you smile

Unfortunately, I feel most of us live our lives singing to God:

     Just to keep you happy

     I’ll give 10%... and one day a week… and may even listen to Christian radio…

I personally want to go beyond just trying to satisfy my obligations to actually pleasing God… putting a smile on His face! Check out how Paul describes gifts that serve… Philippians 4:18 Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.

I shared this quote in the message yesterday: “Our lives are defined by opportunities ---- even the ones we miss!”

Monday, April 23, 2018

April 23, 2018 - Changing Lineups

Just a quick reminder this week of the reality of life and the expectation of how we should handle it…

Life, like sport, is uncertain. There are no guarantees because there are so many moving parts. There is an old phrase (idiom) that states, “the laid plans of mice and men oft go astray.” This is used typically when things don’t go the way we have planned, despite preparations for success. (And the adverse can be true as well, at times things go better than expected…)

One example of that recently is the Cleveland Cavaliers… they are currently in the first round of the NBA playoffs against the Indiana Pacers; and last night they had, I think I heard, their 33rd starting lineup of the season. Their team has been ravaged by injuries, trades, etc.

Yet there is a simple rule in sport… Next Man Up. In other words, each guy needs to stay ready for whatever the day may bring… circumstances do not change the expectations… no excuses… just take care of today’s business!

With the uncertainty of life, let me remind us that circumstances do not change the expectation of our purpose and plan to GO MAD (Make A Difference) in our world.

It is not wrong to make plans, but ultimately, we simply need to take care of today!

Matthew 6:34 Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things, Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Note: it doesn’t say not to plan any for tomorrow… just that worrying about those plans is a waste of time and energy since there is no certainty about what will transpire… the lineup might change.

Monday, April 16, 2018

April 16, 2018 - Stay Hungry My Friends!

Peinao: Greek

1.       to hunger, be hungry

a.       to suffer want

b.       to be needy

2.       metaph. to crave ardently, to seek with eager desire

We have just gone through March Madness and now the NBA Finals are upon us… over and over the word “hungry” is used. It is used to describe players and teams that are playing with a sense of urgency; those that show great determination… Obviously everyone wants to win, but there comes a time when circumstances create an added desire or drive.

When we see athletes with this mindset we acknowledge their “hunger” and may even state that they have “the eye of the tiger” … ready to pounce!

And the reality is, the greats in any sport are the guys that never seem to lose that hunger…

“I’ve got a theory that if you give 100% all of the time, somehow things will work out in the end.” – Larry Bird

“Talent is never enough. With few exceptions the best players are the hardest workers.” – Magic Johnson

(Yes, I went old school with these old champions… but there is a reason they had such a great rivalry… their mutual “hunger.”)

So, bottom line tonight is this… what are you hungry for? I mean truly hungry for… not just what you want or would like… but instead what you are going after with the eye of the tiger…

Jesus said this in Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

The word “satisfied” is the Greek, Chortazo. It means to fill or satisfy the desire…

I want you to be satisfied in life… and for the believer that happens through our seeking righteousness.

Proverbs 16:26 states: A worker’s appetite works for him, for his hunger urges him on.

Stay hungry my friends!

Monday, April 9, 2018

April 9, 2018 - Fly Fishing Guide

So last week we keyed on Christ “putting in the work” on our behalf for salvation… and then it only becomes reasonable for us to “do work” ---- or as my basketball team chanted to break huddles. “Do Worth Work!” (Honor the Lord in all we do…)

I said at the end of last week’s devotion that I would share from the teaching the pastor did at the Eater service we attended... he encouraged us in what happens after we are “on the team.” He made a strong point about the fact that saved through faith and changed through surrender. (I would define surrender as “walking by or in faith… or walking in the Spirit.” Basically he reminded us that the resurrection power of Easter purchased salvation and empowers sanctification (being set apart in our daily lives.)

But what does it actually mean to “walk in the Spirit” or to “walk by faith”?

He told a story of when he was a boy and his dad took him fly fishing. His dad hired a guide for their journey so they could get the most out of it… Basically they let the guide drive the vehicle, take them to the spots they would fish, show them how to fish, and even pick the flies that he knew would simulate what was hatching at the time…

What they didn’t do was hire the guide and tell him to sit in the back seat. They didn’t just turn to him in emergency situations or times when they were lost. They didn’t hear his instruction and then tell him what they thought would be best. I think you get the picture…

The reality for believers, those that have been saved by grace through faith, is that we then received a “guide” and a “guide book.” I preached this weekend about Jesus and His Word being the “light” (the truth we need for life.) The Bible says, “walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” (Ephesians 5:16) It also says that “the just or righteous man shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17)

Bottom line is that each of us need to take more heed of the Word and allow the Spirit to guide our lives… to have say so on where we go, what we do, and even direct in what we “fish” with.

Surrender simply means walking in faith… which means walking in trust that what God says is the right way every time. Maybe we need to sing “Jesus take the wheel” and little more….

Monday, April 2, 2018

April 2, 2018 - Christ Put In The Work!

Yesterday as we sat through our Easter service I heard not only a great, clear message of hope in the finished work of Christ in getting “on the team”, but also some great teaching on what we do with that hope once we are “suited up.”

The message was spot on in reminding us that the work for “getting on the team” was done in full by Jesus! What a great time of year as we celebrate the work of the cross and the work of the resurrection! I truly hope that every believer reading this is rejoicing in the assurance that “by grace through faith” we have been saved!!! (And if you ae reading this and not a believer, please know that the work was done for you! Jesus loves you! You can “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved!”)

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

My plan is to share next week some of the teachings we heard concerning what happens after we have placed our faith in Christ… and a hint is that it involves fly fishing and a guide…)

In honor of Easter I want to simply share one of my favorite choruses:

He paid a debt He did not owe

I owed a debt I could not pay

I needed someone to wash my sins away

And now I sing a brand-new song

Amazing grace the whole day long

Christ Jesus paid a debt

That I could never pay

Monday, March 26, 2018

March 26, 2018 - A Club Mentality

I love the story of what Michael Jordan did when he was still with the Bulls; he started a thing called the Breakfast Club. I’ve made references to this “club” in years past, and even used the name on many of our ministry trips for our morning workout routines…

What is the Breakfast Club? It is a group of guys (like-minded teammates) that started meeting with Michael in the mornings for working out throughout the season. According to one of MJ’s business partners, “Most guys dreaded their two-hour practice from 11 to 1. But a small group of guys, who really wanted to push themselves, formed this Breakfast Club thing. They'd work out a few times a week before practice. Then, when they were done working out, some time between 9 and 9:15, Michael's chef cooked them breakfast. That's how it really became the Breakfast Club. Those guys sat down to eat breakfast together, and then they'd go the Berto Center for practice.”

Basically, Michael had developed a reputation of not just being an incredibly skilled basketball player, but also an incredibly fit player. In fact, he not only got stronger through his workout plans, he also became more durable. I remember the amazing stories of how quickly he would get in game shape to start seasons and how quickly he would recover from any wear and tear on his body. And other players wanted to experience the same benefits. And some credit these workouts to giving endurance on the careers of some other than MJ…

All of that to share something I noticed in the Scriptures as I was preparing for a speaking engagement this morning… the importance of a “club” mentality. I was actually speaking about “fasting” and encouraging students at our school to fast on Wednesday; I mentioned the obvious of considering fasting from food that day for the purpose of prayer… but then went on to mention that it might be something other than, or in addition to, food… and encouraged a phone fast that day…

As I studied the chronology of Holy Week, I found something I had never noticed before. We can read many things that took place each day from Jesus’ triumphal entry to the cross to the resurrection; yet on Wednesday of that week, it doesn’t appear that anything is said about what Jesus did. In other words, it seems that He took a day to get away… maybe to prepare for (get stronger for) what Thursday would bring. I don’t know that He fasted from food that day, but He obviously fasted from His social networking…

So here is where the “club” mentality comes in… we also don’t read about what Peter did that day… or Matthew… or John… etc. Apparently, they followed the pattern that Jesus set… all except Judas. He is talked about on that day as he breaks away from the “club” of “like-minded teammates.” And we see how vulnerable he becomes to temptation when he is not focused on Christ and outside of the strength and accountability of the “club.” Wednesday appears to be the day that Judas loses confidence in following Jesus and makes the agreement to betray Jesus…

Are you surrounded by like-minded teammates that will help you get stronger, and stay strong in the midst of temptations? Do those around you help you stay focused on Christ? I hope this weekly devotion helps you with that some…

Monday, March 19, 2018

March 19, 2018 - All In To The End!

I love watching March Madness and seeing the passion that goes into the games… I cant help but think of the old Wide World of Sports… “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” It is truly a magical time where “miracles” happen…

I know I am not discussing miracles of Biblical proportions, but I am using the word loosely… “miracles” such as a number 16 seed beating a number 1 for the first time in 136 tries… (which completely busted my bracket, as I had Virginia going all the way.)

Yep, I admit I haven’t done a good job in predicting this year’s tourney; yet most haven’t as it has had many of the upsets… But the Virginia loss was especially difficult to see because I respect so much how hard they play and how well they are coached. This is a team that only lost twice all year going into the tourney, while playing in one of the toughest conferences in the nation. It is a team that was fully committed to defense… holding all of the opponents to under 70 points on the year… that is until the University of Maryland Baltimore County stepped on the floor with them.. and proceeded to do something that Duke or UNC or anyone in the ACC could not do… dropping 74 points and holding VA to 54… not just winning the game, but winning it going away…

I bring this game up because it continued to make love VA basketball. Sure, they lost a game, but they didn’t lose who they are. They played the game out to the buzzer… their coach didn’t give up on them but instead stuck with them through the end, using it as a learning tool for life.

Check out what Coach Bennett had to say following the shocking defeat: “You’ll remember this. It will sting. Maybe a 1 seed will get beat again, maybe not. Maybe we’ll be the only No. 1 seed to ever lose. It’s life. It goes on. We’ll have to get past that. For some reason this is what we’ve got to deal with, and my job now will be to say hey, how do we bounce back, our players and all that. But a life lesson is sitting there about defining yourself by maybe not what the world says, but there’s other things that matter and then you get back to it.

If you have not ever paid attention to Coach Bennett and his interviews, I encourage you to do so. He is a Christ-centered man that understands the big picture. He understands what matters in the long run…

All of that to say that it reminded me of another that stuck it out to the end…

John 13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

I love this passage in John… and as we approach Easter I want to make sure we are reflecting on a Savior that loves us to the end. This wasn’t just a promise to the disciples but also to us… reminding us that He is fully devoted to us! He loves us to the end! Make sure you spend time this season reflecting on His goodness… reflecting on the true Gospel message that centers on His commitment to us! He is all in to the end!

Monday, March 12, 2018

March 12, 2018 - STRIKE or BE STRUCK!

Last week I shared about the need to “play with a clear head.” I stated that “a player that is ‘hurried’ will make bad passes, take bad shots, and commit silly fouls…” In the practical portion of the devotion I shared some things that Louie Giglio shared about facing worry and fear… that we should replace them with worship and faith…

This week I want to share a very simple challenge with you… one that encourages you to focus in on worship!

In my sharing at the school I have recently written about some days on the soccer field in high school. We had a couple goalies that could really boot the ball. As a freshman I remember going out for practice and deciding to try to head the punts… and our keeper (Jeff Darnell) would kick it really high and really long; meaning the ball would come in with a lot of velocity… and could tend to hurt really bad! (Wondering how many times I should have gone into concussion protocol?)

Seriously, what I had to learn to do (and learn quickly) was to attack the ball; in other words, I had to generate some velocity on my end to impact the ball… not be impacted by the ball! I loved the feeling of striking the ball and sending it back to Jeff with force!

Life will come at us with a lot of velocity… you have to determine if you will be impacted by it or if you will create the impact… the impact of intentional worship or praise! STRIKE or BE STRUCK!

Set yourself up this week for listening to more praise music… sharing more praises… focusing on the goodness of God throughout your days… reading more Psalms… etc. In just a couple of weeks at the school I will be hosting a “worship week” at the school… let it start with us here… (READ PSALM 150)

…it can be our very own form of March MADness!

Side note: periodically I would misjudge my headers… taking my eye off the ball… on those punts that Jeff sent downfield… resulting in mishitting the ball… which could result in some pain when heading off the bridge of the nose. To remedy that I would put my hands up in the air to guide the ball in. Not sure if you are a “hand-raiser” in worship but there is some value in pointing your focus upward! Here’s a fun link for you to take a look at:

Monday, March 5, 2018

March 5, 2018 - Playing With A Clear Head

The past couple of weeks I have been able to see two completely different approaches to the game of life and their ensuing results…

First let me start with a quote from the great John Wooden (which I am sure I have quoted, probably many times, over the years of doing these weekly devotions.) Coach Wooden said, “be quick, but don’t hurry!” He knew that a hurried mind would result in silly mistakes and ultimately a meltdown in the game… I don’t have a clue of how many times over the years of coaching I have yelled out onto the court for my players to calm down… or to a free throw shooter to take a dep breath… etc. A player that is “hurried” will make bad passes, take bad shots, and commit silly fouls…

I won’t spend more time on the athletic picture… I think we all understand where I am coming from; and now I want to relate this truth to the game of life. We live in a society where many, no most, are “hurried”! The advance of technology has not led us to an easier pace of life, but instead to a more hectic one. I really believe the enemy is luring us into his full court trap by making us think we have a clear path…

Think about it, we are stuck always expecting things to happen right away… we literally live our days out in stress… and as a result I counsel people daily that are wrecked with anxiety and depression. I even heard on the radio a couple days ago that pediatricians are suggesting that parents regularly screen their children for depression…

I could write for a long time on this subject but let me encourage you to hop onto YouTube and look up Louie Giglio When Darkness Falls; it is an honest look at what he went through a few years ago and the things the Lord showed him to bring him out of it. (It is a great message for any of us to watch as it gives practical approaches to dealing with life’s full court press…

I will tell you that this week alone I counseled a family where a man literally went from “flight mode” to “fight mode” in a split second and made choices that have wrecked his and his family’s world. And I could go on and on with negative examples… but let me jump to the positive…

Giglio shares in his message about the importance of worship, and how worship cripples fear and worry. He encourages us to let the God “Who gives songs in the night.” (Job 35:10) I love that passage, in it Elihu is rebuking the older guys for having no answer to Job’s stress… and he reminds us to turn to God, Who will give us a song in the midst of our night. (Night here refers to anguish and pain we suffer…)

I watched this in action a couple weeks back as Lisa and I traveled on a worship tour with a group of students. I challenged them before the trip to unplug from the craziness of the social media and from music that doesn’t build up; and instead to plug into talk that encourages, music that lifts, etc. In other words to focus on worship in all aspects of life. The results… amazing, to the point of unbelievable. Lisa even commented about half way through the trip that the kids’ countenance had even changed. We saw joy and peace that surpasses understanding… one student writing that he felt freer than he has ever been. Intentional worship led to a great week and it has carried over to us witnessing culture change here at home…

Louie mentions in his message that worship and worry can’t occupy the same place; and that some then state, “as soon as I stop worshipping the worry returns… to which Giglio responds, “don’t stop then!”

Life is fast paced… slow your minds down with intentional worship… your quality of life depends on it!

Monday, February 26, 2018

February 26, 2018 - Anticipation of Making the Play!

I had a very long week of travel and ministry that included over 40 hours in the van and almost 3000 miles… yet, despite being physically wiped out, had a week of incredible worship and spiritual rest! I was traveling with a team of high school worship leaders… this group of students committed to a 10-day journey of worship… on stage and off stage. I daily was greeted by the sounds of this group doing devotions together and singing praises. In fact, I was ministered to more by what took place off the stage than what they did in the concerts… I found myself looking forward to seeing and hearing their sounds of worship! – anticipating seeing and hearing from God!

There was a sports-related moment that drove this picture home… it happened one of the nights while playing a fun pick-up game of basketball with the kids and the illustration was brought to mind this morning when I was in the Scriptures…

While playing hoops, the students commented on my ability to stay calm and wait to make the pass… which is something I always prided myself on. I love the times I can simply let the play develop and trust that my teammates will make the cuts for me to deliver the pass… when I have the basketball in my hands I feel confident and love the feeling of anticipation of making the play!

That is the picture, the one of anticipation of making the play… here is what I typed this morning for our students at the school:

“This is not just religious church talk! When we are intentional in this, things change! King David was facing some obstacles in life and he stated:

I waited patiently for the Lord… (Psalm 40:1)

The English word “waited” does not give a full picture of what David is saying; the Hebrew word (Qavah) more literally would read: I waited eagerly… or looked for and hoped expectantly. David knew that if he trusted God, God would show up in a big way!

We entered this past week with a daily expectation for God to show up… and He did in a major way. I can truly say that we experienced what David states in verse 1 and 3 of Psalm 40…

1 And He inclined to me (He listened) and heard my cry… 3 He has put a new song in my mouth…

I am not going to lie, I was tired driving home last night! With over 3000 miles logged, this old man was feeling it; yet, in the midst of all of it my heart was full, and a new song was on my lips. One of the songs we did on tour had these lyrics that kept flooding my mind on the drive home…

I’d be lost, I’d be lost, I’d be lost without You

But now I’m found, singing your praise! (Scandal of Grace– Hillsong United)

Intentionally focus on God today and He will put a new song in your mouth…”

Monday, February 19, 2018

February 19, 2018 - Fellowship Shoot-Arounds

I write often from the perspective of my competitive edge when playing sports… I talk about the drive it takes to succeed, the commitment to preparation, the pursuit of excellence, etc. I often will make statements like, “when I lace up the shoes, I intend to win.”

Today I was reminded of a different perspective in my hoops playing days… I thought about the times in my backyard alone just shooting baskets and thinking/praying; or times when I had great conversations with friends while shooting around. In fact, when I reflect on those times I cherish them just as much as the memories of intense competition. I often played to relax or fellowship…

The thing that prompted this reflection were talks I had with my daughter and one of my students. We are on tour with our worship team and they had spent time together yesterday having a devotion on the front porch of our host home. My daughter told me how much the time meant to her and how much they were bonding; the other young lady, who is one of our leaders, said she was surprised how well ti was received because it was a very basic devotion and not very “deep.”

During that second conversation my mind started going into metaphor-mode. I thought about how often I encourage “diving deep” -or- deep study… I talk of word studies and digging into the context… etc. But in the talk yesterday I simply responded that a “swim” can be amazingly refreshing even when we just stay at the “surface.” We don’t always have to “free dive.”

I am all for the “I’m diving in, I’m going deep” approach. (Thanks Stephen Curtis Chapman for the word picture.) But I am also all for the “Be still and know that I am God” approach. (Thanks to Psalm 46:10 for that word picture.)

There’s something refreshing and relaxing when we are “floating on the surface”…

I miss my fellowship shoot-arounds… and my individual shoot-arounds… they calmed me and energized me.

Matthew 11:28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”