Monday, December 31, 2018

December 31, 2018 - Climbing the Ladder (How Low Will You Go?)

Here we are on the eve of the big game… the game we will call 2019! Typically before games, athletes are envisioning how they see the game going… thinking about and committing to what needs to be done to stop or slow down the opponent… thinking about how to implement the offensive game plan (which by the way we have been discussing in this blog the last few weeks)… and, to be honest, many players are thinking about what they need to do to stand out and be successful (sometimes with no regard of the team.)

Bottom line is that we can think about things all we want, but the “committing to” is how we actually put it into action. All around the globe tonight people will be making their New Year’s Resolutions… and the reality is less than 25% of those will be kept past the first week of January… in other words, a lot of thinking about… not a lot of committing to.

Reality is that commitment demands sacrifice and one must be very passionate about something to really sacrifice for it! Yet, in spite of those woeful numbers, I think it is imperative that we make plans and prepare… the we set goals / resolutions… that we figure out what we are passionate about.

Most resolutions are set with the idea of how to better oneself… i.e. my year will be better if I am better… if I look better… if I make more… if people make more of me… if I climb the ladder a few rungs higher…

Let me challenge you for this next “game” (year) to look at it a bit different. Jesus had a lot to say about obtaining greatness… but He had quite a twist on it. He basically said that our greatness is not in how high we climb… but to what depths we will go… TO REACH GREAT HEIGHTS WE MUST CLIMB DOWN THE LADDER!

Matthew 20:26-28 “Yet it shall not be said among you, but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave--- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (The words of Jesus)

So, what are your resolutions for the year… your “game plan”? I’m not saying you shouldn’t resolve to take better care of yourself… or be better at your job… etc. I am saying that our focus, as members of God’s team, should include a lot of planning on how we can meet the needs of others… how we can seek to serve, not be served! Get yourself a game plan and commit to it… sacrifice for it… make sure it goes beyond just thoughts to action… make sure it last longer than just though… longer than a week…

Have a great 2019… How low will you climb?

Monday, December 24, 2018

December 24, 2018 - Unexpected Scorers

How a player perceives himself and/or his role on the team, will determine or dictate how he performs in the game. Obviously, skill set matters, but what goes on between the ears is just as important. No, I’m not a sports psychologist… just a coach that has witnessed time and again the transformation that takes place in a player when he finds identity and purpose within his role on the team.

I remember one player that came to me in high school and had always been expected to just be a facilitator… a passer. Yet the young man had some great scoring skills as well; he could shoot the 3 and had good handles for getting to the hole. As a coach, I just had to rewire his identity… make sure he understood what we wanted and needed from him as a team… and he became an unexpected scorer for us.

That young man got so excited about his new role that I then had to start reminding him that passing is a good thing also… that he didn’t have an opening to shoot every time he touched the ball… I LOVED WATCHING HIS EXCITEMENT and he made a huge difference for our team!

The last couple of weeks I have keyed on the importance of sharing the Gospel and some practical points on how to do it… This week I want to encourage you in that role for the team… we need you to be a “scorer.” And in case you feel you are not capable of or worthy of or… fill in an excuse… lets remember what happened that first CHRISTmas.

The shepherds were a lowly lot… what was expected of them was to guard the sheep and stay to themselves; history indicates that not many folks would even talk to shepherds (including religious leaders}; so to say they weren’t big on the social scene is an understatement… they would not be expected to “score” if that meant communicating with others… they would not have been a coach’s choice… BUT GOD had a different plan.

Let’s pick up in Luke 2 following the shepherds being told about the Savior and then meeting Him in the manger…

17-18 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told to them.

They now had new identities (angels spoke to them, and they had met God); and with this, they took on a new role for the team… had a new purpose… and became “unexpected scorers” for the kingdom!

YOU HAVE A PURPOSE! YOU HAVE A MISSION! YOU CAN AND SHOULD BE A SCORER! (Please let us know if you want to be trained further in how to carry out the mission…)

Monday, December 17, 2018

December 17, 2018 - Being Offensive Without Committing Offensive Fouls

I often spend time in these weekly blogs with challenges to be more offensive (looking to score), while not being offensive (rude and unloving.) Yet I realized following last week’s devotion that sometimes it is easy for a coach to say things that the players simply are not fully equipped to carry out… telling a player to score means nothing if the player doesn’t know how to get in position to shoot!

In basketball I spend a lot of time not only teaching the basics of shooting the ball, but also in teaching players how to get open for the shot… how to make reads. For instance…

…if a player has ball in hand, I may show him how to feign relaxing and when the defender starts to come up out of the defensive position to then blow by…

…if a shooter has a defender on her I will teach if the defender’s hand is down let it fly… if it is up blow by…

…if a player is off-ball and the defender is trying to deny him the pass… if the defender stays between him and the basket then pop out for the past… but if the defender over-denies and steps past the shoulder to cut back door…

I realize this is gibberish to non-basketball folks reading this, but I think we all get the point that there are ways to be much more effective in getting good shots. And last week I encouraged to be taking shots by sharing the Gospel. So, this week I thought I would give a simple tip on the how-to’s of sharing… of being offensive without being offensive.

I mentioned holiday greetings in the previous devotion and those seem to get a lot of attention on social media; for instance, I often read things like “it is not happy holidays, it is merry Christmas!!!” – or – “keep Christ in Christmas!!!” (And I emphasize the exclamation points!!!)

Quick questions, (and remember my goal is to help us get open for good shots), why do we expect the world to put Christ in anything? When the world gives their greetings, are they being rude or nice? The way we come across sometimes is like we are saying, “How dare you say Happy Holidays to me!” When, to wish someone happiness during the holy-days is a pretty nice sentiment. And even if it is as crazy as “Mery Xmas”, at least they are wishing merriment…

If our responses to folks are abrasive and demanding of our rights, we have already gone against the example of our Savior who laid down His rights; and we have committed an “offensive foul” by trying to run through the defender instead of getting an open shot…

What if instead we said something like, “thank you so much, and Happy Holidays to you too! I love this time of year. What is your favorite of the holidays? Mine is Christmas… the promise of joy and peace… it blows my mind that God would come to earth… do you know why He did that?” And you can get into a great Gospel conversation.

Or maybe you see the Merry Xmas sign… what if you asked, “hey what does the X mean to you?” And then follow it up by solving for the variable? (Every CHRISTmas I like to mention this point to make my math friends happy!)

Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” Colossians 4:6

Burden translation: Be offensive without committing an offensive foul! Take good shots!

Monday, December 10, 2018

December 10, 2018 - Getting Buckets

In the spirit of last week’s devotion on telling the Good News (and my typical CHRISTmas time rants), I have some quick observations this week…

Obviously, it is basketball season, and it doesn’t take long in knowing me to realize that is my favorite sport. I appreciate the beauty of the teamwork, the different roles that have to be played, etc. I understood this past week when Greg Popovich (coach of San Antonio Spurs) stated that “there is no basketball anymore, there’s no beauty in it.” This was coming from a coach that is known for teams that play beautiful, unselfish basketball… where there are a number of passes getting the team the best opportunities to score. In fact, that style has led to San Antonio having the highest winning percentage of any active NBA franchise.

I do love to watch them play and, as stated, understand Pop’s complaint; but, bottom line is that in order to win a team must “get buckets!” A team could play beautiful basketball… many passes… player movement… set picks and screens… AND STILL COMMIT A VIOLATION BY RUNNING OUT THE SHOT CLOCK! As far as I know, there are no beauty-points in basketball, and the only way to score is for the ball to go through the hoop…

All of that to remind us this week (this time of year) that the only way we “score” is when the Gospel is shared…

For I am not ashamed of the Gospel (Good News) of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. Romans 1:16

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. Romans 10:17

So instead of worrying about what holiday greeting we receive, why don’t we be the givers and share the Good News… “take a shot”… or we risk “having the shot clock run out” on this great time of year for telling what the shepherds did… that there is a Savior… peace with God available!!!

(And you have to take shots in order to get buckets… “you will miss 100% of the shots you don’t take!”)

Monday, December 3, 2018

December 3, 2018 - Bragging On My Favorite Player!

Everyone loves to brag about his team winning (or the rival team losing.) You hear things like, “My favorite team is (insert favorite team’s name); and my second favorite team is anyone playing against (insert rival team’s name)!”

Or maybe it is not a favorite team, but instead a favorite player that is bragged about… spouting off his or her stat line from the night before…

Although we may love it and gloat when a rival loses, it is not near as rewarding as celebrating when we win!

Simple reminder this week as we head into the CHRISTmas season… once the shepherds had met Jesus, we are told that they celebrated by telling everyone about it… I guarantee they would have lit up social media with the news!

The Scripture says, “Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning the child.” (Luke 2:17) It was a message of “great joy to all people.” (2:10)

What was that saying? That there is now “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (2:11)

My point is simple: We need to be bragging about Jesus and what He has done for us as individuals and as a team/family! (Not spending so much time talking down about the rival…)

Make December a brag about Jesus month!

Monday, November 26, 2018

November 26, 2018 - Make Contact with the Opponent

I recently got to watch a great college basketball game between Duke and Gonzaga… the number 1 team in the country vs the number 3 team. (And this week those rankings are still true… just reversed on which team they go with.)

Entering the game Duke was considered the team to beat, not only that night but for the year… with many already thinking they are a shoe in for the national championship next spring. I am not a Duke fan per say, but I must admit I too expect them to be there in the championship at the end of the year… in spite of the fact that in the game I watched they lost to Gonzaga… and honestly for most the game Gonzaga was fully in control.

Duke ended up losing by just two points as they climbed back into the game late as a result of their incredible athleticism and skills. They were able to spread the floor and get some separation, allowing them to find lanes to drive to the basket (using their speed and jumping ability), without Gonzaga putting a body on them. Quick players love to play when the defenders give them space to move. (And coaches hate to see their defense allowing unimpeded lanes to the hole!)

I watched the game due to my intrigue in watching Zion Williamson. This kid is a “monster”, weighing over 280lbs, yet fast… nimble… and can jump out of the gym. He is explosive and is fun to watch. But in spite of the size and strength, I noticed that young Zion is still in need of unobstructed lanes to use his speed, as he has not learned yet to create space in the low post; (nor has he learned to defend the post…)

My favorite player in that particular game was a young man named Rui Hachimura. He is a player for Gonzaga that is greatly skilled and athletic, but more impressively knows how to use his body. Weighing in at around 50lbs less than Williamson, I watched Hachimura run a clinic on how to get low in the post and create offense. Williamson is used to using his incredible jumping ability and quickness to block shots, make steals, etc. and thus plays defense straight up and down and not seeming interested in putting his body on the opponent. Rui would run to the low post spots he wanted with no resistance… so even though he may not have always had an initial lane to the goal, he did have lanes to his spot and once there, he would drop step and “sit down” on his defender. That simply means he would get his behind low and into the defender so the defender couldn’t use jumping ability or quickness to stop him. It was a beautiful display of sealing off the defender and creating space.

Well I am starting to write as a basketball junkie, and would love to talk hoops, but there is a spiritual point to my observations. In our game plan called the Great Commission, we will find that we do not always have a “clear lane” in sharing the Gospel. There are typically obstacles, or hindrances to getting others to listen… as well as an enemy that wants to block our lanes…

So, if we want to be successful at getting to the goal of evangelism and discipleship (the Great Commission) we have to get to our spots and “sit down” making contact… how do we do that? The Great Commandment tells us to not only love God but to love others… In Jesus’ great sermon on the mount, He told us how to make contact with the opponent…

Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you…

As a coach, I often was heard yelling at players to put a body on others… to make contact… I AM SCREAMING TO US AS THE CHURCH TO MAKE CONTACT THROUGH LOVING… EVEN OUR ENEMIES! Can you imagine FaceBook filled with blessings toward our opponents? Or the workplace or schools with doing good to our opponents? Or what if we actually prayed for, instead of ranted against, our opponents? That happens to be how Jesus said we should make contact...

Monday, November 19, 2018

November 19, 2018 - Unkind Rims and Soft Shots

This past week I have been able to spend a good amount of time on a basketball court in Lake Worth FL; one where I spent many hours with my son Clay… one where I spent many hours on our ROCK’em Road Trips that we brought guys on… It is a beautiful setting that almost always has available rims to shoot on.

Yet as with most parks, the rims are very stiff… something often referred to as being “unkind”; and playing in FL also brings the challenge of constant wind. On top of all of that, the ball we have is a cheap rubber ball that is VERY BOUNCY…

“Unkind” rims + wind + bouncy ball = shooters nightmare! Not the best place to be getting in a shooting workout where one is keeping up with percentages…

Yet, that is where we found ourselves… not only getting up the daily requirement that Faith’s coach had given the team but having to catch up for some travel days where we couldn’t make it to a court. So, I have my 13-yr-old daughter needing to take and record hundreds of shots in these conditions. (Let’s just say the shot chart has not been impressive.) [And remember, the days she missed on the court = missed shots… “you will miss 100% of the shots you don’t take!”]

These conditions can be quite demoralizing… therefore, I have had to not just be the rebounder/counter/trainer, but also the sports psychologist. I’ve had to remind her of something I have coached for over 30 years… that good and bad shots are not determined by makes and misses… that it is possible to have a “good miss” or a “bad make.” The trainer in me has concentrated on alignment, follow through, hand position, shooting “soft” shots that give the ball a chance, etc. The psychologist in me has given praise for many, many repetitions that did not go in… reminding her that there is not such thing as a shooter’s roll on the unkind rims… that we are more concerned with shooting right than we are with the shot chart. (In fact, sometimes the shots went in even though the execution was wrong… just getting the ball up there at least gave it a chance to go in.)

I’ve taken pictures to show her errors in her delivery, but have over and over blurted out, “That one looked great! That was a good shot! That’s what we are looking for! What matters is we’re getting up shots!” I’ve reminded her that in a controlled environment like a gym, with a better ball, the percentages will look better. And we’ve had those streaks where she didn’t need to worry about the rims or the ball, as it would all come together, and she would string together some swishes…

I could go on and on with how basketball training has been going, but there is a devotional point to this… in our carrying out of the great commission these truths need to be heard.

1.       I mentioned that Faith was days behind because we couldn’t get to a court… although there is an element of truth to that, the reality is that if we prioritized it we could have made it to a rim somewhere… MOST of us go through most days without “getting up any shots” – without even making an attempt to “score” with the Gospel…
2.       When we do try to share the Gospel, we will often face difficult circumstances and we have to remember that we just need to focus on the execution of “shooting right” – we need to be self-aware of our delivery…
3.       Ultimately what matters is getting shots up - the Gospel is powerful and as long as it is being proclaimed it has a chance to “go in”!

In Philippians chapter 1, Paul is talking about some folks that are taking good shots and some that are taking bad shots… some preaching Christ (the Gospel) out of love… some preaching out of selfish gain… and here is what Paul the spiritual psychologist says: 18 So how am I to respond? I’ve decided that I really don’t care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on! (The Message)

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes…

Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

Bottom Line: The Gospel needs to be shared! We need to be aware of how we share it so we deliver “soft” shots… We need to consistently Gracefully Share Grace!

Monday, November 12, 2018

November 12, 2018 - Who Are You Running With?

Recently I have had many conversations about who my favorite teams are… to which I always respond that I have none… I don’t have any team that I am fanatical over… I am a player-fan! I love to keep up with certain players no matter what team they happen to be on.

In the basketball world there always seems to be disparaging talk when players choose to go to a different team; yes, sometimes in professional sports this is because of a bigger paycheck somewhere, but often it is players admitting that they simply want a better chance of winning. (This doesn’t just take place at the pro level, as it obviously takes place at the collegiate level, the travel team level, and even the high school level… all with players looking for the best situation to insure success.)

This week the discussion is centered around the mega-move of Jimmy Butler being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. Butler has been very disgruntled where he was at in Minnesota and has openly stated he just wants to win… And now the talking heads are debating if this makes the 76ers a title contender… if he will mesh well with their team.

But I am simply bringing it up because all that is happening is that Butler had expressed a desire, and was granted the opportunity, to run with a different set of teammates…

I’m not writing for us to debate how he went about it; but instead to state that I understand wanting to run with different guys… and think we all need to consider our teammates.

I was looking at Proverbs 12:26 on… when I clicked on parallel versions, I found quite a difference in the translation of the verse… so I went to and checked the interlinear version…

And then I settled on what I believe the verse is actually saying… and it states that we need to choose our running mates wisely.

This is the verse from the Youngs Literal Translation: 26 The righteous searcheth his companion, And the way of the wicked causeth them to err.

NKJV: 26 The righteous should choose his friends carefully,
For the way of the wicked leads them astray.

Find teammates to run with that will help you succeed!!!

Monday, November 5, 2018

November 5, 2018 - The Other Team

Last week I shared about how others view us, as Christians… with a reminder that when they look at our “box score” it should read about the positive things we have done in the game… Over and over the phrase that “Christians are known more for what they are against than what they are for…” So last week’s challenge was simply a reminder for each of us to focus on being difference makers…

This week, as promised, I am going to challenge us about how we view / deal with the “other team.”

I have never gone into the other team’s huddle to get on them about their mistakes they were making, nor have I tried to coach the other team on what they should be doing on the court… and I NEVER have I had expectations of the other team knowing and running our plays.

I am troubled with how often believers are angry that the unsaved, spiritually-dead, blind, and chained unbelievers are living sinfully… I personally am not offended or angry when a “blind man can’t see something!”

When discussing how we view the “other team,” I simply want to ask this week:

Are you more angry at their sin than you are broken over their lostness?

Oh that I/you be accused, like Jesus was in Luke 15:2… “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.” (The Message)

WE HAVE GOOD NEWS TO SHARE!!! That is hard to do with a scowl on your face…

Monday, October 29, 2018

October 29, 2018 - Box Scores and Difference Makers (Are you a good player?)

Because of my love for basketball I find myself often thrust into the middle of debates over how good players are… whether it be the typical question of the greatest of all time, or even a debate over if a particular player is any good. (The answer to the first question I will not give [even though I do have an opinion] as it leads to just further debate with no way of a true conclusion; yet the answer to the second question, when discussing pro or college players, is a definitive “YES” he or she is very good, or else he/she would not be in the uniform!)

But the point of this week’s musings is not on if a player is good, but how do we gauge how good the player is… As a fan I have come to a point that I no longer am attached to a specific team; I tend to be a fan of individual players and I often try to keep track of how they are playing. So how do I keep track? I don’t have cable or satellite tv… nor do I have the time to watch a bunch of games… therefore, I am left with the box score… and even though a box score is not a complete picture, it does let me see how the players performed in basic areas.

I find that I am immediately drawn to the areas the player is most expected to perform in… i.e. if it is a big guy I like to look at his stats for rebounds; if a point guard maybe I start at the assists column; if a shooter I find myself looking at the shooting percentage; and great players I simply look across the board at the basic stat line… points/rebounds/assists.

The column I tend to look at last, if at all, is the turnover column. The reason for this is that it can be the most deceiving stat. Turnovers are going to be committed much more often by the players that have the ball in hand the most, and the players that are most trying to make things happen. John Wooden used to say, “the doer makes mistakes.” If I see a stat line with 0 turnovers, but the rest of the line is 0’s also… I am not impressed.

This long intro is because other than the sports debates, I also hear/read often the political and moral rantings… in other words, we, the church, are known much more for what we are against than what we are for… it is as though the first, and only, line of the “box score” we tend to look at is the “turnovers.” I often mention the fact that we (Christians) are known much more for what we are against than what we are for…

Part of this is because we have always been told that good little Christian boys don’t drink, don’t cuss, don’t smoke, don’t chew… or go with girls that do! In other words, we have been defined by what we avoid… this is like saying, “the guy is a good basketball player… he doesn’t travel, doesn’t double-dribble, doesn’t stay in the lane too long…”

Bottom line is that I want us to focus on being difference makers… focus on the positive stat lines in our lives as believers; in fact, if living this way even the world will see it… I know way too many believers that live clean (few turnovers) but simply do nothing on the positive side and are “invisible’ to the world.

1 Peter 2:12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.

Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Good works = the Greek word ergon… meaning any business or task we undertake should be focused on excellence before the Lord… on a positive stat line of getting things accomplished! It doesn’t say the world will notice what we avoid… they will notice what we do and how we serve with excellence.

(This week is about how we are viewed… but next week I plan to hit on how we view the opposing team’s box score…)

Monday, October 22, 2018

October 22, 2018 - Veterans and Rookies

I’m planning on this week’s devo being short, as I am typing on my phone many thousand feet in the air... we are on a trip to serve in the Dominican Republic in outreach to a few different villages. This trip consists of a bunch of guys that our InBounds staff gets to mentor in using sports as an outreach tool.

Lately we have had a big focus on mentoring within our ministry; with the addition of a new intern, and also the addition of artist development through our music outreach... 

Mentoring (coaching) is another way of saying discipleship... simply put, we all should have someone to follow and learn from... and we should be leading the way for others.

Biblically speaking I will give a simple warning when it comes to this: Be careful who you follow! And remember someone’s eyes are on you...

A glaring example was in the news this weekend. After an opening night loss, Los Angeles Lakers guard Rajon Rondo talked about the realization that he (and other veterans like LeBron James) needed to remember their role to be that of teachers to the young Lakers crew...

In a game two loss, Rondo was ejected for a fight in which it appears he spit on an opponent and then got into a fisticuffs..,

Shortly after he started throwing blows, one of the young Lakers decided to join in and also got ejected. Interestingly, afterwards other players were saying they had never seen that side of the young player... MAYBE IT WAS BECAUSE OF WHO HE WAS FOLLOWING?

Here is a simple truth found in the Proverbs:

Make no friendship with an angry man, And with a furious man do not go, Lest you learn his ways And set a snare for your soul.”
Proverbs 22:24-25 NKJV

I’ll close with some lyrics from a song I wrote years ago called “Little Eyes” (not from a sports perspective but mentoring crosses into all areas of life)...

“Mommy, Daddy, do you fear the Lord, do you take care of your home?
What they see, is what they will be when your little ones are grown...”

Who are you watching? Who is watching you?

Monday, October 15, 2018

October 15, 2018 - No Give-up-ers (People Quit Too Easy!)

Last week I wrote about the “process” being more important than one’s temporal instant gratification… yet, the reality is that we live in what I have labeled in the past a “Burger King – microwave” world… have it your way now…

“Winning games, titles and championships isn't all it's cracked up to be, but getting there, the journey, is a lot more than it's cracked up to be.” John Wooden

Even when we read the great stories of the Scriptures we tend to think as though everything happened quickly, forgetting how often these events lasted many years…

I guess my mind is on the journey for a few reasons. Often in the sports world we pay attention to players’ careers (especially old players that we hope will finish strong); but then I also spent the weekend at a college reunion which got me looking back over the journey; and most importantly tomorrow is mine and Lisa’s 25th wedding anniversary… and what a journey!

So, this week I am honoring “the journey” with a simple reminder to all of us to:

In the words of Jimmy V (Valvano), “don’t give up, don’t ever give up!” Focus on the journey more than the results… trust the process… in your ministries and in your relationships (with God and others.)

Last week’s devo shared verses from Psalm 119:1-8; verse 5 says, “Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course You set.” (The Message)

Remember, God has plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11) and wants to use you (Ephesians 2:10). I will go as far as stating that the only way to be happy/blessed is to have a Jimmy V attitude… Psalm 1 states that a blessed man is one that is “planted” like a tree… but the wicked are blown away like chaff… they’re quitters… give-up-ers…

If you do things the right way, the way God says to do them, you will find peace and security in the journey (instead of the chaos and uncertainty of ignoring the Coach.) John Wooden said it this way: “Joy makes the longest journey too short.”

I do love serving the Lord… (and a side note in honor of loving my wife… the journey is too short… a lifetime is not long enough to love you!)

Monday, October 8, 2018

October 8, 2015 - When Pride Overrides Process / Preparation

I was recently observing a basketball workout in which the coach was giving just some basic drills with a competition-twist… in other words, he was telling the players to count how many shots they were making in the minute-long drill and then having them call out to him how many they each hit. So obviously the competitive fires get burning and players want to “win.”

The same is true even if I am doing a clinic for little kids and have them compete…. And yet, I always witness the same thing, pride overriding process/preparation!  What I mean by that, is that players will cut corners and even cheat just to look like they “won.”

Whether it is a shooting drill that calls for using the weak hand and the player ignoring that direction to make more shots; or a dribbling competition that demands a player keep the dribble alive and stay inbounds, only to see players restarting their dribbles and stepping on lines; or even a ball control drill where the coach asks for the player to close his eyes, only to see the squinting to make sure they can keep control… these are all examples where players worry more about that temporary feeling of pride than trusting that the coach is building something in them! We live in a society where we want instant success, and will settle for just the appearance of it… I love sharing a John Wooden maxim that reminds us to “not mistake activity for achievement.” Yes, one may “win” a drill but if not done the way the coach called for, it did not achieve the goal of the drill.

Preparation/process takes time! For instance, people love to talk about John Wooden’s 10 national championships in a 12 year span… but don’t often discuss that the first one came in his 16th year of coaching at UCLA…

God is at work in your life and wants/plans to use you… but remember it is a process of trusting the Coach! He has even promised in His Word (Philippians 1:6) that “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” In other words, He will complete the process, you can trust Him!

Here’s a great version of Psalm 119:1-8 from The Message:

1 You're blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God.

2 You're blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him.

3 That's right - you don't go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set.

4 You, God, prescribed the right way to live; now you expect us to live it.

5 Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set;

6 Then I'd never have any regrets in comparing my life with your counsel.

7 I thank you for speaking straight from your heart; I learn the pattern of your righteous ways.

8 I'm going to do what you tell me to do; don't ever walk off and leave me.

Monday, October 1, 2018

October 1, 2018 - Keep Your Eye On The Ball

In honor of the tie-breaker games in Major League Baseball today, the upcoming MLB playoff series, (and the addition to our InBounds staff of new intern, Trenton Green, who played travel baseball growing up; this week’s devotion brought me back to some childhood memories on the “diamond.”

I know I most often write/talk about hoops, reality is that I spent an equally huge amount of time playing hardball… starting at a very early age I was able to regularly be taught to execute the fundamentals. One area I remember very clearly recall is training in the batter’s box…

I was always pretty big for my age and had a little bit of pop in my bat, but I emphasize a “little bit”! I wasn’t nearly as much of a power hitter as I thought I was… I confess my youthful irrational views for a reason… those irrational views caused me to at times forget the fundamentals at the plate.

I can still hear my coaches’ voices (especially the voice of my dad…) screaming for me to keep my head down and keep my eye on the ball… to stop dropping my shoulder and swinging for the fences (for greatness)! The reality is that I was a pretty good hitter when I stopped looking at where I wanted the ball to go and instead focused on the ball and just made contact! (Often, home run hitters are also leaders in strikeouts… because they take their eye off the ball and look at the fence!)

Over and over I write about things like the Great Commission that gives us a specific mission to make disciples, to teach, and to preach… as we go on our journey. (See Mt 28:19-20; Mk 16:15) Then there is 1 Corinthians 15:58 reminding us to stay busy at work… the Greek word ergon… with the idea of anything we can accomplish by “hand, art, industry, or mind.” (See Greek lexicon.)  

Philippians 3:14 tells us to “press on toward the goal”… Most of the time when I here this verse taught the emphasis seems to be on the “goal” but what if the emphasis should instead be on the “press”ing? That word in the Greek has the idea of running swiftly… How we run matters!

Even when Jesus is telling us how to serve Him (Mt 25), He reminds us that is done through “making contact”/serving with others. Jesus used action words like “gave, invited, clothed, visited, etc.” to describe what we should focus on. When He says, “You did it”, He uses a word that means you “produced, constructed, formed, fashioned” in the lives of others. (See the Greek lexicon again...) We serve Him not by looking up but by looking out…

All of this takes me back to the original thought of fundamentals… keeping our “eye on the ball.” Whether it be evangelism or discipleship or service the emphasis is on the process more than the outcome. They are rooted in focusing on the people more than the results… keeping our heads down and doing the fundamentals.

We tend to think in terms of results more than the process. We think in terms of grand numbers as being the measure of success. We focus on the end more than the process. Let me give you a quick Coach-B-Maxim I typed out on my phone yesterday:

Focus on making contact and good things (and sometimes great) will happen…

Focus on making great things happen and you may completely miss making contact!

Monday, September 24, 2018

September 24, 2018 - In The Crosshairs

This weekend seemed to have a regular theme in my sports-to-devotion brain… first I saw a cool meme that stated something along the lines of… stop focusing on how to be the best on the team and start focusing on how to be the best for the team (or how to make the team the best.)

Reality is that a player that truly focuses on making the team the best will by default be working to be his best…

This truth through a meme played out in the message at church yesterday as well… although the message predominantly focused on marriage, it rang true for all relationships… be it teams, the workplace… etc.

Philippians 2:3 (a verse that regularly appears on this site) states that we should “let nothing be done through selfishness or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”

This verse is very clear of the attitudes we should possess… how we should view our “teammates.” By stating “lowliness of mind”, it is not saying we have to think horrible of ourselves… or that we should not strive for excellence in what we do; instead it is stating a comparison in attitude… that we should not consider ourselves as superior… or of higher rank than others.

How this is put into action comes back to our meme… how can we make the team the best? Verse 4 gives a very direct action to go with the attitude presented in verse 3… it tells us how we can stay humble…

This happens when each “LOOK out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Again, we see that we still take care of personal business but go beyond that to “LOOK” at others!

The word for “look” is Skopeo… it carries the idea of taking an intense look or focus… obviously we get our word “Scope” from this. So, we are being commanded to make sure that our “teammates’” needs are in the crosshairs of our scope!

Let’s make the team better today!

Monday, September 17, 2018

September 17, 2018 - Do you know "Who's Got Next?"

Yesterday’s NFL action saw a crazy situation where a veteran player retired…That in and of itself is not a big deal, other than it took place at halftime without his teammates or coaches having a clue it was going to happen; in fact, the guy had even started the game… So obviously folks are calling him a quitter and slamming him pretty good.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not condoning how he went about retiring but I do understand his explanation…  “It’s more important for me and my family to walk away healthy than to willfully embrace the warrior mentality and limp away too late.” (Vontae Davis)

Again, I am not saying it was right to surprise his team the way he did in the middle of the game, but one has to wonder what happened on the filed in the first half… did he get hurt? Did he simply realize he could no longer keep up --- could no longer help his team?

I know there is always the debate on aging athletes on when they should hang it up… and often the stories of the guys that simply could not call it quits and went out the hard way. Seldom do you hear that athletes leave the game on their own terms…

When it comes to this thing called life, we all must realize that our “season” will come to an end… and there will a time during that “season” where we realize we have to “play the game” a little bit differently. I am convinced that one of the most important things we are supposed to be doing is discipling/mentoring those that will come behind us…

It is amazing how many times this thought has come up just today… I am preparing for an intern that is moving here tomorrow to serve with InBounds for a year, so I am preparing things to start training him; our MAD Hoops director and I were discussing tonight the need to mentor new leaders in that outreach; I was giving advice to a young basketball player and her parents and talked about the importance of getting under the wing of an upperclassmen; and then in reading the article about the retired player, kept seeing the theme of who is in line to fill the spot…

So this week I am simply challenging you to make sure you are not only sitting under good teaching/training, but also that you are actively looking for ways to be an example/mentor to others.

2 Thessalonians 3:9 …but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.

Here the Apostle Paul is taking an intentional mentoring approach. I love how The Message reads on that phrase: We simply wanted to provide an example of diligence, hoping it would prove contagious.

I recently read it this way: Be a Barnabas (an encourager)! Pursue a Paul (someone with the ability to train you)! Train a Timothy (a willing follower)!

Make sure that when it is time to “hang up the sneakers” there is someone to take your spot “on the court”! Make sure you are aware of “who’s got next”!

Monday, September 10, 2018

September 10, 2018 - The Required Elements of a Tumbling Run

I’m going to revisit a theme I wrote about a few years ago, as it came up again in a message I preached this weekend; yet, as often happens, with some new insight and thoughts for our lives. I wrote and shared, (and preached about), Lessons from the Balance Beam…

In the message I made the following points about the beam…

1.) You must stay looking forward

2.) You must stay absolutely centered

3.) You must focus on where you want to land

4.) You must trust… even when you can’t see the landing

All these lessons have great implications for our spiritual lives; yet as I was studying again this weekend my mind zeroed in on the actual routine… the “tumbling run.” The mere name of it sounds risky. The truth is that a gymnast that climbed onto the beam and just stood there would not be very impressive… one wouldn’t call her a good gymnast. Nor, would we say that about a young lady just because she could walk a straight line down the beam. But we are amazed when a young lady mounts a 4-foot-high, 16-foot-long, 4-inch-wide piece of would and begins to tumble… In fact, in order to get scored for the beam event there are required elements of a gymnast… i.e. leaps, jumps, acrobatic maneuvers, dance, etc.

Why is it that when thinking about what makes someone a “good” Christian boy or girl we tend to just focus on what they don’t do… granted it is impressive to not “fall off the beam” but not if someone is just standing still… we must be moving forward; not if someone is never getting out of her comfort zone… we must be making a difference in others lives (especially in the “least of these” lives)!

When we engage in culture… in people’s lives… there are risks… we are on a “tumbling run.” Yes, we need to strive to stay centered in that run, but even if we “fall off the beam” we can get back on!

We can find many examples in Scripture of those that took risks, fell, got back up, and finished their “routine”, their “tumbling run.” One shining example of this is David…

Think about the boy David, and the risky “tumbling run” he was on… we know the story as he was getting ready to face Goliath and was being warned to not take the risk… in 1 Samuel 17:37b David says of God, “He will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine.” He was willing to go forward… because God had shown him before the He (God) could be trusted. Right before this confident statement about the battle he proclaimed (17:37a) “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear…”

My point is that David was willing to live a life of risks in order to serve the Lord. (And yes, we know of his conquests and his failures as King… yet even when he failed (“fell off the beam”) he came back strong…

I simply want to remind us that being “good” at something requires more than just not messing up. We need to in the risky, messy business of life and love… serving the Lord by reaching our culture!

Going MAD (Making A Difference) demands that we perform the "required elements" of the Great Commission (evangelism and discipleship) and the Great Commandment (loving God and loving others)!

Monday, September 3, 2018

September 3, 2018 - Work Hard Work Smart

Happy Labor Day! Every year I get to write a devotion on this holiday, since it is always on Monday… (have done for 12 years…) And it is such a simple day to write on when we celebrate the contributions of workers! Obviously over the years we have brought up one of the most common “labor” verses in the Scriptures: to be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord..” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Over the last few weeks I have been emphasizing Making A Plan To Make A Difference; about “see the need… fill the need…; that we do whatever it takes, short of sin, to reach people…

Bottom line is that we not only work hard, but also that we work smart! I was working yesterday and put a movie on in the background… I think it was titled “The Spirit of the Game”; and it told the story of the Moorman Yankees in Australia. This was a group of Moorman missionaries that were using basketball to reach people between the late 30’s and the early 60’s. The movie chronicled the story of one bishop that ordered them to stop playing and to concentrate on the mission… yet it unfolded that they realized basketball was a way to enhance the mission. And although I 100% disagree with the message they were teaching, I love the method… 

Our message, Christ crucified and risen again as the sole source and only hope of salvation, is NEVER CHANGING! But our methods are EVER CHANGING (short of sin)!

We need to work hard and stay on task – on mission! Yet we need to work smart as well. I think of John Madden (of NFL fame.) Coach/Commentator Madden refuses to fly… yet is often found needing to get across the country for the next football game or speaking engagement… so he bought a bus. He maintained the mission and simply changed the method – same destination with a different mode of transportation!

I remind you that the mission is dependent on you! And on me! We are the way God has chosen to get His gospel to the world! I will let the following verses help us celebrate and be exhorted to Work Hard and Work Smart!

Hebrews 6: 9 But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. 10 For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. 11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.