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 BibleStudyTools.com 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.

Monday, August 27, 2018

August 27, 2018 - Glory Hound vs Glory Giver (Why we should seek the spotlight)


When the game is on the line… give me the ball!!! Certain players have a mindset that loves to be in the pressure situations of meeting the team’s need… I was a guy that wanted to take the free throws with no time on the clock to try to win the game… I was not a great free throw shooter, but I was always shocked if I missed… and I never stopped wanting to be the one to take the shot!



I often find myself trying to mentor my own kids, and others, in what it means to be a difference maker… to be the one that doesn’t wait to be asked to meet a need… but instead will “see the need… fill the need!” Lately I have talked a lot about a new part of our ministry called Next Man Up; and last night I watched as two high school girls, a couple men in the 30’s (that are as different as night and day), and a guy in his 60’s took the stage together to lead in worship…



Basically, each of these individuals saw a team need and an opportunity to plug in an Make A Difference… it was a beautiful picture of what the church should be and how we should be functioning.



These are not new ideas to the weekly devotions I post, but they do set the stage for some things that jumped out at me yesterday in a major way… things I was able to share with those I am mentoring/coaching:



Back to the idea of the first point… wanting the ball. Some would say it was because I was a “glory hound” and just wanted to get attention on myself. As an old man now, I am not going to discount the pride I had as a young man, so I am sure there was a part of me seeking glory; but the reality is that during a game I never stopped to think about what the crowd wanted but instead what the team needed and I had confidence that I was the one that could fill that need.



Romans 12:6 reminds us that we each have different gifts and gives a command, “USE THEM!” I never expected someone that couldn’t shoot free throws to want the ball at the end of the game… or even a good free throw shooter that didn’t like pressure… Last night I didn’t expect a guy that couldn’t play bass to step in and play… but that 63 yr old could do it beautifully!



So, point one is to not shy away from the spotlight but always just be willing to fill the need!



Yet, there is still the issue of the “spotlight.” In our teaching on humility we always hear that we should avoid the spotlight in order to be humble… yet I understand that those we are trying to minister to are drawn to the spotlight… a spotlight is meant to gain attention…



A singer that is in the midst of the crowd without a spotlight leaves people more focused on where the sound is coming from than what the sound is about…



In Matthew 5:16 Jesus tells us to make sure our “light shines before me that they may see you.”



In 1 Peter 2:12 Peter reminds us to make sure our good works are seen…



I understand the teaching on humility and I’ll get to that; but bottom line is that we should live (and perform) in such a way that the we get in the spotlight!



And now for the humility part… WE DON’T GET IN THE SPOTLIGHT IN ORDER TO SOAK IT IN BUT INSTEAD TO DEFLECT IT TO JESUS! (When we soak it end it causes the head to swell…)



Humility will result from having great teammates and mentors that remind us why we are there… to not be a glory hound but instead a glory giver!!!



So, I am going to remind us to “want the ball at crunch time… get in every spotlight we can… and to then deflect all glory unto Jesus!!!”

Monday, August 20, 2018

August 20, 2018 - MAP2MAD Part 2

MAP2MAD: Make A Plan To Make A Difference…

Last week I shared the importance of intentionally planning to reach our audience… As a coach I always tried to go into a game with a game plan… it would be designed to take advantage of our strengths and to avoid our weaknesses… and it had to take into account the other team’s strengths and weaknesses… an awareness of who we were and who we were facing…

The Apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians that when it comes to “away games” we need to be aware of the other team’s strengths and weaknesses (culture.) In chapter 9 he starts with a self-awareness (game plan) for how he will conduct himself (vss. 1-18) and then discusses the way he viewed the “other team” (vss. 19-23.)

Take time to read the passage… and check out how The Message words verses 19-23…

19-23 Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!

I love the wording at the end… I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it! As believers we are called to “be in on it” and not just talk about it. Yes, we are good at sharing that God so loved the world, but not always so good at joining in with Him in doing so.


(Note: loving the world and loving the things of this world are two different things…)

But being “in on it” - in the game - means we have to gain wisdom and understanding of the others and be willing to do anything short of sin to reach them! I love the way our pastor in Alabama words it when talking about their community… “We want to make it hard to go to Hell on Sand Mountain!”

How about you? Do you have a heart for the “other team’? Do you want to make it hard for them to go to hell? Well understand that the Gospel needs to go forth in a culturally attractive way… anything short of sin… 

Monday, August 13, 2018

August 13, 2018 - MAP2MAD


As an athletic director I had to make a schedule for each team… that required intentionality in how many games, where they would be, who they would be against, etc. One thing that was very clear was that the schedule needed to be balanced… we couldn’t play all of our games at home… we hade to enter into the opponent’s territory or meet at some neutral sites. One thing that was clear, was that most schools would only play at our place if we were willing to also go to theirs…



The simple reason this came to mind is due to a message I preached recently from the book of 1 Peter chapter 2, and from a devotion I posted on here a couple of weeks ago. I emphasized a word in verse 12, AMONG, and reminded us that we are called to (as I put it in the previous devotion) “that we can’t make a difference from the bench… or even from the training situations… no matter how many shots you make in practice or warm-ups. They count zero in the game!”



As, I was sharing this passage again, it dawned on me that we often hear challenges to make sure we are faithfully reaching out… that the ministry of the church is outside of the walls. And I do, and have often taught, agree that we need to be more intentional in that way. Yet, that doesn’t negate the importance of what we do inside the walls either…



The bottom line is, like good athletic directors, we must create a balanced schedule in which we schedule time “home” and “away.” We should keep inviting folks to come to our place; and we should in turn be willing to go to theirs… and if that is not a good option find a neutral site…



Bottom line is that we need to make sure we are gaining an audience with those we are trying to reach! That involves planning… intentionality…



1 Corinthians 15: 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.



The word ABOUNDING has the idea in Greek of not just exceeding but also of excellence!



MAP2MAD: Make A Plan to Make A Difference

Monday, August 6, 2018

August 6, 2018 - Stick Out Your Tongue!


I remember when I was younger, I always played hoops with my tongue out… no, I wasn’t imitating Michael Jordan (this was before his time in the limelight) … I was just intense! I can remember being told many times that I was going to bite it off one day.



The reason this crazy sports memory came to me actually took place while showing some music videos to my daughter. In every video that showed a powerful performance there was a common denominator: great performers make crazy faces! Basically, we see that the more intense/passionate someone is about his craft, the more into he gets and loses any concern for how he looks to others. Bottom line is that we are not moved by seeing great skills… we are moved by seeing great passion!



This somewhat falls in line with last week’s devotion where I talked about those that are “all show, no go.” No matter how prepared someone is, it is lacking unless he is passionate about it.



Preparation - Passion = Passivity (one will be inactive when not passionate)

Preparation + Passion = Power (this one will Go MAD… Make A Difference)



The Scriptures are clear on what things we should be intensely focused on… 2 Corinthians 5:9 “Therefore we also have as our AMBITION, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.”



That word AMBITION has the definition of being one’s aim, something one is striving earnestly for…



In other words, we should “stick our tongues out or make funny faces” and focus in on trying to “be pleasing to Him” by being fully engaged in “the game.” Let’s Go MAD!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

July 30, 2018 - All Show... No Go!!!!


I have witnessed many athletes that were really good at skills and drills; we live in a modern culture where players are in the gym more than ever… camps/personal trainers/etc. Yet, what I don’t see is kids just learning to play the game…



I’ve written in the past about times I’d witness a guy in the shooting lines before a game that looked incredible… great form… draining shots; only to watch him fold under game pressure… or even at times to be shocked that he didn’t even make it off the bench.



All show… no go!!!



I preached yesterday from 1 Peter. What I saw was a reminder that we need to be focused on being active in the game… making a difference. Peter reminds us that we are given a new identity and that should be exhibited not just by what we avoid or how we look, but also in what “noise” we are making.



I love players that make some noise; you can’t do that much from the warm-up lines, no stats are kept there; or from the bench where no shots are taken…



1 Peter 2:9-10 (The Message): 9-10 But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.



Do you see that we are called to be used by God… telling or proclaiming His graciousness! Verse 12 goes on to talk about showing out in the game… it states that we should be so active “AMONG” non-believers that they ask about what makes us different… and are left giving the glory to God…



I emphasize the word AMONG to remind us that we can’t make a difference from the bench… or even from the training situations… no matter how many shots you make in practice or warm-ups. They count zero in the game!



I often see people that look great in church… even spend a lot of time there… yet are not making a difference AMONG the world. All show… no go!



1 Peter 3:15 (The Message): “Be ready to speak up and tell everyone why you are living the way you are, and always with the most courtesy.”

Monday, July 23, 2018

July 23, 2018 - God's Fitness Center

I saw a Facebook post today that read: “I can’t believe I forgot to go the gym today. That’s seven years in a row.”



The reality is that most of us avoid anything that seems like it will be unpleasant; yet those that are committed to fitness have a different perspective. They view the discomfort of workouts as a necessary evil… in order to achieve their goals. In fact, many get to the point that they look forward to “the burn’”



One article I read was on a blog called “Refine the Mind”; the title of the post was “How to Love Exercise: The Crucial Mindset Shift” by Jordan Bates. In the blog he talks of the fact that if one is exercising just to enhance physical appearance, it probably won’t last. He goes on to list good reasons for why one should exercise… (and by the way, it is amazing how the benefits of physical exercise help combat many mental and emotional struggles that are epidemic in our society… i.e. anxiety, depression, self-image, motivation, etc.)



Yet, although I hope this week’s devotion encourages each to get in better physical shape, mostly I hope it reminds us of the importance of spiritual shape!



The blogger stated that there has to be a paradigm shift to the way one views fitness… stating that if it is viewed as “optional, pretty soon it will be absent.” I believe that is accurate from a spiritual mindset as well. Christian growth/fitness is based upon renewing one’s mind… a paradigm shift in how we think. (See Romans 12:2)

 

One of the big areas we must change our view (thinking) is in how we approach adversity / trials / “storms” in life. Each of those descriptors carry the idea of something unpleasant; they are things that we spend much energy, and here much teaching / preaching on, trying to avoid…



Recently I wrote about my new fascination for the buffalo; the fact that a buffalo will run into a storm, not away from it. If we are going to grow… become more spiritually fit… we must decide to go to God’s Fitness Center!



God’s Fitness Center, according to Scripture, is adversity / trials / “storms.” We should not be dismayed when life hits hard… that is the equivalent of sticking to a fitness plan… with God as your personal trainer!



Get out your “Playbook” and read: James 1:2-4!

While you have it open read: Romans 5:1-5



On another blog (called “Biblical Fitness”) it stated this: “Do you struggle to view difficult times and daily inconveniences as something that God can use for good? I know that I often do. We should humbly ask God to change our mindset towards difficulties in our lives, including our attitude towards the hard work of disciplining our bodies.”

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!