Monday, January 29, 2018

January 29, 2018 - Pursuit of Excellence/Success

I write and share a daily devotion for our upper school students and the staff at Statesville Christian School... today I wrote one that had an athletic theme, so therefore I am taking it a bit easy tonight in just sharing that...

Daily Devotions: January 29, 2018

Theme: Success

Perspective: This week I decided to go back to a very familiar passage of Scripture and try to encourage us in our pursuit of excellence… or pursuit of success in our Christian walks.

I’ll start with a simple question; do you want to honor the Lord with your life? And now the harder question, if yes, are you being successful in that pursuit? Often times we sincerely want something but fail to get it… why?

I am going to share a quote I saw this week from JJ Watt: “If you won’t sacrifice for what you want, what you want will become the sacrifice.”

Hebrew 12:1 Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…

A few things jump out at me when reading these verses and thinking about success… one major word is the word “easy” that is used to describe the “sin that ensnares us.” The Scriptures are telling us that it is easy for any of us to mess up and not be successful.

So, I want to break down a few basics in light of these verses (and the quote from JJ.) First is the fact that it is not just sin that slows us down… the verse mentions the “weight” and the “sin”…

Application: The idea of sacrifice, is that of laying something on the alter… getting rid of some things. The quote I shared indicates that in order to obtain success we need to consciously “sacrifice” some things…

In the sports world of JJ Watt, I am sure that he gave up many things that other people his age were doing in order to spend more time in the gym or on the practice field… and as a result turned into one of the elite football players to ever put on the pads.

In our pursuit of honoring God, maybe we need to consider what things that are slowing us down and keeping us from success. I often hear excuses that people don’t have time to read the Word, or to pray, or to have a quiet time; but do they have time for social networking or television shows or… and the list could go on… Could they go to bed 30 minutes earlier, so they could get up earlier for a quiet time? Could they evaluate friendships and make sure they are surrounding themselves with encouragers in the faith?

Today I encourage you to take an inventory of your life and see what things are slowing you down. I am not keying here on “bad” things but instead the idea of “weights.” (A runner does not set out for a race with weights hanging around his neck.) I am encouraging you to consider sacrificing some things in order to make time for the things that will helpful in your pursuit.

(This is true for spiritual matters and any area of life that you long to be successful in.)

Monday, January 22, 2018

January 22, 2018 - Heading To The Right Goal

The past few weeks have brought a few instances on the basketball court that brought confusion… All were in sincere excitement or effort but nonetheless confusion…

First was when our high school boys team was playing in a holiday tourney in Florida. They were in the championship game, and at the time sporting an undefeated record. I pulled up the internet sites that had updates and streaming of the game; with great anticipation of seeing how they were doing. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the live stream to work, so I went to looking at comments to try to keep up. When I first checked in we were down and obviously not putting the ball in the hole. As I checked back in we had closed the gap tremendously and made a game of it. When I finally got an update, I read what I had been longing to see, that the Lions had won! (I even bragged to the people I was with.) Then came the realization that I was confused… as I read the comments about our boys’ good effort and that the other team was also called the Lions. SAME NAME BUT DIFFERENT TEAMS…

The other times of confusion as of late, were not on my part but instead on the part of some eager players on our middle school teams. it happened twice, once in a boys’ game and once in a girls’. The players were trying so hard and so excited to get an opportunity to score that they took off dribbling to the wrong goal… RIGHT MOTIVES AND RIGHT EFFORT BUT WRONG DIRECTION…

These came to mind during my drive today as I was thinking about the confusion that takes place so often in the sharing of the Gospel. I don’t think it will come as a shock to anyone reading this that not everyone who uses the name of Christian is on the same team… often times, that name is attributed to a works-based, man-made religion. Yet my big fear is that we often fall victim to sincerely trying to share our faith but getting caught up in common phrases, clich├ęs, and church-speak that points us in the wrong direction and leads to the wrong goal…

This is nothing new… in fact, Paul confronted Peter about adding things that distorted the Gospel and pointed to the “wrong goal.” Galatians 2 records that some false teachers had come in, (verse 4 stating they “came in by stealth…”), but that he (Paul) and his brethren stood firm in the true Gospel. Later in the chapter Paul admits that Peter and others were playing the hypocrite and needed to be reminded firmly of the clarity of the Gospel.

I love verse 16 as it points us back to the “right goal”, JESUS!, and what He has done. It states, “knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”

So we need to be sure that every Gospel message is completely focused on the work of Christ… what He has done for us… not what we do or promise to do for Him!

I write about this often… reminding us of basic truths that it is not our commitment to Him that saves, but His commitment to us. And lately I have been thinking through another time that Peter was “heading to the wrong goal.”

In John 13 is one of my favorite stories of Christ… but we can learn a lot from Peter as well. Peter is sincere and motivated to do the right thing… and as Jesus prepares to wash Peter’s feet, Peter boldly proclaims, “You shall never wash my feet!” (See verse 8) Peter is recognizing Christ lordship and making it clear that Jesus is the leader and he the follower, yet that is not what Christ called for at the time… Christ instead tells Peter, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” (And on top of all of this Jesus already knew that Peter would mess up some of the following promises.)

I could go on and on about this topic, and you may already be tired of reading, so I will wrap up with reminding us that the Gospel needs to “point at the right goal”… directly at Jesus. Always ask if you are telling a person to serve or be served… it is good to serve but that is not what Jesus says is first… we must always tell that it starts with allowing Him to serve us… and celebrate His death and resurrection on our behalf!

Monday, January 15, 2018


For the past couple of weeks, I have been writing about the importance of playing with a purpose... about “lacing up our shoes” with intention of competing hard…

In yesterday’s message, our pastor made a couple points that flow well with our theme. He brought up how frequently fans use the term “we” when talking about their favorite teams. The pastor is in Alabama and proved his point by quoting how Crimson Tide fans tend to talk; he used the national championship game from last Monday as an example… i.e. “we need to get Jalen Hurts out of the game” – “we need to get Tua into the game” – “we need to block better” – “we need to… (fill in the blank)” – “we won!” I think you get the picture…

He then reminded us that the “we” is stated by people that never put on pads, lay down a block, run the ball, catch the ball, etc. The “we” is mostly coming from spectators, not participators…

I have no problem with excited fans; yet in the church we have a lot of “we” talk that is accompanied by complaining or even celebrating by folks that follow the mentality that being a spectator makes one a part of the success of the team.

As believers, we need to be reminded that we are all called to participate! (Not for salvation… that is due entirely to Christ’s participation on our behalf!) But once we are saved, we are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.” (Eph. 2:10)


I don’t know what your resolUtions were this year, but today’s should be to Make A Difference by being an active participant in God’s work in the world!

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.

Monday, January 8, 2018

January 8, 2018 - Lace Up Your Shoes With A Purpose!

Last week’s devotion keyed on playing to win… not just to survive. I also said I would expand on that thought a little bit… and as I prepared to type tonight, a Facebook memory popped up reminding me that exactly 1 year ago I was being rushed to a hospital and things didn’t look good. But here we are a year later, and I get told often about what a miracle it is! Obviously, I am incredibly thankful to be a survivor! I am overwhelmed to even look back and read all the prayer requests went out for me and the family! I will celebrate the past, but I refuse to live in it… I won’t play to survive, but instead, survive to play… I love “the game”!

I was just having a talk today with my daughter Faith about her middle school basketball team. Last week we had a couple of bad practices; one was so bad that I told a bunch of middle school girls that it they didn’t want to play they shouldn’t be there. There was no joy in the gym… no excitement to get to play the game. Then we had a game Friday afternoon and things changed. The girls openly expressed how much fun they were having… how they liked the new game plan I put in… and it showed on the floor. Then Saturday came and we had another game… only to find ourselves with many of the girls looking, and playing, like they couldn’t wait for the game to be over.

So, what was the difference? (Faith and I discussed this very question.) This is a middle school… it is not made up of players that love the game… they like it… they enjoy it (at times)… they don’t love it. There was one glaring difference on Friday, we were much better than our opponent and finding a lot of success on the court; Saturday, not so much so. It’s not that Saturday’s opponent was glaringly better, but they were very aggressive and took us out of our game. And when adversity hit during the game, our like for the game disappeared… there was no joy on the court. (I do have to say this was not true of all our girls. We have a few that love to get after it and play the game!)

I told my daughter that I have never laced up my basketball shoes without playing hard and intending to win… and shared the Vince Lombardi idea that I never lost, I just ran out of time.

If you want to see if someone really loves the game, watch him when adversity hits! Does he crumble, or does he keep playing hard? When he gets a lead, does he play it safe, or does he keep playing?

Lace up your shoes with a purpose!

If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Proverbs 24:10

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4

This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. Colossians 4:5-6

I still love to step out on a basketball court… I love to step out into the court of life… I love that God has given me more days… days to live… days to make a difference!

You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11