A Simple Act That Made a Big Difference

Over a year ago, my family and I stumbled upon a community event. Every year our town hosts a Veterans’ Day ceremony and I remember telling my wife, “This would be a good event to expose our students to.” At that point, I made a reminder on my phone to research out the dates for the following year (2013) and to make sure that I place that date on our school calendar.  Continue reading

Before Slaying A Giant

Perhaps the most popular Bible story outside of the birth of Jesus Christ is the story of David and Goliath. How can you not love a little shepherd boy slaying a giant? It’s a story of overcoming the odds, doing the impossible, and standing for a cause. This passage found in 1 Samuel 17 has inspired people, both lost and saved. The analogy has been used in various aspects of life, from school to personal life. It is most commonly referred to in sports, to inspire the underdog to do the unexpected!

There is an underdog in all of us and we all have giants we wish to slay. There are those areas of our lives that loom over us, intimidating us to inaction and defeat. We can all relate to that little shepherd boy and just once, we would like to hit that giant right between the eyes! I would like to share with you what you must do before slaying your life’s giants.

As we enter the third year of our basketball program, I have found our young men improving in every facet of the game. Unfortunately, so is everyone else. So in our Christian school league, this gap that we thought we were closing seems to remain the same. How many more times can a team take a double-digit loss?

I spent time watching other teams, studying how to be a better coach, looking for ways to motivate them to elevate their game. The last few games have been encouraging. Our team would simply hang in there only to sputter in the end.

But it was progress and I was happy! I often tell them, “I’m not looking for perfection, just progress.” No one is ever perfect, after all.

I kept telling them, “I can’t wait to slay a giant. I can’t wait to a giant,” meaning of course winning a game.

Last Monday evening, we faced a team who beat us every time we play against them. Home, away, in a tournament- the result was always a loss for us. The last time we locked horns with this team, we almost came away with a win. Frankly, I was tired of losing to them.

I told the team, “Tonight, we are done losing (isn’t that inspiring?). We are better than the win-loss column reflects. Let’s prove it to everyone tonight.”

I turned to my assistant coach and that’s when I realized what needed to happen before slaying a giant. Coach Bob Luce wisely said, “This team is not a giant. We’ve come close to them before and they know it. Truthfully, they’re just a lion and a bear!”

Click! It clicked for me. It clicked for our team. This whole time, we’ve been so focused on “slaying the giant” that we’ve forgotten about the lion and the bear.

The lion and the bear David slew before he took care of Goliath are the proving grounds God provides for our lives. Sometimes we want to do great and mighty things for God only to neglect the simple commands of the Bible.

Remember that if we are to be faithful in much we must first be faithful in least. Why should God trust us to slay the giant when we haven’t even taken care of the lion and the bear?

Not only that but how can we learn to trust God to protect us from the giant if we haven’t even learned to trust Him to protect us from the lion and the bear?

It’s like baseball. You can’t score and cross home plate until you’ve touched every base. Pay attention to the lion and bear first, then see God use you to slay that giant!

 

A Code of Conduct

Have you ever been in a situation where you thought to yourself, “I should have known what to do,” or “I should have been more prepared?” Certain circumstances have a funny way of revealing to us our unpreparedness at times and depending on how we react to the moment, we may be doomed to experience the same event with the same consequences.

Three years ago, we established a sports program at Gateway Baptist Academy. Sports teaches lessons only partly taught in a classroom. Some of these lessons are time management, self-discipline, teamwork, and having a Christ-like response during the heat of battle. It’s hard to simulate that in a classroom!

If you are thinking starting a sports program for your school, do yourself a favor and establish at athletic code of conduct. Though we have an athletic handbook, the code of conduct is a condensed but complete version of all that we expect from our athletes, coaches, and fans. It summarizes in a few statements all the expectations and standards of our athletic program. There’s nothing wrong with condensing instructions if the purpose is engraining truth.

Remember when a lawyer came to Jesus and asked Him what’s the greatest of all the law? My mind would have gone to the Ten Commandments. How about the Levitical laws? Don’t forget about God’s holiness and all that entails. If you were to sit down and write down all the laws from Adam’s time to when Jesus was asked the question, it would take a while. And He was to choose from all that?

Jesus answers very simply, “Love God. Love others.” (that’s the Juan Zarate version). Upon these two, according to Jesus, hangs all the commandments. That’s a code of conduct! That’s easier to remember that the hundreds of commandments listed in the Old Testament and perhaps a few hundred more in the New Testament.

I share all that to ask this, do you have a code of conduct for yourself? For your family? Do you have some statements written down that outline how you are to carry out what you believe about God and His Word? Some would call it a purpose statement, family objectives, mission statement. Whatever you want to label it, each person should have a code they live by! I hope that it should go without saying that this code, statement, objective should be Bible-centered and Christ preeminent.

Children (and some adults) won’t necessarily know the chapter and verse of every command. They’re not necessarily aware of why God wants things done a certain way. But make no mistake, whether they know where the command is located or why God commands us to do it, Christians are accountable because we have the Holy Spirit.

Don’t be tossed about by every wind of doctrine or opinion of men. Let the Bible be your guide and develop for you and your family a code of conduct.

Finish Strong

When a team wins a championship or an individual wins in a competition, the focus is often on the product rather than the process. No one asks about the practice sessions, the strict dietary guidelines, and the training it took to position themselves for winning. We celebrate the victory (and we should) but forget about what it took to get there.

As we approach the end of the school year, both parents and teachers are constantly telling their students to “finish strong!” We must however realize that without the right foundation, not only will finishing be tough, it may be impossible!

This past week I purchased a bike to help me with my fitness goals. I see people riding their bikes everyday. It looks easy enough. After all, isn’t that where we get the expression, “It’s just like riding a bike?” And yet, after a few moments on my bike, I realized that expression is not always true. Praise the Lord I didn’t fall or hurt myself but this thought came to my mind, “I don’t remember biking being this hard!” There were three reason for the difficulty.

First, it has been a long time since I rode a bike. I’ve pedaled a few times here and there but nothing like pedaling for training purposes. It was torturous!

Sometimes, Christians think that when they fall away from their spiritual habits it’s going to be easy to just pick it back up. When your spiritual life atrophies much like my biking muscles did, there’s going to be some challenges. This is why being consistent and not quitting is so important. Satan knows if he can get you to stop for a period of time, the likelihood of you continuing the race is slim.

Biking was difficult, secondly because I am a lot heavier now that when I used to ride all the time. It’s the law of physics! Gravity was slowing my bike down and my weight has something to do with it!

Hebrews 12 tells us that we need to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us…” Riding was hard because of all my extra weight. Likewise living for God is burdensome when we have extra baggage!

Lastly, biking was a challenge to me because the original seat was too hard. I know this sounds petty but if I am going to enjoy riding long distances, I need comfort.

How often Christians try to “kick against the pricks” when it comes to their walk with God. You and I cannot reason away our disobedience and lack of commitment to God. He has said it and that settles it! Obedience to God is nonnegotiable.

Do you realize a life of disobedience is an uncomfortable, unfulfilling life? We live with a critical, complaining, and carnal spirit when we are at odds with the Lord. The ride to Heaven becomes unnecessarily hard. The goal is not to cover the seat but to change it; the goal is not to just have more good works than bad, rather it is  to put off the works of the flesh and to continue to walk in the Spirit.

I want to keep riding and want to finish strong. But that won’t happen if I don’t have a good foundation; if I don’t consistently eat right, work right, and live right. Likewise at the end of my life, I want to say as the Apostle Paul said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” But if I don’t daily feast on the Word of God, continually do the work of God, and consistently live for God, I will be a castaway.

Finish strong? Sure. Win the battle. Absolutely. Keep the faith. Without question. But don’t forget what it takes to get to that goal. Better yet, don’t forget Who it takes to get to that goal- I can do all things THROUGH CHRIST!

The Art of the Dunk

When I began coaching our basketball team this season, I was excited about a couple of the new players we had. One of them, a 6’3” junior, had never played basketball before. Needless to say, I began to imagine all that our team can do with a young man of that size.

During the first week of practice, the boys were talking about dunking the basketball while they were shooting around. I asked the team, “Who here would like to know how if feels to dunk a basketball?” Of course everyone raised their hands. Then I asked, “How many would like to commit to working on learning to dunk a basketball?” Only two raised their hands. I told them that if they worked on the exercises I provide for them, they’ll be dunking by the end of the season.

One of the players that committed had to withdraw from the team for medical reasons. So I was left with my 6’3” project!

Throughout practice, this young man displayed great resolve and commitment. Even through some very difficult and very painful drills, he chose not to quit. There were times I was sure he wanted to give up but he willed himself to take the next step, then the next, then the next. What made me respect this player more was that sometimes after a hard practice, he would go home and workout some more.

So after practice last Thursday, as we were waiting for parents to arrive, this young man just started jumping for the rim. I saw how much of the rim he was grabbing when I told him, “You’re ready for your first dunk.” I had another player grab an orange from a tree. I placed that orange in his hand and told him to dunk it. He did! He went to the ball cage and grabbed a small basketball. He dunked it again! Over and over for the next twenty minutes he would dunk, smile, stretch, and dunk again. He was so happy to accomplish a personal goal he had set for himself athletically. I was proud of him, too!

Then I began to think, how often we set goals that will have nothing to do with eternity. I am not belittling the hard work and dedication this young man possessed. But can you imagine if Christians dedicated themselves to spiritual matters as much (and if not, more so) as they do the physical aspects of life. Make no mistake, biblical principles were exercised to accomplish the goal and they will be lessons that will benefit him for the rest of his life. But what about working that hard (and not quitting) in our Bible reading, our prayer life, our soul winning, our service, our stewardship, our relationships, and other similar spiritual areas?

Someday, this young man will be old and his dunking days will be over. But the Scripture he reads and souls he wins to the Lord will last for all eternity!

What Our Soccer Team Taught Me

Last Monday, our soccer team traveled northwest of our school to participate in a league tournament. Though the boys have won a few games this year, they were looking forward to getting a new start. The records were wiped clean and every team had a chance to win the championship! They have worked hard for this moment. They have eagerly anticipated this game.

After the opposing team scored a goal, our team fought hard to tie. Finally the goal came and score was tied! As Coach Orellana yelled instructions from the sideline and Coach Rabbito provided motivational statements like, “Win this possession,” while pumping his fist, the boys persevered. With only a few minutes left in the game, a foul was called on our team (on which player we will never know) which resulted in a penalty kick. This would end up being the winning goal and our GBA Lions fell 2-1.

When the final whistle blew, the boys were extremely disappointed! “We could have had it!” one of them exclaimed. Collectively, they battled and left everything on the field. Then I noticed some of them with tears in their eyes. They really wanted it! Their expectations weren’t met and it broke their heart. My heart broke for them. I wished I could help them get rid of the pain! Then I remembered 2 Corinthians 12:9.

When we fail at something we do for the Lord, do we feel the pain? Do we weep a little? Are we disappointed or do we just say “well, we tried” in a ho-hum manner?  I am afraid that sometimes we take spiritual defeat too casually. I learned a lesson from those boys that night– care enough about what you do and what you expect. And it’s okay to feel pain because Jesus can take that pain and turn it to strength by His grace! I’m not sure what will happen next season. But you can be rest assured, our GBA Lions will be better because of their right attitude towards their last defeat.

It Takes Hard Work

This past week, our GBA Lady Lions earned our school’s first ever interscholastic athletic victory! It has not been a secret how hard  these girls have been working. Between their home, church, school, and sports life– they have learned to manage themselves in a good way in order to accomplish all their priorities. I am very proud of them and give God the glory for their success.

It has been equally as exciting to see the support our sports teams have. The games have been well attended and this has been a great source of encouragement for our student athletes. It’s fun to watch some church members cheer our teams on.

When I read the Bible, it is amazing how God can use the principles and fundamentals in sports to teach us His will and way. The first verse that comes to mind is 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God…”  That sounds a lot like practice! Paul even uses the term “workman.” It takes work to succeed in sports and in our spiritual life. Why is it we work so hard to fulfill our physical and mental priorities that we forget about the spiritual? By the way, they are all God-given     priorities which means, “Faithful is He who calleth you, who also will do it,” He will help us do well in all of it. God did not set us up to fail– but it will require some work! May I ask, how hard are you working right now?