Sunday, November 18, 2018

John 7:24

Do you remember your first impression of your coach?  How about the first time you met your teammates?  Now that you know them better, are they what they appeared to be at first glance?  Jesus knew something about this and speaks about it today.

He is quoted by the John at chapter 7 and verse 24 as saying, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”

First glances seldom produce a wise assessment of the truth about people.  Your first impressions of your teammates were probably proven to be false by hours of interaction and weeks of competition.  That’s why Jesus says to not judge by appearances.  Appearances only deal with the surface level of people.  Jesus wants us to focus on the heart.

Righteous judgment is better because it can see past the appearances and facades, penetrating to the heart of the matter.  Righteous judgment gets to motivation, to desires, to heart-felt qualities like compassion and love. 

Let’s employ this wisdom in today’s competition.  Let’s not be ruled by what we see on the surface.  Let’s look deeper to the issues of the heart among our teammates and strive to call out the best in each other.  Let’s exercise righteous judgment and watch our team excel.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 12:1-11
I John 4:7-21
Job 16
Ezekiel 45-47

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Romans 11:33-36

Who do you suppose has the greatest knowledge and the most skill of anyone in your sport?  Could it be the world’s best player?  Maybe it’s the premier coach or possibly someone from the Hall of Fame?  Whoever that is, how would your grasp of the sport compare with his or hers?

Who do you suppose has the greatest understanding about all of life?  How strong is your grasp on life’s big questions relative to His?  The Bible has a very clear expression of God’s immeasurable superiority to mankind.  It’s found at Romans chapter 11 and verses 33 through 36, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!  Who has known the mind of the the Lord?  Or who has been his counselor?  Who has ever given to God that God should repay him?  For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be the glory forever!  Amen.”

The riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge are deeper than we can even imagine.  His judgment and His ways are beyond human understanding.

Much like the novice athlete’s understanding of the sport pales in comparison with the veteran coach’s, our grasp of the real stuff of life seems as nothing when compared to God’s wisdom.

Young players often think the whole game revolves around them, but they soon learn otherwise.  This scripture reminds us that all things in the Universe are from God, they come through God, they go to God and all glory is due God for all time.

As you compete today, keep in mind how your understanding of the sport compares to your coach’s and team leaders’.  Also remember the unsearchable depth of God’s wisdom for life.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 11:45-57
I John 4:1-6
Job 15:17-35
Ezekiel 42-44

Friday, November 16, 2018

D I V I N E   M O M E N T S
John 7:6

Have you ever been in a competition and had the awareness that this might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience?  Can you look back and see such occasions?  Jesus has some wisdom for us related to these kinds of events.

In John’s gospel at chapter 7 and verse 6 we read, “Then Jesus said to them, ‘My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready.’”

Jesus knew that divine moments come rarely.  Common opportunities come to us every day.  Be ready daily and watch for the divine moment.  Watch for the divine moment when you can make “The Play.”  These are the moments that define a player, a team or a season.  Football players remember “The Catch” by Dwight Clark that put the San Francisco Forty-niners in the Super Bowl.  Basketball players remember “The Shot” that Michael Jordan made at the end of his career to win the championship over the Utah Jazz.  Those were the athletic equivalents to divine moments.

Only once a year is there a conference championship game.  Rarely is there a play that could make or break a game or even a season.  Each play of the game is important, but like Jesus knew, we must also be ready for the divine moment and bring our very best to make “The play.”  Let’s have a great day of competition, make the best of the common opportunities and watch for the divine moment and make the play.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 11:38-44
Job 15:1-16
Ezekiel 40-41

Thursday, November 15, 2018

I Peter 2:13-14

Who are the people with authority in your world of sport?  You probably thought of coaches, officials, professors, conference administrators, parents, the University president or others.  What is your attitude toward such authorities, is it one of submission or defiance?  Is it more like obedience or rebellion?  Why should that matter to us?

Peter shares some insight into these thoughts in his first letter at chapter 2 and verses 13 and 14 where he writes, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by Him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.”
Some of the people who have authority over us we like and respect, that makes it a little easier to submit to their leadership.  Others are a little tougher to follow. 

Whether easy or difficult, the real motivation for submitting to proper authority is in Peter’s words, “…for the Lord’s sake…”  We can exercise self control and submit to our leadership even when they’re having their worst days.  We can do the right thing and model proper behavior even in the face of poor character and bad leadership.

Let’s all have a great competition today and so show the best of character.  Let’s model for the world and for our leaders a submissive attitude and proper respect for all those in authority.

Bible Reading Plan:
I John 3:11-18
Job 14
Ezekiel 38-39

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Hebrews 12:2

When I was a high school athlete I ran the 110 meter hurdles.  I can remember like it was yesterday being in the starting blocks and looking down the track through the tunnel of hurdles toward the finish line.  Hurdlers and sprinters have a great advantage over longer distance runners in that they can see the finish line right out of the blocks.  I see that same dynamic in today’s scripture.

In the letter to the Hebrews at chapter 12 and verse 2 we read, “…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Like the hurdler, it seems that Jesus could see the finish line for His life right from the beginning.  The clear vision of the destination and the rewards waiting at the finish line kept his life in perfect focus.

Every January, I watch the Super Bowl and am fully confident that all the players and coaches from both teams sneak peeks at the Lombardi Trophy sitting there waiting for the championship to be won.  They all have the trophy in clear view and compete strongly to the final gun.

Let’s emulate these champions and the Lord Jesus by keeping our goals clearly in focus and by putting away all the distractions that would keep them from being realized.  If we all compete that way, we’ll be a championship team.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 11:1-16
I John 3:1-10
Job 13
Ezekiel 35-37

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Romans 5:3-5

How does one maintain a good attitude in the midst of difficult times?  How does one's character affect these situations?  The character of a person, the true nature of his or her heart, is a continual source of either hope or despair.

The Apostle Paul continues his letter to his friends in Rome with these words in Romans 5 and verses 3 through 5, "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us."

Hope is a confident expectation of good, based on the promises of God.  That comes from a changed character that was born of persevering through suffering.  Character has taught you to be confident and to have proper expectations.  Paul says that character produces hope and that hope doesn't disappoint because He has put an every day reminder of His love in our hearts.  The Spirit of God is alive in us to remind us of His love and promises.  That's what real hope looks like.

Let hope spring from your character today and prepare you for a great day of competition.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 10:22-42
I John 2:24-29
Job 12
Ezekiel 33-34

Monday, November 12, 2018

Proverbs 3:13-14

Do you have some precious metals at home in your jewelry box?  How valuable are your rings, watches or necklaces?  What could be worth more than silver, gold, or platinum?

In Proverbs chapter 3 and verses 13 and 14, Solomon (a very rich guy) tells about something with surpassing value, “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.”

We would feel blessed if we had pounds of gold necklaces around our necks and looked like Mr. T.  Solomon says a person is really blessed if he finds wisdom and gains understanding.  To be blessed is to be contentedly happy with life.  Silver and gold can’t buy that.

Wisdom is something to be found.  It won’t sneak up on you.  It takes pursuit and tenacity to find.  Understanding is a commodity to be gained, like strength gained in the weight room.  The exciting thing is that wisdom and understanding pay greater dividends and yield more benefits than silver and gold could ever do.

In preparing for today’s competition, seek wisdom from every source available and gain understanding with every passing moment of the event.  In the end, you’ll be blessed with the greatest returns possible in athletic competition.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 10:11-21
I John 2:18-23
Job 11

Sunday, November 11, 2018

James 1:12

Have you ever met someone who seems to glow with enthusiasm and zest for life?  Have you ever talked with that person and asked from where that glow comes?  In the Bible we are given a good idea about the source of life that comes with a crown.

In the apostle James' letter at chapter 1 and verse 12 he writes, "Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been proven he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him."  Most of us have experienced some kind of trial.  Trials like sitting too many minutes on the bench, the death of a friend or family member, watching our parents' marriage crumble, or battling with cancer just to stay alive.

James says that when we persevere under trial we will receive something called the crown of life and it will make us blessed.  To be blessed is to be contentedly happy, that would be nice, huh? 

What might the crown of life look like?  Have you ever seen anyone who has been through the fires of life and has come out the other side with grace and enthusiasm for life?  You probably know someone who wears the crown of life every day.  That same crown has been promised to us if we persevere under our trials.

Let's press on, through the hard times, through feeling unappreciated and under utilized, through broken relationships and physical pains.  There is a crown waiting for us at the finish line.  Press on toward the crown and toward being blessed of the Lord.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 10:1-10
I John 2:12-17
Ezekiel 29-30

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Hebrews 12:1

How would you characterize your season of competition, more like a sprint or a marathon?  Which one requires more perseverance, the ten second race or the two hour race?  Those answers are obvious, but the keys to such perseverance and endurance are a little more elusive.

The letter to the Hebrews mentions such values in chapter 12 and verse 1, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” 

I have a friend who is an 8 time winner of the Boston Marathon, in a wheelchair!  Jean Driscoll knows what endurance is.  To win that race requires going 26.2 miles in a wheelchair, in just over 1 and ½ hours.  That’s fast and fast for a long time.  That’s what endurance looks like.

Your course is set before you this season, it’s called a schedule.  We can all see it, but can we all finish it with endurance?  We certainly can if we’ll heed the instructions from the earlier parts of the verse.  We must keep our predecessors in mind for inspiration and encouragement. 

We must lay aside those things which weigh us down and ensnare our lives.  Lastly, we must compete every day with the end of the season in mind.  Let’s compete for a championship and approach every day of practice and each competition like champions.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 9:26-41
Job 9:21-35
Ezekiel 27-28

Friday, November 9, 2018

Hebrews 12:1

Do you remember watching Michael Johnson, the Olympic 200 and 400 meter gold medalist competing in oversized, baggy sweats with those big, fancy shoestrings and floppy socks?  Of course not, that would be absurd!  That stuff is too easily entangled with one’s arms and legs.  Rather you saw him in the most streamlined clothing and shoes that he could get.  We can learn from such strategy.

Hebrews chapter 12 and verse 1 speaks of the same concept, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” 

For the runner, he or she streamlines as much as possible so as to not become entangled and thus trip and fall.  For us as competitors, on a deeper level, we must watch out for the things in our lives that could entangle or ensnare us.  Sometimes we can become ensnared by foolish relationships or addictive behaviors and we can be tripped up by the things we wrap around our own lives.

In today’s competition, run free from the things that would entangle or ensnare you.  Lay aside those clumsy, useless things that would trip you up and keep you from being successful.  Run freely and well like the champion you are.

Bible Reading Plan:
I John 1:5-10
Job 9:1-20
Ezekiel 24-26

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Hebrews 12:1

What is the single greatest hindrance to you as you compete?  Is it a lack of concentration?  Maybe it’s a physical limitation?  Could it be a nagging fear of failure?  How can these things be overcome?  Let’s consider an idea from the Bible.

The writer of Hebrews had certainly seen the competitions of his day and he writes with reference to them in chapter 12 and verse 1, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” 

The writer would have seen the athletes of the ancient world strip off all their clothes in order to compete unencumbered by the robes common to Greek culture.  That’s what he means when he says to lay aside every weight.  He encourages us to lay aside the things which weigh us down as we compete.

For us, it’s not usually clothes that weigh us down.  More often it’s a bad habit, a foolish attitude, a selfish lifestyle or an unhealthy relationship that hinders us as we compete.  The solution to the hindrance is still the same, lay it aside. 

You wouldn’t dream of competing in a wet, heavy overcoat.  So why be weighed down by other things which are equally detrimental to your personal and corporate goals?  Lay it aside!  You and your team will be better because of your good choices.  Let that kind of selfless attitude characterize today’s competition.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 9:1-12
I John 1:1-4
Job 8
Ezekiel 22-23

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

H A L L   O F   F A M E
Hebrews 12:1

What is the largest crowd before which you’ve competed?  Was it nearer one hundred, one thousand or ten thousand?  How did that crowd affect you?  Were you inspired or intimidated by it?  There’s a similar picture in the pages of your Bible.

That picture is in Hebrews chapter 12 and verse 1 where it says, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”  Can you see it?  To me, this looks like a great stadium on the day of competition.

The great cloud of witnesses to which the writer refers is the Hall of Famers from the previous chapter.  This stadium is filled with the great heroes of faith throughout history.  The writer’s intention is that such a crowd of spectators serve to inspire and to encourage us, the competitors in the race.

In a similar way, the great competitors that have preceded you in this game and at this institution should serve to inspire, to motivate and to encourage greatness in you.  The crowd observing today’s competition can be your greatest source of strength and inspiration.  Let your vision of them be like the one we read above.  See the seats as being full of Hall of Fame competitors and that each one of them is there to encourage and to cheer you on to success.  Compete like Hall of Famers today.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 8:48-59
II Peter 3:10-18
Job 7

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

John 6:20-21

Who is the one person in your life that can calm the most fearful situation?  Is it your mom or dad?  Your best friend?  Who is it?  In today’s letter we’ll see who it was for the disciples of Christ.

John records this story in his gospel at chapter 6 and verses 20 and 21, “But He said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’  Then they willing received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where it was going.”

The disciples had been rowing across the Sea of Galilee for three or four hours, in the dark, against very strong winds when they see someone walking across the water toward their boat.  They were scared to death… wouldn’t you be?  When they heard Jesus’ voice and recognized Him, their fear disappeared, they gladly received Him and the situation was immediately resolved.

Jesus’ presence calms fears.  Just hearing His voice brought peace to a fearful situation.  His presence in our lives will bring peace to us as well, if we will do as the disciples did.  They heard His voice and then received Him to themselves.
Your teammates and coaches can likewise calm a chaotic situation or solve a thorny problem for your team.  A calm question or a gentle word of encouragement can be as powerful as Jesus walking onto your storm-tossed boat. 

Receive the counsel and encouragement of your teammates and coaching staff in today’s competition.  They are keys to victory.  Make this a day of greatness. 

Bible Reading Plan:
John 8:31-47
II Peter 3:1-9
Job 6
Ezekiel 17-19

Monday, November 5, 2018

I Peter 1:13

Upon what are your confident expectations for this season and today’s competition built?  In whom or what do you fully place your hope for something?  Are those people or things fully trustworthy?

Today’s scripture tells us of someone who is completely worthy of our trust.  Peter writes about this at chapter 1 and verse 13 of his first letter, “Therefore prepare your minds for action, be self controlled and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Our athletic hopes are usually resting upon the team’s talent, the coaching staff’s wisdom and insight, and the maturity and teamwork with which we compete.  Those are sometimes very secure, but at other times less than reliable objects of our expectation.  Things like injuries, illness, discouragement, staff transitions and even fear can tear at our hope for success.

A much more secure object of hope is the grace that we receive in Jesus.  Trust the work that he’s doing in you individually and collectively.  Trust Him to do the very best in you everyday.  He’s 100% trustworthy and He will always work to bring about the best in you.  

As you pray in preparation to compete, ask the Lord to give you everything you need to fully contribute to your team’s effort today.  You can trust Him to be a consistent, faithful source of hope.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 8:21-30
II Peter 2:17-22
Ezekiel 16

Sunday, November 4, 2018

S E L F – C O N T R O L
I Peter 1:13

What happens when one competes in an out-of-control way?  That person commits foolish fouls, is assessed a technical foul, draws an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty or even gets disqualified.  The value of competing under control is obvious and the penalty for not doing so is immediate.  What value might self control have beyond competition?

Peter wrote to his friends about self control in his first letter at chapter 1 and verse 13 where we read, “Therefore prepare your minds for action, be self controlled and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

After we have done the mental preparation for competition, we must exercise self control in order to execute the game plan and to play at an optimum level.  If we lose control emotionally or lose our focus on the task at hand, we’ll be distracted from the goal and failure will track us down.

In today’s competition and throughout the season, prepare your minds for action and be self controlled.  This will be the key to victory, on and off the field of competition. 

Bible Reading Plan:
John 8:12-20
Job 4
Ezekiel 13-15

Saturday, November 3, 2018

I Peter 1:13

What kinds of things do you do in the process of preparing for competition?  Surely you study film, practice, visualize your performance, warm up your muscles and more.  We all know the value of physical preparation, but how important is it to prepare your mind?

Peter mentions this to his friends in his first letter at chapter 1 and verse 13, “Therefore prepare your minds for action, be self controlled and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Today we’ll focus on the first part of that sentence.  Prepare your minds for action.  We’ll think together about the three key words.

Prepare – At this level of play, one can no longer just show up and play.  To succeed we will need to prepare.  The good news is that by game day the preparation is done and we’re ready.

Minds – There is more required than just physical preparation.  We must be fully ready to compete, physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually.  Come to competition 100% prepared and bring your brain with you.

Action – Even if your participation in this competition is rather doubtful, your team needs to have you fully engaged in it.  Your teammates need your encouragement, your insight and your enthusiasm for them to compete at their best.  Everyone must be ready for action, not half for action and the other half for passivity.

Let’s prepare our minds for action and give this competition our best effort of the year.

Bible Reading Plan:
II Peter 2:1-9
Job 3
Ezekiel 9-12

Friday, November 2, 2018

Philippians 1:6

Have you ever noticed how graduate students approach their papers, like a master’s thesis?  Even at the beginning of the program they know it must be done and it seems for some it’s like giving birth to a baby....labor pains and all.  We see a similar idea in Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

In the letter to the church in a town called Philippi, at chapter 1 and verse 6 Paul writes, “...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Paul has confidence that his friends are in the process of being completed.

Like the master’s degree student, God has a work to do and it began at your birth.  His work continues in us until the day we die.  The exciting thing to me is that He’s faithful to complete everything He starts. 

Bible Reading Plan:
John 7:45-53
II Peter 1:12-21
Job 2
Ezekiel 4-8

Thursday, November 1, 2018

R E N E W E D   P O W E R
John 5:21

How do we find power and renewed life for our bodies and emotions after the long months of a season?  What can give us renewed vigor and an injection of energy?  Jesus knows where this stuff comes from and He tells us today.

At John chapter 5 and verse 21 we hear His words, “For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.” 

While none of us are dead, technically, I’m sure some of us feel less than 100%.  Who wouldn’t like to have our legs restored to the way they were in pre-season?  We could all use some resurrection of our energies for this championship game.

Here’s the good news, Jesus says here that just like His Father in heaven can raise the dead, so can He.  Let’s trust Him to breathe life back into our tired lungs, to re-ignite the fire in our souls, to strengthen our formerly lifeless legs.  If He can raise the dead, surely He can empower us to play this game with power, enthusiasm and passion.  Let’s go after this championship like we’ve just been raised from the dead.  We’ll show the crowd a life like they’ve never seen before!

Bible Reading Plan:
Song of Solomon 4:8-16
Jeremiah 52

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

II Corinthians 4:16

When do you feel like your body is wasting away and your strength is drying up?  Maybe that’s at the end of practice, half-way through preseason or with one week to go in a long, difficult season.  How can we have our hearts renewed and find the strength to press through such feelings?  Today’s scripture gives us such encouragement.

In the second letter to the church at Corinth at chapter 4 and verse 16 we read, “Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”  Paul was aware of his friends’ perilous times and the physical toll it was taking on them.  He identified with their plight.

It’s the nature of competition and long seasons to wear down our bodies.  We can identify with these people and the outward wasting away of their bodies.  The wisest among us also know how to be inwardly strengthened, day by day in our hearts. 

Here’s the challenge for us.  Can we trust our hearts to lead us to do the right thing, even when our bodies are crying out for us to quit?  Can we continue to find new strength through renewed hearts and press through the hard times?

As you prepare to compete today, trust your heart to the one who gives strength without measure.  Ask Him to fill your heart with courage and to enable you to compete strongly.  You will be amazed at how your mind and your body will respond to your heart’s lead.

Bible Reading Plan:
Song of Solomon 4:8-16
Jeremiah 52

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

John 6:15

Have you ever heard your coaches talk about the rhythm of the game or not hitting your peak too soon in a season?  How important is timing in the life of an athletic team?  How important is it to life in general?  We can see it in Jesus’ life in today’s letter.

In John’s gospel at chapter 6 and verse 15 we read, “Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to a mountain by Himself alone.”

How hard must it have been for Jesus to know that ultimately He would be the King of Israel, but this was not the proper time?  How hard is it for a player who knows he will ultimately be a hall-of-famer to not act like the most arrogant person on the planet?  It’s hard, but important.

There is a rhythm to an athletic contest and even to a season.  There are emotional peaks and valleys, swings of momentum and shifts of confidence from player to player and team to team.  How we manage the timing of these swings of momentum and emotion are as critical as this day was for Jesus and His life.

Do all that you can to be at your absolute best at game time.  Work hard to manage your emotions and focus your concentration in order to best contribute to a winning effort for your team today.  That’s exactly what Jesus would do.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 6:1-15
I Peter 3:1-7

Monday, October 29, 2018

C H A R A C T E R   T E S T S
I Peter 1:6

What do you find to be a trial while competing in your sport?  What parts of your character are tried in that process?  Does it test your will, your body, your attitudes, your emotions, maybe all the above?  How deeply are you affected by those trials?

In Peter’s first letter to his friends in what is now Turkey, at chapter 1 and verse 6 we read, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials.”

While we all find great enjoyment and fulfillment through playing the game, while many of us seemingly live for competition, the trying parts of the process often wear us down.  The grief that comes with sore muscles, painful joints, disappointing losses and strained relationships are all trials for all of us.

We greatly rejoice in the best parts of our game, but we also, for a little while, may have to undergo plenty of grief through the more difficult parts of competition, practice, travel and study.

As you approach this day’s competition, focus your mind on your favorite part of this game.  Put the grief and the trying parts of it behind you.  Keep clearly in view your team’s goals and press on toward a great finish and a tremendous victory.

Bible Reading Plan:
Ecclesiastes 11
Jeremiah 39-43

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Philippians 3:13

The goal before you is the same with every contest: to win and to honor God in the process.  Today, Paul has more words of challenge for you.

In his letter to the Philippian church at chapter 3 and verse 13 he says, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Today we’ll talk about pressing on toward the goal.

The goal is in sight.  This day’s win is at hand.  Your part is to press on toward the goal of achieving it.  Your opponent will not lie down and let you just walk off with it.  You must win it.
Let’s make it our task to press on toward that goal.  Press on through momentary set backs.  Press on through momentum swings.  Press on through injuries.  Press on through mental lapses.  Press on through the excitement.... press on!  You must compete right down to the final second with no thought of resignation. 

Give every ounce of courage and passion to today’s game and you’ll be a champion, regardless of the final score.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 4:15-26
I Peter 1:1-9

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Philippians 3:13

Every competition involves strain.  As we compete we strain our muscles, our minds and even our emotions.  The following scripture contains even more encouragement for the pursuit of victory.

In his letter to the Philippian church at chapter 3 and verse 13 he says, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Today we’ll talk about straining toward what is ahead.

I believe he uses the word strain purposefully.  Athletic achievement always involves strain.  We strain to make the perfect shot, to run faster, to make a big play.  It often involves strain to keep teammate relationships on the right track.  It’s sometimes a strain just to focus our minds enough to compete well. 

The point is to strain toward what is ahead.  Don’t strain toward the past, it’s over.  Strain toward today’s competition and the goal of being a champion.  Strain toward doing the best to further your team and its goals.  Make this the best game of your career.  Strain like a champion today.

Bible Reading Plan:
Ecclesiastes 6
Jeremiah 26-29

Friday, October 26, 2018

Philippians 3:13

Focus your mind for your best performance of the season.  The Apostle Paul has some words from Scripture to help us do that.

In his letter to the Philippian church at chapter 3 and verse 13 he says, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” 

Paul’s first injunction is to forget what is in the past.  That goes for both wins and losses.  The great thing about having a post-season tournament is that even the last team to qualify has the same chance to be champion as the front runner.  The team that just gets in can forget their whole season of challenges and make a three contest sprint for the title!

Forget the stuff of the past; team quarrels, ugly losses, easy victories, bad practices, all of it.  Focus your mind on the present game to be played.  Further, keep your attention forever on the next play, the next pitch, the next rebound.  Be in the now and be a champion today.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 1:29-34
James 2:14-26

Thursday, October 25, 2018

T A R N I S H E D   T R O P H I E S
I Peter 1:3-4

Have you noticed the trophies in the school’s trophy case which have been won over the past decades of competition?  How is it that they so soon fade, tarnish and gather dust?  Have they somehow lost their luster since the days of championships won?  What kind of trophy would never grow old?

We read about such rewards in Peter’s first letter to his friends at chapter 1 and verses 3-4.  There it says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.”

Every medal, ribbon or trophy I’ve ever won has slowly faded, tarnished or been lost in the closet.  How great an inheritance is ours through knowing God?!  Here Peter says that this inheritance is incorruptible, that it will never decay. 

He also says that it’s undefiled, that is it cannot be lessened by any outside force.  He says that it will not fade away, like the ink on certificates does or the shine on a trophy does, or even like the memories of thrilling championships eventually do.

Best of all, the inheritance is kept for us in heaven.  That’s way more secure than anyone’s trophy case!  The security for our glorious inheritance is in God’s hands.  There is nowhere in the universe more secure for our treasures.

Play this day’s game like there was an incorruptible, undefiled, never-to-fade trophy on the line and it’s kept in heaven for you.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 7:25-36
I Peter 5:8-14
Song of Solomon 8:8-14
Lamentations 4-5

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

John 5:20

What’s the most miraculous thing you’ve ever seen on a basketball floor?  A court-length desperation shot that went in?  Maybe it was an incredibly athletic move by a player in the paint.  Maybe it was a sacrificial act by a player to lead her team to an important victory.  Jesus tells us why miracles happen in today’s letter.

While talking with His disciples in John chapter 5 and verse 20 we read the words of Jesus, “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all the things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these that you may marvel.”

Jesus did exactly what He saw His Father in heaven doing, and those were some miraculous things!  Healing people, raising the dead, walking on water… that’s not everyday stuff for people like you and me.  The key is that those things came from their relationship.  He says, “The Father loves the Son…” 

The exciting thing to me is that the Father also loves me!  That gives me confidence that He’ll show me what He’s doing and watch out!  When I see that and act in like manner, some miraculous stuff is about to happen.

In today’s competition, trust in the relationships you’ve developed on your team.  See what your coaches and leaders are doing, and then join them in the excitement of great play.  Some miraculous stuff happens when we join together in unified effort.  Watch how people marvel when you play like champions!

Bible Reading Plan:
John 7:14-24
I Peter 5:1-7
Song of Solomon 8:1-7
Lamentations 3

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

P E A C E   O F   M I N D
Philippians 4:7

How do you get your mind to calm down when worries and fear come your way?  How do we trust God when everything we can see points to failure and despair?  Take heart in the words of today's scripture verse.

In Paul's letter to his friends in Philippi he writes at chapter 4 and verse 7, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension shall guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” 

Trust the Lord to continue to give you peace of mind and confidence of heart when you pray.  Look to Him for what you need in all areas of your life.

Look to the Lord for wisdom in relationships, for knowledge in class, for abilities and courage in competition.  He has everything we need to be people that honor Him. 

Be assured that when we look to our Lord for these matters, we will be met with a peace that is far beyond what the human mind can comprehend.  We will be carried along by the Lord's peace as a dove carries a flower.

The peace that the Lord gives serves to guard our hearts and our minds.  It guards our hearts from pain and despair.  It guards our minds from confusion and frustration.

As you pray today, rest in the peace of God and trust Him to guard your heart and mind through your relationship with Christ Jesus.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 7:1-13
I Peter 4:12-19
Song of Solomon 7
Lamentations 2

Monday, October 22, 2018

II Corinthians 4:1

What could happen during a practice or a competition that would cause you to lose heart?  From where would you draw the power to press through such circumstances?  In today’s scripture we’ll investigate a limitless source of power and courage for our hearts.

In the second letter to the Corinthian church at chapter 4 and verse 1, Paul wrote, “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.”  In spite of some terribly harsh times, this man writes to his friends that his heart is not lost and that God’s mercy has sustained his service of them.

The best source of perseverance in the world is the mercy of God.  On our worst days, He does not give us what we deserve, He gives us the best.  On our best days, it’s still a matter of mercy that we receive the joys of life.

If we received what we deserve in relation to sport, most of us would be forever riding the bench.  We’d be running for the next millennium to pay for our foolishness.  Thankfully our coaches are merciful as well.

Since you have your position on this team as a result of God’s mercy, and maybe your coach’s as well, do not lose heart.  Be encouraged that there must be a strong and vital role for you to fill with this team.  Seek it and fulfill it with all your heart.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 6:60-71
I Peter 4:1-11
Song of Solomon 6
Lamentations 1

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Romans 5:3-4

All of us have things in our lives that require perseverance.  Whether it's suffering, pain from injuries, broken relationships or other pains; when we persevere through these things we find a great product.  Character is the result of a life of perseverance.

The Apostle Paul writes to his friends in Rome at chapter 5 and verse 4, "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us."

Persevering through tough times is like a precious metal being refined by fire.  The fire purifies the metal as impurities are liquefied and skimmed off.  Perseverance removes the impurities, the excess baggage, the junk from our lives, producing character as its reward.  Paul tells us that perseverance produces character.  Persevere in today's competition and reap the reward of outstanding character.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 6:41-59
I Peter 3:13-22
Song of Solomon 5

Saturday, October 20, 2018

John 5:19

From whom have you taken instruction in the game?  Certainly your coaches at each level of your sport have taught you well.  Who else provides wise guidance?  Who would have done this for Jesus?  He tells us in today’s letter.

In John chapter 5 at verse 19 we read, “Then Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.’”
There it is, Jesus’ key to wise living.  Do whatever your leader does.  He saw what His heavenly Father would do and simply copied his actions. 

In like manner, we can emulate the best models we’ve gathered from our coaches, teammates and opponents to bring about the best game of our lives.  Remember the lessons of life and the game taught you through years of practices and hours of video study.  Remember the models for great play, and then simply walk in the footsteps of those who have gone before you.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 6:25-40
I Peter 3:8-12
Jeremiah 51

Friday, October 19, 2018

T A L K   O R   P L A Y ?
I John 3:18

Whom do you respect more, the player who talks a good game or the one who shows his game on the field of competition?  I’m sure your answer would be the same as mine.  Actions speak more loudly and clearly than any mouthy wannabe.

The Apostle John talks about this at chapter 3 and verse 18 of his first letter, there we read, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”

I’m sure we all get a little tired of the people who make themselves out to be experts in the game, but when questioned a little further, turn out to be novices at best.  We’ve all known people who talk an “A” game, but can’t play up to a low “D.”  Their sport experience is in word and tongue only.

We must be players who live in deed and in truth.  A friend of mine is fond of saying, “Say less, do more.”  That should characterize our competition.  Let’s let our performance on the field of competition do our talking for us.  That’s how we compete in deed and in truth.

As you compete today, take seriously John’s admonition to love in deed and in truth.  Love your teammates and coaching staff by giving your best effort to secure a win.  That will speak volumes about your game and your character. 

Bible Reading Plan:
John 6:16-24
Song of Solomon 4:1-7
Jeremiah 50

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Philippians 1:8

Who is your dearest friend?  For whom do you care deeply, family, friends, teammates, coaches?  What is the source of those affections?  How durable are those relationships?  The Scripture points to a source of love that will endure forever.

In Paul's letter to his friends in Philippi, at chapter 1 and verse 8 he says, "For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus."  More than anything else, with these letters I want to communicate the love I have for you.  I want you to know furthermore that the source of this love is my relationship with God.  His love for you leads me to do the same.

There is a security and a power that comes from being loved.  As I know with certainty that I'm loved by my wife, son, mom and dad, my friends and most importantly, loved by God; I'm free and empowered to love others also.

This same security and power is a great source for competition and all sorts of pursuits.  In sports, business, family life, all the areas of life, you are free to love and to pursue excellence because you're loved and greatly valued. 

Take that confidence onto the floor tonight.  Play with passion, confidence, heart, power and perseverance because you're loved.  If not by anyone else in the world, you're each loved by me.  I'm for you in all of life.

Bible Reading Plan:
James 2:18-25
Song of Solomon 3
Jeremiah 49