Wednesday, June 20, 2018

T e a m    U n i t y
Psalm 133:1

How would you describe the sense of team unity experienced by this team?  What are the benefits that accompany a team with great unity versus a team that is full of strife, contention and selfish attitudes?

Today’s scripture describes such unity in Psalm 133 and verse 1.  There we read, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!”  Simple, huh?  The psalmist says that unity produces an atmosphere that is good and pleasant.  It’s simple to describe, but harder to produce.

Team unity is good, leading to the best possible performance from everyone related to the team.  Unity brings out the best in each player, coach, trainer, equipment manager, etc…

Team unity is pleasant, smoothing out every potential conflict and contention.  Every team is made up of vastly different people.  It’s supposed to be that way.  Team unity allows us to maintain a focus on our common goals, aspirations and values.  That makes the living together pleasant.

In today’s competition, let great team unity produce an atmosphere of goodness and pleasance.  Strive together to see each teammate compete to his highest capacity.  Keep your focus on unifying words and actions that make the whole process pleasant for everyone concerned.  Compete in unified way and you’ll be unstoppable.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 6:1-16
Philippians 3:1-9
Psalms 119:153-160

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A t t i t u d e
Philippians 2:3

My friend, Jim Hart, played quarterback for 19 years in the National Football League.  That’s a great accomplishment requiring great athletic ability and no small measure of toughness.  That’s why I was amazed when he told me of his favorite scripture. 

In Paul’s letter to his friends in Philipi, at chapter 2 and verse 3 he writes, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”  Paul gives us two don’ts and one do.

Don’t number 1 - No selfish ambition - check your attitude for ideas like, “what do I get out of this?”
Don’t number 2 - No vain conceit - check your attitude for empty self-flattery or an inflated sense of your importance.
Do this - Humbly know your role and fill it to capacity.  Consider the team and each member of it ahead of your personal goals and desires.  This leads to powerful teamwork and fantastic friendships.

In today’s game, put away selfish ambition and empty conceited attitudes and take on a humble attitude that seeks the team’s successes, even above your own.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 5:33-39
Philippians 2:19-30
Psalms 119:145-152
II Kings 12-13

Monday, June 18, 2018

T e s t s
Mark 10:21-22

What are the most difficult tests for you as an athlete?  Do you find the athletic testing hard?  How about academic tests?  How well do you measure up when your character is tested? 

In Mark chapter 10 and verses 21 and 22, we watch as Jesus gives a man a test in character.  “Jesus looked at him and loved him.  ‘One thing you lack,’ he said.  ‘Go, sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.’  At this the man’s face fell.  He went away sad, because he had great wealth.”

This man failed Jesus’ simple test in character.  I wonder how well we’d do if given a similar test.

If asked to forfeit our position on the team, would we comply?  If asked to give up our prospects of success for the future, would we risk it?  If asked to even walk away from playing this sport, would we do it?  How badly do we want to achieve our goals?

I’d like to challenge you to pay whatever it costs to pursue your goals.  Compete without regard to the personal cost as you seek the best for your team.  Give all you have in order to help your team be victorious today.  As you do, you’ll pass the character test with flying colors.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 5:27-32
Psalms 119:137-144
II Kings 10-11

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Ecclesiastes 7:9

How quickly are you provoked to anger during competition?  Would your teammates say that you are slow to anger or that you have a short fuse?  Today’s scripture explains why it’s better to keep a cool head in competition.

In chapter 7 and verse 9 of Ecclesiastes we read, “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”

It’s very common in sport for a hot head to suddenly blow up during a competition.  They get provoked by some trash talk, by a cheap shot, by a coach’s comment or any number of things.  They are provoked in their spirits and erupt in a foolish demonstration of anger.  Some people even think they compete better when right on the edge of a fit of rage.

There is one very great problem with that.  Such anger and rage rest squarely in the lap of fools.  One’s rage is more often an indicator of foolishness than of greatness in competition.  Such anger more often results in technical fouls and penalties than excellence in technique and strategy.

As you compete today, stay under control emotionally.  Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit.  Rage and anger will only lead to foolish penalties and terrible consequences.

Bible Reading Plan:
Ephesians 2:1-11
Psalms 119:129-136
II Kings 8-9

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Galatians 6:2

How can we as athletes fully please God with our efforts?  How can we best serve God's will in relation to our teammates and coaches?  In the Bible we're given a great example of a transforming attitude.

In Paul's letter to the Galatians at chapter 6 and verse 2 it says, "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."  Here we can clearly see the values that God has for us in human relations.  The highest act of loving God can be accomplished by loving the people He's put in our lives.

Who do you know among your family or teammates who has a real burden to bear?  How can you help that person bear his load?  What can you do or say that will lighten his load or will allow him to share it with you?  That is the essence of God's kind of love.

Take this same attitude into today's competition.  How can you make your teammates better and more effective in their play?  How can you carry the load for a teammate who is injured or otherwise at less than 100%.  This is how we fulfill the law of Christ.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 5:12-16
Philippians 1:21-30
Psalm 119:121-128
II Kings 6-7

Friday, June 15, 2018

Proverbs 21:21

How many hours do you spend in preparation for one game?  How about your opponents?  Does extra practice always make for more wins?  What other factors go in to making a team victorious? 

In Proverbs chapter 21 and verse 21 it says, “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord.”  Every day at practice you and your team works hard to prepare for their days of competition, but ultimately we all must look to the Lord for victory in the things we cannot control.

Is this to say that it's God who determines who wins and who loses in our competition?  No, but it is saying that in the battles we face, there is a whole host of things that are beyond our control.  As much as we prepare for anything, there are still things we must trust God to supply.

It's our job to prepare to the best of our abilities, but we must also trust the Lord Jesus to bring the victory to our lives.  It's very encouraging to me to know that the Creator of the whole universe wants me to trust Him with all the affairs of my life...even competition.

As you prepare to compete today, give your 100% best effort to every detail... preparation is very important.  In addition, trust the Lord with your whole heart and look to Him to deal with the things you cannot control.  Ultimately, the Bible says that victory rests with the Lord.

Bible Reading Plans:
Luke 5:1-11
Philippians 1:12-20
Psalms 119:113-120
II Kings 4-5

Thursday, June 14, 2018

G r e a t n e s s
Matthew 20:26-28

In our society, who seems to be the greater, the player who scores 25 points and grabs 15 rebounds a game or the one who carries water to her teammates during time outs?

In Matthew chapter 20 at verses 26 - 28, Jesus says, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave - just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus turns the whole world upside down with this thought.  Those who are truly great are the ones who sere their teammates, making themselves and their team better in the process.

Service is greater than selfishness and sacrifice gives life to one’s team.  Let’s emulate Christ by serving each other and sacrificing for our teammates.

Play this game in an attitude of selflessness, giving to your teammates and coaches the last full measure of devotion.  We’ll be like Christ when we serve others and sacrifice for our team.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 4:38-44
Philippians 1:1-11
Psalms 119:105-112

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

John 11:33-36

How deeply do you love your friends, teammates and coaches?  How deeply are you touched by their personal moments of grief and pain?  Today we’ll see an example to follow in the life of Jesus.

In John’s Gospel at chapter 11 and verses 33 through 36 we read about when Jesus visited the grave of his friend Lazarus.  There it says, “Therefore when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.  And He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’  They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’  Jesus wept.  Then the Jews said, ‘See how He loved him!’”

Jesus obviously had a deep love for his friends and we see it plainly here as He shares in the grief of Lazarus’ death.  His friends, Mary and Martha, were terribly shaken and Jesus weeps with them.  Those who were observing saw Jesus’ love evidenced in His tears.

Our love and commitment to our teammates is often most evident when we share in their grief and sorrow as well as in the excitement of accomplishment.  We display our loyalty and trust of each other through the joy of victories and in the pain of losses.  The greatest team unity sometimes comes through illness or injury.

Let’s commit ourselves again to the team, to the coaching staff and to our collective goals.  Let’s give a great effort today and then let the world watch in amazement as they say, “See how they love each other!”

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 4:31-37
Ephesians 6:10-24
I Kings 21-22

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Ecclesiastes 7:8

Which is the better part of a baseball game, the first pitch or the bottom of the final inning?  Do you prefer to see, a football game’s opening kickoff or the “Hail Mary” pass in the last seconds?  Does the opening tip of a basketball game or the desperation shot at the buzzer hold more excitement for you?  The writer of today’s scripture holds the same opinion with one added comment.

In the 7th chapter of Ecclesiastes at verse 8 it says, “The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.”

Just like in sport, the author had found that the end of matters far surpass their beginnings.  It’s like that in most of life’s pursuits.  Retirement parties are more fun than the first day on the job.  Golden wedding anniversaries are even better than weddings.

In sport, you probably enjoy post-season tournaments more than pre-season conditioning workouts.  No doubt.  Championship games are lots more fun than the first scrimmages of the season.  That leads to the writer’s final comment, “…patience is better than pride.”

In pre-season, lots of us are full of pride and arrogance.  By the end of the season, the ones with patience are obvious to everybody; they’re the ones making key plays.  The end is better than the beginning and patience is better than arrogant pride.

As you compete today, realize that it’s more important who finishes a game than who starts it.  Exercise patience and compete wisely, that’s much better than being prideful and foolish.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 4:13-20
Psalms 119:89-96
I Kings 19-20

Monday, June 11, 2018

D i s q u a l i f i c a t i o n
I Corinthians 9:24-27

Have you ever competed in track?  Do you remember running in a race and seeing someone caught running out of his lane?  Was that person disqualified?  That's what happens when one runs aimlessly.

The Apostle Paul uses that athletic metaphor in writing to his friends in Corinth at chapter 9 and verses 26 and 27 of his first letter.  There he says, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."

If one runs a race in an out of control or aimless way, he's disqualified, thrown out of the competition.  If we run out of our lanes, foul out or get ejected by an official, we're of no real use to our team.  Let's just stay in the game and give ourselves a chance to win.

In a larger way, our choices regarding life off the field of competition can lead to our being disqualified for really important matters like love, family and friends.  Make today's competition a model of disciplined effort and well aimed pursuit of excellence.

Bible Reading Plan:
Ephesians 5:22-33
Psalm 119:81-88
I Kings 17-18

Sunday, June 10, 2018

T r a i n i n g

I Corinthians 9:24-25

What is the value of the training you do every day in practice?  How efficiently could your perform on game day if you didn't train well?  What are the rewards of such training? 
Today's scripture addresses these issues for all of life.

In the first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul the Apostle writes at chapter 9 and verses 24 and 25, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever."

Obviously you couldn't perform well at all on game day if you didn't discipline your mind, you body and your emotions.  You've had to exercise self control over these things throughout your athletic career with respect to diet, running, weight training, studying video tape and more.  Expect it to pay off in today's competition!  Win the crown!

What's more, exercise discipline in the most important areas of life and you'll find yourself winning championships that don't fade in importance, collect dust on the shelf or diminish in value.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 3:21-38
Ephesians 5:1-21
Psalm 119:73-80
I Kings 15-16

Saturday, June 9, 2018

C o m p e t i t i o n
I Corinthians 9:24

Today we'll read one of my favorite scripture passages related to competition.  Every time I hear it, I want to play racquetball and wear somebody out.

Paul writes to the Corinthian church in his first letter at chapter 9 and verse 24 saying, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize."  I like that!

Let's do three things he describes here:
1) Compete - determine to overcome your opponents.  Don’t give an inch to defeated attitudes.
2) Strive - drain every drop of potential from your abilities.  Go after your personal and team goals with all your heart.
3) Focus – Clear your mind of all distractions and train your mind on the ultimate goal... a championship.

In today's competition; compete, strive and focus.  Run in such a way as to get the prize.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 3:1-20
Ephesians 4:25-32
Psalm 119:65-72
I Kings 13-14

Friday, June 8, 2018

F i r s t   o r   L a s t ?
Matthew 19:30

Every year, each team in the league starts the season intending to be first, to be champions.  Obviously only one can be.  However, Jesus puts a twist on our ideas about first and last places.

He says at Matthew chapter 19 and verse 30, “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”

Have you seen how some teams rush out to an early lead in a conference race, only to fade near the end?  They were first, but finished last.  Conversely, have you seen teams that began slowly, but progressed all through the season and finished with a flourish?  They may have been last, but they finished first.

In many conferences there is a post season tournament and even the last team to qualify can supplant the regular season champ.  They can go from last to first in the space of three ball games.

Play this game with an understanding that if you win, you=re not guaranteed anything.  Also understand that if you lose, you will get another chance.  The important thing is to give your 100% best and to finish this season with a flourish of strength, stamina and passionate play.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 2:41-52
Ephesians 4:17-24
Psalm 119:57-64

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Ecclesiastes 4:12

Which seems to be the tougher assignment for you, working a double-team or a simple man-to-man defense?  The answer would appear to be obvious, but we often seem to prefer individualism to teamwork.

The writer of Ecclesiastes at chapter 4 and verse 12 writes, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Though this makes perfect sense to us in theory, many times we bristle at the dynamics that accompany good teamwork.  We worry about our teammate not executing his portion of the double-team or we worry about our own performance in it.  Thus, we’d rather take our chances alone and rely on our own abilities. 

The problem is that the principle is still true, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.”  We’re much more powerful when we’re working in concert with other competitors, despite the perceived problems.

The second sentence is equally powerful as it mentions a cord of three strands.  Not just two, but three.  On good teams, the coaching staff is the third strand in every alliance of teamwork and unified competition.  The coaches’ instruction and strategy completes the cord of power and strength that pulls the team to victory.

In the lives of followers of Christ, the Lord Himself is the third strand in every relationship giving purpose, wisdom and life.  He unifies and strengthens the lives of those who love Him with the people they love.

As you compete today, do so in great unity and rely upon each other’s abilities.  You’re much better together than you are separately.  Watch for the third strand of your team’s success and experience the unbreakable nature of great teamwork.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 2:21-40
Ephesians 4:1-16
I Kings 11

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Proverbs 18:16

If you're an athlete you're certainly aware of your giftedness.  One of my favorite Proverbs speaks about how our gifts work in our lives.

Proverbs 18 and verse 16 says, “A man's gift makes room for him, and ushers him into the presence of the great.”  It seems that the gifts or abilities we've been given by our Lord, bring us into the presence of great people.

During today's competition, employ your gifts to their maximum potential.  The Lord has invested greatly in you and it's evidenced by your giftedness.  It's impossible to see today, but in later years you'll realize that at times this season, you were in the presence of great people.  The faithful use of your gifts is what brought you there.

Commit yourself today to taking what has been given you and to drain every drop of potential from your abilities.  This will honor not only your family, your team, your coaches and friends, but it also honors the Lord who gave you the gifts.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 2:1-20
Psalms 119:41-48
I Kings 9-10

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

T e a m   L e a d e r s h i p

What are some of the foundational principles of your sport?  From whom did you learn them?  How many of those principles apply to life beyond your sport?  Today, we’ll hear from Jesus one great life principle as He talks with his team.

This is recorded in Mark chapter 9 and verse 35, “Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”  This is totally backward from the way things tend to work in our day.  People today who want to be first, rush to the front and manipulate their way into the most prominent position.

Jesus turns the whole world upside down by outlining these principles of team leadership:
·        He called the Twelve – the most highly committed to Himself.  Jesus communicates with these people strongly and directly.
·        If you desire to be first – take the lowest position with your teammates.  Don’t push your way to the front or demand privilege.
·        Leadership demands that we serve each other and elevate the others on our team.

It’s very simple, I look best in God’s eyes when I make others look good in the eyes of everyone else.  When I promote and elevate my teammates, we all achieve more highly and we enjoy tremendous team unity.  When I elevate myself and promote my own agenda, I diminish my teammates and divide our team.

As you prepare to compete today, search for ways to lead your teammates to victory by serving them and by lifting them up to higher levels of achievement.  Speak to them strongly and directly.  Rather than demanding a privilege or a position, take the lower place and elevate your teammates all the way to first place.

Bible Reading Plan:
Ephesians 3:1-13
Psalms 119:33-40
I Kings 8

Monday, June 4, 2018

P r a c t i c e
Psalm 126:5-6

What part of practice and conditioning seems to be just plain old hard work?  Has such a workout ever pushed you to the point of total exhaustion and even tears?  Today’s scripture relates exactly to that level of physical and emotional expense.

In Psalm 126 and verses 5 and 6 we read, “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.  He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.”

These people knew the pain and hardship of working on a farm in the early spring.  Lots of hours and draining labor.  They also knew the joy and exhilaration of a great harvest in the fall. 

You know the value of grueling practice sessions and punishing workouts.  They produce a fruitful and even fun reward at season’s end.  Those brutal preseason days of conditioning pay off in the postseason with exciting victories.

Invest yourself in tough, intense practices and you’ll reap a harvest of game days filled with joyous wins.  Compete today with confidence knowing that you’ve made the investments that will pay off in today’s contest.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 1:57-66
Ephesians 2:11-22
Psalms 119:25-32