Sunday, August 19, 2018

Hebrews 10:23

What were your preseason expectations?  Upon what were they based?  Were they based on returning veteran players, on new players just joining the team, on a new game plan or some other intangible factor?  Upon what do your expectations of God rest?  Let’s think together about how these fit in the life of a competitor.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews writes at chapter 10 and verse 23, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”

It’s normal and often helpful to have great expectations of your team through the preseason and into the first competitions of the year.  We all start with great hopes for a successful season and dream of championships.  We’d be less than true competitors if we did anything less.  We are wise if we base these expectations on the people around us rather than on all the circumstances beyond our control.  We can hold fast to our hope, as a team, by trusting each other and working together.

Another comforting thought from this scripture is that our hope for real life, now and throughout the future, is based on the nature of God.  The writer says that “He who promised is faithful.”  The very faithful nature of God is the guarantee of the promises made by our Father to us in the Bible.  That’s worth holding onto with both hands!

As you compete today, hold fast to your expectations of your team and of yourself.  Cling tightly to your hope for the team’s success.  Trust the Lord Jesus to be faithful and to keep his promises to you.  Make this a day in which you exceed even your greatest expectations.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 19:1-10
Titus 1:10-16
Proverbs 14:19-35

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Psalm 20:7

Have you ever been a part of a great team?  Have you noticed how people around the team tend to boast and brag about how good they are?  They take great pride in the team and talk about championships.  In whom do you boast?  In whom do you take pride?  

 In Psalm 20 and verse 7 the writer says, "Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God."  This makes me question the things in which I make my boast.  In what do you boast?  What do you talk about most?  Whom do you speak of most often? 

Some players boast in their physical strength or their jumping ability or their quickness.  Some teams boast in their coaches, or their records, or their winning traditions. Others, however boast in their relationship with the Lord Jesus.  These people  know that their relationship with God is the only thing that is truly permanent and eternally durable.  They know that strength will wane and teams will dissolve, but the Lord is unchanging and He is always available to them.

Today when you pray, look to the Lord for real strength.  Ask Him to give you opportunities to boast in His name.  Examine your heart and see where your boasting resides.  Is it in horses or chariots?  In strength or quickness?  In hops or jump shots?  Or is it in the name of the Lord? 

Make your boast in the Lord, today and every day of your life.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 18:31-43
Titus 1:1-9
Nehemiah 12

Friday, August 17, 2018

Jeremiah 12:5

When was the last time you did some honest evaluation of your abilities?  When have you sized up your competition to see how well you've done? 

In Jeremiah's book of prophesy he writes about this idea, If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? 

Many times athletes who are doing very well get overly confident of their abilities.  They are often simply competing against inferior opponents and receive a rude awakening when they face some better competition. 

Jeremiah asks a hard question.  He says that if these third string athletes are wearing us out, how well do we expect to compete with the first team players?  What are we to do?  Have an honest estimate of your abilities and work to improve.  Don't boast about your successes, you may have been playing against inferior competition and you could be embarrassed by superior athletes later.

As you pray before today's competition, ask the Lord to help you compete well.  You may be playing against athletes the level of men on foot or you may be up against athletes that seem to run like horses.  Either way seek to honor the Lord with your life.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 18:18-30
Proverbs 13:13-25
Nehemiah 11

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Matthew 5:8

With whom have you competed that had extraordinary vision for your sport?  Who seemed to be able to see things on the field of competition that no one else could see?  What would it be like to see things as God sees them?  How can we begin to do so?

In Matthew’s gospel at chapter 5 and verse 8 we read, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”  This is another of the verses from the Beatitudes. 

To be blessed is to be contented and happy with one’s lot in life.  Jesus says we’re blessed when we’re pure in heart, that is pure in our motives and purposes.  We all need to check out our motives and our purposes for the things we do.  Am I being selfish or selfless?  Am I seeking the best for others?  Is my personal agenda being placed above that of the team?  How pure am I in heart?

The exciting promise is this.  When we are pure in heart we have an uncommon insight into God’s view of the situation at hand.  We can understand what would please Him and have the ability to choose wisely.

As you prepare for competition today, ask the Lord to cleanse and purify your heart.  Ask Him for pure-hearted vision to see what He sees and to thereby be the ideal teammate and competitor.

Bible Reading Plan:
II Timothy 3:10-17
Proverbs 13:1-12
Nehemiah 10

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

I Timothy 1:5

When do you feel conflicted, like your heart is divided?  Sometimes we’re caught between two sets of values.  These moments of divided hearts and conflicting values happen more often that we’d like to admit.

In Paul’s first letter to his young friend Timothy at chapter 1 and verse 5 he wrote, “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” 

Paul was instructing Timothy to focus on God’s work and to avoid foolish controversies.  His goal for such instruction was love, purity of heart, a clear conscience and faith with integrity.

The goal of these simple thoughts is love.  That you would love God and your teammates is my foremost aspiration.  Such love comes from a heart that is pure, one that’s been made clean and restored to wholeness.  Such love comes from a good conscience, one that has been freed from guilt and despair.  Such love comes form a sincere faith, one that simply trusts God with all the matters of life, especially sport.

As you prepare to compete today, take some time to examine your heart.  Is it pure?  Is you conscience good?  Is your faith sincere?  I trust that affirmative answers to such questions will enable you to compete freely and confidently.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 18:1-8
II Timothy 3:1-9
Proverbs 12:15-28
Nehemiah 9

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

L O V E   Y O U R …
Mark 12:31

We talked elsewhere about the most important principle of your sport and about the number one commandment for life.  What might be principle and commandment number two?  
 Jesus voices this second commandment right on the heels of the first in Mark chapter 12 and verse 31, where we read, “The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.”

You’ve probably heard this for years, but I would like to have you substitute some sport-oriented words for the word “neighbor.” 
Give this a try…  Love your teammate as yourself.  Love your coach as yourself.  Love your officials as yourself.  Love your opponent as yourself.  Love your athletic trainer, equipment manager, even your fans as yourself.  That sounds easy, but how do we do this in practical terms?

Do you expect the best of yourself?  Expect the same of your teammates.  Love them as you do yourself.  Do you believe your intentions are pure?  Believe the same of others.  Love them as you do yourself.  Do you desire love and respect?  Desire the same for all those around you.  Love them as you do yourself.
As you compete in today’s contest, extend the love you receive from God to the people who surround you.  Whether coach, teammate, fan or official, give each one the love and respect that you desire for yourself.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 17:20-37
II Timothy 2:14-26
Proverbs 12:1-14
Nehemiah 8

Monday, August 13, 2018

Romans 8:28

What sorts of things get you down during the season?  Bad performances during games?  Ugly practices?  Long road trips?  Strained relationships on the team?  Challenges in classes?  Whatever the circumstance, we have a great promise related to God's will and His provision.

In Paul's letter to his friends in Rome at chapter 8 and verse 28, he tells them, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose."  According to Paul, a guy who had decades of difficult days, God's at work in the whole process of our lives.

It says that He's at work in all things... good things, bad things, smart things, stupid things, fun things, painful things... all things.  God is at work in all these things to bring about good for you.  Even in the worst, most stupid and dreadfully painful situations of life, God is at work to bring good to you.

Whether it's a losing streak, a lost friendship, a broken family, a failing grade or whatever; God's promise to you is the same.  He's seeking your good every day, all day.  Rest in that promise today and trust Him as you compete in confidence and security.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 17:11-19
II Timothy 2:1-13
Proverbs 11:16-31
Nehemiah 7

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Proverbs 6:16-19

Have you ever been on a team where someone is constantly stirring up trouble between teammates or with the coaching staff?  It’s not a pleasant place to be and that person is in a precarious position.

Here is the last of seven things the Lord finds detestable in Proverbs chapter 6 and verses 16 through 19, “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”

This is different that the other six in that this time it’s the person the Lord finds detestable, not just his or her behavior.  This kind of person dredges up the sediment of past hurts and divisions between people to divide them.  Once settled arguments are fired up again by his whispering accusations or emphasis on contrary opinions.

People who should be the most natural allies, like teammates or brothers, are suddenly divided by this person’s cutting words.  Rather than do that, let’s choose to preserve unity.  Instead of dividing people, we can unify them through encouragement and by promoting quick resolution of problems.  We can maintain tremendous attitudes on the team by seeking reconciliation at the first mention of conflict and division.

Preserve unity in this day’s competition by making your best effort in every moment as you pursue a win for your teammates and coaching staff.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 17:1-10
II Timothy 1:8-18
Proverbs 11:1-15

Saturday, August 11, 2018

P R E S S   C O N F E R E N C E
Proverbs 6:16-19

How well do you handle press conferences or newspaper and television interviews?  How do you handle it when a coach resigns or is fired?  What do you tell your friends when a teammate is suspended, benched, injured or dismissed?  Do you tell the truth or do you concoct a story to cover the situation?  Be careful…

In Proverbs chapter 6 and verses 16 through 19 we read about the things God hates, “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies…”

A false witness is someone who knows the truth, but is unwilling to tell it.  Rather than tell the truth or say nothing, the false witness makes up a story to cover his backside.  Usually this takes place in public, like the courtroom or the press conference.

To pour out lies looks like a huge bucket being tipped over and spilling out its contents of deception, half-truth and perjury.  The lies thus poured out are meant to obscure the truth like paint would cover a stain.

Choose to speak wisely in public.  There are always situations that require us to protect information given us in confidence.  We must protect the trust given us by teammates, coaches and friends and sometimes the best thing to say is nothing.  Speak wisely and everyone will be pleased, with the possible exception of sportswriters.

Have a great day of competition and enjoy the interviews as you speak with tremendous wisdom!

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 16:19-31
II Timothy 1:1-7
Nehemiah 4-5

Friday, August 10, 2018

S U D D E N   D E S T R U C T I O N
Proverbs 6:16-18

Have you heard the story of Len Bias?  He was the first round draft pick of the Boston Celtics in the 1986 NBA draft.  During the evening that followed his selection, he overdosed on cocaine and died.  His story serves to illustrate another of the things God hates.

In Proverbs chapter 6 and verses 16 through 18 we read, “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil…”

You may be wondering why God hates these things.  It’s simple really; all the things from this passage injure people.  Some quickly, some slowly, but the end is inevitably the same, people die.  That’s why He hates these behaviors, He profoundly loves people.

Len Bias’ feet were quick to rush into cocaine abuse and it cost him his life that same night.  A thing that kills some people over the space of decades did him in with one stroke.  His feet were quick to rush into evil and death was waiting for him there.

Let’s choose to avoid evil.  You probably already know where it lives and which of your friends hang out there.  Avoid it at all costs!  You could dodge it effectively for a while, or you could be like Len Bias and suffer immediately.  The sure solution is to avoid the evil all together. 

In today’s competition, let your feet be quick to rush into first place!!  Let them be quick to serve your team and to fulfill your goals.  Have a great day of competition!

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 16:10-18
Proverbs 10:1-16
Nehemiah 3

Thursday, August 9, 2018

W I C K E D   S C H E M E S
Proverbs 6:16-18

Do you remember hearing about some of the outrageous recruiting violations of recent years?  How about the academic cheating at some institutions?  Who dreams up that stuff?  Why do they do such things?

Such scheming is another of the things God hates as we read in Proverbs chapter 6 and verses 16 through 18, “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes…”

The proverb says it’s the heart that drives these schemes.  Your heart contains your passions, your affections and emotions that can sometimes override your mind.  To devise a scheme is to conceive a plot, to carefully plan a course of action.  A wicked scheme is one that illicitly profits from another’s loss, it seeks to injure others, to cheat or defraud.  Nasty stuff, huh?  No wonder the Lord hates these.

Let’s choose purity.  Rather than devising wicked schemes, let’s plot how to encourage and uplift one another.  Rather than planning to cheat or steal, let’s consider how we may embellish our teammates and coaches.  Guard your heart and check your motives and you’ll keep your heart turned toward purity.  Compete with purity and passion today.

Bible Reading Plan:
I Timothy 6:1-10
Proverbs 9
Nehemiah 1-2

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Proverbs 6:16-17

Have you ever been the victim of a cheap shot in your sport?  Some athletes take advantage of their opponents by using a compromising position to hurt or humiliate them.  This is similar to another of the things God hates.

Proverbs chapter 6 and verses 16 and 17 says, “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood…”

A person’s hands are symbolic of his deeds or actions and hands that shed innocent blood literally kill people.  In our world of sports though, we would say that they injure or wound an opponent or teammate.  

I’ve seen many competitors undercut while making a lay up or viciously hit after a whistle on the football field.  To maliciously injure a teammate, opponent, coach or friend is tantamount to shedding innocent blood.  What then shall we do?

Choose to love.  I don’t know anyone who is more competitive than me.  However we must make the conscious choice to subdue that old, win at any cost, mentality and choose to compete wisely.  That kind of an attitude is driven by love, the thing God loves more than anything.  Have a great day of competition.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 15:11-32
I Timothy 5:16-25
Proverbs 8
Ezra 10

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

L Y I N G   T O N G U E S
Proverbs 6:16-17

Have you ever had a teammate who lied to your coach or the team?  How did you react?  Don’t you hate that?  God does also…

In Proverbs chapter 6 and verses 16 and 17 we find more of the things God hates, “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue…”

Your tongue usually betrays your real feelings and thoughts, even when you try to disguise them.  Your tongue sometimes brings out speech like, gossip, trash talking, and excuses for missing class or practice.  At other times it might deceive the trainer regarding the severity of an injury, or mislead the coach about your behavior away from the team. 
These are called lies and the Lord hates them.

Lying is purposeful deception, half-truths or empty flattery.  In any case, it is detestable to God and to the victims of such speech.

Choose to speak truth.  No one wins when we deceive and the best for everyone is always served when we speak the truth.

In today’s competition, speak the truth in encouraging your teammates and coaches.  Speak truthfully to the trainers and your opponents.  Remember, God hates a lying tongue… I’d rather have Him on my side than against me.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 15:1-10
I Timothy 5:1-15
Proverbs 7
Ezra 9

Monday, August 6, 2018

Proverbs 6:16

What do you hate more than anything on earth? Is it spinach, sauer kraut, cough syrup, lies, or losing?  Maybe it’s coming in any place but first.  In today’s letter we’ll hear about the first of 6 things that God hates, seven that he finds detestable.

 In Proverbs chapter 6 and verse 16 we read, “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him: haughty eyes…”

Have you ever seen the swagger of a returning champion?  That’s what haughty eyes look like.  They’re proud of themselves and they haven’t even won anything yet! 

Haughty eyes are proud, arrogant and filled with selfishness.  They look down on others as they perceive everyone else as inferior.  They wear their superior glasses as they look in the mirror of vanity. 

Rather than being like those with haughty eyes, choose humility.  Put away arrogance and pride and take on a humble attitude toward your teammates and opponents.  Let your speed, strength and endurance speak for you and you won’t have to run your mouth nearly as much.

Make this a great day of competition and choose to compete humbly. In doing so you will avoid displaying the haughty attitude God hates. 

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 14:25-35
I Timothy 4
Proverbs 6

Sunday, August 5, 2018

E X P R E S S I O N S   O F   H O P E
I Peter 3:15

How do you respond when you see a teammate who demonstrates strong commitment and devotion to his/her sport or to his/her team?  Do you wonder why?  Maybe you follow his/her example.  Have you ever asked him/her why he/she’s so committed?

In the book of First Peter at chapter 3 and verse 15 we read the following, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect.”

Peter’s counsel is simple – a committed heart will be noticed by others.  A committed heart will prompt questions.  When people ask you about your commitment, give them an answer with gentleness and respect.

It’s the same for us in sport.  Your commitment to your sport and to your team will be noticed by many.  Some of them will even ask you questions about it.  Your committed heart is an enigma to them and most will not understand.  When they do ask you about it, give them a simple answer gently and respectfully.  Even if they still don’t understand, you’ve answered them well.

As you approach today’s competition, understand that your level of commitment may be out of the ordinary and others may not fully appreciate it.  Expect such commitment to be noticed, to raise questions and even objections.  Be prepared to answer all who ask with gentleness and respect.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 14:15-24
I Timothy 3:11-16
Ezra 7

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Proverbs 4:13

Can you imagine how tightly you’d grip a rope if it were the only thing holding you from falling off a 500-foot cliff?  Of course you’d hold on with all your strength… the rope is life to you.  Today we’ll talk about something else to hold on to with all your strength.

In Proverbs chapter 4 and verse 13, Solomon the king writes, “Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.”

Solomon says to hold tightly to instruction.  Instruction is the knowledge you receive from parents, teachers, coaches, experiences and friends.  It has to do with your sport, academics, with faith and life in general.  He says hold on to it.

He also says, “Don’t let it go.”  There are some things that could loosen your grip on instruction.  Things like fatigue, distraction, and weakness could have us falling without ability to recover.

Solomon says to guard instruction well.  Guard it from being stolen by a lack of discipline.  It can be lost to inattention or wasted by disuse.

The reason for all these directives is that instruction is your life!  It can help you avoid problems, find success and enjoy peace.  Within your sport, instruction is the key to development of your skills and to execution of a successful game plan.

As you prepare for competition today, hold on to the instruction from this week’s practices.  Guard well the things you’ve been taught and you’ll find that instruction is as valuable as life itself.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 14:1-14
Proverbs 4
Ezra 6

Friday, August 3, 2018

Hebrews 3:13

What sorts of things do you need on a daily basis to compete well?  You’d certainly say things like food, rest, training, water, are all physical, daily necessities for the competitor.  What could be the things that feed your soul that are also needed daily?  Today’s scripture has an answer.

At chapter 3 and verse 13, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews says, “but exhort one another daily, while it is called Today, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”

Nourishment, sleep, exercise and practice are certainly necessary to make prepare your body and mind for high level competition, but if you neglect to feed your soul with daily encouragement, you’ll be spiritually and emotionally malnourished.

As you prepare for this day’s competition, give your teammates some encouragement, share some with your coaches, and let the trainers and equipment managers have some also.  Feed each other’s souls with encouraging words and gestures of support.  Daily encouragement will keep our hearts from becoming hardened through deceit and bitterness.  Play like a champion today.

Bible Reading Plan:
I Timothy 2
Proverbs 3
Ezra 4-5

Thursday, August 2, 2018

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Mark 12:30

If you were to pick out one principle for competing in your sport as the most important, which would it be?  If there were one commandment for life that is primary, what would it be?  Jesus spoke clearly about such and His words are recorded in Mark chapter 12 and verse 30.

There we read the most important commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and will all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

Jesus said that the most important thing in life is to love God like this:
• With all your heart – with strong emotional attachment.  Love God passionately.
• With all your soul – with purposeful, willful desire.  Love God on purpose.
• With all your mind – with intellectual understanding.  Love God wisely.
• With all your strength. – with strong physical performance.  Love God actively.
• Love God with 100% of your person, with integrity.

As you prepare today, fix your heart, soul, mind and strength toward competing passionately, purposefully, wisely and actively.  That will lead you to a performance that will be pleasing to your teammates, your coaches, the fans and even to God.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 13:10-21
I Timothy 1:12-20
Proverbs 2
Ezra 3

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Jeremiah 29:11

Have you ever lost hope in doing well?  Have you had a season where you dreaded competition because you expected to lose?  How do you turn that around?  How do we redeem our attitudes and expect the best?  The Bible has some words of encouragement for us in relation to our future and our hopes.

In Jeremiah's book of prophecy, at chapter 29 and verse 11 it says, "For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  The Lord's plans include some marvelous things, among them hope and a future.

Hope can best be defined as a confident expectation of good, based upon the promises of God.  Rest in the confident expectation of the good things you've heard in God's promises from the Bible.  Compete with an expectation of doing well.  Expect to get the marginal call. Expect to get the rebound, to make the catch, to get the hit, to make the pass, to succeed in all facets of the game. 

The Lord's plans may include a future of post-season competition for you and your team. 

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 13:1-9
I Timothy 1:1-11
Proverbs 1
Ezra 1-2