Monday, December 31, 2018

II Thessalonians 3:5

Here at the end of the year, I’d like to express my thanks for taking time to read these devotions.  I also want to communicate the things I hope and pray for you.

As Paul was closing his second letter to his friends in Thessalonica, he wrote in chapter 3 and verse 5, “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.”  He prays for God’s direction toward two ends.

He prays that the Lord will direct them toward God’s love that is daily assurance of His protection, presence and provision.
He also prays that the Lord will lead them toward Christ’s perseverance, the ability to finish life well.

That would be my prayer for you as well.  I pray that you’ll have a day to day sense of the Lord’s presence in your life.  That comes through relationship with Christ Jesus.  I also pray that you’ll press through the difficult times of your life with the assurance that our Lord will never leave nor forsake you.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 21:15-25
Revelation 22

Sunday, December 30, 2018

III John 13-14

As the year nears its close, I want to thank you for taking time to read these devotional thoughts.  It is a great privilege and an honor for me to have such favor with you.  I deeply appreciate it.

The Apostle John expresses well my feelings in his third letter at verses 13 and 14, “I had many things to write, but I do not wish to write to you with pen and ink; but I hope to see you shortly, and we shall speak face to face.  Peace to you.  Our friends greet you.  Greet the friends by name.”

We all have friends who have been displaced over the years.  Whether childhood friends, teammates from our years in school or coworkers from adulthood, we’ve been separated by time and the circumstances of life.  It’s important to maintain these relationships, even if just by mail. 

There is, however, no substitute for seeing each other face to face and enjoying the sweet communion of dear friends.
As valuable as writing to you is to me, speaking with you face to face is even better.  I hope to do so very soon and to greet you, my friends, by name.  Thanks again for all you, and all the people of sport, mean to me.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 18:19-27
Revelation 13

Saturday, December 29, 2018

H A L L   O F   F A M E
Hebrews 12:1

Do you have aspirations of someday being in your sport’s Hall of Fame?  What would it take to achieve such an award?  Today’s scripture gives us some hints. 

The Bible speaks of a Hall of Fame, but it is a Hall of Fame of Faith.  Hebrews chapter 11 lists these great people and then chapter 12 challenges us to live as they did.  It says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us and run with endurance the race that is set before us.  Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”

When I read that I can see a basketball arena or a football stadium filled with Hall of Famers watching us play the game.  They're cheering us on and want only the best for us.  They have paid the price to achieve excellence in their lives and they want us to do the same.  Join me in the powerful confidence that comes from trusting God for Hall of Fame qualities in our play, our attitudes and in our faith.

As you compete today and look out at the spectators, look at them in a new way.  See the people that surround your arena of competition as people who came to see you play and more than that, they're on your side.  See the place as being filled with the great players from the past and your teammates from the past couple of years.  They're here to see you as you compete like a Hall of Famer.

Bible Reading Plan:
Job 31:24-40
Amos 7-9

Friday, December 28, 2018

A   P U R E   H E A R T
Matthew 5:8

As you compete, how well do you know the mind of your coaching staff?  How clearly can you tell what they’re thinking as the competition progresses?  Are your hearts in tune as you pursue victories?  Today’s scripture shows us how to relate intimately with our leaders.

In Matthew chapter 5 and verse 8 we read, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”  To see God is not so much like viewing a photograph or a video of His face, rather it’s to have an intimate knowledge of what He’s doing, what he values and what He’s thinking. 

It says also that it’s the pure in heart that see Him in that way.  Think about yourself and your teammates.  When your heart is pure, your motives and intentions are selfless and generous, you seem to have clear lines of communication and there’s a strong sense of team unity among you.  This dynamic works in how we relate to God and how we relate to each other. 

In today’s competition, keep your heart pure and watch how your team is unified in heart.  With a pure heart you may even get a glimpse of God’s smile of approval.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 16:12-24
Revelation 6

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Matthew 15:8

When have you encountered people who seem to talk one way, but live another?  Publicly they say one thing, but in private they do the exact opposite.  Jesus knew people just like that and in today’s scripture we hear what He thinks about them.

In Matthew chapter 15 and verse 8 we read, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”  Jesus is not fooled by these people’s hollow words.  He knows their hearts are distant and cold toward Him no matter what they say.

We’ve all had teammates who talk about team unity, but privately they criticize and condemn.  You and I both know players who talk about hustle, but drag through practices.  We have seen competitors who talk about teamwork, but play selfishly.  The disconnect between their hearts and their mouths is seen by how they behave. 

How we conduct ourselves is the best indicator of the condition of our hearts.  Our words may belie the true nature of our attitudes.

As you prepare to compete today, draw near to God through prayer.  A heart that is fully His will be in perfect alignment, speech and action working together in integrity.  Make that your highest goal today.

Bible Reading Plan:
Job 28
Joel 1

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Luke 16:15

Have you ever found your value system to be at odds with that of your teammates or your coaches?  Have you ever seen a player give lip-service to changing just to gain favor with the coach?  Here’s a poorly kept secret – the coach is not impressed.  Today’s scripture shows us why.

Luke wrote the following in chapter 16 and verse 15, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts.  What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.”  Jesus strongly tells these people that God’s not impressed by their posturing attitudes.  He knows their hearts.

Good coaches can also see through the disguises of players who try to justify themselves.  Some players seem to be constantly framing their failures with excuses and shifting blame to others.  Coaches are not impressed with such attitudes.  They can see their players’ hearts.

As you prepare for competition, make a quick assessment of your value system.  Check it against the one you know your coaching staff holds.  If there’s a conflict, strongly consider making a change.  You’re not fooling your coaches and you’re certainly not fooling God.  They and He can see your heart and they each want the best for you.  Let today’s contest be a demonstration of how well a team can compete when their hearts are in harmony.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 14:22-31
Revelation 2:18-29

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Matthew 15:18

Have you ever heard your coach or a teammate say something outrageous and wondered, “Where did that come from?”  Sometimes the most mild-mannered of us will utter some words that would make a sailor blush.  Today’s scripture reveals the source of such outbursts.

In Matthew chapter 15 and verse 18 it says, “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart and these make a man unclean.”  Jesus had been talking with some legalistic people who thought that their environment would pollute them, but He turns it back on them and points straight to their hearts as the real source of life-pollution.

When we hear others or even ourselves use speech to belittle or to hurt others, it’s an indicator of our heart’s condition.  When we speak profanely or condemn, we’re revealing our own hearts. 

When you hear sarcasm it’s revealing disappointment and resentment.  When profanity is flying it’s an indicator of anger and disgust.  When harsh criticism is spoken, bitterness and envy are often in the speaker’s heart.

As you prepare for today’s competition, prepare your heart for clear and helpful communication.  If some ugly things come flying out of your mouth, take it as a reminder that your heart needs some work.  So does mine.

Bible Reading Plan:
Job 42
Malachi 1-4

Monday, December 24, 2018

Luke 12:34

In whom have you deeply invested your life?  That surely includes family, friends, your sport team and possibly others.  How have your feelings for those people changed as your investment in them has grown?  Today’s scripture will state clearly that affection follows investment.

Luke chapter 12 and verse 34 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Simple enough, your heart tends to follow what and whom you treasure.

There’s no doubt that things like long seasons and losing streaks take a toll on a team’s relationships.  The promise in this verse is true even in such circumstances.  Daily investments in your teammates, in the coaching staff and in those who support you will pay dividends in your hearts. 

You will find that as you do the right things, your fondness for those in whom you invest will grow.  That’s true of even those you could find to be most annoying or distasteful.  Invest more and the annoyance will diminish.  Love more deeply and the distasteful attribute will fade in its importance.

Today, make your investments on the field of competition.  Give your absolute best in support of a great team victory.  As you give all that you have and all that you are to your team you’ll find your heart full of a great treasure - teammates and friends.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 21:1-14
Revelation 21
Job 41:12-34
Zechariah 10-14

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Philemon 7

Who refreshes your heart after a long practice?  Can you see his or her face in your mind?  Who breathes new life into your heart after a tough loss?  What is his or her name?  Such people are invaluable to your life.  The Apostle Paul had such a person in his life and today’s scripture tells us about him.

In Paul’s letter to his friend Philemon at verse 7 we read these words, “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.”  Like a wise coach, Paul was encouraged by how Philemon helped his teammates.

He received great joy and encouragement because of how his friend refreshed the hearts of others.  Refreshing someone’s heart is as simple as making an expression of love, comfort or encouragement. 

We refresh our teammates’ hearts when we offer congratulations for their performance in competition or practice.  We refresh the hearts of coaches when we show good character.  We refresh the hearts of those who are struggling when we walk beside them, encourage them and give them hope for the future.

As you compete today, refresh the hearts of your teammates and coaches.  Give them your absolute best effort.  In the process, everyone gets better and you spread joy and encouragement all those around.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 20:24-31
Revelation 20
Job 41:1-11
Zechariah 6-9

Saturday, December 22, 2018

James 1:2-4

What is the most difficult part of the game for you to endure?  Is it the long bus trips?  Maybe it’s the double sessions of practice in preseason?  What is the final outcome of persevering through these trying times?  What benefit could possibly come from such painful, hard work?

In his letter to his friends at chapter 1 and verses 2 through 4, the Apostle James tells us about such trials, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

The great promise of this passage is that the various trials produce patience or endurance in our lives.  Just like conditioning produces endurance in our bodies, trials and tough times produce patience in our souls and endurance in our character.

When we can push through the tough times, like losing streaks, injuries and bench-sitting, we will find that we are more complete and better able to deal with life’s bigger issues.  We’re catching onto this idea well when we see the trial coming and can welcome it as a friend, rather than cursing it as an enemy.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 20:19-23
Revelation 19
Job 40
Zechariah 1-5

Friday, December 21, 2018

Philippians 1:7

Teammates daily share such marvelous things as sweat and pain, meals and physical therapy, anguish and exhilaration.  Sometimes they even share trophies and championships.  Thus it’s only natural to develop strong feelings of affection for the people with whom you share such things.  Today’s scripture hammers this point home.

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians at chapter 1 and verse 7 he wrote, “It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.”  Paul felt this way for these people because of their mutual sharing in God’s grace.  We in sport share a number of other things as well.

We all share the pain of losing and the joy of winning.  We all experience the aches and pains of competition as well as the exhilaration of record setting performances.  These shared experiences build a special bond in our hearts for our teammates and coaches.  This bond is a mystery to those outside the team, but it’s a most valuable part of life for us who have our teammates in our hearts.

As you prepare for today’s competition, hold your teammates in your heart and fully grasp your affection for them.  Compete in a fully unified way as you all share the grace of God for your team.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 20:10-18
Revelation 18
Job 39
Haggai 1-2

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Luke 2:51

To whom are you a treasure?  Who recalls the events of your life as a precious commodity?  Probably you’re thinking of your parents or maybe an old coach of yours, maybe even your best friend.  How strongly do you think they hold to those memories?  Today’s scripture may give us some insight into the value we hold for those closest to us.

In Luke chapter 2 and verse 51 we read, “Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.  But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.”  Even when he was just 12 years old, Jesus was an amazing young man. Daily he did and said things that astounded his mother.  You see her attitude in the last sentence, “But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.”

Neither you nor I are just like Jesus, but we are treasured in much the same way by those close to us.  You are a treasure of infinite value to many.  You may be aware of how much you’re loved by some, but your influence with others may escape your notice.  There may be some at today’s competition or tomorrow’s practice who treasure every word and event of your life.

As you prepare to compete today, please be fully aware of your value to the team, to your family and friends and to me.  We’re as proud of you as Mary was of Jesus and we treasure each day with you in our hearts.  Compete today with all the confidence and joy that comes from heartfelt love and devotion.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 20:1-9
Revelation 17
Job 38:22-41
Zephaniah 3

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Philippians 4:7

What are the situations in your sport that bring fear, doubt, pain or disappointment?  Is there anything that could guard your hearts from the onslaught of these thieves?  Today’s scripture points directly to a powerful force for your good.

In the letter to the Philippians at chapter 4 and verse 7 Paul wrote, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  That’s very simple, but incredibly powerful.  The peace of God can guard both your heart and your mind.

As competitors there is a constant barrage of factors that assault our hearts and minds.  It seems the more we dwell on them the larger they become and we spin down toward anxiety and even depression.

The great news here is that God gives a peace to our hearts that is well beyond what we can even understand.  In the midst of painful loss and disappointment, we can be at peace and confident of the future.  The peace of God is accessed through prayer, simple conversation with God in which you express your heart to Him and listen for His heart’s response to your concerns.

As you prepare to compete today, take some time for a quiet, reflective conversation with God.  Trust Him with your heart’s concerns and you’ll experience a new level of peace that even surpasses your understanding of the situation. 

Bible Reading Plan:
John 19:38-42
Revelation 16
Job 38:1-21
Zephaniah 1-2

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Luke 2:19

What are some of the most treasured moments from your sport career?  Are there some souvenirs or mementos from those events?  Where do you keep them?  When you anticipate the coming competitions, how eager are you for their arrival?  Where do you keep your dreams and aspirations?  Today’s scripture reveals the best possible place for safe keeping of such treasures.

In Luke chapter 2 and verse 19 we read about where Mary kept hers, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”  Mary kept her fond memories and her dreams of the future in her heart.  She pondered upon their meaning and significance.  We would do well to do the same. 

Every athlete I’ve ever known has a collection of memorabilia from important competitions.  Your room is probably decorated with trophies, medals, ribbons, championship photos and such.  Your real treasures however are kept in your heart.  It is the repository for memories, friendship and joy.

If you’re the competitors that I believe you are, you also have a treasure chest of dreams for the future.  You look ahead into the future and imagine what the coming season will hold.  That’s good and proper.  Ponder what will be and let your heart lead you to be the best you can be.  Lean into the path of excellence and strength that your coaches have outlined for you. 

As you ponder today’s contest.  Imagine, in your heart, how you will compete and how you will achieve a new set of memories to be treasured.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 19:28-37
Revelation 15
Job 37
Habakkuk 1-3

Monday, December 17, 2018

Romans 5:5

Can you recall a time when you felt like your whole store of energy was poured out in competition?  You surely experienced total exhaustion and fully depleted your energy resources.  Who pours new life into your heart when you’ve been totally poured out?

The Apostle Paul wrote these words in Romans chapter 5 and verse 5, “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.”  Here we find a source of energy and hope which will never run dry.

Many of us hope for things with little basis for believing they will actually happen.  The good news here is that our hope in God is made more tangible by the love we feel in our hearts.  That heartfelt love overcomes disappointment and breeds an unshakeable confidence.

As you compete today, recall the hope that does not disappoint.  When you feel fatigue and pain pouring out of you, remember that God is pouring out his love into your heart, moment by moment.  Let the assurance of an inexhaustible source of hope and power fuel your heart, your mind and your body.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 19:17-27
Revelation 14
Job 36:16-33
Nahum 1-3

Sunday, December 16, 2018

John 14:1

Whom do you trust when you’re being overcome by anxiety?  Who is trustworthy when your life is in distress?  How can you trust anyone when you’re full of doubt?  Today’s scripture gives us some insight and direction.

In John chapter 14 and verse 1 we read these words from Jesus, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.”  In the middle of the most trying time of their lives, Jesus asked his followers to trust him just like they trusted God.  He said that trust would calm their troubled hearts.

That same principle can work on your team.  We trust people who have proven themselves in the past.  As people show themselves trustworthy, we will take risks with and for them.  Their trustworthiness calms our hearts and gives us confidence.

Jesus said, “Trust in God, trust also in me.”  I am saying, “Trust in God, trust also in your coaches.  Trust in God, trust also in your teammates.”  They’ve proven themselves to be trustworthy, so take some risks with them.  Give yourselves to them in total abandon.  I promise that as you trust yourselves to those who are trustworthy, you’ll find that your confidence will grow and your once troubled hearts will experience new peace.

Let today’s competition be filled with trust, confidence and peace.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 19:1-16
Job 36:1-15
Micah 6-7

Saturday, December 15, 2018

John 7:1

What kinds of situations are there among your teammates, which if mentioned, immediately stir up controversy and dissension?  Which issues in your family can most easily provoke a fight?  How do we handle such hot potatoes?  Let’s watch how Jesus does it.

In John’s gospel we can read about this at chapter 7 and verse 1.  It says, “After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him.”

You might think this is rather simple, they want to kill Him in Judea, so don’t go there!  The problem is that much of what He needed to accomplish could only be done in Judea.  It would be like knowing that the people who want to kill you are at the gym, but you have to go there for practice and competition.  You’re stuck in a tough spot.

The wisdom in this is that Jesus didn’t kick sleeping dogs.  He didn’t awaken controversy or animosity without cause.  He gave those who were most opposed to Him a little room.

We can do similarly with controversial situations and issues among our teammates and families.  Don’t provoke your coach with that look, gesture or tone of voice that you know will annoy him.  Exercise some wisdom with officials and don’t needlessly provoke a penalty against your team.  Let’s be as wise as Jesus in today’s competition and give the sleeping dogs a little space.  Our whole team will benefit from the applied wisdom of God.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 18:28-40
Revelation 12
Job 35
Micah 4-5

Friday, December 14, 2018

Isaiah 40:30-31

Which is more draining to your heart for competition, physical fatigue or a sense of hopelessness and despair?  Many times, these two thieves arrive at the same time.

Isaiah writes about the solution to both fatigue and despair in chapter 40 and verses 30 and 31.  There we read, “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”

In every season, each of us will certainly encounter a time when we’re absolutely worn out.  Our minds and bodies are just drained of strength and even our spirits are devoid of enthusiasm.  These are the toughest moments in sport, because the season will continue with or without us.

This scripture breathes hope into our deflated chests as it points directly to the Lord as the one who renews the body, the soul and the spirit.  This happens as we trust God with our lives.  It comes to us as we place our hope in His love for us.  We’re energized as He renews our strength through daily communion with Him.

As you compete today and you find your legs weary, trust God for a renewal of strength.  Breathe a silent prayer for help when it seems your team is stumbling.  Ask the Lord to meet you at every moment of the competition and you’ll experience His presence and strength.

Bible Reading Plan:
Revelation 11
Job 34:21-37
Micah 1-3

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Proverbs 15:33

Everyone likes to win awards, especially things like MVP trophies.  It's easy to assume that the person who wins such awards is just lucky or got a break of some sort.  However the Bible tells plainly how these things tend to work.

In Proverbs chapter 15 at verse 33 it says, “The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor.”

Not everyone who wins awards is following the Lord, but many are living by this proverb's principles.  Most who win these awards have spent hours, months and years in practice and perfecting their skills.  Many spend years toiling in obscurity, out of the spotlight, then all of a sudden.... MVP!!  They worked in humility for a long time and were rewarded with honor.

Ultimately, the best honor springs from humility.  That humility is born of a relationship with Christ Jesus.  That's what he means by the fear of the Lord.  Fear of this sort is a reverential awe for the Lord God and that is best accomplished while in a daily, living, love relationship with Christ.

As you prepare for competition, ask the Lord to be honored by your humility.  Ask Him to work in your life as you humbly serve the Lord and your team.  Be assured as you do, He honors those who fear Him and humility comes before honor.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 18:1-18
Revelation 10
Job 34:1-20
Jonah 1-4

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Proverbs 13:20

How have you chosen your friends?  With whom do you hang out?  What kind of people do you spend the most time with?  The Bible has a lot to say about what makes for good friends and what kind of people we become as a result.  One such passage follows.

In the Proverbs chapter 13 and verse 20 it says, “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”

You probably know someone who has chosen to make fools his constant companions.  He hangs out with people who continually make bad choices.  The warning of this verse is that people who choose fools for friends will suffer for it.  They sometimes suffer financially, sometimes physically, often with great heartache.

The promise contained here is that if we choose to spend time with people who display wisdom, we too will become wise.  We must be purposeful about with whom we spend our time and invest our lives.  When we walk with someone we're obviously going the same direction and have the same destination in mind.  Let's choose our friends, mentors and teammates with this in mind and I'm sure we'll grow wise together.

Pray for wisdom in choosing friends and in choices about how to use your time.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 17:20-26
Revelation 9
Job 33:12-33
Obadiah 1-21

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Proverbs 10:23

What do you do for sport?  I know guys who go fishing for sport, some hunt for sport, and some play golf.  What do you do?  Sport is the active pursuit of pleasure and fulfillment. 

In the book of Proverbs at chapter 10 and verse 23 we read, “Doing wickedness is like sport to a fool; and so is wisdom to a man of understanding.”

How could doing wickedness be like a sport?  Have you known any fools?  Lots of people I know seem to find great pleasure and fulfillment in activities that leave them with hangovers and social diseases.  They brag about doing foolish things in the same way you might boast about a career day of personal records and championships.  Fools find pleasure and fulfillment in things that dishonor God and ruin their lives.

The powerful message of this verse is that living wisely is equally pleasurable and fulfilling to the person of wisdom.  Doing things that honor God and serve others is like a sport to those who display wisdom.  A life of wisdom is not boring and passive; rather it’s full of power, activity and adventure, like a sport!

As you pray today, ask God to make you a person of wisdom and to make your life rich with pleasure and fulfillment. 

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 23:13-25
Hebrews 9:1-10
Proverbs 25:15-28
Isaiah 40-41

Monday, December 10, 2018

Proverbs 3:11-12

Does it seem sometimes like the coach is getting on you more than some of the other players?  Does it seem like your parents expect more from you than you can give?  Ever feel like you're being overly disciplined or treated unfairly?  This could be a blessing in disguise.

In the book of Proverbs at chapter 3 and verses 11 and 12 it says, “My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord, or loathe His reproof, for whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father, the son in whom he delights.”

It seems that the discipline we find ourselves under is more often the indicator of a loving relationship than some sort of benign disfavor with a coach or parent.  The Lord will give us correction and training in what's right when we're in error, not because He's mean or cruel, but because He loves us and is committed to us.

Many times this same dynamic works with your coaches and other authorities.  Sometimes they develop a relationship with you in which they invest themselves and their expectations grow.  This relationship of respect and love leads them to correct, to discipline, to reprove.   Heed this scripture's advice and don't despise their words, they're driven by love and commitment for you.

In your prayers today, thank God for those who love you and are committed to you.  Thank Him for those who care enough to correct and discipline.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 17:6-19
Revelation 7
Job 32
Amos 5-6

Sunday, December 9, 2018

A P P E A R A N C E   V S.   H E A R T
I Samuel 16:7

How do you judge your teammates’ performance on game day, by their appearance during pre-game or by their play during the competition?  I wish the answer was as obvious to everyone as it is to you and to God.  In fact the Bible shares a story of the vast difference between outward appearances and matters of the heart.

In the First Book of Samuel at chapter 16 and verse 7 we read, “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Samuel had come to a man’s house knowing that the next king of Israel would be there.  He was all set to look for the tallest, strongest and brightest of the sons.  The Lord stopped him short in his search and clarified His values.  Samuel was to see beyond the outward and to look for the heart of a leader.

People are often fascinated by the flashy player who puts on a great show in pre-game, only to wonder why that one never sees any playing time.  They’re looking at the outward appearance and can’t see what the coach sees every day in practice.

As we compete today, let’s not fall into the trap of judging by outward appearances.  Rather, let’s look into the hearts of our teammates and coaches.  Let’s see clearly and make wise decisions regarding this game and all of life.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 16:25-33
Amos 3-4

Saturday, December 8, 2018

R E A L    P O W E R
Psalm 147:10-11

In which part of your sport do you have the greatest sense of strength or power?  Maybe it’s in the weight room, maybe during drills in practice, or even on game day when it’s all on the line.  How central is that feeling to your enjoyment of the sport?

In Psalm 147 and verses 10 and 11 we read about where God senses power and strength.  It reads, “His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor His delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.”

It seems that God is impressed with neither the normal measurements of strength nor the usual vessels for power.  Neither the strongest horse nor the fittest athlete really brings him pleasure.  Rather He is deeply pleased by those who respect and trust Him.

Most coaches are like this too.  They might seem impressed at first with the very talented player, the powerful athlete with strength and speed, but if you hang around with them you’ll hear stories about their real favorites.  They are the ones who “bought in” and trusted their coaches.  They are the ones who built unity among their teammates and gave themselves up to make the team better.

Good coaches, like the Lord Himself, find pleasure and take delight in the players who show respect and display trust.  Make that your aim in today’s competition and you’ll be exhibiting real power and strength.

Bible Reading Plan:
Revelation 5
Job 31:1-23
Amos 1-2

Friday, December 7, 2018

I Kings 19:19 & 21

Who is the greatest example of total commitment in your sport?  Who has really committed him/herself 100% to your team and to excellence in competition?  How would you rate your level of commitment?  In today’s scripture we see a striking picture of radical commitment.

I the first book of Kings at chapter 19 and in verses 19 and 21 we read, “So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shapat.  He was plowing with 12 yoke of oxen and he himself was driving the twelfth pair.  Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him….  So Elisha left him and went back.  He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them.  He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate.  Then he set out to follow Elijah and to be his attendant.”

Elisha was a wealthy farmer plowing his ground until Elijah the prophet came to town.  By throwing his cloak around him, Elijah was inviting Elisha to join him in his work.  This sounds a lot like a recruiting visit.  At that point things changed radically for Elisha.  He committed everything to the pursuit God’s will. 

Elisha slaughtered his oxen and cooked them over a fire made from the plow.  That’s like a modern farmer blowing up his tractors.  The end result is the same; neither is going back to farming.  That is what total commitment looks like.  Elisha eliminated everything that would hinder his whole-hearted commitment to Elijah and to God.
My challenge to you today is to similarly commit to an absolute, whole-hearted, 100% effort in this competition.  Cast caution to the wind and hold nothing in reserve.  Be as desperate and radical as Elisha in your commitment to your team.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 16:1-11
Revelation 4
Job 30
Joel 2-3

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Psalm 131:1

How do you react when teammates or fans criticize your coaches’ decisions?  Sometimes you might nod in agreement or even voice your displeasure.  At other times you might simply remain silent or vigorously defend the staff’s strategy.  What attitudes might be revealed by those various reactions?

In Psalm number 131 and verse 1 we read David’s view on important attitudes.  There we read, “My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.”  Here’s one of history’s great leaders and he said that he had to guard his attitude from arrogant pride.

We’ve all seen haughty eyes that look down on everyone else.  The arrogant heart has an opinion on everything and is fully convinced of his superiority.

Let’s guard our attitudes and put on humility like David.  Let’s not be so proud or foolish to suppose that our few years of competition make us wiser than our coaches whose decades of experience far surpass our own.  Let’s not concern ourselves with the great matters of the sport, nor with things beyond our ability to understand.

In today’s competition, be the competitor you were made to be.  Do so with great humility and relax under the leadership of your wise, talented coaching staff.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 15:8-27
Revelation 3:14-22
Job 29

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

T E A M   L E A D E R S
John 10:11

What does it cost to be a good coach or a teammate?  How much more does it cost to be a head coach or a team captain?  You may not be aware of it, but those positions cost a good deal more.  Jesus clues us in on the cost in today’s letter.

Jesus says at John 10 and verse 11, “I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”

He who would be a team leader or a coach should count the costs associated with such responsibilities.  It’s just like flying on airplanes, the best seats cost the most.  The cost of such leadership is sacrifice.  It requires laying down one’s life for the people he’s leading.  That comes in terms of time, convenience, preferences, and personal desires, all set aside in order to serve the team.
Jesus knows that love and leadership lead to sacrifice.  His love led Him to die in our place.  That’s real sacrifice!  That is what a good shepherd does.

Will you be a good shepherd for your team?  What will it cost you?  How will you lay down your life for your team today?  How many times will you prefer your team’s best over your own?  This is the price tag for leadership.  Pay it in full in today’s competition and you’ll be like Jesus.  Play like champions today.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 15:9-17
Revelation 3:1-13
Hosea 13-14

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

James 3:13

Who among your teammates is the best student of the game?  Whose knowledge of strategy and fundamentals can help shape the outcome of a contest?  How is that wisdom evident to the rest of the team?  Today’s scripture tells us how to recognize real wisdom.

In the letter from James at chapter 3 and verse 13 we read, “Who is wise among you?  Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.”  Just like real players show their stuff during competition, real people of wisdom show their true colors by their conduct.The world is crowded with people who can “talk a good game.”  Those who can really play are much rarer.

The same is true when we look for people with real wisdom.  Myriads of folks talk about their intelligence, their academic degrees and their grasp of athletic dynamics, but to find someone whose conduct speaks more loudly than his mouth is a rare thing.

In today’s competition, let’s be players of real wisdom who show their true colors by playing wisely, by serving our teammates and following the instructions of our coaches.  That’s what the author means by good conduct…done in the meekness of wisdom.  Make this a great day of competition. 

Bible Reading Plan:
John 15:1-8
Job 27
Hosea 9-12

Monday, December 3, 2018

T H E   D O O R
John 10:2

Do you have to sneak into the practice facility to practice?  What kind of people would have to sneak in and would always worry about being found and kicked out?  Do you come in through the door, or do you have to crawl in through a window?  What allows you such easy entrance?  Jesus knows…

In John chapter 10 and verse 2 He speaks about access through relationship.  There we read, “But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.”  He had just described those who don’t come in through the door as thieves and robbers.

You don’t need to sneak in, you’re on the team.  The security people know your face.  Outsiders have to buy a ticket on game day, but you just stride right on in.  If they’re caught without a ticket, they’re thrown out.  Your relationship with the team is what gives you entrance.  After a while, even those close to you become known and are at home with your team.  Those with real relationships to the team can come right on in… the “wannabes” have to sneak in some other way.

It’s the same in life; those with real relationship to Jesus can come right on in and speak with Him through prayer and study.  The spiritual “wannabes” seem out of place and even foreign to His presence.

In this day of competition, watch for those you recognize on the bench and in the crowd of spectators.  They are the ones with relationships that are worthy of your love and respect.  Give them the access to your heart and your passion for the game that they’ve earned.  Give this game and your team all you have.

Bible Reading Plan:
Revelation 2:1-17
Job 25-26
Hosea 7-8

Sunday, December 2, 2018

James 3:1

Who is judged more strictly by the press for your team’s standing in the conference, the head coach or the freshman walk-on?  Who gets fired if the team doesn’t meet the expectations of the administration, the coaching staff or the starting line up?  Those answers are obvious, but why are they true?  Today’s scripture speaks about such matters.

In James’ letter at chapter 3 and verse 1, we read, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.”

Coaching, like teaching comes with a very large price tag – responsibility.  No matter whose fault it is when a team underachieves, it’s those who coach who are ultimately responsible.  Certainly the leaders among the players can share some of that load, but the bottom line of responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of the coaching staff.

Therefore we must commit even more highly to our coaches because of the incredible weight of responsibility that they carry daily.  We must also carefully weigh the costs of becoming a coach or a teacher or even a team leader. 

Make today’s competition be one that will fulfill rather than frustrate your coaching staff as you give your absolute best effort.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 14:15-21
Revelation 1:9-20
Job 24
Hosea 4-6

Saturday, December 1, 2018

John 8:31-32

What are the keys to playing the game naturally, freely and in a relaxed way?  How do we prepare for game day in such a way as to allow us to play with great freedom?  Jesus knows about such things.

In John’s Gospel at chapter 8 and the 31st and 32nd verses we read, “Then Jesus said to those who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth and the truth will make you free.’” 

The key to freedom in competition is to abide in the elemental disciplines of the game.  That’s why coaches insist on drills and repetition.  Those things build in the fundamentals that are the building blocks of successful game days.  Abide in, live daily in things like practice, video study, team meetings, training… Live in the game.

In life on a broader scale, Jesus is saying that the key to freedom is to abide in, to live in His word.  Disciplines like daily devotional reading of the Bible, daily prayer and meditation are the keys to a life of freedom.  It’s the abiding that precedes the knowledge of the truth, then the truth sets us free.

Let’s watch in today’s game for the hours, days, weeks, months and years of living in the game to result in a strong knowledge of the game.  I’m very confident that with that kind of knowledge, a great performance is awaiting you today.

Bible Reading Plan:
John 14:1-14
Revelation 1:1-8
Job 23
Hosea 1-3