Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Devotion Week - Day 3

Heart of a Champion Devotional

Day 3: Encourager

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever…” John 14:16

Definition of Encourager: to give support, offer help and hope

Do you appreciate hearing, “You can do it!”? After you make a mistake isn’t it good to hear, “Keep working! You’ll get it next time!”? Encouragement is important in sports, and the same is true in life.

These powerful words help us when times are tough, guide us when we need direction and comfort during a loss. People in our lives can speak them and the Holy Spirit can provide them as well. When we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, God gives us His Holy Spirit – also known as our Helper or Encourager.

The Holy Spirit encourages and motivates you in the same way a positive coach does. Sometimes He will whisper to your heart and other times He will speak through God’s Word. It is best to listen and believe all He has to say!

What difference does encouragement make for you?

Are you in need of encouragement? Pray and ask God to provide it.

Father, thank you for the gift of encouragement. Help me share that gift with others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Work-Out – Read Isaiah 41:10. How does it encourage you?

In case you missed it -
Day 1 - Authority
Day 2 - Teacher

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Devotion Week - Day 2

Heart of a Champion Devotional

Day 2: Teacher

 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.” Mark 6:34

Definition of Teacher: one who instructs

How did you learn to throw a football or shoot a basketball? How do you know what plays to run? How do you understand the rules of the game?

Someone has to teach you. Your parent or coach showed and helped you. You may have watched an older sibling or perhaps a friend explained the rules. In order to play a sport, there’s a lot you need to learn. The same is true in life and thankfully, we have Jesus, the greatest teacher, to help us.

Jesus will teach us how to love (John 13:34), serve (John 13:5), obey (Philippians 2:8) and so much more. He will instruct us about right and wrong. He will guide us with His words. He will coach us through life. Learn from Him today.

Who has been your favorite teacher/coach? Why?

What would you like to learn? Who can you ask to be your teacher?

Jesus, thank you for teaching me. Help me to never stop learning. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Work-Out – Read Matthew 5:1-12. This is a teaching of Jesus. Share what you learn.

Monday, July 29, 2019

A Week of Devotions

Today, July 29, 2019, marks 4 years since our 20 year old niece was killed in a bike/car accident. As we walk the road of grief, Grace has been experiencing heaven. She is with our heavenly Father and He has been with us too. I just reread a post I wrote shortly after her death "Grieving for, and with, Grace" and saw a friend's words about God being the great Comforter. It's true. He offers peace we cannot explain. 

This past Friday, we held the 4th Heart of a Champion faith-building sports camp at our church. This combined some of Grace's loves - God, people and sports. I thought of her often as the day went by; she would have loved the camp more than anyone. Kids were having fun, encouraging one another and hearing about Christ. Games were played, questions asked and seeds planted. Our prayers were answered. 

We shared with the kids how this camp wouldn't make them an all-star...they have to practice and work hard to keep getting better. As I passed out our devotional books, we encouraged them in a similar way. We can't hear from a speaker once and expect to grow in our faith. We need to read God's Word for ourselves. In an attempt to give the young athletes a tool, we shared a 5 day devotional. 

Chances are you're not a young athlete, but friend the Word of God is living and active and He just might have something here for you. So, I'd like to invite you to join me for this journey as we take a closer look at our Heavenly Father, who serves as our eternal coach. Also, if you have or know a young athlete feel free to share the devos with them as well.

No matter what team you play on, they all have some things in common! There are rules, players and officials, but this week we are going to take a closer look at coaches. These individuals play an important role for you as an athlete.
Did you know – as you train as a believer and work to follow Christ, you have a coach too? God, our heavenly Father, is a bit like an eternal coach. Over the next 5 days, we’re going to look at some of His roles and traits. As we get to know our heavenly “Coach” may we continue to develop the HEART of a champion!!

We pray this is a powerful time in God’s Word. Before we begin, we want you to remember that God is unique. We may be able to think about Him in a role similar to one that people around us play, but God is different. He is perfect. He is all-powerful. He is good. He is mighty. He is never wrong.
As a “coach,” He will never make a mistake. He will never intentionally hurt you. He will never be defeated. He always wins.
This great God wants to help you. He will give you the HEART of a Champion. He created you and has plans for you! Let’s seek Him and study His Word today!

Day 1: Authority

I am the Lord and there is no other.” Isaiah 45:18b

Definition of Authority: one who has the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience

On your team who enforces the rules? Who determines playing time? Who organizes practice? The coach does. He or she is in charge. They are the leader and have the final say. You could say, “They’re the boss!”

In the game of life, God is our authority. He is the One we must answer to. He’s made the rules and has an eternal plan. Like a coach, He deserves our respect and attention. He is in control. There’s a story in the Bible that tells about Jesus calming the storm. In Matthew 8:27 we read, “And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” Clearly, Jesus had power and authority then and He still does today. On and off the field, may we always acknowledge and appreciate His position.

How do you respond to authority figures (coach, parent, teacher, etc.) in your life?

Do you trust and treat God as the ultimate authority?

Lord, I’m thankful you are in control. Help me respect your authority and respond rightly to your direction. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Work-Out – Read Psalm 135:5-7. What does this teach us about God?

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

In a slump...

Softball season has come to a close and though the games are over, my thoughts continue. This year didn't go like my daughter, Jaylyn, wanted or expected. She's a competitive, 7th grader to be, who set her goals high. When the stats were culminated, what she knew became obvious - her goals were not met.

This year she struggled to hit the ball for the first time in her short little career. You could say she was in a slump. Fast pitcher or slow one, it didn't seem to matter. Extra practice at home or in the batting cage didn't create her desired results.

It truly was a season different than any of our young athletes have experienced thus far. It's never easy, or enjoyable, to watch your child struggle with something they love and work at, but there are always lessons to learn. We had some good chats and teachable moments. Thankfully, according to her coach she didn't let her frustration carry over to the field or negatively impact her team.

I know I told her more than once that there was a reason for this and God was using it. We may never know exactly, but I believe He was/is doing more than we realize. This struggle in the sports world will prepare her for the reality that awaits when her playing days are done. It's already encouraged and reminded me as I walk thru slumps of my own and see others do the same.

So friend, perhaps you don't find yourself in the midst of a hitting slump, but are you in a slump in your marriage? How about at work or home? What about in your faith and relationship with Christ? We've been in a bit of a slump here on the farm with all the recent rain and the truths I tried to share with my daughter are relevant for us as well. I pray they speak into your situation too. So here's a few of the lessons from our slump this summer -

Don't Be Surprised
God has gifted Jaylyn with some natural athletic ability and that combined with her love for the game and willingness to work has led to some success. She was a good hitter in each of her previous seasons. In May, she did not expect to experience a slump.

We're probably not much different than her, but this season reminded me that struggles happen. We don't know what tomorrow will bring. We can't fret or waste time worrying, but we can be prepared and have a plan for adversity.

In John 16:33, Jesus says, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

On the playing field and even more so in life, we will have trouble. In those moments, we must see the bigger picture and hold to this promise.

Get Back to the Basics
As a former softball coach, I tried to help Jaylyn a few times by breaking down her hitting and going back to the fundamentals. Sometimes our trial or slump seems so big and overwhelming that we lose focus. The struggle can consume us and it's then we must get back to the basics. As believers, that involves getting into the Word and spending time in prayer - the fundamentals of our faith.

"fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2

Make a Decision
Game after game it seemed her hitting slump grew and each time she stepped to the plate, Jaylyn mentally had a decision to make. Did she believe she could hit the ball? Even off the field, would she allow this struggle to define her? Would she let it impact her attitude? Would it become her focus? Would it consume her?

Again as adults, our slumps often don't involve a game, but they can affect us just the same. In a slump financially, with your health, in a relationship or spiritually; any of them can be our focus. In a way, they could be a god. So friend, in that moment, we must answer Joshua's call. Will you serve the struggle or the One who allowed it?

 "But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

I remember one morning after another night without a hit. Jaylyn and I found ourselves in town an hour before practice. Typically in this situation, we ran errands or shot baskets in the gym. That morning I was at the place of not even talking about softball, but then she asked, "Mom, can we go hit?" Her question was quite encouraging. I knew she hadn't given up and was willing to persevere.

In the midst of a slump, it can be tempting to quit. To walk away and act like it doesn't matter, but friend our relationships, our daily lives and our spiritual walk they all matter. We need to press on. To get up and try again. Quitting is not an option.

"Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." Romans 5:3-5

"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9

Take a Break
It's definitely true that we can't allow trials and hard times to cause us to give up, but sometimes we need a little break. As we step away from the struggle, even for just a short time, we can refocus and see the bigger picture. In those moments, we can find our joy again as well. 

This past season when Jaylyn's slump was about to get the best of her we went to a basketball camp. She loves this game even more, but that day as we prepared to leave her excitement level wasn't real high. This slump was moving past the softball field, but yet she moved forward and God did a mighty work. She instantly connected with her coach and had some moments of success. She smiled all day long. 

The same can happen for us in the midst of our struggles. Sometimes a break is just what we may not change the situation, but it can change us. As believers in Christ, we are commanded to push pause and encouraged to embrace rest. May we remember to run to the One who offers it!

"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10

"Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

There's a Bigger Purpose
I don't know how many times or in how many different ways I tried to encourage Jaylyn that God was going to use this. She clearly became a more understanding teammate as she endured her first lengthy struggle. She had an opportunity to display class. Truly my list was long and the same is true for the struggles and slump you and me face. It's easy to glorify God in the good, but the world really watches during the bad. Does our walk match our talk? Do others see hope when all seems hopeless?

The story of Joseph sums this up quite well. God can and does use our hard times. He just might use our slumps to build His kingdom. That's a powerful thought.

"As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." Genesis 50:20

Keep it in Perspective
Another common theme in my attempt to encourage was this line - "If this is the worst thing to happen all summer..." Jaylyn understood that her struggle could have been so much worse, but that didn't change the reality that it was hard for my intense little lady.

Friend, our struggles and slumps will be hard as well, but they do serve as reminders. Ultimately, the reminder that we are not in control. We may put in time and effort, but still not see results. In these moments, God again is calling us to surrender. To let go of our plan and embrace His. To accept His way and abandon our own. To die to self and live for Him. To walk by faith and not by sight. To trust Him. To cling to His promises. To believe His Word.

Are you in a slump today? Remember this as the battle continues...

Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." John 13:7

I'll leave you with the song Jaylyn shared with me in the midst of her slump. She simply said, "I keep hearing this in my head." May the same be true for you and me...