Campfires

Jonathan Hoeglund

Photo Credit: Jonathan Hoeglund via CC Flickr

Do you love campfires? …and fires in fire bowls, fire pits and fire
places? I think we all do: roasting marshmallows, having “smores”,
hanging out with friends or family and watching the flames provide a
brilliant light in a dark area. But for most of us, it’s the warmth
that the fire gives that we love the most! When you’re close to the
fire, the warmth on a cool evening surrounds you and is a wonderful
feeling. But having the seat two rows back from the campfire or
walking away from the fire and you are back in the coldness. Our walk
with God is similar. HE is like the campfire and when close to him, we
feel that warmth.

However often times we feel extremely cold – away from the fire. We
also know that if we’re too close to the fire, it’s possible We could
catch on fire!! This is not a good thing in reality, but in the
spiritual realm, I would suggest that’s how it should be! We, then
become mini-campfires ourselves. Some of you reading this may have
never experienced what being close to the campfire (God) feels like.
Maybe you don’t know him and have never had that feeling. If not, the
solution is as simple as lighting the wood with a match! First, admit
that there IS a God who created you, secondly understand that their
are no perfect people (Romans 3:10, “There are none righteous, no not
one.”) and that you too are a sinner. Then ask Jesus into and to take
control of your life (Rev 3: 20, Behold I stand at the door and knock,
if any man hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into
him”…) and then allow Him and trust him to direct your life, have
fellowship with him and start your journey on the path of he intended
for you with your personal campfire now lit. Then feed and stoke that
campfire to grow by: reading the Bible and a good applicable
devotional, hanging out with other believers, praying regularly
(prayer lists or journals are helpful) and serve God and others in
your church and community.

If you have accepted Christ but you feel cold and away from the “fire”
and your personal campfire is barely smoldering, then James 4: 8 has
an answer for you: “Come close to God and he will come close to you.”
Nothing really profound there. God has not moved. He is waiting for
you to reach out to HIM. Take the steps mentioned before on how to
stoke the fire and feel that warmth again in having that CLOSE
relationship to HIM. Like improving in anything in life, it takes
consistent work and practice to become good at it. Don’t let Satan
discourage you if you have failed before. You will fail at times again
but each time you do, pursue Christ with more vigor and your efforts
will make you stronger and closer to Him on a more consistent basis!

Pray each day that you will stay close to God and make that
relationship to Him a priority so that your OWN campfire can grow,
spread and provide a light in this dark world.

Only Two Things Deliver

John Christian Fjellestad

Photo Credit: John Christian Fjellestad via CC Flickr

“Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life.” Proverbs 22:4

What things do you always carry with you? My stock answer has always been: my Bible, my ball, and my best playing shoes. 😉 Today’s text introduces two more ‘must adds’. They’re so simple but crucial. They’re small but they don’t always fit so easily. In fact, some think they won’t fit, don’t fit, can’t fit, so they often stay left behind. But without them God says it’s about impossible to experience what we really hope for in life.

God says that there are just two things that bring the big things we all look for: wealth, honor and life. Only one pair can deliver this trifecta. Nothing else can…for very long.

What brings real wealth, honor, and life is humility and the fear of the LORD. Humility keeps our powerful urges for control, approval and comfort from taking over and messing things up. Humility helps us trust the process, trust God. Then ‘Fear of the LORD’ brings us to where our needs for control, approval and comfort are best met. Without humility and the fear of the Lord our pursuit of wealth, honor and life can never bring us the control, approval and comfort we really long for. Only two things, humility and the fear of the Lord can.

LORD, make it very clear to us that the only real, sustainable way to wealth, honor and life is found through humility and the fear of the Lord. Don’t let us look for it any other way. Only two things deliver.

Be strong.
Stand for truth.
Live for eternity.
Coach Mo

Bonus Coverage: 5 extending footnotes
that define this verse’s 5 terms:
WEALTH brings power and control. Thats why we want it. That’s the endgame. True wealth brings freedom from control and freedom to control. True wealth never brings slavery. Wealth = Control
HONOR signals approval, recognition, the feeling of accomplishment we get when others believe we’re great, have value or make a real difference. Audience matters. ‘Audience of One’ matters more. Honor = Approval
LIFE seeks satisfaction, a sense of contentment and fulfillment that a life well lived brings. Life = Satisfaction
HUMILITY brings a correct view of self. It’s not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less. Gotta have this to live on well. Humility = Seeing Self Straight
FEAR OF THE LORD’ simply means a proper view of God, seeing God for who He really is. Fear of the LORD = Seeing God Straight

The Bookends

Canned Muffins

Photo Credit: Canned Muffins via CC Flickr

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ… The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” 2 Thessalonians 1:2; 3:18

Let’s talk about winning streaks! When you or your team get on a roll and establish a great winning streak, the first and last wins become the big bookends, usually the most memorable and notable in the string. Can you think of a great personal winning streak…and those bookend games that housed and defined the streak?

Uniquely, The Bible points to 2 words that open 13 straight of its books and 16 of the last 21. Those streaking words are ‘grace’ and ‘peace’. And equally harmonic and powerful, for each of those last 21 books of the Bible, either ‘grace’ or ‘peace’ also becomes the last word or thought mentioned 17 of 21 times (including 14 books in a row). Thus, the Bible bookends so much of its powerful messages around these two words.

The sheer weight of these opening and closing repetitions should command our attention too. Perhaps this is the way we should open and close our conversations also, so that no matter what else is said in between, grace and peace will consistently enter our conversations and close them too.

Do you talk like this? Do you approach others, depositing these kinds of messages, making people feel God’s grace and peace with you? Of all the things you wish for others, is this the pair you package and deliver? Get on a good winning streak of grace and peace in your life…and get others on that streak with you.

LORD, of all the things I talk about each day, help me to speak grace and peace. Help me to experience your grace and peace and then bring it to others. Let me get on a roll and help others to win because they stand tall and confident, bookended by Your grace and peace, too.

Grace and peace to you!!
Coach Mo

The Five Fingers of Prayer

Michael Goghlan

Photo Credit: Michael Goghlan via CC Flickr

I came across this little, fun way to pray many, many years ago that I always thought was a pretty good idea and a terrific way to remember not only who or what to pray for…but HOW to pray.

This is beautiful – and it is surely worth making the 5 finger prayer a part of our lives!

————————

1.Your thumb is nearest you.

So begin your prayers by praying for those closest to you.

They are the easiest to remember.

To pray for our loved ones is,

as C. S. Lewis once said, a “sweet duty.”

2. The next finger is the pointing finger.

Pray for those who teach, instruct and heal.

This includes teachers, doctors, and ministers.

They need support and wisdom in pointing others in the right direction.

Keep them in your prayers.

3. The next finger is the tallest finger.

It reminds us of our leaders.

Pray for the president, leaders in business and industry, and administrators.

These people shape our nation and guide public opinion.

They need God’s guidance.

4. The fourth finger is our ring finger.

Surprising to many is the fact that is our weakest finger,

as any piano teacher will testify.

It should remind us to pray for those who are weak,

trouble or in pain.

They need prayers day and night.

You cannot pray too much for them.

5. And lastly comes our little finger

– the smallest finger of all which is where we should place ourselves

in relation to God and others.

As the Bible says, “The least shall be the greatest among you.”

Your pinkie should remind you to pray for yourself.

By the time you have prayed for the other four groups,

your own needs will be put into proper perspective

and you will be able to pray for yourself more effectively.

A Few Good Men

Kat

Photo Credit: Kat via CC Flickr

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8

One man committed to a cause is greater than 10,000 merely interested spectators. A few good men is better. That’s how the greatest armies, greatest teams are built.

God is looking for such men. His missions are crucial. High stakes define them but they grow great through everyday faithfulness. His team is built on abandon, selfless, brave volunteers who say ‘Yes!’ and take on His noble missions with fearless honor.

Pushbacks:
* Heard the Lord talk like this to you? Recognize a true call and holy cause? Need to turn the volume down on other things?
* Feeling yourself moved by high calling? What could this be? Attaching any strings or fully surrendered?
* Willing to step up, step out, and offer full commitment to a cause greater than yourself, the greatest cause ever? Employed by God and engaged in mission?

LORD, let me feel Your heavenly surge and upward, outward cause. Don’t let me contract the disease of me and die in the dumps of disservice. May I take rank with You in holy mission.

Maximum effort.
Heart for others.
Bring honor to Christ.
Coach Mo

Perfect Ref/Perfect Sub/Perfect Win

Daveynin

Photo Credit: Daveynin via CC Flickr

“All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.” 2 Thessalonians 1:5

Referees are paid to call only what they see and to call it right. They can’t guess. They can’t assume. And they can’t be mistaken or fooled. They must cover ground faithfully to take in all that’s there. They must take great pride in seeing the game properly, getting the most accurate feel for the game and it’s people. Finally, they must know the rule book well and apply it fairly, judiciously, uncompromisingly. The best referees do all this at breakneck speed.

Players must honor and adjust their play or get in foul trouble. Playing the game of life too often means inevitable foul trouble and need of a substitute. In order to guarantee victory a change has to be made.

God is Ultimate Referee, Remarkable Substitute, Eternal Reward. He loves the game and it’s people. He sees all, knows all. Nothing escapes His attention. He knows the rule book perfectly and applies it with both unflinching truth and prodigal (extravagant) grace. His play on our behalf insures our triumph and His glory.

Let’s see all this play out in 2 Thessalonians 1:5. Here’s what God wants us to clear about:

  1. God’s judgment is right. Deal with it. He doesn’t miss a call. He examines both our blamelessness (righteousness) and our blame (sin). He wants to see righteousness win and grieves when it doesn’t.
  2. God offers hope that we can stay out of foul trouble, that we can be ‘counted worthy of the Kingdom of God’. This hope is found through His Son. The Son becomes blame-bearer and sin-substitute. Our sins (serious foul trouble) get pinned to Him.
  3. For those counted worthy, suffering is temporary but triumph inevitable. The most perfect wins often push through the greatest pain. Hang in there!

The bottom line of the Gospel simply becomes this:

Holy God in love became

Perfect Man to bear my blame.

On the cross He took my sin.

By His death I live again.

May you live loving the game, the ref, the substitute, the journey…and live again!

Love you, too!

Coach Mo

Kingdom Reach

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Photo Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9-10

In about 1000B.C., the Chinese of the Chou empire period named their country ‘Zhongguo’, meaning ‘Middle Kingdom’. Unaware of other high civilizations to the West, they believed their empire occupied the middle of the earth, surrounded by barbarians. The nickname they gave themselves stuck for many centuries but eventually thwarted their ability to grow and progress. In the end, the empire was overthrown, decayed from within.

We too can think of ourselves as center of the universe. I see it in lots of players, teams, schools, businesses. When we do this, when we set the definitions for everything – right, wrong, good, purpose, control – we leave no room for any outside forces to define, inform or shape anything about us. We live in a secret vacuum as if in our own Middle Kingdom.

That’s why the core prayer that Jesus gives us in His lesson, ‘This Is How You Pray’, starts out with straightforward worship of God and then invitation of another kingdom, God’s Kingdom, to come, rule and reign and set the definitions in us day by day. He doesn’t want to see us get stuck in our own little middle kingdoms. Another kingdom needs to invade ours. Otherwise we’re doomed.

So let’s worship God each day and allow His Kingdom’s rule and reign to reach into ours. Let’s long to see the domain of the sovereignty of God in Christ extend everywhere, in heaven, on earth, in me. And let’s play a vital role in this beautiful movement.

How far does God’s Kingdom reach get into you and through you?

LORD, Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…

Wanting His reach extended in me and through me,
Coach Mo

Pushing Through

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Photo Credit: Pixabay

“But I trust in Your unfailing love. My heart rejoices in Your deliverance. I will sing the LORD’s praise, for He has been good to me.” Psalm 13:6

Psalm 13 shows us what to do when we find ourselves asking tough questions like this:

* How long will You forget me? (v1)

* How long will You hide from me? (v1)

* How long must I wrestle with my thoughts? (v2)

* How long must my heart sorrow? (v2)

* How long will my enemies triumph over me? (v2)

All these questions make me think that maybe Psalm 13 was written by an athlete or coach going through a tough season, rough injury, personal performance slump, real loneliness, broken relationship, or a long losing streak. And it’s written to an audience that will likely feel the very same way.

BUT Psalm 13 ends with a great 3-Point Play. Let’s take a look at what’s declared to help us push through:

* LOOK BACK AT WINS. One of the best ways to get through a tough stretch in life is to take a good look back. Note a salvation seen in the past, a deliverance experienced, a victory won. Resurrect the win to trust that it will happen again. He has been good. (v5)

* LOOK UP FOR POWER. Make sure there is a strong, real object to your faith and hope – the LORD. Only empowered ones truly push through. In His unfailing love, God delivers. (v6)

* SING OUT IN PRAISE. A last great way to push through is to find a good praise song and start singing it. Sing out about who’s been good to you. Sing in praise. Let the praise build the expectancy to push through again. (v6)

Pushing through,

Coach Mo

‘Paris’ World

Photo Credit: Harish Rao via CC Flickr

Photo Credit: Harish Rao via CC Flickr

“Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” Matthew 10:17-20

I suppose you’re aware of what happened November 13th in Paris. Tough news. That’s the way it is sometimes. Scripture has a few things to say about a world like this. Let’s take a look…

1. BE ON GUARD. Brace yourself. Let vigilance, awareness, mindfulness mark my life. Evil always lurks and seeks to raise its ugly head. Lay a good defensive foundation. Our ‘Paris’ world always needs protection.

2. ‘ON MY ACCOUNT’. Operate as an uncompromised, unashamed witness. God’s got my back. What happens to me is His business too. I trust Him, come what may. I am not alone.

3. GIVEN WORDS. God supplies clutch play at crucial times. His Spirit gives people perfect thoughts, ideas, words.  That’s because His Name is at stake. So don’t worry. Just live like a mouthpiece.

Pushbacks

* How’s your defensive package? Your alertness and vigilance to evil always powered on? Known for your protection?

* Operating with quiet trust that your life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3-4), that you’re on His tab, that your future is secure, that God’s gotcha?

* Experiencing clutch play at crucial times, especially when repping the Lord? Counting on Him to come through and defend His name in a ‘Paris’ world?

LORD, help my vigilance on Your behalf to be strong. The world needs guardians for good. Thrill me again and again with joy and confidence in knowing I operate as Your agent, on Your account. Thank you by faith for the ongoing flow of words I’ll need at crucial times.

Be strong.

Stand for truth.

Live for eternity.

Coach Mo

Big Difference

Photo Credit: Dean Hochman via CC Flickr

Photo Credit: Dean Hochman via CC Flickr

“Therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.” Genesis 3:23

There’s a big difference between ‘going’ and ‘being sent’.

* Going suggests movement. Sent suggests an authority is launching that movement.

* Going is optional, involving choice. Sent means compelled, leaving no choice.

* Going means directed travel. Sent means mission, a deeper direction.

That’s why it feels so much better to be sent into battle instead of going into battle.

God sends. It’s His way. He launches men on missions. He compels our hearts and moves us deeply to move with Him, move for Him, move for others. Maybe that’s why the word ‘sent’ is mentioned 700 or so times in scripture. He wants us on mission with Him. Today’s verse is just the first recorded mention of the word.

Pushbacks

1. What do your movements look like? Do you just go, whether calculated or carefree,…or are you sent, driven by God to do or say something?

2. Do you ask God to come along and help you…or do you ask God if you can go with Him, for Him?

3. To be ‘on a mission’ means more than just going somewhere or doing a specific something. It means something else beyond yourself is driving you. How missional is your living? In what area(s) of your life do you feel called, sent?

LORD, send me. Don’t let me go anywhere, do anything without a sense of being sent.* The difference this makes is too big to do otherwise.

Be strong.

Stand for truth.

Live for eternity.

Coach Mo