Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Beholding the Glory of Jesus

“And the Word was made flesh 
and dwelt among us, 
(and we beheld his glory, 
the glory as of the only 
begotten of the Father,) 
full of grace and truth.” 
(John 1:14 KJV)

Do you sometimes find that your heart is not as full of the joy and wonder of your faith as it should be? Do you ever feel numb or indifferent to the spiritual things that you know ought to excite your soul and set your spirit ablaze?

Try beholding the glory of Jesus. John was absolutely captivated by the glory of Christ, and he never got over it. Writing his gospel account some 50 years after being with Jesus, he’s still in awe by the thought that he saw the glory of God in the face of Christ, full of grace and truth.

He saw Him with his own eyes, he heard His voice with his ears, and he touched Him with his own hands. He walked and talked with the Maker of heaven and earth and shared the joy of heaven.

Think about it. The Holy One from heaven, the all-powerful, all-knowing, omnipresent God Most High, Creator of all things, the Lamb of God, the giver of living water and the bread of life, the light of the world, the Savior of mankind and King of the nations – took on the flesh of humanity in all of its weaknesses, struggles and temptations, and dwelt among us.

And by His life, by His sacrificial death on the cross, and by His resurrection victory, He gives eternal life to all who confess and repent of their sins and put their faith in Him.

Friend, you can re-ignite your complacent soul today by gazing afresh upon the Lord Jesus Christ in all of His glory. See Him with your eyes of faith in the wonder of His creation. Hear His voice in the pages of His Word. Walk with Him in glad obedience and talk with Him in prayer.

Meditate upon His majesty, marvel at His humanity, and let His goodness and mercy joyfully recapture your heart and set your spirit ablaze this Christmas and always.

And come join us at Petersburg First Baptist Church this Sunday – Christmas Eve – as we worship Christ together at 10:45 am and at 9:00 pm for our Christmas Eve Candlelight Service.

Make the words of the familiar carol come alive in your soul:

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee
Born this happy morning
Jesus, to Thee be all glory given
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing!
O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
Christ the Lord!

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Sing to the Lord

If you love Christmas songs, you need to join us at First Baptist Church this Sunday, Dec. 17, at 10:45 a.m. Both our children’s and adult choirs will be presenting the Christmas story through music, and we want you to be our guest.

We’re not the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, you understand, but for our 16-member choir composed of decidedly non-classically trained vocalists, I think we make a pretty decent sound. Props go out to our fantastic choir director who has excelled at herding screeching cats to produce something of a melodic purr, and who also happens to be my lovely bride. Most importantly, we’re seeking to make a joyful noise to the Lord, and our desire is that He will be honored in our hearts first and with the songs of our lips. 

At the least, you need to come and hear the children singing. They’ll sing three numbers to start off the worship celebration, and I feel confident in saying that you’ll be smiling as they sing their little hearts out in joy and wonder at the birth of Jesus. 

I think I’ve said this before, but there truly is something remarkable about singing praise to the Lord. Did you know that the pages of the Bible are filled with songs of gratitude and joy and praise and worship to God, along with songs of lamentation and sorrow? Did you know that the Bible not only encourages us to sing, but commands it? 

“Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day” (Psalm 96:1). 

It seems that Christmas carols prove especially meaningful in blessing His name as we celebrate this season. There’s something joyous that happens when we lift our voices together singing, “O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!” 

And there’s something special about gathering to light candles on Christmas Eve singing, “Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.” 

I know not everyone “feels like it” when it comes to Christmas spirit. For some, the winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder is a very dark and debilitating condition. Some people have endured traumatic experiences that leave them more dreading the season than sipping up Christmas cheer like a hot cup of wassail. 

But if you’re a believer in Christ then I want to challenge you in particular to sing anyway, even when you don’t feel like it. Especially when you don’t feel like it! I believe that to some degree you can sing and praise your way out of the funk. 

Because when your mind engages with your heart to express songs of worship through your lips, God has a way of drawing you up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog and setting your feet upon a rock, making your steps secure. He has a way of healing the brokenhearted and binding up their wounds.  He has a way of tending his flock like a shepherd; gathering the lambs in his arms, carrying them in his bosom and gently leading those that are with young (see Psalm 40:2-3; Psalm 147:2; Isaiah 40:11). 

So tune the dial into your favorite Christian radio station and start crooning away. Or invest in Casting Crowns’ “Peace on Earth” album, or maybe Amy Grant’s “A Christmas Album” from 1983, and let the songs lift your spirit as you belt our your best audition performance. Everybody and their brother’s got a Christmas album out, so find the kind of music that suits your style and go for it. 

And come sing with us this Sunday! “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting” (Psalm 147:1)          

Monday, December 11, 2017

Cultural conversations and gospel solutions

I’m not incredibly eager to wade into this topic, but in light of incredibly important cultural conversation happening and the incredibly brilliant gospel-solution available, it’s worth going there. 

Unless you’ve completely un-subscribed from social news content, you’re aware of the barrage of sexual misconduct / abuse  allegations and expositions which have recently surfaced and washed ashore disgraced perpetrators such as Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Al Franken, Matt Lauer, John Conyers, along with a host of other celebrities, politicians, journalists, and business leaders. I’m sure scores of other high profile figures must now be shaking in their boots waiting for their names to drop. 

Allow me to make a few observations. First, my heart goes out to the victims of such harassment – and worse. Their lives have been scarred. They’ve suffered shame and distress from the harm inflicted upon them. No one should ever have to endure abuse of any kind. I pray they’ll find help and healing in the Lord, who is able to mend the broken, repair the ruined, and restore dignity and joy like no other. 

Secondly, I’m glad to see our collective conscious on this matter finally finding such ready agreement with biblical standards. While many have brushed off and winked at this kind of behavior for far too long, God’s Word has always been clear on the subject. Using and abusing others for selfish gain is condemned in the sight of God, and ought to be in the sight of man, as well. 

Thirdly, justice always prevails against the wicked. Sooner or later, our sins will be found out. If not by man, always by God, the righteous Judge, to whom we must all give account, but check out number seven below. 

Fourth, is anyone really shocked that this has been happening? We’re a nation that spends billions of dollars on pornography every year and glorifies sexual icons like Hugh Hefner. We’re infatuated with ridiculing biblical sexual morality while embracing sexual freedom. We hand out condoms and promote promiscuity in many of our public schools. Do you think it’s possible that the epidemic of sexual predators doing bad things could be related to all this? Isn’t it true that men and nations reap what they sow? 

Fifth, I say this in compassion to women – please don’t ever think that sleeping around is just a part of the process. Whether auditioning for a role, trying to gain a promotion, get a better grade, or move ahead in the political world, your worth as a woman created in the image of God far surpasses whatever temporary benefit you may gain from sleeping your way forward. Your bravery in resisting and calling out creepy men may also spare a host of other women from his unwelcome advances. 

Sixth, men, let’s be respecters and protectors of women in our realm of influence. Don’t be part of the porn problem or lust after other women. Don’t allow crass “locker room talk” to go unchallenged. Instead, guard your heart and mind from every sinful thought. Keep yourself pure. Drink water from your own cistern. Read Proverbs 5-7 every day if you have to. Be a man of courage and integrity in all things. 

Seventh, and most importantly, redemption and salvation are possible for all who call on the name of Christ Jesus. Check out the heartfelt prayer of a convicted sexual predator in Psalm 51, and see that repentance and faith in Christ leads to an incredible gospel-solution of forgiveness and restoration. Friend, the transforming power of God’s grace to us in Christ enables us to “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 3:12). Even the worst of sinners like Weinstein and you and me can find hope in the cross of Christ.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Choices, Choices, Choices!

So, in my family we’re thinking about potential college choices. Our oldest son is a high school senior and just about ready to go out and conquer the world. Aren’t they all? How does a 17-year-old kid make a decision about where he wants to go to college and what he wants to do for the rest of his life? 

Did you know there are about a zillion colleges in the United States, and that we’ve received enough promotional mailings to start our own landfill? From near-weekly Washington University (St. Louis) postcards to Olivet Nazarene’s oversized full-color magazine to Baylor University’s virtual reality viewer, and tons of brochures in between, I see why the cost of college is astronomical based on printing and postage alone. 

Tyler had suggested covering his bedroom walls with all of the flyers and letters, then throwing a dart blindfolded and whichever school it hit, that would be the one to attend. In which case he’d likely end up at either Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland or California University of Pennsylvania, both of whom have probably spent the equivalent of a small nation’s GNP on promotional literature mailed to our home. And no, California University of Pennsylvania is not a misprint. 

So how do we go about making such life-changing decisions: Should I get married? To whom? And when? What career path should I pursue? Should I take this job offer? Where should I live? Should I rent or buy a home? When should I think about retiring? What should I be doing in my retirement? What’s the right decision to make about health care for my ailing parent? How should I divide out my estate? 

I’ll start with this premise: God knows the way we should go, and He goes with us every step of the way. For Christ-followers, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit guides us all along life’s journey. Not every fork in the road comes with a neon sign pointing out the path to choose, but the Spirit never leaves us without help. Here are five ways the Holy Spirit guides: 

1. He opens up the Word of God. The Bible provides illumination for every step we take and every decision we make. As God speaks through His Word, we find direction for our lives. We discover our mission as Christians, and through His instruction we chart our course according to His will. 

2. He uses godly people to speak counsel into our lives. I am deeply indebted to those whom the Spirit has prompted to ask the right questions, offer insights and wisdom, lovingly correct me when necessary, and provide help in making tough decisions. 

3. He changes our hearts to conform to His heart. His transforming work in us often creates awareness of pathways, opportunities, and answers to decisions we would have never known before. As we increasingly seek to honor the Lord in every aspect of our lives, rather than seek our selfish ambitions, the next right step often appears clearly. 

4. He closes doors and opens doors. The Lord sovereignly and supernaturally orchestrates circumstances and situations and conditions and events and times and issues and people in our lives to open up or close off options in the decisions we must make. 

5. He gives us peace about the situation. There is something divinely and satisfyingly unexplainable about the peace God gives us when we make the choice He intends for us. And a lack of peace often accompanies a decision we should not make. 

Friend, let me encourage you to seek the Lord in prayer for every decision you face. Listen for His voice, watch for the ways He’s working, and be ready to follow Him in faith as He guides you along the way. It beats throwing darts at the wall every time!


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Thanksgiving Challenge

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night…” (Psalm 92:1-2). 

Would you be willing to try an experiment with me? Here’s the challenge: Every morning and every night for the next seven days, I want you to write down at least one reason you have to give thanks to the Lord. 

Start with just one week. Keep a journal or notebook handy. When you wake up in the morning, whether before your feet hit the floor or perhaps after your first cup of coffee, write down at least one way God has shown you His steadfast love. And in the evening as you unwind think of at least one way that God has shown you His faithfulness, and write it down. 

Need help getting started? Sometimes our minds get foggy and our lives so busy that we hardly even give thought to the myriad ways God works in us and around us all the time. Our awareness of His presence is often sorely and sadly absent, to our own discredit and dismay. 

The Bible says it is good to give thanks to the Lord. No doubt it is! A life lived with thanksgiving to God is a life filled with the nearness of God, the help of God, and the glory of God. And truly there’s no better way to live. 

So here are a few questions to stir your heart and mind to giving thanks to the Lord for His steadfast love in the morning and His faithfulness at night. 

Has the Lord given you wisdom in making a difficult decision today? Has He reminded you that He will never leave you nor forsake you? Has He revealed His compassion through the kindness of a friend, or a stranger? Thank Him for it! 

Has He surprised you with a new joy after a night of sorrow? Has He given you comfort in a trying time? Has He filled your heart and mind with a peace that passes understanding? Has He answered a prayer? Has He protected you from harm? Thank Him for it! 

Has He surrounded you with friends and family who love and encourage you? Has He revealed His glory afresh to you in the handiwork of His creation – a beautiful sunset, a star-lit night, a rippling brook, or a gentle snow? Thank Him for it! 

Has He given you courage to face a new challenge? Has He given you insight and understanding into a situation? Has He been a refuge in the storm? Has He provided for you this day your daily bread? Has He supplied your needs in abundance? Thank Him for it! 

Has He assured you of His forgiveness and cleansing from your sin through the blood of Jesus? Has He freed you from the chains of addiction? Has He given you new life through faith in Jesus, His Son? Has He promised you eternal life and encouraged your spirit in this hope? Thank Him for it! 

Has He poured out His Holy Spirit upon you to guide you, counsel you, teach you, and help you? Has He led you to a church family where you are welcomed and loved, nourished and strengthened in the faith, and given opportunities to serve using the gifts and abilities God has given you? Has He excited your heart with purpose and passion in your work, in your ministry, in your mission? Thank Him for it! 

Friend, it is good to give thanks to the Lord! Take this challenge for a week – then keep it up if you find it helpful. And just see whether or not you agree that giving thanks to the Lord is good for your soul. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Prayers for Sutherland Springs and our nation

I am heartbroken to learn of the tragic shooting at Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church this past Sunday, where 26 people have been killed and at least 20 others injured. This is a horrific act of evil inflicted upon unsuspecting Christians who had gathered together to worship the Lord God. 

Let’s pray for this precious church family and the entire community as they deal with this unimaginable situation. May the God of all comfort and peace show His extraordinary loving-kindness in wave after wave of mercy and healing power. May His amazing grace be sufficient for help in every need and in every moment. And may the Sovereign Lord bring good out of all that Satan has intended for evil. 

Now would also be a good time (once again) for us to pray for our nation. We need a great spiritual awakening. We need to repent of our sins and we need to turn to Jesus, the only One who can save us from this divisive, chaotic, violent, ungodly mess we’ve made. And – praise the Lord – He eagerly waits to be gracious and exalts Himself to show mercy. 

You’ve probably heard of the prophet Jonah. God called him to go to Nineveh, and he flat-out refused to go. Instead he boarded a ship going the other way, found himself in the midst of a raging storm, got thrown overboard, and was swallowed up by a huge fish. He was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights before God commanded the fish to vomit Jonah onto dry land. 

But I want to ask you this question: Do you know why God wanted Jonah to go to Nineveh in the first place? Do you know what kind of a city Nineveh was? 

Well, let’s just say that Nineveh would never have made the list for “Best Places to Live” in Time Magazine. They were an evil and violent people. The culture was awash in immorality, greed, and cruelty. They did not fear the Sovereign God of heaven nor desire to conform to His truth. Does that sound like any place you know today? 

And the reason God sent Jonah was because their wickedness had reached the point of God’s justice, and He was ready to destroy the city. So the Lord called Jonah to preach a message of impending doom upon the city, and this was their opportunity to repent so that God’s judgment might be averted from them and His mercy on full display. 

Do you know what happened, after Jonah finally agreed to obey the Lord and go to Nineveh, that is? Amazingly enough, this ungodly people believed the word and they repented of their sins! The king of Nineveh even called for a city-wide three-day fast for both man and beast so that the people would cry out to God for mercy. He urged the people to turn from their evil way and from their violence, reasoning that perhaps “God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish” (Jonah 3:9). 

And God’s response? “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened” (Jonah 3:10). 

Friend, I believe that our nation is racing toward the point of God’s justice against us, and if we don’t heed the message to repent and turn to the Lord now, we may not get another forty days. Let us cry out to God for mercy. Let us, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will surely pardon” (Isaiah 5:6-7).

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Baseball, Teamwork, and the Thrill of Serving Together as a Church

You gotta love fall. October’s always been my favorite month of the year. From the chill of the morning air to perfectly warm afternoons, and from the picturesque array of changing colors to the bright reflection of the harvest moon, October brings the best of God’s creative handiwork.

And of course there’s college football hitting full stride (despite the ridiculous amount of time they spend on replays), NFL action on the field (which is still fun to watch, although the league is self-destructing), and even NBA and NHL for those interested. It’s a good time to be a sports fan. 

Then there’s the World Series. There are some things a boy never outgrows. The Fall Classic is one of them. In recent years we’ve witnessed some truly remarkable games. What Cardinals fan can forget the 2011 win over the Rangers, especially the Game 6 never-say-die comeback? And how many Cubs fans truly believed they’d live to see the day their team won it all as they did in dramatic fashion in Game 7 last year? 

Personally I enjoyed watching the Kansas City Royals take the trophy in 2015, their first since the days of George Brett and company in 1985. Not that I’ve been a lifelong Royals fan, but after living in KC for three years I began rooting for the home team. And yes, I root for the Chiefs, too. 

Maybe my all-time favorite World Series memory was the Dodgers’ win in 1988. I was, and am still, a huge Orel Hershiser fan. Baseball fans will remember Hershiser threw an incredible six straight shutouts to finish the regular season, then another eight innings in Game 1 of the NLCS, for a total of 67 consecutive scoreless innings. His record still stands. He then pitched another 21 innings of shutout ball through the NLCS and into the World Series, claiming MVP honors in both. 

And who can forget the spectacular walk-off home run by a hobbled Kirk Gibson pinch-hitting in Game 1? Don’t you still get goosebumps watching the replays and hearing Vin Scully’s legendary call? 

Going further back, I was six years old and remember Mr. October, Reggie Jackson, slugging three home runs for the Yankees in Game 6 of 1977 World Series against the Dodgers. I’m still not a Yankees fan. 

How many of you remember who won the World Series champs in 1979? That’s right – the “We Are Family” Pittsburgh Pirates, with their hit theme song by sung by who? Answer: Sister Sledge. Give yourself 100 points if you got that right. Led by superstars Willie Stargell, Dave Parker, Bill Madlock, Phil Garner, Omar Mareno, John Candelaria, and Kent Tekelve, this team worked and played together as a family and fought their way to the title over the Baltimore Orioles. 

Well, that’s a lot of baseball reminiscing for now, but let me just say I love watching great teams work together as a team, as a family. There’s something uniquely compelling and genuinely satisfying about accomplishing extraordinary feats against overwhelming odds together with your team. 

You know, the greatest team I’ve ever been a part of is the team called the church. Serving together in ministry partnership, in fellowship, and in the mission of Christ Jesus – in His name and in His power – to accomplish supernatural, Kingdom-of-Heaven work in this world truly is the greatest thrill I’ve known. 

And, friend, there’s room on the team for you, because there’s room at the cross for you. Join us at Petersburg First Baptist Church where you’ll discover a salvation that offers a far more satisfying journey than any World Series trophy can afford.  

Monday, July 3, 2017

VBS Top 10

Vacation Bible School! Mark it down – VBS next week at Petersburg First Baptist Church! We kick it off Sunday, July 9, and go through Thursday, July 13, 6:00 – 8:30 each evening. All children from those who will be entering Kindergarten this Fall through those who just completed 6th grade are welcome to come. 

So here’s a top 10 list of reasons why your children should be in Vacation Bible School next week at First Baptist Church.

10. Recreation. Not the super-competitive dodge ball style you played in 3rd grade on the playground, but fun-for-everyone games. And water games are always a hit. 

9. Crafts. I can remember some of the crafts I did as a kid in VBS, and that was a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away! Make sure you ask your children about the crafts they’re doing each night, and I’m sure they’d love to tell you about the things they’re making. 

8. Missions. Integral to who we are as a church is a focus on world missions. So we’ll incorporate ways to help your children learn about the ways God is using ordinary people with a passion for Christ to take the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth. 

7. Not as late this year. We’ve modified our schedule to conclude each evening at 8:30 rather than 9:00, which means everyone gets home sooner and hopefully gets a better night’s rest, which is good for a long week of VBS. 

6. “Galactic Starveyors: Discovering the God of the Universe.” That’s this year’s theme, where your children will search the skies and God’s Word to uncover God’s truth. They’ll discover that the God who created everything there is – the knowable and the unknowable, the visible and the invisible – wants a relationship with them! 

5. Church van. If your children need a ride, please call the church office at 632-2488, and we’ll be happy to add them to the van route. 

4. Family Night. Parents, grandparents – plan to come at 7:00 Thursday night for family night, where the children will present some of the songs they’ve learned throughout the week, Bible verses, as well as highlights you’ll not want to miss. Children love to have their parents come for things like this.  

3. Snacks. Essential VBS fuel. Enough said. 

2. Music. We’re going to miss Sarah Holliday not being here this week, but Rachel Warren is eager to teach the children some great new songs, and kids love to sing. They may even drive their parents crazy singing these catchy tunes for weeks to come, but it’s all good. Just smile, parents, and be glad they’re not singing Miley Cyrus or Katy Perry, or Drake or Rihanna, or well, the list could go on and on. So just smile. 

1. Jesus. The number one reason your children should be here is Jesus, because He’s the reason any of us are here in the first place. Go look up Colossians 1:15-16 (you can even Google it!) and you’ll discover the supremacy of Christ in all things. That’s our theme verse, and the week’s Bible story teachings will center around the good news that Jesus came to be our Savior. 

Parents, our church has been praying for your children as we’re preparing for VBS. Your family will know that we care deeply for you with the love of Christ and that we design all that we do to lead you to faith in Jesus. Feel free to call the church office at 632-2488 for more information. Hope to see you then!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Solutions for America's Good

With the 4th of July coming up next week, yes, I am thankful to live in America, thankful for our freedoms and opportunities, and thankful for all who have served and sacrificed for the good of the cause. I am especially grateful to our great and glorious God who has shed His grace upon this land in extraordinary ways.

Yet I am convinced that things could be much better in this country. So rather than complain about what’s wrong, let me offer three quick solutions that will change us for the good and steer our nation onto the right course. 

1. We need a holy reverence for God. Seriously, a renewed respect for and admiration of Almighty God would resolve most of the problems we have in this country. As we thumb our national nose at the notion that there is an omnipotent, omniscient Creator, we might well expect that He would be justified in giving us up to our own impurities, dishonorable passions, and debased minds to do what ought not to be done. And we will surely suffer the consequences thereof. 

We still sing “God Bless America,” and we still hear politicians tag their speeches with a nod to God for His blessing, but words ring hollow when we turn around and deny Him with our immoral actions, rebellious attitudes, irreverent talk, and godless political decisions. Let us acknowledge God as the almighty Maker of heaven and earth, and humble ourselves under His mighty hand. 

2. We need to recognize that society benefits from biblical values. I know that doesn’t sit well with progressive culture, but it’s true. The principles we see in God’s Word give any society the structure in which to thrive. Looking no further than the 10 Commandments, it is evident that a community living by these laws benefits tremendously by their keeping. 

Even non-Christians ought to be able to clearly conclude that a nation where children honor their parents, where there is no murder, no adultery, no theft, no lying, and no coveting of your neighbor’s stuff would make for a great place to live. 

American Statesman Daniel Webster nailed it: “If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper; but if we and our posterity neglect its instructions and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity.” 

3. We need to reaffirm the home as the foundational component for building healthy community. Studies consistently and overwhelmingly show that children’s well-being is tied significantly to being raised in a loving home with their mother and father. Yet it seems that most social solutions being proposed today are at best like trying to cure skin cancer with a band-aid. 

Fathers, let me especially encourage you to be actively engaged in your children’s lives. The results of our collective failure in this regard are staggering. One Princeton study found that boys raised apart from their fathers were two to three times more likely to end up in jail before age 30. Another study found that girls whose fathers disappeared before they turned 6 were about five times more likely to end up as pregnant teenagers than were girls who were raised with their fathers in the homes. 

The evidence is clear. God’s design for the family, as it turns out unsurprisingly, is best for families, communities and nations. We would do well to make it a national priority to strengthen marriages, homes and families. 

Let’s celebrate this July 4th by turning our hearts in reverence to God, to the truths of His Word, and to our raising our families in the ways of the Lord. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Leading Well - Lessons from Coach Wooden

Man, I’ve been slack in writing! Got a hundred excuses, if you care to hear them, but mainly just haven’t prioritized it. So for both of my faithful readers who have been missing this column recently, thanks for coming back!

I love reading about and watching great coaches. I’m thinking of some of the most well-known and successful coaches like Bear Bryant, Vince Lombardi, Coach K, Tom Landry, Tony Dungy, Bobby Bowden, and a host of others. And one John Wooden. 

These guys are masters in their field. 

For me, a great coach not only knows the X’s and O’s well, but also lives his or her life with integrity, passion, and wisdom. He pours his heart into the development of his players, both on and off the field. He sets the bar high, challenging them to achieve more than they think they can, and provides all the resources, training, correction, help, and encouragement they need to succeed. 

Coach Wooden was the best of the best. The “Wizard of Westwood” led the UCLA Bruins men’s basketball team to an unprecedented 88 consecutives wins and 10 NCAA championships, including seven in a row. But his tremendous influence upon the lives of those he led far surpasses his achievements on the hardwood. 

One of Wooden’s star players, Bill Walton, said this in 2007 interview: “When I left UCLA in 1974 and became the highest-paid player in the history of team sports at that time, the quality of my life went down. That’s how special it was to have played for John Wooden and UCLA.” 

Wooden invested in the lives of his players and knew that life was more than basketball. More than caring about their potential as basketball players, he truly loved them as people. He sought to instill within them values such as humility, gratitude, hard-work, teamwork, responsibility, honesty, consideration of others, serving others, and the importance of family and love. 

He often taught: “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what people think you are.” How true, and how relevant! 

We need leaders like this in our world today. Fathers, we need to lead our families like this. Teachers, coaches, business leaders, government authorities, bosses, fellow pastors, big brothers and sisters, and all who have influence in another’s life – let’s lead those whom God has entrusted to our care with integrity, passion, and wisdom. Let’s be the best we that we can so that we can help others become the best that they can be – and that life is always and only found in Christ Jesus. 

Coach Wooden was also a strong Christian man who read his Bible daily and once wrote: “I have always tried to make it clear that basketball is not the ultimate. It is of small importance in comparison to the total life we live. There is only one kind of life that truly wins, and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior.” 

And I say “Amen” to that! Friend, let me urge you put your trust in Jesus who alone can save from sin and death, who alone can grant abundant and eternal life to all who believe, and who alone can lead you to live in a way far beyond your own expectations, for your good and for His greater and glory. Now that’s some great coaching!