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Old 05-11-2015, 08:23 AM   #2206
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Quick Word of Prayer
Dan Britton

Ready
“Never stop praying.”
- 2 Thessalonians 5:17


Set
We say it all the time. It has become part of our lingo, and we don’t realize we are saying it. Most church meetings begin with these words: Let’s have a quick word of prayer. I believe these seven words grieve God’s heart, because He desires a lasting conversation—not lip service.

The underlying message is, “Before we get to the important stuff, let’s rush through the God stuff.” It becomes a rote habit that bypasses our heart. It helps us look spiritual, but lacks power. Connecting with God can't be rushed. God must think, “There they go again! I wish they wouldn’t think of Me as a ritual or a rabbit’s foot that they can rub for good luck before they start their meeting.”

Prayer isn’t something to rush through to get to the work.
Prayer is the work!

It happens everywhere. We have a quick word of prayer in the locker room, church, and home. It has permeated our entire Christian culture, especially the world of sports. I am still waiting for the pastor to get up on a Sunday morning and say, “We have so many needs, concerns, and opportunities that we need God to intercede. So let’s have a long word of prayer.”

Martin Luther was once asked what his plans for the following day were, and he answered: “Work, work, from early until late. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” The busier he got, the more he prayed. In today’s world, that is counterintuitive. When we get busy, we reduce or eliminate our time with the Lord. Maybe that is why we are okay with a quick word of prayer. We have short prayers privately, so it becomes publicly acceptable. But prayer was never intended to be confined to a pre-game blessing or to start a meeting. It's an all-day deal.

“We are to ‘keep the receiver off the hook’ and be in touch with God so that
our praying is part of a long conversation that is not broken.”
- Warren Wiersbe

Prayer needs to be the driving force in our lives. It’s our greatest weapon. We need to move from mini prayers to mighty prayers, short prayers to long prayers, occasional prayers to often prayers and shallow prayers to deep prayers.

Prayer makes us.
Prayer molds us.
Prayer matures us.

Continuous, Non-Stop Prayer. In 2 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul encourages us to pray without ceasing. He tells us to keep the lines of communication with the Father open at all times in every circumstance. Paul’s encouragement is for us to have a life of prayer. Jesus frequently got away to pray; He told us to stay connected to the vine where we get every nutrient for life.

Our lives should be one continuous prayer. Remember, we shouldn’t just pray for the work. Prayer is the work. Great prayer matures a leader, and a great leader matures in prayer. Be quick to pray...not pray quickly. Let’s have a long word of prayer!

Go
1.Why is quick prayer a part of the sports world?
2.How would you define your prayers in a word or two? How would you want to define your prayers?
3.As an athlete or coach, how can you be quick to pray but not pray quickly?

Workout
Ephesians 6:18
Philippians 4:6-7

Overtime
"Father, please forgive me for praying quickly when I should be praying constantly. Help me to always be quick to pray but not to rush through prayer. I don’t want to dishonor You by always rushing when I speak with You. Long conversations with You help me to understand Your heart. Quick prayers prevent my relationship with You from growing. Teach me Lord to pray. In Jesus' name, Amen."
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Old 05-12-2015, 08:38 AM   #2207
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Running the Race
James Kirkland

Ready
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
-Hebrews 12:1



Set
To persevere means to persist in an undertaking in spite of opposition or discouragement.

The 2007 Boston Marathon was run under adverse weather conditions. The temperature was in the low 40's, and the wind blew at 30 miles per hour blowing gusts that reached up to 50. To run in those conditions takes more than training, more than carbo-loading, more than simply desiring to finish the race. That day, it took a will to persist in spite of opposition and extreme discouragement.

Hebrews 12:1 gives a command to develop perseverance. Satan is a formidable enemy. To overcome him takes more than training, more than doing the right thing, more than desiring to be good. To defeat our spiritual enemy takes perseverance. How do you develop perseverance? Second Peter 1:5-8 tells us, "For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Our goal is to be able to say as the Apostle Paul did, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (1 Timothy 4:7). Let us persevere in order that we might finish the race in spite of overwhelming odds. It will be worth it!

Go
1. Are you growing spiritually and adding to your faith the qualities that will help you run the race?
2. Are you willing to be the Christian God wants you to be in spite of overwhelming odds and spiritual oppostion?
3. Establish a spiritual training plan that will help you add to your faith goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love.

Workout
• Romans 5:1-5
• Hebrews 12:1-3
• James 1:2-4
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Old 05-13-2015, 09:26 AM   #2208
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True Character
Benny Jones

Ready
“The warden put all the prisoners who were in the prison under Joseph’s authority, and he was responsible for everything that was done there. The warden did not bother with anything under Joseph’s authority, because the LORD was with him, and the LORD made everything that he did successful.”
- Genesis 39:22-23

Set
My first three seasons as a varsity boys’ basketball coach were very successful. We won many games and advanced deep into the tournament each year. I remember having a very good attitude during those years. The next four years, however, weren't quite what I expected. My attitude deteriorated as I faced losing teams, losing jobs, moving my family and being rejected by friends.

Joseph, too, had a promising start. But after being sold into slavery by his family and thrown into prison on a false accusation, Joseph could have wallowed in self-pity and depression. But over and over again, however, we read that, as things got worse for Joseph, his true character showed through, and he thrived. He was entrusted with leadership and administration by some very responsible people in Egypt. In spite of his circumstances, he was a blessing to those around him, and everybody could see that God was with him.

I've often told my players that adversity reveals character. Joseph faced more than his share of adversity during which the character he demonstrated brought him favor with both God and man. His influence grew during the tough times, and God ultimately used him to save the entire Jewish people from the effects of a severe famine.

Through the story of Joseph, I have learned that tough times are opportunities for us to demonstrate godly character and gain influence with those who are paying attention: family members, co-workers and bosses, students, players and parents. I have also learned that the greater the adversity, the greater the responsibility it is for a Christian to demonstrate a complete reliance upon God for deliverance.

Your steadfast faith will be evidence of Him in your life and be a shining light to the world around you.

Go
1. What circumstances do I allow to influence my attitude?
2. How do my family, job and team situations reflect my character? Do they reveal good character or significant areas of needed improvement?
3. How can I be a blessing to others even when I’m hurting?

Workout
Genesis 39:1-6a; 21-23
Luke 6:45
Philippians 4:4-7
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Old 05-14-2015, 10:44 AM   #2209
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Mind Games
Jimmy Page

Ready
Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
–Romans 12:2

Set
At the 70-mile mark I started to cramp up in my calves. I began to “super-hydrate,” attempting to prevent the inevitable. At about that point, there was a “bail out” where riders could take a short-cut to the finish line but not complete the full 105 miles. Determined to press on and complete the ride, I passed it.

At the 85-mile mark, I saw other riders on the side of the road suffering from cramps and rubbing their legs. My cramping got worse with every climb, and I had to dig deep to continue. I was determined not to get off the bike. By then both my calves and quads were cramping severely. I had been praying silently for miles, but now they were audible. I asked God to protect me from injury, to be my strength and shield, and honor my desire to finish the race.

I am certain that my mental dependence on God throughout the race overcame my physical difficulties. I had many opportunities to shut down, but was able to press on and finish.

Our Creator knows the power of the mind. He says that if we want to be different and exceptional, if we want to follow Him even when life is tough, we have to train our minds. Real transformation starts with how we think.

Go
1. What goes through your mind when things get tough?
2. Does God’s Word of encouragement come to mind when you feel like giving up?
3. Have you experienced real transformation in the way you think?

Workout
2 Corinthians 10:5
Colossians 3:2
James 1:6-8

Overtime
Jesus, help me discern what is good and pleasing to You. Keep fear, doubt, and defeat from holding me back. Make me mentally strong and fully reliant on Your strength. I want to live a transformed life that gives You all the glory. Amen.
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Old 05-18-2015, 11:57 AM   #2210
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Opportunity Knocks
Dan Britton

Ready “If you do right, won't you be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it."
- Genesis 4:7


Set
We all know what it means to be at the right place at the right time. Everyone one of us has stories about when opportunity came knocking.

When I was drafted to play pro lacrosse after graduating college, I heard the knock. Looking back on it, I was simply at the right place at the right time. The conditions were perfect: the team needed my abilities and the coach liked my style of play. I probably would not have made any other team in the league, but I was at the right place at the right time, so I seized the opportunity.

Over time I have learned there are good opportunities and bad opportunities. Just like you can be at the right place at the right time, you can also be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Unfortunately, I have many examples of these, too. I’m sure we all do. You say to yourself, “How did I get in this mess? What just happened? I did not plan on this.” I have a knot in my stomach just thinking back on some of the bad opportunities that sprang out of nowhere.

King David experienced this kind of opportunity. The Bible says that when all of the other kings were off in battle, David stayed home. His decision to ignore his responsibility to go to battle with his troops gave rise to an opportunity for him to sin with Bathsheba. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time. If he was doing what he was supposed to be doing, there was a good chance he would not have fallen. When we are doing what we are supposed to do, life actually affords us many sin-safeguards by way of its seemingly endless responsibilities, duties, appointments, meetings and daily routines. By simply going through these relatively mundane motions, we are protected from a host of opportunities to sin.

When we float like David did, the opportunity to sin raises its ugly head. When we least expect it is when sin conditions are perfect. Our guard is down. There are no warning signs. Do you think Satan wants us to know that sin is right around the corner? Do you think he wants us to be prepared for the spiritual battle ahead? Satan succeeds when we don’t see the temptation coming. He does not want us all prayed up. No, he wants to surprise us and ambush us.

If we don’t use our free time wisely, there can be great temptation to sin. Mindless channel surfing gives rise to hundreds of opportunities to see stuff you didn’t want to see. Several hours on the Web gives rise in “discovering” sites that you had no intention of visiting. In whatever your case, you might not have been looking for sin, you did not desire it, until it popped up.

Our goal is to be on our guard. We must realize that, as God said to Cain, sin is crouching at our door. Crouching means that it is waiting for the perfect opportunity to spring. Peter writes that the devil “prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” In other words, it is waiting for the perfect opportunity. The Holy Spirit, however, as it fills our lives will help us live a victorious life. But I also know that if we can build in and utilize life’s schedules and sensible safeguards, we can cut off a multitude of sins at the pass.

As competitors, we need to manage our time well when we are not competing. Yes, rest and relaxation are essential, but wasting time is another thing. Whatever it takes, keep the sin of opportunity out! Keep sin at the door instead of inside it.

Go
1. When does the sin of opportunity hit you?

2. Do you feel like you see sin coming, or are you surprised by it? Explain.

3. What does it mean that sin is crouching at your door? What sin “camps out” at our doorstep?

4. How can you be intentional? What safe-guards can you put into your life? How can you keep sin outside the door not inside?

Workout
2 Samuel 11:5
1 Peter 5:8
James 1:13-18

Overtime
"Jesus, I ask for the wisdom to know when the opportunity to sin arises. Your Word says that we must be prepared and stand firm. I stand in victory because You, Lord Jesus, have already defeated death. When sin comes knocking, I do not want to fall or stumble. I am now aware of the sin of opportunity so I can recognize the deceiver’s work. Lord, order my footsteps. May my time and schedule be glorifying to You. Let me not waste time, Lord Jesus. Rest and relaxation You will provide. Today, I keep sin outside the door! Thank you Jesus. Amen.”
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Old 05-19-2015, 09:36 AM   #2211
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The Lord Is My Portion
Mark McElroy

Ready
Because of the LORD’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! I say: The LORD is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him.
— Lamentations 3:22–24


Set
He had accepted his dream job as the head football coach in a highly successful school. He had always been successful. He won lots of games and championships in his first few years of coaching and now had just completed his first two losing seasons. He was hearing boos from the public, and his wife could barely take the unending criticism flooding from the stands about her husband.

He came home every day dejected and often without enough energy to relate to his family. On many occasions he just went to his room to be by himself. It wasn’t until the day he read Lamentations and saw how Jeremiah dealt with his depression that he came to understand God’s view of success. He knows that coaches can become consumed by winning and focus on the outcome rather than the process.

He finally realized that God had blessed him with an incredible opportunity to teach and coach young men. He was given this opportunity to glorify him on a daily basis doing what God had wired him to do. He also came to understand that God wants him to have faith and seek him with his whole heart as he prepares his athletes for competition.

He began to seek God daily, count his blessings as a coach and put his hope in Him. “The Lord is my portion” really took new meaning in his life. It was no longer winning or losing that defined him as a person. If we win or lose doing our best to glorify Him, our value to God is the same regardless of our record. He is not concerned with our wins or losses. He is concerned with our heart.

Go
1. Do you find yourself consumed by the work needed to run your program?
2. How does the outcome of a game make you feel about yourself?
3. How do you prepare your team with the focus on glorifying God with your program?

Workout
Extra Reading:
Deuteronomy 10:12
Psalm 119:57–64
Matthew 6:19–24

Overtime
Father, please help me to see myself through Your eyes and not the world’s. Amen.
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Old 05-20-2015, 08:38 AM   #2212
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In It Together
Jill Ewert Lee

Ready
“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
- 1 Corinthians 12:26-27

Set
Legendary University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers basketball coach Pat Summitt was diagnosed with early onset dementia. The 59-year-old, winningest college basketball coach of all time, made the announcement and would attempt to continue coaching as long as she could.

It was a shocking announcement not only to UT fans, but to sports fans in general. Summitt had always seemed so indestructible. But even the strongest of men and women still face challenges in life that are common to everyone. As the news unfolded, one thing stood out to me, and that was the support that Summitt received from others including her players, both past and present.

One of her athletes, junior guard Taber Spani, made this statement: “As players and coaching staff, we’re in this; we’re all together. This is something we’re going to come together as a group on.”

Throughout her career at UT, Spani had been up-front about her personal faith in Christ, and to me, she certainly brought glory to Him with her words. As Christians, it is our responsibility and honor to bring the love of Christ to those around us who are hurting or in need and to be His hands and feet for them as they face their battle.

Spani hit the nail on the head by saying they were in it as a team. I truly believe that she and the Lady Vols came together in support of their coach and found new depths of camaraderie and teamwork in the process. And, as followers of Christ, the same thing can happen to us if we allow it to.

In life, we are all parts of various “teams.” Whether those are literal athletic teams or figurative ones such as families, circles of friends, churches or business offices, these teams all operate on the same concept of working together as a group and offering mutual support. It’s also a concept that was highlighted in the Bible many times when referencing the Body of Christ. God meant life to be lived out in a total team effort.

If lived properly, no one should be in it alone—not when there is a world full of Christians who are called to serve the Lord by serving others. As His representatives here on earth, it is our role to come alongside those who are struggling and offer them His love and support.

Think about your “team” today. Is one of your teammates, friends, coworkers or family members struggling? If so, take the opportunity to put your faith into action by rallying around them. It’s a blessing and a responsibility to be the love of Christ to others. Through your actions, they will be able to see and experience the love that God has for them and will be encouraged to trust Him through the challenge.


Go
1. Think of a time when you’ve been in need and others came alongside you to offer support. How did that make you feel? What did you learn about Christ through that experience?

2. How does supporting others and working as a team demonstrate His love?

3. Is there someone in your life who needs your support? How can you rally around them and show them the love of Christ?


Workout
Proverbs 14:31
Acts 2:42-47
Romans 12:3-7
James 2:14-17
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Old 05-27-2015, 11:52 AM   #2213
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The Power of Love
FCA Resources

Ready
"Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good."
–Romans 12:9

Set
Bobby turned the ball over for the fourth straight possession and the coach called time-out. As Bobby came to the bench his teammates were all over him. Bobby’s response was “Where’s the love guys?” At that moment there was very little love for Bobby or anyone on the team. They allowed the distraction of the turnovers to affect their attitudes toward their teammate.

The key ingredient of any relationship is love—agape love—a love that is self-sacrificing and cares more about the person than any situation. Every gift we have been given by God needs to be exercised in this kind of love—God’s genuine love. What do we do when evil sets in or when we go off on a teammate? We need to cling to what is good.

Bobby’s teammates couldn’t get past what happened, and their team lost by over 30 points. In the locker room after the game, the coach reminded each player how important he was to the team. He finished with Bobby. He looked him in the eye and said, “Bobby, you will always mean more to me as a person than anything you do as a player . . . I love you no matter what happens.” Bobby’s frown became the biggest smile. That is the power of love—no magic potions, no kissing a frog, just good words and signs of genuine, God-honoring love. That will make any team a winner.

Go
1. How is your love displayed to your teammates, coaches, and family?
2. When do you have a tendency to get caught up in wrongful or evil thinking?
3. Daily, how can you take hold of what is good and show God’s agape love?

Workout
Romans 13:10
1 Peter 4:8
2 John 1:6

Overtime
Lord, help me to demonstrate agape love in all I do today. Help me to love without hypocrisy, detest evil, and cling to what is good. Amen.
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