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What is God’s Idea of a Champion?

But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.   – Luke 22:26

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.   –1 Peter 2:21

A Champion literally translated is one who “stands in between the two middles”.   He stands in the gap.   He fights for those he cares about.   His cause is great.   In fact, it is greater than himself.   Most people think of a champion as one who wins in a sport.   And in many cases, it is only about that individual or team rising above the other opposing team to prove that they are greater.

God’s idea of a Champion is greater.

God’s Champion is a God seeker, fighter, lover, and servant.
  • SEEKER:  First and foremost, a Champion seeks after God.   His ultimate goal is being so in tune with God that everything he does flows out of that relationship.  He hears, feels and knows God’s heart and desires.   He is guided by God’s spirit and longs for God’s ways and love to be known and experienced by all.  He wants joy and happiness for himself and others and he knows that seeking God is the key.
  • FIGHTER:   Yes he competes.  He strives.  He works to get better.  He wants all that he does to be the best because he knows his life, others and the Cause are at stake.   His fight however is for God.   And his number one enemy is satan and his own flesh that keeps trying to feed him lies of doubt and unbelief.
  • LOVER:   The great drive to protect and fight comes from his deep love.   It wells up in him so much that he does things any ordinary person would instinctively turn and run in fear.  A champion is the greatest lover on earth!
  • SERVANT:  A true leader is a servant leader.   Jesus himself said, “the greatest one among should be…like the one who serves.”   And a leader by definition champions others by serving and using his life… skills, talents, personality and resources…to help others.
We want young men to not just be another winner of a game…we want them to be Champions in life?

Click below to see a visual presentation we are using during our gatherings with our young men and coaches:

Good Guys and Jerks

“Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” John 5:23
Have you met him?  You know, the guy that everyone seems to love.  He is winsome, intelligent, articulate and just plain fun to be around.  Most people would say, “Man, he is just a really good guy.”

Then there is the “other” guy.  The guy is a jerk.  He treats everyone like dirt and because of it, his life is out of control.  Substance abuse, trouble with the law, and fights are just a normal part of his life.

So my question is: Which of these guys needs God more in their life?

Yes, as you probably guessed already, this is a trick question.  They both need God.

From a human perspective, if we line up these two guys and judge their behavior, there is no doubt that most would say that the jerk needs God and greater change in his life. However, God does not just look at the behavior…the outward life, He looks at the heart…the inward life (1 Samuel 16:7).

The greatest sin in our life is not based off one certain behavior. The greater sin is how we fail to acknowledge or honor God. This is how even the “good guy” can miss it.  John Piper says it like this:

“The true measure of the greatness of sin is not the way it ruins human life, but the way it dishonors God.”

Think about it. Don’t we as guys hate it most when other people show us disrespect?  That is why we would prefer to fight guys face to face rather than have people turn their backs on us or ignore us.

So the questions for us are:
  • Does my life honor God?
  • Have I been ignoring God?  Have I turned my back on Him?

Okay, so what do we do?

Talk to God now.  Tell Him how you are sorry for ignoring Him without really meaning to. Tell Him your sorry for turning your back on Him when you knew better. Find comfort that through the ages many guys ignored or flat out disrespected Him or people, but because they humbled themselves and turned back to God, He restored them and even used them in great ways. If this is you, He is not mad at you. He is happy to forgive you and glad to have you back home.  God welcomes all…good guys and jerks.


Don’t Fail the Growth Test

So have you ever bombed a test?

Well your not alone.  I did it just the other day.

Now the test I’m talking about isn’t a school test…God knows I have struggled a lot with those in the past.  No, the test I am referring to is the kind that helps us grow in character and our calling.

The other night, a few of my friends and I were in the kitchen talking. One of my friends saw that he had not shut the door fully behind him as we came in earlier. He, with a rather direct tone said, “Todd shut that door will ya?” Now I know that seems like a simple request, and honestly as I write this I feel like even more of a dork, but guess what I did?  Instead of fully shutting the door, I closed it only half way to where it was not fully latched.  Needless to say, he noticed as he stared me down with a look that urged obedience while at the same time wondered why I did the job only half way in the first place.

So what was I thinking?  And why did I behave like a jerk you ask?  Well, in only one second, I thought three things:  1) “I don’t like his direct tone toward me”  2) “I prefer the door partly unlatched anyway so that when you come in from the garage it is easier to just push open than turn the handle too.”  3) “I will just close it half way like I like it.”

Do you see why I know I failed my test? To state the obvious, it was about ME and what “I wanted.”  It was a test to help me overcome my own pride and selfishness.  You see that same morning in my devotion time I read the verses in Philippians chapter 2 where it talks about imitating Jesus’ humility, valuing others above yourself and not looking to your own interests but the interests of others.  God trained me up with this scripture and got me ready for the test, but I bombed it.

Retakes for Growth

The good news is that God allows you to retake the test if you want too. The bad news though is that if we don’t want to retake the test, you and I will remain where we are….in the same grade.  It doesn’t mean he doesn’t love us, it just means He can’t advance us.

You see God doesn’t want us to just know something; He wants us to become something. And by allowing challenges to come our way, He desires that those circumstances help define and build our character. And when our character grows guess what happens?  Our life grows.

When our life grows it means we have moved to another level in our journey to become all that we were created to be.
Ephesians 2:10 states that we are God’s handiwork:

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

We were created “to do”.  So that means it has to be more than just knowing some scripture. It is there for us to know so that we become it.

Plants just like people have stages of growth, we can’t skip any stages. We can’t fool ourselves to think that God’s spiritual growth design can be bypassed. We must be mature at each stage of growth before we can move onto the next.

What area in your life have you sensed you have failed to pass the test? Will you allow God to show you what you need to do to move forward to your next growth level?

Jesus is hanging out with “those people” again!

Have you ever felt like an outcast or maybe left out by a group of guys or girls you thought were your friends?  If so, do you remember how you felt?
 
Most likely you didn’t feel a bunch of hugs and kisses.  Neither did a guy named Levi. He knew most people didn’t like him.  So when he met Jesus, he was blown away by what Jesus asked him.  Take a look!
 
 
THINK:
  • What do you think Levi was thinking when Jesus asked him to “follow me and be my disciple”?   (Why me?…amazed…but thankful…sensing love?)
  • Who are you most like in this interaction? (Crowd, Levi, other disciples, religious person, other sinners). Why?

A Life Changing Invitation

Did you notice the reaction Levi had?  He did not just say “thanks Jesus for choosing me”.  Instead he threw a dinner party and invited a bunch of people over to celebrate.   
GUT CHECK!…. Are you that excited about Jesus wanting to be in a relationship with you?

I think if we are honest, all of us can loose sight of the incredible reality that the God of the universe wants to be with us.  He is that crazy about you and me!  As amazing as this is, we must understand something though:

When Jesus calls you it is not just so you can break free of the disease of sin in your life and enjoy the love of God in your life.  It is ALSO an invitation into the Rescue Mission.  

 
Jesus wants us to join Him on mission in a purpose driven way that is empowered by His Spirit.

Are you living like that?
 
ACTION: Who might you reach out to today with the spirit of Jesus’ love that others may wonder about you: “why is he talking/hanging around him?”

PRAY:  Jesus forgive me for not celebrating your love for me like I should.  I’m amazed that you continually choose me and want to be with me.  I want my life to look like yours.  Help me.  Empower me by your Spirit so that I can join you in the Great Rescue Mission to help others know Your love.

Breaking Free of What Controls You

What is controlling your life?

If you are like me you may think at first, “Nothing!  I’m good.  No worries here.”


Certainly we can look at other people around us and see all the countless ways THEY are controlled by certain habits or people… but not US…right?

I am sure though that if we ask a trusted friend or take a “more than skin deep” examination ourself, we will quickly uncover some areas that have some negative influence over us.  It maybe that area of our life that we would be embarrassed to admit we still struggle to overcome.

Are you controlled by a:
  • Relationship with the opposite sex?
  • Outburst of anger or selfishness?
  • Habit that you know is wrong or not healthy?
  • Friendship or peer group that is steering you down a wrong life path?

If so, the questions is “Do you want to break free from it?”


Just like the man who was controlled by an impure spirit, by faith in the power of Jesus, we can get free from those impure spirits controlling our lives.

If you want to get free, then…
  • Cry out to Jesus (v.23 “the man cried out”). Believe Jesus has the power to overcome what is holding you.
  • Submit to God (James 4:7)  “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
  • Resist the attack– How?

My prayer is that you do this everyday…with bold belief!  Jesus will change you and what controls you.  One last encouragement though:  DON’T FIGHT ALONE!   God made us relational beings for a reason.  Let those who are stronger and who are seeking the same things as you encourage and fight with you.  Let someone you trust know so they can pray for you.

PRAY:  Jesus I need your help right now with ______________.  I’m tired of the control it has had in my life.  I submit and humble myself before you that I can’t take it anymore but I know You can.   I speak against __________ that has been tormenting me.  In Jesus name it is gone from my life.  God by your power I will run from any temptation that is trying to pull me down and I will resist my own fleshly desires that are not honoring to You.   Grant me the faith to know, love, obey and pursue You, Jesus as my greatest treasure!   

What is Controlling Your Life?

READ: Mark 1: 21-28


Can you imagine what would you have been thinking and feeling if you saw this scene just go down? When you think about it, this encounter could have been taken directly out of the latest paranormal movie today.   Honestly if I was there when this happened, I would be out the door in five seconds.


So this got me thinking…  Why is this recorded in the bible?  Could this or does this really happen today?  How does knowing this happened help me with anything in my life today?
 

Jesus Has Authority

God the Father wanted everyone to know that Jesus is ultimately in control. He spoke boldly with authority (v.22) and told a spirit “be quiet…come out of him!”  Now that is bold.  The Bible is huge on talking about Jesus’ boldness and authority.  Check this out..
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. – Colossians 1: 15-17
 

We Have Authority 

Jesus offers us His authority as believers. Luke tells about it:
“When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases,” Luke 9:1
So if you and I have been given that same kind of authority and power through our faith in Jesus, then you maybe wondering, “Then why don’t I sense that or see that in my own life?”.  What could be the disconnect?

Could it be that something is controlling your life and your not even aware of it?

It may not be something demonic, but could it be something you have allowed to creep in slowly that now has control over you?  Ask yourself:

  • Did I used to have a desire for the God that has slowly declined?
  • What do I now think about most of the time?  Is it all about me and what I want most of the time?
  • Is there something “impure” or that doesn’t honor God or others that you know you shouldn’t be doing, but you keep doing it anyway?
Is there something that has authority in your life above God?  Be honest about it then.  That’s the first step.

I will outline in the next devotion some ways God gives us to break free from those things in our life.  Until then, tell God about it and if your willing to post what has been controlling you, share it below or at least send me a message and I would love to encourage you as you begin to break free from it.


PRAY:  Jesus thank you that you have power and authority over everything that may come against us in life.  May I not continue to hid or be bound up inside with what is really going on in my life.  Help me to be bold enough to share what’s going on in my life with You God and with others I trust who will help me break free and fight.

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit,
but test the spirits to see whether they are from God…
God who is in you is greater
than the [evil] one who is in the world.”

~ 1 John 4:1-4

Does Jesus really care about me or my friends?

Jesus’ personality and spirit captivated people. This was so evident because many not only came to Jesus themself, but some took it further and brought those they love and care about to Him. (v.30,32). One of the awesome things about Him is it doesn’t even matter what you look like or how unpopular you are. Jesus proved He is willing to cleanup any insecurities we see in our body or our heart (v.40).  All we need to do is come to Him with a heart of faith.

THINK:

➡️ Do you really believe in Jesus enough to bring people to Him?

➡️ Do you believe in Jesus enough to come to Him yourself?

PRAY: Jesus I know you are willing to touch my heart and make me clean and new. I ask you now and receive your words that I am healed. You have made me new, and are continuing to make me newer too. Use me as well to bring others to You.

Going for the Ultimate “W”

READ: Mark 8:31-36


What is an athlete striving for on a field or court? What is his purpose. His goal?

We might say things such as improving character or learning teamwork.  While these are admirable and highly essential in any athletic endeavor, they are not the goal.

The main goal on the court or field is to get a “W”….to get a WIN!

How about you?  What’s your main goal in life?  What’s your purpose?  Have you thought about it?

What does a “W” in life look like?

When Jesus took to the fields, courts and lives of people back in the day, he talked much of living a life of purpose.  Many however thought he was breaking the rules on how to do that.  According to them, he wasn’t playing right.  And nobody likes that kind of guy.

Unless…  Unless the “rules” are wrong or they keep it impossible to see or achieve “the goal”.

You see Jesus was revealing God’s ultimate purpose. His mind was focused on the goal: to lay down his life and ultimately to do it for Gods glory. His MIND was fixed on that. Peter’s mind was only focused on “human concerns.” That’s why Jesus had to help Peter (very strongly!) see that he did not see what the “win” looked like ultimately.

Jesus gives a warning and paints a better “glory” than what the worlds ways have to offer. He said,
What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?
Can you even imagine a greater upset…to forfeit LIFE?!

An athletes goal is to win the game. And this is good.  It’s the goal while on the field.  But what if that is all he is thinking about or pursuing in life?   Or take a young man that spends all his time thinking about getting and trying to be with girls. Could it be that he might miss some other important things God is trying to grow in him?

Jesus tells us that if we live our life for Jesus and for the ultimate purposes He has planned, we will not waste it.  We will save it.  That means that if we put God first in all our interests…school, sports, relationships, work and even family…when all these things are gone we will still be longing for the Ultimate Win with Him.

Let’s be young men who are going for the Ultimate W!

THINK:
  • Do you have in mind human concerns most of the time or are you focused on what God is concerned about?
  • What have you been trying to “gain” from the world at the risk of “forfeiting” your soul?
PRAY:  Jesus forgive me for focusing all my attention and time on other things more than on You.  I want to focus on what Your most concerned about for my life.  God I want to learn more of what it means to “deny myself, take up my cross, and follow you.”  Help me with that game plan.  I don’t want to loose what is most important in this life and the next.  I know you can empower me to do this!  Amen.

Swoll for Jesus: Moving Beyond a Me-Focused-Faith to “Spiritual Swollness”


When I was in the 11th grade I started working out regularly. To be honest, I began because I was tired of being skinny and I wanted bigger muscles.
For adolescents, this is a normal part of growing up…to be comfortable in your own skin.  So my vision of that was the desire to see more muscle on my body.

As I got older though, I saw a shift in my reasons for working out. The desire to be bigger and stronger and feel more comfortable “in my skin” shifted to the desire to be healthy and functionally strong so that I could do many activities well.

What is the point in telling you this?
For many, their relationship with God is all about “feeling comfortable in your own skin.”  What I mean is that their understanding and excitement about God being in their life is very self-centered.  We can hear of Jesus’ great love for us, how he died for us, how he forgives our sins and how he wants to give us eternal life, however that great and encouraging news can lead us to a very “me-focused-faith” if we are not careful.

All those realities are true and right and should make us feel good about ourself. And honestly most of us need to hear that over and over again because our own struggles and negative self image. But our faith must move forward from that.  As the writer of Hebrews says, we should be moving on to “solid food” (Hebrews 5:13-14).

Our relationship with God must move beyond just being “comfortable in our skin” to “Spiritual Swollness.” Our relationship with God can not stay stagnant.  It must grow.  It must possess new “strength” and “flexibility” in it.

True followers of Jesus are constantly challenged in their faith.  Just look at the disciples when Jesus walked the earth.  Every single one of them was not the same man after three years of being with Jesus.  Truly their faith was at new levels and had new power from Him to do some pretty incredible things.

So have you grown stagnant and too comfortable in your faith?
Or are you growing stronger…more “swoll” in your heart and soul for God and His purposes for your life?

PRAY:  “Jesus I don’t want to live my life in a weak way.  May You help me be disciplined in growing in my faith.  Help me to diligently read Your Word, listen and talk to you, and surround myself with other Christians who are serious about knowing and growing in You more.”

Fathers [special video]

Fathers. We have seen good and we have seen bad.

Society is hungry for strong fathers; men who selflessly lay down their lives for the sake of their wives and children; men who forsake self-interest to support their families and their neighbors; men who encourage and discipline; men who laugh and cry; men who know that, to do these things well, Jesus must be their ultimate treasure.  -Humble Beast Records

Some of us can celebrate those men who have poured in our lives and modeled well positive attributes of a true loving father.  Others either cringe at the thought or mourn the failings of the first male in our life.  Even then, most of us probably land our sentiments somewhere in between.

So if you are a young man reading this, may you either be encouraged by this video and be sure to thank your own dad or pray to God to help equip you to be the kind of man portrayed in it.

Whether you like rap or not, I believe you will love this video!

Please stop saying your too busy

Note: This an adaptation of a blog written by Jon Acuff by the same name.  You can check it out here.

Please stop saying your too busy

Please don’t tell me you’re too busy to spend time alone with God and then show me your perfectly detailed fantasy football team.

Please don’t tell me you’re too busy to read your bible everyday and then give me intricate plot details about the six shows you’re watching.

Please don’t tell me you’re too busy to pray and then update your social media accounts incessantly.

We are a busy people. Our clocks are thin and tired, our schedules full and bloated.

But somehow we find a way to give our time to a host of wonderful distractions.

There is a reason the average 21-year-old has played 10,000 hours of video games.

There is a reason the average American watches 35 hours of television a week according to Nielsen.

There is a reason American companies lose an estimated $6.5 billion during the 15-week fantasy football season.

Time is a squirrely thing. It only goes where you tell it to go. It has no mind of its own. It won’t naturally gravitate to things that matter. It always looks for the easy way out.

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This summer, I dare you to not waste it.  What if not waisting it meant only doing 15 minutes more of something meaningful for your growth with God?  I’m talking about 15 minutes. I don’t care how busy you are, you have 15 minutes hidden somewhere in your day.

I dare you to rescue that tiny amount each day and then watch what happens this summer.

Time won’t find you. You have to find it.

And when you find it, you will find more of God in that time.